Saturday, September 22, 2012


If you know me at all, you've probably witnessed me - red faced and breathing hard - ranting about Taylor Swift's lack of musical ingenuity. "She's not a musician!" I scream to nobody in particular, "she's a business woman who's lyrics are designed to feed the fantasies of the general female tween population!" I have a dedicated distaste towards pop music and country tunes, and I exploit my aversion in a rather loud and obnoxious manner.

Over the past two weeks, however,  I've come to appreciate all music - even American pop - for the way it brings people together.

Day-to-day conversations at school can be fumbling, awkward, and frustrating. But the second someone pulls out an ipod or brings up the new Mica single, these conversations suddenly become clear, as if I were back home, ranting to my friends about how Lady Gaga is a sell-out with the fluidity of a natural-born English speaker.

Because everyone relates to music - all types of music- in more or less the same way. No matter where you are in the world, the sound of an electric guitar or a symphony of violins can fill you up, move you to tears, or give you a reason to sporadically break into dance.

This is why I can make friends with people that don't speak my language, why I can connect with a person on a fundamental level, even if I don't know his name.

Yesterday, I sat around the living room with my host family, examining my host dad's old vinyl records. The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Genesis, Simon and Garfunkel- all bands my own dad had shown me when I was young, and all bands that have been adored and popularized all over the world. The air was static with pure happiness as we shared favorite songs, concert memories, and beloved groups. Without any effort at all, I felt closer with my host family than ever.

So thank you Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry. Thank you for being so well-known that I can't go a day without being asked if I've heard of "Fireworks" or "You and I". And thank you to my favorite bands (real music) for bringing me closer to so many people in this country almost effortlessly - as if similar taste in music is the mark of a true and sustainable friendship.

I guess it doesn't matter where you are, where you're from, or where you're going - we're not all that different. We eat different food, speak different languages, and practice different customs, but we're all emotional creatures. We relish the deep, revel in joy, and express these feelings musically.

What I'm trying to say is this:

If you're someone out there getting ready to go on exchange or just go on vacation, I'd recommend bringing an ipod.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

En France

Over a year ago, I sat at my kitchen table, staring at my blank AFS application page, dreaming of this moment. And now here I am, en France.

This past week and a half has been overwhelming, exciting, gloomy at times, and oddly routine.

It started what feels like ions ago, when I said a tearful goodbye to by parents at the airport last Wednesday, and boarded a plane headed to New York for my gateway orientation.

I shall say this for both the orientations: they were definitely not what I expected. I felt, the entire time, to be in a strange limbo between two worlds: my home, and the unknown realm of Bellignies, France. Everyone was slightly on edge, slightly uncomfortable, anxious to meet new people and yet nervous at the same prospect. In large dining halls we would mingle, skipping from person to person, giving the same pitch- showcasing ourselves for each other with a summary of our most interesting attributes.

I also didn't expect to be so tired all the time. For the duration of the orientations, I was motivated to partake in AFS activities only by the prospect of maybe having a chance to sleep afterwards. But I did make some great friends, and I appreciated the orientation process as a whole. However, it feels great to be settled down, my bags un-packed, with a bed of my own to sleep in.

I met my host family on Sunday. I'd worried about meeting my host family since I applied for AFS last year. What if they're mean? Don't like me? Smell bad? It turns out that my host family is the best I could possibly have hoped for. They're eager to share their culture with me, explain what I don't understand, and help me learn how to live in this new country. My host sister and I are good friends, and my favorite time of the day is when I get home and can talk to my host parents. In short, any fears I've ever had about my host family have been completely extinguished.

I started school the day after I arrived in Bellignies. School has not been as easeful as living with my host family has proven to be. The language barrier between me and my friends makes it difficult to connect with them- which makes me miss my friends in the US. That being said, everyone is extremely nice, and I enjoy sitting in classes and listening to my teachers speak in rapid french. Though I don't understand much, I still appreciate the language, and can't wait for the day when I can understand all of what's being said. Go French! woohoo!

Well... that's what's been up with me. I'll try to post pictures sometime (as I have taken many), unless I forget, in which case I shall probably post none. But for now, I'm going to sleep so I can get up nice and early for school tomorrow!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

One Day Left

When I opened blogger to start writing this post, my countdown clock read: one day, four hours, and fifty-three minutes. It now reads one day, four hours, and twenty minutes, and I still don't know what to say.

Am I enervated? Alarmed? Panicing?

Sad? Confused? Overjoyed?

The truth is, dear readers, that I really don't know. My mental state is analogous to a moving pendulum, swinging from one side of my emotional-spectrum to the other, until, inevitably, the pendulum loses energy, and is reduced to a stand still - only to be set in motion again by any slight word or action.

 This morning I was jittery, prone to skipping around the house and singing. This afternoon, I was stressed, noticing, for the first time, that I have shown no apparent inclination towards packing up my room, a year of my life, into 44 pounds. Tonight, I was a mess, on the verge of tears, thinking of the people that I will be leaving for ten months in  roughly twenty-four hours time.

One day, four hours, twelve minutes.

But alas, time moves at a constant rate, and, despite my ever-changing mood, whether excited, stressed-out, or sad, my long-awaited dream looms ever closer. I have a host family waiting for me, a language ready to be learned, and relationships ready to be made. Soon, I will be in a room with hundreds of AFS-ers, reaching out to people from all over the world.

One day, four hours, eight minutes.

When the countdown reaches zero, I will be in the air, bleary-eyed, fatigued, and, most likely, emotionally drained.

At negative five hours, I will be landing in New York, ready to be whisked off to the hotel in which the New York orientation will take place.

Negative twenty four hours, I will be on my way to Paris, France. And from there? Who knows. All I know is that I want whatever's waiting for me - whatever that may be.

One day, four hours, and three minutes.

I was ecstatic this morning, stressed this afternoon, and dismal this evening. But right now? I'm tired. Though my bed wont be my bed for much longer, it is mine now, and I wish to sleep in it. So, I bid you farewell, whoever you are. I will write again when I'm safe and sound in my host-family's house, teeming with stories and information. Au revoir.

One day, three hours, fifty-nine minutes.