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Forks, Portland, Lyon - France, Paris - France, Portland and ending up in Bellingham.... the adventures of my life!

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Friday, December 31, 2010

Last Post in 2010

It's been a long year in 2010.  Well, I would say that except things have passed by so fast I haven't even seen the year past.  Just one year ago I was with Brian and his family enjoying the end of 2010.. glasses of champagne were raised, we ate an amazing meal and then.. in a sad way.. we separated in January to do a long distance relationship for 6 more months.

During the first half of 2010 I was constantly wrapped up in my studies, getting A's and putting in the back of the mind the fact I would be leaving in June to live in France.

Time flew, tears flew, another airport trip and the horrible 12 hour flight and I was in the arms of France herself.  Summertime was a mess of apartment hunting and minor discoveries; a trip to Spain with the family left me about 10 pounds heavier and happy as ever.

School started and I realized French was a force to reckon with, I fell on the Velo'v and totally busted up my knee.  The knee was destroyed during my birthday, I turned 23 years old, I had a dinner party, I had another party, Brian turned 23.

My French family invited me for a Thanksgiving celebration, I decided not to make pumpkin pie because when I described it in French the resulted look was disgust.  I welcomed my baby brother to France; had a beautiful Christmas, had a crazy experience in Amsterdam; received my first Le Creuset.. and french parfum.

It was a beautiful year and I welcome 2011 in France, my new life, my new city.  I love it here and I'll always consider both Portland and Lyon my homes.

I have great expectations for the new year.. and I am excited.  Here are some of my favorite memories/posts in 2010:

4 Days in France
My First Marche Experiences
Suddenly Two Months Passed
Amazing Discovery of French Food Prices
23.. Messed up Knee
Got involved in a Riot
Baby Speaking Adventures
Christmas in France
My Resolutions

It was a beautiful year.  I look forward to another wonderful year in France in 2011.


See you in 2011!


Thursday, December 30, 2010

Advice: Accord and the Wines

Every dish in the French repertoire comes in multiple intricacies. First, which ingredients go into the dish (the freshness of the produce, the quality of the meats);  second, what recipe to use that allows the dish to have the most natural and authentic flavor;  finally, what wine will go with the dish.

Wine with the meal is a tradition in France that is as built into the society as hamburgers to the American system.  I recall when I was a child, sitting around with my family and my mother would tell me about the French culture- how from the time children were 12 they were given wine to taste; often mixed with water.  That tradition has changed, as it came from the 50's, following the war; but the tradition of a perfect matched wine with meals remains intact.

This is where I find myself in a very American in France dilemma- tomorrow night is the 'Reveillon' or the 'News Year's Eve' celebration at my French Family's house.  I found out what they will be serving and I've endowed the responsibility on myself to pick out a nice wine to go with the meal- or at least to start it.  Where can an American go to get some of these wonderful insights?

First off: Directly to a 'cave' or a specialist in wine sells.  Nicolas is a very popular cave in France, and simply by describing to the patron what type of meal, what the price range should be for the bottle and how many people will be there- he will flourish a bottle of wine perfectly matched.

French not quite strong enough to detail a meal?

Try this websitehttp://www.platsnetvins.com/  It is a wine-accordance website written in French.  Simply write into the search box the type of plate you are trying to match (such as Fois Gras, or Porc) and the results will pop out a listing of wines that will match perfectly with the plate.

Still feeling a bit lost; or looking for more specific?

You could try a course in being a Sommelier; or 'Oenologie'http://www.vin-restaurant-lyon.com/cours-d-oenologie.php  it's about a spendy 300€ but you'll be guaranteed to have a great outlook on how to match meals.

Some people have told me they live in France and rarely drink wine- it's very rare and sometimes it happens, even in French Families, but the common stance is simple.  France is a wine country.  It's easy to find a cheap bottle of Cellier des Dauphins in the grocery store for a mere 1.45€ and it will go well with dinner.  A glass of wine a night is a healthy lifestyle and it may be one of the many secrets to living a long life- who knows.  All I know is I enjoy the wine life and I'm trying to open my mind more in 2011 so I'm not just blindly picking red wines.


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Obligatory Julia Child Post

Any expatriate living in France has had a moment of happiness with Julia Child, people who love to cook even more, people who love people- the most.  I spent my day in bed yesterday and I got around to watching old episodes of "the French Chef" and realized how amazing she truly was.

More than just the woman who brought French cooking to America, she also was one of the pioneers in documenting the true France before it began getting overrun with other cultures.  She witnessed the changes in marchés to supermarchés, she detailed her love affair with the sole meunière.  Ironically I was first introduced to Mrs. Julia Child when I was 18 and had no care for cooking- but was an avid addict to the Food Network.  I received the book Julia & Julia and ravished it; it took be about 2 days to finish and although I loved the funny humor surrounding the giant Mastering the Art of French Cooking I found that Julie Powell left little for those who have a deep seeded love for France and cooking.

Hungry, I found copies of the French Chef, Child's series from the younger years.  I watched her flipping and messing up potatoes, squirting garlic juice everywhere, making giant messes, losing her train of thought- but always turning out delicious plates of food.

I read through her biography and felt a certain coven within her words; but even moreso when I moved to France 7 months ago.  I recently picked up the book from it's shrine (I don't really have a shrine.. ..) and started reading through it once again.  Her mishaps in the market, the language barriers, her beautiful relationship with Paul, her love for French food and the French market; I realized that Julia Child is the expatriate's dream... she can relate and yet humor the differences.

Kinship.  She describes in a simple phrase that she found herself floating more away from the American culture into the French culture, as if she, herself, were meant to be French.  Her friendships with the French women, the fact that although French people seem cold, they are in fact the warmest group.  Every word is true.  I'm sure that if Julia Child had an expatriate blog, hers would surpass mine in quality and essence.  Her trips to the marché reminded me of my fiasco with the peach vendor in the summertime, her evenings with friends to the 'American Gut' that can't handle French food (as she says, it's not so much the French food but the fact that dinner is multiple courses, all rich and drowning in different wines)/

Mastering the Art of French cooking is a sort of cooking bible, especially for the American girl trying to feed the French guy.  There have been many times I needed her recipe for the Quiche Lorraine or Salade Niçoise.  French people are particular about their meals, moreso now that they have official gastronomic status in UNESCO standards.  From types of potatoes (there are many) to what kind of lentil to use, French cooking is an art, one that is a necessity for an expatriate to master.

So, in this obligatory Julia Child post, I want to send my love to the woman and thank her for making my transition to life that much more easier; giving me the balls to discuss the products with the veggie market vendor and know that I should never apologize just move forward.  Besides, what happens in the kitchen when you are alone, is no one's business... except maybe Ms. Child's.


Monday, December 27, 2010

Beautiful Christmas

This weekend was a beautiful Christmas; it was one of those events that you can't forget and will always be a happy memory.  Everyone went to bed on Christmas Eve around 3:30am, following in extensive French dinner.  Unbeknown to me, my Bro detests seafood- and by chance the entire meal was of a seafood theme.  Starting with small toasts spread with eggs and 'crustacean butter', following with a decadent supply of oysters, smoked salmon, a seafood main dish composed of 'Coquilles st Jacques'.  The end of the meal marked the end of seafood for my bro for a LONG time.. but for those of us less picky the meal was a success and was quite delicious.

The spirit of Christmas carries over even when you are in your 20's... at 9am exactly, even if we didn't sleep very well the night before, our eyes popped open.  Bri was in charge of getting everyone else up and I was in charge of keeping the bed warm.  By 10am we were eating a light breakfast and 10:30am gifts were being opened.

Everyone got beautiful gifts, Bri got an electric razor, a new shirt and a Kinect, Bro got his complete French outfit; Brice got a selection of nice clothes, his girlfriend got some perfume and other lovely gifts- everyone got something and it was about a 2 hour opening session.

Bri got me something so amazing, knowing that I am not the typical jewelry and makeup type girl; he searched his heart to buy a gift he knew I would love and have for a long time.

My very own 'Le Creuset'.

He was beautiful, the deep enameled surface that guaranteed the lifetime of the product- the bright red color and the beautiful wooden handle.  It was perfect.

It didn't stop there, not only did I get my first 'Le Creuset' but I got by first French parfum.  I always see the pubs on the television describing the perfect smell and perfume- it's a part of the French culture.  Never once did I actually buy the perfum; but his parents decided it was time.  I had lived in France for about 7 months now, Bri and I had been together for almost 2 years and it was time...

of course they know, as well as Bri, that I am not just for the superficial and for a safe measure tossed in a set of cocottes and a cookbook... just in case.

Christmas presents lasted for about two hours, and in the end we were all exhausted and not very hungry.  We ended up eating another huge 'Christmas Lunch' at 4:00pm, as tradition enables, and that was another incredible meal; this time with a beautiful Christmas turkey, cardons and more Yule Logs.

I was amazed while discussing with my French family the fact that so many French people think that life in America is so grand.  They asked me if I thought it was better there than here, if I wanted to go back, what opportunities were different.  I came to the conclusion that the United States is a great country if you have a lot of money; if not, as a poor student or family, France is much more idealistic and offers many more opportunities to live a normal life.  A person can live a French life in America if they have enough money, there are replacement grocery stores like Zupan's, and it's possible to have that $3 baguette  every day- if your budget is big enough.

All in all it was a successful Christmas; one full of smiles and happiness and one where I got some very nice gifts to take home- I cannot WAIT to try my Creuset!

The Three Boys (Brian, Brice, Jason) on Christmas Eve

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Found: Rue de la Charité

The other day I was venturing to my typical Super Marché (U-Express) when I took a wrong turn and ended up down a street that I didn't recognize.  I thought I had labelled every little street on my Googlemap, the places with the good boulangeries, the fromageries- but this was a new discovery!

From Place Bellecour, there's a little street called, "Rue de la Charité".  This street is a little hidden gem in the metropolis we call Lyon; a small street, one way even.  Along this street there are several different merchants within one block;  2 boulangeries with high quality, yet modestly priced bread-goods; 1 fromagerie where I found a decadent 'St. Marcelin' for only 3.95€.  A vegetable market (although more expensive than the marchés), a boucherie and to top it all off a 'multi-use' store by the U brand... where one can find the basics that a Target would offer back home.

Between 30 to 60 Rue de la Charité one could do all their shopping in style, the prices are not excessive; and it's a nice change from the typical super marché atmosphere; besides this is part of my long list of resolutions.  Julia Child would spend a day hunting for the perfect ingredients for a meal, even though this time has been condensed into Super formats- I still find a little excitement from smelling the cheese shop or talking directly with the guy who is butchering my meat.

Googlemaps haven't quite caught onto this little street of dreams; and I hope it remains in it's little secret space.

Happy shopping!


Friday, December 24, 2010

What-What: Christmas in France

It seems as I get older the year seems to slip through my fingers- and now I find myself, once again, in France on Christmas Eve.

Christmas has many connotations for many people; if you are religious, then you know the whole nativity story; you may also know the story of King Harod and his whole fit to kill all the babies- those stories are not so much my cup of tea.. so I tend to see Christmas as a gathering time; a time where we all can get together and eat until we explode, drink until we can't see straight and wake up to pillage whatever is under the tree.

In France, there is so much more; traditions of course are around- the typical sapin de Noël and the Christmas buche.  However, I find, here we tend to enjoy just a little more.

Tonight will start with an enormous supper...

Course 1:  Oysters and champagne
Course 2:  Smoked salmon, buttered toast and Foie Gras (if you're a vegetarian.. you are missing out) w/ a nice sweet white wine.
Course 3:  Some main dish of meat/a side of vegetables
Course 4:  Fruits
Course 5:  Assortment of delicious cheeses
Course 6:  Bûche de Noël, or a 'yule log' a rolled up cake... with buttercream frosting.
Course 7:  Digestif and Papillotte

At the end we will all roll around the house and digest while plotting when we will deliver our gifts downstairs.  The goal is to not be seen by anyone, a sort of pseudo-Santa.

To describe what it's like to experience a Christmas in France would be like trying to describe the delicacies in a Foie Gras; it's 10x better than any Christmas in America because it incorporates this sentiment with food.  Eating is always an integral piece to our culture here, but Christmas ups the ante and makes it a holiday where you can't leave your seat because you are so full.  Yes, the moral apprehensions with Foie Gras remain- but it's simply a part of a culture.  If you're going to drink the Champagne from France, you have to try the Foie Gras.

Tomorrow I'll be getting pictures up, so the enticement of the meal will be before your eyes.  I hope anyone out in the States will be eating heartily as well, and if not, I 'chine' to you and will eat a piece of Foie Gras and some oysters on your behalf!

Merry Christmas and Joyeaux Noël!


Thursday, December 23, 2010

My Resolutions

Every year we all make those promises that often we never keep.  I am more of a 'multiple resolution' type person and tend to make very specific lists of goals for the upcoming year.  Some of them are so specific, but some are general.  It makes me feel good knowing a new year is here and everything starts fresh in 2011.

  1. Lose the 10 lbs I probably gained during French Christmas
  2. Start walking fast..
  3. Start jogging..
  4. Start running..
  5. Try to do some yoga videos a few times a week
  6. Learn a complicated French recipe
  7. Invite a group of 5 to the apartment for dinner
  8. Try to buy veggies at marché as much as possible..
  9. Going with #8, try to get up at normal hours
  10. Pay closer attention to my friends
  11. Do a good job for my new job
  12. Try to keep apartment in suitable condition for living
  13. Go on a Beaujolais tour
  14. Try to go for brisk evening walk after dinner with Brian each night
  15. Get into a Master's program and get visa renewed
  16. Take more pictures to share with family
  17. Replace the toilet paper when it runs out- I never do.
  18. Try to pay the basics and then.. pay off my credit cards
  19. Learn a new dance
  20. Get into one of those fancy French clubs
  21. Plan something epic for our 2 year anniv'
  22. Try some new French cheese
  23. Totally shop at the marchés, veggie market, boucheries, boulangeries and fromageries... no more American shopping!
  24. Call my brother back in the States at least 4-5 times a week
  25. Study my French more often and make an effort to speak 'en Français' with Bri
  26. Make more unique meals
  27. Write all the books that I've been keeping in my head
  28. Write more advice columns and get back on board with the daily bloggin'!
I'll stop at 28 to avoid a total explosion of resolutions.. I have such big plans for 2011, but the first priority is to finish 2010; Christmas is in a couple of days and I guarantee that it's gonna be a biggin' this year.

What are you resolving to do in 2011 in Lyon?


    Saturday, December 18, 2010

    14 Hour Delay & 3 Boys

    12:30am on Friday night all 4 of us (Bri, bro, Bri's bro) were having difficulties sleeping, it was like Christmas the next morning... we were going to Amsterdam!

    I'm not sure what I was on when I decided to go to Amsterdam with 3 guys.  As a sort of anthropological phenomenon, they tend to change into something else when in groups.  They resemble a band of apes... of course there is that normal behavior of jumping around, but now we add to the rapport:  pulling/punching each other, which immediately makes we worry someone will break an arm or bloody a nose by accident, but I know all is well when I am trying to intervene and there is a big smile on their face, much like human-puppies.  The worst of the list is the loss of bodily functions and social manners.  Before when burping at the table was followed by a polite, "excuse me" and the seat was always kindly put back down for ladies- now all is out the windows.

    I'll leave a room for a few minutes to use the restroom- the seat is up, often (most disgustedely) sprinkled with urine.  I put the seat down, return to a room of mania; one decided to let gas loose, another is waving around frantically laughing so hard they too let gas loose and the third decides to top it all off with a grotesque bellowed burp.  All rules that they mother taught them does not apply, and I am definitely not in a Alpha position to say otherwise.  I think this is why in the animal kingdom there are often more females in a troupe than males; too many males would just be chaos.

    Not everything is bad travelling around with 3 practically grown guys, I also feel very protected.  Even if I am older than all of them, I know that if anyone tried to bother me or disturb my peace, 3 of them looks better than 1 of them, and no one wants to mess with angry brothers.

    So the 14 hour delay..

    I finally got everything into bed by 12:30am that night and stuffed some earplugs into my ear to get some sleep.  3 hours later, 3:45am, we were up, shuffling around, eating breakfast, chanting our Amsterdam songs.  Breakfast down throats. Check.  Coffee in me.  Check.  Bags ready to go.  Check.  Wait- gloves.. *followed by 30 minutes of chaos of finding Bro's gloves, not succeeding, being told mom would always have a plan*

    We were out the door on the RhoneExpress before we knew it.  Perfect timing, everything was going great!!  The light dusting of snow had remained light throughout the night and the only indication for a late flight was about an hour delay.

    Oh boy.

    We got to check in, dropped our bags and wandered to our gate- me more like herding the three big guys and ensuring nothing was lost along the way.  The hour delay turned into two hours, then three, then a cancellation.  We ran back to the ticketing line, got put onto the next flight at 10:30, which they assured looked better.  Repeat.  The security guys were beginning to become my close friends!  At the gate, two then three hours later.. canceled.  Repeat.  By 1pm we had been canceled for two flights and decided to take a chance for the evening flight.  Repeat.  Cancelled.  People were exhausted, camping on the floor, giant circles under their eyes.

    Broken we returned one final time to the counter and got it changed to Saturday (today) at 5:45pm.  Almost two whole days lost.. and we were all depressed and broken from waiting those 14 hours.  The excitement has turned to fear and we are watching closely.

    I'll either be writing tomorrow about the horrors of waiting once more, or I won't be back before Tuesday and have a mass of stories to tell.

    Until then.


    Wednesday, December 15, 2010

    Culture Shock: Type A Personality in Europe

    I was 15 years old when I decided what I wanted to do with my life.  I made a very specific list, finish highschool, finish college, get my master's, start up a business consulting International business... I had an obsession with day-planners... by the time I was 17 I had about for different methods of charting my day/week.  On my Apple computer, though iCal, then on my paper copy- in case I couldn't get to my electric copy.  I always knew where I needed to be, at what exact hour, at what exact place- with who?  How to get there, a list of the different busses.. how much time it might take to get there.. numbers of people..

    I was anal about time.  Never late, always exactly on the second; people had to schedule with me a week in advance as they all knew I had everything planned for the week.  I scheduled in the time to brush my teeth, take a shower... I made advanced lists of what I would eat- and contingency plans in case I couldn't do exactly what I had planned originally.  I had plans for my plans.

    As I detailed this to my little Swedish friend she stared at me aghast.  About 10 minutes into my rant about the joys of scheduling in time to use the bathroom I stopped.  I smiled, knowingly, and said, "But that was in America." It was my old habit that died when I moved to France.  I understood her disgust, the idea of working full-time while going to school is not even a plausible thing to say for a European (except Germans, which I find an odd fellowship of workaholics like me).

    Life isn't worth living if it passes too quickly. I nodded.  I knew.  I always knew, but the joys of opening up my planner and seeing it full is still a thing I love.. unfortunately very rarely in France do I have a full planner...

    In France..
    I have to schedule about 2 hours in my day if I plan to have a coffee with a friend.  French people are notorious about taking their time for breaks.. we could easily get lost in a conversation drinking our miniscule coffees with our pinkies out.  We sip that one mini-cup for the duration of 45 minutes; until the coffee is cold and foam rests.. nothing compared to the 'grab-n-go' mentality of Starbucks in America.

    Dinner?  If I have dinner plans forget about even trying to contact me for the night.  Dinner easily lasts from 8pm in the evening to 2am the next morning- and often we start late.  It's foreign to me because I never spent more than an hour at dinner in America- we always knew it'd be done after and hour, hour and a half tops.  Here there are no limits.. and it drives me CRAZY.

    Forget about scheduling anything other than a dentist appointment... and even that might take a few hours.

    Type A in Europe
     So I find myself in another expatriate conundrum.. I often will busy myself trying to keep things organized but find that instead of scheduling.. I make a list of things that should be done in the time allotted.. dinner with friends, is now more like:  Hey, wanna come over around 8pm?  Instead of, Hey want to come at 8:15 and leave by 9:30?  Everything takes longer especially because I live in the center of the city.  5 minutes walking through my corrider and up my stairs, 10 minutes lost biking to school... the Type A in me counts the minutes passing and knowing there was nothing scheduled.  The first few months I was going crazy.. Brian what are we going to do today?  He would smile, shrug, and tell me we could go the marché.  I'd throw my jeans on and then find myself waiting about an hour for Bri to shower, eat breakfast, take it slow.


    I think that's the best way to describe Europe... everything is done slowly.. or 'doucement' in French.  I feel like I'm from a country that drives 100k/m an hour living in a country that moves at 10k/m.



    I kind of like it.

    Monday, December 13, 2010

    What-What: Fêtes des Lumières

    I finally have a moment to breathe and write a little somethin'-somethin' while the chicken's cookin' away in the oven and bro+bri are out geeking on their computers.

    This year, specifically last week, I witnessed something so incredible and psychedelic the only means to view it would be to have a load of mushrooms on hand- or to go to the Fêtes des Lumières.  Originally considered a religious holiday to celebrate the Virgin Mary saving Lyon from the terrible plague (or more scientifically the fact that people were most likely more clean than around..) every year on December 8th the city of Lyon would place lighted candles in the window.. a sort of tribute to the higher-ups.

    Over the years more and more people got into the habit and it became more of a celebratory event than a solemn religious thing.. and finally transformed into the Festival of Lights that it is today.  From December 8th to December 11th, the city of Lyon is bouncing with psychedelic party lights; all hosted by the city government.  From 6pm to 1am the next morning, all the most famous monuments around the city are covered in lights- resembling a spray painted and tagged ancient history blending into the new millenium.

    Some buildings bounce with images of the history of construction, while other fountains are highlighted in candescent colors.. to which my younger Bro kept shouting.. ACID TRIP!  ACID TRIP! And Bri's brother kept shouting, AMSTERDAM AMSTERDAM!  The buildings moved, swayed and talked to us about who they were.. and no need for chemicals!

    Would you like to see yourself?

    I thought you would.

    Thank Bri because he put together this little diddy...

    Friday, December 10, 2010

    Story Time: The Small Jeans Fit

    Mom was sweet, she shrink wrapped and shoved every piece of love she could into my Bro's bags.  From brown sugar to bags of Portland coffee, the bags were practically bursting with different items... including my skinny jeans.

    I believe all of us have them, they are those absolutely gorgeous pair of jeans that used to make your butt look so awesome and you felt great in them.  About a year an a half ago those jeans were folded up and put in a 'never going to fit again' pile in the back of my Parent's house.  It was a big part to do with visiting France- the fatty foods, the lazy days... I gained about 10 kilos simply by being in France and spending most time indoors.

    Bro is here now and I'm trying to spend every ounce of energy showing him Lyon- my own personal goal is to show him every corner of the city I've taken 6 months to discover.  This means that every day we cross the city, from the Old Lyon to Bellecour, up to Fourvière and back down- it's been a constant walk.  I spend at least 3-4 hours walking from place to place, strolling and viewing everything.  It's been a constant walk around the city and it has caused me to forget eating times, snack on some light things and squish into my skinny jeans.  All the jeans I ordered from the states are billowing in the tummy area;

    Funny enough, my 17 year old Bro is getting tired of the walking.. the climbing up our 5 flights of stairs.  I realized how much we walk in Europe and how much we are really in good shape... it also creates some logic around the 'French Paradox'.. we simply just don't walk enough in America.

    If you're in the States and you'd like to try and fit into your skinny jeans, get to walking about 2 hours a day.  If you're in France and you understand what I'm talkin' about.. well good for you.  Go buy another pair of skinny jeans and make a new goal.

    Tomorrow I'll be getting some really funny photos of my Bro in France... it's been tiring but equally as hilarious having him here.


    Tuesday, December 7, 2010

    A Sleepless Night

    I live with an elephant and a nocturnal squirrel. Many would read that statement and declare me insanse, potentially put me against my will into a mental institution- until that person would spend one night in my apartment.

    It's bad enough that the two boys (Bro and Bri) are nocturnal beings and sleeping at 12am is considered insane, but the fact that Bro is jetlagged and wandering around at 4am Skyping friends doesn't help. It was 7am here in France when I heard a voice, it got louder and the doors opened... stomping around the apartment. Fortunately I found a 19th century apartment, most likely built for a small nobility for super cheap. Unfortunately this apartment has paper-walls, and the wandering around sounded like a warzone.

    I pulled myself out of my dream and out of bed, found Bro in the bathroom (apparently our sink facilities are interesting enough to show off on Skype) and begged him to stop and go to his room to Skype. He cut me off, waved his hand, stated,"Mom and I Talked about this." End of conversation.  I wandered back, lost, and thought, Yah, you may have talked to mom, but SHE DOESN'T LIVE HERE.

    An earplug in tow I had a fitful morning until 8:45am when Bri had to get up to go to school. He was just as bad.  Bri got up, slammed around the apartment, stomped into the kitchen for breakfast and blew his nose- for like 20 seconds.  It sounded like an elephant with constipation, loud, annoying.. and I could hear it through my earplug.  It stopped, cereal was poured and out he stomped back into the living room.  I could hear Bro chatting away (5 hours later) in his room and Bri crunching away on his cereal.  I thought, Am I the only normal person here?  Can I sleep now?!

    Not all is bad.  It's good to watch my 17 year old Bro go through the motions of culture shock.  He's noticing the oddest things however... there are more calories in MacDo (not true), people in France are terrible drivers (sometimes true), he is magically fluent in French when I'm not around (probably not true), everything is written in French (obviously true) and French people eat a lot of bread and weird cheeses (definitely true).

    The French teenagers are picking up on him; they find him like a large toy- he speaks English, he's blond and cute... he's American.  He's already made more friends than I was able to make in 6 months- even if he only understands and can speak about 60% at the normal rate.  It's fun to have him come home and recount the French teenager's asking him all about America and him trying to detail in Franglais.

    The potential for more sleep tonight seems unlikely in light of recent elephant/squirrel phenomena, however, I might just take a light sedative and allow them to scamper and stomp to their heart's desire.


    Sunday, December 5, 2010

    Bro Who Visits, and the Horror of Flights

    I'm going to recount the horror of my 17 year old Brother's flight to Lyon because the way he detailed it to me rocked my guts and made me never want to step on a plane again.

    My bro is 17, very teenager-like and has never left the North West.  Considered a sort of 'outback boy' he grew up next to the ocean in the smallest of small towns, spent his days wandering around beaches and trying to not get caught by the law doing illegal things.  We decided that the first person to make a trip out to visit me would be my brother, so, we booked a flight.

    Not only would this be his first flight, but it would be his first international flight.  He packed up two giant suitcases and meandered his way into the flight, gutsy and 'unafraid'.  The plane food was as we all imagine it, terrible and bland.  It was a plastic covered dish of rabbit and some type of a liver dish.  Surviving by plane peanuts and watching 'Inception' three times in a row; the flight was awful.  It only got worse as it came into the field of Amsterdam... and too afraid to land, kept circling the city until the pilot announced,
    "Sorry folks, we are running out of gas.  We are going to swing into Germany for fuel and get back in the air."
    Forty minutes later the plane landed in some 'Worthsdorf' or another and refueled.  Everyone on the flight started to complain, and as the flight lifted once again into the air... no one knew if they would ever make it to Amsterdam.  Finally they landed.

    Bro, 12 hours into this trip, wandered into the foreign airport.  He later divulged that he drank about 4 glasses of complimentary wine on the flight and was feeling intoxicated.  Testing his new powers as a legal to drink teenager, he went straight to the nearest Heineken bar and ordered up a tall ice-cold beer.  As he drank he felt as an adult.. an adult that tended to chug his beer versus sipping.

    Three hours later, locked into the next plane... Bro arrived in Lyon.  When he came off the plane the entire place was a mess, children running everywhere, all the signs in French.  He waited by the luggage area, but no luggage came.  Afraid, without a cellphone and unsure as to where the Hell he was, he posted this (thanks to a good teen samaritan) on Facebook:

    Bro: Mom. Get sasha to get me
    Mom: Ok u r at Lyon?
    Bro: Yes. I am at the Lyon airport. My luggage is missing. So many Egyptians. This I scary.

    My mother promptly called Brian's cell phone, frantic.  He was lost.  He was at baggage claim.  Around me, thousands of Middle Eastern individuals ran around- a giant festival was going on outside.  Confused and scared I scoured that airport.  I ran upstairs and downstairs, I searched corners, I ran into hundreds of people- finally mom called me again and stated, "He's in the BAGGAGE CLAIM"!



    Finally we got to the phone and made the call.  As Brian explained, it sounded silly.  He's 17, he's American, first flight, he's lost in the baggage area, he doesn't know how to leave.  They were kind and sent a worker to grab him.

    Down in the baggage claim a worker asked him in broken Franglais, "You 17?"  When Jason nodded, afraid, the guy pointed towards the 'exit' sign.. and off he went.  There I stood, other side.  We embraced.  He looked terrible, it was a mixture of body odor and absolute exhaustion from 16 hours of travel; even worse the luggages were lost.


    Here we are now, he got a full night's sleep, still jetlagged; baggage arrived today.  I explained simply:

    Well.  Now that you've had the absolute worst experience flying, you'll always see every other time possible as much better than this!

    I guess taking your flying virginity is meant to be like losing your real virginity- awkward, terrible, inexperienced and leaving you with the slightest regret.


    Friday, December 3, 2010

    Librarie des Livres Anciens: Heaven for Books

    Sometimes when sitting around the apartment I get itchy feet.  In the States it was the kind that would push me to pack a light backpack and book a random flight to Europe.  Now in Europe it's the kind that makes me want to hike around my city and find those treasures or streets I haven't discovered.  It was today, on another itchy feet day, that I discovered the 'Librarie des Livres Anciens'.

    To preface, I must say that a Librarie in France is not like a 'library' in America.  In the states, the library is the place you go to check out books for a temporary basis.  Often these books are covered in plastic, new editions and sometimes stained by the previous borrow.  A Librarie in France is actually a 'bookstore', while a 'biblotheque' is an American style of library.  Confused yet?  Needless to say, there are hundreds upon hundreds of bookstores scattered around Lyon; same as the multitude of boulangeries, epiceries and wine shops.

    I took a big swing around Bellecour and decided to cross over the bridge to Old Lyon.  Old Lyon is a part of the city built around the 1400's.  The streets remained cobblestoned and impossible to walk on with high heels.  The tiny streets compliment the ancient architecture and the equally as ancient- but slightly more tacky- tourist attractions.  Crêperies, marron roasters... all the snaz of a classic city complete with a touring medieval church in the center.  Considered a tourist escape, hundreds upon hundreds of English speaking people pass through here every day- snapping up pictures and saving their memories.  I saw one just today, wandering into a boulangerie (as I was ordering my baguette) and snapping photos of the food, then, promptly leaving.  DO NOT EVER DO THIS... always buy something, a macaron, ANYTHING.  If one gets thirsty in this Old City, there are pubs owned by true Brit Expatriates lining the street.

    It was today I was wandering through this city, trying my best to appear as non-American as possible, that I caught a glimpse of a little shop.  I tend hesitate going into shops because I feel guilty I don't purchase.. but this one was an Ancient Bookshop (Rue du Palais de Justice) and I couldn't pull away.  I always wondered what happened to those piles of books I bought.. or were gifted.. and I imagined that books have been around for while... I began to wonder, where do books go when they retire?

    I paused and glanced at the window merchandise, scanning ancient copies of maps, a 19th century Lyon Cuisine book.. soon enough I found myself pushing through the solid door and quickly saying, 'Bonjour' to the man at the desk.  It was book heaven.

    It smelled pungent... quite opposite from the fresh smell of new books, almost like an aged cheese or a wine- refined.  I followed the signs, up the stairs.. and faced the Gastronomy section.  Every book I pulled of the shelf was old; covers were shredded, some missing a cover.  Of the books I looked at, not one was priced over 25€ or younger than 50 years old.  The oldest book had a simple black cover; it was a cookbook from 1834.  I smelt the inside, and leafed through the pages.  Instructions for the recipes were simple, 'cut, cook, serve'.  Often recipes were in 1 paragraph, and none with the quintessential listing of ingredients/times to cook.  I imagined the housewife who owned this book, pumping the oven with wood to create a warm enough fire to cook dinner.  With every ancient book, the history and life behind it was weighed between my fingers, and I couldn't stop myself.

    The old bookstore is more than a place for antique collectors, it's a time machine.  You can spend easily hours, browsing through these books and looking at old writings/drawings.  If lucky you may even find a prize..a book from another time that details 'gastronomy' in France, or 'history of france'.  The very old books are kept downstairs, and some may even date to before the 19th century.

    It was beautiful... and I will be there once again- soon.


    Thursday, December 2, 2010

    Job Interview & Babyspeaking

    Oh joy of all joys, today I had the chance to interview with a real company for a real position.  It's a company based out of Paris that specialises in teaching and working with young children.  If any of you are looking for a job, don't hesitate; it's called "Baby Speaking" and honestly, it's legit.

    I found it by chance surfing around, doing the daily toll of trying to find a job or something to do... I already go to school, but as most expatriates from America can understand, it's not "right" if you're not running around constantly busy.  I grew up in a culture where we work full-time as well as going to school.  I already have about 4 years real-world business experience... I need a job.  I've been out of the loop for about a year now, and it is driving me bonkers.  I need to feel that pressure... I mean I didn't specialize in business because it was a random choice, I. Love. To. Work.

    I thank the French government for feeding into my lazy addiction.  The French system entitles us to a maximum of a 35 hour work week, obligatory pay for sick time, up to 6 months off for pregnancies- and hey, if you are a student, come to the CAF and we'll subsidize your rent.  You feel depressed?  Get it in writing and you don't have to work this week!

    The leisure is gnawing on my brain, my hardened American work ethic is beginning to soften... kind of like the beer belly of ethic.  So.  Even though I had no idea what or who this company was, I sent off my CV and my information in the hopes that I would catch something.

    A few months later, I got the call.  Interview set up.  Thursday, 13h30, at a... wait what?  Café?  Okkaayy..

    I get there during lunch hour, and it was very busy.  I wandered up to the bar, and flashed my "International Get Your Way" smile and asked the bartender where was the "entretien pour Babyspeaking".. I felt kind of weird asking, but he quickly replied, and pointed in the direction of the guy.  Antoine.  I ordered up a coffee, hung out and listened to the bustle of the café, it was not only my first interview in France, but my first café in the middle of the day experience.  Everyone was shouting out orders of coffees, macarons... one guys ordered up the special.  A table behind me was packed with professionals on lunch hour, sipping their mini coffees and snacking on their salads.  It felt so right, I felt.. like a French worker!

    As quickly as they came, my form was filled out, my turn came and it seemed the inevitable end of lunch arrived as well.  Everyone lined the cash register to pay, the bartender all smiles giving discounts to friends, ensuring everyone enjoyed themselves.  Silence filled the café and my interview started.  Poor poor Antoine.  For those who know me, they know I am quite the talker.  Despite my slow down, I found myself rolling out the puns, flashing smiles and being an American.  French interview is less small talk, less smiles and more facts, questions, to the point.  It is almost like meeting your boyfriend's parents for the first time, trying to balance the polite nods, slow response and smiling while not looking crazy.

    But let me tell you, this guy is professional all the way.  I filled out my little form, a little weary of the position, but the minute I sat down and talked with Antoine; I was at ease.  He described the company Babyspeaking, it started 2 years ago, he is one of the founders and as it has been a great success in Paris, they are now looking to expand to Lyon.  He obliged my big American smiles and even my quips (which were not laughed at.. I was hoping for at least a smirk) and politely answered my questions.

    The position is simple, a babysitter or nanny.  You work directly with families, you babysit their child but you do it in English.  The less French you speak, the better!  The pay is very lucrative and I say it's gonna be a success.. We discussed, and, of course, it'll start slow... but as time goes on and that whole "word of mouth" spreads, this company is gonna make it.

    If you want to apply you can either go directly to their site (state me as a reference, it'll look even better), or email me and I'll pass along your information.

    Job starts in early January, based in Lyon, great pay, great founders... really its legit!

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