28 September 2011

Say My Name, Say My Name

I don't know how to say my name in French.

Every single time I tell someone I try in my best accent Reh-beh-kah. And they're like "What? Roberta? Roterba?". NO! Where did you hear me put a T in anything I just said? I usually have to repeat myself at least three times before I give up and say Rebecca in my good ol' American accent. Then they're like "Oh! Réh-beh-kah, enchanté." Yes, that's my name, and it's what I've been saying this whole time. Maybe for the rest of the year I'll tell people my name is Pierre.

27 September 2011

Les Pâtes Ivres

Drunken Pasta

3-4 large mushrooms
1 onion
clove of garlic
bottle of red wine
fresh pasta (not dried, although that works too)

In the bottom of the large saucepan saute the onions and garlic together in the butter. Add the sliced mushrooms, salt and pepper. And maybe some more butter. Once that is all nice and almost crispy add half the bottle of wine and fill whatever space is left of the saucepan with water. Bring to a boil. Add the fresh pasta once the water is bubbling. Be careful not to overcook, it should only take about three minutes. Drain and serve with parmesan on top. Bon appetite!

26 September 2011


This is a short clip of the flamenco I witnessed at Mercé 2011, Barcelona

À tí

 She gave me the chickenpox when I was younger. Our younger siblings destroyed my Barbie play house when I was about three. Once we both moved to the States, we saw each other once in a blue moon. And now, Cassie and I were walking the streets of Barcelona at their biggest fiesta of the year. Mercé 2011 celebrates the patron saint of the Catalan city on the Mediterranean and amounts to all night concerts, bustling lively streets and sangria.

My 5 hour bus ride started pleasant as I talked to a widely traveled Canadian. However, as we sat a younger man behind us began to drink. About two hours later and a bottle of something he joined the conversation. At first he was pleasant. Then we hit a lull in conversation and I sat back to get in a little nap before getting to Barcelona. Next thing I knew, he was stroking the back of my arm through the gap between seats. He popped his head in and bluntly I said to him “I don’t think it’s appropriate for you to be stroking my arm”. He stopped and I was pretty proud of myself, a little strong-independent-woman moment.
I got to Barcelona at 9 and Cassie, her friend Katie and I found each other pretty quickly, dropped off my bag and hit the streets. There was mood lighting, music and grinning people everywhere. There’s another Arc de Triomphe. A lovely park with one of the most extravagantly lit fountains I have ever witnessed and a quaint charm that seems misplaced in a major metropolis. We found a flamenco concert and watched the dancers stomp their feet like angry tap dancers to the emotional music. Tapas were had with some seafood I had never encountered. I wish I knew what it was because I would like some more.
Saturday we woke to rain. A sprinkle and a pour, we roamed the streets briefly saw the Sagrada Familia before grabbing some empanadas and heading to the beach. It was calm and overcast but ready for tourists, which is very different from the relaxed coast of Montpellier. After about six straight hours of walking we treated ourselves to some of the richest gelato and went back for a repose. After some much needed sitting and the making of homemade sangria (recipe to follow), we hit the town once again. Saturday night we returned for tapas, saw a live jazz band, an indie band and we finished the night dancing for an hour to I don’t even know what; some sort of folk, local pop rock. Barcelona surely knows how to party and I must say my American butt can’t quite keep up.
On Sunday, Cassie and I took it easy and made plans for her to come run the marathon in Montpellier October 16th. I’m very excited for her and glad that, after not seeing each other for about three years, it’s like I saw her yesterday. Barcelona was a magnificent, gaudy and almost kitchy maze of plazas and streets but never felt uncomfortably like a ‘big city’. The food was amazing. I returned to Montpellier tired, stinky and one jar of dulce de leche richer. And now, it is time for my Applied Sociology class.

1 bottle cheap red wine
1 sliced orange and its juice
7 splashes of Sprite
some 9 slices melon
exactly 1.5 tablespoons of cinnamon
12 ice cubes
A giant bowl
1 beat up plastic water bottle (easier to take on the streets). First mix all ingredients in a giant bowl. You're supposed to let everything "simmer" for up to 24 hours, but one does the trick. Makes sure to squeeze the orange good and then slice. 
Waiting out the rain
Might be a poor college student's best friend

17 September 2011

Because when waiting you must make lemonade...

I think I might have fallen in love yesterday. And although marriage might be a bit premature, Montpellier and I are on the path to a serious relationship. A serious relationship of exploration, old and new, hidden gardens and good new friends, perfectly angled sunlight and shiny streets.

Americans Sarah, Emma and I took a little stroll Friday afternoon and as we hit a certain part of town, not too far from the silly campus area, a complete wave of awe crashed upon me. I am living in the south of France, surrounded by glossy brick rues and salty air. How did this happen to me? 

Grant it, paradise comes with flaws. Everything here runs on a menstrual cycle; meaning you are going to have to wait until someone has the energy to help you or 28 days. However, my only option is to wait patiently for my bank card, food stipend and phone. I'm starting to understand why the French linger. The lingering Frenchmen at the bar sipping white wine, leaning at the train station with their cigarette or making an espresso shot last for 30 minutes is a symptom of the pace of business affairs. No one here is in a rush to help, to file your paperwork or give you the money that is owed to you. Not adopting this sentiment would only lead to frustration thus I find myself sitting at a café obnoxiously long or feeling free to 'not take care of business'. My new business adventure is beach bumming.

On the 17th of September, the Mediterranean was warmer than ever before. A gang of us hung on the levee rocks, swam and played in the sea. I plan on coming back to the States with a jar of shells and sand in my shoes.

I have moments where I'm stressed and where I wish I could share everything that I'm experiencing with those I love. There are moments when I can't understand a lick of French and triumphs where I conducted an interesting conversation. The duality is a necessity and the balance I'm striving for doesn't seem out of reach.

I'm joining a frisbee team. My two sociology classes are challenging while my French courses greatly help my confidence in conducting interactions with 'the French". I'm learning how to do translation work. I've even been able to practice my Dutch. And on Monday I start an Italian course, because why not?!

11 September 2011

Un Vélo et Marché aux Puces


The days are going by quick here. There never seems to be a day that doesn't go by without a festival, shopping trip, dinner or walk.

Emma and Sarah vogue-ing
Class Trash: Mussels and Wine
Today (Sunday), I bought a bike at a flea market. It's a stolen bike. A shit bike. But it was only 30 euro. There was haggling and there were old men getting all up in my grill demanding more money/less money/ bike adjustments/ warning me that I am going to die on the bike. To say the least it was an event that itself was almost worth the 30 euro. This bike is going to get me to the beach. It's going to take me grocery shopping and it might even take me on a countryside ride to a local vineyard. Overall, a good investment.

Oh, The Places We Will Go
The market was pretty insane and totally hip. It's in the 'ghetto' of Montpellier and lined with sellers and their sketchy vans. All the clothes, pottery, bikes, food, headlights, stolen shit is splayed out on the street and you are more than welcome to haggle with the snaggle-toothed men and women. I felt that taking my camera out to show y'all would've just become another item for sale. Nonetheless, it was fun. Some friends and I were able to find a streetcar to try some authentic Moroccan food, get some cheap shoes and proudly wobble our new bikes around town.

Every once in a while, I must say the humidity and simple things are running me down. A cold has been meandering through the group and it ain't so pretty. Some TLC would do some good but in a foreign country where you can't figure out how the washing machines work it's difficult. I had to hand wash my towels and after two days they still aren't dry. I'm glad I'm here still, I'm excited for my courses, I'm excited for my trip to Barcelona that is in the works, I'm glad that my dorm looks a bit friendlier and that I can hit the hay in safety.

09 September 2011

Des Moules Espagnols

Registering for classes here goes like this:

  1. Look on internet for 'listing'
  2. Go to building to find time/date/room number. Don't know where building is. Ask for directions. People laugh because they don't know where the building is either. Find building. Perspire from running.
  3. Stand in long line to 'pre-register'. Most things closed from 12-2 for lunch. Then close again at 4.
  4. Go to class for three weeks to see if you like it
  5. Sign up by Sept. 26
  6. Do administrative registering and registering with the teacher
  7. Register for exam at end of semester.
Where is there any efficiency? I'd take LOUIE/online registration any day.
With that being said, I survived my first 3 hour lecture on the methodology of sociology in French. My head hurts but I understood most of it! Probably am going to the beach to celebrate.

I also made mussels last night with some American friends. Fresh Spanish mussels with some olive oil and herbs, white wine and they're barnacles still attached. A whole half kilo cost only a euro. I could get used to this. I have speaking French a lot and making some French friends in classes and clubs but it's definitely nice to just 'be American' every once in a while. Talkin' English and shootin' the shit.

05 September 2011

My New Place of Residence, Part III

I would like to begin with how I started the 4th of September, 2011. My new exchange friends and I went out to explore Montpellier nightlife. I think we found it and then we found the daylife. We started with a scenic tram ride and ended up at Place de la Comèdie, once again. There were bars open everywhere and bustling because it was only 12 am. We found one and instantly made friends with some locals. The bar was quaint and playing 'TNT'. The Frenchies sang 'I'm dynamite' with their accents, it was hilarious.

My dorm
The bar closed at 2 and our local friends suggested we head to Panama, a boîte à nuit for some more dancing. Downstairs they played old Top 40 (they're still stuck on Time of My Life by the Black Eyed Peas) while upstairs there was the salsa lounge. Dancing was had. At 5 am we found ourselves on a guided tour with our 'bodyguards' through the streets of Montpellier as the sun began to break the night. It had rained a bit and the cobble stones glistened (and killed my feet). We walked through the historic districts and 10 km later, it was 7 am and we were safe in our dorms and drenched from a second shower of rain.

 Later that day, after much contemplation and self motivational pep talks I found the strength to go to the zoo. That's right, the zoo. I live a 10 minute walk away from a free zoo with all the goodies. Rhinos, monkeys, an otter (I thought of you Mom), giraffes (Goose) and lots of lemurs. That being said, I spent a good two hours soakin' in the animal poop smell and laughing children. A perfect Sunday then topped off with a late afternoon rain shower.

I've slowly been learning my way around the neighborhood and really enjoying the mix of ancient buildings and modern design. The university is located in a quiet residential area where the house have ivy and vegetable gardens. However, much differently than the States, there's graffiti everywhere. And it's not meant to look ghetto. I believe it is just that people aren't motivated about cleaning it up and quite frankly, it's pretty most of the time! 

03 September 2011

My New Place of Residence, Part II

Bâtiment A à Vert Bois (my building) 
My dorm is a 90 sq. ft. functional dream. There's so much storage I'm tempted to go to H&M and fill up the shelves some more. My toilet is underneath the shower. I got everything I needed at IKEA for $50! Except I don't have a fork or spoon. They don't sell 'em for single people. Mom was right, I should've taken some from home.

I made a video for y'all!

Last night, the American and Canadian exchange students went to Place de la Comèdie for wine tasting and a stroll through the historic buildings. There was food everywhere. I had some African fried plantain bananas and chicken. Yum. 

Today I went to IKEA and the supermarket (which only took me two hours to find). In celebration, I bought my first classy bottle of wine for 2 euro, bread and the reddest tomatoes. And some other not as interesting things. 

I've learned that when walking on the street men will flash their headlights at you, almost fall of their mopeds and give you the thumbs up. I've also learned that you shouldn't ever buy more than you are willing to carry for an hour. My feet are sore and my shoulders feel like I imagine a Norwegian body builder's would feel like. However, a lovely homemade salad awaits me followed by some nightlife exploration with the fellow exchangers. C'est la vie enchantée!

02 September 2011

La Mer Méditerranée

I touched the Mediterranean Sea! The water was crisp and the sand soft. I actually don't have many words to describe the beach, except that I'm a beach bum at heart and that I'm smitten. It takes about an hour from my dorm by tram and bus and will cost me about 4 euro every time I want to get out there, but on a rough day of dealing with snappy French people it'll be the reminder for why I'm here.