Wednesday, December 29, 2010

12 months in one Post.

While I am daily aware that I am not posting, it wasn’t until today while talking with my roommate that I realized how much I am missing by not blogging. Writing me memories down here has been so great for me in helping me process my time, a time keeper of memories, and a journey to share with everyone.

I was looking through a daily 14 year old French News paper I received called L’actu- to help my French. Today’s paper was the typical paper that comes out at the end of the year that went over all of the important events that have taken place in the last year. I became sentimental thinking of all the great things that have happened this year, and then the roomie and I decided to do a play by play through the months.

The only problem was… I couldn’t remember any of them. Ugh. And all I could think was, “if only I had fully kept my blog updated like I did the first year, I could remember much easier.” This is the fault of me alone. Literally. Because you readers have been great at reminding me to continue to post or asking for more posts.

So I am going to try to give a brief re-cap of the big moments that occurred for me this year to see what I can remember. Rather than the lessons learned on a whole that are sure to be posted sooner or later.

January- the hardest month of my existence here in France- lost my wallet, crashed a car that I couldn’t fix, and bills pilled up and no cards to get money from. Ugh.

February- Headed to Spain where I realized I was NORMAL. I met lots of 20-somethings serving around the world like me, who interacted with cultures that weren’t American and had many of the same struggles no matter where they were placed. oh and they carried small bibles, wore rainbows, and carried re-useable waterbottles. Apparently marks of our generation.

March- Trip to Lebanon and Jordan. Fell in love with the people there, and so greatful to work with such incredible people.

April- YEA! A Roommate and a 20-something in France with me. I got to laugh hard once again- and about nothing at all.

May- After a year and a half of being apart- my two Besties came to visit and a boyfriend too. (not mine, my best friends boyfriend.) So great to hangout with them and show my life to them. Realized it’s normal to get overwhelmed by foreign things as I coached them through life and driving in France. Oh and stayed in the most smelly hotel. Literally like sleeping in a porter potty. Uck.
My friends leave and world cup begins! It was a fiasco for the French but a blast for me and my friends.

June- VISITORS. The roommate had 7 people at once overlapping with a visit from my mama and her Sistas. The Sistas were crazy as ever, but the French just simply adored them and their free loving nature. We went to the south of France, stayed in a B&B, where the heat bug made lots of noise, but its okay cause they stop when it’s below 25 degrees Celsius which happens around 9:00 at night. We also got lost on many small dirt roads thanks to Lola.

July- Yea USA!!! In the middle of July I packed my bags and headed home for my first real trip back to the states since arriving in France. I first stopped in Texas, and saw a wonderful family friend, and enjoyed the “everything is bigger in Texas” way of life. After a few days of hot hot hot heat, I headed to Cali- the land of friends, family, sand, and sunshine!

August- Man what a great month this was! Meeting with Supporters, nightly fires at Kevin and Bob’s, catching up with friends, and best friend hangouts ever week. Every convenience I have ever loved, back in my life, but mostly so thankful for all the loved relationships I have there.

September- Back to my Wonderland. I headed back to Paris, unsure why, but never happier to return. Re-entry to Paris was greater than I expected and the best decision I ever made. The new Stint Team of 5 people arrived and I was busy busy busy helping them adjust. I fell in love with my new teammates and so happy that all of my crazy experiences came turned into knowledge, to help them navigate living in France.

October- Crazy month of work. A last minute trip to Orlando, where I received training that will hopefully help me throughout my life. I loved the training, and am now curious to see how it will be used from here.
Quickly followed by a Two week conference in Turkey. 3 conferences all at the same time. Chaos. But loved every second of sunshine the country was able to offer. Which was essentially only seen during meals. All in all I think I was in my apartment 2 days this month.

November- Was still in Turkey for part of this month. Returned and Thanksgiving was on the horizon.I think there were 3 thanksgivings in 3 days. In France. I don't think I have ever had that many in America in one weekend. And our Turkey's were brought in from the states- love those butterball turkeys. yum.

December- A team trip to Switzerland. Yes 7 people in a car the size of a Toyota, Corolla. With sleeping gear. You do the math. It was cramped.
Oh how I love the holidays. We made cookies for our neighbors, and I once again was given the gift of spending Christmas with the greatest French family in Bourges des Comptes. I love this family and am so blessed to share special days with them.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

I have had to take A LOT of personality tests lately. No… I am not crazy. (Well not diagnosed as crazy anyways.) Rather, for the sake of team building purposes, I have had to take a wide variety of tests, to narrow down me as a person. What are my strengths and weaknesses , what do I like, what don’t I like, what’s my ideal career, do I laugh one someone one falls, and a whole array of questions and assessments- analyzing who I am.

Well, after a final breakdown of the last flood of personality examinations I have found my ideal career. The only problem is… I retired from this career when I was 15. Can you go back in time and repeat? Or was my career between the ages of 10-15 and the rest of my life is mere survival with no opportunity to use who I am? Oh the tragedy and turmoil when I wrestle with this as being over my career prime.
What is my perfect profession that I have so mistakenly let pass me by???

CHEERLEADER!!!!!




All of the tests have said the same things over and over again. Surprise Surprise. I am after all, the same person taking the tests. But according to “Strength Finders,” my top five strengths have me perfectly built to be a Professional Cheerleading Captain to be exact.

1. Arranger- It takes one mighty skilled cheerleader to arrange the dance and cheer choreography. To perfectly match the heights and strengths of stunt partners. And more importantly on what syllable are you to stomp and shake it, or hit a “high V” rather than a fist pump. This is not something that comes naturally. Well… unless you are an arranger like me. Then you don’t get overwhelemed with having line transformations in the middle of a chant. WOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

2. Positivity: Is this not the epitome of what a “CHEERleader” is for? To pump pump pump it up! When the crowd is feeling down and blue about the score board. We shout out, “That’s okay, That’s alright, come on Team, FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT!” WOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

3. Woo: WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Spirit Fingers! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

4. Includer: The job of a cheerleader is to not just pump up the team and keep them going, we are the spirit behind the lines, to keeping the players motivated. However, it is also our responsibility to pull the crowd into the game. Getting the crowd active, in the fight to win. Chants of Offense and Defense and team names, are what get the team motivated, and in it to win it. It takes the cheerleaders invitation to get the crowds participation. WOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

5. Activator: If it weren’t for an activator on a cheer squad all you would have is a bunch of tight high pony tails in mini skirts, lined up in a pyramid formation, for no good reason, other than looking good. Thanks to the Cheer Captain or “activator” they ensure more happens than standing straight with fists on their hips. They shout, “READY?” for the rest of the squad to respond, “OKAY!” and thus the cheer of appropriate need will commence. WOOOOOOOOO WOOOOO!

If only I had known then, that I was in my perfect job fit, I never would have stopped. I suppose, I now know, what I will need to do when I return home. It’s time for me to start stretching and practicing my high kicks, so I am prepared to audition next spring for the Charger girls!

After all, I only want to work out of the way I was created and out of my strengths.


*Disclaimer- it is not appropriate as a cheerleader to WOOOOOOOOOO. It is rather encouraged to use words than sounds when pumping up the crowd and team

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Bourse Aux Velos

Yesterday in Paris was a day to be remembered. It was the day I bought a pair of wheels for transportation. Now naturally you would probably be thinking I bought a car. But no. Even better. I bought a bike!

The ladies and I trekked into Paris for the annual Bourse Aux Velos, held each year in the 13th district of paris. The way it works is, those who own bikes and don’t want them, come in the morning and drop them off with a price in mind. Then in the afternoon those seeking two wheels and a pair of peddles for transportation, show up and find themselves a bike, on a first come first serve basis. Then those who turned in a bike, show up at night and either collect their cash, or their unpurchased bike.



There were all varieties of bikes to be found, from little tike bikes, to mountain bikes, city bikes, broken bikes, rusted bikes, tandem bikes, road bikes, and MY NEW BIKE.

The key to this bike sale is to get there early- so you can get the best selection. (Thus the first come first serve protocol.) We weren’t there first. But we didn’t get there last either. Once they opened the rope for us to pass through, it was like a mad dash Black Friday style to find the best bike for the cheapest price.

The Ladies are making their search for the perfect bike


The trick was in finding a bike you like and holding onto it, while exploring other options encase there was a better deal or bike to your liking. Have you ever tried holding onto one bike, while test riding another? With 40 other people vying for a bike? It makes for quite the scene.

The roomie is testing her first bike of choice


After making our dibs on bikes, getting adjustments made to ensure the seats actually do move down and aren’t permanently lifted too high. Imagine buying a bike, and then finding out it’s welded to a precise height. No more peddling for you my dear friend. And handle bars so low you could touch the floor- people would think you are in a rap video rather than riding your bike. Or maybe you are riding your bike Flo Rida style. Thankfully neither of the above situations took place for our biking crew.

Our bikes of choice right before going to purchase them.


We purchased our bikes, all one happy biking clan and headed home with six bikes for six girls.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Brugge-Stint Style

This last week the 5 Newbies, the Roommie and I went to Brugge, Belgium as a way to take time together as a team and get to know one another, and figure out how in the world this next year is going to function for all of us, and all together. After all, we are:

Taking 7 strangers, who were picked to live together, work together, and have their lives blogged and photographed- STINTWORLD Paris Style!

The Team!


Our time together was spent in Brugge. A lovely quaint little town in Belgium. As my friend Amy would say, “It slaps you with cuteness.”



It is candy for the eye in every direction that you look. Literally- there are streets filled with chocolate shops. Everything is so picturesque it almost looks fake. But you know it’s real- and the way the life was meant to be in this small little town that caters to horse and carriage.



And what would a quaint town be, without floating swans.



Many believe due to the name that French fries come from… France. But they are wrong. They actually belong to the Belgium’s, and when ordering you should ask for Belgium fries not French Fries- but whatever you do, be sure you indulge in some wonderful fries.

Picture taken by Teammate Hannah


The roads of the town are built all out of cobblestone- you won’t find a paved over road in this town. And streets are narrow and mainly built on the one-way direction system. This is highly inconvenient with construction and driving. Thus it is much more efficient and fun to take your bike and ride it all around town.



When you are ready for a nice a relaxing treat find a cute café and order a coffee and Belgium waffle- also known as a waffle- and watch people as they walk by.



This trip was a great start off on the right foot. We all got along together wonderfully and got started in the right direction for a year full of fun, memories, and experiences we will all remember for a life time.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

5

Today I picked 5 people up from the airport. I picked up 5 people who are starting out on their own French adventure. 5 people who will get to grown and learn more about themselves, France, and life then they ever imagined.

I have known these five people would be joining my office for some time now. I have been excited for their arrival, for the most part because they are close to my age. However, today, a new excitement overcame me. One that makes me feel alive and a part of the French life. Today I was given the gift to give back all that has been given to me.

I was able to drive them around, get them settled into a temporary place to stay, walk them around like zombies when all they would want to do is sleep or cry. I was able to give direction to the directionless, and know that one day, sooner than they expect… they will be able to do this all on their own. I got to make them a meal and send them off to bed. And I got to dream, to dream about all that will come about for them in this next year.

I am excited for 5 new people. And the 5 new influences on my time here, learning, living, and loving in France.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Goodbye and Hello

The day before leaving I had the most incredible day, Filled with sunshine and a nice bike ride down The Pacific with a good friend. While cruising down the strand, all I could think was that life couldn’t get any better than that moment. The sky was a bright blue, with scattered puffy blue clouds, sounds of the ocean crashing played in the back ground, while my bike bell jingled and greeted those we passed by. While wearing a fun causual summer sundress, the smell of SPF lingered on my skin leaving the perfect scent of summer. The wind was blowing in my hair and left me feeling free from everything except my cherry red beach cruiser. It was perfection.

Flashforward to the next day when I landed in Paris. All the wonderful people at home imagine me in the center of the beautiful city, the Eiffle tower sparkling bright, and who could forget Notre Dame! (I mean, of course you see these out of the window of the plane when you land 40 minutes out of the city.) So imagine to my suprise when I landed and the first thing I see out the plane window is... a down pour of rain. I suppose it's time to trade in those flip flops for my parapluie (umbrella).

Good bye summer tan- Hello frizzy hair!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Chosing Thankfulness

Everyday since my return to the grand USA has been filled with overflowing Joy, love, and appreciation for my life here. And with 5 days left the reality of my leaving becomes ever present in my life.

When I was in 7th grade someone gave me a card with this quote on it

“I am convinced that life is 10% of what happens to us and 90% of how we react to it.”

– Charles Swindoll

I have quoted and recalled this line many times throughout my whole 26 years of life and really believe in what this quote represents. Whenever I catch myself not wanting to return to France, one of my first reasons is because here life is so, “easy.” It just works, I understand it, I can work the systems, and it clicks without breaking invisible boundaries I never knew could exist.

However, we have never been called to a life of Easiness… We have been called to live a life of thankfulness. After this realization, Today I decided to meditate today on the things that I am thankful for not just here in my “easy” life, but also in the place where I am continually stretched and grown into the woman I am to be.

- I am thankful for the hard times, because they have taught me how to be stronger.
- I am thankful for the lonely times, because they taught me a new level of self-confidence and worth.
- I am thankful for the places I get to visit, not because of the magnificent views and world monuments I see, but for the people I meet, and the stories I know.
- I am thankful for my first French friend I met in Dance class, who just thinking upon her brings a smile on my face and what a blessing that friendship will always be.
- I am thankful to know what a real croissant should taste like, cause the one’s here simply do not cut it any longer.
- I am thankful for the families that took me in and had me over for dinner and made me part of their family when mine was so far away.
- I am thankful for the opportunity to still be a part of the French community and for those who know who I am. My produce guy, my boulangerie woman, and my herb lady- I look forward to continuing to growing relationships with all of them.
- I am thankful for the ability to intricately know the streets of Paris and my small town, that I am not forever lost, but know the back streets- as much as I know the streets to the place I have always called home.
- I am thankful for all those who have loved me enough to let me go, and to support me through all my time away, and prayed for me throughout the journey.
- I am thankful for the ability to live an exciting life adventure and to take people on it with me.
- I am thankful I am returning to a place I know, a language I am competent enough in, and a roommate to have shared experiences with.
- I am thankful to have the ability to continue to learn French through emersion.
- I am thankful of not knowing the adventures that lay ahead, but have the firm foundation to believe whatever happens, I have been prepared thus far to handle whatever situation comes my way, and to have the confidence in knowing God never gives us anything we cannot handle.
- I am thankful to have had this time home, to restore and go back to see Paris, and do ministry well.
- I am thankful for the reminder that attitude is everything, and the opportunity to practice.
- I am thankful for every supporter who believes in what I am doing and having the summer to share with each of them.
- I am thankful for each person who reads my blog and follows my journey along the way.
- I am thankful for the life I have been given, the ability to live out my dreams, and the expectancy of what growth and greatness exists in the year ahead.

I am going to chose thankfulness and through the process of choosing to be thankful watch the fruit of easiness bloom into my life abroad.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Where's Katie?

I have heard from quite a few people that they are sick of seeing my Bon Dimanche posting every time they come to my blog- disappointed that there is no new posting. I am flattered that I have regular visitors to my blog and thus thought for those who want more, the least I can do is provide a post.

In my defense of not posting, my blog is about my life in France. And well… currently I am not in France. In fact, I am as far away from France as I could possibly ever be. Okay maybe not exactly… as far physically. But I am the furthest I have been physically in the last two years, and I am mentally so check out of the French world it is insane.

It has been so absolutely wonderful being home. Home is home. I knew I loved Dorthy as a child, but I never understood her words as profoundly as I do not when she says… “There’s no place like home.”

My brain is loving up the English language. I do my best to try to think in French every once in a while and it is impossible. Absolutely impossible. My brain refuses. A friend and I watched a movie the other night and half of it was in French, and it even took me a moment to let it sink in that I was understanding the words they were speaking. I honestly believed I shouldn’t be. Because… well because I only speak English. I love the on demand “say something in French,” requests I get… and simply sputter out a “'Bonjour,' 'Merci,' 'Au Revoir'” The basic words they would already know, and await the amazed looks. (They have yet to come!) But it is impossible to explain to people the level of French I can speak- so I think they believe I really can only say hello and goodbye. Not actually accomplish anything real. But that’s alright.

In all actuality I have had a really difficult time perceiving the last two years of my life have been real. You know the part in the Wizard of Oz when Dorthy awakes from her magical world and tries to explain where she was, and points to her friends saying, “you were there, and you were there, and you were there…” but ultimately she is left in a confused state. Many times that’s what I feel like I am doing. Waking up from a dream where a few people made a cameo, but mostly everything in my natural world is different from the place I have just been and been transformed by.

Yesterday I cried for the first time about the thought of leaving California going back to France. I will truly miss leaving home once again. But I am also very excited to get back to France and my life there. This is my once chance and opportunity of something so unique and wonderful in my life. I am blessed to live in such a fabulous place, and be at a place where I am thriving in a foreign country. I am excited to see what the Frenchies are going to teach me in the year to come and excited to reunite with the friends I have there. To know that they are all real and not just some figment of a quite vivid two year dream.

I will be returning to France and blogging soon!

A Bientot!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Bon Dimanche

I can’t state how much joy my Sunday market brings me. But it should be obvious to the readers because I feel like I mention it often. I want to blog about it every Sunday because every Sunday it brings me something refreshing. I am always learning something new, whether it’s about what is in season when, discovering a new food I have never seen before, or having the opportunity and time to practice my French with the Locals. I love that I have vendors who know me and greet me each Sunday- and who notice when I haven’t been around for a while, or comment that I got too much sun the day before (an impossibility here if you ask me.)

This Sunday, nothing out of the ordinary particularly happened, but I want to share my experience – to document it, so that I may never forget the joy it brings to me. Today is a beautiful sunny day. The walk down the cobble stone street that leads to the main market road was sparkled with people carrying baskets of fresh produce back to their flats. The line at the “Coeur de Pain” (Heart of bread) boulangerie was out the door with people waiting to get their baguettes to accompany their family Sunday meal. And on the corner the tabac was filled with men sipping their cafes probably discussing the events of this last week.

My first stop at the market is always the produce stand. Here there is a young French guy who typically helps me, or was the first person I interacted with and he patiently helped me get through the proper pronunciation of French produce. There is an older man with a mustache who is always smiling, and a quaint woman who always walks around to the waiting patrons and offers samples of fruit, “Fresh cantaloupe! 1 euro, Lovely Strawberries 2 euro per kilo.” My next stop is generally to the woman who sells herbs. I like her a lot. Today was the first time we talked past what I actually wanted- my typical order each week is either Basil or Coriander (Cilantro)- however today I stepped out of the box and tried something new.

I am not sure if it because it is summer- the beginning of the new season, but today I discovered many new foods I had never seen before. Not only discovering new foods was part of today’s fun, but also the delight of picturesque colors displayed on all the cherries, strawberries, peaches, and nectarines, they are like a bright floral arrangement of fruit, bursting with flavors of bright colors.

In celebration of the new goods from today, I want to highlight three of my indulgent purchases today. Two are new goodies to try and one is and oldie but a goodie- but tastes more extravagant than ever before. I am so sad I cannot put a sample on my blog for you to try, but can only tempt and tease you through the pictures and writings. Today I bought- some type of exotic Mushrooms, Nectarines, and Coco Haricots- but I have no idea what they would be called in English.



Last week there was an abundance of new mushrooms on display- I was tempted then, but resisted. However this week I went to the market in pursuit of mushrooms. When I made it to my herbs lady who had on display about 5 different types of mushrooms- I asked her what the difference was between them, and she said they were all really different, it depended on what I wanted to make. I explained that I had no idea, this was my first time, but they looked all so beautiful I wanted to try some. She pointed out the mushrooms pictured and said they would be easiest.



They also happened to be the ones I was eyeing last week. She then instructed me how to prepare them and gave me a free bunch of chives to sautĂ© the mushrooms in. I can’t wait to try them- I love the shapes and colors of these- I am interested to see how they change form when cooked, and what aroma they will fill my apartment with.



Last week I bought a half kilo of Nectarines and regretted it all week long. Why in the world would I have deprived myself? These Nectarines are one of the best things I have ever enjoyed in my life. The color of the skin is like a perfect Californian sunset and the flesh inside is as bright as the sun on a clear day. The bursts of flavor overtake your senses and is the purest taste of a perfect summer one could enjoy.



In response to only buying a half kilo of nectarines last week- this week I bought 4 kilos (8 pounds) of nectarines. Obviously I cannot eat 8 pounds of nectarines in a week- but the plan is to chop some up and freeze them to be enjoyed all year long. Genius I know!

And finally- the most exotic award goes to my coco Haricots. I have never seen these before but was intrigued as soon as I saw them. I have no idea what they will taste like or what the texture will consist of? Will it be like a kidney bean or will it be like a snap pea? I initially thought the color of the shell was pretty the gentle wisps of purple color.



But then the guy helping me opened up the shell and inside was 5 pearls of speckled jelly bellies. My friend Andrea was talking about how much creativity God used when giving us food and when I saw this, I thought of Andrea, and am interested to see what this creation will bring to my palate once perfectly prepared. I was told to unshell the jelly belly contents into lightly boiling water for 40 minutes, what I forgot to ask was what I should make with them. But here’s to trying new things.



Overall, today’s market experience was a success. I was able to collect a plethora of goodies to be enjoyed throughout the week. I was able to have good conversations in French not only about the food but able to learn more about those who help me week after week, and reconfirming the relationship with my hosts. I am so lucky they are able to share their knowledge and nutritional treasures with me. I am excited to have something new to try to make and taste throughout the week. Hopefully I will follow their instructions properly and have successful stories to share with them next week.

Bon Dimanche! (Happy Sunday!)

She's Headed Home- and Oh So Excited

In one month I will be getting ready to board a plane and headed to the land of the free and free refills! So I have decided to make a list of things I am oh so excited about! So in no particular order….
1. Free refills
2. Family!
3. Friends!
4. Fun
Okay enough F’s already
5. Mexican food!
6. Seeing friends who are pregnant or gotten married in the last year and a half and celebrating with them.
7. Runs on the beach
8. Seeing supporters and sharing with them
9. Spending time with a close family in Texas.
10. Being in my own home
11. Driving on large streets
12. Being able to read AND (wait for it… wait for it…) UNDERSTAND –E-V-E-R-Y-THING!
13. Taco Bell
14. Panikin with Alyssa
15. 24 hour fitness!
16. SUNSHINE!
17. Reading at Vinaka’s
18. Church- oh how I miss my churches
19. Having friends call me.
20. How could I get this far without mentioning my adorable nephew and playing with him! A definite must!
21. Getting a Tan- or soaking up the sun with some SPF
22. Not carrying an umbrella with me wherever I go
23. TARGET!!!!
24. Jalapenos
25. Endless hours of sitting at Barnes and Nobles and browsing through endless stacks of magazines
26. Pedicures!!!
27. The drive between my home and my best friends place.
28. Spending time with the San Diegans I have met here in France but connecting back home.
29. Movies with Nicole
30. Riding bikes on at the beach
31. Hair cuts by Kali- my head is a hot mess right now
32. My dollar being worth a dollar!
33. Not questioning what the right gas is every time I put gas in the car.
34. Not being charged every time I purchase something or withdrawal money.
35. People! I am so so so excited for all the people!
36. Being able to ask questions and really understand the answers. Not just put together pieces of words and have the answers
37. Dad’s BBQ
38. Air Conditioning
39. The smell of the ocean
40. Beach sunsets
41. Stars
42. Having someone else bag my groceries
43. KPFM
44. So You Think You Can Dance as it airs, not all fuzzy, and on a large TV.
45. Chilling with my brother
46. Hanging out at the girls apartment
47. Iced Drinks
48. Not having people question me every time, wondering how my “swipping” credit card works. Or needing to convince them that is does work.
49. California Boys- mmmm
50. Just knowing that there is no place like home, and living in every blessed moment that I am able to have. And to cherish it all while re-experiencing all that is “normal” for me, that I am so fortunate to have in my life.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Slurping Down The Funds

Often it is said living in Paris is so expensive. However, in the end I am unable to give direct concrete examples of why it is so much more expensive to live here other than the typical- “to start off you have the disparity between the value of the euro and the dollar.”

Well that is all fine and well. But… unless you live with that daily disparity you might not fully grasp what this means. But alas, I have found a perfect example of one way living in France is much more expensive than living in the U.S. Or at least the value of cost and product.

The other day in the mall, my roommate had a craving for a slushy. I was convinced these didn’t even exist in France considering how hard I have to fight for a single cube of ice. But she assured me and led the way to the slushy machines.

In front of the slushy machines were the posted prices, just as you would have at your local 7/11 or AM/PM (or whatever gas station you use for your slushy fix). However, the cups were not next to the handles. You were required to first go and pay 2 euros (2.63 dollars this day) and then they handed you a cup where you could have the lady pour you, your slushy. I decided this wasn’t the day to ask her to mix the flavors.

Moi: Um… Can I have layered coke and cherry please? Thanks! That’d be great!

Their would be reaction: Ce n’est pas possible.

After paying the lady pulls out the cup and I thought it must be a joke. But instead I have a joke or riddle for you?

Q: How do you make a small car look big?

A: Put a French Slushy in front of it!


While in the U.S. for 2.50 you would be given a up about this size.



For our bargin of almost 3.00 dollars. Sarah and I were given this dainty thirst quenching size.



If only we were at yogurt land and could pay an extra 10 cents for them to “drop it” and quadruple my slushy value.

Monday, June 21, 2010

WROOOOF! WROOOF! WROOOOF!

Every so often in my blog I have referenced Kujo. But I don't believe I have ever formally introduced who Kujo is. Anyone who has seen the movie Cujo movie from the 80's might guess that I am talking about a crazy wild dog- but this has never officially been stated.

Yes Kujo is a crazy wild dog. Wild as in zealous- he has a home, and he loves to protect it. Kujo is not just any crazy wild dog- he is my crazy wild dog. Okay... not mine but my corner neighbors crazy wild dog. He is big, burly, and a beast at best. Upon first meeting Kujo I was walking in front of his home and leapt 20 feet in the air when greeted by his gnarly bark. Though he is quite intimidating, I have found a friend in Kujo. I just don’t think he has found one in me yet.

Kujo defending his turf


While his bark probably petrifies most who walk by ( and honestly still does to me) it’s a familiar sound, and I have come to enjoy this massive beast. I have fun tormenting him and tossing things out my window at him, whispering Kuuuuuujoooooooo in his yard when I walk by late at night, and that he comes back hard with a vicious bark each time. Really were buds.

About a month ago I was looking out of my window and I realized I hadn’t heard Kujo’s bark in a long time and told my roommate, “I think Kujo is gone.” She shrugged not really knowing my history with Kujo, or yet to have the opportunity to bond with the villain. Upon this realization, my heart wished my bud was not really gone. But as days passed I would see my neighbor gardening with the freedom of leaving his gate open, and in the mornings when I would look out my window I would look expectantly to see my friend… only to see his empty kennel and no Kujo in the yard. I gave up hope that I would ever see my taunting amie again.

Today while doing my dance video workout I was blasting the music and had my window open to let in a cool breeze. While mid-pirouette I heard a glorious sound:

WROOOOOOOOOOOOF WROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOF WROOOOOOOOOOORF!

Feeling like I was the little boy in Homeward bound when he hears Chance bark:
Start video at 4:28 for the touching moment


I leapt from my spot, bounded to the window and yelled out

"KUUUUUUUUJOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!! YOU’RE BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACK!
I KNEW IT! I KNEW IT! If I believed you wouldn't bite me I would run down and hug you! Just like Jaimy does with Chance. But I'm not going to take that chance."

WROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOF WROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOF

KUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUJJJOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

WROOOOOOOOOOOOOOF WROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOF!

I missed you too Kujo! I missed you too!

Wroof!

The French Revolution: World Cup Style

There are riots on the streets of Paris. Okay maybe not actual riots on the streets, but the newspapers are flared up with disgrace and humiliation of the French National Teams “playing” at the world cup.

The melt down of the loyalty to the French team began after the embarrassing 0-2 loss against Mexico last week. (By the way- Mexico had TONS of spirit and fans,- but the Frenchies had stepped it up for this game too). But in the end, the French lost, Mexico won. The next day headlines read “Imposters!” and “Pathetic!” A cheek had defiantly been turned to this team.



Well if that is where the story would end with murmurs of embarrassment that would be sufficient. But when I woke up this morning I realized so much more drama has unfolded. After reading all that has happened I smiled and thought… this is so perfect and so befitting for the French World Cup experience.

A summary of what has taken place: A key French player (Nicolas Anelka) cussed out the coach (which was also a headline) (Raymond Domenech) and thus was kicked off the team and sent back to Paris. In response to losing their team member- the team decides to not practice with the training coach (Robert Duvern) on Sunday. Then the training coach yells at the team captain, which is broken up by the coach. While watching this take place the Teams Director (Jean-Louis Valentin) is furrowing his brow and decides he is fini. He throws his badge to the ground walks off the field and is on the first flight back to Paris. GASP! (Can you feel the drama)? I also imagine now Jean-Louis Valentin being seated next to Nicolas Anelka on the same flight. Buckle up folks, this might be a turbulent flight. Following the disaster unfolding on and off the field in South Africa- the most natural way to solve this problem is to have the French President step in and have his Minister of Sports talk to the team- aka knock some sense in these “Professionals.”

Why to me this is so befittingly French: Because this happens here all the time. I give you my formula in the context that has been so lovely displayed for the world.

- The Angry Catalyst (Nicolas Anelka ): Puph! (sound of the French puffing their lips) You are rude and impolite; I am going tell you exactly what I think because I am not afraid of conflict.

Warning: Though published in French Newpapers, best not to be translated


- The Instigator (Raymond Domenech): Ha! I have more power than you, I am having the higher ups get rid of you. See ya! Au Revoir!



- The Brotherhood (French Nation Team): Ce N’est pas Juste! That’s not fair.. You can’t take away our hommie- if he goes… We strike! We think you are the mole- We won’t train- You got us into this mess you traitor. I won’t kick any balls for you today!



- The guy in Charge (Jean Louis Valentin): Oh la la la la!!! If you strike- fine! You are a disgrace! I strike too and refuse to work with or for you! And I will throw my whistle as I stomp the yard.



- The Placater (The Government): OHHHHHHHHH NOOOOOOOOOOO! S’il Vous Plait Minister of Sports, this is why we have a place for you, it is our job as the government to ensure our team is alive and well down in Africa- Go and make Peace!


At the moment the French National team is in shambles. I am not sure what is going to happen between now and the game they are expected to play tomorrow night against South Africa. But have no fear- the government is on it. Hopefully the players will end their strike tomorrow. And will come together for a possibly redeeming win against South Africa.

I am curious to see how many people watch the game tomorrow- with all the upsets and embarrassments, I am not sure how many will still come out for support. But maybe if they get off the bus and start doing what they are supposed to be doing... This!



Then they might get a few fans back, and even score a goal before exiting the World Cup!

Monday, June 14, 2010

FIFA FAN FEST!

Give me an event where there are thousands of cheering fans and I am one happy person. The cheerleader in me cannot resist the opportunity to scream and shout and cheer on a team with the best of them. I become an instant number one fan of any team and the louder the crowds shout, the more energy I have to thrive upon.

I have been waiting for the world cup to start for a VERY long time. Basicially… since I arrived. I have been waiting to watch the normal contained French become exuberant and wildly passionate about their sport and team of choice. The World Cup officially started on June 11th. I planned to join all the Frenchies in watching the sport and learn what the world loves about “Football,” compared to my love of American Football.

FIFA hosting the world cup has selected 6 cities to host the FIFA Fan Fest where they place a large screen in a major park to gather large crowds together to watch the game. Paris was selected as one of the host cities this year. The location couldn’t be any better. The event takes place right off of the Trocadero. The Trocadero is genereally loved by tourist for an amazing view of you with the Tour Eiffel. Having the World Cup game played for the next month with thousands of football lovers with the Eiffel tower in the back! What more of an experience can you ask for than that?!



If you are in Paris and are able to make it- I suggest arriving early. Pack a picnic come an hour or two early and enjoy the day. We arrived about an hour and a half early and it was perfect. Starting an hour before the game- there was a host who tried to pump up the crowds. Through dances, small competitions, and shoutings of “Allez les Bleus!”

Having fun while waiting for the game to start


The FIFA Fan Fast wass filled with all of the major news broadcasters (we were interviewed- luckily Sarah knows something about soccer), thousands of people, poofs of spontaneous busts of confetti, and music to keep high energy going during the pregame waiting and halftime break.

On the stage they taught an “easy dance” to get the crowd up and moving while they played “This is Africa” one of the songs for the World Cup. When they invited the crowd to join, 5 people out of the 3,000 stood up to join. I wonder if the other three people who stood were just as embarrassed, when no one else stood, and when the music played they did a completely different dance. However, I am not on a mission to learn the moves to “Wavin Flag” and be better prepared, to help set the tone of the match.

The Goal will be go from the 5 of us who stood to getting the response this crowd had.


My favorite part of watching football with the Frenchies is being with them during the singing of their National Anthem, “La Marseillaise.” I appreciate the difference between the normally loud Americans who listen respectful to the “Star Spangled Banner.” To the typically reserved French who proudly sing or chant the first verse of their National Song. We recorded a video of this on Friday. The sound is a bit off, but watch the group of guys who have their arms wrapped around each other in camaraderie. Another one to observe is the guy pumping his fist in support of his nation and team.

video

One other fun difference between Sports in America versus here in France was the dress code. At home when going to a game I always wear a Tee Shirt or Jersey to support the team. At a Chargers game everyone is dressed in Chargers gear. Being that we were going to a Major sports game in France, my roommate and I naturally went to the store- questioned our national loyalty if we bought France National Tee Shirts but decided, “When in France… Wear France!” We bought our shirts and wore them proudly to the game.

Notice all those surrownding us and their lack of any thing resembling team spirit in their clothes.


And we were the ONLY ones proudly wearing these shirts to the game. I thought for sure I would see several people wearing my basic shirt. But no. Everyone else was wearing their regular clothes. There were a few who wore the French flag and painted their face – as in two people. And if I would have talked to them, they might have actually been American- who also made the mistake of dressing for a major sport event the same way we would back home.

But to give the French more credit than their lack of Blue attire, they did have many waving flags in support of their team. (I wonder if they sell American Flags here?) And you can see in the video of their national anthem they wave them proudly throughout the game.

While I was one of two people (the other my roommate) wearing a shirt in support of France, I think I will keep this small part of my All Americanism while watching the World Cup this year. Hopefully we can help inspire a whole new level of support and Spirit for the French National Team.

I loved the FIFA Fan Fest, I loved watching the World Cup with the French in support of their National Team, and I love that there is a whole month of football ahead to roar up a nation, and rally people together in support of something fun.


Allez Les Bleus!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Coupe du Monde 2010



Today begins the 2010 World Cup. Tonight France will be playing and I am very excited to go and watch with all the Frenchies!



Best of luck to the Frenchies (and of course the Americans!!!)

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Cheese Please

This week my fridge was completely barren. About half way through the week my roommate and I decided to do something about it and make a grocery list. I started the list and then handed it to her to fill in the missing list.

My list:
- Oranges
- Milk
- Eggs
- Tomatoes
- Zucchini
- Bananas
- Yogurt

When the list returned to me it looked something like this:

- Cucumber
- Apples (a few)
- Red/green pepper
- Hand soap
- Lettuce
- Cheese

Pause…

Cheese?



I hand the list back to my roommate and say,

“Iowian… do you know what country we are in?”

Iowian: “um… France?”

Me: “Yes! Exactly! Look at this list, You want me to buy Cheese? What kind of cheese lady? There are over 400 types of cheese! Do you want to buy one of every kind? Our fridge would reek.”

We shared a good laugh and then decided we wanted Brie, Camembert, Feta, and Emmental, for this weeks cheese selection. This way when we walked down the two full aisles of cheese in the super market we didn't have to pretend we were on supermarket sweep and clear all of the cheese out of the aisle- but leave a bit for the vrai frenchies to enjoy.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Free no more

When I arrived in France I was greeted with the wonderful youthful, energetic, buoyant, age of 24.


And now I am the old seasoned, grape dehydrated turned raisin age of 26.


Had I been in the US of A, in the land of the Free, and the land of Free refills; during this age of transition, this thought might not be so tragic or a transition at all. But because I am in the land of the free, if you are under 26- my cost of living just went up significantly.

See there is this beautiful fact in France that pretty much everything is cheaper when you are 25 or under. Free museums, discounted metro tickets, cheaper movie passes, lower priced gym memberships (the whopping bargain of 52 euros a month), and these are just to name a few. This was especially beneficial when the friends and family come to visit and I would go play tourguide for the touristos and touristas. I greatly appreicated not having to pay full price to see the same things several times. To me it helped even it out.

But alas… the joy of freeloading off the benefits of being young in Paris have dissipated. My time of gallivanting around for free or on the cheap has come to an end. I now must join the rest of the population over 25 and do the unthinkable… but to pay the Adult price.

Ugh.

They can take away my youthful discounts, but they can never take away my yooooooouth!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Another Birthday Away

On May 31st I threw myself into a mini pity party. A wallow of self-depravity that I am so capable of doing when I am tired and missing my friends. This was spurred by my 15 days of constant work and travel. And then encouraged by that fact of knowing that in a few short hours I would be turning another year older, in a foreign country another year without my friends and family around. Yes I have new friends here, but when events like my birthday arrive- I naturally pull to wanting to be stateside.

However- yesterday was an wonderful day! I never cease to be amazed at how many people take the time to wish you a happy birthday when you are away from home. And the extra effort people here make to make you feel like you are at home. I had a simple day- but filled with many facebook greetings of Happy Birthdays, a few cards from loved ones at home, and an amazing dinner with people I have come to know here.

Thank you for all who made not just my birthday special but every other day in between. That’s the greatest gift a girl could wish for.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Ruby Slippers


If I could find a pair of these, and I clicked my heels three times... Would I magically wake up to have one day at home?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Bye Bye Tabs

In the last few days- something quite resourceful disappeared off of my computer. When on the internet, I could click on a new tab, and my “most visited sites” would pop up and I could click, click, click away through my top sites to see if anything interesting at that moment was happening.



Within a minute I could browse through Facebook, Gmail, Blogger, NY Times, and whatever handy dandy site I decide to spend my internet life upon. But, oddly the last few days when I would click on my new tab to zip through my fave sites, the options were missing and I would (GASP!)… wait for it… wait for it…

I would have to click in the browser bar and Type (yes type!) my web address destination, All. By. Myself.

Phew! Tough I know. I don’t know how I have managed but… somehow I am making it. Unfortunately… not all are being as successful in typing up their own websites and are quite enraged by this change. I thought my computer was doing something different, but after researching how to turn it back on, I learned that google removed this feature and it is no longer an option.

After discovering this, there was then a huge long thread of lots of internet based yelling. You know the whole, all caps all bold font. It’s quite intimidating. Anyways, These bold font bulliers are livid. Yes literally livid that their Google tab bar has been removed and they are distraught on how in the world they are expected to access their favorite websites without it.

I loved this option, and really do hope that it’s reinstated. But… it is not something I will waste a day mumbling and grumbling over how ghastly it is, that it’s now gone. (Instead, I will just write a blog about those grumblers. Ha!) One person complained that now when their boss comes in looking for information they can’t just click on their tab and pull it up. They are clueless on how in the world they will function on the internet any longer. In these cases- I laugh and think, “Yah right.” Most studies show that employees are on the internet much more on non- work related items, than on work related sites. So actually… the removal of this tool, might, just might save you your job. Rather than your boss seeing you spend your time on Facebook, Twiter, and crybabies.com, you can save face and (deep breaths again) Type it in yourself. Scary I know!

I actually don’t think this is the end of the tab favorites, especially after all of the slack google is getting from this change. But seriously, we all survived before the favorites tab existed, I think we can survive now. We are just typing it back old school style before 2009. The only question that remains is, How did we ever survive before this time???

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Ahhh We Meet Again

After a post about how many of us Americans miss having Taco Bell while living here in France, I recieved a wonderful suprise. My mother sent me a care package with all the fixings to make Taco Bell tacos, here in France.

To celebrate, I hosted a Faux Taco night, to enjoy the fresh ground beef seasoning, shredded lettuce, and cruchy taco shells. Yum! As we were about to eat, I remembered that on my last visit to the states- while at a Taco Bell I nabbed several packets of Mild sauce. (In case of an emergency). Having those packets was the pefect compliment to the gift my mother had sent.

After preping my perfect TB approved taco I reached into the bag, and watched the Red Sauce ooze over my taco with adoration. After squeezing every last bit out of the packet I looked at the front and smiled and though, Oh how true this is...



Yes, Yes Taco Bell, We do Meet again!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Open Your Eyes, Love, and Go on...

“You can shed tears that she is gone, or you can smile because she has lived. You can close your eyes and pray that she'll come back, or you can open your eyes and see all she's left. Your heart can be empty because you can't see her, or you can be full of the love you shared. You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday, or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday. You can remember her only that she is gone, or you can cherish her memory and let it live on. You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back. Or you can do what she'd want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.”~ David Harkins


Love you Grandma

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Reunited Dream

I just spent an amazing week with my friends. All in all it was pretty mellow – but I think I was simply calmed by having their presence around once again, and overwhelmed knowing that in a few short days it was going to all be like a perfect dream. Magical while it is taking place, but then a suddenly re-awakened into reality, and desperately trying to go back to sleep, to get back to the moments of random blissful happiness.

Initially having my BFF’s with me in a foreign land was exciting, surreal, and a time of adjustment for us all. For me it was a question of, How do I combine my foreign life abroad to my familiar life from home? I wanted to just take off right from where we left off, but while it felt like no time had passed, it was also evident to me how much I have changed, but also reinforced how much having them around- felt to right to who I am.

I was grateful to share my life with them- for them to visually be able to understand all that I try to explain inadequately on the phone, blogs, or email- and to observe them experiencing it all for themselves. I enjoyed seeing what parts they could skip on the next time around, and what parts they took pure delight in and could spend their entire week alone doing. I liked the times we were just lounging around, taking them to places I knew they would enjoy, or experiencing something new for the first time… Together.

I logically knew that taking them to the airport would be difficult but I did realize how hard it actually would be. If only I could have sabotaged their security checks without having them arrested- but elongate the time I could have them around. When it came time to send them off towards security and we hugged goodbye the tears couldn’t be held back in knowing I would be letting the best part of me leave once again. Leaving the U.S. there was so much excitement, anticipation, and promise of what is up ahead. But having my friends here, leaving me (rather than the other way around) made those realities difficult to see.

For one week I had my cake and was able to eat it too (or lots of Macaroons). I was able to enjoy the life I have here in France, with my best friends, being able to share with them a part of who I have become, and the place that has changed me for forever.

I love my friends, and I hope that our next time of being reunited, will not be far off in the distance, and will be for an even greater length in time.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Call Depan!

Finders Keepers was my mom’s rule when it came to doing laundry in my house growing up. If she did the laundry and spare change (or 20’s) came out of the pockets, they were hers for the keeping. But she also nagged continually reminded me to take anything out of my pockets before putting them in the hamper.

This week my washing machine broke. Well not broke per say… more like, stopped working as it is supposed to. To me it was just another saga in the things that I get to learn how to fix. And that if I didn’t live in a foreign I most likely would never have to learn. (Mainly because I would have my dad come and fix it.) But alas, I pulled out my machine. Asked everyone I knew if they knew how to fix washer machines and tried to fix it myself. Of course I failed. But could probably answer any questions you have about a washing machine.



Using my problem solving skills I did narrow down that the machine itself actually works. There was simply a problem with the water draining. If I put the pipe on the ground it would drain, but as soon as I would elevate the tube- the water would not drain as it once before had, and my load of laundry would be stuck in 4 day old water. Ick. I diagnosed that the problem was

1. Either something was blocking the water pump

Or

2. My water pump was broken.

Yesterday I finally surrendered to trying to solve the problem myself and called a repair man. Expecting to be told that he will come in three weeks, have him arrive, tell me it’s broke, come back three weeks later, and then bill me for more than my machine is worth. To my great surprise the exact opposite happened. I called the repair man, and he set up an appointment for the next day. I then kept praying, “Lord- please let it be quick, easy, and cheap!”
My repair guy showed up and looked at my machine and told me as I suspected that my water pump was clogged not broken (whoo hoo #1). He then tipped my machine over, unscrewed my water pump (one thing I didn’t take apart) and then pulled out a
BOBBY PIN!!!!!!




Somewhere along the line of bobby pins I have lying all around- one ended up stuck in my water pump- thus blocking the pump from doing it’s job of pumping water through the tube and into my sink. He then placed the machine back on the ground- turned on the rinse cycle and demonstrated the beautiful flow of water (whoo hoo # 53920343) I was ecstatic! You would have thought I struck oil the cheers that burst through me as the water once again flooded my sink as intended. To me it was like watching Old Faithful burst through the ground as I “eww and ahhhed” at its splendor.



I was utterly impressed that in less than 24 hours this problem was solved. This is a first in my French experience. I will recommend him forever- and for everything! Broken washing machine? Call Depan! Broken vacuum? Call Depan! Broken stove? Call Depan! Sick Cat? Call Depan! Bad Baguette? Call Depan! I have no clue if he does anything other than washing machines- but I’ll recommend him anyways. Maybe he can extend his business. I think I will just make "Call Depan!" my new campaign.

In the end, I got exactly what I had asked for- quick, easy, and almost cheap. My .01 cent bobby pin cost me sixty Euros- but better than a whole new machine or something more expensive. And my mom will finally get what she asked for: Me cleaning out my pockets before I place them in the hamper.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Year Two Brings More Happiness

If you ever have the crazy idea of living abroad. Make sure you stay two years. The first year will be filled with lots of new discoveries, insights, and frustrations. But the second year is so so so much more enjoyable.

I am still in the beginning of my second year living here in France, but so many small things about this time of this year is so much more enjoyable than it was this time last year. And I loved it all so much last year. But rather than continually learning about what is about to come, I get to enjoy it all the more thoroughly when it returns. The expectancy of knowing that soon the tulips were going to be planted, the days would grow warmer and longer, and parks would be filled with people once again.

It’s not just the spring that is bringing me the joy of appreciating the second year. I just really am smiling on the inside knowing, that I know how to take care of things better this time around. I have learned many lessons over the first year, and they are all paying off as I enjoy year two.

I am so excited to still see what is to come, and I know I am not fully in the clear of the, “ desperately helpless me” situations to come, but those too will help me for whatever it may be in the future.

Life at the moment is good. I am content, happy, and enjoying this time I have been given here in France. I hope small moment of reflection give you this perspective too!

This has been part of Mamakat's workshop. To participate go here.

Mama's Losin' It

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Looking at what's ahead- and so EXCITED!

I am so excited and filled with delight of all the goodness that is going to take place in the next six weeks of my life. There are so many great work opportunities, time spent with friends, and adjustments being made to my apartment.

Last July- I found out a new girl was going to be joining our office. Not just a girl. A young Girl! (as in, in her 20’s). I had quickly claimed her to be my roommate thinking she would be arriving in a few short weeks. But no… she has yet to arrive. However… This weekend I will finally be meeting my new roommate. I recently realized I haven’t lived with anyone for quite some time now- almost 4 years. I look forward to a new roommate and all the memories we will share while living here together in France.

Shortly after my roommate arrives another great arrival comes. My Best Friends! They will be here in 16 days! (Not that I am counting or anything) They are coming for 8 days and it’s going to be wonderful!!! I can’t wait to show them around my life, my town, Paris, and just be with them. I love technology and the ability for phone calls and emails, but NOTHING compares to just hanging out together in person doing something, or even absolutely nothing but the treasure that we are still together.

With the arrival of the new roommate and best friends has brought with it lots of long awaited to-do’s, that are actually being accomplished in my apartment. Many things that have needed to be hung since I moved in have actually been hung. When the roommie arrives we will have to redo the bedroom all before the friend’s arrivals. So there are many fun house projects ahead. I never thought living abroad I would learn to do minor electrical work, hang cabinets, and designing small living spaces like living here has required me to do. The minor changes I have made so far- makes my apartment look much homier- I am anxious to see it all up and completed.

Work is flourishing at the moment. A few weeks ago I had the busy busy busy conference in Cyprus and this next month I have two back to back conferences to administrate. I am sure at the end of May I will collapse from the Friends and then 3 major trips back to back with only 10 hours of turn around time before heading back to the airport and out of country- but I cannot pass up the opportunities to learn more than I have already been blessed with.

With all of this crazy goodness- I will do my best to keep up the blog. If I slack- I am sorry- but know that I will be back. But for my own sake as well, I hope that in the moments of all the busyness, to sit back and take it all in, because it’s all so good. It would be sad, if it all went by all too fast, and I didn’t take advantage to realize what it was, while it was happening. I must make the most of the moments I am given. As one of my friends favorite quotes would perfectly say, “Live this moment, for this moment is your life.” I hope to remember that while taking in all that is being provided for me in this next month.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Big World- Small Circles

Last week in Cyprus I met this guy Matt. Matt is serving with my company in Azerbaijan.

In 2000-2002 Matt lived in San Diego. The place where I grew up and come from.

Then from Sept 2002-Fall 2005 Matt was attended my same university for the exact same time I was there. Matt also attended the same church I went to 40 minutes away from campus. After comparing class schedules we most likely had a class together at one point and time.

My university was quite small. About 5,000 people. My company is quite large and very international. So it is strange to me that on our small campus or at church I never met Matt. But while I live in France and he lives in Azerbaijan, we met one morning in Cyprus over a bowl of yougurt and a plate of eggs.

I love when your path crosses with someone you may have once before walked right beside or really have the whole time, and didn't even know it. It is a big big world, with lots of small circles that keep us all intertwined.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Riding with Strangers

Every child growing up in America, has heard 8 simple words repeated, echoed, and etched into their minds from the time of consciousness and all through elementary school:

“Do not get in the car with strangers.”

I moved to Paris right as the blockbuster hit “Taken” came out – about a girl and her friend who hitch a ride with some nice guy from Charles De Gaule to their place of stay in Paris. Only later to be kidnapped, drugged, and sold into prostitution. Then came the influx of advice, “Katie- don’t take rides from strangers- especially in a foreign country!” “Are you safe? I saw this movie, ‘Taken,’ don’t get a ride from someone you don’t know.” “Be careful who you ride with, just because you think someone is nice. You can never really know, and you might be, ‘Taken.’”

After a week of sitting in conference rooms all day, on Saturday we were given a half day break- to get out of the hotel, and breathe some fresh air. A group of us decided to take the bus into town, and see what there was to offer. The bus is scheduled to run every 30 minutes. After waiting 45 minutes and having no bus come by- we decide the bus is probably not going to come- and we were wasting our precious limited free time.

As we are discussing what to do next, my friend Jeni puts out her hand, and a car pulling out of the hotel stops. She asks for a ride into town, he shakes his head yes and a group piles into the car- me being one of them. We did ensure that one boy accompanied us- but the whole time I am amazed that with ease and without questions we all jumped into this “nice guys” car. My first hitch hiking experience. I Never thought I would put that one on my list of things I have done.

Literally as our car was pulling away- the bus pulled up, loading the rest of the group whom we assumed we would bump into down town. After pulling back onto the road – our new driver puts on a Middle Eastern Techno as our loud background music- and he and the token boy begin rattling off Russian to one another. I am so out of my norm.

Stranger- Check

Driving on the opposite side of the road- Check

Car full of people speaking in Russian- Check

No cell phone- Check

No idea where I am going- Check

No Money on hand- Check

Middle Easter Techno Music- Check

Can my life become any stranger at this moment?

Nope!

While driving I turn to Jeni who is acting as if all is normal on a regular day and laugh saying,

Giddy Hitch Hiker: “I can’t believe we just did this.”

(Jeni is quite confused by my amusement of it all.)

Calm and Collected Hitch Hiker: “Why??? Because of the Loud Music???”

Giddy Hitch Hiker: “No! We just got in the car with a Stranger. My mom would flip if
she knew about this.” (sorry mom!)

Calm and Collected Hitch Hiker: “Ooooooooooooh… (Laughing) I get it now! You have
never done this before. See in Kazakhstan, we do this all the time. We stop cars as if they are taxi’s and take a ride.”

Giddy Hitch Hiker: “YOU DO?!?!” That’s crazy!”

Calm and Collected Hitch Hiker: “Yah, it’s perfectly normal to stop any car and ask for a ride.”

Giddy Hitch Hiker: “Ahhhh! Now I understand why you were so okay with it all. I was just so confused, because all my life I have been told not to get in the car with strangers, especially in a foreign country, and here, you just did it without a flinch.”

After 15 minutes our driver dropped us off exactly where we wanted to be- we asked how much we needed to pay him (apparently another standard when asking strangers for rides) and he dismissed us from the vehicle saying “We owed him nothing- it was free but to get out quickly because we were holding up traffic.” We promptly scrambled out of the car- and just like that, faster than he came, he was gone.

While I don’t think hitching a ride from strangers will become my new normal. I was given a small adventure in this foreign land, and reminded that my abnormal, in another country and culture can always be someone else’s normal .

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Musical Hotel Rooms

It’s 10:30 at night. It’s been a long day. A day of running around, up and down. Jenny needs this. Mike needs that. Can I get 15 copies of this? Did you get my email? Is the coffee Break ready? Do you know where I can get internet?

- Yes
- No
- Yes
- Yes
- Wait on sec
- No

On the go since 7:00 am. Keep up the pace- you need to be in two places at once. But it’s that glorious time of the day when I can escape from the conference and retreat to my room. No questions. Even better- No required answers. Just a bed ready for me to close my eyes and drift to sleep.

I change into my comfy pajamas, crawl under the fresh clean sheets, of the perfectly fitted and made bed. I rest my head on my pillow and sigh and deep breath of relief and relaxation. Ahhhhh a completed day- no more needs to meet for the day. Slowly drifting into a peaceful sleep…

RRRRRRRRIIIIIIIIIIIIIINNNNNNNNNNGGGGGGG

RRRRRRRRIIIIIIIIIIIIIINNNNNNNNNNGGGGGGG

RRRRRRRRIIIIIIIIIIIIIINNNNNNNNNNGGGGGGG

RRRRRRRRIIIIIIIIIIIIIINNNNNNNNNNGGGGGGG


Unrested me: “Uh- hello?”

Reception Desk: “Um, Yes Miss Hickey- sorry to disturb you, but so and so just arrived, and when they went to their room there was someone else in there.”

Unrested Me: “Okaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay…….”

Reception Desk: “Where would you like me to put them?”

Unrested Me: “Outside” “Um… let me check… “
(reaching for computer- bright light shining in eyes as adjusting back from the darkness- looking through spreadsheets desperately searching for a quick fix- to quickly get back to sleep)

Unrested Me:“ Can they room with what’s their names in 211?”

Reception Desk: “ Well it looks like they also switched rooms…”

Unrested Me: (long pause) Do I need to come down?”

Reception Desk: “Yes - that might be a good idea.”

CLICK.

Humph!

30 minutes later and lots of unregistered room adjustments later- I am headed back to my room and my bed. This has been the story of my last 2 nights.

My biggest fear at the moment is that with two more people arriving today- my night will once again end this way. Me relaxing in bed- to be jolted by a ringing phone and required to figure out where the “Hotel- Musical Chairs Room” switching has landed and trying to get people into beds- so they can sleep before me.

Bonne Nuit!

This has been part of Mamakat's workshop. To participate go here.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Sense of Being Home

Bright color painted toes – freshly sprinkled with sand

A taste of salt that lingers on your lips

The smell of sunscreen and skin from resting in the sun

Cool drips of water on your shoulders from a refreshing dip

The chills you get while wadding into the water

The burst of exhilaration when you take the plunge and go all the way under- you can’t help but to gasp.

The sound of gentle splashes flowing up to the waters edge

A playlist of Colbie Caillat and Jack Johnson playing from your iPod

A t-shirt draped just so across your face to block the blinding sun- but so you can still view the people and water

Watching couples walk hand and hand along the shore and children laughing while at play

Tangles in your hair as it begins to try into place

A breeze the sweeps across and flips the pages of your magazine

A quick nap and a sudden jolt that wakes you and reminds you it’s time to flip

A look in the mirror at the end of the day- for the bathing suit straps that signify you achieved a fresh tan

The glow on your cheeks from a run in the sun

How refreshing a cold glass of ice water can truly be.

The joy in knowing… that tomorrow it will all be here and all be the same.

Only 4 hours in Cyprus and I have been taken back to exactly what it feels like to be at home.
And man, does it feel GOOD!!

For fun- the reminders that I am NOT in Cali but in a whole other world-

The sun rises on the water rather than sets.

And… rather than cute surfer boys sporting board shorts- it’s a bunch of Middle Aged men in Speedos. Ick.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Time to Change

While the U.S.A flew forward a few weeks ago - here in France we decide to jump ahead and join you this weekend.

Tonight while lying in bed I looked up at 8:45 and saw it was just begining to seem dark.

I am so excited for the long never ending days. Cool summer evenings of sitting on cafe terraces, strolling through parks, or relaxing by the seine.



Hip Hip Horray! It's time for a time and season change!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Living and Loving in the City of Lovin

Living in the city of loooooove- you see it all around (l-o-v-e that is), and as spring comes jumping into action you see all the “lovely” couples just eager to flock back out into the gardens and parks of Paris to savor their love in the warm sunshine. Not to mention the influx of tourists that will appear to take a kissing headshot in every monument around the city. Yes I will stop and take a picture for you. No you will not be in it, if you start making out.

So as the flowers begin to bloom, birds start to sing in the air, what makes people go crazy after one eye gazing stare. What can take a usually normal sane being and after a brief chat, smile across a crowded room, or first date- make people totally lose their minds and wonder what the heck is going to happen next? And while you feel completely bizerk (yes I made this word up) people tell you it’s completely normal. I am pretty sure over analyzing ever single moment, several times, is not “completely” normal. But while you maybe going internally insane between first encounters and first phone calls, you are completely elated once you hear the voice of the anticipated pursuer actually DOES call. And filled with hope of where it will go from here…

Whenever I talk to anyone from home who I haven’t talked to since I pretty much left, one of the first questions they ask is, “So… have you met anyone yet?” (Which to be fair is a fully understandable question, it’s more of the expectation of romance due to Paris I am emphasizing on.) Prior to moving, pretty much every person (minus two people who refuse to let me live here forever) claimed my future as the typical Hollywood blockbuster love story to happen. I am so sorry to disappoint each person thus far on my venture. Cause really, I am pretty sure no one would be more excited than ME ME ME ME ME for that to actually be true.

One friend of mine has gone so far as to take bets with me. I love betting on my love life. It’s quite comical. Anyways… she is 100% certain it’s going to happen. The whole love story: Meet cute , fall in love, married, babies, “Katie a Married Parisian for life.” I am totally not against it. But I do live my reality here – and she lives the hope of the dream for me. I am thankful for that. So, whenever I comment on how I have met a cute guy, passed one on the street, or something to that degree, her quick response, “I knew it! I am going to win this bet!” Whoa… hold on Charlie… Let’s get an actual first date before we set the wedding date.

The funniest part is, this isn’t even just a foretelling from friends from home thing. It’s like in your mid-twenties if it’s not on your mind constantly; then others will put it there with a fresh dose of false hope as a free tote to go with your singleness. Whenever I travel and visit our staff in the Middle East, they tell me of all the people who have gotten married after visiting them. “Stephanie came to visit us, and she got married after wards, this always happens when people stay with us, you will see (wink wink).” “Jeni was great she came, and now she’s married, it’s cause she came to see us.” “Oh Alice, she was with us, and then she went home and quickly married, we are good luck.” Well, I cannot refute these stories are true, Stephanie, Jeni, and Alice are all married. I’ll be sure to take some of your love soil back with me in my carry on and sprinkle it around for good luck each night before I go to bed, or out with friends at night. I will be sure to send you the results once I marry.

I cannot deny. I am a sucker for love and boys. I am happy to be single at this moment. And, I love seeing happy couples all around the city. It reminds me that there is hope for all of us singles out there. Most see couples as annoying or a reminder of their singleness, and at times I will admit to having those thoughts and feelings too. But somehow here in Paris, minus the metro make out scenes, I appreciate people being in love and the reminder that no matter where you are in the world, there is love everywhere.

And hey… if people want to dream the dream for me, I mine as well let them, I’ll take all the wishful thinking people can give me. But – I am not just looking for good wishful thinking; I’ve got to keep a look out for the real deal here. And I mean, who’s to say, maybe someday after the first look, and the first encounter, I’ll have my first set of anxiety before receiving, the first phone call, and even… the first date.