For my final blog I want to take a brief moment to say thank you. I want to thank all the lovely people that helped me have this special experience. Thank you to all the Bush teachers who helped initiate and create this program and to Bush itself. I also want to say a huge thank you to my host family, the Juillets, for letting me stay in their house and eat their food. I know, of course, that they will not read this but I feel it is still important to say. I also want to thank France as a country and the French as a people. If they did not live in France or build France there really wouldn’t be much point in doing this. I must thank President Macron and his ex-teacher and his current wife Brigitte for being very french. To speed things up i’m going to use a colon. I want to thank: the food and drinks department of french airlines, the cable service company, and Ikea. I also want to make note of Netflix for its great programming and say F*%K you to Hulu for not being available in France. I must mention Spotify for giving me music and apple for making such a secret listening device (airpods). I want to thank NASA and the CIA, Noam Chomsky and Pablo Picasso. Let’s not forget Saturn and of course, all of it’s rings. We must pay tribute to Etta James and The temptations. And last but not least, God.
I thought I would be able to get away with two blog posts but alas, here we are. Because I already wrapped things up in my last post, I thought I would leave you all with some interesting facts about France:
- France and England briefly considered becoming one nation when faced with German invasion in 1940. Naturally, this idea did not last very long.
- France has the highest number of roundabouts in the world. Their 30,000 accounts for over half of the roundabouts in the world.
- England and France were on the same time zone before World War II. After the German occupation in 1940, France was forced to align with German time. This has yet to be revisited.
- With the president’s permission, it is possible to marry a dead person in France.
- President Charles de Gaulle made it into the Guinness Book of World Records for surviving 32 assassination attempts, more than anyone in the world.
- With one in five people suffering from depression, France is the most depressed country in the world.
With that I bid you all adieu.
Today, we are going to talk about language. Let’s start with Betty. See Betty had a bit of bitter butter which she added to her batter. Now as you can imagine, her bitter butter rendered said batter rather bitter. I know, scary. But fear not, because Betty then added a bit of better butter to her very bitter batter and ameliorated its condition.
This is what is known as a Dickensian tongue twister or a D.T.T. The thing about D.T.Ts is they don’t exist but in my mind I like to think they do.
Another fun thing about language is that we can string together phrases that have never been uttered in the history of the english language using ordinary words. For example, “love tuna splendidly, but not as much as green wallets with books on pianos.” Perfectly ordinary words never said before in our thousands of years on this Earth. A ripple on ripple, image on image, wheel within a wheel like the circles that we find within the windmills of our mind. But I digress. These random tongue twisters and phrases make me think about language and how much we can take for granted. One of the things that really struck me while living in France is the ability to make jokes and to understand jokes. To me jokes are one of the simplest but most joyous things in the world and now, I have a new appreciation for all jokes as I hope you do to.
I wish everyone a fabulous week and I leave you with this:
“hold the newsreader’s nose squarely waiter, or friendly milk will come to my trousers.”
As my time in France is beginning to come to a close, I have found myself reflecting on some of the more notable and interesting things I’ve learned during my stay that I will take back with me:
- One of the first things that I picked up on being around the French is that they have pretty stereotypical ideas about American eating habits. For example, during my first lunch with the French students in my class I was asked what I missed most about home. Before I could respond, one of the girls wryly interjected: “Oh McDonalds of course.” I responded, no, I did not miss McDonalds the most. In fact, surprisingly to them, McDonalds did not even make my list. I have become used to variations of this exact conversation. Ironically, I quickly realized that French youth eat McDonalds more often than the Americans I know. Because we have better hamburger places, my friends and I have no reason to go to McDonalds. But in France, especially a small town like Château-Gontier, McDonalds is their only option.
- At home, I typically have family dinners Sunday through Thursday. On the weekends my family and I often do our own things for lunch and dinner, and we all eat breakfast at different times. But here in France, every meal you eat is a family meal. They’re all the sit down and fully set table kind of meals. Cheese and desert is served at every lunch and dinner, and you can count on bread to be present at every single meal. That’s three times a day, not including goûter (5 pm snack)!
- We have two water containers in our house. One is a green pitcher that holds a good amount of water and the other is a tall glass bottle. When we set the table to eat, we set out the glass bottle for people to fill their glasses. This didn’t make sense to me because we each have about three glasses of water during the meal, meaning that someone has to go refill the water bottle three times while we eat. The pitcher holds more water, which could cut down trips to the sink during the meals. So I started setting out the pitcher instead of the bottle. The father let it slide the first couple of times but then he explained to me that we use the glass bottle for meals, not the pitcher. They use the pitcher to fill the glass bottle but the pitcher is not to be placed on the table. The idea of habit and ritual is much more powerful in France than it is in the US. This can be seen on this small scale as well as larger scales. The lycée system in France is a great example of that. It was established by Napoleon, redone in the 1950s, and since then has pretty much stayed the same. There is very little flexibility within the lycée system in terms of education style and content. The last year of lycée is finalized by a massive standardized test covering everything students learned in school. In other words, every French student in the Literature track, for example, learns the exact same thing at the same time in the same way so that they can take the same test. As an American who is more familiar to the “do it your own way” and “fix what needs fixing” mentality, the French “that’s just how it is” attitude is certainly not something I’m used to.
The most important thing I will be taking away is a much better understanding of the French language and greatly improved comprehension and speaking abilities. Thank you to the Bush School, Lycée Victor Hugo, and Passpartout for this amazing opportunity!
Please enjoy these flics I took throughout my time in France!
(Peep Mont St Michel!)
– Emma Smith ’18
Today was my last full day, I could finally sleep in. Instead of having breakfast and lunch there is brunch from 9:00 to 12:00 allowing one to partake in a hobbit’s breakfast. We all just ate and hung out for a while, there was French toast, crepes that could be made, and potato pancakes with sausage and scrambled eggs. A couple of us went to the gym where Colin and Omar had somehow connected there computers to the tv and were playing smash bros. The couches were scattered across the area making good resting points in-between breakfasts. We were all to full to really do anything for a while, I went back to my dorm, it’s funny there are always people in Eric’s room, a group of people were playing cards. I introduced to everybody shithead, and we have played a lot of Egyptian ratslap, which Eric has an unnatural ability for. At 2 there was a poker game being played across campus, we all went, I think there was 8 or 9 of us and It came down to myself and two others. I had to go to barn so we all put in our chips for one last round. It is a great game, although they shuffled the deck after each game which I thought was a little unfair. I had my last barn duty, although satisfying I don’t think I will miss this aspect of Putney. I have had a couple of different barn heads, since I joined p.m barn I have had Olga, who sometimes plays soccer with us, he is one of the best players. A very interesting guy, I liked him, but the barn process goes a little slower, that’s all right though. We walked some calf’s today, there is a whole muzzle/leash you put on the cow to walk it. My cow wanted to be free, and kept on sprinting everywhere. After Barn I came back and showered and quickly ate dinner, because there was a pickup soccer game on the grass field. There is a grownup league that plays on Sundays, a couple of us went, E-man, Jules, Olga, Larry, Morio. The grown ups had a big game going so we started a smaller one to left of it, a group of grownups joined us. It was incredible, I don’t particularly like playing on grass, but there grass is pretty nice. After I went and hung out with Jules and Merlin, but I had to pack and Jules had to develop some film so we all decided to come back later. I had a really fun night, a lot of gathered at Merlin’s room and talked until late. I can’t believe I I’m leaving tomorrow, I don’t really know how I feel about it, It will be nice to be home with all my friends and family but I really like the people I have met here.
Class started a little later today, I could wake up at 9 and still make it to class on time. My first class was English, we had a good long discussion about Othello, and especially focusing on Iago (probably butchered his name). What makes Iago interesting is that in our current world we state that all evil people are products of there environment, that there is a reason behind there madness. In Othello, Iago acts like the Joker, creating chaos purely for entertainment. After English we had milk lunch, I asked Quinten to send me some photos, hopefully, he will do that soon. My last class of the day was history, I really like it, mostly because I find the subject interesting. I had lunch after, and then I went and played some soccer in the gym, and played a lot of ping-pong. I came back to the dorm to shower, and then hung out with some juniors upstairs for most of the afternoon. I really like these two kids Jules and Morio who are both on the Lacrosse team, I think I would become even better friends if I could stay here longer. I went back to the gym and played some more ping-pong, and then Karaoke night started, that was fun. It went to the concert, that started at 9, the concert was outside, it was really cold, but you could see all the stars. They had a smoke machine, and it was lot better then I thought it was going to be. They had lights too, it was really set up well.
My final blog post for this trip falls right at the end of a 2-week break from school, and so I thought it would be appropriate to talk a little about what a vacation looks like in France. One of the first differences I noticed is that, according to some of the kids at school, it’s quite normal to get a whole two weeks off instead of just one. In fact, pretty much every school vacation is for two weeks. Personally, I think this is quite smart because it means you can go out of town for a week, then still have time to yourself at home where it could be easier to do any homework and hang out with your friends. And this is exactly what we did.
First off, we had a few days off since the week before the break ended on a Wednesday. Then Florine’s family and I packed up our bags and headed to L’île d’Oléron for a week to go “camping”. I’ve put camping in quotes because that is what they called it, however the experience is not what I think a typical American thinks when they hear the word camping. Instead of sleeping in tents in the woods, cooking your food on a campfire, and exploring nature, when the French go camping it means little houses surrounded by more houses all in a fenced off community with a couple amenities like a pool and a small restaurant/shop/bar where you could buy baguettes.
The house, like a lot of things in France, was small. Maybe that was heightened by the fact that we have four kids/teenagers living in close quarters for a week, and the walls were thin enough that you could hear any conversation in the common room/kitchen from your bed. Still, you learn to live with it.
Despite the rather limited space, I had a great time there. The house was about a five minute walk from the beach, which I loved. Because of this, we saw some pretty great sunsets. I also learned how to play pétanque! (Well, sort of learned. I picked up the rules from just watching, so there could be some subtleties I’m still missing out on, but I learned enough to play.) For those of you who don’t know pétanque, the basics are you take turns trying to throw your balls as close as you can to a small wooden ball called the “cochonnet”. Whoever is closest after the round ends gets points, and they you start over. You keep playing until one person or team reaches a certain number of points. However, there are some complexities to the game. For example, on your turn you can knock other player’s balls away with your ball, but if at any point your ball hits the sides of the play area, it is “dead” and won’t be counted.
After the week was over we headed back to our house in Azé (located just outside of Château-Gontier), and spent the rest of the vacation at home. Of course, we did take a few small day trips to a nearby castle and a mall. I slept in, read some books, and also managed to procrastinate my (French) homework until the last minute- just like I do while on vacation in the US. In these ways, at least, it’s not that different here.
Since this is my last blog post, I wanted to take some time to reflect on a few things I’ve learned about French culture or gotten to experience during my time here. Here is a list of some take a ways:
– First off, I learned what the bises actually means to French people. It’s a greeting, a sign of affection. You do it in the morning, in the evening, when you see a friend or family member at the store… Even if not everyone does the actual kisses over the cheek, it’s an important part of their culture. To them, it’s just a normal part of life. (If you think that it’s a little weird, you might be surprised to know that hugging someone as a greeting or a way to say good bye is just as weird to the French. They don’t ever do it except maybe to comfort someone.)
– French bread. I already knew this, but French bread cannot be beat. Seriously, there’s bread with pretty much every meal. You can eat it with cheese, with pâté or similar spreads, or just eat it plain. Baguettes cost around 1€ a piece, and with a family of six we can easily finish one or two off per day.
– Castles. I’ve had the opportunity to visit one other French castle before going on this exchange, but now I’ve seen many more. It seems like every other town out here has a castle of it’s own (or at least used to at some point).
– It can be good to laugh at your self sometimes. One of the first things I noticed here that seemed different from what I’m used to in America is that people here make more jokes at another person’s expense, and everyone from family to friends seem to tease each other more. It’s all in good fun, even if you’re laughing at each other it’s not supposed to be mean. While this was a bit disorienting at first, I think it’s good to be reminded not to take yourself too seriously. We all mess up sometimes and if we can laugh about it and move on, then we’ll be ok.
– Everything is just two hours from everything else. While this isn’t entirely true in practice, I think this statement sums up some of the differences regarding space between France in America. While “It’s about two hours away” may actually mean a four hour drive, the fact that the French consider that a long road trip, still surprises me.
Finally, I want to say thank you to Bush, to Lycee Victor-Hugo, to the cities of Seattle and Château-Gontier, to my own family and to the incredibly welcoming and generous Brielles family for putting this all together. I don’t know how many people will actually ever read all of this, but it’s been quite an amazing experience to get to be apart of. Big thanks to everyone involved!
-Chinese-Did work alright
-Assembly very interesting, Muslim woman breakdancing, teaching the world a new side of the Muslim cultural
-hung out in the gym, had the dream team for a soccer game, Olga E-man, Jules and I
-English before lunch, big discussion about Othello, interesting
-Lunch curry, pie
-Foursquare after lunch and a pingpong table was put up in the gym
-History learned about art in history, but the building side of it, very interesting, Germanies dream in the second world war was to make Berlin center of the world, looked at Roman agriculture to try to create an empire similar, Italy followed suit, and even in America this is used. Discussed Stalin, Communism in greater detail. Before discussing how Germany was able to begin to pay off there toll by the USA funneling money into the economy. THen Germany was able to begin to pay France and England off, who in turn would pay the United States. It worked great until people didn’t want to give money to Germany, instead to the stock market where everyone was getting money.
-Lacrosse practice, I don’t think we are going to be able to play tomorrow we don’t have enough players
-Barn was after, Putney has ruined my dream of becoming a farmer
-Showered, and then we had dinner
-Went to the gym and destroyed in ping pong
-Played some soccer and watermelon
-Went back to the dorm to check in before coming back to the gym
-became a lot closer to a lot of people today I feel like, people have been telling me I should move schools, it feels good.
I had a busy day today, I really feel like part of the school and will be sad to be leaving so soon. My first class was English 10 discussing Othello. After we had milk lunch, it was cheesy pizza rolls. We had singing next, but because we sang earlier in the week there was advisory instead. The school is having problems with people leaving their dishes outside after eating, and we had to propose solutions. I went to the gym after and hung out with people and talked. The gym has many parts, the actual weight room is in the corner on the second floor, the downstairs is the actual basketball gym, and then there is a hangout place when you first walk that you can play music. There is a pingpong table downstairs, but they made us stop playing because it was a conference block. After I had history class, which I really enjoyed, we are still discussing the first world war, but today we got more into the second and especially the cold war. I think Russia’s history is very interesting and will try to take a class at Bush when I come back. After was lunch, today was Mexican food, and then we went outside for a while before going to the gym to play soccer. I always tell myself to not get into too much, because I don’t like being too sweaty for my next class, but I am always unsuccessful. I wish there was more sun in Seattle, although I guess I came at a very good time because a week before I arrived there was snow. I had my creative writing class after lunch, God I love the teacher Seth and the entire class. I had lacrosse after class, our best player is no longer on the team, we are now 3 guys down from a week ago. Our next game is on Saturday, I’m looking forward to it, hopefully, I will be able to play. I had barn duty right after, but It turned out today was my day off, and went and hung out at the puddle. Max, E-Man, Lilly, Eric, and I all went out to dinner in some town that I forget the name of, maybe Middleburgh? That cannot be right, but it was nice getting some other food for a change. Every night you have to check in before 7:30 and 10:00, it was a little bit close but we made it. I had to go to my drumming class right after, which I enjoyed a lot more then last time, the teacher name is Steve but we call him Stevio, he reminds of Ben Wheeler, very down to earth. Tonight was Pizza night, after drumming I went, because I don’t have an actual student account I get free pizza, something I took full advantage of.
My sense of time is really thrown off, the only reason I know what day it is is because I write and have input a new date each night. Today class started later than usual, allowing me to sleep in. I still go to the cafeteria to late, and all the food was gone except for the toast. I don’t really want to talk about my classes, they went well though. We had a huge game of soccer that was really fun and then went swimming for 2 hours in the puddle. There is a wooden raft that is in the middle, we all went there and went on top of it, and messed around the entire time, we played mafia where if you were killed you have to jump off. The only problem is the puddle, is right next to the barn so I think it might be contaminated? Also even though it is called a puddle it is pretty deep, we had dinner and then I played some foursquare with people. I went swimming again tonight for a night swim that was really fun, funny how much colder it gets at night. Came back and showered and had dorm meeting.