Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Pretending that I'm never coming home

Hello everybody! My time is quickly running out so I thought it was time for a new update. It's almost time to start the 1 month countdown until my departure, which conjures many different feelings. It mainly reminds me to appreciate each day I have left!

It seems that change is in the air. For one thing, I chopped my hair off. It was time. I had been sporting my long hair for far too long, and I told myself that during my year abroad, I would get a fresh new 'do. So voila! new hair, new moi.

So, I am a really lucky fille because my mom came to visit!!! For the second time! This time she brought along our good friend (also named Chris) and we traveled Paris and Bordeaux together. It's been great hanging out with them, hearing stories from home and showing them around my city.  The only problem is the weather lately has been terrible...rain and wind every day. They have been quite the troopers though, putting up with this storm and willing to go out anyway.

 In Paris we did the tourist routine and saw the important stuff. It's so hard to cram everything in in just a matter of a few days! You really need a lot of time and energy to see all there is to see in Paris, and even if you have both of those, I believe it takes many times of re-visiting the city to do everything you want to. Even after many times of going back myself, there are countless things I still haven't done. But at the same time, I actually felt pretty comfortable in Paris this time around, rather than being totally overwhelmed and confused and stressed like before. It was cool to have a feel for it, to be able to ride the metro without making mistakes, to speak French without being responded to in English. Maybe after a few more times I can pretend to be a real Parisienne! That is my excuse for having to revisit :) there is something about that city that I am in love with. Yep, just stamp 'hopeless romantic' across my forehead.

Some highlights of Paris:
Sacre Coeur

Notre Dame

Winged Victory at the Louvre

Maman and I at the Louvre

Tour Eiffel :)

After Paris we came back to Bordeaux. Unfortunately it was even worse weather :(  but we still made the most of it. Today we went to Saint Emillion, a beautiful town outside of Bordeaux famous for its wine. We were lucky to have no rain and even a little bit of sun there! It was my mom's last day, so it was a great way to end her trip and stock up on some quality wine. Having my mom come to visit really meant a lot to me. Sometimes I forget how much I miss home and everyone in my life in California, and my mom being here was a reminder of how important your roots are. I feel like I've established a new life here in France but I can never forget what's most important. Ok I'll stop before I get too sappy.
....and I got lazy with taking pictures, so none from Bordeaux. Maybe I'll add some later.

On to other things... as you may have forgotten,  I do go to school here in Bordeaux. If it seems like I don't mention it, it's because it is the least exciting part of my life here. But, it is almost over! I have one exam left, which is in a week (yikes!!!!) Then I can officially say my studies abroad are fini. I've actually been done with classes for quite a while, now it's just exam time. After it's done, I can focus on the important things: getting in every last picnic, quiz night, and adventure before I leave.

 And traveling of course! My friends are arriving in about a month and then we're off to Paris, Amsterdam, Spain and Portugal. It will be a whirlwind adventure and I'm so ready for it. I can hardly wait!
These are my 2 besties who I'll be traveling with: :)

On speaking francais:

Many of my friends ask me if I'm fluent in French yet. I just laugh because I know I am so far off from being fluent. It would probably take years of living in France to achieve that, but at the same time, I know I have made significant progress. That's another reason I'm so hesitant to go back home- I feel that I have finally gotten comfortable with speaking and now I just have to turn around and revert back to English. but I'm going to try really really hard to keep up my French back in California, even if I have to just talk to myself! Anyway, I think learning French came in stages. When I first arrived, I quickly learned to correct my mistakes and to say basic and useful phrases. As time went on, I picked up more expressions and expanded my vocabulary. Recently, I've improved on familiar ways of speaking and slang (which always cracks the frenchies up since I usually say it wrong). It's cool to track my progress and remember how I sounded in the beginning, compared to now. My strongest language is definitely Franglais.

Going Home

I've been thinking about my return home a lot lately. I'm mostly nervous because coming home means that my year abroad, which has been my focus ever since I started taking French, is coming to an end. As of now I don't have any set goals or a clear direction of what I want to do with my life. It's a scary thing knowing that I'm supposed to graduate college in a year...and then what? The end of this adventure brings up a lot of scary questions. I guess that's normal for everyone my age, but I really hope things fall into place. I have a strong feeling that coming back to France is in the stars for me :)

But at the same time, I am extremely super hella stoked to get back to beautiful California and see everyone and everything that I've missed. I'm sure it will be a trip to re-learn American ways of life and my friends will have to fill me in on all the culture I've missed. I'm especially missing my big fat bundle of joy Buddy:

Not to mention all the food I've desperately been missing, like In n Out, chinese food, breakfast (hash browns!!!!), mexican food,.... I have to stop before I start going crazy. I know I'm being a stereotypical food-obsessed American right now, but to the frenchies reading this blog, le bon vin et le fromage vous manqueront aussi, n'est-ce pas? ;)

Basically, there's the upside and the downside to all things in life. If you get caught up in it too much, you'll miss the ride :) which is the best part! So on that note, I will assure you that I'm making the most out of every day that remains. Vive la France!!!!! I love and miss you all. See you very soon! :)

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Bienvenue au printemps

bonjour tous! since it's has been such a beautiful weather, I decided a new blog post is definitely in order. Before I begin, let me set the scene: I'm perched on my very narrow little window balcony catching the last rays of the sunshine, which is on one hand tres francais and cool but also very dangerous. I hope  I don't fall off while writing this. Also, I'm creepily peering in on the moving-in process of my neighbors across the street, and I'd just like to note that they appear to be yelling at each other at one moment, and intensely making out the next. ahhh l'amour francais!

Anyway, on to relevant things. It's officially springtime in France! The weather has been gloriously warm and sunny. It has seriously turned the city around. Instead of being miserably cold and frost-bitten, les bordelais are emerging out and everyone is enjoying the warm days. I've spent almost every afternoon in the jardin public- picnic-ing, reading, hanging out with friends or just doing anything (note how studying is not included in that list :) ) And I finally can retire the gigantic parka I had been sporting around and break out the summer clothes! Like a true Californian, I was really missing the sun, and I'm very glad to have it back.
pique nique in the jardin

Beach Day!!!

This weekend, my friends and I voyaged to Arcachon, a beach town about an hour outside of Bordeaux for a day of fun in the sun. It was basically the best day ever! I finally arrived after having missed the first 2 trains I was supposed to take (yes, some things never change). We had great friends (Americans, English and Frenchies!), tons of food, drinks, and various sports balls to play with. I took a quick little dip in the Atlantic, which surprisingly was not that cold. I guess I'm just used to frigid waters that you cannot really swim in unless you are properly equipped with a full-body wet suit. Nevertheless, it was great to be reunited with the ocean! And it was nice to get out of Bordeaux and enjoy some other attractions that the south-west of France has to offer. The beach also gave me a little teaser of the west coast, which I've missed so much. Our beach day inspired us to plan a trip to Biarritz in the near future- another beach town in the Basque country. Such travelers, I know.

So I am a very lucky fille and get to have lots of people visiting me. First let's backtrack. Mon petit copain de paris Victor came down to Bordeaux pour me rendre une visite! It was awesome having him here. And speaking of Arcachon, we took a little day trip there as well! It wasn't quite as nice weather as Beach Day, but it was still lovely. He got me to try several French foods that I've always been wary of, like steak tartar, and mussels. It's cool having a true frenchy around to make you experience these kinds of things.

Next order of business: my mom and her friend are coming to visit, for the second time, during spring break! I'm super excited to see her again (I can't believe I get to have family visit me twice during my year here!) And, her friend is hilarious and crazy, so I can't wait for the shenanigans the 3 of us will get into. I'm meeting them in Paris, then coming back to Bordeaux. We're going to fit in a couple of trips to Toulouse and perhaps San Sebastian to taste a little bit more of France. I love playing tour guide!

And, at the end of May, my two best friends Brian and Aidan are coming!!! I know I know, I'm too spoiled. So far, we have Spain and Portugal planned, and Amsterdam is definitely in the stars too. And maybe some other adventures. I'm stoked cause I haven't been able to travel very much, but I get to do so with my two boys :)

Mandatory note on school just to prove I actually do attend university (sort of) :
It's almost over!
I already finished two of my classes, and the third one will be over in a couple weeks. As for my  psych course,  it's a mystery. No one knows when the final is. I am going with the flow and not stressing because after 7 months here, I've learned to laugh at the ridiculous inefficiency and disorganization of France. I've even learned to embrace it :)

annnnd this leads me to the fact that I'm going home in like 2 months !!!!!!! I have extremely mixed emotions about this. seriously, sometimes when the thought of leaving France pops in my head, I want to start crying. But on the other hand I miss having a routine back home and being familiar with my culture. I also know that I have to make this last part of my journey really count, so that's what I'm gonna do! Yeah I know, I mentioned this whole dilemma before. But it really is something I think all of us go through when you are put into this situation. Adjusting to a new life, and then having to re-learn how to behave in your own. It's a bizarre paradox. Anyway, I keep reminding myself to focus on the moment and enjoy every last second. Go hard or go home right?

So that's all for now folks. I'm gonna try to get better at chronicling my remaining time here, but to be quite honest it's the same shit that goes on day to day- I just make it sound all fancy and interesting in this blog :) (at least that's what I'm aiming for)

I'll leave you with this:

bisous a tous!

Monday, February 27, 2012

A just-because blog post.

Bonjour tous. So the other day I was thinking how I only blog when I feel like i have important stuff to say. You know, like when I return from a trip or do something really exciting, things like that. Then I realized, this blog is supposed to document my daily life in France, so why not write a blog just because? So here we go.

I was recently informed that it is Leap Year this year. (I know, I'm really out of the loop...) This kind of freaked me out, because not only does it mean I have to pay rent sooner, but also that my eminent return home is coming 2 days sooner. I know it seems silly, but lately I have really been struggling with the fact that in just 3 months I'm coming home. Half of me is super excited about this, but the other half is having a mini panic attack every time I think about it. After 6 months of living in a foreign country, I've had plenty of challenges that sometimes make me want to hop on the next flight back to California. However, those obstacles have made me learn more than I ever have in my whole life. And right now, I finally feel like I understand this culture, its people, its habits, its facon de vivre. I can speak the language, I know my way around. I have friends! French friends!!!!!! And so just as I start to feel comfortable, BAM- in 3 months I have to leave! And re-immerse myself in American culture! Alright alright, I'm just going to stop myself here because you are all probably thinking, this girl is crazy and needs to ferme sa bouche. I just have a lot of emotions running around my head and it helps to write (type?) them out. Moving on....

This week I'm on February vacances. Most of my friends are off gallivanting around Europe, but yours truly is here in Bordeaux writing blogs and French papers. Mostly blogs, though. It is kind of nice to have a week off  and just have the freedom to do nothing. Plus the weather has been getting nicer (finally!!! I don't have to waddle around in 15 layers of clothes!!!) so I'm soaking up the sunshine for the first time in it feels like forever. Today mon ami Max et moi enjoyed the sunny day by walking around the jardin and the city, and watched the sun go down on the quai (the river). Beer may or may not have accompanied these events. I'm planning on continuing days like this during the week.

I guess I should mention school ... since I am here to study after all... Well to be honest, it's a subject I have the least to say about. This is a representation of my friends' and my general sentiments towards it.

It's kind of a joke. I go to class and come out feeling like I probably could have talked to a random French person for 2 hours and learned more from that conversation than from the time I spent in class. It's interesting to see how French people do college, but let's just say I really appreciate the American university system. (no offense to any frenchies who are reading this, but most agree with me anyway). I have to say that my psychology class is pretty interesting and challenging though! Regardless, I am profiting from the experience of living here alone, so it all works out in the end.

Lately, it has been many people's birthdays. This is obviously a cause for celebration, especially since several of my friends turned 21. And you know what that birthday means.... Well at least in America. The whole being-able-to-legally-drink thing doesn't really have any significance in Europe. But don't you worry, we carried on the tradition of drinking an inordinate amount and making questionable decisions, just as if we were at home. For my roomie Arielle's b-day, we climbed a fountain. Oh, we went to bars n stuff, but we climbed a fountain!!! Not just any fountain. The Quinconces fountain! Which is a humongous fountain/statue/landmark of bordeaux. Here is a picture of it normally (also by Alex's request) :
And here are  pictures of us climbing it:

So yeah. Never a dull moment ;) Aside from those shenanigans, it was also my friend Marina's 21st.  We had a delicious potluck dinner chez Sara, who made galettes (a savory fried pancake-type thing) for the main dish. And cake!!! It was so good. And it goes without saying that we followed that up with a little partying ;)

Some exciting news: People are coming to visit me!!!! First of all: my mom! yep, she is coming for a second time in April. And, she's coming with her hilarious friend. So needless to say it will be a crazy adventure. I think we're going to take a little trip to Nice too. It will be cool to show them France in the springtime, which I predict will be around 12492738942 times better than France in the cold winter. Secondly: My 2 besties Brian and Aidan will be coming! This is like the best news ever because they are basically the best guys ever and I have missed them an insane amount. I'm gonna finally be able to travel around with them- we're planning on Amsterdam, Spain, and who knows where else. I'm so sososososososo so excited!!!!!! The future is bright:)

Oh!!! Wanna see my new house??!! I finally took some pictures.
My crazy metal spiral staircase.

Dining room

Living room/kitchen

My very messy room


 Yep so that is my new humble abode! Pretty cool, n'est-ce pas?

So to conclude this just-because blog, I'd like to say that even in times where nothing too exciting is happening, I enjoy every minute here in beautiful Bordeaux :) Every day is a new adventure, learning new words, meeting new people. It's kind of like being a child. But I get to do grown-up things. The hardships and homesickness pass, and as my friend told me today, I will look back and laugh at those frustrating times. And I'll remember my amazing experience :)

bisous à tous, je vous aime et vous me manquez!! xoxo

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

New semester, Italy, et beaucoup d'autres choses

Salut y'all! thought it was time to jot down some recent occurrences. Time passes so quickly, I always forget how long it's been since I last posted. It is currently a rainy and very very cold day in Bordeaux, so obviously I am curled up under the covers (and not in class). I have never been so cold in my life than I am here. I kind of feel like this:

Lauren Cope comes to France
My friend Lauren Cope came to visit me in France !! She stayed with me for 2 weeks and we had a grand old time. I showed her all around Bordeaux. It was fun being the tour guide and pretending I know a bunch of facts about this country. But in reality I just made up a lot of information. I think she caught on to me.  It was also hilarious to witness the language barrier from an outside perspective, although I was also victim to that in Italy (you'll read about that later).

We also squeezed in a weekend trip to Paris. We went to the Louvre, which I was super stoked about. Not only because it's the largest and maybe the most famous museum in the world, but because last time I went there (8 years or so ago), I was really sick and kind of had to lay down on benches the whole time. So needless to say, the 2nd time around was much more interesting and fruitful. We also cruised down la Seine, saw the Eiffel Tower and partied with frenchies. All in all it was a successful trip to Paris.

After we returned back to Bordeaux, I had to start school (more on that nightmare later). Before we knew it, it was time for Lauren to head back home and start her new semester too. It went by too quickly but we had a great time.
Place de la Bourse in Bordeaux

Shenanigans in Paris

Jardin de Tuileries

Second Semester in Bordeaux
Ok, can I just say that I CANNOT believe it's already February (almost) and spring semester is already like 3 weeks in. I know I always say how fast time goes by in my posts....but for real, I am trippin out!!!! So I finally have my emploi du temps all figured out. You may think registering for classes would be slightly easier second semester, since I did it before. No. Pas du tout. It was an excruciating process filled with hours of waiting, confusion, uncertainty and being made fun of for my terrible accent. Ok, maybe I'm exaggerating a little- it wasn't thaaaat bad. I made it out alive! But the disorganization of French...everything...never ceases to amaze me.

So I'm taking French literature, a French film class, methodology (where you learn how to be a French student) and ... drum roll.... PSYCHOLOGYY!!! yay! i am very excited about this because I really missed learning about psychology, the most interesting thing on the planet.  It gives me a break from learning about French culture all day. My one psych class is Developmental Psych, all about the development of the brain from infants to adulthood.  And, I feel like I really have come a long way cause I can understand about 80% of the lectures on a good day. Oh and another added bonus is that I go to a separate campus for psychology, which is 18923748932 x better than my other campus (which looks like a post-war zone). This is me in front of la belle fac à Bordeaux 2:

Last weekend, I jetted off to Rome to meet up with my friend from Davis! She just happened to be spending a week in Italy, so I couldn't pass up the opportunity to rendez-vous in Roma. It was such an incredible weekend. I've never been so moved by art. I feel like I witnessed the culmination of human kind's finest achievements, right before my eyes!!!! Several things I saw literally brought me to tears. Here's a recap: I arrived Friday and miraculously found my friends (without the aid of technology). The first thing we did was go to  a photography exhibit at a really cool gallery. The photographer turned out to be Steve McCurry, a famous photographer for National Geographic. It was a collection of hundreds of his most famous photos from all over the world- New York City to Africa to India to Europe. Here are some of my favorite :

I was amazed at the emotion he was able to capture in each photo, without needing an explanation. Mind blowing!!!

Next on the list was to see the Trevi Fountain. We managed to find it at night and man was it beautiful!!! I threw a couple coins in for good luck.

The next day we were the ultimate tourists. We took a 4 hour tour of Vatican City, including the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter's Basilica. Again, I could not believe that I was physically standing in the presence of such amazing, world-renowned works of art! It was exhausting but well-worth it. Our tour guide was a jolly American who I found out was from San Francisco! Le monde est petit. He was full of interesting information and really added to the tour. When I got to the Sistine Chapel, I felt as if I were in a dream. Though there are hundreds of tourists, the security guards make you be silent, as if to reinforce the holiness of it. Everyone has their heads tilted to the ceiling, taking in this  spectacular sight. Every square inch is filled with detail- Michelangelo really was a genius. I was humbled and in awe.

Following that, we went to Saint Peter's Basilica, the largest church in the world. If it was possible, I was even more amazed by this. There is just something about churches that I love. When I stepped in I was overwhelmed. I just kept thinking, the fact that humans can create such a thing- and so long ago, with limited tools- seems so unreal. We walked down into the catacombs, where the Popes are buried. Upon leaving Vatican City, I felt so deeply touched by art and history. It still gives me the chills!

After a much needed nap, Sarah and I hit the town for some debauchery. I'll give you a hint how the night went:
Sarah and I:

We met some ... interesting... Italians, then went out with a new friend. It was a crazy night that produced many funny stories, that aren't necessarily blog appropriate ;)

One thing I noticed was how difficult it was not speaking the language. Though I am nowhere near close to a fluent level in French, I can easily communicate important things, and even hold semi-interesting conversations. In Italy, I was limited to "ciao", "bella", and the combination- "ciao bella". Maybe throw in a "buon giorno"and that was the extent of my vocabulary. I felt disabled and alienated at times... it put things in a different perspective for me. the language barrier can be impossible, but we made it through- and it made for hilarious, awkward interactions!

Rome is an amazing city and I recommend that everyone visits. Just drop what you're doing and buy a ticket! Except finish reading this blog, of course :)

Bordeaux Life
I have been adjusting quite well to living on my own. I've started expanding my cooking horizons, and my friends and I decided to have a dinner party once a week to practice our cooking and just relax over a good home-cooked meal. Last time I hosted it chez moi, and made poulet à la crème- SO GOOD! By the time I come home, I'll be full of yummy French recipes that I can just whip up :)

I'm past the halfway point of my year in France. It's hard to wrap my head around, but in just 4 months I'll be returning to California. It's bittersweet for me, but I know I have many more adventures to come. Til then mes amis, I'll try to keep ya updated via my blog! Hope you enjoy! love and miss you all!!!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

That one time I was in France for the holidays

Bonjour!!! Ooooh lalalalala, these past few weeks have been so amazing. I feel like I've been living in a dream! I am one lucky fille to have this experience. So here's a recount of my Christmas and New Year in France - j'ai beaucoup à dire!

To begin with, my mère came to visit me for Christmas! We had a wonderful time traipsing around Paris and Bordeaux. It was really nice and comforting to see her, especially for the holidays. Living so far away can be hard sometimes, so being able to spend time with my mom was awesome. She arrived in Paris, so I met her there and we spent a few days soaking in the beauty of Paris at Christmas time. I also made a new Parisian friend :) and I got to ride on the back of his motorcycle !!! That has been one of my French cliché dreams for so long, and it was finally fulfilled. Besides my girly dreams coming true, my mom and I did lots of fun things in Paris. We ate at really nice restaurants, saw the Eiffel Tower at night, visited the Musée Rodin AND the Musée D'Orsay, and re-visited the Notre Dame (one of my favorite sights). We were very tourist-y looking, but I had to take pics:

The Thinker by Rodin

In front of Notre Dame!
It was very cold and gray, but we still had a great time.

After our little séjour à Paris, we headed back to Bordeaux. I had lots of things planned to see and do, but we kind of took the relaxing route and just chilled at Erika's a lot of the time. That was fine by me! However, I did show my mom the must-sees of Bordeaux, like the fountain at Place de Quinconces, the St. André cathedral, and of course Rue St. Catherine. We even got a drink one night at Charles Dickens (and got harassed by drunk French mecs) ! All part of the experience though. Erika and her daughters left for the campagne for Christmas, so the Americans had the house to ourselves. It was really nice- my mom cooked a delicious dinner on Christmas Eve which we spent  with my roommates Laura, Deyuanne and her sister and brother, and our friend Hannah.

Our American Christmas dinner in France
It was really sad when my mom had to go back to California, and I was a little nervous she wouldn't make her way back home without my French-speaking assistance, but she is an intelligent and capable lady so there were no problems :)

The next exciting thing that happened was that I moved into my new house!!! It is so amazing. It's right down the street from Jardin Public, my favorite spot in Bordeaux. The weather is ugly right now, so it's not at its prime, but I'm still enjoying the fact I can walk 5 minutes and be in this huge beautiful park. Can't wait for spring time, when I'll be pique-niquing there every day! This picture doesn't even do it justice, but take a look:
Also, the house is really really cool. I wanted to take pictures but my camera is currently dead and I'm too parasseuse to charge it. More pics will be posted soon. But it's very modern, with a metal grate-type winding staircase and a spacious living room. My room is awesome too, and my colocatrice Arielle is so nice! I'm really happy with my situation. And I'm finally walking distance from downtown, so no more worrying about catching the last tram. Oh and I'm learning to cook! So far I've made spaghetti and an omelette! I know I know, I'm no Rachel Ray yet...but you gotta take baby steps. Anyway, I love living on my own, and life is good :)

Next order of business: I went to Nantes with Edouard, mon ami francais, for New Year's!! It was a blast. His family is so nice, and let me stay with them in their cute home. I was spoiled with delicious home cooked meals grâce à Ed's mom. She is Australian so we spoke English with each other, but I also spoke a lot of french. I can tell my speaking and comprehension is improving, albeit slowly.

Ed took me around the city of Nantes, which is very modern and artsy. First we went to super cool graffiti exposition at a contemporary art museum, called Faire le Mur, which means to sneak out. They had quite some interesting and unique pieces.

Apres, we saw a real castle from around 1400, complete with motes and everything! (no alligators though).

We also visited a beautiful cathedral. Downtown Nantes is really nice too, it reminds me of Bordeaux a bit. Oh, and the coolest thing was this giant moving mechanical elephant! The city just decided to build it for no particular reason, but it was truly amazing. It was like a sign :)

Really made an impression on me.

The highlight of the trip to Nantes was that I got to go to a classy French new year's eve party! Ed's sister Claire invited us to her friend's apartment, which was la classe. Unfortunately I don't have pictures (or maybe it is fortunate...) but it was really great. There was foie gras, saumon, champagne...everything to make a true soirée. We rang in 2012 in style (sort of) and I get to say I spent new years in France :) The next day Ed and I went back to Bordeaux and I began the process of moving into my new place.

Since then, things have been easy breezy... school starts the 16th so I have a nice long break. Most of my friends are traveling or back in California for the holidays, so i've kinda been extremely lazy. I'll be taking psych classes this semester though, so that's probably gonna kick my fesse... gotta gear up for school mode soon!

Well mes amis, that pretty much sums up the recent happenings of my vie francaise. I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday wherever you are! Happy New Year, I miss all y'all more than I can express in a blog.
Gros bisous :)