Now that I'm somewhat settled in here, and I know what to expect from day to day (knock on wood) I've been thinking about what I want out of this experience, and what I want to accomplish during the next nine months or so. Firstly, I don't want to experience culture shock. While it's a perfectly very normal thing to go through, it's basically a big drag and totally wastes about a week or two of your time, and your family's time for that matter, so thats a big N-O on my side. What culture shock is for those of you who haven't been bombarded with pamphlets on the various stages of an exchange program, which I'm guessing is most of you, is a rejection of the culture and experience in general. It usually occurs after you've settled in a little and aren't constantly being thrown for a loop, or figuring out something new, because after that is over you have time to reflect, get home sick, and start to miss everything you know and love, which turns into bitter feelings for this new thing. So that time is approaching for me, and I don't want to fall into culture shock, even on a minute degree, though that may be inevitable, we'll see. I think the best way I can avoid culture shock, is by spending lots of time with my family, talking, learning, bonding, etc. rather than sitting alone in my room thinking about home, or what have you. I have been spending the evenings watching the French news and talking with my host parents, Gilles and Isabelle, so that's a good start. The next thing I want to do is get to know Marchiennes. It seems like a charming town from what I've seen, which is not much, just the main square, where the school bus picks us up, and the road out of town. My host family, the kids especially, don't seem very interested in the town, or in spending time there, which I can understand, coming from a small town my self (though Santa Fe is a booming metropolis compared to Marchiennes, pop. 4700) its just boring. However, I'm hoping if I ask them they will show me around, and then maybe I can spend some afternoons, or weekends in town exploring rather than out on the couch reading alone. I like to read on the couch in the living room because it makes me feel like I'm assimilating with the family rather than reading in my room, but almost no one else is out there, so its still me alone. Don't get me wrong, reading on the couch is a great way to relax, and just sort of be, but I would love to experience Marchiennes the town, and that whole other part of French life, which so far has evaded me. Everything I have read about France says that the people always have a very nice relationship with the local store owners, such as the baker, butcher, etc. and I would very much like to have that too. I know that Gilles goes out and buys bread and sometimes pastries every morning on the weekend and sometimes during the week as well, and as I can't seem to sleep past 7:30 (must be the time change) I think I'll ask to tag along next time. Other than my longing to walk around town, I don't have any other complaints, or unfulfilled desires. The next thing I would like to do however, is make an apple pie. Pie, especially apple, is very American, I intend to do a lattice top and everything, so hopefully it will be an exciting prospect for my family, I'm thinking maybe this or next weekend. I made Pancakes last weekend. My mom has these amazing, ever so fluffy, delectable pancakes, which she makes using a tweaked version of the Joy of Cooking recipe. I thought they'd be simple, and they were, but I didn't beat the egg whites enough and due to measurement conversion issues, the batter was too runny, which meant that I had to add a bunch of flour after adding the half-beaten egg whites, which made the batter dense. All in all they weren't fluffy, not even a little bit, so they were edible, even good, but they weren't the fantastic pancakes with this craxy 'wow' factor, that I'd wanted. However, on the upside I've asked if some other weekend in the future I can try again, because I figure now that I've tried once, know what measurements to use, and how much to beat the eggs, I'll be able to pull off the fluffiest pancakes you could imagine. Well maybe not quite, but its worth a try. Also I figure my tarts and pie (note the singular) have always come out well, so I'll probably have better luck with an apple pie than with pancakes, which I'd never made without the wise advice of my pancake-expert mother. That's all I have for today so over and out,
p.s. Oh I forgot Peanut butter does not exist in France! I repeat does not exist here!