It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

Being 5,090 miles away from home (yes, I looked it up) didn’t stop me from celebrating Thanksgiving! We planned our “Friendsgiving” meal way in advance and everyone was assigned a typical Thanksgiving dish to bring to the table. Mind you, this was everyone’s first time celebrating Thanksgiving in their life…most of them had never even tried the dishes they made, yet, they all turned out AMAZING! Francesca was so confused why she was putting sugar and marshmallows in sweet potatoes, however, her dish turned out to be my favorite!

I assigned everyone a recipe and there were A LOT of substitutions. There are several things you cannot find here in France that make up your favorite thanksgiving dishes: brown sugar and corn syrup for pecan pie; as Tatiana had put it best, “you can’t find ‘corn’ anything here”!

We cooked together all afternoon and it was just like back home everyone running around, getting dressed and taking showers last minute, Abi dropped half of her green beans on the floor, the Thanksgiving chaos made me feel like I was at home!

In the evening we all got together and invited a few other friends to celebrate! We even served everyone the amount a true experienced Thanksgiving veteran would, covering every single square inch of the plate!

I was so proud when in true spirit ; people got up for seconds!!!

This was our menu:

Turkey

Rice Dressing

Green Bean Casserole

Mashed Potatoes and Gravy

Sweet Potatoe Casserole

Apple Pie

Pecan Pie

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Before digging in we each said what we were thankful for which I know some people were really looking forward to taking part in this tradition *cough* Diana *cough*.

Everyone mentioned how they were thankful for this experience, for being able to experience their first thanksgiving, and having such wonderful roommates! We got a little silly and Francesca ended up having a huge list of things she was thankful for…when we went to continue going around the circle she even said, “Wait! I’m not done yet”…She really embraced the tradition!

Later in the night she even gave me her secret ingredient for her Sweet Potato Casserole. It called for pecans and not knowing the nut she grabbed walnuts… her tactic for getting us to not notice was crushing them up extremely small. It was still delicious!

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Friday we didn’t partake in Black Friday as it’s a much smaller event here, most stores offered 20% off.

Friday evening was the inauguration of the Christmas Market which the oldest most famous one is here in Strasbourg! We weathered the pouring rain to watch the lighting of the Christmas tree. It was similar to New Year’s Rockin’ Eve where they had performers before the lighting and a host with several guest broadcasters from around the country coming in to comment.

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IMG_1725-1.jpgAfter the countdown and the tree was lit we escaped the weather. On the way home, we stopped at McDonald’s as all rough nights go; comfort food when I’m missing home (or being lazy).

Saturday morning Diana and I headed to Colmar for a guided tour of their Christmas Market. The town is so cozy and beautiful; it’s a 25 min train ride from Strasbourg.

The tour took an hour and I learned so many things about Christmas traditions! Apples and Pretzels were used as decorations on the tree. The apples as a sign for original sin and the “bretzels” as they are called here a symbol of god’s eternal love thanks to their shape which resembles an infinity symbol. Also, Godmother’s and Godfather’s would hide a piece of gold inside to give to their godchildren on New Year’s to start of the year (I like this idea; nanny and parrain, take notes!)

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Did you know that St.Nicholas, the man who inspired Santa Claus, was from Turkey! His legend told here in France is that a butcher lodged three boys and killed them and cut them into pieces and St.Nicholas rescued them and brought them back to life.

Also, St.Nicholas passes on the night of December 5th, his feast day is on the 6th. Children receive presents on the 6th. He is followed by Krampuslauf (Krampus) who steals all the naughty children and puts them in his sack never to be seen again.

So, on Christmas Eve it is not Santa Claus who brings presents but Christkind, a female angel modeled after the Angel of the Lord who announced Jesus’ Birth.

Bretzels and Clementines were traditionally eaten on Christmas Eve because of tradition to not eat meat which is where we get staying up till midnight which was when they would then have a feast! Some places eat seven kinds of fish!

Furthermore, I learned that Santa Claus’ red and white suit became widely popularized thanks to  Coca-Cola!

Finally, the last Christmas Tradition I found intriguing was that Christmas Eve is thought to be a magical night because it’s a night when it was believed that animals had the gift to speak!

The tour was very interesting and our guide shared many myths, legends, and traditions of Christmas in Alsace and Europe.

Something traditional at the Christmas market is “Vin Chaud” or “Hot Wine” which I was not a fan of; it’s very thick and syrupy. It’s traditionally red wine which historically; it was the bad wine that was left over and it was heated up and flavored with spices. It ALMOST tastes good but not my favorite. White wine, apple juice, and orange juice with spices are now offered for different preferences. IMG_7455 2.JPG

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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~FRANÇAIS~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Le fait que j’étais 8,191 km de chez moi (oui j’ai recherché la distance) ne m’a pas empêchée de célébrer Thanksgiving! On a organisé, en avance, notre repas de « Friendsgiving » et tout le monde devait préparer un plat pour ce repas. Il faut savoir, que c’était la première fois que tout le monde a célébré Thanksgiving. De plus, plusieurs d’entre eux n’ont jamais essayé les plats qu’ils ont préparés, mais quand même ils étaient réussis. Francesca n’a pas compris pourquoi elle a ajouté du sucre et des guimauves aux patates douces, néanmoins, son plat était mon préféré !

J’ai donné à tout le monde une recette et beaucoup d’ingrédients étaient remplacés. Il y a plusieurs choses nécessaires pour les plats, surtout pour les desserts traditionnels de Thanksgiving, qu’on ne peut pas trouver ici en France.  Par exemple, du sucre brun ou du sirop de maïs pour la tarte de pecan. Comme Tatiana l’avait dit, « tu ne peux pas trouver des choses avec du maïs ici » !

Nous avons cuisiné ensemble tout l’après-midi et c’était comme si j’étais chez moi. Tout le monde courrait par tous, en train de s’habiller à la dernière minute et prendre des douches.

Abi a laissé tomber la moitié de ses haricots verts par terre : le chaos de Thanksgiving m’a donné l’impression d’être à la maison.

Le soir nous nous sommes réunis tous ensemble et on a invité quelques amis pour faire la fête. On a servi tout le monde de portions équivalents à celles d’un vrai « expert » de Thanksgiving, couvrant chaque centimètre carré du plat.

J’étais très fière quand tout le monde s’est levé pour du rab.

Voici notre menu :

Dinde

Rice dressing

Casserole de Haricot Vert

Purée

Casserole de Patates Douces

Tarte aux Pommes

Tartes aux Pecans

Haricots Verts

Avant de manger on a tous partagé quelques mots afin de remercier les bonnes choses dans nos vies. Je sais que certaines personnes avaient hâte de participer à cette tradition @Diana.

Tout le monde était reconnaissant de cette expérience : de célébrer leur premier Thanksgiving, et d’avoir de merveilleux collocs. Nous sommes devenus un peu ridicules et Francesca avait beaucoup des choses pour lesquelles elle était reconnaissant (i.e. Pizza)…quand on a essayé de continuer à la prochaine personne elle a exclamé qu’elle n’avait pas fini ! Elle a vraiment comprit cette tradition.

Plus tard, le soir, Francesca m’a donnée son ingrédient secret pour sa délicieuse casserole de patates douces. Des pecans étaient nécessaires pour la recette mais comme elle ne savait pas ce qu’étaient des pecans, elle a acheté des noix. Pour que l’on ne se rende pas compte de son erreur, elle les a émincés très fins. Quand même c’était incroyable !

Vendredi nous ne sommes pas allés au Black Friday comme c’est un évènement beaucoup moins sérieux ici, beaucoup des magasins avaient des réductions à 20%.

Vendredi soir était l’inauguration du Marché de Noël ici à Strasbourg où se trouve un des plus vieux et plus grands en France. On a supporté la pluie pour observer l’illumination du sapin de noël en centre-ville. C’était comme New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, il y avait des artistes qui ont joué pendant le spectacle.  Il y avait aussi un présentateur avec des messages d’autres présentateurs venus d’autres régions du pays partagés avec les spectateurs.

Après le compte à rebours et l’illumination du sapin, nous sommes partis. Sur le chemin du retour, on s’est arrêtées manger à McDonald’s ; de la nourriture qui me rappelle chez moi (ou quand je suis paresseuse) !

Samedi matin Diana et moi sommes allées à Colmar pour un tour guidé du Marche de Noël. La ville est très mignonne ; c’est à 25 min par train de Strasbourg.

Le tour a duré une heure et j’ai appris plusieurs choses sur les traditions de noël. Les pommes et bretzels sont utilisés comme décorations pour les sapins. Les pommes étaient des symboles pour le péché originel et les bretzels sont des symboles de l’amour éternel de Dieu représenté par leur forme qui ressemble à un signe de l’infini. De plus, les marraines et parrains auront caché une petite pièce d’or dans le bretzel pour le donner à leurs filleuls pour commencer la nouvelle année. (J’aime bien cette idée ; nanny et parrain, notez cette idée !)

Est-ce que vous savez que, St.Nicolas, l’homme qui est derrière l’inspiration de Père Noël vient de la Turquie. La légende racontée ici en France c’est qu’un boucher a accueilli 3 petit garçons et il les a tués et découpés en petit morceaux. St. Nicholas les a sauvés et les a ressuscités.

Aussi, St.Nicholas passe pendant la nuit du 5 décembre, parce que sa fête religieuse est le 6 décembre. Les enfants reçoivent des cadeaux le 6. Il est suivi par Krampuslauf (Krampus) qui kidnappe tous les enfants désobéissants. Donc, la veille de noël, ce n’est pas le Père Noël qui amène des cadeaux mais Christkind, un ange féminin modelé d’après l’Ange de Dieu qui a annoncé la naissance de Jésus.

Des bretzels et clémentines étaient traditionnellement mangés pendant la Veille de Noël à cause de la tradition religieuse qui prohibait de manger de la viande jusqu’au 25 décembre. Dans quelques régions, 7 différents types de poisson étaient manges !

En outre, j’ai appris que le costume rouge et blanc du Père Noël est devenu popularisé grâce au Coca-Cola !

Finalement, la dernière tradition de Noël que j’ai trouvé intéressante c’est qu’il y a une croyance populaire par laquelle les animaux seraient magiquement dotés de parole.

Le tour était vraiment intéressant et notre guide a partagé beaucoup de mythes, légendes, et traditions de Noël en Alsace et en Europe.

Quelque chose traditionnelle au Marché c’est du Vin Chaud de laquelle je n’ai pas aimer ; c’est très épais et comme de sirop. C’est traditionnellement du vin rouge parce que historiquement c’était du mauvais vin qui était cuit et parfumé aux épices. Ça a presque un bon goût mais je n’aime pas trop. Du vin blanc, jus de pommes, et jus d’orange avec des épices sont aujourd’hui utilisés pour différentes préparations.

FALL BREAK

Not that I needed a break from school but it was good to have a chance to catch my breath and just enjoy my city. I have been so focused on travelling Europe as much as possible since I’ve arrived I had pushed my beloved Strasbourg to the side. Fortunately, travel plans fell through and I spent my fall break here in Strasbourg, boy, am I glad I did.

Throughout my fall break I’ve had the opportunity to travel my city and enjoy several of the experiences it has to offer.

Last weekend, I went to a cupping event (mentioned in my last post), and I enjoyed an amazing concert in the evening at Le PréO for Leyla McCalla‘s last show here in Europe before her return to New Orleans. I was very much looking forward to a taste of back home and she did not disappoint with her beautiful vocals, and créole songs, plus, she killed it on the cello. Diana and I ventured out to Oberhausbergen together for the event and she was equally as impressed. It was a great evening and time well spent with my sweet flatmate!

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Monday I enjoyed costume shopping for Halloween, and we celebrated the much commercialized American holiday in spooky fashion and all got into the spirit of dressing up!

Tuesday, my French friend, Victor, who I was paired with through a buddy program at uni drove a group of our friends to Europa Park! This is the largest amusement park in Europe. I felt a little protective of Disney as several ideas, rides, and the design of the park seemed oddly familiar. However, if you have the chance I highly recommend. You even get to wait 90 minutes in line, just like in Disney!!

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Halloween night we hosted a party and as mentioned everyone showed up in spirit!

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Wednesday, Diana and I ventured out on another outing and despite a mild cold she still joined me on a boat tour through Strasbourg. It was great to hear about the history of the city, from Medieval times, to when it was under German occupation, to now. Afterwards, we enjoyed a wonderful cup of coffee from Coffee Stub Cafe before heading home.

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Thursday, I went ice-skating with my housemate Saito, we’ve become new friends! She’s from Osaka, Japan studying here to become a pâtissier (pastry chef).  There’s an ice-rink here in Strasbourg called, IceBerg, it’s very nice but somewhat out of the way (considering everything is 10-15 minutes distance and this was 30; I’m in for a rude awakening once I’m back home). Regardless of the travel time, it was great. The rink is 2 rinks connected together, and the music being played was electro; it brought me back to my time as a figure-skater at the HockeyPlex in Lafayette. Our visit was cut short due to a skate malfunction, however, I plan to go back!

 

Friday, Victor and I went hiking at Mont St.Odile. I enjoy being able to leave the city (and ride in a car), mostly because of the views I get to see of wide out open fields, it reminds me of home. I returned home still speaking French because I had exercised my brain so much throughout the day buy constantly maintaining our conversation in French. Once we reached the peak of our hike we had lunch at the Abbye and beat the cold on the way down. It ended up getting rather chilly as we were leaving.

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Finally, this weekend I plan to relax and hangout. Several of the roomies have fallen sick and being constantly on the go all week has me drained!

November is full of new plans, our next holiday to celebrate is Thanksgiving! I can’t wait to share this tradition with the “flat family”.

***Heater still not on……it was in the 30s the other day.

***We’ve been using our common room a lot more and the light is a sensor light so we constantly have to move around or flail our arms so we aren’t caught in the dark mid-conversation.

I couldn’t leave everyone thinking it’s been all peaches and cream, especially my ice-cold shower yesterday evening, that didn’t leave me too happy either.

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Les vacances n’étaient pas nécessaires, mais tout de même, c’était une bonne chance à faire une pause et m’amuser dans la ville. Depuis que je suis arrivé ici, j’étais tout concentre de voyager l’Europe ; j’avais oublié mon cher Strasbourg. Heureusement, mes plans de voyages pendant ces vacances ne se sont pas réalisés donc j’ai passé mes vacances ici et je suis content de ça.

Pendant ces vacances j’ai eu la possibilité de découvrir ma ville et de profiter de tout ce qu’elle a à offrir.

Ce weekend dernier, je suis allé à un évènement de cupping (mentionné dans mon dernier post), et je me suis bien amusée à un concert incroyable au PréO pour le dernier spectacle de Leyla McCalla en Europe avant son retour à la Nouvelle-Orléans.

J’étais excitée à l’avance de retrouver un bout de chez moi ici, et je dois dire que sa voie et son inspiration créoles ne m’ont pas déçues. De plus, elle était incroyable au violoncelle. Diana et moi, nous sommes aventurées à Oberhausbergen pour le spectacle et elle était également impressionnée. C’était un beau soir et avec ma chère coloc on s’est bien amusé.

Lundi, j’ai passé un bon moment en faisant du shopping pour mon costume d’Halloween. On a célébré la très commerciale fête américaine comme il se doit : tous déguisaient et terrifiants.

Mardi, mon ami français, Victor, avec qui m’a été assigné comme buddy par le programme de mon université, nous a emmené en voiture à Europa Park ! C’est le plus grand parc de manège en Europe ! J’étais un peu sceptique et sur la défensive parce qu’on aurait dit une copie de Disney. Bref, tout cela était un peu trop familier. Néanmoins, si t’as l’opportunité d’y aller je le recommande fortement. Tu peux même attendre les 90 minutes de queue, comme ‘à Disney !

Le soir d’Halloween on a organisé une fête et comme j’ai déjà mentionné tout le monde est arrivé dans l’esprit de la fête.

Mercredi, Diana et moi sommes sorties encore une fois pour aller faire un tour de Strasbourg en bateau, même qu’elle avait un petit rhume.

C’était bien d’écouter l’histoire de la ville, des temps médiévaux, à l’occupation allemande, jusqu’à aujourd’hui. Après, on a dégusté une merveilleuse tasse de café de Coffee Stub avant de retourner chez nous.

Jeudi, je suis allée faire du patinage avec ma coloc Saito, nous sommes devenues des nouvelles amies ! Elle est de Osaka, Japon faisant d’études ici pour devenir pâtissière. Il y a une patinoire ici à Strasbourg qui s’appelle IceBerg, c’est très sympa, mais un peu loin (considérant que tout ici et dans une distance entre 10 et 15 minutes et cela était à 30 ; un réveil difficile m’attend à mon retour au pays !). Même avec le temps de voyage, c’était bien. La patinoire est deux patinoires conjoint et la musique était Electro ; ça me rappelle au temps quand je faisais du patinage artistique au HockeyPlex à Lafayette. Notre visite était rendue un peu courte à cause d’un patin défectueux, même, je compte bien y retourner.

Vendredi, Victor et moi avons fait une randonnée au Mont St. Odile. J’aime bien avoir l’occasion de quitter la ville (et faire une balade en voiture), surtout pour les paysages de champs à perte de vue, ça me rappelle chez moi. Je suis retournée à la maison en parlant français parce que avais dû faire un effort pour tenir la conversation en français toute la journée. Quand nous sommes arrivés au sommet on a fait une pause pour manger le soir à l’abbaye et pendant la descente on a pressé le pas pour devancer le froid qui commençait déjà à frapper et durement à notre départ.

Finalement, ce weekend, je compte seulement me reposer. Mes deux colocs sont tombées malades et d’être constamment en train de faire quelque chose m’a fatigué.

Novembre est plein de nouveaux projets, notre prochaine fête a célébré c’est Thanksgiving. J’ai hâte de partager cette tradition avec ma petite famille colocataire.

****Le chauffage encore ne marche pas…il faisait 7 degrés l’autre jour

****On commence à utiliser notre salle commune de plus en plus où la lumière marche par détection de mouvement. On devient fou chaque fois nous sommes dans le milieu d’une conversation y qu’elle s’éteint, il faut agiter les bras jusqu’à ce qu’elle se rallume.

Je ne pouvais pas vous laisser pensez que tout était parfait… spécialement ma douche hier soir à l’eau glaciale, ça ne m’a pas rendue très jouasse.

 

Food Brings People Together

So the past week and a half has been quite eventful! I’m not sure if I had mentioned this but our new flatmate from Portugal arrived! Her name is Diana, she is from Portugal and came to Strasbourg to work at the Portuguese Consulate (She even has a special passport, so it’s legit).

As I had mentioned in my last post being a tourist in your own city often gets overlooked, however, Diana and I made the trip to the Cathédrale Notre-Dame here in Strasbourg. It’s huge…. 332 steps later and here was the view.

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We gazed out on to our city from the top and since she speaks Portuguese we discussed our languages as well as cultural differences. Diana loves to talk about people’s point of view and is always asking me about Louisiana and the South because of the many stereotypes and assumptions of the people and mindset. In this conversation I told her pretty much the only thing I know about Portugal is that it’s where Christopher Columbus was from. It then dawned on me if he was Portuguese that could not possibly be his name, so ladies and gents after investigating I would like to inform you all the man’s name is actually……

Cristóvão de Colombo

that ending is pronounced like “oww”

Later in the week, Tatiana cooked some Russian soup for us called, Borscht. It was red because it’s made with beets, it was a pretty interesting dish. We ate it with egg cucumber, carrot, fresh cream, and parsley.

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***this is just to show what it looked like, this picture isn’t mine. 

I love how diverse our apartment is, and anytime I mention to the people who I live with they’re always super intrigued and asking how I got this arrangement. Despite all of the inconveniences with Marie-Anne (our landlord), it’s turned out to be an awesome house to live in!

During class this week, we had a meeting for the study abroad fair we will be presenting our universities at and Abi and I met this guy names Alex there from California. He’s French and Mexican. He came to study here for a semester to get more in touch with his French culture considering his grandparents and mother’s side of his family lives here and he’s never had a chance to experience that.

*I thought I had it hard with Damian being far away, but our situation is temporary….his girlfriend lives in Marseille!*

He said he wanted to visit Louisiana more than any of the other states because of it’s heritage and so he passed the friendship test…@Abi usually dogs Louisiana so she’s constantly losing brownie points.

Alex mentioned that there was a bus going to Oktoberfest that evening and so spur of the moment I bought a ticket and at 1:00am I was on the bus with other ERASMUS students about to experience Oktoberfest in Munich,Germany!

Oktoberfest was fun, though in all honestly (and I’m sorry for any German friend who may read this) Louisiana does it better.

When we got to Munich it was 6:45…..there were people standing in line to get in to the festival already drinking beers, dressed in Lederhosen. They take their traditional costume seriously. After dismounting from the bus, more festival-goers began to arrive and it became a sea of dresses, cleavage, leather shorts, and high socks.

The security took their jobs very seriously and it was actually quite terrifying to hear people screaming at you in German…..it is a very angry language, and it didn’t help that he was actually angry.

In line I became friends with some Australian guys who were part of our group; Tom and Myles. We stuck together with Alex the whole day. So, Come 9am we got to enter and the way Oktoberfest works is that you don’t walk around with beer on the grounds. There are about 10 tents and you have to be seated at a table in order to be served which is why people arrive so early. Well, when they unleashed the crowd it was a free for all and everyone just started running to get a spot.

Schützen-Festzelt is the tent we went to; it’s the very first one and one of the most popular because of the younger crowd.

At 10am all of the waiters and waitresses began bringing beers to the table. They carry out maybe 10 at a time and whoever wants one pays for it and the table slides it down. This continues throughout the day and they just keep it coming. Each mug is a liter of beer. (almost 3 – 12 oz. bottles)

Traditional German music plays in the tents and everyone stands on the tables to dance and sing along.

Lastly, for those of you who know me, let me just say the bathroom line was outrageous and there were some close ones. Considering how many people go, at Mardi Gras they have port-o-potties. Here, it was actual bathrooms with a janitor on staff cleaning throughout the day. It was similar to a conveyor belt and they shuffled us in and directed us to which stalls were open to keep the line moving.

Outside of the tents the grounds are set up like a state fair and they have rides.

At some point my phone screen was cracked. I had it in my jacket pocket to prevent it from getting lost, and I didn’t end up losing it but amidst all the commotion and me taking my jacket off it got cracked, and lucky me it was the 2nd screen….the one that makes the phone actually work.

So despite it being a great experience Oktoberfest turned out to be quite expensive.

The beer is 11 euros + tip, and burgers and pretzels are 4-8 euros

Phone Replacement – 139 euros.

Regardless, I don’t regret going, Oktoberfest is one of the biggest festivals in the world. However, I can say no one does it better than Mardi Gras in South Louisiana. Germans would have a field day at an LSU tailgate.

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On Sunday to finish the weekend my housemates and I all went to Parc d’Orangerie and had a picnic. Abi made snickerdoodles and I made chicken pasta. We played heads up and got plenty of looks but were enjoying ourselves. Also, the weather was absolutely beautiful, we couldn’t have had a better end to the weekend!

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This week Tatiana had a friend from Russia come, we had a little wine and cheese night and we had caviar……I dont understand the hype, it’s extremely fishy.

Yesterday, I cooked Gumbo and we had dinner with our housemates, and a few other friends. It was a hit and everyone loved it! I don’t think it lived up to my standards but for my first time it was okay! The weather has been getting colder so it’s perfect for some gumbo for the rest of the week!

**I’ve turned everyone into spice lovers because I always bring my tony’s and Louisiana hot sauce….they’ve even started asking for it!

Also, speaking of cooking let me just say how difficult it is when everything is in the metric system. A must if you like to cook is “normal” measuring cups from back home!

Anytime someone tells me the temperature in celsius, no idea, any time someone tells me how many ml…no idea, grams, no clue.

Finally, I brought the PB&J to Europe… it’s not a very common snack here so after a few too many beers for my friends yesterday at our dinner, I made them a PB&J and it was declared the best thing ever.

My laughable moment of the past 10 days was when I was coming home and it was getting dark, I couldn’t remember how to turn my bike light on (I’m pretty sure a piece was stolen). I stopped and sat there fumbling with it and then proceeded to flip it upside down to figure it out on the sidewalk and then decided to just peddle fast to get home before it was too dark. People walking past were quite perplexed why I was fumbling with my bike.

In all, loving my time here and all the new friends I’ve made, and all the meals we share!

 

 

 

 

A Great Big World

So this past week, I officially started my semester. I’ve been in France almost 3 weeks and as some of you have read it hasn’t been all smooth sailing.

Just another experience to add to my mishaps, I have a cold. I remember when leaving for LSU, I had the fear of getting sick. I thought of how I would manage without my mom to take care of me. However, “adulting” makes you realize how dramatic you are. I can’t lay in bed all day, and if I need to get medicine I need to get it myself and cook my own soup. I know this seems laughable to most adults because this is normal, but for someone still young, starting out in the world on their own, this is new for me.

**PSA: The pharmacies close at night, you have to search the designated 24 hour pharmacy of your city. Also, to get medicine you have to explain your symptoms to the pharmacist and they give you what you need. You can’t buy medicine at the supermarket.

Luckily, it’s not terrible and I have housemates who are super concerned for me. Francesca heard me coughing and her “Italian” came out and she quickly prepared a tea for me and instructed me on everything I should be doing to get better. Abi has also been making me use this vapor rub stuff, and EVERYONE is insisting I wear a scarf to cover my throat. All of the things your grandma told you to do when you got sick, apparently Italian grandma’s do the same; the home remedy medical field is universal!

I know I’ll be okay, I have several moms away from home! And yes, if it’s get worse, mom I’ll go to the doctor (and I’m sure I’ll write about that experience when the time comes as well). In addition, Abi and I both have different schedules but she barges in my room every morning when she knows I have class to make sure I’m awake; she’s a true friend.

As for class, I’m studying European Management at École de Management Strasbourg (EM Strasbourg). I will be taking a total of 12 classes through the year, 6 per semester; this equates to an 18 hour course load per semester. My program is a Bachelor Program so I’ll be receiving a degree at the end of the year! The reason being is that I’ve been enrolled here as a 3rd year student and met all their requirements with my past curriculum at my host university (LSU). In France, a Bachelor’s is only 3 years (années) of college, so I’m in my senior year here! The outline below gives an outline of the higher education system here. ECTS is comparable to hours here, and 1 class = 5 ECTS.

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "french higher education system lmd"

My classes this semester are the following:

  • Cases in International Marketing
  • Introduction to European Economic Policy
  • Business Negotiation
  • Culture & Civilisation Françaises
  • Basics in Supply Chain Management
  • Experiential Marketing

Despite this awesome advantage of receiving a degree when I finish my year here, I will still be finishing school at LSU and receiving my bachelor’s there as well.

Though I have had few classes so far (the rest of my classes begin next week), I can say my favorite thing is that since my curriculum is International Focus, it allows for some really need discussion in class since so many nationalities are represented. The majority are Mexican, German, and Chinese. However, there are also people from Slovakia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Spain, Portugal, the Philippines, Ireland, and Greece just to name a few.

Class is 3 hours long and we meet once a week, it’s up to the teacher’s discretion what day works best so it changes every week too. We get a 10 minute break halfway between class. There is no homework however, in several of my classes there are lots of group projects, and a final. Only a few have quizzes throughout the semester.

As for the classroom itself, there are chalkboards as opposed to a white board, but there are also projectors to present their slideshows.

Another difference is that English is not the native language of our professors (all of my classes are in English except for my French class). I know this will take some getting used to but it’s part of the experience!

Concerning culture shock, there is a lot of focus in Europe on politics and I’ll be the first to say I’m politically ignorant. I don’t watch the news, and frankly I don’t know much of what’s going on in the world. Considering what my major is, this needs to change.

In my Intro to European Economic Policy class we started off by learning what the EU was exactly, and what it means, and what the reason was for it being created and it’s values.

This was a VERY HARD 1st class for me. I kept trying to compare how this worked with the way America does and it really can’t be compared at all. Furthermore, there are huge differences in values between Europe and America and I had never realized how big of a deal this was.

**For those of you that are educated about world politics don’t be to harsh on me for just having this realization now in my 3rd year of college!

Ultimately, I was pretty shocked at how big of a difference this is and the fact that, despite this, we can have a world economy and things can flow from a producer to a consumer all around the world! It makes me appreciate the convenience of the internet so much more! I can order something from anywhere in the world on Amazon, and there are so many regulations, agreements, and processes that happen for that product to first be manufactured and eventually get to me. It’s really incredible!

So aside from class, and how awesome the world I’ll disclose a little about my social experiences this past week.

First, I want to applaud my mother. Why? Well…if you know Nancy, you know how vacations go with her. My mother is a planner…. any vacation, trip, or soccer tournament has been planned down to the smallest detail. There is a schedule we follow, a meal plan, and anytime we were on a trip we made the most of our whole day. This meant waking up early and going to sleep really late. I can remember one time we were in San Antonio and had been walking all day touring different museums and attractions in the area and I sat on a rock and told her to leave me there because I wasn’t walking another step. She’s a tough one when it comes to traveling.

Then I think about backpackers, they deserve applause too. How is it that I can read about all these people who go to Europe for a month and have been to 20 different countries and were able to do so much in so little time?!

Well, for starters I don’t think they slept until noon everyday….

I’ve really had to adjust to where I live and the minor differences that really make a huge impact on daily life. I’ve said this a million times and I’ll say it again, but walking and having to take public transportation…y’all.

Heck, I want to also applaud the people who live in big cities…. I don’t know how you guys do this everyday and aren’t exhausted and then wake up in the morning to work out, eat breakfast, AND get to work on time! If you have a kid on top of that, well, you’re a freaking super human.

So this leads me to my point… I have no excuses.

I’m studying abroad in Europe, an opportunity that many people would do anything for! Yes, there are some adjustments but I know my time here will go by faster than I want and I don’t want to realize that I have a week left and didn’t take advantage of the fact that I was here to do all the things I wanted to do. I can take a train and in 2 hours be in Germany, or Switzerland, or Paris, and so on!

After getting a pep talk from Damian (thanks babe), I have been reminded of the reasons I wanted this experience so bad in the first place!

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Although it’s so much easier to just stay home all day, I need to go out, I need to socialize and meet people, and I need to adventure in my city. There are so many things to see, and after almost 3 weeks of being here you’d think I’d have seen more than I have. Maybe it’s because I know I’ll be living here for the year there isn’t any pressure to go out and about. I also feel this way back home. For example, you can pass a statue or a museum a million times in your city and maybe have no idea what it’s even for or ever visit. I love when I meet people who have visited Louisiana and tell me all the things they saw and visited. And I’m always amazed when I say “Wow, I’m a local and I haven’t even been there, but that’s soooo cool!”

I think this is a prime example of forgetting the beauties around you just because they seem so normal, you don’t appreciate them. Like Parisians, I’m sure they don’t even notice the Eiffel Tower anymore (well, maybe so, it’s kind of big)…but I can bet they don’t cry when they see it light up at night (I did).

In addition, as I’ve often said, city life is fast paced….would you believe that a Chinese student in class said it was slow here?!?!?! Apparently even the escalators are too slow (I’ve never even heard of that as a complaint). However, our teacher told a story of how when she visited, she got on the escalator and almost fell because she didn’t get on fast enough and it was going so quickly. I would love to see that! (not her falling, but a super speed escalator)

Aside from this, friends is another topic I’d like to say some things about. I consider myself a very friendly person! Now I realize it’s because I have so many friends, who I’ve known for a while and who I’m comfortable with. Let me just say though, it’s tough having to make NEW friends. It takes effort, more than I ever realized. I’ve never been in this situation, and I realize how much I take my friends for granted just because I know they’re always there. Here, I have to actively make plans with people, message them, etc. I’m learning lots of lessons as you can see. I’m very lucky that I came with people from back home and knew at least a few people before arriving! I can only imagine having come by myself! This means you have to be super outgoing and make an even bigger effort to have people want to include you and it takes even more energy getting to know someone and starting a friendship that I ever realized. I notice how much I don’t listen sometimes, thinks I do that could be taken the wrong way, etc. I’m awkward and need way better practice at holding a conversation.

I made a friend from Sweden, Mimie, and she always talks about how she isn’t a typical Swede. Apparently, the stereotype is they’re cold, and introverted. She’s super awesome and outgoing!

We decided to go and get our nails done, and heads up…..in Strasbourg (I’m not sure about the rest of France, so I won’t generalize) almost every salon is appointment only, a walk-in nail salon is extremely rare. Long story short, we found one and ended up having a not so great experience. The manicure process there was way different than back home…

 

It’s exciting and overwhelming of all the things I’m experiencing and learning, but I can see myself becoming more aware of my own tendencies and the way I perceive “norms”. It’s a little overwhelming to realize that a “norm” doesn’t actually exist, because there are so many different lifestyles due to where you are, the language you speak, the types of products available to you, and the weather where you live. It’s cold here, and I wear pants all the time and haven’t shaved my legs since I got here. Partially because of the pants, partially because of my capsule shower. I think the stereotype of the French not shaving may be pretty logical and not poor hygiene; I think I’ll need this extra layer for the winter!

I am so thankful for this experience despite the facts that it is a little cold, I have to make coffee “manually”, and I have to walk 30 minutes to get to the city center.

A few tips for future exchange students:

CTS is the public transportation company here. To ride any bus or tram you can get a Badgeo Card and not pay for a ticket each time. A ticket is 2 euros on the bus, but for 26 euros a month you can have unlimited rides on any means of transportation. When we first arrived I thought we had to go to the office to get ours but you don’t! You can make an account online and have yours mailed to you! It was so easy!

In addition, it is also required to get French Health Insurance here to be registered in school. I chose MGEL because it’s closer to campus and to finalize the process you have to visit the office and drop off a form (don’t worry they explain what you need to do at school). The other insurance company is LMDE, they both offer the same benefits.

In addition to health insurance you also need housing insurance for your apartment or dorm. You can get this at a bank or MGEL for a quick comparison, at my bank it’s 50 euros for the year and at MGEL it’s 35 euros.

Finally, a lot of people wondered why you would need a French Bank account because, despite being told you needed this to open a phone account, they never asked. However, in order to get health insurance you need a French phone number and a French bank account to be reimbursed. You also need one to receive the French Housing Aid “CAF”, they’ll deposit the amount you are awarded to your account or you can agree to have it sent to your landlord.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Customs

Before heading to Strasbourg I considered myself a pretty adaptable person. I felt more than prepared to dive in to this journey. Now that I’m here I’ve realized I was terribly wrong, but I’m happy about this.

I can remember thinking how I would easily get accustomed to life in France. I imagined I would arrive, have no problem since I spoke the language and “knew” about the customs.

As I’ve mentioned living in a city is new to me. I refer to Lafayette and Baton Rouge as cities, but I’ve never lived in a bustling, walking city. A “city” like in the movies.

Honestly, this has been a little hard for me. I hate not knowing where I’m going, I hate being lost, and I hate that despite these difficulties people just disregard the fact that it seems like you may be having troubles.

I hate the fact that when you’re trying to find your way and look around to ask for help it feel like you’re inconveniencing someone because they have earphones in.

I also hate that I always feel tired before I even leave my house because I know as soon as I step out the door I won’t just be walking right to my car.

However, I am getting accustomed to the walking. I can successfully get home now from the city center and I know how to navigate to where I need to be once I’m on main roads. There are 2 main roads here that bring me to where I would want to be (either city center or home, or the tram stations). “Allée de la Robertsau” or “Avenue de la Forêt-Noire” (my university is on this road).

As for how I’ve been the past few days besides the complaint above, Strasbourg in all has proved to be quite lovely.

Although I complain about city living in these posts, it’s a love hate relationship. In a city, there’s always something to do. Since I’ll be getting my student ID soon I’ll receive lots of discounts for events and entertainment around the area!

Not only the city though, but the location!

It’s my first fall!

The trees are changing colors, there are leaves that blow in the wind; it’s beautiful!

As I had mentioned earlier, I hate thinking about leaving my apartment because it means walking and navigating and thinking, and not knowing how long it’ll be till’ you get where you want because you need to leave room for getting lost in the schedule.

However, this past Sunday my housemates and I headed to the Cathédrale de Strasbourg  and I’m sooooo glad that I went. There was a show going on there called “Le Ballet des Hombres Heureuses” (The Ballet of Happy Men). It was a light show where several projectors illuminated the cathedral at night and it went on for 15 minutes, it was incredible! If you’ve ever been to Disney World and seen the Wishes parade with Cinderella’s castle lit up, it was a little like that but soooooo much better. Here is a youtube video with the exact show I watched.

****Watch this because my pictures came out bad, and this is the coolest thing ever, and I wish you would have been there to see it!

There were old people, young people, couples, and tourists all gathered to watch in the square and when the music began everything went quiet and all you heard was the ooing and ahhhing as the lights were projected on to this magnificent cathedral. I debated staying home because I was watching a movie on Netflix but decided to go because I could do that anytime! Plus, that was the last evening of the show!

I was pretty lucky to have had a chance to see it!

Monday was the beginning of orientation we got introduced to the business school’s staff and a rough run through of what this transition to Europe might be for us.

After Monday’s intro to orientation, they had American students stay a little longer in order to discuss our presentations for the study abroad fair we would all be participating in to promote our universities to European students.

It’s mandatory for them to go one year abroad!

Anyway, the women speaking to us had several of us introduce ourselves and essentially wanted us to brainstorm what we would prepare and the things we would discuss about our school.

Y’all….this woman KEPT coming up to LSU students and we kept giving her answers of things we thought made our school attractive -Football, Mardi Gras, Tailgating, Tigerland, Outdoor Sports, etc.

Well, she came up to me once more, and I said food, and she kept the microphone up to my mouth so I just started blurting out cajun dishes, it was pretty awkward, a kid from Tulane stuck his thumbs up pleased to find a fellow Louisiana local .

At orientation I met a girl from Sweden named Mimie and two girls from Mexico named Karla and Valeria.

We all had lunch together and it was a lovely afternoon.

Yesterday and today have mostly been submitting paperwork and paying fees so we won’t begin classes until next week (the latest I’ve ever started a semester!)

I bought a basket for my bike, and rode it to run some errands. We live right near Parc d’Orangerie which is well known in the area and it has a lovely botanical garden, I can’t wait to spend time here throughout the year!

 

Other than this, we’ve been hanging out with our housemates in the evening, and due to their English education in Europe, they use lots of British English words.

I.E. Rubbish can and Queue.

We discuss our differences a lot, and they constantly point out how much we live up to American standards based off of our preferences, mannerisms, etc.

In Europe a to go box is called a “doggy bag”……I’ll just let you think about that.

We were told asking to take food home was not custom and seen as “cheap”

Furthermore, our Parisian housemate said that it was rude to eat everything in your plate and you had to leave something, so it wasn’t too clean like you’d been starving. I’m not sure how true this is but he was very insistent on this cultural difference. Apparently, this is only custom in Paris. Sarah from Le Mans,France proudly cleaned hers till it was shining!

LOL. Imagine if you did this in Louisiana, I know some mama’s and relatives who would not be too enthused if I didn’t clean my plate! (P.S. Momma, I love most of your cooking 🙂

In addition, I had a paper from Vermillionville with Cajun French words and the Standard French ones that I brought to show my housemates. They thought it was interesting and were amazed at some of the words and how old they were saying that their grandparents used this type of “old French”. They did go on to express how this was uneducated “farmer” French, which honestly stung a little. I look forward to this year and enlightening them as well as what the Cajun Culture is all about! I love something that Mavis says at NUNUs all the time!

“It’s our French”.

As many similarities as there are to French customs, the Cajun Culture has evolved and become it’s own, and I love how distinct and unique it is! As much as I enjoy tracing back the roots of some of the customs, I love to point out the ones we’ve made better!

*If anyone has any resources, or history, or family stories about their French Ancestry, I’d love to share.

Other than this, I’ve managed to mount the stairs and not be winded, and conquered my measurements to not overflow my coffee cup in the morning.

For the first day of orientation I woke up late and Abi burst into my room exclaiming that I needed to get ready and my first thought was I won’t be able to “day person” without coffee…….priorities…..I was able to do makeup and all, but it was a close one.

Other than this, politics is a pretty common topic in conversation, which in America, is usually avoided. So this has been something hard for me to get accustomed to as I’m not really interested in debates, confrontation, or trying to prove to someone else that they’re wrong and I’m right (well, maybe sometimes)…

Regarding this, I’ve been doing a lot of listening, which is good. I’m a big talker. Going out of my comfort zone and just being in the presence of a political conversation is huge for me, even though I don’t chime in that much. There are lots of strong feelings, and lots of different views…..very different than the American one’s that have always surrounded me. I’m being exposed to several different perceptions on global issues, as well as European ones.

I hope this encourages me to WANT to watch the news more often so I can chime in…..however, baby steps.

Lastly, I just want to express how much this 7 hour time difference stinks!

It’s hard not being able to talk to my family whenever I want, or my boyfriend. I didn’t think this would bother me or be as hard of a transition as it is, but when you’re telling someone goodnight and it’s your morning, or there’s no real convenient time to have a conversation, it’s a little frustrating.

I’m sure in time I’ll become more acclimated to all of the changes that have happened since moving here.

I’m currently washing clothes, and just want to let you guys know…..dryers are not a thing here……I’m about to hang up a whole load of laundry on a little rack in my room, and I am NOT AMUSED.

PRO TIP:

Macaroon- coconut meringue pastry

Macron- President of France

Macaron- French Pastry Awesomeness

How Emmanuel Macron plans to change France

 

**just in case you didn’t know

 

 

 

 

This Little Piggy Went to the Market

This morning I woke up and got dressed to go to the Saturday market. It was exactly like in the movies. People rode up on their bicycles. There were people with their kids. There were old people and young people. There was a whole block sectioned off and loads of booths with competitive prices selling all a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, cheese, jam, meat, and other goods.

I bought 2 onions, 2 green peppers, a whole stalk of celery, a head of garlic, and a bundle of parsley for 3 euros (equivalent to about $3.60).

 

market 1After returning from the market, I went to my appointment to purchase my bike. I have yet to buy my basket, but that will be soon. Everyone’s bike has a basket here.

It isn’t to look cute either.   People have them on the front and back of their bikes, and you’ll often see them with bags of groceries in both baskets along with a backpack.

I had my little GPS in my pocket, and she talked to me on the way home. It rained a little which wasn’t all that pleasant.  There was no torrential downpour, so I managed to get home mostly dry.

bike

My housemates and I then all went to Kehl, Germany to go “real” grocery shopping. Germany really is a lot cheaper than France, and they have huge grocery stores with lots of options. I was soooooo happy to see Tabasco on the shelf.

In addition, it’s very common to make drinks with “sirop”, comparable to grenadine. There are different flavors, and you simply add water. You can purchase this at restaurants and bars. I purchased maracuja (passion fruit) flavor; this is my favorite juice in Honduras.

We also ate at the food court in the mall, it was the most familiar thing to home we’ve done. It was a Chinese buffet; we got fountain drinks. It was quite amusing to find out, after hearing of the stereotype, that it’s true: There are no refills, and no iced drinks in France. Abi went and asked the cashier if we could get more, and she looked at us very strange.

Last night when I got home I cooked some red beans and rice! I got this German sausage from the deli with Cayenne Pfeffer (pepper), and it was delicious!!!

red beans 1red beans 2

I brought some to Francesca and Sarah. They’ll critique it this evening; home-cooking is always good the day after!

This morning (Sunday), Marie Anne came to do Tatiana’s contract and she tried some Tony Chachere’s because I was eating lunch.

She exclaimed that I need to throw it away because it has way too much salt and is super bad for you.

Her reaction was quite entertaining.

Overall, it’s been a very lazy Sunday. Tomorrow Abi and I begin our orientation week at school.

This evening we plan to go to the church to see the light show. It was explained that they do something similar to in Disney World when they project the lights on Cinderella’s castle.

Fun Fact: Sarah and Francesca have both studied in England, according to them the peace sign in England is like flipping the bird.

The Reason: In the Middle Ages when sword fights were a common practice, knights would throw up “peace signs” or 2 fingers to taunt their opponents to show they hadn’t cut any of their fingers off. There is also another origin often referred to,

In a survey of gestures in Europe in the 1970s, Desmond Morris and his team found that this gesture was almost exclusively found in the British Isles. It is also used in Australia and New Zealand. Folktales of its origins abound, the most popular being that when the English bested the French in The Hundred Years War with their fancy high-tech longbows, the V hand shape of the archers lining up their arrows became a battle gesture. There is no evidence to support this story, and quite a lot of evidence to contradict it, although that doesn’t stop the story being told (Lauren Gawne).

arc-en-ciel

Little Victory #1

Yesterday ran so much more smoothly. I went out to town to get my phone in the afternoon, and although I did have to wait in line, it went okay. I did have to buy a phone though.

Having a smartphone was imperative for me because I needed to be able to have access to Google Maps in order to navigate my way around, obviously, seeing as how it always ends up we tend to walk for 30 minutes to get anywhere.

I went to this place called FNAC to get a phone, it’s comparable to a Best Buy. There you purchase your product at the designated section and then you bring your receipt to the check out where you pick it up. I thought that was pretty interesting.

In addition, now I understand why people in cities are often times associated with being rude or mean…..it’s because they’re in a bad mood.

If you know me, you know I’m usually an EXTREMELY CHIPPER person, however, when I’ve had to stand in line twice for 3 hours, and been directed to go here, there, and everywhere I started getting a little irritated. Then they have 10 million people in your way and you’re just trying to get to where you need to be. So yeah, I understand you people now….

Anyway, I managed to get a French phone number here, it took forever but it happened. I choose to use the provider, FREE. I got a monthly plan for unlimited talk, text, and data for 19 euros a month! They also offer a plan for 2 euros a month but I wanted unlimited data seeing as that would be what I would be using the most.

On my way back to my apartment I managed to get back somewhat by myself which was super exciting. I passed a bike shop along the way. I had been told that it may be easier to just buy a used bike instead of renting one from this service in Strasbourg called Velhop.

It would have been 180 euros for a security deposit and then another 20 euros a month for a rental fee. I found a bike at a used bike shop called, Le Caveau du Velo d’Occasion.

The phrase, “Velo d’Occassion” means used bike, or secondhand bike. Anyway, I found one for 80 euros! I plan to just sell it before I leave.

I’m going to bring it for a “test drive” this afternoon, and the shop owner is going to make sure it’s a good fit. When I called he asked me for my measurements and everything and told me which ones were available on the website I could pick from, it’s super legit.

All in all, it was my first non-chaotic day.

On the way home, I heard someone yelling at me as I was crossing the street, guess who…..my UBER DRIVER THERAPIST! He asked if everything was okay and if I needed a ride, it was quite amusing to have run in to him. This run-in made Strasbourg start to feel like home, my first time seeing a familiar face.

Once I arrived back home, I even made a sandwich y’all. So I ended up being able to eat two WHOLE MEALS yesterday!

That evening we went to a pub-crawl, or “bar hopping”, it was a social event organized by the ERASMUS organization. Basically, this organization is for European students who are traveling on exchange and it helps them meet other students and participate in activities together. It was pretty neat, we went with Tatiana (Russia), Francesca (Italy), and Sarah (France).

One of the most amusing questions Abi and I get asked in conversation all the time is if cheerleaders are actually real….

***S/O TCH REBELS!!!

In French the term for cheerleader is “Pom Pom Girl”.

All of the girls we met explained to us how the American High School Experience is a dream, and that they’re so jealous that we can be cheerleaders, go to prom, and have homecoming, and sports at school.

None of these things are offered in European schools.

It was pretty funny and we tried not to laugh explaining each time how, yes, cheerleaders, are real.

There were lots of High School Musical references!

Ultimately, it was a great day, and I’m becoming more and more acquainted to my charming new city.

Currently, I’m drinking coffee at my desk about to go out to Saturday Market to get some vegetables for the week.

Momma, I’m attempting to cook red beans and rice for my friends, wish me luck!

If y’all have any suggestions for easy must-try recipes from back home please send em’ over!

 

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The U.S. Consulate in Strasbourg

day 5.1

 

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Laughter is the Best Medicine

Yesterday was a very stressful day. It wasn’t anything in particular. It is just that trying to get acclimated to a new place, that is completely different is stressful.

Let’s talk about how the day started. It started, looking up, then just went barreling downhill.

**Reason why I couldn’t post yesterday.
So yesterday, I was finally able to get some sleep and woke up extremely late. I was well rested and had an appointment at the bank to open up my account—success!
If you’re curious about items you may need to open up a bank account, here is a complete list of the things you need. (Because trying to look stuff up and find information on websites in France is a JOKE people.)

  • Passport
  • Lease Contract or some other proof of residence (utility bill, etc.)
  • Birth Certificate (copy)
  • Proof of Enrollment at your school

In order to do anything here you need a bank account, so I’ve been on standby for getting a phone and renting a bike. Also—as I hope I’ve been able to portray—momma is not about this walking stuff.

After the bank appointment it was the same ole’ no meal routine: starve half the day, try to find a sandwich shop and eat a piece of bread.
Y’all, that’s probably the most frustrating thing. You can’t get a meal just anytime. If you missed the time window, that’s just really unfortunate.
Anyway, once my account was open, Abi and I decided to head to the city center so I could open up a phone service.
Let’s just pause real quick for me to express just how much Apple Maps sucks. Back home in America (in all conversations, we now refer to “back home” as America and each time I say it I always find it amusing, it seems very patriotic and majestic) it works just fine. However, here, it’s another story. You’re trying to walk and look at your phone, and Siri gets confused and turned around every 5 seconds. It’s very difficult to navigate like this when you’re also trying not to step in dog poop, get run over by bicyclists, and pay attention when you cross the street to not get hit by the cars. Even when pedestrians have a green light to cross, the cars don’t stop. Also, when you’re crossing, there is NO WARNING that the light is about to turn red. In the middle of crossing the street, the light will just turn red and you freak out trying to run across because you weren’t prepared for cars to just start coming again.
Anyway, so we’re trying to get to the phone shop, Maps brings us to BFE (sorry mom & dad), and then we get to this abandoned building with socks hanging on the fence and sleeping bags at the entrance and Siri is trying to tell us we’ve arrived. Abi begins to point out how 30 minutes ago she mentioned we weren’t going the right way, but because MAPS is supposed to always be right, I insisted we continue.
Now we’ve been walking, are completely lost, and still haven’t gotten anywhere we need to be and are all the way across the world, AND we’re starting to get irritated with the situation and, in turn, each other.
Well, we started heading back and the frustration is building. After trying to get oriented and walking another 20 minutes or so we’re both so angry and snapping at each other that we end up “cheating” and ordering an Uber.
I say cheating because we’re trying to do as the locals do and get around on foot or via public transportation, but you can only take so many turn-arounds and being lost for so long while walking around aimlessly before someone snaps…so, we called an Uber.
Our Uber driver arrives, and I’ve never been happier to just sit and let someone else drive. We start a conversation, and he asks where we’re heading. We explain how we’re American students trying to set up a phone blah blah blah…
I am still worked up and trying to figure out how to get to the phone place and I curse. He asks what’s wrong and says how he doesn’t speak English, but he knows THAT word.
We break down, and now it’s become a therapy session—with the Uber driver. We start to tell him all the problems we’ve been having, and he’s laughing so hard that he’s almost crying. He starts apologizing because he’s trying to stay professional. We say it’s okay. Our moods are starting to lighten up, and we start laughing, too. It’s contagious.
Now, that we’re feeling better and more comfortable, all of our struggles start pouring out because he seems very sympathetic. So, I end the story explaining how—on top of everything that’s been happening the past 4 DAYS—we haven’t had a meal and have been surviving off of baguettes and cheese!
He starts laughing so hard again, and when he finally composes himself he says he’s going to stop the meter, bring us to the phone place, and help us get somewhere to eat. He then asks if we have money. We tell him it’s very generous but it’s okay, (we’re feeling much more relaxed at this point) and we’ll figure it out. He drops us off, and we start heading to the phone place, FINALLY.
In retrospect, stating that we’ve only been eating baguettes and the fact that he asked if we had money,  I think he thought we were poor which was why he wanted to turn off his meter and wanted to find us somewhere cheap to eat.
Anyway, now we’ve arrived at the phone place.
This place was not like AT&T. It was packed, had two workers, and neither person acknowledged that we had walked in, despite the fact that we were looking at phones.

***I just want to apologize for all the times I’ve shooed away reps wanting to help me because I walked in to this place, ready to hand them some cash for a new phone and service line but that did not happen.

We waited a bit, and then a line started to form. Next thing I know, I hadn’t got in line, and now it’s out the door, maybe 30 people deep.
I start thinking to myself, this guy is jumping around helping people around the store as well as the line, so hopefully he’ll have noticed when I walked in and tend to me shortly…..nope. Then I start to realize that no one in the line is there to open anything; they’re just there to COMPLAIN.
Literally, every person walked up handing their phone to this guy asking how an app worked, or how to do something, or that their internet at home wasn’t working, etc.
I decide to go to the register and ask that guy. Well, I wait behind this lady like 20 minutes, and once I finally get there I say that I just have a quick question. He responds with, “I only take people who have a ticket”.
I swear smoke was coming out of my ears. I walked 30 minutes in the wrong direction, haven’t eaten at all today, and had a breakdown in the back of an Uber to get here. So, I just walk out.
We get dinner (finally), and then head home (in another Uber).
We’re content.

Our 3rd “flatmate” Tatiana arrived yesterday. She’s from Russia. And Francesca’s (our downstairs housemate) roommate, Sarah from France, arrived as well.

We agreed to all meet up and go out together.
Our day ended socializing and laughing at our struggles on a boat on the river. It was a great end to the day!
Now, I’m about to leave my house to try again to get a phone. It’s a new day and different time, and I’ve eaten breakfast and had some coffee.

Check out my new apparatus for making coffee! No more spillage 🤗 (2€)

Day 2

Soooo… this morning I woke up ate a slice of left over Pepperoniwurst Pizza and hopped on a FlixBus to Strasbourg. That sounds like a piece of cake EXCEPT…toting 2 suitcases, a backpack, and purse is NO PIECE OF CAKE. All of the roads are bumpy here and those little wheels have no mercy. People stare at you as you go up the tram steps; it’s miserable. I feel as though by the end of time here I’ll have acquired some VERY impressive muscles. In addition, after taking a train then walking a good ways uphill with all of our luggage, Abi and I finally arrived at the bus station.

Being somewhere you are not familiar with at all means you ask questions -all the time. After toting luggage a ways, you become irritated, at least in my case I do. Then anyone you see you sort of demand an answer to a question in order to keep walking. One of the staff in the Frankfurt airport was very helpful. I’m sure he could see my concern and frustration trying to orient myself on the map I was carrying around to lead us to the bus station. After I asked my question, I took a breath, smiled, and asked how his day was. I think this took him by surprise and we both paused and chuckled and he gladly helped me!

Once at the bus station we waited, our FlixBus arrived a little late (20 minutes) which if you’re in a hurry might be an inconvenience, apparently this is common for FlixBus so people schedule earlier than needed. However for the price, 11 euros, our trip was great! However, there is a huge difference. It’s similar to a Greyhound Bus and when you get picked up the storage doors open and it’s every man for himself trying to secure a spot to stowaway their luggage. Abi and I helped a European girl load her luggage since we were some of the last people loading up and her bags were quite heavy. She exclaimed in English, “The struggle is real”. This was just a very humorous phrase to have heard from a non-American. It made the boiling anger simmer a little because of all the commotion and chaos of the journey getting there and boarding the bus.

So the bus ride was approximately 3h30 but it didn’t feel long between dozing off and just getting a chance to sit and relax and collect our thoughts. Once we arrived to Strasbourg we were a little (JUST a little) refreshed. Our landlord picked us up and she explained she’d be dressed in RED……she’s a very feisty old French woman with a lot of attitude…..a lot. Imagine a no nonsense, I do what I want, (walks to fast) “why can’t you keep up”, type of grandma. That’s her, sassy diva sunglasses and all.

We called asking where she was because we couldn’t find her, and up comes this speed walking woman in PINK…. no wonder.

She parted the crowd of people like she owned the sidewalk and off we went to load our things in her car to get to the apartment, finally!

***Disclaimer this is around 2pm at this point, Abi has not consumed any food or considerate amount of water***

So then the journey up the freaking stairs…4th story, no elevator, all that luggage, you know the deal. Our landlord brought us up and we thought she was gonna die, she explained to us how she was too old and never comes up anymore…we thought we were going to die, so I can only imagine.

Despite the stair situation, (which on the bright side means just living here is a workout, we can look at it as an included gym), we scope out our new place, and with a quick evaluation decide it’ll work. After a few of our own touches it’ll be perfect.

Now the fun/horrible part of the day, after being semi-settled and catching our breath we take an uber to IKEA (today was the first time I had ever gone to an IKEA), we got a few household items and then had our land lord, Marie Anne, pick-us up and bring us grocery shopping.

She exclaimed that the shopping in France is too expensive and it’s way cheaper in Germany, so we took a casual trip to Germany to go grocery shopping.

The prices may have been great but we have no idea what we bought. Despite being a literal 200 ft bridge away (I’m guessing) from France, everything was labeled in German. So we’re running off of barely any food, trying to buy groceries in a German grocery store, and just go off of pictures of what the items we put in the basket could be. I’m sure everyone’s mommas has told them it isn’t good to go shopping on an empty stomache.

Now imagine us bringing all of that, plus our IKEA buys up all the flights of stairs…….

We had to make a stop at a store in France on our way home for a few items that couldn’t be bought at the 1st place then finally made our way home. At this point Abi and I are laughing at every little inconvenience, the day had us beat, we were on the verge of tears, and going insane, and sore feet, and the hunger in our stomaches.

****Disclaimer: It’s now around 6pm, Abi has finally consumed some food. She downed a hot carton of orange juice, and some German cookies she bought in the snack aisle.

We get home and get to work prepping and setting our rooms up.

Fast forward to 12am and the day is finally done. My room is all set up, everything has been wiped down, sterilized, and all of my dishes have been washed in preparation for their first use (shoutout to my Momma for all that training).

I’m pooped, but satisfied with my day! I feel at home and a lot more comfortable now that I’m unpacked.

I’m not sure if I’ll be able to keep up with doing blogs everyday once school starts for lack of interesting content and time, since unfortunately, I’ll actually have to study but I plan to keep it updated! I’m excited for what’s to come.

Random Occurrences/ Observances of the Day:

The pillows here are squares……we take our rectangular pillows for granted.

At 2am this morning I had woken up and gauged what time it could possibly be by how hungry I was, I have a super power.

The jetlag was trying to get me….

Apparently, bed sheets here only consist of a fitted sheet and a duvet…..there is no sheet to cover yourself with; we got strange looks asking for these in IKEA.

Last but not least, I need to stress the no A/C situation…..we have a great view in our picturesque city, so it’s not horrible to keep your windows open, but I asked Marie Anne about taking a fan out of the storage room to use and she gave me a confused look and said, “I wouldn’t need it”….homegirl, no. This is a MUST. I’m all for immersing myself in the customs of another place but I need to take baby steps, I just got everything taken away all at once, ya girl needs some air!

It’s always awkward trying to interact with people until you figure out you can speak a common language, so meeting people and asking questions usually starts off with awkward hand motions and really baby sentences.

That’s all I got!

I’m looking forward to learning my way around!

Tomorrow we’re gonna try and conquer setting up a Bank Account and a phone service.

-C

home

This is me in front of my entrance to my new home here in Strasbourg!