October 27, 2010


It has been cold, rainy and all around miserable since my arrival in le nord. To make matters worse, I packed the entirely wrong set of sweatshirts. It seems somehow, even after living here for 9 months last year, California got the better of my cold weather judgment.

I brought along a teeny tiny black hoodie thinking that black would be a good color to have in France. What I should have realized is that a teeny tiny 5-year-old sweatshirt that is worn to the bone is definitely the opposite of warm. Warmth, rather than color, should have been my top concern, as regardless of how often the French wear black, I would probably freeze to death if I sported mine. It is so thin that if you hold it up to your eyes, you can see through it. Needless to say, it doesn’t even help me stay warm inside the house.

But it’s not all bad news as far as the weather is concerned. The other day, while it was raining chez FBF, I looked out the window to see that a bit of sun had peeked out through the clouds. Upon a more thorough view, I discovered that there was an arc-en-ciel (rainbow). And not just one rainbow, but two rainbows! A DOUBLE RAINBOW! It was pretty magical.

Why it's not so bad living in constant rain.

October 25, 2010

La grève

After a three-month absence, France welcomed me back with a way only France could: strikes. For those of you who don’t know, France is on strike because of legislation to raise the retirement age.

My first full work day at the lycée, I arrived for a class at 10am and was scheduled to stay until 5pm in order to work out my schedule with my head teacher. The morning went over well, and then at 12 I followed my fellow professors into the cantine (cafeteria).

About halfway through lunch (meaning after 45 minutes because this is France), a woman I had yet to meet came up to the English prof I was eating with. Completely ignoring me, she started talking in very fast French.

Assuming it was something not concerning me, I made no effort to follow the conversation. All of a sudden I heard the words “…….il n’y aura pas de trains cet après-midi” (…there wont be any trains running this afternoon).

This caught my attention. I had been oblivious to the strike until that morning, when the train station was over crowded and every single train said “en retard durée indeterminée” (late: duration unknown). It didn’t end up affecting me as I had gotten to the train station plenty early, and managed to get a train to Lens without too much of a delay.

“Excusez-moi? Il n’y aura pas de trains cet après-midi? Pas du tout?” (Excuse me? There wont be any trains this afternoon? None at all?) I asked the stranger.

“Non, ils ont bloqué les voies ferrées. Il n’y aura pas de trains pour Lille pour le reste de la journée” (None. They have blocked off the train tracks so there won’t be any trains to Lille for the rest of the day) she informed me.

I looked at the English teacher, another Lille resident, and I asked her how we were going to get home. Apparently there are quite a few profs who live in Lille and commute by car to the lycée. Unfortunately for me, none of them were leaving when I was supposed to be done with school. I was worried if I would ever be able to get home, when the head teacher said to not worry about it and just skip out early with whichever teacher could take me back to Lille the latest.

The train schedule while the strikes were happening for 10/22/10

Being able to leave work an hour early, as well as catch a car ride back to chez FBF cutting my commute in half, is why I don’t mind so much that everything was closed down last week. It is so very French of them to be on strike, after all.

October 21, 2010

Les Gentlemens

In order to save money, I flew into London Heathrow in lieu of Paris Charles de Gaulle(CDG). I figured either way I’d have to take a train to get to Lille, and if you buy it early enough the Eurostar isn’t too expensive. It’s cheaper than trying to get a flight into Lille directly.

The downside of flying into London Heathrow is that the train station is not located directly at the airport like it is at CDG. This means that in order to get from the airport to the train station, one must take two other forms of public transit.

Getting to the Heathrow Express is okay, because it is located in the airport. It is after you get out of the Heathrow Express and are suddenly faced with a bagillion flights of stairs that causes problems.

As I explained in my previous post, I had at least 80 pounds of luggage with me. I am not strong. I exited the Heathrow Express, rolled my suitcases down the platform, and looked up anxiously at the stairs. I was struggling feebly to carry both suitcases at once when a thirty something Englishman offered to help me carry my luggage. I greatly accepted, all the while being afraid of him running off with all my clothes. Luckily, he did no such thing. At the top of the stairs I thanked him, and then continued on my way.

Well as luck would have it, even though I lost mr. niceguy in the crowd, there he was again while I was trying to climb back down the stairs on the other side of the platform onto the underground.

Unfortunately once we were both on the same tube heading towards London, I saw him get off at a stop that wasn’t mine. I knew there would be more stairs ahead of me to get off the tube and up to the Eurostar. Upon reaching the stairs, I thought I was in luck. I saw an elevator. I pushed the button and entered.

I quickly realized that this was an elevator that only goes down. Greatly disappointed, I once again attempted to muster up enough strength to carry 80+pounds up the stairs. This time, just as the first, I was saved by another stranger! It has made me think that if the airlines suddenly got rid of their weight limits on suitcases, I could probably make do with 200 pounds worth of items. If only!

October 19, 2010


Traveling to another country in order to live there for at least 7 months is not an easy feat. Trying to fit everything you want to bring with you in a suitcase is hard enough, but with a limit of one suitcase at 50 lbs, it’s become even harder. I left a lot of my beloved clothes behind in California, not because of a lack of space, but because my suitcase was too heavy.

Another restriction on what you can bring with you for a cross continental move is carry on limits. Most airlines say that you may have only one carry on suitcase and one personal item, such as a purse or briefcase. There is also a weight limit for carry on luggage, even if nobody weighs it (at least not yet). My carry on suitcase was supposed to be only 13 lbs, but after I filled it with all the shoes that made my regular suitcase too heavy, it weighed around 30.

The final way I circumvent airline restrictions is by having a third carry on item. I always carry on my 23 year old teddy bear Snowball. Although he is not heavy, he would definitely add to the weight of my checked baggage. And although he is not gigantic, he would take up much valuable shoe space in my carry on suitcase. My solution to this problem has not been to leave my teddy bear behind as most adults do, but instead to carry him on completely out in the open. This far, nobody has told me I can’t bring my bear with me. It's been an easy way to bring a little bit of home to Europe with me while still being able to pack 5 pairs of shoes. Plus, he makes a pretty good airplane pillow.

My teddybear Snowball!

Although it is clearly a winning strategy in order to maximize the amount of stuff I can bring with me on my move to France, up until my most recent flight, I had yet to see another person of around my age with their bear in tow. Sure, I've seen little five year old children with their bears, but someone who looked college aged or above? Never.

On this particular Virgin Atlantic flight, however, everything changed. I spotted another girl of around 23 carrying a bear on to the plane. After noticing we were both bringing along our teddy bears, we smiled at each other a smile that said "I'm glad you don't care if you're too old for this either!" Unfortunately, we were seated at different parts of the plane, but it was reassuring to know that I’m not the only one who brings along their childhood stuffy when they travel abroad.

October 6, 2010


The only place FBF and I stayed in a hotel during his trip to California was in Las Vegas, NV. We got a room at the Monte Carlo Resort and Casino. Upon our arrival, we went up to the 28th floor to find a room with a view of the strip. It was awesome.

View of the Monte Carlo hotel from the pool.

After unpacking, we decided to head down to the pool. The room had a safe and we decided to lock away our valuables. Since I was the first one at the safe, I decided the code.

“J’ai mit douze onze,” (I made it twelve eleven) I said. “C’est bon?” (Is that okay?)

“Oui c’est bon. En plus, c’est facile pour moi de le retenir. C’est l’anniversaire de ma mere,” (Yeah it’s good. Plus, it’ll be easy for me to remember. It’s my mom’s birthday) FBF replied.

“Ah bon?” (Oh really?) I said. “C’est le jour de l’annivesaire au marriage de mes parents! C’est pour ça que j’ai choisi ces chiffres” (It’s my parents' wedding anniversary! That’s why I chose those numbers).

“Ah bon?”

“Oui! How crazy is it that my parents got married on your mom’s birthday?”

“Really crazy. Alors pour l’anniversaire de ma mère, dans novembre-“ (So for my mom’s birthday, in November-)

“Novembre? Tu veut dire decembre?” (November? Don’t you mean December?)

“Non. Novembre.”

Then all of a sudden a light bulb went off in my head. Of course he meant November. For the French do dates backwards. Whereas we do month, then day, then year, the French do day, then month, then year. So while we were talking about the same numbers, we were definitely talking about different times of the year.

His mom’s birthday is Novemer 12th, and my parent’s wedding anniversary is December 11th. Although the events did not take place on the same day, we were still able to use those events to help us remember the code on our safe. I guess it doesn’t matter which way you look at a date, as long as you put the numbers in the right order when attempting to open the safe.

October 1, 2010

Bienvenue à Dana Point!

When Europeans first discovered America, it was known as a wild and savage country, full of mysterious creatures and undeveloped lands. Little did I know, it would still be experienced that way by my very own FBF.

FBF came to visit me, and the sunny state of California, for three weeks this summer. It was his first trip to the United States, and I had planned various activities in order to give him the full Californian experience.

For his first whole day in the country, I planned a day at beach. What could be more relaxing and simultaneously very Californian than experiencing first hand California beach culture?

We walked from my house down to the beach, grabbed some beach chairs, and picked out a prime piece of real estate in order to enjoy the beautiful crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean. We sat on the beach, explored the tide pools, and then finally braved the freezing ocean water.

FBF's photo of the beach by my house.

We were about knee deep in the water, when, as an afterthought, I warned him about stingrays. Although I’ve never been stung, as a young girl I was taught the stingray shuffle. Upon entering the ocean, if you shuffle your feet in the sand, the stingrays know that you are nearby, and they swim away. It took me a while to remember to pass on my stingray shuffle knowledge to FBF. I also told him not to worry about it too much, as I had never known anyone to be attacked.

Pretty soon we were completely submersed and swimming around in the ocean. We were laughing and having a good time, stingrays far form our thoughts. After a bit of swimming, FBF put his feet back on the ocean floor. Suddenly his face changed from a jovial expression to one of pain.

“Ça va?” (Are you okay?) I asked.

“Mon pied m’a fait mal,” (my foot hurts) he replied.

“Did you step on a stingray?”

“Yeah, I think so.”

We swam to the shoreline, and then he gimped out of the ocean. His foot was gushing blood, but he could still walk on it. I led him to the lifeguard tower, where the lifeguard confirmed FBF was attacked by a stingray. He knew it was a stingray because stingray cuts have serrated edges. He explained how the tail enters the skin, releases it’s venom, and then pulls back out, leaving serrated edges behind.

The lifeguard said FBF was lucky, as he was still able to walk on his foot. Still, I don’t know how lucky it is to be stung by a stingray your first time in the Pacific Ocean, let alone be the only person I’ve ever known to be stung by a stingray.

FBF, however, does feel lucky. He is hoping his cut will scar, as he feels ever so special due to his chance encounter with American wild life. It appears we do still have wild and dangerous animals roaming freely in our country out to get visiting Europeans.
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