Foreign Excahnge in France - My Family Travels

“Quoi?” my father said, “J’ai pas compris.”  Thinking he had not heard me, I repeated what I had said, in English.  Again, he said, “Quoi, j’ai pas compris.” (What?  I don’t understand.)  I repeated my English response.  Irritably, he told me the same in French again.  I realized he wanted me to speak French, but still, I responded in English.  Finally, I grudgingly said the sentence in French, knowing he had understood all along.

Growing up, my father was determined that I speak French. Born and raised in Versailles, France, he wanted to pass on his French customs to me.  When I was young, he always spoke to me in French, but I found it easier to respond in English.  My French comprehension was excellent, my speaking ability moderate.  I never followed his rules forcing me to speak French at the dinner table, in the car, and on the phone. 

The turning point in my attitude came during the summer after sophomore year, when I went on the most rewarding trip of my life.  A few years earlier, my father had gotten a French travel agent’s phone number.  I forgot all about it until one day, he told me he had arranged for me to complete an exchange with a family in France.  It turns out, my father called the travel agent, who knew of a family that had already completed numerous exchanges with other families.  My father got in touch with them and they had three sons, one of whom was my age.  I only consented to go because they lived near the beach and I would be able to surf everyday in some of the best waves in the world. 

After flying in to Paris with my family, and visiting my grandmother in Versailles, I took a TGV and completed the four hour trip alone in order to meet up with a family I had never met.  At Dax, I couldn’t find them and immediately began to regret my decision.  Eventually, I found them and went to their home in Capbreton, which is in southwestern France.  The entire family was extremely benevolent, welcoming me like one of their own.  Mr. and Mrs. Capdeville enjoyed my company because I was open-minded, curious, and helpful.  Antoine, Rafael, and Hugo were great tour-guides and had funny personalities.  I became particularly close to Antoine, who was my age.  He introduced me to his friends and took me to the beaches.

One of the strangest experiences of the trip was when the Capdevilles took me to a bullfight.  They love bullfighting in Southwestern France, and the Capdevilles revere it.  I had no idea what I was getting into when I agreed to go see one.  Not only did they kill the bull, but they inhumanely dragged it around the arena after it was dead.  By the end, six bulls were killed.  Afterwards, the crowd talked about it like we talk about football.  I could hear people saying, “Oh, it’s too bad the second bull wasn’t aggressive, but at least he killed it nicely.”  Needless to say, I was a little grossed out.

When it was all said and done, I had a great time on this trip.  I was able to practice my French, experience French culture, travel to Spain with the family to view the international exposition, surf some great waves, and have a great time.  Antoine ended up visiting me in Southern California and we did the same exchange the following summer.  Now, I enjoy speaking French and I have great friends and memories that will last me a lifetime.

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