Friday, August 5, 2011

Final Blog - Delayed due to lack of Internet! (Sorry!)

My final day basically involved running, packing, and resting. For the most part I was with Nicolas at his parent’s house for the day. We ate lunch there and stayed until about 7:30pm. We played dominos and badminton, and just relaxed under the sun, talking and enjoying each other’s presence. We later visited their grandparents’ house where we left with homegrown potatoes, tomatoes, yellow cherry plums, eggs, and pâté. The rest of the night was packing time – trying to guess the weight of my suitcase as well as stuffing as much into my purse and carry-on as possible.
... My attempt at falling asleep failed terribly that night. Before my body finally drifted off to sleep, I thought of every possible situation that could have gone wrong during my return home: my suitcase will be too heavy, I’ll get on/off the wrong metro stop, I was supposed to print my second plane ticket for my connection(even though the website wouldn’t allow it AND I even called the airline for reassurance), etc. Luckily I didn’t have any nightmares!
The morning of my departure, Niko and I were running ten minutes behind schedule. Needless to say, he picked up the speed and got me there at the time planned: 6:40am (so that Niko wouldn’t be late for work). My train didn’t leave until 9:05am however, so I was trying to keep myself busy. Once I got on the train, my stress level abated a bit as I had first class due to the – oddly enough – lower price. The difference between the two classes is basically that first class has larger, fuzzier/more fluffy chairs that recline in two ways by the push of a button. Also, there’s more room as well as four seats per compartment. Now, I’m not talking Harry Potter or Anastasia kind of compartments, but they were still a bit enclosed. As soon as we arrived in Paris, I grabbed my bags and … GO: I went up stairs, down stairs, through hallways, on the walking conveyor belts, asked myself WHY I had to have such a large suitcase and backpack so heavy people would have assumed I was carrying bricks. Despite the fact that I had about 6 hours until my flight, I was booking it, looking at every single sign for direction, looking straight ahead as if I’ve done this a million times, and without smiling so as not to give anyone the idea that I was open to company. Once I made it to the correct metro, I jumped on and 5 minutes later hopped right back off to move on to the RER. I did the same crazy running up and down stairs, rapidly following the signs, etc for the RER. This one lasted much longer – 40 minutes maybe? My last predicament I had before I made it to the airport was which stop to take: CDG 1-3 or CDG2-TGV?!? (aka the airport) I took the first stop, heard the train say that “to get to terminal 2, stay on until the next stop”, and quickly jumped on right before the doors closed again. Making it to terminal 2A, I stopped dead in my tracks as I saw thousands of people forming several lines at each gate. I thought that maybe even 4 hours wasn’t going to be enough. So after scarfing down my sandwich, I asked if #8 was my correct gate. Luckily, I was indeed incorrect wherein I was told to go to gate #3. Okay … #7 – packed with people ; #6 – just as packed ; #5 – also packed ; #4 – still so many people/oh my gosh gate 3 looks like it has sooo many people too ; #3 ... no one. In fact, not a soul. I was so early that I had to wait for the gate to actually open! I was the first one in line and my suitcase just cleared the weight limit. After security, I was left with 3 hours to dawdle around. So that I don’t turn this into a book, both my planes were on time and didn’t crash. (obviously, since I’m writing about it). The only annoying part was finally arriving at JFK with 10-12 planes ahead of us for unloading. Granted, we had to wait and ended up leaving the plane an hour later. In summary, I basically got 1.5 hours of incremental sleep on the plane and couldn’t fall asleep until somewhere around 2am Tuesday morning. I woke up wide awake at 6am and so was running on about a jetlagged total of 5.5 hours of sleep out of 47. Again, I woke up this morning at 6am. (Afterall, it WAS lunchtime in France). Needless to say, I like waking up really early but can imagine it will soon change.
So you all may be wondering by now, what exactly makes France and the United States so different from each other? Throughout my internship, I’ve been working on a list and as it has now finished, you can all finally find out. (This list is of course not exhaustive and only applies to the Normandy and Brittany regions in France)
1.      There is often a café/tea break twice a day
2.      They seem more carefree/not rushed
3.      There is bread at EVERY meal
a.       This includes breakfast: bread, jam/nutella/butter/etc, coffee, tea, OJ, croissant, etc. Sometimes cereal which is often a sugary chocolate type
4.      Late dinners: ranges from 7:30(rarely) - 10:00pm
5.      They hang their laundry over here
6.      Most large scale grocery stores require that you insert a euro to borrow a shopping cart. You then get it back once you return the cart.
7.      You have to bring your own shopping bags to the store, for they don’t have our common plastic bags. Otherwise, you’re carrying all of your things by hand, from the car to the house.
8.      There are “bricolageries”, comparable to a Home Depot or Lowes
a.       Bricoler = to do odd jobs (i.e. pottery)
9.      Nous(we) = On(he or she). Instead of using “we” in the French language(as taught in school), they rather use “he/she/one” instead.
10.  More thin people here. I mostly noticed thin legs, even if the woman or man had a big belly. But of course not everyone is thin here.
11.  Every car I have ridden in thus far has been a manual car, as they are very popular in France.
12.  For special occasions they have aperitifs, or mini bites, to start off the meal.
13.  When purchasing seafood, the heads are often kept on (shrimp, fish, etc)
14.  In the US we have several 4-way intersections. In France, they have many roundabouts instead.
15.  The yellow line to help the driver distinguish between their lane and the oncoming traffic is white. All road lines of separation are in fact white; this may however exclude construction.
16.   There are more chances to pass cars, by means of the dividing dashed line.
17.  The left passing lane is mostly used for passing and not driving. Most of the French keep their blinkers on while in the left lane so to indicate that they “really are just passing”.
18.  The door knobs are instead thin handles and their toilets flush by the push of a button.
a.       I only found out about two weeks ago that the two flushing buttons relates to the amount of water you want to use to flush the toilet.
19.  It is normal for a Frenchman to stop on the side of the road for a bathroom break. Very common actually.
20.  We Americans often shrug our shoulders as a simple indication of “I don’t know”. The French may do this as well, but they often “raspberry with their mouth” instead.
21.  I have been told that Americans speak a lot with their face and say “aw” a bit too much. (Hey, I can’t help it if I find everything cute ;) )
22.  If anything, they often use “after-shampoo” as opposed to conditioner.
23.  Several people roll their cigarettes to save money. Also, there are more people in France that smoke…
24.  The French are very nice and like to show foreigners a good time.
25.  Many prefer eating their steak quite rare.
26.  They eat a lot of bacon, sausage, and meat in general.
27.  The layout of lunch or dinner:
a.       Start with an appetizer, then entree, cheese time, dessert.
b.      (We often have our entrée and only sometimes an appetizer and/or dessert)
28.  There’s lot of colored toilet paper here; pink, green, blue, etc.
29.  At the doctor’s, your temperature is not taken under your tongue. They supposedly expect you to have taken it at home(in the back end). However, they are starting to use these “Thermoflash” thermometers that can sense your body temperature when placed next to your forehead.
30.  There is no traditional prom or cap and gown graduation. Instead, they finish high school, take a specialized test called the BAC, and then get their diploma in the mail.
31.  The driver’s licenses over here are EXPENSIVE. They must drive at least 20 hours with a monitor and once all of the papers are handed out, it’s about 1,000-1,500 euros! People didn’t believe me when I told them how much cheaper our driver’s licenses cost.
32.  There’s a large variety of cheese, including those which are not pasteurized so to enhance the flavor.
33.  The well-known French cheese, wine, and baguette/bread is truly consumed in large quantities here.
a.       There’s several boulangeries(bakeries)/patisseries in the same town to accommodate the French diet.
b.      No they don’t eat frog legs – if so, it’s a rare case. This also goes for escargot. However this is less rare.
Well, there you have it folks. Thanks to those who have been reading! I must say, I am overjoyed to be back at home. Just the same, the farms, food, and fullness of it all will perhaps once more lure me back to France…

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