So I was standing there, watching my friends walk off with their families and getting/giving last minute hugs, and suddenly I saw them. First came Guillaume and Aurelien, the two boys, and then Laurence, the mother. They walked over and we saw each-other and they came towards me. We shook hands, exchanged les bises and just like that I was now officially part of a French family! We made our way up to the station terminal where we took some pictures in front of an AFS banner, signed me into the AFS chapter's log and said goodbye to my friends again. We walked outside and I got my first look at Angers, the city near my little village that would be the city of my school and, as I would later learn, a common destination for weekend hangouts. We got into their car, a brand new Toyota with one of the cameras on the back that turns on to show you what's behind you when you're backing up.
As we drove to le petit village de Mûrs-Erigné (which is pronounced without the S, like "muurr-errinyé) we made small talk about the sports I did and school I would be going to, the village, the river La Loire and it's subsidiary that they lived on, among other things. I learned that the reason le père est absent est parce que he was at a neighborhood block party which I would very quickly become a part of. When we got to their house, which IS the one I saw on Google Maps, mom, and yes they do have a big garden, a garage/storage place, and a big house, traditional on the outside, all modern and cool on the inside (more on this later). Anyway we got their house a big white tent was set up at the end of their street. A fair amount of the neighbors were already there and as soon as I got out of the car, I was introduced to many of them. I met François, my host father, who was on grill duty. Guillaume and I brought my bags inside and then we went out to go hang with Louis and Lauren, two neighbors/friends of Guillaume. They were really nice and Lauren spoke a fair amount of English because her father, as it turned out, was American and had moved from Montana to France, I think, ten years ago. We spoke a fair amount of Franglais, as Madame McGuinty would call it, and she helped me translate and communicate. During the the rest of the day, I would do many awesome things.
First I had tour of Mûrs-Erigné in a 1961 Citroen that a neighbor had fixed up and wanted to show off. It was really cool and I got to see most of the village, which really is quite petit! Anyway, afterwards, I had an awesome introduction to French cuisine. I ate anchovy and caper pizza, a couple different patés (one of them made of wild bison, I think it was, and goat), ratatouille, special French sausages from the grill, and many other things that I didn't even recognize. After that was the cheese course, consisting of baguette and brie: c'est délicieux! Then of course was the dessert course. Again, I didn't know half of what I was eating but it was really good! I do know there was chocolate cake, flan pie, some different berry pies, Madeleine cookies and more. It was a lot like the dessert I eat in Switzerland with very little sugar and artificial sweetness and instead a little more savory or with tons of berries. For my first meal with my host family in the French countryside, it was both perfect and amazing!
Afterwards the adults played bocce or pétanque, as it's fondly called. Now this is nothing like the Americanized version or even the the Swiss play. It's an extremely competitive and serious game based upon skill and precision. The way they threw the ball, how much spin they would put on it, the tactics of how the ground and the texture of dirt or grass, all of these are factors that they include in their analysis. And whenever they are not sure who won, they have a special tape measure, just for the game!! It was kind of funny to see them take it so seriously, but for them it's a huge tradition. Speaking of traditions, before I forget, at this block party, which is also an annual tradition, held each year on the last Sunday of vacation before school, another tradition is upheld. This is the ownership of le poisson: yes, you translated that correctly; the fish. They have one of those plastic fish that's mounted and it sings at the touch of a button (yes, Mom Dad and Sammy, it's the same as Julia and Elliot's; same song same fish!). Each year they hold a lotto for the fish and whoever wins gets to keep it at home for the whole year. It's a odd and hilarious tradition but hey! Whatever makes them happy!
So after all this, I was playing soccer with my two brothers and the other guy, Louis (a neighbor), and it was getting pretty intense so I kinda booted it and it went flying over the fence, across the street and into the river. Guillaume, Louis and I grabbed a bunch of long sticks and went after. We tried to retrieve the ball but it was floating just out of our reach. I walked in up to my knees. I reached again and almost had it.. but it was an inch away from the end of the stick. When I heard nager, I though OK to hell with it, chucked the stick and jumped in the river. With all my clothes on besides my shoes. And my camera in my pocket (it's waterproof, thank god!). In front of 20+ French people who I'd met less than 4 hours ago. I'm sure they've never seen anything like it. In any case, I got the ball and went and changed and was told by some of the neighbors that I was a hero. Yay!!
So after that, the party pretty much ended and I watched a little TV with my hosts brothers until about 11:PM. Yes, we watched Hellboy in case you were wondering, and yes it was dubbed, and no I didn't understand most of it but I think I've learned a lot of new words since arriving. (P.S. today is the second day, this all happened yesterday.) Anyway, after that we went to bed. I'm sleeping in my host brother's room and wow, it's so different that any room you'd see in America. It's extremely well put together, for one. The furniture kinda matches and the room looks like something you'd see in a magazine. Another difference is it's sooooo clean! The floor is spotless besides things that are supposed to be there, like the big pillow chair and the rug. No clothes, anywhere in sight, besides, of course, mine which are currently sitting in a pile on top of my luggage piece. When I move into another room, next week once I get the hang of waking up for school and so on, I'm get something more permanent, but for now it works. But all Guillaume and Aurelien's clothes are neatly folded and organized into different cubbies of their closets. It's kinda surreal. Another contradictory detail of the French is their generosity and kindess. Everyone thinks they're cold and mean but that is utterly wrong! Quel salade (a pack of lies)! Ever since I got here, everyone is soooooo nice and caring. They always offer me a second helping of food, or give a life in a game of round robin ping pong. It's awesome and quite different from American culture where, I hate to say it but it's true, one often worries more about themselves than about their friends. In France, it's the opposite. For example, right now Guillaume (the older one who I'll be going to school tomorrow with) is making me a collection of materials I'll need for my classes out of his own stock. He's giving me his pencils, pens, rulers, notebooks, highlighters, you name it. I offered to go buy my own stuff tomorrow but he absolutely wouldn't hear of it.
So anyway, I woke up this morning and had cereal. Except the milk was warmed in the microwave and after the cereal was eaten, the remaining milk got a good dose of Nesquik! I've never eaten cereal with warm milk but I must say. I enjoyed it. Later, once Laurence was back at noon, we went out to get my photo and bus passes for Guillaume and I. In France, there are no school buses so we're going to be taking the public bus everyday. We went to the bus station and waited in line for at least 45 minutes with hundreds of other students doing the same thing. This happened in Angers, the big city near my little Mûrs-Erigné. It's also where my school is. After we got the passes, Laurence drove home (about a 10-15 minute drive only) and Guillaume and I walked around a little and went to a store called fnac. No I didn't mispell that. It's really called "fnac". It's kind of like a Best Buy: all technology, from computers to TV's to video games and everything in between. It was pretty cool. Then we got on out bus and took it back home. We had dinner with their cousin. Dinner was great! It was quiche lorraine, and when they told me what kind it was, François, my host father, whipped out a map of France and very proudly showed me the département of Lorraine. Of course, this was eaten with baguette which, as you already know if you've been reading the posts, is ALWAYS put on the table, not the plate. Then we had some cheeses which were French (and delicious) and again François showed me where on a map of France they came from. From my day and a half of observation, they are very proud of their culture, history and traditions. It makes sense though: if I lived in a country like France (instead of America) I'd be proud too!
After the cheeses, we had gaufres, waffles with nutella and powdered sugar on top. That's their dessert! How awesome is that? And yet, the less awesome side is the weight I'm going to gain. I don't know how all these French manage to control their weight while consuming such large quantities of delicious food. I guess it might be in correlation with the amount they smoke. It seems that some French hate smoking and other love it. Some, like Guillaume, Laurence and the neighbor Lauren hate cigarettes and are constantly reprimanding the people who DO like smoking, like François and the other neighbor, Louis.
OK, I really gotta go now, it's a quarter past 10 and I have to get up tomorrow for my first day of school!!!!! So I guess I'll write again at the end of the week or something. I can't do the pictures now either, I'll get to them later.
Hope ya keep reading et à bientôt pour maintenant.