Sunday, July 19, 2015

France: Chapter 9

First off, I must confirm that their is going to be a wine and cheese night. As to when it will be, I think that is still up in the air. I only have a few days left so hopefully it works out. There has also been some speculation that the wine and cheese night may turn into a small party; I guess we will find out when the time comes. Tuesday was Bastille Day, Le 14 Juillet, Fête Nationale. Whatever you would like to call it. It is the French equivalent of the Fourth of July back home. Almost everything closes for this special celebration of liberty. Don't worry, fireworks are a thing in France, too. So on Tuesday, I head downtown around 6:30 in the evening to the Prairie des Filtres. When I arrived, there were already hundreds of people enjoying the day. It wasn't the concerts lined up that attracted the people to Prairie des Filtres, It was the prime viewing for the feu d'artifice (artificial fire, a.k.a fireworks) because Prairie des Filtres was right next to the Garonne River where the fireworks were set up. There was a twenty-minute fireworks display set to go off at 10:45 in sync with music from Harry Potter, Star Wars, the James Bond films, and other well known film scores. But before I get to the fireworks, I must touch a little bit on the concert. The concert was performed by Cats On Trees, I duo formed right here in Toulouse. There were also some special guests performing along with them, such as Ayo and Emji. None these sound familiar, I know. But I must say that the concert was very entertaining, nonetheless. Most of the concert was performed in English which was quite the surprise. Cats On Trees did a few covers of songs that I had already known so I was elated when I actually was able to sing along. Also, I must note that when I arrived to the Prairie des Filtres I said there were hundreds of people. But by the time the concert got going, there were THOUSANDS of people and I could not find any open space. Times got rough when I had to pee. Luckily I could hold it. Some highlight songs from the concert were "Jimmy","Wichita", and a cover of "Bittersweet Symphony" performed by Cats On Trees and "Fire" performed by Ayo. It was some great music, for sure. The excitement started to build up inside of me the closer it got to the fireworks show. I haven't been to a Thunder of Louisville since I started my time at Purdue so I was eager to get a refresher of the experience. It was also nice since I didn't get to celebrate Fourth of July fireworks. Here are just a few of the moments from the show, I didn't take to many pictures because I just wanted to enjoy the moment. But, all in all, it was very sufficient when it came to saturating my thirst for explosions.

Nothing else interesting happened during the week, but this past weekend (my last weekend in Toulouse) was pretty good. One of the other students doing the program (Rob) had finished his internship early because his family was going on vacation, so they were wanting to get him to another internship for the short time that we had left. He had been in Toulouse for a few days and was staying at one of the program assistant's (Anais) apartment with her and her boyfriend (Thomas) until Rob was able to leave for the next internship. Well, he was supposed to be picked up at 4:30 in the afternoon on Saturday from my place by his new host family. I had to make sure I was there to let him in and he told me he would be there at 4. It was a strange turn of events because the host family arrived at 4 and he arrived at 4:30. The new host family couldn't wait for him so he missed out on the second host family. He wasn't sure what to do so he contacted the program director and waited for a response. In the meantime, I had originally planned on going to O The Divin, the tea place I have been going to, so I invited Rob to join me. We arrived an hour and a half before it closed and ordered what we wanted. I ordered a milkshake and he ordered a cold chai tea. We sat there and talked until closing and had some really good conversations about past, current, and future events. It was probably one of the best conversations I have had. He made the point to note that he believes that some things are fated and that maybe he was meant to miss the host family so we could be at the tea place having the conversations that we did. We finished up and went on our way to Thomas' apartment since Rob had no other place to go. On the walk there, he had asked if I wanted to catch some dinner with him since he hadn't eaten all day. I agreed, but first he needed to drop some stuff off at the apartment. When we got there, Thomas and I got acquainted and Rob and I then invited him to join us for dinner. He quickly turned it around and said that we could join him for dinner at the apartment and he would cook for us. All we needed to was go pick up some pasta and a six pack. We agreed and went to go pick up the required items. Thomas ended up making us a wonderful dinner following all the French traditions. Entree (appetizer), plat principal (main dish), bread and cheese, and then dessert. For the entree, Thomas had prepared a tomato and onion salad with an olive oil dressing. It was delicious. For the main course, we had sour cream pasta with sausage. We had Camembert and fresh cow cheese (don't know the actual name) and then finished the meal off with some chocolates. Of course there was some wine and a beer thrown in there. It was a fulfilling meal. Afterwards, the three of us sat around outside and talked while we watched one of the first thunderstorms in weeks start up. It was beautiful (I forgot to mention that his apartment was six stories up and had a balcony). Rob at brought some hydromel (meade) as a gift for Thomas and we opened it up and tried it. I had never had meade before. It was very good. The bottle said that it is best mixed with one part whiskey, two parts meade so I tried that mixture, as well. It tasted really good. The atmosphere that night was great. We didn't drink fast enough to get drunk but it definitely helped relax the night. It started raining heavenly and was apprehensive about going back. I was wanting to leave so I could go to the market early in the morning the next day. Thomas offered that I stayed and slept on his futon that he had so I didn't have to return back to my place in the storm. He also made the point that the market was about five minutes from his place. He won the argument very easily so I stayed the night. The next morning, the three of us went to the market. I ended up finding a white hat that I wanted so I bought it. Other than that, my last St. Aubin market wasn't too spectacular. Thomas bought some saucisson (dried sausage) because I had never tried it and he ended up inviting Rob and me to lunch at his place. All we had to do was buy some baguettes for the meal. I kind felt that I kept on intruding but Thomas was a great man and a great host. He was very social and welcoming. After the lunch, Thomas decided to take a nap, Rob needed to journal, and I decided to head back to my place. I didn't do much after that but mentally prepare for the final week ahead. Three days of internship left. I wonder how it will go.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

France: Chapter 8

It's been a week since I last blogged. I figured now would be the perfect time since I have nothing to do and I am wide awake. It is currently almost midnight here in France and usually by this time I am getting ready for bed. But as I mentioned, I am wide awake. I am not really complaining though noting that I attribute my lack of tiredness to the cooler weather we had today (about 15 degrees Fahrenheit cooler). The canicule (heatwave) that France has been experiencing this last week has been taking a toll on a lot of people, I've noticed. The other researchers seem  to be more fatigued and require much more coffee than usual. My theory is that the heat hasn't allowed for quality sleep at night; therefore, everyone is more fatigued throughout the day. I must admit that the heat has really put a damper on a lot of things. I haven't gone out as much due to how uncomfortable it is outside so I've not had much to do but sit on my laptop and watch youtube videos (you are probably wondering at this point why I waited until now to blog but I haven't really had much to blog about). But now that I have acquired a few things to blog about here I am. Shall we begin?

This past weekend was very boring. One of the girls that I am living with travelled to Montpellier, France for the weekend to visit some of the other people in this program. Since she left, everyone kind of kept to themselves and didn't really interact. So, Saturday afternoon I decided to go to this thé (tea) place that one of the program assistants had recommended: O Thé Divin. I get there, walk in, and one of the ladies working there told me to have a seat outside. In English. I must add that I was very relieved to hear her speak English. There is something very relaxing about hearing a new voice speaking your native language (even if it was with a French accent). Of course, being at this thé place for the first time I felt inclined to get some thé plus a fraisoffee (pretty much strawberry cake), as you can see pictured below.
I immediately regretted the decision to order tea once I noticed that everyone else was drinking shakes or smoothies. Of course! Only someone crazy would order a hot drink when the temperature is in the high 90s. I guess that made me crazy. Anyways, besides the scorching heat continuing to put a damper on things, I was quite happy that I was able to enjoy an afternoon tea. It was very delicious and was complemented nicely by the fraisoffee.

The following morning, I continued my tradition of going to the St. Aubin marché. I have been searching everywhere for a new hat but I have not found the one that I must have. The first two times to the market I was with someone else, this time I was alone. It is always nice, because the route that I take to go into the market always take me past the spot where there is always something musical going. I always have to stop and listen. This time it was just own guy and his guitar. He sang his own rendition of "Hallelujah" and, even though he had a French accent, it didn't sound half bad. Walking through the market I stumbled upon someone from the program that was in Toulouse with her host family selling fresh jus de pomme (apple juice). It was a nice surprise to see her so I talked to her for a few minutes before buying apple juice and continuing on my way. I didn't buy anything else that day besides some lukewarm empanadas, but I wasn't complaining because the guy selling them spoke perfect English (didn't even have a French accent, but his French had an English accent to it). The market was the only thing interesting that I did on Sunday.

Monday was boring. I went to my internship and did the usual stuff. I wish I could tell you all what the "usual stuff" is but I cannot. My colleagues (I guess I can technically call them colleagues) are trying to throw together a wine and cheese night so we can try and get to know each other better. I'm hoping it actually happens. My tutor is a PhD student that actually speaks English pretty well. His name is Dr. Romain (insert last name here after I figure it out) but everyone just calls him Romain. I think he is awkwardly hilarious mainly because he just speaks whatever comes to his head. He has done a really good job in my opinion integrating me in with everyone else. I am very appreciative of that. He already trusts me to do a lot of the lab stuff by myself which makes me happy because that means I can do more of it. 

Tuesday was also boring and still incredibly hot.

Today wasn't so bad. It went by really fast, the weather was nice, and I finally got some postcards sent out (I've been trying for about a week now to send them out). I had to go to La Poste to get stamps and send the postcards out so while I was out in town I decided to go to O Thé Divin for a second time. Since it was much cooler, I did not hesitate, not did I regret, ordering a thé and a dessert. This time I ordered La Paradis Blanc, which is a white chocolate dessert thing that is just heaven in your mouth.
I started to get the feeling that I would also start this as a tradition because it is fairly cheap and really good. On my back to the metro, I stumbled upon these street performers that absolutely puzzled my mind.
They appeared to just be levitating to some degree and I just couldn't figure out how they were doing it. I definitely stood there for a bit trying to understand how they were pulling it off. But, I guess some mysteries are best unsolved. Earlier today at my internship, Romain was telling me about a movie that he watched last night and told me that I should watch it when I got the chance. It was called "About Time" and it is a British Romance Comedy, or something along those lines. I spent my evening watching the movie after I got back from having tea. I actually watched it right before I started this blog entry. It was a lot better than I expected and would definitely watch it again. I would explain what it is about but it would take way too much time and I am getting quite tired of typing. I apologize for the abrutpness but I think I am going to end this chapter right here. I hope I am still keeping it somewhat interesting for those reading. Au revoir et bonne nuit!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

France: Chapter 7

I have to say, even though I cannot stop bragging about how amazing the food is here in France, I just cannot wait to be back eating some good ol' American cuisine. Things that I miss: sweet tea (Peace Tea, Arizona, Gold Peak,etc), 2% milk, orange juice WITH pulp, Steak N' Shake, Taco Bell, MEXICAN FOOD, just some simple take out pizza, American breakfast with all the fixings, and the list goes on and on. I have started to think about how relieved I am going to be when I arrive back in Indiana. Even though it will be hard to leave this place and all of the wonderful people I have met and made friends with, it will be nice to be able to communicate with ease. I swear, as my French gets better my English gets worse. I often find myself forgetting what words I am trying to say and I have to stop and think for a few seconds before I can finally pick it out. It is actually very strange and annoying.

I found out yesterday that I will be receiving a four day weekend from July 11th - July 14th due to a French national holiday on the 14th: Bastille Day. I may be wrong, but I believe it is the French Independence Day. Summer is definitely the best time to visit France apparently because there is always something going on.

Indianapolis has this place called "Better Being Float Center", where they have multiple rooms with float tanks. If you do not know what a float tank is, it is a tub filled with 10" of what and has 900 lbs of dissolved Epsom Salts. It is supposed to make you feel weightless and take all of the stress and pressure off of one's joints, bones, and muscles. It is supposedly healthy for mind and body. It is only $59 for 90 minutes and I have been considering doing this for over a month now. I am still considering it, but I think it would be a good time to unwind and reflect on the previous 8 weeks in France. Believe me, there will be a lot of reflection to do.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

France: Chapter 6 1/2

Having all these experiences here in France has made me realize how much this world has to offer and how much I had been missing out. I have had some inspiration and I am going to create a bucket list before I return home. Many attempts at creating a bucket list in the past have failed. Here's hoping the final four weeks will give me the revelations I need to get one started.

Monday, June 29, 2015

France: Chapter 6

So I got moved into my new apartment/house this morning. It is right next to the campus where I am doing research so the location is five-star. It has really good wifi; my room is a nice size; the living area is very comfortable; and the kitchen isn't too bad (it is kind of set up weird). But, there is no air conditioning. Which is fine because I am used to it, but it is supposed to be in the high 90s this week! A few others who are at their internships had temperatures at 109 degrees at their locations! Just hoping it will not stay past this week. So the day of research went pretty well I would say. The sad news for the people reading this is that I cannot tell what research I am actually doing because I signed a classified contract this morning saying that I will not speak about what I see or what I do pertaining to the research. Sorry! I can say that my tutor speaks English pretty well. But they speaks French to me until I get lost. Which, surprisingly, didn't happen as often as I thought it would. I can also say that I may have a lot of late nights doing work for this internship on my own time. I don't have a problem with that at all, either; I am ready for the academia again. They informed me today that I will have. a four day weekend my third weekend into the internship because the Tuesday is a national holiday and no one will be there Monday. Needless to say. I did not complain. Exhaustion has been kind of setting I guess in all aspects because I was very fatigued today. Yesterday evening I had a Charlie horse for five minutes in my left hamstring and I was definitely feeling it this morning. I made sure to go and buy some bananas at the store today and drink a lot of water. Now, all I need is sleep. So I am going to cut the post of here and get ready for tomorrow. Bonne soirée (Bonne journe depending on the time zone)!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

France: Chapter 5

The first four weeks are finished. It is hard to believe that it has gone by this fast and it is kind of saddening. People have already begun packing and shipping off for their internships, and there is a lot of downtime for me. My internship will be here in Toulouse. I will be doing research in a lab at the same university that I have been studying at during my time here. My tutor that I will be doing research under is Dr. Alban Jacques. I checked out his Facebook page and he seems like a very interesting man. My only hopes are that our personalities work together and he speaks English better than I speak French. I do know that he is a biochemist and biologist (very similar to what I am studying) and that he is very into music (his Facebook said he used to be an independent artist musician improviser). For the details about what research I will actually be doing, I have none. So tomorrow, I will be checking out of my flat at two in the afternoon and moving half a mile down the road to a small apartment building that is right at the front gate of campus. It will be me and two others from this program living there. If this place has AC, I will be in heaven. 

The last seven days have been very eventful. Saturday evening of the free weekend, a large group of us were going to go to the last day of the Rio Loco music festival. Me and three others decided we had enough music the previous three days and we were not really interested in the genre of music being played that day (it was occitaine). So instead of going to Rio Loco, we decided to go out to a bar. We ended up making friends with three older French girls that night, and the following morning one of the girls took me to the St. Aubin market, which is comparable to an American farmers market. I was planning on going to the market anyways but having a local show me around made the experience even better. I believe everything at the market was organic and fresh. There was cheese, fish, bread, pastries, all kinds of meat, plants, cacti, and many other things. While at the market, we ran into one of the program assistants. I felt kind of awkward in the moment because I was with a girl that I had just met the previous night. It was kind of like the feeling you get when you are embarrassed after being caught doing something you should not have been doing. She likes to tease me now about being with the French girl at the market. I think it's funny every time she brings it up. But anyways, later on in the day, there was fête de la musique. Which is a festival of music all over France in celebration of the summer solstice. A lot of us went downtown and there was music literally being played everywhere. And if you weren't playing music, you were dancing. It was one of the coolest cultural experiences I have had. People of all ages were out and about celebrating. Everyone was involved. Monday, we had our French language evaluations. It was a lot easier than I expected it to be. Which was very nice. One of the other guys from Purdue had his 21st birthday that day, so about 20 of us went out that night. I didn't drink hardly anything because it was a Monday night and I was exhausted from the weekend still. But some people drank. A lot. Two events happened that night that will definitely be a sort of black mark on this trip. People left the bar at different times so we didn't return in a group, so I wasn't a witness. But the guy who turned 21 ended up falling and breaking is arm. He needed surgery to put everything back into the right place. I wish I could say that was the worst thing that happened that night. But there was another guy from Missouri, that was super drunk, and was locked out of his flat. He thought he could get into his flat through the balcony so he attempted to climb up to the balcony, but he failed. He ended up falling about 25-30 feet. His jaw and wrist were broken and he had some misalignment to his spin. He was very fortunate that he wasn't paralyzed. Also, his father was in Brussels at this time so he had someone that could get to him fast. He obviously won't get to do his internship and I believe he will be leaving for the US today or tomorrow. On Tuesday, we had a day full of cooking French cuisine! It was a gastronomy workshop where we had chefs guide us in cooking a full meal. I wish I knew the names of the food that we prepared but they were very different. The worst thing that I tasted was a dish that looked like a cupcake, but replacing the icing was a duck liver paste. Absolutely disgusting. Luckily we finished with fruit kebabs and banana mousse. It was a good day. Wednesday afternoon the viticulture option group visited Château Plaissance for a tour of the vineyard and winery. We finished the tour with a wine tasting. Then, Thursday was spent all day in Bordeaux at Château Mèmoires. We finished that tour with a wine tasting. Yesterday was the last day of classes, and there could not have been a better finish. We finished with a wine tasting in the morning and a somewhat easy exam in the afternoon. It has been a very busy week. Then tomorrow, I am meeting a Canadian girl in the morning and I will be giving her a tour of Toulouse. How this came about was very random but I just went with it. One of the guys on the trip, his name is Rob, had started talking to the Candian girl on Tinder. She is here in France with an exchange program as well. Anyways, she does not speak any French and she is by herself. She had asked Rob if he could give her a tour of Toulouse but Rob has to leave this weekend for his internship. So he asked me to give her a tour and I said why not. So I will be giving her a tour of Toulouse tomorrow. I have seen a picture of her and she seems kind of cute. Maybe I can make another friend. 

Anyways, I'll have more free time probably once my internship starts so hopefully I can post more than once a week. Au revoir. 

Monday, June 22, 2015

France: Photos (Set 2)

I am looking into ways to post videos on here but I have yet to figure it out. Hopefully photos are good enough! 

Petit-déjeuner at the Capitol
Le dessert at a small café. Part trois of a three course meal. (Caramel dish, fruit dish, chocolaté dish)
Tasting some delicious red wine 
Hugh Masekela at Rio Loco
At the beach in Barcelona (Photo credit: Owen Moore)