Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Third and Final Chapter

I have moved host families! Since yesterday morning I am living with my third and final host family, the Brodins, back in Roubaix.  The move went incredibly smoothly.  One could say I have grown accustomed to packing up my life and belongings and plonking it down into an unfamiliar place all while speaking a different language.  But I can't take too much credit because having known the family and spent some time with them before moving in, things became a lot simpler.

Packing up all my stuff in my room at the Dervilles
The ever-present question in an exchange student's mind when moving host families: "how on EARTH am I going to bring all this stuff home..."
I didn't have classes Wednesday so Valentine drove me to the new house with all my junk in the morning.  Severine and Thibaut, my new host parents, both work during the day, so only my new host brother Lancelot (who's 11 and adorable) was there to help me get settled.  And what a good job he did.  He was all "official man of the house" and probably carried in as much baggage as Valentine or I.  My new bedroom is on the third floor of the new house.  Yep, THIRD floor.  There's my bedroom, and then this giant games/exercise/book room next to it and that's all there is, so I have a whole floor to myself which isn't so bad.  So obviously the 2 flights of stairs weren't that tempting for any of us standing there with all my stuff, worst of all two HUGE suitcases that weigh a ton, when Lancelot proceeds to say "Oh not a problem! We'll use the elevator!"    .....     THERE IS AN ELEVATOR IN THIS HOUSE. WHAT.  I always wondered what it'd be like to live in a house with an elevator.  I guess the last resident of the house was disabled and needed the elevator to get upstairs. So all my stuff was sent up to the third floor in one easy trip that lasted approximately 5 minutes.  Lancelot hopped in with all the bags and he made it upstairs before even Valentine or I could.

The room I moved in to belongs to Anouk, my 17 year old would-be host sister who's currently on a Rotary exchange in Mexico.  It can be weird to live in someone else's room, but it's big and really nice, with an awesome view of the giant backyard so it's not so bad.  The house itself is incredible and beautiful, but I can't say I'm overjoyed about living in Roubaix again.  I walk to the bike station (signed myself up to use the city bikes) in the mornings, then bike about 10 minutes to the Metro/Tram/Bus stations where it's only about a 5 minute walk to school.  Wasquehal was so calm, and I'd forgotten that you kind of have to pay more attention to yourself and your surroundings in Roubaix.  I need to get myself back into the proper mindset, because I definitely relaxed a lot while I lived in Wasquehal!

Living room/room where guests sit and have drinks before dinner/room where Siobhan has the best wifi 
Dining room
Not a great view of my bedroom but the only photo I have so far! Plus you see all the stuff I have... :o
terrace just outside kitchen
This wallpaper is EVERYWHERE.  Second floor.
After all my stuff was moved upstairs, Valentine headed out.  I'm going to see her and the rest of my second host fam as early as TOMORROW but I was still sad saying goodbye to her.  I had such an incredible connection with that family, and part of me is scared that moving farther away, being in a different family, as well as having a busy schedule for my last 2 months of exchange could make it difficult to stay in touch and maintain that connection, but I'm going to do my absolute best to keep in contact and visit them all the time! 

It was the day of Sixtine's birthday, and even though we didn't have classes, we all wanted to meet up for lunch so she wouldn't spend her birthday alone at her house.  So after unpacking about half my bags I skated into Roubaix to meet school friends.  We all bought something to eat and brought it with us on the tram to Parc Barbieux where we sat in the sun and had a chill picnic.

Afterwards I took the metro to Lille to meet exchange kiddies.  Daria, a girl from Russia on exchange in Lille (not with Rotary), is going home next week and wanted to see a lot of us before she left.  So I got to Lille and arrived at another picnic.  I love nice weather. It was cool because we just sat at this one sunny part of the park as exchange students came and went and often brought food (YESSS).  

Thibaut, my new host dad, had texted me asking if I wanted to go running around 7pm, and after my day of picnicking I figured it might not be a bad idea.  I took the metro home with Liz and ended up running into Alix, my new host sis, on my walk back to the house! We grabbed the bus together to get back.  The run with Thibaut was cool! I feel like I've been able to see so much more of the countryside and general area just from going on runs with my host family members.  

Tomorrow is my last day of school before I have 2 weeks off YESSS! After school I'll be going to the Dervilles house to stay the night.  Early Saturday morning I'm going to be taking the train, then the bus, with Louise and 9 of her friends that I've met and sort of gotten to know since January, to L'Ile de Ré!! It's an island on the west of France where the Dervilles have a vacation home.  It's just going to be us young people for 5 days before the Valentine and the rest of the family come, and it should be a really fun time. Seriously cannot wait.  But that also means I won't have my laptop or wifi connection so this'll probably be my last post for 2 weeks.  

Wednesday is my 8 month mark.  Meaning I have only 2 months left of France.  When vacation is over I'll only have 5 weeks left of school, and only 7 weeks left before my flight home.  This is INSANITY. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Adventures of April Part 2


So I arrived back in Lille by train from Paris Monday after I saw my mom and sister off at the airport. I did feel kind of lonesome hanging around by myself waiting for the train, but felt more and more comfortable the closer the train got to Lille and by the time I arrived felt pretty much back to normal.  Having Deirdre and Mum in France feels like this sweet but unreal dream.

But life has continued and I've done my best to hold on tight as it does it's best to wear me into the ground.  I just don't understand how I am ALWAYS SO BUSY.  I don't understand how some people can pass entire afternoons where they just sit in bed and watch netflix... I'd LOVE to do that but can only estimate having that much free time in my life to be approximately 6 months from now.

But I'm still having an amazing time! It was so great to be back at school Tuesday to see my friends, although I didn't miss school very much.  There were lots of hugs and even more bisous when I saw mes copines.  Also lots of screaming and laughing and speed talking as we tried to catch up on eachothers' lives for the past 2 weeks.  Then classes began and I found myself back in routine as per usual.  Valentine and Mathieu bought ANOTHER new bike while I was gone (can you believe the positivity and faith of these people) with an even thicker lock chain, and have informed me I can use it to ride to school but they'd prefer if I didn't go anywhere else too adventurous with it.  I nearly got whiplash from the force of my whole-hearted nodding in agreement.

Wednesday night I went to a Sticky Fingers concert at El Diablo! Ian, Ana, Martin, Troy,  Embla, Veronica, Paco, Clancy, Sam and I met up in Lille Wednesday evening and walked to the kind of sketchy run down old back street where the concert was.  It was this tiny venue that was clearly somewhere that only ran punk rock kind of gigs, but it was so cool.  Not to mention how chill it was.  They're a cool Australian band and the band members came out for a chill and smoke before they performed.  No big deal or anything but we shook their hands and had casual conversation with them on the side of the street before they started playing.  They were super laid back and easy to talk to, and their gig was so much fun.  It was tiny!  We could have stepped up onto the stage and danced with them as they played.  When they were done playing there was more socializing and then Valentine came to pick me up because sadly... I had school the next morning and couldn't spend the whole night talking my way in to being in the band.

Ian, Vero,  Mr. Australian Lead Singer, and Mr. Australian Long Haired Ginger Bearded Bass Player outside of El Diablo
Thursday I got to miss almost an ENTIRE day of school! YESS!!! Marion texted me Wednesday afternoon to invite me to lend my face to some French makeup artist students for testing... sounds scary I know but I mean I MISSED SCHOOL. So obviously I said yes.  The dealio is that Marion's older cousin is studying fashion and styling at a school in Roubaix.  She's coming to the end of her last year and the final project is to design and create 8 outfits from your fashion line.  So she designs the clothes, makes them, finds models, and there's a year end fashion show and photoshoot and everything.  I got to visit the school and sit in on a class and felt like I was sitting in the biggest of French cliches.  Beautiful and stylish French girls were sitting along two long tables with beautiful pieces of fabric scattered around working on their projects, a scary looking French woman with questionable style sitting at the front of the room (the prof) speaking and occasionally yelling at whatever student she was helping, and all of it happening in a high ceilinged, classic white room that makes you feel like you're sitting in a scene from some French indie movie.  So anyway, most of the fashion students partner with makeup artist students at a school in Lille so that they have semi-professional makeup done for their models that looks good and works with their project.  And in the meantime the makeup artist students get the chance to showcase their talent and their capabilities to their teachers.  The french call it a binome, it's a beautiful win-win situation.  So Marion and I visited Clotilde (that's her cousin)'s school really quick, grabbed some lunch, and went with Clotilde's fellow classmate Charlotte into Lille on the metro.  We arrived at the makeup school and I felt like I walked onto the set of America's Next Top Model.  First off, beautiful and/or uber stylish-to-the-point-of-ugly-but-still-stylish people were everywhere.  And the room had brick walls and was filled with rows of those big mirrors lined with floodlights that all stars sit at to get their makeup done.  Marion was being Clotilde's model and got whisked away pretty quick, so I, being Charlotte's went and met the makeup artist and got sat down.  And from then on was simply "the model" with no other role than to sit there as they smacked makeup onto my face.  It was weird because the profs would come and go and comment and critique.  At one point there were at least 5 or 6 French people crowded around my mirror giving their opinions on what I looked like.  It was a weird feeling! Charlotte's fashion line is very soft and pastel-y with big flower prints, and she wants her models to have natural and wispy straight hair (so they did nothing to mine...) and very nude and natural faces... almost to the point of looking dead.  Look at how I ended up.

Marion getting her hair done
sorry for the lack of smiling but honestly... that made it scarier

AS YOU CAN SEE I had a little bit more of a sombre result than Marion who ended up looking like a gorgeous French runway queen.  But it was pretty funny.  Plus it was so cool watching all the other makeup get done, and the range in variety! It made me so badly want to go to the year end show to see how all the different projects end up.

The last cool thing that happened this week was going to my friend Marion's, who I met through Louise, 18th birthday party in her grandparents giant country mansion.  (Different Marion by the way!) Basically her grandparents have this HUGE house and property out in the countryside that they lived in alone until they passed away.  Since it's so big, it costs way too much to be redone, so no one wants to buy it.  So Marion's family go every once and a while for a weekend in the spring/summer but for the most part it stays empty and unused... until Marion or her brother decide they want to have a party and invite 20 of their friends out to stay the night.... like last night.  There were about 20 or so of us French teenagers who had this giant mansion to ourselves. It was buttloads of fun.

Louise and I <3333

THE mansion.
Now it's late on a Sunday and after I post this I'm probably going to bed.  Back to school for one week starting tomorrow before there's a 2 week vacation HALLELUJAH! Then only 7 weeks left in France once vaycay is over... trying not to think about it...

Well anyway you're all caught up on my life if you've made it this far folks.
Bisous and until next time xx

The Adventures of April

Starting each blog post with a "sorry it's been so long since the last post" apology is seriously not cool and I wish I would be on the ball enough to make it happen less frequently.....


But hello! Welcome back! Yes in fact I DO still exist! I AM still in France!
And I finally have an open afternoon with nothing planned that will allow me to sit down and catch you guys up on what's been going down in Siobhan's French Life of Happiness and Croissants in recent times.  Could be here till tomorrow, and so could all you reading this so ready yourselves.

The last thing I left off with on my last post was a rather spazzy and excited paragraph about how my mom and sister were to arrive in Lille to visit me the next morning.  Well that happened, and it was AWESOME.  They came and spent 2.5ish days in Lille, then the three of us packed up and went to Ireland for a week and a half, and returned to France to spend one dreamy day in Paris before they went back home to Calgary and I came back home to my wee host house in Wasquehal.  It was a time.  Since getting back to Lille last Monday (I missed school mwahaha. And therefore missed the Monday DS exam mwahaha. I haven't had to sit through one in about 6 weeks mwahahha. Booya.) I went to a sweet concert on a school night at a place called El Diablo, I was used as a makeup model (and made to look like the living dead...) by French fashion and makeup students, and I celebrated the 18th birthday party of a friend with around 20 other Frenchies in an old mansion in the countryside. Been a busy week.  I'm becoming pro at power naps.

Other cool things that have happened to me recently: I got accepted to Quest University in Squamish, BC back home, and finalized my decision to enrol there next year. I also got hired for a summer job for when I'm home! It's weird to be talking about all the things that are happening "when I'm home." For so long that meant looking a good 5 or 6 months into the future... but now home is only 2.5 months away: WHUT.  Anyway it's nice to know that I have things planned for life-after-exchange, that way I can be sure to keep the ball rolling, even as I go through the returning home transition, as opposed to letting it deflate into a post exchange slump.

So rewind to the morning of Monday, March 23! Valentine and a very giddy Siobhan are in the car driving to the Lille train station on the way to pick up Deirdre and Mum.  I hadn't seen them in 7 months exact to the day, and was absolutely exploding with excitement, and also nerves because we were afraid of being late.  I had hoped to see them get off the train and have one of those intense emotional movie scene like reunions right when they got off the train, but it was so long and I couldn't figure out where they'd gotten off! Finally my Mom called me, and I answered at the exact moment I saw her and my sister standing at the other side of the station.  That's when I proceeded to lose all awareness of anyone or anything around me and just BOOKED IT straight for where they were standing.  After cutting off a crowd of students and almost decking myself on at least 3 rolling suitcases I got to them and practically jumped on top of my Mom in a giant hug.  Then did the same to Deirdre.  Then the three of has had one big hug together.  I couldn't stop saying "Ah! You're here! Ahh! You're really here! You're in France! Ah!" It was nuts.  We went outside to the car where my French mom met my real mom and sister and I stood back and watched in pure joy.  It was a weird but awesome feeling to have my two worlds collide, and it wasn't the last time it would happen either!
Moments after being reunited
Mathieu was at work and all the kids had school, so Valentine brought us home to a lovely lunch she'd made for just us 4.  Her English is very good, so there was never a real problem of communication and we were all able to laugh and enjoy ourselves, it was so cool!
LEFT TO RIGHT: Real Mom, French Mom.  Sharing a moment in the kitchen awwwweh!
After lunch Deirdre was feeling the jet lag pretty hardcore so she decided to get in a quick nap, but Mom was feeling a bit more awake so I used our afternoon to give her a Lille preview.  We had a loooooovely walk in the Citadel of Lille, then went and got the best cappuccinos you'll ever taste at one of my favourite coffee places.  I felt like I didn't shut up the whole time but it felt so nice to have a good ol' chat with the Mum again. :)

We got back and Louise, Suzanne, Edouard, and Mathieu all got to meet Deirdre and Mum.  We had our little apperitifs in the living room, we gave my host fam their little Canadian presents I'd asked Mum and D to bring, and we spoke a lot of Franglish.  I felt so lucky that I could introduce my real family to my host family because I've been talking about them here and there for the past 3 months, and vice versa regarding my host fam!

Edouard, Louise, Suzanne, Valentine, Deirdre
Dinner in Franglish
The next day I had planned for Deirdre and Mum to get a little visit of Roubaix.  We took the bus I take to school into the city and got coffees before heading to visit Marie Jo and my first host house.

Real mom and sister meet French mom 2.  And also get the tour of the lovely house and garden where I lived for 4.5 months!
Mum and D in front of La Mairie de Roubaix.  That giant cool looking building in the background has been on this blog before!
We grabbed lunch in a cafe and spent the afternoon wandering and shopping here and there in Roubaix.  It wasn't the most exciting of afternoons mainly because I wouldn't spend a lot of my free time in Roubaix, and just wasn't sure what to show them! But it was still cool.  Since my school's right in the centre, it was easy to go wait at the gates at the end of the day for my friends so they could meet my mom and sis too.  My school friends were all so looking forward to meeting them, and vice versa.  *Cue the funny feeling of having your two worlds colliding again* It was pretty cute, and maybe a little awkward, but I introduced a bunch of my friends to my Mom and sis.  After chatting a few minutes I said we'd get going; my friends had this big project to present the next day and I knew a lot of them would want to be getting home to work on it.  We quickly ran into the school too just so I could show them a bit of what it looks like from the inside, but classes were in session, and I wasn't sure if I needed permission, and I'm not the biggest fan of my school in the first place so we basically did a walk-in-walk-out-again tour.  Kind of lame but oh well.  That night we had dinner at the Brodins, my third host family, and Yann, Marie Jo, Theophane and Rika all came too! 

CW starting at the left: Thibaut (host dad 3), Yann (host dad 1), Marie Jo (host mom 1), me, Alix (host sis 3), Deirdre, Mum,  Rika, and Severine (host mom 3).  Theophane was on photographer duty.
Dinner was fun and once again a cool venture into the world of Franglish speaking, as well as more of me doing constant double takes as I watched my host families in conversation with my real family.  So weird!

One thing that was kind of funny was when Deirdre and Mum would first meet people.  I kept forgetting to remind them about the French bisous, where you kiss someone on both cheeks when you first meet them and/or see them.  Props to me for being a terrible guide... I only ever remembered to warn them when their attempted handshakes were crushed by the fast approaching kisskiss.  It's something I've grown so used to that I don't even think twice about it, but it was funny listening to them talk about how weird it felt to kiss people you've never met etc etc, which is totally how I would have felt before coming too, and how all of my friends back home would feel too.  But here it's as normal jam on toast.

The next day was Lille day! I walked around showing them my favourite streets and places, we grabbed a lovely lunch, and in the afternoon they got to meet some of my exchange friends! That was one of the highlights of their time in France for me.  There were a lot of us in the cafe where we all met up, and I was sort of worried that my Mom and sis would get lost in the crazy hubbub of people, but when I looked over I saw that my friends had sat down and made the effort to engage them in conversation and it kind of choked me up.  It meant a lot to see the cool guy Peruvian, Canadian and American (3 of my best friends here) sit next to my mom and make an effort to chat.  I love my friends.  

I told Deirdre she had to go for the streetside crepe and nutella.  That practically sums up my exchange right there.

Barry girls killin' it
Nutella milkshakes?! UH YES PLZ.  It's funny because Louise saw my photos and asked if all we did was eat all day.... well yeah BASICALLY.  I had to present in one day what I've been fattening up on for 7 months....
That night Deirdre, Mum and I cooked dinner for the host fam: Tex-Mex-Canadian style.  We made fajitas.... because they're delicious and French people don't really eat them.  Also aside from poutine or pancakes with maple syrup (already done) we didn't have much choice other than going foreign in regards to a Canadian dish.  We spent a lovely evening chatting with the family, and eventually with just Valentine and Mathieu as the kids went to bed.  This host family is pretty special and I've grown close to them.  They feel like the French version of my own family, and it meant a lot to me that they could spend time with my Mom and sis, and that my Mom and sis could see how awesome they are.  The next morning we left for Ireland, and Valentine and Mum had misty eyes after they gave each other a parting hug.  I even had misty eyes and I wasn't even part of the hug... 

And so begins part 2 of the Barry Girl Vacation: Ireland!

We arrived in Dublin and stayed the night before driving our rented car up to Culdaff, which is just outside of Carndonagh, the town where my mom grew up in Donegal.  She used to spend her summers in Culdaff at this small seaside hotel that her whole family would rent out. It's sooo beautiful, and means a lot to my mom because of all the amazing memories of the place she has, so it felt cool to be there with her.  My sister would have visited it more than I did, when she was just a wee one with my brother Jim, before the rest of us were born.  So she too holds a special place in her heart for Culdaff and Ireland in general.  We stayed with my cool uncle Paul again.  There were lots of family reunions, dinners, teas, lunches, walks, runs, and eatings of chocolate.  It's a family thing I guess.  It's always nice to reunite with the aunts, uncles and cousins we don't get to normally see!

(sorry in advance the order is so wonky!)

the Peace Bridge in Derry view 1
The Peace Bridge in Derry view 2
Mum in her prime on a beach in Culdaff
Uncle Jim! Tour guide supreme!

Derry: SUCH a cool city with an insane history 
We had a chance encounter in Derry with this lovely woman (whose name I've forgotten.. aaah...) who was in my mom's elementary school in Carndonagh back in the day! She was one of the coolest ladies ever: she's a yoga teacher, and a therapist who uses art to help people work through their mental blocks and cool hippy stuff like that.  She was rad.

Deirdre in her prime on a beach in Culdaff

Barry girls in Ireland (that's Glasheedy in the upper right background!)

We had a chance encounter with Maria who was Mom's best friend from childhood while were out walking Malin Head!
Walking Malin head with cousins and aunts and uncles :)

cousin Paul and uncle Paul 

Maria came over for lunch one day and we sat at the table listening to her stories for approximately 5 hours, and often laughing till our stomachs hurt.  I could listen to this woman talk for ages and not get bored.  She's awesome.

we love Culdaff!!

"Maeve's Rock" : the same rock an 8 year old mom used to sit on for hours on summer days at the beach

Mom you rule

And that ladies and gentlemen is Culdaff Beach

Caratra! This is the building my mom's parents used to rent out for their family to occupy during the summer.
After a good time in Culdaff, the three of us took the car and our baggage and hit the road... with really not much of an idea where exactly we wanted to be going but excited for our mini road trip all the same.  There was lots of driving, and green, and farm animals, and gas station pee/coffee breaks, but we saw some sweet stuff! For example the first day we went to Slieve League (click on the words and see what it looks like in nice weather).  The weather was very Irish and crazy and windy and blowy and rainy. We were walking this slippery narrow pathway up these cliffs in strong winds.. it was insane but SO FUN.  And the view was absolutely incredible, I took some photos on my phone but the weather got in the way of the actual view and doesn't do it any justice.  It was easily one of the coolest places I've ever been in my life.  

We hadn't any plans for where we were stopping, and didn't even know where we would stay the night, but Deirdre's excellent navigation and research combined with Mum's driving got us to a pretty sweet hotel in Rosses Point, County Sligo.  I'll mention that without the soothing soundtrack that was my snoring coming from the back seat, we really probably couldn't have made it anywhere.   Fish and chips at the Rosses Point hotel was a must, and made for the perfect end to a great day. 

The next morning Mum woke up early and after looking outside, dragged Deirdre and I out of bed to go for a run.  I'd say both of us were ready to sleep.. but were SO glad we got out by the time we were outside.  It was gorgeous weather, and we had a really fun run along the beach trails and ocean before going back to the hotel for breakfast.

Deirdre helped me to climb onto an anchor. Woaah. Rebelllll.

Spot the Barrys
Then we went to Boyle! And we visited an old abbey and then a beautiful park!!  

scones. always. always scones.

so there we are casually browsing among the cute children's bracelets with names on them in the tourist shop and we come across... SEXY. Sorry what... Safe to say we giggled far too long for our maturity levels.

After that day's adventures it was back to Dublin to stay with Auntie Nuala two nights before flying back to France.  We had one full day in Dublin in which we half shopped/half explored, and ate Tapas.  And at night we went out for dinner with 10 of the women who were in Mom's class in her all girls boarding school from when she was 11 until 17.  It was such an experience to get to hear from all these women who knew my mom when she was growing up, and who were there growing up alongside her.  There were endless chats and laughing, they were some of the liveliest women I've ever met.  I loved watching Mom get into it too, she's got friends in Canada obviously, but it was clear just watching her with her friends how much their shared experiences had created an eternal connection among them.  It ended the Ireland trip on a great note.  

The next morning we drove to the airport, and after almost missing the flight (hehe) got onboard to head for Paris.  Rosarii, Mom's best friend from university, lives on her own in an apartment in Paris and was there to pick us up at the airport.  We'd stay with her for our last two nights together before Mom and D were Canada bound.  Rosarii lives in a BEAUTIFUL little apartment on this classic street in Paris, with la boulangerie just across the street, and an insanely adorable and lively market a 5 minutes walk away.  We arrived at the apartment, and after spending some time freaking out about how cool it was, the 4 of us went to the market to buy dinner.  Mom and Rosarii went back to the apartment to cook, and Deirdre and I explored a bit more before heading back too.

CRAZIEST THING!! I was walking down the street when I heard someone call out my name and turned to see Luciana!! She's the loveliest Brazilian who's on exchange but with the other Rotary District in the Lille area.  She was in Paris for her host sister's birthday.

The next day, our final day hanging out before Mum and Deirdre went back, and our one day to explore Paris, we bought passes for the Velib Paris bikes and Rosarii gave us an almost complete tour in one day.  With lunch at a cool Parisienne restaurant looking out onto the street, and dinner at a Creperie.  Life is awesome.

7am and you're in Paris what do you do: GO BUY YOUR BAGUETTE

Croissant: so damn good

Saying bye to Mom and Deirdre Monday morning was a little sad for sure.  WAY easier than the first time around but we still all had misty eyes during the goodbye hugs.  But I'll see them again in 2.5 months so not to worry! It was so fun getting to see them, and gave me a taste for what going home might be like which is probably good.  I look forward to seeing them again, and this time I'll be feeling like the foreigner! Ahh!!

Stay tuned for April Adventures part 2 where I talk about my life since they left! I would keep going with this post... but we don't want any cases of Carpel Tunnel with all the scrolling you poor unfortunate readers are having to do.