Monday, January 25, 2010

I'm Julia Child!

So, readers, it is time for me to share a little secret. This past weekend, we didn't just hit up crêpe stands, tourist traps, and Starbucks. Oh no. We also tracked down Le Cordon Bleu. I know what you're thinking. And you're thinking it can't be... But it's true! Over the weekend, Sarah and I got confirmation e-mails for taking a cooking class at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris this Friday! I would have told you all earlier, but I didn't want to get my hopes up in case the class was full. We're so excited! We are taking a three hour hands-on course on Mini Desserts for Hot Chocolate. I've never taken a cooking class before, but I'm really looking forward to being a student again. Consider this my January splurge. But what an experience! I really can't wait!

To top it off, we'll be staying with Mme Chauchat in Versailles! Life is good. Bon appétit!

Don't touch me!

I was finally able to break out of Trévoux this past weekend! And what better place to escape to than its complete opposite, Paris? But the best part of this Parisian jaunt was the company. Sarah was also able to escape her small town up north and we met up with my good friends from back home Andrew and Jonathan who were traveling through Europe with their friend Paige.

It's been a long time since I experienced Paris like a tourist. Having studied abroad just outside the city, whenever I spent the day there, it was spent in bookshops and cafés. But this time around we were running frantically back and forth across Paris, everywhere from the Champs-Elysées to the Latin Quarter where I had to tell one of the restaurant criers, "Ne me touches pas (aka "Don't touch me!" Do they really think this gesture will get people inside?)!" to the tiny streets of Montmartre... and, I'll admit, a lot of aimless wandering in between. By the Sacré Coeur we stumbled across the same square where I bought a painting from an artist during study abroad. It was raining, but some artists still showed up. And I'm so happy they did because I walked away with two charming little watercolors from a charming little artist named Gerard.

We even got to see Napoleon's tomb. This is something I've always wanted to do, but never gotten around to. Before we got to the tomb itself, we went through the exhibits at the war museum there. I was skeptical at first, but when I found myself standing in a room full of suits of armor, I was happy as a clam. Prince Arthur may or may not have something to do with that. What was really fascinating for me was seeing Napoleon's belongings. It was silly, but it was so strange to look at a hat and know it was Napoleon's hat. Once we hit the WWI and WWII exhibits, however, I found myself getting rather choked up. Because Andrew and Jonathan are both in the military, Air Force and Army respectively. And while I may have done a good job covering it up at the time, now the cat's out of the bag; I was trying not to cry! From there we finally went on to see the man himself, Napoleon Bonaparte. His tomb at Les Invalides is very grand and impressive. It was much more elaborate than I was expecting, but the tomb mirrors the man. I was very happy we got to go. Plus, after having a little chat with the ticket lady, she let us all in for free! So it was definitely worth it.

That night we went back to the apartment of a a family friend they were all staying with. We, but more particularly they, all cooked dinner there. It was so nice. To have a fully functioning kitchen, excellent! Not to have to say "Do you understand?" after anything you say in English, wonderful! Great company and conversation, the best! Sarah and I were talking about it later and we just gushed over being able to speak as fast as we wanted, use cultural references, etc etc. It sounds simple really, but the change of pace was much appreciated!

So thanks to Andrew, Jonathan, and Paige for a great weekend in Paris! Our jeans are fitting a little looser and our moods a little sunnier. We hope you had as much fun as we did! Feel free to share your chocolate mousse with us again any time ;)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Max et les maximonstres

You know you live in France when you pass five châteaux on your way to the movie theater. This past weekend my roommate and I went to see the film Where the Wild Things Are, or Max et les maximonstres, in French a few towns over. We burst out laughing as soon as we walked into the one room theater. Look at these seats! They look like they were taken out of an airplane from the 70s! It was quite a unique experience. When the previews were over, the lights came back on. The owner walked in, switched reels, and then the lights went back out as our movie began.

In other news, today I learned there's a teacher's strike tomorrow. So who knows if I'll have any classes. Of course! Ah well. Paris this weekend with Sarah, Andrew, and Jonathan!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

it would have been nice

To be in Nice right now... But my parents flight to Nice got cancelled. It was a major bummer for all of us. But I have a sneaking suspicion I'll see them in France soon!

Luckily, I was able to cancel my ticket online instead of leaving at the crack of dawn to do it in person before my train left. So yesterday, I was able to sleep in. A great start to a weekend of doing nothing. I am in Trévoux after all! The most exciting part of the weekend so far was the anticipation of the premiere of the British tv show Popstars to Operastars. I had no way to watch it live, but I kept updating twitter and youtube for the results. One of the band members of McFly, one of my favorite bands, is competing. Basically, the show takes popular pop and rock artists and train them to sing opera. It was so bizarre to see, but really incredible! It started off rocky, but the more Danny sang the more I found myself squealing and clapping. Ah! I'm so proud! And I can't wait to watch his progression with his training; it's so interesting because it's a completely different style of singing for him. Watch it here:

I could entertain myself indoors all day long, but today I decided to get up early and go into town. Today was market day and I want to take advantage of it on the weekends I'm here. It's a nice little set up with the same vendors every weekend. As you can see, I did not leave empty handed! I was most excited about the cheese. Yes, Mom and Dad, I did go see the cheese man. Well, it was actually the girl working with him that helped me. When they're in Lyon they have a huge array of cheeses, but not in Trévoux. So there was no typical brie or camembert to choose from. I just said I didn't want something very strong. She recommended a goat cheese and a cow cheese. They were each sixty cents. What a bargain! If you know me, I always turn my nose up at goat cheese. But this one is so mild, it's really remarkable.

I suspect the rest of my days off will consist in a lot of tea and Robin Hood, my new BBC go-to. And then I suspect my week will consist in much of the same waiting around. Teachers keep telling me they're going to send me their students and then they don't. Frustrating! Hopefully we can resolve all of that. Until then, it would seem I need to do some lesson planning...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

Deathtrap’s more like it! I am a fish out of water aka a Southerner in snow. It snowed all weekend long. At first I thought, “Isn’t this lovely!” I spent my weekend holed up in the Bomb Shelter, watching Merlin, drinking tea, and doing all the non-productive things I love doing as I recovered from jet lag. The only time I left the Bomb Shelter, I have to admit, was to make a snow angel in the back yard.

Finally, on Monday, I had to go to school to prepare worksheets for the week. I opened the front door and was immediately seized by what can only be described as pure terror. Not only was the snow nearly a foot high (keep in mind, people, I have never lived anywhere where this is a normal winter occurrence), but there was ice; scary expanses of thick ice as far as the eye could see and not a dash of salt to speak of. Never have I walked as slowly or as carefully as I did in that downhill journey. Once again, I was very scared I would slip and fall in front of one of my students. But luckily, the streets were so bad that they had gotten a half-day and none of them were there by that time.

I must have been delusional from the blinding glare of white surrounding me because for some reason I decided to walk into town afterwards. I wanted some fresh air after a solid three days hiding indoors, needed to go to the post office, and, let’s be honest, was craving French bread. I gained all kinds of confidence after seeing that the steepest hill no longer had a speck of ice on it. After that things got tricky. My trek took twice as long as normal, but it was worth it. One boulangerie was open, so I made it back to the Bomb Shelter with a baguette in hand. And let me tell you, it’s the yummiest baguette I have ever eaten!

Winter wonderlands should be saved for Christmas. You’ve got company, Mom’s home cooking, and a wood burning fire. Not to mention a car and built-in chauffeur since no one trusts your driving capabilities not having been behind a wheel for three months. That being said, Christmas was perfect just the way it was: warmer, with friends, family, Avatar in 3-D (let me tell you, my mom loved it), our first "Christmas toast," and the happy absence of feeling like you will crack your head open with each frosty step of doom.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Hello, my name is Brian.

As you already know, there was a bit of confusion over my second orientation letter this week. Apparently it was sent to someone named Brian Anderson. Granted, Sally and Brian are such ridiculously similar names, it makes it hard to point the finger and laugh hysterically at the French government... NOT! Ahem...

Anyway, the transition back to small town French life has not been as hard as I was expected. Am I home sick? Yes. But I'm handling it better than anticipated. This is not due to the fact that I knew what to expect or spurred on by the idea that I should be unquestionably euphoric to be living in France after all of the dreaded, "Oh my gosh you live in France?!?! You must be loving it there! Right?" questions I faced this Christmas. Perhaps I don't express it very much on this blog because I don't want to be consumed with Debbie downer thoughts, but my experience here has a been a very difficult one. Over break, my mom shared this quote with me from God is in the Small Stuff at Christmas, "You'll miss out on many of God's blessings if you don't expect to find them in the midst of difficulty." I've been coping better this time around because I've put it all in God's hands. This program has been a true test of faith and the only way I'm going to complete it successfully is if I rely fully on God. My New Year's resolution this year is to read the Bible from cover to cover. These daily devotions have completely changed my perspective on life here! That and the paper "count down" chain I made today! 110 days to go!

I'm really looking forward to cutting one of these rings off every day! Sometimes you just need a good visual to motivate you.

I'm also really looking forward to seeing my parents in Nice next weekend! My train ticket is booked and I am totally psyched for warmer weather and good times!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

This is what I come back to...

CHAOS. Basically...
-they put my suitcase on the plane after mine
-made me wait around six hours in order to get it (they won't deliver bags to employee pass riders)
-which forced me to exchange my train ticket for something later
-my train was an hour late
-the cab driver (yes, I broke down and got a cab back to Trévoux) tried to charge me over 20 euros more than the agreed price
And then there was this:

Snow. Everywhere. If nearly slipping and falling on the ice in front of one of my students this morning didn't tip you off, I would have died trying to get my fluctuates-between-49-and-50 pound back up this icy hill. And to top all of this craziness off, I apparently have a second orientation tomorrow in Bourg-en-Bresse. Luckily another assistant contacted me about it otherwise I never would have known. I had the school secretary call up the people in charge who said they forgot to send my letter. Ahhhh!!!!!! There's always something!