I believe that you never really know something until you lose yourself in it. Because of this belief, I feel I've done a decent job of getting to know Aix-en-Provence so far.

I think it's possible to get lost in more than just a place - you can get lost in a language, in a dance, in your daily routine, in an entire culture. And through all of the confusion and mix-ups and misunderstandings, you eventually find yourself oriented. Coming up on my fourth week, I can't say I feel completely oriented, but I'm slowly figuring out what works and what doesn't, in addition to a bunch of smaller things that can be added to the ongoing manual with the (tentative) title How to Look Aixois.

However, because I hardly think I'm qualified to publish a manual after only a few weeks here, I have no such guide for you. Instead, below are some of the things I've learned after nearly a month in Aix - many of which are the result of feeling pretty lost.
1. Food is worth the €. Do not skimp on food evereverever because you are in France and you must vivre pour manger, d'accord?
2. Dog poop is a part of life.
3. If you cross the street like you mean it, nobody will honk at you. Actually, people rarely honk at pedestrians, so feel free to cross the street when it feels right, even if you don't see the man in green cheering you on in safety. But (!) if you have doubts... don't do it.
4. It's "glug" not "chug."
5. If you pet your host family's cat too many times, she will see you an endless petting machine and will never leave you alone.
6. Being corrected regularly is very good for improving your French. Other good activities for improving French: eavesdropping on conversations and actually speaking French with your peers.
7. Do not leave your homework for the last minute because while doing so  is horrible in the States, it is hyper-horrible en France.
8. It takes two weeks to be able to walk down a sidewalk like you own it.
9. Nothing says you blend in (and that you look really non-threatening) like being asked for directions. I should know, I've been asked four times already.
10. That being said, if you look vaguely Asian, there's a good chance someone will ask if you're chinois(e).
11. Do things with a sense of purpose, but be open to having your plans change.
12. Write everything down because if you don't, weeks will fly by and you will forget it.
 
 
Yesterday was Lunar New Year. While my family back home doesn't celebrate, I remember it was always a big deal during high school due to our sizable Vietnamese population. It was strange hearing silence instead of the usual popping of firecrackers.

So in order to celebrate the best way I could, I decided I was going to try to find a Vietnamese place to eat lunch. The place I wanted to go to ended up being closed (which in retrospect makes sense because hello, holiday!) so I ended up going to the restaurant I went to the day before - a place that serves "world cuisine." While I was in the middle of deciding what to order, I thought back to orientation and how Alan Roberts (Director of the Marchutz School) presented us with the multitude of definitions that come with the word "abroad." I can't remember all of the synonyms he listed, but I recall something along the lines of (to take an overused phrase used in perhaps every study abroad pitch) expanding one's horizons.

It's a weird thing to think about, as an Asian American woman still trying to find her own identity while trying to adapt to another. To break it down even further: Here I am, alone on Lunar New Year, in the south of France, at a world/traveler-themed restaurant that serves everything from gyoza to empanadas to nutella tiramisu. I'm recovering from a cold, wearing a blouse, a blazer, a leather jacket and a scarf, and I glance at the window to see snow beginning to fall. I'm considering going to H&M to buy another coat and a hat, but later decide against it because my motivation to make it home trumps the need to go shopping.

As far as what I had for lunch, I ended up ordering a tapas sampler plate and a chocolat blanc. It was nice.

But getting back to this weird existential crisis moment I was having during lunch... it's strange that I find myself wondering (perhaps uselessly) what it means to have a true French experience. Is that idea just composed of stereotypes that Americans have of the French? Am I changing? What have I picked up in these first few weeks?

I suppose that last question can best be answered in list form, but I'll save that for another post.

 
 
It's strange to think about how it hasn't truly been a week since I've been in Aix. Tomorrow I will be boarding a bus to go to Nice and Monaco for the weekend and I am pretty excited. But before that happens, I figured a blog entry had to be written about all of these new experiences I had during this first week of classes. In true Justher fashion, I will outline these experiences with subheadings. Because subheadings are cool.

Anyway, as the Whovians (and the Francophones) say, "Allons-y!"