my first days :)

day 1 CISL

we took the taxi to the centre international de séjour lyon, which is our temporary housing. we then unpacked just a little but then found out how to take the tram (public transport tickets require change (not bills) so we had to keep making sure we had enough) to la place de bellecour, which must be for markets or parades or something because it’s essentially a big huge open space with some statues. it was very charming and calm.

we walked around the shopping zone for a while looking for places to eat lunch, but to no avail (kind of). we found mac do (mcdonald’s) and starbucks, but we did not want to experience that just yet. so we ended up, after an hour of indecision, eating at a pizza place. I had a pizza “julino” (it had salmon, crème fraîche, and mushrooms)

with a kir au vin blanc (white wine with blackcurrant liqueur) followed by un café plaisir (a dessert platter: espresso, ice cream, tiramisu, and some sort of custard). zoe got un mousse au chocolat de la maison, which was super cute and delicious; yes, I tried it. somehow, I managed to fit all that food in my stomach!

however, I was miraculously hungry by dinner, but it killed my appetite once I felt the texture (it was cow tongue). the salad was mediocre as well but I ate some of it (this is the food that returnees said wasn’t so good, and now I get what they mean). I may have to hit the marché right across the street on the day it happens and smuggle a couple things up to my room.

walking for blocks and blocks really does a number on your energy. not that I’m not used to it; it’s also the amount of visual stimuli and the language coming at you in all directions.

day 2 CISL

you could say today wasn’t AT the student center. we had a long orientation meeting, followed by a couple hours trying to get phones (I got a SIM card which didn’t work with my hacked iphone, unfortunately), and then a couple hours opening bank accounts, and then a run back to the residence to freshen up in 2.5 minutes, then to a lovely full dinner (salad and pate, leg of lamb with potatoes and soufflé, dessert, and espresso). and then we, a group of 4, walked to the river and around a little bit just talking and enjoying that it was actually cool weather (with the wind). fortunately we found a wonderful cheap boulangérie (though I think they’re all cheap) where we got lunch sometime in the chaos before phone searching. I had a quiche, which was SO good, and a croissant which I saved for later. I would not be very happy without an afternoon snack because there’s about 6 hours between lunch and dinner, and that’s when we do stuff like walk everywhere in the humid heat.

day 3 CISL

it rained in the morning, which was very misleading. the French ladies said “oh, it’s going to rain soon.” and to me rain means a day of rain, not just a few hours in the morning followed by warm weather. showers means that, but then again I’m from Washington. today was a bit busy: zoe and I got up early enough for breakfast, and then we went to the gare (transit station) to get our bus/metro/tram passes for September. and then we went to see Christine (the French admin type person) and she helped us with apartment hunting and stuff like that. she is an angel!!

we grabbed some lunch at the same boulangerie as yesterday, and then we headed to another phone store (out of the 5 or 15 they have on that street) and I got a phone so I can actually be in contact with other people as well as be contactable. the man who helped us was very nice, didn’t try to speak English to us, allowing us to get more comfortable with speaking French so terribly. we tried to find the H&M to do some shopping, but we couldn’t recall precisely where it was and didn’t find it. we took a while to just sit and look at plants and people before heading back to the residence. for dinner, we didn’t want to wait too long so we went to a supermarket called “simply” (haha) and got a wedge of brie, a baguette, some fresh fruit, and some screw top individually portioned wine. we then had a little picnic in the park.

at night, we decided to go out with some girls to another girl’s place (she had already found it) and then to some bars. unfortunately all the bars closed at 1 (I have no idea why) and wouldn’t let us in even though it was 1230 or so. I did get into one it was tighter than a can of sardines. I got to know quite a few people, and I got feel for who I want to be friends with and who I don’t really have time for. I’m amazed that there are so many people from sacramento and redding and red bluff! I got back very late and slept like a baby!


i'm in france!

happenings on the journey:
getting through security at sacramento was easy as cake! i walked up, did the shoes-off, liquids-out thing and then i was through before i knew it. apparently there had been quite a bit of bag searching after me because people were complaining about it at the gate. on the plane, i was seated between two portly old men, one of whom wanted to know all this stuff about my travels but was very polite. the other one watched book of eli for most of the flight, but the last hour he gave me traveling tips like when to sleep and how to not get too lost in atlanta. at atlanta, i got there way too early to know what my gate was, but it was available by dinner. there's a restaurant in the E terminal called nature's table bistro, and i highly recommend it. i don't know what kind of food it is (something like hot bar and deli), but it is hot, delicious, and filling. there were quite a few french speakers in the airport, which is nice :) teenage angst is alive and well among the french, as far as i can tell.

on the flight from atlanta to amsterdam i had an empty seat next to me, which allowed me to spread out just a little. but probably enough that it allowed me to sleep more. in the 8 hours of flight i got 5 hours of sleep one at a time, thanks to my ipod and sleep mask. there was a french family across the aisle from me. mom, dad, a boy and a girl (both teenagers). i was constantly astounded at how much i couldn't get what they were saying... because they spoke so quietly. it was like a teaser hearing some french but not getting to speak it. when i woke up the last time, they began serving breakfast (barely substantial, but they had given us dinner too). and then it was another 1.5 hours before we touched the ground. when i saw cities and farms below us, i began to tear up. there was something so tangible about the emotion; i was thinking something like "this is the motherland. i'm in europe. people have lived happily here for hundreds of years." i felt like a part of the whole of the world just seeing it. the farms all had giant windpower mill things.

i had a crazy layover in amsterdam, 6 hours! the first hour was this: bathroom, check-in (to find out my gate), security and customs. i hadn't expected i would have to go through security or customs, but in order to get to my gate i had to. they checked my passport, stamped it (for the date on my visa), and sent me through security where they frisked me because i somehow set off the metal dectector. i thought i had nothing to declare, so i took that lane, but a young customs officer approached me and said "do you have any-sing to declare?" i told him i didn't think so but he asked if he could "take a loook." he went through my purse looking at my book and computer and stuff like that, as well as my suitcase, but told me i was good. i had noticed i was bleeding all over my hand so i got a tissue for it. he made small talk about where i was going and what i was studying. and all of this i took as a compliment because i'm good looking and harmless :) upon leaving that inspection table, i noticed the guards had giant automatic guns. i wanted so badly to take a picture of a young lady guard with her guns (yes, plural) but that would have been uncouth.

after that, i found my gate and bought 15 minutes of internet for 3€ to talk to my loved ones and post on facebook. then i ran to the nearest bathroom to freshen up: fresh shirt, fresh underwear, fresh deodorant and perfume, freshly brushed teeth, fresh eyeliner, and a freshly emptied bladder. it felt so good to be all "clean". i can't remember quite what order everything else was, but i went to the starbucks (only coffee shop i could find) and had a cappuccino and journaled. i perused the souvenir shops and thought about getting something but didn't really feel like it. i found lunch at a sandwich bar: a chicken and cheese panini with too much cayenne, and some apple juice. i was tempted to get one of amsterdam's special beers but i couldn't justify spending 5€ for one bottle. plus i was tired and needed to make sure i stayed awake until arriving in lyon. i sat at my gate most of the time reading and people-watching. the world has some crazy characters... and very weird "fashions". generally speaking, men are more beautiful at any age than in america. women are pretty when they're young, but as they get older the amount of lovely people decreases to about half. old people are all charming and quirky and grumpy too.

my flight to lyon boarded 15 minutes late. it was full of french people. and i didn't get over my shyness enough to speak french with the mother sitting next to me. i was between moms with their babies, but they weren't the crying kind. i did manage to say "je voudrais de l'eau, s'il vous plait" to the flight attendant. out one window, i saw the sunset over the clouds, and out the other i saw the full moon softly dropping light on the fluffy clouds. toward the end of the flight the mom sitting next to me very kindly began speaking english once she learned i was exhausted after traveling from the US. she had thought i was irlandaise (irish)!! not a bad guess considering my heritage. she told me a little about les lyonnais and her fun learning UK english since she's living there now. her daughter was adorable and liked me a lot, especially my bandaged finger.

after i got my bag, zoe found me and we made our call for the hotel shuttle. and then i slept soundly for 8 hours! we had a lovely breakfast: my first french croissant with nutella and fruit and coffee and les petites saucisses (sausages). now we have to call a taxi to get to our hébergement (temporary housing) because we don't want to brave the train/bus with all our luggage and lack of language faculties. i have ONE photo so far, but i will have to upload it later.



excuse my lack of brevity

i will miss many things about home, but most of them i don't even have when i'm at school. my piano. my big ol' bed. coffee time with mom. shadow (he better live to be like 20). a constantly stocked fridge. silence. seeing the stars. unlimited long distance phone calls and a contract cell phone plan (we'll see how this goes in france). i definitely won't miss the weather (at least not the heat) nor the number of morbidly obese people. i know that i'll find new little things that will make lyon my home, so i'll keep my eyes, ears, mouth, hands, and nose peeled (not like after a sunburn).

i leave in about 2 days. at this point, i have a packing list but still have to just PUT everything into the suitcases. hopefully i haven't overshot it on the amount, but so far my clothes only take up half of the big suitcases and foreseeably another quarter of it. so i have a small suitcase left in space (not outer space... i'm talking volume)! not to mention my impeccable packing skills. i will make this happen seamlessly and beautifully. one word: TETRIS.

tonight i saw one of my dear friends, janae, and when we grabbed some chinese food, my fortune cookie said "your dearest wish is about to come true." good call, fortune cookie, you got it right.

on another note, my dad had me take this personality test (if you could call it that); it's called strengths finder and it was developed by Gallup (probably all of them) and associates. basically, instead of saying "these are all the areas you need to improve because you suck" it says "these are all the areas you're best at and will see the most improvement when you you spend time on them". see? strengths. so all that to say my five strengths are as follows (and ways i can harness my own strength while i'm in france):

1. learner. this is the reason i want to marry wikipedia and not just stay up late at night having awkward roundabout discussions with it. things to do: study history via museums, classes, monuments, and books. and language by speaking, absorbing, taking notes and doing research.

2. achiever. this is the idea that every day is a clean slate sitting next to a to do list. the way this plays out for me is that i have my to do list and every day i try to get as many items done as i can, in addition to my daily responsibilities, even though some may be added throughout the day. in france, i can keep a journal and a planner, but also keep in mind that cultivating friendships is an achievement. thus, 4 hours over a cappuccino with someone is most certainly an achievement and not a waste of 4 hours and 3euros.
3. relator. this means i like to have a few intimate friendships that serve as my base in life. many of you have seen this about me! i'm choosy, and if i choose you, i'm all out there in the open ready to be your best friend. this one will go well in france: make friends and have heart-to-hearts with them regularly. it's a win-win.

4. connectedness. this is the idea that humanity is an entity and any of my actions will have repercussions in the lives of others. to cultivate this strength, i'll need to delve into history so that i find some of those connections, and i'll need to participate in any and (almost) all cultural activities so i get that feel of life being so much more than just me.

5. strategic. this is my astounding ability to look at the big picture and find the best way through the labyrinth. well, maybe it's not astounding yet, but it ought to be! things to do: language is a puzzle to solve and decode, but so are the cultural norms. so in short, i'll have to pay attention and mull it over!

so, i know this entry is remarkably long, but i wanted to share this and not just tuck it away somewhere. maybe we'll see how well i do on my strengths developing while i'm over there!

on a less boring note, expect my next entry to involve a photo or five of my trip and/or lyon!!



it's the final countdown

as of today, there are 19 days until i leave. conveniently, i have something to do for about 16 of those days so that waiting isn't quite so irritating. i've got a chemical cocktail of emotions, but that's all part of the fun!

right now i'm out of town (yay, it's not 100 degrees but 70) for a week-ish, visiting my brother and his lovely fiancée. there's social life type stuff here too, which i've been needing. you know, human contact.

when i return, my new shoes (TOMS x2) and glasses and contacts will be waiting for me. aaaannnndddd le boyfriend will be coming to visit for just over 5 days. i can't wait! it will be the bittersweetest of visits, but i still get to see him :)

after he leaves i'll have 6 days to get my life packed in to two suitcases and a purse. and when i say suitcases, i mean small ones. i'll basically be taking everything i need to live for 3 weeks. one summer week, one mild week, and one winter week. i simply don't have any other choice. i like the idea of traveling light; it's an in-your-face frugality challenge, and i accept! i'll consider it my first test as a world traveler!