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2008-10-21 Sister

My relationship with my host sister has been interesting so far - that is, it has been lovely and baffling at the same time. I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that I've never had a sister before, am used to dealing with boys, and also the language problems. Always the language. I could apply this statement to anything. For example: "The other day I had an incident on the bus. I think this occurred because I was spacing out and when I looked out the window again, I didn't have any idea where I was. Also, I didn't understand what the driver was saying to me." I'm not saying that this actually happened to me - just that it's another example of how the excuse of language difficulties can be applied to an everyday situation. Oh, here's another good one: "Today I ordered a delicious-sounding coffee drink at a new cafe. I was given a "tasse" of coffee, along with a huge, sugary almond croissant that I hadn't asked for. All right, I'll take the huge sugary pastry surprise. I have no choice - I have to eat it now. I didn't understand what I was ordering. Darn." Anyways. Back to sisters. Anne-Camille my host sister is fifteen and quite wonderful, but there have definitely been times when I have asked myself, "Ok, is this annoying me because of a language/cultural issue, or because of a sister issue?" For instance, this morning my host parents left the house early and Anne-Camille had to ride the bus with me into the city for school instead of getting a ride from her parents. The bus leaves around 8:40, I told her. So, that means we should probably starting walking over there around 8:30. Ok, she said. At 8:30, I can hear her in the bathroom doing something with her hair. Anne-Camille, I ask. Are you ready? Almost, she replies. Five minutes later. Anne-Camille, ready? On y va? Ok, I'm coming! she replies. A minute before the bus is supposed to arrive, we head out the door. We missed the bus, of course, and had to take the next one, which wasn't until an hour later. I didn't have any classes this morning and had been just planning to study in a cafe for my eight billion mid terms this week, but Anne-Camille was late to her first class. I offered to come in with her and explain the situation to her teacher, using my habitual "I'm so sorry. I'm an American. I had some language difficulties, and that's why my host sister missed the bus" but she said it would be fine. Still, missing the bus this morning together was kind of fun, in a weird sort of way. I feel like Anne-Camille and I are progressing into a relationship that is more like a sister thing, than just an American student boarding with another teenage girl thing. While I was mildly annoyed this morning, I also realized that this is nice, this kind of relationship. We are comfortable together, enough to find little things to get annoyed about but still be ok. This past Sunday, I went for a small hike and picnic lunch with my host family on the coast of the sea. Sunday is getting to be the day where I really try to be home and hang out with them, with nothing else planned, because the rest of the week goes so fast and gets so crazy. I was a little hesitant about the picnic, because the son of my host family was home from his boarding school this weekend, and I didn't want to intrude on their family time, since this was the first they had seen him since the end of August, I believe. I didn't want to be the annoying American student poking my head and constantly trying to somehow fit into the conversation. But, it worked out. I hung back when I felt like I needed to and just enjoyed observing, which is something I've learned is very important here - learning to be comfortable with just observing and not feeling bad when you're not directly participating. This kind of goes along with the fact that it is impossible to compare yourself to anyone else while studying abroad, because, while it is very tempting to do so, the only way to get the most out of the experience is to be completely comfortable in your own skin and seek out your own niches, rather than worrying about what everyone else is doing. This is important. If I feel myself falling into the trap of comparing myself with others, I end up stressed. Anyway, the picnic was excellent; anytime I get to visit the sea here I'm ecstatic, and I love watching how cute European families on Sunday trips to the sea interact. After the picnic, we got home and I was studying when Anne-Camille came over to me and announced, "I'm going to make some cookies." "Oo!" I said. "What kind?" "Yours," she said, referring to the cookies I'd made for them the last weekend. "Ah," I said. "I think I see what you mean. Shall I help you?" "Yes, please." So, we made cookies together, and it was ridiculously fun. My host parents and brother were on the computer trying to fill out a college application for my brother in Canada, and so in between trying to figure out the stupid conversions for the measurements, I was running into the office to translate for them. It felt amazing being able to help, instead of just sitting around like a bum, not understanding what's going on and feeling helpless. At one point, the power went off, because we were using too many appliances at once. The house went completely dark, and while my dad and brother fumbled around in the blackness for the fuse box locaed somewhere outside (my dad sporting a cheeky miner's lamp strapped around his head), Anne-Camille looked at me, shrieking, "The cookies!" Our cookies were sitting half-baked in the powerless oven. Everything turned out all right, though, because soon the power came back on and we ended up eating most of the dough raw anyway. Time to go study for my millions of midterms. Ansley Clark

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