October 30, 2013

The 5 Worst Things About Being Short

Yesterday I shared with you what i thought was the best stuff about being Short. It turns out, being short has some drawback, too. Here are my top 5 worst things about being 5'00 and under.

1. The Armpit

So you're standing in the bus. There's no place left to sit. Around you are many commuters, and everyone is packed together like sardines. They cling to the tops of the railings, you try and hold onto the post in front of you - and you catch a whiff of the most putrid, sweaty, uncleaned armpit you have ever smelled. An arm is extended right about you. You turn your head down. Riding the bus, you live in the pits.

2. The Friendly neighborhood Arm Rest

You're talking with friends, as you do. It's a nice day, all the birds are signing, the sun is out and nice and warm. Suddenly, a shadow blocks out the sun. A weight is applied to your head. You know immediately what has happened.
You have become an arm rest.
The person next to you leans casually on your shoulder or head, chatting amicably with your friends. Like a friend leaning on a friend, this not new: but as a giant using his short friend as a walking stick, you start to feel yourself shrinking away.

3. The Worst Angle

Have you ever told someone "You've got a cold coming on" before they even knew?
Everyday, you look up to your friends, chatting with them as casually as you can under the circumstances. You know their every booger. As the light hits their makeup, you see their every poorly blended seam. You see your male friends trying to grow a mustache. You see your female friends trying to hide theirs. It's tough, living life from below.

You know you're short when every evening you need to apply arnica gel to your neck from having looked up all day. Why does everyone have to be so much taller than me?

4. The BMI Inconsistency

I'm 5'00 tall. To be healthy, I need to be 120 pounds TOPS to be healthy. My taller friends? They get an extra 40 pounds wiggle room! My portions are smaller than theirs, and I need to be more careful what I eat, because it SHOWS!

5. The Three step

You've probably all experienced this at some point. Your friends are walking, chatting, and you exhaust yourself keeping up, taking three steps for every one of theirs. Soon, you're almost running to keep up. Shorter legs are  pretty inefficient.

There are many more. The feelings of inadequacy. The feelings of shrinking, or of being invisible. Every day I have to deal with jokes that hurt me more than I can say. People have told me it's my fault, that i never ate enough vegetables, or soup in some cases, while I was growing up. But it's nothing more then genetics, and I have no control over that.

And I can't do my dream job of being an astronaut, because I am too short for NASA's requirements.
I will never got to space, because I didn't grow an extra two inches.
I've stopped waiting for a second growth spurt. It's never going to come.

Being short had many drawbacks, but the benefits help to balance that out. So to all those short people out there: keep enjoying the leg room!


October 29, 2013

5 Reasons it's Awesome to be Short

I've not grown since 8th grade, so I'm now a 4'9 girl whose French friends are at least five inches taller than. It's tough. The world is a strange place from down here, and there are some things my height doesn't let me do. It does, however, have some benefits.
Here are five great things about being 5'0 or shorter.

1. Leg room

Have you ever flown on a plane? Your knees hit the chair in front of you, making it impossible to move? Two large people sandwich you on either side, making you feel like a sardine in its can, unable to even breathe. Then the food comes, and you have to somehow balance the tray, your knees, and the people next to you so as not to make a mess. And you have to sit like that for hours on end.
Not us short people. For us, an airplane is an inconvenience, but at least we can have the slight comfort of fitting in our seats. My feet barely reach the chair in front of me.When food comes, I can pull out my tray, lean back, and enjoy the TV selection while my neighbors struggle to get comfortable.
I'm not saying I actually enjoy flying. Just that I have less reasons to hate it than most people do.

2. Hand me downs

Everything fits.
If a friend is going through their closet, it's so easy to say "Do you still want that?" and save a shirt for yourself. When a friend has made bags of donations clothes, guess who gets to look through them before they move on? That's right, the short girl.
And you think these clothes are not as good from being second hand? My new aeropostale shirt says otherwise. My ralph loren vest tends to disagree. The fact that these people are giving you their clothes rather than to some stranger means that they care for them.
So when 50% of my wardrobe is hand me downs, I can not complain.

3. The "Cute" Effect

When you're short, everything you do is suddenly cute. It's some magic I don't seem to understand, but that doesn't make me any less grateful.
Maybe it's something to do with being "mini". Who doesn't like mini things? Smart cars, mini coopers, mini bagels, mini golf, all wonderful things that are sometimes called adorable. It's like kittens or baby elephants. They're just smaller versions of the norm, but so, so cute.

4. The Best Angle

You know how (supposedly), taking a selfie from slightly above makes you look better?
Guess how short people are seen by the world.

5. The "Let me help you with that"

When a person like me goes shopping, it's a struggle. Items on higher shelves are out of reach for good. Luckily, there's always someone around who will help you get it down. Most of the time, tall, attractive young men. So... there's always a plus!
And when you're carrying anything, people immediately jump in to help. Maybe being short bring out the best in people.

So, as you can see, it really is great to be short, in many ways. However, I will follow up this post soon with reasons that it sucks.

So, 'till the nest time,

October 27, 2013

Buzz Aldrin is the coolest.

No, seriously.

We saw this yesterday at the smithsonian, during his talk on his new book, Mission to Mars. Which I got. AND HE SIGNED IT!

Ok, Nerd moment here. But seriously one of the coolest days ever.
Then I saw a bit of DC, took some obligatory tourist shots.

That's all I have for you tonight, Folks.


October 24, 2013


One of the toughest parts of being a TCK is not having the relationship with grandparents that "normal" kids get.
When you live on the other side of the world, all you've got are your parents and siblings. Your friends make up your extended family, and you see them on such a regular basis that your grandparents seem, at first, like strangers your routinely see once a year.  That is, until you see what grandparents really are. Once you grow up and know how much they hurt not seeing you. Seeing you grow up in photographs. Hearing of your accomplishments over the phone. With today's internet age, that is beginning to change: but Skype just isn't the same as being there.

As a kid, a grandparent's visit was second christmas: they would come bearing gifts, presents that would otherwise have been handed to you every one and a while if you had lived down the street from them, all given at once. It was mayhem. it was marvelous. Birthdays meant gifts for both kids, because it was cheeper to ship everything at once.
A visit to them was a momentous occasion. They would truck you around to all your extended family (great aunts, second cousins, all included) and show you off. "These are my grandkids from France!" Was said every few minutes. "Speak French for the man"as well (less liked). And that's when shopping would happen: enough clothes to last an entire year. I never had to go shopping, other than with them.

So as I grew, my relationship changed: and I realized that they were not giftgivers. they were not Santa. They were family, and it hurt them to be away from us. And it began to really hurt me.
My relationship matured. It pushes me to try to be the perfect grandkid, to make them proud, to try and spend all the time I can with them, however I can.

What a blessing to now live two hours from their doorstep.
My grands came down to pick me up and brought me back to the family farm, just for a 24 hour stay. It was wonderful. I just love to see them. We talked about graduation (and how there are no ceremonies in France) and about my trip to Monaco (they were impressed nine of us lived in a flat together for a week without any catastrophes). She fed me and would not take no for an answer; He told me stories of aliens and secret treasures. I played with the kittens who were born there. You deserve a photo, don't you, attentive reader?

OMG Kittenz!!!!!

I was also on a mission to find their lost weeding photo, for their anniversary next week. So, awaking at 4:30 (thank you, jet lag. Yes, still) I made my way to the upstairs to search for it. Unfortunately, my grandfather awoke then, because of course, great grandpa (still living on his own) wants help getting dressed every morning at 4 am. I made up some excuse about using the upstairs bathroom so as not to bother them. But their photo was nowhere to be seen. 
I skyped my father, and he managed to come up with a sneaky plan to go over to my great grandfather's and find it there, by telling the grandparents he was looking of a photo of him at 15 on a lawn chair (never found it - I don't know where he got the idea for that one). Lo and behold, he did have the picture. The only one, it seems.

So that was that.

My face is breaking out in pimples. I guess I'm not eating as healthy as I should. Oops!

Anyway, more kittens:

See you all soon,

October 22, 2013

Because I like to carve pumpkins. Sue me.

Today was the first time I ever carved a pumpkin.
So much fun!
I was covered up my arms with pumpkin guts as I tore the unborn seedlings from its fertile, meaty womb, pulling all insides out to be tossed, and carving upon its still warm flesh.
Wow that sounds gruesome.
Here are some pictures, though:

I forgot to take into account the curvature of the pumpkin - so my design looks a little wonky. But who cares? I had a blast making it. The cheep kit purchased at the nearby garden store broke pretty much the instant I started using them, so I resorted to using a nail and a screwdriver.
My host little bro (7) told me it looks like a "scorpion viking knight with an eyepatch". I personally don't see it, but I give him points for creativity. Love that kid.

Anyway, off to visit my grandparents tomorrow! :)


October 21, 2013

Pictures, Projects, and Crayons.

Today's going to be mainly text free. I'm just going to show you what I've been up to rather than telling you.

October 20, 2013

Megachruch Megasurprise

My church back at home ha a congregation of about 50. More or less come week to week depending on their busy schedules, and if they are even in the country. At home, my bible group is about 6 people. And when I was in sunday school, there were never any more than a dozen kids.

So imagine the culture shock for me to enter a so called "mega" church of 2,000 families this sunday morning. When the "youth" (teens) church had over a hundred teenagers in attendance. It was overwhelming, even terrifying. It was huge. I didn't know what to expect.

My biggest problem with Megachurches is how lavish they are. In the 15th/16th century, the church was regarded as being, well, greedy, taking gold from its practitioners and building ornate decorations in the church. Gold trinkets supposedly in god's honor. In these modern day churches, the gold is replaced by more expensive lights, by the number of projectors, the number of expensive gadgets for sound and music. Offerings go into the church... why isn't it going back into the community?
This is why I get annoyed every time a guest to our church complains that we have no cushions on our pews. Or that we only have one screen. or that our band is... well, two people, an acoustic guitar, and a piano, sometimes.  Because, the truth is, we don't need that to worship. We're here to praise our lord, not throw a dance party. Solomon danced for the Lord without a band to follow him up. I don't think God cares how much money we're spending on the place we are worshiping. He cares about how much we're working to spread his love in the world. Money is irrelevant.

So I expected a  community that resembled the church they had built. A community of people that were all flash but no bang. Boy, did I learn a lesson on judgement.

They had lights. They had a cinematic sound system. A band of about 10 people. And they had passion. They were singing full pelt not for themselves, but for God. They were sobbing and praying and loving. They were a community: they were a church.
Man, I'm ashamed to have had so many stereotypes. Sure they had money. But they are christian. Who am I to judge my brothers and sisters in Christ before even meeting them, just because they have large and expensive buildings. They care. They are Christian. They don't have a big church, they are a big church.

I'm sorry I thought so poorly of them before. Don't judge a megachurch by its prefix.


October 19, 2013

A Visit to the National Zoo

My first DC field trip... the zoo!
I was not disappointed. Located right in the middle of city buildings, condos, hotels, there is a little haven of nature and hundreds of animals, and you fee transported to a whole new world.

Along with my host mom Kristi and host little brother Matt, I got to see the place in a whole new way. The way a kid sees it. The world of "Did you know?"s and "I'm not kidding!"s and "Look at that!"s. And it was fantastic.

I could write pages and pages about the awesome stuff I got to see, but I'm sure it's a "you had to be there" kind of thing. 
The Pandas were nowhere to be seen - due to the new baby! How sweet! I'll return in jan/feb to see the new arrival. I can't wait!

Anyway, Here is some music:

A bientot!

October 17, 2013

Food Trust Issues

Moving to the states has been a little unsettling on my system. I'm slowly but surely adapting to the fluorine in the water, to the monster apples, to the unsettlingly bright colors of some fruit and veg. But the biggest thing I need to adapt to is the attitude to food here. In a place where food is a commodity, food is no longer just your fuel. And it's strange.

I'm lucky that the awesome family I live with appreciates good food and tries to avoid the processed stuff. But in this country, it's tough to do so, when the alternative is so expensive. It's sad to think that those living in financial difficulty will get health issues because their diet consists of cheep processed fats and salts.
And then there's all that candy... the absolute need to snack. Snack packs. Midnight snacks. A mid day snack. All that junk. Kids learn early to eat and absorb. It's scary. Nutrition is tough, and for some reason, kids aren't learning it. The culprit? I can't catch him. But suspect number one is television. Watch any kids show, see the advertisements. Kids, eat here, eat this! Nag your parents! Fresh home cooked meals are gross.  Fast food is a treat.
We live in a country where food companies will give money to schools where kids save tags off of their snack boxes. Schools are being partly funded by children's overeating and irregular food habits. What. The. Heck.
And don't get me started on eating games. No, really, don't. Suffice to say that living in france has taught me that having food to eat is a privilege, not a right, and it should not was wasted. Sick.

But the worst part is when you pick up food and read the back... and you see the lies. The foods calling "90% less fat!" that omit to tell you that means 90% more sugar. The hams soaked in sugar. The "Great for kids!" smiling cartooned breakfast cartons that get kids hooked on - you guessed it - sugar. We live in sugar culture. Fun fact: european brands tend to make their American counterparts sweeter, because if they kept them at a european level Americans don't buy them. Why? Not sweet enough. I can't drink a coke in the country, it tastes like I'm sucking on a sugar cube.
What does all this have in common? Sugar.
Sugar, the liar. Hides in everything. Sometimes you don't see it. You don't realize it's there. But then, one day, you eat a grape. And you think to yourself, "wow... these aren't as nice as I used to think they were.
Sugar is addictive. It's a dangerous substance. And I'm tired of not being able to trust my food, not knowing if it'll turn me against the food I'm meant to be eating to stay alive.

But there is hope. After this rant, I need to say the awesome things I saw today.

1) I went grocery shopping and found fresh french cheese in the shop. It was a Safeways, I think. My gosh, there was a buche de chevre. Fresh, strong, just like from home. I'm a happy camper.
I left that grocery store where not a single processed item. Everything we got was healthy and fresh. And I think for a family of four, (now five), the price was what it was. I was impressed.

2) A friend's mother owns a coffee shop/ bakery in this little community. The food there was incredible. I had a fresh wrap with grilled chicken, lettuce, and tomatoes. It was so, so good. Splurged on a fresh pineapple smoothie. To you this may seem mundane, But I had never in my live had a smoothie with a lunch. Ever. Or a pineapple smoothie, for that matter. Maybe eating well won't be as hard as I thought.

3) Tonight I gave my host fam a crash course on pizza making. It was a blast. The seven year old really loved helping with the sauce, even though he's a picky eater (I would love to see some research about picky eaters. I was definitely one growing up, only getting slowly getting over my food hurdles and discovering a whole new world). I made a goat cheese pizza with some that we had picked up earlier. Yummy.

All this gives me hope. I wish people realized how incredible food can be when people (rather than a pre programed machine) put effort into making a dish. Maybe then the country's relationship with food could begin to heal.


October 16, 2013

Decontaminate the Airport!

Finally, I've arrived in Maryland. Hurrah! And it has been one of the the most eventful trips I have ever had.

It all started well enough. I left home with my mother and sister, checked in quickly, said my goodbyes and waited in the terminal for my flight to start boarding. All normal.
And then the lights went out.
A minutes later, everything was back up and running, and nobody seemed very concerned about what had just happened. Now,  however, my gate had changed (so I almost got on a plane to Munich instead of Amsterdam) so I made my way over there and stood in line. About an hour later, I was about five feet from the desk when an aggravated woman in a S.H.I.E.L.D. sweater rushed up to the man taking care of boarding. The conversation went a little like this (translation done by yours truly):
"You can't board these people!"
"We're already halfway though."
"Well, you're an idiot, you're not supposed to be boarding them."
"And why not?"
"The electricity!"
"What about it?"
"It went out."
"I know, I saw."
The woman lets out an aggravated sigh and runs her hands through her hair, walking in brisk circles next to the line of confused passengers. At this point, none of us knew she worked for the airport security: she wasn't in any sort of uniform, no ID or anything.
"We don't know why," she said pointedly. "Security breach or something. We need to evacuate everyone, and decontaminate the area."
"Seriously?" The man replied, obviously flustered. "Since when?"
The woman started shouted at all of us to exit the terminal immediately in a calm and orderly fashion. In french, of course. A few American/British tourists we evidently left in the dark and were asking around what was happening, to which a man at the security scans replied "protocol".
We waited outside for about half an hour as the security officers sat on the plastic tubs and chatted about the poor weather. Any question was answered with "will be resolved soon" and no announcement was made.
A woman behind me pointed out that the Air France team had been striking a lot recently, against the mass layoffs that were meant to take place that next week. At this point she asserted that the security breach was an inside job.
Finally, went through security all over again, leaving me to explain the soaps in my carry on once more. We got right back in line for our flight as a first announcement was made, to reassure us that our flight to Amsterdam would be leaving, and I quote, "more or less on time"... It was now forty five minutes since we should ave taken off.
We boarded and left Marseille about and hour and a half late... my layover time at the next airport.

"Our team members are here to help you. Don't worry, you will all make your connecting flight."
Yeah... not when it takes the two minutes before you land, you won't.
I rush off the plane and make a mad dash to the screen, searching for my flight. Boarding: closed. And then, it was gone. I had missed it.
I found my way to a transfer desk and told them about my situation. No direct flights until the next day, unfortunately. However, if I rushed, I could catch a plane to Paris and then go to DC, making me only 3 hours late, instead of a full day. I agreed and they handed me my new boarding passes.
What with no available wifi, I rushed to the neared payphone, throwing open my wallet and finding a one euro coin. I dialed the number, regretting agreeing to record that very long, two language answering message eight years previously. I watched as the timer on the screen counted down one minute.
"Mom," I said hastily, "Missed connecting flight because France. Re-routed through Paris. I-"
"Sarah, is everything alright?" She asked, finally picking up.
"Mom, I don't have time," I said. 35 seconds. "Call this number: --- --- ----. Tell them I won't be there until 6:45."
"Ok. Sarah, are you ok?"
"I'm fine, I-"
And the line died.
I grabbed my carryon and dashed to the terminal, just in time to hop on my flight.

It's strange to think that if you hopped on a bus, you could see some of your best friends in less than half an hour. But that was also the amount of time I had until my next flight.
I rushed through the airport, getting all confused with the LKJEF terminals in that place, finally finding the right direction and running down the hallway. Cleared customs in minutes. Everything was looking up.  Found my gate, a little confused by the fact that I didn't have to go through security again. Had I missed it? I didn't care. I got into the plane, found my spot, and sat, exhausted. I then realized it was about 4pm, and I still didn't have any lunch.

On my left, a very large French man. On my right, an incredibly skinny American woman.
I hate sitting in the middle.
We took off smoothly, despite the weather. Soon the man fell asleep, his head rolling over and landing on mine. I pushing him away, waking him up, at which point he muttered apologies in broken english.
This happened about four times.
Soon food came - and it was airplane food, so not much to say about that. I tried to sleep a little, but that didn't work very well. I ended up watching episodes of odd cop shows I never heard of. And then that episode of friends that was a clip show. FUN.

You know, being small has its drawbacks, but at least you are a little comfortable when you're sitting on a plane. Except if you haven't moved in 8 hours, at which point your knees decide to find a better placement and quit on you when you need them most. Being short also means having to ask for help getting your suitcase out of the overhead, because there is no way you can reach that.
So I get off the plane. Get onto the shuttle. A french woman gets angry at an american because of one of them holding up the bus. I wasn't listening, but I couldn't help but hear. I reach customs quickly, go through, grab my bags, and walk out in the warmest reception I every had. There were even flowers.

I asked if my mother had managed to get through: she had, but the phone had been picked up by the 8 year old at home, so it never made it to her. Luckily, there's facebook. And internet in schools. ;)

So that was my adventure. I'm now exhausted and jet lagged... but I'm here.
And I'm so blessed by the people here, it makes up for everything wrong today.

A bientot,

October 14, 2013

Let's make cool pencil cases!

So here I am, packing my bags for a long, long stay in the US, when I realize that I have nowhere near enough pencil case space for all my art supplies. SO I did what any reasonable artist would do: I made my own.

You'll need:
25 cm zipper
A piece of plain fabric about 30 cm by 40 cm.
A sheet of transfer paper 
An ink jet printer
A sewing machine
An iron

It's very, very simple to do. However, You do need to have photo editing software. And maybe a small collection of badges.

Start off by scanning a page you like. I used old encyclopedia entries on weather, because It had some interesting illustrations. Just be aware that small details won't transfer perfectly on course fabric (like I used). It will, however, give it a cool grunge effect.

Now use your editing software to make your image black and white. I used the "Threshold" option on Photoshop, so that I have nothing BUT pure black and pure white. Don't forget to flip your image horizontally, so that your image will be the right way around when transfered. Print it out following the instructions for the paper.

Transfer your image onto the fabric, making sure to press down over the entire sheet. You know you're done when the transfer sheet seems fused with the cotton, but when you pull it back, this is important here, only the black has transfered, and the white has remained on the paper. 

Sew on the zipper, then turn the fabric inside out so that right sides are together, and stitch up the sides. Flip back around, and thats it! You can add a lining it you want, but that's a hassle. I find it works fine without. It's nice and sturdy and will hold all of your pens!

That's it. Hope this helped!

- Sarah

October 13, 2013

Let's make a simple hat!

This past week I returned to Laines Centre (the most incredible yarn shop in Marseille) so as to buy some yarn for a hat. I found a variation on the yarn I used for the sweater, still Katia "Aszteca", which I must say is my all time favorite yarn. It's soft and silky, and has the best variations in color you'll find anywhere. There was a grey to purple one I almost bought, but the blue of this one really sold it to me.

So here's the most basic hat pattern there is, for people wanting to keep warm int he winter. I find they take only a few hours to make. This one took three days of knitting in my free time.

For a basic 50 cm head, with a worsted yarn:
Cast on 110 stitches on needles one/two sizes down from the ones you will be using. This makes the ribbing tighter, more elastic. Knit about 10 rows in a basic K2, P2, so as to make a nice ribbing. 
Now knit a row using your larger needles. Increase by two so as to have a multiple of 7: You'll have 112 stitches.

From there I did a basic knit for another 10 or so rows. You want a good two to three inches before you start your decreasing. 
Now, here's where you must pay attention:
K14, Knit two together, K14, knit two together..
Knit a row plain
K13, Knit two together, K13, Knit two together...
Knit Row
K12, knit two together, K12, Knit Two together...

Now when I made this hat, I started decreasing every row instead of every other row once I reached the "K7, Knit two together" point. However, it's up to you if you want to keep on alternating or not. I find my hat fits the size of my head perfectly like this. 

Once you have seven stitches left altogether, run your tail through them, and use it to replicate the look of the basic knit. Hide the tail by doing a duplicate stitch.
And that's it!

it's so simple and easy to do, it's great for a first project, or a quick gift. Remember, when you're giving a friend a hand made gift, you're giving them your most valuable possession: your time. 

So enjoy!

A bientot,

October 12, 2013

Is Asterix and Obelix anti-American propaganda?

As a kid, I loved the Asterix and Obelix comics. I grew up on them, like most of my friends here in France, reading them whenever I could. Teachers even encouraged them for their historic accuracy (It captures Gaulle/Roman times very well, excepting the magic potion parts). So I was shocked to hear what the entire story actually "meant"... and more shocked once I realized it was completely true.

For those of you who don't know Asterix and Obelix, I recommend you pick up a book and read it right now. It's alright, this post will still be here when you come back. Take you time.

You read one? Good!
The basic premise is that all of Gaulle is invaded by the Romans, except for one little village, which manages to resist oppression thanks to a "magic potion" from their druid, which basically makes them invincible. It increases their speed, strength, and makes them practically invulnerable to anything the Romans throw at them.
There are no real French superhero comics, but one can argue that Asterix and Obelix are Super Heroes in their own right, even without capes or secret identities and so on.
And let's not forget the detailed inner workings of the Roman military force, the original city names of famous french towns, the Gaulle and ROman religious beliefs, dates and facts about famous battles and victories? These are places kids are seeing everyday, without realizing that history has been made where they stood. It's no wonder kids love "L'antiquité", or the age of antiquity, the age of Romans and greeks; you see it everywhere around them. And Asterix and Obelix bring that history to life - along with superpowered underdogs.
It's a story about friendship, and teamwork. Working together, the small village manages to remain Gaulle, and don't give into the Romans.  Just as France doesn't give into American influence and increasing globalization.

Wait, What?

Thin about it: Gaulle, the traditional, down to earth nation of hard working people. And the Roman empire is the modern, western civilization, which conquers and spreads its people and culture far and wide. We always see the Roman empire as being something grand and majestic, educated, civilized - but it invaded and erased many cultures they found to be lesser than they.
When the first Asterix and Obelix came out, in 1961, France was still recovering from the second world war. During this time, though, America was strong, a leading superpower in the world. Baby Boomer teens were buying american products left and right: listening to their music, watching American films, dressing in American jeans... It was almost an American invasion. America was involved with everything, from the victory, to the ERP (Marshall Plan), even pushing for the creation of what would soon become the European union.

But France is a proud country. Even today, even as we see large TNCs taking their steps into the Nation, as we see French traditions becoming mere tourist attractions, there are people taking a stand agains this loss of national identity. Taking a stand against globalization. And, most importantly, taking a stand against American influence.

You see the connections now?

France is the small Gaulle village, resistance the advance of the Roman invasion, or the American influence, by use of their magic potion, their sense of national identity. The comic book depicts a struggle between the little guys who don't want their country lost. Many of the books depict this. In Asterix's Tour of Galle, Asterix shows the Romans what for by bringing them the best of each region and using the country's strong heritage to his favor. In another (more modern by Asterix and Obelix standards), the "Domain of the Gods", The Romans build luxury apartments near the village in an attempt to reduce them to tourist attractions and slowly take over their culture by introducing the roman goods. Wow, this looks very familiar.

France fears globalization because it fear losing its identity. It fears how American influence will make them forget their country's heritage. How traditional processes are being changes for modern ones for money. It sees itself as fighting a battle for their home.  Just like Asterix and Obelix.

So maybe they are superheroes, in a way. I sure respect them.


October 10, 2013

To Market, To Market (In Provence)

If you've ever visited France, then you may already know about its famous markets. Aix is no exception - in fact, its markets are exceptional. As a local, I see them as a place to buy cheep clothes and good food. I also get to peruse cool stuff. It's a whole lot of fun.

But lately, when I bring visiting friends into Aix, I've begun to see them in a new light. I've begun to notice just how unique they are. How wonderful they are. And I've begun to worry about the fact my friends find them so foreign; aren't local markets a commonplace fixture in the world?
You get your fruit and veg fresh from the farmer. The cheese right from the goat. The raviolis hand made. Everything is local. You can ask any detail about the food you are going to eat.

So why are they disappearing? That's a topic for another day. Today, I'll just give you the "grand tour" of Aix en Provence's market.

The first thing you need to know is that when we say "market", we don't just mean a building with stalls in it. Nope. In Aix, we have a total of five markets, spread out across the town center. Most french cities mark out their town center by what's inside their "periferique" or "ring road". This has, for the most part, been placed around the exterior of the fortress walls that used to stand around the town in the middle ages. The road basically replaces the moat (where there were moats). In some places, you can still see the structures. For the most part, this town center is much older than anything outside of the ring road, and will have a more confusing layout, almost haphazard.

I recommend starting at the bottom of market n*1: the textile market. This stretched the length of the "Cours Mirabeau", the city's main street, if you will. The Rotonde roundabout is the perfect place to set off on this journey. It's pretty easy to spot: it's one huge fountain.

On this market, you'll find table clothes for a reasonable price, you'll find heavy duty fabric, you'll find shoes, clothes, even underwear, all really cheep. Make sure you check every stall, because some are pricier than others. Many try to be trendy, so you'll find a few knock off brands. Sometimes you'll get well known brands setting up stalls. This morning I saw a silk/cashmere shop that was selling 30 euro sweaters. Impressive stuff!

You'll then pass through the passage Agard (a tunnel through buildings, lined with shops) to Market n*2, the knick knack market. There you can find practically anything. Jewelry, for example, including this guy who twists forks into bracelets and rings. Pure silver, so they look really, really cool. You also have your tourist shops, selling the traditional sculpted cicada (some even "sing") and more table cloths. You also get the more modern shops, selling kitchen gadgets - which you really do need in france. These are everyday kitchen supplies, not ultra modern, ultra sleek contraptions. Mostly wine related. 

Then you have your soap stalls. These are made following traditional methods, locally, and there is such a great variety! Don't forget to say hi to the local stall dogs.


Then comes the best part: the antiques. You can get anything from 100 year old books to second hand DVDs and records. Plus, cool old french stuff. A lot of antique silverware sets, too.  There's a guy who collects pages from encyclopedias from the turn of the century and sells them a euro a piece. There'a also a man who sells coins and stamps, as well as war medals and medallions. Here's a glimpse at what I found today:

Next, make your way to the third market, the food market. This is just a wonderful place. You find fresh produce and fresh baked goods. Spices, cheeses, saucisson (french salami or dry sausage), grilled chicken, pastas, herbs, lavender... All the most wonderful things.

Cross the street and march up to the hotel de ville. There you'll find another food market, which has the added stalls of fish, and honey, along with more fruits, veg, cheeses, etc. You can feed a family of four for less than 10 euros just by grabbing veg, saucisson, cheese, and a fresh baguette. Many a night we would enjoy such a great, fresh meal.

You also learn things from the locals, who, once you get to know them, will amaze you with knowledge about cheese tasting, can recommend a wine for you meal, can give you inside knowledge about the best times to buy (because there really is) and when to avoid certain foods. They're wonderful people.

Finally, the last market: the flower market. Most of french weddings take place at the town hall, so what better place to establish a flower market? There's such a colorful variety, it's nice to stroll up and down the aisles of stalls to take it all in. Bouquets are made on the spot and are absolutely gorgeous.

I am always surprised about the number of tourists I see when i'm out shopping. Today I met a sweet American couple who were trying to find unscented soaps at the soap market (Almost forgot to pay for the soaps I was buying because I got distracted) and a few women trying to find the best lavender they could. I hear English everywhere. It's... well, it's crazy!

So now I have some fun gifts for my incredible host family in the states, which I am sure they are going to love. Fresh Herbes de Provence, Lavender, soaps, and Kider eggs (banned in the US) and Carambars (best candy EVER) for the kids. It's great.

So if you want a nice half day of French culture, visit a local market. Make sure to remember that they close at 12*!


* Markets are not usually open every day of the week. Aix has markets on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, but this varies from town to town. Just ask the locals or check at the office of tourism for your town's Market days.

October 9, 2013

Challenge... Completed

If you've seen despicable me, you'll know (and most certainly love) those adorable yellow creatures so fondly refereed to as simply "The Minions". These lovable creatures are so simple yet so entertaining, and even manage to make slapstick comedy entertaining once more.

After the bac, a few of us went out to watch the sequel - which was fun, even watching it in french - and once again fell in love with the creatures. As we left the cinema, Alix turned to me and, looking me straight in the eye, said, "Sarah, I challenge you to make a minion".

Now I think she meant knitted. Maybe sewed. Certainly not a living, breathing minion (though they would give a whole new meaning to man's best friend - I would love a minion to help around the house). So I took her challenge to heart.
I think she may have forgotten about it; I, however, certainly did not. As soon as I was done knitting my latest sweater, I grabbed all leftover wools and got to work knitting the creature, with my mother's help with the details. It was incredibly simple to do.

Ok, so the final result wasn't perfect. I think I'll go back and re-shape the mouth. I ran out of blue halfway through and had to make do , which is why he has such low rising overalls. However, since he's stuffed with plush toy stuffing my mother bought, he's so squishy!
No I have to figure out how to mail him to London. I hope she likes him!

Oh, It's Kevin, by the way. From the first movie; I don't know why they're a different Kevin in the second one. Funny fact: when I was in primary school, my french friends found that the two most "American" names were "Kevin" and "Jessica". I don't actually know many of either.

See you all soon,

 - 6 days 'till DC! I'm so stocked! Hopefully this government shutdown won't go on for much longer... -

October 7, 2013

Sunrise on St Victoire

I have to say that the St Victoire is my favorite mountain... ever. Well, maybe next to Olympus Mons on Mars, so I'll redefine that as my favorite mountain on earth.

Muse to the impressionists, to Cezanne, to Picasso, even, She sits on my front doorstep. I only have to cross the road to reach the first of may hiking trails.
But what's best is the sunrises. At certain times of year (Fall and Spring), the sun hits the clouds just right, and the mountain becomes the stage of a beautiful light show.
Just see for yourselves:

And that's just been in the last week! I'm so blessed to live here. I'm going to miss this when I move.

So I've been working on filling out tax forms, which is... difficult. Seriously, why were there no classes on this in school? We should be doing something about that.

You can buy prints of the St Victoire Sunrises I've been shooting over at my zazzle shop. I'll try to keep posting new ones as often as possible. You can also find prints of my artwork, of other photos I've taken around provence, and some cool shirts I designed. Feel free to shout out something you'd like!