Saturday, February 28, 2009

The one that almost got away

... or, you know, almost got out of meeting me.

So, the running joke on Saturday night with Billy was that John (his brother) did not exist. I met up with Billy, and he was all like, 'Oh, John says he's really sorry he can't come out, but he hurt his back and he hasn't been off the couch in four days.' Uh huh, likely story. Anyhow, in order to perpetuate this myth, I totally forgot to take any pictures of John or his awesome wife, Mei, when I met them on Monday night. Whoops!

To make up for it, I'm going to say some really nice things about them both, and then plug John's record label. I met John at the record shop where he works in the Islington area of London, a cool neighborhood. It was pouring rain, and I got off the bus (unknowingly) way earlier than I needed to, so I was pretty much drenched when I got there. John was, in fact, walking with a limp (due to a pinched nerve in his back), so I had to admit that a. he existed, and b. he was injured.

We walked to a nearby pub where we met up with his wife. Again, great conversation, again, mostly about music. We had several rounds of beer, some pizzas, and increasingly enthusiastic (slash inebriated) discussions. Mei took off, and I was thinking I should probably go, too, so I bought us one last round. But then John offered one last, last round, and I couldn't say no. I was having too much fun. I had a very pleasant(ly tipsy) bus ride home.

So here's the deal, John is so cool that he has his own record label, Here And Now Recordings, and you should definitely check it out. So, download his newest release for FREE (the best price), listen to other songs released on the label, and if you like it, buy some shit and tell other people about it. This is good stuff, people. Have a listen.

I did get to meet John and Billy's parents on Tuesday, as well (their dad is my mom's cousin, so I think that makes him my first cousin, once removed). We had a lovely lunch in a pub, where I ate my first delicious meat pie! Colin, my mom's cousin, expressed severe regret when I said that I liked Indian food, as apparently that would have been his first choice. I had pretty much eaten Indian food for every other meal in London, though (that is so the opposite of a complaint), so I was fine with a more English meal. Plus why would I not want a pastry full of meat and gravy on top of mashed potatoes? Billy came, too. He had just woken up.

Oh fer cute.

My mom's other cousin, Judy, and her husband, Andy, graciously put me up in Leamington Spa for three nights, which was awesome. A full size mattress on the floor was quite a luxury after several nights of hostels. I also got to see my Great Aunt Pat (Judy's mom) again, as she was staying with them (in the real spare room) while I was there.

Anyhow, my eyes are going to fall out of my head if I spent any more minutes (or hours) in front of the computer screen, so I need to go find something else to stare at for a while. Like a book. Or Jemaine on my Flight of the Conchords poster. Or Bret when I get tired of looking at Jemaine. Thanks for the poster, Dad.

We are family!

I got all my sisters second cousins with me!

Doesn't quite have the same ring to it... but it's true, I met all two of my second cousins while I was in London, and it was ridiculously fun. Like, probably against many odds, I think I would be friends with these people in real life. By that I mean, I've been to family reunion(s) before where I've been forcibly subjected to hugs from people I've never met before, and I'm like, 'Why do I have to hug you? I don't even know you.' But I did it, because they are my family and I'm supposed to hug them. This was not like that.

Billy and I met for drinks on the Saturday that I got into London. We both brought reinforcements in case one (or both) of us turned out to be awkward slash creepy. So, with assistant friends A and M in tow, I set out from the hostel to meet the boys near Oxford Circus. We were staying quite a ways out of central London, on the District Line which (we later learned) is pretty much one of the shittiest, more unreliable tubes lines ever. We waited for a train. And we waited. About 17 trains went by on the other side of the track towards Cockfosters. We cursed Cockfosters.

Cockfosters! Why! (Implied fist shaking)

Finally, finally, a train came, but it wasn't even going all the way to our stop. So we had to get off and wait again. Ridiculous. We did (about an hour and a half later) make it, at which I called Billy for directions to the pub from the station. This was our conversation (summarized):

Billy: Where are you?

Anne: Just leaving the station, okay, I can see TopShop.

B: TopShop? Okay, walk away from TopShop, and away from the Station.*

A: Okay, wait, away from the TopShop. I see an H&M, too. Should I walk away from the Station between TopShop and H&M?

B: Um, walk away from both TopShop and H&M.

Needless to say, we were not going the right way, and this conversation was, in fact, spread over two or three conversations. We decided to just meet in front of TopShop, which was good, because we were very much walking away from the pub where we were supposed to meet. Luckily, just getting there turned out to be the most painful part of the evening.†

It was great. We talked about music, the arts, nerdy stuff. Billy is a drummer/drum teacher (I guess there must be some kind of artistic gene in the family), and I think there were only one or two awkward pauses in conversation, initially. We had to leave the first pub around 11... because they were closing! Wtf, London? Gruff (Billy's friend) got us into this 'member's only' club thing. We got into the upstairs, which was a pretty small, crowded room, and all of the seats were taken, but they were playing some pretty awesome music. At this point, A and M were fading fast, so we just had one drink, and headed out.

Then we faced the catastrophe of getting home, which I described in a previous post. But look how happy Billy, Gruff and I are while we're waiting!

L to R: Gruff (real name Gareth), me, Billy

It was a ridiculous wait, ending in a bus ride and taxi home, and I was forced to exhibit my limited break dancing skills as entertainment. I thought I was being all clever when I said, 'I can't do anything on the sidewalk without cardboard.' But then some shopowner had put out a big box of cardboard right behind us. So I had to.

This entry has gotten really long. I'm going to start another one to talk about second cousin numero dos, technically brother numero uno.

*He did give some specific street names at this point, but I don't remember what they were, and it proved useless in any case. Why? Because you can walk in, like, 8 different directions "away from the station."

†Save, trying to get home after midnight on a Saturday night in London.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Edinburgh > Flers

Yeah, so I know you guys have all been just dying to know what I did with my last couple of days in Scotland, so I'm going to tell you.

First of all, did I mention that Edinburgh is the bomb? For real. Beautiful, big city, right next to this cliffy, mountain thing. So, it's basically everything I love in a city (old buildings + things to do*) and also lots of beautiful nature and parks. And bikes everywhere! Check this out:

Traffic lights just for bikes! I love it. Even more bike lanes than Minneapolis.

So yeah, it basically didn't even matter that I was struggling to understand everyone for the first-- well, for most of the time I was there. This only proved to be extremely frustrating on the night I arrived, when the bus directions I had written down for the hostel proved inadequate, and I had to ask for directions like 17 times. Because every time I asked (usually requiring at least one repetition), I would just sort of be like, "Um, okay left? Thanks." Because that would be the only word I would understand.

This was, however, nothing compared to the broadness of the Scottish highlands accent. On Friday, I took a 12-hour coach tour up to Loch Ness, which was mostly awesome for all the stuff we saw on the way up. Oh, and our super-opionated/seasoned tour guide/bus driver. There was also, unfortunately (for her) a very motion sick Spanish girl with her Spanish friends on the bus. I tried to help translate for her friend when she was looking for a train back (to avoid further motion sickness on the ride back), but I've been like speaking French a lot? And my Spanish is pretty remedial and Latin American to begin with, so I think I just made things more ridiculous.

See? Pretty! I don't know who that person is.

So after that 12-hour adventure (sorry, I didn't see Nessie), I decided to go to an Improv show in Edinburgh. I miss theater. Like, doing it. It was all games (I prefer long form), but fun in any case. Plus the crowd was really into it, which is always good to see. Did I mention I got the last ticket? Because I did. I tried to go with this other girl I had met at the hostel, but we got there and there was this long line and only three tickets left! Apparently two people took two of them, and then no one in front of us wanted to go alone. I braved the awkwardness of the crowded lobby full of socializing Scots to see the show.

On Saturday I did some more wandering around Edinburgh, then took the train over to Glasgow. I saw a show there called Defender of the Faith, set on the Irish border during the Troubles. The play started out with an unfortunately cast child actor (I couldn't make out a think he was saying, and neither could anyone around me, judging by the way they were leaning in), but luckily his character "goes away for the weekend," and then it got better. I would give a detailed review, if I weren't so lazy.

Saturday night, I stayed in Kilmarnock with another assistant who lives there, and we flew back to France at the ungodly hour of 6:45 the following morning. Just a quick hour-long bus ride from the airport to Paris, a hop or two on the metro, a long wait for the train, and a two and a half hour train ride back to Flers!

Boy, it's good to be home.†

*One part of this equation is missing from Flers.

†I do not actually consider Flers my home. Also, that was sarcasm.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


Um, I just dropped my tweezers down this drain.

How is that even possible? Aren't you supposed to use tweezers to extract objects from such a drain under such circumstances? I don't have enough pairs of tweezers for that kind of operation!

My eyebrows will suffer the loss in the days to come.

Oh yeah, so I'm back home in Flers.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A little more better*


Phew. It was really nice to get some sleep last night. I'm staying at this really nice, quiet hostel in Edinburgh, and despite the ridiculous difficulty I had in finding it last night, it's actually quite close to the center of town. I'm going on a walking tour in about an hour, and (don't worry, Neely) I plan on checking out the Parliament building later today.

As I breifly mentioned in my last post, I had a long day of travel yesterday. I took the train up from Dublin to Belfast (beautiful), then the ferry from Belfast to Stranaer, then the train from Stranraer to Glasgow, and finally a train from Glasgow to Edinburgh. I (believe it or not) did this on purpose. The last time I was traveling, I was doing a lot more flying, and it got to be a pain in the ass. It 'saves time' to fly, but I hate the lines and the disorganized airports that ryanair flies out of. So I made and epic journey. Here is a map of where I've traveled so far:

View Larger Map

A. Paris

B. London (arrived by Eurostar train, via the Chunnel, which was just dark and unexciting)

C. Leamington Spa (stayed with relatives, arrived by train)
  1. Day trip to Warwick Castle
  2. Day trip to Stratford-Upon-Avon
D. Holyhead, Wales (arrived by train, just there long enough to catch the ferry)

E. Dublin (arrived on Irish Ferries, cool look out deck for arrival in Ireland)
  1. Weekend trip to Kilkenny, Ireland
F. Belfast (arrived by Iarnród Éireann [Irish Rail] train, really pretty trip)

G. Stranaer, Scotland (arrived by Stena Line ferries, nicer interior, but less outside viewing space)

H. Glasgow (arrived by ScotRail, changed trains at Glasgow Central)

I. Edinburgh (finally arrived by train!)

Tomorrow, I'm planning a day trip up to Loch Ness, and Saturday I'll need to get back to Glasgow to catch an early flight out.

Europe is awesome! Hopefully I'll have time soon to write about some culturally ridiculous things I've observed in my travels. Thanks for reading, folks.

*See BSB debut album, circa 1998

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


I am so glad not to be wearing my huge, yellow biking backpack at the moment.

I started off the day (early morning) in Dublin, and now I'm (finally) in Edinburgh. I kind of got lost trying to find my bus to the hostel, but the train-ferry combo was the bomb, and shockingly cheap.

More to follow, but only minutes of free internet left at the hostel.

In the meantime, look at this map and try to figure out where I've been in the last week (I'll fill you in later).

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Hey, folks, I'm in Dublin again, and this time I took pictures! I just can't seem to stay away from the UK (and The Republic of Ireland, unaffiliated), and as soon as I get home to my cra-- I mean, quaint little town in France, there will be much uploading of pictures.

In the meantime, I will tell you that I met some more distant relatives (well, you know, second cousins and stuff), which was awesome, and that I totally fell in love with London and am seriously considering moving there in the not-so-distant future. Although if those customs agents gave me so much shit for a short visit to London, I'm a little worried about the interrogation I might have to undergo for something longer term. But there is totally a temporary work - creative and sporting visa, the juxtaposition of which kind of cracks me up. They're basically like, 'If you want to come to England and be famous, apply here!' I like this requirement the best:
"Before assigning your certificate of sponsorship, your sponsor must have an endorsement for you from the governing body for your sport, which confirms you meet the governing body's requirements to give their endorsement."
Yeah, I like this because it's right in the middle of the combined creative/sports section, and they don't really mention the creative bit. I'm hoping the explicit 'governing body for your sport' part means it doesn't apply to me. Otherwise I'd better brush up on my monologues and get over to the consulate for an audition.

Promised posts to come upon return to life-of-way-too-much-free-time:
  1. Cool family members I have met
  2. A review of the art in the National Gallery in London
  3. Pictures that I have been taking
  4. Probably something snide about how everywhere I go, I see at least two French people a day and I always kind of want to punch them for speaking French all the time

Monday, February 09, 2009

I see London, I see Fra-- London...

I am sitting in a very expensive internet cafe ready to share with you (in the next 20 minutes) everything I've learned about London.

1. The British Customs Officers are a mean, nasty bunch. I had to go through customs in Paris before catching that Eurostar train (don't worry, folks, they totally had things up and running again on Saturday after that dire weather emergency), and they had some real, live snotty English people to help me through the process. The woman I dealt with gave me so much shit about the fact that I didn't have the address of where I was staying (even though that would have been like 12 places) and told me it was "grounds for refusal." Then she made it all personal and was like, "If it were me trying to get into America there'd be no argument. You have to know the address." Listen, lady, I'm not the effing INS, I don't make the rules, just let me go on my vacation. And she did. After much further badgering.

2. The Tube. What's the big, fucking deal? I know some (snobby) people who studied in London and were all like, "Oh, the Tube is soooo much better than anything we have in America." There were two lines closed this weekend for repairs, and (as we later found out) both our hostels were located on notoriously slow lines. They're supposed to come every seven to eight minutes, but we often ended up waiting upwards of 20 or 30 minutes. Which leads me to point three.

3. The bus = mostly more reliable than the Tube + lots of things to see out the window + crazy late night adventures. The first time we had to take the bus was on Saturday because the Tube closes at 12:30! On a Saturday! The bus we were actually waiting for seemed to be indefinitely delayed, so we took a different one and ended up having to pay a cab to get the rest of the way home, in the end. But while on the bus (in heavy traffic), a very drunk man fell on (not to be confused with stepping into the vehicle), accompanied by his slightly less inebreated friend. This second guy proceeded to try to speak in many foreign languages with the other (foreign) bus passengers and set A up with some guy sitting accross from her named Mohamed.

Today our bus driver hit a pedestrian. Hit someone. She wasn't bleeding or anything, but we all had to get off and walk the rest of the way into town.

4. Big Brother lives here. The whole damn city is monitored by CCTV, there are cameras in all public areas. [Awesome and relevant photograph of grafiti to be added later]


Added.  I love that this was painted under surveillance.

Now my time is up and I don't want to be charged more than half an hour! But I'm actually having an amazing time. More to follow.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

A belated note on Obama

Don't worry, guys, just because I'm in France doesn't mean I've totally lost touch. I know that Obama is the new president, and I even watched the inauguration on youtube after the fact. I tried watching it on TV, but the French dubbing was bad and annoying; I mean, one of the many refreshing things about Obama is the fact that he has a nice voice and that he's an eloquent speaker. I got tired pretty quickly of straining to hear him beyond the voiceover. But like I said, I watched the speech, and he was awesome.

And can I just say that Michelle and Barack are the cutest thing ever? They were totally making eyes at each other the whole time he was being sworn in.

Okay, so, maybe not in this picture, but doesn't she look so proud!

Thank you to Jezebel for this video clip of their first dance at the Inaugural Ball. Are they not just so in love?

And Beyoncé is the shit. She totally brought it, and I totally teared up.

Global Warming, anyone?

So, first I get emails from all of my friends and family around Christmas reporting ARCTIC BLAST 2008, the cold front that hit the Pacific Northwest in December. Keep in mind, when I was a kid (and I'm pretty sure this still holds true), a quarter of an inch of snow could seriously shut down every school district in Vancouver, WA. This is a photo (courtesy of my mom) of her front yard/the street in front of the house.

They got 18.9 inches of snowfall! And then it snowed again in late January. I can't tell you how unheard of this is.

And things are no less bizarre over here. Ten people have died in Spain and France due to extraordinarily high winds, there has been serious flooding all over the south of France, London was shut down on Monday by a cold snap, and it's snowing in Flers. Just look.

Normandie: France:: PNW: USA*

This is extremely unprecedented. Are there really still people out there who don't believe we are in the midst of some serious climate change?

I'm supposed to be taking the Eurostar train to London on Saturday. All of this morning's trains from Paris to London have been canceled. Did I mention that London was totally paralyzed by snow? Like, shut-down-all-the-airports-and-stop-running-trains paralyzed? This had better all be cleared up in the next few days. I'm not spending my vacation in Flers.

*Remember analogies and how many you had to memorize for the SAT? Okay, probably for the GRE, too, I wouldn't know.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Some Classic Moments

baiser /be'ze/ (n. masc. French)
1. a kiss

baisser /be'se/ (v. French)
1. to lower
2. to turn down

baiser /be'ze/ (v. French)
1. to screw
2. to fuck*

I probably don't need to explain any further, but I will.

A few nights back, I was drinking with the other language assistants, and we started recounting all of the stupid/embarrassing things we've said by accident in French. One of the German assistants, A, we'll call her, suggested we start a list, for posterity. I thought, Why not? It's always good to look back and laugh at yourself.

So, let me just start by saying, pretty much everything in French seems to have some kind of sexual connotation. You know, the kind of second meaning they don't teach you about in school. One time H, the other German assistant said, 'Oh, ça me fait envie!' which should just mean, 'That makes me want to do it/try it!' (whatever 'it' might be in the context). But apparently, in France, they say this when they really want to do it. You know? Do It? A co-worker of hers kindly explained this after she had already said it to someone else.

My favorite stories, however, have to do with the misuse of the above-described, very delicate word: baiser. Both A and I have fallen victim to this trap. But her story is funnier, so I'm going to tell it first.

So A is a competative badminton player (I know, could she get any more German?) and she practices at a club here in Flers, although apparently nobody is as good as her what with her being a competative player (German)† and them just being silly French people who are out to have a good time. They probably drink wine instead of water during the practice, I don't know.

Anyhow, she was complaining to us one night about the French tradition of kissing people on the cheek, whether you know them or not, both upon arrival and departure. She was like (in French), 'Yeah, I was at practice, and I only know one person there, and I was already sweaty and tired, but before I left j'ai baisé tout le monde!' 'I screwed everybody!' she said. Priceless. The best part was that she didn't realize her mistake until the rest of us were falling out of our chairs laughing. But at least she just said it to us. It could have been worse. She could have asked them all if she had to screw them all before leaving.

My story is milder, but slightly more embarrassing, because I did say it to a stranger. I had to go to the dermatologist a few weeks ago because my skin was getting super dry and making my eczema unbearable. So, anyhow, he told me some interesting stuff about humidity‡, gave me some creams, and told me to take colder showers. What he actually said was, 'Il faut baisser la température de vos douches,' or, 'You need to lower the temperature of your showers.' So, there I was, trying to be all confident and conversational, so I responded, 'Oui, je sais, mais c'est difficile à baiser la température pendant l'hiver.' 'Yes, I know, but it's difficult to fuck the temperature during the winter.' The man didn't bat an eyelash. I suppose it's a good thing I told him I was foreign. And of course I didn't even realize what I had said until it was too late to go back and correct it.

So there you have it, a lesson you (or I) will never forget in French; don't say fuck when you really mean lower, and especially when you really mean kiss. Especially then.

*Okay, so technically, in real, written, dictionary French, it also means 'to kiss,' but no one ever, ever uses the verb in this way.

†A is an awesome, hilarious person, and if she ever reads this, she should know that all of the racists generalizations I'm making are, in fact, entirely in jest.

‡So, people in Normandy are always complaining that it's so humid because it's raining all the time, but the humidity here is actually like 20% lower than it is both in Washington and Minnesota. So that's why my skin was freaking out. Silly Frenchies.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Mondotek-Alive vs. Teletubbies

Omg this is so weird but I love it and it totally cracked me up. First go back and watch the video in the tektonik post, if you haven't already.

I swear I've been traveling and stuff, not just watching youtube all the time.

Not all the time.