terça-feira, 27 de outubro de 2009

2 month marker: cheers and jeers

after being in France for 2 full months now, (well, more or less) here are some things I feel I can say.

Things I miss: JEER to their lack.
--chips and salsa. rice. fruit juice. pão de queijo. garden dinners. subway (sadly).
--riding in cars. better yet, driving a car. but mostly just their convenience.
--buses that run frequently. biggest. annoyance. ever.
--being busy and/or having a job.
--free food, be it Subway, home, or the DH; paying for every meal sucks.
--my daddy's or Pappy's back massages. my shoulders hurt.
--having a sink in my room. or near my room. or even just having a bathroom on the same floor.
--a jeer to creaky spiral staircases. they're an integral part of every French building.
--being able to wear bright colors without getting looked at funny. (seriously.)
--my friends, and the fam.

PLUS: big huge jeer to the exchange rate. ew.

Things I love: CHEERS for France!
--living in a city vs a campus. though it definitely brings back high school memories.
--the brand new fireplace and the frequent wood fires my host family has. makes me feel like a kid again.
--the bread. and wine. I never thought either could taste so good. really.
--my bicycle and how often I can use it.
--having my OWN room. it's been a looong time.
--the wall mounted space heater I have in my bathroom because there's no heat. nothing like standing in front of that after a shower. doubles as a hair dryer too. wooooo.
--kebabs. nuff said.
--free drinks because we know one of the bar owners.
--my new friends. =]
--having a bus pass: hop on hop off, whenever I want. Thanks ND for payin.
--the fact that even still this week it's in the 60s.
--time to sleep, read, watch tv, do nothing.
--the fact that the french love rainbows: the color scheme, not the arc you find in the sky. par exemple, the official scheme of the city's public transportation system is some very gaudy rainbow stripes. I'll take and post a picture of the side of a bus sometime.
--looking at pretty french people. they're all way too gorgeous.

domingo, 25 de outubro de 2009

dinner and campus

Picture post time.

Weekends are quiet here, for me at least, because lots of people travel every weekend, and as I lack the funds to do so, I find myself somewhat lonely much of the time. But it's a nice time to catch up on sleep and laze around, or meet up with other people that I don't usually hang out with, so it's a nice thing. Doing nothing does get kind of old, because I'm used to having close to no free time at all at school, but I try to keep myself occupied. Today I Skyped with the family for an hour and with Shelly for an hour 45. Very nice.

On to pictures:
Ashley and I made dinner with Austin at his house the other day. Veggie pasta with pesto sauce, and blanched broccoli. Complete with a 3 Euro bottle of white wine. Mmmmm.
And on a particularly pretty Sunday I found myself outside the Catho. Here's the main building which holds most classrooms. Not particularly gorgeous, haha, but that's about as pretty as it gets.

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sexta-feira, 16 de outubro de 2009

who would've thunk??? and more news.

I spent this summer in Brazil doing a summer long service program, during which I worked very closely with many Africans. I learned a huge amount about the African psyche and way of life while in Brazil, and an especially large amount about South Africa. I thought it was so ironic: go to Brazil and learn about Africa all summer.
Well now I'm having the same experience in France, except this time I'm learning all about Asia. During the prestage there were a good number of Japanese students studying with us, but when we returned from break and started our real university classes, we went from 100 students to 400, and at least 200 of those new students are from China alone, the others being from mainly the US, Japan and Korea. It's such a trip--I sit in my classes in French and I seriously feel like I should be in Asia, because 80% of each of my classes is Asian! It's so fun to see their clothes, because little Asian girls can pull off just about anything, and they really push the limits. I've seen everything from purple jumpsuits to pleather tassle boots to a loose leopard-print shirt with a leopard outline in sequins. I'm learning a lot about how different China and Japan are (for one, Japanese accents are MUCH easier to understand, and Japanese names are much easier to say).
Today in my Expression Orale class (11 students, 3 americans, one nun from the Czech Republic, 5 chinese and 2 japanese) we each had to present something special to us, either a picture or an object. I brought a bracelet I got this summer in Brazil, one of the americans brought pictures from her summer internship in DC, the other a chess set his sister got him from Chile, etc. Normal stuff. Then the other students started presenting, and instead of learning about them or their lives, like I expected to, I got a lesson in Chinese and Japanese culture!
One of the chinese girls did a presentation on Chinese Opera, and went too long and had to get cut off so the last two people could go, but I was really blown away. She had brought a cup that had cartoons of opera costumes and masks, and then had cut up all these papers that she taped onto the white board. She had 4 colors--Red, Black, White, and Green--and a bunch of qualities written out which she taped under the color which represented them. She explained to us how the colors on the masks of the characters in the opera tell you about their personality and function within the story: the mask with the most red belongs to the hero, if a mask has a lot of green it means the character is very faithful, etc. She began to explain the designs on the masks and what they meant too, but only got through one before she had to get cut off. What she showed us though was how one mask had a vase shaped pattern on his forehead, which means he liked to drink a lot! It was incredibly interesting, and the amount that she prepared (vs me half asleep this morning throwing the first thing I saw into my backpack) really was impressive.
Other people presented on Japanese/Korean pop singers (she's half/half and lives in Japan), traditional Chinese printed handkerchiefs with birds representing joy that are supposed to keep mosquitoes away (which he promptly gave to our grad-student teacher as a present), those red cords tied into elaborate decorative knots with tassles that you always see in Chinese restaurants (apparently the different designs represent things like luck and intimacy), traditional festivals in Shinto temples, and so on and so on. It was a very cool class.

In other news, I love my history of France and my art history classes. Both have great teachers and are interesting, and it's just so nice to have an actual class in which you do actual intellectual work and isn't just grammargrammargrammarcomphrensiongrammarexcersisesBLAH. =]

Life is good here. As of yesterday it's officially cold, so I bundle up for my bike rides now, with gloves and everything. My host family said they'll turn on the heat probably this weekend, which was happy news. My bathroom doesn't have heating being as it's in between the garage and the laundry room/water closet/ extra fridge room, but there's a funky box on the wall that I turn and that heats up the room AND my towel, so yay for that.

The other day I went and had a very picturesque little dinner with two friends. ND had had a lunch together and there was leftover PizzaHut in the computer lab, so I stole it and we got some drinks and sat on some steps in a park and watched little boys skateboard, a couple make out, a TV reporter filming and talking, etc etc. The weather was beautiful, the sun was out, the clouds were interesting, and to top it all off a gorgeous rainbow appeared just to make me happy. =] It's really nice here now, I'm finally feeling at ease and like I'm making an actual life for myself here for the year. It isn't just a do-this-do-that like it was during the prestage when we all felt like we were in high school, being ushered all together on field trips, lunches etc, but now I have my own time to do whatever I want. I've been living day-by-day lately, not planning anything at all, just making sure I show up to my classes and up for whatever other than that. I end up doing fun things like that dinner, like just hanging out at Rachel's because her house is literally across the street from school, shopping, wandering the town, and so on. We've made quite a few French friends too, so while the French hasn't clicked yet, I am improving. Plus I have homework help. =D

Ok well that's all, I'm going to take a nap now before Rachel and I head over and make dinner with some French kids, but here's a picture to make all of these words a little more interesting. This is from last weekend before we went to a discotheque called Le Dome. It was super fun. The two in the middle are French girls learning to be coast guards! So cool.

terça-feira, 6 de outubro de 2009

Paris Paris...

Well yay vacation!!
So this week we're beginning classes (History of French Art and French History are very promising, great teachers and interesting topics. Also taking 6 required hours of language, another good teacher, and Expression Orale and Expression Ecrit, neither of which I've had yet. But it seems like it'll be a good semester class wise.) but last week we had a nice break, which I'm going to post quickly about.

Three of my friends and I went to Paris for the week. Well not actually the week, because it gets expensive. But we stayed 4.5 days there yay! We stayed in a french hotel called F1 which is a new chain of cheap hotels around the country. Though it was less than fabulous, especially the shared bathrooms in the hallways that seemed to always be flooded and the cigarette smelling stairwells, the rooms were very nice and I can't really complain.
Paris is amazing, of course. Throughout the week we did tons of stuff, but here were the highlights:

--The Eiffel tower at night. We got some wine and sat on a park bench and oohed and aahed and had a photo session courtesy of our next-bench British neighbors who kindly warned us about the giant rats that run from bush to bush. Yes, we saw one. Yes, it was giant. And gross. But the tower is gorgeous, and when it sparkles for 10 minutes every hour it's just beautiful.
--The Eiffel tower in the daytime. We didn't wait in the massive line to go up, but sat in the park in front along with all the real French people, and basked in the sun for a while. And got dirty looks from tourists who thought we were French.
--L'Arc de Triomphe. Coming out of the subway station and having it tower right on top of you is incredible. I had seen it by car before but actually standing under it is amazing. Absolutely stunning.
--Champs Elysees. We walked all the way from L'Arc to the Louvre one day. The shops are ridiculous; for instance we went into a Louis Vuitton store where keychains were 250 Euro a piece. We also saw the Toyota and Renault (a French car company) stores, where they had some pretty amazing cars on display. (Little brothers, I included a picture in the collage for you.) We passed a huge display of Vouge magazine covers throughout the decades too, which was pretty cool. We ended up at the Egyptian Obelisk they have there, which is in a huge square with cars zipping all around and huge fountains and L'Arc de Triomphe staring down at you from one end and huge gardens from the other. Breathtaking.
--The Louvre. There isn't much to say. Amazing, as always. My camera was running out of battery the whole week though, so I didn't take any pictures inside.
--The Statue of Liberty. I'm not sure what scale it's on, but it's rather small and is actually dwarfed by a bridge right behind it, but it was very cool to see. It's exactly like the NYC one, of course, and seeing the Eiffel tower behind it was quite the juxtaposition. Couldn't get that angle in the photo though, sorry. =[
--Swiss hot chocolate. I got it at a coffee shop and it was milk with a huge chocolate lollipop stuck in. I was both surprised and a tad bit skeptical at first, but it was pretty much the best hot chocolate I've ever had. Yay!
--Street/subway musicians. We saw everything from guitars to full-size harps to congo drums to karaoke (yea. on the subway. hopping from car to car at each stop. wowie. at least she sang well!) to traditional Peruvian singers/musicians to accordions. We had fun trying to come up with something original we could do to get money, because it seems pretty much everything has been done, and being original is how you get the big bucks. I think we finally decided on a STOMP on the metro sort of deal. Hehee. I put a picture in the collage of something we saw close to the Louvre--a bunch of string musicians playing classical music on the sidewalk. They were amazing, and it was so different to see so many people. I loved it.
--Wandering the streets. Most of our week consisted of this. We'd pick somewhere or something that looked interesting on the map, hop onto the metro with our metro passes and get off at a stop and wander. Sometimes we'd get to our destination and sometimes not, but it always proved adventurous and very fun. We were all short on cash, so we tried to do as many free things as possible, and if you notice, none of the highlights I mentioned actually cost money! Yay! Well, except for the hot chocolate, but hey, these things happen. =]
We did lots more of course, but those were my favorites. Enjoy the photos!

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