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.

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.