Tuesday, December 15, 2009

When I have nothing to say...

My lips are sealed.
Say something once, why say it again?
Psycho killer, qu'est-ce que c'est?

~The Talking Heads

I don't know what to talk about. I feel pretty settled in, and somehow I just can't justify writing about things that are "normal." Good for me, bad for the blog.

So, um, questions?

Friday, December 4, 2009


I recently learned the word sadique, which (semi-obviously) means sadistic, and I'm pleased to have an opportunity to use it.

Here's the background info:

1. There are a lot of kids in my school who finish at the same time I do.
2. Of those kids, it seems like at least half of them have to take the same bus I do.
3. There is not enough space in the bus to stand comfortably and I always wind up with the ticket machine jamming into my kidney and someone's backpack in my face, or some such position, and that's if I manage to get in the bus. (It's cold and so no, waiting for the next one is not an option.)

Today I had the pleasure of standing near the driver (and nearly crushing an old lady, which I felt bad about until she started pushing me to make more space for herself [and she already had plenty], but anyway). As we lurched along the road, I swear to you the driver was grinning. He took the turns faster than necessary and sped up on the downhill parts, and I and my kidney did NOT appreciate it. But I'm in France, and so it's not all bad. A learning experience about what happens when you mix little medieval roads with big modern buses.

...So that's the story of the conducteur sadique. A little anticlimactic, I know, but I got to say sadique. I like that word.

It was a good day.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Well, we're about due for a post here, aren't we? The problem is I haven't done anything that merits a whole post. So...what I'm doing in general, then?

I've just gotten over three days of miserable homesickness. On the bright side I managed to avoid shutting myself in my room and curling up like a porcupine, which was what I've really wanted to do for the last 72 hours. Instead I went to a party, I joined the French version of Girl Scouts (no, really, I did.), and I made an extra effort to talk to people at school yesterday. And it worked. My homesickness is vanquished, until Thanksgiving anyway.

Speaking of Thanksgiving, I'm making pumpkin pie for my family. I would have done turkey and cranberry sauce too, but you can't get cranberries here. Period. (Note to future AFSers: Bring cranberries.) It obviously won't be the same here, but I think there's some potential for a nice Intercultural Experience. That's IF my pie turns out okay. I have no idea what I'm doing.

Which brings me to my next point: Being in France has made me appreciate what I have in America. There's a lot that I love here, too, but I'm realizing how much I love living in America/with my particular family/with my particular friends. So I'm taking advantage of as much as I can while I'm here because I'll miss it when I'm gone and I only have a year, but I also know I'm going to appreciate my American life more when I get back. Which means, mostly, that Mom, you're going to teach me to cook. But I also like saying the Pledge of Allegiance every day, playing sports after school, making my friends laugh, reading the New York Times, talking to my little brother at night while I brush my teeth, quoting the Talking Heads to my dad.

I'll be able to come up with a similar list for my life here once my year is over, but I don't have the distance right now, and, to be hopelessly cliché, You don't know what you've got until it's gone. That being said, I do have a lot right now and I know it, but what will stick with me the most remains to be seen.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Lycée N°2

Well. I'll try to make this post interesting, but I've been putting it off for so long because I know that it's going to be dull. But I did say that I would write it, and school does sort of take up most of my time (although I'm pretty sure I have fewer hours of class here than at my first school, but that's not the point). Here we go.

I start at 8h15 with physique-chimie. I don't really like that class because it's just a repetition of what I've already learned. Too easy.

Then I have 2h of français. The teacher's kind of intimidating, but she loves me (in spite of my American-ness), so that class is okay.

An hour of anglais is next. The teacher is not a native English speaker; she makes mistakes; the textbook is horrible (Sample sentence: "The man was scuttling like a rabbit." You try saying that with a French accent without laughing.); but we're playing a game involving verb conjugations and I'm winning. So it's all good.

Then I have an hour for lunch in the cantine. The food is so good. It's incredible. They serve things like duck. And crème brûlée. It's easily my favorite part of my day at school especially since at this point I don't have any friends.

After lunch I have an hour off while my classmates take Spanish or German--at this school they decided I could count Latin as my second language (usually it doesn't count, but I'm special). It's always an interesting hour because I'm not clear on the rules at this school. I know you can't be in the hallways, or else, and it's not a good idea to go outside because the doors are unlocked/locked rather unpredictably and besides it's cold. So this leaves the student lounge place, which is usually locked and always unsupervised... and the CDI (library). But sometimes there's a class being held in the CDI and so it's closed. Mostly I run to the CDI before the class can start and install myself in an inconspicuous desk and pray not to get kicked out. Which has worked so far, but I don't know how long it's going to last. We'll see.

Anyway, then I have math, in which I am horribly, horribly bored because I've already learned the material. Twice. At Lycée N°1 and in the U.S. At first I didn't take notes in that class because I already had the pertinent information, in the same notebook, no less. This turned out to be a Bad Plan, because when the Kid Who Doesn't Speak French doesn't take notes, she must not understand, right? So the teacher stopped the class to reexplain composite functions to me. For the fourth time. If I learn nothing else this year, I'll at least have a solid multilingual understanding of fonctions composées. Which may be helpful later in life, you never know.

My last class of the day is latin. I love the latin teacher. She's enthusiastic. She tried to translate Latin to English and check the translation with me, but she did it out loud, and oh my word her accent. I couldn't tell what was Latin and what was English. So I told her "Très bien," and smiled nicely. But seriously, I really appreciated her making an effort to include me in the class because a lot of the teachers just ignore me and I have to fight to be acknowledged.

So then I finish at 4:30, except that I signed up for theatre class, which lasts two hours, until 6:30. And then I can go home, except that the bus is at 6:28 and 7:11. It is very cold and very dark, but I have to say, that class is very worth it. At the end of the year we're going to perform a musical adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac written by the teacher. Who clearly thinks she's the best thing since sliced bread, but all pessimism aside the play's going to be terrible.

Well. Now that brings us to Tuesday (Thank God I don't have school on Saturday because 5 days are more than enough to describe, and to read about too, I'm sure. Sorry.)

I start at 10:20 (yay!) with an hour of math (boo!). Then there's just one more hour of class (French) before lunch. After lunch the day passes a little more slowly, with two hours of histoire-géographie and then two hours of TPE (cf. previous posts). I do like history and geography, but I'm not a fan of the French method: The teacher lectures and then dictates word for word, subheading for subheading, the notes we're supposed to write. So basically it's the same information twice. Today (Thursday) I tried a little experiment: I wrote all the things the teachers wanted us to write, in the appropriate colors and with the appropriate underlines. And franchement, j'en ai marre of school. I'm starting to feel the restrictiveness of the French school system. (Stage II Culture Shock! Woohoo!) But that's not what I'm supposed to be talking about. Tuesday. TPE. Right.

Well, I'm working with 2 boys on a project about penicillin. I'm not sure exactly what our goals are, but hey, neither are they. They have no idea what they're doing with their research (they can't format a bibliography! The horror!), but all in all it's nice working with them. I don't feel like a burden for not speaking French. Although unfortunately one of the boys canNOT understand my accent no matter how hard I try (well, when I try to pronounce things correctly my American accent gets worse; go figure. But anyway.). I've concluded for the sake of my self-confidence that it's his fault, not mine, because everyone else usually understands me. It does make collaborative research a little difficult though. Luckily the other boy can translate. But I can't understand a thing HE says because he mumbles. It makes for an interesting two hours.

After that I get to go home (5:30).

I have 2 hours of math, one hour of SVT, and lunch at 11:3o. Then I have an hour and a half of physique-chimie, and I go home at 2. So no free Wednesday afternoon, really, but no school on Saturdays either, so I'm happy with my schedule.

So SVT: I'm sort of lost because I've never taken bio, but I'm starting to get the hang of it. And the teacher is apparently really funny, but more subtly and darkly than I can understand en français. I'm looking forward to getting his jokes. I think that's all? Oh, today we dissected a liver and it was yucky. Now that's all.

Jeudi (The end is near.)
I hate Thursdays. I have 4 hours of science, and science is...not my favorite. But on the bright side I start with an hour of latin, which is nice if a bit somniferous (from the Latin somnus = sleep and fero = to bring). Then two hours of physique-chimie, a break for lunch, and it's back to abject misery with 2 hours of SVT. The last hour of class is Histoire-Géo on A weeks and ECJS on B weeks. ECJS = éducation civique, juridique, et sociale. We're doing a research project due in January about how French politicians are increasingly treated like celebrities. Or actually, nobody's doing anything (it's due in January) but that's what the teacher said we were doing.

An hour of SVT, an hour of Français , and 2 hours of EPS (gym class). We've been doing relay races (I mean the legit track and field kind) but tomorrow we start boxing. Boxing. At least it's inside; relay races were outside in the cold and the rain and the wind. It'll be, um, a good cultural experience. Anyway, then we all change our clothes very quickly to be at the head of the lunch line because otherwise you have to wait forever.

After lunch I have an hour of math, an hour off during everyone else's Language #2 during which I engage the same strategy as on Monday, and an hour of English.

Then it's the weekend, and I can rest or see Paris or do whatever it is exchange students do on the weekend (as in NOTHING, but I'm working on it. Yesterday I went to a fair with my classmates because we didn't have school. See? I have a social life, kind of.).

Right. Well, that's all. Please let me know if I've left anything out, although I don't know how I possibly could have, what with the longueur of this post and all.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Matter of Perspective

I'm currently in the middle of a week and a half of vacation (for la Toussaint, which is All Saints' Day. Yay Catholicism!). So it's lovely. I sleep late and do nothing productive except for writing an occasional letter, usually, but yesterday I did something, and it was fun.

Do you want to know what I did? Okay, if you insist. (Blogging sort of drags me into a vortex of narcissism. But that's okay because I'm a teenager and teenagers are supposed to be narcissistic. So anyway. What I Did on My Vacation.)

I had been staying in touch with a friend from my pre-host-family-switcheroo school, and we had decided to go to Paris together over break because it's halfway between our towns and besides, Paris is cool.

So yesterday my host brother and I met my friend and her friend from Bordeaux at the Musée d'Orsay. It was fun. There was a stupendously long line to get tickets, so we decided to wait and try again later. We walked over to the Louvre (very close, but on the other side of the Seine) and took pictures of stuff outside. Mostly of the Louvre and the Tour Eiffel, but I also took a picture of a pigeon. I like photographing pigeons. [This would be a good time to post my pictures but that means figuring stuff out, so y'all can use your imaginations, can't you? Good.]

45 minutes later, we decided that the wait outside the Musée d'Orsay wasn't going to get any shorter, so we tacked ourselves onto the end of the queue (which means both Line and Tail in French, interestingly). 45 minutes later we had received our tickets from the caisse. The tickets were free, by the way. So essentially we had just spent 45 minutes in line to be handed valueless pieces of paper before going into the museum. But hey, admission was free, so I can't complain.

We looked at the paintings, but too quickly. My friend's friend was more of a Take a Picture to Prove You Were There and Keep Moving kind of person, unfortunately. But I did see lots of famous stuff, briefly--by Monet and Pissarro and Degas and Van Gogh. And one painting by Salvador Dali, whose work I like.

We spent the most time on Van Gogh's paintings, mostly because there were lots of photographs that needed to be taken. I spent almost the whole time in that room looking at this painting (image from the internet, not from my camera...):

I liked the blue swirls. They were mesmerizing.


ANYWAY. We finished at the museum, and Laurent went home and I stayed with my friend. We took the métro to the Tour Eiffel and took some more pictures. And guess what. I decided that elle est belle, after all. On a sunny fall day, with a French friend, in Paris, I think anything would have seemed beautiful, but that's not the point (or maybe it is). The point is that I like the Eiffel Tower now. Until I see her on a cloudy day, anyway.

My conclusion: We see reality as we want to see it, and there's no such thing as objectivity. (I think Plato or some other Great Man already said that 2400-ish years ago, but oh well.)

Then I took the métro and the train and the bus all the way home, all by myself, and walked home from the bus stop while watching the beginning of a lovely sunset (at 5:45 PM. Winter approaches.). Anyway, I got home by myself, in France. I was proud.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

In Which I Talk a Lot without Saying Anything

I'm not in the mood to organize, so this is just going to be drivel. (I love that word, even when it applies to my writing.) But anyway, I'm sorry.

First thing: I successfully made quesadillas, guacamole, and pico de gallo for my host family. Successfully-ish. I think they liked them? But they didn't have any idea how to eat them. No, you don't use a fork and knife, and no, you don't eat the guacamole by itself. (I corrected them on the former but not on the latter.) A pimente vert turned out to be about as spicy as oatmeal...I thought. I tasted it and barely detected anything resembling a spicy flavor. Soooo I got kind of lazy with the whole mincing thing and just chopped it into pieces.

The Difference between Texas and France: When I got a bite with a piece of piment, I appreciated the (mild) heat. When my host family got bites of piment, they had coughing fits. Oops.

And at the end of the meal Laurent asked me if we put ketchup on quesadillas in America. I tried not to laugh too hard. Yay stereotypes...

But other than the above, it was a success.


In other news, remember that test that I thought I failed? If you don't, you can refer to the previous post, but anyway, assuming you do: I didn't fail! I got a 13/20, which mathematically translates to a 65% in America, but the grades don't work that way. Proof 1: The teacher explained the grading system to me by saying a 14/20 in History is very good. Proof 2: The class average was 12/20. So I didn't fail. And the teacher said I have a bonne expression écrite.

This is all just because I bothered to analyse the given text instead of regurgitating what the teacher had dictated, which is apparently what my classmates did. But I was happy. My expression orale will be better (and by better I mean comprehensible) soon, I hope.

That's enough for now. The nutella is calling from the kitchen and I have a poème en prose to write for French class...I know. It doesn't seem possible to me either.

P.S. The title was an allusion to a Talking Heads song. 10 points if you noticed.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I was there.

So. On the 26 septembre, there was an AFS Flashmob in Paris. It was theoretically a protest against a French law against going on exchange or something, but I never really found out the specifics. What I do know is that I am assez fan of these flashmob-things, which involve dancing spontaneously in public places (in this case Montmartres).

Here's the link to the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PwkoqRVTdEk

(I can't tell you which one I am because I don't have a particular desire to be stalked. But I'm there, I promise.)

In other news, today was my first day of school. I started at 10:25 am (which was excellent) with an hour of math (which was not excellent). Well, the teacher was nice, and I understood what he was teaching, more or less, but I have a month of catching up to do. So after I post this I'll be teaching myself Chapter 12 of the textbook...The teacher at my old school started with Chapter 1, logically enough, but here I think they're starting that chapter tomorrow, after having learned Chapter 12. Oh well. At least it's the same book.

Then I had an hour of French. The teacher is, um, dynamique. She's very small and very intimidating. And...I have a whole bunch of Baudelaire-studying to do to be ready for the Bac de Français, which I'm going to take at the end of the year. Blah.

After that I ate lunch with 2 classmates. And what a difference. The food here is fantastic. It's a lunch line as opposed to table service, and the food is a LOT better. Today it was Moroccan-spiced lamb with couscous. I love the French. (CULTURE SHOCK HONEYMOON PHASE HEREBY ACKNOWLEDGED.)

After lunch I took (read: failed) a history test on the Industrial Revolution, but I don't think I failed it that badly. (...You know you're an exchange student when you differentiate between levels of failing.)

Then I had a second hour of history in which I answered a question with the name Lenin and was told, No, the answer is Lénine. I'm not even kidding. They change the spelling and everything.

My last class was 2 hours of TPE. I joined a group that's researching something about penicilline, which hopefully won't be too hard. But instead of doing actual work we participated in another group's experiment about the conductivity of the human body. You can guess how scientific that turned out to be...it was a lot of shocking people and screaming.

So yeah. It was a good day.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

La Cuisine Tex-Mex

I'm going to make quesadillas for my family later this week, and so yesterday I went to the grocery store with Hervé to get the ingredients. It was...difficult.
  • I'm going to have to substitute lemon for lime in the guacamole.
  • Jalopeno? What's that? We'll see how my pimente verte compares...
  • Cheddar cheese is hard to find here. We finally spotted a few lonely blocks of it in the corner of the cheese display.
  • Black beans are an Exotic Food. I'm not even kidding. First we looked in the bean aisle, which was full of chickpeas and fava beans and red beans, etc. Hervé asked me if I was sure that black beans weren't the same as red beans/that black beans really existed. (They aren't, and they do.) I shrugged and said I could omit them from the quesadillas, and we continued on to the exotic food aisle for my tortillas (which are...well preserved. I'm pretty sure they could survive an atomic bomb.). And lo, I beheld some cans of black beans hidden behind the taco seasoning. I was thrilled. A year with no black beans was seeming kind of gloomy. So now there are some exotic black beans in the pantry. The labels are in Spanish and everything.

Come back next week to learn the outcome of the dinner.
There'll also be another First Day of School post (sigh) sometime soon.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Centre Pompidou

(This post is a non sequitur.)

Last Wednesday I went to the Centre Pompidou with the American boy whom my (ex-)liaison was hosting. IT WAS SO COOL. (It's a modern art museum in Paris.) There was an exhibit featuring female artists, and at the entrance to the exhibit they had changed the names of some famous artists. Andy --> Annie Warhol, Jean --> Jeanne Nouvel. And I liked the art. I don't always, but that day I was in a suitable art-viewing mood. My favorite part was this video that was being projected on the floor of the sky and stuff (I'm being inarticulate, I know). So American Boy and I decided to lie down on the projection screen (it was allowed) and listen to the accompanying soothing music. It was very peaceful.

Also it was free for students, which is fairly normal in France (10 points for Socialism).

My Year Abroad, Take Two

So. I found out that someone wanted me (yay!) Saturday afternoon. I stayed at my AFS liaison's house until Sunday afternoon (and we went to the Nuit Blanche in Paris, which was cool. All-night art installations in Paris.). Then on Sunday we took some trains, traversered Paris, and arrived in Osny, where my new family lives.

The parents are Chantal and Hervé, both engineers. I have two sisters (Anne, 22, and a 20-year-old who's in Germany named Corinne) and two brothers (Laurent, 16 as of 2 days ago, and Hugo, 11 until tomorrow). I haven't started school yet because I have to register, which is apparently insanely difficult in France because of the bureaucracy, but I don't mind because free time is lovely.

What else...my room has an African theme. It's in the basement but I like it.

They have Nutella! This is going to be a problem, as I think there must be something in it that inhibits self-restraint.

Today I went out to lunch with my AFS liaison (a new one because I changed departments in France). She's nice. Very grandmotherly. She went to Indiana in 1952. On a boat. Whoa... I ate the first crepe I've had in France (it was a crepe aux 3 fromages). Then we were going to go see about registering me at school but the Proviseur was busy, so we didn't. I'll go later this week, then.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Calling in Favors

When I took driver's ed this summer, the teacher was always joking about how it's a good idea to have a best friend who's a mechanic. I disagree. When you're in France for a year (and sans permis de conduire), it's a much better idea to have a best friend who knows web design. Because really, who needs a functional car when you could have a shiny new blog layout instead?

Thanks, Eva.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Small Thing and a Big Thing

Small Thing: Today I got an 11 out of 20 on my history quiz, which is not bad considering I don't speak French like a French person. I was so proud. 3 points were lost because I miscomprehended a verb (Is that a word? It should be.), and another point disappeared because I didn't know that espace is masculine. So all in all, I think I dominated that quiz.

Big Thing: ...I'm in the process of changing host families. I won't go into the reasons why, except to say that it's not their fault any more than it is mine. So right now it's AWKWARD chez moi. But I like school, so it almost balances out. Almost.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


(I'm making a separate post because my school post is already too long.)

  • I take the city bus to school. It's 10 minutes on foot from my house to the gare, 10 minutes en bus, and 4 or 5 to get to my classroom.
  • There are no lockers, so I have to carry everything around with me.

What People Wear

  • Girls: jeans and sweaters. Or some girls wear actual put-together outfits, but that seems like entirely too much work at 7 am. About half have real backpacks (Eastpak) and the other half have big purse-things.
  • Boys: jeans and sweaters or sweatshirts. Or some boys wear actual put-together outfits, but that seems like entirely too much work at 7 am. Backpacks, usually Eastpak.

What People Eat

  • The chocolate pudding is SO good.
  • My host parents have a garden so we eat some fresh vegetables.
  • Bread, bread, bread. All the time.
  • It's hard to find a cereal that's not sugary/chocolate-flavored (I only like un-sweet cereal), so I eat Special K Nature, which does not have a picture of the cereal on the box. Instead there's a sketch of a woman's waist. And on the back there's a diet plan. Ah, well.

Any questions?


As promised:

So Monday from 8 to 10 I have TPE, which is a small group research project. Since I'm in S, I have to do someting involving Bio and math. Fantastic... My group still hasn't picked a topic.

Then I have History/Geography/Civics (1 hour on B weeks). At the moment it's history. The industrial revolution as it relates to France. The teacher (M. Bru) has been really helpful and understanding. He gave me his email adress in case I have questions.

11-12 is Spanish (level IV). I've never taken Spanish, so I have no idea what to do in that class. At least it's only 2 hours a week.

12 to 1:30 every day is lunch. Usually it's a cold entrée (starter) and meat with a vegetable or rice for the main course. Then fruit or yogurt for dessert. And of course lots of baguette (it's incredible how much bread some of the boys consume). The food is served family style at a table of 6 people. You don't have a choice of food and if you want to eat with someone you have to go into the cafeteria with them because the tables fill up in order. Usually the food is okay, except on Fridays. They always serve fish, for the Catholics, I guess. Whoever thought it was a good idea not to eat meat on Fridays never had to eat institutional fish.

Then I have 2 hours of gym. Right now we're studying badminton, which is harder than it looks, especially since everyone else already knows how to play. Silly Europeans :).

Then 2 hours of Latin. I like that class because I can answer questions (ABLATIVE becomes ABLATIF. Easy peasy.)

I start school at 9 with an hour of math. The teacher is so bad. He's always making mistakes in his examples. Plus the way he explains things (the French way?) is unnecessarily complicated. Way more confusing language than there needs to be. Also, in the US we do word problems and practical applications and stuff. Here? Prove whether the product of two odd functions is odd or even. Which I can do, sort of, but it's hard.

10-12 is Bio. The teacher is really nice but she talks really fast and we're supposed to copy down almost everything she says. I have no chance. I took a Bio test yesterday. It was essentially a timed essay on how the body regulates its gycemic level. I gave it a try. We'll see whether she's going to be generous with me.


1 hour off.

1 hr of English! The teacher is British. It's lovely speaking a language fluently. Plus the French accent in English is trop mignon.

1 hr of French. This class could potentially be really interesting or really, really boring. Not sure yet.

1 hr of Latin.


Math 8-9.

Physics and Chem (combined) from 9 to 10. I took my first Physics test today. I didn't get most of the answers I was supposed to get, but, hey, neither did the French kids. So we failed as one.

10-11 is French class, and then I have an hour of administrative stuff/advisory/assembly, but only sometimes...Today I didn't, so I waited for an hour and then ate lunch in the cafeteria with my classmate Remy. (Most kids go home since there's no class after lunch, but not me.)

Math, Spanish, 2 hours of French, Lunch, 1 hour of Physique-Chimie, and then another hour of P-C on an A week or History on a B week.

English, 2 hrs of History, 1 hr of math, lunch.

Then I have 2 hours of Bio Lab (blah) and 2 hours of Physique-Chimie Lab (more interesting. M. Ly is cool.).

Saturday (I know, right? The week is supposed to be over.)
Math from 9 to 10. I used to have Physique-Chimie but the teacher agreed to move it to Thursday. And we're working on rescheduling the math class.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

John Maynard Keynes

So I'm on the computer doing research for history class. We have to research Keynes and how he saved America during the Great Depression by giving us the Heavenly Manna of Socialism.

The funny part is that only the French websites say that. American websites are grumpy about him because he was Out To Destroy Capitalism.

I love cultural differences.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Sorry for not posting...

...but you'll have to wait longer still for a real post. This keyboard is hard to use and I have to keep deleting things. And seriously? Who thought it was a good idea to make people hit the shift key to type a period?

But really I am in a good mood. Homesickness was overwhelming for the first few days, but now I feel like I fit in.

A boy even invited me to hang out with his friends outside of school sometime, BUT Nelly and Daniel are kind of paranoid and they want to meet my potential friends before I go anywhere with them. Grr. But it's not good, it's not bad, it's just different.

School's not as hard as I expected, actually. More on that soon. Soon-ish, anyway.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

You must be so excited.

People keep telling me that I'm excited. Usually I just agree (it's easier), but I'm really not excited.

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad I'm going. But I'm not excited. How do I explain this?

Ah, a simile. Going on exchange is like waking up alive tomorrow. I like being alive, but generally, if someone said to you, "You must be so excited to wake up alive tomorrow," you would disagree. People are happy to be alive. Grateful, if they're the religious sort. But it is very hard to muster genuine excitement for something that seems so inevitable.

I hope that made sense.

Until next time, faithful readers,

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Kudos to a Fellow Blogger

This post is dedicated to [bt], whose emotions (as expressed in her blog) almost always match mine with frightening accuracy. As a writer, she has a contagious joie de vivre, and the blog itself has a certain je ne sais quoi. Here's the link: http://btenfrance.blogspot.com/. If you haven't found her blog already, now would be a good time to start following it.

An aside: One post a month, while good for my self control, is not so good for maintaining an accurate record. So I'm going to write when I darn well want to.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Research on the Behavioral Tendencies of the French People

I've finished my R.B.T.F.P. (See title.) Now, for the benefit of you, the reader, I shall ruminate on the reference texts used.

(From most useful to least)
  1. Talk to the Snail: Ten Commandments for Understanding the French by Stephen Clarke ~ It was relevant. It was insightful. It was funny. It was the only book I needed to read. How to deal with the French in addition to How to understand them.
  2. Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong: Why We Love France but Not the French by Jean-Benoit Nadeau and Julie Barlow ~ More scientific. Less practical. But the points were clear and logical without being obvious.
  3. Culture Shock! France: A Guide to Customs and Etiquette by Sally Taylor ~ Advice was similar to #1, but writing was much less accessible. Felt dated.
  4. The French by Theodore Zeldin ~ Very scholarly. More in-depth. (Much to my embarrassment, I haven't gotten around to finishing it.)
  5. A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle ~ Memoir. Inspiring--it's possible to get along quite well in France
  6. French by Heart: An American Family's Adventures in La Belle France by Rebecca Ramsey ~ Memoir. Drivel.
  7. The Arrogance of the French: Why They Can't Stand Us--and Why the Feeling is Mutual by Richard Chesnoff ~ As an American, I am embarrassed. Nationalistic propaganda. Good for a laugh if you can manage not to take him seriously.

Interesting tidbit: British books were more helpful than American books. 1 is British, 7 is American. 1' s strategy for dealing with the French is be polite and admit you're wrong. Effective? Yes. 7's strategy includes swearing at the French person whose help you desire (sample words included in the book). Effective? No, but "at least you'll have the last word." Oh my. I love my country, really I do, but sometimes I wonder about the people in it.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

July, Revisited

I know more about my host family now. They're so nice and welcoming and friendly and...nice (my vocabulary fails me, but oh well)!

So. They live in Palaiseau, a suburb of Paris. School is a 30-minute walk, a 15-minute bike ride, or a 10-minute bus ride away. I'm so happy to be able to walk to school! (I can't here.)
Vero is 21 and Morgane is 24, and they don't live at home but they come back to visit a lot. The family likes gardening and walking and other outdoorsy things. They're all quite extroverted.

They have hens!!!

And they have a second home in Bretagne!

They called me to talk about logistics and stuff...that was interesting because on the phone I can either speak in French or understand French, but not both. So the entire time all I said was Oui, Non, D'accord, and Je ne comprends pas (I don't understand). Plus I managed a few complete sentences, of which I was quite proud.

Let's see, what else?

I have a Visa appointment in Houston on August 14th. Fun...

Oh, and I'm feeling quite virtuous because I'm doing what AFS says to do and reading about France. I requested a million books on french culture (okay, five), and I've just started one that belongs to my parents. It's called The French.

Sorry my writing is so unfocused...excitement will do that to you.

34 more days!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Okay, I know I'm breaking my self-imposed one-post-a-month rule. But this is a special occasion, because guess what? I have a host family! Elation does not even begin to describe it. I don't know much, except that I have 2 host sisters, Vero and Morgane, and parents Daniel and Nelly (which seems to me to be the most un-French name ever...). Oh, and I have a host cat, Fleep-flip.

I actually don't even know where they live, so I'll update this post once they reply to my clumsily written French email (Vero wrote to me in English--I think she's the only one who speaks English? That would be good).

Yay yay yay! I'm going to go do my happy dance now.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

J'attends toujours.

Still no host family.

The good news is that I've found some stuff to do besides wait beside the mailbox--crossword puzzles, rereading the entire Artemis Fowl series (which I adore, even if it is too young for me), and driver's ed.

I finished Culture Trek last night. It didn't feel very helpful, but maybe my subconscious has been molded to be more accepting. On ne sait jamais.

I'll write again at the end of July, or when I get a host family (fingers crossed), whichever comes first.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Pre-Departure Orientation

So I just got back from my pre-departure orientation, which was okay. First we spent about six hours learning that 1) Drugs are bad, 2) Sexual harassment is bad, and 3) Other countries have stereotypes about America. Plus we played a fun game that involved hitting a table.

There are six people going somewhere from San Antonio next year, but only four of us showed up--Paraguay for a semester, Argentina for the summer, Egypt for a year, and France for a year (me). They were all really nice, and I felt (somewhat) reassured because no one had a host family yet.

Monday, June 1, 2009


Well, this is my official post for the month of May. Nothing AFS-y has happened, except once I got an e-mail from AFS. I got really excited because I saw "AFS" in the e-mail's subject line and I thought maybe they were telling me that I had a host family. But no. They wanted me to take a survey about my customer satisfaction. Oh well.

My pre-departure orientation is next Sunday. Another post then, perhaps.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Culture Trek and Visas

It's time to make another post, I guess. Since last month, AFS has sent me account information for Culture Trek and instructions for getting my visa.

Culture Trek is supposed to help me be more accepting of other cultures. It's a good idea--I don't know yet whether it will work since I've just started completing the activities, but so far it's thought-provoking if not enlightening.

In other news, the visa application process is pretty entertaining. I thought "in triplicate" was a joke, but it turns out that bureaucracies really do ask for 3 copies of everything. I'm a bit worried about this process--I can imagine getting to the consulate (in Houston, a 4 hour drive from San Antonio where I live) and having an intimidating bureaucrat tell me that I've done something wrong.

But I guess bureaucrats are a different cultural group, so I'll use my newfound Culture Trek tolerance skills to deal with them. (mostly kidding)

Still no word from AFS about who my host family will be. On the bright side, I haven't been bored in three months because I can always wonder about my host family.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

I'm going to France!

OK, so I have no idea how to write a blog, but I'm supposed to blog about my French experience since AFS is giving me scholarship money, which leads me to my first point of order: Thank you very much to whoever donated the money.

Second point of order: I'm going to France, through AFS, which is an exchange program.

Third point of order: I'm leaving in September to do my junior year of high school in France, and I am very, very excited, but I don't know who my host family will be yet.

Now that I'm going to France for sure (unless my mom changes her mind...but she won't, I don't think), I keep thinking of all these ridiculous things to worry about (and they are ridiculous--stuff like what if I can't think of anything to say when I first meet my host family, or what if I start craving peanut butter and I can't get any).

The other day my french teacher told me "Tu vas rever en francais" (you're going to dream in french). That's going to be weird.