Traveling Mercies

Well, we're back in good ol' Michigan. I maybe should have ended that sentence in an exclamation mark as it was quite the Event getting here... It was only supposed to take a little over twenty hours to get from Guebwiller, France to Lapeer, USA. Instead it took us 48. We were stranded in the Philadelphia airport for 28 hours as our original flight got delayed, delayed, delayed, then canceled. After spending a less-than-comfortable night sleeping in the airport (see picture on Max's blog from when we woke up), volunteering to get bumped on our 12 o'clock flight (giving us two free tickets), then volunteering again on our 2 o'clock flight (two more free tickets), then waiting as our 5:30 flight got delayed, then delayed again, we FINALLY arrived in Detroit, where the in-laws were waiting to drive us the 90 minutes it took to get home. Whew! But we're here, and that's what matters.
Max has been thrilled to watch TV he can understand, and I've been scrambling to find some more books to read. And we've both been battling the mosquitos and the heat. Later I plan to get crackin on making some cards as all of my supplies are stored upstairs in a box. But for now we've been hanging out with family and eating picnics. We just saw Rebekah, my sister, off to Syracuse, New York. She had her car all packed, managed to get her air conditioning fixed just in time for this awful heat wave, and she was off!! She acted as if she was just going for a quick trip to the grocery store, instead of moving to a far-away state.... She certainly has changed since she was that timid girl who was going off to college for the first time, unsure about everything. The New Rebekah is brimming with confidence and a taste for adventure! I sure will miss her....

Local Color

Blue: For our new house (carefully photographed to avoid the neighbors' houses)

Green: For the unwelcome visitor we had in our bedroom the other night!

Red: For Spaghetti Ice--obviously!
Yellow: For the brie cheese I often ate for lunch.
Brown: For the walking paths that wind through the myriad of vineyards on the hills behind the house.
Local Color (and Local Mom and Dad), I shall miss you!!

Breaking Rules

It's a sad thing when you break a self-imposed rule. On June 23rd, the last day of school, I made a promise to myself not to do anything education-related until we got back to town in mid-August. At that point, I would go to my classroom, clean out and re-organize my cupboards and my overflowing files, put up bulletin boards, brainstorm ideas for more lessons, and all of that fun stuff.
But then.....
I was surfing the net and came across a discussion board for new teachers on scholastic's website. A new teacher was asking for organization tips and a different teacher wrote her back and gave her two websites full of useful information. Curious, I clicked on the links. Before I knew it, I was thinking about the new school year and brainstorming ways to implement all of these great ideas I was finding on these sites. For the past two days now, I've been looking through the vast amounts of pictures, ideas, and advice on these websites. It's so fun, and a little addicting. And I think it was okay to break my rule this once, just as long as I don't burnout before the first day of school :).

Croatia P.S

(Suggestions for a caption? Anyone?)

Our Feathered Friend

I don't know how many of you out there know this, but my parents have a bird. She's an African Grey and her name is Gaby. We've had her for about 17 years now and she's supposed to live anywhere in between 40 and 80 years. Believe it or not, she's actually in the will! Gaby has entertained us for many years with her antics. In addition to teaching her all kinds of funny phrases that she'll blurt out at inappropriate times (most notably when she said "Whatever" during a momentary lull during a French Bible study at our house), she's amused us in other ways too. We let her out of her cage periodically--she just likes to sit on top of it and act like she's taller than everyone else-- and once she flew straight into the blinds and got herself tangled. Another time she flew right into the Christmas tree (it must've been all the dazzling lights). A few months after we taught her the wolf whistle, she did it as grandma was walking out of the bathroom wearing only a towel.... Ah good times.
Within the past few years, she's become what I like to call "psycho". She used to like me a lot but I noticed in high school that she would squawk furiously whenever I entered the room. Recently she's begun to pluck her feathers out so that she looks half bald... and half insane. We think maybe she's lonely but apparently there's "no way" we're getting another bird to keep her company. She also has some kind of problem with her nose and her nostrils are really big and stuffy. Oh, and her beak looks cracked but I'm not sure if it is.
The reason I mention Gaby is that we were at a garden store yesterday that was selling different kinds of birds. I saw three African Greys for sale and they all looked young, beautiful, and normal. (They were also quite expensive.) Maybe that's a good thing because if we brought another one home, Gaby might get jealous.... Poor bird. She's a mess but I love her anyway.


Well, as Max has dutifully pointed out, mom and I went out for another ice cream in Kandern's Eis Cafe yesterday. I ordered another spaghetti eis (I could have one at every meal and not get sick of them), and instead of getting teary-eyed this time, I just wanted to bury my face in it in an effort to shove the whole thing in my mouth because it was just that tasty. Sometimes I wonder if I have a problem....
Mom and I just got back from a pretty nice thrift store in France. It was very hot and muggy outside, and as there was no air conditioning inside, I soon found myself sweating (which is no big deal to everyone else but as I was never into sports or hard labor, it's a rather new and unpleasant feeling). But the good news, I'm happy to report, is that I got a cute shirt out of the deal.
Other than that, I've been reading quite a bit. I've strayed from Thomas B. Costain (not from boredom but from running out of his books) and wandered into the world of Jeffrey Archer. And what about this: they're now starting to make trailers for books. I'm not sure what I think about that yet.

Croatian Sensation

Ahhh, we're back.

We had a great trip, despite changing our plans rather last minute and ditching Venice (I'm sure it'll still be there to visit within the next ten years). Our two nights and one full day in Opatija, Croatia was worth the loooong car rides getting there and back. I never would have been able to stand the car sickness had it not been for the ability that the Lord (graciously) gave me to fall asleep at the drop of hat. Since I can't read in the car, it really is my only defense mechanism, no matter how much Max makes fun of me for it ;).
We arrived at our hotel and it was thankfully quite lovely (when booking through the internet, you just never know).

That evening, we found a restaurant that overlooked the fantastic coastline of the Adriatic Sea and ordered pizza. As it turns out, portions are quite small in Croatia (though the pizza was tasty). I reached the same conclusion when I used the bathroom in our hotel room and discovered that the toilet paper was dispensed one sheet at a time--picture an upside down tissue box. As the evening light became progressively dimmer, we opted for a stroll along the coast and an ice cream cone. The ice cream was practically gelato because of Croatia's relative proximity to Italy. They had flavors that were awesome... nutella, kinder chocolate, ferrero rocher... needless to say, I was in heaven.

The next day, after a very generous hotel breakfast (when there's all you can eat bacon, I can get a little crazy), the four of us headed for the "beach". I put beach in quotation marks because there's no sand. There's pavement/sidewalk, then water. At the edge of the water there were dozens and dozens of brightly colored lounge chairs and umbrellas for public use. Since we got there well after ten, these were all taken. Once we had settled on our towels on the cement, we plunged into the Adriatic. Actually, mom and dad plunged, and Max and I crept in inch by inch on account of the water feeling SO cold at first. We alternated between laying out in the sun and creeping into the water for a couple of hours, then decided to eat our lunch on our hotel terrace. And by lunch, I mean stolen breakfast rolls with meat and cheese :).

After lunch, we debated what to do next for quite a while. It was getting very hot and muggy, but despite that, we went on a walk around the coastline, finally landing at a little cafe where I had my first Orangina in I don't remember how long. We walked back to the hotel where mom and dad decided a nap was in order. I was only too glad to get back to the room as I felt in bad need of a fan--I am such a wimp when it comes to hot weather (and cold weather for that matter.... good thing we're in CA for the time being). Max and I watched Columbo in English on TV and learned some Croatian from the subtitles. I've decided it would be a hard language to learn (something that dad demonstrated as he tried to learn "Have a nice day" in Croatian from the hotel receptionist. The man was having a good laugh at dad's expense, I'm afraid!)

That night we ate at the Grand Hotel Adriatic at a secluded table for four overlooking the coastline. It was a nice way for mom to celebrate her birthday! Sadly, all the fresh seafood was gone by then, but everyone enjoyed their dishes anyway. We lingered for nearly two hours, enjoying the company and the view. Afterwards it was only fitting that we finish off the evening with another delicious ice cream cone. Have I mentioned that I like ice cream? We walked through boutiques on the way back to the hotel.

And the next day was our loooong car ride home. Thankfully, I slept for six out of the 15 hours we were on the road. (I'll try to beat that record on the way to Alabama!). We saw some amazing scenery on the way home as we drove through Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, then France. Needless to say, my hind parts were numb, despite a few stops to stretch. Here's a picture of us stretching in the Italian Alps ;).

Spaghetti Sentimentality

Two days ago, the boys went to Kandern (my "old" hometown and the site of Black Forest Academy, my high school) to play basketball, so Mom and I took the opportunity to eat ice cream at the Eis Cafe and walk around town. The Eis Cafe is a local ice cream parlor that I used to frequent VERY often during my days at BFA. It was a major social hangout and the scene of many high school dramas for me :). I haven't been able to go there in five years because they are only open in the summer and I usually visit in the winter. As I walked up to the shop, I tried to remember the owners--would they be there? Mom picked a table outside and I peeked my head inside. Sure enough, the wife of the owner was there and she hadn't changed a bit in five years! She smiled wide when I came in and I wondered if maybe she recognized me. When she came out to get our orders, she gave my shoulder a squeeze and said in German a very enthusiastic "How are you? It's been so long!" I was SO suprised (and flattered) to be recognized... I ate a lot of ice cream in high school :). The lady is Italian and German is her second language so you can imagine we did a big of gesturing to communicate. She pointed to her ring finger and exclaimed that I was married now. "Four years!" I told her. She asked me if I had any kids by showing an imaginary pregnancy bump on her tummy. I smiled and said no. Then we did a lot of smiling and nodding and Mom congratulated her on Italy winning the World Cup.
I finally gave her my order. What else? A "spaghetti eis". It's a glob of whip cream, on top of which is vanilla ice cream put through a little hand held machine and thus made to look like noodles. Then it's covered with a syrupy strawberry sauce and topped off with grated white chocolate made to look like parmesan cheese. It's FANTASTICALLY good--maybe you can tell from the picture. I've been craving one for five years! As soon as I bit into it, I almost choked up and cried. Call me sentimental but it was like eating a memory. As soon as I tasted it, it brought back a flood of high school memories I hadn't thought about in years. I feel so old.

Anyways, I wish you all could be here so that I could treat you to a spaghetti eis! There's nothing in the world quite like it ;). You won't be hearing from me for a few days as we are heading off to Eastern Europe for three days of adventure. We'll be staying at a beach town in Croatia, driving through Slovenia, and stopping for a short stay in Venice while the city is still afloat :).

French Skepticism Justified

At the end of last night's World Cup final, all that you could hear was eerie silence. Actually, I heard a lot of crickets. I think the whole country was sitting in shocked disbelief that their national team who had dominated the entire game lost to Italy in a shoot-out. But it was more than that. Their "best" player (Zidane) and hero totally threw the game by losing his temper and head-butting an opponent in the chest over some petty grievance, thus earning a red card and getting thrown out of the game during overtime. As Zidane was retiring after this game, this last act of his career will go down in history as selfish, prideful and ugly. What a shame! I can't wait to hear how the French news will spin this. Last night, the president of France was quoted as saying that "fate" was against us and that "chance" didn't go our way. How typical to pass off the blame!

Let's hope that the World Cup 2010 is a different story!

Sports and cars and sport cars

Forgive me as I post once again about the World Cup... it's hard not to catch the fever when you are here! I was watching the French national news the day after the big victory in the semi-final against Portugal. The news spent a full 35 minutes covering brief highlights of the game, and celebration all across the country. Apparently the entire country erupted in cheering, singing, dancing, and horn honking. There was also church bell ringing, fountain climbing and splashing, and running with lit fireworks. Crazy. I can't wait to see what happens on Sunday night when France wins. Because they will. Because I said so!

Anyways, we had big plans for sight-seeing in Switzerland today but the weather has thwarted us again. It's been surprisingly overcast and rainy lately after the first few days of sunny mugginess. Dad and Max are going to be playing some street ball with some French guys later today, but before that we're going to go see a free auto show in Mulhouse (yea for free!). I expect to see a lot of cool cars for midgets... that get like 70 miles to the gallon.

Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole!!!

Well, despite French skepticism, WE WON!! We all watched the France-Portugal game last night and France won one to zero because of a penalty shot. The Portuguese were gracious losers, I must say I was quite impressed. The other thing that impressed me is that as soon at it was over, you could hear loud shouts and cries of excitement from our neighbors and the town. The other thing you could hear was loud, continuous car honking for at least a good half hour. It was a little hard to go to bed with all of the cheering and honking outside. But that's what the World Cup is all about ;). Well, we'll have to wait until Sunday for the final game against Italy. They will be hard to beat!!

It's raining right now, and despite the nasty weather, Max is outside again working hard with a rake, hoe, and shovel clearing a mess of weeds from the backyard. Later, we'll be going to Colmar (a charming town about 20 minutes away) to pick up some friends about my age coming from California. They're staying at the house for a night as they make their way around Europe by rail. Wouldn't it be nice if this weather cleared up? In fact, now that I think of it, my dad's out in town on his bike running errands in this downpour. I don't feel too sorry for him, though-- when we were little and had to be outside when it was raining, he always said "Suck it up, a little rain never hurt anybody...". Right back atcha, dad :)!


Disclaimer: The next several weeks will probably have nothing to do with teaching, or being a teacher. Instead, it will be all about my summer vacation. And that is, technically, a part of being a teacher (arguably the best part...)

We finally arrived in France yesterday. How different it was to pull up to a new house in a new town! Everything about this new home is unfamiliar to me. Right away, mom gave us the grand tour. The house struck me as old, creaky, and typically French. It was also light, airy, and overall charming. The great part for my folks is that it is big enough to accommodate lots of people, which is vital to my parent's ministry. I enjoy this new house in a disconnected way. It seems devoid of all the memories the old house had. It will take some getting used to.

This morning I woke up at 6:30 after a ten hour sleep. I'm still jet-lagged but definitely feeling better than yesterday :). I ate one of my favorite French pastries for breakfast called a "pain au chocolat". It's flaky bread with a chocolate strip hidden inside. Then, I watched French cartoons. I was surprised to see "Spongebob Squarepants" translated to French (over here, it's called "Bob, the sponge"). Quite funny. After that, Max and I went outside to the front yard where our neighbor/landlady had invited us to pick all the wild currants that we wanted from a big bush (they're called "groseilles" in French). Later, we'll make a tart with them :). The red berries looked a little poisonous to us at first and Max made up a delightful song about dying from poison set to the tune of "A mighty fortress is our God". Don't ask...

Later on today we'll probably go to the store with mom to pick up some patio furniture for the balcony outside our bedroom. And hopefully, I'll be awake tonight to watch France play Portugal in the semi-finals tonight for the World Cup. Germany lost to Italy last night, which was a very sad thing indeed. The French, typically pessimistic, are not waving French flags all over like the Germans did to root for their team. We're the only house on the block that's waving a French flag in honor of the game tonight.... Ironic, wouldn't you say?
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