Monday, December 8, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008 : The one where Julien is a "Star"

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This year's Thanksgiving went on without a hitch.

I'm honestly not surprised that it did.  We were less people - down from 13 Americans to 5, our course load has been pretty tough, but we pulled it together perfectly and it was a smashing event.
This year we had a meeting to plan all of Thanksgiving and we divided and conquered each of the main dishes and split up the pies.  Our friends knew how it worked and so they were prepared to help us as well, offering black forest cakes, brownies, and salads. The girls and I wrote the menu, ordered the turkeys, we planned the pies, and we put together an amazing evening. 

The most exciting part about this year was the fact that some people were coming for their 2nd Thanksgiving and the others that were coming for their first were well versed (and excited) about what was to come.  Honestly, there was buzz surrounding Thanksgiving 08.


The first week of school one of my friends asked me when Thanksgiving was.  The second week someone else did. And it would happen again and again.   From time to time people would shyly mention it and ask how our planning was going.  It was amazing.  I love that people were starting to look forward to it with the same zeal that I do.  It is my favorite holiday and I've been looking forward to it since November 23, 2007.


But we had a dilemma. This year there was no Joe, as there are no American boys in our class from Northeastern, which posed a HUGE problem for cutting the turkey. Because tradition holds that it is done by the oldest (or host) American male in the family.

Enter Julien. Julien is one of the most ridiculous people in the world. His father is American from German descent and his mother is French.  His family history involves his great-something grandfather going to strike gold with the 49ers, but somehow getting delayed and arriving 10 years too late.  But anyways, round September, Julien approached me and told me (and I quote) "I want an important part in Thanksgiving this year".  He proceeded to tell me that he would totally drive us anywhere we needed to go to get Turkeys or cooking supplies, but he really wanted to help us out in the evening and he added, (and I quote again) "I want to be the star". 

I told him he would have to be prepared. Julien worked this out, found some good knives and even watched some youtube videos on Turkey carving. The night before the big day, we sent him a message with some more video's.  His cheeky reply was something along the lines of :  I'll handle the cutting and you girls just get the birds ready.

And cut the birds he did. Everyone watched and took pictures as he was indeed the star of Thanksgiving.

We were only 5 planning this year's Thanksgiving, but we arranged all the food, made most of the food (except a few desserts) and organized everyone to come together for a wonderful evening - where we all fit in our living room!  It's amazing to see ourselves as capable adults - last year it seemed so surprising that it went on without a hitch, but this year it made sense that everything went well.  And I'll admit how good that feels. It's the kind of good that makes growing up OK (fun even!), the kind of good feeling that we get to share with others, as adults that can arrange things of this magnitude.  I'm not going to lie, I kind of like it :-). 

I'm already looking forward  to Thanksgiving 2009.


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Sunday, November 30, 2008

I've made a huge mistake

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... was the first thing  I thought as I heard the announcement on the train say we were arriving in Lorraine TGV - the opposite direction of where I was supposed to be going on Tuesday morning.  I felt slightly panicked as I jumped off the train and onto the platform; knowing that I was not at all where I was supposed to be.  You see, I had just take a high speed train 45 minutes in the wrong direction meaning that not only was I not in the right place I was FAR AWAY from the right place.
I had woken up that morning at 6AM, my day bag was already packed from the night before and all I needed to do was shower and show up at the train station on time. I did both of these things and did not feel at all rushed as I took my train shuttle to the other station in my town.  The think about Champagne TGV is that it is a train station where trains pass through and so most days the name of your destination is only a mere subheading on the sign whilst another city takes precedence.  I was stressed about taking the wrong train in the wrong direction - I tend to always get flustered when I have to grab a train here as I am usually running late due to a bus or train delay.  So as I waited on the platform and my train did not show up on time, I started to die inside. 

I had told my friend, Meagan, that I would be meeting her at the Charles de Gualle airport train station at 9AM, so we could go and spend the day in Paris together, frolic and eat crepes.  Meagan had just arrived from Tanzania after three months in Africa and was pretty excited for her first European experience, so we had planned an exciting first day touring Paris.  The night before I had talked to her online telling her how everything would work for the next day. I had been worried she would be lost and nervous as she doesn't speak French and would be toting things around in France. 

I had been so stressed about all these things and being late in general that when a train on the opposite side of the platform came in and had Charles de Gaulle TGV writing on it I ran up the stairs and jumped on that train.  The thing is that train had COME from Charles de Gaulle train station and was headed to the German frontier. 

I must have look a wreck as I went up to the ticket booth and explained to the lady what had happened.  Her first question was if the train controller had noticed if I had the wrong ticket.  My answer : no. No, no, instead he had yelled at me for minutes about the fact that I had not validated my ticket. As she rerouted my ticket so I could get back to the train station, a new fear came over me. I had no way to contact Meagan, as her phone wasn't working.  With an hour before my next train left I had time to think and agonize over my mistake.  I went back up to the ticket counter where I explained that my anglophone friend was probably lost in the train station, and had no way to get in contact with me.  The woman quickly acted and called the CDG train station and was about to make an announcement when my phone rang. It was Meagan. She started off telling me that she was lost (how ironic) as I began to tell her just HOW lost I was.  Thankfully she was ok with it all and just used her computer and the CDG free WIFI available at the airport as she waited the three hours for me to get there.
I was not so lucky.  I had not prepared for a three hour train ride.  In fact, I had only brought with me three birthday cards that I had been meaning to write for the entire month - all three of which I had finished on the first train. At 10AM I got on my train heading to Marne-la-Vallée -Chessy TGV train station and sat reading the Economist's prediction for 2009, and let me tell you 2009 sounds not very good at all. It was a depressing train ride.

As the train pulled in I realized why I knew the name of this train station! THIS WAS THE TRAIN STATION THAT LANDED RIGHT SMACK DAB AT DISNEYLAND PARIS! I wouldn't mistake those ears anywhere.  So I did what any awesome individual would do if they had a 20 minute  layover at the happiest place on earth. I took pictures to prove that I made it.

I did get to CDG that day. I was three hours late, and was suffering from a bruised ego - but I made it!


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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Next on the list for melodramatic...

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The sad truth about graduating from an international school is that come July, we will all be going our separate ways. 

No one want to talk about it. It's the ever looming elephant in the corner - if we talk about what our future holds there is just the silent ever growing distance, our promising futures in all different parts of the world.

I hate saying that I am going back to the states next summer even if I am excited for what the future holds. I mean, I'm pretty excited for my prospects: working for a new and exciting company, finding a new city and finally making my way in the world. At the moment it is almost certain that I will go back to live and work for awhile to start my career and become a real person. So I don't know why I feel that sick feeling akin to failure when I admit that a one way ticket to the US is in my future. Why does it feel so much like giving up?

I stayed for the second year. I'm one of the ones who made it and then made the choice to stay and battle out the memoir, and take a whole new battery of tests. That was supposed to be my challenge.  Now looking to the future, I see myself challenging myself to stay again, but maybe this time it's for the wrong reasons.

Maybe it's because I know how much easier things will be in the states : I'll be speaking my own language, I'll be working in my desired industry, and I'll be closer to my family - or at least reachable in an easy inexpensive phone call.  After a year and a half of constant struggle, maybe I don't feel like things should be easy anymore.  What if I'll miss the struggle, the foreign and awkwardness, the pain in the ass cultural differences? Because like it or not, who I am right now has been founded on the fact that I am rarely ever in my comfort zone and that I'm always trying news things. And I know, I know there will be challenges along the way - challenges I can't see clearly right now or that don't seem as significant right now.


So I guess maybe it's just that I'll feel less special next year. It's an idea that I will have to come to terms with.  There won't be the looks of surprise at my accent or my fluency in their native tongue. Being normal is a very different experience then what I am dealing with right now. Everyday I am noticed, where it be negatively or positively, and I am treated differently.   Some may see this as altogether negative side effect, but I'm used to it.  I'd even go as far to say, I like it. But the big fear of going home is that I'll just be one of the many, and maybe that is not what I'm ready for.
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Friday, November 14, 2008

Going North

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I've been wanting to get North for the last five years.  Ever since I met a Finnish girl named Jenni, I have been determined to go North.  So finally after years of wanting to go and thinking about going, I made it. 

We arrived in Stockholm around noon.  Looked around at the train station and put our bags in a locker.  Form there we met a fellow couchsurfer who was staying at the same guy's house as us.  He was a cool Canadian that instructed us to go to the Vasamuseet, a 16th century battleship that had been pulled out of the water in the 50's and now has a full fledged museum built around it.  I'm so glad we went.  Then we decided to go walk to the old town and even though it was only 3pm, twilight was setting in.  It's an eerie feeling seeing the moon in the middle of the day.  I wasn't sure if I should feel hungry or tired, but I do know that it was unsettling. 

From there we sat in a cafe and I had some soup (the entire weekend we kept searching for soup) and we chatted with the other guy, getting to know him and see what he was all about. 
Then we headed back to where we would be couchsurfing for the night.  We were staying at a Swedish guy's house for the night who lived about 20 minutes outside of the city.  He was really nice to us and we all cooked a big pasta dinner together and sat and talked, watched English tv series and had a good laugh.

The next day we walked out to Stockholm to do what I call a bit of destiny : we went to the largest IKEA in the world. I love IKEA, I love the obnoxious branding, the quirky items found within, and the immense sizes of the store.  I could spend an entire day looking at home goods, comparing glasses and looking at different couches.  We walked around and did make second favorite thing. We took pictures in the different rooms.  I don't know why I like doing this so much, but there is something utterly hilarious about posing in front of the different rooms in IKEA.
After we had our fill of IKEA, we took the free bus that we had arrived on back to the city center, from there we bumbled around looking for different sites and walked over to the fun and trendy area of Sodermalm. 

After walking around some more, night started falling or just darkness, and so we decided we would go to the Ice Bar.  I thought it would be a good story to say that we stood in a room made of ice and wore the funny jackets, but when we got there the Japanese tourists and the families smiling inside put us off the idea.  We just thought about how awkward and weird it would be, just the two of us in our funny jackets, sipping on vodka, among the other awkward tourists. 

I am in love with Stockholm, there is something so familiar about the wide streets, the perfectly articulated English, and the cute cafes that had made me fall in love with it.  The fact that it is a network of connected islands makes it a fun and exciting city to discover.  I really enjoyed my time there and hope to go back soon ;-). And then we left.

We were off to Helsinki to find one of my favorite people.  She was waiting for us inside of the airport looking all smiley and just like I remember.  She took us back to her government subsidized apartment - complete with sauna - and we went to bed (we arrived at like 1am). 

The next morning we got up to a rousing breakfast of brown bread, cucumbers and cheese (meat for the meateaters as well :-). We walked around the downtown of Helsinki, went into stores like Marimekko and other Finnish staples.  The funny thing about Finnish staples is that they all seem to be home good.  We went to glasses, ceramics stores, and to fabric stores.  Each store had it's own taste of bright colors and patterns.  Each store made me wish I was graduating sooner and decorating my own apartment. 

Then we went and saw two different churches.  Two churches that might explain a bit of the Finnish spirit.  One was a beautiful white church that stood on a large and open square near the port area.  The other, called the "Rock Church" was a bit away from the center up the hill.  The Rock Church looks like a space ship has landed in downtown Helsinki.  Aerial photos prove that point and maybe even allude to a meteor/flying saucer attack.  But inside, the church has an austere charm.  The ornate decorations seen in most churches in France are absent, mostly because this is a Lutheran church as opposed to a Catholic church.  But the ceiling looks like the dissection of a tree trunk, full of concentric circles. It feels divine and a wonderful place for prayer and devotion.  

As night began to fall, I saw my friend Jenni do a curious thing.  She flipped two little circles out of her pocket.  They were reflectors.  Apparently in Finland, there has been a public safety campaign for people to wear reflectors.  This is to avoid cars hitting people in the darkness (a darkness that stands for most of the day in the wintertime).  I found this fascinating and I began to see them everywhere.  The reflectors exist in a variety of colors and shapes, from cute to awkward and big to small.  Some people had them attached to their arms whilst others followed the example of Jenni and had them only in their pockets. I found them to be really cool and decided to grad some shaped like Moomins as a souvenir. 


The next day we went to an island outside of the city center to see some old Finnish houses and other buildings.  It was drizzling outside, a normal November kind of day.  A theme throughout the weekend was that everything was nicer in the summertime.  Every time we got a gust of wind or even saw a pretty site, we were reminded by our little Fin of how much nicer everything was in the summertime.  And honestly I can imagine it.  The city must light up in the summertime.  With green things growing and a bit of warm summer air, the city must be magnificent by bike.  I  love the Russian influences seen in the buildings and I can only imagine how much more beautiful they must seem with sunshine on their walls.  I don't care though if I went in November -I know I'll go back. 

Throughout the 5 days we were their, we ate some great cinnabuns.  I really enjoyed them and have been wanting to share this cinnabun recipe given to me by a coworker.  They are really delicious and so make some up with a good cup of coffee.  I think sugary goodness like cinnabuns keep the people from going insane during the long winter months. 

Henrietta's Cinnabuns : a Scandinavian tradition!
(two dozen round rolls)
1/4 cup warm water
1 pkg dry yeast
1 tsp +1/4 cup sugar
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
230 gr butter, chilled
3 egg yolks
1 cup milk

Filling
1/4 cup butter, melted
6 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Glaze
1 1/2 confectioner's sugar, (200gr)
2 Tbsp butter, room temp.
1 Tbsp water, a trifle more may be needed to make a manageable glaze

  • Put the warm water in a small bowl and sprinkle yeast over. Add 1 tsp sugar, stir, let dissolve for 5 min. 
  • In a large mixing bowl, stir together flour, 1/4 cup sugar, and salt w/ fork to mix well.cut butter into pieces size of small grapes and add to flour mixture. Using hands or pastry blender, rub or cut the butter into the flour mixture until distributed and there are coarse little lumps of butter throughout.  
  • Stir in the yeast mixture, egg yolks and milk. Beat until blended. 
  • Cover with plastic wrap and chill in fridge at least 6 hours,(this dough can be refrigerated for 12-14 hours).
  • Divide dough in half. On lightly floured board, roll out half the dough into a rectangle about 10 by 12 inches.  Spread 2 Tbsp of melted butter over rectangle.  
  • Mix remaining 6 Tbsp sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon together in small bowl.  Sprinkle half sugar mixture evenly over rectangle.  Starting with the wide side, roll rectangle like a jelly roll.  Divide roll into 12 pieces by first cut into 4 equal portions, then each portion into 3.  Put rolls cut side down in greased muffin tin.  repeat these steps with other half of dough.
  • Cover loosely and let rise for 1 hour.
  • Bake in preheated 400F(200C) oven 20-25 min. Remove rolls and put them on a rack set over a piece of wax paper.
  • To make the glaze, sift confectioner's sugar into a small bowl then beat in the butter and water until smooth. 
  • Spoon a little of the glaze over each roll while still hot.


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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

How my school ruined Halloween

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I used to look forward to it. Every year we would talk about it, carefully planning, researching themes and details making sure to keep it all in secret so our good ideas weren't stolen by our  friends. As soon as the leaves turned yellow and burst into orange and red, it seemed to be all we could think about - the candy corn wonder of Halloween. 

I remember one of my favorite costumes growing up:  a flower pot.  I can't recall if it was a hand-me-down from my sisters or if it was just something that had been made specifically for me.  Either way, I don't remember caring about all that - I just remember being so happy.  I had brown stockings and a brown skirt, and on top I wore a green turtle neck. Covering my head was a halo of petals - I remember feeling so special. But I have to admit, the last few months have ruined it for me.  I'll be the first to say that I am sick of dressing up. Because after a year and a half of theme parties (once a week for the most part) my head is echoing empty ideas.  I have no idea what I want to be for Halloween - and really why should I ? As every perfectly good option has been sucked away into some other theme party.  So far my most productive addition to the Penthouse planning committee has been a push for being Indians - I just really want to be Pocahontas. But honestly, I don't really have any good ideas.  I just can't think of anything. 


A list of things I have dressed up as for CESEM parties :
  • teenage mutant ninja turtle
  • pirate
  • rockstar
  • superhero
  • gangster
  • tropical vacationer
  • Fire
  • robot
So you can understand my dilemma, right? I dress up more often than a transvestite.We just dress up because in the states I went to on average like 4 dress up parties a year - one of which was HALLOWEEN.   And to make matters worse, I can't be anything too specific because the kids at my school won't get it. They will not get American cultural references.  They are all under the impression that Halloween means being scary - which just makes it into yet ANOTHER theme party: the theme being SCARY. We've tried to explain to them that in the US costumes are either funny, distasteful or - a few - even scary, but mostly girls just end up dressing like slutty cops or firemen. I feel like all
I do in France is search for the different ideas to play dress up, I am constantly on the look out for funny items to go with such and such costume.  And it isn't because it isn't fun or all of that - we have a great time. But really, it's because I am apart of my school council and I am supposed to be at all the parties, dressed to the nines at every single one, and that kind of dedication, my friends, is exhausting.


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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

We make Party in Germany

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Germany over the weekend was amazing.  On Friday morning two of my roommate and another friend bundled our things together and jumped on the highspeed train - stopping through Strasbourg for a switch and heading onward to Stuttgart.  We arrived in Germany and our first remark was how ugly everything and everyone was. It was odd. 

Gone were my illusions of the merrily tramping about blond and blue eyed friends (of course I don't believe that Germans are all blond haired and blue eyed) and to replace my beloved sterotype was a multitude of euro-mullets and clothes straight out of the eighties. Also the buildings were all very ugly.  The Stuttgart train station, though practical and nice was horribly ugly. It was prison-like. Unfortunately my observation is totally biased because I live in France, where most train stations feel like an open armed welcome from the city.  But here I felt like I had just entered a post-war depression.  I realize that the city had been destroyed during the war and that the Germans are not as obsessed with keeping things restored and the same as the French are, but honestly it made me a little sad.  Note : this entire revelation happened within the 1st 5 minutes of me getting off the train.


Things got better from there.


Reutlingen was really cute, it had a nice tower that was nicely restored, but still there was a lack of warmth and beauty that I have come to love and admire in France.  But the warmth came when we went out that night into the town. An odd thing happened at the bar we went to *gasp* the people were *gasp* HAPPY that we were there. They talked to our hosts in a KIND and FRIENDLY manner.  I feel like this never happens in Reims.  Mostly because we end up going out to the kind of places that you don't sit and chat with the help, but also because the opportunity never seems to arise. That was the night we got our beer diplomas - 10 33 cl beers and a true taste of Germany! 

The next day we went to Tübingen, where the adorableness of Germany really came out. This is where I learned why we love and dream about Germany so much. It was so lovely and it helped that we had gorgeous weather with the sun drying the leaves to a perfect crunch and reflecting through the orange and yellows of the autumn leaves. We walked up to the top of the castle in the city and looked over at all the splendid houses and the autumnal colors flourishing the city and I felt so happy.  Maybe it was because my friends were around me, and maybe it was because  I was feeling blissfully warm in the Indian summer sunshine, but I felt so content in that moment. It was a really lovely day.

VOLKSFEST
I sang and danced on top of picnic tables on Sunday evening. German beerfests are amazing. Not because there is amazing beer at really good prices but because of what the beerfests are at the base of things : a big party.  Let me describe to you why it is so cool that the fests are in fact "a big party".  Because of this simple fact : no one was fighting. In America or France for that matter, it seems that everytime there is a large group of people consumming alcohol there is a need for fighting. I don't understand this but it always seems to happen.  At Volksfest, people were drinking absurd amounts of delicious beer. BUT NOTHING HAPPENED. Instead you know what we did? We sang together.  They have a song just about "cheers-ing" together and it is awesome. Never have I felt so connected with a group of strangers and granted I was a little drunk, but I couldn't deny the electricity in the room as a group of strangers and I drunkenly sang drinking songs ... in German.

Drunk Driving
One of the guys from the German school we were visiting announced to us that he wanted to go on the bumper cars at VolksFest. Since none of us could think of a reason not to we all agreed that after we had each had 2 liters of beer at the festival (the first two were free) we would go and do the bumper cars. I'm not going to lie, but after two liters of beer I have never been so terrfied in my life then when people were bumping into my little car.  If this serves as an example for anything - I vow never to get into a vehicle drunk, never ever ever have I been so convinced of how that is a terrible terrible terrible idea. Seriously, it was like I was in a bad public service announcement.

We came home battered and bruised from dancing the night away. We also came home with two Schwaben Bräu beer steins ;-).


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Thursday, October 9, 2008

My Philosophy

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My roommate and I are getting ready to plan an adventure.  I've been dying to go north since I was 15 years old, when I first met my Finnish friend Jenni.  She would tell me all about the most beautiful things that made up Finland and it made me want to go.  So now I'm trying to find low budget flights and hopefully grabbing a kind cruise between Stockholm and Finland. Because we are on a budget (we're trying to do all of it for under 300 euros) we thought we might have to get creative with our sleeping arrangements.  In Helsinki we will be staying for free with Jenni and her boyfriend... but in Stockholm we aren't so lucky and don't know a soul.  We looked at hostel prices and they were in the 26 euro range - a cringe worthy range if you will for our two night stay.

We deliberated over what we should do, but quickly found a possible solution : couchsurfing.com.


I am a self described geek - and I'll be the first one to admit it - but I was in love with the idea right from the start. I immediately signed up and started my profile. 

One of the questions asked was "What is your philosphy in life?".  I paused at the question, not really sure what I would say.  I thought of the usual Ghandi, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Shakespeare quotes ... but nothing seemed right.  I've been taking a sort of philosophy class in France and it has of late made me think about what I believe in.  We spent near 2 hours discussing the difference between Good and good.  Finally coming to the conclusion that Good is something we can only purely attain or discover, whilst "good" is something that can be taught and learned - both resulting in a positive end but through different means.  After giving my philosophy some thought I decided what mine would be : "If we can't count on each other, we can't count on much." And honestly it is something that strikes a chord with me, it is really how I feel most days.  I count on so many people to do things kindly, compassionately, and fairly - that if I ever left a shred of doubt in all of that mix... what really would I do.

Some people might say that is naive and maybe it is, but really if it is - there isn't any point to all of this anyways.  When you are abroad you meet a ton of people, and many you know you aren't going to see again, you know it is only temporary, but in the end, in those few moments something happens that makes you trust and feel like you know that person.  At the end of most days, there isn't much more than simple kindness. 

My philosophy professor taught us about the three kinds of love the other day eros (romantic love), philia (friendship), and agapan (selfless love - agape).  He told us that the early Greeks stopped at philia because they didn't know how to encompass agape love.  Agape is most widely recognized by the teachings of Jesus and the selfless love of a god for his people.  When I start thinking of the goodness of people and how it all works out in the end (even with so much Bad/bad out there) - how we need and depend on each other. It makes me think that maybe there is some kind of god out there after all.

But that leads us to the God/god discussion. . .
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Thursday, October 2, 2008

A MAAAAAAAAH kinda week

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The first week of school is almost under my belt and though there is a bit of smug triumph in my step these days; I can only be slightly smug, because EVERYTHING FELL APART THIS WEEK (warning : use of hyperbole).

I went on my inaugural bike ride on my new-old-awesome-vintage bike to my school on Friday and on Saturday, I went down to find it with a flat tire :-(.  I was pretty sad to say the least (ok I was rightly bummed) as I just adore my bike and enjoy seeing my reflection as I ride - like every time I get a glance of it I'm like OMG WHAT A CUTE BIKE. But I was bummed as Monday was the first day of school and I didn't find the flat until 5pm on SAT meaning that nothing was open and there seamed to be no hope until Monday.  I'm slightly reasonable so I felt I could handle not having a bike until Monday/Tuesdayish.  But then near 10pm on Sunday night I remembered that there was a STRIKE scheduled for the bus system, meaning that I had to do the 25/30 minute walk on foot :-(. But I didn't despair...then. I took a deep breath and dealt with it.  I came up with the genius idea on Monday to walk my bike with me as all the bike repair shops are near school.

Sounds like a good plan, right?

As I miserably schelped with my bike at my side to school on Monday morning, I stopped in front of the door of the bike shop. My pulse jumped as I looked at the 9h00 opening time and it being pretty much 9h00 - I was totally excited. I pulled the door. Nothing. GAH went my head as I realized that the shop was closed on Monday.  I had a mini tantrum in my head and then shuffled along with my bike, careful not to tarry as I had my first day of classes to contend with and so many wonderful friends to see for the first time in AGES!

So that's the bike story - finally got it into the shop the next day and wheels are not too expensive.  I'll be picking up my little beauty tomorrow.

NEEEEEEXT. . . .

The day I get back to Reims, my battery adapter breaks. Ok, so my adapter had been broken before, but I had craftily decided to replace it in the states off Amazon, because it was a whole lot cheaper. Well I got a slap in the face for trying to outwit Apple and their painful pricing.  Not only did I not have a computer of my own till Tuesday, but I had a ton of things that I needed specifically from MY computer. It was just plain annoying and I ended up having to dish out the extra money anyways. ARGH - bonus, I now have a european extension cord, which is pretty convenient. 


That is the first bit of computer drama.


Second bit of computer drama... started about 5 hours ago when I came on and couldn't see the wifi connection.  I took a deep breath as I digested this information and then naturally asked my roommate if it was working for her. It was. GAH. Nothing is more frustrating than being the only one without Internet. BAH AND GAH. When my other two roomies got home they also checked and again we got a 1-2 ratio. Totally exasperating. I mean seriously there is no way to feel you are fixing anything when it is HALF working.

I'm hoping to all hope that tomorrow when I wake up everything will be fine, the internet needs to work and not (as I am pluggged in now) from an ethernet code, but from wonderful WIFI.

So that is today's update on what is going on; topped off with our landlord skulking around and works being done on our apartment i.e. no heat or hot water for the night and boy is it plain cold. I'm wearing a scarf and a sweatshirt.  I have so much to do, catch up on, and organize.  But all I really want to do is buy a cute pair of soft ankle boots.
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Saturday, September 27, 2008

I can haz thesis

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School starts on Monday or at least, it starts for me on Monday (I'm a tad bit late on showing up this year).  I'm not going to lie I am a bit nervous about start my senior year as a "4th year" (we don't have senior, junior... in France).

Yesterday, I got my packet for my thesis paper from our school center and I started to feel a bit overwhelmed - as in, AH TOTALLY HAVE TO WRITE THIS. It's pretty scary stuff all together.  But I am feeling pretty comfortable with the idea of doing it; I just need to find a topic. 

I know I want to do something with the Internets, but sometimes it feels hard to have to keep in mind the fact that I will be writing this report in French which is uber bummer, but such is life. 

Possible topics include :
  • The power of user generated content in the business world - as a means for internal and external communication.
  • A exploration of the evolution of corporate communications - what failed, what worked, where are we headed : why?
  • Replacing the mainstream media : the power of blogging, user-generated content.
  • The open classroom : blogging as an educational tool and experience.
  • and many more.
The thing is I haven't read my thesis packet so I need to really do that to make sure I'm headed in the right direction.  I know we have two choices : exploratory research or a sort of corporate study.  I'm not sure which one I will choose yet, but I know I do need to get cracking on thinking about it.

But first I need to do my rapport du stage (coop reflection -bleck). Where I get to beam for 20 pages about Six Apart.
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Saturday, September 13, 2008

File this in DO NOT OPEN

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My sisters came to visit me in France and it made me realize how far away I always am.  How they share so many cool moments together.  I hate that I miss the birthdays and that I miss the sing-a-longs at the Drafthouse, and so many other little things. 

It has also made me realize how my memory is short.  My memory is short for the bad things, I am a serial postive thinker or as some would say constantly in denial.  When my sisters were here, we were talking about high school at one point and I said to Courtney with a nonchalant smile, "We got along alright when we were in school, right?" with not so much as even a thought more to our relationship.  And she just looked at me.  Looked at me and said, "Brittany, you made my life a living hell in high school". Slowly it came back to me. Courtney taking the brunt of my parent's attention and getting into trouble because she had a boyfriend, me getting cut slack because my parents were concentrating on Courtney. Courtney telling me she hated me because I had a later curfew than she did. Us not getting along. Not at all like I like to remember.  As it all came back to me I couldn't believe that I placed this in the file DO NOT OPEN part of my mind. 

I find I do this a lot.  In France, a lot of things have been hard, and more frustrating than I had ever imagined. But each time an obstacle arose I was surprised as it wasn't at all the France I remembered.  When I left Lyon the first time, I left most bad memories at the airport.  I was done with those and I guess over the past 5 years I have put it on some sort of pedestal, but a wonderful enchanting pedestal.  That year was beautiful, amazing and life-changing and I am pretty happy to leave it at that.  But then if pressed enough, I remember that I walked on eggshells for an entire year, that I was so afraid of messing up and not being a good exchange student that I made myself the most pleasant human being for one year.  That came with its up and downs. 

A month later, I'm home, and again, I realize how much I file away.

It's feels good to be home, but weird being the only sister at my parent's house/town.  When I plan my visits home I never really think of the consequences of them being there (Austin), and me being here (Pleasanton).  What I look forward to is the being together, that is what I crave when I'm across the ocean, but as we get older and our goals go separate ways, I find us ready to be scattered in a more definite scary kind of way. And it's not something I am usually prepared for. When I visualize home I see us all together, sort of like childhood memories but with a surreal Texan background.  But after I get off the airplane and am picked up by 2 instead of 5, it all becomes real.  We are never going to live in the same city again. It just isn't possible. But I block that out when I leave and every time I get excited for a new trip home, I think of seeing all of them and how wonderful it is, but that's just not really what happens.

And it all comes down to growing up being le suck.
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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

In Boston

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I'm in Boston for a little visit to my friends.  I will most definitely be updating you all on my most recent adventure though Vienna, Budapest and Prague, but for the moment I am just hanging out and enjoying the great times in Boston!

I've been riding around in a bright orange Jeep blaring MIA out the windows. It has been bliss.
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Friday, August 8, 2008

Reflections on 6 months

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My internship is slowly winding down. I've got a week left to go.  It's been an all around awesome experience that has taught me a lot and given me a bigger view about the internet, working abroad, and marketing in general.  I'm now deciding between finding out more and more about the inner workings of websites and also website design.  I know that I am going to need to be more proficient in design tools to make myself a better and more interesting candidate after next year.  I also know that I want to work in the states for a bit after graduation. 

Working in my second language has been a stressful and rewarding experience.  For 6 months I have constantly doubted myself and even though I know I am doing a good job (and have been told I am doing a good job), I come home feeling on edge and slightly desperate about my situation.  I just don't like feeling like I can't do something and sometimes the French part of my job was making things just out of my reach.  This has also made my French get a lot better, but it has been painful along the way.

It has also been a way for me to understand that I really like being good at what I do. I like owning my projects and taking the lead on them.  I want to be brilliant at what I do, and I think for that reason I am going to work in my maternal language for awhile.

I remember when I was in classes in the fall and I was constantly all like "when I'm on coop I'm gonna have so much free time", but here on my last week I can promise you that I have not had that much free time.  Or maybe I have had that time, but I haven't used it to my advantage, but seriously with the dollar falling short to the euro and my energy being vampired by French; I really don't know how I could have done better. 

And yet, and yet, I feel like there is still so much to be done, and somehow wrapped up in all of it that I have failed to get my share of it all.  That I failed to get really into the mess and beating heart of Paris.

Maybe deep down in all of this I feel like I was supposed to like Paris more than I do,  that I feel like my failure is in liking Lyon and Reims better than the capital of France.  I used to think that I liked living in big cities, but now I see that I like the smaller neighborhood feel of Boston and Lyon. The green spaces,  the easy navigation, and the comfort of not feeling lost in the mess. 

All in all I must say that I have had a wonderful time living in the Penthouse.  We have made a great run,  cooked a lot of delicious things and had a ton of good laughs.  I wouldn't give up our lazy days at home for anything. 

But I'm ready for Reims :-).

ps. This was all brought on by me wanting to go to this restaurant and it being closed for summer vacation. It made me realize ... there is a time limit to things.
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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Really wanting a new necklace...

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Where I'm From

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Where are you from?

It's one of the first questions people ask you when you are first introduced, especially now that I am living in France as soon as my accent is detected and my origins need to be confirmed. I usually struggle with this question and oddly my answer usually tends to be Texas.  Why Texas you might ask? I know I grew up in Ohio and honestly that is where I have lived a great deal of my short life, but it honestly doesn't feel like home anymore.  Because, for me, home is where the people I love are.  I haven't really spent much time in Ohio since I was 15, and it is hard for me to really connect with it anymore.  Since then, I lived in France for a year, went back to Ohio for a year, went to Boston for 3 years for school, and the last year I've been living in France and will live here for another year.  But when I go home on vacation I usually am going to Texas, as my parents and sisters live there so for me that seems to be a definition of home. 

But honestly, I'm not really from Texas, I don't share the local accent, my Texan culture is zero to none - I don't even know the Texan pledge of allegiance, and I have only spent time in Austin and the San Antonio region.  But  saying I still am from Ohio, while my family is in Texas (living and loving), makes me feel farther apart from them than I already am.  My Texan compromise is my way of holding a shred of normalcy in my life.  It's my way of still being a part of my family.  It's my way of gluing together the disparity that is my life and my family's life. 
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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Today whilst writing a tutorial at work. . .

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I came upon this.  I had written it in my calendar when my parents were thinking about coming to visit then.  Now it's just my two sisters, but I am still really really excited. It was such a good thing to fall upon.

And it brightened my morning.




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Friday, July 11, 2008

Being in Castles

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Last weekend, we went to visit the Castles in the Loire Valley.  Castles are weird.  In one awkward place, the Chateau de Rigny-'Ussé, they had set up reenactment of the Sleeping Beauty story because evidently this was the castle that inspired Perrault to write the story.  It was terrifying.  I used to be really afraid of this episode of Are you afraid of the Dark? where the girl get sucked into a large dollhouse.  I remember having nightmare about that and so being in this castles you felt like you were in a bad dream, I would almost go as far out to say nightmare ... but it was just so damn amusing.   

Most of the castles even had current photos of the families that own them, I think the pictures are meant to put you are ease, but honestly they sort of made me feel weird, like I was peeking into a window I wasn't supposed to look in.  At the end of the day you have walked into these peoples homes and granted my house doesn't have 50 bedrooms, or ornate ballrooms... but still sometimes people still live in them. 

We had taken a car for the weekend to easily bump from castle to castle.  We went to Chambord which has 365 fireplaces in it.  It was really enormous.  I think there are 400 rooms all in all.  Can you imagine that! And it was designed to be a mere hunting lodge.  We took loads of selftimer photos. Which was pretty great.

We also got to use my Polaroid Land Camera and the results were pretty good.  But try to be awkward and ask foreigners to take a picture using my camera, and you get curious stares and raised eyebrows.  No matter what I said people would not get close enough to us.  I would try to coax them along, but nothing seemed to be able to entice them to get a little closer.  I was like NO, REALLY C'MON PLEASE... etc but to no avail.  And then the viewfinder is a little off and so it was an awkward photo taken when the "volunteer" photographers tried to center the photo.  There are numerous photos with only one arm seemingly deattached from a missing body.
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Friday, July 4, 2008

Leaving Paris

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Before today I felt indecisive.  I had started to unfold my days and weeks of Paris and look at them, one by one. They were spread out to see in my mind's eye, a simple map of how I had spent my last few months in Paris.  I had begun to ask myself, querying if I had seen what I wanted, participated enough, and connected with those whom I wanted to connect with.  I'm winding down to six weeks left in Paris and I'm was beginning to face the reality of being done and (before today) the possibility of going home, back to Boston and within six months joining the full time workforce.

I started to get nervous. I started to panic. It was upon realizing how much more I wanted to do, and how many more things there were actually to do that I knew (for sure, for sure) that I wanted to stay.  Before then I had tittered between the possibility of going home and things being easier, but as the idea of being unable to stay took hold I knew that it was not what I wanted to do.  Indeed, it seemed as far away from what I wanted as it could possibly be.

But now I know I'm staying. My classes are passed, and my future more certain. More importantly I know that I have more time, and more time to really get what I want done.  This month every weekend seems to be packed and so I'm starting to come to terms with the fact that 12 more months is really only 52 weekends (and less even since school years aren't really 12 months) and however long that sounds it is still so so so short. 

Either way, I signed a lease today in a cafe on the Champs Elysees. Amidst the Gucci and Louis Vuitton clad, the tourists, and the shopping I took a risk and signed before I knew that I was even staying. I took a leap of faith and at the end I secured us our apartment.

In a few weeks we will be going to Ikea to furnish the place, we will stock up on mustard, pickles, and sultan beds! It will be AMAZANT!
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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Going Vegan

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I'm on day two doing a  food regrouping / life thoughts / diet-starting  cleanse.  I had had it in my hat for a few weeks now, mulling over which one to do and sort of in general noticing that I've gained weight and needed to do something that would be a good/big change in my eating patterns.  I didn't want to do this stupid cleanse, but instead wanted to embark upon something that would be healthy and not something I would be starving on since I do work 5 days a week.  Luckily one of my favorite bloggers got inspired by this famous African American woman, and wrote about it.  Not being in the US tends to leave me shielded from the lastest fad diet ;-).

So I am officially doing a 14 day (I reduced the time to be more realistic ;-) but I may continue  if I like it) cleanse and so will not be eating sugar, drinking anything with caffiene or alcohol (well see how this goes), and also following a vegan/ gluten free diet.

So now you may be asking... what will she be eating?  Well thankfully my roommate is Indian and brings to the table a ton of vegan recipes, and all my roommates really like to cook so that leads us into looking around the internets for fun and interesting recipes that taste like slices of heaven! So far we've found this one, and a ton of others here, and so these next two weeks will be full of adventure.

We went to the organic store yesterday and ordered a "panier de legumes" which is similar to a CSA subscription (I wrote my Middler year thesis on this) and so for 12 euros we will be receiving 4 days worth of veg for 2 people for 12 euros. So we are pretty pumped to see what is coming to us on Thursday!


Yesterday, I had an aching caffiene headache, and today it has slightly lightened up, but I'm determined to get to bed earlier and see it through. 


I'll leave you with 3 of our current favorite things: lentil salad and beet salad with a yogurt sauce.


Lentil Goodness:
-1 can of lentils (drain but don't rinse)
- fresh cut up chives
- sea salt to taste
- cashews a good handful/ more depending on how many lentils.
*mix this all together and enjoy on pita bread or with rice cakes (gluten free) 

Beet yum factory:
-3 good sized already-boiled beets (they should be cold)
-1/2 medium sized red onion
- a good handful of shredded carrot or cucumber
- olive oil and balsamic vinegar to taste
- sea salt to taste
- peanuts are great if you have them (optional)
- feta if you want some cheese in there
* like the other salad this is great with pita bread or rice cakes. 

Yogurt sauce:
-2 individual cartons of yogurt
-1/4 medium sized red onion
- finely shredded cucumber
- sea salt to taste
* mix it up and serve it with the two salads.

We tend to make them at the same time and enjoy a little taste of each which makes our meals less boring and so delicious.  It also is great because they don't involve any cooking and so you can get home and whip some "leafless" salads. Try mixing different ingredients, as we find have found our salads are never the same, we ending up using whatever is in the fridge. Also since the yogurt sauce isn't vegan (you could substitute soy yogurt) you don't have to add it on.
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Saturday, June 14, 2008

The End of the World

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Last night I went to the End of the World. Fin du Monde (End of the World in French) is the last big party of the year for my school.  It's also the night that the new BDE (student council/party planners/awesome group of people) take their place of power (officially called the passation de pouvoir).  And it's also the last night that some of us will see each other.  So I went to this party pretty much planning on working it whether it be bartending, turning sausages on the bbq or helping drunk kids into buses because after midnight, Melting Pote (my BDE group) took the reins of CESEM.  All in all it was a pretty crazy night with people dancing, going à poil, and partying to the early light of the morning (6am was the last bus to leave). 

All of this took place about an hour outside of Reims, in a huge fort, which means that after work on Friday I went directly to the train station to get to Reims and then took the last bus (because as a Mper I was obligated to codirect the buses).  When we got there is was obvious that people were a little trashed because they had been partying since 7pm and I got there around 11h00ish.

We were serving drinks out of bucket. It was pretty disgusting.  You would take 4 cartons of apple juice and the just start adding vodka to taste (yes, we had to do a first bucket taste before serving).  Then we would just dip cups in to serve.  I'm pretty sure we broke 4,000 health code violations last night whilst producing some of the most foul tasting cocktails I've ever tasted. 

There was also a bbq.  Thank goodness I'm a vegetarian so I was not even tempted to taste some of the disgusting creations that came off the grill.  My roommates told me they kept being served partially raw franks ( these were not typical ball park dogs . . .these were legitimate sausages...meaty, meaty sausages).  I remember just walking by  and there being lots of fire and smoke.

My roommate and I had decided that we would be martyrs and take the 2h30 bus back to Reims (the BDE had arranged buses between Reims and the fort) and since it took an hour to get there and then we had to come back (to help clean) so we would be missing out on  near two and a half hours of prime party time.  We reflected on this and decided it would be a prime time to sneak in a mid-party nap.  We lucked out on the way there and only had one person vomit (IN A BAG :-) and on the retour we slept.

When we got back we definitely found out that we had missed some interesting happenings at the party.  There were people on the ground, our friend in the back of an ambulance and people sleeping in random places. 

One of the responsibilites that our BDE has when we take over is the pleasure of cleaning up after the party.  MadMix planned it and MeltingPote cleaned up after it.  And let me tell you picking up thousands of cups after a 700 person student party is not fun.  And "not fun" is a gross understatement.  We started cleaning at 4 am and weren't totally finished when we left (I had a train to catch) at 8 am.  We swept, mopped, and held our breath as we started to clean up and deal with the armageddon that had occurred. 

It's quite surreal to pick up hundreds of small white cups as the sky wrinkles between shades of night into early morning. 

Also, I've come to the conclusion that students are some of the most disgusting creatures I have seen

Even if it was a lot of work, I'm proud of the Melting Potes, we came together, and worked hard.  We arrived as a team, played hard as a team, and cleaned as a team.  I've had my doubts throughout the year as we learned more and more what we would have to do more next year, but now my doubts are starting to flicker away.  I've always said that the MadMix is comprised of a group of extraordinary humans, but I'm pretty sure that some bits of extraordinary are roving throughout my group. To conclude...I'm pretty excited for next year!
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Friday, June 13, 2008

Something that may change this year's election. . .

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Dear Lana,

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Dear Lana,

I wish you all the luck in the world on your test tomorrow. I think you will do brilliantly. On one part because you have been studying your tail off for the last 3 months and the other because you are so
damn smart.

I think you will be an amazing doctor and Med schools are going to be begging to let you into their schools, because you really kickass, speak three languages and are one of the best friends I could have. I think my personal opinion of you trumps all because I adore you, dear girl.

Also, I'm particularly convinced that it doesn't even matter what the results are after tomorrow, because you will do great things no matter what title comes at the end of your name! What really matters will be
the adventures we have and the great memories that come from them.

So Miss Lana, I wish you tons of luck and I will be sending good thoughts your way.

Best of luck, lots of love, and tons of good wishes.

Your best friend,
Brittany



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New mobile, photo-blogging app hits iPhone

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TypePad got some great coverage at the Apple Keynote.  Pretty great stuff, makes me think my next phone will be an iPhone :-). Right ... Mom and Dad?

Video: New mobile, photo-blogging app hits iPhone - CNET News.com


In other matters, have you seen the revamped twitter feeds Frankenhoodie and I have installed on the blog?

I think they are fantastic.






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Saturday, June 7, 2008

Days in Paris

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The ladies of the Penthouse and I watched the movie 2 days in Paris the other day, and we really enjoyed it.  At first I was hesitant, the cover looked a bit too colorful, and the reviews a little too forced, but we were looking for a comedy because The Diving Bell and the Butterfly looked a little too- how you say- "heavy", for a night after a full day of work. 

The female lead, Marion, is a photographer and one of the cameras she uses is a polaroid. I'm newly obsessed with taking polaroid pictures (check out this project everyday polaroid) after a. Frankenhoodie gave me my own polaroid and b. I found a Polaroid Land  Camera.  -brief side note on my land camera. . . I found it in the famous St. Ouen Marché des Puces after mentioning that morning that I really wanted another polaroid (vintage, because I'm lame) and just after going through the market we came upon it at the last stand for a mere 15 euros (I haggled the man down - of course - in FRENCH!) From then on I went to purchase the ridiculously expensive film (that makes me feel badass because I have to go buy it at the professional polaroid store) and reworked the battery.  Now the only things that are stopping me from taking amazingly cute photos are grey days and the flash kit that I need to buy. I digress.

But anyways, back to the point. The argument between the couple is that the boyfriend Jack is not the photographer, but is always taking photos as a way to escape from the moment.  Marion notes that if you are behind a camera how can you really see what is happening, you are taking a analytical look at a natural moment.  So what brought this on was the fact that I just uploaded a bunch of photos and I can't help but remark during some of the best times I've had, come the smallest amount of photos. 

When you're in the moment everything is so gloriously wonderful that is doesn't matter if you aren't capturing it with lenses and a memory card, because you don't need to.  The moment you step behind the camera you leave. You leave as you need to steady your hand, check the flash, and get everyone together, but you loose what was really happening and are left with only shadows of what was. 

At this point, I have nearly 2,000 photos on flickr and I wouldn't trade them for anything - because let's be honest, sometimes you need a shadow to give your memory lines to color within. 

Read this really great interview with Julie Delphy about the film.
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Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Asthma Attackers!

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Hello all.   A few weeks ago myself and two friends decided that we'd start a band. We named ourselves the Asthma Attackers and then, in the true spirit of the 21st century, we made a myspace before we made any music. We hadn't even listened to each other play but on the internet we were serious business.  It became sort of a hobby to watch how many individuals viewed our page (still is) and wonder how they had ended up there. 

However, even as the counter struck 200 we still had no friend requests.  So, in an effort to draw in all those lost souls that have viewed our page and not deemed that love-able dog (look at the site) as friend worthy I have posted a sampler of our music.  Now, it's very rough and it's a cover so it's really not the asthma attackers but it's music and that dog is so damn cute.  So, the long and short of it is friend us... now?

Asthma Attackers!



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Estelle - American Boy

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I hate that I like this song. But it's so damn catchy. I'm currently humming it. Gah.

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Tuesday, June 3, 2008

création : le blog de la création: Weezer vs YouTube: la revanche des nerds

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Even if you can't read the text the youtube clips in this post are synonymous with some of the best things on the web.  I will never forget the first time I saw "shoes" and laughed hysterically at it for a week.  The deep voice of the 70 kid that sings, "Purple Rain" never ceases to pull me in with his rich baritone (honestly it's like richer than rich :-)

So check out the link and don't mind the French.
création : le blog de la création: Weezer vs YouTube: la revanche des nerds
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Monday, June 2, 2008

Olympics = Murder!

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Kitty Genocide!



This year the Olympics are taking place in Beijing and it seems like everyone is protesting.  Why?  Well, there is the whole free Tibet issue, the pollution issue and the fact that Chinese are now performing genocide on cats (strays and non-strays) in an attempt to clean up for the summer games.  That's where I draw the line.  No Olympics for me (not that I was going or anything). 



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Friday, May 30, 2008

Home | Cooking With Rockstars

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Social Media in Plain English by Common Craft

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Registering for NU Classes

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I got an email two days ago, and I had to read it twice.  The first time my eyes kind bugged out of my head as I tried to comprehend what it said and what it meant both literally and conceptually.  The second time I read it I just felt nauseous. 

From my school:
"... I just wanted to send you a quick e-mail to remind you that registration for Fall 2008 classes is well underway.  I know that some of you are still debating whether to stay for the dual degree or not, but it may be wise to register for classes and drop them once you decide.  By the end of the week the Dean will be reviewing course enrollments and cancelling sections that have low enrollment.  This means that your options will be more limited (or sections will be full) if you wait."


I'm waiting on the results of two classes and it looks like I will be waiting till maybe mid-July.  So I did what I felt I needed to do: I complied.  But every part of me felt that it was wrong to do, this idea of "being safe" of "preparing for the worst" makes me want to die.  It makes me feel like a failure or that I'm planning on failing and for the record, I'm not, I'm not ready to call it quits.  I'm not ready to leave France.

I'm ready to stay for a second year, to improve my French and attack that 100 page memoir.  I'm crossing my fingers and hoping for the best.

Even if I miss so many things about home, Boston and Edwin; I'm just not ready to go back.
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If you like Lost

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My good friend Matt passed this along to me. . .

It is so funny that I nearly died.

For all of you in the States tonight enjoy the finale! I'M SO JEALOUS!
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To have and have not

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For the first time in my life, I am disappointed with myself and reading.  I am a reader.  I love books and they play an integral part of my life.  I remember when I was a little girl, I would sleep with books under my pillow - reading until late into the night and then reading first thing in the morning.  I would devour books so much that my mom refused to buy them for me because I would finish them within the day, and she sent me packing along to the library where I fell even more in love with reading. 

I'm such a book nerd that I convinced my friends in Paris to do a book club, and so we began - each of us excited to share a book.  We were reading on the metro, the bus, the train and in parks around Paris; all working to finish the same book.  It was fascinating.

But being on my internship takes up a lot of time and sometimes I ended up just plain tired, and I was also trying to read four books at the same time. . . and so I failed. For the first time ever, I was the one who didn't finish my book.  I was the one who hadn't gotten through it all.  I remember in high school when we were assigned book I would have them read a week in advance. 

But I did eventually finish and I didn't do the book justice.  I think I was thrown off by the boat scenes, the fishing, and sometimes that plain violence in the book.  They say Hemingway writes things in a very clear and descriptive manner and he does so much that some of the scenes were utterly graphic.  If you have read this book, you cannot deny that you didn't feel his arm hurting after it was shot.  I was near sick when I read that scene. 

We had our first book club meeting and it was good.  Next meeting is next week, we will be going over Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land (which I loved ;-).
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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Purple Violets

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Purple Violets: the idea of being the same, but not, and also a wonderful film by Ed Burns. The premise of the movie is 4 friends  find each other after twelve years and they find that they are mere shadows of the color they once were as in Purple and Violet.

It's what we become, each year or interaction adding or taking away from us - from what we want to be or are.  Molding us into something entirely new, but keeping within ourselves, within who we are.  We change and grow, but are never entirely different nor the same.

Every time I see a friend from my year abroad, I am astonished to see how we are like cookie cutouts ourselves.  We started one way, but after baking came out entirely different.  The 5 years that have left us shadows of our young selves, but now older, open in a different way, but still open. 

I saw one of my closest friends from when I lived in France  this weekend and it was good.  She was the girl who would swim in public fountains with me and leap to a day at the cinema, seeing movie after movie and eating popcorn after popcorn.  You share a lot when you are young and alone.

It felt good to hang out this weekend.  I was totally comfortable, sitting, being and listening.  We biked in the rain for 12 km and it was glorious.  We remarked how we are too old to ride carnival rides without thinking of falling.

Everytime I meet one of my exchange friends, we talk about our year.  We talk about looking back at how terrifying it was.  How it's like living with an ulcer for a year - terrified that you are going to make a mistake and make someone unhappy or that for one mistake they will send you home.  How how much our parents must have trusted us and believed in us to let us go and live in the homes of total strangers.  How independant we became and how dependant we became on each other. That year was defined by so many good things, like the friendship we share and the inherent openness we share, because we know that it's hard to make friends and be alone.   We are now all scattered across the world, and we are; we are so many things.  We are going to be so many things, and connect with so many people, but still we share something, something that is ever the elephant in corner of my mind.

It took special people to decide at that young of age to go abroad alone.  I'm glad they are still in my life.


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Thursday, May 8, 2008

I love holidays

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The French are notorious for their holidays.  I always knew that August was a crazy month for holidays, but never did I realize that the entire month of May is absolutely filled with days off.  It's wonderful.

Not that I don't like going to work.  I'm pretty obsessed with my internship, ok, I'm totally obsessed with my internship.  But still having to go to work only 2-3 days of the week is fantastic.  Today we slept in and awoke to a Paris still in tune with the most beautiful weather ever.

It is glorious.

You know what else is glorious? Commuting by bike.  I think I have mentioned velib before and how it is the most wonderful system ever.  I have my metro card that I signed up for a membership for my navigo on and so my metro and navigo card are one in the same - fantastic.  I can go up to any stand at any moment and just grab a bike to go and then when I'm done/tired/bored I can just put it back anywhere in the city. 

It takes me about 30 minutes to get to work by bike and honestly they are some of the most perfect 30 minutes I spend each day. On the way home if I get stuck at a light, I can look up and take in an amazing "Paris moment" as Sacre Coeur looks directly down at me and my only option is to pedal toward it.

These days I cringe at the sight of the metro.


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Sunday, May 4, 2008

Ending Sundays

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Its midnight and I should be sleeping.  But for some reason I can't will myself to shut my eyes and end such a lovely day.  Sundays are beautiful.  Paris is starting to become a balmy sanctuary and I am starting to adore it even more. Let's face it; I'm smitten with Paris.

It all started on Friday.  Convinced by my roommate that my head would explode if I studied any longer I took the evening off, got my eyebrows threaded and went on a bike ride with an end destination of Le Kitch. Le Kitch has an amazing drink called the Shrek, a green and goopy refreshing ogre like substance, but wonderfully frozen and oh so tasty.  Its like a frozen mojito.  We are currently so obsessed with them that we went back on Saturday for happy hour.  Nothing beats $5 Shreks on a warm day.  And it had been a wonderfully warm day where we studied in the park and then went for more bike rides on velibs. I had 3 Shreks! We then took our bikes and rode to Sacre Coeur to watch the sunset, but our Shreks had made us a little slow and we missed the sunset, we sat on the hillside anyway; because one doesn't need a reason to admire the Paris skyline. 

Oh Sunday brunch, how I love thee. My favorite day of the week/ meal is Sunday brunch.  Today was divine.  The sun was shining and we went to a new place.  I love new places. Something about finding a place that plays fun music, is on the canal and has a delicious veggie bagel sandwich makes my week. And even though I had to come home and study after brunch, the windows being all open and the sunlight streaming in the apartment made it ok. Made me realize that I should be indoors anyways because I burn lobster red if I'm out for too long.  So brunch made do.  I got my RDA of biking, sun and delicious food in. . . all at once and all with friends. 

We had Indian delight for dinner and then one of my favorite desserts: fruit pizza.

Now its time for bed and tomorrow I have to wake up study some more and go take my test.  Somewhere in the back of my head I'm reasoning that if I don't fall asleep tomorrow won't happen and I won't have to end my perfect Sunday (even if it might be monday already). I've got 6 more hours in Texas. Denial is one of the most innocent states of being.

I could deny Monday forever.
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Thursday, May 1, 2008

IBWE 2008: Shalalalaa

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Last weekend I went on an adventure of grandiose proportion: IBWE 2008.  IBWE stands for International Business Weekend and is meant as a way for students from across partner schools to gather together, have a great time and interact through sports/team spirit and to win the Coup d'Ambiance.



The trajectory:   
Thursday: Paris, France -> Reims, France -> (small stop in Luxembourg to pick up Germans) Frankfort, Germany -> Kerry, Ireland -> Cork, Ireland



Monday: BACK!



On Thursday night, my roommates and I grabbed our assorted luggage and sent ourselves back to Reims to go to one of the only clubs in Reims, Soa.  What transpired after was both hilarious and exhausting.  We took the 45 minute TGV back to our wonderful oasis of Reims and were welcomed by a committee of our student council.   They made us sing songs, cheered for us and were downright amazing.  Then we went to the club and it was so much fun to see everyone and partake in old jokes and make new ones! We danced, laughed, and had a fantastic time.  Then it was 3 am and time to load up on the bus to get to the Frankfort airport.  Because you know it is always necessary to go to Frankfort to get to Ireland if you are starting from Paris.



Friday, we continued our 12ish hours of traveling and got to our destination Trabolgan (an Irish camping resort) and the festivities began!  Every year it is the tradition for each school to have a relay team to get to the IBWE destination.  It is an amazing endeavor that takes a ton of work and also a great level of dedication to coordinate, find sponsorship for and  actually partake in (I'm planning on participating next year).  Our team was amazing and they brought spirit, a sense of fun and an overall surprise to this year's relay!  They had told everyone they would be swimming to Ireland (of course they didn't) but they biked to Bretagne and back and then went on the journey with us.   But then once we got to IBWE they went off and later we found out that they were arriving by BOAT!  They had rented a boat and came in with a wondrously glorious entrance on top of waves and overall with undoubted panache.



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We have a school haka.  Inspired by the All Blacks and a bit by Missy Elliot . . we have a school haka that we all get together and grunt, yell, whoop and smack our arms to in unison.  I have never been a great possessor of school spirit, but IBWE seems to bring out something in me that gets me gloriously spirited.  I was wearing my gaulois horns the entire weekend, rarely ever took off my gaulois sweatshirt and t-shirt, and sang la Marseillaise as loud as the next person.



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Friday night was the video competition.  You can see ours below.  I can promise you it is class. Watch them both.  It is a part 1, part 2 kind of deal.








One friday night, the theme party was "childhood heros".  My penthouse roomies and I had got to thinking the week before that it might be AWESOME to dress up as the Teenage Mutant Ninja turtles.  I
can promise you it was.  I was Donatello, the smart one ;).  The night was so much fun, we danced, posed, did ninja kicks and had a wonderfully excellent time.



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Day two brought teaching the French a thing or two about the favorite American pastime: Flipcup.  That night the party was a headphone disco.  We got to switch between two competing DJ's as they worked through their mixes and we worked through our mixers. 



Sunday morning were the sports competitions and our own Penthouse Ciara scored a goal for the ladies soccer team! Woot!  It was also the time we did an amazing group haka. . .in true All Black's style to intimidate the Old Boys volleyball team!  That night was a pirate party! I have never laughed so hard trying to pose with my roommates like we were in a boat or whilst sword fighting.   We didn't win the Coup d'Ambiance, but we definitely put in our best effort.



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That morning I woke up to get on our 6am bus, still a little buzzed from the night before. . . and still dancing.



Next year, I am on the committee to plan IBWE, and I have got to admit we have our work cut out for us.  I have never seen a group of 200 drunken international students been corralled cross countries and to different events... flawlessly.  This year's BDE, MadMix, has done amazing work, and I can honestly say I'm proud to have been able to see them do such a great job.  We like to say they are superhumans, but even more I just think they are just superbly wonderful, kind and extraordinary people. 



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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Yesterday's Natalie Dee

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Be Kind Rewind

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I saw Be Kind Rewind tonight. The movie with Mos Def and Jack Black.  I'm not going to lie; I was full out belly laughing through most of it.  In a kind of awkward the Euros aren't getting all the great jokes kind of way- like breaking glass in a funeral. It was so funny.

The premise being that Jack Black's character is magnetized because of a sabotages attack gone wrong and so he blanks an entire vhs collection of an already doomed rental store.

There were good throwbacks in the movie and hilarious awkward moments.

I really enjoyed it.


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Saturday, April 12, 2008

Bikes in Reims

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We really want to get bikes for next.  As three of us are toying with the idea to spend our second year in Reims, France the idea of settling down and in seems to be going around in all our heads.

When we came last semester we came with an air of uncertainty, the knowledge that we would be splitting our time between Reims and Paris; thus moving 6 months through.  There was also the uncertainty of staying for the second year: we asked ourselves, "would we stay?, would we pass?, would we want to?". As exam results came in last week we  answered "would we pass?" and now are faced with the remaining two questions.

I want a bike, so does that indirectly mean I want to stay?  I like the idea of biking around Reims, just small enough to not be killed by traffic, and just small enough to not be a taxing endeavor .  Staying for the second year means things are going to heat up scholastically.  We will have a 80-100 page thesis due, a 20 page report on our internship, and a new battery of seemingly impossible exams.  But I also have our student council group to look forward to, the optimization of French skills, and also a chance to avoid a December graduation.

All in all it also comes back to: "Do I want to go back to Boston?"
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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Visitors

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I love when people visit. It really makes me happy that people have come to see me this year.  My first visitor was my friend Laura (a best buddy from Boston) who I met up with when I went to Lyon.  She is a school friend/old roommate/adored individual.  Followed closely by little Chelsey, who adventured around Paris and Barcelona with me with a great amount of flair and fun on bikes and on public transport.  Then Lana came who brought bagels and happiness and very importantly scrabble!  On her heels were Krista and then Vincent - two friends from my year in Lyon.

It's nuts how many people you connect with in the various adventures in life.  When I was little my mom used to always get mad at me because I would have new "best friends" every other week. I was known for bringing a friend home a bunch of times and then finding someone else and doing the exact same thing.  But one thing is for sure, no matter where I have been I always have my close friend - my friend I can count on, can make any joke too and also have a good time with whatever the circumstances.  Luckily even though I've gone to a few different schools in my life and met a lot of new people I still keep in contact with my favorite people from each step of my life.

Because I believe you should hold onto the good things. I believe that you should keep in contact religiously with the people who matter most and who also have a good sense of humor and witty social commentary.  Whether it be dropping in a christmas card or shooting over an email nothing feels better than knowing that you are connected with a group of amazing people who like literary terms as much as you do.

I was video chatting with Lana tonight and I realized that I hadn't uploaded our photos from her visit.  I was so glad to see her and it was a really awesome visit :).  Her photos made me think of how great my friends are.
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Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The best hour I ever lost

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Since Sunday, I feel like I have been living. Since Sunday I haven't stopped smiling. Since Sunday there has been sunlight.  I got out of work today and there was still sunlight at 7 pm just till about 830 - there was wonderful light streaming through the windows.

I feel like things are so wonderful; that nothing can go wrong. It gives me perspective, hope and makes me feel glorious all at the same time.

I never realized that I was feeling down until I started feeling this good.
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Saturday, March 29, 2008

A way to spend a glamorous saturday night in Paris

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CChip Zuc Bread:


Makes 2 loaves

You’ll need: 

  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • a treat wouldn't be a treat without chocolate
Preparation:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, shift flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder, salt and sugar together.

In a separate bowl whip eggs until foamy, add in oil and follow with zucchini and vanilla. Mix wet ingredients into dry until well combined. Fold in cchips.

Divide batter equally in 2 standard greased loaf pans. Bake for 45 min - 1 hour or until a tester comes out clean. Alternatively, bake in 5 mini loaf pans for about 45 minutes or 24 muffin tins for 20-25 minutes.


http://hookedinamsterdam.wordpress.com/2008/03/10/great-aunt-fridas-zucchini-bread/


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Running

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My roommate and I have started running. It all started with a dreary Saturday morning in Paris and ended with a 35 minute run on the banks of the Seine. Not bad for scenery, right? I felt marvelous as my legs kicked into stride, and even though it was a slow jog it made me feel wonderful. It's what being alive and part of the winter thaw is all about.  The stretching my legs after months of being cooped inside because of the cold, is so amazing.

I used to be a self-proclaimed anti-runner, but last summer as I decided to loose a bit of weight; I jumped on the  bandwagon.  More like I huffed, puffed and trudged onto the bandwagon, but I got running. I lived next to this adorable little park in Boston called The Fenway and it was so nice to be able to do a couple laps around the park and mosey on home.  In Paris, we're obligated to go out and find a place to run as our neighborhood isn't the ideal place for hitting the pavement.

First day out, we did the Seine near Notre Dame and then the next time we did the Tuileries in front of the Louvre and also the first part of the Champs Elysée. Today, we tackled the canal area, running past Republique et all the way to Bastille. It was nice and the Canal is going to be great in the summer. And by great I really mean AMAZING - all caps, full on.

Running has become a great way to see the city. We've found new nooks each time we've been out. Though we look pretty hot doing it. And by hot I mean NOT AT ALL. We look like New Jersey housewives with our cropped capris, oversized t-shirts and puffed vest. As we schelp around the streets of Paris where everyone looks gorgeous in every shade of black imaginable, we can only laugh at ourselves and how awful we must look - but whatever it's always a good time.

We are thinking of running a 10k. This could get messy, but hey - as long as messy includes loosing a few pounds; I'm prepared. :)
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Monday, March 24, 2008

Another Northeastern News Article

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This is another thing I wrote for the Northeastern News; it was published today. Enjoy!
Editor's note: This letter was submitted before Easter and therefore discusses the holiday in the future tense.  
I've been a practicing vegetarian for nearly three years, but this year for Easter I will be, strangely enough, roasting a rack of lamb. Call it tolerance, call it bad luck or even call it homesickness. Somewhere between 11:30 p.m. and midnight Thursday my roommates and I decided we needed to have an Easter meal for our group of friends abroad here in Paris, and that of course included: a rack of lamb.

I'm not even religious, but I still get excited when I see splendorous holiday tchotchies lining the windows near each appropriate holiday. Oh yes, holiday delight is international, so there is never a worry about missing junk decorations (that, let's be honest, make us all smile inside).


This isn't the first dinner we've had in the sheer name of keeping things together and familiar. Last November, 35 of our collective friends gathered into my bedroom (cleared of all furniture and replaced with tables and chairs from various apartments) and gave thanks - some for the first time.  
That night we created something powerful, something a bit bigger than ourselves, as we gathered together on such a traditionally American holiday. One of the guys got to cut the turkey for the first time - a job typically reserved for the patriarch of his family.

A lot of times we've laughed at the idea of our expatriate community and the fact that we are pulling something together for the sake of normalcy that you get only when you smell your mom's best dish cooking in the oven. Yet, holiday after holiday, we are seen piecing together something our mothers and grandmothers would be proud of, searching for that same feeling we scoff at when we are feeling brave and a bit more removed.

No one wants to admit they are homesick. I haven't been home for Easter in four years, so I am not new to slightly burnt entrees and less-than-traditional presentations at the novice dinner table, but even so, I still wish I could spend every single holiday with my family.I guess you could say I've been slightly homesick for almost four years at this point.

It's a dull ache you deal with and sometimes you even roast a rack of lamb to numb it.

- Brittany Blackmon is an international business major on co-op in Paris. She is also the worst vegetarian ... ever.


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