25 September 2015

Transcontinental Communication

My first major linguistic mistake happened before I even boarded the plane to France. Certain words appear similar in French and English but the translations differ greatly, sometimes catastrophically. My French teacher calls them "false friends" and despite multiple  revisions I managed to use one of the most common in the first line of my host family letter.
Thankfully, even after reading that "I was so aroused to being headed to France!" my family agreed to keep me. I showed my mistake to my brother after arriving in French and made sure he knew I meant excited and happy. He cracked a knowing, mocking half-smile. My mistake was common enough to be understood but my year wasn't off to the best start. 
My French language struggles did not cease upon arriving in the Charles de Gaulle airport, despite all my wishing. Standing at the front on a long line while a barista impatiently demands you place an order became my definition of true fear. No amount of classroom French could have prepared me for the reality of life in Rennes. Three weeks into the whole experience I finally ordered breakfast fearlessly but I still ended up with a bitter espresso  that morning, after failing to communicate my preference for candy flavored coffee. Another time, I meant to ask for no whipped cream but ended up instead with an extra, separate serving of whipped cream and a bit of judgement towards my "gourmand" tastes. My progress seemed slow, to say the least. 
Crew practice really put the language barrier into perspective. I knew I wanted to continue practicing my sport so with some help I found the local team. Sure, ordering food was exciting but when I walked into the boathouse I entered a whole new realm of French. My sport requires an assortment of arcane words, like coxswain and wayenough, for daily practice. In Rennes, the sport is exactly the same. The vocabulary, not so much. The first day of practice I listened so intently, just trying to understand, that one of my future teammates assumed I didn't speak French. Only when she began bad mouthing me to her friend, who gently pointed out I could probably understand, did I know what the conversation was about. Learning <<tribord>> for "starboard" and <<√©quilibre>> for "set" in the boat made me realize that even just combining my teammates scant English combined with my basic French somehow kept us from completely crashing the boat. Hand motions and round about explanations played a huge role, and though far from eloquent by the end of practice the whole boat seemed to be working as a team, despite the language barrier. Though a very small accomplishment, being able to communicate by the end of the hour long practice gave me great hope. 
I would have liked to think none of these mistakes were my fault, that the airplane sucked fifty points from my IQ or maybe I just wasn't speaking loudly enough. Of course, none of this was the case. I know that every misunderstanding directly correlated to a mistake on my part. Any laughs I might have cause my host brothers were far from intentional, being instead usually derived from accidental inappropriate questions or statements that seem to be a part of being a teenager abroad. Silence  seemed preferable - until  my host brothers began asking if the cat had taken my tongue. Communication is far from easy. 


24 September 2015

ma vie quotidienne // procrastination

(macarons, my second favorite form of procrastination...after blogging :) the two are, however, far from mutually exclusive)

***Disclaimer : sleepiness is a very real emotion at the time of writing, so this might end up in a but of a different....style (?)....than other posts***

I really should be either sleeping or writing an English paper but seeing as I have too little motivation to do either of those I wanted to share a few mundane facts about daily life here in Rennes. Feel free to ignore this if you have no interest but I'm hoping to procrastinate + get some creative ideas flowing for my upcoming editing sesh...

Upon arriving in Rennes I realized how far my house was from school...about forty minutes by public transport (more about that later) an a seemingly ungodly seven o'clock am. When I get off at the last metro stop, only one cafe is open...its quickly become a favorite place. 

Fortunately for me, I managed to get one of the best possible schedules at school. Unlike some of my classmates, I am not required to be at school from 8 am to 6pm a single day all week...well until our schedules change. Even so, 8-5 or 9-6 is quite a long work day... But I have at least one free period each day. 

This is where the French way of doing things gets magical. Yes, the days are insanely long (dont forget sports and homework after) but only three times a week... On Wednesday no one has classes after lunch, and I only have one in the morning. Fridays, there are only two classes after lunch so student begin their weekend mid-afternoon.

Lunch is another beautiful thing... Lunch here only exists after 12 but it's a little more than an hour long. For all of you highschoolers back home, this is wher you should start to feel extremely jealous. My weekly schedule is awesome. 

I don't write all of this just to give people at home a sense of my life, although it's perhaps an entertaining side effect. Instead I hope to highlight one simple, over used but very true point. When I arrived, I hated the idea of a school that was open from eight in the morning until six at night. I almost demanded a return flight to the USA when the director told us that in the winter it's dark both when we arrive and leave school. But then came the part where we have school for six weeks then two weeks vacation, all year long. As I settled into life (who am I kidding, it's only been three weeks...but then again saying that doesn't feel real) I began to realize how a different way of life could be superior. I think I realized I'd changed my mind when I found myself explaining why my schedule really wasn't that bad over Skype to friends back home. Whatever the reason, I've already grown fond of my new "emploi du temps" and I think I'll miss it when I return home in eight months. I knew I'd have to adapt to all sorts of  things when I arrived in France but a whole new type of school schedule didn't even cross my mind. Not that I had another choice, but I adapted and found I quite liked the new way. What a surprise :) Mostly unrelated, but I beleive worth sharing, my experience with Sunday night dinners. When I first realized that dinner on Sundays consists of toast and cereal I was horrified and began planning a personal pantry. By the time the next Sunday arrived I found myself looking forward to a meal of just bread, butter and <confiture de framboise> and even chose if over the pasta they offered. Today, it's what I ate as my lunch by choice. 

Not so surprising, but I'm already finding myself forming new habits and loving them. Not the most original of observations, but perhaps sharing nonetheless. Point being, France has definitely shocked me more than once but each time I'm reminded of the power of flexibility. That's all for tonight, good night. 

xoxo lu

P.S. Get excited, my English assignments will be appearing on the blog now because they're part of a super interesting course with super cool writing prompts..."the geography of identity" is part of the course title, I mean how much better could it get. 
P.P.S. Fun fact, "Leaving Home" (http://www.chroniclesofasmalllife.com/2015/09/silent-mostly-ignored.html) was actually rewritten for my first English assignment. The next one will be up sometime tomorrow!!

23 September 2015

school // just a way to get closer to crepes....

^ Place Hoche...asleep when I pass through in the mornings but quite vivid on the way home

I haven't been able to blog very much about daily life here mostly because I feel like I'm always doing something new and more exciting than blogging... Life is still far from "normal" but I'm beginning to adopt a routine of sorts. My school sits in the middle of old Rennes so there are plenty of boulangeries and patisseries all around and they've become a bit of a habit...oops. School ends at 6 pm some days, so of course we're all famished and sometimes stop for a snack. Last week there was a particularly picturesque walk home, complete with crepes, so I snapped a few pictures to share...

^ a kind soul recommended Sanchez to me and called it life changing...

^ it was a bit too cold for their delicious looking ice cream so we saved that for another day...

^ i opted for a crepe de caramel beurre sal√©e - caramel made with salt butter, a Breton specialty 

^ maria went with an extremely photogenic gaufre (waffle) with speculoos...think the delta airplane cookies in butter format

The crepe and the gaufre were both absolutely delicious, even if we made a total mess of ourselves while enjoying them. 

Goal for the year : learn to eat a sweet crepe without emerging covered in Nutella.

...btw (for those of you in Rennes) the guy who makes the crepes is super cute...

** p.s. pro tip for all readers = crepes and French pastries are scientifically proven to make all homework and studing easier...or at least more fun**



21 September 2015

a weekend in bretagne

The field trips are incredible when you decide to spend your whole school year in France...we spent three days touring Brittany (or Bretagne) and saw an incredible amount of wonderful things. Here are a few that I managed to photograph...

A "enclos a oiseaux" in northern Brittany...

Even the doors are dramatic.

Absolutely stunning...second enclos we visited.

Che's photography in Kemper...

A patisserie...more creds to Che for capturing this deliciousness.

My lunch in Kemper... "Moules Frites" 

The Cathedral in Kemper was incredible...and absolutely huge.

A church on the way to our hike on Saturday.

The only "mountain" in Brittany becomes "la lande" (heathland) at the top, and it's gorgeous.  

The valley as seen from Menez Hom.

Farms going right up to the ocean, one hundred percent picture perfect.

A typical mountain top picture of my class mates...

The Atlantic.

Entering Douarnenez, where our hotel for the weekend was.

On the way back to Rennes we stopped at Carnac...

Thousands of rocks, organized in rows by Neolithic people... an immense amount of effort at the very least.

                        ...a great weekend with great people, getting to know our  new home-region...


interlude // thinking of home

I just stumbled upon a whole bunch of pictures I took this summer while babysitting and wanted to share... These were originally meant for a summertime post about a great day spent at the river with Al but I guess they're better late than never.  I'm currently sifting through the bagillion photos from this past weekend's trip here in France but I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss a few things about home. It's crazy how long ago that all already feels but these pictures from a great day at Pony Pasture help bring back some RVA memories... Enjoy, the more recent pics will appear soon!

P.S. Happy birthday to my only birth Momma...

12 September 2015

leaving home

The start of my adventure seemed silent, mostly ignored.  

I pretended I wasn't leaving on the morning of the fourth. I woke up in Richmond, Va and the thought fleetingly crossed my mind that it would be my last time doing so for quite a long time. I quickly pushed it away, threw my bags in the car with about as much interest as a school pack, and drove my sisters to school. 

Walking to Thursday morning advisory I ran into a friend, hugged, chatted and said "see you later." We both ignored my upcoming departure and I continued walking up the stairs. Only minor differences, like the lack of a dress code applicable to me, betrayed the fact that I was not an ordinary St. Catherine's student that morning. 

My best friend started crying at the end of advisory, not in the loud heaving way but just some extra tears and flushed cheeks. I gave her a huge hug and walked to class with her but I didn't cry. I said goodbye and walked off with another girl without too much thought. I was still ignoring reality.

I walked home and repacked my bags. My grandma asked why I would talk all my clothes out of the suitcase at the last minute and I replied that I still had plenty of time. 

My mom came to pick me up and we drove to the airport, then flew to Boston. We arrived at the hotel where she'd stay that night and happened to meet the Director of the program in the lobby. Departing for France still seemed a distant thought, not entirely certain. Going through the security line at the airport, laden with bags, I realized I was leaving on an adventure without my mother. Even so, it felt more like heading off for a weekend with a cousin than the beginning of an exceptional year. 

Just beyond the metal detectors teenagers sporting matching name tags crowded together, conversations blurring together loudly. Deciding whether they were old friends or just nervous could have posed some difficulty, but I knew these were my future class mates. We headed off in groups for a last American meal and slowly began to get to know each other. 

We were loud and obnoxious, but not too different from the rest of the people in the Boston airport with us. On the plane we all located our seats and then slept, fitfully. I woke up to a french stewardess announcing breakfast, but an english version of the message followed. We were all very much still within our comfort zones. 

As we exited the plane the huge group reformed, a cloud of American teenagers working it's way through the customs lines. We followed the lead of those in front of us and arrived at the baggage claim. It was then that I began to realize I was no longer at home.

The mass of teenagers collecting mountains of luggage stood out. Not only were we many and very loud, we spoke a different language amongst ourselves. The signs, announcements and other travelers all were in french: we spoke english and nervous laughter. 

On the bus ride I slept. I woke up for lunch and noticed the french signage all around me. We worked our way north to Rennes to meet our host family. There was an odd feeling of being a lost puppy as I stood in a crowd waiting for my family to appear. An odd mixture of french and english surrounded me as people tried to find each other in the narrow alley in front of my new school. 

I got in the car, rode home and became quiet. I adapted by listening and watching, following the schedule of those around me. I rode the metro with my host mom and just looked around me, or out the window on the bus. I walked to school quietly, observing the streets. I failed to think about the changes as they occurred and instead was struck at odd times by overwhelming surprise. 

Riding alone on the bus for the first time an odd isolation made me consider where I was. Everyone around me spoke a language different from the one I was so accustomed to living in.
Emerging from the metro to gorgeous buildings, cobbled streets and dormant cafes struck me again. Traffic circles instead of stop lights at intersections. Arriving home from orientation, exhausted from silent translation all day reminded me again of the adventures ahead. 

The whole time incredible things were happening, and I slowly emerged from my protective stance of listen and watch. I told a story at dinner and forgot that it took me three times as long as it would have taken my host brother. I asked a french student in the cafeteria line behind me what was for dessert and understood easily when he replied. I went out for an afternoon of adventuring and ordered macarons without misunderstandings. A week later I am still far from native, but I think I've begun to settle in.


a week of photos // yes, delayed

Rennes' older buildings look like this... they're all around me when I get off the metro every morning to walk to school. 

School is more than okay when wandering around a city counts as a legitimate assignment....

Rennes contains so many beautiful and interesting buildings, everywhere I go there are more to see. I hope to capture many more throughout the year.

Maria and I ate lunch at Creperie St. George... so tasty, with awesome decor.

My morning walk to the bus...I'll take a better photo when I'm not running late, oops.

Even just a road can be gorgeous and exciting...but it's all better with new friends. 

And of course snacks.... There are so many magical cafes and patisseries to visit here in Rennes and I can't wait to explore them in the coming nine months. 


07 September 2015

in hopes of amusement // learning curve

^Quality pre-school moka in funky cafe lighting...the pain au chocolate was so good I ate it before I thought to take a picture...

Of course, being in a new country isn't easy... I know I have tons more to learn about French culture but I've already had a few major learning experiences. I thought I'd share them with you so that perhaps you can learn and laugh along with my beginner mistakes!

Firstly, the French don't hug. Everyone knows this already probably...but I forgot the customary double kiss on the first day. So of course my host brothers hug exaggeratedly now (sometimes) to poke fun.

Secondly, they use bowls to drink their coffee. This I already knew, but (it may just be my family) when I asked for a bowl to eat my cereal with milk then looked concerned... Apparently they eat it straight out of the bow except : 

Thirdly... They don't eat a full dinner on Sunday! I was so confused, but I actually enjoy the idea quite a bit. There was cereal with milk in bowls, as well as toast and butter and jam...or "tartines". It was quite tasty and I look forward to next Sunday evening, although I will be sure not to repeat my mistake of only eating a small salad for lunch.

Last point. Yesterday was my first day riding the bus to school on my own... Major learning curve opportunity. I forgot that even when stops are super close to each other, busses only stop at certain stops. This means you should always always check if the number bus you want stops there. Needless to say, I forgot. To make a very scary nerve wracking experience into a short story, I was late to my math placement test... Thankfully for the excellent public transport system here I was only ten minutes late but I promise I won't make the same mistake again!

That is all for now, although I know there's bound to be more similar experiences to come...and of course I'll share them! I apologize for the time between posts but there is just so much to see and do! Blog more soon. Xoxo lu.

06 September 2015

a list of thoughts // Rennes so far

*i apparently have been wanting to be french more than I realize : they eat cereal without bowls, just like I always wanted to do, and they have desert after every meal

*cheese and baguettes with dinner are better than everything and anything 
*the smell of a bakery is basically heaven 

*galette for savory, crepe for sweet --- galette au saucisson are awesome

*being in a new country turns me into a new person --- I watch and listen and say very little  

*there is literally no way to escape learning when you're abroad 

*french aren't really like their stereotype (baguettes and little hats) but Americans are (Netflix and fast food)

*my host family is awesome because they let me walk around with a blanket cape without judging, then joined in 

*the weather is very indecisive here and currently v cold but only inside 

*you're not actually awake until you've given everyone in the house "un bisou" 

*drinking coffee out of a bowl with breakfast (and in a little cup after every meal) is my new fav thing

There are already so many new things I'm learning and adapting...I can't wait to encounter more. School starts tomorrow with orientation activities and I think it's going to be excelent. Now I'm headed out on a bike ride with Isabelle, my host mom! 


04 September 2015

it's actually happening

I am writing this from my room in my host family's house! I can barely wrap my head around it but after a seeming eternity of travel I've arrived safe and sound. I'm horribly sleep deprived and need all the brain power I can get to function in a foreign language but I just wanted to share this quick blurb before I recharge.  I already adore the new people and my home for the next nine months and I can't wait to write all about it...later. Bon soir! 

02 September 2015

last night home

(All three Vosmik girls...an old photo by Delaney Adams)

Currently I'm curled up on top of my bed, and as I assumed this position I realized it would be the last time for a long time. I won't get to spend the night in my perfectly comfy bed in my room in my house in my city on my continent for another nine months. Instead, I'll be spending my nights halfway across the globe...

(Little Al's photography from my going away party)

Tomorrow morning I say goodbye to my home of sixteen years and begin the greatest adventure of my life. I'm hugely excited for what the future holds but this post is definitely a bit bittersweet to write. 

(Snack at Lift Coffeeshop today with C)

So much will change in the next nine months and I know that when I do return to RVA it will become very apparent, which scares me a little.

(C photographing graffiti meets mural...something I'll miss about my town)

Living abroad for a school year will change my perspective on so many things and I can't wait to see where I end up come next June. 

(Trying on vintage clothes like a pro)

However, today C and I headed off on our last adventure (playing hookie, shh) and Sus went to her practice and I ate lunch with my friends at school and I realized that I'd be lying if I said I wouldn't miss my life here a little bit. 

(Record browsing at Steady Sounds)

However these are all minor facts in the overal picture. I've finally packed my suitcase and bought host family gifts. The whole thing has begun to feel real and I couldn't be more excited to embark on this next step in my life. I truly cannot wait. 

01 September 2015

NYC with Ju // intro to fred

I'm back :) 

Enjoy the brief photo summary of my weekend and I apologize for taking so long to post it!

My weekend in NYC was incredible. (Highline)

We joked about how it was basically a gastronomic tour of brooklyn...

That description honestly isn't too far off... 

There was so much incredible food, like these vegan donuts. 

Smorgasburg was magical...there was just so much good food everywhere. Plus it was a gorgeous day, perfect for eating outdoors. 

One of my favorite meals was at Dear Bushwick...the food was so good that I forgot to photograph but here is some of the spot on decor. 

An excellent coffee stop on my last morning...

When Julie headed to work I grabbed a macaron for breakfast and just started walking down the street with my new camera...

I took random pictures as we walked (a window near where I bought Fred the camera)

After a mile or so I ended up at MoMA. 

After checking out some photography exhibits I hung out in the garden...

Of course I had to visit the gift shop too...I picked up a solar powered light for future adventures. 

After saying goodbye to Julie I hopped on the metro, headed to Penn Station and took a train home. The whole weekend was awesome and there's so much that didn't even fit in this post... I had a great time and can't wait for more adventures to come. France is really happening, in a day and a half. I'm sure it'll prove to be one massive adventure so I'm pretty excited! I'll post about it all, of course :)

© Chronicles of a Small Life. All rights reserved.