What I recall most about eating my first real French crepe was how delicious it was. The jam’s flavor doesn’t stand out to me as much as how the crepe melted in my mouth. It was pancakes to the extreme and the sweet jam sent shivers down my spin. Now, that I think of it, it was strawberry jam.
That culinary delight was eaten in Etretat, France when I traveled with students at Bethlehem Central High School through Intercultural Student Experiences' immersion program. I spent five days living with a host family in Evreux and three days in Paris.
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Since I’ve traveled to quite a few places with my mom, I’ve learned how to pack. I used a small black suitcase slightly bigger than some of my peers’ carry-on luggage. Everyone on this trip brought humongous suitcases and if I had the same size luggage, I would have been in trouble. My host family’s car was a dark green English two-door and smaller than a punch buggy. My suitcase fit snuggly in the truck with no excess room, while I felt like a sardine in the back seat. This had to be the smallest car I had ever seen.
My host family was perfect. The single mother and her daughter, Anne, lived in an apartment with a three legged cat. My host sister was my age and had two half-sisters on her dad’s side. I couldn’t believe I was matched so well being the daughter of a single mother with eight half siblings on my father’s side. I loved everything I did with them; we bonded watching TV and visiting tourist attractions along with places only a French native would know, like Le Clos Arsene Lupin, where we toured a mystery writer’s home. And, the Site archeologiphe de Gisacum Le Veil-Evreux that was simple yet full of breathtaking stone structures.
I had a wonderful time with my host family at the end of five days. I missed them as soon as I said goodbye to leave by train with my group to Paris. My host mother packed me lunch that included two sandwiches, snacks, fruit and water, so I wouldn’t go hungry. She said she wanted me to stay with them forever and to think of her as my real mom asking her for whatever I wanted. But, the fact is my real mom never buys me whatever I want. You’ve got to love the French.
Being immersed into another culture also has those awkward moments. When I was with my host family on the first day my host sister said that later on we would go to the café and meet her “petit amie.” I forgot what the phase meant and translated it literally to mean “little friend” as in a child. So, my host sister, her mom, her mom’s friends and I were sitting down in the café when a teenage boy came in and kissed my host sister on the lips. And, that’s when I realized that “petit amie” meant “boyfriend.” And, boy was that uncomfortable because they made-out right in front of me and her mother and she didn’t even flinch. I couldn’t believe it; my mom would have flipped if I held hands with a boy let alone make-out with him right in front of her. The worst part was that they made-out about a thousand times after that. Talk about being grossed out while eating an amazing French dessert.
Visiting France was a amazing experience for me. It challenged my perceptions, exposed me to a French family’s hospitality and expanded my culinary tastes.
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