Friday, August 31, 2012


Au Revior Canada! Onto my first airplane of an European airline!
On Wednesday 29th France time, I arrived around 11am at the Lyon airport and met my first host family there! Although I must admit it was quite a long and lonely journey from Calgary, I was so excited to arrive in Europe that I ended up only sleeping for about 2 hours of the 9 hour flight, plus the 2 hour wait at Amsterdam.

Speaking about Amsterdam, something interesting happened.  When I got off my first plane from Calgary, I exactly knew where my next number and gate was, so I immediately got off the aircraft and near sprinting, (can you picture me?) I dashed to the gate and guess what?  Just when I reached to the gate, there were security guards standing in front of the passage telling people that the gate is closed.  (Yes, they spoke English and not Dutch.)   Me, exhausted from running and dodging rolling suitcases and slow walkers, wasn't sure what to do next.  ... like eeexxxxcuse me? Where and will my plane leave?

Apparently my gate, C, closed down because according to news sites, there was an emergency closure because security forces founded an unexploded bomb in the area that was used in WWII!  (I just only found this out today.) 
Hahaha... good one.

Anyways, I managed to do this self flight-check on a screen and again dashed for the replacement gate that was just near the gate I got off first.  So I ended up doing a run there and back.

Although it was unfortunate that I didn't meet any Rotary exchange students during the entire trip (since my visa didn't come on time to arrive in Paris and to meet them all on the 28th), it was so cool to experience meeting my host family members at the airport.  Months before leaving for France, I repetitively dreamed and imagined the moment I see my host parents for the first time.  It was like déjà-vu to live that moment since what I have imagined ended up to be really similar; at first, huge hugs and lots of talking, then later in the car, a bit less crazy due to the language barrier.  However instead of a hug, we did bisouss': cheek to cheek kissing.  I forgot about that so I was a bit alarmed at first!

My first lunch with my host-mother!
My host sister and father!

Louhans is such a gorgeous little town that has the top level of true French culture, I swear!   There are rarely any non-European foreigners so locals glance at me a wee bit longer since I am Asian.  It's like Amelia's situation (a Caucasian exchange student also from my hometown who is in Japan now), but opposite because there are no oriental people here and the rest of the citizens are mostly agricultural French people whose families lived here for several generations... so typical!

Therefore, I am the Rotary Club of Louhans first-ever exchange student, and foreigner (other then Europeans) my lycée (high school).  C'est incroyable!  (It is incredible!)  So definitely the first day of school will be full of stares looking directly at me. 

Also, I met the Rotary Club the night I arrived in Louhans!  There are only about 20 Rotarians and most are over 50 years old.  They meet Wednesday nights at an Italian/French restaurant and that night, we had a full course dinner consisting of amuse bouches like carpacio cocumber, a main dish I think something called canard rôti avec un grattin de pâté de crème et du poire and dessert that was like fruit salad but dunked in red wine with creme de glace à la vanille which altogether had an interesting flavour...  The Rotarians were very nice and especially because I am their first exchange student, they were very curious about me.  I was only able to speak a little French and many times, they gave me confused looks but I really appreciated their attention and kindness for hosting a student this year.

The dessert
My host-club's banner
My French is surprisingly better then I thought it would be!  I can form some sentences and questions already, but of course there are still lots to learn.  I have already visited my lycée and its staff, a supermarket, and some small shops.  Tomorrow, I will see a neighbouring town called Bresse-en-Bourg and tour the lycée again with a French girl my age who will become my second host-sister!

Bonne Nuit!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Visa? Check. Luggage? Check. Blast Off? TOMORROW.

Haha... YUP I'm still here in Canada, but not for long!

My visa has finally arrived at noon today and right now, my mind is crazily repeating the words, this ain't a dream anymore...  It's really happening!!  It is so hard to imagine that I will be leaving the Calgary International Airport tomorrow afternoon and heading to Schiphol, the Amsterdam airport, then arrive on the 29th at the Lyon-Saint Exupéry, the airport in Lyon.  Such a short notice!

The luggage that looked like a disaster is now neatly organized and ready for take off, thanks to my mother!  Tomorrow, I will officially become an exchange student; the moment I have been waiting for so long... and the oddest thing is that I haven't gone through an emotional breakout like I have imagined, especially after hearing stories from Rotexes!

I'm stuck between excitement and nervousness.  Actually I take that back...  I'm rather 100% excited.  Not a bad sign, right?  I'm sure there will be lots of ups and downs, but one of my best friends from my hometown said to me, "Sari, imagine this: You are going on a one-year vacation!"

After she said that, I gave a huge grin and completely agreed.  I know that the word 'vacation' may not describe some tough times I may face, but it is something that I must remind myself deep in my heart, remembering that I must enjoy those moments because they are the obstacles that makes me into a stronger and independent person.  Without them, it is no adventure, therefore, no fun and growth.

To my dedicated ex-co-worker, thank you for supporting my departure by volunteering to teach me French.  I'll try my best!

To my blog reader, please keep watching my adventure.  It will make me feel never alone.

See you later Canada!

Monday, August 27, 2012

"Uhm... I don't know yet!"

That phrase has been OVERLY repeated by me.

When I found out my acceptance to the program back in October, the first question my friends asked me was:  "Which country?"

Well knowing that exchange was almost a year ahead at the time, I replied in an excited voice without any worries, "Uhm... I don't know yet!"  Like come on, it's just October.  No need to worry about anything yet.

So months flew by.  Yes, that included the Christmas holidays.  The more weeks that went by, the less excited and rather nervous and anxious my voice became when I kept answering that same old question.

Finally the first orientation swung by in January, and just in a blink of an eye, I finally found out the answer to that question. France.

Next day, I have let my friends know about my country.  They were so happy for me.  But guess what they asked me next?

"Where in France?"

'Oh please, not again!' I thought to myself.  I replied once again, "Uhm... I don't know yet!"  At least, knowing my host-country returned back the excitement I had in October.

And so a couple more months flew by again.  No biggie.  Well, half a year actually.  Okay, maybe it's time to start worrying now. 

I finally had my answer in July: Louhans!

My wonderful friends all cheered for me when I brought to them the news.  However, guess what they asked me next? 

"When are you heading there?"

Oh lord.  Not again. 

I explained that I have to apply for a visa then I would know my exact deparature date.  Easy... right?  No, I never knew how long a visa application could take to be sent, processed and returned.

Today is Aug.26th, 2012.  Uhm dear readers... I still don't know when I am leaving!
I can't believe I still don't have my visa yet and how I might be lying in a new bed, with a new family, in a new home, in a mini village and in a country that's practically on the opposite side of the globe... all at least by next weekend... and it's bizarre!  I remember seeing several Rotarians passing by me in town for the past few days, and my continueous existance in Canada surprised them a lot!

I am not upset that I will arrive in Paris probably later then the planned date (28th), but I am extremely anxious of what's going to happen, when I'm going to see my first host-family, and how my life will completely change its route...  in a good way of course!  It's an adventure after all!  My luggage is almost completely packed, but I still feel unprepared.  I never knew my entire year before exchange was going to be full of non-stop anxiety!  MON DIEU!!
My home-club counsellor just sent an email to me that my visa may arrive tomorrow morning and I have the possibility to leave that afternoon!  She, including my outbound counsellor, my host-district's Youth Exchange Chairman and the assistant of France's Long Term Exchanges Coordinator are just so wonderful it makes my heart squeeze.  It is because they've all contacted me to make sure that I'll quickly let my travel agent to book my flights when my visa arrives, and assure that I'll safely arrive to the country and meet my host-parents.  THANK YOU, MERCI, and ありがとう everyone for making this happen, and this also includes to all my family members, friends in town and across Canada and other countries for the huge support and good wishes.
Chances are slim to leave tomorrow, but we'll see what happens!
I don't think I'll sleep tonight, but good night to Canada and good morning in France!
ps: It is my birthday today! I enjoyed my dad's sushi resulting with the fullest stomach I could ever possibly have (for the next entire year!)

pss: After my summer school ended, I have been enjoying lots of my time with family and friends!  Here are some photos below :)

SUSHI ♥ (It says "Happy B-Day Sari" in the wasabi paste)
Farewell Hang Out with Childhood Friends

Farewell Japanese Dinner Night with even more of my Canadian Friends

Farewell Mexican Dinner Night with MORE of  my Canadian Friends and Sisters

Friday, August 17, 2012

Wait, who is this...? OH!

Notice that sense of realization in that title?  Yup, of course it's my mom's reaction when she answered the phone call from my first host-mother in France a few days ago.  (Oh mom... do you know how glad I am that you didn't think it was a telemarketer?!)

I swear my jaws not only dropped but perhaps popped out of place when my mom made these silent, but HUGE and WACKY gestures with her free hand, trying to convey that my first host-mother was on the phone.  I thought my mom was going nuts at first!  We just couldn't believe that moment was our first real connection to France! 

I was so awestruck that it was very difficult to calm myself down to speak at a regular volume!  My heart pounded with so much exuberance, and it wasn't possible for my French to work either!  Luckily as I have said earlier, she is an English teacher so our communication in English was understandable for each other and successful.  I had to slow down my normal talking speed from a 10 to 3, but it worked out anyways!

The phone call was generally about simple questions I have wanted to ask her before my departure.  For example, I asked if any of her family members are allergic to peanuts.  Thankfully it was a no, so guess what I'm bringing for souvenirs?  (psssss... I'll tell you that when I get there!) (Hint: Apparently there are none or maybe a few peanut butter products sold in France.)

Back to the phone call.  I found out that she is the English teacher at my host-school!  Also, I found out that I will take the village's public bus to school which is about a 5 minute ride!  (For such a small area, I never knew there were buses!)  She told me that we'll go shopping for school supplies together!  Oh, so much fabulous news rushed into my ears that I couldn't just sit and talk.  I was literally jumping, walking up and down the stairs and twirling around with the phone.  Ask my mom for more details.

I think what made me the happiest is when I heard that there are so many families in town, (and in fact, too many) who wants to be my host!  It reached to the point where my host Rotary Club had to clarify that a student should stay with only 3-4 families to avoid an overwhelming experience, giving plenty of time for him or her to get along with each family.  I smiled so much I almost cried when my host-mother explained how she promoted to the club that her family should be my first because having a host-father, mother, and two siblings would feel homely and minimize homesickness.  I felt welcomed and being seriously taken very good care of, so my parents are now not only grateful, but super comfortable about sending me to this tiny village.  (Maybe not comfortable with my poor French speaking ability though!)

I can't wait to go!  If my visa arrives and everything else flow with ease, I have exactly 10 days left till departure.  The countdown of not only days, but hours and seconds starts now.  What a scary but wonderful thought. 


Yesterday, I met this year's inbound of my hometown's Rotary Club.  He is from Croatia!  It was so cool listening to him speak about his home country!   (And yes, his English was so good that I understood everything!)

We biked and I showed him around my town including the high school and the library.  Because of his amazing fluency of English, I think he will have a very good start! 

In front of Mt. Three Sisters

Croatia is one of the countries I could have gone to because it was included in my district's outbound country list.  I remember that name so clearly because actually, it was the one and only country I have never heard of before!

If you are also like the me before, I have some basic facts for you to know: Croatia is a very small, "C" shaped 56,594 sq km country between Bosnia & Herzegovina and Slovenia, touching the Adriatic Sea.  (It has a gorgeous blue colour!)  It will shortly become part of the European Union since they recently agreed to become part of it.  Canada is around 9,984,670 sq km large!  Therefore Canada is approximately 176 times bigger!  So Croatia is indeed difficult to find on a globe if you don't know where it is.

You would ask, how do you know the exact measurements of the land areas?  I went to a really useful website called The World Fact Book:  It is a very informative and interesting website that explains a country's history, people, government, and so on!  Perfect for when you don't know anything about a certain country.


Thank you dear reader for reading my blog!  I am happy to announce that there are now over 800 pageviews and it's all thanks to you!  I am currently working my butt off practicing my French, so souhaitez-moi bonne chance!

Bisous ♥