Thursday, December 31, 2015

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

A weekend in Tonnerre: An ancient charitable hospital, Damien's graduation, a fancy dinner and more

This past weekend Damien and I loaded up the car Friday morning and took off for Tonnerre, where Damien lived for three years during college (his internship was in that town). Fun French fact: the word "tonnerre" means "thunder" in French!

We'd be staying with his old landlady and attending his graduation ceremony on Saturday, two hours away from Tonnerre.

(Yeah, that was a surprise for me too—"Your school is two hours from there?!" I said on the way up. Yeah, I've told you that before, he said without a doubt, clearly surprised that this information was a surprise to me. I'd obviously missed something all the previous times we'd ever talked about his college, so I had him explain it to me then, as I didn't understand the logistics at all. As I now understand it, they'd have class for a few weeks, and then internship for a chunk of time. So that's why he lived in Tonnerre for those three years, where he worked, and he'd actually rent a dorm room Monday to Friday in the town of his university for the weeks when they had class, and return to Tonnerre on the weekends.)

Somewhere around five hours after we'd left, Damien asked if I wanted to stop in Beaune. I didn't know anything about the town—not even where it was—but as always, why not see something new?


So we detoured a little bit (I think) and put an hour's worth of coins into the parking meter in central Beaune (pop. ~22,500).

Damien led us straight to the Hospices de Beaune (also called Hôtel-Dieu de Beaune), which was a hospital for the poor, founded in 1443.

• • •

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thankful Thursday 11/26/15 - Happy Thanksgiving

Thankful Thursday is a weekly segment that I began 1/10/13—read why here
I invite you to join me in practicing gratitude!

While Thanksgiving was a normal work day for me this year, Damien and I made a pumpkin pie tonight—with the can of Libby's Pumpkin that I'd brought over with me to France.

Then, we got to hang out with all of these lovely people:

And as if I didn't already have so much to be thankful for, Damien found out today that he got the 3-month contract job that he'd interviewed for on Monday. He starts on Monday, December 7 in Rodez!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
• • •

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Facebook-free: Justin

Facebook-Free: Justin

I'm happy to introduce our next interviewee for my Facebook-free Project: Justin from Saskatchewan.

The basics:

Age: 23
Location: Saskatchewan, Canada
Passion: Learning
Length of time with FB account: 5 years
Amount of time since leaving FB: 4 years

Walk us through your decision to leave. Was it planned? Spur of the moment?

One day I logged on and realized that the Facebook definition of "friend" is different from what I consider a friend. I was reading through the posts and didn't care for anything I read, I thought about condensing my friends list to real friends and family so I would only have about 50 people.

But, I figured that my friends and I would keep in touch anyway if it was important to us via text or email so I couldn't really find a use to have Facebook anymore. I was also comparing my life to other people's and spent way too much time thinking about other people's trivialities. There is a quote by Theodore Roosevelt: "Comparison is the thief of joy," which I found to be true. A few months after barely using it and disliking nearly everything that people would post on it, I just deactivated it and never went back.

Main reason for leaving (in one sentence):

It didn't add anything to my life and distracted me away from just living.
• • •

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Safe within the walls of Aigues-Mortes

One day earlier in November, Damien brought home fougasse from the grocery store, a specialty sweet "cake" made in the Aigues-Mortes region. Wikipedia says the dessert is "based on a Brioche dough, sugar, butter, and orange blossom."

When telling me about it, Damien mentioned that Aigues-Mortes wasn't far away—about a half hour—and that we could easily visit it on the weekend. Here's where it lies in comparison to Palavas:

Map of Aigues-Mortes, France to Palavas-les-Flots

We had stayed in Palavas every weekend prior to that (with one afternoon in Montpellier on Halloween) so we were both on board with going that Saturday, November 14. 
• • •

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Horseback riding in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, France

Horseback riding has been on my life list for some time now, and as of one week ago—Saturday, November 14—I can now cross it off.

I think I've been on a horse twice in my life before this—both as a child. The first was to take a picture of my siblings and I at someone's farm (I'm not sure who), but I feel like they were maybe church people from my childhood town. (Parents, any idea who/where this was?)

Ah, look! My brother found the photo evidence:

T.J. and Rebe on the horse... with Charlie?

As I remember it, they put me up on a horse first, while grabbing another child to put behind (or in front of?) me. I remembered having seen people kick the sides of horses in movies to go fast, so I curiously gave my horse a light tap to the sides with my boots. Sure enough, then it started moving! The horse owners scolded it and told it to stay still. I never did that again!

• • •

Friday, November 20, 2015

Where do you get your news?

Nadine Ajaka wrote a must-read article in The Atlantic earlier this week, called "Paris, Beirut, and the Language Used to Describe Terrorism."

In the article, she points out that the words journalists choose to describe world happenings completely shape how society views these events, and in turn, society's reactions.

Taking a step back from word choice, I thought this would be a good opportunity to remind readers that news sources each have their own agendas and influences. They can easily put their own spin on the news by what they choose to report and feature, and how they choose to present each story.

While this is true of all news forms—television, internet, newspapers, radio, etc.—I used the websites of three news sources to illustrate this point today.

On November 20, 2015 at 11:35 AM (local time in Montpellier, France), I took the screenshots below of:
  • The Guardian — admittedly my preferred online news source the past few years
  • CNN — a name I used to associate with "real news" in my childhood
  • Le Monde — a French daily newspaper
Take a look and compare:

The Guardian

• • •

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Peace for Paris, peace for the world

Last night after a long day of work, Damien and I ate dinner and then watched a show on Netflix. Afterwards, I read in bed for awhile while he watched another show (on Netflix) in the living room.

So no one was watching live TV, and I wasn't on the internet.

We cut the wifi before going to bed, like we usually do, and slept soundly—ignorant of what was unfolding on the other end of the country.

I woke up early in the morning to go to the bathroom.

I happened to glance at my phone after slipping back into bed, and saw a tweet from my brother asking "Are you safe?"

Half asleep, I tried to remember the last thing I'd tweeted. What was he referring to?
• • •

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Facebook-free: Mustafa Ascha

Facebook-free: Mustafa Ascha

The Guardian recently published this article about a study done in Denmark, in which half of the group of Facebook users had to quit cold turkey for a week. Their results found that those off of Facebook felt 55% less stressed than the control group.

At the end of the article, one of the researchers mentions that she'd like to see what would happen to participants if they quit for a year. Well, today's Facebook-free interviewee, Mustafa Ascha, is going to tell us what it's like to be off of Facebook for over two years. Over to you, Mustafa!

The basics:

Age: 26
Location: Cleveland, Ohio
Passion: Clinical and translational science
Length of time with FB account: Age 17 to 24, on and off
Amount of time since leaving FB: Two years, give or take three months

Walk us through your decision to leave. Was it planned? Spur of the moment?

It didn't benefit me enough to justify keeping it. Constantly checking Facebook, as if I depended on my online friends to feel fulfilled and satisfied with my sociability—it began to consume even the real-life parts of my social life.

Humans are inherently social, and Facebook is an immediate fix for our desire to be with others. Just like refined sugar/concentrated fats become addictive due to their immediate physiological reward reinforcement, so does the immediacy of Facebook intensify our social reward pathways—without any of the necessary content to deeply satisfy human needs.

Obviously, the argument against my perspective is that Facebook is meant to augment sociability, not replace it. Again, I think the analogy to sugar is apt. Facebook is refined sucrose/fructose, where we're liable to eat dessert first if we don't pay enough attention to ourselves. To take an analogy too far, we might end up nutrient deficient, yet obese, and with metabolic syndrome.

Finally, whether or not someone is able to constantly consume sugars and stay healthy, having Facebook makes me both easily identifiable and verifiable. I prefer to have singular control over what people can know about me, even if it sounds paranoid. I can imagine a future where textual analysis allows identification of a person's writing with a high probability. It sounds dystopian, but we're also on our way to such technology.

So, yes, it was planned. But only in the sense that it was usually in the back of my mind. I didn't have a set date when I would cancel it. Instead, the weight of the arguments against Facebook tipped the scales, one day, probably when I noticed myself shirking other responsibilities so that I could refresh my wall.

Main reason for leaving (in one sentence):

It took too much attention, distracting me from enjoying my life on earth, and scared me to know people could find and identify me at any given moment.

• • •

Sunday, November 8, 2015

French progress via video

When I took my 6-week intensive French course back in May and June, every couple of weeks I filmed myself speaking in French (cringe).

This way, I'd have something tangible I could look back on to see improvement. Rewatching these now, I can pick out lots of errors, so that's something—even in the most recent video from October! I now know some words that I didn't know then (like flamingo, it's flamant rose, not "flamingo" like I say in the latest vid!)

Even if you don't speak French, I think you'll notice a big difference between the very first one and any of the more recent videos.

I'm now in the intermediate stage, and it's hard to see progress—even though I've been operating in French for the past month after moving here (minus work and blogging). So I'm planning to keep doing a video every month, in the hopes that I'll have evidence of some progress.

I'm sharing them here to show others that language learning is most often a long, gradual journey. Heck, I took my first French class ever five years ago during my senior year of college. After graduating I very lightly dabbled in French from time to time, but didn't make another concentrated effort until my recent course in Montpellier (finally).

• • •

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Behind the scenes: Learning to swim at age 26

You guys, I can't believe what I did tonight!

Damien and I just got back from the local swimming pool—my first time in a pool since we visited the London Olympic Pool in July—and something amazing happened.

Seriously, this night made history (in my book).

But perhaps I should take us back to the beginning, so this moment will have some merit when I share it.

For starters, I am not a swimmer.

• • •

Monday, November 2, 2015

Zombies, Grammar Books and Nasty Plumbing Problems: Halloween 2015

We may be living on a postcard, but that doesn't change the fact that I cleaned shit out of our shower on Saturday morning.

Actual shit.

...for the second time.


Rewind to two weeks ago, when we noticed our shower wasn't draining very well—but nothing seemed to be clogging the drain. When this happened, the toilet bowl would also be slow to empty when flushed, filling high with extra water.

Damien took a plunger to the shower, which surprisingly pulled up a ton of sewage (crap!) in the shower. Turns out the toilet and shower are somehow connected, and there's some sort of water receptacle in the garage (on the other side of the bathroom) that needs to be pumped out every six months or so. No one had been living here before us, so we'd made it overflow... or something.

The apartment owner (Damien's best friend's mom) came over right away with a water pump (wet vacuum?), and sucked up water in the garage. She was on her way to a wedding that day, so she wasn't very thrilled to have spent the morning dealing with our crappy water. I just tried to stay out of the way (aka in the house), as I wasn't really sure what was going on in the garage, nor what I should do to help.

• • •

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Facebook-free: Hilal Isler

I'm pleased to introduce you guys to our next Facebook-free interviewee, Hilal Isler. I actually found Hilal through her Medium piece "Why I Quit Facebook (And how it led me to Taylor Swift)." She graciously agreed to participate in this project, so let's get right to her thoughts on the topic.

The basics:

Age: Let's just say my first Hollywood crush was Michael J. Fox.
Location: I am a Midwesterner now. An East Coast-transplant.
Passion: I've been into yoga for about six years. I like to run. I'm kind of a homebody, so the best days are the ones where I can pad around the house, with a cup of tea.
Length of time with FB account: Ten years. I joined in March of 2004.
Amount of time since leaving FB: About a year.

Walk us through your decision to leave. Was it planned? Spur of the moment?

It was planned (a New Year's resolution). Facebook increasingly felt like a bunch of people I barely knew, shouting about things I didn't really care about: people being self-righteous (end animal testing!) or passive aggressive (my haters, I'm not saying who, can kiss my bottom!) or ego-centric (look at how beautiful I am!) or even just inane (here's a picture of a sandwich I'm about to eat). I began to wonder what I was really getting out of it.

Main reason for leaving (in one sentence):

I felt exhausted, trying to keep up with the endless stream of people's opinions.

• • •

Monday, October 26, 2015

Sunday, October 25, 2015

A letter to the mosquitos in our apartment

Dear Moustique Tigre,

I cringe when I hear your faint buzz get louder and louder, closer and closer.

While you might not be as pesky as the mosquitos in Wisconsin who swarm and have me constantly swatting, you are sure sneaky little devils.

Some nights in our apartment I don't hear you at all, but then I'll wake up with a nice big bite. Or two. Or three. Or more. You don't mind giving them in the most uncomfortable places either—back of the hand, earlobe, my face, my right ring finger near the knuckle (boy did that ever swell up with a little scratching), and, oh right, my eyelid!

I somehow didn't realize how stealthy you were until Friday night.

• • •

Friday, October 23, 2015

Cribs: Living on a postcard in Palavas, France

Yesterday I finally got up my first blog post since arriving to France over two weeks ago (thanks to the wifi at Damien's parents' house), and then today... our internet got installed—finally! Woo hoo!

So I had my very first day working from home in Palavas-les-Flots. We're temporarily living in this southern beach town while Damien looks for a job.

It's a pretty neat town, because it's located on a strip of land (well, dunes) with two different lakes on one side, and the Mediterranean on the other.

Palavas-les-flots map

• • •

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Thankful Thursday 10/22/15: Good people in France

Thankful Thursday is a weekly segment that began 1/10/13—read why here
I invite you to join me in practicing gratitude!

I'm alive, you guys! And thankful. The reason you haven't heard from me in almost three weeks is that we still don't have internet at our apartment in Palavas, France. Makes it difficult to do any blogging/emailing/etc., but I've quickly slipped into our temporary non-wifi routine. (Sometimes I wonder if I'm adaptable to a fault!)

In order to work (for my virtual job), Damien has been driving me (30 minutes in morning traffic) to his parents' house every weekday, where I use their wifi to work up in his room. When I told my coworkers this was the situation, one had a "gasp - boyfriend's parents' house!" reaction, but I actually feel really comfortable here—they're both so friendly and have been really looking out for me.

• • •

Sunday, October 4, 2015

One day at a time

Tomorrow morning I'm catching a bus to Chicago, and in the evening I'll be on a plane to Toulouse (via Madrid). The long stay visitor's visa I have allows me to stay in France up to 12 months, but I have no plans set in stone.

I'm just going to take it one day at a time, and see what happens.

The previous three times that I've left for yearlong stints (2009-10 Madrid, 2011-12 Madrid, 2013-14 South Korea), I could feel it. I knew I wouldn't be returning home for a year's length, and I knew all of the holidays, birthdays and graduations I'd be missing.

But today was a perfectly normal Sunday at home with the parents—without those thoughts—and tomorrow I'm just going on a bus, then to an airport, then on a plane. That's about as far as my thoughts have gone. Things feel really normal; I'm not feeling anxious, nor the full extent of what tomorrow means.

• • •

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Facebook-free: Rachel Ann

facebook-free: giving a voice to the facebookless Rachel Ann

I'm proud to present a new series on the blog: Facebook-free. After having left Facebook 10 months ago now, I'm happier than I ever could have imagined with my decision—and couldn't picture going back. In an effort to show that there are many others living a Facebook-free life as well—each with their own reasons and insights—I've started the Facebook-free interview series as a new side project. 

Today I'm thrilled to introduce you to Rachel. Let's get started with some basics:

Age: 26
Location: Beloit, Wisconsin
Passion: Education
Length of time with FB account: 8 years
Amount of time since leaving FB: Almost one year (I left last October)

Walk us through your decision to leave. Was it planned? Spur of the moment?

My decision was one of those where my finger was on the mouse for quite a while and finally I clicked. I had been tired of Facebook rants, doing showboating challenges (even though they were for amazing causes - though how many of those people knew what they were supporting?), postings of how #blessed someone was because they got a Pumpkin Spiced Latte, someone venting about this minor thing , pictures of babies and pets; and just the lack of interest in what my "friends" were posting. I would rather call someone up on the phone to catch up, than see the drink they had this morning.

• • •

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Thankful Thursday 9/24/15: Lindy hop dance classes

Thankful Thursday is a weekly segment that began 1/10/13—read why here
I invite you to join me in practicing gratitude!

Those of you who receive my monthly email already know about this, but tonight I finished my 4-week session of Lindy Hop B (8-count). I started in August with Lindy Hop A (6-count), and both classes were through Jumptown Swing in Madison at just $25 for the entire month.

If that's not cheap enough (which it totally is), once you've paid for one of these classes, you can retake it as many times as you want—for free! So if it takes you a bit longer to get the moves, or if you want a refresher, you can pop back in to the class when any future session is offered. (Right now each is offered every other month; they alternate between offering Lindy Hop A and Lindy Hop B).

I'm so thankful Madison has a swing community that offers these classes! They also have weekly social dances at the Brink Lounge and monthly dances at the Madison Circus Space (yeah, I didn't know we had that either).

If you're in the Madison area, I highly recommend these classes as a fun new activity to try out! And though I'm hoping this is just the start of my journey learning lindy hop, I can now check off my life list item of taking a lindy hop dance class—which got added to the list this spring when I was in Montpellier.
• • •

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Thankful Thursday 9/17/15: Public libraries

Thankful Thursday is a weekly segment that began 1/10/13—read why here
I invite you to join me in practicing gratitude!

I am so grateful our society provides public libraries to its citizens. Not only can you read almost any book or magazine for free—in print or digitally—but public libraries are to thank for a huge amount of other efforts, programs and services that make the world a better place.

Since coming back home to Wisconsin at the end of July, I've gone from being five books behind schedule to two books ahead of schedule on my Goodreads 2015 challenge of 35 books.

I'd gotten behind when I only allowed myself to read books in French during my two months in Montpellier, France. The English ban definitely helped with the French learning, but I only finished one book in that two-month period: "James et la grosse pêche" ("James and the Giant Peach").

Here are the books I've read since leaving Montpellier at the end of June (favorites are in bold):
  • "Yes, Please" by Amy Poehler
  • "Better Than Before" by Gretchen Rubin
  • "Things Change" by John Laubmeier
  • "Total Immersion" by Terry Laughlin
  • "The Misfit Economy" by Kyra Maya Phillips and Alexa Clay
  • "Hector and the Search for Happiness" by François Lelord
  • "The Willpower Instinct" by Kelly McGonigal
  • "What Do You Care What Other People Think?" by Richard Feynman 
  • "Words in a French Life" by Kristin Espinasse
  • "The Things They Carried" by Tim O'Brien
  • "Cultural Misunderstandings" by Raymonde Carroll and Carol Volk
  • "Round Ireland with a Fridge" by Tony Hawks
While I love using my kindle to read while traveling, I so enjoy reading from a real book—which our library has allowed me to do these past two months.

Have you read any good books this summer? And do you frequent your local library? It's never too late to sign up for a free library card!
• • •

Monday, September 7, 2015

An unbelievable coincidence

"Oh my gosh!" I said aloud, in disbelief.

I was sitting in Hannah and Herm's living room—mind wandering—and then the thought randomly appeared.

But, can it be? That'd be too crazy, but I think it's true!

If there were any time to believe in any sort of destiny, this was it.

I'll explain: Do any longtime readers remember my Düsseldorf Project?

It had been off the blog for a while (I've since brought it back), but it started in 2012 while living in Spain as a push to see more of Europe.

• • •

Sunday, September 6, 2015

France Long Stay Visitor's Visa: The Application Process

Last Tuesday in Chicago I applied for my France long stay visitor's visa. I'm applying to stay for 12 months (6-12 months), but you can also apply to stay from 3-6 months.

There are basically three visa options for Americans looking to stay in France longer than the 3-month tourist visa:
  1. Student visa
  2. Work visa
  3. Visitor's visa
A student visa would be nice, since health care for the year is super cheap (like, 300 or 400 euros), plus you're legally allowed to work some hours as well.

A work visa is hard to get, just like in Spain, because you basically have to prove why a French person can't do your job. And you also need to already have a business willing to sponsor you.

A visitor's visa is for anyone seeking to spend more than three months visiting France. To get this visa, you basically have to prove that you can support yourself for the amount of time you wish to spend in France. You are not allowed to work in France, so I can't teach English lessons on the side or anything. But since my freelancing job is virtual, I can continue working there while in France, so this was the best visa for me at this time.
• • •

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Sunday, August 16, 2015

How I spent a ridiculously low amount on new clothes

Guess how much money I spent on 13 new items of clothing the other weekend?

I'll give you a hint: It's lower than you think.

And that's because I'm frugal (and I wouldn't have it any other way).

I generally don't like to spend money or buy new things in the first place (stamps and stationery are fine, though!), so it won't come as a surprise that when I do shop, I buy my clothes secondhand. In Wisconsin, Goodwill and St. Vinnies are my go-to's. While living in Madrid, I shopped at Humana, and in Korea I had good luck at the outdoor flea markets. In addition to the low cost, I love that I don't have to worry about shrinking, and it feels good to find real steals and treasures.

I know I'm this way because of how I was raised and our financial situation growing up. As a child, I'd get my older sister's hand-me-downs, and remember trips to the big Goodwill just off the Beltline in Madison with dad and all of us kids.

• • •

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Resolutions Checkpoint 2015: June + July

Well, folks, I completely missed my checkpoint at the end of June.

And then again at the end of July...

But it's never too late to reflect and realign! So here we go:

June + July Progress

1. Reach a high intermediate level of French.

I did not do each of the bullet points I'd had in my May Checkpoint post, but I did finish reading "James and the Giant Peach" (in French) by June 15 as I'd wanted to. I obviously continued using and learning French throughout June, but it simply wasn't as structured as I'd planned.

But I have officially reached an intermediate level of French! When I finished my six weeks of class, I got a certificate from my school, and they said I'm at the B1 level (low-intermediate). I have a long ways to go before that'll become high intermediate (I don't even have all the A1/A2 stuff down, guys), but I have a much stronger base (and motivation) to continue learning, which makes it easier to progress.

• • •

Friday, August 14, 2015

Touring the cheese caves of Roquefort (and a surprise architectural wonder)

On my final Sunday in Montpellier at the end of June, Damien's parents took us to Roquefort, where Roquefort cheese is produced (sheep milk blue cheese). Here's a quick map to see where it lies in comparison to Montpellier, about an hour and a half away.

Montpellier to Roquefort map

The area has many natural caves, which is where Roquefort matures on shelves—down in the year-round moist, cool climate.

Roquefort, France

• • •

Friday, July 24, 2015

My surprising encounter with the gas and electric company in Madrid

After visiting my London loves, I was off to Madrid for my final week in Europe.

I was preparing myself for the worst, because Madrid was hitting 105-110+ F every day, whereas in London I'd felt chilly some days.

Gregorio (my old roommate from 2009-10, now friend) wasn't around when I arrived that hot Tuesday, as he had actually left for Oliva (near Valencia on the coast) a day or two before because his father was going to have heart surgery on July 16 (that Thursday, which coincidentally was also Gregorio's birthday). So he didn't think he'd be back in Madrid until the 19th or 20th, and my return flight to the USA was on the 22nd.

So on that Tuesday night he texted and mentioned the gas/electric people needed to come on Thursday for some readings, would I be around to let them in? Yeah, my plan was to stay in the dark indoors all day (dark because you close the metal window coverings outside to keep the heat out—no AC) and get caught up on work. I had plans at 18:00 on Thursday to meet with one of my old English students, but he said the company would come sometime between 12 and 16:00.

He then said something about checking the hot water, to make sure it worked before the company came to test it? But that seemed kind of pointless; why wouldn't the hot water work?

• • •

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Summer 2015: Relaxing with my London loves

After leaving Montpellier on July 1, I spent almost two weeks in London staying with Hannah and Hermann.

Yup, he was totally trying to photobomb us.

I will tell you right away, just because I used the L-word (London), doesn't mean I was in some magical faraway place having an incredibly unique experience topped with tea and crumpets.

In fact, it was the normality of it all that made it "magical" for me. For someone who hasn't lived in the same place longer than a year at a time since 2009, it's exciting to see their daily life, and how the roots these two have put down are growing. I loved relaxing in the company of my good friends in a familiar place, admiring the life they're building here.

And Damien came and visited from the 2nd to the 7th, so that was pretty magical too.

Here's a bit of what we did, in photos:

We grilled.

Hannah, Damien

• • •

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

State of the French Learner Address: June 22-30

This was my last full week in Montpellier (leaving for London on July 1).

lundi, 22 juin
After working during the day, I took the tram to the end of the line (towards the beach), where Damien picked me up for my second to last Monday of ultimate. Afterwards, once back in Montpellier we got a take-away pizza from the pizza/Italian place right next to my apartment (that I'd never eaten at before). It was tasty!

mardi, 23 juin
My roommate was up early for her final two days of recording an album with her group (traditional Russian music). After work Damien came over and we went and threw frisbee at the park right by my apartment.

mercredi, 24 juin
The dog (Laika) has this bizarre position she loves to be in, all twisted up against the wall. I took some pictures of her while working, because how that could in any way be comfortable just baffles me:

• • •

Monday, June 22, 2015

State of the French Learner Address: June 15-21

lundi, 15 juin
On Monday, Asami hung around all day as I worked. I had plans to get picked up near the train station at 17:30 for a ride to ultimate (instead of taking the tram). Damien happened to be in Montpellier that afternoon, so he’d offered to give a ride to me and Johanna (a girl who signed up to play for the first time). Since Asami wanted to stay in Montpellier another night and hadn’t found a place, I said she could stay with me again that night, but that I had to leave the house at 5:10 to catch this ride.

Ultimate was fun, we were four: Damien, Johanna, Thibaut and myself. Johanna is from Finland and wants to hang out on Friday. Thibaut gave Johanna and I a ride back to Montpellier afterwards.

mardi, 16 juin
Asami stayed around again today, and once again it was just a regular day of work. She made plans to leave Montpellier tomorrow, so I offered to let her stay another night. At 7 p.m. I went to GoLingo—always a good time! Afterwards I got crepes with some Frenchies from GoLingo: Damien, Romeric and Benjamin. When I got home around midnight, Asami was home and just getting in. Turns out she had gone to Nimes on a whim when she was at the train station that evening!

mercredi, 17 juin
Asami left in the afternoon, and I continued to work out on the patio. That afternoon Damien made plans with me for that evening—we were going to eat les moules frites (mussels and fries) in Grande-motte, which is on the coast, a bit up from where we play ultimate frisbee.

On the way there, Damien asked if I had plans on Sunday (nope) and if I wanted to come to his grandpa’s house for lunch (Father’s Day). He’d have to check with them first to make sure it’s okay, but he’d wanted to see if I was free in the first place. He spent three months in Ireland this spring, and said he knows what it’s like to be a foreigner on holidays and such, and how rare it is to be at family events, so he thought of inviting me. Oh, and get this—his grandpa (and parents) are Spanish! So I really hope that works out, because it sounds like it’d be a good time.

It was a really excellent dinner filled with great conversation.

• • •

Monday, June 15, 2015

State of the French Learner Address: June 8-14

lundi, 8 juin
I forgot to mention in yesterday's blurb from last week's update that when my roomate got home last night, she had a ginormous new musical toy with her: a bass balalaika.

She plays the Russian balalaika, and actually made this one:

So for her birthday (which was last fall), a friend made her this bass balalaika, sitting upright on the floor:

• • •

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Thursday, June 11, 2015

French club cuisine

Yesterday evening I went to a mini-cooking lesson, an optional "excursion" that my school offered. Basically there's a guy (company?) who leads all of the excursions/activities, and various French schools in town offer these activities to their schools. 

So while none of my friends signed up for this event (and I think only two others from my school did), there were tons of French students there from the boatload of other French schools in the area.

• • •

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Sunday, June 7, 2015

State of the French Learner Address: June 1-7

lundi, 1 juin
We had four new students in class today: an Italian guy, a retired woman from Germany, an American who has lived in Montpellier for 5 years (and speaks amazing French!), and a girl from Switzerland. We changed rooms too, so we're in a smaller room and space is a bit tight. Frank is our teacher for the next two weeks still, so I'm happy!

I went to ultimate again at the beach this evening, like last Monday. At GoLingo last week while talking with exchange partner Damien about ultimate, he said he was interested in trying it out... and he actually came today! So we had enought people at one point to actually play with two endzones instead of just two boxes. The guy from Quebec who had been organizing the event via Couchsurfing leaves this week for Quebec (and will be back in August), so he brought a bottle of wine to share afterwards. It sounds like some of the others are interested in continuing the Monday evening event when this guy is gone, so hopefully I can keep playing!

mardi, 2 juin
Today is my older brother's birthday! (Bon anniversaire!) After class I went to the Montpellier zoo with Asami, Pia and Nanomi. It was just like any other zoo: zebras, bears, rhino, etc., but it was interesting to read the info things in French. Here's a plant that really stood out to me—it was fuzzy!

• • •

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Resolutions Checkpoint 2015: May

Resolutions Checkpoint 2015 May

Hello, June!

As evident in my recent picture-heavy posts, I haven't been writing much the past month. And for those just tuning in, that's because I'm currently in Montpellier, France for a limited amount of time (two months, and my time is half up already), trying to learn as much French as possible.

So here's a quick recap of the progress I made this past month on the goals I'd set in May, to work towards my 2015 resolutions:

May Progress

• • •

Monday, June 1, 2015

State of the French Learner Address: May 25-31

lundi, 25 mai
Today was another holiday (May has lots of holidays here in France!), so no class. I worked for a bit, studied for a bit, and in the evening made the trek to the beach to play some frisbee. I found out about the event via Couchsurfing. For those who have heard of the site, Couchsurfing isn't just for hosting or sleeping for free at people's houses. There are also events hosted by couchsurfers, and you can use the site to meet people when you're traveling (or to meet travelers while you're at home).

So there was the guy from Quebec who made the event, his girlfriend, a French guy, an Italian guy, and myself. After throwing for a while, Sophie went and read while we played two on two—"square" frisbee (with a small square in the middle for scoring, and a bigger square on the outside). I forgot how tiring it is to run on sand! Oh man. I slept well that night!

mardi, 26 mai
Today a whole bunch of new students started at the ILP, which meant class started at 10 instead of 9 because the new students took a placement test at 9. Turns out they're all Americans from Loyola University in Baltimore. They're young (most are 19), and since this is a group "study abroad" sort of thing for them, they all speak in English with each other. I'm trying to be patient, but to be honest, it's pretty obnoxious to listen to English at school (and also to know that they'll hardly learn what they could during their time here). But alas, I'm trying to remind myself that we're at different times in our lives with different priorities.

• • •

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Monday, May 25, 2015

State of the French Learner Address: May 18-24

lundi 18 mai
Right before I left for school, I bought a train ticket for London (woo!). I'll head there (Montpellier-Paris-London) on July 1 to stay with Hannah and Herm for a week or so. At some point I'll buy a flight from London-Madrid.

We started this week with the imparfait (one of the past tenses) and talked about when our grandparents were young. Grandma, I mentioned how you and all of your siblings would play all around town by yourselves when you were young.

As I was leaving, my friend Asami mentioned she was going on a walking tour that afternoon, put on by the school, and invited me along. In an effort to shake up my routine, I told her I would go.

I'm actually pretty sure I wasn't supposed to be there (that maybe it was for new students who paid for certain "excursions" at our school, whereas I only pay for the "Standard" course, no excursions, but oh well—they let me stay!) We walked around the center, places I'm most familiar with. I learned a few little new tid-bits, and it was good to listen to French that whole time.

Ah, and I saw my third Space Invader!

• • •

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Marseille: Group day trip

Yesterday I went to Marseille, which is a coastal city in southern France. Whereas Montpellier lies about 15km from the sea, Marseille is right there on the coast: 

Every week our school has optional "excursions" that you can go on if you pay for it, and this was one of those trips. Most places you can easily get to on your own for much less than what the school charges, but I decided that the Marseille trip was worth the price tag.

Here are a few Marseille basics (courtesy of Wikipedia), interspersed among photos:

Population: 850,636 (2nd after Paris)

• • •

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

State of the French Learner Address: May 10-17, 2015

Here's a little bit about my second week in Montpellier, France, where I'm living for two months while studying French and working:

dimanche, mai 10
During the day I worked for a few hours and did some cooking.

That evening I went to the same language exchange as last Sunday. I only had one repeat French partner from last week, so it was cool that so many were in attendance.

I've started color-coding my planner so I can easily see how much time I've spent in each area of French: speaking (yellow), reading (green), writing (orange), and listening (pink). I also forgot to mention in my last address that on my first day of class, I borrowed the book "James and the Giant Peach" in French from the resource room (with tons of books and DVDs for check out). I'm reading at least a chapter a day, since they're tiny, and writing down new vocab.

• • •