Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Maginot Fashion Line

Went to buy some clothes the other day. I was feeling confident that my body has become more trimly European – what with all this walking and smaller portions and fresh food. I paced the shiny halls of the local mall looking for a store to try my luck. I walzed into Zara, a European clothier with stylish duds for reasonable prices – they even list US sizes alongside the European ones for easy reference! I found a couple great deals and headed toward the fitting rooms.

Ah, the moment of truth arrived. Truth = French bodies are not like my body. I gingerly yanked a medium shirt over my un-exercised, but still-broad shoulders, and generous gene-pool bosom. Had I accidentally raided the Zara children’s section? This medium is not supposed to show my navel and the scoop neck is about to become a v-neck…

Hmph. Better luck with the sexy white jeans? Non. I couldn’t get their slimfit past my right thigh and teetered precariously in the tiny dressing room trying to remove the jeans without falling or ripping the tiny-T.

I breathed in, assuring myself that my brawny American “athletique chic” build doesn’t need these trendy teeny clothes anyway. However, upon further contemplation, I moved beyond my “proud to be from the land of Venus Williams and Mia Hamm” harrumph, and came up with another theory. Perhaps this is a subtle French revenge taken out on my Germanic body. “Those thick Prussian honches have no chance in our cute pedal-pushers and faux-fur boots!” Like a size 6 kick in my Wittgens shins. The Maginot Fashion line – and this one works! If I can ever peel these dang white jeans off, I’ll surely wave them in surrender.

And in an unrelated story - you can now look at a few photos from my parents visit a few weeks ago. Hope the link works this time... BRITTANY AND NANTES WITH THE FAM

Priceless, Coughless?

(Read $'s as Euros)
Doctor Visit - $20
Fever Reducer- $3.36
Cough Suppressant - $3.21
Throat Spray - $2.64
Ibuprofin $3.13
Anti-biotic - $27.76
Chance for foreigner to milk the nationalized health system….priceless

I went to France for four months and one souvenir I've picked up is this crappy cold-like thing which has manifest in everything from shivers to sweat-all-night fever to cough all night bronchial irritation...and now a very painful rib muscle strain from coughing – no fun. Early on, I decided to seek a professional. Both because French friends seemed to all ask if I had been to the doctor, and because I was advised by mom, amid the email version of motherly coddling and a chicken soup recipe, to “get thee to a doctor!” As a student at the University, I can see doctors here for free. Problem is that no one could see me for a week. Option 2, talk to your friends, and go to a local GP who will charge you $20 to hear about your symptoms, scribble a bunch of info on a piece of notebook paper, listen to your heartbeat, and scrawl off a prescription list of drugs to cover every possible malady within your maladies. I went with option 2 and got an appointment that very day.

Following the brief visit, my friend and I trapsed off to one of hundreds of well-marked pharmacies throughout the city. The pharmacies here don’t offer much in the way of easily-accessable (or recognizable) over-the-counter meds, but they all seem to have a large selection of homeopathic remedies. The friendly pharmacist quickly (and cheaply) filled my list of scrips and I left with a huge sac of medications…each with its own dosage, timing etc. By this time, though the cough lingered, I was starting to feel better already.

Truly, the hero of the story is my friend Maiwenn. She is one of the French students in the program with Jeff at the University. She has already provided me with disinfectant and band-aids for an infected finger laceration. Then cough lozenges for my throat. I then thought I would push my luck by asking her to call the student health clinic…only to find they could not see me for a week. So she and her boyfriend Sylvain quickly called another doctor they know, and had me an appointment that afternoon. She picked me up, waited with me, helped communicate with the physician on my behalf, then accompanied me to the pharmacy pick up my goodies and drove my coughing self home. Incredible selflessness for which I am grateful.

Postscript: Neither Homoepathic nor "real" cough syrop have totally relieved my symptoms yet. Now 10 days from my initial shivers, I'm still dealing with head congestion and a cough, but its really only bad at night. I've also have taken matters into my own hands and picked up 2 more cough syrops from the pharmacy, and am nursing the final few Tylenol Cold & Flu tablets a friend had brought with him from the states. Main ailment now, painful lower rib cage - a residual from last weeks coughing fits I guess.


Part 2
HAPPY THANKSGIVING!! I wish you all wonderful time with friends and family. There is much to be thankful for indeed. What will us Americanos be doing to celebrate? Well, thanks to my good friend Beth who sent us a halloween / thanksgiving care package, our little trailer is adorned with various Thanksgiving kitsch like decorative napkins, turkey votive candles and a big cardboard turkey. It's probably the closest we'll get to having turkey here though. Since we are oven-less, we may settle for a nice French dinner out of Coq au Vin with potatoes or something. But boy will I miss pumpkin pie.

Final Note: I've tried my darndest to fix some of the broken picture links. If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. (And follow instructions from your more technically savvy friends.) So, try your luck again and I hope to have some ones up soon! Oh, and regarding my last post...I bought some clothes yesterday at Zara. Size Large. I've even found jeans (at another store), so all shopping hope is not lost.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


Several of you have asked about the effect in Nantes of the worst civil unrest that France has seen in decades. Jeff or I have seen no burning or rioting here. But we have been admittedly sheltered during the past week as Jeff’s school vacation took us East to the French and Swiss alps. Very appropriate then that we should know nothing of unrest or violence in the world while hidden away in our little Swiss happiness account.

But now, after reviewing Le Figaro and among others, I see that the violence is spreading, into towns we’ve visited, have friends in or plan to visit soon. In fact, here in Nantes, there have been about 60 cars torched, a primary school burned and mixed reports about a “cultural center in downtown” being effected. I recognize some of the neighborhoods mentioned, but none are within stones throw to where we spend most of our time. We are thankful that most of Nantes seems tranquil, and I hope and pray this finds peaceful ends soon. I hope to have more to write about these emeutes including student reactions and other feedback.

Speaking of burning…..(journal excerpt 11- 6-05)

Did you know that sunsets happen every night! As if amid our hussle and bussle, God stops us and says – “here, beauty, enjoy this gift for a few moments.”

Sure, there are rainy days, like yesterday in Lyon where nary a shaft of light was seen from the heavens – but those days make me appreciate big blue fluffy-cloud days like today even more.

Now 2 long traintrips, and 2 sunsets over French countryside. For this evening’s show, I crane my neck to peer over seats and foreheads to the windows opposite my row. My fellow travelers read magazines, fiddle with cellphones..unaffected. And soon, I feel silly for being so taken in, so I try to read, but its no use. The light draws my eyes, and I was to scream “Fire!” so people will look and see the awe-ful burning horizon.

We get it almost every night. This past week I have seen yellow change to pink, to purple to velvety blue over Loire Valley vineyards, alpine valleys and the majestic Mont Blanc. And still tonight in this boxcar…I must stop and stare.

I can’t claim to be well accomplished at the art of sucking the marrow out of life. For as hard as I may try, I wish I was more attuned to the nature, and people around me. But having this time, these 4 months in France to stop, look and wonder has been a blessing. I would dare say at times this leisure is a curse – like when I am on an Alps afternoon hike in which every angle offers stunning beauty. The beauty is rich, but I could never soak it in enough, never suck enough marrow from those mountain-air moments to adequately communicate the experience. Sometimes things are too wonderous to be readily explained. One must experience it.

What’s your favorite in-explicable wonder?

Check out some flimsy camera renderings of the scenes that recently left Jeff and me speechless. Notes: In lieu of of a lengthy travel journal about our time this past week, i've just let pictures talk with a few captions. Let me know if you want some more details or specifics! Also, you may be required to "sign in". Sorry, but I promise they won't e-stalk you, it just means you can view our pics.