La fin du semestre

20 December 2011 § Leave a comment

20 décembre 2011

I’m back in the Appalachians, where I find my dear home nestled in the mountainside.  My entire family is here—that last happened two years ago.  (And right now I’m watching Mason—and the rest of Duke—play basketball.)  I already miss hearing French, but I started to read Madame Bovary, so perhaps I can keep up reading French, at least.  No profound reflections about the past few months have bubbled up; life can only be but so different in a different place.  As far as my soul has changed . . . that is a secret place.

My beloved Roan Mountain : )

Time for new adventures . . .

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Christmas amusement

13 December 2011 § Leave a comment

13 décembre 2011

Greetings from Bellegarde!  First, we were in this crazy penguin rock version of Winter Wonderland, but apparently you had to pay for it, so we only got to see it once.  It made me laugh so hard, especially seeing a little mouse being a giant penguin.  Anyway, if this is your first time meeting Renaud and the mouse (Renaud III; Renaud, Jr., is the cat who skulks around the garden), welcome to the fun.

Hiking, Christmas party, and a short Bellegarde musical history

13 December 2011 § Leave a comment

13 décembre 2011

Salut, mes chers amis.  The general atmosphere right now is much Christmas merriment with a dash of finals week chaos.

Maggie, Stefanie, and me at the Christmas party

Stress displeases me, so I try not to procrastinate; thus, I feel little of the chaos and am mostly sorting out ideas in my oceanic mind (that just means that it’s organised in a manner quite logical, though perhaps only to me).  Something funny did happen on Sunday evening.  I was working on my paper about Les Liaisons dangereuses . . .

Me:  The paper is due Wednesday, right?

Maggie:  Um, no.  It is due tomorrow.

That was around ten o’clock.  I was lucky to have written a good bit of it and, more importantly, to have mostly worked out in my head the specific trajectory of the paper.  Insomnia and having to get extra work done go well together, so the marginal addition of pain was small.  I did have a flashback to when I missed one of my examinations in the spring.  When I realised what I had done, I listened to a certain song.

On Saturday, Heather, Courtney, and I took the navette to La Ciotat and hiked along the sea from there to Cassis.  We also wanted to hike on an island off the coast near La Ciotat, but then we discovered that the ferry does not run in the winter.  Heather had done some research and found a trail, but the blazes were a bit random at times, and it involved a bit of trespassing and many brambles and climbing all over the calanques, which are rocky cliffs along the coast.  I loved it.  When three introverts are together, there are often thirty-minute (or more) stretches of silence.  And often one cannot express what one feels when one looks down the calanques or out over the water.

An old photo from our boat trip - but this is where we hiked

On Sunday night, we had our fête de Noël at the centre with the thirteen desserts of Provence, which include dried figs, almonds, calissons, nougat, dried apricots, walnuts, clementines . . . delicious.

I still haven't figured out how to upload photos from my father's camera

All of our dinner families came, and it was fun to observe my friends with their families.  Unfortunately, the antisocial feelings were stronger than usual, so I spent most of the party flitting from group to group with the general aim of escaping.

Luke is Père Noël

Three of four times, I slipped into the kitchen, where there were only a few people.  It was quite beautiful, though, in the downstairs part of the centre where a few students live.

Christmas tree and cadeaux!

There is a big room with a Christmas tree, and presents were even distributed.

Fearless director

Our professors were also there, and I was quite happy to see Madame Gailliègue, our art and literature professor.  She is my favourite.  She knows so much about art and sparked intriguing discussions when we were reading L’Œuvre and is a painter.  Her work was even exhibited in the Palais des Papes in Avignon.  And she speaks with warmth and enthusiasm and even danced to the flash mob song one evening (keep reading).

Last week, I decided to organise a secret Santa thing.  It’s one of my favourite parts of resisting the selfish finals anxiety that afflicts everyone.  Last night, we had the secret Santa party, which was enjoyable, even though I had a few pangs of sadness when I realised that I won’t see most of these people for a long time, if at all, ever again.

Maggie and Luke are cohorts

And now for more music.  First, Yelle appeared to entertain us.  The jump at 2.40 is great.  Then, we received a message with some more entertainment.  Our participation in a flash mob was “obligatoire”, which made me laugh.  You MUST take part in this flash mob.  We danced on the cours Mirabeau and then became famous.

We end up playing Christmas music everyday, often while we are baking, and many versions of the best Christmas song surface frequently.  Of course, Kate always keeps me company.  She even sings about sheep.

Sara introduced me to William Fitzsimmons.  He has kept me company (articulated my oceanic thoughts?) lately, so much so that addiction is swiftly approaching and might cause extreme melancholy time during Christmas break.  Perfect timing . . .

Katherine in Aix

8 December 2011 § Leave a comment

8 décembre 2011

This weekend, our friend Katherine is in town for a visit!  She’s studying in Madrid this semester, so Aix will be quite a different experience for her . . .

Sara, Karen, and Katherine (this was during our visit to Madrid)

We’re excited to take her to the market, and I think we’ll stop in an English book shop/tea room that I like here.

Everything seems to be coming to an end.  Right now, Maggie is at the school where she volunteers on Thursday mornings, and they are having a Christmas party.  There is a Christmas party at the centre on Sunday evening.  I set up a little secret Santa, so that will happen soon.  We’ve turned in some final projects.  Carnet times are over.  That’s actually untrue, because now I’m just going to keep working on my carnet—that was the thing for scrapbook class—without considering what our crazy Provence professor will think of it.  Not that that ever influenced what I put in it . . .

The only real things left to do are two papers and three examinations.  It won’t be too bad, but sometimes I forget that I actually have to write the papers at some point.  One of them is about Les Liaisons dangereuses, and the other one will probably be about L’Étranger.  So . . . libertinism and absurdism.  Please take me away from the eighteenth and the twentieth centuries and back to the nineteenth.  Also preferably in England.  Romanticism, realism . . . superior isms, to be sure.

One bright prospect, besides all of the forthcoming festivities, is that our Middle Ages-to-Romanticism literature class final examination is going to be a two-hour-long literary salon.  I’m pretty sure a gleeful squeal escaped from me when my professor announced that in class.  We’re going to drink tea and have madeleines—again, hurrah!—and discuss everything that we have read this semester.  Sans notes.  What more enjoyable way to study for an exam than to read everything again?  I wonder if we can convince her to make our final for the Romanticism-to-present literature class also a salon.

On Tuesday, I was feeling rather unlike myself, so I went for a nine-mile exploration run and found some new country paths and real fields that are actually tilled by real people and small stone houses and what appeared to be an ancient acqueduct.

Aqueducts help when pretending you're in Roman times

The flowers are still blooming, and they keep me company along the side of the road.  The pale violet ones are my favourite—actually the first ones I ever saw after arriving in Aix—and I also like the five-petaled magenta-y ones and the small white ones.  I like to collect them while adventuring around.  Some are being pressed in my Bible right now, but I can’t photograph them, since I my camera does not join me on these journeys.  Here are some that I see:

Fleurs sauvages

The sun was setting near the end of my run, and it is a beautiful thing to run in the middle of the sunset over the darkening hills and the colours that streak across the sky, pale yellow and brilliant red-pink and dusty blue.  Running teaches me, gives me new thoughts, shows me new ways of looking at the land around me, and makes me realise that time is the ultimate thing both to use and to enjoy.  I can use a moment to do something useful, but I can also enjoy it—and enjoy its passing, as well.

About a month ago, I saw a quail while I was running.  Apparently this also exists in Provence, although I haven’t seen one yet:

What is this?

Myers-Briggs, Christmas carols, and reunification of the Belles

4 December 2011 § Leave a comment

4 décembre 2011

I Myers-Briggsed my whole family, and here’s what I found:

My mother (ENTJ) and I are tribesmen.  My little sister (ISFP) and I are suitemates.  My father and my older sister (both ISTJ) are counterparts of my mother, advisors (this is a back and forth thing) with my younger sister, and enigmas with me.  This means I don’t understand them, and they don’t understand me. I’m not sure how well the relationships-between-people analysis goes, but reading about each other’s personalities certainly illuminates many mysteries.  (NB: all of their personality types are my own guesses.)

Last night, we had a lucky pot at another auberge . . . one of the last lucky pots, probably.  Two types of cakes were involved, and afterward I alighted briefly at a party where Luke made a blue drink for me that had vodka in it.  I took a tiny sip – it’s far worse that cough medicine, which was my least favourite taste in the world until last night. I also finished L’Étranger; I still don’t understand why Camus wrote it if he believed in absurdism (or believed in nothing?).  If there is no sense to anything, why bother writing about it or trying to analyse it?  And why create more instances of absurd human constructions by writing a novel?

Today, Sara, Laura, and I (Maggie was still in Istanbul) went to a Christmas carol service associated with the English speaking church around here but held in the super old cathedral a few minutes away, and it was wonderful!  Singing Christmas carols in English, in church, with hundreds of people made me want to go home all of a sudden.  It also involved an odd standing-up-sitting-down version of The Twelve Days of Christmas that corresponded with everyone’s birth month and a candle-dance thing and children singing an unintelligible cheerful song, but mostly it was normal carols and lessons and a little dual-language sermon.  The last thing was Silent Night with candles, which is always so beautiful in church.

Mags returned from her Turkish adventure bearing harem pants!  They are quite comfortable and I may never take them off.  Maggie and I just had the first harem times and discussed literature.

I baked a cake which, when fully prepared tomorrow morning, will be chocolate with raspberry jam and dark chocolate ganache-ish topping.  I lost one of the flowers I wear in my hair last week and promised a triple-layer chocolate cake to the person who could find it, and someone did, so it was a good excuse to bake something real for a change.  Usually I just make biscotti or sugar cookies without bothering to look up recipes.

Also, Renaud reappeared this evening.  We hadn’t seen him for a few days.  We’re not really sure where he went.   Now he and Maggie are both home: Auberge Bellegarde is back in complete and happy harmony.

Belle vue from Bellegarde

A Friday in Marseille

3 December 2011 § 2 Comments

3 décembre 2011

Yesterday, Sara needed to go to Marseille to do a project for her France Noire class (about the black diaspora), so I decided to tag along.  She photographed some places Claude McKay frequented, and we stopped at a café where he used to write (it’s a different café now, but we had the same view of Vieux Port as we did).

He grew up in Jamaica and was educated by his older brother

We read some of his poetry:

To a Poet

There is a lovely noise about your name,
Above the shoutings of the city clear,
More than a moment’s merriment, whose claim
Will greater grow with every mellowed year.

The people will not bear you down the street,
Dancing to the strong rhythm of your words,
The modern kings will throttle you to greet
The piping voice of artificial birds.

But the rare lonely spirits, even mine,
Who love the immortal music of all days,
Will see the glory of your trailing line,
The bedded beauty of your haunting lays.

Sara also tried kebabs for the first time, while I had a flashback to the döner omnipresence in Berlin.  Then, we found a book shop and browsed in bliss.  I found a beautiful French-Russian dual-language book of Anna Akhmatova’s poetry.

Too bad it's super cher

I have trouble resisting books of any variety, so I started reading my new friend Claude’s autobiography.  I like it better than that Camus nonsense I’m reading for class right now, or La Gloire de mon père (provençal writer Marcel Pagnol’s most famous book), which I am reading for my Provence (scrapbook) class.
Today, Sara, Laura, and I wandered around in Aix and shopped, and now we are preparing for tonight’s lucky pot by listening to Christmas music and cooking apples and cinnamon.  Mmm . . .

The first of December

1 December 2011 § Leave a comment

1 décembre 2011

What’s going on in auberge Bellegarde en ce moment?

The best Christmas music mix, providing an atmosphere of extreme cheer for me and Maggie

Carnet fun (giant assemblage of various things for scrapbook class)

Blog-hopping (significantly less actual blogging)

Reading L’Étranger*

Heaps of pinning (too much pinning?)

Happity-hap-happy first day of December to everyone!

My parents brought two boxes of candy canes when they visited. This is a somewhat serious addiction

*infinitely easier to read than L’Œuvre

Where Am I?

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