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Gap Year Abroad

3 posts from December 2015

12/24/2015

Adjusting

FotorCreated
Luna and Hugues send me on my way

 

“How was Paris?!” -Everyone

Paris was...is...nothing less than amazing. It is intoxicating...everything about it filled my pores, filtered my vision, clouded my brain with a high unavailable on any black market. Paris is every newly discovered piece of myself that I never had in Atlanta. Paris is a home. Paris is where half of me still remains, waiting impatiently for my return in January.

For the time being, I’m ever so slightly detoxing as I shift my focus in my attempt to adjust back to Atlanta.

I’m relearning how to live in a space where I can’t comfortably call to someone from one side to the other.

I forgot what it’s like to have squirrels as upstairs neighbors and not the four thunderous children that seemingly love being active at all hours.

If I want to get anywhere it will be in car rather than the metro. It is much easier to walk across Paris than it is Atlanta. My subconscious came through the very first day of me driving again in Atlanta and I ripped off my front bumper. Adjusting takes time.

I coming back to a curfew and Christmas on steroids. I’m seeing the people that I once saw everyday in the halls of my high school for the first time in months and I’m realizing that I am not the only one who has changed. The memories are there, yet somehow I remember everything differently.

When I opened my closet for the first time, an abyss of clothes looked back at me as if to judge, “you left us here to hang with no purpose and now you’re back to fit into us and pretend you never left?”

People always say the first time you come home for a break is the hardest. I would agree, except I don’t feel like I have come home yet. I feel like I am sleeping in a bed, but it’s not mine anymore. I run with my dog on the same paths I have been marking for years, but I don’t know the direction to go anymore. My actions aren’t automatic and familiar, they are awkward and arrive with doubt. Maybe Atlanta doesn’t fit me anymore or maybe I just don’t fit Atlanta.

So, I will enjoy the things I spent a semester living without: my family, fresh air, Chick-fil-a, my over-sized sweater embroidered with a scarf clad llama, my dad bringing me hot coffee every morning, my favorite squirty green Gatorade bottle, booming southern thunderstorms, mason jars and tea cups, the ding-dong of the church around the corner announcing each new half-hour that passes by.

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My best friend, Greer, who picked me up from the airport and bought me Chick-Fil-A...if that's not true love, I don't know what is.
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Catfish, hushpuppies, fries, jalapeño poppers, nachos and more...ahhh southern food.

I shouldn’t complain. I can’t look at my situation and be ungrateful. I have more than I could ever wish for. So, don’t take this as me feeling unhappy for not having Paris, take this as me being overwhelmingly grateful that I am fortunate enough to have the opportunities that I have. Everyday I wake up and get a warm feeling knowing I’ll be right back where I belong in no time.

Besides, how can you hate coming back when you get a text like this (if you haven't noticed, food is very important to me...I figured out my first few meals before I knew when my flight home was):

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12/13/2015

Foie Gras

Foie Gras. It's controversial. It looks gross. It's delicious. 

This weekend I did the Frenchest thing I have done to date and I learned how to make it! 

I gathered with my CIEE folks in one of my professor's apartment (which was adorable as many French apartments seem to be) Saturday night and step by step, transformed a pink ball of fatty liver into a smaller browned ball of fatty liver12369941_1136094423075317_466378570_o 12364272_1136094389741987_332228564_oThe actual cooking of foie gras isn't complicated at all. Although, as with most French food, it is an art within itself. Watching my professor scuttle around her small kitchen, mumbling French words here and there to herself , I felt like I had gone through some Narnia-Esq portal into the heart of real French cuisine. Subtle things like measuring salt into grams instead of tablespoons and sipping homemade vin chaud transformed my night into something out of a movie.
12394418_1136094359741990_547772539_oAll it really takes is some simmering water and spices. You submerge it in the hot water for five or six minutes and then dunk it into cold water. Next you salt it (better to have more than less in this step) and finally you smoosh it down into a dish where it will sit for a few days in the refrigerator until it's ready to be eaten with some good wine and toast. It was as easy as pie! So easy I almost forget how it's prepared before we obtained the liver in the market... 12375869_1136094069742019_279054097_o

I completely understand why it's a touchy subject. It's prohibited to import in India. It's illegal to produce in Australia, Argentina and Brazil. It's illegal in countries all over Europe including the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Finland, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, Turkey, Norway, and most of the Austrian provinces. Thanks to general animal protection laws in Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom mean that production is essentially banned there as well. 

Before I spend my evening creating such an iconic French food, I was right there with these countries. Now I am caught between my feelings on the process and the artistry of it all. Yet, at the end of the day, foie gras will still be around and even if I am not completely supportive, I am glad I got to experience just another one of the delicacies that French life has offered me. 

 

12/10/2015

SNOW MY GOD!!!

When I say that this past weekend was life changing, I mean it. I, the girl from Georgia, got to experience real fluffy/pure/fresh/freezing snow. This photo about sums it up:

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As stupid as this sounds, my first reaction (besides throwing myself into the first pile of glorious white heaven that I saw) was "Wow...snow is so cold." which quickly dissolved into "TOO COLD! SOS!"
As my friends here in Paris could tell you, the terror of being in weather below zero degrees Celsius consumed my entire being for the week before we landed in Milan, Italy. Living in the south, I don't do cold weather.  I wouldn't even consider looking at universities in the north of the United States because I hated cold weather so much. So, when I experienced my first gust of blustery winter blah...I went into shut down mode and was convinced I would die a slow and painful death by having my blood freeze. However, I eventually warmed up (physically and mentally) to the idea of anything below 10 degrees Celsius. 

The weekend was jammed full of new and exciting experiences. Here are the highlights: 

    1. The traveling. In total it was a shuttle, 2 flights, 2 four hour bus rides, one taxi ride and countless metro/RER trips (plus four rides for me on the ski lift!!! Making moves! Doing big things!). Everything went smoothly except for when we accidentally left three of my friends stranded in a middle-of-nowhere town in Italy an hour and a half from both our starting point and destination. We got them back eventually, but let's just say that all the Italian people on the bus were not surprised it was the Americans who messed up the bus schedule and didn't even try to hold back their laughter when we asked the bus driver to turn around (which he so kindly did, but at this point our friends had assumed we had left them for good and we abandoned them a second time)

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  1. Skiing! Growing up, my mother instilled an image of the horrors of skiing into my head. I was told it was overrated, too cold and dangerous. While I understand the cold and dangerous part, skiing feels like nothing I've even done before. It's both terrifying and exhilarating. It feels like you are flying with no restraints and also hurtling down a mountain with no safe way of stopping. That was my greatest challenge, stopping. My ski instructor (who turned out to be Pinot Meynet, the Italian skier who set the record for fastest skier by going a whopping 194.384 km/h in 1975) quickly learned that I could follow him with ease, but stopping resulted in me either face-planting into the snow or crashing into him. Either way, each lesson ended with "Très bon, Kira! Mais vous devez commencer à arrêter!" (Did I mention that each lesson was IN FRENCH??) If you can imagine a bright orange object zooming (a slow zoom, but a zoom) past you releasing a high-pitched noise resembling a boiling kettle while being yelled at in French to "Arrêtez!!!", then you can understand my skiing experience. Here is proof that I was both bright orange and learned how to stop eventually.  IMG_4950 IMG_4946 (1)
  2. The people. Besides my amazing travel companions/friends...everyone we encountered treated us with warmth and respect. Not that I don't feel the love in France, but from what I have experienced, the familiarity between everyday interactions in Italy is unlike what you find in Paris. 

For being away for just a few days, coming back to Paris felt like I was finally home after weeks away. That's one of the ways that this weekend was life changing...realizing that Paris is my home. It's not just a city I am living in anymore. Ever since the attacks I have felt even more attached to this city, but seeing the lights of Paris as my plane from Milan landed and feeling the sensation of "I'm so glad I'm home" cemented Paris as a home in my heart.

To conclude, here are a few more pictures from the trip (credit to Nick Boulos who took on role as my personal photographer)

Map
We started in Milan (Milano) to Chatillon and finally to The Breuil-Cervinia Valtournenche Zermatt area

 

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