Sunday, September 27, 2009


Ok, so this time it actually has been several days.  I can't really be blamed though.  I was busy.  Busy making friends!!!

Saturday was the day that one of the English Assistants (English the language, not the people group) had arbitrarily chosen as a day that all the assistants should meet up with one another.  It was pretty cool to meet people.  The majority I would say were American, though there were a lot of British Islanders as well as some Irish and some (guessing stereotypically from their accents) Aussies/Kiwis.  There were probably 60 or so of us all there (though I'm very bad at estimating numbers in groups of people).  I probably won't hang out with them again, however.  I did meet one girl, Katy, that I might wind up sharing an apartment with though.

She was at the American Church looking for housing when these two little ladies approached her and asked if she would be interested in their apartment near the Canal St. Martin.  So she went and looked at it and apparently it's pretty cool.  We're just waiting to hear back from the ladies.  Anyway, after I met Katy, her, me and Sarah all paled around until we met up with one of Sarah's friends from study abroad, Jacqueline.  I had met her once briefly while I was studying abroad.  But anyway, we met up with her and her boyfriend, Jérôme.  He was really nice and actually invited all of us to join him and his friends for some drinks on the champs de mars.  (That's the stretch of green in front of the Eiffel Tower.)  When he suggested this, I got really really excited about the possibility of actually meeting and hanging out with French people.  I played it pretty cool though: trying not to let on to the eruption of excitement that was bubbling up inside me.  A simple "oui" sufficed and we were out the door.

We got to the champs de mars and met up with four of Jérôme's friends.  I was concentrating so hard on getting the bisous (the kiss on the cheeks) right that I didn't remember a single person's name.  Whoops.  No problem though: I deftly avoided having to use their names by simply not talking to someone if it was a situation in which I had to get their attention before starting the conversation.  Worked like a charm.

We ate junk food and drank wine and the French actually talked to us.  It was really great to just be hanging out.  After a while we moved along and went to St. Michel which is super touristy but also full of tons of fantastic and diverse restaurants.  We went to what they referred to as a "French cheese restaurant."  And boy was it.  I had raclette which is when you get a plate of "toppings" (veggies or assorted meats or some other things) and then several strips of cheese and some potatoes.  Then you get this little oven to heat up your cheese.  You put the "toppings" on the plate and then once the cheese has melted, you drip the cheese on top and then go at it.  And boy did I.  I had a veritable cheese baby by the end.  I felt really sick.  But in a good way I guess.  And I was determined to make the most of the night, so when they asked if we wanted to get some beers, I (again keeping my cool) replied with a simple "oui," and off we went.

We finally got to the bar, I had one drink, was completely filled to the top and we had to get up early for church the next morning anyway, so we called it quits and went home.  They took down our emails and we told them to find us on facebook, so we'll just have to see how it works out.

I kept having these "out of body" realizations while were hanging out.  It's kind of hard to explain, and sounds really stupid, but it's as if I was living a completely different life.  Like, I was talking, joking, eating, listening and whatever else, all in a completely different language.  And these people have grown up their entire lives doing this in the same way but differently and now I was a part of it.  It was a very "we are the world/kum-ba-ya" moment, I guess.  I hope that makes sense.

So anyway, to wrap this up, it was a great night.  We went to the American Church in Paris this morning (which was a really good service) and then walked around on the Champs-Elysées and just enjoyed the beautiful weather.

So that's it for now.  It was quite the weekend.  And this week I start going to the school.  I got my schedule though and they've done their best to keep my hours right next to each other, so I don't have to show up at like 8 am and then stay until 3 pm.  So that's awesome.  And I have every Wednesday off!  Huzzah!

And one last thing.  There was this kid with a really stupid haircut that demanded ridicule.  So here it is.  Two pictures, actually. 

Ok, that's it.

A la prochaine!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Just a bonjour.

Just a quick life update.

I feel like I haven't written in a few days.  In reality it's just been a long day.  I met the director of my school today and had to be there at 9:30.  So I got up at like 7:45.  I feel pretty lame that getting up at that time seemed such a burden, but I haven't really had any schedule since I've been here, so I've been getting the "normal" 10 hours of sleep each night.  I think I'm 80% adjusted to time on this side of the waters.

The teachers at my school are awesome.  My main contact, Madame Belaroussi, is super cool and speaks super good English.  She's been such a help to me and is very excited to have another assistant come through the school.  So far she has been very serious about making sure that people don't try and use more than the allotted 12 hours per week.  She's even told people to their face, "You are not allowed to ask him for help."  It's nice to have someone stick up for you like that, haha.  I would have a hard time saying, "No, I don't want to help you with that."  Especially in French.  So it's great that she's willing to cut out the riff-raff.

The French schooling system is very different than in America.  Duh, right?  Let me explain.  I'm in a lycée which is their version of high school.  There are the Secondes, Premieres, and Terminales.  It's seems like it's backwards....but apparently not.  Anyway, the Secondes are in like 10th grade, the Premieres in 11th grade, and the Terminales are our Seniors.  To graduate students have to take the Baccalauréat (the BAC) which basically determines if they go on to University or if they have to go to trade school.  So this one test decides what you're going to do for the rest of your life in France.  It's a little daunting, yes?

That's one thing that I've always appreciated about the USA.  While I do agree that the fact that a Bachelor's degree is so accessible does diminish its value, I think it's even more important that people's lives aren't irreversibly assigned a tract that they have to follow for the rest of their days.  People should have the chance to take whatever opportunity comes their way.

I've also discovered a new website I like.  Take a look:

And I leave you with the flying buttresses of Notre Dame (they were very revolutionary for their day, after all).

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Of College Life and Belgian Chocolate.

I bought a cell phone!  It's one of the smallest ones I've ever seen.  And I love it.  The provider is Orange.  I guess they're the equivalent of AT&T in the States because they're the only service you can use with an iPhone.  Some more fascinating France info.  But anyway, they have this "pay as you go" plan that's pretty reasonable.  So it works for me.  Plus I can use this phone when I'm back in the States.  I just have to switch out the SIM cards...I think.

We went to visit the school I'm going to be teaching at yesterday.  It was cool to see where it all was.  It's not actually very far from Paris.  About 15-20 minutes by train.  But then it's about a 20 minute walk from the train station.  So that sucks a bit.  The campus was very interesting.  They have the middle school, high school and university all on the same campus.  The one side is the university, and then the other side is the other two.  That was a little weird.  I went to check what housing options they were offering at the university.  So we entered the campus and accidentally ended up surrounded by 13-16 year olds.  "This can't be right..."  So then we went to the other side of the campus and ended up right in the middle of some sort of hippie commune of (clearly unwashed) college students outside of what we assumed was the "Student Activities Center."  It looked like they had emptied their dorm rooms and were sitting on all these plush couches and chairs on the lawn just chilling in the sun smoking and drinking.  It was a little awkward.  Especially because we passed them, realized we were going the wrong direction, and then had to turn around and walk by them again two seconds later!

So anyway, long story short, I decided that even though living on campus was cheaper, I didn't really want to be surrounded by that on a daily basis.  I didn't come to France to relive college.  So I'm going today to visit an apartment (hopefully more than one actually).  It's suuuuuper small; but I can afford it...sort of.

Let me take a moment to introduce all of you to a dear friend of mine.  His name is Jeff, and he's from Bruges, Belgium.  I call him Jeff de Bruges.  Jeff makes some of the very best chocolates.  Every Friday when I was studying abroad in Avignon, my friends Kate, Leigh and I would go visit the local JdB and get a few chocolates to try.  Eventually the lady there got to know us and would give us some freebies.  Well, that didn't happen this time, lol.  But!  The few I did buy started to melt in my bag so rather than have a sticky mess I just ate them all at once and then felt a little sick afterwards.  So that's something.

Well I guess that's it for now!

Oh, and congrats to Sarah O. for the engagement.  We never thought this day would come, haha.  Jk!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Life goes on. And on. And on. And on.

I'm coming closer and closer to getting my own housing. I'm definitely enjoying my time with Sarah though. It's such a blessing to have such a good friend here. Our sleep schedules are a little different (mostly because I've needed a nap every day since we've arrived like a 4 year old), but we're getting along just splendidly.

We went for like a four hour walk today. We walked all the way from where we are near the Place de la Concorde (pictured here).

To Île-de-la-cité where Notre Dame and Saint Chapelle are located. When you see Notre Dame from where we were, it doesn't really seem that far because it's so big. But it's quite a walk. Luckily it's all flat and mostly in the shade, haha.

But we walked all over the island and saw some stuff that neither of us had seen before. So that was fun. Here's my favorite picture of the day.

It's from the façade of Notre Dame.

In other news, we also opened up our French bank accounts! That's very exciting and was
rather easy. Especially because we're both under the age of 25. I think there are more taxes and what not when you're that old. In France there's a monthly tax that's taken out of your bank account simply for having one. But there's also interest that you I'm not quite sure how it all works out. Maybe I should read the 5,000 page handout that the guy at the bank gave me....but probably not.

That's our bank. BNP Paribas. I just learned today that it's actually the largest French company. So there you go. Never say that you didn't learn anything from reading my ramblings, haha.

And now to bed!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Journey of a Thousand Suns

...or at least that's what it felt like. I'm not sure what I did last time I came to France, but it either didn't involve as much luggage (which I know isn't true) and the 3 years I've aged since then has turned me into a tottering old man, or my mind has simply blocked out the more harrowing bits of the journey so I'll be more inclined to travel later (which is very possible actually).

I'm in very high spirits today: It's almost 6 PM on this side of the ocean and I've just emerged from one of those dead-to-the-world naps where you wake up and feel that you haven't moved in approximately 3 years. What a gift from God. Even though I slept for about 12 hours last night, I was in a zombie-like state again about an hour after I woke up, haha. So, now that i have all that sleep energy pulsing through my body, hopefully I'll be able to go to bed at an appropriate French hour and not wind up staying up too late. Here goes nothing.

But you probably don't want to hear more about my sleep-scapades. So my flight from the US of A to Dublin (we flew Aer Lingus) was delightful. I'm totally going to give Aer Lingus a shout out. It was a great to flight. They had lots of movies and tv episodes you could watch, so the flight went pretty quickly considering it was like 6 hours. Then we had our 3 hour layover in Dublin, which was a fun people watching place. I felt like that time went pretty quickly too.

So we get onto our connecting flight to France and manage to get all our luggage from the airline (huge sigh of relief). Then we got onto the RER train from the airport with our four huge pieces of luggage and two carry on bags. We were the equivalent of a 700 pound person trying to fit on public transportation created for little Europeans. It was not the easiest thing I've ever done. Then we switched over to the regular metro which was even smaller. But luckily we didn't have to change metro lines, so we just got off the metro at our stop and walked a few blocks to the apartment. Then there were the five flights of stairs. Without an elevator of course. So with the very last of our gumption, we managed to somehow ('s almost inexplicable) to get all our 700 pounds up the flights of stairs and then collapsed for a good 2 hours and just sat and did almost nothing until we got hungry. Then we made spaghetti and ate it in front of the window. The same view, incidentally, that I have right now.

Not the most beautiful, but it's charming in a way. Not much street noise. The open window to the right has a Colorado flag hung on the wall. We're not sure why, because as we did our best to overhear one of his conversations, he sounded like he was speaking French. But this is very intrigu-

ing none the less. He also has a cat who likes to run around the roof chasing bugs and things. It's rather entertaining. We haven't thought of a name for him yet, but I'm sure it'll be something awesome.

Welp, I guess that's it for now! I think I'm going to put up a picture a day (or so) even if not a post, just so you can see a bit of what I see.

And I'll leave you with one of the first pictures I took on our first walking adventure. See you next time!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

2 Days.

I'm sitting in my room. My bags are packed. I've said my goodbyes. All my last-minute items have been bought. I even bought and downloaded a map of the Parisian metro system onto my iPod touch (it was only $0.99, don't worry). Now I just have to wait for my flight. All in all, not a bad place to be. I've also managed to keep both my big black bags under 50 lbs. That's quite an accomplishment considering my bigger one started out at 67 lbs. I'm pretty proud; I'll be honest.

I love Samantha Brown. There's currently some sort of marathon of one of her many shows on the Travel channel. She was just camping in Minnesota with a dogsled team. Now she's in Memphis for the weekend. I looked her up on Wikipedia and then on this site about people from New Hampshire (where she grew up). I've always had this impression that people who host things on the Travel Channel are these very accomplished journalists who have spent hours and hours researching all the places they go. Samantha, however, was a major in Musical Theater and was discovered by the Travel Channel as she worked with an off-Broadway sketch-comedy group in Manhattan. Excuse me? I guess you shouldn't underestimate how far having a winning personality and a megawatt smile can take you in life.

Something very exciting and unexpected happened over the weekend. My family got reconnected with some long lost friends that we haven't talked to in about seven years. First some background: My parents have been, for as long as I've been alive, self employed. They've had a lot of different people work with them over the years, several of whom, have become very close family friends. This is especially true of this family. Aunt Marianna and Uncle Chuck are about the same age as my parents, and their kids, Blake and Amanda, are my age. We grew up together. They were the closest thing I ever had to siblings. The one day, around the time I was in 8th or 9th grade. There was a misunderstanding between Marianna and my father and feelings were hurt and the relationship between the two families was severed. Blake and I, being the same year in school, graduated high school and went and graduated from college. Either me or Amanda contacted one another through Facebook and decided that we wanted to get together and just have lunch or something last summer. Then I went to their house and had dinner and then with jobs and school starting and what not we just lost contact again until last Sunday. I was near their house with my mom and decided I wanted to just say goodbye as I was leaving for France. I went to their house and only Chuck was there (Marianna was at work) so I just went in and talked to him for a while. My mom waited in the car because she didn't want to create an awkward situation for anyone. So I talked to Chuck for a bit just catching up and then mentioned I should go because my mom was in the car and I had stuff to do back at the house anyway. He decided to come out to the car and he and my mom had a long talk and just caught up. So we went home and then two hours later, Marianna, for the first time in seven years, bravely showed up at the house and she and my mom had this really emotional reunion and they hugged and then went upstairs and talked for about an hour. They both told each other that during the seven year absence they had continued to write birthday cards, Christmas cards (though they were seldom actually sent) and had been continually praying for one another's families. My mom said that it was like nothing had ever happened between them and everything was just back as it had always been. What a great story. They're already back to emailing one another and letting each other know what's happening.

Just thought I would share something completely unexpected with you, whoever you are.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

And so it begins. Also, Memory's Lane.

I've officially started packing. I have one suitcase totally packed (so much so that I wouldn't be able to fit another sock into it).

You probably can't really see, but I have three 500 packs of Q-Tips in there. France has the crappiest Q-Tips ever. I also have six packs of Glide dental floss. They have the crappiest floss too.

So I'm pretty much ready to go, lol. Other than having enough clothes and some books and what not.

Should I bring my flask? It's little. And chances I'll use it more in Europe because I'll be living on my own. It's light. Sold.

So I was in Border's this weekend. I was there with three friends, two of whom are teachers, one of whom teaches 4th grade. So, naturally we swung by the children's section. It's so much fun to visit the past versions of ourselves. I remember so vividly things like The Chronicles of Narnia, The Very Quiet Cricket, The Little Red Caboose, etc., etc., ad infinitum.

The whole kids' section is innocent and fun. I actually bought "The World of Pooh," a collection of stories by A. A. Milne.

I loved The Adventures of Winnie the Pooh when I was little.

It has two books combined. I've breezed through the first one and it's absolutely delightful.

"Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming downstairs, but sometime he feels that there really is another way, if only he could stop bumping for a moment and think of it. And then he feels that perhaps there isn't. Anyway, here he is at the bottom, and ready to be introduced to you. Winnie-the-Pooh."

I've been struggling with a lot of weighty things lately. Mostly politics and family stuff and the move and what not. I feel very helpless with things happening as they are in the world. I spent last weekend with my mom's sister's family and my uncle basically insulted my intelligence and told me that my political opinion is the result of unscrutinized media consumption. I wasn't really offended at first but the more I think about it the more angry I get. It's just annoying that because I disagree with someone I'm not thought of as "wrong" but "unintelligent and ignorant."

So I've been dealing with this by reading Winnie the Pooh! It's incredibly comforting. It helps take my mind off of the "heavy things." Thank you A. A. Milne. Thank you for easing my mind.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Saying Au Revoir

So today is my last day at work.

I'm honestly not very sad. I've made some really good friends, and of course I'll miss them, but there isn't much else about it I'll miss.

I've been working in a luxury hotel in downtown Washington, two blocks from the White House. I've had great experiences, like being able to use my French all the time with a lot of our European clientele, seeing lots of famous people like the Frey, Ted Danson, David Cook, various presidents and governmental officials from around the world. But the management I've had to work under has been miserable (for the most part). My primary manager, Krystoff, can't control his stress levels and passes it directly onto his department. So that wasn't fun. And there are all sorts of other people that are difficult to get along with. But that's pretty much how life is in any circumstance.

But today is my last day and eventually the negative feelings will fade and I'll remember the people I've really enjoyed and the good memories.

Au Revoir

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Falling off the wagon.

Welp, it's been a few days since I've last written. This is usually when I start to lose interest and focus with a project like this. But I'm going to push through!

My life has been in a slight whirlwind lately. This is my last week of work. I'm pretty glad to be leaving, but it's sad. I've made some really good friends at this job, and that's going to be hard. But, like I always say, being sad to leave a place just means that you've made connections with people. So it's sad, but it's also a good thing.

I had a friend in town last weekend, Carly. She was one of my best friends I made from studying abroad. She was just here for two nights, so me and Kate, my other good from study abroad who lives in DC, got to spend all day Sunday together, as well as the afternoon and have a wonderful dinner together on Saturday night at the best restaurant in Washington: Siroc. I've eaten there a few times and every time I go back the food is better and better.

After dinner on Saturday, I went to meet up with some friends from work for a goodbye party for someone else who is leaving (she actually just left today I think). It was so fun to see a bunch of people outside of work (including my manager) and just kick back and relax around each other. It was so much fun. Special thanks to Lisa and her brother for hooking us up in Dupont!

So that was over the weekend. Then Monday I stayed with my friend Cay-Cay (that's Catherine to you) and we watched The Queen about the death of Princess Diana and the reaction of the royal family. It was so interesting. I was a little confused because I wasn't sure about how everyone was related and what not, but it was a very interesting film.

And then finally, last night I went to the Orioles' v. Yankees game in Baltimore. We left after the 7th and the O's lost, lol. Womp womp. But it was a good game. Luke Scott hit a three run homer to pull the O's ahead in the 5th, but then the Yanks came back soon after to pull ahead and finish the game 9-6. We had great seats though. We were right by the O's dugout about five or six rows from the front. And we got the tickets from my aunt's law firm, so it was free!

Good times. So anyway, that's why I haven't written in a while. But I'm going to be better about it! Now off to work! 3 days left!