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.


Love and finding a home

Hello. Hi. It's me, (Vi)Nora. I am not dead. Au contraire, I am very much alive and too busy LIVING to be bothered with things like blogging. But seriously I apologize to all of you out there who I know live to read my blog. I have been selfish and neglectful.

Let's seeee. Where I left off, we were in the middle of fête-ing and grève-ing. The strikes have died down and are basically finished around here. The fêtes, on the other hand, are not finished. This is Bretagne, after all. Things must be celebrated.

This past Wednesday was my birthday and Tuesday was my host sister's birthday. We are the same age- born exactly 14 hours apart. How weird is that? And our dads were born on the same day too. There is some serious zodiac alignment happening here I think. To celebrate, we had a wonderful family dinner on Tuesday night with fondue and cake and presents and champagne. Not only do Maïwenn and I have the same birthday, we also bought each other the same birthday presents- gloves that we saw one day when we were shopping and both really liked. Later, we both went back to the store (seperately) and bought them for each other. Pretty adorable. My friends gave me little boxes of knick knacks they had assembled for me- things with sentimental value or some kind of use or absolutely no value or use at all. I loved it.

On Wednesday night we had a joint birthday party at the house, because Thursday (November 11th) is a national holiday in France and there is no school. Too bad I don't live in France- I could have a party every year the day of my birthday, regardless of if it's on a weekend or not. Damn.

The party was a whole lot of fun. Overall, it was a very good 48 hours of celebrating our births.

In other news, since my last blog post I feel like I've really turned a corner in terms of adjustment and well, I don't know, being here. I have been saying "I love it here!!" basically since I got here, but I feel like now it is becoming more and more true. It is funny to think that I was proclaiming my love for this place way back then, before I really knew it. And I'm sure in another few months I will love it and feel that I know it just that much more.

But right now it really has become a new home. My friends have really become wonderful, dear friends, not just nice people who let me, the dumb american, tag along with them. I am actually completely in awe of the way that I was taken in by them, and the fact that they immediately liked me before knowing me. Now that my French is better and I'm more adjusted, I can come out of my shell more and we are all just one big happy clan of copines. I adore them all and feel so incredibly lucky and happy to be here with them.

I have figured out how to exist among my host family and the awkwardness of being a stranger in someone else's home has completely slipped away. They are hilarious, humorous and remarkably on the same plane as my family at home.

French flows much more easily out of my mouth and people don't have to repeat themselves quite so much. There is still a long way to go in terms of the language, but that whole problem is becoming more and more obsolete.

I just feel so unbelievably blissfully happy. It's probably really annoying to read all this gushiness (I feel annoyed just writing it), but gosh, what can I say...

France, I- I think... I might... Be in love with you.

(et je ne veux jamais te quitter)


Marques de Fabriques

Sorry people. Blogging has fallen by the wayside. WHOOPS!
Life is good here in Bretagne. That is the region of France I am in, for those of you who are not versed in French culture.
My days have been full of autumn sunshine and eating way too much food and of coure, lots of French.

Bretagne (also known as Brittany) is a very distinct region culturally. People who live here are Breton first and French second- they like to say that Bretagne is not France.
My host parents aren't from Bretagne but they've lived here for a long time, so they really understand and love the Bretagne culture, but not in a heritage-y kind of way.

One classic regional thing here is FÊTES! Festivals. There is a festival in some neighoring village or another every single weekend. Each fête has a theme that has to do with the Bretagne culture. Or sometimes when they run out of cultural elements to celebrate they have a fête in honor of...well, anything they can think of. For instance, about a month ago my host parents went to a fête in honor of cows. My host mother told me it was boring. I wasn't surprised. My image of a cow fête is a bunch of people standing under tents in a field chewing cud with hunched shoulders and glazed eyes.

Anyways, last weekend we went to a fête in a nearby village called La Fête de Fruits d'Automne. A harvest festival, basically. In the morning we did this thing called a Ballade Chantée where you walk around the countryside in a big group and sing french songs. Apparently that it is a classic Bretagne thing- to sing while walking. In the afternoon we ate traditional food (roasted chestnuts and Galettes and hard apple cider), listened to bands play and danced the traditional Breton dance, which is a goofy, celtic-influenced line dance involving very rhythmic little steps. It's really fun.

This weekend there is a great big fête here in Redon in honor of chestnuts. Chestnuts (especially roasted chestnuts) are a big thing here. People are crazy for them. And I must say, they are really delicious. Roasted chestnuts by a fire on a rainy saturday afternoon... What could be better? They also have this stuff here called Crème de Marrons which is a sort of a chestnut spread that you eat in yogurt or on crêpes and it's AWESOME.
I don't think I'd really ever eaten a chestnut before coming here. I have a newfound respect for them.

Besides alcoholism, rain, and stubbornness, fêtes are a "marque de fabrique" of Bretagne. That is a french expression that I know! My friend Louis taught it to me. It means like a signature thing that a place/people are known for. I know there is an expression like that in English, but I can't remember it.

For example, a marque de fabrique of France would be...
Also known as strikes.
When the French are unhappy they go on strike. And the French are never happy. Therefore, the French are known for striking a whole lot.
You may or may not be aware of this, but things are getting a little tumultuous (<-- is that how you spell that? I have no idea, spell check is in French on this computer...) here in France. The french, in general, are really unhappy with the government. Most of the unhappiness has been targeted at the retirment system, but there are really just a whole lot of problems in France right now and it is all Nicolas Sarkozy and his administration's fault. I know there is a lot more to it than that, but people have been explaining it to me in rapid French, and well... I don't really understand.

On my first day of school here there was a strike, but basically all that meant was that a few of my teachers were missing. A few weeks later, there was another strike and enough of my teachers were missing that I just didn't go to school. Last week there was a strike once again, which meant that I had a wonderful picnic/autumn afternoon in the park with friends.

The interesting thing is that in America, people threaten to go on strike, but hardly ever do, and the simple threat of a strike inspires people to start negotiating. Here people go on strike and they strike and strike and strike and protest for weeks but the government ignores it.

So after more than a month of pretty regular striking and protesting, France is getting fed up. I noticed a definite change last week- there have been protests and strikes and sit-ins everyday. The students joined the protests last Thursday. I went to a sit-in in town with some friends on Thursday afternoon, tons of students just sat down in the middle of one of the biggest intersections in town. It was a lot of fun.
For reasons that I don't really understand, the gas stations are on strike (or maybe it's the refineries that are striking and not the stations themselves) and so are a lot of trains and buses, making transportation very complicated. School has become sort of optional: if you don't want to go to class, you can go join the protests in town because they are literally always going on. Or you can just stay home, because half of the students and teachers aren't at school anyways. This morning students held a Blocus in front of school, meaning they blocked all the entrances to school so no one could go to class and was basically forced to go on strike. After standing around in the cold for an hour (first frost last night! woohoo), my host mom came and picked me and my host sister up. We spent the morning at home and then went back into town later for a student protest. Tomorrow is the last day of school before a ten-day vacation. I think the strikes will calm down during the vacation and pick up again afterwards. We'll see. Right now the government is just sitting on their fat asses (pardon my French), plugging their ears, repeating their mantra that everything is just fine.

Honestly, I am loving experiencing all this striking business. I find it so exciting. But for the sake of the French people, I hope something happens soon.

So there you go. Two marques de fabriques that I've been learning a whole lot about. Pretty fun cultural immersion stuff.

My next blog post will be sooner, I promise.

Until then,


Some Information

Bonjour, tout le monde! Look at me, I'm speaking French ooh la la.

It's Thursday afternoon, the sun is out for the first time in about a week. It is a golden autumn day.
Tomorrow after school I'm going to drive to Paris with my host family. We're going to stay with my host brother who is 23 and lives there. On Saturday night we're going to see a soccer game! France vs. Romania. And on Sunday I will get to see my dear freind Kari Olk.

Well, I think now I will write some of the descriptions I promised in my last post.
I will start with where I am living:
I live in a house. The house is on a road which connects to the highway. The highway doesn't really feel like a highway at all, because it is about the width of the street I live on in Minneapolis (roads and cars are so much smaller here and everyone drives a LOT faster). Our road is lined with houses on either side, it's somewhere between a street and a road. It's very charming. My host family's house is a normal-sized house, with a sort of farmhouse vibe. The ceilings are low and the hallways are tight. The walls are painted warm, homey colors and everything feels cozy. There is a great big stone fireplace in the living room which I am guessing I will be spending lots of quality time with this winter. Out back there is a big old garden and and a pen of chickens and several sheds and garages, one of which has been rennovated into a little cottage (a college student is living there this year).
The road curves right after our house and takes you through the dirt road I described awhile ago. You may recall the pasture with the pooping cows. That road is one of my favorite places. It's lined with fields and pastures and and little patches of forest and beautiful stone and vine houses hidden in the distance. If you stand in this one spot on the road you can see a great big château which is lit up at night.
I wish I could describe everything, but word and even pictures don't do it justice.

I am ending this post here because the sun is setting and I want to go walk Zano and visit my pooping cow friends and stare at the countryside before it is dark.

One more thought:
It is silent at night here. I never noticed noise in the city, but now that I'm living in the country I notice the silence. And the darkness. No streetlights outside and no firetrucks on 36th street. Sleeping feels like hibernating.


I have written many different drafts of different blog posts.
I can't seem to figure out what to say- I want to describe everything and yet I also want to keep it all to myself.

It is Monday night.The weather is turning colder here and we're experiencing some of the classic Bretagne precipitation.
I have a killer cold. It is raining outside and in my sinuses.

I said in my last post that I was starting to feel more comfortable and confident around school. I think I can say that with a lot more truth now. I have established a really wonderful group of friends and I am so excited that I have an entire schoolyear  with them ahead of me. The same goes for my host family: they are wonderful and make me feel so comfortable and cared for. They are endlessly patient with my inability to find the school bus. They make me laugh and feed me REALLY AWESOME FRENCH FOOD. Eating dinner with them is usually the best part of my day. Tonight we had Galettes, which are a sort of salty crêpe that is a regional speciality. Sometimes we try to speak English at dinner, which is endlessly hilarious. I have been trying for three weeks now to teach Marco, my host dad, to say "yeah" but it keeps coming out "yahyer."

Needless to say, life has been good. I feel more comfortable and less awkward here everyday. I am finding a new normal.

I think I expressed this in my last post, but it really is quite something to live without having language at your fingertips. Sometimes it is incredibly frustrating, because I can't really be myself in French yet. Everything is so much more confusing and complicated when you can't communicate, which means that I constantly feel stupid and incapable of doing things for myself. Humility has become a fact of life for me.

Sometimes I am homesick for English. The other day I had to call Wells Fargo about my credit card. The representative I talked to was so nice- I explained that I was in France studying abroad for 10 months and we started chatting a bit. I wanted to stay on the phone with him forever and just tell him everything. I have never felt so pathetic in my life.

The funny thing is that speaking French, as hard as it is, feels great. I can't describe it- I just love the feel of trying to function in a different language. Yes, my accent is terrible and I usually just bypass proper grammar to try to get my point across. But I can already feel how much I've improved since I got here. My comprehension is so much quicker and I'm able to pick up on a lot more details when people talk, I can put sentences together much more competently, and my vocabulary is expanding through the roof. The idea of someday speaking fluently seems so exciting and wonderful and....unattainable.

When I don't understand something I say, "Quoi?" which people usually take for "I didn't hear you." When I really mean, "What the f**** are you saying to me?"
This results in them repeating what they said at the same speed, and rather than have them repeat themselves again and again, I just smile and nod vaguely.

A friend of mine told me that language immersion is like drowning, and whether I struggle or not the language will eventually fill my lungs and I'll be pulled under. I thought that was a very accurate and beautiful way to put it.

I think my blog is very heavy on "Nora's stream of consciousness" and very light on actual details about the town and my host family and what I've actually been doing here. Those things are coming, I promise. Very soon. But right now I need to go watch Les Simpsons, take my homeopathic cold medicine, and pass out in my cozy little bed in my cozy little room at the back of the house in the French countryside.



Hello. Here is an update:
School is getting easier as the days go by. And by that I mean navigating the halls and social scene is getting easier- I've managed to make friends despite the fact that I can hardly communicate and although I missed my bus today, I'm gradually mastering the way this school works.The actual classes are very difficult to understand, so I mostly just try my best to keep up and leave it at that. The friends that I've made in my class help me a lot, and there are three other exchange students in my class so the teachers are, for the most part, very patient with us. 
My history teacher looks like she just walked out of a Pixar movie. It's very distracting.
The school is set up like a campus, with different buildings for different subjects plus a cafeteria, etc. It's very nice and pretty modern- it seems like it was rennovated in the nineties or something. I find French high school to be much more leisurely than it is in America. There are no classes on Wednesday afternoons and depending on what your schedule is like, classes can start anytime between 8:00 and 10:00 and finish between 3:30 and 5:30. Also, we get an hour and a half for lunch every day and have long periods of time to work on homework or just hang out. Even the bell is relaxing- it's very chime-like.

In other news, I find it hard to believe that I've only been here a week and that I only left home 12 days ago. It feels like months. I can feel myself adjusting more and more to this new lifestyle. I've gotten very used to listening to rapid French conversation with only the vaguest idea of what is being said. In fact, I don't know if I can remember what it feels like to have a real, intelligent conversation. Sometimes it's very lonely and isolating and exhausting, but as the days go by I find myself bothered by it less and less. I feel like I'm occupying a completely different part of my mind. I don't really think in English, but I'm definitely not thinking in French. Sometimes I think in English with a French accent for some reason. Or I try to translate my thoughts into French without even meaning to. Most of the time I feel like I'm just thinking without language, not really thinking at all, or maybe thinking on a different level. I know that sounds weird and sort of self-important; but I think there is something about creating a whole new lifestyle like this that completely changes the way you think about everything, and I can feel that happening to me. I have a newfound respect for everything.

When you can't talk to people as much as I'm used to talking to people (like real, deep conversation), you start to live in your head a little more, and then you have really big thoughts.
There is a dirt road behind the house that cuts between some farmland and pastures with cows. There are old stone houses covered with vines scattered around the field. It's incredible. The other night I walked the dog, Zano, out there and was completely taken aback by how beautiful everything is, and the simple fact that I am actually here actually doing this. And as I was standing there having this moving, clairvoyant moment, the cows in the pasture ahead of me all started pooping in unison. Like HUGE cow turds. With big, loud plopping sounds. It was so damn funny, I laughed until there were tears streaming out of my eyes.

Needless to say, I'm having a wonderful time here. It's not easy, but I really do love it. I love my host family, I love the people I've met, I love how beautiful everything is, and I LOVE the food.

And now it's time for me to go decipher my French Lit homework. Wish me luck.

(except in France I've been going by Vinora, and I love it.)


Laissez Le Blogging Commencer

I've been gone for a week now, and I'm sorry that I haven't blogged yet. This has been the CRAZIEST week of my life so far. I will try to catch up on some stuff:
First of all, I went to New York for some orientation in a hotel ballroom. It was a lot of fun, which I wasn't expecting, and aalthough the orientation activities themselves were kind of dumb and boring, it was so interesting to meet other students from all over the country. I was able to establish a really great group of friends, and really enjoyed hanging out with people who were in the same boat. It was great to talk to other exchange students about being an exchange student because we all share a similar outlook and attitude that is maybe different from our peers. We flew to Paris together (51 students on one plane!) overnight on Thursday, and arrived in France after having gotten about one hour of sleep. We stayed in Paris in a hostel for two days. Unfortunately, we couldn't leave the hostel because of insurance and blah blah blah, but that ended up being okay because I had a great time being with my friends and meeting students from all over the world (groups of AFS students from other countries met us at the hostel). It was the coolest experience, because we got to make connections with people from Poland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Germany, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Latvia, Slovenia, etc. I loved it.
Apparently in Slovenia, "nora" means "stupid." Awesome.

Anyways, that was a lot of fun. On sunday, I took the TGV from Paris to Rennes and met my host father, Marco, and host sister, Maïwenn, at the train station. We drove to their house, about an hour away, which is halfway between two towns: Redon and Bains Sur Oust. It's only 2 miles or so to either town. We had lunch as a family (I met my host mother, Magali, at the house). In France, Lunch is as big of a meal as dinner, if not bigger. Especially on Sundays. So we had a big lunch, and afterwards I had a big nap. Then they took me into Bains Sur Oust, where they have a sort of village-wide rummage sale every Sunday. Then we went home and had crepes for dinner. We don't eat untilm around 8:30 or 9 at night, and dinner is long. So everyone just goes to bed afterwards.

On monday I took the day off of school to rest and recuperate and explore Redon. It was great. Redon is so beautiful it makes me want to cry.

I started school yesterday, it was very scary and very confusing. Maïwenn helped me a lot, even though we aren't in the same class. There was a strike happening yesterday in France parce que Nicolas Sarkozy est une espèce de con and the retirment age is 60. Some of the teachers were striking, so I didn't have class the first and last two hours of the day. I met a really wonderful girl in my class named Lucile, and she invited me to go walk around town with her that afternoon. She speaks some english, so we can use it to supplement my French. We had a great afternoon, and I'm really happy to have met her.

I have lots more to blog, but it's almost dinnertime (it's 8:45 pm) and i don't want to overuse the computer.

Sorry to be so late in starting actual blogging.
To see my pictures of France and orientation, go to this link:


In closing, let me just say that this is the most overwhelming and challenging and exciting thing I have ever done or could ever imagine doing. I'll try to keep this blog updated weekly.

A toute à l'heure,



Packin' Up

Well, departure is two (one and a half, really) days away. YAHOOOO IT'S REALLY HAPPENING!!!

But unfortunately there is one very important task left to complete before I can get on a plane and fly far, far away.
Yes, that's right. The time has come for me to begin packing.

My brother is already gone at college, so I am basically just taking over his room and using it to lay out all of my stuff. And by "laying out my stuff" I mean "hurling all of my clothes in a pile on his bed." I actually cannot believe how many articles of clothing I own. Now I just have to figure out what gets to come along.

~The Task Before Me~

make this

fit into this

And that's just clothes! I also have to fit books and cameras and shoes in there. 
Oh, and also it's like one million bajillion degrees outside with 120% humidity.

This should be fun.



I finally got my visa for France! Yip dee do.
My parents and I have been working on it all summer. The preparations you have to do for the application are insane: we gathered records of EVERYTHING. Literally- academic, medical, financial, residential, familial, animal, vegetable, mineral.
We ended up having to road trip to Chicago to go to the office of the French Consulate in person. Vis-à-vis* for a vis-a. Ha. Ha. Ha.

This is us in Chicago:

Hanging out by the cool bean sculpture in Millenium Park

The nice part of the whole going-to-Chicago thing was that I got to spend a great day in the city with my parents, and we had a whole lot of fun. God, I feel like a dork for saying that. 

It arrived in the mail a few days ago. It's amazing that we did all that work and spent all that time and all that money for a little page in my passport with some pretty stamps and the MOST horrendous picture I have ever seen of myself.

There it is! In all its glory. I covered up the picture of me because it actually looks like mug shot.

So now I can legally go to France. Thank you France, for allowing me to come to your country.

It's only 13 days away! Waaaahahaaaa.

The end.

Love, Nora

*"face-to face"


Good Bye, Daddy

Today I said good bye to my dad (he's going to work in Seattle from now through October, so he'll be gone when I leave for France). It will be close to a year before I see him again. It's hard to imagine.

This is the first of many big, sloppy good byes I'll have to make to the people who are most important to me. In many ways, I think it will be a huge relief to finally get on a plane and fly away from everyone, to have all the good byes over with.

That's my dad.

I put a picture up to make this blog more interesting to look at. I think I write too much.


I got an email from my host mother in very broken english yesterday. I will share my favorite quotes:
"We have prepared the Nora's bedroom, near Maîwenn's one." (Maîwenn is my host sister)
"[The room is] not very large one but we have much place in our house."
"She and Maîwenn 'll go to school by scolar bus ."

I don't mean to sound like I'm making fun of her. On the contrary, she's doing a good job of getting her point across. It's just so cute. I wonder what my French sounds like to them. More broken than hers, I'm sure.

Anyways. I found out that my family actually lives 5 km outside of Redon, in the country. There are about 50 neighboring families, though, and I'll have a bike if I want to go into to town or something. I'm sure it's very beautiful and I can't wait.

It's funny, I originally thought (before I knew my host family) that I would be really disappointed if I got a family that lived in a more rural setting. But I am actually so thrilled with my placement, and the fact that I can already tell that I will love my family makes it even better. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I. Can't. Wait.

The summer is flying by (where the hell did July go??), and I'm experiencing waves of alternating panic and excitement, depending on the day. A lot more excitement than panic, I think.

Going to France has been this far-off, abstract idea of mine for the past year. But here I am: it's July 27th, and 36 days stand between me and my departure.

Holy cow, this is really happening...





Hello hello.
It's been awhile, but now I'm finally writing on here again, and will try to do so more regularly as my imminent departure approaches.

I have some very exciting news:
I found out who my host family is! And in turn, where I'm living and going to school.
My host sister contacted me by email this week, and I've also been corresponding with my host mom (or dad, not really sure actually). It seems that they got my email address and contacted me, but all the paperwork nonsense hasn't actually been processed yet so I still haven't gotten the official host family notification from AFS. Because of this, I don't know a whole lot about them, except for that they seem like really lovely people. But I don't think they know that I haven't gotten official info on them, so I think it would be strange to ask them something like, "excuse, me but exactly who are you?"
I do know that they are my host family for sure, but beyond that....well we'll just have to wait and see.

They live in Redon, a town of around 10,000 (the size of Stillwater, approximately) in the southern part of the western region of Brittany. Redon is on the intersection of two rivers. I've been exploring it on Google Street View and it looks like the most charming, beautiful French town you could imagine. I urge you to look it up.

My school is Lycée Beaumont ("Beaumont High School"). It has around 1,800 students- about the size of (or a little bigger than) Southwest. I'll be taking Spanish, literature, and some social sciences or economics.

I've enrolled myself in a weekly French class for the next few weeks before I leave, and I feel like it's really helping me. I'm actually starting to prepare to go. I can't believe it.

I'll write again soon, I have much to say, but I want to keep this short.

Here's a picture of Redon I found online:

(trés beau, non?)



Hello again.

More than two months have passed since my last post...
Now there are only four months remaining until I leave. Holy cow.

My life has been crazy busy this past month. I've been assistant/co-directing a production of Macbeth for my school's student-run theater program which opens on Tuesday. It's been a huge learning experience: overall very positive, but not devoid of stress and insanity. I also took part in a plant sale sponsored by AFS this month. It's the only fundraiser that the program sponsors and helps organize for students, and it was really successful. I received over 15 orders, which doesn't sound like a lot, but resulted in my porch filling up with 131 plants (which actually looked really cool). I'm so grateful to the people who contributed, it's really going to make a big difference.

(This is a thank-you card I made for the people who participated in the plant sale.)

I'm going to my first Pre-Departure Orientation this afternoon in Eden Prairie. I'm looking forward to finding out all sorts of information and details about my upcoming adventure.

I check my email about four times a day to see if they've sent me my host family assignment... No luck yet, but I'll keep you posted.

Have a good Sunday! It's beautiful and warm and summery here. There are only 16 days left of school.




While I was sitting at a coffee shop with my mom last night we realized that six months from today is the day I leave for France.

Oh my.

This makes me incredibly excited and also a little freaked out (but freaked out in the best possible way).

That is all. It is even grosser here than it was two days ago when I was complaining about the grossness.



:D!!!! :( :) :/

(The smileys in the title represent the pattern of emotions expressed in this post. I'm really into smileys right now......)

I suddenly have $243 in donations on here!
WOW. I just checked it a few days ago and could not believe my eyes. I guess in the grand scheme of things this doesn't seem like a whole lot of money, but considering that a few weeks ago I had less than half that amount THIS IS VERY EXCITING NEWS.
I am so thrilled. Thank you so much to everyone who's been pitching in! Or should I say "chipping" in. Get it? Because of the name of the widget. Ha. Ha.
Granted, this is only 9% of my goal, so I would like to keep encouraging contributions. But we are making some progress here, people. Way to go!

It is very dark and gray and gross here. Ugh. March is so ugly. I am considerably cheered up, though, when I think about where I'll be next year. Maybe the south of France? Who knows? Boy, living in the south of France sounds nice this time of year. Though honestly, I'm sure March would be exponentially better anywhere in France than it is here. But then again, I have a horribly naïve and romantic view of France as some sort of Promised Land. I can't help it, though, I'm just so darn excited TO LIVE THERE FOR A YEARRRRRRRRR.

Well, I have to get back to reading Macbeth. Wow, things are depressing around here.



To donate to my AFS tuition click on the Chip In! link to the right -->
It only takes a minute!


Acceptance by France and Why I Like AFS

Sorry that it's been so long since I've updated this. I've been very busy.
Once again, I am writing this instead of doing things that need doing. But I am okay with that. I'll probably regret this choice tomorrow morning when I wake up and realize that I STILL haven't done laundry (laundry being one of the other things I could be doing right now). BUT I DON'T CARE. I got some stuff to say.

First of all, here is some excellent news:
I got a call about four weeks ago from AFS saying that I have been accepted by France. I still don't know where I'll be living (I won't find that out until I get my host family assignment, and that won't be for a few months), but I do know that I am going to France. For sure. It has been confirmed. So that's GREAT!

Here is something else I have been thinking about:
I've gotten a few questions about why I'm choosing to go with AFS next year. Like instead of just going and living with friends of friends (or relatives of friends, or friends of relatives of friends, etc.). And I answer those questions feeling a little stupid, because I honestly didn't really think about trying to set something like that up.
But when I think about it, I have absolutely no regrets about signing up with AFS- it is clearly the best choice. I really want the exchange student experience, which is something I wouldn't necessarily get living with a family I knew. And although AFS is expensive, it is really worth every penny. They are very thorough in making sure that everything is comfortable, that I'm happy with my arrangement, and that I'm well-prepared for my year abroad.

I think my favorite thing about AFS is the community it builds. There are SO many people all over the world who have connections with AFS. I had no idea how huge it was until I became a part of the program. Everywhere I go I meet people who have been involved with it: the guy who cut my hair a few weeks ago hosted a German exchange student his junior year, the guy who took my blood at the Red Cross spent a semester in Belgium in high school, a woman sitting in front of me at a play overheard me telling my friend about AFS, and turned around to tell me about her experience as a student in Germany, and then introduced me to the student she was currently hosting. Not to mention the conversations I've had with the AFS students at my school. These people are EVERYWHERE. It's insane.

So that is why I already love AFS. It seems like the biggest, greatest diplomacy mission in the world- what better way is there to make connections with other people all over the globe? By being involved in this program I won't just make connections in France, because I'll be interacting with people from all sorts of different countries along the way. I'm so excited for this experience.

A lot of random people at school have told me that they have read my blog. I wonder what they think of me................

That's all. Bye!



To donate to my AFS tuition click on the Chip In! link to the right -->
It only takes a minute!


Some Things

Hello, world. I am writing a blog post because there are other things I should be doing, and I don't count doing this as procrastinating. Also there are some things I have to say.

I started a Facebook group for my whole going-to-france thing just to make people aware that it was happening and to spread this blog around. We'll see how that works. I know it is pathetic that I have raised a whopping $28 with this blog (1% of my goal!), but it really doesn't bother me that much. I feel the need to say that for some reason.

So those are some thoughts. In other news, I FOUND OUT MY BLOOD TYPE. Finally. It's
Okay so that image didn't work out as well as I wanted it to. I can't figure out how to get the border out of there. And make it bigger. But what really matters is that I now know my blood type, and therefore am now able to go to France. That is the important thing here. So YAY! That happened.

Anyways. Blogging is such a funny experience. Mostly the part about not really being able to tell if anyone is even reading what you write. Either no one is reading it, and that's embarrassing, or lots of people are reading it, and that is also kind of embarrassing. You really have to put yourself out there, and it's pretty intimidating. Of course, this blog isn't super personal so I'm not worrying myself with all that too much, but I can't help but feel a little strange about it. I can't wait until next year when I will actually have real things to write about. French things!

That is all I am going to say right now. There are some more things I want to write, but I will save them for later because I want to keep my posts shorter than they have been. I don't want to scare away the 2 or 3 readers that I may or may not have.



To donate to my AFS tuition click on the Chip In! link to the right -->
It only takes a minute!