– going ‘home’ –

Everyone talks about a thing called ‘going home’ after exchange.

 

Some people are excited that I’m going home, like my friends and family; others are sad, like my friends and family here; others are indifferent or even unaware.

But ‘going home’ is a confusing concept for me.

 

I have lived in this town for a year.

I know all of the bus lines for anywhere and everywhere I want to go.

I know the opening hours of every shop and cafe that I frequent.

I know all of the one way streets, and the bridges, and the intersections.

I know the supermarkets, the shopping centres, and most importantly: all the best bakeries.

I know this town like the back of my hand. In some ways, I know it better than the town I grew up in.

 

But it’s not just the place; it’s the people.

I go to the same bakery, and I know the owners and talk to them all the time.

The lady in the pasta shop not only remembers my name, but my order too, which has been the same all year.

I have been at school, and all the teachers know my name. They’ve stopped letting me off when I’m late, because I can no longer get away with the excuse of being an exchange student. I’m not special. The fact that I am an exchange student means nothing anymore (which is both a good and bad thing).

People no longer ask me where I’m from, or how long I’ve been here, I’m just there. Like everyone else.

 

I have made amazing friends. Best friends. Friends for life.

I have also made family. Family is not necessarily blood. It is love: unconditional, and unlimited; total acceptance. It’s supporting each other, and it’s growing together.

They are people whom I know will never not be a part of my life.

At 18 it might be a naïve thing to say, but I know I will not always be close with everyone. So the title of family is only for the very, very special ones.

My host siblings and I are like siblings. We fight. We laugh. We make fun of each other. And we love each other like family.

 

Of course, they’re all long distance relationships at the end, but my bestest-of-best-friends could never be so far away that I would ever stop loving them. We will find our way back together some day and some way, but I’m not sure when, and that’s the hard part.

 

We as humans like stability; security. We set up roots and we make ourselves feel at home. And I guess that’s what I did here.

But I will never again get to live the life I lived here in the same way.

 

People say that “home is where your heart is”.

And that “home is where the people you love are”.

But all too often, the people we love are not in the same place.

And so, my heart is not only in one place anymore.

 

So please, instead of talking about ‘going home’, can we please talk about ‘going back to (insert country here)’?

Because I don’t wanna offend anyone, but I’m leaving one home to go back to another one.

 

This isn’t just ‘going home’.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I am excited to see my family and friends again, to reunite with my car, to cuddle my cat, and generally just to see my beautiful country again. I am excited to go back to my life.

But it is still going to be hard to say goodbye to this one. And this ‘goodbye’ will last a little longer than when I said goodbye to life as I knew it for a year. I don’t know how long this goodbye lasts.

 

It’s going to be a terribly bittersweet experience, and I’m not sure how my taste-buds are going to take it.

 

‘Going home’ is not so simple anymore. There will be times when I’m going to be at ‘home’ wishing I could come back to this one.

 

I’ll watch life here carry on without me, and feel left out, like I did at the start, looking back on where I’d come from.

 

I’m not sure that I’m ready for this life to be over, because no matter what people say about ‘going back’ in a few years, or even next year, to visit or to live, I will never again live this life how I lived it this year. All my friends will never be in the same place altogether again. People move on, and grow up, and everything will change.

 

This life is over for me the day I get on the plane, and I can come back to this town again, but no plane will never bring me back to this life.

 

There is no ‘going home’ after exhange. I am leaving this home, to go back to my other one; which is on the other side of the globe.

 

 

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9 mois en France

Here’s my post for 9 months!
This month was a jam-packed one.
My Gran (yes, from New Zealand !) arrived exactly at the 8 month mark for me. It was so good to see her again. And that was only the start of our adventure.
She arrived Thursday, we wandered around Brive for the Friday, then headed to St Flour for a Rotary conference, for the newly elected presidents in District 1740.
I had been asked to speak about my exchange.
However no one had told me how long to speak for, or the topic. And it turned out to be about 15 minutes. I chucked down a few quick notes while we were at lunch and decided to wing it – not my proudest moment in hindsight, but I had been somewhat put on the spot.
But it worked out really well. And it meant I got to really test my french skills. Any doubts I had about fluency were snuffed out when I realised I had spoken for 15 minutes in my second language with next to no notes and 100 or so Rotarians listening to every word.
No pressure. It was totally fine.
Then, Dany, aka my French Grandmother, stood up and asked, on behalf of her, and my Gran, if I would sing something.
So I sung the New Zealand national anthem.
For me, it was a really special and touching moment. I was singing this anthem, that they’ve all heard a million times right before we smash them in rugby, and they all stood for it. I might call France home too, but New Zealand will always come first, and that was a moment when I was really, really proud to represent my country while on exchange.
I was a very proud little kiwi.
The next morning was a nice and early start, as Gran and I headed off to Marseille in the train, on the start of our 15 day franco-italian tour!
The taxi driver had the strongest southern accent I’ve ever heard, chewed his gum annoyingly loud, didn’t wear a seatbelt, texted while he was driving, and made me think I was going to die.
And when we got to the hotel, I saw him with his finger subtly on the button of the meter.
I asked what he was doing, and he stopped. It was the supplement for the bags, which is fair, but he was just so dodgy. Needless to say, we didn’t use him the next morning.
It was my least favourite city if all of the ones we saw, but it had the best hotel.
The métro was simple and quick, and honestly an asset in every city we went to that had it.
Next day we hit the rails again, for Nice!
Nice was nice (pun totally intended). It was pretty, and calm, and it had a nice mix between the old and new. And some old italian guy, who didn’t speak English but spoke french, so I was translating, tried flirting with Gran. It was amusing. When he said she looked 60 I didn’t tell him otherwise. And he gave us free apéritif so that was good.
The next day we hit Monaco! This is a little country which has always fascinanted me, and I’ve always wanted to visit.
It is an exhibition of obscene wealth. Everywhere you turn there is a car that costs more than my house, or a yacht that is bigger than my house, and costs 1000 times more.
And trust me, it wasn’t just one or two.
The casinos were amazing. Exquisite.
But also terribly sad. I saw one lady betting for a long time on roulette. But a guy had just lost 10,000€ and he was being held while they contacted his bank. And this lady, when she eventually ran out of luck, she went and cashed out a pile of 500€ notes, and bet 1000€. When she lost 2 or 3 rounds later, she left. She knew how to stop. But she’d been playing for a long time that I’d been watching. I can’t imagine how much she had bet and lost already.
For some people it’s a profession, I guess. For others it’s an addiction. And it’s a dangerous one. It all seemed so tempting. Bright colours and flashing lights; dollar signs and the hopes of winning enough to buy one of the cars sitting out front. It was another world, and while it was all pretty and shiny on the outside, I couldn’t imagine living in it.
It was beautiful, even though it rained, and we missed the bus.
Next day was Milan. Milan is easily one of my favourite cities. It was the second time I had visited Milan, having already done it on the EuroTour. It was just as good the second time around, if not better, because I already knew it, and what was worth seeing.
We took the metro there too.
The next day we headed for Venice! We had a little hiccup with the train tickets having not been stamped in France. So we had to get off and get it stamped then get another train. It was a good learning experience.
But we got to Venice, where I didn’t know you could take the train. I had thought the only access was by boat. You learn something new every day ! I’d already been on the EuroTour, and arrived by boat, and when it’s an island, surrounded by water, I didn’t think about cars and trains and things having access, especially since there are no cars on the island. I’m not stupid. I promise.
We spent two nights in Venice, so had a day and a half there to explore. We had a gondola ride, and visited Murano, and it was lovely.
Then we headed to Florence! We had two nights (so a day and a half) in Florence too.
This is where I discovered how similar french and italian are. Some street vendor started talking to me in Italian and I asked him a question in Italian, which he responded to in Italian, which I understood ! However I couldn’t speak more than a few sentences of Italian, I spoke french, and we communicated in franco-italiano for about 10 minutes.
Florence is a beautiful city, with a rich history. However it’s also a violent history. The Medici family history really interested me, because I knew already that there had been two French Medici Queens. But learning about the history in Florence was so interesting.
We saw the statue of David, and spent way more money than we should have.
However, Florence leather is a lot cheaper in Venice. Good thing I bought a bag in Venice, too.
Next day we hit Rome!
Rome has been a dream of mine for years. When I was a child, I studied history more than I played with Polly Pocket or My Little Pony.
I was particularly interested by Egyptian history (and I still want to go there!) and also Roman history !
It was unreal. The Trevi Fountain was pretty. Too many tourists everywhere however.
One thing that did not disappoint in the slightest was the Colosseum.
That was a dream come true, to say the least.
And then, after three nights in Rome, we headed for Paris.
That meant a whole day in the train.
And on the train once we got to France, there were 4 police officers doing weird checks. I understood, but at the same time, it was seriously weird, that they were going through the train, checking every bag had an owner, and checking anything ‘suspicious’.
The long train was worth it though, because then we got to Paris!
We had two days in Paris.
People used to tell me before my exchange that Paris was disappointing. It was not what they had expected.
I tried not to have expectations. I had certain ones of course. I’ve been dreaming of Paris my whole life.
But any expectations I had were exceeded.
We spent three days in Paris, visiting the typical Paris things : the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe, the Champs Elysées, Galeries Lafayette, etc.
I visited the Notre Dame de Paris for the first time. I went to mass for the first time in France too.
And then, of course, we visited the Eiffel tower at night.
It’s magical. That’s the second time I’ve been, and it gets better every time. I don’t think that view will ever get old. I would love to live in Paris for a while.
I love how Paris makes me feel.
I just feel so free. It’s liberating, being in such a big city, and watching the world move around me, and it never stops.
It was like that in Rome too. And Milan. And I can definitely see myself in Europe. Not forever. Just for a while.
Then it was time to return to reality. We got the train back to Brive, and my Host Dad picked us up.
We then chilled out in Brive for a few days and visited Collonges la Rouge (which I think I’ve been to a million times this year) and then it was time for Gran to leave me. But I would see her again in 3 months.
That Friday, with the rest of my students in my Rotary district, we started heading to Mont St Michel !
The Saturday arrived, and we did too, with 8 other districts of students !
We had a visit in the bay, and got completely soaked and muddy.
The next day we visited the town and the chapel which were gorgeous.
If you don’t know Mont St Michel look it up. It’s something out of fairy tales.
After Mont St Michel, it really felt like the end.
All the things I had been waiting for all year had passed and the only big event I had on the calendar, that had not yet come to pass, would be leaving.
I was incredibly sad. And after a few days, I realised that instead of being sad, I just had to make the most of every single moment I had left.
I just have to take the time to open my eyes and take in the world around me.
I don’t want to forget a single street of this little town. I don’t want to forget the houses with ivy crawling up the outsides, the black granite rooftops and sandy-coloured stone, or even the sounds of the bells that never chime on time.
If I see something and think “oh that’s pretty, I should take a photo of it” instead of mentally complaining because my phone is not easily accessible, I get my phone out, wait for it to decide to work (definitely need a new one) and take a photo. Or ten.
Either way, I’m just trying to keep these memories alive.
So then that weekend, Granger (newbie, American) and Jasmine (oldie, Australian), two of my best friends, came to stay.
And that’s where month nine ends; Friday night, dying Granger’s hair in my bath.
However, he turned Ginger-ish, instead of Platinum Blond. Oops ?
Here’s to a great month nine, and the trip of a lifetime with my Gran in Europe.
Bisous xo
Grace
– En France –

7 et 8 mois en France (English Version)

Hey everyone ! Here is my post for 7 and 8 months.
I should have done my 7 month post a month ago, but I was a bit too busy tanning at Biscarrosse Beach. 
So, last time I wrote, I recounted stories of Paris, and an incredible month with my friends, who then left.
I am going to start by saying that I have had a really lovely summer.

However, I can only tell you about it all now, after two months’ time to help me…adjust – to my life here.

Because I am in the same town. It’s still home. I pretty much do the same things. I see the same streets and buildings. I take the same bus, and I go to the same school.

But life is no longer the same without the people you love.

I thought that the day when we said ‘goodbye’ would have been the worst day.

But no. Turns out, the worst days were the days when I felt very alone. When I wanted to ask someone if they wanted to go get a drink, and then I asked myself “but who?” because there wasn’t anyone to see anymore.
I wasn’t in Brive much during Summer. It made me a bit sad. So I was hiding out in the countryside, and I travelled with my families.

But even now, I am home again, there are other exchange students who have arrived, and I’ve already made good friends, but that doesn’t replace what I had before. It’s good too. But there are still moments, every day, when I miss my friends. And moments that I feel alone.

I don’t mind being alone. It doesn’t bother me, but feeling alone is another thing entirely.

However, I don’t say this to make you all worry.

But every month my posts are pretty honest, and it’s a large part of my exchange – two months – and I can’t forget it, and it’s better that I don’t forget. It’s an experience. And it made me grow. This year, or these first 8 months of it, have really made me grow up (and out a bit but that’s a sensitive subject mdr).

It made me grow up enough to know that I am still little.

I am young. And I have a whole life ahead of me, and I need to make the most of it.

I can’t simply go back to my life [in NZ], in my town, and settle in for the next few decades.

New Zealand is home. And it will always be home. But I am not going to live in a little house, in a little town, in a little country for my whole life (sorry Mum).

There is a world to discover, and now I have friends to go and see everywhere in it!
So, I have not yet really told you what I did this summer.

I spent a few weeks with a family from my Rotary club, and they were incredible. Very kind and welcoming. They made me feel like I was part of the family. And in a time when I was a bit fragile, just after my friends had left, it was lovely.

They told me we would spend a few weeks at “The little house in the countryside”.

When we arrived, I saw a château. Seriously.

They lived in the house next to it, but it was still part of the same family property, and in comparison to the castle, it’s little, but it’s still 5 bedrooms and 3 or 4 bathrooms.

I spent 3 lovely weeks with them, and on the last weekend, we went to Bordeaux !

We also went to Lacanau, a beach just south of Bordeaux. And it was the first time I saw the Atlantic Ocean ! And also the first time I swam in the sea since I arrived in France.

I also got the worst sunburn of my entire life. I still have the tan lines, and I tried all summer to tan and to get rid of them, but nearly two months later, they’re still there.

I also went to Brive Festival with friends of the family I was with, and it was very nice, even if I didn’t really know the music.
After having been with that family, I spent a few days in Brive with Dany, who is now unofficially my French grandmother.

Then I found myself just above Brive, in a little village, where it was so little they didn’t even have numbers for the houses. The Postie just knew everyone and where they lived. 

It was really good with them. I had, for the first time all year, a little brother and sister again.

15, like my brother, and 11, a little bit older than my sister. But the dynamic between the two was the same. They argued and harassed each other exactly like my brother and sister !

And for two or three days, I found it nice to have a family like mine again, and then, I had enough of the arguing and I told them to stop like I would in my family.

I also had a big sister who was very nice and welcoming. And my parents were very good too.

With the two littlies and the parents, I went to Biscarrosse for a week.

I was the most tanned I’ve ever been in my life. I also had the most freckles I have ever had.
After a lovely week in Biscarrosse, I rejoined my next family, in a quick exchange at Bordeaux Airport, and we went up to Vendée.

We visited some beaches, and Noirmoutier, a little island off the coast. We also went prawn fishing! We took the boat out early in the morning and we anchored far from the coast. Then we waited for low tide.

Once there was nearly no water left around the boat, we got out, and we started fishing!

It was amazing! I couldn’t eat what we caught, but it was great to do anyway. I also tried water skiing for the first time!

After the week in Vendée we went home to Brive, to get ready for the start of school, and the Rotex, with all the inbounds (exchange students) who were about to arrive.
The weekend before school started I was at Lac Chambon. But it was 12 degrees, and really too cold to be on the lake. So we visited a farm. And we also visited the Château de Murol, and then we went home again…

With just enough time to buy last minute essentials for school.

I started at school again on the 5th of September, and it’s weird for me, because September is really close to the end for me, normally. September is between mock exams and the real exams for me.

Also, it’s weird for me now that it’s Autumn, not Spring.

Yes, I know everything is reversed, BUT it’s lots easier with Summer and Winter because it’s very clear which is which. But Autumn and Spring are similar, except one’s getting warmer and one’s getting colder.

And now it’s like Spring. Cold but nice. But it continues to get colder.
And just before the conclusion, I can’t forget to add that I spent a ‘girls weekend’ in Limoges with Céline, my sister (Host sister, for those of you who ask if my real sister, who is 8 by the way, came to see me). Thanks to Aunty Marie and Uncle Matt who helped me get there 💕

It was lovely, and now we arrive at the 8 month mark!
There we go, I had a lovely end of Summer, the start of school wasn’t as bad as I thought it’d be, so all is well, and I can’t wait for the next 3 months and 3 weeks.

But at the same time, I really hope it will go very slowly. Because I don’t have a lot of time left here, my second home. I don’t want to leave, but I just know I need to make the most of it.

Thank you to those who read my blog, who support me, and who never fail to make me smile.

Bisous xo

Grace 

– En France –

Feux d’artifices

Il y a quelque chose si magnifique de feux d’artifices. C’est comme la magie.
Ça me fait penser – non, ça me fait réaliser que la vie est faite des petits moments. Comme les feux d’artifices. Les moments viennent et ils nous passent. Vite. 
Et moi, je veux profiter bien de tous les petits moments, parce que c’est les choses qu’on pense sont petites, qui vont être les plus grandes et les plus claires dans nos souvenirs.
Je veux danser, comme je n’ai aucuns soucis. Je ne veux chanter avec aucuns pensées de qui va m’entendre.

Je veux aimer fort et sans peur.
Tout le monde dit que la vie est courte, mais pourquoi on est en train de vivre comme on ne va jamais mourir ?
Je ne veux pas conduire trop vite, ni fumer, ni boire tous les weekends, ni embrasser tout le monde – mais vous pouvez, si vous voulez.
Je veux VIVRE. Je veux voir les choses anciennes et belles partout dans le monde. Je veux parler autant de langues que je ne me rends pas compte que je ne suis plus dans un pays ou un autre. Je veux connaître autant du monde et entendre les histoires et apprendre pour comprendre. Je veux aimer et être aimé. Je veux apprécie le sable entre mes orteils et le soleil qui brille et chauffe ma peau. Je veux entendre tous les sons, et le silence.
Je veux fermer mes yeux, respirer, et simplement être. Dans un moment. Dans un endroit. Dans ma vie.
Parce que la vie passe vite. Et je ne veux pas la laisser passer sans vivre.
Peut-être c’est fou que quelque chose aussi simple que les feux d’artifices pourrait me faire penser à tout ça.

Mais tout ce que je sais est que la vie est belle quand on s’arrête et on apprécie les choses belles. 

Comme les feux d’artifices. 

7 et 8 mois en France (version française)

Bonjour tout le monde ! 
Voici, mon post pour 7 et 8 mois.

J’aurais du faire le 7 mois il y a un mois, mais j’étais en train de me bronzer à Biscarrosse, et j’étais un peu occupé.
Du coup, la dernière fois que je vous ai écrit, j’ai raconté les histoires de Paris, et d’un mois incroyable avec mes amis avant qu’ils partaient. 
Je vais commencer en disant que j’ai vraiment passé un bel été.

Par contre, je peux seulement vous le dire maintenant, après deux mois de temps pour…m’habituer, avec la vie. Parce que je suis dans la même ville. C’est toujours chez moi. Je fais un peu les mêmes choses. Je vois les mêmes rues et bâtiments. Je prends le même bus, et je vais au même lycée. 

Mais la vie n’est plus pareil sans les gens qui tu aimes.
Je pensais que le jour quand nous avons dit ‘au revoir’ aurait été le pire jour.

Mais non. Les pires jours étaient les jours quand je me sentais très seule. Quand je voulais demander quelqu’un s’il voulait aller boire un coup, et puis je me demandais “mais qui?” parce qu’il n’y avait plus personne à voir.

Je n’étais pas beaucoup sur Brive pendant été. Ça me rendait un peu triste. Du coup je me cachais à la campagne, et je voyageais avec mes familles.

Mais même maintenant, je suis rentrée, il y a des autres étudiants d’échange qui sont arrives, et j’ai déjà fait des bons amis, mais ça ne remplace pas ce que j’avais avant. C’est bien aussi. Mais il y a toujours des moments, tous les jours, quand mes amis me manquent. Et quand je me sens seule.

Je m’en fiche d’être seule. Ça ne m’empêche pas, mais de me sentir seule c’est une autre chose complètement.

Mais je ne le dis pas pour vous inquiéter. Mais tous les mois mes posts sont assez honnête, et c’est une grande partie de mon échange, deux mois, et je ne peux pas l’oublier, mais il faut mieux de ne pas oublier. C’est une expérience. Et ça m’a fait grandir. Cette année (ou ces 8 mois) m’a fait vraiment grandir.
Ça m’a fait grandir assez que je sais que je suis toujours petite. 
Je suis jeune. Et j’ai une vie entière devant moi, et il faut en profiter. Mais gravement.

Je ne peux pas simplement rentrer dans ma vie, dans ma ville, et m’installer pour les dizaines d’années.

Nouvelle Zélande est chez moi. Et ça va toujours être chez moi. Mais je ne vais pas habiter dans une petite maison, dans une petite ville, dans un petit pays toute ma vie (Désolé Maman).

Il y a un monde à découvrir. Et maintenant j’ai des amis à voir partout !
Du coup, je vous ai pas vraiment raconté ce que je faisais pendant été. 
Je passais quelques semaines à la campagne avec une famille (de mon club du Rotary) qui était incroyable. Très sympa et accueillant. Ils m’ont fait sentir comme j’étais partie de la famille. Et dans un moment quand j’étais un peu fragile, juste après le départ de tous mes amis, c’était chouette. 

Ils m’ont dit qu’on passerait quelques semaines à ‘la petite maison dans la campagne’. 
Quand on est arrivé, j’ai vu un château. Mais vraiment.

Enfin, ils occupent la maison à côté, mais toujours partie de la même propriétaire familiale, et en comparaison c’est petit, mais toujours 5 chambres et 3 ou 4 salles de bains. 

J’ai passé 3 semaines très sympathiques avec eux, et le dernier week-end, on est allé à Bordeaux !

On est allé aussi au Lacanau, une plage sud du Bordeaux. Et c’est la première fois que j’ai vu l’océan Atlantique ! Et aussi la première fois que je me suis baignée dans l’océan depuis je suis arrivée en France.
J’ai pris aussi le pire coup du soleil de ma vie entière. J’ai toujours des lignes de bronzage, et j’ai essayé pendant tout le reste d’été de me bronzer et les enlever, mais presque deux mois après c’est toujours là. 
Je suis allée aussi au Brive Festival avec des amis de cette famille, et c’était sympa, même si je ne connaissais pas trop la musique.
Après avoir été avec cette famille, j’ai passée quelques jours à Brive avec Dany, qui est maintenant appelé ma grand-mère française.
Puis je me suis trouvé en hauteur de Brive dans une petite village, ou c’était si petit qu’ils n’avaient même pas les numéros des maisons. Simplement, la facture connait tout le monde.
C’était super bien passé avec eux. J’avais pour la première fois toute l’année un petit frère et une petite sœur encore. 15ans comme mon frère, et 11ans, un petit peu plus âgée que ma sœur. Mais la dynamique entre les deux était pareil. Ils se disputaient et harcelaient exactement comme mon frère et ma sœur. Et pendant deux ou trois jours je l’ai trouvé bien d’avoir encore une famille comme la mienne, et puis j’en avais marre et je les ai dit ‘stop’ comme je ferais dans ma famille.

J’avais aussi une grande sœur qui était très gentil et très accueillante. Et mes parents étaient très sympas.

Avec les deux petits et les parents, je suis allée à Biscarrosse pendant une semaine. J’étais la plus bronzé que j’ai jamais été dans ma vie. Et j’avais aussi le plus de tâches de rousseur que j’ai jamais eu.
Après une belle semaine à Biscarrosse, j’ai retrouvé ma prochaine famille d’accueil, à l’aéroport de Bordeaux, et on est monté en Vendée. 
On a visité des plages, et le petit île de Noirmoutier. On a fait aussi la pêche des crevettes ! On prennait le bateau tôt dans le matin et on s’arrêtait loin de la côte. Puis on attendait pour la mer basse. 

Après il n’y avait presque plus d’eau autour du bateau, on sortait, et on commençait la pêche!

C’était incroyable ! Je ne pouvais pas manger ce qu’on a cueilli, mais c’était drôle de le faire quand même.

Je faisais aussi le ski-nautique pour la première fois !
Après la semaine en Vendée, on est rentré à Brive, pour se préparer pour la rentrée scolaire, et le Rotex, avec tous les inbounds qui venaient d’arriver.
On a passé le week-end avant la rentrée scolaire au Lac Chambon. Mais il faisait 12 degrés, et vraiment trop froid pour être sur le lac. Donc on a fait visiter un ferme.

On a visité aussi le Château de Murol, et puis on est rentré…

Avec juste assez du temps pour acheter les essentiels pour la rentrée.
Je suis rentrée au lycée le 5 septembre, et c’est bizarre pour moi parce que septembre est vraiment près de la fin pour moi, normalement. Septembre est entre le bac blanc et le vrai bac pour moi. 

Aussi, c’est bizarre pour moi maintenant que ça soit l’automne, et pas le printemps.

Oui, je sais que tout est à l’inverse, MAIS c’est beaucoup plus facile avec hiver et été parce que c’est vraiment clair lequel est lequel. Mais automne et printemps sont similaires, sauf qu’un se réchauffe, et l’autre se refroidit.

Et c’est comme printemps. Froid mais beau, etc. Mais ça continue de refroidir. 
Et juste avant la conclusion, je ne peux pas oublier d’ajouter que je passais un ‘girls-weekend’ à Limoges avec Céline, ma sœur (d’accueil -pour ceux qui me demandent si ma vraie sœur qui a 8 ans est venu me voir). C’était chouette, et maintenant on arrive au point de 8 mois !
Beh voilà, j’ai passé une belle fin d’été, la rentrée n’est pas aussi mal passée que j’avais pensé, donc tout se passe bien, et il me tard de passer les 3 prochains mois et 3 semaines.

Mais à la même temps, j’espère vraiment que ça se passera très lentement. Parce qu’il ne me reste plus beaucoup de temps ici, chez moi. Je ne veux pas trop le quitter,  mais je sais que je dois en profiter.
Merci à ceux qui lisent mon blog, qui me soutiennent, et qui n’échouent jamais de me faire sourire.
Bisous xo
Grace 
– En France –

6 mois en France

Time is a weird concept. That’s what it is, a concept, created by humans to distinguish the difference between given moments, events, and occurrences.

It’s an odd thing, because while it can feel short, it can also feel really long at the same time, for the exact same measure.

And there is no length which determines what is deemed as ‘long’ or deemed as ‘short’, it just depends on what point of view you’re looking from, and it can very easily be both at the same time.

And that is exactly how I feel about the first six months of my exchange.

Six months feels like a long time since I’ve seen Kapiti Island, driven my car, eaten Four Square Chicken and Chips, been to Church, slept in my own bed, or hugged my mum and dad.

It also feels like a long time because this town is now so familiar, and so comfortable for me that it feels like home. And I can’t imagine leaving it.

But at the same time, six months feels like it has flown by, and sometimes I still have moments where I just realise: wait, I’m in France! And if those little “WOW” moments haven’t totally stopped happening and I’m already at six months, I don’t think it’s going to ever stop.

When I look at my exchange, I just think “wow six months has gone already, and I only have six months left”, and it seems like nothing at all. And it also seems like a very long time.

But I remember a similar feeling at the start of high school, thinking “Oh man, I have 5 years of this”, but getting to the end of my five years and realising that the time flies. Sure, one hour of maths can feel like a year when it’s fifth period and you’re tired, hot, and hungry. But looking back, those were the fastest five years of my life.

So, my revelation on time led me to an idea, which I already knew, but it just reinforces it. It’s that we really need to make the most of everything, and we owe it to ourselves to do so. Every year, month, week, day. I can’t keep putting things off, or not taking an opportunity because I don’t feel like it.

There is a quote that I absolutely adore which says: Ta deuxième vie commence quand tu comprends que tu n’en as qu’une.

That means: Your second life starts when you understand that you only have one.

And so, with that in mind, here are the things I’ve been doing during my sixth month, making the most of the one life I have.

I knew before my exchange that I would put on weight. I knew it. And when it started to happen, I didn’t care. I was eating well, I was healthier than I’ve ever been, and I was enjoying myself.

I decided not to weight myself much. I would do it every few months, just to know, enough that I’m not obsessing, but I am aware how many I’ve put on, and how it changes.

I started feeling pretty bad as my clothes stopped fitting, and as I started buying things one size up.

Then I flipped a switch, and I stopped caring about the weight when summer hit (I thought I’d do the opposite), and honestly, for the first time in my life, I was so happy with the number I saw when I weighed myself.

If I saw the same number 6 months ago, I would have cried. Three months too. And maybe even one month earlier, I would have been unhappy.

But I feel good in my own skin. I have learned to embrace the exchange weight, and love my body.

Even though I’m always the whitest one by the pool, I have a tan line on my feet from my sandals but that is the only place I have tanned, and with a few kilos extra.

I also feel like half the things I own look better now I’m a bit bigger anyway. It’s all a matter of perspective and a positive state of mind. I think.

That for me, is a nice big hurdle I jumped during month six.

 

I went to my first French party. It was nice. It was chill. I wanted to sleep by like 1am, and everyone else wanted to keep partying (I think it must be easier fuelled on alcohol, but I have no desire to ever try).

I also went to my second French party. Again, it must be more fun for people who are drinking, but I still have a great time until they’re all drunk. And then I want to sleep. I’m not really made for the party life, I don’t think.

Music and dancing however, that I can do. There was a one-night musical festival, where there were concerts in the streets and café’s and it was really nice. So many people came out for it, and it was honestly like all 50,000 people in Brive were in the cetre ville. It was crazy, but awesome!

I was walking with my friend Anastasia, and we came across a café, where they had a set up outdoors, and it was very tranquil, and she asked if she could play the piano, so she did! Then they asked if I wanted to do something, so I picked up the guitar and sang a song. Then they asked for another, and another. I enjoyed the spontaneity, and I really have missed singing and performing.

That same week, I experienced heat so severe I thought I was going to die. We had a week of 38-40degrees. I felt so sick the whole week and hardly ate anything.

I never thought I’d consider 31 degrees as ‘cold’ or like as a pleasing temperature, but after having 38+ for more than 7 days, 31 felt like a nice little trip to Antarctica.

I did however, in this plight, make peace with pools, despite a longstanding loathing.

I also moved from my second host family, which was very hard. I was close with them, and really felt like part of the family, but I am doing lots of cool things this summer with several Rotary members, so that will be good too. Like at the moment I’m in the country side with a couple who I’m staying with for two weeks. They have an apartment in Brive, with a gorgeous view, but also a family property in the country side. And when they said “we’re going to the little house in the countryside” a flippin chateau was not what I had in mind. But I’m not complaining about the 15th century ‘little country house’, with a pool, tennis court, and acres and acres of gorgeous land.

I went to the movies! The first film I saw was horrible. It was called “The Last Girl”, but I think it’s actually titled “The Girl With All The Gifts”. French people do funny things, like giving movies another English name that’s shorter, instead of just translating the original name. But they don’t watch the films in English either, and add French subtitles, no, they go the extra mile, and voice dub everything so it’s all in French. No subtitles. Just lips moving out of time with what they’re saying.

It was like…Zombie and apocalyptic themes, and quite…gross. So, I understood the story, but I spent most of the time hiding in Rowans hair and blocking my ears to actually see if I understood everything they were saying enough to enjoy the film. But it’s a bit hard to enjoy the film when it makes you want to cry and vomit. So evidently, I had to go back again.

This time, I knew I’d enjoy it, and I just hoped I’d understand.

It was Baywatch. Or BAEwatch, with my main man Zac Efron…

It took a while to adjust at the start of the film, getting used to the fact that The Rock was not sounding like The Rock, and then Zac Efron didn’t sound like Zac Efron either. BUT I understood like 95% of the film, and it was a good laugh. For me and Nora. French people don’t laugh at the movies.

The third film I went to see this month was Moi, Moche et Méchant 3 – aka: Despicable Me 3.

It was so good, and I understood everything, so that’s nice. To know that not only a) I can understand everything in day-to-day life, but I can understand movies too.

I also got quite good at walking home alone in the dark, something that I’ve never been good at, because I basically run the whole way because I’m scared of being murdered.

But seriously. Brive is a safe little town, and I’m smart enough to not take funny little side streets to get home, but I’m also becoming more independent.

However, I miss my car. A lot. I miss the freedom and not feeling dependent, and also, the ability to go where I want when I want.

I want to go to see friends somewhere else in my region. I have to take a bus, or a train, or both. Limoges, the big city close to me, is only one hour away, by car. So in my head, that’s like Paraparaumu to Wellington. So in my head I’m going, OK, it might cost a bit more than that, so say in NZD…$15 to $20 return. That is about 10€ to 13€.

No no no. The train is going to cost me minimum of 20€ (about $30) for the round trip, if I take the cheapest there one day, and the cheapest home the next. Then I would have to find somewhere to stay.

Or if I want to go first thing in the morning and come home in the same evening, I’m looking at 30€ (about $45) or 40€ ($60) for the roundtrip. Although it can be more, depending on the time.

If I were able to drive, it’d make life so much easier. But I can’t. I can’t afford a 40€ roundtrip ticket either. Voilà, I’m not going to Limoges any time soon.

 

Besides the whole train issue (and of course the school system), I am coming to quite like my little part of France, and I could definitely live here. But I won’t, I promise, until they improve their school system. But considering it’s been in place since Napolean created it like a million years ago, and the French really like tradition, it’s unlikely that they’ll change their ‘traditional’ schooling system any time soon.

I’ve been having the time of my life with my friends here; musical festival, Fete foraine, shopping, movies, swimming, talk, laughing, partying (but not drinking), getting massages, and just making the most of every moment we have together.

While this is the middle of my exchange, for some, it is the end.

So, these friends, with whom I was having the best summer ever, have all just left.

Slowly but surely, all the other exchange students I’ve met all over France have started to go home.

AFS is really strong in this area, and we had a lot of AFS students. One Rotary girl left in June, then the other Rotary student – Fanny my little Finlander – left at the start of July, and then all the AFS students left on the 8th of July for their end-of-exchange debrief thing in Paris.

That was a very hard day.

As was the 13th, because Rowan came back to Brive with her parents after Paris, so our goodbye could wait. But that was my final goodbye.

And now I’m very sad. I’m Ok. But I am very sad. And I feel quite alone. And I know I’m going to have an amazing time still, and it’s not over for me yet, but I just said goodbye to some of the best friends I have ever had, for an undetermined amount of time.

They’re all going to come to my wedding, but who knows when that’ll happen?

These are people who make me laugh when I want to cry, who constantly reminded me to talk in French for the first three months when all I wanted to do was talk English because I was tired and it was easier for my brain, who never fail to tell me my butt looks good, who don’t judge me for anything, who listen and give advice -no matter how many times I say the same thing, who pushed me out of my comfort zone by not doing things for me like ordering Subway or drinks in a café, who kept me sane at crazy French School, and who are an enormous and irreplaceable part of an amazing six months of the most amazing year of my life so far.

I cannot thank them enough for all they did for me. They took me in, a stressed out little kiwi, and helped me to learn to live in Frenchie territory.

And saying goodbye to them was very, very hard.

So please, if you ask me if I’m OK, and I say “yes, but I’m sad”, and I will not lie and just say “the world is peachy”, please don’t say “It’s OK, more will arrive!” because I know very well that there are going to be a ton of Newbies, and I am so excited to meet them and become friends with them, and share a life in Brive with them for 4 months at the end of my exchange.

Being alone is not really my fear. It’s the feeling lonely, because I have said goodbye to some absolutely amazing friends.

Just like my friends here do not replace my friends from home, the second lot of students do not replace the first. They are not replacements, they are additions. And I am so lucky to have the opportunity to meet so many amazing young people from all over the world.

I know I have changed already. I’m more confident, independent, and open, and one thing I’m coming to realise now is that I am so much happier.

To be fair, last year was a hard, stressful, emotional year, and this year has done a lot of breaking but also healing. And it’s only been 6 months.

I am so grateful for this opportunity, and to everyone who has supported me throughout this journey.

The next six months are gonna be good!

 

Bisous xx

Grace

– En France –

5 mois en France

Five months in France already – what?!

Since when did that happen? As cliché as it is, it seems like just yesterday I was watching the sun set behind Kapiti Island with my friends, from my car on top of a hill while eating McDonalds.

A large portion of my summer, before leaving New Zealand, looked like that.

Now it’s nearly summer here, but for me, it’s going to be very, very weird.

Reason One: I cannot drive

Reason Two: there is no beach, and no island

Reason Three: McDonald’s is really far away

And most importantly, Reason Four: my friends from home aren’t here, and the closest friends I have here are all leaving.

But that is something we can discuss a bit later, now for my monthly program summary, before my monthly revelations.

On the 14th I walked up the Canal des Moines at Aubazine with my host sister and mum.

I visited Colonges la Rouge again, because the first time I didn’t have money and couldn’t buy any postcards, and I have a system: I buy (at least) two postcards in every place I visit, one for my wall when I get home, and one to send to someone back home. This system remains permanently tarnished thanks to Germany: it was a Sunday, and everything was closed, and I couldn’t even buy a postcard.

In France, they have a long weekend for Ascension. They celebrate a lot of religious holidays, for a country where students aren’t even allowed to wear religious symbols at school.

I am allowed to wear my Cross or St Christopher at school, but only because it’s a private catholic school, and those are appropriate religious symbols, but if I were at a public school, I wouldn’t be allowed.

But we seem to have holidays related to religious events every other week.

The 25th-28th of May, we had ascension (Thursday-Sunday), which was great.

My host family had friends who came from around Paris to stay for the weekend, so altogether on the Thursday we went to L’ardoisiere in Travassac. It’s incredible, and I could explain but I’d do a really bad job, so I recommend looking it up!

The Friday, I took a train to Tulle to stay with my friend Allie, another exchange student, who is from America (also with Rotary).  I had my first swim of the summer season, and got mildly sun burned. But nowhere near as burned as I would have been at home in the same time. I was outside for like….5 hours, no sunblock, and I only got a little burned, a little pink, which was mostly faded the next day.

That’s one good/bad thing here. I don’t burn as easily, but it also means I’m a little more complacent about sunblock use. After getting burned again that weekend I decided I’d just wear it all the time anyway. Even though the sun just isn’t as strong as at home.

While I was in Tulle, there was the Fete Foraine, like…a little fair/carnival thingy, with rides, and food, and it was so cute. It then came to Brive a week later and I was very pleased.

I finished up school, and then it was time for a little getaway…

My first week of the school summer holidays I spent in Paris!

We stayed in the banlieues of Paris (suburbs) in a town called Savigny-sur-Orge.

Day one: driving up to Paris.

Day two: Chateau de Chantilly

We went and saw a gorgeous chateau. We didn’t even go inside, we just strolled around the immense garden for like 3 hours. It was incredible. Picturesque and very romantic. Walking through the gardens I could imagine walking through there, in a big dress, courting, or gossiping to a lady-in-waiting, or something out of a royal’s handbook.

I love all the chateaux and castles because they’re just so interesting. The history and the reality that say, three hundred years ago these places were inhabited, and were a part of the era we hear about in stories and history books, or nobles and princesses, and it just feels like…history is so alive. And it’s sometimes overwhelming here, to think about all the lives that have passed by here. Even in my little town, which has been standing for the better part of a millennium.

Day three: we walked around for a while, sightseeing, my host mum explaining everything (she moved to Paris when she was my age, and stayed there for a long time), and then we ate lunch in the park in front of the Louvre.

After having eaten, it was time to hit the museum, ticking off one of the biggest boxes on my France Bucket-List: The Louvre!

It was incredible. It was a dream come true to see all the ancient Egyptians artefacts. When I was a kid, my career goal was to be a) a famous singer and b) an archaeologist in Egypt. I was obsessed for years with ancient Egyptian history, and the stories of the Gods, and mummification, and monarchy, and everything. I was so pleased to see all these amazing things that I spent years studying for the fun of it.

I saw the Mona Lisa. And it was hilarious to see dozens of people crowding around a single little dull sombre portrait of a young lady who isn’t even smiling, while on the other side of the room, there is a tapestry which covers the entire wall, yet everyone has their backs to it. It’s quite sad. We’re all so caught up in this idea of validating ourselves, and our experiences, and making sure it’s known. And yes, I take photos and post them too, but honestly, they’re more for me than anyone else. I will take a few photos, capture the moment, but then actually LIVE it. I don’t understand how people live with their phones in their hands. You aren’t living a moment if you’re literally watching it all unfold before your eyes…on your telephone screen. What good are photos of a memory you never made?

Just because no one knows it happened doesn’t mean it’s any less of an experience.

I also took the metro for the first time ever!

Day four: the day my life-long dream came true.

I climbed the Eiffel Tower!

(I nearly cried when I touched it, and I was so excited I nearly didn’t give the lady my ticket.)

It was a little weird at the same time though, because normally when you look at a view in Paris, you dee the tower, right? But when you’re on the tower, you see everything but the tower, because you’re like on it. So, it’s a completely different view of Paris, but it was gorgeous. Breathtakingly stunning.

We also took a ride in a BatoBus, or a Fly boat down the Seine, so I got to see a lot of paris like that too! Notre Dame, La Tour Eiffel, Le Louvre, Pont Neuf, etc. It was a great opportunity to see the city from another angle. It was gorgeous, and relaxing.

Day five: Versailles and Paris at night!

Versailles was stunning. We waited in the line to enter for nearly 2 hours.

It was incredible. Gold everywhere. Immaculate.

I was however very disappointed with how touristic it is. It’s not like the other chateaus I’ve visited. Where there were lots of people, but they were more spread out, and a lot calmer.

We were pushed room to room, caught in the flow of tour guides and their groups. Luckily like half the tours were in English so I now know I’ll never need to pay for a tour, I’ll just go and listen to the others, because you get caught up with them anyway.

It was beautifully furnished and maintained, and would have been like stepping into a fairy tale, or into the life of Marie Antoinette, if yet again, people weren’t living through their phones.

That night we headed into Paris to see the Eiffel tower at night! Yet another dream to tick off the bucket list.

At night, it is illuminated, and shines like gold, but then every hour on the hour for five minutes, it shimmers and flickers and puts on a show.

It was magical. And I would have waited another hour to see it all again, but my host mum was waiting in the car for us in a spot where she wasn’t really allowed to stop (she was our taxi, but not A taxi per-se).

Day six: this is where I hit the five-month mark.

This was a real day in Paris. My mum told me I was in charge of the metro, so I had to plan out what we were doing, where we’d be changing, knowing the end of the lines to know the direction to take, etc.

It’s crazy how at ease I felt. It felt so natural for me in Paris. And I didn’t feel too much like a tourist (despite the touristy things we did) because I only spoke French.

We went to see the Sacré-Coeur, and an art market, all in the 18th arrondissement. We explored the city, and did a bit of shopping.

Then it was time to say goodbye to Paris.

The next day we’d just be driving home.

But I never would have thought on the day I arrived in France, that five months later I’d be speaking fluent French, or that I’d be in Paris, navigating the metro on my own.

For me, these monthly milestone posts help remind me how far I’ve come. Because even though I can look at a month and think wow not a lot happened, I don’t see a lot of progress, I know that five months ago I could not have managed myself how I can now.

It’s easy to forget now [that I understand everything and can express myself] how hard it was in the beginning.

But these five months have been amazing, and it just keeps getting better.

Sure, they’ve been very up and down, but ‘amazing’ doesn’t mean it was all sunshine and rainbows and unicorns, I assure you.

But it has been incredible, unforgettable, and I don’t regret a moment.

 

Until next month,

 

Bisous xx

Grace

– En France –