Wednesday, February 23, 2011

wake-up call!

hello friends!
it would seem that i’ve been slacking.. a whole weekend gone with nary a word from yours truly! my apologies.
in my defense, the weekend was not all that blog-worthy. there was a lot of sleeping, lounging around my room, napping, and being on the computer.  i did have some fun times, though, so i’ll pick up where i left off..
thursday night.
i ended up having a better time BEFORE the soirée than at it. my group from culture class went to check out the bar, which was super awesome. very charming, with loads of cool decorations – photos, books, old scotch bottles, maps, chalkboard menus, etc. rebecca had to leave pretty early, but andrea and i stayed and talked for a long time – all in french. it was a good exercise, talking to another anglophone in french! we left the bar around 9:00 and walked to the nightclub. since literally no one was there yet, we decided to get our tickets and then go somewhere else for a little while. searching for a snack, we ended up at a little pizzeria, where we split a margherita pizza for 6 euro. not bad!! the date was made more amusing by the fact that the entire kitchen staff was staring at us nearly the whole time. oh, being a moderately attractive young woman in france. hoorah! after that part of the date was over, we moved onto another little café, right near the nightclub, for a quick coffee. that’s right, i had a coffee! i’m slowly starting to like it... the place we found was REALLY cool – laid back, good music, great menu.. we’ll definitely be returning. i pulled a Total Hipster Move and asked the owner/bartender if he was going to the Black Keys show in nantes next month (he was wearing one of their t-shirts). we proceeded to have a conversation about music, concerts, etc. he told us that they had a monthly in-house show, and that we should come to the next one! win.
around 11, we made our way back to the soirée. since i have literally zero “clubbing” experience, i don’t really know how to describe or compare this place. but it seemed pretty low-quality. and the music was awful. we had fun dancing around and being goofy, but around midnight, the place got SUPER crowded. and then it was just annoying, trying to find people in the crowd while avoiding being accosted by overly-forward french boys. bleh. i left around 12:20 to go to the bus stop, even though the bus wasn’t until 1. i waited there with natalie and some other friends, and more people kept showing up as the final bus’s time neared. by 1am, there were probably 30 people there. combine that with an already-over-full bus, and it made for quite an uncomfortable ride home. oh well. once we got back, i went to jessie’s room with claire, cristina, and shane (and eventually emma), to drink tea and eat cookies and tell stories. i MUCH preferred that part of the night, but the clubbing was a good life experience i suppose! we stayed up entirely too late, so i didn’t go to bed until around 5am. whoops!
friday, 18 february.
pretty much nothing to report for friday. i don’t have class, so i slept late. i did a little homework, played around on the computer, and generally was just lazy. i spent a lot of time on couchsurfing, looking for hosts in london. at 5pm, i had a skype interview with the orientation staff at belmont, because i reapplied to be a tt leader this fall! being a tt leader is probably the best thing i’ve done at belmont so far. i loved my experience last year so much, and i can’t imagine not doing it again! i talked to james and ben for about 30 minutes. they asked me a bunch of questions, and then we just chatted about how belmont-life is right now and what i’ve been up to here in europe. it was great to hear from them! after the interview, natalie came up to make dinner. she prepared this indian dish, which i really liked! i have no idea what it was called, but it had turkey, spinach, and onion in this spicy tomato-ish sauce, served over brown rice. with a little fromage blanche and some mango on the side, the dish definitely made me a fan on indian-style food! :) sidenote; the new radiohead album dropped early, so drew emailed it to me, which was awesome.
saturday, 19 february.
saturday was lovely, in some regards. i woke up around 10, did some stuff online (more couchsearching), and got dressed. i spent the morning listening to the new radiohead album, the king of limbs, many times in a row. love it. when i checked my email, i got the message that my borders store at home is closing.. and i was devastated. plus, i’m missing all the store-closing sales. further devastation. >:| i had a bit of a headache in the afternoon, so i took a nap. i got up to skype my parents for a little while. after i talked to them, i got dressed to make dinner with shane, jessie, and emma. we hung out in the kitchen for a good bit, where we were joined by claire and her cousin/cousin’s friends. they were visiting for the weekend from tours, which is about 2 hours away.  john had organized another bonfire, so we headed out there around 11. it was kinda fun, but really it was just people drinking and singing a random collection of songs. (during the time i was there, i heard: come together, hey jude, barbie girl, the macarena, wonderwall, sweet caroline, and many others). around 12, shane, natalie and i headed back. it was way too smoky/dark to see anyone, my eyes were hurting, and it was too loud to talk comfortably. once we got back, natalie went to bed and shane and i stayed up watching this AWESOME british home show called ‘grand designs.’ it’s super addictive. i went to bed around 3am.
sunday, 20 feburary.
sorry guys. another lazy day.. except i did go outside for a while! natalie and i went on a bike ride down to a park next to the river, which was awesome! we rode around the park for a while before locking our bikes to a bench and walking. the weather was nice – overcast, chilly, but warm enough for me to not wear gloves. we took pictures and saw lots of cute puppies and children and talked. once we meandered back to our bikes, we took the long way back to campus. i came back up and got in the shower (partly because i needed to, but also partly because i wanted to warm up!). after my shower, i snuggled into bed for a nap. i love post-shower naps.. they’re the best kind. once i got up and dressed again, i did a bit of homework.. just typing up my art history notes. dinner was a massive carb fest, to feed my hunger from the bike ride/walk. oops. afterwards, i kept typing up notes/skyped with drew. miss that boy. i tried to convince shane to watch some more ‘grand designs’ but he found some self-control and decided to get some work done before bed. i went to sleep around midnight, as i have a class at 9am on monday!
monday, 21 february.
my long day of actual school. i woke up earlyish to check my emails before class. art history actually went really well, considering it takes me like 10 minutes to get up to speed with the professor. but i answered two questions right, and got some brownie points. yay for being a teacher’s pet! we have a test in that class the day we get back from break.. awesome. hopefully i’ll get all my studying done! i came back to my room after class to find that MY VALENTINE’S PACKAGE FINALLY ARRIVED! two weeks to the day, just like the post office predicted. i was so, so, so excited! i ran upstairs and cut open the tape to find the most awesome of all care packages. two valentines (one from mom, one from colleen), some candy, a bathing suit that i’d forgotten, an awesome impressionish themed card game, some art supplies, brownies (!!!), a packet of alfredo sauce mix and a can of real tuna. i literally cried opening it, i was so happy and homesick at the same time. my mom is the BEST!
i rested for a while, and then headed to my 3 hour ‘langue française’ class around 1pm. it wasn’t too bad – the time passes quickly in that class. afterwards, i came back to skype with my mom (/thank her for the box!) and then ran to superU to get stuff for dinner. i got to conversation class a little late, thanks to the ridiculous lines at superU. but that class goes quickly, we just sit and talk about stuff. that class’s theme was “radio” – so we just listened to radio broadcasts and talked about them. after that was over, rachel and i cooked an awesome burger/fries dinner.. it was pretty much devoured. deeeelicious! we hung out until around 11pm, because we had to get some plans together for our trip this weekend!
starting on thursday at noon, i am officially on “winter break.” which means, no school until march 7th!! rachel and i have decided to go to london for this week, from saturday to saturday. neither of us have been before, so we’re both REALLY excited! i’ve made lots of lists; things i want to do, how we should get around, places we can stay, etc. we’re flying from nantes to nottingham, and then taking the train down to london. we’ll be there for 5 full days, and then we’re heading back to spend friday in nottingham before flying home on saturday! i’m going to try to blog at least once from london, so as to avoid a 14-page blog post upon my return. :)
tuesday, 22 february.
first off, today was my sister colleen’s birthday. she is 17, which is crazy. last i checked, she was like 12. hmm. but, HAPPY BIRTHDAY COLLEEN. i miss you so so much! sorry i couldn’t be there, but we’ll have an awesome celebration when i get home. love youuuu!
i woke up early today to do chores (laundry, room cleaning, etc) and to prepare for my group meeting at 2. i’m working with a french girl on our speech class project, so i needed to be prepared! we met up at 2 in the library, and the project went very smoothly. i think she was surprised that i had stuff ready to go! so that’s awesome. i got back to the dorm around 4 and did some more couchsearching before taking a shower and getting ready for dinner. it was a typical night of hanging out in the kitchen.. talking, laughing, being merry. loved it. i came back to my room to discover that one of the hosts had replied to my couch request.. so rachel and i officially have a place to sleep in london!!! this was my final worry, so now.. i’m all excitement. :) i can’t waaaaait!
my health has been pretty up and down since i’ve been here. today, i decided that i’m starting a little yoga routine, something i can do each morning and night that is simple and refreshing.. my body is missing exercise. even though i bike and walk everywhere, i’m still feeling pretty sedentary! so hopefully, that will help. plus, i’m drinking 1.5 litres of water a day, at least! i’m praying that these two changes in my habits will get my health and well-being back on track.

anywho, my 10am is cancelled tomorrow, so i don’t have class until 3pm! what’s up. i’m anticipating a lie-in, a nice morning yoga session, and some london planning before class.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

life lessons from angers.

“you’re going to have such an amazing experience!” “studying abroad was one of the best decisions i ever made, you’ll be so happy!” “i always regretted not being able to study abroad in college..”
i can’t describe how many times i heard statements like these in the months leading up to my departure. it seemed like everyone i told about my plans thought that i was going to have the time of my life. and they were right, in a sense.. i’m definitely having a once-in-a-lifetime experience. i would like to add, however, that this semester is in no way easy.
my classes may be less intense work-wise, but they’re all in french – an obvious fact, but you don’t realize how much brain power it takes to think in a foreign language until you do it all the time. i’m here to become fluent in french, and that process does not happen overnight. i’m slowly but surely becoming more confident in my speech, but there is so much i have left to accomplish. and then there’s the fact that, while it’s great to know the names of all the different kinds of trees in the world, i’m definitely not up to par in my daily-life vocabulary. on the opposite end of the spectrum, i’ve actually started to not be able to think of words in english. today, it took me half an hour to think of the word ‘exhibit’. so my languages are definitely swirling around up in my brain, mixing and melding together to form a perpetual franglish.
another difficulty i’ve been experiencing relates to distance from home. for this, i blame a) the close proximity of my university and hometown (25 minutes), b) my desire to know my surroundings (belmont, nashville, etc), and c) my seemingly unbearable separation from my friends and boyfriend. i miss being able to run down to franklin for an evening or for church on sundays. and i really have gotten to know angers pretty well, but nothing compares to the feeling of “home” i get when i’m in nashville or franklin. and i have to admit, if i weren’t in a relationship.. the first two problems wouldn’t be nearly bad enough to make me as homesick as i’ve been. but i find myself experiencing a constant ache in the pit of my chest, like such an important part of me is missing that i have a physical reminder of it.. various forms of internet communication have served to numb this pain to a certain extent, but i’ve probably replayed the image of our august reunion in my mind about a thousand times. that being said, i’ve made some excellent friends here. incredible, really. i’ll be heartbroken when we say goodbye in may and go back to our respective corners of the world. they’ve been a source of comfort, companionship, and camaraderie practically since day one. without them, i’d have probably boarded a plane back home already. well.. maybe not. but close. i’m beyond grateful for them.
the final difficulty is a personal battle – i’ve always joked about how i wanted to just come back “french.” totally adopt the culture and lifestyle, just transform myself into a new person. after all, study abroad is about self-discovery and transformation. but when it comes down to learning who you are, you realize that there is no way to change who you are at that moment. you can decide where to go, but nothing will alter where you’ve been. i still have lots of problems with the united states and the “american” attitude that some people have. the stereotypes of typical americans, i’m sorry to report, are mostly based on fact. i’ve met a few exchange students here who don’t speak french – they don’t even have a desire to learn french. apart from having no idea why they’re here at all, i’m a little depressed by the fact that they are as much a representation of america as i am. but i can’t change it, and they have to be them. i just hope that french people can meet as many open-minded, accepting, respectful americans as they do loud, inconsiderate, judgmental ones. but even with all my issues in regards to my country, it’s still home. and i love home, so i love the united states. it took moving 4,000 miles away to realize that living in the same country as glenn beck is worth it, because that’s where my loved ones are. it’s a more-than-worthy exchange. (that’s how much i love you guys).

ANYWAY- enough ranting. here’s a brief summary of the last few days! :)
monday, 14 february.
valentine’s day. for obvious reasons, it was a little rough. i made it through art history in the morning, but by noon, i was feeling pretty awful. there was no way i could have made it through a 3 hour grammar class.. so i cuddled with a hot water bottle and napped/played on the computer for the afternoon. that evening, after my hour and a half conversation class, we had a valentine’s day mexican fiesta, which was amazing. i made a MUCH larger batch of guacamole (we ate all of it anyway) and we cooked up some spicy chicken for quesadillas. for dessert, i splurged on some vanilla ice cream to go with the peanut butter / nutella grilled bananas that natalie loves to make. it was a great night.
tuesday, 15 february.
no classes on tuesday meant i got to have a bit of a lie-in. it was raining all morning, so i stayed in my pajamas and did homework until the weather cleared up. around 4pm, natalie, emma, and i went into town for a little shopping/errands excursion. we stopped by the bank and the post office before hitting up a few stores. it was the last day of the semi-annual sales, so everything was really cheap. i made some pretty excellent purchases, and then got my dinner goods at monoprix. we headed back around half 6, and i cooked/ate my pasta. after dinner, we had a little study party to compare our notes for the translation test on wednesday. it was fun to hear everyone’s versions of the texts! i tried to skype after everyone left, but the internet was being atrocious. it was very frustrating, and i wasn’t pleased.
wednesday, 16 february.
you know it’s going to be a rough day when you wake up with the previous night’s black mood cloud still hanging over your head. i woke up around half 8 and went to meet natalie and claire to do a bit of cramming for the exam at 10. i calmed down from my rampage enough to get through the exam, and then promptly went back to bed. i just needed to restart my day. so i woke up a couple hour later, feeling expontentially better. i went to my speech class, where i even spoke out loud in class, with no grave errors. culture class was fun too, and we were given an assignment to go to a local bar and do a little evaluation. sweet! i stopped by superU to indulge my craving for the day; a cheeseburger. i hadn’t eaten once since the night before i left for france, and i was seriously craving one. so i bought a little patty of ground beef, some buns, and an avocado (i already had the cheese) and went to town. i still had some potatoes from my lidl trip, so i even made wedge fries!! i’m not kidding when i say it was one of the best meals i’ve ever made. the burger was perfectly done, and the cheese/avocado combo was delicious. the fries were perfectly golden and crispy, and i had some crisp, raw green beans as a side.. amazing. i took pictures, check facebook. haha. i was feeling a little needy, so jessie indulged me by coming and talking for a while. she eventually went to bed, but then emma came and talked for another while! it was great to just get things off my chest. i chatted to drew for a bit and then went to bed around 1am.
thursday, 17 february.
today was a pretty stinkin’ great day. i only have class until noon on thursdays, which is lovely. plus, i found out my grade on the translation test from wednesday.. i freakin’ annihilated that thing. so hooray! i had made plans earlier this week to meet up with a girl i met on couchsurfing for lunch. she’s also a student here! rachel and i met up with her and three of her friends, and we had a great meal at the caf together. we even stood outside for a while afterwards and chatted! it was lovely. the weather today was gorgeous, nice and sunny and warm. tonight, there is a “student party” downtown.. it’s a black and white soirée – so i’ll finally have a reason to wear my black dress! yay!! my group from culture class is meeting up before the soirée to do our little bar evaluation, and then we’re moving onto a different location for the party. it should prove to be a fun and social night!


Sunday, February 13, 2011

picnics and elephants.

i’m fairly certain the majority of humankind agrees with me when i say that weekends are one of God’s greatest gifts to His people. weekends in france are definitely no exception. actually, they’re a little better, because the french took it upon themselves to boost the weekend relaxation quotient by ensuring that NO ONE can do anything on sundays, and then many businesses are closed on monday as well. it’s a hard life.
anyway, this weekend (just like the last one) was faaab-u-lous. friday was the most beautiful day of all time. ok, not really, but the weather was STUNNING (60F/16C – blue skies) and i was a little high on sunshine. since i don’t have class on fridays, i decided to make it an outdoors day. natalie and i stopped by superU to get some lunchy things, and then we packed picnics and biked into town. i still can’t get over how beautiful angers is – in the 20 minute, 4 km ride into town, i pass by some of the prettiest, most historic buildings i can imagine. and the rest of the town is all that great, classic french architecture, scattered with the random stone wall or timber-framed building. i love it. we biked a little further into town than usual, so natalie could run a couple errands before our picnic. i popped into monoprix to complete my picnic with a baguette and a tarte. we headed down a little park right near the river, at the base of the cathedral steps. there is this huge fountain and a little garden too. plus, there’s a cliff that some of the oldest buildings in town were build on top of. it was a picturesque setting, to say the least. we spread our little picnic out and soaked up the sun for a solid hour – it was awesome. i had my baguette with cheese, yogurt, an apple, raisins and some apple juice. for dessert, we split the tarte. can you say perrrfecttt? yum.
after the picnic, we headed back up the hill next to the chateau. we parked our bikes and walked down a little side street to the “galerie david d’angers”. rachel met us there, and the three of us toured (for free!) one of the coolest little statue galleries i’ve ever seen. it’s in a renovated church, with a glass ceiling! since it was so sunny, there was a bit of a greenhouse effect (it was sweltering in there) but the effect of all that light on the statues was breathtaking. it was so bright and vibrant, the work seemed to come to life a little. there are really only two main rooms, so all these statues are just gathered in the main hall. some are lifesize, some are wayyy larger than life, and there are lots of little ones too. david sculpted quite a few major figures in angevin and french history. it was cool to see the people whose names i’ve been seeing on bus stops, roads signs, even dorm residences. while we were there, a class of probably 1st or 2nd graders was visiting as well. SO CUTE. they had to draw a statue, pick one to imitate, and do some class exercises. i wanted to steal one to bring home, they were so stinkin’ precious. but i feel that way about all french children. rachel, natalie, and i did a few statue impressions of our own, and then headed out. natalie went back to school to nap, and rachel and i spent an hour or two walking around town, shopping a little bit (the semi-annual sales are ending this week :( ), and soaking up the sunshine. we stopped by the train station to buy our tickets for saturday’s daytrip (details later!) and then biked back home. there is a hill about three-fourths of the way back to the dorm that is BRUTAL. i still haven’t made it up all the way – i have to walk it. i’ve made it a personal goal to bike up that hill before i leave angers this summer. anywho, after we got back, i rested for a bit and then skyped with my family. around 7:45, shane and i ran down to superU to get things for dinner. we made the usual, and chilled out in the kitchen with jessie and emma. around 11, the four of us walked over to the other belle-beille residence, where the spanish students had organized a party of sorts. i suppose it was fun, but that is just so not my scene. i didn’t really enjoy it too much, and headed back to my dorm around midnight. being around that many people and being so out of my fun zone put me in a bit of a funk, so i was not in a very good mood when i went to bed. but, sleep is always good for the brain! i did a little research for saturday and then hit the hay.
i woke up pretty early on saturday, because rachel and i had planned a daytrip to nantes! and for only 16 euro return - yay! nantes is about 90km south of angers, towards the atlantic ocean. it is the capital of the pays-de-la-loire region. it’s much bigger than angers, but just as pretty! our train was at 10:36, so we met at 9:45 at the bus stop. we made it to the train station in plenty of time, got our tickets stamped, and hopped on the train. the ride was only about 30 minutes, through the beautiful loire valley countryside. at one point, we passed a little manor house that looked like it should have been in a jane austen novel – it was gorgeous! i only got a glimpse of it as we passed by, but i remember marveling at the thought of who lives there. probably an old couple, who tend their animals and gardens and live 45 km from the nearest anything. we arrived in nantes around 11am, got a map from the welcome desk, and headed towards the closest “office de tourisme”. through my research, i’d found that the city of nantes offers “day passes” that can get the cardbearer free entrance into museums, complementary treats at various restaurants, and unlimited access to the public transit system. for students, the 24 hour pass is only 9 euro!! it’s an absolute steal, and pays for itself in a few tram rides plus one museum entry. we bought our passes at the office located on the same plaza as the cathedral. once we had our nantes guide/passes, the game plan was to go grab some lunch, head to the “ile de nantes”, and then work our way back. we ate at this great restaurant called “le molière” – rachel had a croque monsieur and i had a ham/butter baguette. the sun was shining right onto our table, so we stayed warm and enjoyed the atmosphere of a bustling french cafe on saturday afternoon.
after lunch, we walked down to the island for what proved to be an amazing experience. in 2007, the city of nantes started on a project they call “les machines de l’ile” – the machines of the island. the designs are inspired by the drawings of jules verne (native of nantes) and da vinci. the first phase of the project was the construct a 40 foot tall, 50 ton robot elephant. i’m not exaggerating, this thing is enormous. and it’s completely hand-crafted, with beautiful artisanship. luckily for us, saturday was the opening day for 2011, so we got to ride the elephant on its maiden voyage for the year! we got to the hangar where the elephant lives around 1pm. since the box office didn’t open until 2, we sat in the little cafe/gift shop to chill out for a bit. at 1:45, we got in line to ensure our places on the elephant. sure enough, by 2pm, the line was pretty long! we bought our ticket (the only thing i purchased all day besides the pass!) and went upstairs to watch the video about the machines project. it was fascinating! the amount of talent that goes into these animals is incredible. the next phase of the project is a giant tree called “the heron tree”. they’ve only built on branch so far – the prototype branch. it is attached to the hangar, right above the cafe. it’s probably about 60 feet high at the highest point, and has three off-shoot branches. seriously impressive. the artisans are also working on a marine-themed (thanks, jules) carousel. amazing. at 2:45, we boarded the elephant, making our way to the top deck. it was so cool! the whole ride lasted 45 minutes, but we only went like 200 yards. it’s not a very quick robot elephant. but it was neat to see the head move around, the ears flap, the trunk raise up and spray water, etc. there is an engine that propels the elephant, but the legs still move like the elephant is walking. the experience was worth the 5 euros – now i can say i’ve ridden a robot elephant! yes!
after the elephant, we decided to pass on the gallery of other animals, because the line was much too long. we walked back into town and caught the tram to the chateau. it’s a beautiful building, with outer fortressing and pretty and ornate interior buildings. our passes got us free entry to the chateau museum, so we decided to check it out. it was SO NICE. seriously, nantes has to have some money, because this was the nicest, most technological museum i think i’ve ever seen. plus, it was enormous – like 35 rooms! we followed the flow of the tour and came out about an hour later. sidenote – france has some very attractive public servants. all of the employees were quite easy on the eyes. this is not an uncommon trend. anyway, after we finished touring through the chateau, we took a lap on the top of the outer wall and then took some pictures by the moat. there is a street in nantes called “rue crébillon” that is famous for its window displays – they’ve even invented a verb (crébillonner – to window shop on the rue crébillon). the shops are verrry luxerious and fancy, so that was a pretty street. :) we ended our tour with a little treat at “la cigale” – one of the most famous restaurants in nantes. it opened in 1895, and still maintains its old-time charm. the interior of la cigale is AMAZINGLY ornate and fancy, with lots of gold trimming, mosaics, and mirrors. our pass got us a complementary hot chocolate and two little slices of cake. WIN. the hot chocolate was VERY rich – almost like pure melted chocolate. and the cakes were chocolate too – i hate to say it, but i experienced a bit of a chocolate overload that day. we meandered back down to the tram way and headed back to the train station to go home. there is so much to do in nantes that we hardly scratched the surface, but i had a great time visiting a new place!
after hurrying to catch the last bus back to campus, we made it home around 9:15. i was EXHAUSTED but hungry for real food (not chocolate). shane hadn’t eaten yet either, so we made pasta. somehow, i’m not sick of it yet! it was delicious. we sat in the kitchen and talked to djamel and danielle, who had gotten a pizza. around 11pm, i came back to my room and got ready for bed. it was a very long but fun-filled day.
today (sunday) has been pretty lazy, after my active busy friday/saturday. i woke up early to skype for a while, since TWOG got to record their electric ep/album in Oceanway last night and i wanted to hear about it. drew and i talked from about 9am-10am (france time – he was up late!) and then i went back to sleep until noonish. yeah yeah, shameful i know. but i needed the rest. i got up and took a lonnnnng shower, which felt amazing. and i dedicated the rest of my day to getting chores/homework/blogging finished! so i’m in the middle of that. my first test is coming up on wednesday – it’s a translation test, which shouldn’t be too difficult. i’m just going to revise my homework and go from there! i'm going to try to watch my church service at 6pm - i really hope the internet is good enough!! :P
and last but not least, tomorrow is valentine’s day. i’d be lying if i said it didn’t absolutely SUCK to be away from my valentine this year, but physical separation can’t diminish how i feel. so, happy valentine’s day, froffie. i love you, and i’ll see you in 170 days. :P <3
and to all my other loved ones, happy valentine’s day to you too!
love from france,
PS- i've linked a few pictures of things i'm talking about in this post, but my facebook album 'february in france' is much more thorough if you want to see what i've been talking about! :)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

houston, we have mobility!

hey everybody!
first off, sorry for the pause in posts! this week of classes was actually a little bit busy, and i found myself saying “oh i’ll blog tomorrow” a couple times. :/
but here i am, on thursday afternoon, with four days to recount! so, here it goes.
monday, 7 february.
the first thing i learned on monday was that the packers won the superbowl. huzzah! i don’t like ben roethlisberger. unfortunately, i wasn’t able to watch the game, considering it was on from 1am-4am here and i don’t have tv. sooo.. yeah. but that was alright, i caught the highlights on somehow, i can sacrifice one football game for living in france. monday is my long day of classes, mostly because they are very spread out. i have art history from 9 to half 10 each morning, which is a bit of a struggle. it always takes a few minutes to get back into french mode, and that professor definitely doesn’t dumb down the lecture for the handful of foreigners in my class. he set the date of our first test for the monday after winter break – which i’ll be spending in london. thankfully, i’ll have all of sunday to study! natalie kept nodding off throughout class, which i found entertaining. she’s a skillful in-class sleeper, her head never once hit the desk! after class, i went to the library to do a little research / watch last sunday’s church service. the wireless connection in the library is killer fast, so i was able to watch the whole thing without one single pause! yay! i REALLY enjoyed the message – this month’s series is called “Love>” (love greater than) and each week has a different topic; lust, feelings, sex, and self. it’s going to be an awesome series!! anyway, i watched that and then headed to superU to buy a sandwich for lunch. i ended up getting a tuna sandwich and some green beans to snack on – the total was 1.40 euro, which translates to roughly 2$. yes, my meal was 2$. word. my loooong class on mondays is from 1:15 to 4:15 – “langue française”. that’s the one where the teacher is super nice and wonderful, though, so the time passes quickly! i had just enough time after class to come relax for a bit before my conversation workshop from 6 to half 7. lots of my friends are in that class, so it’s a good time. we had a discussion about anti-tobacco laws, which brought me right back to last semester at belmont! afterwards, i headed back to the dorm and started thinking about dinner. as i had just made my budget for the semester, i was feeling like i needed to eat pretty cheaply this week. so shane and i decided that it is the week of pasta/red sauce (not that i haven’t eaten that for 80% of my meals here) and that we would suffer through it together. we added some onions/carrots/spinach to the sauce to make it a little less boring though. i skyped for a while after dinner, and then went to bed.
                tuesday, 8 february.
tuesday was a glorious day. it’s so wonderful to have a break from classes in the middle of the week! i woke up around 9am, got dressed, and went to meet natalie in the lobby. we headed in to town... to get our bikes!! the city of angers has a company called “velocité” (‘velo’ being the french word for ‘bike’ – win) that rents bikes to students for FREE. so, for the next 4 months, i am the proud possessor of an adorable blue with red accents bike, with a basket!! joy. we rode around town for a while, slowly making our way back to campus. upon our return, i took a short nap and then made a new rule for myself:
i am only going to buy a baguette if i bike to get it.
that way, i’m at least working off SOME of the calories that i intake by eating a whole baguette!! haha! so, i tested out my new rule by biking back into town to go to monoprix. it’s 4km each way, which is less than 3 miles. since the path is through the city, it takes about 20 minutes. i loved getting to explore the streets though, because it’s so much easier to learn your way around a city that way! riding the bus everywhere doesn’t give you a very good sense of directional awareness, and i feel much more knowledgeable now. :) i did my shopping and then headed back to school. all in all, i think i biked nearly 10 miles on tuesday!! not too shabby! shane had run out of spinach, but the baguette did make the second consecutive pasta/red sauce dinner much more bearable. and, i’ll admit it, i bought a little tarte at monoprix too. so i had dessert. :) after dinner, i skyped a bit more and did homework. i was up much too late on the computer, but no harm.
                wednesday, 9 february.
wednesday is another heavy class day. and by that, i mean i have three classes, for a total of 4 hours. struggle. my morning class (from 10 to 11) is translation from english to french, so that’s slightly more challenging. as is my habit, i came back and napped through lunch, and then headed to my speech class at 3. here’s the thing about university in france – public universities are essentially free for french students. and they act that way. they don’t really respect the whole “you’re here to learn” mentality.. for them, going to college means they don’t have to get a job for a few more years. so it kiiiinda feels like i’m back in middle school or high school, with the way french girls are CONSTANTLY talking through classes, not paying attention, disrespecting the professors, etc. it’s frustrating. but i just sit at the front and try to ignore it. anyway, speech class was fine. that professor is great about trying to integrate foreign students, so i have a french partner for my group project! this is HIGHLY preferrable, so i am pleased. :) immediately after speech, i have my culture class. that professor is SO CUTE and bubbly and spunky, i love her. based on the survey we did last week, the topics for our class are geography, gastronomy, and social events. we spent the course filling in maps of france with mountains, rivers, etc, and talking about different climates. it was interesting, because i definitely didn’t know everything we covered! at 6pm, that class ended, and we all headed back to the dorm. it was night #3 of pasta week, so shane and i got cooking around half 7. i think we’re officially approaching the wall on pasta. i stayed up talking to emma and jessie for a while, and then i got some homework done. drew and the rest of TWOG had a show at belmont wednesday night, and i was sad that i had to miss it. but oh well.
                thursday, 10 february.
today has been absolutely grand. i had two classes this morning, both translation. one was from 10-11 and the other was from 11-12, so my weekend started at noon (like it does every week!). those classes are always funny, because they’re translation from french to english. i’m always so tickled to hear the translations that the french students offer. sometimes they’re great, exactly what i myself put down. other times, not so much. and the fact that they learn british english just makes it funnier. the best weird translation of the day was in the second class. last week, that professor had translated the french adjective “combatif” (which essentially means combative, competitive) to “fightful”. yep. so this week, the phrase at hand was “avec le chant du coq” – literally translated to “with the song of the rooster”. i had put down “with the crow of the rooster”. fairly logical, i thought. her answer? “at cock-crow.” rachel and i were HIGHLY amused. but it turns out, emma had put “cock-crow” too!! it must be a british/irish/european thing. i thought it was hysterical. the rest of the passage was pretty poorly done, mostly because it had a REALLY difficult syntax. think 25 lines of text, with 5 line run-on sentences. it was an excerpt from ionesco’s ‘the colonel’s photograph’, so i guess i can’t be too surprised – he was a playwright/author in the theatre of the absurd.
anywho, after class, i WAS going to come take a nap. but then, i thought to myself, ‘jill, you’ve had a nap every day this week. stay awake for once! see what the afternoon is like.’ so i did! i made a little lunch (of leftover pasta.. yeesh) and opened my window to feel the nice breeze. i was on for a while, looking for places in london for rachel and myself. and then i headed down to the sécretariat to pay my rent for the month. it was such a beautiful day, about 57 degrees and partly cloudy. so i invited my friend jessie to go on a walk. we headed down to the lake and did a big lap, probably about 4km. we had a good talk. :) and i even got too hot with a cardigan and sweatshirt! it was awesome to have to take OFF clothing while being outside. i do NOT miss the cold. on the way back, we decided to do spinach burgers for dinner, which i was overjoyed by (no pasta!). when we got back, she headed to class, and i came to write this post. i’ve just been sitting with my feet propped up on the window sill, computer on my lap, listening to the sounds of the world outside and feeling the breeze roll softly through my room. in a few minutes, i’ll probably bike down the street to the local bakery to snag some baguettes for the dinner group.
france is beautiful this week! hope everything is going well where you are. :)

Monday, February 7, 2011

there's nothing quite like nutella and peanut butter.

well hello there!
oh, what’s that you ask? how was my weekend?
nothing special, just FREAKIN’ AWESOME.
let me recount...
saturdays are beautiful things. this past one was exceptionally lovely! i woke up fairly early to have a skype date, which i enjoyed immensely. i’ve ALMOST gotten over the sinking sadness that distance brings upon me every time i talk with loved ones back home. now, it’s just fun to talk and hear the latest news. so, i skyped from about 8am – 9:30am (1am-2:30am at home). my intention had been to meet with some friends at 10:30am to go to an open-air market in town, but when i got off skype, i was feeling a little under the weather. i decided that sleep was my friend, and opted to visit the market next weekend. good choice – i slept until about 1pm, and woke up feeling very refreshed! i stayed in my room for the afternoon, (finally) putting together my budget for the semester and doing some homework. around 7pm, i got ready to go out. we weren’t meeting until 8:45, but i wanted to go sit in the kitchen with some friends and hang out while they ate dinner.
around 8:40, i headed out to the bus stop to meet with my little group for the evening. my french guardian angel djamel had invited a few of us to a chandeleur party. for the record, the chandeleur holiday is celebrated about 40 days after christmas, usually on february 2nd. in france, everyone (literally, everyone) eats crepes on chandeleur. even more than normal! it is absolutely necessary. so, we went to a chandeleur party, hosted by a classmate of djamel’s. his apartment was fairly close to campus, on our side of the river (as opposed to the centre-ville side). his flat was pretty spacious, with a sitting room, small kitchen, entryway, and bedroom. the decor was chic but minimal, but there were plenty of seats. :) the group consisted of myself, djamel, danielle, claire, and newton. we mingled with about 15 of djamel’s classmates, who were all welcoming and easy to talk to. it was a great evening, full of laughs and stories. best of all, i spoke french the WHOLE night. i ended up sitting next to this girl aline, who is in the process of completing her second master’s. wow. she and i talked about SO MUCH stuff, from language difficulties to traveling to long distance relationships. after eating the crepes, we were joined by a few more girls, and we proceeded to have girl talk. in french. it was soooo fun! haha. one girl told the story about how SHE went to london to propose to her boyfriend while he was studying abroad!! it was a fabulously adorable story, and a wonderful moment for me as a french learner. i felt right at home with the nuances of the language. the best part was the fact that cutesy romantic stories are awesome in every culture. around 11:15, claire and i made motions to leave in order to catch the bus, but aline entreated us to stay a while longer in exchange for her giving us a ride back to campus. seriously, french people are so great. instead of riding the nasty bus for 20 minutes, we got to ride in a sweet little ford fiesta for about 5 minutes. awesome. i got back and intended to go to bed, but ended up skyping for a little while. again.. no complaints there. ;)
sunday was another lovely day. i woke up around 11am and lounged around for a while before getting dressed. a group of friends had made plans to go ice skating downtown this afternoon, and seeing as i hadn’t gone in years, i was stoked. we met at the bus stop at 2:30 and headed into town. some people were coming from other places, but after everyone got there, we were about 12 people. the cost wasn’t too bad, just under 5 euro for entry and skate rentals. we all got in and exchanged shoes for skates, stowed our bags in lockers, and hit the ice. it took me a few turns around the rink to get my ice legs back, but after a few minutes, i was very comfortable. the group experience ranged from very skilled (an ex-hockey player and a canadian) to moderate (skated more than a few times) to beginner (clutching hands and the boards). i would say that within 20 minutes though, even the beginners had enough confidence to skate without help. after about an hour of skating, we took a little pit stop in the rink’s snack lounge and got drinks. i ordered my absolute favourite – at home, it’s called french soda (haha) but here, it’s a ‘diabolo’. basically, it’s carbonated water with fruity syrup in it (i always get raspberry). OH MY GOSH, it is to die for. everyone else ordered beers to warm up. around 4:30, i left the group because i needed to run some errand and be back to campus by 6. i was going to grab a bus to the market about a mile away, but when i stepped outside.. hello sunshine!! i was overjoyed. so i walked all the way down the main street and around the corner to one of two stores open on sundays. it’s an italian company called ‘spar’. i picked up a few things for our special dinner (and a baguette) and hopped on the bus back to school. (the baguette was gone not too long afterwards).
my hope had been to be back in time to catch the online broadcast of the 11am (TN time) service of rolling hills, my church at home. i was logged on and everything at 6pm (france time), but the internet streaming speed was so slow that i could only get a few words at a time. after 10 minutes, i was so frustrated that i just gave up. the sermons are archived on the website, so hopefully i’ll be able to pull today’s message up tomorrow and let it load before watching it. i was pretty bummed out about not being able to participate in church, since today was the start of a new series that i really am interested in. but oh well.
at 7:30, i headed into the kitchen. all week, jessie and i had been planning on making mexican food tonight. my taste buds had been cruelly teased on wednesday at that restaurant.. so i’d been gathering up the necessary ingredients all week. here is what i provided: homemade guacamole (avocado/cream cheese/garlic powder/salt/lemon juice/cayenne), tortillas, spinach, cheese, and fajita spices and sauce. jessie contributed the george foreman grill (crucial!), some red bell peppers, more cheese, and spices. natalie joined in with chicken, lettuce, and an onion, and andrea brought potatoes to fry up as a side. oh my word, it was absolutely the best dinner i’ve had here so far. and i’m not just saying that because i’m sick of pasta. it was AWESOME. we cooked the chicken and peppers with the fajita seasoning, and then made quesadillas with our desired fillings. i made my mom’s guacamole, which everyone pretty much loved. i’m going to be making that more often. we all couldn’t believe how delicious the meal was.
but get this; for dessert, we had no plans. but then shane suggested we grill bananas on the foreman. i had two bananas that were going to go bad before i got around to eating them, so we sliced those long-ways, slathered peanut butter on one side and nutella on the other, sandwiched them, and popped those suckers on the grill. can you say DELICIOUS? but wait, there’s more!! natalie sliced up some apples into thin slices and then cooked them in the wok with butter, sugar, and cinnamon – which essentially resulted in apple pie filling. talk about going from nothing to awesomeness with a few fruits and some ingenuity! it was wonderful.
and now, i’m gearing up for another week of classes. i’ve gotten most of my homework finished so it shouldn’t be too stressful of a week, i hope! i’m excited to see what my professors have in store for me this week.
i hope everything is well with you!

Friday, February 4, 2011

a baguette a day... probably won't keep the pounds away.

so, i’m gonna be honest. this was technically my first full week of school. i had all of my classes this week! novel concept, i know. but it was pretty good! i have my week spaced out to where i have classes on mondays, wednesdays, and thursdays. sweeeeet.
wednesday is an average class day for me. i had a translation course from 10-11 am and then a biiig break until the afternoon. during this break, i took a coma nap. it was lovely. :) then i had my “techniques d’expression française” (pretty much a speech class) from 3-4:30pm and my “culture française” course from 4:30-6pm. all of the classes are really great! the translation course on wednesdays is a “version” class – translation FROM english INTO french. it’s a lot harder that way, for me at least. but i still enjoy it a lot, and the professor is pretty good. i’ve grown to REALLY like my speech class. the prof is SO cool, and really tries to integrate the foreign students into the groups. the theme for this semester is “words and images” so we’re doing projects on art and film! nice! the culture class is one of the CeLFE courses offered for foreign exchange students, so it’s all foreigners in that one. but we have a good mixture, only a few americans! and the teacher is soooo cute! she’s probably about 23, very petite and musical, and spunky. we had a team culture quiz on wednesday (which my team won – what up) that helped illustrate the areas of culture that we would like to work on the most. we’ll find out next week what the topics for the courses will be. :)
after class on wednesday, i went back to my dorm for a little while before heading into town for dinner. this SUPER sweet german girl named maggi left for home on thursday, so we had a little going-away dinner party at a mexican restaurant downtown.
yes, i said a mexican restaurant. in france. blasphemy!
i have to be real with you guys, it wasn’t too good. i know, no surprises there. but it was decent! enough for me to finish my quesadilla. i was disappointed in the lack of queso dip, however. truly, the whole dinner just made my soul yearn for some blue coast or pancho’s. but that can wait until july. the gathering ended up being 20 or so people, so we all had a good time talking and eating and laughing. around 10:30, i left with my friends natalie and jane to head back to school, while everyone else headed to a bar on the main drag. we ended up discovering that the wait for the bus was about 40 minutes, so we stopped by casa de cuba for some chocolats viennois. i’d been promising natalie that we would go soon, and she’d been holding out to have her first chocolat viennois there. the waiter told us at first that they couldn’t make them – natalie was devastated. but then he came back and said just for us, he could do it. YAY! so she got to have her first 1:2 cocoa / whipped cream ratio beverage. always delicious. we paid for our drinks and headed to the bus stop, where we caught a bus back to campus. i had intended to go to bed early, but then i got on skype.. oops. but i had a wonderfully fantastic conversation, so it was worth it. :) bedtime rolled around at 3am.
my weekend starts on thursdays at 12 noon (which would be a dream come true for a lot of my friends). i only have two translation classes on thursdays – a level one “thème” course (french INTO english) and a level two one. obviously, the level one is a bit easier. it’s more centered on translation phrases to get specific grammar and vocabulary nuances. i enjoy being an anglophone in that class, because it gives me a little bit of a boost. and the prof always defers to us! hahaha. the level two class is hilarious. the professor is this woman from who-knows-where. she must be french, but when she speaks english, she has this weird southwestern american accent..? i have no clue. but that course is a little more literary – we translate passages from various works of literature. she does have some interesting interpretations of translation though.. and she encourages the students to translate literally, which i don’t like too much. but the course is still quite beneficial. on thursday, the few exchange students got to class.. only to be greeted by an empty room. i’ve heard that this happens often – somehow, the french students always know when class is cancelled. we went down to the board where cancellations are usually posted, but didn’t see any notices. then a girl came down the corridor and asked if we were looking for a translation course. we said yes. turns out, the class had been moved into an amphitheatre lecture hall for that week. oh. good thing we hadn’t split when we found the room empty!
once class ended, shane and i went to superU to get some things for the next few days’ worth of dinners, and i picked up a sandwich for lunch. i came back to lounge around for a while, eating my yummy lunch and listening to music. around 1:30, i went into town to mail some letters, go to the bank, and shop around a bit. my friend liz came with me, and we had a lovely afternoon.. the weather was beautiful! i love walking around downtown angers – it’s so gorgeous. i came back around 5 and since i’d stayed up late, i ended up napping again. i love naps, what can i say? i woke up about an hour later and cleaned my room for a bit. at 7, jessie and i cooked dinner together and we all sat in the kitchen talking for a while. then emma, jessie, and i had a fun girlie movie night. except we watched wuthering heights, so it wasn’t quite a chick flick. :P the movie is only an hour and forty minutes, but we were in there for about 4 hours, pausing the movie to explain things to jessie or get more chocolate. i’d never seen the film, but the book is one of my absolute favourites. i recommend both! the adaptation was done very well. my only complaint was that they used the same actors (juliette binoche and ralph finnes [voldemort!!]) to play cathy and heathcliff as children, and then as adults. and THEN, juliette played cathy’s daughter catherine!! it was kind of confusing, but it worked. we said goodnight around 2am.
today (friday) was another late-ish morning. i woke up around 11 and played around on the computer for a while. once i’d showered and gotten ready for the day, rachel and i went into town to go do some real shopping. the semi-annual sales are ending this week, so we needed to act fast! we walked around for a long time and went into bunches of stores. i got a dress, a blouse, a scarf, a purse, a headband, AND a baguette for only 26 euro total. gotta love those sales.
speaking of baguettes.. what they say is true. the bread here is incredible. i seriously eat an entire baguette by myself sometimes.. you just can’t put them down! and with a little “vache qui rit” (laughing cow!) cheese, oh my word. heavenly. i actually eat bread as dessert here. but i am going to start monitering how many baguettes i let myself get a month, because my carb intake is getting unreal. hahah. gotta be careful...
dinner tonight was bowtie pasta with a rosé tomato sauce, carrots and potatos, and a spinach salad. and that baguette. yum. several of us made plans to go to the markets tomorrow, so i’m going to bed early. it promises to be a beautiful day, and i need to walk about 15 miles to work off all these carbs!! :)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

ma madeliene à moi

yesterday, i learned the origin of a cultural allusion i’d heard been hearing for a while. have you ever heard someone say that something is their “madeleine”? maybe not, if you’re not into french culture and whatnot. but here’s the jist; whenever writer marcel proust ate the french pastry called a ‘madeleine’ as an adult, he was momentarily transported back to his youth, to a time of childlike trust and naive innocence, when all that mattered was the deliciousness of the treat. whenever something is ‘your madeleine,’ it does the same thing. it could be a certain type of food, a smell, an article of clothing, a song.. whatever brings you back to that time in your life. over the last few days, i’ve had a couple pseudo-madeleine moments. not so much ones that take me back all the way to childhood.. just moments that, if i close my eyes, i could be at home. or at school. let me explain..
friday night (as i said in the last france-related post) was a going away party for a friend of mine here at the university. stephen had studied here the previous semester, but is going to spain for this one! he decided to stick around angers for january because spring semester for him doesn’t start unti later this month. the little soirée was at his apartment over on the opposite side of town from my campus. as we were getting ready, it started snowing!! giant, fluffy, wonderful snowflakes. it only lasted for about 30 minutes, but the sight of the snow swirling around in the air was beautiful. i quoted elf – “have you seen these snowflakes, they’re GINORMOUS!” no reaction. a bunch of my friends hadn’t seen elf!! i was baffled. we planned an elf date for the following evening. anyway, several of my good friends here at school were friends with stephen last year, so i knew the majority of the attendees. we had a grand time chatting with stephen’s french flatmates and goofing off. at one point, a few of us (keith, john, shane, andrea, and myself) got into a peanut-catching competition. my record was ten successive peanuts tossed and caught in my mouth. the game evolved into partner peanut tossing, and then target tossing. keith finally launched a peanut directly down my throat, which was startling but very hilarious. we called a cab to go home, because the buses had LONG since stopped running. jessie summoned a 7 passenger van to come pick us up, and i got stuck riding shotgun with the driver. which was actually great, because we had a lovely conversation about how there are still so many societal problems in the southern united states. yeah buddy, in french. haha! the six goofballs in the back sang ‘bohemian rhapsody’ all the way back. once we returned, i stayed up talking until the wee hours of the early morning (just like the previous night, all of the sudden it was 7am). there is nothing quite like a heart to heart in the middle of the night – i absolutely cherish conversations like that one.
saturday morning, i woke up around 1pm and got a lot more done. i cleaned and did more homework and did stuff on my computer until dinnertime. it was a typical dinner – pasta with a rosé tomato sauce and a veggie side. as we had decided the previous night, it was time for ELF. we put on shane’s fake fireplace that he downloaded and ate cookies for a while, and then turned on the movie. it was like christmas all over again! that was definitely a madeliene moment for me.. elf is such a classic, and we watch it every christmas at my house! i loved sharing that joy with my new friendsies. :) after the movie, i got to bed pretty early so that i could get my sleep schedule straight.
sunday was pretty grand. i slept in to get my sleep count back up, and then got ready for the day. around 3pm, a group of us decided to go on a little outing to the city centre for a walk in the park. it was awesome, but it would have probably been more enjoyable if it hadn’t been absolutely freezing. and it’s a humid cold, so it feels even worse! yuch. we walked around the jardin des plantes, which has an awesome little bird sanctuary! there were some gorgeous exoticly-coloured birds there, it was such a pleasant surprise! we walked a bit further into town and found this sweet playground near the bus depot on the main drag in town. shane, john, keith, patty and i played on it for a while – there were some seriously cool playground things there. they were so fun!! except they seemed pretty dangerous for a small child! i kept thinking how, if i were at home, these kinds of things would NEVER be at a playground. too much liability. it’s a shame that children are denied such fun just for the sake of someone avoiding a lawsuit. oh well. we continued our afternoon walk around town, stopping for hot drinks in a bar before heading back to campus. we all cooked together again and sat around talking for a while. it was lovely, as usual!
monday morning was an early one, since i have an art history class at 9am. i had hoped to take the 10:30 section, but last week, the professor was mad because the 9am section had 4 people and the 10:30 section had about 25. so he pretty much insisted that some people switch. i figured i could drag myself out of bed for a 9am once a week, so i obliged. hopefully that put me on his good side! he is such a sweet little man though. yesterday he wore a magenta-ish collared shirt with a black v-neck sweatervest and a black bowtie. and over it, he wore his long black coat with a matching magenta scarf!! and he has this awesome silver hair (and moustache) with these round glasses.. he’s fantastic. we talked about raphael again for a while and then moved into mannerism. after that class, i came back to the dorm for a bit before heading into town to run some errands with shane. except that was a total fail, because nearly everything was closed! silly five day french work week, with shops closing for sunday and monday. oh well, i still got a delicious baguette at monoprix, half of which i had eaten by the time we got back. i had a little snack (aka the rest of the baguette) and then headed to my 3 hour french grammar course. it’s part of the program for foreign exchange students, so there were no french students in my class. but there were several italians, germans, japanese, and british! in addition to a polish girl and a romanian girl. so it was a good mix. and oh my gosh, the professor is phenomenal. i seriously pray that i look like her when i am her age. which could be anywhere from 40 to 60, i honestly could not tell. she has this beauuuuutiful silvery hair, and her skin is perfect. she’s tall and thin and stylish and SO FREAKING FRENCH. gosh, she’s awesome. her voice is so kind and soothing and she was just so sweet and funny.. man. that class is going to be great. the three hours passed really quickly, which was an added bonus!
i had a break after that class until 6pm, so i decided to venture to the magical land of lidl with jessie and keith. lidl is a cheap grocery shop, related to aldi. it is only 3 bus stops away from us, but it still doesn’t beat the convenience of superU. it was indeed super cheap though! i got loads of stuff to stock up my pantry for just 7 euro. win. and i saw some great products, including a cereal brand that had choices including “nut flakers” and “honey balls” – i’m mature, i promise. we headed back and i made my way to the final course of the day – a conversation workshop. it was awesome – out of the 20 people there, only 3 were american. the others were irish, canadien, spanish, italian, polish, and romanian. it was EXTRA awesome because like half my friends are in that class, so i was already super comfortable about speaking. the “teachers” were two upperclassmen (native french speakers) who are studying to teach french as a foreign language. we sat around this big table and talked about random stuff for an hour and a half – including introductions, comics, music, etc. it was pretty fun.
same story after class for dinner – we gathered in the kitchen and got to cooking. natalie made this delish bolognaise sauce with tomato sauce, onions, spinach, and tuna while i provided the pasta and made some potatoes as a side. yummy, as usual!! :) the second madeliene moment came after dinner, when we were SUPPOSED to watch a movie (but everyone bailed). instead, i sat in shane’s room with my eyes closed and listened to him play guitar. it was almost like being back at belmont.. which was bittersweet. but still, listening to fantastic guitar playing is always fun! and then a little bit later, i got to have a skype date with my boooo back stateside. i always love that. :)
anyway, today is my weekend-in-the-middle-of-the-week day, because i have no classes on tuesdays. (win.) so i just wrote all morning, and doing a couple things on my massive to-do list. i also watched the footage from TWOG's show last sunday about a zillion times. around 4pm, i went back into town to retry those errands from the other day. shane ended up finding the book he needs, but its 20 euro!! excessive. we stopped by the library to look for it, but no luck. i did finally get my library card though! :) we stopped by monoprix, where we bumped into andrea. the three of us got our shopping done (which included shane dropping a bag of frozen peas, which split and sent peas flying everywhere) and headed back to school. on the bus, i ate about a quarter of my DELICIOUS baguette. seriously, heavenly. it was even still warm.... oh lord. it was wonderful. we're about to cook up some curry for dinner and then watch despicable me. life is good!
à bientôt!

special post; check out this band!

okay. this post is pretty much going to be shameless friend promotion (one step above shameless self-promotion). but i really want everyone to hear/read/experience the awesomeness that is my favourite belmont band. and yes, i may be slightly biased, but that doesn't take away from the talent.

at belmont, there exists an overwhelmingly talented and extensive musical population. it seems like everyone you meet there plays at LEAST one instrument, if not more (myself being one of the few exceptions). thanks to this talent pool, it is not surprising that within a few months of starting college freshman year, i'd become pretty good friends with some seriously gifted musicians. these musicians are mitchell blom, stone meyer, stephen palmer, and becca bradley. they used to sit around in the atrium and play their songs for people walking through, and it was always so fun to see them having such a good time. and then this past fall, another blessing was added to the band (and my life) in the form of drew smyser. and thus, The Weight Of Glory (TWOG) was born.

the first official band photo.

back in september, TWOG decided (practically on a whim) to audition for the christian showcase. each year, belmont puts on four big concerts (christian, urban/pop, rock, country), each featuring four belmont acts. so, TWOG tried out. and, you guessed it, made the showcase! it was a huge deal, and the show went incredibly well. we were all so, so, so excited and proud of them! in a few short months, they'd gone from playing acoustic stuff in the atrium to being a part of one of the showcases! amazing. TWOG spent the rest of the semeter writing and recording at various belmont studios. they are so fun to watch record - always having a blast.

at the christian showcase, rockin' it out.

a few weeks ago, drew found out about a battle of the bands contest sponsored by a radio station in his hometown of huntsville, alabama (about two hours south of nashville). the winning band would get to open for the Rock and Worship Roadshow to take place on january 30th, with the following acts including the afters, thousand foot crutch, and mercyme - all big christian groups with huge followings. also on a whim, drew submitted a video of a live TWOG performance from november. and then about two weeks ago, he found out that they'd been chosen as the winners!!! pandemonium ensued.

the two weeks preceeding the show were filled with rehearsals, press coverage, carpool arrangements, and nerves. check out some of the articles written before the show! the belmont vision, indievisionmusic blog, the view from college blog, even the huntsville newspaper! the hype was unreal. and then here are a couple post-show articles;'s chris welch and the rock and worship roadshow's own article.

the rock and worship roadshow.

and then sunday finally came, and TWOG had an amazing experience getting to play for over 6,000 people! if you'd like to see footage of the performance, find TWOG on facebook. there is a 12 minute clip of their whole set! i was so sad that i couldn't be there to support them. but it was still amazing to know how much God has blessed them!

and as if that wasn't enough, TWOG released their acoustic EP this past week as well! this is stone's description of the EP - "So after much deliberation, The Weight of Glory thought that its first EP should be this. No editing, no automation, no nothing. This is just us. All set up in one room. Doing what we love. Though the EP doesn't really have a name, I think there is one word that I would use to describe it... Honesty. Have a listen!" and you should indeed have a listen by visiting this link. the band put up the EP for FREE download on a website called, where artists can get their work out in the world. TWOG has been in the top 4 downloads on the site since the EP was released. way to go, friends. :)

so, moral of this story. i have ridiculously talented and awesome friends, who are constant blessings in my life! please check them out. :)