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.