Monday, September 5, 2011

First Days of France!!! (Part 1)

Hello all! Sorry I haven't put anything up int he past few days especially since they've been, by far, the most interesting and awesome. Because I'm have soo much to talk about, I'm going to break this up into 3 different posts: 1.) Paris, the arrival orientation, the tour of Paris. 2.) Mûrs-Erigné, my first day with my host family, the great super French block party I stumbled into, my family, the food. 3.) If I can get them up and running, I'll try to post a whole bunch of pictures from the last couple days but no promises because last time it was a nightmare.
OK so where did I leave off? Ahh yes, I remember. The New York orientation. So the next day, we basically just went to the airport and took a series of planes to Paris. We had a layover in Zurich and I used every franc I had to buy the world's most amazing truffles from Sprungli: les truffles du jour. Sooooooooooooo good! So then we had a short flight over into Paris and that's where things started getting interesting. As soon as we got there, we were 100% immersed into the French language and although it still didn't feel real yet, it was really cool walking through the airport and hearing only French (besides the English we spoke to each-other in. So we took a bus and went to the Paris International Youth Hostel which was about 1/3 an hour from downtown Paris. We walked in, dropped off our bags and went to meet the hundreds of other AFSers going to France this year. It was really cool talking to people from all over the world who were committing themselves to doing exactly what I was. Anyway, I met a group of Kiwis (New Zealanders) and we became very good friends and they taught me how to speak with a Kiwi accent and I taught them the American accent. It was really fun and although I wish I could have stayed another week, we eventually had to leave. But not before spending 2 days together. I also met a lot of other Americans who were going to my region and bonded with a really cool girl from Rhode Island over New England skiing, freak weather, organic food-loving parents and expeditionary learning/Waldorf schools. It was awesome to say the least.
The next day we were organized into groups and we talked about communication and our hopes and expectations and stuff like that. Then, in the second part of the afternoon, we went on a bus tour of Paris! It was amazing! We drove through Paris, a bus full of AFSers jumping from one side to another to try and catch a glimpse of all the famous monuments. We went to the square above the pools that looks out on the Eiffel Tower and did some picture taking there. Then we walked down the square to under the Eiffel Tower. Of course that was when my camera's battery died and it turned itself off but I got some pictures before and many promises from my new friends to share their pictures and take some for me. (Of course I forgot to get those pictures off their cameras but whatever, I'll do it later. Plus the memories are more valuable.) Anyway, when we to the square beneath the Tower, we were forced to do an "energizer": an activity that involved a lot of dancing around and shouting out things, much to our embarassement and to the other tourist's pleasure, all of whom formed a circle around us and took videos of the crazy AFS kids doing some dance and sing routine in the heart of the world's most famous city, underneath Europe's most famous monument. I'm sure it's on YouTube by now. Hold on I'll check...
Hmm I couldn't find it but that't probably because there are 1,000,000,000,000,000 other videos involving the Eiffel Tower on YouTube. In any case, we did that and then we got back on the buses and drove around looking at the other common tourist stops: le Champs-Elysees (I think that's the right spelling), le Louvre, a square near the Tower who's name is escaping me but it's extremely famous for all it's super ritzy shops, the most expensive in the world by far. We also saw some French government buildings, a handful of monuments, towers and statues and the streets of Paris. This was my first time in the city of Paris and it definitely met, and exceeded, all expectations. It's never the same seeing all these famous places in movies then it is standing next to them or driving by them. Although I wouldn't want to love there, purely because of the size and the number of people, Paris is still an amazing and beautiful place. No wonder the city brings in about 23.5 million visitors every year!
After that we went back to the hostel and hung out with les autre AFSers. I got to meet so many people and make so many friendships that it was sad saying goodbye that night and going to sleep with the alarm set for 5:20 AM so I could catch my bus. AS luck would have it, Gabe, a kid from Texas who is absolutely the opposite of every Texan stereotype (probably because he just moved there from California a year ago), he is in my region and we've been hanging out the whole trip since we met in NY. Anyway, when I woke up the next morning, Gabe, Elise (another friend from Wyoming who I had met on Facebook because we're both in the Angers area) and two new friends, Elizabeth and Erin (two Aussies from "the land down under" were waiting and we all got on the bus together. We hung out and talked and became an inseparable pack. When we got to the train station with an hour and a half until our train would depart, we decided to go exploring. We got some delicious treats from a patisserie, got some French GQ magazines to brush up on our language skills, some super-strength throat lozenges for Elizabeth and me (both of whom had talked away our throats to a state of croaking) and tried to look French and not totally foreign as we ran around and had a great time. When it was time, we boarded our train, a TGV (the really fast one!) and got a compartment all to ourselves. We sat around and tried to understand our magazines, talked and joked about what it would be like to live in France for almost a year and steeled ourselves to meet out families. After an adventure involving the train bar, a couple of Mars bars, a hunt for the toilet and some hurried tooth-brushing, we ran back to cabin and grabbed our luggage as the train pulled into the Angers station. We got off the train and hustled onto the platform, looking around for our families. As we waited in a nervous group, our hands shaking, we whispered to one another "Dude, I'm totally freaking out right now!!" and "Oh my god, we're here, holy sh**!!" It was nerve-racking, yet extremely exciting to say the least. One by one, the group shrank as families came and picked up their host kids. First Elise's family came, then Elizabeth's, then Erin's, then Gabe's...
Then suddenly, I saw two French teenagers and an older woman who seemed to be a dead ringer for the photo I received of my family.....
(Continued in Part 2: La Famille Ligot)

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