Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Chalon-sur-Saône

Today with my friends, we went to Chalon-sur-Saône, the largest city of the Saône-et-Loire department.  (In France, department is one of the three levels of government, and there are 101 in total.  The other two are region and commune, and department ranks between them.)  The city is famous for being the birthplace for photography and internal combustion engine thanks to a French man named Nicéphore Niépce.  (I actually didn't know that until I came home and did some research.)

There, I had the most amazing lunch I've had so far in my adventure:

Pizza with escargots and cuisses de grenouilles désossées

(*Cough* That my dear non-French readers, means snails and boneless frog legs.)  Yes, two unknown foods combined with one of my favorite foods of all time.  (You can probably guess which one out of the three is my favorite.)  The instant I saw that pizza on the menu, my eyes lit up and I was more than determined to try it!

video

Surprisingly, it tasted really good (thanks to the cheese and butter)!  The texture of each were interesting... the escargots was chewy while the cuisses de grenouilles désossées was muscular... I must admit that the escargots tasted like clams but with more guts and the cuisses de grenouilles désossées tasted like codfish.  Don't ask me why.  Now I am happy to say that I've tried them!

Bon appétit!!

Pizza Bourguignonne... a must try.

After the DELICIOUS lunch, my friends and I went to the Eglise (Church) Saint Pierre and the Cathédrale Saint-Vincent.

Eglise Saint Pierre is a church that took 5 years to build back in 1698, and it after became a parish church in 1802.  The exterior is Italian and interior is Baroque style, and this church is known for its important statues inside (such as Virgin of the Apocalypse, Doctors of the Church, etc.) 

The eglise sits beside the mairie (town hall) of Chalon-sur-Saône
 
Like many other buildings in France, it's impressive to think that this church has been standing here for over 300 years
 
Venite Adoremus means in Latin, "O come let us adore him (Christ)"
Many symbolic statues inside
Next, Cathédrale Saint-Vincent is a Romanesque and Gothic style cathedral and unlike the Eglise, the cathedral took a good length of 6 centuries of construction to become what it is now.  Historians believed that it was first built in 1090, and till 1562, elements like the choir, transept, pillars etc. were added.  The construction halted in 1562 because there was the Huguenots who devastatingly destroyed a chunk of the cathedral and removed some statues.  (The Huguenots were members of the Protestant Reformed Church of France; basically put into simple words, people who criticized the Catholic church.)  And unfortunately again it was further destroyed by the French Revolution which caused the church to be used as a fodder warehouse.  (Just imagine how that was like!)  So the following nineteenth and twentieth century were primarily years of reconstruction.

The front of the cathédrale
 
The organ designed with floral shapes
 
The view from the entrance

At the end of the day, we went bowling and overall, I had a great time for the entire day!



Anyways, if your eyes popped out from the mass of facts or had trouble trying to absorb all that information I explained above, maybe you're just about to say, "Sari, you're such a geek."  Well yes, I suppose so.  I love history and just learning in general after all!  Through the two months I've been living here in France so far, I'm joyfully learning so many new things and I finally realized how great it would be for the others to know about it too.  I guess that was my main purpose of writing a blog from the first place, but I never thought of it very seriously until now.

I think I finally recognized one of the important treasures that exchange can bring out.  Exchange is not an opportunity of opening doors just for the exchange student.  It also opens doors for the people who surrounds the exchange student by observing the student's growth, learning from the student's knowledge and understanding the student's experiences.  For example, my existence at my cultural-diversity-lacking lycée is enriching the French students' perspective of our world since I share to them stories about Canada and the differences and similarities I recognize here compared to Canada. 

Therefore, I sincerely hope this blog is also opening doors for you as well.

Bonne nuit!
Sari


ps: Right now, it is le vacance de le Toussaint; a two week holiday so I have no lycée until the second week of November!  "Toussaint" means 'feast of all saints' and it is a commemoration for those who died.  This is celebrated throughout France on November 1st, so generally all stores are closed that day.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Inbound Meeting #1

Yesterday, I came back from my first Rotary Youth Exchange inbound meeting held in a small village called Landreville in the region of Champagne, and I had a wonderful time meeting the other exchange students and enjoying the area!

From Louhans, Landreville is located north which takes about a 3 hour drive, so the landscape and even the traditional buildings looked a little different from Louhans.  Like I have mentioned before in one of my posts, the region of Champagne is famous for producing the French sparkling wine, champagne.  We got a tour of a winery, and I learned that the three main types of grapes used to make champagne are Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier.  I also learned that at this winery, they don't use chemical fertilizers, the bottles take 3-9 years of rest and peace (aka: fermentation), and about 40% of their production of champagne are exported around the world.  It was really unique to see where the creation of champagne starts from!


Some machines requires physical labour, maybe like this one above.


Tulip glasses for champagne (Noticed their inward curving rims?)



Cute cork statues!! ♥
 

These grapes tasted really sour... obviously not the ones found in grocery stores,
so they're just perfect for champagne!



My new Brazilian friend and I ♥


There were in total one Canadian (me!), one Thai, one Brazilian, two Mexicans, one Japanese, and six Americans plus a French rebound at the orientation.  Unfortunately, there were a few other students in our district who were not able to come, but I look forward to meet them in our next one in December.  It was neat to speak to the students at Landreville and share our personal experiences so far during our exchange.  I think we talked a confusing mix of French, English (and even Japanese and Spanish), but I believe we all understood each other anyways!

We're proud ambassadors!

Oh yeah, Canada made USA and Mexico turn their heads!

Rotary Youth Exchange students of D1750


Thank you so much for the fun weekend everyone!
Merci beaucoup pour le week-end amusant tout le monde!

Also, thank you SO MUCH for those who follow my blog and ask how I am doing in France!  To me, it means so much when I receive messages from my friends, Rotarians and family!  I swear it's so difficult to explain to my new friends why I haven't had a slight feeling of homesickness, but I would like to clarify why!  (You need to see their surprised expressions!)  No, it's not because my life here in France is better than Canada.  I actually love living in both countries!  It's because the tremendous support I get from everyone makes me feel happy, grateful and to be ready for anything.  To me, the warm words of advice, love and encouragement creates the backbone that keeps me standing tall with strength and motivation.   Thus every time I feel down, my emotions immediately bounce back up because I remind myself of the people who care for me.  Besides, who doesn't want to do a foreign exchange?!

Merci, Thank you and ありがとう,

Sari

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Omurice, the Cold & Smiles

Bonjour!

Today, I made omurice for lunch for my host family!  It is a modern Japanese dish which is an omlette of fried rice with chicken commonly topped with ketchup.  I've eaten it at my home in Canada but I've never cooked it before.   It seemed really easy to make by looking at the recipe, but it was REALLY challenging!  Chop the onions... don't cut your finger... remember the rice is behind you... wait a second - you need the chicken! ...OH NO you spilled some olive oil... and just don't drop those eggs... all these thoughts jumbled in my head, half English, half French (and perhaps a little Japanese)!  My host mother (who was watching me to learn how to cook it) must of had an entertaining show.  I hope I didn't set a bad example!

VOILA! It actually looked and tasted good in the end!

It was successful because my host family members enjoyed the meal, but I mistakenly dribbled spicy ketchup instead of the regular one on top of the omurices... no wonder why there were two opened ketchup bottles in the fridge.

__________________


I learned this week that when one student in your class is sick, most likely you and all your other classmates will eventually get sick too.  No matter how hard you try to avoid it, it is almost impossible here.  It is because the humidity is higher and therefore it's easier for germs to spread.  And what's worse, everyone bisous (cheek kiss) every friend they pass throughout the whole day.  I was so surprised because when I got the nasty cold, I tried to refuse doing the bisous and explain to my friends that I didn't want to make them sick too.  However, some gave me the bisous anyways because they replied that it didn't matter since they were sick too. 

So, this is Sari's life in France.

__________________


Lycée is always exciting as usual and I am still making lots of new friends.  Although I have no clue how the lycée was like without any exchange students during the years before, the exchange students and I who are here now can already sense that our presence at the lycée and Louhans is already making a difference for everyone.  A good one I hope.  Yes, the diversity we bring results looks filled with curiosity, kindness, and even unkindness, but at least the negatives won't bring us down and we are happy to be ambassadors of our countries.

I think one of the most important things I have learned so far on my adventure is the astonishing strength of the universal gesture of smiling.  It does wonders, I swear.  It may not show the same meaning for some cultures around the world, but I know that at least in France, smiling welcomes people with grace and has the power to bring them together.  I think that's why many people who I don't even know smile back at me when I do.  Then somehow like magic, we become friends in the meantime.

À bientôt!
Sari