Granger, Outbound to France

PrS. (I don’t know of that's a thing but like a pre-script and not a post-script) I’m really sorry this is coming a little bit late; I got caught up with the holidays here and then j’avais trop la flemme (the best translation I can give for this is I was temporarily too lazy).

Second, after reading through my last post, I realized how many mistakes there were in my English; sorry if it was difficult to read.

I want to start with some of the good things of my exchange that happened before I got sick. One Saturday morning, my host brother and I summited the Puy-de-Dome -the tallest and most known dormant volcano in our area (and France)- for sunrise. It was a gorgeous sunrise, and I could see as far as the tip of Mont Blanc. With the exception of about 4 or 5 other people, we were all alone on the mountain, a nice contrast from its typical touristy aura.

Also, my friend Grace from New Zealand, who lives in Brive-la-Gaillarde, came up to Clermont and stayed at Jasmine’s (my Australian friend) a couple of days and at mine one. When they came to stay at mine, we made a big Mexican fiesta. We had all been craving something spicy, since the French don’t really eat anything at all spicy.

My oldies: (left to right) Jasmine-Australia, Cati-Argentina, Grace-New Zealand

After that is where Part 1 of this post picks up. So now I’ll skip to after.

After going back to school, I had a week left with my first host family. That week things got a little better with them and we ended on a good note. The morning I switched I made them a grand American brunch with pancakes, egg casserole, grits, fruit salade, bacon, and toast. I then proceeded to pack my bags.. which weighed 330 lbs. Let’s just say I’m going to have a hard time finding room to bring all that home.

So I’ve switched host families and already I can tell that I’m loving here. I understand why Rotary tries to put you in 3 different families, and its really great that they do. For me, my first host family, while we didn’t really have too many problems they were necessarily the best fit, or what I had imagined what living in France would be like. With that said, I still tried to make the best of it, and I learned some things with them. I haven’t been here long but I can already tell this family is going to be a lot better fit, and fulfill some of the expectations and hopes I had for living in France.Banner Exchange with District Governor

My current host family through me a little birthday party with all 3 of my host families, counselor and Raquel (a Mexican exchange student who is in my town and school and who’s 3rd host family is my current). And for the actual night of my birthday we went out to a local little restaurant and got to try some local specialties. I also got to pop in at the Christmas market in my town where my Rotary club had a booth selling pineapples and oysters to raise money for a couple charities. The following day I helped volunteer at the booth, where I got to know and came closer with Rotarians in my club, and then saw our local orchestra perform in our little beautiful theatre in Châtel-Guyon.Christmas Market Booth: Counselor’s Husband (left) and Current Host Dad (right)

My Rotary Club gave me a neat gift for my birthday. I went and made my own Thiers knife at the factory in Thiers France, the renowned cutlery capital of France, and the world for professional Chef’s knives. It was something I’ll remember more than just the knife itself and the experience was certainly an interesting one.

So when I changed host families I also changed towns, even though they’re neighboring and not that far apart. Initially when doing my research for France, I couldn’t find any information on it besides that it was small with only about 6000 people. I thought I would like my first town though because its had more than 3 times that many inhabitants. However I find that here in Châtel, it’s a lot prettier and much more lively. Which I’m going to love when spring and summer come. The town itself is a hot springs town, there are several sources, and even a hall with natural heated pools that attract lots of tourists. Where also one of the limited towns in France to have a Casino, which also features a room which puts on shows similar to the Moulin Rouge in Paris. This year one of the largest bike races in France the Paris-Nice makes 1 of its 12 stops in Chatel, (and though not always, usually gives hints at the course for the next years Tour-de-France).

I’ve also had the opportunity to spend Christmas in the French fashion. We went to my host grandparents town in Allier (about 1.5 hrs north) for Christmas. There we stayed with cousins in my dad’s parents’ house. They great part is my mom’s mom lives just down the street so we celebrate Christmas together with both sides of the family going. Boy did I eat traditionally, and buy did I eat good.

Christmas Eve Dinner (9 or 10 courses- depending how you count):

–Apéro, or formally, Aperitif in French are appetizers and usually a white wine or Champagne

–Entrée 1, not an American entree, which is the plat in French, but a French first course of oysters

–Entrée 2, Foie-gras (duck liver pâté in English even though any French person will tell you its not a pâté)

–Entrée 3, Smoked salmon

–Plat, main course consisting of baked chicken, potatoes and carrots, and roasted chestnuts

–Fromage, the cheese course

–Salade, the salade course

–Dessert 1, rolled pastries and sweet typical French desserts

–Dessert 2, fruit salad

–Café et Chocolat, pretty sure you can figure this one out

The next day for Christmas Lunch we had a similarly large meal as well consisting of many of the same items, this time featuring Wild boar as the main course, and an incredible 46 year old Bourgogne. But speaking of food, I love French food so much, cheese is even growing on me. So to answer some questions about typical French foods and my reactions to them. Escargots: love them. Bread: oh God its so good here. Foie-Gras: good in moderation and special occasion. Pâté: beef only. Charcuterie: everything but Jambon cru, or cured ham, but especially saucisson, or pepperoni in English, one of the world best comes from a department just south of mine. Pastries: anything and everything. Frog legs: havent had the chance to try it but look forward to it. Tar-Tar: not really my cup of tea, I prefer my beef cooked. Fromage: I don’t care for the most common type in my region (St. Nectaire) but like Gruyère/Emmental, Comté, Cantal, fromage a tartiner, and others that I cant necessarily find in my region, oh and Raclette… ah Raclette.

After Christmas one of the other outbound from Florida who lives in Antibes (in between Nice and Cannes) came up to visit me for a couple of days. We had fun but most importantly she now has to invite me down to come visit her in the French Riviera… I spent New Years with Jasmine at her house in a little town of Gannat, which was a great end of the year. (Until the last minute of 2017 when I dropped my 3 day old brand new iPhone 8+ and cracked the screen. But I guess that’s my fault because I declined to buy protection, even though the guy at the Apple Store selling it to me asked if I was sure I didn’t want to buy a case or something for it 3 times…) I then spent a couple more days with some cousins at my grandparents house, and even had a chance to do a day trip into Bourges, perhaps on of my favorite cities in France.Bourges Cathedral

Bref (all in all) after recovering from mono, I started having a great time on exchange. While for most exchange students the holidays are the hardest part of exchange, I was really alright. My low was Thanksgiving and since them I’ve been just rapidly improving and loving exchange. Sure Christmas was different, there were new traditions I dis ouvertes and France and certainly old one I missed somewhat from back home but its been great. Having a loving, caring host family has made it great, and I look forward to where the rest of my exchange leads.

À Bientôt

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