Upside Down and Backwards: My First Week in France

Wow. I live in France now. This place is crazy. Not crazy like “OMG this is cah-rayyy-zayyy”, but crazy like EVERYTHING IS DIFFERENT.

I don’t know why this took me aback so. I mean, I was more than prepared to deal with culture shock, and of course, I understood I would. But this week has been intense. I have created a list of all the differences (some, opposites) between my home country/state (the US/Ohio) and my host country.

1. The weather is the same here every. single. day. Wake up: cold, dark, probably rain. Lunch time: sunny, warm. Night: cold, dark, rain. This is not Ohio where Tuesday you’re laying out and Saturday wearing your parka.

2. There are no baggers at the grocery store. The clerk and all the people behind you literally watch you bag your items and you wonder why you bought so much. (AKA efficiency is not prized)

3. Oh! Another grocery thing: they have NO plastic grocery bags. You either bring your own or buy their reusable ones, so now I have 4 grocery bags . . . (My city, Nantes, prides itself on being one of the greenest cities in France).

4. THEY DO NOT EAT PEANUT BUTTER HERE. IT IS NOT A PRIORITY, AND I DO NOT UNDERSTAND THIS. You have to pay roughly 8 USD for a tiny jar of Skippy (the only brand they have). Where the PB should be in the grocery, all you see are shelves packed with Nutella and cookie butter.

5. This leads me to: everything is sweet! They put chocolate in everything, and I am 100% okay with it. I have become obsessed with this amazing dark chocolate chunk granola. It is really difficult to find a cereal without some kind of chocolate component. They have chocolate chip bread right there with the sandwich slices. They have chocolate yogurt, rows and rows of every kind of cookie/chocolate combination imaginable, and a truly sinful treat: chocolate stuffed croissants, or, pain au chocolat.

6. Their sandwich bread has no end pieces. So what does that mean? Do they make super long loaves of bread and just sell us sections of a loaf? Or do they throw away every loaf’s end pieces?? These are the things keeping me up at night . . .

7. Another food thing: the largest pack of lunch meat I can find has 4 slices. 4. What am I supposed to do, buy lunch meat every 2 days? What do they eat for lunch?? BAGUETTES. The stereotype is SO TRUE. People literally walk down the street eating baguettes. I did it. It was fun and yummy.

8. Their coffee is amazing. If you order a small black coffee. They give you the teensiest cup of espresso and a wafer. It literally woke my jet-lagged butt UP. It was also incredibly delicious, and I’d drink it every day if I was sure it wouldn’t give me a heart attack.

9. They sell their milk warm. It sits on the shelf like any other beverage. I’ve seen this before in other countries, but I just think it’s so weird.

10. They have pink toilet paper. (Yeah, I bought it)

11. Nothing is open past 7pm during the week or at all on Sundays. There is literally NOTHING to do on Sundays. Even our university closes.

12. They take 2 hour lunch breaks.

13. The people are quiet in public. It’s so quiet here. People rarely talk on trains or sidewalks. They dress in all dark colors and neither smile at you nor excuse themselves when obstructing another’s path. In class though, the students talk over the professor while he’s lecturing, and over each other when we present projects. It’s an odd juxtaposition.

 

That is what I’ve noticed so far. Mostly food/grocery related things. Oops.

 

Keep checking up on this blog; I will try to post weekly/biweekly depending on how many exciting things I have to tell you! Thanks for reading et au revoir!

Live with Japanese Traditions

This Tuesday, I had a great encounter with the traditional and typical Japanese life style.

Nice Taste! –Yokohama Ramen

Firstly, my friends took me to a typical Japanese ramen restaurant named Yokohama Ramen. It was not big nor wide, and I just guess that maybe its capacity is around 20 people. Customers could choose whether to sit on an ordinary table or to sit in front of the kitchen (where they were able to watch how the stuff are preparing foods).

The ramen I ordered tasted really good. I had never had such a delicious ramen before! The soup was hot and the noodles themselves absorbed all the flavors.

This was the menu board put outside the restaurant. What impressed me was that all the paintings and words were handmade. So amazing and really attractive! This board shows the top sellers of the restaurant and the last one says that between 11:00 to 18:00, the restaurant provides free rice to customers. (In Japan, people usually eat ramen and rice together.)

 

Interesting Sport — Kendo

One of my friends here at Rikkyo University is taking a recreation class at Waseda University 早稲田大学. And he told me that it is fine if I come and watch their practice. So, I was really happy to go with him all the way to Waseda University to watch the Kendo class.

Kendo 剣道 s a traditional Japanese sports. People, wearing traditional Japanese clothes for Kendo,use bamboo sword and armor. Mostly, they compete one-to-one and should attack certain parts of the body of the competitor in order to gain points on the game. The most interesting part is that they usually shout really loud when they attack the competitor successfully.

It is great that I can experience so much of Japanese traditions and I hope I could enjoy more of the Japanese culture =)

Food in Italy!

Food is unique all over the world, and although Italian food has become such a large part of American cuisine, there are a few differences in dining culture between Italy and America.

First and foremost, Italians love espresso.  I remember the first time I ordered coffee, I thought the cafe would have a regular Starbucks sized Americano or a regular black coffee, but they do not.  Instead, what they have all over Milan is a tiny tiny cup of espresso, or a small cup of cappuccino.  When I say tiny, I mean very tiny as shown in the picture below.  There are no Starbucks in Milan, and no gas station sized coffee.

Tiny Tiny espresso cup!

For lunch, sandwiches or pizza are popular options.  The pizza in Milan is delicious, and so cheap.  Pizza in Milan is quite different from pizza in America, because the toppings and texture is not the same.  Some common pizza toppings in Milan are basil, seafood, sometimes no cheese, mozzarella cheese, and so on and so forth, but never have I seen a pepperoni pizza yet.  The sandwiches in Milan are somewhat simple.  It is usually some sliced deli-meat with tomato, and some sort of cheese such as brie or mozzarella. Sandwiches such as cheeseburgers or any Subway chains are not common, and actually, I have not seen a burger place or Subway shop yet.

Margarita Pizza in Milan

For dinner, aperitivo is a popular choice.  Aperitivo is the Italian version of Happy Hour, but instead of getting just half off drinks, you get a drink of your choice whether that be Long Island, a cocktail, beer, etc with unlimited appetizer like food that is set out in a buffet style.  It is usually only 6 to 10 euros, and is delicious!

Aperitivo!

 

Freshman Global Lab Day One Travel

We were finally leaving! Everything was packed, and we left for the airport around 8:00 am. Our first flight was from Columbus to Chicago. Due to the time zones we were leaving at 11:01 am and arriving at 11:16 am. Not everyone had chosen the faculty flight, but a majority of the students did and we were able to meet up while waiting for our plane. Once we arrived in Chicago we got food. I was wearing a drawstring bag with the OSU logo on it and got an OH-IO from a stranger within the first ten minutes. The first one of the trip!

The plane to Germany was huge! There were three rows of seating with two aisles in between. Our group was scattered throughout the plane. We had these awesome video players in the head rest of the seat in front of us. We were able to watch television shows, movies,  and documentaries. They had a great selection too. I counted at least 50+ comedy movies alone. These screens also provided information about the flight like the speed, ETA, and the current location.

I actually ended up sitting next to a Michigan fan on the plane! She commented when she saw my OSU bag. What are the odds? We were all tired but excited at the same time. We had a big day ahead of us! We still had a flight to Florence from Germany and then a train from Florence to Rome.

I had a window seat and was able to see a beautiful sunset. It was golden on the horizon against the silhouette of the plane wing. At that point it was 7:20 pm Chicago time and 2:20 am Germany time. When we flew over Manchester we saw the city lights and the highways. You could spot each town by the clusters of lights and see all of the roads connected them. It was like little lit up spider webs all over the landscape.

Excuse the dirty airplane windows!

While on the flight I woke up from a nap and looked out the window just in time to see the Swiss Alps! It was crazy. They stretched as far as the eye could see. I had no idea that we would be flying over them. We were close enough to see the ice caps and the green valleys.

Swiss Alps

Alps again

The flight finally arrived in Florence. We made it! We were in Italy! Mellisa, our faculty director helped group everyone together. The worst thing possible happened to me. My luggage was lost!! I was devastated. I could not believe that this happened the first day of the trip. Turns out it was just in a different part of the airport. Mellisa was able to speak with the airport workers and find it for me. It was hard because Italian was their first language. At this point it was Saturday May 11.

No sleep! After arriving at the Florence airport and everyone claimed their luggage we boarded our private coach and met our tour guide. We arrived in Florence at 11:00 am. Upon arrival we were given ear pieces in order to hear our guide speak to us as we were walking. Our walking tour began as soon as we got off the bus. The guide was very thorough and explained the history of the town of Florence along with the buildings and statues that we passed by.

This building is the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore. Construction for it began in 1296and it was completed in 1436. The exterior of the basilica is faced with marble panels in shades of pink and green.

This is the roof of the dome of the Basilica.

I was surprised at how elegant so many of the doors and gates were in Italy.

This part is inside the Duomo. In the photo above you can see the designs on the wall. According to the tour guide people are actually buried in the walls behind the designs.

Our tour lasted until 1:00 pm. Then we were given three hours to explore the area. We split into groups and did some shopping. A lot of the girls bought leather goods. We were told they make excellent purses and belts and wallets. We were also free to grab some food. We stopped at a restaurant and had our first pizza in Italy! We also got some gelato.  We met up again at 4:00 to board the train to Rome.

The entire global lab!

Waiting for the train.

At this point we had all been up since 8:00 am the previous day. We had naps on the plane but no actual good rest. The train left at 5:04 pm and took an hour and a half. Nearly everyone fell asleep.

Jack and George couldn’t take any more and caught some shut eye on the train ride.

At 6:30 pm we arrived in our hotel and checked in. We settled down and unpacked everything and got dinner. I don’t have any pictures of dinner because my devices were dead from travelling and taking pictures all day. We were able to explore the area around our hotel a bit. We also found a great gelato place down the street!

Yum!

This was the view from our hotel room!!! It was gorgeous. Some rooms had balconies. Others had multiple windows. We were on the highest floor with no balcony. Since we still didn’t have phone service we had to write down everyone’s room numbers to go visit them. We had a blast checking out how each room was different. Jack was my roommateand we got along well. Our room had a bathroom and two beds. The hotel workers were very courteous and friendly. We unpacked everything and laid out our clothes for the next day and went to bed! We were all exhausted.

Perfect view from the 10th floor!