17 April 2011

Brissac, Villandry, Chenonceau, et Amboise

I really like bullet points.  They’re neat, they keep me relatively concise, and I can spit out a whole bunch of information at once without scaring you away with large paragraphs.  Plus I haven’t started my homework for the weekend, and it’s 23:13.

My program went on an overnight trip to see the chateaux (castles) of the Loire Valley, which were really pretty and photogenic, if a bit smaller than I had imagined.  It was a fantastic trip.  It was fun to sleep somewhere different for a night, eat quality food paid for by the program, see everyone at once, and look at the gorgeous castles.  A few notes…

-Our bus was driven by Georges, a Frenchman with a semi-bald head and a ponytail in spite of that, who had spent five years in England and refused to speak French there.  He’s been driving this group-travel bus since 1988, if I heard correctly.  He was quite a character.  I sat next to him at lunch today, as well as Daniel and Staci, our program director and administrator, respectively.  Good times.

-Staci took two semesters of French in college, dated and got engaged to a French guy, and decided to move to France to get married.  She’s been living here for about 20 years now, has two  kids (and a husband) whose primary language is French, and thus fascinates all of us.  She told us that she didn’t speak very much French when she got here; now she’s fluent, but she doesn’t speak English on a daily basis, and she misses it so much that she dreams of going to England for a weekend to see a play en anglais.

-Another fun fact about Staci: she got married in a little church by the mountains, which was gorgeous but very crowded considering that they invited a standard amount of people.  She loved the location, but she didn’t understand all of the ceremony.  (DUDE.  This woman is intense.)  Their wedding cake was a French one, which means no tall slices.  All French pastries and cakes are no taller than a pie.

-The castles were really pretty, (I know I keep saying that), but after a while hearing about ceiling detailing got a little old.  We invented a human version of the board game “Clue” (Cluédo en francais) right at the beginning; I guess that shows our interest level in ceilings.  I got to be Mrs. Peacock, and among others, our director was chosen Mr. Green and murderer, and one of the French monitors was deigned Mr. Body.  We didn’t tell the program director, but we did tell the monitor, and he didn’t get it at all.  All I heard of the conversation was “OK.  You’re dead.”

-Five of us hung out in a room at the hostel last night and talked about our lives, and Courtney received her first back massage.  It was an interesting night.

-I recently discovered the Tenth Avenue North song "Beloved", a love song written from God's perspective.  It's in 3/4 (waltz rhythm), starts with a piano solo, and is really sweet.  It's been in my head all weekend, which just made everything better.  The best part was when I got to wander around the famous gardens of Villandry with it playing on my iPod and worship in the castle gardens.  Never thought I'd get to say that!

-Dana and I (among others) sang Disney songs for a large part of the afternoon bus ride on Saturday.  Funny how I can always find people to sing Disney songs with me…  I like what that says about humanity.

-I am totally getting better at speaking French.  Hooray!!!  However, I unknowingly traded in my efficacy in English to accomplish this.  Even as I type, French words are attempting to make their way into this blog.  Not in an italicized, let-me-teach-you-a-word sort of way, but in a random and confusing way.  For example, I typed the word “same” only after having thought “même" in my head.  Always an effort to be made in some form or another, I guess.

-On the bus back today, a few of us invented alter egos (as in total opposites) for each other.  It was really fun, and it also showed how well we've gotten to know each other.  I recently bought a little floral purple scarf that I wear in a bow around my neck (think flight stewardess), which makes Bri think of Nancy Drew every time she sees it.  Thus my alter ego is named Nancy, always wears scarves tied in bows, is always on time (no, early!), and has to plan everything in detail.  Watch out!  Maybe she'll post someday.

-We stopped at the same gas station that we went to on our first bus ride into Rennes, right after many of us had been told about our host families and others were still waiting to hear.  I remember feverishly demanding to know the housing logistics of people I barely knew, and being really nervous about living in a downtown apartment with only my host mother during the week.  The store had the Breton waffles in the same place (hopefully not the same waffles), which I had wanted last time and bought this time.  It was a very strange, mixed experience, in that it brought some closure to my semester here.  Not that I’m gone yet, but it’ll be here soon.  This time, though, I sat and talked with my friends, knowing where I was returning home.

I will be leaving for Ireland, Scotland, and Italy, respectively, in  6 days.  If I don’t post again, think of me on Easter weekend.  I’ll be in that Irish monastery.

Prayer requests:  God has been really present with me this week.  Praise Him for that!  It’s been amazing.  Please pray for safe travels for us coming up!  Also, my sister is in Mexico with her high school for the week.  Please pray for her (and their) safety, as well as God's intimate presence during the week.

11 April 2011

Non, je ne regrette rien.

The frightening thing is that I’m almost done.  This experience has been very challenging, demanding, interesting, so much so that I’ve concentrated all of my efforts on “settling in” and “starting off well”.  Well, I realized at church today that even though it was only my fourth time there (given vacations and visits to other churchs), I won’t be there for another month, and I’ll only have two Sundays left.  (I’m going on a program excursion to the Loire Valley to see some castles next weekend, and then I have two weeks of spring break.  When I come back, I have two weeks of school left.)

This led me to more panicking.  You always have so many ambitions when you first start out on a big project.  Some of those never happen.  The important thing is to let them go and realize that you don’t need to have crossed everything off your list.  I may not have taken my language notebook to every meal, but I’ve still had a lot of good meals!  I haven’t had long enough with the people I’ve met here, French and American alike, but with only one semester here, that’s the way it’s supposed to feel.  I have taken pictures, explored, read, sipped, inhaled, watched, helped, wandered, learned, talked, listened…  I have done a lot this semester.  I have pictures and stories to prove it.  It isn’t over of course, but it’s nice to remind myself that my time here hasn’t been a waste.  And of course, it kicks me into higher gear, to do everything I want to fit in!

Little side notes:
-I cooked Chinese food with two Chinese friends last weekend.  We spoke French the whole time, and I have recipe notes.  Unfortunately, I had a slight reaction to something we cooked with.
-My new favorite music is by Nolwenn Leroy.  Look her up!
-I ate my first large piece of foie gras tonight, with toasted bread.  I enjoyed it.
-I also took a book for class to the park today, snuck over to a bench by the playground, and fooled the surrounding parents into thinking I was watching a child while reading.  I miss kids.  They make me laugh when they put gravel on slides.  Not so much when they throw it into the air.
-I will be gone for the orchestra concert this weekend, so I won’t have played in one.  I have to skulk back tomorrow and give them their cello back.
-The parks in Rennes are giant and beautiful.  And numerous.  I’m just discovering that now, but the weather’s great for it!
-I’ll be in a monastery in Ireland in two weeks, for Easter weekend.  My mom finds the best travel books.  Also on the horizon are Scotland and Italy.
-My host parents were gone on Saturday night, so I took the opportunity to open all the windows, drink some juice, sneak out onto the balcony, and look at the stars.
-I’m planning on finding some French comic books to bring back to my American bathroom.  Unfortunately I don’t have enough postcards to line the walls, and I don’t have a radio or wooden man on unicycle riding the toilet paper roll, so my bathroom can’t be as cool.  Told you it was my favorite room, remember?
-Oh yeah, I’m in some classes too.  They’re all right, I guess.

Prayer request:  Joy in every day!