La Nuit Dernière

I’m currently sitting in my room in my home stay, next to my bags that are packed all neatly and my clothes for tomorrow. It’s my last night in Paris. Everyone keeps asking me how I’m reacting to leaving, and what my feelings are right now. But it’s really difficult to explain, and I think that anyone whose studied abroad for a long period of time can probably relate to this.

The bad:

I’ve become shockingly close to some of the people here. When you experience something like this and you get to experience it with a select group of people, you naturally learn to trust each other quite quickly. Two people in particular I had to say goodbye to tonight, and let’s just say that there was a little bit of crying going on in the Paris metro system. Of course we have agreed to keep in contact, but it will not be the same as it is here. In addition, I’m going to miss Paris and all of its wonders. Living here sometimes felt like a dream, and I’m soon waking up from this dream.

The good:

I am so incredibly excited to see my friends and family at home. I miss them so much, and I think that the few weeks I have before heading back to Seattle will be wonderful. I’m also excited to be back in the United States, where I know what’s going on most of the time and I’m more comfortable in the culture. I know that I will miss the language and the culture here (especially the opportunities to practice French), but I am excited to feel completely at home again. Also, I’ve gained some really good friends here that I will get to write and talk with in French when I get home (I’m going to need to practice so that I don’t lose it).
So tomorrow I hop on a plane (or three) for an extremely long amount of time, and then I get to arrive at home and be surrounded by those I’ve missed so much, while missing a whole new group of people.

But don’t get me wrong. Paris has been a fantastic, unique experience that I would never trade in. I finished my classes today (and passed them, yay!), and said my goodbyes, but I know that the things that I’ve gained here personally are numerous and incredibly significant. It will be interesting to see how what I’ve gained here reflects on my life back in the United States. I am so grateful for the experience I’ve been able to have and the friends I’ve made here, and I’m excited to see where I go from here. I’m hoping to continue French at SU, and I’m excited to return.

Until next time, Paris. I will miss you.

Kendra

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The Last Week?!

Hello there! I opened this blog post and stared at the screen for a while trying to decide what to write about. I mean, Paris is fantastic, but when blogging there’s only so much I can say about the museums I visited this week, the sites I’ve seen, and the food I’ve eaten. You know? It’s just one of those things that’s difficult to describe. Each and every day is an adventure, and they’re all different, but how does one describe these things (and make it interesting for a blog post). It’s crazy difficult, for me anyway.

So I decided I’d do this blog post a little differently, and leave you with some random facts about Paris, the French, and my adventures here.

Pierre, the super cliché French name, means “stone” in French.

The Dominos Pizza here is much better than in the States (don’t judge me, I was with a group of people and we were hungry).

Most of the stereotypes that you can think about Parisians are actually true. They’re always late, they’re very forward if they think you’re pretty or handsome, they take three hours to eat a meal, they’re all incredibly well dressed, they literally eat baguettes constantly, many people smoke, everyone walks everywhere or takes public transportation (although the people who drive are terrifying), and they do the whole kissing thing on the cheeks when they greet and say good bye to people. But what I’ve found especially interesting about all of these stereotypes is that the French people are just people. I was terrified of them when I first got here (don’t make fun of me, there’s the whole language barrier thing), but I’ve gotten used to it. There’s definitely a huge culture difference, but they’re still just people, even if they follow all these stereotypes (except berets, nobody here wears those at all).

The other day, I mispronounced the word “bottle” and instead said “box.” (They’re sort of close in French.) Essentially, I asked a waiter for a box of water. She was quite confused.

I’ve been seeing a lot of artwork (the Thinker, Van Goghs, Monets, etc.) and I’m absolutely amazed every time I see one.

Anyway, I have a week left here, and I’m in this really strange place where I’m excited to go home (so much, I miss everyone — and English), but I’m going to be sad to leave. I’ve made some great friends here, some amazing, irreplaceable memories, and a temporary home. Luckily, I feel as if I’ve done almost everything that I wanted to do here (there’s a few last minute things for this weekend), but it will still be strange to be leaving, even if I am excited to return to the States.

Kendra

La vie est belle…

Bonjour! It has been quite a week! New professors, new adventures, and new places (“new”  is sort of the theme of this trip, I suppose).

On Wednesday, both of our classes received new professors. The reason is that the French do this thing, where they get around 5/6 weeks of vacation per year, and they usually take it in July or August. Both of my professors decided to start their vacations on August 1st, so naturally we got new professors after they left. But luckily both of them are pretty great and extremely helpful with the whole French thing. Wednesday one of our old professors went out to dinner with our whole class (in total there were about 13 people) and it was pretty great. Because there are people in our class who can’t speak English (they’re from Brazil, Bosnia, Spain, etc.), we all spoke in French the whole time. Actually, my friends and I are pretty good at making sure we speak French for the most part!

On Friday my friends and I went to the Arc de Triomphe. It was a pretty awesome view from the top, and we got to see the sunset over Paris. Afterwards, one of my friends and I decided to do our homework at the base of it. Essentially, we sat on the Arc de Triomphe and did our homework. It was a pretty sweet feeling, and it reminded me of where I was and how amazing this experience is (aw, cheesy!).
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Today I went to the Père Lachaise cemetery (Molière, Jim Morrison, and other famous people are buried there, plus it’s beautiful), and then to the Sacre Cœur (a gorgeous, huge white church). We were able to climb up the dome of the church and get a wonderful view of Paris. Someone had written something on part of it that said “la vie est belle, et vous êtes comme elle” which translates to “life is beautiful, and you are just like it.”
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After that, one of my friends and I went to the financial district of Paris which has some amazing sculptures, architecture, and a few pools that you can wade into. Basically, it was like Seattle sculpture garden x10 mixed with Paris and water. I don’t know if that made sense, but it was a lot of fun and different from anything else we’ve seen.

A random story: My friend and I got mugged at the beginning of this trip, and I’ve also caught someone in the process of pickpocketing me. Because of this, I’m become rather paranoid of the people around me, especially in the metro. The other day, as I was exiting the metro, a random group of guys passed me and one stopped in front of me. I sort of had an internal freak out, but all he said is “vous êtes très jolie” (“you are very pretty”) and walked away. I probably stood there like an idiot for about thirty seconds before I shouted after him “merci!” and then hurried up the stairs. I’m not good at the whole social situation thing, clearly. 😀

It’s a little less than two weeks until I return home to the US. I’m pretty dang excited to go home to the US, but I’m also going to miss Paris and the people I’ve met here like crazy. We’ve all become so close so fast.

Kendra

La Nourriture et le Français

Yeah, French food. Escargots, foie gras, and other things that sound kind of gross initially. But what surprised me more than anything was how good most everything actually was (I still didn’t like the foie gras, but at least I tried it, right?). But the escargot (snails) was actually pretty delicious! When we walked into the restaurant, they told us that they could only speak to us in French, since it was a traditional restaurant. That was good with me, and it was quite a bit of fun to talk with the staff. We went to the restaurant as a sort of “goodbye” meal for some of our friends who are leaving. About half of the people we hang out with went home today, and the rest of us have about two and a half more weeks.
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Here are some random updates that have nothing to do with each other:

I caught somebody pickpocketing me. I don’t think I have the best luck with this. I’m trying new tactics of hiding my stuff, considering this seems to happen to me too much.

I bought the Kim Possible movie in French today. I’m a child inside, I know. My excuse is that it’s for practicing my French.

I think that my French is improving. My friends and I decided that we are going to speak solely in French for the remainder of the trip.

I get new professors on Thursday for both of my classes. It’ll be interesting to see how the teaching styles change, and if my learning style or ability changes with it.

The French have so much pride for their country, but in such a different way than Americans do. It’s quite interesting, and really fun to be a part of.
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That’s all I have for updates right now! I feel like I never have any super exciting stories to share, but the fact is that there’s so much to do and see here that not only do I never really get any down time, everything is sort of spectacular that it’s hard to pick out things to talk about. But, I’ll keep searching. Have a good couple of days!

Kendra

The Catacombs and Tour de France

Saturday was probably the strangest day culturally that I’ve had so far here. It’s about 90 degrees, and there were no plans for the morning, so what do my friends and I decide to do? Go see dead people. Yeah, it’s probably not the most traditional “French-y” experience, but the Catacombs were probably one of the coolest things I’ve seen here yet. I picked up one of those fancy audio guides, and learned a ton of really neat things about French history that were…. less than traditional. Also, when my friend and I were down there looking at all of the skeletons, this random French guy pulled me aside to make sure that I was doing okay with “l’air de mort” or the air of death. I reassured him that I was fine, and then he told me a really wickedly creepy, but totally awesome, story about how people used to hold candle light concerts in the Catacombs and other things that happened. It was kind of strange, but I got to hear something new, plus I had the whole conversation in French! Hooray! After the Catacombs I went and saw the movie called Pour une Femme (all in French) with another friend, and we actually understood most of it! We also ate sushi… Which was delicious, though probably not too French. I figure that I’m here for long enough to eat non-French food too 😀
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Today was the Tour de France (that huge bike race that goes on every year, for those of you who don’t know). I had a rather lazy day, then headed down to the Champs-Élysées to watch the bikers come into Paris for the final stretch of the race. Everyone was so excited and happy, and it was a really neat experience.
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Tomorrow class begins again, which is good, although I am quite tired. Unfortunately, at the end of this week, several people from my program are leaving. Only about half of us stay for the full 7 weeks, and others only get to stay for 5. I’ll miss them terribly, but we’ve all decided to keep in touch, which is good. Anyway, I’m just rambling now so I shall leave this post at that, and simply say bonne nuit!

Kendra

Joyeux Quatorze Juillet!

Fourth of July? Nah, not in France. The Fourteenth of July, or Bastille Day, is where it’s at, and it was probably one of my best days in Paris so far. I went to a service at the Notre Dame (which was beautiful and one of the quietest experiences I’ve had in Paris — I miss the quiet). After the service I got to go back to my home stay and take a nap. I know, I know, how lame of me on this wonderful national holiday, but it gets better. Some friends and I went to the Eiffel Tower, had a picnic, and played some games. We were surrounded by French language and people, and it was perfect. After, there was a fireworks/lights show at the Eiffel Tower, which was pretty fantastic. We sort of missed celebrating Fourth of July, so the fireworks were both welcomed and enjoyed. They played some French music, some rock anthems (including “Living in America,” which we were all pretty confused about — maybe because we helped inspire their revolution?), and had a speech about their history going on as well. We got back pretty late, but everyone was exhausted in class the next day, including the professor, so we all struggled together!
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I’ve created a list of things I want to see or do before I leave Paris (yeah, I’m a nerd, it’s fine). I realized that I have exactly four weeks from today (July 17th) until I leave, which makes me realize how fast time is flying by here. I’m slowly making my way through the list, and I checked off a big one last night: going to the top of the Eiffel Tower. Below is picture of what the bottom of the Eiffel Tower looks like from the top. It was sort of unreal, and again reminded me that I’m so lucky to be in Paris, the city of lights and love, studying a beautiful language and exploring a city to be dreamed about.

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Another thing that I got to cross off today was visiting the chocolate museum (ChocoStory) – I definitely ate WAY too much chocolate at this place, but it was delicious and tons of fun. Plus, a tour guide told us that while you’re in a foreign country everything is considered to be zero calories, and I’m liking her logic, so I’m ignoring the fact that I ate a lot of chocolate. There is so much good, unhealthy food here. Anyway, Paris is indescribable, and I think my blog posts have been showing, but I’m trying my best! (:

Kendra

The Thief, the Professor, and the Parisian

Today’s blog comes to you in three parts.

 

Part one: the thief.

Imagine getting off the train at the station around 8:00 am near your university. You wait for your friend, and when he arrives the two of you begin the five minute walk to your building. As you begin to walk, three men start asking you questions in French, trying to distract you. Knowing something is up, you clutch your bags closer and walk a little faster. They leave you alone for a while, but as you reach campus and there are less people around, one of the men runs up behind you and your friend. He pushes you to the ground and steals your friend’s $500 necklace, giving him a bloody nose and a raw neck in the process. Luckily, for the most part, both of you are okay, just a little bit shaken up.

Monday was an interesting day. We can’t say that we weren’t told about the thieves in Paris, but there really wasn’t anything we could have done differently in that situation. We had to report the incident to the police (it was good practice for French, I suppose) and also our program directors. All in all, it was very interesting, and not something I’d like to repeat. Ever. But we’re able to laugh about it now, and we’re smarter about walking in bigger groups.

 

Part two: the professor.

I have five hours of French class a day during the week days. I love it, and I don’t love it. My French is improving immensely, though, and our professor is wonderful. He makes the time fly by. Let me give an example of his wonderful teaching style. The other day he was trying to explain to us the difference between three verb tenses in French. I won’t go into detail about the tense, but he used Cinderella as an example, and pretended to be her in the story. This included him prancing around the room, throwing his shoe, and speaking in a high-pitched voice that had all of us cracking up. We couldn’t be happier with our professor, and like I said, my French is improving quite a bit. In fact, when I first started writing this post, I started it in French out of instinct!

 

Part three: the Parisian.

In the mornings when I go to class, I get to see the city wake up. Stores are opening, people are sweeping the sidewalks in front of their shops, and others are off to work or eating breakfast. French surrounds me and I’m able to converse with people more often than I used to be able to. I’m beginning to feel like Paris is more like my temporary home rather than I place I’m vacationing in. Today I visited the Louvre and walked around Paris a little bit. It wasn’t too crowded, and I went with a friend who spoke French with me the whole time. Afterwards, we found a little café and drank some tea and hot chocolate while watching the streets of Paris. It was wonderful. I truly felt like a part of the city. It’s hard to believe how much you can pick up and understand about a place by taking the time to slow down, enjoy it, and watch the people in it. It’s a fantastic feeling to feel like I belong somewhere that I didn’t before.

I was able to attach some pictures this time! Below is a picture of what you get served when you order hot chocolate (they literally melt chocolate and slowly mix it with the milk), as well as a picture of the Eiffel Tower from the day I visited that. Paris is slowly becoming a place full of stories and memories.

Kendra
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