Katie' Pau Life En France

Ma vie En France

Barcelona!! April 17, 2010

Filed under: Spain — katiespaulife @ 7:56 am
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Okay, back to the subject of Spain, since I only mentioned San Sebastian….

In Barcelona I met up with fellow cougs Ashley and Lauren (who are also keeping blogs which I added to my blogroll). It was nice to see some familiar faces after a long bus ride where I couldn’t understand anything or talk to anyone. I like travelling alone, but I think in the future I probably won’t go to countries where I don’t speak the language without another person.

 

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Barcelona was a cool city. One and a half days there was not enough, but sadly I don’t think I will ever return – there are too many other places in the world to see. I was fascinated by all of Gaudi’s architecture, but I think Paris is a much prettier city overall (sorry Goonting!).

 

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Our first night there we went out for some awesome Spanish cuisine! Ashley got regular Sangria, but Lauren and I ordered the Sangria Cava Blanc. I’ve had my fair share of regular red Sangria in France, but this drink was incomparable.So delicious and very large!

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And some yummy yummy Paella! (Mom – your paella is still the best = )

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The waiter tried to convince us that this wouldn’t be big enough for 2 people – haha, I’m glad I stuck to my intuition and told Lauren it would be.

 

The next day I went to Park Guell, which was amazing!

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The best of Gaudi is of course the Sagrada Familia.

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This church has been under construction for 150 years and won’t be finished for60. Seeing other USAC student’s pictures of this place is what made me decide Barcelona was a must-see.

 

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For my second (and last) night here, we went down to this fountain for an awesome show (complete with cheesy American music) and saw the remnants of the Olympic games!

 

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Thanks to Lauren and Ashley for being great travelling companions and have a safe trip home next week!

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Sous Le Soleil D’Espagne! April 15, 2010

Filed under: Spain — katiespaulife @ 6:47 am
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I LOVE San Sebastian! Just look how blue that water is! What a beautiful place!

 

My trip to Spain was rather complicated, but it started off with 2 nights in San Seabass on the northern coast. You might recall a blog I wrote when I went here way back in January on my first weekend in Pau. The weather was so stormy (and snowy!!) that I couldn’t do anything but the bars. This time I did everything else!

 

My first night there I met a girl from Quebec who I practiced French with and had a nice dinner of fruit, bread and cheese on the beach after dark. The bay was equally beautiful at night, with all the buildings lit up, but my pictures didn’t turn out well, so here is one in daylight:

 

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It felt so relaxing to just sit in my shorts at 9 pm with my toes in the sand as the Atlantic ocean washed up on this quiet shore. Not to mention I was eating the freshest strawberries from Portugal and had a great dinner companion! Sadly my dinner company was extremely homesick that night. We spoke of Quebec and the hunting trips she would take with her dad when she was younger, her big family back home and her tiny country village where no one speaks English. And of course there is a boy in the picture to add to the homesickness. She told me every place she has visited in Europe is so romantic (San Sebastian really was!) and she has a boy in Montreal she won’t see again for a long, long time. My heart really went out to her, because she is so nostalgic for Canada and won’t return until the end of July. However, it is true that there is no place like home, but I also think there is no place quite like San Sebastian!

 

The photos above and below were taken from the top of a funicular that led up to an amusement park for kids! There was a hotel up there as well, with views like this one:

 

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I wonder how much a night here would cost??

 

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Unfortunately the weather wasn’t this perfect for the entire trip. The first day it started off with pouring rain and winds. I tried to keep dry by going to the aquarium – which was awesome. It had one of those tanks with a tunnel where you can see sharks swim right over your head! Oh and the aquarium was at the end of all the docks so I got to see a lot of Basque fishing boats on the way.

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In the afternoon the skies cleared up a bit so I reunited with my Canadian friend and we climbed Mt. Urgull. Actually, “climb” is kind of a misleading word, we walked up a paved path – nothing too extreme for my flip flops.

 

Here are my only shots of the mountain and the Jesus statue on top!

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The horizon that evening was amazing! Never looks as awesome on camera, but it was a once in a lifetime kind of sunset – great to see from the top of Urgull! And across the way you can see that hotel.

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Another great thing about San Sebastian was the hostel I stayed in. The owner spoke only Spanish, but he still gave me advice on where to go, was kind-hearted and genuinely hospitable. After the freezing rain he gave the Canadian and I tea with lemon and when I returned from Barcelona he had seen that I gave him a 100% review on hostelworld so he grabbed my face and kissed me on both cheeks. That was a bit awkward for me…I feel like I’ve had so many random ppl kiss me on the cheeks here.

 

Anyway, I’m too tired to write more, but here are a few more pictures of San Sebastian. If you ever go to Spain you must visit!

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Blog Squad Prompt 6 April 13, 2010

Filed under: Random Story — katiespaulife @ 8:51 pm
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Blog Squad prompt #6:
Hafez Adel, a University of California at Irvine student who studied in
Barcelona, Spain, wrote an article entitled “Slashing Stereotypes” for the
magazine Abroad View. Wrote Adel:
“Living abroad taught me that stereotypes endure because they provide a
comfortable shortcut to understanding complex matters and that they
usually emerge to fill a vacuum of knowledge. Talking with my roommates,
classmates and strangers on the streets of Spain dispelled many of the
stereotypes I held, while studying and hearing stories about Spanish
history dispelled my misconceptions even more… What we [Hafez and his
Spanish roommate] learned is that we know much less about each other’s
cultures than we thought. But what we lost in certainty, we made up for in
understanding.” (Abroad View, Spring 2009, Volume 11, Issue 2, page
26-28.)
Has studying abroad caused you to question any stereotypes?  Is there a
stereotype that the residents of your host culture hold about Americans
that has intrigued, surprised, or infuriated you? Why do you think this
stereotype has developed? Do you think the stereotype emerged to “fill a
vacuum of knowledge” as Adel suggests, or do you think there are valid
reasons for the stereotype?
Conversely, are there stereotypes that you held about the residents of
your host country that have been either dispelled or validated? Blogging
about these kinds of considerations can be an excellent way to document
the way in which study abroad is improving your critical thinking skills.

 

RESPONSE:

 

Hmmm…I don’t really like answering this prompt, because all of my stereotypes about the French have been validated.

 

Plus a few common stereotypes I thought were ignorant before I came here

 

Of course I don’t stereotype every person I meet simply because they are French. As in any country/culture, a lot of individuals have been drastically different than the norm.

However, the French in general, have proved themselves to be…well…something. I’m not going to go into drastic detail, because I can think of at least 2 French people who read this and I don’t want to offend anyone. I’ll focus on one positive and one negative though, just to give a couple examples.

 

Positive:

 

They do eat well!! Lots of cheese and pastries….mmmm, but also they focus on well balanced meals with fruits and veggies. Something that I think Americans often overlook. Having that balance at EVERY meal is very important here in France. (Even with the balance…the skinny girls everywhere are a mystery…it has gotta be in the genes!)

 

Negative:

 

They strike ALL THE TIME!!

This is driving me off the wall! I’ve been through so many stressful situations because of the strikes! From the ordeal coming home from Rome, to returning from Spain yesterday to discover no one wanted to sell me tickets home from the border to Pau, because they are still on strike after a week! I don’t know enough about the success rate of their strikes to pass a judgment, but I will say it is one thing that has made me appreciate the US more. This was one of those stereotypes I did not think was true before I arrived. Boy was I wrong. So very very wrong.

 

 

Okay so onto the US…I’m not sure exactly what the French think of us. Most of them keep rather quiet about their stereotypes around me (for obvious reasons). But I do know they consider American girls to be sluts and think we are all fat. I also think we have validated those to be pretty true.
From what I have seen over here, French girls are actually much much easier than Americans, but when American girls go to Europe (or meet a French guy in the US), things change. Obviously the accent is appealing, and then there is that whole thought process of “I’m young and in Europe – this is my opportunity in life to go crazy!”. Many American girls in USAC have lived up to the stereotype.

 

And we all know the statistics show that USA is the fattest country, so I couldn’t argue that one even if I disagreed.

 

There is one stereotype I do disagree with though. That is that the French believe we all chug massive amounts of coca-cola every day. From what I have seen, they drink way way more coke than we do. And the only people I know back home who are addicted, are addicted to diet coke.

Every French person I’ve discussed stereotypes with sincerely believes we can’t get enough of our coke. This one surprises me, but it is a pretty minor stereotype so I don’t even both to argue it most of the time.

 

In regards to other countries I’ve visited….

 

~ I was never hit on by an Italian and the biggest stereotype I had was that they are sleazy catcallers (sorry Marco – don’t think that of you at all!), but I do know many girls who had pretty negative experiences in that area.

 

~ the Spanish are kind of a mystery to me, no stereotypes come to mind for them. Especially since I cannot understand anything they say.

 

~ The English kids I met here gave me the stereotype that they drink massive amounts of alcohol on a daily basis. And come to think of it…they were all really perverted….

 

~ Finally there are the Irish. I seem to have this stereotype that they are all light-hearted

 

Oh and I now know that they know Americans love Irish accents:

 

I also think I don’t really take them seriously (because of my whole “light-hearted” stereotype). Just last week I met an Irishman in Barcelona who was not breaking any stereotypes for that country by wandering lost and drunk on a subway at 7 am. I needed to catch my bus back to San Sebastian, but luckily I had left early, because he really needed help going home and was begging me to help him find his bus. I spent a good half an hour trying to figure out where he was going and how to get there. Finally I was sending him on his way when he started begging me to come with him. He said we had a connection, because I was “beautiful, sweet and innocent” and he claimed to be charming and said “I have a nice accent”. I told him that is not a connection and he added that he has a swimming pool as well as everything else a girl could want. I shamelessly laughed at this guy (because I don’t think he’ll remember being laughed at) and then finally found a metro worker to ditch him with because by this point I really needed to get to my bus. Probably would have been creeped out by anyone else I met on a subway drunk at 7 am, but I kind of just thought, “meh, he’s Irish”. 

 

What all my close-minded outlooks are leading up to is that I know Studying Abroad is supposed to “expand your horizons”, “open your mind” and all of that junk, but honestly I feel more stereotypical and nationalistic than ever. I sound like a prick in this blog, but that is my honest answer. I would love to travel more and see the world as I age, but I think I’ll always reside in the US. It’s my home and I never realized how important to me our culture is until I left it.

 

La ville Rose

Okay….continuing on from the last blog, we arrived in Toulouse just before sunset.

 

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Being far from the Pyrenees, stones are expensive to ship here and thus most of the buildings are built out of bricks, which is a sign of poverty. Notice how this church was constructed with stones at the bottom and more and more bricks as it was finished? Apparently their budget ran low…

 

Oh, did I even mention we spent Friday night in Toulouse? Got to stay in a hotel Friday – nice break from the hostels. Than Saturday morning we had a tour of the town (really just a tour of 3 churches), which was very informative and pretty interesting overall. Not going to lie though, it is much, much easier for me to space out when I’m listening to French than English.

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One church had the feet of Saint Christopher (patron saint of travelers) in it. People could pray here and touch them for better feet (yep, I touched them). Elly said they looked more like monster feet than those of a saint!

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His body used to be painted here as well, but time (and dirty fingers) has erased it.

 

After the tour we had another giant lunch! The entree was good, but a rather heavy and American-like dish of mashed potatoes, mushrooms and chicken. I only took pictures (or stole from Kim, icr) of my favorite courses!

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Mousse

 

We walked off the mousse by exploring le jardin des plantes in the afternoon. I don’t know why they call it that though, seemed more like a jardin des oiseaux to me!

“This is like your heaven!” Elly said, with a bit of panic in her voice, because unlike me, she hates birds. The peacock freaked her out a bit – I thought it was awesome though, especially when it chased this poor little duckling into the water!

 

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And afterwards we crossed a couple bridges, went through another park and then into the shopping area.

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Got some free gum!

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And finally returned to Pau for the night. Great excursion!

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Blog Squad Prompt 5 April 1, 2010

Filed under: Preparing to go abroad,Travels in France — katiespaulife @ 3:21 pm
Tags:

Whew….I have so much to blog about. Just returned home from Ireland and Brussels today and am heading off again to Toulouse and Carcassone tomorrow. I don’t know how much writing I’ll do before I pass out, but I suppose I should start with my blog prompt.

 

 

#5    Cross-Cultural Learning & Integration
Perhaps by this point in your education abroad experience you are
beginning to recognize that studying abroad provides a different
experience than merely traveling abroad as a tourist. The reality is that
sometimes leaving and studying in a foreign country is not easy!
Take a few minutes and make a list of different things you’ve had to learn
or adapt to that the average tourist wouldn’t need to deal with. Some
examples might include understanding how to set up a bank account or how
to pay one’s rent or electric bill, recognizing how much work professors
expect, and so on. In your blog describe something that has been
especially challenging to adapt to in your new culture (the lack of fresh
vegetables, the relative inaccessibility of the professors, or the
extremely crowded subway that you have to use to commute, etc. about how
this learning has impacted your personal growth by giving examples of
things you’ve had to learn.

 

1) Buying and using my bus pass – I had to do this the first week in Pau. Shelled out 55 euros for a 3 month pass to the crappy bus system in Pau. I think the usage of the bus system  may have made me more homesick than anything else. All the little issues such as running to catch my buses, stressing about the time, waiting in the cold and rain for late buses, dealing with strikes, hobos and not being able to stay out after 7:30 on my own have made me miss my car and parents very much. I cannot wait to go home and drive to where I want to be when I need to be there. Unlike Pullman, Pau is not a 20 minute walk everywhere, so this semester has been rough, much rougher than Freshman year without a car. It isn’t nearly as cold, but my chances of seriously being stranded somewhere without a phone make it a bit more of a serious problem for me. I can’t wait to drive my Jeep across the state when I get back…

 

2) Professors – My profs were strange. Each one very different, but overall not awful. I really disliked one of them, but the other 2 were pretty nice. They all were very different from the US profs, mainly because they don’t seem to have a sense of what is appropriate in the class room. This contributed to my education here, because I feel that my profs taught me a lot about French culture without even meaning to. Does the term “Politically Correct?” even have a translation in France?

 

3) French and American cultural differences in privacy

 

4) The Service Industry – I know I’ve blogged about how much I hate that here.

 

hmm….think that sums it up – Happy April!

 

The Lupine Lady March 19, 2010

Filed under: Random Story — katiespaulife @ 1:20 pm
Tags: , ,

One of my friends from WSU and Hazen is studying French and Arabic
in Morrocco for the semester. She is keeping a blog for the WSU blog squad as well. Here is the link:

http://madisonaherman.wordpress.com/

I skimmed over her blog this afternoon and the very first entry caught my eye:

“The other day I read a children’s book that my grandmother used to read to me when I was little. It is called “Ms. Rumphius” but I always thought that it was called “The Lupine Lady”. It is funny how you remember things differently when you are a kid. It is a great book you should read it if you haven’t. In the book, a grandfather tells his granddaughter that she must do three things travel to far away places, live by the sea and do something to make the world more beautiful.”

Coincidentally my grandmother used to read me the exact same book. It was always a favorite of mine; right up there with “Rainbow Fish”. The beautiful story is complimented with soft, pretty illustrations that seemed to match perfectly with my grandma’s voice. In the end the granddaughter grows up and accomplishes all three things of course. For the latter, she makes the world more beautiful by planting lupines all over the sea coast she lives on.

I have so many great childhood memories spent at my grandparent’s home. The smell of the freshly cut wood in the basement, making my first batches of cookies, runnign through the woods in the backyard, eating a pound of pasta with butter and parmesan (I would eat an entire package as a kid…god I love tortellini), looking out the windows into the tree tops of the evergreens and of course, being as nosy as I am, sneaking into the old bedrooms to look through pictures, letters and antiques in the armoires.

I’m so fortunate to have had such a great childhood. To all my family members who read this blog, thanks for everything and I look forward to seeing you this summer!

Now I just have one more exam left ( a fake French job interview) and then I’m going to go downtown with my friend Renee to get drinks on the blvd of Pyrenees as we wait for our 11:30 train to pull into the station just below the blvd. Have a good weekend!

 

Blog Post # 4 March 13, 2010

Filed under: Random Story — katiespaulife @ 7:10 pm
Tags:

#4     Investing in your Experience

“Experience is a personal creation.” Five words that so accurately sum up
the study abroad experience!
Think back to the goals you set for yourself for the abroad experience.
Perhaps you were focused on language acquisition, creating international
friendships, succeeding in a dynamic internship, or developing a wonderful
relationship with your host family.
Perhaps you’ve abandoned one or more of these goals, and set some new
goals for yourself. Either way, are you achieving these goals? If you are,
great!  It probably means that you are making a concerted effort to
actively engage in the learning experience in and outside of the
classroom. It also probably means that you are taking some appropriate
risks – using your language skills outside of the classroom and so on. Can
you describe your strategies for accomplishing your goals — the risks you
are taking, and the benefits of being successful?

Then let us know how your “Investing in My Experience” game goes!

 

My response:

 

Many of you may remember me saying, “Oh yeah, 4 months, I think I’ll be fluent by the end of it”. I now know, that is just not going to happen.

My French has greatly improved – I can read easily, understand conversations and some movies pretty well (depending on how fast they speak), but when I need to speak there is still a lot lacking and I usually need a moment or two to think. It doesn’t yet come naturally. 

My new strategy is to continue my studies this summer when I return home. Like last summer I am going to try to study French an hour a day, as well as speak only French to my grandmother. Having a fluent family member a mile away will be a great aid!

In addition I am hoping to fit French into my schedule at school next fall and subscribe to netflix so I can rent French movies. I am slowly, but surely reaching my goal of fluency, but it is a very long way off and I will not reach it by the end of April.

As far as risks go, I would say the biggest one I’ve taken was choosing to live with a family who didn’t speak English. I’m very glad I decided to do this though; it has been a great experience! My host mom is such a kind and generous person- I am so thankful to have been put here. The only complaints I have are living far from downtown and that we don’t laundry near as often as I need it. Those are both minor problems though and I have benefited a lot from talking with her, watching a tiny bit of TV (not as much as I should) and hearing her converse with her daughter. There have been some dinners where we definitely run out of conversation topics, but we have also had some very good conversations and even when I can’t fully express myself in words she seems to understand. Patricia (host mom) often cooks French meals for me, keeps me informed on current events in Pau and offers to help me with homework. I really got lucky here and though I doubt we’ll keep in touch (I am her 6th student),  I know I will miss her when I return to the states.

 

I think I’ve taken a lot of risks aside from this during my stay in Europe. It has been an adventure and I cannot believe I have only a month and a half left! The countdown is beginning… =(