June 5, 2011
Une semaine (one week)

Wow. One week from today, I will be back at my humble abode on Surrey Court, moving my furniture from one bedroom to the other, enjoying the company of my parents, nieces, and room mates, and back in the good old US of A. It’s honestly hard to imagine. I remember imagining the same thing one week before I left for Paris, having no idea what to expect. But I’m not ready to reflect on this amazing adventure quite yet. Gersende and I are refusing to talk about the fact that this is my last week. Maybe by not talking about it, it won’t pass as fast as I’m afraid it will. I suppose we will see…

My quick trip to Normandy was wonderful! Before my train Saturday evening, I spent the day at home, studying for my two finals this coming week. I also fit in a run and some wine shopping! I was invited to Gersende’s friend’s house for a BBQ that night and it is customary in France to bring a gift to a party that you are invited to. People often bring flowers or a bottle of wine and considering that fact that this friend was a guy, I thought wine was the better option! I paid a visit to the wine store just around the corner from our apartment and was confronted with endless wine options, which I know very little about! Thankfully, the man working there was very helpful and helped me pick a very nice red wine that he said is perfect for any BBQ! 

Unfortunately, getting to Normandy was a little difficult. I was supposed to take a train that left the station at 5:50. I was at the station over a half hour early in order to buy a ticket. I have to wait in line to buy my ticket because the machines at the station only accept European credit cards which have a special chip in them that American cards don’t. By the time I finally got to the front of the line, it was 5:50 and my train was pulling out. Needless to say, I was freaking out! I hate being late or being the reason to hold people up. Hate it!! Thankfully, the lady helping me told me there was another train in 30 minutes that would get me in to Rouen just 50 minutes after my original plan. I texted Gersende, apologizing profusely. But it all worked out. In fact, Gersende was late leaving her sister’s house and wouldn’t be to her mom’s house (where we were meeting) until around the time I would be arriving as well. Once in Rouen, I was ringing their doorbell and heard a car honk behind me. It was Gersende and her mom pulling up literally as I was walking up to their door! So it all worked out and I panicked for nothing, not unusual for me! 

Gersende and I literally dropped off our bags and jumped in the car to head to her friend Paul’s house for the BBQ. Paul and his partner live just 20 minutes outside Rouen in the country, in a beautiful home typical of the Normandy region. At the BBQ was Paul and his partner, Gersende and I, their friend Mathilde, and their other friend Matisse and his wife and their two young daughters. Gersende, Mathilde, Paul, and Matisse are all friends from school and all happen to have birthdays in June! So every year they get together in June to celebrate their birthdays! The evening was a typical French gathering consisting of champagne and snacks in the beginning, dinner and wine, and then dessert which were two delicious birthday cakes! We sang happy birthday to the four birthday kids and exchanged presents. The BBQ portion consisted of grilled skewers with meat and veggies and these spicy grilled sausages. On the side we had carrots and potato wedges..not too far off from an American BBQ! It was all delicious! The conversation was great and it was wonderful to be able to meet friends of Gersende’s from her childhood. They were all very nice and included me in the conversation as much as possible. Matisse’s oldest daughter (who is 5 and a half) even showed me the English she knew by counting to 10! So I counted to 10 for her in French and she thought that was pretty funny! I have found that my “funny American accent” is a big hit with little kids! After a great night of eating, talking, drinking, and eating some more, Gersende and I headed back to her mom’s house in Rouen and crashed!!

Today was a very nice and relaxing Sunday. Everyone woke up on their own and helped themselves to breakfast. I was greeted by an Australian couple sitting on the couch when I came upstairs for breakfast. They are staying with Anne (Gersende’s mom) through the Alliance Francaise in Rouen. They have been here for 4 weeks now. They are an older couple from Brisbane who decided to do something different for a while! And they were very nice! However, they know very little, and I mean VERY little French, so communication was rather funny! Thankfully, Anne knows English very well and communicates just fine with them. It definitely tested Gersende’s english however! Unfortunately, Anne told me that they aren’t making much progress in their French because they are always speaking English to each other and they hardly try to speak French to Anne because she knows English so well. Me on the other hand, she told me that I had really progressed since Easter. And that made me so happy to hear! Gersende also told all her friends at the BBQ that I have really progressed. I’m so glad! 

After breakfast, I went to the market with Gersende and Anne and explored some parts of Rouen that I hadn’t seen the first time around. You can even tell that it’s tourist season in Rouen. There were many more tourists today than there had been Easter weekend. We went home for lunch which was prepared by Mary, the Australian lady. She made a delicious beef stew and we had cherries, bread, and cheese for dessert! The conversation with all of us was fantastic and hilarious! All the different cultures coming together was pretty amusing! At one point, we were discussing the attractiveness of Obama versus Sarkozy! We also learned that the French eat their cherries out of their water glasses! This is their way of rinsing them before they eat them. They don’t like rinsing them all at once because apparently if you don’t eat them all, then they get soggy. Who knew! It was quite adorable, so me and the Australians put our cherries in our water glasses as well! I will definitely be bringing that back with me to the states!

After lunch, Gersende’s best friend from school, Helene, came over to have a drink and watch the final of Rolland Garros aka the French Open. She was very nice and it was fun listening to them talk about their days in school together. Even Helene told me I had good French! Sorry if I’m boasting…but I love that compliment! After the game, we grabbed the train back to Paris. 

Once back in Paris, I was able to go for a quick run before Alex came over for dinner. The three of us had dinner together, one big happy family, and are now relaxing, listening and watching the massive thunderstorm roll through the neighborhood. It’s the first thunderstorm I’ve witnessed since being here and it is so peaceful and beautiful. I have a feeling Paris is going to have a very wet summer since their spring was so dry and sunny. I suppose it’s a good thing I’m getting out when I am! 

But in all seriousness, it is going to be so hard to say goodbye. I have fallen madly in love with this city and these people. It will forever hold a very special place in my heart. Thankfully, or not so thankfully, I have two exams and a presentation this week which are distracting me from saying goodbye. I also have lots more fun times, meals, adventures, and places to see before I head back. So I’m looking forward to this final week with a huge smile on my face. 

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