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Sunday, May 12, 2013

France Week One

Okay so I have been in France for a week now. Sorry about the blogging in French, it is for class. Here goes the English part. So far, I have loved my time here, but I am also realizing how much I love the United States.  I loved smiling at strangers and talking loud, buying cheap food and watching people be themselves in public. These types of things don't really happen in France. I do love the food here though, and the metro is so convenient.
This is me after two days on a plane. #firstfewhouseinparis

My host family consists of one person: our host mom. She is Brazilian, divorced (she was married in Vegas actually), and has two daughters that are studying abroad). She is very nice and speaks slow French, which I am so grateful for. I understand basically everything she says, or I did until I had been here for a week and started to not know how to speak in any language. After speaking and listening to French for a week, my brain is so tired! I think my French is getting worse, or at least it will get worse before it gets better. I need to build up some metal endurance.

Spending time with the members of the church is my favorite. Yesterday we spent the day with the JA (YSA). We had a devotional, ate lunch, and then went around Paris taking a picture in every district (there are 20). It was really cool to talk with them and get to know them. They have such strong testimonies and there are so few of them! Their strength definitely strengthened me. My directors told us to look for the differences in the church between home and here, but really the church is exactly the same. I love it because it feels very much like home. I talked to one girl who is eighteen, and she was very excited to turn nineteen and put in her mission papers. Everyone is going on missions here too; this mission craze isn't just happening in Utah.

Cultural differences that I love: I love how they greet people. They touch each cheek and make a kissing noise. Maybe I like it because it made us feel very welcome, or maybe because it is a good difference between hugging and and shaking hands. BYU culture has made hugging hands into something strange: It gets associated with return missionaries acting weird before they break into normal society again.

I also love how they eat dinner. This is probably my favorite French tradition. Dinners are very long and slow and lots of time is spent just sitting around and talking. First they bring out the salad. The first few times they did this, I thought that was what we were having for dinner and I was worried that I was going to starve. Then, after the salad, they bring out the main course, then dessert, then coffee or tea. We drink herbal tea of course. I love ending dinner just sitting around the table talking and drinking tea. I think I am going to try to implement this tradition in my future family for Sunday dinners. There is no way this would work on every day of the week in the United States. People are too rushed and too busy.

Commercialism and advertisements are interesting. There are so many American flags hanging around and so many English words everywhere. It reminds me of Anthropology (and other stores) where there are lots of French words embroidered on notebooks or shirts.

When we first got here, we got up the next day and took a bus to Normandy and Brittany. It was really cool to see the different regions in France. Each region is very proud of their food and whatever makes them unique. France is a very unified country politically (and culturally even), but it is a compilation of a bunch of different regions that revel in their uniqueness. We spent some times on the Normandy beaches learning about World War II, and in some little towns to experience their regionalisms. One thing I noticed was that people are extremely friendly in Brittany. They just come up and talk to you and are all so nice. My favorite Normandy beach was Pointe du Hoc, which was where the US soldiers had to climb up the cliffs. There were all these huge craters left from bombs and there were old abandoned bunkers you could walk through. In Brittany, we stayed in a beautiful walled town called Saint-Malo. I can't even imagine how much fun a hot summer day would be in Saint-Malo especially is you have a hotel there because all the tourists leave and the city is so peaceful.

A bombed bunker

In Paris, we have visited le Notre Dame and the Cluny Museum which is a museum of the middle ages. It was cool to see their combs and toys, bowls and art. We also went to Versailles  which is so ridiculously gaudy that it kind of makes me sick that Louis the 14th would build such a place. It was interesting though because he forced all the nobles to move there so he could try to unify France. So basically it was a prison for the nobles right? But it is also such a place of political peace. At the end, I watched a quick video that showed a bunch of different presidents from other countries visiting Versailles, and it showed the signings of the treaty of Versailles as well.

Trying to get back home from Versailles was not the easiest thing in the world. My roommate and I live in Neuilly sur Seine, which is a suburb right outside of Paris. We just take the metro everyday, but our Versaille is out of metro bounds, so we have to take the RER, which is basically a bigger underground train system. So we had to jumble in with everyone else in the world speaking French who wanted to come back from their day at Versailles. We were all at the train station trying to buy tickets from these machines that half the time don't work. No one was happy, and neither were we. We were there for about three hours trying to figure it out, just my roommate and I. Finally, we were able to buy tickets, but them mine wouldn't work! I was so frustrated. Then, I think I got it to work without realizing it, but wasn't able to go through, which used up the ticket. Now my roommate, Lauren, was on one side, and I was stuck on the other. There was no one to help us and we didn't know what to do. In a split second, I just squeezed up right behind someone and slipped through when the doors opened for them. They didn't even notice, and I don't even feel bad because I payed for the ticket at this crazy station. It was quite an adventure.

That was week one. Today we went to church, and I just want all foreign speaking missionaries out there to know that I have a new respect for you. Learning a language is so hard! At church, I always knew what we were talking about, but I would miss phrases or explanations or comments, which was so frustrating because I wanted to know what people were talking about! They actually have all of church translated into English, but I am trying to learn French here!

I am learning a lot of French! Like seriously a lot. But I am also realizing there is so much I don't know. Sometimes, I love the experience I am having, and sometimes I miss my family, friends, all the people I love back home, and being able to actually communicate with people. France is pretty great, but then again, I also really love the USA.

So mimes have grammar? I seriously love seeing mimes!
so interesting!

A comb from the Middle Ages.

Statues without heads from the Middle Ages.

The beach around Pont-Sant-Michel was so muddy.
There was actually sinking sand everywhere too!

Candles at Notre Dame

Our group!

Hidden staircase between two shops.

The water is so blue and clear!

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