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!