Monday, May 25, 2009


So many times I will accept an invitation to something in France and then have no idea what I am getting into. It always ends up being just fine-- I'm usually just extremely under-dressed-- but then I comfort myself with the reminder that because I'm American the French have verrrry low expectations for how I look.

Yesterday the French-American Alliance of Caen took me, Daniel, Megan, Rachel, and Ashley to a Memorial Day service at the American Military Cemetery. We didn't know we were going to a ceremony, first of all, and second of all, I had completely forgotten that it was Memorial Day Weekend, but it was a pleasant surprise. The service was very beautiful. A few senators, representatives, and troops from the United States were there (one of our soldiers fainted-- it was pretty hot outside!), as were various leaders from around France.

One veteran who actually fought in D-Day told his story. That was my favorite part, because somehow he managed to be lighthearted in spite of all of the tragedy he was recounting, and it was just an incredible story. I felt awful because it was not translated into French and so the French speakers in the audience must have been bored out of their minds. The old French couple sitting next to Daniel revealed what they had really been paying attention to while he spoke; at the end of the story as we were clapping, they turned to Daniel and said, "Ecoutez les grenouilles!" (Listen to the frogs!) and pointed out the frogs in the lily pond next to them that they had been watching.

After that there was a cocktail reception attended by many of the US and French officers and perhaps even a senator or two, though I'm not sure, and then the French-American Alliance took us out to dinner at this fantastic and very expensive buffet of the best French food... YUM. After a promenade on the beach we went home, collapsed, and nursed our sunburns.

The American Military Cemetery is an incredibly powerful sight to see. Omaha Beach, which is in view as you walk around is so peaceful and beautiful that it's hard to believe that just 65 years ago thousands of soldiers were fighting and dying right where people are now swimming and windsurfing.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Things I will miss, and what I look forward to

The things I will miss about France:
--My two favorite French people in the whole world: Mathilde and Emilie
--The town of Caen, and how everything is so close, it's so easy to walk everywhere, and the quaintness.
--Bakeries, creperies, gelato, and open markets
--The ease of travel by train, bus, and plane. I will miss this SO much.
--The relaxed lifestyle
--Bread, cheese, cider, wine
--Walking around, taking naps outside, enjoying the beautiful gardens
--Being a teaching assistant in Vire
--Speaking French

What I will not miss about France

--The excess amount of paper work and hidden fees everywhere
--The strikes, tear gas, etc.
--My dorm room (though I'll miss the people who live in the dorms!)
--The way they use Barack Obama to advertise everything, from strikes, to book fairs, to concerts. Seriously-- the advertisement for the book fair had a picture of Obama talking on the phone. It doesn't even make sense! But, okay, yeah, it's pretty hilarious at times.
--The disorganization of my university and teaching assistant program.

What I am looking forward to in the USA

--My family and friends (of course!)
--My favorite foods, like barbecue, cheesecake, pancakes, Mexican, and Indian food, and being able to cook them in my kitchen with Heidi!
--The relaxed atmosphere of restaurants and their prices (they charge for water in France!). I can't wait to cuddle up on a couch at Common Grounds with a book and just stay there for hours.
--The atmosphere of my university. I'll NEVER complain about White Hall Classroom Building again. I think, very generally speaking, American students have a greater respect for their campuses. You won't find the amount of litter, vandalism, or graffiti on an American campus as you will on a French one. I think the most UK students ever do is sidewalk chalk :D.

As much as I appreciate the USA now that I've been away from it for awhile, I think I had better stop typing this entry now before I start crying. I'm going to miss France! I'll be back in Kansas by May 30 and back in Lexington by June 9. Call me!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

My students

Yeah, I'm almost the only one smiling so it looks rather silly, but, what are you gonna do? They are very sweet kids and I'll miss them. Click on the picture to make it bigger.

I've bought a roll of packing tape. The plan for retaliation against Sean has been formed. We'll take pictures.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Sean's in Trouble!

Classes are over; tomorrow is my last day of teaching. I'm afraid I'm going to forget to go since I haven't been to Vire in what, two weeks? I have no idea. Anyway, I'm very sad that tomorrow is my last day to see those adorable kids! I might take some pictures to put up here.

Sean... my neighbor... oh Sean. We always tell him that he's never quite left middle school behind. He likes to stand at his window and throw things (usually pickles or bad chocolate) at people walking down below. Since I live next door, I have had tea sloshed on my window, shaving cream spread all over my door and window, and pickles and chocolate thrown onto my window sill or into my window, if it's open! Well, he's really crossed the line now. He threw a chocolate onto my window sill and I didn't see it. It's apparently been there for a long time, because a bunch of ants made it their home. This problem came to my attention yesterday when I woke up to my desk, which is right next to my bed, covered in ants. I managed to get rid of most of them during the course of yesterday, but I still see one from time to time!

So, how do I get him back? What on earth beats infesting someone's bedroom with ants??? I need something good, people!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Paris & Ireland: An awesome weekend!

This weekend I went to Ireland for a couple of days and then stayed a day in Paris. When will I ever be able to say words like that again? Ireland was great. We (Lauren, Daniel, and I) stayed in Limerick with Lauren's extremely hospitable friends Heidi, Rita, and Catherine. We went to a pub where we heard live Irish music (which was maybe my favorite part of the trip), visited Cork (including the Butter Museum and a beautiful, beautiful Hogwarts-esque college campus), and went to Galway. Ireland is beautiful. I wish I had been able to stay longer-- I definitely want to go back some day!

On Sunday Lauren went back to Caen, and Daniel and I met Mathilde in Paris. We went to Sacre Couer and had supper at this not-so-great restaurant where the waiters were very rude. Welcome to Paris! If you're going there any time soon, do research on good restaurants in advance. In the touristy areas it's really, really hit-or-miss with restaurants, and it's usually miss. Anyway, other than the restaurant, Paris was Paris was Paris and it was as lovely as it has ever been. The Vintage Hostel was a great deal.

On Monday, Daniel and I discovered Paris. It was his second time there, and I think it would have been my fourth. We went to Pere Lachaise, a very famous cemetery, where we visited the graves of Abelard & Heloise, Oscar Wilde, Chopin, Moliere, La Fontaine, Edith Piaf, and Jim Morrison. While we were visiting Abelard & Heloise, a woman with short, spiky hair approached Daniel and asked him if he knew where Jim Morrison's grave was. For those of you who have read A Year in the Merde, you will know how tickled we were by this. It's very easy to spot the tourists who go to Pere Lachaise just to see Jim Morrison! There was a man there playing Stairway to Heaven on a guitar in front of the grave. I took a picture of him.

After that we took a little self-tour of the famous Opera house. We didn't see the Phantom, but we did see the famous stair case and the chandelier, which was even more beautiful than I had imagined! Had I not had such a hoarse voice I would have tried to sing to bring down the chandelier, but that might have been inconsiderate to other tourists and to the city of Paris.

Museums in Paris are now free for European Union students, and so we went to the Louvre. I finally saw the Venus di Milo, which I wasn't able to find the first time! Very impressive. It seems trite to say that, but really, it was gorgeous. I don't think I had ever really seen the details of her face before. And then we went to the Eiffel Tower, which I hadn't seen by day.

That night we saw my favorite band from the United States who is now on a European tour-- Anathallo. They gave an amazing performance in a suburb of Paris called Saint Ouen. It was so good to see them and to talk to them after the show. They're all very approachable and fascinating people to talk to. I really liked Toy Fight, a French band who opened for them, but I just feel so sad that French bands feel like they need to sing in English to be popular!

Weekends like these are running out! I'll be home in 22 days. I'm clinging to every moment I have left in France!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Lazy days in Barcelona

So lazy that I've barely taken any pictures, in fact. Barcelona is a beautiful city. We arrived here on... Tuesday, maybe? Yeah, that sounds right. My days are running together. Barcelona seems so big compared to the other cities we've been to. We haven't seen much of it on account of its size and the fact that the weather wasn't very friendly today, though we did catch up with some friends from Caen and we went to the beach for a little while today (before it started hailing). It's been nice, just lounging around and doing whatever we please. I do NOT want this vacation to end!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter at the Vatican

He is Risen indeed!

I had a wonderful Easter, though I missed my family so much. My friends and I got up at a leisurely pace, had a leisurely breakfast (in part due to the extremely slow service of the restaurant where we ate), and then headed to the Vatican City for mass. We did not have very high expectations for what we would get to see as we knew that it would be so crowded, but we ended up being so grateful that we decided to go. It was an incredible experience. I may not be a Catholic, but of course Catholicism is a part of my history and culture, and the culture of Europe, so it is important to me in that way. It is always an experience to see how other cultures worship. A very emotional and stunning event indeed, even though we were a little too far to see much of what was going on.

We did see the Pope, and heard him give mass! At the end he said a blessing in tons of different languages. Here is a picture of him standing in his window saying the blessings (you can barely see him, but he's in the center of the window!):

It was definitely the highlight of my trip to Rome, and an experience I will never forget. Afterward we explored the parts of Rome we hadn't yet seen, like some fountains and the Pantheon, took a nap, then walked around town in search of gelato. I love Rome and just Italy in general! I cannot wait until I come back some day.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Rome, Days 1 & 2

That would be St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, which I saw this morning along with the Vatican Museum, which houses the Sistine Chapel.

Rome, Day 1: It was Good Friday on our first full day in Rome so everything we wanted to see closed at around 3:00 PM so they could get the Colosseum ready for the Pope. We didn't see the Pope, but we did see the Colosseum right before closing time so there weren't very many people there. How people were able to build such things that have lasted through war and fire for all of these years, I will never be able to fathom. Two of my favorite pictures of my friends were taken there. After that we just took it easy since everything was closing.

Rome, Day 2: That'd be today. We woke up at around 7:00 to be in line at the Vatican Museum by 8 (it opens at 9:00). We got there at 8:20 and the line was already enormous, but we didn't wait longer than 20 minutes to get in. Once we did we enacted our strategic plan for getting through the museum: We dashed toward the Sistine Chapel first, which took forever as it is at the VERY end of this massive place, spent a good amount of time there (it'll leave you slack-jawed, it's so amazing), then tried to go backwards through the museum. It turned out that wasn't possible so a little of the way through we got sent BACK to the Sistine Chapel, but it turned out that a shortcut through the Vatican libraries takes you right back to the beginning. I postmarked my postcards at the post office there, then we set off through the galleries of treasures from ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, and Rome. We saw St. Peter's Basilica, but did not go inside as the line was HUGE. Oddly enough, we did see two girls that had been in our hostel in Florence in said huge line... it's a small world.

After that we saw some Roman ruins nearby the Colosseum that had been closed for Good Friday the previous day. And now we are getting up from a three hour nap. Can you blame us?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Florence Y'all

I took this picture tonight at the Piazza di Michelangelo. There was a replica of the statue of David there (that picture has Daniel posing as David... we couldn't get him to be more accurate than that, which is probably a good thing). The boys ran up the stairs to the Piazza; Daniel sprinted so quickly that he made himself sick... those are the kinds of memories that really make a trip, eh? We just walked around and looked at the skyline. I wrote a postcard, took some pictures, then we ventured back into the main town for pizza and gelato.

That's how the day ended. I suppose I'm doing things backwards tonight. This is how it began:

We ate breakfast at the open market and shopped around. Just around the corner from our hostel was the famous Baptistry with the doors designed by Ghiberti (they began the Renaissance!), and then the famous church that I can't for the life of me remember the name of but that marked the rediscovery of ancient Roman architecture... At around noon it was time to go to the Accademia. Let me tell you, Michelangelo's David is NOT AT ALL overrated. It was every bit as spectacular as every art history book says it is. The museum also has a musical instrument section which was almost as exciting as seeing the David. I was in art Heaven.

Then we just did... whatever. We napped, we walked around, we shopped (I bought a gorgeous green Italian leather wallet to console me after trying on the most GORGEOUS leather coat that was about $150 too expensive for this poor student!). Then after a nap we went to the Piazza... it was a good day. I'm exhausted. And happy. So happy.
It's been a whirlwind vacation so far! Saturday we arrived in Maidenhead, which is just outside of London. We stayed three nights with a chic assortment of British flatmates (one of them was a friend of Daniel's who let us stay in her house free of charge). They took us to see Windsor on Saturday, then gave us a tour of London the day after that. We saw Covent Garden, Buckingham Palace, the houses of Parliament & Big Ben, the London Eye, and caught a glimpse of the Globe Theater while walking across the Millennium Bridge (you can only go into the theater if you pay for a ticket). Monday we explored sans British people and saw the TOWER!!! WOW. It was amazing. Very touristy, but it doesn't take much imagination to imagine it all away and just imagine the people who actually lived there, particularly when there was a stunning temporary exhibit on Henry VIII's armor. We also explored Trafalgar's Square, Hyde Park, and Kensington Gardens (Peter Pan statue!!!).

Yeah, British history lover that I am, I was in Paradise.

(Click to get the full pic. This blog layout isn't too kind to photos)

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Little punks, all of 'em

I just saw the new trailer for Where the Wild Things Are and it just made me feel so warm inside! What a wonderful, wonderful book. The movie looks great, especially since they're using Jim Henson monsters. Excellent choice. In the trailer is a song by Arcade Fire which fits perfectly, but of course isn't an obvious choice of soundtrack for a children's movie. In one of the comments on the story I read about the trailer someone suggested a Very Hungry Caterpillar with a Sufjan Stevens soundtrack. Hmm, why not? Personally, I'd like to see a Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day movie with a Muse soundtrack. I can just see him contemplating the injustice of his lack of dessert in his lunch box to the tune of Apocalypse Please.

My students were so squirrely yesterday because on Sunday most of them are going on a skiing trip to the Alps, so I couldn't really blame them for not wanting to pay attention. Bernadette barely gave me a thing to go off of as far as lesson plans went so it was hard to engage their attention when I was just winging it. During the first hour I had three kids who were helping to translate a piece of text for an upcoming event. The text wasn't difficult, but it wasn't very easy, either, and they were almost flawless in their translations. They are so, so intelligent. Both of my classes with children of that age (13/14) are brilliant and adorable.

Then there are my older students. They give no effort and don't care at all. I've been told that they used to be just as brilliant as the younger ones, but then they just stopped caring. There's still evidence of the former intelligence as a few of them speak English remarkably well and with very clear accents, and still more could if they just tried.

Regardless of their behavior yesterday I fear I shall miss the little hooligans! I won't be seeing them for another three weeks because of SPRING BREAK! WOO!

Thursday, March 26, 2009


Yesterday I went on a field trip with my class to Rennes, a large city in Brittany, to visit the headquarters of Ouest-France, France's most circulated daily newspaper. I was interviewed in it once after the elections, and I'm glad that at the time I didn't know it had such a large readership! It was very interesting because I have never seen the big machine thingy where newspapers are actually made. It was just nice to get out of Caen for a day! My friend Lauren and I ate at a Moroccan restaurant where the management was so incredibly sweet. Plus, I love any restaurant that gives you a free aperitif and a free coffee or tea! Especially as tea is ridiculously expensive here!

We got home at around 3:00 AM which was fine with me as I have nothing to do on Thursdays. I like taking the day to walk around the city, shop, eat, read, etc. Today that wasn't in the stars because I feel so... icky. Just icky. I spent the entire day in bed which I hate doing. Then my internet stopped working and so I ventured out into the gray, Normandy drizzle to take my computer to the internet store, where of course it began working again. Sigh. At least I was able to get through the transaction without fumbling up my French too terribly much!

Because I was downtown anyway, I decided to pop into Memoranda, my favorite used book store, to pick up a couple of books and to have a hot chocolate. It's the only book store in Caen that understands the beauty and comfort of books, food, and hot beverages in the same place, but stores in France are usually too tiny for such things. Memorandum is different from other bookstores, though, because there is a lady baking things inside the bookstore all day long-- breads, brownies, apple crisp-- and the aroma wafts through the claustrophobic bookstore creating the most cozy and soothing atmosphere. I purchased a French translation of A Series of Unfortunate Events and Asterix et Obelix, which is a very famous French comic book about a little village in Gaul that has resisted being conquered by the Romans. It's adorable.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

My new little friend

On Monday Heidi, Zak, and I went to Bayeux. Part of that time was spent lounging in a little park. I spread my coat out on the ground, laid on my stomach, and took a nap. When I woke up, I saw in front of my eyes a little boy in the same position I was in, staring at me. We just stared at each other for a minute. He stood up, began to talk to me about the little flowers he was picking, and kept walking around, toward me, then away, toward me, then away. Finally, he came back and I just had a little conversation in French with him. He came closer, picked some of the daisies and the bright yellow flowers that were everywhere on the ground, gave them to me, then after a few minutes ran away to play with someone else. Heidi and Zak captured the moment I woke up and the moment he gave me flowers on camera.

Isn't he just precious? I believe his name is Anzou. Click on the pictures to make them bigger.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Loire & Order

On Wednesday Zak rented a car and we drove to the Loire Valley to tour some palaces. We spent the night in Amboise after seeing the chateau there, as well as Leonardo da Vinci's home and tomb. The next day we saw Chenonceau, which was my favorite palace to tour the inside of (even more so than Versailles) because you get to see the kitchens! It made me miss cooking and baking with Heidi. I miss that girl SO much! After Chenonceau we went to some place I can't remember the name of... we saw the outside of the chateau and had a picnic there, which was so pleasant and CHEAP. The last chateau was Villandry. We didn't go inside, but just explored the expansive gardens. Oh, they were so beautiful. They'll be even more beautiful in April when the flowers are in bloom, but then there will be tons of tourists, so I'd say we came at a good time! Another advantage of seeing the Loire in a relatively off-season time is that they keep some of the fires lit in the gigantic fireplaces. I could have read in front of them all day had time permitted!

Also, as a side note on pretty much all of the historic sites I've been to... it's disappointing to know how much has disintegrated over the years, and how things have been modernized for either practical or commercial purposes, but considering how old these castles and chateaus are, it's amazing that anything survives at all. Despite their gift shops the French are usually very good at maintaining the historic integrity of each castle, palace, or what have you. It's just so amazing to promenade around the same hallways that Leonardo da Vinci would have walked around or to think of the hands that built a cathedral. Some of the many reasons I love traveling and living in France!

We finished off our time together with a scrumptious French dinner at Carambole, my favorite creperie/galleterie/tea room in Caen. As predicted, Heidi and Zak fell in love with the kir normand, galettes, and dessert crepes! How could you not? Heidi and I will work hard this summer at recreating all of my favorite French foods.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Heidi and Zak Attack France!

Heidi and Zak are here in France! It's been so nice to have someone here who can see what I see! Studying abroad is so much better when you're able to share it with people from back home, even if they only get a taste.

Hah, I say studying abroad quite loosely. I'm skipping all but one day of class this week in order to spend time with them. It's been pretty awesome! I met them in Paris on Saturday and left Sunday afternoon. We saw:
--Versailles. Zak is from Versailles, Kentucky, so he was able to see the real thing! My favorite part was Marie Antoinette's little hamlet that she had constructed so she could go to it and pretend to be a peasant. How uppity is that? Erin tells me that she used to have the sheep perfumed and dyed to match her dress for the day. There was a small farm in the hamlet and it was so full of the cutest sheep and goats you have ever seen! What a beautiful place, even if the flowers in the gardens haven't yet grown.

--Sacre Coeur, which I've been to before. This time it was night. I love Paris because things are just as spectacular by day as they are by night.

--Musee D'Orsay. Definitely more fun than the Louvre. I was beside myself being able to see Monets, Manets, Van Goghs, Toulouse-Latrecs, and so much more in person. If you've ever seen Moulin Rouge, the Musee D'Orsay is the train station that Ewan McGregor arrives in when he first comes to Paris. If you ever go to Paris, don't miss it.

--Notre Dame. I didn't take pictures there because we really went to get ice-cream at Berthillon, a very famous ice-cream shop, but the line was so long that we got way overpriced ice-cream at Haagen-Daaz instead. Boo.

Sunday they came to Normandy. We had lunch in my favorite restaurant in Bayeux, Heidi and Zak saw the tapestry, and then we went to a park to relax. I have a cute story about that, but it will have to wait for another post.

Today we went to Le Mont St. Michel, an abby on an island. It inspired Gondor in The Lord of the Rings, or so I'm told. Truly spectacular and beautiful, enormous, and surrounded by quicksand!

Tomorrow we're going to go to the Loire Valley to explore some chateaux! I love being here, especially when people I love so much can be here to enjoy it with me!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The last 81 days

I'm so, so, SO pumped about my remaining 81 days in France. It's simply not enough. I thought it would be, but it's not! Unfortunately it's non-negotiable as I leave May 30 and have to begin taking summer classes at UK by June 11, which isn't enough time with my family after this big France thing... sigh. Such is life when you've been slacking off in France for nine months, I suppose. I will probably have more of a course load this summer than I ever did here in Normandie. Anyway, here is my tentative travel plan, as far as I know it, for my last 81 days:

March 14-15: Meeting HEIDI AND ZAK (my roommate and her boyfriend) in Paris.
March 17: Mont St. Michel (#2 on cities you must visit in France)
March 18-19: Loire Valley to see some Renaissance chateaux, possibly including the one that inspired the story Sleeping Beauty.
March 25: Field trip with my class to Rennes
Sometime at the end of March: Versailles and maybe a little more Paris
April 4-17: SPRING BREAK!!! I will be visiting the following countries (possibly): England (London) (if not England, than the south of France), Italy (Rome, Florence, Venice), and Spain (Barcelona? Maybe? I don't know much about Spain.)
April 30-May 3: Ireland!!!!! Where I will quite possibly purchase an Irish flute, if I actually get paid for teaching!

I reeeeeally hope that I can make it to the south of France somewhere in there if we decide to go to London instead of Provence. I want to see fields of lavendar! It's just hard and expensive to get there, even from Paris. Sigh. For those of you who have been to both the south of France and London, which one would you choose? Keep in mind that I'll be seeing some Mediterrannean culture in Italy, and I will be going to Ireland as well.

For those of you planning on traveling in Europe, or possibly just traveling period, check out He's the cheesy guy with the PBS show. I have his France book and it has been invaluable throughout my stay here. He really knows what he's talking about and can help you plan a trip to almost any major European city without feeling overwhelmed by everything there is to see there.

Friday, March 6, 2009

J'aime mes éléves!

I had my second day teaching today. The first class consisted of students who have chosen not to go to university and so they are in a different program than the rest of the high schoolers. I think high school is shorter and then they go on to learn a trade or something like that. The teacher was rather crazy and all over the place, and not very good at speaking English-- eesh! She was nice, though, and let me conduct class how I chose and kept the students behaving. Kind of. I have never been in a room with such squirrely students, and I went to public school for thirteen years. Yeah. It was that bad!

The second class was okay. All I had to do was listen to students give a presentation. Some of them did remarkably well and some didn't even try to say anything at all.

For the third class I just had a small group of five students-- the smartest of Bernadette's 4th level (13-14 year old) class. They are my darlings and if I could I would adopt each of them! Their names are Julien, Kevin, Eugenie, Melanie, and Cortney. Cortney is actually a British boy, and I envy him so very much because he moved to France when he was four and does not have an accent in either language. He tried to trick me into believing that his name is Paul because, well, Cortney is often a girl's name... We had a great class. I think Cortney was especially glad to be there because you can imagine how bored he would get in an English class when he's perfectly fluent. When the bell rang, the students said, "Aw, already?" which I take to be a very good sign. Cortney told Bernadette (his usual teacher and my boss-of-sorts) that he really liked me and my class. My heart melted into a puddle on the playground.

Friday, February 27, 2009

My first day as a teaching assistant with Speak 14

I started my teaching assistant job today at St. Jean Eudes, a private school in Vire. Before I knew what was involved I would have done this job for free. Now, not so much, but I'm still very excited about it. It's just that now I'm also terrified!

Bernadette, the English teacher who arranged my job, also arranged my transportation to Vire. I take the bus to a tiny town called Brettonville-sur-Odon (just a short ride from Caen), then I meet Claude, a math teacher, at the bus stop there. It's so nice of him to offer to do this!

We arrived at the school at around 1:00, and soon Bernadette arrived. For that afternoon I was to follow her to her classes and teach the students while she observed. Fortunately she had lesson plans that were very simple so I could just improvise with them, because I hadn't prepared a blessed thing. I almost keeled over when she told me that next week, things will be different. Next week I will be teaching three small groups of 10 with students between the ages of 12-14 BY MYSELF!!!!!!

This makes me nervous. Very nervous. Each class is only 50 minutes long, at least, and I think Bernadette will help me plan. All the same, I'm terrified!

Here's how class went today:
First class, 12-13 year olds-- They learned about Kentucky this week, and so after they introduced themselves to me, I had each of them tell me something that they had learned about Kentucky. I corrected their grammar on the board and elaborated on what they told me.

Second class, 14 year olds-- Buuuh. They weren't fun. One boy was kicked out of class for not doing his homework and refusing to participate. This class had prepared questions to ask me, which was fine, because I'm really good at talking about myself in both of the languages that I speak! When they did speak up, they were very nice and asked some good questions.

Third Class, 12-13 year olds-- I want to take them all home. They were just darling. Their job was to tell me things about their city and their school, and they did so at an extremely impressive level for students of that age learning a foreign language. I really hope that they end up being in one of my small groups next week.

I'm stressed out and exhausted, but overall, it was an amazing day. I hope the students are as well behaved next week as they were this week...

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Abbaye aux Dames and Strikers

I love Thursdays. I have no responsibilities or obligations on Thursdays anymore, because I have no class and no job. This morning Daniel and I went jogging for about two miles (and stopped because of my stamina, not his), then I slept/read/journaled for awhile, made lunch, and this afternoon I walked to the Abbaye aux Dames. This Abbaye, founded in 1062 by Queen Mathilda (William the Conqueror's wife), is truly a celebration of the faith of women. It isn't as grand or as beautiful as the Abbaye aux Hommes, founded by William the Conqueror, but it was still very beautiful. My favorite part were the little banners made a couple of years ago with saints and women from the Bible embroidered on them.

I then went to the castle to read a little bit as the weather was nice, but I had only delved into a few pages of Second Glance (the first Jodi Picoult book I have ever begun to read) when I heard the chanting, the songs, if you will, of angry men and women. I jumped off the wall I had perched myself upon and ran down the stairs from the castle to see. It was a teacher and student strike against some new policies by Sarcozy. They're pretty bad reforms; they have every right to be angry. I don't always say that about the strikers. Especially when they affect my travel plans.

For pictures of the Abbaye and the strikers, click here. They should be on pages 2 and 3 of that album.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

More pictures from my weekend

My class on Valentine's Day with their Fun Dips. Madame Ozouf is in the background. She's so sweet!

Le grand horloge de Rouen (Big Ben de Rouen)

St. Malo

Sunday, February 15, 2009


I went to Rouen today with Mathilde-- she drove us there. SO much better and cheaper than traveling by train, at least for that distance. It was nearly impossible to find a parking spot, but we did, and had a lovely day despite the cold. I had a steak hache with Roquefort sauce for lunch and saw some swans, which is enough to make any day happy. Rouen is where Joan of Arc was imprisoned and burned at the stake; we saw both locations. Notre Dame de Rouen is freaking enormous! The town was so beautiful, so ancient. Most of those Medieval houses are still being used for businesses and housing, which is what I like to see. I'd rather them be that way than for them to be used as untouchable museums.

About Valentine's Day: I gave out Fun Dip Valentines to everyone in my class on Friday. Madame Ozouf, one of my professors, thought that was awesome. She said, "C'est adorable! Je t'embrasse!" and she kissed me on both cheeks in French tradition. How sweet is that? She's so sweet. My classmates loved the Valentines, but as they were Fun Dips they had no idea how to eat them, so I demonstrated so they'd be able to eat them. I hadn't realized until then what a bizarre candy it is.

Also, dear friends, I have been craving Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Just thought I'd throw that out there...

St. Malo-vely

Me: "Je cherche le voie pour St. Malo..."
Conductor: "Malo? C'est pas VOTRE l'eau, c'est MA l'eau!"
Me (thinking): Yes, haha, you're very funny, but my train is about to leave, quit making puns and tell me where to get on the freaking train!"

I no longer have classes on Thursday. I had to drop a class in order to be able to be a teaching assistant, and it was the one class that was keeping me from doing that, and so it had to go. I don't think the teacher wants me or will let me drop the class, but I'm not sure what I should do about that! After explaining this to her I had to leave the class early to go on a weekend trip, for which I felt SO awful because she was incredibly sweet, but I'm here to travel more than I am to go to class, so travel had priority!

And travel I did. I went with four girls (Myra, Miriam, Melanie, and Jenny) to St. Malo, Bretagne. It was about a three hour train ride from Caen. Part of that ride was on at TGV train, which I had never taken before-- those things are fast! We arrived in St. Malo in the evening. It is a beautiful, walled city-- soldiers used to patrol the wall and shoot down pirates with canons. The streets are small, winding, and very old. We explored them for a bit before having dinner at a charming creperie (I had a galette ratatouille). After a looong walk outside of the walls of the chateau, we found our hostel, played some Guitar Hero with one of the volunteers who worked there (Melanie kicked his butt!) and settled down to rest up for the next day.

Yesterday morning we walked from our hostel to the walled part of the city, following the shore (we were along the English Channel). The shore is lined with quaint restaurants and adorable houses, like these teeny tiny ones! We had a great view of the forts, which are on islands outside of the city. When the tide is low you can walk to them, I think. We then walked along the walls of the city, stopping every once in awhile just to gaze at the marvelous scenery. We also walked around the city to see the various historical sites that weren't bombed during WWII (truly a rarity in northern France).

Daniel and Sean came from Caen at around lunch time to spend the rest of the trip with us. We had lunch and then hit the beach! It was the most beautiful beach I have ever seen! The walls were behind us, the forts and the rocks in front, and beautiful sand beneath our toes. Here's a view from the top of the walls. It was such a relaxing time, writing Valentine's Day messages in the sand, climbing on the rocks, playing guitar, and just enjoying the salty air!

Not long after that I had to leave to catch my train, but not before I enjoyed a beignet (donut) with chestnut cream from the carnival by the port. I had to leave early because today I think I'm going to Rouen with Mathilde. Rouen is where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake.

It was a perfect Valentine's Day weekend. There wasn't lovin' from a personal Valentine, but I was certainly feelin' the love from my new Caen friends! It's so sad to me that so many of these beautiful historical sites were destroyed during WWII, but considering how old they are, it's amazing that they have managed to survive at all. They never disappoint, especially in France.

Friday, February 6, 2009

It was a bad day... but I was rewarded with internet!

Today Robert and I went to the Conseil General du Calvados to see if we could get jobs as teaching assistants. I applied and told them that I couldn't be in Caen until the middle of January, and they said that was fine. If there was a position open, they would let me know, and then I would return in the middle of January. They never called, so I didn't come until a week ago. I went to the office today to see if something came up, and they said, "Oh, you weren't here, so we gave the job to someone else."

Well, had you told me that there was a job to have, I would have returned! UGH. I really, really wanted that teaching assistant job, so much that I would do it for free. But there's always the possibility that something else will turn up. I hope so very much.

So after that I went to The Phone House to see if I could get internet in my room by using a 3G USB key. They said that I'd have to sign up for at least six months or at least find someone to transfer the contract to, so I left, called Emilie, and she said I could transfer it to her. So I went back, and they said that I'd need a Carte de Sejour to sign up with the plan I wanted.

I thought, well, ok, I need my carte de sejour anyway (it replaces my student visa, which has expired, don't try to understand it). So I went to try to find the Prefecture. There are about a zillion buildings that say Prefecture. I went into FOUR before I found the right one.

When I entered the correct building, I was greeted by a snarky looking man who was polishing off a candy bar. He slowly sucked on each and every one of his fingers to get the chocolate off of them, and then without even wiping his hands on his shirt, he took my passport from me. After rolling his eyes, sighing, and making rude remarks in English for several minutes, he finally found my paper work and prepared my carte. All of this took about fifteen minutes when, without his snark, it could have taken about five. That may not seem like a big deal, but keep in mind that I had been running around town for about three hours by this time, trying to get a job and internet, so every minute dragged on, and every minute made me more and more irritable.

He finally gave me my Carte de Sejour, and I went back to the Phone Store for the third time. After tapping on his computer for about ten minutes, Mathieu, my Phone Store helper, told me that the bank card that I have isn't the right kind. He seemed very apologetic, especially since I had gone to the trouble to bring him my Carte, which I didn't have when I saw him earlier that day. But then an idea popped into his head. He showed me a different contract that you must sign for 24 months, but since I was leaving I could terminate it early as long as I paid for six months. That was just like the other one, but this one was 20 Euro/month cheaper, it was faster, and it gives you four months of unlimited internet at the beginning of the contract. Perfect.

IN SHORT: I spent about five hours downtown today trying to get all of this figured out. I am extremely disappointed about the teaching assistant job, but hopefully something will come up. I got internet for 10 Euro a month, and it's very fast. I still haven't heard back about the scholarship.

It was a rough day, but being able to use internet in my room is a luxury that I will never take for granted again!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

I can haz scholarship?

Fromage du jour: Grassy Camembert that's gone missing.

Hello there blogosphere! (I wanted to say "Hello there podcast listeners," like Ira Glass, but that wouldn't have made sense. I wish I had a podcast, though.)

I’ve been back in France for about four days. It has been pretty crazy. I live on a diet of almonds, raisins, chocolate, and Camembert. I think one of my wheels of Camembert rolled off of my windowsill… but the guy at the market sold it to me when it was very close to its expiration date so it was no big loss. The older Camembert is, the drier, and the more it tastes like grass.

France is lovely. The weather has been great despite it being February. It hasn’t rained (though it snowed a flake or two!), it hasn’t been terribly cold (especially not compared to Kentucky, so I hear!), and I’ve even seen the sun! That has been such a blessing, especially for the new students who are exploring the town for the first time. My dorm is as ugly and icky as it’s always been, but it’s warm and has been made warmer by all of the oatmeal, hot chocolate, and books that I stashed in every spare corner of my suitcase. There’s also a slight chance that I may get internet in my dorm. It would be expensive, so I have to see if it fits into my budget.

My first night here I went to my friend Emilie’s apartment and she made crepes. You couldn’t ask for a better welcome to France than to have crepes prepared for you by a French girl, especially when they are filled with Nutella and coconut! I introduced her and her friend Leticia to Reese’s. I also brought a jar of peanut butter, but felt that it is just as important to know what peanut butter and chocolate tastes like as it is to know what peanut butter tastes like alone.

Besides being reunited with the familiar faces I have met some new faces that I am very excited about being with this semester. There are two students who occupy what were formerly the bedrooms of Erica and Courtney, and there are a lot of fun Aussies who came here for their international studies program who hang out in my dorm even if they don’t live there.

But it hasn’t been all crepes and Camembert! France wouldn’t be France without hiccups and debacles. Catastrophe de catastrophes, I am not enrolled in the university and I currently do not have a scholarship. The Twinning Committee of Deauville, for some reason, did not think that I was returning this semester, and so until things are worked out with them I am not technically a student. I can’t imagine that I won’t get my scholarship back, and so I’m not that worried. They’re still letting me go to class… for now! C’est la vie—debacles occur, and there’s nothing you can do about it!

That’s all for now, folks. Tune in next time to find out if I’ve found a job as a teaching assistant, if I ever find my old wheel of Camembert, and if I’ve been deported for not being a student anymore!