sexta-feira, 25 de setembro de 2009

this and that

Heyyyy everyone.

Sorry for having been gone for a while. I had a paper to write last week that was due monday and then this week has been a bit crazy. Feeling somewhat under the weather but I'll get through it.

Today was the LAST DAY of our prestage. I'm happy to be done with it, because it really was a lot of classtime and a lot of work, but my teacher was absolutely amazing, so I'm sad to see him go. He does teach classes throughout the semester so we'll see if I'm at a level high enough to take one. This is my friend Ashley and I with him. =]

Our break officially begins today, but I'm only heading out on Tuesday because my friend Rachel has an appointment in Nantes on Tuesday morning that she has to go to. She sent in her Visa paperwork right away and now needs a medical exam, kinda weird, but I guess that's how the French roll. I'll be doing that in a few weeks too.

Life here has been good, been having some fun times and seeing interesting things. We took a trip to Vannes last weekend which was nice. It's a port city in Brittany, very beautiful and historical. We got to take a ferryboat to a little island and eat crepes and everything. =] We even saw a pirate ship! Here's a little collage of pictures from on the boat and on the island.

A couple nights ago, before I fell ill, a small group of us went to a hookah bar. It was small and very nice, cheap, and was playing Indian music which was great and made me miss Shelly hehee. Mostly it was just very chill, no alcohol allowed or anything. I was a fan. But all I wanted was coffee with my hookah, and they didn't have it, so maybe next time I'll bring in my own or something, hehee.

Ok well I'm going to nap now, try to rest up a bit and get better. Yesteday I got home from class around 2 and just slept and slept. Felt really nice. I even found a link for House so I was ecstatic to be able to watch it. Most sites with videos on them don't work in Europe, so I've been a tiny bit deprived, but I'm all happy again. =] Bisous.

segunda-feira, 14 de setembro de 2009

Excursion Pictures

Ok here are two collages from excursions I've been to. Click on them to make them bigger.

The first is from L'Anjou Troglodytique village we visited. It was inhabited until the 1980s! People dug out the houses because of the better climate and because it was cheaper--you could repay the people you hired to dig it out by selling the dirt. The never got more then 10 or 12 meters deep so that there could be enough sunlight, and some of them were really just too adorable. We had lots of fun running around the labyrinthine village and picking which houses we ours, etc. They weren't all houses either--they had stables, communal eating areas, and even a huge gathering hall they used as a church!

This is from Puy de Fou, look on Wiki about it (what I went to is at the bottom under the Cinescenie heading). I actually went a few weekends ago but only got time to put it up now. It was an incredible show that went through almost a millennium of history of the region, with different acts for each period in time, such as medieval jousting, Renaissance dancing, revolutionary war battles, and even up to World War II. They did amazing things with live animals, lights, and sound--the stained glass windows in the pictures are huge fountains with light being shined on them. The entire show was in French but there wasn't THAT much speaking, it was more a show for the eyes, and it really was amazing. It happens each weekend after sunset during the summer, and each showing attracts about 14,000 people. Wow. It's put together by the town of Puy du Fou, and almost the entire village participates. My monitrice sat next to me and said she is normally in it each weekend! She pointed out the dances she was a part of. Very cool. (photo credit to my friend Matt M. for some of these.)

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domingo, 13 de setembro de 2009

fun weekend

This weekend was and continues to be a busy one, and I just found out that I have to write two papers for something back at ND asap, so the next update might not be for a little while, but rest assured I have some great photos so you'll enjoy it when it comes.
This weekend was really just fabulous. We took a field trip on Friday to these dug-out cave villages, got a tour of a cave winery (including some wine tasting of course), saw the view and got to take pictures in front of the tallest chateau in France (seven stories), and ate dinner in a cave restaurant. It was, needless to say, amazing. And this weekend there is this huge festival going on in Angers called Accroche-Coeurs, (with some accents on there somewhere,) that's a festival of Angels vs Demons. It's very French and therefore somewhat creepy, but also very cool. Weird costumes and thing going on all over the place. So pictures will come. But tata for now.

terça-feira, 8 de setembro de 2009

my bike, French movies, and more

So this week got off to a good start when last night les monitrices, who are the 10 French college students (all girls) who teach some of our classes, set up a soirèe for us to go out to bar. Thanks to my new BIKE I was actually able to go, so I met some friends at the Catho and we all walked to this really nice and really expensive bar. It had Caipirinhas though! So I was sitting outside sipping on that as this foreign looking guy wearing a Ronaldinho #10 Brasil jersey walked up and joined the group. So naturally I awkwardly stared at him for a while and then pointed to his shirt and mumbled something about liking it, not sure of what languages he spoke. Well in the end he ended up being Brasilian, so then I got to talk the rest of the night in Portuguese! It was fun for sure. Well not the rest of the night actually, after a while my friends and I left the expensive bar and went to one on the designated "student street" which was a lot cheaper, where I socialized with lots of French guys, speaking French to them, and they English to me. So it was a good night for languages.

Riding my bike is definitely a fun experience. It's a little bit scary, not gonna lie, because I have to ride on the road; I could get a $90 ticket for riding on the sidewalk. The European roads almost always have parallel parking on one side of the road, so add that to cars going both directions, and you have problems for bikes. Luckily people are constantly riding bikes here--it's almost always faster than driving the winding, narrow streets--so drivers are used to it. Mostly. It's fine really, except the roundabouts scare me, but lucky on the way to school I only have to deal with one, so it's fine. Plus it's not like traffic is heavy here; on the way home today I think only about 3 cars passed behind me the whole time. Going the other direction there were lots, but who cares about them? Hehee. Oh, and here are some pictures now, of the bike. =]

Today I watched a French movie. Lots of you may know, I'm not one to cry at movies... but I cried during this entire movie. It's really quite beautiful and poignant. Really, really, go find it and watch it. We watched part of it in class and then my teacher said he'd lend it out to who wanted it, and I was the first to raise my hand. =] My host family was ecstatic I was going to watch it; it's very famous here. From the outside, the plot looks somewhat formulaic, but it's really very beautifully done. Of course it's French, so you'll have to read subtitles, and there are a few weird motifs, but really, go rent it. You won't regret it.

For dinner today we went and sat on the steps of the Cathedral that I posted pictures of a few days ago. Here's what that looked like for you. I wish you could see more detail in the picture, but it's a photo, so you can't. I felt very much like a study abroad student, hehe, there were 6 of us in the group eating cheap paninis for dinner, sitting on the steps below a cathedral and looking at this gorgeous view, with these typical French people and houses all around. It was nice. Like, really nice.

domingo, 6 de setembro de 2009

mon dimanche et le Catho

Today is Sunday and I've had a nice quiet day with the host family. I woke up late and read for a bit and as I was downstairs brushing my teeth I heard my host mom calling for me. I walked outside to see that my host dad had come home with a bike for me!! They used to have one for their students but last year it somehow got destroyed, and they realized that the free bike program in Angers was a headache (to qualify I had to get a bank account and to get a bank account I had to have all these documents etc. I had been working on it for a while and was going to try to go on Monday to the bank.) so they just decided to buy one for me! It was a really nice surprise, and Andre spent an hour or so after that working on it for me, because he had gotten it at a flea market sort of place and it needed a bit of tuning. It's very European with the high handlebars and thin little city tires, etc. I'll take a picture of it sometime to show you, it's dark blue with white accents, and it makes me happy.
Afterward he and I drove to pick up Lucie at her friend's house which is in a suburb of Angers and he explained to me how one of the biggest psychiatric hospitals in the region was located there, as well as a bunch of farms that grow flowers to sell. We had lunch outside around 3, which was as always just amazing, and then they helped me with my grammar homework sitting out in the sun as my laundry dried. =] It's been a good day. Everyone else is out on an excursion today (I opted out of because we could pick 2 of the 4 offered and the others looked more interesting to me, which you'll be hearing about later.) but as it turns out staying behind wasn't an issue at all, and I practiced a lot more French than anyone else did today, hehe.

Okay so here are some more daily life photos for you. At the Catho (cat-oh) Notre Dame students get special treatment because our program has been going on for over 4o years (we're SUNDEF 44, that's the name of the ND program, don't ask me what it stands for.) so we have this cute little computer lab just for us. We all have swipe cards to get into it, and I have a feeling I'll be making good use of it. It's just nice knowing there is a locked room that I can drop stuff off in whenever I want, and go pick it up later with complete confidence it'll still be there. Haha. Plus it's on the 6th floor of the building, so the view is definitely nice. Which brings me to my next photo....

This is a glimpse of campus as seen from the computer lab.The main building with the little dome thing-y is currently under renovation, so we don't get to use it at all. =[ Apparently in 2 years CIDEF will be stationed there, which is pretty much just completely unfair. The building I was in as I took this picture is almost as ugly as a building can get on the outside, and thus I probably won't be posting pictures of it. The building on the right is another campus building that houses both the nurse and the dining hall. We get to eat lunch there everyday right now for free, but once real classes begin in October, we just get a once-a-week meal there. The food is amazing and lunch is always served in courses, which is fabulously French.
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sábado, 5 de setembro de 2009

and a few more

Well apparently you only can put up 4 pictures at a time. So continuing from the last post, here's the view from my bedroom window. It's nothing amazingly spectacular but the house across the street is really rather adorable and European.

The first day we were here, PMcD, the nickname for our program director, took us on a walking tour of the city. It was nice to get a feel for the non-grid European layout of the city. We went to see this huge old church in the old "centre ville," I don't think I ever caught its name, but it was pretty.

Holding up the choir loft and the organ were some really intense mythological looking half clothed men. So, naturally, I had to take a picture of them. They were really rather giant, not that you can tell.

Sorry for the lack of photos, but I hate being touristy and whipping out the camera at the sight of anything not completely American looking. I'll be living here for a year so I'm just taking it all in right now and will be taking pictures later. =]
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picture time

So here are some of the pictures I promised. Here's my bedroom, with a very funny computer chair and really gorgeous floors.

I love the pictures from the little sisters, they go up on the wall wherever in the world I am.
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quinta-feira, 3 de setembro de 2009

technical issues

So I'm extremely frustrated with my computer currently, whiwh last night in some strange attempt to "repair" itself decided to erase all my programs and the password for the wireless, so now I'm sitting in our ND computer lab pecking away at a European keyboard before class. Haha. But hey the good news is once I get the web up and running again I'll have pictures for everyone! Woot. Ok class time.

quarta-feira, 2 de setembro de 2009

they really DON'T wear deodorant...

couple more things:

I was going to put up lots of pictures. But I think I left my camera cord in the US. Because I'm just that cool. So I'll look around here some more, but they may just have to wait. Boo me? Well yes.

Oh funny story. I always was under the impression that the whole "French people don't wear deodorant!" thing was an American perpetuated stereotype. Well, on the plane, thanks to the gentleman next to me, I quite forcefully realized that, well, it is indeed a truth of the country. And, least I forget, whiffs in buses and crowded stores serve to remind me fairly often. I'm just grateful I have such a bad sense of smell, I can't imagine what it would be like otherwise....

I just finished dinner with my host family, and they told me to write in the blog about how well I eat, and I do think it deserves mention. Real meals here for me are a bit erratic, and don't always happen when or where they should, or even at all, however when they do, they are well worth it. The food is simple, and in theory very similar to US food, but it's ridiculously better. Subtly flavorful, combined with wine that is just miles beyond anything I've had before, and followed by completely delicious locally made cheese, which in the US I don't really ever eat, the meals here are fantastic. I'm definitely lucky.


The starting post of a blog is a difficult thing to compose. The images of my last few days and the words representing them are presently only thoughts in my mind. Translation isn't easy. So bear with my when I become hard to follow, or too careless or informal. My mind is scattered, and pulling it into a cohesive whole can be at times an unrealistic expectation.

So there's my disclaimer. And now a hello to you all: to my family in South Dakota, Chicago, and over the US. To my family in Brazil. To my friends in Nebraska and Kansas, my friends at Notre Dame, and those others who are scattered elsewhere--I'm not forgetting you; I can only name so many places. I love each and every one of you, will miss you dearly this year, and, trust me, am missing you as I type this in my bedroom in France. I hope through this blog I am able to keep you feeling closer to me and more informed about my travels and daily European life. But it isn't a one-way street. Comment on my posts, facebook message me, email me--> let me know what YOU are up to, what you think of my experiences, and whatever else is on your mind. Just because I'm halfway across the globe doesn't mean I'm any less interested.

One more disclaimer: I am not going to try to write everything here. I tried that with my last blog from my summer in Brazil, and it was rather disastrous, discouraging me from writing because of the enormity of the task. Here, expect to find anecdotes, thoughts, and basic background information about things I do think necessary for you to know. I cannot and will not promise to write either regularly or often, so we'll just see how the year progresses.

Now to begin. I arrived in Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, France on August 1st, 2009, around 6:30am. I am beginning a year-long study abroad program with the University of Notre Dame, and will be here until mid-June, 2010. I am living in a city called Angers, located in the Loire Valley, about 2 hours southwest of Paris. I will be studying at CIDEF--Centre International d'Etudes Françaises--which is a part of UCO--Université Catholique de L'Ouest. CIDEF has been hosting foreign students for over 50 years, bringing them to France solely for the purpose of teaching them French. Our classes are with other non-native speakers, unless we place high enough in which case we can take regular classes at UCO (which is actaully the same building and everything). I anticipate being able to do that my second semseter here.

Angers is really charming--much of it is typically European, including a centuries-old Cathedral and Castle, both in the center of town, and a downtown comprised of trendy shops in old buildings. People are constantly riding bikes (indeed I'll be getting one soon--the city has a program to lend out free bicycles) and walking, and everything is pretty close together. The city has a population of about 250,000, of which during the school year 30,000 are university students. Just about a block away from my university here is the ordained "student street," which has everything imaginable, from haircutters to cheap kebab places to a school supplies store.

All CIDEF students, of which this semester there are 120, from 22 countries, live with host families. My host family is comprised of Andre and Anne-Marie T., and their 19-yr-old daughter Lucie. They are extremely welcoming and pleasant, and have been hosting ND students for 10 years. I can't say a whole lot about them because my conversational French is so extremely limited that there just hasn't been very much dialouge as of yet. But they are very nice, and Marie is a fabulous cook of French cuisine, so I'm definitely looking forward to my once-weekly meals here. My room is very cute and completely wonderful--I haven't had my own room for a few years now, and it's really nice. The one frustrating thing is that I'm a half hour walk from the university (mainly called the Catho, which is nicer to say than UCO) in the opposite direction from everyone else and from the center of town. I have a bus pass but buses stop running at 8:30pm, so as a result I'm here in my room now instead of being out with the others for the first night of bar-hopping. I don't mind a whole lot this time because I'm exhausted anyway, and someone else is taking a taxi home, so I'll see how afforable that will be. Otherwise on the weekends I may be spending quite a few nights away.

Today we took our placement tests and tomorrow will start our préstage--a full month of intensive language training, before beginning classes. I'm grateful for it, because it will let me start meeting other non-ND students, and will help my atrocious French, which is really good for nothing currently.

Well there's your introduction. Tata for now my darlings.