Sunday, July 25, 2010

Perouges or Bust!?!

Last week I went on a day trip to Perouges, a small town about an hour outside of Lyon. We were told it was a beautiful medieval town, but that's about it...catch my drift? We got off the bus and were set free to roam around this bite size town that we knew almost nothing about. Honestly, I spent most of my time in the gift shop and waiting for the wine tasting. From the description I've given thus far, you would think that I had a mediocre time in Perouges, but on contraire, this small town offered more than my initial impression. Its breathtaking views and my ample free time helped me appreciate the natural beauty of the French countryside. I thought about my family in the States, and how I wished they could share this experience with me. I did a little bit of meditating and found a morsel of personal peace.

While waiting to taste some of the locally produced wine, I really got to relax. My friend Dave, who's on a Dialogue close by in Geneva, came to visit and we had a good time joking, laughing, and enjoying everyone's company. Perouges offered me a nice break from our 7 hour class days and the familiarity of Lyon.

Le Caveau de St. Vincent offered me something more than a break, it offered me a drink! The cave was awesome! Although we were a little rushed though our tasting due to the buses getting ready to leave, I had a great time tasting the local rose and red wines. a statue of le caveau's namesake stood holding a vine of grapes (appropriately) and the tasting room had a real medieval dungeon feel. I respected its authenticity.

When I look back on it now, Perouges wasn't so bad after all... =)

Friday, July 23, 2010


Its becoming clear to me, two days before our departure for Paris, that I've been in France for almost 4 weeks. I still feel like mon francais could be better, but I would have to say that I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here. I can not say that I've been homesick at any point thus far. However, I find myself longing for my family to share this surreal experience with me. Par exemple, two weeks ago, I found myself on a paddle boat in the middle of a Lake Annecy facing the French Alps. In this moment, I felt a wave of guilt come over me, for I was blessed and fortunate to be here on account of the support of my family. Not just my immediate family either, it took a village of loved ones who grew up with less I, to come together and make this all possible. For this, I am thankful, and from this moment on, I kept my family in mind and thought about the places I would take them in the future.

My father would love Annecy. He was born in the countryside of Haiti, and would appreciate the quite beauty of the lake and the Alps. I imagined him spending his free time hiking, and sailing on the lake. My mother and a few of my other family members would enjoy Perouges. I am convinced no one really lives there, so they can be as loud as they want without any neighbors to complain, not to mention the freely flowing wine. It is also a nice place to relax, which is something they all need. When I visited the International Red Cross/Red Crescent museum, I immediately thought of my grandfather. As a veteran, and a history junkie, he would explore every corner of this museum. He would also be very interested in visiting the United Nations and probably offer his "two cents" of advice. (lol I love my grandpa!) I could go on for days...

This post is dedicated to my wonderful family =)

Breaking Barriers

Two days ago, I hit a wall. It was the barrier between me and understanding. Usually, I'm not bothered by people not understanding what I say because this is a natural burden of any traveler. I graciously say "Merci beaucoup" and leave whats lost in translation for the language gods to handle. But this was not an instance where this could be done. I hit this wall in a place where the wall shouldn't exist, in my intensive French class. This is the place that should be a sanctuary of understanding, for this is where I am supposed to learn to do so. Unfortunately, I don't feel like I learn anything new or exciting in class, I mostly work on my listening skills and use context clues to understand my instructors. Honestly, people in the streets of Lyon have taught me much more.

On this particular day, I was attempting to share un grande mensonge (an exaggerated lie) that we were assigned to write for an assignment. I began to share my mensonge, while he wrote it on the board, and then came the dreaded word..."choeur" (chorus). At my first attempt to pronounce the word my instructor, Eddy, made a funny face. During my second & slower attempt to sound it out, I got a more bizarre look than the first. Then I went straight for the context clues "un groupe des chanters" (a group of singers) I said, hoping he could piece together the clues for the word, which I continuously tried to sound out between saying, singer, songs, groups, gospel, etc. in French, and this time adding hand gestures (because those always work...NOT!) By this point I had asked a fellow classmate, who is more advanced, for help and she tried to help clarify. Eddy had began writing different words that he thought I could be saying on the bored, all of which were out in left field, and he began to laugh. A wave of shame, embarrassment, and pure confusion came over me and I just gave up, something I seldom do in any classroom. In defeat, my frustrations came poring out of my flushed face.

This is when I realized that I was beside myself. There I sat, in a classroom of about 20 students crying. I never considered myself the "woe is me" kind of girl, and I could assume that everyone was frustrated in one way or another, but I was the only one crying about it. Why? For the first five minutes I thought, "This is what I get for putting myself on the chopping block, I shouldn't have raised my hand." But the little people of reason came to the rescue and quickly expelled this thought. I will forever be a student of the universe and at least try. For the next five minutes, I blamed Eddy. "He should have tried harder to understand me." I thought. Then the little people of reason made a U-turn, clearly there work wasn't done. I couldn't blame Eddy. He probably finds it just as difficult to understand my "franglaise" (my mix of French and English when I can find certain words in French) So what is to blame for this tragic moment? This is where I'm supposed to stumble upon the grand revelation of why I'd transformed into an emotional wreck, and its nonexistent.

Then I thought of a story my professor, Madame Ziane, told me a few days before. She had come to America 10 years ago, and shared with me that she felt very similar to the way I feel here. Madame is a fan of America now, but at one time, she too was afraid to speak to strangers, for she did not think her English was good enough for people to understand her. For the first few months, she cried the same tears I did two days ago. I only share this because it made me realize that there was no one to blame, and I am entitled to these tears. They help to break down the emotional barriers that help people like my professor and I adapt to new surroundings.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Bienvenue a Lyon!

Bonjour a tous!

I'm coming to you LIVE from Lyon, France! Excuse my extra enthusiasm, I'm trying to capture that 1st day/1st post feeling, while in reality, TWO weeks have whizzed past me! So lets fast forward through the never ending flight to Paris, the suspended flight to Lyon, the late arrival, and lets not forget, the absent coach bus that forced a group of 17 estrogen filled, jet lagged, bitchin women to navigate Lyon's public transportation system while carrying hundreds of pounds (excusez-moi) kilos of luggage. (whew!)

Since that chaotic beginning, it has only gotten better! I have been at learning a lot and really enjoying myself. I find the culture here to be really laid back and easygoing. one of the first differences I noticed was shops and restaurants close everyday at lunchtime so the owners can eat lunch. I've never seen anything like it in the States. Also, they take the "Sunday as a day of rest" thing to new heights! The city is literally closed for business on Sundays. I've learned this the hard way for the past two Sundays, walking for miles to find a place to eat or buy food. But it's always an adventure! =)

Before my departure, I was a little bummed, that I would be missing the coveted American holiday of Independence Day, but I did get to spend Bastille Day (the French equivalent) in Lyon. We had the day off from school and as on any semi-holiday/Sunday everywhere was closed. But the the kabab stands were set up and people filled the streets that night for an amazing Disney World-esqe light show with fireworks. It was simply magnifique!

The people that I've met so far during this experience thus far have inspired me to look at my life as a stage play. They are all unique characters that make up a grand show! We have The Great Dane, The West Virginians, The Aussie, Sweetheart Ela, and our native guide Chole (who is sometimes accompanied by her HOT boyfriend Evan!) The stories are endless and one-in-a million memories. Too much to type now, but stay tuned!

A bientot!