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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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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Voeux de 2012 (2012 wishes)

First of all, Happy New Year's to all across the globe.. tomorrow marks the beginning of a new year.. and like every new year since I was old enough to write, it's time for my year "wish list", or "to do list".

Shall we?

  1. Redesign blog, since I'm moving out to Paris it is time to change it all up and start fresh!
  2. Blog 3 times a week, I think Monday, Wednesday and Friday sound appropriate..
  3. Find a 'liveable' apartment in Paris
  4. Finish my Master's with at least a 13/20 average
  5. Continue my French practice
  6. Get an awesome Internship and work my butt off for the job
  7. Lose the 10 lbs I lost last year and regained for Christmas
  8. Be an active part of the expatriate community in Paris
  9. Learn how to make Sushi
  10. Invite 'Drunk Kitchen' to film an episode in my tiny apartment in Paris
  11. Watch the episode of House Hunter's International with myself in it
  12. Visit family in September for at least 6 weeks (that'll be reculture shock)
  13. Play Kinect at least 30 minutes a day, if no television in Paris:
  14. Do some yoga or SOMETHING to get butt in shape
  15. Find an awesome job by the end of the year
  16. Build up a professional network in Paris
  17. Clean out closet (get rid of the tons of clothes I have)
  18. Get to the top of the Eiffel Tower
  19. Visit Greece
  20. Get the "Culinary Institute of America" textbook and work through it
  21. Visit the Julia Child "Roo de Loo"
  22. Drink a café in a typical Parisien café
I'm sure I'll think of even more... 2012 holds many opportunities!


Friday, December 30, 2011

2011: Récapulatif (Recap)

Tomorrow evening will mark the end to another year in France, but not just the end of 'another year', but the beginning of a new year.  It feels so distant the day I grabbed my two suitcases and jetted across the Atlantic on a warm June day, the tears that sprung up as I kissed my parents, and my American life, goodbye.

Looking back at 2010 posts, I realized that 2011 was not only the year I learned to adjust to the culture... but the year that I really found my balance and my language ability.  When I first came to France I could barely put a proper sentence together, now I am completing a French business Master's degree, in French, with an average of 13/20 (basically a B).  There have been bad times, good times, in between times... but I have more of a sense of nostalgia as I wave goodbye to 2011 because it marks the end of my séjour in Lyon and the beginning of my life in Paris.

I never had plans to pack up house for Paris, as I complain and groan I imagine the millions of Americans who dream to live in Paris... and yes it is exciting- but I love my life in Lyon. All the discoveries that I have made, the maps I have put together to survive, the 'favorites' I have found.

It marks also the beginning of my 'adult hood', my student life is wrapping up nicely and the next steps are to find a big girl job (put lovely by my good Brit friend Katie) and grow up.

So what happened memorable in 2011?

I believe the best way to remember is to break it down...


  • Learned the French emergency number by heart... as Bri passed out face first at 3AM in the morning from a fever, and I freaked out.  Sad to say I grabbed the phone and put it to his face crying, "What's the number!! I can't explain what happened to you!!" Which is when I promised myself to become fluent. I can't rely on Bri for everything.
  • Got hired for an Internship!
  • So uneventful I ended up writing about Instant Coffee and how horrible it is.
  • Learned the appropriate way to write a Letter of Motivation
  • Worked, another completely uneventful month
  • Discovered the true difference between our 'respect the elder' culture and the 'dog eat dog' culture of France
  • Went to my first concert in Lyon, even better in an ancient Roman amphithéâtre!
  • First visit to a gynecologist- yikes
  • First hair cut in France
  • Vacation to Barcelona with the French Fam... in-laws will always be in-laws in any culture
  • Celebrated my 24th birthday with my Mom at my side, unlimited frog legs and a beautiful Birthday cake
  • Started my French international business management Master, learned that the education system is completely different than in America
  • Went to my first French-French party by myself, got totally tipsy but made it back home in time for the last métro.
  • Bri accepted for position at the Senate, realization I'll be moving in TWO months to Paris.
  • +2 kilos
Now the question is.... did I complete my 2011 to do list?  Let's see... here's from my list in the beginning of the year, things with the cross out are complete.. of course I added some commentary.
  1. Lose the 10 lbs I probably gained during French Christmas   Did this, but gained it back Christmas 2011
  2. Start walking fast..  x Sort of necessary when living in France
  3. Start jogging.. Okay.. NO....
  4. Start running..  Definitely NO!
  5. Try to do some yoga videos a few times a week  Haha, It's amazing what we aspire to do... NO
  6. Learn a complicated French recipe  Totally made Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon AND mastered pâte à choux!
  7. Invite a group of 5 to the apartment for dinner  Totally made an awesome pork roast, in my 'microwave'!
  8. Try to buy veggies at marché as much as possible..  Most every weekend we wandered out..
  9. Going with #8, try to get up at normal hours   Except during vacations...
  10. Pay closer attention to my friends  Made some new onces, tended to the old ones.. SUCCESS!
  11. Do a good job for my new job  Did fabulously, then got hired in another position.
  12. Try to keep apartment in suitable condition for living  Laundry regularily, dinner every night..
  13. Go on a Beaujolais tour  Ooops... eh... NO!
  14. Try to go for brisk evening walk after dinner with Brian each night  No, but it's Bri's fault not my own!
  15. Get into a Master's program and get visa renewed  CHECK!
  16. Take more pictures to share with family  Take more pictures? Yes.  Share with family? No.
  17. Replace the toilet paper when it runs out- I never do.  Still don't.
  18. Try to pay the basics and then.. pay off my credit cards  Don't use credit cards any more.. thanks for helping out mom!
  19. Learn a new dance  Sure... the kitchen dance..!
  20. Get into one of those fancy French clubs  Still to be done...
  21. Plan something epic for our 2 year anniv'  We ate frogs, that is epic.
  22. Try some new French cheese  I regretted it.
  23. Totally shop at the marchés, veggie market, boucheries, boulangeries and fromageries... no more American shopping!  Although sometimes I am a bit lazy...
  24. Call my brother back in the States at least 4-5 times a week  Eek.. eh....
  25. Study my French more often and make an effort to speak 'en Français' with Bri  Moitié/Moitié!
  26. Make more unique meals  I'd say!
  27. Write all the books that I've been keeping in my head  Okay... so.. I am a procrastinator..
  28. Write more advice columns and get back on board with the daily bloggin'!  Hmmm Daily????

Okay so 18/28 complete?  Not too shabby.. tomorrow I'll bring out my 2012 list.  It will be énorme.

Man 2012 is freakin' me out.. but I only see good things (minus the change from 700 sq ft to 350 sq ft for double the price...)


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Noël in France: Typical Christmas Meal

It's that time of year again, I almost can't believe it myself.. as I look back through photos it will officially be my 4th Christmas in Europe.  First was in a tiny town in the Eastern side of Germany, then the consecutive three were here in Lyon with Bri's family.

I realized, however, I never actually detailed a typical Christmas meal!  So here goes from decadent 'apéritif' to the intense dessert.

First Course: Champagne + Petit Fours
Often a high quality champagne, well chilled, served in Crystal flutes.  A typical french meal offers heated up appetizers, often snack sized bits, hot dogs rolled in some puff pastry.  Some snails stuffed into puff shells and baked until tender.  Christmas time marks a very 'fishy' time, while there is often some puff pastry snacks, there is also a fish egg tapenade spread over toasts.

I am personally not a super fan of the egg-tapenade, but it starts a great meal... plus the champagne (in a true French family) is usually a good quality.

Now at this point we are starting to get hungry, so the best part comes next-

Second Course: Huitres and Champagne
To cleanse the taste buds and to prepare for the evening, we usually have a basket of raw oysters after apéro.  Another bottle of champagne is usually popped open at this point, and *SLURP* goes the oysters.

Raw, we slurp them down with a 'shallot, red wine vinegar sauce' or simply a squeeze of fresh lemon.  I never loved oysters until accompagnied with a chilled champagne, and now I couldn't live without my shooters.

Of course... at this point we get a bit full, but allez! we continue.

Third Course: Sauternes, Foie Gras and Saumon Fumé
So about 3 cups into bubbly, stomach's getting tight, but next is the best.  Some toasted brioche toasts, butter smeared and melted with foie gras.

Now, for some in the States, foie gras is horrible.  Yes it's true that the poor birds are force-fed.. but it's equally true that Foie Gras is one of the most amazing things that I have ever tasted.

For those who avoid 'cruelty' we have some saumon fumé or smoked salmon, a little lemon zested and some buttered toast... simplicity!

Fourth Course: Main Dish
From this point we take a small break, usually a 15 minute digestion break before the main dish is presented.  Normally this is a roasted turkey, a game animal... My favorite Christmas dinner was a slow roasted wild pig in a red wine reduction.  Normally served with some time of a purée, it's difficult to get through the 4th course.. only to get to..

Fifth Course: Fruits, Cheese and Nuts
To help with digestion, usually a bowl of fruits and nuts (fresh) are accompagnied with the cheese platter.  A typical French Christmas cheese is the Mont d'Or, as well as the Petit Basque.

Usually we continue from our switch to red wine, and the cups of wine are in the 10s.

We try to eat a little bit of all the cheese... of course some just give up at this point.

Sixth Course: La Bûche de Noël
Finally, after shoving our mouths full of deliciousness, we get to the typical 'Bûche de Noël', the log-shaped cake covered in chocolate ganache.  I usually can only handle a small piece at this point.  It's very rich and often comes in different flavors.

Seventh and FINAL Course: Digestif and Papilottes
In France, during Christmas, all the grocery stores stock up on these chocolates called, papilottes, very rich chocolates individually wrapped with inspirational messages.  Around 12am we finish stuffing our face, and then out pops the chocolate and strong alcohol to help digest.  A verre of Whiskey, Mar or any alcohol will do.. and then..


You can imagine.  Here is me after dinner last year, no joke, I literally sprawled on the couch and couldn't move.

Then, wake up, open gifts and at 1PM the next day dig in for LUNCH.  That's right, we repeat all of this the next day.

Then one week later.

That's why the average French person gains between 2-4 pounds in a week between the 25th of December and the 1st of January.

Bon Appetit!


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Just Another American in Paris

It's been exactly 1 year, five months, six hours, thirty-two minutes and two seconds since I stepped off the train in June of 2010 to start my new life in Lyon.

Now it will be 1 month and 2 weeks until I hop on a different train and start a new life in Paris.  I never thought I would leave Lyon, nonetheless live in Paris, but when opportunity knocks on your door you answer.

About 4 weeks ago or so, Bri decided to throw in his bid to become the assistant to a senator in Paris.  We knew it was a long shot, the chances that he would get it is slim (no experience as an assistant, a young male, in a second Masters, working at the law library).  The interview was last week, I know because it was me rolling out of bed at 6am to make him some coffee to be able to trudge to the train and get to the senate.

I also know it was a week because it was a week of Bri saying, "I'm not gonna get it, I'm no good, I'll never be in the senate, it's the end.".  The complaints only got stronger on Tuesday when he was supposed to have a call, and nada, Wednesday, same.  But, today, one week and 3 days from the interview, Bri received a phone call from the Senator herself offering the position.

I'm very focused on time now more than ever, every minute that passes is going to be a minute that leads to the end of my stay in Lyon.  I know most would drool for the chance to live in Paris, but I have grown to love Lyon as a second home and I can only feel more waves of culture shock as we prepare to head 5 hours north into the most popular tourist spot in the world.

It's been ten minutes I've been writing, and I can only ask myself banal questions:
How the hell are we going to get my brand new closet and oven to Paris?
Where are we going to live?
How long will it take to find an apartment?
Where will I find a new butcher who knows my order and my name?

I feel like Julia Child when Paul was moved around Europe, thinking to myself well there are still trains! 

I'm just going to be another American in Paris.

Oh well at least it will make good blogging fodder, what's more interesting than hauling a 65m2 apartment into a closet in Paris?

a+ with a sad face

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Not so Green Lyon

When I was living in Portland I always considered Europe to be this magical place- I was told by an exchange student that lived with us when I was 16 that Public Transportation was abundant, recycling not simply a concept but a way of life.

I had a fabulous presentation in my Master's program late Friday afternoon from a renowed Quebecian nature lover and guest teacher.  Fabien Durif flew in from his corner of Canada, his slightly twanging Quebecois accent and a slew of ideas my fellow collegues had never heard.

Movement Vert
Green Washing
Consommation Responsable

After saying 'Vert' about 20 times someone in the class finally raised his hand and inquired, "Messieur, qu'est-ce que c'est cette chose verte que vous parlez?" The teacher stopped short, and explained briefly.  Of course this movement doesn't EXIST in France, it's simply a way of life... or is it?

Portland was always sort of top when it came to the Green Movement of the early 2000's, we had electric busses, a sort of recycling system that was foreward-moving.  I was taught how to maintain a compost in my apartment when I moved off by myself at 19, a lovely plastic box that magically transformed my waste into useable plant dirt.

Bri made me throw this away when he moved in with me May of 2009, he said it was disturbing to sleep in the apartment knowing there were worms in a vox- well to each his own.

You can imagine my shock when I moved to Lyon and was struck by a city that knew little of recycling or even how to lighten the carbon footprint.

Now, Europe, specifically Lyon, has their own methods and styles of what they call 'green', or in French éco.  I am constantly being pointed out that the Americans leave the water running during showers, or our wasteful use of electricity when we leave the house.

So in what ways does Lyon recycle and in what ways really need to be improved?

What They Do Well:

Organic Produce

Tuesday through Sunday are the market days, vendors, farmers and local producers haul out their natural and edible goods for us to purchase at a normal price.  The positive is that many of these producers are naturally organic or bio and leave us with a fabulous, non-treated product.

An automatic response when I see someone throwing away a carboard box or can is, That is recyclable! My mother had ingrained it into my head, she would fish out any paper I would throw away and I was disgusted... of course now 7 years later I do the same.  In Lyon we have a recycling system in our apartment building, nice because you can toss all recyclables together into a giant container... the issue?

Showering in France
Water is truly seen as a resource in the eyes of a European so much so that when showering we have a five step process:
  1. Turn water on, get water all over
  2. Turn water off
  3. Lather up with soap while water is off
  4. Turn water on
  5. Rinse
Usually the water only remains on for a total of 7 minutes, unlike our 20-30 minute showers in the United States.  This is the argument from most French people when I mention the 'green'ness of Americans, they can't see how we are green if we are so wasteful with a resource.  They are right.

The next is the consumption of electricity,

Lights Out
Bri was appalled at our waste of electricity in the US, and I see why.  In France we shut everything off in the evening, when we leave the house, when we are not in a room.  Electricity is very expensive so wasting it tends to not even be an option.  It's almost an anal-rententive reaction, every time you leave a room switch it off.  Eventually, it becomes ingrained into your mentality and you feel strange if a light is on in a room and no one is in it.

Velo'v System
Probably one of the greastest innovations in Europe, the Velo'v system, which originated in Lyon, has revolutionized public transportation by facilitating a bike-share system that is affordable and convenient for users.  For a fee of 15€ a year, a user has 30 minutes each trajet and the possibility to return at any depot.  Still waiting for an effective system like this in Portland.

Public Transportation
Europe is truly the master of public transport, never have I had an issue with a bus or a tramway or even an underground subway.  Fabulous system, mediocre priced... again much more adept to the green movement than in US.

To Be Improved:

These containers are non-existant around the city.  When you drink a disposable coffee cup you have no choice but to toss in a normal trash can on the street.  There are more and more "dual trash cans" with the choice between yellow and green (yellow recyclable, green waste) but many people don't use this system effectively.

Organic Produce
Like in America, there has been this movement for Bio and Green Washing; this movement has left many store brands to stick a green label on the product without really even having proof... this label guarantees an augmentation of price between 10-25% above market price and... well needless to say it's not truly the concept of the green movement.

There is a non-existent system of composting in France that is left to be improved, while in San Francisco there are canisters of composting buckets that accepts any organic material to be composted, in Lyon I have found no way to get rid of material of this sort.

Over-all Lyon is ahead, but not the best in Europe... in fact I see piles of plastic cups sitting around in canisters and no composting... but I think the Green Fever is going to catch on and it won't be just a fad. 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

HGTV: Higher Learning in Lyon France

For those unaware..... in September of this year Bri and I were filmed by none other than 'House Hunters International'.

Can't give away too many details... but here's the Air Date and Episode Information!


How très cool!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Adventures in the Metro

Living in a large European city teaches you many different things such as: get used to that 15 minute walk with heavy groceries, or, don't make eye contact with that scraggly looking group of youth, or even, be friends with your butcher.

The one thing I still haven't mastered since my year and a half in Lyon is What To Do On the Métro.

Public transportation is inevitable, even if I wanted to avoid the bus or the underground subway line I couldn't!  You see, even with the fabulous bike share system and the potential to walk anywhere with my two feet- the métro is juste faster and easier.

Or is it?

In Lyon there are 4 lines of the underground Métro system, 2 lines of forniculars, 4 lines of over-ground tramway system, a multitude of electric buses and and ever more selection of bus lines.  All information is available from the TCL Website.

Today's focus will be: The Underground Métro:

Line A, or the RED LINE goes from Perrache in the center to Vaulx-en-Valin la Soie (or whatever on the spelling) out on the East side of Lyon.  This line utilizes the typical system, a dude sitting and driving it.  However, this also causes some issues in regards to timing. The driver will sometimes wait at a stop, more than necessarily, probably picking his French teeth or laughing his French laugh.  This wait makes us all uncomfortable, and everyone begins to be aware of time passing- watches are checked ever 20 seconds, feet start tapping with impatience...

Line B, or the BLUE LINE goes from Stade de Gerland to Charpennes.  Basically a great line to avoid unless being transferred to the Centre Commercial de la Part-Dieu which is necessary when taking a train, doing Christmas shopping.. or even going to a Football Match (Stade de Gerland).

Line C, or the ORANGE LINE (really looks yellow, but I'm not picky) goes from Hôtel de Ville to La Croix Rousse.  It's a really odd métro line, why do I say this?  Because it resembles a sort of fornicular or cable car.  Everything is in a sort of slanted angle, when on the métro you have to do a sort off lean forward in order to not fall on your neighbor.  La Croix Rousse is up on a hill, so logic tells you the Métro is basically climbing a hill.  Same as the RED LINE, the ORANGE LINE has a manual driver which switches every end stop, and takes at least 7 minutes to start up.  But, a lot easier to take the métro than walk up the giant hills of the Croix Rousse.

Line D, or the GREEN LINE, goes from Gare de Vaise to Gare de Vénissieux.  Neither of the Gares is a nice place to be, so at my advice I use the Green line to get closer to Ikea (in St. Priest), get to Vieux Lyon... and that's about it.  Oh, word to the wise:  This line is a-u-t-o-m-a-t-e-d!  This means there is like a 5 minute passing period, if it's at the stop... RUN!  Once the beeping starts, you better jump into the train otherwise you will be waiting an efficient 3 minutes for the next one.

What to Do On the Métro, and What NOT To Do
Getting on the métro can be a terrible experience for those unprepared.  Between 4PM and 6PM every day there is a sudden flux of individuals all pressing to get home for dinner.  Baguettes stick people in the bum, bags are shoved into your chest, and with the métros having a limit of people- well that disappears.  If you want to catch a métro you must go in elbows first. Don't be afraid to push and jump into the craziness!  So:

Rule #1:  Elbows First.

Then you're on the métro, you have some posters glued along the side panels, lovely flourescent lights lining the ceiling.  Most likely a smelly homeless man shoved away in the corner, smelling grotesquely like an ogre.  There will probably be a group of hoodlums hanging in the corner and shouting to each other.  Now the question is, where to go?  If you have enough room to elbow through to a safe spot... In this case:

Rule #2: Find the Grandma.

So you've successfully gotten into the métro, situated yourself next to Grandma.  One thing is clear from this moment,

Rule #3: Look Anywhere but Other People's Eyes, AKA Avoid Eye Contact

Look any where else, that poster you've read a million times, your iPhone game, your hang nails.  Many French people will occupy themselves by chewing on their nails- if you want to avoid a terrible habit simple count the lines in the ceiling.  It is difficult to find things to do on the métro, but everyone is in the same position.

Looking around, you'll notice how hard everyone is trying to look anywhere but in someone's eyes.  On the métro, even though you're practically in your neighbor, it's as if we don't really exist in the same place.

Now, your stop is arriving...

Rule #4: Elbows Out to Exit the Métro

Don't let them French people get you stuck, just shout clearly, "excusez-MOI!" and elbow them.

Or you could always just get a year pass to Velo'V and bike it!


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Culture Shock: The Teacher Who is a Troll

I didn’t like him when I started the class, the first class was him pretty much shouting out random French law ideals and saying, “No one knows the definition of LAW?  Who has taken LAW?”  He resembles a troll, with a slightly high-pitched voice, and jeans slightly too small.

I meekly raised my hand, it was 8am in the morning and I was in no mood to be bothered by some French man.  He pointed at me and barked out, “What is LAW?”

I shook my head, “No, I learned in America, not in France.”

He barked again, this time adding a fancy wavering to his voice, “Oh yah? How great for you, then SURELY you can give me a definition!” I shook my head again.

What a douche.

It only gets worse, there are some things the teacher does that I’m wondering if the others find normal.:

Every few seconds he slaps his hands on the table, “S’il vous PLAIT!  S’il VOUS PLAIT!!” If he hears even the slightest of whispers.

Cell phones? Forget it.  He loves to point out whoever is using their phone, shout how abnormal it is to use it, and then continue on his rants which we are supposed to pretty much write “word-for-word”.  Very interesting (smell the sarcasm here).

When explaining a topic, he gets oddly quiet in the speech… slowly… and then suddenly he SHOUTS! LOUDLY! I am wondering if he potentially has a form of turrets, control issues perhaps.

The worse is his physical ticks, no joking, from picking his nose with a mouchoir in front in the class, standing one leg up on a chair in a Napoleonic stance while stratching and bouge his balls without even being shy about it, or the best: picking his ears and flicking the findings towards our tables.

I think it’s the ball stratching, the random shouting and his too big white button up shirts that get to me.  I mean really.  Stop picking your ears, moving your nether regions around and shouting… then I might be able to have a sense of respect.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Soirée Deguisement

I entered into the room and 15 sets of French eyes stared at me expectedly, I nodded, waved, and then noted that my friend was bustling around already giving the ‘bises’ and saying the appropriate ‘bonsoir’.  It was the first true party that I was invited to by my promotion or the people that are in your school program, they decided to do a sort of soirée déguisement or costume party.  Of course when I was packing my 3 luggages in 2010 I didn’t exactly think to pack up my costumes, none of my fairy dresses, wings or even cat costumes.  So for this soirée I was at a loss for a costume.  Lucky me, on one of my discoveries around Lyon that I came across a little magasin de déguisement owned by a typical round chubby Frenchman.  Costumes ranged between 10-15€ and I was able to pick up some cheap cat ears and a tail for only 11€.

We had worked our butts off all day, hashing through an etudes de cas which is simply a case study- French style.  Meaning: all in French, the whole head ache of French teams (shouting out ideas, hashing it out until you need to crawl to bed) and little to no direction.  From 8am to 5pm we worked, with little breaks and just a quick sandwich to keep it going.

Needless to say, we wanted to drink in massive quantities.  In order to try to get to the party and not feel totally left out since I am that silly étrangère, I got together with another girl in my class (a devil that night) and we métro’d it up to the host’s apartment.

Thus I found myself in a room of 15 French people, one from Israel, and myself.  I served myself a nice warmed up glass of Rum punch and began the drinking.  If I try to remember the conversations I had, well, I simply can’t.  There was some discussions regarding ‘French Fillers’, which will have to be on its own in a blog… it was hilarious.  Otherwise, typical questions such as comment est-ce que tu as appris de parler aussi bien Français que ça? or est-ce que c’est vrai que les filles sont « easy » aux USA ? Well.

The night got rolling, and seemed to pass by in a blur.  A couple of the class-mates decided to do a pretty funny mock-up of two “typical Americans” that sort of went like this:
Girl: Yesssss, yesssss, I uhm amahricannn, I eet zes burgurs uhn hei luhk beer!
Guy: Yoo luhk beer? Me hei lahk yoo shoe!
Girl: yess yess, zhis moosic ehs very nuhce!
Guy: I am agree!

I almost blew my warm rum cocktail out of my nose.

Another dude came up, typically a French person and popped in the most ghetto rap I’d ever heard.  I started, bouche bée and said, “What you’re like a gangster from the Bronx or what?”

5 coupettes of warm rum and tequila drinks later I was happily claquée and my French friend mentioned it was time to go.  I looked at the clock and we had at least 20 minutes, I said as much and she said, “Yes, but we have to make the rounds,” The rounds?

I watched as she began to circle around and make the bise with everyone, saying, bonne soirée (different than bon soir) and simply making some goodbye small talk.  Well, bother, so much for escaping with a quick wave and a bye-bye.  I began making me rounds, and although doing the bises is something I’ve done a millions times since I’ve lived here, this felt odd.

Oui je dois partir, tu sais, pour le metro.
Bonne soirée.
Repeat about 50,000 times.

The best part was that my copine was much more bourrée than me and she was telling me all kinds of conneries.  We separated ways in the metro and I got on the last train with all the other alcoholic teenagers, etrangères, and clochards, and stared at a poster while I listened to the girl next to me, British, shouting out “SHOTS, SHOTS SHOTS SHOTS!!!!” over and over and over.
All in all, a good night!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Mastering the Art of the French Master's Degree

First off, I should probably explain what is going on at the moment and why I disappeared for about a month.

I've been getting many helpful comments and nice things being said about me but I barely have had a moment to log on and to even say THANKS!

September of this year I officially started a Master's degree in International Business Management in Lyon.  In order to create more of a challenge I decided, given the choice between two programs, to go with the program entirely in French.  Even better I decided to pick the intensive Master 2 Professional option which meant about 32 hours of classes a week.  Oh, let's just add that I was working, as well, around 18.5 hours a week at Wallstreet Institute.

You can imagine my typical day, as detailed in my last blog post.

Well, there truly is an art to the French Masters, even an art to studying in France.  It started with the intensity of the courses for me and wounded up in a climatic end of term finals where I about ripped out my hair from stress.

Shall we?

What Happens in Class
After a sleepless night and nightmares where I lost all ability to communicate in French, I arrived in my Master's class with my college-ruled American notebook and a single pen.  As I settled into the uncomfortable plastic seats and nodded around the class, practically whispering, bonjour, I noticed immediately that I was not well prepared.  Three girls glimpsed over my 'school materials' and then pulled out their own lumpy pencil bag, deftly picking out three different colors of pens, a ruler and either white sheets of paper or lined paper that gave me a headache to look at.

I scoffed to myself, what a bunch of overachievers, until I noticed even the laziest looking guy in my class had at least 2 colors and a ruler laid out in front of him.  My throat began to become dry as I suddenly felt like that dumb American foreigner and quickly reached into my bag to see if I had another color of pen.

Before I could find the second color, the teacher came exploding through the door, "Bonjour classe, donc, je suis veille France et donc je ne supporterai pas les ordinateurs, téléphone portables ni les SMS" I sighed quietly as I glanced over to see if I was supposed to start noting or what, she continued, "Et je n'enverrai pas les Power Points donc prennez bien vos notes" Well merde at that one.  I was at least relying on some back support in my American in France learning struggle, but I prepared my hand for the noting battle.

Looking back on my notes for that day I almost feel pity for myself, I had tried to note as fast as possible, but got lost in the dialogue, the questions my colleagues posed, the language itself.  Many of the passages said things like, "Une entreprise ????  donc important de ???" Where I was meant to miraculously fill in the blanks at home and try to get the sense.

I noted as the others used abbreviations, multicolors to change the theme and rulers to create perfectly level lines.  The precision was utterly disgusting but yet somehow exciting at the same time, I find the French people to be, in my opinion, the most apt to OCD in the world.  I also suddenly had an urge to use those weird multi lined bloc notes to organize and create some absolute precision in my writing.

Oh, and, the teacher's do not really want your opinion, even though they ask.  If you have the balls to answer, be prepared to be grilled on the topic until you turn a beet red in frustration and shrivel into your shirt.  They are talking at you, the underling, and you must simply note what they say.

Also, no homework. Everything is based on tests.

So advice for those wanting to pursue a degree in France?

  • Let go of the College Ruled paper, embrace the Bloc Notes
  • If possible, bring a computer
  • If possible, bring a charger
  • Don't eat during class, otherwise you will here some rampant mumblings about the American stereotype
  • 3 colors of pens
  • A ruler for lovely lines
  • LABEL LABEL LABEL (otherwise you'll end up like me and freaking out during dead week)
  • Buy a classeur to organize your notes
  • Ask if the teacher sends the slides
Team Work in France
I am lucky enough the have the experience to be in a class with 85% French people.  The only foreigners are myself, a girl from China, from Cambodia and from Spain.  In a class of 25 people, we are almost forced to work in a team with at least 2 Frenchies.

My first experience in a team was, well, lost in translation.  In the States I was the queen of leadership and team organization, toujours type A personality.  The biggest challenge was suddenly being thrown with 3 Frenchies for 3 hours to create a team presentation and project.

Their version?  Shout, debate and argue until we are exhausted enough to drag ourselves to get a coffee, drag ourselves back and argue once again until we vomit some form of work.  Luckily, I was able to organize the team enough to create an agenda, minimalize the arguing and come home with a freakin' awesome grade for my team.  Oh, if ever curious about grades, I wrote a blog on that: Grading in France, and we received an 18/20, because 20/20 only God can get, and 19/20 only teachers can get so we were 3rd.

  • Don't be afraid to Be American, make an Agenda and stick to it, even if they follow some random chemins of conversation
  • Speak slow and deliberate, even if they are shouting and speaking quickly
  • Understand the topic before you try and traite it
Les Partiels aka Final Exams
I got the handle on the note-taking during classes enough to start high-lighting and multi-color pen using to my heart's content.  I, however, was not prepared for the final exams.  As a girl in class warned me, Prépares-toi, j'ai reçu un 3/20 dans un examen l'année dérnière.  I gasped at that revelation and proceeded to memorize, and rememorize the material in order to simply barf it back up during the tests.

With my book size of notes I memorized facts, dates, chemins, charts, graphs, exhaustive explanations on Theories of Economics.  In French.  When the day of the test came it was like this:

  1. Read this 20 page case
  2. Analyse the case
  3. Regurgitate any relevant information on these University marked Sheets
    1. IN PEN
  4. You have 2 hours
Oh my goodness.  By the end of the week and 6 final exams (12 hours of writing in 3 days) my hand was literally cramping, my vision was blurry and I broke down crying on the Friday.

Did it pay off? Sure, the first exam I received back was 13/20, knowing the highest grade was 15.5... so I was not a dummy American who couldn't speak French!

  • Study constantly throughout the term
  • Record classes and relisten to difficult sessions (I relistened to the last two sessions)
  • Use black or blue ink, white out for mistakes
  • Use scrap paper to write thoughts and nice paper to rewrite
  • For a week before the exams restrain from English
  • GET SLEEP, staying up all night to study will not guarantee a better grade
So Now What?
Well, now, Wallstreet Institute is done, my last day, sadly, was last week.  I continue my tutoring, hoewever, pulling in an average of 8 students a week on top of classes I am taking.  I write my notes, retype my notes and relisten to classes.  My goals are to get the highest grade on one of the tests during the term, but it's only an over-achiever American hope of mine.

Next step is an Internship.   Oh LORD!


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Mime Land: Bri-Ism #1

Bri tells me:

There is an area in Paris called mime land in a banlieu where all the Mimes live.

He tells me that the bread must be bought daily but- it's imaginary bread. I asked, "it's not a scam paying for nothing?" he says, no that's the thing you mime that you are paying.

Bri says that's the reason mimes are so thin- they mime eating. That's also why the lifespan of a mime is limited to a few weeks. Once a mime decides to become a mime they have a few weeks.

He says: don't come across a mime before they die because they tend to smell terrible and look emaciated since: they mime showering, all personal hygiene, and eating.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Perfect Burger

Don't judge me but sometimes I am a horrible person and crave a juicy burger. Granted, I'll never find a replacement for the typical American burger but I did find a pretty freakin' good version the other day. Bri and I went out hunting for lunch on Friday and I was utterly miserable. My grandfather had died that morning and I wanted to drown my sorrows in a burger- strange? Yes. When sad I either don't eat or I do eat... Lots. When we wandered out, we decided to go by our typical joint: BIEH or best I ever had. Normally restaurants who market themselves in English scare me off... But honestly? I wanted a bacon cheeseburger.

So BIEH located on Rue Merciere, another touristy food place, is my typical go to place. They have milkshakes, Dr.Pepper and an awesome student menu for only 10$. Better to buy a burger in a restaurant than in MacDo in my opinion.

The burgers are thick, often in France a burger is what they call a 'steak haché' which is a thin hammered out ground beef patty flash cooked and served with French fries and not often with a bun.

At BIEH the burgers are served with typically cheddar style cheese, bacon and the squishy dough bun. Sauces on the side, home made French fries- yum.

If not I have heard only good things from Ninkasi, although Bri tells me it's horrible.

Worse comes to worse it's easy to by some steak haché from the boucherie- mine if you wish (Boucherie Centrale) and make it at home. Monoprix has all the delicious go-alongs and hey hen you can stack it.

Although I sure do miss a good Henry's burger or a mass produced Red Robin.

Any other recommendations?


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Home Made Latte in France

I live big coffee, those little pinky sized cups do me no good! Lucky enough I have a fabulous mother who understands this need and had smuggled over about 6 lbs of coffee now safely nustled away in the cupboard.

So how do I make my traveler latte?

Stars needed:
Creme anglaise
Coffe type French press
Hot water
Traveler cup

I simply make the coffee.
Pour in the creme.
Close he lid on the traveler.

Voila! Delicious and not the horrifying price of Starbucks in France.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Culture Shock: Things I Miss... Top 11

It's been more than one year since I've lived in France, recalling that I came with weak conversation skills and an open mind, one can't help getting homesick.  I thought recently, what is it that I truly miss? You know everyone has their weaknesses, the French I've met over the years displaced in Portland talk non stop about great baguettes or cheese.

For me I decided to compile a list, mostly to remember what's back at home and also a sort of 'To Do' checklist of things I want to do next summer if I can get back.

Starts with the Top Ten (Plus One).

  1. My Family. I received news over the weekend that my Grandfather is dying of cancer.  I had to call him from my ligne fixe and say goodbye over the phone.. it made me truly miss my family, my dad, my mom... my sister and my brother.  There is never a day that doesn't go by that it's difficult to not pick up the phone and say, Hey let's meet for lunch!
  2. My girlfriends. I had a close group of 4 girls that I'd been friends with since high school, one of which is a friend of about 10 years.  I am missing all their drama, drunken nights, our adventures around Portland.
  3. Portland. My city, my hometown.  While Lyon is charming in it's classy city life, Portland was so clean and fresh... a city of artists and nature lovers.  I worry I will go back and everything will have changed, hopefully for the positive.
  4. Taco Bell. Judge me if you must, but there is something familiar in those greasy tacos I'd buy at 3am in the morning with my girlfriends...
  5. Good Indian food. Sorry but Lyon has not impressed me in her Indian food, everything cultural in regards to foreign foods is completely "Frenchized', bread added to the menu, fois gras tossed into the sushi, bagels smeared with roquefort (YUCK).
  6. Good Sushi. Again, there's is something seriously wrong when my sushi has Fois Gras in it.  Mayonnaise? Good lord.  I just want a freakin' maki that's not 4€ a plate of 6 sushis.  I miss that cheap sushi that I could buy that was great quality.
  7. Real Happy Hour.  Oh man, can't even say how much I miss a Portland brew and a plate of greasy corn dogs and fries for only 5€.  I has just discovered happy hour for a year before I left to live in France, and in France... you know what Happy Hour is?  Discounts on drinks, but no food.
  8. Food Carts.  Yes, we got pizza carts and kebab carts, but no, not that awesome phenomenon from Portland... where at any hour in the night or day there's a cart set up with your heart's content of food.  Vegan tacos? Yes.  Greasy putine? Yes.
  9. Food Network. Enough said.
  10. Take Out Bags.  Man I miss going to a restaurant and having too much, then having leftovers for breakfast.  I'd be laughed out of a restaurant if I ever asked for a 'doggy bag'.
  11. American People. Yes, I know, we are nationalistic, we are fake and sometimes way too much but I miss that sometimes.. that whole comfortable way of talking to eachother. I miss not having to decide when to say vous and when it's appropriate to not? C'est compliqué. Man I miss being able to be myself in my language.
Can you tell I was hungry when I wrote this?  Are there things you miss?


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Day in the Life of a Masters Student in France

Well, it's a give-in that a Master's degree is difficult... I never assumed stepping into a year intensive course would be a piece of cake or walk in the flower garden. Of course I was utterly unprepared for the sheer force that has presented itself to me in the form of a Master's degree in France. The amount of classes, reading, theoretical studying, application theories, group or team projects.

I simply thought I'd bundle up the feeling in the Day in the Life post just so it's clear how hard it is.

I'll take a Monday as an example, which tends to be the day I have a crise and ask myself: why, why, WHY!!!

7:00am - alarm blares. I don't want to get up, bed is warm, but need to make coffee if ever going to make it through the day. I hit the snooze and jump up at 8am stressed already. As my coffee brews I surf for about 5 minutes and then jump into some team work and studying. Around 9am I decide I can't go to school in my pajamas, so I shuffle through clothes I managed to wash over the weekend and splash some cold water on my pufft eyes. I figure just mascara is okay today.

9:40am - Bri clings to me and tries to make me late, I think it is some form of French conspiracy, he is always late therefore I should be to. I peel him off, quick peck goodbye and shoot out the door to barely make it to class by..

10:00am - Class starts. I am feeling terribly rusty in my French and the teach is rapid fire spitting out theories left and right, I note as fast as my hand will allow as this is the teach that refuses computers. In her own words, "je suis vielle France, pas des ordinateurs." Lovely. I scratch out words, highlight and in the end it looks like a 5 year old art project with a scattering of question marks here and there.

11:30am - break. 60% of the class heads outside to smoke. I eyeball the cigarettes warily and now understand why stressed people start.

12:00pm - More rapid fire French. Explication of some project we are doing with the region that has no plan and no direction, but for us to figure it out.

1:00pm - Brian brings me lunch, I eat for 15 minutes and then cry and whine for 45 minutes. Some key words: I'll never pass.

2:00pm - comes too quickly. Today is a work day so I get my first taste of a reunion in France. We have an issue to work through and we crash our brains trying to hash it out. My French is still warming up so it feels like the most I offer is mmhmm or oui bonne idee. The student teacher rolls over and critics us as well as adding a dash of criticism over my writing abilities in French. I feel like switching to English and being all like- "oh bitch, no you didn't!". All our work after 3 hours is apparently crap so we all feel defeated, my brain decides not to cooperate and I say screw it and head to work..

5:30pm - work starts. Nothing eventful except I mention dropping my resignation letter and I get an email saying I owe 200 bucks for an accounting error on an insurance policy that was required that I never even used. I now regret not going to the dentist or something.

6:00pm - realize I have about 4 people to present to instead of the usual 3. My French now decides to cooperate but I think it's just simple exhaustion.  As I get on a roll, I realize about halfway through my presentation how exhausted I actually am.  As all 4 students listen and nod, I feel sort of on auto drive... thankfully I have had experiences in theater so it's sort of like acting... I guess..

7:20pm - finally done with presentation.  Mouth is starting to hurt from the focus on trying to pull off a less American accent.  I plop in front of my work screen and brain shuts off.  Go through the motions until...

8:00pm - why isn't the student done with their lab work yet?? I go and tap on their shoulder.

8:20pm - student finally wanders out, I grab my bags and drag myself home.

8:40pm - come home, Bri clings to me as I try to shuffle around the kitchen and pull some fragments of a meal together.

9:00pm - something is plated.  I eat, without really tasting it.

10:00pm - drag myself to bed, try to read a little bit for my class, type up some notes and then I am out.

And.  That is my life at the moment.


Sunday, October 2, 2011

Release of the New Petit Paumé!

Hey all!

I received an email from one of the organizers from Petit Paumé... apparently the new season has just arrived and it is time.. to pick up.. your new french copy.....!

If you have no idea what Petit Paumé is, check out my post from a few months back:  The Petit Paumé.

Basically to summarize it's a special Lyon based guide and discount booklet for all those living in Lyon.  Pretty much a fabulous way to save cash and get some awesome advice (not to mention pratice le skills françaises) the new 2012 season has officially arrived.

Where to get a copy?

Well my little Petit-Paumé bird, Etienne, has informed me that next weekend on October 8th, starting at 12h30, Place Bellecour, free copies will be distributed until they have run out.

I have to work that day, but I've decided to send Bri out to get my copy in my absence.

Enjoy the savings and réductions!


Friday, September 30, 2011

Language Help: Common Things in French

During my mom's visit I realized there were quite a few things I got used to living without, that she hadn't.  Or even moreso things I realized I figured out but had no idea what the word was when I first moved to France.  Sorry for the lack of proper accents on my French words in this post, I'm using one of my American computers and searching for the accents exhausts me.

I'd like to take a post to revisit some of those typical things and give the French equivalent, once again:

Around the House

Bleach - Eau de Javel
fabric softener - appsouplissant
detergent - lessive lave-linge
sensitive skin - peau sensible
dishwasher detergent - lessive pour lave-vaisselle
hand soap - savon
stain remover - detachant
stain - tache
a rag - un chiffon
dish towel (in EVERY French home) - un torchon
a sponge - une eponge

In the Kitchen  
(I'll only do the most basic, I recommend this site for more information)
wine opener - tire bouchon
bottle of wine - une bouteille du vin
wine glass - un verre du vin
ice cubes - des glacons
cookbook - un livre de cuisine
recipe - une recette
cold drink - une boisson fraiche
water - de l'eau

Spices or Food Stuffs
(Same as above, not too much detail since it is a lot of words, instead try THIS SITE!)
peanut oil - huile de cacahuete
organic - bio
snack - gouter (often they say, "l'heure de gouter" which is a small snack around 4pm)
cut in slices (can order this at the boulangerie) - faire en tranches, ou couper en tranches
bacon - lardon ou poitrine fume/sale

Business Outside of Apartment
the bank - la banque
the apartment managers office - la regie
university - le fac
university cafeteria - CafeT
savings  - epargne
pay check - un bulletin de paie
grocery store - super marche

That's about what I can come up with on the top of my head... but here are some more resources to understand and learn specific French words:

Lyon Eats Food Resource
French Linguistics Word Reference Site

And of course, if ever any questions simply shoot me a mail!

Tomorrow is October 1st, and I still can't believe how quickly September went.  Yikes.  Look forward to more posts coming up, I have got to try and stay on top of it.. but with a Masters program and 18 hours a week of work.. well life's barely life.

Tant pis!


Friday, September 23, 2011

Advice: Le Master in France

The day after mom left I had no time to be emotional, the sadness from the morning wore off as I returned to worked and drowned myself in telephone calls and student follow ups.  Quick enough that too passed and I found myself zombieing towards the direction of school to go to one of my many many classes for my Master's program in France.  That's right, after a year of intensive French via the CIEF program at Lyon II I enrolled into a specialty International Management Master under the Frenchity-French name of: Master 2 en Internationale Management des Petites et Moyens Entreprises et Entreprises Tailles Intermediares.  Simply put in our 25 people class slang, M2PMETI.

Classes officially started last week, of course I was stressing before they even begun.  I remembered the foreign students in my Business classes- how, in utmost honesty, I dreaded having them on my team because I knew we'd have to explain everything.  During roleplays we'd give them the easy role, minimalist lines and try to support them... I was going to become that foreigner.  A week before the classes were to start I already started to have nightmares, I would show up to class and suddenly all my French would disappear and I couldn't understand a word from the teacher ni the students.

Of course starting off wasn't super easy either, looking back at last week my notes are written in short-hand, scribbled nonsense sentences and sometimes a vocabulary word scratched on the top of the paper with a huge QUESTION MARK.  It was nice having some recognition for what I am doing, I kept mentioning l'importance de changer le stéréotype Américain, that, ce n'est pas juste que dans le domaine des affaires tout le monde faut parler en Anglais.  I pushed the fact that I was the only business student AMERICAN that I knew with such a fluent level and respect for the French culture.

See, most people who come over, come to sort of suck up the culture.  Learn about the literature, the gastronomy, cooking skills, methodology to teach French back in the States- I decided to utilize my strength and experience in Business and learn that aspect.

Plus a Master in France only costs like 250€ payable in 3 installements of 83€!  Calculating my Master costs in the US made my head spin- and I couldn't stand the fact I would have to rack up more debt to get an education.. so I bit the bullet and found a program that fit my goals and applied.

The interview was in July; with a lovely lady who seemed ravie that I had applied to the program.  I was the first American in a long time, I would be a great part of the program.. etc.  Plus I'd get to try and do an INTERNSHIP with a company in Lyon... which is another stress in my mind.....

Now the question, what is it like in a French Masters Program?

Well, hard of course.  There is always the language barrier- which some professors are kind and give lots of synonyms during their lectures so we foreigners understand- but unfortunately it's not always that easy.  I have one professor that talks so fast I only have a moment to digest what he said and get it until he suddenly jets off in a separate direction... I have the innate feeling he has a slight ADD... but it's dommage because he is one cute dude. (But married for those of you looking for the marriage way of staying in France).

I have a mix of classes, Business Plan classes, classes about the Industrial Economy... I think the hardest part about the information is the changing of the words.  In business the French have tried to find equivalent words for everything we already have jargon for in the States- for example a Greenfield Venture has now become ex nihilo.  WTF?

Now, probably wondering how to get all enrolled in a Master program in France?  It's quite easy:

  1. Go to the Lyon 2 or Lyon 3 website and search what they offer as formations or masters
  2. Pick out what you like and sign up online to deposer un candidature
  3. Remember all those pesky documents: releves des notes, lettre de motivation, CV
  4. Apply once all documents are ready
  5. Wait for a response
If you are nervous about your carte de séjour running out- fret not because when you reapply you don't need proof of school until September.  They understand students are waiting for a response..

And word to the wise:  Don't attempt a Master's Program in France until you watch French news and understand what is going on.  Otherwise opt for an English based program (such as those offered at Lyon 3) or a language based program (such as the CIEF)

bonne chance!


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Pain of Distance

There is something that little blog writers touch- so focused on the adoration for the country, the how to survive guides and the self promoting glory I'd snagging a European lover... We forget the pain of being thousands of miles away from those we love and care about.

It has been one year since I have moved to France and mom finally was able to make a visit for a good chunk of 3 weeks from August to today. Today is that inevitable day that tends to come too quickly, the day she has to leave. In a year of living in Europe I tended to compartmentalize all those snaggy emotions with work or studies, I forgot what that pain felt like one year ago when dad, mom and bro waved me in tears at the airport in Portland.

It is not easy to say goodbye to a lover, it is just as painful to wave goodbye to a known life and family. The joy of them visiting tends to trump the sadness for the short term until you let yourself get comfortable with coming home to mom... And then as fast as it started you come home and she is gone.

Let me give a piece of advice to those wanting to do the European adventure: you are going to have to say goodbye eventually. In my case it was either to Bri or to my Parents... It's a well known sadness that I am carrying and I know exactly what to do to not feel it. If you have never been away from home, or never gone on vacation alone prepare yourself emotionally avant departure. Otherwise the shock could change your very core.

Lots of love to those who say goodbye,


Sunday, September 18, 2011

What-What: Le Jardin des Dombes

Hidden in a non-descript alley in la Croix Rousse in Lyon is a restaurant that I have fallen head over heels for.  How could one not be in love when there is a menu for 25 euros for a dish of unlimited frog legs?

Of course, today being my big 24th birthday I decided the best way to celebrate was to haul my Mom and Bri to an all-you-can-eat frog leg palace and make it worth it.  I mean, all you can eat buffets are one thing, but an endless supply of frog legs are a rarity in France... plus seeing Bri's eyes go wide with joy only makes the experience even better.

Le Jardin des Dombes was the first restaurant I searched in France when I had a huge craving for frog around our anniversary in February.  I was even more excited to drag my American mother into the local restaurant and share the experience of sucking tiny little frog bones and waddling home with a stomach coated in butter and parsley.  Plus what better way to enjoy her last Sunday in France, and my goal to truly profit and get as round as possible before I end up having to study all the time.

We crawled up to the restaurant, only taking slight detours to purchase some pastries for my birthday, and sitting down I looked at the young waiter and simply stated, on va prendre trois de votre menu grenouille à volonté. He smiled, nodded and collected our menus.

Quickly we smelt the frying of the legs and a giant dish was placed in front of our faces.  Brian dished out the frogs and gave a short presentation on our frog eating skills, pull apart this leg, take of this meat, suck on that part. Soon enough we were in a feeding frenzy of frog dipping our bread into the sauce and eating the tiny sticks of meat.

Amazingly, as a Sunday, it was packed and full of families sucking down frog.  I leaned over the edge of the upstairs seating area to watch the older couples eating together.  I looked at Bri, I want to be like that, and after the 3rd plate of frogs we were filled.

Toss in a couple of pots du vin and mix in a serving of home made ice cream and we were stuffed.  The best part of the restaurant however, was the conversation afterwards.  I smiled at the young waiter and the chef who had wandered upstairs (we were the last); Est-ce que c'est bien un restaurant familial ici? The chef nodded, warmly and pointed to the young waiter, Il est mon fils et ma soeur, elle travaille ici des fois aussi donc, ouais, c'est familial ici.  I nodded and added, j'adore ça, j'adore les entreprises qui sont familials, etc.  As the chef wandered downstairs, I sparked a conversation with the waiter and he asked, vous venez d'où exactement? I replied, les états-unis, je suis une américaine, I mentioned my Master, he joked about the difference between Lyon 2 and Lyon 3.

The joys of the Jardin des Dombes were over as quickly as they started and I waved as I left.

Experiences in life are as quickly as they start, c'est la vie, and so I realized in the little family restaurant up in the Croix Rousse that typical French family environment...

Also, word to the wise, the menu isn't translated.  That way we know it's good.


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Advice: English Books

I've had a lot of questions surrounding the wherabouts of English books, even myself in my Master's program I haven't read a book in French just for the pure pleasure of it.  English books are easier to read and tend to be more interesting to digest... many times it loses that flavor in translation-- no one wants a flavorless book.

Thus I've decided to discuss where to find English books, either to have for families with bilingual children or for those who simply love to read (like myself).

First off, the big stores:

Decitre next to Bellecour has a great section of Anglophone books, so much so sometimes I wonder why they even bother having French books.  The issue is all the books are new, ie costly, and so we run the risk of spending lots of money for good reads.  Anglophone books, like British goodies, are considered import commodities so they get away with charging even more than normal.

Looking for USED English books?  Gilbert Joseph off La Rue des Marronniers offers a buy-back program for books as well as a section (third story, in the back) of used English books.  It's also great for those who have a pile of English books and are ready for a change... can't guarantee that they will buy for a lot of cash, but in regards to changing it up... good deal.  I was able to find a book sold at 10€ at Decitre for only 4€ at Gilbert Joseph.  The pricing changes, as does the availability... it's sort of a hunt for what you want.

Amazon.com of course is another option for those not willing to scout for Anglohpone books- the best deal however is that in France books are FREE DELIVERY with Amazon.  Not sure if it's a regulated country law or simply out of the graciousness of their hearts (have a hard time believing that one) but it remains a fact.

Fnac also has an Anglophone section, but their prices tend to fluctuate towards unaffordable.  Hoewever if you have loads of cash and want a good ol' Anglophone library feel free!

For those with children in tow, or even French families looking to expand their bilingual repetoire- there is a fabulous Children's Bilingual bookstore in the 6ème, next to Rue Vendôme, called Inter Fun.  Not only do they have English children's books but also German or Spanish for those looking to get that trilingual action in sooner than later.

Those are some resources that I've found.  When in doubt scan the online ads for English books, I saw some listings at Little Britain recently that offered some great children's books for as little as 1€ a book!


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

How Did I Get Here?

Growing up I had nothing, I remember I proudly wore my used clothes and somehow always made friends. I lived in a two room cabin for the first few years of grade school- but at school I had friends, I was not so much popular but just-- enigmatic. I could control a room with my presence. I remember my Grandmother- who raised me until I was 14- would clean hotels and homes to make our eating money.

At the time it was safer for me to live in Forks, away from the drama of the divorce. My mom worked anything she could and send any extra money to us. I was on those trees you see at Christmas- little girl wishes for the new Barbie, an expensive Tyco play thing. Those good people in that town were my family- my friends just as poor as myself. How did I get here? Sometimes I tend to forget my roots, until I have conversations with the Cleaning Lady at my office and I feel this absolute understanding. I see my grandmother in her, and I know what her daughter does...

I am in France. I came from nothing, wrapped in hand me down church clothes and now I am in a masters program in France. Not to say anything was ever easy, I have only known challenges in my life. Thanks to the work and love from my family I pushed myself to get here. Nothing was handed to me on a platter.

Don't ever let anyone tell you it's impossible- if you want to come to France, make it happen. You don't have to pay 20,000$ a year to make the dream a reality.

I am living proof and I am only going to get better.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

My Life in France

How many times can I read Julia Childs memoir before I commit every word to memory? I think for anyone considering moving to France there are two books to pack in the suitcase: My Life in France and Mastering the Art of French Cooking. For the latter I picked it up late in the afternoon today after an exhausting week of- well secretive and non titled filming for an American show. Reliving my move to France made me remember that mystified feeling I had stepping over the border. As Julia fabulously put it, "I fell in love with the food, the people and the baguettes." So many Americans have used her dream to create their own sometimes I even forget that I happen to be living the dream.

From the markets to the French debates over an endless flow of table wine. Reading through her blatant and romantic recollections has made me remember why I am so lucky.

One year ago I was curious where I would be in a year- I kept writing my discoveries in order to simply share knowledge and a collective laugh. Sometimes France has been cruel- the culture surprisingly different from my own. Sometimes I've regretted even moving- until I lean out my window on a Sunday afternoon and the church bells ring in the distance. I prance through the markets and order my local products and lounge around snacking on fresh fruits and vegetables. I debate loudly and convincingly in French- talking louder and more forceful instead of waiting a turn to speak. I wave and chat with those on my street, not needing their names just feeling as though they really are part of this new home. I have even felt the change, seeing my mom come and realizing that even though I am still myself, I have accepted Lyon into my heart.

It's a challenge and a pleasure and it's my own life in France.

This month will have many more posts as I continue to discover the parts of Lyon that make me happy.

Donc. A bientôt.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I'm Californian French! (Bus Adventures)

Est-ce que c'est bien le bus pour Bellecour? The little old lady asked me, curiousity on her face.  I tried to explain back that yes, it would go to the center which was indeed Bellecour.

She stared at me behind her large black sunglasses and said, "Anglaise?" I smiled, used to this question and shook my head, "Non, Américaine!".

She paused, I thought perhaps I used too much gusto in the American statement and waited for her to respond. She threw her hands up smiling, "I'm American!... well French Californian!" as if California were it's own country.  Her strong French accent led me to believe she was instead a crazy old French lady who was mocking me.

I nodded and said, "that's nice" and was ready to turn to stare at the seat in front of me... except she continued.

Not only did she continue, she talked all the way to Bellecour.

"I moved to California in 1959, can you imagine?  I lived there 50 years and had this... how do you say... urge to move back and see Lyon.  I am so disappointed with Lyon, it was nothing as I remember.  The city has gotten dirty, the people are mean.  I love Americans!  I think younger French want to go to America... and I understand why."

I nodded and agreed, it was true, French culture was a shock to me... but I love Lyon equally as I do my own city in Oregon.  I asked her where she lived in California;

"Well, I don't want to BRAG or anything, but I lived in Beverly Hills... I'm no millionaire but I do have money for an old woman.  I had a great life there, Beverly Hills was so wonderful... you know I never took the bus in LA, I drove everywhere... I had this lovely big car.  I married a man from IOWA, can you believe it, an Iowan.  It was fabulous my life in California... my family.  Now be honest, you hate France don't you?  I can see it in your eyes!  It's okay to admit it, I hate it here too.  See?  Now Americans are all afraid to say what they think until they realize I understand!"

I just nodded, in a way I didn't like Lyon but in a huge way I did. Our bus got to our stop and she stopped talking, looked over and said, "Well dear, that's our stop.. nice talking to you," and she blows an air kiss and steps off the bus.  No exchange

She was probably around 70 years old, visiting her home town... disappointed and feeling betrayed as if she left a dream and came back to nothing.

Adventures in public transportation are so interesting.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Culture Shock: The Dreaded Prefecture

It's 5:30 in the morning, I glance at my iPhone clock not registering that I'm supposed to be up in a matter of minutes. I decide to quiet the alarm, just to close my eyes for a few more minutes. Silence. The alarm blasts, 6:15 in the morning. I'm exhausted and there's a pit in my stomach I know I have to head down to the prefecture in 20 or so minutes. Last time I was too late, I arrived only 1 hour early and the line was shocking. I cried because they turned me down at the door, telling me il n'y a plus des tickets pour les étudiants.

This time I was prepared, I packed a book, a sitting towel, if needed some water and pims. I thought about the 2 hour wait as I gulped down my cereal without tasting it- stones in milk really. Sustenance.  I kept thinking about all the times I've had to wait, at airports, in line, hoping it won't be too horrendous.

I decide to avoid the bus. I grab, magically, the only bike available on my street. As if something, somewhere was giving me a karmic break. As I bike I feel the stone grow heavy, doubts creep into my mind: what if there are even more people waiting? What if I'm too late again? What if i'm aggressed while waiting? What if I have to pee?

I park my bike and stride to my destination, there are already 20 or so people lined up, either sitting or pressed against the wall. I pull into the line, spread my blue towel on the dirt ground and take my place.  I look curiously around at the crowd, mostly a mix of Chinese students prolonging their visas and asile or 'asylum' internationals looking to stay under the safety of France.  We are all miserable, exhausted and bored.

Tell me, how is it such an organized country like France can be so underdeveloped in regards to their visa visitors.  No reservations ahead of time, wait in line and fight for a place. Those that come in late somehow get a place in the front, most likely greasing some people who camp out over night. It's truly a gamble- how late can I be until ts too late? One time I was able to get there at 8am and served by 12... It's a variable situation with no alternative. Students, victims of other countries and other such issues are dealt with in one understaffed building in the 3ème arrondissement in Lyon. If the tickets run out you won't be served that day no matter how long you wait.
It's already 28 degrees, I'm thankful they open at 9am. I literally feel the humanity peeling off as I tense up and glare at those passing in front of me.

Finally 9am rolls around, I stand, stretching the stifness out of my legs.  The door is having issues, we are blocked outside for antoher 20 minutes.

Inside, I don't get served until 11:00 am.  Bri brings me a chilled mocha, I drink at it dazed, exhausted.  By the time I leave it has been 4.5 hours since I arrived in the line.

It was one of the worst experiences. Ever.
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