28 October 2007


I wasn't planning to post until I got back from Lyon and Avignon, but I invented something today, and am so proud of my ingeniousness that I figured I'd share it with the world. This is particularly useful for other exchange students, college students, and other people who, like me, don't have an iron.
My brown pants were seriously wrinkled and creased, but I plan to wear them tomorrow. What to do? I don't have an iron. Then it came to me.
I put a layer of paper towels down on the fireplace (really any heat-resistant surface will do), then put my pants there, weighted with the creases pulled flat. Another layer of paper towels on top for cleanliness, then I put on top my biggest pot, full of boiling water. Weight plus heat. I washed the dishes while letting it sit there, and voilà! Wrinkles gone. I'm very proud of my homemade iron.
Off to Lyon in nine hours!

27 October 2007

[Creepy] Le Mans

Today is the first day of my fall break: congé de Toussaint (All Saint's Day Break). I slept in as late as I judged sensible (9:30), got ready in a leisurely manner, and headed to the train station. After waiting in line for half an hour, I bought a lot of train tickets: tickets to Lyon on Monday and back on Wednesday, to and from Nantes the weekend I'm going to Milan (flying from the Nantes regional airport, which is why I'm going there), and a ticket to the small Loire valley town of Le Mans for today.

Le Mans, my guidebook says, is not a very pretty town. However, the medieval part of town is beautiful enough that people like to shoot movies there, such as the famous version of Cyrano de Bergerac. There's also a cathedral and a few museums, so I figured it would be a good half-day trip.
My first impression of Le Mans corresponded exactly with the guide book: Le Mans is not pretty. I'd go as far to call it ugly, creepy, dirty, and creepy. As usual, I picked a train station exit and started to walk. Essentially, all of Le Mans except for the touristy area is one giant construction zone. Sidewalks closed everywhere, piles of sand and gravel, chunks of concrete, fences around seedy looking lots, the whole shebang. It took about fifteen minutes of walking to find a sign pointing me to downtown, and after I had been walking in that direction for four minutes or so, enter Creepy Man #1. I'm a naturally polite person, so when someone politely says, "Excuse me, miss," in an "I'm lost and need to ask for directions" sort of way, I stop and let them talk. Apparently though, he didn't need directions. In fact, he just wanted to get to know me, since he found me "tout à fait charmante." No, though thank you for the compliment. I don't give my number to random men who approach me on the street. So the creepiness factor of Le Mans had gone up a bit.
Up the street a bit further, and I saw a woman walk to... a bus stop! Buses aren't scary. I fished out some change and got onto the bus, which was full of very unhappy looking people. I got off one stop after we passed the tourist office, and saw...

...that. The St Julien Cathedral, which is beautiful. Creepiness fading... fading... nearly gone. The cathedral was surprising, since it's different from your typical French cathedral in a number of ways. First, it lacks spires. Most have two. Second, it has about four times the flying buttresses, which makes it look short and squat, though it isn't. It's also surrounded by trees and a wall, and, weirdest of all, across the street from a large parking lot and a carnival. Probably because Le Mans is on a hill, there are a lot more cars than you see in Angers.

I went in the cathedral, but couldn't stay long, since guests were going in for a wedding. The inside of the cathedral is very typical, which was surprising after the interesting exterior. Here's one of the side rose windows:

The exit I took put me right in the middle of old Le Mans, which is charming. It's got those little rocky stairways in between ivy covered medieval houses, and twisty roads, and buildings made of both stone and wood with intricate ironwork on the windows, it's wonderful.

In the middle of the old quarter is the Musée de la Reine Bérengère, which only cost about two dollars and has a large collection of paintings, home objects, and pottery covering the region's history. As far as I can tell, I was the only person there, and since no one told me not to use flash I got some decent pictures of some of the more interesting (i.e. incredibly unusual) objects.
Here's the outside of the museum, which is in one of the ancient houses:

This little thing is a "Musical Irrigator" which, according to the description, could play "Boccace vase" and "le petit Duc" when the twisty-thing is open. I find that intriguing, but to be honest I have no idea who it would be used or how it could work.

This is a covered spoon, used for taking medicines that smelled bad, to improve the taste. Ingenious.

In the center of this picture is a ceramic lion with a rather interesting look on his face. The castle on the left and the Napoleon figure are both meant to hold clocks.

It's unfortunate that this picture came out a bit blurry, because it is by far the coolest collection of pot lids I have ever seen. They were made by man who was a surgeon by day and an amateur potter by night. I suppose being a surgeon helped him to achieve the incredible level of detail. I particularly like the bottom left one, "Man and woman feeding animals." The one to its right is a man who used to have a pipe, but the pipe has been lost. Consequently, his little hole of a mouth gives him a look of surprise.

This picture mostly shows a handful of Madonnas, but what I find most interesting is the way these were glazed. A lot of the pottery was glazed in a very strange way: it's almost as if the potter just splashed on splotches of color in a haphazard way. It seems like such a childish way to glaze, though the statues themselves are very intricate and impressive. It's hard to see the detail in this photo, but the statue at the bottom is of the holy trinity. Jesus isn't actually suspended on a cross, he's being held in that position by God the Father, who has a dove on his chest. I find that unusual as well.

Anthropomorphic Pitchers!! Their hats are open on top, and they have handles coming out of their backs.

The anthropomorphic pitcher on the left looks somewhat serene. The one on the right... doesn't. It's all in the eyebrows, I think. What an expression!

Last two pictures. First is the attic, and I'm very jealous of the rafters. Second is a reconstructed room, typical of the 18th-19th centuries in the region. Everything is pretty straightforward except for the wooden coffe-table-shaped item on the right. It's a "trotteur ou promenoir, sapin, encore en usage dans les années 1950." As far as I can translate, that means that it's a sort of walker. For children?! The piece with the hole in it does slide back and forth along the sides, but the hole is rather small and I can't see how that would be humane. I'd like to think that I completely misunderstood what the thing is, but I can't see what else it could be.

After leaving the museum, I decided to head back towards the downtown area, where I had seen a building that looked suspiciously like a mall. I like those. On the way, I met... Creepy Man #2. He was with two other people, all were holding cameras and wearing suits, and when he said, "Pardon me, miss..." I assumed he was going to ask me to take a picture of them, and stopped. Quite a surprise to hear, "I was wondering if you'd like to get me a cup of tea." I'm sure I heard the m' me in there. When I looked confused, he pointed out a café and asked if I'd like to go have a drink with him. I said no and moved on, still incredibly confused. Right before I went into the mall, the newly-married couple drove past. There was much honking like in the States, but what was strange was the type of car. I'm not sure if this is typical, but they were in a very old car. Not quite Model T, but Model V or W is my estimate of the era. That was odd.

I got the seventh Harry Potter book in French at the mall, went to a bakery for a quick lunch, and walked toward the bus stop, since I wasn't in the mood to get lost. Le Mans is just plain creepy, and even though I liked the medieval part, I just didn't have any desire to stay longer than absolutely necessary. At the bus stop I saw a woman carrying a very small child with pigtails and a pink sweater. Then the "child" turned its head and I saw that it was a dog. It's amazing how the French treat their pets, and even more amazing how much this dog managed to look like a human.

I had a few minutes to relax after I got home, and then I headed downstairs to dinner with Anne, my landlord. She likes to have all the students (there are currently three of us living here: Shao Ting from China, Lucija from Croatia, and me) over for dinner every so often, to have French food in a French family environment. Anne invited a friend of hers as well, and I liked him a lot: intelligent, kind, patient with foreigner-French, our circumlocutive dialect. Anne made a potage (vegetable puree soup, it was really good), quiche lorraine (except for the fact that quiche is made with eggs, it was good), the usual French cheese course, and some sort of pudding for dessert. French dinners are very leisurely, and though we didn't eat a large quantity of food, the meal lasted two hours, with lots of chatting in between courses.

Tomorrow I have to get up moderately early to go sing at church, and Monday I have to get up at... 3:30 a.m. I need to leave for the train station (I'm walking, since it's too early for the bus) at 4:20 to go to Lyon. I don't think break will really feel like break until Friday, when I get to sleep in as late as I want.

25 October 2007


I love Linguistics.
I love choir.
I hate it when choir finishes after 11 p.m. and I have to wake up at six the next morning in order to be at Linguistics on time.
The end.

22 October 2007

Saumur Saturday (and other cheerful news)

Saturday we went on an adventure! Tobias (Germany), Becky (near Chicago), Kate (Kansas) and I went to Saumur (um... France). Saumur is a little city about half an hour away from Angers by train. It's big enough to have a castle and some museums, but it's not nearly as big or bustling as Angers. And, in fact, neither "big" nor "bustling" is one of the first adjectives that would come to mind to describe Angers.
Travel tip: if you're only going to see two pages worth of your guide book in a day, take pictures on your digital camera and leave the book at home. I've found it very handy to have the information with me without having the bulky book.
Saumur is really known for just three things: wine, mushrooms, and horses. It is still a big vineyard region, it has a mushroom museum and hosts a mushroom festival every year, and it's home to the national horsemanship school, which was in fact the official cavalry training camp under Louis XV. We arrived around one, figured out which direction to walk, and were pretty much instantly impressed with how cute Saumur is. It, like Angers, is on the Loire river, which helps to make the town very photogenic.

We walked through the downtown area, where everything was closed for lunch, and hiked up the hill to the castle. The view was incredible; we couldn't have had a day with better weather: the sky was blue, it was chilly but sunny, just perfect. The castle is closed for renovation, but the exterior was interesting. It's a much newer castle than Angers', and looks like it's straight out of a fairy tale. Here are pictures of the view of Saumur from the top of the hill, some pictures of the castle, and the obligatory self-portrait in front of a landmark (facing into the sun, as usual).

Saumur does have two downsides though. First is that the mushroom museum is outside of the center, and only can be reached by bus, which we didn't have time to do. Second is a bench in one of the squares, which I didn't notice until I had slammed my shin into the corner of it very hard. I bumped into that bench hard enough to break the skin through my jeans and get a fairly bad cut, as well as a bruise the size of my palm and a very impressive bump. Now, two days later, it still hurts a bit to walk and hurts a lot whenever anything touches my leg. So I'm reminded of Saumur often :)
We ate a very late lunch in a little café that had very cheap lunch menus. It's a great feeling to have a leisurely, warm lunch in a charming French town with congenial people on a cool Fall day.

I figured out that, if I ever become a translator, I'll translate fiction. My Monday class translates only news articles, and it's impossible for me to enjoy figuring out French phrases for sentences like "The ranks of the working poor are swelling as more families slip into poverty, health benefits are lost and low-wage employees bear the brunt of many corporate cutbacks." It's so depressing! However, Tuesday translations give me interesting French passages that end up in English prose like, "Attached to one of the cement pillars of the entrance gate, two plaques of different shapes sparkled in the bright morning sunlight. The larger of the two, in copper, had the name André Pellerin engraved on it; the other, enameled, placed just under the first, said 'Beware of Dog,' without any particular relation between the two specified."

I went on amazon.fr to find two books I wanted to buy as "textbooks" (French professors tend to not assign textbooks, though they often recommend books to read) and I ended up buying six fun books as well. An unhealthy ratio of impulse purchases to intended purchases, but I don't care when books are involved!
La notion de culture dans les sciences sociales (The Notion of Culture in the Social Sciences) by Denys Cuche, recommended for my Anthropology class. It's a thin book, but it has small print. Luckily the chapters and sections are short, so I should be able to make my way through it. I figure it'll help reinforce what we do in class, and give me a good vocabulary base before the written exam.
L'aventure des mots français venus d'ailleurs (The Adventures of French Words that come from Elsewhere) by Henriette Walter. French is "a creole that lasted" and this book essentially covers the history of the language. Plus, it's supposed to be fun to read.
Le château de Hurle (Howl's Moving Castle) by Diana Wynne Jones. I love the book in English, and I look forward to reading it in French. I've already read the "sequel" in French. I actually intended to buy this book, though it wasn't part of my Amazon "mission" at first.
Bizarre ! Bizarre ! (Someone Like You) by Roald Dahl. This is one of the better collections of Roald Dahl's very bizarre short stories. They're not for kids. They're wonderful.
L'homme au parapluie et autres nouvelles (The Umbrella Man and other Stories) by Roald Dahl. This shorter collection is also bizarre, but less macabre.
Ella l'ensorcelée (Ella Enchanted) by Gail Carson Levine. This is one of my favorite Cinderella adaptations, and I was thrilled to find a translation.
Le mot juste (The Right Word) and Le français est un jeu (French is a Game) by Pierre Jaskarzec. Both are short books whose goal is to help French people avoid common vocabulary and grammar mistakes, and to improve their French in general. With entertaining quizzes, you learn the difference between pairs of words like harde/horde and nominer/nommer and learn tricks to remember irregular conjugations. I think these books will be useful, and they were only two Euros each.
In conclusion, I love books and any place where they can be bought is dangerous. But satisfying.

While procrastinating on YouTube I had the idea to search for Animaniacs, a cartoon I enjoyed when I was little. I found a treasure trove of "Good Idea, Bad Idea" clips (Good idea: throwing a penny into a fountain to make a wish. Bad idea: throwing your sister Penny into the fountain to make a wish), Buttons and Mindy episodes (remember the one where Mindy loses her lollipop?), and the wonderful educational songs like "The Ballad of Magellan." Here is a video compilation of some of the best songs. Enjoy, and I encourage you to look for more clips, because they're entertaining and (often) educational too.

18 October 2007

270 tissues later...

I'm feeling pretty normal! Since last weekend I have gone through two boxes of tissues (one of the cheap kind and one of the luxurious lotion kind), three rolls of cough drops, and about thirty cups of herbal tea.

Beyond the fact that I'm healthy enough that I'm a soprano again, there's not much to report. Wednesday was the International Dinner, and I brought peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I had to leave pretty early thanks to the night bus schedule, so if anything exciting happened I missed it. This weekend will bring some sort of adventure, but I'm not sure what yet. I don't even have any new recipes. But, while I was studying at the laundromat I found three things in my notes that I had meant to blog about and hadn't, so here they are.
1) In France, Scooby Doo is spelled "Scoubidou." That cracked me up.
2) According to the subtitle expert, there are only a few types of audio-visual documents that don't get subtitled. Documentaries, news, and... "videos with minimal dialogue, where the image suffices." I liked her wording, and that cracked me up.
3) We were discussing the notions of "culture," "society," "nationality," "ethnicity," "community," and so on in Anthropology, and I jotted a note in the margin "US: ethnicity ≠ nationality, Europe: usually =." So I used some of my laundromat time to think about that more, and free-write a bit. This is what I came up with:

In Europe, and in fact in most of the world, there's rarely a big difference between ethnicity and nationality. One question covers the other. But in America, it doesn't. Anthropologically, the big concept that creates an ethnicity is the idea of a common origin, and America is far from having that, and may never gain it. The vast majority of Americans have a time line that goes something like this: "Jamestown and the Pilgrims, Declaration of Independence, Revolutionary War, Louisiana Purchase, Civil War, Industrial Revolution, and then my family comes into the picture." For us, the "common origin" is the origin of many of our ideals, but it wasn't actually our ancestors, so we're detached. Americans have language, culture, traditions, and values from our American nationality, but there are strong remnants of culture, traditions, values, and often language from the ethnicity half of us. Just a part of our historical tie is from American history, since our political ideals were created in America, but it's hard to feel closer to some Puritans just reaching the New World or colonial white men writing a new constitution than to your blood-relatives who were half a world away at the time.
So where does "American" fit? It's a nationality, yes, because it can be on a passport. A society, since we share and validate sovereignty. But without an origin that we all share, without a deeply personal tie uniting us immigrants from all over the world, "American" isn't an ethnicity. And until it becomes one, our society can't be as united or have as much power as it should.

I promise I'll have at least one adventure to describe this weekend, and it will include photos!

12 October 2007

Time flies when you're having... um... coughing fits.

I was surprised when I noticed that it had been almost a week since my last post. Here's an update about the last week, which was busy academically and medically, but calm in all other adverbs since I mostly wanted to sleep and drink tea.

Sunday I had a sore, swollen throat and self-diagnosed laryngitis. However, then I got a headache, fever, chills, and sore muscles, and Wikipedia said that it added up to flu. Whoopee.
Monday I was down to muscle pains and a sore throat, which are typical dehydration symptoms, so I self-treated accordingly.
Tuesday my throat felt pretty normal (good, because I had choir rehearsal) but I had a headache.
Wednesday the headache was gone, the sore throat was back, and I decided it must really be laryngitis after all.
Thursday my cough worsened until it got bad enough that it could be bronchitis. That awful racking, scratchy cough that leaves your throat raw and your lungs hurting.
Friday, after consuming about twenty cough drops and six cups of herbal tea, back down to sore throat (I haven't spoken or sung a word all afternoon to prevent the cough coming back), general ache, and possibly a fever, so it must be flu.
All in all, my two most common activities this week have been sleeping and coughing.

However, the week wasn't all bad!

Anthropology was really interesting. We've started talking about how to define types of groups (community, tribe, ethnicity, society, etc.) and what defines a culture. It's very interesting, and one of the benefits is that it's a good way to help me notice things about the culture I'm living in. Unfortunately, any revelations I had on Wednesday are somewhere locked in my mind behind the dominant thoughts of "make another cup of tea, and then have another cough drop."
Linguistics was fascinating too. Yesterday we had a guest lecture about translating subtitles. It's challenging because time and space constraints make it impossible to do a direct translation, but important because subtitles help to preserve audio-visual documents (whether it's movies, documentaries, or even advertisements) as the works of art they were intended to be. Friday class was in a computer lab, and we used the techniques we'd learned and professional software to create subtitles for a scene of "Life is Beautiful." If you haven't seen the movie, I highly recommend it. We subtitled the German audio in the rule-explanation scene. It was technique and style that were important, not content, which is great since my German language skills don't go much beyond telling people that I'm a potato.

Thursday, Becky and I went on a "field trip" to Carrefour, which is a lot like a Super Wal-Mart. They have everything that the local supermarket doesn't have, so if I'm ever stumped for food ideas I can go there for inspiration. Also, we discovered that France still has Crispy M&Ms, which America doesn't have anymore (yes, Scott, I will bring you some). I got purple and teal erasable ink, another notebook, mangoes and plums, more cough drops, and... two new flavors of Pringles.
Quick explanation: last summer when Kristen and I were in Europe, we tried a number of interesting flavors of Pringles, such as Paprika, Hot Holland Hot, Feta Cheese and Avocado Oil, Thai Spice, and so on. I try every bizarre Pringles flavor I come across, but nothing has come close to what I discovered at Carrefour: I present, for your chuckles, two really weird varieties:
1) Steak and Caramelized Onions
2) Tiger Prawn and Crushed Garlic
HA! Made my day. Then I coughed all the way through Dutch, though I am now confident in my ability to count to a million (if I had the time and no sore throat) and chat about how people are feeling today.

And finally, here's a recipe that I invented that's really really good. My sole inspiration was that zucchini was on sale and that I really needed to use those tomatoes.
These amounts are enough for one serving as a main dish, or two servings as a side.
Slice a zucchini (about 1/4 inch slices) and spread out the slices on a plate.
Sprinkle them with pepper, salt, and a lot of basil.
Heat a teaspoon or so of butter in a non-stick pan. Toss in about ten olives, sliced. I used green ones. Then add the zucchini and toss it around a bit. Cover the pan and let the zucchini steam a bit.
Meanwhile, slice two tomatoes fairly thinly. Sprinkle the slices with basil and add them to the pan. Let the vegetables cook for about four more minutes while you get other food ready. For the last minute of cooking, take off the pan's lid so that the tomato juice can cook off a bit. It goes well with a piece of turkey (even if the turkey is slightly burned) or with a couple eggs.

[Speaking of eggs, I've branched out! Now that I like fried eggs, I googled other ways of cooking them and decided to try poaching them. The method I like best is kind of weird, but it works really well. All you do is crack an egg into about a foot of cling wrap (line a little bowl with it so that you don't make a mess), then twist the excess tightly to make a little pouch. Try not to let any air stay in with the egg, or it'll float and not cook fully. Drop the plastic-wrapped egg into boiling water and let it bounce around for three minutes (use a timer, don't guess) then take it out, towel-dry, and unwrap. I like poached eggs because they still have a gooey yolk like fried eggs, but they aren't fried. I know this seems like a weird way to cook eggs, but you'll be impressed if you try it.]

06 October 2007

A good idea, a bad idea, and some photos

A good idea:
In a shop, I saw a neat decorative idea: a thick piece of wire was hung from the ceiling with a decorative weight at the bottom. There were postcards and other decorative things hung on the wire with those little ultra-strong magnets. Since I plan to reread my blog once I'm back at home and thus near a Hobby Lobby, I figured I'd note the idea so that I won't forget.

A bad idea:
Becky (an English major) and I decided, in spite of our knowledge of the danger, to go into... a used book store. I know, bad idea. When we went in, I suggested we decide to stay for fifteen minutes, maximum. Forty-five minutes later, we left with a lot of books. However, for the price of two regularly priced books in a regular price book store, I got:
- Charlie et la chocolaterie (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl, a book I love)
- Les Royaumes du Nord: A la croisée des mondes (Northern Lights, the first of the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman, which I've heard is good but haven't read in English)
- L'aube des dragons (Dragonsdawn by Anne McCaffrey, an author I've heard of but haven't read)
- Les désastreuses aventures des Orphelins Baudelaire: Tout commence mal... (A Series of Unfortunate Events, the first of the series, by Lemony Snicket. Funny books, also made into a funny movie)
- Dictionnaire des Dictons, Proverbs et Maximes (Dictionary of Sayings, Proverbs and Maxims; it would be more useful if it explained what all of the sayings meant, or when to use them)
- Dictionnaire des Citations de langue française (Dictionary of French Quotations)

Some photos:
After the book store, we went to the Galerie David d'Angers. David d'Angers was a sculptor in the early 19th century, and his sculptures are all over France and in other countries. If you've seen the statue of Jefferson in Washington D.C., you've seen his work. He gave a lot of his original plaster casts, studies, and some bronze and marble statues to Angers to put in a museum, which is the Galerie. It's in an eleventh century church/abbey whose roof collapsed in the 1800s, so now there's a greenhouse-style glass roof and the building is bright and cheerful, even though the walls are crumbly looking and all the saint statues that survived the roof collapse are headless.
Here's a photographic tour of the museum, with some explanations.
This is a cast for a statue of Gutenberg. The scroll says "Et la lumière fut," which is the French version of "And there was light" from Genesis. I don't think Gutenberg would have said it in French, but it's a nice statue.

This is a cast for Europe's important writers and philosophers. If you click to see the full image, I'm sure you'll recognize some names. There was also one for America that showed the signing of the Declaration of Independence, one for Africa that only had about three names on it, and one for Asia that had a handful of names. However, those named for Asia and African were European colonizers, which I found strange.

This is a big model for the front of the Panthéon in Paris, which he apparently restored.

This is a sign that I found really amusing. It says, "In this museum, as you wish: Muse. Converse. Smoke [crossed out]. Study. Touch [crossed out]. Make things dirty [crossed out]. Look. Eat [crossed out]. Contemplate. Draw. Discover. Photograph. Dawdle/Wander."

Here is a collection of busts, prominent among them Goethe. I really like his hairstyle. In my opinion, the best thing about David d'Angers' statues is their hair.

Next best thing after their hair is this guy's hat.

Here's a view of the big statues from above.

This guy was one of France's pioneering zoologists. On the side is a listing of his most important works.

In other news, my wire transfer finally came through, and my choir director advised the basses, "Just listen to the piano, it has the exact same melody as you. Copy and paste."

05 October 2007

:-) , :-) , }:-[ , :-) , :-) .

My school choir director is funny. Examples:
"Well, we have ten more minutes and I think we can knock out five more pages. [disbelieving muttering among the choir] Well, look at how little the tenors sing, we should be fine." (He was joking, and said so)
"Yes it's staccato, but it's not an Offenback operetta. Do it nicely."
"That bass line is deadly, don't you think? Well, this is a requiem we're singing..."

Numbers in Dutch are fun. The best part is that they're always one word, so you get words like 999,999: negenhonderdnegenennegentigduizendnegenhonderdnegenennegentig!

Only in America... telephone menus. On Wednesday I transferred myself nearly the entire contents of my checking account, but it hasn't arrived yet. I just spent twenty minutes searching my bank's website and half an hour on hold and talking to telephone bankers to hear the simple answer of "International wire transfers usually take three to five business days." It was SO frustrating. I tried to e-mail an inquiry, but I gave up. [Details: They wouldn't let me leave the "home phone number" slot blank, they didn't accept my receiving bank's name or receiving bank contact's name because of the illegal character é, The wouldn't accept the bank's phone number, and after I put the whole 12-digit international phone number in the comments box and just put my home phone number in the bank phone number box it didn't like that, It wouldn't let me leave the late fee amount box blank even though I'd selected the circle for no late fee. Nightmare.] So I called the 800 number over Skype, finally got to talk to a person, who transferred me to a menu which led me back to the same type of person, who transferred me to a person who she thought would be able to help, who transferred me to some cheesy, staticcy hold music, and then I got cut off. Repeat the tail end of that process, ending with "Yeah, international wire transfers usually take three to five business days." Thanks a lot. At least now I know that I have two more business days before I should start to panic. I don't understand why a company as big and professional as Chase bank would have such terrible quality hold music. It's like they just have a badly-tuned radio on.

I finished reading the sixth Harry Potter book in French, and the seventh comes out at the end of the month. I hope there's a midnight party somewhere!

Exciting travel coming up: I'm planning to go to Lyon two weekends from now, I'm in the process of deciding which three cities in the south of France I want to visit over Fall break, and I am probably going to go to Milan for a weekend in November, since Air France has a deal that'll make it significantly cheaper than taking the train.

01 October 2007

Joyeux Octobre!

Ahh, the month of pumpkins, colored leaves, long sleeves... I love it. October is my favorite month.

The end of September was good too: Saturday I hosted an "American Afternoon" where five of us American exchange students (Becky, Mandy, Melissa, Susanna, and I) ate Domino's pizza and watched Young Frankenstein. In English. It was a lot of fun-- the kind of group where there's lots of laughing and lots of intellectual discussion, just normally. Girls who are as likely to mention that they saw a hot guy on the street as they are to explain why the Languedoc region is called that. [Incidentally, the south was called Langue d'Oc and the north Langue d'oïl because those were the old words for "yes": oc and oïl.] Domino's has a deal on Saturdays that all their pizzas are about 7 Euros, so it wasn't even very expensive. However, it's impossible to order a simple, one-topping pizza. You can't get "cheese," so we got a Margherita pizza. Couldn't get just sausage, so we got deluxe without some of the vegetables.

Sunday Mandy and I were again in the same pew as a little one-and-a-half (or so) year old girl who has more energy than I have ever seen in a child before. When she's in the pew, she changes position about every thirty seconds, climbs on the kneeler, experiments to see which chair slats in front of her are far enough apart to admit her head, pokes her brother (who looks like he's about four), plays with the program, and stares at the other people sitting in the row. Us. We were also sitting with a fellow Maîtrise alto of mine, Lyre, who is from China. The little girl was fascinated with the zipper on Lyre's coat, and came over frequently to get a closer look. I admit that she was much more interesting to watch than the homily was to listen to. We're all getting better at knowing what to say in French. After Mass (which is always ended by very modern organ music, which I think sounds like what you would get if you transcribed heavy metal to be played on the organ) Mandy and I went out to lunch with Becky at a little café that had cheap pizza and pasta. I had lasagne, and it was excellent. Yet another dish I would make if I had an oven...

And today's October! I already have a new recipe to share, which is in fact why I decided to post at this time of day. I want to get the recipe down before I forget what I did, because it was good.

Pasta with Fresh Tomato-Mushroom Sauce
For two lunch-sized servings, or one serving and some leftovers:
Chop two medium-sized tomatoes.
Heat a small amount (less than a tablespoon) of butter in a non-stick pan with some garlic and a lot of basil. Once it's relatively melted, toss in the tomatoes and a handful of sliced mushrooms (I use frozen ones as usual). Sprinkle on some salt, and cover the pan.
Boil a pot of water while you let the vegetables simmer. When the water boils, put in some linguine or whatever other shape of pasta you're in the mood for, and uncover the pan with the vegetables. While the pasta cooks, let the water boil off from the tomatoes. Add some more basil and garlic if you get bored.
Drain the pasta, and mix in the tomato sauce. Add some cheese if you're in the mood. Enjoy!

Happy October!