Voilà! As promised, here is the English translation of my last post, which was written as I flew back from Aix last Thursday.

--
During my whole trip to France, I thought that Chirstmas and my return the the United States were far away in the future. But now that the two have happened, I don’t know what to think. At the same time, I’m glad to come home, but sad to leave. Margeaux said that the word is doux-amer or bittersweet. It’s true, she is right as always. Society tells us that you have to have a specific feeling, but I have many!

Relieved that finals are done. Overjoyed to see my family. Sad that I’m leaving my new friends. I’m nostalgique for IAU moments with all the students. I regret that I didn’t take advantage as much as possible at the beginning of the semester. I’m proud of the work that I did in school. And tired from travelling all day.

Since September, when I got on the plane to go to France, I’ve travelled a lot. I have been in a lot of planes. So now, it seems the same. But it’s not the same. After this trip, I’ll stay put for a while and it’s a place that I know very well.

How to describe how I’ve changed ? It’s almost impossible but I’ll try. 
I believe that, without a doubt, I have a better understanding of the French language. Speaking it, writing it, Reading it, everything. But outside of the scholarly rewards, I have a better sense of myself. Since the summer, I’ve discovered what it is that I need to live autonomously and this experience has taught me even more.

Aix will always be a city where I lived, where I went to school, where I did things that I’ll never do again. It’s a part of me and my history. It was bittersweet to leave because I’m leaving this place where I received and left parts of my spirit. But it’s necessary. If I never left, I’d never grow. There is a quote that says this better, but I can’t think of it now.

So, au revoir Aix. And I mean "until I see you again" because I will return! And I will see you again one day. I know it.
--

Also as promised, here are a few more reflexions on my time in Aix.

Five Things I’ll Miss From Aix-en-Provence:
1) Being able to use French phrases in everyday conversation. My top three phrases: ça va, ce n’est pas mon truc; ouais.
2) The aroma all over town of baguettes and countless other pastries baking throughout the day
3) Learning something new about my town almost every minute
4) My IAU family
5) The café lifestyle

Five Things I Learned From Studying Abroad in Aix:
1) Excellent French
2) Bring your own, American deodorant because the French stuff sucks
3) "You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you" -Dale Carnegie 
4) Try to live and DO things each day, especially when you only have a certain number of days someplace
5) Things aren't "bad" or "good," just different
I'll leave you with a quote from Kerouac (who I've already quoted but, hey, the guy said some good stuff):
“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.” –Jack Kerouac

Even though I'm back in America (having been both home in New York and at school in Denver), I've had to travel and pack up my ever-moving life. I've been a lot of places - even just during my study abroad! - but I've been fortunate enough to have truly lived in Aix, and that will never change. I have many more places to go, things to see, and people to meet, but Aix will always be a part of me, and for that I am grateful.
 
 
Bonjour mes lecteurs!

I apologize, but my last thoughts about being in France I wrote in FRENCH! Ah!Desolée as they say, except this is definitely a good sign, since I spent almost four months there and if I came out with nuttin’ that would suck. Anyway, below is the original and soon I will post something that encompasses les deux: what I’ve written here plus more thoughts since I’ve been home.



Pendant tout mon voyage en France, je pensais que Noël et mon retour aux États-Unis étaient très loin au futur. Mais maintenant, que les deux sont arrivés, je ne sais pas à quoi penser. En même temps, je suis contente de revenir, mais triste de partir. Margaux a dit que le mot est doux-amer. C’est vrai, elle est vraie comme toujours. La société nous dit qu’il faut avoir un sentiment spécifique, mais j’en ai plusieurs !

Soulagée que les examens sont finis. Joyeuse de voir ma famille. Triste que je laisse mes nouveaux amis, en particulaire Cathy et James. J’ai la nostalgie pour les moments à IAU avec les autres étudiants. Je regrette que je n’aie pas profité autant que possible au début du semestre. Je suis fière du travail que j’ai fait à l’école. Fatiguée de voyager toute la journée.

Depuis septembre quand je suis montée dans l’avion pour aller en France, j’ai voyagé beaucoup. J’avais été dans beaucoup d’avions. Donc maintenant, ça semble pareil. Mais ce n’est pas pareil. Après ce voyage, je vais rester en place et c’est un endroit que je connais très bien.
Comment-on décrire comment j’ai changée ? C’est presque impossible mais j’essaye.

Je crois que, sans doute, j’aie une meilleure compréhension de la langue française. En parlant, en écrivant, en livrant, en tous. Mais hors des prix scolaires, j’ai un meilleur sens de moi-même. Depuis l’été j’ai découvert ce dont j’ai besoin pour vivre en autonomie et cette expérience m’a enseigné plus.

Aix serai toujours une ville où j’habitais, où j’assistais à l’école, et où je faisais les choses que je ne ferai jamais encore. C’est une partie de moi et mon histoire. C’était doux-amer de partir parce que je quitte cet endroit où j’ai reçu et laissé des parties de mon esprit. Mais c’est nécessaire. Si je ne quittais pas, je ne grandirai pas. Il y a une citation qui le dire mieux, mais je ne peux pas l’en penser maintenant…

Donc, au revoir Aix. Et je veux dire au revoir parce que je retournerai ! Et je te revoir un jour. Je le sais.
 
 
With less than one week left here in dear Aix-en-Provence, my Facebook and Twitter feeds are blowing up with posts about "Can't believe there are only [number] days left!!!!" "I'll be home in [number] days!!!" "France and I only have [number] days left together! Ahhh!" and all of this makes me so sad!!! I'd rather think about how much I can do in these [number] days left rather than fast-forward to the end and picture myself in the USA. When I do fast-forward, I usually imagine myself handing my boarding pass or passport to a guy at the airport, leaving Aix and all my other European adventure cities behind - literally the saddest image I can picture right now!!!!

So this post is not going to reflect on "all the things I'll miss about Aix." Not right now, at least. That will come later, for sure. For now, I want to reflect on some of the really funny, really awesome moments of the past few weeks...

This Monday, my housemate brought souvenirs of her weekend trip to Lourdes back for our hostmom and hostsister. They had asked, if it wasn't too much trouble, for some holy water from that special place and my housemate very gladly agreed. So after dinner she went to her room to get the gifts... and came back to the dinner table carrying two HUGE plastic jugs (I'm guessing about three gallons) of holy water! My hostmom and hostsister were dumbfounded, as was I. At first, they weren't sure if it was a joke or not. "C'est l'eau de Lourdes?" "Est-ce que c'est l'eau potable?" And then once my housemate assured them that yes, this was in fact THREE GALLONS OF holy water from Lourdes and she herself had filled the jugs at the fountain there, we all found it unbelievably hilarious and couldn't stop laughing for a good ten minutes; one of the best laughs I've had in Aix. Love my homestay :)

Last night was the IAU talent show after the dinner and closing ceremony (earlier in the day). While I knew beforehand that there would be a few acts, I hadn't imagined how many people would make the last-minute decision to participate too! There were such good vibes in the Main Hall (which I usually think of as reserved for long lecture classes) with professors, families, and of course, all the students gathered to watch music, literature, and dance acts.
The French Honours Program (moi!) started off with our rendition of the classic song "Les Champs Élysées" as accompanied by our wonderful leader in blind faith towards advanced French skills, Professor Muriel Cros on guitar! ("avec une guitare à la main du soir au matin" as the song goes.) While it was silly, it was a nice way to bring our time as the FHP group to an end.
Other talented acts included a (surprisingly well-rehearsed) Gangnam Style dance; poetry and guitar; singing and guitar; comedic poetry; more singing; singing and a Leigh Smith cameo; singing and dancing.... almost everything you can imagine!

On Tuesday, the FHP went to a cute café in town to have a fête des pâtisseries and we all received personalized gifts from the one and only Professor Muriel! She announced that she had picked out each of our books based on the conversations and personal interactions she'd had in getting to know all of us throughout the semester. I received a book of poetry by the great Verlaine - dawwwwww! We also go to hear her speak English (for me, it was the first time!) and she told us that we would always be special because we were her first FHP group :) Cue more adorable "aww-ing!"

To wrap up with a personal tidbit/brag moment, I received an award at the closing ceremony yesterday! It was for avancé et honneurs French (presented by, my fave, Muriel) and I have to say I was actually shocked! (Aside from the mini spoiler-alert email) I had seriously gone about this semester doing work as I would any other time, but the atmosphere of Aix and excitement of being abroad must have seriously rubbed off on me and shone (as in shining) in my work. Truly touched by the professors who felt I deserved this award - MERCI! :)
And what did I receive, you ask? Well, being from Muriel, it was a book, Romans Cinéma Théâtre: Un parcours 1943-1993 by Marguerite Dumas. After the ceremony I jokingly informed my professor how très lourd (very heavy) the book was and she laughed back that my tiny poetry book from the pastry party the day before had been "too tiny" for me. So now I have two very special books to commemorate my time in Aix!
Now, I'm off to wrap up my final schoolwork of the year! Writing more poetry in French .. printing off original b&w photos .. making astute observations of French films .. composing articulated opinions about world events .. and of course memorizing endless verb endings!

Even though I promised I wouldn't do this: T -6 days left in France :(
 
 
WOW, November flew by!

I just got back from a trip to Rome this weekend – loved it, every second! Totally did not want to leave! Especially since the semester is almost over (ah!), here is a list of thoughts I've been keeping since I’ve been in France. VOILA, for your reading pleasure…


-People and their dogs have a very different relationship here. You don’t pet a stranger’s dog the way you would in the States. Also, dog poop never EVER gets picked up (yuck). But the French still looooove their dogs!

-I have a feeling that local businesses love us students because we come in groups and buy lots of food, or whatever. What can I say, we like supporting them! :)

-I often have trouble knowing if I’ve responded to a person in French or in English and I only know what language I spoke in when they reply back to me. All I know when I speak is that I’ve given the proper response for the situation. I guess this is good – must mean I’m thinking in French more and more.

-That eight hour bus ride I took to Barcelona: seemed so long! It was actually the same length as the flight I took from JFK to get to Europe. Comparing it that way, it seems much longer… Haven’t taken such a long trip since ;)

-Everything is thicker here in France. Some examples: paper, soda cans, and plastic bags. Also, you have to pay for plastic bags.


Lastly, here is some Christmas music since I now, officially, consider it the Christmas season (the month of December). It’s on the French version of Spotify, Deezer. Take a listen to my “study abroad Christmas” playlist if you like!

 
 
From decorations around town, to the Christmas markets starting, French people are finally getting into the holiday spirit!

Provence is a weird place for all this, though. It may sound like Christmas, it may feel like Christmas, it may even smell like Christmas! It just doesn't look like Christmas belongs here in this town of sandy coloured buildings, bright shutters, orange leaves, and 65°.

I guess I'm just used to my grey New York.
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Decorations being hung on Saturday
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Christmas market on the Cours Mirabeau
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All the market stalls lined up in a row
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Little kids; getting so excited for Christmas!
It's beginning to look a lot like Aix-mas... but the prettiest sight to see is the holly that will be on your own front door!
 
 
This is my first Thanksgiving I've ever celebrated without my family - and I sure was missing those guys all day!

When I think of Thanksgiving, I picture the center counter at 250 crammed with bowls and platters of turkey, potatoes, veggies, and STUFFING; and going to sit down at the big table; and Lil says something like, "Now, everyone, sit next to someone you don't talk to often!"; and we do; and I get asked awkward questions about my college life BUT HEY IT'S OKAY because I'm with my family and I love everyone and Thanksgiving is probably my favourite holiday :)

2012 will be the year of that-time-I-had-Thanksgiving-in-France-because-I-was-living-there. And that's something I'll always remember, too.

IAU was awesome and they put together this great dinner for us! As you can see, we sat at these huge, long tables and I had all my new friends around and we were just laughing and taking pictures and eating and drinking; and we kept marveling at the fact that "guys, we are in a cave in France and we're celebrating Thanksgiving!" Like, woah!

Not quite the feast that my family puts together, but God bless the French people for trying! There was turkey (a miracle), mashed sweet potatoes, green beans, creamed corn, meatloaf, and gravy. And baguettes of course! I inhaled my first plate and got seconds soon after. So hungry! And so happy! We had pumpkin pie for dessert, too. A lot of people said it didn't taste like pumpkin, but that's because in America we always have canned pumpkin pie with all that condensed milk and crap. But here, since they don't know that's how we do it in America, the used real pumpkin! So this was probably the realest pumpkin pie I'll ever eat!



After dinner we walked to Cours Mirabeau to see the new Christmas markets that are set up. So pretty at night! But they were closed; I went home to change; and then we all went to see the huge fountain that has lights too.

We ended up going literally, inside the fountain (all the water is shut off, don't worry) and just hung out there for a while. For those of you who don't intimately know the layout of Aix-en-Provence, the fountain at La Rotunde is, well, huge. It is at the center of the main traffic circle and at the end of Cours Mirabeau, which is the main street... basically, in the middle of all the action. And we were climbing it like a jungle gym!

The police drove by a few times and a couple groups of people pointed and stared at us; but no one said anything! Ah, those Frenchys, they really don't care, do they? :)


A successful Thanksgiving with all Americans! And all of us wanted to hang out and be together, since not with our families, for Thanksgiving, the most American holiday there is.


This year, I have a lot to be thankful - the most basic of which is that I am in France right now!

I am also thankful for my family, who has grown and changed so much over the years but never grown too big (impossible!) and never changed too much, who has been there for me at every moment big or small, and who I love dearly; for my friends, the new ones and the old ones, the close ones and the far ones, the ones I haven't met yet; for my education at DU and being able to live in Denver; for everything I've learned in the past year about myself and about the world; for all the teachers I've had in my life, lest they know it or not; and for my health.

Whew! What a list!

Anyway, Happy Thanksgiving everyone :)
 
 
There are three movie theatres in Aix, Le Cézanne, Renoir, and Le Mazarin. Cézanne shows all the new, mainstream releases; Mazarin has more "artsy" films, and Renoir shows both these types, but all in their original language!


On Saturday, one of my first "days off" in a while (a.k.a. no classes, no internship, no travel), I went to see the new James Bond film Skyfall with a friend. We were both eagerly awaiting the movie and were excited to see it together - especially since it doesn't come out in the U.S. until 9 November!!


Firstly, movie theatres in France are slightly different from in America (surprise). For a regular ticket, it's about €9... but if you are a student it is only €7.90, which is by far the least expensive movie I've gone to see in a long time! So we get our tickets, head inside, and are thinking we'll get some popcorn. Having lived here for almost two months now, I was not naïvely expecting the same kind of concession stands we have in the U.S. So I wasn't surprised when the aroma of nachos, hot dogs, and fake butter didn't ooze out of the lobby; there was no fountain drink machine either (just bottled sodas); and popcorn comes in little, presorted plastic buckets. You can choose either sucre (sweet) or salé (salted). I don't even remember the last time I had popcorn! We got the salty kind - duhhh - and went into the movie theatre.


We sat in the third row from the front, totally prepared to enjoy the film close up.

The movie screen wasn't flashing ads at us ever five seconds; instead, there was a curtain hung in front of the screen that had ads printed on it. About fifteen minutes before the movie started, the curtain pulled aside, and the previews began (just like in America).
While I enjoyed Skyfall as a film, my friend and I both agreed that it wasn't strikingly Bond enough for us. She also mentioned that the French subtitles below distracted her, but that wasn't as much an issue for me as the fact that there was no villainous plot! Ok, I'm going to let you all go see the movie for yourself and decide what you think, but I'm telling you: the villain was not devious enough for me (sorry, Javier Bardem... but you were definitely creepy! I will give you that! Loved the creepiness!).


Also, if you haven't heard it yet, Adele sings the song for this film, and I really like it, so here it is in case you want to hear it too (read: here it is therefore you ought to listen to it).
 
 
Mmmmmm... French food. There's nothing like it, right? Especially for breakfast.
Though, I may not be having any "official" or traditional French p'tit déj, it is still yummy. And different from what I have at home!


On a normal morning, I have some variant of toast, coffee, and fruit, the variant usually being fruit and whatever I put on my toast. When I first arrived, there were lots of prunes (plums) and now we have a lot of pommes (apples). For toast fixins, you've got your average butter (well, not that average because it is French beurre after all), your fun Nutella, or you can switch it up and have crème de marrons.
crème de marrons is like hazelnut butter (rather than apple butter)
I've already complained about the coffee sucking in France. I've since found a total of one place that serves plain coffee strong enough for me, but at my homestay t's still rather weak. Usually I'll just have it cold instead, which actually makes it taste a little bit stronger. Weird.


And that's it! Nothing too too special. Now you know what I eat for breakfast on the daily. It's part of the true IAU student experience (which also includes, but is not limited to: nights at O'Shannons; dinner consisting of multiple Pizza Capri slices; hanging out in le cave and the cathedral courtyard; and drinking Desperados).

Except on Fridays when I got to my fave café and also get a tartlette aux rhubarbes from Paul bakery.
Yum :)

xxo, S
 
 
As I sit here writing this I feel obliged to tell you that I have a (warm) baguette and jam next to me.


I'm back in my room, enjoying some down time and a snack (goûté) after a very busy day. It's the end of my sixth monday of classes here in Aix - a full month and a half! - and I realized that (until this moment, obviously) I had stopped counting how long I'd been here.
Walking to school and home again is something I could probably do blindfolded. I've got a good sense of when to say bonsoir vs. bonjour and all those other nuances of the French language that you never get to practice until you're here.
I recognize the little Euro pieces and no longer fumble endlessly at the register each time. Habitual purchases like coffee are memorized prices in my head and I usually have exact change, if nothing else, in my wallet for a single cup.
On Mondays I get pasta to go just up the street from school; Tuesdays are sandwich day; Wednesday and Thursday I get lunch at Simply Food on my way back from my internship; and Fridays are tartlette aux rhubarbe-at-the-café day.

Visiting Brussels this weekend, I realized how nice it is to be familiar with my own town and my own routine. Liv showed me all around her favourite places and, while they were all very cool, I kept comparing them to my favourite places in Aix. Streets to walk down; restaurants to try; beers to drink; parks to visit; cafés for eating; cafés for hanging out; favourite supermarkets; favourite touristy activities; etc. While I have the unique ability to say that "all my friends are studying abroad right now!" we are all having our own experiences too. It took me a weekend away to realize how great mine really is.

And I loved Brussels too! Don't worry. But there's this saying - what is it?
Oh right.
Distance makes the heart grow fonder.

Well, Aix, I can truly say I'll be missing you once I'm gone.
Good thing that's not for another seven weeks!
 
 
HOLY BAJEEZUS! Can you believe I've just finished up week four of being in Aix??? Because it is blowing my mind right now!


Anyway, some thoughts from this week that I've been saving up just for you:


1) When French people hold cigarettes it's like it's just an extension of their hand. Almost like it isn't even there, just lightly resting between two fingers. If a strong enough wind blew by, the cigarette could just fly right out of their hand. But they keep a surprisingly strong yet dainty grip and drag on that thing 'til it's all gone. That is why Americans think the French look so cool when they smoke; the elegance and grace and sheer carelessness of it. Like, "Yeah I'm smoking a cigarette that is slowly burning away my insides, but I'm holding it like it's no big deal, and in fact I didn't even realize I was doing it, so whatever, it's cool." It's official: if I were a real Frenchie, I'd take up smoking. Sorry family, it's true. So for the sake of my lungs, you all better hope I never decide to move here!


2) Passing people on the skinny sidewalks of Aix is pretty strange. At first, I thought I was being rude to them by not getting out of the way. Then I realized, someone in this city has to let me pass someday, right? False. But I think I figured out what the mindset is. Since the sidewalks are so narrow, it's safer to be on the inside, closer to the buildings and away from the street. Forcing someone to pass you on the outside is rude, so either step aside, or you pass on the outside.

I could be wrong, but this is what I've decided is a possible answer to the weird phenomenon.


3) When I order a café allongé and sit at a cafe for a while, it's too small of a drink; but when I'm in a rush and order one, it's too much.


4) Cars who drive in the streets of Aix are crazy. Stick shift doesn't make French drivers any better. Is it because they learn how to drive so late (eighteen years old) that they basically suck at driving? No one can parallel park. And why on earth would you drive through the city streets if you can help it??? People walk in the middle of the street all the time and are so not moving for you. Bizarre.


5) For a project, I have to sit at a cafe and observe its "micocosme of life." I told my professor which cafe I had chosen - the Brasserie de la Mairie at Place de l'Hotel de Ville - and she told me it is un café très aixois! A very "Aix" cafe!!! And it's my favourite cafe in Aix! So I'm very "Aix" too!!!


6) In my French class on Friday, I learned about a growing trend in France. Families are moving to the South where the weather is more agreeable year-round; then the dad/mom travels for work to Paris, Lyon, Milan, Genoa, wherever for several days during the week; and comes home for the weekend. Because of the advancements of the TGV (train system) in the past ten years, it has become easier to travel for work - and people can live in a sunnier place when they aren't working!