Monday, August 31, 2015

Week One in Sweden!

Yesterday marked my first full week in Sweden, and it has been the most hectic, exhausting, and fun week of my life.

Countries represented in this picture: France,
Switzerland, USA, Russia, and Netherlands
Once I got past the jetlag, adjusting to life in Sweden wasn't that difficult at all. I quickly met other exchange students, and we immediately hit it off. It feels like all nationalities are represented here, and I really love that. Part of me was scared that it would be a bunch of Americans here, but that's not the case at all. Every person you introduce yourself to is from a different country than the last. Everywhere you turn, a different language is being spoken. The entire world is present in my tiny group of international exchange students.

The Old Town!
Many of us are adventurers, so we've gone into Stockholm (we all live a bit outside the city centre) the past five days and done various activities. We've gone on tours, wandered around the Old Town by ourselves, found a lake with a beach, and found the highest spot in Stockholm, which provided us with a beautiful view of the entire city. I can
say with confidence that every inch of this city is gorgeous.

After a week of nonstop fun and adventure, I have to actually start school tomorrow. I'm only taking two classes at a time, and those classes only meet once or twice a week for five weeks, which will be wildly different compared to my normally packed and busy schedule at Maryville College. Right now, I'm taking Swedish for Exchange Students and English Youth and Children's Culture. I'm excited, and hopefully having class less often will give me plenty of time to travel! But if not, I'm more than happy here in good 'ol Stockholm.

Hej då!
- Lee

I'm so hearteyes over you, Stockholm.

Monday, August 3, 2015

I Swear I lived... Final reflections and a mix of emotions

Last day August 1: Calle Estafeta
As I was on a train the other week, the One Republic song "I Lived" came on my ipod and as I listened to the words I felt a sinking realization that my time in Europe was coming to end and as I sit here in the ATL airport I feel the same as I did in that moment listening to that song. The end may be here and I am sad to be gone, but I am so content with my experience because I did do it all. I took the jump and never once felt the fall.

1st day Jan 21st: Calle Estafeta 
The last 6 and a half months have filled me, have changed me, and have opened my eyes to a new world and a new handful of things that I can do that I never before knew or understood. Its hard to describe these things, hard to express my gratitude and growth. And even harder to decide if I am happy or not to be back in the U.S. Don't get me wrong, I am trilled about the year ahead of me. Senior year will come with a new set of adventures shared with my East TN family who I have missed with all of my heart. I'm neither happy nor sad to be back. I feel like I'm floating in and out of emotions: longing for what I have left and eager for all that lies ahead of me. For months, my mentors in Pamplona, my rocks, and my life lines this semester, have warned me about the terrible thing called "post erasmus depression". I don't quite feel it yet, but I am also not settled back into my Maryville routine.

La plaza in all its glory 
I spent my last hours in Pamplona perfectly. Although the city was a bit sad without all of "my people" in it, it was nice to still feel at home there. Many people have asked me about my favorite places in Europe and I always think, this or that place was nice but I can't include Spain. Spain is different, its my second country, it holds part of my heart. The culture, the people, and the language captivate me and I hold them dear and close. Walking through the streets, going to the regular bars for final pinxos, a last night in my piso and with Nele and meeting up with Pablo Simpatico one last time filled me with happy last memories, and for that I am incredibly grateful.
One last Plaza selfie 

I have been contemplating the words for this final blog for a while as my departure creeped up on me. It's difficult though. Nothing seems right or to do justice to all that I have done, seen, learned and felt, but it is my hope that all if anything, everyone can see how great this experience has been for me and that all of the people who I have grown to love these 6 and a half months feel my love and understand how truly important they all are to me. There may be some people that I will never see again, there are some people that I know I will actively seek out in the future, and I hope that as I have learned that the world really is small that there are people that fate will cross my paths with again in the future.

I feel full. I feel blessed. I feel thankful. I feel love and I feel so loved.

I just feel things ;)

My people: My Erasmus Family 

"Big Girls Cry When Their Hearts are Breaking"

Me below my grafiti on the Lennon Wall
It says "Mala Cestovatelka"
I had a lot of final goodbyes in Prague.

First, I said goodbye to my theatre before my sister visited me. I finished my job of organizing the theatre. I turned off every light, looked in each room one last time, and used my keys for the final time.

Then I stayed up until the early hours of sunrise so I might get to the Lennon Wall before tourists swarmed it. I painted the words “Mala Cestovatelka” (Little Traveler) so that Prague might not forget me. It also felt very equal. Prague left its mark on me (specifically my left shoulder) and now I have left my mark on Prague. I also managed to get my picture with the astronomical clock without a sea of people around me and have a moment on the Charles Bridge with no one around.
Me and my closest Prague friend, Hali

I then spent the next six days incredibly busy with my sister (as you can read about in my last blog post) and even passed an exam during those six days! I got my first C in college ever in that class (Economic Game Theory) but I still loved it nonetheless. It taught me life lessons like when to burn my boats (commit) and that everyone is selfish (even in kindness). In a weird way, the classes that kick your butt are the ones that teach you the most. I’m incredibly glad I took it.

I had a going away party with my coworkers at Prague Shakespeare Company while my sister was in town. I made sure to have a heart-to-heart with each and every one of them. I cried, they cried. They told me how much they appreciated me. I told them how much they changed my life. Then they told me they’d be seeing me again. I promised they would.

my CEA Prague friends
After my sister left, I had forty-eight hours left in Prague. I went on a date with someone I knew I’d never see again, who made me smile and laugh a lot. We got dinner and saw a horror movie with Czech subtitles (I’m going to miss having those in my movies). It was my first date since my breakup and it was such a breath of fresh air to smile and flirt again.

Prayer candles in the Vysehrad cathedral
On my last day I went with some of my closest friends to Vysehrad, the historical fort with an amazing cathedral in the center. I thought Prague couldn’t get any more beautiful but then it did. I lit a prayer candle in the cathedral and buried it in sand (a very peaceful and beautiful practice). We then got Angelato and I had Bageterie Boulevard as my last meal. There are no better words to describe my final day but: perfect.

I said goodbye to my roommates as they left for their flights. I stayed with the friends I went to Vysehrad with until one in the morning and took the night tram back to my apartment. I cried the entire ride home. I could see my reflection in the window and I wondered if everyone around me was noticing my tears as well. What were they thinking? Did my boyfriend just dump me? Did I just fight with a friend?

I doubt anyone could guess that my heart was breaking for the city I was leaving.

The Vltava River as seen from Vysehrad
the Vysehrad cathedral
I begrudgingly then went home, packed my bags, and slept for an hour before waking up and getting on the metro for the last time to get to the airport where I flew for London. Where I am now until the tenth, when I fly to America
 had so many goodbyes with Prague, but they still weren’t enough. I never knew how someone could love a country so much, until I fell in love with Prague.

I promised myself I would do anything I could to find my way back. Of course it’s easier said than done. I’m here on first-time study abroad scholarships which I won’t qualify for again. Also, I don’t know if I could come here again unless it was for an extended period of time. The transition of leaving everything I love is just too difficult after a few short months.

I love Prague more than I’ve ever loved anything in my life. I breath better there, the weight on my shoulders is lighter. It’s the first time I felt I could call a place ‘home’. I’ve never had that feeling before. It’s as if all the songs of heartbroken lovers are beginning to make sense to me. I truly do feel as if my heart has broken. But I know I’ll be back.


Me on the Charles bridge with my tattoo of the Charles Bridge

“I’d give it all away just to get you back.”

A Londoner Comes to Prague

Due to my insane final weeks in Prague and a lack of working WiFi, I am finally able to post a blog. Since it’s been awhile, I’ll be posting two. So here is the first one:

Underneath the Astronomical Clock
where the Executioner lived.
My sister visited me in Prague! Since she lives in London, it was only a two-hour flight for her. I’ve done more tourist stuff with Rachel than my entire time in Prague. She was here for six days total. Between studying for final exams and finishing up with my internship, I’m amazed I found time in the day to do everything we did.

The first day was relaxed. I met her at the airport (which very much helped me know how to get there when I was leaving), helped her to her hotel to unpack, showed her my apartment, took her to a traditional Czech dinner, then we found a park on an island in the middle of the Vltava River. It was beautiful and one of the most relaxing moments of my entire time in Prague. I almost fell asleep in the grass. We stayed there until dark.

I hate coffee, but I have yet to
 have a bad one in this country.
The second day I took her to my favorite Mexican restaurant, Cantina. It’s a very Tex-Mex kind of place with huge portions and strong (too strong for me) margaritas. We went to a ghost museum which was incredibly cheesy but a lot of fun. It told all of the ghost tales of Prague (none based on fact of course). We then went on an actual ghost tour (completely different company) which took us underground beneath the Astronomical Clock. We learned about the historical executioner that lived down there with the kingdom’s prisoners. After we were properly spooked, we got incredibly lost getting to the vegetarian restaurant Maitrea (which turned out to be around the corner from the ghost tour where we started). The food was well worth it, though. The Buddhist restaurant had a temple next door and everything they made was from natural, healthy ingredients. After dinner I took her through my theatre so she could see where I worked. Despite being a tiny attic theatre, she was impressed.

a bird of prey in the Castle Gardens
The third day we got crepes from my favorite place for brunch. We visited another museum, the alchemy museum. It’s a partner with the ghost museum and equally cheesy. Nonetheless, it was great fun. We saw what it would have been like being an alchemist in earlier centuries. We even saw Shakespeare who “might have spent time with one of the most famous Czech alchemists” (all just rumor of course). Afterwards we made our way to the one place I’ve been dying to see since my first day, the Franz Kafka museum. I learned so much about one of my favorite authors and felt as if I was able to glimpse into his life. In one of his quotes, he describes Prague as a mother with its claws in you. The city he loved so much was the same city he hated for being the cage he was trapped in. I walked the streets of Prague differently after that, feeling like I was walking in Kafka’s shoes. We went to our third museum of the day next to see Dahli, Warhol, and a famous Czech artist (whose name escapes me). This was more for my sister, but I did find myself enjoying it. I was amazed how much art a small museum had from such famous artists. Our night was sadly cut short after this because I had to run to a study group.

The fourth day we got up early for a sushi lunch at Hanabi out near the Palladium. This was the first good sushi I’ve had in Europe, and it was heavenly. After this, I sadly had to go to class. When I was done, we went out to get dinner at a Belgian mussels restaurant. This was the best service I got my entire time in Prague. When I complimented my waitress, she gave us homemade jam. Then we went to a show that night. The Czech Republic is famous for their Blacklight Theatre which is only found in the area. We were… to say the least, confused by the show we saw. There was no story line or plot. Instead it was a lot of fantastical scenes in black light with cool tricks. Would I ever see it again? Definitely not. But it was nice to experience once and I picked up some interesting ideas for my future theatre career.





inside the Cathedral
The fifth day we woke up early so I could take her to the Charles Bridge where we made our wishes on the polished golden plaque of one of the statues (a long tradition of the bridge) and went to the Lennon Wall where Rachel left her mark (I left my own the day before Rachel got here). We got fancy coffees across from the National Theatre then lunch from Las Adelitas with some friends of mine (where the margaritas are like delicious smoothies and the food is very traditional Mexican). We then visited the castle, where we first walked into the gardens. We were greeted by birds of prey and their trainer who were giving a show for the public. After spending some time with them, we walked through the actual castle and went inside the cathedral that stands in the center. We took our time walking back down from the highest point to the center of Prague. The rest of the day we visited last minute tourist sites like the astronomical clock and where the swans live.


On the sixth day we sat in the same café Franz Kafka and Albert Einstein sat in before I put her on a metro back to the airport. Despite being incredibly busy, I’m so happy I got to show off the city I love. I also got to do everything I wanted to before saying goodbye (I left Prague two days after my sister). Sometimes it’s good to play tourist even in a city you know well.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Homesickness - The Struggle is Real

I have absolutely loved my time in France. It has allowed me the opportunity to travel a lot, learn French, and experience new things I had never even considered before. That being said, I am definitely homesick. There are a lot of few things I miss about America that I never thought I would. When the heat wave came, I realized how much I value air conditioning and ice. Being hot doesn't usually bother me, but it was pretty brutal.

The biggest struggle I've been having with the feeling of homesickness is the guilt that comes along with it. I know that I have been given an amazing opportunity, and I don't want to waste it or feel sad when I am so fortunate. It doesn't keep me from missing the comforts of home and my support system there. I usually embrace the unfamiliar in order to try new things, but it's hard being surrounded by it for so long.

Before coming here, Kirsten said that most people experience euphoria upon reaching their destination, get homesick in the middle, then aren't ready to leave when the time comes. For me, that is not an accurate representation. With only two days left in Europe, I am completely ready to go home and patting myself on the back for being smart enough to not attempt an entire semester.

I fully expect to be back a week before missing France. It's become my home, and it will always be a part of me now. In a way, I might become homesick for Europe while in America. I know that I will be back someday, though maybe not for such a long trip next time.

Nice

Until this past weekend, I've never been to a beach that hasn't been on the Atlantic. After an extensive journey via three trains, I made it to Nice and got to see the Mediterranean Sea.

The Mediterranean Sea is definitely different. It is much clearer, and a lot of the beaches have rocks instead of sand (which will definitely burn the bottoms of your feet after baking in the sun all day). It is also much more salty than the Atlantic, which made it much easier to float.

Normally, I'm more into tanning than swimming. I love swimming, but I hate the cold. However, the water was so warm and almost effortless to stay afloat in, so I stayed in the water quite a bit. The water made me so flamboyant that I could just lay on my back the entire time. It combined the wonderfully cool water with laying out and soaking up the sun. It was pretty much the best thing every.

Nice is definitely a touristy spot, so the restaurants right next to the beach were pretty expensive, but there were some more out of the way ones that were a little bit cheaper. My second night there, a few of us went to some random restaurant on a side street. I don't even remember the name of it, but it was wonderful. I had mussels, fries, and white wine. This was another new experience for me. I've never had mussels before, but I found them to be quite tasty. 

After dinner, we headed back to the beach. It was after 11 o'clock at night, but the beach was just as full as it was during the day. It was peaceful and a perfect ending to the day. We wound up missing the last tram back to the hostel, but even the long walk was nice.

Sunday morning, a small group of us went on a short hike to a man made waterfall. I could see it from the beach on Saturday, so it was cool to see it up close. The best part was the view of the city though. It was gorgeous. We took lots and lots of pictures. After going back to the beach for a while, it was time to head back home to Chambery. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Making the Most of Chambery

Chambery sort of reminds me of Maryville. It's a very small town. If you want to go to a bigger town, you go to Lyon, just like you would go to Knoxville if you were in Maryville. They both have a lot to offer. Sometimes when I am in Maryville, I forget all of the great things about the town. I forget to go out and explore and see what Maryville has to offer because I know that I will have four long years there (even though the first one has flown by). However, in Chambery, I know that I will not be here long, and it is a definite possibility that I will never be back again. It encourages me to enjoy it to the fullest extent while I am here.

Unfortunately, I have missed most of the festivals because I have been out of town those weekends, but I did get a chance to go to one night of a huge music festival here. They were playing songs from famous movies. Ironically, most of the movies were American. They had selections from films such as The Pink Panther, The Wizard of Oz, and Singing in the Rain. It was almost like a taste of home, except for the fact that they messed up some of the English. (However, my French is definitely not better than their English).

The lake has become my favorite place. It's been so hot that it's almost unbearable to stay in my apartment, so everyone flocks to the lake in an attempt to cool off. It's been a great place to tan, read, and swim. Without the lake, the heat would be pretty brutal. The lake is much nicer than those in Tennessee. The water is much clearer and probably much cleaner. I'll definitely miss it when I leave.

The school takes us on a lot of excursions as well. We've been to a museum, a brewery, a cheese factory, Annecy, and a radio station. There's definitely more, but I've been so many places that I've lost track. I wouldn't have thought to do any of these things myself, and I definitely want to look for some off the cuff things to do when I get back to Maryville.

There are some adorable little boutiques all over town. Window shopping has been a fun way to pass the time when it's not too hot. Amazingly, there's a secondhand store in town. I didn't even know those existed over here. It's definitely my favorite store that I've found by far. On the weekends, there's a market set up over a large part of the town in case there's nothing you like in the stores.

The town is tiny, but it seems like there's always something new, and I haven't yet finished everything I want to do here even though my time is almost up.

Cesky Krumlov

The following Saturday after visiting Kutna Hora, we took a second day trip to Cesky Krumlov. This is a Czech Republic town three hours outside Prague. I have also determined that this is where fairies live.
Rose in a rose garden

It's the most magical city with the Vltava River running through it. I love the Vltava River, but it's even more spectacular when it isn't filled with broken bottles and cigarette butts. It was so hot that we all walked barefoot through the river. I felt like I was back in the South. Nothing cools you down faster than dipping your feet in a river.

Hluboka Castle
Our trip began at the Hluboka Castle, less than an hour outside of Cesky Krumlov. We weren't allowed to take pictures inside, but the outside was just as beautiful. The first room inside looked like the Deer Garden Pub from Beauty and the Beast (where Gaston hangs out). Antlers were EVERYWHERE and all the interior was wooden. We learned that a lot of the gothic interior was restored to baroque style a few centuries ago at the beginning of the eighteenth century. We saw princess chambers, secret doors, private chapel rooms, and more.

Next we got to Cesky Krumlov for lunch. The vegetarian option was mediocre, but the dessert (a crepe filled with strawberry preserves) reminded me how much I love European food. And like Kutna Hora, I can't complain about a free meal.


Bear outside the State Castle
After lunch we visited the central point of Cesky Krumlov, the State Castle. We were first greeted by bears living in the moat outside. In the castle we saw bear  rugs (apparently bears that had to be put down for killing some drunk visitors that wandered into the moat decades ago), golden chariots (literally), and the biggest ballroom ever. The walls were painted with a mix of people in Masquerade costumes. One character was wrapped around the wall to look into a mirror, where his face is painted looking back at him. My favorite room, though, was the library. There were books the size of me, and walls of shelf after shelf filled with books. Again, we weren't allowed to take photos (but I still managed to sneak one in of the library).
Library in the State Castle

We took a very short walking tour of the city afterwards (the guide could tell how tired we were), and then had free time. A fellow CEA student, Hali, and I had crepes and walked into every tourist store we could find. I got a bunch of souvenirs for friends, and had a fantastic time hanging out with someone I usually don't see much.
Cesky Krumlov

Cesky Krumlov was one of the most beautiful parts of the Czech Republic. I've decided I'm going to go live there with the fairies.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Kutna Hora

So much has happened since my last post, I haven't had much time to sit and write out a blog entry. So I'll be writing two right now, to keep my posts from being ridiculously long. So let's start with eleven days ago:

I went to Hell.

And by Hell, I mean the highest rated tattoo shop in Prague, Hell Tattooing. Yes, I've already gotten one tattoo in Prague at a different shop. Hell prides themselves on only doing original work, so I knew the small red moon I wanted behind my ear would be better to get elsewhere (I got it from a reputable shop in old town that's used to tattooing tourists for that one). But before I ever got to Prague, I knew I wanted something major to honor my love for Prague and my time here. I made the appointment back in the beginning of June. It blows my mind how fast that month passed.

When I went in for my appointment, I told the artist what I wanted. She went away for two hours to sketch it out, showed it to me, then spent the next five hours tattooing this onto my left shoulder:


my new tattoo of the Charles Bridge
Yes, that is the Charles Bridge with the Czech words "Mala Cestovatelka" meaning "Little Traveler". I got this tattoo for so many reasons. I instantly connected with the Charles Bridge when I first walked across it and learned its history. The first stone was set in 1357 on the 9th of July at 5:31. This was because the man leading the construction of the bridge believed in the mystical power of numbers and thought the sequence 1,3,5,7,9,7,5,3,1 was strong and would mean a long lasting life for his bridge. Almost seven hundred years later, it still stands. Coincidentally, my tattoo appointment was on the 9th of July, the 658th anniversary of the Charles Bridge being built. I didn't plan that at all.

I've also believed in the mystical power of numbers for many years. I also think the Charles Bridge represents Prague's beauty and history.  This tattoo was about my love for Prague, a place I truly feel I belong and has stolen my heart, as well as my love for the Charles Bridge, that I am lucky enough to cross almost every day. Bridges have also been a symbol for tying together nations, and what better tattoo for an international business major to wear proudly?

As for the words Little Traveler, they are a reference to a Deathcab for Cutie song, Little Wanderer, that I connected a lot with. (The Czech word for wanderer, however, has religious connotations when translated, so I opted for the word Traveler). I also think the phrase describes me well. I've been the little one in my family (as the youngest and shortest) my whole life, and I have always seen myself as the little one. And the phrase "little traveler", well, it's so simple, and that's how I feel here. I'm nothing too special or fancy, just a little traveler finding her way in this world. I also got Czech words because in the middle of my back is an Arabic word (Inshallah) and on my right shoulder is a french song quote (Je vois la vie en rose). The three languages represent a lot of me and my experiences with cultural submersion.

I love this tattoo. It is my eighth and by far the largest. And yes, it hurt ALOT. But any tattoo is going to hurt when it takes five hours, especially one with as much detail as mine. Worth it, though? A thousand times yes.

Then, two days after getting a brand new tattoo, I took a day trip to:

Kutna Hora.

This is a town maybe an hour outside of Prague. We took the metro to the train station where a bus took us to Kutna Hora. By we, I mean my study abroad organization, CEA.

silver mines
Upon arrival, we took a short tour of the city. It was incredibly beautiful. The cathedral was breathtaking with Gothic architecture. The town had rolling hills. It was stunning. Then we actually got to go through the Cathedral and admire its stained-glass windows.

Gothic Cathedral in Kutna Hora
Then we went on a tour into the historical silver mines which Kutna Hora is famous for. At one time in Europe's history, Kutna Hora was the largest producer of silver. We wore the same robes a miner of the time would have worn, but luckily they gave us helmets with lights instead of the small candles miners of the time would have had to deal with. The mines were creepy and cool. I learned more than I ever thought I would about the process of mining silver.

After this, we had a traditional Czech meal, which for my vegetarian self meant hermelin, aka, fried cheese. Not too bad though. It was a paid for meal and kept me from starving, which allowed me to fully enjoy the next part of our trip:

Bone Church in Kutna Hora
The bone church. We went to a church made of bones from thousands of people. Literally thousands. They were all victims of the Bubonic Plague. I wish we could have gotten a tour through it to learn more history, but we were on our own here. I admired all the bones, wondered how they treated them to keep them from disintegrating, lit a candle and said a prayer for my friend, and took lots of pictures.

The resemblance is striking



It was a spectacular trip that showed me even outside of Prague, the Czech Republic is amazing. The craziest part is just being somewhere with so much history. My country is barely three hundred years old, and now I have a 700-year old bridge on my back.




Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Travel Bug, Home Sickness, and Other Illnesses

I've never really been homesick before. Even spending one and a half months in a foreign country, I'm still not homesick. I miss my friends, peanut butter, being able to use my phone, and air conditioning now that its July. I miss my car, driving where ever I want whenever I want. I miss American food and being able to shop on Sunday. I miss all of my clothes! And I miss my dog, my bed, and the Smoky Mountains. But I don't want to go home, not yet. I only have a little more than two weeks now, and that seems so short! I know that it will feel so good to be back at home, but I'm already planning what I want to do next time I go to Europe.

When I first got here, I was sick. Oh, how I wanted to go home, rest in my queen-sized bed, and eat macaroni & cheese. But, I don't think that was homesickness, Just regular sickness. I didn't want to leave Europe, I just wanted to be in a familiar place to get well.

Fresh fruit for sale outside of a market
(that doesn't sell peanut butter)
Sometimes school has made me want to leave just to get away from the hard work for a week. I can't wait to go back to Maryville, though, and be back in school. Compared to learning a foreign language IN that foreign language IN that foreign country, everything else will seem like nothing. Organic chemistry? Ecology? Literature? Child's play. (I'll probably regret saying that in October). If I somehow make it through the last weeks of the course, I will be invincible, not to be dramatic.

Of course, being in a new country with different customs has opened my eyes and given me a new perspective on life. For example, seeing the hundreds of homeless people in Rome around the train station has shown me that in these cities  there are still so many suffering people despite the beautiful setting. In regards to education, school has always been challenging for me, but not like this at all. This kind of challenging makes my brain physically shut down after just three hours of class. Maybe its the 1 hour round trip walk to class up and down a big hill. Or maybe its just trying to understand what the assignment is, let alone actually doing it. But it's probably having to use this new part of my brain not just in the classroom, but at restaurants, at the grocery store, and even on week-end trips. I never have a break from French. It's great because I know that I am learning and retaining so much more since I'm actually in France (which is still hard to believe). However, it's exhausting. It's exhausting, but don't misunderstand me. It's so worth it. I know that I'm growing so much here. I'm actually picking up a little French, I'm learning news customs, I'm learning how to travel on every kind of transportation possible, and I'm learning how to live like the French do. I wouldn't change these past 6 weeks for anything even though I have to lay down for an hour everyday after class out of pure exhaustion.

In regards to other illnesses, I've been pretty lucky. Besides my rocky beginning with whatever cold-like sickness I had, I have only had one other problem. I think the water made me a bit queasy after I drank a full water bottle of tap water. I had been drinking tap water since the beginning, but maybe such a huge quantity at once was too much. I didn't get physically sick, but I went to bed hours early and just rested all night. I had to miss out on a fun dinner with friends from ISEFE. Besides that, I've been pretty healthy. I haven't had to miss out on any week-end trips. Some other people here haven't had such luck. One guy had a heat stroke, my friend chipped her teeth and had to visit the hospital, and plenty of others have had food poisoning (or maybe it was just new foods like my tap water situation). Everyone has had some run-in with being sick. So, we all know the stress of trying to work with doctors who only speak French or different hospital customs. Being sick abroad may be the most stressful time ever.

A few days ago over spotty communication thanks to only having limited internet access in my apartment, I received some news from my parents. Three days after I get back from France, we are going to Canada. To be more specific, we are going to Quebec City, a French-speaking province in Canada. I have been suggesting to my parents that we go to Canada for years now, but I can't believe of all times, they choose to go this August. I'm very excited to see Canada, to practice my French more, and to see the differences in accents. However, this summer will be the most traveling I've ever done, maybe the most anyone has ever done. It feels like it, anyways. I am going to be so exhausted. Will I even remember what America is like? I'll be experiencing culture shock during school because America will seem so foreign after 10 weeks traveling in other countries.

The Love bridge in Annecy, France, otherwise knows as "The Venice of the Alps"
But, I have to go. I've caught the travel bug. I'm planing a trip in my head to the U.K. and I want to see central Europe after spending time with people from there and hearing about their home. I also met a guy from Australia who is traveling around Europe, and now I want to go to the Netherlands, Germany, and Australia, naturally. The world is so amazing. I want to see all of it. I want to be fluent in a foreign language. I want to keep meeting people form Italy and Turkmenistan (I didn't even know that was a country before I met someone from there).  Maybe I'll be tired of traveling after this summer, but that prognosis seems unlikely.




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