Formidable , formidable! La France, tu étais formidable!

 

Image
Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.
Mahatma Gandhi 

This experience has been marvelous! I have not just lived the best of my days but also learnt so much more than I imagined before coming. One reason why I have always wanted to learn French was the fact that it is rich in culture and history.

Now that I think about the program as a whole, I am grateful! I am grateful to have lived with host families from three different regions in France. I could not have learnt more if not for the host families that I lived with. In Nantes, I lived with a woman named Marie Claude. She was an absolutely adorable host mother who cared so much. She was patient to always listen to my “really bad French” and always there to help me with homework or any studying. She took me to see different places. She introduced me to her family and friends. She always explained the French culture and traditions. However, one cannot ignore the fact that there will always be some miscommunications but the overall experience is always positive.

In Nantes, as my host mother explained, family is important. It is a city but not too big to get people going crazy!  Therefore, my conclusion was that family close relationships are essential in Nantes with a bit of city lifestyle.

Image

In the south, where another adventure started, my experience took it to a whole other level. I lived with an artist! A potter and a photographer named Yvan Gaudy. Yvan was an old man full of energy and is always ready to go on an adventurous trip.  He lives exactly to what Mahatma Gandhi said about living as if you were going to die tomorrow. In Bastenne, which is the nameof the village we lived in, we got to do many different things. I learnt how to do pottery, I learnt about photography, I learnt about the different culture and traditions of the south of France. But most importantly he taught me a lot about life. In the south, everyone knows each other. It is too small for people to be insanely busy. Therefore, unlike Nantes, the south is more conservative with traditional lifestyle.

Finally, Paris!

As Ernest Hemingway said “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” 

Aside of the fact that we were given the opportunity to live in one of the world’s most beautiful and visited cities in the world, I was blessed to have another extraordinary host family. I was lucky because through my host family in Paris, I learnt a lot not only about Paris and life in Paris but also about social issues such as immigration, racism, Arabs living in France, Islamophobia and many more. That is because my host mother is originally Moroccan.  

Image

Here is a family party my host parents organized when my mother came to visit.

In Paris, however, I could see how busy life was and that people have no time to just sit, reflect or even smile. Family relationships are not as tight as those of Nantes and the south. Both in Nantes and the south, all members of the family ought to be sitting together for all meals. In Paris, it is different! Here, each person eats when they have time. It is more like a task and needs to get done.

My experience in France has been splendid! I have nothing to complain about. Overall, I am very happy and grateful for such an incredible opportunity. Now, it is time to leave beautiful Paris and continue the path to our future. Although, I am upset to leave Paris, I am excited to get back and reunite with those who I love and care a lot about. 

– Shatha Sbeta

Thanksgiving à Paris

Turkey, chicken, mashed potatoes, stuffind, cranberry sauce, brussel sprouts, green beans, ratatouille.

A most delicious feast.

With less than three weeks left of the program, the celebration of Thanksgiving became a bittersweet occasion. On the one hand, it was a great experience to come together and cook, and celebrate the things we are thankful for. On the other hand, it symbolizes the end of the program, a return to our homes overseas, and leaving behind our lives in France.

Sarah, Yeison, and Hope make salads look FUN

Sarah, Yeison, and Hope make salads look FUN

France has been good to me. My French has improved immensely, I’ve met so many wonderful families, formed stronger friendships with the other Earlham students, eaten my weight in cheese, and learned a lot about myself. From my time in Nantes I learned how much French I actually knew, (which was a lot more than I had expected). In the South, I learned that it is possible to make your avocation your vocation. Reflecting on my experiences in Paris, I feel that I have learned the most about myself here: what I am capable of, what I fear, and, most importantly, how to deal with and accept change. Change is a huge part of this program. You know that it will be different, but no one can truly understand what they will be feeling until they’re right in the middle of it. For me, it didn’t fully hit me that I was in another country until about six weeks ago when I was already seven weeks into the program.

To bring these two ideas together, I would like to say that although I was in a different country, surrounded by people speaking a different language, with different ways of seeing the world and smaller showers and refrigerators, the Earlham group has always been my constant throughout this entire experience. I was always certain that I had someone to talk to when I missed home, someone to spend time with when I was lonely, a group of people that I consider to be my home away from home. And in the tradition of Thanksgiving, I am thankful for this opportunity and so blessed to be surrounded with so many amazing, sincere, and truly beautiful people.

- Chloé Woodard

Hope packing food to give away to men and women on the streets.

Hope packing food to give away to men and women on the streets.

Crepes and Castles

With three and a half weeks left of the program, I am starting to feel the end looming ahead, and this is a bittersweet feeling for me. Honestly, this entire program has been a bittersweet experience. Paris is an exciting city full of warm, rushing life and cold, hard buildings. But between those things there is food. Restaurants, kiosks, street nut-roasters, stands; every type of food you can think of from Chinese, to Mediterranean, to Arab, to Italian, to American, to Spanish, and of course crêpes! Crepes are on every single corner, and in between blocks. I wonder how they keep in business when they have an identical competitor on both sides. However, crepes are expected in France. What I wasn’t expecting was kebab places. You can get a shaved mean sandwich with a selection of sauce pretty much whichever direction you look. This is what I love about Paris. The accessibility. The cheap, good, accessible food all around me. Many people say Paris, as are most major cities, is very expensive, and it is, but it completely depends on where you look and how you live.photo (6)

This past weekend we stepped away from Paris, which was a nice and welcomed breather from the sometimes suffocating and lonely city life. Our trip was to the Loire River Valley, where we visited four castles over three days. We had been to this region before when we stayed in Nantes for three weeks, which was also on the Loire River. This time we drove up the river valley, through the French countryside. The fall colors made everything all that more beautiful. The immensity of the castles and their extravagant grounds was awe-inspiring, you could feel the history, almost see the kings walking around with their staff, sleeping in the four-poster beds and getting their portraits painted. It was an extremely cold weekend, but we got through it by seeking out the warmest places in the castles: next to the fireplaces. There were only a select few fireplaces that actually had a fire lit and we were sure to have that room’s lecture around that spot. It was actually a good lesson in itself, because in the days of the French monarchy there was no indoor heating, only fires.

photo 3 photo 2photo 4

That is the amazing thing about our program. Earlham’s France program is unique in that it encompasses all sides of France, gives us a taste of the country and of the largest of cities. We stay with families from all different pasts and futures. En fin (In the end), we are very lucky to have such a diverse French experience, and I am happy to clearly see everyone’s progress with the language. I would say in three weeks I will be ready to go home, but after breathing the fresh air of the Loire River, I’m glad we get one last chance to live up the city life before going home for the holidays.photo 1

– Ana Rabut

Thoughts on Thanksgiving

When I was young, we would always set the Thanksgiving table with three pieces of candy corn on each plate.  The tradition was that, at the beginning of the meal, everyone would go around and share with the group three things we are grateful for, eating a piece of candy corn with each one.  Whenever it was my turn, being the cynical punk that I was, I would say I am thankful for food, water, and air because I need those to survive, DUH!  That being said, I wonder if I ever really understood what Thanksgiving was about.  When I was a child, I did childish things.  Having spent time now in another country, I think I can better relate to the pilgrims.  I wonder if I have a better understanding of Thanksgiving now that it is once again my turn to share.  Here’s a kernel of my thoughts.

I used to think Thanksgiving was about the past, remembering the traditions of before, thinking about nice things that have happened.  I wonder if it is not about just the past, but the present and the future, too, all seen from this ephemeral moment.  Thanksgiving is a time to sit and watch not football, but the glories and tragedies of what is, was, and will be.  There are definitely things I miss from the states, like normal, old American cheese.  There are also things I will miss in the future, like the wide variety of fancy French cheeses.  So, I wonder if Thanksgiving is about taking a day to remember and enjoy these lovely things, because nobody knows when you will–or won’t–get to have them again!  Thanksgiving is about more than being grateful, I think, but about truly appreciating something’s precious existence.  Thanksgiving was the merging of new American Indian food and old english food.  It’s not just about remembering the past, but also about looking to the future.  Some might say the only time you truly appreciate something is when it is taken away, and I think immigrants understand that more than anybody else.  To keep it simple, yes, Thanksgiving is about giving thanks.  That being said, I wonder if truly giving thanks is a lot harder than it would appear, and that is why we devote a holiday to it.

When I was young, Thanksgiving was my least favorite holiday.  A month before it, I got to dress up and parade around town for free candy, and a month later I would get to take a few weeks off from school and get presents.  All Thanksgiving has to offer is a few days’ break and the chance to eat the same not particularly special food for a week or two.  Thanksgiving was doomed to be disliked in shadow of those giants, Halloween and Christmas.  That being said, this year I am tremendously excited for Thanksgiving.  That unastounding food, as well as the holiday in general, have taken on new meaning for me.  I have an aunt here in Paris, and she is known for her obsession with Thanksgiving.  Where that once weirded me out, I now understand, and feel, the same mania.  I once only needed three pieces of candy corn to be grateful for three smart aleckey things.  I now need more than a plate of candy corn, nostalgic for the past, excited about the future, and enjoying the melancholic view from the present.  Thank you for reading!

– Ray Graetz

C’est la vie à Paris

Paris, la ville de l’amour, est vraiment une cité avec beaucoup des choses à proposer, mais parfois, quand on pense à la ville des lumières, on pense seulement à La Tour Eiffel, Les Champs Élysées, le Louvre, et peut-être Disneyland Paris. Cependant, cette ville peut toujours nous surprendre, parce que quand on croit d’avoir déjà tout découvert, la ville nous montre qu‘on vient de commencer l’aventure.

Paris peut nous proposer des lieux qui ne sont pas très populaires ou connus, mais qui contiennent toute la magique et l’histoire de la ville. Un lieu qui n’est pas trop loin de Paris et qui nous propose un environnement tranquille, naturel, et encore intéressant est Le Parc Floral de Paris.

Image

Comme la majorité des choses à faire  à  Paris, le Parc Floral a une histoire très intéressante et ancienne. Le parc est un parc urbain et un jardin botanique situé dans le Bois de Vincennes, dans la 12e arrondissement de Paris (Wikipedia). Personnellement,  je l’ai trouvé très captivant parce que vraiment on peut y voir mélangent la nature et la vie de la ville et ça nous donne une contraste très unique et peut-être magique.Image

Je pense que ce contraste nous rappelle qu’il faut que nous préservions encore plus des lieux comme le Parc Floral de Paris, parce que si non, Paris serait quelque chose qu’on peut voir sur la propagande du tourisme. Le Parc Floral me montre que ces zones vertes sont essentiales n’importa où. Ces lieux mettent en contact les personnes qui profitez bien la vie dans une grande ville, mais aussi les personnes qui n’oublient pas cette connexion qui existe entre les individus et la nature.Image

Paris nous propose des lieux avec les caractéristiques très uniques et intéressantes. Si vous profitez bien de la nature et si vous aimez l’histoire naturelle et l’architecture influencée par autres cultures, le Parc Floral de Paris vous fera plaisir. Au même temps, on peut découvrir que Paris est plus que des choses qui sont très promues. Enfin, on peut avoir une soirée très naturelle au Parc Floral de Paris et au même temps, la grande ville n’est pas loin. 

– Yeison Pavas

Bonjour!

Since our return from Avignon life has gotten back to normal routines. In our Immigrant Cinema course we had Rokhaya Diallo come and speak to us about her experiences and work with immigration and racism in France. She left time to answer all our questions from interest in the history and modern response to the Roma (Rom in French) people to the differences between the prejudices faced by female and male immigrants.

Students and Karim with Rokhaya Diallo.

Students and Karim with Rokhaya Diallo.

On Thursday our Art and Architecture class went to the Louvre to see some of the art that we had been talking about in class. After a full day of classes it was wonderful to get out and take advantage of the fact that we are living in Paris. It was rainy and windy and we too all the necessary tourist photos in front of the pyramids.

At the Louvre

At the Louvre

The weather has in earnest turned to autumn, putting us all in the spirit for Thanksgiving! We’ve decided to spend the day making a huge thanksgiving dinner together. A few of us visited the Quaker center in Paris to do a little reconnaissance on their kitchen and prep space for the dinner. There are only two working burners, the oven is quite tiny and there is practically no counter space to cut and peel but we are going for it!

The Quaker Center in Paris.

The Quaker Center in Paris.

– Annie Wright

This past week

Bonjour!

The past week has been full of amazing opportunities. First of all, my host mom happens to work for UNESCO, and she invited our Earlham group to participate in the 8th UNESCO Youth Forum in Paris as organizers, assisting youth delegations and organizations from all over the world. The conference puts youth on the map as not only the leaders of the future, but also the voices of the present, and it precedes the UNESCO general conference, happening this coming week.

As volunteers we were assigned different tasks, anything from helping delegates to register, to helping the facilitators of the discussions and debates, to presenting on projects for organizations that couldn’t be present at the conference. We were honored to be a part of it, and to have the opportunity to meet people our age from all over the world. Taking part in the forum made me proud of our generation and made me feel, as cliché as it sounds, that there is hope for the world.

The UNESCO Forum ended on Thursday, and Friday afternoon we headed off to Avignon for the weekend. There we visited le Palais des Papes, le Pont d’Avignon, and other remarkable sites for our course in Art and Architecture. Avignon was the home of the Pope from the early 14th to early 15th centuries, and continued to be a main city for the Catholic Church until the French Revolution. The Palais was really incredible, and seeing the Alps from the top of it was an amazing moment. Getting away from Paris and reconnecting with the group for a few days was really nice, and the weather in the south of France was beautiful. Now we are preparing to head back to classes tomorrow and continue exploring Paris.

Here are some pictures from the UNESCO Forum:

Image

Preparing the stage after the first day of the conference.

Image

Helping to facilitate debate and discussion regarding youth organizations in Africa.

Image

Shatha (left) and I are very excited to be part of the UNESCO Youth Forum!

– Hope Safford