Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas Everybody!

A new record…Almost 2 months since my last post. Very sorry to my friends and family who have been bugging me for the past 2 months to write more updates. I know, I know… I should be writing more not only for you all but for me too. Even though right now it seems like these memories will never fade I know one day they will and I want to remember them. I would also like everyone to know that I have made it my official New Year’s resolution to write more blog posts and write in my journal more often. Since October much has happened. I have started countless blog posts and have several half finished updates scattered in my documents folder. But, its Christmas today and I finally have enough drive to complete an actually post. A lot has happened in 2 months so I am just warning you this is going to be a lonnng post. Are you all ready? Let’s get started….

In November I celebrated my first French thanksgiving- which was a huge success. I was worried that I would feel really homesick at this point. But although I missed my family a lot by celebrating it with my host family I actually had a really great week. This year thanksgiving was on the 25 which also marked my 3 month anniversary in France. At school everyone wished me a “ Appy Tanksgivings (insert French accent here)” and I tried to explain the significance of thanksgiving to everyone. After school on Thursday I and Alex bought some orange flowers and some other decoration sand went home to help my host mom cook. My host dad managed to find a turkey and my host mom made a pumpkin pie out of real pumpkins because canned pumpkins are nonexistent in France. A Little advice to an future outbounds who want to make thanksgiving would be to bring a can or two of canned pumpkins or have your parents send you some because I really is impossible to find in Europe . My host mom and made a traditional meal which included stuffing, bread, mashed potatoes and cranberries. We had the two other Americans and their host families plus some family friends over to the house and started our feast. The French people were so happy to experience some good ole’ American culture and we Americans were glad to have the chance to celebrate the holiday together. Afterwards it was agreed that the French should have their own thanksgiving more often. Even though I didn’t; spend it with my really family I realized I have a family here and friends that I love as well and am so thankful to have. Overall the whole month of November went by in a blur- we had another Rotary inbound get together which was fun. I kept busy with school and friends and continuing my never ending battle with this French language. I was shocked when one day I looked at the calendar and saw the date was December 1 and realized November had already gone by.

In December the weather cooled down and the holiday decorations came up. Christmas time in France had officially begun! Christmas trees lined the parks and lights were strung in the streets. Then in the second weekend in December I WENT TO PARIS. Oh, Paris how I love thee! Although I was only there for 2 short days and didn’t get to experience everything- I was still able to understand first hand why everyone calls it the most beautiful/romantic city in the world. My host dad flew up on Wednesday the 8th just before Paris got hit with a record amount of snow…10 cm. To a Wisconsinite that really isn’t much at all but to a Parisian it is unheard of. Public transportation shut down as well as the airports and for 2 days that’s all you heard about when you turned on the news. Luckily the snow stopped and my host mom and I flew up on Friday morning with no delays. We met up with my host dad and my host mom’s brother (essentially my host uncle) Fred who lives in the Paris area with his wife and two kids. We dropped our suitcases off at our petite hotel and grabbed some lunch at a local café. After our meal we went off in search for the Eiffel Tower. You would think that it wouldn’t be very hard to find- especially with a person who lives in the area, but somehow we managed to get lost. My host dad asked directions…twice. After a good hour of walking around we finally turned a corner and were hit with the unforgettable view of the Eiffel Tower herself. It was pretty amazing to actually stand there in person. I had seen this monument countless times in pictures and movies (I even have a picture of it hanging above my bed in the States) and now I was finally there. We walked up the 600 steps up to the second level and then took an elevator to the top. The view was breathtaking and looking out at the snow covered Paris is defiantly a moment I won’t forget. After we finished our decent we took the metro and did some shopping and walked around the city. Paris holds so much history and attracts people from around the world; there is honestly no city like it in the world. Sitting on the metro I heard Spanish, it alien, Chinese and English (a lot of English) spoken. At 10 we took a boat on the seine and got to see all the famous monuments of Paris from the viewpoint of the river. At night, Paris is stunning and every hour the Eiffel Tower lights up. I tried not to act like a complete tourist every time we saw a huge monument like the Notre Dame, but failed. I couldn’t help myself to gave in awe and take a million pictures. When our tour concluded we headed back to the hotel and I literally crashed, I was exhausted after a complete day of touring the city. The next day we grabbed a typical French breakfast of a croissant and coffee and headed to the arc de triomphe and champs Elyse. All the Christmas decorations and freshly fallen snow made Paris look gorgeous and definitely got me in the Holiday Spirit. We spent the whole day walking around and going in all the shops and eating…it was perfect. That night we went to my host uncle’s house for dinner which was really nice as well. The following morning we packed up our bags and went to the Sunday market before going to the airport- it was enorme you could find anything whether it be wine, food or clothing. We bought some cheese and meat for lunch and made our way to the airport. I loved the fact that my host parents lugged a bag of brie on the metro and into the airport just so we could eat it for lunch. My host mom even managed to get a brie sandwich through security. Whenever some sat down she would point to the bag and say “don’t worry it’s just brie, not us” (referring to the pungent smell it gave off). Shows you how much the French love their cheeses. I said my final goodbyes to the city I fell in love with and hoped on the plane back to Nice. I was completely exhausted when I got home but it really was an amazing weekend and it left me wanting more but know I’ll be back someday. Paris je t’aime!!

After I got back from Paris I had 2 weeks of school, which seemed to drag on as day dreams of winter break crept into everyone’s head and finally break started. Which brings us to Christmas. Not going to lie, the days before Christmas brought on some homesickness. At my house in the States Christmas is a big holiday for my family and we always spend it with each other and our friends. Not being at home was difficult and I found myself wishing I could go home for these few days and then fly right back. Although, the decorations were up it didn’t truly feel like Christmas time for me, I would always get surprised when I saw the dates (21st, 22nd, 23rd, 24th …). But, I kept on reminding myself I have such a huge opportunity to be able to celebrate Christmas in a different country and that I have sooo many more Christmas’s that I can spend with my family at home. I woke up on Christmas Eve with very little expectation and told myself just to get through the day. I wanted to go ice-skating really badly, but since I had to be home by 5:30 my host dad told me should stay in Antibes. So. I ended up getting an amazingly good hot chocolate with my friends although it was raining and gloomy out I still had a nice day. After I got home at exactly 5:30 I got dressed and we headed to my host Aunts house for a Christmas dinner. The tradition in France is that Christmas Eve is the day for celebration. You have a nice Christmas Feast and then at midnight when it’s officially Christmas everybody opens presents. Normally in the states Christmas day is when everyone celebrates. So, after we had a delicious meal of shrimp, Salmon, Foie Gras, and cheese we went off to start opening presents. I was really surprised when my hot mom handed me some gifts. My host grandma got me a pretty box that opens up into a nativity scene, My host Aunt got me a journal/agenda, My host dad got me a singing Santa, and My host mom got me a jacket, and a picture of me form Paris framed. All of their gifts made me feel like a part of their family and overall it was such a great night. Everyone getting together and laughing and having a good time made me appreciate the purpose of Christmas! Although it was much different then Christmas eve at my house it was nice in its own way. We all made our way home at around 2am. When I got home I opened the present my mom sent me and went to bed feeling so blessed and loved. Today I woke up at 11:30 and got ready while my host mom prepared our Christmas meal. The rest of the family came over at around 1 and we had another delicious meal. WE talked shared pictures and after the family left at around 4 my host parents took a siesta and I skyped. As I said before Christmas day itself isn’t really celebrated- everyone just has off work and relaxes. After I skyped for a while I went upstairs and starting packing up my life again. Tomorrow I’m going skiing for a week and the day I get back I’m switching host families so I realized today that I had better get started packing. I am still nowhere close to being packed. Today was a nice relaxing Christmas. I do miss my family and friends a lot though and think in the years to come I am going to make sure to always spend Christmas with them. Overall, I am really glad I got to experiacne a French christmas and am positive this year will stay with me forever.

It is now 11:15pm and I have been writing this for almost 1.5 hours but you are now up to date with my life here and I do feel better after writng everything out. I hope everyone reading this has had a wonderful holiday filled with love and family wherever you all are, and am wishing everyone a happy new year. Can’t wait to see what 2011 has in store for us!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Im not really sure hat happened to my "weekly"
updates they seem to have morphed into monthly updates but i am going to make an effort to change that. Anyways October has been a super busy month. when I first arrived in France everything was so new and amazing and as fellow exchangers know "the honey moon stage". That stage lasted for about all of September for me. Starting highscool and meeting french kids- everything was so different and exciting I didn't get homesick at all for the first 5-6 weeks I was here. Now, as the newness is starting to wear off Im starting to appreciate France in a different way- It is no longer an extended vacation for me. It is my life. With that change I've been happier in some ways but I've also starting to feel some pangs of homesickness every now and then. Basically, it's just the little things I miss; giving hugs, being able to walk anywhere, having the ability to sleepover at peoples houses and having a solid group of friends that I can depend on. When I saw all the college peoples facebook stauses that said they were all visiting home for the weekend- I found myself wanting to be able to visit home too for a weekend or so and then be able to come back here. I don't want to leave france, by any means, but I can't help but think about how nice it would be to sleep in my old room for a night and give my friends and family all big hugs. But, then a local cafe owner will recognize me and ask me how my day is going or a kid from school will come over and talk to me at a bus stop et voila i feel a million times better. It's those little moments that make me feel apart of the french life: the simple recognition or quick hello that makes me feel like people do care about me here and Im not just seen as a foreigner. I feel so lucky to be here and look forward to making close friends and moving on with my life here.

On october 3 all the exchange students went to St.tropez for the day which was super fun- 8 excange students + 1 amazing city = incredible times. Then around the 2nd week on october ther was some major strikes again- this time with the highschool students. Instead of going to class kids lined outside the school holding up signs and yelling stuff out about how they didnt want the retirement age to go up. Then the marched down the streets trying ot gather up more kids. They would lock the front gate shut and put garbage cans infornt of the school- trying to get as much attention as possible so people would recognize their anger.There was strikes everywhere- it was a chaotic week to say the least. In marseille, the garbage men went on strike so there were masses of garbage stacked everywhere: in the streets and infront of houses, It was a mess. Basically, the french people are angry that Sarkozy is signign a law rasing up the retirement age which woudl reqiure the french citizens to work for a longer time before they recieved retirement funds formt eh governemtn. People don't want to have to work longer so many people are aganst it. But, as alwasy there are two sides to the story and I don't think alot of people are looking at bith. Anyways, after the strikes settled down my host parents left for their vacation to China so I stayed with my 3rd host family for 2 weeks. At first i was really nervous to have to compeltley start over with another family so soon, but once I got there I felt very comfortable and at home. On october 22 I went to "Pays Cathare" for the weekend with a local rotary club ( here is the fb link to my photos: ). Pays catahre is a region in south western France that is home to a bunch of ancient castles and catherals dating back all the way from the crusades. Although I was the only kid- it was a very interesting and beautiful trip that allowed me to see another part of France. I liked that it was so untouched by the modern world; everythign was so green and peaceful. It's definatley a place i want to come back to in the Future. Then, once I returend from that my 2 week vacation started. Durign the week I did a day camp in Antibes form 9-5 everyday. Each day we did differnt activities fron bowling to makign bagettes. It was nice meeting other kids even if they were all younger :). On Saturday my host family was planning on going to St.Tropez for 4 days in their camping car but the weather wasnt good so we decided to just go up for the day. The weather contiued to get worse and a downpour started Saturday night and didn't stop until early this morning. Normaly I dont midn rain- sometimes I actually enjoy it but 4 days of non-stop heavy down pouring made me never want to hear the pitter-patter of rain aganst my window again. I had plans for Halloween but since it was raining so hard no one felt like leaving the house so for the first year ever I spent Halloween reading a book in my bed- it really didnt feel like halloween at all- and i can honeslty say i missed passing out candy to the kids and eating pumkin pie and drinking apple cider in some crazy costume with my friends and family. I didnt leave my house all weekend due to said weather issues so today since it stopeed rainign me and the other American took advantage of that and went shopping in Cannes for the day. Although the heavy rainign stopped it was still gray out and started drizzling. But, it was still fun and it felt SO good to get out of my house into the fresh air again. Tomorrow is my last day of vacation sadly but, Christmas vacation is just around the corner!!! Hope everyone is doing well- I miss you and love you all!!

Monday, September 27, 2010

35 days later...

One month. 4 weeks. 35 days. 696 hours. Even though there's a million ways to put it, it's still hard to comphrehend that I have been in france for a month now ( actually a month and a day, if you want to get technical). So much has happened since I began this adventure. So much has changed sicne I said goodybye to my life In the states. This month has definatley not been easy all the time but I have also experiance so many amazing things already in the short time I've been here. On saturday my host parents and I went to Monacco for a boatshow. The ride there was spectaclar- it was right along the coast of the medditeranien. Before we drove down to the port we ate lunch at a little cafe right by the sea. As I was eating my delicous salmon fillet, looking out at the sailboat spotted sea, I had another oh-my-gosh-i-am-so-lucky-to-be-here moment. I realized that a year ago I was sitting in my nice little room in Wisconsin, completing Rotary applications and talkign about the latest homecoming gossip. I had no idea that in a year I would living in the french riviera. My life has changed so much in a year and I know that this year will only add those changes. After we ate our lunch, we headed down to the port for the show. There were hundereds of mega-yachts filing the port. The yachts were unbelivable. One had a helicopter pad on the top and then an infiniti swimming pool on the middle deck. It was fun to see all the different boats. The majority of the people there were From England and Australia, but walking around I heard french(obviously), german, italien, and even some russian being spoken. The whether was good the whole day excpet for 10 minutes of rain- which actually felt good after a whole day of blazing sun. When the boat show wraped up my h.parents drive me through the city of Monaco. We stopped by the Monte Carlo was amazing to stand in the place that i have seen so many times in pictures and movies. Monaco is a great city- with a nice city life but still has a feeling a nature becasue of the beautiful mountains and sea.

Monday I started swimming. I love it and am so glad I decided to join the club. I reconized some kids from school so I hungout with them. But I also met a girl from CA and a boy from England that have been living in Antibes for 3 and 9 years becasue of their parents' jobs. So, i can speak French but when I don't understand something they help me out. The pool is outside- and we swim outside the whole year, which is a HUGE change from Wisconsin where I go to swim team int he winter with 3 feet of snow on the ground. Since we swim at night when the sun is gone- the air is colder than the water but once you get warmed up its fine. I actually enjoy being outside better than in a stuffy,chlorine infested building.

After swimming on Monday I went to a dinner with all the wives of the Rotarians and I Tuesday I went to bowling with all the Rotarians. Since my host is the club president- I go to a lot of rotary functions which is good, but I am also always the youngest person by at least 20 years.

My french is getting better but I the language barrier is still the hardest part. When you can't communicate to the people around you start to feel lonley. Add some tiredness and confusion to that and you have the perfect recipe for homesickness. But, thats all part of this program- leaving your life you 10 months isn't easy but you start to adapt and begin a new life- with new adventure and new challenges. I've learned that making mistakes helps you learn more so you can't beat yourself up when they occur. I make mistakes everyday- whether it's messing up my tenses in french or getting on the wrong bus, they are going to happen no matter what, the hard part is learning how to embrace them.