Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Closure and other follies

I don’t know how many people read my blog. I’ve always hoped, like everyone who starts a blog, that it reached absolutely everyone that I could imagine. I’m glad you’re reading at least this once, whoever you are. 
I left France about a month, a week, and one day ago. I got on the plane in Paris alone with tears in my eyes and, not to be dramatic, but feeling like I’d left my heart, my stomach and other important body organs on the boarding deck. 
I didn’t want to make a fuss or a mess or hurt anybody, including myself. I wanted to slip quietly out of the back door in the middle of the night with my ticket and forget everything. If you know me, you’d know this was absolutely impossible. I’ve always been one to march in broad daylight out the front door, swearing fighting and crying a little bit. And then I would slam the door in your face, giving you a nice bruise on top of the heart wrenching insults I’d burned you with like a cigarette on bare skin. Of course, I hadn’t meant a word of it, but I’ve fooled the best. 
I left France about two months earlier than scheduled. That’s not news to anyone. As soon as I got back to my little Michigan town I made a point to show up just about everywhere, especially my old school, to provoke surprised and slightly bemused faces. A few cases lead to screaming shock and a really nice tackling hug. That much was satisfying. The rest felt like a badly acted stage play some college sophomore wrote for her theatre class. Coming back was more difficult than I imagined. I slipped into some old habits, at some points forgetting who I’d become and just fell off the wagon. Well, I’m back on that wagon now. To leave a culture and suddenly be dropped into the old one is incredibly difficult. To leave your best friends is also an awful feat to discover. To leave the people who became your family. Your new language. So, basically, everything that makes one’s life so important. It was spiritually taxing, to say the least. But like I said, I jumped back on the wagon again. Better late than never. 
I left (or, was prodded towards my departure so forcibly it stopped seeming polite) France on regrettable circumstances. No rules, laws (written or unwritten) were broken. Nothing dramatic arrived on my doorstep. So much so that my eight months as an exchange student is actually to be validated and I get to go to the big july student conference. Where we can all sing kumbayah and celebrate each other’s radically life altering experiences. Hurrah. I however, will be feeling how I guess a midget must sometimes feel. Stunted a few crucial inches below everyone else, still with the same general makeup but feeling like a regrettable piece is missing. Maybe it’s just an exaggeration of how I’ve always felt. Not quiet getting along with the crowd, feeling like less or more than what is put in front of me and not knowing how to deal with the circumstances. As if everyone is speeding away with their motorboats and I’m headed in my wooden canoe in the other direction--looking back to see your reactions, but drifting away all the same. 
These metaphors might sound sad or strange or like I’m searching for the right sympathy. I’m not. My last crucial weeks in France and, especially some very crucial persons I met towards the end of my experience taught me that being an individual is really frickin special. The troubles we meet and face will steer us towards a more unique outlook and (if we play the cards right) will bring us to mountaintops in the future. That’s how I’m able to write this blog post at all. I care what you think, but, I will say what I want and guard my own opinions for myself and do as I choose. If I love you, I will love your guts out. I will follow you until the cliffs at the edge of the planet, I will sing your praises until the cows come home, take care of you and never let you forget it. I really am a very loving person. This goes for family, close friends, others, ect. But unless you’re extremely special to me, it’s usually about Number One. I got accused a lot for this in France. Tu pense seulement pour toi, toi, TOI!!! Yes, it is about me me and me. Maybe this makes me difficult to live with. It’s possible for this to make you think of me as a lesser person. Great. Go write me a book about that. You shove it in my face and tell me I’m a bad person. I’ll end up smiling at you and carrying on with my life. 
That is what eight months on your own does. It makes you strong. I am stronger, smarter and better than when I left. That’s what I came to France to do. I am also fluent in French. I made the best friends that it is possible to make. I really found myself. My agenda wasn’t that lengthy. That’s what I wanted, so that’s what I got. I screwed up, felt miserable, hated everyone around me. I wanted those things too. What perfectly sane person could ask for anything more? I fell down so I could make myself get up, and discovered how to live. I congratulate every other exchange student so profusely and proudly, but I hope they got to do and feel half of what I did. 
So THANK YOU, jesus, buddha, mohammed, whoever you are. THANK YOU for the time I had in France. I would take every miserable day all over again to receive what I earned--every experience that made me who I am now. I started a serious trek to self and world discovery. And it’s never going to stop, no matter how I get there. 
thanks for reading my blog and supporting me throughout the past year
I would say I couldn’t have done it without you, but that would be a lie. 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

MY ADVENTURES FROM THE LAST THREE MONTHS! (death-defying excitment...)

Hello! It's been a long time since I've bothered to post something. It's been a combination of having too many things to say and a bit of a creative block. So much has happened since I blogged last. Ive been practically all over France, plus visited most of belgium, Luxembourg, and Switzerland. I rode on the TGV, I biked across a country border, I took a boat across a mystical lake in the french alps. I disscussed God with a mechanic and a new friend from Bombay, India. I stayed in a Château in the south for two weeks where I could practically walk to the ancient Roman city of Nîmes...the adventures never really stop!!!

Which is how I like it.

When I was staying in the south we drove to visit the most ancient of bridges: pont du gars. The Romans used it as an aquaduct and it stands more powerful and massive than ever.

A Word about my crippling fear of heights: I am terrified of heights. Always have been. However, I think its a real shame how some people let their fears get in the way of their dreams or taking fun risks. Ive always tried to cure myself of this fear by shocking it out of myself. So did I climb four stories of dirt and rock to get to the top?! Yes, by all means!

Did I immediately regret this decision when I found myself teetering on top of ancient stone, surrounded by the other brave souls? It didnt help me nerves that there was a fairly strong wind that day, I can say that much. But as I was standing up there, hanging three stories above a rocky rushing river and the ghosts of roman soldiers I could not help feel mystified. This was one of the most amazing sights I had ever beheld with my own eyes. Great galaxies I am such a lucky soul, I thought to myself.

After I had climbed down I jumped down into the rocky valley below, skipping over rocks and rocks until I reached one of the bridge bases. Strictly unallowed! But I wanted so badly to touch the magnificence of the ages. And I did, the skin of my hands brushing the course power of the roman empire. But tourists had begun to wave madly at me from above to get out of there. And so I hopped harmlessly away.

Those two weeks in the south were amazing. The south is mountainous! And so I took many hikes overlooking many olive tree fields and little mountain villages. My photos are spectacular. Alas, I have not had access to my computer for two months and I will have to wait to upload them. I took trains and buses and saw just about all there is to see in the famous region of "midi".


The highlight of all highlights has come and gone. It was so wonderful and if any of you have taken even a peek at my facebook page in the last week you will see photos and newspaper articles all dying to share with you what happened in the famous alpine region of France.

A word about the students in France and Lille so you don't get to confused...

I live in the famous big acclectic artiststic and very old great northern city of LILLE. If France was a house we would be the top floor, baby. As far North as it gets. France, like all other countries that invite rotary students like me, is divided into districts. These districts are big. They have students from all over the world, but some are bigger than others. In my district inncluding myself we have sixteen students. BUT our neighbor district, with whom we share this city, is much bigger. So we are meant to take a double decker bus (with two stairwells, with impressed me) with the other district to drive to the big conference in the french alps.) This conference has invited every foreign student in France (FROM ROTARY!) for a weekend of amazing fun and to meet each other.

Being from Lille "the top floor", we had to drive the farthest. We all hopped together onto the bus, the two districts from Lille, and speeded away headed south. As we werent meant to be there until friday night, we had some time to kill. We visited Strausbourg, our first big stop. This city is incredible famous in France and also bicultural, as it is right on the German border. Saurkraut was eaten. We took a boat and train tour of the city, remarking at the unique shops and houses and...everything! Strausbourg is wonderful and unique.

A word about what we traveled...wearing...

Oh, the rotary blazers. I really do wonder what went into the locals' heads when they saw forty some people hop off a bus with impressive vests in all colors absolutely covered with jangly pins, flags, little stuffed animals, bells, unopened condoms and other such lampoonery. And I mean covered. We terrorized the towns! Running all over streets, filling up cafès and retaurants, taking glorious photos of ourselves and bewildered locals. Screaming and chatting in English, chinese, spanish; marati, hindi, german...with a rainbow of accents; canadian, american, australian. Our trip was riddled with invasions! It was wonderful!!!

Our next stop was in luxembourg, a country so comically small that it can be crossed in about the time it taked me to get to school in Michigan. A lot of the kids got excited of all the souvenirs they found, really cheap and authentic. Inncluding things like pina coloada flavored cigarettes and shot glasses that exclaim crass things in french. We explored a mountainous valley which boasted a castle as well, the spring trees all blossoming and the weather fair.

We stopped next in SWITZERLAND. Which was my favorite. The most beautiful thing I have ever seen was when we stopped at the great Lake Geneva. The alpine mountains hung above us like great saged warriors. Swans as big as small horses came unnervingly close, more like massive ghosts, as regal and territorial as anything you have ever seen. In the european alps, the air is different. It is pure and cold and fills you with a feeling of greatness and awe. The water is impeccably clear and blue and fridgidly cold. The sky is unnwavering blue with jagged rocks that surround accompanied by ancient willow trees.

That lake was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen and I know I will go back. Sometimes mere photos aren't enough, though it seems like I took hundreds!

We said goodbye to the glorious geneva and headed onwards! That night I think we slept somewhere where they cooked us german food and put on for us a great traditional dance. Of course we all joined in. I think that was the same night as we saw switzerland but I could be wrong...it all kind of blends together!

On the way down we all stayed in tiny little hotels that were more like student hostiles. I always stayed with the same two other girls, Aja and Julia, both americans like me!

When we arrived in the southern french city of ANNCEY, it was like someone opened fifty cans of crazy. I really cant know how to describe it otherwise. We met up and became 430 exchange students. We were 31 nationalities. i met up almost immediately with Hannah and Laura, two girls who were staying in france from my district back home! the first night we had a great dance party with everyone while some kids prefered to chill outside.

I made so many friends that night and on that whole weekend in general. It was truly the best. I think I'll write another blog called Anncey continued later because this has gotten to long and I would like to go into better details.


HAPPY EASTER! ALLES GUTE! JOYEUSE PÂQUES! and just every other good thing that you could possibly think of. Happiness from me to you. Everything is good in France. Everything is ridiculously, incredibly, unthinkably just awesome.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Scraped Knees

This morning I was jogging with my host family's large brown labrador, Ubu. While a fresh blanket of snow had covered all of my familiar paths and roads, I have great trekking on my shoes so I would not be stopped by mere ice. 

This dog is very sweet. But also extremely unaware of his own strength and most of the time, his own movements. So when another dog started barking at us as we passed his fence, Ubu did not hesitate to gallop (this dog is huge) forward enthusiastically, and I went flying head first down to the pavement. Besides some scraped knees I was perfectly fine, and after a moment I continued on. 

Whenever something like this happens, scraped hands, chipped tooth, stubbed toe, burned finger, I am immediately filled with a tiny tingling of adrenaline. It almost feels like I can breath more clearly, or a larger piece of me is conscious. I feel that much more alive. 

And then, as I usually do, I thought about this on a metaphorical level, and then it hit me. Holy CRAP. What would any of us do without pain we experience? All of the breakdowns I had when I was fifteen finally made sense. How would we ever rise from any ashes if there was no fire? If it weren't for the blood and the burns and the crying what would be the point of picking up and moving on? How could we sleep at night if we occasionally didn't get out of bed in the morning? 

ALTHOUGH please don't screw up your life intentionally to find something better. Your falls will come whether you want them to or not. Take it from someone who has an incredible amount of experience in this area. No matter how many staircases you are hurled down, you'll find a way to climb back up, and eventually you will even forget how you tripped. With every rejection and every moment you wish you could erase you come one step closer to wholeness and success and freedom. The harder you fall the stronger you rise. (If you're willing to work hard enough, internally and externally). 

So feel good about crying. Fell good about hurting. Like someone took a chisel and buried it in your chest. Revel, drown, become drunk in your own anguish frustrations and fears. These waves you feel control you is just a sea of tests of your strength. And as long as you don't become waterlogged it absolutely strengthens you. These horrors and memories may follow you like a shadow for the greater part of your choosing. But if you learn to turn around and face your shadows the new sunlight will all but blind you. Maybe that's why we are so visual in the first place. Who knows? 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

We only have reasons to look forward and smile

 Within our world there are opposite sides. Points of view, fears, and where we all come from. There is physical east and west. There is mental north and south. We enter and exit alone: and what we encounter inbetween is partially a result of what those who have come before us decided. 
 We all enter and exit. No matter how many friends, teachers and lessons we encounter mostly all of it is up to us; the object; to respond. 
 No matter what opposite side you come from: if you have lily white skin and your grandmother’s blue eyes, if you’re a fifth generation medicine man living on the side of a mountain, or if you’re waiting to be told who you are. We all look in the mirror. We all inhale and reflect on what we see. As an object, we have been physically and mentally crafted to be able to take our own paths. We’ve been given the holy permission to tackle our fate and change the world--when every one of us is granted a fresh start, I can imagine some frustration as to why not many take advantage of it. 
 So, why not? We are all unique incarnations of communication and change. Surely just the idea should mobilize us into action----destroying the bad that came before and paving the way to enlightenment. Seeking truths all over the world and opening our minds to a better future. 
 Maybe some of it has to do with similar statements that I have written have been reserved for the sides of granola boxes and tourist trap brochures for ashrams and spas. Perhaps it’s been labeled as unpractical. Unproficient. You should be spending more time on your reirment fund, watching football games, or contemplating on which overpriced appliances to place in your American kitchen. 
 What I’m saying is PLEASE GO RIGHT AHEAD. Dream. Go ahead and wish, hope, smile, pray, imagine. Meditate. Forgive the people who tell you you’re just a product of what they’ve told you. Because they are merely the product of those who have come before them. You are the wrapped up glittering gift of tomorrow. The good you feel in your heart will beat, reverberating and blazing through every obstacle that comes at you. The love you feel towards new beginnings will create your trails. The only thing that matters is the strength of your feet. And the journey of a hundred thousand miles begins with no more than one step. More than you know, you’re already changing the world. And the rest of us are smiling and saying Thank you.
Those are my thoughts as of late. I hope you have a great Sunday and thank you  for reading!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

HAPPY HOLIDAYS! Thankful for my time abroad!

The last time I wrote a blog it was November 18th--it is now December 25th. How time flies. Over the past month or so I've had major ups and major downs. I tried to make an entry here several times, writing drafts and erasing them over and over again. But then something incredible would happen and I'd have to reconsider. Or something that got me down and I would have to re-consider. When you end up thinking about it too much nothing ever works out. So now I've just come to write down some thoughts and ideas today. Regardless of religion, nearly the whole world is in some kind of celebration this Sunday. What better time is there to reflect? 

So I turned seventeen a week ago. And for a while I was wondering how I felt about it. 

What were other kids who just turned seventeen doing at home? driving past ten, school classes, having a party with friends. And not to put dow the lives of others, but believe me when I say that I really know how special my life is right now. I am living in a different culture roughly 7000 km from the one I left at home.  I am a traveler and I feel good about it everyday. And I know in my life I will continue. And for the first time I really feel my age. It's full of independence and the natural gift of standing on your own. Seventeen is GOOD. for those at fifteen/sixteen who feel like no one listens, that their opinions aren't heard, or maybe that they don't yet understand their own voice, seventeen is great. Like every year it's a new beginning but unlike most others it's very freeing. 

I also wanted to say something about being thankful this Christmas. I am so thankful for Rotary Youth Exchange. I am so thankful to be living overseas, speaking another language, and meeting amazing people almost everyday. It is unlike anything else in the world, because it is your gateway to the world. Peace is understanding, and being able to live abroad with another kind of people with an open mind is taking the first step. Hell, it's every step! I'm so proud of myself and the kids in my outbound group who are ALL over the world! Seriously, we are stationed in Asia, South America, and every corner of Europe. 

And what's even more special to me, is that there is a boundless spread of opportunity for those who wish to travel and discover. At any age (hello!). And maybe it's also interesting that rotary is unique and special...but...there are so many more ways that people are galavanting about the globe, at every age! I just read about a boy who has climbed the highest summit on every continent at at age 15. I read the travel blog of a american who has been living a nomadic lifestyle for twelve years, picking up all kinds of jobs on the road. Who has for the past decade+ been backpacking across all asia and europe spending time with fascinating people, food, and weaving his own experiences. 

So consider me bit by the bug. And I think those who have found what I have found will agree. Once your journey begins, when does it really end? 

I would like to say to everyone HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!! I'm extremely blessed to have many different friends from many different cultures so I will not confine that to just a Merry Christmas. I am so lucky to be surrounded by my new people. I wish everyone a wonderful new year and a safe holiday. Enjoy each other and be thankful and aware of what you have. Lots of love from northern France!


Friday, November 18, 2011

the conception of bilingualism ...... partout c'est la meme chose.

When I was a kid one of the most fascinating things in the world was to hear my mother speak portugeuse. It didn’t happen often and it wasn’t for very long, but when it did I kept rapt attention the whole time. I would watch her from the couch, dinner table, or passenger seat of a car. She would babble on the phone endlessly, she seemed equally entranced. I watched her lips dance like a person clacking their heels. The foreign words tasted like a new spice in my ears. It was unfathomable to me how she could do it--a bunch of nonsensical sounds that somehow formed words. 

I have a big enough grip now to explain the mentality. But Listen, I’m not going to jump the gun and claim to be completely fluent in French. But I do feel very confident. It struck me today when I was in Literature class, that I could interpret almost a full page of text and not only translate from french to english, but also work out the grammar in french, in my head. I felt like I had just climbed everest. 

        My train of thought was this...
This sentence doesn’t make sense. moving on. 
Oh wait. I recognize the form of that verb. it must be in the present first person tense. 
That means that the second word is also another form of a word I know, but in a different tense. 
THAT MEANS I can connect the subject of the sentence with that verb, that ad-verb, and the few adjectives I already knew in the female version of the word that I knew!

But as french gets easier and easier, it’s bizarre to think that the whole world of english speakers won’t progress with me. It sounds bizarre written out, but in my head it makes perfect sense. It's strange to think that everyone else can't understand, because it's the same concept as english completely. It's just comprehension and response, whether you're writing or speaking. It feels natural and very spiritually enriching to be speaking two languages. It makes me sad that so many people will never experience that feeling. 

         I think the concept of language in humanity works like this. 
Each language is a train track. There are thousands of train tracks. 
Tracks like English have been so worn down and globalized that the language contains more slurs than consonants and vowels. But languages like french and Spanish stay crisp, clear. But each twists and turns in vastly different directions that a newcomer could never be expected to anticipate. As you study vigorously and travel to a new country, all becomes infinitely clearer. You memorize the track, the route, the twists and turns and you’re able to anticipate more and more. 

 I used to think that a new language would bring you to a new state of mine, change how you think and learn and...exist. In my head it made sense. But really, it’s still 100% you. Your thoughts are exactly the same, your laugh is the same, you stay the same in your conversation. You’re just riding on a different track. 
I wanted to say thank you for everyone who actually reads this humble little blog. I’m really happy I have so many cool people in my life who are interested in what I do and support me. I have reached almost 3,000 views! WHAT? That’s 1,000 for every month...
Things never really stop getting interesting over here, so keep checking in at this link. AND THANK YOU! 

Friday, November 11, 2011

A personal space.

One thing I didn't expect or think about as much on exchange is that you are not only leaving your own world, but stepping into someone else's. You won't be eating the same foods, waking up at the same time, and probably not wearing the same clothes. The people you look to as parents aren't Diana and Eric. They're Laure and Philipe. 

I know who my biological parents are, obviously. But if I need bus money, permission to go somewhere, a problem with school, friends, or feeling sad, it's who you go to. I'm following their rules and living in their home. 

The point I'm trying to make is, you leave literally everything in your life behind. You make new friends, new habits, and (I think) become very different. You're braver and you don't girlishly overthink every single detail of every situation. Everything's going to work out. You dye your hair a different color and lose five pounds. The world is a different place from the old one you knew, and so far you really dig that fact. 

But also, this new world around you doesn't comply with your preferences. First off, the language around you isn't your native tongue. Hm, difficult, but I'm a language person so I love learning and making progress. But I can also be deeply introverted, and sometimes that doesn't fly. My idea of a fun friday night in Michigan would be to  shut the door of my room, putting on some cds and reading until I was too tired to see. But here you can't just alienate yourself, there are people around who are trying to help you learn French and that isn't really the personality of french kids (to like to be alone). So it's really hard, but you must abandon this personality of the only person living in the world. The change may not be permanent, but if it adapts to the culture and makes those around you happy, it is for the better. And it's made me more comfortable in many social climates. So sometimes you just have to jump into the deep end with your eyes closed and nose plugged. 

I love my friends at school. I love my friends at school. Oh and have I mentioned, I LOVE MY FRIENDS AT SCHOOL?! Even though the teachers can be quite negative and without understanding, the kids in my class will never fail to make my day better. If you just put yourself out there and smile, people will gobble you up. Because you're an exchange student, you already have something to talk about.

Where are you from??

The United States! 


No, Michigan!

...Like Chicago? 

Uh, sure, close enough! :) 

And then you're friends who are learning to knit and play guitar together. Or maybe you just like to make fun of each other's accents. I love everyone in my school <3 . I've also met with the rotary exchange students from my neighboring district, and THEY ARE GREAT, from places like australia, brasil, india, bolivia, and canada. Thank you Jean. 

Three months soon (smile)

P.S. if you haven't you have to listen to Florence (+) The Machine's new album, "Ceremonials". It is my favorite collection of music in this world. I don't think it's available in the united states yet (haha), but when it is, get on it. Worth every penny and then some. Good night