Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving week and weird pains

I made my Thanksgiving meal two days after. I've had to adapt my traditions while in France. Strangely, the French still haven't made it an official holiday here! I always feel a pinch in my heart as I trod off to work (or school this year) when I know my fellow Americans are preparing (or waiting for) scrumptious meals. So my tradition has become calling or writing my family and getting them to tell me what they're eating. My mouth generally waters just to hear words like honey-roasted ham and Sister Shubert's rolls (delicious yeasty rolls).

So on my side of the pond I made French-fried onion coated chicken filets (using the can of imported fried onions from mom: crush the fried onions, add an egg, coat chicken, bake at 400°F 20 minutes), potatoes, green beans and a pineapple cobbler thingey (again using a mix my mom had sent me). It was yummy and did make me feel linked to my country. I taught Juliette to say Happy Thanksgiving and tried to explain what the holiday meant, in three-year old terms. I think I understand why immigrants can be so tied to their home country's traditions. It's a way to keep their identity alive, to affirm their origins.

In other news I've been suffering from some excruciating joint pain. A few weeks ago Juliette was diagnosed with Fifth's Disease, which is a virus which causes a strange red rash on the arms, legs and cheeks. She was so bright red I thought I had burned her in the bath and we took her to the ER. The overworked doc from Romania ('cause there aren't enough French docs, it seems), said it was viral and a fever might rear its ugly head soon. But she was fine and the rash finally subsided.

But last Sunday it was my turn to get the rash and when I woke the next morning I felt like I was about 75 due to my creaky joints. If this is old age, it's not fun, people. Then during gym class I tripped (on my own foot!) and fell down and of course used my wrists to break the fall. (The fall was not due to the joint pain buy my eternal clumsiness. I broke my pinky in middle school trying to catch a football with all my fingers pointing out.) During the night I couldn't feel my fingers and the pain was intense. I figured I had a hairline fracture or something, and hauled myself to the ER the next morning, but the x-ray showed nothing. The pain continued, especially in the night, and my GP confirmed that all this was due to the virus, in fact. In adults joint pain is quite common. Reading a few forums on the Internet showed me that some people suffer from this pain quite a long time after the inital virus. As in years. I really hope that's not the case for me!

In other news, school is as intense as ever. Lots of exams coming up and a French paper which I must finalize. Two people in my class are seriously thinking of stopping. We're all rather frazzled and tired. This program tries to cram two years of courses into one. We have on average 38 hours a week of lessons, then you need to do some exercises and not fall behind on studying when you're at home. A night off for me is when I study on the couch instead of at the table. Last night I had such a raging a headache that I really did take the night off though. And it was nice.

Sometimes I find myself wishing this school year would hurry up and finish. But then I realize that also means Juliette's three-year old self will be finishing, too. And I already feel like I haven't gotten to appreciate my time with her this year. Sometimes she's the last little one at the after-school care when I pick her up at 6:10. I try to cherish my time with her, but I'm sometimes distracted by all I must do home and house-work-wise. But I do love the cute things she says, and I'll note a few before I forget.:
"Peek it on" instead of "keep it on" regarding her little undershirts. She's a bit obsessed with them. And also her cardigans 'cause she's learning to button things.
"Can we do Christmas when we get home?" because they're starting to make ornaments at school.
"Mommy, we're gonna take you to the doctor," when I showed her my own rash.
"The moon is broken," when she saw a quarter moon one night.

She does say a lot more things in French now, which is normal since she's hearing so much at school. Sometimes she'll go on in French mode with me and I try to get her to go back to English. Other nights she's more spontaneously English. I guess I can't force it.

In other words, we're just doing the best we can on all fronts, taking it one step at a time. What more can you do?

Warm Thanksgiving wishes to you all!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The same old song

(Almost) all the leaves are brown
And the sky is grey
And I've been for a walk on an autumn's day
I'd be safe and warm
If I was in AL
Alabama dreamin'
On such an autumn's day!

Fall seems to make me more nostalgic for my home country. This season in general makes me turn inward, as if I'm mentally huddling down, hugging my scarf next to my face. In the evening I'm content more than ever to be a homebody as I pull the curtains on a prematurely dark world. And in the day I study the afternoon light that seems more intense, even if there's less of it, and it makes me think of the sunbeams in my mom's kitchen at this time of year. Maybe it's also Thanksgiving and Christmas coming around the corner. And fall was definitely my favorite season in AL, a respite from the stifling heat, as I'm sure I've said before.

I've been wishing I could teleport myself back to those places I know so well, to make a batch of cookies in that kitchen, to hug the necks of the people I'm missing. But school will keep me busy for the next eight months, so dreams of a cozy day back home are put on hold. But we've been trying to create our own coziness on this side of the pond. Making banana muffins (and I put a square of chocolate in the middle of each muffin before cooking them to give them a little kick!) and taking a few walks in foggy forests. Here are a few pics.

So I lied. Not all the leaves are brown. I love seeing a spot of color on a grey day.

So there are some sunny days! This is me being artsy taking my picture in a mirror. Remi got me this red coat two Christmases ago. I never would have picked it out myself, but now I say, why not. And putting on red on a dull grey day makes me feel immediately warmer.

Do you see what's wrong with this picture? In fact this is not a real store but just a big piece of fabric with the image of a storefront airbrushed on it. Took it near my school.

There's nothing like a chocolate iPhone to warm you up on a chilly day.

So, school has been nothing short of insane in terms of work load. I've come to the conclusion I just can't learn everything, so I'm trying to just prioritize. Almost done with the communication project for French which has really eaten up a lot of time. And I mean a lot. Then there's the research paper for French. And then all the scientific subjects which are, duh, very important. We've been doing lots of labs that analyze food products, like measuring the acidity in a Coca-Cola or the sugar content in milk. And in microbiology we've been given an unknown bacterial strain we must identify by doing a whole bunch of tests. Interesting but lots of work and I hope I'll remember it all for the exams and the lab exams which I'm totally dreading. That's where they give you a protocol and you must do it in four hours while teachers watch you! Can you say stress?

Juliette's a handful but then she'll say something so cute and cock her head to one side that I'll forgive her for all her cranky moments. She's getting into all the cartoons we can watch on the Disney channel in English. Did you know they changed the Mickey Mouse song? It's by They Might Be Giants and just as stick-in-your-heady as the old one. And now she's crept up into my lap and is asking if she can watch Elmo, please? Guess that's my cue to sign off!