25 December 2010

Joyeux Noël!

Merry Christmas from France! 

I spent Christmas Eve with a French family and got to experience all sorts of wonderful French traditions . . . including little chocolates that have firecracker-like-poppers in the wrappers!!  They're GREAT!!  I thought about trying to get some to bring home with me, but I'm afraid I'll get arrested at US customs.  So, you'll just have to take my word for it, they're fun.

Speaking of going home . . . my BA flight was resceduled for tomorrow, but now the weather man is calling for 6inches (15.24cm) Sunday into Monday.  So the big question now is, will I have Happy New Year or a Bonne Année!

24 December 2010

Article About Galmi

Galmi Hospital's CREN (the malnutrition clinic) is the focus of an article on the Pulitzer Center's website: http://pulitzercenter.org/blog/niger-malnutrition.

Culture Quiz

One of my favorite things about google is when they use images to spell 'google' based on special events or holidays.  You know, like the other day was Edith Piaf's birthday so they had this as their logo:

22 December 2010

The Étranger's Worse Nightmare

SKYPE IS DOWN!!!  I tried to call my brother this evening, and skype wouldn't connect.  I assumed it was our internet connection . . . but I could access the web no problem.  I tried agin a little bit later, but no luck.  Apparently skype users around the world are facing the same problem.  I just hope they get it up and running in the next day or two . . . it's one thing to be far away for Christmas, it's something else altogether to have a skype outage pour Noël!

20 December 2010

A Man Plans His Way

. . . But the Lord determines his steps. 

Such is the case (once again) for me. 

Woke up this morning to lots of snow on the ground and the buzz of flight cancellations and airport closings.  The good news is that I didn't have to make the hour drive (or more in the snow) up to Charles de Gaulle.  The bad news is that the first flight they can put me on is December 26 (which isn't too bad, considering their first offer was the 6th of January!). 

So, while it's very disappointing . . . c'est la vie.  At least I'm not stranded in London . . . but rather in a place I've called home for a year and a half with people I enjoy and a language I (kind of) speak.

It Could Be Worse

 . . . it could always be worse.

So, I'm stuck.  We are apparently having record snow falls (although, I think the weather man says that every time it snows) and my flight home has been cancelled.  Today has been spent trying to reschedule my flight . . . with no success so far. 

But, none the less, I am thankful to be still at Les Cèdres and not stranded, like so many, at an airport.  PTL!

14 December 2010

Le Temps Passe Vite

It occured to me about two minutes ago while checking email, that I hadn't blogged in a while. 

But there's a good reason for that.  In five days, I'm leaving France.  My time here has come to an end and I must move on.  It hasn't yet hit me that when I fly  to the US on the 20th, I will only be returning to Paris to change airplanes . . . in my head, I'm only packing for des vacances.  But this is it. 

Despite the many ups and downs . . . the laughter and tears (and sometimes both au même temps) I am so very thankful for my time here.  I have learned so much . . . and I managed to pick up a new language along the way.  Crazy how that happens.

28 November 2010

From Foreign to Familiar

After the Bible, the book that has (and continues to) impacted my spiritual walk the most is M.J. Stanford's The Green Letters: Principles of Spiritual Growth. In it he has a chapter on the concept of REST. While discussing Hebrews 4:9-11a he says: " 'Let us labor therefore to enter into the rest.' As for labor, it is true that there is a great deal of struggling and searching, pleading and agonizing, in the process of discovering and understanding truths fitted to our needs." A few paragraphs later and he quotes Norman Grubb saying:
Take as example the learning of a foreign language. You are faced with a series of hieroglyphics in a book, you hear a medley of sounds around, which mean absolutely nothing. Yet you know that it is a language that can be learned. More than that you have gone there to learn it. Now that is the first rung in the ladder of faith. However weak or waveringly, in your heart you do believe that you can and will get it. Otherwise, obviously you wouldn't try to learn it. So you plod on. Many a time faith and courage fail, the mind is weary and the heart is heavy, and you almost give up. But not quite. To give up is faith's unforgivable sin. On you go at it. Months pass. It seems largely to go in one ear and out the other. Then--the length of time depends on the difficulty of the language and the ability and industry of the pupil of course--a miracle seems to happen. The day or period comes when, without your hardly realizing it, what you are seeking has found you; what you are trying to grasp has grasped you! You just begin automatically to speak the language, to think it, to hear it. What was an incomprehensible jumble of sounds without, ha become an ordered language within the mind.

24 November 2010

Where's the Wonder

Over the weekend my fellow RA friend, KEG-hoe, from my Cedarville days came with her new husband to visit me.  We went up to the Sacre Coeur on Friday night, and spent Saturday taking a whirlwind tour of the Parisian highlights.  Our wanders ended at the Eiffel Tower.  K & M went up to the top and I searched out someplace warm to sit and read. 

I thought about coming back the way we came, but I had been there . . . and there were no cafés in the other 3 directions.  And since it was a cold November night the crowds at the Tower were thin, I grabbed a cheap-o cappuchino from the offical Tower vendeur and sat down to people watch.

18 November 2010

Stress and Other Foreign Concepts

Living in France has really opened my eyes to the reality of how wonderful a low stress lifestyle is.  I know, you're thinking to yourself:  'Really Deb., REALLY?!?!  Moving to a new country, learning a new language, adapting to a new culture . . . ALONE!  You call that a low stress lifestyle?!?!  ARE YOU NUTS?!?!'  But, yeah, compared to the pace of life I had before moving to France, my lifestyle has been much slower.  Sure there's been stress . . . but it's been very different!

Maybe it's because I'm on the other side of culture shock . . . or because my only responsiblity here was to learn the language, but I really enjoy my pace of life here.  I don't have a car, so transportation takes longer but is out of my control.  I'm not working, so I don't feel those stresses.  I walk ten steps to get to class everyday, so there's no commute or traffic to deal with.  Because of my time frame and language level I haven't been involved in ministry like I was at home.  So my lifestyle has been stripped of so many of the things that used to fill up my calendar.  I've had time to read and visit museums and go to see documentaries . . . all of course in French and therefore language learning, but in the past 6 months all of those things simply augmented the grammatical structures and vocabulary I was learning . . . they were no longer intimidating or overwhelming or frustrating.

10 November 2010

Benda Bilili

So I just got back from the ciné . . . haven't been in a while . . . but nothing had really caught my eye, until the other day when I was at the boulangerie picking up some fresh baguettes and saw a flyer for a film called Benda Bilili.  Havíng never heard of this film, I wouldn't have picked it up, except on the front were pictures of African men sitting in hand crank wheelchairs holding guitars.  Turns out our little cinéMassy was having a special one-time showing followed by a question-answer session with filmmaker. 

Turns out, I actually mentioned this group in a blog post back in 2009!  And tonight, I went to see the documentary.  It was great!  The music was great . . . story was pretty incredible.  4 of the 5 members of the band use wheeled mobility as a result of polio.  They used to get together to sing, until one day two filmmakers bumped into them (while filming something else) and took an interest.  These two French réalisateurs introduced them to a kid they met playing a homemade insturment on the streets trying to survive.  Six years later, Staff Benda Bilili not only had recorded a CD, but they began their world tour.

09 November 2010


Now there's quite a bit of logic behind the postal code system . . . it's starts with the département in which you live (it's almost like the concept of 'counties' in the States) and "the last three digits identify a more precise location, 000 being in general reserved for the préfecture. However, in Paris, Lyon, and Marseille the last two digits indicate the arrondissement" (thank you, wikipedia). 

And, like so many things, there is a particular way of saying the postal code . . . phone numbers for example aren't given in single-digits . . . they are always said in tens-digits (in the States, for the number 555-329-8538 we would say: five-five-five, three-two-nine, eight-five-three-eight with a few people ending it with eighty-five, thirty-eight) . . .but in France they'd say: cinquante-cinq.cinquante-trois.vingt-neuf.quatre-vingt-cinq.trente-huit).  But the postal code is different.  It's tens-digits, hundreds.

07 November 2010


Not going to lie, one of my most favorite things about living in France is the cheese.  Moving (end of January 2011) to a place where someone drives across the border to Nigeria in order to supply the hospital compound with toilet paper also means learning to live without other luxuries such as peppercorn-crusted-brie and cumin-infused-gouda.  But the truth is, in Galmi, it's difficult (and therefore expensive) to get even something as simple as Kiri Squares (little creamcheese-like squares that seem to be popular everywhere outside of the US).

03 November 2010

La Mode . . . C'est Moi!

One of my favorite things about French culture is their open-mindedness with the term 'fashion.'  Paris is the world capital of all things de la mode . . . but I have to admit, sometimes I look at the passersby and think to myself 'REALLY??  You're wearing that??' Okay, I would NEVER claim to be a fashionista, and have never really ever made an effort to be some much as 'trendy'.  Yet, despite how wacky and crazy some of the outfits may seem to me, here in France the attitude seems to be 'if you're wearing it, it's fashionable' (even if it's a fanny pack . . . that would be an American 'fanny pack' not the British version, for you, my loyal readers from the UK).

01 November 2010

Diagnositc Testing

I've been living in France for over a year now. Unfortunately that means my days of avoiding le médecin are long gone. That's right. I've managed to avoid going to the doctor (in France) for 15 months. But I was having sharp ear pain that would wake me up in the middle of the night . . . I've had the same thing happen a few times over the past several years and the doc has always told me that I have an inflammed tube and a few weeks on steroids will do the trick. And it always does.

But apparently in France, sharp pain in the ear that wakes one up throughout the night is caused by heartburn and intestinal irregularities . . . even if the patient denies experiencing heartburn . . . or if that same patient denies smelling an unpleasant odor or having an unusual taste in the mouth while feeling said ear pain . . . or denies any intestinal irregularities.

31 October 2010

Le Bouchon

Yesterday my friend needed to go to the airport and she entrusted me with the responsibility of bringing her car home.  I am happy to report that despite the bumper-to-bumper traffic, I didn't stall . . . not even once! 

But sitting there on the Boulevard Péripérique (France's largest parking lot), I got to thinking about term in French for 'traffic jam':  le bouchon.  Literally: cork.

24 October 2010

Je Cale . . . Deux Fois, Toujours

In honor of my friend MB who has just this morning quitté la france, a funny memory to fill the gap.

So a while ago,  MB and I went to the little city of Tours to stay with one of her friends.  Since it was only a two hour drive (or at least it is if you take the highway and not the 4-hour-scenic-tour-via-the-back-country-roads, oops!) to the Loire Valley and we had planned on visiting a few of the chateaux that the region is famous for, we decided to hire a car.

15 October 2010

Jump Right In

So Tuesday at the University,  I ended up sitting in on a class called Functional Assessment: Pediatrics.  The first several that were introduced are used for targeting kids with delays that affect their ability to learn in the classroom . . . things like handwriting skills.  Not exactly up my alley, but hey, I learned some great terminology: la discrimination figure/fond (which we call 'figure-ground'), la coordination visuo-motrice ou oculo-manuelle (okay, so I'm giving you all the easy ones: visual-motor coordination or eye-hand).

After all that, the prof pulled out his biggest gem of the day: the MIF Mômes.

09 October 2010

Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes

I sat in on a functional anatomy/activity analysis class yesterday at l'institute de la formation d'ergothérapie yesterday.  It was a bit surreal to be sitting back in a university classroom while young (and I mean young) minds scrambled to take record all that their prof said.

Since it takes me over an hour to get to the university, I was a little bit late for the class.  The secretary ushered me in and introduced me to the prof as 'An OT from the US who wants to observe your class.'  Once the prof recovered from my interrupting entrance, she began lecturing at the speed of light.  Suddenly I thought maybe this had been a bad idea.  Maybe I was way in over my.

07 October 2010

Chez Vous?

Living in France for over a year means I've had to trade in my Get-Out-of-Dummy-Free card.

I had to go to la laboratoire nationale today to have a test done.  When the line-out-the-door finally advanced, the receptionist smiled politely.  Bonjour, madame, I said.  Bonjour, lak alkd lakjglkjslkd aslkdj?  She asked and held out her hand.  Pardonne??  I replied. Votre lakjglkjslkd aslkdj.  She repeated.  I stared blankly (my trademark look since I moved to France) . . . she spoke louder.  I swallowed my pride and said Je ne . . . parle pas . . . uh . . . bien . . .  BIEN . . . le francais. (I don't . . . speak . . . uh . . . well . . . WELL . . . the French).  She smiled and simply said Votre carte vitale?

01 October 2010

Thank You. You're Welcome.

I love accents. 

I used to mimic them when I was a kid.  I've never been a good singer, but for some reason, I've always had a decent ear for accents.  Lately, I've taken to speaking in French with a thick, thick accent from the southern United States.  It's quite fun actually (Jee pahnse kuuuh je vay parl-aaay come sah toooo-jer).  This of course stemmed from my dear friend S. who loves to speak in English and Spanish with a very, very thick French accent (I zink zat I am goink do zpeak like zis all of zee time).  Yeah, we manage to entertain ourselves.

29 September 2010

It's Only a Matter of Time

My appologies for the length of time since my last post.  But life has been pretty quiet and uneventful since I started classes again.  In fact, starting over this semester was significantly easier than when I started last September.  Maybe it's that I already knew what to expect, was already settled in, and already knew some language . . . but regardless, starting school this fall was a breeze.

I decided to stick around an extra few months to improve my speaking/listening skills and to learn some Occupational Therapy specific vocabulary.  Since starting back up in Massy, I've been emailing a contact I made last spring, along with an OT department at a University in Paris in order to spend some hours each week learning terminology.

06 September 2010

La Rentrée

That's right.  It's back-to-school time!  Or as we say here in France, la rentrée.

I'm not sure if I can express in words how absolutely FABULOUS it is to not be a débutante this September!  I go to class and I can not only understand what my prof is saying, but I can respond . . . in complete sentences (Hey now!!  I said complete, not grammatically correct!!).

30 August 2010

When I Grow Up, I Want to be a Gendarme

As summer comes to a close, so do things at EVP.  This week we hosted a packed-out camp of Chinese immigrants who live in the Marseille/Nice regions.  Our team had dwindled from 20-something to 4 (with the newly retired director and his wife joining us for dish-duty after each meal).  There were many interesting moments as Chinese culture couldn't be further from French culture!  But that analysis is for another day.

Since it had been a crazy few days and the four of us were leaving between Sunday and Wednesday, we were given Saturday off.  We decided to hit the beach.  Which meant I was driving.

29 August 2010

Driving Along in my Automobile

During my 18 months of 'prefield training' I tried to look ahead as much as possible and learn new skills that I would need in Niger.  I thought it would help make the transition a bit easier.  I went a summer without airconditioning, tried out recipes from More With Less, learned how to pluck a chicken, and had a few lessons in driving a manual car. 

My friend V. used to take me to a parkinglot in SouthPhilly and let me practice parking, reversing, and driving (very) slowly.  We even left from time to time to cruise the streets of the city . . . but with all the lights and pedestrians, I don't remember ever making it up past second gear.  And a few times in rural SouthAfrica I ran a few errands . . . on the left side of the road . . . but never had any great success reversing.

22 August 2010

This Just In

I just received an email from a colleague at Galmi.  Seems the water pump is broken again.  This happend earlier this year.  The hospital's well not only provides water for the compound, but for the village of Galmi too.  Here's the news I've received so far:
O. is the Galmi water man who is in charge of the town’s water supply. This morning he came to us saying the water pressure to the town is not what it normally is. We found that the hospital pump, which supplies the hospital and the town of Galmi, is not working.

15 August 2010

Sometimes the Only Thing to Say Is 'OOPS!'

So the other day, while eating lunch, I recommended a few good French films and books to a fellow EVP volunteer.  I suggested Le Scaphandre et le Papillon (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) which is an incredible true story of the fomer editor of Elle France.  Over the summer I read the book in French and have seen the film several times (in French, with and without subtitles).  As an OT I really enjoy the story, as it shows the perspective of the patient.

12 August 2010

Je Peux Te Comprendre

All of the guests from this session have gone.  We finished scrubbing down the whole of the camp in order to prepare for the next group which arrives on Monday.  Most of the other staff leave this weekend, among which are the only two native French speakers.  C. is a retired teacher who came with her cat for 15 days to help out.  She's fabulous.  Eccentric and unconventional, but with a heart of gold and great sense of humor!

This morning at breakfast, the conversation switched to English for a few minutes (due to limitations in vocabulary).  I appologized to the two Francophones, not wanting to exclude them.  C. smiled, assuring me it was no big deal, and said 'I understand best when you speak in English.'

Wanting to clarify, I asked 'You understand best when I speak, verses the others, or when I speak in English verses French?'  After a good laugh, she assured me it was the prior.  Apparently we Americans speak much slower than the Brits, Scots, or Irish.

08 August 2010

05 August 2010

A La Plage

So yesterday afternoon, the camp packed everyone up and we headed to the coast (~20 minutes drive) for some beach volleyball, swimming and a picknick dinner (I have some photos, but unfortunately my camera is back in my caravan . . . better planning next time).  Needless to say, it was TRES TRES BELLE!!

After about half an hour of reading in the sand the heat became pretty intense, so I hit the waves with a few other girls working here.  Accompanying us was a jolly-shaped madame who has to be in her early 70's with her gray hair pulled into a tiny ponytail at the back of her head.  She was short and round, and absolutely adorable!

02 August 2010

Les Fourmis

I arrived at l'Eau Vive without event.  I had dinner with the other staff (mostly college aged folks from England, Scotland, Ireland, Poland, Canada, and one other American).  The French came back as soon as I stopped being nervous.  I got unpacked in my own private caravan and layed back to read for a bit.  When I got tired I went up to the main building to brush my teeth.

Upon coming back, I pulled back the sheet to find a quarter sized (body, not leg-span) furry khaki colored spider.  Having been very pleased to not a roommate for the 4 weeks, you can imagine my 'disappointment' in finding him there.  Okay, truth be told, I'm just not a spider-lover . . . which he sensed as soon as my flip-flop came speeding for his head--at which time he took off and I shouted 'BUT I'M NOT EVEN IN AFRICA YET!'

01 August 2010

Last Minute Cold Feet

So I'm in Marseille.  Spent the night with some friends, and am supposed to take a 26 minute train up to a little town near Aix-en-Provence, called Ragnoc.  But I've been thinking . . . all French, all the time!



Who told me this would be a good idea?  Who suggested this??  Well, if this isn't sink-or-swim I don't know what is.  Okay . . . I'm going to count to 5 and be done.  .

1 . . . 2 . . . 3 . . . 4 . . . 4 and a half . . . okay, this will be good for me.  It will.  I'm just going to keep telling myself that.  I can do this . . . I think I can . . . I think I can . . . I think I can . . . I . . . . . . .

23 July 2010

Smooth Original

As I mentioned the other day, I'm in transit to the south of France to spend the next month volunteering at a camp.  This stop along way is being spent with my dear friend, B.  For the past five years her job brings her to this side of the ocean for about six weeks or so. 

So this morning, while she was working, I ventured through this sleepy town that she calls home-away-from-home to find us some bread for lunch.  Before getting what we needed, I wandered through the town's sole grocery store, as I always love to see what each new place sells (different and the same) from the last.

20 July 2010

On the Road Again

Tomorrow I leave Paris for six weeks.  I'm heading south for the summer.  I'm taking a bit of an indirect route, stopping to spend a few days with a very close friend and together we will spend another few days with two missionary couples from our home church in Mt. Laurel, New Jersey (the church, not the missionaries).  I'm looking forward to the spiritual nourishment that I always get from quality time spent with B.

Once I land in the south, I will be back in camp-mode.  It's been seven years (I think) since I last worked at Camp-of-the-Woods in Speculator, NY.  I honestly never thought I'd use my summer experiences of working in the kitchen or making beds at a camp again!  But I'm actually really looking forward to it.  There's something absolutely fabulous about working at summer camp . . . hard core service.  I love it.

17 July 2010

It's Coming!

That's right . . . it's finally coming to theaters in the US . . . Le Concert was one of the best films I've seen in a while and it's finally going to be released in the US.  If you get the chance, go see it!

Check out the trailer here.

16 July 2010

Where's Home Again?

I'm back.  I know you've missed me . . . or at least having a good laugh at my expense.

I'm back in France after three weeks away.  My first two weeks were a much needed vacation (full of even-if-I-don't-go-looking-for-them-they-find-me-anyway adventures) with a dear friend, and last week was spent at Camp-of-the-Woods in the beautiful Adirondack mountains of New York (which will always make my Top 5 Most Beautiful Places in the World list) seeing my parents, old friends, new friends, and spending time with several supporters that I will not have the opportunity to be with until after I return from my first round in Niger.

05 July 2010

Sorry For the Silence

Yes, I'm still alive.

I've been spending some time with a close friend and haven't had much internet access.  On Wednesday I fly to New York for an RDM trip, then back to France.  I will spend August at a French family camp just outside of Marseille cleaning rooms, making beds or working in the kitchen . . . ONLY SPEAKING IN FRENCH!  I'm sure there will be many regular Deb.-Moments to share.

21 June 2010

Niger in the News


20 June 2010

Translation, Not As Easy As It Looks

A few weeks ago, I made peanut butter cookies for my French friend's birthday.  They were a big hit with the others at the fête and one girl asked me for the recipe.  Thinking to myself "how hard can this really be???" I agreed.

Thinking it would only take a few minutes, I sat down this afternoon to "just do it quick."  An hour and a half later and I've finally got something to show for it.  Before now I didn't realize that everyday words such as bake, stir, mix, parchment paper, cookie sheet, and fluffy are not des mots quiotidien that I've been learning here.  So, I've spent quite a bit of time with my trusty friend GoogleTranslator.

C'était Un Rêve!

They say we spend about two hours each night dreaming.  Everyone.  Even if one is not aware of it.  Some people can wake up in the morning and recant the details of each dream they had, as if they had watched a movie.  Some people experience very vivid dreams or frequently have nightmares.  But I'm quite the opposite.  I can remember scattered details of a handful of the dreams I've had in my 29 years, only two of which I'd classify as nightmares (both were under the age of six, so I assure you, if I shared them you'd laugh at my labeling them "nightmares" . . . but when you're under six, spiders coming out of the Christmas Tree and rub-on tattoos by old people in the park can be scary!).

They also say that while learning a new language, it is a significant milestone when one begins dreaming in that new language.  I had a roommate from Austria one summer who used to talk in her sleep every night.  For the first month it was always in German, until one night, as she was jabbering away in her mother tongue, she stopped, and said: "No, this is to hard!" and she continued the rest of her dream in English!

19 June 2010

Des Bonnes Nouvelles!

I am happy to report that after my exams yesterday morning, I was able to return to the bank to get my debit card back . . . and it went smoothly and without hassle or event!  When I arrived at the bank, there was a long line, but the woman recognized and sent me immediately to the back, and even asked how I did on the exams!  All I had to do was present my passport and sign my name . . . and voila, my card was back in my hands.

And to top off the least hassle-ful day of the week, I went with three other classmates to a little restaurant tucked into an out of the way corner of Paris and ate kangaroo!  It was YUMMY!  Served with all types of stewed veggies . . . it was great!  The place was called Kiwizine . . . and was the perfect end to a roller coaster of a week.

17 June 2010

C'est Ma Vie

There's an expression in French, c'est la vie (that's life).  But I really believe some of the things that happen to me don't really happen to every one.  It's just not possible!!  For surely if the misadventures that find me happened to everyone, there would be an uprising and things would change.  Me . . . I just get that gut wrenching I-think-I'm-going-to-be-sick feeling and then laugh about it for a while (cause I learned a long time ago, it's way more fun to laugh than cry!)

15 June 2010

Not Same Thing

I just got back from the préfecture.  I had some paperwork to take care of, but the office I needed is not opened on Wednesdays (the day we don't have classes) so I missed my afternoon class to make the hour's journey by bus and trains to Évry.  Over the past few weeks I've been painstakingly filling out forms and photocopying documents to make sure I have everything they have asked for and everything they might possibly decide they want when I walk into the office.

Upon arrival at 1:37pm I found that the department I needed was only opened until noon (looks like I'll be missing class Thursday morning).  But since I was there I had a question about another set of documents that I have to send by mail.  I waited in line for half an hour only to receive attitude and sarcasm from the woman behind the desk.  She was so incredibly patronizing that I got really flustered and could barely speak in French.  I sounded something like this:

11 June 2010

Hey, You Asked.

That's right.  Over there in the left hand column is a little box that allows anyone to ask me anything.  There have been some interesting questions.  Feel free to leave more.

Can you train to be a pta in the states and then work in France?
Good question.

Step 1: do some research and found out if PTA exists in France. There are PT's (here they are called kinésiothérapeutes) in France . . . lots of them. But I have not heard anything about PTA's or OTA's or PA's.

03 June 2010

Bien Que + Subjonctif

So it's Thursday night, and the week has already had it's fair share of defeats and victories.  Some of you will remember my breakdown a couple of Tuesdays back.  Well, I'm happy to report that this Tuesday's wasn't quite as bad (at least I was able to contain the tears to just in the classroom).

We were working on concessions . . . you know, words like however, yet, even though, and nevertheless.  So my prof wanted us to do an oral exercise that started with making two lists: 1. List all the reasons you should have stayed home.  2. List all the really hard things about where you will be living in Africa.

30 May 2010

Cortex de Shomp and Zay

I've been going back over the plethora of new vocabulary I discovered at the Neuro seminar on Friday.  I really picked up a significant amount of useful terms such as le perte which means the loss [of] as in le perte du dextérité (loss of dexterity) or le perte du contrôle sélectif des mouvements (loss of selective control of limb movement) aka: syncinésies.  Or tissue conjoncif moins extensible which is really in essence "scar tissue."  And course du mouvement (passif ou actif) which I take to mean "range of motion."

There's the membre inférieur and the membre supérior which are the "lower" and "upper extremities" to Anglophones.  The fléchisseurs are the "flexors" while the extenseurs are the "extensors."

28 May 2010

If Only I Was Hooked on Phonetiques

Well, I'm happy to announce that I survived my very first continuing education course en français!!  That's right!  I spent 6 hours in a classroom listing to a rehab doc talk about spasticity.  The course is called

Fragilité, Handicap, Réadaptation
Restauration Neurologique du Mouvement

and today was the first day of six.  After suffering through an hour on botox, my Australian friend and I decided to hit the road instead of sticking around for another hour or so on neurosurgical techniques, since neither of us are licensed to take a scalpel to another human being in our respective countries.

26 May 2010

Mother Tongue Knows Best

During the lunch break today I had a postcard in my mailbox.  It was from my mom!  At the bottom of the card she wrote  "What will you laugh and write about when you make no language mistakes?"  Well, not to worry, loyal readers, I'm pretty sure I will continue making language mistakes for as long as I'm alive.

Such as this afternoon in class.

23 May 2010

Taking Language Learning by the Horns

I have to admit.  When I signed up to move to France to study a new language I never gave any thought to the reality that for however long I wouldn't be able to freely participate in the activities I really enjoy.  I've shared before about missing crossword puzzles, but they are the tip of the iceberg.

I love being an Occupational Therapist.  There is such fun to be had in the melange of science with art!  The role of the OT is to help facilitate someone else's participation in activities and roles that are meaningful for that person.  We teach or reeducate individuals to do the everyday life "stuff" or we change their environment to give them ease and freedom of movement.   I LOVE MY JOB!

20 May 2010

Just a Little Laugh

A great big MERCI BEAUCOUP to all of you who left me such encouraging comments or emailed . . . Wednesday and today have been better . . . not completely great, but better.  And "better" is always more preferable to "worse," so it's looking up.

But just two quick little chuckles to reward you for persevering through all the ups and downs and foot-in-the-mouth moments that have been my life in French language school:

18 May 2010

Je Voudrais Abandoner . . . Mais J'Espère d'Arriver

This morning I walked out of class.  It wasn't over, we still had half an hour to go, but I couldn't sit there and cry while things  moved on without me.

I don't normally cry over not understanding . . . I'm a year shy of 30 . . . how ridiculous to cry over something so silly.  But I'll be honest, I don't feel ridiculous at all.  I have accepted that this position is humbling and it strips me of everything of myself that I had once put my confidence in . . . and somedays I just need a good cry.  And sitting there in class, I really didn't have a good reason to cry, but the tears just kept coming and I couldn't make them stop (it got a bit messy, really).

14 May 2010

A Couple More of Your Questions.

Questions Answered

What was the worst place you've traveled to?

That's a hard one . . . is that worst as in: place I liked least . . . worst conditions . . . worst weather . . . least favorite adventure . . . biggest disappointment?

Well, since I dialogue with myself here, I think I might answer all of them . . . or at least give a reasonable answer to all of them (there are some travel stories I won't fess up to until I'm 95!)

10 May 2010

Becoming Nothing

Last week a French friend handed me a good dose of humility, and boy did I need it!

Some of you may remember my recent post about the incident in the post office . . . well, two weeks after the fact, I still wasn't over it.  And not only was I just "not over it," I was still angry about it!  And while wallowing in self for far too long, I really let it go way too far in my heart.

Well, last week, I brought the incident back up.  My friend simply responded with "again?"  As we talked more, he said to me "I'm just really surprised by this.  Here you are, a Christian, and you can't forgive her.  I don't understand that.  You are holding this against someone who doesn't know Jesus!"


I stopped.  I hadn't thought about it in those terms before.  She was a stranger . . . what did forgiveness have to do with anything?  And, yeah, why wasn't I letting this go??  I began to process.

After accepting the reality that, yes, in fact I was harboring anger that had turned to bitterness towards this woman, I began to process why this minor incident had become such a huge mound of rubbish in my heart.  I started to understand that my anger wasn't towards this woman as an individual, but as a figure-head (for lack of a better term) for my frustration with the language/culture learning process.

No, it was more than it.  It wasn't just being frustrated with French.  It was really that in my heart I wanted to hold onto some form of dignity . . . but it wasn't dignity . . . it was pride.  Ugly, messy, selfish pride.

Jesus calls His followers to be empty of self . . . so, what was my problem??  I had always considered that process to be a pretty active one . . . you know, "lay it on the alter" not "have it ripped from my death-grip." Sure there are times that God uses our circumstances to chisel away the muck of self . . . but language learning is a whole different ball game.  My pride was stripped from me when I walked through the doors of this school.  Sure I "chose" to come here . . . but I had no idea what I was in for!  Most days I feel inside like I'm flailing around in the cold stormy waters of French groping in the dark for a lifesaver.  But what I forget is that I'm not alone, and I'm not going to survive if I do this on my own strength.  And the truth of it is, if I am a disciple of Jesus, I have no business seeking out ways to maintain my pride.  There is no room here for it!  There is no room on the throne for self.

I am reminded by M.J. Stanford's chapter on Self in The Green Letters that "This disintegration is something the believer can never enter into nor engineer on his own--self will never cast out self.  He has to be led into it by the mercy of the Holy Spirit--into failure; abject and total" (p.41).  Brennan Manning opens The Signature of Jesus with the reminder that "What Jesus longs to see in radical disciples is what he saw in little children: a spirit of sheer receptivity, utter dependence, and radical reliance on the power and mercy and grace of God mediated through the Spirit of Christ.  He said, 'Apart from me you can do nothing' (Jn 15:5)" (p. 15).

So, there you have it.  I am still in the midst of the becoming nothing process . . . thankful that I have been led here by the mercy of a most kind and gracious Father.

07 May 2010

Let's Make Lasagna!

So in French there's this great term: les faux amis, the false friends.  What it refers to are the words that exist in both English and French, but have different meanings.  Par example: deception.  In English it means "deception", as in trickery . . . but en français it translates as "disappointment."  Another good one is preferer, which, the verb in English to prefer connotes the better of two choices as per one's own taste, but en français it refers to one's favorite.

I'm finding, living in an international community comme ça that even in English we find les faux amis between Anglophones who hail from England and the US (and I'm sure from Oz too, just haven't found any yet).  For example, Lasagna.

06 May 2010

As The World Mourns Jin & Sun

I'm not a huge TV fan.  But for the past six years, I have faithfully been glued for an hour a week to the greatest show that has ever been aired: LOST.

One of the hardest things to accept before moving to France was the reality that watching this show at the time it aired at home would be impossible.  Thankfully there are a handful of us here at Les Cedres who share this addiction.  So (just about) every Wednesday since the final season began in January, we huddle around my friend's computer to watch the download from iTunes (quite possibly one of the top 10 greatest inventions of the decade).

For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, you need to understand . . . this hasn't just been six years of a TV show.  LOST is an experience.  It's been six years of reading, discussing and listening to theories of plot structure, hidden "easter eggs" and cultural references to the Bible, history, literature, art, music, major world religions and philosophy.

03 May 2010

I Speak Aphasic . . . En Français!

I thought I had written a blog post many months ago about meeting a man at church who has aphasia, but I can't seem to locate it.  Hmm, maybe I made a comment about it on my facebook status once.

Anyway, I know I've blogged before about thinking I have aphasia . . . you remember . . . when I asked the woman in the toll booth for the recipe instead of the receipt.  Sure you remember.  You laughed heartily at my expense.

But that old post is not the point.

01 May 2010

Mini Golf in France . . . Who Knew!

Another great question from a reader!  These are always so much fun to answer.  Keep them coming!!  The better the question, the better the answer!

Questions Answered

Do French people golf? I've never heard or seen French people golfing... what about mini golf?

HA!! GREAT QUESTION! I'm not really sure. I have to say I have not yet SEEN a golf course, but that doesn't mean they aren't here. And come to think of it, I'm not sure I've seen mini golf either. Hmmm. Hold on, let's see what the all knowing Google has to say.

30 April 2010

It's the Little Things

I just spent two fabulous weeks with my mom.  We had our vacances de printemps the past two weeks, so my mom came out to visit.  We did all sorts of touristy things I never thought I'd do (like go to the summit of La Tour Eiffel and visit Le Louvre . . . I have a fear of heights, so the Eiffel Tower's never been on my list, and the Louvre is always so packed the thought of tout le monde et sa mère being there has always been a turn off . . . but since it's les vacances Paris is unusually empty!!  No lines at all!!  C'était magnifique!

28 April 2010

Food Crisis in Niger

They are saying this year's crop failure and food shortage is going to be worse than the famine in 2005.  For more information: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8648215.stm

Photo slideshow courtesy of the BBC: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8637487.stm

27 April 2010

Sixty Million Frenchmen . . .

. . . Can't Be Wrong: Why We Love France But Not the French by Jean-Benoît Nadeau & Julie Barlow is changing my life!  I'm not very far along in the book, but already I'm learning about so many of the mistakes I make and why when I think I'm being friendly or polite I've completely rubbed someone the wrong way or broken social rules.

If you've ever been interested in understanding more about the French mentality and the deep rooted cultural and historical causes behind so many of their national opinions, or just breaking through stereotypes, I would highly . . . no, HIGHLY recommend this book.  It's lightly written with plenty of anecdotes and interesting tidbits that keep it flowing nicely.

Unfortunately I haven't yet arrived at the chapter that explains away my experience at the post office.

22 April 2010

Customer Service, Tu Me Manques!

Moving to a new culture has been an interesting process.  There are so many things one must learn that go far beyond the reach of vocabulary, grammar, and a decent accent.  Just as every language has it's nuances, so does each culture.  Unfortunately, culture learning doesn't come with a rule book.  For example, it is uncultural here in France to grow impatient while waiting in line.  We all have to do it.  What's the sense in trying to hurry the line up.  And no one seems to mind (too much) that we all pack as if we're in Tokyo when the RER B is holding a grève, because if someone has gone to the trouble of having a strike, we should all support them and just deal with the inconveniences.  After all, if they have something to say two weeks out of every month, someone should listen.

14 April 2010

My Momma's Here!

My mom is here for a two week visit.  We have our spring vacances starting Friday afternoon, so she came for a time of rest from some stress chez elle.  Two good friends were heading back to the states this morning for the break, so they offered me a lift to Charles De Gaulle (a third friend was dropping them off).

In the car on the way home, my mom produced the first gift from home.  She was so proud of this gift and knew it was something I love very much.  Her face beamed with joy as she produced it from her suitcase: a very large jar of NUTELLA!!  Now I love nutella!

But . . .

In the US peanut butter has it's very own aisle.  In France, that place is reserved for nutella.  Ginormous jars in every size down to single servings! (typically for less than we pay in the US . . . even with the conversion rate)

I have assured her that it was a very thoughtful gift . . . just one that will bring much more joy once I'm in Niger!

12 April 2010

This Guy's My New Hero

I don't know Matt.  I don't know where he is.  But his creativity, sense of adventure, and ability to bring people together for a good time makes me smile.

Today as I was walking back from buying popsicles at the store for my friend's little-guy who is pretty sick, I ran into two friends from my school.  B. is French and P. is from Oz . . . they started telling me about this weird thing called FlashMob . . . where large groups of people randomly start dancing in public places (like Bondi Beach, Washington Square Park, and at the Trocadero in my very own Paris) . . . but the dances are typically choreographed.  I was doubtful.  Sounded bogus to me . . . figured they were trying to pull one over on me hoping I'd start dancing like a fool in front of our little Massy bus stop.

11 April 2010

Vous Avez un Petit Accent

Yesterday evening I went to spend some time with a friend at her apartment.  As I walked, in the elevator was arriving at the ground floor.  A resident of the building was already there waiting.  He opened the door for me and asked Vous avez besoin de quel étage?  ("Which floor?") Douze, I responded ("Twelve").  Pardonne? he asked.  I repeated myself Douze as I pushed the button for the 12th floor to offer a visual aid.  Et vous? I asked him.  He told Le quatrième (the fourth).  Since he used the ordinal form of the number I got nervous . . . Oui, c'est correct?  I asked him, as I was about to push the 4.  I'm sure at this point my new stranger-in-the-elevator thought I must have a second grade education.

He turned and asked Vous venez d'où?  Because in my head I was still practicing my ordinal numbers (I HATE NUMBERS!!) I completely missed that he was speaking to me . . . the only other person in the elevator.  OH!  Pardonne?  With a bit of surprise that he, as a French stranger was striking up a conversation, I asked him to repeat himself.  Which he did, but he interpreted my response in such a way that he felt the need to clarify why he was asking such a question to a stranger in the elevator: Vous avez un petit accent (You have a slight accent).  PETIT?!?!  I answered with a chuckle, surely my accent is anything but slight!!  He chuckled too.

08 April 2010

I Think I Have French Aphasia

I am self-diagnosing . . . I have aphasia.

For those of you non-therapists out there reading this, aphasia is an acquired language disorder that impairs one's capacity to process language . . . it impairs one's ability to speak and understand others, and most of the time it impairs the ability to read and write.  This is not an intellectual impairment . . . it's simply a malfunction in the language centers of the brain.

05 April 2010

When GoogleMaps is Wrong

We have a three day weekend for the Easter holiday, so I went with two friends for the night to the city of Reims which is about an hour and a half drive from Paris.  We had heard it was a beautiful little city, and really needed a night away, so we grabbed a change of clothes and a baguette and made our way into the French countryside.

We had looked at GoogleMaps to determine it if was worth driving over taking a train.  Luxembourg (the city and country, shown left) looked close, and according to GoogleMaps it was only another hour and a half.  When we got to Reims, we took a tour of a champagne house and learned (en français) how champagne is made . . . it's actually a fascinating process and the old cave (below) was really neat to explore.  Then, after checking into our hotel, decided there would be enough time after the Easter service on Sunday to explore the rest of the little city, and since (as per GoogleMaps) Luxembourg was only another hour and a half away, we figured we'd pop up there for dinner, see the little city at night (which we had heard was beautiful) and make our way home for an average-hour-bed-time.

04 April 2010

4 April: A Big Day In History

4 April, 3 days AD . . . Jesus resurrects from the dead (at least this year).
4 April 0188 . . . Roman emperor Marcus Areilius Antoniius was born.
4 April 1581 . . . Sir Francis Drake completes his circumnavigation of the globe.

28 March 2010

So Why OT?

I really enjoy when you readers leave me questions (just type what you'd like to know in the box there on the left that says "ASK ME ANYTHING" and hit SEND . . . and you really can ask me anything).  I got this one today and I think it's one of my favorites:

What led you to occupational therapy? What was the studying like?
Oh, wow, what a question! I will do my best to go against the core of my nature and not write a novel-lengthed response, but no guarantees!

27 March 2010


Last night was another cinéma night . . . the little ciné here in our dot on the map Massy, had a special showing of the French film Liberté that was released last month.  Following the film, there was a question and answer time with the film's réalisateur (or director), Tony Gatlif.

The film, set in the midst of the Second World War, tells the story of a family of Tsiganes, or Gypsies, and some folks they meet along their way.  The film weaves a tale that is vibrantly colored with insights into a rich culture and unique way of life that is still found throughout Europe (in fact, we recently had a whole neighborhood of Tsiganes living in our public park!).  And the soundtrack alone would make this film a must-see!

26 March 2010

Your Questions, Answered or A Semi-Private Conversation With My Favorite Fran

So, once again I've caught up on the questions people have been asking.  But honestly, most of you aren't asking . . . except my favorite Fran.  Okay, she's my only Fran, but default or not, she's a favorite.  So, Franny, here are your (patiently awaited) answers (with one or two thrown in by someone else) followed by a screen shot of you and me checking out the blog at the same time from across the ocean:

Questions Answered

I read Desert Flower... great book.. sad.. but great. Do they practice FGM in Niger? I love you and I'm thinking about you! Franny

As far as I've found, Niger isn't typically on the FGM maps . . . but that doesn't mean it doesn't happen. But at this point, I still don't know one way or another, so I cannot say yes or no. If I ever find out a more definitive answer I will let you know.

Tour Paris Without Getting On The Plane

Want to come see my world but are taking a moral stand against airline food?  Well, there's good news!  I've just come across a new website that offers a great (nearly 360) view of Pairs with the ability to zoom in and out and turn up and down, right and left.  It also has most of the main landmarks labeled, with the opportunity to click for more information . . . I guess this trumps my little homemade video from the top of Notre Dame with the pitiful audio commentary of  "Uh, that big thing over there is the Eiffel Tower . . . and that's some church . . . and there's something else famous, but I don't know what it is . . . and I think that's the Arc du Triomphe--yeah, it's flat on top, so it must be . . . and that little white speck on top of that hill over there is the Sacre Coeur--here, let me zoom in so it's out of focus and you can't see it any more . . . oh and here's a gargoyle, but it's a bit dark and unimpressive from this angle and you're probably seasick from my inability to hold the camera still, but thanks for suffering through my home video." http://www.paris-26-gigapixels.com/index-en.html

24 March 2010

Starting from Scratch

A good friend sent me an email today.  She was on a transatlantic flight yesterday, and saw an ad in the inflight magazine that made her think of me.  She took two photos of the ad, and sent them in consecutive emails.  For those of you who have never been immersed in language learning, the painful reality of this will not sting . . . but it may give you some indication of what life is like for those of us sitting in the classroom day in and day out (but if you're up for the challenge . . . I highly encourage the adventure!).

19 March 2010

Rule Number One: Keep Mouth CLOSED

I think I'm going to swear off speaking.  Never again in public . . . never again to strangers . . . never again in French . . . or at least never again in French to strangers in public.  With all of the stupid ways I've put my foot in my mouth over the past six months, one would think I'd learn.  But oh no!  Je suis très têtue!

So today is the birthday of a good friend here at Les Cedres and I wanted to get her a little gift.  She introduced me to this fabulous store called Zôdio.  It's a cross between Bed Bath & Beyond, The Container Store and Michael's.  Gift cards (Cartes Cadeaux) are still a pretty new concept here in France, but thankfully Zôdio offers them.  My friend S-P and I wandered over that way at our lunch break.  I bought some card-making paper so I could make her a birthday card.  We had been speaking en Français the whole time until we were in line.  For some reason we switched to English, but back to French as we approached the till.

18 March 2010

Je Peux Lire!

So I've been trying to read books in French . . . I have been reading Viens, Sois Ma Lumière (Come, Be My Light) by Mother Theresa and picked up a copy of Eldorado by Laurent Gaudé off the freebie table.  It's about two brothers that leave their home in Sudan and try to make it to Europe via Sicily.   I won't tell you what happens . . . you'll have to see if you can find a translation somewhere.

16 March 2010

I Knew Her When . . .

One of my most favorite SouthAfricans has just posted some of her music to share with the world . . . so Mish, until you make me delete this post, I'm sharing your voice with my world.  I love your new songs!  Thanks for sharing!!  http://www.myspace.com/mishwillis Love you friend!

15 March 2010

La Rafle

I went to the ciné again tonight (don't worry, mom, I did all of my homework), with three friends.  We went to see the French film La Rafle (and since it's in French, it was two good hours of oral comprehension!).  La Rafle means The Raid and is in reference to la rafle du Vel' d'Hiv. Vel' d'Hiv took place on July 16 & 17 1942, when over 13,000 Jews living in Paris and her suburbs were rounded up and locked into the Vélodrome d'Hiver (an indoor cycling arena that was designed by the same man who created the Tour du France) and then later brought to a temporary camp within France, but eventually to Auschwitz.

The film follows a Jewish Parisian family and their neighbors as we watch what French officials did and didn't do on their behalf.  I'm glad I had done my homework and walked in with an understanding of the historical context of the film.  I had known very little about life in France during WWII, but found it very interesting that for the most part, the Jews in Paris carried on with life as usual, with increasing restrictions as 16 & 17 July 1942 grew closer.  I was also surprised to find that there was an effort made by gentile neighbors to hide and look after the children of their Jewish friends and by the higher-ups to maintain Jewish French nationals . . . unsuccessful as that was, it was an attempt.

The Trouble With Numbers

I hate math.  I always have.  Numbers are a language I have never been successful at learning.

I have mentioned before that in French, it is necessary to complete simple math equations just to count to 100.  Par example, the number 61 in French is soixante-et-un --literally sixty and one . . . but 72 is soixante-douze--literally sixty-twelve.  One might think that 80 would be literally eighty, but no, it's quatre-vingt--literally four-twenty (4 times 20 is 80, if you multiply that high), so 90 is quatre-vingt-dix--literally four-twenty-ten (because 4 times 20 plus 10 is 90 . . . you can understand my frustration!)

14 March 2010

Fleur du Désert

I've just come back from the cinéma.  My friend and I went to see the new film Desert Flower.  On the surface, the film tells the story of Waris Dirie, former supermodel from Somolia, who ran away from a nomadic family at the age of 14 to avoid a forced marriage.  She ended up in the West and was discovered by a fashion photographer.  As her story unfolds, the issue of female circumcision and genital mutilation comes to the surface.

12 March 2010

God's Beautiful Network

A few weeks after the earthquake in Haiti, I received a request from a nurse I've never met who used to work at the hospital where I will go learn to build prosthetics from PVC piping in Nigeria.  The request was for health professionals to go and help at a make-shift hospital in Haiti.  Feeling that the timing was not right for me, I forwarded the request to many old friends and colleagues via facebook . . . not really sure that anything would ever come of it.  But one old friend . . . from high school . . . felt a burden and left her four kids (two are twins not quite six months, I think) with her husband, her mom, and her mother-in-law, and went for 10 days to Haiti to help bring new babies into the world.  

Her husband is a professional wedding photographer and posted some of her pics on his blog today.  I'm taking the liberty to forward this link to you.  What struck me the most was that most of the pics E. took she left in Haiti, as many of the patients had never had photos of themselves before!  What a priceless gift to be able to capture a moment of joy during such a painful time!  I think it's the little things that are the most beautiful.  

Thank you, E. for going . . . for all of us that (heartbrokenly) cannot.  http://toddpelloweblog.com/louisville-wedding-photographer/index.cfm?postID=180&Emilys-Trip-to-Haiti

11 March 2010

It's Been a Week

It's been a little while since I've written a new post, so there's a bit to fill you in on.  Life has been life, so there's not really been many funny happenings . . . but I'm sure before too long I will put my foot in my mouth and say something worth typing on the blog.

Class has been full of my typical blunders and mispronunciations . . . such as when we had an oral exercise on expressing anger or disappointment, and I said that the hotel's belts were dirty instead of their pillow cases (taille vs taie), which led to a classic game of Guess What the Anglophone Is Trying to Say.

06 March 2010

Joyeux Anniversaire, Mamman!

Yesterday was my mom's birthday . . . I should have posted this then, but I'm sure it's still March 5 somewhere in the world.

Mom, I love you!  Thank you for all you do.  Thank you for being you.

02 March 2010

Sometime the NYTimes Gets It Right

A friend just sent me this article from Sunday's New York Times.  I couldn't help but comment and thank the author for his recognition of the compassion of the Church.  I am not typically one to leave comments on news articles, in fact, I think this is my first one, but as I read through the other comments, I found very few from evangelicals, and felt it was important to speak up. 

Read the article (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/28/opinion/28kristof.html) , read my response (below), and feel free to let me know what you think (it is possible to comment anonymously without needing a blogger.com account).

01 March 2010

Back in the Saddle . . . or Something Like That

Well, I'm back in France.

It's only been a week off . . . nothing really . . . call it an extended long-weekend, with two transatlantic flights four days apart.

You know that feeling you get when you go on a trip, and you make a packing list, and you check it a few times, but there's still that nagging feeling that you've forgotten something.  And that feeling stays with you until all of a sudden, at the moment you need whatever it is the most, you remember what it is that you left behind and you can picture it sitting right where you last put it.

25 February 2010

Welcome Back . . .

I had to go back to the States for a few days, so the February vacances worked out well. 

I was definitely not prepared for returning to the US.  I thought I was, and after a few days, I'm over the initial shock, and I know that once I'm living in Niger, coming back to the US will be even harder and stranger, but I for sure wasn't expecting to feel the way I did this time.

20 February 2010

Yellow Screen of Death and Some Other Less Interesting Things

In this process of learning French, I often become very self-conscious with my spelling, so I have come to rely on double checking my spelling and vocab by cutting and pasting my sentences into the online translator at larousse.fr.  But today, my self-editing came to a screeching halt!

19 February 2010

A Few More Links to the News

West African Economic Union condemns the coup in Niger:
Niamey is calm after coup yesterday: 

Cet article est en français:


Coup Update

So here's what I know.  Gunfire was audible from the Sahel Academy (SIM's boarding school in Niamey) campus, but it was short-lived.  (Former) President Tandja was removed from the presidential palace by "renegade soldiers in armored vehicles" to a military base on the outskirts of Niamey . . . his current whereabouts are unknown, according to multiple reports.


18 February 2010


About an hour ago I got the first word that there has been a coup in Niger's capital, Niamey.  President Mamadou Tandja changed the constitution about a year ago in order to grant himself a third term as president.  This of course was not well received internationally.  And today, there was a coup.  Reports are coming through that gunfire is being contained to the presidential palace . . . but a coup's a coup, and gunfire is gunfire.

SIMNiger has headquarters in Niamey, along with a boarding school for the MK's.  Word is that everyone in the SIMNiger organization has been contacted and accounted for.  

At this time, you now know as much as I do.

To find out more:
Reuters: http://af.reuters.com/article/topNews/idAFJOE61H0I020100218
BBCNews: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8522227.stm

SIMUSA: http://www.sim.org/index.php/content/coup-attempt-in-niger
The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/niger/7264248/Coup-attempt-launched-in-Niger.html
Niger Wire: http://www.topix.com/wire/world/niger

14 February 2010

Weekend of the Socks

I got two gifts over the weekend . . . and both were socks!

When I woke up yesterday afternoon, there was a small wrapped package waiting for me outside my door.  My SouthAmerican friend, S., had been out that day and saw some socks that made her think of me.  Not really sure why these ones in particular, but the reason is because she has (on more than one occasion) made fun of me for wearing holes through the backs of my socks . . . but this is very common for me . . . I have unusually defined calcanei (the calcaneus is the heel bone) and the posterior tuberosities (where the Achilles tendon attaches) stick out a little more than normal.  So I always rub holes in my socks and destroy the back lining of shoes.  I guess she got tired of seeing my heels.

The other pair is from my Tennessean friend, E.  E. is a big runner and ran the Paris Marathon last year.  A few weeks ago I decided to run my first road race . . . the Handicap International 5K in Paris.  To encourage me, E. brought me a little gift today . . . special running socks from SOUTH AFRICA!  E. lived in Durban for two years and shares my love for all thins d'Afrique du Sud (including the Springbok's . . . who's B-Team I saw practicing the other day . . . HERE IN MASSY!!  They were here for some sort of training and a tournament).  The brand is ZULU . . . performance socks for the warrior in all of us.  Made me happy.

Thanks girlies!  Love you too!

Your Questions, Answered

You've asked some great questions, and now I've answered.  I'm going to need to do a bit of research on a few in order to answer efficiently.  But in the meantime, keep the questions coming!

How do the French feel about francophone Canadians?

My impression is that the French consider francophone Canadians to have their own accent and culture, and are therefore very different from francophone French  (kind of like how many of my British friends consider American English to be a dialect, not just a different accent). In maps of the Francophone World, all of Canada is included, so the French seem very content to be able to encompass as much territory as possible, so long as very distinct cultural differences are noted.

UNESCO and The Bible: Heritage of Humanity

Last night I went with three other students to the UNESCO building in Paris . . . the Alliance Biblique Française hosted a week-long exposition on the Bible and it's impact on cultures.  The exposition was incredibly well done with historical information, including a VERY old scroll in Hebrew that was uniquely displayed so that one could actually scroll (no pun intended) through it.  There was a display that had auditory tracts with earphones allowing the listener to hear dramatic readings of Scripture and commentaries.  My friends that work with SIL particularly enjoyed the section on translation and literacy work.

12 February 2010

A Moment of Silence

Wherever you are in the world, please pause as you read this, for a moment of silence in memory of the late Walter Frederick Morrison.  Mr. Morrison invented the frisbee in the 1950's, and we have never been the same.

Countless high school and university students around the world have enjoyed hours of recreational (and often competitive) hours of bliss from a simple game of toss, frisbee golf, and ultimate.  Not to mention the rounds of fetch between man and his best friend in the park.

Mr. Morrison's contribution to modern civilization can be likened to that of the Beatles, The Joy of Cooking, and the Boeing 747.

Thank you, Mr. Morrison.  From all of us.

10 February 2010


So I've added this cool little widget to the blog that allows you, the reader, to type in questions (anonymously) that I can answer and post back on the blog.  On the left hand panel, beneath my picture and profile and the link to SIM.org is a little box that says "Ask Me Anything." Simply type in your question and hit send.  I then receive an email with the question and am given the opportunity to reply (and I reserve the right to not answer as well . . . I can still plead the fifth even if I'm in France).

Here are some I've received so far (and feel free to keep them coming!): 

Questions Answered

If you could change one thing that happened last year what would it be?

Hmm . . . this is tough . . . most of the things I'm thinking about didn't happen last year . . . like that time when . . . or that other time . . . and the Yankee's did win the World Series, so that can stay; and I did move to France, so that stays; and I did sell my car, PTL!; and I got to visit Italy, Germany, and Belgium . . . yeah, last year was a good year! Maybe I got a speeding ticket at some point . . . yeah, surely I got a ticket. Okay, that's it. That's what I'd change.