Saturday, September 29, 2012

Busy Like Always

Today exactly marks my one month milestone here in France!

I've been observing some differences of Louhans and Canmore, my town in Canada, and there are many I would like to share.  I'm glad that I wrote my thoughts down on a paper since the beginning of September, because day by day, these differences around me seem more familiar and it is becoming more difficult for me to recognize them!

First topic is the lycée.  The length of the hours at school are different depending on the classes a student has that day.  Unlike Canmore, I end lycée either at 17h, 18h (twice), 12h, and 16h.  (I still have to look at my time table to see what I have everyday.)  I thought lycée would always end 18h for all the days, but I'm thankful that it's not true!

Since lycée ends by dinner time, there are not many lycée-organized after-school activities.  There is apparently a badminton and hand-ball team, but there are no other sport teams, musical band, etc.  Instead, the students involve themselves in extracurricular activities that are non lycée-related.  Of course there are lots of activities provided even in this small community like football (aka: soccor), martial arts, theatre/drama, music, etc.  I decided to join the karaté club (I was a brown belt in Canada), and the youth orchestra at the music school (I play the flute), so I am already busy!  Although the language barrier still exists, I feel so great to be around with people who have similar interests!

At the lycée, there is an infirmerie (school infirmary), cantine (cafeteria where most students eat the lunch made there), internat (where students known as "internats" sleep Monday to Thursday nights like boarding school students), and an etude (a room where students must go and study for minimum 2 hours per week during their breaks).  Within the classrooms of the lycée, there are both white boards and chalk boards and only one electronic board (in the art plastiques room).  Speaking about technology, students here are forbidden to use any kind of it during class.  (I think that includes graphing calculators in mathematiques!)  There are computers, but they are strictly used only for research and art-technology.

The clothing worn by a typical teenager for lycée is not that different from a Canadian student.  However here in France, no one wears athletic clothing like yoga sweaters, tops, pants, sneakers etc., except in gym class.  Everyone almost wears jean pants everyday.  Also, leather jackets and pants seems like the fashion here!  (Haha, of course I have one too, but just the jacket!)

For the village in general, I think one of the biggest difference is about the time stores are open!  Usually in Canada, Sundays are one of the most busiest days of the week!  Most of the stores here on Sundays are closed, including supermarkets!  My host-mother said to me that Sundays is the day of relaxing for everyone.

There are lots of fences and hedges that surround individual properties.  Also, many windows have exterior shutters that always close at night.  An old man once explained to me that some people don't want to show their house to others; particularly the burglars.  I believe that the people here are more protective of their own possessions than Canada since my host family stressed the importance of always locking the gates and doors of our house and shutting all windows by dusk.

Below are some photos of me and my current host family at the Chateau in Pierre-en-Bresse which is close to Louhans.  It was so beautiful!  There, I learned that the Bressan territory began to take form during the christian and feudal period in the IXth century, and during the XIIIth century, many castles and churches were established into villages, turning them into market towns like Louhans!

Symbolic statues and elegant structure of the roofs
Lovely design of the rails and water surrounding the Chateau
The wood construction of a typical Bressan house
Raw and organic materials used to build walls and floors for houses
My 6 year old host brother and I being funny

September has been an adventurous month for me, and I am glad that I am finally creating a schedule full of events and activities to keep myself busy.  I now truly feel like a citizen here in Louhans and not a tourist.  I would like to thank the Rotary Club of Louhans Bresse Bourguignonne for covering the costs for these activities, and my current host family for letting me be part of the community and showing me other places.

Below are more photos of my friends and I hanging out together to play ping-pong:

Left to Right: French, Mexican, German, Canadian

Playing ping-pong at my friend's house
I never knew how tired you can get after playing ping-pong and talking French all day...

Until next time!

ps: once again, I'm on the newspaper but this time including the other (AND the only other) three exchange student of my lycée!  We're all in the same class!

Sunday, September 16, 2012


Yesterday, I went to Dijon which is a city in Bourgogne (Burgundy) with some new friends and parents.  It was incredibly fun because this was the first time I spent an entire day in a large city and be that typical tourist: Travel on the TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse... aka: French high speed train), walk down the city centre, shop in boutiques, sample taste Dijon's famous mustard, drool after looking at displays of bright coloured macaroons... you know. 
It was pure heaven.

It was the annual "open house" of public buildings in France, also known as the journées du patrimoine.  Therefore, the admission fees of musuems today were free or less expensive, and the TGV all-day pass only costed 5€ within Bourgogne!  Donc parfait pour moi!

Dijon's TGV Station
It was really neat to experience a lively day in the city and see some differences between here and cities in Canada.  For example, the streets were narrower, the buildings were REALLY old, and there were more action happening outside than inside stores.  I even recognized some differences between Dijon and my tiny village such as that the people of Dijon were dressed with a more haute-couture style then the citizens in my country-side village.

In the morning, we strolled in the city centre shopping and after, ate lunch in the Jardin Darcy which was very beautiful.  Later, we went to the Musée des Beaux-arts, the Notre-Dame, then to an exhibition of a French writer, painter and sculpter named Henri Vincenot. (In fact, my lycée is named after him!) 

Exposition de Henri Vincenot

Inside Musée des Beaux-arts

Who said we can't be One Direction?

Walking in the city centre

Some of my new friends ♪

I just want to thank all my new friends here in France because you all are the reason why homesickness hasn't hit me yet, and I am so grateful to be here with all of you! ♥

Je tiens à remercier tout le monde d'être mon ami, et c'est grace a vous que je n'ai pas le mal du pays! ♥

Gros Bisous!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

I'm Famous!

Now, it's clear that almost everyone in Louhans know that I am here after reading this article in their local newspaper:  I'M FAMOUS!  (kinda? nay? ... well I'm just too happy.)
So Sari, can you read that? you may ask.  Well my answer is yes, the first half very clearly, but then a little itsy bitsy here and there and... uhm... the rest must be something good anyways.
The first week of lycée is done, and WOW, it went by really quickly!  I've already met so many students who are really open and kind.  It is so surprising because I remember being told that my first week of exchange would probably be the hardest especially with the homesickness factor... but thanks to be with a wonderful host family and my numerous new friends, my stay here is truly awesome!  Like the Rotexes recommended, I am keeping myself very busy every minute, so I already feel that time is flying by quickly.  (To answer my Canadian friend's question,) yes, I do get a lot of stares filled with curiousity from students at my lycée and even in the village, and that makes my experience more interesting!  After all, I am the only Japanese or Canadian student or citizen here - not kidding!
Since the workload of Première L Français is obviously WAAAAYYYY too difficult (and not to mention, impossible,) to do by only using my current petit knowledge of French, I decided to do some extra French 6eme, 5eme (grade 6 & 7 level) exercise sheets given to me specially by my prof.  But sadly, I realized after looking at the very first page that they were too difficult as well.  After that disappointing pause, I shamefully dug into my suitcase and found my English-explained-ultra-basic-for-dummies-like-workbook brought from Canada, and decided to do that first.  That is where I am right now.
I hope in the meantime, my French will become better!
A bientôt,

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

First Day of Lycée!!!

To my own amazement (and most likely yours as well), the first day at my lycée (aka. French high school) was really great!

Of course my opinion may change a little or perhaps drastically once I receive homework and my new friends have less time to socialize, but I talked with so many students who are friends with my host sister, and they were very nice!  I was able to ACTUALLY SPEAK FRENCH!  It seemed unreal how my voice slipped out simple French phrases which they understood.  Some students told me that they were impressed with my french, so it really made me feel confident.  My happiness exploded like fireworks when I knew I made connections with students who I will hopefully spend the entire year with.

I had the choice to either enroll in Première or Terminale (I will explain later) and with that, either in the category, L for literature, S for science, and ES for economics & social.  So with lots of time and consideration, I decided to take Première L (Literature), which is like grade 11 in Canada, but more focus in languages, philosophy and literature rather than science, math and economics.  In Canada, I took a science & math focused course load in grade 11, so the classes I will have here in France will be definitely different and new. 

If you don't know how the French academic grade/year system works, I will try to explain it here.  Kindergarten is called ècole maternelle, and children from age 3 to 5 can attend it.  It is optional, but most children take it.  After, it is elementary school which is called ècole élémentaire for children usually aged 6 to 10.  Collège is like middle school, for students aged 11 to 14, then lycée for 15 to 18.  It is mandatory for all youth to just attend élémentaire and collège, but of course most of the population take it all to continue their education to achieve their favourable future career.

There is a weird difference between the names of France and Canada's academic years.  For example, Canada's "grade 6" is equivalent to France's "sixieme", meaning '6th year'.  However, "grade 7" would be called "cinquième", meaning 5th year.  As we go higher in the grades, the Canadian names would simply go from 1 to 12 but for France specially from grade 6 to 11, will be named like a countdown; 6,5,4,3...  So that is why grade 11 is called premiere here, because it is the 'first year'.  And finally, grade 12 is uniquely called terminale

Another thing that really confused me at first was the term collège.  When I heard that there was a college also at my lycée, I thought there would be a lot of students who have graduated from terminale and continue their education through post-secondary... so basically lots of older people.  (For those in France, the term 'college' in Canada means a higher institution for students wanting to study general education like trades work... not middle school!)  So when I asked my host-mother what the average age of collège students were, I was so surprised when she said normally, "oh... around 11 to 14".  I even asked her again if that was normal, and she looked at me like if I was crazy.  (Like come on! It seemed unbelievable that there were younger children who were taking higher levels of education then me!)  And of course I finally realized that I was wrong when I saw tons of kids at my lycée today.  C'est ma vie.

So after all, I am taking: Français, Anglais, Histoire & Geographie, Latin, Espagnol (Spanish!), and some others that I can't even understand.  Today at school, all I did was attend the entire morning with my professeur principal understanding the rules regulations of the lycée, get to know my classmates who never changes through the entire year, attend English class which was of course really easy, then have free time from 15h till 18h (France uses the 24hr clock) at the school since there were no options that day. I would have had art plastiques, but just for today, I hung out with some of my classmates and they gave me a little tour within the school property.  (IT'S TRUE my Canadian friends! SCHOOL STARTS AT 8H AND ENDS AT 18H... so I finish by 6pm.)  It was a very long day!  So I have around 17 students in my class, and 2 of them are exchange students from Germany, the other from Mexico, all girls!  I am lucky to be in the same class as them, because I think we're the only exchangers in the entire lycée...

I hope everyone in Canada is doing well, and have a fantastic start of their academic year!
Pour le moment, bonne nuit!


ps: sorry! no photographs of the school or students within school property, because it is apparently against the law to take pictures of students there etc.  It's complicated!

pss: but... I went to the famous Bresse Monday Market in Louhans, and here are some pictures:

There were tons of different stands
Many people come from out of town to sell or buy products
Lots of interesting displays
Everything of course is sold in Euros
Famous Bresse Chickens ...notice their blue legs?

Lots of fresh and healthy looking vegetables and fruits!