Wednesday, March 31, 2010

This whole school thing is getting in the way of my life...

Well yesterday morning I had my French oral exam. I had to speak in French for 10 minutes! Ahhh! I was shaking I was so nervous! But I made it out alive without throwing up or passing out so that's good! I had to spell my first and last name, tell her what the date was yesterday, talk about myself and my family, and talk about the United States (she gave us a list of possible things she would ask us) Let me just remind you though that she's asking me all of this in French so it wasn't that simple. I've definitely learned French since I've been here, but since all of my classes are taught in English and I speak English to all of my friends I haven't learned as much as I thought I would. I wish I knew more French, but I definitely wouldn't trade it for the friendships I've made with Anna (from Sweden) and the Finnish girls :)

Our afternoon class was International Tourism and it was the first day of our presentations. Each group was given a specific destination to research and we had to write a paper and make a powerpoint presentation about the tourism within the destination. Luckily I did not have to present yesterday (I'll be presenting on Tuesday) because the professor (who doesn't even deserve the title!) was SO rude to all of the groups that presented. She interrupted people while they were in the middle of talking to criticize them. Our class has more or less become a family since we've been here so were were all getting really mad and defending each other.
We are not required to dress up for our presentations, so most people don't dress up. One of the guys, however, did dress up in a suit and tie. She called a girl out in front of the entire class (who was in the suit & tie's group) and said she was dressed poorly, had bad posture, and wasn't presenting the work correctly. She was dressed the same as everyone else who presented besides the guy standing next to her. Regardless of what the teacher thought, she shouldn't have said it in front of the entire class. When she interrupts a person to criticize them it throws them off track of what they were talking about, which makes them more nervous. Our presentation is only supposed to be 20 minutes long and if a group went over 20 minutes she would get mad and act as if they were wrong for going over the time. All of the groups went over 20 minutes because SHE continued to interrupt them while they were talking!! The entire class had their jaws dropped for the majority of the class. She only gave one compliment the entire class (which lasted 3 hours) and that was to the girl who she made cry! And the girl who cried was not the girl who was called out in front of the entire class. Most professors will let you present and will give comments AFTER you're done. The Finnish girls said this and Charlotte from Hong-Kong agreed too. And this isn't a French thing either because we've already had 2 presentations and neither of the professors interrupted or criticized while a group was presenting.

Stiina told me that in her classes in Finland they follow the "hamburger method" for comment/critique.
Bun-positive remark
Beef-critique/negative remark
Bun-positive remark

This woman needs to add a little more bun in her life!
I don't know how she calls herself a teacher either! She's given us about 60 sheets of paper that is all in French. The reason she gives it to us is so we can look at 2 small graphs that are so hard to read because the copy machines at school are awful! And half of her powerpoints are also in French which is ALSO useless to us! We are in the English course! But according to her she knows everything!

I'm just going to have to breathe on Tuesday because I would love to tell her how I feel! The whole class was on the verge of telling her that yesterday. One of the girls suggested (in a much nicer way than I would have been able to) that she leave her comments to the end of the presentation because that makes the person presenting lose focus of what they were talking about. Other people asked her if our 20 minute limit for presenting included her interrupting us. I think she realized how heated we were because she had to ask us to be quite and calm down lol and she said she would try to be better on Tuesday. Good god! She's ridiculous! I wish I could have recorded it just to show you how awful the class was!

Ok I hope you enjoyed my ranting! lol I think I could have written it all in caps to show how mad I was! Wish me luck on Tuesday! haha

On a happy note: My Dad and Kirsten are coming to France on Friday! I will be meeting them, and the Killians in Paris on Saturday! :)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Hanging out in the police station is awesome!

This past weekend we went to Amsterdam and Brussels!! Originally we were planning on spending Friday & Saturday night in Amsterdam and Sunday & Monday in Brussels (yes, we were going to miss school!) But after we bought the tickets we found out that we had to be in class on we ended up only being in Brussels for the day, but it was still fun!

Our train left early Friday morning from Angers. We had to take the 6:03am bus to get to the train station and one of the girls missed the bus. Long story short-she had to take a later train to Paris and a different one to Amsterdam, but she ended up making it to Amsterdam 45 minutes after the rest of the group. Kim and I got Starbucks at the train station in Amsterdam! It was the first time I've had it since I've been here and it was delicious!! :)

Kim and I decided to get IAmsterdam cards because we wanted to go to the Van Gogh Museum and do a couple things the other girls didn't want to do. For the price of the card you get free transportation, free entrance to a ton of museums, a free canal cruise, and discounts on a lot of places. We checked into our hostel which was a very cozy suite with three bunkbeds! lol We were lucky enough to walk past some "red lights." The hostel wasn't in the redlight district, but that night we realized there were about 6 buildings on our street with red lights in the windows haha. After checking into the hotel we went to the Heineken Factory. (Kim & I got 25% off our tickets!) I wasn't really sure what to expect, but it ended up being a lot of fun (and beer was included!) On the way there we found the infamous IAmsterdam sign so of course we had to take some pics...

After the Heineken tour we grabbed a bite to eat for dinner and then went on a canal cruise. It was so pretty going at night and seeing all of the buildings lit up! I loved it!
Saturday we all got up early and headed to the Anne Frank House. It was surreal being there...I just couldn't believe I was actually there. I'm so glad I went though, it was really neat. Kim & I separated from the group and went to the Van Gogh museum. The line was really long to buy tickets, but we had our IAmsterdam cards so we got to pass the line! The museum was awesome, it was fun seeing so many of his paintings in one building! We grabbed lunch at this cute place called Bagel & Beans. There are no bagels in France, so it was exciting having a bagel lol...but it was this cute little coffee shop (not the "coffee shops" where you can smoke) that was really tasty! I got a fresh juice smoothie and a bagel with cream cheese, sundried tomatoes, tampenade, pesto, and pine nuts..delicous! After lunch we went to the Rijksmuseum. It's a collection of Dutch artwork, dollhouses, silverware, statues, was actually really cool! Of course I don't have any pics from it though since camera's aren't allowed in the museum. Kim and I then went on a search for some type of birthday cake for Katie. Her 22nd birthday was on Sunday, but we celebrated Saturday night. We ended up getting what looked like a huge twinkie from this candy was the best we could find! It actually was pretty good though! We sang happy birthday to her in the hostel room and made a toast with some champagne...but since we are SO classy we drank the champagne out of plastic water bottles. haha it's all we had, and it worked out just fine!
We went to dinner at this pancake house. We heard about these pancakes that we had to try while we were there. They had sweet and savory options and it was about a foot in diameter. Kim and I shared the Italian pancake and the Tropical pancake (they were both savory). The food was great, but the service was horrible..the woman running the place was so rude! We headed back to the hostel after dinner, before heading out to the redlight district for Katie's birthday.

These are the red lights that inform you of the street you're about to walk on...and to let you know that you can't take any pictures past it! lol
Sunday (after a couple hours of sleep) we headed to Brussels! We were all exhausted when we got on the train and fell asleep immediately. When I woke up I looked up at the luggage rack above us and noticed my backpack was missing. I did a double-take and then didn't really know what to do. I told Kim that my backpack was gone and once the other girls realized what had happened they immediately took their luggage off the racks and put it on their seats. lol Luckily I was holding my purse while I was sleeping which had everything that I needed (passport, credit cards, id's, money, camera, flip camera, and ipod) I was just in shock that someone took my bag, but luckily Kim was there! A woman who worked on the train walked by and once Kim told her what happened she directed us to the front of the train to talk to someone else. He told me to file a police report when we got to Brussels. He also said that that would be the only time I got my stuff stolen..."it only happens once." I believe him! I went from shocked-->upset-->mad-->oh well! shit happens! I could have easily let it ruin my day, but I was in Brussels! I wanted to have fun! Kim came with me to the train station to file a report. I know I won't get it back, but at least I did something about it. I joked about it a couple times during the day. The girls were complaining that their backs hurt from carrying their backpacks and I said "you must be so jealous of me!" haha :)

Brussels was fun :) We had waffles, bought way too much chocolate, and enjoyed the beautiful city for several short hours.
Grand' Place

Manneken-Pis: naked little boy peeing (the statue is literally 1 ft tall)
It's supposed to be very symbolic to Brussels.
There were many tourists there taking pictures!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I would never say this in the US, but I think I'm sick of castles...

This past Friday I went on an overnight field trip to the Loire Valley castles. We left Angers (by charter bus) at 6am Friday morning. We stopped in the town of Saumur to pick up a bunch of French students who were going to be giving us the tour of the castles. We went on the field trip with the professor of our Loire Valley Castle class and the French students were taking a tour-guiding class with the same professor. They were getting a grade for the tours they took us on. We started at Chateau de Blois, in the city of Blois. The castle wraps around a courtyard and is divided into 4 parts and the architecture of each side represents a certain time period: Gothic, Flamboyant, Renaissance, and Classicism. It was cool to be able to see such different architecture on one castle. We also took a tour of all of the rooms inside the castle and the students gave us the history of all the kings that had lived there.

Afterwards, we took a short tour of the city and ate lunch in a park. The weather was beautiful!

After Blois, we headed to the Chateau de Chambord. The building of Chambord was initiated in 1519 by King Francis I. I thought it was beautiful on the outside, but compared to the other castles we saw, the inside was kind of boring.
Me and Katja in front of the castleThe "back" of the castle

After Chambord we headed to a chocolate factory in Bracieux, called Max Vauche :) We got to sample some chocolate and buy some too of course!
Riina, Me, and Aura with our samples of chocolate mousse!
After a long day, we headed to the hostel that we were staying at for dinner and sleep! I was in a 6 bedroom hostel with Anna, Shannon, and Mary-Dare (we had 2 extra beds). We played a trivia game that night with everyone. I was able to help my team with 2 questions. 1) what is FL's nickname--The Sunshine State and 2) What country is closest to the United States (i think on the westcoast)---Russia. I will give credit to Sarah Palin for that answer since she told the world that Russia was in her backyard. ;) After the game we hung out for awhile and the Finnish girls taught me some Finnish. They said I made it sound too pretty though, so I'm working on making it sound harsh lol.
Saturday morning we headed to Chateau de Cheverny
It was really pretty! I think I liked the inside of this one the best because people still live there, so you can tell that the castle still has life! Cheverny is also known for hunting, so there were about 100 French hounds in a big kennel. It was raining that day so the dogs smelled FABULOUS!
After Cheverny we headed to the Chateau de Amboise--yes! another castle!! We didn't actually go inside this one though, we just stopped to take pictures.
We took a lunch break and then headed to the Chateau du Clos Luce which was the home of Leonardo Da Vinci during the last few years of his life. It was the home of many French Kings and King Francois I invited Leonardo Da Vinci to live there. We saw his bedroom and study room. There was also a museum dedicated to him that had models of his inventions. It was really neat!
After visiting the home of Leonardo Da Vinci we headed to the gardens of Villandry. I thought they were really pretty, but I can't imagine what they would look like in the spring! There are people that live in this castle too...
Our last stop was the Chateau de Usse, which inspired the story of Sleeping Beauty. We just stopped to take pictures...
We got back to Angers around 8:30pm...It was a fun weekend full of castles! But...I think I would be okay if I didn't see castles for awhile. We're going to see more April 27th though so I think I'll wait until then!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

I'm just an American celebrating an Irish holiday in France...

Yesterday we had a new class called Marketing Wine Related Products. The professor is from England and is very nice. She laughs a lot though. Yes, I know laughing is wonderful, but she laughs a lot...a lot!! It's distracting! Henna & Katja counted how many times she laughed in a half hour...45 times!! She laughed 45 times in 30 minutes!! I think she may have been laughing because she was nervous. The class was 3 hours long so we took a break halfway through...when she came back from the break she said she was nervous to teach us, but once meeting us she wasn't nervous anymore, so I thought the laughing might calm down, BUT it DIDN'T!! She continued to laugh! I know that's not an awful trait to have, I'm actually laughing right now thinking about it...but it is a little distracting!!

During our second class we went on a field trip to the Musée de l'Ardoise (slate museum) with Monsieur Danion (everyone's favorite teacher). We were given a demonstration on how they cut/slice/chop slate. It was interesting, but we were at the museum for 2 and a half hours...slate is not that interesting.

Our guide, teaching us how to cut slate
Everyone wrote "Welcome!" (on the slate chalkboard) in their language! I love it!

Last night we went out to celebrate St. Patrick's Day in Angers. It was a lot of fun!! I've never seen so many people out at night since I've been here. I found out that the French do celebrate St. Patty's Day, BUT they don't wear green!! There were a couple people wearing green, but for the most part they were in their normal, brown, or gray lol We went to James Joyce, an Irish Pub that we've been to a couple times. It was PACKED! We wanted Irish Car Bombs, but they didn't have any so we had Guiness. After hanging out there for awhile and listening to the French band play Irish music we walked to K'lypso (not an Irish Pub, but an Irish bartender) And they had Irish Car Bombs! It was my first time trying it..not too bad! I also tried the Irish Flag was just too pretty to pass up! After K'lypso we walked to another Irish Pub called Irishmore. There was also a band playing at this pub and it was also packed full of people! Many people...including our professor who is in charge of our exchange program. It was hard to find him at first because he's about 4 feet tall (like a leprechaun!..ok, that was mean lol) but it was funny running into him. He was drinking "apple juice" aka whiskey and he asked us if we could just pretend that we were at home sleeping and he was at home preparing for our class (that we had this afternoon) We took a picture with him that I would love to share with you, but it was taken on someone else's camera. I'll post it later.

James Joyce
Elizabeth, Aura, Kim, Stiina, and Me with our Guiness at James Joyce :)"Irish Flag" shots...they were so cute! I HAD to get one!

Tomorrow we're leaving at 6am to go on a field trip to the Loire Valley Castles. We're visiting many castles, and going to a chocolate factory :) We'll get back to Angers Saturday night.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Have You Ever Thanked The Sun Just For Shining?

Today was the first day that I haven't worn a scarf since I've been in France. It was ah-may-zing!! It was about 50 degrees, and the sun was shining!! We had French class from 9:30-10:50am and then we had a long break before our next classs. Me, Henna, Anna, & Katja went to Jerico's, which is a sandwich shop that was recommended to us by a guy who used to live in Angers. They have the BEST sandwiches EVER!! We bought our sandwiches and then ate lunch and enjoyed the sun on some steps by the river.
Walking to Jerico's

Henna, Me, and Katja eating lunch

Our 2nd class on the Loire Valley Castles was from 2:00-5:00pm. When we took a break halfway through, we convinced our professor to teach the rest of the class outside since the weather was beautiful! I think this is the first class that everyone stayed awake for!

fyi: the title of this post is from a Sister Hazel song called Change Your Mind :)

Monday, March 8, 2010

Cocktails & Chocolate is a great combination!

Saturday we got up early to make it to a 10am Cointreau tour at the factory. Cointreau (for those who don't know) is an orange flavored liqueur that started and is produced in Angers, France...where I live :) The tour consisted of a short video about the history of how it started, a walk through the distillery, a look into the bottling area, and a tasting! yumm! The tour was a little long because it was done in both French and English, but I was very thankful that it was in English! When the tour ended, our tourguide left, and the Cointreau bartender took over. He made a Cointreaupolitan: Cointreau, lemon juice, & cranberry juice and a Cointreau Bubbles: Cointreau, lime juice, & sparkling water. They were both very tasty!

The distillery: where Cointreau is produced

Our table for 12 at the tasting

The Cointreaupolitan with a sample of cheese, dried apricot, cherry tomato, and macaroon

After the Cointreau tour we headed into town for the Chocolate Show! They had tables set up representing a lot of chocolate and pastry shops around Angers. Many tables were giving samples, and some were selling delicious pieces of heaven...I took part in sampling and buying :) As you can imagine, it was amazing!
I wasn't able to stay long (which is really for the best!) because I had to be at the English Library at 3pm to help a woman with her English. This older woman called me earlier in the week and asked if I could help her with her English..ok she didn't really ask me, she told me. Her English wasn't great and (I hate to break it to all of you) my French isn't great either, but we were able to communicate well enough for her to tell me to be at the library at 3pm. I knew that it wasn't going to go well. And it didn't. But oh well, she was a sweet woman and I think she might try to meet with me again with a friend who speaks English.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Day Trip to Nantes

Nantes is about a 40 minute train ride from Angers so we decided it would be a good day trip on Saturday. There were 11 of us that went to Nantes together. We went to the Chateau des ducs de Bretagne (Castle of the Dukes of Brittany). The weather was beautiful when we first arrived so it was really nice walking around the Chateau.

We also went to the St. Pierre Cathedral.

Nantes is well known for French butter cookies (similar to shortbread cookies) called Petit Beurre biscuits. I think they're pretty popular in France, but they originated in Nantes, so of course we had to try them! They were delicious! We walked around town for a little while and all went our separate ways for lunch...and then it started raining! We did a little shopping indoors and then went to the Musee d'histoire de Nantes (History Museum) which is located in one of the buildings within the Chateau. It was really interesting! Much better than I was expecting...They had this short video in the beginning of the museum that was really cool. It's hard to explain, but it kind of looked like someone was painting a picture as the video was playing. Here are some pics..

After we got home from Nantes I went to a place called Soft Bar with the Finnish girls. If you howl like a wolf, your beer is only 2 euros (I think it's normally 3). I wasn't drinking beer so I didn't howl. If I get a beer the next time we go, I'll make sure to let you know how the howling goes haha
Sunday was the USA v. Canada gold ice hockey game so a bunch of us watched that. USA lost...the Finnish girls were very happy! lol

***If anyone has any ideas of something I could make for 20+ people, let me know! We have a stovetop, but no oven...