31 December 2009

Bonnes Fêtes!!!

Happy Holidays everyone!
This is just a super quick update to let you all know that I'm still alive and thinking about you!
Robert and I are having an amazing time wandering around Paris together. We've accomplished almost everything on our list! :) There will definitely be a more detailed account of our adventures after break is over and I go back to (hopefully) having nothing to do for a while (I could definitely stand to have nothing to do right about now)

I hope you all had a wonderful christmas and are going to have a happy new year! I will be 7 hours ahead of you in 2010, ringing in the new year when it's just 5pm central time! how odd... Well, everyone have a happy and safe new year! And I will talk to you in twentyten!!!

gros bisous!

05 December 2009

Crunch Time!

Sorry it's been so long!! I don't know why every blog has to start with an apology, but really I am sorry.

Sadly, after returning from England my world has consisted of school, school, and more school. FUN!
I also had a little bout of the flu mixed in there which really didn't help things, but thanks to Dr. Daddy it got cleared up pretty quickly! Let me just say, being sick in a foreign country is not cool. Being sick in French is not cool. Looking down at your thermometer, seeing that it says 38 degrees and knowing that means that you have a fever and not hypothermia is not cool. Although rather amusing sometimes. Ugh, it really was a pain to have to speak French when I was feeling so utterly crappy. And trying to ask for things like gatorade and ritz crackers in french is not an easy feat either! (try it with a 102 degree fever and it gets to be even more fun)
Anyways, enough of my sickness.

I also had my first Thanksgiving not in the US... you know what it consisted of?? 6 hours of class, 2 papers due, and a presentation! My first Thanksgiving where I had any responsibilities other than stuffing my face. Sigh. It was weird. My host family asked me what religious holiday Thanksgiving is. haha. It was weird to explain to them, but it really is just a nice holiday of family, friends, food, and fanks (I mean thanks, but with all the f's I couldn't resist). I think every country should have a Thanksgiving! Who doesn't like to eat and be grateful that you have all this wonderful food to eat?! Anyways, since my 6 hours of class unfortunately take place in the afternoons and at night on thursdays (I'm done at 8:30 but get home around 9:15/30 because that's how long it takes to get back from school. bleh) I didn't do any celebrating on Thanksgiving day. :( On friday though, when I finished with class, I made myself some Stovetop stuffing and jellied cranberry sauce with a chicken breast and sat down to have my own little "Thanksgiving" lunch and watch an episode of Glee. Not too shabby I guess. (chicken was my turkey substitute as it is much more common here). The stuffing and cranberry sauce were bought at a little american grocery store around the corner from one of my schools, appropriately called Thanksgiving! They sell a lot of American must-haves like pancake mix, syrup, oreos, and of course, Thanksgiving fixins. All of it is pretty pricey since it's imported, but it's nice to know that those comforts are out there! They even were taking orders for homemade pies and whole turkeys for the big day! They also have a restaurant upstairs that I want to try sometime. It's open on the weekends and does brunch--either traditional american or CAJUN! I want a little taste of New Orleans back in my life! I'll have to give it a try and tell y'all how it is!

Now, what has been going on lately is me pretty much drowning in schoolwork. The deal is that here in France they don't give you work little by little with one or two big things (like midterms and finals in the US) instead... you do nothing for 2 months and then EVERYTHING is due at once. Now when you're not well informed of this as an American and you don't know the system, this results in major major crunch time that is a little bit less than fun. I know many of you have seen my rather distressed facebook statuses or even gotten a distressed phone call. Know that I am doing okay and keeping my head above water, but just barely. I mean, keep in mind that I am under all the pressure that my American friends in US Universities are right now, but I have to do it all in a foreign language as well as in a foreign system where sometimes the methodology just throws you for a loop! Typical finals stress is all that's going on.
For example, this week I have an essay and make-up test (from when I was sick) due monday, a 5 page paper for anthropology due wednesday, a 6-7 page paper for women's studies due thursday, and another essay due friday. (I was supposed to have another test on thursday but it got moved to after break!! WOO!) But thankfully the finish line is in sight!!! And what is waiting at the finish line, you may ask?
A winter vacation with Robert in Paris, France!! Who could ask for a better Christmas present than that?!?! Robert gets here December 16 (less than two weeks from today!) and is staying until January 8, so we are going to get lots of tourist-ing in! Hopefully he will get to know and love this city as much as I do! Maybe we'll even do a joint blog update to tell y'all of our adventures! haha.

I hope that everyone is handling the end of the semester reasonably well. (I'm trying to keep sane somehow, so encouraging love notes are appreciated!) I want you all to know that I am very thankful for each and every one of you who love and support me from so far away! I love the feedback that I get on the blog and every little note warms my heart and keeps me going! Big shoutout to Kristen McCurdy who sent me the sweetest and most thoughtful care package I have ever received. Thank you too to everyone who is reading France Revisited! My boss keeps emailing me to tell me that I have "fans" who leave me comments! I love that my family are also my fans!
Well, I bid you adieu for a while, while I try to finish up this semester! Hopefully I'll have lots of adventures to tell you about next time! Happy Holidays and Lots of LOVE!

17 November 2009


Hello All!

Hope everyone is still doing well without me! I know y'all are at a loss without me in your lives, but hopefully these peeks into mine help you to push through. ;)

So, what's been up with me lately is that I went to ENGLAND!! I got to speak ENGLISH! And see friends and it was altogether a fantastic trip. I just wrote a blog about it for the France Revisited site (which I hope you all have visited! I already have one blog up!) and hopefully it should be posted soon! If you haven't yet you really should go take a look at the site! It's really cool. And the extracurricular blogtivity section has blogs from me and a few other girls from my program. They're all good writers and have interesting and different perspectives on their time here.

Well, England was amazing. I left Paris on Friday morning at 10AM via the Eurostar train. (I had found a SUPER cheap fare-- 55 euros round trip!!) My trip got off pretty much without a hitch except that the customs lady was just a B*%$#. I had to fill out an immigration card since I'm not a member of the EU, and one of the things that they ask on the card is address where your staying. Well, I was staying with 2 different friends on my trip, and I knew neither of their addresses, so I left it blank. When I got up there, she asked where I was staying and I answered with a friend. She asked the address and I said I didn't know it. She asked why I didn't know it... which is a weird question that you can't really ever answer... and I responded that I just didn't know it. She said that I could be denied entry if I didn't provide an address and then she got all kinds of snippy and said "I wouldn't come into your country without knowing the address of where I was staying, WOULD I?" .... to which I responded "um I guess not???" Since when can you not go somewhere on vacation and decide where you're going to stay when you get there? Does everyone always book their hotel in advance? Anyway, I told her that my friends both lived in dormitories and I could tell her their schools if she liked, but she dismissed this, telling me that I could go through this time, but I was getting off easy... The weird thing is, Steph never had to provide an address when she took the same train service from England to visit me in Paris. Stupid customs... grrrrrr.

Anyway, the train ride was pretty boring. I slept most of the way, mouth agape, probably snoring. But woke up just in time to see the rolling green fields of England, as well as all the sheep!! I think seeing sheep in fields is way cuter than seeing cows, so I just stared out my window at them for the last hour of the train ride. When I got to England I met up with Steph A. from Tulane (I am using the last initial here to differentiate as eventually in this story there will be 2 Stephs). We went and got lunch-- I got some REAL thai food! With spiciness and everything!! So I was happy, and then walked around London a bit until I had to get on the train to Cambridge to meet William! (Will and I went to Country Day together for 13 years, so we're quite good friends. He goes to Cambridge, and this is his last year, so I was really glad to get to visit him!) The train from London to Cambridge is only about 45 min, so it wasn't bad at all. Of course by the time I got there it had started doing that wonderful England cold and misting thing, so that was cool. not. Will and his girlfriend picked me up from the train station.

Friday night we went to what is called "Formal Hall" at Downing College of Cambridge (Will goes to Jesus College, but we went to one of his friend's formal halls). Formal Hall consists of everyone getting dressed up (church attire) and the students wear robes (like a graduation gown kind of) and then you're served a 3 course meal that Will tells me is usually just glorified cafeteria food. This one was not bad though. We had duck for the main course with a vegetable medley and something that was kind of like mashed potatoes? All the students bring a bottle of wine as well which you pay 1 pound to get uncorked and then everyone shares. Formal hall happens a few times a week at each college. The students were asking me if we had anything like this in America and I just laughed... because we really don't. It was very old world.
Anyways, my time in cambridge wasn't too terribly interesting (at least not to write about. I had a lot of fun!) We went to a free museum that had a whole range of different kinds of art. We walked around the town which was very cute and seemed like it had a lot for the students to do. There are a lot of shops. We saw a man make fudge and then got to buy some. We went to a covered market where we bought german hot dogs (yummm) and I got to meet and have dinner with Williams housemates who were all really nice! I was supposed to leave to go back to london to meet my stephs, but as it turned out, the train service was not running because it was "remembrance sunday" which goes along with Armistice Day which was that wednesday (which we call veteran's day). SOoooo, I got to spend the day in Cambridge instead. (which was fine with me since I had commented on leaving that the trip had been too short! careful what you wish for!!)
Monday I made it up to London and met Steph D., a friend from camp who is from Sussex. We walked around London and saw all the usual sights-- buckingham palace, big ben, westminister abbey. We met up with Steph A. that night and took a ride in the London Eye-- the big ferris wheel where you can see all of London. It was very pretty at night, you got to see the whole city lit up! But it did not make for very good pictures... everything turned out blurry and silly. Normally I don't like ferris wheels, but the London Eye goes really really slow. Like you can't even tell that you're moving half the time. So that's how I was convinced to go.

Tuesday Steph A and I headed into London and did some shopping. Even though the dollar to pound exchange rate is absolutely CRAP, there is a very very cheap store called Primark that we went to where I bought a nice coat for 25 pounds (about $45). It was so crowded though that I couldn't stand buying anything that I needed to actually try on. That night Steph D. met up with us to go see WICKED!! One of my all time favorite musicals, that was playing on the London West End (London's Broadway). I really wanted to go see Phantom of the Opera, since London was the birthplace of that childhood favorite of mine, but tickets were more expensive, and it didn't seem to strike Steph A's fancy....maybe on my next trip to london! (for there shall be another!!) Wicked was amazing, just like every other time I've seen it. The funny part was that they all had british accents! It's odd hearing Broadway music sung with a different accent because that style of singing is just so completely American. I did like it though--the actresses who played Elphaba and Galinda had amazing voices. And of course I still found myself tearing up at the end of the first act...like always.

All in all I had an absolutely amazing trip with everything that I needed to give me that midsemester boost! Speaking of mid semester, I'm writing this to take a break from the work that I have due in the coming weeks. I have 2 papers and a meeting on THANKSGIVING DAY. how horrid is that?! I have never ever had anything due on thanksgiving in my LIFE and now I have all these things at once... sigh. I'm going to miss that holiday more than I'll miss Christmas I think. Y'all don't make me too jealous now, ya hear? Somebody better burn their turkey.

Sorry if this blog seems a little sloppy. I was just writin to let y'all know what's been going on and to tell you about my trip. The blog I wrote for France Revisited is much more polished. I'll let you know when it goes up. I hope that all is well with you! It would be great to hear from any of you, I miss each and every one!

All my love and gros bisous! (big kisses) xoxo

02 November 2009

France Revisited

Hey guys, I just wanted to let you know that I (along with some other girls from my program) will be doing some guest blogging for a travel website called francerevisited.com
The creator of the website, an Emory alum who has lived in Paris for the past 20 years, got in touch with our program EDUCO to ask for guest writers. Some of the girls blogs are up and you should definitely check them out. Mine will be up later this week or next.

The link directly to the blog is http://francerevisited.com/extracurricular so I hope you go take a look and enjoy!

And don't forget to take a look at my newest blog directly below this one!! Lots of love!

01 November 2009

quoi de neuf?

Hello friends. I really am sorry that I've been posting so sporadically... It's just hard for me to make myself sit down and do this, even though I'm on the computer a lot. It's actually quite silly. I owe you all a bit more than this...

Well, classes are... going. haha. They're very french- i.e. vague and often don't make much sense. I mean for one of my classes there is no syllabus or reading list and our only assignment is to write a paper about a cultural observance? hmm. History of Paris (my class at EDUCO) is the only one that we actually have work in since it's supposed to be more american style. My final course load is Anthropology on wednesdays (5-8 BLEH), History of women and institutions on thursday (2-5), History of Jews in 16-18 century europe thursdays (5:30-8:30 BLEEEEH.... class for 3 hours at this time of night is a HORRIBLE idea), and History of Paris friday (9-12). So overall not bad, and as you can see, no class mon and tues! This is when I get some of my english tutoring done.

I'm tutoring my 17 year old host sister (doing conversation stuff), a 15 year old neighbor (again, mostly conversation and reading some articles together), and then 4 delightful 10 year old neighbor kids (including my 10 year old host sis, marion). It's been really good. I try to talk slowly and clearly, without much accent. I did have to explain to both my conversation partners what the word "y'all" means....because I really can't delete it from my vocabulary. I inevitably use it at at least some point in the conversation. My explanation was that it's the same as the plural "vous" in french, which really does make a whole lot of sense. I also explained that they are never allowed to write this word in any of their papers or use it in class, but they can recognize it and know what it means.
With the younger kids, the lesson is a bit more trying. For one thing, I'm starting out doing the lesson in french while we build some vocabulary. They're still not up to par with the alphabet, so we're starting small. It's really tricky to do a lesson all in french and then switch to english for some parts! I end up saying some english words with a silly french accent, which is not what I'm trying to teach the kids at all! haha. I've tried to make the lessons a little more fun than just school work, but it's hard because the kids come to me on friday afternoons directly after school.... not exactly the easiest time to get kids to concentrate! And it seems that when I give them a game, they get too riled up!! I've got to find a balance. We've learned animals, fruits, and vegetables so far. I have them tell me a vocab word in french and then I ask for the english equivalent of it. After we've figured out what it is in english I have them write it out, spelling the word out loud with the english alphabet. I think it's a pretty good system. If anyone has any ideas, I would be very grateful for some help! The game I had them play was a type of pictionary. They would draw an animal (written in English) out of a bowl and they had to remember what it was, then draw it for their friends, if the other students could guess what it was, the drawer got a point for being able to explain the animal. They got very competitive though and kinda were bouncing off the walls. It's a lot to handle (but camp counselor kim knows what to do!) I've been perfecting my new french "teacher voice"... I've got the english one down thanks to many years out at camp with some crazy kiddos, but french was a bit harder to catch on to. I've gotten pretty good at saying "eh, théo! quest-ce que tu fait là!!" (oy! theo! what do you think you're doing over there! <-- oy was the closest noise I could think of to "eh"... although I guess "hey" works too). Another of my favorites is just giving the good ol' teacher evil eye. That one's universal :)

So, we are approaching the holiday season with the first of them all-- Halloween! It was a little bit depressing here, because you saw NO signs at all that it was halloween. No costumes, no decorations, no pumpkins. It made me a little sad. I just wanted to walk past a store front and see a ghost and some cobwebs in the window. My host mom explained to me a few weeks ago that they tried to do halloween here, but it just didn't really catch on. It's apparently only really for the younger kids, and even then it's not that big. It is harder here because there really aren't any houses that you can just walk up to and ring the doorbell. All the apartment buildings have a keypad (sometimes several different ones at different points) to even get in. Also, I don't know how receptive this crowd would be to little hoodlums ringing their doorbells asking for goodies. None the less, my friends and I went out last night, and found a small halloween scene. We weren't really dressed up (some were a bit)... I didn't bring much to france with me (I'm missing some of my favorite tshirts!) so there was definitely no room in the suitcase for a halloween costume! We just ended up going to a bar... they had raspberry beer that was really good! It tasted like a raspberry soda! (p.s. I can legally drink here... it's a really weird feeling even though I'm about to be able to legally drink in the US in only a few months.) It was a good night though!

Some french observations:
when I'm watching TV with my family, they CONSTANTLY are using the expression "n'importe quoi!" which I can't really translate precisely but I guess it means "anything goes"... literally it means "it doesn't matter what". but they use it in a context where it's like "oh they just show anything on tv these days" but they express all that with just that short little phrase. It can be when some guy's head gets blown off in one of their cop shows, or when they're making fun of Sarcozy on one of their political satires, or when there's some weird nudity in a french commercial. It's all just "n'importe quoi," always said with a bit of a chuckle and a shake of the head. Very interesting to me.

Also, metro observation: it has been literally making my day when someone makes eye contact with me and smiles on the metro! It's the little things that make your day a little bit brighter.

Phrase of the day: The higher the percentage chance of rain, the lower the percentage chance that I'll get out of my bed. That has been my motto today :) on the rainy sunday. Although I hear if that was y'all's motto back in texas, y'all would have been in bed for the last 2 months, eh? Hope y'all aren't drowning! Missing you all a lot.
(again sorry for the long gaps between posts... I'll try harder, I really will. Next update: ENGLAND! I'm headed there next weekend from the 6th-11th. Pictures and stories to come!)


oh, and P.S. "quoi de neuf," the title is the french equivalent of "what's new?"

11 October 2009

long time no blog

Hey guys, sorry it's been such a long time since I've written. I've been pretty busy, and I just haven't had enough discipline to make myself sit down and write. :( I apologize.

What's been going on with me is... well, everything! After a HUGE hassle and pain in the ass with the bank, I finally have my bank card, my secret code, AND my phone! WOO! Victory. My host family actually cheered for me when I came home with a phone yesterday. That's how ridiculous this has gotten. Well you see, what happened was the bank hates me... so they were supposed to give me my bank card "quelques jours" (which is the nice precise measurement of "a few days") after I got in all of my documents. So, four days after I turned in my documents I went to the bank, waited in line, and asked if they had my bank card. They replied that they did not have it back but to check again in "quelques jours"....so about five days later I go back.... No bank card. I'm told to call my banker. I call him, no answer. I email him, no answer. After another set of "quelques jours" I go BACK and ask for my bank card....it is not there, I am told it will probably come in next week and of course that I should call my banker. I call him, he doesn't know what the hold up is-- the only explanation he can give me is that in the last 3 weeks they've opened 300 accounts at this branch and they all have to receive their cards which come in 30 at a time, once a week!!! (is that not ridiculous to you?? that someone might be waiting 10 weeks for their bank card?!). So, I wait, and I wait some more. And meanwhile all of my friends who have opened bank accounts with Société Générale get their bank cards within FOUR DAYS of opening their accounts. So, after waiting I got back to the bank. I know what I'm going to be told, but I have a great and very frustrated speech prepared. As usual, I wait in line, head to the welcome desk, ask about my card, and the lady at the welcome desk (with whom I have become very well acquainted at this time) tells me what she always told me: that I need to call my banker to see what's going on. Well, I have my speech prepared now... which came out much angrier when I was rehearsing it rather than in real life. But I tell her, rather defeatedly, that to call my banker, I would need a CELL PHONE, and to get a cell phone, I would need a BANK CARD. So, wouldn't that be nice if I COULD call my banker, eh? GRR. So, long story short... I finally received my bank card TWO WEEKS after it was supposed to come in. (Their excuse as to why Société Générale's cards came in so fast? "Oh, they must not have as many customer's as us then... they're just not as good." Good one, BNP.) Anywho, got the bank card, but, what had not come in the mail? My secret code (pin #). It was supposed to be sent directly to me, but I NEVER GOT IT. So, until I get that, my card is useless. COOL. So, even after getting my card, I had to wait another FIVE DAYS for my pin # to get to me in the mail. (it came yesterday). This stupid ordeal has lasted me a month. But has taught me a lot of patience? Maybe? Or how to express my frustration in a foreign language? Lesson in French Bureaucracy? I don't know exactly what I'm supposed to take from this or why this was a necessary experience, but I guess I learned something? ::End rant about bank trials and tribulations::

What else has been going on is that my best friend from Tulane, Stephanie, who is studying outside of London for the semester came to visit me!!!! It was AMAZING. She got here on a Tuesday evening and stayed until Sunday morning. A) It was great to see her because we hadn't seen each other all summer and had bunches of stuff to catch up on (she works at a summer camp too, thus why we are kindred spirits) and B) we got to do all the great touristy stuff that I hadn't done yet!!

So, the visit consisted of lots of great food (like steph and I always love to do), some wonderful Parisian sightseeing, and Stephanie being confused most of the time. Did I mention that she does not speak a word of French? (Hence studying abroad in a foreign country that still speaks English.) We did work on teaching her to say "merci" which I ended up giving up with and telling her to pronounce "messy"... it works. We joked the entire time that she was my deaf mute companion, since she couldn't even order for herself at the restaurants we went to ... poor thing. Anytime I wasn't specifically ordering her food, she was convinced that I was talking bad about her in French. Once when we were walking home from the metro kind of late at night, a guy on the street started talking to her. He was saying "ma reine, ma reine, vous êtes si jolie" which means "my queen, my queen, you are so pretty" (French men on the street... creepers)... but steph wasn't getting any of this, so he continued on saying (in french) "what? you aren't going to speak to me?" At this point I told him "Well, she doesn't speak a word of french, so that conversation will be kind of difficult"... he walked away. But Steph was entirely convinced that I had told him some bad joke about her and that's why he walked away. haha.

My host family was so incredibly nice and let steph stay at the house with us. (I have found that the downside of living in a really nice neighborhood is that there are NO hostels nearby... only really swanky hotels.) My host mom even invited us to dinner on thursday night. No one talked to Stephanie in English (I'm not sure that they know enough to feel comfortable having a conversation), so she just sat there eating and looking confused. I at least tried to clue her in on the topic of conversation some of the time. Here again she thought that anytime I was speaking in French and referencing her, I was obviously making fun of her. I told that to my host family and they thought it was hilarious and suggested that I try it ;)

Our touristy fun started on wednesday with a trip to the Eiffel Tower! It was only 9 euros for the elevator ride all the way to the top, so we took that. The view is really amazing. At the top, they have panoramic photos pointing out the monuments that correspond with each angle of the view. It was a foggy morning, so Paris was covered in a haze, but it was still very beautiful. We also went to the second tier (there are only 3) to take some pictures with the great view in the background. They can be seen in my facebook album that I posted a few days ago! One of our favorite things about going to do touristy things is getting accosted by pushy vendors.... NOT. Ugh, they are sooo persistent, in your face, and they are absolutely everywhere! My least favorite are these guys that wait to accost you with string. Yes, string. They have several strands of pre-cut string in their hands ready to make their sell. What are they selling? Crappy friendship bracelets. What they do is they accost you with the string and try and tie it around your wrist where they make the bracelet. That way it's already around your wrist and you have to pay for it. It's kind of fun though because when they come up to me, I have my response ready: I roll up my sleeve, showing them my WAY more impressive friendship bracelets and say "non, non- je peux le faire moi-même!" which means "no, no! I can do it myself!"... it makes me feel kind of empowered to say that to them. They get caught off guard. It doesn't stop them from trying to convince me that no, their's is different, let them demonstrate.

Thursday, we made a trip up to Montmartre to see Sacre Coeur. We got to the metro station, and saw that there were elevators to go up (there are elevators at lots of stations, usually this doesn't really mean anything), but we decided to take the stairs. We start climbing up this spiral staircase, and we get to the landing, and then we start climbing another flight, and another, and another, and each time we turn the corner of the spiral, there is another flight just waiting for us. After the 9th flight we're laughing so hard every time we turn the corner to see more stairs, it's just getting ridiculous. We finally get out of the metro after more than 12 flights of stairs! Not small flights either... long winding spiraling flights. Apparently Abesses (the metro station) is one of the deepest in Paris at 36 meters (which I just looked up and is 118 feet). So, needless to say, when we got to the bottom of Montmartre and saw all those lovely stairs, we voted to ride the funiculaire (gondola) instead. We did walk down though! The view from Montmartre is absolutely lovely. You can see a beautiful part of Paris that looks like it's straight out of a scene from a movie. We walked around the area, taking in the different views, and also went inside Sacre Coeur, which is the beautiful church that on top of Montmartre. The inside is truly awe-inspiring. Steph and I talked afterwards about how if you were a peasant and you went to mass at a beautiful church like that, how could you not believe in God? Well, the vendors here were no less insistent than anywhere else. There are a bunch of artists that walk around with a sketch pad, accosting people to let them draw their picture. It's kind of sad, but I've gotten very good at pretending they don't exist... that must be difficult to be rejected so many times in one day. I wouldn't be able to do it.
After we came out of the cathedral, on the steps of the hill there was a crowd gathering. We went to see what was happening, and it turns out that it's a popular place for musicians to play. Everyone sits on the steps and listens. There was a duo performing, one playing the guitar and singing, one playing the bongos and doing back up. They were from Mexico City, but spoke English very well and played some Bob Dylan, the Eagles, John Lennon's Imagine, as well as my personal favorite, Oasis' WONDERWALL!! Steph and I were definitely singing along to that one. :) It made me very happy since that song reminds me of camp and great times. The best part about this concert was that directly behind the musicians was the spectacular view of all of Paris. It doesn't get much better than that.

Our last stop on the tourist train was the Louvre. Steph and I took art history, Renaissance to present last semester, so we felt like we would be missing out if we didn't go see the Louvre together. We took the requisite picture standing in front of the pyramid which you can check out on facebook as well. It was great to see some of the different paintings that we had studied, and we definitely felt very knowledgeable. Unfortunately, we didn't realize that the museum closes ridiculously early! We got kicked out at 5:30, before getting to see some of the most popular stuff that had been crowded all day like the Da Vinci's. The best part of the whole museum visit though, was that it was free!! If you are 18-26, regardless of nationality, you get in free (to most any museum) any time!! EDUCO also gave all of its students Louvre cards that say we're art history students, so we don't even have to stand in line to get tickets! We just flash the card and get straight in. Very cool.

That night, Paris was having its annual "Nuit Blanche" which is an all night kind of installation art festival. Stephanie, my friend Chris, and I got some food and went up after dusk to a park at Butte Chaumont to have a picnic and go see the art. At this particular park, which is on a hill, an artist had set up a bunch of swivel-head lamps in different clumps, winding all the way down a hill and along a creek. It was definitely an interesting sight. At the end of the trail of lamps was a lake in which an artist had set up a bunch of blinking red and blue LED lights... I can't explain it, but the effect was beautiful. The water was just constantly shimmering and blinking. There were also folded paper boats floating around with softer red lights in them too. It was definitely magical. As we continued, we saw a field on the side of a hill that was covered in opened red umbrellas. This was probably one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. It looked like a field of majestic poppies. Or pillows. The field was absolutely covered with them. I tried to capture this one with my camera, but as it was dark, I could only get the first couple of rows. It wouldn't show the depth to which the field continued. Some more art that we saw were some different spray painting portraits, and some break dancers. By this point it was getting late, and we were hungry, so I'm sorry to say it, I had my first taste of MacDo. (this is what the french call McDonald's). And actually it was quite an experience to order at a fast food restaurant. You try saying "chicken mcnuggets" in a French accent with out feeling stupid! Also there is so much slang that I don't understand and they talked so fast and it was really loud! So I was very surprised when we all ended up with what we ordered!! Although somehow we had all supersized our orders without knowing it... haha. It was quite the experience though.

All in all, Steph had a great visit, and I can't WAIT to go visit her in London! I've got several friends in the UK, so it's triple the reason to visit... not that I need too much more of a reason!

Well, I guess that's it for now. I will write back soon to let you know how class is going. My school just started this past monday, so I've only gone to one of each class. This week I'll probably have a better idea of everything.

À bientôt mes amis! I miss you all!! :) thanks for staying tuned.

22 September 2009

Did I come here to go to school?

Well, I don't have too too much to tell in this post. Lately what has been going on in school logistics which are NOT FUN.

Kim's GRRRR moment: Ok, I want to rant but I don't want to do it for a whole post. It seems like everything with french universities is just so unorganized. Like they want everything to go well, but oh, I'm not going to put in any effort to make it go well! I'm just going to run things all willy nilly and just HOPE that things turn out like they're supposed to! Won't that be fun?!
But actually it's the opposite of fun, and what it means for me is that there are courses without descriptions or schedules or professors. It also means that I'm not sure what to take to get credit for my major. It also means that I don't know where to go to take the class. It also means that I get really frustrated!! The good thing for me though is that the classes that I'm looking at don't start till monday the 28th or even monday oct 5! So I have some time to figure things out!! *sigh of relief!*

We went this past friday to Monet's gardens in Giverny which was absolutely AMAZING!! The weather was perfect (as it has been my entire time here), and everything was still in bloom. I have a picture album full of all the flowers on facebook if you want to take a look! I was awed at the beauty of the gardens as well as the fact that Monet designed and kept them up himself! He had the help of a handful of gardeners, but he designed everything, including the irrigation system for the pond, himself! Everything was beautiful, from the waterlilies in the pond, to the morning glories that were abundant around Monet's house. We weren't allowed to take pictures of the inside of the house, but every room was so colorful. The kitchen was all blue-- like everything from the tiles on the wall to the counters. The dining room was yellow. The entrance hall, green. They were all these vivid colors that were so ahead of their time! It was a wonderful excursion to go see Monet's gardens. I'm glad I got to experience something so incredibly beautiful.

Thank you everyone for your feedback on my blog! It makes me feel very comforted to know y'all are out there and reading!! I miss you guys; thank you for continuing to care for me.

I will give an update on classes soon! Cross your fingers and wish me luck!

15 September 2009

La campagne!

Okay, I'm going to attempt to title these. The first one (with the flags) is from an American WWII memorial that we passed on our way to and from Vertus. I don't know what town it was in, but it was one of the towns where the American soldiers stayed during the French Occupation. This same caption goes for the stone façade.

The inscription says "Their Name Liveth For Evermore"

This is the front of the Renault's country home in Vertus, France built in 1902. C'est jolie, non?

This is the Garden in the back of the country home. It is small but very pretty. It's in need of some TLC since the Renaults haven't been there for a while. To the right is the raspberry bush!

This is the street of the village that the Renault's
house is on. Here, having a country house doesn't necessarily mean that there house is on a plot of land (like a ranch house or farm house). It's actually in a small village with about 3,000 inhabitants although during the Vendange, it increases to 9,000 because many people (gypsies) migrate around france to help with different seasons of grape picking, and in this season they reside here. Many of them come in RVs but some just pitch tents.

These two pictures are of the vineyards you can see heading out of Vertus. All of the specks of white are trucks and trailers that are out there to be filled with grapes. Some of them are the trailers of the gypsies that migrate here to work.

Ok, so this is my first time uploading photos on here... not sure exactly how it works cause they're kinda all out of order. These are my photos from my weekend in the french countryside! Sadly I did not have my camera for everything we did, but maybe I'll be able to go back there sometime in the next 10 months and photo document things better.

Well, this past weekend I went to my host family's country house which is in Champagne country in a little village called Vertus. It's about 2 hours outside of Paris. We went there for the Vendange (I'm pretty sure that's how you spell it) which is a kind of festival during this time of year when they pick the grapes for Champagne. My host father, Olivier, grew up in Vertus, and his father still lives there, so they own a piece of a vineyard. Here it's not like in Texas where you can have 600 acres of land, everything is very small, and only the largest Maisons de Champagne have their own large vineyards. Most of the other families in the village each own a small plot of land for their grapes. In the village (as well as around the rest of Champagne country) there are various brands of champagne that have their own (breweries? wineries? factories?... I don't know what you call that..), but there are also Co-ops that everyone can take part in. Did you know that you're not allowed to call sparkling wine champagne if it doesn't come from the Champagne region of France?

So, my family has a very nice 2 story house that has 4 bedrooms. It also has a wine cellar down below, which they call the "cave". The house was built in 1902, so it's very old and rustic. The cellar really does resemble a cave! It's not finished out at all, simply an unfinished 100 year old basement. Kinda creepy. The family doesn't get to go to their house as often as they'd like anymore now that the children are older, which I totally understand-- like my family and I used to go to the ranch when we were younger and now haven't been in years. They still go a couple times a year though. Out in the back garden they've got a raspberry bush (I told my family once that I like raspberries and raspberry flavored things and they've taken it a bit overboard), so they were excited to show me that. You can eat the berries right off the bush! Everyone in america is so paranoid about pesticides and all that, but I ate so much fruit straight from the source this past weekend! The raspberries were very very tasty.

We were only at the house for the day Saturday, and left Sunday, so it was a short trip. When we got there on Saturday, we went out to the vineyards. Olivier handed me something that resembled wire cutters and a pail and showed me how to cut grapes! Unfortunately, this is the part where I forgot my camera at the house :( I know, I suck. What you do to pick them is you pull off the surrounding leaves so you can see where the grapes are, then you find the stem, then SNIP! and put it in your pail! The grapes are the tiny (size of a dime or a little bigger) green champagne grapes, which I thought were really bitter, but actually they are ridiculously sweet!! I would love to eat these grapes instead of the ones we buy at grocery stores. We ate them straight off the vine, and they were amazing! Cutting the grapes, you get all the sugary goo on your hands and it makes them really sticky, so Olivier showed me how to clean them. You take a bunch of grapes that are not ripe (still hard and very small) and you smush them in your hands-- since they are not ripe, they don't have any sugar in them, and it really washes your hands! And then your hands smell like grapes! Not sticky, smelling like grapes-- win, win! It was a really cool trick.

After we picked some grapes (doing that for too long can give you serious back pain!) Olivier took us (us is my little host sister, Marion, and her friends from school, Nicholas) to one of the champagne... for lack of a better term lets say "breweries." We went to the Vertus Co-op where apparently Olivier knows everyone because he was saying hi left and right (growing up in Vertus he used to work in some of these factories, so he knows a lot about the champagne process). The floors were all sticky of course, and, since it was the end of the work day, there were a ton of trucks and tractors bringing in their load of grapes for the day. First they weigh the grapes to know how much their putting in the presses, then there are 2 different types of presses they can go into. One is more old fashioned, the other more modern. The old fashioned one kind of looks like a big wooden barrel like Lucy in I Love Lucy jumps in to mash the grapes with her toes... except for instead of people mashing the grapes with their toes, this big mechanical press comes down and squishes all the grapes. I know, I know, not as fun as the villagers dancing on a big pile of grapes... if you want, you can imagine that instead. As the grapes are mashed, their juice runs down these trenches which lead to vats which are in the basement. The second method of pressing really isn't worth my explanation because I really don't understand at all how it works. What I got from it is that essentially it's a big metal round torpedo looking thing that the grapes go into then it goes woosh woosh all around and then grape juice comes out somewhere maybe and then the squished grapes are taken out somehow maybe. But after both of these are done, the juice goes into these vats below where they sit til the impurities sink to the bottom. Then there is the fermenting process, the addition of yeast, and the bottling, which I did not get to see. I hope you liked this addition of Champagne making for dummies.... or actually by dummies... since I have no idea what I'm talking about. I'm sure pictures would have helped here, but alas, I am the dummy who forgot her camera.

wooo... I definitely feel if I'm prattling on so much. Y'all tell me if you'd rather hear the Cliff's Notes version of my time in Paris next time instead. Brevity in writing has never been my thing.

Continuing... after the vineyards, Olivier took us to his grandmother's home which is in the village. They rent it out to someone now, but the family still keeps the garage and the garden. He opens the doors to the garage, and what is in there?? A 1944 US Army Jeep
yep... it looked just like this. Crazy. AND! It still runs!
So, we took it for a spin around town! You should have seen everyone's faces... there was one old man who looked like he had just seen a ghost!! Olivier explained to me that it was dropped in on a parachute during the invasion during WWII, and they left it here. It was very cool.
Anyway, after that he showed us the garden, which is terraced, so when you get up to it you can see everyone's roofs! It was very cool. They've got all kinds of things growing in the garden-- tomatoes, pumpkins, strawberries (which I tasted-YUM!), white figs (which I tasted... eh. I don't really get figs), white peaches (yum again), lettuce, onions, basil, flowers.... everything! It was very cool and very pretty. I asked Olivier how old the house was, and he didn't give me a straight answer but instead told a story that went a little something like this: "Well, about 20 years ago we were doing some renovations near the garage, and in opening the wall we found a skeleton of a woman! Archaeologists came to look at her and said that the body dated to the 12th century!" So, what I concluded from this story was WHOA. OLD. HOUSE. crazzyyyy.

Anyway, I think those are the interesting parts of my weekend in the french countryside. I hope you enjoyed this edition of Kimberly's travels :) Do let me know if I need to be more brief... when I write, the fingers just go and I just kind of let them.... haha.

11 September 2009

La vie est toujours belle

So, I'm still in Paris, in case you couldn't tell, and I'm still having a Great time! It is so cool getting to discover a new city. What's been going on since I last wrote is... well, a little bit of everything I guess. We've had several informational meetings with EDUCO about things like course registration, visas, residence permits, etc.... not so fun. But we've also had some free time to go exploring! My friend Sam and I have been finding different cafés to eat lunch at every day, and we are loving the amazing french food! I haven't had a bad meal yet. We also like to stop at the Boulangerie (Bakery) to get a baguette, pain au chocolate, or a tarte. You can tell the best bakeries by how long the line is. :)

This week we started our French review classes that give us a refresher of grammar and acclimate us to the French writing style. I absolutely love my professor! She is hilarious and makes us laugh all throughout class. The title of this post is credited to her because "La vie est belle" is definitely her catch phrase (which means "life is beautiful"). Whenever we get a question wrong she says, "C'est pas grave, vous avez vingt ans et vous êtes à Paris: La vie est belle" or "Non, ça n'est pas correcte, mais la vie est toujours belle." (translations: 1) It's ok, you are twenty years old and you are in Paris: Life is beautiful. or 2) No, that's not right, but life is still beautiful). We've been reviewing some easier concepts and also learning idiomatic expressions to integrate into our everyday speech. One of the funny things that we learned today is that to say bless you, you say "A vos souhaits" or "May all your wishes come true," which is really cute. And then, if someone sneezes again you say "A vos amours" ("To your loves) and the sneezer is supposed to respond "Que les votres durent toujours" which means "That yours may endure forever." I don't know, I just thought that whole exchange is just very cute. She reminded us, however, that this is only to be used with people that you actually know. You don't just say it to the old man that sneezes on the metro. If you do, they will be very confused and possibly even offended! haha. She is full of all this useful and funny information. She's also very theatrical and keeps our attention well, which is a feat during a 2 hour grammar review, eh?

We haven't really done too much tourist-y stuff, although being here for 10 months, I feel like I'll have plenty of time to see and do everything. I've really been trying to get acclimated... I end up tired and hungry at the end of every single day. I swear, no matter how much I eat I am always famished! Several people have been experiencing this too... we have no idea what's up. Also, these people eat all the time! And so well! And so much bread! How are they not fat??? I have seriously only seen like 2 people in this entire city that would be considered obese in America. How do the frenchies do it? I'm going to learn their secret and take it back home with me. Never you fear. Anyway... One of the tourist-y things that we did was a ride on the Seine on one of the Bateaux Mouches. Sam and I sat on the back of the boat where it was quieter and we could just enjoy the view. Although the day had started out very nice and temperate, it had gotten cold and a little bit rainy by this times, so we were huddled together in our scarves to keep warm. There are photos up on facebook that you can take a look at to see the beautiful monuments!
Today we got to play tourists again and a group of us went to the Musée d'Orsay to have a guided tour. This is one of my favorite museums because it houses a very limited time period of art (late 1800's to about 1915) with works from the end of the classical era, to realism, to impressionism, as well as expressionism. This period of art fascinates me, and I love getting to see the works that I've studied up close and personal. Moreover, I love understanding everything the guide was saying (in French) as well as being able to supplement this with my own knowledge of all the works. It's just a nice feeling, kinda like putting a face with a name. I have some pictures that I took of this up on facebook as well! Check them out and comment! I would love to know that people are looking at my stuff.

My family is wonderful. They are really so nice and patient with me. Sometimes when I can't understand things, I get down on myself... but then I realize that I've only been here 5 days; I'm not supposed to understand everything! I have so many days of learning ahead of me. I can't wait to improve more and more each day. I already feel like I've improved some! Last night I got to meet the 17 year old daughter, Margot, and we celebrated her acceptance to Sciences-Po, which is not an easy university to get in to. We had Champagne and then ate a special dinner. They are a very loving family, and I'm so happy that they're so warm and welcoming. Marion, the 10 year old, made meringue cookies for dessert that were delicious! I also got to try several different types of cheese, some of which were too strong for me, but I liked them all. This weekend I'm going with my family to their house in the country, they told me it's about 2 hours away, to watch them pick the grapes for champagne and relax. We're leaving saturday morning and coming back sunday at noon, so it's not a long visit, but a little get-away.

I have enjoyed learning how to find my way around the city so far! I'm not going to lie, I'm pretty proud of how well I've done. I mean... don't get me wrong, there's been a wrong turn or two, but all in all it's been pretty painless. Although the other day, in trying to get to Pont Neuf to meet for the bateaux mouches, sam and I walked in the wrong direction for quite a ways. It was an experience though. The metro has been super easy to learn to navigate. It's so crazy having public transportation that's easy and reliable and that everyone uses! I don't know what I'll do when I get back to Texas where everyone drives and even the bus system in non-existent. Or even New Orleans where the streetcars only run on one or two main streets... the metro here is my new best friend. As is the application that I have on my iPhone! I can put in any 2 stops I want to get to, and it gives me fail-proof instructions! (Thanks daddy!!).

Well, I think you're all caught up on the goings-on of the past few days! It's been a great experience so far without so much as a hard moment. I am very grateful for this :) and hope my lucky streak continues! It goes without saying that I miss you all, and I hope you're able to live a little vicariously through me and my blog posts! Leave me some love and go look at my pictures on facebook! It seemed a little redundant to put them on here too...
Oh! And if you have skype or iChat or anything and would like to chat with me, let me know what times are good for you. I'm making a bit of a schedule of when everyone is free. Keep in mind that I'm 7 hours ahead here (from central time) and I don't really stay up past midnight! I would love to talk with any of you though, and so far video chatting has worked really well. Let me know if you're interested!!

À bien tôt!

07 September 2009

Je suis là!

Well, I am finally here!! It hasn't really sunk in yet at all... I drive past Notre Dame and the Louvre and it feels totally surreal.

I landed in Paris from Amsterdam at about 10:45 on Sunday, and went straight to the hotel by taxi. I felt like I was absolutely escaping from the airport because NO ONE asked for my passport or anything! I did not pass through French customs. The whole way to the hotel in the taxi I was looking over my shoulder like someone was going to be following me... I felt like a fugitive. Haha. I figured out a little bit later (as I had already expected) that I passed through customs in Amsterdam, and you only have to pass through a European Union country once... and then you can travel among them. I still thought that they were going to deport me or something.. haha.

For our first day (after I literally had not slept for about 36 hours .... for some reason I could NOT sleep on the plane...) they put us on a 2 and a half hour bus tour through Paris from 4-6:30 PM..... Everyone was falling asleep! It was a little bit ridiculous. Afterwards I got to know some of the kids from the program better and we all went out to eat at the cafe. It was very comforting just to eat and talk and get to know everyone. There are about a billion students here from Duke, a bit less than a billion from Cornell, 7 from Emory, and 7 from Tulane. About 60 or 65 in all. After dinner I did not have the energy to go exploring, so I absolutely passed out.

This morning we had our first informational meeting, met the EDUCO staff, and got a bunch of important documents. The staff seems very nice and helpful. We talked about getting a pass for the metro and getting a cell phone. I'm going to be getting a year-long metro pass and a year long cell phone subscription. Most of the kids are only here for the semester, so they only have to get a rechargeable cell and metro pass... for us year-long kids, it makes more financial sense to get a resident's pass.

We took the metro to get to the EDUCO center for the first time today, and it is so easy! I'm excited to learn my way around. The weather has also been absolutely BEAUTIFUL so far. It's been about 76 and sunny and it hasn't even been too too cold at night. Even for a Texan/Louisianan like me! Although my host family gasped in shock when I told them it was almost 50 degrees celsius in Texas this summer!! haha.

Which brings me to my host family! I took a taxi to 31 rue chanez today (with the nicest cab driver ever... who asked me if I was from Paris!! *best compliment everrr*) and my 10 year old host sister came to great me! I lugged my 50+ lb suitcase up to the 2nd floor (and the 2nd floor in Europe is actually an American's 3rd floor, because they count the ground floor as zero...bleh) and I got situated in my room! It is so adorable. As soon as I get all of my things arranged I will post pictures! Marion (ma soeur) chatted with me while we hung up and folded my clothes. I absolutely love her!! She reminds me so much of Alexandra, the girl I tutored for 2 years in New Orleans. I also met my host mom and dad who are très très gentilles. They are both lawyers, and I think they work a lot, but they are so kind and funny and welcoming. They told me to treat the house as if it was my own. I also met my older host sister who is studying in New York's boy friend. He is very nice and helpful. He helped me look up stuff about my bank account and find my stop on the metro and he's offered to help with my cell phone. Apparently he hangs around the house (and I think is staying here for a while?) even when Morgan isn't here.

I feel like I'm writing too much and being boring, but I want to give y'all a taste of my 1st few days here! Oh, by the way, people from Duke and Cornell think Y'all is a hilarious word. I've forgotten that being southern can be a novelty, since it's totally not at Tulane!! I also taught Marion and Francois Xavier (Morgan's boyfriend who I'm supposed to call FX or "eff ixx") that y'all was the only real English equivalent (in one word) to the french "Vous". It just means y'all. That's actually what we were taught in Texas. Yep. Y'all was taught in the classroom haha.
My host mom says that some of the people in the neighborhood want to set up a group and a little work for me so that I can do some English tutoring with the enfants and I told her YES PLEASE! A little extra monnaie and a little teaching experience sounds formidable!

Well... I'm going to try to skype for the 1st time tonight, and if it works, I would love to set up some skype dates! With the subscription that I'm going to need to get with my phone, I also get some international calling/texting, so hopefully that will work out! My host fam also thinks that I get free international calling to house phones in America with their house phone, so if you have a home number you want me to call, let me know!!

Tomorrow I have another informational meeting and then our first refresher French class. We'll be in orientations every day for the next 2 weeks before classes start... I still can't believe I'm here!! Leave me some love on facebook because I'm definitely missing all of you! No matter how wonderful a time I'm having, home is always in the back of my head. Hope y'all have enjoyed my first French blog post!! Miss you and love you! Pictures to come soon!

04 September 2009

24 hours until lift-off

Leaving in 24 hours. Almost done packing? Not up to mom's standards I'm sure... haha. I've just photocopied every even minutely important piece of paper work so that I will have covered all of my bases. I've run all of my errands. I've crammed as much as I can into that poor suitcase...

I think I'm ready to go!! All there's left to do is check into my flight (Which it won't let me do until exactly 3:05 today grrrr) and throw together the odds and ends!

Wish me luck! :D hopefully I'll have pics to post soon.

28 August 2009

Leaving for Paris in ONE WEEK!

Hello all, I have yet to leave the United States, but I'm just trying to get this blog up and running first!
Today was quite hectic. I called Northwest Airlines this morning to inquire about fees for checked baggage, and instead of answering my simple question, they told me that my FLIGHT had been CANCELED. Not only had it been canceled, it had been dropped MONTHS ago without any notification to me!! FUN MORNING. ... so, long story short, after many very tense phone calls, I am now on a similarly timed flight that stops in Amsterdam instead of the layover I was supposed to have in Minneapolis. It may get me to Paris a little later than I had expected, but at least it'll get me there!

I'm in the midst of packing right now... who knows what to take when you're going to be gone a whole year?! ... it's just craziness. But I think I've whittled it down to just about everything essential. Now I've just got the last minute stuff to do-- change some money into euros, make sure everything is set with my bank account, last minute visits with friends, and, of course, soaking up as much of Texas as I possibly can!

Anyway, I hope this blog works out well. I would love for y'all to keep in touch whether via the blog, facebook, or email. :) You know I will miss you.

Well, a bientôt mes amis!