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Saturday, November 20, 2010

I rarely make it to the outdoor market here.  The largest one in town is on Saturday, and you have to get there before noon.  I firmly believe that Saturday is for not doing anything before noon.  

But last night, I got a terrible craving which I knew could only be satisfied by hauling my sorry butt out of bed and into the freezing gloom of the November morning, in order to go to the market to purchase a bundle of what I needed: radishes.  A bunch of lovely magenta and cream-colored radishes (to be eaten with a baguette and piles of salty butter), snappy in both texture and taste, was all I could think about.   

But really, is there a cheerier root vegetable?  I don’t think so. 
Arriving late to the market (I cruised in around 1) can be slightly dangerous as the vendors are more willing to push whatever leftovers they have on you.  Today was no exception.  I walked away from a stall with a whole lot more radishes than I was planning, plus one rather sinister-looking vegetable that la vendeuse referred to as a radis noir.  After inquiring, she said I could just slice it really thin and eat it as it is.  

It looks to me like something from a Grimm’s fairytale; can’t you just picture Rapunzel’s father, creeping into his neighbor’s garden in the moonlight and digging up one of these enchanted roots for his desperate, pregnant wife?           

Yes, I included a gratuitous shot of my beloved radishes, washed and de-whiskered.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Having been cooped up inside today doing academic-type things (well, sort of) I decided to go for a walk in the cold early-evening air while my laundry spun around for the 35 minutes the lavomatique machines take.

I decided to pass by the boulangerie down the street on my way. Entering, I asked for a baguette. As she handed the baton across the counter, I could instantly feel that it was still warm through the little square of white paper she had deftly twisted around its center. Baguette. Still warm.

For a fleeting moment I considered swinging by the grocery store to get cheese. But then realized what I really wanted. I walked straight back to my studio, sat down, tore open that baguette, and layered on a bunch of demi-sel. I’ll exercise tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Interesting fact of the day!

Interesting fact of the day: During World War II, the British Foreign Office seriously considered a post-war scheme, whereby the Jewish population would be relocated to Libya. As Libya (along with Somaliland and Eritrea) was a colony of Italy (evil axis power, loser of war) this possible solution cleared up two problems, ie, how to deal with Italy’s colonies now that the war was over, AND what to do with a battered, persecuted and effectively homeless population. (1) Uhh…what guys? Libya? (It was later decided that resettling a new people group in Libya would create just as many problems as cramming them into Palestine anyway. Go figure.)

Sometimes I really wish that when we get to Heaven, there will be a giant “Alternate Reality” TV screen, so we can see how life would have turned out if life didn’t turn out how it did. Like in that episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where Worf experiences a bunch of different realities all at once, because The Enterprise is going through a worm hole or something, and all the infinite possible outcomes of his life are all jumbled up around him and happening all at once.(2)

If that TV existed, you know I would beg God to play the tape where Britain decides to recolonize Libya with Jewish people.


1 William Roger LOUIS, Imperialism at Bay, New York, Oxford University Press, 1978, 58.
2 Star Trek : The Next Generation, « Parallels », Season 7, episode 11, November 27, 1993

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


D: So, I realized you have never met any of the people out here. I was asking Steven if he was looking forward to meeting you and he was like, “yeah!”

W: See, but I think when you talk about me, you make me sound more interesting than I actually am. That’s the only reason why they want to meet me. I wish you’d stop.

D: Well I TRY to tell them how mean you are, but they don’t believe me.

W: …

D: …

W: Try harder.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

La Rentrée

A brief summary of events since May:

This happened:

(I came home one day to find that my METAL pan had just SPLIT like that. Clearly, this is a direct result of the seismic, Magneto-type brain waves I was emitting whilst in the throes of thesis-writing.)

I miraculously finished this:

(My use of the word “miraculously” is by no means facetious. I’m still not quite sure how I managed to finish, I was feeling so overwhelmed by the end. I guess an endless stream of coffee and hourly, panicked phone calls to Mother/Sister/D in the final 72 hours before it was due might’ve helped also.)

(Please try to ignore all the jabby comments scribbled by my director of research…)

And then I did this:

With this person:

(This was one of those truly, super-awesome, sepia-toned vacations where nothing went wrong and everything was perfect. And any problems were of the cute variety, ie, “Oh crumbs! They’ve run out of pistachio ice cream! Alas, whatever flavor shall I choose now?!”)

And then I went here for three weeks:

(camp “joie de vivre”, Loperhet, Finistere, Brittany, France, The Earth.)

And did this:

To this:

(Don’t be fooled by my flippancy. I get misty-eyed just thinking of all the warm, insightful people that I got to talk to and work with during those 3 weeks at camp. Watching the counselors and directors work with the kids, seeing young and old volunteer together to accomplish all the little maintenance tasks, witnessing God work in the hearts of a new generation…I can honestly say that there might be hope for France after all. I was very, very skeptical, all the time I’ve spent here. But now, I don’t know. God is great, but we are small…)

There you have it. My summer. Now to hit the books (after I’ve dug them out and located where I was….)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Staying up this late (early ?) to type obviously requires some sort of sustenance. Hence the reason why I’m fishing the remaining green olives (dénoyautées) out of this sweating jar with a fork. It is muggy, hence the reason why I just don’t turn on the stove to make an egg or something. Anyway, this is the Continent and so there aren’t any screens, hence the reason why I don’t just fling open my window and invite in the slightly less muggy night air (and buzzing, whining bugs).

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Maybe I should hide the scissors…

Mmmmm, jury’s still out on whether this haircut is okay or supremely vomitous...

Okay, The Before:

Yes, I wear it like this everyday. Sometimes it makes it hard to read.

And The After:

Not convinced. I like to call this my "Mark Hamill." No matter how I dry it, the sides fluff out like that.

Here's what it's supposed to look like:

And now I must get back to thesis-wrangling. It hasn't won, yet...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Vive la Politesse

After my three- hour exam-of-doom I decided that the only thing that was going to make me feel better was having a coffee out in the sunshine. I installed myself at a corner café in an open, busy square. Like any café on a mild spring day, the owners had obviously mobilized every possible chair and table in order to invade and annex as much of the square surrounding their café as possible. Regiments of tables and chairs stretched away from the café like metal filings clustered haphazardly around a magnet. As is my habit, I sat down at one of the farther-flung annexes.

I was sipping my café crème and occasionally glancing at my book when a loud ::CRACK:: rang out across the square. Startled, passersby and the few patrons lingering at the café, looked up. A man, several yards away, just at the fringes of this café’s territory, was struggling to his feet from the ground, encumbered by one of the small, round tables from the café. When he stood up, we could all see he was culpably gripping the table, which had not weathered the encounter well; one of its three legs had been snapped off. Floundering and bewildered, and possibly drunk, he was still limply holding the savagely amputated casualty when the café owner and a waiter bolted outside.

I was trying desperately to be polite (American style…) ignore the annoyed shouting and not stare, eyes on page. A whole lot of masculine-sounding yelling got my attention and this time when I looked up, there was an outsider, clearly neither from the café nor drunk, engaged in some sort of loud shoving match with the table-killer. It escalated pretty quickly, but before blows could be swung, several pairs of cops rushing from all directions descended upon the pair, and got a hold of the drunk guy. As is always the case, this particular scene of disruption quickly dissolved into just a lot of milling around for a bit, and there were angry gesticulations toward broken tables, or further provocations shouted at the guilty party. The cops, having never let go of him, were in the process of handcuffing the table-maimer’s hands behind his back. One cop had gotten the drunk guy’s arms in position and handcuffs were about to be applied, when a young man amiably making his way through the square walked directly up to the group. I watched eagerly now, wondering if this new man was a friend. Or possibly also had a recently-abused café table to complain about.

But instead of yelling or quietly reasoning with the police, after walking directly up to the group, without hesitation or embarrassment, he proffered his hand to greet the restrained man with a friendly handshake, then wandered off.

As soon as this gesture was terminated the table-maimer was then hand-cuffed.

Police altercation, handcuffs, sure, but the real crime would have been not greeting your pal with a hello handshake.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

It’s okay, I’m alive

Sooo, Thursday I opened a word document in which to fashion a blog post and I (optimistically) marked it “saturday 24 april.” Thinking I would start it and then finish it by Saturday. And now I have 9 minutes until it’s Sunday. So, in unprecedented haste, I present you with a new post:

Lately, in order to avoid working on my thesis (am wondering where all the super-enthusiastic thesis-writing graduate students are? Any students out there that willingly run toward their lap tops and stacks of 3x5 cards…?) I’ve been reading a whole lot of blogs, so I thought I’d put something back “in.” The only problem is…life is super boring right now.

Hm. Oh! How about some photos of my holiday, back in February? Okay! See, I went to Paris...




Aha, I crack myself up. Truthfully, it was encouraging spending that rainy week at this library, surrounded by so many nice people so excited about everyone's work and so willing to help.

Actually, those books are super-interesting and I’ve been blathering for weeks AT anyone who’ll listen (sorry D) about partition and Pakistan and Churchill. And then China for a while. And now Korea. So, you can see where I’m at.

Plus, I'm in some sort of new-mom stage with this thesis where I'm not getting a whole lot of sleep and I worry about it facing the real world (or, you know, a director of research) but I also secretly gloat and think my little thesis topic is the best, most perfect topic that was ever born. Er, written.

And frankly, that’s…about…all…I got. I have a massive three hour exam Tuesday, from the super-organized and frightening TA student who ran our class all semester and whose thesis was part of the course- reading and was roughly 300+ pages long. Ack.

So, I must go back to cramming as many décolonisation facts into my brain as possible.

(On a topical note: this volcano couldn't have erupted at a better time. I've never been so immobile and monastic in my life. Bring on the ash! Bring on the flight-delays! I'm good for as long as my french-press and coffee supply hold out...)

Saturday, February 6, 2010


Today, my café crème tasted just a little richer, the blue sky was actually showing through the omnipresent Breton clouds, and I swear there are fewer piles of dog crap littering the sidewalk.

I try to picture the scenario. I’m not sure which professor graded it, or if they even do their own grading. Maybe it was the slightly older professor with the wild, painfully cliché curly hair. His lectures are usually replete with stories that begin, “The last time I was in Liberia…” or “Obviously, we didn’t know the uprising was going to break out the very next day…” Maybe he was lurching home from a night out. It was the end of the semester, after all.

I like to imagine him sitting down in an overstuffed chair, and there at the arm, is the stack of exams to be graded. Some are pink, some yellow. He grabs the top one and pulls a pen out of his pocket. He begins to read. He smiles at the adorable grammar errors; perhaps he chuckles softly at this particular student’s inept and simplistic attempts to describe decolonization in the Middle East. Although the corner of the exam, where the student’s name goes, is folded down and stuck shut by adhesive in order to keep the grading fair, the professor knows exactly which of his students has written this essay.

But what does it even matter? He feels good, exams are over, and he has had a good meal. He’s French, that’s enough. He makes some satisfactory remarks on the paper and tosses it in the “finished” pile.

*a sufficient grade to continue on to second semester studies.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

More of that "Do it Yourself" Beauty Care

A drum roll please for my second great attempt....


Kind of weird and poofy


Hm, not as short and/or awesome as I wanted it...

Yes, my t-shirt says "Falcons." And yes, that's my high-school mascot. Gooo Falcons!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Obviously, right this minute, I should be feverishly highlighting pertinent passages from the skillfully photocopied version I have in my possession of the chef d’oeuvre of a certain Mr. G. Hess. I was doing just that, not a few minutes ago, I swear. In fact, I was so overcome with the sheer volume of relevant facts and theories before me that I perhaps was a little over-zealous and sometime this afternoon my highlighter dried up. (Oh! Stabilo Boss, purchased way back in this very town in 2004! The reams of papers we have highlighted together!) I was forced to go to the Super U nearby and purchase a new Stabilo Boss. (green before, yellow now)

There is really only so much high-lighting one can do before one’s wrist needs a break. I also have been thinking about something recently:

Last week, a guest pastor came to church to speak. He was Quebecois, and had left a healthy, growing church in Canada several years ago in order to minister in France. He explained the trouble he and his wife had encountered—both administrative and spiritual—in their journey to obtain the legal right to live The Hexagon. Seeking some advice, he began calling churches and pastors in France. He said he contacted 6 different church organizations. Of those 6, 4 told him, “Don’t come to France.” And of those 4, one church leader confessed that not only did he think it was a bad idea for him to come to France, but that he himself was in the process of trying to get OUT of France.

Sitting there in church, his story made me think of something my sister had said. She currently lives in Nearly the Arctic Circle, Finland, because Helsinki wasn’t quite cold enough. Anyway, she had mentioned how she had one time encountered missionaries sent from Korea at their church in Helsinki.
Koreans…evangelizing…Finns? When did this weird flip occur? What does this tell us about the state of the church today, when countries that were “colonies” or unacquainted with the gospel, now see such a need to take the gospel back to the “colonizers?”

Someone! Please do a study of the implications behind formerly non-Christian places (the Americas and the Far East) sending missionaries to evangelize historically Christian ones (Europe). And then tell me about it.

Saturday, January 23, 2010


For the last week I’ve had three different post ideas in my head, but recently my brain has been busy buzzing with theories regarding India, America and anything Indo-American. Since my meager quantity of grey cells has been thus distracted, (or is it lingering caulk fumes from the landlord trying to fix my kitchen sink this afternoon?) I haven’t been able to devote the necessary brain-space to develop these post ideas past a few sentences. So, I thought I’d mash them up into one post here. Mash blindly and hope for the best, like how I get the DVD player to work.

-I’m still desperately trying to not think about my still nonexistent exam results. But, in sword of Damocles style, I can’t help but be a little bit constantly bothered by them. Seeking some relief, I asked a couple of my French colleagues how long one might expect to wait to know how they’ve faired the previous semester. “C”, from Normandy answered, “But this will take weeks and weeks. And weeks.” Another, “ E” responded to me via text saying, “We won’t have the results before a longtime. We don’t even have the grades for the oral exams yet (taken in November).” How grim.
It just reminds me of the time I got my first Internet bill here. I opened it the day I received it to discover that the “pay by” date was just 2 days away. Frantically I rushed to the post and paid an exorbitant sum to ensure the Internet folks would get my check the very next day. Recounting the incident later to a frenchie, she seemed amused that I had made such an effort to send off my payment. “It’s not so serious if it gets paid by the date they’ve marked,” she said.

-I somehow caught Le gastro Monday morning. Last time I had it a couple years ago (also in France!) I was telling anyone who would listen that I was most likely dying. It is a sad decision—perhaps the saddest—trying to determine which end of one’s person needs to be pointed towards the porcelain waste receptacle with the most urgency. Sometime mid-morning on Monday, I had disposed of everything my body could possibly dispose of, and so I pulled on some sneakers and a jacket over my pajamas and shuffled downstairs to the pharmacy next door. I asked the pharmacienne for something to help with le vomissement and as I stood there, swaying on my feet, in some nutrient and sleep-deprived corner of my brain I thought for the millionth time what a shame it is that such a nice sounding word like vomissement has to mean something so unpleasant.

-Recently on the phone with my mother she mentioned, as she occasionally does, how she is not sure with what exactly I’m using to cloth myself “over there,” as all my drawers in my bedroom in America are full. She expressed an anxious hope that I’m not going around with “my bucket* hanging out.” It amuses me to no end to imagine just how I’m dressed in her head, as I tromp about town.

*”bucket” being a euphemism for one’s derriere, naturally. Is it just my mom who says this…?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


So what are we supposed to do? (Please excuse this post as completely rhetorical, as I look for the answer myself.) We could send money and supplies. But in a country with no infrastructure, how far do the money and supplies go? With so much devastation, who will physically be there to meet the shipments at the airport or docks or banks or wherever this vague notion of ‘aid’ eventually ends up? Aren’t we just applying the same (il)logic as we do when we send money and loans to Africa? How much does our ‘quick-fix’ support actually accomplish, besides simply assuaging our guilt and sense of obligation?

Obviously, people need to go to Haiti. People who can spend long periods of time assessing the situation, making informed decisions, working with the communities. People to organize, people who are well-acquainted with the ideas of infrastructure and triage and a properly functioning socioeconomic system, they need to go and help. But who’s going to go? I’m not. You most likely won’t either.

So what am I supposed to do? Pray? Is that ‘enough?’ Surely Jesus had something ‘more’ in mind when he told us to love our neighbors…so, what then? I believe that long-term participation and engagement with the local people is the only way to help, but yet I’m not willing to pause my life here to go commit to helping others long-term. Can I really just let myself off the hook with a “Meh, emergency response is someone else's job, somewhere. I don’t have to worry.”

From the outside, praying is a more 'convenient' way to help than actually taking time out to physically go and assist. But I know in reality, both are equally important.


Friday, January 8, 2010

Seeing as how I’m still engulfed by this crappy post- exam- week gloom, and trying to forget the disaster that was my three hour written exam on Tuesday, I thought I could do with a break from all the nasty rehashing of my incompetence and reflect on the loveliness of the past holiday weeks. Because, wow, was that ever a crap exam that I took, handled with all the elegance and intelligence of, say, Warren G. Harding. I’m pretty sure if he could’ve come back from the dead, he would’ve walked right up to where I was sitting in the lecture hall, writhing in emotional distress over my official pink exam paper and said, “Uh, my excuse was the prohibition. What’s yours?” (little known fact: I know next to nothing of American history, but the Teapot Dome Scandal is one of my favorite American historical moments. It’s also pretty much all I remember from 11th grade history.)

My sister and brother-in-law kindly descended from the frosty North, braving plane delays and RER strikes, to spend a week and a half with me. They even didn’t mind spending the majority of that time all mashed-up with me in my teeny 20m2 shoebox-studio.

As for the actual holiday-making, we stayed pretty low-key. A few presents Christmas Eve, traditional Christmas Day dinner at an Indian restaurant, lots of movie-watching and candy-eating (they brought me yellow balls from Finland! Yay!) We did manage to get ourselves organized enough to take a day trip to St. Malo, and then later an overnight trip to the Mont Saint Michel. It was one of those visits that are hard to recount later because everyone gets along and so nothing really extraordinary happens, but it’s exactly what you need at the moment. There was just a lot of ridiculous laughing and jokes and stories that form the center of my own universe, but probably aren’t of that much interest to anyone else.

And then there was the New Year, which I look forward to more than any other event during the year. More than my birthday. Oh yes.

We all clambered aboard an already very noisy bus and went to la place de la mairie to see a light show/performance/fireworks display thing, with a DJ. And I must say, it did not disappoint. Sometimes, I get a weensy bit cynical about life over here. Just when I start to get a little bit tired of seeing run-down university buildings, or inadequate public toilets, France reaches down deep into those tired-out, nearly empty coffers of public funds, and finds enough resources to pull off something really classy. That wacky light show/spectacle we witnessed New Year’s Eve was one of those classy somethings.

And then when the show wound down (at 12:05 am, according to the main clock in the square) we—along with every other Frenchy in the square—popped the cork on our champagne. And then we got biz-ed by many, many strangers.

And THEN, a few days later, just several hours before la soeur and beau frère had to leave, we had the good fortune to witness a now fairly common tradition in France. In the wee morning hours, someone in the neighborhood kindly thought to light a car on fire, in honor of sister and brother-in-law’s departure. How sweet. Dear sister and brother-in-law actually were sent off with a bang (and the stench of burning rubber.)
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