Tuesday, July 22, 2008

La Fête Nationale, Avignon, Arles, and the last days of class!

On le 14 juillet, we went to one of the bridges on the Rhône river to see the fireworks launched from behind the cathedral at Fourvière. I didn't bring my camera with me because we went out dancing afterwards and I didn't want to lose my camera. The fireworks were pretty good, but they probably would have been much better if we had been close enough to hear the music that I'm assuming accompanied them. Afterward, Canovas and Barbara led us over to the bal de pompiers and we danced ALL night until about 3 am. It was so so so much fun and I was really glad that I didn't have a purse or anything with me - I put all of my ID and money in the boots I wore! Anyway, no one got much sleep that night and we were sooo tired at class the next day.

The rest of the week went by pretty quickly and this past weekend, we went to Avignon and Arles. It was really fun because a theater festival has been going on for three weeks, so there were a lot of cool street performers and Avignon is just an overall beautiful city. We went out to eat at a cute restaurant for lunch and later in the day, we went to this ice cream place and I got three scoops: Nutella, Kinder Chocolate, and Tiramisu. It was amazing.

After that, William, one of the guys in the program, was putting on a small performance, so we headed over to the spot he'd picked out earlier in the day. He's a part of the theater program at ASU and with the Barrett Honors College, he's doing his thesis as a performance of poetry and prose themed on Tristan and Isolde. He did about the first fifteen minutes of it and it was so good. I was really impressed and now I've been trying to think more about what I want to do for my honors thesis, but I still have quite awhile to figure all of that out.

That night we tried to go to another restaurant, but everywhere was really crowded so we all went and bought delicious delicious kebabs. Seriously, they were good. We were supposed to meet our program directors at a bar that night, but Katie, Anna, Ashley, and I were tired so we went back to our room at the hostel in Avignon. We fell asleep really fast since we'd been walking around all day.

The next day we went to a Chartreuse outside of Avignon and it was really beautiful. After that, we drove to Arles and went to a photo exposition. Some of it was pretty cool, but we got really bored after awhile and everyone was ready to get home by the end of the day and SHOWER. We could've showered at the hostel on Saturday or Sunday morning, but we all neglected to bring towels because we wanted our backpacks to be lighter. Who would've thought Avignon would be so warm! As soon as we got home, I showered for almost thirty minutes and went straight to bed.

This week we've just been finishing up our last days of classes and working on projects. Tomorrow is our last day before our theater performance on Thursday and the presentation of our Grave Robber Monopoly game. I'm excited to be done and relax this weekend and to meet Tyler in Barcelona! I miss you all very much and I loved seeing all the videos of you guys on youtube! So jealous that you saw Mamma Mia! and I hope everyone had a great time.

Happy Belated Birthday, Mommy and I love you all!!!!!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Some updates...

Mars Attacks! was hilarious! I took some pictures and you should be able to see them in the links I attach at the end of my post. Let's see... what else have I been up to? One day between classes, we went across the bridge and walked around before getting some amazing chocolate. Then on Friday I had my Art, Ville, et Patrimoine class and we walked around the city some more and found out why the French are all so skinny.

All of the buildings in the Croix-Rousse are considered historical to a certain extent, so they aren't allowed to build elevators on the outsides of the buildings at all. Our teacher showed us her building and let us in to look up at the staircase - she walks up six flights of stairs just to get to her apartment! It's insane! And just walking around the city can be difficult because there are a lot of stairs and inclines all over the place. I can't even imagine living there if you had trouble walking long distances or had asthma or something. It was a tough walk.

When we were walking, we went by this elementary school and our teacher, Annick, knew two little kids that we sitting outside the school and she was asking them a bunch of questions, like what they were doing for summer vacation, if they were happy that it was finally the last day of school, etc. And to every question they just said, "Oui." They were so cute - it made me miss the kids at work. I love seeing the kids around here with their parents. The other day in the market, a little girl was giving herself an orange mustache with a lollipop and another day when I was getting ready to go out, I heard a kid squeeling outside of my window.

It was a really windy day and I looked out from the fourth floor and saw a little boy, probably about 4 years old, pushing a stroller ahead of him, running back behind it, and letting the wind push the stroller back to him while his dad looked on, laughing. It was the cutest thing because the dad tried to take control of the stroller to make sure the little boy didn't get hurt, but the little boy would shout, "Non, non!" in his French accent every time he came near the stroller. I was laughing so hard.

Anyway, I haven't been meeting many French people aside from my professors and this one girl that someone met before they came to the residence. Her name is Carole and she came down for the weekend to hang out because she lives in Northern France and took a placement exam here a couple weeks ago and was getting the results of it. She was nice and she spoke English really well. It was interesting though because when we were in big groups of people, she definitely had a harder time understanding the conversation. For one thing, it's harder to hear and also, people tend to use a lot more clichés and idioms when they aren't thinking about the fact that not everyone is a native English speaker.

One great thing about Lyon is this blue van that makes delicious, fresh pizzas down the street. It is literally the best pizza that I've ever had - no joke. We got two amazing pizzas yesterday. One of them had chèvre, tomatoes, and just a little bit of honey and it was incredible. The other was called the sucrée and it had sugar, cream, and nutella. AMAZING.

Yesterday I went to mass at the church I saw on our initial tour of Lyon. It was absolutely beautiful and mass wasn't too difficult to understand. It's nice that Catholic mass is the same format wherever you go - otherwise I would've been pretty lost. I could usually understand what the priest was saying, but the echo made it difficult. We took lots of pictures though and afterward, we went outside and from the top of the hill you can see the whole city of Lyon. It was breathtaking.

Today is the Fête Nationale, so we have off from school. I tried to sleep in really late today so that I wouldn't be too tired for dancing and fireworks tonight. I'm really excited! Then we only have about 6 days of school left Next weekend I'll be going to Avignon and Arles for a film festival, so that'll be fun. Other than that, I'll just be finishing classes, buying my ticket to meet Tyler and Dave in Barcelona, and trying to finish off all of the food I've bought so far, haha.

I love and miss everyone so much. Mom's been sending me youtube videos of the house, the backyard, the dogs, Mimi and Grandpa, Brett. It's been so nice to hear voices and see faces. Now I know more than ever how much I love my family and how much they love me. Here are two links for a few more pictures. I added photos to one of the albums, so some of the pictures should look familiar already.



Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Exposé... ugh.

Today I had to give a presentation on Tempe and I felt like I was back in junior high. My hands would not stop shaking and I kept losing my place in my notes. It was so difficult to explain Tempe to the teacher because Arizona is just completely and utterly different from anywhere in Europe. I couldn't explain that Arizona is just too hot to have big public spaces like there are in Lyon. Here, you can just meet a friend in a plaza and hang out. In Arizona, you meet up at someone's house or at a restaurant or at a Starbucks to figure out what people feel like doing. If you go to a museum or a play, it's not really spur of the moment. Anyway, the presentation is over now, so I'm not going to think about it anymore. I just need to make sure that I do my best to participate more in class and not be so shy and nervous about speaking French.

But anyone that knows me knows that I'm a perfectionist. I love to participate in class, but I hate to make mistakes. And making mistakes is about one of the only ways that a person can really learn a foreign language - my mind just reels. I have to get over it if I want to succeed.

Anyway, I got some more groceries after school yesterday. My memorization for my scene in theater is going well and the only bad thing about my other classes is that when the teachers are late, the class ends up staying late. It stinks, but at least we're all dealing with it together. Everyone here is so nice and we all get along really well. It's awesome.

So tonight I think I'm going to go see Mars Attacks! across the street with some people. I haven't seen it before but it should be fun. They're playing it for free outside at the Musée de Lumière (the brothers that invented cinéma lived in Lyon so there's a big museum and theater right across from my residence).

I love and miss everyone!
Love love love,

Saturday, July 5, 2008

All of the Brussels pictures (aside from the museum pictures that I'll be putting on soon)

can be found on facebook through this link:


Classes and the 4th of July

My classes here are incredibly challenging. The professors
only speak French to us, even if the students are in the lower level classes and the placement test was computerized so a lot of people got put in the wrong level because they had a fifty percent chance of getting the right answers on some portions of the test.

My theater class is my "projets longs" so I have that class the most often for 3 hours a class period, three days a week. For the first couple days we played a lot of icebreaker games and even though I didn't always understand his instructions, a lot of the games were similar to what I'd done in other acting classes. At the end of the month, we're putting on a production of a bunch of short skits that all take place at a train station. My skit is about a mom dropping off her daughter at the station. I chose it first because it's funny, but also it has the most phrases that I don't understand. Hopefully I'll learn a lot more this way.

Art, ville, patrimoine is my "options culterels" and in the class we talk a lot about city planning and the use of public space. Yesterday morning we went to the Place de Terraux. Before 1990, this spot had a roundabout and was always filled with traffic. Now, it's a huge open space with water that shoots up from the ground during events and parking has been moved underground. We went into two different parking garages. The first one had artifacts from the Middle Ages laying under a glass floor as you walk in. The second parking garage was incredible. It was the Célestins parking garage in case anyone wants to look it up on google or something. The parking garage goes around and around in a circle as you descend to the different levels but along the walls there are windows all the way around (as you see in the picture) and then at the very bottom, a huge circular mirror rotates like a coin that is just about to stop spinning. In the lobby of the garage, music plays and perfume is released into the air every so often - apparently parking garages should have a pleasing ambiance, at least according to the French. Anyway, it is awesome and I wish I'd taken a video.

Sometimes it is difficult to understand the professor and she was actually our tour guide for the first trip around Lyon. Also, I already have to give a presentation this Tuesday on the Phoenix area! I have to talk about the use of public space and other things about the city in under fifteen minutes. Hopefully it goes well; keep your fingers crossed for me. :)

Création de Jeu is my "projets courts" so by the end of the course we have to present some sort of game that we make up. Could be fun.

My grammar class yesterday afternoon was much too advanced for me so I asked the program director to move me down at least to Level 4. He kept asking me over and over again if I was sure I wanted to switch. I said yes because not only was the material too difficult, but the class moved incredibly fast. So hopefully level 4 goes well on Tuesday because he said that he wouldn't move me to a class any lower than that.

Last night after classes I decorated my room a little bit with the help of some skotch tape and random flyers and pictures I've found throughout my trip so far. I'll take a picture and post it later.
After that, a bunch of us went out to a "palais de bière" where there were over 300 different kinds of beer and then to an Irish pub. It was really funny because one of the guys in the program came a couple of weeks early and made friends with some French guys in the area, so he kept running into people that he knew at the different bars. It was nice because that way we didn't feel too out of place or like the French people there didn't like us or something. It was cool. We took a taxi back and then I went to bed. Today I think I'm going to the market to get some more fresh fruit and veggies and then maybe to a couple of antique stores and this big French music and books store called Fnac to get some French CD's.

I miss you all and I hope everyone has a wonderful fourth of July!!!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

A mere fraction of the pictures I've taken so far...

Me on our first night in the Grand Place in Brussels

Tyler next to graffiti David Bowie in Brussels

So much art!


Now that's what I call ultimate frisbee...

Tyler and I still don't know we feel about modern art...

Picasso et moi

Salvidor Dali painting

Sitting at the park in Brussels

Finding our way home from the museum

Belgian chocolates!

Mannekin Pis souvenirs

Beautiful canals in Amsterdam

Eating lunch with Tyler and Dave in Amsterdam

Amsterdam at night

Katie and Katie waiting for the rest of our bus tour...

Me in Lyon in front of the cathedrale St. Jean

Dave and Tyler in Amsterdam

Odd street performer

Outside the Van Gogh Museum

My room

The hallway to one of my classes

Vieux Lyon

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Ma prèmière semaine!

This has been both the fastest and slowest week of my entire life. Tyler qnd I drove with my mom where she dropped us off at Sky Harbor for our first flight to Philadelphia. We played egyptian ratscrew and war, got one last bottle full of nasty Phoenix tap water; and looked up French phrases in our book before boarding. The flight wasn't completely unbearable and although I wasn't happy about foregoing my window seat so that Tyler could cozy up to the wall with my Toy Story alien travel pillow, I at least got to watch Freddie Highmore play a set of American-accented twins in Spiderwick Chronicles.

At the Philadelphia airport, we wandered around until we ran into a Sbarro's for lunch (my supreme slice of pizza left something to be desired compared to my latter Belgian chocolates, Belgian waffle, sandwiches in Amsterdam, le classique sandzich thon dans le Bellecour à Lyon; and le canard at the Chinese restaurant called La Capitale in my new neighborhood) and then took pictures of the cool artwork on the way to the International terminal (again, it is nothing compared to the musée de beaux-arts à Bruxelles or the Van Gogh museum and Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam). Anyway, our flight left around 8 and even though ourplane was fairly s,all; it took about two hours for us to get our dinner and first drinks... all we really wanted was to try and sleep.

Unfortunately, Tyler and I were both extremely uncomfortable and cramped - of course, not too much else could really be expected: So by the time we landed in Brussels, I was
a) still on 3 am AZ time and b) I zas terrified to have to already be jumping into a francophone country.

Our luggage made it to us but dragging my suitcase around through the airport looking for the train station and then searching Brussels for our would have been terrible if Tyler wasn't there to help me up and dozn all of the stairs - or, better put, lack of escalators. Even in our sleepy stupor though, finding our way to our destination was fairly easy and we didn't have any major problems. We were supposed to get a private double bedroom with a shared bathroom but the hotel ended up giving us a triple private bedroom with our own shower, sink, and tv... but no toilet. Our shared toilet was down the hall.

At this point, our experiences in Brussels kind of blend together. From what I remember, we were both really hungry; so we decided to clean up and head out to look for the main tourist area, La Grand Place, so we could get something to eat. We got a little lost since we started walking in the complete opposite direction, but our empty stomachs helped us find our way. We literally ran into Mannekin Pis (the bronze statue of a young boy peeing into the fountain below him). Believe it or not, this statue is one of the main tourist attractions in Brussels. It makes for interesting souvenirs to say the least. We walked around and admired the idyllic cobblestone streets, small shops, and cafés until we eventually ran into the elaborate, massive guildhalls of the Grand Place. However, I was too hungry to take pictures and we headed back for some pitas at a small place. Ordering in French to a real French speaker was both very nerve-wracking for me and very silly of me.

Since European waiters seldom come back to the table once the customers get their food, it took me a good ten minutes to work up the courage to walk into the indoor section to ask for "l'addition,s'il vous plait." After that; we did a lot of wandering around and looking at the various shops until we were too tired and went to grab a few essentials from the store and took a long nap before checking out the nightlife a bit.

The next day we got up fairly early and decided to go to the fine art museum. We saw some amazing graffiti on the way but INCREDIBLE art inside le musée de beaux-arts. I took a ton of pictures and we took a break to get a nice lunch at a café down the street. Afterwards, we saw some modern art and then went to a very nice park across from the European Union. Then we left to do some more walking around and so,e shopping before going to the hotel to rest. That night we got some dinner at a café and Spain won the semi-finals in soccer, so people were all going crazy yelling even though they zere Belgians! A huge road was blocked off and completely filled with people decked out in red and yellow jerseys and flags. It was getting late so we headed home and unfortunately we ran into trouble.

This guy asked Tyler if he had any cigarettes and Tyler said no but the guy started acting goofy and giving hi, high fives and stuff before walking away. We both thought it was really bizarre... and then it hit us - where was Tyler's wallet? Of course with Tyler's luck, the man was a pickpocket and was nowhere in sight. We went back to the hotel where we explained the situation so that we could get a new room key and then Tyler did his best to make all the necessary phonecalls and earning T-mobile a fortune in international call charges. It was ridiculous and neither of us slept well - all we could think about was how on earth we would finish the trip if Tyler didn't have a debit or credit card. The next day, we got up early and went to the train station to get answers for certain questions about our Eurail passes and other train tickets before leaving for Amsterdam.

Amsterdam is first and foremost a tourist city. English is spoken everywhere you go and the tiny streets are lined wieth buildings that see, to lean into each other. Our hostel was nice and we met lots of American college kids like us. We made friends easily and Dave met us there too. Tyler was able to figure out his money situation before we went to walk around the canals, eat lunch, take picturesn and feed the ducks in the canal. After that; we hung out in our hostel and talked with other people about what to do in the city beofre going to a Chinese buffet and falling asleep from nine to twelve at our hostel before going out for a few more hours. Again, everyone spoke English and most of the music at the bars were Top 40 hits from the late nineties. Afterwards we did some walking around the red light district and despite the bikini-clad women in the blacklight window displays, the bridges were lit up beautifully and the lights reflecting off the canal water made a beautiful picture.

The next day we got up early and bought some delicious apple turnovers before taking the tramway to the Van Gogh museum and Vondel Park. The museum was amazing and although we weren't allowed to take pictures, I bought some postcards and took a few pictures outside.
Then we watched street performers from ouside a coffeeshop and then went to hang out with people from our hostel (not the seventy year old Spanish man that moved in the second day) before going to bed.

The next day, we went out to breakfast (apple pie with vanilla ice cream mmm) and then to the house where Anne Frank stayed with her family in hiding during WWII. Again, we couldn't take pictures but it was an incredibly moving experience. Of course the neighborhood has undergone many changes since then and the rooms of their secret annex are kept unfurnished aside from old documents in glass cases and televisions showing short interviews of the people who knew Anne and survived the war, including Miep Gies and Otto Frank, Anne's father.

A facsimile of the diary was there because of climate control issues but what I thought was interesting was that the actress who received an Academy award for her portayal of Mrs. VanPels in the film donated her Oscar to the museum. I was so glad that I was able to see the building and although the museum was much smaller then the Holocaust museum in Washington, D.C., hearing and reading the words of Qnne Frank's diary while in this place was just as ,oving and i,portant to me as the other museum. I've known her story since childhood and when I started my first journal, I named my journal and wrote a short letter to the reader just as she did.

Anyway, we visited the Rijksmuseum right next to the Van Gogh museum and saw wonderful masterpieces like "Night Watch" and other Rembrandts as well as other works of art important to the history of the Netherlands. Again, no pictures but it was wonderful.

I had some trouble getting a train ticket for Lyon because I didn't reserve my seat in time to avoid buying an actual ticket, but I ended up at Lyon Part-Dieu in one piece after Tyler said goodbye to me. He got to spend his birthday in Berlin! :)

Next I took a taxi in just a few minutes to the residence where I got my room key for room 336. In France, the floor numbers start at zero so my room is actually on the fourth floor. I didn't notice the elevator on my way into the building so I ended up dragging my 46.5 pound suitcase up four flights of non-air-conditioned stairwell in a seemingly abandoned residence. As soon as I got into my room, I jumped in the shower and emptied the contents of my suitcase before begrudgingly noticing and riding the elevator down to the ground floor for a 6 o'clock meeting. After the meeting, me and Katie, a girl I knew before the program started, went to the grocery store with me before we went out to dinner with a few people at an adorable, nice Chinese restaurant down the street. It was soooo good and I loved finally getting to really hang out with the other people in the program.

The next day, the director Dr. Canovas and assistants Barbara and Shannon showed us how to use the metro and lightrail to get to our university (CIEF) and it wasn't too complicqted. Then we took the written portion of our placement exam. We had to write a story based off an illustration of an angry dog barking at a family sitting on top of a bureau. Pretty odd.

Afterward, we went down the street and across the Rhone river to grab a quick lunch and since Katie's bag got lost by the airlines, I helped her find some clothes after we went back to the university to reserve our spots for the weekend trip to Avignon on July 19th and 20th. After that, we took our oral and reading exam in a computer lab and it was really really really difficult. Then we did a little bit of shopping for school supplies before going on a three hour bus tour through Lyon. It was awesome!

We saw beautiful roman ruins, two amazing cathedrals that hopefully I'll be able to attend mass at this Sunday, and other neat places in Vieux Lyon - I have tons of pictures.
We were exhausted by the end of it because although we were on a bus tour, a lot of walking was involved. Katie and I went back to the residence to finish off our baguettes and some Oreos and then I stayed up to start writing what you see before you (minus all of the spelling and punctuation mistakes because of this crazy keyboard!!!!).

So this morning we went to CIEF at nine to see what classes we got and I am in Theatre, Art Ville Patrimoine, and Création de Jeux. The first was a fun acting class and the second is all about learning the art, cities, and heritage of France. So far the classes seem really challenging and I won't know how création de jeux is until tomorrow. So far, I'm practically drowning in French, but I think I'm going to learn A LOT. I'm amazed by how much I actually understand and I'm happy that I got into the upper level courses. However, if it gets to be too much, I can move down a level. Sometimes I'll recognize words, but not remember what they mean exactly.

So now I'm just waiting for Katie to finish her class so we can run down to the grocery store to get some much needed food!
The computer here has a USB plug-in, so I'm going to put up at least a few pictures when I get some more free time - probably this weekend.

I miss and love you all and I'm always thinking of you!!!!!
Love love love,