Monday, October 26, 2009

"Oh Yeah"

Every now and then I come across a catchy little French song that I can't get out of my head. So I thought I'd share my latest favorite one by Housse de Racket:

In case you're wondering, he's mostly naming all the famous artists he'll become one day. He'll change tomorrow, or maybe never...

Monday, October 5, 2009

Les Etats-Unis Part II: Sightseeing

My European friends here wanted to know what all we did on our vacation while we were visiting people.'s hard to go sightseeing when you're visiting your hometown and college towns and really want to see people more than places. Maybe I'll just send my friends the link to the Atchison episode of "A Haunting" and say,"Hey, isn't staying in the most haunted town in Kansas enough?"

During our many people visits, we did have some tourist highlights.

First stop: Bonner Springs. Yes, we wanted to visit my grandmother who suggested we go to this quaint new little place called Madame Hatter's Tea Room. It was lovely, and Gaby got to try sweet tea for the first time. This may sound weird, but in France, no one drinks iced tea unless it's Lipton's "Ice Tea" from a can or bottle. We also got to try on fun hats.

Next we headed to Chicago where Gaby had only one sight-seeing request: the Michael Jordan statue in front of the United Center. Yes, my French boyfriend is a huge basketball fan and used to stay up all night for the live broadcast of the Bulls playing at the United Center. Michael Jordan was a sports hero and symbol of Gaby's basketball-playing days. When he told me about the statue, of course I wanted to go see it too. I pictured Michael Jordan standing there holding a basketball. Like this:

Well, except it would be Michael Jordan and not James Naismith. Marissa imagined the same thing. Hahahaha! Man...shows how much we know. Here's the real thing:

So perfect!! I think Naismith would have been amazed to see how much his sport has evolved and how much some players have done with it.

Marissa's boyfriend Joe was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to drive us to the United Center and then to take us on a tour of the city. One of our favorite spots was the zoo, which was really pretty and totally free!! So nice!

Once we were back in Kansas, we did what every European who visits the U.S. ought to do. We went to a major league baseball game. To me, it's the greatest American past-time and one that can't really be experienced from a television broadcast. My parents treated us to a game at the newly renovated Kauffman Stadium. When Gaby walked in, he was genuinely impressed and couldn't keep from breathing out an awe-struck "Oh, wow." And he was right. I've always loved the stadium, but now it just looks even more amazing with its screens that wrap around the entire ballpark, the little Royals history museum, picnic areas and centerfield standing room in front of the fountains.

We had seats on the lower level right down the 3rd base line, and I was instantly transported back to my childhood and the days of Frank White, Bret Saberhagen, Bo Jackson and of course, George Brett. That night, the Royals were playing against the Minnesota Twins, and even though we lost in the end, it was the most exciting game I've been to since game 6 of the 1985 World Series. Here we are right before game time:

And the icing on the cake is that Gaby is now officially a baseball fan, and not only that, but a ROYALS fan. (Mission accomplished.) He wanted to go out and buy a baseball mitt and ball so we could play catch. He ordered a Royals cap. He's also officially a Zack Greinke fan on Facebook.

Our vacation probably seems like pretty standard summer stuff for any Midwesterner, but I think from a European perspective, it's still somewhat exotic. Plus there was all the food I mentioned in the previous post. And honestly, we had a really great time.

Les Etats-Unis Part I: Reverse Culture Shock

The school year officially starts this week at Nanterre University, so of course I'm thinking about our vacation instead of planning lessons. In true French fashion, Gaby and I took our vacation in August and went to the U.S. to visit family and friends.

After being away for an entire year, I was anxious to see everyone and to enjoy my home country for a month. I just wasn't expecting to notice all the differences so much. Here are my top five (not very surprising?) observations:

1. The U.S. is BIG. The first thing I noticed after getting off the plane was how much space there was, even at the airport. Big restaurants, big chairs, big tables, LOTS of room between chairs and tables, humongous portions. Roomy (and very clean) restrooms. The highways are so wide, as are the parking spots, probably because the cars are so large too. Relatively large houses, enormous backyards, lots of open land. I spent a lot of time out on my parents' back porch just enjoying the open space and feeling like I could really breathe. Ahhh.....The downside of all this? Well, Americans are big too. I'm not trying to be mean, but I feel like I could stand to lose more than a few pounds compared to the girls in France. Feeling relatively svelte in the U.S., I didn't think twice about reaching for that extra helping of Doritoes.

2. AMERICAN FOOD IS SO GOOD. If we Americans are ahem...a little heavier than Europeans, I think it's because our food is so incredibly awesome (and awesomely fatty). Having been deprived of some of our favorite American dishes and snacks, Gaby and I went to town. In Madison we helped ourselves to our favorite Glass Nickel Pizza, wings, burgers, hot cheese curds and Great Dane beer. In Chicago we chowed down on Marissa's amazing pork chops, sushi and the best hot gooey cinnamon rolls from Ann Sathers. And of course when we got back to Kansas, we went to a Royals game where we pigged out on stadium foot-longs, nachos and Philly cheese steak sandwiches. And I haven't even mentioned all the Cheetos, popcorn, Doritoes and Pepperidge farm cookies we made evening trips out to Wal-mart for. (TUMS anyone?)

3. STORES like Wal-mart ARE OPEN SO LATE!! I'm used to getting all my shopping of any kind done before 8:00 pm on weekdays & Saturday. Yes, it is hard to fit in grocery shopping when Gaby and I don't get home until 7:00 sometimes, but we manage. We also know that most stores are closed on Sunday and the ones that are open on Sunday are closed on Monday. By contrast, the Wal-mart in Atchison is open 24/7 except on Christmas day. Wow. I don't know how many times we drove out there after 10:00 to pick up some trivial item. (Usually cookies.)

4. I LOVE HAVING A CAR. Sometimes. I love public transportation in Paris, but I do miss miss driving in small towns and in the country. City driving and I have never ever gotten along very well, although Chicago was relatively kind to Gaby and me. Sometimes I think it would be nice to have a car here; then I see all the traffic jams as I'm walking to the store and change my mind.

5. ENGLISH IS EASIER THAN FRENCH. Well, duh. But no, seriously, this was a big thing for me. I tend to be an extremely shy person. I have had to psych myself up to even order takeout over the phone (yes, in the U.S.) Yes, yes, it's almost an illness. Ridiculous, really. France has cured me of it to some degree. Now when I have to talk to a stranger, all I have to remember is that it's not as if I have to speak to them in French, which of course is infinitely worse. I was almost overjoyed to ask for information or directions from my fellow Americans.

There you have it. I'm sure I made other little observations which will probably come to me in the middle of the night sometime when I can't sleep, but for now that's all I can think of. Next post...sight-seeing in the Midwest.