Sunday, February 20, 2011

French Cuisine!

My French Cooking Class!
Saturday I got the neat experience of going to a French cooking class! I went to a class for making macarons. My host brother said that the only people that go to those classes are exchange students, old couples, and single guys trying to meet girls.

Jean was wrong. I was the only exchange student and only non native French speaker! There were 3 couples, 2 young women a little older than me, and me! It was an hour and a half class, and a really cool experience.

The only things I've heard about macarons are that they are incredibly hard to make. Au contraire! They have a lot of steps in the recipe and are a little high maintenance, but not too hard to make again. Hopefully, I can bring it back to the States! I'll have to convert my recipe from using grams, first :)

The final steps of preparation for the macaroons :)

Friday, February 18, 2011

There is More To Life Than Increasing Its Speed...Gandhi

That Gandhi...sure knew what he was talking about. France is a country embodying this quote. It's a country where people enjoy time and act as if there is an infinite amount of it. No one is rushed (unless they're walking anywhere or on the metro).

Unlike in the United States where university students may have a few laundry lists of things to do in a day (cough, cough ELON's entire campus), the French university student's daily life is quite different. They have classes, play a sport (normally tennis), maybe play the guitar or something they're interested in, hang around with friends and then be home in time for dinner then putz around for a bit. Meals (EVEN LUNCH) are cooked. Cooked! With real food not being warmed in a micro wave. Dang.

Dinners are enjoyed. Drinks, no matter if they're alcoholic or not are finished before leaving. Once you are done with your food, it's common to sit for at least 30 minutes. Enjoying food is an art here. "To go" cups of coffee really don't exist. A few cafes have them, but it is really uncommon to see a French person holding a cup of something warm to go. You sit at a cafe, after all.

The metro, though, isn't real life. Everyone is in a hurry. People literally run. I'm thankful for growning up in the D.C. area. I've been exposed to some great cultural experiences, have learned a lot, and of course have loved the history/politics surrounding the area. The most important lesson though has been using the metro. At a young age I learned to not look at people. Not when you're walking down the street. Not when you bump into them walking. Not on a sunny afternoon in D.C. and ESPECIALLY not on the metro.

The French take this "don't-dare-look-at-anyone-on-the-metro-because-I'm-far-superior-than-you-so stop" game to a whole new level. First of all, personal space doesn't exist. (D.C. you didn't prepare me for this, but I still love you). Even if you're closer to them then you are in a hug with your parents, you don't look at them. Second of all, while riding the metro you're never supposed to be looking at something, but you're always looking. If you do make eye contact you act as if it never happened and quickly look away.

When this game starts I always want to shout TAG, YOU'RE IT. However, unfortunately for some bizarre reason Americans have been stereotyped as loud and obnoxious, so I try to avoid fueling this stereotype with real life evidence.

I digress... Where ever you are and reading this take a breath. Maybe even two. Remember that life still continues whether or not you're 30 seconds early or 30 seconds late. Enjoy an extra cup of coffee while sitting and talking with a friend. After all, there is more to life than increasing its speed. :)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

"So keep your head high, keep your chin up, and most importantly, keep smiling, because life's a beautiful thing and there's so much to smile about." -Marilyn Monroe ♥

I hate to not use a more intelligent individual to quote, but she has a good point ;)

I am happy to say I've had a wonderful weekend. The adjusting blues have hit the road, thankfully. Saturday, three friends and I went to a cute little cafe and then went to dinner. We wanted to stay in French style by going to a cafe before dinner. To epitomize our emotional roller coaster of a week, we went to the Hard Rock Cafe. It was exactly what the doctor ordered. We had a great time and had some good old American food. The girls and I even got a job offer if we choose to take the manager up on it.

A blurry picture of myself, Lexi, Josh, and Pualani outside Hard Rock!
Amurrica :) That's for you Uncle B :)
Speaking of American food...when we saying globalization in civics class (Americanization) they aren't joking. America is everywhere. In French, globalization is not a word that exists. There is "mondialization" which means worldization, but does not carry the same connotation as globalization. The French-American relationship is almost like a reoccuring break up. The French have a lot of resentment for Americans' way of thinking that we are the global leader and the world's superior leader. However, they embrace our fast food, music (any year it is played over here 24.7), celebrities, and pop culture. The reasoning for their bit of resentment to the Red, White, and Blue is because they genuinely feel they have the best country in the world. I'm not striking up this debate, but to give them some merit to their argument they do have one of the most diverse nations in the world in terms of terrain and food. And I digress...

Lexi and Josh with their pretty sweet looking drinks
It's incredibly interesting being told to fully immerse oneself in a country's culture and language when you are constantly reminded of your home culture and language. We may pass a McDonalds from time to time. Or I may walk into a store and speak French and be responded to in English. As the nice elderly man on the metro put it..."your sound, it is different I hear". Despite all of these reminders, I'm supposed to be still immersing myself in France. They really aren't helping the situation :)

Needless to say, despite the reoccuring reminders of the culture I am a few thousand miles away from I am continually trying to immerse myself here. My host family continues to get better. Today we had a birthday lunch celebration for one of the son's and I was kindly invited. This is my second time of seeing a different culture celebrate a birthday (Morocco and now France), and I can still confidently say birthdays are by far the greatest holiday :) And as Marilyn Monroe said, life truly is beautiful and what not a better way to celebrate it than smiling over a birthday lunch with a new family?
My pre dinner snack at the cafe :) Nothing spells happiness better!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

First Day of School! First Day of School!

That was a line from one the greatest ever created movies...Finding Nemo!

Here are a bunch of us before we dispearsed in different directions for our first grammar class at the Sorbonne. This is for all the moms in the group :) Class, thankfully, doesn't seem to bad. Very French ofcourse! A lot of work and a lot of tough grading, but c'est la vie!

Earlier in the week we also went back to Montmartre and La Sacre Coeur. Our class at the Sorbonne hadn't started yet, so we went back for the day. It's so, so beautiful. It can easily be used for an entire day just walking up and down the tiny side streets. Here are a few pictures from the day.

When are you too old to ask for your mom? NOW

I haven't written much in awhile. It was a long, long week. We got our host families and started classes this week! I think it's safe to say that I had the most rollercoaster of emotions a person can have in 7 days.

My family wasn't able to pick me up on Sunday, so I stayed with my friend Lexi's family. Their family was so welcoming, complimentary, and genuinely excited to have us. Right before dinnertime, 7ish, my family came to get me. Talk about polar opposites. My family is still nice in their own way, but much more reserved and standoffish.

All of the students in my program live in suburbs like 30-40 min outside of the city by train after all the transfers have been made. None of us really live close to each other aside from like 4 of our group members. We really are in each home experience by ourselves.

One minute I'm so excited to be here, the next very alone and overwhelmed, disappointed with not really being acknowledged by my host family, and then just out of sync. The whole language barrier is never easy either. You never hear about how hard it will be. We schedule our classes without much help by ourselves, we have to figure out which Sorbonne building we're in by ourselves, and there is not much guidance from our program director. Honestly, peeing in a hole in Africa was definitely easier than all of this acclimating hoopla!

I can't just call my parents and say umm hey help! Or how do you make all the travel plans you make for us? Or can you just give me a hug because I'm feeling blue. Thankfully, though, that may be my blessing on this trip. Learning to truly be self-sufficient.

LUCKILY (there is a positive)! I have made some great friends here which made this week finish on a high note. I had a sleepover at one of my friend's family here. We had great conversation with the family and fantastic food. Today, I'm looking at making travel plans and all the excitement that comes along with that. So yes, the sun really does come up tomorrow.  :)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

La joie n'a pas de la limité

La joie n'a pas de la limité. The meaning of this phrase is..."Joy isn't limited or joy does not have a limit". I love this phrase.

Growing up I was always told to not put all of my eggs into one basket. The risk was betting everything on just one wish. In's different! Imagine that. It's almost as if you can't have enough simple joys in life. If you ask for something from someone serving you, a hotel staff, or even a new friend it is common to hear "it would bring me pleasure". In my opinion, the idea of pleasure, joy, and happiness has revealed itself as a cornerstone of the French culture.

Today, I fully immersed myself in this idea. After a mandatory morning meeting, I went to a museum with a friend. (Yes, mother you did, in fact, read that sentence correctly. It was free and I went for fun. Earth also moved out of alignment for the time that I was in said museum for fun, but all is right again so no worries). Afterwards, we walked around a bit and then I got some Stephanie time.

My dear friend Allison said "STEPH, don't take pictures of some really old lame buildings. I want to see pictures of YOU when you're in Paris". I can't say I've really been that interested in architecture before in my life, but in Paris I could walk for days and be content. I get lost in the streets and roundabounts. Of which, may I add are done correctly. Not as confusing as my beloved D.C. are layed out to be. Just saying... Anyhoo.... I walked around by myself along the sidestreets and faked acting like I had a purpose and knew where I was going (like all other Parisians).

I did enjoy a few of the "Les Soldes" today, but I'm not here only for the shopping, so I only bought a dress for less than 10 dollars  (sa-weet) with 2 cool new pairs of earrings and some boots that are way too cool for me. Hopefully, by the end of my 4 months here I'll be able to pass as a tad cooler given my recent exposure to the French culture. Then I’ll be able to wear them! :) I also bought my favorite perfume Chance by Chanel. So much cooler when it's purchased in France.

The French universal sales were not the only French tradition I enjoyed today. I had a crepe with sugar and lemon juice and an orginga while aimlessly exploring my favorite city (close your ears Boston, Mass). Seriously heaven. Gary Keeler, nuttella has nothing on this heavenly experience.

This evening we had a welcome dinner at a very nice restaurant next to the Notre Dame. Talk about immersing oneself in puure joy! My dad has this annoying habit of always saying "mm" when he tastes something great. It's never loud enough to truly be adible, but it exists. It’s actually endearing. I definitely followed in the old man footsteps tonight. Every bite was literally incroyable (unn-croy--abler) or incredible. The meal was made even better with fabulous red wine and even dessert. We had chocolate crepes :)

To top the day off of true joy and pleasure some friends and I went to the Eiffel Tour and took more pictures and watched it light up with its twinkle lights.

Talking everyone's head off, but read what you want and skip what you want. Whatever brings you joy :)
The girls in front of Notre Dame after our dinner

Black and White in front of the Eiffel Tower! Such a pretty site

La Sacre Couer in Montmartre

Can you tell Lexi and I are enjoying Paris? :)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Je suis ici!

In my dream place!

I am here! A tad repetitive but hey such is life. Today we had our placement exam in order to see where we will be placed for our grammar class. Good golly was it hard. If you love feeling stupid or being frustrated from not being able to communicate- speak a different language. Especially under pressure. It's so much harder! Yet, when I'm out and about I do so well with my French, so I don't get it.

After the test we were allowed to go where ever we wanted and have some free time. By the way...our test was in the Sorbornne. How cool, one of the oldest universities in the world and we get to study there!

The entire group dispersed and most of them wanted to go back to the Hostel to rest etc. I definitely did not. I wanted to actually see some of Paris and do some of the touristy activities (heaven forbid we partake in them!). One of my friends Josh and I ended up being walking buddies and had a great time walking from the Concorde Square up and down the L’avenue des Champs-Élysées. I DIDN'T DO ANY SHOPPING! Let's all have a moment of silence in recognition of such a feat for Stephanie Pinch. Great. Moving on. We then went to the Eiffel Tower until it was dark so we could see it light up. Not a bad way to spend 4 hours...walking around Paris.

Tomorrow I may actually break into my minimum wage benefits and spend some mullah. France has two country wide sales a year. They are regulated by the police and are not allowed to be any time other than mid Jan- mid Feb and mid July- mid August. I'm going to take advantage of some decent shoe prices :)

Josh and I at L'Arc De Triumphe

Casual Evening in Paris
We also were lucky enough to go to Le Louvre yesterday. For someone who doesn't even understand art, it was amazing. Can't wait to go back for more free student tickets! I did see the Mona Lisa so I can officially say I've seen it!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Loneliness is The Experience of A Big City

Bonjour tout le monde!

Mom, cover your eyes! Our French professor today told us to embrace loneliness. To us Americans we scratch our heads and say wait...what? I don't understand. Loneliness is an undesirable feeling and normally considered negative. Our professor, though, said to embrace it. He said take long walks, make new (French) friends, and do something by yourself. Mom stop quivering with fear! haha. Of course, this is all while being safe.

It's an interesting concept. In order to truly take in all the grandeur of Paris, we need to take time to reflect, think, and to immerse ourselves. He encouraged us to limit our e-mailing, facebooking, or whatever other addictive internet habits we have. Within our group, we're also ceasing speaking English in our conversations. It's hard and doesn't always happen, but we're trying!

Today we had a few classes in preparation for our linguistic class and cultural class. We'll be in class 5 days a week with 2 hour grammar classes and linguistic classes evvveryday. At times I wish I could exchange my Friday classes for free time to explore, but this is another opportunity to immerse myself in the language.

We saw the Notre Dame later today as well. It still had a Christmas tree up! What a dream! Love it. Unfortunately, Santa Claus was no where to be found. I'll keep looking, though. I also got a crepe with nutella. Yummm. Ofcourse, I'm including some pictures. Thursday we're planning on spending the afternoon into the evening at the Eiffel Tower (le tour d'effel) :)  

I'm going to try to continue to post as often as I can. If you don't here from me it's because I'm somewhere absorbing the language I continue to fall in love with more everyday. :)

Christmas Treet at Notre Dame!

Me, Rachel, and Lexi with our crepe and sandwiches! (Dad the pictures of food are for you)