Sunday, November 15, 2009

an addition of forgotten sidenotes

I've realized their are a couple things I meant to mention in the previous posts that I forgot about at the time of actually writing previous posts.

Just to prove the point of how uncelebrated Halloween is here, I forgot to write about it for the month of October.

It is not very celebrated, or really falltime in general....

There are barely any kids that go out trick-or-treating
No "haunted hayrides," over-decorated lawns full of fake spider webs, witches, coffins, etc.
No running through corn mazes, picking apples in orchards, or apple cider
The leaves do turn different colors and fall here, but there are a lot less trees. So it's not really possible to rake up a big pile to jump in.

It's not that I think it's bad they don't do any of this. It's just interesting discovering how things are so different. I am not sad to be missing it this year, because I know when I return I will be able to do all of those things again. Also once I return I'll be able to tell my host family more about it. All in all I enjoyed being in the South of France for Halloween.

The second thing I've been meaning to mention is about the French language. Even by the end of the first month my ideas and how I think about the French language has changed. I have an analogy but I'm not sure if it will make much sense to anyone else....

When you start speaking and hearing a foreign language everyday your mind starts to change it's ideas about the words.

Suddenly you find yourself almost giving an identity or certain emotion to a foreign word. It's not just "this is the word in French that means this in English"
It's more like "this is another way to say the same thing," just a synonym, just expanding my vocabulary.

For example when you change your level of vocabulary. When you're talking to a little kid you use different vocabulary than if you were writing a college essay. In this way it's almost like speaking a different language.... you change the words you use to be understood in different situations.

Also, in an attempt to better explain what I mean about the "emotions" or "feelings" that foreign words take on, I will try to give an anology.

Giving an identity to a word, is like relating a name to a person.
For example, I'll use the name "Bob."
You might love the name Bob or you might absolutely hate it.
But when you meet a person named Bob, you don't think "I hate this person because he's named Bob" or "I love this person, because his name is Bob"
Instead you think of the personality of that person. When you hear the name Bob, in reference to that person, the personality is what you think of, not your personal opinion about the name in general.

So maybe the concept is a little convuluted, but I hope I have at least conveyed it in a way that people can at least partially grasp this notion.

I will being writing another post when I can about the month of November and be adding some more pictures too.

Thank you to all who continue reading my blog.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Octobre - almost 2 months here

So my adventures for the month of October consisted of the following:

Learned lots of new words:

Most of them are related to violence. This is because I am reading Candide by Voltaire. One of the functions of the novel is to show the horrors of war in order to show people that there isn't any glory in killing people. Sometimes it gets a little more descriptive than I'd like. Although, I am proud of myself for reading up to chapter 16 so far.

Went to Metz:

The first AFS orientation after being here for a bit. It was wonderful. I really enjoyed meeting up with the friends I'd made at the Paris orientation. I also made some wonderful new friends. We had a lot of fun attempting to draw a map of France. Also we played some fun games, like pretending we were amoebas and playing "pierre, feuille, ciseaux" to move up to a higher status/life form. I was horrible the first time, but it was fun anyway.

Went to a "Bal Folk":

This was really interesting going to. I got to here the folk music typical in the different regions of not just France but Europe in general. Typical music for parts of Italy, Spain, Russia, Ireland and other countries were played. I tried my best to learn the dances of the different regions. Unfortunately I was quite tired, and lapsed in and out of being a good dancer. My mind just couldn't hold concentration after "un, deux, trois..." But it was quite late so that was probably why.

Made more friends:

Still making lots of new friends. Everyone is so nice here! (I believe I've said this before.) I love talking to my friends throughout the school day, whether it's before classes, during lunch, or after school waiting for the bus. It's funny still having some people come up to me and say "oh you cut your hair!" The school here is definitely bigger and I don't see some people as often.

Took some actual tests in almost all of my classes:

I didn't really recieve grades as much as "bien" or "bon travaille." My host mom was impressed, so I know I'm not doing too badly, because she's a teacher too... I'm just relieved the teachers are nice and understanding.

Met an American!

Their is a new teacher's assisstant for English class. She has lived in New York for 15 years but originally was from Peru. It was very funny when, after half the class introduced themselves, I said "My name is Yvette Alexandrou. I'm 16 years old and I am an American foreign exchange student." The whole class was laughing and especially the teacher's assisstant.

Went to a track meet:

My host siblings competed in a competition of "athletisme" for the day. It was interesting to watch all the different events. Seeing all the kids crowd around the scores after reminded me of being on the swim team, because all the kids do the same thing at swim meets.

Saw a french version of Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream:

So, what can I say about this? Well, it was long, and a farce. Basically, four hours of rapid French to tell quick jokes was not processing so well. I did enjoy the scene pictures created though and all the costumes kept things more interesting. Every time a character came out they would be wearing something different. In French, though, the rhyming of the lines doesn't work anymore, so I did miss that.

St. Tropez!

For "Les Vacances De La Toussaint" my host family and I went to the South of France to St. Tropez. It is most known for the famous movies of the "gendarmes," policemen. The Gendarmerie Nationale is located there. We went to visit it and of course took pictures. The whole week the weather was wonderful and it was between 20°C-27°C or for my friends in the U.S.A. about 70°F-80°F and it was always sunny. We went for long walks throughout the week and of course spent time at the pool. I also got to go swimming in the Mediterranean Sea, which for me, was very exciting. St. Tropez and the bording towns remind me of what I'd expect California to look like. There are palm trees, the sea, mountains, vineyards, and of course some very wealthy people living there. Also on the car ride down we drove through Switzerland and I also got to see Mont Blanc (from the distance) but it was all very beautiful. I loved seeing all the castles on mountain tops throughout the journey to the south. To sum it all up, I really enjoyed vacation. Seeing new places and things and spending time with my (host) family was great.