Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Le internship and life lessons from Paris

Playing scrabble during a day in the French countryside with "mes personnes âgées" 

The internship that I took part in was a really amazing experience. Sounds cheesy, I know, but it is so true. At the beginning I found it really difficult to go to retirement homes because the loneliness of the residents really affected me and actually made me quite sad. It was something new, and it took some time to get used to. After some time it became something that I looked forward to, a time that I could spend with someone in need and hopefully brighten their day in the process. It also made me so much more comfortable with my language skills than I was before I got there. Talking with people was now a piece of cake. Sure there was and still is vocabulary that I didn't know or some verb tenses that got me all sorts of confused, but in the grand scheme of things I was definitely feeling a lot more confident in my language abilities.

Enjoying a fun time with some stickers and Samia, aka coolest lady to work with ever!
I also learned to interact and work with people that I wouldn't normally gravitate towards in my every day life back in Provo. I had to learn very quickly to work with people that had very different personalities from my own, and I needed to adapt and be able to work with each of those people and create effective relationships. I am grateful that I was able to learn this skill early on and that I have a personality that can work well with so many different people (hopefully that doesn't sound too braggy of me).

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Picnic at Versailles

Super well kept trees at the gardens of Versailles
I love Versailles. I think it stems from my interest in Marie Antoinette that I have had since high school. I have devoured anything Marie Antoinette related for quite some time, including biographies, movies, music, art, etc. I find her to be such an interesting individual and that time in French history to be so intriguing, even though I am far from a history scholar, and my ability to retain all of the interesting facts I pick up is not all that stellar. So because of this love of all things Versailles I found it only fitting to make a trip out to Versailles with some friends and enjoy some picnicking. Because if there is one thing I've learned during my time in France it is that the French love their picnics and they are darn good at them too. I am not kidding its a freaking art form! Dees' friend Laura has the coolest mom ever, Therese, and she brought tons of delicious food and her French know how and found as an awesome spot to enjoy our picnic. Since most of us had already seen the chateau we just relaxed and enjoyed the sun while Emmanuella and Chloe went to go check out the palace of Versailles. 

Left to Right: Dee, Tanner, Chloe and Laura
Afterwards we took a nice stroll through the grounds at Versailles, which are freaking immense, and got to see some adorable animals like baby goats, horses, and various birds. So cute! I was really hoping to see the hamlet which is a quaint little village that Marie Antoinette had built for her and her ladies in waiting, but by the time we got there it had already closed. Two words: huge bummer. I have been wanting to see the hamlet for so long but every time I've been to Versailles its either  been closed or we haven't had enough time, but I guess that gives me another reason to make it back to France in the future. 

Chloe trying to feed a baby goat

Overall it was a great  day spent with some pretty fantastic people in a beautiful location. It is always amazing to me how vast the estate of Versailles is and how normal it is for people that live nearby to come and have lunch with their family in the gardens, or go on their daily jog right past a place that contains so much history. I can't not think about the people who lived at Versailles throughout history and the important decisions that were made there, the fact that you can step where they stepped and explore the grounds much like they themselves probably did is an amazing experience. 
Left to Right:
Dee, Laura, Chloe, Me, Tanner, and Malgo

The Catacombs

Waiting in line to see the bones!
Left to Right: Chloe, Dee and I
I should start by saying that I am terrified of small dark spaces, especially those that reside in the underground area of the world. So the catacombs were quite the daunting adventure for me but I was determined to make it happen! Last summer when I was in Paris I tried going to the catacombs two different times with friends, but the first time the line was ridiculously long and the second time it was raining cats and dogs so both times were a no go. So as they say third time is the charm and I was prepared with a plan. Chloe, Dee and I planned to go on a Saturday morning and made sure to leave early so that we could get there without being caught in a really long line. Our plan was a success! We left around 7 or 8 am, (I really can't remember since it's been a while) and we were like the third group in success! We thought ahead and had purchased some pastries from the bakery near our apartment building before hoping on the metro and making our way to the catacombs, which coincidentally enough were only like two metro stops away from our lodging. How convenient! So having arrived, eaten our pastries, and chitchatted like the loud Americans that we are, we waited patiently (or rather impatiently) for the catacombs to open and for our adventure to begin. Side note: we also met some a really nice, and adorable, Australian couple while waiting in line.
Dee motioning rather excitedly to the entrance of the catacombs, the inscription reads:
"Stop! Here is the empire of the dead."
Once in the catacombs, I was not nearly as claustrophobic as I thought I would be which was a major plus and there was not an overwhelming odor like I thought there would be with the remains of millions of Parisians in one confined location. It just smelled kinda damp and stuffy, but all in all not bad for an underground cemetery. There were poems and quotes on plaques at various parts throughout and some of them were quite chilling, adding to the overall atmosphere of the catacombs. I didn't find myself as creeped out as I thought I would be, I actually found it quite calming and humbling to think about all of the lives of these people that now reside under the streets of Paris. It really exhibits the mix of new and old that is everywhere in Paris. Just outside of the exit is a gift shop of sorts and then a few minutes walk away is a metro stop with bustling Parisians walking in and out. However just underneath is a world completely different, with carefully stacked bones and skulls a plenty. It is pretty astounding to think about the number of lives lived that are there.
Awkward posing and smile, nobody prepped me on how to pose for a photo in the catacombs so I just winged it. 

Le 14 juillet

Fireworks at the Eiffel Tower

Either fireworks or the Eiffel Tower is on fire....either way super cool! ;-)
Holy cow that's a lot of fireworks! The French really know how to celebrate their national holidays, especially le 14 juillet. For those of you who do not know what this magnificent day is all about let me give you the deets (details for my older audience). :) Also known as Bastille Day, and officially in France as La Fete nationale, the 14th of July commemorates the start of the French Revolution and the Storming of the Bastille which originally occurred the 14th of July 1789. It also celebrates the Fete de la Federation on July 14, 1790  which commemorated the first anniversary of the revolution and the unification of the French people as a nation once more. Well now you are caught up on a brief history of this magnificent holiday, if you would like to know more feel free to peruse these links at your leisure:

The crazy huge crowd at the Eiffel Tower for the concert and fireworks display, this doesn't even do it justice. So many people!

Enjoying a picnic with some pretty awesome people on the 14th of July
Left to Right: Malgo, Chloe, and Therese

Though I am never one to brave huge crowds, I figured that I should take advantage of such a rare experience to enjoy the 14th of July with friends in one of my favorite cities in the world in front of one of my favorite monuments in the world. It was well worth it. I joined up with a group of friends at the Eiffel Tower, the gang included: the Americans (Dee, Chloe, Tanner and I), the Fieschi's (Therese and Clarisse), the Italian (Mauro), the other interns (Jesus, Malgo), and the coworkers (Lily and Mikael). We had a picnic, catered mostly by yours truly who actually went pretty overboard buying delicious french picnic food. This included sausages, pastries, cheese (the stinky and un-stinky kind), baguettes (the most delicious form of bread to ever exist), soda, and loads of other good stuff. Because the French are classy they had a concert before the fireworks show, and not just any concert. There was a full orchestra, opera singers in fancy dresses, and all hosted by two very chic celebrities The video below shows just a little bit of that class, albeit from a distance as the orchestra plays the theme from Star Wars. 

After the concert, during which we ate and enjoyed each others company as well as the music being performed, the fireworks show started. Seriously the most amazing fireworks I have ever seen in my entire life! I'm not even sure how to explain it other than to say that there was a man in a white body suit that scaled the Eiffel Tower and did all sorts of crazy acrobatic stuff, what the crazy! Hope you enjoy a little taste of the awesomeness that are french fireworks in the video posted bellow:

Getting home afterwards was a mess, it felt like half the city of Paris had come out for the celebration and the metro was PACKED....but what a night! :)

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The 4th of July in Paris

Who doesn't love a photo of the Eiffel Tower?! I mean seriously no matter how many times I see it it never looses its magnificence or just plain cool factor. This particular photo wasn't taken on the 4th of July but I found it on my phone and really liked it, minus the tops of peoples heads in the bottom, but fixing it would require cropping and ain't nobody got time for that. Let's include another one for good measure:
Being in France for the 4th of July was the first time I believe I have ever been out of the country for such auspicious of a national holiday, and the lack of american flag embossed jean shorts and ripped I heart America tank tops was startling at first. I survived. I had work as usual at my internship and then had the afternoon free left wondering what on earth to do for the 4th of July in Paris. Oddly enough there are many options for an american in Paris who is looking to get patriotic. There is a party at the embassy (supposedly), a barbecue at the American Church in Paris complete with bluegrass music and corn on the cob, and various social outings for expats across Paris. We (meaning Dee, Tanner, Chloe, and I) went to the house of a friend of Dee (her name is Laura and she is fantastic as is her entire family, shout out to her mom Therese) and her mom put on a 4th of July barbecue for us and some of her friends and neighbors and such. It was so nice to not only feel at home by celebrating a national holiday, but to be doing it in France with a French family that loves Americans was a once in a lifetime experience. It was such a multi-cultural experience as there was also an Italian and several other people from various countries in Europe and even another american. We ended up eating grilled meat  and chips and all sorts of good stuff, and even sang the national anthem (an experience which is on video but will not be seen here due to my atrocious singing ability and overall silliness). The Frenchies also sang their anthem and our sole Italian busted out the Italian anthem, gotta say he did a pretty awesome job for an impromptu solo! Overall an amazing end to my 4th of July spent in Paris!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Better late then never...right?

What do I remember from my first day? Well considering that I am now starting to develop memory issues, much like the people that I accompanied, that first day is coming out all fuzzy in my head but I will  do my best to give you all the low down. Much like anything else new, I was nervous to be doing my first ever "for reals" adult internship. What was  it going to be like? Was I going to make friends easily? Would I even understand everything everyone was saying in French? Whewww! So many questions were running through my head, but thankfully the end results were much less frightening than my mind had made them out to be. Yes the day was tiring and a tad stressful, but mostly it was exciting! It was something new, full of new opportunities, new people to meet, new friendships to make, and many many new things to learn. One of those new things was learning how to manipulate a wheelchair in different scenarios and boy was it trickier than I was expecting!

Some of the other interns as well as two employees from the office. Left to Right: Jesus, Lily, Dee, Malgo, and Michael
Part of working with the elderly involves the know how of manipulating a wheelchair and doing it in a safe way as to avoid any potential injuries. Though there were three other BYU students there doing the same internship as me, two of them were in another group working specifically with alzheimers patients and the fourth had not yet arrived due to an unfortunate series of travel mishaps. There I was in a room of people I had barely just met, practicing how to get someone in and out of a wheelchair using vocabulary I had never ever heard before in my life. I tried to be a good sport and just follow along, picking up the occasional useful verb like "reculer" which means to move or push backwards, very useful in helping someone in a wheelchair to adjust and sit up straight to avoid the dreaded slouch. I had never before sat in a wheelchair and the experience of being pushed around in it and manipulated to sit a certain way or going up and down a ramp gave me a very different perspective of what other people experience. It was a tiring, but an excellent training. 
A selfie from one of my first nights in Paris at a cafe with other interns, I was thrilled to just be there!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Cute Seat Mates and Other Treasures of Traveling

Who is this ridiculously cute couple you might ask? Well its my friends the Holmes that I met on my plane ride to Paris! :) I was lucky enough to be seated right next to Julie and her husband on the flight and immediately knew that it would make a great start to my Parisian adventure. Nearly one of the first things she said to me was asking if I wanted a hand sanitizing wipe to clean my tray table and such, seriously such a sweet lady! Her and her husband are from Fresno, California and were going on a trip with their family to do some European adventuring. We talked about California, Colorado, the French, food, religion, farming, and how uncomfortable factor of trying to sleep on a plane. Julie also bears a striking resemblance to Katie Couric so I ended up telling her, and we enjoyed a nice laugh about her and her celebrity doppelganger. Needless to say we were meant to be seat mates!

Arriving in Paris felt a lot like coming home, and I felt ready and capable to fit into my temporary new role as a Parisian, that is until I remembered that I am not the best when it comes to directions. I waited patiently for my luggage, and once recovered decided to take a bus into town and then the metro to my new apartment. Like much of this summer it was raining and the grey sky seemed to be an omen that something was not going to go my way that day. The bus was late, and not a little late but a lot late, however it eventually arrived and I hoped on, giant orange suitcase in tow. Another realization occurred when I made it to the metro, I need to start lifting now. My arm strength is not nearly what it needs to be to carry a suitcase up and down metro stairs, but you live and you learn. :) Tired, sweaty, and still a little lost I made it to my new apartment where one of the other benevoles (volunteers) was waiting to get me all set up in my new housing. Les Petits Freres puts all the benevoles up in the same housing complex which is an apartment building made for university students in Paris. It is modern, clean, safe, and full of diversity...I'm a fan! No matter how many times I think I've got this whole Paris thing down the first day always feels like my first time in Paris, it's like my brain is wiped clean in order to fit in all the new memories that I will make during my stay. Starving, I decided to head downstairs and ask the cute boy at the front desk where to find a nearby McDonalds. Thankfully he took pity on me, and at about 11pm at night took me to find a cheeseburger and fries. First day in France and I'm already eating McDonalds (and I enjoyed it too), quel honte! (what shame!)

Having eaten some food and made a new friend I started getting settled into my new apartment; unpacking really is essential in order to feel at home. Though I had no pillow my first night I fashioned a make shift one out of my softest and comfiest clothes and called it good. I was in Paris, the lack of a pillow was definitely not going to put a damper on that.
Coming up next: the first day on the job :)