Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sunday...the program begins.

Sunday morning, we had our first group meal. Some of the group of 29 (all but two are French teachers) were very nice, some a little old and annoying, in an old person way. There are really only a few other girls my age so far. Also, every has the same issue with the dorms. It seemed the consensus that after midnight, it became cool enough to sleep but before that...bad juju. I did wake up a little after midnight and it took forever to get back to sleep...I read some, ate a snack (bread and cheese!) and eventually sleep great for 6 hours or so. So, that was a relief.

Later, I found a great running spot. It was awesome. I saw this grassy area from my window and ran down there, followed another runner and found this path around these sport field, along the Arve (sp?) river, in and out of the woods. Very pretty, kinda like the Cameron park trail, but prettier and a little rocker and very up and down hill, including this crazy rocky staircase...I followed this guy and his was great. I ran 6 miles...perfect. There were tons of other runners, walkers, people playing soccer, tennis...and this weird sport that looked like sand volleyball, but the people were tossing the ball to each other and then into a small soccer-like net on the side. Any idea?

For lunch, we went as a group to the "Spaghetti Factory" (Good grief, can I not escape English!) and sat on the terrace. I had a bowl of noodles with some ratatouille. Other people got a lot more apparently, because the bill was over 1000 swiss francs (close to dollars)!

Anyway, after that the director (who looked like a Swiss Mr. Bean) drug us all around Geneva and lectured us about random monuments, walls, statues, churches that are important to Geneva's history. What we did see was basically everything, and I mean, exactly, the same things that I walked around and saw yesterday, with exception of the church St. Gervain and the ancient Calvinist University which is closed for renonations which he described in detail. So we would walk around, with the sun burning my already burned back, and stop and listen to him go on about Calvin or Rousseau or I have no idea. I paid attention best I could. But sometimes it just didn't make sense, or he would stop at this old ugly wall (but it dates from the Renaissance!) and talk about it. And then people would take picture of the ugly old wall! Kathryn and I made jokes about it. It made it more bearable. But, I did learn about Rousseau that his parents were first cousins. That, I paid attention to. Later, Dr. Koop said we would have a "Questionnaire" at the end of the class. Doh! I'll take notes tomorrow.

So, our group is interesting. I would say the average age is 45. There are a lot more older people than I thought. Some are more interesting than others, but there's a lot of gray or white hair here. There are only 4 other women near my age. There are four men...but much older. Anyway...a lot introduced themselves around or I introduced myself and seem nice. There are middle school, high school and college professors here. Folks from California, Miami, Cape Cod, Long Island, Ohio, Illinois, and a good amount from Texas.

And the meeting after dinner with the whole group was informative. Basically, the Swiss university is running this gig just until Saturday night. And the Swiss government donated 25,000 dollars to this, goodie bags! So, anyway, each morning, we need to show up at the University each morning at 8:45, which is in Parc Bastillon. Groovy. They gave us a card to pay for bus tickets, etc. Very nice. free day in Geneva.

Saturday morning, I ran 4 miles down to, around and back from Parc Bastillion near Place Neuve. A really pretty park. They have some giant outdoor chess boards...I thought of Casey. It was pretty quiet out there...much quieter than Friday night night. I guess Saturday morning isn't peak park time. The way to the park is almost entirely down hill...and back uphill...I guess that's what it's like living surrounded by mountains.

Oh, by the way, I was rather proud of myself for how I figured my way back to the park and back here...I followed the bus line! They actually have cables above that they're attached I just followed that. No getting lost!

So, Saturday I left the dorm again about 10am, walked to the grocery store and bought some food and water, and then walked to Parc Bastillon , read the Swiss paper and picnicked. I have a feeling that we'll go back there as a tour. There's a monument, the "Wall of Reformers" which is strangely, written in English.

So, then from there I walked towards the river...where all the people were. I walked down a big boulevard Helevtica which was a huge shopping area...did some window shopping, as the big sales are going on now. I bought a pink practical beach bag for 5 dollars! Super. A old lady did bump into me and then fart as she walked away though. And she definitely did not squeeze the cheeks...she let that mug fly. It was funny. Otherwise, people are very polite here. More likely to talk to you than the French, but still very reserved.

One strange thing...I can't get over how many different languages I hear. Not just at the dorm, which houses lots of international folks, including a fair amount of americans. But walking around, I expect to be hearing French...and then there's of course german and italian, but other languages...asian, eastern european...and worst of all. English. More than I would have expected. Some from English people...but I passed at least 15 americans that didn't have the dignity to blend it. But I guess that's nearly blending in here...other people don't seem to notice.

Geneva has some very pretty architecture, especially closer to the river. Very pretty, took pictures.

My tootsies are tired though. Good thing, I've seen some of the people from my group, a couple of my friends included. Very nice. And, I think our meals will be paid for, starting tomorrow. Because wow...15 francs (almost dollars) buys a very small bag of groceries. But I'm not eating boogers and beans, either...bread, cheese, fruit, yogurts, chocolate yet. Though the chocolate bar aisle is large. Oh, I took a picture of the yogurt and cereal aisle. Wild difference. Will post asap.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The poor pooch

Let's just say the pooch got scr***d. We'll not assess blame...but I just had a very rough 2 hours. So, when I go to the reception and tell then that I'm part of a group, the lady immediately tells me I need to go to the dorm area and find my group and someone of them will have the key. Also she tells me that the place I'll be staying in for the next week is just a big room with beds, like in the army. Well...icky aside, I know I'm the first student here. So...

I wait around for the dorm area to open up. It doesn't. There's no one. The lady at the desk starts calling this guy that supposed to be in charge. AWOL. We're not in the reservation book. So...I've been traveling for 28 hours and I don't even have a bunk to sleep in.

Well...after A LOT of confusion, some tears and much frustration on my part, the lady asked if I wanted a reservation for a regular room for the night. Yes...but first she looks me up, and there I am! If only that had been done at would have saved me 45 of sitting around and 45 of pure pain and anxiety (some of which involved me wandering around the dorm and then banging on the door of the guy who is supposed to be in charge...he wasn't there.) The lady was sorry...and she was I wasn't mad. Plus, crying kinda felt good by that time. I need sleep.

And on the good side, my room has an amazing view! And I'm in SWITZERTLAND!

(I tried to post pictures...but no go with these computers.)

In Geneva...barely!

The keyboard here is please forgive the I've been traveling for the last 28 hours with only catnaps...but here's the 411.

I got here without incident. The flight from was a little bumpy...and trying to sleep in 2 feet of space...bad juju, then I waited three hours at the Paris train station. (Strangely, three different people asked me for directions on train stuff...two of them I look like I'm french and know what I'm doing?) Then, I got on the train (except I got on the wrong car, but that was sorted out quickly-I had looked at the wrong ticket, and I was worried because I hadn't validated the proper ticket, and the guy behind me got a 10 euro ticket for that...but no ticket for me because my ticket was off the internet...and I had rehearsed my sob story in French in my head several times...but didn't need it!) I was kinda worried the whole time also because Dr. Koop said her bags got stolen off the train, so I had to keep a watch on them. One time I woke up and jumped up because I thought it was gone...but all was well.

So, then I got to Lyon, and rather than just waiting in the train station for an hour, I left the train station and went into this big mall that was across the street. It was crazy packed. Of course, everything's been crazy packed...the airport, train I shouldn't be surprised. So, then I took the train to Geneva, no problem. I waited in line for 20 minutes to get a bus ticket, and then I got on the wrong bus! Well...right bus line, just going the wrong direction. I figured it out and it only wasted 20 minutes...and I got a tour of the town!

My overall impression with Geneva is that it looks like a medium size French's a little dirty and there's some graffiti in places. We did pass a really big park that looked cool...I'll probably go there tomorrow.

Also, French teenagers are terrible dressers. They seem to want to look like they're wearing their rattiest clothes. And the "ghetto" outfits are even funnier...lots of tight white pants! I'll try to sneak a picture or two for you later. Adult women look nice though, more dresses and skirts and jewelry, but less make-up. And there are FAT WOMEN! You know that book "French women don't get fat"? Lies! I think there are definitely more fat people here than last time I was here 5 years ago. And I saw my first fat French kid. He was eating Lays potato we know who to blame for that.

So, I'm sitting in the lobby of the dorm area, waiting for the reception to open...and please God let them have a room reserved for me...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

I'm leaving today, I'm spreading the news...

I am leaving today, around 5, to go to Paris. Then I will immediately take a train to Geneva, Switzerland. There, I'll stay in the dorm with other study-abroad students, and we'll have seminars and lectures and excursions for a week, then we'll all go to Liege, Belgium for another week. Then, Dad (whose coming to Paris about a week after I leave here) will pick me up in Belgium, and then we'll go visit family in Angouleme, France. My grandmother has a country house with a pool. I hope to get to see some of my cousins and their kids. Then, Dad and I will hang out in Paris for a few days (awesome!) and we'll be back on the 20th of July.

I'm not sure if I'll post...probably will...but just in case, I wanted to give the 411. :-)

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Dueling Chilis

Every week, Casey and I do the grocery shopping, then cook a week's worth of food. If you don't like leftovers that may sound crazy...but we love leftovers. We usually put on a movie and get in the groove. This week, I said I wanted to make chili using a recipe I read from Cook's Illustrated. Casey immediately jumped in, "Oh, I want chili too! Make more for me and add extra beans and hominy..." I told him, nothing doing, I'm trying out my recipe and not making it to his specifications. So, we both made chili. Mine's on the left. Behold the beefy-beany-chipotle chili goodness, rather than that watered down vegetable beef soup on the right. Amateur.
We also roasted salmon and potatoes, which Casey is eating now. And he did the dishes...excellent.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Rock 'n Roll in my veins

Running today went much better. I ran on a treadmill it wasn't hot, (excellent as Mr. Burns would say) and though it was still tough doing the speed work, it was much better. Then I took the aerobics/weight class. I felt good, and that was awesome, especially after being quite discouraged yesterday because I'd gained a few pounds. There's a really good french bakery in Denton, and pastries are my absolute weakness. Anyway, the class was really different. We'd do a few minutes of weight lifting stuff--squats or lunges--then a few minutes of cardio--jumping jacks or step aerobics. Impossible to get bored....and I just felt strong doing it, like rock 'n roll was pumping through my veins.

And then we went to Central Market. I love going to Central Market. We bought some Challah (I thought of you, Casey Gooden!) and I got this beautiful grilled chicken sandwich with pesto, carmelized onions, roasted red was beautiful to behold.

Now, we're watching Eastern Promises and relaxing. Wonderful. I love Saturday.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Last Will and Testament

I now have a will. Casey wrote it. As macabre as it is, we have arranged burial requests (Casey wants to be cremated and sprinkled over White Rock Lake, me just buried) and we have official heirs. Not that we have anything much to pass on...but should my entire family die in a car crash or something...I leave everything to Megan. I haven't told her that yet, and the possibility is highly unlikely that Casey, I, both my parents and our one-day children all croak at once...but I think she would be a good mommy to Charlotte.

Signs of neglect

There have certainly been some causalities of my two-week intensive grad school class. Most obviously, my house. Piles (dishes, clothes, papers) have formed in a greater amount and size than normal in all the usual places.

Our dogs also seem to have noticed the lack of they are acting feistier than usual. Not being bad...but I think Charlie has missed his cuddle time. As cute as he is, he has NO concept of personal space...causing him to incur my wrath for stomping on my homework (it was on the couch).

Of course, Casey has been around, but working I don't know if it's just been a busy couple of weeks or he's been working later figuring that I'm doing homework or whatever...which is true...but it's lonely without him!

And I'm leaving soon...for 23 days. Not ready...not packed. I do know where my passport is, though. 23 days away from hubby will be rough on me, and I worry it will be rough on him too. He's been a little down because his knee isn't getting better as fast as he'd like (IT band syndrome), and it's going to mess up the half-Ironman triathlon he has planned coming up weekend after next. I know he survived for 26 years without me...but I know I'll be busy go-go-going, and he'll be here, in the same place...just minus me. For some people that will be no big deal...but we do most everything together. We don't even go to the grocery story three weeks will be a hardship.

Goodness. Any advice?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Dreaming of the Dead

Since my grandmother passed away in December, I've had dreams in which I see her and my grandfather. My grandfather passed away a year and a half ago. They were wonderful grandparents. I spent so much time at their house, simply enjoying spending time with them. Neither had great hearing, so I listened more than I talked, and they taught me a lot of things. I loved hearing their stories of growing up on farms. Both were really good cooks...and oh, how I loved breakfast at their house. Papa Jack (my grandfather) would make biscuits and gravy from scratch, and there was always several kinds of meat, the bacon was nice and crunchy. Or Nana would make the world's best Belgian waffles...and Papa Jack would make sure that the syrup was warm, and there was melted butter. It was my job to keep checking on the waffle iron and see if they were ready. I liked that, getting to help them in little ways, but they did so much more for me. My grandmother was my spiritual mentor, and I knew that when she prayed for me, God heard her. She was such a faithful woman.

The last couple of years were hard. They had to move out of their house, and their health and spirits suffered. They needed so much help and care and attention, and I know that I didn't do as much as I could, and there's nothing to be done about that now.

Often in church, we'll play a song that I knew she loved or the pastor will read a verse that we had discussed (she loved Scripture...and knew it by heart), and I can't help crying. I miss my Nana. She's gone and those times are gone.

So, I dream of them, sometimes, and I wake up, thankful to have seen them, but missing them still. Last night, I saw my grandfather. I don't remember the context, but there were people standing by him, he was sitting in a wheelchair, and he was looking at me. He looked healthy and happy to see me. I hugged him, and that's all I remember.

Happy Father's Day, Papa Jack. I love you.


I just walked into the bathroom to find my husband shaving his legs. He smiles real big at me and asks, "Do you like it?" like a little boy proud of his accomplishment. I just smile back and tell him to use lotion because it's gonna itch. I know he was biking with someone yesterday (he went 60 miles at 19 miles an hour!) who said it doesn't make you faster, but it feels better as you do go fast. I don't know, I help him shave the back of his legs. It does make his huge quad muscles look bigger...%-)

Heat + Running = Stomach pain?

Three of my recent outside runs have not been good. It's discouraging, frustrating, confusing.

A few months ago, I started doing sprint intervals using a program from a really cool book (pictured right). I've been rather proud to be able to do it and have energy left afterward. Well, last Saturday, I decided to run at SMU's track, which to my surprise, is obviously bigger than the one I've been running on. So, all those runs...yeah, not according to the book. Very disappointing. And I tried to go by the book on SMU's track...nearly puked. Ran awful...cut it short. I was distracted as well...20 minutes into the run a billion people swarmed the track, clogged it up for a while, stood around in the way, cheered at random intervals for unknown reasons and then left. Probably a running club...which I feel superior to, of course, because I don't need all that hub-bub to run...of course...I probably ran less than those people that day.

So, yesterday, I get back on my track and try to sort out what I've been running. I finally figure out that rather than the traditional 4 laps = 1 mile, this track is 4 1/8th laps = 1 mile. So, I wasn't that far off. But, again, I'm distracted...a soccer game going on in the center of the track...same story as the week before. Unspoken track rules are "Go faster than me or get out of my way," and I'm dodging cheering oblivous fathers and small children. Plus...I feel puky again. Have to sit down multiple times...stomach was not on board for the ride apparently.

Then, this morning, making our traditional loop around White Rock Lake (about 9 miles), the stomach goes on full revolt.

I'm beginning to understand that this running thing is more than putting on foot in front as rapid a succession for as long as possible. Concentration, focus...motivation...and something to keep the heat from making me want to puke. That I hope will be coming soon.

Friday, June 13, 2008

"We're Cylons."

*Nerdy alert*
So, about a month ago I watched the first Battlestar Galactica, and yesterday I finished the 3rd season. I was flabbergasted by the plot twist at the end.

It's the story of the human race fleeing the Cylons, a race of robots who were originally made by humans but then turned on their creators. With few exceptions, the Cylons have been merciless in their pursuit of the destruction of the humans. And, after a month of watching this show (mostly right before bed) I definitely have my favorites. Well, at the end of the episode, a few of the characters are strangely drawn together by a strain of music only they can hear and they realize, with horror, that they are cylons. They are the enemy, programmed to think that they're human, to appear human, to marry humans and father children with humans, to fight fiercely defending their fellow soliders, which we now know are not their fellow beings. Man! What a twist. In a second, these ultimate patriots realize they are traitors to all they love, and were designed to do so, and to be enemies of their own race.

Good show.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Ʒe fɛ

Yeah, so "Ʒe fɛ" isn't's the phonetic spelling of "J'ai faim" (I'm hungry) which I'm learning in my conversation class...instead of actually doing real conversation. The professor is very nice, and I'm learning things...but considering I'll be on a plane to Switzerland in two weeks, I'd rather be practicing the skill I'll need most, communication!

Speaking of which, I don't feel ready to go at all. I mean, I know where my passport is, but nothing is organized or ready, and packing is something that stresses me out. I bought a suitcase online, but it hasn't gotten here yet. (*blood pressure rising*) Plus, I've learned that I'm arriving the day before some of the other students...and I'm not sure I'll have the right to stay in the dorm the day I arrive. So...I'm not sure what to do there. Since I'm getting there a day early, I don't want to waste it...but it would be a hassle to do anything other than show up early and park in the dorm. *worries*

Oh...and I'm writing this in class, as my classmates are presenting about francophone singers and I can google them later, right?

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


It is officially summer. :)

I'm celebrating the end of school with Taco Cabana (mmm...queso) and Battlestar Galactica re-runs.

Ah, freedom.