26 May 2011

The Full Story: Day Three

Traveling to Prague involved two very, very bad ideas.We were in for a six hour train ride. Luckily there were very few people in the compartment the entire length of the journey. Somehow, I couldn't fall asleep. I read The Protector's War by SM Stirling and watched the countryside pass me by out of the window.

Now for the bad ideas. Number one, not eating enough breakfast. Second, writing the directions to the hostel down in my notebook instead of finding somewhere to print a map. Herp. Derp.

The train we were on did not have an eating car, so from 8AM until 4PM I had a piece of bread, nutella, a banana, and some water in my stomach. This would not have been so bad if we were able to go straight to the hostel. Unfortunately, my not-so-brilliant sense of direction led us in the wrong direction for about an hour. I was a mess. Hunger, fatigue, and frustration set in and my friend had to lead us through Prague and ask an Asian student, who luckily spoke a little English, for directions. We arrived by 5PM and when the receptionist saw me she immediately asked what was wrong and offered me a banana to eat. Not everyone hates Americans.

After settling down for ten minutes, we got a map, I made a call to my dad, and we were on our way to the souvenir shop to pick up our concert tickets for the next day. Everything was better from then on. I had half a pizza for dinner. After that we went sight-seeing. We walked across the Charles Bridge and up to the Old Prague Castle. The view from the latter is magnificent; one can see the entire city as well as ruins of a military fortress.

After our sight-seeing, we went out for a real, Czech budweiser beer at a restaurant across the street from our hostel. It came on-tap as a 0.5L glass. I barely scratched the surface on mine. After that, we went to a kebab place and shared some fries with mayonaise. The "guy behind the counter" was pretty drunk and hit on us. And on that slightly disconcerting note, we ended our night.

25 May 2011

The Full Story: Day Two

We arrived in Munich around noon. Due to my impatience, we did not get off at the main station. We got off the stop before the main station. It was an easily resolved situation, as Germany has local lines that take one to different train stations in the same city and within the region. We arrived at Munich HBH about fifteen minutes later than we were expecting.

Our hostel (called Wombats Youth Hostel) was within three blocks of the main station, very easy to find. The staff had us give up our metro cards in order to get our keys but, they were very nice people. After we acquired a map we set off in search of some cool, but nearby sights. First up was the shopping district. A large pedestrian boulevard leads straight to the Karlsplatz, which is a plaza area plus giant cathedral plus astronomical clock. Next we decided to take the Munich underground to the Olympic park. It was a beautiful area. The park has lanes with room enough for runners and tourists, the training ground for the German olympic swimming team, a giant lake on which one can take their boat, and a hill which gives a bird's-eye view of Munich.

After that, we were pretty exhausted. Heading back to the hostel, we stopped into a small restaurant where I ordered a doner kebab for the first time. It's lamb meat in thick bread, essentially. Most of the time it's served with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and a garlic sauce on the inside. My verdict - delicious! I have become addicted.

We rested up in our room for a while, then decided to embark on a bar-hopping adventure. The hostel was the first leg of the journey, as a ticket for a free drink comes with the price of the room. We sat in the lounge drinking our German beer when we met another American student studying in Spain from the University of Virginia. She spent most of the night attempting to convince us that even though her school was filled with old-money white families, she wasn't one of them. It didn't necessarily work.

We stopped at two bars and a beer garden before the night was over. The night ended with drinking on-tap German beer, sampling four types of sausage, and eating saurkraut. Verdict - German sausage = best sausage.

By this time it was midnight and time to rest up for the next leg of our international trek.

21 May 2011

Checking In

Hello all! I am back in the United States. My sincerest apologies for the unexpected hiatus. My laptop decided to break down on me eight days before my departure. A netbook is now in my possession; hopefully it will last awhile. Starting tomorrow I will make up for lost time as well as, give a little insight into reverse culture shock and my personal experience with it.

05 May 2011

The Full Story: Day One

I began my journey at 9:31 getting on a train to Strasbourg. I thought the train ride would only be three hours long but, I had read the timetables wrong and we would be arriving at 14:30. It wasn't so bad. We were super hungry by the time we got to the train station. We ended up stopping at a sandwich place before finding our hostel. On the way to our lodging, we got lost. The directions indicated that we would see the "Palais de Justice", which at first we couldn't find because we thought we would come across it fairly quickly. The long walk caused us to stop a woman and ask her for directions. Turns out it was the giant building with the green roof straight ahead of us.

After settling in, we walked around in a park area called "Place de la Republique." After that we hopped on the tram to see the headquarters of the European Union. Heading back to the center of the city, two Mormon men hopped on the tram right behind us.

Our next major stop was the cathedral located in the old town. There was a artisan cookie shop on our way there, so we ordered some. I got two chocolate and pistachio cookies and they were delicious. I had a jambon crepe for dinner, as well as my first creme brulee at an Italian restaurant.

When we got back to the hostel, an older French woman was there. She had taken my backpack off my bed and moved it to the desk, and she had set her stuff in my bed instead. Whatever. I just took another one; I didn't really want to start any problems. After getting situated, we spent some time in the hostel bar. Unfortunately, it was closed. No drinks for us. Our night ended around 11 so we could catch the early train the next day.

03 May 2011

Vacation in Photographs

Day 1 - Strasbourg

Strasbourg is located on the French-German border in the Alsace region. It serves as the location for meetings of the European Union, has a beautiful cathedral and touristy old town, and the cleanest rivers I have seen in a French city. We arrived in the afternoon and made our way up to the EU headquarters (right) around 4 pm.

Day 2 - Munich

The above picture is a statue dedicated to John Paul the Second with the Marianplaz in the background. Munich is located in southern Germany, which is heavily Catholic. The city was the site of the 1976 Olympics and is in the running for hosting the 2018 games.

Day 3 - Prague

From where I am standing, the Old Prague Castle is within my line of sight. This picture was taken after my climb up to the top of the hill. It was tiring, but as you can see the view is worth it. You may also notice that I'm wearing a scarf. Turns out that it is pretty cold in the Czech Republic, so I bought it for 100 Kc at a store that was also selling candy and absinthe.

Day 4 - Brno

So basically, the entire point of being in Brno was to see Boyce Avenue at the Carodelas 2011 music festival. I would also say that it was the reason I wanted to go to Germany and the Czech Republic in the first place. After a day of hellish navigation of the Brno tram system and random rain in the afternoon, I finally got to see my new music obsession at 11PM Thursday night, knowing full well that I had to be awake at 5 AM Friday morning. Daniel is on the left, Alejandro is on the right, and Fabien is missing. Two out of three isn't bad. Especially when I was making other Czech fangirls mad by being the American fangirl in the front row.

Day 5 - Berlin

This is the Brandenburg Gate, located near the Tiergarten. The Berlin Wall was constructed directly behind the gate, separating the eastern and western parts of the city. When looking through old photographs of this area as it was 20 years ago, the difference from now is striking. The street leading to the gate is a major shopping and tourist district now, but just before I was born it was abandoned and bleak-looking. Berlin is a great example of how fast people can combine their strengths to come out of the ashes of a violent history.

Day 6 - Berlin

Since we were able to stay another day in Berlin, we decided today would be a good day to see some museums and major sites. We left the hostel around 10:30AM and saw the Parliament building, Soviet Memorial, the Topography of Terror exhibit, a Salvador Dali exhibit, and finally made our way to the Olympic Stadium. I find the concept of the games fascinating. Nations gather to compete in friendly competition despite political turmoil or international rivalries. History has given us lessons in the hypocrisy sometimes associated with the Olympics, but knowing that they continue gives me hope for a stable world.

02 May 2011

Pas Mal

Duration: 45 minutes preparation, 5 minutes staring at a wall, 3 minutes of speaking to the professor.
Number of Questions: One
Confusion Level: Moderate

Today was my exam in foreign literature (yes, vacation was awesome, but those stories will come tomorrow). I drew the slip of paper with the following question: "Robinson Crusoe: adventure novel or a morality book?" It took me the whole time just to write a page and a half worth of answers, but I was not as lost as I thought I would be. I wrote it, then read directly from my notes to the professor. After that, he asked me where I was from, said that he understood that I would have problems explaining myself since French is not my first language. He said I spoke a little fast and that my pronunciation of "chritien(ne)" fell victim to my English habit of saying "christian" but that I was the middle of the other two international students and my answer was good. I'll take it.

24 April 2011

Joyeuse Paques

Today is Easter. Pretty much all I've done today is watch mass on TV and have a three hour lunch. That and get ready for my vacation. I've got everything packed, a list of major sites, a list of decent bars, and all of our train times recorded in the official travel notebook. I won't be around until the first of May. I'll definitely have a lot of exciting train stories and pictures to post. See you in a week!

22 April 2011

My First French Exam

Duration: 20 minutes
Number of questions: Four
Confusion Level: High

I get to room 134. It's me, another international student, and three French women. We go in, sign off on our names, take a white sheet of paper and a pink sheet of paper. There are three questions on the white sheet of paper. Our professor tells us to write however much we can in ten minutes about Italian cinema. I do not write in complete sentences. Then he tells us to stop because he will show us an excerpt from a film. What comes on the screen is the beginning of an NYPD Blue episode. Lucky for me, not so lucky for the Japanese guy. He stops the clip and tells us to write. One of the French women asks "What do you want us to say?" He responds "Just tell me about the cinematic aspects." Hmmm. Ok.

19 April 2011

C'est rigolo!

Every Tuesday night, one of the French channels has sketch comedy featuring three couples. One in their 20s, one in their 40s, and one after retirement. Most nights I just smile whenever my host family laughs to give the impression that I know what's going on. Tonight I actually laughed! I may still have issues communicating my personal thoughts, but my listening abilities have vastly improved. Here are the two scenarios I understood fully.

The first was the man and wife in their 40s. The man comes home with a present for his wife. She opens it, finds out it's a vibrator, giggles about it while her husband explains "It's for washing your face." And after realizing that his wife is right "Oh shit, I have to go. I bought one for my mother."

The second was the young couple playing poker. The man bluffs, then wins the hand. Then they have dinner. The woman says she has an apple tarte, but she made it. He doesn't know whether she's bluffing or not. Then he says something to make her leave the kitchen, tries the tarte, and while spitting out the tarte says "You weren't bluffing. You made this!"

I love it.

17 April 2011

Must Do List

So this weekend I've been thinking of starting a list of everything an international student has to do while they are in Lyon.

1) Attend a party on the steps of Guillotiere
2) Take a day trip (no more than an hour and a half train/bus ride away)
3) Tan at Parc de la Tete d'Or
4) Eat chocolate from Voisin
5) Get fries at McDonald's (especially if you're American, not joking, the "pommes frites" sauce is worth it)
6) Attend at least one cultural event, such as: a theatre production, a night at the opera, a festival/special market

These are all I have so far. As for my weekend, I'm working on plans for my upcoming trip as well as stressing over exams. I'm used to my professors telling me where and when exactly my exams are and, if I forget there's always a syllabus. Well, in France there is no syllabus. The professors don't even know when the exams are scheduled. For example, my cinema professor thought our exam would be the 27th of April. When all Jean Moulin students are on Easter break. At the moment, I find it more amusing than most of my peers as the hours and credits I receive here won't impact when I graduate. However, it does take an attitude adjustment. C'est la vie francaise.

Saturday I took time to relax a little. I went to read one of my books by the Rhone river. The steps between Bellecour and the Rhone is my favorite spot in the entire city. In the late afternoon with the sun shining, the view is absolutely breathtaking. Most of the time, I was just staring at the water. That's one thing I know I'll miss when I come back home.

13 April 2011

Life is Lovely

Today I finished the last assignment I had before I take all of my finals. I have a few more lectures, but pretty much everything is over. So what to do in between studying? Plan my Easter break trip, of course!

Last break, I basically hung out at home and traveled around Lyon. I definitely am not going to do that again! So me and another American student are planning a train expedition of Germany and the Czech Republic. We each have one travel goal. Mine is to go to a music festival in Brno and see Boyce Avenue (with the bonus of listening to Czech bands I'll never get to hear in the US). My friend's is to see the castle in Germany after which the Disney castle was modeled. We'll also be sampling some authentic German beer. I like to think of it as an education opportunity. Don't want to embarrass myself when I turn 21.

The point is I'm really excited. I've never planned anything this involved before, but now that I have my Eurail Pass and concert tickets, everything's coming together. The next step is to book trains and hostels. I'm a little nervous, but I know that this will be one week to remember.

11 April 2011

Running Out of Time

Spring has been in Lyon for a couple of weeks now. The weather is beautiful; I don't have to wear pants or sweaters anymore! All but one of my lectures ended last week or will end this week. It means I'm on the downhill slide of my time in Europe.

While I don't necessarily have as many close friends as some of the other Erasmus students, and haven't traveled around as much, I have definitely gained a lot from coming to France. Lyon feels like a home. I know my way around the major areas and can even offer lost travelers directions and advice. I can understand the radio and news programs and hold my own in conversations with native speakers. I've taken the TGV to southern France, seen some of the mountains in the north. I've met people from all over the world who are just as serious about learning about other cultures as I am.

I still have 39 days left here. Six of those will be spent gallivanting across Germany and the Czech Republic. About half of those nights will be devoted to studying for my finals. My days? Still unsure. But great things have happened when I've least expected it. I have a feeling that my last month in France will be well spent.

10 April 2011

My Dog Jake Who Lives In France

Photography project! I took my stuffed dog for an afternoon in Lyon. Pretty sure I looked insane, but it was all in good fun.

06 April 2011

Le Grand Journal

So Matthew McConaughey and Ryan Phillipe were on the French news program "Le Grand Jouranal" promoting their upcoming film. The anchors asked their questions in French, but both of the actors responded in English. Where are their translators?! I really want to know, because I didn't see them with any ear pieces. But then again, maybe I wasn't paying close enough attention.

Side note, Matthew McConaughey looked super ridiculous wearing a beret.

03 April 2011

Juste Une Illusion

Last night I went to the Theatre de la Croix-Rousse to see a production of "La Vraie Fiancee", or "The True Bride", or the most bizarre adaptation of the Cinderella story I've ever seen in my life.

So imagine you're staring into the sun. One second goes by. Ow. Another second goes by. Burning. Another second goes by. You need to close your eyes immediately.

The director had set up the stage with three flats of all tiny yellow lightbulbs, that could be extremely bright or dimmed. Most of the play was spent at the "burning your eyes" level. In addition, there was a large three part mirror panel that was dragged out during two of the scenes. Did not help at all.

The actual story is as follows. Mother is dead, dad is getting married, stepmother comes into the picture with her daughter (who is a doll played by a doll), main character is downtrodden. Main character meets Prince Charming, he promises never to forget her. Stepmother intervenes, Prince forgets main character then falls in love with the doll. Main character concocts a plan with some imprisoned actors to make Prince remember that they're engaged. It works. The end.

There actors were all fairly talented. I was especially amused by the man who played as the stepmother. However, besides having my eyes tortured, the director decided to break the fourth wall as many times as he possibly could. So instead of actually paying attention to how main character's father is led astray by the drag queen, I'm wondering why there are two people in black moving the flats and messing with the curtains. And then there was the scene where the Prince made out with the doll (believe me, I wish I was exaggerating).

It was an interesting experience.

29 March 2011


Good news - I have the easiest homework load known to mankind.
Bad news - Five out of seven of my finals have to be done in French
Good news - I have until May 15th to complete one of my finals
Bad news - It's a 7-page paper about a play. That's it. Just talk about it.
Good news - I have my French writing intensive next semester. If I can pull this off, that class will be cake.

And now I'm craving cake.

Here's some pictures from a walk I took recently.

26 March 2011

Updates On Life

My right leg has three bruises, my left elbow has two, and my left foot has one. Sparring with only a chest protector against 20-25 year-olds who have as much control over their kicks as a yellow belt is not a good idea.

The presentation on Friday went well. My professor had seen the movie that one of my video clips came from and said that it was well organized. Huzzah!

Today I've spent three hours taking advantage of the beautiful weather. It's supposed to rain tomorrow. Also, DST hits France at 2AM, so I'll be back to being seven hours ahead of Missouri.

I'm going to spend the rest of the afternoon reading (for fun and for school) and then watching a movie at night. If anyone knows anything about Bollywood film, I could use some suggestions for what to watch.

23 March 2011

A Change of Pace

Today I had my first sit-down-at-a-restaurant-and-socialize meal since I've been in France. My contemporary Indian society class was canceled for the day, so three other women in my class and I decided to head to Bellecour for food. We ended up at Hippopotamus on Rue de la Republique which serves steaks, burgers, and delicious-looking desserts. Of course, all desserts look delicious in France, but that's not the point.

We began our meal by ordering a bottle of white wine, along with some free rolls, fried potato slices, and water. I also ordered a Coke zero as part of my menu. We spent about an hour chatting, people watching, gossiping about some of our drunken escapades (especially of those who participated in St. Patrick's Day festivities). Then our food arrived. I ordered a burger, and it was actually good. They cooked it all the way, it came with normal condiments, and I got a huge side of "frites" (French fries). I know that I ordered American food, but to be fair it was a steak and burger place. Besides, the rolls + glass of wine + Coke + fries + burger cost me 10 euros. Not bad I say.

Tomorrow I have a presentation over a news article in my French language class, then Friday I have a presentation over immigration in my French culture class. Don't worry, I'm prepared for both! I think.

20 March 2011

Videos From Aix


So I finally got out of Lyon for a weekend. WHOA! It was amazing.

Friday: Woke up at 6AM. Got to Part-Dieu station at 8AM, picked up my tickets, met my friend, got on the TGV at 9:07 and arrived in Aix by 11AM. We couldn't check into our hotel until 1, so we stopped by the tourist office, got a map and decided to spend some time wondering around the city. We ate lunch at a place called Toran where I had my first tiramisu. Delicious. After checking in around 1:30, we explored some of the major tourist attractions such as: the boulevard Cours Maribeau, la fontaine de Roi Rene, the Musee Granet, and the remains of an ancient thermal bath. Our aimless wondering also led us to a store specializing in making macaroons and a dessert shop where I had nutella-flavored ice cream. We ate dinner at a nice little Italian restaurant. The staff actually spoke Italian! Which makes sense, as southern France used to be part of Italian territory. After all this, I managed to crash in bed around 11PM.

Saturday was full of surprises. We walked through a huge market at Place des Precheurs, where I managed to find my boyfriend a birthday present and find my brother some Magic cards. Now the only people left on my souvenir list are my parents. (Tell me what wine you want already!) Anyway, there was a lot to see. There were many vendors selling fresh fruits and vegetables, pastries, and spices. One booth was selling about 8 different types of honey. There were also quite a few clothing booths. Lots of cute things for reasonable prices, but I didn't really have the cash to spend on anything. I don't mind, though. I enjoyed looking through everything and watching others haggle over prices.

Other notable occurrences: a rally for the local communist party, street performances on the main square, young French people vandalizing plastic, high-end window shopping, Musee d'Histoire Naturelle.

I'll be making a separate post for the videos I took over the weekend later today. Hopefully I don't forget.

16 March 2011

Studying: The Reason I Am Here

This week has been dedicated to putting together a presentation on immigration to France for "Initiation a la culture francaise." I decided to research on six different nationalities that have immigrated to France, when they did, and their reasons for doing so. I also decided to include some information on immigration policy. I have all the research, tomorrow I'm going to work on translating it into French. Then next week all I have to do is structure the powerpoint.

I'm getting along great with my new host family. I watch sketch comedy or the news with my host parents after dinner, usually for a half hour to an hour. And my host sister and I watched the French version of Top Chef last night. All of them are willing to answer my questions about their life, France, the language, or whatever. It's fantastic!

Here's a video for your amusement, taken Saturday on Rue de la Republique. Just for fun.

13 March 2011

Adventure Time

Friday: After class I took a two hour walk from my apartment to the Rhone river.

Here's me by the Rhone river. It was a lovely day out, the first one I've had without my coat. After that I stayed in for the rest of the night. I had to make dinner myself, but I couldn't figure out how to use the stove. I ended up eating some smoked bacon, bread, and cheese.

On Saturday it started to rain. I didn't do all that much during the day, but at 9 I went bar-hopping with a girl I met from Washington state. We went to an Australian bar, one called Cosmopolitan, an Irish bar, and a totally trashy place. I only brought enough money for one drink, but ended up having two full drinks and sips of three others. That got me pretty giggly and nonsensical by the end of the night, and I ended up with a random French guy's phone number.

 This was my only non-alcoholic beverage of the night.

I also went to see a movie Saturday afternoon called "Les Femmes du 6eme Etage." It was about a group of Spanish maids working for middle-class French people in the 1960s. One of the men falls in love with his new maid. Of course. It was a good film, even if I didn't understand all of the dialogue.

Today I made lunch for my host family. Scrambled eggs with red peppers and mushrooms and a side of mashed potatoes. It turned out delicious!

10 March 2011

French Film (And Other Confusing Experiences)

Today I watched a movie called Les Effroyables Jardins. It's set during WWII, and the main action centers around four men who are kidnapped by German soldiers and who are entertained during their imprisonment by a former Parisian clown. What I didn't understand until the end of the film was that the beginning and the end take place at least 15 years after the events of the middle of the movie. Confusing at first, but I did enjoy that aspect. Overall, the film was excellent, despite not having the luxury of sub-titles.

I also spent three minutes trying to unlock the door to the apartment.

My final for my cinema course is supposed to be oral. Our professor is putting us in groups, then having each group watch one of the excerpts from the films we watch in class, and then the group discusses the film or era/country associated with the film. And then my professor will know I'm not a French student. Huzzah!

Watching the news here tends to give me a headache. Sometimes the people they interview speak English, but the voiceover is in French. And, of course, I'm trying to listen to both. Bad idea.

My weekend plans are up in the air. They could involve travel, cooking, lots of pictures, and/or lots of rain. We shall see.

07 March 2011

Feels Like Home (Almost)

Today was a fairly normal day. Woke up, talked to my boyfriend, spent time on facebook, went to class, did homework, ate dinner, and now I'm here.

However, I am now beginning my reading of the first six volumes of the Sailor Moon manga series in French. Turns out my host family's son was a huge anime fan which is lucky for me, as my host mother told me I could read whatever manga and watch whatever anime I could find. She wishes he would come clean it all out anyway. They even have Spirited Away! In France it's called "Le voyage de Chihiro."

Dinner also ended up being a pretty fun time. It was just me and my host father for dinner tonight, so we ate in the kitchen and watched what I highly suspect is the French version of The View. The best part wasn't the food, but the fact that we had an actual, substantial conversation. We talked a bit about wine and how it's hard to get used to if you don't have the habit. Then we started talking about cultural differences between Americans and the French. Mostly why the US has such a huge problem with obesity, as his daughter spent a year and a half in Atlanta and was shocked by how large people are in the states. Apparently, French people have the image that all Americans eat giant hamburgers and drink three liters of Coke each day. While this obviously isn't true, obesity and related health problems are an issue for Americans.

There are a lot of reasons why these issues are so prevalent in the US, and my host father admitted that a few of them exist in France. For example, junk food is really cheap to buy or easy to make, so one sees the lower classes as having a higher rate of obesity than people who have a larger disposable income. It exists in the US, in France, and my host father said that he noticed it in Australia as well. There are cultural differences as to the causes of health issues in each country, but what I find interesting is that we were able to find similarities as well.

I also managed to be productive today. Finished all of my workbook exercises for my French as a foreign language class on Thursday. Also, I read all of Macbeth, which should have me covered for the next two weeks giving me plenty of time to pick up a copy of Midsummer Night's Dream.

I was also complimented on my good vocabulary and handle on the French language. All in all, it's a good day.

05 March 2011

And Now For Something Completely Different

Friday night meant party time! Yes folks, Jordan finally spent a night out on the town. Well, really only three hours because I needed to catch the last metro at midnight. That's not the point. What should be the focus is that I met up with two other American girls, one I'd never met and the other I hadn't talked to, at a random bar and had good drinks and a fun time. We went to Johnny's Kitchen and Hot Club, both of which I will be visiting again. Here's a video of Eric, the guitar player at Johnny's Kitchen, doing a cover of Outkast's "Hey Ya."

Today I went out for a walk because I was feeling a little homesick. It was about 52F here and the sun was shining, refreshing weather for clearing my head. There was a little carnival for kids going on at the plaza area on Avenue Freres Lumieres as well as three groups of old men playing the game boules. I went home, ate pizza for dinner, and watched 27 Dresses. A very relaxing night.

02 March 2011

"That Bridge Looks Oddly Familiar"

So far I have spent my break wondering around Lyon. Yesterday I walked down Avenue des Freres Lumieres, who are famous French filmmakers. They have their own museum! However, I kind of forgot where it is. Maybe I'll find it at some point before Sunday and check it out. The avenue itself had lots of shops, much like Rue Victor Hugo where I used to live. I went inside a small market and chocolate shop and took pictures of the surrounding area. Here's one from the plaza like area at the end of the avenue.

My post title today comes from my thoughts while visiting the Musee des Beaux-Arts. For those of you familiar with the KC area, it's actually structured a lot like the Nelson. Each hallway or floor contains artwork from a different location and the flow of the museum is chronological, for the most part. One room held coins and medallions specifically discovered from the Lyon area and the bottom floor was dedicated to neo-classical sculptures.

Now, about the title. There was a painting I was looking at and as I was doing so I thought that the bridge it depicted looked very familiar. Although the painting was done in the early 1900s, it was a depiction of "la pont de la guillotiere" which I have crossed many times during my walks around the Rhone river. It was pretty awesome.

26 February 2011

La Nouvelle Famille

So I would just like to start off by saying that I have never felt closer to French people. My new host family really made an effort to make me feel welcome. Apparently, another American student also had to stay with my new family after having been a part of the same family that I had prior to my arrival here. Hmmm.

This is French Wal-mart. I went grocery shopping with my host mom. In France (or at least Lyon) everyone does their grocery shopping Saturday afternoon. Here's what happens. You go inside one of three entrances. There's a strip mall in front of the supermarket. If you don't want to shop at the strip mall, you go inside the supermarket. Everything is there! Electronics, games, clothes, food. A whole lot of food! There were two aisles specifically dedicated to cheese. If it wasn't apparent that I was in France, it certainly is now. There were also a lot more people shoved into one supermarket than I am used to. Probably because, unlike Wal-mart, Carrefour is only open from 9AM until 8PM.

Before dinner I had the chance to sit in the living room and read for a while. My host sister, Laura, came in after an hour or so and started talking to me about the time she went to the US to visit her older sister. Apparently, all three of my host family's children attended a bilingual primary school so they've all been to the US and they all speak English at a reasonable level. My host dad speaks a little, but he said he's much better with German.

After dinner, my host sister went out with her friends and I chatted with my host dad about where my parents worked, and my family. I even got to tell him a little bit about my political views. I also tried a very strong, locally made white wine (which I found out that I'm partial to). It's going to be really unfortunate coming back to the US and being unable to drink wine.

Oh my god, I sound like my mother.

24 February 2011

Tae Kwon Do

The reason I don't normally need anti-depressants.

Seriously, I love it. Stress relief, exercise, and a hell of a lot of fun. We do a lot more of the workout than learning and working on specific techniques, but that is totally fine with me at this point. I don't need to be worrying about getting confused about forms or self-defense steps. The class wouldn't accomplish much anyway as the class normally has about 25-35 students, all of questionable levels.

Today was an even more awesome class because, after two months of living here, I have finally made a French friend! We were working in partners with paddles and he noticed my belt. He asked if I was American. When I said yes, he told me that he was studying English at the university and would like to be an English teacher. We exchanged numbers, and told him if he ever wanted to meet up for an hour or so and just practice speaking that I would be up for it.

This evening I was able to meet my new host family as well. They seem very nice, and said goodbye to me with "les bises" or cheek-kisses. I took an idea of my friend from Georgetown and immediately offered to cook a meal for them once a week. They really liked the idea of homemade American cuisine. The mother also invited me to a free step class, and asked if I needed to be lent a phone. I don't really know anything about cell service in France, but I paid 30 euros for mine and it seems to be working out alright.

Tonight I'm feeling pretty good.

23 February 2011

Totes Fun Times

I am officially moving out of my host family's apartment. The lecturing was not the worst it could get. Today I was accused of stealing. Here's one point that makes sense. The contract says I should eat only breakfast and dinner every day, lunch I have to find elsewhere (although Jean-Benoit tried to tell me they only have to provide dinner). I've been eating lunch at the apartment because last month, no one seemed to have an issue with it, Julia has made lunch for the two of us numerous times, and I have been extremely short on cash. In accordance with the contract, I should have notified them about my budget and verified that lunch would be acceptable. This point I concede.

However, when I am told I have complete access to the medicine cabinet I feel like when I have a cold and find Sudafed, that I will be able to take it. When I'm told I have complete access to the pantry if I need something, I expect that I can grab a roll of toilet paper for blowing my nose (especially when there are no tissues/Kleenex to speak of in the apartment). I don't enjoy being made to feel like a bad person, especially in a foreign country, so I'm moving out. Major appreciation to my American friend from LSU who is allowing me to use her apartment while she goes to Italy for break and the international office finds me a new place to stay.

In highly positive news, I have a bank account and a camera! And tomorrow I will have cash. I'm going to spend my entire break wondering around a different area of Lyon. I even plan on going to two museums! Free to students of course. I'm pretty excited about having the week off. I may get some good reading in, too. I should be reading Le Joueur but after 10 pages I might give up and read The Protector's War instead.

This is my life.

20 February 2011

Je Comprends!

I am on the tail end of my cold. Luckily my host family carries Sudafed, a drug I recognize. Whoa. So that helped, along with a home remedy of warm milk and honey recommended to me by my host sister Julia. My nose kind of looks gross, but other than that I'm feeling like I can actually leave the apartment.

I've also had two successful French conversations. The first happened while attempting to cash a check at LCL, a common European bank. I was told that because my bank did not exist in France I would have to set up a bank account needing my passport and a proof of residence. I was able to explain that I was an American student living in France just until the end of May. Not until I left the bank did I realize that I did not have to ask this man to repeat anything he said nor did he look at me like I was a complete moron.

My second successful conversation happened at dinner tonight. Julia made pasta for the two of us and we got to chatting about our families and the difference between our universities. I found out that in Germany, one only needs nine general education classes in order to complete their degree and I discovered that her family went to Russia and stayed from the time Catherine the Great took power until the two World Wars. I forgot exactly which one she said. I also came to realize that I didn't have to ask her to repeat herself and she didn't have to speak any English for me to understand what she was saying. I did have to search for words occasionally, but the only English I spoke was to tell her one of my classes was called "Contemporary Indian Society."

All this being said, I'm counting two huge dashes in the victories column.

Also, I may or may not have corrupted a Japanese guy by introducing him to Avenue Q after studying for our exam on Wednesday. We'll see how this pans out in the following weeks. In other unrelated news, I bought tickets to see professional productions of A Comedy of Errors and La Vraie Fiancee at Theatre de la Croix-Rousse.

17 February 2011


Now that I've been managing my anxiety for a week and a half, my body decided it was time for me to come down with a physical illness. Not to fear! It's just a cold. The first day I couldn't stop coughing, the second I had a severely sore throat, and today my nose won't stop running. A different symptom for each day of the week. It's pretty annoying, but I find humor in that fact. I won't be going to Tae Kwon Do tonight, though, just so I can give my body a chance to rest. Armed with orange juice, tissues, and antiseptics for my throat I should be over my most recent affliction pretty quickly.

I had my first test of the semester for my FLE course over personal pronouns and the construction of the negative form. Pretty easy stuff actually. The exercises in our workbook are way harder than the exercises given to us on the exam. Next week we have another one over relative pronouns. I'm actually going to study for that one because relative pronouns give me the most trouble in French grammar. Also, our entire class had a "herp derp" moment when we forgot that the verb "tomber" is conjugated with "etre" in the past instead of "avoir." I learned that in French 1B. Ah well. It is an 8AM so maybe we just need to remember to get caffeine before class.

And for all of you out there who are reading this but haven't commented here's a question. I have 305 euros. What should I do?

14 February 2011

Bonne Saint Valentin

Today is Valentine's Day, and I have a really awesome boyfriend. Right after I made my lunch (saucisson, fromage, and lettuce sandwich) I was delivered a gorgeous bouquet of white and purple flowers and a box filled with chocolate pieces. Valentine's Day is basically the greatest day ever.

On a completely unrelated note, it turns out that I have been committing a social faux pas without even realizing. See, my host family has a maid. I have never been around a maid. No one I know has one, my family doesn't have one. The point is, it's been kind of freaking me out and frustrating me at the same time. I haven't really known what I'm responsible for in terms of cleaning, and I don't know how to interact with the maid.

On Wednesday, Julia asked if I had social anxiety and was afraid of people because I didn't say hello or try to have a conversation with Farida, the maid. I never even knew her name until I figured out that's who Julia was talking about which really only served to make me feel embarrassed. This morning, Farida knocked on my door and asked me if I was painfully shy and then taped a list to my armoire of what apartment responsibilities I have while I live here. Actually, I'm kind of thankful for that. Basically, I just have to vacuum and dust my room every week and a half, empty the dishwasher if no one else is around, offer to take Austin for walks, and wash my bedding every two weeks. The list also says to speak a little more French and to say "Bonjour, Aurevoir, etc."

I managed to accomplish the first one tonight at dinner speaking to my host father and Julia about my trip to Annecy and what I wanted to do over break. My host father also asked if it really was possible in the US to accuse people of murder forty years after the crime was committed. As far as I know I don't think there's a statute of limitations on investigating murder, but please correct me if I'm wrong.

12 February 2011

Out Of Town

I think this weekend qualifies as the best weekend I have spent in France thus far.

Friday night I went to a party in honor of one of my friend's birthdays. There were French, British, Australian, and American students all gathered in one person's apartment. The theme for the party was a masquerade, so all the girls were wearing dresses and heavy make-up and the guys wore slacks and collared shirts. Most people wore masks, and those who didn't (like myself) were painted up. My eyes still haven't recovered. It was quite a lot of fun alternating between speaking French and English. I also managed to get in on the gossip, a great way to know that I'm a part of the group I've managed to acquaint myself with.

Today I took the train to Annecy. It's a two hour train ride north of Lyon, and for most part I hung out with two women from Finland and another from Sweden. Our topics of conversation ranged from drunk stories to how guys are assholes to sexual health issues. The town itself was gorgeous. It's a small, old town that is built on the side of a huge lake. On the other side of the lake are mountains. The weather was also nice this afternoon that I just carried my coat around until the sunset. The food was also good. For lunch we ate at Urban Foods, which serves organic-type food. I had a chicken wrap with red peppers, some sort of leafy green, and Parmesan cheese with a pineapple + orange smoothie. Super delicious. For dinner I picked up a ham, mozzarella, and tomato panini. It was filling, warm and again delicious. And only 3.80 euros! It's possible to get good food in France for cheap; as long as you like crepes and sandwiches. And who doesn't like crepes and sandwiches?

Tomorrow I'm going to relax and read for most of the day. Unfortunately, I don't have pictures of Annecy because I busted my camera lens. I'll be able to acquire them later. Such is life.

08 February 2011

Socialized Medicine

Yes folks, you guessed it. Today I went to the doctor. Here's the story. I was having a prolonged panic attack while sitting in class this morning. An hour later, I decided enough was enough. After a visit to the international relations office, the on-campus nurse, and a line change at the Saxe-Gambetta station I saw an American doctor who has a practice in Lyon.

I've always had problems with anxiety, usually triggered by the thought of going to the hospital. I also have stress problems in unfamiliar situations which cause my stomach to rebel. My body is so fun! The point? It's been getting worse since I've been in France. Both the nurse and the doctor confirmed that my blood pressure and pulse were normal, even though I felt like I had difficulty breathing. Because of all the aforementioned information, the doctor prescribed me Lysanxia, anti-anxiety medication that should only be taken a maximum of twice per day. I took one tablet as soon as I got home and I've felt normal and relaxed since then.

The amazing thing about all this? See, I had to pay 32 euros upfront for the visit. Once I find out where to turn in the reimbursement forms I'll be able to get that money back. Filling the prescription was 2 euros and 60 cents. Yeah, that's right. 2 euros. I bought floss as well. The floss cost 6 euros and 40 cents. Europe is a wonderful place. And a hell of a lot different from what that scenario might have been had I been in the United States.

06 February 2011

Oh The Pain

I haven't been as faithful with my posts this week. Many apologies loyal readers. Since Tae Kwon Do on Thursday night, my lower back has been in a lot of pain. At first I didn't think it was serious, but after attempting to walk around the city yesterday and feeling nauseous, I decided that I needed to do something about it. Luckily, my parents gave me some tips on how to deal with my back. Hopefully I'll be feeling good enough again just in time for another punishing TKD class this Thursday.

Even though my back ended up hating me for going to TKD, class was a lot more fun this week. Not only was I able to stand and move around the whole time, I also had the opportunity to instruct my partner during hand technique drills. Also, tornado roundhouse kicks. HELL YES! I was actually smiling when I got to do those.

Friday, while I was out Valentine's Day shopping, I stopped in the chocolate shop that's on the corner of my street and Rue Victor Hugo. They sold chocolate bars for 2 euros, and it was delicious. Next time though, I'm not going to eat the whole thing at once.
Before almost collapsing on Saturday, I attempted to participate in a scavenger hunt set up for the international students at Lyon 1, 2, and 3 universities. I got the chance to see some of the Americans and Australians I recognized from my SELF classes, as well as meet some Chinese and Spanish while we were put into groups. I only wish I could have stayed longer, but that probably would have been a bad idea.

Here's to hoping for a reduced-pain week. I wanted to get out and visit a museum on Wednesday or Friday. It's apparently free, and I have to right a paper on it for my culture class. Technically not due until April 8, but I have two finals already around that time, so I want to go ahead and get the paper done.

03 February 2011

Late Night, Good Times

Last night I went to a pub called Red House. It's part sports bar, part club. An interesting combination, in my personal opinion. The international relations office reserved the dance floor for all of the SELF and DEUF students, and even included a free drink. Julia and I arrived early, and I did not bring any money with me, so she bought me a pineapple drink while she had a beer. About 10-15 minutes later, a French guy approached us and invited us to join his table of three other guys and one girl. The guys ended up joining us on the dance floor and I went outside with them while they smoked. They tried to get me to take a cigarette, but I politely declined. All in all, it was pretty fun. I ended up dancing with some girls I knew from my Shakespeare and the Supernatural course and I even caught the second to last metro back to the apartment at 12:10AM. All before my 8 AM class today!

I managed to stay awake for my entire class today. Tae Kwon Do again tonight, hopefully I won't pass out again. I ate scrambled eggs, ham, and baguette for lunch and have been drinking water all day. I survived last week, so I'm thinking, whatever happens, it can't be worse than that.

01 February 2011

The Joy of Salmon Sandwiches

Yesterday and today I have gone to a sandwich shop that is right next to the entrance I always take into campus. They sell sandwiches, pastries, quiches, and candy bars. Both days I've eaten a salmon sandwich. It's probably my favorite sandwich of all time which I would not have expected. It's just fish and bread, but the bread is delicious and so is the fish. I also got a cookie and Kit Kat bar to go with it. Tomorrow, however, I've promised myself to try Mezzo di Pasta. It's a pasta place that resembles Noodles and has multiple locations. I feel like it's an obligation to compare American and French fast food when such an occasion arises.

Tomorrow I'm going to a pub. The international affairs director organized an event at Red House for all the international students. It should be interesting. Pictures will definitely be included in the following posts.

30 January 2011

Wii - The Bridge Between Nations

My weekend has been thoroughly enjoyable thus far. It seems to be passing fairly quickly as well. The next four months will be over before I know it.

Friday night, Anne-Sophie made crepes for the whole family. The batter was poured onto this hot plate, and then we put either ham and cheese, fried egg, or nutella and bananas on top of it. They were delicious! I've never seen a plate like this either. Usually, most restaurants use a giant plate and most people I know would use a skillet.

Saturday, Julia invited me to see the remains of an ancient Roman theatre. Performances are still held in this space, and it would a great spot to have a picnic once spring arrives. To be able to sit in a space that is over one thousand years old and look out over the city was breathtaking. We spent a while just sitting in the stands. After that we visited the museum that is located in the hill and showcases Gallo-Roman artifacts found specifically in the Lyon area. I saw a lot of tombstones. Those were interesting because the epitaphs were written in great detail, usually indicating the immediate family of the person who died as well as their occupation and sometimes where they lived. Each floor had a mosaic, usually describing a story from Roman mythology. Other artifacts included: bronze age weaponry, bracelets, statues of political/mythological figures. I also learned that there is evidence that a human presence existed before Roman rule in the plain of Vaise, which is northwest of Lyon.

After dinner Saturday night, I played Wii bowling with Anne-Sophie, her boyfriend, and Julia. I won the first game by getting five strikes, three of them consecutively. At this point it was around 10:30, so I was getting a little tired. However, Anne-Sophie's boyfriend insisted that he have the opportunity to seek revenge. So I stayed one more round and beat him by one point. Even though everyone is always speaking fast French at me, playing with my host family on the Wii feels familiar. And I'm good at it, which helps. When I mess up they tease me, and when I'm doing well I gloat a little.

Today I'll be seeing my American movie, and probably studying for most of the day. C'est la vie.

27 January 2011

Silver Lining

Today was my first Tae Kwon Do class. Let me tell you, I definitely needed the workout. The class was kept moving for the entire two hours: doing kicking drills up and down the mat, running, stretching, and basic techniques. Next time I'll eat a real lunch before I go. I almost passed out twice which I assume is from a lack of energy due to not eating enough. However, I am still alive and not in the hospital. Also, the headache I've had for the past two and a half weeks is gone, at least for the moment. Pretty happy about that. I'm 100% sure that I'll wake up tomorrow in pain, but I only have one class and the rest of the day to read.

Yesterday I met Julia for lunch. She doesn't speak much English and I don't know any German, so we completely rely on French to talk to each other. I still have problems understanding exactly what's being said but with repetition I can usually get the gist of any question or story. She's even become my translator at dinner. My host parents speak fast French and she translates it into slow French for me. I've almost stopped speaking English completely at dinner, and I suppose that's the first step to becoming fluent. Woo!

25 January 2011


The past two days have been nothing but classes. This week I actually have all of my courses at their regularly scheduled times. Plus, Tae Kwon Do starts on Thursday. My host mother says I need to make French friends, so maybe that will help.

I've decided to make at least two trips to Theatre de la Croix-Rousse to see A Comedy of Errors done in French in March as well as Le Vrai Fiancee in April. Seats for students are 15 euros at most, which in my opinion isn't bad for seeing a professional production.

Tomorrow I'm picking up some books for my foreign literature class. The weekend looks like it will consist of studying and going to see a movie called "The Way Back." It stars Ed Harris and only has a limited release in the US. I may alternate between American and French movies each time I go to the cinema, or whatever looks interesting at the time.

23 January 2011

Weekend Experiences in Lyon

Thus far, my weekend has been fairly relaxing. Yesterday I went to see a movie at the cinema near Bellcour. The film I decided on was called Les emotifs anonymes or Emotional Persons Anonymous. It was about two neurotic chocolate makers who fall in love when the woman takes a job selling the chocolate of the shop that the man owns and runs. The woman also randomly sang the French version of the Sound of Music song "Confidence in Me" which was interesting. Shockingly enough, I understood what was happening. Also, when I purchased my ticket, it came with an offer for a reduced price ticket to see a movie next week. Definitely going to take advantage of that.

Today I decided to take a trip to Vieux Lyon. I wasn't quite sure what I was going to do once I got there, but I managed to stumble upon a miniature museum. It was four floors and about eight rooms, so I went through it fairly quickly. There was a lot of interesting exhibits. For example, the museum showed different rooms done by a man named Dan Ohlman. He created miniature libraries, lofts, and various scenes. They were very detailed and well done. I envy people who have that much control over their hands.

On my way back to the apartment, I walked through an open-air market. It smelled fantastic. There were booths selling fruits, vegetables, and normal market-type foods. But there were also booths for roasted chickens, dumplings, and huge blocks of cheese. I really wanted to get something, but I was so overwhelmed that I just walked through and looked at everything. Next time, I will pick something up.

22 January 2011

Overcoming Anxiety

Yesterday was freezing. Actually, it's been freezing temperatures all week. Not that I should complain, because if I were home I'd be buried in snow. The point is, despite the cold, I decided to make a trip to the outside world. I went to Pizzeria Napoli for lunch. I successfully ordered a limonade, which tastes like Sprite, and a Pizza Margarita, which consisted of tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and olives. It was delicious, and I'm definitely going back. Unfortunately, I sat at the table right next to the register. Everyone was lined up behind where I was sitting, and it took some getting used to. I also managed to catch the attention and acquire the business card of an insurance salesman. Strange.

I also had to make dinner for myself last night. I decided to make scrambled eggs with ham and cheese. I'm still not quite sure what the name of the cheese is. I'll try to remember when I write my next post. I also unloaded the dishwasher, and, surprisingly enough, put everything back in the right place.

20 January 2011

"Fear Not the Obstacles In Your Path"

I watched Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? tonight for free at the Lyon 3 campus. It was the original English with French subtitles. There were about 15 other people there and none of them had ever seen the movie before. It was pretty sweet. And because I saw the movie today I wanted to quote it again.

I won't have class again until next Monday. Today I decided to go to the library and check out some books for my cinema class. I have a feeling that I won't understand that much of the lecture. So taking notes about the topics we're supposed to cover should help when the final exam comes around.

Tomorrow I'm going to eat at a Chinese restaurant for lunch and make my own dinner again. Those might actually be adventures worth reporting.

18 January 2011

Subject to Change

Yesterday was my first day of class. Since I only had one, it was a pretty chill day. I bought a bilingual copy of Macbeth and a nutella crepe from a street vendor. Life is swell.

Today was way crazier. I had three classes today, all of them taught in French. Foreign literature, theatre (studying plays), and cinema (in order of my schedule). So the first class wasn't so bad. We're lecturing over Robinson Crusoe, so I need to find a copy of the book. I'm sure the bookstore where I found Macbeth would have it, otherwise I have no idea where I should go. Then I got lost.

Here's the deal. I thought I had cinema second and theatre last so I went to the room where cinema was supposed to be. It turned out to be a sort of philosophy class taught in English. Way confusing. So I went to the International Affairs office and eventually a couple of the staff helped me locate where I could find the postings for the room and time of each of these classes. So I went to theatre with an hour left in lecture. I think that will be my best all French class, as the professor speaks slowly and the material I walked in was review from what I learned in Intro to Literary Analysis last semester. In cinema, the professor talked at lightning speed and I only caught about a third of what he said. That's probably going to be my hardest course.

Because I had a massive headache after my classes ended, I decided to drop my fourth French class in favor of a SELF course. I'd like to be challenged while I'm here, but I would also prefer to keep my sanity and emotional health in tact. That class will be tomorrow. My courses for Thursday and Friday start next week. Life should be getting pretty interesting by the end of the month.

16 January 2011

Last Weekend of Total Freedom

Classes start tomorrow. Whoa, crazy! So this will be my last weekend without university-related things to do.

Yesterday I thought I would venture over to La Saone. Bad idea. It is nowhere near as pretty to look at or walk by as La Rhone. I spent about twenty minutes walking before I decided to head back to Bellecour. I did get a nice picture of people using the public bicycles though.

There are bike racks in various places throughout Lyon. You essentially pay to take the bike from one rack to another. It seems like a pretty good way to get around if you're going long distances, have a destination, or just like bike riding through the city. I haven't had the chance to use the service yet, but maybe sometime in the spring I can be persuaded.

Later in the evening I saw a post on the "SELF and DEUF Lyon Spring 2011" facebook group asking if anyone was interested in a more quiet social gathering, instead of just going somewhere to get wasted and party. It sounded like my kind of night, so I went. I met up with two Finnish and three Italian women in between one of the Bellecour metro stations and McDonald's. The original plan was to head to a pub and if anyone wanted to go to the crazy party later they could do that or go home. Unfortunately, the pub they had in mind was something of a sports bar and a game was going on at the time. So we decided to head to one of the party boats on La Rhone river.

We ended up on one called "Q Boat" which turned into a nightclub around the time we left. We were pretty much the only people there from 10-11, and all of the other women ordered a single drink. As a side note, it's a very small world out there. One of Julia's friends that I met when I went out with her also knew the Italian women, so I got the chance to talk to him again. Better this time, since I've become more comfortable speaking in French for more than five minutes. It was certainly interesting to talk to people from different parts of the world. I learned that in Finland, you can pass out drunk on the street and wake up with all your money still in hand, but in Italy women feel uncomfortable walking around sober at night. My take? As long as you look like you know what's going on around you, the chances are high that you'll stay safe.

Today I walked all the way to the Hotel de Ville metro station. It's pretty far away from where I live, but aimlessness has been known to get me great distances. Not only did I find the large movie theatre, I found the hole-in-the-wall artsy type cinema, a game workshop, and a Chinese restaurant. One of these days, I'm going to find the courage to go into these places. Until then, I'm content with observation.

14 January 2011

"You Shall See Things, Wonderful to Tell"

First person to get the reference wins everything forever.

Today was slightly more exciting than yesterday. It began with finally buying myself a watch! Most of the stores are having a major sale this week, and the cost of everything is drastically reduced. The watch I bought was originally 100 euros, and I paid 41.50 for it. And it comes with a warranty, so that's awesome. After doing that I sat and watched the gulls on what is now my favorite place in the entire city.
After that I walked along La Rhone for about two hours. During this time I saw lots of graffiti, some high schoolers hanging out a playground-type area, and old people feeding geese. Something that really jarred me though was walking out from the center of the city to find the bridge where homeless people lived. I've seen homeless people before, there are quite a few that show up at Crown Center Plaza. However, I've never really had the image of people camping out in a tent or in a bridge support before. It reminded me that social problems exist everywhere, and I need to keep myself mindful of it.

Tomorrow Julia and I are responsible for making dinner. The rest of the family will be gone. Somewhere, I didn't really understand that part of the conversation. Ah well.

13 January 2011

Stovetop Misadventures

So Tae Kwon Do was not today, as I originally thought. Sports activities start up on the last week of January, so you will find out about my martial arts training on the 27th. Because of this, I was able to eat dinner at the apartment tonight. However, everyone else also had Thursday night plans, so my host mother got some food out for me to heat up. Frozen chicken nuggets and potato balls that were sort of like French fries.

This is when things got interesting. First, the stove is essentially a giant touchpad and, it took me about five minutes to figure out how to set the temperature of burner and make it stay that temperature. Eventually I figured it out. Second, these were food items that should have gone in the oven, but since they were put in a skillet for me I thought I should use the stove. The potato balls were super dry and the nuggets turned out kind of mushy. Such is life. I ended up drinking three glasses of Coke Zero just to get the taste out of my mouth. Here's the moral of the story: I'm not ungrateful, just bad in an unfamiliar kitchen.

12 January 2011

"Wherever You Are, There's Always That Guy"

This title was taken from my thoughts while riding the metro at 10AM. An accordion player hopped on the metro and started playing. It reminded me of the accordion-playing Textbook Game gorilla in Columbia. Nothing makes you feel more at home than finding a similar street performer.

I finally figured out my schedule for this semester. It's missing a seminar but, I have no idea which one I'm supposed to be in. I think I'll be able to find it tomorrow. I'm also ok to start going to Tae Kwon Do classes, which are every Thursday. Starting tomorrow! It's pretty much the only thing I've got going for my day except laundry.

Right now my favorite thing to do in the city is walk down to the Rhone river. It's gorgeous, even though it was gray and cloudy outside today. I like the feeling of having a place in Lyon where I can relax, think, and regain my sanity.

11 January 2011

Serious Business

The rain was downright disheartening today. Or maybe that's just me being overly homesick/ridiculous/dramatic/sentimental that is absolutely necessary. Either way, I didn't feel all that great.

The language placement test was today and, I'll find out the results of that tomorrow. Hopefully I can get an early start to tomorrow, so I can get my student card, the results of the test, and settle my confusion about scheduling classes. All before the international relations office closes for lunch! Because I'm not planning on sticking around for 2 hours without a laptop or a place to go for just one of those things to get done.

Some of you may not know this, but Lyon is the gastronomic capitol of France. Obviously, I haven't had a dish so far that I haven't liked. And tonight I was treated to a family specialty. Tomatoes stuffed with cheese, served with penne noodles! I had two servings of each, and it was the most I've eaten for dinner since I arrived. My appetite is finally returning to normal, and I'm going to take that as a positive sign.

I was feeling pretty homesick today as well. Actually, that's an understatement. I know most people are going back to Columbia this Thursday, and I had a major feeling of "GRAH I'm all alone and no one's here and what the hell do I do with my life?" It happens. But after I get my sports card tomorrow, I'll be able to participate in their Tae Kwon Do organization. Having something to do that's familiar, even if it is in a foreign language, will be a huge relief.

10 January 2011

Even Street Vendors Can Tell You're American

Today was my meeting about how to choose my classes. That was fun, and I now feel kind of slow for not figuring it out sooner. But it doesn't matter too much now, I GET TO ENROLL! Finally.

The most exciting part of my day was ordering a sandwich. The conversation went kind of like this.

Moi: "Pain steak frites, s'il vous plait"
Vendor: "Pas... plus... de frites"
Moi: "Ca suffit. Coca, s'il vous plait"
Vendor: (with hand gestures) "Boutaille ou (whatever the word for can is)"
Moi: "Boutaille, merci"

Although the vendor spoke slowly, and used excessive hand gestures so I would understand the questions, I still felt pretty good about being spoken to all in French. And speaking in French. That's important. Tomorrow I get to take the French placement exam, as well as go register with the sports organization.

09 January 2011

Defeated by the Rain

I went on a picture taking journey yesterday, when it was bright and and 14C (about 55F for those who don't want to do the conversion). I managed to walk to both rivers, la Rhone and la Saone. The views of both were beautiful. By la Rhone, there are places to get close to the river and walk around. I sat for a while with some gulls on the staircase leading to one such place. It was a relaxing way to spend the early afternoon. When I was tired of sitting, I made my way across the bridge and on the other side was a mini-skate park. A few kids were jumping in and out of the ramps with their scooters and bikes.

Today, I had a plan to walk across that bridge again, but this time venture further into the city. Unfortunately, it is raining quite a lot today, especially for someone who doesn't have a real destination in mind. I got a picture of a store that sells manga though, and I decided that, no matter what the weather, I will go to the movies later this week. There are about 4 that I've seen coming out on Wednesday, including the new Miyazaki movie! So exciting. For me at least.

07 January 2011

Alone in Lyon

Today I spent mostly by myself. I got up, made myself breakfast and even washed a few dishes. Still kind of unsure of whether or not I need to help unloading the dishwasher. I'm taking my cues from the other exchange student, since she's been here a semester already.

After my morning rituals, (can someone please tell my Uncle Scott that it's possible to take warm showers in France?) I went to the university and almost fell asleep during a presentation on the Faculte des lettres. I won't get to access the university Intranet until the 10th, but I have an idea of which classes I might sign up for. At this rate, I don't think any of them will be SELF even though I originally planned to do both.

Once the meeting was over, I got my metro card. It's 25.60 euros a month for students to ride the metro as much as possible. A single one-way ticket is 1.60 euros, and I take the metro every time I go to and from the university. So the card saves me a lot of money and the need to buy things just to get coins.

The rest of the afternoon is up in the air. I've found that I really need a watch. There are not very many clocks at the university, and I don't have a phone. I can see it being an issue at some point.

06 January 2011

The University

Before I got started, I just need to say that last night I watched Grey's Anatomy in French. It was interesting, to say the least.

Today I had a meeting for DEUF students. It was all in French, and I understood pretty much everything that was said which is good, because most of my classes will be that way. There are a lot of information sessions I have to attend between now and when classes begin. Honestly, I'm pretty ready for classes to start. I need something normal in my life.

It's been raining almost the whole day. Sadface. It definitely doesn't help my mood any. But I suppose that's just the way things go.


The other student who is staying with my host family took me out with her friends to a bar called "The Beers." I got to meet Russians, Italians, and one guy from Peru. That was exciting! All but one of them are leaving within the next two weeks, but I'm still glad I got the chance to go out with them.

05 January 2011

First Day in the City

Today was my first day out and about. Woke up at 9:30 in the morning, had a breakfast of bread, nutella and a banana, took a shower and was off to the university! Because I'm enrolled in the DEUF program, my meeting is actually tomorrow. So I didn't really need to go today, but it was a good visit nonetheless. The campus is about the size of the North Quad, which totally blew my mind and made me miss Mizzou.

After I was done at the International Office, I met Julia (the other foreign exchange student staying with my host family) at the cafe. She took me around the center of the city with her friend, Nastia. The first store we went to was one that sold postcards, pens, books, and other such things. Here's where you can respond: if I were to send a postcard would you rather have a stereotypical "Greetings from Lyon" postcard or a weird-artsy-type postcard?

After that we went to Starbucks. Now I know what you're thinking. "Jordan, what the heck? There are TWO Starbucks in COMO!" But here's where France is great. At this Starbucks they sell actual meals, like pancakes and paninis, and awesome bakery stuff, like doughnuts and CAKE. Then we went to a few stores because Nastia, who is returning home next week, was looking for souvenirs to take for her parents.

I'm still not all that great with speaking and responding yet, but hopefully in the next week or so I can nail that down. Practice makes perfect after all, and I've definitely been practicing. And I understood enough French to laugh at appropriate times! Normally, I can't even pull that off in English so, I'm considering today I good day.

Pictures will be up later.

Current state of mind - victorious.

04 January 2011

My Arrival

I am alive and well in Lyon, France. I just got up from a nap, which I'm about to return to. The plan is to go to the University tomorrow. Hopefully I'll have some fun and exciting tales to share.

In Germany

So here's what's been going down so far. Took Air Wisconsin to Philadelphia, which was a 26 seat airplane and a 2 hour ride. Then I got to Philadelphia where I spent a half hour eating, the next half hour trying to get an internet connection, and the last half hour boarding the plane. Fun times. The flight across the Atlantic was pretty interesting. Pasta for dinner, and I got the chance to watch Easy A twice. I chose it as my first movie, then when I decided I was going to try to sleep the guy next to me started watching it. My flight to Lyon doesn't board for another hour, so I bought some time with the internet in order to stave off boredom.

03 January 2011

Today is the Day

It's early. I won't eat breakfast for fear of losing it. By 3 AM home time I will be in another country.

01 January 2011

Nervous Wreck: 2 Days

I know I haven't updated in a while. A week of having nothing going on in my life, then a week of holiday festivities made finding the time, motivation and patience for blogging slightly difficult.

Right now, the part of my trip that is giving me the most anxiety is realizing that I will not have a human support system in Lyon. All the people who are normally there to give me advice and talk me out of freaking out will be harder to reach once I cross the Atlantic Ocean. During breaks I won't be able to go home to my family, during my free time I won't be able to hang out with my friends. It's not fun finding out the hard way that I am not as independent as I'd like to believe.

I'm going to pack everything tomorrow. It's the only thing I absolutely have to do all day, and I'm going to take advantage of that time to make sure I don't forget anything.