Thursday, September 23, 2010

More Random Cultural Differences that Haven't Made it into Blog Posts!

Well, I have realized that there are so many things that are different between living here and living back in the states that I have kind of expected that it is obvious to everyone. So here are some cultural differences that I have noticed and not really mentioned:
-Meals last a lot longer here. About Forty five minutes to an hour for lunch and dinner, and there is more of a variety of things to eat :)
-School is completely and totally flipped-upside-down-opposite of school in the U.S. The schedule, timing, classes, and also the fact that I have at least an hour and a half for lunch each day, and the cafeteria food is like a feast. Also, they don't have substitute teachers. If a teacher isn't there, you don't go to school. And they have lots of strikes. There is one today!
-People seem to be less pressed for time here. I don't know if it is because they work less or what, but time passes kind of slowly, and it is relaxing for the most part.
-Fashion is a huge thing for teenagers. Everybody dresses well for school, and sometimes the fashion leads to tons of people having the same coats, shoes, or bags. It's good and bad. Sometimes I miss the carefree-ness of what you where in the U.S., but it is fun to go shopping with people who are passionate about it... :D
-The cars are all tinier, and bounce around a little bit on the road.
-This isn't really a cultural difference, but the other day, the road was blocked when I was being driven to school, and we had to take a thirty minute tour around the countryside to get into Vernon (The town I go to school in). It was immensely beautiful and I want to go back to take some pictures.
-Vernon's roads are very tight, and the shops are all packed together. The buildings are very old, and there are plenty of churches. It's the kind of place that has a truly different feel from the U.S.

And that is all I can think of for now!!!

(It's really hard for me to pronounce my name in French)

Saturday, September 18, 2010


It's been a while since my last post, but I have a good excuse! I have started school! And it takes up a lot of time... Monday thru thursday generally from about 8:30 to 5:00 each day. Except Wednesdays. We get out at 12:30! :] Some people have school on Saturday mornings, but j'ai de la chance. ;)
The school system is a lot different in France, so I'm going to give you a crash course:

L'école primaire is our elementary school. It's from 6 to 11 years.

Next, we have collège. Which isn't college, but middle school. Yay. It's four years, unlike our middle school, and is split up into 6th grade, 5th grade, 4th grade, and 3rd grade, in that order. You finish collège in the equivalent of ninth grade.

Then there is lycée, which is like high school. Except for it is only three years and they are called seconde (sophomore year), première (junior year), and terminale (senior year).

Also, at the end of lycée, one has to pass a giant test called the baccalauréat to get into université.

So yeah, that's about it.

So last Saturday, Claude, Manon, and I went to the lycée to ask them if they had gotten all my papers sorted out yet. And they had!! But to my surprise... I was going to be a sophomore again... :[ Eh, whatever, the classes would be easier and I wouldn't have a giant test at the end of the year.

Well, then on Sunday I enjoyed my last day of freedom by going to Paris with Claude and Manon. It was epic! We strolled down the Champs Elysées and went in a couple of stores (including a giant overly-priced roxy store). I enjoyed it thoroughly. And then I came back, had dinner, and slept.

Ok, onto the first week of school. I guess if I had to sum it all up in one word, I would use overwhelming. The worst day was Tuesday, because I had classes from 8:30 to 6:00 pm :O. And the best day was Yesterday, friday, because I got a new English teacher who is awesome, and I got out at three o'clock, which is quite uncommon... But altogether, it was very hard and I understand very little. I don't think it would be easy for me to tell you my schedule, because it is really confusing and different from the schedule I had in the United States last year, but I will list all of my classes. Here you go:

1. The first class I went to was History, with a very very nice teacher called Madame Thepin. She was very helpful. :)
2. Then I had SES, which is pretty much an economics course, and it was OK. At least I understood some of it...
3. I had a very short day Monday, with a lot of waiting, but the next day I started right off the bat with my hardest class, Français.... dun dun dun. The teacher, well, I won't go into the details.
4. Then I had Math with a nice teacher, and it was actually kind of easy, cause I have already done what they were learning.
5. Then I had my first class of English... well, I hated it. But the next time I had English, my teacher changed! Whoopee!!!!! Now I have a teacher that is British, and quite funny. She makes the class interesting and kind of reminds me of Mrs. Lewycky or something... the type of teacher you can be friends with :)
6. Then I had Espagnolllll. Interesting, indeed. We'll see if I end up learning any spanish or just being confused. But I like the teacher. Yes, she is a little quirky and reminds me of Maya Angelou, but she seems to be very passionate about Spanish...
7.Then I had science, that was good, and I am starting to like the teacher more because she tries to help me learn French.
8. Next I had MPS, which is basically real world applications of science. Who knows, it might actually make me enjoy science.
9. So that completed my Tuesday, and Wednesday was made up completely of repeats. But Thursday, I got a new class. ECJS. I seriously have no idea what this class is about, cause it was held entirely in the library and we just filled up a sheet about library rules and stuff... Also, I have no idea what ECJS stands for. But the teacher is Thepin!! yay!
10. My final class is sciences vie terre. Something about earth science. It's ok. At least she uses powerpoints to lecture, so I can actually comprehend what's going on!

Wow, that was kinda long... But that was my week. I made some friends and it was a good experience, but I hope this week I will understand more next week!

One thing I did find was very interesting about French school is that you get assigned a "class," and that's the group of people you will have classes with for the entire year. So pretty much, you go to all of your classes with those people, and you don't have to ever be alone if you don't want to, if that makes any sense....? It's different from school in the States because I barely ever have classes with my friends there, and here, it's the opposite. Ok, sorry, that was horribly stated.

And I guess that's it for now. This weekend we're going to Versailles and I think that's it. Cool. Bye!!!

Friday, September 10, 2010

More Random Things!

Well, I haven't really said much about my host family and town yet because the last time I blogged I was tired and didn't want to take up the computer, but since school doesn't start for me until semaine prochaine (?), I acvtually have free time!!! It's this wonderful thing in which my brain doesn't feel absurdly overwhelmed with French and I can relax. So as I am sitting at the computer with Milo (the kitten) perched on my shoulder, I find that I have a lot to say. However, how can I put everything into words? I don't know, but here is my attempt.

Pressagny L'Orgueilleux is one of the most beautiful little villages I have ever seen. You can take a five minute walk to the Seine, look at cows from across the river, and hear the train from far away. All the houses are made out of stone, and the lots are quite big compared to the semi-suburban life I am used to. The town seems to be host to lots of cats, which is quite familiar to me, but just this morning I saw two different cats at the same time lounging about in the backyard, neither of which were from our house...
The closest city is Vernon, about ten minutes away by car. It is smaller than my home town, about 20 thousand people, but it seems bigger because it is more compact (Sorry if that doesn't make sense). I have gone with Manon and Claude a couple of times to faire des courses (grocery shopping), and I enjoyed it immensely! There are so many difference between the US and France.
Pia and Manon are so nice! They both seem to share a lot of similarities with me: music, movies, Harry Potter, all that. And Claude and Eric are fantastic host parents.
I LOVE FOOD. Breakfast isn't a big deal here, but lunch and dinner are very awesome. Everyone sets the table, and we have a main course and then generally yogurt and or cheese/fruit. All the food is delicious, and I don't pass up any oppurtunity to eat (Well I almost did last night because of tiredness, but I woke up just in time). I have a newfound adoration for yogurt, too.

Language (La langue):
As far as my French goes, I haven't found that there is much of a difference in my understanding or my speaking, but I can say I am quite accustomed to people speaking in French to me. I'm used to the first thing coming out of my mouth being French, and hearing only French as well. This doesn't mean that I can easily comprehend what is being said, though. :) I expect that when I start school next week, my ability to understand that which is being said will grow immensely. But moving on,

School (L'école):
Although I haven't been to school all by myself yet, yesterday, Pia took me with her so I could see what French school is like. Two words: long and confusing. All in all, Pia had nine hours of education that day, and I understood about five minutes worth of conversation. First she had two hours of Philosophie, which I enjoyed, but understood none of; then she had an hour of math, which I might have been able to understaqnd if I knew the concept; then she had lunch, which needs no comprehending; next Allemand (German), which, since I have no prior knowledge of German, was completely baffling; then another hour of philosophie, better than the first, but still impossible; and finally, an hour of history, in which the teacher spoke at 150 kilometres per minute, and I understood none but these words it seemed: La grande Alliance, Chine, Mao Ze Dong, and Puissance Mondiales. I think history will be a good subject for me, though.

0th3r 0b$cuRit!es
I have noticed that just as much English music seems to be played on the radio as French music.
I had real Petit Fours two days ago!
Milo is a cuddly kitten.
Our town is very close to Giverny, Claude Monet's town, and it is gorgeous.
The French's coca cola in the bottle has sugar!!!
I love these little pancake thingys called Blinis.
Maybe it's just me, but French ice cream tastes different!
Churches everywhere...
Everyone does seem to be a little bit more fashion concious here...

Well, that's all for now!!!

Mon Adresse:
1 Rue Harel
27510 Pressagny L'Orgueilleux, France

Au Revoir...

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

#32 Enjoy the Little Things

As a great movie once stated, you must enjoy the little things when sudden change is thrust upon you. Although moving to France for a year is not quite the same as an apocalyptic flesh-eating situation, I do think that it is important to relish the little things that happen every day. Like the fact that a baguette is purchased chaque jour. And that all the houses seem to be made out of stone. And that my accent is a failure as of now. All of these things make up what I now call my life... But hold on, I am getting ahead of myself. Before I delve into the various nuances I have already semi-grown accustomed to in the French culture, I will explain more about my journey.

On Tuesday, the 31st of August, I had my friends and Aunt and Uncle over for dinner. We had tacos and some other mexican food, because I expect that it will be hard to find Mexican food as good as what we have in California, in France..... no offense to the French. We said goodbye for about thirty minutes and it ended in tears.... :( Then my parents took me to the airport and that ended in tears... :( I got on a red eye to JFK and rode a plane knowing that I wouldn't set foot on San Jose or Los Gatos ground again for ten months. It was weird. I got to JFK early (seven o clock) in the morning and met with another AFSer to get to the hotel. We were some of the only people that were there because check in started at one PM. After waiting in the lobby for six hours, I got my room. Hooray!! My roommate was very nice. Her name is Lithia, and she is from New York State, near the town with the amazing name, Poughkeepsie (I think that is how it is spelled?). Then we had some activities and blah blah blah. Then I got my host family! A family of four living near Vernon in Normandie. Claude, Eric, Pia, et Manon. Well, then the next day we did some more activities and tooka red-eye to Paris. It was a tiring trip, but fun at the same time. I met some more cool people, and we went to the hostel via bus. We didn't do much the first day, but the second day we saw some of Paris (!!) and the tour eiffel (!!!!). Then some more activities as our nervousness grew. The next morning, we had activities for about an hour and a half, and then everyone went their separate ways by train. However, some of us were close enough to be picked up. We all went into a room where the host families had been talking and had to introduce ourselves one by one and then go greet our host families. It was scary, but so much fun!! Then we all split off and drove home. It was a fun car ride. We chatted and talked a lot, and then we got to the petite village of Pressagny L'Orgueuilleux. It is beautiful!! I was supposed to go to school the day after I got there, but the principal hadn't yet looked at my papers... so I am at home for now! I have been sleeping and playing with their kitten a lot. And enjoying all the little things that make france different from the US. But I havee written so much it is time to go...... sorry that this is a very abrupt ending, but I don't want to take up their computer for too long, so I shall be going.