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,