I am in Aix-en-Provence.
I'm not entirely clear on what time I should think it is now, or even really how this all happened, but I'm here. If it's 4:45 EST (conveniently, my computer's still telling me) then I've been awake for something like 32 hours, minus spotty sleep on the plane from Philadelphia to Munich. Physically, I suspect I'm exhausted, but my mind is still going a mile a minute.
Wait, we're using kilometers now.
The last twelve hours have been both a whirlwind and interminable. I landed in Munich, gaped at the sheer enormity of the airport, got my boarding pass, and found my way to gate G61(!). I got back in the air, gaped at the sheer beauty of the Alps, and ate a sandwich described by a multilingual flight attendant as alternately "turkey" and "poulet." Even this mystery poultry topped the meal US Airways served me last night, which included chicken worthy of Stevie and green beans that made me glad, for the first time, that I can't really breathe through my nose.
Upon landing in Marseille, I briefly met a few other AUCP students before being whisked off by my host father, Christian. Apparently the past three years have done me some serious good, because unlike my last French homestay experience, I...I talk now. Within the first half of the car ride to Aix, I somehow found myself talking about how Basque is "très intéressant d'un perspectif linguistique parce que..." which made Christian roar with laughter at the useless sophistication of my lexicon.
We finally arrived at the house and wow, talk about immersion. I got a cursory tour and then it was off to the neighbors' house, where a giant birthday party was well under way. I was tossed into a crowd of at least a hundred French people, handed a glass of wine, and apologetically seated at the children's table. The pizza was delicious, but really, those kids have a lot more to look forward to on the beverage front. Oh, and there was cheese. Charles, my host brother, played babysitter to me for the afternoon and brought me an enormous slab of brie accompanied by bread and grapes. We're getting along fabulously.
An introduction to my host family: Christian, his wife Véronique, Charles (age 11), Ève (age 10), Ulmine (cocker spaniel, age unknown), and a mysterious other sibling who's off doing something in Paris. I know it's only been one day, but honestly, I cannot envision a better family to stay with for the semester. Everyone is so welcoming and funny and talkative without any hint of pressure, and they all have this air of vitality and spirit that I can't quite pin down or describe.
I helped Véronique with dinner tonight, or pretended to do so by stirring zucchini and onions and tomatoes periodically as they sizzled away on the stove. We ate outside in the garden, which is entirely free of mosquitoes due to the dry climate. (Maryland, take note. Shape up.) What it is not free of, however, is frelons--hornets. I thought the grape vines on the trellis shading the patio were charming until I felt something drop onto the top of my head. The something bounced off and landed by my water glass, and two nanoseconds later I was four meters away because that was a pair of grappling hornets, not a harmless falling grape. I would like to point out that I have not once actually freaked out or shrieked or anything despite multiple hornet encounters today.
The learning experiences, they are endless.