Monday, April 7, 2014

March Madness and April Awakinings

Bonjour à tous! 

I'm getting fat -__-

Well, life has been interesting to say the least in these last couple weeks here in March, particularly in school. 

So lets start with classes. One of my personal favorite things that I like to talk about is my lack Spanish the last two months. I have has exactly One Spanish class from mid February until now. The teacher hasn't been there for various reasons including illness and TPE and other fun things, which is honestly a pain because believe it or not, I do actually want to try to learn Spanish... Even if I understand nothing or next to nothing. 

But the last class of the week, we were informed that we would have a new teacher as a replacement until our actual teacher returned. I may finally start to learn some Spanish! 

French is still hard (the class that is). We just finished the series of poems entitled "Les Fleurs du Mal" which I loved, but it was really difficult! *Side note* I have decided that if the French school system with the whole L, S, and ES was in the U.S, I would most definitely be in L, or Literature. But now that we have finished "Les Fleurs du Mal", we are moving on to the theatre unit and have started reading the play, "Antigone" which as stated by one of my French friends is <<Genial>>. 

History is still really hard but I really like the subjects and the teacher, who talks really fast. I'm up to understanding 40-50% if everything she says. I call that progress. At least I can still take notes. 

We have just finished WW2 and are moving into the Cold War, which I know next to nothing about so I am really excited to learn about it!

English is still easy, and math nonexistent. 

So now that I have laid down the news for school, which I really do love because of friends and actually feel like I am learning stuff instead of just not understanding, time to move on! 

I have been pretty busy as of late! For the last month and a half, I have had something to do almost every weekend, whether that's just for one day or the whole weekend. 

So the first weekend of craziness was in Normandy. My host parents and I went to Normandy for the weekend for their friends birthday, so naturally when they asked me if I wanted to go, I said yes! We drove about four hours to southern Normandy, over Le Point de Normandie, and through Honfleurs and other towns until we arrived! We got there earlier than the party started so we went for lunch at a crêperie which was quite good (I ordered a crêpe with salmon and crème fresque [i think it's spelled like that]) which was really good, and I also eavesdropped on a pair of elderly British ladies who sure had some VERY interesting and rather amusing things to say to each other! Afterwards, I bought my dad some chocolate stuff for his birthday. Please keep your fingers crossed that customs didn't seize it!!!

After shopping, we went for a really nice walk on the beach. It was one of those days when you have a coat on, you're too hot, but take it off, and you're too cold. But I really enjoyed myself. I absolutely love the beach! 

That night at the party, we arrived at about 7:30 and neither I nor my host parents really knew anyone, which was a little weird. At about 10:15, we were finally asked to sit down for the first course. I was SO hungry! That night there were six courses total, with the last one being served at 12:45. And I normally don't consider coffee a course! So I was exhausted and ready to sleep for about a week.

The next day, host parents took me to the beach again for another walk, something I was completely ok with! After our walk, we went for lunch with the party goers from the night before. I was still dead tired, and I think my host parents were too, as we left pretty quick, only after about an hour. 

The following weekend was for AFS. We were asked to make something from our home country for the other students and volunteers. My original plan was to make my moms baked beans which I think are amazing, but I couldn't convince host mom I would be able to make it because she was convinced I wouldn't be able to find one of the beans, not even in a can which is what the recipe calls for. So a little frustrated with that, I moved on to Plan B, a chocolate cake with peanut butter icing! 

So I stayed at Isabelle's (temp host mom from back in November) for the weekend. So Friday night I took the train and headed to Lille! Saturday morning, I made the cake, which didn't turn out perfect like I would have liked, but it was still fine. Once I was finished with that, Isabelle took me to the Palais du Beaux Arts in Lille to get my dad the final part of his B-Day present (he's turning 50 on the 18th... The old fart!) and she surprisingly bought him one too! I have no idea what it is, but I just thought that that was extremely kind of her and unnecessary, but I thanked her so much in the attempted gratitude of me, and both of my parents. 

The AFS day went great! The foods from the other countries were really mostly different cakes with some AMAZING Finnish boulettes (meatballs, but different), real Chinese food that was perfect, and a few French quiches. My personal favorite thing was the German cake. It was with strawberries and white and milk chocolate and it was a bright rainbow of colors! I asked for the recipe because I liked it so much! 

Then last weekend, my host family surprised me (and pretty much everyone) by taking us to Dunkerque for the day. So with my host family, and my host families best friends family, we all went up to Dunkerque for the day! I got to spend a perfect hour on the beach, laying on the sand, playing with the other children (yes, that is how I would describe it) and even braving the ocean waters. I'll be honest, The Colorado River water from beneath Lake Powell was colder and more numbing. 

Afterward, we went and did a little shopping and exploring of the town while Laura, my host sister, had an appointment with a travel person to travel during her Easter and/or Summer vacation, hence, the reason if Dunkerque. I ended up being the best third wheel ever because host parent's friend's daughter brought along her boyfriend, and because host brother wasn't there (sorry for my unnatural lack of specifics) it was just us three at one point, and I can admit I am ready to be crowned the king of awkward situations! 

So then this weekend was probably the most busy out of all of them! Friday night, I came back to Lille and stayed at Isabelle's again because there was an event in Belgium between AFS- Nord Flandres and AFS- Belgium. So Friday night I got to Isabelle's and was greeted by Annette, her very awesome (is that proper English?) daughter and a Canadian exchange student who is living there after having problems with her correspondent, as she did an actual exchange program. 

That night, she invited (Canadian named Daniella) me to a church for a concert of classical music, which I happily accepted. So we went to the church, speaking mostly French (franglais) to the church for the concert. There weren't many people there, but it was a great orchestra playing music from the Baroque Period also featuring a few singers throughout the performance. I was very impressed and enjoyed myself. 

After going home, Annette was watching The Avengers in English with English subtitles to help practice for her semester in Chicago for University. Daniella and I didn't complain that it was in English, and I don't know the last time I laughed that hard at a movie! It helps having other people to laugh with you! 

Saturday, we woke up early to heads to Belgium for our rendez-vous. In total, there were three exchange students from our region, Daniella, myself, and Carlotta, a year student from Italy. Along with us, there were two students from a different region in France, both from Bolivia, and an Asian boy (I couldn't understand where he was from) a girl from Russia, and a girl from Romania from the Belgium. It was very interesting as since the French volunteers couldn't speak Flemish, and not all of the Belgium volunteers could speak French, English was used as a medium to speak. This meant, unfortunately, I wasn't speaking French, because I had to speak English. 

We walked to a cemetery, which has a strong history with AFS. It was originally set up as a hospital site for the American Field Service in World War 1. Those who died at the hospital, were buried at this cemetery. AFS Nord Flandres laid flowers on one of the deceased's grave and said a few words. I also forgot to mention that a news crew was there for France 3, so I had a few moments where I could be seen on TV! Isabelle and Daniella both had interviews and were featured in those, which was really cool! 

That afternoon, we had a picnic and Isabelle bought us Belge Fries, which are "better" than normal fries. I thought they were really good, but not the best fries I've had. After that, we did some walking through the town and a scenic route through Belgium before returning home. 

I was pretty tired when I got home, but still found the energy to go out to dinner with Daniella and another American, Allegra for sushi! 

They also convinced me to go to McDonalds for the first time while I was in France. I ended up getting a raspberry milk shake, which was pretty good. I ONLY WENT THERE BECAUSE EVERYWHERE ELSE WAS CLOSED! 

And then today, Monday, along with my music class, we went to Paris! It wasn't a lot of visiting, but that's ok because I have already done that! It was a small performance by a full orchestra as well as a panel of composers who talked and answered the other students questions. There were around 300-400 students at the theatre for the presentations! I had a really great day! 

And now, here I am, finished with, essentially, my weekend and I am exhausted. Sorry, but no pictures in this post. I'll put one up this week of just pictures for you to enjoy! Sorry for the lack of color!!!

But Until Then,
Au revoir!

P.S, I smell like cigarettes because so many young people smoke and I hate that the smell is clinging to me! 

P.P.S. Please do NOT under ANY circumstances remind me that I have 90 days left, or any amount of time left. I already know. And if you do, I shall smite thee. 

That is all. Love you all!!!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Throwback WAAAAY Back!


This is waayyyyy overdue, but you know, better late than never, right? 
My mom complains that I don't blog enough, so THIS ONE IS FOR YOU MOTHER! Moving on.

Wow. What was the last thing I blogged about? Umm, hmmm. This goes to show that I haven't blogged for a long time. 

So let’s start with Christmas. Flash back to December, a hard task, as some days I can hardly remember five minutes ago. ANYWAY (you're getting off track Aidan!), for Christmas I was with my new family. I was extremely excited to begin the following six months with an important holiday to me. It began on Christmas Eve. My host family and I went to my host mom’s parents’ house for dinner, and what became a very late night/early morning. That night, it was my host family, host grandparents, and my host mom's two sisters and niece. This is an extremely small family for me, it was still great and I had a great time, but I am used to a huge family party with loud Irish cousins and family members, so it was a reasonably large change. 

At dinner, I am proud to say that I tried escargot for the first time. It took me a minute to get over the fact that it was indeed snail to eat it. It was not what I was expecting. Before, when I heard escargot, I always thought of a scaly, slimy, snail greenish brown in color and its eyes still visible on a plate with some fancy decoration to make it look a little edible. So when I heard there was to be escargot at dinner, I had a mini heart attack. But I told myself "Aidan, you are here to try new things! This will be a new thing! You will get over your worries and try it no matter what!" And that is what I did. Truth was, I had nothing to worry about. It tastes what it is cooked in, and on that day’s menu: butter and herbs. The consistency was just a little unusual, but I liked it. I think I had maybe three that night. 

I am analysing. 

I am trying. 

I am thinking. 

I am liking! 

After that, we finished eating and I waited. And waited. And waited. 
Lost somewhere in translation, I missed the memo that we were staying up till midnight to open presents at the beginning of Christmas and leaving after. So I was slightly unprepared for that and was at an exhausted state well before I should have been. I guess it's a state of mind. I ended up getting a few books and a scarf that night (side note: was GIVEN to me. *cough cough graeme, haley cough*). After saying thank you to one another and talking for a little bit longer, we left at around 1 A.M, and got home around 2ish. I was ready to sleep, but I had a great night with everyone. The next morning, we did the presents under the Christmas tree with just our family and that was nice. We had breakfast and went back to the grandparents for lunch. We spent the day there and then came home at around 5 P.M. I was also very happy because later that night, I got to Skype with my family. I don't mean just my mom, dad, sister, brother family; I am talking EVERYONE! I got a quick conversation with almost everyone and that was maybe the greatest Christmas present I got this year. Just seeing family an ocean away can really make it a special Christmas. 

We also had a few AFS things in this time. Caution, never EVER put random articles of clothing in a bag, and then have exchange students pick them out and make them wear them. It will make everyone feel awkward and laugh really hard because honestly, we were fierce. If you have the inability or want to laugh at me (bless you, you poor human) please skip the smexy pictures you are about to witness. 
Alrighty then... I can at least say I'm comfortable with my body.... I think...
During Xmas break, I went to Lille with Natalie (PA homegirl) and Sarah (Red-headed Boston beauty). We did your typical Lille stuff like shop, hang out, and my new personal favorite, the American Diner!!

This is for your amusment, not just my own personal embaressment

Representing America the right way!

AFS bowling!

And then this happened...

I am terrible at bowling. Of course.

The Americans taking over the American Diner in Lille!

And yes, the food tasted as good as it looked!

It's not actually called that, but I cannot remember for the life of me what it's called so from this moment forward it will be called American Diner. This reference may (probably) will be used in the future. I love me some burgers so its worth it. 
Here is the beauty of what I got, and the rosemary fries. My sister would approve. 

Oh yeah... You won't be seeing this because of my over use of profanities but we went on la grande roue (ferris wheel) and I had a panic attack, and I for some reason put it on video. Dumb Aidan. But here is my reasoning behind my behavior. 

First: it was cold. I don't like the cold.

Second: It was high. I am not a huge fan of heights when it is not moving fast or at all. 

Third: It was pretty windy and shaking the ride really badly. 

I probably won't be doing that the next time I come back to Lille in the winter holidays. This was also taken BEFORE the ride. 

I somehow manged to compose myself for about ten seconds to take and have a relatively nice picture of Natalie and I. 

New Years. Probably one of the few days I was really, really sad not to be home. I wasn't homesick, just missing probably the one party where people come to my house without being invited (at least to my knowledge). It's a huge party at my house with family friends that are almost all our age and its fun and great every year. So it was a little weird to be going to a party this year with people I really didn't know at all! 

I went with my host brother to a party with his friends, and honestly, I couldn't have asked for a better night. Everyone was super nice and fun, and super shocked after the first hour when I managed to pass as French and everyone found out I was American. I met some really cool people there and it was just an overall great night! The one down side was, it didn't seem to end. I think the music and lights were finally turned down to let some people sleep at around 8:30ish in the morning. This caused me to discover I can't pull all-nighters. I need sleep. Next day I slept all day. AND WITHOUT PORK AND SOUR CROUT!! WHOOPDEEDOO!

A few weeks after, I said good bye to Kinzie as written in the last post, so I won't go into detail about that. 
School is continuing to go great! I am understanding more and more and I am just feeling at ease with my new friends at my new school and it’s just great! Teachers still talk really fast, so I'm up to understanding about 40% of what they say. I call that progress. 
I am able to have conversations in French with very little effort! My friends point out that I'm picking up the little phrases that they say and that I am "trop mignon" with my French phrases and American accent. Thanks guys... Merci à tous... 
Host family is continuing to be amazing! I just feel so at ease here and that's all I wanted. I feel at home here! I think I have finally passed all of the major bumps in the road and I am ok with that. 

Next week we start our mid-winter break, which is two weeks off of school. I'm trying to be getting together with friends often, exchange and French both! 

Uhh more stuff! 

Two new students from our chapter in the north of France. A girl from California and another girl from Australia. I have only met them once and they were both suffering from SEVERE jet lag and utter confusion from all the French at one time. At least it only gets better. 

My friends apparently LOVE peanut butter. They are all keepers! 
I have passed my half-way point and it feels like I could have just gotten here. Wow how fast time flies! 
So that's all I can think about for you all this minute. 


 Actually I did forgot and displeased my mother. I went to Belgium for a day with school back in my old school with other foreigners, the Australians and the line Korean who I actually miss because he was/is really cool. We were in Flemish Belgium at a WWI memorial at a place called Ploegstreet. It had one of the most stunning sceneries I have ever seen. So naturally, I took pictures, as seen below! Note that this was before Thanksgiving so I really forgot about this. 

Back to Australians. We had a group of Australians at my old school for a few months and they sure were an interesting bunch. They were all great, but wow! They sure made me smile when I was having a bad day, then I would walk away and wonder, what the heck just happened? Miss those dudes.

Now THAT is all that I have for now. I shall be back soon and until then, Au Revoir! 



I am currently on my two week February vacation! So far I have been to a party, nuff said... And I went to my first professional football (soccer for the Americans) match! I was invited to go with my AFS friend Erik, who is from It was a tie game between Lille and Lyon but I had a lot of fun and really enjoyed myself!!!

Today I spent my funday in Lille with the lovely Americans Natalie, Allegra, and our newest member on the north of France, Isabelle! We like her. We can keep her. 

We did everything from eating macarons, to drinking special milkshakes (I won't say the special secret, but take a guess. Chances are you're right!), attempting to help german students searching for the ch'ti, playing hide and seek in French bookstores, and mock a really poorly photoshopped model. Plenty of good food (luckily) and a great day although my legs hurt from walking.


This was tried and we are normal people. I PROMISE!

Now we are all caught up on current events in my life. I promise I will try to keep an effort as I was scolded by someone other than my mom for not writing recently (what?) but I try to keep this honest and as unforced as possible! I think I do a pretty good job of that! 

For the LAST time in this post, A prochaine!


Saturday, January 18, 2014


Sunday, January 12, 2014
After what was probably one of the best days in France, I have just said goodbye to my best friend here. I have had an extremely tearful and heartfelt goodbye to this beautiful, strong woman who has been my rock here in France. My train, which is leaving now, is pulling slowly away from the closest person I have gotten to in France. I am feeling heartbroken knowing I have about 5 1/2 more months here without her. Mckinzie is the closest thing I have to family here. I haven't given her the credit she deserves on my blog for being in my life. I want to talk about our relationship together here and France and why it hurts so much that she is leaving.



Back in either August or July, I saw that Kinzie, the name I always use to talk about her, had posted in the AFS France page that she would be living in Lille. So I did the logical thing, I added her on Facebook as a friend. She had long blonde hair and was going to be here for a semester program during her senior year. We talked for a little bit just talking about our excitement for France. Nothing to major. 

Fast forward to September 4th. I had just arrived in New York, pretty early. In the hotel I was talking with another boy from my chapter from PA who was going to Spain. Kinzie and Katie, another extremely outgoing girl who I still keep in contact with, invited us to join their table. After exchanging names and countries, she said France. I had made the mistake of completely not recognizing her at all, as she had cut her hair quite short. I had said some things like "Oh Mckinzie Spence? When does she get here?" And thins like that, as she sat at the same table across from me. Naturally, I felt like an idiot, and this is something she loves to remind me about. 

Beginning that day, her and Katie perused around the hotel, large and seemingly in charge. Being in the group with the other boy from PA, we made a few remarks saying, "Why the hell are we letting these girls lead us around?" At the time, I had absolutely no clue. But they stayed in charge, leading quite a few ice breaker activities as everyone arrived and much more effective in my opinion than AFS. They came to seemingly like me and I liked them too, all thoughts of their craziness lingering in my mind, but with more of a relate-ability. That was the start of something we came to know as "la famille français" consisting of Kinzie, Katie, Natalie who I mentioned in a post earlier from PA, as well as a boy named Erik and three other girls, Annie, Johanna and Lily. We all got along really well and adopted a phrase from Katie who always said "Guys, we're going to France!"

We spent almost all of the time in New York together as well as a lot of the time in the airport.



When we first arrived in France, Katie naturally had to start saying, "Shit guys, we're in France!" And the phrase stuck. I spent as much time as I could with these freaks the days in Paris and was hard to say goodbye to some of them the day of departure. 

Kinzie, was one of the few that would remain in my chapter. I remember in the train station, waiting for our train to Lille that I offered her mini Oreos. She was shocked and asked "Are you sure about this" like giving a person Oreos was crazy and that I should keep them all for myself. But I gave it to her anyways. That was a good morning.


A few weeks later we got together in Lille for what was my first time. It was warm and we went shopping and took pictures like tourists and ate crepes and were so happy we could order by ourselves in French. We have come a long way since. 

Over the course of the months, we got together a few times more, and she became my rock as we hung out more often and talked in various other ways... You know who you are know what I am talking about....





She was smart, funny, kind, and most importantly, SANE. Of course she has had her moments but I still felt more comfortable with her as I opened up to her and let myself be myself around her. She in turn, did the same. 

Back in October, wow a long time ago, she invited me to go to Paris with her for the day alone! I couldn't have gone without her and it was literally the best day so far in France. We took selfies at Notre Dame, walked about 11 freckin miles, complained about our feet doing nothing but hurting, took selfies at Le Moulin Rouge with our Starbucks, and bought Lauderée. Oh and skyped with her mom the night before. She at MANY times throughout that day yelled at me for not being careful with my macarons and that would cause them to break and I thought it was fine. Then on the train home, they were indeed broken, and I became annoyed with that, along with her taking about 15 minutes to take pictures of her macarons on the train. Pictures I may add that she never used. That day was perfect in so many ways.


We saw each other quite a few times in the past months, every was fun, no matter how short. 

And then today, my last day in France with this girl. We did all of our basic things, shopping, walking through Lille, getting food, etc. My goodbye was extremely painful and happy as we reflected on a lot of our moments while in France together. And while I know that this will most certainly not be the last time I see her, it will be hard to go through these remaining five months without my rock, the one person I can talk to here in France with my full confidence, give me advice, and care about everything going on in my life because she knows how I feel and what I am going through at the same moment. 

The best relationships don't come from your friends at school, or even your families, which both are important and will create strong relations with. The best and strongest come from your fellow exchange students, those who are their to help and support you because they know and understand everything and want to help you more than anything because they would want the same from you. 

While saying goodbye is hard, it is nothing compared to the memories I will forever carry with me of this girl and the friend I have made for life. 

If you would like to read about Kinzie's experience in France, a link to her blog can be found below.

I now speak to Kinzie directly. 

Kinz, thank you for absolutely everything. I mean that more than I can possibly put into words. You have been so important in my life here in France. You have been there to help me through hard times, been there to share a laugh, been there to just talk. You are a special person and I have so much respect for you as a human being. You are a beautiful, strong, smart, and capable young woman who can cook magnificently. I am going to miss you so much with just walking through Lille like we own the city, GC, and just having you around. Your a piece of home that I am going to miss so much. I am so grateful you have entered my life and I met you. France would have been so different without you here in the North. This isn't a permanent goodbye as you know. I will see you soon and I look forward to that time when I come to Illinois or you to Pennsylvania for a visit. Thank you for everything, et je t'aime <3. Bonne courage finir t'année dernier d'école. Tu nous manquerai ici dans le nord de France.  You only have a few days left here in France, so make every second count. Remember all of the memories you made here and remember it as one of the best experiences in your life, because it is! We all love you! Now go and chef! 
Avec amour,