Friday, August 27, 2010

Summer continues

I'm now with my third host family and the summer is quickly moving by. I have limited internet access here so my blog is a bit behind but i'll catch it up eventually. I've been enjoying spending time with my new host family and they are really nice. Back to school soon, my birthday soon after and then my mum arrives soon after that. Excting times ahead
xoxo

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Summer

Well i know it's been a while but i've been away at Barcares for all of July and only got home today....i'll post a bit of an update later.
xox

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Pic-a-tures =)

Well here are the photos that i promised. These ones are just my absolute favourites because i seriously have so so many.

La Tour Eiffel...couldn't go past putting htis one on


Some random art in Paris...but i really like this picture


Strasbourg Cathedral...gorgeous


The group after shopping in the rain in Munich


Me in the dress and hat i bought in Innsbruck, Austria


My friend Jaclyn and I in a gondola in Venice, Italy


Being a typical tourist in Pisa


In Monaco


Being kids at the park where we stayed in Caderousse, France


Well that might do for now...enjoy!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Euro Tour!

Watch this space...when i'm finally unpacked, organised and no longer tired there will be a lovely recount fo my Euro tour. For now all you need to know is: IT WAS FABULOUS!!!!!!!!

Well i'm going to start now and it will probably take me awhile but here goes...
My Euro Tour began on a Sunday when Claudia and I drove the 1.5 hrs to Millau to meet the bus. Because we live so close to where the bus was coming from my Rotary told me that it would be cheaper and easier to make the journey to Paris with the bus. We met the bus at 12 and started the trip stopping only three times along the way to pick up Meg, Kim and Jess (the three other Australians in my disctrict here). We had a pretty comfortable trip and arrived at our hotel for the night at about 8pm. We stayed about 30kms out of Paris in a tiny hotel but it worked out a lot cheaper than catching the train. I stayed in a room with Kim and cludia and we were all pretty excited about the next day.

Monday we woke up pretty early ready to start our first day of the tour. We had to be at the first train station at 9am to pick up the others and we got there a bit early so we went for a walk around the streets. When we got pack other exchange students started to arrive and we had a bit of a hugging and card exchanging frenzy. Afterwards we went on to two other train stations to pick up the rest of the group. In total we had about 56 exchange students and majority of those were Australian since this is the Southern Hemisphere trip. We were also joined by New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Ecuador, Bolivia, Thaliand, Taiwan, America and Canada. We were given a bit of free time to buy lunch and then went on a bus tour of Paris. We saw quite a bit of Paris but it was only from the bus and we stopped only twice; once opposite the Eiffel Tower to take pictures and once to see the glass pyramid outside the Louvre. After the tour we drove to the youth hostel in Reims. Because it was the first night we played some getting to know you games after dinner before crashing in our rooms.

After a pretty early start we drove to Strasbourg for the day. First thing we went and saw the Cathedral and it was absolutely gorgeous...i don't even know how to describe it but it was beautiful. Afterwards we had free time and Caitlyn, Jaclyn and i did a bit of shopping and then bought lunch. We also bought giant pretzels! The afternoon we went on a boat tour along the river and everyone had headsets to listen to the tour. The best part was changing the languages, especially to the kids versions which sounded like a pirate. We stayed in a youth hostel in Strasbourg that night and we were allowed out for a little bit after dinner. Caitlyn, Jaclyn and i wandered around Strasbourg and had a fun night.

Today started with a really early start and then a four hour bus trip to Munich. Along the way we stopped at a road stop to have lunch and i had my first experience with having to pay to go to the toilet...50 euro cents to pee? i don't think so!The weather today was also pretty wet and cold which just seemed to add to the length of the trip. When we got to Munich we had a bus tour and we stopped at the BMW museum. It was pretty cool to see all the new motorbikes and cars but the rest of the tour was pretty boring and it was really hard to take pictures from the bus when there were raindrops all over the window. We got free time in Munich despite the rain and everyone ended up pretty soaked. We all got a group picture in the rain. The youth hostel was pretty good and i got fries for dinner so i was pretty happy about that :)

Day four started a bit later than normal so we got a bit more of a sleep-in. The weather was still wet as we got on the bus to head to Linderhof castle, about two hours away from Munich. The castle was absolutely gorgeous all the interior was filled with gold, paintings, procelein and beautiful chandeleirs. The gardens and fountains outside were also stunning and even though it was a small castle, compared to some i've seen, i think it was the most beautiful. Back on the bus we were in for another 2-3 hours to Innsbruck, Austria. This city turned out to be my favourite place of the entire trip and i fell in love with Austria. It's such a beautiful country but i can;t really explain why i loved it so much...it just seemed to suit me so much. We did a tour on bus and on foot and the view of the mountains from here was amazing. I also indulged and spent quite a but of money in Austria as i bought an Austrian hat and traditional Austrian dress. For dinner that night Simon, one of the guys, and I dressed up and it was probably one of the craziest things i've ever done. I don't know where i got the confidence from but it was a lot of fun and everybody was staring at me. The meal tonight was also great...a real roast and then ice creams for desert. After dinner and the journal everyone sung their national anthems and it was really good. My personal favourite was South Africa because it is sung in four different languages. The New Zealanders also did the haka which of course everyone loved.

Day five was probably the most bus heavy day of the whole trip and it was pretty tiring. In the morning we had four hours in the bus to reach Verona, Italy. Funnily enough as soon as we crossed the border into Italy we left behind the cold, wet Austrian weather for hot, sunny Italian weather. About time!!! We didn't spend long in Verona but we got to see Juliet's house, the wall of love messages and of course the famous balcony. Afterwards we took the chance to eat some fruit and get our first taste of Italian gelatto...some people had up to 7 scoops that day. The fruit was also great, especially after the youth hostel food which lacked any kind of fruit, vegetables and cereal. We spent another three hours in the bus in the afternoon and spent the time watching Napoleon Dynamite before arriving in Lido di Jesolo were we would eb staying two nights. The hotel was quite nice but the room was really tiny and i slept on this bunk bed thing suspended from the wall...it felt just a little bit instable. For dinner i got my first taste of Italian pasta and then we got to go out. The town at night was so pretty and i really liked this city. It had such a nice vibe and it wasn't too touristic. I think it's somewhere i'd like to go back to one day.

Next morning we got our biggets sleep-in of the trip and it was really nice not to have to pack my suitcase. We drove a short way to the portt o get the boat to Venice. We got such a nice view of Venice coming in on the boat. The day in Venice tourned out to be one of the hottest of the tour and the two hour walking tour was a bit overwhelming. Everyone was tired and a bit fed up by halfway through but Venice is a very beautiful city. Quite a few people got sunburnt here but luckily i was wearing a hat i'd bought and a t-shirt so i managed to escape it for once. After the tour it was time to do some shopping and we bought some more gelatto. I also found an op-shop and had fun looking at all the random things there. I bought a pair of white pants and i also bought a white dress which i plan to try and tie-dye with my friends...we'll wait and see how that turns out. We then got the chance to have a gondola ride and it was absolutely fantastic..my favourite thing that we did in Italy. Some of the godola men were singing and it was so cool. We got the bus back and after dinner some of us headed to the beach with the two adults who were with us. We played games on the sand until we got kicked off because it was a private beach.

The next day started with four hours to Florence. We had time for lunch and i bought even more gelatto and then Jaclyn, Caitlyn and I sat down in the shade to rest for awhile. It was here that we got caught paying 3 euros for crappy little string bracelets because the man tied them on our wrists before we could refuse...clever of him really but i guess thy're good reminders of our time in Florence. We did another two hour walking tour here and the higlight was the church. It was beautiful with lots of paintings. In Italy women have to have their shoulders covered to enter the church so some people got caught out here. We drove some more to Monte Carlo where we stayed the night and after dinner everyone swapped pins. My blazer is getting pretty full now.

Next day started a bit later and thankfully it was only 1.5hrs to Pisa. We were given four hours free time here to spend however we pleased and Jaclyn and I first stopped ot take the typical touristy tower photos...how can you not? Afterwards we spent time wandering and checking out the stalls and then i bought...yep you guessed it...more gelatto. Afterwards Jaclyn and I sat down and talked for awhile and watched the other tourists taking photos of the tower. In the afternoon we had four hours to San Remo and i was in a room with just Jess. That night it was James's, one of the boys, birthday so we had a special thing for him after dinner.

Day nine was time to head to Monaco which is a small principality totally circled by France. Because of the little space they have they build upwards which is very different to the sprawling style of France. The nice weather continued and the tour here wasn't as long which was good. We got to see the church and the gardens and the palace before we had some free time. Our free time was mostly spent eating and shopping and then we had four hours to Caderousse in the countryside of France for the night. The place was all out on its own but we had lots of space and there was even a playground. Angie, a tiny Argentinian, and I acted like little kids and ran straight to the swings. Some of us also played some ball games on the fields before dinner. That night i also had a bit of a panic with my bag but it all worked out in the end. I had borrowed a little hard-cased suitcase from my host family and they had left the combination on the right numbers so i could open it. Sometime between putting my bag on the bus that morning, and getting it off that night the combination had been changed and it had locked itself. I had never really taken in the combination so i pretty much panicked and tried all the same number combinations...i had pretty much resigned myself to trying all 999 combinations when someone, i think it was Jess, had the bright idea of trying 123 and when i tried it my suitcase opened...man was i relieved! After dinner everyone dressed up for a kind of fashion show thing and we were all dressed up pretty crazily. Most of the guys dressed up as girls and the girls as guys and i ended up in 1950's garb..it was one fun night.

Next day was only two hours to Lyon and it was nice to be back to France and speaking French...a language i can at least somewhat communicate in. I really love Lyon as a city and i guess it comes from the fact that there are about a billion second-hand bookstores that i kept dragging Jaclyn into. There was also a big bookstore filled with english books and i bought, and have now finished readin a couple. I think my love for books has gone crazy this year and i have so many here that i have no idea how i'll get them all home. After maccas for lunch, and awkwardly ordering a sundae with no topping, we looked in some clothes shops searching for a dress. I ended up trying on only one and although it looked ok it didn't really fit so my search ended unsuccessfully. We then had a two hour tour of Lyon and it was quite good. After the tour we travelled two hours and stopped at the lake at Annecy. It was really pretty and we got some good pictures there. We then continued another 1.5 hours to where we would be staying the night at a ski town. Tongith i stayed in a room just with Jaclyn and it was quite nice....the shower was a bit weird..the temperature was fixed. Tonight was the last night for some people who were in the district there so we had a little but of a get together and it was a bit sad.

The last full day of the tour was spent in Geneva, Switzerland and our first stop was the United Nations building. We went on a tour of the building and i found it really interesting. It reminded me of all the things we did in legal studies and i'm sure Ms Connolly would have loved it. I also ended up with some swiss francs after buying a pin in the gift shop. We then drove further into Geneva and looked around for awhile. Almost everyone bought some Swiss chocolate and i splurged on a swiss army knife...it's really cool. By this time we'd said goodbye to the guys who were leaving that day and it was quite sad. I'd become quite good friends with some of them so we all made plans to get together sometime before the end of the year. I'm also going to Victoria to visit some of them when i get home. We drove 5 hours to Dijon, France that afternoon and it began to sink in that it was our last night. After dinner i borrowed my friend Erin's beautiful black dress and we had a bit of a disco. We also had to get up and say our favourite part of the tour...it was so different for everyone but it was obvious everyone had had a fantastic 11 days.

Early morning next morning as we headed to Paris for the end of the tour...we stopped for lunch at a rest stop on the way and then we had another hour to drive before we got to Paris. When we got to the first station and had to start saying goodbye almost everyone cried as we came to the realisation that we might never see some of these wonderful people again. We had become quite a tight group and it was pretty much summed up by a hearfelt speech made by one of the Agentinian guys..it was so sad. After the first stop we had two more stations to drop people of at and it didn't really get easier..soon enough it was just me, Jess, Kim, Meg and Claudia left on the bus. We left Paris at 2pm and travelled all the way back to Millau. We stopped along the way to drop the others off and at 11pm Claudia and I were the last ones left at Millau. Our counsellor picked us up and we had the 1.5 hour drive back to Villefranche de Rouergue. I don't think my counsellor realised exactly how tired we were because he asked a lot of questions and i was finsing really hard to think and concentrate in french. By the time i got home my host parents were in bed but they'd left the house open for me. They thought they'd wake up when i gpt home but they didn't so i went up and went straight to bed...next morning they had to come peek into my room to make sure i'd gotten home...how cute?

Well that's my story of Euro Tour..12 super busy, amazing, fun-filled, joyous days!!!


Now i also have some news from this week so i might as well add it onto this post. Monday was my last day at school before the holidays so we basically just watched movies and ate cake and what-not. We also took some photos and my french got complimented by all the teachers who i won;t be having after the holidays haha Tuesday i went and did some sightseeing with my host family and one of their friends. We went to see this chasm and went down into it and went on a little boat to do a tour of the river that runs thorugh the underground. It was really cold and wet and practically like a cave. Afterwards we went and saw this bird place and watched a show with all the eagles, parakeets and cockatoos before going to another town to see another castle. The weather here is still up and down which is quite disappointing for me for being almost summer (summer doesn't officially start here til next week). Some days it gets up to high 20's but most of the time it's still mid teens and wet. Wednesday my host family and i made the trek to Toulouse to finish my visa requirements. Being 18 before i came on exchange is quite a hassle. We drove most of the way and then left the car at a shopping centre and took the metro into the city. I loved the metro and it was quite fast and convenient. We then headed to the OFII office and i was taken into the medical part to have my checks. My host family waited int he waiting room while i went in with a lady and she looked at all my paperwork, measured me and weighed me. She then took me to get my chest x-ray, which they use to check for tuberculosis and other things like that. I had to get undressed and then stand against a really cold machine, then take a deep breath and hold it whole she took the x-ray. Coolest thing about all that was that i got to keep the x-ray, even if it was a pain carrying it around all day. After that i went on with a nirse and answered more questions about if i'm pregnant and why i'm in France. I felt quite prous to be able to go in and answer all these questions on my own. Then i briefly saw a doctor who just ticked and stamped my forms and then it was on to the final room to put all my paperwork together and put the thing in my visa. Now that's all over i'm quite relived. We spent the afternoon in Toulouse looking through a museum and going to see the Garonne before heading home. That night i went out with friends for the first time since i've been here and my friends were so excited when i finally said yes i could come. We went out for dinner with my class and two teachers and it was a really nice evening.

Well i think that brings everyone up to date finally with my goings-on. My next post will be of all my Euro Tour pictures but i'm still trying to put them all on facebook so it might be awhile. I'll probably have some more reflections soon as well because time is starting to pass me by and before i know it it will be January 14th and time to get on a plane to come home. It's really starting to hit home now too because all the Northern Hemisphere kids are heading home and just 5 months ago they were where i am now...scary eh? In just 6 more months i'll be heading home and all the kids in Aus now who are just starting to plan their exchanges will be heading out and my year of a lifetime will be finished. Living in the moment and taking all the opportunities i can is my plan. This is seriously the best decision i have ever made and i thank everyone in my life who has helped me, supported me, and who put me int he position to take this opportunity and live this experience. This has really opened my eyes and started my life anew. I will be forever greatful for what you, and this experience has caused me to grow into.

love and kisses
Mel

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Europe here i come!

Well tomorrow i leave for my Euro Tour and i'm really excited. I'm leaving with the bus tomorrow and i'm pretty sure we stay in Paris tomorrow night before the tour starts on Monday. I'm going to get to see Paris for the first time and i really excited about that. I'm also going to Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland and Monaco so we're doing quite a bit of moving around in the two weeks. I'm ready to have the time of my life and i know i'll remember this experience forever. I'm also lucky i get to go with some of the most amazing people i've ever met. Will tell you all about it when i get back but i'm going to head to bed now to get as much sleep as i can because i bet i won't get much in the next two weeks. Can't wait to see everyone again.
Mel

Monday, May 24, 2010

Busy, busy, busy!!!

I plan to write a blog about all the goings on of the week i just had but i'm finding it hard to find the time to sit down and write it all...i promise it's coming and i should have it finished by the end of the day but things keep coming up...haha plus i should probably do my english homework before i forget and get another cross..

Well i've finally managed to sit down and write my blog :)This week was my first week going to school from Jaquie and Bernard's and i caught the bus for the first time. I will be taking the bus (i should say minivan because that's all it is)every Wednesday and Thursday because those are the days i start school at 8am. The bus comes at 7.10am so i get up at 6am to get ready. I'm so glad i don't have to get up every day for the bus or i'd be dead tired by the end of the week. 6am is way too early to get up when you've stayed up late the night before trying to finish homework and going to Rotary meetings...

This week i went to another Rotary meeting and Claudia did her country presentation on Mexico. I was supposed to do a little presentation on my first three months here but we ran out of time so it's going in the newsletter instead. I'm quite glad except i know i have to do my country presentation soon. Cludia's presentation was really good and very interesting so i hope i can live up to the standard when the time comes for me to do mine. I'm thinking i'm going to try to acquire some vegemite for my presentation and try to get people to taste it...if anyone else has any suggestions i'd like ot hear them...my host brother, for some odd reason, things i sing really well(which is a total joke) so he reckons i should sing the National Anthem...i'm thinking that's a bad idea but i haven't ruled it out yet.

For sport at school we've moved onto badminton and it's definitely not one of my favourite sports...it comes under the category of sports with a ball needing hand-eye coordination. Since i have no hand-eye coordination i am quite "nulle", which means i pretty much suck. Claudia and i have our own little games and i do think i'm improving...i can even win on the rare occassion and at least i can hit it over the net now haha

This week at school i also got my bac blanc francais back. I got given a mark of 4/20 and i was marked as a French person because the teacher who marked it didn't know i was an exchange student. It must have seemed a bit strange for him that someone who was in L, the literature stream, had such a poor vocabulary and grammar. He didn't hesitate to write the comments all over my paper either. I was quite happy with my 4 even though the comments were a bit disheartening...another girl in my class also got 4 though so i don't know how she felt about the exchange student getting the same mark as her. I actually ended up with 11/20 though because my teacher re-marked it on my level of french etc It doesn't really count for anything for me but i'm glad i had a go.

Friday afternoon after school i went into the backyard with Bernard and Jaquie and picked the strawberries out of their backyard. It's been quite hot here this week, especially the weekend, and so we went to find all the ripe strawberries so we could eat them for desert. Picking the strawberries brought back so many memories of when i was little and i picked strawberries with my own granparents and it was nice to think about that for a little while. My host mum also makes her own ice cream with a little machine so we've had des fraises avec de la glace (vanille)for desert yum!!!

After dinner on Friday Bernard and Jaquie's son Xavier and his wife Sophie arrived with their two young kids. They travelled down to be here for Manon's 18th birthday party on Saturday night. Saturday after lunch we headed into Najac because this weekend they were having a Medieval festival. There were people dressed up in medieval costumes, they had eagles and a couple of other birds and they had markets selling things made out of leather and wood etc. It was really cool...we also walked up to the castle because there was a special tour but we got there two late so we decided to go back on Sunday. Manon's party was at Jaquie's mum's house in Najac so we went back there for dinner, cake and general partying. I met all of Manon's friends and talked to them for awhile.

My third host family were also there so i talked to them a bit more and talked to the kids for the first time. Anna, who's nearly 5, sat on my lap during dinner and showed me her little Pluto toy. She's so cute and has so much energy. Eva is also really nice and she told me she can't wait til i stay at their house. She's nearly 12 years old and we talked about school and dogs and played with balloons..i'm such a little kid. Camille was also there and she's 15, though she acts like she's about 20, and looks like it too. I had a really good time with them and i think i'm going to have a good time at their house as well.

For Manon's birthday Thierry wrote a song so we all got up to sing that...the very last verse was in english though and even though everyone was supposed to sing it everyone else stopped and it was just me...it was kinda embarrassing but Manon liked the song so it did'nt matter. We didn't get home til about 1.30am that day so i was pretty darn tired on Sunday.

Sunday we went back to Najac and did the tour around the castle. We had a guide but she spoke really fast so i didn't understand evrything she was saying but i loved looking at the castle...we even got to walk up the spiral staicase to the roof, all 120 steps. I had a super fun weekend and i'm also loving the fact that today is Pentocost so i don't have school.

I really should go do my english homework now...i have to read an extract of Desiree's Baby, answer some questions, read a biography of the author and then make up some questions...wish me luck

Also last week when i was away i received my return date...i will be back in Aus on the 15th of January which is still just under 8 months away. Looking foward to seeing everybody back in Aus on that date...until then i'm having a wondeful time here. It's been four months now, 1/3 of my year, and i'm sure the rest will fly by...at least for me.

Love and kisses
Mel

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Life goes on

Well as most of you probably know i'm not really a person who likes change but nonetheless the time came for me to change host families. That was last weekend and a lot of things have happened since then. Last weekend was my second rotex weekend and this time i had a brilliant time. Last time it was the first weeks i was here and i was still pretty tired but this time i was really looking foward to seeing everyone again. Meg, Jess, Kim and I decided we would prepare something for the spectacular during the night and we decided to do a kind of corroboree dance wearing our Australian flags. We discussed this quite a bit because we didn't want to, as Kim so elegantly put it "take the piss", but it was something we wanted to show so eventually we worked it out and did a bit of practice. I think everyone enjoyed it as well. After the spectacular we had a disco in a downstairs room and i even did a bit of dancing which is unusual for me. I met one of the girls going to Brisbane next year and she is really nice...we talked a bit and we've decided i'm going to go visit her in Brisbane next year haha

Our disco ended at about 1am and after that we talked for a bit outside before i decided it was time for bed for me. Next morning was pretty much socialising and we talked to James and Katie two exchange students from the US. We had a good time talking about different things, and trying to teach James an Australian accent.When the weekend finished i went back to my house and collected all my things and changed to my second host family. I'm really happy here as well and i'm enjoying the privacy i get here. While it is a bit more lonely with no other kids things are definitely much more peaceful. I've also spoken much more french in the last week because my new host family don't speak english so i'm also enjoying that.

Tuesday we left for a week away and our first stop was at the house of some friends of Bernard and Jaquie. We stayed at their house for a few days and during that time i had four parents, who mainly took the grandparent role, and called me their "petite fille". During the days we went around Lodeve and saw the lake and some other typical things and at night time i sat and watched them play bridge. It's probably the most confusing card game i've ever seen!! When we left their house i got some huge kisses,a pretty yellow rose from the garden and i was called "adorable" haha i'm so lucky to have met such wonderful people here.

After that we travelled further south for a couple more days at Barcares. Unfortunately the weather wasn't very good with very very string wind but we managed to have a good time anyway. Each day we went to a sheltered beach and we played scrabble in french. Of course i lost quite miserably but i was just happy when i managed to find a word in french out of the letters. At first all i could see were english words but the more i got into the game the easier it was. While we were away i also watched a bit of french tv...I watched CSI (Les Experts in french) and it's a lot more difficult to follow in french but i usually manage because i'm so used to the format of the show.

Well we arrived home this afternoon and it's back to school for me tomorrow. It's Manon's birthday on Wednesday so i'm going to try to find her a present tomorrow and we're going to Narjac on Saturday to celebrate.

My Euro tour is also coming up quickly and i'm really looking foward to seeing everyone again.
missing evreyone
xoxo

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Time to change :(

Well tonight is the last night i get to spend in this house that has become my home and with this family that has become mine. I'm experiencing quite similar emotions to when i left Australia and i've really realised how difficult it will be to leave these people that have become some of my best friends. I feel such a strong conenction to these people and this place and it feels so strange moving again. Also, after spending the last hour and half trying to shove as many as my things in my suitcase as possible, i've realised how much stuff i have already accumulated and i'm not looking foward to trying to work out how to get all my things home at the end of the year...lucky i still have about 8 months befoer i have to think about that.

This past week has been quite busy with quite a lot of things going on. The weather here has been cold and wet this week but it's supposed to get better tomorrow for the weekend and i'm really glad of that because the cold really kills me. At school this week my class had their Bac Blanc Francais which is kinda their equivalent of the trial HSC. It was a four hour exam analysing poetry and i had a good go at it. I managed to write four pages in total in french and i think i understood the poems ok and answered the questions at least generally with the right answer...the essay on the other hand was kind of a different story since i wasn't there for most of their poetry unit and didn't know any of the texts. I've also started a geography assignment and my teacher has given me the job of researching an Australian city to present to the class. The rest of my class have to European metropoles but i get to do mine on Sydney yay!!!

Another thing that's happened this week is my host dad started to write a song for my host sister's 18th birthday. He's writing it to the tune of 22 by Lilly Allen and everyone has to sing at least one verse. My host dad has already written mine and i get to sing in english but my verse makes me laugh so much...i have to sing: I'm glad to kiss you and a happy birthday/so you become my soul sister/you know that it's true it's a very good day..lol. The other funny thing is that since being here my host family think that i sing really well and my host brother always begs me to sing for him. My family at home would die of laughter if they knew that because i really can't sing at all.

Well today, being my last day with my wondeful host family, we had a special dinner. After school we went to the supermarket and bought all the ingrediants to make ANZAC biscuits (though we had trouble finding maple syrup of all things), works burgers with bacon and egg and a tropical fruit salad. All in all i spent about 30 euros on food and my host sister and i made the food. Everyone really enjoyed it and we had a good meal and i gave my family the card i wrote for the. After reading it my host dad said he would "keep it preciously" awww haha and Aymeric made me read it aloud to see my progress in french. I had a really good night!!!

Tomorrow i'm going to my counsellor's house at 12 for lunch and then we're going to the ROTEX weekend. I'm really looking foward to it this time because it will be good to see everyone again and we always do fun activities. Sunday when i get home i change families and then Tuesday i leave to go away with them for a week. Hopefully i can unpack and organise my things there before we go away.

Today i also had to have some identity photos taken in a photo booth because when i change host families i will be taking the bus to school every day. I'm quite looking foward to this because i've never taken a bus to school before so it will be something else new to expereince.

Well it's pretty late and i'm tired so i might leave it at that...might be awhile before i manage to get back on and post because of the change of families and holidays etc.

One last thing before i go...i'd like to wish my mummy a very very very Happy Mother's Day. Mum i love you so much and thank you for everything you have done for me in my life. I can never thank you enough for helping me to become the person i am today and i could never have a better mum. I miss you so much and think about you all the time. Love you to infinity and beyond
xoxoxox
Mel

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The things that make me the happiest

Lately i've begun to think about all the things that make me happy here and i've realised they are mainly the little things that make me feel so good and get me through the days. This experience has already taught me a lot of things about myself, who i am, what i value, who i love and care about. It's also given me a lot of time to reflect on my life so far and what i want to do in the future, what i want to achieve in my lifetime. I've already achieved a lot of things that i am proud of but there's so much more ahead of me and i'm ready to face them and tackle them with all the determination i can muster. I know when i get back to the sunny shores of Aus i'll be a different person. I'll still have the same values and the things that were important to me before will still be important but i'll be a happier, more confidant and more positive Mel. So here are some of the things that make me happy in my day-to-day life in France.

1. The sun....now that it's Spring the weather is warm the flowers are coming out i can relax outside and take in the sunshine. Just the presence of the sun is enough to put a smile on my face.

2. Managing to express myself in French...sometimes it's a conversation, a successful piece of writing, just a sentence or even a new word. Progressing even the littlest bit in this language makes me feel so content...and it's always nice to hear the surprise, praise and encouragement when i manage to impress people.

3. Spending time with my host sister....relaxing outside on the swinging chair, talking, picking flowers around Savignac or whatever else we decide to do.

4. Being able to talk to my host family about my feelings, worries, hopes, fears, regrets and my life and knowing they really do care about me.

5. Hearing my host brother tell me "tu es très gentille"...having him beg me to play with him, him wanting to give me hug and crying at the thought of me changing host families let alone going home.

6. Being able to go into a shop and ask for what i want.

7. My host brother telling me i have the accent of a french person who's spent a lot of time in another country.

8. Laughing with my friends at school....even if it's only about something little.

9. Understanding something on the radio, and ad on the tv, the conversations of my friends or the lessons without consciously having to translate everything into english in my head.

10. Having friends to talk to, eat with, sit with and do stuff with.

11. Being able to show what a great country Australia is while at the same time appreciating France for the wondeful country it is. I've had so many poeple tell me they want to come to Australia and it makes me feel so happy knowing people love the country that is so special to me. (by the way mum i think we already have about 20 people staying at our house next year :))

12. Feeling proud of myself for what i've been able to acheive here already.

13. Waking up and knowing i still have 8.5 months to enjoy this wondeful experience!

De plus, i've discovered some important things about myself in the three months i've been an exchange student. In my eyes exchange is really a chance to discover yourself. I'm asuming you're all at least a little bit interested to know what i've learnt about myself so...

> Even when things are difficult, i'm scared, i'm panicked and i think i can't cope...I CAN. It may not be easy. I may struggle. I may have some problems. But in the end i make it out ok and that's all that matters.

> I am a strong and determined person and i can do anything i put my mind to.

> I am fiercely independant and like to do as much for myself as i possibly can..sometimes to the point of being incredibly stubborn..not always a good thing i've learnt.

> I get self-satisfaction out of achieving academically and life really isn't the same for me if i don't have something to study or learn. I need to feel intelligent to feel like myself....it's something i feel has defined, and defines, who i am.

> I love exercising and feeling fit but i absolutely HATE walking.

> I'm never going to be a food lover...it's something i do for the sheer necessity of it not because it's something i enjoy.

> I like to make everybody else happy and would do anything for my friends.

> I can make friends if i put myself out there and i'm not worried about what other people are going to think...their opinions aren't the end of the world and i'm strong enough to deal with any criticism that comes my way.

> I'm never going to be one to break the rules...i can't stand feeling like i've done something wrong and i always have to do the "right" thing.

> I have strong moral and ethical values. Not everyone has the same views but that doesn't mean they're bad people...we just have different views on things and everyone is entitled to decide for themselves.

> I have an amazing ability to sleep...but i can always be up and ready whenever i'm needed.

> I can't stand being late anywhere.

> I'm good at waiting and tend to be quite patient.

> I am able to control my anger and i tend to deal with it a lot on my own.

> I'm more positive than i thought i was and i tend to be able to see the good in situations..i think this also stems from the fact that i also hate to complain and would rather deal with things as they are.

> I tend to underestimate myself and need to try hard to be more self-confident.

> Memories, photos and souvenirs play an important part in my life. I'm a collecting type of person and like to know i'm going to remember my experiences for the rest of my life.

> I can be a very kind person when i want to be...sometimes too kind...too afraid to express my real opinion...

> My family and friends are a part of me that i carry around with me wherever i go....their support and love means so much to me and things would be so much more difficult if they weren't there.

> Failure is one of my biggest fears...i'd do almost anything to avoid it...it doesn't sit well with the perfectionist part of my persoanlity.

> I love my life..it's not perfect..there's things in my past i don't exactly like...but i wouldnt change them for the world because they make me who i am today...and at the moment that's someone that i'm proud of...someone i hope will have a future full of happiness, achievements, family, friends and love.

It feels so nice to "know" all these things about myself and feel so happy and secure in who i am. It makes me feel ready for my future. Knowing who i am i know i can go foward with all the confidence i have.

Well that turned into rather a personal post but as i said i've done a lot of reflection here which i think stems from the fact that my family aren't here with me. I am principally my own support network and i have to do a lot more things for myself, whether i like it or not.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Happy Holidays in Port Barcares

Well i had one weekend in Villefranche after my trip to Spain before i headed of to Port le Barcares in the south of France for two weeks of holidays. I went with my host brother Aymeric and my host grandparents who are my next host family.

We left early monday morning and it wasn't a very nice day so once we arrived we unpacked the car, made my bed and then went for a bike ride around the town. They actually bought another bike for me to use so i was very keen to ride often to make it worth it. I really enjoyed riding a bike there because it gave me a sense of freedom that i've been missing. I even rode around a roundabout for the first time!

For the first week the weather wasn't very nice but we ate lunch outside each day and usually we had fish for lunch which we bought from the port. We stayed in a unit that is owned by Bernard and Jaquie and it's directly opposite the beach. Each afternoon we went and saw some things around the town. We went and saw where they used to make dynamite, collected shells, went on some huge hikes, saw some beaches, walked through some gorges, saw some huge rocks etc

Aymeric and i spent most of the time together and he's a pretty funny kid. He got pretty attached to me during the two weeks and barely ever left me alone. I went from being the nicest person in the world when i did something with him or bought something for him, to being the meanest person in the world when i took the time to write in my diary or read a book for awhile. It was pretty intense actually and it took a lot of self-control for me not to get annoyed when he constantly pestered me but i guess it proves we have a pretty normal brother-sister relationship.

Some other mentionable things of my holiday...I got up the nerve to go swimming once during the two weeks. The water wasn't that much colder than at home although the weather wasn't as nice and the lack of waves is disappointing.

I bought a phone card while i was away and decided i would surprise call my grandparents because i hadn't actually talked to them since i've been here. My grandma was so excited when she picked up the phone and it was so nice to talk to both of them even though we didn't really get to talk for that long.

I also bought a new pair of swimmers and found a book store that had a couple of second-hand english books. I've really been missing english books and i found two really great mystery books so i now have something to read.

Barcares really reminded me of Port Macquarie so i spent quite a lot of my week reflecting on old family holidays, my childhood and my gym days. It was quite nice thinking about all the things i used to do and all the fun i used to have. I'm so appreciative of all the opportunities i've had in my life so far and i will never be able to thank my family for all they have given me.

On the way back from Port Barcares we stopped at Carcassonne which is a fortified town and the biggest medieval city in Europe. It was so cool and there was a really nice church which was made in both roman and gothic styles and we went on a tour of the castle.

It's now the weekend and i'm still pretty tired after my busy holidays...i may come back to this post at some point and add some more details because this is quite short. I found out yesterday that i have two more weeks with my current host family before i more to Bernard and Jaquie. I was supposed to change this weekend but because i spent the last two weeks with Bernard and Jaquie i'm staying here for two more weeks. I'm in two minds about changing but it's something that has to happen because my exchange is moving on. Three months have already passed and i have exciting things coming up in my exchange.

I have another rotary weekend coming up in the next couple of weeks so i'm looking foward to that.

p.s I played some mastermind with Aymeric while we were away and i was lucky enough to win one game in two goes....i was stoked and we took a picture to prove it.


The Port

Collecting shells

Hiking....man it killed my feet

Some cool rocks...but i got prickled quite a bit sitting there

Some landscape that's supposed to be typically American

Exploring the gorges..in super sexy helmets haha

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Easter and Madrid

Well it's been awhile since my last post but i just got back from my class trip to Madrid so i think it's time i updated.

I'm going to start with last Sunday which was Easter and also the day i left for Madrid. I had a nice sleep-in and then got up, had a shower and packed my bags for Madrid. We went over to Bernard and Jaquie's house for lunch. They are the parents of my current host mum and they are my next host family. We were all given a little lindt bunny and i gave out all of my eggs. We then sat down for a meal and we had roast lamb and sweet potato and apple pie for dessert. After lunch we all went for a walk but it started to rain halfway through and we had to run back to the house. We all got soaked though! After that it was pretty much time for me to go. My host brother was staying with Bernard and Jaquie so he said goodbye then. He didn't want me to go and made such a fuss that i've decided he's forbidden from coming to the airport at the end of the year. My host mum and host sister then took me into town and waited with me for the bus. Everyone had to have their passports checked and then we got on the bus. I sat next to Claudia in the aisle seat right behind the driver. It was pretty good because we had a bit more room there. We left Villefranche de Rouergue at about 7.15pm and started the long drive. We swapped driver's about 4 hours into the trip and Roger, our new driver, would be with us for the week. After that we had stops every two hours or so. We watched a movie in Spanish, talked and tried to sleep. At some point in the trip Claudia moved to a seat in the back and a girl i didn't know came and sat next to me. I got to sit at the window after that! Andrea was really nice and we talked a bit. The bus trip passed quite quickly after that and we finally arrived in Madrid about 8.30am Monday morning. We went straight to our first stop. We walked to the Plaza Mayor for breakfast and then we went on a tour of Madrid. We saw some churches, the basilica, the town hall, the outside of the royal palace and Puerta Del Sol. After that we headed to a park for lunch and had a bit of a rest in the shade for about an hour. Then it was on to an art museum called the Reina Sofia. It had a lot of modern artwork in it which was pretty cool. Afterwards everyone was pretty tired but we had an hour of free time. Cludia and i bought a couple of souvenirs and then we headed back to get the bus. We went to get our host families but the bus driver couldn't find the meeting spot so when we finally got there it was about 9pm. A very long tiring day! Claudia and i were together in our host family and it was just a lady with a dog and three cats haha. We walked back to the apartment we were staying in and had dinner and a shower. I was so relieved when i finally got into bed about 11.30pm.

Day two started with a walk to the bus at 8am. By this time i realised i would be doing quite a lot of walking during the trip and it turns out i wasn't wrong. I think i walked more in the past week than i ever have in my entire life and my feet and legs are killing me. My shoulders are also pretty sore from carrying my backpack around the whole week. We were lucky to have nice weather all week but it was really hard to dress for the day because it was cold in the morning and then super hot for lunchtime. Well day two got off to a bit of a rocky start because Andrea felt sick on the bus. when we arrived at the parking station she had to get off and i went with her to the bathroom but we didn't make it before she was sick. She was ok afterwards though which was good. We then walked to the Royal Palace and took some photos there before we went in. We weren't allowed to take pictures inside but it was huge and absolutely amazing. Everything was gold and immaculate and stunning. Also the information spots were written in English and Spanish so i could read it. It was also nice to hear some tourists speaking english though i didn't hear any Australian accents which is a shame. Afterwards we headed to the Bullfighting stadium and went through the museum there. It was pretty cool and then we had lunch oustside in the courtyard. We then had another hour free time to shop and i bought some souvenirs. The last stop of the day was at a church/art gallery/garden/royal mausoleum that overlooked Madrid. It had a lot of religious paintings and the garden was really pretty. Afterwards we had to walk for ages to get to the bus and i was so glad when we finally made it.For dinner that night we had a potato tortilla kind of thing which was interesting. It wasn't too bad but i wouldn't really want to eat it again.

Wednesday morning started with some free time so i walked with some new friends to Puerta del Sol but everything was closed because it was only 9am. We finally found one open souvenir shop so we all bought some things before it was time to go back to the bus. We then headed back to the bullfighting ring and went on a tour. We got to sit in the stands and go down into the actual ring. We also had a gruop photo there but i didn't get it on my camera so i'll have to get it off someone else. The afternoon we headed to a science museum and we watched a movie, in spanish, about the atmosphere and then went all around the museum doing the experiments. It was really cool. We then headed to the Real Madrid football stadium but the teachers told us we were'nt able to go in so i took some pictures fo the outside of the stadium and then put my camera back in my bag. Turns out it was a joke and we went on a tour of the stadium etc but i didn't have my camera with me which was frustrating. We got to see all the trophies, the stadium, the press room, the players area and dressing room. It was absolutely huge and there was a huge store too.

Thursday was our last day in Madrid and we had to pack our bags and take them with us to the bus. The teachers were late as usual so we all waited on the bus for them to arrive. We went to the wax museum in the morning and went through all the galeries of models and on a "terror train" that wasn't very scary and into a motion simulator. We also watched a little movie about the history of Spain. We went and had lunch at the botanical gardens. We then went on a quick walk through the gardens and they were so pretty and peaceful. Afterwards we got to go to the Prado art museum which holds a lot of famous paintings. I saw the Goya painting that studied in english last year so i enjoyed that. After the museum we had three hours of free time to finish of our trip to Madrid. Claudia and i went back to Puerta del Sol and did some shopping before we went back to meet everyone else. Last on the agenda was dinner at a Tapas bar. I sat with my new friends and we gave all the teachers a gift of "i love Madrid" shirts. I really loved Madrid and being in a big city again. It was beautiful and exciting and full on. It was also fun being a tourist and hearing other tourists speaking english and bying souvenirs and taking photos of everything but it was also nice to get home. I can now say i've been on an overnight trip with my school and i've been to a capital city in Europe! We left Madrid about 9pm and arrived back in Villefranche de Rouergue very tired at 11.15am yesterday.

My host family weren't picking me up until 4.30pm so i went back to my new friend Andrea's house. She was born in Romania but has been in France since she was 7 years old and learnt french at school. Her mum is really nice too. We went out for lunch at a restaurant in town and we all shared our meals so i had some steak, fries and some salad with a lovely strawberry tart for desert. They wouldn't let me pay even htough i offered a couple of times. We spent the afternoon together watching t.v and then i went to meet my host dad. It was so nice to finally be home and i was so so so tired. My host brother made hamburgers for dinner and then i had a shower and went to bed. I slept until 12pm today but i've had a pretty lazy day. We ate lunch outside today and the weather is finally warm enough to wear t-shirts and thongs yay! Tomorrow i'm planning to have another relaxing day before Aymeric and i go to the ocean for the two weeks of holidays on Monday. We are going with Bernard and Jaquie so it should be lots of fun. When i get back it's nearly time for me to change host families and go and stay with them. This exchange is starting to fly by now and i have definately realised that after this year my life is never going to be the same again. I have already changed so much here, hopefully for the better, and i'm goign to miss the life i've made here. I also know i'm going to miss this place and that even though i can come back to visit, it will never be the same. Knowing that i'm going to try to make the rest of my time here fabulous and i have lots of things to look foward to.

Well i promised some photos so here are just a few...


Bernard and Jaquie, my host mum, my host dad, Aymeric and Manon at Easter lunch.

Plaza Mayor

Royal palace

Puerta del Sol

At the science museum with some of my new friends...Marie and Marie

The bullfighting ring

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Some pictures...

Well i have decided to update today just to add some photos...what i've been up to will come later in the week. On Saturday i took some pictures with my host sister Manon and my host brother Aymeric. They're pretty crazy but i'm sure you'll enjoy them...


My host brother with his most prized possession....the wii


My host sister and i...with my host dad in the background


The three kids...i feel sorry for my host parents sometimes...we're pretty crazy as you can see


We make great models eh? Aymeric is wearing my jumper and i'm wearing his old jacket..it's so small because it's for 10 year olds...i have no idea why he has it cos it's too small for him too


My host sis and i showing you our matching shirts...i've only bought clothes once since i've been here and i managed to unknwowingly buy a shirt that she already had...it just proves that saying great minds think alike...and we think it's pretty cool

Well i think that's all for now...until next time!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Quick update

Well this is just a little update to let you guys know what's been going on for me in the last week. Nothing too much out of the ordinary so i'm just going to tell you the interesting things.

Well on Wednesday i had the day off school and i did a lot of sleeping and relaxing until my host siblings got home at lunchtime. The afternoon also passed in a relaxing manner and then my host sister invited me to go to the hospital with her to have her ultrasound. At first i was a little apprehensive about going but i didn't want to miss out on the opportunity to have this experience with her and see the baby so i did go. It was pretty cool and i got to see the baby's head, hands and umbilical cord. She's around 3 months pregnant so it's too early to know the sex of the baby but it is healthy which is the main thing. The doctor also had a funny accent because he's russian so it was quite cool to listen to him speak. It was also cool when my host mum told me my accent in french is much better than his. 1 Point for Mel. My host sister also decided that i can be the baby's aunty so i find that quite exciting...and because i'm not going to be here next year she wants a picture of me to show the baby...how funny?

Well yesterday i had a meeting after school about the trip to Spain with my class. We leave Sunday 4th April and get back Friday 9th April. It was the first real information i got about the trip so it was quite exciting. The bus trip is about 14 hours though overnight so i'm not so keen on that. I will be staying with a host family when i'm there, so it's an exchange within an exchange. I'm actually quite nervous about this trip because i don't know Spanish and i don't know too many people who are going. I will be staying in the host family with at least another student though so it will be good. We're going to Madrid and during the days we are going sightseeing all around the city and seeing all the sights. It's sure to be a great week and when i get back it's Easter holidays. Yay!!!

Not sure what else there is to tell you. Tomorrow my friend Denisse may be coming over for awhile but we're organising that tomorrow. If it's nice on Sunday my family and i are going to go on a picnic with my third host family. They are family friends of my current family so it should be fun. We're going to go to a town nearby that my host dad has been keen to show me. He says there is a nice lake there so i bet i'll do some walking!!!

Je parle plus de français maintenant, surtout à l’école et j’ai trouvé que c’était assez difficile d’écrire en anglais. Bientôt je vais oublier mon anglais !!!

À bientôt
Bisous xoxo
Mel

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Random stuff

Well it's another week and since i don't really have that much exciting news i'm going to explain some of the things i've discovered since i've been in France...good, interesting and different.

Well i'm going to tell you a bit more about school because for me that's something i found, and still find, very different to Australia. It actually makes me appreciate being educated in Australia and realise how lucky we are when it comes to school. I miss school in Australia which is quite funny. First of all hours here are long...8am starts and 6pm finishes and one hour in the middle of the day for lunch. Lessons are an hour long but usually french and history and geography are double periods. For those who don't know students in France can choose from three streams of subjects, L, ES and S. I started off in an ES class and now i'm in L. Within these streams there are set subjects with very limited choice over other subjects. Everybosy gets to choose a specialty for two hours of lessons a week but thats pretty much all the choice they get. ES and S both have two classes in my year, premiere, btu in my class, L, there are only 9 people, all girls. This isn't surprising because it seems to be the more rigorous and serious stream with more difficult french lessons and an emphasis on langauges. The lessons here tend to be quite boring with teachers using a more lecture type style and expecting the students to make their own notes. Homework and tests are given often with very high expectations and pressure put on students. Marks are usually out of 20, sometimes 10, and anything of 12 or higher is very much acceptable. Teachers have a friendly relationship with the students though, just like a home, and they can be very reasonable and supportive. One thing that really surprised me when i first arrived though was that the French have not discovered substitute teachers. If the teacher isn't there you don't have class so some days end surprisingly early. In fact i have no school at all tomorrow because i usually only have two hours of french but the teacher isn't there so i don't have to go. Another thing, lunches are provided free for all students enrolled at the school and they are full hot lunches including bread, fruit, dairy and desert. They are usually pretty good but some days none of the options are very appetising. What else about school...hmmm. Well sport here is pretty funny for me because so far i've done two sports that don't really exist in Aus. I did two weeks of handball when i first arrived and found that quite fun. Since then i've been doing course d'orientation which is also fun but i personally fund it pretty dangerous. Pretty much we get on a bus and go to a special location about 20 minutes out of town. We have to get in pairs and i go with my friend Manon and each pair is given a map and a piece of paper with the numbers 1 to 30 on it.On the map are the corresponding numbers in red and they are stations that you have to find. You record the stations you find by punching a hole on the numbered piece of paper. The tricky and dangerous part of it is that you're in full woods with limited trails, running on uneven ground and rockes, crawling under barbed wire fences, trying to fight through prickly bushes and all just to get the hole punch. Last week i ended up with scratches all over my hands and legs, i slid down two steep dirty slopes, nearly killed my ankles numerous times and went down one leafy hill on my bottom. It's a heck of a lot of fun though and it feels so good when you maanage to find one. It's also very physical because it's one hour of navigating through the bush and running to try and find as many as you can. Ahh i love it!!! Another thing i found different and a little bit shocing at first was the number of people who smoke here. After every two lessons there is a ten minute break and practically everyone heads just outside the school for a cigarette. I always go with my friends but they know i don't smoke and they don't mind. They think i'll smoke by the end of my exhange but that's one aspect of french culture i won't be adopting. I've also surprised the other exchange students by doing the classwork and homework here. They tell me i don't have to do it and that they don't do it but for me it's something i feel i have to do. Although i have finished school at home part of my life here is school and i feel like i should take it at least somewhat seriously. I also think it helps me learn french and the teachers seem to like that i try to do the work. I always do the work in maths and english....maths is an easier level than i did at home and english is english. For one of my english teachers though i have to do all the work in french and i find that very beneficial. Last week i had to do a presentation on my values that my class did in english..i got 7.5/10 for mine and i was pretty happy with that. I also helped my friend with hers and she got 8/10 so i'm really happy for her. She's really improving and she's so happy that she's getting better so i'm glad i can help her. The only subject i struggle to do the work and homework in is spanish but i try my best and do whatever work i can.The other thing is the lack of uniform factor. To be honest i hate it...it's so much easier waking up and putting on a uniform. Not having to worry about what you're wearing or what you look like is so much better. Some girls here go so over the top at school it's crazy...

What else can i tell you about my french life...Oh yeah english music here is very popular and whenever i listen to the radio in the car majority of the songs are in english. It's also pretty funny because my host dad sings and plays guitar and he sings along to the radio with his cute little accent. I swear they don't know what they're singing though sometimes because some pretty obscene songs that would never be palyed unedited at home are played quite often here and they sing along to all the words. It's also very popular among kids in my class to swear or sing in english a lot...some kids swear at me in english whenever they see me. Not because they're being rude but because they know i'm Australian and that's the only english they know.

Another strange phenomenon here is that i'm expected to be the expert on everything that happens in the english speaking world. Which is fine if i know the answer but it's been very awkward all the times i've had to say, "je ne sais pas". People have also been very curious about Australia and my life there. Australia, and the people, have a good reputation here and everyone loves to talk to me about my country...especially kangaroos haha Being in France has made me realise how much i really do love Australia nd the lifestyle.. There are definitely things i love here and i'm going to miss when i go home and France will always hold a special place in my heart but i really think i want to live in Newcastle. I just love the city and the beach and the people and the atmosphere.

Well i've made quite a few lists since i've been here. Things i like, things i don't, things i miss etc. I think it's a good time to share some of them.

Let's start with things i love about FRANCE:
- The sheer beauty of this country...it has some breathtakingly beautiful landscapes and scenery...plus the grass is actually green here.
- The history: everything has some historical tale attached to it and the architecture is so old and fascinating.
- Can't go past the churches or the castles either...they're always so gorgeous.
- The pride the french people have in their country, it's history and their language.
- The close proximity to other countries...man i love that aspect of europe
- the Langauage...it's so pretty and i feel so good when i speak it.

ok now on to things i don't like about France (YET!!!):
- The cold...well here at least..winter was freezing and soemtimes i seriously thought my toes were going to fall off they were that cold.
- The food...well at least the meal times..only having three meals a day is a real struggle for me..i still get hungry at times when i can't have a meal and struggle to eat heaps at the meal time
- getting up so early for school..6am wake up calls
- the amount of swearing used in conversation
- the smoking

and finally the things i miss about Aus:
- my family and friends...there really isn't a day that goes by where i don't think about you...lots of things here remind me of you and when i see such beautiful things i wish you could be here to see them too.
- My pets..i miss cuddling and playing with them...having pets here just isn't the same
- Speaking english and understanding what's going in all the time..i miss not feeling lost in conversation and not having to worry about somebody asking me a questions i can't answer
- feeling completely comfortable
- the sun, the heat and the beach
- the aussie attitude and people
- being able to drive and being independant
- coaching and being at the gym
- my own bed and my bedroom
- KFC and all other food that i love at home

Well i know the i miss list is kinda long but i really am having a great time ere at the moment. The list is just a bist of refelction on my two lives...yes i consider them two lives. For some reason they don't seem like the same life to me. They're so different and separate at the moment.

Well one last thing to add. I feel like i have the most amazing host sister int he entire world. We have such a great relationship and she feels just likea real sister to me. We talk and do homework and watch movies and tease each other and have fun together. It's so great knowing i have someone i get along with so well to talk to here and relax with. I can't believe how great this family is for me and how lucky i am. They're not perfect but no family is and i have no major problems. I also think i'm not a person prone to complaining so i just focus on the good stuff..and there is quite a lot of that so i'm stoked. I also think they are happy to have hosted me so i feel good about that. They love speaking english sometimes and helping me with my french so i hope they feel hosting was a positive experience for them. Well that's the end of my reflections for now. Enjoy!
xoxo
Mel

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Un autre jour...

I know it's only been a day since i last posted but i have lots of time to write today because i finished school at 10 and i'm waiting for my host mum to pick me up at 12.

So yesterday after school my host brother asked me to play soccer in the front yard with him and my host dad. We mucked around for about an hour kicking the ball around,chasing each other, shooting goals in their mini basketball hoop and just generally having fun. It was nice to be doing some exercise outside for a change without it being too cold.

When my host sister got home from school she came into my room jsut to say hi and we talked about our days. Afterwards my host siblings and i pretty much spent the rest of the night in my bed looking at my photos, talking and watching the movie Madeline in english from my computer. I also found out last night that my host sister is pregnant and she's due in September so i'll be here when the baby is born. It's also due between the 15th and 31st of Septmeber and my birthday is the 13th so i'tll be around my birthday perhaps. I think that's pretty cool...

At the moment i'm definitely at a high point of my exchange rollercoaster and although i can't see the turns ahead of me i hope they are just like this because i'm really enjoying the ride. I'm at the point where i can see how it may be difficile to leave this town at the end of the year. Luckily i still have about 9 months before i to enjoy it before i have to worry about that! I'm also at the point where if someone offered me the chance to go home tomorrow, no questions asked, i wouldn't take it. I've made it 2 months here already and i have too much to look foward to here now to leave it all behind just because it might get hard again. I've had some great times that i'll never forget and i wouldn't give them up for anything. I AM going to make it to the end and i AM goignt o have lots more great moments to enjoy. Don't get me wrong, i still miss home, Aus, my family and friends and i think about them everyday but i know they're happy if i'm happy so i'm goingto enjoy myself as much as i can. I also know that my life in Aus will be waiting for me when i return in the not too distant future and i want to live this up while i can. I only have this chance once so i'm determined to make the most of it!

Well on to other things... As you can probably imagine i have quite a bitof free time here and while i now have internet connection on my laptop, and i do a lot of things with my host family, i'm really missing reading and being able to escape into that other fantasy world that is presented to you. I brought with me a nintendo DS game with 100 classic novels on it but whileit is extremely practical and they are fabulous books that i plan to read in the future it's just no the kind of reading i'm craving here. I don't want the intellectual stuff....i want the brilliant can't put it down writing. I also have Harry Potter 1 here in french but that takes so much concentration and time to understand it so it's not the same either. I really just want a good Jodi Picoult or Harlan Coben book to delve into... but for now i'll just have to manage with what i have because english books aren't too readily available over here.

Quoi d'autre, quoi d'autre...Sice i've been here my imagination has also kinda gone a bit wild because i have so much time to think and plan and daydream. When i went to the Pyrenées with my host family and stayed with Mami my interest in scrapbooking took a giant leap. Mami does a lot of scrapbooking and i looked at all her albums which are really good. It made me really really keen to make a scrapbook about my exchnage when i get home and i've taken lots of photos and collected lots of things so that i can make it great. I think it will be a great way to look back at my year and keep all my memories in one place. I keep a journal here and i writein it every night so that will helo me make it when i get home. Hopefully i'll be creative, and motivated, enough wheni get home to capture all the wonderful moments of my exchange in the scrapbook so that i can look back on them forever....and have something cool to show the grandkids lol

Well that's about all for today. My plan for my afternoon off school is to relax and then go through all the french grammar sheets i was sent from home and make my own little summary. I really want to be the best at this language i can be when i go home so i'm going to do everythingi can to help myself learn.
xoxo
Mel

p.s I also went back and aded to my very first post here. At the time i didn't have much time on the computer but i'm sure some people may be interested in what went on. I'd also like to have that record for myself while i can still remember.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

another week in the french life




Well it's been another week and i'm surprised i've actually managed to keep this up so far. I find i write about the same events so many times her eto so many people so when i come to write my blog i'm almost tired of writing. Maybe i should do this first and then copy and past the text afterwards...that might be smart.

My past week has pretty much just been a normal week for me here. Last week wasn't a great week for me though so i'm kinda glad it's over. The weather was pretty crappy, school was boring and i was tired after my big weekend in Spain. I'm happy to say though that so far this week has been much better. I've been here nearly 2 months now...where has all the time gone?!?! I did start those special french classes au college and they were good. I'll be going every Thursday and it's practically all french grammer. Last week we did really easy stuff that i could already do so the teacher said she'd find some harder work for me to do. My writing and reading is at quite a high level here and my understanding is definitely coming along i just need to improve the speaking. I have had conversations in french though so i'm improving. I think i'm doing quite well for how long i've been here.

Well i'm currently sitting here at school on the computer trying to fill in the time until my host dad comes to pick me up at 3.30pm. I finished at 12 so it's quite a long wait but that's the story of my life here. I usually find something to do to fill in the time either at school or en ville so it's not really much of a problem. Now that the weather is finally starting to get warmer it's nicer to wait outside too.

Well i might start this post with my weekend. My weekends here are my chance to sleep-in and relax and i really do take advantage of that opportunity by sleeping in until about 12. My host family don't mind though so it's all good. Saturday after lunch i spent some time on the computer and then my host mum, host sister and i went to the neighbour's house. My host brother was a bit upset because he wanted to come but he was told it was just a girl's thing haha. The neighbour's have two young kids, a girl and a boy, and so we decided to play the wii. We played this game called just dance, which is pretty much the dancing equivalent of singstar. There are lots of songs to choose from with different levels of physical exersion and technique. We had four players at a time and it was absolutely hilarious to watch. It was heaps of fun and even though i felt stupid it was good. I even managed to win once to the song, "Fame". Go Me!!! Then when the guys got home we relocated to our house and the game continued until about 9pm. My host brother then started a pillow fight but he ended up surrendering because i was too good (read: my host mum made him stop because she thought he'd hurt me. lol fat chance of that happening becuase i was def winning)Then we had dinner all together and it was some really nice carbonara pasta. It's times like these (haha my head just said "you need minties" anyway back to the story)i'm so glad my host dad is a chef.

Sunday was another long sleepin and restful day spent on the computer. After lunch my host brother went to his friend's house to do homework and my host dad went to work so it was just us girls at home. We played a card game and after they had managed to explain it to me we played for about 2 hours. I won so i was pretty stoked about that. Sunday night i talked to my mum and my sister on skype because it was my sister's 16th birthday at home. I got to see her open her present and card which was nice. She also got her licence so congrats about that Dani!!

Yesterday it was back to school but it's actually sunny here this week so i'm super happy. Everything seems so much better when it's sunny. School was school and nothing that exciting happened. After school i had an hour to fill in so i went for a walk around the town and finally took some pictures of the bridges. (see above when i can bothered to add them off my camera) I also bought a patch to put on my blazer and i was so proud because i managed to use french to buy it without the man getting confused. I'm planning on putting the patch, which is the crest of my host city, on the shoulder of my blazer. Unfortunately the ugly green Aus blazer happens to clash with my beautiful red patch. At least it'll stand out i guess...

When i got home yesterday i had a package waiting for me which is so exciting considering the amount of mail that's been lost between aus and here. It was a package of french work from a my old french teacher and some photos and things from my mum. So exciting to finally get something and not be disappointed because it didn't turn up.Last night after dinner i had a long talk with my host family about my life here, my exchange, how i'm feeling etc It was so nice to know that they care about what's going on with me. They also said that when i leave their family there will be a hole because ive really become part of the family and my host brother considers me his sister. It was very nice to hear that because i do feel like part of the family and i am so grateful that they have been so good to me. It will be sad to leave such an amazing family but i'll see more of them throughout my year. Especially because my next host family is my host mum's parents.

Well today at school i only had three hours of lessons. I was dropped off at 8 but didn't start class until 9 so i spent an hour doing english homework. I find some english homework here quite difficult though because the instructions and explanations are in french so i'm never quite sure what the question is asking. Spanish was ok and then afterwards i had english with my class. They had to do a talk about their virtues for 2 minutes in english and i had to do mine in french. I think they were pretty impressed by my french which is good because we were'nt allowed sheets or anything. After that class i had anglais de spé which is more advanced english. At the moment we're analysing advertisements. Some people had to do an impromptu oral about it but i'm first up next time. I don't really like this class because the teacher gets annoyed if i don't say what she expects me or wants me to say. It's hard because this is subjective english so our ideas aren't always the same or i might miss something. It's a little bit stressful for me.

Tomorrow i finish school at 12 and my host sister and i will be home alone all afternoon so we'll probably do something together which will be nice. Next Wednesday i'll probably stay in Villefranche and do something with the AFS student from Paraguay. She speaks really good english so we can talka dn we might watch a movie or something. It'll just be nice to finally do something with someone for a change.

I also have some exciting things to look foward to as well. In April i have my class trip to spain...then early May i have my next rotary weekend and they're always fun because of the amount of awesome exchange students in the same place at the same time...then later in May my best friend who is on exhcange in Belgium might be coming to stay with me for 5 days. If this works out i'll be thrilled and it'll be so much fun to muck around and have fun just like we would at home....then my euro tour comes right at the beginning of June....i finally got a reply from the travel agent about how to pay so that's being organised. Two weeks of travelling around Europe with other exchange students is just about the best thing in the world. Then in September my family is coming to visit. My mum finally got her passport (yes mum you were supposed to have that before i left home)and booked the trip so i'll have some time with them. Can't wait!!!

Well this turned into a rather long update...i had some other things i was going to talk about, like how i'm feeling here, and reading material and my scrapbook plans but i might leave them til tomorrow or whenever i next feel like writing.

Enjoy!
xoxo
Mel

p.s if you're wondering about the picture of me at the top i got bored on the weekend and took about 10 random pictures of myself. I decided i had to do something with them so here one is...

p.p.s leave a comment!!!!!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A weekend in Spain





Well as the heading suggests i spent the weekend in Spain. I had a great but tiring weekend! We stayed at a lovely little hotel not too far from the French border in a place called Bossost. During the days we traveled 30ks to the ski slopes at Baqueira. The rotarians, Claudia and I went for walks in the snow, saw an igloo and did some toboggining with the 6 year old grandaughter of one of the rotarians. The snow was great and Marie-Sarah was so cute..she enjoyed giving me little french lessons and showing me her english, "what is your name?" lol

During the evenings we went to a Tapas bar and talked about lots of random things...i wasn't quite brave enough to try the sangria though. We then had meals at the hotel which were quite good. The second night though i was a bit shocked when an entire fish came out on a plate. The ehad and the tail were still attached and i had no idea how to cut it. It was pretty good though once i worked out how to actually eat it.

Back at school today and i was pretty tired..been feeling a little bit sad today but i'm sure things will be better tomorrow after a good night's sleep. I did end up changing classes and i'm now in 1ère L which is the literature stream. There are only about 7 kids in my class, all girls, and i'm not surprised there arent very many cos it's damn hard work. I now have lots of english and french, spanish, maths, biology, chem and physics, sport and history and geography. I like this class though because i use more french and we also join with another ES class sometimes so i've met heaps of new people. School is a bit boring at the moment though and i especially don't like anglais de spé. We're analysing advertisements and it's a bit too much like english back in Australia for me to enjoy it. The teacher expects me to be an expert and pick up all the symbolism and language techniques in the text etc I never expected to have to do this kind of thing here and i feel so bad for my classmates because they really don't understand the work..i'm starting special french classes soon though so i'm looking foward to improving my french. I'm starting to think in French now and i'm finding that quite exciting..

Until next time,
bisous

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Lovin' the life...





Well i've now been in France for over a month and have finally found some motivation to continue this blog....the plan from now on is to try and update once a week...let's see how long that lasts.

The last couple of weeks have been great...i've really come to feel part of my family and i'm totally enjoying the french lifestyle. France really is a beautiful country and i've been lucky enough to see a bit of it these last couple of weeks. Since my last post i've settled into school and made a couple of friends which is really quite good..no parties or outings yet but things are coming i'm hoping. I've been on holidays the past two weeks though so i haven't seen anyone apart from my host family because we've spent the whole time travelling..

The first week of holidays i went to the north of France to Bretagne and we went to the beach and saw some beautiful landscapes. It was pretty cold up there but i saw a medieval, fortified city and lots of little port towns. The history in france is so great and seeing all the historical churches and buildings is so amazing. This past week i went south to the pyrenees with my host dad and host brother. They are both amazing and my host brother has to be the funniest kid on the planet...i have so many hysterical photos of him! We stayed at my hot dad's mum's house and she was so lovely. During our stay i saw the Lourdes cathedral which is a famous stop for pilgrims because the virgin appeared there and there is a grotto and you can drink healing water. It was absoultely beautiful and while i'm not religious to that extent it was lovely seeing people take so much comfort from this place and their beliefs. I also spent a wonderful day tobogging in the pyrenees which was an absoulte laugh. My host family borrowed a snow suit for me and i looked, and felt, like a giant marshmallow. I had a wonderful day though filled with lots of crashes and laughs. It's very tiring though!

I go back to school the day after tomorrow and i'm almost looking foward to it which is kinda sad. There was a bit of confusion about changing classes etc ater the holidays but i'm not really worried about that..i'll sort it out when i get back to school. I'm going to Spain next weekend with my rotary club and my mexican friend Claudia so i'm really looking foward to that...i love Europe!!!

My french isn't going too badly though my host family do speak english so i don't use it as much as i should...when i go back to school i'm hoping people there will speak french with me so i can continue to learn. When i have to speak french i can get by but i really do want to be quite fluent by the end of my exchange so i need to start using my french.

Lastly while i'm having a great time here now i'm defiantely missing my friends and family back in Oz as well as my two great friends Sarah and Elisa who are on exchange in Norway and Belgium...i knew i'd miss these guys heaps but wasn't quite prepared for exactly how much..

Until next time
Bisous,
Mel