Monday, September 26, 2005

Autumn In Paris

Pictures from Paris!
Okay, i still havent quite figured out how to upload images directly onto the blog, but here's a link to the full photo gallery from our Recent Paris Excursion - a brief 2 hour highspeed trainride.


Making Land O Lakes (or equivalent French butter behemouth) Proud

Butter: I must be eating a whopping ton of it. It has never been a condiment that I use much of, and in fact, for the sake of my heart and my waistline, I try to avoid it. I prefer “huile d’olive” (olive oil) which is used some here, but butter rules all. There is no real way to judge how much butter I am intaking: I enjoy at least 1 pastry per day, a good croissant or pain au chocolat (croissant with chocolate chunks baked into it) is a perfect accompaniment to morning cafe. Plus lunch and dinner provide their own buttery additions: Speedy sandwicheries are the order of the day for lunch around here. Baguettes filled with things like chicken and lettuce with hard boiled egg (poulet, oeuf et salade) or tuna, tomato and goat cheese (thon, tomate et chevre). And on many of these – a healthy spread of butter. Sidenote: another surprise is the absolutely inhumane proportions of mayonaise which some of these perfectly good and fresh sandwiches are laced with. While recently eating a Poulet et Salade I had to develop a routine of squeezing as I could of my sandwich’s mayo to the front of the baguette, then expelling the large white glop with a flick of the wrist. Eating on the go without napkins or utensils left me no other choice than to litter Nantes sidewalks with tablespoons of mayonaisse. But back to butter.

On another recent lunch occasion in Paris, Jeff and I grabbed an overpriced sandwich and Orangina (my favorite global softdrink) for take-away, we found a shady spot to picnic on in the sprawling park between the Louvre and the start of the Champs Elysees. I bit into the goat cheese, walnut, tomato sandwich to find there was also a healthy coating of butter on one side of the baguette. As if I haven’t already been getting 4 peoples daily saturated fat allotments with pure cheese consumption here in France, I now have butter to add flavor and calories to my sandwiches as well! It was a good sandwich. Our meal that evening was supherb as well, boeuf bourgingon – fall off the bone beef simmered in a wine (and doubtless butter) sauce, served with herbed, butterey potatoes. Ah, French cuisine.

The buttery litany is not out of frustration. I dare not challenge ceturies of famed French cuisine methodology. And in fact, I am joyful that the “healthy food” questions burden me little. Besides, is there anything healthier than locally grown produce, un-steroided chicken, and freshly baked (no preservatives or hydrogenated oils) pastries? I am health conscious, but the food here has given me the freedom to enjoy its richness in moderation, then walk it off. I have only gone running 2 times, and done no other supplemental cardiovascular exercise (though I’m hoping to get some soccer in this week). The workout is in the walking -I wish I had a pedometer to guage the number of miles I have traversed. For example, this past weekend in Paris (i know...I just HAD to say it), we strolled from the Pantheon to Eiffel; Odeon Theatre to St Chapelle to the Louvre; Louvre down the Champs Elysees up to the Arc De Triomphe, etc…. Bring on the buttery croissants and afternoon Glace (ice cream). I’ll soak my feet and enjoy another round tomorrow morning.

Coming Soon in this Cuisine Series: Why it would suck to be Vegan in France, A trip to the French “Super Target”, and Okay, Maybe the French Aren't so Healthy After All.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Apology, Pictures

I apologize for the angry tone of my last post. I thought to remove it, but then decided, "no, this is a good snapshot into some of the way we've felt during certain times here". Obviously its posting fine: for a moment there, i was just, as our host professor here, Msr. Benoit Journe says "how do you say...ah...furious?".

Okay, so they are not viewable from here, but if you have a few moments you can view photos from our time so far, including Jeff as trailer trash, Benoit's sweet family, and some pics from one of our weekend trips. Some have captions, others have comments. It will help you know what you're looking at.

Friday, September 16, 2005

test message

why must everything be difficult!! publish please

My first French entry (not in French)!

I could lie and tell you I’m writing this from a hot, stuffy lab in the top floor of the “Faculte Economique” where the computers quiver and nearly shut off if anyone taps a lab table, and where it seems a slower connection than the dial up I had at home in 10th grade.
I was there this morning, But now I am typing on Jeff’s laptop on the front porch of our tiny Mobile home at Camping du Petit Port (see previous entry for an idea). I hope to have some pictures up soon of our little abode. It has its ups and downs. However, at the moment for me, it is up; it’s a beautiful clear evening, we’ve just-finished dinner – sautéed veggies with Provence olives from the market, couscous and the requisite baguette, local cheese, and local wine – and I can finally use an “American” keyboard. The ease of which my fingers glide across these keys is a beautiful thing compared with the backspace-heavy typing I do in the University lab. Several of you have probably received short, concise emails from me with many colons and other odd punctuation and letters that are in “the wrong place.”
I have an ongoing list of blog topics in my written journal because just a week here has produced many a thing to ponder. The problem is I haven’t much had time to do so, as the settling process is longer and more involved than I’d expected. Much of this may be due to the French University Beaurocracy (one of my potential topics) and the ridiculous amount of time and and energy it has taken to get fairly simple things accomplished. Another large reason for the long-spent acclimation process is that we don’t speak the language. An outside, multi-lingual observer would no doubt find many of the conversations I have been engaged in quite amusing, such as this exerpt of me and the Dept of Law & Economics Administrative Secretary who processes enrollments:
“hello, we are students American we have grupo de..papers…white…from Mr. Agnes Plessis”(..she is actually a Mrs.)
“(long French response involving…I call…you pay…wait at office of Agnes….)”
“yes. How much we you pay? We have need pay social security?”
“(long French response..i get about 10% with a puzzled look on my face, say..’okay, je compre’…more French…another puzzled look…then “okay, I don’t understand”. Turn. Katie exits stage left.)
Apart from such encounters, we are having a great time. I feel no frustration toward folks here not speaking English, we are after all at a French University. I’m actually quite amused at the surprised looks we receive when telling people we are from “Etats Unis” (the U.S.). Nantes…not a tourist town.
Any advice on what French phrases I should go to work on learning this first month?

**post script...i'm posting this from the first computer I've found that's relatively fast and can take my USB storage device...yeehoo!

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Our Home In France

Many have asked, and some have been answered that we will indeed be living in a trailer park in France. Here is a brief description from the "campground" website that has been brilliantly translated by Google for your reading enjoyment, and to get a taste of the upcoming Weaver Abode.

"With two steps of the centre town , the Camp-site of the Small Port accomodates the campers , but also the caravans and the motor homes within a green framework in the heart of the city.
24 mobile-homes (O' hara or Willerby-Abi) are also proposed with the hiring. All the hotel comfort combined with the charm of the sport
The camp-site of the Small Port, it is also an easy access to the relaxation and the leisures:"

And in another bit of humour, our trailer is called O'hara. I will thus ask all the residents to call me Miz Scarlett.

We leave Tuesday, our house looks as if every closet in the house vomited all over the floors...a colorful array of shoes, clothes, coats, adapters, books...and they must all fit in 2 suitcases. see ya.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

New Orleans

The original Orleans is located in the northern Loire region of France, in the heart of chateaux country, and a few train stops from Nantes, where Jeff and I will be this fall. The chateaux were jewels in the French Bourgois crown, extravagant displays of brick and masonry, with sprawling gardens. I do look forward to visitng a few while we’re there, but my thoughts and eyes are heavy with thoughts of the New Orleans. The scenes you and I are seeing are a far cry from the chateaux playgrounds the French elite found around Orleans. We are seeing suffering on a magnitude we could not have imagined inside these borders, and those who cry for help, are the poor.

It seems so lopsided that when such a tragedy would befall our land of plenty, that those with the least would suffer most. Be it that they did not want to leave, or simply did not have the money, the desperation speaks of a lifetime of being underfed, underserviced and disappointed. As I laid in bed tonight and prayed for God knows what, I felt so helpless, and frustrated, in part by the thoughts that have crossed my mind in the past few days: “oh, we’re still rich America..this suffering doesn’t compare with decimated Sri Lankan villages”, “maybe if they would have left when they were told to this wouldn’t have happened”, “all the news shows people are the fantastic stories, the shock-value pictures, its not really as bad as the evening news makes it sound..”

Is my heart so hard? Sometimes it is. Even if those assumptions held a fraction of truth, there is still suffering happening that breaks the Creator’s heart. That people are hungry, children who should be playing and active are listless from lack of food, homes are decimated. This is no small thing. And as with any such disaster, I face the tension of not wanting to overwhelm myself with the unfolding drama, of choosing “lighter” programming so the images won’t stick in my head too long…how much should we, from afar, dive into this story?

My problem, and I think it is an American or even a Western problem, is that I don’t allow myself time to engage with this tragedy, to let the images, sound-bytes, testimonies, truly sink in. I thought tonight about my road-trip to New Orleans one sweltering weekend several springtimes ago. Our purpose was the famous Jazz-fest. However we also trod those famous New Orleans streets, had Beinets at Café DuMonde and window-shopped the works of local artists while live music lilted through the sticky air. I think about that kitsch shop we found on a quaint side street in the French quarter and wonder if looters have stolen the Jesus Action Figure we saw in the front window.

What do I expect as a Christian observing all of this? I expect there will be some that claim God’s wrath on riverboat gamblers or Mardi Gras lasciviousness. Some may experience crises of faith, wondering where God could be in this helplessness. I also expect and hope that there will be, and probably already are, thousands of churches, and relief agencies moblising to assist in the effort to do as Jesus instructed us: feed the poor, house the refugee, care for the widow. One such group is Mercy Works, headed by a friend, Debbie Lascelles. Her heart for mercy and service is contagious, and I hope to see her teams on the scene in New Orleans soon.