Deuteronomy 31:6

Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


I am currently enjoying the marvelous hospitality of my dear friends, the Hadleys.  My flights were canceled to come home, so now I'm staying here an extra couple days.  I have a flight scheduled to go out on the 24th, which will get me into Chicago around 2:30pm Chicago time on Christmas Eve.  I want to say again how blessed I am to know the Hadleys.  I know I've said it before, but it just needs to be said again.  They not only opened their home to me for two nights, planned to drive me to the Lyon airport, have fed me many a meal, and in general fill me with joy-which has not happened in quite a while.  I don't know what I would do without them.
And now, since my flights have changed around like crazy, they are letting me stay with them another day and night, and are taking me to the train station to get to Paris.  They are without a doubt some of the best people I know.

Monday, December 13, 2010

French Film

Two weeks ago, my professor in my Modern France class was sick.  We thought that we just had a free day, but alas, we had to make up the class that she canceled.  With so little time left in the semester, she decided it would be easiest if we all just went to see a movie.  So that is what we did tonight.  It was more or less about the issue of immigration and its effect on the country (I think).  But, being a French movie, there was a whole lot of taking off clothes.  At one point, the girl is so scattered that she leaves her house completely naked and doesn't realize it until she's sitting on the train.  I think the guy was a taxidermist, and the girl was an activist who would sleep with people to change their political opinions.  He was trying to hide his ancestry (I think he was adopted, but his birth parents were Greek Jews who were killed at Auschwitz) and she is half Algerian, and her father's family was killed in the French-Algerian War.  It was an interesting story to say the least, and I can understand why she picked it.  However, if given an option, I'd probably still watch Les Choristes over any other French movie.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Where did the time go?

As of yesterday, I only have three weeks left in France.  It feels much like the chocolate truffle in my mouth- a little bitter, a little sweet, and so rich.  This is not to say that my leaving is rich, but more my experience has been rich.  Here are some things I have learned thus far:

-Getting from place to place, hurrying along, and not appreciating what is around you is futile.
-Not everyone can be (or should be) as obsessive compulsive as me when it comes to organization.
-This has been proven over and over again to me: God will provide you with a family even when you're away from your own.
-Learning another language in another country is more exhausting than you can imagine.
-Showers don't need to be attached to the wall.
-Saying you are from Chicago now is associated with Obama as well as Capone.
-Americans tend to get a bad rap- and for true reasons.  Let's try to change that, shall we?
-Saying all Frenchmen are rude is like saying all Americans are New Yorkers.
-French cuisine surpasses any other country's cuisine.  No contest.
-It is amazingly difficult to deal with sorrow in another country, but in the end (I hope) it will make you stronger.
-The French are all about public transportation, and it is fantastic.
-French shoes are great.

Obviously, I have learned more: such as correct grammatical phrasing, how pronouncing one letter differently in a word can mean something entirely different, and other educational things.  However, the above list is what I have found to be most important, as least, from thinking off the top of my head.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


I again apologize for the delay.  I'll get around to explaining that soon.

After yet another ridiculous experience with the airplane, Camille, Jacqueline, and I arrived in Dublin to be met by my mom's friend, Linda.  By the time we got to her house, we were all so exhausted (and I was starting to get sick), we just stayed in, ordered a pizza, and watched Friends.
The next day, Linda graciously offered to take us to New Grange and Monasterboice.  New Grange is the oldest burial site in the world-even older than the pyramids- and it was incroyable.  After a quick lunch, we headed off to Monasterboice, and got lost twice on the way there.  Monasterboice is a cemetery with the most beautiful Irish crosses I have ever seen.  On the way back to her house, Linda dropped us off at the bus stop and we went to Dublin.  By the time we got there, we were very hungry and night was falling, so we headed to Temple Bar for dinner and drinks.  Let me just say, Irish pubs are probably the most exciting and fun environment ever created.  There is live music at every pub at night, and each one is so packed you would think you were at the Paris Disney store at Christmas.  Let me rephrase, you would think you were in a mosh pit.  We headed upstairs, where there was a very attractive bartender who let us try different beers before ordering, and ate dinner.  I know there are some people who absolutely love Guinness, but let me say this: Guinness is the most disgusting drink I have ever tasted.  I only ordered a half pint, and was determined to finish it, which I did eventually, but not without gagging.  We did some shopping in that area, went to another pub to listen to music, and then headed back to Linda's. 
On our last day, we went back to Dublin and made it there in time for breakfast.  We did some sightseeing, had coffee at Bewley's (thank you to my sister for sending me recommendations), and went to see the Guinness factory.  It was a whole lot of walking, so when the time came to go back to Linda's to make dinner, it was very welcome.  We made dinner for Linda and that evening watched some of her favorite shows with her.
Overall, a lovely trip to Ireland, and a wonderful fall break.  And now, some photos.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Sorry for the delay, my life has been awfully crazy the past few weeks.  So, back to Chester,

Chester was marvelous.  I loved spending time with Drew and Saz, and I even got to see Mr. Robert Marshall!  The first morning there, we were awoken with quite a surprise: the fire alarm at 6am.  It was a drill, but we were up in the attic where there was no light, I couldn't find my glasses, and we had to climb down steep stairs to find a number of security personnel and other bleary-eyed confused college students (by that, I mean Saz's housemates).  We went back to bed and then got up to meet Drew for an early lunch.  We walked around the town, which is the last English town completely surrounded by a wall.  Cool, hey?  Drew was an excellent tour guide and explained the importance of various towers along the wall as well as the newly-found arena.  A family was digging in their backyard and found an old Roman coin.  So, they brought it to the historical center, and then they found more, and eventually the historical center starting digging and they found a gladiator atrium.  They could only uncover half of it, because otherwise, they would have to tear down a building built in the 800s, I think.  Such a young building comparatively!
After lunch, we did some touristy shopping, and I bought a book called "Six Creepy Sheep".  It's a kids' Halloween book about sheep who go trick-or-treating.  How could I pass it up?  That night, we had dinner with Saz and I ordered my first beer.  It was a Carlsburg's with black currant.  It wasn't bad, but I couldn't finish it.
The next morning, Saz and I took Camille and Jacqueline to the bus stop so they could go to London for the day.  After we dropped them off, we enjoyed a lovely breakfast at Caffe Nero, and then Saz headed to class.  I spent the morning figuring out the Ireland itinerary and watching chick flicks.  So marvelous.  Drew and I met up to go to Wales for the afternoon, and let me tell you, that may have been one of my favorite parts of the trip.  Here's a quick summary:
We started in Rome

Then, we hopped a train past some sheep

and ended up in a North Carolina beach town.

We then went to a carnival on a pier, which made me feel like I was in a Nicholas Sparks novel.

Then, we climbed a hill to go to Duidia.

and went further up the hill to Wonderland, complete with carved figures of the Cheshire Cat, the White Hare, and the tea party.

Further up, we found a door in a wall, so naturally we went through it and found ourselves at an Alpine ski lodge.

The line was too long to do the luge, so instead, we followed a goat we saw roaming around a hill.

We ended up in Narnia.

Filled with child-like energy, we sprinted down the hill and up another to find ourselves in the land of the free-roaming goats and sheep.

And this concluded our trip to Wales.  We had dinner in Llandudno (the Welsh town) and then headed back to England so I could catch an overnight bus to the airport to meet Camille and Jacqueline.

Friday, November 5, 2010


Sweden was just beautiful.  We got to Linnea's house a bit after midnight, and when we got there, Richard was already at work making dinner for us.  The next day, we slept in, had breakfast (oh how I have missed granola!) and then Linnea and Richard took us to an old part of town.  Everything was still set up as the daily life, which of course I found wonderful.  Plus, all of the doors were Abby-sized!  We walked about there for a while, spend time in the glorious gift shop, and then headed out to a little cafe in the country for Fika.  All of the girls were smushed into the back seat, which made for an interesting half hour drive.  The cafe was beyond cute, and right across the gravel parking lot (I always love those) was a yarn store!  Here are some pictures of that day.

Les filles- we were making different faces throughout the whole thing, and I look least like a fool in this one.

 Spice organ.

Candy in the gift shop.

The lovely Linnea.

Old school phone booth.

Cardamom roll break.


Pastries at the cafe.

Lunch- Goat cheese, tomato, and cucumber sandwich and Almond coffee.

Dessert- chocolate cake.

Poorly assembled panoramic shot from the little pier.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Swedish Train Rides

Well, this trip has started off pretty poorly.  We've had so many problems with transportation, it makes me want to cry.  We took the bus to the first train, and it was going fine.  I ended up sitting next to a Swedish guy who spoke English, and we were just talking about Sweden, where we were from and things like that.  He was a very amiable fellow and even offered me a beer, which I declined.  He liked making jokes, which weren't always funny, but he laughed at them.  Once or twice, I turned around to ask Karl a question and the guy (Lawrence?  Something like that, only in Swedish) kept saying that I was a very nice girl and petted my arm.  In the half hour or so that I was with him, he probably polished off a beer and a half.  At one point, he said that my friend was very lucky.  I then had to assure him that Karl was just a friend, not a boyfriend.  He laughed and said "Yes, there are 'just friends' but that doesn't mean they don't f*** around!"  I didn't laugh and explained to him that things like that were offensive, not funny.  He apologized sincerely and said that he misread me.  What that means, I don't know exactly.  We kept talking and he asked what I was studying and what I wanted to do.  Once again, I got to face the confused looks that accompany my explanation that I'm a BTS and French major and want to have a bakery.  He asked if baking was something the church required.  I didn't totally understand what he meant, and I told him that I want to have a bakery because I want to care for people.  I guess he meant "Is caring for people something required by the church?"  I started to explain that yes, it is the point of the church, when he said "This is a very good conversation.  But, excuse me, I have to use the toilet.  Don't drink my beer while I'm gone."  Unfortunately, he didn't return before I had to get off the train to catch the next one.  It was quite an experience.
Right now, I'm sitting on a train (not moving) and it's the second to last one before I get to Linnea's.  The last train had to skip our train station and they took us on a bus to the next train stop.  We had to wait in the cold for almost 45 minutes, and we still have to take another train after this.  If there ever was a time to have a teleportation device, this would be it.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

There and Back Again

I'm going to put up my adventures piece by piece, so here we go.

Today, I woke up after a restless four hours of sleep to find I may not have a way to reach Linnea's house in Sweden.  In a panicked frenzy, Camille, Jacqueline and I tried to buy train tickets online but to no avail.  We agreed to just buy them upon our arrival, and we began the half hour walk to the train station.  There is nothing quite like seeing a town at 5 am, after most people have returned from bars and clubs and before the early risers head off to work.  We walked across town and arrived at the train station by about 5:40.  When we got there, we learned that our train had been canceled and they could offer us two trains to get to Paris an hour later therefore without time to get to our shuttle to the airport.  As the train company would not provide payment for a taxi for us, we decided this was the best we could get.  We arrived in Lyon and waited for about half an hour to get on our TGV to Paris.  I know that I don't stay upset long, but my irritation and worry hadn't left me since we left Saint-Etienne.  I fell asleep to the sunrise, and when I awoke an hour later, with Coldplay singing in my ear and the French countryside rushing past me, along with the knowledge that I would see Karl and Linnea soon, I realized that my annoyance had melted with the warmth of the sunlight.

The French countryside is truly so beautiful.  We pass small lakes surrounded by trees which remind me a bit of The King's Stilts by Dr. Suess, wide farmlands somehow different than the cornrows of the Midwest, and everything so green and lovely I can hardly take it in.  Here's to my European adventure!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Ode to Public Transportation

I don't know what it is about public transportation that is so seductively calming.  Perhaps it is the gentle rocking of the car as you hear the motor groan, or maybe just the idea that you are going somewhere.  At the moment, I am in somewhat of a state of euphoria, having just spent the past three hours sitting in a cafe reading, writing letters, and listening to Jars of Clay just loud enough to make me blissfully unaware of the Stephanoise going in and out of the cafe.  It could also be that after spending so long in a cafe doing things I enjoy in solitude, I walked around a lovely area complete with old buildings, a large church, several fountains, and a gazebo.  Or maybe that my fingers, exposed to the bitter sting of an early winter through my newly made fingerless gloves, were being warmed by a freshly made Nutella crepe at a stand next to the gazebo.  The combination of all of these things which leaves me so relaxed that I feel like I just took a three hour long bubble bath complete with scented candles and classical music, made me nearly miss my bus stop.  Ah, such bliss.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Sight Worth Seeing

I live at the top of a fairly large hill-at least, large compared to my home town.  Every morning, I walk the ten minutes down the hill, down the street, and on to my three-hour grammar lesson.  On days like today, with a dreary fog obscuring the typical view of the hills, trees, and red-roofed houses, there is nothing terribly exciting to look at: a parking lot, a forgotten gym, a car repair shop, and a few dozen parked cars on the street.  At the bottom of the hill, though, there is a sight that I enjoy seeing nearly every day.  There is an older couple going for a walk.  They are probably in their seventies, if not older, both with canes, and walking arm-in-arm.
He looks exactly like the elderly French man you would see in films, complete with the woolen Newsie-esque cap, an aged but dignified blazer-just a little bit too big for him, and his woman holding his arm.  She has the classic floral head scarf tied around her hair, large glasses, a trench coat the same shade of tan as her husband's coat, and is holding her husband's arm more to guide him than depend on his strength for support.  This is probably the way their marriage worked over the years-he loves her and supports her and she helps him in all the ways that she can.
What I notice most though, is the tiny steps their fragile bodies allow.  Neither one rushes the other in desperation to catch the next tram, but rather they take their time and enjoy the silence-only interrupted by the sound of the bus groaning up the hill- that only such a dreary morning can offer.  Instead of being frustrated that they no longer move as quickly as the 20 year-old foreigner that is watching them, they smile at each other.  They enjoy the peace that comes from walking beside the one they love as they most likely have for the greater part of their lives.  If that isn't a testament to what it means to "grow old together", I don't know what is.

Monday, October 11, 2010

French Appreciation

I really am loving it here, and here are some reasons why:

1. The coffee is spectacular.
2. Breakfast does not consist of incredibly heavy food (like delicious biscuits and gravy, which I admit I do miss) but rather something as simple as bread and jam or nutella and a bowl of coffee.  Yes, a BOWL of coffee.
3. People actually enjoy their time and know how to relax.  As irritating as it is when the internet goes out and I have to wait until a "trained professional" comes to reset the wireless router, it really is a tribute to understanding that there are more important things than work.
4. There is that gloriously long break for lunch which allows for good conversation or a pleasant hour to read.  At home, I would be embarrassed to go to lunch by myself because I would be afraid that I would look like a loser (as much as I hate to admit that).  Today, however, my friends had forgotten that they had some things they had to do and were unable to go to lunch.  Therefore, I went to Meli Melo, a lovely sandwich shop, bought lunch, and then sat at a table enjoying said lunch and reading.  I didn't feel lame at all, and it was one of the more enjoyable lunch breaks that I have had.
5. Shoes.  My sister can attest to the fact that I have become addicted to French shoes.  Almost any time I am walking down the street, I always stop and look at shoes in the window, and even sometimes go into the stores.  I have only bought two pairs so far, but I have been tempted to buy so many more.  At one store, almost every pair is less than 10 euro.  How fantastic is that?  Now, granted, I have few occasions to wear most of the shoes I want to purchase, but that is entirely beside the point.
6. Dairy.  At the supermarches, there are two entire aisles solely devoted to cheese.  Just to cheese!  There is also an entire aisle just for chocolate, and it's every chocolate you can imagine (well, not Hershey's, but you understand my point).  Here, there food is incredibly rich and delicious and it is because they use real ingredients.  As much as I do love Skim milk, and believe me, I miss it, when it comes to cooking, things just taste better when you use cream.
7.  The hills.  They are lovely, but I mainly appreciate them because all of the food is made with cream and fully-fattening ingredients.  Naturally, I need some way to work that off.
8.  The freshness of produce.  I bought a bottle of apple juice a few weeks ago, and I finished it just before I left to go to the Alps for the weekend.  There was a little bit left, but I was in a hurry so I didn't get a chance to rinse it out.  When I came back, only two days later, the remnants of the apple juice were entirely green and white.  The juice was that fresh and that real that it got moldy that quickly.  I understand that this is a semi-disgusting way of explaining how much I appreciate the freshness of the juice and fruit, but it paints the picture.
9. Transportation.  The buses and trams are truly spectacular.  They are cheap, get you everywhere, and are much nicer than the CTA system at home.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Nothing Special

I wish that I had something interesting to write about.  This week has been really stressful, for various reasons, including what to do for Fall Break. 

Here's the (not quite finalized) plan.
Go to Paris with Camille and Jacqueline and meet up with Karl.
Fly to Sweden to visit Linnea.
Fly to London with Camille and Jacqueline and visit Drew and Sarah.
Fly to Dublin and spend a few days there.
Fly back to France.

I'm pretty excited about this.  My only problem is now I'm worried about not being able to come back into the country.  In order to live here, I need a Carte de Sejours, which won't be given to me until I have a medical exam.  They don't tell us about the medical exams until about a week beforehand, and apparently we need the Carte de Sejours to get back into the country.  Except, our visas allow for multiple re-entries, so you can imagine my confusion.  Oh well, the point is, Fall Break will be amazing.

Thursday, September 30, 2010


I don't think I have ever been more blessed by a family than I have with the Hadleys.  Charlotte and I were planning on meeting up for drinks before heading to Bible study with Sandy, but for various reasons, Bible study got canceled tonight.  So, I sent Charlotte a text saying I was bummed that we wouldn't hang out today.  Shortly after, I got a call from Wendy (Charlotte's mom) inviting me over to their house for dinner tonight.  I was surprised by this, considering today is Wayne's birthday, and I figured they would want to do a family thing.  Of course, I said yes, and was excited to meet up with Charlotte beforehand.
While waiting on a park bench, listening to my favorite Christmas song, two people came up to me and asked if they could talk to me.  They looked nice enough, and I figured they were trying to sell me something.  Within moments, I realized that they were Jehovah's Witnesses.  I tried to explain in the gentlest way possible that I was a Christian, I had my Bible with me, and that one of my majors is Biblical Studies.  When I said this, the man looked shocked and wanted to shake my hand.  I thought, "Great, now they'll leave me alone!"  That, however, only seemed to encourage them more into convincing me my ways were misled and that the real deal was through becoming a Jehovah's witness.  Thankfully, Charlotte arrived and after a longer sales pitch (as that is what it felt like), I finally looked at my phone and said that Ben was waiting for us.  The couple thanked us for our time, wished us luck with our studies, and left to find more lost souls.  Now, I don't want to come off as hateful, because I do love everyone, and I respect different beliefs.  However, I do not agree with the idea that faith can be sold, which is what this couple was trying to do.  You cannot sell a relationship, and that is what I have with Jesus Christ.  Alright, I'm going to start getting preachy if I keep going.
Anyway, Charlotte and I ran a few errands, went for hot chocolate at Cafe Life, and then headed out to meet Wayne and Ben.  I always am so happy when I am with that family, I can't even say.  It was-and is-overwhelming at times because they each have poured into my life more than I thought was possible.  I've only known them for a month, and already it seems like they've been part of my life for years.  So, we enjoyed a lovely dinner of KFC, had some birthday dessert, and then I got to introduce them to s'mores!  I had to improvise with the graham crackers, so I used thin cookies, but the outcome was still quite good.  Charlotte, Wendy, and I watched an episode of Friends while the guys watched some youtube videos.  It was a lovely evening, and I am so incredibly thankful that I have that family in my life.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Weekend in the Alps

This weekend was utterly fantastic.  At first, I felt really awkward and uncomfortable, as I typically do in new situation, but my lunch on Saturday, I was joyful.
Friday mainly consisted of driving up to Camp des Cimes.  It was raining, so we couldn't really see much on the way.  At one point, I asked Wayne if what I saw on the left would be considered a small mountain.  Every person in the car immediately said "Nooooo".  As it turns out, what I thought was a small mountain was a large hill.  I'm from the midwest, what do I know?  After a very draining week, I spent the majority of the ride drifting in and out of consciousness with splashes of trying to explain "Three Cups of Tea" to Anne-Laure (another girl going to the camp) in French.  This was not nearly as difficult as when I tried to explain the book to the surprised Turkish man in my class (who is a Muslim) in French and trying to correctly pronounce the Islamic words.  Nevertheless, it was a tad difficult.  When we finally got to camp, we ate a late (more or less, it was only around 9) dinner and I got to enjoy all kinds of ridiculous jokes from Mr. Wayne Hadley.  That family is too fantastic.  I also got to meet Daniel (finally)!  Daniel is one of Ben's close friends whose family goes to my church here.  He has lukemia, and has to go back to England for more chemotherapy in a couple weeks.  It was amazing for him to be there.  He even had the strength to play drums during worship!  It was an incredible blessing to see that.
Through talking with Randy and Sandy on Saturday morning, I realized that I have hit the wall created by exhaustion and becoming bilingual.  What happens is, you are incapable of thinking, speaking, or comprehending in either language.  You can imagine my frustration, particularly during the first chapel when the speaker (who I am sure was American, based on his accent) was giving an incredible message through the use of pottery.  He was standing up there, with a potter's wheel and lumps of clay basically, as I understand it, saying that God creates beautiful, unique things that can be used for specific purposes.  But then, inevitably, it breaks and can no longer perform its original function.  However, Gos does not give up on that broken piece of pottery.  Instead, he takes other broken pieces of pottery and creates something new.  Tom, the speaker, illustrated his message by making a jar, a lid, a vase, and a bowl.  He broke each of these (and it tore at the art appreciator in me) and then attached them together to make a teapot that looked alarmingly like Mrs. Potts.  He attached a handle which represented Christ, through which we as a church can pour out into others.  It was beautiful, and I wish I could have actually understood what he was saying.
After a, naturally, glorious lunch, we packed up into 6 cars and headed up to hike in the Alps.  Words do not even describe.  Unfortunately, it was rather foggy, so the view was obstructed for the most part.  At some moments, though, oh my word.  The clouds parted and my breath caught in my chest.  Never have I seen anything that beautiful.  I could really get used to living somewhere like that.  If not living, definitely visiting fairly often.  While walking through the fog, I found myself singing "Once in the Highlands" from Brigadoon.  And then, while climbing a large rock to get a better view, I began singing "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" from The Sound of Music.  I'm a nerd, and I love it.
As the day progressed, I began to understand more of what people were saying and I was even able to carry on a conversation at dinner.  That is particularly difficult at the end of a day, so I was quite pleased with myself.  That night, I was in charge of getting the tea, coffee, and such ready after evening chapel.  One thing that I love about this church is that it reminds me so much of my home church.  Even if you're new, you just jump right in and there are all kinds of people to help you figure things out.  It made me so happy to set things up and get things ready for people to enjoy, and then I got to watch them enjoy it.  It just filled my heart.
Today, after a very interrupted night of sleep, was just as wonderful.  As for the interrupted sleep, I was sleeping on the top bunk of a bed.  Now, I do not like top bunks in the least, but this one was truly terrifying.  Every time I moved, or Anne-Laure moved on the bed beneath me, the ENTIRE bunk bed shook.  The slightest movement, such as pausing the iPod in my hand, caused the illusion of a small earthquake.  Okay, so I may be embellishing ever so slightly.  This morning, after a delightful breakfast of coffee (in a bowl), and bread and jam, butter, and nutella, I got to enjoy the beauty of a (nearly) cloudless view of the Alps.  I was in such bliss.  During lunch, Ben and Charlotte taught me how to properly eat flan.  The technical term is "Gobbing".  If you want to see the video, check out the ol' facebook.  If you don't, it basically means sucking the entire thing of flan up in one go.  It was entertaining.

And now, some pictures.

I'm a big fan of the different settings I've found on my camera.

Yes, Ben wore shorts, trainers, and a jumper to hike around in the Alps.

I was in heaven.

Nearly cloudless view from the dining hall.

The first attempt at globbing flan.

Some beautiful flowers.

 Daniel and Ben checking out Daniel's present.

 Charlotte and me.

One of the lakes on our hike.


 She's an explorer.