Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Joyeux Noël !!

Joyeux Noël !!

It's unbelievable... it's already December!!  Four months have passed by too quickly.  I exactly remember last December when I had no idea about my host country.  And voila.  I am here in France, with a wonderful host family, with plenty of new friends and an incredibly widened vision of the country as I never imagined it to be.  Sometimes, I find that speaking in English is harder than French!


Christmas is not very different compared to Canada.  It's the time of getting together with family and friends, enjoying LOTS of food and chatting to catch up on news.  Usually at home in Canada, my family and I eat roasted turkey.  However here, we eat raw oysters (well I tried it but unsuccessfully...), smoked salmon, escargots (in shells this time), smelly cheese and lots of bread.  (At least that's how my host family prepares for Christmas dinner.) 


My host father is busy with his work so we stayed in Louhans and ate as a family of four (me, my host parents and host sister), but this Thursday, we are travelling to a village named Cambrai located in northern France  It's very close to the Belgian border as it is around 45 min drive away from the biggest city of the region called Lille.  (It's where Bonnie lives!  She was a French inbound of my Canadian district and I will see her too!)  Thus, I am SUPER excited to see a new area of France as I was told that people there speak with a different accent known as chti, houses are made out of red bricks and they have delicious (and fatty) fries sold at La Baraque à Frites.  I am one happy exchanger.


If I didn't get any presents this year, I wouldn't be disappointed at all because being here in France for me is more than enough.  To experience this unique culture with wonderful friends and host families is like having a year-long Christmas present.  Homesickness is far, far behind me (as it really never reached me from the first place anyways) and ahead of me is another exhilarating adventure.  Thanks everyone in Canada for their Christmas greetings!



À bientôt dans le nord!

Sari


ps: I was however lucky enough to get Christmas presents from my first and current host family, my friends here in France and my dear friend in Japan.  Thank you to all, and I love you all very much!  ♥  Merci à tous, je vous aime beaucoup! ♥


ps: Here are some photos!



My first handball match! (Next to me is my Mexican exchange friend!)


I got a tour of my host father's workplace at the Gendarme!




My friends and I at the town's theatre to watch our other friends act in a play


My lovely second host family!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Les Lumières ★

Even here in France, the month of December is very busy, as it is the month of Christmas and later, New Year's eve!  Last saturday evening was the Illumination de Louhans which is a community event held along La Grande Rue.  Remember way back when I explained on this blog that it's the ancient cobblestone street of Louhans with many boutiques and arches?

There were many stalls of the village's local clubs (including Rotary) that sold snacks, drinks and dinners, and live music playing.  Many people of Louhans came to the festival to eat and chat with friends and family - it was a very lively atmosphere!  It was especially beautiful in La Grande Rue because there were Christmas light decorations that hung across the street, building to building.  (As it is Europe after all, the streets are narrow!)

For the evening, I helped my Rotary Club of Louhans Bresse-Bourguignonne to sell choucroute (in English, also known as Sauerkraut) which originates from Alsacian cuisine.  (Alsace is a north-eastern region of France, along the borders of Germany.  It was a territory that was possessed by either France or Germany (it switched a lot) until WWII when France won control over it.)  The Rotary Club and I managed to sell to almost 200 plates of choucroute, and the profit went towards the club's finance for future activities.

Me standing in La Grande Rue

The President of the Rotary Club of Louhans Bresse-Bourguignonne, selling yummy choucroutes
He is also known to be a very great chef at a local French-Italian restaurant!
______________________________

On Sunday, I went to Lyon again with my host sister, a very generous Rotarian and his wife to see one of France's famous events of the year: Le Fête des Lumières

It's a festival that began back in 1852 to thank the Virgin Mary, who the lyonnais (people of Lyon) devoted to during the Middle-Ages.  The history of this unique celebration is fascinating:  It started on the 8th of September, 1852, when the city was going to place the statue of the Virgin Mary on the chapel of Fourvière.  However, the ceremony was postponed to the 8th of December, 1852, because the river that flows in Lyon (the Saône) overflowed and the worksite of the statue was therefore flooded.  Even when December 8th came around, it was rainy and the church authorities decided to cancel it again.  However at night, the rain stopped and thousands of the lyonnais were so thrilled that they lit lumignons (little candles) on their windowsills and balconies.  Thus, an annual celebration was born on the 8th of December. 

Now, famous buildings are also being illuminated, and the celebration attracts millions of visiters each year! 

My second host sister and I, and La Basilique de Notre-Dame de Fourvière behind us

Lots of locals and tourists in Vieux Lyon
La Place Bellecour: The Ferris Wheel and Statue of  Louis XIV
Known to be France's 3rd largest pedestrain square
Illuminated buildings at La place des Terreaux... breathtaking especially with animations and sound effects!
Cute Boules de Lumière that changed colours along with music playing!

The weekend was just absolutely fantastic, and I'll never forget it!
Le week-end était absolument fantastique, et je ne l'oublierai jamais!

Sari

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Time to Move On

I suppose the ultimate goal for any exchanger is to find a place where you can comfortably belong in your host country.  Once that place is found, an incredible feeling of success is felt because you realize that you accomplished to be part of your host family, your friends, the community, the culture... the country basically.  A week ago, I was there.  In that exact condition.  However just last weekend, a whole new pathway opened up for more adventure since it's that time of the year in the Rotary Youth Exchange program: changing host families.

Before I embarked on my exchange, I thought that changing host families would be a great deal.  Saying good bye to the people who took such good care of you, and then suddenly you're waking up inside a new house with your head screaming inside, where am I?!  This time, there is no young children in the house, always rumbling the house so cheerfully.  Instead, I have one 16 year old host sister who goes to the same lycée as me!  My neighbourhood is completely different.  In fact, I now live in a neighbourhood of gendarmeries - they are like policemen, but I will explain the difference below.  Also, customs of the new host family are slightly different, but not greatly. 

Despite that these changes took action within a single day, the transition was very smooth!  I miss living with my wonderful first host family who kindly helped me to settle in Louhans, but I am happy to also move on and so are they.  After all, living in different host families provide new experiences and broaden my view of family life in France.  Therefore I was more than confident to change host families and continue my exchange happily. 

Now I feel like I've fully integrated into my new host family already, and I am so glad to be with such a kind family again!

____________________

I find it so COOL (and frankly quite funny) how I live in my town's "safest neighbourhood" of gendarmeriesGendarmeries are similar to policiers (aka. police) since both occupations are assigned to protect citizens and maintain safety among civilian populations.  (Both gendarmeries and police exists in France.)  However the difference is that gendarmeries are part of the French army, while policiers are not.  My second host father is a gendarme and he explained to me that all gerndarmes of France only work in countryside villages and not in large cities, and it's obligatory for all of them to live in the same neighbourhood of their village.

Even the neighbourhood itself is unique.  The gendarmerie pays for the house and property fee of the gendarmes so they all live in either the same building like an apartment or identical houses.  On the other hand, the gendarmes are responsible for paying their own fees for electricity, heat etc.  Here in Louhans, they live in identical condominiums.  There is a protective fence that surrounds the entire place so it's a tranquil area.  My host father also explained that his work schedule is always different every week, and he must work whenever commanded.

What I found interesting is that gendarmes existed since the Late Medieval (approx 14th-16th century), and at that time, they were cavalryman who were born noble.  Even during the Ancien Régime (that caused the French Revolution), they existed but were named as the Maréchaussée.  Moreso, since the French Revolution in 1798, all single and child-less men aged 20 to 25 were liable to work in the French Army until Jacques Chirac (past president of France) abandoned the law in 1996... so not too long ago in my opinion!  (Thank you to my host father for sharing some history!)

_____________________

Yesterday, I went to a Rotary dinner night at a lovely French restaurant with my Rotary Club of Louhans Bresse-Bourguignonne.  It was special because the governer of our Rotary district (1750) named Chantal Lutz and her husband came to visit the club!

I was truly inspired by Mme. Lutz when she talked about the importance of keeping Rotary International active and passing it onto the next generation.  She emphasized that it's important to recruit more people - especially young people - to Rotary because right now, the average age of the Rotarians of France is somewhere between 60 to 70.  She shared her wisdom of how Rotary needs to expand to the new generation or else Rotary cannot sustain itself later.  Also she explained that Rotary is an incredible organisation consisted of hard-working volunteers all around the world who take action to improve the world, and it's continuance is crucially important... which I completely agree!

The most inspiring part of her speech was how she exclaimed about the Rotary symbol pins (which are worn by Rotarians during meetings) must not be taken off when the meeting is over.  Because... why should they?  They represent the international organisation itself, and it can be shown to the others who may not know about Rotary.  They represent world-wide teamwork; it's a symbol that's worn by many nations working towards the same goals!  Mme. Lutz explained that we must be proud to say that we're part of Rotary International even outside of our meetings.  Although it may take a lot of work to publicly share our goals and accomplishments, it will help Rotary to continue especially if the young generation becomes involved in it.

Anyways, I'm proud to be a part of an amazing organisation and feel very privileged to be in their youth exchange program.  From the very beginning, I already knew that my responsibility was to share about Rotary among my friends who are around my age, and even now, I am still continuing (in French indeed).  I don't want to sound too pompous, but I sincerely hope you, the reader, understand the importance of Rotary International, and how much it does for our world.  If don't know about it, I suggest you to take a look at it and join it!

Some Rotarians of the Rotary Club of Louhans Bresse-Bourguignonne and
District 1750 Governor Chantal Lutz standing right side of me.


This coming weekend will be another busy weekend, so expect another update soon!
Sari

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Lyon and 3rd Month


Bonjour tout le monde! (Hello everyone!)

After the month of November doing lots of difficult French homework, extra French grammar exercises PLUS keeping up with all of my activities, I have finally rewarded myself by going to Lyon today with my friends and their parents!

First, we went to the Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière which is known to be the symbol of the city as it sits noticeably on top of Fourvière hill.  The hike up to the Fourvière was quite an exercise as there was a long and steep stairway, but it was worth it!

The stairs of Montée des Chazeaux up to the Fourvière
The entire structure - Romanesque and Byzantine design and the gilded statue of Virgin Mary - was so impressive that I literally FROZE in front of the gigantic masterpiece.   Apparently, there was a shrine way back in 1170 (so over 800 years ago) dedicated to the Virgin Mary on the same hill, but the Fourvière replaced it and was consecrated in 1896 to fulfill the city council's vow to the Virgin Mary.   There were several vows made to the Virgin Mary that contributed to the construction of the Fourvière.  One of them was that if the city is protected by the Franco-Prussian War (1870), a basilique would be built, entirely dedicated to her. (Funny enough, the Prussians never reached to attack Lyon but the vow was fulfilled anyways.)
 
Front of the Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière
 
One of the many statues of the Virgin Mary of the Fourvière

Bottom floor of the Fourvière

Hill-top view of the city of Lyon

After the Fourvière, we visited the Théâtre Romain which was capable of seating about 10 000 spectators back in 1st century AD when there were musicals performed on stage! (I'm not sure if it can seat that many spectators now since there are only remains of the théâtre.)  We also went to the Musée Gallo-Romains which was really neat since we learned about the history of how the first people of Lyon, the Romans, have arrived and began to create the magnificent city.

 

Le Théâtre Romain (Roman Theatre)
Even more, we visited the Cathédrale St. Jean and Vieux Lyon.  It was so marvelous to walk down the narrow cobblestone streets because it felt like we were living in history.  Thanks to UNESCO (United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture) for listing Vieux Lyon and even the Fourvière as a World Heritage Site, the area is well protected and is preserving the antiquity of Lyon.

Cathédrale St. Jean
Vieux Lyon (Old Lyon)
This month has definitely been a busy month for me; especially the work at the lycée!  Some classes are extremely challenging like Français and Histoire et Geographie because of the complicated French terminologies and the rapidly speaking professeurs.  Now I realize how it feels like when you don't understand anything during class!  Hopeless!  Stupid!  Distressed!  I also realized that these feelings occur to any students across the world and not just foreign students.  Perhaps it's a lot more pressure for the regular students because students especially here in France face intense pressure since grades are after all, creators of their identities which allows them to compete for spots in universities and jobs.  (My lycée grades do not affect my Canadian grades, thank goodness!)

The third month is a weird month for an exchanger.  A really weird month... at least for me.  I believe that I have recently hit one of my toughest points of this exchange, which was how I felt like a failure at my host-language.  I kept thinking about how I've been here in France for three months already, and I still can't grasp the French language well.  Constantly, I've asked myself if I should be working harder or perhaps I need to find better ways to improve my French.  Sometimes, I felt ashamed and embarrassed when I didn't understand when my French friends, teachers and host parents talked with me.  I didn't want to admit that I've wasted three months of not learning enough French.  Though at the same time, I've told myself that I shouldn't admit that is true.  After all, I've managed to settle with my first host family successfully, create many friends and join many activities.  I've also faced culture-shock, yet I haven't felt homesick.  These first three months have been an incredible adventure and I am proud of myself for doing everything I can do.  But anyways, these mixed feelings bounced back and forth and it was very troublesome.

Exchange is tough.  However, I must always remind myself that exchange is amazing as well.  I must remind myself that exchange is a life-time opportunity where I have the chance to learn important life lessons and the world.  Especially with the Rotary Youth Exchange program and it's well-constructed design, I certainly know that it's such a privilege to be here.  I've even received support from two Canadian Rotexes who went to France, and I feel so lucky.  I've learned that being separated from my real family and Canadian friends let me practice a life-skill: to make decisions using my own, sincere opinions (and perhaps with some influence from my home and host country!)

So I've told myself that I shouldn't worry about my level of my host language right now.  Instead, I've told myself to keep working using my best effort like always, and I shouldn't complain if I don't reach 100% as long as I know that I've tried.  Besides, I still have time till July so there's no need to give up yet!

Although I haven't posted anything since the beginning of November, I would like to thank to all of my readers for continuing to read my blog everyday.  I am so happy to share my adventure with you and I hope you are enjoying to see how I am doing.  Merci beaucoup!

I am determined more than ever.
Sari

Friday, November 2, 2012

Dijon, un Chateâu et Beaune

Today was another wonderful day of my two weeks of le vacance.  A very kind Rotarian and his wife invited me to go to the 82nd Foire Internationale et Gastronomique de Dijon, which is the hugest economic event of Burgundy, bringing about 600 exhibitors that welcome all age groups.  There were plenty of presentations of various French cuisine, furniture, crafts, fashion, health and beauty, leisure and recreation.  The event was so ginormous that we even got lost once!

This is JUST the cuisine section...
Adorable French house decor ♥
For lunch, I ate bull meat for the first time which is traditionally eaten in southern France.  It almost tastes like beef so it was no biggie like the pizza I had in Chalon-sur-Saône!  Later, I decided to try myrtille waffle because (I thought) I never tried a myrtille before.  It was really tasty and I learned that myrtilles are something like blueberries, but I realized how stupid I was when I came home because google translate told me that myrtilles are blueberries after all.  Oh goodness.  Also, the Rotarian's wife generously offered to buy apple cider for me and assured me that there was no alcohol in it.  However, I assert that there was something odd in that apple cider because it stung my nose so much!  Despite the pain (which was probably visually evident), I drank the whole beverage and smiled like it was the best drink in the world.  Ma vie.


The mysterious apple cider and myrtille waffle
After much walking and getting lost, we left Dijon for a wine chateâu for just a little peek.  I was surprised to see that there were wine books written in Japanese sold in the boutique store there.

The front of the chateâu
 
 
Fields and fields and fields of vineyards
Lastly when it was night, we also stopped by the "Capital of Burgundy wines" known as the town of Beaune.  In the town centre, almost all the stores sell wine or something related to wine.  We just walked in the streets and a store, but I enjoyed it so much because the rainy and tranquil night had an antique and romantic feel.  I would love to visit again if I have the chance.


 



I am so grateful that the Rotarian and his wife took me along today because nothing could have been better.  I was more than blessed especially when they both said to me in French that I was their daughter for today.  Maybe it sounds childish, but as an exchange student who was told of that they're more than just guests, their pleasure of having me really made me feel belong somewhere.

À bientôt,
Sari

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Chalon-sur-Saône

Today with my friends, we went to Chalon-sur-Saône, the largest city of the Saône-et-Loire department.  (In France, department is one of the three levels of government, and there are 101 in total.  The other two are region and commune, and department ranks between them.)  The city is famous for being the birthplace for photography and internal combustion engine thanks to a French man named Nicéphore Niépce.  (I actually didn't know that until I came home and did some research.)

There, I had the most amazing lunch I've had so far in my adventure:

Pizza with escargots and cuisses de grenouilles désossées

(*Cough* That my dear non-French readers, means snails and boneless frog legs.)  Yes, two unknown foods combined with one of my favorite foods of all time.  (You can probably guess which one out of the three is my favorite.)  The instant I saw that pizza on the menu, my eyes lit up and I was more than determined to try it!

video

Surprisingly, it tasted really good (thanks to the cheese and butter)!  The texture of each were interesting... the escargots was chewy while the cuisses de grenouilles désossées was muscular... I must admit that the escargots tasted like clams but with more guts and the cuisses de grenouilles désossées tasted like codfish.  Don't ask me why.  Now I am happy to say that I've tried them!

Bon appétit!!

Pizza Bourguignonne... a must try.

After the DELICIOUS lunch, my friends and I went to the Eglise (Church) Saint Pierre and the Cathédrale Saint-Vincent.

Eglise Saint Pierre is a church that took 5 years to build back in 1698, and it after became a parish church in 1802.  The exterior is Italian and interior is Baroque style, and this church is known for its important statues inside (such as Virgin of the Apocalypse, Doctors of the Church, etc.) 

The eglise sits beside the mairie (town hall) of Chalon-sur-Saône
 
Like many other buildings in France, it's impressive to think that this church has been standing here for over 300 years
 
Venite Adoremus means in Latin, "O come let us adore him (Christ)"
Many symbolic statues inside
Next, Cathédrale Saint-Vincent is a Romanesque and Gothic style cathedral and unlike the Eglise, the cathedral took a good length of 6 centuries of construction to become what it is now.  Historians believed that it was first built in 1090, and till 1562, elements like the choir, transept, pillars etc. were added.  The construction halted in 1562 because there was the Huguenots who devastatingly destroyed a chunk of the cathedral and removed some statues.  (The Huguenots were members of the Protestant Reformed Church of France; basically put into simple words, people who criticized the Catholic church.)  And unfortunately again it was further destroyed by the French Revolution which caused the church to be used as a fodder warehouse.  (Just imagine how that was like!)  So the following nineteenth and twentieth century were primarily years of reconstruction.

The front of the cathédrale
 
The organ designed with floral shapes
 
The view from the entrance

At the end of the day, we went bowling and overall, I had a great time for the entire day!



Anyways, if your eyes popped out from the mass of facts or had trouble trying to absorb all that information I explained above, maybe you're just about to say, "Sari, you're such a geek."  Well yes, I suppose so.  I love history and just learning in general after all!  Through the two months I've been living here in France so far, I'm joyfully learning so many new things and I finally realized how great it would be for the others to know about it too.  I guess that was my main purpose of writing a blog from the first place, but I never thought of it very seriously until now.

I think I finally recognized one of the important treasures that exchange can bring out.  Exchange is not an opportunity of opening doors just for the exchange student.  It also opens doors for the people who surrounds the exchange student by observing the student's growth, learning from the student's knowledge and understanding the student's experiences.  For example, my existence at my cultural-diversity-lacking lycée is enriching the French students' perspective of our world since I share to them stories about Canada and the differences and similarities I recognize here compared to Canada. 

Therefore, I sincerely hope this blog is also opening doors for you as well.

Bonne nuit!
Sari


ps: Right now, it is le vacance de le Toussaint; a two week holiday so I have no lycée until the second week of November!  "Toussaint" means 'feast of all saints' and it is a commemoration for those who died.  This is celebrated throughout France on November 1st, so generally all stores are closed that day.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Inbound Meeting #1

Yesterday, I came back from my first Rotary Youth Exchange inbound meeting held in a small village called Landreville in the region of Champagne, and I had a wonderful time meeting the other exchange students and enjoying the area!

From Louhans, Landreville is located north which takes about a 3 hour drive, so the landscape and even the traditional buildings looked a little different from Louhans.  Like I have mentioned before in one of my posts, the region of Champagne is famous for producing the French sparkling wine, champagne.  We got a tour of a winery, and I learned that the three main types of grapes used to make champagne are Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier.  I also learned that at this winery, they don't use chemical fertilizers, the bottles take 3-9 years of rest and peace (aka: fermentation), and about 40% of their production of champagne are exported around the world.  It was really unique to see where the creation of champagne starts from!


Some machines requires physical labour, maybe like this one above.


Tulip glasses for champagne (Noticed their inward curving rims?)



Cute cork statues!! ♥
 

These grapes tasted really sour... obviously not the ones found in grocery stores,
so they're just perfect for champagne!



My new Brazilian friend and I ♥


There were in total one Canadian (me!), one Thai, one Brazilian, two Mexicans, one Japanese, and six Americans plus a French rebound at the orientation.  Unfortunately, there were a few other students in our district who were not able to come, but I look forward to meet them in our next one in December.  It was neat to speak to the students at Landreville and share our personal experiences so far during our exchange.  I think we talked a confusing mix of French, English (and even Japanese and Spanish), but I believe we all understood each other anyways!

We're proud ambassadors!

Oh yeah, Canada made USA and Mexico turn their heads!

Rotary Youth Exchange students of D1750


Thank you so much for the fun weekend everyone!
Merci beaucoup pour le week-end amusant tout le monde!

Also, thank you SO MUCH for those who follow my blog and ask how I am doing in France!  To me, it means so much when I receive messages from my friends, Rotarians and family!  I swear it's so difficult to explain to my new friends why I haven't had a slight feeling of homesickness, but I would like to clarify why!  (You need to see their surprised expressions!)  No, it's not because my life here in France is better than Canada.  I actually love living in both countries!  It's because the tremendous support I get from everyone makes me feel happy, grateful and to be ready for anything.  To me, the warm words of advice, love and encouragement creates the backbone that keeps me standing tall with strength and motivation.   Thus every time I feel down, my emotions immediately bounce back up because I remind myself of the people who care for me.  Besides, who doesn't want to do a foreign exchange?!

Merci, Thank you and ありがとう,

Sari

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Omurice, the Cold & Smiles

Bonjour!

Today, I made omurice for lunch for my host family!  It is a modern Japanese dish which is an omlette of fried rice with chicken commonly topped with ketchup.  I've eaten it at my home in Canada but I've never cooked it before.   It seemed really easy to make by looking at the recipe, but it was REALLY challenging!  Chop the onions... don't cut your finger... remember the rice is behind you... wait a second - you need the chicken! ...OH NO you spilled some olive oil... and just don't drop those eggs... all these thoughts jumbled in my head, half English, half French (and perhaps a little Japanese)!  My host mother (who was watching me to learn how to cook it) must of had an entertaining show.  I hope I didn't set a bad example!

VOILA! It actually looked and tasted good in the end!

It was successful because my host family members enjoyed the meal, but I mistakenly dribbled spicy ketchup instead of the regular one on top of the omurices... no wonder why there were two opened ketchup bottles in the fridge.

__________________


I learned this week that when one student in your class is sick, most likely you and all your other classmates will eventually get sick too.  No matter how hard you try to avoid it, it is almost impossible here.  It is because the humidity is higher and therefore it's easier for germs to spread.  And what's worse, everyone bisous (cheek kiss) every friend they pass throughout the whole day.  I was so surprised because when I got the nasty cold, I tried to refuse doing the bisous and explain to my friends that I didn't want to make them sick too.  However, some gave me the bisous anyways because they replied that it didn't matter since they were sick too. 

So, this is Sari's life in France.

__________________


Lycée is always exciting as usual and I am still making lots of new friends.  Although I have no clue how the lycée was like without any exchange students during the years before, the exchange students and I who are here now can already sense that our presence at the lycée and Louhans is already making a difference for everyone.  A good one I hope.  Yes, the diversity we bring results looks filled with curiosity, kindness, and even unkindness, but at least the negatives won't bring us down and we are happy to be ambassadors of our countries.

I think one of the most important things I have learned so far on my adventure is the astonishing strength of the universal gesture of smiling.  It does wonders, I swear.  It may not show the same meaning for some cultures around the world, but I know that at least in France, smiling welcomes people with grace and has the power to bring them together.  I think that's why many people who I don't even know smile back at me when I do.  Then somehow like magic, we become friends in the meantime.

À bientôt!
Sari

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Busy Like Always

Today exactly marks my one month milestone here in France!

I've been observing some differences of Louhans and Canmore, my town in Canada, and there are many I would like to share.  I'm glad that I wrote my thoughts down on a paper since the beginning of September, because day by day, these differences around me seem more familiar and it is becoming more difficult for me to recognize them!

First topic is the lycée.  The length of the hours at school are different depending on the classes a student has that day.  Unlike Canmore, I end lycée either at 17h, 18h (twice), 12h, and 16h.  (I still have to look at my time table to see what I have everyday.)  I thought lycée would always end 18h for all the days, but I'm thankful that it's not true!

Since lycée ends by dinner time, there are not many lycée-organized after-school activities.  There is apparently a badminton and hand-ball team, but there are no other sport teams, musical band, etc.  Instead, the students involve themselves in extracurricular activities that are non lycée-related.  Of course there are lots of activities provided even in this small community like football (aka: soccor), martial arts, theatre/drama, music, etc.  I decided to join the karaté club (I was a brown belt in Canada), and the youth orchestra at the music school (I play the flute), so I am already busy!  Although the language barrier still exists, I feel so great to be around with people who have similar interests!

At the lycée, there is an infirmerie (school infirmary), cantine (cafeteria where most students eat the lunch made there), internat (where students known as "internats" sleep Monday to Thursday nights like boarding school students), and an etude (a room where students must go and study for minimum 2 hours per week during their breaks).  Within the classrooms of the lycée, there are both white boards and chalk boards and only one electronic board (in the art plastiques room).  Speaking about technology, students here are forbidden to use any kind of it during class.  (I think that includes graphing calculators in mathematiques!)  There are computers, but they are strictly used only for research and art-technology.

The clothing worn by a typical teenager for lycée is not that different from a Canadian student.  However here in France, no one wears athletic clothing like yoga sweaters, tops, pants, sneakers etc., except in gym class.  Everyone almost wears jean pants everyday.  Also, leather jackets and pants seems like the fashion here!  (Haha, of course I have one too, but just the jacket!)

For the village in general, I think one of the biggest difference is about the time stores are open!  Usually in Canada, Sundays are one of the most busiest days of the week!  Most of the stores here on Sundays are closed, including supermarkets!  My host-mother said to me that Sundays is the day of relaxing for everyone.

There are lots of fences and hedges that surround individual properties.  Also, many windows have exterior shutters that always close at night.  An old man once explained to me that some people don't want to show their house to others; particularly the burglars.  I believe that the people here are more protective of their own possessions than Canada since my host family stressed the importance of always locking the gates and doors of our house and shutting all windows by dusk.

Below are some photos of me and my current host family at the Chateau in Pierre-en-Bresse which is close to Louhans.  It was so beautiful!  There, I learned that the Bressan territory began to take form during the christian and feudal period in the IXth century, and during the XIIIth century, many castles and churches were established into villages, turning them into market towns like Louhans!

Symbolic statues and elegant structure of the roofs
 
Lovely design of the rails and water surrounding the Chateau
The wood construction of a typical Bressan house
Raw and organic materials used to build walls and floors for houses
My 6 year old host brother and I being funny

September has been an adventurous month for me, and I am glad that I am finally creating a schedule full of events and activities to keep myself busy.  I now truly feel like a citizen here in Louhans and not a tourist.  I would like to thank the Rotary Club of Louhans Bresse Bourguignonne for covering the costs for these activities, and my current host family for letting me be part of the community and showing me other places.

Below are more photos of my friends and I hanging out together to play ping-pong:

Left to Right: French, Mexican, German, Canadian

Playing ping-pong at my friend's house
 
I never knew how tired you can get after playing ping-pong and talking French all day...

Until next time!
Sari


ps: once again, I'm on the newspaper but this time including the other (AND the only other) three exchange student of my lycée!  We're all in the same class!
http://www.lejsl.com/bresse/2012/09/22/accueil-de-4-eleves-etrangeres