Wednesday, July 6, 2011

One year over, an experience that will never end

One final post from sunny Bonneville France.

My year abroad is coming to an end, I am flying to the United States Sunday morning.  This has been an amazing year, as I think you have all seen from the rest of my posts.  I have passed a really amazing year here in France, I have made the friends of a lifetime, experienced another lifestyle and culture, and have relationships that will last forever.

This year I have also changed a lot.  I am much more independant than I was before and I have a whole new style that makes me feel really good about myself and gives me confidence.  This year has been both very long and extremely short, but between September 1st of last year and now, I have really changed.  I am not at all the same little Vicki sophomore in high school that I was before and I know that it is really weird to think about.  It is weird for me thinking about seeing everyone who has not been able to see my evolution and be shocked with the changes I have made.  The change is not even in appearance (ok, I took a kg of muscle from climbing the 1,5km every night) but other than that, the change is inside. It's how I see myself, how I see the world and how I make my decisions.

It is hard enough to explain all of that, but also there are things that I have the habit of doing here, and I don't even realize that I do it anymore.  To give an example, in France it is very impolite to have your hands in your lap while you eat, so now I have the habit of keeping my hands on the table at dinner.  There are a lot of other little things like that, that I don't realize I do here, but when I get home it will be weird doing that same thing.

I don't want to scare anyone but saying all of this, but it is true that I have really changed and that I really like the change.  I have really enjoyed spending a year in France, that is still a long time, one year.  I can't wait to come back and relive some of the amazing moments that I have passed here.

I also wanted to thank everyone who made this possible, helped me through the hard times, and made the good times great.  First to my parents, Mom and Dad I am very thankful that you have helped me make this possible and helped me throughout the whole year, I am really excited to see you guys in one week, love you!  Next come the teachers, French and American alike who helped me through and made this experience possible.  My host family here in France who were really great, more than I could ever have asked for, don't worry je reviendrais (I will be back).  And of course all of the amazing people who I have met and who have been really nice with me this year, the amazing friendships and relationships that will last a very very very long time <3

I can't wait to come back and visit everyone in France!

I will keep in touch with everyone this upcoming year, I promise!!

See you soon again France and see you very soon America :)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Le Baccalauréat

French exams are really hard!!!

The front of the high school, looking up, this was on my right.
This morning, at 8:00am, I arrived at school like any other normal school day. 
Looking down from the entrance to the high school, this was on my left.
Normally I get to school at a quarter to eight, to be there on time and to have a little time to chat with my friends before the bell rings.  Then when the bell rings, I complain a little about having to climb the 3 story hill to get into the high school and then the huge staircase that leads to the main hall, and then, depending where I have first class, I have to climb even more stairs!!

The staircase!
Also, just to let you know, the French school system is nothing like the American system, I did a whole school project ( a six month thing for the BAC ) on this exact subject.
I can go into more detail on that later if you want.  If you ever want any more information on France, what life is like, the food, the people, the government, the weather I don't know, just anything you want, feel free to comment on my blog posts and ask any questions that you want, if there is anything you guys don't understand, tell me!!  I am here to share my experience with you and I LOVE talking, so ask away ;)

In France, at the end of Junior and Senior year there are exams that are all part of the Baccalauréat, or BAC.  So, everything that we learn in class is to pass the BAC, I mean everything, the methods and how to write an essay, how to analyze certain documents.  We learn it all so that we can pass the BAC at the end of the year.  The BAC is to get into college, if you don't have your BAC or if you bomb it, you have to stay back a year, and retake it.  There is not too much you can do after high school if you are French and don't have the BAC.  I mean there are many different kinds of BACs, but it is not the same exam for everyone. For the different tracks in general high schools it is S (scientific), ES (economics and social) and L (litterary), and they all have different exams for the BAC.

Some of the exams are the same, for example today I took the BAC de Français (French written language) and it was the same for the S and ES tracks everywhere in France.

To pass the BAC at the end of the year, the students get out about a week before their exams to study on their own.  That means that my last day of school was June 14th, and my exam was today, on the 22nd and on July 4th.  So I stopped going to school a week ago but I still had to work and study hard during the week that followed.

My friend and I in the entrance
In this case, I think that I am allowed to say that I prefer the American system over the French system, because for the last ten years of my life, when school lets out, well, school lets out, that means that it is summer, I can relax, no more school for three months!! But here it was more like, last day of school that means that I have to study like crazy for the next two weeks until my exams are done! I geuss it's kind of like college, but I liked it in my American high school, because we had our final exams the two days before the last day of school, so it was two days of exams, and then school was out!!

I had to come back to the high school today to take the exam.  Plus, it was a four hour exam! I barely finished on time!  I was like, of course I'll have more than enough time to read carefully the texts and answer the short question ( a good paragraph or two) and then the essay (six pages!!).

Two friends and I outside
The other students started finishing around 10:45-11:00 and I was like, oh my gosh!! I am still not done with my draft! When I was half way done with my final copy, I looked around me and there were 5 people left. I was the last person to finish, by a good five minutes, but the teachers who were supervising us were really nice and talked to me after about the exam and the fact that I am American.  I had to finish writing so fast that I had a really bad hand cramp after, it even hurts to be typing this fast!!

I am just glad that it is over and now I have to get to studying for the next exam, it is science this time on Wednesday, at least it is only an hour and a half :) we have the same signs in the USA?
Well, I hope you have enjoyed reading about the great adventures that I have had in the French school system this year.  I could put up a whole blog post just on the French system.  It is really interesting, and very different from the American system, that is without a doubt ;)
Well, until next time, and I cannot believe that I will be home in three weeks!!

Friday, June 3, 2011


Yesterday was a no-school day in France and all over Europe, so Adélie, Benoit and I decided to go to Geneva.  At first we wanted to go kayaking on the lake, but it was cold and gray out so instead we took a self guided tour of the city.  Benoit and Adélie took me around and showed me a "reform" museum, the UN and plenty of watch stores.

A watch store, English translation: Pretigious watches
They also took me to see the theatre, which was very pretty and we walked a lot around the city, and we crossed the bridge at least four times, on different bridges too!  It was a very nice outing, and I am glad that I was able to finally see Geneva.  A couple of weeks ago we went to visit a medieval town in France called Yvoire, which is on lake Geneva, so we got to see the city from a distance, but it was great to really visit it.

The UN building
A church
What was funny was that we weren't stopped at the border, I was so confused.  I didn't even realize that we were not in France anymore, there must have been a sign or something, but I was just looking out the window and Benoit starts talking about Geneva.  I was like, "Wow, that was quick I can't believe that we are already in Geneva!"  I seriously had no idea. 

The leaning tree in Geneva
Why does time go by so fast?
English: I do not make the sidewalks dirty

I have been in France for nine months and two days!!  And I am leaving on July 9th from Bonneville and taking the plane to JFK NY on July 10th.  I would have never thought that these kinds of thoughts would come so fast, time is not supposed to go this fast, come on!!

It is not fair that time has passed so quickly because it is now that I realize that, of course, I should have really looked around me and seen how beautiful this experience really is.  I know, I know, I still have a month left to take advantage of all of the opportunities given to me, and I have already taken some time to sit back and soak in every second of this very different life.  I am so happy to be here and I cannot even imagine my life now without the relationships that I have built over this past year.

Get ready for a new Frenchified (I don't think that that is even a word!!) Vicki!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Nice Weekend

This weekend we went to Sothonod again with the family and some family friends.

We spent nearly the whole day there, very relaxing, we ate a nice lunch, you know the classic French lunch.  The apéro, with two different kinds of wine, and juice for the young ones, then the appetizer consisting of a green salad (enormous leaves that you have to cut, even though it is normally impolite to cut your salad) and a potato salad (with a mustard sauce, very good).  Then came the real deal, the roasted pork and mashed pumpkin (yes, mashed pumpkin, if you remember correctly this is the same HUGE pumpkin that we ate in November). Next came the cheese, a couple different variteies, but we didn't go crazy (when the French have invitees, don't eat too much of the main course because there is always a large selection of cheese 20 minutes later).  Then came the dessert (a simple but very good chocolate cake made by the family friends, but there were also fresh cherries which were AMAZING!).

After lunch we relaxed for a while and then Adélie, Joelle and I (and one of Joelle's friends) went to a really pretty waterfall.  We had to walk a little bit in the water around big rocks and everything before getting to the real thing, but it was amazing and I didn't get too wet :)

I think that French cherries are the some of the best cherries that I have ever tasted, today Adélie and I had to pick fresh raspberries from the garden and cherries from the tree a little ways down in the yard.  I can tell you that all of the ripe cherries were all the way at the top of the tree, but the few that were low enough to pick were absolutely amazing.  I couldn't help myself, I just had to taste a couple of them before coming back into the house.  The rest weren't quite ripe yet, so we are going to have to wait about a week or so I think.

That was this afternoon, but at noon, my host mom made a dish with shark in it!

My delicious asparagus
I have never tasted shark before, and it wasn't half bad.  The texture was special, somewhere in between salmon and swordfish, it was thicker than a fish, but softer than a steak (like swordfish).  She made it in a lime sauce that I liked, and on the side I had made some asparagus à l'Américaine, the way that my parents do it at home.  It was delicious, but I think that I put a little too much olive oil on it, oops. I'll have to remember to measure it the next time.

Another food that I have been introduced to in France is the artichoke, the whole thing, not just the heart.  Infact we eat the "meat" on the leaves and then throw them out.  We work our way around the artichoke to the heart, which is the best part.  They normally put a little bit of lemon mayo on the leaves to soften the taste, I tasted it two times and I really like it :)

The other night Adélie and I watched Beauty and the Beast in French, it was amazing!

Until next time!!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A very musical vacation

My last week in France was the most musical and relaxing of all.

The first week was spent at a music "camp" at Sallanches, a town 45 minutes from Bonneville.  It was one week of pure music, at least five hours of music each day.  Students from all over the Faucigny province were invited to the "camp".  There were 87 students this year, ranging from 12 years old to 18 years old.

Even in one week, I have made a whole group of amazing friends that I will be able to see again at the Music Festival at the end of June.  When I arrived, I knew only the kids from my Harmonie, but that first day I made new friends who I shared the dorm room with.  There were other activities, like a karaoke night during the week, but most of the time we were either singing or playing music.

The group of girls in my dorm room and I
We had only one week to put together a concert with songs that we weren't familiar with and that were not easy.  There were six songs and one week to master them, this experience will stay with me for the rest of my life and it has improved my saxophone skills.  I will never be able to forget the friendships that I have made and the amazing experiences that I have had so far this year.

The group of people from the music "camp"
The week after my musical "camp", Adélie and I spent a week in Montpellier with her grandmother.  We spent the week relaxing, shopping and walking the three dogs that were staying with her grandmother.  Her other grandmother lives at Montpellier also, and she gave us a long historic tour on the old Montpellier.

Sadly, the end of the school year is near, it is hard to believe that I have been in France for eight months and that in two months I will be back in the United States.

Me in front of the Aqueduc des Arceaux at Montpellier
Today I received my dates and my numbers for the Bac.  I am going to be passing the written portion of the French bac on June 20th and the oral portion on July 4th.  I am going to pass the science bac on June 22nd.  I am nervous about the exams, but I know that it will go well.

It has been such a long time since I have spoken English, and I feel like I am sort of forgetting it.  It'll come back to me after a day or so in the US, but for the moment I much prefer speaking French and there are some expressions that I want to put in my posts, but they don't exist in English!

I'll update again soon, maybe next time I will write more in French :)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Nice Escalade For A Sunday Afternoon

Today I went rock climbing/hiking with Benoît and Adélie at Sixt Fer a Cheval, a small town about an hour away from Bonneville, it is not very far from Mt. Blanc.  It took us about two hours to get to the top of the climbing site, but only forty five minutes to come down.

The beginning of the climb was nice, tranquille, but then the vertical climbing started and I went very slowly and tried not to look down. We were all attatched, the ropes and everything was secure and the station had wires that we could attatch to.  Everything was going alright, until we got to a bridge, a hanging bridge.  Adélie was half-way across the bridge when I came on and we started laughing about how it reminded us of the scene in Shrek where Donkey and Shrek are on the bridge going to the castle, and Shrek shakes the bridge while Donkey is scared to death.  We reproduced the scene in French on the bridge except that none of us were scared.

I looked down only to see the beatiful view that we had of the mountains and the small town, but other than that I did not look down at the large rock that I was in the middle of climbing.  There were some scary moments but I came out of it just fine.

It was a really nice experience that I have never had before and don't know when I will have the chance to do it again.  This was the first time that I have done rock climbing outside of the high school gym's rock wall, and the rock walls at REI.

After the climb we went to see the Cascade de Rouget,the largest waterfall in all of Europe, it was a short ten minutes away from where we climbed.  It was very beautiful and it cooled us off very nicely, after three hours in the sun, it was 28C (83F) again today!  It was a really beautiful day and Anne said one of the last nice weekends to go climbing, because we have concerts almost every weekend with the Harmonie and after May, it is going to get really hot.

I had a really nice time and this will be added to my collection of amazing experiences in France!

I have a long day ahead of me at school tomorrow, I am going to head off!

Bonne Journée tout le monde!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Another Day Brings Another Friend

I have been happily surprised by everything that happens to me here in France.

What I mean by the title is that there are always new people that you meet, that you talk to and that you connect with.

Even if it is a simple smile from someone, it means a lot to me.
Since the beginning of my experience I have made new friends practically every day, sure there are days where I don't stop to say hi to every single person that I have ever seen.  There are some particular days like today where I want to dance around the school and say hi to everyone, even if I don't really know them, just to introduce myself so that the next time our paths cross I will have an excuse to go say hi!

Everyone is so nice, so I have no problem saying hi to almost everyone :)

Today was skirt day and a day of respect (Journée de la jupe et du respect).

Almost all of the girls came in skirts or dresses and even some of the guys, I admit it was kind of weird.

One of my new friends is Valentin, he is in my Phys Ed class and he is very nice.  I promised him that I would add him into one of my posts :)

Life is still extremely normal, I feel like I should be giving you guys more details, but seriously, it is all routine now.
6:45am First alarm, hit snooze
6:55am Second alarm, hit snooze
7:05am Third and Final alarm, contemplate getting up and decide that turning on the light will do.
7:12am I sit up and decide to climb down the ladder.
7:20am get dressed and go downstairs.
7:25am eat a bowl of Special K dark chocolat cereal
7:45am leave for school
7:55am bell rings for first period
(I am not going to go through my school day, it is pretty boring, except for all of the people that I see)
5:50pm last period bell rings
5:55pm start walking kind of slowly to the house after saying goodbye to my friends
6:17pm arrive at the house and put my back pack down and say hi to everyone
7:45pm eat dinner (it depends what day and what time Anne comes home for dinner, ex Mondays I eat at 9pm when I get home from karate or 7:30pm on Fridays because we have to leave at 8pm for band practice)
8:00pm sit down in front of the TV to watch the nightly news and sometimes watch a film
10:00pm go upstaris to brush my teeth and go to sleep (and write in my daily journal that I will make into a book when I get home all about my experience!!)

The process repeats the next morning and the next, I think that you understand.
I have been accepted to a one week music "stage" (I am not quite sure how to say it in English, it is essentially one week of doing nothing but playing music, seriously it is at least 6 hours of music playing every day.)
It will be the first week of April vacation, which starts the 23rd and I am so excited, I am going with Adélie but I am going to make the friends of a lifetime!! A week full of music with band geek buddies! I have missed my band geek buddies since there is no band at high school in France.

The second week of April vacation will be spent in Montpellier with the grandparents (Adélie's not mine) but I am excited to return down there, I am afraid that it will be very hot though.

It hit near 27 C today, which was nice in a dress but not so much in jeans.
This spring is very nice and the warm weather came very quickly!

Adélie told me that the summers in Bonneville can be very hot and sticky, not exactly the perfect kind of summer weather, but we'll see if this summer will be as record hot as last year in New England, 100F in NY wow!

I hope that the snow has started to melt and that the spring flowers are starting to come, or maybe the rain has come.  They always say "April showers bring May flowers"!
Let's hope so!

Have a happy spring everyone and I will post again after April vacation!

A Bientôt!

Friday, March 18, 2011

England, a very backwards country

This past week, I went to England with the high school.

I know, the American exchange student in France goes to England, but it was my only opportunity to go!
I could not miss out on a chance to see London, or to be surrounded with people with awesome accents :)
Oxford Castle

We left in the early afternoon Sunday March 13th, we took a coach bus so it took about twelve hours to get to the Eurotunnel.  We arrived in Oxford around 8am, and we were all half asleep.  That day was a very long day, walking around and trying to pay attention to tour guides in English when you only got two hours of sleep the night before is very hard.  Either way I enjoyed it very much and the Christ Church College was very beautiful.
Christ Church College
We also got a short tour of Oxford castle which was very interesting and filled with legends and history about the past prisoners that were housed there.
Ring any bells?

That night we met our host families and went to sleep very early.  The next day was an early wake up for another long day, this time at Winchester and Windsor.  In the morning we visited the Winchester College, a very prestigious all boys private school.  Unfortunately we were not allowed to take pictures inside of the school grounds, neither of the buildings nor of the boys.
All of the girls on the tour were sad about this last fact, and we were not able to visit the classrooms and the only boys we saw were those who were outside.
Windsor Castle

That afternoon we went to Windsor to visit the castle.  The Windsor Castle is enormous, and it houses a lot of history of England.  We got an audio tour of the castle, I took English and didn't feel weird, because we were in England and half of our group took it in English.

Bridge of Sighs, St. John's College
Wednesday we went to Cambridge to visit the town and the many colleges that are housed there.  We got a tour of St. John's College but also got to see Trinity College and King's College.  We got a short tour in a punting boat, a man pushed us with a long rod.  The boat ride was very relaxing and the guide was very interested by my American accent, he also had a fun time making fun of it.

Picadilly Circus
Finally we got to London on Thursday, I am so happy that I was able to visit the capital because I have never been in England and do not know when I will return.  We walked around the city and saw all of the big sites, the London Eye, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Houses of Pariliament,  Picadilly Circus and Covent Garden.  Covent Garden kind of reminded me of Fanueil Hall in Boston.

London Eye
I had realized that the English do a lot of things backwards, or inversely of the European Union.  They drive on the left side of the road, which was hard to get used to, they use a different currency (£ pounds), they also use miles and pounds instead of kilometers and kilograms. I know that half of those things that I listed correspond to the United States also, but it is normal for us, we are not part of Europe.  It is just kind of confusing why the UK does not adopt the Metric system. Any suggestions?

Big Ben and Houses of Parliament
Despite all of that and the not so beautiful weather, I had a great time and do not regret going.

Buckingham Palace
I hope that I can come back some day to really visit all of the sites, instead of just seeing them from a distance.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Vacances de Février with lots of ski!

This long vacation has now come to an end.

This was a really great vacation with a lot of nice memories and a whole new world of ski!

I absolutely love skiing, I progressed very quickly and I am actually good at it.  It is a nice sport, you don't have to go fast to have fun.
I took ski lessons all of the first week and practiced my skills, then the second week I went skiing with the rest of the family.  I had a really great time and I am so happy that I got the chance to meet and get along nicely with the extended family.  It really meant a lot to me when they all told me what progress I have made and that they enjoyed spending the week with me.

Another amazing vacation is over... yet I am still not going back to school!
I am leaving for England in an hour and I can't wait to speak English again.  Haha, I will most likely prefer speaking French, I actually have to think when I speak English now. There are some sayings that I use all of the time in French, but have no idea how to say in English.  In fact I feel much more comfortable speaking French now.  I have also been dreaming and thinking in French for a while now, it is kind of weird, but nice.

I am very happy that I got the chance to learn how to ski, because now I can drag my parents to the slopes with me when I come home! 

A little tid bit : It is very important to prepare meals in advance when you have more than 10 people coming to live in your house for two weeks.

It is also important to have very big pans so that you can cook for everyone at once and not have to do two servings.  Either way, it is nice to have people over and to share memories with them.  Hopefully I will be able to come back next year and do some more skiing with the family.  I can't believe that I will not see the extended family again this year.

Well, I am off to finish some last minute packing!  Do not worry, I will be back Friday so you can look out for a post next weekend. 

I am about to enter the world of the an American exchange student living in France.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

OMG Snow!

So today was a very exciting day for me.

It is the first day since December 18th that we have gotten snow in the valley!

I woke up this morning, like any other morning and I took a look out my window and I screamed "Yessssssssss!!!!".  In fact I screamed that with more enthusiasm and a little louder, and multiple times.  When I came down to breakfast I was so excited and happy because we were finally getting snow!  Adélie didn't seem to enjoy the snow very much though, oh well.

Ok, so there wasn't exactly THAT much snow, but there was a good inch and a half on the ground this morning and when we left it was still snowing.  It stopped snowing around 10 am, when I was in English class.  I had no idea that it was possible to watch three American movies in English class that I have never heard of before. Sorry, kind of random I know but I don't understand.

We have watched...
Little Big Man (1970 with Dustin Hoffman)
Betrayed (1988 with Debra Winger and Tom Berenger)
Thank You for Smoking (2004 with Aaron Eckhart and Katie Holmes)
If any of you have ever heard of these films please let me know, because I haven't heard of any of them.

Anyway, once 17:00 rolled around this is what the ground looked like.

I was so disappointed, but I guess that is just how life is.
I also learned today that Math is a lie, how can I go the rest of my life knowing that Math is a lie?
I just can't live with that.

Is there still twenty billion inches of snow on the ground in New Enland?
Look! There were even flowers!
I want to see some pictures!!

That's all for now, I am going to end things on a good note ( haha litterally, I mean grades are called notes in France).

I got a 19.5/20 on a math test (lies).
I have a 12.5/20 average overall as a student for the 2nd trimester!!
The class average is around 11.5 or so!!

I am so proud of myself.
I have a long two weeks of vacation (called skiing) coming up, if I don't kill myself trying to ski then I will tell you how it went!

Have a great vacation and a great rest of the winter with snow!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

I'm still alive but busy!!

Hello everyone,

I am extremely busy, as you all see because of the absence of posts, but I am still alive!

It is the end of the second trimester, so the teachers are throwing tests at us left and right.  I also took two BAC Blancs- a practice BAC- one for SES and one for French.  I got a 7.5/20 for the SES and the French one we still have not gotten back.

I am having a great time here in France, like normal, and have gone skiing once more!
It was very nice in fact, because I had a lesson then we took the ski lift to the top of the mountain, which was very pretty not a cloud in the sky, to descend some harder slopes.  I followed the rest of the group fine, a bit slow but it's normal for someone who has skied three times in her life!  It was the beginning of February vacation for the Parisiens, so we now have seven more people in the house!  It is not fair, they get to ski all day while I am at school.

In fact, I have realized something.

I am learning downhill skiing, but when I get home in Holliston will I be able to find ski slopes for downhill skiers?

If anyone knows good downhill ski slopes I would greatly appreciate it.  I want to ski when I get back.

At least in New England there is snow, we still haven't gotten snow.  The last time it snowed was the 18th December.  There has been some snowfall in the mountains, but not that much either way.  There were large areas of the mountain where there was absolutely no snow!

I hope all of you in New England are enjoying the most likely awesome ski season!

I am now reading a book called Candide in French class, by Voltaire.  It is a philosophical book which is very hard to understand, the logic is in fact not very logical if you know what I mean...

Anyway, I am alive, if I had not already specified, it is just that I am having such a good time that I have not found the time to write.

Thanks for reading and I hope that I will be able to write after my two weeks of not-stop ski!

Oh yeah, I almost forgot!

I am going to England!!!

It is a school trip for one week after February vacation and I am so excited!

I will be an American among the French going to England to learn English!!

I have to go set the table, I really am busy!


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Just Thought I'd Post :)

Hello everyone!

I have decided to post... just because.

I am doing great here in France, where there is NO SNOW!

I wish that some of that New England snow could come our way because if we don't get snow soon, the ski season risks to be not too active.  There was no more than 20cm of snow on the slopes where we went last weekend, there were places all over where you could see the ground.  I'll bet that you New Englanders will not be seeing the ground for a while :)

I have just realized that my experience is already half over!!

It seems like just yesterday when I stepped onto the plane at Boston's Logan Airport saying goodbye to my Mom and Dad for 10 months on my way to New York and then France!  And now I have my mid-experience AFS weekend coming up next weekend!

I am about to reveal some of my feelings from the beginning of my experience and all of the progress that I have done over the past five months in France.

First of all, it is hard for me to speak English now.  I would much rather speak French and it comes much quicker to me! When I talked to my parents last weekend, they told me that I was developing an accent!!!!  English class is still not hard, but I actually have to think before speaking! I sometimes even stumble over my words!

I remember the first day of school, I walked up the hill to the high school and I had the feeling that I had a flashing neon sign over my head screaming "AMERICAN AMERICAN" and that everyone was looking at me.
Now instead of being freaked out every time I walk into the school, I stop and say hi to every person I know, or they stop me to say hi!

I have my routines now, for example- every Wednesday at noon, Adélie and I walk to the house together and make Ramen and watch The Simpsons before heading off to our saxophone lessons.  I feel like I am at home, you know where you are comfortable with your surroundings and can find something random like the scotch tape if someone asks you.  I am feeling really great about myself and the progress that I have made within the past five months, we had parent teacher conferences the other night and all of the teachers say I made great progress with the language and that I am a very good student!

I still have a lot of work, but it is getting better and I am understanding more and more.  I am off to watch Good Morning England with the family!!



Thursday, January 20, 2011

Ski Round II

This past weekend we went skiing again, and this time I fell down at least 10 times more than the first time.  We went to a different station, but I stayed at the bottom, the baby slopes.  I had to do that until I got the hang of the skis again.  It took me a while to get used to them, buyt after not too long, we went to a green slope, the easiest of them all.

It took me forever to finish the slope the first time, but I decided to go and try it again.  I did the slope multiple times and learned a few more tricks, how to maintain my speed, how to turn, how to stop etc.

I had a great time, the sun was shining and I had bruises all over the next day!  It is also true that half of the time I was on the ground. :)

That day was very nice and we ate classic Haute Savoie meals at the ski lodge for lunch.  It was a really beautiful day out, there was not a cloud in the sky, and true, not too much snow on the ground.  The ski season is not looking too great at the moment because the last time it snowed was before Christmas!  Half of the stations are either closed or have half of their slopes closed, and we don't know when we are going to get snow again.  Hopefully before February break!

I want to keep on skiing, even if I am on the ground most of the time.  It is so much fun and I want to improve so that I can ski whenever I want at a higher level.  I also consider it as a very active sport, the time flies by and you lose half of your thighs by the end of the season!

Toon in to more of my adventures soon and a Happy 16th Birthday to Adélie yesterday!!


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Vacances de Noel: Part 3

This post is the last of three, but it is the most... let's just say interesting.

I have moved onto a new level in my life, I have now lived like a typical French person.  Just without the mustache and beret in Paris :) I have walked through downtown with a baguette in my arm though.

So, a quick quiz.

What is the first thing you think of (food wise) when you think of France?

Think about it for a minute and then look below...

YES!! I ate escargots! In fact, I ate TWO, to really try them.  They are really not that bad, very chewy and garlicky. That was it really, I mean they weren't bad, but I have to admit that they were very pretty.

That was the day before New Year's Eve, and then I tried something else on New Year's Eve. Oysters!  I also ate two, but the first was plain, salty, with no dressing, but the second was with a vinegar, which was better.  They were hard to chew, you just had to swallow them whole.  They were fine, but I would not choose to eat them again, at least I tried them!

So this vacation was very productive, with many new places, people and foods.  I am so glad that I am in France and am given all of these amazing opportunities.

Actually, I would like to take a moment to thank my Mom and Dad for making this experience possible. I love you guys.<3

Toon in soon to my new everyday adventures!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Vacances de Noel: Part 2

This vacation was a very important time for me because I met almost the rest of the family and friends. That means that during February vacation I will know almost all of the twenty something people that are going to be staying in the house!

I had already met Lucile and Adélie's godfather's families, because they came to Bonneville during the Vacances de Toussain in October.  I essentially met everyone at Christmas.  We arrived at Pamiers, at Anne's sister's house Thursday (the 23rd) night after spending the day at the Chateaux Cathares.

We met the family, Noyale (Anne's sister) and her husband, Phillipe along with their three children, Gwendoline (23 years old), Loïc (20 years old) and Gaël (13 years old).  We all got along very well and had a great time together. The other cousins were there too, I had met them in Paris also during the Vacances de Toussain, Erwan (Anne's brother) and his wife Faty, and their two boys Magsen (13 years old) and Treveur (10 years old).

I also got the chance to meet Mamama (Anne's mother) and Mamie (Phillipe's mother).  They were the typical grandmothers, spoiling the grandchildren and refusing any help, getting up, sitting down etc.  They were very nice though.

Christmas was a very important time for everyone. To be together as a family for those couple of days a year is very special to them.  In fact, this was my first Christmas, and it was amazing! Christmas Eve we ate cold meat appetizers and foie gras (I LOVE IT!) and champagne before evening mass at 8:35pm (20:35).  This was also my first mass, and it was very interesting for me, they essentially sang and the priest told the story about baby Jesus and all that.
Lucile, Adélie and I

We got back to the house around ten o'clock and went straight to the gifts.  The mound around the Christmas tree was so large the we thought it was going to take forever to open them all.  The tradition was that the youngest got to distribute the  presents, the means that Treveur had to go through them one by one and hand them out.  Good thing that everyone opened their gifts at once, because if not, we really would have been there all night. After all of the presents were opened, we just stayed together, talked and ate the "petits gateaux de Noël" (little Christmas cookies).  We went to bed around one in the morning and slept until 11:30am!  They simply enjoyed being together, with the boys playing Mario Kart on the Wii and the girls reading on the couch.

Adélie and I Christmas Day, relaxin'
The next night we went to a restaurant where there were 28 of us where I met all of the family friends. I met the family who lives in Nancy, where we went for New Year's. We had a great time at New Year's, with the same concept of being all together.  I really did enjoy myself in Nancy and it is now the beginning of a new year!

We came back Saturday (Jan 1st) to Bonneville to finish our last minute work.  It was true that this past week (the first week back) was filled with work, tests, and more work! :)

To be continued in a short Part III

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Vacances de Noel: Part 1

I hope everybody passed a nice holiday season and had a happy New Year 2011! These past two weeks have been packed with new places, new people and new food!  I am going to split this post into multiple parts because there is so much to tell.  I would like to start by the places I visited and an outline of my two week long travels.

To start, the first weekend (Dec 18-19) of vacation I stayed in Bonneville because I had a friend's sweet sixteen on Saturday and our band concert on Sunday (see previous post for more details).  We left early Monday morning for Perpignan (50km from the Spanish border) to stay the night with Lucile's godfather.  On the way we stopped at Orange to eat lunch and at Avignon to see the Palais des Papes.  In the 14th Century, Avignon was the home of the Pope.  The inside was very beautiful and very well conserved.

Palais des Papes
Tuesday morning was another early start and we were on our way to Barcelona!  I was so excited, another country to add to my not so long list of USA, Canada, Mexico and France!  What was interesting was that I did not need my passport, I took it anyway but since Spain is part of the European Union, once you are in, you are in, they don't stop you at the border and don't check passports very often.

Once we got to the hostel, we dropped our bags and went out to explore the city.  We visited the St. Catherine church, and took a walk in a public garden and saw another Arc de Triomphe. We also stopped to look at many interesting architectural work on an opera and many houses.  We also stopped to visit the Picasso museum, with the largest collection in one place from the artist.  That night we ate at Con Cargol (The Blue Snail, L'Escargot Bleu) and the food was amazing!  Afterward, only ten o'clock, we went to see the outside of the Sagrada Familia, the famous unfinished basilica by Gaudi.

Our kebabs at Con Cargol
Sagrada Familia
Wednesday, our final day in Barcelona, we went to visit the inside of the Sagrada Familia, which was architectually, spiritually, emotionally, mentally, anything-you-can-think-of-ly amazing. The Sagrada Familia took us the whole morning and then we set off to find the Park Güell.  We spent the early afternoon visiting the park and more of Gaudi's work, then we left for Perpignan again but this time to stay with Adélie's godfather.
Park Güell

Thursday we left Perpignan in the late morning and went to visit the Chateaux Cathares.  These very old medieval castles are situated on a rocky mountain, and the only way to climb is by foot. The trail was not  too long and it was so worth it because when we got to the top we could only stand and stare at either the beautiful castle or the mountainous view.  We visited the ruins of the first chateau and boy was it windy!  On our way up, the wind was so strong that we thought that we were going to fall over!  We then left for the second chateau that you could see from the first. We climbed another and slightly longer and steeper trail to get to the ruins.  This second chateau was on two levels, a lower, older part, and up another small hill, the slightly newer part.  There was not nearly as much wind at this chateau, but there were a lit more ruins to see.  

After we were finished visiting the chateaux, we made our way through the Pyrenees to Pamiers, where Anne's sister lives, where we would stay for the next few days and for Christmas. (For more info on Christmas and New Year's, toon in soon the next post is coming)

The view from Quéribus
At Pamiers I met the rest of the family and we had a very nice Christmas.  On Sunday, we relaxed most of the day, I had a play to read (Le Mariage de Figaro-Beaumarchais) and the boys played Mario Kart on the Wii.  We packed all of our belongings and headed out to Lamalou-les-Bains, 85km west of Montpellier, where we had a restaurant reserved for our family.  I know that it is not very common to rent out the restaurant for just us, but there were 28 of us!  That night we went chez Mamama (Anne's mother) to sleep.  Mamama lives in a small town called Fabrègues near Montpellier.  We stayed with her for a relaxing few days, hanging out as cousins and family.  Us girls took a short shopping trip to downtown Montpellier one afternoon and we had a fun time going into shops that we knew we couldn't afford.  

We left Wednesday night from Montpellier to go to Nancy, in the north of France to visit very close family friends. We spent the next few days and New Year's with them.  We went to the Marché Central (Central Market) Thursday morning to buy fresh produce and meat for that night's meal and for New Year's Eve.  In Nancy, we visited the museum of the L'école de Nancy and the Musée Lorrain.  L'école de Nancy had many forms of architecture that were conserved and was a new way of building and art.  There were many glass bowls and vases with intricate designs and multiple layers of glass.
La Place Stanislas at Nancy

We left for Bonneville New Year's Day and it felt nice to get back my new routines, and to sleep in my own bed again.  The next day was spent, of course, on homework and relaxing.  We had to prepare ourselves for the long week that was ahead of us.  Monday morning, I took longer than normal to get up,  and school seemed longer than usual.  To make Monday longer, I had karate just after schoool, so I didn't get home until nine o'clock.

It is now the middle to end of a long week and it feels like I had way more work than usual, I think it is time to get a good night's sleep and really wake up and realize that VACATION IS OVER!

Good thing February break is in only 8 weeks!!
Haha, I'm not counting down the days or anything...

To be continued...