17 August 2010

Susbstitute Me-A Review

Disclaimer: I was a biased reader of this novel. I wanted to love it, and thus probably loved it even more than I would have, had I had no knowledge of Lori Tharps and Kinky Gazpacho so take the following with a grain of salt.
Substitute Me is author Lori Tharps' debut novel. She has previously co-written a book on African-American hair, which I haven't read and Kinky Gazpacho, which I read and loved.

Jose Ortega y Gasset, Spanish philosopher and essayist, wrote "yo so yoy y mi circunstancia" I am myself and my circumstances. Tharps seems to take this maxim to heart, as her circumstances naturally color and flavor her writing and world view. Multicultural themes play a huge part in her life. (Read Kinky Gazpacho, I shall not spill the beans)

One of the protagonists of Substitute Me is familiar to me. An upper middle class African-American woman with a love for elsewhere. Zora finds herself in New York City after time in France trying to find herself. Substitute Me is the story of her time nannying and all that that entails.

Our other protagonist is an ambitious,Type-A mom who is about to go back to work. While her world is unfamiliar to me, her story is just as compelling.

Two worlds collide as two women from similar backgrounds,but vastly different world views come into contact in a well-written story that will make you question what you think and know about relationships, class, race and love. Tharps writes easily and confidently about race without preaching, yet provides the opportunity for deeper discussions to occur.

Substitute Me is a great novel and I can't wait for its August 24th 2010 debut so everyone can benefit and love this story.
You can pre-order it on Amazon.com
If you decide not to pre-order, go ahead and scoop it up at your local bookstore of choice.

*Image taken from the Simon and Schuster Canadian site for the Book*

09 August 2010

Susbstitute Me-book review coming :)

One of my favourite current authors, Lori Tharps has her debut novel being released on August 24, 2010.
I will have the pleasure of receiving a copy gratis before the release date so I can read it and review it. To say I'm stoked would be an understatement.
I first fell in love with Tharps' writing with "Kinky Gazpacho"
I felt like I was reading my life, just from someone older and who was a Hispanophile compared to my love of the Francophilia. Her writing style is warm and inviting and her narrative is such a great story.


I can't wait to receive, read and love "Substitute Me" and who knows, even re-start my manuscript.

20 July 2010

"Losing My Cool..." A review

My summer has been filled with books. In between longing for my return to France and acclimating to the Midwest I've read several books. Only one has compelled me to write about it: "Losing My Cool: How a Father's Love and 15,000 Books Beat Hip-Hop Culture"

*Disclaimer* Image taken from www.amazon.com

For people who have struggled with the conflict between fitting in and standing out,not feeling "black enough" , or simply with who they want to be, Thomas Chatterton Williams' first book is an invitation to decide. In "Losing My Cool: How a Father's Love and 15,000 Books Beat Hip-Hop Culture", Williams shares his journey from a caricature of hip-hop culture to an individual character.
Williams' memoir is the story of a young boy, who happens to be mixed, who is constantly pulled between two poles: the love his father has for him and learning and the most negative aspects of a seductive hip-hop culture that colored and discolored his interactions with his world.
Williams' story could be that of any black kid in the suburbs who tries to "keep it real", while unknowingly being fake. He shares his evolution without casting dispersions on those still caught up in image. This empathy is what keeps his narrative from being pretentious. He also stays away from stating that hip-hop is the devil.
Because it's not.
It's the importance that people place on the hip-hop image that is detrimental to their individual growth.

I will say that perhaps the title is misleading. I don't identify hip-hop the way Williams does. To me hip-hop is Lauryn Hill, Common, Mos Def, and The Roots to name a few. I wasn't allowed to listen to Biggie and a whole host of rapper when I was younger. I can identify with Williams to a certain extent. I,too,was sometimes not "black enough" but I couldn't even fake the funk, nor did I have a desire to. My own journey to hip-hop was a weird one. Growing up we listened to soul classics and country music more than anything else. I could sing you several George Strait songs before I could ever share 16 bars of Biggie. It wasn't until I got to college that I was introduced to hip-hop in a way where I could befriend it and it wasn't until my first heartbreak when I came to love it. So I've never been caught up in the desire to implement what I saw portrayed in some videos and songs.

I've read critiques of "Losing My Cool" that seem to disagree with a premise that I don't believe Williams makes. Hip-hop is not the root of all evil. (Nor does he exhibit self-hate.) I can see how one might think he is equating hip-hop culture with the whole of black culture. Again, I don't think he is. If anything he makes a case for reconsidering black culture's relationship to hip-hop (idealising entertainers over educators)and the case for the importance of individuality. Lastly, some will take offence to some of his black characters. Some are less than ideal individuals, such is life. That was his reality.

Not to criticise young Williams, but he did himself a world of hurt by forfeiting his choice to define himself. He says, "It was much easier to mime stereotypes than to invent ourselves as individuals."
The birth of Williams as an individual is an admirable one. From his imagined hard knock sometimes gritty streets of Jersey to the posh streets of Georgetown, Williams brings up several interesting, important questions that deserve answering or at least pondering: What is the nature of individuality? What does it mean to be black? What is real? How can one embrace hip-hop without being smothered by its negative aspects? Williams didn't set out to defend black culture or castrate hip-hop culture he simply has shared one narrative of millions about his relationship with the two-which of course are not synonymous.

Williams' story comes down to this (self-evident?) fact: there's more than one way to be black. Not every young black man must be an athlete or rapper. Not every young black woman must use her physical attributes for gain. Nor should they aspire to. Centuries after slavery's abolition, we are free to be individuals, but one would think it's easier to be enslaved to something whether it be to ignorance itself or ignorant images and messages.

This book is as relevant as it is timeless. It's well written and engaging. In an age where the United States of America has a black president it's time to reconsider how we as a people and as individuals will be defined. Hip-hop is not the only music that enriches the black American experience. It is a jazz number breathed to life by Miles or Louie Armstrong. It is a blues lament sung by Ella or Bessie Smith . Or it can be a country song shared by Charlie Pride or Darius Rucker.
Read this book and decide for yourself.

By the time I was finished reading this book, I wanted to force my younger brother to read it. However, I suspect that Williams would warn against this however well-intentioned act. No one can make anyone better. It's an individual choice.
Here's to choosing to be an individual instead of a negative image of a culture.

16 July 2010

Blog Your Way Around the World

I just discovered this contest and to say I'm stoked would be an understatement.
My task is to write a 400 word essay (only 400 words?!) about why "I should be selected – including how you will blog from the road should you win"
So, I have a goal in mind and a possibility.

Here it goes.
I love seeing new places and meeting new faces.
I could blame it on my parents-we moved a lot when I was younger, living in seven different states .This experience of having to adapt and learn to love where I am has stuck with me. I could blame my parents, but the truth is that , I must take responsibility for the declaration and decision at age seven that I would move to France one day.
My mother, says she remembers being surprised then, but when I left Omaha spring semester of my Junior year she remembered the declaration. When I returned to France a year later to teach English, she believed me. So my love of travel has existed for awhile. When I was in France most recently, I had the opportunity to travel a bit more throughout the European continent. I would send e-mails and blog posts back to family and friends. In February, I saw the beauty of Northern Italy. The colours of Verona's buildings mixed with the tastes of true Bolognese cuisine enticed me. I was thankful for a first taste of Italy and looked forward to April holidays when I would visit Sweden and Spain. I planned for these trips anxious to drop a few words of Swedish on my friend's family and experiment with my rudimentary Spanish.Then a volcano from a small island country struck me and thousands of other tourists-Eyjafjallajökull . I still can't pronounce its name, I can only pronounce the unquenched thirst for travel that I missed because of its eruption. I am always anxious for a new adventure -especially one that involves a new locale.
If selected, I would share the love I have for travel with the help of my faithful laptop.I would also synch a microblogging site to keep followers up on minute-by-minute updates using my smart phone. There is such a wide world out there and I've only been to six countries. I would love the chance to see and share more.
So, vote for me . Merci, Gracias,Todah Rabah and Thank you.

Time flies...

Wow, so it's been a minute since I've written anything.
I didn't realise it until a friend shared the last post I wrote about a beautiful person we knew who died too soon. For us.
Since then, April left the map to join the other months in the grave of days. May came and went too fast, I loved Marc, and my students and left them in turn.
June came and I adjusted and moped and made my peace with where I am. And July has started with promise,ascended to greatness and I hope it plateaus here.At least for awhile.
I've recently come back from a trip to Norman to see my friends, sisters really.
I was worried about seeing them. Worried that nine months had made a gap we couldn't or wouldn't bridge. Worried that 8 days would be too much and that I would kill, or more likely, be killed by one of my friends.
But it was lovely. And too brief as I knew in my heart of hearts it would be.
I'm going to get back into this thing. If nothing else, but to keep up with telling stories. I'm thinking of starting a section of stories called "To Sirs with Love" stories about guys I've loved. Or something like it.
Tis all for now.

18 April 2010

Lord, when she sung

Ashlee T. Madison the Great, Jr.
Lord ,when she sung,
It moved you.
Hips swaying, feet tapping, head moving, soul stirring movement.
When she smiled you felt thankful. Thankful that the sun had dropped a bit of its light some years ago.
When she called me beautiful, I wondered if she knew the definition, because she was one of the most beautiful women I've met. A soul that couldn't help but escape through her eyes and smile and skin. Beauty, light and love radiating.
I didn't know her well, but I got to stand in her light for a little while.
Got to see her bounce, glide or walk across campus.
Or just see her smile.
But,Lord, when she sung.

Best laid plans of Mice and Men

So, it's Sunday, 18 April.
Instead of being in Barcelona, I am in my bed in Les Sables d'Olonne. I'm annoyed,but trying to not be.
If I've learned anything from The Roots and Chinue Achebe it's that things fall apart. A force of nature/act of God as you wish although I would hope that God didn't have it in for me for wanting to go to Barcelona. I was going to be good)
This damn volcano.
Let me start with the altruistic, good Kayle part:
I'm thankful the volcanic activity didn't have any fatalities, it could have been Pompeii and that's all bad.
I'm thankful that I was able to stay with a true friend, Celine, in Paris instead of in limbo.
I'm thankful I got to see my friend Nathan from like 5 years ago.
I'm thankful for how efficient and helpful Air France was. It was really impressive. I told the lady how surprised and thankful I was because I really was.
I'm thankful that I made it back to Les Sables and that the weather is beautiful and hot so I can at least have some beach time.

The fail saga began Thursday. I woke up at 5am to catch a 5h45 train. I was ready. I bought a Swedish travel phrase book to impress Tobbe's friends and parents. I bought a backpack. You know the ones, the "I'm hiking across Europe" ones, except I was taking trains and planes.
I was stoked.
I get to Paris at 10h33 plenty of time to grab a fast fallafel at my favourite falafel place in France and head to Charles deGaulle.
Then at around 11h I received a text informing me flight was cancelled, thanks for understanding. I didn't understand. Went out to CDG to assess the situation and was reminded of the volcano that I had dismissed. I read about them evacuating parts of Iceland because of a fear of flooding,but that was the last I paid attention.
The lovely AirFrance rep booked me on a new flight which I thought was for Friday,but wasn't and I went to explore the Marais. The Marais (4 and 5th arrondisements or districts) are heavily Jewish and I love it. Each time I come to Paris, without fail, except Fridays and Saturdays for Sabbath, I go to L'as du Fallafel. It's reportedly the best falafel in Europe. A friend suggested that I try another fallafel place perhaps I should, but why?
Why try something that could be less than the best when I'm pretty sure outside of Israel this is as real as it gets? Replete with yelling, attractive, only feigning annoyance Israelis. Bon, get my falafel eat it, decide to go to the Musee de la Shoah. The Shoah museum. Not exactly uplifting,but important.
I'm glad I went. And I'm glad that France is,at least in that moment, dealing with the complicity of its leaders during that time. A post for another time.
Wandered around the Marais and eventually Celine got off from her internship. I was blessed to run into a really nice Parisienne, Jennifer, who helped me find a convenient meeting place because Chatelet, the stop, was too big. We talked about my life in France and she shared her desire to leave Paris for a variety of reasons. I empathised with her more than she knew.
The next day I tried again the whole leaving thing, but to no avail. Flight after flight was cancelled and I decided to try to find an Air France store. I walked along the Champs Elysees with a fury. I searched and searched only to walk into IranAir hoping they could help point me to an AirFrance location. I pulled a number looked around, felt uncomfortable and left.
Finally, I remembered there was a street of embassies near by. My brain remembered a Canadian flag waving from my last trip to Paris amidst the Gucci store, 5 star restaurants and beautifully expensive flats.
Never have I ever been so excited to see a Canadian. I asked the young security guard and he directed me to Les Invalides. I thanked him with probably more than a hint of desperation in my voice.
I reach Les Invalides only to find the longest line of my life. If you know me, you know I hate lines. HATE THEM.
Yet, I had no choice. I said a prayer for my sanity an waited. 20 minutes later I was talking to an Air France representative who I felt compelled to compliment. Usually I make fun of the French for being feckless, but this time I was so impressed by their work ethic I almost felt bad for years of bashing them.
I was helped by a young man who informed me that my original ticket had been rebooked for Saturday(!) and not Friday as I had thought. So I hadn't missed a new flight, I was still booked for one. However as life turns out Charles de Gaulle was closed until...now I believe so Stockholm became a no go.
Discouraged and disheartened I went back to Celine's.
The next day I went to SNCF to see if there were any trains to Barcelona.
Nada. Not a blessed one.
I tarried with the gentleman for a good 20 minutes hoping he could finagle away,but to no avail. The next trains available would arrive Wednesday when I had to be back in Paris to greet my friend Nick and his father for their trip which...
Has been postponed.
So faced with this disappointment and annoyance I am back in Les Sables d'Olonne.
I know it could be worse and it doesn't make me any happier to know that so many people are affected and some trying to get home. I'm grateful I had a friend to stay with. Grateful that I got home. Grateful that my home happens to be near the beach.
But God, how I wanted to go to Stockholm and Barcelona. Oh well, the best laid plans of Mice and Men...

12 April 2010


*Vacances! Je suis en vacances
I leave for Stockholm Thursday-Sunday,then Barcelona Sunday-Thursday then Paris, Normandy Beaches and then Paris back to Les Sables.Phew :) Bring it!
*Hosting Couchsurfers for the first time. Really sweet family of 3 who brought me a bottle of plum brandy(?) from their garden. Cheers!
*Went out on a date ( hate that word) with a co-worker...(Someone needs to stop me from dating Frenchmen)
*Will be home in less than 2 months
*Still looking for employment until I receive word whether I've been re-accepted for next year

I'm dancing in the midst of uncertainty. The sunlight has brought me back to 100% Kayle and dah dah dah dah dah I'm lovin' it!

26 March 2010

Wait, say what? Week

So, I LOVE my job. (if you can call it that)
I worked a total of 8 hours this week *Tuesday was a strike day and Wednesdays, I have off*
And I got to spend time with students whom I love and who stay crazy.
We'll take today for instance:
I've had a little cough for the past couple of days and had a coughing fit in class. I said (in English) I'm going to die and then translated it into French. At first the five boys in class just looked at me, then as I walked to the back of the class to cough one (who looks like a leprechaun and is as mischievous jumps up from the floor (we were watching Remember the Titans) and runs after me saying "Miss, miss, I can do CPR?" and the others yelling "Sur la bouche!" (on the mouth)
Next story.
Another faculty member comes in (who I may or may not have a crush on and who may or may not reciprocate/initiate) to hand a student a note and flashes a beautiful smile. Same kid who was trying to resuscitate me unnecessarily says in French (as if I'm deaf and not able to speak or understand French) "il la kiffe (he likes her) I try not to blush and get them to stop making me seem like I had no control (which I did)
When I was preparing to go home for the afternoon I ran into the aforementioned faculty member and have a petit conversation with him. The kids (again forgetting or not caring that I speak French) say "Ah, regardes **** il drague" (Look at.....he's trying to mack/pull /hit on whatever) To which he replies
"J'ai pas le droit?" (Don't I have the right)
Shake my head.
One last thing, one of the teachers I'd consider a friend. He tries to speak English asks about my family, friends, life etc.Cool dude, yet acts out of pocket often in a childish you need to go to time out way. Last week he made me give him bisous (kisses on the cheek)after he fixed the copy machine (by fixed I mean pushed a button) and then this week while just answering questions in English this one about ice cream flavours I respond chocolate chip cookie dough to which he says "Oh, chocolat, I can see why" while winking.

At least they keep me smiling :)

24 March 2010

Chosen friends

I miss having Jewish friends. One of my friends was talking on Facebook about how she's having to eat all of her chametz (refers to bread, grains and leavened products that are not consumed on the Jewish holiday of Passover)It's almost Passover and ever since I was a wee little lass, I used to read the Passover story and then a few weeks later (usually)it would be time for Easter. It was a pleasant holiday season. I think I especially connect with Passover not only because of the religious narrative, but the historical narrative of Americans descended from enslaved Africans.
When I was like 11, probably, my mum bought me this great book "This is the Matzah that Papa brought Home" because I really wanted it. It's a great book and a lot of fun. However, I never got to experience a true Passover seder until last year with my good friend Misheala. It was such a beautiful experience and I felt right at home and also thankful she chose to share her family and this special holiday with me and some of her other friends. This year I'll probably just say a prayer and read the story.
I also got to thinking about this because wherever I settle eventually I will need a diverse group of cohorts at the ready. I like being able to participate in different religious and cultural events as it makes a part of my soul feel more alive.
Here's a link to a YouTube video explaining some of the symbols of Passover. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=awl1KCo_oZ0&feature=related

14 March 2010

Member of the Tribe

So, seeing as I work a grand total of 12 hours a week(Are you mad?)I have a lot of time for thinking.
One of the thoughts that have been jostling for space in my noggin is the whole twentysomething thing. I'm year 3 of my twenties and feel as silly as ever. Interests in many subjects,little to no direction, a diploma and a smile. Not bad, but not exactly helpful.I've noticed that my friends not in random international locales, or those not shuttling back and forth across the ocean ,are working jobs like REAL adults. Their Facebook statuses, tweets, etc. reflect adult things like regular working hours, boredom at times, but also a sense of adulthood and belonging in an adult definition. Now maybe this is just me projecting on them, but I think it's definitely easier to feel like a real adult when you have a 9 to 5 schedule that's serious than a 12 hour work week that's subject to less hours.
I'm not complaining. I'm enjoying the experience, but I wonder if I'm being left behind in the development game. Like the members of my tribe are doing what they're supposed to, and I'm one of the random members who's like "Nah, I'm tired of roaming what if I stick this seed in the mud?"...or something like that.
Originally I was going to write about all my age comrades getting pets, specifically dogs. Is this what we do? Get dogs? If I was in a stable relationship with a territory (city, state, heck, continent) I might like a puppy companion- a friend and guide through this maze called young adulthood. But it wouldn't be fair to either of us, with me being unsure of where I will call home.
With changing societal norms is getting a dog the new sign of adulthood?
Am I overthinking this? Probably.
haha, I should go to sleep.
After this glass of vin.

10 March 2010

Un Petit Update

So, I never did blog about Italy and how amazing it was and how I fell in love with the sights, smells and sounds of it. But I did.
In this never ending winter *cue Kanye* I'm brought back to the colours of the buildings in Verona, of Bologna's reddish tint, of Firenze's beauty despite the tempest and even of Milano's gloomy charm.
I think I'm unhappy because I don't know what's next and that bothers me. I'm a Type B chick for the most part of my life, but let me feel helpless or unsure and I turn Type A in a New York minute,wanting to make lists and plans and stress.
I started thinking about things that would make me happy. I started with applying for jobs. This makes me an actor in my life and not an audience member, and I have to have that. If I'm honest, and I have no reason not to be, I'm afraid that I am inadequate. That my degree,while enjoyable and edifying, will be of little practical use. The only way for me to combat this fear is to apply for anything and everything that might be in line with what I know how to do-write and think. Haha. I'm also fearful of disappointing my parents. Here they sent me to University, have supported me in this crazy love affair with France and now what? I'm 23 years old and about to move back home for the summer. There's so shame in that,but I need and want more. I know whatever I end up doing my parents will say their proud of me, but I want to do something awesome so that I know they'll be proud.At the same time, I haven't a clue where I want to be. Location is my biggest problem.I envy these guys I know who are working on a farm in the middle of Sicily. I envy my friend ,Chris,who is preparing to go back to China because he's afraid of being stuck in London forever.
If I was as brave and ballsy as these guys, you know what I would do?
I would move to Israel for awhile and see what I can get in to. Be that working on a kibbutz, teaching or whatever.
I'm afraid though that if I keep being light and untethered that I will lose out on the beautiful possibilities that can come from stability, dedication and commitment. I vacillate between feeling too young to seriously worry about all this, to realising that I'm getting older and eventually my parents calling me Carmen SanDiego may not be a compliment.

02 March 2010

ID Control

So it finally happened.
My police incident. I always joked about it happening,but when it finally did it was the opposite of funny. I've seen minorities in France get stopped before on the street and asked for papers. Mostly Roma(gypsies)Arabs and Black people. I've always wondered if they did something wrong or what,but never thought much about it. With people's preconceived notions of my nationality(insert random nation:Eritrea, Somalia,whatever)I knew it was a possibility,but didn't think it would annoy me so much.
I had time to kill between my train leaving La Roch sur Yon and Bordeaux and hour and some change so I decided to get a bite to eat. I did and then moseyed along to the train station with time to spare to get a cappuccino from the machine.
As I was about to turn the corner to get to the station I see a police car. Nothing unusual there, but then I got the sense that it was going to stop. Instantly I thought, there's no reason for them to stop and talk to me.
But stop to talk to me they did.
They walked toward me and said "Hello,miss can we see your papers?" (en Francais of course)They said more stuff in French that I forgot as I was shocked the situation was happening. Never in my 23 years in the States have I had an encounter with the police other than them visiting my school when I was little. In France,up until this time ,I've been content to notice the cute ones. I knew they wanted to see papers to verify that I had a right to be in France,but it was incredibly demeaning. One of them asked to go through my little green bag and the other proceeded to ask me what I was doing in La Roch sur Yon(as if anyone would purposefully, of their own volition just post up there) Fortunately, I had my passport and tried to explain (suppressing tears) that I was just going to catch my train and that I had a pause and decided to eat something. He then asked me why I was going to Bordeaux (as if it was any of his bloody business) and I said I was going to see friends. They then asked me why I was in France etc.etc. where I lived all of the questions that made it seem as if I had done something wrong. It was humiliating to have to explain myself to them in the middle of a sidewalk, while people passed and probably though "There goes another..." Initially they didn't understand what I meant by "pause"even though I've heard French people use it, I showed them my ticket pointing to the length of time in between and they finally understood. Finally one of them, asked what my nationality was and I started to whimper, "Je suis Americaine, ca c'est ma passporte/I'm American, that's my passport" That the other officer was holding.After the passport holding officer was off his walkie-talkie speaking to their headquarters he handed it back to me.
"Are you okay?" he said painstakingly in English.
"Did I do something wrong?," I asked through tears and heavy breathing.
"Non," they replied quickly.
I instantly think, "Then why the [hell] would you stop me?"
I asked if I could leave and they said yes, but not before telling me that it was okay and "c'est pas grave"/it's not serious, don't cry...
But it was serious and I did cry.
It seriously annoyed me and embarrassed me.(Not that I have a right to not be annoyed)It was insulting to have to justify why I was in France let alone their city. I know it's a prejudice on my part, but I'm not from a developing country come to France to steal jobs or whatever. I just happened to have melanin and be walking.
I called my dad sobbing, perhaps unnecessarily, and explained the situation to him. He was hurt because it's something he wished his children wouldn't have to go through.(When he was younger, in Texas, in the 70s he was stopped on a 10 speed bike and accused of theft)It's not better,but it's expected in The States,especially the South. It's a sad part of the narrative of our country,but one that is being changed.
France, au contraire, is the land of liberte, egalite, and fraternite.
But I wonder how many blanc Francais are bothered by id controls? I sent a text to one of my friends and was annoyed at her response that it wasn't serious. That it happens all the time and had happened to her before. I'm sure it happens to white French people, but I'm certain it happens more to ethnic minorities. I really can't adequately convey my frustration, annoyance or hurt over this situation.
I can better understand the problem France is having with it's young immigrant and minority populations. If you build a state where certain segments of the population are more likely to have negative experiences with the law, don't be surprised when you combine that with low employment and covert discrimination to find cars burned and frustration abounding.
They say a Republican is a Democrat who has just been robbed, perhaps an anarchist is an innocent person who was stopped on the street, but not in my case. I still think the police play a valuable part (obviously) in maintaining law and order. I would just posit,that stopping people with out probable cause could be something they give up for Lent. Or forever.
Link to an article about this topic:

24 February 2010

I'm going back home...

I'm going back to Bordeaux tomorrow.
It's not that big of a deal in reality, but in my mind it is important. You see, the last opportunity I had to go down there I declined because I felt that it might hurt after breaking up with Julien. I don't regret the decision,because I truly did not want to go. As I thought about the times I went to Bordeaux over the past several months when I could have gone elsewhere (actually just during Touissant) I'm not ashamed or regretful, but I am endeavouring to make up for it. So I feel kind of silly going back to a place I've been several times, however, I'm on vacation and can do whatever the eph I want (including catch up on an entire season of Glee-judge if you will) or nothing. I am free.

It will be (probably)insignificant in a couple of days, months, years, whatever, but for me,right now,it's important.
I fell in love with the city before him and and I can still love it. I have to learn to separate feelings for experiences (songs, places, names even) from feelings from people.
Bordeaux is like my home. I have other friends there besides him.
And in the words of Bon Jovi "who says you can't go home?"

P.S. I went to Italy and had a phenomenal time, will blog about that later. Have Glee to finish.

31 January 2010

Repose en Paix Damian

I logged onto Facebook. The usual.
I saw that my friend Damian's birthday was today and smiled.
Damian is a character. He's tall, beautiful light eyes, brown hair with a smile that makes you comfortable immediately and jokes that will make you uncomfortable instantly. I clicked on his name and started to write something on his wall. I wrote something to the effect of Happy Birthday lover. Damian was a bit of a maverick Mormon. I met him at a conference where he came with a majority Mormon constituency, but he was different and I liked him. We joked about getting married a lot.
He was honest and warm and he shared a little of his past, but in a joking way. I saw sadness,but also thought I saw a guy getting through the hardness that is life and making something beautiful anyway. One of the first things I remember about him was finding out that his mother had recently passed away, in 2007.
I posted on his wall, but then my eyes saw the post below mine.

Damian is dead.
He died on January 16,2010.
I just found out.
I erased my post and stared at my screen for a few minutes.
I felt sorry. Sorry that I didn't know sooner. Sorry that I hadn't said hey to him in awhile. Sorry that he was gone and that his story had ended. It could be reread,but not continued. Our friendship story had ended to. A narrative to be reread, but not revised.I feel inexplicably guilty. For being away from the country. I could have called him or something. We weren't best friends forever, but we kept in touch since our meeting in Summer of 2008.
It strikes me. He was so young and living in NY. But he had a lot pain and sadness too. I don't know all that he was going through.
And it's not necessary now. But I miss him. I miss the thought that I didn't know him as well as I wanted to. I hate that there were people who judged him and I hate that he's gone. He would have been 25.

Death is hard. But I guess sometimes living is harder for some people. I pray that he is at peace now.


28 January 2010

Birthday continued

So, I had a pleasant (pseudo surprise) at the lycee.
I saw, by accident, a message to the professors asking them to sign a card for me. But as clearly he didn't think that I would be on the e-mail list, I ignored it and knew I would act as gracious and surprised as ever with the card I was to receive.
However, when I went to my class, Professor A says my name wrong and says to come see him. Instead of just a card is a card with signatures and petits messages from teachers and students as well as a box of fine chocolats and like 5 books en Francais.
and most importantly, I, like most, love kindness. It was just awfully sweet of them and was unexpected...except for the card ;)
So now I have more books to read(after I get through Le Soleil se Leve Aussi-Hemingway not as awesome in French.)
I really do feel blessed that people cared enough to wish me Happy Birthday.
I wanna pull a Sally Fields "You love me, you really love me"

*I need a nap after waking up two hours too early at 7h30 and watching the SOTU, the Republican rebuttal and commentary from the Newshour(with Jim Lehrer)*

27 January 2010

23...or "we've only just begun to live..."

SO I turned 23 today.
And I feel pretty regular.
My birthday, as anyone who knows me well knows, is tied for my favourite holiday with Christmas. I've spent a birthday away from close friends before in Bordeaux with girls who ended up becoming like sisters and this year I spent it in Les Sables d'Olonne. I wanted to watch La Princesse et La Grenouille with other assistants in Nantes. But guess what movie didn't premiere in France's 6th largest city today?
Nantes, you say?
Haha, yes.
Oh well. So my responsable woke me up at 10h30 and I had to be honest when she asked if she woke me up. (I'm trying to be more genuine in my life and that includes not telling lies even though their polite) She then proceded to apologise and I explained that it was a good thing b/c I needed to be up. I did. She then told me that at 13h she was going to come take me out to lunch for my birthday. So I met her at 13h and we went to a lovely restaurant by the beach with her husband. She gave me some jewelry which was really sweet of her on top of the delicious lunch. Another teacher from the college gave me a pretty candle holder decoration thing and a lovely card.
My flatmate bought me a strawberry tarte and I got to say by to my friend Max before he leaves for Brasil. I felt pretty thankful for all the well wishes on Facebook from friends around the world. All in all, a very pleasant beginning to my 23rd birthday on this beautiful earth. Low key,but pleasant. I'm hoping this weekend's celebration will be wild, outlandish and bordering on insane though :) (Hopefully I'll get to see the mec that I met from last weekend, oh la la)

23 as a number scares me. As Nathalie , ma responsable, pointed out it definitely feels closer to 25 than 2o. I feel like I should have a a plan for my future or at least part of it,but I don't.

19 January 2010

Tu vs. Vous

So, I dipped by the lycee to give them the dates for the English Club and once again heard a heated discussion about some insolent punk(haha Burger King commercial anyone?) using the "tu" form and not"vous". Tu is supposed to be with people who are your peers, cohorts, contemporaries etc. Vous is reserved for those at a higher level either economically or authoritatively (bosses, principals, elderly people, etc.) It rubs me the wrong way.
Heres my problem.
I'm all about R-E-S-P-E-C-T and giving it and meriting it. I couldn't care l Theess whether they address me as "tu", "vous" or "K Bizzle" (that would make me really happy) as long as they were respectful which they are to me, perhaps a little too respectful. I know in English we have the words Mr./Mrs./Ma'am/Sir etc. but it's not the same in my mind. Some might disagree I'm sure.
Tu and Vous both mean "you". It's the republican(small "r" not the political party, the belief system) in me that says we're all humans in a democracy, no one is better or worse than me, I don't have to doff my top hat *I don't wear a top hat* to anyone and the reverse is true as well. Some of the teachers can be rude and a tad condescending to the students,but then want to nuck if one of them bucks for being rude in return... Being from the South and such I've called older people Mr. and Mrs. into my twenties out of respect and decorum, but it's because they're old and in general I respect them. The same level of respect is thus presupposed. The same in most civic relations:schools in this case.In French you're supposed to use "vous" with people you don't know, respect etc. Instead of a more egalitarian "tu" which shows we're all in this together (cue High School Musical)
I don't know why it bothers me. But it's another really telling linguistic and cultural difference...the words a culture uses belies mentality for better or worse. And I think this new decade will continue to show the ways in some French practises are no longer relevant...on verra

16 January 2010

I want the old me back

*Disclaimer* I hate complaining. I find it to be feckless and a drain on energy, but sometimes it's necessary at least to clear the negativity so I can keep running on sunshine and bubbles which is what most people think I run on instead of oxygen, confusion and hope...if that makes sense.

I'm in a rut and not sure how to get out of it. I know the normal tools I use, but for some reason have failed to implement them...

I'm a wee bit tired of my little town. I wanted to go to Nantes to socialise but vacillated too long deciding. Thus losing my opportunity to see a good friend and also someone I may or not be interested in that I had a dream about.
It's a Saturday night and I've youtubed like I was being paid. I'm not. I also ate McDonald's for the first time since October and (hopefully) the last time for a long time.
I was productive today because of the constant rain that dared me to come outside. It won. So I revised my CV (resume) and letter of motivation for two positions in French and English. So riddle me why I didn't send out the English one? I have a mental block. It's like I've suffered a loss of confidence, whether it be from the most recent failed relationship or what.
Not just in the professional future aspect, but in another way too. The kind of attractive (there's something about him) guy who works at the lycee. He was finally there on Friday and instead of strolling up to him like I envisioned, I walked cautiously and asked him in horrid French if he wanted to join my English Club for professors... I felt like a little kid. A feeling I detest.

I'm also not in love with 2010 so far. A year that began with so much optimism on the part of so many has turn into a living hell for so many. My heart aches for those in Haiti who are suffering Italian migrants,Iranians, Israelis, Palestinians...all of humanity.

This week I need to get it together and reinvigorate the Kayle who talks to strangers at will, decides what she wants and goes after it, who believes in herself and acts on that belief...

I'm ready for February vacation. It will be beneficial to go down South (Spain, Italy maybe the Cote d'Azur again...)I need to get my groove back.

03 January 2010

Bonne Nouvel Annee!

So...it's been awhile.
I accomplished my goal of having the most fun in Paris. I spent most of the time palling around with Mark and his friends, The Dirty Rascals. (www.dirtyrascals.org) We didn't really have a plan, and that ended up for the better. I had so much fun just relaxing and walking about it was lovely. The first time I was in Paris I did many of the "must-see"sites. This time around, my "must-see" was a "must-eat" L'as du falafel.More on that later.
So the above pictures is of me, Jane (a new friend)Alison and Fedora.
We met Mark and them by the Seine under a bridge to shoot the breeze and wave at mere tourists on river boat cruises.

The excitement of spending New Year's in Paris was amplified ,for me, by the fact that it was the beginning of a new decade and hopefully a chance for the world to be renewed again.
Also the beginning of my birthday month. (I love my birthday)
On 31 December, we headed over to their flat to do some pre-partying and warming up for our epic walk to the Champs-Elysees(well purportedly it all went down) After shennanigans ,we decided to start the walk. Commenced the singing (one of the few times in my French life that I give in and act a fool in the streets) of Beachboys songs and walked toward our goal-L'Arc de Triomphe. Sooner or later we grew tired of that and found a functioning metro line.(In fact, all the Metro lines were free from about 7pm on) I made the acuaitance of a group of Indian men after yelling responding to their yells and one of them kissed me on my face=not cool.
Fastforward past the epic struggle to use restrooms in our time of need (pretty sure that violates some EU convention) and we are on the Champs Elysees. Where it all goes down. However, Andrew, who was our leader of sorts on this expedition was itching to go to the Eiffel Tower....we deliberated,but then I realised if we did that too long we'd miss the show. Whatever show there was to be. I asked a police officer (scaringly dashing in their black Power Rangereske uniforms) what he recommended and he said the Eiffel Tower because they'd have fireworks there...
So we start walking with a fury toward the Tower, I ask another policeman if we're going the right way (because while wine is good for warming up cold sojourners, it's not so good for navigation) and I'm pretty sure he lied to me. Like straight up falsified. I asked another, older police officer to be sure and he dismissed the other guy as a young fool basically.We then chatted about youth these days and their poor direction giving.
Finally we were on track. We followed Andrew as he followed the searchlight emanting from the sky. It was no alien ship, but 15 minutes later we'd discover le Tour Eiffel...with 15 minutes to spare, and we even got relatively close. As the countdown begun we rejoiced in our good fortune to have found it, what with there being soooo many Eiffel Towers we said adieu to 2009 and waited for the fireworks and pizzazz to begin...at the stroke of midnight the Eiffel Tower illuminated the night sky with the light of a million small diamonds,then a multi-coloured scheme that would have put Joseph to shame and then more colours and more.
But no fireworks. Haha, so make that two officers who lied.
All in all though, it was a magnificent night. Celebrating it in the midst of an old friend and many new ones. Celebrating surviving another year, and offering prayers and hopes(in our own ways) for a sweeter new one.
Bonne Nouvelle Annee

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