Wednesday, November 30, 2011

FRANCE!: The Great Perhaps

 This blogpost is not really about my exchange, it's more about some ideas that I've been pondering and answering a question.

So, I want to explain the title of this blog. I've gotten questions before on it and just want to clear things up. The name of this blog comes from the supposed (there are several accounts) last words of François Rabelais. He was a writer and is still studied today in French school because of different philosophical ideas his novels dealed with. The supposed last words he said to be "I go to seek a Great Perhaps" or un grand peut-être. I first learned about this when I read a book by the title of Looking for Alaska by John Green. In this book the main character decides to go to a boarding school because he didn't want to wait until he was on his own deathbed to go looking for his Great Perhaps. I found this idea fascinating and it was one of the things that actually motivated me to do this exchange. I don't want to miss out on an experience like this because it is really interesting in the way that one discovers a lot about themselves. I have learned some interesting things about myself, some good and some not so good. No one is perfect but we can work to be better so I do like seeing my faults because now I can try to change that as best as I possibly can. I find this as being part of finding my Great Perhaps, even though the definition of that phrase is not very clear. It can mean several things for different people but for me it means is an internal search that comes from an external difference. Learning from myself is what leads me to this thing. It's hard to explain but it's an important idea I thought about when I decided to be part of this program. Well, that's it, I hope this was intersting because it is for me. So, I shall continue my search for the Great Perhaps...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

FRANCE: The Language

This is a short topic post just about the French language and how I've been progressing. But first, an update! Everything has been going well for me, we are starting a new trimester at my lycée and I'm actually really excited. Now that I have a better understanding of the language I am hoping for my grades to get better. My classmates are really nice and I am enjoying school so much because of the people there. My second host family and I are doing well. I am starting to talk more at home about little things like differences between families here and the U.S., movies, pretty much anything. But it's taken a while thanks to the language and my little knowledge of it. Let me start from the beginning...
So when I started high school I began taking French class. I took that class for two years and in the few months here I forgot and relearned practically everything (plus more!). It sounds weird saying I forgot it all but when I got here nothing, and I mean nothing, sounded like the French I had heard in class. A language in a classroom is boxed in, a bubble of dated vocabulary and grammar. Sure, teachers try to update their courses but since living languages are just that, living, they change and grow every day. Example: Some time ago I used the word "barbant" to say boring and my host mom told me that only really elderly people still use that word yet that is what we were taught in school. I've started to pick up more of the slang and modern grammatical structures which involve shortening sentences. I understand the language more and more each day since I listen and read it every day. I love French as a language because of how it sounds, where even boring sentences can have the rythem of poetry. I had a discussion a little while ago with my host father about how songs in English can litterally sound and be about anything while in French you have to be very careful with the rhyming scheme which limits it. Still, I am amazed by French songs and have been introduced to more of it through out my living with this second host family because my host father plays guitar and is a real music lover.
Another thing about the language is it's formal and informal states. Formal is usually used with older people you don't know or higher persons (either in school, work, institutions like that) while informal is used among friends or people around your age. Crossing this over at times can be a huge insult so it's very important for me to keep an eye on how I'm talking depending who I am with.
Like I said, I'm speaking more and that means the more mistakes I am making (and learning to do). It's a good learning process. One thing that has really gotten to me is the French pronunciation of the letter "r" in most words. I have spent a lot of time in the past week trying to pronounce the word "arbre" (tree) and still can't do it. My classmates and I usually have a good laugh at this everyday but I continue practicing, hopefully getting closer to saying it correctly each time.
Well, as my exchange goes and my knowledge of the language grows I will update on how it's going and different interesting things about French. One lesson this exchange has taught me already is the importance of communication and how to become better at it. First you have to have a want to be understood, which is a want understood by pretty much all of humanity. The need of being understood is what drives our daily actions and our conversations every day. It's what drives me to get better at this new language.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

FRANCE: Two months and counting...

So, I'm already two months into this exchange and I haven't written a blogpost! I actually have started writing several posts, got distracted, and never finished. But this time it's different! I'm going to give a short summary of the past two (crazy!) months. I will later do more themed posts about French culture, school, trips I've been on, things like that.  So, I'll start with the initial feelings I had when I came to France. When I arrived at Charles De Gualle with a group of around 50 other exchange students emotions were running high. It was as if we had made it, finished are long journey yet it was only the beginning. Everyone looked around, wide-eyed, making sure they didn't miss a second of their first day in France. I spent most of this time worrying about my luggage and trying to see if they were going to be on the plane to Montpelier with me (the airline told me yes but when I got to Montpelier... Surprise! not there). I like to describe that first day as sorta being thrown into the middle of a foreign film with the subtitles turned off. I tried to listen to what was happening around me, recognize words but nothing came to me. It was as if I had an idea of the movies plot but didn't really know any of the characters or what they were talking about. Thanks to the French Rotarians everyone met up with their families or were sent on their way to the different terminals spreading us wide and far all around France. I met up with a friend from Outbound Camp who was headed on the same plane to Montpelier because are towns are pretty close to each other. We got on the plane, it landed (late), my bags didn't arrive, found my host family and headed for the beautiful city of Sete (I still haven't figure out how to write out the accent but there is one over the first e). Seriously, it was the most beautiful day to arrive in France because there wasn't a cloud in the sky, it was really nice and warm, summer was still in full swing. As soon as I got to my first host families home they fed me traditional food from Sete, the tielle. Man, after eating really bad airlpane food this was so heavenly. For the first week I think I ate meat twice because the diet here is mostly centered around fish since there it is a port town. I've had the best fish in my life here, also the bread! I'll dedicate a post later on to food because there is so much to talk about when it comes to french cuisine. Well, right after lunch I slept for a few hours, trying to get used to the humid heat of the coast. This is a lot of what I did the first few days in France, trying to catch up on sleep and getting rid of the jet lag. My host family took me to a few museums and exhibits, a tour of Sete, made me really happy to be here and got me more acquainted with the culture. School started about a week and a half later. The first few days were really rough because of how large the language barrier was. I'm not perfect in French yet or anything but I've learned so much in the past two months that I sometimes surprise myself. One thing that I find fascinating is how much a foreign exchange is centered around communication, the want and need to be understood by others. As humans we try to get others to understand our situations and who we are but when you are on exchange you have to add the need of trying to be understood in the simple ways saying short sentences your not exactly sure how to pronounce. I can understand a lot of French now but still have those moments everyday when I have no idea what people are talking about. Those are getting less frequent, at least. Let's see, after about a week of school Rotary held a weekend meeting for the exchange students in my district in the town of Cahors. There I met a bunch of students from around the world who are staying here in the the more southeastern part of France. Really fun weekend full of canoeing, laughs, and very interesting conversations. Two other big news, I went to London and I am now staying with my second host family. London was really cool (I'll write a blog about it soon enough, hopefully) and it was really nice of my first host parents to invite me to go and show me around the city! And yes, I am currently with my second host family. I will have two host families here in France and I will be changing every few months between them. Both of my host families have been really nice and understanding of me and the things that go with being on exchange. And now I shall go because it's morning and I have a report to write in French to do. I'll try to write more often from now on, maybe a post every week about a specific topic and how everything is going in general. 

Au revoir!
Up in the air...