Life on the Prairie

4 Aug

Well, as quickly as it began, my internship is over tomorrow, and I’ll be back in Minnesota on Saturday.  I can’t believe that my two months in D.C. are already over.  It’s hard to imagine that I won’t be waking up early, taking the metro, and sitting in this office every day.  When you get in a rut, you sure get in a rut.  But the routine aside, I loved this opportunity.  Getting a chance to see the behind-the-scenes workings of an environmental advocacy organization has been so interesting, and I’ve learned a lot.  First and foremost, I’ve learned that this is definitely what I want to be doing.  Whether I go on to grad school or get a job in the field right out of undergrad is still up in the air — but for now, I’m just relieved to know what kind of work I want to do.

However, the end of this internship means the beginning of a short summer stint in Minnesota, which I badly need.  I have been craving a Minnesota summer and the cabin for a long time now.  I can’t wait to see friends and family, [finally] go to Target Field, and get up north and relax!  Oh, and the hot and humid D.C. days will not be missed.  At all.  Finally, after working all summer on clean water protections, I’ll actually get to be out on the lake and enjoy that water.

Recently, it seems like Minnesota has come rushing back to me in full force.  Last weekend, I ran into a friend from high school randomly in a Starbucks at George Washington, had dinner with my cousin, spent Friday night with a group of Minnesotans [one of which is good friends with a high school friend], and heard multiple tidbits of gossip/news from Eden Prairie.  These throwbacks to MN have led to catching up on the News From Lake Wobegon, listening on repeat to Whitefish favorites like Jimmy Buffett, watching Sweet Land, and looking up when the Northern Lights will be visible up north [even signed up for Twitter Aurora Alerts].  Needless to say, I am ready to head back to the Prairie.

Mom’s rhubarb pie.  Corn on the cob.  Waterskiing, tubing, the sand bar.  DQ by boat.  Zorbaz.  Sailing.  Loons.  Deer.  Bonfires.  The hammock.  Kids drinks — actually, make that a margarita this year.  Scrabble, hearts, bridge, puzzles, the Name Game.  Family.  Dog [shout-out to Rusty].

I may go so far as to say I miss the mosquitoes.  Maybe.  I can’t help it.

Favorite place to be.


26 Jun

Well, wow.  My life definitely took a 180-degree turn in just a few short days.  Finishing up classes with finals, completing end-of-the-year Chi Omega things, packing up my life, moving to DC, and starting a new job.  I went from having a full week scheduled on my iCal to not knowing what I’ll even be doing this afternoon.  Everything is new.  It’s like freshman year all over again — new city, new job, new routines, and knowing no one.  I suppose living in a college dorm is not helping that aspect of the situation much more.

But I love it!  DC is fantastic.  I’ve finally gotten around to writing about it, and here I am on a beautiful Friday night after work sitting on a bench on the mall with the Capitol, Smithsonian, and Washington Monument in view, listening to jazz in the sculpture garden, and watching a softball game.  Not a bad setting for my first post.

{ { Also, on a side note, I’m watching precious family memories being made in front of me in the form of a mom trying to get pictures of her teenage son standing with the Capitol in the background = “Mooooom.” + squirming + looking around nervously.  Embarrassed.  Success for Mom. (I think it’s safe to say that I am going to embarrass the heck out of my kids — à la Mama and Papa Lukens.  As my dad says, “That’s what dads are for.”) } }

Where to begin?  Basically, it has all flown by.  I cannot believe that two weeks ago I was still in Evanston worrying about finals and packing.  Arriving in DC Saturday night, I only had a few days with my Mom to get situated and ready for the summer while getting some tourism and quality time in together .  Starting work that Monday, I was literally thrust into an all-staff meeting at 9:30 a.m. followed by some readings aimed at catching me up on Environment America’s work.  While introducing me to the Clean Water campaign (my boss is the Clean Water Advocate), nothing would have prepared me for these past two weeks.  It has been a blur of writing letters to the editor, press releases, official statements, etc; proofing things for my boss; going to House and Senate committee markups, hearings, briefings (my favorite); conference calls; and sorting through thousands of postcards from around the country encouraging the EPA to renew Clean Water Act protections (which are brutally under attack in Congress, but that’s for a whole other post).

{ { Insert tour group of seven segways passing by.  Oh wait, eight more.  Yay, lazy Americans.  Yikes (but admittedly awesome). } }

Along with all of these things (which may sound boring but are actually pretty interesting), just in these last two weeks I’ve had so much exposure to this policy world — going to the Hill, getting to see our congressmen in action, sitting in on strategy discussions between big environmental groups, meeting these leaders, getting advice from Environment America high-ups, and having the opportunity to see and do all of the behind-the-scenes work.  This has all been so fantastic, and now I know this is what I want to do.  Really, what I need to do.  Now that I’ve seen inside, I don’t think there’s any way that I could turn my back on it and go do something else.  As one advocate said to us interns today, “there’s too much shitty stuff going on in this world to waste time doing something else.”  A little harsh, but I agree with his point.  Whether it’s here in DC or back in the state arena, I know environmental policy is where I belong.  So, I got that going for me…..(which is nice.)

{ { Kid running by “flying” a kite about 3 feet behind him.  That thing’s not going anywhere, kid.  Crappiest kite ever, but biggest grin on his face.  Totally makes up for it. } }

With about a month and a half left of my time in DC, I’m trying to cram as much tourism into my weekends as possible — the 9-6 plus travel time workdays don’t allow for much activity during the week.  Hopefully I can make the most of my time here!  Meanwhile, it is incredibly hot everyday — sadly, I was not made to endure anything south of Minnesota.  Especially as I spend my days talking about the importance of clean water and how precious our waterways are, I can’t help but wish I was up north at my cabin, on the lake, sailing and tubing and skiing.  Fingers crossed, I will be in August!


13 May

As midterm season (and finals) is in full swing, registration for fall quarter is forcing me to look far ahead, Chi Omega is seemingly at its busiest time of the year, I’m trying to plan my DC internship, and summer is taunting us in Chicago, I can’t help but force myself to have some perspective on things.  When life gets crazy, sometimes you just need to slow the hundreds of miles per hour you seem to be running at, stop your racing mind, and just focus in on one thing at a time.  Hard to do when there are a million things to get done, a million things to be thinking about.  But nevertheless, completely necessary.  Even with only three classes this quarter–all Art History courses–the piles (imaginary, of course, unless electronic PDF files can stack themselves) of readings and papers on top of everything else is overwhelming.  But like I said, all you need is a little focus and a little perspective.  And it sure doesn’t hurt to take time to think about the things that make you happy–whether it’s something you’ve accomplished, something you’ve seen, or someone you know.

So, for this installment of my photographic journal, I’ll be looking back at some perspective images as well as one photo that makes me happy no matter what–especially appropriate considering it was Mother’s Day on Sunday, and I was lucky enough to spend it with my parents in Evanston.  Consider my lucky stars counted.

These close-up photographs remind me to ignore all the craziness in life, take a second to really focus in on something, and just breathe.  It’s all relative.

Thank you, Antoni Gaudí, for some amazing tile work and such detailed buildings.  With his architecture and all the craziness going on, you can’t help but force yourself to pick it apart piece by piece.  But perspective isn’t just zooming in to the smallest parts of something, it’s how you choose to look at it.  It’s what outlook you take.

And the picture that will always make me feel better: the drawing I made of my mom’s wedding photo.  When I took Intro to Drawing my senior year of high school, I expected to learn a lot and to have a chance to practice more.  However, when I chose this photo of my mom on her wedding day for my final project, I was terrified that I wouldn’t do it justice.  It’s not perfect, but I’m happy with my finished product.  The time I spent, all the hard work that I put into it, and the look on my mom’s face when I surprised her with it make it one of my all-time favorite works.

Canyon: The Ultimate StairMaster

27 Apr

Do you want to feel your butt like you never have before?  How about your calves, biceps, and even your weary feet?!  Then try this product!  All you need is a steep, rocky, sandy canyon; a pair of worn-in hiking boots; a heavy pack; and plenty of water and GORP!  Well there you have it, the hottest piece of exercise equipment on the market!  Enjoy.  (And don’t forget to wear sunscreen).

To say the least, Spring Break was fantastic!  I’m not exactly sure what I expected, but the canyons, the hiking, the camping, everything was unexpected and great!  Coming from a state full of woods, lakes, rivers, and wildlife, this thing called the desert was pretty foreign to me.  I suppose I imagined a Wild West (or Three Amigos) scene with saguaro cacti, dry and cracked ground, and a burning hot sun.  Not so much the case!  The cacti were sparse and limited to small plants rather than the tall and imposing saguaro, the ground was basically sand, and the weather was cold and even snowy at times–in a million years I never expected to be camping in snow at the Grand Canyon.  That being said, we did at one point get a lot of tumbleweed crossing the road–a sure sign that Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, and Martin Short couldn’t be too far away, right?

Our first stop on the trip was a rafting trip down the Colorado River in Moab, Utah.  After 21 hours of driving from Illinois, we were ready for some action!  Although we were somewhat disappointed that we weren’t actually going to be doing the rafting (the guides were the only ones and had big oars that they used), it was still a lot of fun!  This was actually the guides’ first trip of the season, and they were amazed that anyone would even want to be doing this so early on in the year.  Considering we were shivering the whole time, the water drenching us was icy cold, and the motor didn’t work to get us out of the canyon at the end of the rapids, by the end of the trip we were reexamining the level of our sanity as well.  Nevertheless, it was a lot of fun.  The rapids were pretty awesome, especially being in the front of the raft and getting the brunt of the waves!  And the guides were a lot of fun, going along with our craziness and accepting our strange bonding games we played during lunch.  The canyon we went through was also really cool, huge cliffs and interesting rock.  You could even see how high the river gets later in the season; there were whole trees washed up and laying on the top of rocks maybe 30 above us as we sailed by.  And although we were a little freaked out after the safety talk the guides gave us during our lunch stop before the intense rapids, we only had one incident–Sarah fell back on the raft and had her whole upper body under water before one of our Outdoors Club leaders, McCall, yanked her up.  Sarah was a trooper though and handled it really well!

The next stop was a two-day, overnight hike in the Canyonlands National Park.  Amazing!  Absolutely beautiful and some really great and difficult hiking.  We spent the first day hiking down into the canyon and found a wicked camping spot in a passageway between two cliffs among all these huge boulders.  We even climbed the big boulders that formed one of the cliff sides up to a fantastic view of the surrounding canyon.  The next day, we started our hike out of the canyon a little rough, having a hard time finding the initial trail to take, but we quickly got on the right course and began the intense hike out.  Although it was no 127 Hours (which actually did occur in the Canyonlands area, in Blue John Canyon southwest of where we were), the sign at the trail head on the first day was correct: “this primitive route is very strenuous, difficult to follow, and recommended for experienced hikers only.”  As I said in my earlier post, I am out of shape and this was my first backpacking trip–experienced hiker I am not and endurance for strenuous uphill climbs I have not.  However, that being said, the physicality of it was a really fun challenge, and I am really glad I did it!  When you think about hiking out, you may think of uphill treks, but I didn’t really expect to have to literally be scaling boulders and to be using my arms so much.  Being especially prone to heat exhaustion and getting light headed, I was a little nervous about the tiny path with a drop-off into the canyon on one side and a vertical climb on the other.  And carrying a heavy pack didn’t make it any easier.  But, again, the challenge was so amazing and the feeling at the end was fabulous!

The next leg of the journey was a 9-hour drive to the south rim of the Grand Canyon.  Well, 9 hours once we got to the highway, which we didn’t before one of our cars (of our caravan of three) got a flat tire in Moab.  As fate would have it, we were lucky where we stopped to wait for the new tire!  The gas station we were at turned out to be in the same parking lot as a pretty nice RV park, with a nice bathroom, water spout, and–dare I say it–a swimming pool.  We spent the first bit of our wait sitting in the parking lot looking longingly at the pool, but after an hour of waiting in the beating sun and realizing that we probably wouldn’t get kicked out, we moved our party into the swimming pool area (which was not locked).  Some people went swimming, but even just laying on the pool chairs was wonderful.  I guess the lesson is to make the best of any situation!  Especially when there’s conveniently a swimming pool nearby.

Two and half hours and one new tire later, we were on the road to the Grand Canyon.  Driving through the desert, we stopped at the Mexican Hat Rock, passed through Monument Valley, and enjoyed a constant Mars-like view of vast tracts of orange sand and rock.  With never-ending orange sand and cliffs dominating the scenery, I drifted off into sleep…..only to wake up that night to SNOW at the Grand Canyon.

Well, color me confused.  Apparently, I wasn’t so out of my element in the Southwest.  Minnesota had prepared me better than I had thought–but I can’t say so much for our tents.  Some of our equipment definitely was not built to be used in the snow.  Consequently, we had to get even more cozy with our neighbors as we squished into fewer tents.  Waking up to snow on the roof of our tents and seeing our breath was surely a wake-up call I didn’t expect on the morning of our expedition into the Grand Canyon.  Again, we were separating and taking two different trips into the canyon for a two-day, overnight hike.  Eventually we got all of the supplies and food separated into the two groups and took off.

Like I said, this whole trip was early on in the season, so people were looking at us pretty strangely when we were at the top of the look-out getting our packs ready to descend.  Tourists shivering in jackets, hats, and gloves were very curious who these weirdos were.  Considering a good portion of our initial descent was through snow, I can understand where they were coming from.  Eventually we got through the slippery snow (which was pretty scary and dangerous at times!) and found a great spot jutting out into the canyon to have lunch.  Taking our time, we tried to soak it all in, but I don’t think you can really grasp the vastness of the canyon.  It was really incredible.  Continuing on, we gradually de-layered until shorts and a t-shirt were the norm–strange to think it was parkas up at the top just a few hours earlier.  Apparently, there is about a 20 degree difference between the top and bottom of the canyon.  Aside from the slipping and sliding on the snow, the hike down into the canyon was a beautiful and scenic breeze.  We camped on a huge mesa surrounded by the south rim and were the only ones camping there that night.  Again, it’s hard to describe such an amazing place and hard even to completely take it all in while you’re there.

The next day’s hike was backtracking on the same one as before, and we even stopped for lunch at the same spot as before–nothing could beat it.  This was definitely not as strenuous as the Canyonlands ascent, but we still celebrated like champions once we got back to the top!  After conquering the Colorado River, Canyonlands, and the Grand Canyon, the whole group was pretty pumped for a night of relaxing at Katie’s cabin in Arizona.  Then, it was an early start to the day and a 30-hour drive straight through Saturday night back to Evanston!  I would say that getting sick on the way back was a real bummer, but I’m not going to pretend that taking NyQuil and getting a lot of sleep was a letdown.

Check out my photo album on Facebook for more pictures!

Did I mention that we ran out of gas in Nebraska….?  Don’t worry, we’re just pushing the car to the side of the road to wait.  Ah, the beauty of having a three-car caravan in case one breaks down.  Hilarity ensued, of course.  Oh well, c’est la vie!

Wear Sunscreen.

Earthy crunchy

18 Mar

Well, I’m off to the Grand Canyon in t-minus 2 hours!  Hard to believe I’ll be standing on a cliff looking out and down at miles and miles of sand and rock.  When you see pictures of it and think about visiting, I don’t think you really fathom the immensity and epic-ness of this natural phenomenon.  Going through the daily rut of classes and work at a suburban university, it’s hard to visualize all of a sudden being in the middle of such an out-of-this-world place.  Nevertheless, in just a few short hours, I’ll be in the car on my way to Utah and Arizona for a week-long backpacking trip with the Northwestern Outdoors Club.  We’ll be stopping in Moab, Utah, first for a rafting trip down the Colorado River and a hiking trip in Canyonlands National Park.  Then, it’s off to the south rim of the Grand Canyon for more hiking.

I’ve never been on this long of a camping trip, and I’ve never gone backpacking like this so it should be an interesting and amazing adventure!  As my mom can attest, we should become an official sponsor for REI because of all the gear I had to get for this trip, but I know that it will be a priceless experience.  The week will kick my butt physically (thanks France for the laziness and carbs) and push me mentally, but I couldn’t be more excited!  And it’ll check two more national parks off my bucket list, so I got that going for me, which is nice.  (Caddyshack? Anyone? Bueller?)

A week to forget about classes, exams, internships, grad schools, and jobs.  A week to push myself, meet new people, and expand my horizons (becoming even more earthy crunchy; although, I’m not sure I want to hug any cacti…).  I’ll take it.

In light of my backpacking excursion, here are some of my favorite nature pics from my semester abroad.

Neighbor with the trees

14 Mar

As I get ready to wear in my hiking boots, fill up my pack, and head out to the Grand Canyon for spring break, I took a particular liking to this poem that I came across in my book last night.  As if the opportunity for camping, hiking, rafting, camp food, camp games (ninja–Foley ’10), and amazing scenery wasn’t enough, I know that this experience will mean a lot.  Consider this trip a warm-up to my (hopefully) summer at a national park and score one for “earthy crunchy (dirty) hippie“.

The Out-Doors Man

He must come back a better man,

Beneath the summer bronze and tan,

Who turns his back on city strife

To neighbor with the trees;

He must be stronger for the fight

And see with clearer eye the right,

Who fares beneath the open sky

And welcomes every breeze.

– –

The man who loves all living things

Enough to go where Nature flings

Her glories everywhere about,

And dwell with them awhile,

Must be, when he comes back once more,

A little better than before,

A little surer of his faith

And readier to smile.

– –

He never can be wholly bad

Who seeks the sunshine and is glad

To hear a songbird’s melody

Or wade a laughing stream;

Nor worse than when he went away

Will he return at close of day

Who’s chummed with happy birds and trees and taken time to dream.

–Edgar A. Guest

Wild Wild West

Day of rest

7 Mar

So, I’ve been busy.  I don’t think I have the best timing ever, because I always seem to start things right before I get a rush of things to do.  Example, joining the local gym to get back in shape, but joining right before getting slated as president, starting the Northwestern cycle of endless midterms, and starting props work on a roommate’s theater show.  Not the best time to try to inspire myself to take time to go to the gym every day.  Also not the best time to try to take the time to sit, relax, reflect, and write on my blog.  Perhaps my childhood blonde roots are showing through.

And perhaps I am now procrastinating studying for my final in Human Sexuality tomorrow (yes, the Northwestern psychology Human Sexuality class, and yes, I did see it).  But only perhaps.

Well, it’s Sunday, so maybe my first reminiscing post shall be of one of my favorite European sites–churches.  God knows I have visited hundreds–seemingly, thousands–of churches, cathedrals, basilicas, abbeys, monasteries in my life.  At the time, I used to whine whenever my parents would drag my ten year-old self to Notre Dame de __(insert city name)__, but God knows I love them too.  The grandeur, the magnificence, the art, the architecture, the stained glass–the stained glass! my favorite–the façades, the life of these places.  I am far from a religious person, but I can appreciate and find my “religion” in the power of these buildings (perhaps it is even because I am not religious that I find these places so absorbing).

Whether in ruin, a tourist trap, or a traditional corner church in a remote village, I will never lose my interest and fascination for them.

One of my favorite things, and the first thing I do upon entering a church, is to take pictures of and study the naves:

And the light, no matter if it is from a chandelier or streaming in through stained glass, it breathes life into the vast, stone, otherwise somber sanctuary:

Peace, love, and cathedrals.

Photographic memories

10 Feb

Almost two months ago I left France and came back to a life I had temporarily put on hold only to be thrust back into it at full speed.  I can’t really describe the transition as anything else except “reverse culture shock” as the study abroad office had predicted and warned us about.  Confusion and a little numbness to the stressful and hurried American lifestyle dominated until I slowly merged back onto the highway I had left for a few months in order to explore the dirt roads and Medieval city streets of southern France.

Where was the amazing wine?  The non-pasteurized cheese?  The delicious, crusty, fresh-baked bread?  The palm trees?  The cafés?  The manifestations that would shut down our university?  The day-trips to centuries-old castles?  They were replaced with snow, concrete jungles, and fast food.

Being back in the states, back to the American way of life, back to the grind of college classes, homework, studying, tests, applications–the list goes on–I find myself looking back on my blog posts and more often pictures of my months abroad, and I can’t help but remember all the great times I had and be grateful for this fantastic experience.  My time abroad definitely (and, for me, a little surprisingly) made me appreciate even more what we have in the U.S. and the amazing opportunities we have here as well as the tiny, minute details of our society that we take for granted.  However, although I’m happier now to be living in the U.S., I’ll always hold my three and a half months as a European near and dear to my heart.

Maybe as a way for me to keep that experience alive and to make sure I don’t forget any of it as life rushes on, I’ll be posting occasionally some of my favorite pictures from abroad (and if I’m lucky, I’ll remember and add some of the anecdotes with them that have not yet been shared).

Here begins my attempt to reverse that “reverse culture shock” and to not forget the beautiful world I lived in for a sheer blink of an eye, a mere flash of the camera.


16 Dec

I just finished all of my finals.  There were some difficult ones, but the hardest hurdle has yet to be overcome: packing and getting myself on the plane home.

NOT too sure that I’ll be able to do it.

All that’s going through my head right now is constant disbelief at the fact that three and a half months are already up, that my semester abroad that I had been thinking about since middle school has come and passed, that my life in France is already over.  How is it possible that it went by so quickly?

Of course, there are things I miss in the States, and I am happy to be going home (somewhat), but that can’t soothe the feeling of gloom that I have at the prospect of leaving France.  Why does time insist on hurrying at supersonic speed?

Bon ben, donc, voilà quoi!  C’est la vie, n’est-ce pas?  Life must go on.

Wow!  Really sorry to be such a downer, but this is pretty sad.

They even gave us an article to read on the plane about reverse culture shock and depression.  Ah, positivity is so wonderful.


12 Dec

Now that I’m leaving in a week, I’ve gone from being totally ready to get home (especially since it’s the holidays) to getting a bittersweet feeling more and more as the flight home gets closer and closer.  Everyday I’m finding more things I’m really going to miss.

Things I’ll miss:

Living in history.  I pass the coolest, oldest places just walking to the university.  And I always see something new.  One of my favorite things to do is just walk around the narrow, winding streets of the old town and seeing the shops and homes built right into the Middle Ages.  And the best finds are tucked away and easily passed over.

La Place de la comédie.  The center of the city, in the middle of the old town, I make excuses to walk through there whenever I can.  It’s full of life, full of old buildings, full of cafés, accordion music, shops; basically, it is France in a nutshell.

Taking field trips not to the science museum but to thousand year-old castle ruins and historic cities.  Last week, my medieval literature class went on a field trip to a couple Cathar castle ruins west of here near the Pyrenees and stopped in Narbonne.  We had only really read one story about the Cathars and didn’t really learn much school-wise on the trip (our prof is a really laid back French-American), but the trip gave us eerie mountaintop ruins with gorgeous views of the Pyrenees, probably the quietest I’ve ever heard (if that makes sense; being on top of the mountain in the ruins, no one else was there except our small class, and just miles and miles of open countryside and rolling hills), and a day full of hilarity.  So, why not?!  Also, we learned a new phrase from our prof: “bon, bein, donc, voilà, quoi?!”  It literally means nothing.  Nothing!  All of those words are filler words, and together it just basically means, “well, there ya have it.”  Haven’t used it yet, but maybe it’ll be my parting words to my host family, “Well!  Bon bein donc voilà quoi!  Au revoir!”  Actually, that’s probably not a great idea.

Wine.  I don’t really need to explain this one.  New addition: vin chaud.  My hypothesis behind vin chaud:  so, they were drinking wine, and it started getting a little chilly outside.  They knew they couldn’t keep drinking the cool wine when it was getting so cold, so, they looked at the fire, looked longingly at their wine, and one smart aleck piped up, “Screw it, let’s heat it up!”  And they did.  Voilà.  Bravo, French wine-addicts, bravo.

Fromage cru.  Non-pasteurized cheese is sooooo good.  Paranoid American health standards, you’re lame.

Good bread.  Croissants, baguettes, pain au chocolat, delicious.

The graffiti.  At first, I thought the graffiti was awful and destructive, but now I really like seeing quality artistic graffiti.  Some of it is really impressive.

Christmas markets.  It’s like a party nonstop in the center of town.  The stands are so cute and abundant, the shopping’s great, the food’s delicious, the hot wine is hot and wine, and it seems like everyone comes out to the market–it’s just a sea of people.  There are Christmas lights everywhere, a huge “tree” made of lights, occasional singing performances, and even a tiny bunny hill put up right in the middle of the Esplanade (our pedestrian boulevard, basically) where kids can put on some skis, march up the walkway, and get pushed down the little slope by ski school teachers.  They imported snow and everything.  Ah, France.

Shakespeare.  The pub that we’ve made our home away from home and destination for many trivia nights.  Mari and I got a cider beer (our favorite) there yesterday afternoon and couldn’t stop saying how we wanted to transport Shakespeare home to Minneapolis.  This bar will be hard to beat.

Exposure to different sports.  My family was very nice and brought me to both a Montpellier soccer match (against Lyon who is very good, and we only just lost right in the last minute) and a handball match (Montpellier is very good and rocked Nîmes), and I’ve watched rugby plenty on TV.  These sports games live are very different than in the US.  At least with soccer and handball, there are small sections of hardcore fans for each team, but then the rest of the crowd is fairly calm.  Leaving the handball match last night, my dad asked me about how raucous games are in the US and told me that “the French are too timid for that.”  He’s right, while watching the game, I kept thinking that the noise in that arena was about equivalent to a middle-school basketball game back home.  Handball at least tried to make it into a show with flashing lights, loud ominous music, and even cheerleaders, but it didn’t quite work.  There were soccer hooligans, of course, and they brought tons of flags, drums, and even torches; but they were a very small part of the crowd.  Everyone else was pretty composed.  It was strange, to say the least.

The Americans calling our city Montpillz.  Best nickname ever.

The warm weather.  It’s in the 50s right now, last week it got into the 60s and was tshirt weather.  It’s December, I’m listening to Christmas music, and it’s too warm to wear a jacket.  I asked my host mom today if this warm weather is normal, and she just looks at me a little shocked and says, “This is cold!”  haha I don’t think they would survive one day in Minnesota.

Palm trees, flamingos, and constant sunshine.

My Montpellier friends.  I was really worried about this before getting to France, but I’ve made some really great friends in my program and I’m really going to miss them.  They’ve made the stay and European trips so much more fun.  Luckily, we’re all in the midwest, and one of them even lives just in Minnetonka.  Montpellier reunions in MN or Chicago will definitely be necessary.

Living in France.

Things I won’t miss:

Living by pourquoi pas:  Literally meaning “why not”, it became our motto to live by (à la “you only live in France once”).  But it actually means pants getting snugger and the wallet getting a lot lighter (sorry Mom and Dad).   But then again, it also means taking day trips to castles and weekend trips to Croatia, so maybe I actually will miss living this way….

Getting harassed on the street and tram stops.  I am so sick of French men (sometimes drunk, sometimes not) thinking it’s okay to harass women whenever they feel like it.  I have been slapped on the butt and told “fuck you” among other things.  And don’t even think about speaking English too loudly, it apparently gives them the right to harass you.

Having bread as a huge part of my diet.  Sometimes I think that some French dishes are just excuses to get to the bread.  (but I will miss it, kind of hard to beat French bread)

Not having soap in the bathrooms.

Scratcher.  This is what I named the animal living in my ceiling.  Yep, there’s something up there.  Apparently, a few months ago, he was hanging out in my parents’ room and waking them up in the middle of the night scratching and running around.  Then, in October, he got bored and cozied up into the part of the ceiling right above my pillow (I sleep up in a loft, so it’s literally about two feet from the ceiling).  It’s like having a soundtrack of someone snoring.  From his noises, I’ve decided he’s definitely something bigger than a rat–maybe a squirrel??  I have no idea.  Also, what does he eat up there (he has been up there a long time)?  Nevertheless, he wakes me up and I’m afraid he’s going to somehow get through the crack in the beam, but I hope he’s enjoying himself up there.

Having my name used all the time.  I knew that it was French, and I knew that it meant “clear” (hence, Eau Claire, “clear water”), but I did not realize how often they say “c’est clair,” which means “it’s clear/evident”.  Especially in my classes.  In the US, I think I hear my name so often since it rhymes with so many words it’s ridiculous (think about it), but I don’t want to think how many times my name is actually used here.  I’ve learned to ignore my name completely.  Also, apparently I can’t say my own name correctly, so that’s kind of a bummer too.

Living in a world full of black clothing.  Forget about wearing colors, if I wear brown I feel like I’m standing out.  You may think I’m exaggerating, but everyone wears black all the time.  Especially now that it’s cold out, everyone’s jackets are black.  C’est fou!


My brother had all of his Silly Bandz laid out on the table on display in the hall.  Either he has put it in safe keeping away from the other kids, or else the little punk has traded Minnesota.  He doesn’t know what he’s missing.