My month long intensive course began at the start of this week, which consists of oral, written and phonetics modules and two “ateliers” or workshops per week of my choice (I chose art and diplomacy).
Once again, I found myself to be one of the few Americans in my classes and encountered an unusual situation. Teachers and students alike were fascinated about my “roots,” or mixed heritage of Irish, Italian and German. I never considered my cultural background unusual, but most of the international students and teachers here can trace their family history back through generations in one country.
My vocabulary mistakes are still common and often a subject of hilarity. I have mistakenly asked my host mother for “extra mold” on my sandwich, and somehow told her that I thought resembled a fat cow on the Vache qui rire package of cheese! I realized I had a tendency to blurt out phrases with the hope that the general idea would be understood when I was uncertain of what to say. Now I am trying to become more cognizant of my grammar and vocabulary that I use in conversation. As well as making an effort to speak in full sentences, if I do not know a word, I will make quick use of my Google Translate app or dictionary on my cell phone. I have found this is an efficient and effective way to participate in conversational French.
This is also the week we began to venture out and explore outside Tours. Wednesday I visited my first chateaux, Chenonceau, and toured a local wine cave where I learned that my favorite wine is Vouvray Brut! Saturday I toured Mont Saint Michel and St. Malo in Northern France. I can honestly say I was absolutely amazed by both these breath-taking vistas.
Mont Saint Michel was by far the most spectacular site I have ever visited in my life. The small island commune surrounded by a beautiful bay is a UNESCO World Heritage site. At the top of the island a woman next to me cried because the view was so beautiful! Another highlight of Saturday was the food. Two of my favorite meals – omelet and mussels – turned out to be the local specialty so of course I ordered both during the day. When my omelet arrived for lunch I was very confused and thought I had the wrong meal, but learned that Mont Saint-Michel is famous for a unique omelet that is made from whipped egg and resembles a soufflé. I’m not sure if it was the hunger, locality or a mixture of both, but the mussels I ate for dinner never tasted so delicious.
On Sunday the color run came to Tours and I had a blast with many of my new friends running through the streets of the Tours to the sounds of French pop music, covered from head to toe in colored dye thrown on us along the route. After the run there was a huge outdoor music festival where we spent much of the afternoon dancing.
Its been only two weeks in Tours but yet I feel at home in school and with my host family. Because I am now enrolled in the month long course, I will have classes for the next 3 weeks with the same students and teachers who I already feel very close with after only one week. My best friend in the class is a girl my age from Switzerland who is a watchmaker – I told her she really fits the Swiss stereotype! It’s been an exhausting week in the best way and I am looking forward to another week of more adventures in beautiful Tours.