Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Time is on my side

Who would have thought that with all this time on my hands, I'd be sitting here in a University cafe, hurrying to get this entry in. You see, with the advent of WiFi connection here on campus, now Jeff and I must share his laptop, and he has much work to get done these next few days. I too, have much work to do..namely, cleaning our Mobile Home because my parents are coming to visit this evening! I will try my best to cleanse the impression of squallor ;-).

Here is a weekend trip sandwich for your pleasure. First, we scurried off to visit the Chateaux country and had a beautiful weekend away. SEE PICTURES HERE.

The following week provided its own adventure in Nantes as I worked toward my goal of: Being Able to Use the Gym. Oh the story is long and Kafka-esque but the clif notes...
To use gym must have MEdical Certificat. For medical certificate (i thought), you need social security card (which i've already paid for but am still unregistered). For social security card, I need proof of residence, a bank account and a birth certificate. Birth certificate must be translated. To find a translator I must go to the Town Hall. Town hall man #1 gets help from town hall man #2 (neither of whom speak any English). Town hall men 1 and 2 wait in line on my behalf for town hall woman #3. Town hall woman #3 prints me 5 pages of maps and names of translators - no "American" translators in Nantes. Only "Anglais" (c'mon, its just for words like "date of birth" is there really American vernacular that somebody from teh UK wouldn't know?). Town Hall woman #3 also recommends a visit to the office of Foreign Affairs (provides another map) where they may speak English and be able to help with the fact that I don't even have my Birth certificate or a copy there-of in France. I leave town hall, trying to hold in my laughter.

Long story much shorter...went to doc without social security card, was no problem. Quit my pursuit of foreign affairs officials, translators, etc. ...still haven't used the gym.

Part 2 of Weekend trip Sandwich - Normandy beaches, Caen War Museum, Bayeaux cathedral and tapestry....SEE PHOTOS HERE.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Music is Transport

(intro paragraphs omitted for brevity's sake..when i can figure out how to upload them i might, depending on how transparent I'm feeling...)

Perhaps not so dramatic, but more comfortable a scene was set. Jeff and I strolled through the sunsoaked Park du Proce’, one of many in Nantes, but I would say the most beautiful. The pleasant weather had coaxed out hundreds of others – the young and old kicked soccer balls around, elderly couples walked arm in arm, families tried to keep up with delighted children. And there, amid a scene already draped in happiness, I heard a familiar sound which made me utter to Jeff – “I think I am in heaven”. Mountain music…bluegrass perhaps, English lyrics. Bam: transported to an Appalachian cabin afternoon. The sweet familiar sounds of the mandolin and fiddle took an entirely French Sunday afternoon and positioned it in front of rolling Southeastern hills…and it made my barefeet happy.

To take a peek at some more scenes from Park De Proce, view our short LA VIE EN NANTES PHOTO ALBUM.*

Memory is a beautiful thing - during portions of ma vie it has served as a respite, others as a cave that trapped me so I couldn’t move beyond, or see the beauty of today. I would hazard to say that for me, nothing brings memory to life more than notes played, sung…I have written many times about transport via music. For me, here in this strange land, I am only headphones away from being in the lyrical arms of Jeff Buckley or within the masterful touch of Sasha’s 1’s and 2’s… Such artists take me from France to a time when I was 21 lying on the dirty floor of my apartment clearing my head of Business Finance, refilling it with artistry, and maybe thoughts of some boy. Or I am in a crowded smoky club in Athens…tired feet, ears strained to the point of pain, hurts so good.

And perhaps in times apart from here, I will hear Damien Rice sing “..can’t take my eyes off you..” and think of watching the movie Closer in French…befuzzled by the still-strange language, but amused at the people around me in that stuffy classroom that I have been lucky enough to pass time with for 4 months. Or I’ll hear Moby’s 18 album and smile that people likened my husband to the weasely music genius…so I created background music to a soiree at a friend’s flat…cheese, bread, sausage, wine, and good conversation ensued, it is a pleasant memory. I thank God for music from hillside churches, to smoky clubs, to my soul.

You can shop for music later, but first, view some photos from a similar party, and some other social events involving our new friends here...visit LA VIE SOCIAL PHOTO ALBUM.*

*As always, I recommend "View Slideshow" option so you can read our informative, witty captions :-).*

- Special Thanks to Matt Elliot whose recent post on a similar theme inspired some of these musings.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

So this guy walks into heaven…

Funny thing, the world is fairly small here in Nantes, and even smaller when you speak English. We’ve got a “local” where some Englishmen hang out, and non-Englishmen as well. It's John McByrnes Pub, an Irish themed place complete with Premier League Football on weekends and Celtic music Sunday nights. The other night we were “having a craic” (the Irish phrase for “a good time”, not to be confused with “having crack” of the same pronunciation but NOT necessarily equating to “a good time” in American English). So this guy walks into the bar… The bloke, a New Zealander with a guitar, starts strumming a few sing alongs...and alas, in a few brief moments, we are 3 Americans, chumming with our English mate Simon, ordering Belgian Beers from a Juan our Columbian bartender, joining a Kiwi crooner in a rousing rendition of La Bamba...en español of course. I think this is what Heaven will be like.

London, Definitely Not France

I’m starting to see France as the middle ground between Britain and Spain, a middle ground that I enjoy. While visiting Britain these past few days, Jeff and I definitely felt a little closer to home. There was the obvious language similarity of course, but many other things: slightly more efficient business practices, a greater technological saavyness, and of course, the fashion of ordering food in restaurants. The French schedule and habit of meals remains to us a code uncracked – after nearly a month, we still find ourselves negociating the territory between bar, brasserie, café, restaurant, creperie...who serves food? When? Do I order at the bar? Is service included? One conclusion - people are skinny in France because they obviously never eat at any of the above listed - only drink. However, in Britian, there is the trusty pub whose Pubgrub menu, scribbled on a chalkboard above the bar, will gladly offer patrons Bangers and Mash, Shepherds Pie and greasy “chips” at any time your belly should desire. In Britain, businesses stay open during lunch, which in France is a delightful, yet unproductive 2 hour break. Some UK businesses even open Sundays and Mondays... (Note: having made these observations, I also recognize that London is a booming international metropolis, Nantes is not. Perhaps some of these things would be different in "small town UK".)

At the other end of the equation is Spain, which I have unfortunately never visited (a major element on the proverbial "to do" list). I have heard, however, that they would put France to shame in the funky scheduling game. No breakfast, big lunch, siesta, back to work until 8pm, come home, dinner at 10:30, discoteque at 1:30, earliest, home about 6am. I think I’m thankful for France, for being relaxed enough to offer a lengthy lunch break, and no-work Sundays to stroll with the family. That said, I haven’t quite figured out how their economy will survive. Not just for the reasons listed here, but perhaps that is a discussion for another day. Until then, I can get used to late dining, lengthy mid-day breaks, and Sunday strolls. You keep working your 60-hour weeks America.

Click here for some pics from our trip to London – it was mostly a social call to spend time with our good friends Rudy and Susan Reudelhuber, and their new Baby Thad. It was incredibly refreshing to be with old friends, in a home (it even had forgotten luxuries like soft carpet, an oven, sofas, consistent internet and a big TV!!!…) we enjoyed ourselves immensely. Many thanks for their hospitality. (No pictures of either Rudy or the Reudelhuber pug, Claussen made it into our pics...We plan to meet up with them again later this fall, so more to come.)