10 June 2010

I live in a boarding school.

Here I am in Lyon !! Sorry for the slowness of posting about the move; I can only get wifi if I go outside and sit on the stairs to my floor and if I want to use the school’s computer room I have to be lucky enough to find someone to unlock it for me first. So, it’s definitely a do-able thing and I still manage to get the internet whenever I need it, but It means that things are a bit more of a “process” than they used to be as far as internet-ing goes J

Life is good here, I live in one of the rooms of the boarding school and it’s definitely bigger than my room in Clermont, which is quite a nice change. I have to wake up SOOOO early here…7:15am every day. But I can go to bed early, too. So I guess it’s not that bad. I eat breakfast with the nuns and lunch and dinner in the school cafeteria usually. There’s another girl here right now doing the same thing as me, so that’s nice because I have another young person to chit chat with. So far I’ve met three of the six nuns who live at the school (Lycée Don Bosco): Sr. Marie Béatrice, Sr. Marie Therese and Sr. Françoise. There’s also another community of nuns from the same order in Lyon and I also do stuff with them a few times a week. They’re Sr. Chantelle; Virginie (postulante, not a nun yet), Sr. Jeanne-Marie, Sr. Anne and Sr. Catherine. Sr. Catherine is so cute ; she’s pretty old and she has Parkinson’s Disease, but she’s still very “with-it” and fun to talk to.

During my first week and a half here I’ve done quite a variety of things: worked with some mentally handicapped students, talked to girls from the boarding school, done some outreach-type work with kids from poorer neighborhoods, tutored a boy in English, eaten traditional Lyonnaise food.

I really enjoy all the work I’ve done so far, each experience has been worthwhile and confirmed my belief that, despite growing up with different cultures, languages, etc. people are mostly just…people. So there aren’t really that many differences I’ve been able to pinpoint between the kids I’ve been interacting with in France and the ones I interact with in the U.S.

Sooner than later I’ll manage to take my camera out and get some pictures of where I live now, but until then, that’s all I’ve got!

27 May 2010

List of 10--Fail.

I've now spent six nights in Paris. However, it was for a good cause. Two of my friends from home were in Paris last weekend and I hopped on a train and went up there for the weekend to meet them. It was fun to see them and get to talk to people from home, greet them with hugs instead of bisous [the kiss on either cheek], and hear the Johnson County accent I know and love so well.
We didn't do anything too exciting; walked around the first night and got to the Eiffel Tower just in time to see it light up and start flashing, which is always beautiful. Then Saturday we did some shopping [Mom-I'm sure you haven't sent the package still. I just bought shorts. You can pay for them if you really want to :) ] and hung out in le Jardin Luxembourg for a while, then stopped by the "Mimes in May" show that was going on.
It was nice to be able to be in Paris and just relax instead of going like crazy the whole time, and the girls had an extra couple days there after I left, so they could still do things I'd already done without making me repeat anything--perfect!
On Monday I'm leaving Clermont-Ferrand for good and moving to Lyon...I'm excited!

11 May 2010

Une Parasseuse

A lazybones. That's what I've been lately. So, it's May 18th and I'm updating for the first time in weeks. Sorry.

So here's what's been happening....
April 28th: Went to class, turned in a paper that was unfortunately quite full of typos but also lots of good ideas. So my teacher liked it okay-ish.

April 29th: Went to class, went to this really-cool-but-hard-to-describe gathering in Centre Jaude...evidently "they" (the ever-elusive "they") had tried similar things in bigger cities around the country and Clermont-Ferrand was the first middle sized city they tried. Basically, all the youth of Clermont and the surrounding towns gathered in the town center to drink, eat, play, and enjoy each other's company. It was very cool actually.

April 30th: Went to class (littérature) at 8h45 after going to bed around 5h00. Pleasant.

May 1st: Watched "Into the Wild" with Ola, then went over to our friend Siavash's apartment (Siavash is Iranian and introduced me to Iranian pistachios, which are red, delicious, and addictive.) While there, Samantha, who is from Glasgow, taught us traditional Scottish dances and Lukasz and Krzysztof taught us how people dance at Polish weddings. It might have been the Polka. I'm not sure.

May 2nd: Went to a hookah bar...green apple flavor was good, fruit punch was not. Said hi to Jesus.

May 3rd: Homework

May 4th: class

May 5th: Cinco de Mayo...Cari, Chantelle and I made fajitas for dinner

May 6th: Went to Afterwork, a monthly event at a local club-ish place. It starts at 5 or 6 and people go there straight from work (hence the name) and ends around midnight. It was fun, good music and good people. When that was over, Chantelle and I met up with some other Erasmus (European study abroad program) students at the "Soirée Désintégration" for students who had finished their study abroad and were going home. While there, we met Pedro, the French man with an Italian mother who "had always dream to meet American real girl!" Needless to say, that was his only dream to come true that night. The American girl was not very impressed.

May 7th: Gave a presentation about a chapter of Candide

May 8th: Hung out in Chantelle's room...actually, crammed 13+ people into Chantelle's room. It was very fun, but a little too loud, or so said our Résidence administration.

May 9th: Mother's Day. I got Mom flowers. but I got them Saturday. So they were delivered on Thursday. Oh well. Said hi to Jesus.

May 10th: nothing exciting

May 11th: one class

May 12th: two classes

May 13th: No class, spent the day doing homework so I wouldn't have to over the weekend.

May 14th: One class, then met up with a bunch of friends to do some grocery shopping...our friend Cécile offered her home for a multicultural sleepover Friday night and it was great fun. We made pizzas, Spanish tortillas (omelettes with egg, onion, potato and chorizo), a Polish yummy thing you make by lining a pot with cabbage leaves then layering in potatos, onions, carrots, and sausage. Let the pot simmer for an hour or so and then it's ready. We also made Sangria, Zubrowka and apple juice (a popular drink in Poland), crêpes, and a really big mess. But we cleaned it all up in the morning and left Cécile's house looking as good as new :)

May 15th: slept.

May 16th: slept more. Said hi to Jesus.

May 17th: Cleaned my room and went to the grocery store.

Annnndddd....that is what I've been up to.

27 April 2010

More Paper!

Here's a link to the article I wrote this month for the K-State Collegian :)

Stuck on the Emerald Isle

Sorry it took me so long to update. But. I can now say I experienced first hand the effects of Eyjafjallajokull, the unpronounceable volcano.
I headed to Ireland the 13th, fully prepared to stay there for a week with Ola, for my mom to meet me there the 18th, and for us to leave together and wander the southwest of France for a few days before she went back home to Kansas.
The staying there for a week happened, but that's the only bit. Even that isn't completely accurate, because I actually stayed there 12 days.
Fortunately, Ola and I were staying with the lovely Finola Clancy, one of the numerous relatives from the Ridgway/French side of my family, and thus didn't have to pay for an extra hotel, expensive food, etc while we spent our extra 5 days on the little green island.
We did so many things and went so many places that I honestly can't remember them all, but here is what I CAN remember:
-meeting up with Chantelle and Cari and kissing the Blarney Stone
-seeing Bona Fide Federation at The Pavilion, a pub in Cork with Michael, Finola's son
-Being impressed at the view and lovely sand at Inch Beach in Kerry
-Visiting Trinity College and the Museum of Modern Art in Dublin
-Seeing various churches, town halls, cemeteries, houses where my family members lived/died/were married/are buried/were politicians/etc
-Wandering Cork City
-Going to the Mitchellstown Caves
-Eating dinner in Dungarvan
-Seeing the dead man sleeping
-the Rock of Cashel
-Cobh harbor
-touring the Jameson Whisky distillery in Middleton
-playing the bells at Shandon

Honestly, the best part about Ireland was the food. Ola and I both gained weight while staying with Nola, because everything tasted sooooo gooooddddd. France has great cheese and great bread and I definitely am not starving over here, but there's just something about France that makes it difficult to find a hearty slice of bread with deliciously cholesterol-filled butter slathered all over it. As many people know, I love bread. And I developed a deep love for Irish butter. Pair that with the "full Irish breakfast" Finola made for us every morning and it's a surefire recipe for Elena to get fat. Luckily, I knew I would be leaving eventually, so I didn't really feel bad about eating my little heart out, after all, it's vacation!

Another excellent aspect of Ireland was that I got to watch the first two episodes of Glee, something I'm not sure I'll be able to continue here in France. So that's actually quite depressing.

Here are some random pics of my time there, sorry this post is so short and boring, but we really didn't do anything too exciting while there...just lounged around. And that, as many people know, is exactly what I like to do when on vacation :)



My mom's birthday cake, which she wasn't actually there to eat...

I think Ola took this picture. But we went to the greyhound races and bet on the dogs. I won 5.60euro :)

There were baby swings at Blarney Castle. We used them.

Kissing the Blarney Stone.

Ola, Nola, and Jack...three great people :)

11 April 2010

Twitterpated.

"Every field wears a bonnet with some spring daisies on it, even birds of a feather show their clothes off together...spring, spring spring"

IT'S SPRINGTIME!!! And the flowers are in bloom and just as lovely as they can be :) So here are some shots of color to brighten your day.

Sorry if it takes a long time to load; Blogspot only lets me load five pictures and, well...I had more than five pictures to show you. And this way you also get to hear Beyoncé singing to you, which can never be a bad thing.

Also, I do believe I'm supposed to announce to the world that I do not own Beyoncé or her songs or her voice. So. I don't. Lastly, I really hope the song plays without skipping, but it skipped once when I was watching it. So if it does...just mute it and listen to Beyoncé some other time.

video

09 April 2010

GLEE!!!

In just four short days, I will not only be in Ireland, but Glee will also have started it's final episodes of Season 1!!!! I'm quite excited about both facts.
But, before those things happen, I suppose I should mention things about Easter and class and such that have happened in my life.
So. Classes continue to go well, I enjoy them all and haven't completely failed anything yet, so that's a plus. My room is currently messier than it has ever been while in France and it's driving me a little crazy, but that's easily fixed.
Easter was quite different than anything I've ever experienced; gone were the glories of Curé, it's choir, and Fr. Charles' quaky singing voice and "little prayers."
Palm Sunday was nice, the Frenchies waved their palm branches (which were actually leafy tree branches) during the Hosanna, so that was a neat touch, and it was overall an appropriately Palm Sunday-like service.
Thursday I didn't go to church so I can't vouch for how that went; Friday Cari and I tried to go to the veneration of the cross but ended up at Stations of the Cross instead, so that was...that. Saturday we went to Easter Vigil but it was actually really un-festive I thought. Again, it's probably mostly because I like my own church with the organ and piano and flute and strings and bells and tympani and good choir and Mark Fortino singing about Horses and Chariots. But it was still Easter, so that's good.
Sunday afternoon we got together to have an international feast, featuring delicious Jura soup from Poland (Ola's mom is going to teach me how to make it when I visit), yummy homemade brown bread from Ireland, tortilla pizzas made by yours truly, and delectable pasta from Cari. We also had some Cadbury easter eggs and Bulmer's hard cider, which were both quite tasty.
That night Ola invited us to join some of her Polish friends for a "vodka night" with Polish vodka (I think it's called Wyborny but I could be wrong). The vodka did taste okay, it wasn't the mind-blowing experience I was expecting from their description of the greatness of Polish vodka, but it wasn't bad.
Wednesday we surprised Cari for her 21st birthday; we bought her a tiara and a wand (both of which she was extremely excited about) that she wore the whole night long...we started out with cake and champagne in Chantelle's room then went to a bar where there was supposed to be a karaoke night. The karaoke night ended up not happening, but the bar was nice and we'd never been there before, so that was good. Then we went to an Australian Pub we'd been wondering about since getting here where we met some French men who were more than willing to help Cari celebrate her birthday. So that was fun.
This week marked the end of classes until April 27th and also the first time my Argumentation teacher was impressed by something that came out of my mouth! It was quite an accomplishment. Generally that class is just filled with him making fun of me for always forgetting my accents (it's true, I'm very bad about that) but I actually came up with an interesting intro on Thursday and I was/am quite proud. [notable note: my Argumentation teacher is actually my favorite; he's really funny and blunt...he's the kind of teacher you either hate because he's sort of sarcastic-ish or you love because he's sort of sarcastic-ish. And I happen to love it. ]
This weekend will be full of laundry; packing, and sleeping and after that...IRELAND!!!!!! Can't wait :)

30 March 2010

And it's still the greatest...the greatest.

500 points if you can name that song.
Because, if you can, you will know what we were listening to during the moment of this photograph. I think it's my favorite I've taken in France. Wine bottle microphone (empty and shared by all), laughter, dancing, good music...no complaints :)

23 March 2010

Lilikim, meet Martin


"I think they're the names someone wants to name their children."
"No. I think Lili and Kim are a couple and their adoptive child is named Martin. That's definitely what it is."
That is the discussion Cari, Chantelle, and I have been having this semester about the origins of the username and password for the wireless connection we use here (no one knows how all the students found out about lilikim and martin; but truly everyone knows and uses their internet, whoever they are).
In the park yesterday, Chantelle and I met a little boy, whom we have now and forever named Martin. Chantelle is Kim and I am Lili, put us together and we make a beautiful family.
"Martin" played with us for a solid half hour, if not longer, and kept us wildly entertained with his love for "des canards" (the ducks), "des oiseaux" (birds), and a bottle of Sprite some kids shook up then exploded nearby. So far, he's my favorite French boy I've met, and definitely the most outgoing. Then again...it's hard to compete with a four-year-old for my attention; small children will win almost every time :)

21 March 2010

It's finally being springy

The weather this week has been nothing short of joyful. I haven't worn a coat, or even anything more than a light sweater, at all, much to the surprise of some of the wool-coated French people. For me, the idea of wearing warmth devices when it's already 64 degrees out seems a little crazy.
The weather has done what good weather always does, which is put everyone in a good mood. Everywhere I go, people are smiling, laughing, basking in the sunlight. Life is good.
I didn't have class on Tuesday, just work, which meant I spent all of Monday and Tuesday doing absolutely nothing and loving it. I had some homework to catch up on from missing class for Italy, but it was nothing major and easily finished.
Wednesday was St. Patrick's Day, and many of my friends spent the whole day painting faces, drinking beer, and playing the tin whistle in the park, but I had class and then I was sleepy, so I did nothing to celebrate the joyous occasion. Oh well, there's always next year :)
Thursday was just a normal Thursday and Friday I was supposed to go to Paris to meet Holly, my friend who I saw last weekend in Italy, and some of her fellow Benedictine study abroad-ers, but I realized Thursday evening that I had clicked the wrong option for my train tickets and that I wouldn't be able to pick them up at the station because I paid with an American debit card (you can buy them with American cards, but in order to be able to pick them up at a kiosk at the train station you have to have paid with a European chip card--I usually just have mine mailed to me in order to avoid that problem, but this time I accidentally did not.) Since it's significantly more expensive to buy a ticket to Paris the day of departure, it just didn't make sense for me to buy a new ticket just to spend one day in Paris, so I had to miss out on their company. I was sad to miss them, but glad I was able to get a refund on my train tickets, and I think they still had a marvelous time without me :)
Friday night I saw a Polish film called Tatarak; it was in Polish with French subtitles and it was very interesting. I liked it.
Saturday afternoon, Chantelle, Cari, and I wandered a bit and came across a little bar with a great band playing outside...they were great performers and people were dancing and clapping and loving every minute of their performance...it was excellent.



[my ginormous window, where i like to sit and absorb beautiful weather while also getting productive things like homework done]


[my "balcony"...more like a footrest, i think]


[annnndddd...what i see from said window]

14 March 2010

Defining What's Important.

Last night, I watched the Jayhawks beat K-State (for the third time in a row) live, on a TV situated next to a hotel room window overlooking Paris in all her majesty, including the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe. It was magical. It was expensive. But, it happened, and I have called it good.

Those two hours in the hotel are a good ending to a great weekend, a weekend I can't hope to encompass in just one little blog post. Here, however, are the highlights.

Thursday:
-Woke up at 5:15 so I could get to my 6:01 train. Realized when I was almost to the station (and also almost late) that I forgot my 12-25 card in my hotel room, which meant I was going to have to pay extra money on the train (the 12-25 card is a discount card for young people, but you have to show the card on the train or else they make you pay full price.) Went to see when the next train left only to have the man inform me that my train left at 10:26 and was looking at the wrong ticket. Smooth.
-Uneventful train rides to Paris then to Beauvais (with time to wander in both cities, which was fun) followed by an uneventful plane ride to Pisa [Well. My favorite pen exploded all over my hand. So that's eventful, perhaps.] Bus to Firenze (Florence), taxi to hotel and then....
-AMANDA!!!! This technically belongs on Friday, since I got to the hotel around 1am, but it was the ultimate culmination of Thursday's activities, so it's going to stay with Thursday. [Amanda is one of my dear friends from back home and she and two of her friends were in Florence at the same time, so I stayed in their hotel with them.]

Friday:
-Woken up at 7:30 by a phone call from HOLLY [another friend from home who is studying in Florence this semester--she's the reason I went to Florence] asking Amanda if I was okay and if I ever made it the hotel. She never received my texts telling her I was safe and sound and thus stayed up all night worrying (sound familiar, Angiebob??) She even facebooked one of our mutual friends back home to see if she had any ideas (because it's always a good idea to contact people on other continents, not the same country, when looking for a lost traveler ha). However, I was alive and in the bed next to Amanda, so all was well.
-Wandered Florence, made the trek up to Settingnano, where Benedictine College has it's Florence campus, and saw MARTEL!!!!! [Martel was supposed to be in Austria this weekend but gloriously missed her train and thus was home to love Amanda and I.]
-Watched Paulo make cool paper, after meeting "Ohio," a hilariously outgoing girl from Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania who struck up a conversation with us in the paper store by saying "So what state are y'all from?" With absolutely no preliminary pleasantries. She was hysterical and definitely a highlight of the trip.
(awesome paper Paulo made)

-Ate at Il Latini, a fantastic Italian restaurant with no menus, just options, for each course. Wine came with the dinner and we were expecting that to be all, but then when dessert came around our table magically filled will three other delicious beverages per person, causing us all to just stare at our food/drink, then each other, then back at the table for a couple minutes while trying to figure out what to try first.
(Amanda, Kevin, Isabel and I at Il Latini)

(overwhelming abundance of deliciousness that was our dessert)

Saturday:
-Hung out with Holly all day...we started out by going to Il Duomo, where I decided to try to go to confession. First priest I went to: only spoke Italian. However, he pointed me in the direction of another priest, who supposedly spoke English. I never found out if he really did, though, because the woman in front of me took OVER 45 MINUTES for her confession. After waiting 45 minutes with no signs of her stopping, Holly and I finally had to leave, because I really needed to go the the bathroom.
(Holly and I at the Piaza di Michelangelo, which overlooks all of Florence)

-Hopped on the train back to Pisa then my plane back to Beauvais. I had planned to get the last train back to Clermont-Ferrand, but we landed too late for me to make it, so I had two options: sleep in the train station, or find a hotel room. I'm usually down for sleeping in public places, but for some reason I was highly uncomfortable with the thought of sleeping by myself in Paris in a train station all night (it was only around 10:30pm and the next train didn't leave until 9:00am). So I decided that I would just go into the closet hotel to Porte Maillot, the bus stop for the shuttle between Beauvais airport and Paris itself, and ask for a room for the night. That hotel happened to be the Hotel Concorde la Fayette...one of the largest hotels in Paris, located just next to the Champs-Elysees. Read: 165 euro for one night. However, I was in no mood to wander Paris trying to find a cheaper hotel, and since it was already night, there were few easy options to find out where to go. So, in the Concorde I stayed, and in the Concorde I watched the Jayhawks and tried not to think about how little food, cell phone credit, and postage stamps I will be purchasing in the next three months so I can afford that one night of safe sleep in a warm bed.

(my $200+ view)

Sunday:
-Skillfully navigated the Paris metro system, hopped on the train, and came home. [Funny story about the metro: while waiting for the first RER to pull in to the station, an Asian couple came up and asked me in English where the line went and if it would take them to their stop. I told them it wouldn't take them to their stop and showed them the screens that list all the stops for the incoming RER. After they walked away, a French man walked over to me and said "Excusez-moi mademoiselle, vous parlez bien anglais" (Excuse me, miss, you speak very good English.) I just looked at him and said "Oui." There really wasn't much for him to say after that.]

Moral of the story: I actually saw virtually nothing of Florence. I didn't even bother seeing the leaning tower in Pisa. I saw my friends, loved my friends, made new friends. I saw my Jayhawks while seeing the Eiffel Tower. I didn't get hurt, robbed, or abducted. I laughed so hard I cried multiple times. I stared in awe at beautiful things. And that, I remembered, is what's important.

08 March 2010

Odds and Ends

Or, as my Irish friends would call it, "bits and bobs."

Not much has gone on over the weekend or even last week, just getting settled into finally having a schedule. My new daily schedule is either brutal or very easy, with hardly any in between.

Monday: no class, no work, completely free
Tuesday: work then class, with no breaks in between, from 8h15 to 14h45 (the French way of writing time...8:15am-2:45pm)
Wednesday: Class from 8h45 to 11h15 and again from 13h45 to 16h15
Thursday: Class, work, class, no breaks in between, from 8h15 to 16h45 (ugh, miserable, I plan on being very hungry by the end of the day)
Friday: class from 8h45 to 11h15

For those of you who might say that having a day full from 8-5 isn't all that miserable...you're probably right. Actually, you are right. However, I truly don't have any breaks for eating or relaxing my brain, so, at least at this point, it's a pretty long day for me.

Another interresting scholastic challenge I'm currently dealing with is that of finals...when I left home, I was under the impression that finals would be at the end of may, that my classes "run on the normal academic calendar." Well, we have the same breaks as everyone else, however, finals don't end until the 26th of JUNE. That's a pretty huge problem for me because, since I thought I would be finished by the beginning of June, I made arrangements to volunteer in Lyon with the Salesian nuns there for the whole month of June, then go with them to the town of Lille until July 18th. So, my current options are to cancel my volunteering in June or to take my finals early. I'm working on being able to take them early; since each class only meets once a week I would only be missing three class sessions for each course, and I feel confident that if I worked hard in May I could pass all my exams. (One helpful aspect of that theory is that European GPAs don't transfer back to K-State, just the credit, so as long as I pass my exams, I will get full credit for the semester.)

I would really like to be able to volunteer in June, I think I would improve my French maybe more than I would by finishing my classes since here in Clermont I have a lot of English-speaking friends, so I'm not forced to use my French all the time. In Lyon, I would speak only French, which can't help but be beneficial. So. We'll see how that works out, I should know by the end of the week if they'll allow me to take my exams early.

Other than that, not much has been happening; last week my late night activity was watching the Jayhawks dominate in both their back-to-back rivalry games (well...I didn't actually watch the MU game. But I knew it was happening), which was a lovely sight to behold. This week, my late night activity will be being in Italy with old and new friends, which should be equally excellent.

For now, however, I'm off to cook dinner (curry chicken and rice, mmm), bye!

05 March 2010

The New List.

I've been in France for 36 days...five weeks......four days of classes...three nights in Paris...two "holidays" [if you count my birthday]...one week of classes...and the realization that few things are ever going to get checked off on my list of "Things to do on my European Adventure" at the rate I'm going.

Here's why:

  • 1. Meet a handsome French man and take a tour of his city [I haven't seen many handsome French men yet]
  • 2. See Ireland on St. Patrick's Day [I have school. And I'm going in April]
  • 3. See Rome at Easter [I also have school. And I've heard it's not too fun, due to the massive crowds]
  • 4. Speak fluent French [a possibility, by July or so. A distant possibility, but a possibility.]
  • 5. Spend no more than five days in Paris [I'll reach my 5-day quota on March 21st]
  • 6. Take beautiful pictures [I think I'm succeeding at this one]
  • 7. Talk to little old ladies and learn about their lives [French ladies are slightly unapproachable. But I'm working on it.]
  • 8. Try five new foods I think I'll hate [accomplished that with the nuns in Jouarre, all the foods were basically just plates full of vegetables]
  • 9. Go hiking [do that. Or at least I walk a lot. And once it gets nicer we'll go hiking in the volcanoes outside of town]
  • 10. Swim in the Mediterranean [still a possibility]

So. Here is my newly revised list.
  1. Meet cool French kids while volunteering over the summer
  2. Kiss the Blarney Stone
  3. Get to my mom to decide when and where she's going to visit me
  4. Speak fluent French
  5. Spend no more than five days in Paris
  6. Take beautiful pictures
  7. Talk to more French people
  8. Continue trying new foods
  9. Go hiking
  10. Swim in the Mediterranean
I think I can do it.

04 March 2010

What this is all about...

Today I was going through some papers from K-State, trying to get ready to figure out my schedule for next semester, when I realized two things.
1. I'm doing this blog for a scholarship
2. I've done a terrible job of making it useful for future French studiers abroad.

So. Here are some lessons I've found useful to learn during my time in France:

-Many French people are proud to "show off" their "English skills" to you, as long as you speak French to them first. So, even though I don't understand everything French people say to me, I always try to start conversations in French, even if I know they speak English. It helps me learn and it seems to make things flow more smoothly.
-If you're at Université Blaise Pascal, in Clermont-Ferrand or in Vichy, Sue Davis knows what's up and how to get you what you need. So, if you need something, think you might have difficulty getting it, and don't have any French friends yet...talk to her.
-Any time you want to get something done, carry a photo of yourself, your passport with visa inside it, some sort of proof of European insurance, and a Visa card with you. With all those things, you're almost guaranteed to at least get the process started for whatever it is you want. I say almost, because the French have weird reasons why some things aren't acceptable one day but are perfect the next day. However, most of the time it's good enough to get what you want.
-If you're anywhere in France and need an internet connection, look for the wireless network "NeufWifi" and connect to it. Then when it asks for a name and password, type in "lilikim" for the name and "martin" for the password and POOF, you're connected.
-Don't be afraid to talk to strangers, at least once. After that first time, it's easy to decide whether they're worth another conversation, even if the first one was only 30 seconds long. But, French people are hard to become friends with. So, if you think you have an opportunity, give it a chance. It's not a big deal if they turn out to be non-friend material and if they do, so much the better.
-Ask questions, even if you think you know the answers to them. Sometimes the logical answers aren't the actual ones.
-Buy a 12-25 card...it costs 50€ but you'll earn it back through your savings within 2 train trips. Especially if you don't live in Paris and you plan on going to any other countries, the card saves a lot of money.
-Don't try to pretend you're French. Try to find a balance between learning about the French culture and finding things you especially love about your own. For example, I never realized just how much I enjoy an American house party until I went to a French discotheque. They're very different, not necessarily in tangible or describable ways, just...different. Suffice it to say that Cari and I left our first discotheque after 20 minutes of being there and would be quite content never to go back to one.
-Never fear the words "repetez, s'il vous plait" and "écrivez, s'il vous plait"...they can take you far.
-Keep in mind that, while you live in Europe and it's truly an "everyday lifestyle," it's also a million times more difficult to communicate with people in the event that something goes wrong. So, don't do stupid things that would encourage something to go wrong.
-French bread is delicious. Eat a lot of it.

Is that slightly helpful? I hope it is.

Peace and love.

02 March 2010

The Power of Anastasia

Some random thoughts from the past few days...

As I'm beginning this post, the song "Journey to the Past" from 20th Century Fox's movie "Anastasia" is playing on my computer and I'm having one of those moments when the song from an animated movie suddenly seems impossibly pithy and apropos. The song is about a girl starting on her journey to find her family, her past, and, ultimately, her future. While I already know my family and my past, this "journey" of living in France is, surprisingly, helping me become more connected to both of them than I was before I left home.

Working to find ways to stay in touch with friends and family, dealing with the fact that I can't send a silly text to a friend when I trip or say something embarrassing so they can laugh with me, sharing my life at home with new friends in France and my life in France with old friends at home yet knowing neither group will ever fully understand the experience I describe...it's a fascinating experience.
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Over the past few weeks I have received six packages, six cards, and countless emails, Facebook posts, and Facebook/Google/Skype chats that prove to me how very much I am loved. Each package, card, or internet conversation made me laugh, often times awkwardly aloud while alone in my room. Each explanation of the gifts sent made the gift even more precious than they were when I first opened them. Each bite of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, each tiny explosion of flavor provided by American Skittles has been better than ever before due to the love that caused people to spend outrageous amounts of money on postage to get them here. It's been a great birthday.
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I'm nearly 20% through my time in France, and I only started classes today. Has my French improved in my month without studies? Maybe. Have I made any astonishing discoveries or "found myself" during all this extra time I've had on my hands? Not really. Am I looking forward to the remaining 80%? Definitely. But, even more, I'm looking forward to the 101%, the day when I come home. However, if someone gave me a plane ticket to go home tomorrow, I wouldn't take it.
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Cheese is truly delicious. Cheese, bread, and apples. As much as I loved all three foods before I got to France, I think it's safe to say these are now my three favorite foods. Put them together and it's my favorite breakfast or lunch. Wine, while enjoyable, is better suited to my tastes when it's served in a glass bottle with a cork and paired with comfortable, thought-provoking, amiable conversations than when it comes in a plastic bottle with a twist-off lid. [Notable note: the wine in the plastic bottle was not actually mine. But, I tried some.]
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26 February 2010

How to exhaust yourself while still getting 10 hours of sleep a night...

You can't escape the past in Paris, and yet what's so wonderful about it is that the past and present intermingle so intangibly that it doesn't seem to burden.
-Allen Ginsberg
This quote perfectly describes my experience of Paris. I am, admittedly, not a huge fan of Paris but I knew a six-month stay in France wouldn't be complete without spending at least a few nights there, so off I went for four days and three nights of Parisian excitement with Chantelle and Cari.

Here's a brief outline of our itinerary:
Monday:
  • leave Clermont-Ferrand at 8h30, arrive in Paris at 12h30
  • check in at hotel (Hipotel Marne la Vallee, a dinky little 2-star hotel that cost 180€ total for three nights and is right next to an RER stop)
  • drop our stuff off and head back to the center of the city--the Eiffel Tower
  • accidentally get off the metro at Notre Dame...what a happy accident :)
  • walk from the Eiffel Tower to the Shrine of the Miraculous Medal
  • head back just in time to see the tower light up and start blinking like a huge, metal Christmas tree
Tuesday:
  • Disneyland. That's all.
Wednesday:
  • Versailles for the afternoon
  • McDonald's for dinner (classy, eh?)
  • back to the Eiffel Tower to get on a nighttime boat tour on the Seine
Thursday:
  • The Louvre.
  • get on our train at 19h01, arrive home in Clermont-Ferrand around 22h30
Everywhere we went truly was a blend of past and present...each monument had its' own ability to emanate a sense of timelessness, a feeling that each visitor somehow became something much bigger than themselves simply by taking part in the experience of the monument. There were also countless tidbits of humanity that will continue to be facts of life until the end of the world: beggars begging, couples kissing, babies laughing, teens flirting, teens fighting, art lovers adoring...Paris is a great place to people watch.

We met/talked to some cool people, including some men on the metro who are from Philadelphia and were on their way back home from teaching a Bible class in Lebanon. They were very nice, interesting to talk to, etc...but in a weird way I felt like they were immediately trying to plant the seed that would save my soul. Not that that's a bad goal. But I was glad to be able to tell them I believe the exact same thing they do and that it falls directly in line with the teaching of the Catholic Church :) (Mom, Aunt Rosie, Aunt Therese...I knew you'd like that.) Their faces were kind of funny. And it got them to stop reciting Bible verses at us.

By the end of the four days, I was exhausted, and more than ready to be in my own room with my own bed and no one to share the bathroom with. I think we all were. Nevertheless, we came home happy to have been there, to have taken pictures (you can see them by clicking the link from my last post), and to now be able to say "When I was there..."

25 February 2010

Paris Hold the Key to Your Heart.....

That's right, I spent the last four days in Paris. Cari, Chantelle, and I went to the Eiffel Tower, the Shrine of the Miraculous Medal, Notre Dame Cathedral, EuroDisney, Versailles, a nighttime boat tour of Paris on the Seine, and the Louvre in just four short days. Click on the words in a different color to see photos...just a warning, there are 372 of them--the main reason I went to Paris was to get photos. And, this result is about 100 photos smaller than it could be. So that's probably a good thing.

More on the stories we collected while in Paris later, but for now...since pictures speak a thousand words each, you can experience my Parisian vacation in 372,000 photographic words :)

And I'm still writing...

As if I haven't already donated enough time and energy to the K-State Collegian (K-State's student-run newspaper, where I served as the Edge editor last semester), this semester's Edge editor convinced me to write about my time here in France for the paper!

Here's the link to my first article, much of it is repeat information but said in a slightly more condensed way.

Former editor exploring new scenery

20 February 2010

IRELAND!

I booked my flight to Ireland today and only paid 99.01euro roundtrip!

I'll be there April 12-20. I'm so excited!

Also, here's a little tidbit of the beauty that surrounds me out here. I love the volcanoes!

19 February 2010

It just LOOKED so nice out.

Yesterday was the first day since I arrived in Clermont-Ferrand that the sun decided to peep its' head out from behind the clouds. IT WAS SO LOVELY!



It was also not quite as nice as we wanted it to be, because there was still some snow on the ground (and in the middle of the pond all around the fountain), but we pretended it was and went to the beautiful Jardin Lecoq with our blanket, a baguette, some sparkling rose wine, a few books, my camera, and a computer.



There is wireless internet in the garden and we were Skyping some of Chantelle's friends who are studying abroad in Spain when this slight, shivering French man walked up to us and asked if we would mind answering some questions for a survey. We just stared at him for a couple seconds then said, "We're in the middle of a conversation. I don't think so." Then he kept talking and we tried to pretend not to speak anymore French but then he began speaking in English! His English was not very good at all, but the poor guy just wouldn't take no for an answer, so we let him ask us questions about what supermarkets will be like in the future...they were not very interesting questions and I don't think he was too impressed with out answers. But...that's okay.

On a more Lenten note, Wednesday was Ash Wednesday and Cari and I went to Mass and got ashes and Jesus and that was good. Some interesting notes about Mass in France vs. Mass in the U.S.
-People don't all sit/stand/kneel at the same times. This is really only noticeable when it's time for kneeling; some people kneel, some people stand, and others just sit. The churches I've been to don't have kneelers, only cold stone floors, so I understand the not-kneeling thing, but it's very confusing to see all the different postures.
-There is no orderly procession to the altar for the Eucharist or ashes...people in a row just kind of decide it's a good time to get up and start walking and they do.
-At least at the churches I've been to, the music is all more 'classic.' The only instrument played is an organ and the cantor literally conducts the congregation.

I just emailed my first article about life in a foreign country to this semester's Edge editor for the Collegian, K-State's student-run newspaper, so that should be running sometime next week...I'll try to post a link when I know it's on the website.

Three days until Paris! But before then...I'm off to do laundry. Which I haven't done since I landed in France. What does that mean? That I brought a LOT of underwear :)

16 February 2010

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tubL9EaiztM

This video has nothing to do with France, but it's a great video of one of my current favorite songs sung by people with truly fantastic voices...shout out to Madelyn for telling me about it!

I wish all tests were like this.

Yesterday I took my placement exam for my French classes...step number 4 out of 6 in getting credit for my "intensive language and culture semester."
[steps:
1. Go to France
2. Enroll in university
3. Sign up for placement test
4. Take placement test
5. Go to class and learn things
6. Pass finals with flying colors
Something makes me thing steps 1-4 might have been the easy part...]
The test was actually not too bad; three different short writing sections and an "oral exam" that didn't actually involve too much talking--it mostly was just a woman telling me what level I would be in.
I'm in level 4 [there are 6 levels], which is where I hoped to be, and will have 15 hours of French classes a week starting March 2nd. My French classes will include two writing classes (one more essay-based and one more narrative-based I think), a reading comprehension class, a conversation class, a literature class, and a class on the history of civilization in the Auvergne Region.
Between those classes, my 2-3 hour "S.T.A.R." class (Studying The Auvergne as a Region, a class for exchange students taught in English that is separate from my French class on the Auvergne), and my 8 hours per week in the English learning lab, I think I'll have a nice balance of being busy but not TOO busy, a demanding schedule but not TOO demanding.

Next week we have a school holiday [yes, I get to experience a holiday...I technically started classes last Tuesday with my work in the language lab] and a few of us are going to spend a few nights in Paris "doing all the tourist-y things." It should be fun!

14 February 2010

"I've decided snow is pretty to look at but annoying to walk in"

IT'S SO SNOWY!!!! It's actually not that snowy at all compared to the feet of snow dumped throughout the U.S., but there is definitely enough snow around here to make life just a bit more obnoxious than it would otherwise be. Here are some pictures of the snow and what we've decided to do about/with it :)


LIDL! Four of us girls were feeling a bit lonely for familiar things of our country...Cari, who's from Oklahoma, and I often lament the fact that even the Sprite tastes different over here...and Aleksandra found a Lidl, which is a grocery store kind of like Aldi, here in Clermont-Ferrand. They also have Lidl in Poland and Ireland, so going there was like a little bit of home for she and Chantelle. It was a long walk to get there, but definitely worth it!


A beautiful fountain in one of the Clermont-Ferrand parks--I always love fountains with icicles; they remind me of Narnia when the White Witch can just freeze anything in an instant.


This is a pot full of a tasty Polish dessert...it's called Kisiel and it's sort of like Jell-o but not really at all. It comes as a powder in a packet and you mix the powder with water and some sugar then heat it all on the stove. As you heat it the mixture becomes sort of gelatinous. Evidently you can wait for it to cool down and eat it then or you can eat it while it's still hot. We ate it while it was hot. It tastes good, but I can't really describe what it tastes like.


Here are my friends Chantelle (from Ireland, on the right) and Aleksandra (from Poland, on the left) making snow angels...Chantelle had never seen "real" snow before this and she's the one who made the profound discovery about walking in snow that became the title of this post :)


Aleksandra (middle), Chantelle (right) and I after we made the Polish dessert...we had quite the self-timer adventure while making this picture happen! Our neighbors probably thought we were crazy; just moments before, a couple French guys who were boiling a huge pot of potatoes wandered through the kitchen to check on their food and found us giggling and dancing while making the dessert, then once we got back they probably overheard all our commotion of running from the camera to the door to make the photo happen...hope we weren't too loud!


Cari (left), Chantelle (middle) and I one of our first nights here in Clermont-Ferrand. We watched the movie "Annie" that night; it was lovely :)


Happy Valentine's Day to everyone, I hope you have a wonderful day!

11 February 2010

Productivity is my middle name...how I got things done.

This week I did everything I was supposed to do, and actually got everything done...I was impressed with myself. Here's a list of what I accomplished:
1. Created my academic contract for the semester
2. Enrolled at UBP (Universite Blaise Pascal)
3. Got my student ID card
4. Signed up for my placement test to determine which level of French classes I should take
5. Mailed my registration form to OFIL
6. Started my job
7. Opened a bank account
8. Attended my first class at UBP
9. Bought the mandatory insurance for my dorm room

That's a lot to accomplish, eh? Some things were easier to do than others, I learned that if I simply carried my passport, housing contract/letter of confirmation, a little cash, and my student card (once I got it) with me everywhere I went, I tended to be able to get whatever I needed to get. Without one or another of those things people usually just told me to come back later.

Other useful lessons/tidbits of information I've learned since getting here:
-There are international fees for using American credit/debit cards overseas.
-When using a pay-as-you-go plan, it's much more cost effective to text than to call...USUALLY. But it's generally a safe bet that texts will keep your money working longer.
-Some DVDs are made to work in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, while others are made to work in the US and Canada. My computer is American, thus formatted to play American DVDs, so the one I bought in France requires it to reformat itself, which is fine except for the fact that it will only change 4 times and after that it's stuck.
-While it's much more "French" to use the little specialty markets and to only buy enough food for a day or two at a time, it's much more cost effective to buy it at an "hypermarchee" (think WalMart or Target) for several days at a time. I spent 7.27 for food for 4 days instead of at least 7euros a day for buying whole meals each day.
-Bread, on the other hand, is worth buying in small quantities each day because it tastes much better the first day than the second.

Well, that's all I have for now, more tomorrow on my job, my first class, and some pictures of the town!

06 February 2010

Sleep All Day

That's pretty much what I did my first few days here.
Have I chosen classes yet? No. (They don't start till March 2nd. Evidently they were supposed to start earlier but they aren't going to.)
Have I officially enrolled at Blaise-Pascal? No. They needed another document the day I went in and the day I went back they told me to come back later...I was busy later.
Have I found the post office? Yes. But haven't mailed what I need to mail yet.
Have I met people? Yes.
Have I gotten a job? Yes. As a lab assistant in the English Learning program here at Blaise-Pascal. Unknowingly, I decided to attend a school that has a state-of-the-art, award winning English learning program that utilizes computers for listening and speaking exercises for the students and people for going around and talking to them. It doesn't pay very much, but it's very cool and will probably be a good resume' builder.
Yesterday I broke down and got a phone (I know, I know, a long time of holding out, eh?). But it was a necessary thing, I think. And as long as I balance my phone costs with my food costs I think I can afford it fairly easily. With the lack of dependable internet connections and the plethora of different student residences, it's hard to get a hold of people/make plans without having a phone.
Last night I went to a bar as a completely legal young person...not really that exciting, but I think it's probably notable enough to be a notable note. It was really expensive and I, who come from a background of "girls get in [and drink] for free," didn't really see the need to spend 6euro for a tiny little drink. But it was a fun bar, lots of people, lots of laughter.
Next week starts my mission to accomplish everything necessary for me to become a fully enrolled and registered student here, as well as my first week of work. Wish me luck!

Home Sweet Home

Here are some pictures of my spacious living space, beautifully created in the most spatially economic manner I have ever seen. There is also a shower in the bathroom; it's about the size of one person exactly, but I couldn't get an adequate picture of it within such a tiny space. Despite it's size, the room is comfortable and I have no complaints about it, at least at this point!






03 February 2010

A Whole New World

I have internet! It's my sixth day in France and the first one where I've been able to connect to the internet using my own computer! I'll limit this post to my stay in Jouarre, where I stayed at a convent for my first three nights in France--a great deal, by the way; three nights and five meals for 40 euros.
Here's how my adventure in getting from CDG airport to the convent went...

The people at CDG and Gare l’Est were very nice and accommodating about helping me figure out where to go; the people at Gare du Nord I think were trying to be accommodating but also thought I was stupid and didn’t seem as nice. But maybe that’s just me. [I had to take a subway to Gare du Nord from CDG and a metro from there to Gare l'Est before I could get on my train to Jouarre.]
Then once I got on my train, I didn’t get off at Meaux…thus I backtracked a stop before I exactly figured out that a train runs back and forth between Paris and Meaux, and another one between Meaux and Chateau Thierry (my stop, La Ferte sous Jouarre, was three stops after Meaux). So I had to get off at Meaux and wait a couple minutes for the next Chateau Thierry train to come in. THEN, when I was leaving Jouarre, I assumed it was the same deal and that I would have to get off at Meaux and wait for the next train to take me to Paris. I was wrong. Well, there WAS a train to Paris. But the one I was on in the first place would have taken me to Paris directly, no switches. Oh well.
My room at the convent in Jouarre was quaint but very cute and, in some ways, nicer than my room here at school (more on that, with pictures, soon). I had a bed with pillows, a desk, two dressers (one served as a bedside stand and the other was a bit wider), and a table, as well as three chairs in the room (one at the table, one at the desk, and another one in the corner). I had my own sink with a mirror and a few hooks to the side…there were hangars on the hooks so I assume the sink closet could also double as a closet. The shower was right next door and was pretty basic—turn the water on by twisting the knob on the left and adjust the temperature with the one on the right.
I never went to morning prayer with the nuns because I was asleep Saturday morning, the only day I could have made it, but I went to sext, vespers, and compline each afternoon and it was beautiful. The nuns sang almost everything, often in harmony, and they sang like angels.
Meals were a new experience for me; they were completely silent, which makes sense in the convent setting, but there was a whole etiquette that accompanied them and it took me a couple meals to get the hang of it. Here’s a rough outline of how meals went:
1. Find a table/place, bringing your napkin with you. If you’re eating more than one meal, a cloth napkin with a holder. Otherwise, a paper napkin.
2. Stand at your chair until prayer is said. Sit down, put napkin either in lap or on the table by your plate.
3. First course—vegetables or soup. Offer some of whatever you want (bread or whatever food is being served) and continue passing it around the table until it comes back to you. You end up with both bread and the first course by the time everyone is served and no one eats until everyone has both. Set bread on the table near your plate.
4. Eat, silently, and a speed I simply could not match. Clean your plate with a crust of bread when finished. If you want seconds, offer them to everyone else before serving yourself.
5. Take dish from first course back into kitchen, bring out main course. Same process with serving, this time water and wine are also in the mix.
6. Eat main course and once again clean plate off with bread.
7. Stack all the plates from the table and most of the silverware—whatever won’t be needed for dessert. Everyone get some more bread, maybe a bit more water or wine.
8. Pass out clean plates, time for some cheese. Either one or two kinds of cheese per meal, everyone cuts themselves a wedge and eats it with bread.
9. Dessert, usually some sort of fruit—an apple, fruit salad, apple pie without a crust, a fried apple, some chocolate bread cake, applesauce. Sometimes the cheese went well with the cake, if you wanted to eat them together. Usually no one drank wine with dessert.
10. (at lunch only) coffee or tea, I think people can talk during this part. But they only did during one of the lunches.
11. Help clean and put away all the dishes, wipe the tables down after sweeping all the breadcrumbs into a little dustpan, and re-set the tables for the next meal. Put napkin and holder back into napkin cubby if eating more meals.
Like I said, complicated. But, all in all, an excellent experience and a great way to start off my time here in France.
I'll be posting pictures and details of my life here in Clermont-Ferrand soon!

19 January 2010

Packingggg......

Today I made my first attempt to pack. It was highly successful, I think. Here are some lessons I learned during my packing adventure:

1. Not all voltage converters are created equal and it's important to pay attention to what you want them to do. For example, often times people buy the wrong converter and end up frying their straighteners as well as their hair the first time they use them. At least, that's what Neal at Brookstone said. Also, while my straightener should work with the converter I bought, my blow dryer will not [good-bye bulky, hard-to-pack blow dryer!] and I'm not sure if my computer will. I'm also not sure if it's kosher/a good idea to plug a surge protecter power strip into the converter and thus use it for multiple electronics. More on that when I find out the answers.
2. Space saver bags truly save tremendous amounts of space. Today I packed a down comforter, bedding, two towels, a bath mat, a hand towel, two dresses, one skirt, twelve shirts, two sweatshirts/sweaters, and pajamas using space saver bags and it all fit in three bags, which all fit in the same, medium-sized suitcase. In addition to that happy reality, there is still room for a couple pairs of jeans and some toiletries in the suitcase and it doesn't even weigh 50lbs yet.
3. The urge to pack everything I own is enormous.
4. I need less stuff than I think I do.
5. I own a lot of stuff.

After learning all those lessons, I'm happy to say I think I will be able to pack everything I need and even a few [American] creature comforts quite easily without bringing the stereotypical myriad of luggage I hear Europeans deem annoyingly American.

02 January 2010

The dessert was definitely worth it.

I did it! I've finally turned in all my paperwork, dotted every "i," crossed every "t," and done everything I'm supposed to do to legally fly to France and stay there for six months. Woo hoo!
Earlier this week my dad and I flew from snowy Kansas City to snowier Chicago so that I could turn in all my visa paperwork at the French Consulate. I don't know if it's a result or 9/11 or if they always did things this way, but the French government requires people turn in their paperwork in person, no mailing the forms and receiving the visa in return. I was worried because everyone gave me the impression that the whole visa process is extremely complicated but it truly wasn't.
The forms were simple to fill out, I made copies of all the necessary papers (a registration form showing I'm accepted to attend a French university), my mom got the money form notarized (she promised the French government I will have money for living in France), got two copies of a passport photo, and off I went!
When I first found out I had to go to Chicago for the visa I thought I should go by myself as a sort of trial run for going to France by myself--figure out how to use the subway, how to get a cab, how to navigate life by myself. But, my dad said he would come with me and I wasn't quite ready to be a big girl yet, so we went together. I'm glad he did, because we met up with his friend from high school who took us to dinner at Gibson's (we said we wanted "the Ultimate Chicago Dinner Experience" when Ed asked what we were hungry for, and Gibson's is what we got). The food was delicious but it was the dessert that was the meal's crowning glory.
The desserts there are designed to serve 5-10 people, diners have to come to a consensus on what they want to share before they order. Ed was having none of that, however, and insisted that we each order a dessert so we could take the extras home. They were huge. I ordered a chocolate mousse pie and it was literally as big as my head. It was delicious.
Compared to that meal, my experience at the consulate was almost disappointing. We walked into a huge skyscraper, got visitor passes, went to the 37th floor, and waited for the receptionist to call my name. At that point, I went up to the window (it was designed like a teller window at a bank), slid my paperwork under the glass, paid, put my fingers on the scanner to get prints, and posed for a picture (no smiling allowed). The whole process took less than five minutes and we were on our way back out the door.
Hopefully I'll get my pre-paid, self-addressed U.S. Express Mail envelope full of my passport with a French visa inside it in the next couple days...if I don't, that would be a long trip just for some dessert!

10 January 2010
My visa arrived, safe and sound, with an ugly picture [no smile] of my face printed on the visa and glued to my passport. I'm official allowed in France!