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!

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