30 January 2012

The little reminders of home.

I love my mom.
I love my dad.
I love my brother.
I love my puppy-dog.

 I have the best family in the world.

I have been having a great couple of days. The kind that make you stop and appreciate everything you have, how blessed you've been, and how much you still have to experience in life.

On Sunday I got to skype with my family (sans my dad) and seeing my little brother, with his adorable smile and seeing how much he has grown made me so homesick. I didn't realize how much I miss that kid. He is a really great brother, and I can't wait to return, tease him about girls and watch Psych with him. It also freaked me out that the next time I see him he will be graduating from high school! When did that happen? I know that a lot of my friends are planning on staying in Europe this summer to travel, but seeing my brother graduate is so much more important than seeing Big Ben. And Europe will still be around for a couple of years.

A letter from my grandma arrived for me today. It made me smile, because she always includes little details like what she needs to make for lunch, and what grandpa did/didn't do, so I always feel like I am sitting on my couch listening to her tell me stories as we watch Mystic Pizza for the 37th time or crying while we listen to Frank sing. It's the little things that I always remember and treasure.

I am sad every time I have to say goodbye to my family, but I will be home in 125 days and that is not enough to do everything I want to do. But I will bring back so many stories to share with them.

P.S. My host family says it's supposed to snow tomorrow!! Like a foot! Unfortunately, living in the Alpes, they do not close school for snow. I will just have to make snow angels in between classes then.

P.P.S. I heard a family friend is having another baby! Congratulations! I am sure this one will be just as sweet and precious as the rest. And it is due when I get home! Can't wait to babysit!

29 January 2012


Hello everyone,
I thought I would just pop in and tell you how awesome my life is.

But really, I am so happy. If someone is depressed I feel like I could hug them and share all this happiness and warmth with them. I am so completely content with my life right now. And as a girl that had a rough year last year I feel like this 180 is what I needed to feel grounded again.

Where did this happiness come from you ask? I would say in three words: Ma Belle France. She has changed me completely and I feel like coming here as showed me how much I am capable of. I am here, learning a new language and living with strangers, my friends are new friends, and I am trying to strike out on my own. I am finding comfort in the unknown. And I am capable of anything.

I am not sure when this all happened. It wasn't immediately. When I stepped off that plane in Paris, I was scared shit-less and I wanted to cry. I was all alone. In a foreign country. Where they spoke another language. Then I moved in with strangers which was... Strange. And then I started a new school. Where everyone was different and spoke French. And I felt incompetent but I started studying more. I got a little (or a lot) more frustrated with the fact that I wasn't speaking French better. I started joining in at the dinner table conversations, talking with my host mom at breakfast, speaking to my classmates and friends in French. And here I am, stumbling along, happy with my effort.

Sure I am not able to discuss anything serious or fast with people, but if anyone asked me for directions I would be able to help them. And from my breakfast conversations I can talk about fishing, fruit, and the weather.

These next months are going to be great. I can feel it. Free hugs everyone!

25 January 2012

Chambéry and panic attacks.

It has been a long couple of days. But they have all made me appreciate where I am and what I am doing.

On Saturday, I got up early and headed to Chambéry with three friends. We picked this because the train tickets were 10euros and we had nothing else planned for the day. I had also heard that they had an elephant statue from my mom, and I love elephants. So we got to Chambéry and we realized that this place is basically the size of a postage stamp. It was kind of a shock because I am now used to walking for hours and in an hour we walked around the city three times. But we did a lot of shopping, and I did find a good pair of black slacks that I can't wait to wear. Annie also found some darling shoes.

 Unfortunately the castle was closed so we just took pictures outside of it. Then it started raining and we realized that we were the only people on the streets. Just us Northwest girls braving the rain. 

We ducked into a Pastaria for lunch. Note, that I am always skeptical of ordering things that that country isn't known for. Sushi in Grenoble? No thank you. But this place was so perfect. It was warm, dry and inexpensive. I had the hardest time deciding between pizza and lasagna. And their lasagna was delicious, even if it was nothing like my mom's. Where it lacked in tomatoes and crispy cheese toppings, it made up for with creamy French cheese and delicious meats. After lunch we did some more shopping (BURN THOSE CALORIES.) and then we found a tour of an old hotel that told the story of France. The tour guide was really nice, and she asked us where we were from and what we were studying. Thankfully she didn't automatically switch to English. I hate it when they do that. People, I am hear to learn French, please make my life easier and let me try to speak it. Thanks.

After a few hours of wandering we had seen everything Chambéry had to offer so we headed home, where Rima and I bought a 4 euro bottle of wine at Monoprix and went to her house with Taylor and made dinner. Never buy 4 euro Monoprix wine. It tastes like purple vinegar. But we had a laugh, chatted, ate macaroons, and watched Devil Wears Prada in French (FYI: Stanley Tucci does not sound like Stanley Tucci when he is dubbed in French. Awful.).

Sunday we had a get-together at Maria's with a group of us SU kids. It was fun. We watched Virgin Suicides, which is extremely sad. We ate chocolate.

This week I have had grammar classes in the mornings and cultural classes in the afternoons. It is hard when all of your classes are in another language but I find myself understanding more and more each day.

Last night, I had a minor panic attack when I realized that I have been here for almost a month and I still feel like I can't speak at all. Yeah I can understand more, but I am can't speak.

This realization made me feel like I couldn't breath, and a listen to my favorite song, then prompted an email to my professor and we arranged some converstion groups for this week. She volunteered to meet me twice a week for about an hour each, just to chat and help me further my conversational skills. Then tonight at dinner, I had a "good" conversation about technology in France and America and it's affect on the family dynamic with my host sister and host dad. It was interesting, and I fumbled/repeated the same words a lot, but eventually this will get better right?

The thought that I will come back without being able to speak to anyone seriously scares the shit out of me.

At least I will be able to say I have been to Europe.

14 days until Dublin.

I leave you with a picture of me wearing pearls and a comfy sweater. Happy Wednesday y'all.

20 January 2012

January: nice and not so nice.

Since I have been really doing nothing special worth writing about I thought I would do a little summary about my likes and dislikes (hint, one list is longer). I will have adventures to share after my day trip to Chambéry this Saturday, so stay tuned.

Things I have noticed in France that make me miss home:
People do not wait for people to exit before they walk in. It happens on the tram, on the sideways, in stores. On foot and in cars. It is basically a free for all here.

Water is never cold. I miss my mom's obsession with ice cubes. Even though it is winter I still apreciate a cold glass of water. Lukewarm water just isn't as satisfying.

Internet sucks. Like a lot. They have Wifi here, but you basically have to be sitting on the box for it to work. Maybe this is simply because I live in an older house? Anyways that is really annoying.

Morning classes and afternoon classes are seperated by a huge gap of time, which is nice for a leisurely lunch. Not so nice that I have to hang around campus doing nothing.

Trying to do Fafsa/Financial Aid when you are in a foreign country and next year/returning to the states is the last thing you want to think about.

Yeah. Those are all really petty and all I have to complain about.

Current loves that make me want to stay here forever:
- Lecture classes once a week.
- No classes Fridays (!! THREE DAY WEEKENDS FOR SIX MONTHS!!)
- Spending chunks of time with my host family, discussing fruit.
- My host dog Despé.
- Buying super cheap winter break tickets to IRELAND.
- New Look. Inexpensive European clothes.
- Crépes with Nutella.
- My host family's dynamic. They are so incrediblely sweet and funny.
- The Tram. for my Portlanders it is like the Max, but takes you everywere.
- My new grammar professor.
- Planning trips.

Seriously my life has been eating great food with my host family talking about random things, wandering around the city, eating pain au chocolat, shopping the soldes, having a random class, planning adventures, and writing. It is really like a dream. I bet my blood pressure is great.

Off to Chambéry. Á bientôt.

16 January 2012

Placement examen.

I had my placement exam. It was not as bad as I had feared, yet I still was shaking the entire time. I fear I will never been a good test taker. Not good when I have to take the Bar Exam in four years...

Well we all got there at 8:30, except one girl who sleep late and arrived 15 minutes late. Luckily the French are really lax about things like being on time. It is something I love. I also love that nothing is open on Mondays. And that every store keeps bankers' hours. They seriously know how to live here. It is all about food, family, and being classy. My kind of people.

But I digress... We were supposed to take our written and then our oral examen, but we had to switch them, so I ended up waiting next to a handsome, if slightly scrawny Beglum boy, and then went in to talk to this nice French lady. She just asked me about school, what I am studying, what I plan to do, and why I am taking French. She asked about my host family, and what I liked about Grenoble. Sure I used a lot of the same words, and made some mistakes, but I understood what she was saying and was able to answer her. I felt good. I know that I am improving. Especially when I can go to a Tabac and buy some postcards and joke with a lady about the internet vs. magazines.

Then we all waited around to take our written. It seemed so casual. It was held in this huge lecture hall, which seemed like the lecture hall at a public university, but had the atmosphere of the SATs, without the raging hormones and smell of gym. The test was meh. I did okay I think. It did get harder and I know that I did not do perfect, but I am happy with my effort. We find out our scores tomorrow. (!).

After I went to eat kebabs with Taylor and my new pal Bradley.  I had one great one. He had two! The lady that owns the kebab place is the sweetest person ever. She knows we are students but she treats us special and makes great kebabs. If you are ever in Grenoble, Fraternité Kebabs, next to Maison du Tourisme is the place to go.

Tomorrow I have a meeting with Marie at API to find out more about VSArt, an art program that assists the elderly with art as a form of therapy. I think it will be really great. French and old people. I love them both.

I will leave you with some photos from our trip to the Bastille, which we climbed Sunday. It was lovely, and cold, but we all had fun. And the view from the top is almost as beautiful as the view from Cathedral de Lyon, but it has mountains so I call it a tie. The hike only took us a few hours, and that included a hot chocolate break at the top.

Yep, this is where I live people.
So extremely blessed.

15 January 2012

Birthday in France.

Last night was my friend Taylor's 21st Birthday! And we all got to celebrate it with her because we are in France were the drinking age is 18. We laughed that 21 didn't matter over here, so our group was the only one that cared but it was funny. I had a lot of fun watching her try new stuff. We found a little hole in the wall where the drinks were cheap and the bartender was nice. Then we found some dancing, 50s style. We had fun. We stayed safe and (kind of) responsible. It was nice to let your hair down every once and a while. And I am glad that I am here with these people.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TAYLOR. I am so happy to have met you and call you a friend. I have thoroughly enjoyed being in France with you and exploring all these wonderful places. I hope that 21 is better than 20 and that you have the best year you have ever had. Bon Anniversaire mon amie!

*Photos from Lyon, France.

14 January 2012

Food and Soldes.

Food and Soldes, my two new loves.

Last night for dinner I had Roclette. Which is when you take some cheese and melt it on a little boiler at the table.  And by some I mean four huge slices, one after the other. Then you pour the melted cheese unto a potato bigger then your fist. And enjoy the cheese-y goodness. Before our potatoes we enjoyed some meat, left over from Etienne's wine party. We had slices of ham, duck, and buffalo (i think?). Then we finished up the dinner with a nice salad and a glass of wine. Oh but the French never forget dessert... We had this delicious sliced orange salad, that simply had nutmeg and a little sugar. It was amazing. And they gave each one of us a macaroon! Mine was lemon. It was heaven. Still full from last nights dinner. I love the French!

After dinner I helped Maud with the dishes and she showed me that she has made some brownie cookies, but I simple glared and them and I think she saw my face turn green. We had a laugh and then she invited me to watch an episode of Vampire Diaries, which was really fun. I am glad that I am so nerdy and I can bond with her over our love for smoldering TV men.

I also talked to her about the hockey game I went to the other night. It was amazing! Grenoble won (7-1) and we got to see how the French love their sports. Hockey and Football/Soccer. Allez-Grenoble! We saw a fistfight go down on the ice between one of our players and theirs. It was probably the other teams fault. It was a late but fun night. And now I can't wait to attend a football game.

Did I mention that Etienne had himself a wine party the other night? It was hilarious. I came downstairs for dinner and saw the dining room all decorated and I was confused. Then Marie Caroline explained to me that he was having friends over for a wine party so we would have to eat in the kitchen. So all five of us crowed around the tiny kitchen table and I tried duck for the first time (which I love!), and Etienne was running back and forth getting ready. He covered up all the wine bottles with foil, and explained to me that it was a game and they had to guess the year and province just by taste and smell. And the whole time this is happening I am smilling, almost in giggles because this is exactly the American stereotype about the French. But Etienne was just so adorable, and the whole situation was so funny.

Oh and the Soldes are going on right now! I have been shopping so much in the last few days that my head has been spinning. But I have stayed within my budget (kind of) and I bought things that I really needed. Everything is so amazingly cheap! And I guess it should be is the sales in France only happen twice a year. In the last three days I have bought a new wallet with a coin purse, five shirts, two pairs of jeans, one sweater, one sweatshirt for running, a scarf, heavy socks, and gloves. Can you tell that is is really cold here? But I am finally getting the hang of the weather. I kind of love it.

Well, I think Grenoble is growing up me. Last night when I was brushing my teeth for bed, it dawned on me that I can't imagine being in Seattle or Portland right now. I am so completely satisfied with my life right now, and my love for this city and it's bizarre mix of classy and diverse people is growing each day. The thought that I only have four and a half months here before I leave for Morocco and the States makes me so sad. But knowing I have a time limit has pushed me to experience as much as possible.

10 January 2012

In a few words:

(I apologize for the venting and the awful writing. I am not usually this way. I am just tired.)

It's been a shitty ass day. Pardon my French.

I did poorly on a quiz, nothing exciting happened, and now I just feel tired and cracking and wiped. Unfortunately I still need to get through dinner, shower and do my homework. I wish I was able to go to bed early.

Tomorrow is a new day. I will get up early. Go running along the river. Wear something pretty. Ace my exam, and venture into the city. I will buy some chocolate, perhaps some Nutella. And it will be a great day.

I am looking forward to a busy week:
Wednesday: Running along the river and the Sales start!
Thursday: 8pm Hockey game with Taylor and Annie!
Friday: Sale Shopping with Taylor and Rima and Lauren before class, Running along the river, Barhopping (avert your eyes Grandma!) in the evening!
Saturday: Studying. Study break: Hike to the Bastille
Sunday: Studying.
Monday: 8:30 Placement Examen. Prayers needed.

09 January 2012

Skype is essential for my sanity.

Yep. My mother has gotten Skype. 

  Like mother, like daughter. 

Spent the morning chatting with Mom, Dad and Murphy,
Spent the day eating eclairs, 
Spent the evening bonding with my host family. 
Excellent day.


New life goals: 
1. Learn French, well.
2. Move to France.
3. Open café.

Perhaps someday I will get to live out my Julia Child fantasies. That is all.
image: via Google. 

08 January 2012

7 days.

I have been in France for 7 days and I have not had a single piece of chocolate. To be remedied tomorrow.

I have been in France for 7 days. 7 days baby!

And weirdly enough, it has only felt like 7 minutes. I think Grenoble is growing on me. Perhaps because I am changing my attitude towards this whole experience? I am determined to look at this with only the best intentions and I will do my hardest to grasp this language.

I only have 148 days left. I need to make the most of it!

07 January 2012

Grenoble: First week reflections.

It is hard when your expectations don't meet your reality. 

I mean Lyon was amazing. I spent three days getting to know the city and endless hours walking it's streets with some cool people, just taking in it's beauty. I feel in love with Lyon.

Then we came to Grenoble, and I liked it right away. I knew it had potential to be really great. We stayed in a great hotel and had fun walking around. We ate at this tiny Kebab place that blew my mind. And then we spent time looking at the mountains. One day I will just do a post about these mountains. We toured Grenoble with our program director, who is the sweetest woman I have ever met. She seriously could not do more of a fantastic job. Then we got to meet our host families.

My family is so extremely nice. There is a dad, a mom, and two daughters (19 and 16). They have two older brothers but they are at college. There is also a dog named Despé. He only speaks French. They live in this large, old house in La Tronche, 20 minutes away from downtown by walk/tram. I have a huge bedroom but I have nothing to put in it which is funny.

Adjusting to a host family is really hard, especially when I don't know the language as well as I want to. I mean I can't carry on a long conversation with them. I can ask questions and answer some but... I guess that is the whole reason I am here right? The thing is I don't talk with them as much as I would like. It is so awkward knowing what to do with yourself when you are at someone else's house. I mean I eat breakfast and dinner with them but after meals I don't know what to do. Should I hang out? Should I go to my room? They haven't invited me to hang out and I am not sure if I should ask. So I kind of hide in my room with my door open like it's freshman year of college all over again. I asked the kids in my group and they are going through the same thing. None of us knows what to do... But it is nice that we are all awkward together.

Also the bathroom situation cracks me up. I have a sink in my room, the shower is next door, and the toilet is down the hall. My first morning here I had to use all three, in that order and I almost laughed at the French-ness of it.

The weather! It is really, really cold here. Like leggings-under-my-jeans cold. I definitely need to buy some more warm clothes. I didn't plan for this... Good thing that next week are "the sales". It is like the French version of Black Friday, but it lasts for a month. I will be buying jeans, sweaters, and long shirts.

Class is okay for now. It gives me something to do, and I love Maria (she was our professor at Seattle, who came over to help us cram and teach grammar in the mornings). But I have a huge placement exam coming up on the 16th. I have to score high enough on it to make it to the level that will allow me to complete my major. If I don't make it then I might as well back my bags and go home. I am so nervous I could throw up.

Homesickness is the worst. I hate knowing that if I were back home right now I would know what to do with myself and I would not be as stressed as I am here. I miss my family and friends and my dog. Sometimes so much it hurts. But then I send them an email and I feel better. Besides I only have six months here to learn a language. I need to get crackin'. I am considering joining a VSArt group, which works with art and the elderly, helping out at a local elementary school, and perhaps taking a cooking class. I know that if I stay busy I will not be so homesick. I think more programs need to make sure that students are really busy when they are adjusting, because time to think is not always a good thing.

I am complaining a lot. And I am, but that is just because it is a huge adjustment for me, I am sure in a month from now I will be raving about it. But this immersion is harder than it sounds. I am jealous of people who get to go abroad and still speak their native language. I just have to remember that I will grow from this experience and that by the end of this I am sure I will come out with so many great memories.
 "Our trails are not meant to break us; they are meant to make us." 
I just wish I knew more French. I wish that I would have had another year. But I don't think I would have ever been ready enough to live in France. I will just try my best to become conversational. That is all I can do. And I know I can do it. I just need to start with finding my own little café and studying.

Grenoble has so much potential.

06 January 2012

Hotel de l'Europe, Grenoble

When we got into Grenoble our professor picked us up at the train station, we rode the tram to the centre-ville, where we finally got to put down our luggage at our hotel. We stayed at Hotel de l'Europe. It was AH-MAZING. The views from our rooms were incredible and the entire staff was extremely nice to us, even though we are students.

Yeah, this is the view from my our hotel room balcony.  It made me wish I lived in a bathroom. 

 After a broken bed, a walk around the city without a plan or guide, and drooling over our kebabs for dinner we finally headed to bed, where I slept for 9 full hours. It kind of rocked my world. And going to bed after walking in a sunset at beautiful as this, made me feel so extremely small.

The next day we met our professor for a tour with the study abroad program and it was fun to see plans we had already discovered the night before. I met my new love of Grenoble, La Halle Ste Clair, an indoor market filled with produce and cheese and breads. My dream of becoming Julia Child just got one step closer.

While I think that Lyon will always be the place I think of when I think of my favorite city in France, there is something about Grenoble that is growing on me. I am very much in love with the feel of this city. Something about it, even the extreme cold that makes me shiver until I am asleep seems to be normal. 

I think it is the mountains. They do something to you.

*Please note that none of these photos have been altered. This is legitimately where I live. The after after these photos it started raining. C'est la vie. 

Lyon, deuxième jour.

Our last day in Lyon we spent hiking around the rest of the city. We marched in West of Vieil Lyon towards Hotel Dieu, which is a old hospital. It was the prettiest I have ever seen..
Top photo by Taylor.  

We wandered into a candy stop and found eggs gummies and peas and bacon gummies. The French version of "Breakfast of Champions".
We climbed a mountain and played in a park until people came and we ran away. We got lost between the start of a street and the end of it. We found the Roman coliseum and climbed up and down the stairs like Gladiators. 

We found an old church that took our breath away. 

We looked over the city from the church and marveled at it. The beauty and history of this city is incredible. I got very history challenge and took pictures of every plaque I saw. 

We finished the night with a drink at a pub and a walk back with extra large desserts. Our 8 hour walk on the last day made my feet hurt so bad I thought I would cry. But a shower and sleep made it better. I feel in love with Lyon in two days. And when I left I knew I would return.

05 January 2012

Lyon, my dear Lyon.

I was going to write this detailed post sharing my love for Lyon, but I don't think I would ever be able to explain exactly why I loved it so much. Was it because it was my first city abroad? Was it because it was a holiday and we had the streets to ourselves? Or was it simply because of it's beauty?

The blues of the sky and the yellows and pinks of the buildings will change your life. Their beauty will make you want to write a sonnet or bawl. I'm not sure which.

I do have more funny moments to share but that will have to wait for a day when I am less... Tired. These pictures are simply from one 7 hour walk through the city with some great people and a camera.

Bon nuit, mes amies!

04 January 2012

New Years Eve.

We arrived in Charles de Gualle airport at 9am, had to wait for the stairs to get off the plane and then proceeded to get lost in the maze that they call an international airport. It was pure hell. It took us so long to find a place to eat that we didn't even bother leaving the airport and heading into the city. So instead we spent 10 hours trying to sleep in the airport. All we got for our trouble was a neck cramp and some stares. We boarded our layover and finally made it to our hotel at 8:30 in the evening.

This picture explains everything we were going through after 18+ hours flying/waiting.

Then we needed to figure out what to do about clothes and if we were going to go out, where were we going to go? We finally settled on just letting the wind take us. So after we got all dolled up we wandered down the street across the bridge, past closet stores toward the Centre-ville. Nothing was open so we couldn't even buy a bottle of champagne and drink that.

Finally we headed towards the Ferris Wheel they have by Place Bellacoeur. We listening to a small group count down, some others throw fireworks at people, and a man kiss LaTanya and wish her a creepy Bonne année. Then we kept wandering, sorely disappointed. Down a back alley we found a bar district and wandered into a pub but it was so crowded we could order. We finally found a bar and a nice guy sat and chatted with us. 

By 1:30 we were all sleeping soundly in our beds back at the hotel. 

New Years' Eve didn't turn out like we had planned but it was still quite an adventure.

I will share our first real day in Lyon with you next.
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