I'd first like to thank you for keeping in touch with my throughout the semester and reading my blog during this amazing experience. As I said in one of my first blog posts, I wanted to keep an online journal of my thoughts and experiences and photos to share with everyone who helped me get to where I am today and to embark on this crazy study abroad experience. I'm glad you've followed my journey and in someways I hope you felt included in everything I have been apart of these past 5 months because without all of your love and support I wouldn't be able to write this final blog post and conclude my time abroad if it wasn't for you. One of my favorite quotes comes from Dr. Seuss and said: "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened", and while I am very excited to come home and see everyone again and sleep in my own bed and not have to stumble for words to express what I'm trying to say to a foreigner, I am a little said to say good bye to France and to close the book on this chapter in my life. I have met many wonderful people through my program and through my travels who have touched my life and my heart in a very deep way and they will never be forgotten. I've been pushed to my limits and put in situations that made me grow up very fast, but it is from this experience that I am a different person, I hope a better person. Someone with a more developed world view and appreciation for the world and all the people that make up such beautiful and rich cultures and nations. In traveling the world I've developed a new appreciation for humanity and the world around me. I've also come to realize how much I take for granted my own country and the freedoms that come with being an American. I could easily say I have seen a lot of the world at this point in my life, as least more than many others can account for and yet I look at my own country and realize how much it still has to offer. How much I haven't seen and experienced in my own backyard. I've loved this experience and wouldn't trade a minute of it for anything in the world. I think spending 5 months away from home and outside my comfort zone has proven to me that there is a world out there to explore and fall in love with time and time again, but I need to not forget where my true home is and where I come from and the amazing family and friends I will always have to come home to.
Well I have one more trip to tell you all about before I end my final blog.
After my spring break trip to Germany and Austria I had about 2 weeks to rest up and in that time I took my final exams. The weekend in between the two weeks of final exams, I went on a day trip with some of my friends to Cassis. Cassis is a small coastal city on the Mediterranean Ocean. We took a bus around noon and just laid on the beach and played around in the water for a couple of hours. You can rent a boat or canoe and explore the cliffs and other beaches along the coast. The beach was a rock beach rather than sand and I actually preferred this so you didn't get covered in sand, but the water was pretty cold for me. The last bus from Cassis to Aix was at 4:30 and much too early in the day for us, so we made the 30 minute walk to the train station and took the train home.
I only had two final exams to take during the two week period and of course one of those exams was on the last Friday afternoon. I am happy to inform you that I made all As and Bs in my classes. After final exams were over we had our program dinner with everyone that was still in France, since some students decided to leave early as soon as their exams were over. The program dinner was held at a hotel reception hall in Aix and they served a very nice 3 course meal. In between the main entree and dessert the program directors showed a slide show of photos from both the year long program and my semester program. Everyone had a chance (if they wanted) to tell some their favorite memories from the semester. After the dinner some of us went out to our favorite bars for one more drink together and then we got the brilliant idea to go jump in all the fountains in Aix. Now Aix-en-Provence is known as the city of fountains and has over 40 different fountains. We only made to about 10 and thank god never got caught! The water was of course very cold, but with a beer or two in your system it really wasn't too bad. The next morning after the program dinner I left for Corsica with 4 of my friends who were on the year long program.
We took a train from Aix to Nice, France (which I had visited earlier in the semester with my mom) and from there we took a ferry to Calvi, Corsica. Corsica is a French island close to Italy and just above Sardinia. Napolean (the short French dictator everyone has heard of) was born on this island and rumor has it that Christopher Columbus landed on the island to explore. We had rent a small beach cabin for the week and our landlord we were renting from was kind enough to pick us up at the dock and drive us to the beach house. The beach cabin was very nice with a fully equipped kitchen and bathroom, and just enough beds for everyone. I shared the loft with my friend Alexa. There was even a TV, but we didn't really take time to watch any TV. There was a barbecue area out front with a table and chairs where we ate dinner together. Everyday I went to the beach and just soaked up the sun and played in the ocean. Two of my friends rented a scooter for 3 days to drive up the coast and check out other beaches. There was a citadel up on a hill by the docks that I explored on one of the days in the morning before the sun got too hot. The water in the ocean was so clear and shallow and there were little fish swimming around our legs when we'd walk far into the water. One day we saw a military plane fly in low over the beach and then into the mountains that surrounded the city and drop off 20 paratroopers. I had to google this, and found out that during WWII the U.S. used Corsica as a landing and launching point to bomb Italy and the French military still uses it today to practice. We were on the island for 7 full days and on the last day when we were packing up and getting ready to leave we all took one more look at the beach cabin and shared the thought that we did not want to leave this place. Corsica made for a good last trip abroad to relax and have fun with friends, and on a low budget. We took the ferry back to Nice, France and had about 2 hours before our train left for Aix so I went up to the northwest neighborhood of Nice to check out the Russian cathedral. It's supposed to be the biggest Russian cathedral in Europe, but it seemed kind of small to me. You had to pay 3 euro to go inside so I opted out of that and just checked out the exterior architecture and designs. I took the train back to Aix with two of my friends and got home around 9:30. I really loved my time in Munich, but Corsica was a great trip as well. It's not everyday that one can spend a week on a beach on an island in the Mediterranean with nothing to do but sleep and swim in the ocean. It makes reality suck!
This past weekend Aix had a "garage sale", and so of course I could not pass that up!! Cathy and I went pretty early in the morning for us at least and spent almost 3 hours browsing the booths. Since French homes don't typically have drive ways and there really aren't neighborhoods, the city blocked off a main road in the center of the town and everyone who wanted a spot could rent a booth from 7 am to 7 pm and sell their wares. I bought a couple books, some old pictures of Aix and a deck of French playing cards. Yes they are different than American playing cards, but only because of the king, queen, jack, and ace. Cathy got really lucky and bought some of the Harry Potter books in French for a euro a piece where they would typically be sold for about 16-20 euro a piece. Cathy's dinner family had a booth so I got to meet her host mom and sister.
Well at this moment I have about 3 days left in France will be leaving next Tuesday morning. I'll fly to Munich and then Philadelphia where I have a 6 hour layover and fortunately get to spend some time with my Aunt Kathy and cousin Victor. I'll then fly to Louisville and my dad will pick me up and we'll make the two hour drive home. My last week in France has been busy with terminating different services, cell phone, internet, etc. and packing, lots of packing. I think I can get all this loot I have collected into two suitcases a back pack and a shoulder bag I'm going to try to pull off as an over sized purse. It's also filled with a lot good byes, to my new friends and family I've made in France. I met with my french family for the last time this past Wednesday. The last time I had met with them we talked about all the American food that you can't find in France, such as chocolate chip cookies. So I baked them a batch of chocolate chip cookies, and all three kids started salivating as soon as they saw them and begged and pleaded with their mom to have just one before dinner. It was a really nice last dinner with them. I played cards with the three kids rather than doing an english lesson. It was a defining moment in the French education up to this point because I was able to teach them about 5 new card games all in French without stumbling for words or causing a lot of confusion for them. It felt really good to know that even in small ways my French had improved and my confidence to speak the language had improved by leaps and bounds over these past 5 months. After dinner I stay until almost 11:00pm and I think the mom didn't really want me to go home. She even offered that I could spend the night at their house if I wanted so I wouldn't have to walk home alone in the dark. Aix is a pretty safe city and I wasn't worried about that. We sat out on their front patio for about an hour or two just talking and making observations about France and talking about what I'll miss most about France and what I have missed most about the U.S. They gave me a good bye gift. It was a scarf, which is only too appropriate for me and my obsession with scarves. I was able to get a photo with them, so of course I will post that, and I gave them all my contact info so if they ever come visit the US they can come see me, and they told me if and when I ever come back to France I am welcome to stay with them. I think the dinner family portion of the program was one of my favorite parts. Even though I dreaded going on some weeks, once I was there I always had a lot of fun with the kids and talking to the mom and of course she is an amazing cook so the food was guaranteed to be great.
top 5 things I will miss about France:
1. the food, especially the cheese and fresh warm baguettes
2. the weather. it's always sunny and warm out
3. trains. being able to jump on a train and in an hour or so be in another part of the country or even Europe. In the US everything is so spread out, where as in Europe one can explore so many different places in a couple of days and on a minimal budget.
4. my French family
5. little french kids and their cute accents (I may still try to bring one home with me)
top 5 things I missed about the US
1. mom and dad
2. my closest friends (you know who you are)
4. peanut butter
5. my own room and privacy
I love quotes so I have one final quote that I love to use whenever possible. Lewis Carrol originally wrote these words and Rosie O'Donnel quoted them in the movie "Harriette the Spy".
The Walrus and the Carpenter by Lewis Carrol
..."The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings."
Mr. Carrol is right. The time has come for talk of many things. Talk of great memories from the past and what's to come in the future. I have loved my time in France and wouldn't trade it for the world, but the time has come that I should return home. Home to my family and friends, home to my Bloomington, and home to what has always been most comfortable to me. My France will always be here, but for now I should come Gros Bisous!! A bientot!!
Many kisses and see you soon!!