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 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 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


  1. Same lack of rules with dogs doing their business wherever here! They are also allowed in stores and restaurants. Also, "to-go" or a "doggie bag" in Italy is the most taboo thing ever! They don't understand it and if they do they will have no respect for you! Miss you!

  2. When I was there, they had these guys on motor-scooters with big vacuum cleaners on back. They'd scoot around the city at around 6am, sucking up the poop from the middle of the sidewalk.