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. 

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