Anticipating Pauline’s Arrival

Prompt #7:

I have now been back home in Phoenix for a week and a half. While it is nice that I’m able to sleep in my own bed, I miss Grenoble so much. I especially miss my host family, and was very sad to leave them last Monday. However, I had the best Welcome Home surprise present when I found out I’d be getting my wisdom teeth out the coming Friday. Yippee…

The surgery wasn’t nearly as bad as I had anticipated, and I am almost fully recovered! The worst part was that by Day 3 I looked like I’d stuffed ten jumbo marshmallows in my mouth. But now that I have gotten that behind me, I can start preparing for Pauline to come to Phoenix!

I cannot wait for her to come and stay with my family and I, and I am so excited to be able to show her around the city. The best part is that the counterparts from each of the eight participating countries all fly in around the same time, so we will be spending three weeks together as a group of 52! We have got a very packed schedule which includes going to local water parks, museums, a mock-Thanksgiving, and trips to Sedona and California. Most of our three weeks is planned out, but we do have a couple of free days throughout.

Pauline, Iman, and Mona (Ashlyn, Avary, and I’s counterparts) all really want to see the Grand Canyon. As someone who has lived in Arizona all her life and been to the Grand Canyon only once, I can’t really relate to their desire. Though it is a wonder of the world and truly magnificent, I think the fact that I live so close to it takes away from the appeal of visiting. It’s not so much of an “expedition” as it is a minor car ride to get there. I can imagine that those who live near Niagra Falls or even the Leaning Tower of Pisa must feel the same.

Don’t worry though, we are planning on going as a cohort to the Grand Canyon, along with any fellow ambassadors who would like to come!

I am looking forward to showing Pauline around my community, as well as introducing her to the amazing scenery and food we have here. I will have an opportunity on one of the free days to show her around my school campus and meet some of my friends, too. I hope to successfully demonstrate to Pauline a typical American teenager’s life, and I know that the rest of this summer is going to be so much fun.

I did have to warn Pauline about a few things, though:

First, the summer heat here in Phoenix is definitely, one hundred percent real. It got up to 95 degrees Fahrenheit in Grenoble, and even I was melting (but mostly because very few places have air conditioning). When I tried to explain to Pauline that it can reach 120 degrees, I was met with an extremely horrified face. Then I remembered and quickly added, “Oh, 120 degrees Fahrenheit.” I was met with a confused face. Of course that number meant nothing to her, just as 35 degrees Celsius means nothing to me. I sat for a minute until a lightbulb went off and I was able to pull out a conversion equation from the very corner of my brain (thank you, Honors Chemistry 1-2).

“Ok, now¬†I’ve got it. So, um, I think that it’s going to be around 49 degrees Celsius,” I told her. An only slightly less horrified expression than before filled her face.

“So, this is probably needless to say,” I explained, “but you are going to want to bring flowy t-shirts and dresses, as well as plenty of shorts. And of course, bring every single bathing suit you’ve got.”

Like the average Phoenician during summertime, we will be spending most of our time basking in wonderful air conditioned establishments. Any time spent outside will either be 1) for a fleeting moment, 2) when swimming in a pool, or, 3) when we are up in Sedona/Flagstaff or California, so I’m not too worried about Pauline contracting heat stroke ūüėČ

Secondly, I knew at some point I needed to explain to Pauline about the scorpions we get at my house. We live in an area where our house is right next to the mountains, and no matter how many times a month the exterminators come, we still end up with many of those cute little buggers who like to visit us during the summer months (definitely not cute). Our location also means that I needed to warn Pauline about the rattlesnakes, coyotes, and javelinas that come down to the streets from time to time.

I was nervous to tell her because in Grenoble, the scariest animal I saw was a small rat in some brush next to the river. She took the conversations surprisingly well, and was curious to see what the scorpions looked like.

“What?” I asked. “My description didn’t paint a vivid picture in your mind of the creepiest pre-historic insect that is the scorpion?”

Luckily I had brought scorpion lollipops for her and each family member. I have never bought one for myself, not even as a novelty. I figure that I see them alive and crawling around so often that I don’t need a cherry-flavored dead one. But Pauline’s mother suggested I buy a few as a sort of revenge. Maybe I could stick them at common entry points and the scorpions would think twice about making themselves comfortable in our home…

I think that Pauline is excited to come to Phoenix, and this is her first trip to the U.S., so I hope I can do it all justice! She said that she is most excited to meet my family (especially the cats) and for the night we host our very own YAEP Prom! Which is great, because I am excited for both of those, too!

Pauline flys in on the 10th, which is now a few short days away. I am just as eager for her to come here as I was to go to France!

I am also anxious to meet up with all of the ambassadors, and to get to meet their counterparts. The rest of this summer is going to be a blast.

… except now, after all this scorpion talk, I’m scared to move from my chair and step anywhere on the floors.

– A now-cautious Kaley

 

 

 

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A Reflection on My Stay in Grenoble

Prompt #6:

At this moment, I have just three days left in my stay in Grenoble. Granted, they will be a busy three days:

We’re going to a swim park tomorrow morning, meeting the Mayor of the city in the evening, then heading straight for the mountains to camp for the night. Saturday we will head out from camping and later meet as a cohort and counterparts for a meal. And Sunday will be a trip to the amusement park. It works for me though– I figure if I really do have to go back to Phoenix, I may as well leave Grenoble with a bang!

My fligh leaves at six in the morning on Monday, which means I must leave around two in order to accommodate the drive to Lyon and have enough time for the ever-exiting airport routine. As with my arrival flight three weeks ago, I probably won’t get much sleep the night before.

This trip has exceeded any and all expectations I previously had. Three weeks ago, I had no idea that each day would soon be filled with adventure–hiking on breathtaking mountain ranges; walking all over the city (multiple cities, actually); shopping till I dropped; meeting new people; being submerged into a brand-new culture (and becoming completely obsessed with it); eating, and occasionally helping to make, the best food I’ve ever had; laughing my head off at the sheer luck that Pauline and I encountered when just barely making the bus, several times; and, making lifetime friends in the process.

I’ve got too many memories to share, so I figured I’d recap my experience in the form of “Highs and Lows”. Obviously my time here has been wonderful, but a few of my best memories were made following a not-so-great moment (I guess it’s true that you can’t have your highs without the lows). Here’s a list of my most memorable moments/experiences:

Highs:

  • Arriving and seeing Pauline holding a sign that said “Welcome Kaley Danks!”, along with a huge smile and her family. After a day and a half of traveling, and running on a few hours of sleep, there was nothing better than walking out of the gate and getting to see my host family for the first time. I’m sure I looked pretty rough, but they welcomed me nonetheless! ūüėČ
  • Going to museums that focused on things like the history of Grenoble, skiing, the French Revolution, and even one that had an exhibit on poison (my favorite exhibit that I’ve ever seen). I think we went to every single museum that exists within a 200 mile radius. For me, walking around a museum for a few hours is a day well spent, and I think that there is nothing better for getting to know the history of a country and its culture! And if it wasn’t a museum, we were wandering around cathedrals or historic streets.
  • Being able to attend school for a few days with Pauline was so cool. I got to meet her teachers and friends, and attempted to learn a bit. The amazing cafeteria meal was a bonus.
  • Cooking and baking with Pauline
  • Spending time outdoors with the whole family: here they have access to multiple lakes and mountains that are all less than a 30-minute drive away.
  • Touring Pauline’s father’s work: a car dealership. People who know me well know that I love cars, so walking through the Skoda dealership was practically heaven. I got the VIP tour and even got to use the car wash station at the back of the dealership. They have giant sprayers for soap and water that make washing so efficient–it’s no wonder why showroom cars always look spotless. I wonder how much it would cost to install a washing station in my garage…
  • Going to the cat cafe. ‘Nuff said.
  • Trying the restaurants and patisseries around the city. Oh, and let’s not forget the gelato. I’ll really miss that. You could walk down any given cobblestone street and find yourself passing multiple gelato shops and patisseries. I decided to forget about self control during this trip and just try everything, I figure that I’ll probably never have another opportunity to try this food again. And if I do, it won’t be for a while.
  • Watching a movie at the cinema is an experience. The cinema in Grenoble is huge. Like enough-to-seat-500-people-in-one-room huge. We saw a movie that was in French, Marie Francine, but I had a blast. I’m still trying to figure out how one room can be big enough to show a move to 500 people, and Pauline told me that the cinema in Lyon is even bigger. I almost don’t believe it.
  • Dyeing Avary’s hair a purple-y red color. Ashlyn, Avary, and I (the Grenoble Cohort) were sitting in a park and figured, “Why not?” Avary had wanted the underneath of her hair dyed like mine is and I had seen my mom, a licensed hair dresser, color my hair plenty of times. I mean, it couldn’t be that hard, could it?¬†And no, it wasn’t hard. Just very, very impractical. I repeat: we were in a park. Ashlyn volgged the whole thing and you can watch it by clicking on this link:¬†https://youtu.be/e-kOAPOErDw
  • I got to go rock climbing, and it was crazy. I am not scared of heights at all, if anything I enjoy them. However, for some reason, it was pretty freaky standing on a tiny metal bar while on the side of a cliff using the same harness they do at the YMCA 15-foot rockwall.
  • I saw a peacock, one of my favorite animals (after crocodiles and tigers), display its feathers while we toured a castle and the surrounding gardens. I got as close as I could while still respecting the peacock, and sat for a good while, watching it turn in circles to show off its mesmerizing feathers.
  • And, of course, getting to know Pauline and her family definitely made the “Highs” list. Spending time with all of them is always enjoyable, and I am really going to miss the lunches and dinners spent at the table, eating and laughing together. Their homes have felt like a second home to me. Though I am sad to leave, I am excited for Pauline to come to Phoenix and meet my family. I know that her and I will be lifelong friends.

Lows:

  • Within two days of arriving, I became sick. My throat was pretty sore.
  • I got a sunburn on my shoulders while at a nearby lake.

 

As you can hopefully tell, I was completely joking about the “Lows”. I mean, sure, not everything was sunshine and rainbows, but I can honestly say that at the end of each day I went to bed with a smile on my face. Being sick was not fun, and the sunburn hurts just a tad, but hey, maybe I’ll finally be rid of my awful farmer’s tan!

Of course, there were times when I missed my family, and some days we walked a mile only to realize we were going the wrong direction or have to turn back around for something we forgot. I do struggle with falling asleep at night here, and the headaches that rise in consequence aren’t fun to deal with. And I definitely miss the sweet, sweet taste of peanut butter.

Though I haven’t had to very often, when I am feeling down, I remind myself of how I felt when I heard, “Kaley, you’re going to Grenoble, France!” It does the trick every time.

Because guess what? This trip was not about my family, my sore feet, a headache, and it’s certainly not about peanut butter. This trip was about me having the time of my life, about soaking in every experience and being pulled deeper into the culture of Grenoble, all while representing the U.S. and the city of Phoenix.

I have been able to experience so many things (just some of which are listed above), and my memories of Grenoble and its people are ones I’ll remember for the rest of my life. I definitely do not want to go back to Phoenix yet, but when I walk down the airport terminal waving goodbye to this wonderful city, I’ll just have to remind myself, “Kaley, you went to Grenoble, France. And it was flipping awesome.”

– A sad-to-leave Kaley

 

The Thing About Grenoble

Prompt #8: If you could tell people one thing about your sister city, what would it be and why? What should people know more about and potentially reconsider?

I have decided to include my prompt on this post to provide a preface for what I am going to write about.

I sat down at the table to write this, and pulled out the list of prompts I was given. At first glance, I figured this would be the easiest one for me to write, but after pondering for quite some time I am left empty-handed. I have plenty to tell about Grenoble–it’s a beautifully diverse city with wonderful food, architecture, history, education systems, and of course wonderful people–but what is the one¬†thing I want to say about this city? Well that I just don’t know.

I turned over to Pauline, who is sitting on the couch, and read her the same prompt I had been re-reading for several minutes. After a pause of silence, she looked at me and said in a half-telling, half-asking way: “Maybe that we’re proud of all of our mountains?” I chuckled a bit because while, yes, the mountains that surround the city are breathtakingly beautiful, they’re not exactly the sole thing I want to focus on.

However, thanks to Pauline, I now know that the one thing I want to tell people about my sister city is that the citizens of Grenoble are proud of their city. They are proud of its diversity; there are people and restaurants from all over the world because Grenoble is a popular entry point into France. The are proud of its food, in which each bite tells a story of the city’s history. They are proud of the architecture for the same reason. And they are proud of their education, transport, and government systems, which can only be described as some of the best in the world. And yes, the people here are very proud of all of their mountains.

You can see their pride not only on the faces of citizens walking down the streets, but  in everything that they do as well. The city was built on honor and confidence, brick by brick, and anyone who visits can clearly see the integrity of Grenoble. This city truly is something to be proud of.

I am honored to be able to stay in Grenoble. And while the nine other sister cities are each great, Grenoble is my favorite (disclaimer: I may be slightly, ok, completely, biased here).

Having the chance to stay with a host family, versus staying in a hotel and touring the city alone, has been the ultimate experience for me. I have been able to be immersed into the culture and get a first-hand look at how everything operates, as well as have access to the best tour guides around: my host family. My stay has dived so much deeper into the culture than I ever could have expected, and by this point (I’ve only got one week left and can’t believe it’s flown by so quick), I¬†am proud of Grenoble, too.

– A trying-to-soak-it-all-in Kaley

Pictures

Over the course of my week and a half stay, I have collected hundreds of photos in my camera roll. I cannot believe I am at the half-way mark of my time in Grenoble, it really has flown by.

By sharing these pictures, I hope that you will be able to see just a small amount of everything that I am seeing. I’ve attached my favorite photos (with simple explanations) below:

Right now there is a Street Art festival in Grenoble. There are pantings all over: on the sides of buildings, in alley ways, even on the tramway (light rail) cars!

This is the six-story library in the center of Grenoble. It’s giant! The first picture is the street view of it, the second is of the view from the sixth story of the library, and the last is the street art painted on the back of the building.¬†

This is the museum in Lyon (a city about an hour away from Grenoble), and the view from the top of it. The museum was free entry for those under 18 (yay!), and had an exhibit all about venom. It had everything from scorpions and snakes to modern vaccines.

This is the catherdral that sits at the top of Lyon. We had to take a tram that was built at an angle (the actual car itself was built at a 25 degree angle) to get up here. 

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The view of all of Lyon (taken from behind the cathedral).

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A lion that the city of Lyon (makes sense now, right?) had sculpted and painted by a local artist. I think it’s beautiful! (Also featuring Pauline, her mother and I in the reflection ūüôā

Places and things I go past almost every day walking around in Grenoble!

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Former entry point of the city during the time of Napoleon. I took this picture standing right outside the door to Pauline’s father’s home.¬†

The market that takes place every week here. It is huge and the vendors sell every food you could imagine: fruit, vegetables, bread, meat, cheese, and there are even vendors who sell exclusively olives. All of the food is organic and fresh!

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One of the cat cafes in the city. You can sip on coffee (or in my case, a hot chocolate) while petting cats. I think these businesses are amazing- they take the cats out of the pound and offer them a temporary place to live and be loved while they await adoption. 

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The view of Grenoble standing at the top of the Bastille. I was speechless. 

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An apartment window ledge. Am I back in Phoenix?

Just some of the delicious sweets to try here: gelato and a real croissant from the bakery right next door! 

 

I plan to make another collection of pictures, once I take more.

I hope you enjoyed!

-Kaley

Host Family Living

Prompt #5:

Living with a host family has been a new experience for me. Though I pictured it to be the same, it is nothing like going on a weekend trip with your best friend and their parents.

For starters, the family were complete strangers to me when I met them for the first time. And though I had talked with Pauline before coming, I had no idea what she looked like. It hit me at the airport that I would be sleeping in a stranger’s home for the next three weeks; using their toilet and shower, eating at their table, and sitting on their couch. My one worry about this whole trip was that I would not get along with my host family, or that tension would be created if I accidentally said or did something wrong or offensive.

But the moment I walked through the front door, it felt like home.

I have come to realize that for this program, my stay with the Linossier’s must be treated as though I am just an extension of the family, a relative, if you will. They have all been so hospitable, I can’t even explain! They have moved around their schedules for me, as well as quite literally moving things around so that I could unpack my things and not have to live out of a suitcase. They even offer to do my laundry for me. I try to be as respectful of their things as I can be, and I greatly appreciate everything they do to make me feel comfortable and at home.

Pauline’s parents are divorced (but still very friendly towards each other), so my first week in Grenoble I was at her mother’s apartment. Pauline and her sister, L√©onie, switch houses every Friday, so now I am at her father’s house. Both homes are so charming–I wish we had architecture like this in Phoenix! Pauline’s mother’s apartment has this beautiful black and white tile on the floors, and her father’s house is directly against a mountian (there’s not even a back fence for the patio, it’s just mountain). [This picture is of Pauline’s garden, and the rock on the right of the picture is the mountain that the whole house sits up against]IMG_6284

When I switched houses last Friday, it was such a seamless transition. The only rough part was when I unpacked my things and realized I left about half of the things I would need for the week at Paulines’ mom’s home. She very kindly brought them for me, though, and all was well!

And the whole family (Pauline’s mom, dad, sister, and her) gets together frequently, like last night when we all went on a hike and had a picnic in the mountains. I’ve never been so in awe at nature before, it truly was one of the most beautiful views I have ever seen. And the weather! Don’t even get me started. It was wonderful. [The first picture is of the lake we ate next to after our hike up, and the second is of all the surrounding mountains]

Overall, each family member speaks a good amount of English! Pauline and her mom more than her sister and dad, but I am always able to communicate with everyone with ease. They do speak mostly French at the dinner table when they talks about their days or similar subjects. But when there is something important or they ask for my opinion, they speak in English. It is so cool for me to sit back and listen to them speak French. I honestly have zero clue what they are talking about when they do (I told Pauline that they could all talk trash about me and I’d have no idea), but I enjoy listening anyways!

When they cook, the final product always turns out delicious. Like I said in a previous post, there hasn’t been a meal I haven’t enjoyed! I try to help in the kitchen, but do feel a little useless because I know that if I joined I would only slow them down. I try to help more in the cleanup, I can do that! Both of Pauline’s parents are amazing cooks, and mealtime is definitely something I look forward to. And Pauline and L√©onie cook really well too! For lunch today Pauline used the grill for chicken, and it was perfectly cooked. I took the more difficult job and boiled the pasta. You know, just taking one for the team because I’ve got loads of experience in the kitchen ¬†(all jokes).

As I mentioned, the family does like to do things together. They like to go on hikes and just spend time with one another, which is perfect for me! Car rides are always fun because we listen to good music and have great conversations.

I couldn’t imagine living with another host family. The Linossier’s have been such gracious hosts, and I hope to return the favor when Pauline comes to stay with my family and I back in Phoenix!

Thanks for reading!

РA  well-taken-care-of Kaley

Culture Shock and Stereotypes

Prompt #3:

have been waiting to write this post about culture until I felt that I was the most informed. My aim in this post is to be authentic and tell what I truly feel and experience, and nothing that I say is meant to hurt anyone’s feelings (just to make a quick disclaimer!). Over the past few days that I have been in Grenoble, I have noticed many differences, and similarities too, between French and American culture. Most of them are just in the way we operate in our day-to-day lives. For those who have not been to France, or who may have never been outside the United States (like me, prior to this trip), hopefully this post can provide some insight!

About two weeks ago, when I was still back in Arizona, my mother and I took a small trip to the Superstition Mountains. They are only about 45 minutes from our house, and my mom had the idea of visiting the museum and gift shop there to pick up gifts for Pauline and her family that I would bring to Grenoble. It was a genius idea because we ended up finding everything that we needed, and more (for anyone looking for super Arizona-y, tourist-y gifts: go to the Superstition Mountain Museum!!!). While we were checking out, my mom and I explained that I was buying the gifts to take with me to France. The cashier expressed his jealousy, we thanked him for his help that afternoon, and walked out with our heavy bags. We walked through the sand lot outside and just before opening the car door, we hear a, “Miss! Wait up!” It was the cashier, with a serious expression on his face. Without breaking eye contact, he told me to remember that “you are in their¬†country.” In the YAEP, we have attended multiple training sessions for this very reason, and going into my stay in Grenoble, I felt very prepared to put this way of thinking to test.

For the most part, everything has worked out well.

. . . Except for my first morning here.

Pauline and I had successfully arrived at her school, and were waiting outside of her classroom for the bell to ring. A group of her friends came up to greet Pauline, and noticed I was there with her. One of her friends came very close to my face, looking me straight in the eyes. A little hesitant, I told him “Je m’apelle Kaley.” He looked at me with confusion and walked to the other side of the circle. I was just as confused. What just happened? Did I pronounce something wrong and accidentally curse? It wasn’t until I saw the sly smile on Pauline’s face that I understood what had happened. He was coming to greet me with kisses. You know, as they do in France. Nothing out of the normal here. However, without thinking, I had misinterpreted his advance. I had assumed that because it was loud in the hallway, he came closer to me to be able to hear what I was saying. Instead of an introduction, I embarrassed myself. It also reminded me that I had introduced myself to Pauline’s family with a handshake at the airport the day before. I must have appeared as though I knew nothing about French culture, when in reality I had been studying it for months. I felt awful and so incredibly stupid.¬†Come on Kaley, the most basic fact in French culture is that they use kisses to greet. Everyone knows that, it’s even in the movies!

But you know what? By the end of the school day everything was fine, and I was giving kisses left and right (literally, on their left and right cheeks). I think that experience was an important one for me. It reiterated the fact that I am not in the U.S. anymore, and that I must adapt to another culture during my stay here. I try to be very observant of other’s interactions, and I ask Pauline when I don’t understand. I want to truly accept my role as an ambassador for the United States of America and represent my country in the best way possible. Hopefully I have achieved this so far, and with minimal embarrassment.

Other differences I’ve noticed seem to be very general; few apartment buildings have an elevator and the cars are much smaller than in America (as expected). Both of these because Grenoble has been a city for much longer than cars and elevators have existed, so things were built without much space for them.

One of the biggest differences, to me, is that there are no police. Anywhere. I have seen maybe a total of three police officers in my nearly week long stay. While there are a few military men stationed on various street corners (instated in every city in France since the terrorist attacks in Paris), I have yet to see an actual police car. I haven’t even seen one on the highways! I don’t know how they get anyone to follow the speed limit here, so I especially admire the citizen’s morals for doing so even when they cannot be caught easily. While the police officers around Phoenix do make me feel safe, and I greatly appreciate the service they provide for our city, I do not feel any less safe in Grenoble. In fact, I would even say I feel more safe due to the thought process that if there are no police here, there must be no need for them.

A large similarity between the two countries is that of the teenagers. I feel that we both interact with our friends in the same manner (minus the whole kiss-to-greet part), and like to do the same activities in our spare time: go to the movies, shop, and walk around town. I was so surprised to find out that we even listen to the same music! Pauline and her family and friends listen to a lot of American and Spanish music, the majority of which plays on the radio back in Phoenix. On my way to the airport I heard “Despacito”, and on my way back from the airport, I heard “Despacito”–only a whole ocean and some away! I also believe that the people over here also enjoy American movies, or at least Pauline and her family do. Sadly though, I found out just tonight from Pauline that new American movies are released here anywhere from one day to one week, even six months after they are released in America. I told her that anytime she would like to see an American movie on opening day, she can hop on a flight to Phoenix and visit for bit.

I also would like to mention the overall kindness I have observed and been the recipient of from French citizens.

Pauline and I had traveled to Lyon on Wednesday, because she had no classes for the day. We were going to take the tramway to a separate part of the city to meet up with her friends, but had no coins to pay for the ticket through the machine, which would not take paper bills. We went around and asked those nearby if they had any coins to exchange for five euros. Most people actually opened their wallets to look before declining, and one kind woman nearly tore apart her whole purse looking for spare change. Their actions really struck me, and the kind impression I recieved is one I will associate with the French for the rest of my life.

I would like to set the scene for the last difference I’ll talk about:

You are walking down the beautiful and historic streets of Grenoble, France. It is early afternoon and the weather is just right; not too sunny, and just warm enough to not need a jacket. You pass store after store, and pastry shop after pastry shop, trying to use all of your self control to not run in and request a chocolate croissant. It looks, well, like this:IMG_6278

All of the sudden, you hear a noise. As walk closer toward it, taking a right at the next street, you can finally recognize the sound: “Is that an accordion¬†I hear?”

Yes, yes it is. You walk further down the street and pass by the accordionist who is playing, much like those in America who play their guitars downtown for a little cash.

It is just like the movies! I think I have seen men playing accordions three or four times now, and each time I just look around, trying to soak up all of the culture around me. Grenoble truly is beautiful, and I couldn’t dream of spending the best summer of my life anywhere else (even if my greetings were off to a rough start).

Thanks for reading! More to come.

-An in-awe Kaley

First Impressions: French Food

Prompt #4:

As I sit with a full stomach, I feel this may be an appropriate time to give my opinion on French food so far. Though I have only been here a couple of days, I think I have a pretty good handle on the cuisine. If my opinion changes rapidly at any time, I will be sure to update, however, the probability is very unlikely.

If I had to categorize all of French food in one word, it would be new. Of course it is all very delicious, but the fact that I have never had most of what I am eating is what stands out the most to me. This only makes it all the more delicious!

I will list a typical day of meals at the Linossier household (my host family):

Breakfast- French breakfasts are normally very light, especially compared to the breakfasts I am used to eating at home. Breakfast begins whenever you wake up, no specific time. On the table is water, fruit juice, a mix of oats and chocolate shavings, sliced bread with jam, and any leftover pastries (yes, I will admit to having a slice of apple pie for breakfast yesterday morning, definitely a first for me). Though there is a good amount of food on the table, you do not eat each item. Instead, you pick which you feel like eating that day. This morning I had two slices of toasted bread with French honey, which I find to be less viscous and smooth than American honey–so good! Because this meal is so light, I am usually quite hungry by noon.

Lunch- Lunch is the main meal here in France, and thus is the heaviest. Lunch is served between 12:00-12:45. I am not sure what adults do when their kids are at school, but today Pauline did not have afternoon classes, so we went home for lunch and her mother met us there. What we eat for lunch varies each day. Monday we had quiche with ham, Tuesday was chicken and rice, Wednesday I ate ham on brioche, and today we enjoyed toasted sandwiches. A side salad is usually served, along with extra bread. If you are still hungry, a plate of fruit is placed on the table and you can grab some nectarines, a peach, or an apple. Or all three if you want! The fruit here is amazing. It is very different than the fruit I normally eat back in the U.S.; it is substantially smaller, and so much fresher. It tastes like the fruit from my grandpa’s garden!

I typically eat some sort of snack in between lunch and dinner because the two meals are so far apart. A piece of bread, a fruit cookie, or an apple does the trick!

Dinner- This meal is served quite late, at least compared to the time I am used to eating it. We eat anywhere from 7:30-9:00, and it is lighter than lunch, but heavier than breakfast. I have had pasta with spinach sauce one night, and tomato and mozzarella on small slices of olive bread served with quinoa the next, but my favorite so far has been the vegetable sandiwches on pretzel bread rolls we ate two nights ago. It was a pretzel bread roll, dressed with mustard and cream cheese, with a variety of vegetables inside. For mine, I put on cucumbers, red onion, and lettuce. The roll was probably one of the best sandwiches I’ve had in my life. Though dinner is pretty simple, and vegetarian, I have enjoyed it so much. At first, I was very scared of all the vegetables. I am definitely not a vegetable person, and was anxious about eating a meal comprised mostly of them, especially when we had the tomatoes and mozzarella on olive bread. I do not like tomatoes or olives, but ended up eating everything just fine! The tomatoes were not as bad as I had made them to be in my mind, and the olive bread was merely salty, not olive-y. When both are put with mozzarella, the bite is actually very good!

Looking back on that meal, I am wondering if I only do not like most vegetables because the times that I have tried them, I had already decided they were gross before taking a bite. I now think that it is best to go in with an open mind, which is what I am aiming to do. I am actually quite saddened to think of any the food that I have missed out on trying because I was too afraid to eat one ingredient in it. I would not call myself a picky eater, but I also would not call myself an adventurous eater. Before arriving in Grenoble, I promised myself that I would be willing to try any food that is presented to me (within reason, of course). I have followed through, so far, which I am very proud of!

We have not been out to eat yet, and I also have not had a chance to try anything from the patisseries. I am so excited to do both, but am in no rush as the food we eat at my host home is even better than amazing.

I wish everyone had the chance to eat what I am eating here, it truly is something else.

– A now hungry Kaley

First Days in Grenoble

Prompt #2:

Bonjour! I am officially in Grenoble, and could not be happier. After a long day and a half of traveling, I was picked up yesterday in Lyon by Pauline and her whole family. I was so happy they could all come, it meant a lot to me that they made the long drive to the airport just to pick me up.

I arrived at 11:30 a.m., so as soon as we arrived home lunch was put on the table. Pauline’s mom made a delicious quiche with ham, which I devoured. I was starving after traveling–airplane meals should not legally pass for real food. Then Pauline took me to my room, which looks like a hotel room! They set an American flag scarf over the window, and even placed rolled towels with shampoo and conditioner at my bedside table. Their hospitality amazes me, and I feel so welcome.

By this time it was still early evening, so we decided to go out and look around Grenoble. Pauline, her mother, and I walked around looking at street art and all the cute shops. However, what I enjoyed most was the weather! It is amazing: 70 degrees of pure heaven, and skies with these cute fluffy things called clouds (we hardly get them in Phoenix, so sad).

Then we went back home to watch a movie: Big Hero 6. I have never seen it before. And yes, that is have: I fell asleep on their couch about five minutes into the movie, and woke up just five minutes before it ended. Jet lag, anyone? After I had fully woken up, Pauline pulled out a cook book, and we decided to bake madelines. They turned out delicious, despite my inadequate baking skills and unfamiliarity of the scale they use to measure out ingredients.

I had just stepped out of the shower when Pauline announced she would be going to bed. I was very surprised she would go to sleep so early, until I checked the time on my phone, which read 9:30 p.m. The day had flown by, and it didn’t help that it was still so bright outside, it only made me more confused. I was tired too, though, so I flipped the switch for the automatic blinds and fell asleep in no time.

Today was an exciting one: Pauline took me to her school and I got to attend her classes and meet her friends. They are all so kind, and speak very good English, too! Most were hesitant to speak with me because they feared I would judge their English knowledge, and I wish that they weren’t because what I did hear was very impressive! But I totally understand because a few months ago, I tried to speak Spanish to a woman I met that was from Mexico, I ¬†felt like throwing up, and every Spanish word I knew was suddenly gone.

French school was very interesting to attend, and I am so glad to have had the opportunity. The overall methods of teaching are the same: white board and projector, with handouts to follow along. However, there are quite a few differences I observed throughout the day. The first is that the pacing of the school day is much more relaxed. Between classes they have time to hang out with friends, and their lunch period is about two hours long! But they do stay at school until 5 p.m., which is strange to me.

Speaking of lunch, it was delicious. In the line at the cafeteria, Pauline and her friends were preparing me for what sounded like a prison meal. As soon as I stepped up to the serving area, my eyes widened in excitement and a large smile spread across my face. Their “prison meal” was no prison meal at all. What is was instead, was a Sweet Tomatoes-esque buffet. First you grabbed a salad or a soup, then a choice of four entrees with rice, next a yogurt or cheese, and then apple pie (!) for dessert. All of Pauline’s friends looked at me in astonishment as I happily ate nearly every bite.

“You don’t understand, guys,” I said, shaking my head as I picked up more apple pie, “at my school, the lunch is so horrible that most students bring one from home. This is almost restaurant-quality food.” [This is the school meal I ate]IMG_6215

After lunch, Pauline and I went with her friends to their study hall area. We played card games while waiting for the bell to ring. Well, I attempted to play along as the rest of the group moved with superhero speed. Much to my surprise (not really), I lost every single game.

The rest of the day was classes that I semi-understood: math, English, and chemistry. In math the students were learning probability, and I was even able to show Pauline how to plug in a certain problem on her calculator; we use the same ones in America! Pauline’s English class was a blast, because the teacher made the students ask me questions in English. I sat at the front of the class with Pauline, and the rest of the kids asked me a few questions: some personal, some about America in general, and some about the high school that I attend. I had the chance to ask them some questions, too.

Throughout the day, I noticed that the teachers do not take attendance, and seating charts are nonexistent. Here, the school gives students much more freedom, which I envy. The classrooms also have windows that you can see the beautiful campus and mountain views from, and they proved to be very useful, especially in Pauline’ two-hour Economics class, where I probably could not understand the material even if it was in English.

After school ended at 5 pm (yikes), we took the bus to downtown Grenoble, where we walked around for a bit before meeting Pauline’s mother and sister for a movie at the cinema. The movie was in French, which I actually did not mind because I was able to grasp the general story line through the images. It was quite sad, though, when others in the theater would laugh at what I assume was a joke, but I never could laugh because I didn’t know what the joke was. Following the movie, we drove to their home and ate a quick (but very delicious) dinner of sanwiches made using fresh pretzel rolls and stuffed with vegetables and cream cheese. What I admire about my host family’s meals is that they only eat meat at lunch, which is something I feel I could adopt back in the U.S. And the food here is indescribable–even “simple” meals are near mind-blowing.

Tomorrow we are going into Lyon, so, after a full day today, I must get some rest to be ready for the sight-seeing!

Thanks for reading!

-A tired Kaley

Preparing for Grenoble

Prompt #1:

Today marks the official “I-never-thought-this-day-would-actually-come” point in my YAEP journey. I leave for Grenoble tomorrow morning, as I head for the airport¬†for my flight at¬†6:00 A.M. This means I have to be at the airport at 3:00 in the morning, which has me wondering: is the sleep even worth it? I know I’ll probably be too excited to sleep tonight, anyway! All of my packing is done, boy was that an ordeal on its own; it took me only an entire week!

Looking back at the Announcement Ceremony that took place in March (when I found out I would be spending my summer in Grenoble), it seems as though it’s been more than just three months ago. To be fair, us Youth Ambassadors have been keeping busy. We attended monthly training Academy Sessions which lasted five hours each (they were only somewhat painful), separate monthly meetings for each of our cohorts, as well as hours of fundraising among other activities together. I think all of us are definitely deserving of the fun coming our way this summer!

These past few days, my mom keeps bringing up the typical before-you-leave Mom Talk: “Kaley, I can’t believe you’re actually leaving!”, which then turns into, “wait, you’re leaving me! I mean, us, you’re leaving us, for three whole weeks!” I keep reminding her that I am, in fact, not dying, and will return soon. Well, at least that’s the plan–if my flight back home somehow gets delayed by a month, you won’t see me complaining.

Even through my mom’s comments, I have found that I’m not particularly nervous for my trip. Not even close to as nervous as I pictured I’d be. Sure, the packing and planning and making calls to insurance does get a little taxing, but I feel I’ve navigated my way through it all quite successfully, with the help of my parents, of course.

The only thing I am worried about is losing my luggage, or missing a connecting flight. However, I am traveling with Avary and Ashlyn, who are my two fellow Youth Ambassadors that are also going to Grenoble (together, we make up the Grenoble Cohort). I figure between the three of us, we can navigate international airports. I feel very prepared for this trip (thanks, Academy Sessions!) and am very eager to touch down in Lyon, then I’ll be on my way to Grenoble.

My main concern is the pick pocketing in Europe. Here in the U.S.,¬†I do not have to be overly-cautious of my personal belongings as I walk around a mall or in a restaurant, but the number one piece of advice I have recieved from the¬†YAEP alumnus is to always keep an eye on your belongings. While walking around Grenoble, I will remain cautious, though I wish I didn’t have to and could focus solely on the beauty around me!

I am most excited to meet my counterpart, Pauline. I will stay with her and her family, and then in July, after I have returned, she will come back and visit my family and I. Her and I have been talking for the past few weeks, and we have a lot in common already. I cannot wait to meet her in person, and spend time with her family! I also will have the opportunity to attend school with Pauline, and I am anxious to meet her teachers and friends, and learn more about the French education system.

I am hopeful that I will be able to post regularly while I am in Grenoble. However, my main focus will be in my interactions and experiences, which I will do my best to re-tell on this blog! I am planning on taking plenty of pictures, and will upload them as well.

Thank you for following along!

-An anxious Kaley

 

More About YAEP and My Experience

What is YAEP? Well, it stands for the Youth Ambassador Exchange Program within Phoenix Sister Cities (PSC), which is what I am a part of for this summer! Here’s how it all started:

It was March 3rd, 2017. I was sitting in a conference room in Downtown Phoenix that was filled with 25 of my fellow Youth Ambassadors, as well each of our friends and families. One by one, each ambassador was called up to the front, and it was announced where they would spend their summer. Years passed by, or so it seemed, before my name was finally called: “Please welcome Kaley Danks, a junior from Desert Vista High School.” I tried my best not to sprint to the stage, but I’m sure to the audience I ended up looking just a little to eager.

Heart racing, I stood in front, blinded by the light produced by the projector monitor overhead. I listened intently as Bethany, our program manager, announced, “You will be spending your summer in the birthplace of Andre the Giant.” For a few seconds, I racked my brain trying to remember anything and everything I could about him: I’d seen The Princess Bride once, and the only other thing I knew about him was that he was, well, giant. Before I could finish processing my thoughts, I heard, “Kaley, you’re going to Grenoble, France!” A smile so wide spread across my face. Nothing will ever compare to the feeling I had in that moment; it was not only a feeling of pride, but one of excitement, nervousness, and pure happiness.

The 26 of us Youth Ambassadors are each headed to one of eight cities: Catania, Italy; Chengdu, China; Ennius, Ireland; Grenoble, France; Hermosillo, Mexico; Himeji, Japan; Prague, Czech Republic; or Taipei, Taiwan. At the Announcement Ceremony that night, the selection almost seemed random, but as I have gotten to know each of my fellow Ambassadors, it has become clear that the selection was anything but. Each city¬†is so unique, and each Ambassador’s experience will be so different. I have come to find out (from Bethany), that we were all selected specifically for the city we will spend three weeks in this coming summer, which makes me even more excited for Grenoble!