Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Château de Vincennes

I also spend part of the day at Château de Vincennes. It was freezing and I paid 5 euros to stand in the church, listen to a lot of French history, and look at models of how the area looked throughout its existence. Everything except the keep and the church belongs to the military. The keep (Marquis de Sade was prisoner here) and the church are property of the restoration society. Unfortunately, the French do not get in a hurry to restore anything. They have been working on these two buildings for about 10 years which coincides with the length of Chirac's presidency. Apparently Chirac and the head of restoration are dear friends so many things in France have been under construction for ten years. Love the frogs!

Day in the Park

I know a lot of people talk about how strange the weather is. Well, it was really strange today. First of all, it was raining, then the sun was out, then it started raining again. The rain and the sun played tag so much I finally decided to go to a park because the spring flowers were supposed to be displayed this month. It wasn't very cold when I got to the park, but the longer the sun was out, the colder it got. Then the clouds came and it got warmer and started sleeting. THEN the sun came back out and it was freezing! When I finally came back to the ghetto, it was so cold my feet hurt and it was snowing. Strange weather indeed! I took a picture of the sun so I wouldn't forget what it looks like. It was the first time in 10 days that I have seen the sun.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Yes, I Really Am That Stupid

My wonderful, lovely friends gave me a surprise birthday party last night. It is one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me. I was completely surprised too. I must be the densest person in the world to have not suspected anything, but I didn’t. In my defense, the people I hang out with are quite intelligent.

The day started in Paris around 12:30. I went to Sebastien’s house for lunch because his girlfriend, Rachel, was in town. We were in the middle of lunch, when Sebastien suddenly realized he had no butter, so he rushed out for butter dessert. We then went to a Frog pub to watch the Scotland/England rugby match. Throughout the night, my other friend Seb kept texting me. He said he had been sick all day but we could still come over and see him. I needed to get my phone charger anyway, so I didn’t spend too much time thinking about why Rachel asked what each of his texts said or why she still insisted on going to his house before we went out. Fortunately the pub brews its own beer, so I was not in a sleuthing mood. Over the course of 4 hours, we drank about three pints each and by the end of the night, I was feeling pretty good.

Upon arrival at Seb’s house, my first comment to him was how bad he looked. Fair enough. He sounded horrible, but as we all know, alcohol lowers your thought-speech barrier. He asked me to come into the living room and help him with something. I followed and was completely shocked to see everyone there. It took a few moments for me to realize what was going on and I remember thinking for a split second, “he’s not really sick.” I was truly surprised and spent the first half an hour listening to how often the whole party was almost given away. I had to repeatedly admit that, “No, I had no idea, never even was suspicious; I am not at all clever.” All the weird little things going on never set off any bells. Turns out when Sebastien left his apartment for the butter, he actually met the other Seb to get the stuff for the party. And all of the texting going on throughout the night was really obvious after it was explained.

As I said earlier, I was and am still really touched by the whole gesture and everyone’s participation. Thanks!

Friday, February 24, 2006

I Need a Drink or Ten

My students and colleagues (well I am sure they do not consider me their colleague, but for lack of a better word and for funsies, I am going to call them that) are doing my head in! Right, one thing at a time. First my students. Because of some serious lack of foresight and perhaps some mild dementia, I allowed my students to pick their own topics for oral presentation. (Yes, I know those of you who are teachers are smirking right now.) I did put some limits and added some rules to go along with the presentations, such as they had to be about an English speaking culture, no plagerizing, no reading during presentations, the basics. Sounds like it should have been a straight forward exercise, right? ARRRRR. No, no, no, no. I am not going even to waste the space to explain why having to endure some form of torture would have been infinitely more pleasant.

On to the colleagues. They are definitley worse than my students. I was offered the position here again. Not wanting to eliminate any of my opportunities, I politely asked to be allowed to think about it. At first (and by one of the few members of faculty who has been nice to me), I was told I had until June to make my decision. Fantastic. Not that I would take that long. If, by late April, I know I have no job opportunities and do not get accepted into law school, I should be able to make up my mind about staying here fairly easy. I thought the situation was handled nicely and my life could continue running smoothly. Nope. The day following the job offer, I was told (by a different colleague) I have to make my decision immediately because other people are waiting for my job and that of course, since I am here, I have preference. However, I certainly understood from the conversation that the other candidates are preferable. Thank you, again.

The problem with the second part of the story is that it comes from a person who decided only last week to make an effort to meet me. Funny, I didn't see her putting the thorn in my side when I introduced myself (so really no effort to meet me at all on her part). In one week since meeting me, she has sent several of her students to me, at any hour, regardless of whether I have class or if I want to go to lunch. For all kinds of reasons. If they have a question about the United States; if they want to go to the U.S.; if they saw an English speaking program on television they have a question about. They are driving me crazy. AND to top it all off, I am actually supposed to "talk up" ASU to these students. Why in the world would I do that? I graduated twice from ASU and I can't get a real job. I worked at that moneypit for 3 years for less than a waitress makes and then they closed the department where I worked. I am in debt up to my eyeballs. Not to mention that all the professional contacts at ASU connected with the program at this University completely abandoned me before I ever left the U.S. and then had the nerve to scold me via email. And I am supposed to talk the students here into going to ASU? Don't think so!

So yes, if I wasn't feeling so bad, I would have a pint or two.

AFTER THOUGHT: I should mention the great professors I have met at ASU. Despite the lack of feeling (or maybe my excessive feelings) on my part for the "business" aspect of ASU, I do feel as though there are some really fantastic members of faculty there.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

I Shot A Man in Reno

I just saw Walk the Line. Fabulous! I cannot believe the actors used their real voice nor can I believe Joaquin Phoenix could hit all those low notes. Honestly, I think Reese Witherspoon’s voice is stronger than June Carter Cash’s was. Amazing movie! If you have not seen it, I strongly advise you to rent it immediately, if nothing else than for the music.

An odd thing happened to me in the movie theater, I realized I missed Arkansas. I don’t know, maybe the movie was just really good. There was a scene in which young Johnny is picking cotton and it made me homesick. Of course, I never picked cotton, but long dirt roads, rows of crops like cotton and fishing were definitely a large part of my childhood and early teen years.

Do you ever shake your childhood memories? Or your first real connections, connections formed before you even know to think about connections, the connections you never question because you were unaware they existed? If I lived in France, New York, St. Petersburg or Mexico City, would I ever not feel connected to the South? Would I ever be anything but a Southern living somewhere else besides the South? I never felt completely connected to the South when I lived there. I think that is one of the main reasons I decided to move to France, to find where I belong(ed), to find what or where I identified with. It is strange, I know there are many places in the world I would still like to see, and even live, but I know where home is. I feel like I have been gone eons and now I can think about and understand not only the South, but the history and culture without really knowing it, like it is in my marrow. I am part of it; it is a part of me. I feel it. I don’t know if I will return, but now I know where my roots are firmly buried. And it is nice to finally know that.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Happy Birthday to Me

Well, it is officially my birthday in Europe. In the U.S., I am still 26, but I am now 27 in France. I don't feel any different, except maybe a little tired. I just got back from a Depeche Mode concert. They are huge here, and I have to admit, the concert was really good. And 2 people have already told me Happy Birthday. So far, so good.

Method to the Madness

Before reviewing the following entries, let me give you some guidance. Abbi arrived on the 11th and left on the 20th, we went to Cologne, Germany the 15-17. While in Paris, we stayed at Sebastien's apartment. Abbi got a nice, realistic view of the French when we were ticketed in the Metro for not having our picture on our tickets. Yes, we had tickets, just no picture on them and they ticketed us. Have I said lately how much I love the French?

Creepy Catacombs

For Abbi's last day in France, we decided to visit the catacombs. I have never been, so it was a treat for me too. Apparently, many graves were transferred to certain areas under the city after people started getting sick from the rotting bodies. I think the graveyards were getting too crowded and probably were contaminated the drinking water. Anyway, there are tons of bones under the ground near Montparnesse (an area of Paris). Leave it to the French to be decorative with the bones of their deceased citizens. Abbi touched one and then I had to. It felt like rock.

Musée D' Orsay

Currently, my favorite Parisian museum is the Musée D' Orsay. Mostly because I get in free since I am a teacher. Also though, it has a lot of impressionists works, like the Van Gogh pictured here. The building was actually a train station that was converted into a Museum. I was sick the day we went, so Abbi and I spent a lot of time there. I think we saw just about everything, which is very hard to do normally.

4 Star Accommodation

Brad, Abbi's husband, booked us a 4 star hotel for our stay in Germany. There was caviar for breakfast. We felt a little like royality, except for all the of photos of naked women. Thanks Brad!

Am I in Heaven, No Just the Chocolate Factory

While in Cologne, Abbi and I also went to the chocolate factory. One of the coolest things about the museum (eating free chocolate being THE coolest thing), was the massive amount of facts it crams into your head before you get to the chocolate room with the chocolate fountain and the free chocolate. I now know several useless facts regarding the cocca bean and the production of chocolate.

Cologne Dom

This is the top of the cathedral in Cologne and let me tell you, it was no picnic climbing to the top. I had to stop a few times. It is 157 meters tall. I have no idea what that translates into feet, but I am sure it is a lot. The view was nice except that it was very cold there was graffiti everywhere. I would definitely do it again, though.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Off to Deutschland

Abbi and I spent 2.5 days in Germany. These are pictures of the cathedral, one of the few remaining structures. Most of the city was bombed during WWII, so there is not much historical markers left. But the cathedral is fantastic. Supposedly, the bones of the three kings are in the gold box.

A Day Wandering Around Paris

On the 14th, Abbi and I went to Pere Lachaise and Montmartre. I love both of these places. Although it is a graveyard, I think Pere Lachaise is quite beautiful and peaceful. It is huge and I find it very easy to get lost, but now I think I can manage very well. Montmartre is where Scare Coeur is located, but there is also a cool little artsy square behind the basilique.

I Saw the Phantom of the Opera

Well, I only saw the Andrew Lloyd Weber version, not the real thing, but let me tell ya, it feels as though you might see him in the opera house. These are pictures from THE Paris Opera house and it is gorgeous! Breathtaking! Awesome! It is all so intricate and glowing and magical. It feels like an opera house should feel, as though you are about to be transported to another world-a fantastic, imaginative world. All the marble and the chandeliers provide a dreamy-like haze that seems to invoke the imagination. I am bound and determined to go to a production at the opera now!

Napoleon's Apartments

Another great thing about the Louvre is the way they have Napoleon's apartments set up. There are several rooms dedicated to the reproduction of his apartments so people can see the way his lived. They are really beautiful. Lots of chandeliers, lots of gold, lots of thick wall hangings and lots of red curtains.


Of course if you come to Paris, you simply must go to the Louvre. I have been a few times, but not necessarily because I like it. I think a person needs about 6 visits to see everything. I find the Louvre incredibly impersonal, massive, badly organized and too busy. BUT, there are many, many fantastic, historic, magnificent works of art located in the palace. I do love looking at the Mona Lisa and the crowned jewels of France (although a mean French man threatened to take my camera away for taking a picture of the entrance). However, I think my favorite thing is the statue of Winged Victory of Samothrace. She is amazing! I love her presence, chest out, wings back, she really epitomizes victory in my mind. Located in one of the major entrances, you can't miss her. Walking up to her, climbing a massive staircase after viewing her through a long hall which seems to suck the air out of the room, makes the visitor anticipate the multitude of great artifacts located within. The placement is pure genius!

Views from Eiffel

After seeing everything on our cruise, we decided to go to the top of the Eiffel. For some reason, I either did not know or had forgotten that Abbi was afraid of heights. Well, the Eiffel Tower is really tall. Needless to say, we had some problems getting to the top. It was my first time all the way to the top and it snowed! We were on the second level when the light show started. Both occurrences were really fantastic experiences and both made beautiful views. The sun has been a no-show for the past couple of weeks, so the pictures are kind of drab, but very realistic of how Europe looks this time of year.

Abbi's First Few Days

The first few days Abbi was here, we took it easy. We went for a boat ride on the Seine. It was pretty cool. They highlighted the major landmarks seen from the river such as Notre Dame, a replica of the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel, the Dome Church and a few other things. It was freezing the day we went. We tried to stay on the top level of the boat, but it just got too cold, so we had to go to the lower level (enclosed and heated).