For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth. Colossians 1:16

Monday, October 29, 2012

After preparing to go to the conference in Switzerland, tidying up around the house, and skyping with some very dear friends, I got to spend the evening with my friend Elisa.  She hadn't been over before, so I showed her around and she was immediately drawn to my coffee table.  Basically, everything on the coffee table describes my life.  I have a Bible, knitting patterns (including my Jane Austen pattern book), a magazine just on William and Kate, and I had a coffee mug too.  We looked through some knitting patterns, oohed and aahed over how beautiful some of the things were, and then I showed her the hat that I'm making.  She said, in her very practical lawyer way, "Okay. Teach me to knit." Because I don't particularly like standard needles, I prefer circular or double points, I didn't bring my usual needles with which I teach (not to mention I'm pretty sure my neighbor from college still has them).  Therefore, Elisa learned how to knit or circulars and with sock yarn.  Now, as much as my French continues to improve, there are some terms that just rarely come up in daily life: such as "cornstarch", "stitches", "needles", and "upside down".  All of these I have needed to know at some random point in the month that I have been here, and I have had NO IDEA how to say it. However, thanks to the French education system, most of the people with whom I have interacted have known a little English, or I have been able to describe what I was trying to say.  

After some time listening to the Rat Pack and knitting, Elisa suggested that we go out to dinner at a really great Japanese restaurant in town.  I have only had sushi once, and that was the week before I came here.  When we were looking at the menu, I definitely had a flashback to my first week in France when I was studying.  A group of us international students decided to go out to a Chinese restaurant for dinner, and the menu was in-naturally-Chinese and French.  We had NO idea what we were ordering!  Luckily this time, I had a native French speaker with me who was able to explain what the different dishes were.  This place was INCROYABLE.  For €15, you could get five different things.  I have yet to master the art of French eating and very often I find it difficult to finish everything on my plate, particularly when there are multiple courses.  Needless to say, in a very improper way, I didn't finish everything in front of me.  

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Kids are just wonderful.  Yesterday, Francoise and I met up with some people from another church in a neighboring town to promote and invite the Journées Récréatifs during the first week of November.  Basically, we went to a park outside of an apartment complex and we just started playing with one of those giant parachutes (the ones we all played with in kindergarten gym class) and kids started joining us.  We jump roped, we played Steal the Bacon (I still haven't the foggiest what the name of that game is in French), we had a snack, and then invited them to come to the J.R. In November.   Now, it isn't like we just snagged kids off the street; Francoise spent some time talking to the parents and some of the kids knew some of the adults that were with us.  

At the second place we went, there was a whole group of upper elementary school aged boys playing with toy guns and at first, they weren't too in to playing with the Parachute with us.  However, when they saw us playing Steal the Bacon a little later, they happily laid down their "cool" toys and played with us for the rest of the afternoon.  When we took a snack break, the kids were all talking to each other, trying to convince me to give them another piece of cake, etc. and one little boy came over to talk to me.  I asked him a question and he asked me to repeat it, and when I did, he said "Vous êtes Québécoise?"  Someone actually mistook me for a native French speaker! And after dinner with some dear friends, complete with Monty Python and the Muppets viewings on YouTube, I don't think my day could have been any better.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Some people may call it crazy, but I love waking up early.  The sun slowly changes the color of the sky, the trees and hills begin to come into focus as the stars slip away with the night, drinking coffee as the temperature rises, it is just my favorite time of day.

Before breakfast yesterday, I took a walk down to the boulagerie in town.  As I walked down the road past the French houses complete with hedges and gardens with thensun rising over the hills and the sky turning a dull pink, I thought how very blessed I am to live in a beautiful part of a country I love. Combine the scenery and the shifting light of a beautiful sunrise with the aroma of freshly made bread, and you have got yourself a wonderful start to the day.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Last week, I finished reading Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.  It has been YEARS since I last read it, and-as always- I just loved it.  To quote the truth of Nora Ephron's You've Got Mail, "I get lost in the language.  Words like thither.  Mischance.  Felicity.  I'm always in agony over whether Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are really going to get together."  Oh, I just love that book!  One thing that I particularly enjoy about it, though, is that people are invited over for tea.  I don't know about you, but the last time I went to someone's house just for tea was for a tea party when I was about six years old.

Yesterday, my friends took me over to their neighbors' house to meet them.  When we got to their house, we were immediately invited to sit at the dining room table, and we were offered tea or coffee.  We were encouraged multiple times to have another cookie to accompany our tea too.  We chatted and debated American politics (I personally have had enough of that thanks to Facebook, but hey, people are interested) and after a time, their plumber arrived to do some work.  He too s invited for coffee before he started work.  After perhaps 45 minutes or an hour, we said goodbye and returned to my friends' house.

It is just the loveliest idea to me to be invited (or invite others) over for tea and cookies.  It is so wonderful to know that people still invest time into one another, and in the setting of a home rather than a coffee shop.  To be clear, in no way am I opposed to meeting up for a coffee.  There are few places I love more than coffee shops, and I don't think there is a beverage I love more than coffee.  Being in the setting of a home, though, not only presents the opportunity to show hospitality, as Paul instructed the Romans to do, but it also creates communion with one another that the hustle and bustle of a restaurant or café cannot offer.

And, of course, I will always jump at the opportunity to bake cookies or cakes, which brings even more delight to the idea of inviting others into my home.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Oh I need to get better at blogging! This past week has been full of all the twists and turns that keep life interesting.

On Saturday night, I went to the Young Adult Group at church.  This is the first time since I was a sophomore in high school that my church has had a dairly large number of people my own age.  It is a bit of a change, and I love it.  After the actual Bible study part of the evening, we had dinner and somehow we ended up talking about TV shows from when we were kids.  This, naturally in the era of smartphones, led to Philippe and Fred looking up the theme songs to a myriad of shows.  Given that by the end of a night, my brain is thoroughly exhausted, I could not figure out how to ask if the had Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles here in France.  Luckily, after some theme songs I didn't know, Inspector Gadget, Care Bears, and Rescue Rangers, TMNT came on and I ever so slightly made a fool of myself because I was so excited about it.  It was great though, and a wonderful evening spent with wonderful people.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

It has been observed that after spending a few weeks in another country, particularly one that has a different language, one's brain begins to be overwhelmed and altogether stops working.  Well, that is quite true!

Being a bit out of practice with my French has its pros and cons.  Well, one pro, and a few cons.

1. I get exhausted quicker than usual because my brain is going back and forth between languages.
2. Sometimes, I haven't the foggiest what someone is talking about.  I spent an entire conversation thinking that I had to come up with a craft for a Kid's Club that included a Christmas Queen (I don't know all French customs, I thought this could be a Jeanette Isabella thing, like the Christms Carol) when in reality, she was talking about doing a reindeer craft.  That is a big difference.
3. I'm getting to be less eloquent, and the more I try to sound eloquent, the more I sound like an absolute donut.
4. Every time I open my mouth, I realize that my accent is atrocious.

1. I can understand, for the most part, what I am hearing.  Therefore, I am getting better at listening to others since I can't respond very quickly.

Listening is a dying art, for lack of a better term.  Even with the names of things in the recent past, MYspace, iPhone, iPad, iPod, people are subconsciously led toward inward focus thereby causing them to primarily talk about themselves more than listening.  I'm not saying that I am awesome and never talk about myself or what's been going on with me (as evidenced by this blog).  I'm just saying that there are many people who are out of practice with the art of listening.

Monday, October 8, 2012

On Friday evening, Randy suggested that we go to Annecy for the afternoon on Saturday.  After we finished up at church in the morning, we picked up Anthony (one of the guys from church) and headed out for the Alps.  After a little bit of a drive, we arrived in a town that was straight out of Beauty and the Beast.  It probably wouldn't have given me the slightest surprise if townsfolk started popping out of the upstairs windows singing "Belle" while we walked about town.  But alas, I don't live in a Disney movie, so we began a walk around the lovely lake there which reflected the tops of mountains and sailboats bobbed up and down with the waves.  About every five minutes, Anthony would call out to Randy to wait because I had stopped to take pictures.  I may have looked like a tourist, but hey, I was.

 After an hour or so of walking along the shoreline, we walked through town, over quaint bridges that every American who ever thinks of a small French town imagines, past old stone buildings, brightly painted apartment buildings, and dozens of souvenir shops.  While we were standing by a bridge trying to figure out if we needed to make a reservation at the restaurant at which we wanted to eat, a woman came up to me and asked if I spoke English.  Without thinking, I said "Oui, je parle Anglais."  Because that's helpful. Luckily, I had nodded as I answered and she was so excited about how lovely the town was that she didn't noticed I had answered her in French.  I took a couple pictures for her, and we started chatting about what a lovely town Annecy is, and found out that she was from D.C. and beginning a little European tour with a friend of hers.  After a little while, she continued on her way and we went off to try to get into a restaurant for fondue.  Unfortunately, this particular restaurant required reservation a week in advance for Saturday nights!  So, we found another restaurant but they weren't going to be open for another forty minutes.  And what is the best way to spend forty minutes before eating fondue?  That's right, getting ice cream.  We stopped at different stands, got our ice cream of choice, and waited on a bridge near the restaurant until they opened at 7.  Randy and I explained to Anthony that in the U.S. restaurants would open around 4 for the early dinner crowd, and throughout the course of one evening, tables could be turned over five or six times.  Here, the table that gets taken first is basically that party's table for the night.  Just one example of the cultural differences.

Neither Anthony nor I had ever eaten fondue before coming to Annecy.  I mean, I've had chocolate fondue, but never cheese fondue.  Good gracious me, it was delicious.  After a lovely meal, we headed back to the car, bid farewell to the lovely town that had entertained us for the afternoon, and started the drive home.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Ah, the woes and joys of being an adult.

Because I like to be left with happy thoughts when less than joyful ones arise, I'll start off with the disastrous apartment adventure.

Last week, I went to look at a place across the street from church.  It was the perfect location, good sized kitchen, two balconies, newly finished bathroom, just perfect.  It was also a really good price, and would cut down my transportation costs since it was so close to church.  I got all of my paperwork in, it was approved and everything, and they said they'd call by Wednesday.  We didn't hear from them by this morning, so Randy stopped by after an appointment downtown.  So, he stopped in and asked.  Well, the guy ran upstairs to check with the person who had contact with the building owner; when he came back, he told Randy that since I was only renting for seven months, they wouldn't rent it to me.  Randy said "Uh, no.  She's renting for a year."  The guy ran upstairs to relay the message, and when he got back he told Randy that the owner thought the apartment was too big for one person, so he wouldn't rent to me.  Maybe this is just an American mindset, but wouldn't someone with an empty apartment want it rentd as soon as possible?  So, I'm back at square one and the longer it takes to find an apartment, the more difficult it will be because I'll be renting for a shorter time.  It's hard enough to figur out how to be an adult back home, but throw in a culture barrier, a language barrier, and my inability to perceive time and space, and bah!  But, after some consolation chocolate and a search for more locations with Sandy, let me tell you some of the joys of being an adult.

I absolutely LOVE my job.  Today, I worked from home.  This meant that as I worked, I got to watch How To Lose A Guy in 10 Days and Sabrina, not to mention spend the afternoon on a hillside working there.  Right now, I'm in the brainstorming stages of my job.  I only started yesterday, so the exact parameters haven't been determined.  I do have a few responsibilities now though.  Number one: lead the art/craft portion of the Kids Clubs that go on.  It's a monthly thing, so I have time to plan.  Today, in coming up with ideas and needed supplies, I got to spend some time on Pinterest.  Checkmate.  Responsibility number two: window art.  The church moved to a new location about a year and a half ago, so people in the neighborhood are still kind of getting used to them.  People here tend to be a bit skeptical of churches (or so I've understood) so one thing that some people at the church (myself included) do, is just sit by the door and leave it open.  Randy has been doing this for a while, and he always smiles and says hi to passersby.  It's down the street from a school, so parents will walk by to pick up and drop off their kids four times each day.  In one of the windows, there is a table with some kids Bible books and Bibles and information on the church.  People actually do stop and read the Bible that is there, so the Elders thought it would be good to change the window around. Evidently, I enjoy doing art, so I said that I could do some artwork for the windows.  Today was spent looking up Bible passages and doing some sketches for pieces that I could do once I have supplies and meet with the Elders.

So, while the technicalities of being a responsible adult may not have come to reality yet, there are things that make up for it.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A few quick things I really love about living here:

-Meals.  I don't just mean how delicious the food is, but I mean having meals with people.  Back home, everyone is always in such a hurry, eating as fast as they can so they can more on to the next thing on their list of things to do, and often times they don't appreciate the company of those with whom they share a meal.  Even at lunch here, you wouldn't dream of leaving the table for at least an hour.  You take your time eating and enjoy the conversation and laughter.

-Greetings.  The French are so personable.  When you go somewhere, you always greet those you know and introduce yourself to those you don't.  Now, let me clarify.  I'm not saying that when you enter a restaurant you say hello to every person who is eating.  But, at church, you greet everyone.  The second clarification: greeting does not mean just waving and saying "Hey".  Rather, you bisous each other (kiss each other on each cheek). Women will always do this, and men will shake hands with other men.  I may miss hugs, but the warmth and friendliness of greetings here is a pretty good substitute.

- Good gracious, it is lovely.

- Produce.  Yes, produce.  While grocery shopping yesterday, I stopped over to look at some of the fruit.  Here are some things that caught my eye: grapes from Italy, pineapples from both Ghana (!) and South Africa, bananas from North Africa.  So much good, beautiful fruit!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Quelle joie dans mon coeur!

I just returned from a truly wonderful weekend with my church here in France.  On the one hand, this could have been fabulously overwhelming, jumping straight into a full on weekend of non-stop French language, meeting dozens of people, and trying to remember the customs of this lovely country, all while still jet lagged.  However, there could not have been a better way to start off my time in France.  There were some familiar faces, some new ones, and I could not have imagined more gracious, loving, and compassionate people.

I hung out with Sandy when people were arriving, and there were a number of people who recognized me, or at least had an idea of who I am, but I reintroduced myself regardless.  One man, Jean-Luc, said when I introduced myself, "Je te connais Madame." which means "I know you, madam."  It just is such a comfort to know that people here still remember me, even after two years.

Throughout the weekend, there were a number of worship services, and much like retreats at camp, there was a speaker as well.  Even if I couldn't translate to someone the whole message, I did understand just about all of it.  After each message, we got into groups to answer some questions and pray for one another.  It was such a great joy.

Yesterday afternoon, we took a hike around the area.  Good gracious me.  It was straight out of a fairy tale.  This is such a lovely area!  Once I find my camera cord, I'll put up some pictures.  We walked for about three or four kilometers through the countryside where we passed beautiful stone houses, mushrooms big enough for the Smurfs, and several farms.  It reminded me a lot of the UP which is probably why I like this area so much.  Once we got back, Christelle and I got a group together to play cards.  If you want to practice any language, play cards with native speakers.  Often times, it will be the same games you've been playing throughout your life, but you pick up on different phrases and words which will really help expand your vocabulary.

The camp where we stayed, Camp Teen Ranch, is kind of an Old West style place, complete with a Saloon, horses, teepees, and a totem pole.  It was a little odd to see a place like that here in France, seeing as I have never been to a place like that back in the States.  One card games Christelle, Sylvain, Cedric and I played was called Wanted.  In my head, I thought "This is just too funny!" because everything was straight out of a John Wayne movie!  There was a sheriff, les hors-de-loi (outlaws), and a traitor.  It was a pretty straight forward game, but seeing as I didn't know things like "draw two cards" it was a little difficult at first, but I managed to get through it and even won! (I think. I ended up killing the sheriff, but it could've been one of those games where the point was not to die)

And of course, as per usual in France, the food was incredible.  Breakfasts were simple: a bowl or two of coffee, bread and croissants with jam and butter, and maybe some yogurt.  Lunch and dinner both had salads, a main course, and dessert, served with wine and water and the quintessential bread. So good.  Saturday's dessert after lunch was eclairs.  Oh good gracious.  There were a couple left, and Bernard, one of the elders of the church asked me if I wanted another one.  I hesitated, but then everyone at the table said "You're in France now!" so naturally, I helped myself to a second eclair.

As I said, this weekend had the possibility of frustrating me because I haven't spoken French regularly for so long, but it was just so encouraging!  If I didn't understand something, they would explain it or grab someone who also spoke English to translate a word.  They were all so gracious and patient with me, and a few of them even said "You speak French very well!"  When I told Randy that, he said "Those are the people who will be your friends for life."  I'm cool with that.