Author Archive: francophonyblog

Time For An Intervention

I now know what it feels like to be an addict.

To think about something every second of every day. To long for it. To hear it in every word, to see it in every face.

My name is Katie, and I am a talk-about-France-aholic.

Like all addictions (except for heroin – I don’t think anyone really “dabbles” in heroin), it started out innocently enough. I got back to the states* at peak small-talk season: the holidays.

Instantly, well-meaning relatives, long-lost friends, and people from high school that I ran into at Walgreen’s were asking me about my trip, eager to scoop up every last detail. Okay, eager is probably not the correct word. In reality, 90% of the people that ask the question “how was France” are satisfied with a cookie-cutter response: “It was great….blah blah blah…..met amazing people…..blah blah blah….learned the language…..blah blah blah…..baguettes.”

As I had these conversations at Christmas parties with parents, at bars with my friends, or sitting on the couch with my dog, I could sense my audience’s general lack of enthusiasm, but chose to ignore it. After all, who could not want to hear about that hilarious time I thought I ordered a chocolate croissant, when I actually ordered a plain one? Priceless, right?

The only benefit of my incessant chattering at the beginning was that I had a (semi) captive audience willing to indulge me. However, as the time passed and the novelty of my worldwide exploration wore off, people have started to seem less amused. When your own mom would rather get caught up on Dexter than hear your stories, you know you’ve probably talked past the close.

And so here we are. My addiction rages on, despite some rather obvious social cues.

I can feel my company becoming tiring, but yet I just can’t help myself. This must be how Kanye West feels.

At first, I was careful to limit my stories to the relevant, hilarious, or grotesque (or sometimes all three).

But now….everything relates. You’re going to the grocery store? When I went to the grocery store in France….. Eating a sandwich? I ate a sandwich once in France. Hey, that beer can pyramid looks like the Eiffel Tower! (although I actually thought that was a rather astute observation).

Only time will tell if I will become annoying enough to lose all my friends and end up as a crazy cat lady.

Until then, let me know if you have any questions about France….because I’ve totally been there.

 

*I’ve always wanted to refer to the U.S. as “the states”. Now that it’s on paper, I can’t decide if it makes me sound well-traveled or like a pretentious d-bag….I’m thinking the latter.

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True Life I Live In An Airport

I am currently at the Paris airport ready to board my flight home. There’s only one problem: it’s not until tomorrow.

I wish I could say there was some perfectly understandable reason why I messed up the date of my flight. You know, like the ticket was in another language or I went temporarily blind or something. But alas, turns out I’m just an idiot with questionable reading skills.

Due to a combination of laziness/fatigue/desire to prove that I could make it on the streets, I have decided to stay in the airport for the next 24 hours until my flight. I will be keeping a running account of the adventures (or lack thereof) that take place:

Hour 1: I am already bored. I have decided to keep this running log of the next day in order to keep myself occupied and to have something chronicling my last profound thoughts just in case something happens to me here. Moving sidewalks can be dangerous under extreme conditions such as these.

Seeing as I will be saving money by not paying for a hotel room, I decided to indulge myself and buy a few survival basics: a Jodie Picoult book,  a neck pillow, and some microwaveable chicken wings.

I have found a cozy nook with an outlet and free wifi and used my suitcases to barricade myself in. There is a rather large plant next to me, perfect for blending into my surroundings. I am sitting right by a window and there is a rather toothy Frenchman outside smoking a cigarette and grinning at me frequently. It is beginning to creep me out, but I have chosen not to move in the hopes that he will soon leave.

One hour down, twenty three to go.

Feel free to offer ideas for keeping myself occupied. My only stipulation is that they not result in my arrest.

Où Est La Tour Eiffel?

Finally, the second part of my mom’s trip, Paris edition! I would apologize for the delayed nature of this post, but I have pretty much just been dominating Europe and making moves for the past few weeks, and that takes time, so give me a break.

Paris was…..pretty much as awesome as you would expect Paris to be.

While walking around the Moulin Rouge area, which basically just includes lots of shops that you would expect to be around Moulin Rouge*, my mom made sure to tell me that if I wanted some time to walk around in the shops but felt weird to have her with me, we could split up for a bit. It was a nice sentiment, but I’m now fairly certain my mom thinks I’m a pervert.

Other highlights from our trip include:

The Ever-Elusive Eiffel Tower. As I’m sure comes as no surprise, I’ve done a lot of things in my life I’m not particularly proud of. I’ve spent way too long contemplating Taylor Swift’s love life, I have legitimately eaten ribs for breakfast, and I have on more than one occasion spent an entire day without realizing that my shirt was inside out.** Despite all of these past deeds that have put my dignity into question, I drew the line at asking someone where the Eiffel Tower was while in Paris. In all fairness to my mother and me, it was a rather foggy day and the Eiffel Tower is not as universally-visible throughout the city as one might think. Nevertheless, I would have rather walked around asking random Frenchmen “boxers or briefs” than asked just one person the location of one of the most prominent landmarks in the world. Fear not though, detective skills run in the family, and after a length of time I will not disclose, we FINALLY found it! Not only was it breathtakingly beautiful, but it was also the perfect excuse for me to take a million pictures of myself giving the peace sign, sorority-style (haters gonna hate). We even went back at night and got to see the tower all lit up, while sharing a bottle of wine of course. I would say it was romantic, but it was with my mom and that would be creepy.

Mocking my brothers who go to John Carroll for the fact that they're not with us in Paris. You know, because our family loves each other.

Mocking my brothers who go to John Carroll for the fact that they’re not with us in Paris. You know, because our family loves each other.

Botoxed Women and Men Carrying Puppies. Parisians are to France what New Yorkers are to the United States, aka everyone else generally dislikes them and thinks they are the meanest people since Regina George. Needless to say, I wasn’t too hopeful at the prospect of having to interact with them while we were there. I guess that just goes to show you that sometimes stereotypes can be completely off-base though (except for the one about Australians being terrible at flip cup, that one is totally true***). Everyone was nice, helpful, and even spoke French back to me, which was honestly unexpected. When asking for directions, one guy even stopped and took out his Smartphone, looked up where we were going, and made sure to repeat the directions a couple of times just to make sure we could get there. I will go on a bit of a tangent here and say that I think Americans that stereotype French people, especially Parisians, as being snobby and rude, oftentimes do not realize how they themselves come off. You get what you give people. I’m glad my parents beat using words like “please” and “thank you” into me when I was younger****. I plan to do the same for my kids, as well as teaching them the importance of drinking tons of water after a night of drinking so you don’t get a hangover. Gosh I’m going to be a great mom.

Christmas, Christmas EVERYWHERE! What’s better than over the top Christmas lights and creepy statues of Santa while “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” plays in the background? Over the top Christmas lights and creepy statues of Santa while “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” plays in the background IN PARIS! Our trip perfectly coincided with the opening of the Christmas market along the Champs-Elysées, which served a dual purpose: getting some Christmas shopping done, and being able to sing the Champs-Elysées song that I learned in high school over and over again (shout out to Monsieur Hedge!). The market was really beautiful, with plenty of lights, a million little shops, and even a huge Ferris wheel that we didn’t go on, but admired nonetheless. A little bit of hot wine, some gauffres, and lots of creepy gingerbread dolls hanging by strings in the booths and we were officially in the Christmas spirit!

Dear Mom, I Finally Forgive You For Hiding In The Play Castle That Time With Dad and Making My Brothers and I Think You Were Dead. For the serious part of this blog post (hey, there’s gotta be some, right?), I will say that having my mom here was honestly one of the highlights of my time in France. Coming to France has been a dream of mine since I can remember, but there was a significant period of time when I wasn’t sure if it was going to happen or not. If it hadn’t been for the love and support of one of my best friends, I don’t think I would have ever gotten here and been able to have one of the best experiences of my life. Being away from home can make you very reflective, and I have oftentimes thought how lucky I am to have a mom that will not only always be there for me, but that I can have so much fun with too. Plus, she brought me peanut butter and ice cube trays when she visited! How can you not love a woman like that?

We don't look creepily alike or anything.

We don’t look creepily alike or anything. My favorite woman in the world….besides Wendy of the renowned restaurant chain of course.

The good news is, I get to have more adventures with my family in the United States in only a couple days! And by adventures I mean drinking lots of Diet Coke and sitting around watching American television.

A bientot!

 

*Sex shops, y’all.

**To be fair, everyone I knew that saw me on those days and didn’t tell me: you are a jerk.

***Verified by an interesting night at a hostel in Rome.

****I am legally obligated to clarify that my parents did not actually beat me.

Are You Really a Police Officer?

I didn’t expect to have to omit so many inappropriate details in a blog post about a party thrown by the 45-year-old parents I babysit for, but here we are.

In case you haven’t been keeping updated on my blog: 1. whatever, I don’t like you anyways, and, 2. this past semester I have been tutoring three kids in English a couple times a week.

Oh, and the family I tutor for is, quite frankly, the shit.

This past Tuesday, before leaving the house, the parents invited me to a Cuban-themed party that some of their friends were going to be throwing on Saturday. The dad warned me that there would be a lot of drunk French adults with fake cuban mustaches, as if this was a deterrent and not the surest possible way to get me to go.

I spent a good amount of time and stumbled upon quite a few interesting websites trying to figure out what kind of thing I should wear to coincide with the Cuban theme. After all, how slutty is too slutty when picking a costume for a themed party thrown by people who put you in charge of their children? My sorority days had definitely not prepared me for this: push-up bras and neon onesies surely do not scream “your kids are safe with me!”. In case anyone is actually invested in what I wore (which I really hope for your sake you aren’t), I finally decided upon a long flowered dress with a questionably-appropriate neckline, put a fake carnation in my hair, and called it a day.*

So we got to the house and I was pleased to realize that I finally did it: I was FINALLY the hottest girl at the party. Granted every other woman there was over the age of 45 and wearing a Cuban mustache so I wasn’t exactly playing in the big leagues, but it’s still a victory. Take THAT every cheerleader I ever went to high school with!**

A few highlights from the evening:

Who is that random girl and why is she obsessed with our dog. Oh my gosh there was a dog there! And it was so cute! It’s name was Oreo and after about six million games of fetch last night, we are pretty much besties. Okay, I know I sound like kind of a psychopath, but seriously I miss my dog more than I miss Big Gulps from the gas station, and I REALLY miss Big Gulps from the gas station. I’m not sure what it says about me as a person that I would have been perfectly content chilling with the dog all night and having absolutely no human interaction, but I think it will prove handy should I turn out to be the next Miss Havisham.

This is the song that never ends.  The family hired a salsa band to go along with the Cuban theme, which meant I couldn’t use my usual fallback moves on the dance floor: the Dougie, the facewash, and the “look at me I’ve got boobs”.*** Luckily, there was an abundance of creepy French dads who wanted to show me how to salsa dance. I have to be real though: it was actually really fun! Usually I get a little self-conscious when dancing while practically sober, but I was comforted by the fact that I couldn’t possibly look more ridiculous than old French guys wearing flowered shirts and fedoras. There were only two fails of the night: 1. never getting my hands on the bongo drums, despite my best efforts, and 2. being almost groped by a creepy French dad who kept insisting on dancing with me. I’m not sure if it was the stench of old cigarettes or the fact that he was looking at me with the expression of a serial killer which was more off-putting, but either way, I could not wait for the song to be over. Unfortunately, every song the band played seemed to last for at least 10 minutes, with a bunch of fake stopping. Every time the music would come to an end, I would start walking away and basking in my freedom, only for the band to take up the song again and my hand to be grabbed by the sweaty guy in the fedora.

Getting rid of those pesky work formalities. I’m not an expert, but I’m pretty sure professional courtesy goes out the window the minute your boss dances to Katy Perry’s “Firework” in front of you. And also when you take shots with them. And also when you eat chile together (in some cultures, we would actually be considered married after sharing such a meal****) The parents I tutor for have always been so welcoming and nice, and last night was no different. They were even a bit protective, a couple times coming to say hi and checkup if I happened to be talking to anyone of the male gender. At one point there was a song playing that legitimately just repeated the phrase “feed the whores” for about ten minutes. It took me about three minutes before I couldn’t help myself, and had to ask the parents if they knew what the song was saying. They were quite confounded when I provided the translation. I’m just all about bridging that cultural gap!

One thing about the party was certain: it’s a good thing that I love being the center of attention. If you are ever the  only American (or foreigner for that matter) in a huge place filled with Frenchies, be prepared to hear about the following three things quite a bit: New York City, Kanye West, and how big the coffee cup sizes are (in that order). Also, it’s kind of like being at freshman orientation again: be ready to say your name, where you’re from, and what you want to do with your life about sixty million times.

With only one week left in France, I can only hope I get one more chance to salsa dance….or at least eat some chile.

*When going as a random to a themed party, I always like to go middle-of-the-road. I like to wear something that coincides, but that is at the same time non-comital. I’m not trying to have a Legally Blonde pink bunny situation.

**In all fairness, there’s still a chance I wasn’t the hottest girl at the party.

***All of these moves are better suited to the musical treasure “Get Low”.

****I actually just completely made that up.

CSI: Miami and Complimentary Champagne

So my wonderful, beautiful, definitely under 50-year-old mother* finally came to visit me!

As I’ve said before, I was just a bit excited for her arrival, resulting in my telling an uncomfortable number of people about it in the preceding weeks (think around the number of people that Liam Neeson kills in the first Taken movie).

As per our beloved tradition that only I know about, I did the appropriate hiding of everything that might be even slightly disconcerting for a mother to see in her daughter’s dorm room before she came – you know, the beer bottles, the nipple rings, the pictures of me and Charlie Sheen.** With all of these things tucked snugly away into hiding spots that I consequently forgot after she left and spent an hour trying to find, I was ready for her to be in France! I’m not sure what age it is suddenly no longer uncool to like your mom, but I’m pretty sure I’ve passed it, so let me just say: it literally felt like waiting for Christmas day (minus the present wrapping anxiety).

On the day of my mom’s arrival, I met her at the train station with baguettes, wine, and Iberian ham – so basically everything you need for an adventure! We trudged her abnormally large suitcase to the hotel and were ready to take on France, Rouch women style!

So about a million, thousand awesome things happened while my mom was here, so I’m going to indulge myself and talk about most of them, but in two parts. This first blog post is about the beginning of the week when we stayed in Lille.

Here are just some of the highlights:

“He says to tell you that I’m really awesome”. Undoubtedly one of the best parts of the trip was taking my mom to meet the family I tutor for, who have pretty much become my family here in France. Not going to lie, I was a little nervous for how the night would shape out: my mom doesn’t speak any French, the family doesn’t speak any English, and I don’t have nearly the attention span conducive to being a translator. However, it actually ended up being relatively painless (minus my attempts to play Twister with people under the age of 12)***. We picked up the kids from school and headed home to make some homemade crepes and play with the ridiculous number of American toys that my mom brought for them. To my chagrin, Louie, the youngest boy, took an immediate liking to my mom; by immediate liking I mean, of course, that he did not run away from her every time she tried to talk to him. He played teacher with her using a children’s book, teaching her need-to-know French terms like “rabbit” and “cave”. The girls even got my mom and I to challenge each other in Wii dancing which, if you’ve ever seen me at a Bennigan’s on Tuesday night, you know that I won. Once the parents got home, we drank some champagne while talking about Paris and I had to take a minute to let it sink in that this was actually happening. It was a little awkward translating compliments about myself back and forth between the two groups but hey, what can you do, life’s hard sometimes.

True life my mom beat me in Twister. Good to know that at the tender age of 21 I have the joint capabilities of the Tin Man.

True life my mom beat me in Twister. Good to know that at the tender age of 21 I have the joint capabilities of the Tin Man.

Our French rendition of "Stomp the Yard".

Our French rendition of “Stomp the Yard”.

Speaking “American” and eating like one too. My mom is some kind of satanic voodooist in the kitchen; she has always been able to make the most delicious meal out of practically nothing. Literally you could have only mayonnaise, pineapples, and a package of questionably-aged hot dogs in your fridge. Give my mom half an hour, and you are suddenly eating the best mayonnaise/pineapples/questionable hot dog dish in your freaking life, and loving every minute of it. What’s my point? While she was here, my mom was able to make an American-tasting meal that made it feel just like home using the tiny stovetop provided in her hotel room: breaded chicken, mashed potatoes, baby carrots, and, of course, wine. It was exactly what I needed: a nice, homemade meal while being able to speak “American”. Yes, I am completely aware that the language we speak is actually called English – I’m not a Republican after all. But in this instance, I actually do mean American. So many of my friends here are from England and, while I love learning their different ways of saying things like French fries (chips) and chips (crisps), I needed some time speaking with some American slang and not having to explain my meaning. To this day, I have no idea what my English friends thought I meant when I asked if they had any “whiteout”.

And all was right with the world.

And all was right with the world.

The Great Gauffre Debacle of 2012. First let me say that I am not going to explain what a gauffre is. The beauty and perfection of gauffres surpass my literary abilities, so you’re just going to have to Google it. Anyways, when my mom came, I was super excited to impress her with my French abilities and show her that the millions of flash cards I have made over the years and that she is still finding in the most remote areas of our house were finally worth something. This was going pretty well for most of her trip. I mean, sure, French people might think I sound like a five year old on cough syrup, but at least to my mom I sounded cool. This coolness came to an abrupt end when I innocently tried to order a gauffre at a booth in the town center. I still have no idea why French people never understand me when I order this, but every single interaction I’ve had trying to buy a gauffre has resulted in sheer confusion and a series of awkward pointing. My waistline be damned, I will persevere and keep ordering them until I get it right….even if my mom is not here to see it.****

In France, even Santa Clause eats gauffres!

In France, even Santa Clause eats gauffres!

So those were definitely the highlights of my mom’s trip while in Lille. Next post I’ll give you all some deets about the time we spent in Paris, including our unnecessarily long quest to find the Eiffel Tower.

À toute!

*I was contractually obligated to include this description.

**I feel the need to clarify that I am completely joking. Maybe it’s a problem that I feel this need.

***Twister is going on the Murtaugh list.

****I mean she won’t be in France, not that she’ll be dead. Although, the end of the world is coming up so who knows.

Michael Bublé Is The Devil’s Spawn

As my mouse lingers over the “Play” button, I know it is a bad idea.

Every voice in my head tells me not to do it. It’s like being at my first fraternity party all over again.

Nothing good can come from this, I think to myself as I survey the student lounge, my headphones plugged snuggly into my ears.

But alas, perhaps we humans have a need to make ourselves suffer. That’s really the only way to explain the millions of people who watched the “Liz and Dick” premiere over the weekend.

And so….

I press play.

Suddenly, the soulful sound of Michael Bublé’s “Home” comes flooding over me, his crooning voice singing of the perils of being far away from that special someone.

My mind immediately goes to my favorite Jimmy John’s delivery man in Milwaukee….just kidding, although I do like to consider him a special someone.

I am wistfully thinking of all my friends and family in the U.S., all the people I will hug for awkwardly long periods of time when I return.

My eyes may or not be tearing up…depending on how much you would judge me for it.

“I’m lucky I know, but I want to go home”, he sings, and it feels like there is no better expression for what I’m feeling.

I will snap myself out of it once the song ends, but for now I am uncomfortably emotional in a public place and too caught up to care.

Damn you Michael Bublé….every time.

FAMOUS CELEBRITY BLOG POST: “A Lesson in First Impressions”

The following post comes from the one and only: my mom (and yes, she does count as a famous celebrity. She’s actually huge in Sweden). Enjoy her account of her recent trip to France to visit her favorite daughter/child/partner in dog-walking (ME!):

Raising four children through dating and adolescence, I cannot count the number of times I must have uttered the phrase “Give it/him/her/them a chance” – a reference to every new kid, new class, new teacher, new coach, new job, new situation each of them faced.

So…that being said. What were my first impressions of France? And how did they hold up through the course of my trip? Let’s take a quick walk through my week.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS.

  • The French education system has taken the American anti-drug phrase “Just Say No!” to new levels.  My initial encounters with native French-men and –women involved the following phrases (imagine each being said with resolution and a haughty accent!):
  • “No!”
  • “Ferme!” (Closed)
  • “Not possible”.
  • “Uh oh. Problem.”

And these were all before I left the airport. Thank God my hostess slash daughter mentally prepared me!

  • The above examples not withstanding, the French language is not intuitive to an English speaker. I take my own props (with a tip of the hat to the Indiana University linguistics program) for helping me to pull context clues from the cognates on the status board of the only crowded train platform in the station (mine): “Retard: En Raison d’un accident de persone.” Retard = late or slow. Raison = reason.  Accident = accident (Wow – you’re good! You figured that out too?). Persone = person (You’re almost fluent at this point!!). Guess that means more time for people-watching and/or writing.
  • The French love a party. And – they do them well!  In fact, the train station workers set up a special breakfast for me* with free pastries, juice, and coffee. The pastry was a ball of fried dough, rolled in coarse sugar, and filled with an unfamiliar fruit cream. “Oh – a donut…” you say? Non. Unless it was the kind of donut they serve in heaven. All due respect to Grandview’s own DK Diner – these were:  The. Best. Ever.  I am already worrying about how much weight I might gain in the course of a week.  Even the airport food looks enticing – especially the aptly named restaurant “Lily’s Beautiful Sandwich”. I agree, Lily. I agree.
  • The French appreciate fashion. Thankfully, I had the foresight to snap out of my “unemployed HR Manager/part-time dog walker” wardrobe prior to my departure. And I think I nailed the arrival outfit. I am warm. I am comfortable. And I am blending in so well that other foreigners are stopping to ask me questions in French – as though I LIVE here?!?! Thank you, Nordstrom’s Rack, for your annual boot sale. The 50-shades-of-gray suede boots rock!
  • The French embrace their passion for art, especially the modern art. Consequently, I may or may not have used a men’s bathroom. In my defense, the signs offered far too many options, none of which translated cleanly: persons (plural), handicapped person, reclining(?) person, or person molesting baby. I thought the former was the safer bet – until I noticed (oops – too late) the urinals.

    You’ve just disembarked from a nine hour transatlantic flight: QUICK! Which door would you pick?!?!

FINAL IMPRESSIONS

  • Contrary to the US culture, “Just say no” is a starting point, rather than an ending point with the French. No, we don’t take that credit card, BUT we can do this. No, that train doesn’t go to that destination, BUT you can try this. Probably more so than Americans, the French seem to be willing if not eager to ENGAGE – with actual PEOPLE. I can remember – literally – only ONE TIME that I was slowed down by someone texting while walking on a cell phone (and it was probably an American!).  When I looked in the windows of the coffee shops and cafes, I did not see people staring blankly into open laptops – EVER. Instead, they were looking intently at each other, once again, while TALKING. With their MOUTHS! It was incredible!
  • Even more fascinating than the French talking to each other – they RESPECTED rather than REPUDIATED our attempts (mine much more lame than my daughter’s!) to speak French. They didn’t dismiss us as pesky illegal immigrants the way we are all guilty of expecting people to “SPEAK THE LANGUAGE” if you’re in America. They gave us respect for trying – and even tried to use their own English back on us. **
  • First impression: the French love a party. Final impression: the French LOVE a party! I admit to being blissfully unaware of the performance of the Euro and France’s economic position relative to moribund Greece and flailing Spain, but I do know this: whatever disposable income they have, they will spend on good food, good wine, and good company, every day of the week. From the passionate enthusiasm of the soccer lovers in the Lille bars for a Wednesday night France-versus-Italy Major League Soccer match, to the seemingly intense discourse of tables full of middle-aged diners at every café in Paris, every night…I found my American mindset needing to scream at these people: “It’s time to go home and watch TV! There’s a new episode of 30 Rock airing as we speak!!!!”.
  • Fashion.  I peaked with the boots. Americans can’t compete. It’s not the clothes – it’s how you wear them. Had the French versions of Stacy and Clinton kidnapped me, stolen my suitcase, and reoutfitted me with French labels – I could not pull it off. Without a significant reduction in my BMI. A significant uptick in my “attitude”. And a willingness to walk and smoke.
  • One place where French art translates to the visitor’s benefit: The METRO! Colors and arrows – now you’re speaking my language! As we smoothly navigated from Boulogne-Billancourt to Abbesses and beyond,  I found myself wistfully day-dreaming about a future-state in which Central Ohioans would use their own colors and arrows to navigate a local state-of-the-art public transportation system. But not in my lifetime.


    Future-State Columbus?
    A girl’s gotta dream!

I have already exceeded my guest-blog welcome with my many many words – but I would be remiss not to end with these. France is a beautiful country in and of itself, but it is particularly so from August through December, 2012 thanks to the presence of my daughter. She is positively glowing with energy and excitement over this incredible study abroad experience. From observing Universite Catholique, to visiting with her “adopted” French family (who taught me the fine arts of crepe-making, champagne-pouring, and Wii dancing!), to drinking wine on the grass beneath the Eiffel Tower at night (unless you’re a French officer of the law and that’s illegal – in which case it was Coca Cola), to offering prayers at Sacre Coeur, to taking in the multi-sensual experience of the Champs Elysees decorated for Christmas – I could not have asked for a more perfect trip, or a more perfect hostess. The stories, pictures, and memories will live in my heart forever.

Vive La France!!!

“Representing” …
on the grounds of the Eiffel Tower.

* OK. The breakfast was not for me personally but rather for an annual event. But kind of coincidental that it happened to take place on the one day a year that I am arriving, non?

** Two phrases that will live forever in our “French people speaking English” memories: 1. Everyone loves OBAMA – and the way they pronounce it is endearing.  2. An exact quote (I could not make this up!):  “Everything I know about America I learned from CSI Miami!”.

Elastic Waistbands and “American Football”

So it’s the night before Thanksgiving and I’m sitting here wallowing in self-pity in a similar way that I do after a break-up: cookies, sweatpants, the only thing that’s missing really is an Adele soundtrack (yes, I’m one of those girls).

Not going to lie, I’m pretty bummed that I won’t be spending Thanksgiving at home with my family, taking part in our annual traditions: watching the parade while making Christmas lists, over-indulging ourselves at dinner, taking a nap directly after dinner (not together, mind you, we’re not of those families).

But this time, instead of feeling so bad for myself that I post  Adele lyrics on my Facebook or reach for another French fry dipped in ice cream, I have caught myself from making a terrible mistake and continuing to feel bad. This year, more than ever, I am able to realize just how many things there are to be thankful for.

I hate to sound like a pop star accepting an MTV Movie Award, but I truly feel blessed.

Here are just a few of the reasons why:

-American football…..man, do I miss you. I try so hard not to hold France’s love of soccer against it….I mean every country has some weakness, right? Like how the U.S. continues to let Tyler Perry produce movies and television programs with his name in the title or how Canada continues to be…Canada.

-A loving mom who looks creepily like me (or I guess the other way around technically). The number of people I told of my mother’s arrival in France before she came to visit – including, but not limited to, friends, teachers, and liquor store proprietors – is probably crossing the cute Gilmore girls mother-daughter line into a more Dina-Lindsay Lohan-like creepiness. But truth be told, my mom is one of my best friends and I’m so thankful not only to have her consistently keeping up with my craziness, but that I got to share this wonderful experience in France with her. Plus she brought me a pumpkin candle so now my room doesn’t smell like French cheese all the time!

-Social norms that make it completely acceptable for me to walk down the street eating a sandwich. Say what you want about the French, but just know that they completely support the consumption of baguette sandwiches in almost any situation it seems. How many times have you been walking down the street and thought, wow, if only I was eating a sandwich right now, life would be so much better? What’s that? EVERY time, you say? Well, me too, which is why I will be ever grateful to the French.

-A dad who cares enough to scold me about questionable profile pictures 2 minutes after they’ve been posted. For better or worse (just ask ex-boyfriends), my dad has always been involved in the lives of my brother and I, and given us guidance all along the way. This past week, he was honored with the Bobcat Award, an award given by my hometown to those who have contributed to the success of the district each and every day. Between coaching, teaching, radio announcing (seriously), and much, much more, my dad has been more dedicated to our community than anyone I know. If only he would have done a LITTLE bit more that would have prevented him from keeping such a good eye on me during my highschool days (although I should probably thank him for that too).

-Three awesome, infuriating, abnormally athletic brothers. Yeah….I like you guys, I’ll admit it. You guys don’t like the mushy stuff so that’s all I’ll say. Just know I brag about you out the wazoo in France – so much so that I start using words like wazoo.

-Amazing, amazing people who show me how good the world can be. Being away has made me realize what an awesome support system I have at home, from family members who stay in touch to see how I’m doing, to college friends who message me to tell me who they made out with on any given weekend. Truly, I love you all and appreciate all the support that you have given me.

-The ability to follow my dreams. I have wanted to study in France for such a long time, and there were a lot of moments when I thought it wouldn’t happen. But I am HERE and it has been one of the greatest experiences of my life, from all the close friends I have made to the fact that I can buy pastries for a fraction of the price on almost every street corner.

I leave you with this, the most adorable picture in the history of the world. I may not be in the U.S., but I can take part in the time-honored college tradition of posting pictures of your pets when you come home from break.

Alright, that’s enough thanks for now. If I WAS giving some kind of acceptance speech, the band would be playing by now and I would be scanning the room for Justin Timberlake and getting ready to make my move – I know he’s technically “married, but I still haven’t given up.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Eat a piece, or seven, of pumpkin pie for me!

I’ll be updating soon with all the juicy deets of my Thanksgiving in France! (be intrigued).

Catholic Guilt in the City of Red Lights

Last weekend I went to Amsterdam, a city known for its stunning architecture and elite skydiving….if by stunning architecture you mean the devil’s lettuce (or marijuana as you may know it), and by elite skydiving you mean prostitution.

I will get to the other legitimately cool things about this city in a bit. However, before then I feel like we might as well just get the discussion of its better-known features out of the way:

SEX. Prostitution is legal in Amsterdam: cue the infamous “Red Light District”, where prostitutes can be found in windows with, as you may have guessed, red lights, standing in various unnatural poses and wearing outfits that are uncomfortably similar to sorority girls’ Halloween costumes. What surprised me the most about the red light district was not the whole selling sex thing. What surprised me the most was how uncomfortable I found myself at the idea of the whole selling sex thing, especially considering in my mind I pretty much am Mariska Hargitay, or at least have watched enough Law and Order SVU episodes to be able to deliver a scarily accurate portrayal of a prostitute. I like to consider myself a 21st-century woman which, besides being able to wear pantsuits and curse in public, means that I am capable of looking past the emotional elements of sex and see it on an intellectual level: these women have a, for lack of better word, “good” that is in high demand, and can thus be sold for something that they need (money). I guess there was just something different about actually seing the process take place that truly gave me the hibby-jibbies. Maybe it’s the whole Catholic education thing and the subsequent guilt it bestows on you….I just knew that that damn Sister Marie would come back to haunt me.

DRUGS. Marijuana, weed, Snoop Dogg’s breakfast….call it what you want, you can smoke it in Amsterdam. In short, this city is a stoner’s paradise….besides, of course, any buffet, anywhere, ever. Basically people, and please note how I am using general terms and not personal pronouns to describe this process, can go to cafes, buy weed, and smoke it there. Being a college student, I am not unfamiliar with the sights and smells that accompany this drug: go to any restuarant on a college campus after three in the morning and you wouldn’t be either. However, being that in the United States people act like you should be crucified and/or be forced to listen to Rush Limbaugh (a similar torture) if you smoke, the environment took a bit of getting used to. I must say that I liked it though. There were a ton of tourists, but everyone was chilled out and non-disruptive. Contrary to what some may think, there weren’t crazy people running around in Bob Marley wigs talking about the mysteries of the universe while smoking joints, although I wouldn’t have disapproved. The culture of Amsterdam seems to encourage moderation. Well, moderation when it comes to smoking anyways. The number of food stands selling huge buckets of French fries with mayonnaise slathered on stop is a true testament to the promising potential of the munchie market if weed is ever completely legalized in the U.S.

ROCK N’ ROLL CANALS. What, this isn’t a thing? Well, let me tell you, it should be. Amsterdam has a million freaking beautiful canals that make the city both picturesque and the most difficult thing in the world to navigate. At first we didn’t realize that everything looks the same and would say things like “we need to go by the canal” as a way of figuring out what direction to go in. This is pretty much like saying we need to find the rich white person at the Romney rally (ok, I’ll stop, but to be fair he just makes it so easy!). But seriously, the canals give Amsterdam a unique look and are extremely beautiful, if not completely useless as a navigation tool.

I know that people have strong opinions on the types of things that go on in Amsterdam (their canal system is particularly scandalous). However, one of the most awesome things about this city can be summarized by a popular Dutch saying our tour guide told us about: “Be normal, you’re already crazy enough.” Basically, this just means that as long as you handle yourself appropriately, nobody will judge you and there will be no problems. Amsterdam has a culture of tolerance and acceptance that goes past sex and drugs to all areas of life.

For somebody like me who likes to walk around in mascot costumes and sing Wiz Khalifa songs while playing the ukulele, this idea is especially appealing. I guess “normal” is relative, right?

Proud To Be An American Abroad

So I am currently in a huge lecture hall with a stern French professor trying to overcome the fact that he is wearing a pink scarf and to command our attention. I am wearing my Barack Obama t-shirt for the second day in a row: 1. because I am gross and fell asleep in my clothes, then got up 20 minutes before my class and had to rush, but also, more importantly: 2. because today, in a foreign country, surrounded by people from all over the world, I am truly proud to be an American.

It is in the past few months, when I have been furthest away from the place that I call home, that I have been able to learn the most about it. Through the eyes of others, I have come to see our country more clearly. Through their words, I have come to understand what we really stand for. Even through their criticisms*, I have come to have hope for all that we can be.

Before I went abroad, I viewed saying that the United States was the most influential country in the world as incredibly arrogant, bordering on insulting. However, every day, no matter where I travel, I see firsthand the influence that our country has on people of all different nationalities, orientations, and circumstances. Besides just adopting so many elements of American culture (whether they realize it or not – one French guy asked me if we have Burger King’s in the U.S. too. Umm…what?), the world looks to the United States for its policies, its actions, and, most importantly, its beliefs.

Whether we like it or not (Bush years anyone?), the leader of our country, the President of the United States, is our representative. Who we elect, or re-elect in this case, tells the world what we truly believe in.

I am proud to have voted for a President who shows the world that we believe that every person deserves to have access to healthcare and education. That equality of opportunity doesn’t stop based on the color of someone’s skin, or their sexual orientation, or whether or not they have to wear a jockstrap when they are playing sports.**

Most importantly, I am proud to have voted for a President that gives me, other Americans, and the world, hope for our future.

In some ways, I am glad to have been out of the country for the past few months of election season. Although I would have loved to watch the same political ads seventeen million times in a row(especially being from Ohio/Wisconsin), I have been glad to be away from the divisiveness that has seemed to characterize this election, instead relying on CNN and the all-reliable, and often hilarious, Twitter, for my political updates.

I know it’s easy to say this when your candidate has won, especially when the other candidate was supported by the ever-douchebag-y and increasingly irrelevant Donald Trump, but I truly hope that we can all start to work together to make this country everything that it can be, Mr. Trump and his ego (which I think is big enough to be counted as a separate person) included. The whole word is looking at us, it’s time to show them the true meaning of a “comeback”.

I know I said that I have been glad to be out of the country for the past few months. However, with a country that is sure to move forward in the next four years, there is one thing that is certain: I can’t wait to come back.

Also, special thanks to Mr. President for making his victory speech especially touching and causing me to tear up reading it while surrounded by a bunch of French students who already think I’m insane based on a coffee/un-tied shoelace incident last week.

FOUR MORE YEARS.

Sending in my ballot from France!

 

*Yes, our McDonald’s drink sizes ARE abnormally large, among other complaints.

**Gender equality, in case you didn’t get it.