Monday, December 31, 2012

Mallory Richey - Bonnes Fêtes!

This last month has again been insane. As today is the last day of 2012, I have not only been doing a lot of reflection of this month but of the past year in general. I found out I was going to France, graduated High School, left for the biggest experience of my life, and from there I have been to England, Belgium, and all over France. I have eaten Snails, Frog-Legs, and cow tongue, celebrated Christmas is a different language, and changed more than I ever thought I would. It has been the most hectic year of my life, but by far one of the best.
     At the beginning of the month I went to Paris for a long weekend. My friend Indy, from South Africa and I went a day earlier than all of the other exchange students because we were invited to visit with the Ambassador of Defense from South Africa. He was so great, and his wife took us out for an amazing lunch in the cutest little cliché of a restaurant in Paris. There, I met a lovely couple from California and we talked for about an hour and it was so great! They bought me a drink and some snacks even and we chatted about French and American culture. The next day we met up with everyone else and hit up Versaille again and then did a tour of Paris by night. The Champs de Elysee with all of the Christmas lights is INCREDIBLE, then we went and toured around the Sacre Coeur, which was beautiful, and with a beautiful view of Paris at night, felt pretty much like a movie. I also got a glimpse of the Moulin Rouge.  The next day we climbed the Eiffel Tower and then took a ride on a Baton Mouche (which was cold, but we were loving it, we sang and waved at random people on the bridges). The weekend ended and I went back home for a day before coming back to Paris to send Indy back to South Africa we got there a little before everyone else so I found a Starbucks and enjoyed my first one in about 4 months ( it was a cup of heaven). Saying goodbye to Indy however, was the hardest thing I have had to do during my exchange because she really was a bit of a rock for me, we had gotten really close and it was rough to say goodbye, but I know that I will see her in the future. These are the sort of people that you don't forget, but is any case it feels like a totally different exchange without her, but I am looking at it as a new chapter. So December passed quickly and before I knew it, it was Christmas! It was great (even though I was a touch homesick) we opened presents and had appetizers Christmas Eve. I think everyone liked my presents (which was a relief) and I even got some presents for myself. I felt like Harry Potter on his first Christmas at YOU GOT ME PRESENTS! YAY! The next day (Christmas) everyone in the family, Grandma, Grandpa, Aunts, Cousins, and friends, sat down for a huge Christmas dinner, which in the true spirit of France, lasted about 5 hours (but it was goooooodddd) and included some really amazing chicken, roasted fruits, seafood baked with cream, potatoes, salad, and for dessert....French cakes and tartes! I have gained a lot of weight here and named my fat Albert (with a French Accent) it is a little bit of a family joke now. I am getting ready to greet the New Year with a bang, and soon (in two days) I am nervous and a sad because I have grown to be really comfortable and happy with this family but I know this will be a good experience and my second family seems to be way cool so at the same time I am excited:) See you guys in Six Months, and my next blog post in one (unless something really amazing happens and I need to write about it right then).
 Group of Us on the Second floor of the Eiffel Tower
 Just a really cool door I found in Paris that I thought I would share
 A bunch of us on a Baton Mouche!
STARBUCKSSSSSS....terminal 1 CDG if any of you are in need and are at the Airport in Pars

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Diana - This month was so amazing!

This month was so amazing.  First, I had never seen snow before. It snowed on the last week of October.  I was really surprised and made a snow angel.  It was so fun and cold.
Then I had to introduce my country with a PowerPoint presentation, I was so nervous but I think I did it well. I hope so.!
Halloween was so cool.   I didn´t have a lot of candy because I think I´m too old for it.  Anyway, I was so glad for that day.  I saw lots of scary and funny costumes.
Then Thanksgiving was really delicious.   Actually, I’d never eaten that kind of food before.  Spending time with my host family was so fun and I feel so comfortable with them.
The next day was so funny I went to get a Christmas tree.  I slid on the ice.  It was so funny.
I just changed families last Saturday.  I was sad because I was used to being there.  I felt comfortable and excited to know other ways of American life and learn more English.
The second weekend with this family I went to brocons game real football american was so excited for my but most all the time I didn´t understand.
I have experienced many exciting things this new month, but these are the most important things I’ve enjoyed this month.
However, the worst thing is that I´ve gained 8 pounds in three months which is not amazing.
I just turned 18 on Friday 14th was really calm day because here the over age is 21 and I am still young but legally I´m adult.
Now I´m thinking, I have the worst thing in all my exchange year:
The Sunday 15th of December I had a accident trying to learn skiing was so bad but soon I  will have surgery in my knee but everybody says here are excellent doctors again I hope so. =) 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Hope Nelson - Remembrance Day

To give people a quick update I am doing very well. I recently changed host families and love my new host family.
Being away from your family and all the people who know you gives you an incredible freedom, not the freedom you automatically think of, like going out late and partying and all that, but the freedom to really do what you want to. You can get into a new kind of music, dance, or other activity without having people judge you or ask why. In the same sense it really becomes up to you to make things happen. If you want to go into the city its up to you to ask your family, find the bus schedule, know how much it costs ect., but that's just called being an adult, isn't it? Taking responsibility for yourself.
THANK GOD THE LANGUAGE IS COMING! Its coming so slowly but yes I am starting to feel more comfortable speaking French. A lovely French woman explained the progression best. (Did you see how I used “lovely”? That's because I spent a weekend with a British couple WHO WERE AWSOME, but I will talk about that later) The woman said that when you have the words they will just start to spill out. She was so right they just come out and mind you not always making sense.  I'm also starting to be able to recognize some of the nuances of the language, but there is still so much that goes over my head. The other day I learned that the word souris  means both mouse AND smile. As you can imagine this can be very confusing, for example when my French friend was telling me she loved my smile I kept trying to tell her that I didn't have a mouse. This can also be a problem vice versa when you think someone is talking about your smile when there may or may not be a mouse involved.
As mentioned above a few weeks ago I spent a weekend with a British couple who have been living in France for 10 years (sorry Richard and Sandra if I got that wrong). It was during Remembrance Day and we went to this memorial service where the whole town stood in front of this stone memorial with the names of the people who died from that town in World War I. The mayor (pictured below) then came up and read the names, and after each all the people said "mort pour la france" which translates to “Died for France”.

It really provoked an emotion I have never experienced before. Memorial day has always just been a holiday for me, and hearing the names of these people and having a whole community come to honor them was...inexplicable. Another thing I realized with this experience is how perception of history is so different around the world. It may have only been me but I always got the impression that the French weren't as helpful in the Second World War, and cooperated more easily with the Nazis than other countries. That of course is open to interpretation but what I didn't know was the extent to which the French were hurt by the First World War. They had the most casualties of the allies with the exception of Russia.  Standing in front of the stone memorial with the names of 20 men who died in a town with a population of a maximum 150 people you see how hard that hit a country the size of France. This also makes their actions in World War II more understandable. Everything changes once it's put in context.

After the memorial service we had a HUGE meal in the town hall where we literally ate for five and a half hours. There must have been seven courses. We sat down at 11:30 and left at 5:30, and we left before coffee was served!  I also got to plant a tree and watch dancing with the stars, British version. Its cool that I get to experience different cultures other than French.

As I was leaving the meal a friend of Richard and Sandra, from Australia, hugged me goodbye and told me I was a great ambassador, and had changed his view of Americans. For those who don't know, that is basically the sole goal of the Rotary Youth exchange, not only to learn about a new culture but to also represent your country and inspire others to think differently.

I am wearing the traditional red flower on Remembrance Day

The ”lovely” Sandra in her equally lovely bathroom

Richard and Sandra’s kitchen

My NEW host family!!  More to come in future blogs.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Mallory Richey - CENTIEME!!!!!

I have passed the one hundredth day in France! Time is flying is insane. The Christmas season has defiantly begun...and I don't have many pictures because I have been so busy ( and maybe forgot my camera at home for the Rotary weekend)! The Holiday's started out with a bang. My host family threw me a surprise Thanksgiving with all of my new french friends. It was defiantly a Thanksgiving to remember. Then, I made some Gumbo for a rotary outing where we had to make food from our country for the Rotarians and host families of our district. It turned out great despite my cooking skills (my host mom helping me was probably the reason I didn' burn the house down) but a little to spicy for some of the French:) I also went to Vimy, a Canadian memorial for the first world war. There is still indentations in the earth from the artillery and we got to walk around in old trenches and even the underground caves a bit.  have finally found my comfort zone with the language and school and friends and life is feeling pretty normal.  All the exchange students are headed to Paris next weekend for some Christmas wonderment, and I am going down a day early with my friend from South Africa to meet the South African ambassador, so I am becoming more wordily not just in the French Culture but others as well! I change host families the 2nd of January, which is exciting and sad at the same time, so that will mix things up a bit, I am going to miss this host family but the next one is superb as well. This afternoon, I am braving the kitchen again and making muffins! I have been getting into the Christmas Spirit by writing cards, decorating the tree with my host sister, and eating plenty of French yummies and spent some time selling Christmas stuff for Polio with Rotary, so things are good on this side of the pond as always. I will keep you guys updated! Bisous et bon fête!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Kestral Johnston - Já quartro meses....

So, it's already been four months in Brazil. All I have to say is wow. This country continues to amaze me, the people, the landscape, the way of life. And yet, it's all the same. I always find it strange to think about another language as the way it is. How as certain and correct as English sounds to me, there is also a certain and correct Portuguese. I will hopefully get to that point which both are that way.

During this past month I had my birthday. Whoo hoo 17! I had a small birthday party with my friends from school and the people from Rotary. There was so much food, I can't even describe it. So here is the Brazilian birthday party song lyrics. Of course, you can't just sing, you must also clap and then repeat, but faster.
My host mom and godmother with me at my party

Parabéns pra voce
Nesta data querida
Muitas felicidades
Muitos anos da vida

Happy Birthday to you
On this day, dear
Best wishes
Many years of life

I also got to travel with my host family to two of the most magical places in the world: Pantanal and Bonito. For those who aren't familiar with Pantanal, it is one of the world's largest wetland areas and reaches across 2 states in Brazil, parts of Paraguay, and parts of Bolivia. It's quite tropical and has an array of different animals such as toucans (tucano), parrots (araras), alligators (jacaré), tuiuiú ( symbolic bird of Pantanal), capybaras (capivaras), and many other animals. In the city of Bonito, I got to go on a tour called Boca da Onça that had 9 waterfalls and 4 places to swim. I also got to swim in the famous crystal clear water of Bonito. It was absolutely amazing.
Giant tree
Boca da Onca waterfall, highest in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul
In other words....American Kestrel :)
Tatú, the official mascot of the 2014 World Cup
Gruta do Lago Azul, most visited place in Bonito
Snorkeling down Rio Sucuri
On a boat with my host family
My host mom and I swimming in the Boraco do Macaco waterfall
Boraco do Macaco
Bem vindo ao Pantanal!
Arara azul (blue parrot)
Jacaré (Alligator)
Arara vermelha (red parrot)
Swimming with the fish... piraputangas to be exact

I hope everyone had great holidays and everyone is enjoying the cold weather. Summer just started here and it's so hot! ( 90+ degrees F) Tudo de bom pra vocês durante as feriás, beijos s2
Last day of school....