Why does the milk taste weird?

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Today I woke up and read a bunch. I had some cereal and discovered that milk here has a very different taste to it. I have also noticed (today) that it isn’t in the refrigerated section of grocery stores. I did some research and figured out why this is and found this:

Most milk in France does not require refrigeration because it is sterilised and not pasteurized. Despite having been the first country to “discover” and widely use pasteurization for dairy products, they now use what is called UHT steralization, another heating process that kills bacteria.

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The shelf life of sterilized milk is 6-9 months when unopened, hence it’s reason for being popular. This is why French milk tastes different. Other European countries like Spain, Portugal, and Belgium also use this method.

 

Apparently UHT milk has been introduced in the US, but Americans, as they are with all change, were no open to trying unrefrigerated milk that tastes like merde. Evidement.

 

Source: http://www.exasperatedexpatriate.com/2013/04/youve-always-wanted-to-know-why-isnt.html

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I found that really helpful and surprising as well. I totally agree with the American view of the milk here though it is very weird and different! I think the best way to describe it is that it doesn’t taste refreshing? Once you open the milk you put it in the fridge but it still isn’t very like fresh feeling? It is hard to describe so you will just have to come here and try it ;-)

 

I read my book for a while and got almost done with my outline for a paper due on Monday when I decided I didn’t want to have a sit at home day today when I know that Sunday the weather is going to be bad and I won’t be able to walk around much. So I texted my friend Cassandra and asked if she wanted to go on an adventure with me to find the big supermarché or big grocery store that is outside of town. She agreed and we made plans to meet.

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The best form of transportation here is public because to get a license you have to pass a test and go to driving school. It is also very expensive to get a license (over 1,000 Euros, that’s over $1,350!) and if you don’t pass the tests you have to retake them and pay the money to try all over again! Not to mention that but cars are also pretty expensive here and there isn’t a lot of space to park them. So because of this if you want to go somewhere over a mile away you need to take public transportation to get there. We ended up needing to take the bus. I had a bit of trouble figuring out which line we needed to take to get us there and the bus routes aren’t very clear. I finally found a website that you could tell it where you wanted to go and it would tell you the best route to take. What a life saver! I met Cassandra and we headed out. I had looked at how many stops the bus would make before we needed to get off so that we would be sure not to miss it but the bus stopped a lot more often than the route made it seem. I was not recognizing the bus stop names and was getting worried but then we soon passed the grocery store and stopped close by. We hopped off and began our adventure.

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The store is called Carrefour and the best way that I could describe it is that it is like a Safeway and a Walmart and Half of a Fred Meyers. It is BIG. I guess it could be compared to Costco but things aren’t in bulk they is just a lot of stuff!

 

We went in and I had some Mac Do. I wanted a taste of home and to be able to say that I had. It was difficult to order because they don’t really do things in the same way. They do single things and not really meals. I learned later that they have machines there that you can order from and put them in different languages. This makes a lot of sense because I bet that they have the language barrier problem a lot here! It tasted pretty different as everything here does even if you think it will taste familiar. I mostly just needed to eat something or else I was going to start getting grumpy.

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We started walking around looking at things. There were a lot of interesting things and a lot of things that I looked at and said “Hey so and so would like this” but then I said how in the world would I get this back to them… I also found suit cases for not a lot of Euros, only like fifty so that is a good thing to remember. I took a lot of pictures of the store. There were a lot of aisles that were dedicated to just one thing. There were three wine aisles, a cheese aisle, a yogurt aisle, a French fry aisle, and an ice cream isle. I think that they have so many choices for one thing because those are REALLY popular food staples here, everyone eats cheese and drinks wine and has desserts. I think that it was a really cool experience to go to a French grocery store. I could easily have spent hours wandering and looking at all of the things that they had. Fortunately for Cassandra, I only took three and a half.

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When I got home Madame made dinner and we had a very delicious Chicken and Rice with Zuccinni. The chicken she had soaked in honey, lemon, and thyme. It was sooooo good. I will HAVE to get the recipe. After that I Skyped or tried really with my crummy internet to Skype Thad before he had to go to Lunch.

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After that Madame and I started watching Master Chef which is a really cool cooking show. There was a trivia question tonight which was how many desserts are traditionally at the table for Christmas in the South of France. Madame was quick to say thirteen. After one of the people on the show said three and was kicked off, I asked her what they were. She listed off a few nuts, figs, nougat, Yule Log, fruit, etc. and she got to about 7 before she got stuck and couldn’t think of any others. So we decided to Google it and in doing so found out why!

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The thirteen desserts of Christmas, or Les Treize Desserts de Noël, are enjoyed after Gros Souper in Provence. The thirteen desserts are in reference to Jesus and his twelve apostles at the Last Supper. As tradition goes, there must be at least thirteen sweet available, they are all served at once, and each guest must have at least a small bit of each dessert.

 

Fougasse or pompe à l’Huile, an olive oil flatbread, is eaten with grape jam made during the last harvest season. The tradition is to break the bread into individual servings with the fingers, rather than cut the bread with a knife. Legend goes that this protects one’s wealth from bankruptcy in the coming year.

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The “four beggars” portion of lez treize stands for four monastic communities: Augustinians, Carmelites, Dominicans, and Franciscans. Walnuts stand for the Augustinians, almonds for the Carmelites, raisins for the Dominicans, and figs for the Franciscans. A platter of fresh fruit usually counts as one dessert, and is always served after Gros Souper. It can be a selection of oranges, apples, pears, and grapes. Any combination of seasonal fruit is welcome, and fresh berries rarely make the list, although they would be considered acceptable, as well.

Source: http://frenchfood.about.com/od/festivalsandholidays/tp/13-Desserts-Of-Christmas.htm

 

I found that really interesting and I wish that I was going to be here for Christmas to experience that. But also at the same time I am very happy that I will be home for Christmas with my family.

Nice and Eze

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I woke up and had a quick breakfast before heading out to meet the bus at 7:30 to go to spend the day in Nice. I got some money for the day/ weekend/week out of a different machine and it was mean and have me a two fifties instead of smaller bills. Big bills here suck because no one ever wants to take them. A 20 is like already bad but a fifty is like oh man not so good to have. But I rolled with it and took note of that machine bing not so good and then went to find the buses. I had a bit of trouble finding the hotel but luckily I had left myself lots of extra time to get there so as not to be left behind. After some confusion of who was on what bus and which bus was which number we got on. My bus is for the advanced French students so all our information stuff is in French. Kelan is my bus buddy we decided for these trips. We got on the bus and though I tried to keep my eyes out the window I couldn’t help but fall asleep for part of the way. We stopped at a gas station rest stop and we all went to the bathroom and got snacks. I bought a little Starbucks frappuccino thing to tie me over for the day and break one of my fifties. Then it was back on the bus!

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We passed by Nice and went instead to Eze which is a smaller town where we toured a perfume factory. Sounded like a cool idea but it was really difficult to hear our tour guide in the small space talking in French when the other groups were being loud and another tour guide was speaking English. It was difficult to keep the mind in French mode and she was being so quiet and the English lady too fuzzed to really hear anything. We got to sample some different like pure extracts like lemon, rose, strawberry (my favorite), coffee, lavender, and chocolate. That was probably the funniest part of the tour as well as seeing how they use the molds to make the soaps. The gift shop was kind of cool but everything was pretty expensive and I really didn’t care about buying perfume. We only had an hour total in Eze including the slow and mandatory perfume tour. Kelan and I ditched the gift shop in order to try and get to the town to take a few pictures. We took the way the bus lady told us but it most definitely didn’t go to town but to a little look out into the valley where you could see the Mediterranean. We took some pictures and then were sad that we had to go back. We waited around for people to be done in the gift shop and then got back on the bus to go to Nice.

 

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On the way there our bus guide prattled on for far too long about nothing in particular and repeats herself way too many times that everyone just tuned her out. We all were also vey distracted by the beautiful city and coast out our windows. When we got off the bus we had to follow our bus guide to the meeting place in front of a statue of a naked guy who was vey nicely done but he was not nearly as exciting as the beach. The bus lady held us there for too long saying the same things she had already said before letting us leave. By that time we had about an hour to do whatever before we could meet back to go either on a walking tour of some parts of the city or up the side of the cliff called a chateau that had some ruins and waterfalls. We walked a bit before we found a place where we could buy some sandwiches that we could then take to the beach. I bought a piece of strange pizza and a slice if apple pie which was very cheap. I also ran down and bought a few postcards before the rest of the group got their food. Kelan and I quickly wolfed our food don because we both really wanted to go in be Mediterranean  I swim. The other girl wanted to sunbathe so we left all oh stuff with them and then went and jumps in. The other girls complained that I was too cold but I thought it was really warm, warmer than Oregon and warmer than swimming pools that I am used to! A bunch of other IAU kids soon joined us and it was a lot of fun. The water is so blue that it is unbelievable. It is also supppper salty. I accidentally engulfed some water and thought I was going to throw up from all the salt. It is nice bought because the salt helps you float so you don’t really need to swim very much to stay above water. The shore was really pebbly but once you got in the water and couldn’t ouch bottom it was awesome. There were waves by they acted more like softly not like breaking waves in Oregon and you would float up with them which was pretty fun. I really enjoyed myself and it was a really amazing experience. I want to do it again!

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Eventually I got out and we went to track down some ice cream before meeting back at the naked guy to climb the over three hundred stairs. We didn’t actually count but that number was thrown out. When I counted it was well over that but I eventually lost interest and lost track. We found an ice cream place and by the time we all got ours we had to run to meet at the guy. I got chocolate in a cone and it was super delicious. 10/10, would buy again. After meeting up we walked to the entrance and started climbing. It really is like super high up there. But the views were breath-taking!

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My vocal cords gave me a bit of trouble when his creepy guy clearly checked me out when I passed him while he was on the phone and after words he stood up and started to follow me. I quickly went two stairs at a time and ran to catch up with the others who really weren’t far ahead but I wanted to be safe.  But other than that they didn’t get too uncomfortable. The waterfalls were kind of cool and it was nice to get a little spray after climbing so much. We sat down near the top for a while to just take it all in before we had to go back down to leave.

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Kelan and I quickly ran to the top where we found another awesome view and a really good deal of 7 postcards for 2 euros. So of course I bought some more. I haven’t actually sent any yet though… Oops. I figure they will be expensive to send. Though beside the point there were a ton of postcards with like half naked girls on the or random kittens. That was pretty bizarre. But we went back down and then went to the naked guy to meet everyone to leave. I was like super thirsty but because we had to be there at a certain time we didn’t stop. Long story short, our bus guide told us the wrong spot and time. So we met earlier than we had to and then walked to a location five minutes away to meet everyone else. But because there were multiple meeting places it was pretty much a crap shoot and no one knew what was going on. We didn’t leave until 5:15, which was very obnoxious because I was sooo thirsty.

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We stopped luckily about 30 minutes down the road at a real rest sop to use the bathrooms really quickly. Kelan took my water bottle to the bathroom but then I decided to go as well and we both discovered that the sinks here were so short it was impossible to get water in the bottle. Luckily after waiting for the buses to be sure they had everyone (a 20 minute process even though only 15 people got off the three buses) the bus guide asked if anyone wanted to buy a bottle of water for a euro from the bus. This is actually. Really good price and I definitely jumped at the chance! The bus ride back was beautiful or is rather since I am writing this on the bus currently. I told Madame that I was going out for dinner tonight with friends because I only have 6 dinners a week. But the plan is to go home and de-salt with a shower first before re-meeting up.

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We ended up going to the 24 hour restaurant which has a lot of seafood. Luckily they have other things as well so I ended up going for something that had chicken in it which ended up being fries and chicken baked in crumb or something? It was very good! Kelan is living with a girl from Sweden who came with us to dinner and she was really nice. I spent a lot of time talking to her because she was on the end and everyone was kind of ignoring her. She was really nice though! After dinner we went to an Irish pub for a drink and I tried a Tequila Sunrise which was pretty good. I liked the orange juice/grenadine part more than the tequila but it wasn’t too bad. A little spendy for my tastes but it was good. My ear has still been hurting so after one drink I decided to leave and Kelan and the Swedish girl seemed glad to have a reason to leave because they were getting bored, so they walked me home. Apparently there is like a new gang in Aix? Apparently? And also the other night this one girl got mugged from IAU 10 minutes from her house after the guy who was walking with her left. So they are really cracking down on us to be sure and have a buddy and not carry a lot of important stuff on us at night and to take taxi’s even if we live close. I live five minutes from that bar so it wasn’t a long ways for them to walk me home, and the street I walk takes a little bit longer but is much more populated.

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I feel like this doesn’t like accurately depict how crazy and cool my day was but I had a pretty great day. I am really glad that I got to go on this trip.

J’ai arrive!

So I woke up on Saturday super early , 4 am because I got a Charlie horse in my left leg and I couldn’t sleep. The time zone jet lag was causing havoc. I decided to hop online to talk to my people while I still had Internet access not knowing if my host would have it or not. Next thing I knew it was 6 and I was staying up to Skype Thad who was still at dinner with his work group for another half hour. I was tired I could tell but too excited and nervous to sleep. Finally I skyped and then took another nap until my alarm went off at 9:20.

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Then I took another shower and got water all over the floor. By then it was only a few minutes and breakfast arrived. I happily ate it though i wasn’t hungry and then packed up my stuff and headed down to checkout. From there I took the shuttle to the airport to meet an IAU representative at 11. Only I didn’t know where to meet them.
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So after 10 minutes of walking around I decided they weren’t there and that if they didn’t arrive in half an hour that I was going to go and call them. But then while I was standing there an older lady on the phone saw me and came over and started telling me she was from the college and stuff and that Madame Raibaud (my host) was so sad that I didn’t come stay with her for last night and that her son in law was going to come get me but that fell through so she was putting me on the bus to Aix and paying my ticket. She rushed me on and told me not to get off until I stopped twice paid my ticket and ran away.
So I sat on the bus while we drove out of Marseille looking like a total tourist as I took a bunch of pictures. But whatever. We stopped and I didn’t get off. And then once we got to Aix I wasn’t sure whether this was really my stop because I wanted to be totally sure.
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 The driver said it was so I hopped out and saw an older woman and a little ginger boy holding a sign with my name! We got my stuff out of the bus and Madame insisted on carrying one of my bags. Ginger headed Paul tried to help but was discouraged that my duffel was heavy but was delighted to find that my suitcase with four wheels could be pushed around. Once he got tired of that Madame and I both pushed it around stopping to lift it out of little storm drains or holes in the ground. Madame pointed out budings to me as we walked about 15 minutes to her house. It was also really hot and my vocal cords were starting to act up from carrying this heavy suit case up hills.
Once we turned onto Rue novembre Paul ran ahead to a man that I learned was Jean-Claude who is Paul’s dad and Madame’s son in law. But not because I guess they aren’t really married yet but they say they will be. He speaks some English so he started asking me how my trip was. We spoke English a bit and then Paul got mad so we switched back to French. Paul is probably like 7 or 8? They call him “Paul the Terrible” because he is a free spirit.
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When we finished lugging my suitcase to the third floor (Paul, Jean-Claude and Madame’s daughter live below us) Madame insisted that we eat. Which as really not high on my want to do list since my stomach already wasn’t handling eating breakfast well. I begrudgingly said sure. We talked while she made lunch.
She asked me what I wanted to drink and I said whatever she had was fine. Then when she came and set the table she put a one liter bottle of absolute vodka on the table. And my bought was “ohhhh no this lady goes hard I do not want to do this.” And then she says ” it’s water” and I felt so much better!!! But I was still apprehensive drinking it! :-)

She asked about what I like and don’t like. Then made me lunch which was tomatoes and mozerella, salad; and an avocado. Not wanting to be rude I tried to eat it even though I a) wasn’t hungry b) don’t want to be picky but I really can’t stomach tomatoes well at all. Avocados either but it is easier to chew those and not taste them than it is a tomato. So after trying to eat them and getting most of the avocado down I had two bites of tomato and my tag reflex kicked in and sold me out… I literally almost threw up… Which made me feel really bad because I was trying to be good about it. But she told me I didn’t have to eat it so I didn’t. I told her my stomach wasn’t adjusting very well and I wasn’t very hungry. She sort of understood. Then we went back into town and walked around. She showed me some buildings like the office de tourisme and the marie which is like the town courthouse. We also passed by a church that was super pretty and old looking and of course a lot of fountains.

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We stopped at the monoprix which is like the only supermarket place in town, otherwise everything oh buy comes from a store that is specific to a type of product. There I bought soap and face wash, lotion, an adapter for euro plugs and toothpaste. We had to go to a pharmacy to get contact solution. After walking around we came back and I was so tired that I took a nap for 3 hours. Oops…
After that we had dinner which a was pasta with stuff in it. Really specific I know but I dunno what it was perhaps spinach stuff? Again I wasn’t very hungry and she told me that if I didn’t eat more I would come back skinny and my mother would say that I was never fed! After every meal she offers me fruit or cheese or something but I am always so full. But it is nice here.
After dinner we watched a really cool game show that I can only compare to the end part of Legends of the Hidden Temple but harder and one room at a time. The concept is that there is this big castle and the wizard has a treasure so you have to collect keys to unlock it by winning them doing all these crazy things in each room. It was really cool. And had no commercials for two hours! What! I wish American game who’s were like that. Anyways at the end they won 18k € which all go to charity so it is pretty cool.
After that we went to bed and I figured out how to get Internet for my iPod. So now I have communication again! My room:

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Allons-y!

 

Image from: http://old.unit5.org/northpointimc/IMC/France%20Webquest/Images/francemap.png

I’m getting ready to leave for my term abroad on Thursday this week, and I have to say that I can’t help but be nervous. I have heard a lot of things about the French that both are exciting to me and a little scary.

Image from: http://resources.touropia.com/gfx/w/france.jpg

I am very nervous to leave because I have fears that my fluency level is not high enough to really be able to express myself in French. I know that many people at my college will be able to speak English but I am scared of not being able to articulate myself. I know that this is a normal fear for most foreign language students but I can’t help but feel a bit nervous. I’m excited to be going to a less touristy part of France to do my semester. Aix is much smaller than Paris and I think that because of that I will be more accepted as a foreigner than I might be in a larger city like Paris or Lyon. I hope that because it is a bit more remote that I will be able to assimilate faster and easier into the culture.

Image from: http://imgc.allpostersimages.com/images/P-473-488-90/64/6415/TZK9100Z/posters/peter-richardson-fruit-and-vegetable-market-aix-en-provence-bouches-du-rhone-provence-france-europe.jpg

One of the things I am most excited about is the open markets that happen during certain days of the week. These markets sound to be a great way to get fresh and local produce from farmers in the area. I really enjoy supporting those that produce things close to where I live in Oregon, and I am excited to be able to do the same in France. In addition to food, there are also flower markets. I hope that I will be arriving in a time that flowers will still be around and in season. I think that going to a French flower market would be really beautiful and I would love to be able to experience the smells of all the flowers and to see all the colors together.

Image from: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-Rm2txOLw0ng/UaTdmEktqVI/AAAAAAAACec/fU0DrzR-w7o/s1600/french+wines.jpg

I have also heard that the French drink a lot of wine and mineral water. I am not a very big fan of either, but I would like to be able to go there and experience them as any French person would. While I am not twenty-one yet, alcohol is not illegal for me in France. I have heard that because of this when a lot of students go abroad they have a tendency to go crazy and drink a lot. I really don’t want to follow suit in this. While I think that I will indulge in wine at dinner or the like as with the normal French customs I don’t want to be drinking all the time nor do I want that to be the goal of my trip. I hope to enjoy the customs and culture as it is.

Image from: http://recipe-finder.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/mineral2.jpg

It is to my understanding that most drinks don’t come with ice in Europe. I know for some of my friends that use ice constantly in their drinks this would be a problem. But I don’t usually tend to put ice in my beverages. So I think that I will be okay with this custom.

Image from: http://www.newhorizonsforchildren.org/nhfc/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Luggage-Stuffed-Suitcase-XSmall.jpg

As far as getting ready to leave I haven’t started packing yet. I leave in four days and mostly I have just been making piles of things that I think I want to bring which I am sure will be twice as much as what I really will bring. I have been buying a few last minute things recently. I went on a mission to find a boring black purse that will be boring enough to not tempt anyone to mug me.  I think I have a small fear of that happening. Today a friend of mine bought me luggage tags as a going away gift. I still feel like there are so many things that I have to get done even though my to do list is dwindling.

The past few days I have been almost apathetic about leaving. I haven’t been excited or nervous but rather “whatever” about the whole thing. It hasn’t been until today when I started cleaning and putting some personal things in boxes in my bedroom that I am beginning to feel sad to leave my friends and family. I had a small party with my friends last night as a way to see everyone before going away. It was hard to say goodbye to them and also many of my family members the last couple days. I know that I have a lot of support to leave but it doesn’t make it any easier to know that I won’t see them for quite a while.

Image from: http://i.istockimg.com/file_thumbview_approve/5853965/2/stock-illustration-5853965-question-mark.jpg

I am also nervous that I haven’t gotten any information about my host family other than their address and an email. I sent them a letter about myself a week ago and haven’t gotten a response back yet. I was hoping to know if I was staying with a family with brothers and sisters or just the single woman whose name I was given. So it has been a little disheartening to wake up every morning to check my email and find nothing… I know it will not be a big deal once I am there but I think I would feel better if I knew a little bit more about the situation I was walking flying into.

I am happy to be going and I don’t want to make it sound like I am not excited, but I can’t say that I am not going to be sad to leave my family and friends. It does help to know that I have support for this trip, and that if I need anything there are people I could Skype call.

Overall, I have some last minute things to do… like pack. But I know that when the time comes to get on the plane on Thursday I will be ready and excited to start my life changing experience!