These Last Quiet French Days

I remember sitting in the airport crying and crying after having said goodbye to my mom and my younger brother. I’m not a big crier particularly in front of strangers, but let’s just say the floodgates opened as I wondered if I’d made a huge mistake. A year in France!? Was I crazy? How would I ever make it? My first instinct was to run back through the airport, chase after mom’s car, and run home to all that was familiar and comfortable. I realized then I would regret it for the rest of my life if I chickened out now. I dried my tears and prayed for God to give me grace and strength as I boarded the plane, and He did.

What a story has unfolded from day one.

{I mean, you can’t quite beat getting lost the first day trying to find your residence followed by tripping over your suitcase and falling into your room while trying to tell your landlady how much you love the purple walls. My landlady wasn’t entirely sure what to make of me really.}

French life has calmed down considerably in the weeks following the end of the semester. I believe this is one of the first times since I started graduate school five years ago when I’ve had time to just rest. I’m trying to take advantage of it as much as possible now because in the next few weeks, life is going to get crazy busy again, and it’s not going to let up for the foreseeable future.

So, how does one spend days like these among the French?

100_4114Well, let me tell you. You figure out what your favorite type of baguette is and pick up the French habit of keeping a ready bread supply on hand. You sit in the park with your journal and listen to some elderly French ladies argue about what kind of tree it is you’re sitting under (not sure they came to a conclusion on that one). You smile as little French kids run by chasing their siblings and screaming in delight. You pick up as much slang as you can on the tram and feel content and maybe slightly perplexed you can understand some of it even if you’d never repeat a lot of it yourself. You spend a quiet hour with a friend over a cup of tea. You laugh with friends over dinner. You take long walks around town and breathe in the scent of flowers, coffee, and bread and just soak up the sunshine. You answer countless questions about the American Presidential election because suddenly, several want to know who you’re voting for {In case you’re wondering, I don’t know yet}. You find people to speak French with to keep practicing with native speakers, and yes, some days you just stay home and read with the window open to let that Alpine mountain breeze in. You try to take mental pictures of these kinds of scenes because a camera just frankly can’t do justice to what the eye sees.

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No, life among the French has not always been enjoyable or easy. It’s often been, frankly, the opposite, but it has been worth it to come. The adventures are definitely not over yet, but I can see the curtain beginning to fall as this act reaches its conclusion and the next act prepares to begin. I both long for and dread the end and coinciding beginning.

However, I have learned a valuable lesson in these months of being far from home. That is, when you set all fears and doubting aside and trust God to write your story, the result will be far better than anything you could have imagined to pen yourself. That doesn’t mean everything will work out how you think it should or that you won’t suffer pain, loss, and disappointment, but it does mean you’re not alone. It means there’s a purpose and an unquenchable hope in how your story is unfolding. He also tucks in blessings that you might not be expecting along the way. He knows exactly what you need both of joy and sorrow as He molds you and helps you grow to be more like Himself.

I wish I could go back to the crying Stacey sitting in the airport and reassure her that she’d be just fine, that she’d make so many dear friends, that she’d have experiences beyond any she could have imagined, and that God was, is, and shall be with her every step of the way just as He is with each of His children. I think I knew even if my mind was flooded with fear of the unknown. I knew deep down this was going to be a journey of a lifetime even if I hadn’t quite reached Bilboesque excitement to yell “I’m going on adventure!” as I boarded that plane.

Next up on my blogging agenda {which does tend to change, so bear with me}: Paris and singing Sacred Harp with the French.

 

Lengthening Shadows

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The sun is setting here in my French home. The last little shades of pink on Belledonne are fading away. It’s been a rainy couple of days as evidenced by the clouds, but the sun has been trying to peek through from time to time. Another day is almost finished. Another lesson for tomorrow is almost put together, only lacking a few finishing touches. A cup of hot peppermint tea sits in front of me with the curling steam coming up from the cup as I try to battle the early symptoms of a cold.

I was reflecting on a question a friend asked me over Skype the other day. He asked me to describe my best experience in France so far and also what had been my worst experience. As I think back now to some of those tough days as well as those days of triumph, it strikes me as my friend also remarked after I shared both of how intense both have been. Those first three months after I arrived were probably some of the toughest I’d faced. It’s inspiring to me though to look back over some of those dark, rough times and see where the Lord sustained me, carried me, and taught me to trust Him even more fully. He held me as I mourned with France and then when I mourned for a couple of dear friends back home who passed away around the same time. He helped me through the frustrations of dealing with the administration and trying to figure out teaching in a completely different context to completely different students.

By contrast, He allowed me to soar when I finally started being able to better understand the fast-paced French being spoken around me. He gave me the excitement of having lessons go well and to see some of my students start to grasp some of the concepts I was trying to teach. He allowed me to see spectacular scenes that even my eyes couldn’t even quite take in all the beauty. He gave me those quiet mornings spent with a friend over a cup of tea just talking about how good the Lord is and how faithful He is. He gave me the ability to hear His Word preached and read in French. How beautiful it is to see His love transcend culture and language. Every step of the way, He has been there.

I realized tonight as I was working on lesson plans how short my time is here. My landlady even asked me a couple of days ago what my departure day is as she needs to know for planning purposes. I could only give her an estimate. I’ve started having more and more details start to come up about my return. Registering for classes, housing, plane tickets, moving just to name a few.

I do beg an interest in your prayers. I remember how overwhelming the details were just trying to come over to France, and I know it’s going to be quite involved getting back to my starting point. However, just as a dear friend reminded me over a year ago as I shared with her all of my fears of trying to go France, “Well, God worked out every single detail of you moving to Indiana. Do you think He can’t handle this? Trust Him!”

He has been my Rock. Just as those mountains I look at each day have stood there for thousands of years, so is He unmovable and constant. Maybe that’s why mountains always make me think of the Lord and His grandeur and majesty.

Where Two Siblings Went

It’s been such a busy couple of months, I’ve sadly fallen behind writing updates of my ongoing adventures among the French. It feels like after I hit the halfway point of my journey here, time has started flying. In any case, I wanted to drop by and give you a glimpse of the memories my brother Jesse and I made when he was here for nearly a month back in December and January.

Winter break was special for two reasons: (1) I was able to take a break from the stress of everyday life at the university and just travel and make memories, and (2) I got to share those memories with my little (big) brother. Hence my silence on the blog during those weeks. There was just too much to see to possibly keep up with writing.

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Having a picnic on the pebbled beach in Nice

As you can see, I was incredibly busy. 😉  It was a unique trip with several destinations and several unforgettable experiences.

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Jesse arrived around December 19th and a few days later we boarded a train and began hopping around France and England. Unfortunately, our hopping also included checking out the French emergency room at one point. You know, one should never pass up an opportunity to learn new vocab, right? Though I think we both would have preferred to learn that sort of French vocabulary out of a textbook and not from real life.

We called our adventure the Sibling Trip Winter European Edition or STWEE to borrow from the French tendency to acronym anything and everything. We explored Nice, Antibes, drove through Monaco, climbed the stairs at Eze, strolled the streets of London and later Paris, and of course, we did some hiking in the Alps around Grenoble as well as near the Italian border around Nice. The above pic was taken in the seaside town of Antibes. It was a dreamy place, I must say. I loved seeing all of the many colors of the buildings, hearing the Italian influence on the French accent there, making some new friends, and seeing some sights that absolutely took my breath away.

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Jesse and I both love French and France, but we had never been able to experience France together until now. I’m still not entirely sure that France or Europe for that matter will ever be the same after we came through. One of the best parts for us though was the people we were able to be around. Jesse got to see my life in Grenoble and meet most of my friends here including the sweet Gabins. They treated us like family and Christine made some pretty amazing Earl Grey which snapped Jesse out of jet lag and unloosed his French tongue. I’m only mildly exaggerating there. I also got to meet his sweet friends the Nadirs in Nice and Antibes.

I don’t want to give the impression that everything always went smoothly or without conflict on our trip. However, part of the beauty of our sibling relationship is that we always just keep on rolling and learn a lot lessons in forgiveness. Now, just for the record, that doesn’t mean that either of us conceded to the opinion of the other necessarily. 😉

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What made this trip special exactly?

100_3218It was watching Jesse get stared at by the French on the train as he gobbled down an entire bar of dark chocolate. It was the laughs and grunts of getting our luggage up more stairs than I can quite count. It was getting introduced to the Nadirs who took Jesse and I in while we were in Nice. I still miss those Bible studies in French and the Bible quiz Mr. Nadir and family did one of the last nights we were there. It was seeing the Eiffel Tower from the plane on the way to London. It was the laughs, the sibling comments and looks we shared seeing some of those paintings in museums, and yes, we did have to ad-lib what the statues were *really* saying in the gardens of Versailles. There were the mornings we’d wake up sore from walking but ready to go do some more exploring (once I found some coffee). It was that rainy day in Oxford when we both managed to forget an umbrella and walked around rather soaked trying to find the cross in the street that marked where our ancestor Hugh Latimer was burned at the stake.

One of the main parts of our trip was London, and it was an adventure pretty much from the time we landed. Just for future reference, arriving on Boxing Day isn’t probably the best plan if you’d like to actually eat something. As it was, we ended up arguing with some Indians running a gas station over a 4£ meal deal which was literally the only place we could find open. They don’t read their own signs and apparently, asking them to microwave a sandwich (which their sign offered) after 9 p.m. is beyond impossible. Don’t ask me why. I’ll leave the place we stayed out of it other than to say it was a big lesson in getting what you pay for. Thankfully, the rest of our adventure there went well even if we only saw the sun once maybe twice.

We crammed a lot into the 4.5 days we were in jolly ole England. It wouldn’t be exactly accurate to say that it was all completely magical. There’s a bit of disillusionment that takes place the first time you see a place you’ve always had to create in your imagination as you read. I had always wanted to go to London mainly due to my infatuation with its history and the countless books I read as a child and young adult that were either set in London or mentioned London.It wasn’t quite the dirty place you read about in Dickens, but I wouldn’t say it was quite like Mary Poppins either. I think the major disillusionment came from just how expensive everything was which is a common problem even for those who call it home.

100_2322On our first day we sauntered around Baker Street and were sure to give a respectful and amused nod to the Sherlock Holmes statue and later investigated the Charles Dickens House. Apparently, the Londoners we talked to later at a church service we attended that Sunday didn’t even know there was a Dickens museum. Instead of only them giving us tips, we were able to give them one or two. I’m quite the Dickens nerd, so it was a treat to get to see one of the places he lived and understand better where he got the inspiration for some of his novels. Despite our fatigue, we decided we’d catch the tube to see Big Ben, the London Eye, and Westminster Abbey at night before calling it a day.

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The next two days in London involved my trying to contain myself and not jump up and down in the Poet’s Corner of Westminster Abbey (though really few cathedrals can now compare to Westminster, sorry Notre Dame), Jesse navigating the tube map, eating in classic London pubs, seeing if London bridge was really still standing (Jesse assured me it was, but I had to see for myself), looking to feed the birds at St. Paul’s but finding none to feed, strolling around Piccadilly and Trafalgar Square, seeing the Tower(s) of London and Tower Hill, having a guided tour of the Houses of Parliament which I highly recommend doing, minding the gap, and the overall feeling that the people in the tube speak a different language even if they are technically speaking English. Did we get to see everything? No, but I think we covered quite a bit in a short amount of time.

Our last full day was spent at Oxford. Of course, one can only pronounce Oxford with a highly sophisticated British accent because after all, that’s where the intellectual elite go to university. Well, that and Cambridge, but I’m going to be biased since I haven’t visited there yet. 100_2847

Oxford, what a historic little town! It hosts about 38 different colleges that are all under one big “Oxford umbrella.” Due to how much it rains there, believe me, they need a giant umbrella. I think they sell some in the tourist shops if you’re interested in one. It was during the holidays, so there wasn’t the usual student population one would normally see there. Jesse mentioned he’d now like to transfer. He’d fit in just fine, I have no doubts.

100_2937Oxford is special for many reasons beyond the pervading feeling one senses of an ancient appreciation for higher learning. Lewis Carroll, C.S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkien were all there at one point or another to give an example. Jesse and I even ate in the Eagle & Child Pub where Lewis and Tolkien often met to discuss their works and was also the meeting place of the Inklings. Jesse and I did a guided tour of the town which was the best thing we could have done to get a true feel for the history of the place though I do wish our guide hadn’t gone on quite so many rabbit trails. About the time our tour ended it started pouring rain, and I was just about done for the day. I don’t know how they get used to it getting dark at 3:30 p.m. during winter there. It made it feel like it was so much later than it actually was. I found a café and while I tried to dry off and warm up, Jesse did some more exploring around town. I think what I will remember most though was finding this cross in the middle of the street:

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 This was the marker where multiple martyrs including Hugh Latimer were burned at the stake. I’ve had multiple experiences so far in my time in Europe where I’ve seen a place that marked a horrible event or a difficult human struggle and have found myself at a loss for words. I was standing on the spot where some of my kindred in Christ paid the ultimate price by having their bodies burned at the stake knowing that the sufferings of this present world were nothing compared to the joys of heaven and eternity at Jesus’ feet. It is at times like this that we question whether we ourselves would do the same. I pray I would be willing and ready, and that God would give me grace and strength to stand for Him if I were to ever be met with such an ultimatum. It’s all we can ever pray.

The rest of our adventures were in France mainly around Grenoble and Paris. This involved forgetting everything was closed on New Year’s Day meaning that was food scarce, my mad dash to turn in grades before a deadline, Jesse coming face to face with a bathroom floor (not my doing, I promise) and spending a day learning French medical vocab on a gurney instead of catching a flight to Ireland, my making French students nervous breathing down their necks while proctoring finals, and we wound the whole thing up in Paris before Jesse flew home.

Bruva, I think we need to figure out something called “relaxation” when it comes to our trips.

London Bridge and Coffee

This is actually one of Jesse’s photos I borrowed from Facebook. We realized we hadn’t done a selfie in London yet, so we got coffee and hot chocolate and stood on London Bridge and voilà!

Long Days and Mountain Air

I was yawning and scraping the last bit of my fromage blanc (kind of like yogurt) mixed with a little honey and canned peaches out of a bowl when my landlady walked into the kitchen. I looked up and said a tired “Salut”. She mentioned she was tired as she opened a cabinet for a glass, and I agreed that I was too. She looked at me and then said in her typical fast French (had to get her to repeat herself as usual) “Your days are too long! Way too long! This is not good for you.” She’d been observing for the first time some of my school routine during the week. I slowly nodded in agreement and told her that I was trying to see if I could change my schedule a little for the next semester, but I’d have to wait and see if it would be possible. She nodded and said that I definitely should change it up because it just doesn’t seem healthy to be working those long hours. Oh dear, good thing she hasn’t seen me during a typical semester back home.

Things have been incredibly busy and in many ways quite difficult over the last few weeks. I keep coming to terms with the fact that at least while I’m in France, life will most likely not be simple or absent of complication. Though really, why am I so special to think that it would or should be so? I’ve strangely grown accustomed to things not working anyway. o_O On the flip side, I get extremely excited when something does go smoothly.

Happily, I’ve lately received a couple of big answers to prayer. I finally received my medical appointments for the validation of my long stay visa and (1) neither of them are on a Wednesday and (2) they came before I have to leave the apartment for three weeks (long story). I was concerned about retrieving the letter with the appointment dates if I didn’t have access to the apartment mailbox. Thankfully, they came through email. Both were specific requests I prayed for as I waited and waited for my appointments to come. God does indeed work in the details! 🙂 The first appointment known as the “Awkward Chest X-ray to Prove I Don’t Have TB” (in true French form that would be the acronym: ACXPIDHTB pronounced as”AX-PID-HiTiBi”) is on Monday, and the second medical visit is in January. Don’t ask me why they’re spread out like that as I have no clue. After all the trouble I went through to get these appointments, I’d rather not say anything for fear of it all falling apart resulting in my being shipped back to the States before I’ve finished my contract. I’m just so happy to finally be making progress with this long administrative nightmare I’ve been going through since my arrival.

Since my last update, the weather has gotten quite a bit colder. It’s been snowing high up in the Alps! Beautiful isn’t it? The natives are happy because some of the ski slopes have now been able to open. They’d been rather concerned with the Indian Summer we’d experienced that the ski season would start later than usual. 100_1861

It reminds me of how the Alps looked my very first time in Grenoble nearly seven years ago. Maybe I really should try out skiing here this time. The weather is rather chilly but not unbearable. I can still feel my face and don’t have to wear five layers to keep from getting frost bite. 🙂 Can you tell I’ve spent the last two winters in Indiana?

French is also coming along. Sometimes in conversation it feels like I have a little person up in my head going through all of the French files in my brain trying to find words or phrases to try to express what I want to say. This file searching often causes a delay leaving me looking at the person I’m talking to with a deer in the headlights look as I’m mentally urging the little person frantically throwing papers out of filing cabinets to hurry up because I really need that sentence structure/word NOW! This results in a few papers being thrown my way to “make do” which causes the French person I’m talking with to smile and tell me that they understand me but that one should really say it this other way. The little person in my head usually has a sulking expression after his efforts as he makes note of the correction and files it in the MISC cabinet before finding an easy chair to collapse in {Yes, I do think they need to make another version of Inside Out devoted to the multilingual brain}. Sometimes it does get discouraging, but I’m glad to have seven more months to keep on trying.

In any case, there’s so much to look around and be thankful for despite all the long days and obstacles I seem to run into! I have food in the pantry and the ability to make hot coffee in the morning (important skill there). I have family and friends who love and pray for me. I have dear friends here that mean the world to me. I get to wake up each morning and see the Alps outside of my window. I can make myself understood even if it’s not always “grammatically correct”. I have somewhere to go to hear the gospel preached and have fellowship! These are just a few of so many blessings!

Life may not be perfect here, but it is a blessed life because I know Who has given me life and from Whom these blessings come!

Filling in the Blanks

Time has started flying here as my to-do lists seem to grow longer and longer. I’m in the middle of figuring out how to organize these classes I’ve been given as well as how to add my own flavoring to lessons. It’s been busy, busy, busy. Student emails seem to pile up, and I often feel already behind on planning when I’ve barely gotten through teaching for the week. The semester has kicked into gear it would seem. All of us in the office where they’ve put most of us international English instructors seem to run in and out grabbing papers, typing up activities, making comments on the ongoing complications of living among the French, and asking each other questions about lesson plans and ideas. Gradually, we’re figuring out our way around the building(s) as well as who to talk to for finding out answers to various questions. However, none of our names have been officially placed on the office door for the main reason that none of us have had time to fill out the piece of paperwork required. Yes, the French even have paperwork for having your name on your office door, go figure. 😉

The Préfecture: one of the seats of bureaucracy around here.

The Préfecture: one of the seats of bureaucracy around here.

I’m feeling much happier and more at home now. Things are beginning to work out as the various administrative and bureaucratic entities seem to be finally receiving all the papers they need to satisfy for the moment their almost insatiable hunger for paperwork, photocopies, and signatures. At this time, they’re chewing and digesting what they’ve been given before deciding what else they want. I’m currently assembling the next round of papers needed for when I am summoned to give yet another offering. It is my hope that by November or so a lot of this will be past, but I will just have to wait and see.

For the moment I’m sitting in the apartment with papers spread out all over the bed. I’ve been working off and on on getting stuff ready for next week as well as assembling items for my appointment with OFII (immigration office). I don’t have an appointment yet but want to have everything ready since they told me that they will be processing my file next. I realize that that could still mean a week or two or three though. I have an empty coffee mug sitting next to me from that mid-afternoon need for a caffeine fix and am enjoying the sound of thunder and rain coming through my window. I’d say it’s been a pretty productive Saturday especially since I cleaned up my desk which had become a pitifully messy stack of papers and books, set up a couple of spreadsheets for my classes, organized a calendar for the academic year on the computer (I’ve given up on handwritten planners), and looked at some plane/train tickets for a possible trip at the end of the month. I may not be able to do London just yet as I’d hoped since funds are short, but I may still at least take a little trip somewhere since I have a week off at the end of this month. We’ll see though. I definitely don’t want to just stay here if I can work it out to go somewhere and do some exploring. 🙂

Life is feeling more normal and thoughts of ever leaving seem sad. French is coming a little easier than it was as I grow more accustomed to the speed with which the French tend to speak. I think my landlady gave up trying to practice English with me because she seemed to have a harder time understanding my American accent in English than when I speak French. Is that weird or what? Being more incomprehensible in one’s native language and in one’s second!? Languages are funny indeed.

Onward we go! Life is so much brighter when I recognize Christ’s love and grace in every aspect of life. I’m thankful to see those evidences each day. Even in the difficult times I’ve faced since my arrival, He has been there to lift me up and encourage me. I read an excerpt from Elisabeth Elliot’s book Keep a Quiet Heart last night where she talked about how sometimes God doesn’t answer exactly the way we want Him to when we want Him to. Sometimes we pray for our way to be simple, but it ends up complicated. As she said: “Let’s never forget that some of His greatest mercies are His refusals. He says no in order that He may, in some way we cannot imagine, say yes. All His ways with us are merciful. His meaning is always love.” As I read that last night, I smiled thinking of how true it was and how it sounded like a description of my life so far in France. I had never been abandoned, just told to wait for Him to move even with as hard and stressful as that has been. Thank you, Father, for saying no but also holding me up until you showed me how you would say yes. 

Living and Learning

It’s been a month.

I’ve been here a month.

In some ways it feels like it flew by while in other ways it’s felt like it has dragged on in one long day after another. I am thankful that the Lord in His infinite wisdom did not reveal to me in advance what it would be like this first month because frankly, it’s been tough. I’m glad this isn’t the end of the story though.

I hit a low point about a week ago. Yet another thing had messed up to add to the large pile of complications I was already dealing with, and I was exhausted and upset. I felt like I was at the end of my rope of what I could handle which is precisely when God seems to work. Verses began coming to my mind reminding me that it is He who is in control, it is He who makes my way perfect (not me), it is He who sustains me and gives me strength. I realized how prone to complaining I have been. True, it’s a tough schedule to have at the university, but He gave me those 200+ kids to teach. He has a purpose. I feel inadequate, and well I should, but I have to trust that He will give me the strength and fortitude to make it through each day. As I look to Him to give me strength, what seems impossible becomes possible.

Gradually, little things are starting to work out. I have a bank account open which is a big relief. Getting paid and having a debit card are still in the works, but I’m just thankful to have an account finally open. Some paperwork I’d sent back to the U.S. to release funds for a scholarship I’ve been granted did arrive and is being processed. I didn’t hear that it had arrived, so I was biting my nails a little worrying if I’d made a mistake in addressing the envelope. I finally figured out the confusing copy request form only to then be shown how to submit my copy requests online. Hopefully, because of this extra guidance there won’t be a repeat of Tuesday’s copy disaster. I also officially signed up for a class to take while I’m here. The whole registration process here is its own learning experience. There are still plenty of other things that have yet to work out that I do beg prayers for, but at least there seems to be some small amount of progress made. This definitely helps my peace of mind! I’m also so much more thankful for things I took for granted back in the States.

The last couple of days have gone very well. I’m starting to feel more relaxed, less tense, and more accustomed to life here. I’ve had to realize that the first time doing anything is never easy, thus I have to stop being such a perfectionist. Thank the Lord, I’m starting to find my way! I’m feeling less homesick and less sad as the days go by. I still sigh for home when I look at the buses and trains coming and going each day and if I dream of hugging someone at home. The way I look at it though, I may never pass this way again. My dear ones will be there when I get home, Lord willing. Life will return to the crazy grad school life it normally is at Purdue, and this will all be a memory. How will I spend this time? Moaning for home or cheerfully doing the best I can to do the work He has given me to do while I’m here?

I have a little over nine months left.

Nine months.

Do you realize how fast that will go by? Faster than I can even imagine, I’m sure. In some ways I hope it goes by quickly, but I hope I have time to savor each moment and grow. Oh, Lord, help me grow! Write my story!

Write My Story

Little Fun/Funny Things about Everyday Life in France

It’s been quite a week. I won’t go into all the details here, but I sometimes feel like I have the Midas touch in reverse: instead of everything I touch turning to gold, it ties itself up in a knot and becomes as complicated as possible. I do realize it could be so much worse, so I try to count my blessings! In order to keep some measure of sanity in the midst of the frustration, I love to find little things that I find peculiar or just rather funny that I’ve had to become accustomed to while living here this first month. I’m hoping to write several of these kind of posts during my time here especially as I’m working on a project to develop more culturally centered lessons for my students back home.

(1) Capitalized Last Names

100_1561Probably due to my previous relatively short stays and not having to deal too much with paperwork, I’d never noticed this before. In France, they always capitalize last names. For example, instead of a name being just Laura Smith, in France it would be Laura SMITH or SMITH Laura. In my own culture, putting something in all caps often signifies yelling, so I immediately think of someone saying the first name in a normal voice and then shouting the last name. So, my keys to all the doors I need to get into at school have my name on them, and yes, I nearly laugh every time I look at them because I still read my name in my head with a shouting voice. I’ll just not mention how I have to keep from laughing every time I read names of professors on doors in the hallway. 😀

(2) Doorknobs (or the lack thereof)

I do realize that every apartment and house is different. The doors at school are not like this, but at the apartment where I reside, the doorknob to my room seems straight out of the 1950s. I like it though it is rather loose and having a key sticking out of the door on the other side is a little bothersome. I’m not quite sure why it’s that way, but I’m not too worried about getting locked in. At least, I try not to think about it too much. o_O During my jet lagged nights when I couldn’t sleep, I would sometimes contemplate how I’d escape if someone sinister locked me in my room. Climbing out the window seemed to be my only option which would not be a fun option either due to being on the sixth floor. I digress though. The other funny thing in the apartment is that to open the closets in the hallway or the pantry in the kitchen, there aren’t any doorknobs. One just turns the key sticking out of the keyhole to open the door. The door to the apartment is similar. There is no doorknob on the door, only a keyhole. You keep turning the key to unlock the door and then use the key as the doorknob. Strange, I know! I had an office door somewhat like that once though it did still have a doorknob.

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The doorknob to my room

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(3) Happy Juice

There are several things I love about France and food in France. However, there is one kind of juice in particular that just makes me so happy in addition to coffee (Yes, I just included coffee as a juice because it is ‘life juju’. Questions, class? No? Good! We’ll continue): strawberry juice!!!! I found a jar of it at the store last week and didn’t buy it because I really just needed to get orange juice and not splurge too much on other stuff. However, after a hard week last week, I decided to grab a jar when I went by the store today to stock up on food for the week. I had a skip in my step on the way home, I was so happy! I love, love, LOVE this delicious goodness in a jar!

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(4) Cooking Struggles

One of my dinners from the other night: zucchini, rice, and lemon oregano chicken.

One of my dinners from the other night: zucchini, rice, and lemon oregano chicken.

I’m in France, the land known for its culinary tastes and habits. However, I have few French culinary skills. I’m not saying this won’t change as I’ve been toying with the idea of looking up cooking classes here. I’ll have to see if I can find a reasonable price for one maybe once I get life a little more stabilized. The trouble has been that the recipes that I’m used to making at home don’t always work as well here. For one, not all of the ingredients are the same as one can find in a store at home. I have found a few things to make and have been sticking to those for the moment. Rice is a big part of my diet right now. 😉 I’m in France though, so I would like to benefit from ingredients that I can’t find very easily in the States like crême fraîche. I’ve been ruminating about ways that I could find new recipes to try. I still haven’t tried lighting the oven yet, but I’m determined to try to start using it soon. I came to the conclusion that I should just get a French cookbook and use that as my starting point. Hopefully, it will also provide me with some courage to try lighting the oven too….

100_1565On Saturday afternoon, I needed a break from working on planning lessons and decided that a stroll around town would be just the thing I needed to clear my head. I didn’t quite count on how many people would be out and about on a Saturday, but I walked through a few small streets and poked my head into a couple of bookstores. In one of them, I found a few small books with short, easy, and cheap recipes using ingredients I see quite frequently in the store. I bought this one and am hoping maybe on Thursday or Friday to try one of the recipes in the book as a reward for getting through the first week of my full load of classes.

 (5) English Words in French Advertisements

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I do apologize for the reflection in this particular photo. This is one of the advertisements at some of the tram stops. This is just one of several advertisements I’ve seen that use English as part of its motto. I have no idea how good this candy actually is, but it promises in a mixture of languages to keep you on the happy side of life. Maybe I should grab a bag and report on whether it does indeed help me “Prendre la vie côté HAPPY”. 😉

More commentary on little things from everyday life in France to come…