June Update

Hello there. Yes, I’m still alive and living in France. Nothing terrible happened to me. I just haven’t gotten around to blogging for a couple months. Whoops.

Well, as you can imagine, a lot has happened in 3 months, so what better way to share it than 58 pictures?

During a 3 day weekend at the end of March, I went on a trip to the region of Alsace (in the north east) with the group of American students from Oregon universities and our program directors. First, we visited an outdoor ecomuseum and had a guided tour to learn about the history of Alsatian houses made of wooden frames and a filling consisting of straw and clay. The museum has houses that have been disassembled from different places all over the region and reconstructed there in order to preserve the building styles.

 

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A lot of the houses were similar to this one with beige walls and bright colored shutters and doors.

 

 

This was our tour guide for the afternoon. He knew Alsatian history quite well.

 

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Another place we visited in Alsace was the Haut-Kœnigsbourg castle. We had a guided tour with a really energetic guide, which was quite fun. She talked about how the castle had been destroyed and rebuilt through the centuries and how it had changed hands between the French and the Germans about 12 times.

This is a view from the path going up to the castle. It’s situated on top of a large hill which overlooks the valley around it, which is dotted with little villages.

 

 

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This is a model of the castle that you see when walking up to the entrance.

 

This fancy staircase entrance indicates that it leads to the castle lord’s room.

 

Murals on the walls tell the story of the castle’s owners.

 

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This was the trophy room.

 

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This was in the weapon room. I can’t remember what century the weapons are from.

 

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This is a large, ceramic heater for the room.

 

Here’s an array of medieval weapons. One of them was named “Bonjour”.

 

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It was too foggy to see into the valley, but the guide told us that on a clear day, it’s possible to see all the small villages surrounding the hill. Being up high on a hill was symbolic of the castle lord’s power and reign over the region.

 

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Here’s a cannon from 1526!

 

That must pack quite a punch.

 

We had lunch at a classic Alsatian restaurant, and they served us a seafood and sauerkraut special. It was so much food, but it was tasty.

 

Here’s a shot of a little touristy town we stopped in.

 

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Again, in this town, you can see the same type of architecture with the wooden frames and X’s.

 

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Hi! It was chilly so most people were still wearing winter gear even though it was March.

 

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This is a nunnery we stayed at called Mont Sainte-Odile Abbey. We slept and ate here in between adventures. It was originally founded in 690 and restored several times through history. It was rebuilt in 1661 after a fire. Inside, there is a modern hotel and restaurant, but there are still many remnants of its history.

 

Proof I was there.

 

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This hollow tree was pretty cool, so I had to get a picture inside it.

 

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This is a mural inside the nunnery.

 

Here’s the monastery courtyard.

 

Another angle in the courtyard.

 

Yet another angle facing the chapel entrance.

 

Another place we visited in Alsace was the city of Colmar. It’s one of the largest cities in Alsace and has some very well preserved areas of old buildings.

 

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This is one of the very fancy buildings in Colmar. I can’t remember the history behind it.

 

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Here you can see more of that Alsatian architecture style.

 

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This cathedral was amazing. I think it dates back to the 1100s. I loved the coloring on the stone blocks from age.

 

Here’s a look at the arch above the entrance to the cathedral.

 

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Here’s a line of houses and boutiques near the river.

 

More houses.

 

The road is made up of small cobblestones.

 

More houses. They appeared in all sorts of colors.

 

Here’s me with a statue.

 

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We had free time, so I decided to find a museum. I went to the local art museum with some friends. This huge exhibit was by a painter that illustrated the entire story of Jesus’s crucifixion.

 

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I don’t remember what this was supposed to be, but the sculpting was impressively detailed.

 

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Ancient keys.

 

A large painting in the museum.

 

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I went to a board game day put on by a board game association. It was located just outside of Lyon. I went with my host dad, and we played a couple games. One of them was Arctic Scavengers, which was pretty fun. It’s made by the same people that made Dominion.

 

Here’s a look at the room. I think there were about 20 or so people that came to play games.

 

Here’s the pile of games people brought.

 

Here are more games. I played Archipelago, Puerto Rico and Myrmes. Puerto Rico was actually in German, and we had a sheet of French translations. That was tricky to learn.

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Puerto Rico in German.

 

Playing Puerto Rico.

 

The health warning on cigarettes is pretty blatant. “Fumer tue” means “Smoking kills.”

 

Duck and carrots for dinner at home. It was delicious.

 

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That’s a gigantic 5 kg chunk of cheese at the supermarket.

 

It was finally sunny one day! It was apparently one of the coldest and wettest springs in many years.

 

My host mom made homemade frites (fries) one night!

 

My host mom went to the outdoor market to buy some fresh cheese. I love the cheeses here.

 

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Mussels! I’ve learned to love them while I’ve been here.

 

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This is our group of American students that went on the Alsace trip.

I’ve officially finished all my classes except my “French as a foreign language” class. I’ve got a couple weeks to hang out, and then my parents and some friends show up to travel France with me. Feel free to shoot me questions here in the comments or on Facebook! Thanks for following my adventures.

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I knew I had been putting off writing a blog post, but I didn’t realize it had been 3 months!

January went by quickly. I had a couple weeks left of the first semester and had exams at the end of the month. At the end of January, there was also a “Vacances de ski”, which literally means “ski vacation.” After the craziness of school, I just felt like hanging out in town and relaxing a bit, so that’s what I did.

At the beginning of February, I started a new semester. I also switched from the 3rd year classes to 4th year. I was a bit sad to leave my 3rd year friends that I had made, but once my French had improved, the classes were too easy since I had already taken most of them.

Fortunately, as soon as I started 4th year classes, I started several group projects. That helped me get to know some people right away. The 4th year classes ramped up quickly, but it was fun to have a challenge.

At home, a new exchange student from Colombia arrived. She would be staying for 2 months. Having already been here for 6 months, I was able to answer lots of questions and show her around town a bit.

Since my host mom is a chef and is involved with the local Korean school, she decided to host a Korean cooking workshop. She invited me, so I went. We prepared fish, omelettes, a and sauce for tofu. We also had algae soup and kimchi with it. It was delicious.

In February, I went skiing one weekend with a group of friends from school. We went to a resort called Sept Laux in the Alps. I haven’t skiied since I was really little, so I had to completely relearn how to do it. I had a lot of fun learning with some of the people I went with. I made some spectacular faceplants, but after lunch, I really started to get the hang of it and had a lot of fun!

The weather has been quite cold lately, and we get snow and hail here and there. It has been fun to see more snow than we normally get in Oregon.

Sometimes when I’m at the store or in class or chatting with friends, I have this realization of “Whoa, I’m speaking French. Whoa, I know what I’m doing here.” Now that I’ve adjusted to the language and culture, living here is a lot more fun!

Ok, picture time.

Escargots! I’ve eaten snails several times now, and they’re pretty good.

This is the deli cheese case at the tiny grocery store near my apartment. The bread an cheese sections are huge considering the size of the store. The French like their bread and cheese.

This is “Small World”, a fun board game I played with my host Dad. I’ve also tried a couple other games with him like “London” and “Endeavor.” I remember trying to play a game at the beginning of the school year, and I didn’t even know the words for “throw the dice”, “draw a card”, etc. It goes much faster now.

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My host family got a cheese plate full of all sorts of cheese. They were all delicious. So far my favorite is “Tomme Noire Des Pyrénées.”

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I’ve had hamburger patties quite a bit since it’s fairly common in France. In French, it’s called “steak haché.” People rarely ever eat them in a hamburger though. Apparently, that’s an American thing.

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Snow on campus!

I found a small ramen place run by a couple, and it is ridiculously good. I’ve been several times, and it’s always amazing.

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Walking around downtown, I saw this band playing. Especially on weekends, you often see performance groups playing downtown since there are a lot of people out and about.

This is a picture of the city from Fourvière when I went with the Colombian exchange student, Sury. There was no fog down in the city, but once we got to the top of the hill, everything was hidden by the fog.

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This is where we prepared food for the Korean cooking workshop.

All the food finished and ready to eat at the Korean cooking workshop.

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My host family and I went to a restaurant called Le Petit Dauphin, which serves North African cuisine — particularly couscous with different types of meat and sauces.

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This was the small beginner’s slope at the ski resort. My biggest problem at first was that I kept getting too much speed and didn’t know how to stop without wiping out. Once I figured that out, I graduated to a longer ski run.

This is a “tele-ski”. You put the little seat between your legs and it pulls you up the slope.

The weather was absolutely incredible when I went skiing. With the sun beating down on us, I had to remove a sweater I had on because it was too hot! The view from the mountain across the valley was beautiful.

A shot of the top of the mountain.

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This is looking down one of the slopes. It was the first semi-steep slope I took, and I actually managed to stay upright for awhile.

This is one of the lodges on the mountain where you can rent skis.

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Proof that I was actually there!

We stopped for lunch on the side of one of the slopes. I have never been so hungry for a sandwich. Skiing for 4 hours was exhausting.

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My skis.

Another shot of the Alps.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is me and a guy named Tobias that stayed with us for two weeks. We had escargot with him one night. My host mom tries to make something typically French each time sometime comes to stay. Since I’ve been here all year while other students have cycled in and out, I’ve gotten to try all sorts of things.

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Hey all. It’s been a month since my last update, and I have a couple fun things to share.

November started off well. My class schedule changed a bit, and it was a lot easier. That gave me a bit more free time, and I’ve been enjoying that. I’ve been here for three and a half months now, and Lyon definitely feels like home. It’s hard to believe I’ve only been here for a third of the time I’ll be here. It feels like I’ve done a lot already. Anyways, I’m enjoying it.

During November, I celebrated Thanksgiving. My exchange program had a Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant for all the students in the program. It was a fun evening with good food. Here are some pictures:

Here’s the pumpkin soup we had.
 

And here’s the dessert. I forgot to take a picture of the main entree. It was turkey and potatoes.

My host family has hosted many American students, so they got into the tradition of having a Thanksgiving dinner each year. My host mom told me to invite some friends and we’d have a large Thanksgiving dinner. It definitely lived up to my expectations. I invited some French friends over and ate a delicious meal that my host mom prepared. She used some of the recipes I got from my mom, so the meal tasted just like a normal Thanksgiving back home!

Here are some pictures:

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My host mom had to consult with a butcher a few weeks in advance in order to get a large turkey. They’re not available in France until Christmas time.
 

Here, I’m preparing the turkey to be cooked. The German exchange student staying with us helped out, too.
 

A delicious pumpkin pie.
 

Another pie with carmelized apples and cranberries. It was quite good.
 

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The stuffed turkey all finished!
 

Here, I’m giving an explanation of Thanksgiving in the US and some of our traditions. My host family has their American exchange students do this each year because their French friends don’t usually know much about Thanksgiving.
 

Around the beginning of December, I went to Place Bellecour, a large plaza downtown, and saw this huge ferris wheel all lit up.
 

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A view from my balcony of the snow we had for a few days
 

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A view of a nearby tram station while it was snowing. I take the tram there every morning to get to school.
 

Me on campus in the snow! It was freezing that day.
 

Steak and cauliflower for dinner.
 

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Wow, time has flown by. It’s already November, and I’ve been here for two full months. I didn’t have nearly as many wild adventures in October because I mostly settled into my normal routine with school and living at home. I’m feeling much better integrated into French culture now, and I’m quite comfortable with the language. One new thing I did was I went ice skating a couple times with some friends.

Feel free to ask me some questions about France if you want. Here are some pictures:

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Here are some carmelized bananas we had for dessert one night. My host mom put sugar on the banana slices and used a blow torch to heat them up right in front of us.

 

Here’s a delicious crêpe that I got from a food stand downtown.

 

This shot is inside the T1 tram that I take to school everyday. The tram comes about every 6 minutes in the morning. It only takes me about 10 minutes to get to campus from the tram stop near my place. Including the walking to the tram stop and from the other tram stop to school, it takes me about 20-25 minutes to get to school. The tram is often VERY full in the morning, so I have to make sure I get there early so I don’t have to wait for multiple full trams to pass.

 

This is what a standard french sandwich looks like. They always use baguettes, which I find delicious! This particular sandwich is chicken, mayo, lettuce and pickles. I got this at a food stand in the Part-Dieu mall when I was doing some shopping.

 

This is a shot of the middle of the Part-Dieu shopping mall. There are a million stores in this mall. It’s the biggest downtown shopping center in Europe with 1.5 million sq. ft. containing 302 shops. It gets ~55 million visitors per year. I managed to find some new jeans that fit. Yay.

 

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We always have a cheese plate at home, and my host family replaces cheeses that we finish with new kinds. I’ve been able to try all kinds of cheese. One of my favorites so far is Caprice des Dieux.

 

This was dinner one night when we had foie gras.

 

This is a photo of my school I took one morning. Before the DST shift, it was always pitch dark when I left in the morning, and the sun would come up on my way to school. Now, the sunrise is a little bit earlier, but it’s getting later as it gets closer to winter.

 

I went for a long walk one afternoon, and I found this small plaza with a pond. It was a nice area. Lots of people were out walking.

 

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This is a picture of the skating rink when I went the first time. It was during the Toussaint holiday, which is a week of vacation for all French students, so it was really busy. I didn’t fall, but I didn’t go very fast either.

 

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Yum. Steak and veggies for dinner.

 

French croissant. So delicious.

 

This is the skating rink when I went the second time. I was much more comfortable on the ice the second time. This time was an event through the diversity group at my school that tries to get exchange students better integrated with the french students at the school. I had fun chatting with them while skating.

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Last weekend, I went to a game convention called “Octogônes” with my host dad. He’s really into board games, and we’ve gone to a couple soirées of playing board games with some other guys. It’s pretty fun, and it’s a great way to practice french, too.

I knew it was going to be a bigger event than our 5-8 people parties, but I didn’t realize there would be hundreds of people.

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This photo is a bit blurry, but it’s the best one I have to show how big the event was. There were about 5 other areas this size packed with people. Each area had certain types of activities including Magic the Gathering, Board Games, Figurine Games, Figurine Painting and Role Playing.
 

Once we arrived, we couldn’t find anyone that wasn’t already playing a game, so Denis and I played Ticket to Ride (Aventuriers du Rail en français).

The next game I played was a protoype by a company that was promoting games. The idea of the game was that you have an ant hill, and you have to go out and collect resources. You can also fight bugs and upgrade your ant hill. I thought it was a clever game, but it was complex enough that forming a strategy during the first game was tough.

 
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This is a shot of my board in the ant game. Each player has their own ant hill card.

 

This model boat gives you an idea of how detailed some of the custom figure landscapes were. I was pretty impressed by the artwork.

 

These are someone’s Warhammer figurines.
 

Archipelago was the last game I played. It’s a unique game because everyone has an objective card that has a condition. If the condition is achieved, the game ends. In the game, you can buy and sell on the market, explore more of the island, hire workers, and collect resources. It was pretty fun.

I only got through four games during the afternoon because everyone was new to the games except Ticket to Ride. We spent a lot of time learning the rules to each game.

I was surprised that I could follow along fairly well when people were explaining the rules of games. My french comprehension is certainly improving! It’s nice to not have to ask “what?” 10 different times in a conversation.

Hope you all are doing well. ^^