Initial Impressions

8:45 AM Saturday
Sat next to a UN Peacekeeper headed to Sudan on the plane. WAAATTTTT. He’s a pilot and was also handsome, tan, and had a British accent. I briefly fell in love while we chatted about the politics of modern Africa, the effectiveness of the UN, and what to do with a geography degree (this was a step forward for bucket list item #7).

Then I watched a horrible romantic comedy starring Katherine Heigl (don’t they all?) in the hopes that I would fall asleep. I didn’t (you were right, Savannah).

BUT THEN I arrived in Amsterdam. This is the nicest airport I have ever been in. Not really a surprise there being as it is in the Netherlands but HOLY COW WOW. I wish I’d had my camera out while walking through it to my gate. Anyway, I’m officially feeling SUPER DUPER EXCITED because I’m looking at parking garages and little grocery stores in this airport and these rather mundane things are not so mundane when it is ANOTHER CONTINENT/COUNTRY. Everything is different. All the cars, all the foods, all the choice of foods, all the packaging, all the magazines. I love it.

8:45 AM Sunday

Je suis arrivee! My flight from Amsterdam to Marseille only took 1.5 hours – and they served sandwiches. KLM is almost as awesome as Virgin America. The UN Peacekeeper had remarked on the previous flight how ridiculous it was that the alcohol was $7. I said “… that’s how it always is.” But he informed me that on KLM flights everything is free (drinks, candy, food) and it’s self-service too. Sweet deal.

After landing in Marseille, I collected my bag (it’s now bent – thanks TSA) and saw a customs desk so stopped to ask where I got my OFII form signed (immigration/visa form, because it said on it to get it signed by customs in France). They had no idea what I was talking about and had me wait while they “did their job” – aka stop all the people who were not white and search their bags. After that, they took me to a policeman? Who didn’t know what was going on either. And I tried to translate “stamp” and eventually he got it and stamped my visa. France’s paperwork. Bizarre.

I met up with the IAU group and took the Navette (bus) into town. We met up with some teachers, one of which was from Seattle! He went to the UW, studied abroad in Aix, and never went back. He took a personal interest in me and drove me to my homestay. 🙂 It’s an apartment close to the old town (15 minute walk to school) and there’s a woman (Mme Ruffion) and two children. I ADORE FRENCH CHILDREN. I think I will have a French child when I’m older. Not an American one. They are the seriously THE CUTEST EVER. I will post a video soon.

Anyway, when I arrived, it was a birthday party for Ilhem (she was turning 8). So I observed a French birthday party. You’ll notice from the following picture that the cake is TINY and also FANCY (with cherries and white chocolate) and everyone gets a tiny piece and there’s candy too but the kids were not even interested. Weird. I stayed up as late as possible, listening to French conversations and trying to understand until I couldn’t stay up any later, then went to sleep.

I have a roommate also. Her name is Paige. She is nice. She doesn’t speak any French and I am her translator. This is all I know about her! 🙂

14:30 Sunday

In the morning, I showed Rayan (the boy) pictures from home and then helped both of the children with their homework. They are the easiest to talk to as they speak fairly simply and act things out if I don’t understand. But I am happily HAPPILY surprised at how much I can understand. And this is only the first (or second) day. So it can only get better from here! JE SUIS TRES HEUREUX.

My first breakfast in France

Ilhem et Rayan


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