Thursday, January 13, 2011

Bonjour Europe!

I found myself once again frantically (no surprise there) packing on the 6th of January for my flight that evening. I could not believe that my three weeks in the United States flew by so quickly! I had just barely had enough time to readjust to life back in the U.S. and I already had to ship off again to a new culture. But alas, here I find myself in Europe. So far, the culture shock has been particularly difficult to deal with here in Europe because I have been surrounded by so much privilege and wealth but so little appreciation.

Anyway, we all arrived in Geneva, Switzerland on the morning of the 7th of January. I was shocked by how warm it was! It is such a beautiful city, filled with beautiful buildings and surrounded by majestic mountains. After applying for our residence cards, we spent the entire day exploring this wonderful, albeit very expensive, city.

On Sunday, we packed up and headed on to Montpellier, France. Here, I am living with a host family while simultaneously taking intensive French classes at ILP.

My host family is comprised of a mother and a 17 year old brother, and I live with one other Colgate girl. My family is so nice and welcoming; however, they did not speak any English. I believe they know a fair amount, but, because I was placed here by ILP, I am almost positive that the program forbids them from speaking to us in any language save French. Long story short, it’s intimidating. Slowly but surely, with emphasis on the slowly, I am beginning to loosen up and speak more French. I am just going to have to force myself past my fear of making a fool of myself and simply speak as much French as I can. It’s the only way I will truly learn to speak French better, which is essentially my ultimate goal. Anyway, the apartment is so cute. (Random side note, I love European toilets! They are genius! A little flush for pee and a big flush for, well, you know, haha.) Breakfasts and dinners are provided by the family. The French unfortunately eat small breakfasts, basically just bread and coffee. Dinners are always superb, though they are served kinda late into the night, but are so worth the wait. Being vegetarian is not normal for French and seeing as both my roommate and I are vegetarian, we are a bit difficult. Luckily, our host mom loves vegetables, so we are too, too much trouble on that front. I actually love dinners. Our host mom is fantastic, very energetic, and talkative. She keeps the conversation lively, and I actually understand most of what she says, that is except when she talks super fast. I vow to start speak more during dinner starting today, or perhaps tomorrow… But let me tell you, French cheese, now that is the best part of my meal. Heck! It’s the best part of my day! Sorry Ghana, but one point for Europe! :P

During the day, I have French classes at the ILP. Monday through Friday, I have class from 9 to 12 in the morning with Isabelle. We focus on improving grammar and we work on speaking as well. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I also have an afternoon class from 13:30 until 16 with Frank. During this class, we practice speaking a lot and do some grammar too. After this much French in day, it’s quite difficult not to think in French. I am even accidentally subconsciously trying to write this in French, I actually have to fight the urge to do so. I hope that’s a good sign… But Morgan Caninno, you will know what I mean when I say that it feels so good to be using my brain again so much!

A super exciting thing happened today. I was wearing one of my dresses from Ghana and a girl from the Netherlands in my afternoon class turns to me and asks if I got it in Africa. I said, “Yeah, in Ghana, how did you know?” Turns out, she spent six months in Tamale working at a clinic in 2008. Frank, our teacher, over hears our conversation and turns out he actually lived in Accra for three years! His wife was teaching at a French school there for that time. Before they returned to France, they also adopted a Ghanaian girl. This was so thrilling for me, I could barely contain my excitement. All I wanted to do was talk about Ghana and reminisce about the things I miss, like kenkey and FanIce and Waakye and pidgin and, well, this list could go on a long time.

I still get big pangs of missing Ghana. Huge pangs. As anyone who has been to Ghana can probably relate to this sentiment, I miss Ghana so much. But I have been keeping myself really busy, which has been good for me, albeit exhausting.

That's all for now! A tout a l'heure!

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