Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Il neige!

   Sunday night I went to a sleepover with two friends from my class. It was a really fun night and we talked until early in the morning. After a few hours of sleep I heard my phone buzz but ignored it. A few hours later we all woke up and I looked at the message my host sister had sent earlier that morning, "il neige!" I read out loud. 
   At once, we got up to open the shutters and squealed in delight at the first snowfall of the season.

  After a calm morning of hot chocolate and TV, we dressed warmly and walked to the train station to catch a train to Valence. We met up with two other friends and went to the movie theater where I had the choice between sweet or salty pop corn, but no butter. We saw Intouchables (untouchable) which was really funny, although I didn't laugh as much as my friends, I understood the majority of the movie, enough to recommend it to you!
   I leave tomorrow morning for three days in Paris with my host family and then we are staying at their family's house in Versailles for Christmas! Of course, I'll write about all this, but with the busy itinerary my host parents have planned and the holiday, it just may have to wait until next year...

Merry Christmas and Bonnes fêtes !

Sunday, December 18, 2011

La fête des lumières

   One of the things I did this month that could simply not be cut down into the update post was the fête des lumières in Lyon. No, that event calls for it’s own post, one full of pictures!
   The actual festivities lasted for four nights, but my host family drove there and back in one night bringing along Natalia, an AFSer from Columbia.
   My host sister, host dad, Natalia and I got to Lyon mid-afternoon and kept ourselves busy, between a robot museum and wandering the streets of Lyon, until dusk.
   Once night fell we met up with my other host sister who has an apartment in the city and my host mom who was there for a class she’s taking.
   We watched the first show from a bridge and marveled at the lights reflected by the Rhone River below. After that we moved in one big wave with what seemed like the rest of the world from one show to the next for four hours; watching as horses were projected onto historic buildings and lights illuminated beautiful churches.           When our feet couldn’t take another step we sat down and ate a delicious meal at an Indian restaurant. 
Now, since that little summary did not do the evening justice, voila quelques photos! (here are some pictures)

Friday, December 16, 2011


   The month of December has been a busy one (and it’s not even half way over!!) each individual day could make for a blog post of it’s own to be honest but for the sake of my time and your convenience, I’ll merge a few of the highlights into this scatter brainer update post.

  •    In the beginning of the month my gym class switched over from weight lifting to dancing. There are three rotations throughout the year. Since the beginning of the year, I had been building muscle in the weight room at school but now I spend my Monday mornings in the gymnasium, dancing in circles with my friends, a change for the better, if you ask me! We will have to choose a theme and choreograph a dance for the BAC by the end of January. Gym class is much more serious here than in the U.S (but that’s not saying much since back home I rarely even changed clothes for “gym”) and since it’s two hours, we actually get some exercise out of it!
  •    Throughout the month I’ve been seeing a lot of AFSers, but not because of arranged AFS weekends, don’t worry-I would have written a post all about that! But actually because when kids change families, (which has been happening a lot recently) they spend a couple nights in between houses, at my own! These sleepovers with me are referred to as “debriefing” where my host parents, AFS volunteers, talk about why it didn’t work out with the first family and prepare the student for their fresh start.
  •    I went shopping in Valence with my friends, an outing that presented itself with my first opportunity to take a train thus far in my experience in France! On Friday, my friends and I were finished with our classes by noon so we choose to eat a lunch of sandwiches that we got at a boulangerie instead of the food at the cafeteria. We ate at the train station as we waited for the train and after a ten minute train ride that cost 2 euros, we were in Valence! We walked around and shopped for our families (and host families) through the old streets and Victor Hugo shopping mall; until well after dark and then met up with one of my friend’s mom who drove us home.
  •    I also went shopping in Valence one Wednesday afternoon with my host mom and sister; when we got home I found a package from my mom. I knew what it was before I opened it: a book my mom had e-mailed me about finding in a used-book store: Post Cards From France, written by a sixteen-year old girl from Connecticut who recounts the year she spent spend abroad with AFS in Valence (why is everything happening in Valence?!), in 1995. I finished it in one night and was excited to bring it to school to give to Eliza for her to read as well, but it turns out she had already read it! I know the majority of people who are reading this are family or friends but if you happen to be someone who found my blog because you are interested in going abroad (or are currently on a program) you should definitely track this book down. I was struck by how well she put her experience into words and how well it puts mine into words as well, even 16 years later!
  •    I got all my Christmas shopping done early this year and sent a package to my family back home in the first week of the month. To my relief, I’ve received word from my mom is that it has arrived, and on this side of things I also received a box full of presents! One from my grandma (Thank you!) and one from my parents, with a couple (very much appreciated) things for me, but also gifts for my host family.
  •    Okay, now what I’ve been wanting to get to all along: today, the first day of Christmas break!!! My school day started at nine but I spent too much time enjoying my breakfast (a nutella baguette) that I got to school just in time. And good thing I did because a kid in my class made a presentation on Lindt chocolate, complete with a box of lindt chocolate for the class... pretty sure he’ll be getting a good grade! After that we had an hour of economy in which half the class was studying for the math test we had afterwards and the other half was thinking solely of break that we would have at the end of the day! Can you guess what half I was part of??? After the test (that took place in the big scary room you all have seen pictures of) I wished my teacher ”bonne vacance” and was officially on vacation! I ate lunch at school with my friends and then we went out to eat cake to celebrate!

  •    I gave my friends Sally Hansen nail strips (which my mom sent me as they are not available in France) as Christmas presents because I had a zebra pattern on my nails on the first day of school which attracted lots of attention! In turn they bought me two nail polishes at the pharmacy, which was so sweet!

   After my friends left on their bus, I walked Eliza over the bridge and we took pictures with the pretty lights in town:

Bonne Vacances!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Le repas de Noël

   Last Monday my jaw dropped as I entered the cafeteria and saw a six-foot tall, fully decorated Christmas tree and lights strung all around. Back home it is very important to refer to the upcoming holiday from school as “winter break” and never precise a specific holiday considering the significant mix of religions and cultures in the area and at school.
   To the contrary, here I have the next two weeks off from school for “les vacances de noel” (Christmas break) and another week in February for “les vacances de l’hiver” (winter break).
   This week, being the last week before said Christmas break, everyone is cheery and in a festive mood. In English class, Christmas carols were taught and sung throughout the rest of the day. But the most celebration took place today, Thursday. I had one hour of English first thing in the morning and talked to my teacher about spending the holidays abroad. She has spent two christmas's away from home, and had a positive view on the experience saying that one of her favorite christmas's was the one she spent in England. Next, I had an hour of economy in which we watched an American movie dubbed in French and then I went to the movie theater with my class and saw a movie in spanish, with french subtitles. 
   Every Thursday the lunch break at school lasts for two and a half hours. Typically, I eat in 30 minutes and spend the rest of this time studying in the library or outside with friends. Occasionally I use the extra time to eat out, in town.
   Today, the school used this extra time by giving us a meal that would take us that much time to eat, and much longer to digest: “Le repas de Noel” (the Christmas meal). Featuring, foie gras and salmon as hors doevres, a meat described to me as “like chicken but better” (later proved to be an accurate description), a mushroom soufflé, and fried potatoes as the entrée, four different, but equally delicious cheeses to choose from and bread, as there is everyday, chocolate cake or a Buche de noel, for dessert and a bag of chocolate, just because!  

The cafeteria workers wore santa hats!

   I finished at noon because my afternoon teachers were on strike today. My friends and I talked for four hours and made plans for New Years. I played fuse ball with some cute French boys in the room at school that I can only think to describe as the playroom and I went shopping with Eliza after she finished class.
Quite a day I'd say!

Monday, December 12, 2011

The beach in December

   I meant to write this post about my weekend when it was just last weekend, but some how time has gone by so quickly, that that weekend is already two weeks ago! However, I still deem the events significant enough to sit here and recount them and that way we’ll be all caught up!
So two weeks ago, my weekend went like this:
   We drove down to my host familie's apartment, on the Mediterranean Friday night. The next morning we ate chocolate croissants and worked on homework, in order to have it done for the rest of the weekend. After lunch my host parents suggested that we go to the next town over, le Grau du Roi, where my host mom spent a lot of time as a child. She was eager to show me the rotating bridge and the town that brings back a lot of memories for her.
   Which brings us to the point where I would normally attach a bunch of pictures of this seaside French town however... this would be impossible as my camera jumped off said rotating bridge and is now peacefully sleeping at the bottom of the Mediterranean, or in the belly of a very full fish.
   I’ll leave out the fact that my camera was not in my hands at the point of its departure, but my host-mom’s, who had kindly offered to take a picture of me, unaware of her inability to hold on tight to suicidal cameras. But I have absolutely no resentment, we actually spent the rest of the afternoon laughing (although perhaps more out of nervousness than humor) and remembering our faces as it sunk. My host parents ordered me a new one immediately after returning to the apartment so the impact this had on me is nothing but the lack of pictures above, and the memory is made between my host mom and me!
   That night my host parents went out to eat at a Chinese restaurant and my host sister and I stayed in and got pizza. We watched the Miss France and ate the pizza American style (with our hands) on the couch.

   As with all Sunday mornings spent at La Grande Motte, my host parents walked around and grocery shopped at the market while my host sister and I did school work. That afternoon we went for a long walk on the beach, and although it was empty, abandoned for the winter, it wasn’t too cold. The fresh sea air and time to talk with my host family was great.
A two-hour car ride later and we were home for dinner and recharged for the week.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Some more pictures of my town

I probably got a little carried away and could have done with half as many pictures as I am now attaching to this post but the more the merrier right?
I wanted to show off my town as it changes from fall to winter and prepares for the Holiday season so I took my camera along with me  for the walk to school and around town. Enjoy!

My host sister's friend's house
Would you like your flowers from the store or from the roof?

The view across the river of Tain

I know I know, you get it, they strung lights up...

Should probably avoid walking down alleyways...but for the sake of photography one must take risks.

Santa Clause being naughty and trying to break in...a whole month early!

The beautiful sunset, from my bathroom window

walking home from school at 5:30