Friday, December 18, 2009

Chocolate Party

Ecole Froissart Christmas Concert

I've been a pooper and have complained a lot about this fine country I have been living in. So, to shake things up a bit, I am going to instead sing my praises for France and how it knows how to party.

My schools this week were a buzz with excitement for the coming holidays. Students were
preparing for their Marchés de Noël and even a fun game of English Christmas bingo was too much for them to focus on.

On Tuesday I was pleasantly surprised that I did not have to "work" (though playing with French children while teaching them English words can hardly be called work), but instead got to be an audience in Ecole Froissart's Christmas Concert.

It was the cutest thing--little French children (5-10 years old) singing off tune carols in French, and yes, in English. My little rugrats sang that Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and they sang it with the merriest Christmas spirit they could. I was so proud!

Following the Christmas concert, the school hosted their annual, are you ready for this?, CHOCOLATE PARTY.

Yes. A party for chocolate. How awesome is that? When I first moved to this country three years ago I was so overly impressed by how chocolate had been incorporated into everyday life: chocolate in cereals, pain au chocolat, chocolate bits that came with your coffee. It was great!

And now, at Christmas, elementary schools have full-on parties for it. Hallelujah!

We had chocolate truffles, chocolate rosettes, chocolate madeleines, saucisson au chocolat, chocolate cake, hot chocolate...the list goes on!

To sum it up, all I have eaten this past week is chocolate.

Man, like can be tough ;)

Merry Christmas everyone!

Students parousing the chocolate selection

Some of the chocolate goodies

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The First Snow

Hello Everyone!

I am so sorry it has been a while since my last post, but a lot has been going on.

First, it is snowing!!! I know this is not some unheard of Marvel, especially in Europe and the North of France. But give me a break, I'm a girl from California, and the possibility of having my first white Christmas is currently the most exciting thing in my life right now.

The first snow in Valenciennes

So, a quick update:

Two weeks ago I spent a lovely weekend in Compiègne with my new French family: the Gaudets. The Gaudets are family friends with one of my mom's students and we have been in touch since I arrived here in France. They invited me to visit two weekends ago and it was the most pleasant weekend.

I admit, I have been rather homesick these past few weeks, especially with the holidays coming. So staying with a family really did the trick in cheering me up. The Gaudets, Anne and Christophe and their three children Pierre (10), Juliette (7) and Matthieu (4) were the most charming family. We enjoyed two days touring the city which houses the Chateau de Compiègne (Napoleon's digs) and the location of where the English captured Jeanne d'Arc. We also caught the film Le Petit Nicolas, went to the local Christmas markets, went to Mass (my first time) and enjoyed a lovely family lunch on Sunday at Anne's parents' house.

The family was so welcoming to me and have invited me back whenever I want. I definitely plan on returning in the Spring and perhaps for a visit to the Chateau de Chantilly. Juliette even cried when I left! So I think they liked me :)

Christophe and Matthieu, Me, Anne, Nicole (Anne's mom), Pierre and Juliette

On to more updates...

I met up with Jordan last weekend in London. We visited his old college roommate Nick who is living there now and working for Skype Mac. We spent a couple days in the city, and then took a road trip out to Kent to visit some castles and stay in some B&Bs. We visited Leeds Castle, Dover Castle, and saw the secret wartime tunnels under Dover Castle and the White Cliffs of Dover. Back in London, we visited Greenwich park and stood on the Prime Meridian.

Dover Castle

Jordan and I on the White Cliffs of Dover

Me on the White Cliffs of Dover

It was so beautiful! And France was just over the Channel

On the Prime Meridian

Jordan is off to Berlin now to visit an old friend for the holidays, and I am leaving Saturday for Sweden. Because of the snow the forecast says to expect flight delays, but I am hoping that will go smoothly as it is Jonatan's birthday too!

I hope you are all going to have a lovely holiday and I miss you tons!!

More to come on a European Christmas!

Me on top of a castle!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

London Town

I am off to London tomorrow everyone for a weekend with Jordan and his friend Nick. We are checking out the city and then will be off to some B&Bs in the English Countryside. I will take a lot of pictures for you all to see!

I am sorry I have been neglecting this blog lately. Things all of a sudden got a little busy, and I have been focusing on my Swedish blog. But I have a lot to tell you, especially about my weekend in the countryside with my new French family. So stay tuned and I will update you all soon!

Bisous to all!

Friday, December 4, 2009

I Blog for The Local Now Too--Check It Out!

Hej Everyone!

I just wanted to let you all know that I have another blog out in the cyber world now. I am now a blogger for The Local--Sweden's News in English

You can find my blog here: Sverige on my Mind

Of course, my posts are pretty much focused on Sweden, but I have been getting a lot of comments and feedback and am sometimes featured on the main page. Kinda of cool :)

So please read!


Thursday, December 3, 2009

My Brother is Gone

After about a month and a half of meandering around Europe together and living in extremely close quarters in a quiet French town, my brother has taken off on the next chapter in his journey around the world and has left me all alone in Valenciennes.

Ok, now I am just being a baby. I am not all alone. I still have my awesome roommate Chelsea and the other characters of Val. Plus, I have my own agenda to stick to: this weekend, a trip to the country with my famille francaise. Then it's back in Val for a few days, and then I actually get to go to London to meet up with the Big Bro again. So, yeah, it's actually not even really goodbye either.

Nevertheless, I am feeling a bit down, and more than I expected. To be perfectly honest, I was definitely apprehensive about Jordan's extremely long visit over here (3 months it will be in entirety).

When I first arrived in Lille I was freaked because I was homeless, and how could I have my brother come visit if I was living in a tent with the other SDFs?

Then I got an apartment, but it was small, and there were only two beds--one for me, one for the roomie. Where was he going to sleep? Did I need to venture to the big Carrefour to find a foam mattress for him? And do I really want him around, in my space, for that long? What will he do all day while I work?

Um yeah, I'm kind of a worrywart. Can you tell?

Well, to my pleasant surprise, this has been the greatest month and half I could have asked for. I've been a little bit more homesick this time around abroad and it was great to have a comfort from home.

It was also great to really get to know my brother. Sure, I've known him over 23 years now, and we've hung out a lot and even traveled together quite a bit as well. But this time, I got to actually live with him. Because of our close proximity physically in my apartment (and our bedroom, aka the living room/kitchen/dining room), there was not much room to hold back conversations, opinions, snores and maybe sometimes even farts. Gross, I know.

But really, it was so incredibly wonderful to feel so comfortable with my brother and to know that we really are a lot alike. To know that we live rather similarly, and that we are excellent travel partners.

It is my personal belief that siblings are your best allies and friends in life. They know where you come from, why you are the way you are, and are the ones who can understand your quirks, worries and phobias the most (I have many).

So, now I will have to go and watch The Office alone tonight. Jordan, it was a blast. Can't wait to meet you in London, I'm going to see what I can do about Barcelona, I can't wait to have you back here in Val for even just a little bit, and I am going to hate having to say goodbye for real.

Love you!