Ten Years Ago Today

September 11, 2011 - Leave a Response

I was eleven years old, and at around 9 am on September 11,2001, I was on my way to Mrs. Luli’s sixth grade advanced math class. Math wasn’t my favorite subject, but Mrs. Luli was one of my favorite teachers, mainly because she had a tendency to mix my name up with my best friend’s. She apologized for her mistake with a piece of Baskin Robbins candy for each of us.

A small group of us entered the dark classroom. The lights were off and Mrs. Luli was nowhere to be found. I set my Trapper Keeper (that’s right) onto my desk and began chatting with my friends when Mrs. Luli entered the classroom. She seemed upset and gathered the handful of students in the room into a circle.

“Something terrible has happened,” she said. “If you feel comfortable, please pray for our country.”

Without knowing what was going on, I bowed my head and said a quick prayer. Knowing my naive self, my conversation with God was probably something along the lines of, “I don’t really know what’s going on, but make sure everything is ok. Also, if that cute boy from Social Studies wanted to sit next to me today, that would be great.”

I don’t remember much from the rest of the school day, except for the rumors. We didn’t watch the footage in class, but a few teachers would catch glimpses of the disaster in between classes. Eventually, kids started talking. A plane hit the White House, the Statue of Liberty, etc. I didn’t know what the World Trade Center was. I had never heard of it and once one of the teachers confirmed that the Twin Towers had been the actual target, I stopped worrying about the incident and put full focus on my dad.

My dad was in the air that day. I don’t remember where he was headed but I do recall thinking it was a good thing that I had not been one of the kids whose parents came and got them in the middle of the school day. If my mom had showed up to get me, then surely my dad’s plane had been involved in whatever was happening in New York City. No news was good news.

When I made it home that afternoon, my mom was watching the news. I walked in our garage door to see the towers smoldering and falling on repeat on my television screen. I started asking questions, but at eleven years old, I didn’t understand the severity of the answers. I didn’t understand that thousands of people had just lost their lives in the name of hatred and terrorism. I didn’t understand that this day wouldn’t end when I went to sleep, that this day would haunt my generation and the world population forever. All I understood was that my dad was safely on his way back home and that, oh yeah, I had a sewing project due tomorrow in home ec so could we please go to JoAnn Fabrics so I could pick up some supplies?

My mom was not happy.

The line at every gas station we passed on the way to JoAnn’s had left cars spilling out into the streets. We listened to am radio on the drive, which my mom never does, in order to get more information. And even at the fabric store, my mom left me to wander the aisles and find what I needed while she stayed glued to the television screen along with the store’s employees. I just didn’t get it.

It took me a long time after that day to understand what had happened. Instead of being concerned about why we were sending so many people off to war, I was determined to find an I ♥ NY t shirt somewhere in Cleveland, Ohio.

Despite not fully understanding the source of our nation’s despair, I was inspired by the patriotism I saw around me. I was proud to be an American. I did not yet realize that there was once a time when we did not live in fear of attacks on our soil. That planes had once been a method of transportation and not an opportunity for chaos and unthinkable tragedy. That mysterious packages or white powder had not always meant danger.

I do not have a conscious idea of what the safety of our world was like before 9/11. But, like so many other people on this day, I am proud as hell to be an American. We suffered an incredible tragedy that personally affected the lives of thousands and changed the way the world saw our unshakable fortress of freedom. Ten years ago today, the nation came together to mourn the loss of thousands of our fellow citizens. To this day, it is that banding together of people that creates a foundation of brotherhood and keeps this country the home of the brave.

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Experience #6: Ride the Carousel at Place d’Horloge

June 6, 2011 - Leave a Response

During our first tour of Avignon back in March, Place d’Horloge and the carousel in the center were some of the first things we saw. Nearly every day I walked past that carousel and today, with only a few days remaining in Avignon, I decided to ride it.

The carousel was rather empty when I arrived and I was the only person waiting in line. After purchasing my ticket for 2 euros, I waited for an opportunity to hop on. As I was the only one waiting, I didn’t think the operator would stop the whole thing just so I could get on, so I decided to just go for it. Bad idea. In one of the least graceful moments of my life, I tripped my way onto the platform, bruising my shins and my pride on the way.

Also, did I mention I was alone? It’s a good thing I have a high tolerance for shame.

Anyways, once I was upright and had picked out a horse, the carousel stopped. It would appear that that was my opportunity to get on. To hide my embarrassment, I studied my ticket which was actually rather adorable.

I figured “Hey, this is cute, and I paid 2 euros,” so I tucked my ticket into my purse. But oh, not so fast. Out of nowhere, some stumpy middle aged man comes up to me and demands the ticket back. Silly me for thinking that 2 euros would get me more than a few turns on the merry-go-round.

The carousel finally started after a few agonizing, stationary minutes. The music was not what I expected, however. Instead of classic carnival organ music, it was remixed with something I assume is akin to French Top 40. Très bizarre. And then, there I was, a twenty-one year old girl, spinning around in circles on the back of a ceramic horse, the only person on the carousel save for a few babies on the other side. Not exactly the way I remember the carousel rides of my youth, but it was nice just the same. How often can one say that they’ve ridden a carousel in France? And, hey, at least I made a friend.

I named him Claude.

Overall, not a terrible use of 2 euros. I would suggest bringing a friend, however.

Experience #5: Watch a French television show

June 6, 2011 - Leave a Response

Watching tv isn’t exactly an assignment for me. In fact, it’s one of my favorite pastimes, preferably accompanied by my bed and some ice cream. Tonight, however, I watched a French tv show with my host family, and comprehending the story was a little more difficult than I’m used to.

The news is always on in this house, but tonight we watched something a bit different. L’Amour est dans le Pré aka Love is in the Field. Oh yes, we’re talking French reality tv. The basic concept of the show is this: a single farmer is presented with different women from the city and chooses one to love forever. On his farm. As my host dad would say, “C’est énorme!”

The show opens with James Blunt’s “You’re Beautiful” as we are introduced to the eligible bachelor of the evening, Pascal. He is a chubby, mustachioed, flannel-clad guy, much different than the contestants seen on dating shows in the states. But Pascal, with his receding hairline, ruddy cheeks and complete tactlessness soon won me over.

Pascal, just another farmer in search of a wife.

When I say tactless, though, I mean it. Homeboy has no sense of manners or chivalry. Over the course of the dates we had the pleasure of sitting in on, Pascal marched ahead of his date, didn’t hold open the door to the restaurant and even piled into his car without opening the door for his lady, leaving her dumbstruck and staring on the sidewalk. Hilarious. Scenes such as these were interspersed with Pascal’s conversations with the host, who was about ten years younger and ten times prettier than anyone else on the show. She would point out where he went wrong and how he could have done things differently while Pascal chortled through his mustache.

After numerous failed attempts at finding a spouse, Pascal seems to hit it off with one of the women. They even go on a weekend getaway to England. They enjoy a romantic dinner for two, some sort of plane tour of England (or something, I don’t know, there was a plane involved) and are put up in a posh hotel suite. But things take a turn for the worst when we find the potential wife enjoying room service breakfast alone in the hotel room as Pascal enjoys a solo coffee elsewhere. Looks like he is unlucky in love yet again.

This heartbreaking scene is followed by an interview with the scorned woman. It takes place in a field (of course) where there are convenient opportunities for her to stop, pick a flower and play “à la folie, pas du tout” (he loves me, he loves me not) as she agonizes over what went wrong. It would seem that in this case, love is not in the field.

But they don’t want to leave us on a sad note, so after Pascal’s story we catch up with a contestant from last season, Agnes. She is in a relationship with a man that she (presumably) met during her time on the farm of love. The two are quite happy together and, how convenient! They get engaged while the cameras are rolling. All the best to the happy farmer and her hubby.

I’m not normally a reality television kind of girl, but I was intrigued by this show. If anything, it taught me that every country has its crazies.

A Letter to June

June 2, 2011 - Leave a Response

Dear June,

Oh hey, what’s up? I’m going to try to keep this casual and light, otherwise I may get a little angry and do something rash. And we wouldn’t want that now, would we?

So here’s the sitch: I really was not looking forward to your arrival. Because, you see June, you are the last month that appears on my calendar before I leave France. With your arrival comes the need to take finals, pack and say goodbye to my host family. All things I can do without for awhile.

I know what you’re thinking. “But Hannah, we’ve gotten along so well before this! You spend a few weeks in Athens then you go home and work at the always-interesting BVFAC and the summer is still young and sweet and beautiful. How could you be mad about that?” And here’s my response to that: BECAUSE YOU’RE STUPID.

No hard feelings,

Hannah (who refuses to leave France unless forcibly placed on a plane)

Getting ahead of myself

May 30, 2011 - One Response

I’m ignoring the fact that I’m leaving France in a matter of days (only if someone makes me) and, hey, I’m even ignoring the many tests and oral presentations awaiting my dedicated attention in the next few days. Instead, I have begun preparing my summer reading list. How I am going to complete this while working two jobs, I have no idea. It’s a good thing many of my real-life friends aren’t going to be in town this summer, leaving me plenty of time to hang with my fictional friends. Now, without further ado:

Hannah’s Reading List: Summer 2011 (in no particular order)

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

A Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Deliverance by James Dickey

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (we’ll see how long that lasts…)

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien (how I have not read this yet is a mystery)

A Sport and a Pastime by James Salter

Time’s Arrow by Martin Amis

Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell

Legends of the Fall by Jim Harrison

Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller

Plainsong by Kent Haruf

Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carré

Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson (and not just because of Pretty Little Liars!)

The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac (I thought I had grown out of my beatnik phase a few years back, but I guess not.)

Update:

People are Unappealing: Even Me by Sara Barron

Bossypants by Tina Fey (thanks Sprinks!)

A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

Also, I realize that my list is sorely lacking female authors, so if anyone has any suggestions by some ladies, I would be grateful.

Reasons I love France #1405 and #1406

May 29, 2011 - Leave a Response

Peonies and Macaroons fresh from the Sunday market.

 

 

First truly uncomfortable host family moment

May 11, 2011 - Leave a Response

When my classes are done for the day my evening goes like this: grab lappy, sit in the living room and check my blogs/facebook/twitter, socialize with my host family, and wait for dinner. Once dinner is over, I generally linger for a bit before returning to my room where I watch Gossip Girl do my homework. But tonight things went terribly wrong.

My host brother returned home from another day of golfing. He and my host dad started talking about something and this is when the French gets faster and slang-ier so I tend to tune it out and focus on whatever is on my computer screen. After a few minutes of zoning out I realized that the conversation around me was getting heated. I tuned back in only to realize that I was currently sitting in the middle of a full-on family meeting.

You see, my host brother didn’t go to college after he graduated. Instead he went abroad to live with some family and try to get a job (at least this is what I think happened from the various French phrases that were thrown my way upon his return). When that situation didn’t work out, he came back here. Now, instead of working or going to school, he just hangs out all day. A few days ago he purchased some golf clubs, so now he golfs all day with his buddies. Back to the family meeting.

Basically my host dad was just lecturing at my host brother that he needs to do something with his life besides playing golf all day with my host brother responding that he doesn’t know what he wants to do, so why not have fun while he’s figuring it out? But see, by the time I had figured out that this was what was going on around me, it was too late to move. The discussion was serious and I was literally sitting in the middle of it, what was I supposed to do, just get up and go? Unfortunately the opportunity to make a graceful exit did not arise, so I did what I do best in France: looked like I had no idea what was going on.

Luckily, dinner was served not long after that and the conversation became friendly again. But that’s the last time I zone out when someone comes home with a golf bag in tow.

A Letter to My Biological Clock

May 2, 2011 - Leave a Response

Dear Biological Clock,

I hear you.

You think you’re being all sneaky but you’re not. I’m onto you. At first I thought it was just because I am in France, so of course babies are cuter here. They speak better French than I do and it’s so adorable when they say “maman” and “coucou.” But it doesn’t stop there. I am being magnetically drawn to anything pint-sized, be it baby or puppy or even the tiny boxes of crackers at Carrefour. I don’t enjoy it.

Whenever I see a baby in a stroller or inexplicably strapped to its mother’s back (because apparently baby-as-backpack is the thing to do over here) I can feel my ovaries skip a beat. I am hypnotized. But no more! Stop it! I’m only 21! It is too soon for these sorts of shenanigans.

Listen, I’m just asking that you work with me here. Give me some time. I need to figure out my life and, you know, be a real person who doesn’t use their dad’s credit card instead of their own. But, tell you what, get back to me in five to ten years and we can reevaluate, ok? Glad we could have this chat.

Respectfully,

Hannah

How is it May already?

May 1, 2011 - Leave a Response

Hi friends. Sorry it’s been awhile but it’s been a crazy few weeks over here. Today marks my halfway point for my European adventure. It doesn’t seem like I’ve been here that long, but at the same time it feels like I should be much closer to the end. I’m not particularly excited about leaving France, but I am excited to get back home. I miss my friends and my room and my mom. And my dog, can’t forget about my dog.

Best dog ever.

This week is Week 6 of classes already and I know the rest of my time here is going to fly by, especially because of all of the things that are being packed into my remaining time. I have:

  • 3 more excursions with my program
  • my dad coming to visit
  • Rome with my dad and sister
  • Turkey to visit my cousin (still in planning stages)

With nearly all of my weekends taken up with those adventures my time left in Avignon is certainly going to go quickly. That’s what’s coming up, but let’s take a look at what has happened so far, shall we?

I went to Paris for four days over Easter weekend with some of my fellow Bobcats. It was a really great time and we were able to cram a lot of touristy visits into so short a time in the city. It was an amazing experience to just be running around Paris with 5 other American girls doing whatever we wanted. I absolutely loved my time there and I can’t wait to go back.

Me, the Eiffel Tower, and some child. Not mine.

Things I learned in Paris:

  • Personal space is nonexistent on metros or at any tourist destination
  • Speaking French earns you brownie points
  • I need lots of sleep and a good meal between arriving somewhere and beginning to sight-see
  • Free public restrooms are a privilege, not a right
  • Rosé champagne is delicious, but it will stain your white hotel towels pink
  • Not even the Eiffel Tower can change my fear of heights
  • I love Paris

Overall, a successful trip. If you want to see pictures, you can check out my Facebook album here.

So, back in Avignon school has become a real thing. I have had tests and papers and homework and it’s really getting in the way of my French adventure. But school is why I’m here in the first place, so I’ve been trying to dedicate some time to my studies. I’ll admit, I haven’t been trying too hard, but I’m working on it.

When I returned from Paris I got a surprise host brother. He’s the son of my host parents and was living abroad when I arrived here in Avignon, but now he’s back. He’s a year younger than me and very funny. It’s a bit awkward though because I live in his room, so I don’t actually know where he sleeps/where all of his things are. I’m sure my family explained it to me at some point, but I just smile and nod and pretend like I understand what’s happening most of the time instead of asking for clarification.

In honor of Fest Season in Athens, our study abroad group had our own Fest this past Thursday. We called it Island Fest since it was on the island where we have our weekly picnics. Island Fest was very successful and we just beat the rain that hit Avignon Thursday night. It was a lot of fun to hang out with everyone outside of class and just have a good time. Plus, I attempted to learn “Wagon Wheel” on guitar, so it was a productive Fest as well.

And just a little mental image to leave you with, I sang karaoke at a bar this weekend. “Take it Easy” by The Eagles, in case you were wondering.

And if you just can’t get enough updates on France, follow me on Twitter and on Tumblr. Because apparently I just can’t get enough social media.

A Quick Story: When you have a cold in France

April 18, 2011 - Leave a Response

I have a cold. It’s not a big deal, really. My nose is a bit runny and I think I have a low fever, but that’s it. I’m fine. Sure, it sucks that I don’t feel great since I have a bunch of work to do and I’m going to Paris this weekend, but at home this would barely register on the illness scale. I’d just drink some orange juice, toss back some nyquil and go to bed early. Problem solved. Not so for the French.

When I came home from class today my host mom noticed that I didn’t have much color in my face. “Do you want some orange juice?” she asked as I made my way towards my room. “Nah, I’m good. Thank you though,” was my half-hearted reply as I worked on breathing through my nose without making too much noise.

Then before dinner, she and my host dad commented on how congested I sounded. “Do you need any cold medicine? We are like a pharmacy here,” my host mom said. “No thanks, not right now,” I replied, not wanting to use their meds since I’m planning on going to the pharmacy tomorrow anyways.

Then I sneezed at dinner. Heaven forbid. My host mom said, “Ok, you’re taking something,” and ran to the cabinet. She withdrew a basket of boxes full of medicines that treat who-knows-what and began sifting through them.

“Ok…no, not this…this makes your gums bleed…no that’s not right…” she murmured to herself as I strained to hear if I was understanding everything correctly. Finally she chose two boxes which contained packets of powder.

“Take each of these twice a day for at least the next two days. If you feel like you need anything else, let me know. You can research this on the internet if it makes you feel any better, but I didn’t need a recipe (what she calls a prescription) to buy it so there’s nothing too bad in it,” she instructed like a good French mother, all the while saying “Oh, poor thing, are you sure you don’t want to go to the doctor?” as I sniffled and wheezed while reading the boxes.

All of this just for a cold. At least I know I am well taken care of!