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2008-12-08 Tiraillée

Tonight, as I was walking home from the bus to my home here in the country, I felt sick to my stomach. I've been having moments like this a lot lately - moments where I pause to reflect on how beautiful something is, how I love the way the Christmas decorations look in the city or the stars shining over the fields by my house or the way French sounds when it's spoken, and then I feel a little jolt of panic at the thought that I barely have two weeks left. I do not want to leave. Yesterday I went to search for the Christmas tree with my host dad, brother, and sister. We found the fattest, ugliest, most oddly shaped tree in the lot, and my dad insisted on buying it. It took four or five of the poor Christmas tree guys to stuff it into a plastic net and then the car while the entire lot watched. "Il est pas beau," said a little boy watching us while sipping his coke. "That's not a pretty tree." My dad pretended to be all offended at this. "It's like going to the pound and saving the ugliest dog there to bring home with you," he said. Anne-Camille and I smushed ourselves in the backseat with the tree, and when we got home, my host mom shook her head at us. "This is all because I wasn't there to help," she said, as Eric lay on his back beneath the tree and tethered it down with wires to make it stand up, all while yelling at my host brother to keep the fat thing from toppling on him and Vodka the dog delicately stepped on his face to sniff the branches. Sunday was an interesting day, mainly because we had stayed out until four in the morning the previous night to go to the winter ball at the huge university of engineering in Aix. As far as dancing, I've had better times at some of the clubs in town, but it was mainly just fun to get dressed up and then observe the other French. In one part of the ball, there was a live rock band of students from the university. I cannot even begin to describe the feeling of how weird it was to watch a hardcore rock band singer sing in French, and then yell French at the crowd of hopping students. "Vous allez bien ce soir? J'ai dit - vous allez BIEN ce soir??" he screamed into the mike. Literally translated this means - "You all are doing well this evening? I said - you all are doing WELL this evening??" I do have to say that I think that screaming wildly into microphones comes a little bit more naturally to the Americans. Today I went to my classes in the morning, then headed to a cafe to theoretically catch up on the piles of homework that are beginning to grow, but instead ended up writing in my journal the whole time. I feel so unmotivated to do any homework - I'd rather hang out with my friends, go out with my language partner, relax with my family, wander around the city some more. This is going to be a problem for finals next week. Afterwards I took the bus over to my travail benevole - my community service where I help tutor little kids in their English. For dinner at the house tonight we made crepes at the table, and I contributed by making hot chocolate that a friend sent me in a care package from home. Nothing grand happened today, but in the evening, as I already said, I just felt so sad. I feel more sad than when I first came to France - for me, this is more of a struggle now than the beginning was - this knowing that I am leaving, just when I've found my niche and my rhythm. I am going to miss hearing French all around me. I love the way it sounds when it's spoken. I feel like I've finally reached a level of comprehension where I can be head-over-heels in love with the way it sounds, the expressions, the inflections. Plus, I can't speak English very well anymore. Now I struggle with both French and my native tongue. (Tiraille means torn between two things, by the way. I learned it the other day in class and think it fits.) Ansley Clark

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