Monday, August 11, 2008

What I've been up to... And where I've been

Dear Blog,

OK, don't say it... I know I haven't written in 2 months (I'm sorry!), but did you really expect me to blog in Europe?!  OK, well, we have a lot of catching up to do!  Where do I begin?

As you know, I moved to LA (LOVE it so far!) then went to Europe for a few weeks.  How can I even put Europe into words?  Or into one single blog entry, anyway.  I'll try my best, and take a few excerpts from my e-mails back to my family (they haven't quite caught onto blogging yet).  

I began my trip in Italy to visit my friend Shannon who had been living in Brescia for the past 9 months (although she has since moved back home due to shady Italian politics).  We travelled around a bit together and saw so many amazing things, including The Palio in Siena (amazing!) and a few nearby countries.  

But what I was most excited for was France.  Several years ago I had a French Exchange student named Elen live with me for about a month, and I have always wanted to go to France and visit her.  I took the train from Italy to Grenoble, where she had just finished up school, and we drove across the country a few days later to Vannes, in Brittany (the upper-west coast of France).  

We got into Vannes around 8pm, just in time for dinner!  We spent some time chatting with her family, then sat down for dinner around 9.  For dinner, Elen's mom brought out cheese, a huge salad, and several types of finger foods.  I was thinking, 'OK, this isn't so bad, not too full.'  Then after we were done and the table was cleared, she brought out MORE food, this time our own personal huge bowls of seafood in this amazing creme sauce and a side dish of rice.  After this was cleared, she brought out the cheese, a plate of about 10 different kinds, and bread.  Then came the desert, then the fruit, and last but not least, the coffee and the chocolate.  The meal lasted 3 hours and was a time for the family to sit and talk.  I was thinking this was just a special occasion for Elen's return home, but nope, pretty much every meal (even lunch and breakfast) followed this template.  After dinner, a nice family + Andrea walk through the town (which was so cute!) then finally bed around 2.

One difference I noticed about France versus the US is that the pace of life is so much slower.  Elen said to me many years ago that it is funny how people pass each other in the halls on their way to class and say, 'hi, how are you?' but don't even stop to chat.  I now understand her observation, because when people stop to chat in France, they have an actual conversation.  Life moves leisurely and the French enjoy every moment of it.

Along the same lines, the French work ethic is also much different.  Whereas many Americans live to work, the French work to live, and they enjoy every minute of their 6-8 week government supported vacation.  (In fact, at first I thought that the French didn't work at all, until I realized that the country was just beginning a 3 week vacation.)  Every time I mentioned that most Americans get 2 weeks vacation at best, jaws dropped around the room.  

I was also surprised how interested in politics young people are in France.  The first thing anyone said to me when I mentioned I was American was, 'America?  Ah, Barak Obama!'  And of course the political questions would follow.  So much for immersing myself in French politics during my stay!  

After a few days in Brittany, Elen and I headed to Paris to stay with her friend Magalie for a few nights, then with her brother for a few days in the suburbs.  Paris, of course, was amazing.  We saw all the sights, and even took a sight-seeing boat trip along the river.  On Bastille Day, we went to Elen's brother's friend's house, which had an amazing view of the Eiffel Tower, to watch the fireworks.    

I could go on for hours, but I'll spare you the time and end with only one Paris paragraph. :)

When I returned home, I spent a few days battling a 103.1 degree fever and a horrible stomachache.  But on a more optimistic note, I was glad the fever didn't come a few days sooner!

Now that I am back in the US (and finally well) and have had a few weeks to settle into my new city and visit with old friends and family members, I have focused the majority of my attention to the job search.  I have to admit, the time off has been nice, and well-deserved, but I don't know how much longer I'll be able to last without a job!  (Financially, obviously... but I'm bored!)  I'll keep you updated as the search continues, but for now...

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