Saturday, December 25, 2010

Fat and happy in the Christmas capital

I really suck at this whole blogging thing, but one of my New Year's resolutions is going to be to update more often. Life is still good in Strasbourg....I have GREAT friends, funny students, and I eat a lot of delicious food. :)

For this blog post I'm trying out a new thing...a TOPIC. I usually just give a rundown of recent events. Today's topic is FOOD, because it's the best thing ever and because many of the good times I have here are related somehow to food. Basically I'm attempting to disguise my rundown of recent events by naming something I ate at each said event. I'm going to use photos stolen from my friends because I have no camera at the moment (cry) and they take better photos anyway.

this picture isn't of food, but there was lots...I promise!
Photo c/o JACY, who is amazing btw.

There is no better way to start out this topic than with the most foodtastic of holidays, Turkey Day! I taught my students about Thanksgiving, focusing more on turkey, football, and Black Friday than Pilgrims and Indians. Most of my students are 16-22 year old boys, so I try to appeal to their interests. Since the other assistants and I obviously couldn't be home for the holiday, we celebrated Assistant Thanksgiving chez Harris and his French roommates. Everyone brought a different dish (I roasted a ton of vegetables--boring I know) and it was fun to share an American holiday with our British/Australian/French/German/Mexican/etc friends. We ate a ton, drank just as much, played catchphrase, and sang and danced along to American music. While I missed my family in the US on Thanksgiving, I had a great time with my big, happy, dysfunctional assistant "family". In fact, I'd say this was my best Thanksgiving ever!!

Eating crepes with Anne! From whom I stole this picture.
She is fantastic and Australian.
Everything I know about budgy smugglers I learned from her ;)

The beginning of December marked the beginning of the Christmas markets in Strasbourg, which is called the Christmas Capital of Europe. Impressive, non? I visited the Christmas markets several times throughout the month, but never really to shop. If you're into Christmas tchotchkes or stork hats, you should def shop there. I'm not, so mostly just go to the Christmas market to eat! I had: baguette flambee (both gratinee (with cheese) and chevre (with goat cheese)), a cheese crepe, a salted butter caramel crepe, a chocolate puff thing with cream inside, and endless cups of vin chaud. (Note: I did not eat all of that on the same day. But I probably could have). Oh, also TONS of free cookie samples at the Bredele tent. 

with the remains of our fish on a stick!
stolen from the lovely AMY!

On the last weekend before our sad separation (for Christmas vacation), a big group of us traveled to Stuttgart to check out the Christmas markets there and have a big ol' sleepover at Chrissy's house. It was adorable. We also visited the medieval market in the nearby town of Esslingen. I feel very disloyal admitting it, but I thought the German markets were MUCH better than ours in Strasbourg. The food was amazing, the junk in the booths was WAY cooler, and the medieval market had performers in costumes. In Germany, I tried: currywurst, potato pancakes with applesauce, chocolate-dipped fruit on a stick, roasted pig and sauerkraut, donuts with apple filling, roasted nuts, and steckerlfish on a stick. And tons of gluhwein, some of which was flavored with amaretto or eggnog-like with whipped cream. After all of that, we came home and ate amazing black bean soup that Chrissy's mom made....which was probably the best thing we ate all weekend. We also introduced the Brits and Anne the Australian to Apples to Apples and MASH. A very successful weekend thanks to Chrissy and her family!!

We love balls!! Photo stolen from Anne again, who
is a card-carrying member of the IKEA Family :)

And to top off my food-related experiences, it's about time I mentioned our weekly pilgrimmages to IKEA. Yes, I eat dinner at IKEA every Tuesday night. Half-price meatball night has become a ritual...we meet at the same time, same place every week and ride the free IKEA navette to our blue-and-gold Swedish second home. We go so consistently that the employees recognize us, and I'm pretty sure they make extra boulettes for us. I always split with my friend Leah, and we have our routine down to a science. For less than 3 euros I get a good meal with even better company! Plus, I can knock out any home-goods shopping I need to do while I'm there :)

It's probably pathetically obvious, but I am currently in Strasbourg (nearly) alone and missing my friends like crazy!!! My mom just left after being here with me for a week. I loved showing her around my beautiful city. Now it's CHRISTMAS and I'm more than ready for everyone to be back. I'm spending the day hanging out (and eating and drinking, I'm sure) with my friend and fellow assistant Jennifer, enjoying a white Christmas!! JOYEUX NOEL TOUT LE MONDE!!  

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Coloc change + Toussaint!

It's been another month and, despite occasionally thinking of it, I haven't updated the old blog. Better late than never!!

About a month ago a major change occured in our little French colocation...we got a new roommate! I used to share a bedroom (yes, I'm 24 and I share a bedroom) with another assistant named Sarah, but she very suddenly decided to move from Strasbourg to a tiny remote village 2 hours away. Everything worked out perfectly because Ashley, another American assistant, moved in, as did her DOG. Lucy only weighs three pounds, so she's not really big enough to actually be called a dog, but she makes a delightful fourth roommate.
Now we have a very happy colocation!! I love my roommates and our apartment, and I can't imagine things being any better.
Roomies! Ashley, me, and Chrissy. This picture and the last stolen from Anne <3
 The other big event in the past month was our epic adventure through Eastern Europe over Toussaint. I went with 5 other assistants, which should have been a complete disaster. Fortunately it was awesome. We all got along great, and I love them more now than ever.
Our first stop was Munich for two hours on the way to Vienna. We watched the Glockenspiel and ate kebab. Also it snowed a little!? The highlight of our stop? Probably watching Jacy eat a raw green pepper for lunch.
people watching the Glockenspiel...way more interesting than the Glockenspiel itself! photo c/o Chrissy, who is an amazing photographer
We arrived in Vienna and went to our hostel, which was actually pretty nice. We ate spaghetti and some kind of Austrian pancakes and met a Swede. Vienna was a very pretty town, but not my favorite. I think it would be cool to go back with LOTS of money. Vienna highlights included:
-eating Sacher torte (cake) at Hotel Sacher. We had to check our coats...posh!
-watching tons of guys dressed up as Mozart trying to sell tickets to a concert.
-finding the ONLY grocery store open in Vienna on a Sunday, and shopping there along with every resident of the city.
-eating goulash and drinking beer at a restaurant where no one spoke any English at all.
-eating cheap, delicious falafel at a really cool market
Harris, me, Leah, and the original Sacher Torte! Beware of fakes.
 Obviously I really like eating. Luckily all of my travel buddies do too, so we spent a lot of time planning our meals, visiting markets and grocery stores, cooking, and eating during our trip. Midafternoon coffee and pastry breaks contributed significantly to the happiness and harmony of our vacation.
After a couple of days in Vienna we were ready to go, so we took a short bus ride to Bratislava because....WHY NOT?

In case you aren't familiar, Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia. We went in with pretty low expectations and ended up LOVING Bratislava. Highlights?
-beautiful people. Slovaks are seriously good-looking.
-CHEAP everything. Food, beer, hostel, etc was all really cheap and great.
-cute town! The centreville of Bratislava is surprisingly well-kept and charming.
Eating a mystery pastry in Bratislava...apparently I missed the instruction to look grossed out.
 After a night in Bratislava we took a 5-euro bus ride to Budapest. We had low expectations for the bus, too, but it was great...comfy assigned seats, free drinks, movies and Friends episodes, AND it arrived an hour early! Student Agency is the name of the company if you ever find yourself traveling in E. Europe...I highly recommend it! 
Budapest was a really cool city. It reminded me of Paris a bit in that the city is huge and bustling, but there is a beautiful building around every corner. The most memorable parts of this leg were:
-the labyrinth under Buda of the weirdest things EVER. I can't even describe it.
-Fisherman's Bastion, where there is a gorgeous view of Parliament and the entire city.
-eating this awesome cake called Somloi or something...basically they put a layer of chocolate in a cup, pile on some cake chunks, and cover the whole thing in whipped cream....yum!
-the bar with swings instead of barstools---best idea ever.
-hanging out at a park on a sunny day watching dogs.
-Turo Rudi, which is this weirdly delicious Hungarian candy bar that is basically chocolate-coated cottage cheese. Recommended to me in at the bus station by a Hungarian with jacked-up teeth and a skateboard.

After we spent our last forints on vending machine candy, we boarded our Eurolines bus (18E) from Budapest to Prague. It was the bus ride from hell. I sat next to a really rude guy who basically had all of his possessions in the seat with us. My roommate Chrissy sat next to a smelly white boy with dreadlocks. It sucked and I hardly slept at all, so arriving in Prague at 6 AM was a little rough. Oh well, it was worth it!
Prague was my second-favorite city we visited (after Bratislava, bien sur). It is absolutely beautiful...unfortunately, the rest of the world thinks so too and we were there with wayyyy too many tourists. Highlights included:
-Prague castle. We visited castles in every city, and Prague castle was by far the most interesting.
-getting up at sunrise to take pictures at Charles Bridge. It was really foggy, which was appropriately eerie for Halloween.
-our sketch hostel. All of the employees (except one) were really weird and creepy. Also my credit card number somehow made its way out into the world, so that was a small hassle. I guess it's all part of the experience.
-our one big night out, on Halloween. After several hours of searching for the right bar, we found it. The evening was epic.
-almost missing our train back to Kehl. Harris and I were waiting for the train with the bags while everyone else was getting coffee. The train arrived, the departure time got veryyyy near, and we started freaking out. Luckily everything turned out just fine and a minimal amount of coffee was spilled during the mad dash to the train.
Jenelle, Leah, me, Harris, and Prague. photos stolen from Jacy :)

Overall it was an incredible trip, but I was very happy to be back in France. I was walking through Strasbourg the day after we got back and I realized that, as much as I liked the cities we visited,  I like Strasbourg better! I feel so lucky to live here.

Since our trip, I've been working at my schools and hanging out with my friends...pretty normal! I wasn't expecting to go on so long about our trip, so I'll save the laborious details of my day-to-day life for the next post. Get excited :)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A lot has changed in a month!

Wow. A lot has happened since my first post. I guess the best way to go about updating on my life is to make a brief timeline.

September 20- The day I had been waiting for for months. I left for France.

September 21- Arrived in Paris, took a train to Strasbourg. My roommate Sarah picked me up and we (along with all my luggage) took the tram to our apartment. She showed me around the apartment and our room and I freaked out. Why did I EVER think moving to France was a good idea?? Wanted to go home. Badly. Eventually met our other roommate Chrissy and went out and met some other assistants. Liked everyone a lot and had fun but was still miserable. Also jetlagged.

September 24-27- Both of my roommates went out of town for the weekend. I anticipated a miserable weekend at home, internet-less and friendless. Instead, I spent a lot of time with other assistants and was never home. Started to feel much better about moving to France.

September 30- took a day trip to the Black Forest in Germany with some other assistants. Had fun. Ate cake.

October 1- first day of work at my lycee. It was fine...first of MANY sessions of "Ask the English assistant whatever you want". As expected (since it's a technical/professional school), almost all of the students are boys, which kind of changes the classroom dynamics. Overall, they seem like really good kids and I'm looking forward to working with them.

October 1-3- went to Stuttgart, Germany to celebrate the Volksfest, which is basically like Stuttgart's version of Oktoberfest. It was a LOT of fun. In addition to drinking 3 liters of beer and dancing and singing on tables, we visited an Army base and hung out with Chrissy's parents and aunt and uncle, who are awesome.

October 4-present- Continued working at the lycee a little and hanging out with friends a lot. I love many of the other assistants already and I feel like I've known them for much longer than three weeks!! Worked on planning our epic Toussaint adventure to Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest, and Prague.

So that's pretty much my life right now! In the three weeks I've been in France, I've fallen in love with a beautiful city, become friends with some awesome people, and started a new job.

I'll try to update more often...once a week hopefully. Tchao!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

So, I'm moving to France next week...

!!!!!  My departure date is drawing near, so I figured it's about time to start a blog.

Background, for those of you who don't know me:
I'm from Dallas, TX and just turned 24. In college I majored in French and Psychology, and got my Master's in Teaching as well. While I was in college I spent a summer interning at a primary school in London and a semester "studying" abroad in Grenoble. Note the quotation marks...I didn't study much but traveled a ton and had the time of my life. I spent the 09-10 year teaching high school French in the Dallas area (shoutout to my IHS kids). I love my students and teaching, but I wasn't happy with other parts of my job and started feeling restless. On New Year's Day, out of nowhere I randomly decided to apply for the TAPIF program. I was accepted in early April, told my school and students I wasn't coming back the next year, and now here I am!

I was assigned to a lycee (high school) and a college (middle school) in Strasbourg, which was my first choice area. I haven't really heard anything negative about Strasbourg--it's beautiful, it's full of students, the EU Parliament is there, it has amazing Christmas markets....what's not to love? I'll put up pictures when I'm actually there, but you should google it right's awesome. PLUS it's basically smack in the middle of Europe, so I'm looking forward to traveling all over during school breaks. My job seems pretty sweet too...I'll be an English teaching assistant, so not even a real teacher. That could get frustrating since I'm used to having my own classes, but it's okay since I'll only be working 12 hours a week (!!!) with 8 weeks or so of vacation in 7 months (!!!). I have been in contact with the former assistant at my schools and he had a not-so-great experience, but he has been awesome about answering all of my questions and helping with everything I need. The teachers I will be working with in France also seem really nice, so I hope the students will be cool, too. I am definitely a little nervous about teaching French kids.

So yeah, 1 week! I am so excited and happy to be going. I have been keeping busy shopping and packing and hanging out with the people (and dog) I love. I also spend wayyyy too much time on facebook and an online forum for assistants, in addition to lurking on other assistants' blogs :) I can't wait to move into my apartment and meet the other assistants from my town---everyone seems really cool and fun. I'll post again soon...feel free to leave comments (you don't have to be a member or anything) or follow me, or whatever you do with blogs. :)