Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Signs of Spring are finally coming!

( photo of Bois de Boulogne above )

I am so excited to report that I've seen the sun more in the past week than I had in the entire month of February; it makes me extremely happy. Today even started out pouring, however the skies cleared for a bit during the day. Spring is coming and I couldn't be more ready :)

Things are going great with my host family. They always offer to help me with my French, they show me the ways of a "French household" (how to set the table as they do, how they set out everything breakfast-related the night before, so it's ready for everyone in the morning, etc...). I can't wait to make some of my favorite foods when I get back to the US so everyone can try them! My host mother often makes simple but yummy soups as the first course (here, the first course is called the entree) that I'd like to try! I want to bake them some chocolate chip cookies or something, so they can have a taste of my cooking - maybe soon!

School is going well also; my classes are challenging, but not too difficult (yet...) as long as I budget my time properly. That being said, now that it's warming up a bit and precipitating less, I can't wait to really get out and explore Paris without having to be hidden under an umbrella! This past weekend, my friend Claudia had some friends visit, and we went with them to the Notre Dame and to Marais and Montmartre. I have already been to those places, but Montmartre especially is a place worth going several times. The view from the top of the hill is too amazing! I am planning on going to the top of the tower of Montparnasse, which has a 360-degree view of Paris and costs less than the Eiffel Tower. Another plus is that you can see the Eiffel from there! I am going to try and go at sunset too, for the best views. Maybe this week!

I am honestly starting to freak out about how fast time if flying by. I have already been here almost a month and a half, and I have not seen or visited nearly as many places as I would have liked. All that is changing as I whip out my various guide books (all handy in their own ways) and plan my itinerary. There are some places, such as the numerous gardens, that are best saved for when it warms out and there are actually flowers in them! I can't wait until then :)

--> View of the Eiffel Tower from the hill that is Montmartre. Amazing!

I visited the Bois de Boulogne (a series of gardens in Paris two and a half times as big as Central Park, to give some perspective) withe a few friends recently, and everything was still GORGEOUS even though there were no flowers yet! We went on a sunny day and walked for several hours until we found a nice spot to have a late lunch and people-watch, one of my favorite activities, being a Psych major and all. There was a pond where you can rent boats for 10 euro an hour (plus a 50 euro deposit...the reason we weren't able to use one. We didn't bring 50 euro to the garden, silly us!). There were tons of dogs and people and even some ponies! We had a bit of trouble finding the bathrooms though. I can't wait to go again when it's even nicer out and find the les Cascades (cah-skahds, en francais :] ) or waterfalls.

Here are a few more things I have been noticing about France that you might be interested to know:

1)French students from the Sorbonne like to have manifestations, or public demonstrations, at least once per week. You can tell which days it is because there are hoardes of police cars, vans, and yes, police buses, all over the place. The police walk around with shields, rubber-bullet and tear-gas shooters, and other scary items. They very rarely have to use them, but I like to stay away just in case. Some of the manifestations are like parades, with balloons and drums and everything, and some we have to walk through on our way to class (see pic - yellow things are drums/signs)

2) French people, at least my family, loooove plain (called "nature" in French, sounds a bit more appetizing that way I think) yogurt! In French, it's called "yaourt", pronounced "yah-ort". They have it for snack and for dessert almost every night, often mixing in some jam, honey, or sugar. I think honey is my personal favorite, and this is something I will definitely take back to the US with me, mmm!

3) When you go to Montmartre and climb the many steps up to the Sacre Coeur Cathedral, there will be many men and women trying to quickly pull you to the side and make a string bracelet at lightning-speed, put it on you, and proceed to try and make you pay for it. This all happens very fast, as I've seen people being hustled out of their money when they had no idea what the person was doing. Thankfully, I was forewarned of this and kept my hands in my pockets. But at Montmartre, there are merchants everywhere trying to sell absolute junk!

I always think of tons of stuff I want to say when I'm walking around, but when it comes to writing it down, I always forget! I'll save some for the next blog, I suppose!

I am going to a pop concert by the artist "Benabar" with my study-abroad group tomorrow. It should be interesting! I have listened to some of the music already, and I kind of like it! I also have tickets with a bunch of my friends to a France vs. Lithuania soccre ("foot") game which I cannot wait for. I am not the biggest sports fan, as many know, but how could that not be a good time??

Ok time for homework, which seems to be piling on by the day! Also, it was very surprising to realize that Marist is already to midterms by now. Eek! Time to get to the serious sightseeing!!

A plus tard!
--->View of the Arc de Triomphe from the beginning of our walk through the Bois de Boulogne :)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

End of February already!!

----> Beautiful night sky in Paris!

Wow - I am really bad at updating! I can't believe it's been almost two weeks since my last blog. Time absolutely flies here, more so than when I am at school in New York. It seems that it's Monday, then Tuesday, then bam! It's Friday. I have been up to less now that I've settled into the swing of things quite a bit. We haven't been on any excursions since the ballet ('we' being the group of 18 students in my program), but they start up again in late March once it gets a bit warmer :) and I can't wait for that. Hopefully with the warmth will come some more SUN! I miss it.

Let's see, what have I been up to? Well, I'll give you an idea of what most days are like:
Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I have French class (go figure) from 2-4 and Phonetics from 4:30-5:30, but phonetics is only every other week, so that's good! Tuesday, I have those two classes plus History of European Cinema from 10:30-12 and a conversation class from 12-1. Thursday I have the 2-5:30 classes plus cinema (no convo). Phew! The workload is about the same as I'm used to, maybe a little more as the work tends to be more involved. For example, some assignments are to go to a certain museum or exposition and then to write about it, or for cinema I watch movies at home, which I of course enjoy!

For lunch almost every day, we get sandwiches at special student discounts; often we go to one place where you get a sandwich (on 1/2 baguette), pain au chocolat, and a drink for 3.95 euro (a little over $5 - not bad!). Or, there is a place called RestoU (resto is French slang for restaurant), a giant cafeteria-style restaurant only for students which offers a "six point" meal for only 2.85 euro. Each food has a point value, and you can comprise your plate with whatever you choose to make 6 points. Main course is 3-4, desserts 1-2, fruit 1, salad 1, yogurt 1, and bread free of course! No meal would be complete without it. Also a good deal, but always super crowded!!!

I did do something rather exciting recently...I went with my host family to their house in Normandy! I went from Saturday afternoon to Sunday evening and it was really wonderful. Both of my host sisters are engaged (future host-brothers-in-law, ha!) and will both be married at the house in Normandy. So, they go up many weekends and prepare the house for the many guests it will soon be receiving.

The house is absolutely beautiful (see picture) and so charming. Some family friends were also staying at the house (16 or 18 of us total) and they were all very friendly. The view from the house is absolutely AMAZING. It was a bit foggy when I was there so I could not see as far as I would have liked, but when we took a walk down to the beach, I was absolutely stunned by how amazing it was. As my family called it, "sauvage" (wild/primitive/fierce). I definitely agreed.

While I was there, we helped to prepare the house for the weddings, one of which is this April and one in September). We did some gardening/trimming bushes, and sandpapering paint off of a small barn to be repainted. Not so bad when you turn around and see beaches and cliffs, or when you're in Normandy in general. I was so grateful to be there!

I loved having huge dinners with all of at one long table, passing around amazing food and having lively conversation...although I usually have no idea what people are saying. They talk so fast and all at the same time, it's almost impossible for me to keep up! My host father often makes sure I sit next to him so he can clue me in on what's going on, tell me which regions the various cheeses come from and teach me vocabulary words (bougie=candle; basket=corbeille; glass=verre, etc...) which is very helpful and appreciated!

I have gotten much more comfortable with my host family, and it feels more like home here every day. I know where all of the various dishes and silverware go, where the toilet is :) ...I know how to work the oven and the stove (you have to use a match to light the burners...took me a minute to figure it out; thank goodness I asked or I probably would have filled the kitchen with gas!)

I recently went to the Musée de l'Armée, the Charles de Gaulle Museum and l'Hotel des Invalides - where I saw Napolean's tomb...it was gigantic. What an ego!
There are also many of his personal writings on display. It's really something to see a piece of history sitting right there in front of you. He had pretty nice handwriting, too! Afterwards, I went to see a comedy "O, Carmen" with my host family, which was funny from what I understood! The actor did a lot of physical comedy as well, which was good for us non-French folk :)

I was reading Allie's blog, and really liked her little list of interesting Italy facts. So, I'm going to try to think of interesting things to tell you...

1. You should bring your umbrella with you every day. If you forget it one day, it will rain! Almost every day has a little precipitation

2. Do not be frightened when you see soldiers walking around with huge guns over their shoulders in the metro station, monument courtyard, or anywhere else where there are generally crowds - they're there to protect you (but are very intimidating)
this is pretty much what they look like I was very shocked the first time I saw one

3. If you go out to a bar, expect to pay about 8-10 euro (about $10-$13) for one small drink. Just want a coke, then? Ok, that'll be 8 euro please! (That's not a joke either)

4. WATCH YOUR STEP. There seem to be no laws/rules/behavior guidelines for picking up dog poop. It.Is.Everywhere. Some friends have already had some unfortunate missteps. I try to just stare at the ground when I walk, it's your best bet. But really, it's EVERYWHERE.

5. Don't walk around the house barefoot! Basically, nobody takes off their shoes until they are in their rooms about to go to bed. And no feet on upholstery, either! Not on the metro seats in front of you or on your coffee table; no resting your feet on the chair in front of you in the movie theater, no curling up on the couch...just keep your feet on the floor! lol

6. When you eat, you put your bread to the side of your plate on the table, not on your plate

7. People really do carry baguettes around everywhere, all the time! Especially after work when they're heading home. I once saw the cutest little boy carrying a baguette that was almost as long as him, and I reeeeally wanted to take his picture. I didn't though, because I don't think his mom would have liked that

8. You say, "bonjour, madame" or "bonjour, monsieur" whenever you walk into a store/building to whoever is at the counter and "au revoir madame/monsieur" when you leave. It's considered rude if you don't!

9. My host family doesn't keep that much food in the house; there is usually enough for one or two dinners, and then they go shopping again. Makes for really fresh meals! Plus, the store is a five minute walk away

10. Kids don't have school on Wednesdays, and consequently, mothers do not have work. There are TONS of kids running around those days! I kind of enjoy it because they actually smile on the metros. Yesterday, a woman on the metro had 14 children with her (i presume for some daycare-type outing). They were so cute and funny! It helped to lighten the hurry-up-I'm-late-for-work-and-going-to-trample-you mood

11. Many families are very big on not wasting food, water, electricity, etc... One time I didn't like something on my dinner plate, so I took a little and threw the rest out. I was informed that I should really try not to leave anything on my plate - they never throw out food. Take it and eat it, or leave it for somebody else or for leftovers...but don't throw it out.

12. You pay to sit if you go out to eat at a small restaurant. They list prices "a emporter", or to-go, and then prices for "sur place", or seated, which are always a couple of euro more. I usually eat walking :)

13. My host family eats dinner from 8:30-9:30....by which time I am about to pass out. Okay not really, but I am used to eating dinner at about 6, so that's been a hard transition!

Okay, that's all I can think of for now. I hope you learned something new about France! I am going to start my homework (I still can't believe tomorrow is Friday). Hope to update sooner - really this time too! :-P

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I said I'd update sooner and make it shorter.....

However, I failed...I continue to be a busy bee! Let's see, where did I leave off?

Ok, I moved in with my host family,
Les Ackers (pronounced les ah-cares) - and it has been good so far! They are all quite nice and very hospitable, and I'm very thankful for that. Since it hasn't been one week yet, there are of course several awkward moments in which I'm not exactly sure what I am supposed to be doing, or if what I am doing is considered rude in French culture. I am learning more every day, though, and I'm sure by the end of the month I'll feel much more comfortable.

<------MY ROOM!

My host "parents" are Bertrand and Isabelle, my host "brothers" are Bruno, Jean, Martin, and Francois; my "sisters" Anaïs (pronounced ah-nye-isse, I like the name a lot) and Clémence. There is also a yellow lab named Nevis (pronounced nay-visse); I learned his name is that of an island south of Puerto Rico. Original! He is very cute and friendly :)

There is definitely some culture shock; living with a totally new family who is part of a completely different culture can be overwhelming at times. One useful quote our French professor provided us with that is simple yet wise was, "The French speak French and are French". Seems simple, but it means to stress that the French are not Americans who speak French, and it's a helpful thought when you find yourself doing something "wrong" or "weird" in their eyes.

Much can be learned by observation, and I have been doing a lot of that. I mimic behaviors and gestures and if I am unsure of something, I ask a question! (At least I try). I have also learned that language barriers can be very frustrating. Now I do know French, so I don't know if I can really call it a language barrier, but it's difficult when compared to them, I have a very limited vocabulary and can only speak relatively slowly. It makes expressing myself very difficult, and I fear that I appear somewhat one-dimensional and boring sometimes! I think that will get better in time too, though.

I am trying to have a sense of humor about things I do wrong - they're usually pretty funny anyways. For instance, I failed to notice that the toilet and the bathroom are separate places. I went into the bathroom (right next to my room), closed, and locked the door (it doesn't close completely unless it's locked) after much effort really pushing it closed! Then I turned around and realized that there was no toilet in there. I scanned the room. Sinks? Check. Bathtub/shower? Check. Toilet? Oohh, nope, sorry! Wrong room! I turned around to leave, but I couldn't open the door - seems I was a little to rough in closing it. After finally emerging from the bathroom about 90 seconds later, I went on a little hunt for the toilet. I found it in its own little room, sans sink.

Meals with my host family are very delicious, and quite elaborate. First, there is bread on the table throughout the whole meal, and each person takes several pieces at any given time. The meal might start with some sort of soup, followed by the main course (which varies), then they bring out a wooden board with 2-4 different types of cheese and some more bread (yum) and then we have fruit/yogurt, and then sometimes some crepes with jam/honey/sugar/nutella, and then some coffee or tea. One night for our main course, we had potatoes (like baked potatoes, without skin) and a contraption in which there are 6 triangles with handles sticking out. You put cheese on the triangle (which is ceramic, I think) and then place it back in its spot. It melts, and then you take it out and pour it on the potato. It was fun and extremely delicious!

Then...there are the less pleasant aspects of French culture which happen once I leave my home. My friends and I are trying to limit our English to NONE on the metro, because the reactions we get are getting a little scary. One of my friends was followed by two men who, upon hearing her speak English, began to call her an "American b****" and other such things. Today, a friend and I were not talking on the metro, everything going fine; but as soon as we started having a quiet conversation in English, the dirty looks accompanying comments like, "damn Americans" started pouring it. I had not expected this at all before I came to France and I have never been so afraid of something as simple as my nationality! It makes me feel for those who are truly targeted and injured because of where they are from. It is just ludicrous. However, they are not all like that (the metro really seems to make people angry, haha) and I am thankful for every smile I get!

Our group went on a small tour of Montmartre as a part of our program, and it was really quite nice. We visited the Sacre Coeur cathedral (left) which was gorgeous. Getting to the 'top' of Montmartre involves a lot of uphill walking, but the view is so worth it. I wish I could have seen further, but the weather that day was not so nice! It tends to be rainy, cold, and CLOUDY all the time.

The sun came out today and I saw blue sky for the first time in a while. It made me SO happy! I took a couple pictures so I could look at them on the cloudy days.

My days are pretty much filled with school, and in between classes, I do not usually go home because the 40-minute commute each way means I'd have 10 seconds to eat, haha. That is fine though, as we usually head to student dining restaurants or sandwich shops where we can get a quick, cheap, and delicious (usually) meal.

We went to a ballet last night at the Paris Opera House which was amazing. I did ballet on pointe shoes for only 2 years, and for me, it was very hard and painful. Seeing those men and women dancing as if they had the weight of a feather always fascinates me. What they are doing requires such immense control and grace, I can't imagine being so good at it.

Okay, I have to cut this a little short because I have to do homework sometime! I am rreeally going to try to make the next one shorter; I have to get a handle on my schedule and make time for everything.

Au revoir!!!

Thursday, February 5, 2009



****Sorry for how long this is!!! I don't blame you if you give up halfway through only to come back to it another time. I will keep it more up-to-date from this Sunday, February 8, when I will move in with my host family and *hopefully* have a stable wifi connection. Anyway, here is my experience in France from February 1st to 5th!****

I have had yet to really start my blog, but I am itching to update everyone as to what's been happening in Paris so far! I am currently staying at the FIAP Jean Monnet, a hostel-type dorm, until this coming Sunday, February 8; I will then move in with a family. I found out who that family is today, but I'll tell about that later!

So – I am living in PARIS! Sometimes it's really hard to believe, even as I walk around its streets. This week has been extremely hectic what with the adjusting, meeting new friends and roommates (I have three wonderful roommates; Jen, Claudia, and Kristen), finding our way around Paris, attending class longer than we're used to (spoiled Americans, perhaps?), and the time change. But it has been really wonderful so far. I had my first crepe with nutella today, and I have never tasted something so wonderful in my life! And luckily, the crepe vendors are absolutely everywhere in Paris, so I can have them whenever I want. The one I bought today was 2.30 euro, and they are usually in the 2-3.50 euro range. Not bad for how filling and AMAZINGLY delicious they are.

I can't believe I have not even been here for a week – it feels like at least two have passed! On our very first night in Paris, most of our group visited the Eiffel Tower. Let me say, I did not expect it to be so big. I don't know why, but it was much mightier and taller than I had expected. And so majestic! It is covered in lights, and at nighttime, it looks as if it's made of gold. On the hour every hour (at least at night), it begins to flash tiny purple/blue lights which make it sparkle beautifully. It was a wonderful night!

Getting around on the metro has been an interesting experience, and is getting easier by the day. When I first got to the Airport Charles de Gaulle, I felt like a lost puppy. Let me just say, thank GOODNESS I know French!!!!!!! I cannot imagine having been in that airport, having little idea of what to do or where to go, and on top of that being unable to communicate with almost anyone! It would not have been nearly as successful. I heard surprisingly little English in the airport and on the metro. However, as I have sometimes learned is best, if you are American, sometimes it's better to keep quiet! Perhaps many people were already aware of this.

I bought something called a carte NaviGo (previously called a Carte Orange) that allows me unlimited use of the Metro, in zones 1-3 of Paris, for the month of February for 77.00 euro, which is about $100. It was a difficult purchase, but completely necessary and worth it (and also required of me by my program…). It is so much fun that now instead of fumbling with a ticket and trying to put it in the machine, having it come out the other end, and trying to get out of the doors before they close and smush me, I can just swipe my NaviGo (which contains a microchip) and glide effortlessly through the doors! It makes me feel more like a local.

Let me give you an idea of my daily schedule, at least for the week of orientation (which is Feb 1-8). So, we (the 18 people in my program) go to breakfast at the FIAP, where we are currently living, at around 8:15-8:30, and breakfast ends at 8:45 so no later than that! We leave at around 9:30 for the metro, and take two different lines to end up at Luxembourg where we attend classes at the Foyer International des Etudiantes (or FIE). We have class from 10-12, and then lunch, and back to class 1:30-3. At 3, which we are becoming accustomed to calling "quinze heures" or "15:00", we usually go on a walking tour of an area of Paris. Monday, we went to Marais, one of the oldest areas of Paris. We saw the Cathédrale Notre Dame, which is absolutely breathtaking; we visited one of the oldest houses in all of Paris in which monks had lived, statues of Louis XIII and XIV, des jardins, and many other beautiful places. It is amazing to live around so much history, I love it. We usually arrive "home" from class anywhere from six to 7:00, just in time for dinner, homework, internet/emails/blogs/journals/photo uploading, and bed!!! It's exhausting but glorious.

Let me tell you a little more about breakfast. All I have to say is, I love croissants! We have one every morning, along with perhaps some cereal and either coffee or hot chocolate and some OJ. I think I have eaten more carbohydrates in the past week than I had in the past month at home. Bread comes with absolutely everything, usually at no extra charge. Mmmmm it's wonderful. I have also been eating a lot of cheese, for which my digestive system is not thanking me. Dinner at the FIAP is more run-of-the-mill, with salad bar, rice, green beans, some meat choices, pizza, frites (fries), various delicious desserts and of course, a side of pain (bread). It's still good though, and very welcome at the end of a long day (which is very soon, as I'm writing this at 7:45 on Thursday!)

There is so much to write about, I don't think I can cover it all! I told you about the trip to Marais, and yesterday we took a trip to the Louvre. We did not see much, just the most famous works in the museum plus a few others. I saw Venus of Milo and the Mona Lisa, of which I of course took pictures like such a tourist! The Louvre is beautiful and so enormous, I feel like I could go every day for a month and still not see everything I want to. That is probably true for everybody, though.

I really just love living here; I love the independence, the hustle and bustle, the grandeur, the presence of so much history and beauty – it is already much easier and more comfortable than when I first arrived. Ah, when I first arrived. That was interesting…

Okay, let me just tell you, I did follow the directions which I was given carefully and correctly! Unfortunately, the directions were not changed from fall to spring semester, and we were supposed to be living at a different location from those students who studied abroad in the fall. UNCW failed to change the directions to the FIAP and instead gave us those to the FIE (where we attend class daily). Sooooo, I got off at the Luxembourg stop and thought the FIAP was "just to the left" of the metro stop. FALSE. It was a 2-mile walk with two huge, heavy, pink rolling suitcases, a hiking-style backpack, and a purse full of everything I could possibly need plus my laptop along the narrow and at times cobblestone streets of Paris. However, before the walk while I was standing around at the Luxembourg stop beginning to realize that I was not where I was supposed to be, I saw another girl with several huge suitcases. We looked at each other and I said, "Hi…where are you going?" to which she replied, "the FIAP?" as if asking me if I too was headed there. I said, "ME TOO!!!!" and was instantly more relieved. The walk was not fun. It was cold, and we were lost. Again thankful I knew French, we asked for directions form a man at a hotel reception desk, a man who worked at a small café, and a lady we passed on the street. Actually, the woman offered (in English) to help us when she saw us desperately searching our maps, which were blowing upside-down in the wind (movie style, haha) and our hair and faces looking like we just ran a marathon. The long, very tiring trip would have been far less successful had I gone alone, so thank goodness Jen and I found each other! We are now roommates with two other girls, and we get along great.

Staying at the FIAP is good. We received meal tickets for 7 breakfasts and 7 dinners (lunch is up to us, as we are in Luxembourg at class) so that's very helpful! There are four of us in the room, and it's a very good size, not too crowded. We have two showers, two sinks, and a toilet (although the showers do not have shower curtains, so you have to reserve the bathroom for a while if you want to shower!) I am mostly glad that we're staying here for the first week so all in the UNC program have the chance to get to know one another and become friends before we are separated to go live with our host families. I am going to miss living with my roommates, but it will be nice to have a room of my own, and a shower with a curtain: P.

I have noticed some truth to the statement that "The French are rude and do not like Americans". At first, I was naïve and thought that since I knew French, they would be kinder towards me. Not necessarily true! I have gotten some of the dirtiest looks from people for no (apparent) reason when I am heard speaking English. My first time on the Metro with all of my luggage, I had one suitcase on the seat across from me and one on the seat next to me (like I might do on the Metro North going to Poughkeepsie). As I have now learned, that is not acceptable. The metros are often standing room only, and seeing two seats taken up by huge pink suitcases really enrages some people! One woman asked, "est-ce que tu peux le mettre par terre ?" translated as, "can you put that on the ground?". I smiled and pulled it away, and she returned the most disapproving look one could possibly muster, as if to say, "don't be too proud of yourself, it shouldn't have been there in the first place". I later learned (from my orientation packets, professors, and everyone in general) that the French do not smile at strangers, or often at all, and neither should I. That makes me a little sad, since I love to smile! Not to mention, I have been working in mostly customer-service positions since I was 16 and smiling at strangers is one of my specialties. I guess I am going to have to change that.

My group of American friends generally gets stares and dirty looks from les français on le metro when we laugh, talk, or otherwise identify ourselves as American, though I'm pretty sure they can tell where we're from just by looking at us. I can usually tell when I see an American because she is wearing UGG boots or sweatpants, or both! I'm glad I didn't bring mine! I do need to buy new boots here, though – WATERPROOF ones!!!! It rains a lot here, of course. Bringing an umbrella was a good call.

I got assigned to my host family today! I forgot my info sheet upstairs, but here's what I remember:

They have 6 kids (eek) all over the age of 18 (double eek). Four boys and 2 girls, and a LAB! Yayy I've always wanted a dog. They live outside of Paris, as most of the families do. I don't remember much else, and am tired of typing! Haha.

Okay, I think I am going to call it quits for now, my brain is about to explode! I'm sure yours is too if you actually read all of this. I will try and update more often so reading my blog will not be nearly this painful next time (as I am not going to try and cram an entire week into one post). If you are reading this, I probably miss you! I can't wait to download Skype and try to talk to everybody, and upload my pictures so you can see what I am seeing. A bientôt!


Saturday, January 31, 2009

I'm leaving TODAY

I can't believe that today is it. I kept waking up throughout the night, freaking out, and then going back to bed. I have no idea what to expect when I get there (besides probably wishing I didn't pack so much, lugging it all around Paris). I hope I find a friend on the plane who is going where I'm going.

I think the thing that is going to be the strangest is everyone speaking French. Sounds obvious, I know, but that will definitely remind me that I'm not in America anymore. I am SO glad I speak French, though I know the French people speak it much more rapidly than I am used to.

I am going to miss my friends, family, and Brian soo much. I am very bad at goodbyes (I avoid them whenever possible) so I'll probably be emotional when I leave. But I am also very excited for everything ahead of me.

I leave the house in 4 hours, better start getting ready!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

I am such an idiot.

I have just realized that all of the stuff I ordered with my amazon.com gift certificates (all stuff I NEED and ordered specifically for France) - was shipped to MARIST. Oops!!! I must have clicked on the wrong 'ship to' address in the checkout. It looks like I might have a road trip coming up....

Also, I cannot believe Allie is leaving tomorrow! (well, technically today). Time has flown since we first started planning our trips. 6 days for me...yikes!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

9 Days to go....

So...I have nine days to go until I leave for France. I think I am about 50% nervous and 50% excited...if that makes sense. I am only worried about the unknowns and the what-ifs, such as - I hope my plane is not delayed because of bad weather, I hope I'll be able to find the dorm I am staying at once I get off the plane in France, I hope I don't lose my luggage, I hope my internet connection works so I can stay in contact with everyone once I get there, I hope I don't forget to pack anything important...and so on.

Since these are things I really can't fix right now, I shouldn't really bother worrying about them, but I can't help it! I know once I get there I will be less nervous just to have gotten most of that out of the way. Allie and I talked about what is stressing us out right now (she leaves this Sunday the 25th!) and we agreed that it was the unknown and the transition phases that are the worst! We both kind of feel like we are neither here nor there, which is a strange feeling. I think as I pack more and it sinks in that I will be living in Paris in less than two weeks, some of that nervous will turn to excitement.

For now, I am just concerned with packing and not forgetting anything terribly important. From a classmate at Marist who went abroad in France, Sarah, I learned several things about the country that will help me to prepare:

1. It is VERY hard to find peanut butter in France and is only in very special specialty stores - when you do find it, it's very expensive
2. They don't really use cinnamon, and it's also hard to find
3. They don't have dryers for the most part, and turn the heat down VERY low in homes
4. You can't buy any medication without talking to a pharmicist/having an Rx; even those such as Pepto, Advil, Tylenol, etc...so I should bring my own supply

That's all I can think of for now, but I'm glad to have gotten these helpful tidbits of information BEFORE I went (I wonder if I can pack peanut butter).

I am going to be updating a bit more pre-departure, but for the most part, this blog is so I can share my experience with friends and family, and be able to look back on it all once I return!