16 December 2015

holidays // thanksgiving

Hello Blog - it's been way too long, I'm so so sorry. Life in France is amazing, as expected, but extremely busy. We don't have exams week, but that doesn't mean that the teachers are going easy on us. Instead they've decided to pile on the assessments to round out the semester...but in just a few days I get to head off of holiday vacation. Before I do that, I wanted to share just a few of my holiday experiences so far. I've spent all of my thanksgivings at my house with my dad's side of the family, and all of my Christmases in Colorado with my moms family. This year I will do neither. It feels a bit odd at first to be doing something so different from the traditional, but like all the adaptations I've made this year I've grown to like it.

The French don't celebrate Thanksgiving but being seventy Americans together in France me and my classmates definitely celebrated anyway. Having school on Thanksgiving was odd , even if only a half day , but also allowed us to all eat a thanksgiving lunch together. One of the French schools that hosts us for lunch everyday was incredibly kind and prepared traditional thanksgiving for us - turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans and pumpkin pie. Celebrating the holiday with all of my classmates and teachers was actually quite fun ,  but very French with wine at the teachers table.

Our school late us out after lunch, with the intention that we would prepare some sort of a thanksgiving to share with our host families. I spoke to my host family and offered to cook but they said they only wanted a Thanksgiving dessert - but no cinnamon or pumpkin allowed. For me , thanksgiving means pumpkin pie and apple pie but both were no off limits. I decided to make chocolate cake , with Oreos for extra American. My host parents made an extra American meal - hamburgers - and I think it might become a new thanksgiving tradition for me. The school asked us to take a picture of our families celebration and I did (it's at the top of this post) but I ended up not sending it in thanks to my brother's sense of humor... It was a day full of new ways of celebrating. Different , but equally as nice. 


29 November 2015


It's been about two weeks since the Paris attacks so I wanted  to share my thoughts, especially those of an American in France during these past weeks. So many people have asked me what it's been like recently, if I've been okay, what I think... My past two posts have briefly touched on the attacks - it's hard not to - but I wanted to write about them a bit more in depth.

My night on 13 November began extremely normally - after coming home from school I hung out, tired from the long week. My host brother declared my bed mo comfy than his and commandeered it, along with my iPad to watch a movie. Somewhere along the way, my shelf was ripped off the wall and said brother got in big trouble with parents. My little brother and host parents watched a soccer match after dinner. Everything was extremely normal, until it wasn't. 

I emerged from my room just as people in Paris were realizing their city was under attack but hours away in my town of Rennes, people were still a bit more naive. My little brother had heard the explosions during the soccer match but like many others he dismissed it as fireworks. A few minutes after the end of the match, the end of the movie, my whole family watched with wide eyes as news casters began trying to figure out what was happening. Not even they knew what was up yet. 

Immediately,sent my parents text messages telling them I was safe. They hadn't yet heard that something was wrong, but my French friends had. My phone buzzed constantly as the SYA class of 2016 group chat tried to make sure everyone was safe. Independent travel had begun and Paris was a popular choice that weekend - I think there were six different groups of my classmates in the city during the attacks.

Not all of my classmates responded quickly and immediately horrible fears came to mind. I watched as my host family suffered the same anxiety - listing their family and friends in Paris and attempting to contact them. There is a special type of fear reserved for moments like this - knowing something is horribly wrong yet being unable to protect those involved, especially your loved ones. 

In between checking and sending messages, we watched the news. Details, numbers, locations, names, speeches. Like everyone watching, the media tried to figure out what was happening. I watched as the numbers of deaths, attacks went up - the raw numbers were what scared me the most. They're supposedly detached, scientific, easier to digest but I couldn't keep myself from imagining the families, the friends, the tears that each of those deaths represented. 

I was terrified that some one near me would be amongst the victims from the moment that I heard about the attacks until the moment my last classmate responded, until I knew that my host families friends and family were safe. I was lucky. I didn't lose anyone personally. I was exempt from the grief of losing someone close to me and I feel with all my heart for those that did. I can't even begin to imagine the pain they're suffering, I can't comprehend it.

I was so so tired that Friday night, but I stayed up until 3 am anyway. My family didn't sleep either. We watched President Obama's speech with French subtitles, then President Hollande's. We shared tense safe silence on the white couches as the faces on the TV tried to make sense of the events, tried to give us facts. 

I didn't lose anyone personally but that is not to say I didn't feel for the loss of life.. I felt like a hypocrite at first. I didn't lose anyone, so why was I so sad, worried, affected by the events? Now, I realize that my pain came from trying to wrap my head around the attacks The realization that there are people that will indiscriminately kill innocent people is a painful, horrific experience. People have suggested to me that the attacks will be a key memory for me and my generation, and I have no doubt that they're right. There have been horrific things that happened before and they struck me, but the Paris attacks were the first that I thought about, that felt this close to my life. 

My host brothers closest friends left the bar just half an hour before terrorists arrived and began shooting. I had classmates who were just 500m away from other shooters. Even before knowing who was behind the attacks, knowing that there were people who were capable of dreaming up such horrors...that was my pain. I can't understand what would drive a living thinking being to even consider such attacks. 

This all being said, I think the most striking thing I saw in these attacks was not the violence but the power of humanity. Not only the individuals left behind by the murdered, but the entire county, the world...so many people refused to cower in the face of senseless terrorism. The horrors are meant to scare people into ruining their lives and living in fear. I think standing together and continuing life as before is the best way to fight terrorism, and so many people did so after the 13 November attacks. I hope that the unity and strength continues and that the terrorists fail in their mission of ruining even more innocent lives, but I think it's up to us. We can't let them get to us. 

*Thank you so much to everyone who checked in with me after the attacks, it meant so much that you wanted to know that I was safe. To those who lost loved ones - my thoughts are with you. xoxolu


24 November 2015

snippet//no. 1

I began this blog mainly to share - photos, news, entertainment, thoughts, me - with those that cared to read about it. Setting up the website, I knew I would likely look back on the blog at the end of the year and realize it had become a journal of my adventures. I was counting on it -  Chronicles of a Small Life was meant to become the summary of my experiences in France. However, I wasn't counting on loving it so much and beginning to rely on blogging as a form of expression.

More recently, I've realized it's not just a vehicle to share my thoughts. A former French teacher wrote me after the Paris attacks, just checking in. Tucked in her email was something that struck me - she was looking forward to reading my reflections on my blog. I realized that my blog had become a tool for discovering my thoughts and processing them, not just sharing them.

That all being said, recent events in Paris have made me want to write. So much happened, and even a week later I haven't yet been able to sort it all out. I've already heard people say that 13 November is going to become my generation's 9/11 - it is the most horrific event we are conscious of - or that it will mark the start of World War 3. I'm not quite sure what to think quite yet, but I'm going to try to figure it out...and then share my experiences with you.

16 November 2015

*a day in the life*

Everyone says that moving across the world creates huge changes in your life but I think they're sort of missing the point. The airplane ride, the thousands of miles, the new continent , country , city ... They didn't change my life as much as the little things. The biggest difference comes from the conglomeration of tiny everyday things and please trust me when I say these infinite minute pieces create an incredible bigger picture. 

Back home in the United States life followed the same rough frame work every day. Here in Rennes, each day of the weeks has its whole own set of times. Three days a week I wake up at 6h45 but the other two school days I don't have to get out of my perfectly dented bed until an hour later. Each morning, I wake up to the gentle humming of the coffeemaker as my family gets ready to head off to work and school.

 My little host brothers schedule doesn't always match mine, but when it does we grab Nutella and brioche tartines (my job) and orange juice (his) together and then catch the bus then metro to school together. The French play pop music in the busses but everyone, including me, listens to their own music via headphones. Sometimes on the way to school, I stop to grab coffee. I firmly believe that there is a direct correlation between coffee needed and time spent at school...

Mr. Brochu, the school director, generally greets everyone from his office right inside the doors to school. I think I'm not alone in starting off the school day sleepily, but classes seem to wake everyone up. Of course, by the time lunch rolls around we're all starving and ready to bolt to the nearby school cafeterias to eat with our friends. We may be studying art history and politis in Rennes but I think certain things (cough cough teenage hunger) are inescapable facts at any school. 

At this point, two things are missing from a truthful account of a typical school day - Carrefour and my classmates. Our school is magically located just two minutes from a supermarket, bakery and a few restaurants. Carrefour, the supermarket, supplies us students with endless supplies of Pringles, Cracky Crepes and chocolate. The impromptu picnics that spring from all the easily accessible food sustains us. Not just in the I'm-hungry way but also in the mysterious was that food draws people together. During free periods, I often find myself sitting in the common room, nibbling and discussing anything and everything with my classmates. My classmates and I do not only share a school - we share an entire year of adventures. I see the better part of my class most everyday and they're a very important part of life here. I have my close friends who are immensely important, but as was recently pointed out "all 70 of us are family now." As cheesy at it may sound, the people here are a crucial part of daily life.

Classes end super late three times a week, and super early twice a week. Regardless of the time (now that it is approaching winter, I arrive and depart from school in the dark) I am likely to do something with my friends after school, even if we just grab a hot chocolate and cookie at  Haricot Rouge. We work hard but it's pretty safe to say we play hard too. It's pretty hard not to with a whole new city to explore, new stores to window shop in and new foods to try. Being in Rennes has been a constant adventure and exploring has become a part of daily life. 

Every single one of my adventures ends with a short time of simple sitting and thinking, thanks to my half hour bus ride home. Especially when returning from a long school day, I really don't mind the commute time. I quite enjoy having some time to just relax before going home to my homework and host family. 

The French don't seem to believe in homework, seeing as my little brother has zero homework ever, and I think it's due to their long school days. Since SYA retains certain elements of American school I do have homework most nights, but far far less than in the US. I'm certainly not complaining! I'm usually nearly done with my homework when we're all called to dinner - "Les enfants, à table!" Dinner with my family is always fun... For example, today my oldest host brother patiently waited for me to prepare my piece of bread and butter and then unapologetically stole it. This isn't to say that he's evil, simply that I was very quickly adopted into be family. It's been pretty incredible.

After dinner, everyone avoids doing the dishes together. Then we hang around in the kitchen and drink mini coffees with exactly one sugar cube. This half hour or so of basically just chilling with the older part of my family is maybe one of my favorite things to do with them, other than fighting for seats on the couches while watching no-one-cares-what sports on the television.

I personally adore sleep (I think I'm not alone in thinking that) so when I'm ready to go to bed I say good night to everyone in the family in accordance with French customs - with a bisou. In all honesty I had trouble getting used to it at first, but now I've become quite fond of the greeting-goodbye. Sometimes I head off to my room and check in with friends back home or finish up homework but I'm usually too tired to do anything other than tuck myself in and close my eyes. My room is right off the kitchen so I often fall asleep to murmurs of conversation, then wake up the next morning for another day of adventuring. 

*Post script: I wrote this blog post ahead of time, before 13 November. I wanted to capture the feel of a typical day for me as a student at SYA Rennes and I hope I succeeded. However, I waited until the last minute to send it in. Everything was written except for this last bit, because I was waiting to see how the Paris attacks change the everyday here in Rennes. 

The tragedy was shocking and immense, and as I stayed up until three am on Friday watching the news I could see how it was touching my host family. Their fear while waiting for family members and friends to return their calls was palpable. 

The effects lingered in the aftermath. My big brother remembered to grab his ID before leaving the house, knowing that there would be police everywhere. On the bus, I overheard tired and weary responses to the otherwise typical question  "Ça va?" Life changed, in teeny yet visible ways. In discussions we try to understand what happen and what is going to happen. 

I was lucky - my life was seemingly kept safe from the terror - but even so fear is everywhere. I knew some people's lives have changed forever and my heart aches for them. However, I hope that the lasting effects of this trauma will be one of transformation, unity and support. I think that living our lives in fear is the same as letting the terrorists win. I firmly believe that if the "average citizen" refuses to let fear ruin their lives and turns the terror into a reason to stand together, the power that terrorists try to while will be lost. 

At 12 today, there was a national minute of silence. I spent it with the students at a nearby school that shares its cafeteria with us. The pain was palpable, but so was the unity. 

13 November 2015

Travel's Gifts to Me // English Class

  Few people are lucky enough to have flown thousands of miles in before their first birthday but I was born into a charmed existence and became a worldwide traveler even before I was born. Ever since then, I've been lucky enough to spend at least a month each year away from home but I've only recently realized how much I've taken my adventures for granted. Most of the time I revisit the same places and at this point they've I've become far too passive - even a place with the familiarity of a second home is worth keeping my eyes open for but I'm only now realizing this. 

I am almost three months into my year abroad - my greatest adventure yet - and I worry that I'll allow myself to fall into the same trap again. It took me some time and a very odd situation to even acknowledge this possibility : I've never been fond of surprises and I think I'm not alone when I say I hate making mistakes but I've found that my new home is full of opportunities for both. My most rewarding experience so far was a combination of the two - missing the bus and then realizing the sensation wasn't all that unpleasant.

An odd sort of entrapment occurred when you miss your bus. You can't go anywhere but at the same time you have nothing to do because you were all prepared and planning to do something else. I found myself sitting on a bench for fifteen minutes with nothing to do other than think about my new life, family and friends. Certainly not the most comfortable, of experiences but certainly enriching. I thought about the characters in my daily life and the strength and speed of the bonds I have already formed surprised me yet again and then made me think about how much I'm missing out on in my former life. But for me, the most bizarre part of the experience were the minutes I spent thinking about myself. Self centered, I know, but as I tried to compare current me to pre-travel me I realized some surprising things about myself.

I've always been intrigued by how other people would describe me, simply out of curiosity, but I've come to accept that I'll probably never know. I do however know how they interact with me directly. My empty time at the bus stop gave me time to compare my friendships in the US to those here and it made me realize where I've changed and where I've stayed the same. Some things are superficial, like my new found ability to wear something other than pajamas when I get dressed in the morning, but others scared me a bit. I realized that elements of my character - me, myself and I - had changed. Leaving "home" caused the changes and then gave me the perception to see them. In all honesty, it was a bit frightening.

04 November 2015

thoughts//missing the bus

(^this place exists and I got to go...st malo is a gorgeous walled city just an hour away from where I live...and yes I know it's unrelated)

A little over two months, 64 days... When I look at it in just numbers it doesn't seem like much but in terms of memories it feels infinite. I know I've said it before, but I am still stuck in a bit of an in between situation - my time in Rennes feels very long short. I've certainly adapted quite a bit to my new home and though you'd never find me in public transportation at home the bus has become a habit here...but not quite a mastered art yet. I don't exactly have hope that I'll ever get it perfect since my brother hasn't done it yet, and he's lived here all his life, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't like to try. 

I'm writing this on my phone at a bus stop, so as you can guess I'm waiting. This time it's because I arrived a few minutes before the bus was scheduled to but sometimes I find myself waiting at the bus for a less glamorous reason - I missed the bus I meant to get on.
The first time it happened I almost cried...the first day of school, the first time that I had to get myself somewhere, my first chance to prove myself capable of living in Rennes and I had failed. I clung to a few desperate shreds of hope as I ran flat out towards the 72 bus , then watched it let out a gentle "pshh" and roll away. A few heavy footfalls and I was back to walking, then just standing staring at the stop, checking the schedule for the next bus. I called the director and (almost crying) told him I'd be late. I made it to school only a few minutes late to first class, but I was not even a little happy to have it happen. To be honest, I thought about giving up right then. 

I took a few more missed busses and disappointment but I eventually realized that perhaps I was looking at the situation in the wrong light. Maybe missing my bus was more positive than negative... With the exception of weekends, my bus comes frequently enough that missing it means only a few minutes of tardiness, less if I've scheduled in extra time. In the grand scheme of things, being a few minutes late to lunch or class or a study sesh really doesn't matter. 

Even more importantly, the few minutes that I lose on one end translate into something beautiful on the other end. About a month into the school year I found myself sitting at a bus stop, waiting for the next bus to arrive when I realized that I was letting my mind wander. I had ten minutes to spend on whatever I wanted, without anything else scheduled in its place or demanding my attention. I realized how insanely busy I'd been and how comparatively calm and precious these few minutes at the bus stop were. I have no plans of deliberately missing my bus anytime soon but I now see the rare occasions as an unexpected gift of time- time to just think about anything, everything or nothing.

People say that you do all your best thinking in the shower but I would argue that the bus stop is an even better place - there is no risk of getting shampoo in your eyes. 


03 November 2015

welcome to the fam//superquick

Hello again! This is going to be yet another teeny post (school has started again and life is crazy) but I have to share... I haven't talked much about my host family but they are an absolutely key part of my experience. I knew from my first day in my new home that they were adopting me as one of their own - mainly because my two brothers immediately began messing with me exactly like real siblings. I was also given free rein in the kitchen, which is huge for someone who loves food as much as me. I felt right at home when I got stuck in Rennes and my big brother came to pick me up in under ten minutes with absolutely zero complaints and each time a family member invited me to come along on some adventure with them. Throughout these past two months I have truly been welcomed into the family ... But tonight I way reminded of exactly how much so. 
Let me first say that you should never, NEVER let your brothers draw all over your back with pen. Of course, this sounds fairly straightforward, but there's more. I got a fantastic ball point tattoo right before dinner (courtesy of two fantastic in house artists) and in the hopes of not holding up the meal decided to stub it off later. After dinner, there was a soccer game. I didn't have any homework so I decided to join my brothers in watching Paris v. Madrid, from start to finish of course. In those ninety three minutes (overtime!) some thing magical occurred...the seemingly harmless blue pen ink turned into a transfer tattoo...and it transferred in all its magnificence right into the beautiful white leather couch I was snuggled into. After the game ended, everyone got up and I just happened to glance down and notice the massive bright blue stain on the formerly pristine couch. 
I wanted to melt into the floor and never wake up, but of course that was not an option. 
My ever helpful brothers laughed as I pointed it out to the parents and I watched with absolute terror as the stain refused to come out. Four products later, bunches of scrubbing and an unhealthy dose of stress later the couch returned to white. In the time it took to clean up the mess I mentally prepared myself to fly back home and call this year abroad a failure. The mere fact that I am still alive makes me think that my host family is truly magnificent, but the fact that they laughed and teased and somehow made me feel less guilty in the process made me realize just how special they are. I've been welcomed into other people's homes and even families before, but this French adoption truly astounded me. By no means were any of my family members required to take me in and accept me as one of their own, but they did wholeheartedly. I still can't quite believe my luck. 
That is all for tonight, I hope I was able to provide some laughs but also some appreciation for fantastic humans (all of them!). Night night, xoxo lu. 

26 October 2015

last three

This isn't going to be a very long or interesting post, but I just wanted to quickly explain the last few posts. I was afraid I'd forget to upload pictures so I uploaded just the pictures...and left the explaining for later. As I've shared before, I am currently enjoying a two week long break from school - Toussaint break - but before being turned loose my class mates and I enjoyed a three day long school trip. All seventy of us, plus our teachers, headed off to the Loire Valley to visit chateaus. Chateaus equal castles, really really cool French castles. I enjoyed the trip quite a bit, and thanks to my host brother's reminder my camera was charged... There were so many things I wanted to photograph (I ended up with 1000 from just three days) but in the end I narrowed it down, and put them into three categories...in the last three posts. We visited chateaus but also their gardens, which provided excellent photo opportunities... I hope you enjoy the photos as much as I enjoyed the trip! Until next time, xoxo lu.

18 October 2015

*one month*

Hello again, I'm back! As I shared before, I now get to blog for two platforms - this one (allllllll mine) and SYA's.... The prompt for the first month was "one month" (surprise, surprise) and I just sent in my submission - and wanted to share it with this blog as well. In the future, the posts that are for SYA will have their titles in between two asterisks (*title*) so you can tell wthem apart. I will also post the link to the other SYA campus bloggers as soon as it is posted... I hope you enjoy it!

One Month
I honestly can't wrap my head around the fact that I've already been in Rennes for a little more than a month, yet here I am trying to write a blog post about it. When I began thinking about the prompt, I realized that I'm stuck in a strange limbo - on one hand it feels as though I was in the US yesterday but on the other I feel as though I've been in Rennes forever. 
I keep waiting to wake up from this dream and go straight back to my every day routine, where school ends at 3:30 and my friends have know each other since before Pre-K. But then I remember the incredible situation I've landed in... Even though school here ends at 18h00 (that's 6 pm, a la française) I've already adjusted to the schedule - trust me I have no complaints about Wednesday and Friday half-days. I never thought it would happen, but Ive even found myself memorizing the bus schedule for my line - ligne 72 - and making it to the stop on time every day. 
The people I've met here are incredible, too. Just a few days ago my friends started to tell a story and then stopped when she realized we wouldn't understand the context - we hadn't been with her in her pre-SYA life when part one of the story took place. She then explained it all, and everyone ended up laughing, but for me the whole thing emphasized how quickly I was able to connect with my amazing new class mates. 
Other people, like my rowing team-mates and my host brothers, have been no different. Yesterday, at a discussion group at the Franco American Institute (if you're ever in Rennes, I highly recommend checking it out) my classmates and I exchanged stories with French kids our ages. The language obstacle certainly existed, but it disappeared when we all laughed about getting pushed off the metro at a stop or almost being late to school due to being trapped on the metro by a rainy day induced crowd. 
I really do think that my struggles to speak French have begun paying off, and language isn't the only thing that gotten easier - I feel like I've adjusted pretty well to Rennais life. I really do think that the entire class of 2016 has a metamorphosis of sorts - were certainly not the same scared kids that met for the first time in the Boston airport. We've all had crazy adjustment experiences, and it certainly hasn't always been easy, but in the end it all ends up beings either a learning experience or a funny story to tell to people back home, or both. Just in the first month, there have already been so many incredible thing that I can't not be super excited for the rest of the year. I'm about to head off on a trip to the Loire valley with all my classmates, which promises to be the next on my list of incredible French experiences...I can't wait to write about them all. Until next time, xoxolu. 


15 October 2015

Mont Saint Michel

Apologies for the lack of posts....contrary to what I'd hoped, school here is just as intense as ever. On the upside, this past week has only been crazy because our teachers are trying to finish everything up before setting us free for our two week (!!!!) toussaint vacation! 

I have a more thoughtful post coming soon (writing it for the SYA blog!) but in the mean time I wanted to share a few quick pictures from this past weekend. Our whole class and some of our host siblings went to Mont Saint Michel to cross the bay, which was an incredible experience. 

We were lucky and got good weather (in the past it's been compared to the apocalypse...) so the six mile march through mud, quicksand and water was actually quite fun... the fact that it was a massive group of friends made the clay in between our toes and on our faces even funnier. I'm sorry about the photo quality but I was to scared to take my real camera after hearing all of the horror stories, so I resorted to my iPhone and a plastic bag :)

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