Thursday, December 10, 2015

Winter.

Hello, Hello!

I apologize for the long period between posts. There really is no excuse; I just didn't feel like anything worth writing about was happening.

Today is a fairly glorious day. I am officially finished with my Bachelors degree at SUU! Yesterday I took my last two finals and I'm done. Part of me is excited, but most of me is just terrified and lost.

It's a really strange feeling. After I walked out of that last test, I didn't know what to do with myself. More than 75% of my life up to this point has been spent going to school and suddenly, I don't have to do that anymore. What am I supposed to do with my life? Who am I and how do I take care of myself? I've spent so long measuring success by the grades I get and the classes I take, so my question is, now what?

How do I self-identify as anything other than a student? Because that's what I've been for years and years and years.

Then again, it's only been 1 day. Of course I haven't figured it out yet.

I have a few commitments this weekend and on Monday, then I am heading home! I know I saw my family only two weeks ago at Thanksgiving, but I'm so excited to be going home. Added bonus: on my way there, I get to see a new friend that I made a few months ago and I am ecstatic!! When she and I met, I felt an instant connection with her and I wanted more than anything to be friends with her. I'm so glad I get to see her again.

Maybe it's boring to talk about the weather, but the winter thus far has been so weird. It's only snowed three times. Three. And none of the snows have been bad. Right now, it's the middle of December and I've been leaving the house for the past week without a jacket because it's not cold outside. Don't get me wrong, I would never complain about the lack of snow; I just think it's really strange. (Watch, now that I've said something, it'll dump a ton of snow on us.)

Oh! I bought a sewing machine this week! I've been working on a few small projects-- just trying to learn how to sew well. I've definitely got a long, long way to go before I'll be confident with my skills. Fortunately, I've got a friend who is willing to teach me a few things next semester, so that'll be good.

I'll try to get back in the habit of writing here. It's almost therapeutic for me, so I need to get back into it.

Have a wonderful Christmas!

Sarah


Sunday, September 13, 2015

September, School, and Sweatpants

Hello!

It has been a busy school year already! We're three weeks in, and it's been good so far. After this next week, we'll be 1/4th finished with the semester! (It's all about milestones.)

That being said, the classes I'm taking are going really well-- I can't complain about any of them. I'm taking Human Resource Management, Entrepreneurship, Strategic Management, and Business, Government, and Ethics. Only four classes, but they each require quite a bit for each meeting. I have two major projects and a lot of little assignments. (But I just keep reminding myself that this is my last semester, and I can do anything I put my mind to.)

My birthday was a few weeks ago, and my mom came down to Cedar to see me. It was so much fun to have her here. Saturday morning we went hiking at Cedar Breaks and it was so, so beautiful. It was good to get out of Cedar and into nature.

I've been busy with church stuff and generally getting into the hang of things here. It's nice to get into a routine and have that to lean on. The first week back, I was really bummed that I had to go to class every day of the week, but now I'm appreciating the structure of it. It's comforting having a syllabus and knowing exactly what we're going to be doing in class two months from now. I just like knowing and being able to fill out my planner.

My new roommates are pretty great. All four of us are seniors, so we've been doing the school thing for a while now. We get along nicely and have had a few nights where we're all lazing on the couch watching Disney movies. Nobody is terrible messy, so the house stays clean, and we're all pretty easy going, so I imagine we'll have a good year together.

Anyway, that's what I've been up to. I hope you're well and having a beautiful September!

Until next time,
Sarah



Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Moving Again

Hello!

Goodness, it's been so long! Honestly, I've had nothing to write about. My summer wasn't boring, but it definitely wasn't blog worthy. (I'm happy to report there were no more major incidents with birds.) I had a friend visit us in Idaho last week and that was a blast, but other than that I worked at the farm and around the house.

This week I moved back down to Cedar City, Utah. You'd think after all of the times I've moved too and from Cedar, I'd have it down pretty well. False. I'd don't have it down. I'm already compiling a list of things I want my mom to bring me when she comes to visit.

The place I'm living this year is pretty nice. I'm living with a friend and two other girls that I hadn't met until a few days ago. Everyone is nice and I think we'll get along well.

We moved all of my stuff in Saturday and it mostly sat in boxes until Monday. That morning I woke up with a drive to get everything unpacked and in its place. All I have left to do is organize the bathroom. (Quite honestly I'm tired of Walmart, so I'll save it for tomorrow.)

While I say I'm not good at the physical moving part, I'm also not the greatest at saying goodbye. I hate leaving my family. I cry every time. I don't like leaving home, but I know it's something I really have to do. (I am almost 22 now.)

So, here I am adjusting to being on my own, yet again.

I have some good news, though! This morning, I met with my academic advisor and got the OK to graduate this December instead of May like I thought I would!! This is such a relief to me, and I'm so, so, so excited.

Before I found this out, I was really not looking forward to starting another school year, but now that I know this will be my last semester, it doesn't seem so bad! I finished choosing my classes this morning and, aside from grabbing my books from the bookstore, I'm all ready for school to start!

Until next time,
Sarah

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Birds

Hello!

I know I said that I would probably only post about once a month, but this week I've got a story to tell!

Perhaps you saw my post on social media about advice on how not to be attacked by birds? Well, here's the story behind that! The week before I started researching bird safety, I was out on the farm, like I am nearly everyday, doing things that needed to be done. On that particular day, I had to walk through one of the fields to get to the center where the controls are for the sprinkler. Usually, we would just drive to the pivot, but that day, the road was muddy, so I was going in on foot.

On my way, I looked up and noticed that there was a hawk flying right above and beside me. He was so close I could look into his eyes. My first thought was, Wow, this is so cool! He started squawking and making all kinds of noise, and I just thought it was the best thing ever that I was getting to witness this up close. After a few seconds of this, he turned and flew the other direction, and I kept walking, thinking nothing more of it. Suddenly, I felt a swoosh of air directly behind me and I turned around quickly to see what had just happened.

I saw the hawk flying over head, but I thought, surely not. Surely that hawk did not just fly that close to me. So, I watched him. I was a little more than freaked out at this point because I was alone in the field and I wasn't entirely sure what had just happened. Then, as I was watching him, the hawk dove at me again! I ducked down and covered my head as he swooped over me. The terror set in.

I had no clue what to do at this point. Do I run? Do I try to swat at him? How can I tell him that I mean him and his family no harm? He dove at me again and again, each time sweeping close enough to scare me, but not so close as to touch me. I got out my phone to call my brother, who was a field over and he told me to punch the bird if he tried it again. (Stellar advice.) Fortunately, the hawk left me alone after this.

After that episode, I was a little shaken, but mostly, just glad I had a cool story to tell. I thought it was a one time thing, but it happened again!!

Monday, I had to walk to another pivot (on a different field, nearly 4 miles away from the first field) for the same reason. As I was walking in, I noticed a bird above me (not a hawk this time, but still a big, threatening bird) making a terrible ruckus. I got a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach as I watched the bird holler at me and fly overhead. (Scenes from the movie, Birds, were playing in my head. My heart was already pounding.)

This time, being a little wiser, I kept a good eye on the bird so I would be ready if he tried anything funny. I watched as he flew away from me, and for a second, I thought I was safe. I continued to watch, and the bird turned, flew down to maybe 3 or 4 feet above the ground, and came straight towards me. As he got close, I jumped out of the way and he flew out across the field, turned and did the same thing. Instead of dive-bombing me, this one flew straight at my face.

This happened several times as I tried to get to the pivot, and as I was on the verge of tears, I decided to just turn around and walk (run) back out of the field. The bird left me alone as I got further away from his territory.

Since the incidents, I have done a bit of research about birds and their habits, but quite honestly, I don't feel any better about it! These stories, while scary in the moment, make me laugh after the fact. I'm hoping it doesn't happen again, but if it does, I have a feeling that these small terrors will form into real fears. In the moment, I'm so frustratingly helpless and that's not a good feeling at all.
 
These guys. Hawk on top, Curlew below. (Not my photos, thank you Google.)


Just yesterday, Zane and I were driving down the road and in less than a mile, we saw 13 hawks. 13. That's way more than I'm comfortable with. This year there are mice everywhere. EVERYWHERE. The hawks are eating well-- they're healthy and quite large.

Maybe I really was getting too close to their nests. Maybe they felt threatened by my presence. Or maybe birds just don't like me very much.

Until next time,
Sarah





Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Back at Home

Hello!

It's a little bit strange to greet you with that instead of Bonjour :) (Sometimes I still get the urge to call out "au revoir" as I'm leaving the store, but I resist.)

Life back in America has been nice. The milk, the make-up aisles, the wide open spaces-- these are the things I've been loving since I've been back.

The jet lag was pretty bad the first few days, but I think I adjusted fairly quickly. I spent a few very early mornings on Netflix, but I was finally able to truly sleep in the next weekend.

I am genuinely happy to be back here in Idaho. I needed some familiarity, some normal. I loved the adventured of Europe, but I needed to get back to the boring for a while. That sounds awful, I know, but it was getting to the point where I was just worn out from it all, and now I'm recuperating.

I've noticed, however, that many things that I loved before I left have lost their sparkle for me. Many things are dull. The word that keeps running through my mind is "lackluster." And I think that's understandable. Compared to what I've been doing for the past 9 months, things here are noticeably more boring, and that's ok.

I feel like I'm in a stage of rediscovery. I don't know what I like anymore. I don't know who I am. I can't decide what my style is, and I'm not sure what I want to do. I may have said this before, but I thought I would figure some things out over there, but instead, I've returned feeling even more lost than I did when I left.

A few days ago I started cleaning out my closet. When I left for France, I left behind about half of my wardrobe, so it was in sore need of cleaning. As I started sorting through my clothes, I realized that most of the things I had left behind I didn't even like anymore. Even some of the clothes I took with my I didn't like. I ended up with about a third of the clothes that I started with because I knew I simply wouldn't wear the other two thirds if I had kept them. That's just one example of the changes I felt since I've been home.

It's been really hard adjusting to the people around me too. Even though I talked to my friends and family a bunch when I was gone, I still came home having missed out on 9 months of their lives. I felt like many of them had moved on without me. I don't blame them, of course, because I did the same thing, but it kind of sucks.

I traveled down to Cedar City, Utah last weekend to see my friends and family there and I can't even tell you how good it was to be around my people again. I'm so thankful that I ended up going to school there because I have truly fallen in love with the area. I love the people and I love my church family there-- it's what keeps me going back year after year.

I got to spend the weekend with my nephews and spent some quality time with my girlfriends. I got to hug all of my youth kids and that made my heart happy. I'm so anxious to move back in August so that I can get to know everyone again. I keep telling myself that 9 months isn't that long, but right now, it feels like it was. I missed so much.

All of that being said, I don't regret for one second going to France, and I never will. I grew in ways that I probably couldn't have grown here, and learned so much about the world and myself. To me, that is priceless.

I don't mean for this to sound gloomy, I'm just trying to be honest, and quite honestly, writing this down has been therapeutic for me.

It hasn't been all hard of course. I've fallen back into the rhythm of things at the farm. I look forward to going out there every day because I love to be in the fields working on stuff. Sometimes it's hot and awful, but it's very fulfilling to me. I never would have guessed that this would be something I enjoyed so much!

I'm sorry it took me so long to get this up, but I had a few things to figure out before I could write it all down. From here on, I'm planning on updating the blog about once a month. (If you're interested, please continue reading, but I warn you, it might not be as interesting as it has been!)

That's all I've got for now!

Until next time,
Sarah

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Au Revoir, Poitiers

Bonjour!

I didn't realize until last Saturday that I had forgotten to post anything the previous Wednesday. That's ok, though; I hadn't done anything worth mentioning.

Come to think of it, I haven't really done anything since then that's interesting at all.

I've been super busy with school work. I finally finished my International Experience Report and got that turned in. Now, these past two weeks, I was assigned two more reports, two more projects, and two more exams to study for. I guess that's what I get for signing up for the last two classes of the semester!

So far, I've only finished about half of my school work, but I'm determined to get the rest done today, because quite honestly, today is my last chance to do it.

I've also been packing up everything. I can't tell you how many times I've packed, unpacked, and repacked because I forgot something or needed something I'd already packed. You'd think, with all the practice I've had over the past 9 months, that I'd be pretty good at packing things by now. This is not the case. I thought I was good, but I realized this week that I still don't know which way is best. I can roll my clothes and cram stuff into my shoes, but I'm still going to have to sit on the suitcase just to get it zipped.

This morning I was looking around before class, and I think I'm nearly finished. I've got clothes set out for the next two days and only have small things left to put away.

The rest of this week, for me, will be pretty awful. I have class all day. I've got to finish packing and move out of my apartment tonight and then go back early tomorrow morning for checkout. Then, I've got a presentation tomorrow morning and an exam tomorrow afternoon. Right after class, I've got to get all of my luggage to the train station and take the train to the airport, where I will be until Friday afternoon when my flight leaves.

When I land in SLC, I expect to be sleep deprived, yet happy to be home!

Lately, (when I'm taking a break from all of this school work) I've been walking the streets of Poitiers. I am going to miss this place. I'm not ready to leave this life I've been living here. As much as I'm looking forward to driving again, I'm going to miss walking to school. As much as I'm looking forward to seeing the mountains on the horizon, I'm going to miss the view from my window.

I'm so ready to be home, but I'm not ready to leave here. I'll miss this lifestyle. And surprisingly, I'm nearly as scared to go back home as I was to leave it. Of course, I'm excited about it. I'm ready for something new, but my goodness, I'm nervous. Change is hard.

I cannot believe it's been 9 months since I left the US. It has flown and dragged and been wonderful and crazy and one of the best things I've ever done. I've grown up a lot. I've learned a lot. It's been amazing.

Au revoir,

Sarah




Wednesday, May 13, 2015

So Close

Bonjour!

I am in absolute awe of how quickly May is passing. How is it nearly half way over? I'm not complaining, but, oh my goodness, time is flying.

This week has been... not really busy, but I've had enough to do. Last week I finished my Supply Chain Management class, so that's nice. I don't think I ever mentioned how much I liked the class. I really did. We had to do calculations of how much space we need or when to order new products, and it was fun to get to learn something that's not just theory. We were doing actual math and I was loving it.

Today I'm finishing up another class. This morning my group went in to present our project to the professor and he said we had a half-way decent presentation that was above average. I'm not sure if that's good, but I think it might be. Our professor really likes the people in my group, so we had a good time presenting and talking to him about our findings.

This afternoon I have to go back in and take the final, but it shouldn't be too difficult. Then I'll be finished with this class too!

From here, I have two more courses to start and finish. Of the 16 days I have left here, I'll be in class for 8 of them. That's the first time that's ever happened! So much school is such a little time.

These last two classes are being taught by a professor who's coming over from Southern Utah University (my home university). I've never taken a class from him before, but Joe and Lizette have and say he's a nice guy, so that'll be fun.

Last night I took my final french test. (And that's all I care to say about that.)

I've also got this huge paper to finish writing for the school. When the students leave, the school requires a report on the experience in the school and in France. It has some serious guidelines, so I've been perfecting that.

Aside from school, I've been spending some time at the park. The days are so beautiful lately. I've been breaking out the tank tops, hoping to get some sun on my shoulders before I return home and start working on my farmer's tan. (It's inevitable.) It's going well so far!

I've also been walking over to Sainte-Radegonde and spending time there. If you remember back to a post in September (maybe), Radegonde is my favorite church in Poitiers. It's so calming to sit and think in the nave. It's even better when I catch the organist when he's practicing. I could sit and listen to the music all day.

I've not yet begun packing although I'm itching to get started. I think it's a bit too early still, although I may need to start soon since my last two weeks are packed with classes every day. I did schedule a check-out with the residence, so I know when I have to be out and everything.

The next 16 days should be interesting.

Have a wonderful day!

Je t'embrasse,
Sarah

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Coming to a Close

Bonjour!

My days in France are quickly coming to an end. As I was looking through my planner earlier, I was surprised anew at just how little time I have left here.

I'm beyond ready to go home. I've reached the point in the school year where I have zero motivation to do anything at all. And since I'm at that point, I'm having trouble making myself get anything done and I'd really just appreciate it if I didn't have to do the things and I could just go now.

By this time next week, I'll have finished two classes and will only have two left, plus another French test, and a paper to write. It doesn't seem like that much. It's too much.

This past weekend, I took my final trip to Paris with Joe and Lizette. We had an amazing time! Thursday, we went to Disneyland Paris! It was so much fun (except that it never stopped raining). We had a really incredible time in the park.  Despite the rain, we went on several rides and walked around the park all day. We never had to stand in line for more than 45 minutes, so really, it wasn't too bad. And it wasn't crowded at all!


I think my favorite ride was the Rock'n'Roller Coaster. We rode it near the end of the day when the line wasn't long, so we went twice. My second favorite would have to be the Indiana Jones Temple of Doom (or the Temple of Peril, when translated from French), we rode this three times.

Overall, it was a great day. At the end of it, all three of us were exhausted and more than happy to go back to the apartment and go to bed.

Friday, I ventured out by myself and explored the neighborhood of Le Marias. It's one of the more famous areas of Paris and I had never spent much time there. Unfortunately, Friday was International Workers Day, so most everything was closed, but I still got to see a lot. I stopped by a Starbucks for a mid afternoon drink and wandered over to the Latin Quarter across the river before I decided to head back to the apartment.

Saturday, the three of us set out to buy artwork along the river. There are booths all along the Seine near Île de la Cité, so we spent several hours wandering among them, searching for the perfect souvenirs. We ended up back in the Latin Quarter and had lunch at a small restaurant. Any guesses as to what we ordered??



That's right, Escargot! I was very nervous to try it because, well, it's a snail. Zane and I used to play with snails behind the bushes at First Baptist Church, and I just couldn't imagine eating one of them. Eventually I forced it down and was pleasantly surprised with how it tasted. The green stuff is really garlic-y and the texture wasn't nearly as rubbery as I imagined it would be. (I was expecting balloon consistency.) I ate two of them and I think it's probably something I would eat again.

Sunday, we left Paris to see Château de Fountainebleau. It's very similar to Versailles except not nearly as busy. (It was even free because it was the first Sunday of the month and it wasn't very busy.) As far as the rooms go, I found them to be just as good as the rooms at Versailles. The gardens, however, were nothing compared to those at Versailles. Still very pretty, but not as grand.

We returned to Paris in late afternoon and I left the apartment to visit Sacre-Coeur just up the hill. Every time I'm up there, I'm blown away by the view. It's magnificent. I went inside the chapel and sat through the last half of a mass, then walked the perimeter and wandered back outside and watched a street musician on the steps.

I had heard that there were some interesting goings-on behind the Cathedral, so I went back there and was greeted with a lively art market. I had already bought my art, but I meandered anyway and ended up finding a piece that I fell in love with. (The one that I actually wanted was very expensive, so I didn't buy it Saturday, but I found one similar to it today at a much cheaper price!!) With canvas in hand, I walked through the streets of Montmartre and got lost in the neighborhood.


Monday was our last day in Paris, so that morning, I got up and went to Galeries Lafayette to have breakfast above the city. I grabbed my Starbucks on the 3rd floor and headed on up to the roof to enjoy the morning. It was perfect. The skies were clear and the breeze was warm. I felt a little sad at the thought of leaving the city, but I'm glad I got to see that view again.

I walked around a bit and did a little shopping. Joe and Lizette had somehow lived in France for nearly 9 months and had never tried a macaroon, so I picked up a few of those to take back to the apartment.

I made it back to the apartment by noon and helped clean the place up before we left. Our train wasn't until 4pm, so I hit the streets again because it was too beautiful to be stuck inside. There was a small park a block or so away, so I went there and sat for a while with pen and journal, enjoying the day. I wasn't the only person with such an idea. Nearly ever bench was taken by people eating their lunch or mothers with their children.

After this trip, I'm convinced that Paris really is magic.

We made it back to Poitiers that evening and went our separate ways. That night, there was a thunderstorm! I've always loved watching the storms roll in. The lightning is exciting and the rumble of the thunder makes my heart pound. I'm in such awe of God's creation when I get to watch that kind of spectacle.

I treated Tuesday kind of like I would a Sunday-- I didn't leave my apartment at all. I really should have because I had things to do, but it was windy and cold and rainy and I just didn't want to deal with it.

Today, though, I made up for it and am getting things done! (Kind of. I'm writing this as I avoid my homework. This is more fun anyway.)

23 days and counting.

Je t'embrasse,
Sarah

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

8 Months Down

Bonjour!

This week, I learned how totally and completely I take walking for granted. Turns out, it's a useful ability, because when suddenly you can't anymore, life gets a whole lot harder. 

Maybe I'm a little too dramatic, but honestly, this week has been a struggle. See, I can walk, but to get to anywhere useful, I have to walk uphill (which, you might have guessed, is harder than walking on a flat surface).

But, it hasn't been all bad. I can definitely tell that it's getting better, it's just frustrating to not be able to move like I want to. (Or as fast as I want to.)

I've had two class days this week and I'm currently working on one class project. Have I ever mentioned how happy I will be when I don't have group work looming over me for every class? Surely I have.

I've spent a lot of time sitting around my apartment this week trying to keep my foot elevated and generally staying off of it, and I'm happy to say that I have made some serious progress on HIMYM and House. Also, I just finished reading two books from a series about an Amish romance. If that's not something to be proud of, then... yeah, I need to get out more often.

Thankfully, for the rest of this week, I will be in Paris. I won't be doing anything too strenuous, but at least I'll be out of here for a little bit.

I cannot believe it's nearly May. Tomorrow, I can officially say that I'm going home this month. That's scary, and exhilarating. The sadness of leaving hasn't hit me yet, but the nerves and excitement of going home definitely has!

247 days down, 29 to go.

Je t'embrasse,
Sarah 


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Finding Awe

Bonjour!

How has your week been?

Since I wrote last Wednesday, a few things have happened.

Thursday I had class, and Friday I left for Paris to meet my friend Gabriella. (She's the one I met in Amsterdam a few weeks ago!) Since she was only visiting for a short time, she wanted to get started on Paris right away. We dropped off our stuff at our hotel, then began walking Paris. We headed in the general direction of the Seine. On the way we stopped by a bookstore, had a quick lunch, and had a drink at a cafe.

We eventually made it to a neighborhood I recognized near the Louvre, so we stopped there and saw quite a bit of it. Of course we went upstairs to see the Mona Lisa, but after that, we were pretty much finished. (It's a great museum, but oh my goodness, the walking.)

We left the Louvre and began walking through Jardin des Tuileries and stopped for another drink and a quick snack at a small outdoor cafe in the park. Afterwards, we began walking back in the direction of our hotel. On the way, we stopped by Galeries Lafayette and went up to the roof to look out over the city. We walked through the mall a little, then went across the street for a glass of wine before we started for the hotel.


Gabriella decided that she wanted a pair of shoes she had seen inside, so we ran back to the shoe department 15 minutes before the Galeries closed. She asked the sales associate for her size, but the lady was so rude. She was acting exasperated that she had to be working when they were about to close. I'd understand if we'd come in 5 minutes before closing and wanted to wander around, but we were there and Gabriella knew exactly the shoe she wanted-- all she needed was the size. Anyway, she finally got the shoes and paid for it and we were out of there before closing.

We started walking and only got a little bit lost on the way home. Actually we walked in the entirely wrong direction for a while, but we eventually got there. We stopped on the way to eat dinner at a restaurant. Gabriella ordered snails, and I had duck. They both came with delicious fried potatoes. We were pretty exhausted by this time because Gabrielle wouldn't let me hop on the Metro to go anywhere.

When we left the restaurant, we thought we still had a few blocks to walk, but it turned out that our hotel was just right around the corner. When we got up to our room (6th floor, and we took the stairs) we both crashed quickly. Unfortunately, we had forgotten to open the window, so we woke up at about 1 am sweating and unable to sleep. However, once the window was open and we cooled off, we slept the rest of the night peacefully.

Our hotel served a free breakfast, so the next morning, we went downstairs for that, then took the train out to Versailles. I had never been there before, so I was pretty excited to see something new. We were on the train for about a half hour before we arrived.

As we walked up on Versailles, I was surprised at just how massive the place is, and it's so gorgeous. The gate and the tops of the buildings have bright, shiny gold, and everything is very ornate. Once we were inside the gates, we walked through part of the Palace, but it was packed. I get frustrated when I have to navigate through that many people, so I didn't enjoy it as much as I might have otherwise.


We exited the Palace and walked out to the Gardens. I love walking through nature like that. The gardens are extensive and we were out there for a while before we reached the end. At the rear of the gardens, there's a park called Petit Venise. There's a pond with boats and more walkways. There were people on bikes and runners and families on picnics. It's the kind of place I wouldn't mind taking people I love to spend the day in the sun.


Beyond Petit Venise is a path that leads to Marie Antoinette's Estate. The Trianon wasn't nearly as crowded as the Palace, so it was much more enjoyable. Honestly, I think the rooms were prettier here than the Palace too. Afterwards, we walked out into the gardens, found a spot in the grass, and laid down for a quick nap in the sun.


We took the trolley back to the main Palace, walked back to the train station, and went back to Paris. We got off at a stop very near the Eiffel Tower. After we walked around it and admired it, we found a spot on the grounds and sat for a while. The Parc du Champs de Mars is a nice place to be on a Saturday. Everybody and their dog is out enjoying the weather. Many people brought bread, cheese, and wine to picnic amongst everyone else. It's a fun atmosphere.


We left a little later and walked until we found an Italian restaurant. We ordered beers and split a calzone before we continued on. Gabriella is crazy and wanted to walk from there all the way to Notre Dame, so that's what we did. We walked along the Seine for what seemed like hours. It was beautiful outside and it was really cool to see where everything is in relation to everything else. I like being able to point out buildings and know what they are.

We finally made it to Notre Dame and stopped in a cafe to have a glass of wine. I deserved it. At this point my feet were hurting so, so bad from all the walking. Gabriella and I wanted to picnic at the Eiffel Tower, so on the way to the nearest Metro station, we bought a baguette, then when we got back to the Tower, we bought some cheese and wine at a small shop.

We sat on the grass and watched the sun go down behind the Tower and just had a grand old time together. We stayed until the Tower began to sparkle at 9 pm. We watched the show, then went to get dinner. After dinner, we went back to watch the sparkles at 10 pm, then hopped on the Metro and went back to Montmartre to our hotel. Instead of going straight to the hotel, we walked up the steps (225 steps) to Sacre-Coeur. We wanted to look over the city at night, but little did we know that the steps of Sacre-Coeur is where the party is. We made our way through all the people drinking and went to the balcony.

Paris is such a beautiful city. Exploring it with someone who had never been there was good for me. Gabriella was in awe of everything and it reminded me of just how beautiful it is and how blessed I am to be able to spend time there. She reminded me to appreciate where I am in life.

Sunday morning I woke up with a  swollen right foot and crippling pain when I tried to walk, so I decided to leave Paris early and go home. We had planned on going to a museum before we had to get Gabriella to the airport, but there was no way I could have walked through a museum.

I showed her how to get there and back to the airport and she went, and I took a taxi to the train station, bought a ticket on the next train and made it back to Poitiers. Lauren and Joe are amazing and came to take care of me. I was really kind of worried about how badly my foot was hurting.

Monday I went to a doctor and he said I probably had a stress fracture. He gave me some meds and sent me on my way. It was definitely a different experience than an American doctors visit. It wasn't bad or anything, just different.

I hobbled back home and since then have been trying to stay off my feet as much as possible. Tuesday night I had French class, so I had to walk to that, but mostly I've done ok with not walking. Today when I woke up, the swelling had gone down a bit and it didn't hurt quite as much to walk on it. I'm hoping it'll be close to healed by next weekend when I go back to Paris. (This time I'll be cautious and will stop if it starts to hurt.)

Anyway, that's my week. Oh! I passed my French test! (Yayyyy.) It's definitely not a good grade, but it's passing and for that, I'm happy.

Je t'embrasse,
Sarah

Here are the other pictures I took over the weekend :)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

"Organized"

Bonjour!

This is going to be another of those quick updates because I haven't really been up to much.

On Thursday, we had a volleyball, basketball, and soccer (excuse me, football) tournament with two of our partner schools in Tours and Orleans. Joe and I went to play for the volleyball team. It was held in Tours, so us and 50 other students packed into a bus for the hour long ride up there.

By now, I shouldn't be surprised by France's "organization" skills, but I am-- every time. We signed up for this thing about month ago, then heard very little about it again. So it was coming up and we hadn't gotten any more information. (I need information.) Joe asked our volleyball coach about it and even he didn't know much about it. He was waiting for an email!

Wednesday, he finally posted on our Facebook group when and where the bus would be leaving from and that was all! That night we got an email telling us to bring our own lunch and wear red. That's just not enough for me!

So, we arrived in Tours and got off the bus and stood around until somebody found out where we were supposed to go. They led us into some trees, then across a bridge and down a path. I was looking around and I didn't see any buildings nearby that looked big enough to house volleyball courts, basketball courts, and a soccer field, so I was getting a little nervous.

We rounded a corner and in front of us was a big park with the fields and courts all set up. The guys in charge pointed to a dilapidated building and told us we could change in there. Thankfully the toilets worked.

I just don't get it. Why was it never mentioned that this was an outdoor party? You could have slipped that in somewhere!

Anyway, it ended up being ok. I got a pretty nice tan line on the back of my calves. Our school got first in soccer, second in volleyball, and third in basketball, and overall we won the whole tournament.

That night, they threw a party and me and a few international students went to get pizza. When we got back, we went to what I assume was some kind of talent show. It was fun enough, I guess, but being out in the sun all day had drained me and all I wanted was my bed.

Before that night, I'd never had the experience of riding on a bus with a bunch of drunk french guys, but now that I've done it I can say that I never want to do it again. They chanted about everything. Everything. "Ici c'est, Poitiers!" (Here is Poitiers.) Apparently we have a school chant, but it's really long and I could never understand what they were saying. They even chanted about how badly they wanted to stop to use the toilet. Boy, was it a long hour.

I had class early the next morning, which was brutal. Actually, the class wasn't that bad--the teacher was pretty great-- but still brutal. That class doesn't meet again until next week.

This week, I started a second class. I know it's wrong for me to complain considering how often I don't have to be in school, but three solid days of class is exhausting. It doesn't seem like it should be, but I'm absolutely worn out at the end of the day. Plus, the whole no air conditioning thing is beginning to be a problem again. It gets real hot, real quick in the classrooms.

Tuesdays are the absolute worst because we have an hour and a half of french a mere 15 minutes after we leave the class we've been in since 9:30 that morning. Yesterday, we had an exam in the french class, and I'm really hoping that I at least passed. It was so much harder than I anticipated. (It didn't help that I'd had class all day and they were blasting music in the courtyard next door. My teacher definitely caught me mouthing the words to the songs once or twice.)

Andddd, that's all I have to report. My weekend was uneventful, except that the weather was gorgeous. I spent some time outside and tried to even out what little tan I have.

This weekend I'm going to Paris to spend a bit of time there with Gabriella. I'm pretty excited about that since we had so much fun that day in Amsterdam!

Until next week,
Je t'embrasse,
Sarah

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

So Much Chocolate (Amsterdam, Brussels, Bruges)

Bonjour!

Last Wednesday, my travel buddies and I were traveling to Holland to spend a few days there and in Belgium. It was such a fun trip! I'm so glad we saved this one for springtime!

We flew into Amsterdam from Bordeaux, and I had a friend waiting at the airport to show me around the city. She's living near Amsterdam for a year, so we had planned to meet and spend the day together since she didn't have to work Wednesday.


While Lizette and Joe took the car north of Amsterdam to see the windmills, Gabriella and I walked all over Amsterdam. We didn't have any sort of agenda, so we just wandered and saw what we could see. We stopped for frites, croquets, and waffles (yummy, yummy, so yummy). Every time we spotted a cheese store, we popped inside to sample whatever they would let us. Basically, the entire day we had food in our hands (because...why not?).

Since we really didn't have a plan, we ended up walking in circles. We would turn a corner and realize that we had been there before. At the end of the day, she and I had a great time, which is awesome considering we'd never even met in person before that day!

The next day, Gabriella had to work, so Lizette, Joe, and I went into the city. We started at the Anne Frank House. It was absolutely freezing. Bitterly cold. The worst kind of windy days. (And I know windy days.) We had to stand in line for about two hours before we made it inside. The line was down the building, across the street, and down the block, and curled around the square. The lady standing in front of us was quite nice and we talked with her as we waited and even walked through the house with her. She was from the US as well, so she was easy to talk to.

When we finally made it inside the house, I was so relieved. It took awhile before I could feel my fingers or toes, but I didn't notice so much because I was so happy to be in Anne Frank's house! I've read her book a few times and have always loved it. It was so cool to actually be in the place where she spent so much time.

We were able to walk through all of the rooms in the factory, then behind the original bookcase and up the stairs to their secret annex. There is no furniture in the rooms because Otto Frank requested that the rooms always be left empty, but I could easily picture life there.

At the end of the tour, Anne's original journal is on display, which is just the absolute coolest thing ever. I really didn't expect it to be there, so I may have shed a few tears when I saw it. It's so amazing that her story has lived on and become so important to so many people.

Everybody knows that Anne died. Everyone should know that her father survived, but we never really hear about the people who helped her family during their years in hiding. I was happy to hear that the four people who brought them food and updates and kept them alive, all survived to tell their stories. If they hadn't lived, it would have been all the more tragic. They risked their lives for years because they loved people. What an amazing legacy.

We reluctantly left the House and went out into the wind again. We didn't venture far though. We found a sandwich shop and stopped for lunch, then we bought tickets for a boat tour through the canals. It was an hour long and completely sheltered from the wind, so I was happy. The rocking motion of the boat nearly put me to sleep, and if I could've gotten comfortable, I would have happily napped for that hour.

Afterwards, we walked to the flower market and meandered among the vendors. We grabbed a quick dinner, then caught the bus back to our hotel.

The next day, we visited Keukenhof, which is a huge garden with all kinds of tulips and acres and acres of beautiful landscapes. We spent a good 5 hours there, walking through the gardens. There was authentic dancing shows and a windmill and waffles and a street organ and so, so many flowers. It was a really great day-- it wasn't windy!


We left mid-afternoon to head to Antwerp to pick up a friend of ours at the train station. Traffic in Belgium is horrific. We arrived so much later than we planned because we had to stop on the road so many times. It was awful, but we finally made it to the station and picked up Li.

That night we stayed at the strangest Airbnb. Lizette booked it because it was cheap and the woman had really good reviews. She greeted us at the door and led us into this dark room and asked us to sit. Then another woman came in, then a man, then another man, and we just sat and talked for about an hour. She offered us drinks and served peanuts and other snacks, which was all great and nice, but I was really beginning to wonder where the four of us were going to sleep and who these other people were.

Finally, she offered to show us our room, and it was just upstairs. We ended up having to share a bathroom with some other guests, and three of us had to sleep on the floor, but it was ok, as we were only there for one night. It was all just odd, but the lady actually was very nice and helpful.

The next day, we visited Breendonk, a nazi work camp south of Antwerp. This one felt so different from Dachau (the concentration camp we visited in Munich). The buildings were originally a military fortress, so everything was dank and dark and incredibly threatening. It was drizzling that morning and it all felt very dreary.


We were given audio tour guides, so we all walked through at our own pace and listened to the things we wanted and skipped over the stuff we didn't want. It was all very organized with a specific trail to follow throughout the camp.

Since this wasn't an extermination camp, there were no ovens or gas chambers, but there was an area outside with a gallows and an open area for a firing squad. There was a torture chamber and horror stories of what went on behind the walls. The way this one was set up was so different from Dachau.

At Dachau, we were given the facts. We were given true stories that were hard to hear, but all the information was there even when it was gruesome. There were horrible pictures and videos, but because it happened, they were showing it. At Breendonk, we were given stories to stir our emotions. There were no awful pictures or videos. The way everything was portrayed was meant to affect us emotionally. The audio guide sounded bitter as he talked about the SS and guards at the camp. He was sassy as he spoke of the injustice so many people had suffered.

I (think I kind of) understand both methods of information sharing, but the Breendonk method kind of bothered me. I walked away from the camp and didn't feel like I had learned anything. The stories they shared didn't give me a real feel for what had happened there. Yes, I saw the living conditions, I walked the halls, and heard the prisoners' stories, but I felt like there was so much held back from the visitors. Maybe it was meant to make me feel sad, but I left nearly unaffected. (I swear I'm not heartless!)

From Breendonk, we drove to Brussels and checked into our Airbnb. This was a much better apartment than the first. It was on the fifth floor (fourth floor in Europe) so it was a bit of a climb to get there, but the flat itself was the cutest thing, and it had amazing views of the city.

That afternoon, we walked Brussels and saw a bit of the city. It has lovely streets and squares. We had to see the Manneken Pis, of course (google it, there were so many people I didn't get a picture!), and stopped near there to get  Belgian waffles, then continued walking the streets.

The next morning, we drove to Bruges. Easter Sunday in Belgium was beautiful. The skies were clear, the sun was shining; it was a bit chilly, but at least it wasn't raining or blowing! We walked around and saw some churches and some towers and some squares. It was a quaint, medieval town. Everything was old and charming and just lovely. Once we reached Grote Markt, a square in city center, we went up to a bar that had a balcony overlooking the square.


I ordered a tasting tray of Belgian beers and shared it with Li. I can't say I'm a huge fan of beer, but these definitely opened my eyes to the possibilities. One of them was lambic (really fruity)-- it was basically Kool-aid beer. So, yeah, if I could just have that kind of beer always, that'd be nice. The others were ok too, but I mean, come on.

We left to find lunch, then went on another boat tour of the canals. This one was shorter and more fun than the one in Amsterdam. We saw baby ducks in the canals!! So precious.

Afterwards, we stopped at one more chocolate shop to stock up, then headed to Ghent. Ghent is a charming little town as well. One of the cathedrals there houses the very famous Ghent Altarpiece. Lizette really, really wanted to see it, and we parked 20 minutes before the church closed. However, since this is Europe, we didn't park in the parking lot next to the church because there just isn't one. We ran, RAN, through the streets to see this piece of art.
Lizette was ahead of us. 

Never before have we been so committed to getting somewhere before they closed. We made it in time and got to see the the replica that was on display. One of the reasons the altarpiece is so famous is that it has been the victim of 13 crimes. It is the most stolen piece of art ever. To this day, there is one panel that is still missing. It has a very interesting history, and a big thank you to Lizette for being awesome and informative when it comes to this stuff, because without her, I wouldn't have a clue what I was even looking at.

After we'd seen it, we walked over to the belfry next door and went to the top. I love it when we get to see the city from above. Inside, there was a drum that controlled all the 47 bells, and we got to watch it turn and listen to the bells chime. That's one thing I appreciate about European cities-- bells.


We walked back through the city to our car and headed back to the apartment to get ready to leave the next day. We caught a train from Brussels to Paris, then Paris to Poitiers. I enjoy train rides. I pick an album to listen to, then sleep it out or watch the countryside fly by.

I'm happy to be back in Poitiers, but also a little anxious. I've only got 50 days left here. 50. Remember when I wrote my 100 day post? Math time: that was 50 days ago. 50 is not that many. And I may or may not be fluctuating between really freaking out about the thought of leaving and bouncing off the walls because I get to leave soon. Whirlwind of emotions, let me tell you.

Anyway, that's my life right now.

Je t'embrasse,
Sarah

Here are the pictures from the trip! Quite a few this time!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Monastery of the Visitation

Bonjour!

What a week this has been! It began with a train to Paris, and from Paris, I took the Eurostar to England! England is such a lovely country-- it's beautiful, and the people are just so darn charming. If I ever move back to Europe, I've got my eye on the UK.

The reason I traveled to England was that I wanted to live with nuns for a few days! So, once in Ashford, I rented a car and head towards the Monastery of the Visitation, a nunnery that invites women to retreat with them. I'm not sure I needed a "retreat" in the traditional sense of the word, but it absolutely turned out to be a time of rejuvenation and relaxation for me-- more on that later.

So, once in Ashford, I rented a car and took off! The monastery was nestled deep in the woods of East Sussex. The countryside was absolutely beautiful (what I saw of it at least). I'm sure I might have seen and enjoyed more of the scenery had I had the peace of mind to take my eyes from the road on the way there. I was such a nervous wreck. For the first time in my life, my hands were at 10 and 2 for the entire drive.

And it wasn't even driving on the left side that was hard-- I adjusted to that fairly quickly. It was driving a stick shift that got me. Like, how on earth do you start moving again when you're stopped on an incline?! (I can roll backwards just fine, but accelerating forwards...) I never did figure out how to do it gracefully. I had to restart the car more times than I'd like to admit. And what really got me was knowing that the people sitting in their cars behind me were probably thinking how terrible women drivers are and I'm there putting along, proving them right! Honestly, I need so much more practice with a manual car.

Thankfully, the monastery was out in the country, so I was able to stick to the back roads where traffic probably wouldn't have been backed up had I not been there to do the backing. These people were flying down these narrow roads where side mirrors skimmed by with millimeters to spare. I was terrified every time a car approached me.

It was a struggle. I almost wish I had spent the extra money to get an automatic (but then I wouldn't have anything to brag about, so where's the fun in that?). Although, it surely would have saved me tons of stress.


When I finally arrived, I was about ready to convert to Catholicism just so I wouldn't have to take the car back!

As soon as I got there, a sister was there to take me in. I had interrupted their supper, but they were gracious about it. I was happy to sit and eat, although it was strange to be thrown right into the middle of it so suddenly. I learn then that there is a method to everything the sisters do. At the table, every place is set neatly and every person has a place.

After supper, I went to my room to unpack, then a little while later, I was invited to join the sisters for Compline. This turned out to be my favorite time of day. This service was held in the candle light, and there was more singing than at the other services. I followed along as best I could and sang with them. One of the sisters was kind enough to find my place for me in the books before every service. Turns out, I'm quite helpless when it comes to The Divine Office.

After Compline, the sisters went upstairs to bed and I returned to my room. After I'd unpacked everything, I made myself some tea at the tea point and sat down to browse the books on their shelves. After tea, I went to bed and fell asleep quickly because the room was warm, the bed was comfy, and I was so relieved to have made it all in one piece!

The next day began with the sun streaming through my window. Friday was the most beautiful spring day. I went to breakfast and then one of the sisters showed me around before she let me go explore the place. Between breakfast and Mass I had about an hour and a half, so I walked the grounds and just enjoyed the outdoors.

Mass was an interesting experience. I've been to a few French Masses, and an Italian Mass, but I don't remember ever going to one in English. It was nice. The priest was very welcoming and had a deep, calming voice as he read the scriptures and offered communion.

After Mass, I had another hour and a half before the Office of Readings. I took a book from the library and found a bench in the sun and spent my time there. At noon, I went with the sisters to Office, then we had lunch, and then a second Office. The afternoon is left mostly free except for tea time at 3:30. I took a short nap before tea, then headed outside once more.

The grounds around the monastery are beautiful. There are fields of yellow flowers and trees everywhere. As it is spring, the ground was very wet, so I couldn't go some places, but I made my way around.


Recently, the sisters moved from their old monastery into a new building. The old building sits a short walk from their current building. The grounds are extensive there and were incredible. I walked through the gardens several times.

One thing that really surprised me was how quickly the time passed when I was enjoying myself and not worrying about the time at all. At afternoon tea, the sisters come and go with their tea and snack. I was given a small snack and tea, and was allowed to sit in silence and fully appreciate the act of eating and drinking. I ate at a normal pace. I looked out the windows and watched leaves rustle in the breeze and had a lovely time there in the silence with my tea.

When I stood to leave, I glanced at my watch and couldn't believe that nearly a half hour had already passed! That doesn't seem like a long time, but I hadn't even noticed it passing.

After tea, I sat with my book again until Vespers before dinner. I particularly enjoyed this time as well. During this one, the sisters would pray aloud their own prayers after reading through the written prayers. This time seemed most sincere to me, as I could see the heart of the sisters and what they loved and cared about.

At dinner, we listened to classical music, which didn't bother me a bit (actually, I really liked it!). The food was always delicious, and I'm sorry that I didn't get a chance to thank the sister who prepared it everyday. Again, except for the music, we ate in silence, and until you do that, you can't imagine how wonderful it is.

I ended the night with Compline and tea. (When I got back to Poitiers, I promptly went to the grocery store to buy tea. Lovely.)

The next day was much the same as the first in that I went to all the services, except that it was dreary and overcast outside (rainy days are my favorite days). It didn't stop me from wandering the grounds again. How often do I get to spend two days in the English countryside with nothing to do and nowhere to be, surrounded by flowery fields and tree covered hills? You better believe I was spending time outside.

When I was inside, I was happy to sit in the comfy chairs to finish my book and get some more writing done. I took my Bible and spent some time with it, and also spent a good chunk of time reading through the Catholic Encyclopedia (hey, I don't know much about it and I'm a curious person).

It's a nice lifestyle. It isn't entirely silent all the time, but it is very quiet all the time. The chapel is filled with singing when the sisters are there, but the rest of the place is often undisturbed with noise. Before I went, when I would tell people what I was doing, they joked about it being easy for me to be quiet because I'm already such a quiet person, and it wasn't really difficult to not talk, except that I could have asked the sisters a million questions about their lives.

Another thing about the silence is that it's so very non-threatening. I felt completely at ease among the sisters. For the first time (maybe ever), I didn't feel like I had to have everything together in case someone was watching me. And even if someone was watching me, I felt that they would accept me as I am, which is a complete mess. That was probably the best part of the whole weekend.

In all honesty, I'm attracted to what the sisters do. To live in a place where I can wake up to the woods every morning would be glorious. I like how structured everything is. I like the routine of it all. That's not to say I'll be joining them anytime soon (because I know there is so much more to what they do that I didn't experience), but I felt a definite lack of something in my own life that I found at the monastery.


In recent years, it's been a trend to 'be present' wherever you are, and with all the distractions of today, that is often difficult to do. I try to be present when I'm with people; I try to give them my full attention, but sometimes I fail. I realized this week that there's a flip side to being present-- It's not only for when I'm with other people, I need to be present with myself too. I often pass time distracting myself. I watch Netflix while I'm eating and have music constantly playing in my apartment.

As I was enveloped in the silence at the monastery, I was taken aback by how nice it was to just be. I left my phone in my room all day. I didn't watch tv. It was awesome. (I realize that it's not always necessary to be present, and distractions aren't all bad. I'll still be watching copious amounts of Netflix.) I'm at a loss for how to describe just how great the whole experience was.

I wish I could have stayed a day or two more, but I had homework due Sunday night, and I'll be real with you-- going without Google was really driving me mad. (I started a list of things to google when I got home... sometimes I have an unhealthy need to know things.)

I will absolutely do this again if I ever have the chance, and I really cannot recommend it enough. The sisters were wonderful-- genuine and entirely welcoming. Once my mind quieted down, I began to realized things about myself and it helped me get back to a place I want to be mentally and emotionally. It was a healthy exercise for me.

When I returned to Poitiers Sunday afternoon, I promptly got my homework finished and turned in, then spent the rest of the evening and the next day doing nothing. I was really counting on volleyball Monday night, but they canceled it. Then Tuesday, I packed and went to French class.

Today, me and the other two are traveling to Amsterdam! I'm quite excited about this trip. This is the last big trip I have before I have to go back to class. (Did you remember that I'm actually here to go to school?? Me either.)

Anywho, 2 months until I go home. That's 57 days. May 29. (Just in case you forgot.)

Je t'embrasse,
Sarah

Here are the pictures I took around the monastery. Enjoy!



Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Trip to Texas!

Bonjour!

Maybe you realized that last week I didn't write anything (or maybe you didn't), but either way, I'm here to write today, and make up for last week.

I actually had some stuff written and ready to post, but my Wednesday didn't exactly go as planned and I never made it to a computer to get it up here. (There was a rant about old airplanes and uncomfortable seats, but I'll save it.)

I left Poitiers last Tuesday evening on the train to Paris to stay near the airport for my flight Wednesday morning. It ended up being delayed, but I was going to still make my connection at DFW. Then that flight was delayed, then there was a bomb threat, so we were rerouted to Lubbock. When I finally made it to Amarillo, I was exhausted and I wasn't about to drive to Dalhart. Thankfully, I have family that let me stay with them for the night.

So, I didn't make it like I planned, but it ended up working out. I drove to Dalhart the next morning and got to have breakfast at my favorite restaurant. (Even in Utah and Idaho, I have not found a restaurant that makes me as happy as Hodies.)

The reason I was going to Texas in the first place was to be in my best friend's wedding...only, she didn't know I was coming. So Thursday morning, I got to surprise her! It was the best thing ever. Her mom had ordered me a dress and everything so it was all prepared.

As the surprise, her mom wrapped my bridesmaid dress and gave it to Jonna as an 'early wedding present' at breakfast. When she opened it, I came out of the kitchen and surprised her. She's so funny-- she had the dress on over her head and was showing off to all of her family that was gathered around. When she finally saw me, she threw the dress off, and started squealing and crying and we hugged for a long time.


I had been planning on coming since November, so it had taken so much not to tell her about it in advance. Do you know how hard that was?! I was so excited to be there!

It was an awesome surprise. I'm so glad Sheila planned it that way.

That was Thursday, and I spent a lot of that day with Jonna. That evening, I got to see my cousins at their house and spend some time with the family. (Although, because of the time difference, I was pretty exhausted by evening.)

Friday, I got to eat at my other favorite restaurant, La Espanola. It's just the perfect kind of Tex-Mex. In all of the mexican food places I've eaten, I've never had rice as good as La Espanola's rice. (Yes, I do plan every trip to Dalhart with the intention of eating my favorite foods. I've never been back and not eaten there!) Zane, my cousin Bailey, and I had lunch there, then Zane and I drove around town a bit.

I met Bailey again for coffee that afternoon before I had to go to the rehearsal dinner. That night, we had a game night with the cousins. That's one thing about my family that I love-- game nights. Sometimes they get a little crazy, but they're always fun.

Saturday was wedding day! All of the ladies in the wedding met for breakfast and spent the morning together just hanging out. Around noon, we started getting everyone ready, then we went for pictures. I only knew two of the other girls, but I think we were an awesome group. The three that that I didn't know were fun, and I know that if Jonna picked them, they must also be great people.

After pictures, we went to the church to wait for the wedding to start. When people started showing up, we were all getting pretty nervous. Jonna was absolutely stunning. Her dress was beautiful and everything looked so perfect.

Finally, we got the signal that we were about to start. We all walked out and stood, waiting for the bride. She walked behind a curtain until she was at the center aisle, then it was pulled open and she walked out.

As I had already seen her all day, I watched Coury as he saw her for the first time. The look on his face was so touching. I'm so, so happy that Jonna found someone who loves her like Coury so obviously does.

It took everything in me to not cry as Jonna's dad kissed her cheek and gave her away to Coury. Actually, I was holding back tears the entire ceremony. Everything about it was beautiful. The pastor told us the story of how Coury and Jonna met and how they had God at the center of their relationship.

I may be biased, but it was the most beautiful wedding I've ever seen.

After Coury kissed his bride, we all danced down the aisle, and everyone made their way to the reception. I've never really been one to stay for long at wedding receptions, but for Jonna's I stayed until they closed the place down.

I got to see to many people I hadn't seen in a while, and I even got to hang out with some old high school friends. It was especially good to see them and to know that they are all doing well in their lives.
(Molly, Me, Sadye, Jonna, Sarah, Hannah, Leah)

Sunday I set aside to spend with my mom's side of the family, so that morning, I packed up my siblings and we headed to Amarillo. We spent the day on the back patio, cooked out, and just had a good time catching up with everyone. We didn't do anything particularly exciting, but I was just happy to be around my favorite people.

That night, as we were leaving Amarillo, Gracie told me, 'We have the best family.' And I had to agree. I really believe we do, on both sides. I love when I get to spend time with my family. They truly are my favorite people to be around, and I can't imagine my life without them.

Monday, I went to the airport to make my way back to Poitiers. When I finally got to my apartment Tuesday afternoon, I was exhausted. My internal clock was all screwed up and all I wanted to do was sleep. However, I really needed to get back on schedule because Thursday I'm leaving again and don't really have time to be on a messed up sleep schedule. So, I sat at my desk and caught up on YouTube videos until I made the (bad) decision to move to the bed.

Once I was laying down, I was out. I probably napped for about 2 hours before I forced myself to get back up. I watched two movies before I decided I could go to bed. And I was out real quick, until my dad called at midnight because I had forgotten to check in when I got home. I only vaguely remember talking to him. I couldn't figure out the time (because my iPhone clock hadn't updated) and I was really confused as to where I was, but I guess I talked to him, then went back to sleep.

I woke up this morning at 6 am. The sun was streaming through my window and I thought I had slept way too long, but it turned out I could stay in bed for another hour or two.

I'm feeling pretty good today. I have to do a quick load of laundry and make a stop at the grocery store, then pack my bags again to leave tomorrow. I'm really looking forward to my next trip, except that I'm not ready to sit for long periods of time again. (My butt is really sore.)

Anyway, that's what I've been up to. I'm anxious to get back and tell you about what I've done this coming week!

Je t'embrasse,
Sarah

I didn't take many pictures this week, but here's one that I absolutely love.



One of my favorite things about the Texas Panhandle is the horizon. I love the mountains in Utah and Idaho, and I love the city here in Poitiers, but there's something about those wide open spaces that feels like home to me.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Paris au Printemps

Bonjour!

As promised, this week's blog will be filled with much more interesting things than the last few.

I left early Friday morning on a train to Paris all by my lonesome. All I had with me was my purse and I was off to the big city! The ride was nice. It was a gorgeous day outside as I watched the endless fields pass by. It made me really miss Idaho. I can't wait to get back and get out to the farm.

Once I arrived in Paris, I went straight to Le Bon Marché. It's a great big department store. There were several floors, but I went straight to the one that had the bookstore and stationery area. I love wandering through the pens and notebooks and cards. After a fair amount of time spent there, I quickly walked through the other floors then exited to go to the other Bon Marché building around the corner.

This one was housewares and groceries. I think it may have been the most beautiful grocery store I've ever walked through. Maybe that's weird to say, but it was so enjoyable to walk through the different sections and see all of the offerings. I love the bakery, butcher, creamery, cheese, and pastry counters offering their fresh products. It's all so pretty and oh my goodness, it smells SO good.

I ended up buying a few different things for lunch, then took them to the park across the street to eat. The weather was magnificent. It was sunny, and warm, but not hot. There was no wind and the flowers were blooming. I should eat in parks way more often. I got to watch people walk by and just enjoy the beautiful day.


After lunch, I went to Le Marché aux Fleurs. I read online that it was beautiful and they were right. It's so fun to walk among the flowers. The place was strangely empty, so I hope I just caught it at a low point. I'd hate to think that the vendors aren't doing well for themselves there.

The flower market is on the Île de la Cité, an island in the Seine River. Also on the Île is Notre Dame and a few other landmarks. Since I've seen most of them, I just wandered the streets to see what I could find. I came across a Shakespeare and Company bookstore and spent a nice little bit in there.

From the Île, I visited the Passage Verdeau and Passage du Grand Cerf. These are covered shopping streets hidden among buildings. The first was quite extensive with many shops offering many different things, while the second was shorter and more antique/artsy. I enjoyed wandering the passages and hope to visit a few more when I return to Paris.

I wandered the streets around both passages and just observed the Parisian culture. It's fun to go back in the not-so-touristy areas and feel how different it is from areas around the famous landmarks. It's quite a nice lifestyle from what I've seen.

Around this time, the sun was starting to set, so I decided to find my hotel. It was in an area I had never been to, so once I checked in, I went back onto the streets to explore the neighborhood. I found a nice place to have dinner and sat facing the street so I could watch the people as they passed. It always amazes me that with as many people as there are, we each have our own stories. We all have things going on in our lives. I often wander about what they're going through and what motivates them and why they are where they are.

The next morning, I headed for Galeries Lafayette and Printemps to spend the day. My first order of business was to visit the Starbucks for my breakfast, then take it up to the Terrace. I was there around 10 am and the terrace was almost empty. The morning was cool, but not cold and the skies were clear. It reminded me of sitting on my Mimi and Papa's porch drinking coffee in the summer. In Paris, I was looking out over the city, and at Mimi and Papa's I was looking out over the mountains. Either way, those are my favorite kind of mornings. There is nothing better than sitting in a place with a view with coffee-in-hand in the brisk morning air.
See the Eiffel Tower in the distance?

I made my way through the women's building of the Galeries, then went over to the Home building. There was another grocery store on the ground floor, then housewares on the other floors. They had everything from fine china to bedspreads to lighting and furniture. I spent some time in the Cave à Vin (where the wine is kept) and it was beautiful. I saw a wine from 1899 that was selling for $20,000!

The dishware floor felt like a museum. There were so many exquisite (extremely expensive) pieces. I walked with my purse clutched to my chest so it wouldn't bump into anything. (If you ask my family, they'll tell you I'm an accident waiting to happen.) It made me giggle a bit that at some counters, the crystalware is sold right along side fine jewelry. This is serious stuff!

After a while I was tired and hungry, so I went to find lunch, then returned to explore Printemps. Again, beautiful, but again, I enjoyed the housewares building more than the fashion building. Although, in the fashion building there was an entire floor dedicated to luxury jewelry and fine watches, so I did really like that. (No surprise there.)

I went into a few other smaller stores in the area then realized that I was absolutely exhausted from all the walking I'd been doing. I had about three hours until my train departed, so I picked up a book at Galeries, and went to the train station to pass the time.

I returned home tired, but happy with the time I spent in Paris. I didn't really buy much, just some stationery stuff and a few shirts, but I had a nice time just being by myself.

Sunday was the most beautiful spring day I've seen yet. I walked to the park that morning and there were people out enjoying the sunshine like I was. I didn't even need a jacket over my sweater. It was glorious. I sat down in the park with my book and enjoyed the weather. The birds were chirping and there was a whisper of people around.


After a while I got hungry, so I went home to eat and finish my homework that was due that night, then I went back to the park because it was just so darn gorgeous outside. This time, there were more families out with their kids, enjoying the park, but I still found a spot to sit and take it all in.

This week I actually had to go to class. (About time, I know.) And boy, was it a rough going back. Tuesday, we had an early morning meeting with an advisor about a project that all international students have to do. Then straight from that meeting we launched into our 8 hour class day. To make it all worse, it was a Tuesday and on Tuesdays, we have French class until 7:00pm. In all we were at the school from 8:30 in the morning until 7:00 at night.

(At the first meeting, we were scolded for complaining about the long day ahead and our advisor told us she didn't want to hear it and welcome to 'real life.'  Of course she meant that when we enter the workforce, hours like that aren't uncommon. I understand that, I do, but I just don't appreciate the way she said it. Also, advisor, when was the last time you had to sit in awful, wooden, straight-back chairs with no leg room for 10 hours? You would be complaining too.) End rant.

So Tuesday was awful, but today was a little better. We finished the class with a test and got to leave early!

Right now, I'm in the middle of trying to plan things for the next few weeks. I haven't decided where I'm going yet, so that's my first order of business. Once I get that down, I'll let you know what I'll be up to.

Je t'embrasse,
Sarah

Here are the few pictures I took of Paris.


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

I Can't Think of a Good Title

Bonjour!

How have you been lately? Good, I hope.

Things here have been moving along slowly. This week I have had next to nothing planned. I met with a group for a project twice, went to French class, and went to volleyball practice. Really, that's all I've been up to.

Thankfully, I have plans for this weekend! I'm getting a little stir crazy being in Poitiers for this long with nothing to do. I'm going to Paris to do a little shopping. (By myself this time!) I've gone to Paris twice now by myself, both times to pick up family members from the airport, so I've never actually spent time in Paris alone.

I'm looking forward to it. I've never been in a big city all by myself and I'm anxious to see how it goes. Pray it all goes well!

I've been doing a lot of reading the last few days. Sometimes I just get caught up in the Internet vortex and forget that I actually really enjoy sitting to read a good book. Seriously though, I cannot tell you how much I'm looking forward to getting back home and spending time at Barnes and Noble. I do not like looking for new books on my Kindle. I do not like the format of the Amazon store. It's not at all conducive to the kind of browsing I want to do.

So right now, I have three or four samples to go through and decide what I want to read next. There are just so many options out there and I get stuck between the questions, Do I want to read something that will teach me something, or Do I want something mindlessly entertaining? It's a struggle.

I've also been doing quite a bit of writing and it's an interesting combination. When I read what other people have written, I look for ways to improve my own writing. Maybe I'm learning something new!

Sorry this update is so short and boring. I honestly don't have much interesting to say this week! In the coming weeks, I've got trips planned and things going on, so it'll pick up again.

Also, last week we passed the 6 month mark! Only 3 to go! Crazy.

Je t'embrasse,
Sarah

Oh! Last week, I forgot to add the London album to the bottom of the post, so those are here if you're interested, and also at the bottom of the last post.


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

London

Bonjour!

London was absolutely lovely. Maybe it was my excitement at being able to converse with the person across the counter or the sheer delight of being in England, but I had a brilliant time in London.

The weather wasn't too horrid while we were there; it only rained the first day. The rest of the time, it was fairly overcast and chilly, but never wet again.

We left Wednesday afternoon and arrived at our hostel around 10:00pm. It had been a long day for us, so we settled in and crashed soon after we arrived. The three of us became very spoiled from staying in hotels instead of hostels the past few trips. It was kind of a shock to have to share an itty bitty room with 10 other people and only two electric outlets.

Our first morning in London, we went straight to 221b Baker Street, home of Sherlock. Lizette is a big fan, so this was on her list of things to do. I browsed through the store briefly, then walked down the street to the Beatles store. They had all kinds of Beatles themed everything, so I had a good time. (If my family is not listening to Queen in the car, chances are we've got Yellow Submarine or Hey Jude playing.)

When Lizette and Joe were finished down the street, they came to get me and we took the Underground to King's Cross station (where Harry Potter was filmed). The other two wanted to get their picture at Platform 9 3/4. While they stood in line for that, I went into a book store, then found a seat and got in some quality people-watching.

Next, we carried on to the British Museum. This place is really pretty cool. There's quite a bit to see. I spent a good amount of time in the clocks exhibit. There were only two rooms, but I easily spent 45min to an hour reading about them and waiting for them to ring their bells.


Many of the clocks were many years old, but were still working. I love when the gears are visible on their faces. I like to watch them tick. There was a clock that was run by a marble that rolled from one side to the other. It took 30 seconds to travel to the other side. It wasn't entirely accurate every time, but it was fun to watch. (I wouldn't mind having one in my house someday.)



After the clocks, I visited Africa, Egypt, Korea, Mexico, the Americas, and Greece in the form of their exhibits. The place was packed with kids because they were all on a school break. (Also, with Night at the Museum 3 recently out, people want to see where the movie was.)

We spent a few hours there, then decided to move on. We stopped by Leadenhall Market (Diagon Alley) and spent some time in the stores, then made our way back to the hostel to get ready for the evening. We had tickets to Phantom of the Opera so we got dressed up, then went to Picadilly Circus to Her Majesty's Theatre.

Phantom was fabulous. It opens very quiet and soberly with an auctioneer and bidders. The auctioneer announces the opening bid on the chandelier in pieces, then the place goes dark, the chandelier flickers, and begins to rise to the ceiling and that beautiful Overture begins to play. It's such a powerful piece of music. The organ begins and the other instruments follow. Someone bangs the drums and the full orchestra joins in... You can feel every note deep in your soul. It reverberates through the whole theatre. It's exciting and breathtaking. I sat with tears in my eyes at the passion that is conveyed in the music.

Every cast member had beautiful voices. Phantom's was magical and Christine's was piercing as it should be. The whole experience was incredible.


The next day, we began at Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. We walked around the Houses of Parliament and Westminster. We didn't go inside the Abbey but admired the outside. Then we walked a few streets over to Churchill's War Rooms.

The War Bunker Museum was very interesting. It's much bigger than we anticipated. We saw the room where Churchill ran the war. We saw the telephone rooms and map rooms and this whole complex that was dedicated to strategy and communications during WWII. There was an exhibit about Churchill's life in the middle of it and it was so incredibly interesting to be in such a historic place. Many of the things on the tables and desks in the rooms were original because the place had been left untouched for so many years. It was a lot to take in, but I'm glad we did it. I think it's always good to see another side of history.


From the Bunker, we walked towards Buckingham Palace and got a few pictures then headed to Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. I really wanted to take of tour of the place since we couldn't see a show while we were there. (Since it's an open air theatre, the season doesn't start until April.) On the way there, we stumbled into a market place completely on accident. We were getting lost somewhere near London Bridge and took a path that led us to a market under an overpass. It was a decent size market with meat and cheese vendors, fruit and vegetable vendors, and all kinds of other offerings.

We spent some time walking around down there. I bought a glass of Rosé Prosecco and enjoyed the atmosphere. America could use more markets like these in Europe.


After we'd seen it all, we continued on to Globe Theatre. We made it just in time for the last tour of the day. It was really cool to go inside the theatre and hear the history of it all. One day, I'll make it back to see an actual play in the Globe.

Our third day in London began at the Tower of London and the Tower Bridge. We walked around the Tower, then stopped at Starbucks before we attempted to walk across the bridge. It was particularly cold that day so with venti Hot Chocolate in hand, we braved the wind and walked out onto the bridge. It's not hard to see why it's such a famous bridge. It really is a beautifully structure. I love the vibrant blues that cover it.


Next on our agenda was the London Dungeons. It was right next to the London Eye, so we walked along the river and watched the Eye slowly turn. We came across some performers who were dancing and contorting their bodies for the audience. We watched the entire show; they did a good job of capturing the audience.

When retrieved our tickets at the London Dungeon then got a quick lunch before we went in. The London Dungeons is a thriller/amusement establishment. There are actors inside and it's dark and creepy and they tell the darker (real and fictional) stories of London's past. We visited the alley where Jack the Ripper killed Mary Jane Kelly and sat in Sweeney Todd's barber shop. We helped Guy Fawkes with his assassination attempt. It was fun and the right amount of scary.

We were in a group of maybe 20 people and we traveled through history together. The actors at each stop were incredibly talented and did a wonderful job of interacting with the audience every chance they had. You never knew when you might be singled out to be picked on by a cast member. At the beginning, an actor told me that I best not flash anyone anymore because it's a punishable offense and later, I was locked in a cage while the actor explained the many means of torture he could use on me and two other audience members.

There was one lady in our group, LeAnn, who was picked on at almost every turn. The actors at each station would pick at random and she was chosen nearly every time. The last time she was picked, our entire group just burst with laughter and the actors were a bit confused at what was going on. (They played it off well and said, "Yes, LeAnn, what a funny name, laugh at her, Boo her!!")

The whole time we were called "Traitors" and were being led to our death. At the end, we were all strapped into a ride and the room went dark and an announcer said that we were to be hanged for our crimes. In front of us, there were nooses and silhouettes of bodies being hanged, then the floor fell out from under us and we dropped! (A quick drop and a sudden stop, it was!) They "hanged" us a few more times for the fun of it, then we got off and exited to the gift shop.


It was really fun for everyone. I was a bit on edge the whole time, but it was all exciting. It was also surprisingly informative while being funny and scary. They did a swell job of entertaining us for an hour and a half.

We walked a bit more around the London Eye, then found another Starbucks and sat for a while. One thing about London is that there's a Starbucks on nearly every corner-- even more reason to love the city!


We hadn't done any souvenir shopping, so we went back to Piccadilly Circus and shopped at the big souvenir shop there. (I remembered this place from the last time I was there.) That night we decided to find a restaurant for our last dinner in England.

We found a little pub not far from our hostel and went inside. They were having live music that night, so we got a table a few rows back from the performer and enjoyed our dinner while listening to this guy play the oldies. I'm a sucker for stuff like that, so I quite enjoyed myself during this. We sat for a while after we had finished eating and ordered a slice of cake to share. We were there for a bit more than 2 hours, which is good for us. It was a lovely end to a great trip.

We caught our bus on time and made it to the airport and back to France without any problems. we made it back to Poitiers around 5:00pm then went our separate ways.

I spent that evening with my laptop and HIMYM on Netflix. I rained all night and little on Monday.
I went to volleyball again and since then I've just been doing some writing and taking care of things that need to be done.

I don't want to brag or anything, but in a strange turn of events, I came across Blue's Clues on YouTube and nearly watched an entire episode. (I still know the words to the songs.) Such a cute show. And probably the most exciting thing that's happened today.

Anyway, I hope your day is going well!
Talk to you next week.

Je t'embrasse,
Sarah

Also, here's the rest of the pictures!