Well that’s all for now (though I’m sure my inner monologues are tellement fascinant) cuz my train for Paris leaves in around an hour. Wow. I am still amazed that I get to say that rather casually. I love my life and am so thankful/grateful to have this opportunity explore around Europe.
I find it rather fitting that my month of spring weather and subsequent freakouts culminated in a rainy Easter. Easter for me symbolizes spring, new beginnings and a fresh start. What better way to get a clean slate than to have all the old detritus literally washed away?
Luckily (and shockingly) all this week except Easter Sunday was gorgeous and made me long for lazy summer days. Alas, I have to wait at least five more days until I can take full advantage of the sun’s now recurring appearance. To help tide me over until break, the Easter weekend provided a relaxing and much needed pause after what was a rather charged week.
Eager to put grades in the grade book, this week my classmates and I faced the deadlines of a long line of projects. First up was my 45 Art History presentation on Joan Miro. To be honest, at first I thought my teacher was crazy giving us an entire period to present on one artist entirely in French. But as after researching and putting together my PowerPoint, the task seemed much less daunting. I’m amazed at how that class has made me able to produce a credible commentary on most paintings and certain types of architecture.
The second big presentation took place on Tuesday afternoon. After grabbing lunch at a cute organic café in town, my friends and I met up with our entire school at Rennes 1 (one of two general universities in Rennes that function sort of like state schools do back in America). There, alongside four other high schools, 14 of my classmates and I talked about the American involvement in WWI, as part of an national educational project to commemorate what the French call “La Grande Guerre.” My History class had been working on this project for a good two months, collecting photos from the French and American National Archives, writing and rewriting our texts to get everything said in under 25 minutes. Finally presenting was a bit surreal: squashed next to two of my friends because there were only ten chairs on stage, having to stand on my tiptoes cuz the mike was too tall, forgetting not to clap for ourselves when it was all over.
To make up for the afternoon classes we missed because of the history presentation, Wednesday’s schedule was completely altered. I lucked out with only one class, which I used as an opportunity to get in an early morning run before school started. I’m pretty sure I spent the rest of the day attempting to read Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” in French for my literature class. I don’t know what it is with French lit teachers and theater of the absurd but even my host family agrees that I’ve ended up having to read way to much of this same genre (which for me was only interesting the first time). Despite the choice of book, I was quite content to lie around soaking up the sun well into the evening when I accompanied my host family to the movies. We saw “Qu’est-ce qu’on a fait au bon dieu,” which was like a more comedic, Catholic version of Fiddler on the Roof. Despite a rather racist sounding premise, it was really funny and all the couples ended up with their happily ever after.
The sun seemed here to stay so around Thursday, the school broke out the Ping-pong table. I hadn’t really played in so long (unless you count rallying against my youngest host sister) and I managed to beat a couple of the boys. For some reason, I was one of the only girls who wanted to play a match / had played-played before… Regardless, it was so nice to outside and with friends, whether I was hitting a backhand in the garden or weaving daisy chains on the front steps.
On Friday, to celebrate the week being finally over and to kick off the long weekend, my host sister (G) and I attended a showing of “How to Eat Like a Child” by students in the international track at St. Vincent (one of the local middle and high schools), directed by my friends A.N and M.B. They’d been working all semester and the kids pulled through; G was even amazed by their level of English and I thought the little sketches were funny and cute. Not a bad way to end the week and start the weekend.
The Easterness officially commenced Saturday afternoon. Two of my host sisters and I baked Ferrero Rocher Cake Pops. The recipe was nothing like anything I’d ever made before, calling for us to bake a cake, then blend it into crumbs to re-combine with another batch of what seemed like liquid cake ingredients (aka a lot of Nutella). When the round balls finally came out of their fancy cake pop mold, we dipped them in chocolate and chopped hazelnuts, set them aside to serve as dessert the next day and got ourselves bundled up for mass.
Apparently, having Easter Eve mass is common here and as I’d never attended a bonafide Easter Service nor visited a church at night, I tagged along. The service started with an outdoor bonfire accompanied by a few hymns. Then we grabbed candles and proceeded indoors, placing our candles on the altar. Having the whole church lit up only by candle light was a tad freaky looking but also quite beautiful. Despite living minutes away from the church all year, I’d never been inside it before, thus it was kind of exciting to examine its interior. I had more than enough time to admire the intricate wood-carved ceilings and chuckle inwardly at the week’s quote (a tweet from the Pope) during the two as half hour mass, made longer than a usual Easter device by the seven baptisms I witnessed. I can’t tell you how many times my dry throat cried “alleluia” but I really meant it by the end. As much fun as it was to witness this longstanding Christian tradition, I was worn out by the end and I was not alone in that regard. However, La Veille Pascale did put me in the perfect mood for the following day.
I’ve always associated Easter with family and the family friends we’ve spent it with ever since I can remember. Though it felt weird to not be traipsing throughout their magnificent garden for the golden egg and the numerous other eggs I’d have helped dye the night before, it was fun to experience a French Easter. Because it was raining out, my youngest host sister conducted her Easter egg hunt inside, searching eagerly and adeptly for the chocolate goodies hidden by her older sisters. Pizza crackers and that chocolate were our appetizers, followed by a green bean salad and a traditional lamb entrée served with baked potatoes and onion confit. I stuffed myself so much on potatoes, the cake pops and chocolate (trying every flavor/shape is a must) that getting any work done was highly unlikely. Instead, after a dinner that solidified my food coma, G and I channel surfed, caught the end of the new Snow White and decided to watch Pretty Woman. Ah Julia Roberts why are you so cool? Vegged out in front of the tv, talking about opera and guiltily grabbing more chocolate with Richard Gere laughing in the background, was the perfect end to a long week (and helped me forget that I have SAT subject tests in two weeks and APs in four…).
(Cross posted from the Huffington Post)
In our hyper-connected world, people have grown accustomed to getting answers immediately. My generation has grown up with the mindset that if you have a question, just ask Google. We tend to take the wealth of information online for granted. At least, I used to.
I pride myself on being rather tech-savvy, having co-founded a nonprofit solely through the combination of email, Skype, Google hangouts and Twitter. I get all my news in my Feedly reader (and when I say all I mean if I don’t check it until lunch — I have over 100 headlines to digest) and am a devoted iPhone note-taker. All of this to say that when people complained that print newspapers were dying, I wasn’t the least surprised. After all, news on the go was more convenient, especially if it fit in your pocket. Why would anyone want a bulky weekly review that was probably outdated by the time it reached your doorstep?
One trip to the offices of the most widely read daily French paper, Ouest France, was enough to make me rethink my position. Taking notes on the new French Prime Minister Manuel Valls’s first speech alongside a team of journalists, I told myself that if there was something I didn’t catch, I could always find the transcript online later. The irony was, I was surrounded by some of the very people who would be responsible for putting that article out there. I’d gotten so used to having information at my fingertips that I’d stopped thinking about how it got there. And here I was, witnessing news being made; not in the conventional sense of witnessing a historical event but in that I was literally seeing the flesh and bones “news” being pieced together. It was impressive, to say the least, hearing reputed professionals asking each other whether this adjective needed to be accorded, or if a certain piece was ready to run in the evening edition or simply planning stories and constructing sections for tomorrow’s paper.
Surrounded by all this newspaper magic made me feel like I was back in a time where print was the only way people got their news, and frankly, it was nice. So when one of the journalists asked me if I would subscribe to a weekly paper were I an adult, my response startled even myself: I said yes. Talking about how simply consuming headlines deprived me of the gripping prose of some of the big-name papers and how I liked the feel of real paper reminded me of how reading on a screen doesn’t feel like I’m truly reading and internalizing the content. In that way, I guess I like an honest to goodness paper for some of the same reasons I could never give up real books. As much as I love my Kindle and online PDFs for increased consumption, I often feel like I’m not properly savoring the book.
And as these words were coming out of my mouth, I realized, technology has disconnected us almost as much as it has brought us closer together. Now, as I’m studying abroad, physically estranged from practically everyone I know, I’m no stranger to what technology can do. I’m reminded how amazing it is when I see my family every week on Skype, participate in a conference taking place miles away thanks to Twitter, bounce article ideas off of the community of HuffPost Teen writers that has sprung up on GroupMe or help my friends back home choose a prom dress via Facebook. But although the worldwide web has succeeded in shrinking the world, so to speak, it has also created a culture of individuals stuck in their own electronic universes. Many of my peers are even scared of using their phones to actually call someone, preferring to hide behind their screens in what passes as communication. The constant stream of information has captivated our attention to the point that we are slaves to or devices, checking them constantly, becoming more and more incapable of carrying on a real conversation, so engrossed are we in what’s going on elsewhere.
The demise of print publications has been touted again and again as the beginning of the technological revolution, and as a harbinger of an even more connected word that awaits us in the not-so-distant future. But the world it is a-changing and I’m a big believer that we need to change with it. Desperately clinging to a slim hope that paper will have a massive comeback is, in my opinion, a tad delusional. As history has shown us, old technology will always be followed by newer innovations, but it’s up to the medium to stay alive. When TV came along, everyone thought that was the end of radio, but they adapted and emerged diminished yet not eliminated. So it must be with print publications: though the focus may continue to shift online, news corporations and the newspapers through which they spread the word are still relevant; they simply need to find a way to stay profitable in tandem with their online counterparts. Perhaps, like the New York Times does, a limited amount of content available to free users or a premium of information unlocked by a paid subscription. Whatever the answer, I believe at least a small part of our world still needs the comfortable familiarity and reliable trustworthiness that print publications provide.
Given that there’s sadly so little time left of my stay in Rennes, this has become my motto. Profitez-en is like the French version of Carpe Diem. With that in mind, I viewed this week a little differently. Back in the beginning, I noted proudly every unique “French” experience I had out of a combo of shock and delight at the life I was living. Now, I’m looking at my days with a similar lens but for a very different reason- I want to remember everything, soak it all up and imprint it in my soul for all eternity. When people say that this is a once in a lifetime experience, they really mean it.