Winter Break Update

In case anybody was wondering, I’m still alive. The reason I haven’t posted anything recently is because, as of now, my life during winter break hasn’t been very interesting (so much for weekly updates). In my attempt to repress the trauma of finals, I’ve just been relaxing and taking it easy. Originally, I was going to travel with a friend, but those plans didn’t work out and now travel prices are too expensive. So the first half of winter break can basically be summed up as wandering through the city, having a Christmas Eve potluck dinner, and watching Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.

Fortunately, the second half of break should be more interesting: from January 2-13, I’ll be touring Europe with my parents. Before I arrived in France, I had this grand vision of traveling all over Europe, either by myself or with a newly acquired friend, but those plans fell through last semester because 1) I was afraid I’d run out of food money, 2) I’m female, and 3) I’m Asian. If you’re wondering how 2 and 3 are related, it’s because there’re these wonderful phenomena known as sexism and racism, and I’ve already been uncomfortably hit on (in French, no less) because I’m Asian and female. Also, nearly all of my friends either went back home because they’re done with the semester, or because they’re visiting their families. So that left me stuck traveling with my parents, but I was hardly going to turn down the opportunity to visit six different countries and Paris, even if my poor brother’s going to be left at home by himself.

Anyway, to make a long story short, I’ll be visiting London, England; Amsterdam, Holland; Rhineland, Rothenburg, and Munich, Germany; Innsbruck, Austria; Venice, Montecatini, and Florence, Italy; Lugano and Lucerne, Switzerland; and Paris, France. This tour will be the first time I’ve left France since visiting Ventimigilia, Italy, so I’ll definitely be writing a post when I get back to Nice!

Halfway Through

I never thought I’d get to say this, but I’ve finished an entire semester abroad. In France. Like most experiences, it had its ups and downs—my time here has certainly been eye-opening, and there are some things that I’ll never again take for granted back in the US. At the same time, when I go home in about five months, I know that I’ll miss certain things about Nice.

I’m grateful for all of my lovely classmates who made enduring an inept administration, an insane professor, and a slightly despotic professor less painful. I’ve seen some amazing things and met some incredible people, and that combination means that I’ve gained new memories that will stay with me for years. (Wow, goodbyes suck.) Although I’m still nowhere near fluent, my French has definitely improved, which is a pretty decent accomplishment, I guess.

Now that I’ve finished my first semester, the next one should be easier!

FIN

Disclaimer: I wrote this while still emotionally compromised from watching the finales of White Collar and Fullmetal Alchemist right after the trauma of finals, so don’t hold me accountable if this post doesn’t make sense. (This might end up being a bit overly sentimental, but this quote popped up near the end of FMA, and it kind of stuck with me because I feel like it can be applied to studying abroad: “The world isn’t perfect. But it’s there for us, doing the best it can. And that’s what makes it so damn beautiful.”)

Christmas in Nice

Between (unwisely) getting addicted to Fullmetal Alchemist a week and a half before finals and trying not to stress out over exams, I’ve realized that I’ve been neglecting this blog. (I should probably be studying instead of writing this, but when you’re a writer, bad things happen when you try to stifle the urge to put pen to paper/fingers to keyboard.) So here’s a brief post on Christmas in Nice:

There’ve been Christmas chocolates in supermarkets since October, and festive decorations in the city since November, though I suppose that’s because France doesn’t have Halloween or Thanksgiving to act as buffer holidays.

When December arrived, the Christmas market appeared, bringing with it the scent of warm cinnamon and clean, crisp cold. (Well, as cold as Nice can get, which is like 45 degrees.) The marché de noël seems to be a European tradition, and the Niçois one consists of little stalls selling anything from cotton candy to jewelry to incense to spiced breads. While I managed to find a cute five-euro trinket for a friend, frankly, I think most of the wares are overpriced—one stall had ten-euro Santa hats, the kind you could buy for a buck at Dollar Tree, and another had bracelets for 18 euros, an unjustifiable price seeing as they were just a tiny piece of metal and a few strands of string.

The market’s accompanied by a tiny ice skating rink, some carnival games, a carousel, and a Ferris wheel. (Seriously, where do they store that thing when the holiday season ends?) Occasionally, you might stumble across randomly placed trees covered in fake snow, AKA environmentally unfriendly Styrofoam.

I’ve never particularly cared for the holiday itself—it doesn’t hold any special significance for me or my family. It’s simply there, an impossible-to-ignore sign of Christianity attempting to work its way through every aspect of society. Generally, I just like the ambiance of the holiday season—spending time with friends and family, warming your hands with mugs of hot chocolate, and eagerly but futilely hoping for a lot of snow. But it’ll be interesting to see how my first Christmas abroad goes, when I’m an ocean away from my family and friends.

Concert Experience

Believe it or not, I’ve never actually gone to a concert before: the combination of shy + introvert tends to mean that I hate anything having to do with crowds and loud noises. So I was initially hesitant when four of the Marylanders invited me to go with them because they had an extra ticket, but I figured, “Why not?” (That’s my general opinion regarding nearly everything I do here. I mean, I’m essentially in France because of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so I might as well make the most of it!)

The hours of 8-10:10 pm Saturday night marked my first concert, so I’m no longer an uncultured heathen. We saw Yannick Noah, who’s this famous cultural figure: a retired pro tennis player, he’s now a singer with an active presence in charity work. Since we didn’t have seats, we ended up standing in the mosh pit. Luckily, there wasn’t any actual moshing because there were small children attending the family-friendly concert.

Overall, the spectacle exceeded my expectations in a surprisingly pleasant way. It wasn’t deafeningly loud, even if it should’ve been labeled with “epilepsy warning” in giant red letters. Although I couldn’t understand three-fourths of what Yannick was singing, he had a very dynamic personality. His songs were mostly catchy, with the exception of a few somber ones, and the mood became quickly infectious; I found myself nodding or clapping to the beat.

Surprisingly, despite there being maybe 2000 people in the hall, I never felt claustrophobic—that is, until Yannick began moving around the room and walked right through the mosh pit. Then, everyone on the ground wanted to get as close to him as possible, and I found myself an unhappy ingredient of a human sandwich.

At the cost of sore feet, I suppose that I can now add Yannick Noah to the list of famous people I’ve seen in person. (It’s not a very long list. Before today, it only consisted of Jackie Chan and Ari Shapiro.)

These pictures aren’t very good, but they’ll have to do: