December 18, 2011

The City of Lights

How many people can answer the question «So what did you do last weekend?» with: "I went shopping in Paris!"

Well... I can!!! Yes, Paris was incredible and beautiful. But I definitely left with a different impression than I did the last two times that I’ve been there. Paris just seemed less magical and romantic to me this time. It didn’t feel like the city where artists, lovers, and adventurers come to discover the world and themselves. The streets didn’t feel like they were dusted with some undiscovered mystery. It sort of all just felt like a tourist trap; a Disneyland; a city meant to be gazed out through a camera lens. A city filled with Asians on tourist buses.

I know that sounds really bad, but it is still a beautiful city– just different. It’s extremely crowded (I know I went during one of the busiest weekend of the year, but still). The stores are outrageously expensive so I didn’t buy a lot of things when we shopped. It started out sunny, but then later it rained and the skies turned gray. The first time that I went to Paris was at night when everything was illuminated so it really felt like a magical city. This time everything seemed a little less surreal with raindrops in my eyes, gray skies above my head, and frantic shoppers suffocating the limited space on the streets. I don’t know if Paris could be a city that I would want to live in. Maybe for a short time, but I don’t know if a permanent residence would be possible for me. There are so many other cities in the world, but I always thought of Paris as the dream city to live in. People call it the heart of culture, of light, of France. But who are these people that said that? Was it the lonely painter on the side of the Seine? Or the dreamer writing stories in a local café? Or the poet seeking inspiration? Or the child with the Eiffel Tower glimmering in their eyes?

As for the rest of the people that might have said that, they must have been rich.

One can’t realistically live in Paris without a lot of money. Sure one can play the artist game for awhile, but eventually one needs food and clothes and fun. If you have money, Paris can be extraordinary. But if you don’t, it might just be a lot of traffic, tourists, and cold skies. I was disappointed in that aspect of losing my perspective towards Paris as the magical city I once thought it was. But you know, it was still an amazing day. It was one of those days I won’t forget here. You can’t forget Paris, even with the tourist overload. It’s still Paris. Yeah, that word has a lot of class. Buying a shirt in Lille has way less significance than buying the same shirt in Paris. So... that’s why I bought the same shirt that I saw in Lille, in Paris :D

First stop: Galeries Lafayette :D I was surprised at how much freedom we got. Benoît (our Rotary president) told us to meet up in two hours, stay in pairs, and then just let us go.... Wild! No, not really. We broke off into groups. I stuck with Rachel (American) and Miwako (the Japanese student). It was fun, but not very successful as far as shopping goes. Everything was outrageously expensive. Outrageous! There was an enormous Christmas tree underneath an absolutely breathtaking dome that we awed and goggled at for awhile. And then we amused ourselves by looking at all the stuff that we couldn’t possibly afford. A simple sweater with five buttons? 200 euros please. A ridiculous feather boa made of crow feathers? 3, 500 euros? Like I said, Paris is a city for people with money. If you want to be stylish, that is.

The window displays were cool in the Galeries Lafayette with strange little dolls that danced around jumbo sized present boxes, but it honestly didn’t feel like the holiday season. I really thought of all places, Paris would be a really magical place around Christmas time. But... it was sunny (for awhile) and cold and felt like it could have been in the middle of October or March. I really think it’s the Christmas music that gets me in the spirit. Christmas is in exactly one week and it really really really doesn’t seem like it. Not at all. I love this season usually, but it just doesn’t feel like the apple cider/jolly music/generous/puffy coats/Starbucks frappuccino kind of season. Where did Christmas go?

We went into Zara later (one of my favorite French stores!) and I bought a nice cardigan. Then we met back up with the others later and had lunch. When they mentioned lunch in Paris, I don’t why, but I pictured escargot in a restaurant like the one in the movie "Ratatouille". Silly me. We went to a cafeteria styled restaurant that had plastic trays and already-made-self-serve food. We didn’t have to pay for it so it was really nice of Benoît and all... but still. I had a Croque Madame with fries. So fatty and greasy, but filling. Not exactly fine French cuisine, but hey– it was a free meal on our part.

Then after lunch we took the metro down to the Champs Elysées where they had their first ever Marché de Noël (Christmas market). Again, Benoît let us run free for two hours with the destination point at the Arc de Triomphe. We went into the Disney store and almost got trampled by the plushie crazed tourists. Hmm.... and I saw Starbucks! (!!!) I have so many great memories in that place. I miss it. I didn’t get anything there though because of the lovely one million person line. Then I bought some presents in Yves Roches. I personally think it’s quite classy to buy someone a present from Paris, but hey that’s just my opinion. I think a big part about visiting Paris is afterwards being able to say that you were in Paris. It’s the reputation and the name that people awe at. When you’re actually there for a lil’ visit you spend all your time taking pictures to prove to everyone that you were there. Not to mention that you spend all your money buying souvenirs (I <3 Paris) or clothes that you could probably buy much cheaper in a different, less classy city.

Okay– Paris is amazing. Don't get me wrong, I love it. But it’s not a family city. It’s an old city for the young. Or the very very old who still sit in cafés beneath the Eiffel Tower with their berets, drinking wine, and talking about the times before the Internet and when eating frogs was normal... Ah, vive la France. But I could totally go for another shopping weekend there. I need more time to explore and discover the city. One day just isn't enough.

After our second burst of shopping, we went to the top of the Arc de Triomphe. (!!!) It was really really cool. I actually didn’t even know that you could go up to the top before we did it. I also never thought of how you had to get over to walk around it because if you know anything about traffic, the traffic around the Arc de Triomphe is horrific. If there’s an accident, it's charged at both cars because there's no way to show proof. It’s like a wild race between cars that two competing five year olds are controlling. Unfortunately it started to get stormy and rainy at this point of the day. Allison (my American friend) and I were late when we arrived and when we stopped before the traffic circle we looked at each other and thought: «Uhh.... Do we run?» Silly us. There was an underground passage-tunnel thing that goes under the traffic circle and right up to the Arc. Yeah, if that didn’t exist the tourist population in Paris would dramatically decrease. Because they would all be Crêpes à la Triomphe. <--- Sorry, I thought that was funny.

I have to admit that one of the best moments of the day was at the top of the Arc. It wasn’t the amazing view of the city, it wasn’t taking a million pictures, it wasn’t watching the city lights of Paris turn on when it grew dark, it wasn’t watching the Eiffel Tower light up. It wasn’t freaking out in the cold. It was when Megan (American), Miwako, and I took pictures with a huge, random Japanese tourist group. We were the last left of our group to leave, but right before we did a Japanese dude asked us to take the picture of the Japanese people. Then they asked us to be in their picture. As you can imagine, we all did the ridiculous peace sign. Asian people are the main supporters of superficial peace. But still, it was hilarious, random, and a wonderful moment between foreign strangers on top of a Paris monument. Love life.

So then we all ran through the rain, piled into the metro, got on the bus, played some of those road trip games, then chatted until we reached our dinner destination. At... wait for it........ at a gas station! Ha :O But it was a classy gas station. I had some ham and potatoes.

So voilà. Paris :D It was really fun, beautiful, and... yet, not so Christmas-y. Like I said, I don’t have that warm, winter-season feeling. Not even after seeing the pretty lights. But oh well. I went to Paris!

Here are the pictures:
Beautiful Christmas tree at the Champs Elysées
I love Zara!
Miwako and Rachel :)

Lunchtime. Left to right: Kirana (Indonesian), Aayushi (Indian), me (American), and Miwako (Japanese).

Check out that traffic! Oh, and that one arc thing ;)



On top of the Arc de Triomphe
Pretty lights of Paris: Champs Elysées

Left to right: Miwako, me, Kirana, and Kelly :)

With all the Japanese tourists that we didn't know :D


Voilà.

There is always so much to talk about and catch up on. I have so many feelings and thoughts that constantly race past my mind, but I’ve been quite busy and tired so they often swirl around in my head until they’re all but just faint memories. And then I try to write them all down again. :P Hope to write to you again soon. Bisous.

November 25, 2011

3 Months In

I hit the three month anniversary mark of being in France last week! It's incredible how fast time flies. I know I've said that before countless times, but it really surprises me when I look back and try to pick up all my memories that have all been crammed into three months. My three month anniversary day was actually the same day as Thanksgiving. I have a lot to be thankful for. Where do I start? Well, this amazing opportunity to come to France; with all the good and all the bad. My friends; the new and the old. My family; my real one and my host one(s). My home; on both sides of this world. Everyone's support. That I have a school to go to. That I have a future to look forward to. That I have people around me that I love oh so very much. That you're reading this blog. ;)
I'm not a huge Thanksgiving/turkey person but I do believe that it's a day where one can at least think about what they're thankful for. So I want to give a huge THANK YOU and a MERCI to everyone whose helped me along the way! Really, I don't know how I could have gotten this far alone.

As for the actual day of Thanksgiving, I had a really fun morning. We had our TPE presentation thing then. I didn't really know what it was or what to expect, but it turned out to be a blast. All of the students in the première (junior) class (over one hundred of us!) were in the same building (the same one I had my concert in!) and everyone presented their project to the sophomore class that walked through (so crowded!) Then I realized that it was a competition to get the most votes. Everyone started out explaining their projects in detail to people that stopped by, but in the end it was purely a competition to get the sophomores to vote. People were clever. I had joked about bringing candy to the event the other day, but almost every single table had some type of food to lure the sophomores over. I had changed groups because my other one had issues deciding on a topic... so now we're studying (it's kind of complicated, but basically...) peace and love. We're going to analyze two songs that were written in times of war and sought to bring peace, love, etc. So the girls had already made a giant hot pink poster and we had speakers to play the songs. Unfortunately, the other tables around us had music too so no one heard us. But it was like a dance party :) I found some candy and had the idea to cut up pieces of paper with "Peace and Love" written on them to hand out. We didn't do so bad with the votes. 30 something :D Because we were motivated and knew how to play the game. The other girls in our class only got like 5 votes because they just sat there expecting people to come over and ask about their historic-literary-content of their project. Um... no. Those kids wanted candy. The whole thing was kind of a mess. Animals were everywhere. Someone had brought a hamster, some mice, and grasshoppers. I think they lost the grasshoppers in the end. I really hate it when people walk up to you with a mouse in their hand and grasshoppers on their arm. But yeah, my group was L2 and we were literally screaming "L2, L2, L2!!!" to everyone. One time I shouted "Hey come here, I'm the American!" and they actually came over. Haha. We were all dying of laughter. Team power. Domination.

And also for Thanksgiving, my English teacher had asked me to make a PowerPoint about its history and traditions. I made it, but I had no idea how many times I would have to present it! Throughout the week, I presented it to my première L class, the terminale ESA class, the première ESA class, the terminale ESB class, and the seconde F class. Phew! And I still have some more presentations next week... Luckily, they all basically understood (I talked in English) and they all laughed when I talked about the presidential turkey pardoning and turkey bowling(<-- look it up). I got to meet some new people and now know quite a bit about Thanksgiving. I think I could give that presentation by heart.

On a last note about Thanksgiving, I had the big dinner last night with all the other exchange students in Valenciennes. We had been planning it for a long time and it turned out pretty good. Most of us got there four hours beforehand to help decorate. The room looked ridiculous with red, white, and blue everywhere. It was more like a Fourth of July room gone bad with balloons and sparkles covering the tables. French people don't know much about Thanksgiving and we couldn't exactly counter the Rotary president's orders so... yeah... It was fun talking with everyone and catching up. The food was yummy, except for the turkey which was sort of like dried rubber. I loved the pies for dessert and the stuffing. Usually I hate stuffing, so that's saying something. Also, all the Americans had to make a little speech thing about Thanksgiving. I don't have much stage fright nowadays :) Here's what went down on Saturday:
SPEECH
That's all of us :)
Fourth of July?

French Candy boat. Hello pimples.
Appetizers :) Yum. Salmon on toasties
Americans!

With Japanese exchange student :) Peace.
Brownies, American apple pie, and some ice cream. We like to eat in France.
Speaking of the food... the Americans were in charge of the cooking. I had to make brownies, apple sauce, two apple tarts, and mashed potatoes. Each dish for ten people. :O Solution? I called Marie-Michelle for help. She and I stayed up until three in the morning the night before in the kitchen cooking, singing, dancing, and jamming out to music. It was so much fun and our food turned out good, except for the mashed potatoes. The potatoes weren't cooked well enough so there were clumps of raw potatoes in the mashed parts. We tried to fix it, but in the end my host mom came to the rescue... and it turned out to be mediocre. Oh well. Not all of us can be great chefs at two in the morning. Still, everyone loved our brownies and tarts.
Yes, we drew a face on that potato.

Mashed potatoes and brownies :)

Makin' brownies
What we do at one in the morning... those are potatoes. And he's a potato pimp.

Umm.... as for the rest of last week, there wasn't anything particularly special except for that I had lunch at the Damelincourts one day and it was really nice. Their mom is an amazing cook and their house is very pretty. I had the impression that all French houses were similar to mine, but they're really not. Mine is more classic and theirs is more modern. Way more modern. So we ate French onion soup, a leek tart, and a legit blueberry pie. So so so good. And their mom gave me an enormous bag of candy. It has a million tiny bags of gummies that I've been snacking on way too much for my own good. People keep giving me candy and I keep eating it <--- problem.

Oh yeah, and Sunday I went out to a town near Lille with the Rotary. It was supposed to be super cool with other exchange students from England, but it turned out to be very different than I thought... I ended up having lunch in this museum that used to be a fancy swimming pool called "La Piscine" (which means swimming pool... huge surprise there). There were a bunch of Rotarians there from the Netherlands and Germany which was cool, but not many people my age. I ate a lasagne dish and a specialty waffle thing for dessert that was amazing. Then we went on a three-hour-something tour of the museum. I hung out with my Rotary president's son the whole time. It was kind of fun, but still a disappointment for what I had been expecting.

So I'm very tired now. Good night all. It's almost December which means it's almost vacation time which means it's almost Christmas which means it's almost a new year which means it's almost time to switch host families which means that there's a lot of stuff that's going to change really soon! A bientôt et bisous :)

November 22, 2011

Manneken Pis and Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

That title probably looks like gibberish to you. I shall explain. But first off, it seems like my daily blogs just changed to weekly blogs. Sorry :P There's always so much going on, it's hard to keep track of it all. But I will attempt to update you... for those who still curiously check this blog everyday to find the same post that's been up for a week. Um, anyways where to start?

Let's talk about yesterday before I forget and then backtrack. So I had my concert last night! It actually went really well. I was pretty frazzled all day because I mixed up my schedule and woke up an hour late. I thought I was getting a ride to school but I ended up having to walk-- super speed walk, more like it-- and I wasn't late to my next class. Skills. Anyways, the concert was in the study hall building and the seats seemed pretty filled with all the parents. We had a sloppy rehearsal beforehand but the real thing pulled together by itself. I introduced everyone with my handy note cards (thank you Morgan and Sophie). I made some errors and blubbered sometimes but at the end people congratulated me and said that I did well. I also didn't flub my song Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. People got a kick out of the title when I said it in my "classy" American accent.

"Maintenant je vais jouer un petit morceau pour vous... elle s'appelle supercalifragilisticexpialidocious."

It was actually a graded concert so I hope I "passed." I better have. Seriously, I need points worth more than brownie points for being the presenter and all. I was sort of forced to do it, but it turned out in the end to be a good experience. So who would have thought that I would ever pick up my clarinet again after three years, play a Disney song and talk in front of a room full strangers... all in French... all in France. I guess it made me more confident. Plus, my fear of microphones has largely subsided. But still, it's a scary thing.
That's us playing our song ;)
The other performances were really good. When I got home I bought a lot of the songs that the people had sung/played. My iTunes library is consisting of more and more French songs. All the songs that I've listened to here and always going to be the ones that I'm going to remember as the songs from this year in France.

So now that the large scary concert is no longer lurking in the shadows of the future... I am more at ease. As for the rest of the week beforehand, let's see... I'll try to recall the highlights:

Monday: After school I went with Marie-Armelle to her friend's house. I wasn't quite sure what it was going to be about, but like all random opportunities like that I said yes. It turned out to be a little Bible study session. No comment.

Tuesday: So remember that Physics test that I thought I totally bombed? Well, guess who got the best grade in the class. Me. (What!!) I was shocked. I got 13 (out of 20) while some of the smartest girls in the class got 4's and 7's. I kept thinking "How in the world is that possible??" I am 70% sure that I was graded easier because if you saw some of my responses... you would understand. I mean at the end I even wrote to the teacher "There probably isn't a correct answer on here, but I tried." So yeah. I'm definitely keeping that test for a long time. Then later I took a history test that I was 99% sure I failed. I hardly understood the questions, and the sentences I wrote were that of a third-grade grammar level. But oh well. I tried.

Wednesday: I had lunch at Marie-Michelle's house! My host family was out all day so I went back over to her house after school also. I really like that family and I love their house. I'm very excited to live with them later on this year. Her grandparents eat with them every Wednesday and her grandmother makes homemade French fries. Yum. It was fun after school too. Marie-Michelle had some homework so I helped her mom, Isabelle, cook a very "orange" dinner. Carrot tarts and pumpkin soup. Everyone in that family is so sweet. And I love how they have a very big car that is always blasting music. It's like the party SUV that can hardly fit on the narrow French streets.

Thursday: Got the history tests back. 14. I swear, I don't understand. I think it was luck that I don't think will last for all my tests. But I do have my extensive history class from last year to thank. I guess I retained some of that stuff after all. I was pretty proud and shocked yet again. It was one of those tests where the teacher says the question, you write down the question, and then you answer the question. Completely oral, no multiple choices, no true or false, not much room for guessing... and yet... I got a 14 :)

Friday: A super great Friday. I ate out in town with Céline, the other Céline, Marie, and Mathilde. We went to a Japanese restaurant and I had sushi and potstickers for the first time in almost forever.. so delish! I was surprised to learn about Cambrai's ethnic restaurants. They're all really good.



So then when I went to Saint Bernard I ended up helping a different class. Remember the last time at the recess break with my "new best friends"? Yes, the little nine year olds still remembered me and screamed and shrieked in joy when they learned that I was going to their class. They all kept grabbing my hands, giving me hugs, and asking me questions. I'm quite popular in that class, I must say. So then afterwards I went and saw Breaking Dawn (you know, the fourth and almost final Twilight movie *insert fan screaming*) with Manon. Yeah... well, Manon freaked out and claimed that it was the most amazing movie ever. I didn't exactly have the same opinion, but it was a fun night. I was surprised not to hear people laughing throughout it. People took the awkward scenes very seriously. I think it just made it way more awkward. But I like seeing movies in French theaters. And I was pretty proud to have understood almost everything.

Saturday: BELGIUM!!! It was Anne-Soizic's birthday so the whole family (Morgan and the grandma also) went up to Bruxelles for the day. I wasn't feeling too hot for the afternoon because I have a stupid cold. But it was all right because we basically talked and ate for most of the day. I gave Anne-Soizic a pair of earrings and gave the grandma a box of chocolates. We had two amazing cakes (one was a cheesecake, but it was nothing compared to good ole New York style...) And they had the wicked French firework/lighter candles:
Seriously like the best cake ever. First: a layer of meringues, then fruits, then ice cream, then a Speculoos cookie base.
Gettin' the cheesecake ready.
Whoo!
Then that night, we hit the town! Bruxelles is where it's at. It's beautiful, lively, young, and where the party's happening. That sounded ridiculous, but anyways it was more fun to roam around in than in Brugge which is calmer and more... uh... historic? We passed so many waffle shops (legit waffles that I really wish I had gotten to taste.)


And I got to see the most famous monument in Belgium... apparently.

... a masterpiece.
 Yes, it's a statue fountain of a little boy peeing. It's called the Manneken Pis and it really is the most famous monument. Don't ask me why, I have no idea. But everyone was taking pictures in front of it like it was the Eiffel Tower. All the boutiques had imitations in their store fronts and all the cheap tourist shops sold little minis. I bought one for my Rotary vest :) No one will understand that back in America. Here's a glimpse of Bruxelles for y'all:

Classy shopping area. I bought some chocolates there.
Live Christmas manger in the process of being built with live animals! No Jesus, though.

The guys who don't move unless you give them money.
With the famous Manneken Pis.
A wannabe Manneken Pis. Wit dem waffles. :)

Another wannabe. Chocolate imitation.
I love Bruxelles.
So I had planned for Sunday to be a day to get a lot of things done. You know how that goes... But I did prepare like crazy for my concert. Morgan was around and he was very helpful. He and Sophie (who came over later) helped type up all my introduction papers. And then we watched YouTube videos for like two hours. They really like Britain's Got Talent.

So like I said, "I got a lot of things done."

So there was my week. I probably forgot things, but at least I got most of the details spilled out. Thanksgiving and my three month anniversary here are coming up. Love to you all, wherever you are. A bientôt et bisous :)

November 11, 2011

11/11/11 and Belgium Waffles

Two very special days have come and gone. One was the much anticipated 11/11/11. If you're a superstitious number freak then this day would have been pretty huge for you... same goes for if you're just a die-hard 11:11 wisher. I'm with the latter, so I was pretty psyched. But I actually didn't do that much on this day. Of course I made my epic wish at 11:11 (on 11/11/11)...

Unfortunately, my clock is in military time so it says 23:11... but this was really at 11:11 on 11/11/11 :)
In the afternoon I went over to the Robalo's house to hang out with Clothilde. Two of her friends came over too and we played some board games and ate cake together. Later in the evening Clothilde, me, and the neighbors went to go see a movie. It was called "Les Intouchables" and I can proudly say that I understood it and thought that it was really funny. It was one of those times where I sat back and listened to the French around me like it was my native language and like it was just another way of communicating– instead of just focusing on translating and letting all the word jumbo float past my head. Of course, I had to ask Clothilde to explain a lot of the jokes, but it felt really good to understand them by myself and be able to laugh with all the French people in the theater. So yeah. I've seen three French movies in theaters now and the last one was definitely the best out of the other two. Third time's the charm... all over the world.

And then Saturday was the other special day. I went to Belgium!!! It was so much fun. We went to a beautiful, touristic city called Brugge with Anne-Soizic. It was hard to imagine that in two hours we had driven to a completely new country, but the culture shock really hit when we were walking around the train station and I saw weird gibberish looking words all over the place. That would be one of the Belgium language: Flemish. It sounds like German mixed with English and it looks like a toddler just played the drums on a keyboard.


The one word of Flemish that I learned: Pickpocket=Zakkenroller
More people there speak English than French so in the stores that we visited I got to speak English. Every single one of the shop owners spoke at least three languages: Flemish, English, and French. It was crazy. When we were waiting in line for our Belgium waffles (yes, I got to eat Belgium waffles in Belgium!) the lady spoke Flemish to one person then switched to French at the next, then English, then back to Flemish, etc. etc. Mad skills. Oh, and Belgium waffles are absolutely delicious :D


For lunch, we ate at Pizza Hut. It was actually my first time eating there. (Haha remark that my first time eating in an oober American restaurant was in Belgium with a French family...) It was yummy, but obviously not the classic European food. We got a pizza buffet option so we had no limits on how much pizza we could get. So American. The others didn't really like it... and I don't blame them. American cuisine doesn't really cut it with all this French food everywhere.


So then to work off all that pizza, we walked around the beautiful town while I took pictures. There were tons of canals, pretty buildings, and horse-driven carriages. Here you go:





Belgium chocolate :)



My new friend.
Like a little Venice...
At the Grande Place :)



And then... we hit the shops! I love shopping in Belgium. Well, I just love shopping. Everything was outrageously expensive, but I found a Bruges pin to put on my blazer. Now wherever I go, I have to look for pins. In any other situation a blazer covered with hundreds of random pins would be considered extremely odd and not exactly "à la mode" but for a Rotary exchange student... it's normal ;)

Everyone was super exhausted by the end of the day and I totally crashed on the carride back. But good news is that I'm going back to Belgium next weekend to Bruxelles for Anne-Soizic's birthday. Whoo! 

Then that Sunday I stayed in all day. I found the time to work on my Thanksgiving presentation that I have to make for English class and I also Skyped with the folks back home. Sundays are normally chill days to relax a bit after the hectic week. So then Monday came and I learned in music class that I'm not going to sing... but on the other hand, I'm going to be the presenter of the show! I'm going to be that person who talks between performances, introduces everyone, makes jokes that no one laughs at, and is supposed to be somewhat memorable...Yikes.

So yeah... It's almost my three month anniversary here. I can honestly say that this experience is going to stay with me for the rest of my life. I'm going to remember all the people that I've met, all the things that I've learned, and all the little things in between. I've adapted faster than I thought I would have. I think that no matter what happens on these exchanges, it's still going to be an unforgettable experience that will change you as a person. Now I'm not trying to change things to make every situation ideal; I'm just accepting things as how they are and realizing that every surprise and disappointment is just part of this crazy year. It's my experience and it's going to be different from anyone else's. Sorry to go all zen-like on you, but being an exchange student makes you really think sometimes.

All right, I'm done for now. I hope you are all doing well, wherever you are in the world. A bientôt et bisous :)