So much that has been happened in the five short days since I left my house that I can’t even fathom how I could possibly write it all down, but here’s my best shot:
Wednesday morning my mom drove me to the airport, where I found that saying good-bye is pretty close to impossible and made me way too close to missing my plane. I walked through security, with tears streaming down my face, and actually made it through rather quickly, but only to find that my gate was miles away. I was flying with another AFSer, Mindie, who had decided that I wasn’t coming!
The flight to NYC was really short; we got to LaGuardia and met about ten other kids before being driven through "Jamaica" by a crazy driver and being thrown into a mix of nearly 300 AFSers at the hotel. I loved talking to everyone and we all got along really well. Albeit the tasteless food, the night we spent there was really fun. I finally met Kevin, another American whose blog I had been reading, in person! The next morning was full of talks that were actually pretty informative, but before I knew it we were at the airport!
And let me just tell you,
red eye plane + inability to sleep = 48 hour, exhausting day
But the plane ride did go by pretty quickly (noticing a pattern here?) I sat next to a girl named Lauren from Washington State. And we played a British version of "who wants to be a millionaire" on my TV screen for hours (nearly impossible to be a millionaire when you're asked lyrics from British songs.) And I felt very American when dinner came and I marveled at how good it (lasagna) tasted.
Everyone was wide eyed and gawking as the plane approached the Zurich airport, the sun was rising and the country looked absolutely beautiful. Even the four-hour layover was fun; a few kids went right to the "space bar" and ordered drinks (although advised not to by our chaperon.)
Another plane ride and we would be in Paris! FINALEMENT
We arrived well into our second day of being awake causing me to be exhausted and pretty critical of the hostel. I keep a moleskin with me in which I wrote
“I just want to get to my host family!”
“too much graffiti and smoking”
But after a good night sleep, not to mention a SHOWER, I really enjoyed talking to the people from other countries. I had three roommates for the two nights I spent there, girls from Denmark, Thailand and Japan.
We took a tour of Paris but really only got off the bus once (at the Eiffel tower). But it was still really amazing to see the streets of the city and all the sites. I hadn’t been since I was really little, but some things actually brought back memories of my former trip.
On the bus I wrote,
“How can they keep us on this bus as we pass a freaking Haagen-Daz store?!”
The days we spent in Paris also allowed me some time to get used to the outrageous prices; a vendor next to the Eiffle tower was selling postcards for 1.50!! And that is in euros....
All in all, every day of the orientation, began with me being very eager for the next day and to just get to my family already but at the end of the day I ended up really enjoying everything that I had to sit through and met some really awesome people.
And when Saturday morning finally did come, I wasn’t so sure I was ready for it! The bus driver gave me some extra time to really contemplate my readiness by insisting that we leave an hour later than planed (keep in mind I woke up at 6:30 for him) because he didn’t get enough sleep the night before and wanted to take a nap….
We drove for six hours through beautiful country sides (okay, maybe it was a highway but it was SO pretty) and adorable tiny towns, and saw lots and lots of cows.
Throughout most of the bus ride I thought we were going so slowly and wanted to get there already but as we actually got within miles of our stop I started to really, and I mean really freak out. And I’m not quite sure whether I should thank Kevin for staying in his seat next to me as I experienced this break down, or blame him for rubbing off on me, for he was also maybe a little bit freaking out!
The bus stopped and we had to walk up this huge hill with old farmhouses that the bus could not fit on (if it hadn’t hit me that we were actually in France by this point, it sure did here). We got to the place where AFS was hosting the introduction of families and had to line up by country to be introduced to our family and have our picture taken. My host dad is involved with AFS and was the announcer and my host sister was taking pictures so I actually saw them all before being formally introduced. It was so crazy to finally see them in person! We all did la bise (starting on the left and three times) that is so weird to me, invasion of my personal space much? But I guess I will get used to it.
Because my host family was helping with the event I stayed until the end and was so relieved to find that I could understand everyone. The car ride home was only 30 minutes and I was back to being wide eyed and gawking. This whole area is so gorgeous. We drove along the Rhone (the river that my town “turns” on ha ha) and as we crossed the bridge, every street that I had spent the past six months google earthing became real and right in front of me.
This is all too good to be true.
Cross your fingers for me, school starts tomorrow!
Also, I try to avoid summarizing in my blog because I realize that can be pretty boring to read so I apologize that this is long and detailed... I got a little carried away.