Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Bball Duo

Daddy shoots, Sawyer coming in for the rebound. He's totally unafraid of the larger bodies close to trampling him. I love this photo.

Legitimate post coming soon, with more than just a single picture/video of our little gigglebox.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Fête de la Musique

June 21st has become my new favorite day. June 21st is a sort of holiday in France. Sort of because it's not an official national holiday where everyone stays home from work to grill out or give their kids presents. But it is a day of celebration: celebration of music! Throughout Paris (and I'm assuming other parts of France, but I can't speak for them), every street corner, every staircase, every restaurant terrace, and roundabout center became a stage. I'd heard that all day long music would be playing in every imaginable corner of the city. We were in school through the day, so we can only present the offerings of the evening, but here it goes, 7pm to 10pm Paris Fête de la Musique in 30 second video clips!

We took the train into the city center, picked a stop with no real reason, and then wandered. When we tired of wondering those streets, we hopped on another train to another stop, and wandered some more, taking in the sights and sounds. Perhaps the most amazing part of the night was the fact that of the first 10 or 15 bands that we saw, not a single one of them was playing a music style we'd heard from another group. Here was the first group that greeted us and took us comfortably back home to Africa, where we lived the 2 years prior to France, hearing this music pumped out of every church we stepped foot in... the African Church Music:

You may have noticed in the first video that which quickly became our favorite part of the festival: the dancing guys. It seemed nearly every band had a dancing guy who would just hang out near the action and dance, dance, dance. Watch for these throughout, they do get better. The next band we found was not one we expected to see in Paris and it told us that we had a fun night ahead. Some sort of Asian winds group (I don't know the instruments, the country of origin, or the music genre, so that's as exact as I can get):

A natural transition from the soothing sounds of the East... grunge rock! And probably my favorite dancing guy of the night (who looks like he's about 17, but we were there in person, and the guy was easily 45, which makes it funnier somehow):

Our next band we stumbled upon was a little jazz/pop duo. There was a crowd gathering for this one, so we think they must have been an opening act for a bigger band to come, but an enjoyable continuation on the night.

A mere 50 yards down the street from the jazz/pops was this bluesy group of southern rock types:

Try to ignore the fact that this emo rock band is playing in front of an underwear store, and instead watch the dancing guy in the back right. He is stellar:

Ah the Rastas! This Reggae group was fun to spend some time with, especially when the dancing got underway. I'm convinced that the skinny sound guy behind the band is a sold-out follower of the Rastafarian religion. Or he could simply be really into the music:

This drumline of sorts was the loudest group we heard. The also had a good crowd and a nice vibe going. No doubt they were enjoying themselves:

The last group we found was also my favorite. The white hoodies. I'm not really sure how to describe their music. After listening to them for a few songs, the best we could come up with was an irish folk / punk / ska / rap crew. We thought they were singing in another language entirely, it wasn't until the 3rd song that we actually recognized some French in there. By the way, this video was taken a few minutes before 10pm, and yeah, it's still light out like mid-afternoon:

All in all a great night! Hope you enjoyed our recap. I'm looking forward to June 21 2011, but hoping that it'll be warm enough I can go outside with something other than 2 long-sleeve shirts and a sweater on!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Like March Madness

But for the rest of the world.

That's what the World Cup is sort of like when you don't live in the US. Similar to March Madness, but without the last second shots, endless office pools, and One Shining Moment.

Example: Last week one day in class, one of our classmates suggested to our teacher that instead of vocabulary, dictation, phonetics, written comprehension, and our other normal routines, we take the afternoon and go watch the World Cup game that was on that afternoon. I smiled at the attempt but sort of brushed it off. Our teacher is much too serious of a language professor for anything like that. Just for fun I tossed in my two cents and offered to have everyone over to our apartment to watch it. I woke up from my mid-morning day dream when our teacher said, "Yes, that's a good idea... that way we won't disturb the other classes." What?! Skip class to watch soccer? Ok, I'm awake and with you now, how can I help?
Turns out the game that afternoon was our teacher's favorite team, and just the slightest bit of pleading our case set him firmly with the idea. Thus, just as everyone skips work in March to watch the opening round of afternoon games, we did the same here.

Today I was driving through Paris during France's final bow-out game. At one point traffic was clogged and I reached the blockade, a woman in a car stopped talking to a "circulation officer" (which I think is like a traffic cop... maybe supposed to be helping the traffic move? If that's right, then they clearly don't do much). In front of her car was the "Circulation" vehicle, a truck/van with 5 other officers inside huddled over a phone/tv. While one dealt with the problem, the other 5 watched the game, in the middle of a massive traffic jam!

Friday, June 18, 2010

French Fried BBQ

Welcome to our BBQ! Have a cup of juice, or the wine’s over there. Would you like some raisins while we wait on our assortment of sausages and turkey breasts to cook on our tiny electric grills? Various salads are inside, and don’t worry, the cheese course will come a bit later.

Sound like your idea of a summer cookout? Nor to us.

When we were invited to a French BBQ, we weren’t too sure what to expect. We were told to bring a dessert and our own meat. I didn’t want to over-do it on the meat with New York Strip Steaks or Filet Mignons (did you know “mignon” is French for “cute”? it’s kind of weird when people keep calling my son a steak), so I thought we could just blend in with some simple hot dogs! I bought the hot dogs, and then scoured our town to come up with some buns and eventually did so. That was my first mistake. As soon as we pulled our pork links off the grill and slapped ‘em between some bread, everyone stared. “Oh, they’re Americans,” we could see in their gazes. Turns out no one at a French BBQ would ever think of eating a hot dog on a bun in their hands. No no. Just sausages on a plate, in the middle of a bunch of salads, and with forks bien sûr!

Then after the meats and salads came the cheese course. A tray of four different stinky cheeses was introduced amidst the group. They were not equally stinky... one in particular had the smell of death combined with sewage from last January about it. It was bad. Not knowing which white/orange hunk was putting off that putrid odor, I asked my loving wife to grab me a small piece of the hardest cheese offered (I have yet to acquire a taste for the soft stuff). She did so and brought it by. Turns out the hardest one on the tray was also the source of the skunk-like perfume. I decided to be a trooper and broke off a small bite of it, then wrapped it inside a large piece of bread. When I bit into it, the wretchedness of the smell I had encountered became an equally awful taste, and I fancied myself a five-year-old taking cough syrup, held my breath and swallowed hard. Then I sat the rest of the cheese chunk aside on a coffee table. Barely a minute later, a two-year-old French girl walked by, picked up the remainder of my stinky cheese, popped it in her mouth, and walked off chewing and smiling.

Then came a funny moment in the evening when some French friends asked me to speak some Swahili for them. I did so, and they turned to JJ to ask what I’d just said. She proceeded to translate my monologue into English. They watched and listened quietly, and when finished told her they had no idea what she just said. She hadn’t even realized she was speaking English instead of French!

The eve ended on a positive note for the Americans, as our dessert became the talk of the night. A derby pie was a new creation to the frenchie folk, and they didn’t have any idea what to call it or how to describe it when it came dessert presentation time. But eat it they did, and loved it! So much that quite a few of the ladies insisted to JJ that she provide them with a recipe. She now has a bit of work ahead of her, as she must do a double translation... English instructions to French, and American measurements (cup/ounce/fahrenheit) to European/French. Bon courage!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Touchdown Jesus Struck Down by Fire from Heaven

Could it really be true?

This is a photo of our favorite Southern Ohio landmark that we used to pass often while traveling I-75. This one we took from our car. Somewhere I have a similar photo taken from the air, because we could see this thing out of the window of our airplane. Pictures such as these can be taken no longer.

Apparently "Touchdown Jesus" was struck by lightning last night, engulfed in flames (check out the pictures, he was apparently made of solidified gasoline, or maybe those easy burn logs that city-dwellers like myself love to take camping), and burnt to a total nothingness.

I can't believe it. My world is now changed. Mostly, I just regret that I'm not there to see the news coverage.

Read about it here: Jesus Statue Destroyed by Fire

In my grief, I wrote this Haiku:
O Touchdown Jesus
You always welcomed me home
What will I do now?

If you would like to share another poem, I feel that would be an appropriate way to mourn something that has been such a significant a part of our lives.

I hereby open the comments section for said lamentations.

Friday, June 11, 2010

French Fun - Apprendre

I'm sitting in French class, and slightly bored, so I thought I'd share a fun thing I've learned in my new language.

One of my favorite verbs is apprendre. Here's why:

Apprendre means "to learn."
So if I say J'apprends le français, it means "I'm learning French."
But in order to say "to teach," you apprendre someone.

So the literal back-translation of "I taught you something" into French and then back into English comes out "I learned you something."

At least that's how it sounds in my head. And that makes me smile.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A Little Oasis

After the Rodin Museum on Sunday we went for a walk through Paris, stopped for crêpes from a local vendor, and then found a small park in the middle of the city to relax and play. It's funny how nice and restful it was to step across a fence into the tiny grassy park that was no bigger than the endzone of a football field. Cars were still buzzing around beyond the fence, people were busy about their day, buildings and airplanes and monuments could be seen around us, but we felt like we'd escaped it all in our little oasis.

Escape and play are two concepts that I'm rediscovering. I've always been a competitor, I love sports and games where I get to compete. And I've always had an itch for activity. I can't sit still very long, and being locked indoors drives me crazy. But I don't know how much in my adult life I have embraced playing, escaping, relaxing, doodling, for no intended purpose. If you look at my personal computer you'll discover that there are no game applications anywhere to be found. I have word processors, calculators, movie programs, music programs, photo software, data organizers, file converters, and more... all very practical apps with a specific goal in mind for each usage. I've only recently begun to again read fiction novels. I find it difficult to convince myself to do anything that I can't trace back to a definite life, work, or personal goal (with a few exceptions). I'm not boring, I think most people would say I'm fairly fun to be around, but my mind is constantly whirring and if I can't rationalize what I'm doing or about to do with some sort of achievement, I just don't do it.

Last night before going to sleep I picked up a novel I'm reading and launched into an international story of some people taken as long-term prisoners/hostages. One member of the group has some a military background, and the book shares his thoughts as he considers how to relate to his fellow captors. He knows that he must talk with the others, make them laugh, play simple mind games, talk about anything other than where they are. If they don't destress and entertain their minds, they will all go crazy and or straight into depression that makes them give up on their situation, their life, their purpose. By letting their minds escape and play, they stay alive, fresh, and able to cope.

I wrote sometime ago about viewing life and this world as a giant playground. I believe there's a lot of truth to that, but I struggle to accept it. I also believe that a lot of what happens in this world is hard, harsh, and ugly. It still frustrates me to see people playing, and not getting things done. But if we refuse to play, we will see ourselves spiral down into monotonous, meaningless despair. If we don't allow ourselves escape, we demand to be like machines, a task we're not cut out for. I can either decide that I don't have to have a specific purpose for everything I do, or I can realize that in playing I am keeping myself alive, sharp, fresh, but I must play. I must escape the noise sometime. I must find joy in every place I can.

Aren't children a blessing? There's so much we can learn from them!

The race was tight on Sunday, it's competitors fierce.
It came down to this photo finish, which has Sawyer winning by a nose!

He may have been born and Africa and is being raised in Europe,
but this kid has some Kentucky in him too.
He clearly knows how to race a horse!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Monsieur Rodin

Something to note if you should ever make a trip to Paris in the near(ish) future: the first Sunday of every month means free entry to most of the big museums in the Paris area. We're slowly working our way through them all, 1 month at a time. This winter we checked off the Louvre and Musée D'Orsay, today we visited the Rodin museum.

Auguste Rodin was alive at the turn of the 20th century, and is considered by many to be the founder (father maybe?) of modern sculpture. Even if you're not a history art nerd like my wife, you'll recognize some of his stuff. I'm not at all an art guy, and so I feel totally unqualified to say this, but I did feel that the sculptures I saw of Mr Rodin really captured emotion, inner struggles, and feeling unlike any I'd ever seen before. Most of his people also had really big hands. In Africa we were good friends with some professional sculptors, and many of their works were incredibly intricate and beautiful. A lot of Rodin's work was almost less polished, less detailed than those our friends made, but man could he make a piece of rock look like it was alive and actually... thinking!

That's the most recognized sculpture in the world, "The Thinker."
And that's me. Not thinking. But imitating. Poorly.

The tower in the foreground is a work of Rodin's. I think.
I didn't read the information, so I couldn't really tell you.
The tower in the background is the work of Eiffel.
And lots of steelworkers.

I am the keymaster. Are you the gatekeeper?

"The Gates of Hell."

A pudgy dude who's quite comfortable in his own skin. Or rock.
It's good to see that.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


Tonight I attended a Bible Study with some local Christians I've met. It was a good time to be with some of the few French Christ-followers out here and to practice my new language. At one point, I had something to share with the group, and I did so. I launched into a little story with examples and thought I'd expressed myself well. I'd gone on for a couple of minutes, all in French, no translation help needed. When I finished, the facilitator of the study then turned to the rest of the group and started in French "He said..." and then proceeded to repeat everything I'd just said. Ahh! It reminded me of this old favorite comedy sketch, as I totally felt like this guy (except that I do believe mine was probably warranted).