Sunday, March 11, 2012

Paris/Barcelona Bus Trip!

So, it's been some time. In the last two weeks of Feburary I went everywhere! First I stopped by Toulouse, one of the biggest growing cities in France, where I have a few Rotary student friends. I stayed at a friends house where I was surrounded by a small platoon of chihuahuas. I spent two days in Toulouse where we just walked around, looked at music and book shops. It was sorta nice to have a little break from French all the time where I actually was able to talk in English. I met up with a Chilean student that is on exchange with another group and the Spanish craziness started! This was just the beginning because the whole bus trip was a huge blur of crazy antics in all the languages! 
Me, Seok Jae, David
The Canadians!
I left Sunday night (19th of helmikuu) on train from Toulouse to Paris with a group of students from my district all coming on the bus trip. It consisted of 4 Americans, 1 Swede, 1 Korean, 2 Canadians, 1 Indian, 1 Taiwanese and 1 Brazilian! I slept for about an hour that night, spending most of the six hours on train listening to music, talking to the others or just standing around. Once we got to Paris we had to walk to another train station where we would meet the rest of the bus trip group in a few hours. So, we headed out, found a café and just waited. We all talked about how the past few months have been, how our French is getting better and what are the things we hoped to see on the trip. We soon enough met up with more people from our trip, which is where I met Gero, a Mexican exchange student. We spent a majority of the trip talking/yelling in Spanish and making jokes. There were about 5-6 spanish speakers on that bus so it did get pretty crazy. Once we got all our luggage on the bus we were set loose on the streets of Paris to find something to eat for lunch which is how I ended up eating a pizza in five minutes and running back to the bus just in the nick of time. We were then taken on a Paris bus tour, seeing the big monuments and just stopping to see the Eiffel Tower and the outside of the Louvre. It amazed me how I got there and that I was finally there, the beating heart of France. That afternoon we just spent it in the international hotel place just getting to meet each other. Next day we headed bright and early to the Eiffel Tower with the intention of climbing it. From far away, truthfully, the Eiffel Tower isn't that impressive. I think it's much more beautiful when you see the inside of it, all that it takes to keep such a thing standing up. For lunch that afternoon I ate at a Mexican restaurant a stone's throw away from Notre Dame de Paris with the latino exchange students. After enjoying my first real Mexican meal in France we headed and took pictures around Notre Dame, but mostly I was excited to see the accordian players everywhere.

Kia playing Marie Antoinette: The video game!
We got on the bus and ended up at Versailles, my favorite part of the bus trip to Paris. Given three hours to roam in the gardens and the inside of the pallace I was amazed. As I walked around it all reminded me of how a year ago I was sitting at my desk in World History listening to Mrs. Grossnickle talk about Versailles and how now I was there. We had been given audio guides but Kia, a Finnish student, and I spent most of the time talking, me marvelling on how much I had actually learned in World History class. When we headed back to the hotel place everyone was dead tired and this was just the beginning! That afternoon I spent some time listening to a new Beatles CD I bought at Versailles (Beatles Go Baroque: Classical Beatles songs) and teaching Kia a little bit about my favorite band.

Mona and I
Viva La Vida!
Wednesday morning, the Louvre! We headed extremely early off to the home of the Mona Lisa. We were given two hours to see all that we wanted at the Louvre. Essentialy I spent those two hours running a marathon to see some of the most famous art pieces in that place plus trying to get to the deuxieme étage, the floor that Indy (South African student) really wanted to see. We went to every elevator we could find (they only went down, not up!) and asked about five times, each time given direction to the elevators! We ended up just getting to the bus breathless, annoyed that we never got to that other floor but laughing because of the craziness we had just experienced. I think I saw the Mona Lisa...
Los latinos!

The rest of the day was just bus time, heading down south for Spain! We stopped at Carcasonne, a medival town here in the south of France. I ate another pizza really quickly and ran around the cobbled stone roads of an medival city turned into a touristic playground. More bus. It wouldn't be until the next day that we would get to Barcelona, starting with a bus tour, stopping at La Sagrada Familia. I had been to this never-finished masterpiece about ten years ago and it has completely changed! It reminded me a lot about how the world, and even I, had changed in the past decade. More churches and buldings. After a traditional spanish lunch we were taken to Gaudi's play ground.

Steppin' on Dali
Gaudi's Playground
 The next day we headed to the Barca football field ('ootball!) and then given free time to roam around Barcelona, go shopping, and all that great stuff. The latinos ended up running around trying to find a place to eat and then really quickly buying souvenirs. The day ended with going to the Picasso museum which was an entire adventure within itself. The museum was interesting, a little less exciting than I thought it would be because it held most of his not very famous works. Something very interesting about Picasso is that his style digressed as he got older. The adventure part of the Picasso museum came when the bus group left and I was still in the gift shop. I immediately tried to run after them after I paid but no luck, gone. I had no phone, no contacts, nothing. I went to the gaurds of the museum where we started trying to find ways of getting in contact with the bus group. About thirty minutes later someone from the group came and picked me up! I was so grateful I knew how to speak Spanish because without that skill I have no idea how I would have managed. The next day was the saddest, it being the last. In the morning we left Barcelona and headed north, back to France. On our way back we stopped by the famous Dali museum, where the abstract is beautiful. That was one of my favorite museums that we visited, but once again we were givin too little time to actually enjoy it. Bus time... The kids from my district and I were dropped off at Narbonne to catch trains back home. Everyone from the trip came into the train station and bid us farewell, hugging and singing occured. We spent the time before getting on our trains talking about how much fun we had and how we would miss each other. That week was one of the best weeks I've had during this exchange, and that means something...

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Movie Review: "The Artist"

I don't remember when exactly but I think it was the Summer of 2010, I saw a movie about the creation of Charlie Chaplin as an actor and his films. A few days after seeing the movie I asked my father why movies done in the old style (black and white/no sound) were never made any more? I thought it would be great to make and see such a film. Somewhere somebody listened because The Artist is just that, my prayers answered. This four Oscar-winning "silent" film is a French film with a majority of the cast being French. When the Oscars and Cesars (french equivalent of the Oscars, film prizes) rolled around it picked up everything it could, even Best Motion Picture Film. My host mom and I hadn't seen it yet and the movie theatre in town had brought it back for a few weeks even though it originally came out around six months ago. I decided to go, mostly skeptical about how good it actually is, whether it really deserves all those awards and whether or not I would get anxious just watching a silent film. I love films, even more in black and white (you see facial expressions better, there is a beautiful lighting style to play with in black and white films) but I wasn't sure I could go so long without hearing someone talk. The beginning of the film copied very well how older films did the title screen, slowly and calmly introducing us to the world of classical Hollywood. The music played a very important role in the film, becoming in a way the musical interpretation of the dialogue we were missing out on. But also, the silent parts of this movie were well arranged, added something incredible to the scenes. About ten minutes into the film we can hear our first big break from music, a ten second silence, and in that the tension mounts, worry comes to the actors faces, a type of agony comes from the audience from the lack of sound. And then it's restored with a beautiful piece of score. I've always weighed the importance of music and score in a movie as one of the most important aspects in the film viewing experience for myself. The Artist played well and did a good job imitating the type of sound and score from films made in the 1920's. So did the action and sight gags of the film. There was only one scene that didn't fit in with the rest of the movie to make the point of the changing styles in the 1920's and 30's where we could hear small actions, the sound of a glass being put on a table, the screeching of chairs. The movie, essentially, revolves around the evolution from silent films to talkies, the films with sound and dialogue we know today. There are two main characters, one a stubborn silent film star hesitant of this new move in cinema (Jean Dujardin) and the other a young budding actress who embraces the talkies and gains her fame from them (Bérénice Benjo). The struggle comes from their love interest and his own personal struggle to remain on top of the rolling ball that is cinema. Some scenes of this movie were metaphorical, something you don't get much in today's world because of the high amount of action and special effects. I was so happy to go a few hours without seening a complex special effect, which after some time becomes saturating. Anyways, as the characters evolve and change so does the actual foundations of the movie. This means talking.

I asked to my host mom her opinions on why The Artist had won so many awards in the U.S. , it being a french "silent" film. She essentially told me that it was because it made Americans think it was American. It copied itself so well that it fooled some people to thinking it was theirs, it came from their backyard. I could see why but it also shows the little people keep track of their favorite films/directors/creative content. Anyways, my personal opinion is that it was a nice tribute to the roots of modern cinema and it was needed to show that you don't need massive special effects and action scenes to be recognized. Some people may call it a de-evolution while I see it as maybe another building ground, a piece that reminds new creators that what worked in the past, the tugging of heart strings with old styles, can have the same effect on people now.

La Fin

p.s. I wrote this blogpost because of my love of film and also that it is a huge topic and honor for France and the French people. 

Graphics and pictures can be found on

Walk on the beach...

This morning I was doing some homework for my french class and had to read an essay about how science decodes nature and how poetry makes it more complex. In the middle of answering a question on it I had the crazy idea of going to the beach. I grabbed my keys and headed for the door. In less than five minutes I was looking out into the mesmerizingly blue water. It amazed me the little number of people at the beach on such a sunny day, even though it was slightly chilly. I was part of ten people on that beach, some walked their dogs, others just sat on the sand soaking up the sun. I continued walking, calculating how many months I still had where at any moment on a weekend morning I could just walk to the waters edge and soak my feet. Some months in the future the closest mass of water near me will be the pond behind my house but I bet that won't feel as good as it does now, the salt water on my skin. The past few months have been the greatest in my life. I have met some of the most amazing and interesting and friendliest people in my life. Plus, I've discovered a lot about myself.