Monday, March 19, 2012

21st Birthday!!!!

I'm sorry it has taken me so long to write about my birthday (which was Thursday, March 15th) but I just had such a fun, busy weekend I just didn't have time!  As it turned out though, I had an absolutely AMAZING birthday!!  First of all, the weather was oddly gorgeous; a warm 70 degree cloudless day had everyone raving!  This was so bizarre because every other day before and since have been cold and mostly dreary, so the weather on March 15th was obviously a birthday miracle!!  haha ;) Also on my birthday, I got my first mail from America: a wonderful, thoughtful care package from my friends Mary and Lynn:

The girls sent me leg warmers, zebra print socks, chocolate, a water bottle (which I LOVE!!), a puzzle, a motivational book, chapstick, a sock monkey to chronicle my pictures with, letters, and Lynn bought me a scarf on her trip to Qatar!  I feel so lucky to have such amazing friends!!

Before I get too ahead of myself here, let me back up to the night before my birthday!  I went to dinner at a local American restaurant called "California" with Amelia and Maria because I was really craving a steak!!  And believe it or not, the place has delicious guacamole (we knew we were taking a risk with that one!) and quite possibly one of the best steaks I have ever eaten:

Yummy!!!  I think the trick to trying things like this is to not expect something in particular, but to keep your mind open.  If I had been expecting a Texas Roadhouse steak for instance, I would have been sorely disappointed.  But since I had no idea what my meal was going to be like, I was able to stay open to whatever I was served and my meal was in fact amazing!

Back to the day of my birthday .... so although I turned 21, I didn't actually go out that night because I have an 8 am class on Friday mornings, so I waited until Friday night to go out and actually celebrate!  I must say, I had a blast and was well taken care of on Friday night.  Quite a few of my friends came out and after bar hopping for a few hours, we went to Le Privilege, which is a GIANT dance club a little outside Angers city limits.  I had been there once before, so I knew I wanted to go there for my birthday celebration!  I absolutely love the music, the atmosphere, the pink lighting, just everything about the place! Also, Le Privilege does not close until 6 am, so we didn't head out that direction until around 1 am and I returned home safely sometime around 4:15 am.  Phew, so it was a long but extremely fun night! I feel very thankful to all my friends who came out and didn't try to kill me via alcohol poisoning (like I've seen other people go crazy on their friends' 21st birthdays)!  I was "force fed" (not really) fries and water all night, I was very well taken care of, to settle the minds of anyone who might have been worried!

I also went on an excursion on Sunday, so I will have to write about that later!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


I'm just now getting time to write about my trip to Normandy this past weekend!
First, we traveled to Caen, which is a city right next to all of the D-Day beaches, to explore the WWII memorial museum there.  It was very very interesting to read and learn about WWII from a non-American perspective.  I learned so many things I had not previously known.  The museum took you chronologically through the history of France from the end of WWI all the way to the end of WWII.   A lot more things happened during this time frame than I was aware of!  Here are a few of my favorite pictures from the museum:

I don't know why, but Hitler in front of the Eiffel Tower just really had an effect on me.  Made me realize how serious the invasion of Northern France was during the war.

French version of the "Juden" stars

A French soldier coming home to his family! :)

Found some American dogtags!!

After the museum in Caen, we went to the American cemetary at Omaha Beach.  Needless to say, I shed many tears here, which was odd to me because it was the second time I had been there and I had not cried before.  It's a very moving place.

This isn't even a fourth of the crosses (and jewish stars) that were there.

This is my favorite picture of the day by far, especially the blue sky!

After visiting the cemetery, we went to another part of Omaha Beach that has complete open access to the public (where all the pictures of American soldiers storming the beach were taken).  We were only allowed 20 minutes there, so we had to make the best of it!  We all stripped off our socks and shoes, rolled up our jeans, and dashed into the freezing cold water!  It was the first time I had ever set foot in the Atlantic Ocean :)

My "WHOOP 2013" in the sand! :)

Maria et moi

After all the beach excitement, we went to Pointe-du-Hoc (my personal favorite), which is in between Utah and Omaha beach (the two beaches that American troops stormed) and is basically a giant cliff that General James Earl Rudder stormed with his troops after they bombed the ever-livin' ever-lovin' hell out of it!  In fact, once the soldiers actually got up the cliff, they literally couldn't see anything because of all the dirt and smoke everywhere due to the amount of bombs that exploded on the surface.  It was utter mayhem, and there were many accidental ally deaths, but it was the sacrifice they knew they were making.

One side of the cliff

Me at the entrance of a bunker that is still completely intact

Good view of what the crater-filled surface looks like

completely obliterated bunker

more craters

Our final stop was the German cemetery.  It was a good reminder that all souls deserve to be respected and prayed for because not everyone that was a Nazi had choice whether they wanted to fight and die for that cause or not.

what the German graves look like

It was an emotionally heavy day, but it was a wonderful experience and I really am happy I got to go back to Normandy again.  It's a wonderful place where you can remember how lucky you are to be an American and how grateful you are for the thousands of soldiers who died.

Well, tomorrow is my birthday, the big 21, woohoo can't wait!!! :)
A toute a l'heure!

Friday, March 9, 2012

First Round of Tests!

So this week I had FOUR tests and I'm very happy to say I am DONE with them!!!  I must say, taking tests that are not in my native tongue is not my favorite thing.  Especially writing, I know the material I'm being tested on, but when I write I sound like a kindergartener!!  I've always had pride in being a good writer, so it's a little diffcult to feel like I'm starting from square one.  But it does make me feel better to know that all my peers here feel the exact same way I do.  We are all experiencing the same frustration, so at least I'm not alone!  I keep reminding myself that I've only been here a month and I've improved so immensely in just this short amount of time already, so I will be awesome at this by the time I have to leave.

To go on a tangent, I'm gonna talk about food for a little bit.  One my professors made a comment this week that "the french don't drink their milk, we eat it!" referring to the fact that french people eat a ton of cheese and milk is pretty much nowhere to be found.  I miss milk a lot ....forget the queso, the steak, and all the mexican food, I NEED MILK.  Drinking water at every meal is quickly getting old.  Speaking of meals, here it is considered rude if you do not truly clean your entire plate.  That's right, not one crumb of bread or drop of sauce should ever be seen on your plate by the time you're done with your meal.  I try and try so so SO hard, but I have no idea how these people do it!  In America it would look really odd and rude, but I sit there for a while trying to soak and scrape up everything with my bread, but I just cannot get my plate as clean as a french person's, no matter how hard I try!!  It's truly incredible.  Everyone eats SO fast, AND they all have immaculate plates that look like they just came out of the dishwasher.  Also, cups/glasses here are insanely tiny EVERYWHERE you go!!  Restaurants and everything, their glasses are enough for like two sips.  I've been annoyed by this from day one... why can't they make bigger cups so I don't have to refill mine 30 times??!

Anyway, I'm headed to Normandy tomorrow.  I went there about 4 four years ago, so it will be interesting to see how much I remember about it. Au revoir!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Not 1, Not 2, But 3 Umbrellas

Bonjour! I hope everyone back home is having a good day.  If you need a laugh, read on and have a good chuckle.

So before I came here, I was told that it rains all the time.  All day, every day, France is the land of constant rain.  However, it hasn't really rained at all until this week and I've been living here for a month!  In fact, within the first few days of getting here, I bought myself a little purple portable umbrella w/ some french text (3 euros) and a bigger, "nicer" clear umbrella with black hearts on it (8 euros).  I thought I had made some smart, responsible purchases and was, for the first time in my life, excited for it to start raining.  Needless to say, I've been let down.  So, it finally rained (and hailed!) this monday.  I pulled out my little purple umbrella that I have been keeping in the side pocket of my backpack.  Near the end of my 10 minute walk to school, a gust of wind caught my umbrella, turned it inside-out, and completely ruined it.  I was pretty upset, but I told myself it wasn't a big deal, it was a cheap umbrella and I kind of knew it was going to happen eventually and that's the whole reason I bought the other "nice" one!  If I really needed another "travel-sized" umbrella, I would just go buy another one, after all it was only 3 euros!  Well it rained again today.... I used my big clear umbrella and it worked fine until I was on my way to dinner with my friend.  And wouldn't it be my luck, THE SAME THING happened with this umbrella; the wind caught it, it turned inside-out, and broke!!  This time I was extremely upset because I thought this was supposed to be my sturdy umbrella, but it also broke the first time using it!  Enraged at my misfortune, I looked at my friend and said, "There is this awesome store I walked by the other day that has a ton of purses, bags, and umbrellas.  It's expensive, but it seems legit so we're going there."  We got to the little boutique (surprised it was still open at 6 pm!) and sure enough they had amazingly nice umbrellas .....most of which were in the range of 60-90 euros.  There was no way in hell I was going to spend that much on a stupid umbrella, so I almost gave up before my friend said, "Look Kelsi, this one is purple and pink and it's only 25 euros!!"  Desperate, I grabbed it.  It was then that the owner of the store asked us what happened, as I was holding a plastic umbrella that looked like it had barely survived a hurricane.  I explained to her that it was the first time I had ever used that umbrella and it broke, and this was the second time this had happened to me this week!  She felt sorry for me and assured me that the umbrella I was holding was much sturdier.  I asked her if I could return it if it broke, and she said I most certainly could but assured me that it wouldn't happen.  So basically I've spent almost $50 of my France money on stupid umbrellas, but at least I have a gorgeous one now that is guaranteed to withstand random gusts of wind.  It is pink and purple and says "chic, il pleut!" on it ....which doesn't really have an English translation so I don't know the best way to explain it to yall, but I think everyone knows what "chic" means and "il pleut" means "it rains."  It's pretty and really good quality, so hopefully third time's the charm.