Friday, October 14, 2011

Here's the thing...

...I really hate my internet. Here is why. It is slow. And it disconnects me ALL THE TIME! It makes me very frustrated and annoyed. Why is this something you would be interested to know? It is my excuse for not posting on the blog more often. I have been horrible in keeping you all updated about my adventures and it is mostly because whenever I have the desire to sit down and write my internet decides to not want to work and I get too frustrated to care anymore. So my blog has been lacking. And I apologize. I also apologize because this post will be rather long and possibly unorganized, because I have a lot to catch you up on. :)

First things first: The French language. I have a love/hate relationship with it right now. And hate tends to win more often than love. The thing about learning another language is that it's not only hard, but it takes time. Time to re-train your mouth to make the sounds and move in ways you're not use to, as well as time to re-train your ear to hear and understand all the various accents that are found in a language.  I had forgotten about this part of learning a language. There are some days where I think French is ugly and all I hear is the awful gurgle of an “r” that I have such a hard time pronouncing. Then there are days where there are some words or phrases in French that I prefer over English or even Italian. There are days where I feel like I'm learning lots of new things and understanding well.  Then there are days where all I can manage to say is "Merci" or "Je ne pas parle francis."  And it is particularly discouraging whenever I start a sentence in French and end up finishing it in Italian. You'd think with Italian and French being similar that it would help me learn French but in reality the pronunciation is night and day different so it's turning out to be rather difficult. It's not like I'm speaking French with an Italian accent, it’s more like I'm speaking French with an American accent and pronouncing things with Italian rules. I’m willing to bet that most French people think I’m a freak when they first hear me speak. I had forgotten how hard it was to learn a language. I remembered it being difficult and discouraging but somehow the fact that I had successfully overcome those difficulties of learning a language once before I think might have disillusioned me as to what it would require to learn a third language.  I need to keep reminding myself that it takes time and to be patient, with myself more than anything.

Secondly: the French people.  Let me tell you a story. Well, a couple to be honest.  When I first arrived in France I flew into Paris and had to take a bus to the train station in order to get to Vichy. I ended up sitting next to this lady, Marie, on the bus. She said something to me in French and I responded in English that I didn’t speak French. She then spoke to me for the rest of the bus ride in English. We had a nice conversation about France and our lives and why I was here and what I should see, she was lovely and pleasant and very nice.  When I told her I was traveling alone and that I didn’t know people in Paris she gave me her number and said that she would be willing to help me if ever I needed it and that she might even be able to let me stay with her when I came to see Paris, because she would like to be able to practice her English with me.  She was even a little bit worried that I would be traveling by myself and was telling me how to get to the train station once I reached my stop. 

Story number two: I took a weekend trip to Italy last week. (Don’t worry, I’ll tell you all about Italy later.) Getting there was kind of a fiasco and here is why. When I arrived at the station in Vichy the train that I was scheduled to take to Lyon was not on the board of departing trains. There was the train number but the board said it was a bus and that it was going to Roane which is not Lyon and not really anywhere near it. Being very confused I asked this lady if she could help me. As it turned out she was on the same train and was just as perplexed as I was and off she went to figure out the problem. In her very limited English she ended up telling me that the railway was blocked and that she was driving to Lyon with her husband and was taking me with her. Now this is about a two hour drive mind you and this kind lady was taking me, a complete stranger, in the back seat of her, to Lyon so that we could both hopefully catch our connecting trains that were to leave in about two hours. It was going to be close and her husband drove very fast but in the end we arrived in Lyon just as my train was leaving and traffic in the city didn’t allow her to make hers either. The fiasco continues on my way to Italy and I’ll share that later, but the reason for sharing this story now is to make the point of how kind and nice and just over all good the French people are. I can’t honestly be sure that I would being willing enough to take a complete stranger, foreigner or not, on a two hour car drive regardless of whether I was going in the destination or not. Would you??  I’d like to think I would, but to be honest if the situation were to arise I don’t know what my true colors would show.  Or even Marie, being willing to open her home to a complete stranger, I am pretty sure that isn’t something I’d be comfortable offering- regardless of my situation in life.  I am amazed at the kindness of these two ladies and I am sure I will never be able to forget how I was treated by these two French women regardless of how many bored and slightly impatient cashiers I may come across. 
My opinion of the French is that they are a kind people who maintain politeness and manners to the very fabric of their living. They also really don’t like to work, and the younger generation enjoys starting the party at 1 or 2 A.M., while the older generation doesn’t enjoy speaking in English.  Everyone has their bad days and every country has their creepers naturally but over all I have found the French to be quite the opposite of the typical stereotype of being rude. They certainly have their quirks but I’ve come to enjoy and appreciate them.

Third: the fiasco continues!
My trip to Italy was wonderful but getting there was kind of crazy. I already told you about the first leg of getting to Lyon so here is what happened next. Once the kind couple parked their car under the train station, we parted ways and I honestly have no idea what happened to them but I sure hope she made it to her destination because she had to get there for work. When I walked into the station I saw complete chaos! It was crowded with people watching the boards and talking to the SNCF workers. I had no idea why it was so busy and I could have only imagined it was normal, it was around 5:00 so rush hour was my only explanation that came to mind.  I finally made my way through the crowd to talk to someone who could help me figure out a way to fix the fact that I had missed my train to Chambery which in turn means I had missed my train from Chambery to Torino.  The lady, after claiming she didn’t speak English and I trying helplessly to figure out how to say something in French, eventually told me there was a bus going to Chambery but the strike was nationwide so she didn’t know if I would be able to get to Torino. STRIKE?? I didn’t have time to question her further about this because the bus was leaving soon she said so I walked quickly across the street to the busses that function kinda like greyhound only to discover that they didn’t know when the bus to Chambery would be leaving. So maybe thirty minutes later and several shuffles down the sidewalk, I and everyone else trying to go to Chambery are told there is a train leaving in 20 minutes. So I follow a couple of ladies in a mad rush to get to the platform and catch the train. BUT it is delayed for another 30 minutes. SO long story short, two hours after I arrived in Lyon and two platforms and a bus stop later I finally catch a train to Chambery.  Once I arrive in Chambery there aren’t any more trains going to Torino until the next morning.  At this point I’m starting to panic because I don’t really want to spend the night at the station by myself and if I have a hard time booking train tickets in French how in the world am I going to find a hotel that is cheap???  I talk with the help desk and after finding someone who spoke English, they so kindly gave me a hotel voucher for the night and a replacement ticket to Torino for the next morning.  The hotel thankfully wasn’t too far from the station however it being 9:00 at night and me being on the brink of tears, processing how far the distance was in meters wasn’t going to happen in my head. So I walked till I found it but not before stupidly asking someone at the bus stop where the hotel was when it was just a few steps ahead of me. When I walk into the hotel I couldn’t hold back anymore and the lady receptionist was so kind and understanding of the fact that I had lost all my wits and was crying at her desk. She was somewhat able to explain to me that a ticket checker on a train from Lyon to Strasburg was attacked by a passenger and so in the nature of being French all the ticket checkers went on strike and caused major problems with trains being delayed and cancelled all over the country. What a fiasco!! Thankfully I had purchased a cell phone the week before and was able to contact my friends I was staying with in Torino and tell them I wouldn’t be there until Friday afternoon.  I had lost an entire day to my vacation because of this fiasco with the trains. My time was cut short seeing my friends from the mission and even being able to see everything in the cities I was visiting, but in the end I wasn’t so bothered by it. I was in Italy, speaking a language I actually understood and could speak! I was able to see some people I hadn’t spoken to in over five years and eat food that is miles better than French food if you ask me. I loved every moment of it and I can’t wait to go back!!
Now I did take pictures but I don’t feel like fighting my internet right now to get them posted so for those of you who have facebook you can check them out on there. For those who don’t, I promise to post a few on here soon. (I got to figure out how to do it first.)

My next adventure in a couple of weeks is going to take me to the north of France to see Normandy and the Loir River Castles. I’m excited and I might even make a trek into the Netherlands and Belgium if I’m feeling particularly rich and adventuresome. :) And I’ll try to keep you all updated on my local adventures as well. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

It's all coming back to me now...

It has been almost five years since I have lived in Europe and let me tell you, it hasn't changed much. I just forgot all the small details about living here. For those of you how have never been or have been and might have forgotten like I had, let me share some of the good, and not so good, of living here:
  • A/C doesn't exist. Seriously, its maybe on trains if you're lucky or buses, and sometimes in stores if they are really big and new.
  • you have to bring your own bag to the store, or else you are paying for one- even the plastic ones
  • you have to bag your own groceries
  • everything is tile, especially the floors (I miss my carpet...even a rug would be nice)
  • the cars are so little and parking on the side walk... totally kosher
  • FASHION!!! The way they dress here is slightly ridiculous, they are so trendy here, especially the youth
  • window shopping has a completely different meaning
  • and on the note of fashion, I see more combinations of black and brown together than I ever have in the states. Anything goes together, its great!
  • no peanut butter :(
  • being tall is some times even more of a curse in Europe than America- shoes and clothes are even harder to find (and traveling on a plane is never comfortable when you are tall)
  • there are a lot of smokers...a LOT!
  • the house keys are funny looking, but cool of course
  • every alley way is a perfect picture opportunity
Life is grand! And I'll share pictures soon.

Friday, July 22, 2011

the 411

My friend Mal is helping me create my very own blog, its rather entertaining to see how excited she about this. I think it has something to do with the most amazing pizza ever that we ate tonight. Settebellos. I'm on a quest to inform the world of the sheer amazing, awesome, heaven in your mouth, that is Settebellos. Don't worry there will be more on this pizza later. Trust me.