Not-so-Peppride-Farm Milano

The highlight of this past week was definitely having my family around. Because look!!! It’s the most multicultural/racial family ever!! My real family met my host family, and it all happened to be women because that’s how good programs are at knowing that I live in a predominantly-estrogen household.

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Mama Catherine made the best dinner ever of seared pork, galette of potatos, salad, and later a beautiful apple pie we made together the night before!

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And then the next day Shane and I went to the doctor.

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No, just kidding, those are not correlated. Although eating to death is probably a reasonable explanation for my future death. (Fun fact, eating to death is a phrase in Chinese that I use often for my state of fullness)

And then Thursday, we had a little party-patootie for Shane!! Pascal wanted to organize a surprise party for our lovely shanog (what even is your nickname) and although I did not get to munch on most of the fondue that night, we met up after my first shift bartending at Cafe 3C (!!! *will return to this in later narration*) to have some rosé!

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Pascal is a youthful host father at heart.

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*back to bartending* I don’t actually bartend, for real for real. I know you have this super cool image of me flipping drinks and throwing cute little umbrellas and straws everywhere and being like, VOILA, but in reality what I do is fumble with beer taps and ask in very strange French, POURQUOI IL Y A TROP DE MOUSSE? (why is there too much foam?!) And the other bartender around is like, let me show you my magical ways, and then he does the former description of coolness. But the Cafe 3C is a lovely place to meet people and talk to people, and I cannot escape the lack of comprehension by saying oui, oui because I literally have to make the drink they ask for and I can’t really run away with their money. It is all in all a lovely and fun endeavour.

But then on Friday, I went off with my family to Milan! Well, first we stopped briefly in Monaco to see the Casino, think of Grace Kelly, and buy a gift for my Auntie Susan for her birthday. Here is my super cool gambling queen Grandma and I in front of the casino we were told we did not have time to go into.

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Here is what happened after the coolness wore off, because…

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OUR CAR BROKE DOWN. Look at this superstitious trap. “DS 494 PK”

  1. It was rented at the parking spot 164, which in Chinese sounds like 一路死 die all the way on the road.
  2. “494” 死就死 if you die you die
  3. DS 抵死 deserve death
  4. PK 踣街 go die on the street

I’m not a superstitious old lady, but look at this evidence.

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So what had actually happened was

  1. 2:30 pm. Our clutch started requiring much more energy than necessary to start and go uphill, which was especially frustrating in Monaco, which felt like the second coming of San Francisco
  2. Maya started screaming “let’s stop, let’s stop! The car is going to blow up!” To which Auntie Suzette said, “NO!” despite the fuming cloud of magical powder around our car and coughing fits we started getting into.
  3. We then decided to stop in front of someone’s enormous villa because there was room and we were approaching the highway, or on the highway, we were not sure.
  4. 3 pm. Stefani calls Avis. Avis tells her to call Emergency 211. 211 says LOL you’re not actually on the highway. Stefani walks along said highway to find someone to tell 211 she is on the highway. A bunch of guys tell her she is not on the highway. Stefani ashamedly calls Avis back. Stefani apologizes to all the rich people living in said villa for blocking their entrance with suitcases and a fuming car. Stefani is hungry. Stefani eats the singular avocado she packed. Stefani learns all the lingo for how to tow a car now.
  5. 5 pm… Are we dying yet. Time to feast on the remaining rations of bread, bread, and more bread. Kind, old, French man comes out a few times to make his presence known, and then eventually his concerns as well.

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6. 6 pm. Kind, old French man turns out to be very impatient, and is so for our sake as well. He decides to drive Stefani and Auntie Suzette to Avis because he wants to get rid of the loiterers in front of his beautiful mansion.

7. 6:30 pm. Tow truck takes car away without Stefani to speak to the guy and Mother freaks out because she feels abandoned. Kind, old, impatient French man invites us into his house where we start taking shameless selfies and Maya asks for tea, to which Mother says no, because apparently tea is more rude than selfies in a strangers house.

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8. We call cab. Cab gets us to go to Nice to get another car.

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Basically, the trip that was supposed to take us five hours and get us to Milan by 5 pm took, all in all, 13 hours and got us there at 1 am.

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But Milan was interesting. Being named in honor of this city and their language, I had to like it somewhat, right? We tried to sneak into the World Expo by faking tears,

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Ate more Italian gelato,

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Went night walking when there was no shopping to do after shops closed

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Went shopping when forced to not look like a shabby hobo, as my mother called me,

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Posed indecently next to what probably were very important statues

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Saw a little culture of the Duomo Cathedral at the center of Milan

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Ate an entire dinner of just mozzarella pretty much at a mozzarella bar

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We gave Auntie Susan her present! And she was like “what the frick is this, am I supposed to celebrate my age?!” And then she liked it, and put it in the security box in our hotel because it was rather pricey and looked really good on her!

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Then of course, we proceeded to eat. Look at these two photos of mussels. Do you see a difference?

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That’s right. We were supposed to share that bowl of mussels, but the plate on the right with the empty shells belongs to me and somehow I feel like I ate all of them.

And the best part of going home was that I finally got to meet my host dad, Simon! Being half-Vietnamese and an incredible cook, he made us papaya salad with papaya from Malaysia, and then decided we were not yet full enough and so we had phô as well, because why not?

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Stay tuned for the best week so far though, with my best friends visiting, and me making copious new French friends!

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GETTING AIXPONENTIALLY BETTER AT AIXPRESSING MYSELF IN AIXCELLENT PUNS

MINI RECAP FROM A WEEK AGO:

I went to an art museum for free. The ceiling was cool.

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Shane reminded me avocados are not the same as lawyers in France.

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I ate a lot of chicken, bread, avocados (yes, lawyers), and veggies, or just a lot of food, all week long.

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I ventured with Heather and Audrey (although bringing water, we now know, is a necessity to be attended to), to Mount Saint Victoire, where I took very creepy shots of heather’s back.

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Pretended like I had an alcove that my Mom never thought was a smart use of real estate space to put in my room in ridiculously expensive Hong Kong

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Scaled a few rocks at the top of the mountain

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And thought about paragliding down when we got lost for the eighteenth time that day.

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IN THIS WEEK’S EPISODE OF STEFANI TAKES ON AIX-CITING ADVENTURES AND FINDING WAYS TO AIX-PRESS HOW MUCH FUN SHE IS AIX-PERIENCING:

This week, we had our first two hour wine tasting class. And this week it was white wine! From Alsace! It was very cool, mostly because I was taught it is actually sophisticated to taste wine and spit it out and I told the class the wine smelled like grapes, and they all pointed their fingers and laughed at me because wine is made with grapes, but what I really meant to say was I could taste the grapes despite the alcohol, and no matter how I phrase that it will always sound dumb, and the professor was like, what is this half-shaved girl trying to do, butcher my wine class’s intelligence level? And I was like yes. (but by the way, Muscat is apparently the one wine where the taste of grapes is prominent because they don’t entirely let the grapes ferment to the point of having their taste disappear)

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Then my host mom made me TWO crepes with ham, cheese, and egg for dinner because the last time she made one singular omelet for us to share I was like, uhm, sorry, WHAT? And so this time she quadrupled her offer, and it was heavenly.

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Then Heather and I decided to go on another little Thursday excursion into the wild, and we ended up getting very lost, trespassing someone’s private property, and then deciding to turn around so that we could trespass on more of the reservoir, which is where all of Marseille and Aix’s water source comes from! So for those of you in Aix and Marseille drinking your water, just know that hands that have touched Heather and I’s faces and butts have touched your water. Hoorah.

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And then Heather found a hole, and tried to get in on it. But the hole ended. And so did her attempt to get in it.

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And I made some bubbles in illegally touching the water.

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And I couldn’t help but take an upside down picture of this green, green water, which was so incredibly clear, none of these pictures do it any justice.

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And despite the abundance of water, there were cacti that grew in the region that looked like ping pong paddles.

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And despite the abundance of water in this region, Heather decided to get a tequila beer and a large, large, enormously large ice cream sundae. The only reason we were able to do this is because we had to wait 40 minutes for the next bus back from Le Tholonet to Aix-en-Provence, so we were like, beer? Ice cream? Why not?!

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Now, if there is one thing I’ve learned about Europeans is that they really, really, genuinely love their countries when it comes to sports. So on the Thursday, we decided to go out, and discovered, there was an ENOURMOUS party happening, and why? Because France won rugby that night, and that is a huge deal. I mean. I’m only inferring, but look at these people!

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And then look at us trying to care about athletics!

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The best part about the night had to have been Shane though, and his attempts at standing up for our rights as women. Shane decided it would be a great idea to walk around down the crowded streets and touch random guys’ butts, because… why not? Except then, when we stopped at a bar to grab a few drinks and rest our weary feet (that had only traveled five steps from the fast food chain Chick& (I know, it’s a weird name)), a guy (imagine his very strong French accent) tapped me on the shoulder and said, “hey, hey, why did you touch my butt” (more like, “ey, ey, vy diju tush mai bout” and we then proceeded to argue for the next ten minutes about which of us girls had touched his butt. And when he decided he was fed up with our argument and tried to touch my butt, Shane just went absolutely ham (as ham as he could) on him. In French. There was something about “my friend,” and “violation,” and then we realized he was trying to pick a fight and pulled the aggressive Shane away from the strange Butt Boys, mostly so we could yell at him for touching random guys’ butts. And then Shane ate three inebriated meals and had no idea the next morning why his wallet was thirty euros short.

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So when Shane told me, the next day, that he had gone out to get a crepe after class despite his three amnesiac meals, what did I do? I went and got a crepe for myself. A galette* I should say, because it’s a savory crepe! Look at dat cheeeeese…

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FEED ME SEYMOUR.

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And then Tabong, Caroline, and I decided to pretend we weren’t carrying around food babies from kebabs and crepes and hit up a museum, and the only thing I have to show of the museum Granet is the fact that my friends like to look at art symmetrically

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And look at all the Aixois puns!! This was my favorite part. The bookstore. (No, you think I’m kidding that I liked these postcards more than the Warhols and the Cezannes, and the contemporary American art exhibit from SFMOMA, and the French sculptures carved delicately into wrinkling skin, but I’m serious. This was my favorite exhibit. The part that is dedicated to pure capitalism.)

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And this weekend… MY FAMILY DECIDED TO VISIT!! For an entire week! It’s been very surreal since being here that I am here, and it’s always strangely comforting when your worlds collide and you realize you’ve been the same person all along. This is exactly what happened to me when my chatty, extraordinarily loud and raucous family decided to plant themselves in France, the country of quiet dinner conversations, and rules and regulations. This is the jugement we give each other when someone else eats too much even though we are doing the same,

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Like really, are six oysters meant for sharing?

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This is us trying to pretend we’re French enough to know how to tie French-styled scarves

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And to further prove my point about worldly collisions and disorienting family members who I love dearly, I decided to invite a few friends over dinner with some bribing, which included:

  1. A heated pool

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2. Lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of food

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In France, mushrooms grow with stars imprinted on them, so we had some starry mushroom soup

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Amazing duck with mashed potatos

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And so much inebriated company (From L to R: My grandma, my aunt Susan, my aunt Suzette, Harry, my Mom, the chef Ronald, Olivia, Audrey, Shane, Caroline, me (!), my grandpa, Maya, and the one taking the photo is auntie Betty!)

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And oh, what is France without cheese and dessert? So here is some dessert for you. Upside down apple pie!

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Of course, no college dinner party is fully ratchet enough some sleeping over happens, so we slept together in the cabin and the TV room, and Shane brought out his inner Klaus with Audrey’s scarf

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And Olivia decided to bring into discussion, earlier than we intended to prior to our class on French culture this past Monday, the dilemma of headscarves in France

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And in the morning… Just so you get a teeny peek of what we’re dealing with here and this silly French house in this sillily pretty part of France.

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And here are some pretty people to go with it.

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And then Sunday, we decided to do the quintessential French thing, drink more wine to combat the feeling of night-before wine! We went wine-tasting!

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So, actually. The week before, we had our first wine class, and I learned some of this stuff, but look! Raisin looking things! Because wine is made of grapes! (I was not a complete idiot when I said the wine tasted like grapes. It really did taste like residual grape juice in the wine!)

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The tour guide was a little douchey and did not fully believe I spoke French, to the point where he would applaud when I got certain words right when he asked me to translate for the group. (But like, really? “Nuit” for “Night”? Do you think I’m an idiot?) So thank you grandma, for mocking his stupid button down shirt.

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I enjoyed tasting and spitting out the wine like I was taught.

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And then I really, really could not help taking a photo of the very, incredibly attractive bookstore guy who was climbing the ladder to get art books for the customers, and looking very into his books. I kind of like books. A lot.

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And while we had some eye candy, we ate at this very cute little garden restaurant that serves organic veggies from their garden!

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Welcome to La Terrasse at La Chateau!

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WHY ARE ALL THESE WAITERS SO PRETTY?! Can I order this one off the menu for dessert, please?

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But alas, even weekends end, and all good things have to wait for another week to end. So my grandma cooked steak for all ten of us because she is an incredible woman who thrives off of making her children fat and happy and incredibly pleased to have her here.

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And this weekend, we shall be off to Milan! Despite my protests against commercialism and capitalism and the idiocy of shopping, my family has decided my opinion on culture and art and the importance of humanity does not matter, but rather that we should just buy pretty things to make ourselves seem important. If you have advice about Milan, if it’s about buying more stuff that I can hoard, don’t even tell me about it.

Rome(ing) without a guide or a pope to hold our hands (Part Due)

ROMA LIVES ON. For those who care for a second half of my much delayed adventures. The best part of our escapades through Rome, in my opinion, was the last evening we spent together, which we were able to have because we stayed at an airbnb, home that formed a community. Michael, Sabina, and I decided, after our absolutely insane day walking through the Vatican, that we all needed to shower, try to work the Vinyl player, and then decided, OH, WHY NOT WALK TO THE COLISEUM AFTER WE ALREADY WALKED 22.5 KM TODAY. And then Google saved us by telling us it was already closed, fifteen minutes prior. So what did we decide to do? We decided to run, at 7:44 pm to the grocery store that would close at 8 pm to buy food and cook it for ourselves.

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And then we confusingly cooked a feast (which killed the power at one point because apparently utilizing two stovetops and a hairdryer at the same time – Ernesto killing it at shaping his hair before dinner – short circuits. Everything. In. The. Apartment)

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And this, just to remind you, only serves three individuals.

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And after we ate it all, we busted out the strawberries from the fridge, and Sabina ate nutella by the spoonful. And then retrieved peanut butter that she ate as well.

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And what is the only option after you finish feasting? FEAST SOME MORE. So Tabong came over, enjoyed our two bottles of wine, and then we went over to the second home that Together has formed in the last year, and decided to attend their feast as well with some awesome people, mostly because Alex had cooked the most delicious Brazilian dessert while we were eating, and we wanted some more.

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We ate more pasta, and this delicious chocolate and coconut dessert. And then being the fun-loving, social introvert who tries to pretend like extroversion is a possibility at times, I started waving my hands around and was like, “everyone, up and out!!! Let’s go partaaaayyyy!”

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And Sabina was all like, nah.

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And my only evidence that we were even mildly inebriated or having fun (because we were absolutely having fun) was Sabina looking like a Dodo in my faux-hipster Warby Parker glasses, and me trying to look like a dumb Yoko Ono and failing miserably.

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The morning after, Michael woke us rise and shine at 8 am, having gotten up even earlier to cook me eggs and make us tea and breakfast, which made it impossible not to say, even after only 9 hours of sleep total all weekend, to say no to waking up, and walking another 50 minutes to line up at the Vatican for the museum which was free at the last Sunday of the month. I can tell you, absolutely, that the Vatican Museum is the most beautifully plentiful museum in the entire world (well, from my limited experience in museums, of course), but I won’t tire you with photos that don’t do them justice, and which reminds me of how exhausted I was walking through the whole thing. One of my favorite pieces in the museum was one of the ceilings in some of the dozens of rooms we walked through, and up there in the top corner is a painting of poetry, which I stared at for a while.

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And then I conveniently got kicked out for taking this picture,

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THE SISTINE CHAPEL!

I was a little sad at how many people there were in there, and that people were constantly being told to be silent, and not take photos. And I was a little piece of poop for taking this photo, but I really wanted to be able to appreciate it later on, after the overwhelming fatigue wore off, and then I put away my camera (after I was shooed out), took out my cardigan, and prayed to God I would look liek another Asian tourist they hadn’t seen before. Which worked. And so I sat down at the side bench and stared up at the ceiling and the chronology Sabi had explained to me for a while, thinking about how different the Chapel is from what I thought it would be, not because it was any less beautiful, but because I was there.

And as we left, this is the stairwell we descended.

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With three hours to go, we booked it through the Metro, to grab some food at the Coliseum, which we were able to see from outside, and which was gorgeous, of course.

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And this salmon pasta was heavenly to my famished tummy.

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AND THEN. I panicked. Not at the disco. But because I missed the train I was supposed to take, and then took a later train that would get into the airport only 50 minutes before my flight and I was like IF I MISS MY FLIGHT I WILL NEVER GET BACK TO STUDYING AND I AM A NERD AND I MUST BE WITH MY BOOKS. But I still took a cool photo of the train, anyway.

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And when I got to the airport, and finally checked in, all I wanted to be like, was like this kid who was like, “screw the airport, I have my personal trolley.”

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But then we got home, and I remembered why I study in France, and as cool Rome and Italy is, not being able to speak the language there was so frustrating, and I love that I am trying, here, to be able to do something I couldn’t do freshman year in high school, or even college, at all.

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