Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's party

Well, I am headed out to a New Year's party. We'll see how this goes... there will be lots of kids, and of course their parents. I can't tell if there will be anyone really MY age, but shall enjoy myself all the same. I would tell you happy new year now, but it's quite early for all of you. So I'll leave that for whenever we get back tomorrow. Hope you all have fun plans!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


I taught someone a new word in English today: Brat. Because there was a kid being an absolutely rotten, horrible brat. I suppose we all have our moments.

Yesterday, I thought about going out. And then I realized it was raining. Raining, raining, raining, all day long. I don't melt in the rain, but at the same time, when one is walking without much of a goal, rain is not the best company. At least not when one has such a limited wardrobe on hand, as is my case here. So I did work. On my thesis. Aren't you proud?? Not too much, don't worry, because I was also playing with the 4 yr old. Later on, the dad and I went out for a beer, to show me a little bit of Lille night life, and it seems like he likes to get out of the house sometimes, too. The mom's sister was maybe going to come, but it turned out today that she fell asleep early instead. At first I didn't know what to say, I'm not very good with new people lots of times, unless they talk a lot. Then once I get comfortable, it's easy. But after a bit, we got talking and had a good time. When we got back to the house, we were talking about whether there were any current French authors worth reading, and so I got a few recommendations. In the form of two large piles of books to flip through, to see if I like the authors. You can't get stuff like that at a hotel.

Today it was nicer out. Me and Mr. 4 read for a while in the morning (yesterday, there was plenty of "sabres lasers" with him being Anakin, and me any random bad guy, so I was very happy to read.) It's interesting to see what's in kids' books different places. Turns out that, for that age, it's mostly the same. But at the same time, different. A boy is sent out by his mom to go shopping at the market. He goes around talking to all of the different merchants. You know, things that don't exist in the US now. I don't know how much they ever did. After lunch, I rectified a serious problem. Well, two, actually. Since arriving, I had not eaten a single crepe! C'est pas possible!! So while wandering in the city center, I got me a crepe au creme de marrons (chestnut creme, such a ridiculously good thing, you have no idea.) I also went into the bookstore a bit, to check out the cooking section. I haven't decided what all I'll bring back, but at least one dessert cookbook. I also got a long-sleeve tee to put under some short sleeve shirts that I brought thinking... well, not thinking, actually. But I can wear them now! I think I will wear one tomorrow...

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Yep, really old.

Grandpa's job? Antique dealer. So that paper was really 463 years old. And the US/France treaty was probably printed in 1778. (It didn't have the signature and seal, though, so not the official original, just the version printed up for other people.) Crazy...

Monday, December 28, 2009


In museums you see old stuff. Pretty often. Sometimes you find old stuff other places. Like in the UT library, I've checked out books that were published in the 1800s. But today, I had very old paper in my hands. It was crazy. The original of one is dated 1778. A treaty between the US and France. I don't know if the copy I saw was that old, but it was on yellowed thick paper with an uncut edge. And in the old-style typeface. They used a slightly different alphabet then - I think it was used some for English, too - and the spelling was quite a bit different. Still, I could more or less read it.

The other one was definitely older. The estimated date for when the original was written was 1646. I can't imagine someone just handed me something that old, (and it's sort of hard to believe the paper would still hold together at all) but I also don't know how they would have made a copy like that. It's all written in this slanted, scrawly handwriting, quite different from writing today, with loads of old spellings and letters. I could make out very few words. The French people there could make out barely more. And the paper, a thick, dark yellow-brown, had gotten wet in a few spots and the ink there was illegible.

So where the heck was I? Museums don't let you handle the collections! At the house of the dad of the people I am staying with for the next 5 days. The two older kids went to spend the night at grandpa's, where they also have an uncle who is 8. (I said that wasn't too different from my family - though I don't know how old dad's brother is now since I don't really know anything about him... I guessed like 6, but it was a total guess. But the kids are much younger, and their grandpa looks about 60, so still, it's different.) I said something about studying French, and out come these two very fragile-seeming old documents. Amazing.

The apartment I'm in now is just 5 minutes from the center of Lille, but on a fairly quiet street. It is in an old building and I LOVE the place. The mom called it a small apartment, but I think it's a very nice size. 3 bedroom (though one is fairly small) with a decent kitchen, a living room, and a large office. Really neat floors, everything is clean and well taken-care-of. For an apartment in a city, it has a great view. And the family is very nice. Mom teaches English for French homeschool (they have a really well-structured home school system here, I never knew that!) Dad is a project manager for a company that creates websites. Kids are friendly and fine with new people. Well, the 4 yr old took a couple of hours, but what do you expect from a 4 yr old?

As I sit and type, I can look out the window at the city library. May have to go in tomorrow. When I replace my hat. And buy more minutes for my phone. I sort of want to go shopping, especially for warmer things that I can layer (so that they'll be useful in Austin, too) but I know that Les Soldes begin Jan. 6. Giant sales, somehow determined by the government. Everywhere. Well, everywhere that has stock to get rid of. Must find good balance between warmth for the next 9 days and waiting for better prices. I wonder if bookstores participate in them, too...

K, I just looked it up. Books are not allowed by the government to be sold with a discount greater than 5% except in very specific circumstances. Apparently a somewhat controversial law. And now I understand why nobody has a book cheaper than anybody else. Well then, I may have to lose myself in the bookstore one of these days... before the clothing sales begin...

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Pictures, you say?

Well... my photo software on here is... lacking. I can't make it save the pictures as turned the way I want them. Um, stupid! But, if you really want pictures, then here we go. Not too many, though, b/c it takes a bit to get them on here.

We begin at sunrise, 30,000 feet above England. Yes, I was over the wing.

Welcome to France, country of fashion, croissants, wine, decadent desserts, and toilets that look like this:

This is an airport toilet. Which means it's nicer than some. See the handy foot-flush? I like that. No dirty handle that I typically push with my foot anyway. But nope, no seat at all. At least I didn't have to pay to use it. You know, beyond the price of the ticket.

From there, time to jump onto a train to Lille!

And this is where I stayed the first four nights! It was actually about 30 min outside of Lille in a cute little town. Tiny town. Perhaps 'hamlet' would be more appropriate. We got a good bit of snow the day after I arrived. It was pretty. And cold.

In Paris, then, here is some chocolate I definitely did NOT buy. I don't even think I could eat that. Too pretty. And then it would all just go to waste, so what's the point?

The view of the Champs Elysees from the Louvre/Tuileries end:

And the crowd around Portrait of the Artist:

And a lesser-but-still-well-known VanGogh that I somehow missed getting a pic of the title:

A poster that would have been SO cool to... re-purpose, but they apparently were aware and kept it behind glass. How cool would that look on my wall? No silly art-nouveau cocoa boy for me, just a gregorian chant concert that was at Notre Dame.

And my middle-of-the-street view from the Arc de Triomph (aka opposite from other pic) end of the Champs Elysees.


Rainy Sundays are good for sleeping in.

Especially when you stay up til 6. Everyone is now awake and breakfasted. I was up for a bit around noon, because I had drank all the water in my bottle and needed more and then once I did that I couldn't get back to sleep. But we had fun yesterday and last night. It's neat, everybody who lives here gets along pretty well and they actually eat meals together and clean up together. Probably not all the time, but often. I'm sure it's related to how meals are treated in general here.

Turned out that the market is on SUNday, not Saturday, so in the morning we mostly hung around a bit. Then in the afternoon, went out to eat something around 4:30 and get food to make dinner (that we ended up not making because, really, when you eat at 4:30, who wants to eat a lot again at 8 or 9?) After that, we came back here and hung out. Not doing anything in particular - talking, listening to music. Then we went to a really relaxed bar a couple of blocks away (luckily! since we were walking and it was COLD. Oh, and I lost a glove *and* my hat somewhere between my hotel in Paris and the train station here. The hat was old and ugly, and the gloves were super cheap (though still warm) so it's not a huge loss, just a major annoyance when one is cold.) There was a guy DJing at the bar, and one of the guys here is really into that. Like mixing and 'scratching' and stuff, not like lame-o radio DJing. It was interesting to see someone doing that. It seems like it's a bigger thing here, too. Or maybe I just don't the 'right' people at home. After that, more music, talking, some dancing. And around 5:15 we sort of realized the time and everyone wound down and wandered off to bed. Quite nice.

I may post again here before I leave, but tomorrow I'm going to stay with a family for about 5 days and I don't know what their internet situation is, so consider yourselves warned to be patient.

Saturday, December 26, 2009


I'm staying, til the 28th, in an area of Lille called Wazemmes. It's supposed to be very cool. I've figured out two things: It's very international. The people I'm staying with are cool. There's a couple, and then a guy and a girl who live here. All are near my age, 3 work, one is in school still. They remind me somewhat of people I know. Some of the movies they own: Pulp Fiction, Requiem for a Dream, Little Miss Sunshine. That may not help some of you, but others should get an idea. Today we're going to go to an outdoor market right near here that's pretty popular. So this is me, off!

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Last night, I couldn’t think of what to do today. So I just went to sleep and set my alarm. This morning, I still couldn’t think of what to do. I headed off to Montmartre, remembering that I *had* thought of a reason to go there, but not what the reason itself was, and a little bit worried that the day would turn out lame. I got off the metro, walked up some stairs, looked at the city, and remembered: the fabric district!! I’m sure there are other places in Paris to get fabric, but this area has lots of stores. Cam’s sister that I stayed with (who studied design and sewing) had mentioned it to me. I wandered around up at the top, since I was already up there anyway, and then took the lazy-ppl thing down.

I went into one four-story fabric store. Not a JoAnns with loads of crafts, just fabric and findings and patterns. And not a small floor each, or all spaced out, either, rolls lying in piles 2-3 deep on tables all over this place. So many different kinds! And so expensive! I think the cheapest thing I saw was 3E a meter, and that was lining. Real fabric started at 6E a meter, and went up to over a hundred (you know, silk, really fancy stuff.) In that neighborhood, I found V’s present to me. Perhaps the best present she’s given me. Certainly the most unique. And will be the best souvenir from Paris I have EVER had, and maybe even could imagine. I was terribly thrilled by it, to be honest, and it took me a while to find just the right one. At the time I thought maybe I’d get two, but then I wanted to check in other stores (that weren’t as easy to look in) and ended up with just the one. So that leaves me a second present for her to get me. Un coupon! Yeah, that’s what I thought too, when I saw the first sign, what the heck is that??? And I kept walking. Then the next one made it obvious. Les coupons - 3M a 5E. OH! The basket below contained fabric. Very large remnants - the ends of the roll (usually 3 meters, sometimes a little less) that was either discontinued or they didn’t need or didn’t think people would buy. My first thought: that’s more than enough to make a pair of pjs! I need! I went into the store and there were allll kinds. Suitings, silks, fleece, cotton, knits… the list goes on. I narrowed myself down to either a cotton or a knit. The lace was gorgeous, but was still 15E a meter. The beaded and sequined shimmery, translucent fabrics were AMAZING but still 20-25 a meter. The silks ranged from 50-75 for 3 meters, some that I didn’t see may have been more. Wow, this is getting long. In the end, I went for 3 meters a knit that will make terribly cute long shorts/short pants. I will send V a pic when I can, but no one else gets to see til I finish my bottoms. And maybe a top, too.

After an hour or two, I continued on to another festive area: Notre Dame. Also the cheapest place I’ve found to buy ppl stuff. Mostly postcards, really, I’ve gotten stuff from Paris for tons of ppl I know, so I’d rather find something more unique in Lille. There was one person that something just jumped out at me, and I got it, but I’ll probably get something else as well. After that, I wanted to have a little coffee and write a card or two. I was scared, though, because yesterday I had an AWFUL coffee. Like, tastes bout as good as the stuff at my co-op. I realize that no one reading this drinks that, but it’s gross. Fits the stereotype of bad American coffee. The place had this “fancy” new machine, and after watching the servers I realized why it was bad - they just put a cup under, press one button, and ANY kind of drink pours out. Espresso, capuccino, hot chocolate… I think being so close to a busy tourist area let them get laze. I wandered, looking for a better café, and each time I just didn’t think so. In the latin quarter (where the Sorbonne is - latin b/c that’s what universities used to teach in) I found something else that caught my attention: Patisseries tunisienne du sud. Well, I just HAD to get something there! I walked in and said hi (in French, after I left I kicked myself for not saying it in tounsi!) and looked around, they asked if I knew what I wanted, I said I was looking b/c it reminded me of when I lived there, talked a tiny bit. I asked for two things and the guy got them, and then I saw a small sign: 1E for coffee. Anywhere else in the area, it’d easily be 2-3. A quick glance at their sturdy, old machine told me it would be worth it. He asked if I wanted it there or to go, and I said there. In true Tunisian fashion, it was served in an over-sized shot glass, standing at a small counter. And it was good. Better than one of the places by Amideast, and probably about as good as the other. I finished, paid, said thanks (in French and Tounsi) and continued happily on my way. That was better than writing postcards.

Plus I found a bench on the Champs Elysees (google it) and wrote there instead. I ended up at the Champs Elysees to have more festive atmosphere. I wandered in and out of stores. Including some that I had NO intention of even thinking of buying anything in. There’s one that I absolutely love that’s full of party clothes, or at least dressed-up day clothes. And some HOT dresses. Not all slinky, not all revealing, but with just the right touches here and there. I wish I had a reason to need a dress like that. They had up a couple of ads with shots of women in the fabulous dresses that said more or less, like giving a toast, “to making other women jealous.” Yes, I like that. Last night I was there at the other end for the Christmas Market, and all the trees were lit up. They weren’t lit up when I arrived today, so I made sure to stay til it started to get dark. Still not lit. Decided to stay til 5. And I won! They turned on right at 5! And I went out and took a pic straight down the street from the middle of the road (with the walk light, don’t worry!)

When I got back, I was feeling all flushed, but I thought it was from being in and out of the cold so much. After 30 min with my jacket off, I got concerned that it wasn’t. What would my helpful people tell me? More water, take some medicine, get good food in you. The pharmacy across the street (can’t get meds in grocery store) had my favorite Tunisia headache/fever medicine, and the kind with Vitamin C. Tastes much better than the plain kind, and made me start feeling better quickly. (you drink it, it hits your blood faster that way.) I also got bread, stocking fruit (and orange and a pear - the best apples here are from home, but the pears are from France, why not eat local-ish?), and water from the grocery store. I still had enough from the other night to make a decent dinenr (kept stuff cold by putting it on the outside windowsill - it was only up to 6 C today!) Taking it easy the rest of tonight. We’ll see how I feel in the morning, and that will decide if I go anywhere before checking out and heading for the train station. Back to Lille - will be staying at a house with 4 people around my age. YAY!!!!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Of metros, museums, meals and ‘mericans.

I honestly don’t know what I’ll do with myself tomorrow! Today was a fantastic day, even if I think I am getting a blister on my little toe (I knew I should’ve brought moleskin!)

In order to avoid what Tami called my “clinical descriptions,” you get 4 small things instead.

Metro: I had the coolest metro ride. In Tunisia, the buses sometimes got sardined - so full that everyone was crammed together and when the doors opened, people literally fell out. It was stinky, suffocating, and not fun. Yesterday and today the metro was sometimes sardined, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. For one thing, the deodorant here works very well, and people like to wear a small amount of cologne/perfume. I waited on a rather full metro platform, wondering if we’d all fit in an empty train, when the train pulled up. Rather full. A few people got out, and then the mass moved forward, everyone jostling their way aboard. I wasn’t sure how it was going to work, but when in Rome… I stepped on with my bag safely in front of me. There was no way to hold on to a pole, but I soon realized it didn’t matter. We were packed in so tight that we all swayed when the train started up, but no one fell. The weight of body against body against body was funny, you could feel everyone, but it wasn’t a big deal, especially with everyone staring dutifully into nothingness (that’s what they all do here.) When it stopped, the same sort of group sway. Then to let people off, some people stepped out the doors, and a new set crowded on. It was a bit warm, so someone opened a small tilt-out window, designed for that exact purpose, I’m sure, and we all stayed a reasonable temperature. At my stop, I pushed my way out to the platform and continued the journey.

Museum: (Actually written while I was there this afternoon.) Museums are interesting places. Loads of old stuff, not all of it necessarily what catches my attentions. But the things that are cool are pretty damn amazing. Not everyone seems to notice, though. Take the room with Gaugin and VanGogh paintings, for example. Van Gogh’s ‘Portrait of the artist’ (google it, I’m sure you’ve seen it) hangs visible from the entrance. A small, lonely painting on the back wall, crowded by people taking pictures. Some of the people come in just for that, and leave without a glance at the others in the room.

To me, some things here are just paintings, or just sculptures. Nothing particularly fascinating, and some even make me wonder what else the museum has in the collection that isn’t being displayed so that THAT one can have a spot on the wall. Others, though, just draw you in. The pastels, for instance. If someone had told me to be sure to look at the pastels, I would have called them crazy. But wow. I tried to take a few pictures, but it was annoyingly off, no matter what I tried. [I also looked in the gift shop - they had a couple of postcards that were no better than my pictures.] No way to catch the glow. If I had just seen one somewhere I would have thought it was lit from behind. The colors seriously jump out. And it works, not cheezy at all. Two night scenes - a park and a forest with dark greens and blues - that looked magically lit, like the lanterns hanging in the branches of the trees would flicker at any moment, or clouds might momentarily shroud the moon and turn everything back to normal.

Meals - I had dinner at a great restaurant. It is a smallish place. The main floor is cozy, but there is seating upstairs and in the basement, too. I don’t normally like to eat in restaurants alone, but why not? It was a REALLY French place, not far from where I’m staying. The kind of place that serves escargot for 8 euro and doesn’t think anything of it (a decent price for an appetizer here.) The kind of place that, when you order a bottle of wine, pours just a sip for a man at the table to approve before setting it down for everyone. The kind of place that expects your meal will end with dessert or cheese, or at least a coffee. There was an American couple not too far away, but he has obviously been in Paris a while, or at least has before. Everyone else was French.

I was bold (for me) and went for the fondu - bread, potatoes, and cured ham to be dipped into a rich melty cheese. With a small salad on the side. Mmmmmmm……. I sort of wanted to go to Melting Pot before, but I’m fairly certain it would be lame now. For dessert, there were several options that sounded interesting. Like Crème brulee with Nutella (where and how does the Nutella go in??} But I went for the “house specialty”: Mi-cuit au choco noir. Half-cooked with dark chocolate. Half-cooked what? I wasn’t sure. But I definitely need it. I was almost still hungry when the small chocolate cake, topped with powdered sugar and swimming in a pool of crème anglaise [sweetened, vanilla-flavored cream, sort of like a really high-quality vanilla ice cream, melted, but better] arrived. After about two bites, I was definitely full. It was fully cooked outside and so I sort of expected the middle to spill out when I cut into it with my spoon. It didn’t - it just looked like a barely cooked brownie. But tasted SO much better. Intense chocolate flavor, and so rich that I realized the cream was to tone it down - yes, cream actually was less rich.

My other meal was the morning. I picked up a pain aux raisins [flaky pastry, sort of the same as a croissant, but in a large, flat spiral, like a flat, big cinnamon roll, filled with soft raisins and sweet custard where a cinnamon roll has the sugar and cinnamon] at a bakery near here. I took it with me onto the metro, enjoying eating in public but not at a restaurant - something that is NOT done in the morning, and rarely done away from a crepe stand or away from a guy selling roasted chestnuts.

‘Mericans - I went down to the Eiffel tower - mostly because I knew it would be a fun, festive atmosphere and I wasn’t sure what else I wanted to do, my trip being complete after the museum. I walked around a bit, and sat down after a while. Then a guy sat down next to me, but not TOO close. I still didn’t like the look of him. Then after a bit he was all, “excuse me, do you have a cigarette?” (in French, all of this) and I said, “no, sorry,” and him, “oh, you don’t smoke,” and this is where I got very suspicious of his motives and simply said, “no,” not even turning to look at him. Then he asked, “I’m not bothering you am I?” and he actually hadn’t DONE anything, so I just shook my head, and continued watching people walking under the tower for a couple of minutes before getting up and walking away. I wanted to check my map, but not in an area where I’d be alone. I saw four people, sitting on the ground directly in front of the tower, a hundred yards or so away, and drinking. Americans. I stood not too far away and got out my map, deciding where to go next. They said bye to some people who had been standing in front of them, I guess they had been talking, and then after the people had walked away, one asked another, “how do you say good night? Bonne nuit?” I sort of laughed and told them that’s just if someone’s going to bed. They asked what they should really say, and if I was from Paris, and we talked for a bit. Turns out they are friends from college, one graduated already, the other three were still there, spending their winter break touring Europe because one is studying in Florence. They were silly, but really friendly. They wanted to know where to buy liquor, how to tell people to go away, and asked if I wanted to come out dancing. I told them no, because I’d have to get back by myself. Plus, they seemed a bit… careless, and not really a group I’d want to go out with. Two guys drinking a box of wine [it comes in juice boxes here sometimes, but theirs was a soymilk-sized box], I’m pretty sure arab by the names and accents, came up and started talking to them. At first, I thought it was gonna be bad, but they were actually nice, and when the souvenir sellers came by (like they do every 5 min near there) they joked around with the guys and got rid of them easily. The guys’ English wasn’t too great and when they were getting the girls’ names, one of the girls offered mine, adding that I spoke French. In true Arab/French speaker fashion, they totally didn’t get it, “Paqy??” I knew they weren’t gonna do better, so I went with it. A bit later “Paqy, tell me what she does in life, I don’t understand,” I got the info from the girl, (a performance art sculptor - what the heck is that??) knowing she’s a student, and said, “she’s a sculptor, but she doesn’t just make things to be looked at, part of her art is having people watch her make it.” He looked at me rather confused. Me again, “actually, I’m not totally sure what she means, either, but she’s some kind of scupltor.” He was ok with that.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Hello from Paris!

Mmmm, dinner! I am safely in Paris and in for the night. Well, unless I decide to go post this from McDonald’s - there’s one a block away J I am starting off dinner with a pink grapefruit yogurt - that doesn’t have any added sweeteners. I can’t figure out why they don’t have any of those at home. At least not any that I can ever find. That could be reason enough to move here. And then there are Apericubes. Delicious little cubes of flavored cheese. I got tomato, olive, and goat cheese - three separate flavors. The stores here don’t all keep them refrigerated, and the package doesn’t say they have to be, but I’m pretty sure the customs people would have any issue with me trying to bring some home. Maybe I’ll try anyway? I got real food, too, don’t worry - bread, some dry sausage (doesn’t need the fridge), a carrot, clementines, an apple, a pear, and little cans of green beans that have a pull-off top. Oh, and dates (from Tunisia - haha!) Actually… I should probably go shower before I finish my dinner - it’s a shared shower and will likely be busy in the morning. Be right back!

There, that’s better. I knew my flip-flops would come in handy! So where was I? I guess what I did today should be next. I wandered, really. It was nice. I started off at the Hotel de Ville - near the center, and where visiting important people stayed WAAAY back in the day. I forget what it’s used for now. But I knew it would be pretty, and have lots of people around. It didn’t disappoint at all, and I took a few pics of the lights they had up. They have an ice rink there in the winter, but no skating for me. Too many people - if I fell, I’d just get run over. I walked around the area and into a few stores. Took a picture of a chocolate display at a candy shop. After that, I made my way over to the old Opera, a pretty building, and wandered over to the Louvre. It was closed by that time, but the building itself is still cool. There weren’t too many people there, so I got to sit down for a bit and watch two sets of Japanese girls trying to take pictures of themselves. One was more prepared - they had a tripod and were carefully setting it up, looking where it would go, then one stood in the right spot while the other made a few adjustments. Then the second girl would hit the timed button and go stand next to her friend to pose - some silly, some serious. The second set was a little less prepared. They had set a bag on one of the light-things (like the one I was sitting on) and had the camera on the bag. They’d both try to see where to stand, then one would stand in more or less the right place, then the other would make sure it worked, hit the button, and run over. It worked pretty well until they were trying to pose like they were holding the big pyramid. They couldn’t get both of them at the right height and the right distance for 3 or 4 tries. Finally, once they squatted down REALLY low, they finally seemed to get what they wanted.

After that I walked through the gardens right there and found a giant Christmas market! The Christmas markets are really sort of goofy - lots of gifts, supposedly from different countries and regions, some are cool, some are really odd, and then somewhat over-priced food. Mulled wine, sausages, crepes, waffles, candy… I didn’t go through too much of it because it was getting sort of dark, and I wanted to be sure to get back before the grocery store closed. If my feet aren’t dead tomorrow after the museum I’ll go back J Goofy things are much cooler in other countries.

These dates are very good. I remember last time they tasted pretty much the same as in Tunis. But they are WAY better than the ones I’ve been having at home. I am still opening everyone and checking it before I eat it, though. Can’t be TOO careful with Tunisia dates….

Monday, December 21, 2009

Moving and Christmas party

First, I apologize for the lack of pictures, I haven't had much time around internet. So… what am I up to now? Right now I am actually sitting in the living room, somewhat surrounded by boxes and trying to help where I can and stay out of the way otherwise. The Move is tomorrow, so there are loads of things to be finished. I could have stayed at the house where I’ve been sleeping, but it’s in a TINY town, so I would have been alone alllllllll day. And no cafes or stores or anything to go visit for a break. It sounded a little miserable, really. There’s no internet here anymore, too, so I’ll post this once I get back to the sleeping house.

I’ve used the time to read some for my thesis. I have been reading stuff about code-switching (I probably didn’t explain that any time before - it means a way that bi/+linguals use more than one language in the same conversation or even sentence. More or less.) I think it’s interesting, I’ve been looking at stuff on French and Arabic, in Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. But I won’t bore you all with the details. I’m supposed to read a good bit before classes start (shortly after I get back) so that I’ll have some real direction by then.

Yesterday I went to a family Christmas party. With quite a bit of family. The grand parents have 8(?) kids, all with their own kids and families, several of whom brought friends/significant others as well. Lots of noise, lots of people, lots of food. As with any family, especially a big one, things didn’t always go smoothly or quickly, but I enjoyed myself. I got lots of “hello”s and lots of “tu comprends?” (you understand?) but it wasn’t overwhelming. Enough younger people around to talk to, too, so no reason to get bored. And there were plenty of younger cousins to try to understand (like 8-15 yr olds). For some reason it’s just funny to hear little kids speak another language. I know it’s sort of silly, but it makes me smile anyway.

Then tomorrow……… I’m going to Paris! Yay!!! I’ll be there for a few days, do a few things I haven’t done, and probably some I have, and then come back to Lille on Christmas and stay in a house of people around my age. It should be lots of fun. I’m not sure of the next time I’ll have internet for sure, so be patient with me here, people. I promise to update when I have a real chance. Just in case: Have a wonderful Christmas! Joyeux Noel!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

I knew it!

I spoiled you by writing too much on the plane and at the train station. See, there I was thinking that that would hold you over for a bit. But I should have known better. How can I be expected to update regularly when I first arrive in a new country, all jet-lagged, and am trying to be a good house guest and not just run away to type to people?? Sorry, you will have to learn some patience, mom.

I got a French number again, since I will be travelling a bit, it will be better to have a way to contact people if I ever need it. If any of you want it, email me, but I certainly don't expect you to.

So what's been going on? Friday I slept til 3PM. Yep, not sure how I did that. It was 8AM in Austin, and I would bet that's why I finally woke up. That's when I usually wake up at home. It is also COLD. Like the snow from Thursday is still sticking, and I am in a shirt with a wool sweater and my new wool coat over it, wearing a scarf, hat, and gloves. And I'm glad I decided to throw in a pair of my long-john pants.

I've been staying with Cam's older sister. (I was told that my alphabetic privacy system was quite lame, so I'll see if I can use SOME names, and if not, I'll use letters.) Cam's family is working on a loft that they are moving into next week, so everyone is very busy and stressed, and I am happy to be out of the way. Right now I am actually writing from McDonalds because they have free wifi. Well, if you buy sthg it's free. Yay, McDonalds! The food here is better than in the US, of course. I mean, if it were the same, nobody here would eat it. But I've decided to try their different coffee drinks. It's certainly still McDonalds-quality compared to regular French coffee, but since I have to buy something it'll make it more interesting.

I did a little bit of shopping. In addition to buying stamps and a sim card for my phone, I bought a tanktop (to add a layer underneath my clothes - I really should have thought of that while packing!) and...... Harry Potter et le Prince Sang-mele and Harry Potter et les Reliques de la Mort. YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Why buy them in French? Why NOT, I ask you?? Because it's down right COOL and I already have the first 5 in French. I'm sure I'll buy some originally-French stuff, too, but these make me smile. Well, I think that is all for now. Hope all is well at home!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Trip updates

Dec. 17 at 11:00AM, Paris time (4AM in Austin, 2 in Tacoma)

I made it! Well, to Paris at least. I even slept on the plane for 5 hours. For me, that’s pretty impressive. I watched Up, and it was very cute. Everybody said that it was also sad, and I even heard about the opening sequence a bit on an NPR interview and knew what it was about more or less. But it was still sad. I sort of wanted to watch one of the other movies they had (you get to choose from like 40 movies and TV shows on the 5“ screen in the seat ahead of you) but since I slept so long, I woke up an hour before we were supposed to land and I didn’t want to see all but the end of a movie! Turned out that because of snow we had to wait an extra 40 minutes and I could have finished most of the movies. Ah, well, you never know!

I have a while to wait here at the airport because I bought my train ticket as soon as I knew where I was headed in order to get a much cheaper ticket. Then, the next day, I get an email saying that my flight from Atlanta to Paris was moved up 3 hours. Giving me a shorter layover in Atlanta, which was nice, but more time to wait at this end. At least I can do my waiting with ppl speaking French around me - haha J

I actually might get to wait even longer because of the weather. We got off the plane on air stairs (I think every time I’ve come through this airport we’ve used them) and were told by the helpful crew, “be careful, it’s slippy!” The head of the flight crew said that over the PA and I don’t know if they all thought that ‘slippy’ was the right word, or if they were just following her lead. It was snowing lightly and cold, but only just below freezing. I was glad to have a sweater and my new coat with me on the plane (thanks, Dad!) as well as my fixed shoes.

I’ll try to upload some pictures later, but for now I don’t think the connection here is good enough. I’m gonna go read now, hope all is well at home!

 Dec. 16 at 7:27PM, Austin time

I feel a like a bit of a seasoned traveler at the moment. Sitting on the plane, after a decent meal (you know, for a plane anyway) that included a little bottle of wine (yay for AirFrance! Funny coincidence - the brand is one I discovered at Whole Foods and really like), with my adorable little computer on the tray table, typing away as others get some sleep. I’ll join them for sleep soon. After the cabin crew picks up all the dinner trays, they’ll dim the lights a bit. Then it’ll be easier to sleep. It’s so funny knowing things like that. When we all were boarding, it was stiflingly hot and a lot of people were sweating. A few older couples were like “oh, I hope it doesn’t stay this hot!” And me and the lady next to me reassured them that it would quickly go away and, in fact, get cold.

I still can’t believe I’m on a plane for Paris. I bought my ticket in a bit of a “heck, why not??” moment and then figured it was a long way off and didn‘t worry about it. After that I got so busy with classes the last several weeks that I could hardly tell you what day it was, never mind think about leaving! With my last-minute travel readjustments (I‘ll be staying several places), I decided to travel light for once. Ha, me, travel light. How funny! But I think I’ve done it. Just my small suitcase (thanks yet again, Uncle Jack!), my EagleCreek backpack - super useful, but not very big - and my sexy new little bag to put my pretty computer in. It’s a PacSafe. They are quite amazing. I know that you don’t usually need all of the features that come with the bag, and that someone who really wants your stuff will get it, but it’s still comforting to know that I have a little bit more protection than the average person.

Right now, there are 6 hours til we’re scheduled to land with over 3100 miles to go (and my computer thinks it’s got 12 more hours of battery on the settings I’m using.) We’re over the northeastern edge of Canada right now, off the coase of Halifax. The plane, leaving from Atlanta, goes sort of up the east coast, over the edge of Canada, and ends up approaching Paris from the north. Once we land, I’ll go find the trains and head for Lille, where Cam's younger sister will meet me and we’ll take the tram to their house where I’ll stay for a couple of days. Well, they’ve dimmed my lights, so that’s all from me for now!

K, this didn't work at first, but hopefully now it is fine with just one copy of the posts...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Free audiobooks!

K, I am downloading some for my trip, and so now I am sharing with 'y'all.' (Haha, I still can't do that.) How are these free, you ask? Is it legal? Why, yes! It's this really great idea, and you can find out all about it at their site:

Basically, regular people, like you and me, record parts of their favorite books that are in the public domain (ie no longer under copyright) and then someone from the site compiles the chapters/sections and makes them available! It does mean that they are not professional quality, but that's ok with me.

Right now I'm downloading Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and Through the Looking Glass. There are actually 3 versions of each because so many people have read for it. Some are abridged, others are not. On my connection, downloading a zip file of the whole thing takes about 3 minutes. Not too bad, really. Ok, I need to turn in some library books, go to the store, have lunch with a friend, pack, and leave in about 29 hours!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

What are my classes about?

Well, that sounds like a much more interesting question than actually finishing the work for my classes. I have two topics this semester: phonology and syntax. (Three classes, two in syntax)

Phonology: The study of the sounds of languages. I'm still not entirely sure I get it, please don't ask any more about it.

Syntax: Basically, grammar. Not like "it's wrong to ever split an infinitive," but more like describing how native speakers actually talk and being able to identify the patterns, including between languages. Lots of drawing of syntactic trees. They can look something like this, if you're interested. They get much more complicated, but one with movement didn't pop up quickly and I shouldn't spend all day at this.

Next semester I'll have sociolinguistics (the social aspects of language, like why we talk in different ways at different times or in different parts of the country) and experimental research and design, which will have lots of statistics, I hear.

Ok, fine, back to Phonology again...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


I could get a *90* on this final and still have an A in the class! Maybe even an 89! Bring it, syntax.


I wonder how many students find much better things to do when faced with studying or finishing a project. I know most people I went to highschool with did that. The need to clean your bedroom or bathroom, make good food, or even wash dishes or clean out a fridge is so much higher when you really *should* be sitting in front of that computer, banging out the last project for the semester.

I have another good thing to spend my time on, and that's planning for my vacation! Did you know that it's almost $1.50 to the euro? So sad, really. I'm going to have to be very aware of that when looking at pretty clothes.

I woke up almost early today so that I could get stuff done. Maybe I should get around to that about now...

Monday, December 7, 2009

One down, two to go

I turned in one final today. It was a very nice feeling. It was a 21 page paper that I wrote. It's crazy to think that I actually did that, a whole 21 pages. And I could have easily spent more time on it and written more. It helps that in linguistics you're expected to include loads of examples. Any time you're talking about how people do (or don't) talk, you stick in an example of it. By then end you have loads of these sentences. You can't just make them up from nothing. They have to make sense for what you're talking about and all. But it makes the 50 or 60 pages expected for a Master's thesis seem really not bad, especially because you write that over the course of a year. I'll be starting mine this break, in fact, and finishing it up by next December. No problem, right? Or at least, I hope not...

Friday, December 4, 2009


I'm on the internet!! I'm on the internet!! I'm on the internet!! I'm on the internet!!!!! I'm on the internet!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

From my absolutely, positively adorable, wonderful little machine. The black has blue sparkles in it. Who likes sparkles? Oh, yes, right: ME! They're not so much that it should be a deterrent to anyone - it's not glitter by any means. More like the almost-un-noticeable flecks in metallic-ish car paint. I approve. They wanted to extort me to get the all blue one, and I would not give in! (ok, it was just $30, but it's the principle here, people!) K, time for some apple cider. It's 29 degrees out, Austin got some white flakes today.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

No more pencils, no more books!

Almost, anyway. Today was the last day of my classes. Wow. I honestly don't even know what to say. Or think. What will I do with myself next week?? Oh, right, I'll be finishing finals and starting reading for my thesis. Hmmmm... that sort of dampens the wonderful feeling of freedom. I shall ignore it.

I am sometimes surprised by facts that don't get shared. By me, by others. Or things I've thought I've said and it turns out I haven't. So, let's have a pretend conversation.
What was the note about leaving the country the other day?
I am headed to France.
Where in France?
TBD. Will let you know once I do.
Why not?
No, really, why?
I happen to be studying French, and getting in some practice doesn't hurt. Summers I have to work, in order to keep living, so winter is when I have time. And why not?
Is anyone going with?
Nope, just me, my camera, my thesis ideas, some clothes... you get the idea.
How long will you be gone?
Til right before classes start again.
What will you bring me?
You're joking, yes? I may have lost my mind, but I'm still a broke student. Email me addresses and I will email you postcards. Er, REAL mail you postcards. I think that's how they work.
What if I give you money?
If you would like to buy things through me, I will need to check the baggage info to see how much I can actually have each direction, and to make sure I won't be moving around too much, but I expect it will work out one way or another.
How will we be in touch?
Internet. It's amazing. Why do you think this blog exists?
I will be worried about you, how will I know which weather to watch? Or news to scan for Americans involved in riots/arrests/car accidents/etc???
Don't worry, mother, I will give you info as I get it. I happen to be a generally competent adult. :)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

To do, to do.

As I noted before, there is a lot to get done in the next two weeks. Some tedious, like school work, others more fun, like buying things. I need a coat (gave my old one away in Tunisia so I wouldn't have to carry it or find room in my suitcase, esp. since the lining was dead.) I plan to get one soon. I also have decided to make an investment in a portable form of a communication. You know, so there's a point to this blog while I'm off on my adventure for a month. What am I talking about? A netbook! Yay!!!!!!! Obviously, I have a computer, it's a desktop and is in pretty good condition, considering its age. I got it 4 years ago, did get a DVD drive and all, so it should keep functioning as my main computer for a while yet. It will be super nice to have something I can carry around. Like when working in my office on campus, or to take to a cafe and work distraction-free. Sooooo cool...