Carley, outbound to France

I really don't know how to sum up all that I've done in this past month without going insane and writing 60 pages but I'll try:

First let me start off by saying I have the greatest host families in the ENTIREEEE WORRLLDDDDDDD!! If you didn't know my birthday was this month, Nov 7th, which was a Friday. Fridays at school I have 1 hour of history/geography in the morning, 2 hours of gym, and another hour of history/geography. Depending on what week I usually finish at either 3 or 5. Luckily on my birthday I was finished at 3. To start off my birthday I had to take the bus in morning, which really sucked because I couldn't sleep at all the night before knowing it was my birthday. Had 1 hour of history/geo no gym. Leaving a 4 hour gap til my next class. So my friends and I planned (prior to my birthday) to walk to the city and have a lunch because we had 4 hours. But my luck it was 45° and rainy on my birthday. When it rains here it's not all humid and sticky like Florida. It's windy and SUPER cold. So we ended up not going out for lunch and decided to eat at the school. Which isn't bad because the schools food isn't half bad. My luck again, I ended up having what looked like something my cat would hack up. So needless to say I didn't have a big lunch. After my last class at 3 I was finished for the day but still had to take the bus home at 5:30. So the other exchange student Felipe and I decided to walk to the city and hang out at my friend Belen (also an exchange student) house for 2 hours until I had to catch the bus home. That was probably the high light of my whole birthday, at the time.

After taking the bus home I came to a empty house and with a note from my host mom saying she will be home in 2 hours. During those 2 hours, I have had no doubt, I was homesick. I'm perfectly fine by myself and won't even think about home but I couldn't stop thinking how much better it would be if I was home with family and friends. All day at school for only 2 hours of class, cats throw up for lunch, and no one home. It was easy to say I was over the day and just wanted to cuddle up in my bed. Finally everyone came home, but I only saw my mom for 15 mins til she left again. While sitting in the living room with my dad and brothers my dad mention something about a prayer for a man who just recently died in our village. My first thought was "dead people is not something I was to be thinking about right now".

I take any little opportunity I'm given, so obviously I agreed to go to a prayer. When getting ready to leave my dad said we were going to have cake at my host sister(who lives in the same village, 5 seconds away from the house). By this time of night I was looking super "ratchet" and totally not dressed for a party. Parking the car my dad told me to help him come get the cake out of the garage. First thought was "why is the cake in the garage?" Stepping threw the door the lights turned on and I had all my host families and Felipe and Belen cheering "surprise !!!" And started singing happy birthday. I literally was on the brink of tears I was so happy and just so over whelmed. I was literally speechless. My dad asked me to say something but literally no words would come out. Literally speechless! Here I was thinking I'm having the worst birthday, and BAM! Turns to be the greatest birthday I've ever had in my life. I spent the night mingling with my host families (who are so excited to have me), and eating the yummiest cake in the world. 'Twas the perfect birthday.

Now to my host families: I changed to my 2nd host family the 25th of November. I was supposed to change a week earlier but rotary had a cooking weekend (I'll explain later) so they just decided to push it back a week. Which I wasn't really that upset about because that means I have another week with my first host family. Packing my bags for the next family was hard. I remember the first night I arrived. Crying because I missed home and family in Florida but now crying because I'm going to miss my Roussel family in Monchy, Breton. It's crazy how you can go to a complete strangers house, in a completely different environment, to being so at home and apart of the family in such a short amount of time. It's truely amazing and the heart warming feeling isn't describable. I have a lot of my mom in me which means I'm so emotional when it comes to saying any kind of goodbyes. It's such a curse. It's hard . To be so at home just to move a gain In a matter of 2 months.

Speaking of the first 2 months, I've always told myself I wouldn't weigh myself til the day I leave back for the U.S. but I gave in. WRONG MISTAKE. Got on the scale and wasn't really as upset about change as much as I thought I would be. I like telling people at home "oh only 6 kilos" because they don't know kilos...but than I have to break the news..10 POUNDS!!!!! 10 POUNDS IN 2 MONTHS!! As much as it is, I wasn't that sad about it. Why? Because its 10 pounds from some Amazing food!

During the exchange to my new host family a lot of tears were shed. Now, I am officially the "Big" sister with my new family. I have a little brother and 2 little sisters. So that means I'm very occupied and don't really have a lot of time to be homesick. Which is extremely good for me. Especially because this is supposed to be the time of homesickness.I have a wonderful view from my window of the fish farm and at night I fall asleep to the river that runs on the side of the house. I'm truly grateful for the families I have. All of them are perfect and I'm just so LUCKY. Especially after hearing a lot of stories of people who have had "not so good" families or families they aren't able to connect with. There are even times I forget I'm an exchange student and actually apart of my families. Which is when you know your at home.

Adventures: In November I went to Liege, Belgium for the weekend with my former exchange brother Brother who my family hosted when I was in 4th grade. GOSHHHH! It's so amazing to just cross a boarder like it's nothing and end up in a completely different country with completely different people, (sometimes language), and different cultures. In Belgium we did a lot of shopping, a lot of chocolate eating, and I visited Disney on ice, which is like the big ICE that we have at the gaylord palms in Florida. I also cut off 5 inches of my hair!!!!! it was so great to see Nathan and Audrey!

The weekend before my switch to a new family, my first host family decided to take me to a farm and milk cows. YES, MILK COWS! It was so nasty, yet so cool. Truly something I will never forget. The sweet smell of cow poop and hay, how could I not??

Rotary: A lot of events are going on with Rotary!! We had a soiree exotique, which was a fundraiser made for our trip to Paris. All of the exchange students had to cook a dish from their home country. So of course I chose mac and cheese. Wasn't as good as my dad's but it was a start. Soon after the soiree exotique my rotary club threw a marche de noel (Christmas market) at an old abbey in my town. Where Belen, Felipe, and I made crepes! Which isn't as nearly easy as it looks! After this, my Rotary club on St. Pol took us on a tour of one of the biggest sugar factories, where all of the sugar in France and a lot of the world is processed. We watched the process of how sugar is made, Quiet smelly but fascinating.

I just recently returned from a weekend in Paris with the exchange students of my district. WHAT A WEEKEND!! Of course with my luck I got sick the day we left and couldn't even talk for the whole day. Which maybe was a good thing, because I can never stop talking. The first day we went to "Chateau de Chantilly".Which is an old castle made by the royals of France. After the chateau we went to "Montmartre: basilique du Sacre Coeur superbe panorama de Paris". Which is basically a hill in the middle of Paris with a church at the very top. Words can't describe how beautiful the view was. To be able to see all of Paris at night.

The next day we went to "Palais de la Decouverte". Which is a huge science museum in Paris, but looks like a castle. Because of the weather we couldn't have a picnic under the eiffel tower like was planned. So we ate in the museum and after took a boat down the Seine River which stopped at the Eiffel Tower. Even in the rain the Eiffel Tower never looked so beautiful. I'm sorry, I say beautiful a lot. But it's just that is what France is. BEAUTIFUL!!

Soon after the Eiffel Tower we hopped back on the boat and the next stop was "Champs Elysees". Which is the most expensive road in all of France and the most famous. Here was the Christmas market, where you could buy a xtra small hot chocolate for a wopping 4 euros... But with all the lights.. IT WAS SO BEAUTIFUL!! The next day was the "Notre Dame de Paris". Where we climbed all the way to the top and sat for awhile just taking in the BEAUTIFUL view. Which if you know the Disney movie "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" this is the place where it takes place!

The Hunchback of Notre Dame was written by Victor Hugo, who is a very famous French writer. It was really amazing to be able to experience and learn the history behind  Notre Dame and along with the movie. Shortly after we visited the house of Victor Hugo. Just a quick look and then left after. This was the last Rotary weekend with the oldies. Saying good-bye was one of the hardest. To become so close to people in such a short amount of time and to have them leave. It's really hard.

For Rotary at home: It seems like just yesterday I was nervously waiting outside the doors for my interviews, and getting that call that told me I got accepted while in the middle of a dressing room on black Friday, and just screaming from excitment! If any of the newbies are reading this, how does it feel?? The anticipation? The count down begins, which means you better work your butt off on learning your language! Trust me nothing is more rewarding than people telling you how much you know from such a short about of time. One thing I have to say to the newbies, is do not take ONE day for granted. Time goes by a lot faster than you will ever imagine. I remember "45 weeks til France!" and now I'm almost 4 months in.

"Don't count the days, make the days count", is a saying I live by everyday. Trying to explain what exchange does to you is like trying to nail jello to a tree. It's impossible. You get shaped into a completely different person, for the better obviously. You have a whole new perspective on life. This new itch to see every inch of the world-learn every language. Exchange isn't a year in your life, it's a life in a year. A life that is going to stay with you where ever you go. A part of you is imprinted into your host country, as well as the host country leaving an imprint in you. (Not tattoos obviously because that breaks one of the 5 D's ;-) ) I love exchange and all that it's doing for me. I really don't know how I am going to leave this place I know consider to be my home. Wake up thankful for Rotary everyday for this experience.
xoxo,
Carley