The things I think about during class

April 17, 2011 - Leave a Response

This past week in my French Resistance class we finished Le Silence de la Mer, a book chronicling the reaction of an older man and his niece when a German soldier takes up residence in their house. After we had finished our discussion of the book, we watched the movie. It was great, I liked it better than the book (but don’t tell my teacher). While I should have been focusing on the story line of these two people silently fighting the Nazi Occupation of France, I was distracted by the style of the niece.

Her clothing was classic ’40s: clean silhouettes, straight lines, conservative fabrics and styles, and sensible shoes. Below are some items I found that give a modern twist to the conservative French styles of the early 1940s.

Dresses:

Skirts:

Sweaters:

Accessories:

And, of course, every ’40s girl needs a bike to travel around town on.

All that’s needed to complete the look is some red lipstick and soft curls. Oh, the things I’m learning in France!

Examples of why I am an idiot sometimes: part 1

April 5, 2011 - Leave a Response

I’ve never claimed to speak perfect French. In fact, this blog has seen a bit of ranting about how difficult a time I have had in some French classes. I’m honest with myself and sometimes I really do suck. But I’ve accepted it. The rest of the world, unfortunately, has not.

Story time. Today during lunch I went to the cafeteria with my fellow Americans to buy a sandwich and engage in some stimulating English conversation. When I order my ham sandwich (sandwich du jambon) and diet coke (coca light, which is NOT the same by the way) and the man behind the counter tells me how much it will cost me, I have no idea what he says. My blank stare must have indicated as much because he repeated himself. Then he did it again. Then I asked him to repeat himself. Then I called one of my friends over to help me understand. Then he finally said it in English and I realized that I did not have exact change. I gave him a bill for 10 euros and hung my head in shame.

Another example of my idiocy came tonight at dinner. My host family, as I have said before, loves to talk about American culture, etc etc. Tonight we were talking about the health care system in America as compared to France. We had a nice little rapport going until my host dad turned to me and asked, “What do homeless people do when they are sick?” I had absolutely no idea. Drew a complete blank. Then there’s my host sister (who I love!) who can tell me exactly the foundations of America’s health care system, while I know virtually nothing about France’s. I felt so ignorant and more than a little embarrassed. But then we had cake so I felt better.

I’ll tell you something though, feeling like an idiot in France is about ten times more enjoyable than feeling like an idiot anywhere else.

I love my host family

April 3, 2011 - Leave a Response

I love my host family. I mentioned in passing the other day that hamburgers are my favorite dinner, so what did we have for dinner tonight? Hamburgers, of course. Except these were not American hamburgers, they were very much French.

My host dad made his own hamburger patties and cooked them on the stove along with Canadian bacon. These two items were stacked onto traditional American hamburger buns along with fresh lettuce, onions and Swiss (as in from the actual country, not the kind with the holes) cheese. Then the whole burger was smothered in a homemade ketchup sauce. Served with more bread and cheese and, of course, red wine. Delicious and just so ridiculous.

My host mom took a picture of me eating my French hamburger, so I’ll be sure to post that once I have it.

Over dinner we had some pretty interesting conversations, although I listened more than talked. I understood most of the conversation tonight, though! Baby steps, that’s all I ask for. Anyways, we talked about pop culture stuff, like movies and actors. They love Inglorious Basterds and Into the Wild. They also filled me in on some truly terrible-sounding French reality TV, including a show called Love is in the Fields, which is a dating show that takes place on a farm. Ah, the French.

Besides French hamburger eating, I did some adventuring this weekend. Saturday I met up with two of my fellow Bobcats, Laura and Andrew, and we just kind of wandered around. We bought bread and cheese from the market in town and Laura provided us with some 3 euro wine and we had a picnic. Our first stop were the gardens at the Palais des Papes, but we quickly discovered that without a corkscrew our picnic would not continue. After going back into the center of town and purchasing a corkscrew, we made our way to the island on the Rhone to continue our afternoon of adventure. The photos below are taken from Laura’s facebook album (hope you don’t mind!).

Using a key to push the cork into the wine bottle was a terrible idea. Note Andrew's look of disappointment.

Jumping for French joy!

French adventurers

So not only did we not have a corkscrew, but we were also missing cups. Enter our empty yogurt containers. Yogurt wine!

This is a highly creepy shot that Laura took of an adorable French baby and his equally adorable French father. Both were wearing scarves.

Below is a song by a band I just caught wind of thanks to Matchbook Magazine. They are an American jazz group that sings in French. I’ll take it.

This has got to be the good life

March 30, 2011 - One Response

My host mom asked me this morning if I was homesick (le mal du pays) and I responded with a confident “non.” It’s amazing that I’ve gone from weepy mess dragging her suitcases across Avignon to excited exchange student in just a few days. Sure my classes are hard and I wish I could enjoy spring quarter in Athens, but everyday brings something new for me here.

Just yesterday our history class got cancelled, so the whole lot of us went and got coffee at a café near the university. There I was, just sitting next to a fountain in the sunshine in France, enjoying some funny (if stilted) conversation with my exchange friends. No offense, Athens, but top that.

Sidenote: My favorite thing about Avignon so far? The key to get into my house. It’s adorable.

Real life, this is how I unlock the door to our house.

And, of course, have a song. This is courtesy of the exchange playlist my soul sister tucked into my suitcase.

Hope you’re enjoying the snow, Ohio.

March 26, 2011 - Leave a Response

Ok, I’m finally at my host family’s house and here’s some good news: FRANCE IS FREAKING AMAZING. Everything is cute and wonderful and sunny and old and I LOVE IT.

We’re just going to skip over my trip here because it was awful and ended with me crying to my dad via Skype while in the bathroom of my hotel room. Not. Cool. After that my roommate (and a nap) helped me pull it together and we had a quick orientation as a group. Then we went to this amazing dinner.

The restaurant we went to for our first dinner in Avignon was used as a carriage house in the 15th century. So it’s this amazingly old building with mismatched everything and candles on the tables. The chef came out and told us what was being served that evening. We had a delicious salad followed by the entree of our choice. I had some sort of fish in an unknown but super delicious sauce. That was followed by some chocolate dessert thing that was just as delicious as the dinner, if not more so. Between the food, wine and conversation, it was an amazing night that I will not soon forget.

Today, as a group, we walked around what felt like the whole town of Avignon. The streets wind in and out of each other and the buildings are old and crumbly in the most perfect way possible. It is, essentially, everything I ever thought a French city would be. After wandering for a bit we broke for lunch (croque monsieur!) and then went on a tour of the Papal Palace of Avignon. Built in the 1400s, I believe it is the oldest building I have ever been in. Very cool, very historical, pictures coming soon to a Facebook newsfeed near you.

After that we went to the Pont d’Avignon, which is basically just this bridge that got torn up so it only goes part of the way now. There’s a children’s song that goes along with it. So, we spent some time over the Rhone river and it was so beautiful. Warm, sunny, not a cloud in the sky, singing some French kids song on an old bridge. I’ll take it.

Then came the terrifying moment we had all been waiting for. Our host families came to get us. Now, it’s only been a few hours and I don’t want to jinx it, but my host family is amazing. It’s Annelous and Patrick and their 17 year old daughter Clarice. They are so nice and very patient with my choppy french. Annelous speaks English very well so she’s working as a good buffer while I’m getting my bearings. She actually googled me before I got here and watched this video, so she knew what I looked like when she came to get me. She also commented on my date party dress that she found via Facebook. It seems like she could give Alisa a run for her money in the creeping department.

Anyways, they are all extremely nice. My room is adorable and has it’s own set of doors onto the yard. I think I will definitely like it here.

In the past 24 hours I think I’ve run the gamut of emotions. Terror, anxiety, exhaustion (is that an emotion?), excitement, etc. It’s been exhausting, especially with all of the French conversation, but I know I can do this now. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the weekend brings!

PS I have the best sister ever, as evidenced by the letters I found while unpacking my suitcase today. They are now hanging above my desk. Love you, soul sister!!

sister exchangie love

“Now where am I going?”

March 24, 2011 - One Response

It’s my last night in Switzerland and I can hardly believe that tomorrow I will be boarding a train (or three) to France. These past few days have gone by pretty quickly, but I’m glad I got to squeeze in some sister bonding time before I went to Avignon.

On Tuesday Michelle and a few of her friends took the afternoon off of school and we went on a little adventure. We borrowed Michelle’s host grandpa’s car and drove through the Swiss countryside to have lunch on top of a mountain. Now, this wasn’t just some jalopy that some old guy drives to bingo. This was the smartest car I have ever been in and definitely the fanciest one I have ever driven. The seat forms to your body when you start the engine and the mirrors move on their own depending on what gear the car is in. Unreal.

Anyways, so I’m driving this fancy BMW through the Swiss countryside and on the Swiss highway to get to this mountain. We get there and the funiculaire that was supposed to take us up the mountain was closed, and there was no way we were hiking. So, instead, Michelle, her friends and I drove around aimlessly. In Switzerland they have roundabouts instead of intersections, but I’ve been to Columbus so it wasn’t a big deal.

Tuesday night we went to $2 beer night with another one of Michelle’s friends. It was pretty low key, but there were boys in uniform EVERYWHERE. I was a happy camper. Michelle took me to school with her on Wednesday and afterwards I met all of her exchange friends. It was nice to finally meet everyone that I had heard so much about.

I had a lot of fun this week. Between my sister showing off her city to the two of us just hanging out, being soul sisters, it was great to see her. In anticipation of this visit, the only thing I could think about was seeing her after so many months apart. I didn’t think about how she would be different. That was silly of me, of course she’s different. It’s not in any glaring way, I still know my sister. But she is more confident now, she is her own person. It almost feels like she doesn’t need her family anymore because she’s so independent. I hope that’s not true.

Although I’m sad to say goodbye to my sister again, it’s good that I’m leaving. I don’t belong here. This is Michelle’s world and, try as I might, there really isn’t room for me in it. All I can do now is go to Avignon and hopefully make a world of my own.

Sidenote: Michelle’s host family has two cats. This week they have killed and brought into the house three birds. Feathers everywhere. Apparently the only other time they have done something like this is when our cousin Ellen was visiting back in the fall. It has something to do with the cats trying to prove themselves, but all it’s doing is reinforcing the fact that I am a dog person.

Michelle with Blackie, one of the culprits.

Beaucoup du fromage

March 21, 2011 - Leave a Response

So here I am, just hanging in the Land of the Switz with my soul sister number one who just yesterday turned 19. Oh how the time flies!

Saturday afternoon my parents took me to the airport where I didn’t cry (much) and went through security before boarding my flight to DC. It was a short flight on one of those rinky-dink little planes. It’s ok though because I listened to Wagon Wheel, so I was fine.

After my short layover in DC I was on my way to Europe! Somehow I was in the fancy seats in the economy section of the plane. It wasn’t the first or business class, so I didn’t get my own bed or anything (although why didn’t I think of that?!), but I had lots of leg room and a fancier pillow and blanket situation than the rest of the commoners in the economy section. Everyone had their own tv so I got to watch lots of movies. I watched True Grit, The King’s Speech, Due Date, and Tangled. Due Date was stupid, but at least it was entertaining. The other three were great. I didn’t even listen to my iPod or read or anything, the flight went by pretty quickly.

Apparently the moon was the closest to the earth that it has been in twenty years, so that was really cool to see, especially since it was such a clear night. There was a horde of teenagers near my seat who were going to Switzerland for a ski trip. At first this was great because a lot of the guys had that nice scruffy snowboarder look to them, and I would need something to look at, wouldn’t I? Turns out they were really annoying. C’est la vie.

So, after approximately ten hours of traveling, I landed in Geneva at 6:30 am local time on Michelle’s birthday. My darling sister had gotten into town from Ireland the night before so she slept in the airport in anticipation of my arrival. She is the best. Our reunion was met with screaming, tears and hugging, followed by lugging my suitcases around the airport. We almost missed our train but eventually made our way to the upper deck of the train to Fribourg and were on our merry little way.

While waiting for my flights along the way, I talked to a lot of friends. The thing people asked the most was how was I feeling and whether I was scared. Before I landed, I really wasn’t nervous. I just kept thinking about seeing my sister for the first time in 7 months and how excited I was for that. But once we were settled into our train ride it hit me that after this visit with her, I would not be returning home. I will be taking another train to Avignon, France where I will stay for the next ten weeks. That was when the homesickness hit me. I got that sudden urge to hug my mom, you know what I mean? God, just writing about it is making me sad. Moving on!

After the train, Michelle and I took a bus and then walked the rest of the way to her house. It’s so cute and her host family is really nice. I got to meet her host mom briefly before she left for a week-long golf trip in France. Her host sister is currently studying abroad, so it’s just Michelle, her host brothers and her host dad for the week.

After taking a rather long nap yesterday afternoon, I woke up and had a beer with Michelle, her brother Guillaume and her friend Grace. It didn’t really feel that different from OU, napping all day and waking up to start drinking. Granted, we didn’t hit the bars or anything afterwards but we did go out for Michelle’s birthday. We got drinks before dinner and Michelle and Grace introduced me to a Monaco, which is beer with grenadine in it. Very sweet and very pink. Afterwards we went to dinner at the Café du Midi, one of Michelle’s favorite restaurants. It is owned by her host dad’s friend so they go there a lot.

Everything on the menu contained cheese. I got Croûte au Fromage avec jambon for dinner, with is a piece of toast with ham on top and smothered in melted cheese. When it was set down in front of me, it just looked like a bowl of cheese. It was heavenly. Between that and the wine, I was absolutely stuffed. I was even too full for ice cream, which is saying something.

After our delicious dinner, Louis-Guy, Michelle’s host dad, drove us home. He drives like a mad man. We were darting in and out of alleys and whipping around corners like it was some sort of Mario Kart track. Ridiculous.

Today I accidentaly slept until 2 pm but then Michelle’s friend Grace took me into town to meet Michelle and their other exchange friends Whitney and Mylisha. We hung out at a café for awhile then Michelle and I went home to make dinner. While we ate, we watched Friends, so it was almost like being at home except the show was dubbed in French. We made a funfetti birthday cake too, it was delicious.

Tomorrow I’m going to school with Michelle for a class and then going up to some mountain for lunch. That’s Switzerland for you, I guess!

 

PS The HGTV Dream Home Giveaway winner was announced Saturday night while I was in flight. I did not win.

Don’t think twice, it’s alright

March 17, 2011 - One Response

The countdown to my departure for Europe has gone from weeks to days to hours and I am freaking out. The whole thing is still rather surreal to me, but I am growing more excited the closer I get to my reunion with my Soul Sister Number One.

Leaving Athens was more difficult than I can properly express, mainly because I had to say goodbye to some of my favorite seniors (looking at you Meg, Carlos, Kap). Also, I left behind my sorority house, where I have lived for the past two years.

The house that built me.

I have fallen in love with that house and it was my home when the house I grew up in was being split in two. Knowing that I have amazing friends to return to in Athens is a comfort, but I have never handled change well and knowing I will never live at 101 South Court Street again is hard for me to grasp. Regardless, I am now on the brink of an amazing spring quarter and I am looking forward to what awaits me abroad.

One of my biggest fears in life is not living. Sure, I’m afraid of heights, I’m a little claustrophobic and I can’t really handle scary movies, but the one thing that keeps me up at night is thinking that I am wasting my youth by not properly living. This quarter in Avignon is my big adventure, my opportunity to step out of my comfort zone for the first time in a long time. I’m scared, of course, but I’ll do just as Jack says on LOST: give myself five seconds to be afraid, and then face what’s coming. And what’s coming is going to be amazing.

La mer a berce mon coeur pour la vie

February 19, 2011 - One Response

I’ve been having a tough time getting ready for France lately. I know it’s going to be an amazing experience, but my worries and anxiety have been getting the best of me. Even though I won’t be living in Paris, this video renewed my excitement for a quarter abroad.

 

I am the Luckiest

January 27, 2011 - One Response

The Athens music scene saw some big names yesterday when Ben Folds and opening act Street Corner Symphony performed at Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium. SCS, runners-up on the NBC show “The Sing-Off,” started the evening off with some of the rousing covers they performed on the show. “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears, “Creep” by Radiohead and “Hey, Soul Sister” by Train were some of the crowd favorites performed by the a cappella group. They also introduced an original piece called “Shooting Star.” The amusing and personable group set a great tone for the rest of the concert and even took time after their set to meet and take pictures with fans.

Me and Alisa with Street Corner Symphony

After a delay long enough to meet SCS, Ben Folds and his band finally took the stage. They scampered around like little kids hopped up on sugar for a few minutes, but they eventually took their places at their instruments. The band immediately assumed a casual attitude, interacting with the audience and not taking themselves too seriously. Ben played the keyboard with his feet, the tambourine player made a spectacle of himself and Ben responded to hecklers in the audience. There was a lot of improvisation on stage, with Ben taking a long keyboard solo and then singing specifically to Athens. The group then requested the house lights be brought up and then led the audience through a sing along of sorts for a collaborative video being filmed over the course of the tour.

Most of the songs featured throughout the performance were from Ben’s recent album Lonely Avenue, on which he collaborated with British writer Nick Hornby. Ben’s hands seemed to move faster than physically possible as he pounded out rocking rhythms and genius riffs. Towards the middle of the set he slowed things down. It was just Ben and his piano with a single spotlight illuminating the scene as he played some of his mellower tunes. He even took requests from the audience and played “The Luckiest.”

By interacting so freely with the crowd and making it clear that he was having a lot of fun, Ben Folds’ performance was entertaining, riveting and, most importantly, fun.