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.


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.


I am living in a small town outside of Lyon, the second largest city in France after Paris. I still haven't been to Lyon besides the airport, but Chambery has been unexpectedly great. I figured that living in a small town would be boring, but it has been the exact opposite! Chambery has a festival every weekend that centers around either music or a new culture. I went to the Lafi Bala festival a few weeks ago. It was an African festival complete with a concert and food vendors. The entire city must have come out to it. The usually quiet park just around the corner from my apartment was bursting with people. I had to wait in line for over an hour after a day of hiking just to eat some traditional chicken and rice recipe. It was well worth it. For all of the other festivals (Fete de la Elephants, etc.) I was out of town visiting nearby cities and countries.
A Fountain in the Center of Town
For the next few weeks, there will be music concerts a few days a week at the Duke's Palace. Last week was the first week so I went to both of the performances. The first one was an Indian Bollywood orchestra. Alongside the music, the group had Indian dancers in beautiful traditional dresses. There was also a man who danced with a bowl of water on his head. He added cups under the bowl until he balanced the bowl with four cups on top of his head. He never spilled it even while he was dancing. After him, another man came out with batons that he lit on fire. He twirled them around, threw them up in the air, and breathed fire. It was a great performance. The next night, the music was based on classic films. Most of the movies were American (The Wizard of Oz, My Fair Lady, Space Cowboy, Cats, Grease, and Singing in the Rain). There were a few French films, but of course I didn't recognize any of them. The orchestra played while a screen behind the musicians showed clips of the movies. Some of the songs had dancers/actors perform in the front. It was strange to hear very familiar American songs sung with a strong French accent. I plan on going to as many of the next performances as I can.

Chambery is also a 30 minute bus ride away from a very popular lake, Lac du Bourget.

In order to enter the beach-like area you have to pay now that it is July. Instead, I usually walk along the street bordering the lake until I find a nice grassy place instead. People can swim there for free, so naturally that's where I go. Yesterday, some friends and I went there and rented a  blue paddle boat with a slide. We had so much fun. We paddled out to the center of the lake with other paddle boats, sail boats, motor boats, and paddle boarders. We listened to music, ate watermelon, and slid into the water. The weather is usually perfect for a lake day in Chambery. Out of all the times I have been to the lake, only one day was cloudy-and even then it was still warm.

Now that all of the kids are out of school, the lake has gotten much more popular. The water is so clear, too. I can see my feet when I'm up to my neck in it. Coming from Tennessee, that is almost unheard of-at least considering the lakes around my house. The omly downside to this lake is all of the seaweed! It creeps me out. It is gold and looks like the seaweed from the Lake in the fourth Harry Potter movie. I'm afraid if I get too close to it, an angry mermaid will grab my ankle and pull me down. That silly fear hasn't kept me from swimming over it to get to a far off buoy, though. I love swimming out over a very deep part of the lake and being able to see the bottom. It's so strange, but I love how clear and clean the lakes around here are. It makes me wonder why the lakes back home can't be as clean as these. It is a shame. The views around the lake aren't too bad, either. Mountains circle the lake. They are small and uniquely shaped. There are far off mountains that look very beautiful between some of the smaller ones. Then, off to the west, there is this amazing view of the Alps, snow capped and perfect. We can' quite see Mont Blanc, but swimming in a lake that has a clear view of the French Alps is such an amazing feeling. They look so close. I can't imagine a more beautiful lake which is why I spend almost all of my free time there. 

Friday, July 10, 2015


     Sports here in America many, all of which support it, in particular, ball games, sports fans in America are not finding time to catch their breath, what the football season ends even ignite basketball season, which intersects with the baseball finals. In my home oftentimes playing soccer only also the media and social media talking - supporting - writing about soccer and the players.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

1- I like America weather because America has a lot of raining. 

2- Also, I like to see snow which Saudi arabia does not have. 

3- The most thing I like about America weather is not very hot but sunny.

4- The most amazing thing about America weather is the view in the morning when the weather is mild weather.
5- I like moisture in America because it's mild not

6-like Saudi Arabia. Also I like to see raining while it's a little sunny which I cannot experience that in Saudi Arabia.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Empty Bellies

We had to read this ridiculous story for my internship class called "Who Moved My Cheese?" It's a story that corporate companies tell their employees to get them to reevaluate their work ethics and be better employees. You can apply the story to all aspects of your life (relationships, family, school, jobs, etc.)

The basic premise is that there are four characters: two mice (Sniff and Scurry) and two tiny people (Hem and Haw). They all live in basically a rat maze. There are stations throughout the maze where cheese is. Every day the four characters look for cheese. They all hit jackpot and find a huge supply of cheese in one station. While the two mice work hard every day to get to it (getting up early, running, inventorying the cheese), the two tiny people get lazy (waking up later in the day, moving their house next to the cheese station, becoming entitled). One day (as you can easily predict) the station runs out of cheese. The two mice saw this coming and quickly begin surveying the rest of the maze for a new cheese station. When the tiny people find their cheese station now empty, they sit and cry, yelling "who moved our cheese?" After a very long time, Haw gets up and realizes the cheese is never coming back and starts searching for a new station (by now Sniff and Scurry have won the lottery of cheese stations with every cheese imaginable). Hem refuses to leave his empty cheese station though, insisting that he's comfortable here and wouldn't like new cheese. Haw learns valuable lessons on his voyage for new cheese. He writes these lessons on the walls, hoping maybe they will lead Hem to him. These lessons include phrases like "Old beliefs do not lead you to new cheese" and "The more important cheese is to you, the more you want to hold on to it". Eventually Haw finds Sniff and Scurry in the new Cheese Station Utopia. We never know if Hem leaves his station.

The point is that we all share characteristics with each character. The Sniffs and Scurrys accept and move with change, the Haws sit and cry before learning life lessons that get them moving, and the Hems stay stuck in their old ways.

For class, we had to write a one page reflection answering: "Please describe a scenario in which your “cheese” was “moved” and what you did about it. Further, please reflect if you think this was the best possible solution –why or why not?"

I won't bore you with my page long metaphor about getting over an empty cheese station, but I did end the paper with a cheese-inspired phrase of my own:

"I used to think the worst thing in life was to be hungry; it’s not. The worst thing in life is eating cheese that makes you feel hungry."

This is my own version of an already famous quote, but regardless, I like it. I got more out of my own page summary and a silly story about cheese than I thought I would. We can sit and cry over our losses, or we can get up and move before we starve. And we should never be eating cheese that tricks our mouths while leaving an empty feeling in our bellies.

I know this blog is supposed to be about my travelling experiences, but travelling is more than the pictures you take and the places you see. It's the lessons you learn from the most random of people when you didn't even know you were listening.

There's a beautiful sculpture of a disappearing man, representing the effects of communism on people. I pass it every day but today I finally stopped and took the time to take a photo of it. I think it's fitting for the lessons I've learned recently. And it's truly beautiful. I hope you'll enjoy the photo I included.

I can never tell if he's going backwards and losing pieces of him, or moving forward to find more of himself.

The classroom

In the beginning, class was easy. I paid attention, but I had no idea what was going on. So, I was blissfully ignorant of almost everything the teacher was saying. It was all in French. All of it. I was a true beginner. It eventually got better. I picked up come key words and the homework helped. We have culture days twice a week which are a nice break. For the culture class last week, the subject was tourism. It was so cool to see all of these places on the Power Point that I had been to or was going to see soon. She showed all of these monuments in Bordeaux -where I was going the next day! It made me so excited for the weekend. Our first main teacher was very tough. I had trouble learning from her. She only explained things in French even when the whole class gave her a blank stare for two minutes. That may have been why the first month was so difficult. I never felt like I was getting better or moving forward in my language stills at all. I always felt so stupid and defeated. The culture days were the only time I really felt like I was learning. We went much slower and our teacher drew pictures to  describe complicated words. This month, we have a new main teacher. I like her a lot. She makes us work with students from another country so that we have to speak French for everything. That is so helpful.  She also encourages all of the students to speak instead of having one person answer everything. Last week I finally felt like I had accomplished something.
One of the best views on the 30 minute walk up to the university
(There is a cross at the highest point, but it's hard to see in pictures)

Homework is difficult, too. Once I get back from school, I am completely exhausted. The walk to and from school is very hot and about 20 min long uphill (on the way there). Trying to learn in French turns my brain into mush. I have to use so much brain power in class that when I get back I just want to relax. On the weekends, I don't have a break either. It's so great to travel and learn about France and other countries, but I am exhausted at the end of every day. Most of the time when homework is assigned, I don't completely sure of the assignment. we all meet after to make sure we know what is going on. This month, I've understood so much more than before. I only have to clarify a few things.

Since July started, I spend the first 10 minutes (or 20 on a bad day) fanning myself and wiping off the sweat. There is no air conditioning in the school and the walk is  such a work out. One of my classmates even brought a little fan that she plugs in next to her table. I wish I had thought of that first! As a true beginner, immersion is very difficult. If I had some previous French, I think that immersion would be so helpful. Back in the beginning of June, I think that immersion was not helpful. Now, though, it is very helpful. I guess I just had a rough start. My only other foreign language experience was with Spanish three years ago. I just relied on the similarities with verb conjugations and subjects.  Now that I know some commonly used words (such as "so", "together", "next person") I can focus on trying to learn all of the new words my professors say. My new teacher enunciates her words much better and I have completely understood multiple sentences in a row! I am optimistic about the last few weeks now!

Monday, July 6, 2015


So far there are many differences between France and the states. Most are positive and I'd even like them to come back with me to the states. I like how reusable bags are implied, not special. In fact, plastic bags come at a cost. Its very little, maybe 0,10 euro, but it makes a difference. Lunch is an event. There is a 2 hour break where the stores close, students are let out of school, and the restaurants open. The only acceptable things to do during this time are eat, sleep, or picnic in the park. Nothing else is really an option. It's nice sometimes until you really want to see a movie at 1 or go shopping right after lunch in town. Sundays are different too. Every store is Chick-fil-A on Sunday. The grocery store is open until 1, but after that there will be no eating if you miss those few hours. Yesterday, I got back from Bordeaux at 9. I only had chocolate and cheesy chips in my apartment so that's what I ate. There was no other way to obtain food by any means especially because public transportation is all I have besides walking. I have never had something like this happen to me. There is always a McDonald's I can drive my car to or food in the pantry.
For the love of bread!
This is just one of many patisseries in Chambery.
On most streets you will find two, and all sell pain au chocolat!
Sundays are great for parks, though. After church, everyone goes to a lake or a park and picnics.

I like the breaks we have during our 3 hour classes. The teachers take enough time to drink a cappuccino really slow, smoke a cigarette, or have a snack. This gives my brain enough time to recoup from all the French. Usually, I write in my journal or nap. I also like how every Monday our teachers ask us what we did over the weekend and I always have a trip or a celebration to talk about.
In the markets and stores, all of the fruit is really fresh with no pesticides. This makes it go bad faster, but there's no strange coating on the apples or green bananas. The food is much cleaner. All of the candy bars are free from high fructose corn syrup and artificial ingredients. The candy tastes a bit different (especially the kit kat bars) but I like it better. I found this amazing new juice, too. The brand is Oasis and there are 5 or 6 different varieties. It's just water, sugar, and juice. No artificial sweeteners or corn syrups. It tastes so amazing. In the US it's so hard to find something like that. Everyone in France is obsessed with Oasis and I will miss it so much! Grocery shopping is such a learning experience. I'm exhausted after it from having to translate everything as well as keeping to my budget (and trying to convert from euros). The baskets they use are great too. If it gets too heavy, the shopping baskets just roll like a suitcase! How simple? They don't have buggies at all where I shop, but those baskets are so handy. However, just the fact that everything is slightly off makes life so much harder. France is a very developed country, so it seems to be just like the U.S. But my brain is always so tired from adapting to the small differences and the language. I guess all the pain au chocolat is worth it, though.

Public Transportation

Being born and raised in Knoxville, Tennessee, I have never really had much experience with public transportation. Anywhere you needed to go, you rode in a car. Before you were old enough to drive yourself, you had to find someone else to drive you if you wanted to go almost anywhere. Almost nothing except your neighbor's house is within walking distance. Knoxville has a bus line, but it's unreliable and extremely slow. It's no one's first choice. Obviously, I could not bring my car overseas, so I had to figure out how to use these mystical forms of transportation.

Paris has an amazing and simple metro. It is by far the best form of public transportation that I have encountered so far. It's initially confusing, but it can get you anywhere you want to go. There are lots of different lines, so it can get you pretty close to your destination no matter where it is. Rome also has a metro, but there's only one or two lines, so you may have to ride the metro for a while then still walk pretty far to get somewhere. The metro in Paris can get expensive depending on where you are going. If you want to leave District 1 and go to Versailles, things get pricey. If you stay mostly in one area it's fairly cheap though.

Most people use the bus if they want to go somewhere in Chambery. It's a small enough town that you can get around pretty easily on foot or by bike, but it's extremely hot this summer, so walking isn't super fun. The bus lines are pretty nice when you know where you are going. There are enough of them to where it covers most of the town, and they are usually right on schedule. I have made the mistake once or twice of thinking that I know where I am going when I actually do not. This leads to riding the bus all the way to the end and turning back around, only to be returned to the spot you left from. Now I take someone with me if I'm not entirely confident I can get somewhere by myself. The buses are even hotter than walking, but it gets you there faster. It's also a fairly reasonable price.

The train is the way to get around in Bordeaux. (They also have buses, but I didn't really ride those much.) There are three lines that run through town. They are much slower than metros, but they're above ground, and it could be really dangerous to go too quickly. They're actually pretty similar to buses in terms of price and speed, except they don't have to deal with traffic since they're on their own track.

The Bordeaux train system did teach me a pretty important lesson though. Sometimes it's tempting to ride public transportation without buying a new ticket each time. In a lot of places, they don't check very thoroughly. You think it'll be fine because your ticket just ran out a few minutes ago, or you just plain don't want to pay. If you absolutely feel the need to do that, make sure you know what the policy is for if you get caught. Some places just require you to buy a ticket. That's not really a big deal since that's what you should have done in the first place. Other places, like Bordeaux, will give you an extremely big fine for not buying a ticket, which could cost about thirty times the price of just buying the ticket. Don't risk it.

When it comes time to go back to Chambery, getting to an airport without a car or someone to drive you is terrible. In most places, the prices are extremely high. They know that you don't really have a choice. You have to get to the airport, so they charge you a lot for it, whether it is via a train or a bus.

I'm definitely much more knowledgeable about public transportation. I probably won't ever use it at home, but it could be helpful whenever I'm not in southeast America. It would be great if Knoxville and Maryville had some better public transportation. A metro would be ideal, but that would be a project too big to finish. However, an above ground train like in Bordeaux could be pretty nice. It would definitely be better for the environment if enough people would use it. It's almost inconceivable for me to not have a car right now because I have to drive to go most places and wouldn't be able to get home without one. Maybe America will eventually catch up with Europe in that regard.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

I take more pictures of me and food than a normal person should

I'm not a very social person.

I found Cinnamon Toast Crunch in the Czech Republic
That's a lie, I'm incredibly social. What I mean is, I'm not a very "stereotypical American" social person. There's a lot of Americans here through my study abroad program. They spend a lot of time together. They go out to clubs, beer gardens, weekend getaways in neighboring countries. They're good people, I like them quite a lot. But I prefer Netflix in bed to night clubs.

My first month in Prague, I saw my fellow CEA Americans whenever I wasn't busy with theatre (which I was most of the time). After a month of show after show, I finally have time in my life to be social. Yet every time I try to be, I find myself wishing I was in bed instead of running around town at two in the morning.

Tea, Earl Grey
(Just kidding, it's green tea)

You can change your location, but you can't change yourself over night.

No doubt I've changed, but I haven't swapped personalities simply because I'm in the Czech Republic. I still prefer going to the store by myself, taking walks at my own pace, and staying in most nights. And you know what? That's okay. I'm still experiencing Prague. I've met countless people through theatre and my internship. It's not as if I've shut myself in an anti-cultural bubble. I've just chosen how I'd rather spend my time and it happens to be different from the other study abroad students. Don't worry, I'm going to be social this weekend. Some friends and I are celebrating the fourth of July with a Brewery Tour and a picnic.

Frozen pizza here is actually delicious
My sister had to explain that making baked beans
does not just consist of putting the can of beans in the oven...

Despite spending most of this week in bed recovering from STILL being sick (two weeks now, I swear the lymph nodes in my neck are going to explode), it's been a good week. I've successfully learned to make food with literally nothing (a skill all college kids need), I've stopped having mental breakdowns at the store when I can't find anything I'm looking for (because it's all in Czech or they just don't have it). I had fried food today for the first time in a long time and remembered why I prefer fresh food to fast food (at least one meal a day for me consists of delicious, fresh fruit now, a luxury Maryville College's meal plan didn't give me).

I wish I had more to tell you but unless economics homework and a recipe for baked beans is interesting to you, I haven't had a very exciting week. But that's okay. Not every week has to be filled with crazy stories. This week, I finally began really settling in. It seems silly, seeing as I've been here for a month, But life is finally starting to feel cozy here.

And that's a big deal to me.