Monday, September 30, 2013

Course des Terrils

Otherwise known as the race I thought was just a race and ended up being similar to the equivalent of a mad dash through the forest and up steep scree terrain.

It all began way back mid week when Yann suggested this race that was happening Sunday the 29th.  He was going to be running the 70km course (he really really likes running), and told me about a 9km one I could run if I was interested.  Because I do enjoy running, and had promised myself I would be open to everything and say yes to everything this year so as not to miss out on any cool opportunities, I said I'd be down, thus forfeiting my one sleep-in of the week.  9 kilometres isn't too hard..... or so I thought.

Yann modelling his favourite hat for running, the night before his big race.  He got it in Thailand and loves it because nobody has one like it.
Yann had to start his race at 6am (yeah.. WHAT) so I was picked up at 8:15 by Tanguy, who is actually the president of my host Rotary club here in France, who works with Yann, and who would also be running a race at the event: the 16km one.  We stopped back at Tanguy's house to pick up Robert, Tanguy's son, who would be running the 9km with me (and was enjoying a little bit of an extra sleep in).  Robert is 18 and went on a Rotary exchange two years ago to the states.  Anyway, we make it to the event, pick up our numbers, and our race t-shirts (which were soo nice!) and Tanguy left Robert and I to go to the start line.

Everyone at the start line was pumped and happy and ready to run.  That's something that apparently stays the same no matter what country you're in: the joy and camaraderie of running a race with a big group of strangers who love doing it.  It also helps that there was a band there playing peppy French tunes that were bordering on the very cheesy terrain, but mostly just rested on the hilarious and pleasing for tourist Siobhan terrain.  Then before you know it the countdown was done and the race had begun.  Robert is actually quite a runner and was off booking it right from the start, so I was left content to run my easy pace alongside runners I didn't know.  It was awesome.  The race started on a paved road, and soon enough we had turned off into a forested area, and were running trails.  I personally love that kind of running, so I was having a total blast! Then approximately 5 minutes into the race, there suddenly loomed in front of us this giant, steep, mountain-like face covered in scree.  Now I'm just gonna rewind to a day earlier, when Yann told me the race was easy and from what I understood, he'd said there were two "hills." Fast forward to the next day, an hour before the start of the race, and Tanguy tells me the exact same thing.  Now we're back in the present, I'm running towards what in my mind looked like a vertical wall of flying scree and scrambling French runners, and to say that I was surprised would honestly be a rather large understatement.  My immediate thought was "since when?!?!" and then using my incredible exchange student skills of adapting to situations, I got over my surprise, and proceeded to run.. then slowly jog-walk... then climb using all fours.. up the terrain.

A photo from Google which very accurately portrays the scramble (so mad at myself for not having my iPod or phone to take photos)
photo from Google which very accurately portrays the amount of people scrambling at once
photo from Google which very accurately portrays the size of the "hill"

 As much as it came as a surprise, and I probably would've dreaded it had I known about it beforehand, it felt so good and satisfying to make it to the top, and the view of the surrounding French countryside was so awesome. I didn't, however, get to take it in for that long, because the race had just begun and everyone continued running.  We runners turned a corner just after leaving the top of the hill, and lo and behold there's the 1km sign; this run was going to be a gooder. It continued on much the same as it began, through the trees and trails and forest, going up and going down.  I have never been in a race that was that interesting, exciting, difficult, varied, challenging, or commanding of attention! I didn't get to zone out like I normally would when running, my brain was busy the entire time as I focused on either not breaking my ankle, or just on the usual self-encouragement thoughts that help me to keep going hard.  There was another big incline about 20 minutes later, that went on much longer, but was zig-zagged, and nowhere near as steep.  Still though, because of how long it was, every runner was walking by the time we got to the top.  The rest of the race went pretty well, there were two more French bands we passed.  I got treated by a band of old guys to about 5 seconds of "Paint It Black" by the Rolling Stones as I ran by.  Then there was another band that played some more peppy French tunes.  Not to mention the hilarious French spectators who stationed themselves throughout the course and yelled "Alleralleralleralleraller!" at you as you ran by.  That happened about 15 times I'd say.  About 3km from the finish there was a water station, which, unlike Canada, didn't have just water, but water, bread, dried apricots, raisins, orange wedges, and CHOCOLATE.  You could run buy and grab a chunk of chocolate and keep running while you eat deliciousness, which is of course what I did.  I grabbed a handful of raisins, and a giant chunk of chocolate, and spent my next kilometre thoroughly enjoying myself.  Then finally the finish was in sight, and I kicked up my speed to finish.

Me after my race!
Finish line
Afterwards, things happened like they normally would at any race.  There was food for runners, and a bunch of booths around for runners and spectators alike. There was one booth/store that seemed to be the French equivalent of The Running Room, that had a cool wall where you could write messages! So obviously I helped Canada leave it's mark.

Can you spot Canada? (top... below writing... middle....)
"CHEERS FROM CANADA! - Siobhan Barry - RYE 2013/14!!!"
And then the time's got posted.  I ended up with 447th out of seven hundred something, not bad!

Overall, it was an awesome experience, and despite how I had to get up early and I really didn't want to, it ended up being so so worth it.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

French Frendz

Look Mom! I made friends!!


Siobhan on ze skate

crazy eyes and pumped on skating (I'm terrible in case you're wondering)

Louis and Hind (they stole my phone haha)

still stoked on skating

Hind and Celine!

Marion and myself looking gorgeous

 I know I thought they all looked like models when I first saw them too.... (L2R: Lucie, Julia, Ana, Marion, and Sixtine)

Marion and Louise!  
Marion and Sixtine! (Marion wanted pictures to print off for her bedroom.. which explains why I have all these)
And that's that.  Bisous!

Scenic Running

It's easy to forget I'm living in a city when I go for a run.

There is a park quite close to my house called "La Parc Barbieux" which is a gorgeous little park that I loop a few times on my runs. It's beautiful at any time of day in any weather and it's awesome.

Then last Saturday, Yann took me running to show me a side of Roubaix I wouldn't normally see.  Roubaix is the poorest city in France, and therefore not it's most beautiful one (although I've grown to really like it), yet there's one part of it, where all you have to do is cross a street and you'll find the houses of some of the richest people in France.

This house... is home to one family..!! There was a line up of people on the other side of the house to go in and get a tour.  Yann and I skipped the tour and ran around back to get a full view.  That lower balcony on the right side is just above a giant outdoor swimming pool of the same length.  It's like Roubaix, France: 90210

This is La Parc Barbieux once again

Yay Running! Yay France! Yay Exchange! Yay Life!!! :)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Awkward Anecdotes

Now it's time for me to recount an embarrassing event that happened to me today... that will hopefully make some of you blog readers smile (at my expense.. you are welcome).  Also before I begin I would just like to point out that as an exchange student, struggling and trying harder than most people should to fit in to a new country and culture, you constantly have embarrassing moments.  Exchange is not for the meek or faint of heart, and one of the most important things is being able to laugh at yourself and your situation no matter how embarrassing or shocking or ridiculous it may be!  If you can make light of any situation, you are on the path to a successful year.

And with that being said here we go...

Today in the afternoon I had 3.5 hours of DS (which when expanded and translated means "surveyed homework", and if I were explaining it to a Canadian I would say it's set up and treated the exact same way as end of year exams.  Only it happens once a week, every week, and can last from 1 to 4 hours).  Started with 2 hours of math, and afterwards had 1.5 hours of physics.  After the 2 dreadful hours of doodling and open-eye-snoozing (because no way is my French good enough yet to even attempt to comprehend DS) that was the Math part of DS, we had a 15 minute break.  I spent the first couple minutes listening to my friends nervously discuss who found what difficult, and then I left by myself to go to the bathroom.

Excluding the mini bathroom in the canteen, as far as I have seen there's only one girls bathroom for a high school of 2000 students (there could be like 8 other bathrooms that I am oblivious to but my exchange student brain is aware of just one) so the bathroom is always hustling and bustling with lots of chatty French teenage girls.  The sinks are all gathered in the middle of the room when you walk in, and lining the walls are the "stalls" (which are more like little cubbies) for doin your thang.  They're like tiny tiny little rooms because the walls on either side go from floor to about half a foot from the ceiling.  And the door is the same.  Not really anything like the stalls that North Americans would be used to.

So anyway, in I walk and make my way into a stall, and can't help but notice that I really really had to shove the door of the stall to get it to close.  Way down deep in my brain there was a little voice that said "uh oh" but my need to relieve was a little greater so I didn't think twice.  Then "the situation" occurred.  My shoving had done quite the job in sealing the door shut because in trying to exit the stall I found that it had reached the wasn't-going-to-open-not-even-if-I-power-stanced-and-yanked-on-it-while-consciously-engaging-all-muscle-in-my-body point.  That was kind of funny at first. Then I tried again.. and again.. and again.. honestly using as much pulling force as I could muster and I could not get the door to budge.  Well great.  Because there I am, I have a DS starting up again in 5 minutes, none of my friends were within yelling distance, and the bathroom is full of French speaking Frenchies who would probably not find it normal to see a bizarro Canadian launching herself over top of the stall (this would be normal at my high school back in Canada...).  I sent a text to Sixtine telling her I was trapped, and hoped to god she had her phone on her.  Then I was faced with a dilemma.  Do I wait it out and hope someone comes looking for me? Do I trust that Sixtine got my message and is coming to my aid? Or do I Tarzan myself over the stall and risk the awkwardness of trying to explain in broken French what I have just done and why I did it while at the same time trying to preserve some pride and dignity for Canadians worldwide.  During this thinking process I took the opportunity to take some selfies with my phone of me trapped in a French bathroom.  Never miss out on capturing an exchange memory! (The photo was dark and terrible quality and won't make it to the blog sorry folks).  Anyway, I soon realized that as much as DS was far from what I wanted to do for the next 1.5 hours, it ranked higher than rotting away in an old stinky French bathroom.  So I put my Canadian insecurities behind me, climbed onto the toilet, got my feet up onto the sides of the wall, and launched myself onto the top of the stall door... terrifying the approximately 7 or 8 girls who were surrounding the sinks.  My triumphant jump had just finished happening when Sixtine walked into the bathroom with Ana and burst out laughing as the first thing she saw was me hanging with half my body over this high door, and the French students looking up at me in shock and horror.  Sixtine told me to get down and then within 10 seconds she'd opened the door with the help of one other girl (see it wasn't easy!).  And then we proceeded to laugh for a good 5 minutes at the ridiculousness of what had just happened.  I laughed to heal my wounded pride mostly, but also because it was such a  ridiculous scenario and of course it happened to the newbie Canadian.  I have feeling that there will be many many more such events to come.  Yay Exchange!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Getting Fat: A Drama (part 4)

The saucisse had heard tales. It knew what was coming.  A group of international students was always a bad sign...

It's greatest fears came true as the wild looking pale girl with one too many freckles and the look of exchange student hunger in her eyes pounced...

And just like that it's short life came to an end...

Meanwhile: You know at this point I've pretty much just fully accepted that not gaining weight is not an option (yeah good luck understanding that double negative).  Bring it on France.

Fabbity Fab Fab

Today I met with all my international exchange friends again and I'll be honest we didn't do much but it was a blast and a half. We went to a mine that we toured for about a half hour (so I can't tell you much about it honestly) but the best part about the day was seeing all the friends!

We signed a guestbook yippee! Spot the obnoxious Canadian

Because you can never have too many photos of yourself on your own blog

Thank god I'm so tanned

Gabby modeling the incredibly chic French Rotary scarves we all got.  She made a comment I thought was funny: "Of course the French Rotary gives us scarves"

Surprise Ian I'm taking creepy photos of you eating!!!

Smoking: gross.  Cigarettes: gross.  Photos of French people smoking cigarettes: I admit pretty cool.

Theophane got dragged along for the whole day

Navaida modeling some beautiful henna done by Maria!

Maria became the henna goddess today

Friday, September 20, 2013

Odds and Ends

Today marks the official 4 week mark of my exchange so far.  By Sunday it will technically be one month!! My my what an incredible 4 weeks it has been.  It's so weird to think back to my first day of arrival and all the thoughts and feelings and emotions I was having, compared to now.  It's amazing to me how much I've already adapted to my new life here. Also it amazes me what great friendships I've already begun to develop! I have friends inside of school and outside with who it feels like our friendship has been going on much longer than just 4 weeks.

I've done some pretty awesome stuff in the past couple weeks that I haven't had the time to post about so I'm gonna do a little cutting and pasting and make this post into one big article on the fun little odds and ends I've been up to.

Hanging out in Lille with Rika, Liz, and Gabby the day before school started!
Marie Jose and Yann took me into Belgium one day to see a bunch of cool things! It was a special weekend when access to tourist places was free and there were things open that you wouldn't normally get to see, so it was exciting not just for me but for all of us!

Yann checking things out in Belgium
Marie Jose climbing up the tower

Yann was pretty stoked on everything we could see.  Like me he'd never been up there before



I have absolutely not a clue what the thing I am standing on is and I'm pretty sure it was borderline going to fall to pieces (Siobhan quit being a tourist and doing things you aren't supposed to) but it looked like a giant hamster wheel or something so this is me "running" on it.  A questionable photograph at best...


Then Gabby and Ty both celebrated birthdays within the first 3ish weeks of exchange so their families got together to host a bit of a party for them! Lots of people were there.  There were exchange students, French students, host families of exchange students, families of french students, and also French friends from Lycee.

note: on the left. guy in green shirt...


yahoo exchange friends! 
The weekend after the one I mentioned above, and the Sunday after the party with my friends, Marie Jose and Yann took me into Douai (in France) because entry was once again free! We got to see a lot of cool things but my favourite was the Beffroit:


Waiting for somebody to give me a ball gown and commence project this-room-was-amazing-and-there-should-be-a-ball ASAP

And here's a cool photo I took of tea. I apologize if it feels a little anticlimactic at this point...

And the last thing I have to talk about is Marie Jose's birthday! She was out all day and Yann invited all her friends to dinner without her knowing so she came home to a lovely surprise.  I helped Yann out a little in getting organized, and I rearranged all the appetizers on the plates before we ate (in other words just ate... a lot... and occasionally made something look nice)

That's all my updates for now folks! Until next time! Bisous!!