June 17, 2014 (Day 148)

“Welcome back!!!”

I’ve heard that quite a few times over the past couple weeks. It’s hard to believe I have only been home 4 weeks! It feels like it has been much longer. It feels almost as if I never left. The only way I can describe this short interlude and how it felt on me is as a sort of purgatory. I have been caught between two great loves of my life, and it hasn’t been easy to sort out which one I like better or understand better or fit in to better. Both, of course, have their pros and cons. And wow, what a hard life, being stuck between living in Southern California or living in Paris.

My life is obviously so difficult.

Home is good. Southern California has always been my home, and will be for at least a while longer. I’m comfortable there and I feel safe. I’m in my element and I can talk to people whenever I want without fear of mixing up words or sounding like a child when I speak. I can walk into a restaurant not afraid I am going to order the live snails or something. People understand me in SoCal and I understand them. It’s my second nature. I can live without having to think about it every single day. The beaches are beautiful and warm. Beach towns and american coffee are things I missed the most while in Paris. But then I think of how much I miss Paris; more specifically how much I miss being surrounded by art. SoCal doesn’t have the art like Paris does. It doesn’t have charming bistros and beautiful buildings. It doesn’t have the energy that Paris has. I yearn for that energy and the effect is has on me. Paris will just always have a piece of my heart.

But it is a struggle even still. Paris has great attributes about it; such as fantastic amounts of art and history literally dripping from that city. You will never find a place with a more interesting history (in my humble opinion.) You could spend an entire lifetime trying to learn and understand the centuries of history that came from this city, not to mention what a huge role it plays in world history. It has such a charm and beauty to it that you will not find anywhere else. The streets of Paris have always felt safe and (for the most part) welcoming no matter what time of day/night it is. And, not only is there a vast history to Paris, but there is also constantly new art and history being made there, making it not only appeal to the old souls, but to the younger generations as well. The French culture just seems to make sense to me. The way they go about their day and what they value versus what Americans value, the French have a completely different view. They have and appreciate real things. Real relationships, real buildings, real food, real emotions… It’s all there. Americans can be very shallow and not look for a relationship past a drinking pal or just a brief friend. Once you make friends with a Frenchman, you are bonded for life. You can’t back out of that relationship, no matter how hard you try. I try to understand what I can about their culture, but while I was there, it was hard to adjust to this completely different way of culture and life, not to mention the language. And so what if I want to drink a coffee while walking, could you stop with the weird stares, PLEASE? Or if i’m a little loud on the metro, or wearing tennis shoes instead of suede Michael Kors? I’m not an alien. I’m just American.

So, I guess, I appreciate the French and I love their culture, but I think I will always be an American at heart, no matter where i’m living. Southern California will always be my home and maybe one day Paris will be too. They both make me feel safe and comfortable in their own ways. In the end, I have two homes. California and Paris will both always have a piece of my heart, teaching me to enjoy the moment that i’m in and appreciate the good while i’m in one, and look forward to the good that is to come.

May 6,2014 (Day 106)

Awesome day! Had a french teacher at the school that the kid’s I babysit attend, teach me how to make a boat out of paper. She was very sweet and asked me where I came from and stuff. She explained all the instructions in French, and I actually UNDERSTOOD. Also, most of the day with the kids I babysit, I actually understood what they were saying to me! It was a very good day to understand soo much and be able to respond. :)

May 4, 2014 (Day 104)

Bonjour tout le monde!

How is everyone? Good I hope! I have been great as well. Very busy and so many things have happened since we last talked! It’s hard for a non-writer to keep up a blog like this. But I really have been trying.

Spring break was probably the biggest event to take place over these past few weeks. We started on a train to Rome. We left at about 2:30 in the afternoon on a wonderful first class journey from Paris to the north of Italy. It was beautiful scenery and a smooth journey. I wish we could have stayed there for the whole journey, but instead we had to transfer trains. The second train was a complete opposite from the first. Instead of mounds of space and a beautiful window seat, I got put in a room with 5 other Italians all facing each other in our little 6 person pod. People were yelling at each other (in Italian) and trying to sleep and trying to open a window or what not, and I just sat there with the most understanding and careless face I could manage (didn’t want to look like a complete tourist.) It wasn’t the worst train ride ever, but I probably got an hour and a half of sleep that night. We arrived at 6 am and went straight to the hostel to drop our things off and get our day started! We did all the normal touristy things and really had a great time! We spent sunday (Easter) at the Vatican for mass. The pope spoke and I got to hear him speak! He is so cool. Mass was really incredible even if I didn’t know what was happening most of the time. We made some american friends while waiting in line who ended up sitting behind us during mass as well. There were something like 150,000 people at mass the Vatican that day. Way too many. Monday, we headed to Sorrento. We spent our time lounging around on the beach, eating gelatto and sea food for all meals of the day. Not a whole lot to do there, but it was so relaxing and reminded me a lot of home. The water was crystal clear and the sun was so warm. It was one of my favorite places i’ve ever been. Next was Florence. We saw the Duomo of course and spent some time shopping at the leather market here. It was really beautiful and again, one of the coolest places i’ve been. Last was Venice. We didn’t do a whole lot here except ride in a gondola with a man who would say, “Hello, sorry, excuse me…..” When he was trying to tell us some history about the city or something. He sounded like he was going to yell at us for something, but he ended up being very nice. Great time there as well, even if there wasn’t a whole lot to do either. We had thee BEST gelatto here. It was from somewhere called “Cà d’oro.” It was so good that we had it 3 times in 2 days. Worth it. For our trip back, we took a sleeper train. It was actually quite nice to be able to spread out, and lay down. We also didn’t have to go through any security lines or wait 2 hours for our train to leave. I much preferred it to flying. And in fact, I only took trains all week and I didn’t spend an obscene amount on travel. I highly recommend it.

By the end of our week, I could not wait to return to Paris. Could not wait to get back to familiarity and to not traveling everyday. It was the greatest morning ever, stepping off an overnight train and seeing Paris under the rain again.

Anyways, school is coming to a close now. We only have one more week and then finals. It really started to set in today how much I am going to miss living here, in Paris. Yes, yes. I am coming back technically, but I will not be living in the city. Yes, I will be close, but no I won’t be living in the hustle and bustle of it all. It makes me very sad that my friends from here are leaving as well and that I really don’t know the next time I will see them. I have grown to love them a lot and going through this journey together has made us just that much closer. I know that they are incredibly sad to be leaving this beautiful city as well. I have never had the chance to live in a place that I have felt so much of a connection to. I know Paris like the back of my hand at this point. It really does feel like home. Paris is my home and she will always have a piece of my heart. I’m going to miss the crowded sidewalks and the stinky metro, the cold/windy days and the dog “treats” in my path. I’m also going to miss lazy sundays with friends and visiting a new museum everyday. I’m going to miss street performers and aspiring artists. Paris can not be described with just a few breif descriptions. It would take a lifetime to try and understand how this one city has brought hope and joy to so many dreamers young and old. I will miss it.

2 more weeks until my flight. Lots of mixed emotions. À bientot! :)

-Presston 

April 11, 2014 (Day 81)

Hey everyone! Sorry it has been so long, there is some kind of internet bug going around France that is shutting down everyones wifi. But I have it for the moment so hey. 

Today was an awesome day and never have I ever felt so Parisian. Katie and Alice’s friend and sister are visiting right now and we wanted to do something fun on this beautiful day. We decided we would go to the eiffel tower and have a picnic! We spent the ENTIRE day on the grass near the eiffel tower just talking and taking pictures. It was a really relaxing day and I forgot what it felt like to feel hot. The weather has been so cold up until today when the sun was blazing so hot! We just got home and I discovered that I got VERY sunburnt. VERY. So that’s fun. I don’t mind it though, it’s reminding me of home. We had a wonderful day there though with some champagne and some sandwiches. 

The sun is starting to be out more and more and I can’t say that i’ve ever seen anything quite so beautiful. The way the light hits the buildings and the way it sets overt the city is breathtaking. Everyone is starting to come out more and sit outside of cafés and drink coffee or a beer with friends. People are crowding the parks and sitting by the Seine. The city is coming more and more alive everyday and it’s like nothing I have seen in America. I love it here. I can’t wait to spend the summer here.

Time to get some sleep and rub some lotion on my sunburn. À plus!

-Presston

March 31, 2014 (Day 70)

So I feel the need to post this for possible future study abroaders. It’s really important to realize that not everything is black and white here. There is a lot of things that you have to figure out for yourself that no one can prepare you for. It may be hard for you and it may be easy. I thought it would be easy for me, but I’m going through a really rough patch right now. I want to know French so bad. I lay awake at night trying to conjugate verbs in my head and string together long sentences that end up only a few words long. I use as much free time as humanly possible studying French note cards or using French language apps on my phone to try and get this language down. Trying to even get a small enough grasp on it to hold a simple conversation. It’s hard. It’s very very hard. For me. For some, it really has come unfairly easy to them, and I envy them. I want so bad to be able to go out into the world and use my French talking to as many people as possible. But when I have to talk to people in person or respond to a question even, I either can’t understand them or I don’t know the words I need to respond. It’s incredibly frustrating when I have been here and studying so hard to try and learn, and i’m hitting this brick wall. Maybe I just need to get out there and stop second guessing myself, maybe I just need to study harder? I don’t know… and it is making me frustrated and tired. I do think sometimes that I know more than I give myself credit for, but I just keep second guessing myself. Maybe just going out one Friday night to a bar by myself, I should just go sit and try and talk to some French people? Maybe i am just relying on my American friends too much. But then I get upset because I think that people get frustrated by how slow I speak? Or how choppy it is? I’m going to talk to one of my favorite CEA staff members tomorrow and see what she thinks. She’s given me good advice in the past on this subject and i’m going to go see what she says. So for anyone traveling to a foreign country that doesn’t speak English or if you’re studying abroad in a foreign country, be prepared for at least some difficulties and try not to get discouraged like I am…

Also, making friends in foreign countries. Figuring out how the people here think, what they think is funny or revolting or offensive, is very important. It’s not such an easy task, but it is possible. I’m finding a struggle here not being able to make friends with people I really wanted to. I don’t know if it’s the cultural aspect or the language or what, but that’s another thing that is really killing me right now. I feel aweful when I am supposed to be learning French and speaking French to the French people in their French country, but we talk in English most of the time because they know we don’t speak that well. I try and then fail when I speak to them in French. And then I get reserved and don’t talk at all. I really just don’t know what is going on with me right now, but I’m going to talk to a friend tomorrow. 

Have a great day everyone

-Presston K

March 29, 2014 ( Day 68)

Hey everyone! How’s everyone doing? It’s been a while.

So I got to go to london this past weekend! It was a really great experience. I finally got to speak english again without being reserved about it. I was just talking to everyone I could, asking how their days were and everything. And I learned that people don’t say thank you. Say “cheers,” like your taking a shot or a drink or something. I held the door open for people and they say cheers and I was very confused. Anyways, I got to visit my friend Sara in Roehampton, near London. It was a really great weekend! She took me around to all her favorite sights and I even got to try Fish and Chips! :D YUM. They were really good and I got a London original brewed beer to go with it. It was so nice to order in English. I love being in France and all and practicing my French, but it was nice to not have to worry about ordering something and not knowing what is actually going to end up in front of you. Other than that, we got to see parliament and Big Ben. Parliament was waaaay smaller than it looks in movies. But Big Ben looks how you think it would. :) It was incredibly cold the whole weekend. One night it even hailed. So, because it was warm in Paris, I packed summer clothes for London. It was VERY cold. We ended up going to a store where I bought some clothes for surprisingly cheap. That was really nice too because everything in Paris is SO expensive. While in London, we also went to the TATE modern. I think that’s how you spell it? Well, it was free and really nice! They had some really awesome pieces by Picasso and Matisse. We hardly had enough time to see the whole place. The other museum we went to was the National Gallery Museum. They had BEAUTIFUL impressionist pieces, from Monet to Seurat. I really wish I had a couple more hours to spend in there. We also went to Buckingham palace! And that was my weekend. 

Otherwise, this week has been really great! Been getting pretty busy with school. Sorry for not posting for so long! I’ll try to make some time. 

Till next time!

-Presston