21 March 2011

A Spring Fling and a Cultish Ceremony

The Fling

This weekend was interesting.  Obviously.  After getting back from a daytrip to Carnac and Vannes on Saturday, which are both really interesting and beautiful but left us all very tired, Courtney and I decided it was time for dinner.  After a unique (okay, not that unique) series of events in which we kept postponing the meeting time, I hustled to the wrong meeting point, Courtney called me to tell me she was lost and powerwalking down the Rue de la Soif (the bar street), and we were told the vegetarian Lebanese restaurant was full, we ended up…at an Indian restaurant.  Which is where the weekend first earned its permanent spot in my memory.

Our waiter served us little champagne glasses of something light pink as he handed us menus, which led to, “I wonder what that is.  Courtney, will you ask?  I wonder if it’s free.  Courtney?”  Fortunately, we were assured that it was white wine with cherry syrup and was in fact free.  The waiter then brought me little samosa-like pastries with an accompanying centerpiece of carrot flowers on toothpicks, wedged into a tin-foil base.  I was so excited to see pieces of carrot that big (It’s been a while!) that I had polished off three flowers when it happened.  The toothpick wouldn’t come out of the base.  Until suddenly it did, launching the carrot flower across the table in a high arc and into the mirror next to us, where it bounced and landed in some fake ivy.  Oops.  Then the waiter came to take my plate and said, “Those aren’t good!” with deep consternation in his voice when he saw I’d enjoyed the decorative vegetation.  Double oops.

The meal finished with us waiting at our table for the check, then deciding we were supposed to go upstairs.  Oh, but we weren’t.  We stood awkwardly next to the cash register while the waiter tallied up our meal, then had a long, hushed discussion about correct change (not tips- you don’t give them here).  I guess all this made him sympathetic, because when we handed him the money he said, “Thank you, that’s very nice of you.”  Three strikes, and we booked it out of that restaurant, deciding we’d definitely earned the title “Stupid Americans” that night.

The Cult

I’ve been going to a student Bible study on campus, so when my friends there told me that they all went to the same church, I was pretty excited to check it out.

Nota bene:  Based on the title and first sentence, you’re probably freaking out.  Let me tell you right now that it is NOT really a cult, they do love Jesus, and I was perfectly safe.  Okay, let’s continue.

Sunday dawned, and Kylie and I took the metro to the end of the line, where we met some other students and the man whose family hosts the Bible studies at their apartment.  We piled into their cars and drove about 20 minutes into the countryside before turning onto a dirt road and parking in front of a secluded farmhouse.  We walked around to the back, and inside we discovered a modern-looking auditorium complete with Bible, fold-up chairs, and congregation.  The service was good and the weekly potluck that followed was great, but Kylie and I were laughing the whole time at her mental image of us running out screaming and bleeding, robed in white.

I promise it was a real church.  But the story is pretty great…

Prayer Request

In other news, Gwen, my friend from high school is arriving tomorrow for a week-long visit!!!  This is terrific, but unfortunately I've been feeling sick all day.  Not terrific.  I've cancelled everything I can to give me time to rest up before her arrival, but prayers would also be much appreciated and more effective!  Thanks!

15 March 2011

Happy Two-Month Anniversary, France!

It’s been an abysmally long time since I’ve posted, I know.  Long story short:  I went to Spain and Italy for nine days, and one of my travel buddies sent me a 20-page blog post that she had written about it.  I was going to write my own off of hers, but then I just didn’t, I guess.  Maybe later, but now it’s time to write about what’s happened since, or I’ll never use this blog again!  If you're really curious, I've attached Rachel's blog post here.  http://franglais2.blog.com/2011/03/08/frangespagnitaliono/
Just remember, I warned you that it was long!

Part I:  WWII and Something I Didn’t Eat

            I think the following is a pretty good example of host mother-daughter communication.  At 19:30 on Friday night my host mom said, “We’re going to Saint-Cast tomorrow.”  (Googlemap it; it’s where they have a summer cottage, and it’s really pretty!)  I said okay cool, and then wandered back into the room after a minute and said a couple sentences about the trip using very pointed “you guys” verbs until she added, “I mean, you don’t have to go if you have other stuff,” at which point I said, “Oh, I’d love to go if you guys don’t mind,” to which she said “Oh, well for our part, we’d be delighted to have you, of course.”  Well, at least we communicated.  So I went to Saint-Cast for the weekend, and it was gorgeous (even though rainy).  It’s a little coastal town that must have quite an interesting WWII history because it’s right across the Channel from England.  When I asked later, BĂ©atrice said that her dad was in the Resistance, and that a family member was a doctor during WWII, but he was killed by English soldiers when driving his car without a Red Cross symbol on it.

We had (as usual) a five-hour dinner party with some coastal friends of theirs while we were there, too.  This was actually an important moment for me.  When I left for this semester I vowed to eat everything, but I backed out this time.  The delicacy they offered me: bone marrow from the spine of the cow we were eating, still in vertebrae.  I stand by my decision.

Part II:  Tulips and Fanny Packs

            Now that I’ve gotten your attention with that title, let me tell you about my week.  Monday I got out of class at 12:30, sat a couple hours in front of my computer screen, and then decided that such actions should be outlawed while in France.  So I took a walk.  Not a run, not a power walk to a destination, not a desperate search for a smoothie or a hamburger, a walk.  This was big.  I ended up sitting on a bench in my nearby park and people-watching and praying.  (They look pretty much the same.) :) 
            First a nice white-haired Frenchman walked past and joked about having taken my picture, I guess because I looked posed.  Then a mother walked past, followed by a toddler with the most luminous, gray-blue eyes I’ve ever seen.  I literally had to do a double-take when I saw him, and then I had a really hard time not creeping his mother out with my stare.  Then I walked past another white-haired Frenchman with a hat and walking stick and under some interlacing tulip trees (magnolias, I know).  It was refreshing after rushing to pack, rushing to do a group project, rushing to lesson plan, rushing to travel plan, rushing to sleep (that’s just not okay), to just enjoy the day and share it with God.  I took that peace back with me to my computer and travel planned.
            Monday nights are orchestra nights, which leads me to announce a new blog feature.  From now on, I will try my best to give all of you back at home an accurate, honest look at the French culture and people by featuring…Laurent’s wardrobe!  Laurent is the first-chair cellist in our community orchestra.  He’s forty-ish, a cello wizard, and the craaaaaziest dresser I’ve ever seen.  Case in point:  This week Laurent came in (carrying his coffin-shaped cello case) wearing oatmeal-colored corduroy slacks, a green-yellow corduroy jacket, an overlarge blue polo shirt sporting a very 80s plaid design, and a FANNY PACK.  Which he left on for the two-hour rehearsal, even when the orchestra accompanied him through the amazing, incredibly difficult Saint-Saens cello concerto.  Maybe he’s not the stereotypical Frenchman, but nonetheless…  I was feeling outlandish wearing a long blue skirt without tights underneath, a pale yellow shirt, and a bright pink sweater, but then I noticed that two people next to me on the metro were wearing red pants, so I decided I was all right.

Anyway, prayer requests:  A balance of patience with my language abilities and enthusiasm and perseverance to get the most out of this experience.  Also, I still don’t really have any French friends yet, and (while not a necessity, all people are valuable!), that would be cool.  Thanks!