Tuesday, December 20, 2011

There's no place like home.

Three train rides and three plane rides later, I'm finally home. For now I'm going to make the most of my time here, but I'll be sure to give the details of the successful trip home later. 

There weren't any serious issues on the trip (besides another scare at the beginning involving my first train connection), but it certainly would have been easier to go home The Wizard of Oz style.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

It's a Wonderful Life

If I was home, I would watch this:

Swiss Air will not refund me unless my flight is cancelled again. They told me that I have to call the company I initially booked my flight with (Cheapoair) to change my flight, but then Cheapoair said I have to talk to Swiss Air to change my flight because the flight Cheapoair booked me for departed and now I'm in Swiss Air's hands. Unless I want to pay another 200 euros to change my flight (not to mention at least another 100 euros for another train ticket and hotel room), I have no choice but to go to the airport tomorrow and wait for my flight to be cancelled again

Update: Flying out of Geneva in the morning! No fee!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

La grève

Today was officially one of the worst days in the history of my life. That may just be because it was supposed to be one of the happiest. I was supposed to go home today. I was supposed to take an early train, wait around for four hours in the airport terminal, and then fall soundly asleep on a very long flight. Everything happened according to plan, aside from the last step.

Bref: There was a strike at the airport in Lyon and I spent eleven hours there trying to find a way to get back to Arizona with no luck. My flight has been rescheduled for Monday morning. Click the link to read more, but I warn you: It's depressing and there are zero pictures.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Le retour

After completing my medical visit, finishing the visa process, and wrapping up the majority of my Christmas shopping, I'm finally on the home stretch. Literally. Wish me luck getting my suitcase under the 50 lb. weight limit...

Monday, December 12, 2011

La cuisine française

I've started and deleted several blogposts lately, a little unsure of how to organize the past week's events. I guess I'll stay true to form and start with food.

As Christmas has been approaching, we've started eating more and more "traditional" winter dishes. Unfortunately I feel too silly busting out my camera at the dinner table, so I'll just have to rely on google images this time around.

1. Les œufs à la coque

Basically an egg that's been partially hard-boiled. 

You add salt and eat it with a spoon and/or dip mouillettes (strips of bread) and/or cheese.
Super delicious, unless of course you don't like eggs. 
We had this for dinner the other night.
Eggs are not a breakfast food around here. 

2. Le boudin

Okay, so I had serious reservations before eating le boudin, because it shares an unsettling likeness with the many piles of dog poo I have to avoid day to day. The family asked me if I wanted to know what it was made of before or after I ate it. I figured after might be best, and felt slightly more comfortable after they assured me that it was in no way excrement. Waiting ended up being a wise choice because the taste was actually delicious. If I'd known what it was, I probably would have been too disturbed to even take a second bite.

I don't typically like sausage, so I was surprised to find that it was far more delicious than any sausage I'd had before. Who would have thought that the "secret ingredient" my tastebuds had been wanting was... pig's blood. That's right, people. I'm one of those crazies that likes blood sausage.

3. Papillotes

Papillotes are chocolates wrapped in shiny paper and on the inside, there is always a small piece of paper with a fact, joke, or famous quote. I've done my best to be like Mimi and savor the chocolate instead of scarfing it down, but it hasn't been easy. These chocolates are amazing.

In lieu of French Music Friday, here is one Christmas song I haven't been able to get out of my head.

I'm so excited to be home for Christmas in just a few more days!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Le Marché de Noël

Last weekend Pierrelatte had their annual Christmas market, so I decided to meet up with the other assistants on Saturday for a pre-market picnic by the lake. I have very few pictures of the other assistants, but this one was taken on our way to the lake.

Me, E, K, C (the Spanish assistant), and M (another American assistant)

We walked for at least twenty minutes to get to the lake and it reminded me a lot of Freestone Park. Personally I still think I prefer Freestone, but it was nice to go somewhere new. It was also super cold. While we were shivering over our sandwiches, someone made the comment that we would be the only people crazy enough to go to the park for a picnic in winter. 

Me and an underwhelming tree


Friday, December 2, 2011

French Music Friday -- Vol. 4: Claire Denamur

Today I felt like posting a video from one of my favorite French singers. I'm sure I've talked about Claire Denamur before, if for no other reason than to covet her hair swoop, but I adore her voice. 

When I came to France just over two months ago, one of the first questions the family asked me was what French music I liked. I mentioned the obvious (Edith Piaf, duh) and a few other famous artists, but when I said Claire Denamur, they were completely shocked. They said that she's not at all well-known in France outside of certain circles, and they asked me how on earth I discovered her music all the way out in Arizona. Thanks, Little Brown Pen, for making me seem awesome.

Despite how cheery this song may sound, it's actually quite sad. It's about a fairytale, happy ending not turning out the way it should have. I still love it though. I think you can guess what "Le Prince Charmant" means, but Tyler always called it the "restaurant" song because that was the one line he understood. I still have to play that game from time to time -- trying to remember snippets of French lyrics to google songs after hearing them on the radio. I did the same thing with the Karimouche song with the "pourquoi c'est comme ci, pourquoi c'est comme ca" line. Thank goodness for search engines.

Anyway, Claire Denamur came out with a new album recently and supposedly it's "edgier," whatever that means. The first single off of it looks much more intense than "Le Prince Charmant," so I guess I'll just go off of that. If you were wondering what I want for Christmas, now you know. :)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Cookies, John Denver, & the Muppets

Yes, I did just make a success kid meme.
Really though -- it's intimidating to try and bake when you're in Carrefour and can't even remember the French word for flour (it's farine by the way). 

The oven here is another story. The knob doesn't have degree markings (even if it did, it would be in celsius) and many of the buttons don't work anymore. It's also gas so I have to literally light the oven and Mme. T told me not to feel bad if I can't make it work because even her mother-in-law can't do it. Well, I sure showed them.

The cookies did end up looking a little square, but I don't even care. They are delicious! (And by delicious I mean that they taste like the pre-made dough cookies I usually make at home.)

Now excuse me while I go pour a glass of milk and reminisce about listening to John Denver & the Muppets with my family while decorating the tree.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Le colis/The Package

My sister sent me a package and Paula decided that we should write a story.

Le colis
The Package

Un colis est sur la table!
A package is on the table!

Je l'ouvre.
I open it.

Des bagels!

Je regarde ce qu'il y a dans ce colis...
I look at what's inside this package...

Une fleur (pour Paula).
A flower (for Paula).

Des bonbons d'Halloween!
Halloween candy!

Ma ceinture abandonnée!
My abandoned belt!

Mes lunettes du soleil que je viens de retrouver!
My sunglasses that I got back!

Des chaussettes Bob l'eponge.
SpongeBob socks.

Un tee-shirt "it's time to be a Sun Devil."
A t-shirt -- "it's time to be a Sun Devil."

Je le retourne.
I put it back.

Une carte.
A card.
The End.

de Paula et de Katrina
by Paula and Katrina

Monday, November 28, 2011

Un vrai beginner

In the past week I have seen two exceptional movies: Un homme, un vrai and Beginners.

I would highly recommend both of them. The first is in French and the second is in English.

Both are love stories and both are what one would call artsy. There's even a little bit of singing in the first.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Turkey Day Part III: Pierrelatte Style

As I mentioned, Friday night I was lucky enough to get together with the other assistants in Pierrelatte for a Thanksgiving dinner along with many of the professors that they work with. Despite being in France and eating rotisserie chicken instead of turkey, this may have been one of my most authentic Thanksgiving experiences ever.

The food was delicious. I can't remember the last time I had a Thanksgiving where everything was made from scratch and ohmygoodness does it make a difference. My tastebuds were in a magical, savory heaven.  

Mashed potatoes, stuffing, chicken, and green beans

Pumpkin pie, pecan pie, tiramisu, and whipped cream
My fellow assistants have impressive cooking skills. I wish I could say that I helped out or even did some dishes, but that would be a lie, because shortly before heading over to Pierrelatte for the dinner, I took another cough drop and ended up completely losing my voice. My throat didn't hurt anymore, but my vocal cords also couldn't function properly, so every syllable I uttered sounded like my last -- the only 'help' anyone wanted from me was to not breathe on anything.

We were about sixteen in total and still ended up having enough food left over to last several meals. We ate pie for breakfast the next day, and I decided to take that as a sign that we were celebrating the holiday right.

After the meal, the German assistant brought down his guitar and we all sang along to different songs in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, and even a little Yiddish. It's hard to describe just how cool that experience was, so I don't think I'm even going to try aside from mentioning that my voice started feeling better by the end.

The next day a few of us decided go for what turned out to be quite a long walk because we felt guilty for our return to American, gluttonous tendencies. How do you explain to Europeans that guilt and a stomachache is just a part of American holidays?

We walked to a park, down to the other end of Pierrelatte, to the Carrefour, and then back to their residence at the lycee to eat a light dinner, play scrabble, and watch a Muppet Family Christmas before calling it a night.

A panther statue in the park

Cat slide

Bench in the middle of nowhere

A blurry me on the bench

Note the nuclear plant on the other side of the trees

Friday, November 25, 2011

French Music Friday -- Vol. 3: Jeanne Moreau

From what I've been told, Jeanne Moreau is much better known for being an actress than a singer. I won't pretend to be an expert on French cinema, since the only role I recognized on her imdb filmography was her as the old lady in Ever After

I've listened to this record four or five times in the past couple of weeks and love it. 

Happy Friday!

Turkey Day Part II

Happy Thanksgiving! I am so grateful for my family, friends, the opportunities I've had, the generous people I've met here in France, my upcoming trip home for Christmas, and technology. It would have been a sad Thanksgiving indeed if not for the internet and skype.

On Wednesday I had the Thanksgiving dessert gouter with another American family and the other families that live in their building. We had pumpkin pie, cheesecake, carrot cake, banana bread, cranberries, popcorn, and cider, and I brought home some leftover cheesecake and carrot cake for my host family to try. They weren't crazy about the concept of carrot cake but cheesecake is right up their alley.

My actual Thanksgiving day did not start out well at all. I've been coming down with a sore throat for the past couple of days now and yesterday I could barely speak when I first woke up. I had to go teach in the morning, so I chugged some tea and managed to find a single Hall's cough drop in my toiletries bag before heading out the door and resolving to go to a pharmacy and get some cough drops afterward. 

Work was entertaining because, as I've mentioned before, French people know next to nothing about Thanksgiving. I had my CE2/CM1 (3rd/4th grade) classes make paper turkeys and write what they are thankful for on the feathers. A few of them were still a bit confused about the point of the task even after I'd explained that it was a very typical Thanksgiving activity for kids in the US, so it was pretty funny to me when their teacher just told them "Taisez-vous" ("Shut up") and that "today they're pretending to be Americans." Then one kid, a trouble-maker by French standards but to me just a regular silly boy, decided he would color the feathers with green and orange polka-dots and blue stripes. The teacher just rolled his eyes at him like he was a hopeless case, but I thought it was creative and asked him if he was making an alien turkey -- he thought that was pretty hilarious and kept calling me over to check his progress on the "dinde ovni." 

I went straight from work down to the pharmacy to pick up some cough drops but I couldn't find them and when I asked for help, it turns out they keep the cough drops in the back (?). So the lady brought out this box and warned me not to take more than four to six in one day, so then I was a little confused. What kind of cough drops need to be kept in the back and have specific dosage guidelines? 

It turns out that these are no ordinary cough drops. In my opinion, they didn't actually do much to soothe my throat. I still felt congested and although my throat didn't hurt per se, it was slightly numb along with the back of my tongue and having had negative experiences with oral surgery and numbing in the past, I don't associate numbness with happiness.

I spent most of my Thanksgiving coughing, reading, waiting for my family to wake up to talk to me on skype, and sitting directly next to the radiator. Everyone seems to think it's their job to tell me that the weather is usually much, much colder this time of year, but that doesn't make me feel any warmer.

That afternoon I did a google search for how to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade online and did a small victory dance when I found it on earthcam. Unfortunately, they make the parade look way more exciting on TV than it actually appears to be in person, but Mindy recorded it so I'll be able to watch it with her and my mama when I go back. It's just not the same without seeing the Broadway numbers and other performances. I did get to see the giant balloons though before I got bored and turned it off.

Sock monkey

Uncle Sam

Sponge Bob

Energizer bunny

Dough boy

Ice cream cone?

Ronald McDonald



Chatouille decided to watch the parade with me, but I think all she really wanted was to be in the room where the radiator was on full blast. And to add to my sore throat by aggravating my allergies.

Around 9 am Arizona time my parents put on skype so I got to spend Thanksgiving breakfast with everyone, chatting and being jealous of their bagels and cream cheese.

Today I'm off to Pierrelatte for a French/Friendsgiving with the other language assistants and then a day trip Saturday. We're substituting rotisserie chicken for turkey but at least there will be mashed potatoes!