Thursday, December 31, 2009

Le Nouvel An.

Happy New Year!

Melcom addis amet!

Bonne Année!

Monday, December 21, 2009

I'll be Home for Christmas.

But just barely.

I left Paris Thursday morning Paris time.  It had just started snowing.

That doesn't really seem like much I suppose, but my flight was delayed by about an hour and a half.  So we took off, just a little late.  I got home to Washington and got picked up by my parents, and by the time I got home and checked my email, it had kept snowing so much that they were canceling all kinds of flights into and out of Paris!  They closed down all the buses in Paris so everyone had to take the metro, and everyone was freaking out.

Cut to Friday: The East Coast of the USA is bracing itself for "Thundersnow 2009."  I had intended to head up to Lancaster, PA (near Philly) for a Christmas party on Sunday, but because of the storm I headed up Friday night and JUST beat all the snow.  Unfortunately, my friend Brandon, the host of the party, was due to fly in Saturday around 3:30 from London (yet another city facing severe weather), his parents were going to drive the 3+ hour ride to pick him up and then drive back on Saturday.

Cue "Thundersnow":

It started snowing around midnight on Friday (I arrived around 11:30) and didn't stop snowing until about midnight on Saturday night.  So, after having been delayed about 13 hours, we finally get the word that Brandon has landed in Boston at around 10 pm, and he was due to arrive in Washington the following day, Sunday, at 12:30 in the afternoon.

Sunday: Brandon's parents drive down to Washington and get there around 12 (when he was due to arrive), only to find out that the flight is due to arrive at 3...then 4...then 5.  So finally around 5, Brandon is picked up by his parents and they make the drive back home to Lancaster.

Meanwhile at Brandon's house, the party had gotten into full swing.  I think there were about 12 or 13 of Brandon's friends at his house waiting for him to come back.  I got to his house around 4 with some other people, and he arrived at a timely 9:30.  We began the White Elephant gift exchange promptly after, haha.

The night turned out great.  Everyone had lots to eat and drink and there was lots of catching up with old friends and socializing.  Thoroughly enjoyable.

I even got to play in the snow a bit on Saturday! (Thanks for the video, Shannon!)


And now I'm home with the 'rents and we're preparing dinner for some family friends.  It's a little chaotic, but it's going to be a fun night.

Four days!!!

Monday, December 14, 2009


 So I went to Strasbourg this past weekend (not to be confused with Strasburg, PA...sorry Shannon).  And boy did I love it!

It was so great getting out of the huge city of Paris with the unpleasant Parisians and experiencing a completely different side of France.  The people were SO friendly!  Sarah had a friend who lives there that she met in college, so we got together with her for lunch one day and she and her other friend walked us around the city and told us about some of the historical things that (shockingly enough) Rick Steves failed to mention in his TWO PAGES concerning the beautiful city of Strasbourg.

For example: notice the differences between the wood work underneath the windows in these pictures:

 The ones in the first photo have like one piece of wood that is standing straight up on its end under each window.  The second photo, however, has a cross made out of wood and it's carved ornately.  This means that the people who live/lived here were much more wealthy.

Also, houses that you see that have the wood on the outside walls (as all the ones pictured in both of these pictures do) are moveable.  That is to say that they can be taken apart and moved farther out of town if someone doesn't want to live right in the city center anymore.  I don't remember why that is an option, but the houses are considered "mobilier."  Usually "mobilier" applies to furniture because you can move it around your "immeuble" (house or apartment).  But in this case the house can be moved too, so you can call it "mobilier."  Interesting, non?

Strasbourg is also famous for its Christmas markets.  So we went to aaallll of them and had vin chaud (mulled wine), jus d'orange chaud au miel (hot orange juice with honey), crêpes au caramel (caramel crêpes) and lots of marrons chauds (roasted chestnuts....which are amazing).  It was definitely a gastronomically wonderful weekend.

So anyway, here are a few more fotos that I took this weekend.  Enjoy!

Walking across the bridge between Germany and France.

 Huge tree in one of the squares in Strasbourg.

The haunting yet beautiful cathedral of Strasbourg.

 Trying to find where we are while at one of the Christmas markets.

The whole city was decorated for Christmas.

 Cathedral at night.

 Morning at our hostel in Kehl, Germany.

 Santa band.

 Delicious authentic Strasbourg meal of three meats cooked with Riesling wine and potatoes.  Super good.

Sorry the spacing is kind of messed up.

Anyway, it was a great weekend.  I'm exhausted and am already in bed (even though it's only 8:30 Paris time, haha).  Special thanks to Alex who, being the only one capable of driving a stick, drove both ways like a champ.  Well done, sir, well done.

11 days till Christmas!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Here Comes jolly ol' Père Noël.

Père Noël = Father Christmas = Santa Claus

Did you know that the French typically eat turkey (la dinde) at Christmas?  It's also tradition to eat fois gras (yuck), as well as smoked salmon (le saumon fumé)...and oysters (les huîtres).  I told them that we eat turkey at Thanksgiving, and usually eat ham for Christmas.  They were shocked.  Apparently it's a "poor person" food to the French and they wouldn't eat it for a special occasion.  Interesting.

So, as I may have mentioned before, I've been listening to a lot of Christmas music.  Particularly a lot of oldies by Bing, Nat and Frank (the CD is called Christmas Crooners...and it's awesome).  It's a great CD because it's a nice mix of fun classics like "Jingle Bells" and "I'll be Home for Christmas," but has a lot of religious classics like "Away in a Manger" and "Silent Night."  Something I was a little surprised to notice is that a few of the songs mention both Santa and, shockingly enough, Jesus.  I've never really thought of this before.  I grew up with Santa Claus.  I still get presents from him actually (though his handwriting looks shockingly like my mother's).  And I think it's great!  When did Santa and Jesus become mutually exclusive?  Obviously Jesus is more important than the idea of a jolly fat man in red underwears sneaking into your house at night, but that doesn't mean you have to exclude other aspects of a holiday.

"Santa knows we're all God's children, and that makes everything right.
Fill your hearts with Christmas cheer, cuz Santa Claus comes tonight."

"Peace on Earth will come to all, if we just follow the light.
Let's give thanks to the Lord above, cuz Santa Claus comes tonight."

It's not something that plays any significant part in my life, it's just something fun to do at Christmas giving presents...or doing a crazy White Elephant gift exchange with your family...or drinking mimosas and having delicious buttery pastries for breakfast!

Just something to think about during this delicious Christmas season.

Here's my Christmas tree this year.  No floor space, so I had to get creative:

17 days left!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Mon Anniversaire.

Hello!  Bet you weren't expecting another update already, eh?  I like to keep you guessing.

First I would like to say THANK YOU to all my awesome friends who sent me overseas birthday wishes. And who especially to Shannon who actually sent me a card!

I had a fantastic day: I woke up late, ate pancakes with my buddy Sarah (which were super super delicious), listened to Christmas music while making paper snowflakes, and then went to a friend's apartment and watched Christmas movies...and made more snowflakes!  I'm getting pretty good at them, not gonna lie.  I also spent about an hour "elfing" various friends.  That wasn't so much to celebrate my birthday, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

As I embark on the 25th chapter of my life, I'd like to think that I've grown a little more mature, a little wiser, and a lot more handsome.

I think, however, that only one of these is really true:

(You're supposed to look at that picture and say, "He's right...he is a lot more handsome.")

That's it for now!

Thanks again to everyone for the birthday wishes!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Back from November Hiatus.

Sorry guys.  The good thing about doing a lot of things in the city with people is that it's really fun and I'm living my life.  The bad part is that it gets hard to sit down and share it.  I'm going to work on it.  Promise.

I'm currently listening to the Muppets sing "The 12 Days of Christmas" (Miss Piggy singing "Five golden rings" and hamming it up, of course).  So, obviously, I'm in a really good place.

As we roll onto December from November, I've been thinking a lot about what to do this next year.  Things are happening so fast!  I can't believe I've already been in France for two and a half months!  And I can't believe I come home for CHRISTMAS here in two weeks!  Completely ridiculous!

I was actually very productive today!  I cleaned/straightened up my entire apartment, went Christmas shopping and paid my rent!  Christmas shopping was fun, though I probably wouldn't have gotten anything if I hadn't gone with someone.  I'm not one to just aimlessly wander through stores.  I'll walk through the mall or something, but I don't usually go into a store unless I see something I want.  Going with Sarah, however, made me actually go into stores.  Once I actually enter a store, I see things that I think people might like.  Let the holidays begin!

I've been unapologetically bingeing on Christmas music.  There's always a point each year after Christmas (usually around March or April) where I get tired of having Christmas music come up on my iTunes shuffle, so I go ahead and delete it all.  Then, eight months later, when I need it, I have none!  This is especially troubling when I'm a six hour flight away from all my Christmas CDs.  I've had to be very creative this year, to say the least.  Sarah and I bought two Christmas CDs of classic Christmas music from FNAC (a French Best Buy-ish store) today and we're going to split the cost and have great tunes to guide our spirits through this festive time.  It's going to be great.

Teaching has been going really well.  Some of the teachers have been giving me a lot of freedom with the students, so we can do lots of fun things.  For example, some of the students are working on the environment, so I printed off some articles about the COP15 conference in Copenhagen (yes, it's a real thing), and we talked about it, then I assigned them to go and take a picture and provide a caption for something around them that makes them think about the environment and pollution and what not.  I decided (the day before their assignment was due) that I should probably do it too so that we could all share and discuss.  So, while doing that, I took these very unrelated pictures:

And a picture or two from the Musée de l'Orangerie:


I'll give 5 points to whoever can identify the artist and subject of the second painting.  He's super famous....

One more thing to share!  A bunch of my American friends and I had a fantastic Thanksgiving celebration last weekend!  Complete with turkey, pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, yams/sweet potatoes (I know they're supposedly difference...), apple pie, green beans, and anything else you can think of that's necessary for an awesome feast!  It was truly spectacular.  Props to Libby and Sara for getting up early to bake the turkey and desserts and all.  I tip my hat to you.  I neglected to take pictures but I'll try to get some from some others and put them up here.  There were 14 of us: 11 Americans, 1 Brit and 2 Frenchies.  So, out of 14 people, three had their first Thanksgivings.

Surrounded by friends, the wine flowed, the laughs abounded, and the food just kept on coming!  Now that's something to be thankful for!

Gobble gobble!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Chez Moi.


So I took pictures a while ago of my apartment to give everyone the grand tour, and it's about time that I finally put them up!  I took a little time to clean up before hand, so you can be relatively certain that it doesn't currently look like these pictures.  But you'll get the general idea.

So let's start with where I am right now!

This is my desk where I do most of my work.  The window right there gives me tons of natural light and opens all the way up, so I can get lots of fresh air too (when it's not too cold or rainy).  I also call this my study.  And the entertainment room.  And maybe the wreck room.  But it's nice, haha.

Next on the tour we have the living room/bedroom/lounge/dining room/entertainment room (yes, I have two rooms for entertaining...I'm very rich).  That's my bed that folds up into a couch.  It's actually very comfortable and is nice and large.  It makes kind of a loud noise when I take it down, so I feel a little bad for the people who live below me when I go to bed late, but I haven't had anyone down there bang their ceiling in protest, so I think I'm ok so far.  And I have two large pillows that I use too, not just those little ones.  Thank goodness.

So here is my library and wardrobe.  The picture is kind of weird because the wardrobe has a mirror on it and you can see my desk through it.  All the clothes that I have fit just perfectly into the space allotted.  It was great.  And it's nice having a full length mirror.  I actually do my hair in this mirror because I have to duck to see my head in the mirror in the bathroom.  Really essential things, obviously.

Here is my grande cuisine.  It's pretty awesome.  You can't really see it, but I have two electric burners (both of which work) on the right hand side, and a nice big sink and fridge.  It's very nice.  The cabinet under the sink is where I keep all the plates, pots, pans and cups and silverware.  It was all supplied for me, and it's mostly pretty nice.  I did just break my sauce pan, however.  Though to be fair the handle rusted off.  So not my fault.  I was lucky and found a brand new replacement for less than 10€.  So that was pretty exciting.  You can also see into my bathroom right there.  It's pretty great.  Small, but great.  Originally my shower didn't drain worth a crap so I had to shower for two minutes, turn off the water, wait for it to drain a bit, and then finish.  So that was awesome.  I called and talked to the landlord though and he came and fixed it.  So now it's great!  It's like a real American shower!  And those of you who have lived in France know what a blessing it is to have one, haha.  No offense, France.  Well....maybe just a little.

And one last thing that you should see is my "pantry."  Whatever doesn't belong in the fridge finds itself in a little spot on the floor next to the wardrobe to wait until it's called upon for dinner.  This picture was taken a little while ago, so the pantry is a little more full right now.  One requirement of things placed there is that they be somewhat stackable.  For example: I bought too much spaghetti to fit into the pasta jar (look bottom left), so I put the extra into the fridge.  This also applies to any sandwich bread I buy.  I currently have two half-loaves in the fridge.  (This happened because I went shopping without looking in the fridge to see what I needed.  Out of sight out of mind I guess, haha.)  One more interesting thing to note: Do you see that little blue and white bottle?  That's milk!  Though I don't have the same bottle there now, the milk I do have in the pantry expires January 1st, 2010.  "How is this possible?" you may ask.  Well, milk is sterilized before it's bottled here (I think).  So as long as it isn't opened, it's good for much longer.  You'll thank me for this useless knowledge some day when you find yourself in France desperate for a bowl of cereal and all you see in the grocery store is milk that's not being refrigerated.  You're welcome.

So that's the grand tour!  I hope you enjoyed yourself.  If you're in the neighborhood you'd be welcome to stop by!  Assuming I actually know you, obviously.

Oh, and here's the view from where I'm sitting right now:

The courtyard I look out on is much larger than you would ordinarily find.  It's quite cool.  There are some conifers.  I like it.

And if I look out to the left, I have this view:

Not amazing, but I can see when it's lit up with different colors, and on the top of the hour it sparkles for five minutes, and I can see that too.  So I'm not complaining.

That's it!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Back to Life.

Hello all.  The long, harsh winter of my absence has finally come to an end!  I hope you were ok without me.

Brandon left this morning to return to the Motherland and I have spent all day recovering.  This included first and foremost a three hour nap.  I then skyped with the 'rents for a while, bought a plane ticket home (Dec. 17th through Dec. 29th...let me know if you want to get together), ate dinner and cleaned and did dishes.  Everything (well...over 50% of things) is back in order.

So during the course of Brandon's time here, we visited:

the Marais

the Jardin de Luxembourg

the Louvre

the Eiffel Tower

the Arc de Triomphe

the Champs-Elysees

Notre Dame




And plenty of other things I'm sure I'm forgetting.  It was a busy week, to say the least.

I know that these photos seem like I just google imaged these things and posted those pictures, but all the ones that are on here are ones that either Brandon or myself took.  I know I know: We're amazing photographers.

I'm still on vacation from school for a few more days.  I'm going to have to try and find something to do as all the other assistants are still on vacation. I can't wait until I have the funds to go and take trips like that.  This paperwork has been a nightmare.  I thought that everything was finally getting sorted out, but I was apparently mistaken as I have still received no paycheck, haha.  Whoops.....

I'll update in a little while with a more meaty posting.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Doing Paris.

So my friend, Brandon, is here right now and we've been running around the city like maniacs seeing everything!  So far we've been to the Louvre, Versailles, the Latin Quarter, the Marais, Montmartre and Notre Dame.  So that's why I haven't posted anything!

We're having a great time though.  Rick Steves has been our faithful companion telling us how to skip lines and avoid crowds.  What a lifesaver!

I'll post as soon as I get a chance!


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Playing the Parts.

Ok everyone, I'm here.  Sorry for the delay.  I've actually started teaching lessons, so it's not that I'm being lazy.  Though the fact that I've recently come across the last season of The Office probably isn't helping.  I've been going through them like it's crack cocaine.

Anyway, back to teaching.  I'm feeling more like a teacher now, which I really like.  It's a great feeling when someone sits there and listens and talks to you, and then leaves knowing a little more about something than before they came.  So far I've taught lessons on the American education system, religion in America, and New York City.  They've gone really well.  These lessons were all for 15-16 year old kids.  They were very attentive and were very interested.  They're actually pretty cute kids when they listen and ask funny/interesting questions like a kid during my NYC lesson: How big are hamburgers in America?"  So, things are going very well on the "actually doing what I'm here to do" front.  And the teachers I'm working with are great: very supportive and try to help me however they can.

For the New York City lesson, I found this story where different New Yorkers journaled about what they did during the day, just to show them what actual people that live in the city do every day.  So we read about this 8th grader, Carly.  To summarize her fascinating day, she wakes up, eats cheerios for bfast, goes to school, goes to bagel world with her friend, goes home, goes to bed.  So I had the class read the story line by line and then we talked about it afterwards.  They didn't know what a bagel was, so their teacher explained to them quickly in French what it is, and I did my best artistic rendering of a bagel on the board (complete with hole in the middle).  As soon as they saw the picture they all immediately shouted "doughnut! doughnut!"  We said that it's kind of shaped like a doughnut, but it's not sweet, and it's heavier.  So they accepted that and then we kept talking.  At the end I asked if there were any more questions and someone asked what "cheerios" are.  I said that it's a cereal you eat for breakfast that's small, round, and has a hole in it.  Easy enough, right?  False.  They shouted "Bagel!  Bagel!" and pointed to my picture on the board.  Touché kids, touché.  It was fun though.  It's cool to be the only American at school though.  Everyone says, "Hello Peter" in the hallway.  I try to respond with the less-rigid sounding, "hey guys, what's up?" and get blank stares in return.  One thing at a time, I suppose.

When I'm outside of school, however, I definitely try to blend in.  I think I'm starting to fit in better and better when I'm out on the street.  I'm really learning my way around, so I don't really need to pull out my street map as much.  That helps.  I must be doing something right with the way I dress too.  I was walking to church on Sunday and I saw these two ladies standing on the street corner walking slowly and looking around a lot.  They seemed a little lost.  I walked by them and one of them looked at me and said in a very quiet, timid voice, "umm...excuse me..."  And I, without thinking, responded in English, "Yes?"  She looked at me kind of surprised and said in an American accent, " you speak English"  I smiled and said, "yes I do."  "Oh wow, you speak really well!"  "Umm...thanks" with a slight chuckle was my response.  I gave them directions to the Eiffel Tower and then said goodbye.  They responded with a "merci," and were off.  I still don't know if they realized I wasn't French.

This makes me wonder if I've developed some sort of accent since I've been here though.  To date, I've had one Chinese woman and two Canadians tell me I have a Canadian accent (when I speak English), and then the other day I was at the social security office and I was chatting with this lady in French, and she told me I have a German accent.  So I don't really know what to believe anymore.  I've never been told I have an accent ever in my entire life.  Except an American one.  So yeah...that's something unexpected.

Last Friday I went out with some of the other assistants to the steps of Montmartre.  We brought snacks and wine and just chatted for a while.  I only knew about half of them before going, so it was great to extend the circle, as it were.  After it got really really cold sitting on the cement steps, we headed down from the top of the city and joined a French saucisson party.  Saucisson is sausage.  Yeah.  That's just not something I understand.  You literally get some friends together, and there's about six or seven different types of sausage, and you cut off a piece, stick it on some bread, and chow down.  I don't get what it is with the French and sausage, but I went with it.  The French people there were really cool and the two groups actually mingled quite a bit.  So that was encouraging.  It remains to be seen though if I'll ever see any of those Frenchies again though.  I talked to this one girl for a while in French, she was really cool.  She's a social worker, so it was interesting to see how it's different than social work in America.  There was also this one guy I talked to who had lived in NYC for a year, so we went back and forth between English and French.  I told him if he ever wants to work on his English to give me a call.  We'll see.  (Photo courtesy of Sarah.)

Anyway, so we left there around 2 or 2:30 and I had to take the stupid night bus back home.  The bus finally came (after waiting 20 minutes) and I got on and got dropped off at the closest stop to my apartment (about a mile away).  So I had to walk back.  Luckily it had finished raining for the night, so I made the best of the long walk home by putting in my iPod and dancing down the street the whole way back.  Great end to a great day.

Ok...I need another hit of The Office.

Before I go though: Shout out to Hannah P. for the new job.  It was great catching up the other day.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Bad boys bad boys.

I'm sorry everyone.  I've been neglecting you.  I was going to write an entry earlier today but instead went to church, planned (part of) a lesson for tomorrow, went to a concert, and ate dinner with a friend while watching The Office and Psych.  So it's been a very productive day, but, I still have two and a half lessons to finish.  I will leave you with a picture from this weekend though.

I will update before too long, promise!

Merci de votre compréhension.

Monday, October 12, 2009


So when I first arrived in Paris my friend, Sarah, allowed me to stay with her for the first couple of weeks until I found a place.  She lived near the 8th Arrondissement and one day I was walking around for a little while and just happened to walk by the Sofitel Faubourg Saint-Honoré!

I was actually very surprised by this because I worked not far from here a few summers ago and never noticed it before.  I guess the only reason I noticed it this time was because I worked in one for the past year, lol.  That tends to help with this kind of thing.

At any rate, I should have taken more pictures, but this will have to suffice for now:

Sofitel Lafayette Square definitely has a much grander entry way, to say the least.

The lobby of Saint-Honoré is nice, but I think Lafayette Square is a bit more elegant.  I was going to go in and take a bunch of pictures, but I felt a little awkward, so I just went in real quick and looked around and then fiche'd le camp.

So anyway, this update is just to say that I think about all my Sofi-friends often and hope all is well chez vous.

And one final one with me and my bud:

And always remember: Keep it classy!

Peace out!