Monday, February 24, 2014

....Still here!

First off my most sincere apologies to any readers out there who long ago gave up on me, don't despair I have returned!!! And I am going to do my absolute best to not be gone for so long ever again.

Life has been insanity in recent times let me tell you: there was Gokul's birthday party, the discovery of Lille's greatest vintage shop in existence (and more), the theft of a most beloved bike in Roubaix, the head-to-head rivalry between a Canadian and her French history teacher, the time I went to school Saturday morning running on 3 hours of sleep and a giant bowl of coffee, hitting the 6 month mark of "Siobhan abroad," stressful university applications, stressful French school projects and presentations, a professional photoshoot, a non professional photoshoot, and everything else in between from keeping up my running to getting better and better at French to hating on chest infections.  Oh and by the way now I'm in Ireland. Surprise!

So I mean after reading all that you guys can cut me a little slack right?

So Gokul's birthday.  That was so much fun and quite hilarious.  It was fairly small, made up of mostly exchange students and members of Gokul's host family.  It was a great night of eating party dishes and chatting with friends, and soon turned into show-off-dancing-or-singing-from-your-country night.  As far as dancing goes.. India is the supreme winner.  We cut the casual party tunes and found some solid Bollywood dance tracks, and the minute Maria heard the music she bolted out to the middle of the floor and started doing her thing in front of everyone like it was as normal as anything.  So that was awesome because I felt like I was sitting front row watching the "Jai Ho" dance number from Slumdog Millionaire live.  And then it got ten times better because Gokul joined in, then we all joined in, and then there were 12 foreigners awkwardly dancing Bollywood around Gokul's host family's living room while they stood around catching it all on camera and probably wondering what they had gotten themselves into by inviting over a bunch of crazy foreigners.

photo was stolen from Liz!

Liz photo!

Liz's photo again!!

A Wednesday or two ago, in my free time, Veronica and Elise showed Liz and I to some SWEET vintage places in Vieux Lille, also bringing me farther into the heart of Vieux Lille than I'd ever been and making me realize that I should've spent more time exploring it way earlier on in exchange.  Being vintage and thrift store lovers like me, they'd gotten frustrated not knowing where they could quench their shopping desires and came up with the idea none of us had been smart enough to think of before and just googled vintage stores in Lille.. DUH.  It's such a sweet area full of trendy shops, bookstores, bars and cafes; there's even this hilarious American-themed diner that makes milkshakes of every flavour (yep Nutella's there) and has the classic greasy burger and fries dish (almost impossible to find in France outside of McDonald's).  These new discoveries mean great things for my free time adventures in the next four months... but horrible things for my suffering wallet.

Friday February 14, 2014: the day I decided my history teacher and me cannot ever be friends, the day it poured rain, the day my bike (which is really my host mom's bike) got stolen outside of art class, the day the bus came 20 minutes late, and the day I really really really didn't like Roubaix (using the word "really" thrice as opposed to writing "hate" because that just feels a little harsh to throw out there on the internet).  Not my best day of exchange... probably the worst.  First off my history teacher gave me a hard time.  He's been on my back since the beginning of exchange to work hard and participate and yada yada.  For the first two months I just couldn't understand a thing... for the next two months I was just lazy... but in recent times I have begun making an effort in his class! The problem is, he gave me this big assignment during my lazy period that was to be done and then presented (in French) in front of the class, and I conveniently forgot about it when I started actually doing some work in history.  About two weeks ago he cracked down and said that if I didn't get it done I was going to be banned from coming into his class, but would still have to make up for the lost time by spending 2-3 hours Wednesday afternoons sitting alone, bored to death, in one of St. Remi's working rooms.  He said it to me in a condescending kind of way, throwing in the odd comment about laziness too which I didn't love.  Although tempted to be a brat and deal with it out of spite, I knew my troubles would be over if I just did his huge project for him.  That started operation Siobhan-Over-Stressed because unfortunately he decided to get serious with his threats around the same time I was preparing for my Ireland trip, and starting to feel panicky about my university application deadlines.  AHH.  So that was early afternoon.  Then the rain started as Sixtine and I headed to art, the last class of the day, and I told myself all I had to do was make it home on the bike in the horrible weather and I'd be there in front of the hot fire with my tea and things would be lovely.  I walked out of the building after class to find that the lamp post which I'd locked my bike to was looking rather naked and BIKE-LESS, and my last hope of the day ending on a positive note came crashing down as I tried to restrain myself from a full out tantrum of despair and bad language.  Some of my despair may have slipped out (apologies for Sixtine who was a trooper and stood by my side during this time being a good friend, finding my rage funny and telling me it was okay to really really really not like Roubaix at that moment in time).  Then the bus came 20 minutes late.  20 minutes in which I would have already been home, made tea, and in front of the fire if I still had my (my host mom's) bike.  Not my brightest hour.. or 12 hours.

In other news, yesterday marked the 6 month mark of shenanigans.  The day before marked 4 months before heading home.  WHAAAAT.

Ty's host mom gave him a photo shoot coupon as a present for Christmas for him and his friends, so a week or so ago Veronica, David, Liz and I all went with him to this giant studio where we got our makeup done and then did our thang as models.  It was funny because it was clearly one of the studios people go to for family photos with cheesy smiles and candid "we love eachother effortlessly but this is definitely posed" kind of shots, and we went in saying we were gonna get the funniest photos we possibly could.  The poor photographer would tell us to do a pose and we'd often do the complete opposite, or not even hear her, I don't think she was used to a group like us.  We ended up choosing 5 photos that were hilarious and probably nothing like what the studio had ever produced for anyone, but we had fun and I think we gave them a laugh or two and that's all that matters.  I'll get those photos up here when I can get them from Ty.

iPod photo preview of the photo shoot shenanigans
One Thursday we didn't have afternoon classes because none of the teachers showed up, so the girls and I went to Ana's after school for a makeshift photo shoot and a lot of n'importe quoi.  That was fun.


S I X T I N E 

A N A 

C O P I N E S 
Like mentioned above, the past 2ish weeks have been insaaaaanity.  I have a huge application for a university next year that's due on March 1st and it's been a side project I've been trying to put time into for the past month.  The problem is that it's probably one of the most important commitments in my life right now, but it couldn't take first priority because of things like threatening history teachers and other aspects of my French life that had to come first simply because that is my life right now.  On top of history, I've had 2 other projects and 1 presentation to be done recently (since I've decided to put in an effort I've actually done them and gotten them in ON TIME which deserves a pat on the back) for lyceé.  I also decided to cancel my Euro tour with the exchange students in April in order to go on vacation to Île de Ré on the west coast of France with my current host family the Dervilles (it was a long process deciding what I wanted to do and weighing the pros and cons of each, but I'm happy with my decision in the end) and that involved a lot of emailing, phone calls, and paperwork.  Then there was preparation for my Ireland trip (began 2 days ago) that also involved a lot of emails and paperwork.  Planning for my mum and sis to visit in March (more paperwork and emails you guessed it!).  Then I'm also just trying my best not to slide off the social face of the planet.  I don't want this to sound like a petty "oh my god I'm too popular" complaint... but I've begun to find that there are not enough hours in a day to see and talk to all of my friends.  Balancing time with all my friends from all the different circles and aspects of my exchange is HARD and I've been feeling guilty recently because of the amount of times I hear "so.. where have you been recently..?" I have friends I haven't seen in weeks and didn't even get to say bye to before leaving France for 2 weeks! Anyway... I can summarize this paragraph in about one word: STRESS

For those of you still reading at this point.. CONGRATS!

My stress led to headaches which led to a sore throat which led to a chest infection.  All in my last week before taking the flight to Dublin on Friday.  Not.  Cool.  To be honest it's not even the physical discomfort that's annoying, it's mostly just frustrating because it's keeping me from running.


I have been stressed, yes. I have been busy, yes.  But I have stayed positive and kept up happiness (except for that one dreaded Friday) and now I am in Ireland which is AWESOME.  Stay tuned for a blog post about that.  Coming soooooon!

Bisous from Siobhan in Ireland :)

Sunday, February 2, 2014

OH YEAH: Pancakes

The craziest/weirdest/made-me-have-a-bunch-of-deep-thoughts type thing happened on Friday.  We didn't have classes because of what's called a journée pédagogique, which I'm preeetty sure is like a teacher convention day or something along those lines ...(?) Anyway there wasn't any school WOO.  Except for a field trip to see the Yves Saint Laurent movie with my art class around 3pm, which basically felt like going to see a movie but finding my whole art class in the theatre, so that doesn't count as school.

So there I was on the cloudy Friday afternoon stopped on my bike at a red light in traffic, about halfway done the route to school, when this scruffy, long-haired, dirty and homeless-looking man rounded the corner that was right next to where I was stopped and headed in a bee-line in my direction.  He was walking, and he didn't speed up or anything, just casually strolled right up to me.

Now, like I've mentioned, I go to school in Roubaix.  It's a long way from the homely suburbs I live in back home with lots of places I wouldn't go alone.  One time Marion (with her long blond hair, kind of rare in Roubaix), Ana and me (two brunettes) were scanning our passes to take the metro from La Grand Place in Roubaix, when a sketchy looking guy said hi to Marion.  When she ignored him (like most of us girls would probably do) and tried to keep walking, he leaned over and spat on her hair.  He spat.  Marion, as is normal, did not love it. Her and I were still trying to get over our shock at what happened when Ana, who lives in Roubaix, gave her shoulders a quick shrug and said "Well, that's Roubaix" like it was about as normal as anything.

So now with that little backstory I shall continue.  Rewind to Siobhan stopped on bike at red light with homeless man walking in my direction.  Because it was Roubaix and and because of situations like the one with Marion and because I'm a female and I was being approached by a strange man I will admit I had a quick surge of fear and tensed up, but I stayed where I was on my bike confident the light would change and give me my getaway if it came to it (may or may not have been a little over-dramatic...) The man walked right up just till he was about a foot away, and did the most unexpected thing.  He pulled out a 50cent coin, balanced it on my gloved hand that was clutching my handlebar, and kept walking, leaving me confused and speechless with 50 cents still balanced on the top of my hand.  He was gone faster than he'd came and I couldn't wrap my head around what had happened fast enough to say thanks before the light changed and I had to quickly slip the coin in my jacket before continuing my route.  Like what?! So that happened.  I still don't get it.  Maybe he's just your regular Joe and had 50 cents too many.  Or maybe he's a billionaire disguised as a man who lives on the streets who likes to confuse and make the day of exchange students all in one go.  The event was meaningless but you can bet your best 50 cents (ha.. ha..) that I spent the rest of my bike ride in deep philosophical thought and analyzation.

So far I've been having another really great weekend.  Last night I went to another Rally with Louise and hung out and danced all night with her and her really cool group of friends.  I also ran into my friend Daria from Russia which was cool because we both kind of fell back on each other and spoke English every time we were all French-ed out (it's not cheating I swear).  Despite another late night I got myself up at the ripe old hour of 8:15am this morning so I could make pancakes for the host family.  Edouard's birthday was on Thursday and he'd made a special request that we have pancakes for breakfast today seen as today is the day chosen to actually celebrate and do presents and all that fun birthday jazz.  So there I was playing some chill tunes and pancake-ing away while the rest of the family slept.  The different family members woke up at different times to the smell of pancakes and arrived upon a legit STACK of pancakes when they came down to the kitchen.  Each one of them reacted differently but with the same level of stoke which was cool. Also did I mention there was real Canadian MAPLE SYRUP.

And that was just breakfast.  For Edouard's birthday lunch Valentine made this delicious salmon followed by a cake called the Merveilleux that is really well known in the Lille area (and probably around France too but I don't know for sure) as basically being the alpha and omega of boss cakes.  We're talking delicious, creamy, chocolatey, meringue-y goodness all whipped up in one dessert of happiness.  Check. It. Out.

photo courtesy of google
All I can say is thank heavens I stay active during the week because these weekends of heavenly indulgence would otherwise have me teetering on the brink of serious weight gain.  But I mean it's delicious so who's complaining.

Happy Sunday! Go eat some chocolate :)