Sunday, February 28, 2010

Le Polaroid de la semaine: Treizième Semaine!

Rennes, France
After Matthieu had a chalazion removed from his lower eyelid.
There had been a bump under his eye for a few months now, and it had
formed a cyst that was scooped out through an incision.
Jackie is sad she didn't get to watch.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

How to turn an Iowan into a sea-side-loving gal. In a week!

      Although I don't always agree with everything Bill Bryson says- I am proud to be from Des Moines and hear the call back to the Heartland quite clearly- I do agree with his essay "A Day at the Seaside" from his collection of essays, Notes From a Big Country:

              "Iowa, where I grew up, is a thousand miles from the nearest ocean, so to me (and I believe to most other Iowans, though I haven't the chance to check with all of them yet) the word 'ocean' suggests alarming things like riptides and undertows......Lake Ahquabi, where I did all my formative swimming and sunburning, may not have the romance of Cape Cod or the grandeur of the rock-ribbed coast of Maine, but then neither did it grab you be the legs and carry you off helplessly to Newfoundland."

          I had never tried to put the feelings into words before- but when I read this I knew it to be true.  I can maneuver a canoe across lakes and up rivers with skill I un-charmingly brag about. I have very talented toes that can scoop up mud from the bottom of farm ponds to slather on my arms and face.  I have no problem not knowing what it is exactly I am swimming in.  
       But oceans-oooh the ocean has always made me nervous.  Oceans are salty and sting your eyes. Oceans have no other side to challenge yourself to swim to.  Oceans have big scary animals living in them.  Oceans upturn boats and ruin cities and pay no mind to your desire to just float about aimlessly in an inflatable tube on a hot afternoon.  Don't even get me started on the beach. The only time I whole-heartily enjoyed a beach was in the British Virgin Islands in the calmest cove, with the bluest water, a stack of books, no commute, and no one else around. 
       So you can imagine my surprise when I found myself in love, in awe and just so darn pleased with the sea.  Matthieu and I were staying on the coast of Brittany, in a town called St. Jacut De La Mer.  More specifically in an Abbey (in which are REAL LIVE nuns- a whole other first time experience for me).  We were there for a week of personal insight and shiatsu meditation.  The Abbey is right on the coast, our room had a view of the sunset over the ocean every single day.  And perhaps most important is that it is located on a peninsula of land subject to low tide.  A glorious, muddy, sand-waved, algae-spread, crab and shell seeking, oyster and mussle farm-seeing low tide.  There is so much to explore. So much that goes on underneath all of that water.
        Matthieu and I spent hours and hours walking across the sea floor- to little islands with trees and birds and to coves with castle ruins- that in the midst of it all I found myself loving the salty air. Adoring the French fishermen with long white beards and smoking pipes while raking for some sort of shell-fish to cook up. I even felt the joy of the dogs running on the beach.  (I do side with cats most often in  life- but here is a moment where I was very envious of getting to just roll in mud and stink). 
        So although I will never have strong sea legs- and can't imagine ever lasting on a cruise boat, I do dream of the day we will bring our children to explore the sea at low tide.  I really want a shovel, a bucket, a little rake and a book to tell me exactly the name of all those creatures.




Le Polaroid de la semaine: Douzième Semaine!

St. Jacut De La Mer (low tide)
Do-In (a form of Shiatsu) retreat
This was hosted at a very old Abbey 
and the classes taught by nuns

Friday, February 19, 2010

Literary Dreams Can Come True

       One of the books I discussed with an amazing book group when I was a working librarian (as I hope to be again someday) was The Wheel on the School by Meindert Dejong.  This tale was first introduced to me by my Dutch Grandmother, and has always been in my "Top100 Children's Books for a Warm Soul" mental list.  

       In this awesome, gentle yet exciting story, a group of children involve their Dutch village in a hunt for a wheel to place on the top of the school.  The wheel would act as a base for a pair of storks to build a nest- and this is what the children want above all.  Their teacher understands this and encourages them to go on the hunt.  Each chapter follows the individual tale of each child's journey for a wheel- before they all come back together for the satisfying conclusion. 
      (B, I know you were not totally thrilled with the action as it cannot compare with the world of Harry Potter- but when you think back to the book, do you like it any better?)

    While we were in Morocco, we visited a palace that had storks nests all along it's walls.  I made a short video of it before realizing just how many there were.  So take a look (and a listen!) to the storks in action.   I have not been this excited about a literary connection since I got to roll maple syrup in snow and eat it like in Understood Betsy

Here are some of the pictures Matthieu and I captured of the storks, click on the photo to view it bigger.

How to see Morocco in 11 days- or 12 if Easy Jet cancels your flight

A visit to Morocco

 We have finally sorted the over 2,000 pics down to an enjoyable 280. 
They are in their own devoted albumn, cleverly titled "Morocco".  You can see them on the right hand side of the page- where our other travel pics have always been displayed.  

        It was an amazing trip- and a write up of the adventure will be coming soon.  It takes longer than I think it should to do these things, but we like to do them right. 

   OH and to all those people who noticed that I spelled desert dessert- here is a picture of a Moroccan dessert...I bought it in the streets of Morocco. "Why you picked THAT one [dessert] I will never know" says Matthieu of my choice.  There were french-like pastries and sticky sweets with flies buzzing around them, but I chose the one with green frosting and blue sprinkles. Because I can. 

 There are plenty of pics of the desert in the album- if you like dunes and camels.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Le Polaroid de la semaine: Onzième Semaine!

Merzouga, Morocco
The Dunes of Erg Chebbi
Part of the Sahara Desert
It was a cloudy day, but a gorgeous day to ride camels!

Le Polaroid de la semaine: Dixième Semaine!

Marrekech, Morocco
Among the stalls of shops within the 
medina (walled city)
also known as the souks.
This picture cannot capture the craziness, the noise, the maze of
allies and corners and dead ends. The people zipping by
on mopeds and transporting wares on mules and pushing carts of 
goods. Those setting up shop on a free patch of concrete to sell their clothes and
vegetables and herbs and the yelling in Arabic and Berber...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Parler-ing in French

      One of the reasons we came to France was for me to learn how to speak French. I know, what a silly notion going to a country that speaks the language you want to learn.  The problem is that I am not naturally good with languages.  Unless you count gesturing and charades as a language. I can do a decent “call me” “I don’t know” and “this way”.  I am pretty fluent as well in the language of driving in Boston. Which if anyone has done then you know you speak a whole different way when trying to maneuver a city built without a grid, no respect for street signs, and a whole bevy of people who don’t seem to know that the stick on the side of the steering wheel offers help when trying to say, turn.

     I digress.  I have been trying to learn French.  I find that the experience can best be compared to driving cross country with only a radio.  Imagine: you are driving and scanning the stations- getting a few words to come in clear every so often.  You get lucky and catch an ENTIRE song-no matter that it is a song picked out by Delilah- it is a SONG.  But then… you drive on a bad patch of road and find yourself suddenly listening to sports, or is a political discussion? You may catch a few words here or there- but you make up what is said in between.

     This is what gets me in trouble. I have an incredibly active imagination and therefore assume I can just story-tell my way through most conversations.  So what I thought was a conversation on three priests from Holland who came to France to enjoy the beautiful cost along Brittany…was actually about thee brothers from Ireland who were escaping repression.  See what I mean?  There is a bit of the truth- but not really.

     Talking is even worse for me. I find my confidence is so low when it comes to speaking that I prefer being assumed mute.  It is incredibly frustrating to me that I will spend ten minutes practicing a sentence in my head only to have the topic of conversation pass me by.  I imagine the look on my face whilst I try to conjugate a verb in my head must make me look a bit deranged.  I have been practicing an impassive face that will not give away the immense internal distress I am going through. I find that it is much easier to sit back and observe an entire dinner without saying anything except “C’est bon!”.
Which it usually is.  French food is tasty. 

Monday, February 1, 2010

Trigger Happy

If photos are your thing- and you want to see more of what we have been up to (I'm looking at you Mom!)-Matthieu and I have taken loads of photos. We try to pick the best to put in our online albumn.  If you click on any of the pics in the slideshow to the right (follow Matthieu's pointing hand) you will find our travel album.  You can click on "view all" on the left hand side above the photo that opens in a new window to get better browsing of the chaos of pics. 
They start with Ireland, then go to Wales, France, Italy, France...
We leave in about 4 hours for Morocco so check back in 2 weeks for pictures of 
dunes, dessert, mountains and markets.