rebecca_in_blue: (worried eyes)
This is a short entry because work lasted forever tonight, it's late, I'm tired, and I'm waking up bright and early tomorrow morning to leave for summer camp! I'm not sure how often I'll have Internet access there, so posts may be sporadic for a while. My back-up plan is to keep a paper journal of my experiences, take lots of pictures, and put them all on LiveJournal later.

I'm going to a summer camp run by the URJ (Union for Reform Judaism). I'll be there for a week. I'm so nervous about it because even though I've heard great things about this camp, I've never been before and I don't know anyone there! But I keep telling myself that if I can fly to France alone and live there for nine months, then surely I can survive at a summer camp in Mississippi for a week. Right?

Besides the normal clothes and toiletries you put in a suitcase, can you guess what else Rebecca has packed?
  • Detailed, turn-by-turn directions the camp.
  • A Louisiana state map.
  • A flat-tire emergency repair kit (that's in addition to the spare tire in Muse Watson's trunk).
  • A tire inflation pump and gauge.
  • A spare gas tank full of gas.
  • Enough snack food to last for several days.

Tomorrow morning, it's Mississippi, or bust! But I probably shouldn't say that -- Muse Watson might choose "bust"! For tonight, I'll leave you with this beautiful, moving video about travel, discovered recently via [livejournal.com profile] littlesammy:




If all the days that come to pass are behind these walls,
I'll be left at the end of things in a world kept small.
I'll travel far from what I know, and I'll be swept away.
I need to know I can be lost and not afraid.
rebecca_in_blue: (red riding hood)

I'm finally home after an exhausting trip and a very long car ride, but I can't complain because I got to see James Taylor in concert! I took lots of pictures, which I will be posting in increments. For now, a little recap of the beginning of our trip:

Mom told me over and over that she wanted to leave at five-thirty on Friday morning, so I set my alarm for five and was actually ready to go on time. But she got caught up watching the Royal Wedding (and so did I, to a lesser extent). Sara had been up all night, and when I got up, she said, "They're finally getting married!" I was so sleep-deprived that even with all the media hype over their wedding, it took me a minute to figure out who she meant. After I got bored of watching it, I finally walked over to Mom's house, and we left around seven.

I am usually a good packer, but somehow, I sure as hell dropped the ball for this trip. I realized after we had arrived that I had forgotten my toothbrush and hairbrush and pajama bottoms! I am still shaking my head at myself over this. What the hell, Rebecca?

One thing I learned on this trip is that my mom apparently thinks I'm a blithering idiot. When she was giving me directions to a drug store in Little Rock, she actually said, and I quote, "Okay, the name of it is Save-a-Lot. That's S-A-V-E, dash A, then L-O-T." And there were many other such instances of her explaining the hell out of things for me. I don't know if she thinks I don't have a brain in my head (even though she paid for my college education, as she likes to remind me) or if all moms are like this. Either way, it made me absolutely CRAZY!  >:(  I also drive way too slowly for her taste. Oh, the shame of having a daughter who obeys the speed limit.

Whilst in Little Rock, we got to visit with Athena! She and her boyfriend are living there right now. Although she was just in Louisiana in March, it felt like forever since I had talked to her. I think I enjoyed seeing her even more than James Taylor. :)

(P.S. Lucky me. I started my period early Friday morning, literally right as we were leaving. So on Friday, I already had a backache and stomachache and drove a lot and sat in a hard stadium seat for +2 hours. I also wasn't able to catch a nap between waking up at 5 am and leaving the James Taylor around 11 pm. I was in agony by the time we finally got out of the concert and just about collapsed in my bed at the bed-and-breakfast. Ugh.)

Photos and more to come. I think all my entries on this trip will be titled with tweaked lines from Newsies songs.

rebecca_in_blue: (excited grin)

Guess where Rebecca was this morning? She was eating breakfast with the most beautiful French-speaking Belgian family! It was one of the highlights of our little trip to Natchitoches. We left yesterday afternoon - the highlight of the drive was that Rebecca got carsick and puked! - and that evening we walked along the river and saw all the Christmas lights. Then we walked to a cemetery down the street from our bed-and-breakfast. Even in the pitch-blackness (it probably wasn't even seven, but already as dark as midnight, and very cold) I could tell that it was a really lovely, well-maintained cemetery. There was a dirt path with lampposts, and even the old section of it wasn't overgrown. I had never been in a cemetery at night before, but it was kinda cool. The funeral scene in Steel Magnolias was filmed there.

Warning: Lots of cheesy, chick-flick sappiness in this scene:

This morning we walked through a beautiful Catholic basilica and browsed in a really neat vintage toy store that had a slinky dog just like the one in Toy Story. Sara made fun of me for wanting to eat pizza from a gas station. I made fun of her for being scared of a really ugly painting of a baby that hung in our room. And we both made fun of old people for wanting to go back to Mayberry with Andy Griffith. 

rebecca_in_blue: (dozing off)
Being back home feels ... weird. I don't think anyone who's never been in this kind of situation can really understand. I've done a most of the things that I was looking forward to while I was away: written more comments in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, eaten an entire jar of Kroger-brand pickles, updated my iPod, taken my dog for a walk. But at the same time, I miss France so much. The days are shorter here (in Villers-Cotterêts it didn't get dark until after 9 pm). It's not as hot as it usually is this time of year, but of course it's humid, and all the humidity in the air outside, along with various things inside my mom's house, are making my asthma really terrible. In Villers-Cotterêts, I hardly needed to use my inhaler at all. And did I mention that this American keyboard is making me crazy?

I did ending bringing a little goat cheese with me, but I had to leave an almost-entirely eaten package of my favorite brand, Petit Chèvre Doux, in the school kitchen. Sarah and Heather, if you're reading this, I hope you ate it and enjoyed it.

So for some reason, I don't feel very tired right now, even though I'm operating on very little sleep. How little? On Monday morning I woke up around 6:30, left the lycée around 8:20, and took the 8:40 train to Paris. After an eight-hour flight from Paris to Philadelphia, about four hours in the airport, a three-hour flight from Philadelphia to Houston, and at least a two-hour car ride from Houston to here, I finally got home and into bed around 8:30 am, France time (some twenty-six hours later). I wasn't able to sleep at all on the planes or in my mom's car. I am not kidding. And yesterday I woke up around 11 am, didn't go back to bed until about 10 am this morning (I just didn't feel tired), and got back up at 2 pm to go to Grandma's.

Needless to say, I'm going to bed as soon as I finish this.

rebecca_in_blue: (Default)
I remember the Friday night in March when we all watched The Return of the King together in the kitchen. I had checked it out from the school library that day, and later I heard Marlene, Heather, and Sarah talking in our hallway, and I stepped out to tell them that I had gotten it and we could watch it that night. Monsieur Richard happened to walk by just then and asked, “What language do you speak when you’re all together?” “Chinese!” Marlene said. “We all speak Chinese.” Later Heather parodied Sam’s line about the ring (“I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you.”) when Frodo hesitated to throw to into Mount Doom as, “I can’t throw it in for you, but I can throw you in!” I laughed so hard.

This will be my last entry in France. As soon as I’m done with this entry, all I have left to do is pack my last few things and sweep my room. Frodo’s monologue at the end of the movie struck me then and comes back to me now. “The Fellowship of the Ring, though eternally bound by friendship and love, was ended. Thirteen months to the day since Gandalf sent us on our long journey, we found ourselves looking upon a familiar sight. We were home. How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on, when in your heart you begin to understand there is no going back?” When I watched it, I thought, that’s us. We’re the Fellowship of the Assistants, and soon, we’ll be ended.

It’s hard to describe how much I’m going to miss all of them. For the past seven months, we’ve done almost everything together. We were all in a foreign country, far away from our families and friends, so we really had to become friends with each other. And even though I was far away from home, I was never alone, because one of them was always right there, in the computer room or in the kitchen. Even in my own room, I could always tell when Heather had just gotten up or gone to bed, because I heard her bed creaking through the wall. I always knew when Marlene had walked by outside, because I heard her high heels clicking on the floor. I heard Sarah walking around in her room, singing Chinese songs. (I’ll never forget when Marlene suddenly started singing a song in Chinese; she had no idea what she was saying, she had just learned it from hearing Sarah sing it all the time.) I can only hope they all know that more than anything else – more than the the JM Barrie sites in London, the fabulous château at Versailles, the Eiffel Tower, and even the goat cheese – they are the first and biggest reason why I’m glad I came to France.

Some Big Pictures of Us )
 
 
I remember how scared I was when I made my last entry in the United States back in September, before I came to France. I’m not going to say now that it was stupid, because even though there was nothing to be scared of, that was a very real fear. And I’m scared again now. Every time I turn on CNN International, there’s more gloomy news about the US economy, the loss of jobs, the shrinking dollar, the rising oil prices, the global flood crisis. I’m scared that soon I’ll become another overworked, underpaid American, in the country that doesn’t have good healthcare or public transportation or any of the other things they take for granted in France. I’m scared to think about my future. The only thing I can think to do is remind myself that when I came to France, I really had no idea what I was doing, but somehow, I made it work. I can only hope that I can do the same thing now that I’m going back to the United States.
rebecca_in_blue: (Annasophia)
Today Madame Camus gave me a little mug as a going-away present. She calls it a souvenir "of France and of Marie-France" (her first name). This afternoon Heather and I walked to Leclerc so I could buy a new suitcase; my old one broke on the way here. I managed to withstand the temptation of the McDonald's in the Leclerc parking lot by reminding myself that 1) I had a goat cheese pizza waiting for me for dinner, 2) I'll probably go to the McDonald's in Charles de Gaulle Airport on Monday before I leave, and 3) in a few days, I'll be back in the United States and going to McDonald's won't be a big deal anymore.

Today I had the most awkward encounter with a student ever. It's almost too painful to write about, but here goes. The student sees me in the hall and asks what we would be doing next week. I tell him that next week I'll be back in the United States. He feels obligated to tell me goodbye, and it's important to note here that in France, you usually kiss someone when you tell them goodbye. Or when you tell them hello. There are a few teachers at the lycée who have felt obligated to kiss me whenever they see me (and that is one thing I will not miss), simply because it's normal and it's what they do for every teacher here. It's never stopped feeling uncomfortable to me, and the minute I see this student lean toward me one fraction of an inch, I take a big step back and offer my hand for a handshake, explaining that this is the way people say hello and goodbye in the United States. Did I mention this student is about 16 and looks vaguely like Adam?

Sara is sitting next to me right now, translating a list of words into Chinese. I just asked her if she was studying her French, but no, she's studying German. She's so damn diligent, I always feel lazy next to her. I've changed my journal icons again, but I'm not sure how long I'll stick with these; I think my new default icon is pretty boring. Tomorrow I’m concentrating all my efforts on packing and running the last few errands.
rebecca_in_blue: (Dakota & Dog)

Sarah just bought an airline ticket to return to Beijing for the summer. I know this because on the way to this computer room, she ran past me in the hall and yelled, "Rebecca! I buy a ticket!"

So today I went to the dentist to get my cavity filled. My stomach dropped out the minute he said the word "injection," so he offered to do it without the injection, since my cavity is small enough. But in retrospect, the injection might have actually been better. There are two phrases that no dentist should ever utter, especially not to me. 1) "Try to relax." Relax? Why don't you just ask me to shit butterflies while you're at it? 2) "It's almost over." My dentist said this at least three times today, and it was true the last time, but by then I'd stopped believing him.

rebecca_in_blue: (Default)

I got back to Villers-Cotterêts early yesterday afternoon, after seeing Sara off on her plane. As good as it feels to be back at the lycée again, that's how depressing it feels to think about how soon I'll have to leave. But when life gives Rebecca problems, she eats goat cheese, and she's going to have some as soon as she finishes this entry.

Anyway, our trip was wonderful and exhausting. Please see this entry by [info]makebeliever for a much better recap than I could ever write. The only thing we didn't do, it occured to me just after she left, was have our pictures taken in a photobooth. I've been meaning to post some pictures since we got back yesterday, but instead I made a YouTube video and went grocery shopping. I had no groceries or clean clothes when I got back, and I still need to do my laundry tomorrow. And think up something to do with my classes next week.

While on our trip, I finally started reading that big old novel Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier. Sara brought it with her to read on the trip, but I stole it from her. I think the plot moves at a snail's pace, or maybe even slower than that, but I'm still enjoying it. Du Maurier's writing style is something you can get lost in; the world she writes about is so foreign, but the way she conveys the narrator's feelings is so personal. Anyway, it's certainly made me like my name more; when I was a little girl, I hated my name because I never knew any other Rebeccas. Then around the time I got to high school, I started liking it for the exact same reason. (95% of the girls in my high school were named Kate, Katie, Ashley, or Amanda. I am not kidding.)

And now onto what everyone really wants to see ... pictures! There are only a few right now, but I'll try to post more later. 

rebecca_in_blue: (worried eyes)

Well, in bad news, Marlene left for Germany early yesterday morning. I cried. And I'm sure I mispronounced Auf Wiedersehen. I'm leaving just over two weeks after I get back from my trip with Sara. I still don't even want to think about that. I'll probably cry the entire plane ride back. I made some more of Marlene's stuffing for dinner tonight. That stuff is so good, almost as good as goat cheese pizza. Marlene might be reading this blog if she's bored enough, since I gave her the address before she left.

In good news, Sara arrived on Monday morning, and we're leaving for Paris and then for London tomorrow, so this will be my last update for a while. Sara's visit hasn't gone entirely smoothly, but there shouldn't be anymore problems from here on out. Her attempts to speak French amuse me to no end.

And in random news, today I finally bought a new hat like I've been meaning to (I saw the pictures of me at the party we had on Friday and decided not to take any more without covering up my hair). It's light blue and I really like it. Oh, and I saw a poster for Abigail Breslin's new movie Nim's Island -- or as it's called here, L'île de Nim -- when I was in Paris on Monday. I really hope it comes to the theater in Villers-Cotterêts. I could try to see it while I'm in Paris with Sara, but I can't imagine she would agree to see it with me. That's all I have to say for now, so I'll go pack.

 

rebecca_in_blue: (stiff shoulders)
Today has had some spectacularly crappy moments. The only thing that got me through this morning was the thought that I was going into Paris this afternoon to see a play of The Merchant of Venice.

It started early this morning, when I bolted awake from a deep sleep by a loud, angry alarm going off all over the school. I look at my watch, which says 8:30; this is when the school day starts, so I figure that the noise I'm hearing is just a malfunction of the morning bell. But wait, I set my alarm for 7:00 to go to breakfast, so why hadn't it gone off? I guess I was so tired that when it went off, I turned it off without fully waking up (haven't we all done this?). But wait, Sarah and I always go to breakfast together, and whichever one of us is ready first knocks on the other's door, and when Sarah knocks on your door, she doesn't stop until she gets an answer (which is annoying, really). So why hadn't her knocking woken me up? This is when I look at my cell phone. It isn't 8:30; that was the time on my Louisiana watch. It's 3:30 am, and a loud alarm is going off all over the school. For a minute I just sit there in bed, wondering what to do, and then suddenly the alarm stops. Why did it go off at all? I asked Nathalie and some of my students, but they didn't know. Maybe no one does.

My morning classes were good, so I'll skip them and fast-forward to lunch. Every Friday, Marlene, Mariana, and I do the film festival for the students. But today Marlene is super sick and doesn't come. Mariana is missing in action. But I don't find out about this until I'm halfway through the disgusting cafeteria lunch and the Italian professor tells me that I'm the only assistant here today, and it's all my job to do the film festival. So...

Stop eating lunch. Find Madame Camus and get her key to the classroom where we show the films. Tell the students waiting outside the door that the film will be a little late today. Suppress the urge to kill them out when they snicker at your French. Look for Sarah and her professor to ask if they have a Chinese film you can show (we've already shown Italian and American films, so all that's left are the Chinese, Spanish, and German films). Sarah and her professor are in class and can't be disturbed. Run to Mariana and Marina's apartment and ask if they have a Spanish film you can show. Suppress the urge to kill Mariana when she slaps her forehead and says, "The film festival! I completely forgot!" Run back to the main building with Marina and a DVD of The Motorcycle Diaries. (Mariana doesn't come with us, but she says she'll be there in a minute. She never shows up.) Interrupt Sarah and her professor's Chinese class because dammit you need to borrow the TV in their classroom right now. Wheel the TV into the room, put The Motorcycle Diaries in the DVD player, hit play, and collapse in a chair.

Fortunately my trip to Paris went smoothly and I was able to see The Merchant of Venice. Good thing too, because if anything else had gone wrong today, I would have stopped suppressing the urge and actually killed somebody. The play was fantastic. I was worried I wouldn't be able to understand a play that was entirely in French (and plays don't have subtitles!) but it wasn't a problem at all! Probably because I'm super-familiar with The Merchant of Venice -- I have Shylock's "Do we not bleed?" and Portia's "Quality of mercy" speech both committed to memory -- and I checked out an English copy of it from the school library and brought it with me to follow along. But as much as I enjoyed the play, I don't think it was quite as good as the production I saw by LSU theater students last year. I will post more, probably a lot more, about this later.
rebecca_in_blue: (bemused shrug)

I meant to post sooner, but I've been busy doing everything I've been putting off all vacation. Last night I stayed up until about two in the morning cleaning my room (that I had to stay up so late should give you an idea of how messy it was), today I finally did my laundry, and right now I'm putting together a lesson plan for my classes tomorrow. I'm almost looking forward to school starting again because it means two of meals will prepared for me, and Nathalie will take us shopping and deliver our mail again. And hopefully one of the school repairmen will do something about our shower. Heather was taking a shower last week when the showerhead suddenly broke in her hand. We don't know how to fix it, and it's the school's responsibility anyway, so since then we've basically been showering with a hose.

My trip to Paris on Friday was very nice. I visited the Mémorial de la Shoah (the Holocaust Museum), which I enjoyed, if I can say that without sounding morbid. I also took a long walk along the Seine and around the premier arrondissement, which is the richest neighborhood in Paris. I happened to find a street full of pet stores, most of them selling pedigree puppies for hundreds of euros, and of course I had to go in every one and look at all the animals. The only scary moment came when I got distracted by a distant view of the Eiffel Tower while crossing the street and enormous bus passed inches in front of my face.

rebecca_in_blue: (dropped jaw)
So today I made a trip into Paris and saw Atonement. My train from Villers-Cotterêts was astronomically late, and I missed the 2:05 showing that I had planned to see, but in the end I didn't mind because I killed time waiting for the 4:30 showing wandering around Paris, which was nice. I'm planning to go back, probably on Friday, and visit the Paris Holocaust Memorial Museum. I'm not as scared of the city as I used to be, even though today was slightly marred by…

Scary Moment #1. After walking for over an hour, I go into a little park and sit down on a bench. Then this man sits down next to me and asks (in French) if he can talk to me. I'm a little wary, so I pretend not to speak French (which is practically true anyway), because I thought that would make him leave me alone. It doesn't. First, in very broken English, he asks me where I'm from, then he manages to explain to me that he's a photographer, he takes pictures of models for magazines, and he likes my face because I'm not wearing any makeup, and I could earn €200 an hour if I modeled for him, and would I like to make an appointment with him for tomorrow? (I am not kidding.) So I drop the I-only-speak-English act and tell him in my best French, "I do not know you, and I demand that you leave me alone." I got out of the park as quick as I could and walked around a very crowded tourist area for a good while in case he tried to follow me or something.

Scary Moment #2. I'm standing on the street looking at a metro map when a woman approaches me, holding her hand out for money and talking urgently in a language I can't identify. I could tell she wasn't going to go away, and I couldn't go away from her because I needed to look at this map. I had some spare coins in my pocket, so I put one in her hand (it was a 1€ coin, I think), but she still doesn't go away. She starts SHOUTING me – and again, I have no idea what language she's speaking – and pointing to the coat pocket I had taken the coin out of. I get scared and run away, coming back to read my map only after I make sure the coast is clear. And the moral of this story, children, is not to give money to crazy women on the streets of Paris.

But don't get the wrong impression, because overall it was a nice day. I actually managed to find a McDonald's! It was in a tall, narrow building, and its facade was decorated with carvings of a king, a stork, and an angel. It looked so cool. I also saw a sign about a protest for the return of the franc (the currency France used before the €), which I found hilarious. I'm not even French and I can tell you the franc is never coming back. And I enjoyed Antonement, although I was disappointed to no end when I found out the little theater didn't serve concessions (I had a craving for some nice movie popcorn). I'll talk about the film when I've had some more time to think about it, but right now I'm too tired out from my day.
rebecca_in_blue: (happy smile)
Well, here I am back in France. I got back last night, and boy was my room was frigid when I opened the door. I couldn’t figure out why – even when the lycée turns off our heating, it’s never been that cold – then lo and behold, earlier today I noticed that my window was open. I must not have closed it correctly the last time I opened it. So I slammed it shut and now my room is nice and warm again.

So I think my general impression of London has to be… jolly good! It was so much nicer than Paris. There were lots of cheap places to eat – I saw Burger King, KFC, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, and Subway (fast food forever!), all of which I doubt I could find in Paris. And the people there, for the most part, were incredibly nice. Often all I had to do was consult my map, and someone near me would ask, "Are you lost?" and be ready to offer directions. And the nicest people of all were my cousin Laura, her husband Matt, and kids Molly, Jack, and Lucy (ages 16, 14, and 9, I think), who let me stay at their house from December 21-24. Laura’s parents, my Uncle Johnny and Aunt Betty, were also visiting them from New York, and it was really nice to see them again. Here’s a brief breakdown of my trip…

Rebecca’s Awesome JM Barrie Tour of London (complete with lots of parenthesis!)

December 21. I arrived in London very late, eat dinner at Laura’s house (all I had was a grilled cheese sandwich – traveling kills my appetite), and have a very animated discussion with Lucy over which Harry Potter book was the best. We also played a word game where you had to form the longest words you could out of the letters you were given.

December 22. I saw the Prince Albert Memorial, Lancaster Gate (where JM Barrie was living when he met the Llewelyn Davies family), Kensington Park Gardens (where the Llewelyn Davies family was living when they met JM Barrie), and Portobello Road. We ate dinner with the Heelys, family friends of Laura’s, who had two daughters, one of whom was named Rebecca and near my age. We played Scrabble (Molly, Jack, and Lucy played as one team and won by a wide margin), watched Mean Girls (Jack’s idea), and ripped open real-live Christmas crackers just like they do in Harry Potter (I was the only one who had never done that before).

December 23. I saw Sloane Square (the tube station where Peter Llewelyn Davies killed himself) and Hampstead Churchyard (where the Llewelyn Davies and Du Maurier families are buried). The churchyard was very old, full of crooked, illegible headstones, and was made spookier by heavy fog. Molly, Jack, and I ate dinner together and watched part of Final Destination 3 (a really gorey movie – what a body count!). Later we all went to the theater and saw The Golden Compass. I enjoyed the beautiful visiuals and the haunting song Lyra (the name of the heroine) that played over the final credits, but I found the film itself mediocre and predictable, probably because I never read the books. Fortunately Lucy was happy to give me a very detailed summary of the books on the way back from the theater. But the highlight of the conversation on the way back goes to me, Betty, and ye olde generation gap…
Betty: I wonder how they managed to train all those polar bears.
Me: I think the polar bears were CGI.
Betty: They were what?
Me: CGI – you know, animated by computers.
Betty: (surprised) Oh, you think so?

Christmas Eve, December 24. I saw Holland Park, Norland Place School (the school the Llewelyn Davies brothers attended as children, still an active school), and Campden Hill Square (the Llewelyn Davies family’s last London rescidence). Laura dropped me off at my hostel, and I got settled in there. I got very lost that evening and had to take a dark deserted side street back to my hostel (the scariest moment of the trip).

Christmas Day, December 25. Since the Underground was closed for Christmas, I spent the entire day walking. Of course this would be the one day that it rained (and I didn’t have an umbrella). Most of me managed to stay dry, by my hat and gloves got soaked right away, so I spent the entire day with damp head and hands (how I didn’t catch a killer cold is beyond me). I saw Hyde Park, the Wellington Arch, Buckingham Palace, and all the Peter Pan sites in Kensington Gardens: Bird Island, the Serptine River, the Peter Pan statue, and the Peter Pan tombstones (the tombstones were the best part of the trip!).

Boxing Day, December 26. I saw Great Ormond Street Hospital (to whom JM Barrie bequeated the rights to Peter Pan), the Tower of London, the Tower Bridge, All Hallows Church (the oldest church in London, or so they claim), and St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Peter Pan’s Birthday, December 27. I saw Adelphi Terrace (JM Barrie’s last London rescidence), the Duke of York Theatre (where Peter Pan made its world debut on December 27, 1904), Trafalgar Square, Downing Street, Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, and Westminster Abbey. I bought souvenirs for everyone, which I will try to send home on Monday.

December 28. I saw Platform 9 ¾ at King’s Cross train station and went back to France. Somewhere near Lille, Eurostar experienced a "technical problem" and we had to stop and change trains, so we were an hour late getting to Paris and I almost missed my train to Villers-Cotterêts. But fortunately I just managed to catch it, and it felt so good to be back at the lycée again!



They cut a luggage trolley in half and affixed it to the wall so it looks like it's disappering into it, just like in the books. Isn't that awesome?
rebecca_in_blue: (red riding hood)
Well, I'm still exhausted, because Heather and I woke up at 6:00 to go to Laon for our medical exams this morning. My appointment was at 8:15, and hers was at 9:00. I couldn't understand why she left with me instead of sleeping in an extra half-hour and leaving later, but it's a very good thing we did go together, because by ourselves, each of us would probably be wandering around Laon lost. I have never seen a city with such a confusing lay-out. We had to take a bus and a trolley to get to the hospital. (Well, it wasn't exactly a trolley. It was actually a lot like a roller coaster. I enjoyed it, but I think Heather was terrified.)

I'm leaving for London tomorrow (Friday), so this will probably be the last update I make until then. I know I'm going to have a very good time, because I'll be in the heart of JM Barrie country and I'll be visiting family (however distant), but I am really going to miss being at Grandma's house on Christmas Eve. I hope the box I mailed arrives before then, but it probably won't. Until then...

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

 

Oh, it's all right, it's gonna be okay.
'Cause next year I'll be home
Come a Louisiana Christmas Day.
Oh, let the good times roll,
Les bons temps roulez,
'Cause next year I'll be home
Come a Louisiana Christmas Day.
rebecca_in_blue: (dozing off)
I remember well how busy the last week before vacation was in high school, and this lycée is just the same way. I still need to look up all the JM Barrie sites I want to visit in London, but my most important goal in preparing for London is to get some sleep sometime before Friday evening. (I was also planning to do my laundry before I left, but I had to scrap that – I simply didn’t have the time.) Unfortunately I have my appointment with the ANAEM at 8:15 tomorrow morning, which means I’ll have to get up at 6:00 to get there in time. And I have classes all tomorrow afternoon, so I won’t be able to catch a nap.

Yesterday was Marlene’s birthday. She had wanted to something special, like for us to take a trip to Paris, but this week has been so hectic that we just had a little party in Marina and Mariana’s apartment. I baked a final batch of pecan muffins and made a card with Happy Birthday in German. (It’s Glücklicher Geburtstag, or something. I needed an entire sheet of paper to write it all.) Today Mariana, Marlene, Sara, and I were invited to eat lunch at Madame C’s house. Her house was lovely, and so was her food, but it lasted so long that it was why I couldn’t do my laundry. Luch started at 12:30, but it was almost 4:00 by the time we got back to the lycée, because lunch entailed a trip to a neighboring town and a walk through the woods. (I will explain more later. Much later.)

In the last two weeks, I have baked four dozen pecan pie muffins.
rebecca_in_blue: (excited grin)
Fortunately, she doesn’t have to! It turns out that when I applied for my carte de séjour on Monday, the clerk told me that she would send my paperwork to the office in Soissons, and as soon as they received it, they would send me my reci-passé. Since Soissons is about a half-hour drive from here, my reci-passé should arrive early next week. Yes, I was told this on Monday, but it took me until today to understand. What’s ironic is that I seriously doubt whether anyone will even check my reci-passé or my passport when I go to London. I just reserved a train ticket earlier this evening, and I’m e-mailing Laura my arrival information in another window right now. I’m going to make a hostel reservation tomorrow.

To celebrate the good news, I made a batch of pecan pie muffins with some of the pecans Grandma sent me. (Her box arrived on Wednesday. Thank you, Grandma!) Marlene told me once that she’s only eaten pecans a few times in her entire life, because they’re so rare and expensive in Germany – can you imagine? The muffins came out too moist, because I put in too much butter and not enough brown sugar. I worried it wasn’t my best batch, but I changed my mind after Marlene kept saying, “Rebecca, these are so good!” and Mariana and Marina wouldn’t stop exclaiming, “C’est géniale! Merci!” I think I’m going to use up the rest of the pecans making more muffins, because it actually felt good to share them with people. Maybe it’s true what they say about it’s better to give than receive. Who knew? I have enough pecans for at least two more batches, maybe three. I’ll probably give one batch to Nathalie and her family as a Christmas present, since she does so much for us.

If the weather is nice tomorrow, Heather and I are going into town to photograph all the Christmas decorations that are up now. I’ll put the pictures in with my Christmas presents when I send them home, which will probably be next week.
rebecca_in_blue: (dishevelled hair)

Well, Rebecca has some bad news. There's a chance I might not be able to go to London for Christmas after all. A pretty big chance. It breaks down like this: If I leave France, I won't be allowed back into the country without a valid visa or a carte de séjour. My visa is going to expire on December 14, so to go to London, I need a carte de séjour. But getting a carte de séjour is turning out to be a much longer and more complicated process than I thought. The main holdup is that all foreigners staying in France for over three months are required to have a medical exam with the ANAEM, and you have to have had this exam to get the carte de séjour. For whatever reason, the ANAEM seems determined not to give me an exam (Heather is having the same problem, so maybe they hate Americans). I have all the rest of paperwork I need for the carte de séjour, and right now I'm really hoping that I can get at least reci-passé. A reci-passé is proof that you are in the act of getting a carte de séjour and allows you to leave the country. If I can get a reci-passé without an exam, I think I may be able to go to London after all.

It's hard to be depressed about this, because I had really been looking forward to going to London, and I feel bad not giving Laura a definite answer about whether I can come or not. Everything is just so up-in-the-air right now, which is frustrating. It's difficult, but I'm really trying hard to not give up and to be persistent about getting a reci-passé. After all, in the words of one of my favorite Christmas movies (Home Alone):

This is Christmas! The season of perpetual hope!

In other, more immediate, bad news, I've been having dull aches and pains all over my body. I can't figure out what's causing them -- the cold weather, maybe? -- and nothing I do seems to relieve them for long, although hot water helps. Most of them seem to be in my joints, and my right hand is hurting the most, which is very bad because I'm right-handed. So I've been trying to get lots of rest, and I hope that that will eventually make the pains go away.

rebecca_in_blue: (subtle sigh)

I woke up and left the school extremely early on Wednesday morning, only to reach the train station just as my train was pulling away without me. So I had to wait an hour for the next train to Paris, and exchange my ticket to Brussels for another one at a later time. After changing trains in Paris and Brussels, I finally reached Ieper that afternoon. I had printed out a map of the town and managed to find my hotel, even though 1) the people in Ieper apparently don't like to bother with a lot of street signs, and 2) their streets, sidewalks, and parking lots all look pretty much the same. I really hated crossing the street there.

After I checked into my hotel, I went out to see the town. It was much warmer there than in Villers-Cotterets, which was very nice. My hotel was located near the Lakenhallen, a huge Gothic building that used to be used for wool storage (Lakenhallen means "Cloth Hall"). It was built in the 13th century, then destroyed during World War I, then rebuilt, and now housed the town hall offices and a World War I museum. It was very big, and for some reason I found it rather creepy. Just behind it was St. Martin's Church. It was also destroyed and rebuilt during World War I, but some ruins of the original 15th century church were still standing.

I also saw the Menin Gate Memorial, an archway over the town bridge that was engraved with the names of over 54,000 World War I soldiers whose bodies were never found or buried. Most of the soldiers were from England or Scotland, but there were also many from India, Australia, and South Africa (I think becuse all of those countries were British colonies at the time). The archway was several stories high and covered with names, inside and out, so many names that it was hard to believe. Inside the arch visitors had left poppies and notes.

The best thing about my hotel room was the television. I got a lot of channels, and there was that broadcast American shows in English with Dutch subtitles. That night I watched The Simspsons, According to Jim, My Wife and Kids, and Extreme Makeover Home Edition. None of those are shows that I regularly watch in America, but it was really wonderful to finally watch something in English besides CNN International.

On Thursday I paid my respects to George Llewelyn Davies (JM Barrie's eldest adopted son, who, like so many soldiers, was killed in action here). George was not actually buried in Ieper but in Voormezele, a tiny neighboring town, so my plan had been to rent a bike and ride there. But problems started right away. I couldn't find the place to rent bikes, and I couldn't read the map – again, people in Ieper don't like street signs – or ask directions because I don't speak Dutch. After wandering around lost for over an hour, I finally decided to screw the bike and simply walk to the cemetary. Even more difficult. I couldn't even find my way out of Ieper, much less walk all the way to Voormezele. I was frustrated almost to tears, and very tired from all the walking I had done, so I when I passed by the train station, I went inside to sit down and be depressed. Inside I saw a sign for a taxi service. Voilà. My cab driver was very nice and spoke English. Once we were in Voormezele, finding the cemetary and George's grave was easy.

When I got back to Ieper, I visited the World War museum in the Lakenhallen, which was really interesting. There was a stone slab at the entrace engraved with names of cities that had been completely destroyed in war – Berlin, Beirut, Hiroshima, Jerusalem, Leningrad, My Lai, Nagasaki, Warsaw, and this one, Ieper. I found the whole museum haunting and beautiful, even though it was crawling with loud obnoxious students from England and Belgium.

On Thursday I did some shopping before I left. I bought a little Belgian chocolate that I will mail home later (if I don't change my mind and decide to keep it for myself!), probably once I have used up all the film on my current disposable camera. I had waffles and ice-cream for lunch, then caught the train to head back to Villers-Cotterets. On the way to Brussels I had a nice conversation with little French girl who said my pants were pretty (I was wearing the pair I bought last week with the glittery designs).

I think I understand what it must be like for Nakeisha to be in France and not speak any French. It was very hard to be in Belgium and not know a word of Dutch.

rebecca_in_blue: (bemused shrug)
Nathalie wasn’t able to take us shopping today, so Heather and I decided to walk to the store. (I needed warm clothes, and she just came because she didn’t have anything else to do.) The store, Leclerc, could be described as a French Wal-Mart but not as big – of course, stores in France are never as big as they are in America. The walk took us about 40 minutes, and because we left in the late afternoon, we got there about 30 minutes before it closed, so we didn’t have much time to shop. But I managed to buy a nice coat, two long-sleeved tops, gloves, a hat, and pair of jeans. I’m wearing the jeans right now; they have glittery designs that I don’t really like on the pockets and the butt, but I needed another pair, and they were the ones I could find that fit me. The vast majority of clothes in the store were much too big. It was expensive, but it was well worth it, because I wore my new coat and gloves on the walk back and actually felt warm! Feeling warm outside is not something that has happened to Rebecca often since she arrived here.

This morning I e-mailed Laura (my cousin) asking if I could stay with her and her family in
London during Christmas. She wrote this afternoon back saying yes and that Johnny and Betty (her parents) were flying in from New York to also stay with them during Christmas and it would be nice if our visits could overlap. I worried it would be too crowded with all of us, but Laura assures me that they have enough room. I am really looking forward to it, because I haven’t seen Johnny and Betty since 2005, Laura and her family since 2004, and they are all very cool people. Besides, I am going to be in
London, which more JM Barrie sites than any other city in the world! If I can visit the Duke of York Theater on December 27 (Peter Pan’s birthday), I might just die. But this isn’t to say that I won’t be incredibly homesick at the same time. I think this will be the first time in my entire life that I don’t spend Christmas Eve at Grandma’s house.

One thing that I have resolved to do is buy a ticket to
London well in advance. Leaving my trip to Belgium until the last minute has been problematic, but I am determined to go. I will just have to spend some of the money that’s sitting in my French bank account. It’s meant for travel and emergencies, so I don’t know why I’m so hesitant to spend it on travel. I keep imagining myself at the end of April, about to fly back to America with as much money as I brought to France, because I spent all my time here waiting for an emergency instead of travelling.
rebecca_in_blue: (pursed lips)

Today was the last day of school before vacation, which was a really wonderful feeling. We are off all of next week, and the first three days of the week after that, in honor of All Saints Day. It's a rather strange thing to give a holiday for, especially considering the unique situation of the Catholic Church in France. Anyway, All Saints Day is also Mom's birthday, and I mailed a little birthday package to her yesterday, which I hope will arrive on her birthday or the day after. I am hoping to make a trip to Belgium, maybe from Tuesday to Friday, to see the grave of George Llewelyn Davies (one of JM Barrie's adopted sons, for those of you who don't know). It will be expensive, but really, when am I ever going to get another chance to see George's grave? I think Heather and Nakeisha are planning a trip to EuroDisney in Paris. Heather also wants to go to Germany, if she can.

Heather, Nakeisha, and I went out to run some errands today and found the French translation of the last Harry Potter book at the bookstore. It was just released yesterday, and the store had a big display of them right in front of the door. I got the first book in French a few weeks ago, but so far reading it was been much more difficult than I expected. We also bought some groceries, and I just had an extremely delicious dinner of a two-foot long baguette with goat cheese, a lemon (Nakeisha and Heather stared at me like I was crazy the entire time I was eating it), and a chocolate pastry. Nathalie is going to try to drive us to the big store tomorrow, if she has time, which would be nice, because I need to buy some more warm clothes.

My teaching experiences were better this week than they were last week. It was Week B, so I only worked with Madame Y, who is probably the nicest English teacher at the school – although I like the other three, too. So far she has just had me stay in the room with her and assist in the lesson, rather than leave me alone with students (which I really prefer, but I'm not sure how long my luck will hold out.) The worst that happened this week was when Madame Y asked me to raise the window blind. Window blinds in France hang on the outside of the window, not the inside, and they don't look at all like the blinds we have in America. They are operated by cranking a stick – it's difficult to explain – and since I don't have one in my room, I didn't know how to do it. I tried pulling and twisting the stick instead, which the students found extremely funny, until Madame Y showed me how to do it.

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