November 23, 2012

Thankful.

This year was my fourth ever Thanksgiving spent in France. Four out of twenty-five total might not seem like a lot, but missing out on one of the few truly American holidays always makes me homesick.

This year I organized a Thanksgiving get together with my fellow masters program students, and I think it was my best Thanksgiving abroad yet. Everyone really appreciated the food (recipes here) and the party really had that uniquely Thanksgiving spirit of sharing and appreciating what you have.

While I know I complain a lot about my French life, I thought I’d take this opportunity to list five things about it for which I’d like to say “merci”:

1. My classmates
One of the things I was really worried about when moving back here was being once again faced with the sometimes-difficult task of becoming friends with French people. I am so grateful to have met the other people in my program, and in three short months build some truly great friendships. I can’t imagine my life in Troyes without them.

2. Troyens
I also was lucky enough to meet some local Troyens and I don’t know how I would have gotten by without them. From taking me to the supermarket, to driving me all the way to Lille to collect my things, I have stumbled upon some remarkably generous people here and I couldn’t ask for more.

3. Troyen Architecture
Waking up in the morning, and being greeted by gorgeous 16th century timbered houses is an amazing start to every day. I’m so grateful I get to appreciate it’s beauty on a regular basis.

Beautiful timbered houses and blue skies on Troyes' main shopping street.

4. Traveling
Although I haven’t been able to travel as much so far this year due to my coarse work load, I have loved every trip I’ve taken and feel so grateful for the abundance of travel opportunities here.

5. Champagne !
Living in Champagne has its perks. I have really enjoyed visiting champagne caves, getting not only to learn how champagne is made but also see the process first hand during les vendages(the grape harvest), and drinking all that bubbly at advantageous prices (even if it is still too expensive to drink quotidiennement).

Happy Thanksgiving! Here's to appreciating all the good things in our lives.

November 13, 2012

Université

I don’t know why I thought French universities would be similar to my university experience in California, but I unknowingly did.

I sort of felt that having already lived in France for 2.5 years straight and being part of the educational world (as my days as an English language assistant) combined with all the stories that exFBF told me about getting his masters and what school was like, that I was already pretty prepared for going to college in France.

This, however, was not the case.

The first surprise came on the very first day when not a single teacher passed out a syllabus, and instead dictated the important facts, deadlines, and grading policies. This was not a pleasant experience for my rusty French and me.

I had already heard exFBF complain about classes that lasted four hours, but I thought long classes were a rare exception, not the rule. Most of my classes are at least three hours long (with one class lasting four), and even though some of my teachers give us a ten-minute break in the middle, I have been poorly trained to pay attention to the same subject matter for such a long time. My brain starts to check out after two.

I know that some of the changes have to do with school size. My university back home had 20,000 students and an eight-story library with a room open 24/7. My new university has 2,500 students and a two-story library, which closes at 22h.


Top: UTT (my French school) Bottom: UCSB (my American school)

But even taking into account the difference in size of the student body, my new school seems under developed to provide for the student’s needs. There is never enough space in the library, and nowhere else on campus is open for students to work on group projects (which I seem to have at least one of in every class).

So far I’m feeling pretty overwhelmed with my coarse load and constantly being in a French language environment. One might say I'm experiencing pedagogical culture shock, if such a thing exists.

September 16, 2012

Why France?



I wasn’t looking forward to the first day of school because I wasn’t looking forward to having to answer the question everyone would inevitably ask me; “why France?”

I had my armor ready. I had a good answer to give. I like France, I mostly speak the language, and it’s a lot cheaper to go to school here than back home.

But even with a prepared, readily acceptable answer to doll out, every time someone asked me, it made me think about the real reason I picked France.

I only looked at schools in France, and not all over Europe (it’s cheaper almost everywhere over here than the good ol’ states), because of a boy. I decided to get my masters so I could have a visa so I could stay in France, because of a boy. That maybe 70% of the reason I decided to do this isn’t a reason anymore.

I knew that coming back here would be a new kind of hurting and healing process, but I still wish I thought about it less.

Sometimes I think if I ended up here anyway then why did we break up? I know that’s not fair. But I’m here and I’m following the plan that we created together, only he’s not a part of it anymore.

I think about how it would’ve been easier if he were here. Having someone to help me do everything and find a place to live. Then I remember all the times we got into a fight because he wasn’t always such a big help when it came to that sort of a thing, anyway. I’m doing it all on my own, I’m doing it well, and who can really say if it would’ve been any easier doing it together?

Breaking up can’t justify not going to a really good school to get my masters in a field I’m passionate about. So perhaps he wasn’t 70% of the reason after all.

It’s not about wanting him back; it’s about mourning over what we had and what we lost. It’s about finding a French life without him, and how he wasn’t the reason I moved to France but he was the reason I wanted to stay. And it’s okay to fall in love and it’s okay to start over. It’s okay to miss him and remember our life together.

And I’ll be okay, even if it does hurt a little every time someone asks me “why France?”

One day maybe it wont be such a loaded question.

September 12, 2012

Being back in France.

Day one was a combination of “oh yeah, this feels right” and “what the hell am I doing here?”, with the overwhelming sensation of my suitcases being much too heavy for a normal person to lug across an airport, on the RER, on the metro, on a train, and then up two flights of stairs.


Me and all my things in front of John Wayne Airport.
Not seen in photo: my 84357 pound backpack.

Two weeks in, and while I have found a place to keep my suitcases, the sentiments seem to have stayed the same. Coming back to France has been like catching up with an old friend. It isn’t quite as easy and natural as it was when you used to know each other very well, but that connection is still there.

That said there are still times when I feel completely overwhelmed and can’t believe I put myself through this voluntarily. I had somehow forgotten how long it takes to get things done in this country (or perhaps I purposefully blacked it out as a coping mechanism for willfully returning here?).

Things I have done:
1. Found a place to live!
2. Moved into my studio.
3. Gone to Carrefour to buy plates, sheets, pillows, sponges, etc.
4. Gone to the week of la rentrée activities, without actually, you know, registering for school.
5. Registered for classes without actually registering for school.
6. Registered (finally) for school, and got wifi access on campus. A week and two days after the “first day of school.”


Things I have yet to do:
1. Re-open my French bank account. Attempt number two will be on Thursday.
2. Put the electricity bill in my name. I need my bank account reopened before I can do this, so at any moment there may no longer be electricity at my place. Comforting.
3. Get internet. Again, I need my French bank account, but I am also hoping to be able to share wifi with some other people in my building (the landlord suggested this).
4. Find a laundromat.
5. Go back to Carrefour to purchase all the items I forgot about during the previous trip. This could have something to do with somehow loosing my checklist mid-shop.

So far I am enchanted with Troyes, and am happily becoming acquainted with UTT (Université of Technologie à Troyes).


Troyes.

It's nice to see you again, France.

August 18, 2012

A Thank You and An Announcement

First and foremost I just want to thank everyone for the lovely, heartfelt responses I’ve received after my last blog post. I originally intended for this blog to be a place to tell stories about my life in France, but it quickly became a place to find community. It gave me a sense of belonging, which was especially appreciated since I never really felt like I belonged in France.

That being said, I am doing the crazy thing and am moving back to France to get my masters! My plane leaves California the 28th of August, and I will once again be on French soil the 29th.

All your comments and support helped me through this difficult decision. What it came down to is I have an amazing opportunity in front of me, and although it will be a challenge, I think I’m ready for my next adventure. I hope you all are ready for it, too.

July 4, 2012

Dear friends and strangers,

I have been avoiding my blog because I have been avoiding dealing with my French life as it currently stands.

I don’t know how to tell funny anecdotal stories about France right now.

I no longer have a French boyfriend. I’m an American girl who moved to France, fell in love with a boy, grew disillusioned with the country but tried ever so hard to stay there despite being unhappy a lot of the time because she was in love, was unsuccessful and deported. An American girl who, despite moving back into the home she grew up in, felt like a foreigner for the better part of 4 months and is still readjusting to American culture. One who’s long distance relationship with a Frenchman lasted 6 months.

And now I’m on the precipice. I’ve been accepted into graduate programs in France, but I’m not sure I’m ready to jump off the cliff. It’s as if the adventurous spirit of the brave girl who moved to France in 2007 was beaten out of me by that country.

To go or to stay? I wish I knew.

Bisous,
Laura

May 17, 2012

FBF en Californie

You will have to excuse me for radio silence as FBF is in fact, at this moment, in California with me for two whole weeks!


FBF and I enjoying the sun setting over the Pacific ocean last time he was in California.


We are going to be much too busy soaking up the sun's rays on the beach for me to blog anything substantial (one of us may in fact already be sunburned), but I'll commence our regularly scheduled programming once he's back in Le Nord.

May 9, 2012

Choc Culturel Inverser

My first moment of reverse culture shock came rather quickly. It happened the same day I arrived in California. After the hour and a half long drive home from LAX, I really had to pee. I groggily went to my bathroom, and took care of business. It was after that the culture shock occurred.

I went to flush the toilet, and something was wrong. There was nothing on the top for me to pull or push. “How do I….” I began to think, when I almost immediately remembered that in America, the flush is on the side of the toilet.

Most of the big differences I was mentally prepared for. I knew I would be carded again and that the cars are bigger here. It was the smaller stuff that crept up on me unexpectedly; the weight of a coke can; how awkward it felt ending a text conversation without “bisous.”

I think what made it so weird is that most things were still the same at home. I would often quickly remember, “oh right, that’s how we do things here.” It wasn’t my home that had changed. I had changed.

Despite feeling ever so American the entire time I was living in Lille, I now felt entirely too French. It would seem I am no longer 100% either way.

May 2, 2012

Taking the DALF (Diplôme approfondi de langue française)

When it started to look 100% like I wasn’t going to get my work visa renewed, I looked into other ways of staying in, or returning to, France. Not yet being ready to make the giant commitment that is matrimony, I decided to attempt to reenter the country in a way that France really likes; for my studies.

In order to do most masters programs in France (for there are a few taught in only English), one needs to have passed either the TEFL or the DELF/DALF at a B2 level. I decided to take the DELF/DALF because it is a life long diploma, whereas the TEFL is a certificate only valid for two years.

Although the programs only required B2, I wanted to push myself and be sure I was taking the highest level I could possibly achieve. After much internal struggle I decided to take the C1. It is possible to take both of them, but the tests do not come cheap and I was unemployed.


The book I bought as my study guide for the DALF.
Free study resources are also available on the CIEP website.


Something I had a lot of trouble coming to terms with is the fact that the French don’t ever think you should get 100% on a test. To pass the DALF one needs to get 50/100 points total, and score at least 5/25 in each section (there are 4 areas). This would be failing a test in America.

I’ve always been an honors student and over achiever. It took me a while, but I finally did accept the fact that there were questions on the test that even FBF wouldn’t be able to answer and it was okay that I didn’t know everything.

The other part of the exam I had to come to terms with is that the first part of the exam (listening comprehension, reading comprehension, and written comprehension) lasts three hours. Three hours during which one is not allowed to leave the room (i.e. no potty breaks).

On the day of the test, stressed out but with an empty bladder, I got to the Alliance Française office ten minutes early. I met my fellow testees, two middle-aged people taking the test purely for pleasure. I couldn’t believe anybody would torture themselves in this way.

The test started. The listening comprehension boosted my confidence; I understood almost everything that came out of the speakers. The reading comprehension part proved more difficult, but that was to be expected. Overall I came out of the listening/reading/essay writing part of the exam feeling pretty good.

Then I had a two-hour break to eat lunch and become even more stressed out for the oral presentation part of the exam (which lasts 1.5 hours; one hour to prepare and 30 minutes of presenting).

Although I felt most confident about my speaking skills (thanks to FBF and speaking French every day for the past two years), speaking in front of people who are grading you is so much more difficult than simply talking to your boyfriend. Nevertheless, after making a joke about being really nervous, I was able to present almost everything I prepared, and even stayed after to chat with the graders (in French, of course).

Although I felt as if I had passed, I didn't want to simply pass. I wanted to excel. I also was worried that I might have misunderstood everything and would never be allowed to go to graduate school in France. My whole future plan was dependent upon passing this test.

For the first time in my dealings with France, however, the turn around time for finding out if you pass is super quick.

After a week I called the Alliance Française to ask if I passed. After getting my name, the lady on the phone said, “oh! You scored very high! You passed with 70/100!”


My score.


Relief and pride washed over me all at once. Not only did I pass and would be eligible for graduate school in France, but I scored very high. Ladies and gentlemen, I am officially, government recogonized-ly, fluent in French.


April 22, 2012

Cathédrale de Reims - Rêve de Couleurs

Back in the Middle Ages when most of France’s beautiful cathedrals were built, they did not look like they do today. Instead of being a uniform beige color, the façades were painted bright, beautiful colors.

Although the paint has faded away, they still remain awe-inspiring. While in Reims for my 24th birthday champagne drinking extravaganza, FBF and I explored the Cathédrale de Reims.



Reims Cathedral, where France's Kings were crowned.


Something FBF and I didn’t account for on our trip to Reims is that my birthday falls on the same weekend as France’s journée du patrimoine (Heritage Day). La journée du patrimoine is a day in France where the public is allowed access to public buildings that they normally aren’t allowed to, or are allowed to access said buildings free of charge.

This made my birthday trip to Reims even more special, because we were able to explore things we wouldn't have been able to normally.

During the summer, and also on the weekend of the journée du patrimoine, Reims Cathedral is transformed back to its medieval glory. A twenty-minute video is projected onto the façade showing the construction of the building up to the beautifully painted finished sculptures.



Reims Cathedral illuminated at night.


After a dinner of fondu, FBF and I walked the cobblestone streets of Reims up towards the Cathedral. Making our way through the crowd, we settled for a spot in the middle of the courtyard where we had earlier enjoyed a glass of champagne. With the chiming of bells, a stunning compilation of music and lights brought the cathedral to life in a way I've never seen before.

video
A 41 second clip of the spectacle.

It was an awe-inspiring, wonderfully romantic way to end our first day in Reims. It was as if France gave me a birthday present, too.

March 31, 2012

La Déesse

In the beginning of the First French Republic, many countries challenged the authenticity of this new government and saw it as an opportunity to take over parts of France. Lille was subjected to attack from Austria in 1792. After several days of cannon fire, Lille won the battle.

To commemorate Lille's victory, a statue was erected in the Grand'Place (or la place du Général-de-Gaulle) in 1845. The statue is known as La Déesse (the goddess) because of her mural crown. Her left hand points to an inscription of the Mayor at the time's refusal to surrender the city.


Lillois enjoying the sun while sitting around La Déesse.


She is meant to watch over and protect Lille. She holds in her right hand a boutefeu, a stick with which one ignites a cannon.


A close up on La Déesse and her boutefeu, as well as the top of the tower of the Chambre de Commerce.


Although originally just a column in the middle of the square, La Déesse is now surrounded by a beautiful fountain. She is a meeting place for many a rendez-vous in the city center, as well as big cultural events (like when Lille won La Coupe de France). If you stop by during la rentrée (the return to school) in September, you will often find college freshmen plunging themselves in the fountain.


La Déesse and her fountain in the center of la Grand'Place.


It's a great place to stop, sit, and enjoy the beautiful Flandres architecture that surrounds la Grand'Place. Especially when the weather is nice.

Check it out:
Place du Général-de-Gaulle, otherwise known as la Grand'Place

March 23, 2012

Comment Dit-on?

One of my family's stories is about my Uncle Gene. Gene studied abroad while he was in college, spending a semester living in Vienna, Austria. When he came back from being abroad, my mother says, he used to flaunt it in everyone’s faces, continually asking, “oh wait… how do you say [insert German word] in English again?”

I would always laugh at how pompous Uncle Gene had been, sure of the fact that he was just being snobby and shoving his German knowledge under everyone’s noses.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I have become Uncle Gene.

Since moving home, I am often times unable to think up a word in English. My sentences no longer flow. I find myself starting a sentence in a way that only makes sense in French.

I’ve been home for quite a while now, and yet I continue to find myself in situations where my brain is unable to come up with an American equivalent of what I want to say.

Sure, when I came home after a semester of studying abroad in Paris I didn’t have this problem, but when I compare my study abroad experience to my uncle’s (I got to Skype home every weekend and spoke English at school; he never got to call home and was immersed in a German university), I say he really did earn the right to forget English words.

And while I still do feel ridiculous and pretentious every time I forget a word in my native language, I know I’m not doing it on purpose or to show off.

It’s made me “rethink” my opinion of my uncle.

Have you moved back home after a long period abroad? How long did it take you to feel like your English was back to Native-Speaker-Normality? It's been 4 months already, brain, get it together!

March 13, 2012

Wine More Time

While in Bordeaux, I wanted to drink lots of Bordeaux wine. So while at the office du tourisme, I asked for a list of wine bars. FBF and I decided to try one called Wine More Time because it had an awesome name and a view of the grosse cloche (fat clock).


The bar au vin (wine bar).


The view.


We sat down, selected a wine from the list of vin au verre (wines by the glass) and also got the cheese plate.


The menu.


When the man came back with our wine and cheese, he asked us where we were from (no doubt hearing my accent).

When we told him where we were from, it was surprisingly not the girl from California but the boy from le Nord who was the topic of conversation.

Moi, je suis de Toulouse, qui est aussi plus nord d’ici, mais pas assez au nord que vous!” (I’m from Toulouse, which is north of here, but nowhere near as far north as you!) he told FBF.

Vous ne buvez pas du vin là bas, non?” (You don’t drink wine up there, do you?) he continued.

FBF confirmed that in le Nord people are more partial to beer than wine.

I then learned a little bit about the opinion the rest of France has towards Lillois.

Ça c’est parce que vous n’êtes pas les vrais français!” (That’s because you aren’t actually French!) he exclaimed, brimming with pride to be from le Sud (the South).

FBF had the good nature to laugh, but I was taken aback. It's one thing for Americans and other foreigners to view the French as nothing but red wine drinking baguette lovers, but actual French people thinking the same thing? I was astounded.

Then I realized that half the time I tell people about Lille, I talk about how we're more Belgian than French anyway. Maybe all of France knows this, too.

And really, what's so wrong with a having a preference for beer?

March 9, 2012

Après

In school we’re taught that après means after. After as in subsequent to, for example “after we eat diner, we do the dishes,” and not as in to resemble, for example “he takes after his father.” While that second one is a phrasal verb, when I thesaurus-ed “after” it came up with both.

The French don’t seem to have such a rigid view of the word après, and it took me quite a while to get used to it.

When we first started dating, FBF would often ask me if I wanted to do something après.

To which I would reply, “after… What?”

He would reply with things like, “oh, after we finish eating” or “after the game is over” and would put it into a more concrete context.

But once we were finished with the designated activity, we wouldn’t always do what was supposed to happen après immediately after.

After much frustration and confusion, one day it dawned on me. I had to stop thinking about after quite so literally.

Après when used like this is actually similar to the dreaded American usage of “later.” Later as in some unidentified time in the future, for example "I'll call you later."

Later holds all the annoying flexibility that the French put into the word après.

I wonder if the use of après when said by one's crush in relation to an activity the two of you are going to do together sends French girls into a fit of over-analysis just as "later" did to 14 year old me.

February 14, 2012

St. Valentin de Loin

Because we are separated by most of France, Spain, the Atlantic Ocean, and probably 44 or so American States, FBF and I sent each other Valentine's Day packages.

FBF was on top of it. He knew what he wanted to give me, packaged it, and took it to La Poste way before I even knew what I wanted to give him. He even sent me photographic evidence of the package being sent away, just to torture me.


Torture.


I finally got around to figuring everything out for him and sent it a little bit late. I was really worried about it getting there in time.

But guess what? My package got there a day early, and his has yet to arrive.

I blame La Poste (because they are evil) and everything being inefficient in France. He blames US customs.

Either way it's Valentine's Day and as if it wasn't already hard enough to be far away from each other, we don't even get to celebrate it in this small way.

Here's to hoping we'll be reunited for next year's St. Valentine.


FBF and I at La Rochelle.
Je t'aime mon amour!

February 6, 2012

Statue: Mon P'tit Quinquin

In Lille, there is a statue dedicated to the Northern lullaby “P’tit Quinquin” and its author Alexandre Desrousseaux.


Lillois soaking up the sun at the statue dedicated to Desrousseaux and his famous song.


Desrousseaux was a 19th century poet born in Lille who wrote in both French and Ch’ti.

His most well-known and well-loved song is L'canchon Dormoire, more commonly referred to as mon p’tit quinquin. It’s a lullaby that has become Lille's unofficial city anthem.

Here’s the famous refrain (en ch’ti):
Dors min p'tit Quinquin,
Min p'tit pouchin,
Min gros rojin ;
Te m'f'ras du chagrin,
Si te n'dors point j'qu'à d'main.


Which translates to:
Sleep my little baby
My little chick
My fat grape
You will fill my heart with sorrow
If you don’t sleep until the ‘morrow


The statue features the bust of Desrousseaux as well as a woman singing her child to sleep, the embodiment of his famous lullaby.



The lullaby is feautured in Bienvenue Chez Les Ch'tis. When Dany Boon and Kad Merad are drunkenly visiting all the homes along their postal route, an elderly woman sings them this song, bringing them all to tears.

Check it out:
Rue Nationale entrance to square Foch

January 27, 2012

Le Boudoir

FBF has always gotten a kick out of the things Americans consider French that aren’t French at all. While the French do say “sacre,” they never add the “bleu.” They don’t say ménage-à-trois when speaking about threesomes (a plan-à-trois or a partouse).

The first time I said the word “boudoir,” he didn’t understand what I was talking about. I had assumed he’d know what I was talking about because I had assumed boudoir was a French word. FBF immediately laughed at me. Boudoir, he assured me between chuckles, is not a French word.

The closest thing is bouder; a French verb meaning to pout.

After explaining to him that it means bedroom (and often said in a way that implies all of the things one might do in said bedroom... or maybe that's just me?), he combined the two definitions to create a new one : “une chambre où on vas pour bouder” (a room where we go to pout).

We continued to use the word in that sense for a while, until one fateful day at the beach in Brittany last summer.

Being in Brittany meant I met a whole new slew of FBF’s childhood friends and once again was bombarded by questions about America.

One of his friends is getting her masters in French literature from La Sorbonne. We got to talking about the use of fake French words in English, and I brought up boudoir.

Much to my delight, and FBF’s humiliation, boudoir is in fact a French word! It's a small room originally created for women to have an intimate, private space amongst themselves, similar to a powder room in English (in the “ladies, don’t we all have to powder our noses at the same time?” sense).


An illustration of a boudoir.


In fairness to FBF, it is a dated term originating from the verb bouder, so he was half right. Plus he's a chemist. I doubt he's ever studied the French language dating from the Era of the Sun King in much length.

As this is not the first time he's lead me astray when it comes to translations (like what the pas means in Nord-Pas-de-Calais), I am as much to blame as he is. I really ought to learn my lesson and stop trusting him on matters of his own language.

Do you know of any "French" words we use in English that aren't French at all? Does your French boyfriend continually lead you astray in matters of the French language?

January 18, 2012

Les Lascars

At the beginning of my time here, I felt like I had two very different personalities, my American one and my French one. My French personality was shy, and I am definitely not shy.

I am outgoing, friendly and confident. I am pretty much all up in your face with my opinions.

But something about not being able to speak the language as well as I would’ve liked changed me in ways I didn’t like. I didn’t say anything when I saw people littering. I didn’t speak up when I heard people make sexist or racist or anti-gay comments.

I lost a little bit of myself in trying to make new French friends and speak French well and be French.

Back in March, FBF and I were walking home from a house party in Lille. It was late, around 3am, and we took rue Solferino, the main bar and club street, on our way back to my studio.

I saw a girl crying, surrounded by 5 guys, 4 of whom were dressed in France’s version of gangster attire: colorful sporting shoes, puffy jackets, and hoodies.

At first I kept on walking, even though in the US I would never have allowed that to happen. I would have made sure the girl was okay. I realized this and I made a decision.

I wasn’t going to let my inability to speak French perfectly let this girl be taken advantage of by a bunch of up-to-no-good guys.

I turned around, walked right up to the group of them, looked at the girl, and said, “ça va?” (Are you okay?)

She kept on crying while one of the gangsters replied, “oui ça va, pourquoi ça va pas? On fait rien.” (She’s fine, why wouldn’t she be? We’re not doing anything.)

So I looked him in the eyes and I said, “je vois une fille qui pleure avec 5 mecs autour d’elle et je veux être sûre que ça va.” (I see a girl who’s crying with five guys around her and I just want to be sure she’s okay)

They immediately started back pedaling. “On fait rien. Allez, appellez les policiers! On fait rien du tout!” (We’re not doing anything. Feel free to call the cops! We’re not doing anything wrong).

Although they claimed to be doing nothing wrong, after my intervention, they decided that their time would be best spent elsewhere. After a minute there was just one guy with the girl, and he wasn’t dressed in gangster clothes. He seemed to be the friend who was comforting her. I asked a final, “ça va?” and the girl nodded her head.

Having done my part to make sure everything was okay, I walked away feeling better about my life here. I hadn’t let my limited language skills inhibit me from doing what was right.

Although my American personality has been shining through in my French life more and more as time passes, this final test really cemented it in my mind.

I could be both.

Of course living abroad changes you and presents you with challenges you could never have dreamt up if you had chosen to live at home, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have the best of both worlds. I can speak French, eat cheese, and still stand up for what I believe is right by approaching random gangster looking guys to make sure a fellow woman isn’t being taken advantage of.

I can still be American Laura, even when I’m speaking French.

January 12, 2012

Lannion: Prémières Impressions

My first impressions of Lannion:

Lannion seems to fit the bill for a perfect mediaeval French village as half-timbered jetting houses are in abundance.



The city is on a hill with meandering roads where lots of adorable modern shops occupy old time buildings, making you feel as if you've stepped back in time.






On top of that, there is a lovely tree surrounded park, complete with old stairs that go to nowhere, celtic crosses, and an old out of use church building. I wouldn't have been surprised to discover a fairy circle there.



The city is small and do-able in a day, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in charm.

January 10, 2012

Versatile and Missing France

Sara Louise at Sara in Le Petit Village has bestowed upon me the Versatile Blogger Award, and for that I am extremely grateful. I love her blog, and if you’re not already reading it you definitely should be. Thanks Sara Louise!




I’ve been home for a month, and instead of 7 things about me I thought I'd do 7 things I already miss about France:

1. Cheap delicious cheese.
My first week back here I decided to make French onion soup for my family. I went to the grocery store with my dad because he wanted help finding the ingredients as he wasn’t sure what a bouillon cube was or where to find the weird sounding cheese I wanted him to buy. We found some gruyere in the fancy cheese section, and I was beyond shocked to discover it cost 11 dollars.

2. Cheap delicious wine.
On the same grocery store trip we stopped by the wines section and once again I was astounded by how expensive the wine is. Even the cheap wine was expensive compared to French prices. Of course you can buy very expensive wine in France as well, but why bother when you’re poor and a 3euro bottle is more than sufficiently delicious?

3. Baguettes.
I knew I’d miss French bread, but what I wasn’t expecting was to no longer like sourdough bread. The whole time I’ve been in France I’ve been claiming I missed it, but I’ve tried to eat sourdough bread toast three times since I’ve been out here, and I can’t handle the bitterness in my mouth.

4. Real Belgian Beer Christmas Brews.
I have seen two giant billboards advertising Stella Artois as a “Christmas beer.” I also had it proposed to me by a bar tender calling it the Christmas beer. In Lille and Belgium, the breweries make special limited addition Christmas brews and sell it only during the holiday season. These bières de noël (Christmas beers) are delicious and I can’t get enough of them during the holidays. Stella is just Stella. Nothing Christmas-y about it. I also miss all the delicious beer in general.

5. Cobblestone and buildings being older than 60 by a long shot.

Place Louise de Bettignies in Lille.


6. Good Public Transit.
I was car-less in France for most of my time there and it never mattered because I could easily walk, metro, or bus to anywhere I wanted to go. That is not the case over here and I have to rely on the generosity of my friends or parents in order to get around.

7. French Télé (TV).
I really did not think I’d miss French TV as there are so many less channels and even fewer programs worth watching, but I miss how their TV is presented. I tried to watch a rerun of How I Met Your Mother over here and I couldn’t handle all the commercials. In France there is usually just one long block of commercials every half hour, instead of having a small amount of commercials every two minutes.
I also miss feeling like I’m accomplishing something while being lazy and watching TV. In France I could always claim I was “practicing my French.” Here I have no excuse.

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And I hereby pass on the Versatile Blogger Award to:
Bread is Pain,
My Peruvian Life is Not a Musical,
Tales from the Chambre de Bonne, and
The Perpetual Passenger.

January 3, 2012

Deux Mille Onze

2011 was a busy year, of which I spent a little over 11 months of in France. Having traveled around to a lot of different countries the previous year, I dedicated 2011 to seeing more of France, and I think I can say, "mission accomplished!"

January:
I spent last New Year’s Eve on the Belgian coast with FBF and friends.
I moved into my lovely studio by the Quai de Wault in Lille.
I met fellow blogger TravellingAmber and we quickly became best friends.
I was working at Lycée Henri Darras in Lievin as an English teaching assistant for the second year.


The famous and beautiful Quai de Wault which was a meager 30 second walk from my building.


February:
For Valentine’s Day I cooked FBF a romantic dinner of French onion soup and a leek and goat cheese casserole.
His present to me was a certificate to get my ears pierced again. Needless to say, each of my ear lobes gained a hole.
We also took advantage of having to drive La Soeur to Charles de Gaulle airport and spent a lovely day in Paris.


Sacre Coeur.


March:
FBF turned 24.

April:
My job as an assistant finished, but I found a new one teaching business English with a company that provided me with a car, meaning I had to drive in France for the first time in my life.
La Mamman’s birthday present was a trip to Dublin, and they graciously took me along.


The Molly Malone statue in Dublin.

My parents came to visit me in Lille. Then I joined up with them for a day in Brussels, followed by a weekend in Paris.


View of a gargoyle and the Eiffel Tower from the top of Notre Dame,
which I visited completely hungover from drinking 116.7cl of wine with my parents.


May:
LOSC (Lille Olympic Sporting Club – Lille’s football/soccer team) became FBF and my obsession as they were competing to win both the French league and the Coupe de France. We watched Lille take home a victory in both matches (games), and proceeded to party like crazy people in the city streets.

June:
We took a day trip to Bergues, to see the city where Dany Boon’s Bienvenue Chez Les Ch’tis takes place. I was surprised to discover that the city has a lot more going for it than what they show in the film.


The remains of an old monastery turned garden in Bergues.


July:
FBF and I visited Disneyland Paris.

Me chillin' with Donald Duck.


August:
FBF and I went on our month long France road trip, visiting Brittany, Charente-Maritime, Nantes, and Bordeaux.

September:
I turned 24, and FBF took me to Reims for the weekend.

The Cathedral in Riems, where the kings of France were crowned.

I also experienced my first Braderie de Lille.

October:
I stay-cationed, and visited most of Lille that I hadn’t gotten to yet.

November:
I took a trip with Travelling Amber to visit Andromeda in Metz.

December:
I headed back home, and FBF gave me the best Christmas present ever; he visited me for 10 days.

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Bonne année (happy new year) everyone!
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