Wednesday, October 29, 2008

How my school ruined Halloween

Leave a Comment
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.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

We make Party in Germany

Leave a Comment
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.

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 ;-).


Thursday, October 9, 2008

My Philosophy

Leave a Comment
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 :

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. . .

Thursday, October 2, 2008

A MAAAAAAAAH kinda week

Leave a Comment
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.


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.