Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Once again, feel free to scorn me. Most likely your deductions based on this post’s title are correct. I have, in fact, already started listening to my Christmas music on my iTunes AND transferred some of my most highly preferred songs to my iPod. Does that make me a bad person? No, I do not believe so. Does it make me stupid? Yes, quite possibly, but I guess that would have to be determined at a later date. For example, if listening to these carols earlier than usual causes detrimental side affects (such as my ears falling off), then I was stupid. However, I do feel it is important to point out that I didn’t start listening to the sounds of Christmas on a complete and utter whim. On the contrary, I gave the idea a lot of consideration and have plenty of rational reasons for already beginning the Christmas music craziness. Don’t think you can believe me? Read on, my dears.

First of all, the way I’ve been viewing time in Lyon is different than my usual perspective. You see, time moves in mysterious ways here. At Franklin Pierce, I view time on an hourly scale and use vacations (such as Columbus Day) to see things in the long-term. I feel as though I see my day in accomplishments there. The more things I can accomplish off of my “To Do” list, the shorter the day gets. For example, getting through all of my morning classes alive is an accomplishment that shortens my day. Finishing my homework or a paper before dinner is also an accomplishment that helps to push time onward. And, finally, the completion of any/all daily extracurricular activities puts the capstone I need on time to prove to me that it is still pushing forward. Of course, this means that days that have more substance to them (classes, activities, etc.) are sensed by the mind and body as being longer, but I can easily accept that feeling because it all evens out with the lighter days I’m also lucky to experience (such as weekends). When it comes to the long term, I tend to focus on vacations. That is the time when I get to leave campus, go home, and actually relax. I judge all long-term assignments on vacations as well because I REFUSE to work on any of them over a period that I deem “vacation.” Therefore, they must be completed beforehand or afterward, and they are worked into my daily schedules with that idea in mind.

In Lyon, this set up doesn’t really make sense. How do I explain it? Okay… let me try this: Before I choose to study abroad, I probably gave the idea a lot more consideration and attention than the people around me realized. As I’ve said before, academics are extremely important to me, and I feared that such a drastic change in lifestyle would have devastating affects on my GPA or ability to think critically, write solid papers, juggle the work of multiple professors, etcetera. I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to be successful in such a different setting. I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to adjust to it properly. However, I ultimately realized it was an experience that I couldn’t pass up. I had already promised myself to seize as many of the college opportunities presented to me as possible, and if I didn’t seize this one, I wouldn’t have been able to truthfully state that I did so. Not to mention, being able to effortlessly adjust to different settings, situations, and occurrences is a life skill. We can’t control everything, but if we can learn how to be flexible, fluid beings, we can be that indispensable person in every/any situation. We can maintain our balance no matter what, and personally, I feel like those kinds of people would be the most useful in leadership positions. Therefore, I had to study abroad in order to prove how versatile I could be.

As far as time goes, I don’t have a full syllabus for any of my classes while I’m here, so I can’t plan out projects very far in advance. We don’t get a full weekend off (only Sundays… sometimes), so I don’t have clear days of work and leisure. Although we do get weekly schedules outlining our mandatory activities and classes, they are so spread out throughout the day (and you have to factor in travel time, which is usually an extra half-hour to forty-five minutes before and after the activity), that a day’s events could very easily flow right from 9:00AM until 9:00PM that evening without any real sense of full accomplishment until 9:00PM. Knowing this, it’s got to be apparent why my normal view of time here is skewed. In Lyon, I tend to view time in days and weeks and I see the long-term in terms of November 29th (the day we go home). For example, I know I’ve started a day when I take my daily vitamin, and I know I’ve ended a day when I can cross it off the calendar hanging on the wall in my room. Each day’s end brings me closer to the end of the week, and each week’s end leaves me one week closer to leaving Lyon. I’m not really viewing time in terms of months because the idea of three whole months in a foreign country can either be extremely scary (three whole months before I get to see ANY of my loved ones again? = Separate anxiety) or upsetting (I only get THREE months to explore a whole other lifestyle and culture? = Not good enough).

Of course, this isn’t to say that we don’t have some similarities to the Franklin Pierce schedule. For example, we do have a vacation week here scheduled at some point in November, but since I’m not planning on going anywhere crazy or being visited by any family or friends, it just doesn’t seem that important to me. In fact, I would be just as content if we didn’t have a vacation week. Not to mention, it’s at the end of our trip, so it wouldn’t provide much comfort for now, and it wouldn’t provide much comfort afterward because I’d rather view time as approaching the 29th instead of leaving the week of predetermined “vacation.”

NOW, knowing all of this, can you not see how Christmas and the like would seem closer than usual? I’m viewing time in weeks, and as far as I’m concerned, as soon as I step off the plane in Logan airport, I’m on Winter Break. Winter Break = Christmas time. It’s that simple. Isn’t it?

Okay, now I’ll go onto reason number two (even though it really doesn’t compare): I’ve already started seeing Christmas advertisements in the Metro stations. In fact, the ones I’ve seen actually feature Santa Claus. It doesn’t get more Christmas-y than that. Plus, I have to mention that the music in France isn’t all in French. In fact, more often than not it appears that they tend to be listening to American artists. Don’t believe me? I dare you to get onto any tram in Lyon, and you’ll hear American music blasting (the French don’t seem to have an issue with playing their preferred music through speakers when in public locations). Plus, even their ring tones are American! I believe I’ve heard “Forever” by Chris Brown a few times. Anyway, the Metro stations and such have already started playing “Last Christmas” and the like. They tuned my brain to Christmas musical-ness! I couldn’t resist it.

In conclusion, that’s the end of this post. I don’t have anything else to say… except one simple phrase that’s been said many times, many ways: Merry Christmas to you.

Avec l'Amour,

Saturday, September 27, 2008

SALSA LESSONS (September 27th)

On Thursday evening, Wendy planned for us all to attend a free Salsa dance lesson being sponsored for the Biennale! Of course, we were all super excited by the idea. Not only did it mean that we were getting a much needed break from our mandatory daily attendance of dance performances, but it also meant that we got to escape our currently life consuming “modern” box. We could break out of our shells a little and use Salsa to take us a little closer to party dancing and jazz dance and the other forms we also adore. It was totally necessary, and I wonder how Wendy knew it was exactly what we all needed.

In any case, when it finally began, we were in a Dancers’ Heaven! In fact, it probably took less than three minutes for us to all assemble at the front and center of the group and be the first to heave our bags/jackets into a pile on the ground behind us. No, nothing was going to distract us from doing our best. The instructor, a tall dark man whom happened to be from Cuba, was absolutely perfect! He had a great personality and was surely having a lot of fun up on stage while he taught the crowd assembled in front of him. The best part was probably that he was very interactive when it came to the audience. He’d point out individual members to help correct their movements or give them positive reinforcement. He even clapped for dancing children and tried to wave over more people to join in on the fun.

At one point near the beginning of the lesson, he attempted to get the audience to do more than just follow along. Instead of allowing the members to solely copy his movements, he also wanted them to say the names of the motions as they practiced them. Being a dancer, I know that this is a common technique in dance education that is used in order to ensure that the individual “learning” the intended material is in fact retaining it. Of course, since we were unable to communicate in French, we originally ignored his request, but he was being very insistent and convinced us that he would not teach us any new steps unless we were vocal. So, as if we had taken the time to plan it out, we all had the exact same idea at the exact same time. In unison, we began shouting out the English translation for the steps as we performed them! When he finally turned around to face us, he was looking out into the audience with an extremely confused expression, and we all just burst out laughing. Obviously, this set the mood for the remaining period of time, and at the end of all of the dancing fun, we made our way over to the stage to take some photographs with our new favorite Salsa teacher!

Afterwards, Wendy informed us that we all did an amazing job, and we were glad to hear it. Apparently, since she was participating in the dance lesson from a little further back in the thick of the crowd, she spent a great deal of time watching us. According to her, this wasn’t very hard at all because we basically stuck out like sore thumbs. Not only did we pick up the combinations quickly and could transfer them to the other foot without any sense of hesitation, but we also all turned and moved on the very same beats of music. We were most definitely one united, dancing group of ladies.

So, children, the moral of the story is, if you need Salsa lessons, just ask one of the Lyon Ladies! We’re absolutely AMAZING. I swear it.

Avec l'Amour,


Okay, I admit it. I suck. I caved in and bought a Starbuck’s white chocolate mocha frappacino while in living for a three-month period in Lyon (and, as you probably would have been informed by the other lovely Lyon students, I’d only been here for about a week when the afore mentioned infraction occurred). Unfortunately, it’s a lot harder to go without those simple American pleasures than one may think, and it’s an experience like this that truly makes it apparent how we tend to take SO many things for granted (or at least I do, but since I’d never admit that alone, I’m using the plural and taking you all down with me). As support to my pluralized claim, I will also competently inform you that not a girl on this trip could say she’s entirely content with what Lyon has to offer her. On the contrary, we all have our own separate lists of highly missed, cannot wait to be able to have/use again, items. Don’t believe me? Take a look for yourself (and enjoy the complete and utter obscurity of some of the desirables).

AD: 1. Nachos
2. Pillows
3. Cody (her puppy!)
PM: 1. Dancing On Tables
2. Her Bed
3. Normal Sized Showers (ours are approximately, 3x3)
NS: 1. Flatbread sandwiches & Coconut Cooladas at Dunkin Donuts
2. General Sao’s Chicken
3. Chili’s
LL: 1. Buffalo Wings
2. Nachos
3. Ellie (one of her beloved stuffed animals)
SSB: 1. Bacon & Cheese Burgers
2. People Who Speak Fluent English
3. Driving In Her Car With Loudly Blaring Rap Music
MW: 1. Her home
2. The radio
3. Her independence (SUCH AS being able to travel freely when/where she pleases, knowing the surrounding area by heart, being able to communicate without hesitation, etc.)
CF: 1. Driving In Her Car
2. Sunday Dinners At The Grandparent’s House
3. “One Life To Live”
RT: 1. Dunkin Donuts
2. Getting Ready With The Girls On Friday And Saturday Nights
3. Putting Up Away Messages
CL: 1. Sunday Football
2. Her Bed
3. Buffalo Chicken Wings With Blue Cheese Dressing

1. Mt. Monadnock
2. Lazy Sunday “mornings” with my family
3. Strawberry Frosted Pop-Tarts (although at this point in time I’d take ANY flavor at all… I’m just THAT deprived. How do their college students survive without any access to the perfect* food?)
4. Typhoon Asia’s Crab Rancoons (& any Chinese food in general)
5. French Vanilla Flavored Coffee/Ice Cream/etcetera (can you believe “FRENCH” Vanilla doesn’t exist here? And I tried their regular vanilla. It’s not a good substitute.)

Avec l'Amour,

*Obviously Pop-Tarts. First of all, they’re a delicious food product that can be eaten at any time of day, which means they’re extremely useful for all meals, snacks, or desserts. Secondly, the fruit flavored ones are most definitely a healthy choice! In fact, I’m willing to bet that the fruity flavored ones provide the consumer with at least one full serving of fruit. Plus, they’re in a “pastry” type form so they have some grain to them that makes them a bit heartier. As far as travel goes, they’re VERY travelable due to those cute little foil packets. Not to mention, you can choose to eat them chilled, frozen, at room temperature, heated, or toasted! The possibilities are practically endless. It doesn’t get any better than that. I dare you to find a more versatile, appealing product on the market today.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Reading the small paragraph of English description, which fortunately can be found for each of the performances mentioned within our Biennale de la Danse program booklet, was enough alone to highly spike my level of on a piece that was being performed by choreographer and dancer Susanne Linke on Thursday, September 18. The text read:

At the Maison in 1985, Linke danced Schritte Verfolgen, an intensely introspective solo in which she returns to childhood: up to age six, illness had left her unable to hear or speak; she only have gesture and dance. This new version, in which she is accompanied by three female dancers, is lent an extra emotional charge by the maturity of age and by thejubilatory confirmation of “being” in each phase of life. A stunningly modern work.

Upon arrival at the theatre, I took my centered, third row seat and anxiously awaited the opening of the ruby red curtain. So far, whenever we seemed to have such amazing seats (such as at the Forsythe show), the dances had been undeniably thrilling and left me with a positively stunned impression. Therefore, I had no reason to think this performance to follow any different pattern.

The curtain opened slowly as a piece of operatic music crackled into the audience. The first item that was visible was a jet-black piano sitting centered upstage. From my standpoint in the audience, I could tell that a few of its keys were missing. This revealing alone was shocking for, due to a picture featured in the program, I had been expecting to see a “hospital bed” as the piece’s main prop. What did a piano have to do with having a horribly scarring illness as a child? It was only after the performance and during a group discussion that we concluded the piano was significant for it symbolizes another form of artistic communication that she could not participate in due to her form of autism (we learned that she was autistic after the piece from Wendy who could read the larger French description that was featured in the program). As the curtain continued to reveal more of the somewhat calming blue lit scenery, something downstage right caught my attention. It was a grim reaper, but this was not your ordinary reaper at all. She was dressed in an exquisitely crafted dark blue and purple frock that had a large, heavily folded hood covering her entire head. Her dress was very medieval and had a regal sense about it. As the gorgeous vision ever so slowly walked her way towards the left side of the stage, she balanced a large silver seethe in her hands. Her movements were in no way provoked by the music, and yet as the opera became louder and more frantic, I found myself reaching a state of panic. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. I waited for her to whip her body around toward the audience or make some other sudden movement. I began doubting my original inclination that she would in fact make it far enough to exit on stage left. The music seemed to imply otherwise. The atmosphere seemed too intense, fast paced, and sudden to allow her to get to that “finalized” destination. Before she had a chance, but after she had successfully crossed the centerline, the curtain quickly closed. The music did not end, and it was confusing to not know what was happening to that beautiful reaper. Did she continue to balance that seethe? Was she there to imply a tragic ending for the child or the uncertainty of life length for the grown woman? Was she meant to be a recent phantom in Linke’s life or just the image of the one from her past?

When the curtain opened again, the entire stage had changed. The walls and floor were pure white along with the lighting and a smoke filled the space that not only made it hard to fully see, but also made the air smell somewhat of cleaning material and antiseptic. It was an intriguing scent. I’d never been to a dance performance where the sense of smell had been relied upon before. The scent alone conjured up images of hospital rooms, and I knew immediately where the dance was now taking place.

The dancer entered stage right by running right into the two long tables that had been set in a horizontal line parallel to the audience’s view along the right side of the stage. The tables were covered with a large white cloth, and reminded me of hospital tables or beds. Of course, they seemed rather large for this purpose, but I had to remember that the dancer was meant to be a child. Everything is always larger from the eyes of a child. Even the brown colored, hospital-like slipper socks that she wore beneath her hospital gown seemed to be slightly larger than necessary. As soon as the dancer hit the tables, she backed up off the stage and then ran at them again, striking them with full force. She continued this motion, continued hitting the roadblock in her until the tables were basically centered in the space. All of this was performed to the sound of heavy, whipping winds and drums.

As this particular dancer continued her solo, images of horror movies were conjured up in my mind. She wore her long hair over her face and made jerky movements that didn’t seem the least bit natural or human. Finally, when she lied down on the tables, the light placed over them turned on bright and white. A doctor’s light, I thought. She slid along the tables pulling at the cloth below her and feeling her way about them. Her frustration could be felt, and it ripped through me like a current as I witnessed her thrashing movements; her childlike tantrums. As a spectator, it felt as though I was being allowed into the child aged Linke’s mind. It sounded like it too. By this point in the piece, the noises sharing the same space as the dancer were those of metro stations: the screeching and screaming of subway trains as they pressed on their breaks. It was overwhelming in and of itself, and it was ridiculously loud. It was tormenting. I found myself feeling intensely sorry for Linke. It must have been so loud in her head all alone; unable to communicate verbally and unable to hear forms of communication. The dancer was the one who gave me the sensation that I was being allowed into Linke’s brain. Occasionally, she starred directly out into the audience with large, scared, creepy eyes and her mouth gaping open as though she was trying to scream in fear and frustration while her tongue flailed around. Each time, her eyes were like portals, and her silence was gut wrenching. It was a highly disturbing piece of the choreography.

The rest of her solo included her circling and re-circling the tables. She never seemed able to climb over them, just as she didn’t seem to be able to do anything but run directly into them at the beginning of her piece. She just couldn’t get around them successfully. Finally, she tied up her hair in a low ponytail at the nape of her neck, which symbolized an age change, and was able not only to climb over the tables, but also to separate them as well. When this occurred, the lighting became brighter and the operatic music began again giving the audience’s ears a slight break. I wondered if she could hear the music. Hear the voices. Hear the cowbell that seemed to sound off in the background.

The next portion of the piece most definitely featured an older Linke as the dancer was changed. The new soloist wore her hair in a low ponytail but a shorter white ribbed tank styled top as her clothing. It soon became apparent that something significantly better had occurred. Pure white feathers slowly dropped onto the stage. Even so, the present dancer still seemed to have a blank, rather innocent but fearful stare. Piano music crackled into the audience as she moved about the stage. Her breathing was clearly labored, but it was apparent that her movements weren’t causing that affect. They were purely gestures, and made me feel as though she was just now learning language. I can only describe her movement as unsure, repetitive, and stammering. It reminded me of how I stumble over words when attempting to speak French and become slightly overwhelmed as I rack my brain for substitute words that could relay similar messages to those around me.

Unfortunately, the piano music did not last her entire solo and the trains began rumbling and screeching back through. I found myself nervous that she was falling back into the autism, but then I realized that she was most likely just reliving the memory of it. The trauma of it.

When the third dancer appeared on the stage, costuming once again allowed me to grasp the concept that Linke had grown older. The woman was wearing pants and the low ponytail. Her movements were unlike the previous ones. She moved widely about the space and her motion was always fast. She was more technical and had plenty of leg lifts that had not been used yet. At one point, she brought out a beautiful chandelier into the space. It was sitting on wheels with a rope attached to it that she was pulling. Although she struggled with it at times, she was still able to control it and take it wherever she needed it to be. This action allowed me to view the chandelier as the memory of Linke’s past experience. As was clearly apparent, it was a burden to her that she had to drag around, but it was also a source of beauty. For example, at some points, the crystals of the chandelier would catch the surrounding light and brighten the current space she was walking in. It made her disease seem as though it could have been a blessing. It was giving her a different perspective by catching the light in different ways. Plus, if it did symbolize the memory of her traumatic experience, then it symbolized the experience that she was using as a great source of inspiration for this very piece of art. Not to mention, the disease may have even led her to becoming a dancer in the first place since she could only communicate through the use of gesture for such a long period of time in early life.

Finally, the dance ended with Linke taking the stage herself. Her movements were the largest and fullest of all the dancers by encompassing the most space, time, and energy. When she entered, she was wearing pants, a jacket, and her hair pulled back into a bun. The music sounded like that featured during the credits to a movie, but every now and then the sounds of whirling, screeching trains could be heard. In any case, Linke did not seem bound by the noise. She embraced it. She walked amongst the tables that were still present on the stage and did not avoid them. Not to mention, the lights finally faded as she walked through the center of the two tables with her arms extended upward as the sounds of the screeching played in the background. It seemed like a utter acceptance of what her fate had been.

Obviously, this piece of Dance Theater, which undeniably confronted such a difficult and tragic subject, left a lovely impression on me. I not only wanted to be a part of the piece at hand, but I wished I could construct something just as heart wrenching and true in order to inspire more audiences. It is a piece that I believe will vigorously live for a long time afterward in my memory, and a dance that I highly recommend anyone attend if given the opportunity.

Avec l'Amour,

Friday, September 19, 2008


Of course, we all want an exciting trip while in France. We want something to remember—something that we can brag about not only for days or weeks after its over, but for years afterward (well into our futures). We want just the thought of France or French paraphernalia to bring up rosy colored memories and stories that even our grandchildren would find entertaining, cultured, or quaint. However, judging solely from my pass experiences in America, I’m not sure you’re ever given the opportunity to pick the exact types of situations you desire. For example, if you ask for excitement, you have to be able to accept it in a multitude of variations—for better or for worse. Unfortunately, for our small group of nine students, the worse hit rather early on…

Late last night a man claiming to be security reprimanded two of our Franklin Pierce girls and a male resident of our building (who is also participating in a study abroad program run by a college in Chicago) for chatting out in the hallway on the building’s ground floor. Although they all thought the man was a weird apparition for “security” had never surfaced before, and they most definitely hadn’t been loud enough to disturb the other residents, they heeded all of his requests. As he made his way around the ground floor, broke into the office, and proceeded to walk around the stairwell, the other male resident left his room, closing the automatically locking door. Feeling safe, one of our FP girls also left her residence in order to have a quick cigarette. After she returned, the male resident keyed into his room finding that his shutter had been pushed aside, someone had climbed in through his open window, and his computer, cell phones, and money had been stolen. Feeling anxious after hearing about the situation, the FP girl checked her own residence to find both of her cell phones and twenty euros gone. The “security guard” had not been security after all. Those involved had to get in contact with the building manager (who later explained the building didn’t have security personnel), call the police, wait for them to arrive, explain what had transpired, and agree to fill out the paperwork for a deposition today before they could finally go to sleep for the evening, which didn’t happen until after 3:00AM.

Of course, I have to clarify that I wasn’t an actual witness to this horror. Instead, I was up on the first floor watching a DVD, eating ice cream mixed with cookie crumbles, and easily falling asleep without a care in the world (at the time, I felt like I deserved a relaxing evening because my struggles to get the attention of the building’s manager had finally paid off—yielding me the lovely, usually taken for granted, pleasures of hot water, which I hadn’t ever been able to experience in my personal shower in Lyon). I heard about the scary situation while on the metro riding to Lyon Bleu for French class.

The rest of the day consisted of us all discussing our safety at the apartments whether solely among one another or to Christine (our GA) and Wendy. Judging from everyone’s thoughts and reactions, it’s highly apparent that we no longer feel comfortable, and that’s truly unfortunate. We spoke about always deadlocking our doors, not allowing workers to key into our rooms anymore (especially when we’re not around), not “buzzing in” those trapped outside the residence (they should personally know the code for the building if they need to get inside), and always being on the lookout for out of place people or belongings.

When I got back to my room this evening, the door to my apartment had been left wide open, and as I let the situation sink in, I quickly realized that the other girls were furious. They forced me back down the stairs, right up to the window of the main office, and helped me to let the building manager know about the situation at hand. She seemed highly disturbed by the comment (which I said as politely as possible) but relieved that nothing appeared to have been stolen. As an apology, she promised to reprimand the workers and remind them again (she said she’d already been warning them) to deadbolt all apartment doors after completing their obligations. Hearing that was enough for me. It had to be. There wasn’t really anything else I could see her doing in order to make me feel less anxious.

Personally, I know that I’m still digesting the occurrences of the past twenty-four hours, but I had to write about it as soon as possible in order to get it somewhat out of my system. I don’t mean to worry anyone at home, and I’m sure we’re safe here. No one was hurt, and no one feels the least bit physically threatened. Our concern is for our possessions, and we carry a lot of the important/expensive ones on our bodies at all times anyway. Other than that, we can easily hide iPods and the like. It’s just one of those occurrences I couldn’t let go by without telling you about it. After all, it makes up a part of our trip to France, and I’m already candy-coated enough as it is. I refuse to sugarcoat this blog too. I’d rather it be raw and real. It’s a take it or leave it kind of a thing.

Avec Amore,

MARKET TRIP (September 14th)

Excited butterflies flitted in her stomach as she turned the corner and scanned the tops of the first few market carts, which seemed to go onto into infinity. “A real outdoor market,” she thought. “How absolutely lovely!” It was as if she’d truly stepped into one of her very own fairytales—right into the real setting of Beauty and the Beast. It took all her might to continue walking along. Her mind was awestruck and her body seemed more content frozen in place while her eyes attempted to take everything in. All of the players… no, not actors… the real live people… seemed highly caught up in the scenario. They were either happily chatting, stocking their home-brought carts with food, clothing, and other intriguing items, or bargaining with the venders (who actually truly raised their voices in an attempt to get the attention of the numerous passersby!). Not one person seemed the least bit upset, dull, or in low spirits. How could they?

As she finally stepped into the fairytale like scenery, she couldn’t help but to immediately become ever more enamored with it. As far as she could see, everyone treated everyone else (stranger or not) with the utmost respect and dignity. In fact, even those who carefully pushed passed her seemed to smile lightly or send out a hardy “Bonjour mademoiselle” in her direction. Oh how she wished she could have the words to greet them back! Everyone seemed to be conversing so easily, but this was not her language, and she could barely pick out the commonplace words from their mile-a-minute conversations. Maybe one day she’d be able to speak just as fluidly without a second thought or hesitation. A dreamy smile spread across her lips.

As she slowly made her own way through the crowd of beauty, smells of freshly baked bread, seafood, recently butchered meat, spices, and flowers seemed to overpower all her senses. She was absolutely positive that even if she allowed her eyes to glaze over and solely focused on the smells, she would easily be able to find whatever product she sought out. Of course though, she reminded herself, she was not here today to seek out any product in particular. She just came to witness the scene, and take it on as the role of an extra.

Maybe next week she would come back and actually purchase food or clothing or a plant! She wanted everything, but she knew she needed to resist. It was in fact only her first time at the market and there was the highly probable possibility that every week’s market would introduce her to new products for purchase. She’d hate to find something more desirable at a later date and not be able to purchase it because she had no spending money left. She needed to be frugal and smart about this, and if she wasn’t, she would have no one else to blame but herself.

As she continued down the line of carts, she realized she was drowned in them for a far back and forward as she could see. “I must be nearly dead center now,” she thought. Unaffected by this truth, she found herself meandering onward anyway and stopping every now and then to take interest in fresh, appealing fruit or beautifully constructed jewelry. It wouldn’t be hard to find her way back. It was a pretty straight shot after all, and she was sure someone sweet would be able to help her if she ended up lost.

When she got to the end of the line, after what seemed like an eternity of peace, serenity, and good fortune, she turned one last time to look back at the striking display. Her arms reached around her center, and she stood there holding herself up. This was her reality now. For the next hour, day, month. She couldn’t have asked for anything better… and yet, a slight feeling of longing pulled in the pit of stomach. Hmm, she realized, she could ask for something more. “I’ll just have to tell them all about it in my next letter,” she whispered to herself and allowed a simple smile to spread across her lips. “Next time, they can experience it with me.”

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

SOMETHING TO WORK ON (September 13th)

Like everyone else, I have my fair share of character flaws. For example, I have an insane guilt complex that extends into every aspect of my life and always forces me to apologize for things I have absolutely no control over (ie: I’m sorry it’s raining today; I’m sorry! I’ll try to warn you next time before you walk into a bush accidentally; etcetera.) Since being in France, one flaw, which I have been working to correct for sometime now, is coming back strong.

You see, overall, I’m a pretty laidback individual. I hate drama, and I’ve learned many techniques in order to avoid it at all costs. For example, I usually don’t have any particularly strong preferences (such as what movie to watch) because I’d rather come across as an agreeable person than an opinionated, dominating individual. Of course, this can cause making simple decisions (think that movie thing again) a bit more difficult than usual because I truly “don’t care” and am not used to being put in such a decision making position.

Unfortunately, this lovely character trait causes more issues than just the previously described inconvenience. For example, I can easily be considered a pushover, and I have trouble asserting my intentions or opinions when it really matters (unless it’s in written form). So, while I’m trapped in France with a group of eleven ladies that all seem fairly open to clearly stating their intentions, this is definitely NOT turning out to be a good characteristic.

Now, I was left in the position of trying to figure out why I was having so much recent trouble with this flaw, and after a bit of reflection, I came to a very intriguing conclusion. My best friend, whom I envy an indescribable amount because she NEVER has my problem and can always clearly state her personal opinions and intentions, isn’t here. Clearly, due to this fact, it’s hard to emulate her! Plus, I’ve lost that portion of my support system, which encourages me to speak my mind. Whether verbally or not, she always reminds me that my thoughts have just as much value as everyone else’s.

So, how do I conjure up that strong personality trait when my source of constant inspiration is an ocean away? I’m not sure… but no matter what, I HAVE to do it. I can’t depend on her forever, and this is a “non-classroom” lesson I need to learn—a character flaw I need to overcome. I want to be own person, and I want to clearly be able to state my intentions and opinions without worrying that they’re somehow going to offend someone else. If I end up doing so, I can always apologize (I probably will anyway! Haha.). Maybe I’ll start small like telling Wendy when I don’t feel like joining the group for a movie night or sitting down in a café for class because I don’t want to spend the extra money. Then I can move up to higher tiered decisions such as what kind of food I’d like to eat for dinner (I have been CRAVING Chinese food lately…) and what movie I REALLY wanna see.

You’ll route for me though, won’t you? It’ll help to know that at least SOMEONE else is on my side. I promise not to become a super opinionated, uncompromising, dominating, not-fun-to-be-around person, okay?

Avec l'Amour,

SOAKED, BUT SO WORTH IT (September 12th)

Yesterday evening, I had the opportunity of a lifetime. Well, at least I consider it the opportunity of a lifetime. Wendy Dwyer, our accompanying professor here in Lyon, purchased us fifth row tickets to that evening’s William Forsythe performance! For those of you who don’t know much about modern dance or the modern dance world (and that’s totally fine! Personally, I feel like modern dance isn’t something that most Americans ever truly get exposure to because even as a dancer I didn’t know much about or have much of an appreciation for modern dance until studying it in college), William Forsythe is one of the top modern dance choreographers of our time. He is extremely creative, resourceful, inventive, and works at such a fast pace, he can turn out two to three complete pieces for his personal dance company in a single year. Personally, I feel he is limitless because his choreography comes from a very intellectual base, and this allows him to easily and uniquely manipulate the underlying mechanics of dancing.

What made this performance even more appealing and exciting was the fact that I studied and worked closely with Forsythe technique in my Dance Technique & Composition II class last semester, which was instructed by Sally Bomer. Due to this fact alone, I felt all the more ready to experience the program. Unlike the other choreographer’s works that I had viewed here in Lyon, I was already connected to these pieces. I had the background information. I had done my research. I had an immense amount of knowledge concerning the inner workings of Forsythe’s mind, and I was just itching to use it to my advantage… to dissect his three pieces and unfurl his choreographic choices.

Not to mention, I felt even luckier when I realized that, even though I’d been exposed to a ridiculous amount of videos featuring Forsythe’s work, I had never seen Second Detail, Duo, or One Flat Thing, Reproduced! What I would be watching, would be completely fresh. I couldn’t wait to see what qualities the Ballet de l’Opéra de Lyon would add during Lyon’s very own Biennale de la Danse.

The first piece began a few minutes late, and I found it hard to sit still with all the anticipation built up around my bones and under my muscles. Finally, the curtain rose, and I was awestruck. There were thirteen dancers on stage, and all of them had slicked back hair and were clad in skintight, white-gray unitard-like costumes that almost seemed to fade away into the similarly toned background color. The female dancers were wearing pointe shoes, and after only a few movements, it became apparent that this would be a piece of Forsythe’s with heavy Balanchine* influence. The very balletic movements were supplemented with modern lines and modern formations that caused the members of the audience to pick and choose what portions of the dance they personally wanted to view. About five minutes in, I had a very strong sense of something mechanical. It seemed as if I was watching machine—a human machine. Mostly this sensation was due to that fact that every motion, whether individual or performed within a group, was extremely calculated and synced completely with the musical elements that shared the same space. Plus, the piece was very obviously gendered. The females tended to stay in one group, performing the same type of movements while the males performed a separate phrase of motions on a separate portion of the stage. Not to mention, when the dancers were seated in the row of chairs that lined the back of the stage, they always sat with the genders separated. Of course, this isn’t to say that the dancers didn’t all link up at specific points throughout the piece, but such occurrences were very few and fleeting. Then, out of the blue, with what seemed like less than five minutes left to the entire twenty-six minute piece, a female dancer who did not resemble the rest entered the stage. First of all, she had wild, wavy hair in a mass of snarls covering her head. This most definitely made her appear different. Secondly, she was wearing a white fluid dress that had slits up the sides and somewhat hid her physique. It looked fairly Grecian to me, but when I noticed her intentionally smeared lipstick, I immediately thought “barbaric wild woman.” Her movements were nothing like the others. She weaved herself in and out of their ridiculously structured formations while throwing her body around and allowing herself to be free, loose, and unpredictable. In the end, I felt as though Second Detail was definitely a high contrast piece, and I loved the introduction of that final character. It was an unexpected twist mimicked by unexpected movements. It was brilliant.

Even so, I must admit that Duo was my most adored piece of the evening. In fact, it was the only one that I actually wrote notes concerning when the curtain finally went down (of course I couldn’t write notes while the dance was progressing… I was watching way too intently; completely wrapped up in the experience). I was first drawn in by the drastic change in lighting and costuming from the previous number. Instead of blending entirely into the background and being clad in dismal, bland colors, the dancers were oppositely clad in all black. They were both women wearing sheer leotards and pairs of black shorts. The sheerness of their tops were a bit shocking at first, but less than a minute into the number the choice made sense to me. Such costumes allowed the audience to view the dancers working muscles and bone structures much easier. This added another element to the piece, and made the effort behind simple movements more visible. Overall, I feel like it added to the audience’s understanding of what the dancers’ capable bodies were doing. Plus, from where we were sitting at least, we could hear the dancers’ breaths. They were strong and forceful and, due to the costumes, much more connected to the piece because they appeared to be an entirely intended and necessary part of the dance’s choreographed motions. These motions were somewhat balletic, but mostly modern. They pushed no boundaries of strength or flexibility, but seemed to be extremely important. As the dance progressed and movements were repeated, it appeared as if the women were telling a story and trying to get the audience to understand. Due to the erie lighting and musical elements that resembled carnival music gone bad mixed with portions of a music box as it winded down to silence, it was clear that the story was somewhat disturbing. Of course, since I loved this piece, I was also critical with it. My first qualm concerned the dancers. The dancer who remained on stage left for most of the piece and wore the turtleneck-styled leotard kept "out dancing" her partner. For example, she would lift her leg just high enough to beat the height of the other girl’s leg or she would hold onto the static and even flowing movement for just a hundredth of a second longer. This did not help to add anything to the duet. My second qualm was with the face that this piece was a duet in itself. I saw no reason for the two dancers. They never made eye contact. There was no physical contact between the girls. They basically performed the same motions the entire time, and when they didn’t, it appeared to be two separate, unrelated solos instead of a connected duo. I just found myself wanting some other clearly intentional reason for the choice of two dancers.

The final piece, One Flat Thing, Reproduced was most definitely the most ingenious and creative dance of the entire program. I had never seen anything like it before and would never had been able to come up with such an ingenious idea. As soon as the lighting begins to come up, the dancers shout a command (“Go!”), and pull four columns of tables forward from the back of the stage. The tables remind me of those that could be found in high school lunchrooms or even those in operating rooms! Plus, it cut the stage into two planes that I had never noticed before. The lower section was the normal portion that audiences usually view. The upper portion was a brand new level made up of an interesting flat yet not solid surface. In a quick overview, the piece took place on both of these planes, and the audience had the unique experience of watching a dance happen while the dancers appeared to be sliced at the waist when they danced on the lower level. Tables were moved, fourteen dancers flowed in and out of the intended dance area, and movements were timed so perfectly that everything including the musical accompaniment felt like one solid element. Obviously, such a piece must have taken a lot of preparation and work on the parts of the dancers because the consequence of possibly missing a cue or even being slightly off mark when starting a movement could result in a serious injury. I gave all of the dancers props for actually agreeing to do this, and I imagined the first caste’s blind faith in Forsythe must have been extremely strong. All in all, it was a well-designed piece and highly apparent that the dancers were all enjoying themselves (shared smiles, giggles, and words on stage emphasized that point). I left the theater very impressed and full of energy and awe.

As we began waiting the eleven minutes for Tram 3 to arrive and take us the two stops to our residence, it became clear that the skies weren’t going to stay closed up. Slowly, the drizzle that danced and speckled the sidewalk’s light gray color with splotches of a dismal, darkened gray shade began coming down heavier. Crashes of thunder could be heard and every few seconds lightning would streak across the sky revealing our tired but contented faces all the more. Although none of us seemed to care, for we were still discussing the performance of the evening and safely sheltered by the wide overhang that was considered the tram’s stop, we probably should have been at least a little bit.

By the time the tram arrived, it was pouring—absolutely and utterly. We all rushed inside feeling warmer and inspecting our shoes and dresses for any water damage when Lisa, apparently the smartest of us (we LOVE her), made it a point to explain that we’d be walking home all three to four blocks from our stop IN the actual downpour. I can’t even describe the responses of disgust that she received, but they were most definitely loud and disapproving. Quickly, in an attempt to somewhat preserve our dresses, Paige pulled pages out of a newspaper and gave it to each of us to use as a makeshift umbrella. I can’t even tell you how much I cherished mine at the time. Finally, the tram arrived at our destination, the doors opened, and I positioned the paper over my head before starting to make a run for home!

The water was ridiculously cold and coming down in buckets. As it engulfed us, I realized that I’d never heard so many girls scream so high pitched before! Although I looked for some sort of shelter, there was absolutely no helping it, nowhere to hide, no place to wait it out. All we could do is run, and run we did! Anyone in heels, except maybe for Paige, ripped them off in order to enable herself to run faster and prevent slipping. Falling into a puddle would have been completely wretched, and the puddles we were trying to avoid by leaping over and around them were quite large and deep.

As my newspaper disintegrated over my head, and I let it be dragged out of my hand into the street, I couldn’t help but see our actions as our own, improvised modern dance. The song was a mixture of our shouts, the rain on the pavement, the thunder crashing, and the voices or the music coming from the rooms of buildings we were streaking by. Our movements were obviously determined, somewhat free, somewhat frantic, and most definitely fast.

Once everyone was inside the door safe and sound, the screams from outside turned into a ridiculous amount of uncontrollable laughter. We were SOAKED through and through. Everyone’s makeup was running, and no one had come back unscathed. Of course, Christine (as always) had her camera ready, and without any self-conscious feelings, we all posed for a shot to remember the night, the rain, the fun, and the experience.

As that final picture of the evening proves, running through the storm was positively worth the evening’s total experience. We got to see a true Forsythe performance in person from five rows away! Not to mention, we got an absolutely amazing story to tell in the process! I mean, who else can say that they ran barefoot through the streets of France in a thunder and lightning storm while wearing the best attire they owned? Personally, I can only think of about ten other people excluding me.

Yeah, it was totally worth it.

Avec l'Amour,

*Balanchine was a very famous and influential 20th century choreographer who cofounded the New York City Ballet. Some of his work includes Serenade and Swan Lake (after Lev Ivanov).


Ready for a fun entry? Before I left in order to fly across the Atlantic Ocean for my three month long stint in France, both of my well meaning grandmothers decided to give me separate lists of some “important things to do.” My mother’s mother sat me down and instructed me on her multiple, lovely suggestions while expecting me to agree to them all wholeheartedly (right then and there). My father’s mother actually wrote out a “I’m Going To Miss You” card filled with her advice, and expected me to agree to its contents before I even had a chance to open and read it. Now, I know what you may be thinking: That is SO cute! Her grandmothers, who obviously have a much greater amount of life experience, have both given her a list of must-do, utterly necessary, DO-NOT-PASS-UP opportunities. It’s adorable. They probably want her to climb the Eifel tower, have coffee and a croissant at a roadside café, and take pictures of the City of Lights at nighttime. They want her to be adventurous and soak up her first real exposure to European culture. They want her to have the time of her life.

Well, you’re wrong. No, my grandmothers did not supply me with that kind of an adventurous list or those kinds of sweetly cherished tidbits of advice. On the contrary, they left me with a list of completely and utterly ridiculous RULES for France. Yes, you read that correctly: Rules.

Now, before I type out the actually handwritten list of rules, I feel as though I ought to explain to you just the type of woman my grandmothers can be described as. First things first, they’re Roman Catholics, and entirely “old school.” They look after me as though I am still a child (heck, they even treat my parents as children), and they are always willing to reprimand and inform those around them, even those they don’t know, as to whether they are or are not being proper enough. As I’ve been told flat out, I am their last hope for bringing the family into a brighter day and enhancing our good image and reputation. So, since they couldn’t convince my parents to force me to stay in America (which is precisely what they initially tried to do when I began talking about possibly spending a semester in Vienna or Lyon), they decided to do the next best thing.

Of course, I always laugh about how ridiculous they can be, but I do find it rather offensive too. I just feel as though I’ve proved myself to them multiple times. By now, they should have more faith in me to make my own decisions based on my own sets of morals and values. However, it shows that they love me. They care, and they want what’s best for me.

SO, now that I’ve once again fallen off topic (you’ll notice this to be a pattern in my writing), here is the list of rules and regulations for studying abroad in Lyon, France! EnJoY!

1. Don’t talk to boys (they mean men, but once again, I’m still considered a child)
2. Don’t travel alone (pairs is even a bit if-y)
3. Don’t take the subway system or trains (any form of public transport)
4. Don’t go out at night (AKA: pass dark)
5. Focus on your studies and say no to those distracting you when you have work to do
6. Go to bed early (don’t sleep your days away)
7. Make sure to wear a scarf, gloves, hat, and winter jacket when it starts getting cold
8. Don’t spend all your money frivolously
9. Eat healthy foods (don’t eat anything off of a cart)
10. Keep a good hold on your purse/bags in public places
11. Don’t take anything that is offered to you and seems to be free (it could be a gypsy)
12. Don’t flash money around
13. Don’t let people know you’re American

Avec l'Amour,

HOMMES (September 8th)

Mmm… French men. Hommes. What is there to say? What is there NOT to say? Let me put it this way: I got hit on by a French man when he was stamping my passport at the airport in Lyon, okay? I didn’t even get out of the airport before the craziness ensued! The men of this country are not afraid to flirt with women, and on that note, catcalls and the like seem well accepted here. It’s a normal part of every woman’s everyday life. On a trip home from the market, for example, I had a man very directly address me in such a manner. Of course, I no longer remember what his exact words were, but considering that I’m already happily taken, it’s not the slightest bit important. However, considering I’d only been in France three days and was approached twice, I think it’s easy to see my main point.

On a more direct note, the men here are most definitely attractive (and I’m not lying ladies). They dress impeccably, have a great amount of confidence, and have a very sophisticated heir about them. Not to mention, they’re French! That most definitely scores them points in the accent and foreign nationality category (at least in my book). Finally, they seem to all be rather romantic judging by their actions when women are involved. They hold hands, seem to caress their partner when they place their arm about her waist, and they actually look into her eyes when she’s speaking. Does it get anymore romantic?

Speaking of (err… maybe this is more of a side note), it seems to me that everyone in Lyon is extremely PDA happy. Although we may not be used to watching young couples literally making out on a park bench that just happens to be facing a busy intersection, the French seem to have no trouble with it at all. In fact, only our small group of girls tends to be the ones to point out these displays of affection while giggling. Of course, it is a little painful to watch when you can’t hold hands or hug or kiss the one you call your own, but it’s supposed to be love, right? And it’s France. Paris is most definitely known for its romantic tendencies… and it now seems to me they have expanded their way into Lyon. It’s beautiful. I wish all those couples the best of luck, life, and love.

Avec l'Amour,

Friday, September 12, 2008

TEXTED LOVE (September 7th)

So today, after watching Maryanne receive text messages on her personal international cell phone from her family at home, I finally realized something: I’ve been surviving EXTREMELY well without any texting capability! It’s miraculous. You see, for those of you who don’t already know, I’m addicted to texting. In fact, I just recently forced my family to get a much more expensive text messaging plan because I kept going over my personal limit. Although I felt bad, I really don’t think I can help it. You see, I personally feel as though this addiction was born out of the fact that I absolutely hate talking on the phone. In fact, I dread it. Maybe it’s some kind of phone-phobia (that’s how I usually describe it), but anyone who has ever roomed/lived with me before can tell you that it will take me at least a good ten minutes of pacing around a room with my open cell phone, number dialed, before I can convince myself to press “send.” It’s ridiculous, but I always feel extremely anxious when I need to talk to someone on the phone. Just thinking about it as I write this entry is conjuring up some of those awful feelings and questions and concerns. ::shivers slightly::

Anyway, after having this revelation earlier this afternoon, I realized I’m not entirely dependent on that specific system of communication. It’s such a relief! Now NO ONE can claim I’m addicted because, obviously, I’m entirely capable of stopping cold turkey.

However… I did power up my cell phone from home and scanned through my old text messages. Of course, the most interesting ones were from the day before I left. I realized I’d received a lot of advice, demands, and well wishes from those who cared… and, just because I think it’s kinda interesting and I don’t wanna forget what others asked of me to do, I typed out those messages here.

Enjoy! (I hope you all remember what you wrote to me, but just in case you don’t, I used initials to label ‘em all... and if I'm missing your middle initial or put in a fake one, it's because I don't know the real one! Inform me ASAP, please.)

“Be safe.” – JMC
“Watch out for pickpockets in Paris.” – EMP

“Have a safe flight. (Let us know how it goes.)” – KJC
“Happy flight!” – TCK
“Good luck!” – EMP
“I hope you have a safe plane trip over there and arrive in France all safe and sound! You’re going to have an amazing time! You will be missed greatly back here! <3” – KW
“Trust me, you’re going to have a great time. It is just the getting there part that sucks!” – TCK
“I’m sure you will have a blast!” – EMP
“Have a safe trip darling.” - JMG

“(Have a safe flight.) Let us know how it goes.” – KJC
“I want an address to send you snail mail.” – BPJA
“I will think of you every day. We better write often. Love you.” – EJ
“We definitely have to skype often!!” – KW
“Take care of yourself, and I’ll be thinking ‘bout-cha” – Cpt. A
“Please take tons of pics, and be safe.” - EMP
“You better post lots of pictures. I plan on living vicariously through you. LOL” – KW
“Have the time of your life.” Cpt. A
“Text me when you get your international phone. Have a safe trip. Tell everyone the same!” – DM
“Remember to smile. You’re on an adventure!” – MS
“Keep well and have a great time!” – JMG
“Send me an email once you get your Internet up and running.” – TCK

Avec l'Amour,


I made a decision today after I was FINALLY able to use the Internet at Lyon Bleu (the establishment where we will be having our French classes): I’m not that homesick anymore. Just being able to send out an email and inform at least one other person that I’m still alive was enough to make me finally feel at home here in Lyon.

Although French life is most definitely different from the lifestyle I have as a female, American college student, I can’t deny that I’m gradually getting accustomed to it. Of course, that’s not to say I’ve entirely accepted all of the differences or become devastatingly unaware of them. On the contrary, I still notice the little dissimilarities such as how, in general, the French seem to speak more softly than Americans (even when they are found in large groups!). Instead of attempting to stand out by shouting, making a verbal scene, or laughing hysterically in rather high pitch tones, they stand out in other more subdued manners. It’s all in the way they hold their postures and the clothing that they choose to wear, and strikingly, these simple tools speak louder than I believe that words ever could.

Now, this isn’t to say that the French aren’t conversationalists. They’re always talking! Even French music and films, Wendy has informed us, pack in more lyrics and conversation than instrumental sections or suspend inducing action. Plus, considering how many times the members of our group, whether individually or together, have all been approached by others in French, my experience proves the conversational nature of them to be true. Everyone always seems willing to make a new friend, share a smile, or assist us in any manner possible. It’s absolutely lovely. I don’t think I could ask for a better location to study abroad in, and all of those individuals who informed me that the French tend to be rather snobbish couldn’t have been more off. Although they may have truth to their opinions (for France does claim to be the culture capital of the world), the people of Lyon most definitely do not live up to that description.

Now, since I’m finally feeling at home, I can officially declare that I’ve actually “moved into” my residence. I tacked up images and words to my wall, rearranged some of my books to suit my needs better, and even fixed my bedding to keep me more comfortable at night. I’m no longer counting on things to remind me how many days I have left before our flight back (such as the number of vitamins in a bottle and the amount of days I could check off of the schedule Wendy handed us at one of our first café meetings… yes, I gave into that previous desire*). All in all, my feelings of anxiety and fear are wearing off. I can do this! I can study abroad for a semester, and I can love it. After all, it’s my opportunity; it’s my experience, and it’s my adventure. I’m not going to let anything stand in my way, especially when I’ve never let anything stand in my way before. I’m seizing the moment. Taking advantage of all possible excursions. This is going to be one of the most amazing semesters of my life. It’s going to be unforgettable… and right now, I’m ready to take you (vicariously) along for the ride. Are you ready for it?

Avec l'Amour,

*See last paragraph of 9/2 – INTERNET CONNECTION… FAILED

TRES BIEN (September 4th)

Where do I start?! The food was absolutely excellent! As Wendy described, our family dinner was a “huge success.” Plus, we spent a lot less money by preparing our own food together than going out to a restaurant, and considering that we’re stranded in a foreign land for three months without a salary (well, most of us), learning to economize is definitely important.

Even the men who live in apartments in our hallway (they attend school in Chicago and are studying in France for the next for months as well) came slowly out of their little studios to find out what we were up to! Unfortunately, it totally sucked to be them because we definitely didn’t offer them any of our extras.

In conclusion, Wendy promised us that the family dinner can be a weekly occurrence. She wants us to try new meals each time and practice our cooking skills. I wonder what we'll prepare next time? I'll keep you posted, no worries.

Avec l'Amour,


It helps immensely to have Ricki’s room and Paige’s room right across from one another. We not only are able to keep the doors open and gain more than twice the space, but we gain two stove tops, two kitchen sized sinks, and just enough space to finally sit down and enjoy the product we construct. I just hope that they don’t mind us always meeting up in their personal spaces. Maybe we can find a different location to hold our classes. I believe there is a community room being put together under my residence, so we’ll just have to wait and see if it’ll be open for use. I sure hope so though! I kind of like having my private space, and I wouldn’t want everyone cramming into a bedroom/apartment for a lesson on French history or Dance Criticism. That’s just definitely not a very appealing prospect.

MHM-MHM GOOD (September 4th)


Today was another easy day of easing into French life, and therefore, I don’t have anything too intense to report upon. Unfortunately, our lucky streak of sun has finally ended, but clouds alone definitely aren’t bad enough to make me want to curl up in bed all day. No, we’re still going out and about as we continue shopping for “necessity” items that keep (slowly) making themselves known (Confused? Think dish soap, sponges, bathroom mats, instant coffee, etc.).

Tonight we’re having our first of many “family” dinners! It’s very exciting. Wendy is coming to our residence in order to teach us how to make a stir-fry with cuscus. I’ve never seen a woman more excited over such a simple thing. As she explains, being in France for a semester isn’t just going to teach us the content being studied in Dance Movement III, Experiencing the Arts, Reason and Romanticism, and Dance Criticism. Instead, we’re going to be learning life lessons, and she’s going to be the one to make sure of it! Hmm… and just think, by the time we’re finally forced to leave, we’re gonna be master chefs too! Who would of thought? :-P

Anyway, we bought all of the vegetables and meat for the dinner at the open market on the next block today. It was such a crazy experience! I'd never been to anything like that before. I'd shop there every week if I truly lived in France (and just the delicious smells of the market alone are enough to make that statement true).

I can’t wait to see/taste/smell how good all of the food we make comes out! Don't worry... I'll let you all in on the goodness.

Avec l'Amour,

Thursday, September 11, 2008


AH!!! You would never have guessed it, but I have blisters—absolutely awful, retched, no good, very bad blisters. It’s disgusting, and if I were to describe them to you in any other manner than the technique used in the sentence before this one, you’d probably end up getting sick. However, as I usually end up doing because I don’t mind people giving me their pity, I did take photographs of them for you all. Haha! So, if you truly are intrigued by the rather disturbing images, I can most definitely send them to you. Just ask.

Now, onto the more curious part of this posting... How do I, Gabrielle the prepared and highly intelligent (oh yes, I’m modest), get blisters in the first place? Well, unfortunately, I wasn’t held down while someone grated fabric against the sensitive area of skin on my heels for hours upon hours… I got these lovely brownie-red-beige decorations by making just one horrible decision: I wore a brand new pair of black flats out on a walking trip to a restaurant in Lyon. All it took was one way, and I knew I’d be walking back with the backs of my flats folded under my heel.

You see, before leaving America, I knew I wanted to get a pair of black flats that could be easily walked around in. As Wendy and Stella described things, flats are considered high fashion in France (it’s true!), and they can be very versatile because one can wear them with casual pants, trousers, or even skirts. So I went to Kohl’s and picked up a very cute, comfortable pair. However, I picked them up on Wednesday and didn’t wear them until today (ugh).

However, one most definitely cannot let such a depressing experience ruin her entire evening. So, I must admit that the in-between phase, during which the group was actually sitting down to our first meal at a lovely, fancy French restaurant, was tres magnifique! The well-hidden venue was called Le Bistrot de Lyon, and upon entering the facility I knew we were going to be treated like royalty. We were all seated at one table and given the most decadent bread and wine to start off our dinner. As one ought to assume, the menu was in French, but Wendy helped us all to find a dish that we found appealing and then taught us the correct way to pronounce it. Fortunately, even if our annunciations were a little skewed, the waiter didn’t seem to mind. He was absolutely lovely and made all the appropriate approving and disapproving facial expressions throughout our “Introduction to French Cuisine and Properly Ordering It” lesson (picture a parental “tsk-tsk” expression for those that did not completely finish their meals and a large ear-to-ear grin for those that were able to eat it all). Now, although I’m sure anything would have been better in comparison to the airplane food we’d had for our previous three meals, this food was undoubtedly delicious (especially the desserts!). I ordered a dinner that included cuscus, chicken, and green beans in a lemon flavored sauce. For dessert, I stole a bit of Lisa’s Dessert de jour (dessert of the day), which tasted like a mix between strawberry cheesecake, marshmallows, and fluff! It was a great way to be introduced to French culture, and I can’t emphasize enough how perfect it was to dine out on our first evening in Lyon. In doing so we not only got to get a sense of the city we would be calling home for three months, but Wendy also made the experience of our arrival here feel extremely important and special. I appreciated it.

In conclusion, I’ve learned a valuable lesson from this hands-on experience that I may have not learned if I had never came to France: Never bring brand new shoes to a foreign country unless you’re being driven around EVERYWHERE. Always wear them in first, and understand that it doesn’t matter how cute they may be, if you’re not going to be able to wear them again for a few weeks while your feet heal from the previous hours of torture, they’re not worth it.

Now, if I could only stress it enough… please learn from my experience. Don’t torture yourself, and while you’re working on that demand, get yourself some real French food! ;-) It’s to die for.


AU REVOIR, AMERICA (August 30th)

I was asked to make an entry tonight, August 30th,the evening before I board that bus to Logan airport and then fly across the Atlantic to France. It’s supposed to be a short entry that “sums up your feelings, actions, anticipations.” However, each time I’ve tried to write this last entry before I “fall off the face of the planet for three months,” I find myself somewhat confused. How am I supposed to clearly describe what I’m feeling and why I’m doing what I’m doing when my audience may not even know who I am? Wouldn’t they need that information in order to fully comprehend my writing? Wouldn’t it help them to put things into a clearer context?

Maybe I’m wrong, but just in case I’m not, the following two paragraphs contain just a little bit of background information on my life at Franklin Pierce and back home in Massachusetts. If you don’t care about that aspect, skip it. If you do care, here goes nothing!

Obviously, my name is Gabrielle, and I’m a junior at Franklin Pierce University. Although I tend to describe myself as a fairly ordinary student, I know way too many other people who would never agree! Granted, I’m not that huge a part of the party scene, and I tend to give my academics a lot more focus than other students might (I’m a geek… okay?), but I’m still a part of campus life. I usually have some sort of campus job, I’m on the executive board of the Raven Thunder Dance Team, a member of the Winter Dance Concert, a co-chair of the Salon 21 committee, a member of the Honor’s Advisory Board, and part of a few other activities that occasionally pop up on campus (like interviewing “famous” women who are brought onto campus for the Women in Leadership program and planning the Talent Show). Other than that stuff, I spend a lot of my free time with my boyfriend and friends who don’t really fall into one specific category or group of people. Of course, I have my best friends, but all in all, I tend to be friendly with everyone and hang out in fairly diverse throngs of students.

Now, when I actually do find time to go home (and it happens more often than one may think after reading that hectic co-curricular schedule), I struggle to spend even amounts of time with my ridiculously close-knit family. I have an older sister who just got married to my favorite brother-in-law, a niece, an older brother, two ‘rents, and two grandmothers that all require attention. Plus, I still have my friends at home who I like to see and hang out with when possible.

So where did I choose to spend my last night before France? Well, Stella makes sure everyone is in the Rindge area by hosting an orientation dinner the night before the day of the flight, so I’m actually on campus. I probably would have ended up here anyway though. I definitely wouldn’t have wanted to wake up super early in order to drive in on the day of my flight out (I’m no morning person). Yet, instead of spending my last night at the Woodbound Inn, which is where Stella has paid for most of the other girls to stay, I’m staying at my boyfriend’s apartment. I figure this allows me the most options for my last evening. I can see all the rest of my friends who just happen to be on campus early, make that final Mr. Mike’s run, and drop off some extra stuff for my friends’ tower. Plus, I get a little bit of time to feel out the freshman class during their orientation (a carnival trip, anyone?)! Finally, I get to say a proper goodbye to everyone who’s around, and personally, I think that may just be the most important thing for me right now.

Overall, my feelings are not a simple mixture that can be easily described. I’m feeling anxious, excited, elated, angry, and slightly depressed. Basically my stomach is doing flip-flops, and depending on what I think about, I have the tendency to start crying or laughing or absently smiling on a whim.

Of course, the good feelings are all pertaining the trip itself. Seeing another country. Having an absolutely breathtaking experience. Being able to learn through experience instead of books and lectures. Everything that makes France and dancing there seem undeniably perfect.

The other feelings mostly revolve around leaving home and Frankie P. Basically, I’m upset to be leaving all of the people I love. It angers me that they can’t share this experience with me. If I had it my way, I’d take my whole “posse” along. Everyone I feel like I won’t be able to live without. Instead, I’m forced to take other things in memory of them like music, movies, photographs, a baseball hat, and clothing. It just sucks that I won’t be able to communicate with them as efficiently when I’m there. Plus, it sucks that when I come back, they won’t know how I’ve grown or changed (if I do). I mean, what if I don’t fit in anymore? What if everyone else has some crazy “you had to be there” experience, and I wasn’t there? And whom do I choose to spend the most time with when I get back: Family first and then friends? Or friends up at school first, before it gets out, and then family and friends back home? It just seems like it could turn into a complicated mess that I don’t want to have to think about or deal with, and I wouldn’t have to deal with it if I wasn’t leaving… but I am… and I’m happy about that… kinda.

So, in the end, I don’t have set plans for this evening, and I think it’s better to be flexible like that. However, I do have set plans for tomorrow, and that involves leaving the country via airplane and eventually arriving in Lyon, France.

Wish me well!



1. Possibly becoming overwhelmed by the language barrier, BUT
2. Meeting insanely nice and understanding people (hopefully!)
3. Having a tough time adjusting to the time change (six hours later!)
4. Having an insanely inspiring experience watching La Biennale de la Danse
5. Dancing in the aisles of the theatres and out in the street during the festival
6. Loving the city lifestyle
7. Wanting to venture back to Lyon (possibly for the festival) at a later time
8. Not being able to entirely explain and describe my experiences to others
9. Having a difficult time concentrating on actual schoolwork
10. Listening nonstop to my specially compiled play list for France (which I named Une Pomme De Terre. It means “a potato” in French, but it directly translates to “an apple of the Earth.” It’s one of the only words I know so far. Haha! Thanks Yari.)
10. Not wanting to leave, but at the same time, not being able to wait to get home


Before arriving in Lyon, I was specifically asked by my accompanying professor, Wendy Dwyer, if I would be willing to be the official memoirist of our group’s travels. Obviously, when one is presented with such an amazing opportunity, she never says no. In fact, I’m pretty sure I accepted the proposition without the slightest hint of hesitation… and now, as the trip draws nearer, I’m extremely hesitant to write anything! What if I can’t fully describe and expand upon the experience? What if my experience is too personal and doesn’t compare to that of the other girls’? What if I just mess up this whole blogging thing?

Well, I guess I’m just hoping that I don’t. But here’s my disclaimer/warning: My entries are all going to be about personal experience. They’re going to bias. They’re gonna be written in the first person (mostly), and I don’t mean for them to sum up anyone else’s opinions or emotions. As far as I’m concerned, this is my journal for the trip. Welcome to it.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


So I’ve officially decided that the worst part of my experience so far is not having access to the Internet. Basically, I’m at a point now where I wouldn’t even complain if my Internet access happened to be dial-up! I mean, I’ve decided I can survive using other people’s showers until mine is repaired (something is wrong with the hot water pipe). I can most definitely survive on the French cuisine (It’s SO good), and even survive the fact that at this very moment we have no silverware, dishes, or pans and pots for preparing our own food. I’m not even worried about being forced to survive with only a suitcase worth of clothing anymore! Yet, not having Internet access is slowly killing my soul (Haha!).

For example, I’m writing these posts in Word, but I can’t actually post them because we don’t have access to the Internet until the fifteenth. I can’t check in on Dance Team stuff and make sure that everything is ready to go for the fall season. I can’t check people’s addresses in order to send them cards or postcards. I can’t quickly search for the translation of certain American words into French. I can’t even check the weather in the morning.

Overall, it’s just a nuisance. I’ve gotten so used to having the Internet at my every convenience that living without it is literally wreaking havoc on my daily life. Not to mention, I’m most definitely homesick. I miss my family, my friends, and my boyfriend. All I want to do is call them up and tell them all about Lyon! I want to show them pictures, video chat with them over iChat, etc. etc., but I can’t. I’d even settle for just watching their words appear in an IM. It’s ridiculous.

I’m not going to lie and say that I’m adjusting easily to life over here. That’s not the case. It’s a challenge. It’s tough trying to get by when I don’t speak more than three words of French, but I’m doing it. Everyday I’m getting by little by little. I take pictures of things that remind me of people from home, and I talk to the other girls about how they’re feeling as well. I’m starting to think these feelings are deriving from the fact that we all feel somewhat stranded here. We’re stuck in France (mostly) for three months. We don’t have the option to travel home on the weekends, and not all of our relatives, friends, or significant others are going to be visiting at some point throughout the semester. When all of that is taken into consideration, especially for those of us that are used to being able to be up in Rindge and go home on a whim, three months seems like a significant amount of time. Plus, it seems even tougher when you have absolutely no way to communicate with those you dearly miss.

I hope it all wears off soon. I just wish I had a solution for the feelings. Something that I could do that would make them all wear off faster. I’ve heard from my friends that have studied abroad before that the first two weeks are the worst, but if you can pull through them and push through the intense homesick tendencies, you’ll have an amazing time.

Right now, as I stare at my calendar hanging on my wall and deny my strong desire to start crossing off all of the days I’ve been here while starting a personal countdown to when I may finally go home again, I’m just hoping their right.

Beauty and the Beast is set in France, no? That whole first scene of the Disney version… when Belle is reading her little blue book… it’s filled with images of French life and appeal, right? I mean isn’t there a whole part where the peasants keep stating over and over again “Bonjour!”? I should totally download that opening song so that I can add it to my Une Pomme De Terre play list! When I have access to the Internet… ::sigh::.

Avec l'Amour,