About Me · France · Italy · Normandy · Rome · USA · Utah · Wedding

How I Found My Tribe

A few days after my wedding, Margaret, Aaron, and I went for a long hike in the mountains by my parents’ house. We were covered in dirt and sweat, but we made it to the beautiful waterfall and were now on our way back down the mountain. Somehow we walked right passed the bridge we were supposed to cross to continue to the trail on the other side of the river. I thought I had been following the trail, but eventually realized that the “trail” was no longer such. We had been hiking all day, and the thought of backtracking up the hill to find the bridge and relocate the real trail was not a bit appealing.

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I scanned my surroundings and noticed that the trail was just on the other side of the ravine and across the water. We decided it would be faster to go down the muddy slope, cross the river, and climb up the slope on the other side. All too quickly we realized what a stupid decision this had been. It had rained recently, so we were immediately slipping and sliding down the damp slopes. But, it was too late to change our minds, so we laughed at the mud collecting all over our bodies and clothes and just kept on sliding.

At that moment I realized that these kinds of crazy, poorly thought out, and hilarious experiences are those which build the best friendships imaginable. All of the sudden, it felt like I was an international student in France again, part of me wishing I had been smarter, another part laughing hysterically, and another part petrified, all while having no other choice but to carry on. Sometimes during our year in France my American friends and I thought we had made a mistake in going there for a whole year, but all we could do was laugh and stick together until we made it to the other side. Even in the worst of times, we knew that the scary or horrible experiences would be unforgettable moments that would build lifelong friendships.

One particularly horribly unforgettable memory in France was waking up every Friday at 5:30 am to catch a train and be at work to teach English to middle school students at 8 am. Aaron, Margaret, and I all taught in a small rural city called Lisieux. Officially we were language “assistants” but in reality we were untrained English teachers. Lisieux was about a 20 minute train ride away, and we taught from 8 am until 5 pm every Friday. In order to take the train, walk to school, and begin class on time, we had to catch the 7:20 train. In Caen, the city where we were living, Thursdays were the best nights for students to go out to the bars. There were always parties on Thursday. My friends and I never went to these parties because we had to work, but they went on in our dorms without us every week. It was rare that we got enough sleep on a Thursday night due to the noise.

On top of that, we hated teaching. The students were between 12 and 16. They lived in a very small city in the countryside, so they didn’t see the use of English. They knew that we weren’t their real teachers and wanted to use the time in our classes to goof off. What’s more, we didn’t have sufficient training as “language assistants” to give engaging lessons. Dreading the following day, I always spent most Thursday nights lying in bed awake.

The only thing that made these Fridays bearable was my friends. Getting out of bed was made easier with the thought that I would spend the train ride with my friends. Although we were usually silent on the way to the train station, we would normally buy coffee and something sugary once we arrived. After perking up a bit, we would spend the time on the train bouncing ideas off of one another. None of us ever had a solid plan of what we were going to do on Friday; we all relied on each other for classroom activities.

During class, we would always send each other text messages about the happenings of our day. Aaron: “They’re fighting over the $1 prize for the game.” Alisa: “They’re rolling cigarettes.” Margaret: “They told me I have a big nose.” When the long day finally finished, we would meet up at the train station and spend the ride home venting and unwinding from the tiresome day. Aaron and I had been friends right from the start, but it took this uniquely miserable experience to bring me and Margaret together. We had always been cordial, but sharing those train rides was the building block of Margaret and my friendship.

Arin and I on the other hand, were already friends before we went to Rome, but we were bonded together after surviving a truly terrifying experience. There we overheard some American girls staying in the other room talk about whether or not their boyfriends back in the U.S. were cheating on them (they were). We saw the same old men from the restaurant at lunch on the news that same night. We giggled every time we got the opportunity to say, “Prego!”

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We left our bed and breakfast to go back to France at about 4 am. Our flight was at 7 am, and we had to catch the shuttle to the airport well in advance. It was pitch black when we left. Upon arriving in Rome, we had walked through the train station to get to our bed and breakfast. At 4 am however, the train station was still closed. We had to walk around the station to get to the other side. Arin and I felt terrifyingly exposed with our red and blonde hair. Numerous homeless men spoke to us in Italian. At one point, a car full of Italian men pulled over and signaled for us to get in their car. We held each other, praying that we wouldn’t get kidnapped and guiltily thinking about what our mother’s would say if they knew what their daughter’s had gotten themselves into.

Not wanting to cause her more grey hairs than was necessary, I didn’t tell my mom the full story about my trip to Rome until three years later. During those days leading up to my wedding, Aaron, Margaret, Arin, and I finally recounted all the silly and sometimes downright stupid things we had done while studying abroad in France. When I first met them back in 2011, Aaron was a guy from Pennsylvania, Arin was the redhead who lived on the third floor, and Margaret was the girl with the cute boots. As a normal girl from Utah, I never expected to form such a strong bond with other seemingly normal Americans. But, through surviving a year away from our country and our families, near kidnapping, and sliding down muddy mountain slopes, I found my tribe.

Italy · Venice

Venice

Next stop: Venice! The interesting thing about this city is that in place of normal transportation, you have to take a boat everywhere. It was inefficient, expensive (7 euros for every hour), and most of all annoying.

We arrived very late the first night, and when we woke up the next morning my friend and I looked at each other and said, “So… Do you know what there is to do in Venice?” We kinda got caught up in planning all our hostels and flights that we didn’t do much tourist research. Oops. Thankfully we quickly found out that the best thing to do in Venice is get lost, and it’s not very hard to do. We spent most of our time stumbling upon the major tourist attractions by chance and enjoying a very photogenic city.

Yep, travel by boat was not my cup of tea. Neither was Italian, and to be honest I think three gelatos in one day is just too much. Such a beautiful place but boy, was I excited to go back to France.

France · Germany · Italy · Normandy · Paris

Six Months in France

Happy Anniversary to me and France! It’s been a bit of a bumpy road, but we’ve managed to work things out. We will always have our differences, and I don’t think this will last forever, but right now I’m just enjoying and reflecting. So without further ado, here are the highlights of the last six months:

Cleaning Lady on Strike
Rome
Berlin
Christmas in Caen
American Party Downtown… The night before an 8 am exam…
Old and new friends

More new friends

As for the next few months…

Who knows! I’m sure they will fly by just as quickly as the last six. However, just yesterday I bought myself my 21st birthday present to me: tickets to Portugal!

Here’s to hoping the next few months are full of fun and travels.

France · Italy · Paris · Rome

Thanksgiving in Rome

You know what’s a good cure for homesickness? Traveling. Thursday after class, my friends and I hopped on a train to Paris, rode the metro to the bus stop, took the airport shuttle, flew for two hours, took another shuttle, and arrived in Rome at 11:30 at night. We only had two days to see everything, and boy did we see it. I have never been so tired in my life after this whirlwind of a trip. Without a real metro system, we walked ALL OVER the city. We started at the Colusseum, Palatine Hill, and the Roman Forum. Then we walked to the Trevi Fountain, next up to the Spanish steps, where we sat and ate gelato, just like Audrey Hepburn.

For dinner, we got ripped off. Bad. I didn’t realize it until after, but they gave us an English menu, which now I’m 100% sure had marked up prices. And it wasn’t even that good, aside from the tiramasu. Dumb Italians. They were really disappointing. I had always heard that they were fun-loving, friendly people. I disagree completely. I have never had an encounter with a rude person in Paris, but I had plenty in Rome.

Lunch was hilarious, although we didn’t know it until later that night. The entire meal we were laughing at this fat Italian man with his shirt unbuttoned, exposing his hairy chest an belly, gold hoop earrings, and I won’t even mention his hair (bald but long on the sides, and a lovely beard to match). His friend had a bowl cut, and the other had a beard long enough to braid. We laughed at them and went on our way. However, when Arin and I returned to our hostel that night, we turned on the news, and Arin said, “Hey, that looks like the guy from lunch today.” Camera zooms out and shows a guy with a bowl cut, and a guy with a really long beard. I kid you not, the men from lunch are an Italian band : one the top ten funniest moments of my life.

The next morning, we took off to the Vatican city. We took a tour of the museum, gawked at the Sistine Chapel, and did a lap of Saint Peter’s Basilica. There isn’t much to say about that stuff, other than it’s very worth it to go. Very impressive. Afterwards, we walked through the city, and stopped in all the famous squares. It was my favorite thing we did; it was when Rome finally started to feel like I’d imagined it should.

That night, we went to bed fairly early, but didn’t sleep much because we had to get up at three, to catch a seven am flight. Don’t do that. Just avoid Rome when it’s dark. I have never been so scared in my entire life as I was walking through that city at 4 in the morning. I won’t go into details, but let’s just say that it is not fun to be a female with red or blonde hair in Rome, as me and Arin quickly found out. Thankfully we made it safely to the airport, the metro, the train station, and finally “home.” I slept for twelve hours last night, and now it’s back to class. Wah. But here are some great pictures:

When I took this picture I was thinking, “Hi Mom! I’m in Rome!”

Eating gelato on the Spanish steps like Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday!

…And then more pretty pictures. My internet is being typically and frustratingly slow right now, so the Rome post may be continued later.

In other news, I got the job I applied for! I’ll be a language assistant in a French middle school, helping the kids with their English. I’m so excited because not only will it be an amazing experience and look great on my resume, this also means more traveling in the future! After Berlin, I’m thinking Portugal, Austria, Spain, and Southern France… Now I just have to find the energy and motivation to get through my last week of classes, and two weeks of testing…