Tuesday, August 4, 2009

It's Been Awhile, I Know

No, I have not fallen off of the face of the earth, though I have been very lax about posting. Since the original purpose of my blog was to share my experiences in Europe, it's been a little difficult finding things to write about, as I am no longer in France. That means that I will just have to reconfigure my blog if I want to continue it.

The last two months has been a whirlwind. I've been working for the Recreation center, basically as a glorified babysitter. But the most exciting thing that has happened this summer is that my new niece was born just last week! My entire family was there for the birth of Lillian Michael, and we were all able to hold her when she was only a few hours old. Avery is absolutely thrilled to have a little sister--she's such a little mother.

At the end of the summer both Jessica and I will be moving into Michele and Chris's house. I'm excited, since that will give us plenty of time to spend with our nieces; it'll be great to see them growing up right before our eyes. I hope that I will be able to help with watching the kids at least a little bit.

One thing that Michele and Chris are planning on doing differently this time around is the diapers that they use. Rather than using disposable diapers, they are going to use cloth diapers from Gro Baby. This will be less expensive, and will also be safer for the environment. Of course, it will make changing Lillian's diaper a little less clean, but I think that the pros outweigh the cons in this situation!

Who knows? Maybe when I get old enough and have kids, I will try Gro Baby too. If you want to join the following :), try going to http://www.thenaturalbabyco.com/grobaby%E2%84%A2-ic-11_16.html. Give it a try!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

A Bittersweet Goodbye

Well, it is my last day in France. Over the past week, I have been majorly busy. It seems like the time has flown by since I arrived--it's hard to believe that it has already been four months!

My original intentions were to do countdown posts over the last week, like I did at the beginning when I was coming. Obviously, that fell through, since I had exams to study for and packing to do. So instead, I am going to do what I call "Countdown Summary". In other words, I'll list the days of the last week and what I did (from what I remember). Don't worry, I won't go into detail--I don't have the patience for that!

Saturday: I ate lunch with my family outside--sausages and fries--before walking to UCO to take my Traduction exam. (I know--an exam on a Saturday; don't you pity me?). Then for dinner we went over Caroline's house (Madame's daughter) for a barbecue, where I took turns talking with the women and playing catch with the kids. I'm a kid at heart. :P

Sunday: My last time going to my church here. Pretty standard: got up, walked to church, came back. Nothing special to say.

Monday: Jour ferie here in France--meaning NO SCHOOL. I met up with Katie in the afternoon to 'study for exams'--at least, that was our intent. We walked to a beautiful little pond near the Lac de Maine, but mostly just skipped rocks and took pictures and relaxed.

Tuesday: My Langue exam--both written and oral. Oral--ten minutes of nonstop talking; written: three hours in a stuffy classroom bending over a sheet of paper. 'Nuff said.

Wednesday: Phonetiques exam at nine in the morning. Nothing much else.

Thursday: Grammar exam at eight in the morning. (Who comes up with this torture?) Then for lunch Sydney, Katie and I went to La Napoli, which serves the best pizza I've ever tasted--no kidding. It was like a slice of heaven (slice, get it? hehe).

Friday: My last--and only--exam was Expression Orale. Once again, ten minutes of nonstop talking, only this time I knew basically what I had to talk about beforehand. And then I spent the rest of the night packing what I hadn't already.

Today: Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.

And that's the last week in a nutshell. Of course, I am happy to be going home--I'll see my family again--but a big part of me is really going to miss France. I've had to say goodbye to some really great friends that I've made. Hopefully, we can stay in touch; Katie is planning on visiting me in Michigan later this month. As for my other friends, we'll just have to Facebook each other.

Au revoir, France!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

One True Ring

Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
-The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien

I have found it. Well, we found it--Jess and me--while in Ireland. That's right--the One True Ring.

It's rather a big coincidence, as well, since I am in the middle of reading the Lord of the Rings series in French. So basically, I am in a huge LOTR kick at the moment--reciting the poems at all hours--both the one above and the 'all that is gold does not glitter' one.

So--back to the subject at hand. As I mentioned, we found this ring during our trip to Ireland. We went this past weekend and stayed for three days. During that time, we took a walking tour of 'Viking' Dublin, went on a Ghost Bus Tour of Dublin, and walked everywhere imaginable.

But it's not my job to describe the trip in full--you'll have to see Jess's blog for that (when she actually posts). I was given the task of describing the Ring--we played paper, rock, scissors to decide topics so that our posts wouldn't be redundant. I won.

The Ring is exactly how it is described in the book--perfectly round and gold in color. It even has the 'elvish' inscription identfying it as the One True Ring.

Never mind that said ring was found (and bought) in a tourist shop in Dublin. Never mind that it only cost four euros. Never mind that there were at least thirty such rings on display in the little shop. Despite it all, our ring--that is to say, the ring that we chose from the display--is truly the One True Ring.

Needless to say, after exams are over, we will probably be paying a little trip to the Cracks of Doom; I'm sure we can fit it in in between our summer jobs and returning to college.

Of course, we are still in need of a guide; anyone know how we can get in touch with Aragorn?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Soiree International

Soiree International.

Here at UCO, it's a big deal. What is it, you ask? It's a night, usually at the end of the semester, where different students from the CIDEF program sign up to present something from their country of origin--a song, a dance, a poem, etc.

In other words, an international Talent Show.

An awesome international Talent Show. I haven't laughed so hard in ages--nor been so impressed. Some of the acts left the audience in stitches, while others were major jaw-droppers.

As examples of those that really impressed me, I present the following:

1) Two guys sang several songs in Russian while accompanying themselves on guitar and piano.

2) A girl from China played a song on piano that was so difficult, you couldn't even see her hands (no kidding--they were really moving that fast).

3) A few girls performed a dance from Thailand with authentic garb.

And the list goes on. As for the funny acts, there were:

1) A skit by the teachers of CIDEF who had 'kidnapped' the CIDEF president in order to force him to agree to certain demands. In said skit, he was only released after agreeing to require all international students (namely, us) to wait on the teachers hand and foot. Happily, he didn't actually sign anything. Hehe.

2) Another skit by the Expression Theatrale class to present several different 'advertisements' of the CIDEF program. Said ads included the phrase 'Inscrivez au CIDEF' as a mother's dying words, the pass code to a secret organization, and the answer to a gameshow. My personal favorite, however, was the one where someone was denied toilet paper because they hadn't registered for CIDEF.

3) A cheer performed by a large group of Japanese cheerleaders in response to a Youtube video that they had found. One of the people involved--and the only guy--was a classmate of mine, Jun, who was dressed as a girl in a pink skirt and a blue wig. I have no more words to describe it.

Etcetera, etcetera. The program lasted until after 11 at night, but it was worth it!

And did I mention that I did something, too? As it was introduced last night, I 'sang a song without singing'--i.e. I did a song in sign language. The song that I did was Beautiful Stranger by Rebecca St.James. It was well received, and according to the CIDEF president, it was the first time someone had done sign language in the entire history of CIDEF. Dare to be different!

Thus far, several things have occurred because of my performance last night; people (even strangers) are coming up to either a) congratulate me, b) ask me to sign something for them, or c) all of the above.

Though I don't regret it, I still kind of feel like a circus seal.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Mixed Expectations

If there is anything that I have learned about taking tests, it is that just because it seems easy/difficult at the time does not guarantee an automatic pass/fail. In fact, in a lot of cases, I have found that the more trouble I have on a test, the better I do, gradewise.

Take the ACT: hardest, longest test of my life, yet I got a 33 (still amazed by that).

Another example: the placement test for UCO. Nearly reduced me to tears and yet I was placed in the superior level.

I offer this proof to set up the scene for my story. Picture it: three tests last week, one test earlier today. For all three tests last week, I was sure that I had done horribly.

For my Phonetique, I ran out of time and completely forgot to finish one part of the test.

For Langue, I had the perfect answer to the essay question--but did not think of it until I had already turned in the test and was halfway home.

For Grammaire, I spent five hours studying concepts that turned out not to be on the test and thus did not have the time to study two sections that were.

With the information that I have given you regarding my experiences with tests, you can guess what happened for all three. That's right--I passed, easily.

And then there is Traduction, which I finished not two hours ago. This test I studied for almost nonstop. This test I practically breezed through. This test was rather straightforward and almost easy.

I'm worried.

A Day to Remember...Or Forget

I've been meaning to write about this for several days, since it actually happened last week. I wish that I could say that there is a viable reason for my procrastination, but...not really.

Last Thursday I had to present an expose for my Expression Orale class. As one of two such presentations, the grade for this assignment is rather important--not to mention, there is a possibility that I will have to present the same presentation again for my final exam.

Needless to say, I was nervous. In fact, I was so nervous beforehand that I was dangerously close to being sick--something that is relatively normal for me before oral reports, as anyone who knows me well can attest to. In middle school, I even asked an entire class to turn around and/or close their eyes so that I wouldn't see them staring at me. Presentations are definitely not my favorite thing to do.

Thank God, I did not vomit during this one. However, I was interrupted in the middle of my presentation by an unforeseen event. What was this event, you ask?

The fire alarm.

That's right. My presentation was all but forgotten as the entire class had to walk down five flights of stairs to exit the building. When we got outside, we could see that smoke was billowing out of one of the windows on the third floor.

I wasn't fooled.

I've been around enough fires to recognize the results of a fog machine when I see one. For one, the smoke was far too white; a fire that is actually burning something is usually a grey or black. For another, you could actually hear the humming of the machine if you listened closely enough.

I wasn't fooled, but was rather amazed at the measures that the administration took to try to impart the "seriousness of the situation". Not that it worked; a lot of people were completely unfazed, and stood so close to the 'burning' building that they probably would have died from smoke inhalation were it to have been a real fire.

We stayed outside for nearly half an hour. Fifteen minutes were spent listening to a man on a megaphone saying something--no one could actually understand him over the sound of hundreds of people talking, the fog machine humming and--did I mention it was raining?

By the time that we actually returned to class, we only had time to review the mistakes that I and others had made during my presentation and the ensuing discussion. To be honest, I'm still not entirely sure whether I should be disappointed or relieved that my presentation was cut short. I'm counting my blessings, though--I got 8 out of 10!

And now I have to do another one within the next few weeks. I highly doubt that this one will be interrupted by a 'fire'.

Of course, there's always a tornado drill...

Friday, April 24, 2009

Stop and Smell the Lilacs

Lilacs are my favorite flower. Period. Growing up, it seemed as though there were lilac bushes all around my house; I loved nothing more than to run up to and smell them three, sometimes four times each day for the short tme that they were in bloom. Bunches of the fragrant flower would always appear on the kitchen table, courtesy of moi. They never lasted very long--only a day or two--but I enjoyed the fragrance while they did.

Here in France, there are more flowers than I could possibly have imagined: huge pink buds, tiny mellow yellow blooms, vibrant red blossoms. Walking to school sometimes reminds me of a perfume shop--though more pleasant. Even so, I missed my lilacs. I realized that, in all likelihood, I will not be home when the lilacs are in bloom. This realisation seemed to be a sign of my homesickness in general

And then, this morning I found them. On my way to school I passed by the typical floral scents, and was halted in my tracks by a very familiar and beloved smell--the smell of lilacs. A tiny bush, almost completely hidden from view, is right next to the path that I typically walk to get to the university. If it weren't for the scent of the flowers, it would have gone unnoticed.

A simple pleasure--smelling the lilacs--was never so appreciated. It felt like a little taste of home.