Saturday, December 11, 2010

Is this really the end?

I am a horrible blogger.  I know.  I only wrote once in November and this is my first post in December.  School happened and visitors happened.  Chris came to visit me for a week over his Thanksgiving break.  It was the best Thanksgiving and we didn’t even celebrate it.  I was sick but oh well, they don’t do all the yummy carb filled noodles, stuffing, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes and many other good things.  Chris and I visited the castle in my town, ate dinner with my host family one night and did very French things.  We tried lots of different food and spent one day in Paris.  We got there at 8 and didn’t leave until 8 that night.  We saw everything that one could possibly see when visiting Paris, just all in a day, and we went inside the Louvre.  Being on top of the Eiffel Tower together was very romantic.  I am very thankful and lucky that he got to visit me.
I had a whole week of school and then my grandparents came to visit for a couple days.  They got to meet my host family as well.  We walked everywhere and I think I wore them out but we had lots of fun.  It was nice being able to show everyone my home away from home and my “family”.  My grandparents had done Paris before so we just stayed in my town. 
It snowed about a centimeter and that made everyone think the world was going to end because I guess my area of France doesn’t do snow.  The rest of the ISU students and I thought this was hilarious because we wouldn’t even consider what they had to be snow.  We still go to class when the snow is up to our knees or higher (and I like it that way!)
The days have been flying by.  It my days aren’t consumed by school then I am home writing papers or speeches or reading getting ready for finals week/week and a half.  From last Wednesday to next Friday, I have 4 speeches (which add up to an hour and ten minutes) and 7 tests.  I miss having 4 or 5 tests and being done.  I want to enjoy my last couple days here but school consumes about every minute of free time I have.  Until I get an urge to shop…
My urge to shop has been helpful because I am getting most of my Christmas shopping done, since I will only have 7 days to finish it when I get home.  I love giving gifts much more than I do receiving gifts (not that I don’t like to receive gifts).  I like the feeling of watching someone opening their presents and getting excited about what they received.  I love the look on their face.  Hopefully everyone will love their gifts from France. 
My host family put up their Christmas tree last week.  It’s a real tree and the first real tree I have ever had.  It looks kinda scrawny and naked to me because I am used to a big fake tree but it is very pretty.  There is also a Christmas market in the center of town.  All vendors selling things they made.  It is very neat and a great place to buy gifts.  What’s better than something handmade from someone in France?
I’ll write one more post before I leave but today is my last Saturday here living in Angers, France.  I have a wonderful roommate, Becky, who I will miss very much.  We only live about 6 hours away from each other in the United States but it will be very weird not seeing her every day and doing homework together.  We’re a good match and have a lot of fun together.  In a week I won’t be able to walk down the hall to her room and rant about school or home or life here or split a bottle of wine at night.  She’s a wonderful person and I’m very lucky to have had the chance to be her roommate.
I will miss the little things about living here.  I’ll miss the bakeries, the lightheartedness of French teachers and how every single day is a new adventure of learning the language and culture.  I am having the same feelings that I had right before I left to come here.  I absolutely love my town here and the size of it.  It’s exactly what you picture when you think of a French town.  I’ll miss all my friends that I have made here.  I’ve made really good friends from all over the world and they are all amazing and different.  But on the other hand, I’m excited to go home and see my real family and my friends from home, I’m excited to drive (sounds silly right) and to eat food that I know the ingredients.  Everything is a bitter sweet about leaving.  
I can’t believe that I will be home in a week.  It doesn’t seem real.  It feels like just yesterday I got to my host house and had a meltdown because I knew no one and was all alone.  Now that’s the last thing I am feeling.  There is lots of love in my program. (I love all you CIDEF students J). I am very lucky and thankful that I had this opportunity. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Bitter Sweet

Lots to update since my last post.  I did not go to Brussels when I said I was going to.  It sounded fun but not 300 Euros just to get there fun so I changed my mind.  I did go to Porto, Portugal though with 4 other girls.  Getting there was quite an adventure.  Me and one other girl had to take a later train into Paris because we had a job interview.  We took the train and then had to sprint to the metro, ride 5 stops, sprint and switch metros, ride 8 more stops, get off and spring to the bus that was going to take us to the airport.  We had to look crazy to everyone else there because I have never seen anyone else run like we did in the metro.  We made it to the bus with no time to spare.  He was starting to pull away right as we ran up there.  Thankfully we made it on time and safe to Portugal.   We stayed in a hostel (which was my first time) but it was wonderful.  We had our own room and there was a kitchen and living room and dining room and the workers were very helpful.  We went on a four hour walking tour which seemed like it was all uphill but was amazing.  We saw so much and our guide was very helpful.  (After the crazy running we did on Friday and then the tour on Saturday, my legs were sore - And I walk everywhere now - so it was a little crazy that my legs were sore)  We also ate this amazing sandwich (which is a specialty of the town we stayed in).  It was two thick slices of bread, ham, hamburger patties, sausage, and cheese all grilled together and then topped with a fried egg and spicy beer sauce.  It was delicious and huge.  (I’ll post a picture later)  We got home Monday afternoon after sleeping in the airport and had to go straight to class (after wearing clothes for over 36 hours), I’m sure we all smelled and looked wonderful. 
I had school Monday and Tuesday and then was supposed to on Wednesday but didn’t go but with a good reason.  I was going to pick up my mom, step-dad and sister.  I needed to see them.  We joked and laughed and did all the silly things we usually do when we are together that I haven't had a chance to do in a long time.  I laughed more than I have in a long time.  We spent two days in my town and saw the castle in my town and shopped a little bit and ate lots and lots of bread and pastries and ham and butter sandwiches.  I pretty much live in the land of ham, butter and cheese.  We went to the mall too.  Then we spent two days in Paris.  We visited the outside of all the major sights and went inside the Catacombs which were really neat to see.  I loved having them here but it was kind of a bitter sweet.  I was excited to finally hug someone since I left home and show them my home here but saying goodbye was really really hard.  I’m a big baby right now who needs her mom.  Aren’t we all?
33 days left.  That’s it.  It has absolutely flown by.  I love it here but don’t think I could stay here for a whole year.  Chris comes in 6 days and my grandparents come the 2nd of December for a couple days.  For Thanksgiving there are rumors that my school serves Thanksgiving dinner which will be nice but again will be a bitter sweet because Thanksgiving is meant to be spent with family – but the other kids here have become my family away from home. 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

What happened to all my Tootsie Rolls?

Add another country to my list.  I am leaving for Brussels, Belgium on Saturday, October 30th for two days to eat waffles and French fries (the French fry was started in Belgium), oh and of course look at museums.  I am going with two other girls for two days and then will be back to reality Monday evening.  The week after I get back from Brussels is mid-term week here and I have about 900 tests and speeches and homework assignments due that week. All the homework is making me eat an insane amount of Nutella and tootsie rolls.  I look down at my desk after 30 minutes of studying and think to myself – Where the heck did all these wrappers come from and who ate all my tootsie rolls?  After the week of the hell that is tests and speeches I am off to Porto, Portugal for the weekend with 5 other girls.  After the trip to Portugal that will put my European country count to 4 – Hopefully more when my grandparents come! (Love you grandma and grandpa!)
I have to give a speech in my “homeroom” class in the next couple weeks about something that is special about where I live.  We have to be able to make our speech interactive too.  I was thinking about doing Chicago style pizza and making a pizza and bringing it into class.  I’m not sure though.  I know I’m not from Chicago but its close enough.  So if anyone has any better ideas let me know.  My speech has to be around 15 minutes.
Speaking of Chicago, I am told almost every day that I have a very thick Chicago accent.  There are around 5 or 6 students here from Illinois and I live the farthest away from Chicago but supposedly have the thickest accent. All my friends and family from Illinois – say to yourself Chicago, socks, Alaska.  Most people here, no matter what nationality here say “Chi-cog-o.” and we actually pronounce the “A” in the word.  You probably have one too and don’t know it.  I’ll test you all when I come home.  It’s the craziest thing to be told that you have a thick accent and never notice it. 
Countdown: 2 days until Brussels
                     8 days until Portugal
                    13 days until Mom, Bill and Kels get here
                    23 days until Chris gets here

Saturday, October 23, 2010

L'automne (That's Fall in French)

Halloween in France is not near as big of a deal as it is in the United States unfortunately.  I’m not a huge fan of the dressing up in a skanky barely there costume but I love carving pumpkins, seeing all the trick or treaters and decorating the house.  I just love the feeling an smell of fall at home.  Not that it doesn’t smell like fall here, but it’s not quite the same.  Today we carved pumpkins at a bar where the bartender is American.  She had pumpkins for the group and we all sat and watched a rugby match (the equivalent of football in the US.  I think the game of rugby has no rules.  It’s crazy.  In the match we watched, I saw people throw people, put people on their shoulders, throw the ball, roll the ball, kick the ball, and carry the ball.  I don’t know what you can’t do in rugby.)  The pumpkins at the bar were like the pie pumpkins we have at home.  When I think of carving a pumpkin, I think of a Sam’s Club size pumpkin on steroids, but sadly they don’t have those here.  My roommate, her two friends and I “dressed up in costumes” like the invitation said. I was a peacock, my roommate was a devil, and her two friends were a bunny and a cat.  I woke a green sweater, a feather headband with other feathers in my hair, huge colorful earrings and some pretty intense eye makeup (which I was quite proud of since I just learned to wear makeup.)  On the way to the bar we got honked at 4 times within at 6 block walk because people here don’t dress up for Halloween.  I’m glad I got a little taste of what Halloween is like at home.  My mom isn’t putting up any decorations this year since I’m not home which is really sad.  CELEBRATE WITHOUT ME!  IT’S OK!!! 
Tomorrow I am eating dinner with another French family.  Our school set up a program for students who wanted to meet other French families around the area.  I have my first meeting with mine tomorrow.  They are picking me up around 6.  They have 4 kids which are all under the age of 16 which is exciting.  (My host family has kids but they are all older than me.  Now I will get to see what French kids are like)
School is pretty intense with homework right now but that’s ok.  That means I’m learning.  (I’m a geek and like to learn)  Sometimes when I skype with my family I have a hard time thinking of the words in English. 
Friday I fulfilled all my addictions.  After school I ate some nutella and took a nap and then went to H and M and got 5 new sweaters and 8 new things for my hair.  As long as I know I have a problem then I think it’s okay, right?  And clothes are an essential!
12 days until Portugal!
17 days until my mom, Bill and Kels are here!
27 days until Chris is here!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Exciting things to come!

I am doing better from my last post.  The feeling of homesickness has faded for a while. (Not that I don’t still miss home and the people there)  Last week was my first real week of school here that I get a grade for.  I love all my classes and my teachers.  All my teachers are really passionate about the subject that they teach.  My schedule is good for the most part.  Two days a week I have class until 7 pm but I have time during the day to nap (very important).  Doesn’t get much better than that, right?  We started reading a book in my language class and I completely understand it all.  I was so excited.  I think that’s a sign that I’m getting better.  My hardest class is phonetics. (How you move your mouth to form each sound)   There’s not a lot of homework in any of my classes but class never lets out early like it does at home. 
I booked a weekend trip to Portugal with 3 other girls.  There all really fun and I am excited to see another country.  It will be my first time staying in a hostel but the reviews and pictures looked really good.  Even if it is only for a weekend I can’t wait to experience a different culture. 
I got a job teaching English conversation classes at a high school for an hour or two a week.  It pays 12 euro an hour!  AMAZING!  I think I’m more excited for the experience than for the money (not that the money won’t come in handy – yay extra shopping money)
I experienced my first French strike.  There had been plenty since I’d gotten here but this was the first big one that I saw.  It was not a strike at all!  At least it didn’t look like one.  It looked like a giant parade.  People were handing out balloons and singing and some had their face painted.  There was a giant car that had speakers on top playing techno music.  This was like a celebration instead of a hostile strike.  It was neat to see. 
I shouldn’t be allowed to have a debit card or money in Europe.  I went to find a winter coat this weekend and also returned home with a sweater, tights, 2 belts, gloves and a scarf.  Someone should seriously hang on to my money until I really need it for a legit reason (although I think shopping is a good reason). 
Countdown:  19 days until Portugal!
                     23 days until my mom, step-dad and sister get here!
                     33 days until Chris gets here!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

In need of some chicken salad

Today is the real first day that homesickness has hit me.  Everyone in the foreign exchange program told me that this time would come. Up until now, I have been in the “vacation” stage.  Life has just felt like an extended vacation.  But not anymore.  Today it feels like everything here sucks.  It doesn’t really and I like it here 95 percent of the time but today it is really hitting me hard.  I mainly miss my family and all the comforts of being home but it’s the little things too.  Today is my sister’s 18th birthday and this is the first time I haven’t been home for anyone in my family’s birthday.  Right before I left my sister and I were the closest that we had been in a while and it makes me sad that I can’t be there for her birthday, especially for this big of a birthday.  I know we will celebrate her birthday properly when she comes here (the drinking age here is 18) but birthdays are a big deal in my family. 
I miss running errands with my mom, I miss driving (anywhere), I miss laughing at the silliest things with my sister,  I miss my friends at home, I miss dinners with my dad,  I miss my step-dad’s stories that I hear a million times, I miss absolutely everything about my boyfriend.  I know my family and boyfriend will be here in about a month but this next month is going to seem like a lifetime. 
I know that I am pretty much in the culinary capital of Europe and all and I should be eating and trying all the new things I can but I can’t help but miss food from home.  I think I would trade an arm and a leg for a taco bell meal.  It’s not just fast food either.  I am so sad that I will miss Thanksgiving.  It’s one of my favorite holidays – what’s better than great food with people you love.  Luckily I won’t have to spend Thanksgiving alone.  Chris will be here to visit me.  I think I miss homecooking (American style) the most, I need some of mama’s meat loaf and chicken salad (I know, I know, most people think those are the two grossest foods ever).  My mom always says that whenever anyone is having a bad day or needs cheered up or the day just isn’t going right that chicken salad will solve everything.  I am definetly in need of some chicken salad today.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Feels a little more like home

I think a vacation is what I needed to make this place feel a little more like home.  Being away from my host home and being in Spain for 5 days made me realize how much I actually missed my host home and family. (But not near as much as I miss my real family and friends.)
 Monday was our first day back from break.  We were grouped by how we did during September in our month of intensive language class.  I was put in the highest group you could be placed in.  Then all the kids in my group (about 60 of us) had to take another test to divide us up even more.  The test was reading and answers questions and then there was another part where we had to write an essay.  I am very confident in my writing skills but I am not a very good reader in foreign languages.  After I got out of the test I felt HORRIBLE about the reading part.  I pictured them posting the results and I would get bumped down to beginner because of how bad I did.  Like the director of the program was going to send me a note telling me to just quit studying French now.  But no, thankfully out of the 5 possible levels to place in, I got placed in the second highest class – exactly where I wanted to be.  The students in the highest level have to write a 30 page research paper by December.  I have a wonderful teacher and I like my class.  All this week is a week of trying out classes and figuring out your schedule.  There are about 20 classes we can choose from and then we can go to them and see if we like them and if we do then we keep going, if not then we don’t go anymore.  I think they need to make this in the United States.  This is the best thing ever. 
My mom, step-dad and sister will be here in 35 days, my wonderful boyfriend will be here in 45 days and my grandparents will be here in about a month and a half too.  (Not like I’m counting any of those days down or anything).  I can’t wait for all of them to get here so I can show them my home away from home and just hug family.  I just want to hug my own family.  Coming from a rather affectionate family and then being completely on my own is a little difficult.  But I am getting used to it.  I have only been here a month and would suggest studying abroad to anyone and everyone.  It is the most hard, scary, crazy, terrifying, frustrating, fun, and exciting growing up experience that I have ever done and probably will ever do.  You think college makes you grow up…No way.  We’re all still babies in a disguise of an “adult” body.  We all still call our parents when things don’t go our way, don’t go to class and make excuses about everything.  It’s a whole new world here.    

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Un voyage espagnol?!

Tuesday was a half day from school and was the last day of our month of intense language classes.  (Thank goodness!  The whole 9-5 thing was killing me!)  At 3 on Tuesday, 3 of my friends and I started our journey to Barcelona, Spain.  We started off taking a train into Paris, then the metro to another train that would get us to the airport and then a plane to Barcelona.  We got to Barcelona around 11pm at night.  We stayed in the airport that night because there were no busses or trains or cabs that could cheaply take us to our hotel (which we couldn’t check into until noon anyways) Sleeping in the airport was an adventure in itself.  I think I got a total of 2 hours of sleep the entire time we were there (Unless you wanted to sleep on the floor, you had to take up 3 chairs and lay sideways.  You had to stick your feet through one armrest and spoon the other armrest.  (Super comfy right?!)  Because none of us could really sleep we found an all night café in the airport.  In my wonderful Spanish (which is seriously lacking because all I’ve spoken for a month is French) I asked which method of transportation was the best to get to our hotel.  The lady told me nothing….There is nothing tomorrow.  Finally we put together the pieces that there was a strike tomorrow.  Living in France we are totally used to strikes (in France, strikes are relatively quiet and no trains run and fewer busses run).  Spain is COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.  We walk outside to get a taxi with a long line of people and out of nowhere this group of at least 25 people with whistles and signs and megaphones block the road and yell at every single taxi that drives by, leaving us there with no way to get to our hotel.  At this point we were a little freaked out but just figured the people yelling were the “scabs” and the taxis were taking their usual jobs.  We walked away from the airport and finally got a taxi.  In a mix between Spanish and motions and reenactments, I told the taxi that he couldn’t get through the group of people and had to turn around to take us to our hotel.  Luckily he understood me.  By the time we got to our hotel, it was only 9am so we started walking towards the nearest McDonalds to sit and get some breakfast.  On the way there we witnessed a group of 30 young kids throwing glass everywhere and then one threw a huge rock at a bus which caused glass to shatter all over us.  (Scariest thing ever)  We enjoyed McDonalds for our first wonderful Spanish meal… (My McBacon sandwich had a salsa sauce on it – totally Spanish right?)   When we could finally check in we all took showers and took a well needed nap!  We went to a Pans and Co restaurant which served Subway like sandwiches and my new favorite – Patatas Bravas.  Patatas Bravas are fried potatoes with mayo and hot sauce on top.  They were amazing!!! 
You’d think after that day I’d want nothing more to do with Spain. 
On Thursday we shopped and we shopped and we shopped and we shopped some more.  I tried on millions of clothes and ended up only buying a few things but really liked them.  For lunch we ate at a restaurant on the same street as all the shopping (Not a good idea). In all we ordered 2 pizzas, 2 paellas, 2 sangrias and 4 waters (no, water is not free in Europe) which came to a grand total of…..80 Euros!!  80 Euros just for lunch!!!!  After a long day of shopping we went back to the hotel and took another nap.  I am a big fan of siestas in Spain.  Then we met up with my friend who is studying abroad in Barcelona for the year who I have known since like 3rd grade.  We ate at an Italian restaurant which was amazing.  Much better than lunch.  Between 4 of us we had 2 pizzas, 2 things of pasta, a thing of garlic bread, a bottle of red wine, a bottle of water and 4 deserts.  Another wonderful price came with dinner…70 Euros!!!  And people in Spain don’t eat until 9 or 10 at night!  My grandparents would go crazy here!
Friday we went and saw Sagrada Famillia which is a huge famous church in Barcelona.  I took pictures but it was so huge that it was hard to get it all in the picture.  You are probably better off Google imaging it to see it.  After that we ate our favorite McDonalds and got some ice cream.  Then we went to Park Guell, which has a lot of architecture by Gaudi.  It also was on the top of what seemed like the steepest hill in the world.  It was hard for my little legs to make it that far as quickly as my tall friends did.  It was very worth it though.  (I will post pictures of this later)  If anyone is an America’s Next top Model fan, there was the finale fashion show here the season that Caridee was in it.  Then we did lots and lots of souvenir shopping.  Gotta get lots of stuff for the family and friends!  Again we took a nap after this and then went to my friend’s apartment and played circle of death.  Fun night and we just relaxed.   And prior to going to my friend’s apartment, I got two pairs of sandals for 10 Euro a piece!  Can’t beat that!
Saturday we had to check out of the hotel by noon and then again ate at our favorite McDonalds.  We saw the Picasso Museum (which I thought was very cool – I am not into art but it was very neat to see all of his work).  Then we shopped a little more, got some ice cream – Nutella flavored! YUM!  Then we saw some cool shaped apartment buildings and went to a fountain which was supposed to have a light show…but it did not.  It was cool to see the fountain though.  At 10:30pm we took the bus to the airport for another adventure in the world of overnights in airports.  I did not sleep one bit, instead I cleaned out my purse, reorganized my suitcase and sang to my friends who were all trying to sleep.  I made it through the flight successfully thanks to 3 xanax.  I don’t remember getting on or off the plane, which in my book is a good thing.  For breakfast in the Paris airport I we enjoyed hamburgers at 5 am.  Probably the earliest I have ever eaten a hamburger.
I am home now (Well my home in France) and it feels amazing to be back in my own bed.  Being both a Spanish and French major I love them both but I am definitely a Frenchie at heart.  I spoke a ton ton of Spanish and feel a whole lot more comfortable with my speaking skills which is good.  I can’t wait to get back to the United States and continue taking Spanish classes. 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Almost finished...with the month

The end of the summer semester is coming down to the nitty gritty and we are receiving crazy amounts of homework on top of weekly speeches and about 3 testes per week.  Thankfully that all ends on the 28th of September.  Here’s an update of the days since I last posted.

Sept 14th – Nothing too exciting.  Ate pork with pasta for lunch but I’m not a huge fan of pork so I went a bought a croque monsieur (amazing ham and cheese sandwich for those who don’t know) from a café in the school.  For dinner that night my host mom made the exact same meal that they served at lunch that day so I was in luck (NOT!).  I ate it because I was hungry and there really wasn’t a choice there. 
Sept 15th – I had two speeches today and anyone that knows me knows that I abosoluteley hate public speaking.  I would rather run naked through the town than give a speech.  My speeches were on Disney around the world and shoes so they weren’t tough topics, I just HATE giving speeches.  For lunch we had chicken in “alfredo” sauce and “tater tots”.  I put them in quotes because things here are never like they are at home.  The tater tots were really good though and I had been craving fried food so that helped.  For dinner we had bean and sausage casserole.  When she sat the casserole on the table I said “Oh, Hot dogs!”  and she laughed and laughed at me.  Being the food shelted child I am, I mistaked the French sausages for hot dogs.  She made an amazing from scratch lemon cake.  It tasted like lemon poppy seed bread which is one of my favorite things at home!
Sept 16th – Another gross lunch at school = me getting another croquet monsieur at the café.  Then we had scrambled eggs with ham and herbs for dinner.  They are huge on eggs for dinner here.
Sept 17th – We only had a half day of school today because we were leaving for a field trip for the second part of the day.  It was amazing.  We went to Anjou Trogloditique. (An-joooo Tro-glow-dee-teek)  Even I can’t pronounce it.  It is a huge amount of caves that were dug out and turned into houses by farmers.  Their farms would be on the top of their house.  Everyone was getting really annoyed because they would continuously have to duck everytime they entered a cave but not me!  I fit in quite well with the French people from 100’s of years ago.  After that we went to wine caves and saw how it was made and where it aged.  The caves were neat but had MASS amounts of mold on them that was black and about as big as my head hanging down from the ceiling.  YUCK!  Then we got to taste wine.  We tasted sparkling white = yum, sparkling rose = really yum, and sparkling red = not so good.  Being able to buy alcohol here legally, I bought 3 bottles.  After that we visited a vineyard and then ate dinner in a restaurant that was inside a cave.  The specialty at the restaurant was mushrooms so my friends got extra food.  They did serve rillets, pork pate, which has become about my new favorite food here.  I ate lots of that.  Another fun school field trip.  Field trips are always better when you can have a little bit of wine during them.
Vicki, Patrick and I happy about our wine.  Courtney was sad she didn't get any! 
House made out of a cave

Sept 18th – Did errands today.  Went to the post office, grocery store and then ate lunch at school (which was a mistake!)  It was beef stew and white rice.  Let’s just say they put raisins in their beef stew and I’m not even for sure that the meat in the stew was beef.  It looked a little shady.  Took a nap and then woke up just in time to eat dinner.  We had guinea fowl (tastes just like chicken).  My host parent’s daughter was here visiting so we got to talk with her at dinner.  We had amazing tarts for dessert.  Because my host mom is so wonderful and knows that I don’t like fruit, she bought me one with chocolate and lemon custard.  It was like heaven in your mouth!  I will definitely be asking her where she bought those.
Sept 19th – Today was castle field trip day.  We started at 7 am and didn’t stop until 8 pm.  We saw three different castles but didn’t have very much time at any of the castles so it was the fast forwarded tour of all the castles but I was sure to take pictures of EVERYTHING.  At the last castle my friends and I stopped to get ice cream before we got on the bus.  Ice cream here is so good!  For dinner at home we had pork wrapped in puff pastry and broccoli with parmesan cheese.  It was all really good!  
Castle we visited

I fit in quite well with the people from 100's of years ago.  I think I was the only tourist there that wasn't a child that could have gone in this door.

Sept 20th – Pork again for lunch – OMG People here freaking love pork!  I just want some chicken every once in a while.  Is that so hard to ask for!  I just ate a big plate of green beans.  School was boring.  For dinner we had gazpacho (cold tomato soup) and steak and sausages on the grill with French fries (only here they are only called fries).  I really enjoyed the soup and fries but the steak not so much.  It was pretty much still mooing so I just cut it up and moved it around so it looked like I ate some.  I think my host pretty much expect that I won’t finish everything on my plate any night.  I was so happy to see fries at the table though!!!
Sept 21st – Today was the civilization test and when I was taking the test I noticed these red bumps all over my arms.  Freaked me out a little bit but I finished my test.  I think I did pretty good on it.  Thankfully a 10/20 is a C here.  For lunch it was chicken cordon blue.  My favorite with mashed potatoes.  YUM!!!  I went to the doctor which was an odd experience.  Because of the red dots all over my arms and legs, she told me to take off everything but my bra and underwear so she could look if they were anywhere else.  After she finished with that, instead of telling me to put my clothes back on she took my blood pressure and looked in my nose, ears and throat.  It was an odd experience.  I do have a respiratory infection which stinks especially since I’m in France.  For dinner we had peanut chicken and white rice which was really good. 
Sept 22nd – Stayed home from school and slept until 12:45 and ate some breakfast and then slept for 2 more hours.  Watched movies and laid in bed all day.  It was great!!! Had pizza for dinner because the dad was in charge of cooking.  Its about what my dad would have made too. (Love you dad! You know I’m kidding)  I was totally okay with pizza.  It had sausage like summer sausage on it, not sausage like at home.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Exciting Weekend

Things have been crazy here yet again which makes my blogs only come every couple days. 
Thursday - not very exciting.  My teacher got to school an hour later than he should have so we all just sat there when we could have been in bed sleeping. (My favorite thing)  For lunch we had baked breaded chicken breast which I was so excited to see.  I went to the bank and opened a French bank account which only took 2 hours.  If I was at home it would have taken more like 20 minutes.  People here have no sense of hurry what so ever.  Everyone just goes at their own pace and works slow and takes all the time they want.  Sometimes I need to be American and hurry!  Crepes for dinner and ice cream for dessert – YUM!  I still haven’t been sleeping great at this point.
Friday – Every Friday the school serves fish for lunch and I am not a fan of fish unless it comes in the form of sticks.  Two of my friends and I walked to a nearby pasta place which we have named “Pasta box” because they serve their pasta in large Chinese takeout containers.  I got the carbonara and ate the entire thing.  Then I felt like I weighed 1000 pounds on the walk back to school but it was worth it.  We got back to school and found out we were watching a movie so we all left.  My friend Courtney and I came to my house, got in bed and slept for an hour and a half.  (Yay!  My first nap since being here!)  I also finally received my luggage from home and a care package from my mama.  She’s the best.  It had delicious homemade caramel corn and all my favorite American treats!!!  Thanks mama!!!  Later that evening we had a field trip to an amusement park called Puy de Fou but we saw a show there.  It was the most amazing thing I have ever seen.  It was a light, water, firework, posing, acting, animal, and musical show all in one. (Cameras not working right now but pictures to come)  Normally I am not a theatre person at all but this was amazing.  I think I even teared up a little.  Definitely not normal for me during a play.  The amazing play also made me miss my family and boyfriend a whole lot more because I wish they would have been there to see it with me.  I know that they all would have enjoyed it.  We didn’t get back home until 3am the next day!!!
Saturday – I thought I was going to sleep in since we got home late but my body had other plans.  I was wide awake at 9am.  Courtney and I went to the mall later that day where I bought a dress and shirt.  Their mall here is huge!  We took the bus to her house and then I had to take the bus all the way to my house alone.  I have never taken public transportation all alone before so it was a little scary.  When I got on I wanted to double check with the bus driver that it was the right bus and he just started driving instead of answering me.  I was a little upset.  For dinner that night we had baked potatoes with melted cheese and salami.  It was AMAZING!!!
Sunday – Today we had a field trip to Mont Saint Michel and Saint Malo.  I slept the whole way there.  It is a giant castle in the middle of nowhere.  Mt. St. Michel has about 500 steps that we had to go up without a break and without a handrail to hold on to.  Needless to say I was dripping sweat by the time we got up there.  It is the second most visited place in France by tourists which I had no idea of before then.  It was a neat thing but I could have gone without seeing it really.  Then we traveled another hour to Saint Malo which is a little town enclosed by a giant wall that you can walk on.  We walked around and saw the beach.  Then we ate crepes and had the most amazing ice cream. (which I had two giants scoops of).  We got home around ate and had frozen pizza.  It was amazing because I had been craving pizza for so long!!!!
Monday – I woke up and felt sick.  I went through about half the day and came home and laid down.  I’m starting to feel a little better but still feel flu like.  I hope I’m not getting sick.  Being sick in France would be the worst!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Only a Week?!

The past couple days have been a little crazy hence no blog lately. Here’s an update on things:

1. School officially started Monday and it is from 9 am to 5pm most every day. Yes we have an hour and half lunch but still…I need time to go home and take a nap in between classes. I like my classes and was originally put in a class that was waaaay to easy but now I’m in a good class and am making new friends. We have our first field trip on Friday to a dinner theatre. The long day is killing me though. I no more get home, do my homework, eat dinner and go to bed, then wake up and do it all over again.

2. My computer fan had broken so it was like a three day mission walking around trying to find a legit computer place that wouldn’t jip me and would get it done quickly. I finally found somewhere and it only took a day once he had my computer but it did cost me 79 euro. I paid it. I had to have my computer.

3. I have eaten more fish in the past three days than I ever have in my entire life. I am going fish crazy and am not too fond of it.

4. I have this crazy 49 digit (not really) global phone number that was working fine up until a couple days ago. I called customer service last night and they tried to help but didn’t really. I went into a French phone store to ask them for help and just ended up buying another phone.

5. Also while shopping since the last couple days have been a little stressful I thought I deserved some retail therapy. I ended up buying two swatch watches and some new fancy Sephora makeup. My school gives me 400 euro a month anyways. A girls gotta shop! Right?

6. It’s only been a little over a week and I feel like I have lived here forever. It’s a little weird. I am starting to crave food from home. At least I know how to get places and don’t get lost every time I leave the house.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Lazy Saturday

Days that are busier are easier when you are alone. You aren’t constantly reminded that you are alone when there are things you need to do. I’m not really alone. I have another girl who lives here and the host family that I could talk to but I feel very alone inside. (No, I am not being an emo kid and going to wear all black) I know that my family is always with me and I am in their thoughts but it is hard being here sometimes alone.

My friend and I went to school this afternoon and ate lunch since it is free for the whole month of September even on the weekends. We had marinated green beans, goat cheese, pork cooked in a tomato sauce, carrots and peas and then coffee éclairs. Everything was very good and beat the sandwich I would have eaten if I would have been back at my host house. After that I walked to the grocery store. I got some snacks and cereal and something other than water to drink. FINALLY!

I have yet to get my computer fixed. Places are not open late on the weekends and by the time I get out of school they are already closed for the day. I am going to attempt to call a store today before I lug my computer all around town trying to find somewhere.

I am going to spend the rest of the day in my pajamas (very unfrench) watching American movies (also very unfrench). Just spending a lazy Saturday like I would if I were at home.

One of the main things I have learned about the French is that they are a much more relaxed people in general than Americans are. They walk slower, take more time for dinner, take much longer lunch breaks, (my host dad was home for 3 hours for lunch and had time to take a nap) and just enjoy life at a slower pace. I think Americans could learn a lot from the French. Maybe this more relaxed lifestyle is a big reason as to why they are all so skinny. Although the French could learn some things from the Americans as well like being more friendly or smiling more in general.

The only thing that the French do not to slow is eat. They allow a long time for dinner and sit at the table for a long time since there are so many courses but they eat whatever is on their plate as fast as they can. I have yet to ever be done eating any course before anyone else. Even when I speed eat or don’t eat everything on my plate. I am a slow eater in general but the French definitely win the trophy for being the fastest eaters.

Crazy French Kids

So the placement test….I didn’t do as good as I thought I did. You could score as high as a level 8 which meant you were really good or as low as a level one and that meant that you had never spoken French before. I scored a level 4. I was a little upset but I went to class and tried it out. I talked to other people in my class and some of them had only had three or four months while I on the other hand have spoken it for over eight years. By the end of the day we had only started going over the present tense. I have previously learned all the conjugations in the French language so I was a little upset and bored all day. I talked to my teacher and I have a meeting with the director of the school on Monday to change my class level. YAY!!

I really like school and the wide array of nationalities in the classes but the only bad thing about school is that we don’t get finished most days until 5pm. That feels like too much of a regular job to me. YECH! We get free meals at school for lunch even on the weekends which is really nice. We had a cold vegetable course, fish in a white sauce with white rice (which was really good and I normally don’t eat fish unless it comes in the form of sticks) and then goat cheese and fruit. Needless to say I didn’t eat the fruit but everything else was good. Then for dinner we had some kind of unidentifiable vegetable cup with a tomato sauce which I did not like at all and then we had grilled salmon (fish again!) and couscous. I am new to both couscous and grilled fish which amazed my family. I liked the couscous but was not so much about the fish but I ate most of it anyways because I was so hungry. Thankfully for desert we had ice cream and cereal. Odd combination but very good.

Later we went out to a bar. It had 3 euro drinks which included sex on the beach and peach beer (surprisingly good). Because it is the first week of classes for French students they are really exciting and make a scene everywhere they go. There were probably 150 new French college freshman singing very loudly and standing on chairs and crowd surfing all in the middle of the street. It was very odd to watch. Thank goodness that doesn’t happen to American students!!!!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Dirty Feet

Today we had out first day of school which was really just an orientation and a placement test.  The test was pretty easy but the listening comprehension was kinda hard.  I am excited for the different field trips that we are going to take this month!

After the test, my ISU friends and I walked around the center of the town.  We ate some delicious pasta and ice cream! (good thing we were walking a lot!)  And then we got discount cards to ride the train all over Europe.  We did some shopping....A Sephora finally in a town that I live in, and they bought phones. When we finally got home from walking my feet were black because the streets were dirty, we did so much walking and I wore sandals.  They probably weren't the wisest choice but this way I had no blisters!  Being with my friends made the day better and made me feel not so alone.  

My computer broke and will only turn on when it feels like it and really only stays on for a couple minutes.  Luckily, my friend is letting me use her computer because she does not have internet at her house.

Tomarrow we find out what level classes we will be taking and it is my first official day of french school.  I will be sure to take lots of pictures of the inside on my school and of my new classmates.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Double Post Day

As I promised here are some of the pictures I took recently.  They are mainly of my house and my school.

My desk in my room
My room
Kitchen table where I eat breakfast and lunch.
The living room
The pool in the backyard
Happy closed toilet
Smelly open toilet
My school

The dining room where I eat my 5 course meals.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Shopping, Shopping and more Shopping

Sleeping in a bed last night was nice instead of sleeping on a train or a plane but I went to bed at 11 and woke up and was wide awake at 5 with nothing to do. But then I slept from 7 to 9. I woke up and had chocolate milk and toast. (And my toast was not even French bread. I have not had one bite of French bread since I have been here. It has all been whole grain sliced bread….A little disappointing) I was very French today. I didn’t take a shower. Then my French mom and roommate and I went to a shopping mall which was huge. It had a “Wal-Mart” inside it. I got a hair dryer and straightener and some shampoo. France does not supply shopping bags to anyone unless you opt to buy a reusable bag…otherwise you are stuck carrying all your groceries. It’s a little harsh but a very good way to get people to go green I think. Then we went to “Kroger” and I bought some things to eat for lunch. I bought some ham, cheese (they don’t believe in sliced cheese…needless to say my sandwich had chunks of cheese on it.) and some crackers and Special K granola bars. (Yes, I know what you are thinking. This girl is in France and why the heck did she buy Special K granola bars?) I bought them because when I woke up last night my stomach was growling and it’s not like I can walk downstairs and make myself a snack…So the granola bars are hiding in my closet in case of a food emergency.

I walked around the city with my roommate and her friend that will go to my school here too. We walked for what seemed like forever but I got to see a lot of shops and where things are at. I also got to see my school. It looks like a fancy castle and is only a 5 minute walk from school. We walked around for over two hours I think and when we got back (because I did not wear appropriate shoes) I had huge blisters on my toes.

For dinner we ate an amazing 4 course meal. At the beginning we had what she called pork pate but it tasted and smelled like tuna salad (and as my momma says, “Tuna and chicken salad make everything better”) so I ate that on some bread. Then we had beef ravioli in a sweet tomato sauce which I had two helpings of. Then we had a French version of gruyere cheese and brie cheese and then she made a pear and almond tart (I of course picked out all the pears) with some vanilla ice cream. It was all delicious and I don’t think I am going to wake up hungry tonight thankfully but if I do….I have my hidden Special K bars!

Today was a better day than yesterday but the time change is still killing me. I was ready for bed around 4 today. I haven’t done anything exciting yet but I’m sure I will when school starts and we go on exciting field trips! I am a total geek but am excited for school to start.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Longest Day

So I have been awake for 28 hours now. I woke up at 8 yesterday and had a wonderful last breakfast with my dad. I had my meltdown at the restaurant and while I was at home. Then I got all my stuff together and said goodbye to my sister. (Who is going to have a wonderful amazing school year by the way) It was a hard goodbye but she’s amazing. I also said goodbye to my grandparents which was hard but I will see them soon! On the way to the airport, my mom, Chris, Bill and I had some yummy last meal or Portillo’s hot dogs. I had my first cake shake. (It was AMAZING! Cake mixed into anything is heaven) We got to the airport and of course the lady at the check in counter said I could only have one other person not flying come through security with me. (Cue another meltdown) My mom came with me which meant I had to say goodbye to Bill and Chris right then. It was a tearful goodbye but I know that I will see them both soon. (I love you guys very much!) My mom and I walked to my gate where we met Patrick, another boy from ISU who is going to the same school in France that I am. When they called my zone to load the plane that is when the real water works started. I knew this would be the last time I would see anyone in my family for over 2 months. (Yes, I am a huge baby because I still live at home and didn’t go away to school. I like it that way but like I said, working on becoming an adult) I hugged my mom for a long time and being typical mommy she told me to use my pleases and thank yous, chew with my mouth closed and to not play with my hair at the dinner table. (I’ve obeyed all your rules so far mama) She packed a surprise key chain in my bag which made my cry even more and she wrote me a very encouraging note (which I needed).

I didn’t cry or have a panic attack when the plane took off (which is very unusual for me). There was an older French gentleman who told me all about Angers and told me useful information about the train station. Patrick and I got our bags and roamed around for what seemed like hours until we found the train (which gets much heavier by each ten minutes that you pull it….My hands have calluses) The train went fast but not as fast as I thought it would feel. (It supposedly goes 150 miles per hour). My French host mom was waiting to pick me up at the train station. She is very nice and pretty and speaks very good (but fast) French.

She showed me my room (pictures to come) and said I could rest and take a shower and get my things all put away. My room is divided into two parts. There is a part with my desk and a mirror and then another littler room that has my bed and an armoire. I took a shower and then came in my room and had another meltdown but then I put my big girl pants on, calmed myself down (also started talking to myself) and started to put my room together. It is starting to feel like home to me a little bit. They are hosting another girl at their house too. She is very nice and has helped me find things or explain things to me. She speaks French very well so I have some catching up to do. They have a nice pool in their back yard with amazing trees and flowers. They have a dog named Mozart, a little white Scottie, who is 15 but he still runs outside. I sat outside for a little bit and enjoyed the weather. (It is 70 here and windy which makes it a big chilly, even with jeans and a light sweater on and I LOVE it!)

School doesn’t start until the 2nd of September so I have a few days to find the things I need and work on my French. Wish me lots of luck and write me letters!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

50 pounds and 62 inches

Everyone overpacks. It’s just something inside all of us. We worry what if we need this or oh I might need that if this happens but then you only end up needing half the stuff you brought. Imagine the inside of your closet. (If you’re like me then it’s a little jam packed…especially with shoes) Now imagine all the clothes that you wear in a month or even just a week. Say 7 shirts for a week and 4 or 5 pair of bottoms, a pair or two of pajamas, and a couple outfits to work out in. When you think about it like this it doesn’t really doesn’t sound like a lot. When you take this week of clothes and multiply it by 16….it’s a little difficult to fit into a 62 inch suitcase that can weigh no more than 50 pounds. I know what you’re thinking…”What?! They’re not going to let this girl do any laundry?” No, they will let me do laundry once a week but still….being a typical girl I pack lots of clothes (and did I mention I have a whole other suitcase for my shoes?) Thankfully, my wonderful mother is a master at rolling my clothes up into little balls so they fit in the tiniest space, which means I will definitely have to learn the word for iron in French.

I feel very Carrie Bradshaw saying this second part like it would be something she would write about in her column. Doesn’t it feel like just when everything is going smooth and nice every once in a while that something has to come and break it apart? I’m totally not complaining about going to France, just that Chris and I haven’t fought in what seems like months and we are constantly finishing each other’s sentences (SUPER CHEESEY right?), I’m finally getting along with my sister for more than a day at a time (It’s a very love hate relationship), I’m closer with my dad and brother than I have been in a long time, my mom and stepdad are amazing and all that is about to be broken. I’m sure things will go back to being like this way when I get back from France but it would be nice for things to stay like this for just a little longer.  I just love them all so much.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Getting off the WHAT?!

My mom has a friend at work that has kids around my age. While one of his sons was getting ready to leave for college his mother was crying because another one of her sons was leaving home. When she was crying and hugging her son, the son also started to get emotional and tear up too. Being a typical man, my mom’s friend said to his wife, “Stop crying, it’s time for him to get off the tit!” - meaning go out on his own and not rely on his mother so much. Because my family makes fun of pretty much anything and everything, my mom came home one day and told the rest of us this. It has become a huge joke around our house and anytime anyone is acting like a “baby”, we tell them this.
If you’re reading this, then you probably know that in eight short days I will be leaving the country and going to study abroad in Angers, France. Unlike many of my friends, I didn’t go away for college or live in the dorms. I have been saving and saving my money for my upcoming adventure. I have always been closer with my family than a lot of other students my age whether they stayed at home or not. I also have an amazing and wonderful boyfriend who I have been with for five and a half years. Because of this, I am an emotional mess as I start to pack and get ready to leave. The first day I started to lay out my clothes to pack, I ended up on the floor in a pile full of sweaters and scarves in tears. The week before this, I got upset because I had to start a new bar of soap and I wouldn’t be here to finish it. (A little crazy right?) As the days left dwindle down to zero, I am trying to go from living at home and relying on my family and friends for everything to adult Mackenzie who can travel on her own and do everything for herself all on her own. Or as my mom’s friend at work would say…”It’s time for me to get off the tit.”

I am super excited to go to school over there and learn as much as I possibly can and also travel but my body is filled with so much anxiety and nervousness that I can’t sleep and my stomach hurts constantly. This is my first time flying all on my own and being all on my own in an unfamiliar place. (For those of you who don’t know, I completely hate hate hate flying and have to be drugged to get on and off the plane in one piece) I know that when I meet my French host family I will feel better and they will make me feel at home and comfort me and everything will work out but I guess I am finally feeling what all my friends felt two years ago just multiplied by the fact that no one there is allowed to speak English to me. They don’t teach you the word for tampons in French class in school.

Don’t get me wrong, I am totally eager and excited to start my new adventure. Just a taaaaad nervous. So in the next couple days I will be putting on my big girl pants, “getting off the tit”, and becoming an adult.