Friday, August 30, 2013

First Week!!

On Saturday I went with my host parents Marie-Jose and Yann to the house of another host family who are currently hosting 16 year old Rika from Japan.  All of us were able to meet and had tea together which is good because this family will be my final host family of my exchange year, and my current family will be Rika's next family (hopefully that made some sense.) The family and house are so amazing and I'm excited that so far two out of my three families are going to be fabulous!

My host mom Marie-Jose!

On Sunday morning Marie-Jose drove me into Lille for the first time which was awesome and beautiful.

Marie-Jose wanted to take a photo of me wearing this hilarious head thing I don't know the name of when we saw it at the market, and right about 3 seconds after this photo was taken, the lady in charge of selling these head things got mad at us/me for trying it on and not buying.  Gotta love being a tourist hehe...

In the afternoon my host parents drove Rika and I out to Le Quesnoy for one giant Rotary gathering of the 2013/2014 France District 1670 Exchange students.  So basically I was able to meet and spend time with 32 other kids from 20 different nationalities who are my age and are all going through the same thing.  It was like when I met all the other Canadians at the Toronto airport except better because I was connecting with people from all over the world, and I now feel like I have 32 new best friends.  Exchange is awesome.

my roomies! from left to right it's Karoliina (she got cut off woops!) from Finland, Aubry from the USA, Ella from the USA, myself, Maria from India, and Liz from Mexico.  I love these kids!

Ty on the left from the USA, and on the right is Thomas from France who is a Rotex (returned exchange student whose role is to help current exchange students adjust and deal with exchange) who went to the USA 3 years ago.

Maude (She's Rotex)! Ella! Karoliina!

Ian and me! The only two Canadians.  I met Ian in Toronto so it's awesome that we are in the same district.

It's Rika!

Ty, Thomas, Quentin (he's a Rotex from France who went to Brazil in 2012/2013), Ian
 That event went until Wednesday and it was so much fun the entire time.  Now we all have cellphones and eachother's numbers and I hope that I'll be seeing a lot of these kids in the future from now on!
Thibault, who is Rika's (and soon to be mine) host dad picked us up from Le Quesnoy and drove us back to Roubaix to Rika's house, where we then went from to visit our new school with Rika's host mom and sister.

Okay the school is magnificent and huge and astounding and breathtaking and it looks like Hogwarts and it's honestly the closest I've ever been in my life to being a wizard so the nerd in me (I'm 100% nerd by the way) is going nuts and I'm going to be thinking of Harry Potter constantly while I'm there.

So after I enter through massive wooden doors into a giant hallway then outside into an amazing courtyard, I stand outside this building.  This is the building I enter to go to class.  This is insanity.
Any nerves I might have had for having to go back being the new kid, at high school, in a foreign country whose language I really don't speak evaporated as soon as I saw the school.  Frankly my first day will be hilarious as I try to navigate this giant school with 2000 students solo.  Making it to classes alive will be a success I think.

Yesterday was Thursday and in the morning I went with Yann (my host dad) to the school to pick up my textbooks. This is the room I had to go to to get them...

I got asked one question in French the entire time I was there and I froze up before I could process what I'd even been asked.  The first day will be quite funny indeed.

Today Marie-Jose took Rika and me out for the entire day and we did so many awesome things.  First we went to Bergues which was a beautiful little village about 30 minutes from Roubaix.  We walked around for a little while and ate croissants which was honestly so delightful.  I could write a novel on how amazing the French baking is.  Then we left to go to the ocean.  We drove the car for about another 30 minutes and parked outside a forested kind of area.  After a bit of a walk we came across wild donkeys.  Yep. It was awesome. 

This is what Canadians tell all tourists in Canada not to do... pet the wildlife.  Today I was a hypocrite.
So when we first saw them they were timid and shy and weren't very curious enough about us to come investigate.  Then we pulled out our picnic lunch and they wouldn't leave us alone! We got harrassed by a troupe of wild donkeys.  Never in my life did I expect that one happening.

After we made it out alive from the donkey attack that really wasn't an attack at all and more just like a personal bubble invasion, we kept walking and found some sand dunes which were probably my favourite part of the entire day.  It was quiet and peaceful, and it felt like the ocean was right around the corner (right afterwards I learned it was another good 30min walk to the water but at the time it didn't feel that way at all.)

Jumping off sand dunes 
We finally made it to the water and I ran in as far as I could without completely drenching my pants.  The ocean is soooo beautiful and I was able to stand there and look at France on my one side and Belgium on my other.  It was very very cool.  Afterwards we bought some Belgian chocolate which was obviously nothing other than absolutely delicious, and before driving back to Roubaix we stopped at another little village on the sea where we bought tiny little shrimp fresh at the port and ate them while we sat and looked at the boats.  It was the perfect end to an amazing week and I am so excited for the good memories still to come.

Getting Fat: A Drama (part 1)

Rika and Siobhan.  Eating croissants.

The croissants could do nothing but accept their fate and do as croissants normally do on that fine Friday morning in Bergues (tiny and adorable French village) as the foreign exchange students joyfully took one last photo with the delectable baked goods and proceeded to eat them with glee and mirth.  And thus, in revenge, the croissants will add pound upon pound to the waistline of the poor unsuspecting young persons so that their short lives will never be forgotten. The croissant legacy lives on.

Meanwhile, I get fat.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

La Maison!

my bedroom! Angle 1

Angle 2

Angle 3

top of the stairs

View of the house from the backyard: so beautiful!!


Hilarious looking hen that is just hanging out as a family pet

There are instruments everywhere it's awesome.

This is the view at the end of the hall that you see when you first walk into the house! It's an ancient stairway that winds around.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Destination Reached; Commence Exchange

Well yesterday morning I donned my oh so subtle Canadian Rotary Youth Exchange blazer, said goodbye to my dog, my house, my Mom, my Dad, and Tim Horton's *sniff* for a year and boarded a plane that would take me to Toronto.

Those were some tough goodbyes and it was hard not to spend my next 4 hours of useless time-wasting not thinking about everything I was leaving behind.  But finally I was in Toronto and my life in France felt more real and insanely closer than it ever had before (duh).  Luckily I spotted a lovely little clump of bright red, pin covered blazers in the food court at the gate for the Paris flight and waltzed on over to make some new Canadian friends eh! There were 8 of us in total heading for Paris on the same flight, and what was so cool is that even though we were from all over Canada, all of us were in the exact same position, feeling the exact same things, and had spent our last 10 months gearing up in the same way for this hugely monumental year ahead; I felt like I already had 7 new bffs and all of us had just met.

That flight was another long one full of a bunch of mixed emotions but there was no denying what I'd gotten myself into by the time the plane landed.  All us Canadians stuck together (I honestly just love Canada) till we got our luggage and walked through that gate into the unknown craziness that was the CDG airport.  There were so many people crowding the gate and I had a couple French Rotary men come up and ask me if I was someone, then look at my name tag and move on to the next red blazer when they realized I wasn't the student they were looking for.  It started to seem like everyone had found their host family or Rotarian within the first 5 minutes except for me and I won't lie I started to worry.... until I finally notice what I'd been COMPLETELY oblivious to before, and that was my host dad and host brother holding up a GIANT banner with my name on it, it was a bigger sign than anyone elses's and yet somehow I'd missed it, and they'd missed me (derp of the century if you ask me.)

My host mum, the incredibly jolly Rotary co-ordinator, exhausted me, and my host dad
So I met my host family and they were so friendly and welcoming.  I also found myself being able to understand what they were saying and carry on a conversation, in which I probably made hundreds of grammar and vocabulary errors, but it was awesome!

We left the airport and right away drove for like an hour to a place called Pierrefonds which was a beautiful tiny little village that got overlooked by a giant castle.  We stopped inside a Boulangerie, and as we walked up the narrow, cobbled street toward the castle I ate my first authentic French croissant. It was perfect! The castle was huge and stunning.  We went on a tour but I was exhausted and the French guy spoke like 80 words every 5 seconds so I mostly just walked around gaping wide eyed at the insane castle.



Afterwards we drove to Roubaix and I slept the entire way.  My host family lives right in the centre of Roubaix which actually is quite a large city.  Their house is in a row of buildings and looks old and European from the outside with two huge doors leading inside: so cool. They have a beautiful home and such a beautiful backyard and garden. Their yard is so alive and there are so many plants and trees, with vines that cling to the high brick walls that surround it.  You would never know they live in the middle of a city just from looking at their yard.  The rest of the day was relaxed, I got myself set up and packed and tried to settle in, Marie-Jose (my host mom) took me for a walk around the neighborhood showing me where the Metro was and how I'd walk to school.  

It's still mindblowing right now that I'm actually doing this. It set in as we arrived at the house and I began to unpack my things how long I will be in France for, and how different life is going to be here. It's definitely an adjustment but I'm so excited for all the cool things there are yet to be done! Yay France!!!!

Thursday, August 22, 2013


I have said more painful goodbyes in the last 24 hours than I think I have in my entire life and man is it ever a rough go.  It is so easy when you're clenched in a giant "I never want to let you out of my sight" hug in the arms of someone you love, with salty tears getting all up in the business making things messy and hard, to wonder why you ever decided to leave in the first place.  I would, without hesitation, be shoving at least 10 people into my suitcases to come with me if there weren't 18 or more reasons why that's not possible.

But here I am, it's my last night in Calgary, and tomorrow I am going to be embarking, solo, on what I am sure will be the adventure of a lifetime.  It's hard to leave the people I love so much behind but 11 months is a BREEEZE guys, it'll be over in no time!!!!! Then I'll be home again; I'll be wiser, and smarter, and stronger, and obviously way better looking, and maybe even have a hot pink mohawk and wow is this exciting or is this exciting!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I love you Canada
I'll miss you Canada
See you on the flip side

Saturday, August 17, 2013

And So It Begins...

9 months ago I filled out a form, wrote an introduction essay, and sent in my completed application for a Rotary Youth Exchange to the Rotary club of Okotoks and hoped with all my hoping powers that I would be the lucky "chosen one" who ventured off to a foreign country all by my independent self for a year.

8 months ago I found out, after I was interviewed, that I was chosen to go on the exchange for the year of 2013/2014. To say I was excited would be the understatement of the year.  I got the call from my Rotary counsellor while standing by myself in the middle of the common area of my school, and I think I frightened a few unsuspecting fellow high school-ers with my jumping-up-and-down-while-giggling-and-emitting-squeals-like-a-little-girl reaction.

7 months ago I was assigned the country of France for my exchange.

5 months ago I met the Inbound Rotary students of 2012/2013 who were from all over the world, and who were on exchange in my district in Alberta.  I also met the Outbound Canadian students from the 2011/2012 exchange and was able to get a glimpse into what my upcoming year would be like.  Every single person that I met was interesting and cool and mature and and awesome and they made me want to be on exchange already.

3 months ago I received an email from my first host family, and learned my new home would be Roubaix, which is a small city just outside of the larger city Lille, in northern France.

2 months ago I graduated from high school.

1 month ago panic set in as I realized how little time I had left in Canada, and how fast it was probably going to pass.

I was right.

IN 5 DAYS I LEAVE FOR FRANCE FOR A YEAR.  There are too many goodbyes, too many things to pack, too many tasks to be done, too many people I still haven't seen, and nowhere near enough hours in a day. I have no idea when 5 months became 5 days, but the moment I've been waiting for for over half a year is finally almost here and I have more emotions running through me than I ever thought a person could feel all at one time. I'm gonna miss you Canada!