With a Little Help from My Friends

Well, yesterday’s blizzard washed away in the night and today’s activities resumed as usual. I had classes from 9 AM to 8 PM, then raced to home to find Mathieu waiting up for me with dinner on the table. He’s a sweetie.

Besides Mathieu and Simon, I’ve decided that it’s going to be difficult to make friends here. I knew that living with a host family would physically separate me from the other exchange students who live in dorms, but I didn’t think it would make too much of a difference once I showed them all my sparkling personality and brilliant sense of humor in class.

I thought wrong.

I’ve made several acquaintances here, but most people are reluctant to chat for more than a few minutes and completely refuse to make plans outside of school. I’m used to the Southern way of being enthusiastically friendly around strangers and old friends alike, and constantly inviting people to go for coffee even if you have no intention of ever doing so. Everyone’s heard of the French being somewhat closed off from strangers, but I thought the other exchange students would be easy to befriend. I guess I’ll have to work a little harder! If it doesn’t work out, I’ll just be one-man wolfpack.

Any ideas?


Snow (Hey Oh)

I had grand plans of going to the grocery store and buying school supplies today. Instead, I became a temporary hermit.

It was actually quite nice.

The snow started falling around 11 AM and didn’t end until 8 PM. I grabbed a mug of hot tea and decided to make a day of reading my John Grisham novel and watching Once Upon A Time. At periodic intervals I got up, peered out the window, refilled my mug, and curled back up. What a glorious day.

As the first flakes fell. Quick snap outside my window!

When Simon came home from school, I tried to convince him to come outside and play in the snow, but he just looked at me like I was crazy for being excited about the mess. I compromised and decided to make Snow Cream. Snow Cream is an ancient family recipe that is very complicated and sought after by the most ambitious of New York chefs, but I will exclusively release the recipe here for a short time:

Snow Cream
some Snow
bit o’Milk
bunches of Sugar
Vanilla Extract (optional)

Go get some snow. You’re gonna need at least twice the amount that you think you want to eat. Pour in some milk. Dump a bunch of sugar on top and stir it around. Add an eensy bit of vanilla extract if you’ve got it. If not, it’s whatever. After you’re done stirring, eat it quickly. It’s good if the sugar is still kind of gritty.

There you have it, everyone. I found our Snow Cream to be fabulous; Simon just humored the crazy American girl. Whatever. I was ecstatic.

Unfortunately, tomorrow I’ll have to venture outside to go to classes. There’s a chance that the buses won’t run; if that’s the case, I’ll be up a creek. We’ll see how it goes!

Around 6 PM. The sky and ground were pure white.

Pierre et le Loup

Self-explanatory photos from today’s market trip with Martine:

poireaux, or leeks.

piles and piles of fruits!

Beautiful flowers for sale. Pretty sure this is a camellia, right Mom?

This afternoon, the whole family crowded into the car to drive to the Abbeye Royale de Fontevraud, an ancient abbey that’s now an event venue about an hour away. We watched a short animated film called “Pierre et le Loup” (Peter and the Wolf) while a live orchestra played the classic music by Prokofiev. It was really neat to see an image to go along with the music that’s been around forever.

Short Music History lesson:
Russian composer Prokofiev wrote “Peter and the Wolf” as a children’s story. The music is normally accompanied by a narrator telling the tale of how young Peter leaves the safety of his home only to be cornered by a hungry wolf. In the end, Peter traps the wolf and takes it to a zoo unharmed. All of the instruments play a different role in the story; the oboe, of course, is a duck, the strings are Peter, etc. It helps children learn to identify the different instruments while hearing a pretty exciting story.

After the concert, we wandered around the abbey for a little bit and then headed home. I made shrimp and grits for supper-the family thought they were a bit bizarre but good. Maybe when it warms up I’ll grill out hot dogs and hamburgers.

I sat on top of a little hill by the abbey for a while.

Here come the brothers!

Another Song About The Weekend

Highlights from today:

-Getting my very own big-girl library card. Having now received four different library cards in my lifetime (that I can remember), you’d think I’d be less excited about this. It even came with an eco-friendly sack to carry my books! I’m sorry, I know that’s really nerdy, but I just love books. Pictures to follow soon.

-Catching my parents up on the grapefruit debacle. Maybe by the time I leave France I’ll have gained some knowledge about cooking.

-Eating the final galette of the season! Each January, francophones everywhere buy galettes (puff pastry cakes with sweet filling) and eat them in honor of the Epiphany. Inside each cake is a tiny ceramic figurine called une fève. Whoever finds la fève in their slice is named the roi for the day. Sound familiar? This is where King Cakes during Mardi Gras come from. Too bad we just get creepy plastic babies instead of super cool collectibles.

Laurent makes the first slice!

Until tomorrow! Toi, toi, toi!


Today, I wandered around town and found a pretty cool museum exposition inside the Château de Tours, a castle built in the 11th century that’s now used exclusively for modern art. This month, the expo is a collection of photographs taken during France’s reconstruction after the second World War. Experimental building techniques were used to create prefab houses and monstrous apartment buildings, and the workers made sure to document every step of the process.
I wasn’t allowed to take pictures inside, but I got a shot of the original tower of the castle:

Clearly medieval-this is no Cinderella's Castle!

I also made the acquaintance of Fritz, an actual (now deceased) elephant who was touring France in the Barnum and Bailey circus in 1902 when he suddenly went on a rampage and had to be put down. 😦 Clearly, the next logical action was to stuff him and put him in a museum.
Poor Fritz.

Sorry for the poor quality; he's stuck behind glass.

This evening, Martine, Laurent, and I went to see a play, Le Roman d’un Trader (The Novel of a Trader). I didn’t understand much, but it was essentially about the horrors of working as a stock trader and trying to be a good person at the same time.
Lots of technical words, lots of expressions I didn’t know, but I got the basic idea. I could say that about most things that happen here.

Grapefruit-Juicy Fruit

Did you know that there is a specific way to cut a grapefruit? I didn’t. Apparently, this perfectly round fruit is supposed to be cut sideways, not longways. And apparently, I’m supposed to recognize the difference. It’s little things like this that stress me out.

The right way

The wrong way

Oh well, the family got a kick out of it.

Other low points of the day included not understanding most of the lecture on children’s literature this morning and ordering the wrong sandwich at lunch. Who would have thought that a steak sandwich would have mustard? Crazy French condiments.

I do have one positive thing to say, though (cheers from the audience). My international relations class is going to be awesome. The professor is absolutely hilarious, and a little more than slightly inappropriate. He asked all of us exchange students where we were from and then completely bashed our respective countries. The last girl was from Germany, and he said, “Oh, that’s too easy. I won’t go there. I just want you to know that my dad is Jewish.” Slightly too far? Yes. But I think it’ll be an interesting class.

Since tomorrow’s an off day for me, I think I’ll watch Harry Potter en français and call it homework.

We Are the Eggmen

I’m beginning to get used to the idea of waking up early, but that doesn’t mean I like it.

Another cold morning turned into a mildly cold day. After British Civilization (easily the most boring class I will take here) I had a four-hour break because my CUEFEE châteaux class won’t start for a few more weeks.
I roamed around the building, made my sandwich and Coke last slightly more than two hours, and read the last article of a 1994 issue of National Geographic I’ve been toting around like a security blanket.
Finally, my next class began and I actually enjoyed two hours of European History before heading back home.
Dinner tonight was an interesting take on something I’ve had at least a million times-bacon and eggs. Martine started frying bacon in a pan, then cracked the eggs right over the top. They cooked together and were delicious. I think it’s incredibly cool that different families/cultures take the exact same ingredients and prepare different meals out of them.

My dad always scrambles our eggs and chops them up fine, and Mom prefers her bacon burnt crispy. How do you eat your eggs?