Monday, March 29, 2010

Beaten by a Monkey

Today is an historic day, my friends. It’s because of how atrociously horrible my bracket was/is. I’m sure that yours is awful too, but I have conclusive proof that mine was worse. For the first time in the recorded history of the world, I have been bested by a monkey in choosing basketball game winners. Allow me to explain:

For the past 8 years or so, I have been a part of the annual Beat the Monkey challenge, a collection of March Madness brackets hosted by our immediate church family the River of Life. We all enter our brackets with the sole goal of choosing winners more effectively than the Monkey. It’s a bonus to be better than the other players too. This year, I became the first person to ever lose to the Monkey (as a slight consolation, I was joined by my good friend and bracketologist, Linda, who chose so poorly she lost to the monkey as well).
Who is this Monkey? Here’s a little history of who the Monkey is and how he came about:

About 20 years ago, near the end of the month of March, one Thursday, Friday, Saturday, or Sunday night, my dear friend Kevin exclaimed in frustration, “A Monkey could pick these games better than me!” He said this assuming that a Monkey would have no foundation on which to choose winners of NCAA tournament basketball games, and a headlight clicked on(that’s a lightbuld of an idea in one’s head, not to be confused with the ever cool and useful battery-powered lights attached to headbands and worn especially when camping, or powerful items that illume the road before your car, or any other slang you kids may use these days). The Monkey was born.

Since that day, each year a fully random bracket has been produced in eventfully creative ways, and dubbed “The Monkey.” Some examples of past Monkey brackets... a coin flip for every game; team names drawn from a velvet bag; ask a magic 8-ball the winners; randomly assign a team in the field of 65 to chest hairs on my friend Josh and then pluck them out and measure, the longer hair winning the matchup; and having an African Maasai warrior, who’d never heard of or seen a basketball, choose the winners. In 20 years of such randomness and madness, no real human NCAA fan had ever lost to the Monkey.

Here’s how this year’s Monkey came about:

1- The 64 teams were placed in random order (www.random.org)

2- 64 actual song titles were selected from "The Monkees"
anthology of works....Including such classics as: Tapioca
Tundra; Randy Scouse Git; Teeny Tiny Gnome; Zilch; Tear the
Top Right Off My Head; and "Don't Listen to Linda” (prophecy?).

3- The 64 songs were placed in random order.

4- The Monkey, drained from excitement and anticipation,
took five for a banana break.

5- The randomized list of tournament teams was matched up
with a randomized list of Monkees songs, thereby assigning
a song title to each team, which would serve as the key to
the picks from this point on.

As an example of how this worked, the top 4 seeds were randomly
assigned the following songs:
Kansas: "Tear the Top Right Off My Head"
Kentucky: "Auntie's Municipal Court"
Syracuse: "I Wanna Be Free"
Duke: "Star Collector"
(Cornell was the lucky recipient of "Don't
Listen to Linda")
The complete list of 64 may be obtained upon request to Commissioner Kevin.

6- For each round of tournament picks, the song list was
randomized by the computer. The Monkey then started at the
top of the list and the team whose song showed up on the
list first was declared as a winner to move on to the next
round. The list was then randomized again and the process
was repeated to choose winners for that round, and so on
until a champion was declared.

And so it was. And I got smoked. Way to go Monkey. But I’ve got you next year.
I like to think this was the 2010 March Madness Monkey, he looks like a ringer:
We’re open to ideas for selecting next year’s Monkey (which I vow to destroy). Whatchya got?

*as a side note to the Monkey Madness, I discovered a great way for dealing with telemarketers while typing this: struggle mightily with the language and ask him to repeat every question about 5 times. He gave up on me!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Men's Euro Style

Today I had some free time and some birthday money that had sat dormant for a month. I decided it was time for my first european article of clothing. I went to a middle-of-the-road department store that carries a little bit of everything and pilfered through the men's section. Lots of dress shirts, cardigans, and jackets hung on the racks in both muted and loud colors. Mannequins dressed in combinations of those with goofy hats tempted me, but I knew I could never pull off such styles. I wandered through some of the pant options, and though very slightly intrigued, I decided that I am definitely not going to buy manpris anytime soon (sorry Brady). Then I picked up a casual pair of black pants and discussed my sizing with one of the saleswomen. I took off to the dressing room, and it wasn't until I was in the process of changing that I saw the "slim fit" tag. I've been curious about the Euro-slim fit style of pants for men that is widely popular here and quickly gaining steam in the States. They fit you around the middle and then take the shape of your legs all the way down and, I don't know, tuck into your shoes or something? So I tried them on, and I must report that they were surprisingly comfortable. But one look in the mirror told me that I am not ready for this sort of a style shift. Maybe someday, but today is not that day (sorry Evan, I just can't do it).

I ended up settling on a jacket that I really liked. Only thing strange about it was that the zipper pull was on the opposite side of what I'm used to. I guess that's a European-American difference? I sure hope I didn't buy a women's jacket... I so love how sturdy my shoulders look in it!

On another note, I was doing some curious searching around the internet in regards to men's fashion out here and I made a discovery. I came across a website for a group entitled "hommes en jupe" or "men in skirts" for the non-francophones. It seems that there's a push for skirts as an actual clothing item for men. I did some checking around some of the larger department stores we've seen in and around Paris, and I found pictures like the one below. It's real! These things are really being carried and sold out here. I can easily say that this is one fashion I will not ever go for. I'm just thankful that I didn't find mention anywhere of a men's miniskirt.

Friday, March 26, 2010

though I trudge through the valley of sneezes and snuffles...

We all have valleys and peaks, right? Hard times, ugly times, and difficult times are counteracted by mountaintops when were are radiant with joy, confidence, and life. I’m in one of those valleys at the moment. Hear me out though, and please don’t send flowers.

I have not experienced spring since 2007. In the fall of 2007 we moved from our home in Kentucky to Tanzania (where we lived until a few months before our move to France). Tanzania is an equatorial country on the African continent. In Tanzania, there are basically two seasons: hot and slightly less hot. Plus there’s a short rainy season and a long rainy season. Couple that with the fact that when “spring” hypothetically would have occurred, we were making moves to or from mountainous regions with drastically different climates. We never experienced anything like spring. No seasonal blooms, not much grass to speak of, and no melting of the snow.

For some, this would be a grave disappointment. But not for me! You see, I’m one of those people who experience a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde like transformation every year come April. When the grass turns green again and flowers open their petals, my eyes swell up like ripened tomatoes and my nose leaks like our old African toilet (the one which had running water... that ran straight onto our floor). I ache all over, and when I’m not trying to grow my fingernails faster to use as eye-gouging instruments, I’m mixing up cocktails of super-caffeinated drinks and anti-histamines that will still probably put me to sleep.

Spring has sprung. And let me tell you, it’s beautiful in Paris. We can go outside and not freeze, we see the sun again and we can (sometimes) eat dinner before it’s completely dark out. But I’m miserable; sneezing, itching, and aching are not for me. And you know what? It stinks. I’m not pleased. I don’t like it.

There’s more to this than just a little whine fest. And I don’t mean to take it out on you. Please forgive me for that. I do however, think that God gave us emotions and perhaps He would like us to use them, especially in relating to Him. Take David for instance. Hand a psychologist the book of Psalms, and I think in short order a bipolar diagnosis would be handed back to you. David was all over the place. In one moment he was shrinking in fear, in the next he was dancing before God without a worry in the world. A few examples:

My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you. (63:5)

Help, Lord, for the godly are no more; the faithful have vanished from among men. Everyone lies to his neighbor; their flattering lips speak with deception. (12:1-2)

I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. I will not fear the tens of thousands drawn up against me on every side. (3:5-6)

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? (13:1-2)

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is God’s love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. (103:11-12)


Let me translate a little...
You, God, give me everything I need. Hear it from me: ‘You take perfect care of me!’ I can’t stand this place and these people! They are all liars out to get me! There’s nothing to be afraid of; God you protect me always. Hello!! Is anybody up there?!? I’m drowning in myself, and you couldn’t care less, GOD! Your love cannot be measured, it’s so immense. The east and west never meet, and that’s what you’ve done with my sin and my messy past, you’ve thrown it away from me as east is to west.

David’s raw emotion drives his communication with God. And we say “David was a man after God’s own heart.” Since God says it too (Acts 13:22), maybe there’s something God likes about the heart, the being, the emotional self of David, and maybe we should take note of it instead of trying to flatline ourselves all the time.

I’m not proposing we begin lamenting in the streets or break down in tears to the next passerby whom asks “How are you?”, but I do feel that God deeply desires our deepest and simplest feelings as we communicate with Him. No matter how silly, small, or painfully deep it is, tell God how you really feel today. There’s a good chance He’ll answer, and answer well.

Psalm 43:5
Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Living Life at 13 Months

Here's a few images of what Sawyer's been up to and into lately...

Momma's cooking. I must be in the kitchen.
This drawer looks comfortable.

First time drawing. Lots of hitting the paper with crayons.
Little drawing.

Ooh! If I stand in the bottom drawer, I can reach into the top drawer.
Then I can be really helpful!


Hi Mommy. I can see that you're stretching.
I thought this truck might help.

Back at the park with Daddy.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Did that which I said make any sense?

Yesterday I attended a Bible discussion group. A French Bible discussion group. In French. Is my French to the level of a Biblical discussion? No. Did I let that stop me? No.

Have you ever been in a conversation with other adults and someone’s kid was there to pop in his two cents? Today, I got to be the token 5-year old in the group. You know the one. He opens his mouth and everyone leans in to listen, half-excited and half-terrified. If he says something that even slightly makes sense, smiles and cheers erupt from all around.

As the discussion progressed, I strained every fiber of my developing French brain to understand. At best I caught 25% of what was said. One would think this is a great opportunity to quietly listen and learn. But I am not that one. Maybe it’s my inner need to express myself, maybe it’s my need to practice my French pronunciation, maybe it’s something else entirely, but I rarely miss a chance to talk. As the discussion ensued, I would catch tidbits of a question or issue and put together something to share. When I deemed it appropriate, I jumped in and spoke up. I can promise you that the things I said were solid statements and theologically sound. What I cannot promise is that they had anything to do with what was actually being discussed. It usually took me about 3-4 minutes to work through a question that was posed and figure it out. So I’m pretty sure that when I responded to it, the discourse had long since moved on. But every time, the group dropped to silence when my mouth opened, they sat on the edge of their chairs, and they grinned and nodded when my phrase was completed. It’s good to be loved like a 5-yr old!

Before the conversation took off, I managed to trip my way through some culture too. I’m still not too good with the whole back-and-forth kissing of the cheek thing. I somehow managed to avoid it with the first two ladies in the room, but the third to come in walked straight to my corner. I quickly popped my hand out and offered my name. She took my hand somewhat awkwardly and leaned in for the typical french greeting... the first cheek-brush kiss happened before I realized it. When I hesitated on the second and pulled back a bit (she had glasses on, I didn’t want to knock them off!), she gave me a look of “on what planet were you born and could you have possibly made this intimate gesture between to strangers more difficult?”. Thankfully I had a chance to redeem myself on the exit.

Oh and as I left, I made a simple and dumb blunder by saying that I’m “to the USA” instead of “from the USA.” I then tried to explain that away by saying that my brain is very tired. But what I actually said was “my goat is very tired.” I’m not even sure how I made that mistake.

I wonder what this culture feels about people who make pointless statements in a language they can barely use?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The World is Our Playground

Isn’t life simply play time in a big playground? Sometimes I think it is. God created all this stuff and then plopped us into it and said ‘enjoy’! Right?
Today Sawyer and I took advantage of our week of spring-like weather and went to a park with a big pond. We read the story of Jesus feeding the 5000 with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. We then pulled out our 5 slices of bread and fed a multitude of ducks and pigeons. After they’d had their full, we watched. Mallards get a bad rap as goofy and dull, but they really are beautiful creatures. Distinct in the water, they fly with such natural precision. We watched as a couple of ducks lifted out of the water, flew in a big circle, and then came back to the pond with a smooth landing. What fun they were having in their simple playground!

Just like the bread and fish that fed the 5000 and the bread that fed the fowl today, God has proved time and time again that He has more than ample resources to take care of his children. The Israelites in the wilderness had manna and birds to eat. In my life I can attest that He’s never let me down with a need unfulfilled. I know on this earth there is pain and suffering, and I know that there is serious mis-management of resources and disparity, but I believe He’s created and given us plenty to take care of our needs and allow us to live this life with joy!

Yesterday we picked up our car from the garage. After about a month without it, our vehicle runs again! So to celebrate, we went on a family dinner to McDonalds. While munching on his nuggets and fries, Sawyer looked longingly at the indoor playground, complete with plastic balls, padded slides, and foam climbing wall. Are we not made with an innate desire to PLAY?

Imagine you just created an enormous, beautiful, intricate playground. The best that anyone has ever known. Wouldn’t the crowning moment for you as creator be to open the gates up and watch as multitudes of children run in and play with full joy washed over their faces? Sometimes when I hike through a backcountry park and see a small piece of beauty like a trickling waterfall or colorful flower, I stop and smile skyward, trusting that God hears my admiration loud and clear.
But I think that even my interest in nature sells God as Creator short. Our world’s flora, fauna, topography, and pelagic wonders are truly awe-inspiring (if you haven’t seen the Planet Earth documentaries, drop what you’re doing now and go watch them), but could there be still more? Unlike the McDonald’s playground creator, the Earth’s Creator created its inhabitants, too. Do you think God beamed the day I learned to use my thumb and fingers to pick something up? Or the moment I realized I have peripheral vision? Or the years in which I met my wife and discovered romantic love for the first time? I do.
He made us because He loves us. He made this world... to lock us into? No! To enjoy! He made our bodies, our emotions, our minds, and to all of it He said ‘this is good’. Hurry up spring, I can’t wait to get out and play!

Monday, March 15, 2010

KFC

I’m beginning to detest KFC. Don’t get me wrong, the Colonel’s battered and crispy fried poultry is as tasty as ever, and I’m sure the grilled version is just as good. I love the mashed potatoes and gravy, the coleslaw, macaroni, green beans, buttery biscuits, and all the other goodness that can be found beneath the wide red and white stripes. The buffets were always a great value as I recall... do they still do those? I haven’t actually eaten KFC in a long time (maybe 4 years?), but it’s been thrust into my life again and I have quite an aversion to the manner in which it’s come back.

It seems that the french have two possible responses to me when I tell them I’m from Kentucky. One is to go quiet and possibly say “Kantuuki? I have no idea where that is.” The other is to immediately and enthusiastically shout “Kentucky Fried Chicken!” To which I must simply nod and say, “yes, that Kentucky.”

We’ve had other fun responses to our homestead while abroad. Once in Tanzania we were driving north to visit Kenya. I was pulled over by a police officer. In the conversation that ensued he asked me where I was from. Much like in France, simply saying ‘USA’ doesn’t work. They want to know what state.
So I told him Kentucky.
“Tokyo?” was his reply.
“No sir, not Tokyo. Kentucky.”
“Yes, yes, Tokyo, I know it.”
Sure, I’m from the great state of Tokyo. You should come visit.

What was amazing about this encounter came about 3 hours later. We’d just crossed the border into Kenya and stopped to buy a coke. We were in just as much of the middle of nowhere as we had been earlier at the police stop. I was talking to the guy working the coke stand, and he wanted to practice some English. He asked where I was from and the conversation made its way to Kentucky. “That’s strange,” he said, “you don’t have an accent.” What?! The last guy I talked to thought Tokyo was a State in the Union, and this guy knew that Kentuckians have an accent! Wow.
Back in France we get the same dichotomy. But why must my home state be always known as the Fried Chicken state?

(*occasionally we get stories of someone they once met from KY, with the assumption that we must know them, and once a guy responded “I know KY, John Wall right?” :-D )

Friday, March 12, 2010

Bad Day Gone Good

When I was in 7th grade, I wrote a short story entitled “Bad Day Gone Good.” BDGG was my ticket to literary greatness for quite awhile. All of my Jr High teachers lauded over it and proclaimed its greatness. I then used it as the cornerstone of my writing portfolio for 5 years in a row to launch into honors English/Writing classes (some would call that lazy, I’d call it efficient). It was a story about a Jr High kid whose luck was down pretty far one day and then something happened at the end that made everything worth it. Today I got to live the grown-up version with a foreign culture twist...

We came home for lunch, and were greeted with the distinct smell of an electrical fire. Never a good smell to greet you at home. I followed my nose to our office and as I sniffed around our electronics I discovered our modem/router/box was completely fried. Internally the modem had melted, and thankfully nothing had sparked or spread beyond its metal walls. Needless to say, our internet was down. On top of that, our cell phone wasn’t working right (something wrong with our contract had caused service to be shut off, a phone call early in the week fixed that, but we still faced a technical problem), and our modem is also the box that controls our home phone and tv. It’s friday. We have a lot of communication plans for the weekend, and I knew I had only the afternoon to get it all fixed. But there were some problems to overcome:
-Because calling the cable company would not get us a new box today, I needed to find an address and go in person to get a new one
-To find the address and directions, I needed internet.
-Internet was no longer possible.
-Our cell phone has internet capabilities!
-Our cell phone’s not working.

I was immediately reminded of a time in the States back in the fall. We’d just arrived home from Africa, and we were staying for a few days with our friends Paul and Tracy. We were there alone at lunchtime. We had not had time to go get any groceries. We didn’t have a car. The nearest food place was a good distance away and we had an infant. Let’s order a pizza! The internet had been messed up that day. I called Paul,
“Where’s your phone book?”
“We don’t have a phone book, use the internet.”
“The internet’s not working.”
“Oh yeah, that’s a problem, huh?”

Back in France: I called our cell phone provider (could still dial their number at least!). God was merciful to me this time. I got an operator and started explaining my problem, but was quickly tripped up and I launched into my “I don’t speak French well” speech. He responded with, “Ok, speak English.” What?!? He went on to tell me that he was happy to speak English because none of his coworkers could and he needed the practice. Really? This one guy in the whole call center is who I connected with? Thank you Lord! So we talked through a bunch of technical stuff that I never would have understood in French and got the phone working.

Then back to the internet problem. I couldn’t find a local address for our cable provider, so I looked at the return address on our package that the modem had come in. I looked it up, it wasn’t too far away so I borrowed a friend’s car and took off. When I arrived I found myself looking at a bunch of unmarked warehouses! I tried talking to people and explaining what I was looking for, but I ended up sitting in an employee lounge staring at a vending machine with no real idea of where I was or what I was doing. This was the shipping yard, not a service center of any sort!

I then spent the rest of my afternoon on phone calls that mostly were pointless... because if Parisian French is hard in person it’s quadruple hard on the phone with an automated switchboard. I eventually found out the right process, but it would require waiting until monday when a service tech could come look and say “Yep, it’s fried.”

Clearly our internet was not coming back on today. But we live in an apartment high-rise with 100’s of other people who all have their own password protected wifis! Thus a new idea... I’m no hacker, but I do know how to knock on a door and ask. So just now, at 9pm, I have returned. At the end of my rope from a day of running in circles technologically, I had lost all regard for propriety and etiquette. So I knocked on the door of our neighbors and asked for their wifi password. They invited me in (that’s the first french home I’ve been in!). We talked. I met the whole family. I might have maybe suggested dinner at our place one night. They had no idea what Mexican food is. I assured them they’ll love it. And here I am, on the internet. And we just started a friendship with our neighbors!

A bad day gone good indeed.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

There are more words than what's in Webster's

After the museum the other day, we hit a little cafe in Paris. Nothing fancy, just something we could afford near the museum. While sitting there nearly every person that came in ordered in English (tourists). It was irritating to me. Can I soap box for a second?

Note to all who travel... TRY! Learn a couple words and try to speak the language of whatever place/people you go to visit. It really bugged me in East Africa when westerners came in and expected everyone to know their language and culture. I remember getting really mad when we were on vacation at Victoria Falls. One English guy was at the front counter of our hotel paying a bill of some sort. The hotel employee gave him his bill in Kwatcha, the currency of Zambia. The customer then demanded to know the price in British Pounds, essentially writing off the number he’d just been handed as useless. The employee tried to explain that the local currency is the, ‘ahem’, local currency, and that’s pretty much all he knew. For about ten minutes this guy yelled and cursed and demanded to see a manger because he wanted to know the price in British Pounds. Seriously? Are they supposed to know the daily rates of every currency in the world? He kept at it until someone walked over to the hotel’s courtesy computer and looked up exchange rates on the internet and then went back and made the calculation.

Here, we try as hard as we can, and most times we repeat ourselves because we’re not understood. I know the French are sort of obsessive about their language and accept nothing less than perfection, but it also breaks down a huge wall when you simply try! I also know that we have a luxury that most people don’t have, which is language school. We get to study this language in country until we master it. We did the same with Swahili. But not with chi’Nyanja, or kiLuguru, or KiHehe, or Arabic. After a week in Zambia we could greet a passerby and ask about their day, wow did that produce smiles and open hearts and homes! Same thing on our honeymoon in Mexico.

Living in Europe now we’re closer than ever before to a multitude of languages and cultures. Every planed trip we make across a language barrier will start with a simple learning of a few words and phrases, and that learning will continue throughout our visit.

Travelers, I implore you to put it on yourself to learn about the language and culture of the places and peoples you are visiting. It will make your trip better, and you may make some friends along the way.

And put it on yourself to do this at home too. Want to learn how to make friends and influence the lives of foreign nationals living around you? Start with a new language hello and a learner’s attitude toward their culture. You just might discover a world and passion you never knew existed. And you may very well see lives changed along the way.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Musee D'Orsay


Today found us back in Paris visiting the Musee D'Orsay. Musee D'Orsay is a museum that is slightly less famous than the big brother Le Louvre across the river, but also slightly less ancient, much easier to navigate, and perhaps even a bit more fun.


The museum itself is an old train station which was almost torn down till someone came up with the idea to plop a bunch of art in it. A good idea, I feel. The station gives it a very open, light feel, and was much easier for our simple square American minds to get around. Plus it was pretty in there. We sat down to take it all in when we first arrived, and here Sawyer is dictating the plan of how we will attack this museum. Down the right is the conservative art, basically just lots of pasty white naked people in paintings and sculptures. On the left side is the radical stuff that fought against the noble french art scene of some century a long time ago. There you can find paintings of people who aren't naked (like the one below), paintings that don't even have people in them, and paintings with some naked people and some not (which I'm told was shocking at the time and considered disgusting, but went to show everyone that their total blatant acceptance of nude paintings was in fact, a little weird).
We enjoyed this museum. There were a lot of impressionist (?) paintings, which I think are the ones that you stand real close to and they look sort of like a jumbled mess of dots and brushstrokes, but from a distance they are really pretty. Not like Magic-Eyes or anything (do kids today even know what those are?), just like paintings that to me seem like they would have been tough to paint up close and get pretty from far. Unless maybe they used really long brush handles. Also in this museum were lots of realism paintings. Unlike the old paintings in the Louvre which always idealized everything and made it real perfect and god-like, these paintings showed life as it is... or was. "The Gleaners" is a famous painting we saw and a prime example as it shows three ladies of the working class in a field gleaning what leftovers they could after the field had been harvested. Look it up. Turns out that beauty can exist in the ugliness of real life.

On our way home, we took a different train than usual to sit back and enjoy the scenery. Here's Sawyer waving at all the new sights. Or at Mommy. One of the two.

And last but not least, this is my blog so I will do with it what I want...

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Two Boys in the Women's Bathroom

There we were. We'd just finished lunch on the 5th floor cafeteria of a Paris commercial building, and Sawyer was wet. Les toillettes were located, past the line of women waiting to enter their side we stepped into the men's room to find a muddy/watery floor, a selection of urinals, and no changing table or counter-space. We thought better of that idea and instead sat down on a landing in the stairwell to do the diaper-change. Pants down (his) and onesie undone, we were prepping the new equipment when voices rang out from above. "Monsieur, Monsieur!" came the cry of a chorus of older ladies on the landing above us, 'there's a table up here for you to use' they explained.

Didn't these women know who we were? We don't need a table to change a diaper. This very duo has completed successful changes on the floor of the Louvre at the foot of famous ancient sculptures, on the grasslands of East Africa with an SUV running on one side and elephants trumpeting on the other, and on a rocking boat in Kentucky's largest lake. A table? Pweeeaasse. But the ladies were quite insistent. Either they were disgusted by our actions, afraid we may be appalled at the lack of the hospitality of the French, or something else, but they said we must come up the stairs. So I picked up mid-diaper-change-Sawyer and we shuffled up the stairs. "Where is the table?" I asked in my best French, and they pointed past the line of ladies awaiting entrance to the 8-stall ladies' room. How do I know it's an 8-stall ladies room, you ask? Well let me tell you...

As I was saying, they pointed past the ladies, and there sat a worker for the building who was cleaning floors (or rather taking a break of some sort), who also pointed to the front of the line at the door to the women's restroom. I followed the points and the ladies, women, and girls parted like the red sea (a very narrow tightly-confined red sea) to let me through. Sawyer launched into flirt mode of course, and grinned his way to a nice little crowd of females. Before I knew what had happened, we'd found ourselves at a changing table in the middle of the ladies' room totally surrounded by women... exiting and entering stalls, washing their hands, or just oodling over the cute little boy who wanted to smile at all the gals (and thankfully didn't pee on me this time).

Not where I'd intended or wanted to go, but it gave me a good laugh as I walked back to the cafeteria. Sawyer came away with a bunch of new lady-friends, feeling quite proud I do believe.


**On a totally unrelated note: does ANYONE know where I can get a water bottle in Paris? In France? Just a simple water bottle, that's all I want. You know, the kind you fill up with water, then drink, then repeat. When we left the States I accidentally packed up all of my bottles with my camping gear that's being shipped here to be received sometime next winter. Therefore, I've been looking to buy a water bottle since I realized this mistake our second day here. I don't want to keep buying tons of little "l'eau de minéral" bottles when there's perfectly good water that comes from our tap. I've checked every hypermarché, supermarché, mall, and commercial center I can find, and nothing. Come on France... be green and sell water bottles that can be reused!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A Day at the Park


Today when we finished our day in school, it was almost 50 degrees outside and the sun was shining! Add to that the fact that Sawyer began walking this weekend, there was really only one thing we could do... go to the park.

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I discovered that the park has a lot of benefits for me as well! A little Vitamin D goes a long way toward health and happiness (it's soooo good to see the sun again). Walking in circles outside keeps me out of a chair, which is good all the way around. Listening to 4 and 5 year old french children play and talk to one another gives me a healthy level of french to listen to. I can understand about half of what they say Does understanding half of what a 4-year old says make me 2-years old in my new language? If so, I'll take it. 2 years in 2 months isn't bad. Last, the park is a great place to meet adults. Although I did notice that there were a handful of American dads (other language school students who live near us) and then a bunch of French moms. Perhaps married women isn't the demographic I should be going for in new friends... Still, "how old is your son/daughter?" is just about the easiest and most welcomed opening question I've found to meet people here. And of course it's a lot of fun to go to the park, right?


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