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What happens when Paris comes to Hagerstown?

July 10, 2007|By MYLANE BARNIER

I arrived in America on June 15 and I was very excited to discover this country.

Two days after I arrived, my host sister and I went to a summer camp in southwest Virginia. In this camp, I liked a lot of things. The landscape has many trees, the hills were high and that was so relaxing. I liked waking up to birds singing. The cabins don't have electricity, and I was scared to live without electricity at the beginning.

I met a lot of people at camp who were really patient with me, because at the beginning I had some difficulties to understand English. People were so relaxed, so cool in this camp. They smiled. They were nice. And I could be alone to take a break from speaking English.

The best times that I spent here were probably when we were in little groups. The girls and counselors in my cabin worked together every day to wash plates and glasses - we sang songs, told jokes. I taught a bit of a French song. That was very interesting because for the first time we switched roles. I saw everybody was lost. And for American people to pronounce the French "r" was difficult.

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This camp was very different than Paris. I live near the Arc de Triomphe. In Paris, there is noise all the time by cars, there is pollution and the landscape is not trees but buildings. The buildings are old, so they are beautiful, but it is difficult to find a garden. Even in a garden, there is noise.

In Paris it is impossible to find a house. Everybody lives in apartments. It is the same thing for gardens. Some people have flowers on their balcony, but that is all.

In America, people drive cars everywhere. I find that strange. In Paris, it is the opposite. I use the metro for everything or I walk. My family uses the car as a last resort like to buy food in supermarket or when the place we're visiting is far away.

Eating at restaurants is different in America and in France. When my American host family goes in a restaurant and we have not finished our food, we can take it home. In France, we cannot do that. In American restaurants, water is served with ice cubes and it is very cold.

I don't like that, so one day I asked a waiter, "Can I have water without glace?" Glace is "ice" in French. But it sounded like I wanted water without a glass. The waiter looked at me with big eyes.

The food in France is without spices; most people in my host family like hot sauce. We eat more vegetables, fruits and cheese. I have been surprised to find that my host family does not eat many desserts. Also, my host family does not eat supper every day at the same time. Sometimes we eat at like 5 p.m., 6 p.m. or 9 p.m.; it's very strange.

But they have good music, lots of books and they do not watch TV even though they have one. I see the French stereotype of American families is wrong. Not all Americans are fat and all the time sitting in front of the TV.

My host family spends a lot of time together, and that makes for good communication. One day, my host father talked about fighting "fair." He asked me "What do you do when you are angry?" "Angry" sounded like "hungry" - I didn't understand the difference. So I said to my host father, "I usually eat bread with cheese." He looked at me with big eyes. After we sorted out the understanding, we laughed. I found that very funny.

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