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Ecole La Source - Paris 2017/2018

Day of Arrival

I arrived to France at around 6:00 in the morning; tired, but filled with adrenaline to see my exchange family and explore this amazing country once more. Once I reached my host family's house, they gave me a typical French breakfast; pain au chocolat, baguette with cheese and cafe au lait. Ah yes, the smell of fresh bread in the morning, it couldn’t feel any more French than this. Mr. and Mrs. Rosina showed me around their quaint town, where I would take the train to school or where I could go get a nice cup of coffee with some friends. Although nervousness was written all over my face, my exchange would speak to me in French as if I was a Parisian, I would reply every now and then with a timid quiet, “Oui,” “Non,” or “Merci.” Hopefully this exchange will help me regain my confidence of speaking French with others. 

Week 1

Today was my first day of school. Having to listen to another country's language all day, I learnt, can be very exhausting. I would love to make many new French friends and reconcile with my older french friends I made on my last exchange to La Source. Whilst walking around the town I looked at the newer buildings sitting next to the old homes which showed me how France is somewhat preserving the old history whilst continuing to modernise and advance in their architectural concepts. These two parts of history in the same culture sitting next to one another made me think of the rich history behind France. Piper, Sarah, and Phoebe are the names of the three girls from Christchurch whom I was very lucky to meet today. We introduced one another and walked together to have our lesson with David (French teacher). The school system here is very bizarre as each day starts at a different time and ends at a different time. Normally I would wake up at 6 to get ready and go to school but here in France I don’t have to wake up until around 8.

School here is long and challenging. The days are longer than in Kristin and the teachers speak too quickly for me to understand. La Source has a cafeteria, so instead of bringing your own lunch (which is only on Wednesdays), you walk down to the cafeteria to eat lunch. The dishes are always delicious. We are served an appetizer, a main with sides and desert and always, ALWAYS and basket of baguettes. During dinner my exchange family and I would discuss places for me to go sightseeing. They offered to go to places such as, Le Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, etc. Unfortunately only for me to decline by telling them I have already gone to all the tourists spots in France. I reassured them by saying I would rather act as if I was Parisian than a tourist whilst I stay with them. As I have already gone to these places, I don’t mind not seeing them anymore, rather, I would like to take walks with some friends and go to cafes with them around Paris.

After lunch, my exchange family and I took a stroll through Paris, stopping by little churches and art districts I have never seen before. We walked around Saint Germain, Odeon, St. Michel and Les Halles while my exchange father (Fabrice) told me the history of France. For dinner, we went to a friends house to celebrate an early Christmas with them. Once again, I was bombarded with questions; but this time, ready and more confident to answer them, I answered them confidently and continued a conversation. In this moment, I felt very welcomed and proud of how much my French has improved within a week of being in France. 

Week 2

After school, I received an email from my old correspondent wishing to see me. Unfortunately, Adele is in America on another exchange, even so, I would love to see everyone else again and agreed on a time to meet her at her house. Counting this exchange, it is my 3rd time in France. I had gone to Musee D’Orsay three times and this week I will be going once again. Exhilarated to be able to see my two favourite artists (Van Gogh, Claude Monet), yet feeling dreadful for the fact I have a photographic memory for artistic things, I have memorised the majority of the pieces in the museum; I was then given the astounding position of ‘the tour guide.’

On the last day of school, the students in the school along with the teacher have a game involving the whole school. The schools events and hosting committee creates an interesting story in which then students have to figure out the whole story by the time school ends. Students are put in teams named after famous characters, bands or movies. Whichever team has the highest point wins. Once school ended, Leo and I parted ways, I wished my French friends a good holiday and took the train home with Piper. Once at home, I rushed upstairs to my room, changed clothes to something that was more suitable to wear in Paris and sprinted back to the train station where I met up with Piper to go see Phoebe, Sarah and their exchange students. We all went shopping for Christmas presents until late at night where we then all parted ways to go home in time for dinner. Piper takes the same train as me as her exchange student lives very close to mine. Once reaching Clamart station, we had a sudden craving for hot chocolate and what's more perfect than a hot chocolate during a cold night in France? We went to a local cafe and chatted while sipping on our hot chocolate. After wishing each other a merry christmas and good holiday, we parted ways.

Once reaching my exchange home, I packed for my travels to the Canary Islands. Tremendously excited to start the next day, I woke up at 5:00. My head filled with the idea of sun and sand between my toes. This is a whole new experience for me as I have never travelled to a country where they speak spanish as their native tongue. We took the RER to the airport which took what felt like forever! The baggage check line was so long I felt butterflies in my stomach, worried we wouldn't make it in time to our flight; thankfully their friends Jean-Pierre and Jacqueline were waiting in line for us. The flight was three and a half hours. To make use of that time wisely, I slept.

We arrived to the Canary Islands around the time the sun was setting. We were staying in a villa called ‘Origo Mare.’ It’s a small village like place with pools, tennis - basketball courts, and various shops with multiple homes to be rented. We went to the supermarket in the villa and checked into our rented home and all sat outside, watching the sunset while eating some snacks. At night, when everyone was asleep, I opened my sliding door and watched the stars light up the sky and went to sleep. I’ve learnt that Parisiennes celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve which I find a little bizarre but I’m here to experience the “French way.” We had a big dinner; our starters consisted of three different pâtes; a cracker with white truffle and deer liver - another with duck liver and mushrooms and the third one with just duck liver. For our main, we had a whole chicken, with steamed vegetables and rice. Jacqueline placed small bowls of chips and pretzels on the table as little snacks we could eat during dinner. As for dessert, we had the typical, traditional dessert… Cheese with baguette. After dinner, we opened our presents; I received amazing presents from my exchange family such as a heat reactive mug and a mini smartphone projector! We stayed up late playing card games and slept soundly with full stomachs and happy memories. 

Week 3

I woke up around 6 am to Skype call my parents to wish them a merry Christmas. While in the Canary Islands my exchange family and I hiked a mountain near a small town around the time the sun was setting. The top of the mountain let you look over the town and the beautiful beach. They turned out to be family friends of the Rosina’s whom are staying in Origo Mare, a few houses away from ours. They also leave on the same day as us! What a coincidence! I met Jean-Claude the father, Benedict the mother, Baptiste the older brother and Siloe the little sister. Siloe, like Leo, also has an exchange which I was very grateful to meet. His name is Sebastian and he lives in Sydney, Australia. We drove down to the South where we would take occasional pit stops.

Our first pit stop was on top of a mountain where we looked at the desert and the small white houses crowded with cacti. Our next stop was to look at the statue of Morro Velosa. It is two men named Guise and Ayose who were kings of kingdoms protecting the land before they were conquered. Our third stop was in a small historical town called Betancuria. The town looked like something out of Pinocchio, the stone pavements, people playing the guitar in public and the clock tower going off. We drove to a different town for lunch and drove to the dunes in Jandia. There, I borrowed Isabelle’s (exchange mom) camera to take photos of the beach. On another day we took a glass-bottom boat to the island of Lobos. This island has become populated with fisherman and is an island which have the endangered monk seals living on. We hiked around the island and and paella at a seafood restaurant located on the island. Leo, Maxime, Siloe, Baptiste, Sebastian and I all thought it would be funny to take a photo where I would look taller than everyone else. So we tried it out:

I made so many amazing new friends and memories here and I can’t wait to make more! On Saturday we took a plane back to France. Time to open cold weather with open arms... Today is New Years Eve! I woke up very early but everyone else in the house was still sleeping. I was able to try something new in France called “un bûche.” As explained, the word means log as the ice cream cake is shaped like a log. I ate a pistachio ice cream cake with strawberry compote in the middle and a biscuit on the bottom. I called my parents just before it became the new year for them. After calling my parents, I called my sister in Japan to wish her a happy new year. For New Years Eve/ New Years, I decided to stay at home with Leo. I practiced the piano, but had to stop after around 15 mins of playing as my fingers hurt from the cold. Leo and I went to Paris for dinner and came home around 10pm. 

Week 4

We walked for what felt like forever to Place des Vosges which was an old town square in the 17th and 18th century. We were so tired so decided to get something to drink at a nearby cafe. While gulping down our coffee and devouring the crepes, we talk about films such as Star Wars and thought how fun it would be if we all had a movie marathon! We decided to go to a supermarket to buy popcorn and meet up after dinner at Leo’s house to stay the night and stay up late to watch movies. I met Isabelles cousin named Frederic. Originally, we were meant to celebrate Christmas with him but changed plans, so today we are celebrating a second Christmas. I met Piper and we took the train to Jussieu where we went to the zoo in the national museum of history and nature. We walked around while eating crepes and drinking coffee. Afterwards, we walked around Notre Dame and walked home before dinner. Although I said that I prefer not to see touristy places, my friend Siloe invited me to go to the Eiffel Tower with her and Sebastian and go to the third stage (the top floor). In spite of the fact that I am deathly scared of heights my will to see them was stronger. The whole time I grabbed on to Siloes arm as if my life depended on it. On the Saturday of this week I went to Paris once more with my friend Piper to go to museums. We went to Petit Palais a “small” building filled with beautiful art pieces. After Petit Palais, we walked to the next museum (Musee Maillot); whilst walking we decided to go eat crepes and drink coffee. One can never get enough crepes and coffee here in France. 

Week 5

School has started, and students are studying for upcoming mock exams. This gave me an opportunity to go out and explore France. Although in saying this, I didn't want to explore it alone so I invited my friend Piper to come with me. So far, within the past few weeks, I have managed to visit many museums that I never knew existed in France. After school I met an old friend named `Rubince` to go to the movies to watch a film called “Ghost Story.” The film was a touching yet confusing film in which my friend and I talked about the whole way home on the train.

On the Wednesday of this week, I had the pleasure of meeting my old exchange family once more. We went to a small town near their house called ‘Bellevue’ where we went to a Galette and Crepe restaurant. This was the first restaurant I went when I had my first exchange in France in 2015. It brought back many memories and a great feeling of nostalgia. I ordered the same fish as I did back in 2015 and we all chatted about what's new and the past while munching on savoury and sweet crepes. After dinner and saying our goodbyes, I decided to take small walk around the observatory in Meudon. Whilst walking, I found a wall with the words, “Je suis Charlie” written. This was a beautiful way of reminding people to never forget that horrid day. On Saturday I went to Disneyland with Leo, Piper and her exchange student Flore! I was so excited to finally go.

Although the weather was around 3 degrees Celsius, our determination to ride everything and our excitement made us forget about how horrible the weather was. After a long day at the amusement park we decided to go home. Today is Piper's last day in France so knowing I may not see her for a long time after this, I gave her a big hug and told her that I'll come visit her in Christchurch. On Sunday, I woke up very early to take the train to meet Danielle in Paris Montparnasse. Danielle is Adele's grandmother, whom I became very close with during the exchange in 2015. We went to a cafe to have coffee and talked about what we would do for the whole day. In the end, we decided to go shopping for stationary and walk around Père Lachaise cemetery. I was able to visit the tombs famous people such as, Chopin, Edith Piaf, Jim Morrison and many more. This was an amazing experience as I was able to see the tomb of a pianist in which not just me but many adore and look up to. In the cemetery there was a whole district dedicated to those whom’s lives were lost during the Holocaust. Danielle and I passed by a tomb which said, “passant, ta memoire est leur seule sepulture.” (To those who are passing, your memory is their only resting place). Although somewhat morbid, this quote on the tomb was very touching and one in which I will never forget. After paying our respects, we walked to a patisserie to buy some sweets to take home for coffee. I ordered a mini lemon meringue tart and Danielle ordered a mini raspberry custard tart. Just before 8 pm, I said my goodbyes and took the train home. When reaching home, my exchange family and I ate ‘une galette des rois’ (King cake). It is a circular cake consisting of flaky puff pastry layers with a dense center of frangipane. A character/ figurine is hidden within the cake and whomever gets the slice with the figurine in it, is crowned the king. This was a cute little tradition that I'm glad I was able to experience as New Zealand doesn't have a tradition like this. 

Week 6

This week is my last week in Paris! Although very sad to leave, I am excited to see my family and friends again. This last week in France has been busy everyday; no time to relax! Everyday after school there would be something I had to do, whether it was to hang out with friends, go sightseeing or buy presents for friends and family back in New Zealand. After school one day, my friend Jonathan took me to a cafe near the Eiffel Tower where we had coffee and ate nutella crepes.

This experience overall has been amazing and although I will miss France very much, I will surely come back to see my friends and exchange family again.