Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Still swimming

Soooooo let's get filled in on the life and times of Siobhan during her last weeks on exchange in France shall we.

BIG NEWS: Today was my last appearance and attendance EVER (like forever ever? YES) of French lycée.  Hip. Hip. HOO-RAAAY.

On Saturday, a good friend of mine, Julie, came to visit Lille for the first time in her life.  Get this: she's French. And never been to Lille. *GASP* Julie is 20 and we've known each other for a few years now.  She lives in a beautiful old country home just outside of the French city Angers.  Her dad makes wine, her mom runs a bed and breakfast on their property and pretty much all their vegetables come from their own garden.  I had the amazing opportunity to spend almost 4 weeks living with Julie's family the summer I was 15, SURPRIIISE... this year isn't my first France rodeo.  But the two experiences were in no way similar.  I arrived at Julie's house with a very limited base French and was only just starting to get the hang of basic conversation when I left at the end of my 4 weeks.  Also there was way less mixing with other French young people as all of Julie's friends were on vacation when I visited.  But it was an awesome way to experience some legit French culture with an amazing family! The summer afterwards, when I was 16 and Julie 18 she came to Calgary for a month.  We took her all over, showing her the mountains and all the good stuff that my family and I love about where we live back home.  So it's pretty cool because Julie and I not only know each other but are familiar with our families etc.  I guess it had been 2 years since seeing Julie before I picked her up at the train station Saturday morning, I was so excited to see her again! The coolest part was the ease with which we were able to communicate seen as I am now at least 90% fluent in French.  The two other times that we spent time together there was always one of us speaking our first language and the other stuck in that limbo of only understanding half of what's going on most of the time.  Julie has never been to the north of France, so I felt responsible as her tour guide to give her the best impression possibly of Lille (my city :).

lunch with Julie! 

Saturday also happened to be Lille's Gay Pride day! It was actually a lot of fun.  Gay people are SO happy.  There was a big parade and an area with a bunch of stands set up giving out all sorts of anything that was decorated with a rainbow.  Lille was bustling with people of all sorts, everything from your average onlookers like Julie and myself to middle aged men with mohawks and leather barely-there body suits.  I gave Julie a walking tour, we grabbed some lunch, checked out the Gay Pride stand and afterwards hopped on some bikes for a speed tour before the Gay Parade began.  I took her all over.  We went to the citadelle, a beautiful park on the other side of Vieux Lille, and had a quick tour around the free zoo there that I'd actually never visited before! After showing her around some more funky corners of Lille we made our way back to the parade festivities.


The parade pretty much consisted of a bunch of huge trucks that blasted party tunes and drove around carrying people, and being followed by crowds waving rainbow flags.  There was also an endless supply of condoms being handed out by the festival organizers.  Oh and LOTS of confetti.

dance like nobody's watching

I couldn't resist.... I had to run out into the parade to get a photo with this guy.
Pubs preparing their deco for the festivities that would go down that night.
It was probably one of the funniest experiences I've had.  Everyone was dancing around and just having as much fun as possible, it didn't matter who you were, where you came from or what you were wearing.  You just let LOOSE.

Julie's cousins live in the Lille area so she left at around 7pm to go to a BBQ with them.  I also had a BBQ.  At Martin's house! I'm not sure if Martin's been mentioned here already or not.. but just in case: Martin is 19 and went on a Rotary exchange to Tennessee when he was 16.  He speaks REALLY good English and 80% of the time when other Anglophones meet him for the first time they assume he's an American.  He works at this thing called Franglish in Lille, which is an event that goes down every Tuesday and gives people, whoever is interested can come, the opportunity to speak in French and/or English with Francophones and Anglophones and everyone in between.  So not only does he know a lot of foreigners through things like Rotary, I think you could say he's friends with almost every other foreigner that lives in Lille as well.  His BBQ was a celebration of his birthday, but also a bit of a farewell as there were a lot of foreigners invited who would soon be leaving France :( For example my au pair friend Nicole from Ontario.  She went home on Sunday.  Martin's was her last night in France.  I met some other cool people at the party as well, and Embla was there too! 

Embla (Sweden) & Ha'ani (USA) : Au Pair Power!

yay Canada :)
Liz was also at Martin's, and on Sunday I went back to her host family's house with her so we could grab some lunch and freshen up before rejoining some of our friends in Lille.  Her host family is SO cool.  They have a pretty low key house with a hammock, swing set and mini tree house in their rather small back yard.  There are also skateboards all over EVERYWHERE because the two daughters in the family love to skate.  They have a record player in their living room with some of the best records imaginable, and the house in general is teeming with trendy and effortless decorations throughout.  Most French houses are beautiful, but it's clear that a serious effort goes into the co-ordination and planning of deco, whereas this house was just as effortlessly cool as the family living in it.  Liz's host parents have been together since they were young.  18 years ago when they were somewhere around 19 or 20 they lived in a tiny apartment in Barcelona with one of their good friends for a year.  I absolutely adored spending the few hours listening to them talk and trying to absorb as much cool-person-ness as I could.  They also have cool jobs, the dad is an architect and the mom is a magician when it comes to anything crafty and has started her own successful business.  

After a cool couple hours we went back into Lille and met up with Ty and Veronica.  We also got to meet Elliott, who is Nicole's friend from Ontario and will be replacing her as au pair for the following 3 months of summer.  She was lots of fun to talk to because she is one of those Canadians I had a LOT in common with.  With the summer weather, the end being so close, and an outdoorsy Canadian to chat the afternoon away with, I was starting to almost feel like I was back in Canada land.  Julie, who had slept the night at a friend's house, came back into Lille for about an hour to chill with the rest of us in the park before having to leave.  It was kind of a lazy Sunday but in the best possible way.  When in a park in France on a Sunday there is only one thing to do, and that is to relax.

Elliott, Siobhan, Julie 

After the afternoon had slid away into a lovely summery evening, a group of us took the tram together to Elise's house for a small BBQ with our close group of friends.  Elise's host parents know a lot of us will start leaving soon and were cool enough to offer their house as BBQ central for Sunday evening.  It was SO great.  Liz and I noticed that it was really a wonderful group.  There weren't too many of us and it was kind of our inner circle of close friends.  Despite basically any Rotary exchange student and/or foreigner being an automatic best friend, the people who were at this barbecue have become like family.  I will miss them so much.  Elise had the magnificent task of grilling, and we then enjoyed a chill meal in her yard.  David had brought his guitar so as the sun started to set we sat around together and sang all those cheesy songs that everyone knows and loves.  We all got kind of silent then as a whisper of exchange nostalgia sort of floated on the air.  DEEP. 

strawberry season = only season of the year that matters
Veronica being the human capo

Monday was a day of organizing and cleaning.  Not much more to say about that because nothing about organizing and/or cleaning is exciting.  Oh except for when I got to chuck out all my useless papers and such from my French courses this year.  SO LIBERATING.

My last 2 hours of French lycée this morning were pretty cool.  We had all brought funky pieces of clothing to dress up and kind of celebrate the beginnings of summer.  The first few minutes our teacher had to hand out important papers and dates regarding the French final exam, The Bac (WHICH I'M NOT DOING HA.) Then we had a celebratory petit déjeuner with the class. Did someone say crepes and nutella?! It was fun.  Our homeroom teacher, Mme Becuwe, has offered her house up as location for our class BBQ on Friday evening.  It's quite decent of her.  This way I can have a sort of official goodbye with the kids in my class that I will probably not see again before I leave, and that way this morning wasn't sad! Yippee!

Chloé, Marion & Clem all wrote my french nickname "Siobi" (pronounced Sho-Bee lol) on their arms with permanent marker.  I'm not sure why exactly but WOW SO HONORED!
Sixtine&Marion =  Mario&Luigi

No idea what Clem is disguised as... But I'm supposed to look retro


Then we took a bunch of High-School-Musical-esque jumping photos in the street outside the school because WE DONE and WE HAPPY. I won't be offended if you spend the next 5 minutes laughing at my ridiculous face and/or body positions...

 Never again will I enter through that white gate into the school that is Lycée Saint Rémi in Roubaix, France.  Booyah.

bye bye
And that's life these days! It's busy but I'm really enjoying each and every day, and am happy that I'm able to end my exchange on so many positive notes.  I still have 10 days left, and I will make each and every one count.  See you on the next post blog readers :)

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