Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Can you believe it?!?!

Me neither!!!!! And yes, in answer to your question, I would never move abroad without my stuffed animal, Fluffy. Best thing I ever packed! See you soon (maybe)!!! AAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

part one done!

I have just come back from my last class at school. I can't believe I'm saying this, but... I made it! I made it to Christmas!

Speaking of which, I've really been enjoying teaching my Christmas lessons these past two weeks. Each class started with two listening activities. The first was a fill in the blank for the lyrics to "The Christmas Song." The answer was wrong, but in my class of 16 boys (who I had by myself for the first time) they said "kiss" instead of "kids" in the line "To kids from one to ninety-two." It was wrong, but I nearly melted into the floor it was so cute! So from here on out let's sing "To kiss from one to ninety-two!" After this, I split the classes into pairs and gave them bags with slips of paper, each with one line from "I'll Be Home For Christmas." We listened to the song line by line and they had to compete against each other to see who could grab the correct line first. I never foresaw this being such a huge hit, but one boy even ended up on the floor in the fight to the finish. Crazy!

One class always does something different from the others. I had them read an article on the "it" toy of the season, Zhu Zhu pets i.e. a battery powered hamster. After going through the article they got to choose whether to write an ad or film an ad promoting their own Zhu Zhu pet, showcasing its unique personality. Ronan and Jean Baptiste chose to film theirs- haha- and they did a great job:

Zhu Zhu Stinky from Sally Anderson on Vimeo.

If the class was small enough, I gave them a list of vocabulary words and had them write their own Christmas story. Here are some of my favorites...

Rayan and Rémy (seniors):
Once upon a time there was Santa Claus who was on the sled with his best friend, a woman elf, to distribute some gifts. Suddenly he fell in love. They were kissing when Bad Santa Claus came. He hunted them across the snow under the night and stars. But at the moment when they arrived next the Christmas tree, St Nicholas came with an angel who they stopped the two sleds. After a discussion, they decided to make peace with Christmas love in front of a Christmas log.

Gwendoline, Jenifer, Marion (seniors-lit):
Once upon a time there was a little snowman which didn't have any carrot as nose. He was very sad because all the other snowmen got one and they were bulling him. One day, he saw a beautiful star which was in a sparkle sky. He wishes to this star to have a carrot as gift this Christmas. Christmas day arrived, he woke up early and suddenly a big red man with angels by his side. He couldn't believe his eyes when Santa Claus gave him a little gifts under the Christmas tree. How surprised was he when he discovered a carrot! Since now on, no one make fun of the little snowman, cause he's wearing the most beautiful carrot of the world.

Florent (technical student):
One upon a time there was a little Christmas tree with his mother tree. They were from a beautiful mountain. When autumn arrived the little Christmas tree was scared of humans because they cut Christmas trees to carry on to the super market to be sold. This day arrived a fall morning. A man cut the little Christmas tree. He was so sad to leave his mother. In the market the little Christmas tree was exhibited. Because he was so sad he became ugly. The day of Christmas, the little Christmas tree was the last tree. But there was child who does not have much money. The little guy bought the little Christmas tree. When they come back to the home of the little child, the guy decorated it with tinsel and a lot of ornaments. The little Christmas tree and little child had a Merry Christmas.

a group of junior girls:
Once upon a time there was a family who waited for their gifts. The night before Christmas, the Santa Claus began his distribution... He arrived in the house of this family, he wanted to passed in the fireplace but he got stuck in. That was a big problem. To distribute the toys he eat the toys and eject them with his ass. What a strange story.

Anne Sophie, Karine, and Lydie:
Once upon a time there were children who made a snowman. During the Christmas night the snowman woke up. He invited his friend. At first there were elves, then a lot of reindeer. And to finish Saint Nicholas and Santa Claus. While they were eating a Christmas log, they saw a shadow in the night. It was Bad Santa Claus. It took lots of alcohol bottles from his bag. They had fun and drank all the night. In the morning, the little boy woke up and saw them sleeping in the living room. Santa Claus couldn't distribute all the gifts.... The moral of the story: alcohol must be consumed with moderation.

Aren't these great?!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Baby, It's Cold Outside

The first thing that comes to mind when I think about this past weekend is... Man! It was freezing! My every-weekend rambles got me on a seven hour train ride up north. The rumors are true. I officially live on trains during the weekend. But luckily, I love train rides! I always reserve a window seat for a date with my iPod, journal, a good read, a good sleep, and the changing scenery. The second thing that comes to mind is that I didn't get said "awesome time" until facing some demons first...

And by demons I'm specifically referring to France's immigration and integration office. Friday morning I showed up bright and early in Lyon for the medical visit I've been trying my best to ignore since I first heard of it. Basically, I needed this visit in order to get extra somethings for my visa and passport thereby allowing me to stay in France for the duration of the program and to go home for Christmas without any hiccups. What could be so bad about a medical visit, you ask? It's French! And by that I mean I had to get half naked for an x-ray. Of all things, I never in a million years thought that my love for France would lead me to stripping down for the French government. Alas, modesty does not count for anything over here and I found myself in a rather compromising state like every other assistant there that day. Thankfully I had the stress of catching my aforementioned train in time, so I was more focused on worrying about that. The doctor who looked at my x-ray (for a whole 5 seconds- so not worth it!) told the secretary to finish my paperwork first so I could catch my train!

Before I knew it, the worst was behind me and the best was ahead. I met Sarah in Nancy, a stunningly beautiful city in Lorraine. Sarah and I, both spoiled rotten by Versailles, very much appreciated its bourgeois feel and look. Seriously. We got the shaft! I can't believe assistants are actually living in a city that amazing! Nancy, in fact, was a happy mistake. We had intended to stay in Strasbourg for its famous Christmas markets, but every hotel was full. So we decided to commute from Nancy, a city we were both eager to see. We got to Strasbourg early Saturday morning to cram in as much as possible. And you know what? Turns out we got the shaft there too! It's a neat city full of both German and French culture, architecture, and food. The only thing against both of these cities: the cold! The bitter, unforgiving cold! Thanks to the wind, I've never been so cold in my entire life i.e. it made me thankful to be living down in Trévoux where it's slightly warmer, but still snowing! My feet were numb after ten minutes walking around outside and no amount of hot cider was going to change that. But the city was absolutely brimming over with Christmas spirit and decorations and that was heart warming, at least! I'm so glad I went! I've been dying to see Strasbourg and especially its world famous Christmas markets for years. It was not to be missed and to discover it all with Sarah made it even better!

Speaking of Christmas... Home in three days!!! What?!?!?!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

one week from now

I'LL BE HOME FOR CHRISTMAS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I swear I will kiss that American soil like it just proposed to me!!! So beyond excited! Home sweet home! Home is where the heart is! Yea!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Fête des lumières

Every year Lyon exclusively hosts the Fête des lumières aka Festival of Lights. This four day event is a tribute to the Virgin Mary for sparing the city from the plague in the 1600s; hence the 'Merci Marie' sign on the Fourvière hill. Nathan and Betsy invited me to stay the weekend with them and take in two nights of it all. Now I always knew Lyon was going to be jam packed with people (the unanimous decision was that being in these crowds felt like being born), but it wasn't until I got on my first bus from Trévoux that I realized just how many people it drew out. On a good day I'm one of four people riding the bus to the half-way point. But this past Saturday I was one of fourteen. This, I thought, must be a big deal! It was at the half-way point that I discovered that another tradition for this big charade in Lyon is public transportation strikes. That was lovely, let me tell you.

The Fête des lumières is not your average Christmas light display. While the streets are lit up for the holidays in a typical way, these four nights also include light instillations at some of Lyon's most important monuments, squares, etc. Some of these are projections onto buildings and others are glowing pieces of artwork. Voilà:

Fête des lumières from Sally Anderson on Vimeo.

It was a fun weekend and I'm glad I got to take part in it. Not only did I get to spend time with great people and try vin chaud for the first time, but... I got a dream catcher from French Canadians in a teepee at the German Christmas market. Talk about random! I've been wanting one for my car back home for a while, but this was certainly not where I was expecting to find it! But that's the way the gingerbread man crumbled!

Friday, December 4, 2009

this poor provincial town

Yesterday I walked to Trévoux's tourist office (I am still puzzled as to its existence) to get the new schedule for my bus. The hours changed this week and despite every bus driver's insistence that it didn't matter that they had run out of schedules to hand out to people because it hadn't changed that much, I still found myself abandoned in the dark, cold, and rain at the half-way point between Lyon and Trévoux for two and a half hours on Monday. Never again! Luckily, the tourist office was able to help me out. The woman who worked there asked where I was from and I told her the United States. She immediately said to me, "Oh! Then you must be the English assistant at the high school!" See what I mean? I am quite literally the American in town!

Did I mention that I'm working?

While this blog has mainly been dedicated to my weekend escapes far far from Trévoux, I've decided it was high time that I talk about my job! Yes, I assure you, I am actually working. Twelve hours a week, but working all the same.

I meet with students Tuesday through Thursday. Usually I'm taking a group of four to nine students out of their English class to speak in English and give a lesson on some aspect of American culture. The past two weeks have been all about Thanksgiving. I have single handedly put the rumors to rest that it is a religious British holiday. When asked if they knew anything about the holiday's history they all said, "Turkey." FYI French turkeys say "glou glou" instead of "gobble gobble." I have also single handedly instilled the fear of God in them after showing a video about Black Friday. And despite my insistence that sweet potato casserole is really yummy, they have all turned up their noses at the idea of a vegetable covered in marshmallows. However, after finally braving my scary and vague French oven to make a pumpkin pie for the English club, I did convince some of them that pumpkin pie, at least, is really delicious. The English club only ate half of it, so the other two groups I met on Thanksgiving day polished it off. I had never met these groups until that day and I had them all go around and tell me one thing they were thankful for. And one boy said, "I am thankful for you because you gave me pumpkin pie!" Aw! The past two weeks the song I've used for them (the lyrics with missing words exercise) is "You Belong With Me" by Taylor Swift. The boys loved the music video because they thought Taylor was cute and the girls loved it because they thought her love interest was cute. One girl even said, "They don't make them like that in France!"

On Tuesdays there is one teacher that I always help in her own classroom. Her classes are the ones that have been reading Twilight and they are some of my favorites. So I was really excited when I got to do a Thanksgiving lesson with her class of 16 boys (I took half the class at a time) for the first time on my own this week. I've been working with these boys for a while now, but they have remained pretty shy around me, maybe because they're my youngest students. For example, the other day one of them was running up the staircase like his life depended on it. Hearing all the calamity, I turned around and he saw it was me. So he immediately began crawling along behind me at tortoise speed. Maybe he thought I would speak to him in English? I don't know, but never have a felt more like a "teacher." This same kid came into class late as I was taking half of them out for their lesson and he was absolutely begging the teacher to let him come with me. I was really surprised because I've just never been able to work out what this class really thinks of me. But what really won these boys over, besides getting them out of a grammar lesson, was hangman. They're just crazy over it! Each student drew out a vocabulary word relating to Thanksgiving. Once the class had solved it, I told them what it was in French. When the second group of boys came in, the first group was just devastated that they couldn't keep playing, while the others started high-fiving each other because they could see they were going to get to play. Later this week I passed this class in the hall (the halls are very skinny and, thus, always congested) and they all swept gallantly and dramatically to the side to let me pass, each daring to say "hi" to me and looking very proud of themselves in the process. I can't believe I'm winning hearts with hangman, of all things!

When the school told me I would have to start an English club, I was taken aback. An English club? What in the world would I do with an English club? Sure, I was in the French club in high school, but... we never actually did anything that I can remember besides eat at a French restaurant. And I can assure you there are no American restaurants in Trévoux whatsoever! I was also told that a) there had never been an English club before or b) there was, but it only consisted of one student. Great prospects, right?! So I announced to every class that I was doing it during the second hour of "lunch hour," where students usually do an elective or something (honestly, I still don't quite understand what's going on). It started off with about eight students, thanks to my technical class that's "in love with me." But then they had to start doing something course related at the same time, so we were down to two. Out of the blue some of my absolute shyest students started showing up and now we're back up to about eight a week. I can't believe it! They are all the sweetest and brightest students in the world. I love, love, love English club! This week they insisted that I teach them some Christmas carols. So I used the Disney Christmas sing-a-long I watched when I was a kid and they learned "Let It Snow!" and "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer." They were particularly psyched to learn the "like a lightbulb" and things we do with it for fun. Some are hoping to go Christmas caroling in the teacher's lounge next week, but I've got to get it approved first! Others, I think, would die of stage fright!

"Stage fright" is something I have become well acquainted with in my time here. I don't know if it's the fact that they don't have confidence in their speaking ability or the fact that I'm a native speaker or what, but sometimes I've got a group classest full of mutes! They're much better at English than they realize, but things would go smoother if they asked me to repeat or reword something for them. No matter how many times I tell them at the beginning of class not to be afraid to ask me to speak slower or repeat something, they are always too scared to it. Technically it's supposed to be an English-only environment. But if they don't understand, they don't understand! So sometimes I do break it down for them in French. At the end of the day, I would rather have my shy students. I've heard horror stories of assistants running out of their classrooms crying because their students were so mean and disrespectful. So maybe getting half of them to speak is like pulling teeth sometimes, but at least they're all nice!

Now pop some popcorn, dim the lights, and put your phone on silent because it's time for two classes' interpretations of Twilight...

Twilight 1 from Sally Anderson on Vimeo.

Please note both classes' creativity for gym class :)

Twilight 2 from Sally Anderson on Vimeo.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

warning: this is sappy

If the surprise day-after-Thanksgiving dinner Mme Chauchat made for Sarah and I last Friday wasn't a sign of the perfect weekend to come, I don't know what was. I had made a pumpkin pie for the English club the day before and I had been giving lessons on "Zanksgeeving" all week, but it never really felt like it was Thanksgiving. Not until I found myself back in Versailles, my home away from home. Instantly melting into my surroundings, I was engulfed by that ooey gooey feeling that only that place can bring. While every street corner provides a flashback to a happy memory, most of Versailles' golden hue for me is accountable to Mme Chauchat. The past two months have been tough. Really tough. And to be back in her house with her, her husband, and Sarah was the best feeling. I was home. For once I wasn't worrying about a single thing and I was relaxed and happy. The Thanksgiving dinner was just the icing on the cake... or rather the lattice top on our apple tart.

Sarah and I shared the loveliest guest room on the third floor, which had the most comfortable beds in the entire world. I seriously cannot remember ever having a better night's sleep. Gosh. It was all so perfect! Waking up in Versailles and at Mme Chauchat's no less. The day spent wandering through the Versailles gardens and the streets we had come to love so much. Visiting our old haunts (but not all of them- Ali, brace yourself- our hole-in-the-wall crêpe place is gone). Visiting "new haunts" i.e. the Starbucks that should have been in place when I was there suffering from big-coffee-cup-deprivation! And our neighbor Mr. Mumble, a college student renting a room from the Chauchats. Mr. Mumble is hands down the loveliest Frenchman I have ever met. Ever. Oh là là!

A last minute rescheduling of her grandson's christening meant that Mme Chauchat couldn't come with us to see Peter Pan in Paris. But instead of leaving an empty seat in our box, she gave her ticket to Mallory who had just finished her study abroad program that week. It was a dream come true to see it on stage! It turns out our production was indeed in French and also a musical. Did you know the Lost Boys can rap? Neither did we! River dancing is also, apparently, the thing to do in Neverland. We were by far the oldest people there without a child, but we had a splendid time! When they flew, it was magical! And when the entire audience shouted in French over and over that they believed in fairies, that was magical too! The cupcakes we had at Berko afterwards, sold to us by the nicest cupcake man in all the world, were also magical! Mmm...

Not to overuse the words, but it really was a perfect and magical weekend. We watched It's a Wonderful Life, which Mme Chauchat had never seen, drank superfluous amounts of tea, learned easy recipes, and spent quality time together just talking about life. At one point Mme Chauchat said that it felt like there had never been a time in her life when she didn't know us. It's sort of a strange thing when you think about it, but I feel the same way. She also called us family. I feel the same way about that too! Maybe that's why Versailles is, and always will be, my home away from home.

Monday, November 30, 2009

twinkle lights

At long last I have finally seen the Champs-Elysées lit for Christmas!!!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

the third edition

At long last I give you the final edition of our Tourist Coupons from Toussaint...

Tourist Coupons: Lyon from Sally Anderson on Vimeo.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

"C'est interdit à danser!"

We had to fight off the 4 year-olds to get to him, but...

Merci Mickey! Sarah, Brita, and I were definitely the oldest people taking pictures with him, but I think we turned into 4 year-olds in the process! I couldn't get over the fact that we were the same height... It would seem that I suffer from a Peter Pan complex. So it should come as no surprise to anyone that we rode It's a Small World. Due to the aforementioned complexity, I continue to be awed by this ride. Particularly in this case because they combined "It's a Small World" with "Jingle Bells." It was on this ride that a little boy sitting behind us pointed out this sign to his parents and exclaimed, "C'est interdit à danser!" In plain English, "It's forbidden to dance!" I nearly died laughing! Really it's warning you to stay seated, but dancing is a much more imaginative way to put it. Needless to say, we were quoting him the rest of the day. We rode Space Mountain, belted Euro Disney's theme song "Just Like We Dreamed It," skipped everywhere, went to the parade on Main Street, tried yanking out the sword in the stone, considered taking the enchanted rose out from under its glass case, and assumed the role of every Disney prince and princess's personal paparazzi. After all, growing up does not mean growing old! Which brings me to la pièce de résistance... Peter Pan!!! Sarah and I missed this storybook ride the last time we were here, so we broke out our fast passes. Hopping onto a pirate ship, we sailed into the Darling's nursery, and flew out the other side with Peter's shadow to glide over the streets of London! "You Can Fly! You Can Fly! You Can Fly!" was playing and we had our arms out, singing along. I can't do justice to the pure elation, giddiness, and joy I felt! It's my favorite story!! And I can't wait to see it on the stage in Paris this coming Sunday with Sarah and none other than Mme Chauchat! I'm over the moon! And no, we don't know what language it's in! Nevertheless, Neverland is the same place and Peter Pan is the same boy who never grows up!

Brita and I also braved the still-rabid crowds at the movie theater to see New Moon/Tentation ("Temptation"). I was really impressed! If you know of my near meltdown after the first film, this is big news! It was in English, but with French subtitles. But if you've seen, I'm sure you know that you'll be distracted by something other than subtitles ;) A very entertaining weekend!

And remember... a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, kiss the girl, forget about your worries and your strife, someone's waiting for you, perfect isn't easy, if you walk the footsteps of a stranger you'll learn things you never knew you never knew, Hakuna Matata, and above all... you can fly!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

from Brussels to Beaujolais

So Brussels. I got there Saturday night and Dad had all sorts of goodies from Mom waiting for me in the hotel. Including, but by no means limited to, the next three books in the Anne of Green Gables series! The next morning we were off to find coffee. I swear this stuff runs through Anderson blood. Coffee, coffee, coffee. My weekends are spent making up for my lack of it weekdays. Overdosing was never so delicious. Then it was chocolate, chocolate, chocolate. Dad took me to Chocopolis, the chocolaterie he is loyal to. And with good reason! The staff is as sweet as the chocolate. Picking out the pieces I wanted was nearly impossible. But it was worth it in the end with a 10% discount (loyalty rewarded!) and a free postcard. Really most of the day was spent wandering the streets and sampling all kinds of Belgian specialties. That is, with an exception to the escargot cart across from the Manneken Pis... gross! For dinner dad took me to Amadeo, "The Place for Ribs." I kid you not! This is apparently Belgium's answer to Damon's, but with a strange absence in BBQ sauce. I washed it down with an Irish coffee that was so strong it even made Dad flinch. If that doesn't tell you something about its potency, I don't know what does! All in all, great weekend with some of my favorite people.

And now... I must admit something to you. Last Wednesday I was planning on something since it was a holiday and I had the day off (side note: not that anyone at the school actually told me... yeah). But... the truth is that after an outing to the Armistice Day market in Trévoux I was so traumatized that I could not take fingers to keyboard. I had been thrilled beyond measure to see a vendor at said market selling vin chaud or hot wine. It seemed that my wait was over, so I pulled out my euro coin and stood smiling in line with great anticipation. And then I saw it. A box... of wine. Boxed wine. Boxed wine in France. Well that wiped the smile off my face! I quickly avoided eye contact and set of running down the street (no literally, the street) of Trévoux before saying something I would regret/fainting/whichever came first.

But today. Today that haunting memory is behind me. Today is the third Thursday of November. Today is the release of Beaujolais Nouveau! This "little wine" is meant to be drunk as quickly as possible. In fact, one of the teachers at the school told me that you wouldn't catch a French person drinking it after Christmas. Speaking of school... I have to say it was a great day! We got to drink Beaujolais Nouveau in the teacher's lounge! Only in France! They put out a spread of bread, cheese, and sausage and then popped open several dozen bottles. I limited myself to one glass of a wine from the next city over since I still had three classes to go. But it was divine! And despite it being an insufficient amount, I must say I was really happy the rest of the day! I asked around and it seems that the release of this wine is a big deal this one day and that's it. Everyone said it is a bigger deal in America than in France. But I took what they said with a grain of salt. After all, this is Trévoux and I can tell you... people here don't get out much!

Now that I've talked about this worldwide phenomenon, I must reveal to you my next cultural activity... EURO DISNEY!!! With Sarah and Brita this weekend! Sarah and I went for the Halloween decorations when we studied in Versailles and now we're going for the Christmas decorations! I am so excited! My goal is to get a picture with Mickey. If you remember the Captain Jack Sparrow incident from last time you will also recall that hunting down Disney characters- aka French Disney characters- is nearly impossible. I have my work cut out for me! In other news I am breaking out the Christmas music tomorrow! I don't have Thanksgiving, so I say it's allowed to start beforehand. Ah! Can't wait to listen to Hanson's Snowed In album! Comme la vie est belle!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

peace, love, & waffles

So the saying goes on Ali's blog! My best friend is pretty much the coolest person I know and the smartest. Which is what brought me to meet her in Bruges as she's doing this wild thing called getting your masters in a year. Phew! This meant she had a ridiculous amount of work to do, so we had about 24 hours to pack in as much as possible. Oh gosh, I don't even know where to begin except to say it was fantastic!

Sally and Ali. Yes, we have rhyming names and we are aware of the fact! Two peas in a pod. Reunited at last after six months of separation and nine hours of traveling on buses and trains. And, boy, when I saw her waiting for me at the end of the line I could not stop beaming for the life of me. Immediately falling back into the forms of communication that only best friends can begin to understand, we set off to take Bruges by the horns (or rather its postcard-perfect Disney Epcot-esque streets). This entailed food. Lots of food. French fries, waffles, cappuccinos, beer. Who needs another picture of a canal when you could be cozied up in the spitting image of Hog's Head making ESPN contacts (granted, they were a bit... gone) instead?! It was only 24 hours and yet I feel like I can't even convey their magnificence here because it was just pow, pow, pow in the memory making department.

Saturday started off with a "lie in" since we had stayed up doing all manner of girly nonsense until 3 AM. Finally rolling out of bed, I convinced Ali to cut my hair. Chop's more like it. Ah! So fun! We always pick out mood appropriate, make-you-brave-before-there's-no-turning-back-first-cut music to set the scene. And then I always pay her back in the form of Star Trek tickets or whatever she needs besides money; in this case hot chocolate. She took me to a tea room above this little chocolate shop where they bring out a ginormous (yes, ginormous) cup of hot milk with milk or dark chocolate morsels for you to whisk in. No words necessary, but... wow! I helped Ali embrace her tourist side, snapping photos of absolutely everything and squealing over our pictures as we snapped them. Then, back in her dorm, we squealed over our bands as only we can. I have lost track of how many concerts Ali and I have gone to together. Blasting their music on the drive there, holding our own in mosh pit after sweaty and ill behaved mosh pit, talking to the band after the show, and blasting their music again on the drive back. This is what we love to do! And we will do it again in Arizona! We have big plans. Never-ending, non-stop fun planning was a big part of the weekend! But until it's time to take a look at the long and exciting list we've made, we'll just have to take some more pictures to decorate our future apartment's walls.

And what's a trip to Belgium without running into your dad? Yep, that's right! This is the fourth time I've gotten to see my dad over here! Before taking me back to Brussels, Dad met us for dinner in Bruges. It was probably the most perfect 24 hours I have ever spent. I would go back in a heartbeat and I will most certainly do it before my program is over. Yes, I know there's all manner of technology to communicate, she and I literally use it all. But sometimes there's nothing better than seeing someone in person. And those sometimes are often when you're braving Europe alone. Ali, thanks again for the being the perfect hostess and best of "ele-friends!" This weekend couldn't have been better spent or appreciated. More to come on Brussels with Dad...

Monday, November 16, 2009

back to my... Flemish?

Everyone, I'm alive! I just spent the greatest weekend ever with my best friend Ali in Bruges and my dad in Brussels! So I was a bit distracted! I promise to post tomorrow and to be better about posting in the future... Sorry... my... Belgian... chocolate... is... calling... me...

To tide you over, here are some links in case you're...
-wondering if I'm alive: (it has also proven to be the best way to get in touch with me)
-wondering yet again if I'm alive and if so what I find noteworthy:
-wanting to see pictures of my travels (I am loading them, slowly but surely):
-into stalking my friends (Ali's blog):

Monday, November 9, 2009

can anybody find me...

Somebody to love? Just kidding! Now that I have internet, I got caught up on the show Glee and have had their rendition of "Somebody to Love" stuck in my head all day. I'll be buying this soundtrack once an iTunes crowd sprouts a pair of wings and finds its way to me, hint hint nudge nudge ;) Anyway, I've decided to integrate the show into my classes this week! We're going to talk about American high school stereotypes... and then we're going to watch a performance from Glee! After, of course, they fill in the blanks to the lyrics of the original version of the song, which they'll get to listen to twice. I did this with Michael Jackson's "Thriller" for Halloween and it was a big hit. So now we're going to do a new song every class!

But what I really need you to find for me are recipes. I took myself to Trévoux's market this past Saturday and finally loaded up on fruits and veggies. Much as I love a good omelette or stir fry, I know I'll need to change things up in the future. My oven is a strange and mysterious thing i.e. I need a manual. So while I'm working up the courage to experiment with that monster, let's just keep the meals to ones that can be done on a stovetop or served cold. I don't have a microwave either. I should also admit that I have not yet tackled meat in the Bomb Shelter. If you could see how I can buy meat at the market, perhaps you'd understand why I'm wary of it. Not to dump all French meat into one buy-the-rabbit-5-minutes-after-its-death category. They do have cold cuts here. I even stooped to eat at Subway over Toussaint... twice. All recipe e-mails would be greatly appreciated and perhaps later documented here! In college I remember hearing about bakeless cookies... hit me up if they aren't a figment of my imagination.

And finally, I give you more tourist coupons...

Tourist Coupons: Nice from Sally Anderson on Vimeo.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

tourist coupons

I couldn't be more excited about what I'm about to share with you. I had long since hit the point of believing that I would never have internet out here in the Beaujolais and that this day would never come. The second night I was in Aix-en-Provence with my friends, we had to wait an hour and a half for a tapas restaurant, which we were dead set on, to open for dinner. We were starving, bored, and too cheap to sit down for a drink in a café beforehand. Slap happiness ensued and we found ourselves joking about catching a "pre-dinner show" i.e. watching color changing fountains. And by joking I mean we actually did fountain watch for an hour and a half! The following project was born out of both a love for travel and insanity:

Tourist Coupons: Aix-en-Provence from Sally Anderson on Vimeo.

I hope you enjoyed watching it as much as we enjoyed filming it! Two more episodes along the way! Samantha Brown, eat your heart out!

Friday, November 6, 2009


After over a month of waiting, the blessed letter from Orange came in the mail and I have wireless here in Trévoux! I am so thrilled! I must be dreaming! I think I must have just talked to Ali on Skype for 2 hours! If you have Skype, please give me a call: sarahbysally. Things are looking up! I'm so excited!!!! This changes everything! AHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

P.S. I told you it looked like a bomb shelter!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

sorry and not sorry

For the lack of updates! Finally I have been participating in f-u-n that lasted longer than a weekend! I got a bit swept up in exhausting myself physically, mentally, and financially. Having planned out this Toussaint on our own, it proved to be a stark contrast to the one we had two years ago where our itineraries were specific to the minute. While we firmly rooted ourselves in Nice for the majority of the time, we still came out of it dead tired! But despite a steady decline in our energy, Nice captured our hearts. We had the most spectacular time there! When I first got into the South of France, I have to admit, I was kicking myself for not asking to be placed there for the assistantship. But I quickly heard a little voice that said I could have just as easily been placed in the middle of nowhere down there. And then I would have hated it and what good what that have done?! The South will always hold a warm and, most importantly, untarnished place in my heart.

Since my last post was quite a while ago, I’ll just give you some highlights so as not to strike you over the head with a novel about my vacation:
1. Wednesday: The Chagall museum. I’m so grateful to have finally gotten to see his work in person. He is one of my all time favorites! And then we watched Anne of Avonlea, which was also awesome! You never know what's truly comforting to you until you're without it abroad. This series was one of those things for me in Versailles. But watching the second one was especially comforting this time around. Anne goes off to start teaching in this horrible school and how she rises above it... Can't imagine why I like it so much1 And then there's Gilbert Blythe!
2. Thursday: Dancing on tables at Wayne’s! This blog is all about new experiences and I might as well admit it here! After a trying day-trip out to Monaco, we decided a night on the town was in order. We had an absolute riot! And since I’ve told my dad this story, I feel I can go ahead and share this one too… In the middle of said dancing-on-the-tables this guy turns to me and says that he’s French and wants to give me a French kiss. He insisted that he wanted me to have a good vacation and this would really seal the deal. After saying no several times over, he finally left and we were thrown into the most uproarious of giggle fits as we continued dancing away to the beats of pretty much the coolest DJ ever.
3. Friday: Dinner on Dad in Nice! We all met up with Dad and his co-pilots at their hotel where he surprised us with some of Mom’s pumpkin-shaped sugar cookies. We nearly died of excitement! We had an aperitif at a café before dinner where Margaret and I tried pastis, the staple licorice-tasting liquor of the South. It has to be watered down it’s so strong, but I liked it a lot! At dinner Sarah and I got daring and had mussels (I am notoriously against seafood, so this was a big step), which were surprisingly delicious! Although, I must say, it’s a lot easier to be more adventurous when someone else is footing the bill. Thanks Dad for showing us all a great time!
4. Saturday: Sleeping on the train on our way to Lyon… that’s pretty much all we did besides the general eating marathon and watching The Big Bang Theory.
5. Sunday: Starbucks!
6. Monday: Dinner on “Papa Furman!” We got to meet up with the Furman group studying abroad in Versailles. This, of course, meant we also got to see my favorite professor, Dr. Allen i.e. the reason I became a French major! It was so good to see them all!

Now I’m back to life at the Bomb Shelter. But it’s not so bad. Hell must have frozen over because after staying at that hostel in Lyon (a beyond major step down from Europe's top rated hostel in Nice), I was actually happy to come back here. I don’t have to worry about random sick roommates, a lack of soap in the bathroom, or running into creepy old men on the way to the dirty bathroom in the middle of the night(quick rant: can someone please explain why families and people who are obviously not "youth" stay in youth hostels?). Yesterday I spent the entire day drinking Earl Grey and reading Anne of Green Gables. I’ve always loved the movies, but I’ve never read the books. I was just starting it, but I got so engrossed that I’m over halfway through. Whatever will I do when I’m done?! By all means send me something to read i.e. letters! I’ve gotten letters from Ali, Libby, and Aunt Maureen already! Each one was like the physical form of a silver lining to my day!

This weekend will be my first weekend in Trévoux. Beyond visiting the cheese man at Saturday’s market I’m not sure what I will do. I’m afraid I will exhaust my scanty book collection if that wretched letter from the internet company doesn’t get here beforehand. And continue my very academic pain au chocolat research… bien sûr!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

the view from the top

Now we're in Nice and Nice is nice! It's hot, it's busy, I finally got to download Michael Bublé's new album, it's all great! Yesterday we checked into our hostel, Villa Saint Exupéry. The night before we tacked on an extra day to our stay here because the train tickets to Grenoble were too pricey. There was a bit of confusion, but in the end the Aussie staff gave us a 4 bedroom room with its own bathroom for the price of a 14 bedroom dorm! We were thrilled! This is the friendliest hostel staff I have ever encountered and the vibe here is really great. And our balcony has an ocean view!

This morning we walked around the fruit and flower market before catching our first glimpse of the beach. Then we climbed up to the chateau for some breathtaking views of the city and the sea:

Then, of course, our stomachs started talking and we went back into the colorful city. We just wandered around the streets- which, I have to say, are at once beautiful and gritty- until we found lunch in a cute square. After that we went to get gelato. I decided to stray from my usual and go for something a bit bizarre... cactus! It was surprisingly good! A hike to the Chagall and Matisse museums (both of which were closed... oops!) a few hours later left us hungry again. So now we've got the makings for peanut butter & jelly sandwiches! This is budget travel at its finest! Bon appetit!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

I really DO love France!

It has taken a trip to the South of France to rediscover this, but at least I have! Toussaint vacation has begun and I'm with my friends Brita, Margaret, and Sarah in Aix-en-Provence! It's warm, I'm in good company, the markets are amazing (please note the macaroons- I had orange chocolate & pistachio)... I can't tell you how many times I've said, "I'm so happy!" today! Yea!!!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

the search begins

This week I found out that my French credit card was ready to be picked up in town. So yesterday I braved the rain to make the long walk over there. Naturally when I finally got to Banque Populaire, they were all on a very extensive lunch break. I decided to pass the time by initiating a very important mission that is very near and dear to my heart: the search for the best pain au chocolat in town.

In the past this discovery was always a happy accident. But my current surroundings call for a veritable quest. I feel I can call it this because of the long walk I have to take into town. So I went to the boulangerie that is the farthest away. And it’s a good thing I did because it turns out they have a special deal with 4 for €1.80! This is a no brainer when one alone is 80 centimes! Yum! I had a good laugh eating one while listening to “Dirty Old Town” by The Pogues. After picking up my credit card, I trotted across the street to another boulangerie. I mean, why not? They didn’t have a special deal and their pain au chocolat was a lot crispier (but still good- it’s impossible for the French to screw these up). So so far, the first one is in the lead for tastiest and best bargain!

These shenanigans might seem a bit ridiculous, but I need something to preoccupy myself with! So if you have any other missions for me that can help me cling to my sanity, I’m all ears! In the meantime, I’m going to eat another pain au chocolat :)

P.S. Speaking of quests, I watched The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring last night. It's been ages since I've seen it aka 5 years ago my friends and I decided to watch all 3 in one day. I don't recommend doing that! Anyway... obsession reborn! I am just blown away by that film and J.R.R. Tolkien's brilliant mind! And Legolas is so lovely!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

of family, vampires, & nuns

This past weekend I had the great privilege of another visit from my parents in Lyon. It was fantastic! Full of great views from the basilique on top of the hill, Roman ruins, my parents sleeping in like seasoned 18 years olds, & lots of yummy food. Which, of course, entailed a trip to the Sunday market. My mom really wanted some cheese to smear on the superfluous amounts of bread we were buying and free samples led us to one particularly chatty vendor. It turns out he sells cheese at Trévoux’s Saturday market. Talk about a small world (especially when Trévoux is concerned)!

Speaking of how small this town is… Upon my arrival here, immediately struck by its ‘petite’ size and the extent to which I didn’t fit in, I randomly thought, ‘It’s like I’m Bella in Twilight.’ The irony is that some of my classes are actually reading this book for school. I couldn’t believe it (vampires!), but I was thrilled. So yesterday all of these classes came up with scripts for the first chapter. Then they placed signs around the room for the different places Bella goes to on her first day of school. And then, much to their horror, we filmed the end result! This was compared with the movie version, which I had brought with me. Some of these classes even had me play the main character. So it turns out, I actually am the resident Bella in Trévoux. Does this mean there’s an Edward in my future? Answer: yes!

Yesterday also consisted of a series of near meltdowns. It was just one of those days where the smallest hiccup made me feel like the sky was falling. Particularly concerning a very fast approaching Toussaint. It’s hard to believe that as of this Friday I will already be getting a 2 week break. I have done both everything and nothing, so this trip to the south of France with 3 of my friends who are also living here is much needed and appreciated. But at the same time, none of us have reliable internet, which makes hostel hunting and booking a rather difficult process. The original plan was to spend our first 2 nights in Marseille, but we quickly saw it was not going to work out. But thanks to the magic of Skype, my dad was able to calm us down and found something in Aix-en-Provence instead. He saved the day and our sanity!

In the midst of that whole fiasco, I went to make some Earl Grey for the lovely Lyon mug my parents got for me at Starbucks (sidenote: we Anderson girls love our city mugs!). Suddenly I found myself singing “These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things.” I have no idea what put that song in my head, but the lyrics were so comforting! Desperate for consolation, I decided that I needed more words of wisdom from favorite almost nun. It wasn’t long before my jaw hit the floor when I heard her sing: “Oh I must stop these doubts, all these worries. If I don’t I just know I’ll turn back. I must dream of the things I am seeking. I am seeking the courage I lack. The courage to serve them with reliance, face my mistakes without defiance, show them I’m worthy and while I show them, I’ll show me.” Discouragement has become a pesky little bugger. But the only way to shake it off is to look up and move forward. I can do this. I can do this. I can do this. After all, as Maria sang, “I have confidence in sunshine, I have confidence in rain.”

Thursday, October 15, 2009

it's e-mail, it's voicemail, it's snail mail

In He's Just Not That Into You, Drew Barrymore longs for the days when there was only one way to get in touch with someone. I, on the other hand, am missing the days when I could "get rejected by seven different technologies." Hidden away in this small town, I can really use all the human contact from back home I can get! So as we wait the impossibly long wait for internet to annoint the bomb shelter, I give you...

my address:
98 rue Valentin Smith
01600 Trévoux

my French cell phone:
+33 6 48 83 83 39
If you have skype minutes, please call!!! I get free incoming calls! Katy & Will put their knowledge of the French 1, 2, 3s to use & figured out (so you don't have to) that you have to press 3 after the scary French lady says something ridiculously fast in order to leave a voicemail. But when I get internet, we can all skype for free!!!

By all means, send me an e-mail ( the length of a novel for me to read in between classes at school. Because so far, I don't really have any anyway. Today some of the English teachers said, "She's been here 3 weeks & she hasn't been able to get started yet." Thank you, Sherlock!

Well... back to the bomb shelter to watch one of the movies I brought along for the umpteenth time! And to think I almost didn't bring any!

Monday, October 12, 2009

eating my words (& lots of crêpes in the process)

“As long as I’m in France, I’m happy.” This is something I said countless times before starting this program. And unfortunately, I have to take it back. Even if it’s one you’ve grown to love, happiness is not embodied by a country, culture, or language. Obviously it was a naïve statement, but I let myself believe it was true. But as soon as I got here, I’ve suffered from a very premature (for me) homesickness. I’m no stranger to living or traveling abroad, but this immediate homesickness is something quite foreign to me.

So I was thrilled to get to spend this past weekend with my parents in Lyon! My dad had a layover & my mom caught a first class ride along with him. I may be a recent inductee to the “real world,” but that didn’t stop me from climbing into their hotel bed like a four year-old & napping between them as they slept off their jet lag. It was wonderful! I was with them less than 48 hours, and while I would much rather have them here with me permanently, I’ll take what I can get. I am truly blessed. Not only to have such extraordinary parents, but to have ones that can travel so easily.

We went shopping near Place Bellecour, found a great little wine shop by the Hôtel de Ville, walked around old town & through the famous Sunday market. I could give you a detailed play-by-play… but I won’t. Because the obvious truth is that the best part of the weekend was my parents’ presence, not anything we did or saw. I can’t say it enough. And I can’t tell you how nice it was (although it was probably horrifying for them to witness) to just let it all go and cry as they held my hand. I’m just incredibly overwhelmed right now. At the risk of this blog turning into a long-winded vent or sob story, I will leave it at saying there’s a lot to overcome. It’s going to take a lot of faith, determination, & a positive attitude. Please pray for me!

I don’t know what to expect in the week ahead. Will I actually be teaching or just bumming around some more? As they’ve said to me over and over, “We’ll see.” And when this week is over, I get to see my parents again before Delta cuts the flight to Lyon in November. It’s a major bummer, but two visits is better than none. And, of course… “We’ll always have Paris!”

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

it's what you make of it

PARIS!!! My good friend Brita is working as an au pair in the suburbs and the mom she works for said that I could come and stay for the weekend! I couldn’t believe it! I am truly blessed because this trip couldn’t have been more last minute. But with my carte 12-25, I got a great deal on my ticket. My roommate drove me into Lyon (she was had to be there for the German assistants’ orientation) and after a 2-hour train ride I was standing next to the Jardin des Tuileries with Brita! Naturally, she and I had a picnic in front of the Eiffel Tower that night!

After sleeping in Saturday morning, we set off for the Latin Quarter, one of my all-time favorite places to be in Paris. First, we hunted down the famous English bookstore Shakespeare & Company. The inside looks just like I imagine Flourish & Blotts in Harry Potter would be- books, new and old, piled from floor to ceiling every which way, cozy corners with worn chairs, and rolling ladders. We spent the rest of the day poking around Paris before meeting up with our friend Mallory who’s studying abroad in Versailles.

After, yes, another picnic in front of the Eiffel Tower, we set off to participate in Nuit Blanche (white night- or a night without sleep). This is a big shebang that happens once a year that goes from 7AM-7PM. All of these gardens, museums, etc are open for free with modern art being displayed. We did go see some weird, glowing crystals in Notre Dame... still can't figure that one out! But mostly Nuit Blanche just brought us lots of run-ins with drunkards and playing Chinese fire drill with some of them on the metro! And then… some major problem with transportation. A supposedly reliable source had told us that the trains and metros were running all night especially for the event. We discovered all too late that this was not the case. To make a long story short, we didn’t get out of Paris until 4AM…

But we weren’t going to let our lack of sleep interfere with the glorious Sunday we had planned. On Friday I had called my beloved Mme Chauchat to see if I could stop by and see her, but she insisted that Brita and I come over for lunch! Pulling into the station at Versailles, it felt very much like a homecoming. But not as much as it did when Mme Chauchat opened her front door. Words cannot begin to describe how emotional I felt! Mid hug she said, “I told you we would see each other again, Peter Pan!” She fussed over us and then ushered us into the dining room where we used to take our conversation lessons. The table was set and her husband was eager to start pouring the wine! We ate very well indeed, two servings of everything, and then a dessert of raspberries and fromage blanc. Then we had tea and just talked for hours (she even let me use her phone to call home).

We also listened to “Thankful” off the Josh Groban album I had given her for Christmas two years before. It was such a treat to see the woman who inspires me being inspired by his voice. It’s funny… she always knows just what to say or do without you knowing what that might be. The opening line of the song is “Some days we forget to look around us.” There really is so much to be thankful for. My situation is tough at the moment, but it really is an amazing opportunity. And like Mme Chauchat said, “You have to choose happiness.” I’m taking that to heart. I am so blessed to be here. And she and many of my friends are only a train ride away. Furthermore, so many people from back home have been sending me notes of encouragement and I just want to thank you all for that! It means a lot!

It was a wonderful weekend! And I’ll be back in November to see the play Peter Pan in Paris with Mme Chauchat & anyone else who wants to meet us there! So excited!!

first thing's first

Before you ask, there's still no internet at the bomb shelter, but hopefully soon! Now before I tell you about my weekend, I’ll fill you in on my "first (official) day" at the school…

Since my schedule is still not set in stone, Thursday was just sort of a show-up-at-8AM-and-we’ll-see-what-happens kind of deal. Only two teachers had arranged for me to visit their classes ahead of time. But as I was sitting in the staff room thinking how I should have slept in instead, one of the English teachers ran in and asked if I would mind introducing myself to her class. It was a class of technical students (the high school is for both general and technical education) who upon hearing I was there already, begged her to bring me in. I didn’t know what to expect because I had been warned that if they were too hard to handle (they are much older, some are even my age), I could opt not to teach the class. But they were great! They were… shall we say excited… to see how young I am. I was almost immediately asked if I had a boyfriend, did I have facebook, and could I give them my number. Did I mention it’s a class of 12 guys and 1 girl? Mhmm, my thoughts exactly! Their English was weak, but they got the point across. So sometime soon they’ll all be taking me out in Lyon for dinner, drinks, dancing, and… karaoke. Oh dear. They were a riot and I’m really looking forward to working them!

The next class was English lit for Términale. These are seniors and I’ll essentially be preparing them for an oral test they have to take for their Baccalauréat (this is an exam high school seniors take… but I’m not familiar enough with it to explain it properly). I had corrected some of their papers that week and thought they were quite good. I told them this and said not to be shy about speaking English- it’s already good! But they were quiet and barely had any questions for me. It was a complete 180 from the rambunctious technical students who were asking me all about things like Spring Break… ahaha. But the teacher wanted me to take up a lot of class time, so I brought out a bag with slips of paper that had questions written out in English. One would pull out a question and ask someone else to answer. But when it came time for one particular student to answer a question, she started crying. I. Was. Mortified.

At the end of the day I went and saw some younger students. I guess they thought I was an exchange student because they all thought I must have been 16. But they were absolutely thrilled with the prospect of an American in their high school for the year. It was 34 students, but I’ll be rotating them every week because I’m legally only allowed to take 8 students at a time. They were all really eager to ask me questions and to answer the questions I had brought with me, which was a huge relief! Some even expressed interest in the English Club I’m apparently going to have to run. Hmm…

The rest of the day was spent planning an escape route. Since I don’t really have any work to do, it seemed like as good a time as any to take advantage of my built-in 4-day weekends! And so it was that I went to…

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Toto we're not in Paris anymore

Tuesday: I’m writing this blog from the housing my school provided (which I have fondly nicknamed “The Bomb Shelter”) without any knowledge of when I will actually be able to post this. My roommate, the German assistant, spoke with the phone company today & they said we should have a working phone, internet, & TV in 10-15 days… Welcome to Trévoux! I knew this town would be small… it’s smaller! But it’s also long, which makes getting to dare-I-call-it-downtown a bit of a hike. The Bomb Shelter is a 2-minute walk from the school & I can see it out my back window.

Speaking of which, I really like my school so far. As I predicted, on Monday, the bus driver dropped me off in front of the school (this is not a usual stop, but I was the only one on the bus the entire time), & I was wheeling all of my bags across the courtyard. Complete the scene with some snickering kids. I stopped & asked one of them where the office was & then continued to lug all of my stuff into the school. Everyone was really welcoming & quite surprised that I had shown up with all of my luggage. Apparently they all thought I was from the UK! Not sure where that came from as all of my paperwork & e-mails said USA, but… I get the feeling I’m not really a priority. Most of my questions are met with “I don’t knows,” “We’ll sees,” or "Maybe tomorrows" (which is not so welcome when it involves a working shower). But then again, my contact told me that my job was “no big deal.” Ah… the French.

A few visits to the tourism office have shown me that buses barely ever come here. And if they do, chances are they don’t make a return trip. So I’m going to have to plan out all of my excursions very carefully! It’s off to a bit of a rocky start, but that’s to be expected. I’ve just got to keep reminding myself that I’m in France!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Bonjour from Lyon!

After my series of unfortunate events, I arrived at my youth hostel without any hiccups! Disregarding, of course, the fact that they wouldn't let me check in for another six hours. Which naturally led to me passing out on a table in the common area... Which naturally left me with bloodshot eyes & looking like a vampire. But after a shower (I had to hold down the button any time I wanted water... welcome back to France!) & nap, I was good to go. Especially since I was meeting up with Nathan, a Furman grad who helped teach my very first French class at Furman, & his girlfriend Betsy. Despite the strike, they came to pick me up at my hostel! We walked down into vieux (old) Lyon for dinner. It was great! Not only to be met with friendly faces & helpful hints on dealing with the French bureaucracy, but to be reunited with French cuisine! So big thanks to Nathan & Betsy for a lovely first evening in Lyon!

A lot of people staying at this hostel are fellow teaching assistants & others are backpacking around Europe. While the facilities leave something to be desired, the view & the company make up for it in leaps & bounds. And look at the little friend I made while I was on the computer last night. Just crawled right into my lap! I do apologize, I took this photo using my iPhone. But the pictures I've take around Lyon are on my camera & the chords are still buried in the aforementioned luggage room of doom.

Today I wandered around the city with Jill, another assistant. After picking up some Starbucks (they only have them in Paris & Lyon, so we're getting it while we can!), we went to one of my favorite fountains in Lyon only to find that it sits directly across from the Musée des Beaux-Arts. We went inside hoping to get some sort of discount for being under 25, but the sign said you needed an actual student card. No matter! They said proof of our age was sufficient enough & we got in for free!! Monet & Renoir were not on the agenda, but quite the welcome surprise! Then we trekked off to get my carte 12-25, a sort of youth card that gives you massive discounts on train tickets for a year. A few things got lost in translation at the train station, but I walked out with my carte 12-25 & my first discounted train ticket. I bought one for Villefranche-sur-Saône for tomorrow morning, the halfway point between Lyon & Trévoux. From there I will take the bus & finally be in Trévoux!

After the train station, we bumped into something quite shocking... Rollerblading. Roller-bladers swarming la place Bellecour (the largest square in Lyon). It was all very 90s. All sorts of races, competitions, & a dancing Ronald McDonald... it was really random! And not quite the French culture we were looking for. So we took ourselves down to the Sunday market lining the shores of the Saône. Everything from the food to the flowers seemed to be the most beautiful thing I ever laid eyes on! There is nothing like a French market & it was one sweet reunion. Spending 5 euros on a baguette & grapes (French bread & grapes are the best!), we ate it on the steps of a cathedral. France... It's good to be back!!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

"This is the hard part."

That's what she said! Well, that's what my mom said anyway! Funniness aside, truer words were never spoken. While she said this to me mid-breakdown last night, let me share how it's applicable now...

Allow me to set the scene for you... I am sitting in a hotel. Not a plane. A seasoned traveler, I have never had so much trouble flying in. my. entire. life. If we were playing "Never Have I Ever," I would be forced to admit that I have now cried in an airport. Think less choking-back-tears-as you-hug-your-family-goodbye kind of crying & more the-ticketing-lady-just-ripped-my-passport-&-won't-let-me-on-my-flight-to-Lyon-because-my-flight-was-delayed. That was the cherry on top of what had already been an 'icing on the cake' kind of day at the Atlanta airport (at the risk of this turning into a rant, I'll spare you the gory details). But then getting to my hotel in New York, the wheels of my suitcase literally got stuck between the train & the platform! Luckily I had a handy-dandy policeman help me out in perfect movie timing fashion. Oh! And did I mention there's a transportation strike that just started in Lyon? Like I told my mom... this is the part in the movie where everything that could possibly go wrong for the character is. And you feel really bad laughing, but can't really help it. So, by all means, feel free to laugh.

But even if I had made my intended flight, there is still a lot up in the air. And it's a very intimidating spot to be in. I know I'll be fine once I actually get to Trévoux. But getting there, like everything else, proves to be a challenge. I won't lie... I have cried a lot today. But at the same time, I have to think about something else my mom told me (granted, for an entirely different situation). The windshield is bigger than the rearview mirror for a reason. All I can do right now is hold my chin up & look forward. And there is a lot to look forward to in this program. I think I'm on the verge of something truly defining...

Friday, September 18, 2009

the luck of the draw

"Once upon a time, in a far away land..." my mom took me to see Beauty & the Beast. At the ripe age of 4 I heard "bonjour" for the very first time & was instantly mesmerized. Fast forward to my freshman year of high school & I was faced with the dilemma of choosing between French, German, or Spanish. While French seemed rather impractical, I couldn't help taking the setting of a certain film into serious consideration. That & my dream of seeing the Eiffel Tower ;) But it wasn't until my French major whisked me away to Versailles for a study abroad program that I truly began falling head over heels for all things French. The language, the culture, the food, the silly questions about whether or not I had been thrown in jail... I loved it all!

It wasn't long before I was applying for the French Embassy's Assistantship Program. As a teaching assistant, I would have the opportunity to share my language & culture in a French school for 7-9 months. It was a no brainer! The only question was... where? I will not sugar coat my bad behavior for you. I was a complete & total wreck. The list of where I didn't want to go was virtually non-existent &, thus, unhelpful. So after driving myself & everyone around me insane with the pros & cons of every académie (academic council) in France, I broke down & threw the name of each one I liked into a bag. Sans blague (no kidding)! Drawing out Lyon, I wrote it down as my first choice on my application, & sent it away before I could change my mind again. Lyon was a popular first choice among the applicants, so I was genuinely surprised when my acceptance letter said I got it.

One more hellish wait later & I finally received my Arrêté de Nomination aka placement letter. I will be teaching English to high schoolers at Lycée du Val de Saône for 7 months in Trévoux! A charming town of about 6,000, it is nestled in the Beaujolais hills next to the Saône River. I am absolutely thrilled with my placement! But I can't help noticing the irony of being placed in a town reminiscent of Belle's "poor provincial town." Now more than ever, it is unbelievable how much of an influence this opening sequence has had on my life...