The Good, the Bad and the Beautiful

It has officially been a week since I left Paris, and I guess my feelings can be summed up in the following three categories: the good, the bad and the beautiful.

The Good

Studying abroad entails much more than its name. Yes, I was studying and applying what I learned 24/7. However, there’s the emotional side to it all. Being away from my family and friends in a foreign city/country/continent with, oh yeah, a foreign language. I encountered every emotion from anger to joy to frustration to sadness to inspiration to fearlessness, and everything in between. Here’s probably the greatest good that came out of this trip, the life lessons I learned:

  • Be flexible/don’t have expectations- I can say with 100% honesty that every single plan I ever made in Paris was thwarted in some way. Not ONE TIME did everything go as I had imagined in my head. Sometimes the train was closed and I had to take a 30 minute detour. Sometimes it rained when I wanted to have an outdoor picnic. Sometimes I got so lost I never found the park to have the picnic. Unfortunately, I didn’t learn this lesson til the end, but it radically improved my experience when I did. I have to be flexible- I’ll get there when I get there. As long as I’m healthy and confident, I can make the most of my day regardless of XYZ. After all, isn’t it true that some of the sweetest things in life come from the unexpected?
  • Just because you’re alone doesn’t mean you’re lonely- I literally did not know a single person and that frightened and excited me at the same time. While I began making new friends, I relied on the support and encouragement of my family and greatest friends at home. I also found comfort in my homestay roommate, who proved to be a tremendous blessing on this trip. Thank you to everyone who reached out, especially on the days when I felt like giving Paris the old boot. I may have been alone, but I knew I had people counting on me to explore the city and culture I’ve been studying. So glad I did. Don’t be scared to do the same. My journal became a very important part of my journey…getting to know myself was an adventure in itself.

The Bad

Since leaving Paris, I have been traveling around Europe with my family, namely to northern France, Germany, Holland and now England. It’s incredibly interesting to me how I expect things to be similar in these other countries as it was in Paris. How wrong I am! Here are the bad customs of Paris that I’ve learned to appreciate are different around the world:

  • Unhappy nature- Whenever I was on the metro, I noticed everyone around me usually had on a pair of headphones and a fixated look at a random spot on the train. No one smiled, no one laughed. If I smiled at them, they would look the other way…eventually I turned into one of them and if anyone ever took a picture of me on the metro, I would surely look unapproachable…something quite opposite of my normal behavior. I was absolutely shocked when I went to Germany, for instance, and two young men walked my family and I to Beethoven’s house when we got lost. They took time out of their day to help us. What?! Who does that? Happy people do! I love happy people, and I am so excited to return to the states and see people who will smile and not scoff at me if I were to ask for directions.
  • Cynicism- the constant threat of theft or harassment was something I struggled with a lot while in Paris. I never walked around without clutching my purse by my side and darting my eyes every which way in the metro to assure myself I wasn’t being pick pocketed. The US is very trusting in comparison…but rightfully so, really! The other day at the Amsterdam airport, I slung my backpack to my chest out of Parisian custom…I didn’t want my backpack to have accessible pockets to thieves as I stood in a line. And then I caught myself—everyone else was wearing backpacks on their backs like normal people at home do. They weren’t worried at the least. I greatly look forward to feeling completely safe again. Just thinking about being able to hang my purse on my chair at a restaurant makes me excited (I usually held it in my lap…uncomfortable, really).

The Beautiful

I often try asking myself—Andrea, do you miss Paris? I think for a while and cannot come to a conclusion. Maybe it’s silly, but I can’t actually answer that right now. That seems to be the question to ask a few months down the road, when I’m doing something with someone and wishing at that very moment that I was back in Paris. I do feel a tie to the city, and when I go back, I’ll feel comfortable because I’ve gotten to know a piece of her. In the end, she became my friend and like any good friend, I look forward to seeing her again and reliving memories with her. I know I had the extreme pleasure and blessing to have visited and witnessed amazing architecture, monuments and sites. I got to relax by the Seine, dance on a boat, eat under the Eiffel Tower, sing at a hip hop concert, laugh in a jazz cave, explore in a castle, eat in a French home, live in an attic, write by a waterfall, shop in a flea market and learn something new every single day. How many people can say that? That’s beauty right there. And that’s the Paris I’ll remember. Beautiful, beautiful Paris.

C’est La Vie!

Bonjour mes amis! Lots of updates for you all, get excited. I usually prepare blog posts for you in the form of lists, so why stop now? Here you go and please try to appreciate my alliteration, my awesome roommate and I worked very hard on it.

1)      The chills- Easily one of my most memorable expeditions this trip was my visit this past Friday to the Catacombs! What’s a catacomb? “An underground system of tunnels and chambers with recesses for graves, used (in former times) as a cemetery.” Or in more simple terms, a creepy yet awesome underground cemetery! The Catacombs in Paris are located deep underground, below even the metro system and the sewer system. When I first walked down the stairs, I felt cold and walking through the path felt slightly like I was in a secret passageway inside Hogwarts. Street signs were located at certain crossings, so that visitors could see what streets were located above them. No flash photography was allowed, but luckily we befriended a security guard who used his flashlight to light up our pictures. The scary part? Being centimeters away from hundreds of thousands (actually, 6 million) skulls, which lay above rows and rows of different bones. I have never seen a dead body, and it was certainly freaky. See my pictures! Also, on Sunday evening, I partook in a 6:30 pm mass at the Cathedral of Notre-Dame. Woah. It was all in French and even though I did not understand one word of the homily, I did get to appreciate the absolute beauty of this experience. I got “the chills” and as corny as it is, flashbacks of the Disney favorite “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame” came through. I was in it! At a mass! Given by the Archbishop! While being broadcast on TV! Unbelievable, I will never forget it. I wanted to take pictures but that wasn’t appropriate. Now if only I could get married there…

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2)      The cheap- College students love cheap things. Study abroad college students love them even more. Alas, this weekend I went to not one, but TWO well-known flea markets! The first was at Porte de Clignancourt, at the very northern tip of Paris. It’s an adventure that I highly recommend to tourists because you will find the same shoes and clothes that are sold at some boutiques for literally up to 80% off the price. Not to mention, there’s everything from antique furniture, to electronics, to celebrity brands, to old photographs and letters, to shoes, to figurines and more. If you go, don’t be alarmed by the people selling things one block before the entrance to the flea market—it has a garage sale-like atmosphere: people sell old shoes and video games from like the 80s that no one else uses anymore. That’s not the flea market. Walk further and dwell in the treasure! I bought a super sweet little painting and some shoes for 5 euro! On Sunday, I went to yet another flea market, this time at Mairie de Montreuil. I wish I took pictures, but this one is more for locals. Tents are set up with large tables piled high with mounds of clothes. Shirts and dresses from Zara and H&M could be found here for as cheap as 2 and 3 Euro! I didn’t buy anything, but it was pretty cool to look at. It’s essentially outdoor thrift shopping, and if you are a patient shopper who enjoys vintage and original clothing, this is the place for you. Yay cheap stuff.

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3)      The charming- I got to witness the beauty that is Montmartre and Sacre Coeur. Sacre Couer is an old church that sits high atop a hill that overlooks the entire city of Paris. No photography is allowed inside.  One of the coolest things I saw was a display that showed that Pope John Paul II had visited Sacre Coeur, and on the display a large book contained signatures and messages from people who have visited since, kind of like a guestbook. If you ever go, look for a signature on the bottom right hand corner, saying “Everlasting love for all. Andrea 7/11”…that’s me! The surrounding area is called Montmartre, and here are tons of little souvenir shops and the best gelato I’ve ever had. You’ll also see lines of French artists painting, sketching and drawing. My cheeks felt warm from the sun, and as I sat enjoying my gelato overlooking a quaint village area, I said to myself, “Life is good.” On that same day, I went to a graffiti exposition, suggested by the professor of my Hip Hop class. Awesome stuff! An entire exhibition of creative and colorful art made me super happy…as seen in the photo :)

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Believe it or not, I’m on my last week in Paris. I have mixed feelings about leaving, because I truly feel that I didn’t get the swing of things til this past week. I finally get it. I understand that the metro is annoying but highly effective and a part of Parisian life. I understand that room temperature water isn’t terrible, nor is a tiny bathroom or shower. Maybe I’m tired of encountering unhappy people on the bus who give me rude stares when I accidentally step on them (true story), but I know for a fact that I’ll miss a new pastry every morning, exploring new parks, or stumbling upon the perfect little shop. Everything happens for a reason, right? Just wait for my next blog post, I’ll be discussing the life lessons I’ve learned.

PS. Today I met one of the group members from my favorite French rap group, Sexion D’Assaut! Look! I was so star struck and giddy. Can’t you tell?

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Firemen, Fireworks and Fire Food

Holy canoli! This past week was Bastille Day, also known as La Fête Nationale. July 14 is an incredibly special date to the French people, and being in Paris for this epic celebration made up for my missing our own American July 4th celebration in the States. This year, Bastille Day took place on a Thursday and nearly all shops closed on Thursday, and several on Friday as well.

So how do the French celebrate?

1. Firemen- On the eve of La Fête Nationale, “Bals des Pompiers” take place. Translated to mean “Firemen’s Ball”, these celebrations are unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Essentially, a ton of fire stations located throughout Paris are open to the public to celebrate. This entails crowds of people young and old lining up outside their favorite/closest fire stations and ringing in July 14 with the firemen! The firemen are dressed in uniform, and all stations have firemen-turned-DJs playing music. Each station is unique: some offer food, some don’t, some are free, some aren’t. A friend of mine received a key chain at hers, I just danced the night away at the one I went to. Before I arrived at the Firemen’s Ball, my friend and I sat by the Seine waiting for the rest of our group to meet up with us. A live band played Beatles songs and even some Spanish ones and locals and tourists sang along. Everyone was out and about this night. Look at the lights!

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2. Fireworks- At 6 pm on the actual day of the holiday, a free concert called “Concert Pour L’Égalité” (Concert of Equality) took place on the lawn behind the Eiffel Tower. It was packed!!! Once again, people of all ages came to enjoy this concert and many brought picnics with them. The theme was “equality” and a banding of all nations. I bought a T-shirt with the message: I (Heart) France Métissée…it translates to “I Love Mixed France.” Unlike the US, the French were not at all decked out in red, white and blue on their special day. Maybe because they know they celebrate with thousands of tourists…hmm. The concert was awesome! At 11 pm there were fireworks at the Eiffel Tower. This is where things got crazy. My friends and I went to have dinner at our homestays and when we left to go to the tower for the show, our night simply ended there. We got off the metro, along with hundreds of other people, and never even got to turn the street corner to walk to the tower. So. Many. People. Now I realize you’re waiting for me to continue with this story but I want you to stop and listen to me when I say I COULD NOT move in any direction because I was so squished in between hoards of people. Couldn’t lift my elbow. A girl to my right had an asthma attack and everything. Alas, I enjoyed about 6 minutes of the fireworks (an AWESOME 6 minutes at that) amidst a pushing, crazy crowd. My friends and I gave up and walked the opposite direction and finished watching the show from the steps of a Laundromat. C’est la vie, right?

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3. Fire Food- My use of the word “fire” here is used to indicate food that is so Delicious, so Magnificent that I’m also capitalizing the adjectives I’m using to describe said food. Ladies and gentlemen I had the Best Meal of my time in France thus far, and absolutely one of the top 5 best meals of my life. Rachel took us to a neat café tucked away on a street near her homestay called Les Combustibles. So don’t be mad at me, but I don’t actually remember the exact name of what I ordered except it was a tender, juicy perfect steak with a side of fries. But I don’t want to call them fries because then you’ll think about McDonald’s or your standard Chilis side item. NO. These are gourmet strips of potato, if you will. And along with this plate came a side of whipped cheese. I legitimately did not want to keep eating it because I knew I’d be sad when I finished the meal (and I was indeed sad, but I absolutely finished every last gourmet strip of potato!). As if this slice of heaven wasn’t enough, I had a dessert called “Oeufs a Neige” (Eggs on Snow). It is unlike anything I’ve ever seen or tasted, and it essentially whipped egg whites served in a delicious sweet syrup comparable to the taste of Condensed Milk/Dulce de Leche. After this stupendous meal I believe I entered a food coma/euphoria and I will be returning there again. Refer to my pictures since I seem to be inadequate at describing my food.

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I only have 2 weeks left in my program! What’s coming next? A Hip Hop Exam (my favorite group is Sexion D’Assaut and my new favorite jam is “Paris Ma Vie” check it out here.) A trip up the Eiffel Tower at night. A comedy in a Parisian theater. A visit to the Museum of Magic. Montmartre and Sacré Couer. Another hip hop concert. And crepes. Lots and lots of crepes.

A bientôt!

My Love-Hate Relationship with Paris

Well, clearly when you’re abroad in a foreign country not everything is going to be peachy-keen, right? Right. This past weekend, I decided to take some “Andrea time” and do some exploring of Paris on my own. A few of my really good friends who were in Paris last summer had sent me suggestions of their Paris “must-sees” and I decided I would tackle them! Here are my thoughts afterwards:

Things about Paris that frustrate me:
1. Transportation- I strongly dislike it. In fact, every time I’m aboard one of Paris’ transportation systems, I’m usually in a bad mood. Nothing about it is enjoyable to me. In the past 48 hours, I have been a passenger in the FOUR modes of transportation available here: bus, Metro, RER Train and Tram. Four! The bus, although it offers a scenic view of Paris, has the disadvantage of traffic. The Metro…oh, this is undoubtedly my least favorite because when I’m underground nothing seems clean or cheerful, and I feel like its nighttime all the time. The RER Train is unreliable in its timing, and the Tram, which I used for the first time today, is actually pretty quick and scenic and does not have traffic, but is very packed, and since I feel like complaining about all their systems then BAH! Conclusion: I miss the easiness of traveling in the US—get in car, drive. (And even if I had a car in Paris it wouldn’t help because oh yeah, they ignore street lanes).

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2. Street Signs/Getting Around- Ok last bit of venting, promise. Yesterday I tried to visit the Canal St. Martin, known to be one of the most romantic places in Paris. I got off at a Metro stop very close to it. I simply had to walk east and I would find it. Wrong, why would it ever be that easy? The first problem is that street signs are a simple blue plate on the side of a building; they are not very distinguishable and are not stands on the intersections of the road like in the US. Streets go every which way, and sometimes buildings don’t even have the street signs. That’s fine for locals and a major problem for adventurous Andrea who wants to avoid looking like a tourist and pulling out her map. Andrea pulls out the map anyways (inside a Pharmacy, trying to be sneaky), and after 45 minutes of walking around trying to orient myself, I give up on finding the Canal. Sad Andrea. Mad Andrea. Smad Andrea.

Things about Paris that I enjoy:
1. Parks- So the Canal didn’t work out for me, but afterwards I headed to the astonishing Buttes Chaumont park, which boasts extensive greenery, hills, a waterfall, and an impressive view of the city. Look at my pictures! I saw two brides and their grooms taking pictures, and I found a neat spot in front of a peaceful lake to sit down and write in my journal. It was a therapeutic moment, and it was nice to finally enjoy a calm, relaxing few hours to myself. I realize I’m slightly homesick, and it didn’t help when a Keith Urban ballad came on shuffle on my iPod and the sky was overcast, and suddenly I felt so small in such a big city. I’m making it work though. I’m staying strong!

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The view from the park entrance…see that white structure? I climbed there and took picture #3 there!Photobucket

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2. Shopping- After feeling kind of sad, I decided that what I needed was some retail therapy—what an awesome idea. Go Andrea! One of my bestest friends suggested I go shopping near a Metro stop called Hotel De Ville. Great prices and even better clothing! Everywhere I went I saw the word “Soldes” for sales…you know I took advantage of them. And just like that my lonely moment from earlier vanished…Oh! I also went to Shakespeare & Co. bookstore, which was awesome for someone who dreamt of working at Barnes & Noble when I was younger. Books lined the walls from bottom to top and there were even sliding ladders, similar to the ones found in Beauty and the Beast (Disney lover here). I wanted so badly to get a picture on one of them, but that would’ve required me to ask a stranger, and moreover ask a stranger in French and that got me nervous and then I settled on just taking pictures inside the store. Very cool though!

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I promise there are more things than I enjoy about Paris besides parks and shopping, but those are highlights from this weekend. Another cool thing I did was visit the Cite Universitaire de Paris…a real college campus in Paris! I felt instantly comfortable when I arrived because it reminded me of UF. A book my dad gave me about Paris suggested I eat at their cafeteria, which I did…and I ate a goat cheese quiche, a brownie and a bottle of water for 4.95 euros! Score for an awesome meal with an even better price!

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By the way, it’s officially my two week anniversary here and this Thursday is Bastille Day. Double celebration time!

Ps. I’m going to be a little dramatic here and say that how I feel about Paris right now is reflected in the song, “I Hate You then I Love You” by Celine Dion (this song also came on shuffle while I was sitting in the park). Click HERE to listen to the song if you’ve never heard it. Warning: I’m super cheesy.

What do Jazz Caves, Sore Knees and Hip Hop have in common? Paris!

Bonjour from my cozy attic room in Paris, France! A couple more crazy days have gone by since my last post, and along with that even more amazing experiences. Did the title catch your eye?

1. Jazz Caves- Oh my goodness gracious! This past Friday night, my friends Rachel, Keyasha and I wanted to explore a little bit of Paris nightlife. Rachel researched a place called Caveau de la Huchette, which she learned was a cool Jazz club. It was WAY more than that…it was underground! Located right near Notre Dame, Caveau de la Huchette had a main room with a bar where guests could simply sit in a dimly lit, but nice atmosphere. The walls are made of all rock; two staircases lead you downstairs to an unimaginable treasure. Inside this cave, a live jazz band played the best of Bougie Wougie, and I got excited when I recognized their playing Nat King Cole’s “L-O-V-E” famous song. Chairs lined the walls, and in the middle couples graced the dance floor with beautiful and captivating dance moves. I felt like I had been transported in time, we’re in 2011…who knew people danced like this! It was mostly an older crowd, but I had a wonderful time simply watching others dance so flawlessly and happily. The three of us are considering taking one of the dance lessons they offer during the week! It was so dark I wasn’t able to get a picture of the actual dance floor, so here’s one from Google. And the other picture is one I took of the staircases leading underground! (Side note: Click on the pictures to view them larger!)

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2. Sore Knees- I like to think that I’m in pretty good athletic shape. Maybe not…or maybe I’m just being a baby but I have walked so (SO!) much this past week, that my knees are now sore, and my right one is actually slightly swollen! That could be a small problem but that’s ok, I’m in Paris, baby. I leave the house early every morning and don’t come back until dinner around 8; I’m walking every which way in between then. To avoid looking like a true tourist, I chose not to bring any sneakers, so I’m walking on cobblestone for hours in regular walking shoes. No fun. Places I’ve walked to that I can’t complain about because they’re awesome: The Louvre Museum, the Latin Quarter, Marie Antoinette’s house and King Louis XIV’s palace in Versailles, Notre Dame, L’Institut Catholique and many more. I need to toughen up! Here’s a picture of us doing the Gator Chomp in front of the gates to the palace!

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3. Hip Hop- Since I’m taking a class on French Hip Hop and Rap music, I went to an authentic, local and free hip hop concert!!! Our professor for this exclusive UF Program, Ben Hebblethwaite, accompanied a group of us to the State de France in Northern Paris (also happens to be the home to their official soccer stadium). We were completely out of any tourist zone and perhaps that is what I found most enjoyable. Amidst the locals, listening to an opening act by the BEST DJ I’ve ever heard! He not only played French songs, but tons of American ones as well—yep, Black Eyes Peas, Kanye West, Rihanna, and more—and even some Latin American and Indian hits! It was mind-boggling how no matter which song it was, the group of teenagers in front of me jammed and danced and sang along to each song. Nothing like the power of music to band different nations, different cultures. Loved it.

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Tomorrow I will have my French Oral Placement Exam—wish me luck! I do think my French is getting a little better. I understand it more, but I’m still a nervous-Nancy when it comes to speaking it.  Stay tuned for more!

Ps. My favorite meal so far has been a Penne a la Carbonara at an incredible place called Cafe Conti…coolest part? I met this famous dog while eating there! His name is Orson, and to learn a little more about Orson and the way Parisians view dogs, please watch this video!

Already Mistaken for a Parisian on the Metro!

I did it !

After a 2 hour fight delay , 1 hour wait for baggage, 1 hour lost at the airport and a 2 hour shuttle ride to my homestay in the 13th arrindossement, I arrived to Paris and have survived my first 48 hours ! I learned lesson number one while i was reading Eat, Pray, Love while waiting for my baggage (a book I really seem to be identifying with as I embark on this trip…I’m so corny) : go with the flow. Used to living my life on a schedule created via Excel ,I have already come to learn that the French are not concerned with your schedule or wasting your time  (arguably my biggest pet peeve…soon to change I am sure).

I think the culture shock isn’t so striking since I am constantly comparing the big and busy lifestyle in Paris to that of Caracas, Venezuela, where I have visited many times before. However, in a 2 hour shuttle ride around Caracas you would see nothing like the beautiful Eiffel Tower on your right, the Seine River on your left or the Champs-Elysees just ahead . Breath-taking is an undersatement. Here are the the three most memorable aspects of my trip in my first 48 hours here :

  1. The bread- I have had it at every single meal , whether I’m at the house or not. My host mom bakes her own bread ; well, French bread is very dry and rough. I actually had to cut pieces of my bread off with a knife because tearing little pieces with my hand was out of the question . My first meal here was a snack of cucmber, tomato , mozarella cheese, bread and raw trout ! I’d like to point out how squirmish I am about raw fish …I didn’t know what it was at first but I loved it ! I placed a piece of trout and cheese on my bread and then my host mom explained that unlike Americans, the French do not put anything on their bread ; it is simply a side item, eaten plain, to be enjoyed when you want a change in taste from your main course . Woah !
  2. The heat- I live in an attic room on the third floor of a gorgeous yet architecturally confusing home . There is no air conditioning….I am from South Florida. As unattractive as this sounds , my first night there I was literally sweating through my clothes INSIDE MY ROOM ! So was my roommate. I could not escape the heat , and we somehow managed to prop open one of the roof windows with a pen cap. I started laughing hysterically (probably a combination of my tiredness and heat exhaustion) at the situation . I took a shower,  which helped immensely..although I struggled with that as well since the showerhead is not attached to the wall . Yes, you read correctly. The French tend to spray water on themselves, turn the water off, use their bathing products, and then turn the water on again and do a final rinse-off. Yikes
  3. The metro- the best term I could use to describe my first experience using Parisian transportation would be : epic. My roommate and I decided to take the RER train towards Versailles and then connect to Line 4 of the metro and then walk about 3 blocks to get to L’Institut Catholique for orientation at 9 am. We left the house at 8 am. Murphy’s Law was in effect that morning . After navigating to the station and actually identifying which train to take, we realized we had to wait 8 minutes . Our train was supposed to arrive at gate B. As timing would have it, the train (named Vick) arrived at the exact same time as another train named Kema . Because of this , Vick changed its arrival gate to A. We didn’t get the memo and by the time we realized it, Vick was riding right past our sad faces. We waited 20 minutes for Vick to come again but by this time it was 845 am. We got off on the right stop to connect to the metro , but my roommate lost her metro ticket…that’s a major problem because you need it to check in to the metro. We tried using mine twice but that obvously didnt work and since my roommate had no euros, I lent her money to buy a ticket . Long story cut short (I talk alot) , we also got lost finding the school but eventually figured it out and arrived to orientation out of breath and flustered at a whopping 935 am. The last 2 of the 50 students here.

Can I get a round of applause for my first 48 hours ? Tonight I will be going on the Bateaux Mouches, a river boat for sightseeing around Paris. I am so excited. As soon as I get internet in my house, I will upload pictures. Oh ! Almost forgot to share that I had my first French crepe yesterday ; it was of Nutella and tasted like heaven. Needless to say, as soon as I finish writing this post I am going to buy my second. Voila !

1 Week til Paris!

So, I’m what most people would call a quote freak. I live by quotes, and the fact that I have a 126 page document of my favorite quotes that I’ve been compiling for 6 years is a testament to that. I love quotes.

This summer, I will be traveling to Paris, France, for what I am confident will be the summer of my life. Have I ever been to Europe? No. Am I fluent in French? No. Will I be ok by myself in a continent, country and city I know pretty much nothing about? Debatable. Alas, summer 2011 is finally here, and I think that the best way to show you my excitement and sincere enthusiasm for this unforgettable yet scary yet inspiring yet daunting trip is a quote. And you thought I was rambling in my opening paragraph.

“Yet it is in this loneliness that the deepest activities begin. It is here that you discover act without motion, labor that is profound repose, vision in obscurity, and, beyond all desire, a fulfillment whose limits extend to infinity.” –Thomas Merton

I am terrified of embarking on this journey into, quite literally, the unknown. And yet, I have decided to embrace the beauty in this unique opportunity. I’m calling it the summer of my life because I intend to learn the most I possibly can about life in this one summer. In 5 weeks, in the home of a host family, in a city of love, in a place I have only dreamt, read and sang about. I intend to eat my weight in delectable food, challenge my sometimes dependent nature and engulf myself into a culture I can only pray to learn from. Many have told me that in France, the people celebrate life, not work. I want to understand that and apply it to however best fits my capabilities and my perspective.

As someone who identifies strongly with music (hello, song lyrics are often times the best quotes!), I am unbelievably excited to learn about French hip hop and rap. Paris, France, will be the soundtrack to my summer, as heard in a famous song.

I. Can’t. Wait.