Here's a little look at the parade that I talked about in the last post. The video is a little long and very very sloooow. For non french-speaking people it may not be very interesting. But it's cool to see some images I guess. At 4:01 you can see me! And the zombie on the left who acts as a host for the video, well that is my host dad. What a guy.



So, here we are again.

It's a tuesday afternoon. The sun is shining as it has been since about mid-march. We're in draught here in Bretagne, and my host dad is worried about his potatoes.
The days of school are numbered. We finish class officially on the tenth, but everyone passes their insanely huge exams through the beginning of july. I'm starting to wonder where the time suddenly ran off to. I thought I just started the school year here... And now it's almost over? I am trying to not get nostalgic and freaked out. I'm trying not to stress about time and the imposing, inevitable change that is looming. Two months is still a lot.

I have more and more exciting things to talk about.

So I went to Italy, over Easter break. I spent five days in Milan with my friend Tomasso who is Italian and came to Minneapolis with AFS last year. It was great to see him and to see another country in Europe. We spent the days biking around the center of Milan, seeing neighborhoods and parks and monuments. And eating ridiculous quantities of ice cream. We also went on a day trip to Lake Como, which is an hour north of Milan, right next to Switzerland. It is nestled between rolling green mountains and the shores are lined with red-roofed villas (one of them belongs to George Clooney). It was a great little vacation, I hope to go back someday.

Otherwise, since being back at school after this vacation, my school days have consisted of lots of field trips. I'm in a theater workshop at my high school, with about 11 other students and a really excellent teacher. Basically every week (and often several times a week) we go on outings to see plays, or we got to workshops or conferences with other high schools. It's been a lot of fun, and I feel grateful to have the opportunity to see all these things.

With this theater workshop, we put up a show at our high school about a week ago. It was a really weird, funny, little show that we put together as a group through improvisations and discussions, but that our teacher really wrote and organized and directed. We made a little makeshift theater out of the gym and performed for students and teachers and parents. It was a great time.

With this same group, I will be going to the theater festival of Avignon in July, which is some pretty cool news. Avignon has a pretty big reputationas far as theater festivals go, in France as well as in Europe. The region of Bretagne is paying to send three high school workshops to the festival for five days in July, all expenses paid. We'll be staying right in the middle of all of it, and will spend five straight days of seeing shows, doing workshops, going to conferences, and just seeing Avignon. It is kind of sort of MY DREAM. And I am so excited.

Otherwise, my summer vacation will be filled with a big old French litterature exam and moments spent with my dear friends and host family.

This week we have a four-day weekend and my host family is taking me to the north of France, the region where my hos parents come from. We'll visit the city of Lille, go into Belgium for a day, and go to an accordion festival! As my mom says, "it just doesn't get any better than that."

Oh, and another thing.
This weekend here in Redon they had the third annual Taknaw Parade. It's a big parade which bears an uncanny resemblance to the May Day Parade and Festival in Minneapolis, and just so happens to be completely organized by my host dad. His company mobilizes people from all around Redon to put together projects (floats, costumes, music, etc.) for the parade; they have been working on it since November. It happened this sunday. The weather was perfect and the streets were packed. It was awesome. I was in the parade, I danced and marched and acted ridiculous with a group of teenagers accompanied by a drumline. However, I did the parade barefoot with some other people in my group, and the pavement was so hot that it literally burned the skin on my feet and I finished with gigantic blistery burns all over that bursted and bled. Mmmmhmm. It hurt, but I still danced and finished the parade. IT DIDN'T STOP ME. But right now I'm having a whole lot of trouble walking. And I feel stupid. At a certain point during the parade someone in my group went to find a parade official since my feet were bleeding all over the place, and it just so happened to be my host dad's best friend who arrived. Later, my host dad told me that they had had one injured person during the parade but otherwise everything went well. I very humbly hung my head and told him that it was me, the person who got hurt.

We had a good laugh.

So basically, that's what's new over here.
I'm sorry my blog posts turn out to be long and unorganized series of anecdotes. But, I mean, I guess that's what happens when you just have so much to tell and you don't know how to tell it and you don't have the time to really tell it properly.

The world is looking as wonderful as always, time is incomprehensible, and Vinora is just living it up here in France.

So there you go.

à plus,


What...? I have a... blog?

Hello, my public.

First of all, I owe you all a huge apology for the three (four) months that have passed since my last post. It is out of control, I know. I don’t have much of an excuse except for that, well, evidently I’ve been busy. Doing what, I don’t know. Lots of French things I guess. Also I actually temporarily forgot that I had a blog, then awhile ago I remembered, and ever since then I can never find the time to write a blog post, seeing as I can hardly find the time to keep in a reasonable amount of contact with family and friends back in the old U.S. of A.
But here I am, I’m back, I am alive, oh so alive. And I am hear to tell you all about my *incredibly* interesting life.

It is springtime in Brittany, full throttle. There are blossoms on the trees, the skies are blue, the daylight stays until well after dinner, the air is warm, the wind is warm (which feels so nice after four months of wet, cold wind that blows right through you). The French countryside is sublime in these conditions, needless to say. The sun shines through the grass in the evenings in this way that is just indescribable. There is a park right next to my high school, and as soon as we have a period of study hall that is where we are. Several of my friends have birthdays in March and April, so lots of picnics have been had. And they usually end in food fights.

In other news, besides luxuriating in the nice weather, I’ve been doing some pretty interesting things:
-I went to the Alps with my host family and some family friends back in the beginning of March. We stayed in a beautiful little chalet in the Valley of Chamonix, which is at the base of the Mont Blanc for those of you who have heard of it (I think it’s kind of famous). We had the most beautiful week there. The days were spent downhill and cross-country skiing, hiking, or sitting on the balcony of the chalet staring at the Alps. At night we played board games and ate insanely delicious food- the family friends that we went with are farmers, they raise cows for beef, and they supplied all of the meat for the week- delicious grassfed beef, patés, etc. The weather was perfect, if not a little too warm, which made skiing conditions kind of rough. I had downhill skied once in my life before this trip, and the hills of Minnesota and the Alps are not the same thing... The first couple days were rough, afterwards I sort of got the hang of it, but still fell a whole lot.
Overall, the time I spent in the Alps was one of the most beautiful vacations I have ever been on, and the greatest part was looking around and realizing I was in the ALPS (and that realization was usually followed by bursting out into any given song from The Sound Of Music).

-The week before the Alps, way back at the end of February, I went to Rennes (the nearest city), for three days to go to a film festival with the film class at my school. It was a great experience, basically three days spent wandering around the city and seeing tons of films. Sometimes I slept during parts of the movies, I will be honest, simply because I was exhausted and days filled with reading French subtitles (the movies were all in Spanish) sometimes make you feel like taking a break and dozing off in the cinema. In any case, it was a great chance to discover lots of movies and filmmakers, and also familiarize myself with Rennes.

-The week BEFORE the week when we went to Rennes, way back in the middle of February, I did an international week with my exchange program, AFS, at a high school in St. Brieuc, a city on the northern Brittany coast. In France there are a ton of professional high schools, which are like all of the art high schools that we have in the U.S., only for actual professions (because being an artist is not a job, everyone knows that...), like industrial jobs, etc. So we spent a week at a professional high school for students who want to go into commerce: advertising, salesmanship, etc. A teacher at the school wanted to host some foreign students for an international week, she heard about AFS and called them up to ask to borrow some students. So all of the ten students who are in Brittany for the year-long program went. We stayed in dorms at the school and went to classes and hung out with students and did activities and presentations for sharing our cultures. We also visited St. Brieuc and the ocean and also another professional high school for people learning to be fisherman (which really made me think seriously about going into the fishing industry, it was so interesting). The other foreign students were really great and interesting and we all became really close. There were two Chinese boys, two Brazilian girls, an Equadorian girl, a Latvian girl, a Thai girl, an Argentinian girl, and another American boy (who just happens to be from Minnetonka, of all places). I loved making friends with such an international group of people, they all spoke really good English and it was great sharing our different experiences in France, talking to people who are in the middle of the same experience as me. My favorite thing was seeing how much we all have in common even though we all come from such completely different backgrounds. I learned a lot about all of their different countries, and I love knowing that now I have connections with people all over the world.

So these three things were the principle reasons why blogging fell by the wayside. And then I let another month pass before I really started worrying about catching up. And then it took a good two weeks to actually get caught up....

But I actually have more to share! Infinitely more to share.

I am going to split that into a second blog post, though, because this one is already long enough to discourage a lot of people from reading.

So for all of you out there who are reading this, please know that I’m not dead despite what it may seem, and I am living the most incredible year of my life here in France. In Bretagne. Seven months have passed, seven and a half really, which of course is incomprehensible. It is hard for me to express what I am experiencing, I think one of the reasons why I got so terrible at blogging is that I didn’t know how to share everything. This is a thing that scares me, the fact that there is no one back in Minneapolis who is seeing, living, knowing, what I am doing this year. Maybe that is why I take so many photos, I’m frantically trying to make you guys SEE it. Maybe that’s why I don’t write as many emails or letters as I should; I don’t know how.

In any case...

Voilà. Consider yourselves a bit more informed on this whole “Nora Epp To France Project.”

Another blog post, part two, is in the works!

A bientôt,

Vinora Nora Vee-vee Vino-no Vinny EPP



Hello, internet.
So it's time for a blog post. It's been awhile. I've sort of been waiting for inspiration to come for me for an interesting blog subject. I had a few ideas, but most of them were uninteresting. So I'm just gonna see where this blog post takes me:
First order of business: some very very exciting news. I think I'm just about fluent in French. I feel dumb saying that, because of course I am constantly still making mistakes all over the place, but here is how I see it: there are many, many levels to being fluent. The highest being that of a native speaker. The lowest being... well, me probably. I understand most everything that comes my way, I can hold up a conversation, I can be slightly charming and interesting (I recently started being able to make jokes!!! Which feels AWESOME. Not so awesome, probably, for the people around me...), and the biggest reason I believe I am nearing the point of fluency is this: FRENCH HAS STOPPED BEING HARD. I'm not sure when it happened, maybe like a few weeks ago? I only really noticed it a few days ago. Suddenly... well I can't really describe it. There was a definite change. Suddenly French feels comfortable. It no longer feels awkward coming out of my mouth. I'm sure I still sound awkward, but I don't notice it.

It feels incredible. And with this shift has come a whole new level of comfort. Suddenly I feel so completely integrated. Not just adjusted or comfortable, integrated. Like I belong here. What a beautiful feeling! I am four months in, meaning I have six months ahead of me to spend in this place. YahooooooooOOOOOoooooo!!!

So anyways, I feel like some of the sentiments expressed above are the same old things I always write about.
Here is some newsy stuff:
1. I went to Paris! All on my own, at the beginning of winter break. I spent three days wandering the city in the snow on my own, seeing neighborhoods, seeing famous things, taking the métro all over the place, spending more money than I rally should have, getting lost and not caring, seeing various friends who were in town. Et cetera. Paris was magical in its pre-christmas state.
2. Christmas happened. Only it was called Noël. Without snow and without my family and their traditions it didn't really feel like Christmas, more like some really good family meals and time spent by our huge fireplace. With presents. It was a calm, quiet christmas. Very sweet. I have a hard time saying how Christmas differs in France, because I don't think my host family is incredibly traditional in terms of the holidays. But I found christmas to be in general a bit calmer, less commercial and in-your-face. But very present, nonetheless. Voilà.
3. I have recently decided to pass the high school exams at the end of the year. In France, students take really big tests at the end of the last two years of high school, so I'll be taking French (as in litterature), Math, Biology, Physics, and Chemistry exams in June. My class will pass their other exams next year. It should be a pretty interesting experience, preparing for/taking these tests. I'm sort of just doing it because all of my friends here will be doing it anyway, and also because I figured, Why not give it a shot if my results do not matter whatsoever? Also I mostly find it very classy to be able to say that I have my French Bacculaureat (that is the name of the exam. Except they call it the "Bac.")

As for more current news, I don't have much. We're back at school, life is good. I'm loving French, loving France, loving the French.

My host mom is making something that smells very rich and creamy and hearty and delicious. So I should probably go.

A plus tard,



Hello, world. So this is a blog post about adaptation, a very prominent theme in my experience over here. I recently passed the three month mark of being in France, and most people say that the first three months is the the period of adaptation. So now I'm supposed to be all done adapting. No more excuses! I've been here for three months. Things are gonna get serious.

As I've said before, I really feel well-adjusted to my new lifestyle. People are starting to tell me that I am fluent in French, which is a nice sign of adaptation. I don't feel fluent, but I think it's coming soon. The amount of daily mistakes I make (i.e. missing the bus, misunderstanding instructions, etc.) has been greatly reduced. Now the mistakes that I make just come from my own spacey, ditzy nature (and yes, Mom, I'm trying to work on it, but it's sort of out of my control sometimes).

One thing I am trying to get used to is the formality of the culture here. I think in the United States we have drifted away from having a "code of conduct." That is not to say that we are necessarily an impolite culture (although you could certainly say that, especially compared with France). I think the biggest difference is that in the United States, there are many accepted rules of politeness, but if someone breaks one it is not necessarily a big deal or doesn't have big implications. Here there are many unspoken rules that are always abided by, and I find it hard to pick up on/keep track of all of them. I will give some examples to make my point clearer:
For instance, saying hello: a few weekends ago some of my friends slept over at my host family's house. In the morning, my friend's mom came to pick her up. Normally, as soon as someone walks in the door, you go say hello, do the little kissy "bisous" thing, etc. The French are very precise about saying hello. It always always always must be done. But I was busy cleaning up or distracted or I'm not really sure why, but I forgot to greet my friend's mom and that clearly disgruntled her. Again, it's not that in the U.S. we don't say hello to people. The difference is that here, the fact that I broke that rule was a much bigger deal. Now I pay much closer attention to saying hello to people.

Also, formality. At school, teachers are addressed as "vous" not "toi" (two different forms of the word "you"). Since I am used to addressing my friends and host family with "toi," plus the fact that in English we only have one kind of "you," I have made the mistake of calling my teachers "toi"- essentially addressing them as a friend- several times, which my classmates find very amusing.

There are an infinite number of other examples and anecdotes I could give, but I think I am the only one that finds them interesting. Suffice it to say that there are a shocking number of unspoken customs/rules to learn when you are not in your native country. And it means that you end up looking like a dumb-ass quite often. I think I will come home a much more respectful and polite young woman.

In addition to adapting to living in a foreign country, I am also in the midst of adapting to the idea of winter without snow. I really never thought much about it, until abou mid-November when I started hearing about snow falling in Minneapolis. and then I suddenly realized what a prescence snow has and what a difference it makes. Just thinking about the way that we have to climb through snowbanks and the way that the roads get so caked with snow that it becomes like a new layer of cement. And the quiet feeling of the city when it's snowing and the woodstove in our living room in the evening or on Sunday afternoons. And how sometimes my sister and I go outside in the winter with plastic bags on our feet instead of boots just cause it feels so cool to walk through fresh snow in your socks.

These are things that mean "winter" to me, and I have trouble imagining how winter is possible without them. So you can imagine how happy I was two weeks ago, when I woke up at my friend Lora's house and THERE WAS SNOW FALLING OUTSIDE. It snows very rarely here since it's close to the ocean, so everyone was completely enchanted by it. No one cared about the fact that it was practically slush and hardly staying on the ground. The following week, we hardly had school because the roads were icy and there was a lot more snow in other parts of the district so buses were cancelled. I went to one and a half days of school; it was excellent. I taught my friends how to make snow ice cream, another thing my sister and I love to do in the winter, and showed off my snowball fighting strategies (tackling people and shoving snow in their face). We tried to go sledding- which meant dragging each other around on patches of slushy grass. the snow melted after six days, but a week of seeing everything covered in white did a lot of good for my Minnesotan soul. Now I just have to figure out how to do Christmas sans neige... And try not to read the Facebook statuses about the incredible blizzard that hit Minneapolis (why, God, why does this have to happen the winter that I am gone?). My host mom heard about it on French radio. This stuff is international news! Be proud, Minnesotans.
There is so much state pride in this post. Being away from home will do that to you, I guess.

Go Twinkies!!!!!!!!!!!

Happy holidays, everyone.



Happy Sanks-geev-eeng

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Right now it is just around 2:30 PM in Minneapolis, meaning my family is probably sitting around our dining room table right this minute. It sure is weird to not be there.

Yesterday afternoon I made a pumpkin pie for my host family which we will eat tonight. Technically it is made with squash, but I think it will turn out the same. Yesterday when I was in the middle of making it, an older woman who lives across the street stopped by to see my host mom. My host mom wasn't home, but the visit timed out perfectly because I had just realized that I needed three eggs and only had one. So I asked the neighbor if she could lend me some eggs, which she happily did. Tonight I went back to her house with a piece of pie as repayment. She and her husband are really friendly and great, and immediately invited me into their home. They knew I was American, so they asked about where I was from in the US, how I liked France, etc. Her husband, who fought in World War II, took me into the living room to show me a picture representing his experience with America- a recently-taken photo of him on Utah Beach (where the Allies landed in Normandy on D-Day).
It was so cool to meet these wonderful French people. Granted, I have found all French people to be wonderful, but this was an especially nice encounter. And I just loved the feeling of running across the street to bring my French neighbors a piece of pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving.

People in France don't really know what Thanksgiving is, or if they do it is just from seeing American movies. My host dad thought it was called "Panksgibbing."
Today I tried to explain to my English class (in English) what Thanksgiving is all about, but from the blank stares I received in response, I'm not sure if they understood. After I finished talking, my teacher summarized what I had said: "So basically it is a holiday to say thank you." Upon hearing the phrase "Say thank you," all my classmates very obediently and automatically said "Thank you" in unison. It was hilarious.

Also, to continue with the benign anecdotes:
I went to the supermarket after school today because I was hungry and needed to buy whipped cream for my pie. So I bought a can of Pringles and a can of whipped cream. The check-out lanes were really busy, but finally I got to the front of the line. Sometimes my American credit card doesn't work so well here, so I held up the line for a good five minutes while the check-out girl tried to get it to work. Everyone in line was really annoyed. There I was, the stupid American, holding up the line with my stupid American credit card, buying a can of Pringles and a can of whipped cream. Embarrassing. Really really embarrassing.

So that is what Thanksgiving looks like in France, if any of you were wondering.
I hope everyone had (or has, since the day is not yet over) a great holiday, and I hope you all find some really killer deals at Target or wherever the hell tomorrow.


New Direction

Bon soir, everyone. It is 5:30 PM here. Very gray and very rainy.

I just got home from school. I had to bike because my alarm clock broke and I woke up at 10:00. Whooops! But this means that I got to ride my bike through the misty French countryside this morning, and doing that doesn't bother me one bit. Riding home uphill in the rain wasn't as much fun, unfortunately. But now I'm in my cozy house with a cup of tea and Les Simpsons is coming on TV in 15 minutes. Tout va bien. Later tonight my friends are coming over and I will make them Fried Egg Pasta, a super awesome thing we used to have all the time at home when I was in elementary school.
Check it:

Change of subject:
So I was thinking. About my blog. My life as a blogger. I think it is time for a little change...
Right now I do not write on here very much. I would like to change that a bit. Not a whole lot, because why would I want to spend my year in France blogging about my year in France? How stupid. I would prefer to spend my year in France in France, if that is alright with you all.
So what I would like to change is this:
I'm going to try to write shorter, more regular blog posts. And incorporate more interesting things than just my personal sentiments. Instead of writing broad, all-inclusive posts, I'm going try to keep things a little more solidified. I call it microblogging. That is a term that I have invented for it.
I'm having a hard time articulating this idea I have of my "new direction." So if you don't understand you'll just have to wait and see, I guess. It will be good, trust me. Change, as they say, is good. Change is also hard (I should know, look what I'm doing), but I have faith. We can do this, readers. Yes We Can.

Alright, let's go!

Les Simpsons! Fried Egg Pasta! France!

A toute à l'heure,

I'm fully aware that I didn't invent the term "microblogging." That was a joke. Ha. Ha.