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 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'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'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 doesn't sit well with the perfectionist part of my persoanlity.

> I love my'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 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 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