Friday, December 25, 2009

last of lasts


Watch le placard
Spectacle and jo family
Dinner with girls at foy du roy
Last walk around old town, son et lumiere
Masques with alineke


Check out, move, clean thing
Gave things
Last byes in le mans, deb in gare
Paris arrive, café, pascal
White Bordeaux wine and vinegar Pringles
Chai 33


Espresso and last bad shower for a while
Pleasant 3.5 hour bump up, no problems
Guy on third metro playing fiddle holiday tunes
Angels with bags

last saturday

I officially finished all my shopping! I went into my first fancy schmancy wine store and bought my first bottles of not the least expensive wine I could find, which was a bit intimidating. I found a copy of Les Miserables by Hugo, 9 separately published parts from an old journal bound together- super cool! I tried Chichis, which is a specific type of fried bread with mass amounts of sugar dumped on top (I think are actually Spanish-Mexican ).

Tonight was my last to go to a club or bar in Le Mans, and the first time I took the tram and was the only person on it (eerie… everyone is gone). It was also the last time I can legally purchase alcohol for myself until February 23, and went for a spot of gin. Deb and I wound up at Café Pop, where we have had tons of great times with friends dancing to superb music. As soon as we walked in, our favorite dj recognized us and sat us down by his turntables. I met a CouchSurfer from Le Mans there, finally and as I’m leaving, named Gregory. He’s really cool, and as Deb noted looks like Justin Timberlake but cuter. He stayed a bit, and then the ambiance shifted into an Arabic dance party which was great. We decided to dance to a famous salsa song, which turned out to be the last one of the night. We walked back home in a new wave of flurries 

last friday

Much of the same today- Christmas movie, shopping and last drink with fewer and fewer friends. Deb and I busted out laughing during Elf, I wandered around the old town and downtown several hours buying cadeux for Texans and we had a drink at the beloved Mulligan’s.

last thursday

In the theme of Christmas, nostalgia and the lack of holiday spirit compared to back home, I found another new-old Christmas movie to experience. A Christmas Story is pretty cute!

Our group of 30-40 swarmed a kitchen for the official last student party, before everyone started leaving the next day. It was a pretty somber crowd, and the mood was more like one of a wake than anything. With snow still everywhere, a group of girls and I changed our plan of going out to playing in the not so fluffy white stuff, and didn’t stop until we had left tracks over the entire 2 basketball courts.

last wednesday

I studied hard for my last test in contemporary French history today, taught by an inconsiderate and egotistical man, and the whole thing is not pleasant to remember. I don’t know when I’ll find out my grades- c’est la vie en France.

Tonight was an Erasmus Christmas party at Café Berlin, where I tried my first hot wine (which I learned is more than just wine heated up) and several delicious regional treats for free (free is not as often in France- universities never give things away, clubs don’t receive much funding, and my university is so in the whole that last winter the heating wasn’t turned on for a month to save money). All the internationals, and some truly lovely Frenchies I wish I had met earlier, gathered round and attempted to sing O Christmas Tree (Le Beau Sapin), Jingle Bells (Vive le Vent, which literally means live the wind, I don’t get it…) and Le Divin Enfant.

I gave my first tearful au revoir tonight to Michelle, a truly lovely Czech girl, and she gave me little forget-me-not colorful coaster.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


So today I slept in, and as I was about to leave my room for the day I opened my windows and was shocked to discover a true winter wonderland! It had snowed starting the night before, and everything was blanketed in white, like a dream. Absolutely marvelous, and a perfect goodbye to Le Mans, France and Europe- just in time for the first round of international students leaving today. I learned my cowgirl boots are not the best approach to walking on ice- I fell and almost sprained my ankle twice walking around campus, but la neige was still new and exciting so not too painful.

And so starts my series of “lasts,” or some last for a long time things. I got in the Christmas mood and made cards for my closest friends here. I did my last shopping at the 24 hours race store, where I chatted with the woman about the snowfall and she gave me a parting chocolate  I checked out National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation for the first time, and I don’t know how all the Lampoons got so famous and are so well loved.

Alineke and I heard about a free buffet on campus, Christmas themed, and finally found the university lounge-hangout area. It’s separate from everything, only opens on Tuesday nights to students, and the buffet was just chips- so not terribly eventful, but good to see how the French campus life goes down.
I said bye to Mathilde. I went through my last batch of genuine French groceries: sparkling Perrier, tiramisu, caramel rice pudding, sliced cold sausage-ham, olives and two whole brioches pain au chocolates.

Friday, December 18, 2009


today i did various responsible things. and i've been home-hunting online for a place to stay in denton- lots of exciting people and place prospects, within all my needs and some desires, which is pretty cool. praying my way through it, i'll see what god helps me work out!
after tea with deb, i met french-country-friend rafael and his fellow CS friend arya from california. he's a cool guy, and the 3 of us had fun doing all things country: looking at rafael's taylor swift london concert pictures, teaching them how to dance, taking george strait christmas tunes, and trying whiskey a new way (scottish blend with oj).
we met his female friend for dinner at buffalo grill! i love that place, man; and for christmas, their kid headbands had santa riding a bucking reindeer. i ordered a "mix tapas" of 4 fried things, including chicken served 2 different ways, onion rings and some sort of french take on jalepeno popper-cheese sticks-hashbrown-pizza bites looking things. by the time we were ready, the next tram was 31 minutes away; so if our evening wasn't american enough, we went to the closest place for warmth in the -2 degree celsius weather: mcdonald's.
eventually, i made it back to campus and spent 3 more hours finishing up pride and prejudice with the ladies. i attempted to repay their food kindness by making creme brulee; turns out, my third time to make it was not the charm. the stuff never formed thickness even after 2 hours, and was just a putrid yellow goo. with my refusal to waste things and the girls' politeness, we tried it anyways; we made it a couple slurps in before the caramel mixed in made it look like human waste. then melissa and i began to have tummyaches, and she was able to bathroom up the toxic sludge while i curled into the fetal position in bed for the night. maybe not the best way to repay kindness after all...

sunday of brittish-ness

after a couple hours of sleep, i went with jo to church for the last service while i was here. it lasted 2.5 hours, which is normal, and my favorite part was still attemping to sing and worshipping with french songs. after an odd but pleasant run in with a haitian man, we met a moroccan man in the supermarket who recommended us a tunisian red wine to take (delicious). for the third time, i tried to go to the country themed clothing store, like a small local cavendar's, but they are only open 2 days a week for 12 hours, so another time i hope.

i headed back home, and then met up again with jo, her fellow brit emma and american melissa for a pancake party! 3 hours later, we had successfully demolished my first pancakes (still not quite the same, but close) since i left the states. emma and jo introduced us to "proper english pancakes," with lemon juice and sugar on top. emma then gave me her recipe for chocolate chip scones! they shared their goal for the day with me: to watch the mid 90's version of pride and prejudice all the way through, which is around 5 hours. i debated and accepted!

for the next 6 hours, we watched the movie while pausing for several bottles of wine, baguettes, stinky cheeses, foie gras, fancy chocolates and other french munchies. jane austen would have been so proud! somehow, we didn't finish it in time for my skype date with the parents, and agreed to "carry on" the next day.

saturday night fever

Today was the best dance party of the semester, and the last night when all the Erasmus internationals were together before we begin to leave. Nostalgia has officially hit everyone, but I’m a bit behind on the bittersweet feelings so far. We met for dinner in the kitchen, and I made a fondant chocolate (cake with gooey chocolate) before trying Czech hard liquor (slavoviska?) and a special Czech treat from my Czechies. Unfortunately, we were kicked out by security two hours before the closing time because the oh-so accommodating director has no heart.

This did not deter the Europeans: bent on finishing the last of their alcohol before everyone went home, we stood outside shivering, swapping chips and plastic cups until it was all gone. We headed to Café Pop to dance, and once again it was lovely to dance with these guys. Out of a good 35-40 people, the majority danced the entire time (except one or two, all nonsexual), and the dj humored us with an amusing fog machine and electronic beats. As the night wore on and people went from tipsy to drunk, which was rather funny to watch and laugh being sober.

The 2am closing time meant only a pause for kebabs, and I discovered a new place for us to go. Leading 2/3 of the group to Le Stan, a piano bar that somehow doesn’t play any music that has piano parts. We jammed to popular American music over several decades until it closed at 4, and walked home teaching each other Christmas songs in our native tongues. Bed at 5, lovely!


Ya for sleeping in! It’s a beautiful thing. I met up with Jo for some coffee and prayer late afternoon, then Alineke and I finally visited a salsa class we’d been wanting to visit. It was Cuban style, which is pretty dang different than the traditional style we both know. The room was full of middle aged French couples, but they took us in with smiles all around and were quite pleasant. However, the codgy old man teaching the class was a horrible dancer, mean lead and rude to me as an American; for the first time since being in France, I was blatantly insulted in another language and quick enough to respond with poise in said other language. We stayed for a couple hours, then checked out Laredo Café, the French’s take on a Latin club. It was lovely! I got something I think called a Kao, a blended fruit and rhum thing, and we had a nice time together before taking the last tram back.

thursday, don du sang

I gave blood for the first time! I’ve been too young, or enough time had not passed between visiting “dangerous” countries, a tattoo, etc. in the past, but now it was able to happen! I dislike needles very much so, and was even more uneasy with the language barrier, but really wanted to make it happen- it’s basically helping another human being live, which is pretty much the coolest thing I could do for someone.
However, like a little kid, I started crying at first and some doctor felt obligated to come hold my hand which was awkward. And then the vein wasn’t strong enough, so the aide stopped; we waited for another chair to open, and I switched arms. This time I didn’t cry (just almost), but after I was done and eating and drinking sugar I fainted. Never fainted before, and it was an odd experience; I came to with two doctors holding my legs up over my head, laying down, questioning me, “ca va?” repeatedly. It all worked out, but I had to stay for an hour.
After the total 2 hour ordeal, I had 30 minutes before taking a final. Thankfully, the professor was nice and the test was easy for me! I had hot chocolate with Mathilde in my room, and then met up in the kitchens to get in the first round of last rendez-vous with the internationals. I stayed several hours, then decided the whole loss of a pint of blood and fainting made dancing not the best choice

wednesday, back in le mans!

I saw my geography professor today, and learned the test I took two weeks ago (still ungraded) would count as my final too, so one less test to study for and take! I met up for a drink with Erin, another CSer from the States teaching here, at a new place for me called Bar’ouf. I tried a Monacco beer, Carlsberg served with lemonade and red fruit syrup.
I shivered my way around our Christmas market, enjoying the sights of small brown cabins (Lincoln log lookalikes!) arranged for local vendors to sell seasonal goodies, watched kids stand in line to sit on Santa, smelled fresh warm sugary drinks and fried pastries, and heard a surprising mix of reggae-bluegrass- and classic Christmas music in English over loudspeakers. I bought an ornament at a store nearby, and discovered a new part of the town I hadn’t seen before, while window shopping.
I bought a kebab and fries, in bbq sauce, and bought a ticket to watch Le Concert in a huge theater called le Coliesso, if that tells you anything. It has 7 rooms inside it, so it would be small for average American standards. I couldn’t find the bathrooms, and learned that each room had its own set of men’s and women’s toilets! No need to leave the room and debate the best time to leave a great movie, just walk to the front, stage right, and there you are! The movie was a fantastic story, half French and half Russian about a has-been orchestra of misfits reassembled in Paris against their “enemy of the people” status. Perfect movie, great evening by myself

tuesday, day 5: loire valley

After getting dropped off at the train station, I journeyed to Amboise for my second and last Loire castle for a while. The city is medium sized, split into three sections by two rivers (one is the Loire, I forgot the other one). I was the first one to enter the grounds that morning, and wandered around various buildings, towers, a cathedral and gardens in the Gothic and Renaissance style for a couple hours. This is where the Algerian king and 80 of his closest people were held captive after the conquest of the country, and I got to warm up a bit by a really cool fireplace with a fire by a Christmas tree overlooking the rivers. Not as majestic, but not complaining- it was still really cool.

I walked to Clos Luce, a castle given to Leonardo DaVinci during his last 3 years by the king of France where he lived and worked until his death. I spent an hour walking around the town, and then settled into a crêperie for a “Panini” savory crêpe and a couple scoops of icecream afterwards, even though it was freezing temperatures outside. I went back to Tours, and then back to Le Mans.

I had my first test, and grade for that matter, since I started my semester here. It was for my language class, and it went well! I wish the university system was less vague, ambiguous and unforgiving here; for many specific reasons, I’m glad to be returning to the American college system and be educated with all the great things it has to offer.

monday, day 4: portugal/loire valley

We left early the next morning, with bellies full of aletria that didn’t go down as well the second time, back to Tours, France. Turns out, we took the same plane to and from Porto as two other French kids our age from Le Mans! Deb rode back in their car, and I set my sights for prime castle viewing. Tours is the hub of action in the Loire River Valley, with some of countries most famous and influential castles within 20 miles in different directions. Château d’Usée actually inspired the story of the Sleeping Beauty!

After studying my guide book from my grandpa since July, I narrowed down my favorites and went first to see Chenonceau. I hopped a local train, and had a little bathroom fiasco on the way there- you would think I know how to use them by now, but maybe not so much. I got off in Onzain, on the brink of the castle gardens and grounds, with a new friend from Austria named Agnes. First was a medium sized labyrinth created with only immaculately trimmed bushes, and then a garden designed by Catherine de Medici. I walked up the castle, and could scarcely take it in. It was almost completely destroyed, during the hunger for noble blood in the French Revolution, but because of the kindness, generosity and cunning of its lady owner at the time it was spared form mob chaos; the small chapel inside was preserved from demolition when the priest disguised it as a tradesmen’s shop.

It poses in the middle of the river, accessed by only one entrance in the front (except for the secret escape used in wartime to smuggle soldiers across the river which divided which was German land). The place was pretty much designed and kept up by women, its most unique characteristic; many kings and queens lived and were birthed here, including a couple Henry’s, Catherine and Diane of Poitiers. I saw where they worshipped, ate, slept and ran the country; the kitchen had 5 parts, and was super cool. Each day the castle places out new bouquets of flowers, and because it was almost Christmas the entire chateau was donned in classy seasonal attire.

I came back to town, said bye to Agnes, and visited the Cathedral of Tours which was dark, without visitors and peaceful. I walked through the old town, complete with quaint Christmas market and elaborate Christmas lights and trees. Then I found my way to Marie and Kevin’s flat, other CSer’s who welcomed me for the night. They made me dinner, we watched TV and researched which chateau I would visit tomorrow before I left. I turned off the North African paper lamp in my own room with ska posters covering the walls, and enjoyed sleeping.

sunday, day 3: portugal

After sleeping only 6 hours, which turned out to be after 2pm, we got ready and went to meet up with Fernando and other CSers at a barter-only market. They shared cake with everyone, and the CS table offered fresh tangerines and oranges as tokens to trade small crafts and used goods amongst everyone. Deb and I headed to San Francisco, a church dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi, which was awe-inspiring and gorgeous. It was also Baroque style, but reverent and definitely all about the reason a church exists. Inside the concrete-carved church was gold plated wood, intricately carved several hundred years ago. We popped in to crypts under the church from the 18th and 19th centuries with a small sacred art museum attached.

Then was our third night of CS dinner parties, at the house of Susanna and her young son. Deb and I laid around catching up on world news from a television the first time since we arrived in Europe, munching on little crackers and chocolates. Then the party started, with about 20 people gathering around her apartment with dishes made by her and another woman. We dined on several starters, lasagna Portuguese-style and for dessert aletria. It’s brilliant: a specific type of thin pasta noodles, boiled with a certain white sweet crème that hardens it into a casserole-like dish with cinnamon on top. Susanna gave us an entire tub to take for breakfast the next morning!

saturday, day 2: portugal

After waking up on Albert’s sleeper-sofa, we went to the neighborhood café again and ate some delicious pastries before heading to my first wine cave tour! Of the 30 or so choices of brands, we went to the Croft house of Porto wine. I got to see where the wine was stored, watch replicas of the carrier ships bob on the side of the river, and taste two types and colors of wine. It tasted really strong, and I learned it was because after the grapes have been foot-smashed for 3 days during harvest season grape brandy is added; so it’s a liquor- wine. Albert, a man who loves to talk and loves his city, had alllllll sorts of stories to share, and felt inclined to present them at all times, even giving his own version of the wine tour while the guide was talking.

This continued as we wandered around the old part of the town, crossing a famous bridge across the river, where I learned that “Boas Festas” means happy holidays in Portuguese! He led us to my first Baroque cathedral, and it was artistically beautiful but spiritually atrocious; it was like it was dripped in nasty. This was followed by a tour in the most beautiful bookstore I have ever seen in my life. It’s fairly small, but the gorgeous interior, dark and rich colors, new and ancient books from floor to ceiling, and an epic staircase made it rather enjoyable. Deb and I decided we would rent it out and throw a huge 20’s- themed ball.
We bid adieu to Albert, took a deep breath of silence and continued on our merry way. For as long as we could stand the steady rain, strong wind and ominous clouds we wandered the town, snapping shots of monuments, cathedrals, tile-adorned buildings, small gardens and the swankiest McDonald’s you will ever find (chandeliers, people!). Exhausted and soaked, because my umbrella officially went to a better place, we retreated to Albert’s for a nap before our monumental night out.

Another CS dinner, this time a bit cheaper and at a closed-for-the-night small bar and grill. Deb and I were ushered to the back room downstairs, where a group of Portuguese men were huddled over a smoky bbq pit for round one of endless meat buffet. We sat down at a table for two, covered with a piece of butcher paper, and they brought various unidentifiably scrumptious meat about 7 times. Copying Fernando, I tried red wine and orange soda- what an oddly great combo! We sat around with a group of new CSer’s from Belgium and Portugal until the younguns left to paint the town.

We hit up a bar called Peter’s, on the river, celebrating its first year anniversary with music and cake. It’s a huge CS hub, so we spent a couple hours talking and hanging out with people from all over. I met a lovely Irish girl who had the exact same hat as me, a guy a couple years older than me with two engineering degrees and his own company wearing a yellow hoodie and old jeans (Francisco), and an attractive, cocky classical music composer. These three, along with a half dozen others and our original CS crew, found a karaoke joint! We stayed there for several hours, dancing to Brazilian and Portuguese music in-between crooning “Summer Nights” and “I Love Rock & Roll.” I tried the beer of the country, Super Bock, with some cherry grenadine, and we stayed until it closed.

Not deterred after hearing of all night clubs, we sought out our next place. The first was expensive and I almost had an asthma attack from smoke, so we left and went to the only place our native amigos knew that was still open: my first gay bar. It was everything I thought it would be, from the trendy and more put together men than me, to the electronic music and green strobe light, to the occasional leather clad dancer in fishnets dancing above us. After trying my first gin and tonic, we called it quits and made it to bed at 8am. Great day!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

friday, portugal: day one

deb and i left for porto (oporto in portugese), the second largest city in portugal on the northern coast, today! with a combination of walking, tram, train, taxi, flight, metro and bus we made it into the city (8 hours later). it was maybe 5-10 degrees warmer than le mans, but we caught the city on a nasty weather weekend of no sun and tons of rain. deb, who was in charge of our couchsurfing situation, wound up without the name, phone number and address of our host, which played out interestingly. thankfully, God allowed us to meet a rather nice mom and daughter who spoke english and helped us find a place for us to get online to get the info, then drove us to his home. we actually stayed in villa nova de gaia, which is oporto's sister city separated by the river.

there we met albert, a 50's something portugese gentleman. among other more steady jobs (and testing virtual reality video games), he used to work in the pits with racecars, eventually became a driver himself, and even drove in the le mans 24 hour race! he lives by himself, and his wife is an international law attorney in brazil. with cheesy jokes and dramatically bushy eyebrows, he welcomed us into his moroccan themed living room where we would stay for the weekend. famished from the day of traveling, we visited his favorite neighborhood cafe and tasted some magnificent portugese desserts and espresso. we rested a bit back at his place, and discovered with amusement a romanian dance show on tv.

hopping on the bus back to oporto, we met up with a group of other couchsurfers for dinner organized by fernando. fernando is also an older single guy, with the biggest hospitable heart you can imagine, and in less than two years has hosted more than 470 couchsurfers; tonight, 5 and the next night 4 different ones. it was a cool idea- about a dozen french, americans and portugese all linked only by couchsurfing ordered a sumptious neverending meal with several courses and drinks, and everyone pitched in 10 euros. i tasted minced crab meat in a creme sauce served cold, cod and another local fish before we left for a small closed cafe for dessert. we had several yummy, mini custard tarts, made with egg yolks from the portugese tradition of using the egg whites to bleach nun's habits. then we visited two different bars, the second of which we began a dance party that took over the entire place, to classic american 50's and 60's songs (ya beach boys!)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

wednesday, car themed!

today i went to the harley store in le mans, decked out in my leather jacket my dad gave me from the corpus harley store and matching boots. feeling kinda cool looking, my pride (and cleanliness) was checked as i was walking there when a car drowned me in street water, boots to hair. i got there and it was exactly like the ones in the states, the only variation being everything was in euros so it cost even more than already being expensive and the clerks spoke french.
i hit up the le mans 24 hour race store next, and stocked up on gifts and bought a cute pink racing tank top for me (thinking texas weather, not french). my town is known for this race every late spring/early summer that is 24 straight hours, car and motorcycle, featuring racers from around the world. it seemes patrick dempsey was here last year race time, "driving" for a charity.
i accidentally stumbled upon "le mans," an american movie from '71 about the race, with groovy heartthrob steve mcqueen. after finding all 12 parts on youtube, i made it through half before falling asleep 3 times. the beginning was cool though, because it was my town, on film! and from the standpoint of an american, with footage of campers.
i felt sufficiently nascar today :)


after my language class, i went ice skating!!!!! i went with my sister leslie last year once, but other than that i haven't tried in years. considering the lack of complete healing in my knee yet and the fact that i would be balancing in sharp metal blades on ice for a couple hours, i wasn't sure how it would go.
perfect is a good description :) angels helped me not fall, even once, and i had a great time with the mix of french-czech-germans-turkish i went with. it was student (university) night, so they had some games to play on the ice. i skated/stumbled through hula hoops and cones, and came in 11th of 13 in the speed race, haha. highlight of night: ducking under two teeny hoops at the same time as petra, holding her hand, and then doing it backwards!
when we headed out, our new french friend did a circus-type performance with fire in the parking lot (same guy who just got injured from his scooter for delivering burger).


confession: i watched 10 episodes of glee in the last 30 hours, and it was excellent.
i went to the christian union tonight for the second time, with jo, for a dinner party. nice to eat with believers, we just hung out in french and ate. it was 1.50 euro, super cheap, for a yummy ham carbonera pasta. i tried bacon flavored chips, that are even shaped and semi-dyed like bacon; not so great, but now i know.

saturday and sunday with mathilde

i really had a great time with this family! we went to the local weekly market, got hot chocolate at a bar and mathilde and i walked to a nearby castle and checked it out. i slept in, took my first actual bath (not shower) in more than 3 months and wore a sweatshirt all weekend. i watched my first rugby game with dad and brother, and i was intrigued, appreciative of good lookin men and afraid all the same time. i also watched a famous movie from the 70's about a frenchman who is a food critic (go figure).
we spent 2 evenings in front of the fireplace together, which was great considering the family doesn't use heaters at all. they shared legit champagne, red wine from bordeaux and white wine from le mans with me over bread coated with fois gras (bird innards mashed up served cold) and caviar. this was only the beginning of mass quantities of deliciousness: casserole (french style), plenty of veggies, cheese souffle, beef so rare i thought it mooed at me, madelines, french and dutch cheeses at each meal, and then the desserts! i had several different chocolate this and thats, one pear tart/pie, one apple tart/pie with meringue on top, and one piece of mousse-fruit-pie. when i left, mom gave me a tupperware container of leftovers to take back home, fancy chocolates and a christmas ornament! great weekend, perfect timing

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


first test of the semester! it was in geography, the really confusing class. the subject is a piece of cake, but the french, being the only international in there, room changes, class cancelations with no warning, teaching assistant unaware of what's going on, the lack of communication to the students and the lack of students communicating with me other than blatantly judging me makes it not so smooth. for all these reasons, i showed up an hour late for the test. thankfully, it was fine- i could still take it, and had one minute to spare for finishing my eighth page of writing in french. hope it went well!
joanna came and prayed with me afterwards, and i realized just how exhausted i was from life recently. good ole talkin with the my best friend, the creator of the universe, with a friend. i was ucnertain how the weekend would go- i planned to spend friday, saturday and sunday with mathilde and her french family, in a small town nearby with absolutely no control or idea of how it would go.
and it was great! we took the train to her home, and i met her lovely family and dog whose name in french means grumpy old man. dad is a "professor of sport," which i forgot means coach in english (gulp, oh man) and inquisitive in jsut the perfect amount about my life and the states. mom is a doctor with kids, cooks amazingly and is really chill. paul, her brother, is my age, with a disability that i think qualifies him as a little person and he is easy going. manon is 13, is obsessed with twilight, and looks exactly like mathilde.
their house is a home, they all get along, they like and love each other, they enjoyed me being there- it was magnificent. they were so affectionate, and bickering like siblings, and mom gave me leftovers and a christmas present to take home. we pretty much just relaxed, ate dinner and watched an old french film about a food critic (go figure).

turkey day!

happy thanksgiving, france! man, i miss thanksgiving in the states, thanksgiving with my family, the food, the traditions, the turkey coma. i had an amusing time trying to translate "food coma" into french, and wasn't surprised to find out nothing like that exists in the language.
today was not the ideal thanksgiving day of luxury, but still ended with a full stomach. instead of having thursday and friday off, i woke up early for a class in which the prof showed up half an hour late (don't worry, he decided it was fair to compensate for his error by keeping the class an extra 30 minutes afterwards to continue lecturing). i had another class this afternoon, in which i was totally ditched by my fellow students (not the first time) without knowing what happened. i went to the bathroom one room away, came back and they had all left without a sound. 30 minutes of waiting and finding a woman who treated me like an idiot later, i found the other building and room the class had been moved to. oh, and i have a test tomorrow that prohibits any remotely late night of fun.
we had a feast, and it was perfect for this place! another american and a lebanese guy hosted about 30 americans, germans, english, french at their flat. it seemed there would be no pumpkin pie and not enough food, but alas! another american had bought pumpkin pie mix, unheard of in france, at a specialty shop in paris and saved it for sharing tonight and it was GREAT! mom, you ahev full permission to bake me an entire pumpkin pie to myself when i get home for christmas. only half the people brought food, but somehow there were leftovers of everything! i made stuffing for the first time ever, from a box recipe my darling friend ashley sent me from the states, and it was a hit :)
oddly, all the girls who don't keep up with football at all wanted to watch the game. however, we were 7 hours ahead and without ESPN; we almost resorted to yelling at the closed china cabinet and gesturing wildly, but decided to maintain dispositions of sanity instead ;)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

news pics on facebook of life in le mans, trip around normandy, scotland and ireland!!!!!

Monday, November 30, 2009

wednesday, day 7: ireland/france

i woke up at 5:30 am, which seems to be an unfortuante trend in my traveling; it's alright, i usually sleep in pretty late at school, so it somehow balances. i made it to the massive airport (dulbin is the homebase for ryanair, and therefore the most picky security and hardest to navigate).
which reminds me, i'm learning every ryanair airport is not created equally. they all have incredibly distinct personalities, shown through the size, interior design, types of snacks to buy and personnel. paris is shockingly small but insane (oh paris, you would); milan is small, wide and full of disgruntled security guards; rome is neutral; trapani is the new kid on the block, so fancy but trying to start with a good rep; glasgow is swanky and anal about security; dublin is industriel and chilly; nantes is nantes. it's a bit comedic and hectic, you can always expect the same thing but never have the same thing.
i was so thankful, because my flight was almost canceled due to extreme wind. good ole ryaniar refuses to reimburse canceled flights for any reason, so that would have sucked; about ten planes right before ours were delayed and then canceled, thanks God for letting mine happen!
arrived into nantes, and spent an hour checking out le chaetau des dukes de loir, and an epic cathedral. then le mans, home sweet home! i had a spat with laundry, again, and had somewhat of a standoff with the receptionist (not fun). yay for friends to return to, and a supply of pasta!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

tuesday, day 6: ireland

oddly, the first thing i did this morning after leaving jaukb's today was visiting the guiness beer storehouse (it was the thing closest to his home). arthur guiness made beer several centruies ago as an alternative to spirits and unsafe drinking water, and its home base in dublin is now open for visitors. there's a huge "pint" that reaches through the top of all five stories that if filled could make 14.3 million pints- yikes!
i was really excited for my next venture: dublinia! it's the epitomy of something tourist, a three level musuem with the bottom being about vikings, the second being about medieval dublin and the third about how to be a good archeaologist. it was SO COOL and ridiculous; i got to write my name in nordish viking. as i was learning vikings used moss to wipe themselves instead of tp, in front of a manequin viking man going to the restroom, with recorded sounds of him grunting what was surely a number two, my camera died permanently. at the end, i climbed to the top of this tower that overlooks the city.
next to it was Christ church, the most famous dublin church where 3 relics of Jesus are kept (thorn from his crown, some piece from some garment, and something else i forgot). i was curious to check them and the place out, but they wanted 6 euros to walk around; i refuse to pay to enter a church. a crypt or special fancy tourist specific thing, maybe, i can see asking donations or charging a small fee, but that just ain't right.
i got my first smoothie in three months!!! and i had an over-enthusiastic conversation with the girl working the counter about my virgin pina colada type goodness, mmm. i miss blenders and all the good things that come from them.
then i wandered around the city, observing tons of groups of irish on strike in front of about a dozen buildings in the area i walked. i went up to a cheerful group of three men and asked them why they were striking and what was up; having been in france for several months and encoutered wayyyy too many strikes, i wondered if this was common and what it was about.
i learned that all the government employees (in literally every sector) had 6.5 or 7.5 % of their pay cut in one year from the economy, and the government wanted to cut their wages again. they want the government to pull from other sources they are shielding, so everyone except the cops and military decided to not work for one day. ireland unions are set up the way the ones in the states are, so there are never really strikes these days; however, this was an exception. i thought it was cool, wished them the best after a lovely chat and got directions to the first museum i wanted to see. i realized, at arriving to a curb full of picketers, that the things closed included every other thing i wanted to do for the day, which sucked.
spent the rest of the day alone in the rain, which was not as bad as it sounds. i discovered a fantastic and cheap store, where i bought some fun things. i also grabbed a great white hot chocolate with marshmellows and whip cream on top- everything yummy you could imagine, even better tasting than it sounds. went back to jakub's, and after a total of over an hour (between the morning and night) of trying to get his shower to heat up for me it worked! then he bought me my first pint of guiness, which was rubbish after a couple sips, and i traded it for his jameson whisky (also from dublin).

Thursday, November 26, 2009

monday, day 5: scotland/ireland

i slept in and it was magnificent! i'm a big fan of sleep, we get along quite well. by the way, i learned that "queue" is what you say for standing in a line, "pants" are underwear and "trousers" are pants, "i can't be bothered" means i don't feel like it, and how to properly use "wee" :) also, i'm finding it rather hard to form proper english sentences and phrases, since i've been attempting to fill my head with french; it's been amusing and annoying.

when d came back from class, we made lunch and then did a thanksgiving craft dessert! she bought all the pieces to make oreo turkeys, with makeshift candy because except the oreo's nothing was available to buy form the original recipe. i made 3, who took the shape of a pinocchio, a mosquito and a frenchman themed candy turkies. they are cute; one tasted good, the other two d are guarding d's kitchen until she eats them on thanksgiving. we said bye, and i already missed hanging out with her.

i went to take the bus to glasgow, and it turns out d accidentally booked my 13 pound ticket for the wrong day so i had to buy another one, with borrowed money from a sweet girl who is an actress. once i got to glasgow, i took another bus to the airport where i arrived way early (no more of this transportation nonsense, i say). i bought kilt stocking-keeper-upper's, a couple postcards, a mini nessie for my desk, a book of scottish poems and a scottish cookbook when all was said and done. i almost succombed to buying a chai from starbucks, because i have ben craving chai for a long time, but resisted the urge to not be that american who goes to starbucks in another country.

i flew into dublin, took and bus and met my host jakub. he is in his late twenties, polish and does computer stuff for we went to his place, and i crashed on his sleeper sofa in his living room of the flat he shares with another polish couple.

sunday, day 4: scotland

the morning started with a trip to a 15th century battlefield where the english and scots fought (english won), dropped katie off to go back to france, and then breakfast at an irish restuarant chain called o'brien's. i had a tortilla wrap and apple pie for breakfast, and it was magnificent! we bought kumar some yummy treats as a thanks for all his his hospitality, meals (i tried cornish chicken too) and petrol money and headed to dundee again.

during a two hour layover between trains in perth, i got my first scottish pub experience in. it was full of older men, watching football (soccer), with scottish colors decking out the hunter-ish decor. i got the usual scottish whiskey and coke, and i couldn't understand the girl's english so that's all i know.

once we got back to her room, we pulled an american thing and ordered pizza- delivery! and not just pizza, but pizaa hut pizza with cheesy garlic bread and spicey chicken fingers. we chowed down on our scottish desserts of irish whiskey loaf bread with raisins; jaffa cakes, which were soft shortbread cookies with a thin layer of chocolate and orange jam on top; yogurt covered granola and cranberries; and lastly hot cross buns (like the kid's song!) with apples and cinammon.

d is a christian, and in my small group back home, and it was so nice to just talk with her, pray and listen to a sermon of our pastor back home

saturday: day 3, scotland

today was our inverness day. inverness is the "big" city in the famous scottish highlands, where most things are untouched by man, everything is breaktaking, and by loch ness where the monster lives! we woke up at 530 to catch the first train, and because of d's clock being wrong we were 2 minutes late to make it; we ended up on the next one, two hours later.

we arrived and met kumar, our couchsurfing host, who picked us up from the station and drove us to his little place and made us lunch. expecting to take a bus tour to see nessie, we were surprised that he cleared his day to spend it with us and drive us around. we hopped in his car and jammed to rod stewart, oddly, on the way there. we made it to the loch, got out and skipped rocks. searching high and low, for some reason nessie was nowhere to be found (we think she went to warmer waters for vacation). turns out, loch (lake) ness is more than 230 meters deep- over 700 feet deep! and the water is really red/brown, pretty nasty looking up close.

the scenery was surreal. every shade of green, orange, red and yellow blanketing every patch of dirt around. we convinced kumar (side note: he is indian, has lived in scotland three years and is a bridge engineer) to put on some lively scottish music, and he drove us to ruins from a 14th century castle on the loch. we drove some more, saw the town, and then returned to his place barely able to keep our eyes open. we watched waterhorse: legends from the deep, the disney version of nessie's story, while he prepared what became my first and delicious curry experience. his kiwi friend who recently moved to the uk came over too, and we swapped stories until bedtime.

friday: day 2, scotland

deanna is a great floor sleeper, which is great because i totally stole her bed for two different nights. after she was done with a bit of class, the three texans set out to climb The Law, which is an old inactive volcano that actually formed the town she lives in (!) being my first lava mountain climbing experience, i was ready for an extreme adventure up a jagged black slope; and was amused and the adventurer in a me a bit disappointed to see a quaint hill covered in a bed of thick grass (everything is green up here, all the time, like astro turf green!). nonetheless, we climbed up the stairs (haha) and made it to the top, enjoying the view of the river tay, dundee mountains, surrounding several cities and another inactive and smaller volcano/grassy hill.

the weather was FIERCE, but i anticipated it: 30's and 40's the entire trip, rain at lesat once a day and sometimes all day, extreme biting winds and always darkness. d went back to class, so katie and i curled up to watch some of the office, and eat/drink chocolate. for dinner, we walked across the bridge between dundee and a nearby city to a classic chippery, for good ole northern fish and chips. i got a type of fish i alrady forgot the name of, deep fried, with vinegar and salt drenched fresh fries, and an irn bru soda (it's a uk thing, and doesn't really taste like anything).

d wanted to show us the "uni," basically the unversity but specifcally the several story and multiple roomed area full of clubs and bars on campus. that thing was nice! they go all out, with themed nights, concerts, guest dj's, dance parties, drink specials, game nights- just like at a huge bar, but inside a campus building. it's the only place uk students go out to; and they go out alllll the time and have the worst rep for binge drinking in all of europe.

after stopping by that, we went to a cailee, but spelled differently with a "d" and "g" somewhere in gaelic. these are where people get all decked out in kilts and do traditional folk dancing! we somehow got in free, and i learned how to do scottish and canadien country dance with one, two, three and five other people at different times. it was a HOOT- live band, and grownups just skipping around and laughing to lively music. i loved it!

thursday: day 1, UK

today, I was in le mans, paris, Glasgow and Dundee, the latter two in Scotland.
i started out at home with two classes, history and nonprofit management, then went to the doctor about my knee. turns out cliff jumping 50 feet above the water, especially at low tide in winter and hitting the water incorrectly, in trapani wasn’t the best thing for the left one. this was my second doctor’s appointment: it seems that the campus doctors in france are no different than the ones in the states. i went to the hospital, my first french hospital experience, and was surprised how little differences there were. it’s socialist health care system, versus our private one, and it took the same amount of time to see the doctor (1.5 hours of waiting) and it was the same quality of visit. they did xrays, and think i just strained a ligament, which means just keep waiting it out like i’ve been doing for the past 4 weeks.
i took the tram to the train station, train to paris, caught the two metros i needed, and arrived at the shuttle station to get to the ryanair airport in plenty of time to catch my plane to scotland. however, ryanair is on crack, and the last shuttle for the night left 9 minutes before i got there. i had no other choice but to take a cab, which took about an hour and a half to get there and cost a crippling 130 euros, or over $200. this was double the cost of my 3 plane costs combined, and really stung emotionally and financially. i didn’t have enough money for it, but found an ATM and was able to withdraw exactly what I needed, which was my limit for the entire week. the driver gave me a 10 euro discount, and is a follower of Jesus too, so he was encouraging and really nice (buuut not nice enough to make it cheaper than that).
then i got into scotland, which is an hour ahead of french time, and met up with deanna, katie and angus. angus is a fun name to type and say, but more importantly is a Christian scot who volunteered with two days notice to drive 4.5 hours into the wee hours of the morning from dundee to pick me up in glasgow and then back, without knowing me and barely knowing deanna. they provided me with hugs, my first z-up in months and pringles. we drove back in the dark, which means nothing there; during winter, a “sunny” day is from 10am-4pm. we stayed up until 330 catching up.

one day of break between travels

that's exactly what this was for me wednesday- scrambling to relax

the ultimate tuesday

man, today was crazy and great! i left my hosts in rouen, took a train to paris (layover was spent eating that great chinese food again!), arrived in le mans, did a slough of errands, got back home and went to class. this week, my looney and offensive professor decided he wanted us to share every stereotype we knew about each country represented among us foreigners. i transformed into morbidly obese, unaware of the world, and dominator of culture, as the lone american in the class; some of my other poor classmates were reduced to corrupt, abusive alcoholics. it was quite the class.
then, deb and i met up with frenchman raphael, from couchsurfing, and made his family dinner. we cooked sloppy joe’s with pickles (on a baguette though), lemonade and their first ever milkshakes (the french have every dessert covered except milkshakes). his sophomore in high school sister showed us her gerbils and asked if we liked miley cirus, his mom showed us how to work the kitchen, and his dad cracked jokes; just like back home  we didn’t plan on cooking for 6, so when we ran out of food they also added bread, cheese, raw meat and wine- they weren’t trying to be french, they’re just that french. then raphael and i swapped country music, and he put my collection to shame- i took 500 songs from him!
deb and i laughed hysterically all the way home, for absolutely no reason, and it felt so nice to be friends. i came back, and was marveling at the odd day i had and the trip i just came back from when emily knocked on my door. it was midnight exactly, and she had fresh chocolate cake for me! great day.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

monday: rouen

i left caen and arrived in rouen by train about noon. my couchsurfers here were a couple about thirty; claire works in paris (4 hour commute, every day!) and juri was working in the car industry. i learned that every french person is guranteed 1 year full salary after being laid off, and then a second year of half salary, by the government, no exceptions. since juri has a lot of time on his hands, he showed me around the old city a couple hours.
vieux rouen is lovely and large, with great shopping and eating at prices a little lower than other places in normandy and le mans also. i saw the place where jeanne (joan for english speakers) d'arc was burnt on the stake, pretty much the same age as me. in 19 years, she went from small town farm girl to military commander kicking the english out of french land to being captured and killed by them as a heretic (the catholic church later said "my bad," pardonned her, and she became a saint). in the last couple decades, a super modern church was built and dedicated to her; weird looking, kinda ugly kinda cool. rouen is named "the city of 100 spires," and monet actually has a series of paintings of some of its cathedrals. i visited notre dame, which is the tallest in either france or europe, and then two others just as lovely.
i saw a place used in medieval times during the plague: people sick with it were housed in this specific hospital for the dying, in the middle of its courtyards people could watch corpses being burned to prevent "la peste" from spreading. if that wasn't morbid enough, skulls and bones are carved into the wooden sides of the building, which is now used as a fine arts academy.
i hit up the fine arts museum and a ceramics museum (this type of art is apaprently world renown in the city). the wrought iron museum, housed inside an ancient tower, sounded lame to me but was really cool! i saw the tower where jeanne was kept hostage during her couple months-long sham trial.
then i spent the evening with the couple and their cat sushi, eating dinner (again, free, yummy, complete guest) and watching "les bronzes font du ski." it's a cult classic comedy from the 70's, with the same beegee's song playing in the background the entire time; it was entertaining and funny, and i understood without any subtitles or language dubbing!

sunday: history roadtrip around beaches

because of an amazingly timed series of events, i was able to meet up with some friends in le mans who just so happened to be in caen when i was! 3 girls form the czech republic, a french guy and his french girlfriend piled into a van and wandered around northern normandy for the day. they picked me up, and we first visited pegasus bridge, the first place the allies landed in german-occupied france in WWII.
next we scurried through and around bunker hill, a series of command posts and missile bases amazingly hid underground what is now peaceful farm land. a series of trenches connected about 20 different concrete-block posts around the area; arnaud, french boy, managed to find an escape route in one bunk and popped up like a groundhog in the middle of a field nearby. i learned that hunting fowl on public land is totally kosher- we ran into several hunters and their dogs exploring the hills, and the girls were afriad we would get shot on accident.
then we wound our way up a bit and hit the coastline. we visited several of the 5 ally beaches and their monuments, and tried to imagine this picturesque and serene stretch of ocean the way it looked in june 1944. the algae and sand were different than i had seen before, which was cool. we wandered a small town, checking out the local fish market on the bay and seagulls so large they could eat me. i tried mussels for the first time, smothered in rocquefort cheese, piled about 9 inches high and 9 inches wide (just ok, the cheese made it yummy).
then we jumped back in the car and drove to the american troop's cemetery, right before it closed. ironically, i was the one most neutral about visiting it; but when it was time to leave, i was the last one ready to go. it's pretty straightforward and not a lot to see, but still so much to take in at the same time. as we were leaving, i realized for the first time just how much of my family has been in the military.
i napped on the drive back to caen, and when we got to my host's home arnaud and laura refused to accept gas money from the internationals, which was incredibly generous and a sweet surprise. i spent another night eating italian food with the two hosts, and except for a two hour theological discussion we spoke entirely in french. i ended up speaking almost entirely french for 3 days straight!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

saturday: mont st michel

Today began my first of four days exploring Normandy. I woke up at 5am with my Dutch friend Alineke, and we took the first tram at 5:45 to the train station which was amusingngly stuffed with African girls from partying the night before. after the tram, train, and bus we arrived at the breathtakingly creepy abbaye of mont saint michel (michael), basically a massive mountain with a huge 12th century church dominating the otherwise desolate coastline.
after 3 visions were had by people of the archangel michael defeating satan here, someone built an abbaye, and at one point napoleon made it a prison (it's a functioning place with monks today again). the tides on this island are the largest in the world, reaching 45 feet high (we went low tide) at times. i was excited because we got a free tour, my first guided tour of anyplace i'd visited in europe, and it wasn't terribly exciting so we left the group.
the wind was INSANE, the post powerful and domineering wind i can ever remember being in! it rained a bit, typical brittany/bretagne, but nothing we couldn't handle. we walked around the island a bit, where they say there is dangerous quicksand, and i was glad i was wearing my red texas cowgirl boots :)
i spent a couple hours in a tabac, writing postcards, watching horse races with old men and drinking a nasty blue cheap champagne type drink, and then headed to caen. i met up with my two couchsurfers, marion and jeriam, both about my age. they were nice enough to meet me and pick me up from the train station by car (and later took me back too).
i spent the evening eating italian food they made and hanging out with their friends.

Friday, November 13, 2009


good news, my alarm clock-my phone- died and didn't go off. thankfully i didn't miss anything incredibly important, but i woke up after 1pm and missed a free fancy lunch with two american businessmen and apparently missed meeting a ridiculous man obsessed with texas, which was a bummer. i spent several hours doing really three simple things: getting a new school ID (which meant going to 8 places), getting my bank account together (5 places, several countries, the university too) and printing insurance info (my 11th time trying to make it happen, over 3 weeks). i feel like i have so little to show for myself sometimes, but then things like those happen and i know where all my time goes.
i met another couchsurfer who lives in le mans today, along with her little boy and roomie. julie is unlike anyone i've met- she's been in the circus for 6 years (she performed a bit for me, and i saw her stilts!) and works as a nurse in the psychiatric ward. i visited her home and had some tea, and inevitably busted out some country line dances, which apparently are really hip here right now. i half considered just staying here and opening up a real southern bar, there are none here, where the 3 (i know!) country dance groups can come to dance, and people can get jack daniels and coke for less than 8 euros for a teeny shot glass. i'd be a real commodity, the texan running an american country bar, teaching dance classes a couple times a week- the more i type, the better it sounds ;)
normandy tomorrow!!!!!!!!!!!!


i can't seem to function in the laundry room here. it's like i've never even been within 20 feet of a wash room before! i ended up dying white things again, my third load of batched wash; this after losing the coin to start the machine, trying to buy another one, the woman sending the grounds keeper to help me find it in the gutters, and then finding it outside the room. however, this was my first time to successfully dry a load of laundry; there's always a little bugger that never fully dries.
i went to class, and the prof didn't show so went to the train station and bought tickets for this weekend! going to normandy, in several cities, 4 days, kinda by myself- more updates after the fact!
drama with more administrative and bank and insurance things. blah. class for non profit management, which is shockingly more mundane each week! i'm grateful i'm not lsot and confused all the time, but somehow this very dynamic and chaotic subject has been reduced to something from ferris bueller's day off.
i spent the evening with the internationals in the kitchens on campus again, swapping drinks, stories and languages. it was grand. when i tried to come back to my room for the night, i spent almost an hour and a half trying to get into a door that in every way seemed locked but turned out to be open the entire time (the french security guards, though they just sit and sleep, are really quite nice).


today was labor day in the states, but armistice day in france, celebrating the end of the (i think second world) war. everyone was out of school and work, making everything seem like a ghost town and distracted me during a petite promenade in the 30 something degree weather.
i went to "la fete des foraines" today; i was invited, looked it up online, and still had no idea what it was. turns out, it's a 40-50 day carnival in town. i was amused to see they aren't really different in france (and europe, according to my other foreign friends): tons of unhealthy fair food, same type of rides, games you have absolutely no chance of winning, and all costing a pretty penny. however, their fair food was more with crepes, waffles, porc kebabs and "pommes d'amour" (apples of love, ei candied apples); the paintings on the rides had a lot of topless/almost naked women; and one game that you use the claw to try and pick something up was to pick up nasty looking thongs as a prize.
the rest of the day wasn't terribly eventful, basically just a day of kicking back. i found the hunchback of notre dame, the theatrically dramatic version from 1939, on youtube and watched all 13 parts and loved it.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

sunday & monday & tuesday

i went to an apple and chesnut festival sunday! it was lovely- in the huge preserved nature space at the east corner of town, all the town got together to celebrate roasting of nuts and on-the-spot making of fresh apple juice (with help of a john deere tractor!) the internationals and i enjoyed 6 free juice tastings, and i bought an apple tart i saw deep fried and doused in sugar before my eyes. there were animals, a cheesy magician who used my friends in his show and a lot of mud. my hour or two of checking it out turned into a day long event, and i was glad :)

monday the highlight was my first french bible study. about 9 other students met up at the empty baptist church and went through john chapter 3. it was hard to keep my attention and concentration going, with it all in french, but i'm glad i went. then we shared some snacks, all almost the same you would have in the states but still somehow very different.

tuesday i spent my night language class discussing the death penalty, which was interesting to compare notes with people from other countries. the EU banned it altogether, making the US the only first world country to still kill the convicted; however, it's still widely used in many other countries. lots of grea thinking tonight. also, i watched some french tv while writing letters, that was a hoot! i found the hunchback of notre dame from 1939 on youtube, and watched all 13 parts tonight- check it out, it's great!

i received two packages!!!!!!!!!!!!! one from my sister and her bf jonathan, and the other from my denton friend ashley. both had sweet cards, halloween and thanksgiving goodies, american snacks not available here (multiple peanut butter things), vacation souvenirs and love :) what a exciting time- it felt like Christmas!!!

week getting back, oct 31-nov 6

the next week i spent recovering from the adventure. i relaxed and spent time with friends, the entire time.
i'm really bad at consistent record keeping of any kind- blog, journal, photos, you name it i eventually get bored with it. so basically, this was a good week but not very eventful, and that's all i've got :)

sicily- italy, part 2

fifth day: we arrived in trapani and met our host marco and his friend marcello. our favorite people we have met traveling, by far: inspiring hospitality, great guys, fun times, shoved us full of free food. they picked us up from the airport, showed us the salt mines, took us to drink espresso, eat gelato, then lay in sun all in our first 2 hours. we then ate some pastries, and hit up erice, a famous old town on a mountains in the city. i hit a huge bell on top of a church tower, ate and drank some more, explored a castle, and went back to trapani. katie and i tried capoeira round, a brazilian style of martial arts-dancing, and were SORE but enjoyed it. then we went and ate pizzas. all in the first day!

sixth day: after much needed sleeping in, we had a feast of a breakfast prepared by the guys. then we cruised to some reggae with the windows down to san vito, which has the best view in the entire area of the beach. i went cliff jumping, 54 from the sea, and it was so worth it. we rested back at the house, and then enjoyed yet another massive feast with 14 sicilians.

seventh day we left mid morning, and were sad to say goodbye to such beautiful people, weather, language, geography and amounts of free and delicious food. in 6 days, i ate 16 types of gelato and as much or more different types of pastries, all native to the area. it was also halloween, but we spent from 7am-930pm in travel mode and were exhausted, so not my best halloween but still alright.

italy: success! thank you God for this amazing opportunity and allowing it to go so perfectly!

when in rome!

oh man, this was amazing! the food was outstanding, the people friendly and easy on the eyes, the history more than ancient, the hospitality unmatched, the transportation not the best and the memories incredible. amazing 7 days: 1 traveling to and from italy, 4 in rome and 2 in trapani, northwest sicily. katie and i had a shockingly fantastic time together too. we stayed with 3 couchsurfers (look it up online if you don't know it- very cool): all native italians, attractive, twentysomething year old men who let us crash their homes for free and showed us an insider view of the cities.

we flew from paris to milan, where we spent a 6 hour layover attempting to sleep in the airport for our red eye, and then arrived in rome! our first day, we visited appia antica, the oldest road still alive and kicking into the city. paul mentions it in the new testament, and it was around before him if that says anything. we visited tons of old and magestic things, my faovrite being saint callisto's catacombs, where Christian martyrs were burried in several levels of labrynths for over a thousand years. then we met benny, who is 29 and was for two nights. he was hospitable, sooo into himself, and defines what it means to be flamboyantly gay. benny cooked us a lovely traditional italian dinner and served us espresso, red wine and lemoncello to drink. he is a professional latin dancer, and took us out to an amazing place where we danced to latin and hiphop beats until we crashed at 4am.

second day, we hit up the vatican and did some shopping. going into st peter's basillica, i was searched by security because they saw a sharp metal object in my bag... a cross i had just bought that day (what irony!) we visited the vatican museums, which included hundreds of priceless pieces of art, most noteably the sistine chapel. after meeting a new friend and wandering around the smallest nation in the world, we met our second host giuseppe. he is a 26 year old financial planner who fits the epitemy of normal, with a little quirk to him. he also made us dinner!

third day, we walked from his place to the colisseum! it was amazing to see the place where 70,000 people could come for free and see up to 20,000 humans and animals slaugter each other. we went around palatine hill, seeing the arcs of tito and constantine, the forum/senate, old town hall, churches, gardens, memorials, you name it. we went to the gargantuan trevi fountain, the pantheon and the spanish square/steps before grabbing dinner and relishing dessert at the oldest gelato factory in the world.

fourth day: diocletian baths, church dedicated to mary, the saints and martyrs, church of the sacred heart; american lunch at a roadhouse grill, dinner cooked by benny and dessert at the gelato place again.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

two weeks of blogging in one post

man, i didn't realize i had fallen to far behind! oh well.
stolen clothes were never returned, and the housing department basically blamed their theft on me (such pleasant, sympathetic response, right?). there's a chance i may be able to get a little reimbursement from insurance for the stolen wallet and the clothes; probably won't know or receive anything until 2012, but hey it's promising.
this tuesday we had an international student afternoon affair, with a mini orchestra performance and tons of hors d'oeuvres. i had 10 baby pastries and cakes- delicious!- two maccaroons, one ecalair, a couple tarts, a couple chocolate shelled-fruit filled treats on a cracker, etc.
i finally got in both my french and american debit cards, though still waiting on a pin number for the french (even though its been 3 weeks).
i tried to go salsa dancing at a place called "les docks" last night, but after spending an hour and a half walking around in heels trying to find it my dutch friend and i gave up. we walked ot the seine river and enjoyed the view for a while, then stumbled upon remains of the old roman wall from the 1300's- nice surprise!
i went to church with jo again last week, and one of the members was getting baptised. it was really interesting and a huge ordeal the entire hour and a half long service was devoted to her baptism. i thought i had seen people celebrate baptisms before, but man this church has all prior memories beat! the girl's aunt came all the way from southern france to represent her family, gifts were given, two people while sharing scripture with her started to cry, her and the pastor changed into all white just for the baptism, the pastor geared the whole sermon for her, and food and drinks were served afterwards. i know the angels celebrate when someone becomes a christian, i think i have a better idea of what that's like now!
i discovered this morning with my leftover tortillas that they taste lovely with nutella- perfect combo of the south meets europe :) deb came back from her visit to the states and brought me goodies- 2 cans of sloppy joe mix, ranch dressing, italian dressing, peanut butter and sweet baby ray's honey bbq sauce! within 24 hours i made rice with sausage and bbq sauce, a pbnj sandwich and sloppy joe's- it was fantastic!
winter suddenly arrived. one day, it was just 15-20 degrees colder, and it hasn't really changed since then. more rainy, but still definitely not as much rain (or as hard or as much) as other parts of france nearby. i busted out my winter coat yesterday for the first time, and discovered a pair of pink gloves inside! score.
so i've been sick like 3 weeks now, and finally went to the doctor on campus. walked in and was seen all in under 45 minutes, for free, and got 3 prescriptions: a nose spray, pills and a syrup to drink, all bases covered. all the pharmacies are the same here; there's no need to find the cheaper one because they're the same, which is convenient. i went to the one close to my campus, and all three cost 10 euros! they shot out of a little metal tray from the wall, like something from the jetson's and it was cool. the french and european union socialist system works really well for them- the citizens pay high taxes, but everything from education (at every level, including master's) to health care to discounts for everyone under 26 to transportation is free or almost free because of it!
lots of confusion as usual- bank, transportation, money, classes still not confirmed by my advisor in texas, sickness, drama with italy trip- but i'm getting more used to it. i've been praying for a higher tolerance and deeper trust in God before any plans of person, and it's been a bit better.
i leave for a six day excursion into italy in a couple hours! going with katie to paris today, then flying to milan late tonight for a 6 hour layover in the airport and then arriving in rome! i'll be there sunday through thursday morning, couchsurfing with 1-2 people, and then fly to trapani, sicily. i'll be there two days and then return to paris and then le mans, on halloween! happy halloween everyone, and i'll be back with italian stories in a little over a week!

Monday, October 12, 2009


emily was in germany and let katie sleep in her room last night, which was awesome because it meant i didn't sleep on my floor again. katie and i went to mass at saint julien's, the oldest and most known cathedral in town. this service was definitely more community based and closer to a traditional mass than the more famous tourist attraction churches. afterwards, we saw little girls with scooters by the door and little boys running around play fighting. they even had a table with little finger pastries and juice, which we saw after a little boy walked up to us with some treats on his place, looked at us with big eyes, and offered us some without saying a word.
i showed her the local sunday market, where i bought several gifts and groceries. we both tried our first french savory crepes, made by a cute older couple from a trailer: crepe cooked on the skillet with an egg fried on top of it, then doused with cheese and ham. it was served classically, folded into fourths, and delicious.
she wanted to see vieux mans, and while we walked around we stumbled upon a regional art museum and a mandolin musuem, both free to us. the quaint regional museum had several floors of fantastic things from the same ground i live on, which was super interesting. the mandolin museum was cute and had great music in the background, and the coolest thing was its collection of up to two centuries-old intruments. then we passed by saint benoit, one of several other beautiful cathedrals that for some reason never have services and aren't promoted by the city. there are at least 5 i can think of, maybe one of which is protestant, that are in more than decent condition, gorgeous and yet swept under the rug. weird.
i made us dinner, and i introduced her to my favorite british tv show called the it (information technology) crowd. we spent a couple hours figuring out our week long school vacation break, which will be to italy! she almost missed her train, which seems to be a growing and unforunate trend with my friends and i. i spent a whopping four hours skyping with my parents, and crashed after a busy, perfect weekend!

saturday with katie

we slept in! and i took her to meet kitty felix, and we stayed in deb's room an hour swapping youtube videos. then we wandered around town and had a leisurely picnic at the parc in the sun. i had my first shopping trip in le mans, getting a pair of cute black boots and some other fun small things.
we made an early evening showing of our first movie in europe, max and mary. it's australian, so english, but most movie theaters dub everything into french; we went to the indie theater and heard it in english with french subtitles. it's claymation with lots of dark colors, which fit the plot- one of the most surprisingly depressing and bleak movies i've ever seen! i'm glad i saw it, because i really wanted to, but it was a let down; when it was over, even the french all stayed in their seats from shock.
i took her to the place i raved about from yesterday, i got a lifechangingly-good hamburger for 2 euros. we came back to campus, got together with the internationals, and went out to three places for the night. somehow, i didn't pay anything the entire night and morning. first was mulligan's, the irish pub everyone here is obsessed with, for a bit. next we hit up cafe pop until it closed- so fun! we danced the whole time, mostly just our group on the floor, and the dj had a lot of fun with us. afterwards, i asked him if he knew any good places still open for dancing, and he said he would personally take us to one! we followed him to a place nearby, and on the way i held his huge book of CDs while he had a drumming contest with one of the tunisian guys on top of a car. we arrived at a place called djecko's, and he got all 10 of us in at the same time for free and personally held our jackets and coats behind his turntables. we danced to similar music in a much more crowded and larger place than before, until we were exhausted. i had decided to wear heels for the first time in a month, and paid for it- we left town at 3:30, after all the trams had left for the night, and i walked back barefoot. sleep at 5am


this morning i spent several hours in geography class and then swapping notes with a german girl. later in the evening, i met up with a french woman and her son to see about babysitting. christine wants me to watch four year old ben on occasion, and pays me extra to speak only english with him. ben immediately began a shooting match with fake guns with me, and wanted to share his french fries with me- i think we're off to a good start! i discovered a fantastic, cheap, fast and yummy place right next to her place that delivers pizzas and burgers for free- new favorite place!
then i met up with katie at the train station! i really like exploring and doing france with her- it's odd that we both go to UNT but are just becoming friends here. the two of us went to a place i've been dreaming about eating at for about a month, "american" food at a place called buffalo grill! i thought it was buffalo bill's, and when i realized i had the wrong name, i decided to keep calling it bill anyways. a group of 8 other americans, english and germans were not disappointed. i had a salad with corn and red beans, sourdough bisquits, a huge well-done arizona burger, fries and a grenadine-water drink. i also took a red balloon with a cowboy and girl indian on it, and an indian headdress paper crown (like burger king hats, native american style). EXCELLENT!
we came back, chatted with some friends, i showed her my view of the city from campus and we talked until early morning.


i had history and volunteering classes today- both were swell. i ate dinner with mathilde and her fellow french freshman girl bereniece, and then met up with a ton of internationals for the night. leondra from brazil made everyone brazilian vodka-lime-sugar mojitos/martinis, and we stayed in the kitchen until it closed for the night. then ten girls and leondra went in search of a good place to dance, and i discovered cafe pop. they played arabic-american-french-latin music, with house/techno/middle eastern/70's/80's/hip hop/pop music- it was perfect! i didn't stay long, class the next day and katie coming in for the weekend, but it was fun.


so after the stolen wallet, missing my train to le mans, getting sick and other such exciting events, here's a recap of nice things that happened that made things better. God was incredibly nice in letting only my wallet get taken, and then setting up sympathetic people and inspiring grace in their hearts to help me get things taken care of. the police let me use their phone for international calls to take care of closing two bank accounts for free; nicolas' key only cost 3 euros to replace and he was a gentleman about the ordeal; the university gave me my 3 new keys and ID for free which should have cost me 40 euros; my bank charged me 25 euros to block the account but the woman i met worked the system to make it only cost me 4; all the international students have offered to let me borrow money, and i borrowed plenty from katie; 600 euros worth of money i had been waiting on for 45 days came in today and i was able to withdraw some and use it; things like this. i'm feeling a bit better, health wise. my professor said my butchered homework, first of the semester, was ok even though it deserved a 0. i needed to buy a new tram ticket, that is unlimited use for one month, anways; when i mentioned this to an employee on campus, she gave me one for free (30 euro value). i lost a lot of money, but was successful in blocking american and french cards and accounts without anything being taken from them. i was SO GLAD i got into my room and could sleep here.
unfortunately, after my class the admin was closed for the day and i couldn't get any of my new keys (c'est france).
also, i witnessed my first two strikes in france- one with the hospital workers and one with the public transportation employees. this meant the tram only worked half the way to town for me to buy groceries, and i walked the rest of the way. thankfully, because the firemen had come and put out a huge bonfire in the middle of the street, when i was on my way back with overflowing heavy bags the tram was running again.
i had my geography lab and dance class today

tuesday: paris, day 5

this day didn't go as planned, in almost any way. woke up 2 hours late, and missed going to the musee carnavalet, the paris history museum. packed my bags, hit the metro and set out to find the area my grandma (dad's mom) grew up in. she was born in surene, now the 16th arrondissement (district), of paris and lived there with her parents until she was 18 and married my american army grandpa. with her memories, my dad's interviewing skills and the help of google maps, i found the exact apartment building she used to live in (after passing it 3 times). turns out, it is set for demolition; good thing i didn't wait to go back there later! after pictures and conversations with strangers, i took the metro to the bois du boulogne, where she used to watch rugby matches with her dad.
then i hightailed it to the train station, and got there in just enough time to miss my train to le mans. awesome. it's not possible to trade it in for a later train because it's a student card, which sucked because it meant i just lost that money and time. frustrated with recent parisian events, i start to cry in the station; i wanted to go to the bathroom for some solace and emotional release, but i couldn't because you have to pay to use train station bathrooms and they are smaller than port-o-potties. i go ot buy a later ticket, and with some grace from God in the form of pity from the lady working, she gives me a reimbursement for my train for a one that leaves in 2.5 hours, for almost no extra fees.
i leave the station to find a nice place to relax, and discover the best-cheapest-quietest chinese bistro around. i feast on my first egg rolls, sticky rice and schezuan beef in months. i used the bathroom here, which turned out to be a hole in the ground like actual china, that's how you know it's the real deal! i do my homework, conjugating 40 verbs and writing a couple paragraphs in the conditional verb tense, and then get on the train.
i arrive in le mans, then campus and then my night class with about 20 seconds to spare before it starts. i realized that my french source told me how to do every bit of my homework incorrectly, and that it was too late to visit the admin for a new key to get into my dorm. after two hour french language class, english jo comes with me to beg the security guard to let me into my room. of course i have no means to prove i live there, as its all stolen, but thankfully he let me in anyways. i stayed up until about 3am trying to get life in order, and remembered in bed i had a class 6 hours later.

monday: paris, day 4

just me and deanna today. it rained until mid-evening, but nothing that stopped our fun! we stopped at the moulin rouge, and headed to the sacre-coeur in the montmarte area of paris. the sacre-coeur cathedral, dedicated to the sacred heart of Jesus, is on a hill of the far north part of paris overlooking the city. we climbed up, enjoyed a man playing fiddle and the view, then centured inside. the basilica was beautiful, and has a huge dome on the top that inside has a magnificent mosaic of God, the Holy Spirit in dove form and Jesus with tons of famous martyrs, saints and Christian leaders worshipping them. also really cool was the collection of stained glass windows- they visually told the life stories of many saints, with written summaries to explain the images in french. reverent and classically pretty place. she wanted to get a legit french cafe experience, so we bought some pastries (my first madeline pastry-cookie as well as a green and black olive pastry), picked a sidewalk cafe and had a drink while people watching. after that, i sent her on her way and wandered the area a bit.
i wanted to see an opera, but needed to stand in line for an hour and a half to see if i could get a ticket again. i decided it was worth the wait, and wound up being the last person to purchase a ticket for the night! it started at 7:30, and at 7:29 i sprinted up five flights of stairs and found my seat just before they closed the audience for the show. my ticket was 7 euros, and was one of the worst seats; the ticket actually had "sans visibilite," or without visibility, written on it. this was fine, because i was still inside the opera garnier (majestic theater that actually inspired the entire story of phantom of the opera) watching my first opera! it was mireille, which apparently is the quintessentiel romantic opera, which got its start in paris in the mid 1800's. i sat in a top corner, right next to a gold ceiling angel statue with a view of the entire orchestra, audience and half the stage. i was at eye level with a small projector that had the words written out, in french, so i actually knew everything that was going on the entire time! it was lovely, insanely dramatic and captivating. with intermissions and all, i didn't leave until 11:00!
went back to nicolas' sleeper sofa, and enjoyed some shut eye.

Friday, October 9, 2009

sunday: paris, day 3

i got 4.5 hours of sleep this morning. thankfully, nicolas was incredibly understand about the key- he responded the most ideal way, and the cost to replace was only three euros. deanna and i headed to meet katie at notre dame for a morning mass, and explained all that happened. katie lent me plenty of money to tide me over for a while- talk about finding out who your friends are, both girls totally shone in the midst of this drama and pain.

mass was lovely! we attended the last one of the morning, and had front row seats in the center. they definitely modify all masses because of the fame- for example, there were no bars to kneel on during mass, so no kneeling whatsoever. instead of finding the readings and hymns in the appropriate books, everything was printed in a bulletin, southern protestant style, to follow easily (really convenient). i was bummed i couldn't (honestly) receive Communion because i'm not catholic, but i was glad to be prayed over and blessed by the deacon anyways. i love taking Communion- having to come authentically to God, in whatever state i am, to remember and honor the very real sacrifice of Christ that has forever changed the world and myself. we spent another hour wandering around and admiring the cathedral before hopping the train to versailles.

we arrived in the perfect ammount of time to see everything our ticket could pay for. we saw the entire grand palace in 2.5 hours. the most intriguing thing being the bed of the queens, where marie antoinette had slept and 19 royal children were birthed. the hall of mirrors, famed for tons of ornate crystal chandeliers and mirros, was beautiful; the military history wings through floor to celing pictures was cool too. then we frolicked in the rightfully famed gardens for another 2.5 hours and headed back.

katie left back for rennes, and then deanna, nicolas and i hung out for a couple hours before crashing on his sleeper-sofa.

saturday: paris, day 2

deanna and i woke up with the sun to meet katie from her train. katie is also a fellow UNT girl, studying in neighboring rennes; this was my first time to spend more than an hour with her, and it was great. we took the train to the eiffel tower, or tour eiffel in french, and began our ascent. i desperately wanted to climb the whole thing, but it turns out you can only walk to the second floor and then take the elevator, which turned out to be just fine- after walking about 50 flights of stairs, we were ready for a break. on the first floor, we did a 360 degree walk around and read about its history and all the signficant buildings you can see from there. on the second floor, we took more pictures and shivered from the chilly air; we decided the top would be pretty cool, but there was a long line, it cost double, would be even colder and the view even smaller. then we walked our now sculpted muscles down all the stairs to hear the soliciting of cheap eiffel tower keychains in a half dozen languages.

so europe has this thing for carousels- don't really know what the deal is with it, but i think it's a fantastic thing to have tons of. i made a goal to ride one while in france, and a cheesy rickety carousel at the foot of the tower seemed perfect. the girls and i rode around 3 times, goofing off and capturing everything on camera (pictures on facebook very soon!) one of my favorite moments in the city. we decided to eat cheaply for lunch, and buy fruit, bread and some cheese. deanna tried her first french cheese, and we learned there are over 1,200 types in france from a sweet cheese store owner.

with happy tummies, we arrived at the louvre. we came in through a mall entrance, which was really strange- one of most famous museums in the world, in the midst of a mall (we thought we were lost, haha). i have heard way too many people complain about the length of entrance lines to this place- i think i waited about 5 minutes to buy my ticket at noon on a saturday. and it was free, because i showed my student ID! we spent the next 4 hours in a daze, attempting to take in all the talent, time, fame, stories, scope, size and amount of art... and only covered one fourth of it. we stayed mostly in one wing, looking at sculptures and european paintings. i begrudgingly saw the mona lisa, and even after studying the history and seeing it, still wasn't excited about it; it's something everyone is supposed to love and look forward to, but meant nothing to me. we were amused at how many signs had a photo copy of the painting, some permanent signs for the museum too, with directions on how to find it. the venus de milo, also famous for its ambiguity, was temporarily on display, which was cool. i loved being with them- deanna is an interior design major with 3 semesters of art history classes, and katie is taking all art classes in rennes- appreciative and also insightful into what we were seeing, helping it mean more than just pretty or weird art.

we stopped by nicolas' place for a while, and then tried to buy tickets for a ballet at the opera garnier. because they were all sold out, we decided to buy tons of icecream and watch the eiffel tour from below light up. every night at the hour, for the first five minutes, it sparkles; we joined tons of people on the lawns in front of it and watched.

tonight was la nuit blanche, an annual event of contemporary art showcased from 6pm-6am in all the most famous gardens around the city which drew in 1.5 million people. we thought one of the locations was the tuilleries gardens, and were surprised to see nothing when we showed up. instead, we walked around the garden and imitated statues from an abandoned shopping cart i found while exploring the bushes. from there, we found la place de la concord, checked out its fountains and statues representing all the major french cities, and saw the arc de triomphe from the champs eylsees. then we met up with pascal, who took us to saint germain, which is the oldest part of paris and apparently unknown by tourists. deanna and i peaced out at midnight to get some much needed sleep (already tired, sick, walking all day), thinking this was the end of the night.

we didn't make it to sleep for six more hours. my wallet was stolen in the metro (aren't i the biggest stereotype possible?) while i was focusing on buying more tickets for deanna and i; i wish i had been mugged instead of it being snuck away when i wasn't aware, so there could have been some smack down and retribution. inside my very special wallet from china i bought when there several years ago was plenty of cash, french debit card and info, american debit card, american credit card, insurance, driver's liscence, student id, key to nicolas' place, key to my dorm, key to access my dorm building and mailbox key (nothing important, obviously).

we searched everywhere, talked with the metro people, filled out a paper and were sent to the police station with maybe the most vague directions possible. in our quest, we met some super helpful french people our age going out on the town who told us how to reach a different station that should be open. we found it around 1:30, and i got to participate in my favorite french pasttime again: waiting. after being insulted by several officers several times, filling out a 7 page form and spending an hour and a half on the phone cblocking bank accounts, it was 3:30. all the metros were closed for the night, and we spent an hour trying to figure out the bus system to no avail. we spent 30 minutes tracking down one of the only available taxis in the city, and made it nicolas' at 5:30. because we had no key, we had the misfortune of having to ring his doorbell until he came to let us in and explain why i didn't have his key. thankfully, deanna was a super trooper- patient, didn't talk a lot, paid willingly for the taxi, emotionally and prayerfully supportive.

friday: paris, day one

after all the confusion with deanna's arrival, i head to my geography class. i felt really awful, and asked one of the girls to take notes for me to copy next week- i went back to my room and slept until i had to leave to meet emily for our train to paris. deb was supposed to come too, but didn't last minute; however, another guy we know named jamie decided to come last minute. we hopped on the hour long tgv (ridiculously fast train), arrived in paris and found deanna finally!

we made our way to notre dame, so emily could meet up with her 5 (turned out to be 4) friends studying in spain. deanna and i ventured out, and got into saint chapelle and then the conciergie. we spent an hour (the longest we waited in a line all weekend- not bad at all!) going through security, because these two monuments are located in the grounds of three of france's most significant political bodies. saint chapelle is this beautiful, medium-sized church most famous for its stain glassed windows. 15 main panels tell different stories and books of the Bible; my camera died and i couldn't find any batteries, so deanna took pictures for us while i translated its history from french to english.

we walked next door to the conciergie, a quite ironic building that used to be a kitchen and guards rooms for royalty and later became a prison most famous for keeping the rich, nobles and royalty captive during the revolution in the late 1700's. this is where marie antoinette was held for 70 something days before going to the guillotine, and watched her best friend and duchess be torn limb from limb by a raging mob and then have each apendage spiked on spears for all to see. i saw the cell where she was kept in the women's area of the prison. we walked through the whole thing, and it was really interesting.

after our first outings, we met our couchsurfing host nicolas. this is basically someone i found through a network of travelers who agreed to let us stay at his place for the duration of our trip, for free. he's great- 27, computer consultant, leaving to backpack ecuador next week. we dropped our stuff off in his flat, which was shockingly tidy, and then took him out to dinner as a thank you. deanna and i split a 3 course meal, her first french meal, of 6 different meats for a starter, beef and onion with fries main course and chocolate pie for dessert.

pascal, the man who let deanna stay with him the night before and with whom katie and emily were staying, invited us over to meet him and four of his friends. the three of us went to his place, and spent a couple hours with emily, pascal and his aimiable friends. he's an expert piano player, with 25 years experience, and the night was a mixture of hearing music, sampling wine from bourgundy, and swapping stories. great first day!


i had my first class of la benevolat et sa gestion, aka a class about nonprofits in france, today. the prof is easy to understand, sympathetic to foreigners (harder to find in a prof than i expected)and i'm with two cool german girls too. emily made deb and me a surprise dinner... of southern food! homeade bbq chicken sandwiches, coleslaw and corn, topped off with strawberry soda and eclaires, mmm.
i spent the day getting ready for deanna, my friend from UNT studying in scotland, to arrive in le mans. on my way to pick her up from the train station, she calls me from a stranger's phone (hers isn't working for some reason) to say she missed her train, the last one of the night. i scramble, and thankfully get a hold of one of the couchsurfing guys who says she can crash at his place for the night. i spend the next couple hours getting ready to leave and arranging a ticket for her to come at 6:30 the next morning. turns out, i'm getting fairly sick, with some sort of throat-nose-cough-mucous thing that has been going around campus. with 4 hours of sleep under my belt, i'm on my way to pick her up again and she calls to say she missed this train too. we agree to just meet up in paris, and forget her coming to le mans altogether.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


i wrote and sent out my first mail today!
deb came by with felix and asked me to kitty-sit while she was in class for an hour and a half, and it was the longest i've ever spent alone with a cat. a couple girls have decided to claim him until a home can be found; there's a good chance he may just stay smuggled in the dorms until they leave. i needed to run a couple errands around campus, and i totally became one of those girls who carries a small cute animal in her purse. he loved it- when i came back to my room, he stayed in there cat napping for 45 minutes. deb came back with another girl who was a vet's assitant for two years to give him a checkup, and turns out the lil guy's got a tapeworm and infested with fleas. awesome for him, and for me who then did two loads of laundry to rid my room of them. for the second time, i stained all my laundry! argh, the machines here are completely different and now a bunch of my stuff and the school's sheets are stained pink/red/blue/purple. on the upside, a white blouse i had is now this really great slate/baby blue.
tonight was my second danse societe class, and it was fun again. meeting more people in it, and getting better at swin/rock and roll and cha-cha. there are a couple showoffs that annoy me, but they're great dancers and way better to be led by them versus the other limp noodles. i tried to play some country music for my teacher and school her on how we do it in the south, but we had technical difficulties- next week!
i cooked dinner with some french girls and my brazilian friend tonight, and learned a lot of random and offensive slang. i spent the night getting ready for paris stuff, and for deanna! she goes to unt with me, is in the same small group at the same church, and is studying abroad now as well. she comes in tomorrow night from dundee, scotland for the night and then paris for the weekend!
today was tuesday, and i got to sleep in. i only have one class tuesday, and it's at night; so my weekend is friday from 11am until tuesday at 6pm! i met up with a french guy for lunch, and his name is arnaud. it seems this is a common french name for guys, i've already met two and only know like 6 french guys. we ate the french cafeteria version of asian food, and for dessert i had a donut/pain au chocolat thing. he's pretty cool, the first average french guy i've met. on our way out, i met some of his political-type friends who were passing out fliers to privatize the postal system. and i totally succeeded with my first joke in french, with the french! score. humor is difficult to translate; even if it's actually quite funny, the wong choice or order of words, slow delivery and bad pronunciation just make it fail. they reminded me of my kooky denton guy friends, and i liked that.
an hour later, deborah comes knocking on my door for the sole purpose of soliciting my help to get a kitty out of a huge tree. really. for about an hour we try to find guys we know to hoist me into said tree for its rescue, to no avail, and i go back home. two hours after this, i'm on my way to language class and i see about 10 girls i know under this tree with felix, the boy they has just saved. he is CUTE- i've never had a cat or liked them much, but kittens are different :)
class tonight was good- turns out, i was able to take one class geared for non native speakers, and we spend all of class talking and reading about each other's countries. i'm starting to see the two men who specialize in teaching french as second language are pretty good at offending foreigners and producing stereotypes. only one was directed at americans, that none of us have the physical capability of rolling our "r's" in french. thirty minutes later, the prof asked my nationality and was super embarassed when he realized he had been rude. the longer i'm here, the more different nationalities people assume i am: at first, american, then canadian, most recently german and spanish. nice.
i stayed up until 2:30 watching one of the dumbest movies of all time with three americans. it's called hot rod, and it's about a crummy stuntman; it was the best source of dumb humor i've run across in a while.