Tuesday, June 29, 2010

I'm finally at the WWOOF farm! Claude met me at the bus station yesterday before dinner, and we drove about 45 minutes through a narrow, slightly virtiginous road through the alps (I couldn't help thinking of Idaho) until arriving at their house. For those of you who have been there, the whole set-up here is quite a bit like Challis. Everything is hand-made, with uneven steps and doors branching off to various rooms added on to the original house (which still has it's original stone floor). There was a thunderstorm last night and the roof leaked a little, and everyone seemed delighted that I was used to things like that. I tried to explain that I was just glad to have indoor plumbing and that in Challis the shower shares space with the toolshed (but it's great, Papa), but they were a little incredulous.

French is going pretty well here. I have had little trouble expressing myself, and everyone seems to think my miming and mispronunciations are highly entertaining -- which is exactly what I had hoped. I understand pretty well, but when they have cigarettes between their lips (sorry Grandma Sharon, but Claude chain smokes, nothing I can do, I won't start smoking) and are talking fast I have to ask them to repeat. But this family is extremely kind and generous and has a great sense of humor. And I eat meat here! It's only been one day, but last night's stir fry had ground beef in it, and I just...ate it. I was starving, and it was completely fine. And I kind of liked the sausage we ate with bread before dinner...yikes.

Gettting here was a real adventure. I was supposed to fly out of Paris, the Orly airport, and arrive in Nice at 10:30. I had a reservation at a youth hostel and then was going to spend the morning exploring Nice and get on a bus for Puget-Theniers at 5 in the afternoon. I got to Orly 4 minutes before boarding closed, raced to my gate, and was told that weather was bad and they didn't know when we'd leave. So I sat there for three hours, made friends with a French guy and an Italian girl who studies in Paris (I made friends in French!!) and then we were told to get on buses to go to Charles de Gaule, the other Paris airport, where we'd leave at 12:30 am for Nice. We sat on the buses for an hour before leaving (it was now past 12:30) and when we finally did make it to Charles de Gaule were told we'd be leaving at 7 in the morning. A near riot broke out. We could sleep in the airport, or we could go to a hotel an hour away where we would have to trust that buses would come and get us in the morning and take us to the airport on time. I stayed in the airport. The French guy and Italian girl and I added a Canadian guy to our group, we all had sleeping bags (fortunately) and actually enjoyed ourselves pretty well making fun of the airline, etc. It was my first real totally-in-French social experience -- in Paris, Guillaume always spoke in English, but here the only language the four of us had in common was French -- and it went pretty well! Also, the french guy was good at being pushy and French and getting us the information we needed, which I wouldn't have been able to do on my own.

I finally did get to Nice, and after getting breakfast, pretty much just slept and read for 4 hrs in the bus station. But now I'm here!!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Travels begin!

So it's 12 days til I touch down in Paris (or 11 maybe with all the time changes), but I feel like I'm already off. My family and I left for Washington DC on the ninth to go to my cousin's bat mitzvah, we leave today for the North Carolina shore, in a week I'll be off to Philadelphia and then New York for a few days to visit friends, and then I'll fly to Europe out of JFK. But I'm living out of suitcases the whole time. Packing was an absolute nightmare. I had to move out of my apartment in Berkeley so I had to bring all my stuff to Idaho with me to store in my parents' house. When I got to Idaho, I sorted through everything and packed what I didn't need in their basement. That left me with two huge bags of stuff for my year in France. When I packed them into suitcases, each ended up weighing 49.5 pounds (the limit is 50 pounds). It took endless rearranging and re-weighing to get each bag to weigh 49.5 pounds, as you can imagine, and then when I got to the airport I found out that our scale wasn't perfectly accurate and had re-rearrange. But I made it this far in one piece, as did all my luggage, so no complaints.

I'm trying to keep up my French, but it's hard, even just for a month. I was taking two classes in French last semester, and by the end had really gotten a lot more fluent. But today it took me five minutes to remember how to say "on the way to" and I keep second-guessing the gender of words. I'm re-reading Kiffe kiffe demain but reading is not speaking. One part of our brain seems to control our understanding of written language, and another part seems to deal with language orality.

Anyway, DC has been good: lots of museums and bat mitzvah parties. The rabbi got mad at me for talking during the rehearsal (my sister and I started playing the penis game, but instead of saying "penis," we said "rabbi" -- great fun), and I got pretty trashed at the party in the evening, so I'd say all in all it was a success. I've also bonded with lots of cousins I never see and am currently dodging my grandmother who's assigning housework to all idle guests. There's a brunch starting in about half an hour and a little packing (packing, packing, I am always packing) left to do.

A toute a l'heure! (no accents on this computer)