Saturday, May 31, 2014

Onwards and onwards and onwards

Heyyo! Here we go on another update.  Lots is happening as per usual: not a lot of going-to-school and rather a lot of profiting-from-the-time-that's-left.  Squeezing in blog time amidst other commitments and tasks because there's too much great stuff going on not to share!

Last Wednesday was once again a relaxed park afternoon with exchange students.  It's getting weird because with the two Lille districts, everyone living all over the place, and the busy-ness that is the end of exchange, it's hard to know if we'll see each other again when we say bye at the end of the afternoon.  People have been bringing journals and/or flags to get the other students to sign and it's normal that there's one or two being passed around with a pen during our afternoons.  It's sad :(

Selfies are the new black
Thursday was my DELF written exam and I only had to go to morning classes for school.  I ran into Will (California), Tharan (Malaysia) and Andreas (Mexico) from the other Lille district at the exam and the four of us shared in one of those "ohmygodohmygodohmygod" nervous panics where we questioned our ability to even speak French and understand anything beyond the standard "Bonjour." Gotta love nervousness! We were probably the youngest people there.  There where about 50 foreigners that I'd say aged anywhere from mid 20s to late 50s and judging from the languages we could hear came from all over Asia, Europe and South America.  No English speakers though!  The exam went alright.  I don't feel like it was a total lost cause but I definitely had to focus hard and engage in my best Francophone mode to understand the listening clips they were playing and the texts we had to decipher.  For the written part we had to write a formal letter to our hypothetical city mayor who had launched a debate in our town newspaper about whether to forbid cars in the city centre or not.  My host sister Alix had helped me write a letter the night before to practise and it was on the same level of formality, I was so glad I still had all her phrases floating around in my head when it came down to writing!! I BARELY made the time cut though.  We got the 5 minute warning before the end of the exam and I had just finished the written portion... on my rough copy.  Cue the most frantic speed scribbling you can possibly imagine as I tried to copy what I'd written to the exam with as little error as possible.  I ended up having to utilize a little pleading and charm to get an extra 2 minutes just to finish copying but in the end never got to reread or double check much.  So that was that and it's now out of my hands, it's a lot of stress off of my shoulders so I'm happy.  Afterwards the four of us DELF B2-ers went downtown Lille to meet up with some other exchange students who had written their B1 that morning.  Rishab (other Lille district, from India) had come to Lille with his host brother who just got back from his 2013/2014 Rotary Exchange in Rishab's home in India.  It was sooo interesting to meet a French person who had just finished their exchange, not to mention an exchange in India!! India had ben my first choice for exchange, but sadly my district in Canada doesn't send students there.  After chatting with him, Rishab and Maria from my district though, I'm even more motivated to visit, and maybe one day even live there.

Nothing too exciting happened before the weekend, aside from Friday marking my 9 months in France! It's insane actually, I'm now onto counting down weeks because it's less than a month before I'm home.  Only 21 days.

This weekend was a Rotary event at Chateau Thierry, which I understood was a city/region just south of Paris.  Katherine, the Peruvian girl in my district has been living there on her exchange for the year.  It's nuts because she's so far, which means she's never been there on Wednesdays with exchange students in Lille, and we only get to see her Rotary weekends.  She's had a completely different exchange than any of us.  
Anyway we got the bus at 7am Saturday and drove a few hours before arriving for a "French Surprise".  Benoit, our district co-ordinator, stood at the front of the bus and asked us to guess what it could be.  Me, not really thinking that much and picking the first French thing that came into my head yelled "ESCARGOT!!!" from way in the back of the bus and everyone had a laugh when Benoit blinked a few times before saying "Ah.. bon.. bah c'est ça." Lucky guess on my part.  So at 9 in the morning we visited an escargot "farm" and watched videos on the science and principles of farming and eating snails in French.  And then we got to try some! First time eating escargot ever, and it was actually so good.

Veronica is nuts

They were cooked in this yummy garlic butter and we could eat them from the shell or in pastries.  So delish!

Afterwards it wasn't long before we arrived at Chateau Thierry.  Katherine's lycée has an internat or "dorms" where some students will live during the week, and that's where we slept Saturday night.  There was some kind of cultural event or festival going on with the students so we got to sneak in and get in on their meal of Paella and watch a bit of the festivities.  Paella is a traditional Spanish dish of rice, vegetables, chicken, mussels and shrimp and it was so yummy!! Veronica was so excited when she found out we were eating Paella.  She was impressed too, the guy running the Paella stand was from Spain and therefore it was legit Paella.  We ate and then spent a good couple hours just sitting around and socializing before someone found a soccer ball.  I went and joined in with the boys and showcased my incredible soccer skills that I picked up during my short stint on the soccer team in France.  In other words I kind of skipped around and sometimes my foot touched the ball.  It's chill.

Then we got to move all our stuff into the boarding rooms of the high school, after which we went on a little walking tour of the beautiful little town and it's sights!

After we had made it to this cool little stone tower with a circular opening where we could all comfortably sit, we took the above photo.  I went to recuperate my camera from the volunteer photographer whereupon Veronica demanded I IRISH DANCE in front of everyone.... Well there was no way of getting myself out of that situation.  I showed Veronica, Ty, Liz and David my old dance moves a while back and they haven't let me forget about it since.  And this past weekend the whole rest of the exchange crew got to see it.  Oh boy.  There I was standing alone encircled by about 30 people chanting and clapping in an effort to get me to twiddle my knees and do a jig.  Soooo I did it.  It was pretty fun actually, and then it turned into an impromptu talent show whereupon almost everyone got kind of pushed out there to show off their stuff.  Paco from Argentina showed us he can imitate a rooster pretty perfectly, Gokul from India roared like a lion, Rika from Japan sang in Japanese, Veronica from Spain did some flamenco dancing, Maria from India Bollywood danced, Maria Eugenia (Argentina) salsa danced with Guillermo (Bolivia).  En gros there were lots of hidden talents to be shown off and it was awesome to have finally discovered it in such an amazing ambience with friends.

enjoying talent show

The following day we went to Belleau Wood to be present for the Memorial Day celebration being held there.  For those of you who aren't aware, the Battle of Belleau Wood happened in June 1918 wherein US Marines fought and died for France.  The ceremony we were present at was to honour all the soldiers who had fought, and there were loads of family members and marines who were there!  Basically, as a group of 30 kids coming from over 20 nationalities we carried our country flags and wore our Rotary blazers as a way of representing the idea of "world peace" in the words of our Rotary co-ordinator Benoit.  It was very cool to get to be there.  Even though I'd already learned about the war in school back home, it's such a different thing to actually be at the location where it happened.  The ceremony was in English and French, with phrases being repeated in one language or the other every time there was a speech.  First time in my life I've ever understood what's being said in English as well as the translation, it's pretty dang cool!

Yeah Canadia!

Afterwards we had lunch at one of the other insanely impressive war monuments in the area with an AWESOME view.  We got to run around and be crazy exchange students for a bit afterwards which was really great.  I see the other exchange students often but never (almost) all of them like that at the same time and it was nice to be together.  It's crazy to think about the time that's passed and observing how each and every person changed in their own way.  

Girls like these two give me the impression that all Latinos are the most beautiful kind-hearted human beings walking the planet


girl gang. don't mess.

girl gang + sushi

flowers in the hair
Monday was another busy day.  I actually ended up not going to school (hehe..oops).  I arrived like normal at 8am only there was nobody waiting outside the class like usual.  After 5 or so minutes of feeling like maybe I was early I realized we probably didn't have class and I'd forgetten.  *Moment of silence for the extra hour of sleep that was lost that day* Because of other teachers not being there I'd end up only having one hour of class in total that morning... so I just didn't go... But I was still productive! I managed a run and some Rotary paperwork before heading to Lille in the late afternoon to meet with Gillian (Canadian I've known since Toronto airport), Luciana (Brazil) and Will (States).  Rishab went home to India on Wednesday and was having a last minute small she-bang at Kheeran's apartment to say goodbye to Will and Kheeran, two of his best friends.  Allison (Canadian. Toronto airport.)  met up with us and we skidaddled over. It was sad watching Rishab say goodbye to his good friends, I only met him recently since he's in the other Rotary district of Lille, but I could tell he's a really cool guy and will be missed by everyone.

Will & Rishy

hugs goodbye :( 


the dude is a character
After Rishy left with his host brother, the rest of us all kind of split up and went our separate ways.  Gillian, Eva and Allison actually came back to my place in Roubaix for the night! Since realizing Gill and Alli lived so close to me after our fateful first meeting in red Rotary blazers at the Toronto airport, I've wanted to have a sleepover or do something to hang out with my fellow Canadians ladies! Eva is actually from the states but the 4 of us get along like peas in a pod (real expression..? maybe..?) so who cares where you're from.  The 3 of them are from the other district but that doesn't change much aside from us having different Rotary weekends with different people.  It was so much fun to have them! We talked about girly North American things, starting university next year and coming to the end of exchange.  There's something so cool about having that cultural connection when talking about life (on exchange and back home) because it's easier to relate.  We stayed up laaate and made pancakes the next morning which was awesome.

L2R: Gillian, Pasty Obnoxious Kid, Eva, Allison
Gabi's return home date was TODAY (insanity) so this past Wednesday was her last before heading back to American soil.  There was a good group of us, mostly from my district, who met up with her to say goodbye.  I remember the beginnings and all the adventures we got up to so well that it's really unreal to imagine she's gone from exchange and from France 2013/2014 for good.  (Side note: Gabi's actually coming back to Lille in August to be an au pair for a year which is MEGA COOL so she has less things to be sad about).  

bye gab <3
Many more exciting happenings have gone on since Wednesday, but that calls for photos which are not yet edited and at least another entire blog post, so I'll leave off here and let you imagine up your best scenarios of what I could possibly be doing when I'm not writing a blog (think Cannes Film Festival and Retro Festivals in Belgium HEHE..coming soon!)

Ciao for now! xx