christmas and new year's in england

once you stop blogging for a little while, you kinda lose your touch and your subconscious schedule -- that part of you that says "man i need to update for this week". but here's my game of catch-up.

I ran for a flight that was three hours delayed.
I met a real interesting guy who was sloppy, imposing, and very British. as well as an obnoxious mother and her son. finally on the plane, i had a big cup of cocoa that wasn't free but was still worth it... and a couple cat naps.

a friend of dave's picked me up from the airport just after 1am. it was truly wonderful to have someone make a fuss over me, making sure I was taken care of, fed, and comfortable. plus they had one of the cutest dogs i've ever met! the next day he took me to dave and anna's place. it was so cold and snowy i didn't want to go anywhere. and the next day too. finally on tuesday, i went out for the afternoon to see natalie and chris. we really just wandered around everywhere for a few hours - saw the national gallery at trafalgar square, saw the parliament and westminster through the upper deck bus windows, and went to the winter wonderland in hyde park. it was cold and rainy. it was nice to see them and some of london :) i'll be going back there in a few days, so i'm not too concerned about that.... unless it decides to snow again *knock on wood*.

on wednesday the 22nd, i took a coach (a bus) from london to birmingham, but it was an hour late because of a heavy snow that was falling in the birmingham area. what was I thinking taking a bus that drives on the wrong side of the road? i got used to it pretty quick, mostly because it's just like looking in a mirror the whole time. fortunately, i hadn't bought any train tickets toward telford, where steve and sam live, because the first train i tried to catch was cancelled so i had to wait another half hour for the next one. i got there just a minute before they got to the station to pick me up - fortunately the weren't still snowed in!

so now i'd been here for a whole week! we were snowed in a bit because it didn't melt until a couple days ago. sam and i went shopping on thursday and yesterday (wednesday), the first to scope out selection, and the second to snag some deals during the after-christmas sales. on christmas eve sam and i had a girly day where she did my hair and we painted our nails, and then tried to build a snowman, but it ended up being a snow monster. we all watched a movie and stayed up till midnight when we opened presents (well, more just me because they've been spoiling each other for the past month or so). on christmas day i made biscotti in the morning, and then we cooked a feast for dinner, complete with christmas crackers (yay english traditions!).

on sunday, we popped over to church and had a nice service. on monday we had some people over for dinner and a game of cluedo (what we call "clue" in the states). they had changed all the rules, at least that's how it seemed, so it took quite a while to figure out how to play. the rest of the week consisted of after-christmas shopping and a few bubble baths :) on new year's eve we went to a party with steve's old roommates, which was fun, and then to a little party at one of the churches they go to, where we did the countdown and popped confetti poppers. apparently people also release lit chinese lanterns -- and my goodness were they pretty! i had a moment of quiet contentment (i.e. crying) watching the fireworks go off and the lanterns gently floating away.

on sunday we went to church in (well, near) birmingham, but we left early so we could go to ironbridge on the way; it was the first iron bridge built in europe and predated the industrial revolution by quite a ways. we had tea and the popped out of town. it was so cute and quiet, quaint really. i liked it a lot.

after church, we went out for lunch and then coffee before i grabbed a train to london (instead of taking the coach i had booked). in the following few days, i would run about seeing some sights. i got to see sonya (one of my suite mates from first year at UCSD) who is studying in london this year.

and then it was back to lyon. and it felt good to be home. and to speak french again. but i didn't have school (except finals).


paris in rainboots

i can't decide whether to bombard you with pictures or to tell you a story. we'll see how this ends up.

this is my first time taking the TGV (train de grande vitesse- the super fast train). it was limited to 220km/hr for the whole trip. it snowed an inch in the last 45 minutes. it's a whopping 18 degrees (-7C) out which means you can see the breath coming out your nose. I was surprised at how empty the train was but they told us we'd be stopping at another station in Lyon which is bigger and more centrally located so I bet that's where all the people are.

the French countryside sure is lovely when it's covered in snow :)

first impressions on paris: the train station was like a small city alone! the metro system is much more elaborate and widespread here compared to Lyon but pretty straightforward. I bought a five day transit pass which I dare say will be cheaper in the end. I ended up walking on pony neufchâtel (what the heck iPhone pont neuf). I could see notre dame so I high tailed it back to hôtel de ville (I want to save the big stuff to see with Natalie!).

now I'm getting my wits about me at shabnam's place (the friend I'm staying with). and waiting for Natalie to get here though I'm tempted to go me promène in the freezing cold! I'll have to pop over to a grocery store to pick up some tea and soup and the like so we can eat for cheap and stay warm. I've gone over the map I have and circled all the places I'd like to check out while I'm here. hopefully shorter daylight won't get in the way of that. however I am planning to come back in the spring so maybe we can just stick to the stuff that Natalie doesn't want to miss.

unfortunately when I got to the stop where I was supposed to find Natalie, I called her and the first thing she said was "thank god you called me because I'm in Brussels!" It was rather garbled so when I repeated the question "what? where are you?" she said "BELGIUM I'm in BELGIUM". apparently her plane couldn't land because of the fog. so then she had to get on a bus to Paris which would take like 4 hours. so I was content going out for a drink with Shabnam and her friends and the couch surfers who were also staying there. we went to a bar that had a nice ambiance but was soooooo crowded. however it was worth it for the cheap beer. (important since I was doing this trip on the cheap).

natalie texted me when she was leaving from the airport stop that was 75 minutes out of paris so i knew when to leave. that was enough time for my second beer... thank goodness cold air sobers you up! she gave me the fattest hug when we finally met up, at almost midnight. so we hit up mcdonald's on our way back to our couch.

on saturday, we headed out fairly early in the morning, stopped in at brioche dorée (bakery chain) for hot chocolate and croissants for breakfast, and then hopped on the metro toward the island where notre dame is. it's funny because i wasn't like WOW'd by it. europe has so many huge beautiful churches, so i've seen quite a few by now. i had given natalie my purple hat (the one i got out of necessity in geneva) to wear so she wouldn't freeze in the 28-30 degree weather. however, because of glove-wearing, she lost track of where it was and eventually freaked out apologizing that she had lost it -- reception hadn't received anything, so someone had to have picked it up and liked it (so they put a ring on it). we walked out and it was SNOWING like mad. it was natalie's first snow this year, so you can imagine her excitement.

after that, we wandered around over near centre pompidou and along the seine north of the island. we walked from that area all the way to the louvre and then through les jardins des tuileries (a huge strip of gardens) up to place concorde, where the christmas markets of the champs-élysées started. we walked down that for a couple hours, just perusing all the stalls. right when i started to feel tired, i saw the arc of truimph. we got the metro from that point on because it was just too much to walk it. we went back to the place we were staying and made some soup and pasta and just hung out. it had been far too cold so we were tired and having a hard time thawing out.

on sunday, we spent the greater portion of our day at the chateau de versailles and saw all of the beautiful and ostentatious decorations and glorious gardens. i'm pretty sure we saw it all there... even japanese art in the palace. it was so out of place it was mind-boggling. afterward we decided to go see the eiffel tower. i was impressed. floored. it was so big and so intricately designed. after all this time i really thought i wouldn't be fazed by it, but man was i! it was lit up since it was night, and i remembered that it gets sparkly lights every hour on the hour, so we wandered around burning our time before that so we could see it. and then we went to go get crêpes at the christmas markets (again), followed by a stroll along the seine where we could see the eiffel tower. we waited around for it to sparkle again so natalie could take a video of it.

on monday morning, we went up to the basilica sacre cœur, which would have been better if some jerks didn't come make bracelets for us and make us pay for them right as we hit the stairs. it was pretty inside, but nothing like the basilica in lyon (which is byzantine inspired). a mass started while we were on our way out, and the opening prayers/sayings were so pretty in french and really spoke to me in those few seconds, even though we decided to leave out of respect for those who came to worship (can someone please give me a crash course in the catholic traditions? like how mass works and all that? or should i ask wikipedia?). after saying a nice goodbye to natalie, i played metro roulette. i got on the metro 1 and took it to a stop i thought sounded nice and just hopped off when we came to it. i ended up seeing l'hotel des invalides, the grand palais and petit palais, the eiffel tower (again), and place de la concorde, which brought me to the musée de l'orangerie where monet's water lilies are (something i was dying to see).

i got into the museum after fishing my passport out of my money belt, which was under all my layers of clothes, and showing them my student ID card. the water lilies are set up in a little sequence of three rooms. the first one is white, blank, and silent. the next two are oval and also white, with the paintings all around on the walls. silence is the rule in these two as well. the first one i was just marveling at how impressionism worked its magic. from a couple feet away it looked like nothing, but then you step back and you are transported to the place depicted. i walked into the second room, which was much quieter and emptier. something in me lurched up and seized my heart. i started to cry. the only thought i remember having was "i've really been waiting my whole life for this and now i'm finally here." they were so lovely and, well, touching. i proceeded to see all the art downstairs, still in shock after my little crying spell. there were some works of picasso, and renoir (love!), and a few others whose names i can't remember but were very impressive. i went into the bookstore looking to get postcards, but i ended up getting a monet rubik's cube (yes!!!) as my souvenir. before leaving, i went through the water lilies once again. just like i would go back to geneva for that lavender chocolate, i would go back to paris for the water lilies.

ASIDE: man, i gotta say poor people in paris are pushy with their begging. it was really annoying. you really can't talk to strangers, even if they're being nice - it made me feel really isolated and... well, méfiante "distrusting". i fooled some of them into thinking i was french so they would leave me alone, but i think my rainboots made me stick out a little too much. one lady pretended to find a big gold ring on the ground (trust me, i would have noticed if it were really on the ground, plus it wasn't wet or cold) and then was all like "it fits you better and my husband has forbidden me from wearing jewelry, so it's for you! what luck!" and then we parted, but she turned around and said "oh since you've been so lucky, why don't you give me some money or food??" i didn't have any money or food on me, and she didn't want to come with me so i could get her something, so i just gave her the ring back. i didn't want it anyway. i had contemplated leaving it up on the wall by the river for someone else to find. creative begging. sheesh.

i wanted to find the flea market that was in the bastille area, so i headed that way. unfortunately, i got dreadfully lost, found a restaurant where i treated myself to french onion soup and crème brulée for about an hour and wrote out my postcards to mail the next day. i ended up never finding the flea market (i doubt it would have even been open that late anyway), but i sure did walk a lot! once i got back, i called my mom and talked to her for a while. so refreshing :)

tuesday was a lot harder for me since my whole day was going to be alone. i planned to spend my morning/early afternoon in the louvre and then to go back to the eiffel tower . so i got to the louvre and was super excited that there wasn't a line out front. but, unfortunately, that was because it was CLOSED. it always is on tuesdays, apparently, and somewhere along the line i missed that little detail (otherwise i would have gone on monday!!). i was momentarily disappointed, but i know i'll be coming back to paris in the spring, so i'm not worried about that. now i know. so from there i went straight to the eiffel tower, where it started snowing almost immediately. i took a bunch of pictures and sat there marveling at this huge structure, a feat of human engineering. it was still pretty in the daylight, and especially pretty with all the snow dusting everything around it. i walked around some more and saw the pont d'alexandre III, which is a really ornate bridge, and the christmas markets again, where i got my lunch -- a ham and cheese crêpe :) by then i was tired and cold so i headed back and got all packed up, said my thank yous and goodbyes, and got to the train station super early. i had enough money for a sandwich, but not for a coffee to warm me up. and people were still begging me for money.

on my return train there was this couple that was all lovey and PDA. they were speaking English thinking I couldn't understand. even talking about me which was a little funny but also annoying. the girl liked my rainboots and my red ipod and the guy thought i was "cute in that french way". the PDA part was the most annoying though. the guy sitting next to me was nice and offered the window, but then he pulled out his laptop and watched like half of a spanish drama about a gay couple or something. and then there were sex scenes. just no. no no no. get out. at least i couldn't hear it, so it was just awkwardly in my peripheral vision. but still.

the weather in lyon was 55 degrees, which was such a treat after spending days in weather below 38 degrees. i took off my hat and gloves while walking home. ahhhh :)

next time i go to paris, i'll see the gardens at versailles again (but green), go up in the eiffel tower, go up on the arc de triomphe, and go to the louvre.


it's beginning to look a lot like christmas

something new for everyone. apparently the weather wanted to end november with a bang! it decided to snow ALL DAY on the 30th, to the delight of all the californians here!

the whole city was covered in it by afternoon! and i got to bundle up.

statues getting covered!

welcome to the christmas market! where we put easter-colored umbrellas in our trees!

there's all these little huts where vendors sell their stuff. a lot of which is food. and smells SO. GOOD. christmasssssssssss!

this is what i saw at the university today. notice the lack of people.

and here is a video i made for my family to say hi!

happy december! i hope this puts you in the christmas/hanukkah spirit!

bisous! xx


Genève (nov. 19-22)

Welcome to Geneva, where everything is lovely and active but you will not eat a semi-decent meal for less than 15 francs. and mind you, swiss francs are the same value as dollars.

i’m going to write this entry in a more thematic, rather than chronological way, because it seems to be a little more interesting that way. besides, why do you care that I did something on Saturday instead of Monday, or vice versa? exactly, it doesn’t matter… that much. (ps: click on the pictures to see them bigger... though some don't work right, sorry. i didn't make that feature.)

museums: I visited five museums during my stay.

1. le musée d’art et d’histoire (museum of art and history). this was a typical sculpture, paintings, and archeology museum, much like le musée des beaux-arts in lyon.

2. le musée ariana d’art en verre et céramique (glass, china, and pottery museum). so much kitcheware. i especially enjoyed learning about how this stuff is made to get different colors and such when the product is fired. also, there was an interesting back-and-forth trade in styles between china/asia and europe.

3. le musée de la Reformation. biggest thing i learned: always get the audio guide. well, not really. this museum was really cool because it was down to earth and had the most interesting exhibits i’ve seen in a museum. there were little treasures (easter eggs, i guess) that you could find during the visit. they brought jean calvin and martin luther to life by having voice actors saying stuff on recordings to tell their stories. the basement was interesting too as it had a whole thing about the protestant movements since the 19th century!

4. la maison tavel, musée d’histoire de genève et la vie quotidienne genevoise. this museum (if you want to call it that) had a bunch of exhibits of salvaged architectural pieces from geneva. there were big wooden doors that were intricately carved, furniture pieces, and wallpaper (for which geneva was famous at one point). the very coolest thing was a miniature model of the whole city that was up in the attic. this thing was huge and lovely, and so intricate. one man worked for hours on this thing. unfortunately i don’t have a picture because they were extremely persistent about no photos.

5. le musée d’histoire de sciences (history of science). this is the place for steampunk hipsters as well as science nerds. all these gadgets designed and created by great minds in the 18th and 19th centuries are super cool. there was also a large section dedicated to explaining how dams make most of the electricity for geneva. i, unlike steampunk hipsters, actually appreciate these scientific developments beyond “brass is the coolest metal” and “i like gears, they’re awesome”. it was impressive how many gadgets they had for measuring the weather and its effects.

other sights:

the UN complex is basically a “sculpture” of a broken chair in front of the avenue of nations which is lined with flags. there were so many asian tourists that it was hard to get decent pictures, but i eventually succeeded!

the cathédrale st. pierre was lovely. i believe it was first built around 1400 something (hence the medieval ambiance it’s got going). it was a seedbed for the Reformation.

swiss stuff: clocks are a big deal in switzerland, but did you know that Huguenots that fled from France brought some of the know-how with them? they have a cool attraction which is a garden and a working clock at the same time. they change what flowers it has by the season (so it seems) because i saw pictures of it when it had numbers and not just a cool design.

i had to get some chocolate, of course. i would go back to geneva and buy a kg of the lavender chocolate i had, and it would last me at least a year (ideally). it was so good. i ate a piece and was good. i didn’t feel like i need some more or anything. plus it was pretty.

well it's not swiss, but it's christmas-y... we grabbed starbucks so i could have an egg nog latte :)

up next: paris with natalie!!

homesickness means you miss the small things you took for granted, like peanut butter.



i'm just... i'm just... just.... AGH. le français m'échappe! madame keeps bugging me about practicing. i'm over it right now. i'm trying. i really am. i know you don't believe me, but i am. also, even if i was speaking french all day every day, it wouldn't necessarily mean i'd be fluent by now. if it takes 10,000 hours of practice to do something amazingly, it would take 800 days at 12 hours a day. i want to shrug it off, but i just can't. how to go easier on myself? i feel like i AM taking it too easy. i can't estrange the few american friends i've made. and i can't just insert myself as "bestie" in my french acquaintances' lives. i saw some girls in my linguistics class that i'd like to talk to someday. i would have today if it hadn't been an exam. which kicked my butt. i had a dictionary and the concepts weren't hard, but there are those little things i didn't think to look up (yes, we corrected it directly after). i didn't even THINK about the rule that the "s" is only voiced between vowels (and whenever they feel like it). enthusiasm, enthousiasme. it's [-zm] or even [-zəm] in english -- not [sm]. i almost can't even produce it. i'm just hoping he'll be merciful on my grading... i'm hoping for 12/20 (which is, well, passing). i know i got at least 8 points. so we'll see how it all goes.

also, i just want to say that i'm, well, hormonal as f*ck, so this may just be stress multiplied by that. (please excuse my strong language, it releases endorphins).


tomorrow, i have my thursday classes for the first time in like a month or so. i'm terrified yet relieved at the same time. if it had been 2 classes missed, whatever. but we've missed three + a vacation one. i don't know what's due or even what i'm supposed to know. so this will be interesting. i'll be glad to be going to school twice a week again. also, i think i need to go to the library and just sit and read books on my off days. that's a good habit to make. i noted in one of my classes that the website (which i still can't access) has two bibliographies on it... i need to be reading whatever is on that list. but i need to see the list first.

god help me. i'm all sorts of frustrated.


rant & rave


rave: it's fall and i love it. the smells, the adventures, and that overwhelming sense of transition. i've taken the time to get all up in the spirit of autumn -- on saturday (last weekend now...) i hung out in the park, and on sunday night i went wandering around the presqu'ile and fourviere with valerie and juan. we went up to the hill to look at the lights at night. and we found this super old book that i adore! 1909! it smells super nice.

i've started feeling the holidays in the air... the christmas season is sure to be pleasant. the christmas markets start in almost 2 weeks! (also, i'm going to GEVEVA this weekend!!)

now for a rant: i don't like how when i tell people i've got my man back home they respond "oh that's hard," "oh la la.. c'est dur, c'est chaud ça". yes, it's hard for me. but i chose it, people. it's also what i think is best for me right now.
because, even though we don't get to talk for days at a time sometimes, i know he loves me.
because i can see what it will be like when we're together again.
because, now more than ever, and as much as i can picture myself without him, i don't want to. i want him in my life, by my side.
yes, it's sappy and ridiculous and silly. but it's the truth, and i'm serious. this time is good for us. we're both growing individually -- and i'm delighting in every little development he makes. it's so beautiful what we have. call me crazy (not to my face please) but we are perfectly simple, simply perfect right now, and i wouldn't change it, not for the world. i'm living my dream and he's chasing his.
falling in love is not falling. it's a choice you make, but you keep it a secret from yourself. maybe because saying "i've decided i'm going to love you" sounds pretty damn selfish and... deliberate. what's wrong with that? walking is a series of falls, so when you take a step it might feel like you're falling -- that's why you have to take another step. if you don't risk the fall, you go nowhere. so in that light, please consider the fact that loving cuong is my choice. being his girl is also my choice. i chose to face the separation, even though it hurts like hell sometimes. but it won't kill me; it won't break me. i would rather feel the pain of longing than nothing at all. so yes, it's hard, but in a good way. it hurts good.

next update should pertain to geneva. or the ridiculous rain/cold we're suddenly getting.


rest in peace, grandma

my grandma passed away a week ago. i woke up saturday morning to the message from grampa saying she had gone peacefully, and he was right there with her.

i want to share a few thoughts in her memory:

grandma wasn’t the grandma that would spoil us to no end, nor did she knit us sweaters and socks for Christmas. she didn’t fit any stereotype for a grandma, but she was definitely the perfect grandma for me. as for my fondest memories, i’d have to say Christmas was one of them – my favorites were the partitioned three-flavor popcorn cans that we had to ration out slowly so it wouldn’t be gone in 5 minutes between the four of us kids; and the fruitcake because no one else ever made it for us; driving through the decked-out neighborhood all excited after a 4 hour drive; and watching cool tv like the travel channel (because we didn't have tv). i remember the toys in the spare room ; they were probably dad’s when he was little, and yet i was able to draw so much entertainment from them. i especially loved the pop-up camper toy. and one time we sat down and looked at old pictures of my great grampa and lots of other people in our family. I only barely remember the house you had when you had a cat, but I’m sure I had fun there. something about a pool table maybe? it was always cool to hang out in the RV whenever you came to visit, too!

when you’re little you take grandparents for granted. you visit them, they visit you. they send you birthday cards every year without fail. that makes me wonder why i never sent you any birthday cards. as i’ve gotten a little older, i’ve gotten to know those things about you that showed you are a true fighter, right up until the end. maybe it’s the irish in you, but maybe it’s just you. you’re spirited. and I admire you for that. you lived a good and full life and left your mark. you sure raised my dad well! i love you dearly, and i'll see you on the other side.


i've never really faced grief like this before. though i wouldn't call it grief because the word just doesn't resonate with me. at any rate, i'm somewhere between denial, social withdrawal, and depression. i'm trying to keep myself busy and occupied with things i enjoy, but as soon as i'm alone i feel empty and fall apart. it's hard being so far from my family and those friends i can cry all over... and i've not been getting many hugs because this is france. when i decide to have a crying session, nothing comes out. and then there's the needing to talk to someone but not knowing what to say. i just want to be held so can let it out on someone's empathy. the slightest bit of stress bewilders me, too. we'll get through this with time.

to my family, i love you guys a bunch. aunt connie and uncle kevin and your families too!

grampa, i wish i could be there. i'm really proud of you, being so faithful and true to your love, right up till the end.





you have to let your body go a little hungry in order to pursue what your soul hungers for.


because there's not much else going on

clothing item review: the turtleneck

turtleneck and i have quite the history. throughout elementary school i wore turtlenecks with dresses, overalls, and pants. i had them in many colors, too. (aside: see how i use the oxford comma?) but somewhere around the time i got boobs i stopped wearing them. or maybe i just had a growth spurt. it was sixth grade by the time i started wanting to look cute, and therefore "borrowed" mom's earrings and started wearing a choker necklace that was really kinda cute. i even snuck eye shadow sometimes! so that's when turtleneck and i had a falling out.

that was then. now, i'm an aspiring sophisticated woman. i saw this turleneck sweater that is hunter green. first of all, i don't wear green. ever. secondly, it's a turtleneck. that's just not fashion. but it wanted me so badly, so i bought it. and today, i wore it because it was much too cold to have a bare neck.

my neck was doubly warm when i added a scarf.
it's versatile with my wardrobe as well as hair styles and accessories.
i look put together and feel more confident (i guess without fear of unsolicited cleavage shenanigans).

my neck was doubly warm when i wanted to take off my second scarf... and it was attached.
i don't have a long and/or beaded necklace or a skinny waist belt.
i couldn't reach in through the neck hole to adjust my bra straps.
i look 30.

great for cold weather (perhaps only cold weather)

in other news, yet still on the topic of clothing, gloves really make a difference in making you feel warmer. and i imagine a hat would have too, if i had bothered to wear one. i'm trying to acclimate by being just a little on the cold side almost all day, but i don't know how long that really takes! at least 2 weeks, i imagine.


les grèves (the strikes)

and now for the next chapter in my time here. you've probably heard of the french loving to strike lots. maybe you've even heard of them rioting (i know i did when i was in highschool). but this is what was happening not a mile from my home. the french are rioting. and i'm staying indoors with a cold.

and a video taken by a girl in our program, Elisa Penner. props to her for having the gall to actually be in the middle of it.

i would like to make the same distinction that french are making; there are "manifestants et casseurs", i.e. protesters and 'breakers'. basically this means that there are groups of people who come to the peaceful protest and make it violent. the interesting thing is that most of the "casseurs" happen to be teenagers (not angry twenty-something men). so much angst! and then the nice once-peaceful crowd gets tear-gassed because of the select few individuals that just wanted to break stuff.

because of all this, the university is closed. this was posted on the university website:
essentially it says "the administration has decided to keep the university closed and classes stopped until further notice. you will be told when classes start back up and the campuses reopen." i don't really like the idea of this! we just got started, i'm trying to make friends, and i only have a few lectures per week that i have to attend as it is! if i miss one, that's 2 weeks between classes. plus, we have vacation next week, so why take any off now?? *sigh* oh well...

UPDATE (22/10): it appears that the riots have settled down (just in time for everyone to leave on their fall break). the public transit system is working normally again, as far as i know. there a couple more days scheduled for protests and strikes, but considering i don't think they'll draw quite as many people, there will probably be way less violence if any. if nothing else, that means a week of normalcy!

here is what my travel alert says: "Unions will hold nationwide demonstrations in France Oct. 28 and Nov. 6 to protest government plans to reform pensions. Details and the impact of these events are still unclear, but previous actions have caused transportation and commercial disruptions. Some of the protests have become violent, especially as students have joined the protests. These incidents have been isolated and immediately mitigated by riot police."

my favorite part is the end... because what does "immediately" really mean in this case?? within 5 days? and "isolated"... meaning they closed off the Presqu'île and people living there were isolated to their homes till later in the evening. it's very interesting the way the police handle the situation, but at the same time, they only have so many options and this one seemed to be the least harmful/the best.

taking a dip in familiar waters + wedding!

(the goings on of my journey back to the states as recorded during said journey)

Amsterdam airport:
this was my first time doing a security check AT the gate instead of somewhere by the passport check. i guess they sell things in the airport that you could use to cause problems. I can't decide if I feel safer or just annoyed. they grabbed a middle eastern family and weren't letting them past questioning about their baggage. that's racial profiling. put them through the xray and get over it. they asked me when where and with whom I packed my bags and whether I'd left them unattended. I understand why but really? who just leaves their bags? who lets their new creepy friend pack their bags for them? I don't.

I didn't like the xray at all but at least it's transparent so I didn't feel claustrophobic. they frisked me and took my water which I bought in the airport in France. the lady was so kind to let me chug a little before confiscating it. so much for hydration when they don't give you shit on the plane, forgive my language. those whole 5 minutes got me pretty darn nervy. hopefully i won't be seated between so many babies. again. at least I have my book and practically fully charged iPod. and my sleep mask. that's important.

I also wish I could post this.

Minneapolis airport:
so coming back to America really is a culture shock. the bathrooms have stalls not rooms. the toilets have seats. AND toilet seat covers! people make small talk with you in public (they do it in France too but it's different). tax isn't included, oh yeah.... and we tip here. also. three size choices on coffee? okay I'll get a medium because I don't want just a shot....
holy Jesus! this thing is HUGE. but man does it taste good. I feel like a saucer-eyed foreigner discovering my own culture. I don't miss buying beer and alcohol yet but I'm sure it will come to me at some time. voice volume is normal again yay! I still have the impulse to speak in French to strangers. I already miss saying bonjour and au revoir/a bientot/bonne journée! and I miss la bise!! however I'm looking forward to all the hugs I'll be giving and getting.

I've been through security 3 times today. wow. that flight across the Atlantic was ridiculous cause it didn't get dark. and there were movies. and it felt like daytime. today is the longest day of my life: 34 hours long! they did give me water on the flight :) and food and coffee and food and coffee!

(and now i continue the story)
since i had some time to kill in the minneapolis airport before my flight to sacramento, i found my gate... and to my great joy, there was one row of seats that didn't have armrests, so i laid down for a snooze! i got probably 45 minutes of sleep plus half an hour of being horizontal, which was just enough to make me feel a little less insane.

and then i arrived in sacramento all hyped up on no sleep as well as some coffee. i used the (free!) internet to call my dad on skype and tell him i had landed. he picked me up and took me pretty much directly to in-n-out (i was hungry and it was open) and then to our hotel. unfortunately i was on france time (8am) despite it being after 11pm. i was quite the friggin chatterbox, let me tell you. i was also convinced that the sun was going to come up at any moment so i could start my day, but being convinced of a fact doesn't make it true. my dad really got a kick out of my spazziness. luckily, once i laid down on that 10-star bed (at least that's what it felt like to me) in the hotel i zonked within 5 minutes and slept the whole night.

the next morning, we grabbed the breakfast at the hotel -- it was bizarre having more than just a coffee and toast/a croissant for breakfast. i had a little of everything, even a muffin! and then we hit the road to monterey, where the rest of the family was. my task for the afternoon upon arrival was to make tiramisu as the dessert for the rehearsal dinner (which my fambam was making/hosting). i found a grocery store that actually had lady fingers and marscapone (phonebook ftw) and then managed to assemble the lovely dessert with great skill and finesse! and my was it successful -- everyone loved it! even i was surprised when i took that first bite. yum :)

the day of the wedding (remember, that's why i took this trip in the first place) was foggy and chilly. i woke up a little too early (i don't know why!) and had some coffee and toast to get started. i don't really remember what i did all morning, but i did eventually do my makeup and hair and then slip into my dress. i felt so pretty, i could only imagine how rachel was feeling while she was getting ready!!

even though i was the "flower girl" i didn't actually get to drop flowers (and i'm not so much a girl)... but i did get to roll out the red carpet, which i feel was even more of a symbolic thing. she walked down the aisle to "at last" which was nothing short of perfect. the ceremony was short and sweet, but with so many happy tears. for those who don't know, my dad opened the ceremony and rachel's dad officiated. one of the best parts was when phillip cried a tear while saying his vows, rachel wiped it away. in all honesty, i think rachel was the only one who didn't actually cry during the whole thing (but i can't be sure). they were both lovely and sooo happy!

they took pictures and then grabbed a coffee on their way to the reception (which made them a little later than people would have liked, but hey it was their day!). we ate the dinner and inevitably gave toasts. i gave a little speech, and i can't quite remember what i said, but i cried and got really really nervy but it was all washed away by the responses their eyes gave me. and then there was dancing and drinking and cake-cutting and lots of merriment.

and then we (my dad drove and my aunt and i followed) accompanied the newlyweds to their honeymoon, which was at a hotel in carmel (a ritzy area on the coast there). and then there were a few hours of free time to burn (it was after all only 9 when i got back) so i just hung out with my brothers and the groomsmen who were staying with us.

the morning brought packing up, cleaning, and dashing out of town to get me to the airport on time. was only JUST early enough (got there an hour before my boarding time). and then the journey back... the goodbyes weren't really that hard, but i wasn't looking forward to so many hours of travel. first i flew to dallas, which was fortunately only a 3 hour flight. i definitely had too much time in that airport though. i got sick of texas just being in their airport (and i've never even been to texas!). but the corn chowder was good. and a man was kind enough to let me use his cell phone to call my mom and leave a message before i headed to london.

now let me tell you, i planned ahead for that flight. i changed my seat so it was in the middle next to two empty ones (i don't know why there were so many on that plane though) hoping no one else would change to sit next to me. so i had a bed for the flight back to europe! it felt so good.
and they fed us lots -- dinner, snacks, water, drinks, breakfast. i did some sudoku and then i got probably 7 hours of sleep, so i was able to function the next day at the london airport, at least minimally. unfortunately, my 4-hour layover got a little longer because my flight was delayed (thanks to some strikes). i got to experience buying things in euros AND dollars and getting change in sterling. it was too bizarre. too bad i couldn't shop too much, being a poor student and all -- i mean not being able to afford designer anything like every other normal person out there! once in lyon, i had to pop through customs and i had a moment of panic because i don't have my residence permit, so i didn't know how they'd respond. i was happy when he glanced through, stamped and handed it back to me saying "bonsoir". win! and then i eventually got home (had to take the train-shuttle thing back) and crashed out... but i slept through my class the next morning, oopsie!

and now my great task has been getting back into the swing of things, but the strikes don't help!


wine country! (02.10.2010)

beaujolais. in short, it's the wine region that's north of lyon, between le Massif centrale (a big ol' mountain range in central france) and la Saône (one of the rivers that runs through lyon. it is famous for the wine "nouveau beaujolais" which is a wine that is fermented for a few days and consumed not long after to celebrate the harvest. however, they still produce other red wines which are quite fruity and delicious :)

our excursion involved going to a farm owned by the cutest freaking couple on the planet. he makes wine and she makes bread. the dinner was spectacular! the first course was a simple salad and the most delicious paté i've had here/in my life. the second was a beef stew with rice, which was very much like a family type of meal. then there was cheese - three kinds that were all scrumptious, served on various breads (one with figs in it!). and then two different desserts and coffee. the four hours of eating was worth every second! i was stuffed but not in the same way you get at thanksgiving -- more like every fiber of my body was somehow nourished and felt energized.

between courses we learned about wine-tasting, wine-making, organic farming, bread-making (it's so easy!), and of course we took time to take silly pictures. i bought a bottle of relatively young wine (2009) to enjoy sometime in about a year (hopefully after i come back to the states).


annecy and other things

i started classes on wednesday. take a look at what my week looked like:
i'm super stoked for my classes. french linguistics, historical linguistics, french syntax, an art class, and 2 required language/methodology/culture classes. getting to the Bron campus (the one i have been going to, not the initial one) is a nightmare. but worse is the part where you have to get back. it's about 20 minutes from lyon, 30 from the other campus. and there's one tram line that has 2 stops at the university. so, all that said, it's even more of a nightmare getting back. it takes at least an hour because you have to try to sandwich yourself onto the tram, but don't get the chance until the 3rd one to pass has been stuffed with people. and then you spend half an hour in that situation, standing body-to-body with everyone, because no one gets off until the end, typically (where the other, closer, campus is). on the bright side... well, i'm not sure what the bright side is in this case. at any rate, i can still get there no probs!

on friday night, i went with some friends (we're quite the group now) to an anglophone night at a bar. i met a couple very nice french girls :) it was also nice that the drinks were fairly cheap!
saturday was my trip to annecy! tina and i had planned to find a place to stay, but we spent our morning there and decided it was too cold and wet and we had already seen what we wanted to. at any rate, we left super early in the morning, so i immediately fell asleep on the train (my first time too!). the french countryside is so beautiful and so green! i loved seeing it all through the window (reason to not take a plane hmm?). the first thing we did upon arrival was finding a map and getting a coffee/breakfast. and then we got lost in the old streets, seeing all the pretty buildings.
we went to the castle, which is now a museum of stuff that doesn't necessarily pertain to the history of the chateau. nevertheless, it was lovely.

when i got back, i decided to join my friends for a night of conversation, music, and laughs "autour un verre" (around a glass, i.e. and drinks). we had to speak french for quite a bit of it because we have a french guy who doesn't understand us if we speak english (because we talk so fast and poorly articulated).

and then yesterday (sunday) we all met up to go to le parc de la tete d'or because some had never been. we saw the animals and flowers and had a marvelous time. and then we found a place to have dinner in le vieux-lyon. fortunately they had a 10€ menu! again, it was some great company. it feels good to be social again, and consistently.

i don't have classes today (or tomorrow) so i have plenty of free time to make sure i do some homework and relax, and maybe even travel (woot!). there are some people who also don't have class on mondays, so i can hang out with them too :)