The Correspondence: A Prologue

A year ago today, I was busy getting through a long Wednesday of teaching at Université Grenoble-Alpes. They had at least lightened my load on Wednesdays after I just couldn’t handle the long nine hour teaching day anymore. It was a beautiful spring day! The Alps were still covered in snow but the grass was getting greener and the birds were cheerfully singing. Life in France at that time was full of strikes and drama in the school administration although I had not yet seen the worst of it. It was just a happy spring day, and I was in the middle of preparations for my return to the U.S. in the summer. Little did I know as I finished up my teaching day and went back to my apartment to fix supper that my life was about to change. As I slept that night, a certain someone sent me an FB message which simply read: “Salut, Stacey! Ça va? 🙂 ”

100_4069

Now, I’ll pause here a second and explain that I had my misgivings as this was not the first time a rather unfamiliar gentleman had sent a message. I really should write a book about some of my experiences on that score, but let’s just say some of the messages I received in the past were genuinely just friendly conversations while others were obviously sent by someone on a wife hunt. So, when I first saw I had a message from this particular gentleman when I got to school the next morning, I did hope this was not a repeat of some of what I’d already been through before. I quickly sent back a couple of lines in French and continued on with my day.

The response which followed included his phone number and a request to call him when I got a chance as he wanted to talk about a trip to France. My eyebrows went up as this was not exactly the response I had expected. My impression was he was looking for recommendations for places to visit in France of which I did have plenty of ideas. I couldn’t call the U.S. from my mini French phone, so I offered to Skype. I also threw out some suggestions of places to visit, asked more specifics on what he wanted to know about, and mentioned as an example that I was at that moment researching a trip up to the D-Day beaches for the week I had off at the end of April. I’d been unable to get that trip to work up to that point because to visit the Normandy beaches, one really needs a car, and I did not have that option at my disposal. I was still trying to work it out though. I wanted to go so badly since my grandfather had landed there. Turns out there was a reason that particular trip I was trying to work out just wasn’t working, a very good reason.

We set up a time to Skype that following Saturday. During the actual call, he was in his car in a grocery store parking lot which is partly why the conversation only lasted about 10 minutes. Those few minutes of our Skype conversation laid the foundation for a trip to Normandy. After we got off of Skype, I sat there on my bed staring out the window wondering if I were nuts….

A guy I barely met in Memphis several years ago is coming to France, and I’m meeting up with him to go on a trip? Maybe I better ask someone about what kind of a person he is. I need to pray about this too!

So, I did both. Thankfully, I have some friends who know him well and were able to give me a good report a couple of weeks later. I prayed too that God would help me guard my heart and to close the door if we were not meant to go on this trip. I wrote extensively in my journal at the time just trying so hard to keep myself from getting my hopes up and to be sure to keep the proper perspective. Jane Austen knew women quite well when she famously said in Pride and Prejudice: “A lady’s imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment.”

Looking back over those couple of months before he came to France, I do have to smile. We messaged almost daily and often talked on Skype on the weekends. I remember one particular time when we talked for nearly three hours on Skype just because we lost track of time as we talked and talked. It was a blessing getting to know each other better as we started sharing prayer requests and stories while also working on trip details. It was exciting! We were both amazed as answer after answer came as we prayed and worked through the details of the trip.

I think what I loved most through all of our correspondence was that there was no pressure and no expectations other than friendship. I felt relaxed and free to change my mind about the trip if something didn’t feel right.There was also no manipulation whatsoever. He had become my friend, and I just couldn’t wait to meet him in person. I prayed that our first meeting would be relaxed and that we would feel comfortable. I’m so thankful to say that that’s exactly how our first meeting was! I prayed also that God’s will would be done and that whether we parted at the end of the trip as good friends or maybe something more, that we would be content to follow His leading.

The morning I boarded the train to go to the airport, I remember feeling so nervous because I both knew and didn’t know what was ahead. I sat in a rather open area on the train next to the baggage racks surrounded by a couple of French couples probably in their sixties who were quite amusing as they talked about this and that. I watched the French landscape rush by in the windows and just prayed and prayed and wondered. After I changed trains though for the last leg of the trip, I could barely sit still. I really felt for the man sitting next to me as I fidgeted quite a bit and got up a lot to walk around. As I got off, I looked for George on the platform, but he wasn’t there. I wondered if he were lost or what had happened. I pulled out my phone about to call him and then glanced up to see him standing up on a platform above the train station. I smiled and got onto the escalator to go up to meet him.

And then, a new page began in the prologue of a beautiful story….

Utah Beach

Is there a name for the emotion one feels when one visits somewhere which holds so much meaning? I felt emotions which didn’t seem to have a name.

100_4201

As I stood on Utah beach just trying to take in the enormity of what had happened there, all I could think about was a farmer from Alabama who landed there. He was scared as any soldier would be as he got his first taste of war. The bullets were flying around him, and as he landed and dug a foxhole he prayed for his wife, his family, and that God would give him courage to never run away or do anything cowardly before the enemy. That brave man was my grandfather on June 6, 1944.

I personally cannot fully fathom what it must have been like for him and the other thousands upon thousands of soldiers who landed on the D-Day beaches that day. As I looked from the sea to the beach, I was struck by the short distance between the two. How in the world did anyone survive?

100_4199

It’s one thing to read about these events in history. It’s entirely another thing to go to where this event took place and to have had someone there who left a firsthand account of what he experienced. I was looking on scenes he had looked on although granted the landscape has changed quite a bit in the 72 years since the landing. I wondered where he was exactly on this beach, where he dug his fox hole, where he ran when someone yelled that his best friend had been hit though thankfully, he discovered his friend was okay. I can only just imagine how traumatic it must have been for him to witness the devastation and the horror of war all around him as he tried to find a path forward.

As I stood there, I yet again thanked God for sparing him and protecting him just as I had when I went to see the Hürtgen Forest back in February which was another bloody battle he took part in. I thank God that He blessed him with the grace to overcome the trauma after the war, and that he lived to have a wonderful, blessed life following the Lord and raising a family. I know he never forgot that day he landed nor all the experiences which followed, how could he?

There is one thing I regret for him. I regret he never saw or heard how thankful the French were and are for what he and his fellow soldiers did. He had a very low opinion of the French because they fired at him, and he felt that they were overall ungrateful for the sacrifices of the Allies to liberate them. During my various stays in France, I have been moved to experience the complete opposite. Any time I have mentioned my grandfather’s story, I have seen the French nearly moved to tears and most have asked if I my grandfather were still alive to be able to thank him themselves. The French are grateful, and they do wish to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice to free them from the oppression of the Nazis. This was a plaque at Utah Beach:

100_4192

“From the French in memory of the valiant soldiers from the United States who fell for the liberation of France on June 6, 1944”

I have seen firsthand the bond of an American family and a French family who have remained close through the years because a Frenchman risked everything to save an American from being taken by the Germans. I hope that this bond I have seen can be a testament to not just the friendship of two nations, but also the reality of human compassion and resilience in the midst of horrible circumstances.

I’m glad that our family can at least know that the French do honor my grandfather and those like him who risked their lives and futures that this nation might be free. Of course, I’ve heard all sorts of commentary on the economic and political reasons of why the U.S. got involved, but, my friends, don’t ever forget that life is precious and valuable and that the cost of war is insurmountable. There were men, young men, who never made it home, who never fulfilled their dreams, who left an empty place at their family’s table and in their loved ones’ hearts, who breathed their last breath on a foreign land. Looking upon those rows upon rows of crosses is mind boggling because each of those men, many of whom were around my age, had their own personalities, loves, hopes, fears, dreams, and yet, they laid it all down in the ultimate sacrifice and here they rest.

Many were gone before their lives truly began.

Let us honor them.

100_4172

Let us never forget.

My Latest Adventure…an announcement

I had debated mimicking some of those cute announcements one sees on FB and Instagram. Maybe it would have involved a selfie with my holding an Eiffel Tower in my hand with a giant smile and a thumbs up, but my brain’s a little too fried to function too creatively lately.

In the words of Bilbo:

I’m going on an [another] adventure!” as he dashed out the door holding onto his contract.

In my case, there will be a contract involved with probably something mentioning not being responsible for if I find myself in a state of no longer being among the living though my job title will be quite different. I don’t see it quite living up to the par of looking for treasure in a Misty Mountain despite the fact that mountains are involved. I’m also envisioning casually sauntering up to the plane to take me to these new adventures versus a mad dash, but we shall see how it goes with flight connections being as they are.

All this to say that I’m going back to France!

Lord willing, I’ll be back in Grenoble actually where I studied before about six years ago. I did go back to visit briefly about three years ago, so my host family is probably starting to think of me as the American who keeps showing back up again every three years or so. I’ll be there teaching English and taking classes which is a bit of a swap from the last time I was there. This will definitely be a new and interesting challenge, but I’m looking forward to it.

Naturally, there are A LOT of complicated logistics involved as I will be away for approximately a year. Now that I have more responsibilities and well, stuff than I used to have, it’s harder to just up and go to France without having to make several arrangements and decisions that need to be thought through carefully.

I’m asking for prayer for

  • God to help me work out the complicated logistics.
  • That all of the paperwork with the French government will go smoothly. I shudder to think of having to go through the whole visa process again. It’s a mess, I tell you!
  • That I’ll be able to get through all of the preparations with as little stress as possible.
  • That I’ll be safe and have a wonderful, productive, and beneficial time while there.

I’ve been so busy, the whole excitement hasn’t really sunk in yet. That’s mostly due to having too much on my plate this semester to really be able to think about it. Yet, as I start checking things off the list to finish the semester mainly making it through MA exams and a thesis defense, I’m sure the excitement will definitely start to set in. Oh, yes, especially as I start thinking of crêpes and baguettes and speaking French 24/7….*sigh* Okay, nevermind, I’m starting to get excited now! 😀

This whole adventure is scheduled to begin sometime around the end of August. More details to follow!

January and February 2009 034Can’t wait to feast my eyes on those mountains again!

Dear 14-year-old Stacey,…

Due to the last month of crazy paper writing and lots of grading and insane coffee drinking, this poor blog has been neglected. I thought of many ideas for things I wanted to write in a post but had deadlines staring me in the face! So, here’s to a happy return after finally finishing yet another semester of grad school! 🙂 Not surprisingly, this post has something to do with one of my papers…

In an effort to work on a project for Arabic, I decided to write out some ideas to help me plan it. My project was to write a letter in Arabic to my 14-year-old self. The result is this blog post…in English. I assure you, my project didn’t turn out quite this deep or humorous, but it is a nice reprieve from all the craziness to be able to write all this. 

This letter is written to the Stacey who’s greatest worry in life was passing Algebra 1…

Dearest 14-year -old Stacey,

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI know the book you’re reading right now is probably of more fascination to you than this letter, but I thought you might enjoy an update from the future Stacey. Yes, I see you putting down that book and looking up with interest. Before you ask it, no you’re not married, and yes, you’re still in school. Before you slump your shoulders with disappointment, let me explain.

In one year, you will begin studying this fascinating language called French. Study it well because it is about to become the main focus of your studies and will basically shape your life and provide you with amazing opportunities. However, it will also annoy you, follow you everywhere, take away your time and sleep, confuse you with its crazy grammar and verb tenses, and yet, you’ll keep coming back to it to learn more and improve. Crazy? I think not!

Yes, you’re probably thinking “What?” (really you should say “Comment?” or perhaps sparingly even “Quoi?”)

How did this happen? you may ask.

Simple: You fell in love….

with a language. Not quite what you were expecting, right? 🙂

Then, at age 16 you will find out that you can actually major in that language and you will know what you want to do. I won’t give away everything much like you hate it when Justin (older bro) or Jesse (younger bro) give away the ending of a movie. However, you do get accepted to Texas Tech with a major in French. Don’t look so surprised. You do survive math all the way through Calculus, so no worries on that end and you will love French. You even go off to France for a while at one point.

Why am I writing?

Because I know you! You’re a dreamer! You do build castles in the sky despite how much you claim you don’t. My point in writing is not to discourage you from dreaming. My counsel is that you need to realize that not every dream will come true. However, from the pieces of those broken dreams, you will build and discover new ones that will often exceed the ones you had before.

For example, this is a pic of you just two days before you will leave for France for the first time! Exciting, or what!?

05-26-2010 10;40;17AM_edited-copy

You see, dreams are important. But, you have to learn how to control them and realize that God is the one who ultimately guides your life. When you recognize His hand in your life, it becomes less of a crushing experience when things don’t work out like you wanted them to. Then, He takes your dreams and your hopes and will show you something even better than you imagined even if you don’t see how it is something better at the time.

Yes, disappointing things will happen and your heart will be broken. People will hurt you and let you down because, well, we’re all human. But, even when family or friends hurt you, you must never stop loving them. Yes, it will hurt and life will seem unfair and cruel. However, no matter how much you’re hurt, you cannot let that hurt determine your life. Just as Christian in The Pilgrim’s Progress, you have to keep moving forward ever onward towards the Celestial City. Let the trials and hurts you face help make you a stronger and wiser person! Don’t let the hurt and the disappointment make you into a bitter and unforgiving person.

By the way, these people become some of your greatest friends and allies in life.

IMG_8474IMG_8443

577321_3503884110563_511704532_n

11540_198715852501_5689400_n396248_623374052010_634838792_nI actually can’t even post pictures of everyone who will have an effect on your life because it would take up so much space. That’s the other thing, I wanted you to know. Life is not all about you. If you think that, you need to take a step back and rethink things. When you realize that life is not all about finding out what makes you happy and what you want to do, but instead how you can help make others happy and help others, that is where you will find true happiness. You will find that a lot your success in life is actually due to others setting aside time and energy to help you.

Just a couple more remarks:

“Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth…” Ecclesiastes 12:1

“Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12

Now, is the time to serve the Lord. Not later! Yes, I may be few years older now, but I still know this to be true. When you ask God to lead you, He will. His answers may seem late or not what you were looking for, but that’s not the point. The point is that you follow where He leads. This is the answer to life’s questions. I am also writing this to myself presently because I am facing some very important decisions that will have an effect on the rest of my life. Who knows? Maybe 10 years from now the older “wiser” Stacey will write a letter to the present me with similar or better advice.

Enjoy growing up though realize that even being a grown up isn’t all you think it is. 😉 There’s that little thing called bills and then responsibility, but I won’t get into that. Enjoy life and the journey!

Did I Miss the Boat?

I was sitting on my kitchen floor. Yes, for the first time since I moved into this apartment I plopped down on the kitchen floor. I suppose I could say that I was hiding from my laptop sitting on the table because I hit a wall planning the first chapter of my thesis.

There I was wrapped up in my house coat with my back against the wall. I refuse to turn on the heat to save money right now, so I’m just cold.

I was hugging my knees staring at the horrible laminate on my kitchen floor. The question just came to mind suddenly: “Did I miss the boat?” 

I puzzled over this as I decided a hot shower might help my writer’s block and might warm me up more than sitting on the floor.

Let me explain this “Missing the Boat” concept.

As I’m learning, life is not actually what you expected as a 6 year-old. When I was around 6, I had all those little girl plans as I bedded down my many dolls. Yes, one day I would get maweed and have wots and wots of kids. I went to weddings as a kid and left all dreamy-eyed. You see, most girls have their weddings planned by the time they’re between ages 6 and 8. We just put a 6 foot tall cut-out that says “place groom here” in the appropriate place by the preacher at the front of the church in the wedding of our imaginations.

As a teenager and avid bookworm, I got addicted to tales of romance. Not the cheap dollar store kind. It was usually those books by Christian authors or just little books I found looking through books my grandmother or my mom had. I read and dreamed and read some more. I was just sure that I would open the door one day and see Mr. Right there to sweep me off my feet. Maybe that is slightly exaggerated, but it’s not too far from the truth of my way of thinking at the time.

In my ever growing bibliography of romance novels I did get tired of Grace Livingston Hill stories rather quickly. Even at that young of an age, I was critical of stories that repeated themselves over and over with just a change in characters and setting.

So, why did I have this idea that my life story would be just like everyone else in those novels?

You know guy meets girl, they sorta like each other, skip ahead a few chapters and he falls for her, she falls for him, the last chapter is the wedding. The book is perhaps then followed by a few sequels (such as in the many Janette Oke series) and their kids’ love stories are nearly the same, so on and so on.

My life is not a Grace Livingston Hill repeat!

Yes, as I see the friends I grew up with getting married and having kids, I do have that sigh escape wondering if I missed something. Like that matrimony boat. Then, I recall the confident thing I said several years ago at a Bible study camp during a devotional among young women in the “eligible” age range. As an 18-year-old, I said “Singleness has a purpose and marriage isn’t meant to be a cure  to heal you from the ‘disease’ of singleness. If I’m not content now, how will I ever be content married?” I know now, I didn’t really even fully understand what I was saying then until God made it real in more recent years.

No, there isn’t some perfect state of “contentment” that makes you qualified for marriage. There isn’t some formula to follow. No self-help book about being the perfect single is going to help. All the advice in the world isn’t going to help either. Every time I ran to one of those avenues instead of to God, I pretty much got a V8 bonk on the head from God.

I found out that I can’t wait around waiting for my life to start if the “start” of life is supposed to be the day one dresses in white and walks down the aisle.

God has a plan.

From the part of my life that I’ve lived so far, I’ve just been amazed at how much of an adventure it has been. Yes, there have been some bumps and unexpected bends in the road, but it’s been a far better story than I could have ever dreamed up from reading those novels.

Every time I get upset or impatient about that blank page in my life where there’s still no love story, God always takes the pen from my hand and asks me if I trust Him. Yes, maybe that page isn’t meant to be filled, but I have to still trust that He has the best in mind. It’s a daily battle of handing back that pen though.

So, no, I don’t think I missed the boat. God is my captain and I trust Him to tell me when it’s time to board if that time comes.

Though, I really don’t think this “boat” is going to be a gondola. I picture more of a ship from the 18th century era that would be able to weather a storm and the high seas since life isn’t always a canal in Venice. 

A Visit to the City of Famous Dead People

Things are starting to look up with my job/money circumstances thankfully. I’ll still have to be careful, but at least there is more income coming in to pay bills. Praise to the Lord!!!!

Moving on, I’d like to continue with my morbid title. It does sound rather sickening, sad, weird, maybe obsessed, right? But, really it isn’t at all….at least, it’s mostly not weird, I think. I’ll let you be the judge, dear reader.

As I was working today, I was reflecting on probably my favorite place that I visited during my time in Paris back in June. The very simple way of describing this place is the title of this post or as it is otherwise commonly known:

Père-Lachaise

It isn’t exactly “in Paris” being located outside of city limits, but it’s fairly simple to get to by just hopping on the metro. This visit was the morning after the tear-gassing incident, so if the pictures look foggy… Well, they looked foggy when I was taking them anyway.

According to the guidebook I skimmed through before my visit, the oldest grave in this French cemetery dates back to the 1100’s. Rather old, I’d say! If you’ve never been to a French cemetery, you really ought to consider visiting one even if you’re not one of those people who likes visiting cemeteries. (Don’t look so shocked! There are indeed people who like visiting cemeteries!) They have an entirely different concept for burying people when they’re not cramming them into catacombs, that is.

It really is quite unique. The “tomb stones” really are more like little chapels or amazing works of art complete with statues or images. The graves are arranged much like organized parking lots that are divided into sections with named avenues going through them. If you’ve ever seen the more recent Phantom of the Opera, it’s similar to the part when she goes to lay flowers on her father’s grave.

You may be asking how exactly does one “visit” Père-Lachaise?

I shall tell you!

1. Start by looking at the map.

Seems rather logical although the concept of having a map for a cemetery did seem a little foreign. If you want one to carry around, the nice lady sitting in the booth at the entrance will be more than happy to lend you one. By the way, visiting Père-Lachaise is free of charge everyday! As you can see in the picture, Frances and Kim were already busy comparing the map on the board with our map. From this map you can pinpoint the famous graves you want to see.

The surprising thing? They, the group I was with, handed me the map and designated me to be the navigator!? Yes, crazy idea since I can’t even tell which hand is the left or the right on an average day (I’m serious!). We managed fairly well if I do say so myself.

2. Figure out who you want to “see”.

Chopin’s tomb

There are quite a few famous people resting here in Père-Lachaise, and we had limited time, so we figured out who was top on our lists to “see”. Our hand map was marked up with lines and circles and dots in the midst of plotting our course. Depending on who is with you, there’s quite a variety of people to see including architects, musicians, artists, singers, authors, movie makers….and so on. Our list was a mixture of such people.

For example, the famous French playwright Molière:

If you’ve never read one of his plays, you really ought to consider reading one in either the original French or an English translation. They’ll often give you quite a laugh.

Or, if you’ve seen the movie Hugo, you’ll probably recognize this chap:

Georges Méliès

There are several others we visited as well. However, one mustn’t get too caught up in only finding the famous people. Thus, here we come to the next step.

3. Don’t only get caught up in finding famous people. Look around you! There’s plenty else to discover in a stroll through Père-Lachaise.

In other words, enjoy the scenery! I’ve been told that Parisians themselves often like to come to Père-Lachaise just for an afternoon stroll. I can’t blame them. It seems a morbid place to do such a thing, but it’s so…philosophical and well, French! What else can I say? Here’s a few things to look at as examples of what you may find while you’re looking around:

I take it this person was quite a bookworm.

4. Get a feeling for the setting of the place.

We had the perfect setting for our stroll through. It was overcast, a little windy, spitting rain, and just a little chilly. There was such a “spooky” feeling to the place. Not the “AAAA! I’m scared” kind of spooky. It was calmer, nearly like making the inevitable end of life artistic while placing it in a pleasant place to stroll. There was even the lonely cry of ravens heard constantly throughout. We actually laughed when we heard the distant sound of a bell ringing because the first thing that came to mind was the old, old poem “For Whom the Bell Tolls” which a couple of us started reciting.

5. Don’t kiss the graves or stick your gum all over a tree, please!

This sounds crazy, I’m sure. You ought to see Oscar Wilde’s tomb! Covered in lipstick! They actually have put up a barrier around the grave for people to kiss that instead of the stone. I can only imagine how much of the tomb has been worn away by so many lips. Do you really want to stick your lips there seriously? Oh, and yes, near James Morrison’s grave there was a tree covered in gum and penned notes all over the bark. What a tribute… Forgive me if I do wax cynical, but it just seemed gross to me.

6. Just enjoy!

Above all, just enjoy your time in Père-Lachaise. I nearly felt like I wished I had more time to spend there, but in the end I’m glad we didn’t linger too long. It leaves more of a reason to return someday. Hopefully, when you go, you’ll have someone in your group who’s a good navigator. I felt sort of disrespectful taking some of our “shortcuts” through graves trying to get to the right street when we got somewhat turned around. But, then again, you are likely to find plenty of fascinating things even if you do get lost.

In conclusion, here’s a tribute to one of my favorite French singers whose grave I saw during our stroll, Edith Piaf:

She is most famous for singing this song “La Vie en Rose” which became much like a theme for the feeling in post-World War II France.

Missing France

Indeed I have received plenty of feedback from the last story from family and friends. That was probably my most epic adventure from this adventure abroad, but the majority of my 5 weeks was fairly pleasant and relatively quiet.  Yes, as is to be expected there were a few hiccups along the way.

Today as I was in the car heading back to my apartment after a few days visiting my parents, I just thought about some of the things I miss from France. One could say it has a little bit to do with reverse culture shock.

For one, I’m having to get back into the habit of smiling at people again. 😉 I’m too used to going around looking all serious and half-angry. Took some work to break the habit of smiling at everyone I met, and now I’ve got to break the habit of not smiling. It’s a humorous work in progress! However, I do indeed like hearing a good Texan “Hello, good mornin’!” from a random person I don’t even know in a store. You don’t get that in France generally.

So, what do I miss?

Well, for one…

Not too big of a surprise, right? I think this goes without saying considering the title of this blog. I did have a bit of a shock when I took a sip of coffee after arriving back in the States. It’s so watery and, and, lacking of substance! Only criticism that I have of French coffee is that they don’t put enough of it in a cup. I would get a bang of a caffeine dose in one sip and only would have about two sips left. Quite a disappointment indeed but a good kind of disappointment.

Yes, I miss espressos and perhaps, a crêpe framboise (rasberry) from “Louise” the crêperie most of us went to at least 2-3 times a week while in Reims:

They had a long, long list of other crêpes one could try, and I tried some of the others. However, this one pictured ended up becoming my favorite. I better move on, because I’m really starting to crave it again!

Then, there’s the ice cream. I have to say that I prefer European ice cream infinitely over American. This was quite a delicious treat after a tasty dinner at an Italian restaurant in Reims. It was strawberry ice cream with crême chantilly on top which is very similar to cool whip here in the States. Quite tasty! I devoured this treat rather quickly considering how full I was from the dinner. The little decoration they stuck in it was rather smile-inducing too although unfortunately not edible.

I think it is rather apparent that I miss French food. These are just a few examples of the plethora of pictures I took of food, mainly desserts. Yes, I was that kind of *ahem* tourist.

The other thing I miss is just speaking French with various people and hearing French spoken around me. Yes, I made plenty of mistakes and didn’t always understand what was being said, but it was a good challenge. Now, I’m back in the States specifically Texas where if someone doesn’t speak English, they definitely don’t speak French. A fact I get teased about frequently… I could get on a soap box and retort that, but that’s not the purpose of my post this time around. Continuing on…

I also miss the landscapes. I’m not at all putting down Texas landscapes since they can be quite breath-taking too. I just was so often inspired and amazed at French landscapes.

For example, we took a hike in the countryside of the region of Champagne-Ardenne, France. The professor didn’t feel up to going along, so I eagerly agreed to accompany the students on a hike with the school where they were attending to take French classes. We took a 15 minute train ride from Reims and this was what met our gaze…after it quit raining:

Oh, my goodness, I was so happy!

Of course, this landscape pic as well usually makes most quite happy. I was so happy I even unintentionally did a fashionable model pose sort of…

I was just so moved by the wind in my hair and the Seine underneath me that this pose resulted…mostly due to the wind in my hair.

I do regret to inform you that although I did see my precious Alps again, I did not end up taking pictures of them. That was mostly a result of the fact that it rained, I was exhausted, and my trip was quite short although for the most part enjoyable. However, I immensely enjoyed my 3 hour ride on the train to and from Grenoble because the changing landscape was absolutely majestic. I could see the finger of God in what I saw as it says in Psalms 19:1 ” The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.”

What a journey it was, and I have so much more I want to share!

Missing France. I actually think it’s a good thing because you generally only miss that which you really liked or enjoyed.