Friday, February 26, 2010

Les Vacances


I’ve got a HUGE post in the works to share about one of the best days in France (last Saturday), but I have other pictures and such to share!IMG_0724

(Sorry about this picture… didn’t have a tripod, wanted to have a picture of myself at Malpasset, and I used the self-timer, and then hopped over rocks…)

So, the vacation was two weeks long. The weather was generally crappy the whole time, though I did explore a little bit… and watch too much TV (Allez, Amerique!~ les jeux olympiques d’hiver et LOST sur “l’ordi”; Go, America! ~ the Winter Olympic games and LOST on the computer. “l’ordi” is the slang for “l’ordinateur.” ).

I had made plans (or attempted to), but let’s be honest… us lycéens, both French and American, did not do a good job of making plans. My first Sunday of break was spent with Nathalie, her friends Stephanie and Christophe as well as two of their kids, exploring Malpasset. It was a beautiful day, and I took far too many pictures. IMG_0636

(The link below leads the the source of both pictures; it’s in FRENCH, but you can find about it. As always, click the pictures for the full-size image.) malpassetafter  Malpasset before and after.


Malpasset is a valley near Fréjus were a dam broke in 1950; Dad and I saw the memorial for those who died in the catastrophe before he left (it’s right by the Roman arena). 423 people died or disappeared, and it was the worst such disaster to ever occur in France.

Anyway, the remains are still there, IMG_0735and you can tell where it flooded down the valley… there are huge stones everywhere, IMG_0660and despite the tragedy of it, it’s rather breathtaking. It’s now a park where people can walk/hike, but they ask you to be respectful.



IMG_0847(The first is the sign; the insert is a bigger version of the text translated into English.)


It was clear and beautiful, and the stroll was through a lovely (sparse) forest, and the landscape—rocky hills similar to the Gorges of Verdon—was striking. The above map shows the area. It wasn’t a long “hike” IMG_0659but I enjoyed it, running around in the sunshine!


The trail on the way there.

(Sorry about all the weird contrast and colors! And the excessive amounts of photos…)  



Do you see what I mean about striking?

I didn’t realize I had taken pictures of my travel companions (that I can post on the internet, I think. There aren’t faces and one is a dog. There’s some super strict law about images on the internet in France.) First one is Nathalie hiking up a hill, and the second is Benji by the water.

IMG_0668  IMG_0679

When we actually got to the Dam, I make my way slowly across the side of the mountain (covered in huge rocks and pieces of the broken dam) until I climbed up onto the dam itself, joining a select number of similar-minded daredevils.

IMG_0747 IMG_0748 IMG_0751 IMG_0752


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Unfortunately, I don’t actually have pictures of this (Stephanie does, and maybe I’ll ask if I can have a digital copy of them, because I was just standing up there looking pleased with myself), though I do have pictures of the view from the top!

(These [below] aren’t it… the pictures of the view from the top were mostly looking down, not so much out… and the picture of me was again with the camera-sans-tripod-plus-timer! I was terrified that I would drop it or it would fall and break.)

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Things like the above made it hard to cross the stream; I clambered across and then had to help with the transport of the two little boys’ bikes.


I’m including this one despite the fact you can see the boy; again, you can’t see his face clearly so I hope it’s alright. I just want to show how HUGE these bits of dam/rocks are. The boys could stand up to full height in the tunnel under the bigger.

 IMG_0721IMG_0726_editAgain… self-timer, rocks… But you can kind of see the Dam in the background of this one!  

Finally, I came back down and we slowly made our way back over hills to the cars, ignoring the path in favor of walking across sparse brush. :)IMG_0781IMG_0778IMG_0787IMG_0789The next big adventure of break with the exception of Carnaval was shopping in Cannes. I don’t have pictures of shopping itself, nor the train ride, but I have a few from the beach where mes copaines (“copain” is different than “ami” in that an ami is a close friend, while  a copain  is more of an acquaintance) and I hung out when we were finished shopping.


I don’t get it; this seems to be the “cool” thing to do for teenagers, but I didn’t find it to be particularly interesting. The train ride was the most exciting part (13e for round-trip, but I don’t remember if we had some sort of reduction), but I’m glad I got to see the “rest” of Cannes. IMG_0883

But seriously. Cannes is typical commercialization, and it reminded me of how Nice was nice for shopping. Dad and I really didn’t miss out on anything by skipping over it on that trip along the coast. Cannes is famous for the film festival,IMG_0906 and it’s a really ritzy area—yachts galore, a long boulevard along the coast, spacious sandy beaches, lots of people, as well as high-end boutiques.

Yet again, the experience was good, as well as the exposure to “teenage” culture (the girls I went with are in troisième, which is in “college” [middle school equivalent, 4 years instead of 3]; AEU, they would be in 9th grade), though it was significantly awkward due to the fact that I only knew one of them. IMG_0902

They didn’t make much of an effort to include me, and I felt like I was being dragged along for the sake of proving how very kind and welcoming the one girl I knew is. I hated that, and I felt like a tag-along the entire time, hanging out with girls that I wasn’t comfortable with, whose names I didn’t learn until it was over (not that I could tell them apart anyway, as they ALL LOOKED THE SAME TO ME. It was scary!).

[Sorry, that was a bit harsh, blog readers; I’m still a bit miffed about this outing. I trust people so easily, and when I feel like I’m being used, it dashes my opinions of people. I don’t want to be a fashionable accessory or an addition to someone’s collection of foreign friends. End rant, though I will always have more to say about this.]

SIDE NOTE: … There are a total of three pictures of me from this shopping trip, and I honestly don’t like any of them. (Though I would post them anyway.) They’re posed and not like me, and I hate that. These are on facebook, but I will not put them on here. (Besides that law thing. So you get pictures of Cannes, though I took quite a few pictures of a flock of sailboats, which intrigued me. xD)

What I learned, though, is that I have ISSUES with shopping, which are only enflamed by similar shopping trips. It more or less goes against lots of the things I believe in (for example, shopping is bad for the environment, what with transportation and the environmental impact of mass-production, combined with the wasteful ways of the industry & the consumers). I enjoy shopping with real friends, and I’m more likely to enjoy it at Goodwill, where I don’t feel like a selfish and wasteful person.

The sad thing is, I will continue to join in on shopping trips here, because it is a social activity. It gets me out of the house, exposes me to more French language and sights, as well as the opinions and behaviors of French teenagers outside of the school environment. Maybe sometime the shopping won’t be a burden, and hopefully I can figure out where the thrift stores are around here, as those are infinitely more amusing (and cheaper).


P.S. Picture count from the vacation:

Malpasset: 218
Carnaval: 718
Everything else: 50

[Trips to McDo’s/Quick count: 5 ]

Thursday, February 4, 2010



If I'm going to be completely and utterly honest here (I am), I haven't been working on the posts from last month. I do have things to share-- little anecdotes of my first weeks of school and life here, my day of awesome with Dad in the mountains, interesting things I've learned-- but I really haven't been working that hard on drafting the posts that will include such things.

For one thing, yes, I am busy. I do have quite a bit of time off, but I fill the time living (this includes time on the computer, because that's part of daily life); I may not always be using my time productively, but as with life everywhere else, life here has its "ups and downs."

Yesterday was definitely one of those days, and I have struggled with similar sentiments periodically since Dad left and throughout the course of this past week. It makes me uncomfortable to admit this, but sometimes I just want to pack up and go home. In those moments, it seems like it would be the easiest solution, but I know (as do you) that it is not. If I come to you in those moments, rant in hand and asking for an internet-hug and tell you that I want to give up, kindly send the hug, listen to the rant, and slap some sense into me.

It's easy to forget when you are alone in a place you're not fully comfortable with that you are there for a purpose, and you aren't as alone as you would like to believe. I have this problem a lot-- sometimes, I am paralyzed and tormented by the thought that I don't really have somebody here that I can completely, effortlessly confide in. I struggle with the separation from people I now realize have been like security blankets: whose company I seek out at any moment when I have a chance, who make me a better person and keep me smiling. This is normal, and I didn't realize it would be quite like that. That's the nature of the thing, though, and recognizing that I have to be my own person is vital.

That isn't to say that I don't have friends here. People I will push away sometimes, or seek out; these friendships are still in the beginning stages where I still don't know that much about each individual, but I consider to be friends all the same. The language barrier is a problem; I can't always understand everything they're talking about, or the context of the conversation. I can't always reply and I am, in fact, quite socially awkward, so placed in a situation where I would have to come up with a topic of discussion where I can actively contribute and is interesting for all participants is something I need to work on. I do want to get to know them better, but I fall short of actually accomplishing this.

What I often forget, though, is that the friends I have here may be experiencing the same thing-- the awkward getting-to-know-you stage where you may not know quite what to say. Just like anywhere else, it's impossible to believe that somebody else will make the effort if you, yourself, do not. The people I count as friends appear to honestly want to be my friend (even if I don't see them all the time)-- people like Corentin and Nadia, who take the same bus as me, Laure, Jean-Paul, both Charlottes, Insaf... and more (listing all the names isn't a good idea, because that's confusing). They are, as previously mentioned, quite patient with my slow French, which is still scattered with English phrases.

Much to my amusement, some of my English phrases have been adopted. It makes me smile to hear them say "Fail"; today on the bus, Corentin said "epic fail", and pronounced it "epique faiiil." Such things make me giggle and want to hug whoever said the phrase because (let's face it), their accents make English words sound ridiculously cute. Similarly, it seems my accent makes some things sound cute to them, too-- I was reading Harry Potter (en français... n'inquiete pas!) very quietly and Insaf informed me of that while Jean-Paul nodded.

I have vacation starting Saturday; lots of French people go skiing, but as far as I know, I'll be in Fréjus for the duration of the break. I will be taking the initiative and trying to make plans with some friends; maybe some exploring is in order, of places I haven't been, such as Marseilles.

I didn't expect for there to be issues within the host family; I didn't expect this, but I try to take it in stride. I'm not new to handling a similar situation, but I feel as though it's not my place to interfere. I tread the line between stranger and family, and as a visitor, I don't want to stir the waters. My issues here ("chez moi", because this is my "home" here, no matter that I still refer to AEU as "home") stem from handling a younger brother that is 11 years old. HE IS ELEVEN, you guys. Eleven-- and I'm seventeen; this doesn't make for peace, as I am residing in his room-- in "his" house-- taking up space he finds familiar and comforting in the same way that I find my space AEU familiar and comforting. Beyond that, the two of us have communication problems as well; he is full of energy and the desire to play that is expected from young boys. I won't hesitate to tell you that sometimes I do not like the kid at all, but I recognize that he is a KID and the problems I have with him are expected and even normal for a younger "sibling".

I'd also mention, that like every time I travel, being here has inspired in me a desire to write and create. I can't face my novel, but I guess nothing will happen to it if I don't sit down and read it. I can't just shrug off my moments of inspiration and my desire to write stories; they won't be written if I don't write them, and it's been too long since I've made any effort to write stories. I want to get back that. If anything, like this blog, it is an exercise in expression and practice for true writing (I do still dream of being an author).

I know this wasn't particularly interesting, but there you have it. Life continues.