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Archive for October, 2010

Life has settled down back to normal after my haphazard trip to the Cinque Terre.

Classes are still going well and keeping me busy, theater is getting a little more intense, and tutoring is still wonderful! I’m really happy that tonight, I’ll be having dinner with my tutoring family :) really looking forward to it!

This past weekend, our CSB/SJU group took a day trip to Aix-en-Provence. It was really nice to get out of the College for a day, and it was nice to be someplace that felt a little more like fall. It’s a 2 hour drive to Aix from Cannes, so it passed by pretty quickly. Once we got there, we had a quick tour of the city and then were allowed free time for 3 hours. Aix is very pretty, and feels very collegiate – it’s a big university town. There aren’t a lot of tourist sights, so Mickey and I just wandered the streets and did some window shopping. Afterward, we all left to go to l’atelier de Cezanne – Cezanne’s studio. It was the last studio he used before he died. I was a little surprised that it was so small! It’s a very small cottage house, and the actual tour is just one room upstairs. I’ve realized that I’m not really into art, so the tour didn’t interest me as much. Afterward, we just came back to the College.

This weekend, Mickey and I watched some of the movies we had borrowed from the mediathèque, the library, down the street. On Friday, we watched the movie Persepolis – and I loved it! It’s a great movie, and very artistic. It’s about the revolution in Iran and the radicalisation of Islam through the eyes of a young girl. Later, her parents send her to Austria to escape the war. The movie is about her coping with her identity, feeling like a stranger, and feeling like a stranger in her own country. And, it’s all animated! I was very proud that we watched the whole thing (in French, bien sûr) and I understood all of it! We had to watch with subtitles (in French), and that helps enormously. It’s still too difficult to watch movies without subtitles – it’s much easier when I can read what they are saying. On Saturday, we watched La Môme, or La Vie en Rose. It’s a movie about the life of Edith Piaf, a very famous French singer. It’s very well done, but a depressing story.

Tomorrow…we leave for PARIS!! I am so excited! Originally, we were going to leave for Paris on Thursday, but there is going to be a big strike then and we will have to leave a day earlier to get there. I don’t mind though – now we have an extra full day in Paris! We will be there until Monday afternoon (my birthday!)- so we’ll have 4 full days there! EXCELLENT. I think it’s really cool that I get to wake up in Paris on my birthday. The trip is not very structured – we will have a ton of free time. Beth will give us suggestions of things to do each day, but it’s up to us what we want to do. There are only a few required things: Friday morning, we will give our Revolutionary tour of Paris. Each of us has to present a site in Paris that has significance to our historical character (the character we played in the game for our class). Friday night, we will go to the Louvre as a group. Then Beth also has some optional things, like a boat tour down the Seine river at night, and a trip to Versailles on Sunday. I am so excited!

So, I won’t be updating again until after we return from Paris…about a week from today. When we return to Cannes, I will only have a couple days before I head off to Rome! Life is good.  In the meantime, check out the Lost Girls website on Thursday: www.lostgirlsworld.com I’m going to have a new piece up on Thursday, another re-telling of my weekend in the Cinque Terre.

Love to all at home!

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Well. I’m not quite sure where to begin to try and describe my recent weekend in Cinque Terre, Italy.

Let’s start at the beginning.

Many of my friends have been to this wonderful place before – the Cinque Terre – and after hearing their stories and googling pictures, I decided I just had to go. The Cinque Terre is 5 towns along the Italian Riviera, and it is just absolutely gorgeous – you hike between the 5 towns: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso al Mare. It’s not a place you go to see museums and monuments, but instead to be in nature and appreciate the natural beauty. And when better to go than when I’m already here in France with some open weekends? I started looking into it,  and Leah and Alejandra said they would come with me. I went last Tuesday to ask about train tickets from Cannes to the Cinque Terre – and it looked like it would work, especially since it only cost about 50 euro for there AND back! Things were looking good.

We started to get a little worried if we would even be able to go…because there is an ongoing strike (la grève) throughout France because the government wants to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62. France loves la bonne vie, and la grève is a national pastime. They strike for everything. And, more than 2/3 of the French agree with la grève – they do not want to work for 2 more years! It’s not just that it is 2 years, they believe it is a slippery slope…if it is 2 years this time, how much will it be next time? Younger generations and highschoolers are protesting as well. There are tons of protests every day and transportation has been on strike. It has not yet been a full strike where there are no buses or trains, but instead there may be one train for every three normally, so it is a little difficult to figure out which trains or buses are available when. Everything is very organized though – you can go online and see what is available when, and the strikes are planned in advance. The National Assembly has already voted on the reform and it has passed, so now it goes to the Senate which will vote (tomorrow night!) – if it passes, then it becomes law.So, I had checked on Tuesday with the train station but they told us to come back later because they weren’t sure if there was going to be a strike on Saturday, the day we wanted to go. Alejandra checked in again on Thursday, and they said they never know if they will be on strike until the day before, so we would have to come back tomorrow. So…Friday we all headed to the station, ready to buy our tickets if they said yes, but completely expecting a no. And we were pleasantly surprised! The trains we wanted would not be affected, and within minutes we had tickets to Italy!!! We were so excited – our first trip to Italy!

We got up bright and early Saturday morning for our long trip of train transfers – our first train left Cannes at 7:10am, so we had to leave the Collège at about 6:30am. We got there with about 10 minutes to spare, but Alejandra needed to use the ATM first to get some cash. For some reason, it didn’t work – and we figured the machine was broken, and didn’t have time to mess with it since our train was leaving in about 4 minutes. We made it just fine, and we were on our way! Our first layover was an hour in Monaco – so we headed out of la gare for a little petit dejeuner at a café – some tea and croissants :) Then we were back on the train, headed to Ventimiglia, one of the first stops over the France/Italy border. We noticed some differences right away once we crossed the border – the buildings are similar but have enough differences, and everything is in Italian! None of us speak any Italian, but between the 3 of us, we had three languages to work with – we all speak English and French, and Alejandra speaks Spanish as well. We were really excited when we got off in Ventimiglia for a 45-minute wait before our next train – we were in ITALY! We stepped off the train and heard all this Italian around us and thought, “this is definitely not French…and I have no idea what they are saying.” We headed down the stairs to use the toilet and were shoved down the stairs by a pack of nuns. Welcome to Italy. I was waiting in the excessively long line for the toilet, since there were only 3 stalls and no one was using the second one because there was poop on the floor…and then the woman ahead of me got stuck in the stall! The door wouldn’t open! She started banging on the door and yelling, I couldn’t understand a word she was saying, and everyone was looking around with a look of I’m not sure what to do in this situation. Some guys arrived and started to try to ram down the door…it was my turn to use the bathroom then, so I didn’t see the victorious liberation from the bathroom stall, but I heard everyone cheering once she was released.

We're in ITALY! In Ventimiglia

We headed out into the town to explore a little bit, and Alejandra tried another ATM. The ATM said the transaction was terminated and returned her card. Crap. We tried again at another ATM…and realized that her card had been deactivated. Luckily, Leah and I had enough cash and money on our cards to pay for her throughout the weekend – no problem, but an inconvenience. We wandered through a market with some of the biggest mushrooms I have ever seen, stands selling just pasta, and a huge flower market (though later we realized all the flowers were fake!). We headed back to the station and got on the next train headed for Genova, which was fine, but a long ride – about 2 hours. We arrived in Genova and needed to buy a regional ticket to one of the towns in Cinque Terre – we had decided on Corniglia because it is the third town, and that way we could hike in either direction to 2 towns as we wished. We got to the counter and asked English? Français? Espangol? and the woman replied, “english…poquito.” The story of our trip – no one spoke French or Spanish, and the Italians we encountered spoke broken English. We managed to get our tickets for Corniglia, but the train didn’t leave for another hour and we would have to change trains yet again in Monterosso. But at that point – qu’est-ce qu’on peut faire? We took the tickets and grabbed a quick kebab before hopping on the train. We accidentally sat in first class to Monterosso (luckily didn’t get caught) but in our defense, it was not marked well at all (we saw as we were leaving that it was a piece of notebook paper taped to the side of the door that said first class).

The 5th and final train!!

We arrived in Monterosso….and it was raining. Damn. We were not prepared for this – I had quickly looked online for the weather and it had said 60 and mostly sunny for Saturday with only 20% chance of rain. None of us had rain jackets or umbrellas, and we had packed mostly shorts and t-shirts since we figured we would be hiking and would get hot. Alas. On the last train, (train #5 of the day) the 10 minute train to Corniglia…one of the workers came around to check tickets. He checked Alejandra’s, frowned, then started talking to her and pulled out his write-a-ticket book. Turns out we didn’t stamp our tickets – you’re supposed to stamp those tickets because you buy them without a specific date/time on them, so you have to stamp them so they know you’ve used it just for this one trip – but we didn’t see any stamp machines anywhere! Besides, on the French tickets it says quite clearly at the top of the ticket that you have to validate your ticket before you get on the train – and it said it no where on the Italian ticket! Even it was on there somewhere, we wouldn’t have been able to read it in Italian! In France, the stamp machines are right in front of you…turns out in Italy they are tiny and hidden in the corner. Ugh. So he said, “this time you pay 5…next time you pay 50!” Whatever…but we weren’t in a position to argue, especially with a language barrier, so we just paid the 15 euro. And after, he just left! Didn’t check any other tickets, and if he would have started at the other end of the car, we would have gotten away without the stupid fine. But, we were finally in Corniglia!! We stepped out into the rain and headed for the information booth. There was no one there…so we just started to walk up the hill figuring we would run into the town. We were right – and luckily it let up raining about halfway up the hill.

uhh...where is she taking us?

It was already about 5pm by then (the trains took way longer than I expected with all the time inbetween), so the first order of business was to get a hotel room. Since we had just gotten our tickets the night before, we hadn’t had time to book someplace to stay, and figured we could find some place once we arrived, especially since it’s the off-season. We started to look for rooms, and saw on the door next to us that it said “rooms”…and this old lady in the window above us who had been watching us called down to us and presumably told us to stay there. She met us – sweet old plump lady with glasses and thinning hair who didn’t speak a word of English. She asked us how many nights…we said one, and she smiled and started to walk in the other direction. We were expecting the rooms to be right there in that same building, so we were a bit surprised and unsure…but started to follow her anyway. Hmmm. She kept walking. And walking. And walking. Alejandra and I exchanged some bemused glances…thinking, “is she actually leading us to a room? where are we going? is she just crazy or something? She looks too sweet and old to try and harm us…?” After what seems like forever, she finally stopped and lead us inside a building, up some stairs, and into a room. The first thing I noticed is a big double bed and thought, but there are three of us…eh, we can all fit. I was so tired and we just needed a place to stay. She pointed to the closet in the corner and said something in Italian…we just exchanged unsure glances, and she pulled down a bed from inside the closet. Sweet. It took a little while to figure out the price – Alejandra was better at deciphering the Italian than Leah and I – but it was only 25 euros each, so we paid her and managed Si and Grazie until she smiled and hobbled away. Well, at least we had a place to stay – with a huge bathroom!

We dropped our stuff and headed out to explore the town – it was really cold out and it didn’t take very long since it’s a pretty small place. We stopped at an internet café so we could email our director our hotel information and for Alejandra to try and figure out why her card wasn’t working. This one balding and toothless man kept coming in to talk to us, and left with “Ciao. Good night. Sleep well. Think of me.” We stopped at a nearby open restaurant for dinner – I had some spaghetti with paprika, and we discovered that the couple at the table next to us was from New Brighton, MN!! It’s a small world after all. We headed back to the room, exhausted, and freezing – there didn’t seem to be any heat in the room despite the storm outside, and the covers were very thin! Leah and I took the double bed and agreed that it would be understood if we woke up spooning. We set an alarm for 7am so we could wake up early and get a full day of hiking in, hoping that the storm would blow over during the night.

Our alarm went off at 7am, but we could hear the howling wind and pouring rain outside. UGH. Leah actually went downstairs and looked outside and reported back that it was pretty ugly out…so we promptly went back to sleep and woke up again at 9:30am, since we had to be out of the room by 10am. Luckily by then, it was still really windy but not raining! Nothing was going to stop us from hiking, but we would prefer not to hike in the rain. We pulled out all the long sleeved layers we brought (which wasn’t much) and passed them around so everyone had at least something! I layered 4 shirts under my track jacket and was very happy I had brought a scarf. Poor Alejandra hadn’t even brought pants – she only had shorts and leggings. We headed out and met the old lady along the way, who was coming to collect the keys from us. We managed some more Buongiorno, Si, and Grazie before we continued to a little cafe for breakfast of bread and jam and yogurt – yum!

Leah!

We didn’t get on the trail until about 11am at this point, and had to buy a ticket before hiking…but we were on our way to Vernazza! The views made all the struggle worth it – it was absolutely gorgeous, despite the wind and rain. The path was a bit strenuous, mostly because all the stones were slippery from the rain, but nothing too bad. It  was so great to be out in nature and hiking, and we reachered Vernazza in about 90 minutes. We even managed to fool a couple people that we didn’t speak English, since we were speaking French at the time! I felt as if I needed to get credit that I speak another language…it just happened to not be the language of the country we were in! We took tons of pictures, and once we had reached Vernazza, we decided to just continue along to Monterosso to catch a train back to Genova.

Corniglia in the background

Looking back at Corniglia

Leah, me, Alejandra at Vernazza!

Vernazza

with Monterosso al Mare in the distance

The second hike was a bit more difficult, mostly because there were so.many.stairs. We probably climbed over a thousand stairs that day! Many times, the path was only wide enough for one person, and a substantial fall would be just on the other side over the ledge. Some people still insisted there was enough room to pass on a clearly one-person trail…and we came close to falling a couple times. We were tired by the time we reached Monterosso al Mare, about 1.5-2 hours later. We went straight to the station to check for tickets, and it’s a good thing we did because the teller first offered us tickets to Genova that arrived at 4:58pm…and our train left from Genova at 4:55pm. Not good – little panic moment there, until she said, “oh, a fast train…” and we got tickets for a train leaving in 15 minutes that would get us to Genova by 4:15pm. Sweet. We had just enough time to grab a sandwich and eat quickly, and we made it onto the train just fine.

We had a little problem once we got on the train though…Alejandra and I went to our seats and saw that our compartment had the curtains drawn. I opened the door and fumbled open the curtains to find 6 people about our age in there already seated, half of them asleep. We just stared at them for a minute and began to explain that they were in our seats, and one guy tried to tell us (in Italian, of course) to take their seats elsewhere…we were about to argue more, but then Leah called to us that there were open seats in her compartment. We threw them some annoyed looks before taking a seat in Leah’s compartment. This was fine until about 45 minutes into the ride, when other people came to tell us that we were in their seats. So Alejandra and I headed back to the other compartment, ready to get our seats back, and they were being really stupid and uncooperative, trying to make it seem like we were in the wrong. I was about to call the attendant over when they let us in – they put 4 people in a 3 person spot…so Alejandra and I had spots…but really?? Why can’t they just go sit where they are assigned? They are causing a chain of problems for everyone else. We sat in an awkward/annoyed silence for a little while, until luckily some more people came along and told them they were in the wrong seats, so they all got up and left. Did they not have a ticket? Probably – but it’s annoying that they tried to make it look like it was us who made the mistake and caused problems for everyone else.

The rest of the journey passed without problem. Our train from Genova to Ventimiglia left about 20 minutes late, but that ride was uneventful. So, we reached Ventimiglia at 7:35pm and according to our itinerary, the next train to Monaco should be at 7:43pm. The woman in the compartment with us asked if we were heading to France, and warned us that there was a grève going on and we might not be able to get trains. We smiled and said thank you, mentally blowing her off and thinking thanks lady, but that was yesterday. Since we only had 8 minutes before our train left, we hurried inside to find the platform number. We looked up on the screen and saw all the trains to Monaco are “sopresso.” Shit. No no no no no. We need to get back to France – we can’t be stuck in Italy! This was just the icing on the cake of our less than well planned weekend. We verified with the ticket counter…no more trains until 6am the next day! It was time to call Beth, our program director, to let her know we were stranded and to see if she could somehow help us. We had to go to the station café/store to buy a phone card first – all the while analyzing our options. Option 1 – find a place to stay and stay here until 6am for the next train. Option 2 – maybe someone from the Collège can somehow come get us? Option 3 – some guy nearby tells us there is a bus headed toward Nice/Cannes that leaves at 11:30pm.We liked option 2 the best. The guy, fairly young guy from Romania named John, tried to help us figure out the phone – and after about 300 tries, we got through to Beth. Apparently we had been dialing the phone number incorrectly since we didn’t put in the right international code first. We are so lucky we were stranded on a weekend that Beth had rented a car for sightseeing! She and her partner Ross said they would look up directions and leave right away to come get us – we were saved!! John made some small talk with us, and gave me his number “in case you want to have a drink or something some time” which I couldn’t refuse since he had just helped us, but really not wanting to be hit on as we had just been contemplating our strategy of surviving a night in the Ventimiglia train station.

no chairs...thanks Italy.

We still had some time to kill, and we were really hungry. We headed out into the town to find a restaurant, but everything was closed up (which is surprising since at least restaurants are open on Sundays in France), but we didn’t want to wander too far from the station late at night. We returned to the station and decided to eat in the café there – they had a decent selection, but it was so confusing trying to figure out how to select what you want and then pay for it. We first saw some tables, and sat down expecting a waiter to come, as it said on the nearby sign. A waitress did appear, but just spoke to us in Italian and left. Apparently we didn’t understand the system. We decided the tables were too confusing and there looked to be an easier “a la carte” section. We tried telling the guy we just wanted some pizza, but apparently you don’t just tell them what you want and they give it to you and you pay. No, it has to be much less efficient and more confusing – you have to go to the separate cashier away from the food, tell them exactly what you want, pay, and then you show your receipt to the guy serving food.

We hung out on the station floor next to a hobo-looking guy playing Sodoku until Beth arrived! We were saved!! It was a great trip, despite the problems, and a great story now! I think I’ve decided I prefer traveling with a little more planning, but would I do it again? ABSOLUTELY.

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I don’t have time right now to write a full blog post, but I just wanted to let you all know that my newest piece for the Lost Girls is up! Click here to check it out! :)

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What a busy week! I’ve found little time this week inbetween classes and tutoring and theater. Classes have been busy – in grammar class we’ve been working on the conditionnel – I would do this, if I had known I would have done this, etc. The teacher keeps it more entertaining by playing games, like we have to write down all the new vocabulary we’ve learned on the board, and we each have to make a sentence using a vocab word. But, you have to build off of the sentence the person before you – and the stories have been very bizarre! We had a new teacher for Cinema class the week, and we are going to start learning about the history of cinema. We started off by learning about the history of the Cannes Film Festival, the 2nd most prestigious film festival in the world (there is one in Venice that is more prestigious). I’m not sure how many films we will be watching, but in any case, I have a list of all the Palme d’Or winners since the 1940s, so that will make for some good watching!

Thursday, our whole group had to go to Nice to be tested for TB. I’m not sure why exactly it’s TB that they test for…apparently they’ve only required testing in the past 2 or 3 years. We had to go to the Consulat General in Nice for the chest Xray – we were told it would take a really long time, it took about 2 hours for 11 of us. The actual Xray and exam would probably add up to about 10 minutes, but they call you in for the Xray, which lasts about 2 minutes, then you sit in the hallway until they call you in again, where they check your height and weight and vision, and then you sit in the hallway again until they call you in again to check your blood pressure and breathing. It was my first experience with the French government and the medical system…it’s just a lot of bureaucracy, and the doctor-patient relationship is different here. Doctors do not really accomodate you as much here as they would at home – and here you just have to strip down without a nightgown or anything. You do not have a preference of male or female doctors, in France, a doctor is a doctor, not male or female. For our chest Xray we had to be topless…it didn’t bother me, but it unfortunately upset someone in the group. The doctors were not sympathetic that she felt uncomfortable…I guess there’s a small dose of culture shock. Luckily, no one in the group has TB! We can stay in France until the end of our stay, whereas if we had TB, they would send us home. And now I just have an Xray of my chest to keep as a souvenir! They don’t have a file for us or anything to keep the Xray, so now I just have an Xray to keep. Beth said we should make a collage or something with our Xrays :P

Tutoring has been going well – the family is really nice and the girls’ and my personalities match well. They actually do most of the work, I’m just there to help clarify any questions they might have.

Yesterday, I took a trip to Monaco with Mickey and Shawn! It was a lot of fun and a really good day trip. We started out at the Palace – they have guards and everything! Monaco is a principality – technically they are independent, but everything is run as a part of the French government.

The views were amazing. Another thing that really impressed me about Monaco is that everything is very clean and tidy – not one piece of litter, not even dirt on the pavement! We also went to the famous casino, Monte Carlo, and saw ridiculously expensive cars – Bentley, Lamborghini, Porsche, Aston Martin, Ferrari, and Rolls Royce. There is so much money in that area – designer stores like Prada, Gucci, Louis Vitton, Valentino, and more. The most ridiculous thing I saw was a street full of Ferraris in front of a hotel and a Prada store. There were too many Ferraris to fit into one picture!

We had a great dinner at a little cafe down the street from a Ferrari dealership. I had a galette italienne – a thin pancake (more like a pancake than a crepe) filled with ham, cheese, and tomato. It was really nice to eat outside of the College and have a nice day out. I’ll remember this day in Monaco when I’m in the villages of India…what opposite ends of the spectrum.

Another exciting note – I’ve booked my tickets for Paris and London! And, I’m hoping that I’ll be headed to Cinque Terre in Italy next weekend!

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I’m surprised that it has already been a week since my last post! Time is flying by now that my days are full of class, theatre, and tutoring! Let’s see if I can remember all that has been going on…

Last Sunday, we took a mini excursion to the nearby cities of Antibes and Juan-les-Pins. We woke up early and took the first bus headed for Nice (which stops on the way) and stopped first in Antibes. I liked the feel of Antibes – it’s surprising how a city only about a 10 minute drive away has a completely different vibe. We headed straight for the Sunday market – full of fresh food (even a whole roasted pig) and flowers. We stopped at a little cafe, where I had some tea and a croissant – yum! I was happy they brought me my own little tea pot again – so cute! Next, we all headed out as a group to the Picasso Museum. I always wish that I understood art more…I feel like I would appreciate it more then. I just don’t understand how some his drawings are considered great works of art when they are very child-like…like a fish and lines drawn in crayon. I keep trying to understand art, but I think I just have to cut my losses and realize it’s just not for me. I liked another exhibit more…it was a more modern exhibit that used superimposition of text on pictures – a lot of it was very dark but I feel like I got more out of this artwork.

The Picasso Museum

After the Picasso museum, we went back to the market and the nearby streets in search of something for a picnic lunch. I stopped at a little panini stand with some of the others and had a club chicken panini – very delicious! A thing learned about standing in line here: push your way to the front! Don’t be afraid to assert your place in line because others will just run you over if you don’t. We had a lovely picnic next to the Picasso museum before we headed to Juan-les-Pins, where there was supposed to be a huge end-of-the-season clearance sale at all the clothing stores. Mickey and I perused for a little while, but didn’t find anything we liked, so we stopped at an ice cream shop and headed to the park. We enjoyed relaxing on the park benches and talking before we headed back to Cannes.

When I got back to Cannes, I only had about a half hour to rest before I went to meet the family of the girl who I will be tutoring! It was just completely wonderful how everything clicked!!
He met me here at the College on Sunday night – picked me up in his SMART car! I was really happy I got to ride in a smart car, they are so cute and it has been a tiny dream of mine to be in such a tiny little car. He – Franck – was incredibly warm and friendly right away, plus he complimented my French! That’s one of the highest compliments – to be complimented on your French from a native! He said he was really surprised at how good my French was in the emails I sent (though I checked them like 5 times!). He was really easy to talk to, and I was just so happy with myself that I was actually speaking French and it was working and I wasn’t making (too many) mistakes! We got to his house and met his family and they were just as wonderful! They were all really happy and excited that I was there and were so welcoming. I met his wife, Souad, and they have 5 kids (!) David – 19, Nina -18, Sara – 14, Eva – 11, and Samuel – 7. I’m going to be primarily tutoring Eva, and I’m going to be helping her with her homework in all subjects – math, science, geography, reading, and history. She’s in an all English school now, and I think reading is the most difficult subject for her (which I totally understand, that’s what happens when you study another language).

Leah and I at Morrison's

And I’ll also spend a little bit of time each week with Sara, just have like an hour of conversation with her and explaining any grammar she doesn’t understand. So, we worked out that I will be tutoring on Tuesdays from 6-7:30 and on Fridays from 3:30-6:30. Fridays isn’t the most ideal since I would have preferred to have Friday afternoons to jump start traveling, but it will be so worth it. AND he’s going to pay me! I would do it without pay just because it will be such a good experience, but I definitely appreciate the extra euros (15 E an hour!!!!!). SO PUMPED. It all just works so perfectly – the bus picks me up right outside school and takes me to only a few blocks away, they’re really excited to have me – Franck said I could even stay for dinner after the lessons!!!! I am so happy about that, and so excited that I will be able to spend time with a real French family! Could this get any better?? I think not! I think this whole experience will really enrich my time here and make it more like I was hoping it would be – really connecting with the culture.

Just look at that backdrop! Antibes

I just had my first lesson on Friday with both Sara and Eva and this coming week will be my first full week of tutoring. I was happy that the first lesson went well. I walked to their house instead of taking the bus since it was so nice out and I figured I should familiarize myself with that area of the city a little more. Again, they were very warm and welcoming to me. I even got my first taste of home-cooked French food – a piece of apple pie that was delicious! My hour with Sara went very well – her English is pretty good and explaining the grammar was easy. The time with Eva was a little different since we covered more subjects, but overall it went quite well, and her English is very good for her age. I only felt bad when I had to explain math – my least favorite subject when I studied it, and I haven’t done math in a few years! I understood the problem and how to get the answer, but I had a very roundabout way of explaining it. I hope she understood like she said she did! I’ll have to work on my math explanations. I left a little earlier than we had scheduled since Eva was very tired after a several-day field trip with her school, and I took a nice long walk home by the beach.

I didn’t do a lot this weekend – went out to our favorite pub, Morrison’s, on Friday as a little goodbye for some friends who left the Collège yesterday. Saturday, Mickey and I headed into Cannes to do a little shopping – he bought some things for Christmas gifts, and I bought some scarves! The weather is getting a little chilly on some days, plus scarves are très chic here and will dress up my plain black sweaters. I also got to spend some time chatting with Karl – appreciated and enjoyed every minute of it! And, even though it’s October, the weather is still gorgeous! I even spent a few hours on the beach today :)

Otherwise, my classes have been taking up most of my time. Like I’ve said before, we virtually have no homework here (it’s a joke compared to what we have to do for homework at CSBSJU), but we have really long class periods so we’re in class a lot. We still have class on Mondays and Wednesdays for Beth’s class (our prof from CSBSJU) and her class is on the French Revolution. We are playing a game in class that has to last 6 class periods (only 4 left to go, thank goodness) where we are each a historical character from the Revolution. Some of us have names (like Mickey is King Louis XVI, and Evans is Layafette) and some of us don’t, but all of us have our own agenda and ideology. We each have a little packet that tells each of us our game objectives…and my character is a Jacobin (leader of the Jacobins was Maximilian Robespierre) so I’m pretty radical left and don’t want anything to do with the king and believe we can establish our own system of government.

strike a pose!

The game situation is that we’re at the critical point of the Revolution where we are in the middle of writing the new Constitution and all of us are able to “rewrite” history if we wish – we don’t have to do things according to what actually happened. It is a good idea for class (because unfortunately you actually have to READ and know wth you’re talking about) but it makes class so stressful and intense! We’ve had 2 sessions of the “National Assembly” where we debate parts of the proposed constitution and it just gets really intense since there are people with really incompatible ideologies. in addition to the meetings, we have to write newspapers  that talk about our views of what’s happening. I’m the editor of my group’s newspaper, so Tuesday night i was up til about 1:30am compiling everything, thinking, “Well THIS feels more like CSBSJU.” I’m glad there’s only 4 more class periods left and we can have a less stressful class again.

Leah, Me, Shawn, Evans

Tuesdays and Thursdays I have Societe Francaise, with Sylvie my grammar teacher, and Wednesdays I have Cinema class.  We filmed most of it our female-version-of-“The Hangover” movie yesterday, and have a few more scenes to film next week. Then, this coming Wednesday we’ll compile and edit everything. It’s only going to be about a 2 minute movie, and I’m sure we will put it up on youtube so everyone can watch it. Wednesdays are really long for me because I’m literally in class all day, from 9am-7pm. On the flip side, no homework but still, 9 hours of class in one day is too much.

The harbor in Antibes

And, theater has finally started! It’s actually not so much rehearsal time right away – but I think we will still have to rehearse more once the actual show comes closer. The director, Patrick, is also the director of the college, and he writes the play every year, and writes in parts according to our French ability. So far he’s only given us the first 4 scenes – he’s  still writing and rewriting the rest of it. The story is about these 4 roommates, and they kind of stumble along this elixir that will make you tell the truth. My character’s name is Sophie, and she’s the mean and self absorped roommate. I don’t mind playing a mean character though – those characters are more fun to act!  I’ve only had one real rehearsal so far, and Patrick just kind of tells us how to say the lines – it’s hard right now to read the lines and tell what kind of emotion he’s going for, so it’s helpful when he just tells us! The play is less about our acting, and more about improving our French – pronunciation, enunciation, projection, and intonation. So, I should be speaking wonderfully when the play is finished!

Leah and I on the terrace at the Picasso Museum

Other than that, I’m still trying to plan a few more trips. Some friends were planning to go the Loire valley and see all the marvelous chateaux this coming weekend, but it’s just not going to work out for me. Since I couldn’t leave until late Friday night or Saturday morning because of tutoring, it just would be too expensive for the actual time spent there. Instead, I’m planning to visit Monaco this coming weekend, which will be nice. I’m going to make a full day’s trip out of it, so I’ll see the castle, the Ferrari dealership and the casino, Monte Carlo. It should be a good trip! I’m really going to try to set up a trip to Cinque Terre for the following weekend, though finding train tickets has been difficult. I think I’ll stop by the train station sometime on Tuesday to talk to someone there about it, because the website is very confusing. And, I’m a step closer to finalizing my trips to Paris and London to meet up with my friend Kate. Can’t wait for all this traveling! :)

Love to all at home!

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