Sunday, January 31, 2010


I have very little motivation to do homework. What would I rather do? Make good food. I have liked making food for... as long as I remember. (And I remember getting to make 5 eggs for breakfast all by myself for my 5th birthday. I'm fairly sure it was a Sunday, too. That's how excited I was.)

Now that I live in this building, it's taking on a different aspect. Here, making food is not a requirement. Other people make food for me every day of the week. If I don't make lunch, someone else will. It will likely be edible. If not, I can fall back on the cereal or canned soup in my room. Once or twice a week (max), that's not a bad lunch. So making food is completely a choice.

There's another difference here. Lots of people to eat my stuff. I like making sweets. Cookies. Cakes. Chocolate ganache. Most ingredients are readily available in the house kitchen. But if I make it, I often eat too much of it. Here I can share. With 106 students in the building, even if something goes wrong (hasn't yet) there are plenty of people who will eat anything. And when it goes right, there are plenty of people to let me know. Like tonight's gingerbread. After at least 15 happy faces and happy tummies, how can linguistics hope to compare? For the immediate satisfaction, it certainly cannot.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Laziness wins!

And I'm not trying to talk down... I might use this.

Over the summer, they moved the Audiovisual library from near the student union (i.e. convenient location for me and many others) to the east side of campus. Now, instead of a 10 minute walk to go check out a dvd for free, I would have a 20ish minute walk. Yes, the 10 minute walk is also on my way to/from classes, but still, it's just a little further.

Well, apparently enough people complained, and now they are willing to send your dvd/cassette/cd to any campus library. Like the one just one minute from my office and classes. It will take 2-4 days, which seems a little inefficient, but I suppose that lazies in Texas win this round.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


Somebody put my Eburg hiking hill on wikipedia! I know, it's super simple to do that, it just makes me happy.

Friday, January 22, 2010


I don't use that word often, it gets bandied about by people looking to inspire sympathy or empathy or some other strong feeling. But it was what came to mind after reading this article about super poor people who get arrested, can't make bail, and then pretty much have their lives destroyed compared to those who can make bail. The system has problems.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Turnips are good!

There was something I ate a few times in France that I totally did not recognize. It was a white-purple vegetable that was somewhat spherical. Well, as close as natural food ever gets to spherical. Then yesterday at the store, I saw the same colors. On turnips. I was surprised, but realized I'd probably never paid any attention to turnips. It's one of those things that I wouldn't know what to do with. I went home and looked it up and, indeed, it was turnips! In France they were sold with the leaves all cut off and the long stringy root bit cut off, too, so I just didn't recognize them at all.

Also, I was looking at one of my cookbooks, and it had a recipe for dark chocolate or for milk chocolate. I know that milk chocolate there does not equal milk chocolate here. I also know that the percent of cocoa beans is always included on the label in France. I'm not sure if it's required, or if people just won't buy it without that info. So I looked up the percentage of cacao mass/chocolate liquor (the English terms for reduced cocoa beans) in one of my favorite brands of chocolate chips. Yeah, according to their site, in the US milk chocolate is only required to be 10% cacao. That is... amazing. No wonder Hersheys is so lame. Luckily, the brand I like has 38% in their milk chocolate. And chocolate only needs 35% to be called 'semi-sweet' or 'bittersweet' - the choice being left to the manufacturer. Crazy, crazy...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Made it alive

After an unexpected 5 hour lay-over in Atlanta, due to the extra security measures taking a full 2 hours (all hand luggage gone through, everybody got a pat-down) I made it back, very exhausted. I have mostly unpacked my suitcases now. Went with one, came back with two. What did I get??? Some clothes, some presents. Lots of presents, actually. Something like this much:

If you can't see it all very well, that's ok. Many pieces will be headed in different directions over the next few days, so the pile will decrease, too.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Au revoir, la France!!

Well, a few of you asked, but I ignored the questions. But now that I am safely in the Paris airport, flight expected on time, headed home, I can tell you. What is the secret to my amazing vacation and finding people to stay with? Couchsurfing. It’s through an incredible website where you can find people all over the world who are willing to invite strangers into their homes for a night. Or six. Other than Cam’s sister, I had never met anyone I stayed with before. And I am leaving a group of people I will seriously miss, and who I got along with amazingly well. Never mind all of the things I did that I never would have been able to do without staying with locals.

For couch surfing, you fill out a profile, put up a pic, tell people a little about yourself. And then you can search people to stay with. And, of course, host other travelers when you are at your own place. Which I fully intend to do. It’s all free, no payments expected, and the site actually discourages them. It’s up to your host when you can be at the house, whether they feed you or not, what you have access to. But I stayed with such incredible people and had so many fantastic adventures, many of which I never had time to tell you about. If you go for karma, I must have done something pretty amazing. (Chloe sort of does karma.) If you prefer a supreme being, then s/he/it likes me. Personally, I’m just happy to have had a great trip. K, I am going to look for water before my flight boards.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Macarons and fudge

That was dessert last night. We had pizza, too. But Chloe's flatmate made macarons. I watched attentively. It's a slow process, but not terribly complicated (well, for me, anyway.) She also gave me the site she uses for it, and an idea of where to look for a cheap kitchen scale. (After asking, I remembered my building has one, so I may not get one here anyway, but they're still cool.) Then we were talking about making stuff (I made cinnamon rolls for breakfast yesterday, with cream cheese frosting and all - Chloe and her flatmate were stunned. It's funny what is new and interesting to different people) and Chloe mentioned that I know how to make fudge sauce (here it only exists at McD's) and the guy that had come over (oh, yeah, there was a couple of their friends over) was like, 'you have to get that recipe!!' and I said it was actually very easy and i had all the stuff for it, so I jumped up and made a small batch of microwave fudge. I didn't measure, so intending to make actual fudge, I ended up with more of a very thick sauce. They didn't mind. I forgot to mention, though, to take it easy. I for some reason thought it was obvious. But after a bit, two of them were like "uggggg... too much sugar!" Oh, right, that. I'm gonna go wash the dishes I've diritied, so more later, maybe. Since I leave tomorrow (sniff, don't remind me!) I may be too busy and you'll have to wait til I'm back to hear more.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Good Morning, England

Saw that tonight. You probably know it as Pirate Radio. It was $4.50. At ten at night. COOL! It came out here early last year, at the same time as it did in England. There is a movie theater that re-runs the best things from the last year at the beginning of the following year, and that was the one for today. It was really good! If you are thinking about seeing it, but not sure, go.

Today, I walked around with a camera glued to my hand, taking pictures of loads of things. Things that I've been walking around without really noticing. Or that I noticed at the beginning, but have gotten used to. Or that I noticed the first time I was in France and now sort of take for granted. But is actually really cool. Tomorrow: cinnamon rolls! And probably more pics to take.

I forgot to tell you! I found the second half of my present from V! It is super cool, she did a good job. A small book called 'Aperitifs Dinatoires.' A very nice little cookbook with party-type food. Drinks (avec ou sans alcool), cold finger food, warm finger food, and single-serving size sweets. One of the things I love is that there is a main recipe on the left page with a picture on the right page. On the left side of the left page, there are 3 or 4 (usually 4) variations. I mean, I can dream up my own variations, but it's cool that they have some there for me to start with!

Grocery shopping

I went to the extra-big Fred Meyer-ish store today (and for those of you who have never been to Fred Meyer, go to the west coast and buy sthg there) and may have.... how do you say it... gotten the tiniest bit carried away. Maybe. I think it'll all fit in my suitcases though. I think. All for the greater good, right? Sthg like that, anyway...


But first, today's breakfast (lunch?) menu:
Banana bread with quince jam
Homemade yogurt, using half milk half soymilk, with honey stirred in
Tea from a bowl
I approve!

I scribbled down part of a post during intermission, so I'll start with that:
Well, here I am at the Lille Opera house. Chloe wanted to see the show, but the cheapest tickets (5E) are in sections where you are quite high and can't see all of the stage. The next step up is a bit better, but is 11E ($15ish) and starts to be more difficult for students. Chloe has a friend who works here so she called her Monday to see if the audience was full for tonight. The friend said no, so Chloe asked me to come wait at 7 for last-minute tickets. I get here at 7, and the ticket girl tells me they are available at 7:45. But at least that made me the first in line (other started showing up literally minutes later, so that's probably why I was told to be there at 7. Chloe was babysitting so she wasn't there.) I waited, wishing I had brought her Lille guidebook with me. At 7:45 the ticket girl says it's time, I ask for 2 tickets, hand her the 10E and am handed two category 1 tickets. The usual 5E tickets? They're category 5. Category 1 is... the opposite. You know, down low with a great view. Chloe was thrilled, she's never had seats that good before. She didn't even know where exactly we should go, but with the help of an usher (her friend, who was also impressed by the seats) we found our way. To the ninth row, middle section, on the aisle. Everyone around us clearly paid a lot more than $7.50. Most of them are over 40. In the Opera house info booklet, Chloe flips to the page with the categories and pricing. WOW. Regular price for our seats? $93. Each. I shit you not. I definitely don't mind waiting 45 minutes for that. The show so far is great, too. Lyrics in Russian, subtitles in French (they're supertitles, actually, they're above the stage and to the sides as well.) I don't think I've seen a full-on opera before. It's pretty fun and in many ways like other theater. Except things happen V E R Y S L O W L Y..........

I could spend all day writing, but I'd much rather go out, with the giant chunks of snow drifting silently to the ground, and do something. For now, then, just this: it was fantastic - the singing, the music, the costumes, the dancing, the lights. All of it.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Just a quick note before I start my day - ended up not making cinnamon rolls because by the time I got started I was too impatient to wait for them to rise twice. Instead I went with banana bread. That went over smashingly well, thank you! As long as there are last-minute seats left (just 5 euro!), I am headed to the opera tonight, to see Eugene Oneguine, by Tchaikovski, and this morning I am headed off to Where the Wild Things Are. In part because it's listed as being in Eng w/ sub titles (which I am not holding my breath about at all, in case that's wrong) and in part b/c right now it's only paying at the discount movie in Round Rock, and when I search for Sunday, I can't find any times for it at all. And missing it would be sad! Will let you know more later :)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Chez Chloe

Nah, that's not really her name, either. But I bet you're curious what it's like here. And what I did til 5am at the other place. What if I decide not to tell you? What if I would rather sit here and eat my breakfast? Drink my bowl of caramel tea (mmm, a box of this is coming home with me.) Eat my slice of frangipane galette (dictionary says the word is the same in English, but it's a sweetened almond meal sort of filling, and the galette is the traditional epiphany dessert, another thing made with puff pastry) and eat my orange. Speaking of good fruit, I had strawberries and cream yesterday. Whenever I hear that at home, I think strawberries and whipped cream. And I'm actually not a big whipped cream fan. I know it's full of fake ingredients, but I honestly prefer 'non-dairy whipped topping' for the flavor, and sort of the texture. Though homemade whipped cream, well-flavored, can be very nice. Back to the point: here, strawberries and cream means strawberries and creme fraiche. An ingredient that you can get an imitation of in the US, if you want to pay like $5 for 1 cup, but only an imitation because the real thing contains the forbidden evil: raw milk. Creme fraiche goes very well with strawberries.

About my current host then? Fine, if you insist. She is a student in Arts & Culture - a sort of practical blend of sociology and anthropology for students who intend to later work in... hmm, how to explain the sector? Bah, not really sure. Well, students that plan to work with sort of community-based organizations. Vague, sorry, but will have to do. Personally, I like subjects that incorporate lots of different things, kinda like linguistics. :P She has a studio with a cool set up. There's a door that leads to her and her 'flatmate's' studios, so they have their own little section and a bit of shared hallway, but they each have their own space, complete with corner kitchen (rather typical for student studios here.) The bathroom is outside of the shared area because the building used to be a big house. It's a nice, big bathroom, though, and a much more practical use of space than trying to squeeze that into her studio.

I haven't done much here yet, just talk, had some food, watched some TV. I am very excited, though. Chloe likes to cook, likes to learn new recipes, AND has an oven!! Ok, in the US it would qualify as a toaster oven, but they work somewhat differently here, so it's a small oven. She also has a bread machine. So someone will be making cinnamon rolls today. She also has a small notebook with recipes copied from other people. Like her grandma's recipe for tarte au sucre that she got from her grandma. (Tarte au sucre is from this region. Yes, it means sugar tart. Yes, it actually has chunks of sugar on top. Yes, almost all of the regional specialties are horribly unhealthy.) So I will have a few recipes to copy down for myself as well as sharing mine with her. I made a shopping list this morning, she doesn't have any classes today so we'll be doing some shopping. K, she'll be out of the shower soon, so that's all for now.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


Just a short post for you. Last night, hung out with family I stayed with before and some of their friends and one of my hosts (the other was in Paris). We stayed there til 5am, got back to the apt at 5:30, went to bed around 6. So I slept a bit, then went to the market for stuff and made fajitas for lunch (you can find tortillas in the international aisle of a lot of grocery stores) and then packed my bags to head to the new place. Am at my final host's apt now, a cute studio. Now I can buy presents and not have to haul them around :) K, it's 1:30 so I'm going to bed!!

Saturday, January 9, 2010


Well, let me set the scene for you a bit. The students that I am staying with are at the drama school. It’s not part of the university here. It’s a competition-to-get-in kind of school. And they one have one group of students at a time, so the competition is only every 3 years. And yet people from other schools still apply and if they get in, drop out of the other school and go there. Like 900 applied and 15 got in. And it’s free because of the type of school it is. Yeah. Cool, no? I was stunned that the directors and profs were ok with me being there.

The day started off ok. I had set my alarm, but of course hit snooze once out of habit. Then when I forced myself to get up, THWACK! Ouch, yes, that is the cross beam of the low, sloping ceiling of the bedroom. I knew that. Wander downstairs, have a nice bowl of tea (side note: traditionally, morning drinks are served in a large bowl. Like probably holds 3 cups. It’s nice to have steam and a pleasant aroma in your face and a warm bowl in your hands.)

Then, to the metro! We get to school, and it is a small building. A former gym, actually, but with 15 students, that’s fine. It works because there are separate changing rooms and different spaces. The day starts with hip-hop class. It was only their 3rd class, so I wasn’t too worried. A little worried. Not the world’s best dancer, here. Was supposed to start with hip-hop class, anyway. Turns out the prof had car trouble and couldn’t make it. The students practiced what they’d learned for about 30 minutes (basically til it was confirmed that the prof was a no-show) and then went to the kitchen to have coffee, tea, and lament that they got up 1 ½ hrs before they really needed to. They are still students, after all!

After that, tai chi. Why so many physical things? Acting is all about presenting your body, so being able to use it in different ways and trying different things really helps to expand the ways you move. They have a strength training class once a week. And I think other physical stuff in other mornings. Some of the energy focus stuff in tai chi I had heard before myself, but the way their instructor explained it was really cool. He’s a real instructor in the area who comes for an hour (I think - maybe two) each week for their class. I had seen tai chi before had a teacher in high school who was into it, but all I remembered was that it was about slow, fluid movements. Well, it’s not really about slow. You start out slow, you practice slow, but it is totally a type of martial art. Practicing slow creates the muscle memory to react without thinking. The instructor spent about 5 minutes explaining how the placement of your arms is important - the angle from your shoulder to your hand. He showed us how to do it, and then demonstrated why with a large guy in the class. With the guy’s arms in the proper positions, the instructor tried to push him. No go. We could see both of them shaking a little. Then he had the guy lower his arm 2 inches. Pushed him back in about 10 seconds. Had another guy show it. I was impressed, but a little skeptical. These were guys, after all, who had been in the class. Were they cheating at all? Then he had me come up. Arms in right position, I could feel him pushing but it really wasn’t difficult to hold it there. Elbow lowered, I expected it to be just a little harder, so I didn’t prepare myself very well. Yeah, pushed back in about 3 seconds. By this fit, but not super muscley 71 year old man. Cool.
Then it was lunch time. Everyone ate there, some people went to get lunch, some people had things in the fridge. There was a double hot plate, so people also made lunch. We talked, ppl asked where I was from, why I was there, I asked them the same, asked them about expressions when they lost me (so rare now, it’s so cool and sort of unbelievable.) They had 2 hours for lunch (typical here) so after eating, they cleaned the kitchen started rehearsing scenes they’ve been working on, napped, or wrote thank you letters for a recent internship sort of thing.

Then, their current director came. They’re working on stuff by Marivaux, a **th century playwright. I didn’t recognize the name, but I am sure I know one of the plays. I must have read it in high school. It’s a sort of Adam & Eve ish story, where several people are taken and raised apart (or is it sort of ’created’ as adults? I forget) and then introduced to the world and each other. Two guys, two girls from what I recall. The scenes were so familiar, a guy and girl meet and are instantly attracted in an innocent way. The two girls meet and immediately hate each other. The two guys meet and immediately are friends. Le, V, any bells? I could have also read it in French or theater, tho…

Enfin, bref, the director is from Paris and comes to work with them on these scenes. They are almost done with this unit, so they rehearsed from 2:30 til 7pm. (or was it 7:30?) It was fun to see what they are doing, and how they do it, and what the director says. That length of a day is nothing new. Sometimes they work til 10 at night, rehearsing together. And some have part-time jobs at the local theater. It is seriously intense. They will be with the same 14 other students for 3 years. For a very large portion of their waking hours. They’ve been there about 3 months, and all get along. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have so few people in my world. Many are from different cities and regions, too, so the only people they really know are each other, so a lot of them end up hanging out after classes, too. Last night we all went to one guy’s apartment that lives about 15 min from here. (I had dinner with some girls, and we had an adventure on the way, so maybe later you can ask me about the Great Metro Escape.) Everyone hung out, we played a game. I know that loads of group games are culturally-based, and this one was somewhat, too, and I always wondered what it would be like to be the one who didn’t always know. I certainly found out. Although it was based around people, so I did know most of them. Trying to get someone else to guess a person in a second language, even if you both know the person but from completely different angles… it was fun. I’m glad I didn’t have a competitive partner. K, I meant to eat breakfast while writing and did not at all. So I’ll stop here. Maybe I’ll get something from the bakery… my hosts aren’t up yet (I wouldn’t be, if I were them!) and that may be a pleasant surprise…

Thursday, January 7, 2010

LES SOLDES! and theater.

After well-nourishing myself for breakfast, including fresh fruit from the market this morning, I grabbed my hat, gloves, sweater and coat and headed off to centre ville and the maze of stores found there. This morning, I noticed that my toes hurt. They've hurt a few other mornings, too, and I always thought it was strange that they hurt in the morning but never at night! And it hit me. Here, in these shoes, my toes quickly get frozen when I'm outside and don't thoroughly thaw out for a while. My shoes are pretty good and comfortable, but just where the seam is on my socks I have slight blisters on several of my toes. NOOO! I had said from the beginning that I would think about getting another pair here because I only have 2 pairs of close-toed shoes at home, and one really isn't good for walking much. This is mind, a shoe store was my first stop this morning. Lots of interesting looking things, tried a couple on, but not *that* comfy and nothing quite what I was thinking.

I continued on, finding several cute items at different stores. It's difficult to shop for a warm climate when it is COLD outside and there are so many cute sweaters on sale. But I forced myself to look for things that would work in Austin. I got 3 things at one store that I didn't like that much before, and nothing at two that I used to really like. Either the stores have changed, or my tastes have. I vote it's them. I actually got a cute short-sleeve shirt from my "make other women jealous" store. It's very tame for being from there, which means I can really wear it. I had fun wandering in and out of stores along one street, moving from one center of heat to the next. I didn't put on my hat and gloves even, just kept them in my coat pockets. After finding a funky t-shirt that I absolutely needed at one store, I came out and realized that I'd gone through all the stores on that end. (Don't worry, there were plenty where I didn't buy anything, I won't start begging for spare change on my return.) I turned and started to walk back. And remembered how cold it is out. Left pocket, grabbed hat, put it snugly on my head. Right pocket, grabbed - ANGRY![insert your favorite expletive here]! - the inside of my pocket. I somehow lost BOTH gloves this time! And they were cuter! And one glove of a $3 set isn't too bad, but losing a $4.50 set 10 days later... I was not pleased. I shoved my cold hands into my pocket, and decided to eat the yogurt and granola I'd brought with (borrowed a small container from the house.)

I kept walking and was reminded about the stupid seam on my socks and my need for shoes, so I looked for shoe stores. Found two right next to each other, but still not really anything. I was kind of thinking short boots with little to no heel, probably laces, cute, not necessarily super girly, and comfy. The things that seemed to generally be lacking was comfy and cute. I'd find something almost cute, then look at it... and realize there was something weird about it! I left the second store and realized I was close to the train station, which is right next to the big mall. Destination determined.

I got there, and went into a couple of stores, but still nothing. I was getting seriously annoyed. I looked at my watch and realized the time, and how little I'd eaten since lunch. Probably a partial source of the annoyed. I stopped for a pain au chocolat, but of course the place was out. Luckily they had something else croissant-ish with chocolate to have instead. After that, I realized that my feet did really hurt, too. I looked at the map. 5 shoe stores. I went to two on the lower level. Gross. I went to two on the upper level. Still not right. I went into a clothes store that also had shoes. Crappy crap for too much.

Then I thought about how much real shoes cost at home. And how much they were likely to cost here. I couldn't go looking for shoes for like 30 euro and expect comfort and looks! duh! So back downstairs. Tried on a couple. One or two that might have worked, but not in my size. No, still don't like. Decided to return to the previous two places within sight of the train station. Even looking a little higher priced, just no good! I started to leave, defeated, when I spotted a more expensive place. I started to just walk past. Then decided, no, it's the sales, why not see???

The sales floor was FILLED with shoe boxes, quite similar to many of the other places. Even on sale, a lot of them were still 100 euro. $150. Not gonna happen, especially for a brand I don't know. I saw one pair that just might work. Black, no heel, laces, and some sort of buckle across the laces. Tried them on. Fairly comfy. Ok price. And looked down with my jeans over part. No, just very unattractive. I decided to give up, go home, and hope for better luck another day. Then as I was on the way out, I noticed two different shoes sitting together atop a pile of boxes. Usually one shoe is set on top of a stack of its boxes. One of them was a short, brown boot. With laces. And no heel. I held my breath and... they had my size! I put it on. ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhh........ comfy. So nice. Finally, the price (crossing fingers) - YES! woo-hoo! I had been thinking black, so I looked at them again. Put both on. walked around a little. yes. I took them to the register, the guy rang them up and asked if I wanted matching polish. I said no. And then saw that there were 10 colors behind him. Well, if I'm gonna have leather boots from france, i may as well make sure they can keep their original color! And told him, actually, yes, I probably should since i am not from here and can't be sure of matching the color later. So I have my lovely boots. I am ok with them being brown. I hardly every wear black pants, and if I do I can wear other shoes.

To the theater!!
I am staying with two theater students now, a guy and a girl, let's call them Tom and Lynn. Last night there was a play that they got tickets to see as part of their school. Tom happens to work part-time at the theater, so he offered me his ticket since he'll see it 6 or 8 times while working there. Of course I couldn't turn that down! I asked what it was about, and they didn't really know. It's the fifth one they've seen since October. They did know it had two alumni from their school in it.

I met Lynn downtown in Lille, and we walked over to where the shuttle was waiting. Apparently, there was some question about how the seats had been reserved and how many people would really fit, but we all got on without a problem. About 20 minutes later, we were in front of the theater. We all walked in, waited around for a little bit (since we were early) some people got food, some people got drinks, and then we filed into the seating area. The set was very sparse, and the program listed just 5 actors. The title was "Dehors peste le chiffre noir," which means "Get out black number plague." Really didn't help give a clue about the play.

The show started. Lots of lights. Some music (piano, violin, and guitar on stage.) There are some cool lighting effects with the cast moving around behind a screen, so all we see are vague colors and their silhouettes. Then they come out. And start talking. Talking about whose fault it is, or isn't, when bad things happen. They talk about stereotypes of poor people, of people with money, of how people get in debt and how easy it is. I quickly realize that there is no plot, it's more of a social commentary piece. Even so, it seems a bit... odd to me. I keep watching, thinking maybe it will all come together. How statistics lie. How many people have trouble with money. The twisted ideas we have about how those with (or without) money should act. Or are allowed to act. It was interesting in a way. The whole thing basically talked about how as a society we have a very strange, unhelpful relationship with money. But was still seriously weird, I thought. Maybe it was just me.

The lights go out. After a bit, people start to clap. It's sort of slow, restrained clapping. It was a heavy topic after all. Then we all go out into the lobby. Questions are being asked. "Did you get it?" "What were they going for?" "What was with them all repeating the same thing so much?" Ha. It wasn't just me. It was seriously weird. Still, a neat experience, and I'm glad I went. I'm just also VERY glad I wasn't the only one who wondered what the heck was going on and why. :)

Tomorrow I am headed to school with them, they got permission for me to come. I am rather sure it will be better than the play!

Four words.

Rhubarb yogurt with granola...................

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Volets are deceptive

I don’t know if that’s how it’s spelled. It’s a kind of shutter that blocks out pretty much ALL light. I am not very good at waking up, even if I’ve slept 9 hours, when there’s no light. Every night here, I’ve told myself that I was gonna wake up earlier the next day. And yet, each time I have not. Oh, well.

I went to the market again yesterday! It is apparently biggest on Sunday, but also on Tuesday and Thursday. A friend of Valerie’s mom from Venezuela (he used to live here - traffic jam made him miss his flight Sunday) came through for a few days. I never ended up making Mexican food because he got here Monday and we hung out and had dinner at her mom’s place. Fish and potatoes - it was good. Then yesterday he got spices and stuff to make couscous. There was a round thing that I didn’t know the name of in English, but the rest I recognized.

When dinner time rolled around, I wasn’t quite sure what to think of his great cooking plan. I didn’t know if he knew how to cook or anything. The spices he was putting together I recognized, and they seemed pretty normal. And I’d like to tell myself that I *didn’t* see the bottle of olive oil both before and after he used it… It was almost done, and he asked Valerie’s mom if she had a mortar & pestle, or something to crush the whole spice that I hadn’t figured out the English name for. She did not. So instead, she ended up crushing then on a plate with a glass. It worked pretty well, and very quickly everything smelled like… gin. Sort of pine tree-ish, but sweeter. I now know the word for juniper berries in French. Honestly, I was seriously wondering about his recipe after that. Then everything came out, and it looked and smelled great, and he sprinkled on the final ingredient: orange tree flower water. (K, not sure that’s its real name in Eng.) And then I was super concerned for this recipe. When we tasted it………. I don’t feel like I will ever say anything was the best food I’ve ever eaten, but that was definitely the best surprise for food that I can remember. It was good! Really really really good! The juniper berries added an interesting flavor, but combined well with the rest. I couldn’t pick out any orange flower taste. It was just super tasty. While we were eating I found out that he actually DOES know how to cook, does it a lot, and the couscous we had (with chicken, onions, eggplant, carrots, cucumber, chickpeas and raisins) is something his aunt makes a couple times a year. Everybody ate too much and we sat around and talked a bit and played music from her mom’s computer (we were out there again) and I found one of my recent favorites for them (from Spring Awakening) and then we had to leave too soon to make sure and catch the bus. Although that left us time for more adventures… that I will recount another time.

Changing apartments again today, likely will not have internet for a bit. But can still drop in now and then to say hi to you all!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Wazemmes, take 2

Yay, put this in the right format to share today!! An extra note - changing places again tomorrow, so we'll see what the internet situation is there.

As you may have guessed, I don’t have internet where I’m staying now. I’m actually writing this from the apartment and plan to go out and post it later. I am staying with a girl around my age who is a comics artist. I’ll call her Valerie (nope, not her real name.) Don’t go thinking Batman or Snoopy - comics here have a really wide audience, with different ones for all ages. She had one published that she was the illustrator for, it’s a short book for kids, and it’s cute. Now she’s working on something bigger, with a collection of short stories. She has a terribly cute little apartment in the same neighborhood as I stayed in after Paris.

I arrived here Saturday afternoon, so we mostly talked a bit, then she worked a little (adding colors to a comic on the computer). After that we went out for pizza and beer. Beer is the drink of choice in this area - definitely more than wine. The climate here is a lot like wester WA/OR - it’s mild and wet. A good climate for growing hops (that are later made into beer) but not for wine grapes. And yes, I like pizza here even though I don’t like it at home. It’s completely different here - thin, crispy crust with a different sort of sauce and less cheese.

Sunday, we went to the Wazemmes market. It was cool! There were vendors for EVERYthing: vegetables, fruit, hair dye, boxed candy, pick-a-mix sort of candy, clothes, roasted chicken, and even live chickens. I kid you not, the first guy she bought vegetables from (and they were CHEAP!) was also selling live chickens. They were in these sort of stackable pens that reminded me of over-sized milk crates lined with straw. Someone would ask for one, he’d ask what size, then pull one out of the crate, tie its legs together, weigh it, ask them if the size was ok, and if so, he put it in a cardboard box, tied the box with twine, and cut some holes in the sides so it could breathe. I was impressed that people would know what to do with a whole chicken. I did notice that it was foreigners buying them, at least when we were nearby. I also replaced my gloves and hat. Because it was COLD. Plus it was cheaper there than anywhere else I’d seen. I also bought two persimmons because she’d never tried it, and they are much bigger and cheaper here than at home.

After that, we met her mom in a café, had a drink, walked around a bit (her mom was supposed to be meeting a friend who never showed) and then had lunch. It was fun. Her mom is a teacher, so it was interesting to talk about the differences in the school systems and how teachers are paid at different levels. After lunch, we headed down to the museum. It’s a pretty good size! Even better, since it was the first Sunday of the month, the permanent collection was free. I might try to go back for the temporary exhibit later.

After a stop at a café for hot chocolate and a snack (pear tart - mmmm!!!) we went to a small movie theater a good bit away (we took the metro) where she works as a ticket-taker on Sunday nights. It’s really basically volunteering, but then she gets to see the movie for free, as does the person she brings with her. Yay, me! The movie was Vincere, about the secret second wife of Mussolini. I want to look up how much of the story is known for sure, and how much is made up. Apparently, the lady had his first son, who was officially recognized by Mussolini for a bit, but afterwards it was all completely hushed up. Both the secret-wife and her son died in psychiatric hospitals where they had been hidden. Both also died before the fascist regime was brought down.

Today, she’s working some, I washed some clothes, am now writing this. After lunch, I might do some more thesis reading, and then I’ll go out. I have to remember to go by the supermarket, too, because I’m gonna make some fajitas for dinner tonight… as long as I can find tortillas. I have seen them some places in town, so hopefully there are some around here, too.

Monday, January 4, 2010


Still alive, no internet at the apt, wrote a blog post but forgot to save it in a universal format! Very silly of me... More when I can, then. (Am at internet cafe on their comp, didn't bring mine b/c no wifi.)

Friday, January 1, 2010

Bonne annee!

I haven't installed accents on my laptop yet, need to do that. So! What might New Year's in France include?

Smoked salmon.
Fois gras.
Cheese platter.
Tasty desserts.

That makes: check, check, check, check, check, check and check. I sort of new that it was mostly going to people a bit older than me and their kids. When I arrived, everyone said hi and was very friendly. I even got some wine splashed on the bottom edge of my pants (khaki cords!) to start the night. The dancing started pretty much right off. And I realized rather quickly that I had three options. Hang out with kids (oldest ~12.) Watch people dance. Join in the dancing.

Join in it was. Here, meals are often (compared to home) very structured. An aperitif (we'd consider it a snack with a drink, or an appetizer, depending.) Then a main dish. Then cheese. Then dessert. And so it was at the party. At first, actually, they fed the kids chicken nuggets and fries. There were also a few little things on the table, like endive leaves with tuna salad on them. Once the kids were full, out came the foie gras. The tapenade. The smoked salmon. The other kind of salmon, in a sort of tuna salad. One that was gone, one savory tart was brought out, but everyone was pretty much full by then (it got saved for lunch today, don't worry.) Then a bit later, a platter with 10 kinds of cheese (I kid you not!) Then around 1, out came the dessert - la buche. It's a Christmas (and apparently New Year's) sort of cake. That is very rich. Very good. There were three, chocolate, raspberry, and orange. I had two slices of a raspberry one at the Christmas part I went to, so I went for chocolate and orange here. They were both quite good.

That's the food, then what about the music? It was a bit of everything. American. French. English. Abba. Other. Some sort-of-recent stuff at first, with current stuff. A 2008 or 9 'hits' was brought out for the 12 yr old girls. And then once the kids went to bed (when the parents pulled out the whiskey and gin) it was mostly 80s stuff. 80s French music? It's mostly like American 80s music. As far as I could tell, anyway. A lot of the stuff was American for sure. It was fun listening to some of them sing along. There was a good bit of 'yaourt' - yogurt. Means indistinct singing along when the person has no idea of the real words. One of the songs they played for the younger girls was Katy Perry's "I kissed a girl." Everybody seemed to know the one main line. And sort of went mushy after that. A pretty dumb song anyway.

We were out at a house not far from the Channel, so everyone slept there. And got up in the morning, the adults cleaned up while the kids played in gorgeous sunshine, even though it was cold out it was a beautiful day. Had lunch. And went up to see the channel. Or started to. Right before we left, it started doing a weird hail/snow thing. Looked like little styrofoam balls all over the windshield. The other cars turned around, but we continued on, to at least *see* the water. Then - miracle! - the snow let up! It was still FREEZING and the wind was blowing really hard, so just 3 of us got out and walked down to the water. And Valinda now has wet Cap Gris Nez sand waiting for her.

I had fun. As I got more tired, it was sort of frustrating because I kept having to ask people to repeat themselves. Especially with the music and everyone talking in the background, it was really tough for me to understand sometimes. And then a few people were joking around, and I understood, but didn't think I understood because I wasn't expecting sarcasm.

This morning I also read a bit of a graphic novel (i.e. long comic-style book for adults) made from Howard Zinn's 'A People's History of the United States.' I knew that the book was interesting, but it was extra interesting to see it in that format. It's bits of history, but told from the point of view of people involved. Not of the main actors that we normally think of, but people who made a big difference and are often left out. It starts out with Wounded Knee, but from a Native American who arrived on the scene after the massacre. I am sure the full book has a lot more.

Well, I'm super tired, so I believe that's it for me today. I am headed somewhere new tomorrow and you should know by now to have patience :)