I’d like to believe that people and opportunities come into and out of your life for a reason. They come into your life to teach you valuable lessons and once they’re done teaching you what needed to be learned, they leave. Sometimes, at the end of an opportunity or the departure of a person, we may not realize in the moment just exactly what that valuable lesson is or why they had to leave. This can often leave us frustrated, angry, confused, or upset. I’d like to call this life philosophy, “reasons and seasons.” Sometimes it takes a lost opportunity or a lost friendship for one to appreciate the valuable lessons they have learned or appreciate the other person. However, I do believe that people never really leave our lives. It’s almost as if people leave behind their carbon footprint. They influence the way we think, act, walk and talk. Whatever piece of knowledge or wisdom we learn, we carry it around with us for the rest of our lives. No one ever forgets their childhood best friend, their most inspiring high school teacher, or the friends they’ve met in college, study abroad, or post-graduation. I try to take a piece of everyone I meet and strive to be like them in some way. My friends and family are my biggest admiration.
It was just a week from today that I was on a plane from France coming back to Michigan. It almost feels like the past four months in France were all just a dream. It’s scares me that my time spent there feels so far away, although only a week has lapsed. I didn’t know reverse culture shock existed. I had a hard time processing coffee-to-go and the concept of carryout from a restaurant. Getting behind the wheel seemed a little foreign to me too. I felt like an old soul every time I preached to my friends and family that “I had to walk 30 minutes to school everyday and that was just one way! If I forgot something at home, I just had to live without it for the entire day.”
I miss the small-town and provincial feel of Aix but most of all I miss the people. While I was there, I became close with three girls. Together, we were like the four best friends from Sex in the City, only our vision was called Aix in the City. We had different personalities; temperaments, likes and dislikes and yet we all nicely complimented one another. There wasn’t one time that we were together where we weren’t laughing until we cried or laughing until we peed our pants. We had seen and witnessed everything together- the highs and lows, the good and the bad. We also had the chance to meet an important person in each other’s lives allowing us to get a glimpse of a piece of our lives from home. From everything that I learned during my experience abroad, I’ve learned one valuable thing and that is: if you make a special bond with someone, in the words of the “Jack and Diane” song, hold on as long as you can. In this day and age, it’s hard to find that special friend and sometimes all you need is one. My Aix in the City girls have changed me forever. We may have left each other’s lives because our time abroad was coming to a close, but their carbon-footprint will forever be imprinted on my heart.
If you’ve ever been in another country while presidential elections are going on, it’s quite the site to see, especially if you’ve happened to witness the French elections of 2012. The French candidates were Nicolas Sarkozy, a candidate from the right (droite) side running for a second term, versus Francois Hollande, a socialiste candidate from the left (gauche). France has been divided about these two presidential candidates for months as discussing presidential predictions has been a sensitive subject among French citizens. Aix, the little French town I’m residing in, is located in an area called “Les Bouches-de-Rhone.” The citizens of les Bouches-de-Rhone were fully supporting Sarkozy’s candidacy.
The presidential campaign works a little differently in France. At first, you have the “premier tour” (the first round) where all the presidential candidates are eliminated down to two. After the results of the two presidential candidates are chosen, “le grand debat” or the great debate takes place-an old French tradition that has dated back for hundreds of years. During the great debate which took place this past Wednesday, the tension between Sarkozy and Hollande was undeniable. The two argued over each other that it was hard to hear their point of views. It seemed as though they were exploiting each other’s flaws and weaknesses during the debate as well. The French agreed that it was the most heated televised presidential debate they have seen in over 30 years.
After the “le grand debat,” the second round or known as “le deuxieme tour” takes place. The French citizens have another chance to be heard and place their final votes between the two candidates. Sarkozy had won the electoral votes in the first round but it was Hollande who reaped the benefit of the votes in the second. Despite Aix’s Sarkozy affaire, the citizens of Aix proudly paraded the streets last night after Hollande was declared the new president of France. The crowd was composed of hundreds of people ranging from children to students to adults. The French were chanting, “tous ensemble, tous ensemble, oui, oui.” Translated this means, “all together, yes, yes.” Some of the Aixoise living in the center of town poked their heads out of their apartment to cheer on the crowd which in turn intensified the excitement. The citizens of Aix as well as other parts of France welcomed the new president with open arms and a warm embrace. The French have not had a socialist president in 30 years after the Francois Millitan candidacy in 1981. The French recognize that Hollande has some large obstacles to overcome as France is battling high unemployment rates, suffering from the economic crisis and fighting to remain a competitive power in world trade. The French are hopeful that Hollande will bring the necessary change to France to ensure its role as a competitive world leader in trade, politics, and business. We can only hope that under Hollande’s power, France will sustain its “liberte, égalité, et fraternité.”
I know I haven’t blogged in a very long time but time has gone by here so fast. I wanted to share stories about my spring break trip to Italy and London. In the four months that I’ve been here, I’ve had two breaks consisting of a total of 3 weeks off. I’m starting to think that the French don’t really believe in school! No complaints here, I could definitely get used to this lifestyle!
I just got back to Aix on Sunday and in just two weeks I will be back on a plane coming home. I can’t believe my time here is almost done. I’m anxious to see my family and friends but I’m really sad that my days here are numbering down. I hope that if anyone has the chance to study or live in a foreign country they should do it. Studying abroad is such a great experience. I really believe you get to know yourself even better and it opens your eyes to other parts of the world. You get to immerse yourself in a completely different culture and feel passionate about politics, conflicts, or news surrounding that country. Europeans have a slightly different lifestyle than Americans which is very interesting to see some of the contrasts. Europeans enjoy the simple pleasures of life and always make time to meet friends over a small coffee or savor a delicious raspberry tart without feeling guilty. You will mostly see Europeans sitting in a cafe for hours drinking coffee and reading the latest article on the Holland v. Sarkozy presidential debate or catching up with a friend. I really hope to incorporate these types of things into my everyday schedule when I get home.
Anyhow, our first day in Italy we arrive around 2pm and got settled into our hostel. We met Tyler and Livvy for dinner at the coliseum and picked a restaurant where you could see the coliseum from our window. It started to pour while we were eating. The rain had followed us everywhere on our trip. I bought a Rome travel book before we left for our trip so I read a description of a cute bohemian tea place in Rome. Everyone was very excited to go and once we got there, it was such a hidden treasure. I used the lonely planet Rome traveling book but I would agree that you should go by the book for some suggestions but other times you should try to find things on your own! Everyone’s tea came in personalized tea pots and we ordered a chocolate and ricotta cake for dessert. We headed back after tea to wake up early for our big day tomorrow.
Day 2: Crossing Rome by foot
This is the day that we crossed the entire city of Rome by foot! We were determined to get to Vatican City and the pouring rain didn’t stop us either! We met in front of the basilica steps at 9:30 and walked around the church for a little. We made our way to the pantheon and stayed inside to get warm. There was a hole in the ceiling of the pantheon because the Romans were afraid that the dome wouldn’t be strong enough to hold up itself. The rain was coming in from the ceiling. We tried to capture the rain falling on our cameras. We decided on a small tavern place for lunch. Jenn and I were determined to find the best cappuccino place in Rome. After lunch, we made our way to Vatican City. We stopped for some gelato on the way to get out of the rain for a bit. The rain cleared up and we sat in the Vatican gardens before heading into the sisteen chapel. We took some funny pictures in our touristy I heart Roma sweatshirts. We were all obsessed with jumping photos this trip. We took so many in Rome! By the end of the trip, we had no more energy to take anymore jumping photos. After the Vatican, we decided to go to the Tridente neighborhood for dinner. Tridente is a cool and hip neighborhood near the Spanish steps in Rome. It’s a great shopping area too! We went to a stationary store that was recommended in my book and was known for its “sexy stationary.” To our disappointment, the stationary was not so sexy and very expensive! These were the times that you can and cannot follow everything in the book. We were having trouble deciding on a good restaurant for dinner because it was hard for all of us to make up our minds. We finally decided on a small pizza and pasta place that looked quite popular. We ordered pizzas and caprese salads for dinner. I ordered a drink at dinner of which I spilled all over the table right after it came. I didn’t get a new drink and I even had to pay for it! After dinner, we checked out the roof of a very nice hotel that supposedly had a great overlooking view of Rome. (Another suggestion by the book) The hotel was beautiful but we felt like we weren’t dressed properly in our I heart Roma sweatshirts. The rooftop was very cool but we decided to go somewhere else because the drinks were too expensive. After a long day, we tried to take the metro home instead of walking back to our hostel. When we got to the metro the ticket booth was closed but we weren’t sure if there were machines further into the metro station. We found a police man and asked him how we could buy tickets. He told us, “no pay, no ticket, no problem.” We all started to laugh after he was gone but we weren’t sure how that was possible. We found out later that the metro wasn’t working and we had walked what seemed miles into the metro. We ended up walking home after all and we crashed on our beds after a long day.