Saturday, December 31, 2005

breaking the law

My Visa expired on December 14th, which makes me an illegal alien. As if this weren't thrilling enough, I technically can't re-enter France once I've left. So guess what we did? Drove to Swizterland! OH YEAH!

Well, we drove through Swizterland -- but that's four border crossings in one day, baby! Of course, I act all nonplussed, but I was actually nervous that they'd check my passport and I'd have a genuine problem to deal with. In hindsight, I'm all cool and blase -- in reality, I can be rather uptight and a goody-two-shoes.

Anyway, they didn't even stop our car when we crossed the border. Hell, the two guards didn't even stop their conversation as we drove by. I think one may have turned his head slightly to nod us through. We drove through Geneva, stopping long enough to appreciate how insanely difficult it is to find a parking spot in the city and get lunch. Unpleasantly crowded and chaoitic -- these people seriously need to learn how to queue up.

We were shortly back in France, barreling straight towards these here big rocks:

More pictures from the drive towards the Alps:

We arrived in Chamonix in the afternoon. Chamonix is a standard cute-chic ski town, surrounded by jaw-droppingly beautiful mountains.

From town, we took the uh....telepherique.... gondola! yes! We took the gondola up to Aiguille du Midi, which is a pointy little spike, 3,800 meters (12,600 feet -- that's nearly TWO AND A HALF MILES) above sea level.

Aiguille du Midi. I didn't take this picture, obviously.

Now, I don't spend much time at a high elevation, but this was noticably difficult for my body. The air up there is thin. The effort of breathing alone made me out of breath. But just LOOK at the view. It was impeccably clear up there.

Mont Blanc (4807 m) -- the highest mountain in western Europe*.

That's me! I really was there!

Ar! My impenetrable mountain fortress!

*Looking at the list of highest mountains in the world makes it painfully clear how little I know about world geography. For example, there is a mountain 5,754 high called Citlaltepetl in Mexico. That's nearly 1000 meters higher than Mont Blanc! There's mountains in Mexico? Not only that, but
really big mountains? Where? How do I not know this?

For the record:

-I left the house two times yesterday. Once to walk my brother to the train station. Once to buy a package of my most favorite vanilla soy yogurt and a bottle of Cremant du Jura (Jura sparkling wine...for NYE tomorrow, duh.) I did NOT do any laundry -- if I did all of my chores at once, how else would I schedule the rest of my vacation?
I'm a sort of philanthropist for my future self, see.

-While I was verbally invited to join some BTS kids for their New Years Eve party, I do not know where this party is, nor do they have a way of contacting me (since I lost my phone, blah blah blah). Luckily, I got a call from the Houvilles, inviting me over. They continue to be especially nice people.

- I got a call from another English teacher whom I rather like, but am perpetually confused by. Well, no so much "confused" as "driven to pity." She's an awfully good teacher, entirely fluent in English and German -- I only know this from ocassionally stopping by her class, otherwise I don't work with her or take any of her classes. Her husband died 5 years ago, a fact you'd quickly learn from both her mourning dress (which she wears Every Single Day) and that she'd tell you, several times, in any conversation. She had mentioned before the holiday that she'd like to have me over, so, essentially, this was a call of apology for not inviting me. Last night, she told me about how she had gone to see her (alzhemier's stricken) father on Christmas, then totaled her car on the highway when a deer ran in front of her. We chatted for a bit, and I said, "Well, the most important thing is that you're okay...and I'm very grateful for that."
"Oh, unfortunately, I'm really not okay," she replied, "You see, I've had terrible back problems in the last year, and this shall only make it worse. Also, I lost my mother this year....and my husband a few years ago....all I have left now is my father, who has Alzhemiers..."
All I can offer her is some temporary companionship, which I am glad to do. I wish I could do more, though...

- On a more shallow note, I tried out one of my new exercise videos yesterday. Before I came here, I was a Exercise Person, mainly so that I wouldn't be a Chubby Person. I haven't broken a sweat in the three months since I've been here, which is not normal for me. This video, of course, changed all that. Unfortunately, it'll probably be another three months before I recover from yesterday's work-out... I have a new pilates video and yoga video to try out as well. (Thanks, Josie and Zac!)

- All of the snow that we had melted overnight. There was a terribly violent storm, with all of the rain and wind you'd expect. Now, I just figured out how to properly close my shutters so that they don't bang around in the wind -- apparently, I wasn't the last, because shutters of the room 2 floors above me clanked around all night. Exciting story: I heard said awful noise and was about to open/lean out my window to find out whose shutters were banging about. Right before I unlocked the window, I heard glass shattering, and saw shards fall past my window. That's unpleasant. It would have been far more unpleasant if that glass fell on my noggin, but since it didn't, we'll keep it at a Category 2: 'God, that's really annoying.'

- Giant Squid!

-Smoking Chimp!

- I dyed my hair last night. I've been coloring it red for two years now and, frankly, and not very interested in knowing what drab color my hair is underneath. Luckily, I found the exact same color here in France, so I've been able to keep my "natural" color. So last night, I'm unpacking the box, which has a picture of a little bottle on the front, proclaiming "Color Boosting Technology!" There was no little bottle on the inside, however. As I was coloring my hair, I thought, "Hmm...this doesn't look as red as normal..." and it's not. In fact, my color is now similar to a 2-week old color. This can only lead me to believe that they put half the color in another, smaller, bottle simply to amuse us chimps with squeezing more shit in. Like, one bottle of color? Maybe that will work. But ho boy! Two bottles?! Now my hair will surely glow brighter than the sun that warms us!

Now, legion of fans, if you'll excuse me, I've got laundry to do... Glamorous laundry.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Besancon, Dole

More day trips with the family...

The Citadel in Besancon:

With goats!

And monkeys!

A church in Dole:

fashionable gorilla

The first week aside, I suppose this is the most "homesick" I've felt since coming abroad. It's not terrible, though, probably because I've only been here for three months and that I still don't want to leave. Having my family here for Christmas was wonderful, but it felt strange having them leave to go home and staying here. Also, watching I Am Trying to Break Your Heart makes me miss Chicago.
My brother took the train to Paris this morning. After having people around (speaking english!) for the last two weeks, I'm not quite sure what to do with my time. I have to do laundry, but want to finish my coffee first. I'd like to take a walk, but it's unbelieveably cold outside. Whine whine whine. My bet is that I'll put on the bonus disc of IATTBYH
and knit some more.

Speaking of which, look what I finished up last night:

Brian asked me to make him a scarf for Christmas. The yarn I ordered for it arrived last Monday and I've been working on it since. It's still drying, unfortunately, so he couldn't take his NEW, CUSTOM-KNIT scarf home with him.

It's freaking huge. Check out how much bigger it is than the bed. Granted, my brother is also a rather tall lad, so I think it should be a good fit.

Also, bri? Enjoy this -- I don't know if I could ever stand to knit you a sweater, considering your arms alone are at least 10 feet long. Sorry.

I've got a couple of other projects I'm tinking away on, but don't want to pick up now (sock needles are too small, I need to get a measuring tape before I keep working on my sweater, etc.) so I'm starting on a new scarf. An elephant trunk-warmer, to be more accurate.

Thursday, December 29, 2005


Hey, look! I took some pictures of buildings!

Unfortunately, I did not take a photo of the most amazing place in Arbois: the chocolate store. Technically, it's a full patissier, but we just picked up some chocolate. This store is recognized as one of the greatest stuff-makers in all of France. Apparently, there's a council that gives out awards for the greatest artisans in everything hand-made -- brick-layers, tailors, chocolate-makers, award-givers, etc.

I came back into town yesterday and it still looked like this, just covered with a foot of snow. We bought more chocolate, too. If you're ever in the area, I'd recommend the tea-flavored ganache truffle. Yum. Also, if you're in the area, be sure to take the bus into Arbois -- the train station is seriously like two miles outside of town. Having to walk there or back is only good for one thing: making people cranky.

Boy, I can't think of anything else to say. My normally-sparkling wit ..... eh, I can't even think of a way to finish that joke. Time for bed.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The House of Fog and More Fog

Hey, what happened to Christmas and the...other... holidays? Over already? Hmm.

Well, I don't know about you (since you've just never quite satisfied, are you), I had a rather delightful little holiday break. As I mentioned before, my family came to France for the week. Before they came, I was in a bit of a tizzy, faced with unplanned days and an inexcusably messy apartment*. Of course, my plans fell together, I finally got extra matresses to use, my living space cleaned up right nice, etc. In fact, I was downright relaxed when my family came into town.

Oh wait, I wasn't. I was nervous all day that there would be some problem or they'd get lost. In fact, I was so jumpy that I took a fast walk up a steep hill just to burn off some extra energy. That's when I took this picture.

They found their way into town without problems (aside from the first one in the morning, when my brother was waiting at the wrong terminal for two hours...ahem...). Since there's no intercom or doorbell from the outside, I found out they were here when I heard my brother yelling my name outside my window. That's strange to hear when you're used to being the person in town that nobody will be addressing, by name, pronounced correctly.

Anyway, they were here. I don't remember what we did at first, probably walking into town and forcing them to stay awake past 6PM. On...the next day...uh, Monday? Was it really that long ago? We just stayed around town. I took them on my typical walk to Buvilly, which is normally pleasant when the temperature isn't 30 degrees below zero. In this case, I both felt guilty for making my family trudge to some crummy little village just for the sake of walking there, AND worried that I was going to lose a few of the smaller toes.

(the cinema in poligny -- a converted church)

The next day, I directed the family to Lons-le-Saunier, simply for the sake that this is a place I often go. It is, in fact, a sweet little town, but there's really not much going on there. So, we drove up the plateau to overlook Baume-les-Messieurs. And, oh look! Rocks and fog! This pretty much sums up the "seasonal experience" of this region.

In fact, if I write a book about living in the Jura, I think that I'll title it "Rocks and Fog!"
(I thought I had taken a picture from the top of reculee, but I didn't. You can recreate it for yourself by thinking about fog.)

My own sparkling humor aside, we did have a rather nice time driving around on the small roads and even though we couldn't see much, it still looked damn cool. I had planned on driving into town, but the one road down the cliff side was closed, so instead we drove over to Chateau-Chalon.

You know the phrase "6 in one, half-dozen the other?" When speaking about Baume-les-Messieurs and Chateau-Chalon, one could say, "Cute and old in one, old and cute the other." Granted, the drive through the incredibly narrow streets and the finding-of-parking that followed was a bit stressful (for whomever was driving), it was all worth it for views like this:

And this:

Look, old stuff!:

And something cute!:


And Rocks!:

The next day, we went to a few more towns. Unfortunately, looking through the photos I took, I documented exclusively the places we visited and not the staggering amount of really good food that we ate (including fresh pastries every other morning) or how awesome I am at playing Catch Phrase. Plus, if you check back here this week, you'll get a SHOCKING confession with regards to me being a total fucking hypocrite and meat. There. I said it.

*I feel that it's necessary to be honest here: I can be a bit hystrionic when it comes to messiness. It never really bothered me before, but once I graduated college (an moved home for a year, where, I think, my mother has installed dust-sensors and dust-sensing-alarms), I decided that I was finished with my life of mess. Messy life, I cast you off! (I would have said, were I into that sort of grandiose declaration towards inanimate objects and ideas.) Even if you know me well, you might not know that I get a tad bit persnickety when it comes to dirty floors. Meaning, I've been reduced to tears. More than once. That's why it's so freaking awesome to live with me. I cry over dirty floors.
But, on the other hand, I bake fucking delicious cakes. The choice is yours.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Little Poligny, all dressed up for Christmas

Bonnes Fetes to you, too.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

My family got here without incident on sunday, and have since been lapping up the cuteness that leaked all over the Jura.
It's been a busy week so far. Here's a few pictures of things we've seen.


Christmas lights in Poligny:

The Citadell in Besancon:

Traditional Comtoise roof in Arbois:

Mountains, yo. In Chamonix, from the top of Aguille du Midi. Mont Blanc was a stone throw away, on the other side:

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Now let's see...what shall I do with all of my free, unplanned time today....

Oh, I know. I think I'll freak the hell out because my family is coming, HERE, tomorrow. I've been working away at the planning and preparation for week now, but, well...that doesn't mean shit now.

Especially because it's only NOW that I'm realizing certain things, like:

1. I only have two plates, bowls, forks, spoons, etc. There's four people in my family! I actually had a dream last night where I found two extra of everything under my bed, and I was SO happy because that meant I didn't have to buy more things. Pathetic, huh?

2. Presents ought to be wrapped.

3. "Clean" for me means "I can tolerate the filth I see every day." I'd rather not horrify my family with the shower curtain that I choose to ignore every morning.

4. Those little issues with the boarding situation, the ones I had hoped would be worked out, aren't. Meaning, a few weeks ago, one of my temporary roommates took two chairs from the kitchen to another apartment in my building. Every so often, in the last few weeks, I'd gather my courage and knock on a few doors, looking for my chairs. I can only hope they're in a better place now. Also, I was told that the key for the second room in my suite would be dropped off on Friday (because they had to wash the room), but it wasn't. That means that my brother will be sleeping on the air mattress and I'll be sleeping on the floor, just until we can get to the Houville's to borrow another mattress. The other problem with this is I was relying on the chair inside the other bedroom for the fourth chair, so, you know, the whole family could sit at the table together for a meal.

5. Rug, washcloths, sheets, towels -- these things should be laundered now and then (see #3).

So, I'm feeling a bit under the gun right now. It doesn't make it much better that it's been raining all week, so I haven't been able to go out for a walk since tuesday. There wasn't any time for it, anyway, as I worked 6 extra classes this week --- which, by the way, put me at the same number of hours as the regular teachers here.

But on the bright side? I got another phone, AND I paid 30 euro less for it.

Now, here is a picture unrelated to this post, but I am including simply to make it more interesting.