Sunday, December 30, 2007
On Saturday evening we caught our flight to Marseille. As I'm sure you remember, we had a long layover in London which required us to switch airports and amuse ourselves for 8 hours or so. To pass the time, we decided to spend the day at the Tower of London.
As you can see, the London fog really gave us the impression that we had gone back in time. It was impossible to see any modern buildings while touring the Tower of London. While the weather wasn't the best for my recovering cold or photos of the city, we had a good time taking the tube and touring a bit of the city.
The fog didn't lift all day; the closest we came to seeing the sun was when we emerged from the left luggage counter at King's Cross Station. We did not capture photographic evidence of this amazing moment.
Funnily enough, it seemed to us that most of the tourists we encountered were French. They must have taken advantage of the beginning of the school holiday to spend a long weekend in London. Every time we heard another French-speaking group of vacationers we were reminded of our final destination.
After all of that, it was time for us to take the train to Gatwick. British Air has a new option of printing out your boarding pass in advance; all you have to do is drop off your checked luggage and you can go on in. We used this option in Washington, which was great! We used the "preferred passenger" check-in line and were out in at least half the time of the normal people. However, we ran into two problems at Gatwick: everyone there seemed to have printed out their tickets in advance; and I threw away our boarding passes before getting to the check-in station.
Luckily I knew which trash can they were in, so I ran downstairs and pulled them out (in front of a couple of disgusted passengers). The line for the checked baggage was a quite a bit longer than in Washington, but we made it through. At least half of the flights leaving from Gatwick that day had been cancelled due to the fog. Luckily our plane was only delayed by an hour, which we used to try to stay awake.
We finally arrived in Marseille at midnight. My left ear was completely clogged and I was ready for bed, so when we walked out of customs to find le Parisien and Jube's Marseillais cousin with cameras flashing in our faces, I was less than thrilled. Jube was very happy to see everyone, and was in a much better mood. We finally fell asleep at around 2am French time, with Jube assuring everyone that he would be up and about by 9am. We woke around noon the next day...
Thursday, December 20, 2007
First, I had to live through exam week. I had reading, papers, exams, work... But now it's done. I have my final grades and I'm ready for vacation.
My mom came down to Norfolk last Friday to pick me up. I have more vacation than Jube does, so I decided that she could take me to spend this week in Northern Virginia with my family. Jube is still in Norfolk.
On Friday we took Mom to the Pagoda restaurant for dinner. When it came time to pay, she realized she had forgotten her purse. No problem, I can pay, right? Well, since I had recently made a purchase in the UK with my credit card (remember those 12 hours in London? I have to buy things like tube passes), my card company blocked it. I usually only carry around one credit card, in case my wallet is stolen. It didn't work out for me that night!
Jube pulled out his credit card to pay, but unfortunately it is the same account. Which was blocked, remember? So I figured I would walk a couple of blocks to an ATM where I would withdraw the money. However, since I was so frazzled from the credit card fiasco, I couldn't remember the correct PIN for my card! I entered the PIN from the card I used throughout college, Spain, and France. I lost my new ATM card in the machine. So we had no way to pay for dinner!
Let me recommend the Pagoda Teahouse. The ambiance is amazing, the food is inexpensive, and the waiters let you leave without paying if you promise to come back the next day with your *working* credit card.
I was expecting a relaxing week at home, but I caught a cold, so I've been spending my "extra" week of vacation sticking q-tips up my nose (it's supposed to get you over your cold faster... I'm waiting!), popping pills, and reading. I really hope to be over my cold by the time I get on the plane Saturday.
Vacation, I'm still waiting!
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
"If you want to learn about France and its language, what better person to learn from than Jube? She is a native of France, educated at Universite Montpellier III in the south of France, and she has worked at several middle and high schools in France as an English teacher. Her informative course will cover beginning French for travelers/tourists, a discussion of contemporary French culture, and analysis of French stereotypes."
"One of my coworkers pointed it out to me," he said. "I guess the first thing I do will be to make sure they know I'm the teacher! Actually, maybe I could get you to teach the class... they'll never know the difference!"
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Have a wonderful week!
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Le Pacha: "I'll be on vacation, and I'll bring my friend Manou! I told him that he could see some hot girls in the States."
Me: "Oh really!"
Le Pacha: "Yeah, that's right! Everyone thinks that the girls in the US are fat because they eat at McDonald's all the time. But there are skinny girls, for sure!"
Me: "And you tell your friends?"
Le Pacha: "Yeah, I tell all of them, 'Open your eyes, guys! [Détrompez-vous!] I went to America and there are definitely skinny girls there!' I show them pictures, and they all say, 'Well, they must not eat at MacDo.' I even tell them about your brother's girlfriend, that she's vegan or vegetarian, I don't know which, but that she definitely doesn't eat there."
Me: "You know she isn't vegan anymore, she eats cheese and eggs."
Le Pacha: "That must be because she visited France and tried all the good cheese!"
Me: "Yeah, that must be it. And what do you say about your belle-soeur, do you say she's fat because she eats at MacDo?"
Le Pacha: "No, you're skinny! But I can't tell my friends that you're hot, you're my sister now!"
Me: "Okay. You can come visit us in the US."
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
We had already gone out to eat for our anniversary on Friday night. We headed to The Monastery restaurant in downtown Norfolk. It is a very nice place with an Eastern European theme. I had duck with sauerkraut while Jube had the entrecot de boeuf grille aux champignons - the waitress said that he was the first person to pronounce it correctly.
The part of the meal that I was most excited about was our appetizer - raclette! It wasn't real raclette, since the cheese was pre-melted for us and came out as a puddle on the plate, but it tasted very authentic.
And that was how we celebrated our first year of marriage!
Friday, November 02, 2007
It was a cute joke, but it reminded me of my junior year in high school when my friends and I would put together our own Lunch Party! every Friday. It operated on basic potluck principles, with everyone bringing a dish and sharing. I usually brought the drinks, 2-liter plastic bottles of pop. I even bought plastic champagne glasses from a party supply store. I'd bring them to the Lunch Party! and rinse them out afterwards, keeping them in my locker for the next Friday.
One of my friends was the editor of the school paper and wrote an article about Lunch Party! (forever immortalizing the silly exclamation point). Another one of my friends painted a posterboard that said "Lunch Party!" and hid it behind the pop machine in the cafeteria. I think it lasted for a couple of weeks before one of the custodians threw it away.
I hadn't thought about Lunch Party! in years. High school might not have been the best four years of my life (as promised in my class's valedictorian speech), but I had a good time with good friends.
Thursday, November 01, 2007
The only good thing about having such a long layover is that it will give Jube and me the chance to visit London together. I've been there twice before, and he has been there once, so we'll be able to take touristy pictures in front of the Houses of Parliament, ride the London Eye, have tea at the Orangery and be able to say, "We visited London!" Of course, the $400 we saved on our tickets will probably all be spent during our time in England.
I've been having a good time planning our "trip." I learned the importance of planning these things out during our trip to Vienna in 2005. We were visiting one of my friends who was teaching in Austria, and that was about all the planning I'd done. We managed to do lots of fun stuff - touring the Hapsburg palace, the cathedral catacombs, checking out Schonbrunn, and even watching the Lipizzaner stallions practice. We also had a huge fight that almost ruined our trip when my friend and I lost Jube; we didn't eat at any nice restaurants because neither of us had any idea where to find one; and we didn't even visit the art gallery that I discovered later was full of Klimt.
Our 12 hours in London will be really great with all the planning I've put into them. Now we just have to hope that we won't be too jetlagged to enjoy them...
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
So after I ordered it, Jube teased me for awhile. You see, Jube has some kind of resentment for Apple... He says it's because everyone thinks they are SO COOL but really it's just overpriced and we should all buy the "normal" stuff because it's better. But when my refurbished iPod came in the mail, he realized that this made it affordable.
Of course, it hasn't softened him toward Apple.
But it has made him scour the internet for refurbished deals. I've had to deal with him saying, "One of these days we'll get one of those flatscreen TVs so I can play video games on it." But he knows we can't afford one right now. The problem is, now I'm hearing things like, "We can get this Philips TV for only $300! Isn't that a great deal?"
Oh well. At least the new Radiohead album is pretty rad on my new iPod!
Monday, October 29, 2007
Jube has been super nice lately. Today, while I was checking out some stuff on the internet, Jube gave me a nice back massage and gave me a little cuddle. And then he said, "You know I must really love you, right?"
"I guess so," I said, jokingly.
"No really, look! See that?" he said, pointing at my MagLite, Sleek*.
"Yeah," I said.
"Well, I use that in the morning instead of the light so I won't wake you up when it's dark outside!"
"Gosh, that's really nice!"
"Yeah, and yesterday, I went all the way down to the car when I realized that I hadn't reset the alarm for you. And I came all the way back up so you could make it to work."
I really have a nice husband, it's true!
*My brother JW and I used to go camping every summer with my dad. We had bought this humongous MagLite that used about 6 D batteries. It was named Big Ben. Then one year we lost Big Ben, probably at MidOhio. The following summer Dad bought us both our very own normal-sized MagLites that we promptly named. Sadly I forget what JW named his, but mine was named Sleek. And then at my wedding Dad gave it back to me. We also bought an even bigger MagLite that we named (of course) Bigger Ben. Now Jube just thinks it's funny that I have one of those flashlights they use on Cops...
Sunday, October 14, 2007
-Gotten a haircut! Yes, my hair is newly styled. I like it a lot. I have to admit that I'm still having the urge to cut it all off to where it was a year ago when Belle-maman cut it for my wedding...
-Eaten sashimi and sake. We tried a new restaurant--Domo in downtown Norfolk. It was really good and we ended up eating tons of food.
-Finally read the last Harry Potter book. Better than I expected.
-Helped Jube pick out some new suits.
-Bought this really neat lamp/aroma-spreading-thingy at Disabled Army Veterans Thrift Store.
What I haven't done... well... let me start at the beginning. I really like Radiohead. I have since high school, but I was too embarrassed to tell my friend Robyn. That's kind of weird, because she's the one who first played me a Radiohead song or showed me one of their albums. But basically I was too embarrassed to tell her that I really liked the same band she did. And I still haven't told her. So, hey Robyn! I like Radiohead! I actually went to see them in London in 2003! And it was awesome!
And I haven't yet bought their new album. My dilemma is this: they have made it available online--a download--but they make you pick the price. That's right, the consumer decides how much to pay. And every time I go to the webpage to buy it (I've been there at least 3 times), I get choked up on how much I should pay. Should I support my favorite band and pay more than I would if I were buying a normal CD at the store? Should I go for the wimpy way out and pay exactly the same as another CD? Or should I go with my base miserly instincts and pay nothing?
Plus I don't have an mp3 player, so it makes for a very tough decision...
Saturday, October 06, 2007
Jube told me how funny it seemed that I was just hearing the song for the first time. "It reminds me of summers in Mende spent at my aunt's house. I was young..." he broke off, reminiscing. Then, as Francis sang "quand meme" in the song, he turned to me, excited, saying, "Hear his Southern accent?" It reminded me of how he played me a song when we first started dating, a song whose singer lingered over the word moquette to show that he was really from the South. Today I can hear the difference, but at the time I heard nothing.
Anyway, whether you can hear a southern French accent or not, here is the song:
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
Chirac opens among cheers and protests
What is this? What is Chirac doing in the news? Who was cheering? Who was protesting? What the heck was he opening? The one-line summary was obscure as well, something about fetuses and boos. I clicked on the link. I then realized that I had misread the title. Instead of Chirac, it was "Clinic opens among cheers and protests". It makes more sense, except... am I really that obsessed with France? I didn't use to think so...
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
I started working out three weeks ago. I didn't want to talk about it on here too much because, well, I'd just started. I've never worked out before... I used to play racquetball and swim two or three times a week, but ODU is undergoing some really annoying construction which has closed the pool and the racquetball courts. Actually, I don't know if there ever were racquetball courts, but the new Rec Center will have some. It's due to open next spring, about a month before I finish my master's program. Very convenient timing for me, isn't it?
There are two weight rooms open on campus, as well as basketball courts and soccer/field hockey/lacrosse fields, but I don't play any of those sports. My boss encouraged me to sign up for the Monarch Quick Fit Program. It basically gives you a commitment to work out three times a week, half an hour for weight training and half an hour for cardio each of those days. When I went in for the initial explanation, I was shown 8 different weight machines. On the first one, my personal trainer (for 10 minutes!) asked me what weight I normally used. "Uhh, I've never used any of these machines before," I answered. I didn't realize that I looked so muscular and strong! Even a seasoned professional couldn't tell that I don't normally work out! Why did I sign up for the Quick Fit program again?
But it's been good, I've been keeping to the workout schedule and have already lost 3 pounds. It's very exciting! So that's something GOOD that has been happening lately.
What's something BAD? Well, our toilet has been acting up lately. The water just keeps running and running without collecting in the tank or the bowl. I figured out that it has to do with the black rubber stopper that regulates the flow of water in the tank. But, since we live in an apartment building (where they just raised the rent by $30!), I was not about to buy a new rubber stopper and install it myself! I informed the apartment manager on Friday. We lived this weekend by turning the water on and off and manually adjusting the rubber stopper so that we could flush the toilet. It's super annoying, too! I was tempted to follow the "yellow is mellow, brown goes down" rule, but Jube thinks that it's pretty disgusting to do that. I have to admit, though, that at 4:00 in the morning I wasn't about to turn the water on just to flush.
Today, after having complained again to management yesterday, someone came by to fix the toilet. She worked on it for awhile and then told me, "It should be fine." She left, and the water kept running... and running... and running... Obviously she hadn't fixed the toilet at all! So I ran downstairs to the management office (which, by the way, is only open from 10am-1pm, so it's hard to catch them when you work!) to try to get her before she left. The apartment owner was very unhappy that we had had to wait nearly a week to have the toilet fixed and came up to fix my toilet himself. Now it's working again, and I'm very happy to know that I can flush the toilet whenever I want.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
So far we've tried two different restaurants in Ghent. One was wonderful, but a bit expensive (for us, of course!). The Green Onion serves "large entrees" and "small entrees," has an extensive wine list, and also offers artisanal cheeses for appetizer or dessert. Jube enjoyed a "large" pork tenderloin served with vegetables and spaetzle, while I had an amazing "small entree" of baby artichokes served with crab meat. Wonderful! We finished the night with a five-cheese plate. As is common in America, the cheese was served with crackers. Jube refused to eat any of the cheese until he had ordered bread with it. It may be the best meal I've had since moving to Norfolk (and it was certainly the most expensive!). The other was an okay Italian restaurant--nothing amazing, but nothing bad either. The prices were definitely more reasonable than the Green Onion.
This Friday, after our meal, we went to see 2 Days in Paris (careful, there is noise). (For those of you who haven't heard of it, the plot involves a French woman and her American boyfriend visiting her parents in Paris before heading home to New York.) Before it started, Jube told me he was worried that it would just be a big mess of French and American stereotypes. Instead it turned out to be an over-the-top farce about a couple in crisis that didn't rely on culture clash to make its point. Of course, there were some hilarious scenes involving our American at home with his French "in-laws"--these scenes reminded me of my first trip to France, in fact! It was like Meet the Parents in Paris--because what is meeting your significant other's family if it isn't culture shock? (Actually I thought it was much better than Meet the Parents; though just as farcical there weren't as many pratfalls--plus there was full-frontal male nudity, so that's always a plus.) Anyway, I do recommend the movie. Most everyone in the theater seemed to love it as much as I did, so maybe you will, too.
And that has been Date Night in Norfolk with Gem and Jube. Let's see what happens next week when they consider seeing Mon Meilleur Ami (My Best Friend).
Monday, September 17, 2007
Suddenly our door burst open. Jube looked up, surprised. I shrieked a little bit, startled at the intruder. And a young Indian man, looking even more shocked than we felt, started stammering out an apology.
"I am so sorry!" he said, in his lilting accent. "I thought this was 514, not 513!"
He was so uncomfortable and embarrassed that I had to stand up to shut the door for him--he had thrown it open so that it was resting at 90 degrees from the exterior wall, and he didn't want to take the step in to our apartment that closing the door would require.
"That's okay," I said, "No harm done!"
When he left, I burst out laughing. Jube winked at me, saying, "At least you were wearing decent clothes!"
I had almost forgotten about this, but on Sunday my mother asked me over the phone if we had met any of our new neighbors yet...
Sunday, September 09, 2007
This was the main festival street, King's Way. It was paved with stone and brick, lined with vendors and full of people!
This was a cool optical illusion we saw. The Bay Days has a "Bay Education" section for children, with ideas on how to conserve water, protect the native Chesapeake species, and have a good time doing it. The kids loved this spigot sans pipe, and were very confused about how it worked.
There were also three or four different stages with music at the Bay Days festival. Here we listened to Slapwater, a band that covered funk and pop tunes and featured a guitar player who looked like Santa Claus! I love this picture--I call it "Funnelcake Love," and it features a native American couple sharing a plate of sweet fried goodness. Although I usually enjoy fried foods, like any good American, I am not a big fan of funnelcake. This disappointed Jube, since he preferes his friture sweet. He couldn't bring himself to buy a $5 funnelcake all for himself, though. Instead we ate burgers and chips in a churchyard and then headed home for a relaxing evening.
Thursday, September 06, 2007
When I got home, I unwrapped the chocolate and took a look at the love poetry. I was very surprised to find that the poem was Shelley's "Love's Philosophy"--the same poem that my cousin read during Jube's and my wedding! It's been about 10 months since we were married and the wedding is not often in my thoughts. What a nice reminder to receive (and even better, it came with chocolate).
Of course my memory was tainted when Jube said, "That's what she read? Who picked that?" Which, of course, prompted me to vigorously defend myself by pointing out that he had had final veto power over all of the points of the wedding, and then he had to defend himself by saying, "No, no, I'm not saying I don't like it. I do like it! I just don't remember it..." which then... but you don't care, do you? Just enjoy today's chocolatey love poetry:
Love's Philosophy, by Percy Bysshe Shelley
The fountains mingle with the river,
And the rivers with the ocean;
The winds of heaven mix forever,
With a sweet emotion;
Nothing in the world is single;
All things by a law divine
In one another's being mingle--
Why not I with thine?
See! the mountains kiss high heaven,
And the waves clasp one another;
No sister flower would be forgiven,
If it disdained its brother;
And the sunlight clasps the earth,
And the moonbeams kiss the sea--
What are all these kissings worth,
If thou kiss not me?
Monday, September 03, 2007
On Saturday, Jube and I biked from our apartment to downtown Norfolk, where we caught the ferry to Portsmouth.
It only costs a dollar each way. In Portsmouth, there was a Labor Day Sidewalk Sale, but it wasn't very interesting. I bought some stationery and we enjoyed walking around Old Towne Portsmouth a little bit.
After our return trip, we visited the Pagoda Tea House and Restaurant for a drink before biking back home. The inside was as nice as the outside. We had our drinks on the second floor of the Pagoda and were able to take some pictures outside on the balcony.
In the Pagoda, we were seated next to a table with a couple at it. They were really amazing, drinking 3 bottles of sake, two strawberry daiquiris and two beers between them in the time it took Jube and I to finish our tea and Diet Coke (though Jube did get a refill). By the time they got up and went outside to take their own photos, we were surprised they could even walk straight.
After we biked back to our apartment, Jube said, "I've had a great day, really relaxing." I was surprised--biking 7 miles isn't exactly relaxing in my book. It was definitely fun, though!
On Sunday we went to the Zoo again, where we were treated to a prairie dog fight, a spider monkey fight, and a Pavlovian chorus of pigs squealing to be fed. Le Pacha happened to call as we were walking by the pigs, and to prove that we were at the Zoo, Jube put the phone up to their noses.
"Tu vois, c'est un cochon!" Jube said. (See, it's a pig!)
"Non, je crois pas. C'est Gem qui fait le bruit," le Pacha answered. (I don't believe it. It's Gem making the noise.)
Thursday, August 23, 2007
While riding my bike to work on campus, I found it much more difficult to navigate with students clogging the sidewalks and crosswalks. Classes start on Monday. The year has cycled back around and we're ready to begin again.
Saturday, August 18, 2007
Definitive proof that Maxim is the Devil's Work arrived in our letter carrier's pouch today...
In other news, le Pacha called us today to tell us he is feeling sick, and even threw up! Because of this, he wasn't able to go to the free concerts on the beach in Palavas les Flots. Belle-maman, who called on his behalf and wanted to tell me that he had a little upset stomach, managed to get past her own squeamishness and tell me le Pacha a gerbe! Then she laughed and laughed, providing definitive proof that she reads my blog.
Finally, as if we needed more proof that Jube has a bad memory, we received a Netflix movie in the mail yesterday that neither of us had heard of. The Host is a Korean horror flick in the tradition of Shaun of the Dead (in that it doesn't seem to take itself too seriously, although it was not meant to be as funny). A nasty mutant monster that looks like a three-way cross between a squid, a newt, and an ugly fish begins terrorizing Seoul and kidnaps a 13-year-old girl. Her messed-up family goes after her, hindered by misinformation spread by the US government (who also, by the way, created the pollution that gave birth to the monster). He denied that he had ever heard of the movie and hadn't put it on our queue--and as proof that I was the one who had chosen it, he said, "You're the one who always wants to watch Japanese movies." But then he recanted when he found out it was Korean.
Next on the list? A Year in the Life of Metallica: Part 1. Seriously.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
So what's new besides work? Nothing much. I've been doing a lot of reading... Since Digging to America I've read The Telling, The Road, and Le Petit Prince. Fun.
Oh! And followup to my battles with the magazine company... We finally received a refund for our Maxim mixup! I was very happy to get a check in the mail.
I'm sure interesting things have been happening to me, but I can't think of any at the moment. Umm...
We saw Rush Hour III last weekend. I love Jackie Chan, but Jube was a little bit annoyed at the "anti-French propaganda." It was not the best movie in the world, but I found it entertaining. We went on opening night, to a sold-out theater, and everyone laughed and enjoyed themselves.
Then on Sunday we saw Sicko. Wow, what a movie to make you nostalgic for France! I was just thinking about calling the Student Health Center to renew my prescription, and seeing Sicko made me long for the days when I could go to the pharmacy and get it for free (6 Euro up front which was reimbursed to my account later).
Okay, that is enough for tonight. Hopefully I'll have a real post for you soon.
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
The other day I was browsing the leisure section of the ODU library and came across Digging to America, her latest book. I picked it up because it was by Anne Tyler, and I was amazed to find that it mirrored a lot of my current interests. It centers around two families--an Iranian-American family and a "typical" American family--that are adopting girls from Korea. It focuses on what it means to be American, what it means to be foreign, and ultimately how we are all strangers to each other.
In France I felt American, and it is strange to be just a part of the crowd here in the US. Not surprisingly my best friend here, Lorene, just got back from spending 6 years in Germany, and we've been able to talk about Europe without feeling snobby. Because that's how it feels to us: like everyone is judging you for bragging about your experiences abroad (that are not Navy-related, of course!). Another of my friends, Willy, is from Ohio like me. He's never been out of the country, and sometimes it feels like he is blaming us for taking the opportunities we've had, like we're talking about living abroad in order to make others feel less fortunate.
I'm not sure how Jube feels. I don't think that he is blamed for being foreign, but there is still an aspect of bragging. Just because he's French he must be more cosmopolitan than we down-home cultureless Americans. When I first met him, he told me about how excited he had been to catch the French news on TV one night (France 2). After a few minutes he was disappointed to see that half of the broadcast was about the death of Charles Trenet. Still, it must have been strange to realize that the bulk of the French news wasn't even a talking point on the nightly American newscast.
Maybe we have to go abroad to see how our culture defines us. Maybe all you need is a critical eye, facing inward. In any case, Digging to America made me think about all of that, while making me care about its characters and making me wish we had moved to Baltimore...
Sunday, August 05, 2007
-One candidate actually proposed bombing Mecca as a hypothetical reaction to Islamic terrorist action in the US. Jube said, "Not even Le Pen would say that--even if he dreams about it!"
-Rudy Giuliani can't get over being mayor of New York. We get it--you were mayor! You were even mayor during 9/11! WE KNOW. You don't have to mention it every time you answer a question.
-Fundamentalism is alive and well: when asked his greatest mistake, one candidate answered, "I waited 30 years before accepting Jesus Christ as my personal savior." That's great, but I would have been more interested in a political mistake.
I felt a little bit sick to my stomach and had a headache from yelling at the screen. The French election was more fun for me to follow--all of a sudden, I'm realizing how this will personally affect me. I'm back in the US, baby.
Thursday, August 02, 2007
It turned out to be a great choice, because we were able to explore Norfolk a little bit more and revise our opinions of the town's aesthetics. The nice houses turned out to be in Norfolk's Ghent Historical District, one of the oldest and nicest parts of the city, just across a canal from downtown.
Many of the houses here have towers, and combined with the old trees, this gave the neighborhood a unique look. We even took a picture of this house for sale to send to Jube's parents telling them that we were going to buy it!
After walking around Ghent we weren't ready to go to the mall, so we went to the Freemason District to look at the townhouses there. The city has kept the original cobblestones on part of Freemason Street and some intersecting streets. The neighborhood is near the harbor and has some really interesting sections, so it was fun to check out. Jube even said that he (finally!) felt like he was in a foreign country!
Here is a picture of a Chinese restaurant. It actually belongs to the city and is in the center of a municipal park. The building was a gift from the government of Taiwan. In the background you can see the stern of the USS Wisconsin.
Then we walked to the mall and took a turn around. When we left, there was quite a lot of thunder and it started to rain heavily. Luckily we made it to the car before it began, and we were treated to an evening show of lightning. All in all it was a great day.
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
My friend Brooke loves reading even more than I do, I think! When reading her blog the other day, she had posted an interesting meme: turn to page 23 of the closest book and write down the 5th sentence--and of course, you are not allowed to get up to search for the most intellectual book at hand! I thought my results were pretty funny, so I figured I'd post them here. (Two of the books were on Jube's side of the bed, and two were on my side of the bed.)
Le guide conduit son cheval par la guide. --French Grammar, a Complete Review: Pronunciation, Grammar, Verbs, Idioms, Exercises, Francis M. Du Mont
Cela peut etre toutes sortes de choses. --Evidences invisibles: Americains et francais au quotidien, Raymonde Carroll
I pulled a few euros out of my purse and went out, finding a bench at the end of Aunt Mina's street. --Salaam, Paris, Kavita Daswani
On the last night the balconies were full of people, and the heyiya-if filled the whole dancing place, and in the sky the heat lightning danced in the southeast and the northwest, and you could not tell the drums from the thunder, and we danced the Rain down to the sea and up to the clouds again. --Always Coming Home, Ursula K. Le Guin
I know, I know, there are four books here, but I thought it was kind of a funny contrast. Maybe it is just self-infatuated. I do think that it is interesting to see what other people are reading, though! It seems, from the selection I have here, that my reading interests are France and anthropology, which helps to make me sound intellectual. I'm just glad that I went to the library yesterday and returned my guilty pleasure books (and no, I won't admit to what they are!).
On another note, I have always enjoyed the French for "guilty pleasure": peche mignon, literally "cute sin." It sounds much more affectionate than "guilty pleasure"...
Friday, July 27, 2007
Things have been very busy for me lately--class, work, and homework, lather rinse repeat. I know that must sound like a pretty lame excuse for not updating in a week or so, but I also had to finish reading the books I'd checked out of the library, because they are due tomorrow! And really I should be catching up on housework right now instead of writing here, but I have an obligation to all of you out there who still come to my blog in the hopes of reading something new.
I guess I can talk about my impressions of the local news. It's really kind of funny how it still strikes me as really different from France, even after nearly a year back in the States. In France, the regional news was full of free advertising for "cultural events," like special markets or parades. Here I learn about the horrors of sending your kid to school on the bus or how illegal immigrants are killing sweet all-American teenagers. (Seriously, there was a week-long special edition of the news focused on a kid who was dropped off at the wrong bus stop and had to ask a stranger for help finding his way home.) The Mexican man was drunk and hit the teenagers' car, killing both girls. This one got a lot more attention than local news stories usually do, because Bill O'Reilly picked up on it.
Now there is a brouhaha about a football player named Vick who has a house in Virginia Beach. The police raided his home and discovered dogs who were being trained for dog fighting and dogs who were recovering from it. This story has gone national as well, so now the local news is covering the national coverage--"See how the Richmond courthouse has been turned into a circus by LOCAL dogfighting charges!"
Every day there is another fire reported. Jube jokes about how they are mentioned: "An evening fire today" or "An afternoon blaze" are how they are introduced. He says, "Soon there will be a teatime conflagration!" Unfortunately the same language is used about car crashes and violent crimes, leading viewers to believe that there are daily shootings and pileups (it's hard not to think so when you hear about the "early morning shooting in Downtown Norfolk").
In the interest of full disclosure, I didn't really watch the regional news in France. It was really boring! I didn't watch the national news either... Well, that's not totally true. I usually caught the "Six' Minutes" on M6. It is really just a "headlines" kind of show, where the news is finished in (you guessed it!) six minutes. I wish that that kind of program existed over here. It made staying informed a lot more painless!
Thursday, July 19, 2007
For some reason, Jube and I were talking about all the different ways to say "vomit" in English. We have so many wonderful words, like throw up, puke, up-chuck, hurl, retch, heave... and each one is beautifully descriptive of a specific way we regurgitate our food. Jube then taught me gerber, which is a particularly nasty way of saying vomir (or vomit). Since French is not my native language, I had no qualms about using it in front of others, until one day I expressed myself in front of the wrong problem. Poor Belle-maman! She has to put up with three sons who are generally less than delicate at the dinner table and a daughter-in-law who didn't hesitate to say that she dislikes some foods because ca fait gerber. It didn't take me long to stop bandying the word around for the laughter it produced...
Back in the US, I was walking down the baby aisle in the local grocery store and was surprised to rediscover the best-selling baby food brand:
The baby does kind of look like it has a little gift for you, doesn't he? And of course it looks very similar to the French meaning when you open it up and look inside...
*That gives me scared instead of that makes me scared (loosely translated, of course)
*You make me vomitit instead of you make me vomit (yeah, that's a really loose translation)
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
It also reminds me of the first summer I spent in France, the notorious heatwave summer of 2003, when thousands of people died in Paris. I don't remember feeling this hot then, maybe because it was less humid. In the South of France, it is certainly hot, but there is really no humidity to speak of (at least not in Montpellier or Nice). Last summer I spent several afternoons sitting in the shade in a courtyard. I didn't sweat unless I moved into the sun or went inside. Here in Norfolk, even sitting in the shade can't protect you from the humidity.
I had to laugh when I saw a public service announcement on the local (Hampton Roads) news the other day: because it is so hot, they are asking people to donate wall air conditioning units for families in need. I remember a French public service announcement I saw last summer, which recommended lots of cold showers and visiting businesses that had air conditioning. The solution I found in 2003 involved getting very comfortable with my own body. Before that summer, I would never walk around my house naked. Like a revelation, I realized how much less hot I felt when I didn't have any clothes on! It was just too hot to wear clothes indoors!
I have to say that this custom has continued for me back in the US. Although we do have central air in our apartment, we don't have a lot of money to run it, and I end up feeling guilty about the environment. Lately, though, my solution has been to turn on the air conditioning for a few hours a day. It's a little easier for any guests we might have...
Friday, July 06, 2007
Jube picked me up at work the other day, surprising me outside of the building. He pulled the car up and said, "Bonjour, Mademoiselle, do you need a ride?"
I laughed and got in. "I have the nicest boyfriend in the world!" I said, catching myself too late. "I mean, I have a great husband!"
I think that I was lucky that I didn't speak any French before I moved to France. I just caught a short video of myself explaining something in French from February of 2005. Wow, I was bad! Thinking back on it I don't remember speaking that poorly. I think that learning in France helped me avoid the embarrassment of the Language Learner that comes from thinking you should be able to speak a language. I felt that way in Spain sometimes, thinking, Come on, you know this! Why is it so hard for you to understand?
Tennis. I'll bet you're bored of me talking about it, aren't you? Well, I'm never bored with watching tennis! I am, however, bored with American announcers. In France, the announcers are certainly biased toward the French players, but they don't try to hide it. They urge them on like real fans--"Allez Grosjean! Allez la France!" In the US it is equally more subtle and more annoying. Instead of enjoying a well-played match, they pepper the commentary with suggestions like this: "She's lucky Venus mishit that return." Or, "Poor little Gasquet! That was a good serve for him! That's Roddick's average!" They say it with straight faces (I'm assuming), without any irony at all, giving the impression that they can't help it if the American players are just better than everyone else. If only there was one announcer who seemed like he enjoyed watching tennis, I would like it more.
Tonight Jube, Lorene, Willy, and I are going to the Bier Garten. I'll tell you how it goes. There are only a few words or phrases I know in German, and das Bier is one of them. I also know Ich kann kein Deutsch, which came in handy in Austria, and "Twenty Minutes!" thanks to Run, Lola, Run. Funnily enough, that also came in handy in Austria. As we were checking into our hotel, Jube tried to communicate in his Bac-level German with the workers. Getting frustrated with us, the woman finally told us, "mumbleblehbleh zwanzig Minuten!"
"Jube, Jube!" I clamored, "I know what that means! She said 'twenty minutes!'"
"I guess we'll come back in twenty minutes, then," he said to me.
Sunday, July 01, 2007
I don't really have anything to write, so here's a little Jube mixup from last night:
We were checking out the top 100 movies on Rotten Tomatoes. Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb was rated around 50.
Gem: Oh, Dr. Strangelove! I love that movie! It's sooo funny!
Jube: Dr. Strangelove, huh... Is that with Eddie Murphy?
Gem [howling with laughter]: No. You're thinking of Dr. Dolittle.
Jube: Oh yeah. Hey, don't put that on your blog, okay?
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
On the other hand, I started a new class on Monday night, so I've been reading a lot of text books. And working on the papers I still have left over from a few weeks ago hasn't really happened yet, either...
Jube was surprised on Tuesday morning by being offered a week-long job at nights, so I've been free to do whatever I want. And "whatever I want" means watching So You Think You Can Dance, my new favorite show!
I never used to like dance. I thought it was boring, the "stories" were grafted on, and the music was the high point. Then in college one of my closest friends and roommates happened to be a dancer. I was subjected to numerous viewings of Center Stage, which must finally have convinced me that dancing was cool. [I still don't recommend the movie unless you are really into dance. I don't think I'll ever watch it without Catherine...] By my senior year I had watched White Nights without coercion and cried at student recitals. I like dance now. So, without further introduction, enjoy the latest YouTube offering of my favorite dance from the first "competition" episode of SYTYCD (see? I'm already up on the lingo!):
And this is the video I originally wanted to post, but it wasn't up yet on YouTube. I think it is my favorite dance of all...
Sunday, June 24, 2007
We went with a group of mixed nationality, including Korean, Chinese, Turkish, Senegalese, Saudi, and Venezuelan, and made several discoveries by the end of the day:
Dogs do not speak the same language (they say, variously, "mong," "how," "woof," and "wah"), while cats can understand each other the world over (they all say "meow");
Fart jokes make everyone laugh;
Boys are less likely to ride scary roller coasters than girls (if you go according to our group dynamics, that is).
We didn't get back to Norfolk until late at night, so we dropped everyone off in front of their apartment building/ house/ residence hall. Rosa was especially nervous because of reports of a flasher stalking the campus. We escaped that fate and all made it home safely.
Friday, June 22, 2007
I have a funny post coming up, but I lost the cable that connects my camera to the computer somewhere in our apartment and I'm too lazy to find it right now. Just shiver in anticipation...
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Maxim is the stupidest magazine in the world!!! I mean, if it were real pornography, then it would at least have a reason to exist, but its inane articles and almost-sexy photographs add up to a big boring. (I do have to admit that I read it all, but that was because I was out of fiction in the bathroom...)
Whatever, no big deal, right? Well, then we got a letter from Guitar World, a magazine we really do subscribe to, saying that we had to renew the subscription. Suddenly I realized what had happened (and had some bad flashback feelings as well...):
A few months ago some stupid college kids came to our apartment selling magazine subscriptions. I refused them until they said they could renew our subscription to Guitar World on the cheap. I paid for it. This sparked a fight between me and Jube, because he thought that they had taken advantage of me. Well damn and if he wasn't right!
They either lied about having subscriptions to Guitar World or made an honest mistake, but instead I paid for two years of Maxim (the stupidest magazine in the world, please let me reiterate). If I could exchange it for a subscription to Ms. or Guitar World, I would... but of course that is "impossible at this time," according to the company.
Luckily (very luckily!) I managed to save the receipt and they will refund my money. I think the worst part of the whole deal is having to admit to Jube that he was right--and its corollary: I did something dumb...
Sunday, June 17, 2007
“Dunno,” I called back.
“Dunno!” he said. “You like those two syllables, don’t you? You should write a thank-you letter to whoever invented those two syllables. ‘Dun-no.’ And those two syllables mean so much more than just ‘I don’t know!’ They mean ‘I don’t want to cook.’ They mean ‘I know we have to go shopping, but I don’t want to think about it.’ And they also mean ‘I wash my hands of the subject and you have to do everything.’”
I smiled at him from my place at the computer.
He rolled his eyes and said, “You’re a pest!”
“Fine,” I said, “What do you want to eat?”
“Dunno,” he said.
Except it was in French, and went more like this:
Jube calls out to me from the kitchen, « Qu’est-ce qu’on va manger à midi? »
« Chais pas. »
« Eh ben ! Tu aimes ces deux mots ! Tu devrais écrire une lettre de remerciement à celui qui a inventé ces deux mots. « Chais pas. » Et en plus tu peux dire plein de choses avec ces deux mots. Ça veut dire « je ne sais pas. » Ça veut dire aussi « j’ai pas envie de faire de la cuisine. » Et aussi « je sais qu’il faut faire les courses, mais je ne veux pas y penser. » Et finalement ça veut dire « je m'en lave les mains et c’est toi qui vas tout faire. »
He shakes his head, looking at me at the computer. « Tu es une peste. »
I ask, « Alors qu’est-ce que tu veux manger ? »
He looks at me and clearly enunciates, « Chais pas. »
Thursday, June 14, 2007
"So you're saying I'm heavy?" I asked.
"No, no, I'm saying that legs are heavy. It reminds me of something my dad used to say. You know he worked in a hospital, right? Well, whenever they had to amputate someone's leg, they would make a new worker carry it to where it had to be. And every time, the new guy would be really surprised at how heavy the leg was!"
"Yeah, well... I'm just saying, legs are heavy."
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
This week I am in class. Nothing interesting to report. Two weeks till vacation time!
Monday, June 11, 2007
"Hello fellow gun-nut. I just wanted to tell you that the Democratic primary is coming up for your district. Now, I'm no Democrat, but the winner of the primary will be running unopposed, so this is basically the final election. Luckily for us, primaries in Virginia are open to everybody who wants to vote in them. Johnny Joannou, one of the best defenders of the Second Amendment is running against Henry Light. Joannou is a longtime resident of this district and will make sure you have no problems keeping that gun you bought from us. Henry Light is some newcomer who wants 'common-sense gun laws' in Virginia. So please, go vote this Tuesday for Joannou and then head to the firing range."
Now, I'd been vaguely aware of the upcoming primary, but I hadn't been planning on voting. Now I think I just might go because of this postcard. Anything to break down that pesky Second Amendment, right?
Saturday, June 09, 2007
Last night Jube and I met Kilmer and her friend at Norfolk's Harbor Fest. There are tall ships from all around the world docked in downtown Norfolk, with plenty of vendors and food to sample. Last night we also got to see Los Lonely Boys perform.
Unfortunately yesterday was the hottest day of the year to date, with temperatures reaching 97 and more humidity than I could handle. Thank goodness we headed down near nightfall--the sun would have been impossible! We're going down again this evening to enjoy the fireworks. Norfolk is turning out more interesting than I first thought...
Friday, June 08, 2007
That said, I can definitely talk about what colleagues said during the day that has nothing to do with work!
I work with two amazing women who are also hilarious. One is my supervisor, who is a really caring woman. She even took Jube and I out to dinner for my birthday and has provided lots of support for me during my time here (for example, letting me take a week off in the middle of November to get married and attend a conference in Washington, DC).
The other works in our office but is not a direct supervisor. She comes in and tells us outrageous stories about her past, some of which are really amazing. For example, she came from a very strict family and was shy around strangers. When she told us this, we were shocked! Today she has no problem bursting in on our boss, interrupting his work, and making hilarious complaints about everyone else in our department.
"What made you become so open?" asked my supervisor.
"Well, you see, I worked at a rehabilitation center counsling addicts, and the staff were required to take group therapy sessions," our colleague explained. "They would go around in a circle and talk about their feelings, and I would just shrug and say, 'I dunno.' Then one of them turned to me and said," she lowered her voice, "'You bi-i-i...!' And I looked at her and said, 'Eff you!' And you know what? I liked it! I went home that night and cursed out my husband! And you know what? It turned him on!"
My supervisor and I were laughing hysterically, trying to keep our voices down so our boss wouldn't hear us.
"Yeah. And when we divorced, I went out and bought a mink coat and a red suit to wear just to sign the papers. I know that I should get rid of that coat because of animal cruelty, but I just can't. I feel so free when I wear it! And you know, my mother said that ladies should never wear red..."
I noticed that her toenails were painted red that day.
Monday, June 04, 2007
1. Add a direct link to your post below the name of the person who tagged you. Include the city/state and country you’re in.
Nicole (Sydney, Australia)
velverse (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
LB (San Giovanni in Marignano, Italy)
Selba (Jakarta, Indonesia)
Olivia (London, England)
ML (Utah, United States)
Lotus (Toronto, Canada)
tanabata (Saitama, Japan)
Andi (Dallas [ish], Texas, United States)
Lulu (Chicago, Illinois, United States)
Chris (Boyne City, Michigan, United States)
AB (Cave Creek, Arizona, United States)
Johnny Yen (Chicago, Illinois, United States)
Bubs (Mt Prospect, Illinois, United States)
Mob (Midland, Texas United States)
Yas (Ahwatukee, Arizona USA)
Alicia(Idaho Falls, Idaho, USA)
Tug (Hell, Colorado, USA)
Bond (Memphis, TN, USA)
TopChamp (Glasgow, UK)
Kailani (Honolulu, HI, USA)
Amber (Henderson, TN, USA)
the weirdgirl (San Francisco Bay Area, CA, USA)
JChevais (Paris, France)
Gem (Norfolk, VA, USA)
2. List out your top 5 favorite places to eat at your location.
Disclaimers before you read: Norfolk is not necessarily known for its cuisine, although there are lots of nice restaurants. Those I have listed here are my favorites, so they are modestly priced (shall we say). I mean, I am a student living off of a limited budget...
With that out of the way, I can begin my list:
La Herradura. This is a Mexican restaurant in University Village. It is about 10 minutes away by foot from our apartment and has great lunch specials. I think my favorite part about La Herradura is the margaritas. You can choose between "regular" and "jumbo" at dinner, with a lunch-sized margarita between 11am-3pm. I like them on the rocks with salt. Another good thing about La Herradura is that after 11pm on weekends it turns into a nightclub. I think I eat here more than any other restaurant.
Next on my list is O'Sullivan's Wharf. It might be the most expensive of the restaurants I frequent, but it has a deck on the Lafayette River and is only about 10 minutes away from my apartment on foot. It sells good seafood--my favorite is the catfish with Old Bay crisps.
The Rajput. I love Indian food, and you can get a lot at the Rajput (check out the link for some music with your menu). There are all-you-can-eat buffets at lunch and on the 1st Thursday of every month, but I like to get vegetarian entrees and take home the leftovers.
Kotobuki Restaurant. This place is also a bit pricey (for me), but has the best Japanese food in Norfolk. I love it because it's a family run restaurant. The kids run around and there is always Japanese television on the sets around the bar. We go at lunch because there are better deals (it reminds me of the Japanese restaurant we used to go to in Nice--ONLY at lunch, because otherwise we couldn't afford it at all).
Finally, although not a restaurant, I have to put down Smoothie Mania as my last favorite. I don't know if it's a chain or not, but I love it! The only one I know of is in the MacArthur Shopping Center in downtown Norfolk. Every time we visit I order a green tea smoothie and it tastes so good! We took Jube's friends when they visited from Ohio, and they ordered huge smoothies with "natural" supplements added (for energy or bodybuilding, I'm not sure which). Yum.
3. Tag 5 other people (preferably from other countries/states) and let them know they’ve been tagged.
Okay, now the hard part. I'm going to tag Fraise, because I want to know what restaurants she likes in Nice (I know mine, but they could be different). And Brooke because I want to hear something about O-H-I-O! Then I'll choose Random Guy because I'm sure he'll have something gross to say about Norfolk cuisine... and Aerrin to find out about Bloomington. Finally I'll tag Caroline in Rome to hear some more about Italian food. [Don't worry about doing the meme if it's really annoying you. I'm just excited to tag other people!]
Now I think I'll go eat something. Too bad Smoothie Mania is closed...