Enfin, je suis arrivée chez moi!
After a stressful day of traveling on Sunday, and after being awake for 26 hours straight, I hit the pillow on my own bed in my own room on Sunday night and fell instantly asleep. Three days later I am still feeling the effects of le décalage horaire
, but gradually I am getting used to being seven hours behind the clocks in Aix.
It’s been disorienting being back in the United States. When I first arrived in France, I felt like Alice in Wonderland after she eats the biscuit that says “Eat Me” on it: she grows to the size of a giant and everything else appears miniature. Upon my arrival back to the US, however, I felt like Alice after she drinks the bottle with “Drink Me” on it: she shrinks to the size of a mouse and everything else becomes enormous! There’s no better way to describe my re-assimilation into American culture. On the first morning after I arrived, I took an oatmeal bowl out of the cupboard and realized it was three times the size of my cereal bowl in Aix. And when I went to pour myself a glass of milk, I pulled out a gallon container so large it would have taken up my French host mother’s entire refrigerator!
Probably the most important part about coming back home from living in a foreign country for four months is keeping an open mind. I had mentally prepared myself before arriving in France that things would be different, but the same is true now: it’s going to take a few days or weeks to get used to the wide-open spaces, the enormity, and all the English. I have to restrain myself from saying “merci, au revoir!” when leaving stores and from calling everyone “Madame” or “Monsieur.” When I do get used to it, however, it might be a little sad to realize that that part of my life is over. For now, though, I’m just glad to be home, and fortunate that I’ve had the chance to go to France, le pays qui restera dans mon coeur.
Enfin, je suis arrivée chez moi: Finally, I have arrived home
le décalage horaire: jet lag
le pays qui restera dans mon coeur: the country that will stay in my heart
As the weather is gradually getting warmer (key word: gradually) the bourgeons aren't the only things that have started to come out: so have the tourists! They cluster around the St. Sauveur Cathedral and trundle down the street with their cameras and their backpacks and ball caps, chattering loudly in English or Chinese or even French. Some days, as I try to squeeze past them and their large umbrellas on the way to school, they become for me less benign and entirely embêtant, as my host mother likes to call them. In other words, fully and utterly annoying.
The tourists are abundant in Aix, but they've got nothing on the tourists in Venice and Paris. At the beginning of April, the professors at Marchutz and all of the art students traveled to Venice for a painting excursion. We stayed there for nine days, painting like crazy every day. I ended up churning out thirty paintings, which were quite cumbersome to take back on the train. However the hardest thing about the trip was getting accustomed to the constant surveillance of passing sightseers. Plein-air painting is quite enjoyable, without all of the people who stop by to watch you while you paint. Most days I would go out of my way to find a nice quiet place to set up my easel, somewhere out of the sun and away from the throngs of vacationers. Other days I wasn't so adept at selecting a spot. One time I set up in the corner between two buildings, thinking that the inability to see my canvas would deter even the boldest of onlookers, but nonetheless, some people poked their heads around my easel to satisfy their curiosity with an "ooh!" and an "ah!" and sometimes a "bella!"
I was happy to return to Aix after Venice, but just one day later I left on the TGV for Paris, where there are the most tourists per year of any city on this planet. I had no idea what I was getting myself into! The very first day (at the Eiffel Tower of course) we waited in line for over an hour to ride in a sardine-packed elevator up to the top of the famous monument. There were so many people crowded together and shoving against each other that I hardly felt the cold wind blowing through the open steel structure, which was probably a good thing. At the time though, all I could think of was how claustrophobic I was. The next day (at this tiny little obscure museum called the Louvre) we waited in line for an hour and a half just to go through security and get into the museum. Sometimes it was so crowded in the galleries that you could hardly see the paintings underneath the layers and layers of people. And in case all the hundreds of digital pictures weren't enough, on every street corner there were rows of souvenir shops selling proof of their voyage to Paris---berets, snow globes, postcards, and t-shirts bedazzled with PARIS! (...a perfect souvenir from the fashion capital of the world, n'est-ce pas?)
I was relieved to escape the infestation of foreigners crawling around Paris and the neighboring château at Versailles. I will gladly take the embêtant tourists in Aix (who are seeming increasingly warmhearted) over the tourists in Venice and Paris, any day of the week!
les touristes: the tourists
bella: "pretty" in Italian
Below: a view of my easel and the Adriatic Sea in Venice; documentation of the long line at the Louvre in Paris
When I first came to France, I expected not to be able to understand people, but I never expected that people wouldn't be able to understand ME! I've made some pretty hilarious language errors in the time that I've been here, and some pretty stupid ones too. Voici quelques petites histoires qui vont vous faire rire. (Here are some stories that will make you laugh.)
After the first few weeks, when our pile of dirty laundry had accumulated enough that not a single clean pair of socks was to be had, my roommate and I decided it was time to do a load of laundry. My host mother told us we could run the washing machine overnight and hang up the clothes to dry on the line the next day. Most homes in the south of France don't have dryers because of energy costs and because it's sunny most of the time anyway: perfect for drying clothes. Our host mother told us to check the weather to see if it was going to rain, in which case we would wait another precious day to do the wash… which would mean another day of wearing smelly socks! Crossing my fingers, I typed "weather Aix-en-Provence" into Google and hit enter… voilà! Partly sunny, and no rain for tomorrow. Youpi! Clean clothes were on the horizon. I rushed back into the kitchen to tell my host mother that it wouldn't rain tomorrow, but in my haste I mixed up the verbs "pluvoir" and "pleurer" and ended up blurting out, "Il ne va pas pleurer demain!" which translates to, "It's not going to cry tomorrow!" I was met with a smile and a twinkle in my host mother's eye before I went back to my room. I applaud her decorum: when I realized my mistake several minutes later, I couldn't help but shake my head and let out a chuckle.
More recently, when my college roommate came to visit me over Easter weekend, we went to a cemetery just outside the centre-ville to see Paul Cézanne's tomb. We were both feeling a bit drained from the school week, so it was relaxing to sit on a stone bench next to the mausoleums and just rest. We had a nice chat in French with the keeper of the cemetery, who told us that it is very peaceful and quiet inside the graveyard, without the rush of cars and pedestrians going by. We agreed. When the sun sank low enough that it got a bit chilly, we walked around to Cézanne's grave, which was pretty boring as graves go, and were just rounding the corner when we ran into a French couple who was also looking for Cézanne's tomb.
"Excusez-moi, parlez-vous français? (Excuse me, do you speak French?)" the man asked, who had no doubt heard my roommate and I speaking English.
"Oui, un peu (Yes, a little)," I replied modestly, puffing up my feathers, as I had had eight years of French classes and could manage pretty well, or so I thought.
"Où se trouve le tombeau de Cézanne? (Where is Cézanne's grave?)" he asked. Delighted that I knew the answer, I chirped, "Oh! Jusqu'ici, il y a un placard!" and pointed down the way we had just come.
The man mumbled a "merci" and we moved on. It wasn't until several moments later that I realized how bizarre my response must have sounded to him: I had proudly told him, "Until now, there is a cupboard!"
That sentence may make sense in another context, but as far as I know it nowhere near resembles "It's just right here, there's a plaque," which is what I was trying to say. In this case, I think my finger-pointing---a pretty universal gesture---was what got the job done, and not my terrible directions.
Speaking in French has also affected my English, believe it or not. At the start of our trip to Barcelona, when I was trying to tell my roommate that our host mother said there might be delays at the bus station because of the snow, I told her, "Madame said we should leave now because there are probably going to be retards." My roommate guffawed and said, "Um, what?!" We both laughed and I explained to her that the French word for "delays" is "retards," which is similar in Spanish and Italian, but the word takes on quite a different meaning in English. We both had a good laugh about that one.
In short, language is a funny thing. And clearly, my skills communicating with French people need some work. I've learned that it's advantageous to be quick of tongue and to carry around simple sure-fire phrases in your head so you can respond efficiently without groping too much for the right words. In Italy I learned to say, "non parlo italiano," which got me a few head shakes but which got the job done. At least in that country, I was certain I wouldn't have the slightest clue how to answer anyone's questions! An easy out, if you will, but one that certainly avoided any more ridiculous (yet amusing) language gaffes.
faire une gaffe: to make a blunder, to put one's foot in one's mouth
Recently I listened to a Debussy piece for piano that I hadn't heard in a while, called Jardins sous la pluie, or Gardens in the rain. The melody pitter-patters on the keys like a gentle rain plinking on leaves. Romantic as this is, however, rain in real life is a tad more hostile, especially when you have outdoor excursions planned. Consulting the weather forecast for this past weekend, I knew there was a possibility of having each of my three day-long excursions turn sour from the blustery wind and rain, but all the same, I couldn't pass up these opportunities to see Provence just because of a little water coming from the heavens. As the French say, il faut en profiter le maximum: otherwise said, make the most of it.
Even before this weekend the weather couldn't seem to make up its mind. Two weekends ago, a few friends and I decided to climb Mont Sainte Victoire, the very same mountain that Cézanne painted when he lived in Aix. The night before the hike, I was starting to wonder what I'd gotten myself into. Hiking in the rain and wind and cold without an umbrella (which I lost for a week and miraculously found again, but that's another story!) is not exactly my ideal vacation. But fortunately, by eleven o'clock Saturday morning the clouds parted and the soleil shone brilliantly in the clear blue sky, and our hike progressed smoothly on both Saturday and Sunday. It turned out to be a fantastic randonnée, and we hiked all the way up to the cross and the prieuré at the top. Great exercise, with a beautiful view to boot.
This past weekend, I had three day-trips scheduled for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The first was a tour around the Luberon region of Provence. We toured Loumarin, Lacoste, and Roussillon, where there is a large ochre deposit, and picnicked at the castle of the Marquis de Sade. The sun shone throughout the whole day. However, on Saturday our luck started to run out. Our art history class was at the Château Noir, in the middle of our tour of the places important to Cézanne's life and painting, when we felt the first drops and knew we were done for. We huddled together on the Château Noir property in the thick drizzle trying to analyze paintings from Cézanne's late period, while around us the rain pelted the grass and turned the path into a slick muddy mess. Hungry, shivering, and trying to prevent the wind from carrying off our umbrellas, we looked at the very house, trees, and mountain that Cézanne painted over one hundred years ago, not without a touch of exasperation at our teacher, who seemed immune to all outside elements as he tried to ignite an intellectual discussion between us.
Surprised that we were still alive at the end of the day, I was fortunate that the worst had passed. On Sunday it was a bit warmer with less wind, and even though I was pretty carsick from the bus (which was beginning to feel more and more like an oven with each passing hour) the rain was old news. With our tour guide Georges, we visited Moustiers Sainte Marie, le Lac de Sainte Croix, and les Gorges du Verdon. The trip passed in much the same manner as Saturday, except a dull steady drizzle continued all day long. Since it was Sunday and all the cafés and restaurants were closed, we ended up eating lunch outside underneath a small shelter. It was unfortunate that such a great trip had to have such miserable weather, since it would have been even more breathtaking in the sunlight. And I would have probably spent less time staring at the inside of my umbrella. All I can say is that if I had a choice, I'd prefer Debussy's Jardins sous la pluie to Provence sous la pluie, but hey, like I said, il faut en profiter le maximum.
sous la pluie: in the rain
il faut en profiter le maximum: you have to make the most of it
Below: a Chapelle nestled high in the mountain, and a view of the river that carved out the Gorges du Verdon
My roommate tells me I look at the ground too much when I’m walking, which is probably true. Just the other day I remarked to her, “Look at the hills behind those houses in the distance!” She raised an eyebrow and said, “You haven’t noticed them? I saw them the first day and we’ve been here for five weeks!”
Even so, as we gathered in our host mother’s front hall with our valises, our manteaux and our gants for a week-long vacation to Barcelona, Spain, I didn’t fail to notice des flocons de neige that were starting to float past the window.
“J’espère qu’il n’y aura pas de retards!” our host mother told us as we donned our shoes, referring to the possible delays that we might experience at the bus station because of the snow. We reluctantly said our goodbyes and after thirty minutes of battling gusty winds and brushing off the frozen flakes settling on our heads, we finally reached the Cours Mirabeau, where the snow had already significantly accumulated. Giant icicles were forming on the moss-covered fountains in the center of the street. It was impossible to look at the sky without getting a face full of the falling powder. Thus it was probably for this reason, combined with my penchant for staring at the ground, that I managed to find seven cents par terre before we reached the bus station: a two-centime euro piece and a five-centime piece nestled in the newborn snow. I decided to take it as a good omen.
Once on the Eurolines bus, which happily managed to depart on time, my roommate and I found that the time passed rather quickly. We each had books to read and settled in for the long ride. There were few passengers on the bus with us, but even so it took me a few hours before I realized that two men, probably brothers, sitting in the back were chatting away not in French, but in Spanish! A true sign that we were en voyage to Spain.
Halfway through the evening, the jingle of a cell phone pierced the white noise of the bus that had been lulling us to sleep. How fitting, I remember thinking. A bit of Spanish music to accompany us on our journey to Spain! After a few more seconds of listening to the ringtone, however, I realized that what I was hearing was not the sounds of traditional Spanish music but rather the theme to Pirates of the Caribbean. An American major motion picture, mind you. I rolled my eyes as one of the brothers conversing in Spanish cut off the theme with a jovial “Bueno!”
Needless to say, it was apparent the moment we stepped foot on Spanish soil that American culture had invaded Barcelona, Spain’s second most-populated city. A McDonalds, Burger King, or KFC was located on almost every block, and our dear old friend Starbucks was indeed on every street corner. Seems the Spanish like their triple grande non-fat vanilla lattes just as much as we Americans do.
However Americanized coffee isn’t the only thing the Spanish have taken a liking to. When I ventured into a “supermercat” to buy a half-dozen eggs and a loaf of bread, the friendly storeowner took pity on my apparent cluelessness, handed me a rolling shopping basket, and asked me where I was from. Hesitantly, I responded with “the United States.” His face remained blank, so I amended my reply with an intelligent “uhh… America?” Instantly his face lit up and he exclaimed, “Ohhh, Obama!” I’m thankful he didn’t let loose an enthusiastic “McDonalds!” It’s a relief to know our country is recognized for its politics, even though it seems that the only thing that has pervaded every continent on this planet is our cuisine, which is somewhat lacking, to say the least.
What was more boggling was the stereotyped notion of America that two students from Indonesia held who we met at the youth hostel. They were astounded that we hadn’t heard of Eurotrip or American Pie, two American movies that apparently top the list of worst trashy films ever made. But then again, our knowledge of Indonesia wasn’t much better. All I could think of at that moment was that the tag on the shirt I was currently wearing claimed, “Made in Indonesia.” How’s that for a stereotype? Thankfully, I told my brain to keep my mouth shut.
As it turns out, the two students were eager to chat while we ate watery soup at the kitchen table, so we related that it was our first time staying in a hostel, and that it had gone very well so far save for a few minor mishaps, one of them involving another hostel resident named Patrick. T’en fais pas, Patrick has no idea what happened, but both my roommate and I would like to keep it that way. When Patrick and his girlfriend came in our shared four-person dormitory at 3:30 in the morning, I wouldn’t have noticed their presence at all except for about half an hour later, a sound like a leaf blower was coming from the direction of Patrick’s pillow. The snoring was so loud that I got up to go sleep on the couch outside, but even in the hallway I could still hear it. Talk about sawing logs! My roommate couldn’t sleep either, so at 6 AM we numbly ate a little breakfast, shoved some ear plugs in our ears and tried to salvage a shipwreck of a night’s sleep.
The Indonesian students were very sympathetic, since they too had spent several sleepless nights in hostels before. One of them reassured us, “Ah yes, the snorkeling makes it very hard to sleep.” I glanced at my roommate and we shared a suppressed grin. After a week in a country where I hadn’t the slightest idea of what anyone was saying, I was grateful that these two students spoke English and that we were able to enjoy a few hours company with them. On the bus ride home I realized that I felt honored to speak a language that is quickly becoming widespread and universally known, as it afforded us the opportunity to have numerous conversations with a variety of interesting and diverse people on our trip. In order to benefit fully from all the people I meet and all the sights I see here in Europe, I will have to keep my eyes off the ground in the future, pointed skyward, and ready for anything.
des flocons de neige: snowflakes
J’espère qu’il n’y aura pas de retards: I hope there won't be any delays
par terre: on the ground
t'en fais pas: don't worry
This week was the week of celebrations! A family birthday on Monday, mardi gras on Tuesday, mercredi de cendres on Wednesday, and le jour de Saint-Valentin today! Despite the cold, this morning the grand marché warmed my heart as I walked by all the vendors selling bouquets of flowers with red hearts sticking out of them. I spotted several boys carrying single red or white roses, obviously meant for someone special. Even the patisserie that I pass every day on the way to class had decorated the window with hearts and festive pastries. L’amour was in the air!
Saint-Valentin is perhaps the first widely celebrated commercial holiday that I’ve experienced here in Aix. However, one would hardly guess that anything special was going to happen today, since there was almost zero hype for the occasion! In the United States, stores begin selling Valentine’s Day decorations in the middle of January, but here in France, there was almost no mention of Valentine’s until February 14! Very clearly one can see the differences in attitudes towards consumerism in this particular Hallmark holiday.
Mardi gras was perhaps the highlight of my week, however. I was fortunate enough to go to La Cave des étudiants with a few friends, and we had a great time. Every Tuesday evening, La Cave holds a Mass and a dinner for French and international students. It’s a great way to speak French with the locals, although they will try to practice their English on you too! I met a funny redheaded French girl whose British accent was so good I mistook her for a native of England. She would ask me questions in English and I would respond in French—both of us trying to improve our competency in the other’s language. This week, after I kissed some acquaintances once on each cheek (called la bise or les bisous), dancing and music accompanied the hearty dinner of soup and savory jambon, fromage, et champignon crêpes. The accordion music was loud and the dancing quickly devolved into chaos, but there were smiles (and crêpes!) all around, which made for a wonderfully enjoyable evening.
la semaine des fêtes: the week of celebrations
mardi gras: Fat Tuesday
mercredi des cendres: Ash Wednesday
Saint-Valentin: Saint Valentine’s Day
le grand marché: the large market
La Cave des étudiants: the basement for students, literally
This past week le mistral, a strong cold wind that blows through Provence in winter, has been blowing through Aix, making the mornings and evenings particularly cold. The wind was so strong yesterday that it blew a shop sign down onto the cobblestone street! Today the gusty weather continued, and although the sun was shining brightly, it was still quite chilly for a walking tour around Aix. The students at the Marchutz School of Art gathered in front of the Saint-Sauveur Cathedral to walk around the city and learn about its architectural history from the Marchutz drawing professor. It was chilly standing in the blustery streets, but our professor kept us moving around so we were able to absorb the information he was telling us while keeping warm.
The architecture of Aix is intriguing to study because of its sense of l’ensemble, or the whole. The words of Fernand Pouillon seemed to summarize our brief tour: “The general harmony of the town is more important than its isolated architectural masterpieces because it participates in the daily life of the people. Aix is an architectural whole.” That is to say, even though particular monuments in Aix—such as the cloister at the Saint-Sauveur Cathedral, which dates all the way back to the 5th century—may be incredible on their own, none of them outshine the grandeur of the entire city. The older part of Aix developed around the Saint-Sauveur Cathedral in the 12th century, while in the 17th and 18th centuries the southern section of the city, the quartier Mazarin, flourished. As the town grew, modified, and rearranged itself, the buildings changed form and direction and related to each other in different ways. The open-air marketplaces are irregularly shaped because buildings were torn down to create more air and space in the crowded city streets. In this way, the growing and dying and changing character of the city of Aix pertain to the words of Saint Thomas Aquinas: “Art imitates nature in its manner of operation.”
Another interesting detail about the architecture is that molding links all the windows on the building façades at the bottom, and not the top, to create a sense of rhythm between the vertical windows and the horizontal strip of molding. One can see an example of this in the photograph below. The buildings are all typically yellow-orange in color, while their shutters are painted a complementary color such as lavender or light blue. In this way the architecture is very balanced between horizontal and vertical, warm and cool colors, and old and new structures.
The walking tour was very informative, but by the end we were all so chilled that a few of us decided to try the best place for crêpes in Aix, which is Crêpes à Gogo! It is located underneath the Avenue Victor Hugo, and serves wonderfully warm crêpes hot off the griddle. Needless to say, it was a welcome treat after a long afternoon. Tomorrow, it’s off to Avignon for the day, which promises to be another wonderful educational experience. Bonne nuit, and à bientot!
Below: The Saint-Sauveur Cathedral, architectural style of Aix
Right now, all I can say is WOW! Since my arrival on Saturday around 2:00 pm local time, I’ve learned so much just walking around the city and meeting other students at IAU. The experience of living in Aix-en-Provence is truly unlike any other. To make a comparison, it’s like setting one’s iTunes, Google, and Amazon preferences to French: all the signs, advertisements, and conversations seem familiar, but slightly off. In most of the shop windows, for example, there are signs that say soldes instead of “sales,” and the banter in the streets is similar to overheard snippets of English conversation, but without the flat American accent.
In just three days, I’ve already learned so many words both from browsing in the markets and the store Monoprix (similar to Target in the US) and from listening to my host mother, who says she is very exigeante about using correct French grammar. On Sunday, my roommate and I decided to go to church in the morning, which turned out to be a wonderful way to start our séjour here in France. The messe was all in French, even the hymns and the homily, which was enjoyable to listen to. When we sang the Gloria, which lasted for a very long time, (the Mass itself lasted for an hour and a half!) I thought we were singing the Christmas carol “Angels We Have Heard on High” since the tune was the same; however, the paroles were “Gloire à Dieu, au plus haut des cieux, et paix sur la terre aux hommes qui l’aime,” which are the words to the traditional "Gloria" hymn sung at the beginning of almost every Mass. French-speakers surrounded us on all sides, and when we left the church St. Jean de Malte, we decided to go to the Cours Mirabeau for lunch. Upon finding a small café selling crêpes and ice cream, we sat down and ordered crêpes with la confiture, or Nutella and bananas for my roommate. The people at IAU warned us that the shops and restaurants on the Cours Mirabeau are more expensive, but the cost of our lunch wasn’t too bad since it was only a small café, only three or four euros for each crêpe.
Today was Orientation for the IAU students, and it was very helpful although I was extremely tired from le décalage horaire and it was hard to pay attention at times. We also had to find our own place to eat for lunch, which proved more difficult than I thought! A few students and I ended up buying some food in the Petit Casino, which is a small market with yogurt, milk, baguettes, treats, and other ready-to-eat items, along with uncooked meats and ingredients for les recettes. Overall, it proved to be a pretty successful day. Tomorrow I look forward to starting classes!
l'arrivée: the arrival
exigeante: strict, exacting
un séjour: stay, trip
la messe: Mass
les paroles: lyrics
la confiture: jam, jelly
le décalage horaire: jet lag
les recettes: recipes
Below: L'église St. Jean de Malte, and yours truly on the Cours Mirabeau
It's only the seventh day of January and there are still eighteen days until I leave for Aix (but who's counting?) and already I stayed up way too late last night watching French videos and bandes-annonces on YouTube in anticipation of the semester abroad. As I blink the sleep from my eyes over breakfast, I mentally prepare a list of all the tasks I must accomplish today… visit the bank to tell them I will be out of the country, order a travel-safe wallet on Amazon, show my parents how to use Skype, and oh… it would probably be a good idea to clean my room. When I got home from college two weeks ago for les vacances de Noël, I carried my bags up to my room and dumped them on the floor, where they are still sitting. I have to admit that at the time, unpacking them seemed like a waste, only to have to repack them in a few weeks to go to France. But the smarter part of my brain reminds me that all of my junk not only keeps tripping me every time I leave my room, but it will have to fit in one single suitcase that’s currently sitting in the basement, and not in smaller duffels, which would be assez difficile to carry on my own.
As I clear my dishes from the table, I glance outside at the thinning snow and I wonder what the weather will be when I arrive in Aix. I imagine that it will be somewhat of an anomaly compared to what I have experienced in my twenty-one years in Missouri and Pennsylvania, where winter has always included at least three or four major snowfalls. This year, however, the skies have grudgingly dispensed the soft white neige, not even enough to make a proper snowman. I might as well be making sandcastles, as I expect I’ll be doing in the not-too-distant future! Which reminds me... I've just bought a new swimsuit in preparation for occasional visits to Marseille to sunbathe sur la plage. I haven't gone swimming in so long that it's time to get a new bathing suit anyway. But I also make a mental note to bring lots of sunscreen to avoid un coup de soleil from the harsh Mediterranean sun, which I expect would be rather painful!
I can’t help feeling a twinge of excitement every time thoughts of the semester cross my mind. There’s still quite a bit to do before I arrive and a lot of chores to cross off the list, but I know that whether the experiences I end up having in Europe are full of suitcases, snow, or sunburns, one thing’s certain: it’ll be an adventure.
l’attente: the expectation, waiting
bandes-annonces: movie trailers
les vacances de Noël: the Christmas holidays
assez difficile: rather difficult
sur la plage: on the beach
un coup de soleil: a sunburn