Week 8 Grace Farwell

Already 8 weeks have gone by, and with just 2 remaining, I realize that there are so many memories that I will retain for a long time. I’d like to take his opportunity to share a few. 1. Twingo! That is the name of the small two door car which is the VW Punch Buggy of France. It’s the same concept: when you see a Twingo, you yell “Twingo (insert color here) and punch somebody. I swear, these cars are everywhere. In fact, my own host family has one. 2. Brioche: the delicious soft bread that I have only found here. My host mom likes to joke about the one time we passed a Briocherie on the road and I thought it was cool. 3. The parties. So I have been to a whole lot of birthday parties. There was a surprise one for Brock, an American doing a Rotary Exchange program, then a sleepover for a friend of my host sister, a party for my host sister’s grandpa (who turned 80), a party for Gino’s 16th birthday, a party for a baptism, and four dinner parties. See, here in France, the parties last a very long time. For example, for the grandpa’s party, we arrived at the “salle des fêtes” at 11:30 on Saturday morning and we were there until 2:45 am on Sunday, and that’s not all. On Sunday at 1:30, the guests return to the same salle to have another meal and end the anniversary. Part of the reason for why they are so long is that the meals take a lot of time to eat. For the baptism, we arrived at 7pm, had small snacks and drinks until 8:30, then the meal itself went until 12:30. I’ll remember this for a long time, and whenever I have a dinner at home it will feel so short! 4. The School Bus: in French, the word for ‘bus’ is ‘car’ so I was confused at first when Camille told me we would take the car and it ended up being a giant bus. The buses here are not your average yellow school bus, they’re actually coaches, the type one would take on a guided tour of a city or something of the sort. The car leaves school at 5:30pm, and I’ll always remember the feeling of ‘ahh I miss my car at home’ because sometimes I finish classes at 3:30 or even 2:30 yet I need to wait to take the bus back. However, the 50 minute drive is a very relaxing one, giving me time to listen to music and relax a bit after a long school day. I am always amazed at how the bus seems to fit through the tiny country villages and the small roads. In some towns, it’s almost as big as the buildings themselves. Driving through fields and past grazing cows is just so different from what I normally see on my drive home from school in Seattle, and when I do, I’ll be reminded of taking the ‘car.’

So, there are a few of my memories. Of course, I have so many more that are all noteworthy, but I can’t write them all down. Overall this Passepartout exchange has opened me up to a completely different way of life and I have been privileged to get to live it with my host family, creating lifelong memories and friendships.

Week 5, Vacation!

It is incredible that five weeks have already passed by and only another five remain. The past week and a half we have been on spring break, and it continues until the next Monday. Three sets of weekends and two sets of weekdays! It is long. Over the break, all of the Passepartout kids and their families went first to Caen for the weekend, then Paris the next.

Caen, April 8th-9th
We left on Saturday morning to drive to Caen, which was about a two and a half hour drive which took about 4 hours since we got lost and there were two different traffic diversions. We arrived at Pointe du Hoc, a cliff overlooking Omaha Beach in Normandy that had been filled (or emptied, come to think of it) with craters after being bombed as part of the WW2 D-Day invasion. There were destroyed fragments of bunkers and crawl-spaces littered about, as well as a monument constructed at the top of one fairly intact bunker.
We visited many museums, went to the water’s edge on Omaha Beach, and visited the American Cemetery, filled with thousands of white crosses and star tombstones for the men who lost their lives during the invasion and the months that followed. While at the cemetery, we happened to visit at the same time as a group of young French Marines, with whom we took a picture and they sang a song in a Pacific language in memorial. What an experience. Although it was my second time visiting Normandy, it was still stunning, and I was glad to see the historical monuments again.

Paris, April 15th, 16th, and 17th
Paris, the largest city in France, and only a three hour drive from Chateau Gontier! Again, we left on Saturday morning and met up with all the families when we arrived. The French sure know how to vacation – they vacation hard! Long days and early mornings, but that means more time do to things. After arriving in Paris, we hit the streets immediately, taking the metro from our hotel on the outskirts of the city to the Sacre-Coeur Basilica, the Opera building, then stopped for dinner in a French café. Day Two was even more: 22 kilometers of walking and even more kilometers by metro! We saw the Grand and Small Palais, the Arc de Triomphe, walked down the Champs Elysées, saw the Concord, ate a picnic lunch in the Tuileries, saw the Mona Lisa in the Louvre, and toured Notre Dame Cathedrale. On Day Three, we went to the Eiffel Tower, took a Bateaux-Mouches boat tour on the Seine, and did the funky wax-figure museum, the Musée Grevin. After a long weekend of walking, experiencing the big things in Paris, and being in a group of 14 people the whole time, it was nice to get back to the house and have a long night of sleep. The country and the city sure are different, and I’m lucky to have experienced them both with my French family.

Add-On Trip to England

 

I got to do a special trip just four days after landing in France: I got to take a weeklong trip to England! It sure is different because when in France, you really can just get up and drive to England for the day or the week, or another country of preference, since they’re all so much closer than the US is! I had known before coming to France that I would be going, and there was a lot of paperwork to do, but I find that it was worth it even with the quick country change.

We woke up at 2 in the morning to meet the bus at the school and leave by 3:30. We drove for about 4 hours to catch an 8:30 Brittany Ferry from the Caen dock to Portsmouth, England, arriving at about 1:30 England time (there was a one hour time change).

We saw Stonehenge, spent two days in Manchester walking around the Northern Quarter and Castlefield, and spent a day in Liverpool looking through a few museums. My favorite was the Merseyside Maritime Museum, since it had floors for both the Titanic and the Lusitania. Of course, I listened to some Beatles music too while in the bus.

There were about 60 of us on the trip. (60 kids – that is my whole grade at Bush!) While in England, we stayed in groups of three or four in host families. My host family was incredibly nice. There were three kids: two boys, 9 and 13, and a young girl who was 2 and absolutely adorable.

All in all, the England trip was a great experience and one that I wouldn’t have ever had, had I not decided to do the Passepartout Program. It sure was neat being in a group of French students going to England, and my brain was going back and forth from French to English when speaking to my English host family and the other French kids in my homestay group!

-Grace Farwell

Grace Farwell: Week Three in Chatêau Gontier

Today officially marks my third week in France, and already I have done so many new activities and discovered a different way of living. I’ve encountered similarities and differences, of which I can begin to describe here.

  1. School
    1. I am attending Lycée Victor Hugo, a high school with 750 students. That already is a major difference, having come from the Bush high school of just about 200 or so.
    2. The grades here are different. Instead of having freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors, they have got seconde, première, and terminale. I am a student of 1ES2, meaning that I am in the grade première and I am doing the ES course, which is social economics.
    3. Here, I am currently enrolled in nine different classes, but luckily they don’t all meet every day. There are eight hours of class periods a day, with lunch that opens at 11:30 and goes until 1:25. The class periods last for one hour, an hour and a half, or two hours, but we do also have breaks and free periods.
  1. Family life
    1. I really love my family here. I live with the Bouteloups: Sophie, the mother, Eric, the father, Camille, my host, and Leá, her younger sister. There is a dog named Laska as well as a rabbit. It sure is different to be in a family with three girls now, as opposed to my house with my two brothers.
    2. I live in the country. I attend school in the actual city of Chatêau Gontier, however I live in the small village called Saint Denis d’Anjou. My neighbor is a pony, and from outside my bedroom window I see a field of cows. Coming from Seattle with all the cars and people and traffic and constant movement, it certainly is different – yet tranquil – to live out here.

All in all, I am having a very good time in France, and I still have seven more weeks to go!

-Grace Farwell