Dec 11, 2009

J'arrive, J'arrive

OK, I've been a horrible procrastinator and have completely neglected blogging. Please forgive me! But I'm here now, so let's begin.

First of all, I didn't get to go to London. It's sad, I know. Let me explain. The weekend before I was supposed to leave I wasn't feeling my best. I had a cough and a headache, but I just figured "Hey, it's cold season". But, not wanting it to get worse, I took care of myself. I drank lots of water, didn't spend to long in the cold, and took a nap in the afternoon. I thought that would take the edge off, enough so I could maximize my London time. Sadly, it didn't work. I woke up Monday morning feeling awful, and when my host mom had me take my temperature I was up to 103. 6. But I wasn't to be beaten that easily! I took some medicine, stayed home from school, and did everything I could to get my temperature down (went back to sleep, didn't move around, took a luke-warm shower, the whole enchilada). By 3:30 I was down to 98.9, and I was confident that if I just took some medicine with me on the trip that I'd be good to go! .... Well, it wasn't that simple. My host mom had already called the school, and the school said that I would need a doctors note to go on the trip. ... OK, I thought, this complicates things. After all, how ... But then my host mom called back and said she had managed to get an appointment scheduled for that afternoon! At this point I was getting excited. I'd most likely be able to go!! Around 4 my host mom comes and takes me to the doctors office, and I thought I was exhibiting all the signs of being better. Much to my dismay, the doctor thought otherwise, insisting that any improvement was just due to the medicine. Furthermore, she refused to allow me to go on the trip. Yeah, I was pretty disappointed (to say the least). But the story gets better! (And by better, I'm being sarcastic and actually mean that it just gets altogether more depressing for me). Being a teenager, I decided not to re take my medicine that evening (the idea being that if I was going to be sick, dammit I was going to be sick). Well, the next morning I woke up feeling.... (dramatic pause)... fine. No fever, no cough, no headache. And the day after that? Fine again. Yep, that's right, I turned out only to be sick that one day. (The only upside being that the doctor had excused me from half a week of school, so I got to chill at home). (Yeah, yeah, I know. I should be thankful I wasn't really sick, thankful I didn't feel horrid for a longer period of time, thankful for my good health. But, hey! I'm a teenager! We see things the way we want to, and right now I want to sulk about not being allowed to go to London). (On the other hand, the entire class came down with la grippe that week. One day, with the combined absences of London and illness, there were 17 kids missing from my class alone).

But, other than that episode, I am continuing to love France. School is going really well. My grades are improving (my average for the first trimester is 13,4/ 20, which is actually quite good here) and I'm understanding more than ever. And I'm having a fantastic time with my friends and host family!

A couple weekends ago, I went to la fête des lumières in Lyon with Annie. During the weekend of the fête, buildings across town have light shows, projections, and animations. We started up at the basilica in Fourvière, which had a synchronised light and bell display and a large sign in lights that read "Merci Marie". The lights turned on at 6, so around 6:30 or so we started the walk down hill to the rest of town. The lights were fantastic! There were different kinds of lights, too. There were lights that were just simply colors, and then there were projections where they used the buildings like big movie screens. And it was possibly the most crowded place I've ever been. We would get stuck in traffic jams (that, mind you, were just foot traffic) in which it would take 15 minutes to go 50 feet. But it was incredibly cool, and it changes every year.

I've also been taught in the ways of the blocus. For those of you who are wondering what the heck a blocus is, allow me to explain. A blocus is a type of protest. In the US we pride ourselves on our right to free speech. If something isn't going the way we like, we have the ability to speak up! If we want to protest, we sure as heck can! The only problem? We don't really do anything. We get all annoyed, spend a lot of time yelling about how wrong something is, and then let it go. Or, if we're REALLY angry, we arrange community meetings, we write letters, and we put up yard signs. The French, on the other hand, protest. One of their favorite forms of protest is la grève (going on strike). There was a train strike, which made my transport to and from Grenoble quite challenging (seeing as my trains kept getting canceled). There was a bus strike, which meant getting into Lyon was crazy because of all the added cars. There was even a teacher's strike, which was pretty fantastic for us, the students (except for the fact that I woke up at 6 AM rather than 9 AM for nothing). But the protesting doesn't stop at the adults. Currently, there is some sort of school reform going on, and the students aren't happy about it. So what do we do? We protest, of course! And the form of protest most loved by the lycéen? Blocus! Simply put, a blocus is a blockade. In theory, the students barricade the school, making it impossible to enter. (In reality, it's not IMPOSSIBLE to enter the school, but you have to face an ocean of booing and general disapproval.) A crowed, thus, assembles in front of the school gates. Since it's December, alot of people are less likely to wait in front of the gates and just head home, but there are still people who wait. And it's not just a crowd that you have to battle to get inside, it's a literal blockade. In our case, dumpsters were moved in front of the main entrance to the school. And, as always with protests, things can get a little crazy. Some one came out and announced that we were moving inside, news that was gratefully accepted by many (IT WAS FREAKING FREEZING). But as we started to move inside, there was a mass movement further away from the building. We checked it out from a distance, and apparently someone lit either a car or a tree on fire. (We were too far away to tell). (Thanks to the many fire extinguishers on hand it was quickly put out.) Afterwards, the remaining crowd (meaning those that hadn't gone home or given up and gone to class) assembled in the atrium-like area at the back of the school. The "leaders" of the blocus started talking, but they got chased off their stage, the stairs in the atrium, because it's forbidden to students. Now there's the key- although they were protesting, they didn't just ignore everything. They made sure they still had the right to what they were doing. But, of course, they didn't stop. They just continued their speech on the floor. And so the protest continued, but in the warmth of inside. And there were still a good number of people, despite the fact that a million people left. All in all, it was cool to see the students organized like that. And I'm left to wonder why kids in the US can't get organized like that...

What else... it's almost Noël! There have been a lot of things leading up to the holidays. At school on Thursday there was the holiday meal. Now, in Towson there's a holiday meal around this time, too. You know, the one we have every year: cubed "turkey" on white bread, school mashed potatoes, limp green beans, and a free ice cream sandwich. Sounds tasty, no? So, you can imagine my confusion when the kids at school were actually excited for the holiday meal. (Like, it even made the Facebook status the night before). Well, as it turns out, the French take their holiday meal seriously. First of all, they gave all the students 2 hours to eat (deleting all classes within those 2 hours). That alone was cool, but the meal was... not at all like Towson. You got:
  • Foie Gras or Smoked salmon and toast
  • Chicken (real chicken) with mixed greens and some sort of little potato thing
  • Bread
  • A good quality yogurt or cheese
  • A little chocolate cake
  • Clementines
  • A coke
  • Papillotes (little chocolates with a message inside)
All that for 3.50 euros! And I found it quite tasty, despite the claims that it wasn't the "good quality foie gras" and that "the chicken wasn't really hot". Also, I decorated the house with my host mom! Although different from what I do at home, it was fun! Since I don't have a large banister in Towson, and my host family does, it was fun to make a greenery garland and string it up like in all the holiday children's books. And we have a very cute little Christmas tree, too. And, just in time for the holidays, it snowed a little. Not very much at all, but enough to cover the world in white. (And enough to spark snowball fights at school!) On Friday school let out for everyone at 4, and that started winter break!

I just got back from a weekend with some other AFSers in Lyon, Erin and Laura. We walked around Lyon a lot, did some Christmas shopping, went to the movies, and went to the Marché de Noël in Lyon. I also discovered the joys of public transportation. I had previously thought that a trip into Lyon would be something that would involve much advance planning and inconvenience on the part of the person who would have to drive me. But I now know that there's a bus that goes straight from the center of Millery to the train station Perrache in Lyon, and from there I can catch a bus or the metro and go anywhere in Lyon. And it's all really easy to do, so I may go into town more often!

That about covers the more exciting parts of my life. If I think of anything else I'll tell you! And to all my family and friends who I'm not seeing this year, just know that I love you all very much!

Happy holidays, everyone!


  1. Merry Christmas to you too! France in the winter sounds wonderful. :)
    I'd just like to say- kids here get organized too! just look at powershift! and it's not really a daily, let's blockade the school strugle, but, hey, it's something...we're working on it, I think.

  2. Heello, merry christmas and I hope you´ll have a wonderfull new year!
    I was just writing to ask you if you found it easy at the begginig yo understand the language. (I´ve read you studied French for four years) The thing is that I have studied it also for a few years but I don´t remember quite a lot. Was it anyway "easy" to then refresh your memory and be able to talk with the others?
    I´m asking you as I´ve seen you are having an emazing time over there, and as I am thinking of going to France for an exchange with afs.
    Do you consider going just for 6 months not enough? I mean, you are there for a year and you seem to be really enjoing it.. The prob is that my parents don´t want me to go for a hole year, do u think it´s still worth it for a semester still?
    Thaanks very much and I hope u still updating your blog, is fabulous, I wish u the best!
    XOXO, Julia from Argentina :)

  3. Dear Julia,
    At the beginning the language was challenging. However, everyone knew that it was hard for me and was willing to speak very slowly and to make sure I understood what they said. And each day the language gets easier, as you'll start to remember what things mean and things will just start to make sense. And when you mess up it's really no big deal! (It's actually helped me progress, because people will explain my errors so that I don't do it again). Don't let the language keep you from coming to France, because it's an experience that you don't want to miss!!

    Also, I reccomend you come for the whole year. The hardest part is the very begining, and after that it only gets easier (and more fun!). The major homesickness goes away as you start to make a 2nd home with new friends and family. But if that's really not possible, I definitely say come for the semester!!! Even if I had to leave now, after not quite a semester, I'd never forget the fun I've had here and the things I've discovered about the world and myself. (But at this point I don't think I could just abandon France. It really is fantastic!)

    I hope that helped! I hope you come to France!! It really is an experience like no other!


  4. Sophia,
    thanks very muuuch! I really apreciated :)
    I would absolutely try to convince my parents, as it´s algo quite expensive as you may know, but I think it would be a really enriching experience, and if I don´t do it, I might regret it later!
    My problem about the time, is that classes in Argentina start on March, it would be as if you went in December for a year, you wouldn´t complete neither junior nor senior at your school, so that´s what my parents are concerned about. Still I believe going there for a semester will definitely be worth it, right? I do now that it´s a short time, since I´ll adjust to my family and friends and I´ll have to go, but.. I suppose I´ll have a grat time still!

    I hope I go to France too!
    Best wishes, and enjoy your opportunite, I think it is unique!
    XOXO. Julia

  5. bonjour Sophia
    Je viens de temps en temps lire ton blog. C'est amusant et inetrressant, parce que j'ai une fille qui s'appelle Sophia, qui est déjà partie avec AFS. de plus, cette année, je suis famille d'accueil et mon invitée n'est pas aussi enthousiaste que toi. félicitation pour tes notes. Je suis sûre que tu as passé un bon Noël, et j'attends le suite....

  6. Dear Sophia,
    I am planning on going abroad with AFS next year to France. I was wondering about how you are doing with the language so far. Would you consider yourself conversationally fluent? How was the first day at school language-wise? And have you made any friends that you know you will want to stay in touch with long after you're gone? Sorry for all the questions, I am just really curious as to how life is like once you've been there for a while. Thanks,

  7. Please keep writing! You are an amazing writer and I love your blog, because I am going to study in France for one month and like to feel inspired. You are definitely inspiring as a writer and photographer. You are very talented.