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 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.
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.