Wednesday, September 30, 2009


after sleeping in gloriously late, i spent several hours with friends outside on a blanket. favorite part: alinike, who is dutch, started playing proud mary on her guitar, while i drummed on someone's journal and some americans and germans sang the lyrics.
tonight was la forum jeunesse, a huge free event with entertainment designed for high school- thirty year old's amusement. i went to two concerts that night, both for famous bands of several men. the first played something like ska-oldies-techno country-rock, and all the members were either transvestites or just truly weird. my favorite guy wore a pink cowboy hat, no pants, sunglasses and a floor length tan fur coat. emily and i left our friends in the back and snaked our way to the front, joining a congo line and dancing with the real fans. i was surprised how quiet the crowd was and how much personal space was available- my ears weren't ringing from people shouting and no one was up in my grill, it was great. the second band is called IAM, and they;re from le mans and a hugely successful rap group. once they started, the crowd changed completely and became more like an american concert- crowd surfing, flag waving, yelling, people needing to get a room, no personal space- home sweet home? we stayed for a couple hours, and spent an hour and a half trying to get back home. nice night

crepe parties should be every friday

after the blowout last night, i had class early friday morning. my new friend whose name i don't remember totally hooked me up with all her notes from the week before- none of it seemed familiar! it was like we were at two different classes. thankfully, nice students exist to help me not fail.
tonight was french friend chloe's birthday dinner. she invited a couple friends to her home and taught us how to make crepes; it should have been an episode on the food network. after demonstrating how to make the batter (while we see her mom has already cooked a gargantuan stack of crepes for us), she asks everyone to try and make a crepe. we sat down and chowed down on just crepes, with sugar, nutella, plum marmalade, plum jam,cream honey (miel) and whip cream for toppings. mmmmmmm.
throughout the meal, she busted out several french drinks for us to try. the first two were alcoholic apple cider- not spiked, it was something else- with 2.5 % and a 5%, both good. this type of cider and crepes are native to the bretagne region, so we had a legit breton meal. then she brought out some sort of local beer- best beer i've ever tried. next was a cherry liqour with whole fruit in it, homeade. there were two- one that was older and way more fermented, i tried both. then there was a prune after dinner drink, served with a big ole honkin shriveled, black, nasty prune in the glass. both the fuirt drinks she said were about 20% alcoholic content. to top everything off, she passed around the french equivalent to moonshine, i forgot what it was called. she said to put a couple drops on a sugar cube, stick it in coffee and eat it. you know it has to be strong if the french only put a drop or two- i found out later it's like absinthye, and illegal, at 60%.

thursday- oh man...

so thursday was semi-epic in a lot of ways. first, i woke up super early to make it to my history class, but then somehow i forgot where it was. i asked students, faculty, department heads and custodians, and with all that i just became more confused and never found the class. what a lame reason to miss class- not even skipping or sleeping in!
then emily and i headed to town to take care of some this and thats. i found out i had a package waiting for me at the main post office in town, and set out to find it. it's only two streets away from a familiar tram stop, quite close; 3 hours after we got off the tram, we finally found it. we kept getting all sorts of bad directions, and then confusing the good directions, from nice strangers. thankfully, neither of us had concrete plans and were able to spend them time searching.
about an hour into our quest, we were speaking english when a woman crossing the street looked behind at us oddly. when we reached the curb, she asked in english if either one of us was interested in being an english-speaking babysitter! this was completely divine- two days before this, i head learned getting a job with my length of time here and adminstrative nonsense was basically impossible; my only shot was being a babysitter. however, i don't know any families, and to be a babysitter through the city means i have to buy a special kind of insurance, translate my resume, have letters of recommendation, and then if a parent wants a babysitter to pick me when i am available through a huge binder of students. so basically, this woman was a direct answer to prayer. we had time on our hands, so we followed her to her flat and she gaves us cokes (i was craving one and about to buy one). awesome. anywho, hours after that, i get my package from my parents and it is perfect!!!!!!
we arrive back on campus just in the nick of time for the second annual "trott and dance." this, my friends, is the most ridiculous and fun spectacle i've been a part of since arriving in le mans. the athletics department hosts this 2k walk/4k run early evening, and those who participate can go to a party in the tennis gym that night. the party is basically a school sponsored, booze infested techno dance party with too much strobe lights and no AC that lasted until 4am. anything that is coming to your mind probably happened there. it's so strange; it seems like because this is the one big party the school throws all year, the french save up their wild streaks for one night. i had a blast, and was definitely one of the only sober people there. i was supposed to start a class that night; but the campus postponed every class in honor of la fete!

wellllll: monday - wednesday

so, in procrastinating blogging, i forgot a lot. so last monday, tuesday and wednesday i definitely did things but obviously nothing important enough to remember and therefore worth sharing. i did have my first dance class wednesday night- it's all the famous partner dances, and we did swing (they call it rock and roll here) then cha-cha. after class i talked to the teacher about country dancing, and she asked me to show ehr some next week!

Monday, September 21, 2009

sunday, first sabbath

i went to a church this morning for service. michel goes to this protestant church downtown that is comprised of mostly french and africans. i went with a friend, and the first hour and half was singing, followed by half an hour of communion and a sermon, then another hour of singing. the music was in french, but similar to african gospel. i loved that the three women singing wore bright traditional north african dresses (with glittery spike heels, too) and that about every song some man in the congregation would yell out an ay-ay-ay. i realy enjoyed taking communion with the believers, and i liked that the entire sermon was about Jesus and scriptures with miracles. it was way long and loud though; glad i went, but it was exhausting.
for dinner, i made a cheeseburger! i found a beef patty with onions at the store, added my new "texmex" seasoning, sprinkled swiss cheese on top, drowned it in ketchup, served in on a dry wheat loaf of bread and enjoyed baby dill pickles soaked in vinegar on the side. not the same as back home, but really yummy. i spent the rest of the day outside alternating between doing homework and being happily distracted by friends joining me. i got to talk to my parents on skype for the first time, and that was long and joyful.

some kinda saturday

today was another international group exploration of the town day. met up with 4 czechs, 3 romanians, 3 americans and my dutch girl alineke and we saw l'abbaye d'epau on the other side of town. it's a twelth century abbaye, now just a relic, but it's reverently and classicaly pretty. the grounds were spacious with plenty of natural green, and it instantly reminded me of a scene from the beginning of(disney's) "beauty and the beast," where belle runs into her backyard/forest, singing, "there must be more than this provincial life!" there was a fashion show/display inside several rooms of the abbaye, with dresses made out of wood, miniature house models and eerie hanging childrens' gowns. it was nice to see the exhibits, but they were in a place that men and women renounced all material things and wore the same habits every day; it was a bad kind of irony...
j'ai fait mes devoirs, my first homework assignment. i have to read about 14 pages of a small history book within a week; sounds simple, but with looking up words and comprehending what i have to read, it took me 20-30 minutes to read one page. i juggled some of this with a nap, and then met up with the crew again for our third night of the light show, le nuit des chimieres avec le son-et-lumiere. so cool! we spent about two hours watching the shows on the cathedral and old roman walls. this kind of thing is popoular in this region, the loire valley, during the summer and can cost up to 10 euros to watch one show; in le mans, it ended this weekend, there are 6 shows and all are free. then we met up with the two ukranian dimitri's (or dima's), who are really funny guys that act like an old married couple, and had hot chocolate at a cafe.


i had my first geography of france class this morning. i liked how slow the professor talked, and i sat next to a really nice french girl who is goin to let me copy her notes. i have a lab componenet, and there is chaos in determining which of the four labs i get. it would be confusing to even type the process of figuring the class time. i think i'm going to like the subject, but there are tons of big numbers said quicjly, and it takes me a loooong time to convert numbers in my head.
met up again with brigitte to talk about classes for two and a half hours; we talked a lot, but nothing was accomplished or significant for me. i got my french cell phone today! it's pay as you go, which i've never done, and i'm not sure how long it will last or how many calls and texts i have; i just paid a certain amount for credit, and depending on which countries i contact/contact me, for however much time or words of text, will eventually just use all my money up. nice and vague, french style. i also bought a reduced train ticket card- if i use it correctly, every time i buy a train ticket for traveling i can save up to 60%! i came back to campus and took a placement test to determine which level of a language class i would be competent in. turns out, i already took half the test during the crash course; had i finished the other half, i could have saved two hours on a friday night of french test taking. i'm consistently so close to having things figured out here, but usually not close enough...
i made a massive supermarket food run and discovered the "international cuisine" aisle. it had all the american condiments like ketchup, tons of old el paso brand mexican stuff, german pickles and such- so basically, my favorite place to be. i got SO MUCH FOOD it was amazing. my favorite buy was four different dessert delicacies, which were all gone pretty quick. i bought stinky french cheese, three kinds, and a french brand of cereal similar to "smacks" in the states but called "croc bizz" here. i came back just in time to avoid pouring rain, but it had been months since i played in the rain, so deb and i frolicked in the chilly downpour awhile. i had been invited to hit up a french reggae concert, which i was intrigued and excited about, but ended up relaxing with deb and emily watching "the man in the iron mask" with french subtitles and drinking english breakfast tea instead

Friday, September 18, 2009


i had my second class today, histoire contemporaine. seems like a great class, light work load, i can understand the professor when he speaks. however, in the first ten minutes of class, he stopped mid-sentence to ask why i wasn't takng notes, just listening. he proceeded to be rude and mocked me- not cool- and i couldn't think quickly enough in french to explain that i was trying to understand everything before writing it. at least he thought i was a french girl; otherwise hopefully he wouldn't have been a jerk if he knew the situation.
i met a french guy named arnaud today, who is a pilot and learning english to fly in canada. i had a raisin croissant with him and some americans, went downtown for a couple hours, came back and napped before dinner. i discovered a north african restaurant, and pulled all the americans together for a reunion dinner there. i had a starter course of six sampler things, including something like fried banana bread mix, circular veggie roll type thing and fried plantains. the main course was chicken in an olive-lime-onion thick orange sauce with rice. dessert was an incredibly satisfying mango icecream. i won't be eating like this often- northern france is very expensive. it was a nice treat made possible by my fantastic friend chrissy back in texas :)
then i went to the irish pub again with the other internationals- it's really all they've found to do so far at nights, and it's already getting boring even though the company is hilarious. i tried a banana soda called a diabolo, and a shot called mon cheri. favorite part of the night was when they played sweet home alabama on the speakers- i was ecstatic to the point of annoying my friends.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

pictures of all travels so far, not life in le mans, up on facebook
and if it seems like i write a lot, it's because i'm using this also as my travel log-journal, for myself; no obligation or insinuation that you msut read them all :)


no class again today, so i got to sleep in! it was glorious. more admin stuff; i'm pretty sure it's my other new favorite pasttime, and it's definitely not ending anytime in the next couple weeks. i listened to a podcast from mark driscoll about what proverbs had to say about authentic friendships, and chewed on that for the day.
i forgot about a great trip i made to town tuesday, but i'm just going to combine it in the trip i made wednesday too. i met up with deb and emily to go downtown to see a movie. apparently i don't know how to read movie times, so plan B was to explore the town instead. i tried to buy school books, and learned that both my credit cards and debit card don't work, but i can withdraw moeny from an atm without any fees.
for food: we discovered a scrumptious patisserie with the cutest mini cakes and tartines, and i bought an opera. it's inspired by the paris opera house, known for its opulence and exquisite detail; some chef decades ago baked a 6 or 7 layer cake of caramel, coffee, chocolate and crust in its honor, it became famous and is easily found in france today. it was yummy :) we found a cute icecream place, and i bought melon (cantelope) flavored goodness. there is a mcdonald's by the tram, and for grins we popped in see what it was like. turns out, it's very modern, plays great music, has trendy and comfortable furniture and it's oddly clean. the girls bought some food, and we sat down in awe and confessed we might have to keep coming back, in spite of the fact that's it's a mcdonald's. the menu is definitely more french; i've been to mcdonald's in hong kong, china, france, switzerland and across the states and i'm impressed with how they cater their food choices a bit to the area they are located. after seeing their fresh fries, i got a hankering for a kabob, which is like a gyro pita from a street vendor in the states, but the meat is slightly different, sauces are more north african and fries are served on top.
once back on campus, claudia and i got together for dinner and french practice. we cooked italian and drank asian tea. i met up with the americans and saw a short play on campus, and it was no bueno. it was some form of social or political acitivism, but executed poorly and we didn't get it (plus a permanent stench of BO, worse than the normal bad french smell of groups). the girls and i finished taxi, and it was great. sleep early, i have my second class tomorrow!

monday & tuesday

no classes monday, just admin stuff and hanging out with friends.
tuesday i had french grammar class followed by lab, and that was difficult. the prof, who seemed my age, spoke quietly and quickly and basically talked about every element of grammar we could cover. intense. the good news is a ton of the germans another american are in it with me.
i met a cool girl from the netherlands and she let me borrow taxi (french movie, not the cheesy american one with jimmy fallon and queen latifah). on my way to get emily with deborah, who is from missouri, we stumbled upon a choir show. it was all adults, all in french, and very amusing. that was my favorite hour of people watching since i've gotten in europe, for sure- epic characters and people. the climax of the performance was hearing the lion king's "circle of life," with the beginning in swahili, the rest in french and me whispering the lyrics in english- all in classic choir style. after picking emily up from her dorm, we ran into 9 or 10 tunisians celebrating ramadan, dorm style, in the kitchen. i taught a guy named smiles, who let me taste his food, how to two step. they were a hoot, i'm excited to hang with them. we finally made it to my room, and deb shared her rillettes with us. it's a specialty of this region, and it's basically precooked and pulled pork jammed in lard and served cold. it was surprisingly good- i'm skeptical of a lot of meat eaten here, but that wasn't bad. we started the movie, a comedy about a pizza delivery guy who becomes a taxi driver and tricks out his car for racing and then helps the cops capture bank robbers. halfway through, we called it a night


emily and i woke up early and spent several hours in downtown/centre ville/ vieux mans. we discovered the regional archeaological museum, which was free for students (europeans know how to treat students right!) and filled with tons of amazing things dating several thousand years ago, all from this part of france. we went to our first market, which was half food and half antique/secondhand goods. i bought some juicy nectarines, green olive basil tapenade, all natural grape juice without additives, pimento cold sausage, fresh green beans and a french pig-in-a-blanket. after a satisfying grocery trip, we checked out the interior of the cathedral for the first time. saint julien was built in three major stages in history, so the architechture is this great combination. there are dozens of stained glass windows, two massive organs, about a dozen smaller alcoves dedicated to different saints and two tombs of famous frenchmen. we were too late for mass, but two teenage boys were playing one of the organs and we just sat and listened, reading about its history beginning in the fifth century.
i came back and joined claudia, a swell german girl, for three hours of relaxing in the sun outside. we talked, read, laid and swapped chocolate and cookies. then i met up with michel from gabon and we swapped some christian music. i stayed up late finishing le petit prince, potentially the most famous french kid's book of all time. i started reading this 800-something page book on the history of the christian faith, and it's fascinating.

Monday, September 14, 2009


I mentioned to several people last night that we should get together the next day, take advantage of our temporarily unlimited tram pass and explore town. Twenty people showed up. One thing that I find interesting is the most common language tie between all the foreigners is English, and many of the other Europeans prefer to speak that when we hang out. So in awkward Franglish, we went to the Republique again and stumbled upon a gargantuan market of everything you can think of. We spent an hour wandering around, and I bought my first French crepes- with Nutella, mmmmm. Then we took the tram (which is new, quiet, energy efficient and sleek looking) to the furthest point possible, the east part of town, and hit up Aux Espace Naturel. It’s basically a preserved and city-slicker-éfriendly park, with tons of farm animals, a water museum, a stream and such. The weather was perfect, the scenery was beautiful, and after more than three hours we still didn’t see everything that we could have. I got to explain what cow tipping is, take a picture of my German friend touching a horse for the first time and had a dandelion flower necklace made for me: lovely.
I came back exhausted, and spent an hour outside relaxing on the grass. I love outside napping here, because there aren’t a lot of bugs, there aren’t stickers in the grass and it’s more than common to see people just hanging out under trees all the time. I ran into my friend Michel from Gabon and shared a quick dinner, and then I met up with the group again for round three of downtown exploration. We went again to the light show in Vieux Mans and wandered around checking out various places to hang out until the last tram left for the night. I was humbled by two cool Ukrainians, a girl who speaks four languages who has taken French less than a year than me but comprehends better than me and a guy who didn’t know what a washing machine was. We walked into five places, all different, and didn’t end up buying anything anywhere. There was the Irish place again, “Jazz” club playing techno, hippy- indie bar where everyone wore black, a fun place with great music that was too crowded, and lastly a place that literally had black lights and gargoyles inside for ambiance. Emily and I came back home with some energy still left and watched Kate & Leopold. Perfect day.


My first weekend day in Le Mans! I spent three hours attempting French, my last crash course class. For lunch I experienced my first French dorm food (cheap, amazing French fries, good food) with some other international kids. Then, after my third visit to a bank and waiting two hours, I successfully opened a bank account! I’m pretty sure that waiting is my new unofficial hobby; I’ll be in the minor leagues with my patience skills when I get back to Texas, hopefully. Another couple of hours of schedule forming, totaling a good thirty hours of schedule prep so far for this semester, and it isn’t finished yet.
Then I left campus for first time since I arrived! I met up with an odd but fantastic mix of Ukrainians, Bulgarians, Czechs, English, Americans, Germans and one Romanian and all thirty something of us took the tram to the Place de la République, which is the downtown. I followed the masses into my first French bar, which of course was actually an Irish pub called Mulligan’s. I was supposed to meet up with Chloe soon afterwards, so a couple of Americans and I just stopped in and then met up with her.
She took us to the famous Cathedral Saint Julien, the only catholic church that makes up for its solidarity with its intense and massive presence. I saw my first son-et-lumiére show, which is basically an awesome laser light show projected on the outside walls of the cathedral. These shows are all the rage at castles, especially during the summer, so I was so excited to see one before they were gone for the year. There were six different displays, two of which I didn’t see, and we spent about an hour and a half watching living art, a dragon slaying, interpretive dance and angels singing on the walls of some buildings dating as far back as the fifth century. Incredible.
Then Chloe wanted to show us her favorite place to go out at night, and it happened to be the place we had visited earlier. We stayed until the last tram was leaving for the night, for an hour or two, and I tried some cocktail called la planteur. Still intrigued that anything with alcohol in public costs less than water, soda or juice. My favorite moment was when Queen’s “We Will Rock You” came on the radio, and admired the medley of people from so many places, united in an Irish pub in France, pounding tables to a song from a British band.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


Two more classes, 6 hours, of French. My philosophy is that if it’s insanely difficult then I’ll just learn and get that much better. That’s what I keep telling myself… I had an unexpectedly great lunch with two new friends, guys from Gabon (Africa) and southern France. We live on the same floor and met while cooking, then shared what we made and swapped stories in both English and French. Then I spent another three hours working on my schedule, only waiting thirty minutes this time. I scarved (scarffed?) down a bag of cheese flavored Doritos and salsa (must start making my own salsa and tortilla chips), then watched the Princess Diaries 2 at Emily’s place and went to bed happy.


The campus is quite large for only having 8,000 students; they designed the buildings manifest destiny style so the campus might be bigger than UNT’s acreage for 35,000. There are a good amount of trees, a couple of hills, and really tacky 80’s architecture with 60’s pastel paint buildings. I live in one of the five dorms, and my window faces the basketball court.
Today I had two language courses (six hour French immersion), next to a handful of fellow foreigners from Ukraine, Czech Republic, England, Germany and Bulgaria. Still hard. Then I spent three hours working on my class schedule (one hour waiting on Brigitte). I was exhausted and crashed early.


Today I woke up bright and early for more paperwork fun, without the above mentioned body products, and waited on the yet again late coordinator. She means well, but her job description is too large for one person. Thank God that there are some French students who out of insanely generous hearts volunteer to help us set up the things that we aren’t told to do but expected to- plus they’re funny and translate really well. Besides Chloe, we’ve met Marine and Laura who are both absolutely lovely.
More mundane madness. I visit computer labs three times to set up my internet account and campus wifi, and somehow none of those times it was accomplished. The French keyboard is entirely different; so I get to relearn how to type all over again. I went to set up my bank account, but more bureaucratic silliness. I tried to sign up and pay for sports, and pay but can’t sign up. I tried to do laundry; but before that can happen, in a different building, I have to visit the office and do some more silly things to get a key to get a card to schedule a time slot on days they choose. C’est la vie.
I went to my first French language crash course, which is three hours of straight language which I’ve never done and was slightly overwhelming. After this, I ate and went to bed. They were so great as to supply me with bedding, but it all smells and has funny colored stains on it. My first night here I lay down with my airline blanket and bed-wetter bed case, and slept amazingly.
There have been some great little rays of sunshine over the last two days. I met some great Americans, southerners too, who have stumbled along with me the past couple days. Two strapping young Frenchmen helped me carry half of my stuff to my dorm. Chloe is an ironic angel, standing several inches taller than my pretty short self and dropping American curse words with a French accent as often as possible. She has saved me time, stress and money chauffeuring me around town. I have an ID with a picture I kinda like. I bought yellow roses, because they were two Euros and reminded me of Texas. I decorated my room with all my scarves strategically placed around pipes, window panes, florescent lighting, a cupboard, a chair, overhead light and two pillows as cases. I was able to buy a new converter at all, which are hard to find in Europe for American plugs, for only three Euros. I have had yummy and healthy food. My neighbors, however many are here, aren’t loud. I wasn’t the worst in language class. I helped an Arab guy on campus find the bibliotheque (one third in French, one third in English and one third in gestures and grunts) and it made my day. I’m already almost used to all the walking. I only walk up two flights of stairs to get to my room, unlike students who walk five or six in buildings here without elevators. As far as I know, no one has cussed me out in French. I have great health. I got a quick encouraging email from a fellow sister in Christ. They have coconut soda here.
I’ve been reading, focusing and praying through the mindset that God lets nonsense come about and continue, not just so we can be put in our places and be glad that he saves but also so we can rejoice in the hurricane. It’s not just about getting through it as quickly as possible and asking our Dad to help us avoid as much drama and heartache as possible. If as a Christian I believe that nothing separates me from God, like in Romans 8:38-39, and that all things work for the good of those who know the Lord, then the ridiculous things are just another element of my growth. They are often answers to prayers- what better way to become more patient than for God to set up numerous obstacles in which all you can do is throw a tantrum or be patient? I’m terribly relieved that the disappointments, loneliness, confusion, desperation and such all are intentionally part of the greater scheme of things and are just refining me in this temporary life.

Monday- first day in Le Mans

So, Le Mans has been interesting. God has definitely provided more than enough for me, but it’s been a quirky and frustrating last 48 hours. I arrived at the train station Monday around noon and thankfully met up with Chloe, my first (super nice and amusing) French friend, who was also picking up my new friend and Arkansas native Emily. The French pretty much always take two hour lunch breaks, so we waited about that amount of time to arrive on campus.
Once we went to the university, I received my first dose of painfully inefficient and slow administration. After taking care of some necessary official nonsense, I waited about two more hours with promises from the coordinator that any minute she was ready for the next step. By the time she stepped, everything had just shut down for the day. Basically, all businesses and institutions work three hours in the morning and hit up the office for another three hours at night (though the first and last thirty minutes of each day they don’t see people, so anything that doesn’t involve a restaurant or bar is really only open 5 hours a day).
Then I began settling into my nest. Great news is I have my own room and bathroom, with a bed, desk, chair, mini fridge and windows that open and have metal covers. The intriguing part is it is all within a 9 meter zone; my entire living space is smaller than my sister Leslie’s closet. I opened the bathroom door with the excitement that comes with a twentysomething’s first personal bathroom. With extreme fascination, I realized I could easily use the sink, take a shower and use the toilet without even completely extending any limbs. While exploring my new territory, I twist on the sink faucet, trying out the levers, and learned how to turn the shower on (the shower curtain was open; I was fully dressed and sufficiently soaked). The cuisinette is conveniently located two doors away, and it’s pretty cute and clean but without an oven (no fresh homemade desserts for me).
In my various stages of unpacking, I realize I left the most basic things in Lyon: contact case, contact solution, deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste and the oh so important plug adaptor for my gadgets… all after I take a two and a half hour grocery trip. The next day’s second grocery run, I learn the French are wary of people buying contact solution or even the plastic cases over the counter; they are only sold in pharmacies, which were also closed. Both times Chloe drove me and the other numb and lost American students (I think there are eight of us that we know of). In France, if you don’t bring your own bags you have to buy them (starting at 3 cents per bag), so we stocked up. Shopping carts cost one euro to operate (deposit, you get it back), mostly because they are really nifty and don’t want people to steal them as easily; a nice security man gave me a fake plastic euro to trick the machine for times I don’t have change on me.

Monday, September 7, 2009

last day in lyon, sunday

today i went to my first church service in france, but in no way is it the typical service. it's a small church that just started here, with a north african immigrant/muslim background friendly approach. it was cool singing in french, translating in my head into english, and all the while hearing arabic songs with shrill ay-ay-aye's and drumming. the family from friday dinner was there, and their dog actually died while we were all there so the day ended a little differently than planned. the service was about an hour, and then we shared a potluck lunch that didn't involve us leaving for about 3 more hours. i'm trying to adjust to eating slowly and making meals a 4 hour event, but it's hard especially because i can never eat enough in their eyes (4 hours! goodness, how do they make room in their stomachs?!?) i don't even know what i ate, there was so much and most of it new to my tastebuds.
after an afternoon siesta, nicole took me around town and to her favorite overlook of the city, in the hip and artsy croix rouge district. we meandered for hours, but my favorite moment was finishing a supposedly american style cheeseburger while watching salsa dancers outside next to a grand statue/fountain designed by the same guy who made the statue of liberty. i told her about snipe hunting over my beck beer (not so good) and now i get to pack again for my train to le mans tomorrow morning!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

lyon, saturday

quel un bon weekend! saturday late morning nicole took me to the neighborhood fresh food market, where i bought a cherry tart, almond nuggat cube, several types of olives, fresh blackberries and she stocked up on cheeses for dinner.
we met up with christa at vieux (old) lyon and i ate my first intensely french restaurant meal, at a typical lyonnaise bouchon tucked away from cars and felow tourists. for 15 euros i got bread, an entree, main course, desert, wine and coffee- great deal. i ate ratatouille (famous vegetable dish), roasted duck, a bite of the scallopped potatoes (potatoes make me vomit), creme brulee, red, white and rose wines, and topped of the meal drinking expresso with chocolate on the side.
then we walked up to the most famous church in lyon, dedicated to Jesus' mom mary because the people believe she saved them from an epic cholera epidemic that swept over europe several hundred years ago. this church may be the most obscenely-majestic-distracting-misuse of money-famous tourist attraction in the city-cathedral i've ever heard of. the inside has remarkably detailed mosaics depicting famous moments of lyon christian history through time; a crypt dedicated to Jesus' dad joseph; gold plated or carved everything. in all the art and wording, mary is given more respect and worship than Jesus, which was unsettling: in case anyone wondered who the building was most about, a giant statue of mary sits on the highest part of the roof worth around ten million.
that was followed by a visit to saint jean's cathedral, which is a gorgeous and reverent place with stained glass windows dating half a millieum ago telling stories from the bible because most people were illiterate. we showed up 20 minutes after it closed, but an extremely nice north african man let us in for a private quick tour (his key to lock up looked like it belonged in a story book). also, for up to about 20 feet all the stone angels and saints were missing heads from mobs making statements during political uprisings.
and next to this lovely place was the ruins of the first christian church ever in lyon, from 170. the original baptismal rock formation/pool is still somewhat intact, but most had been destroyed by persecution and time. amazing. we also visited the ruins from two huge theaters from the thirteenth century.
christa i continued our cobble stoned historic tour of lyon and visited two theater ruins from the thirteenth century, which was great. then she showed me secret passageways that connected the entire section of the city, dating from the fifteenth century, used especially by spies during occupation and the revolution. the first one had a fantastic sprial staircase towards the end and what had become a medieval merchandise store. christa and i tried imagine what it would have been like to see actual knights in the same place we were, just hundreds of years ago. after some trinket shopping, we headed back and passed a church dedicated to saint gabriel (or george?). now gabe was canonized for slaying a dragon, so the most noticeable carving is above the entrance doors of him dominating the beast. we passed tons of more fountains; one day when it's warm, i'll come back and play in every single fountain in this city. the night ended with a cheese/wine/bread dinner with two of christa's el salvadorian friends from school.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

lyon, thursday and friday

on thursday, i left marseille and mes nouveaux amis (my new friends) thursday on another tgv fast train to lyon, which is the food capital of france and located in the southeast. i wound up seated next to a frenchman named jean-mark, who is a christian evangelist on his way to switzerland for ministry (i think- his french was super fast). he was loud and nice, two things americans love. the trip was painless and the route gorgeous. when we got to the station, i accidentally said "Dieu blesse-toi," which actually ment Gid hurt you not bless you; hopefully he knew what i meant.
i met christa, a friend of a friend from denton, who is an energetic canadian missionary that has visited over 30 countries and spent the last 7 years living in yemen, oman and france. we took the metro to the apartment she shares with fellow canadian missionary nicole, and immediately fell asleep. that night, nicole took me out to see the town. i grabbed an algerian kabob sandwhich, a cherry coke and a teeny chocolate truffle and we ate on the bank of the rhone river as the sun set over the water. we crossed the rhone and sone rivers as she showed me fountains, explained art, gave the political background of statues and pointed out great places to eat and shop.
friday morning i ventured out on my own while they did arabic and french language things, making my goal to check out this old abbaye. it was closed when i got there, so i roamed the streets awhile until christa and i left to mural hunt. back in the 1930's, this architect/artist named tony garnier was comissioned to create visually appealing low income housing on the oustkirts of town. he invited famous artists to come and paint the sides of some buildings, and around 23 murals still exist in this fairly ghetto but quaint looking area; now, a traditinal lyonnaise thing is these and more than 60 other murals around town. they were pretty cool, especially some that were themed after ideal cities in mexico, russia and canada (the u.s. one was ugly!).
then i spent a good 6 hours with a french/tunisian family of five in their home. the meal was unintentionally representative of the cultures present: amazing african meatballs, french baguette and deep-fried american french fries. the entire time was spent listening and speaking french; and because the family is half immigrant, they were incredibly patient and encouraging in my slow processing and talking. the dad wanted to talk american politics, which was great considering i couldn't understand what he was saying and i don't enjoy that topic. as they were a part of an arabic community church and all believers, we ended the night praying for each other. it was my first time praying in french and hearing prayers in french- pretty cool and exhausting. i love the acceptance and unity that can exist among christians who are strangers- because we're family, there can be authenticity and hospitaliy like none other.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

last (full) day in marseille

today i totally picked up a new massive suitcase, two sundresses and a winter dress for ridiculously cheap costs at the local market. then the girls and i headed to a 350 year old hospice designed by famous marseillaise architects for the travelers and homeless, which was pretty cool. it houses two museums- mediterranean archaeology and oceanic/american indian/ african art- split up by different rooms in the now empty hospice. i saw all kinds of fascinating old stuff, but i was most intrigued by the egyptian wing with tons of mummified things! cats, ibises, crocodiles, dogs, a hand and an entire body, still in tact under some nasty and surely rank smelling bandaging.
then we met up with a friend for some fantastic beach time and more icecream. this particular one had millions of small pebbles, a couple dozen topless middle aged and older women, countless speedos, and way chilly water even during a summer day. i only saw one seagull the entire time we were there, which was different than my corpus memories, and it was BEASTLY huge.
i discovered the show "so you think you can dance," and we watched several recordings of it over dinner and dessert. for the third consecutive night we were out late doing things, again not to be explained in detail online for security reasons. time to pack again, i'm heading for lyon to meet christa tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

tuesday, marseille

after sleeping in from a late night, we headed to the vieux (old)port to check out the scene. we stopped at a french asian fast food place, where i learned that milkshakes here consist of milk just shaken up. courtney introduced kate and i to her favorite cookie store, where i tasted almonds and chocolate made to look like provencial olives, a cinammon cookie and a dark chocolate cookie that reminded me of mexican wedding cookies. i wanted to go see remains of the old docks from centuries ago which is next to a marseille history museum, and discovered it's inside a huge mall. i met my first gypsies, and bought some famous marseille soap and lavender. then i successfully navigated the metro and bus system by myself to see the notre dame de la gare, which towers over the top of the city and offers a spectacular view of the area. the crypts were amazing, the inside walls covered with paintings, and hundreds of candles filled the foyer. i met up with the girls and joined their friends for weekly bible study and dinner. then we continued night two of the same things i can't type freely about, and now i'm hittin the hay

manic monday

i spent ten hours traveling monday to marseille: two german metro stops, three trains/metros in paris, and a final arrival. miraculously, i didn't miss any connections, met lots of minorly helpful strangers, didn't lose/break/have stolen anything, and the vomitting and crying i felt coming throughout the process didn't actually happen. i met for the first time the lovely kate, who i met through a friend of a friend online and is so gracious as to let me crash at her place and tour the town with her. we made it to her flat, which is a ten minute walk to the beach, and met her roomie courtney. both girls are americans in the their mid twenties living here as missionaries, which makes it that much more incredible that they made time and effort to take me in and hang with me around town. we grocery shopped and they made a fantastic dinner (multiple sides with chicken with figs in a sweet wine and a bagette for each person). kate and i hit up the beach after sunset (which is like 10pm and sunrise is well before 6am), and the mediterranean is CHILLY even in summer. the shore was peppered with carnival attractions, playgrounds, little bars and restaurants with people relaxing in the warm summer breeze. then we met up with some of their fellow missionaries and participated in some truly cool things that can't be written openly about online. some of you know what one of the girls is trying to do here and fill in the gaps; for other who know me really well, just use your imagination of things i may be passionate about and can take place in red light districts that for security reasons aren't wise to post. that said, i'm safe and everything went extraordinarily fantastic!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

sunday, last full day in deutchland

today was a leisurely day closer to stef's home. we slept in, and headed to bingen to wander the wine festival and window shop. i saw several more picturesque castles and churches, and enjoyed walking by the rhine river. we met up with two of her guy friends at an icecream stand, which i'm discovering are all over the place. i tried something that starts with an s- and cherry icecream, and they were yummy. then stef threw a bbq in my honor, in which her parents, sister and boyfriend, and several friends got together at her place. it was quite similar to american bbq's, actually; dad throwing meat on the grill, mom running around preparing the table, setting up extra picnic furniture on the porch, and her friends brought german style potato salad and coleslaw! more excellent food, and some beer mixed with coke. the germans are all about mixing beer with anything you can drink, i'm learning. haha, to top off the party, i busted out some country music and taught them a couple linedances and how to two step. some pictures will eventually find their way to facebook, where i'm going to add all my pictures for people to check out. they caught on quick, especially to boot scoot n'boogie because it's similar to a german club dance. i saw stefi's old recital of traditional german dancing, which was hilarious and reminded me of high school high kick teams, or whatever they're called. sleep was bittersweet, because i was tired but knew it meant i had to wake up at 4:45am and leave my dear friend, tour guide and gracious host