Wednesday, May 12, 2010

new blog

On the off chance you're checking back here post-France... My best friend Ali and I have started a new blog Sally & Ali. Check one, two!

Monday, May 3, 2010

and just like that...

It's over. I apologize for the delay in this last post. I've been carried away with all things American i.e. public bathrooms, a Braves game, Sonic, etc. So before I continue to be swept away with patriotism, I will tie up the loose ends... Last week was sure a strange one. I kept telling people it was my last week, but I didn't really believe it. It seemed too good to be true. But we'll get back to that in a minute.

Wrapping up... First the teacher I always worked with in class got sick. So, quite unfortunately, I didn't get to say goodbye to about 60 students. On Wednesday my tech students surprised me with a little going away party. They brought in all manner of food and drinks and we just sat around talking and preparing one last something for their American pen pals. I gave them one last letter, from Kendall, and instead of writing a letter back they decided they wanted to make a video saying hi to all three of their pen pals. You can watch their attempt to declare the French as the best at BBQ (*cough cough cough cough cough*) here:

Pen Pals from Sally Anderson on Vimeo.

My last day I gave a little gift to my students in English club and one of them started to cry. It was a really touching moment for me and made me think that if I made that much of an impact for this one girl, it was worth it. I could walk away happy.

I also walked away happy because I got to leave the Bomb Shelter behind:

Da Bomb Shelter from Sally Anderson on Vimeo.

The last blog posts pretty much sums up everything to be perfectly honest. I'm shell shocked that I made it back to the USA. There were so many sleepless nights where I really didn't think it would be possible. Once I escaped Trévoux, before taking my trans-Atlantic flight back home, I kept waiting to be kidnapped by the French government to be dragged back there against my will. It wasn't until I made it to the top of the escalators at the Atlanta airport and saw my parents that I truly believed I was in America. I began to cry and the first thing I said to them was, "Please tell me I never have to go back again!" And, of course, I don't. It's the most liberating feeling in the entire world, no joke. I've gone from a nightmare to one of the sweetest dreams I've ever had. I keep pinching myself because it all seems too good to be true. I'm not exaggerating:

Meeting Captain Kirk from Sally Anderson on Vimeo.

The past 7 months were a crazy and unexpected ride. And since I began my documentation of this journey with "Once upon a time" and a reference to Beauty and the Beast, I think I will finish it with "And she lived happily ever after." No, I did not encounter an enchanted castle or Prince Charming. And no, I don't know what the next chapter holds for me in any way. But, as I've said, this chapter of my life is over and that's "happily ever after" enough for me!

La fin.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Samwise the Brave

I’m posting this entry from the school where I’m scrounging up some internet. As you can imagine, four days in Trévoux without internet was absolute torture for me. There I was with no Skype, no roommate, a dead town, and a stuffed animal who, while as loving and comforting as she can be, has been a mute these 22 years. And satisfying as gazing up at my nearly nonexistent paper chain was, I had to turn to my DVDs for some real entertainment and, I’ll admit, illusion of companionship. When you’re all alone, it’s nice to have other voices floating around even if they’re pouring from your computer. Many fictional characters have grown near and dear to me this year, but allow me to turn to an old favorite.

Don’t let the life-sized cardboard cutout of Legolas I got for my 16th birthday fool you. Much as I have always loved quoting the infamous, “Something draws near, I can feel it,” his words are not the ones I want to focus on just now.

My first month in France I watched The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. At the time I felt overwhelmed by the seeming impossibility of making it through this program. And like Frodo I had wished that none of it had happened. Everything seemed to have gone so horribly wrong. Fast-forward through six months of you-know-what and here I am at the end of it. So it seemed to me very fitting to watch the last two thirds of the saga, which my mom had so graciously brought to me in Nice.

At the end of The Two Towers, I found myself crying over the speech of a small, but courageous hobbit…
Sam: “It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo; the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines, it’ll shine out the clearer. Those are the stories that stayed with you; that meant something even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.”
Frodo: “What are we holding on to, Sam?”
Sam: “That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.”

Now, I am by no means comparing my passing trial to that of destroying evil. But I hope you can see the parallel I’m trying to draw here. In October I cried myself to sleep holding my mom’s hand in a hotel room in Lyon. In November I was frustrated over a lack of classes. In December I had to ”get naked” for the French government. In January my family pushed me onto a plane back to Paris. In February I nearly quit over the discouraging words of a colleague. And in March my impatience to be home was nearly tangible. As I told my best friend Ali on Skype so many months ago, I had to train my eyes to strain to see the silver lining each and every day i.e. students excited to practice English with me in the hallways, teachers happy to see the results of my lessons, etc. Any “Hi, Sally!” from a student passing by was a victory I had to cling to. Any call, e-mail, letter, prayer, fleeting well-wishing thought from all of you along with these little victories of mine have been the good that have kept me fighting through this. They have been what have kept me going. I am absolutely stunned to be standing on the brink of my last week here because at the beginning I didn’t even want to start. I immediately wanted to walk away. But what I wanted and what I knew I had to do were two very different things. And it’s not with amazement in myself that I’m about to close this trying chapter of my life. It was all God. I cannot credit one shred of this accomplishment to myself. Because if it had been up to me, I would have dropped this program like The One Ring and gone home with my parents in October.

I’m not saying the past seven months have all been horrible. I have, of course, enjoyed getting to know my students and traveling all over France with Sarah and a few others. And I know other English assistants who had a very different and positive experience and I’m happy for them. Mine was hard to swallow, but I can appreciate it for what it was and for all that I learned. The greatest of which are that God is good and God is faithful. To quote Luke 1:37, “For nothing is impossible with God.” And now to use “bad English” that I would never dream of using in the classroom… Ain’t that the truth?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

planned awkwardness

The whole purpose of Sarah and I coming to the Champagne region was, naturally, to drink champagne. Thus, we set about selecting three champagne houses where we would get a tour of the cellars and a champagne tasting.

Yesterday we did a day trip out to Epernay, famous for its champagne thanks to its Avenue de Champagne. House after house on this street is devoted to the making of bubbly. First stop: Moët and Chandon, the makers of Dom Pérignon. The tour was a very scripted, but very informative description of the process from the vine to the shelf. The champagne was light and fruity and then we were on our way to champagne house #2. After a long walk down the never-ending street, we finally arrived at Mercier. Walking into the foyer we were face to face with a huge wooden vat that once held 200,000 bottles worth of champagne at the World's Fair. It came second only to the Eiffel Tower. Needless to say, Mercier was an innovative man and is considered the Willy Wonka of champagne. He used to take people up in hot air balloons over Paris for tastings. How cool is that?! Sarah and I had decided to treat ourselves to a tour in English instead of French. But as the time for our tour grew near we realized... we were the only English speakers there. Which meant a personal tour from a charming young man. At first it was very awkward turtle. Especially considering that the tour through the wine caves is done on a laser guided train meant for 50 people. But, no, it was just the three of us in the first car driving around. At one point our guide said, "Say hello!" I turned and saw a worker and waved to him. Well it turned out that the guide hadn't finished his sentence yet and was going to say, "Say hello to the longest hall in the caves." I got a lot of grief for that one! Woopsies! During the tasting he told us that their motto is "Fresh, fruity, intense, and spontaneous." He proceeded to confide in us that he thought this saying was ridiculous, but asked what we thought of the champagne. Of course we said it was "Spontaneous!" Despite its awkwardness, it was a hilarious time and we really enjoyed it.

Today, we went to a tasting in Reims at Veuve Clicquot. For those of you who don't know, "veuve" means "widow." It was the widow of Clicquot who was the genius behind the brand and the business. I would say this was the best tour as far as understanding the history behind the brand. We learned what absolutely everything on the label means and it was just the most interesting of all the tours. To top it off we got to taste their La Grande Dame from 1998. The bottle costs 119 euros, which is probably why it was the most expensive tour of the three. But it was worth it! I've been spoiled!

Paris week and then Champagne... I'd say it's been a great spring vacation. Tomorrow it's back to Trévoux where I will be without internet (NOOOOOO!!!!!!!!) for exactly one week before flying home for good. That is, of course, if volcanic ash doesn't get in my way. If I have to go through Japan, I don't care, I'm gettin' out! Please pray that for once I won't have any transportation nightmares! Cheers!

P.S. I tried adding more pictures, but my internet connection at McDonald's (yes... I know) is not very good! I'll try again at school next week. Sorry!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Paris week: highlights part 2

1. After our day trip to Pierrefonds, Sarah and I did some unwinding with Mme Chauchat who exposed us to our first live showing of Nouvelle Star. For those of you who don't already know, Nouvelle Star (or "New Star") is the French version of American Idol. I already had an appreciation for the show because they discovered Thierry Amiel for me years ago. But, still, I had never seen it live. Last Wednesday was the first round after the auditions. It's done a bit differently over here, but I loved it. I never watch American Idol back home, but Nouvelle Star is amazing!!! Here are my two favorites. First we saw Luce. Yes, the song is in French, but you can appreciate her talent all the same. Sarah and I haven't been able to stop singing her rendition and we really want her to be our friend:

Then we saw Benjamin. He's 16 and just like my students of the same age, he is the perfect example of how much difficulty the French have with the 'th' sound in English. But he's adorable and I kind of want him to be my friend too:

2. I went and visited my host family from study abroad. It was nice to see the Coulots and that big old house I loved so much. But I have to confess, the best part was being reunited with Skipper, the dog.

3. A Chauchat guided tour around the Quartier Saint Louis, one of the oldest quartiers in Versailles.

4. Throwing a belated birthday party for the Chauchats' oldest grandsons, Grégoire and Alexi. Sarah and I played Mexican Train with them and it was just a fun way to get to know them. Dinner consisted of American hamburgers and fries, which were so delicious! It was followed by their birthday red velvet cake (made with mix brought over by my mom) since we knew Mme Chauchat had never had one before. Alexi proceeded to quiz us about all the American rappers we knew. His pronunciation of their songs=hilarious! Such a fun night!

5. My failure to resist collection of The Pogues' first 5 albums for 19 euros at FNAC.

6. Renting bikes and riding around Le Grand Canal in Versailles. We were a bit nervous because it's been years since either of us had ridden a bike, but it came back surprisingly fast. We sang "Do-Re-Mi" as we merrily went along through the most beautiful palace grounds in the world. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, the water was sparkling, ah, it was bliss! I want a bike now more than anything. It was an afternoon perfectly spent!

7. K&K episode 333. I've listened to this expat podcast called Katia and Kyliemac for about 2 years now. Saturday night was their 333rd episode and they did a live broadcast at a pub in Paris. It was a big celebration and people had flown in from all over the world for the shenanigans. And those who couldn't, like my best friend Ali, called in and left voicemail messages, which were played throughout the night. We got goodie bags and snacked on hors d'œuvres such as Peeps and M&Ms, which was one sweet reunion. And I finally got to meet Katia and Kyliemac, which was awesome! If you listen to the podcast, you'll understand, but you just feel like you know them. So it was a real blast to be there. There were 3 minute discussions of topics such as "cheese: the stinkier the better?" and "Parisians: bastards or survivalists?" It was hilarious! Definitely a lot of expat camaraderie going on.

Paris week was a major success! It was more than we could have hoped for. But it wasn't perfect. There were lowlights too. For example, getting stuck in Paris for 2 hours after K&K because the strike didn't end when it was supposed to and we couldn't get a train back to Versailles until 1 am. I know everything sounds just lovely because I'm on vacation and everything, but I can't tell you the amount of times I've said, "I've had it! I want to go home!" Public transportation being the number one aggravator of such commentary. Also, saying goodbye to Mme Chauchat... never fun. It. Was. Awful. Seriously, this woman is amazing and I don't know what I would have done without her this year.

So yesterday Sarah and I bid farewell to Paris week and made our way to Reims. The entire town is under construction, which is a bummer. But there are some cool things. Like... this morning I found a pain au chocolat et banane (that's chocolate and banana, people, chocolate and banana!) and wandered around the cathedral, which has Chagall stained glass windows. Otherwise the only really cool thing about Reims is the fact that my late grandad marched through it during World War II. In all honesty, we're a bit bored here. But that's ok because tomorrow we're day-tripping it out to Epernay for some champagne tastings!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Silence, s'il vous plaît!

In other words, "Quiet on set!" That's right! On Wednesday we finally made it out to Pierrefonds. The castle is straight out of a fairy tale, perhaps why it was chosen to represent Camelot, and it looms high over the town. Sarah won major friend points all day for putting up with all my squealing and grabbing and going, "A big car! I wonder if it's Bradley and Colin!" Just so there's no further confusion, Bradley James plays Arthur and Colin Morgan plays Merlin.

The Château de Pierrefonds was closed for lunch when we first got there. As we waited to go inside all these vans kept pulling up and all manner of film equipment was being unloaded. I've never witnessed a film set before and it was absolutely fascinating. If any of the crew are willing to switch jobs with me, make yourself known! At 2 o'clock I wandered into that oh-so-familiar-looking courtyard where Prince Arthur had slayed so many mythical creatures. No sooner had I paused to take a picture of mammoth structure that I turned and saw Bradley James and Colin Morgan walk right by me. Arthur, I mean Bradley, was in his chainmail and I have to admit I was struck speechless. It's a very weird thing. I've never been around an actor before, but seeing him dressed as this character I couldn't distinguish between the two!

Once Sarah could finally snap me out of la la land and what was apparently some intense blushing, we toured the castle. La la la, yes it was enchanting, but I was distractedly peeking out of every window to see any signs of filming. After walking through the parts of it that we could (some of the rooms were closed for filming) we sat outside with the rest of the tourists, all English speakers and fans of Merlin. I only just started watching this show since coming to France. And I've generally referred to it as a guilty pleasure, but apparently this little quest has turned me into a groupie. Bradley and Colin came down to talk to the fans, but when I was one person away they were called back on set. Oh well! It was still really neat to get to see them and be on a working set. I'm not sure which episode of season 3 we were there for that day, but I can tell you to watch for the episode where there's what looks like a saracen attack on Camelot, possibly a dismembered skeleton, and Arthur having a sword fight in the stairwell. Ah! It was just such a unique opportunity! I can't believe they were actually filming and I'm so glad we got to go!

P.S. There's almost nothing funnier than seeing the knights of the roundtable taking pictures of each other with their camera phones! Except maybe "Prince Arthur" lounging on the front steps of the château, rocking his Oakleys.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Paris week: highlights so far

1. Singing Pocahontas with Mme Chauchat. It happened.

2. Seeing a ballet at the Opéra. Ok, first of all this building is ridiculously grandiose. Gold everywhere and Chagall painted the ceiling. Secondly, the ballerinas are incredibly talented. And young. This puts my life into harsh perspective. But I'll let it slide because they were so friendly afterwards. At least the one we met (she once lived with the Chauchats). The only downside to this long awaited experience was that the Phantom of the Opéra apparently forgot I was coming.

3. Hillsong.

4. We went to see the equestrian spectacle at Versailles' royal stables. This is, I suppose, Versailles' answer to Austria's Lipizzaner stallions. It was... interesting... but the horses were beautiful, even if their blue eyes were a tad creepy.

5. Georges Centre Pompidou. We got in for free. Thank God, it was free! In and out and 20 minutes! I think that's a new record.

6. American Breakfast. Sweet reunion with pancakes.

7. The Clash of the Titans. This movie was awesome! Flippin' awesome!!!

8. Java Chip frappuccino, I've missed you, darling!

In other news, I still hate French public transportation. Our train for our day trip out to the castle they film Merlin at was delayed by 15 minutes. This was enough to make it so we would miss our one and only chance aka bus to get to the Château de Pierrefonds. So we ran to to the ticket counter and got refunds for our tickets. Majorly bummed because they're filming there as we speak. Prince Arthur, your damsel is in distress! But never fear, seven months of travel hell has transformed this dilemma into a not-so-impossible feat. This has to happen!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

the pen pal project

I have just sealed what is probably the last letter from my tech students to my friends back in the United States. And, I've got to say, I did it with a great sense of accomplishment. At first they were dubious of the assignment, but upon learning they would corresponding with American girls it was approached with great enthusiasm. The letters from Kendall, Alex, and Amanda all came different weeks, but back to back. So each class those three weeks was devoted to ceremoniously opening the girl's letter (i.e. with a pair of scissors), reading it out loud, high-fiving, winking, fist-pumping, and then, finally, writing a worthy response. Some took the task very seriously. Others treated it more like a long distance dating game i.e. some of them said "I will be 21 in October" just to make themselves sound older. There was a lot of "No! You can't say that!" and "There's no way you're asking that!" on my end. But it was all very good humored. They've been bragging to everyone, and I mean everyone, about this project. Consequently, this has gotten more students in the class (it's optional). I, for one, have been rolling on the floor laughing over some of their commentary. Once I know Amanda's gotten her letter, I'll be sure to tell you what they said. I don't want to spoil the surprise! Boys will be boys and they are no exception! Here's a picture they insisted on taking, courtesy of my Mac's built in camera, to show their new trans-Atlantic friends.

Yesterday we finished with Amanda's letter. As you can see, it was quite impressive! She even included a mixed CD for them. So now the boys think they're hot stuff. They were as devoted to writing back to her as they were for Alex and Kendall. And seeing them concentrate so hard and working out how to say certain things, I just swelled with pride. And I'm not the only one who's impressed. Their English teacher told me she's never seen them so inspired to work before. It's ironic because before I had even met this class I was told that their English was very weak, they were older (around 20), and could be very hard to handle. Even then I was told that if I didn't want to work with them, I didn't have to. But over and over again, I have walked out of that classroom impressed. They have worked so hard this year. Everything has been approached with enthusiasm, perhaps with a desire to show off, but enthusiasm all the same. This is the only group I've seen every week over the past seven months, so it's been very special to watch them improve. I guess I'm a sucker for lost causes, but I'm so glad I didn't turn the opportunity down.

And now it's spring break! First this means what Sarah and I have dubbed "Paris week." We're not really staying in Paris, but we're planning on doing a lot there. Home base will be Versailles and we couldn't be happier! From there we're going to Reims in Champagne. We've got two champagne tastings lined up and I'm so excited! After that I'll come back to Trévoux for a weekend of cleaning and packing. And then it's 3 days of class and bye bye Bomb Shelter! Eeeeee!!!!!!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

"Yzma, put your hands in the air!"

There is something about being reunited with a friend you haven't seen in a long time that is really incredible. Immediately you fall in step with each other; reading each other's thoughts and laughing at jokes that no outside party could ever understand. At least, that's how it was when Sarah and I met up with my best friend Ali in Paris this past weekend! The three of us haven't been in the same place since we graduated last May. But it seemed as if no time and all the time in the world had passed since then. Everything and nothing has changed.

We were immediately set loose in the heart of Paris where the three of us had bonded in the first place during study abroad three years ago. Three years! Unbelievable! We had lunch in the Latin Quarter before window shopping turned into actual shopping in the Marais district. In the late afternoon we met our friend Brita by the Hôtel de Ville for drinks. So it was even more of a study abroad reunion! For lack of time's sake, we had dinner at an American restaurant I will not mention on the Champs-Elysées. I will say it's the trendiest one I've ever been too, but that's all! I think you know what I'm talking about. Then we ran across the street to see Alice in Wonderland in 3D. The March Hare was by far my favorite and we were quoting him the rest of the weekend. We snuck in American sodas we had bought at the Thanksgiving store earlier. Root beer never tasted so good, except perhaps in a root beer float!

Saturday morning we woke up bright and early to make our dreams come true. That is to say we went to Euro Disney! I know, I know, this makes for my third visit. But I had to go with Ali! And besides, I'm convinced you can never go to Disney too many times. It never loses its luster in my childish eyes! It was pouring down rain all day long, but the crowds were still swarming everywhere. Unfortunately this included the rudest bunch of tweens I have ever encountered in my entire life! But no matter, nothing was going to dampen our spirits physically or mentally. We skipped our way through that park without a care in the world and it was magical! I'm not sure if any group of 20 somethings has ever quoted so many Disney lines or sung so many Disney songs in the span of ten hours. I desperately wanted to find Peter Pan, but characters at Euro Disney always seem to be in hiding/running away from guests, darn frogs. The rain wasn't helping. Mark my words, one day I will find him at Disney and it will be "just like we dreamed it" (the theme song for this park, which we were belting every 10 minutes). We were smart enough to start with our favorite Space Mountain, which ended up having technical difficulties the rest of the day. But it was ok. It just made an excuse to go on rides we'd never been on before i.e. Star Tours, the carousel, and Buzz Lightyear Lazer Blast. We finished on Buzz Lightyear and I've got to say it's the most awesome ride ever! You go on these cars from room to room shooting lazers at targets on the bad guys through the whole thing, points and everything. It was like living a video game and it was awesome! We also ate at the Blue Lagoon, which is the restaurant right next to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, so you can watch everyone going by on their boats. It was definitely worth the splurge. Especially the crème brûlée i.e. they set the crème on fire right in front of us! Ah! It was just so much fun! We all were in dire need of a break from reality and there's nothing like magic carpets, prince charmings, and spinning teacups to do the trick!

Easter Sunday Ali and I went to Hillsong. It was incredible! If I could have joined that church on the spot, I would have. But what a glorious way to celebrate! We met up with Sarah in the Latin Quarter where we went and got Nutella crêpes at our favorite crêpe stand. Sarah and I had both given up Nutella for Lent- very difficult to do in France, if I may say so- and it was one sweet reunion! We had this hunch that everything was going to be closed because it was both a holiday and a Sunday, but it really wasn't a problem. Everything we needed to be open was. We walked all over town and finally made it to the Eiffel Tower. Everyone was there. Everyone. I have never seen so many people there midday. Literally, we all had to hold hands to make it through the crowds together.

But... ah! What a wonderful weekend! I, for one, am missing their combined company already! There's just nothing like being with your besties. Nothing! I haven't laughed like that since the last time we were all together. Here's to it not taking 11 months next time! Thanks girls! And, "I need lots of chocolate and a Diet Coke please!" hehe.

P.S. I took a ton of video at Euro Disney. It'll take me some time to edit, so sit tight!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Doors of Trévoux

Last weekend my Mom insisted on seeing all the pictures I've taken over here thus far. When I showed her all the photos from Trévoux, she said it was like "The Doors of Dublin." If you've ever been to Dublin, you'd have seen post cards with pictures of all the colorful front doors around Dublin. So, to give you a better idea of the town I'm living in, I give you "The Doors of Trévoux."

In other news, tomorrow morning I'm meeting Ali and Sarah in Paris! And on Saturday... *five-year-old-squeal*... WE'RE GOING TO EURO DISNEY!!!!!!!!!!!! Happy Easter everyone!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

nothing nicer

Thursday night I spent the night with Nathan and Betsy in Lyon. I had a 6:30 am train Friday morning and couldn't get there in time for it from Trévoux. It was really lovely to see them again (they're engaged now- yea!!!) before heading down south. Thanks again, you guys!

Why did I pick the earliest train to Nice? So I could be reunited with my mom as soon as humanly possible! Three months is way too long to go without seeing your mommy. This is no new revelation. If I was back home, I'd be calling her at least three times a day. Although... now that I think about it, that has happened on Skype too! I love my mom! And this reunion was long overdue. If you remember, I was supposed to meet her and my dad in Nice back in January, but their flight got cancelled. But Nice wouldn't stand for it and we wouldn't either! So- ha! Before noon, I was running into my mom's arms in one of my favorite cities in the world. Oh hugs! Hugs all around! I sure miss hugging! Kissing on the cheeks be damned! I'm going to be a hugging monster when I get back! Anyway, Friday generally consisted of warm fuzzies, random grocery shopping, gelato-ing on the beach, and Mom dropping her french fries in her Coke. Giggle fits!

Saturday morning Mom went back with me to the Chagall museum. I absolutely loved this place. It's not really Mom's taste, but she was a good sport about it i.e. there was a "He must have been on drugs" comment in front of every painting. Then we headed over to the Parc des Arènes de Cimiez and the adjacent monastery gardens that look out at the sea. I had forgotten what the sun feels like, so it was really nice to stroll around outside! Then we breezed through the Matisse museum, which was totally worth it in the sense that it was free. In honor of my sister Emily, we went and had lunch (reunion #2: bagels!) at Emilie's. Then. Then we stepped into the Galeries Lafayette (the easiest way to describe it is as the Neiman Marcus of France... not that I frequent either except for this experience). Splurging came to a whole new level for me. Yikes/yea! Dinner... what else can I say except that somehow a french fry ended up in my wine? This trend needs to stop plaguing us!

Sunday we were thrown off a bit by Europe's own spring forward. But we still got up early for the fruit and flower market. It was incredibly busy and packed. We spent a long time there and at one stand in particular. I will not specify at the risk of ruining some beautiful surprises. Then it was lunch time. And thanks to this particular lunch time, March 28th can go down as a day that will live in infamy. I took Mom to l'Abbaye, which is where I had mussels for the first time with my friends, Dad, and his copilots during Toussaint. I would omit certain details, but I feel like I need to take a page out of Bridget Jones' Diary and, as she says, tell "The truth. The whole truth." So here's a genuine rundown of exactly what happened once we took our seats. First, it should be noted that our waiter is the same one I had last time and he was rather attractive. Which meant, all confidence in French went flying through the window. But, no matter, we still got our bottle of house wine i.e. la pièce de résistance. I don't know how it happened. Was it the sun? Was it the wine? Was it the guy? Was it the fact that I wasn't paying for anything? Needless to say that a whopping two (tiny French) glasses later I was three sheets to the wind. And then we climbed Castle Hill! How did we do that?! Mom... Did I miss something? It's very possible! But before I knew it we were at the top looking out on a stunning scene.

It was an incredible weekend! I'm sad it's over. And I'm missing Mom already! Thank you, thank you, thank you for coming to visit and for all the American pirate's booty you brought me! I'm so glad you came and I'm so glad you approve of Richard Armitage! xoxo

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

one more, just for good measure

Oh why not? What's one more teacher's strike, eh? Yep, today is another one. This makes for a ridiculous five day weekend... in Trévoux! Thanks to the strike, I was only supposed to have one class today. But it seems I woke up at 6 am for nothing because I didn't even have the one!

But all is not lost. It's been a rather nice day, actually. First, I got my books Tess of the d'Urbervilles and Far from the Madding Crowd in the mail! I've been absolutely itching for them ever since I ordered them. I've already had a cup of tea and read a few chapters of Tess. Really, just daydreaming away over here... *sigh*...

Then I went to check the mail and I had it! A letter from my good friend Kendall back in DC. I can't remember whether or not I've talked about this, so forgive me if I already have. This letter bears particular significance because... A few weeks ago I made my technical students, the only group I see every week, write letters to three of my friends in the USA. Some of my Furman friends and I all keep a private blog together to help stay up to date on each other's lives. I had asked if any of them would be willing to do a pen pal exchange with these students in the hopes of practicing their written English. And to my and the class's excitement, Kendall, Alex, and Amanda all volunteered. So this is the first letter I've gotten for the boys to the read. Perfect timing too because I have their class tomorrow! I can't wait to see their faces and see what silly things they'll say or ask in response this time! Should be interesting i.e. last time they asked what they thought of French men and signed things like 'french kiss' under their names. The more awkward the better!

In other news... I'm meeting my mom in Nice this weekend!!!!!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

flying by

Like on any Saturday morning stuck in Trévoux, I got myself up early to go to the market. And it was there that a few things came to my attention...

First, there was a llama.

Second, I have determined that the best pain au chocolat in town comes from the one and only pâtisserie in town. This makes sense, I guess, as they specialize in making chocolate. They also have a killer brioche au chocolat, which I'm about to devour.

Third, time is running out! I realized that that was my second to last time going to market since I have less than a month and a half left here/the rest of my weekends are all planned out. I have twelve days left at work. Twelve. Possibly even eleven because there's a teacher's strike this coming Tuesday. It's crazy! I remember when I arrived here back in September and how long and impossible the road stretching out before me seemed. I thought to myself, 'Now you've done it. You've really gone and picked the worst possible path for yourself.' But, you know, God works in mysterious ways. I've learned so much and I'm really grateful for it. I can look back on this and be proud of the work I did and be happy that I took a wild stab at this adventure. And I can rejoice that it's over!

Fourth, "I'd really like to get out of this rain and watch more Masterpiece Theater!" Obsessed!

Monday, March 15, 2010

la petite Venise

For once in my life all of my transportation ran smoothly last Friday! Not a single hiccup! It's a pretty big deal! After a four and a half hour train ride- complete with a PB&J, excessive amounts of Ryan Adams, and falling asleep/probably drooling on the window- I finally arrived in Colmar, a little town in northeastern France.

It was much warmer than anticipated. And by that I mean I was still wearing long underwear, but oh well. The sun was shining and Sarah and I hit the ground running. First we went to the Unterlinden Museum, supposedly Rick Steve's favorite. It's amazing how many details you notice after taking an art history class. Like any mature 22 year old, we pointed out these details to each other in our old art history teacher's hilarious drawl. Afterwards we picked up pretzels from a street vendor. Colmar has a bit of German influence as it's so close to the border, especially the cuisine. And, by golly, we were going to profit from it! We walked around town snapping all kinds of pictures as we tracked down a good choice for an Alsatian dinner. Sauerkraut and cider. Then we splurged on an American dessert and split a banana split. Yum, yum, yum.

Not to drone on about local food, but my gosh... Saturday morning we found a boulangerie that made massive streudels loaded with bavarian cream. Oh. My. Gosh. Every time we took a bite, we sighed in delight and got covered in powdered sugar in the process. If I had to pick one and only reason to go to Colmar, it would be the streudel.

Colmar is called "la petite Venise" or the little Venice of France. More like petite petite. The canal is only 2 blocks long, but who's counting/disappointed. I'm sure it wouldn't be such a let down if it was nice and warm with all the flowers in bloom. Cute. But small. Small small.

After spending about 10 minutes discovering all there was to see in little Venice, we went to lunch at a little Alsatian restaurant. I was intent on trying tarte flambée, a local specialty. It was the size of a pizza, but the crust is incredibly thin. I got mine "au nature," so I could try it the way it's generally intended. It had a crème fraîche base and was topped with onions and bacon. Definitely a pleasant surprise.

The rest of our time was spent introducing Sarah to Robin Hood (love it!!) and planning out our spring break, which is a mere four weeks away. Our first week is yet to be set in stone, but we went ahead and made all the necessary reservations for our second week/last hurrah. Hint: we'll be going out with a bang... or should I say bubbly?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Paris (again and again) till the bitter end

I know, I know, this weekend I took another trip to Paris. Maybe this seems excessive to you... but if you had friends there/didn't have to pay for a hotel, wouldn't you go overboard too? The great thing was that it felt so much longer than usual because I managed to get there Thursday night. The kids Brita au pairs for were still on vacation, so we arranged for me to get there as soon as possible so we could hit the ground running on Friday... Which naturally turned into us staying up till 3 am catching up and drinking a one euro bottle of champagne and consequentially sleeping in till one in the afternoon. We're 22. I make no excuses. Friday consisted of the usual bread-and-cheese picnic in front of the Eiffel Tower. Brita and I are big fans of doing this, cheesy as it may seem, and it has become a non-negotiable tradition for us no matter how cold it is. Then she took me to two of her favorite haunts: the American Library followed by a fun night at a local pub, The Bitter End.

On Saturday we went to l'Orangerie. My handy dandy education pass got me in for free, but I will happily pay up again and again to see it. It's a tiny museum in the Tuileries gardens that was specifically designed to showcase Monet's water lilies. Monet has been my favorite ever since I visited his house in Giverny back in 2007. The man was a true genius and it was absolutely staggering to stand in front of these huge panels of water lilies. I could have stayed there all day. But Brita and I had crepe stands to dodge (it is nearly impossible to cope with the fact that I gave up Nutella for Lent when they're unloading tub after tub of it in the streets) and dinner plans to make. We met up with some of Brita's au pair friends and had a nice 3 course dinner in the Latin Quarter during which I finally got to try tartiflette.

Sunday we indulged in one last late morning/afternoon before our work weeks began. We spent the "day" walking through the Marais district. The great thing about the Marais, besides it being trendy and cute, is that lots of stores are actually open on Sundays. Let me repeat that in case you didn't catch it... French stores open on a Sunday. Unheard of! To celebrate a great weekend, my love of Paris, and the fast approaching end of my program, I splurged on a ring at a neat boutique we found. Yea!!
Then we went to Berko, the cupcake place that I found last fall. I had pistachio and, let me tell you, my taste buds are still in withdrawal. But then... Then came the highlight of the weekend. A happy coincidence had found me on the Hillsong website a week earlier and to my even happier surprise I discovered that they have a campus in Paris. So we went to the 4 o'clock service. It was incredible!!! Absolutely everything was in both English and French. We sang in French (they were all Hillsong songs, of course, so if you only know English you're still good to go with the subtitles) and the service was delivered in English and translated into French. I have never witnessed anything like it and what a joy it was! It was so refreshing and God was definitely moving! I really hope I can go back again before my time here is up! So thank you Brita for a great weekend!

And so I'm back in Trévoux... womp womp! But my students are as cheeky as ever and they kept me thoroughly entertained today with their pronunciation of 'recyclable.' I came home to a cup of tea, baked a quiche, caught up on The Office (oh my gosh!!!), and am about to snuggle into a reading of North and South. I confess that I watched the BBC adaptation first, but the book totally has me sucked in. I can't put it down and I'm more than a little in love with Mr. Thornton. It doesn't help me that Richard Armitage plays him in the film. Ugh! Was I born in the wrong era? I'm starting to wonder... Otherwise, I'm very much looking forward to this weekend in Colmar with Sarah!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

as per Aunt Suz's request...

I give you an update on the daily destruction of the paper chain countdown. Taking down 15 rings after winter break was probably more of a thrill than it should have been...

And with that, I rounded a corner of the room!

That leaves 57 days total, 20 workdays.

Otherwise, not much going on here besides correcting some heavily French accented Shakespearean English. "Thou" is not pronounced "zoo." This somewhat less glamorous fact of life will not change no matter how many times you try, just in case you were wondering! Oh, and I'm going to Paris Thursday night to spend the weekend with Brita! Life is good! Miss you much! xoxo

Saturday, February 27, 2010

4 days in Provence

Mmm... Just thinking about waking up in Provence makes me feel relaxed. The birds were singing and when I opened my blue shutters in the morning the sun was shining. When the Chauchats first brought us to their house in La Cadière on Monday I felt as if I had known that place my whole life. It really demonstrated that "home is where the heart is." We were cut off from technology for the week and time stood still. In this darling town, nestled in the cliffs, you can see vineyards for miles around and everyone smiles and says, "Bonjour!" It was so lovely!

As they always do, the Chauchats had planned all manner of things for us to do. And I can't say it enough: it's just so nice to have people take care of you! On Tuesday we got a walking tour of the village, which has incredible views of all the surrounding countryside, before walking around a medieval village nearby. We were really lucky that we had sunny and relatively warm weather the whole time we were there. So that day we had a light lunch, accompanied by a local rosé wine La Cadierenne (I'd be interested to see if any of you can find it back home), on the back terrace, soaking up the sunlight. Afterwards they took us to walk around two local vineyards. My favorite was Domaine de Souviou, which also makes olive oil. They have thousand-year-old olive trees on the property, which are lined by rows of lavender. Lavender is supposed to be in bloom in June and July, so that would probably be the ideal time to visit this vineyard. I want to go back! It was beautiful.

Wednesday morning we woke up bright and early to go to the biggest market in Provence. According to the Chauchats, if you're not there by 8 am in the summertime, you'll never find a parking spot. And it's no secret why. Even in the winter their was a huge crowd bustling through the endless rows of vendors. Fish were coming fresh off the fishermen's boats, still wriggling at the stands. It was really overwhelming! And here's a little tidbit: we were talking to a honey vendor and he told us that the darker the honey, the less sugar it has. I never knew this. But then again, I don't come from a land where there are typically at least 30 different kinds of honey to choose from. On the way back, we stopped to see the oldest chapel in Europe. It's pre-Roman and absolutely stunning. In the afternoon we made chocolate chip cookies for visitors. One of Mme Chauchat's oldest and closest friends came over with her sister and brother-in-law and we all went for a walk down to the Roman fountain in town.

On Thursday we went to the seaside (about a 15 minute drive from their house) where I remembered just how much I love the sound of the waves. And then the rest of the day was devoted to baking. Mme Chauchat taught me how to make a "melted chocolate cake" and Sarah made the English cream for it. All I will say about this sinful concoction is that I have the recipe and my family better watch out for me in this year's dessert competition! We took it to a dinner party at some friends of the Chauchats where we feasted on Moroccan food and played with their kids. They were a riot! It really made me think that I'd like to work with younger children in the future. So cute!

Our four days in Provence were the highlight of my vacation. I'm sure I will be dreaming about it forever, especially all the home-cooked meals! Oh the joys of a fully functioning kitchen!

Sunday, February 21, 2010


Words fail me... I'll leave you with pictures...

13, rue de la Bourse
31000 Toulouse

la ville en rose

Otherwise known as “the pink city” thanks to its staple pink to red brick buildings, Toulouse is where they say you should go when all French cities start to look the same. Truer words were never spoken. This city is absolutely brimming over with energy and quirkiness. And from the constant honking we hear from our hotel room across the street from the train station, the city never sleeps.

If you ever plan on visiting France’s fourth largest city- and I highly recommend that you do- I suggest that you book a hotel by Le Capitole. It’s a huge plaza in the center of town and everything worth doing seems to shoot off of it. Plus, that's the nice area of town. The closer you are to the train station, unfortunately for us, the sketchier it is. After we take the long walk down to the plaza, Toulouse is our oyster.

We’ve done more touristy things here than we did in Dijon and Montpellier combined. This can most easily be tacked to the warmer weather and how far away our hotel is from everything else. We’ve been to museums, churches, poked our heads in zany shops, been to the movies (we found Valentine’s Day and Bright Star playing in English), and… we found… the best scones I have ever tasted in my entire life. I had a scone au nature (aka basic) at BAPZ, a bakery and tea room that we stumbled upon our first day of getting lost. I meant to take a picture of it for you, but somehow it disappeared in my mouth before I could pull out my camera. Today we have a reservation for what is supposed to be an enormous brunch and it will be our third time there in four days. Sarah and I are obsessed! Heaven has found its way into my mouth in the form of their chocolat chaud à l'ancienne (hot chocolate- you get to choose whether its thick or more liquidy), zucchini tart, and lemon and blueberry cake. Did I mention their scone au nature? I think I’m going to be leaving with five of those to go today…

Weird and impressive and endearing Toulouse, je t’aime!