Sunday, November 11, 2007

Welcome Home Franklin!

Since I have been able to keep my plants alive for the past several years, I decided I needed a new challenge....a dog. I've been thinking about it a lot ever since my parent's dog passed away. It seemed odd for no one in the family to have a dog. So, I dragged Kate to the humane society where we didn't find any small dogs. Then, I found a fantastic organization called Pets Inc. They really take good care of their dogs and they had tons to choose from. That's when I stumbled upon a young poodle named Franklin. Well, I named him Franklin, he had some girly name at the shelter that did not fully encompass his manly sophistication, thus the name change. Anyways, he was a lost dog that someone brought in and I was second on the list to get him and the first lady never showed up, so now he is MINE. He is 1-2 years old and a purebred poodle. I never thought I would be a poodle person, but this little guy is adorable, well behaved and super sweet.

I guess I'll update you on the job search and school, while I'm at it. The job search is going. I wouldn't say going well, but it is going. So far, I have interviewed with five companies and no second interviews yet. I'm not too worried yet, I'll start freaking out in january. School is good. I am doing really well gradewise and some of the projects are pretty cool. I am actually doing a consulting project where I create a customer satisfaction program for Ingersoll Rand. It's been pretty crazy, but I think it's finally coming together and they will be really happy with the results. Other than that, I'm taking a branding class that is pretty cool and marketing research which is much less cool, boo statistics. That's about it. I'll try and update this on a more regular basis:)

Friday, September 7, 2007

See Ya Lyon, Hello Columbia!

And...I'm the US. finally!
Part 1: The BIG Move
The move out of france went ok. I ended up having to buy yet another giant bag to put all my stuff in. My last day at work was pretty cool, I finished up my final project and my coworkers threw a champagne party for me at lunch and I got a computer bag. It was fun, but I was pretty stressed out about getting everything ready for the move. Really, I was trying to figure out how I could possibly get three bags and me on the bus, on the train and then on the plane. All the frenchies in Lyon had comments for me and all my suitcases. Are you going on vacation? How are you going to move all those bags? A nun helped me get them on the bus, then another lady helped me get them off (she felt karmically obligated to help me since her own daughter had done a study abroad in england and had a lot of bags too). Some guy who probably weighed less than me decided to be a gentleman and helped me get the bags on the train (this involves lifting two 70 lb bags above your head to get them on the shelves which i really didn't want to do, obviously).
At the airport i got lost trying to find my hotel, then i had to make a maintenance guy help me up the escalator with my stuff. But everything worked out, I found the hotel and went to sleep. I woke up bright and early at 5am to get checked in for my flight. It would have all gone smoothly, except for the the fact that I got stuck in an elevator and had to PRY OPEN THE DOORS WITH MY BARE HANDS. Yes, I pressed the emergency button, and I told some guy in french that i was stuck, but no one came. So i had to take matters into my own hands before i started freaking out hard core. The good news is I finally got on the plane and thanks to my uncle jeff, i got to go back home first class. It was awesome!

Part 2: The Return
The return was basically mayhem. I got into ATL, met my parents, woke up in the morning and had to drive to Columbia, move all my stuff, get the lock off my storage unit (to this day, no one knows where the key is), go to class and try not to speak jet lag gibberish (which I did anyways). It was a mess and it took me a week to recover from everything, but now I am feeling pretty great. I've seen my friends and family and am settling into classes. Right now, my schedule seems pretty easy, I'm just waiting for the wave of work to knock me down. Hopefully it will be ok. But i will continue to update the blog when I can, so stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Getting My Version of Tan in Nice and Monaco

A couple of weekends ago, i went to Nice. I got up at 5 am on saturday to catch my train that would put me in Nice around 11, i did this because if i left on friday, i wouldn't get in until midnight and i thought (THOUGHT) that I might at least save myself one night of hotel dollars. So the train ride was 4 hours, which was fine, i half slept for the first two and then re-read some magazines for the second two. Around hour three, I realize i have left my confirmation page at home and that i don't know the name or address of my hotel. so i call nanda, make her get on my email account and text me my info.

When I arrived, i went straight to the tourist office and asked where my hotel was, she gave me directions in french, which i thought i understood but didn't, so i walked too far, but then realized my mistake and walked back, walked into the wrong hotel, got directions to the right one and finally found it.So, i walk up to the receptionist and say, my name is emily woods and i have a reservation. The girl holds her hand out. I say I am sorry, but I forgot my confirmation page,but i made my reservation through last minute. and she starts huffing at me like she's SO annoyed. and i'm all WHAT. and she's like, "well you could at least give me yourpassport." so i hand it to her. and she says, no we don'thave anything for you come back at two when check in time is and we'll look at it. And I go don't you think i should KNOW that i have a hotel room before then? i made a reservation and she sighs like she is SO annoyed and says well i have nothing, so go across the street to the internet cafe and email me your information. FINE. so i go across the street, email her my info and walk back. she prints it out and happily points out that i made the reservation for friday, not saturday (CRAP). she is like I do not know what to do we are fully booked. and i'm like ooohhh no the whole city is booked, what am i going to do. so she says well let me talk to my manager. and she calls him and then says to me, "actually we have one room that we reserve for ajust in case situation." well lady, this is one of those situations, so why don't you just give me the keys. so long story short, i check out the room, it is in the attic, but it has a shower and a toilet and ac, so i say whatever and take it. I of course was charged for the night before and for this night, so basically i am paying a ritz carlton fee for a chamber maids quarters, but at least i am not sleeping on the street. They also threw in a terrible breakfast of butter and stale baguette for my troubles. To calm down, I decide to find a book and go to the beach and stay for as long as possible which is exactly what i did.

unfortunately i did not reapply my sunscreen, so i am burnt in places, like the side of my calf and part of my stomach, but i do look slightly bronzed or at least less see through. my favorite game at the beach was to find people whiter thanme. it was a veritable where's waldo of pale people. also, it should be mentioned that while the beach is incredible,the water was blue and green and smelled like beach, the actual beach has no sand, it has rocks. and not rocks that are big enough to lay out on or pebbles that are as good assand, no the kind of rocks that are impossible to get comfortable on and give you rock shaped bruises when you lay on them. i should've listened to my let's go book and gotten a mat, but i thought i was tough enough. i was wrong, once again. anyways, it was still relaxing andbeautiful. sunday, i went to monaco, and it was awesome. the beach had pebbles, YAY! and the best tiramisu gelato ever(my current food obsession). it's gorgeous, a port city set into the cliffs and so many lambourghinis and maseratis and yachts and rich people you don't even know what to do with yourself. i walked for hours, tried to get in the monte carlo casino, but then decided against it after discovering the 10 euro entrance fee. the train to get there from nice went all along the coast and was only 20 minutes. it was beautiful. Quite a break from the construction, and 15 yearolds yelling "je suis la, bebe" at me that nice had to offer.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Altercation aka Emily Goes to the Tour de France


In the spirit of memento, and dane cook, I would like to start this story out from the end.

So, then the old french lady goes: "well, why don't you just KILL ME?"

ok, now let's REWIND.

Saturday the weather was terrible, but we went to disney anyways minus sara's sick boyfriend. It was awesome. The rides were way better. I rode space mountain twice and almost puked. There were more loopity loops, a scarier haunted house, and the all time favorite, buzz lightyear's space blast which, for those of you who don’t know, is an interactive video game ride where you sit in a car that you can swizzle around so that you can shoot at various targets throughout the ride. There was also a swinging bridge which i promptly stepped on and fell/slid/caught myself by one arm tryingto bounce across. This french guy held his hand out about a second after i fell, as if he was trying to catch me, but didn't and i almost yanked my arm out of the socket. good times. good times. Anyways, after 9 hours of Disney i was worn out and more than a little nauseated. I went to dinner with Nanda and our other friend Diana and then went to bed.

Sunday was the TOUR!!!! Since it was raining and nasty, I met sara late after having breakfast at the breakfast in america restaurant. Then I had to change because no one told France that it’s July and it was cold. Anyways, i roll in about 1230 to see sara, the recovered boyfriend and their other friend who's like 20 and makes me feel old. I stole sara away for some serious tour de france souvenir shopping and 65 euro later I was decked out. well, everything was big cause i got it for my dad, but i put it on anyways cause it was fun. So anyways, we're standing at the barrier and waiting and waiting and waiting and around 330, our friend tara shows up and she's got a chair so i got to sit down for a little while. well, then i notice that this old french woman is pressing up against me so hard that 1) she is pushing me off my seat and2) if she were a man, we are so close, that i would be having her babies in approximately nine months. so after about 10 minutes of this i say in french, excuse me madame, you are pushing me. and she mutters something back like, oh i just want to see. so i get up and move closer to the barrier and stand. well then she comes up behind me and starts pushing me again. so i start pushing back with almost as much force as i can muster just to maintain the space that i have because this is the strongest old lady ever. so she says, “oh c'est pas vrai (it's not true!) “ and i say OH C'EST VRAI! and the pushing continues for another twenty minutes while i mouth to my friends that apparently this woman does not think I will bring the pain if she tries to steal my spot to see the tour de france. Which i will because at this point i am livid. So after a little more jostling, she says, “just give me alittle bit of space (in english)” and I say (in what I realize is a perfect impression of my mother at her most furious)“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.”

So then we continue to push each other. This goes on for at least another 30 minutes, until I hit her with a nice elbow to the back, after she pushes me harder and she says in english, “stop pushing me”, at which point i turn around and unleash the FURY. I start screaming at her in English, "Listen, i have been waiting for FOUR hours and i am not moving an INCH, so you better stop pushing ME." so then she says, "no it is you who are pushing me" and then the guy next to me jumps in and yells at her, "well we've been here since 8 am and you pushed my wife too and IT NEEDS TO STOP."

so then the old french lady says, "Well, why don't you just KILL ME?"
A friend snapped a photo of me and the lady right before we throw down.

Anyways, after that she backed off and everything was fine. It was just strange, no one was even coming to take a picture of and no one else was pushing. Furthermore, if she’d just asked politely, I would’ve totally given in and scooted over. But here in France, we do things the hard way. However, I got to see everything and the teams even went by slowly for pictures.
Team Discovery!!!So it was cool. I loved it and I have three tshirts, a water bottle, a bag, a hat, a keychain, two magnets and some bracelets to commemorate the occasion.


Thursday, July 26, 2007

When in Rome...Make Bad Jokes...

Italy was absolutely amazing! It was one of my favorite places yet, and not just because our hostel was air conditioned and none of my travel mates snored. That pretty much would’ve made the trip great by itself, but there was much, much more to come. Friday, I got in late, checked in and met up with my fellow IMBA’s Matt and Jeff. We had a few drinks and then went to bed because Saturday was going to be a big day.
Saturday, I insisted we get up early and go to the Vatican. This turned out to be a good choice because it is actually only open from 845 to 145 and the line is about two hours long. After wandering around St. Peter’s square and taking pictures, we were quickly recruited into a tour group, the prime draw being that the tour guide would wait in line for us while we stood in the shade/ate pizza. Worth every penny.
Pinecone courtyard at the Vatican.
It was incredibly hot, even in the shade, and the poor boys were in jeans because of the strict have your knees, belly, and shoulders covered rule. But we had a great tour guide who took us through the Vatican museums and the Sistine chapel. My favorite part was the hall of maps leading up to the Sistine chapel. We also saw the sculpture that inspired Michelangelo. The Sistine chapel was a little bit of a let down because unlike most churches, it’s not quiet and relaxing. Instead, there are 1000 people herded into one room like cattle, staring at the ceiling and taking illicit pictures (some even with *gasp* flash). All the while guards are shouting, no talking, no pictures, no talking, no pictures. So, although it was amazing, especially the fresco of the second coming of Christ on the wall, it was a tad anti climactic. St. Peter’s basilica was amazing. We almost skipped it after a 3 hour tour on hard marble floors in 100 degree heat, but I am so glad we didn’t. It was huge and gorgeous, just like everything in Rome.
Afterwards, we all agreed that some gelato was in order. And let me tell you, you haven’t tasted the satisfaction that is gelato until you’ve had it in Rome on a hot day. It was soo tasty. We walked around and rested for awhile and then set out to see the collosseum and walk to San Giovanni church to meet another IMBA. Kavita. Well, despite’s Jeff’s claims that he knew where we were, (he later claimed to have been joking, but no one believes him) our sightseeing of the collosseum was followed by an hour of walking in a giant circle, no where near where we were supposed to be. Upon arriving back at the collosseum, I made the executive decision to take a taxi to wherever the church actually was, so that we could sit down and wait for Kavita. Even though we basically got ripped off by the cab driver, no one cared because we were so tired and hot and the cab was air conditioned. Dinner turned out to be authentic and wonderful. We literally had 7 appetizers and were astounded to hear that we still had four courses to go (my kind of meal). It was really really really good. But it lasted until almost midnight, we missed the last metro and took another cab which is where we discovered that cabs are cheap and we definitely got ripped off by the other guy. Oh well.
Sunday, we slept in a little and then hit Trevi fountain, the pantheon, and the collosseum again. The line for the collosseum was really long, so we decided not to go inside and get some lunch instead. Then I had to leave for the airport, but not before I found some gladiators to take a picture with. It was a great trip and I can’t wait to go back and explore more of Italy when there are less tourists and no heat wave.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Kickin' Back in Amsterdam

I apologize for the belated blogging. All this traveling has been wonderful, but it is wearing me out! Amsterdam was absolutely lovely. I went with my friends, Josh, Nanda and Tara to celebrate Josh’s birthday. We stayed at the Marriott instead of a hostel and it was the first real mattress that I’ve slept on since January, so I was pretty excited about that. I was also really proud of myself for managing the transportation system and getting to the hotel by myself to meet the other guys. Friday night, we all got in late, so we went and got some food and chilled out at a cafe.
Saturday was pretty action packed. We walked through the flower market. I bought some flower bulbs for my mom and my grandma, although my mom says she won’t share. Hopefully, I can get them back into the US, without having to wrestle them from the long arm of the law that is customs. We had a great breakfast of dutch pancakes which are basically crepes with fruit on them. You don’t fool me Holland. I know you stole those pancakes from the frenchies!
Then we did one of the most fun things ever…we rented paddle boats and explored the canals on our own. And by explored, I mean we got mostly lost, ran into walls, and boated down the wrong side of the canal. But enjoyed ourselves immensely besides a leaky boat, and in my case, a wet backside from a joy riding speedboat that cut too close to us and absolutely soaked me. Mmm dirty canal water. Ain’t nothin’ better.
Other than that, we mostly just hung out, did a little shopping and walked the entire city. Sunday was great as well, we went to the Hard Rock Cafe, which, although touristy and American, allowed me to have a real hamburger and the best chocolate milkshake I’ve had in ages. Then, I continued to wander the city.
This is one of the many crooked houses.
I saw the Anne Frank house and the line for the Anne Frank house and then decided that was good enough for me. Then I checked out the royal palace and Dam square. After that, I was content to continue wandering the city and taking my ten billionth picture of the canals. So, it was a low key trip with little to no tourist-ing, but it was wonderful to relax. More on my trip to Italy tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Monday, July 16, 2007


The medieval city of Carcassone was incredible. It is a UNESCO world heritage site and also one of the one thousand places to see before you die. I decided to go there after my dad sent me an email and told me to think about checking it out, to which I said, why not? The town is situated in the south of France, about an hour from Toulouse. I stayed at a hostel that was actually within the medieval city, so that was pretty exciting. The hostel was ok, in that I was not sleeping in the street and it was cheap. There was, however, a troupe of smelly bikers who apparently lacked the knowledge of how the flushing apparatus on a toilet worked. When you’re sharing two bathrooms among 50 some odd people, this is pretty pertinent information. I did meet a very nice American girl who walked around with me. We bonded over the fact that neither one of us would have to take pictures of ourselves with one arm extended. It was so much fun to run around the castle. It would’ve been even better had I been five and I could have reasonably purchased a plastic knight costume and a sword that made noises like it was being unsheathed or like you were battling someone to the death. Actually, I should have just bought the sword, so that I could’ve defended myself against getting repeatedly slapped with the plastic and rubber weapons of mass destruction that all the kids were beating me with as they ran by in their excitement to be in castle town.
In an effort to get out of the extremely hot weather, I ducked into the friendly, neighborhood torture museum. It was disturbing to say the least. A lot of the things I had seen before, but there were some different tools that are the stuff of nightmares. I think the moral of the story is, it was not good to be a heretic in medieval times.
That night, my new friend listened to a French lady sing jazz in the theatre and dined on a feast of cassoulet. Now, normal cassoulet is a regional concoction of beans, duck, sausage and bacon. But I opted for the special Carcassone edition which was made with lamb and pigeon. Yes, I ate pigeon. Apparently, you can opt out of the pigeon, but in a split second decision, I decided to go for it. Who knows why I do the things I do. The waiter told me that some people are “allergic” so that’s why they can take it out. Yes, I have to think allergic=no I do not want to eat your rat with wings, lady. Anyways, I took one bite and it was not good, and my tummy said, what the hell? I didn’t finish it and felt bad because the waitress yelled at me and told me she punishes people who don’t finish their food. Ah well.
Sunday, I went on a tour of the ramparts where I learned the fake story behind the name of Carcassone. As the story goes, Dame Carcas was head of the castle. The city was besieged by Charlemagne for five years. The people inside the castle were starving and they were running out of water. So, Dame Carcas fed the last of the grain to a piglet and fattened him up. She then tossed the fat pig over the side of the castle and as luck would have it, the pig splattered its well fed guts all over the feet of Charlemagne. Well, this made Charlemagne think, if they can afford to feed a pig so well, then obviously this siege will never end. Let’s go home. And so, the siege ended and the people of Carcassone were so elated that they rang all the bells in the city in honor of Dame Carcas. In French sone means to ring, so Carcas + sone = Carcassone. Get it? Anyways, turns out Dame Carcas never existed and Charlemagne was never anywhere near Carcassone, but it’s a nice story.
The real story behind Carcassone is that it was once a great military stronghold, but then fell into disrepair when it was no longer needed. The people moved down into the valley and took stones form the castle to build their own homes. In the 20th century, an architect saved Carcassone from being destroyed and rebuilt it into the tourist fantasy that it is today.
We also got to see the theatre get set up for Michael Flatley’s (lord of the dance) performance. The theatre was really cool and if I could have stayed for the show I would’ve. I know it’s nerdy, but it would have been an interesting show to see, and think how much longer this blog would be.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Happy Birthday America! – Love, France

First of all, I apologize in advance for not having pictures of the following events. I really should be more prepared, but alas I was not. Anyways, July 3rd, I got to have a five course dinner with my division of seven people. I got suckered in by the free food and promise that it would be mostly in English since the Italian manufacturing team was there. It was not in English by the way. In fact, the common language is French, not English. That’s ok, it just means I zone out for periods of time when my brain gets tired and then don’t know what’s going on. Anyways, I was supposed to be listening to the conversation in French at my table, but really I was listening to the English people behind us having a conversation. They were singing which made me laugh and then the guy leaned over to another table and asked him if he knew the words to the American national anthem, to which the second guy responded, and I quote, “I would rather slit my throat.” At this point, I half snort/half laugh, loudly, forgetting that I am not supposed to be listening, and then the entire restaurant turns around to look at me. The second guy’s wife says dear you shouldn’t say things like that, you might offend someone. And he says, “who’s there to offend?” And she says, “well the American woman in the corner might have a problem with it.” But I didn’t, I just laughed. And then I wrote down the words to the national anthem for the other guy. I got stuck in the middle and was worried for a minute that I wouldn’t be able to remember the words and therefore be the worst American ever.
Then on July 5th, we had a fourth of july celebration at the office. I, of course, was not wearing red, white and blue and thus, not being a very good American. I made up for this fact by leading the office in a rousing rendition of the American national anthem. The other American lady in the office printed out the words for everyone and another guy found the music online. So it was quite hilarious. The frenchies kept asking me, “what is hailed?” although, it was pronounced what iz ailed? And I couldn’t explain it to them in English or in French, so I kind of pretended I didn’t understand and then drew everyone’s attention to the fabulous stars and stripes sweater that one of my cubemates was wearing. And there was booze. Because what is a French office party without alcohol? The special drink of the day was a caparinha, a brazilian beverage that is basically liquor, sugar and fruit. It was pretty serious and the general consensus was that it should have been served before the national anthem. All in all, an excellent way to celebrate America in France.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007


The east side gallery and the longest remaining piece of the wall.
This month is the month of travelling for me. I have something planned every weekend. I kicked off the travel extravaganza by heading to Berlin last weekend to visit one of my fellow Imba’s, Jeff. The most amazing thing is that I realized that I have never been to a country where I understood absolutely nothing, except perhaps for the word “toiletten” or something like that, which is probably pretty important. I got in late Friday night, so we basically just had a quick dinner of falafel and some drinks. I had a flaming mai tai, which was both scary and delicious.
Saturday, we basically walked and did touristy things from 9am until 3am. We were going to do a great walking FREE walking tour, but opted out because it was raining and windy. Instead we did the bus tour which was lovely, but you have to take pictures very quickly as you fly by the monuments. This bus tour had the option to get off, so we went by the bombed out church that has not been rebuilt as an homage to the atrocities of war. We also saw some incredible street performers and a chocolate bear that weighed 160 kilos.
At our next stop, we went to the checkpoint Charlie museum. It was hands down the best museum I’ve ever been to. Before I saw that, and the wall, I really had no idea what the conditions were like while the wall was still standing. It came down when I was almost 8, so I don’t think I ever really understood the significance until I was there. Anyways, at the museum, they have all kinds of contraptions that people used to get over the wall. These include, stories of tunnelling, ladder bridges, personal submarines, people hiding in welding machines, speakers, suitcases, etc. There were heartbreaking stories of families being separated and children of subversive east german families being taken away and adopted out to good communist families. Also, apparently there were many children who drowned in the river because anyone who tried to save them would be shot by the guards on the wall. Oh, and there were X rays of a guy who made it over the wall, but was shot with 200 splinters from the automatic firing tower and survived. I could go on and on. The best part besides the museum is that for two euro, you can get your passport stamped with east berlin and west berlin stamps. So, now I feel very cool.
We spent the rest of the day visiting museum island, the holocaust memorial, hitler’s bunker (which is literally a parking lot with an informational sign), the Reichstag and about a billion other places that I am certainly forgetting. Then we had a quick dinner and went on a pub crawl that’s organized through the walking tour people. It was the two of us and an assortment of 80 english, irish, Scottish, Australian, and german people. I had some german beer, but not being much of a beer drinker myself, I tried to switch to some kind of sweeter malt beverage. This was met with many incredulous and slightly disgusted looks and firm, “NO, we don’t have any sweeter beers, why don’t you just drink liquor? (and stupid American, stop bothering me with your silly questions when I’ve got more appreciative people to serve).” It was a great group, we walked all over berlin, until 3am when I was magically nominated the person to get us home even though I don’t speak a lick of german. I got us home alright, but not before I had more disgusted sneers at my pronounciation (re: butchering) of the german subway stop names, at which point I turned to the guy and said, “don’t YOU, make FACES at ME, I don’t speak German!” So, then he took his disgusted german self to the other end of the platform.
Sunday was a lazy day, we just went to the famous flea markets. Other highlights included seeing a guy on a motorcycle get hit by a car (he was fine.) and seeing a lady almost get in a fight with a guy who was twice her size. This is how it went down.
Older chubby lady and stocky wrestler looking guy get on the subway. Older chubby lady suddenly shoves stocky wrestler guy out of the way and sits down.
SWG: what’s your problem?
OCL : you were in my way.
At this point stock wrestling guy starts to walk away, when
Older chubby lady: you’re an *expletive*
SWG: (gets in her face) says something like, I don’t know what you’re problem is, but you are obviously an *expletive*
He walks away
OCL: you stink!
Way to get the last word in older chubby lady! Many thanks to jeff for helping with the translation. So that’s it. Next stop, carcassone, a medieval city in france and one of the 1000 places to see before you die.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Exploring Lyon

This past weekend, Sara and her boyfriend Drew came to visit me in Lyon. I got to do more exploring of the city with them and we had an absolute blast. Saturday was jam packed full of Lyonnais fun! First, we visited the cathedral de Notre Dame at Fourviere. The view is just incredible and the church is done entirely in mosaic. Even the floors are pretty. Plus, they have a sweet mosaic mural of Joan of Arc that is just incredible. Sara and Drew got semi-accosted by a bird enthusiast who had set up watch on a falcon who was perched on one of the towers of the church. He was very excited and full of information. We got to look through his high powered telescope and see the falcon, who was apparently making a nest for her babies.
After that we walked down the hill to the Cathedral de Saint Jean in Vieux Lyon (the old medieval part of town). It houses this medieval astrological clock that dates back to the 1300’s. We also toured some of les Traboules which are the medieval houses with intricate courtyards and winding staircases…and doors that are only big enough for me! Take that tall kids. Drew explored an old sewage drain in between the traboules. I tried to dissuade him by telling him it was formerly a medieval sewage drain (I mean really, he could come across some medieval excrement, which is almost as gross as coming across modern excrement), but he just responded, “Yeah, FORMERLY,” and continued walking up the drain.
After a yummy lunch of Kebabs, we walked along the river to the Parc de la tete d’or (it is called the head of gold park because apparently the golden head of jesus is buried somewhere on the grounds). But I just wanted to realize my dream of paddle boating around the lake. Even better, Drew rowed Sara and me around the lake. After that, we explored the world war II memorial and the incredible rose gardens. We also saw shrek 3 and ate dinner at one of the world famous Lyonnais bouchons. To top of the night, we checked out the Vieux Lyon neighborhood party. The entertainment of two guys speaking in unison in French was not as good as watching a little French boy throw water on all the little French girls who came near him. Then all the little kids danced to the two guys speaking in unison and that was pretty hilarious, too.

In other news, I finally have internet. Sunday, I almost had a nervous breakdown because I discovered my phone was broken again. My mom convinced me not to have a nervous breakdown, but rather to call france telecom for the billionth time and sort things out. Fighting back hyperventilating in anger, I dialed the number. When the guy picked up, I started to describe my problem, when he stopped me.
Guy: Do you speak English?
Me: (kind of excited, but hesitant) um, yes.
Guy: would it be easier for us to speak in English?
Me: (shouting with joy) YES!!
Basically he told me that the line was probably dead because my internet company was working on it and to just call them. And I never would’ve gotten that in French, I can tell you that right now.
Guy: is there anything else I can help you with?
Me: (fighting back tear of joy) no, I’m just *choked back sob* so glad you speak English.
Guy: me too miss, me too.
So then I called the internet company and went into my rant, and the lady stopped me. She asked me if I had plugged in my modem and I said no. She said well just do that, it should work. AND IT DID. So, now, I am blissfully back in touch with the world via the internet and free unlimited calls to the US. The moral of the story is, just when you think France won’t stop kicking you in the face, it gives you a hug in the form of people actually doing their jobs.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Dancing Queen, Young and Sweet...

Thursday was a very special day. 1) my phone got fixed. Turns out the guy who set it up, checked the line, which was fine, and then when he screwed the outlet back in, he messed something up. Anyways, I still don’t have internet, but at least once it’s ready I can use it, now that my phone works.
2) I got to go to the tenth anniversary celebration for merial, the company I work for. It was awesome. First, we all got bussed over to the Tony Garnier Auditorium which apparently used to be a slaughterhouse, but now it’s a place where the likes of Beyonce and Justin Timberlake come to play. Anyways, we were first ushered into the building where we were greeted by a dancing horse. Then, a film screen lit up and a lady with a flower painted on her forehead began to tell us the story of the company like it was a fairytale. Then we went to another screen where some modern dancers clapped and said merial and then spelled out merial with their bodies. Of course I got excited and yelled out, “oooooh, they’re spelling it out, . This was followed by a balloon drop. Then more of the history of the company followed by confetti cannons. Then we were ushered to the final screen where we heard the end of the story, the lights were turned off, the modern dancers returned with sparklers and they danced in front of some sweet pyrotechnics, basically a mini, indoor fireworks display like at a rock concert. Then we were led into the auditorium, where we sat down for the show. It basically went two managers come out and tell the story of a certain merial division, followed by a short video of some farmer in east bumble, France giving a testimonial, then there was a short intermission. The first intermission was modern dancers, in what can basically be described as wrestling onesies (yes, even the men), jumping and dancing and clapping as only modern dancers know how. Then, there was a guy who came out pushing a mop, but then stuck the mop in his pants, put a coat on the mop, stuck one arm through the sleeve and pretended to feel himself up. There was also a juggler who dropped his balls which subsequently rolled off the stage. But the kicker was the guy who mumbled his way through candle in the wind and then they transitioned into…..wait for it….the MACARENA. It was awesome. It took me right back to the eighth grade father daughter hoedown at gps.

This weekend was another story. Friday kicked off with a lunch time birthday celebration that involved sangria. At first I thought it was just punch, but no it was my old friend. The lady who handed me my glass was like, oh this is Spanish. Ah yes, I know you well sangria. I briefly contemplated downing the whole bowl in order to make the office party less awkward for me, but then decided against it. Tough call, but I had a meeting with my boss later that required me to be lucid. But it would have made the “who do I pretend to listen to”, “how do I look not awkward”, and “should I double kiss the birthday boy and girl who I don’t know” questions a lot easier. Friday night, I went to Clermont for nanda’s friend yvan’s going away party. He’s moving to china and boy did we send him off in style.
This is Yvan!
After lots of dancing, eating and drinking we finally left his house around 5 am. The French sure do know how to faire la fĂȘte.

Dj Boz - Tara, nanda and I stayed with boz and his wife. The guy with the safety goggles is german. I don't know his name, just his nationality. Around 3 am, i decided to don the safety goggles myself.Dancing up a storm! YAY! French men can dance!

Monday, June 11, 2007

The Wedding Edition

Dance Party!

This is a special wedding edition blog dedicated to my new and extended family. This past weekend my uncle chris, who is very cool, got married to an equally cool lady, and they are now somewhere fancy in the carribean being fanned by palm fronds and drinking copious amounts of fruity tropical drinks. Congratulations, Newlyweds! Even though I spent more than 30 hours travelling there and back over four days, it was totally worth it. I have never seen a wedding this spectacular before in my life. The sheer volume of food alone would have been enough to make it an event. I was literally worn out from eating, something that I’m pretty sure has never happened before in my life, and may never happen again, so take note. The rehearsal dinner was on the water of the harbor in Baltimore. It included a dessert buffet that basically looked like someone had piled all the desserts you had ever dreamed onto one giant table to create a mountain of confection. It was like heaven. I’m actually kind of surprised that no one found me the next morning underneath the table, face covered in chocolate, sleeping off my food coma. The only disappointment is that not nearly enough embarrassing stories were told about my uncle. He’s got a bazillion and I wanted other people to share in the hilarity of classics such as him yelling “naked baby” and streaking through my mom’s young life meeting when he was little. But alas, such a dream was not to be realized.

The handsome groom.

The wedding itself was in the garden of the Mount Vernon club in Baltimore and was very elegant. For the reception, all of the guests were trumpeted to the art museum where we kicked off the reception by consuming an inordinate amount of appetizers and drinks. At one point, my mom asked me to give my cousin a cracker to which I replied, “crack her? I don’t even know her” followed by me laughing hysterically at my own joke. It’s one of my favorites, I’m not gonna lie. So then my dad said (in the driest, most sarcastic way possible), “And that’s only after one drink, think of the jokes she’ll tell after three.” But let’s face it, we all know I would have made that joke sober.

Dad breaks out his best moves in a pre-wedding dance session.

After that, we were ushered downstairs for the dinner and a family photo (finally a family photo where I’m not ten, wearing glasses and a Christmas sweater with a frilly lace collar and rhinestone buttons). There was plenty of dancing and we were allowed to wander around the museum which was fun. Sydney and I danced with our little cousins. Trina’s dancing was pretty standard for a 6 year old, but Tara, the 2 ½ year old, certainly showed us all up with her combination sumo rocking, frog jumping, break dancing, booty shaking. You’ll have to ask my sister to do a re-enactment of tara leaning forward all the way with her butt in the air and wiggling it back and forth. Not surprisingly, she was voted most likely to be in a rap video in 15 years. Ok, so Sydney and I were the only ones who voted, but that doesn’t make it any less true. I was so glad to see everyone and was pretty sad to go back to France without the fam. I mean, I still wanted to go back, I just wanted to take some people with me.
Me and Sydney with the beautiful Bride!

Monday, June 4, 2007

Emily vs. France take 1,900,001

I had my physical for work Friday morning, it was interesting, as usual. First, I thought that it was on Thursday, but when I showed up the receptionist was like what are you doing here and then I showed her my letter and she’s like, um, yeah it was yesterday. Oops, apparently I had a moment of numeric dyslexia and mixed up the dates. We rescheduled for Friday morning, and I got hassled by security, because the guy was like weren’t you here yesterday. So, I had to explain that I’m an idiot and I came on the wrong day. So, he had to call around and confirm that I wasn’t a terrorist using medical visits as an excuse to break into the animal health company. The new lady at reception in the infirmary was a total jerk to me. First, when I came into her office to tell her I had arrived, she shooed me out and told me in a not so nice voice to go be patient in the other room.
Jerkface: Have you been vaccinated?
Emily: yes.
JF: Do you have your little card
E: no.
JF: Do you know the dates of you vaccinations?
E: no, my doctor in the US has them, though.
JF: (irritated) Well is there someone you can call?
E: I guess, but not right now, it’s 2am there.
JF: (annoyed at stupid American) Here in France we have cards. Everyone must have a card. How am I supposed to know you are vaccinated?
E: Well I have my carte de sejour and I had to be vaccinated to go to school, so that’s what I got. I’m here for three months lady, lay off.
Ok I didn’t say that last part. But I should have she was all annoyed and huffy with me. Then the doctor spoke no English, so it was a little difficult to give him my family history since I didn’t know how to say I don’t have a gallbladder and my mom has high blood pressure. But he was really nice and would be excellent in a game of medical charades. It still weirds me out that you strip down to your underwear and have to sit there without a gown. Ah well. I was pronounced fit enough to do a three month stage. Yes!
This weekend started out frustrating. The france telecom guy didn’t show up because he tried to call my cell phone and he had the wrong number. When I tried to call Friday night to reschedule, the guy basically said he didn’t know what to tell me and that I should call Saturday morning. So then I called Saturday morning and understood only enough to know that I would not be having someone else come out to my house, but I didn’t understand enough to know why. Then I went to the store to talk to someone and the girl had to explain to me literally six times what had happened before the light bulb of understanding flickered above my head. I wanted to quit around the fourth explanation because I was so frustrated, but I figured now or never or rather, I would have to go to yet another store to ask since I would be too embarrassed to return to this one. Finally, near tears, I figured out that the guy who tried to come to my house transmitted my file to another technician who was going to fix my problem from a distance sometime this week. Ah, why are things so complicated? Other than that, though, I had a good weekend. I went to the parc tete d’or which is basically awesome. It has a zoo and paddle boats and softserve icecream. It was very fun. In other news, I got asked to go out for a drink twice, once by some kid with a big fake diamond earring and the other time by two drunk guys. I turned all of them down. The first kid I felt kjnd of bad about and came to the conclusion that turning people down was not the way to make friends. The second time I really didn’t feel bad, because I had just bought a ticket to go see a movie and because it’s pretty much a terrible idea to go off by yourself with two drunk French guys or any drunk strangers for that matter. Stranger danger people, stranger danger. So the new plan, is the next time one, sober person, who seems nice approaches me, I will go to drinks with them in a well lit, public area. In hind sight, I wish I had done something other than see 88 minutes because it gave me nightmares and it wasn’t that good.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Won’t you be my neighbor?

Finally met my neighors, who get up at like five in the morning every morning and bang around. It was, as most things are for me at this stage in my life, freaking awkward. I blame this on my landlady who jumped me in the hallway and dragged me into their apartment. She said, “I’d like to introduce you to your neighbors.” Then, instead of actually introducing us, we all just stood there, staring at each other, until I said, “um, je m’appelle Emily?” Good work team, that got the ball rolling. Now, I know I live next door to Jerome and Valerie who get up at five in the morning every morning and bang around. We exchanged niceties, promising to practice our respective foreign languages and then I awkwardly excused myself.
In related news, I have to admit, I am a little afraid of my landlord. Not because she’s mean, but because she is a perfectionist. For instance, she looked a little annoyed that I slapped my name on the mailbox with some scotch tape. She said that she would do something nicer this week. And when I threw some paper into the garbage can, I came home the next afternoon to find it safely placed inside a garbage bag. It was just paper! Honest. I wasn’t trying to defile the garbage can. But basically, since, the apartment is still being renovated, she comes and goes as she pleases and I just know that she’s gonna go in there on a bad day, when I haven’t had time to clean or I accidentally left dirty clothes on the floor or a wayward brassiere made it into the living room. You never know. I fear her judgement for some reason. I guess it doesn’t really matter, though, but I have this disease that my mother gave me where you can be a little (or a lot) messy, while you’re alone, but when people come over, there has to be a mad dash of cleanliness. Everything must be spotless And DON’T FORGET THE FLOORBOARDS. Ha, I blame mom, who of course is always clean with or without company coming over. There, I helped maintain the illusion.
I'm involved in an ever evolving struggle with France Telecom the french phone company. A guy came out last week to install my phone line and he said it would work that afternoon. Well, it's been a week, so last night I ventured over to the france telecom store and tried to sort things out. The lady told me the line works and that perhaps it is my phone. SO, i go buy a new phone and it doesn't work either. I go back to france telecom and another lady tries to call her service people, but apparently france telecom's phone isn't working either, so i have to come back tomorrow. I go back today and a lovely young man by the name of Julien helps me by dialing the service people, handing me the phone and dancing to the hold music. It was hilarious and mostly helpful. In short, another technician is coming out tomorrow, so hopefully that will work out. If not, "I had a guy come to my house to install my phone last week, but my phone still doesn't work, when i plug in the phone I hear nothing" branded in my brain in french.
In weather related news, it has been cold as (insert expletive here). The problem is all my winter clothes and my blanket are in Paris, so that I can take them back to the US next week, as a pre-emptive strike against the big move in august. The past few weeks have been super hot, but this week for some reason we had a cold snap. I’ve definitely had to do some creative layering. I actually took the cover of the sofa bed and used it as a blanket. Which is just sad.
In work related news, I am making some friends, who I occasionally understand. Awesome. I have lunch buddies, which was one of my bigger fears about returning to the working world in a foreign language. No one wants to have to eat lunch at their desk because no one likes them and they can’t hold a conversation. Thus, my solitude is broken for a half hour every day. Hooray.

Monday, May 28, 2007

It's the Thrill of the Fight...

In my mind, I am shadow boxing around my desk and singing “eye of the tiger.” Why, you ask? Is there a particular reason for a shadow boxing kind of celebration, or is Emily just being weird…again. HA, the joke’s on you, because I am celebrating. I actually made visible, tangible, looks-like-I’m-actually-doing-work progress. Basically, I figured out how to find year to date sales for my boss. He’ll have been gone all but two days of my first two weeks here, so I’ve had to create some work for myself. In general, my job is to analyze a bunch of data and decide what’s important (what indicates problems, growth, etc.) and put it on one excel spreadsheet that would make a monthly scoreboard for manufacturing. Right now, I am interviewing the other demand planners (in French no less) and seeing if I have a jumping off point or if I have to do this stuff from scratch. Please God, don’t let it be totally from scratch. The more I get into it the more complicated it becomes, so really I have no idea what to include and what not to.
In other, apartment related news, I ran into this little French girl who lives in my building while I was waiting for the elevator and she stuck her tongue out at me and I was so offended that I gasped and so then she was like pardon, pardon, bllalhahd margot. And I just smiled and said no problem (oh, universal smile and nod, how I love you). And then she started shouting why aren’t you responding to me, why aren’t you responding to me and I was like oh, sorry, I’m Emily and then her mom came up and said, honey that girl doesn’t speak French, leave her alone. And so I said I speak a little and the mom kind of brushed me off. That’s my story, schooled by a four year old. I met another neighbour and she invited me to a party on Tuesday, May 25th, so basically I don’t know if it was Friday the 25th or if it’s actually Tuesday. Crazy old coot. But she seemed nice. Plus free apertifs, if I can ever figure out when the party is.
Then, this morning I ran into the guy who is supposed to read the water meter. He basically came up behind me as I was trying to lock the door and scared the crap out of me. But, then I had to let him in and explain that it wasn’t just one apartment, the lady had turned it into four and I didn’t know where the meter was. He’s like, it’s in the kitchen. And I said, um, there are four kitchens in four separate apartments and I only have keys to one. So, then we actually found the meter in the hall hidden under a bench, not in anyone’s kitchen, so he was happy, then he complimented me on my French, so I was happy. All in all, a good morning.
This weekend was fairly uneventful. It was rainy and gross, so Saturday I got up the courage to get my hair cut. Try saying, if you give me bangs, I will be forced to punch you in the face in a foreign language. Or, better yet, if you give me anything even resembling a mullet, in exchange, I will shave off your eyebrows while you sleep. Not so easy now, is it? But once again, I was in luck and the lady who was cutting my hair spoke near perfect English. So, no bangs and no mullet, hooray! Sunday was even more disgusting than Saturday, so I went to the movies and saw Zodiac (two thumbs up) and Pirates of the Caribbean 3 (one thumb up, better than the second, worse than the first). I was excited because the version in english was the only one that wasn’t sold out and it made me laugh that the French people in line with me were irritated that they had to see it in English. So, a low key, but good weekend.
This week is my first full week and tomorrow I have an all day meeting in French. We’ll see how it goes.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The trouble with doors is....

Today I started work. I didn't have to go in until 2, which was nice, but I stayed until 7, booo. This is the breakdown of how I spent my time.
2:00 - Can't get in the door because i don't have a badge and found out that I don't have a badge yet, anyways, so my boss comes down to get me.

2:00-2:30 -First my boss takes me up to his office and tells me to put down my purse. Then he walks away and I hear down the hall, I would like to introduce, emily, where are you? Ahhh, i was supposed to follow him. got it. So, I get introduced to everyone in the office. EVERYONE. It's a french thing, very nice. I was on display like the letters in wheel of fortune and my boss made a lovely vanna. This is emily, no not spelled the french way, with an i-grec. She's american. You can practice your english with her and she can practice her french with you. She's going to make some pivot tables and help create some key performance indicators. Voila.

2:30-4:30 - I learn about the company, the division and what I will be doing. It was an insane amount of information that left me wondering how i possibly passed operations. Although I did see my good friend the pareto principle in there. who knew that would be used in the real world.

4:30-4:40 - tried to figure out how to turn on my computer. Yes, i pressed the on button. One of the cables was loose.

4:40-4:50 - try to open the files on the network that my boss wants me to look at. No luck. So, my boss copies the files onto a thumb drive for me.

4:50-5:05 - try to open the files on the thumb drive. No luck. Boss tries. no luck.

5:05-5:06- Make first attempt to open bathroom door. Door will not open. Retreat to desk to avoid people in the cubicle area staring.

5:06-5:30- call the help desk. get special code to open the files. files actually open. like in america.

5:30-5:31- Make second attempt to open bathroom door. Door still will not open. Hear person inside, decide facilities are in use. abort mission.

5:31-6:30- Stare at excel files and try to come up with as many questions as possible to ask my boss tomorrow, since he will be gone after that for three days. In that time, i am supposed to make friends and study data. Teaching myself is fun. weeee!

6:30-6:45 - get my own username and email account, which won't open. Boss comes. We call help desk. Success.

6:45-6:48 - Make third attempt to open bathroom door. You know that far side cartoon where the door says "school for the gifted" and pull and there's some nerd pushing as hard as he can on the door? Apparently I should have been pushing. Success and bladder relief.

6:49 - boss says i can leave. I try to leave. door to the outside will not work. check purse for crazy pills. none to be had. Go back upstairs to find boss. Who tells me that i have to have my badge to get out.

6:53 - finally leave, head hurts, need food!

That was my half day. Who know what tomorrow's full day of work holds!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Luck be a lady...

I am feeling absolutely, incredibly and undeniably blessed right now. Two weeks ago I was in tears, afraid i wasn't going to graduate, afraid i wasn't going to get a job. Then when I got the job, I was afraid that I wouldn't have a place to live. Also, that whole working thing is a little scary, too. Anyways, right now I am super happy and this is my story...
First of all, I have to whine a little bit because moving sucks...a lot. even when you only have two suitcases. I took a third suitcase full of winter clothes to nanda's house to store. She lives on the 6th floor with no elevator. That pretty much makes me want to die even when I am not lugging 60 pounds of luggage with me. But once that was done, nanda helped move my stuff to the train station from my house.
On a whim, she decided to come with me to Lyon to help me move because basically I just couldn't drag two 60+ pound rolling suitcases, plus a 30 pound backpack and my purse and my cable box that they wouldn't let me return in paris (which is a whole other story). She was an angel sent from heaven because when i got to the hotel in Lyon, they put me on the 5th floor. I asked if there was an elevator and the guy laughed at me. That's not exactly the reaction I was looking for. Just to give you an idea of how heavy my suitcase was, it took two taxi drivers to get my giant red bag into the cab. and that was just the one bag. But we finally got it up to the room which turned out to be nice and had a real toilet and a tv. Sweeeeet! Already doing better than the residence in Levallois. Then we had a yummy fancy dinner and conked out.
This morning we went to the rental agency at 9am and she gave us a list of names to call. Most people were on vacation, but one lady happened to be at the apartment and said we could come by. It was gorgeous!!!! It is above Dior and across the street from Louis Vuitton. The doors open up for you when you push in the key code. way cool! Also, one of the ministers (re: big wig) of Lyon lives there. She had just redone the apartment. Everything is brand new. It is huge and 150 euro cheaper than my place in Paris. Plus, here's the kicker, IT HAS A WASHING MACHINE. awesome. simply awesome. Plus Plus, it is in the absolute best part of town and close to the tram i have to take to work. PLUS PLUS PLUS it has a view! And i got to get out of my hotel and move in today. And it has an elevator. Basically it is the best apartment ever. It makes me feel really good about being here and really good about starting my job on tuesday. Um, can you tell I'm a little excited? It took me three weeks and a dozen crappy apartments to find my perfect paris apartment and it took me less than 2 hours in Lyon. hooray! Nanda and I walked around in a stupor all day, just amazed at how it went down. craziness. I just can't even express how much better i feel now! THE END.

Apparently the pictures don't want to load, but there will be some in a couple of days!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Gainfully Employed! Like an adult, but not...

I should start off with the most important news, I got an internship. Finally, and about a month after i was supposed to get one, but don't worry there is still at least one other person in my program of 95 some odd people that had to wait to the last minute. I am mostly happy because 1) no more interviews in french and 2) I can graduate. life is good.

For those of you interested in the details, the interview day went a little something like this. I arrived in Lyon around 10 am and checked into my hotel. I took a little nap which was rudely interrupted by the cleaning lady (who by the way had already cleaned my room). Anyways, when i wake up in a nap haze, i don't speak french, and this lady didn't speak english, so when i said "hold on" I guess she thought that meant come right on in. But it was ok, i just didn't have the where withall to say "attendez, si vous plait." Anyways, after that, I watched some nouvelle star which is the french version of american idol, very exciting and then I left for my interview which was at 2. On the way to the interview, I was sitting on the tram when something wet hit my legs. And i'm not going to lie to you my first thought was this, "Oh my god, someone just peed on me. I'm going to this interview and someone just peed on me. I'm going to smell like urine at my interview. I'm going to have urine legs at this interview. URINE LEGS." Turns out though some guy had just spilled his coke on me, which was WAY better than getting peed on. needless to say. So, i show up at merial, looking all cute and professional and trying not to be nervous. The lady at the front desk tried to tell me i must be an english teacher, but i said no, i'm interviewing for an internship and she said, oh. Then, the guy who will be my boss came to get me. He was extremely nice. I explained my resume in french (go me) and then we switched to english to talk about the job and so he could ask me interview questions. That took about an hour. Then i met with another man who i think was my boss's way of getting a second opinion about me, but he was cool too. He asked me some hard questions though, like what don't you like about french people (he's french by the way). So, I answered that there seems to be an anti-american sentiment, especially with all the tourists running around yelling at people in english and being generally rude, and that that was something i dealt with when my french was basically non-existant. He seemed content with that answer. Yay, for avoiding disparaging remarks about your interviewers nationality. Then, my boss came back and walked me downstairs and said i would hear from him on friday or monday. But he actually called friday morning and offered me the position. I am very, very excited. It's in supply chain for an avian flu vaccine. Basically, I have to figure out how to make his job easier by creating key performance indicators and manage the data on the thousand products that he oversees the logistics for. But I guess i will know more later. I start a week from today. I don't have a place to live and I don't really know anyone in Lyon. Let the adventure begin.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

3 girls, 2 guys and a manual transmission

Thursday, natallie and I randomly decided to go to Normandy the next day. When I mentioned my plans to the other imbas, jamie, sara and pfaff decided to jump on board. And that's how it came about that I volunteered myself to drive a manual transmission van 220 kilometers to the D-day beaches. Even with the navigation system on the fritz, we made it out of Paris alive. Anyone who has ever driven with me will tell you that I drive like a grandma. I always have, always will. My hands are white-knuckled and glued to the ten and two positions. Anyways, i was a little nervous about getting out of Paris but we just followed the signs and everything was fine. We arrived in Caen around one and after driving around the city for half an hour trying to find the tourist office, we just parked. This is us trying to figure out how to pay for parking. How many imbas does it take?Finally found the tourist office after deciding to ignore the signs which pointed not in the right direction and got some brochures which were basically of no help. We saw a lady with all of her hair in one dred lock which was pretty much the sickest thing i have ever seen.
After a quick lunch, natallie volunteered to drive and subsequently keep me sane, since pfaff has a tendancy to backseat drive with comments such as, "by the way, we seem to be off our route," and "geez, are you really only going 120? HA." We headed towards Omaha beach. It was absolutely beautiful. It was also pretty hilarious to see Jamie re-enact the storming of the beach. The water was cold, but that didn't keep some crazy tourists from stripping down to their skivvies to take a dip. We were too late to get into the cemetery, but we did see some people wind car racing or whatever you would call such a thing.

After that we drove to bayeux to see some churches and have an amazing traditional normandy dinner. Then, the navigation system finally kicked in, but only enough to direct us towards the round about at the arch de triumph which is eight unmarked lanes of mayhem that no one should ever drive in. scary! And natallie was driving, which was good cause you can't tell when she is freaked out, so we were probably relatively more calm than we should have been. But we came out alive, so all is well.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

An Outpouring of American Love aka Things Not Found In Paris

This past week, I went with Natallie to London and Dublin for some sight-seeing, beer drinking, leprechaun-loving, hostel-staying fun. We arrived in London first and after getting the third (and fourth) degree from customs, we were allowed in the country. Our hostel was a pleasant surprise. It was a new, clean renovated victorian mansion with free internet and the best breakfast ever (basically more than just toast). Awesome. We went to the tower of london and did the beef eater tour which was way cool and gory. Our guide gave us all the details and really painted a picture of what it must have been like for Anne Boleyn and Thomas Moore to walk. I was amazed that the military men who give the tours have to take a four hour test every day for six months to make sure they know everything there is to know about the tower. yikes. We also did the london eye which is a giant ferris wheel with enclosed pods that rotate as you go around. I had fun trying not to be afraid of heights. Not worth the money in my opinion, but it was still pretty cool. We also tried out camden market. It was amazing. It had everything from clothes, hats, socks, souvenirs to furniture and whatever else you could think of buying. We literally walked for four hours and still were not at the end of all the stuff being sold.
Saturday, we headed for Dublin back to the euro and away from the 2 to 1 dollar to pound exchange rate. At the airport, we decided to check out the duty free store and while searching for perfume natallie and were approached by two sales people. They were sooooo excited to meet us. They said, "Oh my god, are you american, that's so cute, we love americans and whenever they come into the store it's like CHRISTMAS. so, can we give you some freebies? perfume, bags, lipstick samples?" It was the exact opposite of the basic parisian reaction to americans and was really refreshing, plus i got a free lip gloss and a handbag. The moral of this story is, if you're ever feeling down, go visit emma and brad in the perfume section of the luton airport.

Then on to Dublin, where the love continued to flow our way, although it was mostly in the form of drunks and old guys. We went to the oldest pub in Ireland called the brazen head and natallie got basically molested by an old guy named Paddy who informed me that i was a true irish woman and that all i wanted was a bit of land and to pop out some wee ones. Paddy knows, he could see it in my eyes. Due to the high BAC, he was only slightly taken aback when I informed him that that was not exactly in my plans right now. Then we ran away from Paddy under the guise of having to meet more friends out or something. I basically looked at my cell phone, said look at the time and yelled that excuse over my shoulder as we sprinted away. go team.

Next we came across "Moo on the Loo" who is someone with a paper mache cow head who sits on a toilet in the middle of the street and you can take pictures with him for some loose change. Which i of course did. On the way back from the bar, the fun had just begun. I noticed coming towards us, was a very very large woman with her very very large breast in a very very large white lacy bra hanging completely out of her shirt. Being the good samaritan that I am, I walked up to her and said let me help you with that and yanked her shirt back into it's proper position. She said oh my god thank you so much, i'm a school teacher and what if the parents could see me now. Natallie and I laughed and tried to walk away, when large and in charge's slim male companion bear hugged Natallie and said, "Oh my god, you're american that is so cute can i hold you." and then proceeded to hold her until i told him large and in charge had left him. then he scampered off.

Oh, but the night was not over yet. It was around 1 in the morning and we returned to the hostel to find our roommates (two undergrads studying in paris, just like me) already asleep. Now I will tell you that I was so hopeful that we could be friends when i met them. They seemed smart and nice. So, when we got ready for bed, I tried to be extra quiet. But what really happened is I tried to put my pajama pants on, tripped over the legs of my own pants, tripped over the chair, knocked it over and fell half naked and butt first into my potential friend's suitcase. Now, i don't know what your parents taught you, but putting your half naked hindquarters in someone's belongings is not the way to make new friends. The girl, sleep mask still on, leapt out of her bed and offered me a hand out of her suitcase, which was good because not only was i stuck, but i was so frozen in horror and in an effort not to burst into hysterical, self-depricating laughter that I couldn't get up. Needless to say, the next morning, I pretended to be asleep while my roommates packed their things up to leave.

After that, Natallie and I went to the Guinness brewery and wandered around Dublin. All in all it was a good time.

In school news, I took my french language test today and I think it went pretty well. I had an interview on thursday and I did it all in french which made me proud. However, the lady told me that my resume was impressive, but she didn't think my french was good enough to be able to do the job. Sadness. Well, i did the best i could. Keep your fingers crossed that i will get an internship in the next 20 days or so. otherwise, I don't know what I'll do. Although, i'm tempted to dress up as marie antoinette and wander around versailles taking pictures with people for tips under the guise of an "entrepeneurship project." Leave any suggestions for other internship opportunities or entrepreneurship ideas:)

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Choose Your Own Adventure...or Torture, whatever the kids are calling it these days

Well, Sydney left me all alone, but I did overcome my sickness enough to take a picture with her.

I sometimes wonder why I torture myself with the french language, especially when I have to do something as scary as try to find a job! I know I'll be a better person with great skills at the end of this journey, but the getting there is tough sometimes. Last week I had my very first interview in France. It was one of the more excruciating experiences of my life. I prepped myself all night and all morning before getting on the train to go to my interview for an internship with a technology company. When I arrived, I got on the elevator and pressed 4 and nothing happened. The doors closed and the elevator went down and someone else got on and still i was pressing for. Luckily, the lady who got on had a magic key and she took me to the fourth floor where my interview was. I got off the elevator and immediately found myself in the middle of someone's office cubicle. There was nowhere to sit, so they got me a chair, so that I could sit in the middle of the workspace while i waited for the guy to come get me. He finally came and the interview started. He asked me if I wanted to do it in French or English, and I said English, which was silly, but I was so nervous at that point, I was close to tears. Needless to say, the interview was not my best, but it wasn't horrible. I haven't found out yet if I got it, but it would be an interesting job and I would have lots to do and lots to learn. I realized as I left that I am terrified of being away from the comfort zone of school and having my friends from the program around. It's definitely going to be tough once I'm in the french working world, but I bet my french will get a lot better:) Anyways, I have another interview with a pharmaceutical company next week, so wish me luck because this one will absolutely be en francais.

In other news, Natallie, my roommate from Chicago, is the latest person to visit me. It's my school vacation right now and we have certainly kicked it off. Yesterday, I picked her up from the airport and we went on a fantastic boat tour of paris. Today, we went to the champagne region (the city of Reims pronounced Rahnce) for a day trip. It was absolutely incredible. It was a beautiful day and we got to tour the pommery caves. The outside looks like a castle and the actual cellars are old Roman chalk caves that madame pommery herself switched into interconnected cellars that hold over 20 million bottles of champagne. We also saw the world's largest cask that holds 75,000 liters of champagne. Yum! We even got to taste some.

Sara and I cheers!

The other neat place in Reims was the Cathedrale de Notre Dame where 26 french kings were crowned. The first was Clovis in 498 and the last was Napolean Bonaparte himself. The tourism office is actually in the ruins of the Cathedrale and for just 12 euros we got a bus pass, a champagne cave tour, free museum tickets and a box of special pink cookies that are supposed to be eaten with the champagne. It was one of the best trips I've had yet and I bought a cheesy magnet to commemorate it. hooray. Next stop, London and Dublin.