Random French Discoveries #1

To make it more fun, and, i don’t know, more interesting i think (?), every month (or just when i have time, honestly) i’m going to make this little trivia facts about my random discoveries in France. This idea just popped into my head randomly as i was staring blankly at nothing on this 2 week fall school holiday, and so i think, « Why don’t i give it a try? ». This is purely made just for fun, guys, with no other intentions, and are seen from my perspective as an Indonesian exchange student living in France :)

So, let’s start…

  •  #1 : French people cannot live without bread, particularly the baguettes. It is almost the same case, like us Indonesians, with our precious white rice. Every time i have meals with my host fam they always have slices of breads in the middle of the table, and they eat them with their entrée and even plat (main course). They practically eat bread with everything, especially their favorite is with to eat them with cheese. Well of course they still can live without the existence of bread, but what i meant is that, French people would feel like something is missing when there’s no bread, like their meal feels… incomplete. (Sorry for making this sounds so cheesy, as if they’re losing their soul mates)
  • #2 : As we know, France is the center of gastronomy, so you can guess how their supermarkets look like. IT’S HEAVEN, yes people, i mean it. I know i’m being so lame, me in Indonesia, we don’t have this kind of supermarket, and so every time i do the groceries i feel like overwhelmed. They have everything, all kinds of things. The snacks section is my favorite by the way. You want something, well, you name it. Plus, they always have organic food section too, so yes, the supermarkets here have everything.
  • #3 : I don’t know if in other countries that this kind of thing exist, but last week me and my host dad just had our « drive-thru » groceries for the first time. So what you do is just go to the website, pick your groceries, print out your code, and voila… just go to the nearest supermarket (specialized for this service), pay, and pick up your sacks of groceries that had been prepared by the staffs. Talk about a great way to save time.
  • #4 : The amount of cheese in France is just unbelievable. In supermarkets they have special section just for cheese, and in my school cafetaria they had 3-5 types of cheese, i think, for us to choose. I am not an expert and i personally am not a fan of French cheese, so probably you can just google it and see it for yourself.
  • #5 : I find it quite shocking, but it is true, the students here ALWAYS pay attention in class. Sometimes there’s this just great silence in my class, and every single person is busy taking notes. Bravo guys, back in Indonesia, this is almost impossible to happen.
  • #6 : At school, the students prefer to use single sheets (they call them feuille) when taking notes, and classify them for every theme. After every class finishes they will gather the sheets in their clear holder/folder. It is rare to find piles of notebooks, unless you are asked to bring one. The sheets are also quite particular, as it has not only lines, but squares.
  • #7 : The kids at school are fashionable as heck. Well the majority i mean. From chic, boho, hipster, preppy to you-sure-you’re-wearing-that-to-school style, you name it. Even for the casual ones, i consider them also fashionable, and this includes the boys also. Their every day outfits are really #OOTD-worthy, making me wanna take their pictures and post it on Instagram sometimes.
  • #8 : Prepare yourself to talk a lot  and ears to listen when meeting older French people. From what i observe, French people LOVE to talk, especially the elders. They really enjoy talking, even if it’s just asking simple questions like ‘how do you do’ or ‘what’s new’.
  • #9 : It is a French culture to have meal, especially dinners, with friends and families in someone’s house. This means, staying at the table for hours, consisting of eating 3 types different meals and a lot of talking with each other.
  • #10 : Make sure that you speak at least a bit of French when you decided to live in France, or else you could be lost with no one to ask to (unless you’re in touristic landmarks). Don’t expect everyone to be able to speak or respond you in English. They barely speak English, even my friends at school, they’re not used to listening or answering things in English.

10 are enough i think for now. I hope it’s interesting enough to give you a glimpse about my experiences so far. Again, it is just my personal observation on these past 2 months, so… don’t take it too serious :)

La Réunion Régionale // Oct 2014

YFU’s first Regional Reunion was held in the Château de Chinon on las 12 October! Yes, i finally got to meet Anastasia, Katrina, and Lotta again :) I had amazing time not only with the girls, but also with the other host families and the people from YFU. We shared many stories about our experience on these past couple months and finally we had lunch together in the castle. Can’t wait for the next regional reunion!

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Every student was asked to make a dessert from their origin country, and i made a 'modified' (not all the ingredients exist here) Nagasari

Every student was asked to make a dessert from their origin country, and i made a ‘modified’ (not all the ingredients exist here) Nagasari. It doesn’t taste quite the same but still good!

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[Photos taken by my host dad]

Our regional meeting and YFU were also featured on the local journal, La Nouvelle Republique, and apparently there’s me in the photo! You can read the article here:

http://www.lanouvellerepublique.fr/Indre-et-Loire/Actualite/Education/n/Contenus/Articles/2014/10/14/Les-familles-jouent-la-carte-de-l-international-2080153

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Not High School nor SMA, It’s Lycée!

Who’s excited to talk about school?….. Or maybe curious to know it?…

Well, I am! Hahaha, no kidding, not that excited but still, am gonna still make a blog post about it anyway… ‘Cause for me, this French school life is completely a new experience, and yes, it is interesting and nerve-wrecking at the same time.

Before arriving here in France, honestly i do not know many information regarding the French school system, all i know is that it consists of 3 year of high school and i was going to be placed in première (equivalent to 11th grade) L class at Lycée Leonardo de Vinci in Amboise. I have done my research on the school, and yet i was not really sure about how L (literature) class works.

After arriving and finally discussing about the school with my host parents, i found out that L class has almost all literature classes and very little portion of Science or Math class (1 class every week, if i’m not mistaken). Knowing about this, i was pretty much sure that i do not want L class since i really love Math and i cannot imagine myself sitting in class, learning French literature for 10 months, a language that i just learned 6 months before arriving. Thus, i asked my parents if there any other option, and it turns out that there’s this other high school (lycée in French), that would offer S (scientific) class for me. It is located 30-45 minutes from home, yes quite far, but still i prefer Jean Monnet because the school in Amboise only offered me L class. Long story short, i was finally enrolled as a première S student in Lycée Jean Monnet, Joué-lès-Tours. I was really glad, and i cannot thank enough my host parents for their help, because as we know, it is not often, and nearly impossible, for exchange students to change their school in last minute, just 5 days to be exact, before school starts.

It was Wednesday morning, my very first day of high school in France. My host dad drop me off, and i was welcomed by the principal just in front of the school (coincidentally he was there, i think), and he escorted me to my class, and presented me in front of my classmates. The person who explained me a bit about the school was my principal class teacher, who is also my biology teacher, and she showed me the office. On that first day i even barely understand what the people and the teachers were talking about; i was practically a bit lost. To me, my first day was quite hard. I expect that the people would be more inviting or maybe willing to start a conversation with me, but it turned out it wasn’t like that at all.

School system here:

  • Every student has their own schedule and their own main class, so it means that you stay with the same class and classmates for certain subjects (like Math, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, History-Geography, French and English), but just in different rooms. For language, i choose English and German, so i will not meet all my classmates when i had those 2 as they choose different language subjects. I find very interesting because at my school they have many choices for language subjects, which are German, Latin, Spanish, Portuguese, and Chinese. I have all the classes i have mentioned above, plus History-Geo Euro (mix in English), English Euro (higher level), and Sport.
  • You have two kinds of schedule, which are Week 1 and Week 2, hence after Week 2 schedule finishes, you go back to Week 1 schedule for the next week. This is indeed a bit confusing at first, because for example, in certain cases like me, for Monday in Week 1 i have Biology first, and next week on Monday i have Physics-Chemistry first. This changes only apply on some subjects.
  • School lasts from 8am until 6pm. Sometimes it varies, because like me on most days i start at 9 and finish at 5.
  • Every day you have lunch at different time, depends on your schedule. I sometimes have 2 hours, and on some days i only have 1 hour at 11 or at 12.
  • Punctuation is everything. If you arrive late or enter the class late, make sure you have gone to La Vie Scolaire (the school office) first and report yourself.
  • The tests, or in here we call it les contrôles, can be held in any day, and i must say, it is difficult, even for the French students. Almost all the questions are essay, and sometimes you only got 1 hour to finish it. It really depends on your teacher (professeur), because every teacher gives different tests.
  • The grading system is from the range of 1 to 20.
  • Teachers expect you to write/take notes. Everything that is written on the whiteboard or is said by the teachers, you better write all of them because the french students do take every single notes (and even neatly too!)
  • Bring your agenda with you all the time, to make sure you have written every single reminders of tests, events, etc

To be honest, for a foreign student like me, it is HARD to keep up the school rhythm. I tend to get very tired when i got home, since i have almost 10 hours at school. Moreover, it is even 5 times harder because everything that i learn is in French, hence my energy is used solely for comprehending explanations or even some conversations with my friends. It is quite difficult on my first days, but i can say, after almost 2 months like now, everything is getting better each day. Still, i cannot finish every tasks and tests properly, but at least my comprehension skill is much better.

Going back to the socializing in school, yes for foreign students who is going to French schools, you do really have to make many efforts. Maybe not if you have an exceptional level of French, but for those who are like me, it all really does take time. From my observation (this could be different for every one), in a school that has 1000 students like mine, people will not just approach and talk to you, even your classmates in class. Me, i started by asking many questions to many people, until finally i met some people who are really nice and would explain things to me. After that, things would get easier because they will present you to their other friends, allowing you to make friends even with those who are a younger older and are in different class. I think the key is just to practice your French, join many classes or clubs as much as possible and smile all the time, because at the end of the day, to make friends you have to start conversing and to start talking you need to speak the language. Language is very important, and plus, not many students here have a big curiosity to know different cultures and people from different background. So yeah, i must say that the students are not that easily welcoming to new people at first, but if you get to know them better, they are actually super nice and are happy to be your friend.

Lycée Jean Monnet

Lycée Jean Monnet

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My lunch on the first day. Here in France, the canteen has everything (salad, main course, dessert)  and yes, everything is delicious

My lunch on the first day. Here in France, the canteen has everything (salad, main course, dessert) and yes, everything is delicious

The library, or CDI

The library, or CDI

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The tramway right in front of my school

 

La Journée Internationale

Lucky me, my school is very open and very, very interested in discovering foreign cultures. So it all started when my English teacher, Madame Barat, told me about this International Day at school. Since she knew that i am an exchange student, she was really excited to include me in, and of course, i said yes.

On that day, i did the Chat Dating activity where students from all levels will chat with me for 10-15 minutes and ask me questions about my country and my experience so far of living abroad. Thanks to this activity, i got to know many students and it was really fun sharing stories about my country and to listen to their opinion about their own country and the foreign students. Personally, it was a bit surprise to me, that not so many people even know where Indonesia is. I find this very funny and tiring too actually, since i had to explain over and over again about the exact same thing to different people. Yes, it is a duty for me as an Indonesian to represent my country, and i just hope that i have been doing a great job in being one.

Lastly, on that day, i also got to meet other exchange students from different programs, such as AFS, and some Malaysian university students. They were all really great, and i finally got to speak and conversing in English! Hahaha, yes it’s been a long time people… I love hanging out with exchange students, as i think, they are really the one who gets me and they always have a very outgoing and open personality. So you can guess, that on that day, i talked like A LOT :)

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Wearing Batik (Indonesian traditional fabric pattern) skirt on Hari Batik Nasional (in Indonesia) and on the International Day

For now i think that’s all i can share about the school life. There’s still more activities to come, and i hope i can share all of them on this blog until the end of school year. There’s no such thing as ‘easy as a piece of cake’ for us high school students around the world, so… Bon courage à tous! Et bon corage pour moi!  :) (5 times more courage for me to be exact)

Les Destinations // Sept 2014

To make it easier in classifying, since i just had the time to blog and apparently i realize i had tons of photos, i am going to put some of my best photos in September 2014.

Saint Martin Le Beau

These two photos were taken when me and my host sister strolled around the village. These buildings are located just 5 minutes from my house.

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 Tours

Tours is the nearest city from the village where i live and it is the place where we can find all kinds of stores and historical landmarks. The last time i was there, my host sister took me on a little trip around the city and showed me some of  Tours’ famous spots. I personally LOVE Tours very much. Why? Well, getting around Tours is very easy, just get on the tramway or bus and you’ll be fine. The ambiance is also not as hectic as Paris. We can walk on this little road made just for the pedestrians in the middle of big trees and vendors stands, and we won’t even feel any polution. The buildings are not that big and the architecture is also quite particular. We can also find big gardens and plus, the beautiful view of  the Loire river.

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Gare de Tours – The train station

L'hôtel de ville de Tours

L’hôtel de ville de Tours

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La Place Plumereau, the central square of Tours, where you can find stores and great restaurants

La Place Plumereau, the central square of Tours, where you can find stores and great restaurants

In front of the Saint Gatien's Cathedral

In front of the Saint Gatien’s Cathedral

 Château de Chaumont

Not far from my village, there’s this  Château de Chaumont sur Loire. It is a big castle, and every year they held the International Garden Festival. It was really, really beautiful to see many gardens arranged in many different themes. My host family and I spent almost the whole day exploring the festival.

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 Le Mont Saint-Michel

This destination is the farthest place i have visited so far since it is located in Normandy, which is almost 4 hours from Tours. Mont Saint-Michel  is an island with a beautiful, big abbey that was built in the 10th century in the center of it. I also went to the city of Normandy itself, visited the stores and tried the seafood (cooked in French style of course) in one of the restaurant, because apparently, Normandy is located near the sea. Seriously, for me, it tasted super weird like almost tasteless, i just cannot eat not-cooked seafood. It is probably the most favorite French cuisine, but sorry, for me i just cannot understand how the French people find it super delicious. It was really a funny experience actually, especially when my host family saw my face being surprised, almost shocked, on how big and weird-like the portion is, they just couldn’t stop laughing :)) I was super delighted too, to finally sea the beach. It was really a wonderful week-end, and probably the first and the last time  i would eat les fruits de mer hahaha

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Paris

And yes, people, i finally spent a week-end in Paris. I went there only with my host dad and stayed the night in my host dad’s cousin house, which was very nice and they were all very kind and welcoming. I went to the top of the Eiffel Tower (using stairs until the second level!) and saw the breath-taking view of Paris. It was a tiring yet unforgettable experience. After that, my host sister join us and so we went to a nice restaurant for lunch. I went to see Arc de Triomphe, strolled around Champs-Élysées, and of course, tried using the Metro too! I used the Metro to get around Paris, visiting the Notre Dame Cathedral and Maison Européenne de la Photographie. I must say that Paris is not as beautiful as i think it was, since people are always pushing each other, it is hectic, and the stinky smell that we can almost find in every corner. However still, with all the beautiful buildings, gardens, restaurants and the parisienne ambiance, who could say no to Paris?

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Ma Famille d’Accueil

One of the most wonderful thing about being an exchange student is that, you get the chance to know, and even better, be a part of a new family. A chance that certainly does not stumble upon you everyday, and maybe would not even happen to me if i chose to just sit back, enjoying what are already served, study and finish homework endlessly in Indonesia.

And so… let’s start this brief story about my host family.

Like the other exchange student programs, during my stay, i live with a host family. In my program, my host family is hosting me voluntarily (which means they are not payed), allowing me to be a part of their family with the hope that we can experience an intercultural exchange, while at the same time (well for me) improving my french language skills. In other words, an immersion total in a completely new culture for me, a chance to discover a foreign culture too for the family, and an exceptional wonderful exchange year for all of us. Before arriving, me and my host family, we had contacted each other via emails, and from all the emails i receive they sound super nice and from the information i’ve read, my host family is also very open to new cultures as they love to travel to different countries, including my country Indonesia which they have visited 2 years ago. Knowing this particular information had made me even happier, assuring me that at least my host family had seen a glimpse of how the culture of my country works, and most importantly, they KNOW Indonesia. Funny i know, but seriously people, it has been a hard time for me here finding people who actually know WHERE Indonesia is. Therefore i find it very surprising and interesting that my own host family has actually visited Java and Bali, 2 most famous islands in Indonesia.

And… my expectations are all true. My host family are even beyond my expectations; they are probably the nicest and kindest people i have ever met. Just when i just got off from the train, i was welcomed with the warm smiles of my host father, Pascal, my host mother, Marie-Christine, and my host sister, Lea. Here is a picture of me and the Clochards (Clochard is their family name) when i just arrived at the station:

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From the station in Saint Pierre des Corps, i went directly to my host family’s house in Saint Martin Le Beau, a small village (or commune in French) with the population 2800 people located just 30 minutes from the city Tours. Their house is amazing, all white on the outside, not so big, with lush of trees and bushes around, a garden in the backyard, a terrace, a kitchen, 3 bedrooms, a tv/living room and one special room in the basement with a little library, a computer, and an electric piano. Moreover, i also got my own room (yay!) just next to my host sister’s bedroom.

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My bedroom for the next 10 months. Pardon my happy face.

My bedroom for the next 10 months. Pardon my happy face.

Lunch on the terrace

Moving on to the members of my host family…

LEA — My host sister. She’s 2 years younger than me and she’s now in in troisieme or 9th grade. She loves anything about China, and plus she also speaks Chinese very well, well for me almost fluent, and this is why the subject our family conversation has never gone too far from talking about China. Her knowledge about this particular country has always surprised me, and plus she also has a big interest in learning languages and it turns out that she knows some Indonesian words too! It is always super interesting exchanging our knowledge about foreign languages. She helps me a lot when it comes to learning my French, sometimes she also tries to explain some words or expressions in English so that i could understand. Lea is also outgoing and she likes to point out her opinions on almost everything, so yes, she is a very nice person to hang out with. Last but not least, she has a beautiful voice too! Thank god i now have a karaoke partner hahaha but you can exclude me when she sings Chinese, because she’s super good and me… i don’t even understand a word, so yeah…

MARIE-CHRISTINE — My host mother. She is that kind of person who is very,very helpful. Every time i have some questions about the language, school, or anything, she would willingly explain me until i understand. She is a great cook too! She make almost all the food for the family and it all taste super delicious, my stomach is satisfied every single day :) And also since she works in the organic food
company, every food in this house is almost Bio-guaranteed, and now i even learn some lessons from her on how to improve my diet!

PASCAL — My host father. I probably spend most of my time with him every day since he always drives me to school, and so we always talk and share things together, and it turns out, surprisingly, we had a lot of things in common! We share almost the same taste in music (he likes Arcade Fire and Yuna) and also the same hobby which is to watch films. I always have a great time with him, exchanging different kinds of artists, watching and discussing about films, oh and one thing also, he takes beautiful pictures! We always end up conversing a lot about photography tips, electronic music, and the culture differences. He always asks me many interesting things so it is always exciting to talk with him, while at the same time, practicing my French :)

I sometimes cannot believe is it a coincidence or what, because i feel so grateful to be placed in such a warm, welcoming, fun and kind family. Until this past 2 months, they had taught me so many things, helped me with all kinds of problems and questions, as well as took me to lots of beautiful places. However, of course, there is no such thing as a perfect family. I also have encountered some arguments and not-so-good conditions in the family which kinda made me missing home sometimes. I do sometimes feel excluded as it is super hard for me to understand things and to actually join in a conversation, but i am sure that this is just a matter of time. It all takes time, and even me, i need time to adapt myself with this new family and environment.

I am beyond grateful to be a part of this family, and i could not even ask for a better one.

[am gonna close this blog post with proof of how cool my host dad's playlist is]

My host dad saved a video of Arctic Monkey's concert in Paris 2 months ago to watch together. (I know rite)

My host dad saved a video of Arctic Monkey’s concert in Paris 2 months ago to watch together. (I know rite)

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Salut France, Salut Mon Année d’Échange!

Bonjour à tous!

As you already know, I am now in France (never thought i would say this) experiencing my super duper exciting exchange year in a program called Youth For Understanding, and as a decent exchange student, i am now trying to keep a blog, writing everything that i encounter in this once-in-a-lifetime experience — HAHA no, kidding, i do actually want to write a blog as i consider this as an exercise in writing and in being productive, and also probably as my only outlet to express my opinions and feelings *curhat alert*. I am also going to divide it into some parts, because it has actually been almost a month since i arrived in France, and therefore, a lot of things and stories have happened (forgive me for i am the worst procrastinator). Well then, here we go, either you are here for the curiosity or just happen to stumble upon while not having anything to do, enjoy!

YFU France Arrival Orientation

On August 27, after almost 14 hours flight (Jakarta-Singapore-Paris) my plane landed safely in Charles de Gaulle Aéroport Paris at about 8 o’clock in the morning. With tired yet happy face i easily spotted a YFU volunteer with green t-shirt in front of the arrival gate. Veronique welcomed me with a big smile on her face and a warm hug. She was super nice and after i had a little chat with her i found out that i was the first person to arrive. Afterwards, a couple of Australian girls came and soon followed by 20 other kids. I was like WOW, the countries varied from Denmark to Latvia, and even from America to China, in total, there were about 63 kids from 23 different countries. I made some conversation with a couple of American kids, until we were asked to get on the Bus that would take us to the orientation location.

Welcomed by Veronique, the YFU volunteer.

Welcomed by Veronique, the YFU volunteer.

It takes 1 hour and a half to reach Institut Saint Eloi in Bapaume. For 3 days, i had an Arrival Orientation (L’Orientation d’Arrivée) with the other exchange students and the YFU volunteers. The volunteers gave us many many advice about the country France itself, how is French life, the school system, the rules, and even about how to behave as an exchange student. I stayed in a dorm, and i shared my room with 3 other girls, Katrina from Latvia, Anastasia from Germany, and Lotta from Finland. They are all super sweet and friendly, and i had a fun chat with them, talking randomly about our own countries and our feelings (oh girls) on our departure to France.

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A memorial made for an exchange student  who sadly couldn't make it to France.

A memorial made for an exchange student who sadly couldn’t make it to France.

This Arrival Orientation is probably the most memorable experience for me so far. I LOVE talking with other exchange students, asking and discovering about their countries (i don’t even know some of the locations until i start conversing with them), being asked about my home country, and most of all, talking with them have made me realize on how much we actually relate even though we come from different countries. Particularly for me, an Indonesian, who personally have realized on how much my country is still left behind, in terms of the infrastructures quality, and the quality of the people’s mindset, but we’ll get on with that later :)

On the last night of the orientation, we were all asked to perform on the talent show. At first, feeling ‘talentless’, i preferred to just stay as one of the audience, but i ended up performing The Cup Song + modern dancing with my group and it turns out super fun! The others’ performance are also very interesting and some are even funny and entertaining, ranging from cello playing to playing traditional games.

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With Alice from Thailand and Gabriella from Bulgaria.

With Alice from Thailand and Gabriella from Bulgaria.

Performing Cup Song + Modern Dance + Gymnastic with the group.

Performing Cup Song + Modern Dance + Gymnastic with the group.

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The long-awaited Saturday finally came, the day where we all will meet our host family. We said good bye, and in the same time wishing to see each other again (which we know is nearly impossible). The bus took me to the Montparnasse Train Station in Paris in which the train would take me to the town where i am going to spend a year in, and that is… Tours in the Region Centre.

With Anastasia on the Train to Tours.

With Anastasia on the Train to Tours.

That’s all for the first post, hoping i’m not making you bored to death since i still have plenty of more stories to come :)

robots do have a heart; robots do have a better love story

a 2010 short film titled ‘I’m Here’, written and directed by Spike Jonze. the male lead/robot is played by the new spidey, Andrew Garfield and his love interest, the female robot, is played by Sienna Guillory. it tells a story about Sheldon, a robot with CPU-shaped head who works as a librarian in Los Angeles, and Francesca, another robot whom he once saw in a car while he was waiting at the bus stop. When Francesca sees him for the second time, she offers him a ride, Sheldon starts to question about Francesca’s unusual thoughts, they begin to chat, laughing, and so their love story begins. (don’t trust this bad synopsis. the story actually has more intriguing moments and lots of adorable complications between the two of them. go watch it by yourself and experience the whole story.)

first of all, there’s andrew garfield in the film, and yes it is the main reason why i watch the film. sorry guys, i can’t stop loving his face. and his hair. and his accent. and pretty much everything about him.

i found myself teary while i was watching, which surprised me.

the story is very simple actually, and thank god it is a story about robots. robots are innocent and naive, unlike humans. robots make a decent love story, unlike the humans who tend to make it cheesy with their cliche caused-by-their-own-ego problems. plus the songs in this film are all performed by Sleigh Bells.

if you find yourself questioning: « Why don’t you just buy a new hand or find some help to repair yourself, Francesca? like srsly don’t you have some kind of robot-hospital or something?! Gosh. » at the end of the film, well me too. But then again, none of those heartbreaking love scenes or Sheldon’s heart-melting actions would happen if Francesca did not get into those stupid accidents. so yeah, overall this film tells a different, yet in a good way, love story.

ps: i would still marry you, Andrew, even if you’re a robot.

pps: don’t bother that first ps.