Aero: Ayla Sandifur – France 2015 – Family Life
Aero: Ayla Sandifur – France 2015 – Family Life
I was feeling very overwhelmed when we first met our host families and students. I didn’t really have any idea what her family was like and I didn’t have a good idea of what to expect, since this was my first experience staying with a host family abroad. During our train ride to Vitrè, I had become very nervous since I had never met anyone before and I can be very shy. I was hoping I would make a good first impression, seeing that I was going to be living with them for a week. Marie and I had already been in contact prior to arriving in France, so I was praying meeting for the first time in person wouldn’t be so awkward.
Getting off the train and standing on the platform allowed me to have time to overthink, which something I didn’t really want. I can remember wondering if the host families had forgotten what time we were expected to arrive, or if they were running a little late from trying to get things settled at home for us. When our host families and students had finally showed up, my stomach had dropped and my heart was beating so fast, I could feel my face getting flushed immediately. By this point, I was calling myself crazy for doing this. This was one of the most exciting points of the experience and I was a wreck. When I was first introduced to Marie and her father, I recall thinking to myself “they are extremely tall.” I was officially intimidated within not even five minutes of meeting them. Cathleen, who is their English teacher handed me a schedule for a rough idea of how the week was going to be and assured me if I needed anything, Marie and her mother have her number. They exchanged a few words back and forth in French, and before I knew it I was saying bye to Professor VanEtten and Professor Krugar and the girls.
I immediately felt at home even though I barely knew my host family. They told me that their home is my home for the time I’m there. It was around 9 o’clock and they haven’t sat down to eat dinner yet. I met Marie’s mom in the kitchen, and she told me that Laura and Perrine would be arriving home soon. I was surprised at how late they eat dinner. Marie’s mom was cooking so much food, I knew I wouldn’t be going to bed hungry. While their mom was cooking dinner, one of the girls would set the table. There was always a center piece that they used to set a crockpot on or the dish that the food is being served in. Her mom asked if there was anything I don’t eat or can’t have and I told her no. When we were in Paris it was easier for me to refuse something or to be more upfront about not liking it. I could never get up the nerve to tell her mom that I didn’t like something. I thought it was rude to tell my host family I don’t like something that spend a lot of time cooking. Soon enough I was able to meet Perrine and Laura. Perrine, is the youngest out of her sisters and speaks little to none English. All she knows how to say is “This is a cat.” Laura, is the third youngest between her siblings and has a basic understanding of English. Marie, her mom and her dad speak the most English in her family which is comforting, not knowing or understanding any French.
We finally sat down at the kitchen table for dinner. Her mom had cooked roast beef, a mixture of vegetables in a vinegary sauce and a side of soup. Sometimes their family would set up dinner by serving and putting all the food on the table at once, and then other nights we would have an entrée, then have our course and then our deserts. Almost every night for dinner there was meat, vegetables and something on the side to match the meal. Desert was always served after everyone had finished eating their dinner. In their family, a desert was not cake or pie. We always had a selection of pudding type cups, moose/whipped cream flavored cups and the pouches with apple sauce in them. I had tried all of these and I found that I like the pudding cups and apple sauce pouches better. When we started the week going to school with our host students, I picked up on the daily routine of a French student. Marie and her sisters always woke up on time. They would get dressed and then all try to cram into the bathroom to do their makeup, brush their teeth or anything else they do in the morning. After getting ready for school we would go downstairs for breakfast. Her parents had stuff put out on the table for us to pick what we wanted. I almost always had bread and orange juice, except one morning I had cereal that was similar to Cocoa Puffs. This was mine and close enough to Marie’s and her sisters morning routines.
There are so many differences between American and French families. One that I noticed was, when everyone is done eating dinner and their desert, only one of the girls would clean up the table and put the dishes in the dish washer. They took turns every night and when I offered to help, I was told I don’t need to and I can go shower or back to my room if I would like to. Also, they have one room where their toilet is, which is on the complete opposite side of the area where the bathroom is. Their bathroom only consists of a two-person sink, a stand up shower, a clothing dresser and a bath tub with a detachable showerhead. I learned one day that, basically everyone in Marie’s family is musically talented. Marie can play the piano and violin, Laura can play the piano and Perrine practices the piano and flute. One difference I do like between French and American families is, when your bedroom door is closed, no one pretty much bothers you. They accept you want privacy and they respect that. When I would shut my bedroom door before bed, in the morning no one came in to wake me up. Saturdays is when Marie, Perrine and Laura all have their sports practice as well. Laura had Tennis practice, Marie had Track & Field practice and Perrine had swimming practice. We sat down to eat lunch as a family before they would leave for practice. I noticed if the family did not finish something for dinner the previous night, Marie’s mom would serve it for lunch but along with vegetables and soup or salad. Their Breakfast is always the smallest meal of the day. Then students have lunch, which is a bit larger and then dinner is when you eat like a king. I am so lucky and happy that I could experience living as if I was French. It was definitely eye opening and showed me how different our American culture is compared to French.