S: Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité,Voyagé
FC: Liberté Égalité Fraternité Voyagé
1: Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité, Voyagé | France Immersion 2011
2: Special thanks to Mr. Camm, who led us through the streets of France and Ms. Moulton, who taught us how to put our experiences on paper | 2
3: Table of Contents | 3 | Ou est le Dicotheque 6 -Charlie Benedict Nostalgia for the Unknown 8 -Liana Saleh Experiencing the Difference 13 -Soo Yun Lee The Market 16 -Kathleen Norris Le Cimetire de Montmartre 20 -Peter Camm Understanding is the First Step 23 -Marissa Peppel A French Revolution 26 -Kat Wood The MomentsThat Remain 29 -Penny Gilliotte You'll Know When You Get There 32 -Elliot Watson Off The Leash 35 -Claire Staley
4: 4 | Don't Let Me Down 38 -Emmy Doore The White Cat 41 -Auriel Smith Plexiglass 46 -Claire Gaglione Optimism is a Powerful Tool 51 -Libby Schear Heading Upstream In France and Being Beaten 57 With the Paddle -Walter Givhan Let's Talk about Crap -Natalie Draper Alone in a City Full of People -Heidi Yarger
6: I hate writing. Ever since first grade it has been the thing I enjoyed the least. I honestly would rather listen to lectures or study for a history test than write a paper for English class. I will literally sit down to analyze something or write a short story and my mind will go blank; I’ll sit hours at my computer struggling to get a single sentence down, let alone a full paragraph. Some people would call this writer's block, but what do you call it when there was never anything to be blocked? For hours I thought about potential topics to write this piece on. I had many moments that I could talk about forever, but none I could immortalize in writing. For example at the Musee d'Orsay I stood in front ten Van Gogh paintings and felt emotion art has never provoked in me before. I’m still talking about how beautiful it was, yet when I sit down and try to write about it the emotion seems to disappear, and I lose sight of the feeling I once had for them. Logically an Immersion called “Travel Writers in France” should have been my last choice. But hey, France is an amazing place to be and with a schedule including a week-long home stay, a weekend in Switzerland, and everything exciting in Paris how could I resist? I further justified my decision by telling myself that maybe I would be forced to write so much I might start enjoying it. Unfortunately, this was not the case. At the top of the Eiffel Tower we were instructed to find the furthest point we could see, and then write about it. This was the third time I had been to the top and although it was ‘old news’ for me I felt inspired by it. Not only had I gotten to the top for the third time, but I had been fortunate enough to be subjected to its glory more than once. The moment I looked out from the top I knew I wanted my children to have the opportunities I’ve had. I wanted to write ‘as I looked out I saw my future’ or ‘I saw my potential and I know I can to live up to it’. But honestly, all I saw were some faded distant lights and fog. I knew I couldn’t just write that because I’m on a trip full of kids who are artsy and can take a dump on a piece of computer paper, and it’ll be an award winning essay published in the New York Times. So that night, I laid down in bed and wrote about my trip to the famous tower then scribbled and wrote some more for a solid hour. I tried to incorporate big words and the emotions that it brought me but anything I would write down didn’t seem to fit. At 12:30 I went to sleep a defeated man. I thought to myself. "I'll do better on the next one." and | Ou est Le Discotheque? Charles Lee Warren Benedict
7: crumpled the piece of notebook paper full of scribbles and tossed it on the floor. For our second assignment we were to write about a time when we felt uncomfortable. “Round two,” I thought. This should have been a sinch, I could have written about how uneasy I was about my upcoming home stay, that I was afraid I’d make a fool of not only myself, but also a fool of Americans as a whole. But after a solid five minutes with nothing on my paper I looked left to see that Heidi had a full page knocked out like it was nothing. At this point I was flustered and truth be told uncomfortable. So I did what I always do when I feel that way; I stopped taking whatever I was working on so seriously and made a joke out of it. While this may sound juvenile, it worked. I started writing what I thought was at least a relatively decent essay and when Ms. Moulton called “time,” I had a page and a half finished. I thought I might have found a method but when Heidi passed hers to me I was put to shame. Her essay flowed beautifully and it was abstract and interesting. She managed to catch a single moment and describe an event so perfectly without actually ever saying anything directly. I once again felt like crumpling up my paper. In Switzerland, my situation improved slightly. In the hotel lobby Ms. Moulton asked us to describe first colors, then smells, and finally tastes. Of the three, smell was the easiest and my personal favorite. I wrote about the putrid smell of hobo urine, a hard topic to mess up. “my nostrils were hit with the fowl stench of malt liquor and sulfur. Even more horrifying then the smell was the placement of it, between a baby’s clothes store and a lingerie boutique” felt relatively confident about these new sentences, I felt I hadn’t missed out on opportunities like I had at the Eiffel tower. The feeling quickly faded when I read someone else’s that was, as usual more clever, interesting and over all better written. This time, more frustrated than ever, I felt like ripping my notebook in half. With my final shreds of dignity, I have been asked to write one final essay, I wouldn’t call it my best and I probably wouldn't call it my worst. Maybe I did learn something from the writing portion of my Immersion. I definitely feel more comfortable sitting down and writing, but enjoying writing is a miracle I don’t ever see coming true. Regardless of how at home I feel with my new-found writing skills, I still hate writing.
8: As I made my way across the harsh carpets of the international airplane onto the rough canvas of Paris’ avenues and roads, I did not expect much at all. I’d been to Europe enough times that I had lost belief in awe-inducing surprise spurred by tourism. I was grumpy and tired and was experiencing the customary disorientation that accompanies the disappearance of six hours of your life. All I could remember from what seemed like years in the past was arriving at the airport, and then it became a ridiculous blur of baggage labeled “heavy”, arguing bus drivers, and completely fogged up bus windows that allowed not even one, fleeting peek out into the country that would be home for the next three weeks. Not that I cared very much about exploration. My whole being was focused with a frightening, single-minded intensity on only one thing- sleep. Even as I heaved my thousand-pound bag up a creaky winding staircase to a room evidently created for a species of human not nearly as large as us, I could only stare longingly at the bed and will myself to survive the next hour. Then I could sleep. My groggy mind dimly registered Napoleon’s tomb, a massive slab of granite placed over a stone sarcophagus. I then eagerly proceeded back to Hotel Muguet, where I was in blissful unconsciousness for three hours. The night brought me the Eiffel Tower and the accompanying feeling of being infinite as I leaned over the railing, staring out at the scattered lights of a city at night. Paris became, to me, a city of people living in a world of the past. Every street I walked on, every building I stepped into, every painting I marveled at and ceiling I wished I could reach had stories that nothing in America could. People strolled by in their Chanel shoes and Dior perfumes, tucking their new iPhones into dark coat pockets with determined, businesslike expressions and no regard for who could have been walking by that precise building a few hundred years before. While touring generally only leaves me with sore feet and a strong appetite for mozzarella followed by Nutella crepes, places that can wake up my imagination to wondering what fascinating moment could have taken place in a time so very different then our own make the whole thing bearable. These were places like the Louvre, whose paintings and sculptures, while beautiful, could not hold my attention any longer than the time it took to scan my eyes over them. What really amazed me was the actual building, | Nostalgia for the Unknown Liana Saleh
9: the senselessly huge palace in which people used to actually live. People who lived and died and people who lived and kept on living in history books forever. What most amazed me was Napoleon’s chambers. After getting lost several times in the endless hallways, I finally found myself in the most extravagantly and beautifully decorated rooms I had ever seen. While utterly unnecessary, the deep colors were gorgeous and the amount of detail and gold artfully carved into every inch of every surface would have been shocking had it not been for the massive amounts of drapery that drew my attention to the painted masterpiece of ceilings above. I wished I could live there for just one day, to see how it would be to live in such a carefully organized exhibition of a house. Similarly to the innumerable halls of the Louvre, the Opera House of Paris stole my breath from my chest and sent it fluttering to the soaring ceilings and up the grand staircases. Every small motion of my head sent my eyes running greedily over a new glorious display of opulence. My vision flickered back and forth between a glamorous time of oversized taffeta dresses and men in coattails kissing ladies’ gloved hands, and then me, standing there in the abandoned hall full of long forgotten drama and pleasure wishing I could have been there. I retraced imaginary footsteps down the long hall of mirrors, watching my shoes appear one in front of the other. The wood creaked in protest of my reminiscent wander of times I wished I could have been a part of. I spent the last day in Paris engaging myself in helping out the economy of France. Otherwise known as shopping. I moved faster in those two hours than I had moved for the entirety of the trip prior to that, trying desperately to catch all the stores before I was obligated to return to the group. I bought completely and utterly more than was even close to necessary, but I honestly felt nothing but the familiar rush of joy at grasping the handles to a carrier bag of new clothes. And yes, I do have a slight shopping addiction. The awe I felt had nothing to do with history in this situation. I spent the last day in Paris engaging myself in helping out the economy of France. Otherwise known as shopping. I moved faster in those two hours than I had moved for the entirety of the trip prior to that, trying desperately to catch all the stores before I was obligated to return to the group. I bought completely and utterly more than was even close to necessary, but I honestly felt nothing but the familiar rush of joy at grasping the handles to a carrier bag of new clothes. And yes, I do have a slight shopping addiction. The awe I felt had nothing to do with history in
10: this situation. It was during this enriching activity that I had a very frightening experience. I was sitting idly and innocently outside the fitting rooms of a store I was in. A man in white linen pants strolled in with a confident gait, a bulging flab of humanity disguised as a woman on his arm. The man was undoubtedly a pimp. His oversized diamond earring glittered in the fluorescent lighting like the tooth of a tiger about to pounce. The phrase uncomfortable would have fit this situation quite nicely had it not been for his failed-attempt-at-seductive “ca va?” aimed at my disturbed face with a wink. The uncomfortable twinge quickly escalated to full blown panic. He then proceeded to go through what I assumed to be a bizarre mating ritual, squatting next to me while I froze in horror, and locking an intense gaze on my face. This repeated itself quite a few times as his slab of meat tried on revealing skirt after disgustingly revealing skirt. I made my escape up the metal staircase when his gaze was averted, my urgent footsteps clanging ominously. I still fully believe I quite narrowly avoided being trafficked into prostitution that day. I let it serve as a reminder to me that France is not all glamourous buildings with a past and designer shoes, but that it has a side that isn’t worth noting in history books. The last dinner in Paris took place in an Italian restaurant. While I found this slightly hilarious, I only felt the familiar anticipation of preparing to go somewhere new. Tours was quickly approaching, and I had not the slightest idea of what it would hold. The farthest thing I could have possibly imagined was being inserted into the home of the most stereotypical French lady that had ever lived. This woman showered once in the entire week we were imprisoned in her chambers, walked around in all her unshaven glory with nothing but a loosely tied robe wrapped around her, and seemed to live off baguettes and bleu cheese. Needless to say, I seldom ventured out of the assigned bedroom, unless I was hungry enough to quietly tiptoe out with enough caution that one could think I was escaping a prison to find bread or milk in the kitchen. The half hour walk each morning and afternoon to the Institute du Tourraine, where I was taking entirely unhelpful classes that did not help in my quest to understand our home-stay mother whatsoever, were the worst part of Tours by far. The wind would rip at my hair and wrap my scarf around my neck in an effort to choke me to death, while ice cold tendrils of air snaked hemselves into my clothes and sent uncontrollable shivers through my body. To my horror, I could not even find comfort in looking forward to a
11: warm shower. The shower in this house of terror is one of the things that will remain in my memory for as long as I live. The water came out of the removable shower-head with all the force of a dripping towel. Also, the lack of a shower curtain on the toe-stubbingly high tub made it so that every minuscule motion sent a rainbow of water arcing over the entirety of the bathroom. The water also seemed to be bipolar, one moment being a perfectly pleasant warm, the next it would be blistering my skin bright red. Any attempt to remedy the situation by moving the cold water tap would send glacial streams dripping upon my miserable head. Needless to say, the day of our departure brought the familiar and glorious feeling of freedom from a strangely uncomfortable living situation. I expected a lot from Annecy. Every time the name of the city was mentioned, it was greeted with hearty exclamations and proclamations of its alleged beauty. The moment our high speed train brought is to halt in its station, I knew they had been right. The city was beautiful. It had the fairytale-like architecture of European cities I had become so accustomed to in Venice and Rome and Amsterdam. The hotel room we had was also helpful to reviving my dampened enthusiasm. It finally contained the basic human necessities I had been lacking for so long: room to breathe, a functioning shower, and coffee. Within the first 12 hours of being there, I had taken two showers with all the relief of someone having a spiritual rebirth. The first morning, as we set out into the main square of the old town, I was expecting the empty streets and disconcerting quiet of a sleeping city that Tours had hammered into my mind. But this was an entirely different beast. People flooded the streets, pooling into every corner and discreet alley like an overflowing river. The market that was set up held everything from absolutely revolting clothing to gold jewelry to vacuum sealable bags to little black pigs that made me want to stuff one under my arm like a football and run away. The fruit was so vivid and flawless, displayed on the stands as proudly as any work of art would be. The atmosphere infused my veins with a sense of cheerful content with the world and all of its sunny, perfectly pleasant days. The far reaches of Annecy touched the Alps. These monstrous piles of earth extended their striving fingertips higher into the sky than I had seen any mountain ever reach. The higher up I climbed, the larger the folds of earth loomed before me. The sprawling, perpetual line of their white horizon slashed a severe cut into the velvety light blue of daylight above.
12: The buildings below seemed to be facets of a muddy diamond, the glittering jewel making swift appearances when the slanting sun hit a window or a fountain of spring water. I stood there and admired the miracle of the sky and the ground meeting so incredibly high up and it occurred to me as the rays of sun warmed my skin that this had been here for longer than anyone could remember. I stood there in awe and wondered who else, countless years ago, could have seen the precise view of the natural skyscraper I was seeing now. I felt as if I wanted to stay on the peak of that overlap of the earth’s blanket forever, but the wind came back to haunt me, so I quickly grabbed my scarf before it could again attempt to defeat me and made my way back down to the first floor of France. Coming home to America was beautiful. I had missed meals made for customers with endless appetites and being able to eavesdrop on the people standing in line in front of you without needing a translator. As I sat down to think about living in France for three weeks, for that was indeed what it was, living in France, I began to realize that although every possible thing that could be different was, every emotion I felt there was the same as what I feel in America. I felt a disconcerting loss of time, like that which I feel when I fall asleep in the middle of the day and don’t wake up until the next morning. I felt a strange nostalgia for times I had never lived in, like I do here when I look at history books and read about days that seem more fascinating than my own. I felt the gut-aching misery of being in a situation that is uncontrollable and uncomfortable in equal measure, which is just a magnified version of the feeling of being in any awkward moment in my every day life. It seemed that I remained content with my array of familiar feelings.
13: Experiencing the Difference Soo Yun Lee | This was my second time traveling to France. The first time I only stayed for two days simply looking at the famous places. That trip did not help me experience the exotic culture. However, I experienced the culture of France this time because I stayed longer and saw what life was like for French people. Even in one country, every city has a different culture. When I traveled, I felt the cultural differences between France, South Korea, and America. It was a rainy, cloudy afternoon in Tours when Claire Staley, who was my roommate throughout the travel, and I met the family who would take care of the two of us. Madame Munier was wearing a long, dark, brown coat and had a black umbrella and an updo. She looked like a head-strong woman, but she was a kind person who made us comfortable. She asked our names first and then we started walking to the house. When we got in the car, Claire and I talked to Madame Munier in English. Madame Munier could speak English pretty fluently, which I was glad about. She had hosted many students before us from various countries such as Japan, Canada, and America. I have seen numerous foreign students in America stay with the host families as well. Not many people volunteer as host families in Korea, where I am from, but in America and France it seems like many families take care of international students. We finally arrived at Madame Munier’s house, we saw that our room was located on the third floor. Our suitcases were over 40 pounds each but Madame Munier picked my suitcase up and carried it to my room. She said, “since I became alone, I knew that I need to be strong!” I felt sorry for her because I could not imagine myself being a single mom. From here, I could feel the differences again. Usually in Korea if someone gets divorced they do not talk about it. Even a family member, like a cousin, does not ask or talk about his or her divorce. Koreans think divorce is a shame. What I felt from European and American society most people do not feel shameful about divorce; they talk about divorces often. After we moved our luggage, Madame Munier introduced her family to us. She had three children, two sons, and one daughter. Arthur was 16 , the oldest son in the house. Camille was a pretty, 14 year old
14: girl, and Alexis was 13 years old; he was the youngest boy in the house. Arthur was a quiet boy who looked like Harry Potter. Camille liked to learn and speak English and she asked us lots of questions in English. Camille was in Paris during the first three days and Arthur was sick for four days so we could only see Alexis and her cat, Betty. In Korea, people usually do not raise cats because most people live in apartments and the cats need to go outside often. Also, Koreans like to have dogs rather than cats because they think dogs are friendlier. Madame Munier showed the house to us. Overall, the French housing was similar to the American style. However, in detail, the French kitchens do not have islands like many American houses do. The French house has a dining table like Korean houses. On the first floor, there was a kitchen, living room, and Madame Munier’s bedroom. The children’s bedrooms and one bathroom were on the second floor. The children liked to decorate their own bedrooms and put their names on their bedroom doors. The whole third floor was guest rooms. I found Claire’s name and mine on the guest rooms’ door. It was nice to stay in that decorated bedroom. There were two bedrooms and one bathroom. One of the bedrooms was for a single person and the other was for two people. Claire and I used the two person bedroom throughout the week. When I went to the bathroom, I saw the pink, yellow, and blue toilet paper and I thought it was interesting because I had never seen that in Korea or America. I thought that French people were creative and detailed after seeing these. Every meal was interesting to me. We always ate supper at 7:30 p.m. Dinner started with a salad, then a main dish, and for the last course we ate dessert. When we had salad, Madame Munier gave us bread to soak the dressing up our plate before having the main dish. I never used bread to clean up the dish because, in America, we used a different dish for every course, and in Korea I did not eat bread at dinner. Usually Koreans eat bread for breakfast or for snacks. Claire and I usually went out for lunch and that might be the reason that Madame Munier cooked every supper, to show us even if she was busy with her nursing job, she still wanted to show us the traditional French home cooking. She cooked crepes, rice with turkey, mushrooms, and white cream sauce or bread with olives, ham, and onions. However, it is different with the American host family that I stay with. They enjoy going out to eating or eating fast food when they were busy or just too lazy to cook.
15: The other thing that I was surprised by was that Madame Munier used maps often. If we were in Korea, the host family may take us to the place where we wanted to go because taking a new person, place to place is considered respectful to that person. However, Madame Munier explained the directions to us with the map every time. I think showing us maps and explaining the directions are really good to do because we could actually experience the atmosphere of Tours by finding our own way. I could not go anywhere in America even if I knew the directions because I did not have a car. One time we walked to the street market. People were selling various fruits such as fresh strawberries or light green apples, vegetables such as big lettuce or cucumbers, bright colored clothes, and vivid colored jewelry in the street market. I saw many colorful clothes but I found the French people wore dark colored clothes more often. I thought about the Korean markets when I saw the French markets. Korean markets have various fruits and vegetables as French street market does. Korean markets sell colorful clothes and jewelry that people can get at a cheap price. I never saw the street market in America but I went to the street market several times in Korea. I was interested by seeing similarities between France and my hometown. This travel made me think. The trip allowed me to have an open mind and it allowed me see the world without biases. I strongly believe that people should go outside of their home country or even their hometown to experience cultural differences. Although every country has different cultural values, people are living in similar societies. I could see the physical similarities between Korea’s and France’s marketplace, America’s and France’s habit of eating bread and American and French people’s housing style. The most common idea I felt was, most of the time people have respect and kindness to new comers. I think this is why people can adopt a new culture or life styles as people experience different cultures.
16: I awoke horrified at the sound of the alarm. Its buzz echoed through my ears as I looked around the dark hotel room. I quickly jumped off my cot and gazed out the window. The dimly lit street was abandoned with only a single bus labeled “Annecy” running down the middle of the paved road. Squinting my eyes, I looked for any signs of movement. After a few seconds of waiting, I turned around to see my still sleeping roommates, Heidi and Marissa. “Get up,” I screamed as I felt around for my suitcase. We hurried down to breakfast, pounding on our fourth amigo, Charlie’s, door while heading towards the elevator. After a muddled English/French conversation with the breakfast waitresses, we were shown to a side room. My eyes locked on a series of tables to the left of the room. Upon them laid a plethora of fresh breakfast items: crepes, fresh fruits, cereal, cheese, meats, juices, eggs, potatoes, and coffee cakes. My stomach growled as I picked up a huge plate. The tastes were overwhelming. I bit into a pain au chocolat, its soft flakey crust hitting my taste buds quickly followed by the sweet chocolate center. The flavor of the fatty bacon covered with grease was unlike anything in America and the small, round potatoes were perfectly cooked and seasoned. The orange juice was perfectly squeezed and its taste was cold and refreshing to my mouth. The abundance of breakfast choices at this hotel was a refreshing change from the cornflakes and room temperature milk of Tours. | I pulled my white North Face tighter as the brisk Annecy air hit my face. I sped up trying to make up the distance between me and the rest of our eighteen person group; I think it was the three plates of breakfast I had recently scarfed down. Suddenly we stopped. Before us was a huge surge | The Market Kathleen Norris
17: of people. “The market,” I said to myself as I soaked up the foreign scene. The plan was for our group to meet on the other side of the street, each person taking their time to shop as they pleased. But as I had come to recognize, nothing went according to plan in France. Meet at one'clock was really code for meet at one thirty; riding the metro meant a third of the group get on one car while the other two thirds got on a different car and hope that the group ended up at the same spot. France was cunning, no matter how hard you tried to stick to the plan; the country placed a series of hurdles that not even an Olympic gold medalist could mange to get over | I wiggled my way through the crowd; carefully holding onto my purse as numerous people bumped into me. It was hard to choose which side of the street to head towards. Vendors of all different types squeezed into the limited space. I turned to the right, a young woman with brown hair and a black coat was selling hats and gloves for five Euros. Then I turned to the left, there was an old man with a scraggly salt-and-peppered beard selling a variety of sausages. I pushed my way through the crowd, looking at the other vendors: a cheese seller, a knife specialist, a man and a woman trying to get people to feed their baby pig “candy,” a jewelry maker, another jewelry maker, a florist, and a fruit stand. Finally I reached the end of the road, only to look around and to my dismay find that the market extended through the whole town. I spotted the group waiting in what seemed like a pocket in the chaos of the market, as I waded towards them.I looked at my teacher, Mr. Camm, who was repeatedly doing a head count. “We are three short,” he said shooting a terrified look at our other chaperone, Ms. Moulton. I looked around for Natalie’s colorful hair but instead my eyes focused on a middle aged man
18: with a thick, black uni-brow. After a few moments of discussion it was decided that the group would meet up at the old castle, approximately one block away. Again our group dispersed into the crowd of locals rummaging through the market’s stands. This street was filled entirely of produce stands: meats, cheeses, breads, vegetables, and fruits. I reached over and tasted a slice of an orange, its sweet tanginess exploding in my mouth. As I wiggled through the crowd a man slicing nougat caught my eye. I gazed at the glacier sized white block contemplating the mixture of sugar, honey, and nuts. As I stood staring, the man extended his hand, offering me a piece. I popped it into my mouth; it was sweet and taffy like until I bit down on one of the many nuts dispersed throughout the mixture. I quickly devoured the small piece. “Delish,” I thought, looking around at all the other vendors. I turned to my left and saw that the group was gathered behind the row of vendors next to a fountain. The fountain was attached to a wall and had a lion head that spat out a stream of water into a basin below. The fountain seemed slightly out of place being in the midst of many cafés and the chaos of the market. As we waited for the rest of our group, two young men approached the fountain. When they neared the fountain, one of the men pulled out a fancy Nikon camera while the other one posed by the fountain. Before they advanced into the crowd, one of the men stuck his head under the stream of water and took a sip. I looked around to see if anyone had noticed, but no ones’ faces portrayed that shocked emotion that I felt. | Sketches created by Kater.
19: In the days that followed, Annecy returned to its normal, calm demeanor. The rush and chaos of the market was no where to be seen. Only a handful of people walked the streets. I no longer had to wiggle through the crowd and carefully guard my purse. I often though about the stressful feeling of the market and missed it. There, everyone blended in. Tourists and locals alike all came to the market for a common purpose. Even that day as I did my final push out of the tightly packed crowd, I longed to be back inside, pushing my way through the crowd. There I was part of a bigger picture, individuality combined to create the chaos that was so foreign and interesting to me.
20: We took off through the graves, stepping on the narrow spaces between the tombs and small mausoleums, occasionally pausing as he pointed out a headstone or inscription of interest. As we reached the far side of the section, off to the right, a group of black dressed mourners were waiting with flowers, and, almost immediately, a coffin born on the shoulders of four men appeared down the path. I referenced the final scene from “Jules et Jim” by Francois Truffaut, whose grave, in particular, at this Parisian cemetery I had wanted to see. And now, we had arrived. My guide pointed down to the simple grave with Lily’s name to the left and Nadia’s to the right. The grave showed little sign of being tended, so I pulled one weed and set it aside. Lily, he explained, pointing to her dates, had died young. Are you a musician? the elderly monsieur had asked when I first requested to see their grave. No, I said. And he recounted to me how last year a musician had wanted to see the grave and had stood there crying with the emotion of the encounter. Nadia Boulanger had been an influential teacher of composition to many classical musicians of the 20th century and had taught composition to the conductor of the orchestra of my hometown in the United States, and I was drawn to see their final resting place. It was only when I arrived at the Cimetiere de Montmartre had I seen the names of the sisters on the map of the cemetery that stands at the entrance. The map shows the rues and avenues that divide these hallowed hectares into quadrangles, where tombs, mausoleums, sarcophagi and memorials bring together French people who, when they were living, were separated by time, place, class, profession and fame. Although I had visited the more famous cemetery of Pere-Lachaise on a previous visit, paying homage to the 19th century composer Frederic Chopin and the 17th century playwright Moliere and moving quickly on from the “shrine” of Jim Morrison where fans left graffiti and other memorials to this rock star who had died in Paris, this was my first visit to the Cimetiere de Montmartre. I was drawn, not morbidly but respectfully, by romantic composer Hector Berlioz, naturalist novelist Emile Zola and New Wave film director Truffaut. I had left Montmartre’s Sacre-Coeur basilica and passed through the art-for-the-tourists Place du Tertre to the steeply descending rue Lepic, stopping to glance inside the Moulin de la Galette, a restaurant in the | Le Cimetiere de Montmartre Peter Camm
21: process of renovation and scene of Renoir’s beautiful light filled painting (which I had seen earlier at the Musee d’Orsay), and coming out on the busier Rue Caulaincourt where I saw the sign to the cemetery. I realized the street led into the Boulevard de Clichy, close to the Moulin Rouge, but before that it crossed a viaduct, and, to my surprise, I could see the cemetery below, its tombs and mausoleums spreading into the near distance along tree lined walkways. I descended stairs to the left into a small street that dead ended into the entrance to the cemetery. I studied the large map which had important tombs numbered so visitors, such as myself, could locate them, and it was then that I noticed the names of the Boulanger sisters. I mentally made a note of their location along with some others and set off down the wide avenue. The weather was crisp and sunny on this late February afternoon, and a few couples were strolling in the cemetery or even sitting to eat their lunch. Quickly, I realized that the number of tombs and their irregular placement row upon row made my search challenging, so when I saw a French couple asking help from the monsieur I followed along to hear what he had to say. After stopping at their memorial, I put in my request to locate Truffaut’s grave. It was close by, and I stood for a brief moment before his black granite tomb to pay respects to a film director I had long admired: an intellectual concept was now rooted for me in a physical place. You had wanted to see Berlioz’s tomb, the monsieur said. It’s there on the right. I looked up at the sign: Avenue Berlioz. He accompanied all three of us visitors to the impressive memorial. On the way he pointed out the tomb of H. Beyle. That’s Stendhal’s nom de plume (19th century author of “Le Rouge et le noir), he informed. And this pitcher on the tomb of the genre painter, Greuze, has not been vandalized, but it represents a cracked pitcher from one of his paintings. The couple took their leave, and it was then that I asked to see the tomb of the Boulanger sisters. Let’s cross through here, he advised. And off we went. I was curious as to why this monsieur, in his seventies, neatly dressed, complete with tie, and with no hat to hide his grey hair, acted as spontaneous guide in this place of memories and respect. He told me he had always been interested in history, as had his father before him, and the cemetery, after all, was full of history. I thanked him, and we parted ways. He returned toward the cemetery, ready perhaps to assist other curious visitors or
22: simply to recall memories of his own departed family and friends. I had to leave, and I quickly retraced my steps to cross the viaduct and, with a final look down to the Cimetiere de Montmartre, reenter the vital life of the city.
23: As soon as my immersion group arrived at the populated bus and train stop in Tours, France, I was immediately taken aback by the terrible weather. When I first stepped off the bus and saw Bernard, the father of our host family, I also saw a woman standing next to him. Thinking it was his wife Colette. I went over and introduced myself to the woman, saying “bonjour, je m’appelle Marissa,” only to find that she was hosting three other students in my group, and had no need of knowing me. I went over to Bernard’s green 90’s voltswagon and helped him put my suitcase into the trunk along with Heidi and Kathleen’s belongings. The car ride consisted of only French conducted by Bernard talking about the different markets held on the middle of Boulevard Beranges. Since we arrived on Saturday the market held flowers, and the following day, it held antiques. After nodding along to the French gibberish acting as if I understood everything he just said. We arrived at 49 Rue George- Delperier, the oldest house in Tours also the house of the Chaigne’s. I walked in to find the real Colette in their pink living room that looked as if they had been living there their whole lives with the amount of knick-nacks stuffed into the room. There were over one hundred cat trinkets, from black cats to orange, from sleeping to playing with balls of yarn. There were easily more photos of cats than there were of the family. I could tell she loved cats but there were no real cats living in the house. Heidi, Kathleen and I sat down on the couch facing two chairs where Colette filled one. The description of the family that I had received prior to the home stay, said Colette and Bernard enjoyed painting and pastries. I thought she would be the one who enjoyed the pastries, but she was the painter where her home was the gallery. She was a short, typical French woman with her scarf and over sized sweater with glasses that were tinted as sunglasses. Her fingers were all slanted and it amazed me how she still used them to fix her glasses. She began to talk to us in French, and I found myself drowned and lost in the slow pace French sentences. I understood very little when she was asking us about school, our age, family and what monuments we visited in Paris the previous week. We all responded slowly but surely since we learned all of those questions and answers early on in our French careers | Understanding is the First Step Marissa Peppel
24: where we memorized three verbs as a base. The three verbs were Etre, to be, Avoir, to have, and Aller, to go. I was able to say, “J’ai dix-sept ans, J’ai une mere, un pere, trios freres, et une belle mere.” With only the basic questions asked there was only the time for the answers from the three of us. As the conversation little by little diminished, Colette asked us if we wanted “dormir," we nodded and said "oui" very quickly and escaped to our rooms. Heidi and I decided that we would stay in the same room together leaving Kathleen to have her own single where she could rest since she was feeling sick. With no TV, no internet and nothing to do, Heidi and I decided that we would go for a run to get a feel of the town. We asked Bernard if it was ok, and he encouraged us to go out and told us to just ring the door bell when we came back. We jogged around the block a few times and wanted to go back because of the cold temperature. We walked up to ring the door bell, several times, to find no answer. We decided to walk around the block one more time and stopped at a French pet shop to kill some time. As we walked back hoping that the doorbell would be heard, we walked up to the door and rang the door bell another four of five times to yet again find no answer. We saw a woman walk towards the house, pull out a key and open the door. I looked at Heidi, thinking, who is that, and walked in behind the woman. She spoke very fast as asked us if we were staying there and we replied “oui” hoping it was the right answer. A few nights passed until we had another visitor, or another room mate, Rachel from Philly who was an exchange student attending the Institute, a school in tours where the immersion group also went. Rachel was a loud talker with a terrible French accent. She had already been living there for a month and a half, and it showed with the amount of French she knew. Rachel helped the conversation, by controlling it at dinner so I could focus . Heidi, Kathleen and I all hit it off with her the first night and after dinner we all hung out in my room. We asked Rachel about the woman who let us in earlier, and she told us that she was Uma, their granddaughter, who she became friends with every since Uma came home from boarding school.We only saw Uma every once in a while, when she was down stairs eating or just about to leave. Every time she saw any of us she would say “ Salute” which is how you say hi to a friend in French, not to strangers. We never really talked to her until one night, she asked Kathleen, who she saw in the hall-way, if Kathleen, Heidi, Rachel and I all wanted to go out and get coffee with her friends before dinner one evening, and we all said yes.
25: We asked Bernard and Colette and they both said yes but Bernard would pick us up before dinner and walk with us back to the house. We were all ready by that time because we had been speaking French at dinner every night with the family and we were able to understand almost everything said to us. By the time we came downstairs, more dressed up than usual, Uma was on the phone with one of her friends and told us that we had to wait a few minutes before they got there. I thought that there would be two or three friends coming but it turned out to be seven or eight friends with her. They all had perfume on that I could immediately smell before I even got close to them, and they all looked like they were our age, seventeen or eighteen. We all said hello, and did “bisse bisse” then began to walk. I walked next to Kathleen and Heidi in the comfort of their English. The French were all loud, smoking and speaking in French, including Rachel who was walking with Uma, only speaking French. When we all arrived at the Irish café, we had our end of the English speakers and the other end was the French. Uma sat next to us at our table, and talked back and forth in the broken French that we knew. The French girls giggled and talked as I did normally when I would go out with friends. They all knew their order and didn’t need the use of a menu unlike us American girls. When the French girls would go out for a smoke break, Uma would stay in. I tried talking to her the most seeing that I knew her the best and she was near me. I understood her by myself, even though Rachel kept on translating acting as if Kathleen, Heidi and I had not taken any French. So I still forced my way into the conversation. I heard her French, I understood it, and responded back in French at first then went back to English. Uma knew just about as much as English as I know French. She tried talking back in English, as I talked in French, trying to communicate in a way where we both completely understood. We found that it helped improve our speaking skills. I realized that, in order to learn a language you have to be able to first understand as opposed to just learning grammar and vocabulary. To really improve my French skills I needed to just go out and speak with someone who knew French. Being able to comprehend almost everything said around me, allowed me to recognize my French was improving. Sitting at the café will always be stuck in my memory of how I learned French for the first time.
26: Anticipation clung to our clothes, seeping through to our bodies just like the cold, filling us with shivers. We rode the elevator up, the jostling elevator shaking and scrambling our thoughts. “Come to the top!” my classmates said. I shook my head, content with the swaying second story. We were given an assignment: to write about the “farthest” thing we saw. I meandered around the iron platform squinting through the haze. Something caught my eye. It was tall, straight, proud and carried itself contentedly with an aura of self-proclaimed dignity and wealth. The smoke stack tells of a time long ago where smoke stacks were tall and plentiful like giraffes in Africa. It spells a time of change, a time of renewal and prosperity when the world was changing from agriculture to industry and this smoke stack survives to tell the tale. It longs to be understood, longs for someone to listen to the words whispered through it by the wind. It wants to feel fire in its belly, hot with determination for overcoming troubles. Unlike me, the smokestack is courageous. It’s not harboring feelings of unease and is not fighting with the incredible fear of heights I have. For years I have fought with that fear: the fear of falling out of the sky and to my doom, the fear of being all the way up there, my stomach churning with insecurity as the Eiffel Tower wobbles back and forth. No one knows the fear I have, and the smokestack laughs at me from the safe ground. I envy the security it has, and I really want to go back down there, but I can’t let my classmates... or myself down. I fought with my insecurities, not venturing close to the edge for fear of falling, and because I was terrified of the ground below me. I must push past this this feeling of defeat. I can do it, if I don’t let pessimism and fear run rampant I struggled over my fears. My fear of dying and not feeling safe fought with courage and optimism for overcoming this leap of faith. I clutched my little notebook to my heart and felt it hammer against my chest. “Thump. Thump, thump, thump,” “you, can, do, it” it hammered. I felt the tower swing and my heart explode with courage. It wasn’t beating fast out of fear (as I had originally thought) but out of optimism. | A French Revolution Kat Wood
27: Solidity through hard times is good. Its journey represents the struggles felt through change. A smokestack is a pipe to aid in the escape of the smoke or gases of combustion, as on a steamboat, locomotive, or building. This smokestack was left for a reason. It was left to show what change can do, good and bad, and to show that life goes on if you’re strong, and even if you’re not. As my peers and I drifted away and the gray fog trickled out of the carbon-stained mouth, it becomes one with the urban landscape, a part of life as you and I know it. It becomes not only a smokestack, but also something that represents changes, staying strong, and living every day. For quite awhile, the industrialization process in France had been so odd that people sometimes wondered if France had even went through a modernized period at all. Eventually, however, France industrialized in 1784. Its model for veering away from its agricultural roots did not correspond to that of the other nations undergoing similar changes. One reason why it did not fare as well as the other nations was because its abundance of natural resources was not as plentiful as the other nations. It marked a time of change from the highly agricultural society of the French to the Industrial age. France was late to industrialize because it had experienced such great success in agriculture and felt no need for the belching gray smokestacks and fire-hearted iron horses. Today, you can still see the peaceful agricultural roots of that society in places such as Tours and Annecy, where the grass is green and the mountains stand next to the smokestacks, sharing stories from the past. The whole world was industrializing and France felt the need to follow, however slow that process may have been. Like the Industrial Revolution marked a major change in human history, my own revolution is making history in my own personal textbook. Like France, it is hard for me to decide how clear-cut and traditional my revolution has been. For one, I know I’m changing, but in what way I am not sure. I feel the fire of change in my heart as the embers burn away the insecurities. Fear, depression, self-destruction, and the thoughts of that destroyed my ego all disappeared. My story is an interesting one, full of heartbreak and self-annihilation. My conflicting selves fought and fought with each other trying to figure out who would win. The old me, who ravaged every chance of confidence that had the possibility of entering my body fought with the new me, who welcomed change and positive thoughts. Just like societies and traditions fight, the
28: halves of my personality wage war on my mind, my body, and my fingers. For example in Dayton, I was afraid of flying and the trip itself. I was scared I would not make any friends and would be left the lonely geek who existed in my mind. Fortunately for me, I found friends and a new me who was brought out by Europe’s shining confidence. Through this trip to France, however, I can feel the new me pulling out of the darkness and out of the smoky fields of war. I can feel happiness in my heart and a renewed sense of being. I feel new, and proud of the revolution inside of me. Dictator Depression is being overthrown and his mistress, Insecurity, has been executed. I become one with the peaceful fog of the city and stand proud next to the smokestack and I feel its strength. I have overcome a lot, and one place, one symbol of strength led me out of war and into an “era of good feelings” that I hope will last. Change is good, and so is revolution.
29: Life is a string of moments, fragments of everyday life strewn together into a story. Some moments remain vivid in your mind, playing over again like a home movie. Others fade into dark corners of your memory, lost among a sea of forgotten times. When traveling to a new place, I always try to remember everything I do. Every interaction I have, place I see, and every new experience is important to me. But in time, a majority of these emotions, sights, and people are forgotten. After a long day of travel from Ohio to Paris, all I could think of was sleep. I was not pleased when I learned I would have to put off my rest for another hour or so as we made our way by bus to the Hotel Muguet. I sat on the charter bus restlessly, watching the city pass by. I had been mindlessly listening to music when something caught my eye. In between cars speeding down the highway were glimpses of graffiti. French and English words had been carefully placed on the walls in electric blues, pinks, and yellows, like an eccentric rainbow. I continued noticing graffiti in several places around the city. Graffiti seemed to be everywhere in Paris, artfully sketched pieces scattered among historic buildings and petite cafés. The graffiti had become a part of the city, as much as the Eiffel Tower or the Louvre. A city known for its vast collection of art was a canvas itself, waiting for another artist to come along. After spending several days in Paris, it was time to move on to the next phase on my voyage, a home stay in Tours. Unlike the one to Paris, the bus ride to Tours was not so compelling. What kept me excited was knowing that I would soon be meeting the woman who would be hosting me for the next week. As my name was called, I eagerly stepped off the bus. With my roommates, Emmy and Natalie, we approached Madame Hubert for the first time. She was small and fiery with deep red hair and reading glasses. Madame Hubert greeted us politely, although she seemed a little bit frightened of Natalie’s multicolored hair. We then ventured off in her outdated sedan to her home. Rainy skies were lit by dim street lights, and although it was around four in the afternoon, it was quite dark outside. As we pulled up to Madame Hubert’s home, I noticed that it was on a | The Moments That Remain Penny Gilliotte
30: slant. This was a continuing annoyance throughout our stay, because pictures were not straight and Natalie’s cot rolled around our room at night. Once inside, I started to notice decorations that seemed a bit off. A bright orange couch lit up an otherwise taupe room and linoleum floors had been worn down throughout the years. My suitcase seemed to take up the entire main hallways of the house, and accompanied by the others, the house was quickly becoming smaller. While waiting to take my suitcase up the winding flight of stairs, I noticed masks hanging from the walls of the basement. A dingy yellow light was cast upon the masks, giving off uncomfortable shadows. The room that the three of us shared was not any more welcoming. As I rolled my suitcase through the doorway, the floor sunk in a bit, and creaked with every step. A teddy bear, mexican doll, Chinese dress, and about six empty boxes were placed in the room as decorations. Accompanied by serene blue walls, the room terrified me a little bit, the disfunctionality getting to me. Every morning, I was eager to leave the humble abode and journey into the city. The walk to the Institut de Touraine, where the group from school I traveled with studied french, was about a fifteen minute walk from the house. A long, straight walk full of trees and other people, the stroll proved to be quite dull. Walking through winding corridors and stone paths after school was much more fascinating. Boutiques and sandwich shops lined the streets, begging everyone to come inside. Through a narrow passage filled with several gypsies and their animals, was a square. It held nothing out of the ordinary such as restaurants, boulangeries, and small shops, but it held an undeniable charm that had been absent in other parts of the city. Flooded with people, it was perfect for people watching and sipping a warm coffee. Locals filled the outdoor tables at restaurants, while others gazed in the shops scattered around the square. The gypsies played guitars in the corner, just happy to be there. Waiters were engaged in brief conversations while taking a smoke break outside. The buzz of people discussing their lives was evident and everyone looked as though they were enjoying themselves. * * *
31: I was excited to be leaving Tours after a long week with Madame Hubert. While she dropped us off to leave, I saw her smile for the first time. Once again, I was on a bus, traveling somewhere new. Annecy was startling in its beauty. Lights glittered on restaurant signs, and aging buildings were filled with life, giving a youthful air about them. The Lac d’Annecy was clear to the bottom and the shaded foggy mountains stood in the background motionlessly. It may have been beautiful, but nothing compared to the view from the top of the mountains. From the bottom, in a town called Chamonix, the Alps did not appear to be as large and magnificent as I had been told. It was an ordinary ski town, locals and tourists alike flooding it to be among the mountains. We had to take two cable cars up the mountains. From the first platform, skiers and snowboarders took off on small hills and training sessions. Others waited for the bigger hills up the second cable car. The ride up was surprisingly quick, and once I pushed my way passed the brightly dressed skiers, I got my first real glimpse at the Alps. They were magnificent. With a blue haze set over them, they glowed off the white snow. The sun shined brightly in hues of orange and pink, and it lit miles of mountains for as far as I could see Having only spent three nights in Annecy, it was time to leave again, this time for Geneva. The days there went quickly, and before I knew it, I was back at the airport leaving for home. Although the journey to France had only been three weeks, it felt like months. Images of the places we had been and people I had met were set in my mind. But far too many details will be forgotten before I know it, waiting to be pulled back into the string of moments that make up my life.
32: I shut my hotel room door, stepped down four flights of stairs and out of the lobby into the chilly French air. I stretched my arms and cracked my neck before starting my watch and setting off on a jog. Soon I was out on the main road, dodging citizens on the sidewalk and Citroens on the parking lane. I had a choice; I could either loop around the block of the Ecole Militaire or head straight up the concourse towards the Eiffel Tower. It’s rather irrelevant which choice I made. The interesting part is that I was able to make this choice at all. Tourism is usually a very linear affair, involving a bus trip or a guided walk while you lug a camera and something to carry those kitschy souvenirs in. All the while your eyes are focused on one popular attraction you’ve seen a hundred times before in pictures back home. I would know. I was guilty of some of those stereotypes on the very same trip, but I did not simply experience France in that fashion, either. In Paris, running allowed me to experience the places I visited in a more insightful way. Running enabled me to discover the places I visited for myself, by myself. I go for the loop first. Unlike a normal tourist’s trip, my eyes are independent to roam. At a different time of the day someone might have told me that we’re visiting the so-and-so old building, and my eyes would be locked on this structure and possibly the green crosswalk man and little else. However, just like my choice of route for this journey my eyes are, dare I say, ‘free.’ Obviously nobody forced my oculi in any direction when I was in tourist mode, but I may have been unintentionally, visually tied to a certain spot. While running, however, my field of view seemed widened significantly, and what I now looked at was not solely Popular Attraction # 43, but something else. After another couple minutes of running I am directly behind the Ecole Militaire. Whereas a common tourist (such as myself) would find his or herself basking in the magnificence of the faade of this structure, I am currently striding next to what is simply an imposing gray wall. But I am not looking at the wall. The ‘something else’ that I am witnessing while I run does not fit in a photograph, and is worth many more than a thousand words. I am looking at Paris. | You’ll Know When You Get There Elliot Watson
33: ‘So, what? You’re saying the Ecole Militaire, Louvre, Eiffel Tower, etc., aren’t truly Parisian?’ No, of course not. That’s why the world loves Paris. In fact, my school probably would not come here if not for those things. But that’s not all Paris is. I don’t see every person headed directly for an elevator ride up the Eiffel Tower, and every museum visitor isn’t desperate to view the Mona Lisa. That’s not really why Parisians love Paris. Why do they love it? Well, that’s a list I don’t have the full knowledge of, nor the room to duplicate. As I jogged past innumerable Paris citizens, whether they were alone, families, or homeless, I was not able to ascertain the general Parisian opinion of their own city. With each passing mile and unique Parisian block, however, I got a little closer to discovering what I love about that place. At the same time, I was hoping that what I found was not what I photographed earlier that morning. Next I ran the opposite short side of the Ecole Militaire. I was running in the wide parking lane where a number of ordinary people were walking with their groceries, dogs, or one-speed bicycles. Although my own speed may have affected my observational skills, these people seemed at ease with a very slow, yet peaceful pace of movement. That place may have had no important significance, but it was so very composed and serene that it deserved respect. The trim, neat trees. The unordered, quaint cobblestones. The wrought-iron gates with subtle, yet artistic designs. I exited the lane and was at the front of the Ecole Militaire at last. However, as I crossed the road I was facing the Eiffel Tower. My head was not craned upwards at the massive metal object, however. Instead, I viewed the lengthy garden that lined the direct middle of this massive
34: ground. With my group, as a tourist, I came here at night. Although that is the more attractive time to visit, I saw and learned more about the Eiffel Tower on my run. Although this run was not an extremely long one, I was able to view with my eyes and because of my feet a good many things. What have interested me the most, what I love about Paris, are the little things. That is, the quality of the city. I am amazed how many great things they are able to fit in such a small place. Paris is not a small city. Not by a long shot. But it is packed with goodness. Because my eyes were not focused on one place the entire time I ran, I saw much more of the city as it rushed by me. Whether it is the perfection stuffed into every pastry shop, the controlled beauty of every shrub and tree, or the exquisite architecture on nearly every man-made structure in the city, Paris is not simply flashy spires. Sure, I took a good long look at the Eiffel Tower on my run. What I found to love about it was not the generic postcard shot. If you want to understand, and you are not too far away, throw on a pair of sneakers and see for yourself.
35: In Search of Color Claire Staley We had been in France several days before our travel leaders led us to a Cathedral called Sacre Coeur- Sacred Heart. We followed Mr. Camm and Ms. Moulton like sheep through and underneath the winding city of Paris, watching the black coats and pants flash by but not really paying attention to where we were going. I had begun to wonder if there was anywhere in The City of Lights that burst with color and flavor, because it didn’t seem to be in between the buildings of the city. Where was the life I had always imagined in this idolized city? The passion and the expression? I was on a color withdrawal. The Sacre Coeur was the beginning of a long trail of churches we would visit. Despite my eagerness to jump on the plane to France, I assumed that most of the churches would start looking the same after awhile. To me, they were something that might possibly be enjoyable, and at the very least tolerable. I wanted to get to the bread and butter of the city. I wanted to reach into it and come out with an understanding of the people and the culture. Maybe churches were the way to do that, maybe not. I guess I’d find out. One of the sheep-herders, Mr. Camm, had said that the view from Sacre Coeur was the best of Paris. After a foggy night upon the Eiffel Tower, at the top of which Paris didn’t look quite as amazing as I’d hoped, I crossed my fingers and hoped this would be an amazing sight. All I knew about this gleaming white building came from pictures I had seen in my French language classes Well, no offense to the Eiffel Tower, but I agree with Mr. Camm. When I took my first few steps off the shuttle car that had taken the group up Montmartre, the mountain that Sacre Coeur sat upon, I felt my jaw drop. I assumed everyone else’s had, too, but I was much too preoccupied with the perfect view of Paris to really notice or care. I wasn’t really sure how far I could see, but it didn’t matter because it felt like I could see to the end of the world. Buildings and trees and more buildings went on for what felt like miles and miles to clash brilliantly with the robin’s-egg-blue sky. I had to shake myself away from the view of Paris I’d been missing to look at the church itself. Behind me. Away from Paris...
36: I’m glad I did, because in front of the church was where the real spectacle was. When I turned around I was faced with, unfortunately, more steps. But this time I hardly registered that because on and before those steps were musicians and artists and a mass of couples and groups. There were singers, guitar players, and people who did both. There wer e couples sitting and listening, enjoying the beautiful day, happy to just be together. There were groups milling around, taking pictures and laughing and smiling. There was even a man who had climbed up a light-pole and begun swinging himself around it, doing tricks with his feet and a soccer ball. Everything and everyone seemed magnified, like I had taken a magnifying glass to the part of them that held happiness. Where was this in the actual city? It was the first really warm day we’d had, so most of us shrugged off our coats and walked along in our long-sleeved shirts and jeans. Sitting on the steps, we listened to the music and looked out at the city. We couldn’t see the people rushing from place to place or smell the smoke from the cigarettes or see the cigarette butts that littered the ground. We enjoyed the blissfully blue sky and the greener-than-green nature and soaked up the new-spring sun. All the colors seemed brighter here, more intense, and each bright color made all the others pop until I wanted to just soak it all up and bring them back with me wherever I went. Charles, a violin-playing mastermind who had played for me and my friends quite a bit already, leaned over to us and sputtered out some sounds which sounded neither French nor English, but might have been a combination of the two. After a few moments we worked out that he wanted us to give him a beat and I sputtered out a rough na, na, na, that caused me to blush at my own lack of talent. He played it a few times on his violin, asking if he had gotten it right every time. I nodded, mesmerized with the notes floating out. I began to worry if my tuneless na’s weren’t right or workable enough as he kept on testing out notes. Finally, he jumped right into a seemingly unrecognizable song, spinning and twisting out notes and chords in such a complicated way I felt extremely insignificant. I was buoyed by the music, held up by the ropes that tied themselves together to create a solid song. I tried to
37: weave my way through the notes to the core, but I kept getting distracted by the waves of music that were being created. After a few moments, however, I found it. My hastily thought-up na, na, na. It was there. He had built around it without completely camouflaging it. He had simply complimented it so well with other notes that you couldn’t distinguish between them. A perfect match. I felt like the music was wind, lifting my spirits and myself away and extinguishing anything negative from my mind like a candle. I breathed and felt free. I was struck by a sensation I hadn’t felt in Paris until now, in the midst of the beauty and talent that radiated from the people. I didn’t feel like a sore thumb anymore. The tourists didn’t feel like tourists and the flocks of people didn’t feel like flocks of people. We were all just individuals, wanting nothing more than to take off our coats and listen to “You say it best, when you say nothing at all,” which was coming from a man’s lips with the accompaniment of a guitar. We all felt like the lucky ones who had discovered this place, despite the indications of a tourist trap. Struck by the picturesque scene, I could hardly blame anyone else for being there, and I might have been a bit happy that others were able to see it and enjoy it, too. After writing my immersion application essay on not wanting to be a tourist, I found myself in a touristy place and feeling distinctly un-touri sty, for the first time this trip. The sense of happiness was everywhere. These people were enjoying themselves to the extent that I don’t usually see. These characters were completely separate from the black-coat-and-pants Paris locals, and I felt bad that those in between the buildings of Paris didn’t or couldn’t experience this at that time. I felt like these musicians and artists and tourists and locals and groups and individuals could breath so I could breathe, too. I could feel myself relaxing into the go-with-the-flow motion that seemed to fill the space and float up into the endless blue sky. The pure enjoyment that floated around me finally allowed me to set aside the stresses of traveling and just relax and enjoy where I was, because I had finally found the color and passion of Paris I was looking for.
38: Don’t Let Me Down EmmyDoore Built in 1889 by Gustav Eiffel, the Eiffel Tower is one of the most recognizable structures in the world, which is one of the reasons why millions of people travel thousands of miles to see it every year. Along with the Eiffel Tower,there is the beautiful city that is its home: Paris. Just like the EiffelTower, millions of people dream of visiting the famous city to see the numerous art museums, monuments, and attractions. It is everyone’s dream to see the famous Eiffel Tower and the “city of lights,” but do these things really hold true to their idolizations? Before this immersion even started, before I was even accepted to go on the trip, I was excited about France. One of the most iconic countries in the whole world was a mere paragraph away from me. I would do anything to go. I spent so long trying to find the right words to describe how badly I wanted to go on this trip, and when I finally had to turn in my final submission, I felt a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders. The feeling was soon replaced by an unsettling sensation in my gut. Almost a month passed, and I finally found out that I would, in fact, be embarking on the long journey to France. The group and I would be visiting cities like the iconicParis, along with lesser-known cities such as Annecy, Tours, and GenevaSwitzerland. I was unbelievably excited. I spent the next hundred or so days,counting down, pumping myself up for the trip, and of course, annoying those around me with my constant banter about how fun the trip would be. My weeks leading up to the trip consisted of me screaming down the halls that we only had “fifteen days,” until we would leave. I was constantly reminding the entire school that France was so close. Eventually the time came when the high school was finishing exams, and I was about to embark on what I thought would be the greatest three weeks of my life. I used to have this fantasy of Paris: bright lights, rustic buildings, beautiful people, and glorious stores that you could spend all day in, and of course, a well-lit Eiffel Tower that can be seen from every part of the city, especially at night. But after sitting around at an airport for five hours, and flying for eight, I stepped out onto the streets of this amazing city and I felt disappointed. The city that seemed so perfect appeared to be just like boringOhio with a few extra additions. The buildings were white with brown undertones,the streets were busy
40: with taxis, cars, and delivery trucks, and there were people everywhere, trying to get to the market or the metro before their train left, I started thinking, “Was the trip even worth the excitement?” At that moment, the city that I loved, that I idolized, was nothing more than any other city. Walking through the streets, and seeing all of the cafés and little shops was exciting, but only because it was a change of scenery, not because it felt like the famous Paris, France. On our way back to the hotel, I started thinking that maybe the let down was because of me, that maybe my physical exhaustion was the cause of my utter disappointment in the city I thought I loved so much. So, I decided that I would take a refreshing nap before we embarked on one of the most important parts of our journey: the Eiffel Tower. After a few hours, I awoke, ready to embark on our first real adventure of the trip. After dinner, the group and I made the short walk to the most famous building in the world. Standing there, staring up at the 1000+ foot-tall tower was once again disappointing. As I looked up at the vast metal structure with its concrete stands and wires connecting most places so tourists wouldn’t be tempted to fall, I realized that maybe it was such a letdown because I thought it would be better. Every day, people hear built-up descriptions and over-exaggerations of famous places and buildings in the world. It’s these descriptions that distort our views and bring such a letdown. The descriptions built the tower up so much that it could never compare to what I wasseeing the Eiffel Tower was nothing special. I felt like I didn’t see the Eiffel Tower that everyone describes, just a large metal tower with wires and concrete and hundreds of people fluttering around it. As I finally got to see something for myself, without the influence of others, I realized how different it was for me. The city of Paris was not what I expected it to be at all. Overall, I did love the city with its touches of old style buildings, the uneven pavers that made up the sidewalks, and the people who had that sort of aura about them that made them appear as if they were important, but I felt like it wasn’t as great as everyone made it out to be. To me, it was just another city especially one that did not deserve the fuss over it.
41: The White Cat Auriel Smith We sat in the bus, tapping our fingers nervously on the seats. It was as if we were the dogs in a pet store that jumped anxiously behind the glass to see who our potential owners might be. The kids were waiting for their host family to arrive and sweep them away to live in a place they had never seen. Most knew very little French. Only a select few understood the meaning of “voulez-vous coucher avec moi.” As if this situation was not stressful enough, the weather seemed to fit the mood as it pelted down hail onto our suitcases. Finally, the first names were called. Not ours. The trio that had been called grabbed up their remaining bags and cameras and dragged their feet along the alleyway to see who their new mother was. Almost the entire bus full of kids plastered their faces against the window in anticipation, trying to get a glimpse of what we might be facing soon enough. Gradually the bus emptied a good portion of the kids that had originally been there. I was left with my two friends, Claire and Kat, that were staying with me for the home stay. Claire was very down to earth about the whole ordeal, maintaining her calm and remaining relatively quiet in her seat at the front of the bus. Kat appeared to share my feelings as she picked at her fingers, while I nervously scratched the seat with what little was left of my nails after I had gnawed them all down. I started to calm down after we had the stomach. I moved limply and unwillingly towards
42: the entrance to the bus, not sure that I wanted to see this woman and realize this was real. The hail had subsided and there was only a small amount of rain that pitter-pattered on my skin as I stepped off of the last step of my safe haven. There in front of me stood a cheery, older woman that had a scarf draped around her neck. I had taken French 4, and knew generally how to get by, which was luckier than most. I had foolishly thought that I would be able to carry on a legitimate conversation and say something clever to my host mother when I met her for the first time. All that I managed to work up when I finally was “Bonjour Madame.” So much for my original plan. Our teacher introduced the three of us and I gave my best smile despite the churning in the pit of my stomach. We said our goodbyes to our teachers. While I tried to resist the urge cling to them with all of my might and headed on the unknown trail towards our new home. Our new host mother, Maryse, grabbed one of my suitcases and skillfully glided down the road into the rain. Out of concern for our well-being she pulled us into a corner that was shielded from the rain and wind. This time I managed to make a few small remarks about the weather, second-guessing myself about whether I was pronouncing everything correctly. She perked up when I tried to speak a little French, and then started throwing a flow of words together in response so quickly that I barely made out the meaning. I nodded my head weakly, already terrified for the rest of the week. I had picked up on the fact that this woman was going to be kind and patient, but as to whether or not I would be able to communicate, I wasn’t sure if I could manage it.
43: The wind died down a bit so we could escape our little cove, and we followed the woman down the street once more. Even filled with a gray sky, Tours was a beautiful place. The rhythmic whir of the wheels against the pavement was comforting. Pots of flowers hung outside the windows as if to calm us down and say, “See? We’re not so scary after all.” We came to an alley, and Maryse turned the corner while simultaneously avoiding the puddles that I inevitably stepped in. After about a thirty second walk, we came upon a vivid blue door. It was worn out slightly, but in a comforting way. This door appeared to be broken-in and welcoming. Finally, here was the moment of truth. The door swung around slowly without even the slightest creak, and there in front of us was a pretty, little garden. It was primarily cobblestone, but little sprouts of grass appeared around the beds that surrounded small trees. Two green benches of the same quality as the door stood in the garden. They looked back lovingly and comfortingly with their faded paint. As Maryse was starting to realize that we weren’t especially fluent in French, she slowed her speech down so that we could really catch the words. We walked inside as she pulled out keys for each of us. They were large gold and gray keys that were old-fashioned. It certainly fit the atmosphere of the house, and I liked it. She allowed us to go upstairs to see our rooms and settle in for a bit. We walked up the small, winding staircase that creaked slightly with every step that we took. She, being an expert, grabbed my suitcase and walked nimbly up the stairs without breaking a sweat.
44: After we had reached the top, we saw a beautiful pink room that any little girl would adore. It was cozy, and warm, and the bed looked very inviting after our journey. Then she guided us into the next room that was a light shade of green. They both had windows that opened to see the garden, and delighted all manner of visitors. Understanding that we would want to relax and explore, she left us to ourselves and told us dinner was at eight o’clock. We unpacked a few things and tested out the beds to find that they were going to suit us just fine. The birds outside were whistling a light tune. It was as if nature itself was reflecting our moods. Slightly intrigued by this small garden, we walked downstairs and outside to grab a glimpse of a cat. It was large, a little rotund, and was peppered with dark brown and tan fur. We moved closer, only to have it dart beyond reach and out of sight. Slightly upset by the fact that the cat wasn’t social and friendly to us, I turned back towards the house. I was a little distraught at this point, everything was beautiful but with this skittish cat I wasn’t left with the highest hopes for my visit. At this moment however, a beautiful, white cat appeared by the door. Thinking she would react the same as the other, we took a less intimidating pose by sitting on the bench and watched her come over to be adored and petted. She looked up at us with gorgeous amber eyes and seemed quite interested in the company. I tested the waters further and picked her up. She purred so loudly you could hear it from a few steps away. I had mutual feelings. I was curious, and eager to understand this new family and learn more about them.
46: Plexiglass Claire Gaglione There’s a reason they call it a language barrier. Not a language conundrum, or a language misappropriation, but a barrier. Your mother language is buried deep within the linguistic hemispheres of your brain. When someone speaks it to you, the words enter your mind the way a cinderblock enters a lake once it’s been thrown in. But a foreign language is an entirely different animal. When you sit at a dinner table surrounded by people who don’t speak your language, it doesn’t just feel like you don’t understand what they’re saying, it feels as though you are physically separated from them, as if behind a plexiglass wall. Even when they slow down and annunciate, understanding requires a heightened level of concentration. I pictured layers of plastic wrap going around and around my head that the words had to seep through. If you don’t put forth the effort, if you don’t strain to catch every word, you won’t hear any of it. It’s like a radio station that you can tune out of, a switch you can flip on and off. *** Our dances with the language barrier began in a tiny kitchen in Tours, France. Auriel Kat and I sat quietly, a forest of orchids to our left. As we had walked away from our teachers to our home for the next week, the rainfall had been heavy and cold. The orchids seemed to stare at us now, their perfect white faces examined us, our scraggly wet hair and our hands folded in that awkward politeness that comes from being a guest, a stranger.
47: Our host mother’s name was Maryse Labbé , and in those first few minutes, when she spoke it sounded like gibberish, like an imitation of someone speaking French. Auriel, in her usual quickness, could understand every word, and she would respond and then ask me and Kat if we understood. Maryse was kind and motherly, with thin brown hair and a rounded face. She handed us each a set of two keys, one gold and one dark and brassy. They were those heavy, antique looking keys, with ovular heads and long, handsome stems. I finally understood her when she asked us, in French, if we would like something to drink. She produced three mugs of hot water, and a green wooden box filled with tea bags. She spoke perfect English, and German, and Spanish, “Mais pour vous, Franaise.” Before we left the table, Auriel asked her, “Are there any rules of the house?” “Rose?” Maryse asked, looking confused. “Oh, no. Um, like rules, regulations...” “Regles. Ah, bien. No, this house is... cool, eh, zen.” *** Having dinner with the Labbé family was a lot like being inside a foreign film. Maryse, her son, Jol, and his fiance, Mariette, spoke to each other in French so quickly it became a pile of blended sounds, softened consonants and upward inflections. It seemed that they should all be in black and white, Joel’s thin, pointed face and Mariette’s delicate features revealing the subtleties of some film noir subplot. It felt like I wasn’t really there, the plexiglass of the language barrier standing high in front of me.
48: My head turning from speaker to speaker, I started to wonder where the subtitles were. The surrealism and confusion was worth it for the delicious meal. We were served course after course of salad, tender green leaves shining with dark beads of balsamic vinegar, and fish prepared with a sinful amount of butter. And then another plate, another salad: strings of carrot and celery spiced with mustard dressing to accompany the cheese course. Another plate, and a fluffy cake topped with powdered sugar, eaten with delicate dessert spoons. Two other exchange students ate with us that evening. Like us, they were living in Tours to study at L’Institue de Tourainne. Caleb was an American college student from Mississippi with shaggy brown hair that stuck out from under his knit hat. He spoke to us in English, asking “Now, do y’all do that thing that all girls do here, where y’all are like ‘Oh, is this fattening? Should I be eating this?’” As we laughed and said no, he immediately left his southern drawl behind, speaking to Maryse’s son in fluent French. The other student was Enrique, who told us in perfect English that he was Mexican, and taking a gap year to learn French before going to college somewhere in the United States. Enrique was quiet, and when he did speak, his fluent French would occasionally slip out in a Spanish accent. At one point, Caleb stopped speaking French altogether to start a conversation with Enrique in perfect Spanish, and Kat, Auriel and I could only laugh, and shake our heads in awe and confusion. That first evening we sat stiffly, Auriel’s kind eyes shining as she laughed her nervous laugh to break the tension,
49: saying “Je suis trs désolé, ma Francaise n’est pas tres bien.” Kat, who spoke no French, calmly took in the scene in silence, graceful and contented amid the webs of language she couldn’t understand. We smiled, and repeated “Merci. Merci beaucoup, c’est tres delicious.” Each day Auriel counted the number of dinners we had left inside our foreign film. She held up her long fingers, first six, then five, then four. As the number got smaller, the Labbe’s tiny dining room began to feel like home, its nooks and crannies filled with books, CDs, massive photo albums and trinkets. Slowly, Auriel and I grew brave enough to use the passe compose to ask everyone what they did today (Maryse always said she had done a lot, Enrique always said he had done nothing). We taught Kat the French words for bread and water, knife and fork. Slowly but surely, the plexiglass wall came down, and we found that we could understand entire exchanges. When Mariette asked Maryse how many official French cheeses there were, every word was suddenly clear. She asked which was Maryse’s favorite, and Maryse spoke about how Italian cheeses are acidic, and how she is tired of goat cheese. Later we would laugh with Mariette about our indecision as to weather the pudding we ate was caramel or coffee flavored. We laughed with Jol about how none of us could think of a country that didn’t use the metric system other than the United States. On the evening before we would leave Tours, Maryse took a picture of the three of us sitting at dinner.
50: We grinned in the low light, with bread sitting on our plates in front of us. She then handed us a massive scrapbook that housed letters from all of her exchange students. There must have been two or three hundred pages of pictures surrounded by hand written French. Each of her students smiled up at us, some with messy cursive, others with incredibly even print. As Maryse read our letters to her, she flipped back through “Le livre d’or” as she called it, and could remember each student. She affectionately reminisced about an eccentric gay student who painted his nails and dyed his hair green. About an Asian girl, who didn’t speak a word of French at the outset of her stay, and learned enough to write three full pages of perfect French at the end of her visit. Maryse smiled and told us that if she hosts students who aren’t nice, they don’t get to go in the book. As we signed our names and wrote short messages on one page of the book, it felt as though we were entering a continuum. Our experience, our walks around Tours and slow improvement at dinner table conversation, was mirrored back in each face. They had each torn down their own plexiglass wall, and become a part of what surrounded them.
51: Optimism is a Powerful Tool Libby Schear From the second I stepped foot in Tours and it began to hail, all I wanted to do was go home. The sight of the flamboyant, red-haired, toucan-nosed Malika only worsened this growing anxiety to leave. The idea that this old, Arabic woman with cigarette stained teeth and a grimacing smile was attempting to replace my sweet, adoring, easy-going mother, was a terrifying feeling that stayed in the pit of my stomach for the duration of my stay in Tours. It wasn’t that Malika was disconcerting or scary; it was the idea that she was my caretaker, my provider, and my guide for the next week. With the clear attitude of discontent on my face and my headphones in my ears I quietly stepped off the bus and onto another, slowly making my journey to Malika’s whitewashed block of an apartment building. The first glance I took at my new humble abode made me add this to the list of why I wanted to venture off and fly back home. The door, with all of its rusty green glory, creaked opened, revealing picture-less frames lying freely on the floor and immediately the smell of stale smoke trailed out from the living room and grabbed hold of my nose. I am not staying here for a week, I kept thinking to myself. I had had enough of this strange culture, enough of the endless tourists with their trusty Nikon cameras, and enough of this language. I simply wanted to go home. I felt trapped with this French mom leaving my poor roommate, Liana, to be my only savior.
52: Then I realized not even she could save me, because when she walked through the small passageway, Liana was in a state of panic, to say the least. Her “HEAVY” bag barely fit through the hallway. She was tired and her bed was practically on the floor, and just like me, she also could not understand the words Malika was spitting out at us. We were being held prisoner, and Malika was the prison guard, not letting us walk the streets or leave the room the entire first day. My French immersion experience wasn’t adding up to all I had hoped it would be. Adjusting to imprisonment took a couple days. Dark red and yellow blankets crowded the floor and sheets of metal blockaded the windows making it seem like when one woke up, one was still asleep. The only thing that I could see clearly at night were the spurts of random disturbing stuffed animals with their luminous green eyes. Shuffling through this foreign apartment made me realize that this lady had a very strange approach to decorating. Malika’s apartment was more like a place with rooms of unimportant, small, random, items creating a small marketplace. The alien decorations and the short, unused shower without any curtains took me by surprise, but the food was delicious and the bed was unexpectedly comfortable, so I made the best out of what I was given. My attitude slowly began its metamorphosis after my first encounter with a Nutella crepe. This delicacy ended up changing my dreary mood into an optimistic one, after figuring out that not only did I enjoy crepes but I also enjoyed the rich chocolate as well.
53: The sweet fumes of chocolate became a daily smell since I began eating Nutella with every meal. I was hooked on this hazelnut snack. It became a necessity. As Liana developed a heavy caffeine addiction, I started to depend on my daily intake of chocolate. Tours was looking better. The classes were fun to attend and my French vocabulary was increasing immensely. Then it was all cut short. Our immersion group met up once again and made our next voyage to a small city, Annecy. I was slightly upset to leave this now familiar town, but I had heard Annecy was beautiful, and a week on lockdown with Malika was more than enough. My mood was getting better, but throughout the trip I had high expectations for Annecy, and I was hopelessly wishing they would be true. After I took my first steps off of the crowded train, looking rather European in my black tights, grey tunic, and brown braided belt, I realized that in comparison, Tours was a dumpster next to Annecy. This place looked like it popped right out of a French painting. There was so much culture packed into such a small city. People were still wearing the usual tights, high boots, with long tee shirts and scarves, but they also wore jeans, and even the forbidden sweatpants. Annecy, to me, is the reason why people say France is the most romantic place on Earth. Paris became sculpted into the cliché large city, like New York, but Annecy was just right, filled with its old buildings and many canals. It was truly breathtaking. The markets flooded with people appearing from every direction possible to buy the ripe colorful fruits, greener-than-life vegetables, knitted clothing, South American beaded jewelry and even tiny kids toys.
54: The castle perched at the top of the monstrosity known as a hill watched over the city and all of its contents. The mountain landscape and the green parks only made this place more loveable, and to top it off, the food was to die for. I was in love with this place as soon as I stepped off the train. Annecy was the most perfect town in France, so obviously I did not want to venture off to any other area, even if it was just for a day. After being forced into the bus, we drove for an hour past gigantic structures of mountains, went through a tunnel, and ended up in the blindingly white snow. There I was proved wrong, I finally found true perfection. Within 10 minutes the weather changed from warm and sunny to cold with snow covering every inch of the Earth. The view of the Alps was the most indescribable sight I have ever seen. Immediately a rush of emotions took over me. Astonishment, fright, amazement, joy, and the inevitable hunger, all entered my mind. There was so much to see! The mile high mountains only grew as our group took the rickety ski lifts up to the peak. This mountain chain went on for miles. They had been there for centuries. Time stood still there, it was surreal. The small city resting at the bottom of the mountain was exactly what all ski cities should look like. There were brightly colored skiers everywhere sipping their hot chocolate, small restaurants and dark pubs, and husky dogs as big as bears running here and there. The little kids playing leapfrog in the street and the alpaca shops selling dream catchers and furry hats completed this small unique town. On the top of the mountain, I saw locals skiing down
55: seemingly without taking in all the beautiful slights around them. The Alps was what they grew up with, what they were used to seeing, but for me and all of the other foreigners who were clearly shocked at how stunning this place really was, it was all new scenery. Not once in my life had I seen a place so serene. Only here could I breathe in fresh air and look upon mountain after mountain with no telephone poles or streetlights blocking the view. The town seemed miniscule compared to the mountains. From the food to the light blue sky dotted with the color of the hang-gliders, this snow city easily became my favorite place to visit on this immersion. I was able to think clearly here and forget all of the past troubles on this trip, such as dirty Tours and crazy Malika. People seemed irrelevant there, with the mountains being so enormous, each person ended up being swallowed up and meaningless, just one with the nature around them. I was introduced to so many new ideas and ways of living, and I really was not able to take them all in until that very minute on top of the Alps. This small field trip that lasted less than a day changed my outlook on this immersion. I realized how grateful I really was to be able to go on a trip like this. The new culture and food that I was introduced to all spiraled together to make the most unforgettable trip I have ever taken.
57: Heading Upstream in France and Being Beaten with the Paddle Walter Givhan My first meeting with my home-stay mother, whom I called The Madame, was far from terrible. I was waiting on the bus with the rest of my group, waiting for my name to be called along with Elliot’s and Charlie’s. Fifteen girls sat at different ends of the bus, some already leaving to meet their host families. We said goodbye, expecting to spend an entire, lonely weekend without them. We were the only boys on the immersion, and we knew we would be rooming together. Finally, I heard my name called and walked down the aisle quietly, catching only a glimpse of The Madame. I stepped out of the bus waiting to introduce myself to The Madame while she kissed Charlie’s cheeks. Charlie blushed. One of my teachers, either Camm or Moulton, told her my name. The battle to triumph over the obstacles of language and culture differences began with a kiss on each of our cheeks. When I was a child, I could only laugh at this French greeting. I asked my parents about kissing cheeks in France, and they shrugged it off as something common, as if I were asking about shaking hands. I had seen it in the show “Madeline” and laughed along with the French girls of the show who saw their teacher greeting someone. As I grew older, I saw it as a very affectionate gesture. My first visit revealed the French tendency to avoid smiling and other forms of obvious emotion. As an American who was raised in small towns, I smiled and nodded at the French people whose eyes met mine.
58: The moment Charlie, Elliot, and I found our luggage and started following The Madame down the unfamiliar streets, the heavens welcomed us with strong wind, hail, and rain. We soon discovered our inability to effectively communicate with The Madame on the long walk to her house. She spoke simple sentences, detecting our modest knowledge of her language. I understood most everything she said, much as my mother understood me when I spoke Spanish, but I found that I could hardly speak to her at all. I am normally a polite and talkative person, having been raised by a Southern, military family, but these skills worked only in English and Spanish. The French have a word to describe my French abilities that roughly translates into “zero”. I proudly told her that, “Je parle le Franais comme une vache espagnol.” I speak French like a Spanish cow. When we did not understand something, she would laugh and throw her hands up in the air, smiling. She occasionally added something like, “Ce n’est pas grave” or “Patience et courage!” I felt bad, for even though I had tried to learn as much French as possible before I left, my skills had failed me. If I had learned to swim in the kiddy pool of French at home, I was struggling to put my toe in the ocean of this vast language. I was not at all afraid to speak French, as I’m sure many French students may have been, and I spoke what I could with pride. Someone once asked me why I went to France if I did not study French. I joked that it was not my fault, that I had put the Sailing Immersion as my first choice. “You don’t have to speak French to go to the Bahamas.” I was more than happy to enjoy France with my friends.
59: The rest of the Madame’s family arrived a couple of days after we did, filling the home with rapid-fire French. I am certain some of their conversation was about the dumb Americans who had invaded their home with the audacity, or perhaps the lack of common sense, to not learn French. The Madame had three daughters, one of which had three daughters of her own. Out of all of them, we talked to The Madame’s oldest granddaughter, Sarah, the most. It was through her that we learned a lot of what the French thought of America. I think she may have mentioned something about the War on Terror, but my French is not good enough to dissect the semantics of politics. She said “grosse” (fat). No denying that one. Guns, hamburgers, and rock and roll also found their way into her list of stereotypes, many of which struck home with little denial on our part. We told the girls that we thought the French were beautiful smokers who walked around with baguettes and some imitation of the Eiffel Tower on their person. I did not mention that I have always thought that the Eiffel Tower is extremely ugly and that the French are impolite and particularly cold. The language barrier proved to be formidable, but the three of us still enjoyed the opportunity to hang out with French teenagers. We played card games, including a more complex version of Go-Fish (which we translated into “Allez, poisons!”) in which I am sure many of us cheated. I will go ahead and admit that I did, but mostly just to annoy Elliot for my own entertainment. We shared music, though I found that the girls knew very little of my music. Reggae and French rap reigned in their homes of Tours and Provence, it seemed, and I cannot profess my
60: love for either genre. One of the Allman brothers joked about rap being short for crap. I do not agree with that entirely, but the idea of it makes me laugh. One day of school was dedicated to music and movies, and we proudly dropped the names of many French artists like Stromae and M. Pokora that night while playing cards. Sarah and her friend, Lela, shrugged these names off with the same disinterest they had for every American artist between Weezer and Tec-9. Of all things I expected to have common with the French, which were few, I did not expect the card game “Spoons” to be one of them. Their version differed only slightly from ours. In theirs, one must slap the deck upon gaining four of a kind. The last person to slap the deck loses the round. In the States, we lay down objects like spoons or pencils in a style similar to musical chairs such that one person each round will be without a spoon. The French version proved to be just as fun without the difficulty of communication being involved. French and English curses alike shot from our tongues with Charlie occasionally flicking cards into the air. I had to explain to the girls that it was “raining money”, and they laughed at the idea. I also told them that I had lived in Las Vegas, and then proceeded to teach them Blackjack (21). I think they enjoyed it, but it did not have the same thrill as “Spoons”. I promised not to lose my Southern manners, but it was still odd how The Madame, her daughters, and her granddaughters responded to them. I am not sure that they liked us a lot or decided to hang out with us of their own accord. There were a few times where it seemed where it seemed that they were upset with us for some unknowable
61: reason. We heard our names spoken downstairs while we lay in bed one night, but, funnily enough, we could not be certain that they knew who was who. When The Madame tried to get us together the next morning, she told Charlie and Elliot to bring “their friend” downstairs, neglecting to use my name. It’s possible that she, like many Americans, though that Elliot was Walter, as I was sometimes thought to be Elliot. The Madame started talking slowly, her mouth curled in a snarl, her sunken eyes digging into ours. I was able to discern only that she believed we had brought up “family issues” last night at the dinner table. We barely had the vocabulary to discuss the weather, so I assumed that she believed we were talking about them in English. I tried to explain later that we speak in English because we do not understand French. We knew they talked about us, even at the dinner table, but we never said a thing. Out of politeness, we never accused them of it and held our tongues in solemn, silent recognition of our duty to know French. I connected with the people of Tours more than I did with the city itself. Despite knowing little French, I still ordered food in French, spoke to my teacher in French (though I am sure she would have understood my Spanish better), and conversed in French at dinner. I translated for both parties with moderate success and can proudly say that I understand French, though speaking it is another matter entirely. I enjoyed Tours, but as I love saying, I was upstream in France and the French were beating me with the paddle.
63: Let’s Talk About Crap Natalie Draper When traveling, I always expect to have a positive experience. Most of my stories of France have been about the people I interacted with, not the places I’ve been to. I rarely speak of the Catacombs, Notre Dame, or even the Eiffel Tower. Not only that, but the adventures that I share are mostly negative. My pessimistic view seems to create more interesting stories to share with people. But does that mean they were my most important experiences? Maybe they are or maybe I am just looking at them in the wrong way. Each event is two sided, but I find myself only sharing the negative side. For some reason when something bad happens, it creates more entertainment for my loved ones back in America. This might be because they are so used to watching the news and seeing horrible things happening, so a familiar scene is set. I was lucky enough to escape this place and go off to great places like Tours with my classmates. In Tours, we stayed with a woman named Francoise. Her short, thin, red hair and pursed lips that curled around a nice set of teeth did not give off any emotion. When people ask my roommates, Emmy and Penny, or me how this stay with our mysterious woman went, we describe it like this: She spoke about as much English as I, a Spanish III student, spoke French. So already we did not have a great relationship. We ate in silence due to a lack of knowledge of her language. Sometimes she asked us questions but it was just to be polite.
64: One morning, Emmy, Penny, and I were eating breakfast alone when I spilled my hot chocolate all over the tablecloth. We muffled our shocked giggles into our hands and I rushed into the kitchen grabbing the closest looking thing to a hand towel that I could. I soaked up what I could of the brown stain but it just kept expanding, seeping further out into the center of the cloth. I rushed to get Francoise, gesturing for her to come with me since verbally announcing what had happened would make no sense to her English deprived brain. Our host mom angrily cleaned it up shooting us frustrated glances. I later brought her pink and white daisies in apology, but she stayed bitter. The night after the spilled chocolate she only fed us dessert crepes for dinner. She had made almost twenty of them and wanted us to eat every one. None of us were pleased but we clenched our teeth and ate as much we could. The thin pancake like bread folded around thick Nutella did not create the healthy and well balanced meal we were looking forward to. The next night was even worse. She made us a nasty shellfish mush in a clamshell. It had an unrecognizable brown crumble over top. This was served along side another unnamable mush but this one was green, puke green soaking into already soggy rice. We forced it down reluctantly and for dessert we got left over, cold crepes. As soon as we finished we folded our napkins and said, “merci.” We quickly filed out of the room. Emmy, Penny, and I rushed to our room clumsily and started moaning our complaints as soon as we closed the door. Sprawled out on my bed I began to feel sick and went into the bathroom right next to our room.
65: I threw up and again, threw up in the morning, creating a pleasurable sound for my roommates to wake up to. When we said goodbye to Francoise at the end of our stay she barely showed any emotion. Now, this home stay wasn’t all that bad. Francoise was actually a rather good cook. She made us a great tiramisu, which I had never had before, and was glad to try. It all seemed homemade and fresh. As well as graciously preparing us many other foods, she was kind enough to let us stay in her house. But instead of telling everyone how good her food was, we focused on the entertaining, more negative aspects of our stay with her. Francoise provided us a safe place to go, away from the strange occurrences on the streets of Tours. Later on in Tours, I was walking home on my own. A middle-aged man stopped me and asked me if I wanted to smoke with him. If I had seen this man sitting on the ground or on a bench I would have assumed he was homeless because his clothing was so musty and baggy. Politely, I said no and quickened my pace to avoid him. A little later I got asked to ride on a rather cute French boy’s motorcycle and get coffee with him. At first, he asked me in French and I was glad to look somewhat local. However, when he saw my confused look he asked me again in broken English. I sadly told him I was in a rush and sped home. The second I met Penny and Emmy in our room, I described these two heart pounding events. I left out the fact that I had seen a very cute old lady hunched over on a park bench feeding pigeons. With a flowery blue scarf wrapped around her head, it was practically the scene from “Mary Poppins” minus the dreary gray sky.
66: The sky was an unbelievable blue, a great break from the gray, dreary clouds we had been seeing. I also saw a father with his two sons laughing together down the street wearing wreaths in their hair. They all looked the same and did not have a care in the world. They tipped their ‘hats’ to me and smiled as I walked by. The bond in their family was a nice glimpse into a new culture that I did not really have the chance to witness. When talking with my friends about French culture, I complain. I complain that you have to ask for water, that you don’t get separate checks, that American music is playing everywhere, and that they smoke a lot. But, the water is free, you don’t have to calculate a tip or tax because its included, the music that is French is really good, and there are about as many bakeries as there are smokers. The ability to complain is somewhat of a luxury. It gets us attention, and we get sympathy for what we have “suffered” through. But explaining those happy little moments that we passed by are a lot harder to describe than the bad ones. It is frustrating to try to convey the magnitude of happiness you felt from an event, but all of us can be amazing describers using color and senses to paint an accurate picture. That’s a different, more subtle, type of entertainment. Unfortunate experiences do serve as funny anecdotes but even on the news all it seems to be is bad news. I have always said that one day I am going to make a news station that only tells good news. “Plane Lands Safely” and “A New Flower Shop Just Opened Up” will be cover stories. So many bad things are happening because we focus on them. If we brought some of our attention
67: to other events then they won’t seem so upsetting. Just maybe we can change something by creating one optimist at a time.
68: Alone in a City Full of People Heidi Yarger I’m walking. I’m alone, I’m sick, I’m still on Nyquil from the night before, and I’m walking. I’m trying to look confident, chin up, feet moving in a, “I know exactly where I’m going” kind of way, even though I have no idea where I’m going. In theory, I should know where I’m going, but in theory, a lot of things should happen. It shouldn’t thunderstorm on our first day in Tours; people shouldn’t wear shorts in thirty degree weather, but it happens. I’m walking. I’m walking towards a chocolate shop to meet “The Group”. The Group consists of me, and fifteen other students, along with two teachers, who may or may not be completely sick of us all at this point. It’s hard to tell. I’m supposed to meet them at two o’ clock. It’s two fifteen. I still don’t really know where I’m going, but I pretend I do in hopes that I’ll somehow get to where I need to be. The wind is blowing towards me and my eyes start watering. When tears start running down your face, the ere of confidence diminishes significantly. I realize this, but I don’t care. I’m walking. I start passing people. We make eye contact. They look at me, a tear streaked lost little girl, and I expect to see pity. But there’s nothing of the sort. The only thing that reflects in people’s eyes is a blazing, “What the hell are you looking at?” look, a look I’m afraid might bring me to actual tears. I get to the road I need to be on. A triumphant feeling washes over me for a second, and then I spot the chocolate shop... More triumph.
69: I walk in, ready to see The Group waiting inside. But I don’t. I see a lady behind a counter, and a man leaning against the counter talking to her. “Je suis ici pour une rendez-vous avec mon cours de Francaise.” I say hesitently. "Le rendez-vous commence a seize heure. Désolé." I had two hours. They suggested I go shopping. I thanked them, mentally ignored the shopping suggestion, and walked back out. I’m walking. Again. I’m still alone. And I actually want to be with The Group. For the first time this trip, and possibly in my life, I want to be with an oversized group of wide-eyed teenagers. I want to be in the Midwest. This is also a new life sensation for me. When I walk down the street in Dayton, Ohio and a total stranger waves and says hello to me, I pretend to ignore them. When employees at chain restaurants clap their hands and shout “Happy Birthday” in some kind of weird ritual embarrassment, my toes curl. I hate forced friendliness. I hate it in a way no one I know hates it. But here, alone in Tours, I long for it. I walk into a café and order the first thing I see on the menu. I sit down with my sandwich and coffee at a corner table, content to be out of the wind with hot caffeine in my hands. There are two women next to me. They’re saying something about dyslexia; I only know this because the word dyslexia is the same in both French and English. I try not to look at them. The tables are so close to each other that even a slight glance would make me suspect for eves-dropping. I finish my sandwich and sip the coffee slowly. I just sit. I think, and listen and sit. An hour goes by of this. It’s soothing, almost trance-like, and when the women next to me get up, my head automatically jerks towards
70: them. We make eye-contact. Something happens. They smile. “Au Revoir” They say. “Au Revoir.” France is small streets and cigarettes and gum stained sidewalks. France is architecture and Patisseries. But above all, France is people. It would be nothing without the woman in stilettos walking her dog, or the man in a business suit riding a bicycle to work, or even the hobo sleeping on a park bench. Cultures are cultivated by people. Cities are cities. People are people, no matter where you are. In the end, we’re all just taking a walk.