It's hard to believe I've been in France for two whole months now; the time has flown by. I've been lucky enough to have been able to do quite a bit of traveling in my region of France, thanks to my host Rotary district, host family and school.
Our first Rotary conference of theyear took place in Cahors, a small town north of Toulouse. There, the students in our district (from Taiwan, Australia, Mexico, Korea, Austria and more) gathered together to take a canoe trip down a river in the middle of a canyon, enjoy a train tour of Cahors, and explore a medieval castle that hosted us for our afternoon snack.
The next Rotary event, a "Repas International" (International Meal) took place this past week. I had the chance to chat with other exchange students over a classy dinner, sample desserts from around the world (made by us students) and participate in a game show simulation, the topic of which was French culture.
Because Toulouse (France's fourth-largest city and its top student hub) is only an hour away from Auch, I've had the chance to visit several times now. My host mother, Sandrine, took me to do some shopping and see the sights. I went again to visit an art exhibit with a school group, and I'm going again this week with Uwe, my host dad. Since France's school year is organized by six weeks of school followed by two weeks of vacation, my host family is taking me to Spain and the Pays-Basques region (southwestern coast of France) for our upcoming break. Later on, they'll be taking me to Germany (Uwe's native country) at Christmas, and skiing in the Alps in early spring. That, combined with taking Rotary's Eurotour (France, Germany, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Austria and Italy) in late spring, means I've got a lot to look forward to!
Meanwhile, I've been keeping myself busy in Auch. I've gone to a few discussions hosted by Auch's philosophy club, a couple of concerts featuring baroque choirs, a presentation on "Impressionisme et la Mode" (Impressionism and Fashion) and made a few trips to Auch's weekly market, which includes stands ranging from fresh tomatoes to slippers to Irish cakes. As well as keeping up with the plethora of interesting events in Auch, I participate in two music groups: the jazz combo at my high school and a saxophone quartet at the local Ecole de Musique (Music School).
Though I'm still working on re-learning my notes (Europe uses the solfedge system as opposed to A, B, C), it's been fun to see firsthand how the essence of music is common to all cultures.
My classes are also going well; I'm especially enjoying philosophy, history-geography, and Italian. Though the teachers' methods don't deviate much from either lecture or dictation, lesson topics are interesting and covered thoroughly. Through history-geography (we're currently in the middle of a lesson on the history of U.S. isolationism/interventionism) and my English classes (we just finished a lesson on "The American Dream"), it's fascinating to see French teenagers' views of the U.S. They know an impressive amount about its history and politics, but tend to idealize its everyday life and culture due to what they see in movies and on TV. When they were instructed to choose an image that represented "The American Dream" for them, choices ranged from political cartoons to Los Angeles to Kim Kardashian. Likewise, they were absolutely tickled to learn that I rode a yellow school bus as a kid, went to prom, and threw my cap at graduation, just like they have seen on TV.
A bientot, until next time!
Editor's note: Sierra Parker is spending a year in France as a Rotary Exchange Student through the Houghton Rotary Club.