26 February 2011

La Nouvelle Famille

So I would just like to start off by saying that I have never felt closer to French people. My new host family really made an effort to make me feel welcome. Apparently, another American student also had to stay with my new family after having been a part of the same family that I had prior to my arrival here. Hmmm.

This is French Wal-mart. I went grocery shopping with my host mom. In France (or at least Lyon) everyone does their grocery shopping Saturday afternoon. Here's what happens. You go inside one of three entrances. There's a strip mall in front of the supermarket. If you don't want to shop at the strip mall, you go inside the supermarket. Everything is there! Electronics, games, clothes, food. A whole lot of food! There were two aisles specifically dedicated to cheese. If it wasn't apparent that I was in France, it certainly is now. There were also a lot more people shoved into one supermarket than I am used to. Probably because, unlike Wal-mart, Carrefour is only open from 9AM until 8PM.

Before dinner I had the chance to sit in the living room and read for a while. My host sister, Laura, came in after an hour or so and started talking to me about the time she went to the US to visit her older sister. Apparently, all three of my host family's children attended a bilingual primary school so they've all been to the US and they all speak English at a reasonable level. My host dad speaks a little, but he said he's much better with German.

After dinner, my host sister went out with her friends and I chatted with my host dad about where my parents worked, and my family. I even got to tell him a little bit about my political views. I also tried a very strong, locally made white wine (which I found out that I'm partial to). It's going to be really unfortunate coming back to the US and being unable to drink wine.

Oh my god, I sound like my mother.

24 February 2011

Tae Kwon Do

The reason I don't normally need anti-depressants.

Seriously, I love it. Stress relief, exercise, and a hell of a lot of fun. We do a lot more of the workout than learning and working on specific techniques, but that is totally fine with me at this point. I don't need to be worrying about getting confused about forms or self-defense steps. The class wouldn't accomplish much anyway as the class normally has about 25-35 students, all of questionable levels.

Today was an even more awesome class because, after two months of living here, I have finally made a French friend! We were working in partners with paddles and he noticed my belt. He asked if I was American. When I said yes, he told me that he was studying English at the university and would like to be an English teacher. We exchanged numbers, and told him if he ever wanted to meet up for an hour or so and just practice speaking that I would be up for it.

This evening I was able to meet my new host family as well. They seem very nice, and said goodbye to me with "les bises" or cheek-kisses. I took an idea of my friend from Georgetown and immediately offered to cook a meal for them once a week. They really liked the idea of homemade American cuisine. The mother also invited me to a free step class, and asked if I needed to be lent a phone. I don't really know anything about cell service in France, but I paid 30 euros for mine and it seems to be working out alright.

Tonight I'm feeling pretty good.

23 February 2011

Totes Fun Times

I am officially moving out of my host family's apartment. The lecturing was not the worst it could get. Today I was accused of stealing. Here's one point that makes sense. The contract says I should eat only breakfast and dinner every day, lunch I have to find elsewhere (although Jean-Benoit tried to tell me they only have to provide dinner). I've been eating lunch at the apartment because last month, no one seemed to have an issue with it, Julia has made lunch for the two of us numerous times, and I have been extremely short on cash. In accordance with the contract, I should have notified them about my budget and verified that lunch would be acceptable. This point I concede.

However, when I am told I have complete access to the medicine cabinet I feel like when I have a cold and find Sudafed, that I will be able to take it. When I'm told I have complete access to the pantry if I need something, I expect that I can grab a roll of toilet paper for blowing my nose (especially when there are no tissues/Kleenex to speak of in the apartment). I don't enjoy being made to feel like a bad person, especially in a foreign country, so I'm moving out. Major appreciation to my American friend from LSU who is allowing me to use her apartment while she goes to Italy for break and the international office finds me a new place to stay.

In highly positive news, I have a bank account and a camera! And tomorrow I will have cash. I'm going to spend my entire break wondering around a different area of Lyon. I even plan on going to two museums! Free to students of course. I'm pretty excited about having the week off. I may get some good reading in, too. I should be reading Le Joueur but after 10 pages I might give up and read The Protector's War instead.

This is my life.

20 February 2011

Je Comprends!

I am on the tail end of my cold. Luckily my host family carries Sudafed, a drug I recognize. Whoa. So that helped, along with a home remedy of warm milk and honey recommended to me by my host sister Julia. My nose kind of looks gross, but other than that I'm feeling like I can actually leave the apartment.

I've also had two successful French conversations. The first happened while attempting to cash a check at LCL, a common European bank. I was told that because my bank did not exist in France I would have to set up a bank account needing my passport and a proof of residence. I was able to explain that I was an American student living in France just until the end of May. Not until I left the bank did I realize that I did not have to ask this man to repeat anything he said nor did he look at me like I was a complete moron.

My second successful conversation happened at dinner tonight. Julia made pasta for the two of us and we got to chatting about our families and the difference between our universities. I found out that in Germany, one only needs nine general education classes in order to complete their degree and I discovered that her family went to Russia and stayed from the time Catherine the Great took power until the two World Wars. I forgot exactly which one she said. I also came to realize that I didn't have to ask her to repeat herself and she didn't have to speak any English for me to understand what she was saying. I did have to search for words occasionally, but the only English I spoke was to tell her one of my classes was called "Contemporary Indian Society."

All this being said, I'm counting two huge dashes in the victories column.

Also, I may or may not have corrupted a Japanese guy by introducing him to Avenue Q after studying for our exam on Wednesday. We'll see how this pans out in the following weeks. In other unrelated news, I bought tickets to see professional productions of A Comedy of Errors and La Vraie Fiancee at Theatre de la Croix-Rousse.

17 February 2011


Now that I've been managing my anxiety for a week and a half, my body decided it was time for me to come down with a physical illness. Not to fear! It's just a cold. The first day I couldn't stop coughing, the second I had a severely sore throat, and today my nose won't stop running. A different symptom for each day of the week. It's pretty annoying, but I find humor in that fact. I won't be going to Tae Kwon Do tonight, though, just so I can give my body a chance to rest. Armed with orange juice, tissues, and antiseptics for my throat I should be over my most recent affliction pretty quickly.

I had my first test of the semester for my FLE course over personal pronouns and the construction of the negative form. Pretty easy stuff actually. The exercises in our workbook are way harder than the exercises given to us on the exam. Next week we have another one over relative pronouns. I'm actually going to study for that one because relative pronouns give me the most trouble in French grammar. Also, our entire class had a "herp derp" moment when we forgot that the verb "tomber" is conjugated with "etre" in the past instead of "avoir." I learned that in French 1B. Ah well. It is an 8AM so maybe we just need to remember to get caffeine before class.

And for all of you out there who are reading this but haven't commented here's a question. I have 305 euros. What should I do?

14 February 2011

Bonne Saint Valentin

Today is Valentine's Day, and I have a really awesome boyfriend. Right after I made my lunch (saucisson, fromage, and lettuce sandwich) I was delivered a gorgeous bouquet of white and purple flowers and a box filled with chocolate pieces. Valentine's Day is basically the greatest day ever.

On a completely unrelated note, it turns out that I have been committing a social faux pas without even realizing. See, my host family has a maid. I have never been around a maid. No one I know has one, my family doesn't have one. The point is, it's been kind of freaking me out and frustrating me at the same time. I haven't really known what I'm responsible for in terms of cleaning, and I don't know how to interact with the maid.

On Wednesday, Julia asked if I had social anxiety and was afraid of people because I didn't say hello or try to have a conversation with Farida, the maid. I never even knew her name until I figured out that's who Julia was talking about which really only served to make me feel embarrassed. This morning, Farida knocked on my door and asked me if I was painfully shy and then taped a list to my armoire of what apartment responsibilities I have while I live here. Actually, I'm kind of thankful for that. Basically, I just have to vacuum and dust my room every week and a half, empty the dishwasher if no one else is around, offer to take Austin for walks, and wash my bedding every two weeks. The list also says to speak a little more French and to say "Bonjour, Aurevoir, etc."

I managed to accomplish the first one tonight at dinner speaking to my host father and Julia about my trip to Annecy and what I wanted to do over break. My host father also asked if it really was possible in the US to accuse people of murder forty years after the crime was committed. As far as I know I don't think there's a statute of limitations on investigating murder, but please correct me if I'm wrong.

12 February 2011

Out Of Town

I think this weekend qualifies as the best weekend I have spent in France thus far.

Friday night I went to a party in honor of one of my friend's birthdays. There were French, British, Australian, and American students all gathered in one person's apartment. The theme for the party was a masquerade, so all the girls were wearing dresses and heavy make-up and the guys wore slacks and collared shirts. Most people wore masks, and those who didn't (like myself) were painted up. My eyes still haven't recovered. It was quite a lot of fun alternating between speaking French and English. I also managed to get in on the gossip, a great way to know that I'm a part of the group I've managed to acquaint myself with.

Today I took the train to Annecy. It's a two hour train ride north of Lyon, and for most part I hung out with two women from Finland and another from Sweden. Our topics of conversation ranged from drunk stories to how guys are assholes to sexual health issues. The town itself was gorgeous. It's a small, old town that is built on the side of a huge lake. On the other side of the lake are mountains. The weather was also nice this afternoon that I just carried my coat around until the sunset. The food was also good. For lunch we ate at Urban Foods, which serves organic-type food. I had a chicken wrap with red peppers, some sort of leafy green, and Parmesan cheese with a pineapple + orange smoothie. Super delicious. For dinner I picked up a ham, mozzarella, and tomato panini. It was filling, warm and again delicious. And only 3.80 euros! It's possible to get good food in France for cheap; as long as you like crepes and sandwiches. And who doesn't like crepes and sandwiches?

Tomorrow I'm going to relax and read for most of the day. Unfortunately, I don't have pictures of Annecy because I busted my camera lens. I'll be able to acquire them later. Such is life.

08 February 2011

Socialized Medicine

Yes folks, you guessed it. Today I went to the doctor. Here's the story. I was having a prolonged panic attack while sitting in class this morning. An hour later, I decided enough was enough. After a visit to the international relations office, the on-campus nurse, and a line change at the Saxe-Gambetta station I saw an American doctor who has a practice in Lyon.

I've always had problems with anxiety, usually triggered by the thought of going to the hospital. I also have stress problems in unfamiliar situations which cause my stomach to rebel. My body is so fun! The point? It's been getting worse since I've been in France. Both the nurse and the doctor confirmed that my blood pressure and pulse were normal, even though I felt like I had difficulty breathing. Because of all the aforementioned information, the doctor prescribed me Lysanxia, anti-anxiety medication that should only be taken a maximum of twice per day. I took one tablet as soon as I got home and I've felt normal and relaxed since then.

The amazing thing about all this? See, I had to pay 32 euros upfront for the visit. Once I find out where to turn in the reimbursement forms I'll be able to get that money back. Filling the prescription was 2 euros and 60 cents. Yeah, that's right. 2 euros. I bought floss as well. The floss cost 6 euros and 40 cents. Europe is a wonderful place. And a hell of a lot different from what that scenario might have been had I been in the United States.

06 February 2011

Oh The Pain

I haven't been as faithful with my posts this week. Many apologies loyal readers. Since Tae Kwon Do on Thursday night, my lower back has been in a lot of pain. At first I didn't think it was serious, but after attempting to walk around the city yesterday and feeling nauseous, I decided that I needed to do something about it. Luckily, my parents gave me some tips on how to deal with my back. Hopefully I'll be feeling good enough again just in time for another punishing TKD class this Thursday.

Even though my back ended up hating me for going to TKD, class was a lot more fun this week. Not only was I able to stand and move around the whole time, I also had the opportunity to instruct my partner during hand technique drills. Also, tornado roundhouse kicks. HELL YES! I was actually smiling when I got to do those.

Friday, while I was out Valentine's Day shopping, I stopped in the chocolate shop that's on the corner of my street and Rue Victor Hugo. They sold chocolate bars for 2 euros, and it was delicious. Next time though, I'm not going to eat the whole thing at once.
Before almost collapsing on Saturday, I attempted to participate in a scavenger hunt set up for the international students at Lyon 1, 2, and 3 universities. I got the chance to see some of the Americans and Australians I recognized from my SELF classes, as well as meet some Chinese and Spanish while we were put into groups. I only wish I could have stayed longer, but that probably would have been a bad idea.

Here's to hoping for a reduced-pain week. I wanted to get out and visit a museum on Wednesday or Friday. It's apparently free, and I have to right a paper on it for my culture class. Technically not due until April 8, but I have two finals already around that time, so I want to go ahead and get the paper done.

03 February 2011

Late Night, Good Times

Last night I went to a pub called Red House. It's part sports bar, part club. An interesting combination, in my personal opinion. The international relations office reserved the dance floor for all of the SELF and DEUF students, and even included a free drink. Julia and I arrived early, and I did not bring any money with me, so she bought me a pineapple drink while she had a beer. About 10-15 minutes later, a French guy approached us and invited us to join his table of three other guys and one girl. The guys ended up joining us on the dance floor and I went outside with them while they smoked. They tried to get me to take a cigarette, but I politely declined. All in all, it was pretty fun. I ended up dancing with some girls I knew from my Shakespeare and the Supernatural course and I even caught the second to last metro back to the apartment at 12:10AM. All before my 8 AM class today!

I managed to stay awake for my entire class today. Tae Kwon Do again tonight, hopefully I won't pass out again. I ate scrambled eggs, ham, and baguette for lunch and have been drinking water all day. I survived last week, so I'm thinking, whatever happens, it can't be worse than that.

01 February 2011

The Joy of Salmon Sandwiches

Yesterday and today I have gone to a sandwich shop that is right next to the entrance I always take into campus. They sell sandwiches, pastries, quiches, and candy bars. Both days I've eaten a salmon sandwich. It's probably my favorite sandwich of all time which I would not have expected. It's just fish and bread, but the bread is delicious and so is the fish. I also got a cookie and Kit Kat bar to go with it. Tomorrow, however, I've promised myself to try Mezzo di Pasta. It's a pasta place that resembles Noodles and has multiple locations. I feel like it's an obligation to compare American and French fast food when such an occasion arises.

Tomorrow I'm going to a pub. The international affairs director organized an event at Red House for all the international students. It should be interesting. Pictures will definitely be included in the following posts.