Tag Archives: immersion

Ricardo, Anglica & Hugo--the 3 Brazilians. I LOVE this shot!

Random shots of Lyon from my six-week stay in January and February 2009

Lyon is such a beautiful (and to quote from my high school friend, Brenda : ) VIBRANT city.
Here are some random shots from my six-week stay there in 2009.




Au revoir Lyon!

And the results are in . . .

 Les puces, flea market, where I found that 
cool old iron trivet.

date:  Thu, Feb 12, 2009

subject:  Howdy All!
The results are as follows though no decision has been made . . . the jury is still out on this one!
It seems I haven’t had a free moment this week . . . it’s been fabulous.
Today we have been learning slang . . . after working on grammar, of course!
We even had to compose a story using slang! Lauren, you’d probably gotten a chuckle out of it all.
The teacher couldn’t stop laughing after I read my bit. Seems she loves my accent . . . I might just get a job here being a comedian after all!!!
And now, what you all have written (my replies and/or comments and/or thoughts are in italics):
Go to St. Remy de Provence! It is simply marvelous. We have friends there that have rental places. http://www.mascornud.com/village.html?page=village\
Not sure if they’ll book you for less than a week, but contact them, say you are friends of mine and see if they can make an exception. Also tell them about your Hawaiian home exchange idea!
Or go to St. Tropez, just because.
Cheers, Michele (St. Tropez sounds the most interesting, I’d like to have more time at the other . . .)
Dear Suzanne,
    Is this the French spelling of your name? Where do you go to use the Internet and send your e-mails?  This is interesting that you have 3 free nights. Why don’t you go to some small French town and see how life is in a little place. I would hope that you could find an inn or bed and breakfast there.
Annecy is absolutely beautiful. I don’t think it’s that far from Lyon by train. It is an old town with beautiful buildings with water canals flowing all along the streets.
Hi Susan,
I would suggest that you DON’T go to Avignon. I lived there for 6 months- the people aren’t that friendly and there are weird vibes . . . that’s my take . . . I like Dijon- maybe Montpellier? or Aix-en-Provence (is that too far away?) . . .
It was great getting your update : )  Made me want to go back. We missed you at my mom and Roy’s wedding! (me too! maybe we can have a rendez-vous in France someday!)
Much Aloha from NY,
Avignon, I heard it’s great (interesting coming in right after the one above!). Or Uzes, which is a small town in Provence, that sounds lovely.
And there’s always the Loire Valley castles . . .
Hope you’re having a great trip! It sounds like you are! I’ve loved reading the emails :) John and I just purchased two airplane tickets to France for May, so you’ll have to give us tips on all the places to go!
Take care,
(I’ve meant to write to you and John and tell you that I have some leads for places to stay. The hotel Tony found in Paris was very nice, good price and clean but not too fancy, I liked the location too. I also found a great studio apt near Sacre Coeur that was very inexpensive . . . and then the apts I found through another couple and then subsequently booked are very nice too. They’re in the Latin Quarter. Let me know if you want any leads . . . the Sacre Coeur apt info Tony has at home in the “in” box for his email address.)
Head for the coast!..we loved ST Tropez.
Michael (very interesting that this one showed up twice!)
I would suggest heading to Paris direction early and spending the three days at Disneyland Paris.  :)
Debbie (you think?)
Avignon . . . this is intuitively what called out . . .
MH (did you read what Lauren wrote???)
Aloha Suzanne!
I’ve never been to France, so don’t have any personal suggestions for you, just wanted to wish you safe travels and the happiest of trails — no matter which one(s) you choose. Can’t wait to see what you choose to do as I’m living vicariously through you on this great adventure.
All the best,
Val (merci for your kind thoughts and words!)
Avignon has the famous “Pont”, but I believe Dijon may have one of those marvelous chateau, where they perform son et lumière and I know you would love that … perhaps you could find out for sure at school.
I meant to say that I thought maybe the notre dame you saw in Paris WAS a genuine one … there are, after all dozens, if not hundreds of Notre Dames in France, although we only hear about the one!
It scares me that you go early=morning jogging on your own  – have a wonderful sojourn in Paris and come home safely (I KEEP my eyes wide open and my guardian angels are with me always Romey!! Thanks for your concern.)
Romey XXX
I vote for Guernsey!!!!!
Sorry I haven’t replied to your fascinating correspondence. I can’t believe your adventure is coming to a close so soon. While your life has been filled with daily adventure, we’re still plugging along over here. Amazing difference and what an accomplishment!
Can’t wait to hear more, Lisa (more will come when I get a chance . . . I’m digging being able to talk a wee bit better . . . but so much more to learn!  LOVED the book! I had the most delicious morning Saturday as I DEVOURED the book!  I read till 12:30 pm when I finished it . . . did I write this already?  It’s been sent via the post to my Mom.)
 The setting for my reading fest . . . see Lily on my pants on the “dryer”?
i vote for San Francisco!
liz (me too, too bad I have a one day layover in LA on the way back home and NOT in SF!!)
I suggest you call my friend Kim in Stuttgart. Enjoy! Looking forward to seeing you on your return.   
Aloha,    MA.
(hey MaryAnn, good idea but I want to keep in the French mode. It seems that I dream almost entirely in French now . . . I’m loving it!)
Thanks for all of your input!
Love you all,
Self portrait taken one night coming back from an art gallery excursion — decided to “live it up” and take the streetcar rather than walk, like I usually did.

La cuisine . . . as experienced by moi

date:  Tue, Feb 3, 2009

subject:  la cuisine
Bonjour mes amis!
A few of you have asked about the food . . .. alors, Lyon is known for its food, its (notice Mary Hunter, c’est parfait comme ca) gastronomie.
Where to begin?
Okay, I’ll start at the apartment first.
The French do no eat breakfast.
****I should add a disclaimer right off the bat that this email contains MY views only and are in no way to reflect those of others . . .
Instead of breakfast they smoke cigarettes. They DO drink a lot of café espresso with sugar and maybe they will drink a cup of orange juice. When asked what I normally ate for breakfast, “Muesli,” I replied. Thank goodness I said that because the bread she has for toast is très horrible! It’s the ultimate in white air-bread, even worse if that’s possible. My hostess is very nice but she is a bit of a space cadet at times. Fortunately Teri had given me Anahola granola to give friends. That’s what I had for breakfast for about the first week until she remembered to buy a box of Muesli. Alors, for breakfast I eat a bowl of muesli with yogurt, a banana and for a hot beverage I have a pot of tea (which I also brought along–the tea that is, not the pot–thanks again Marty!) and then I also bought some tea later.
Seems like tout le monde eat sandwiches these days, and they even CALL them sandwiches here. I can imagine many professors of French rolling over in their graves.
At school we have a separate room where we are to hang out and eat lunch (or a snack on the break). There is a microwave oven in there that we are free to use. In the hall next to the bathroom is a machine which dispenses warm beverages for 40 cents (about 60 American cents, I suppose). There are a variety of beverages to choose from: espresso with or without sugar, with or without milk, with or without vanilla, hot chocolate, etcetera. But MOI, I bought a white cup (actually I bought 3, it was a set and it was THE cup I liked the most, the 2 office gals are now happily sipping their beverages in similar cups! Maybe that’s why Marthe let me make a print copy yesterday in the office workers and professeurs’ bureau . . .).  I leave it on top of the microwave and make hot tea when I wish. But of course I do BUY a coffee now and then, this is France after all, and the sweets which are occasionally passed around do taste better with coffee.
Back to lunch.
Today I ate half of a most wonderfully crispy and fresh whole wheat (just a little really, whole wheat that is) baguette which I purchased this morning.  On top I spread some butter (I just bought the 16 little packets of butter yesterday.  I figured life was too short to not enjoy the wonderful French butter!) and then I had 2 different types of hard cheese which I bought last week and have stored in Madame’s fridge.  I also had a hard boiled egg with a little bit of Uncle Mike’s wonderful Kauai-made, guava smoked salt. In addition I crunched on a raw carrot (to clean my teeth, of course). I brought an apple too but I was satisfied, so I stopped. Now I have a snack handy for after class.
Lunch during a weekend bike exploration

I have also gone to a couple of restaurants during the hour lunch break. Once I had a demi-pizza margharite avec une salade.  It was good. Not the VERY best pizza (compared to the place in Sarasota that Tony and I went to twice, but very good). They also served a complementary apéritif . . . I think because it was the new year.  But Tony and I have a saying. I don’t really know why they gave me the apéritif for free, AND I’ll never know.  I went back to the same place because I had a hankering for spaghetti bolognese.  Mistake. It was terrible. One day I went to a café and for 3 euros got a simple jambon sandwich on a baguette. It was very good and the bread was incredibly fresh. The grand café crème was very good too.
Before I got a hang of the buying cheese and bread on my own I bought a sandwich or two at the place called “American Sandwiches.” That’s where most of the guy/male students get their lunch. Needless to say, I decided to get my own supplies.  They’re giving us Americans a bad name!
I did one day buy a petite quiche avec champignons et fromage. It was very good. I heated it in the microwave and the cheese dripped all over the mushrooms. C’était super!
Time for class . . . I’ll continue a bit later.
Okay, I can hear you all groaning, we don’t want to hear about what you eat, what YOU prepare. What about the “French” food?
Okay, la Madame makes a very wholesome dinner every evening. There is usually a meat, a vegetable and a carbohydrate. And lately, there is usually wine which is a good thing. If I want to know what she’s going to prepare for the evening, I just crack open the cabinet where she stores her square glass dishes. 
On top of a plate is either a chicken (frozen and set there to thaw) or a filet mignon de porc (like last night) or some other type of red-colored fleshy stuff. 
Looks like it’s poulet from the South West tonight !

When the plate is empty, I’m left to wonder.
She has made potatoes au gratin, squash au gratin, haricot vert boiled in water and then slathered with oil or butter and garlic, pork cutlets, frozen hamburger meat thawed and then fried in a pan (this usually goes with the green beans), spaghetti bolognese (hers was good, just lots of meat and light on the sauce), plain ole rice (that was with the pork chops), steak (sometimes tough, sometimes not; again, simply fried in a pan), creamed spinach and a couple of hard boiled eggs (this was Saturday night, it was quite good but I think I’d make it with less cream) . . . . and with all of this we sometimes have salad.  The salad is either simply just that, green leafy lettuce, or a mélange of lettuce with corn, tomatoes . . . and I think that’s about the extent of it. Oh, we did have a casserole one evening that was endives covered with cream and fromage and at least 2 times we’ve had a roasted chicken, once simply with garlic and once with lemons. And she made a pot-au-feu once. When I told her it was like my Mom’s pot roast that she bakes in the oven she became offended. It has to be cooked slowly on the stove-top, not in the oven!
But it did taste just like Mom’s pot roast, complete with carrots and potatoes. It was good.
When I write this now, it seems that it might appear that I’m not happy with the food, but au contraire. I’m quite satisfied with it. Granted, it’s a lot more meat than I’m used to eating. The only odd this is that she must cook with a lot of salt because many mornings I awake with puffy eyes. This especially happens after eating out in a restaurant. Unless they cook with a lot of MSG here, that’s another possibility.
And oh, we had saumon one night. Those of you who know me well know I love salmon.
We usually eat anywhere between 8 p.m. at the earliest and 10 p.m. at the latest. Though we have been eating at 8 more regularly, which makes me happy.
Mom asked why so late? It’s their custom to eat between 7 and 9 p.m. (at least that’s what my trusty little guide from the school said). La Madame usually stretches out on the couch between 6 and 7 p.m. to possibly 7:30 and smokes her petit cigarettes (I figured out what she meant when on the day of my arrival she said that she smokes “a little.” She meant a little cigarette. But trust me, she smokes a lot. Perhaps that’s why she’s so thin.)  Around 7:30 she jumps up and says something like, oh the dinner!
But to be very fair to her, she very kindly peeks her head in my room where I am usually studying or reading and asks, “Un verre Susan?”  “Bien sûr,” I reply. “I would love a glass of wine.” Sometimes it’s cider but usually it’s wine.
And also to be fair to la Madame, she has a lot to think about with her parents. Her mother who is 90 years old is blind and I think is suffering some from Alzheimer’s.  Her Dad is a young 77.  Fortunately, he is in good health and can take care of his wife, but this must cause la Madame a good deal of worrying.
Okay, and finally on to the restaurants.
I haven’t eaten out a lot because to be blunt, I’ve paid for dinner at the apt. and will be in Paris with Mom later in the month when we will have to eat out (or cook dinner for ourselves at the fabulous loft studio apt. I found for us).
The St. Jacques (scallops baked in a little dish) I had in Paris was by far the tastiest morsel I’ve imbibed during this trip. A close second was the fresh mozzarella, tomato, basil and pesto salad, which my friend from Finland ordered (she left Saturday, she works for an aide company in either Senegal or Kenya . . . she asked if Tony and I would be willing to travel to Senegal to make a video  . . .  Bien sûr!!! I replied.) before we met the others in front of the opera for our night out at the “swanky” restaurant run by the best chef in Lyon.

That meal was “okay.” But it really wasn’t magnifique like we’d been led to believe. I had the salad of meat followed by the fish, which was fried in a pan. It was fine but nothing to write home about (so why AM I writing???)  Nothing like the fabulous poisson I’ve eaten at Roy’s or Sabella’s or Pacific Cafe. To be honest, it felt like a tourist trap.

 Angélica, Dominique et Marie–happy just to be here !

Tony and I were happily able to come back to Lyon 10 months later . . . we dined out at a sister restaurant with Jean-Laurent and a friend. It was the wonderful meal I’d been wanting during my solo trip. But I didn’t see any students dining there. Maybe they indeed did take us to “tourist traps.”

The next week we ate at a typical Lyonnais place that serves their regional cuisine.
It was a much finer restaurant but vegetarian beware! They served tripe and liver and sausage of porc . . . lots of meat.
Presentation is everything . . .
The classic salade Lyonnaise is essentially tiny pieces of bacon with a bit of lettuce and croutons.
Perhaps I exaggerate . . . I enjoyed it the most that evening, and the roasted potatoes; they were very good too. I entertained the idea of simply ordering something I knew I’d like but chose instead to do like the Romans. I ordered the meal with all the typical dishes; I copied my nice teacher Jean-Laurent.

Do I have regrets? No, but I don’t have to try that stuff again. The next restaurant I want to go do is on rue Lantern next to quai de la pecherie and le Rhone. It’s a pizza joint très elegant where they make their pizzas in a wooden fire. I can see Tony drooling already!

 A good time was had by all . . .
So, I think that’s it for the food for the moment. Oh, and the meal I had 2 Saturdays ago. It was very, very tasty and satisfying. To remember that meal go cherchez in that other email . . .
So for now, au revoir mes amis and best wishes for a very pleasant day.
One of the many cheese carts at the open-air markets

The first vélo weekend

 Fred from Brésil

date:  Mon, Jan 26, 2009

subject:  Highlight of the weekend: faire du vélo!
Hi Everyone,
I hear through the grapevine that you are enjoying my emails, alors, I will continue  . . . .
After trying to rent one of the groovy red and industrial silver bikes which can be seen throughout Lyon at many, many stations but NOT succeeding, I decided to approach a bike shop to see if they rented bikes. The very kind lady instructed me to go two doors down where another kind lady searched on the internet for me. She found 2 places in Lyon that rent bikes and she then proceeded to give me fliers with their addresses (one of the shops refurbishes bikes from Holland . . . Tony and I can attest to the fact that approximately 62,584 bikes are pulled from the canals around Amsterdam each year. We actually witnessed a huge machine dredging the canal and pulling out bikes 11 years ago on our retirement trip!)
When I got back to the pad and joined la Madame for a verre (our almost daily routine of sharing a glass of something before dinner, this usually takes place around 7 or 8 or 9 pm), I asked her if she knew anything about these shops. Non, non, she replied. She then proceeded to get on the phone and call the VÉLO office of Lyon and ask if there was a way around having to have a special European credit card (their cards seem to have some special power in this little golden patch underneath the number). Non, non, they told her.
After we sat there a minute she said (as if she had just had the most extraordinary idea ever, which it was after all !), Oh, but of course (in French of course) you can use MY vélo.
Oh wow, really, may I?
I knew she had a vélo because she had told me so; but there was no way that I was going to ask if I could use it (when I asked her if I could please possibly borrow a knife to take to school to cut my cheese–no, no, not like you think!–she said Non; but did offer up the tiniest swiss army knife known to man . . . . but I digress–and to digress even further, I splurged and spent 2 euros today on a knife and spoon for lunch  . . . Alas, I shall return the tiny da kine without ever even trying to slice into a creamy camembert . . . I think my nice new red handled and stainless silver knife with a pretty edelweiss flower at the joint shall do just fine, merci beaucoup!).
Where was I?
Oh, so she offered me her vélo for the weekend! Yahoo! Was I every excited. She gave me the key to the cave in the basement AND the key to the bike lock. This one came with a very stern look about not loosing it since it’s the only one she has. I won’t loose it, I promise; I told her. She was too tired that evening to show me where the bike was (a fellow teacher hurt an ankle and she had to work with 31 rather than 24 6 to 7 year olds 2 days in a row and she was wiped out!) but she promised to later.
As it turned out, we never had the tour since I HAD to leave Friday evening early (8:30 p.m.) for a party and that meant we had to have dinner VERY early (which probably caused her much stress–we usually eat anywhere between 8 and 10 p.m.). Alors, one mention of the party–it was a blast. Imagine going back in time to when you were between 19 and 21 years old and you’re away from home and there’s a party in an apartment for 4 to 8 foreign exchange students.

Need I say more? Michele, I know that you remember what that’s like! (for those of you who want to know what other nationalities were represented at the party . . . Danemark, Argentine, Ireland, Brazil, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, Japan, England . . . I think that about covers it.)

So the next morning I managed to get up bright and early and leave the apt. at 10 a.m. The first step was finding the vélo. Right across from “one of the world’s smallest elevators” ® is a black metal door. Open it with la Madame’s bright silver key and you’ve gained admittance into the past.

As soon as you step down one measly step you’ve entered the world of WWII and what it must have been like to hide during an air raid. I don’t know if there were air raids in Lyon, but I’m sure there must have been plenty of hiding. Down the narrow circular staircase and voila! There’s Madame’s blue funky, old vélo.

It was perfect! (for those of you with enquiring minds, there were maybe 5 other bikes down there in a space the size of our guest bedroom and our main bathroom.  What else was down there? A mattress or two (for real!) and several buckets full of something. It’s not a uniform space but rather a narrow chamber that twists around a bit.)

Okay, as you can imagine, it was a bit tricky getting the bike back up the stairs and somehow opening the door. 
But I did without too much trouble . . . . but I will jump forward and tell you that the return that afternoon was a bit like a skit with Laurel & Hardy. I did much better the next day.
Saturday I took a pleasant spin across la Saône into the main part of Lyon, then across le Rhone to ride along its side on the wonderfully wide and diverse bike path. I more or less went to the end (before it branched off and took a turn into the industrial section) taking photos along the way. One highlight was watching one of two dirty-white horses roll in a field.

Seems he had a bit of an itch.

They weren’t tied up but they did have bits in their mouths. As I began to head back, the rain began to fall. It wasn’t that hard and I did have my trusty gortex jacket with me and nice Northface backpack complete with yellow rain cover, so like the girlscout I never was, I was quite prepared. (Thanks again for the great backpack Mom and Dad! I still talk to Dad on occasion and he makes appearances now and then.)

BUT, since it was approaching lunch time, I decided to find a restaurant . . . . and I did find the perfect place. I was having a hankering for a warm meal (after a week of cold sandwiches, albeit with wonderful French cheese). Le Restauant a la Maison de Lucy, or something like that, was perfect. I went for the 13euro50 deal of a main course and dessert with coffee. They served a piece of classically roasted chicken (the thigh and leg) with champignons, a side salad, warm penne pasta and a glob of some wonderfully warm cream something or other. (That’s exactly how the waiter described it when I asked.) Of course this was accompanied with a half bottle of red wine and some tap water. I took my time and enjoyed every bite. I did take a picture of the place setting since it was so beautiful . . . the shot has a nice misty look to it since I dropped the camera on the first day (So sorry Tony! It was really cold and slipped out of my hand!) The camera still works well, it just doesn’t close its nice little cover when I turn it off. 

Hence the mist on the lens when I pulled it out of the backpack, now inside a warm room . . . you get the drift you fellow nerds who know what it’s like to walk into a warm house after being outside in the cold!

Okay, lunch was great. The waiter instructed me to choose a dessert. I stood up and gave the board a quick glance. There was crème brûlée, which I adore, but since I OD’d on them a few years back, I have to approach them quite carefully. Towards the bottom was something or other with chocolate. When the gentle waiter returned, I quickly thought how to say the name of that which I had immediately proceeded to forget. Alors, je vousdrais le dessert avec chocolat, s’il vous plait. Le ???///095§ ? Oh oui, bien sûr!
Guess what I got? The kid’s dessert which was 3 waffle pieces, covered (and I do mean COVERED) in nutella with a large blob of whipped cream on the side. Well, for those of you who have never tasted nutella, imagine a creamy, thick chocolate goo with a hint of hazelnut. Voila! That’s it. Europe’s answer to peanut butter.
I proceeded to eat the whole darn thing. And was it ever good. Sometimes it pays to be the clueless American; you get to eat the kid’s dessert and not be embarrassed!
Which may be why the next day’s bike ride was over 6 hours long; I was trying to work off the nutella!
To close out Saturday, after lunch I found a place to get my haircut. After I carefully told the one guy (seemed like the owner, a man from Peru who looks like a native Peruvian, who speaks Japonais) who washed my hair that I didn’t want more layers, I was sat down with another guy (there were only 2 men working there) who proceeded to give me the MOST layered haircut I’ve ever had. Oh well, Ca va.  I really, really needed a hair cut, and it’s a good 6 weeks until I’ll be home, so it’ll grow out. Though the classically French man sitting next to me did manage to drool. Oh oui, ca va, ca va! I think that guy really wanted (or needed) a date . . .
After the haircut I jumped back on the bike for several laps around the lake at park Tete d’Or. I never did manage to find the head of gold but I did make one old man’s day as he waved at me go past several times. 
I think he was enjoying being out in the rain as much as I was (which was a LOT, as those of you who know me know, I like to ride a bike like a kid . . . and it had been almost 3 months since I’d been on a bike . . . need I say more?).

The next day I awoke to an incredibly clear (for Lyon) day. The sky was actually blue and it didn’t rain at all the entire day; and the pollution was negligible.

Sunday I proceeded again in the same direction, took a quick spin around the lake at Tete d’Or and then set off for parts unknown. This took me to a street faire with lots of cheap junk . . . really, nothing that drew my eyes expect for a pile of romance books in French.
giratoire = roundabout
La Madame had mentioned a lake called Mirabel. All I knew was that it was east of Lyon. I headed East and went as far as a town called Mayzieu. My route took me along a bike path, which follows the Tram #3 through an industrial section,

down main thoroughfares, into the country and along a country road, past a prison (well, they’ve got to have prisons too!), past many schools and recreation areas, past a few high falutin neighborhoods (which honestly have that look of mainland USA), past a campground with thousands of little campers and then the little train station for Mayzieu.

Along the way I had been looking at the maps next to the bus stops and knew to look for rue Victor Hugo. This was my ticket to the other side of a lake called Grand Large (really, that’s its name! kind of like lake big big).
Now I was in the magic of riding along a lake. There were families on bikes, people on the lake rowing, dogs running free not on a leash (one came by to say hey, he was really sweet but stinky like Rocket Girl).
le crayon in the distance

some cool looking communal gardens

I then worked my way back to town and somehow magically back to parc tete d’or where I could grab a bite. It was now 3 p.m. and I was hungry. I went for the incredibly healthy but tasty choice of crêpe au sucre and grande café crème followed by the ubiquitous sandwich jambon.

(Okay, okay, what about the fine French cuisine you ask? It was 3 p.m. already and I just wanted to hang in the park on a bench in the sun. Okay?)

The return took me back down le Rhone

simple pleasures

to the far south side of town where I then crossed back over to the “island” and managed to find a pleasantly quiet road.
One side note–despite the large population of this city (for the accurate amount explore wikipedia s’il vous plait . . . just looked and got this #: 472,305) I managed to find MANY places empty of people. Just what this Kaua‘i girl needed. Not to wander too far though from my purpose for being here, I did listen to a French radio program twice on my iPod, some French dialogue stuff, some French music (Samedi Soir by what’s his name), some Jacque Brels stuff along with Zap Mama . . . the immersion continues.
To backtrack, the highlight of Saturday afternoon was listening to an incredible (and attractive) Brasillian woman play classic guitar.

I found a listing in the journal for a free concert at 5 p.m. at Le Salon de Music on rue Saint George, not far from chez moi. A fellow °student joined me . . . it’s quite a long story but suffice it to say that people are the same everywhere and this student (she) hadn’t been invited to the gathering the night before. Not as a slight I think, but just because the guys didn’t think to invite her. She reminds them of their mothers I found out later. I also found out later that she’s all of 40 years old . . . needless to say, me with my 48 somehow fit in. Okay Mom. Here’s your confirmation that I haven’t yet grown up. (°I invited her to join me . . .)
So, on that note, seems like a good time to close.  It’s 4:36 p.m. and my books (for studying) are calling.
Ciao and bisous mes amis,

What I learned today in school . . .

date:  Thu, Jan 22, 2009

subject:  Today I read all about Edith Piaf dans wikipedia.


Hey Everybody,
Here it is 4:30 p.m. (5:30 a.m. in Hawaii) and I find myself alone at an ordi.  I just completed this extra class I’ve taken on for free.  One of my teachers, Jean-Laurent, is studying for his doctorate and has different websites for us to try out.  He observes us (just one other guy and me) and answers our questions.
Last week it was http://www.tv5.org
Click on Accueil if you want to check it out.  Then click on Apprendre le francais.  Then on Quiz.
Another one is http://jeudeloie.free.fr/plateau.htm.  They’re pretty cool for a quick way to learn or review something.
Today it was:  http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piaf.  Jean-Laurent had a list of questions to answer, really more for seeing if you understand the content than the specifics.   
As many of you know who saw the French movie about her, she lived a very sad but fascinating life.  AND she could sing, AND write!  Probably the most important thing I learned today was that she wrote her biggest hit, La vie en rose, toute seul, all on her own.
School update: it’s really cool!!!  It’s very practical, the things we learn.  For example, today after being in Jean Laurent’s class from 9 to 12:30 (with a half hour break from 10:30 to 11, and after our lunch break which is from 12:30 to 13:30) I have a 45 minute class avec Marion pour conversation.  Il y a 5 étudiantes là.  The five of us laugh and play while Marion guides us.  Today we discussed an ad about giving blood.  She asked if I was ever involved with community service kind of stuff . . . and I was able to say that “J’ai fait LA pub pour le yacht club et un concert association.”  In contrast to LE pub, which are advertisements.  It just so happened that in our morning class we had learned the difference be la pub et le pub.  Only one other guy and I are in this class (it’s the one for more beginners) and the 3 other students in the conversation class are in the more advanced class.  Ricardo and I exchanged glances that yeah, we just learned LA pub! (He works in marketing and advertising in Sao Paolo, Brésil.  He showed me his picture of his petite-amie, très, très belle!)
Ricardo, Angélica & Hugo . . . the three who speak Portuguese

Some of the other things we have done have been:
play taboo, a really fun game where you have to guess what we’re talking about (yes, it’s all done in French, for real!).  And the trick is that you can’t use words that would help you explain more easily.  For example, for BERLIN, you could not use the word wall.
Another activity was describing for your partner what was missing in a drawing.  The person describing has the complete picture and the other person has a drawing with only a part of it.  Try doing that in English!
So, as you can see, the activities are very practical (how to describe where something is) but just plain fun too.  You should hear us all laugh.  I love it when I manage to pull off a joke in French and they actually understand what I meant to say!  And then of course, there are those times they make a face at you like “Hehh???”
Oh, I just remembered that I wrote that next time I’d tell you about hearing the cool sénégalese music; well, I lied.  Plus tard, another time . . . .
Okay, it’s now 10 till 5 when they close; I’m all alone except for the boss . . . . and I gotta use da kine before I start my pleasant walk home in the rain!  Fortunately, I bought une parapluie last week.
Alors . . . until the next time.
Bisous to you all, mes bonnes amies.
View from my bedroom window one evening

L’école encore

The “kids” in the class this particular week. 
Yup, there are a couple of older kids.
Take two on this particular missive . . .
date:  Mon, Jan 19, 2009

subject:  2 l’école
Aloha All,
I think that was a Freudian slip because Je suis fatiguée . . . . . .
Alors, à plus tarde . . .
(despite my fatigue . . . here’s a bit more . . . )
Oh, and I glanced at the letter I just sent.   I was just going to wrap up with the difference between passé composé & imparfait for my fellow nerd friends (Nancy & Regina, you probably know this already).  PC is for something in the past that happens at a certain time and/or only once.  It’s also used for sequential things.  Imparfait is for things that were on-going in the past AND for describing things from the past  . . . .  Okay, okay, maybe this is too boring of a subjet.
Next time around I’ll tell you about the band I went to hear this past Saturday night . . . . musique sénégalaise.
Au revoir!
Susan encore

The school: Ecole Suisse de Langues aka ESL

date:  Mon, Jan 19, 2009

subject:  l’école
Bonjour mes amis,
Alors, je dois quelque chose à vous dire de l’école. After all, I’ve been here a week now, so I reckon it’s time to talk about the school: ESL, Ecole (Shouldn’t there be an accent over the capital e? Well, I would think so too; but there’s not one at their website; so I’m going with their version.) Suisse de Langues. For those of you who like to play with google map or google earth, the address is 6, Quai Jules Courmont, 69002 Lyon. It is located on le Rhone.  To get here (today I’m using their ordi because I can. Most of the students are gone and there isn’t a line waiting to use da kine.) I walk out the door of the apt. building (after going down the narrow flight of steps of course!), take a right, cross the river Saône which is on the LEFT on any one of the many bridge.

(Lesson of the day:  il y a le pont–regular bridge for cars and pedestrians and la passerelle–foot bridge only. When I asked la Madame if a person is allowed to ride their bike over a passerelle, she said, “Non, mais ouis, mais non.” So, it’s not allowed, but people do it anyway : )

After crossing a bridge I am now in the “main” section of Lyon. The most direct way to the school is to walk down la Saône until I reach rue Grenette, take a left, go till the road on the river (le Rhone) take a right and the school is just a little bit down on the right. I did that for the first few days until I began to feel a little bolder. Now I go any which a way because it’s hard to get lost with so many tall landmarks. First of all there’s le Crayon

(It’s this tall building in the middle of no other tall buildings with a cap on it like a pencil, hence le crayon, which in French is . . . . . you guessed it, a pencil. It’s also over the main train station called Gare-Part Dieu. La Madame told me that there is a cool bar on top of it. Anyone want to come over and check it out with me?)

Secondly, there’s le Fourvière, a beautiful cathedral on the hill on top of the “old” town (also easy to reach from where I’m staying. That’s another cool thing about Madame’s apt., it’s in such a good location.) 

The locals call it an elephant lying on its back–it’s four legs are sticking straight up in the air! It’s a church dedicated to Jesus’ brother, Joseph. When I look on the map it’s official name is Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière.

Not far from the elephant en respos is the tour (or tower) de Lyon. It’s what greets me after I’ve climbed at least a thousand steps. (No, I haven’t counted them, but our teacher made us count them when we descended from another part of the hill. And for those who can’t sleep without knowing the answer, there were 248 on that particular set of steps.) 

The tour really does look like THE tour in Paris. It’s just a LOT smaller, AND you’re not allowed to climb it. It’s a tower for communi-cation; I see lots of satellite dishes on it, that kind of thing.

Okay, so it’s easy to find your way around so long as you can get a sightline with one of the big landmarks. That is unless the pollution is so bad. And let me tell you, it IS bad here. 

The few times I’ve looked at the weather report it was at the WORSE mark on the list! Yep, pour mes amis à Kaua‘i, lucky we live Hawaii!

To get in the school you have to push a button at the main entrance to the building (unless you come early like I have a few times and the workers are still cleaning up). It’s a lot like everywhere else in the world–except Kaua‘i and maybe Tennessee–where there are buildings with lots of offices and such in them. After getting buzzed in, you climb the dark and very broad stairway up to the 2nd floor (or first étage en francais). There is another buzzer there for getting in . . . unless you’re a student like me and they show you a secret buzzer to push for entry.
The school’s in a classic old building with high ceilings. There are peut-être 6 or 7 classrooms, all have pretty French (no, really) doors, complete with glass panels. The classrooms face the road on 2 sides so if you wanted to daydream you could look at some shops on the groundfloor and appartements en haut.
Here’s the routine of the day:
8:30 a.m. The school opens. You can come in and use the ordi, which are in the entry hallway, 3 on one side of the entry door, 2 on the other. 
Dominique from Switzerland

They’re chest high, so you have to stand and step in close sometimes when someone need to pass by. You could also go hang out in the common room at the end of the hallway if you wanted to (or go to your classroom and start studying/working already if you’re a complete nerd! I’ve only done that once, and that was at 8:45, so I don’t think that counts.)
9:00 a.m. School begins. There are essentially two classes. I’m in the more elementary one (of course!). There are only 6 students in our class. Yes, I’m the only Americaine. Here’s the breakdown of the rest: one guy from Brésil who works in advertising, a young man de Suisse who works in construction, a lady from Finland who is essentially an aide worker who will be going to Kenya, a German woman who lives in Ireland with her Irish husband, and a woman from Nigeria who has 2 children who were born in Tampa (elle est très belle!)  Our teacher s’appelle Jean-Laurent.  He is a very handsome young man who is studying to get his doctorate in French (he later decided to nix that plan since he doesn’t need the degree to do what he’s already doing and enjoys) as learned by foreigners (comme moi).  He was born on a tiny island close to Marrakesh called La Reunion.  He is of African decent.  We’re all learning French for different reasons, some like me simplement pour plaisir, some for le travaille.  Those are the ones who need French in their work.
Jean-Laurent is a very good teacher. 
Torun from Finland and Jean-Laurent

He’s incredibly encouraging and positive.  Also, he speaks very clearly; and, as those of you who have ever tried to understand native French speakers know, that is très, très important!  At the start of each day he writes les objectifs on the board.  We generally start each class with some discussion.  What are some of the topics you ask?  I’ll look in my notebook for today’s sujets. (sujets, the plural of sujet, which is . . . yep, you guessed right, simply subject in French . . . so MANY of our English words come from French ! )
1) Le devéloppement durable est-il à la mode chez vous?
No, it’s not a question of how many scoops of ice cream you want, but whether it’s fashionable to have/use self-sustaining products.  Katy, I told them how the biggest hotel on the island is now using solar panels.  Très cool! they replied.
2) Que pensez-vous du salarie des patrons?
Since I’m my own boss, or rather sometimes I am, sometimes Tony is, I just told them the on-going joke that Tony and I have that he hopes I’m embezzling.  They laughed.  But then the discussion moved on to Bill Gates.  I had to say that yes, people like that do make a crazy amount of money; but at least Bill Gates and his wife are incredibly généreux.  Oui, oui, Jean-Laurent nodded.
After our discussion (trust me, we are talking like first or MAYBE second graders!) Jean-Laurent pulls out some xerox copies for our lessons for the week.  There is generally a theme for each week.  Last week it was asking questions, present subjonctif, passé recent (venir de + infinitif), etc.  This week it looks like it will be comparisons (for nouns, adj., les adverbes, etc.).  We go around the table taking turns reading out loud and then we work on the exercises.  Sometimes le prof gives us each different little supplements to do on our own time.  I was quite happy last week Tuesday (my 2nd day) when he gave me a difficult worksheet to take home on the difference between passè composè et imparfait.  Passè composè is really pretty easy, mais imparfait, non!  I was quite happy when I managed to use imparfait once in a REAL conversation with la Madame. (okay, okay, you all know I’m a nerd . . . )  We were talking about my dear husband, that he was playing his gig at Trees Lounge while I was sleeping . . . . that’s. . .

(Oops! I hit SEND by mistake!)

La réponse de mon mari

 Lily, la chatte

One itty bitty statement from my last group email leapt out at my husband: “dreamt last night in french.”

(sic) I just felt like writing everything in lower case in that particular email. Don’t ask me why; I have no idea why. Haven’t you ever felt like doing that too? Okay, then you know exactly what I mean.

Here is an excerpt of his email.
date: Mon, Jan 19, 2009

subject:  Re: Aloha
You dreamt in French! Yeah! Does that mean you can come home???
Love you,
mean it!
Ma réponse:
Nope . . . . I’m going to see it through.  Specially after the description of the house and all the work I’ll have to do when I come home!
Though I wish I could come home for a night!
So nice talking to you today.
I didn’t come home early.
Did you really think I would?

Ma chambre

a few corrections . . .

Here’s what I saw one morning en route to school . . . that’s one of the two collines (hills) in Lyon.

date:  sun, jan 18, 2009

subject:  un peu de corrections . . .
howdy all,
it is NOT the smallest elevator in the  world.  i’ve learned a few words in the past few days. it is not THE smallest, but ONE of the smallest.  i just missed that one (excuse da kine) word.
it is not tile next to the wooden shower basin but rather wide, blonde wooden planks like in the rest of the house.
it wasn’t arabic i was hearing, just my bad ears for french.
chique is the feminine version of chic. aren’t you glad to learn that?
won’t you be able to sleep well tonight?
nancy et roy, i hear from tony that you had a wonderful wedding!!!!
saw some great senegalese music this weekend, it was super!! (thought of you adie!) (the group was led by tidiane gay, my hostess is a friend of  friends of tidiane . . . and that’s why she wanted to go . . . moi, i said, sure, i’d love to ! )
dreamt last night in french . . . . thank goodness there was no one looking over my should making corrections . . . . . . c’est tous pour maintenent.
au revior,
la seule americaine ici
yep, the only american here

Am I stupid or what ? ? ?

date: Fri, Jan 16, 2009

subject:  3: La première semaine d’ecole c’est fini (pau)!
I °çé&’!!!!! did it again!!!!!!
Pardonez-moi, s’il vous plaît. At least now I realize what happened. The save button is right next to the send button . . . . Alors, I’m not putting your all’s email addresses in until after I’ve finished!
La Madame. She is an absolutely wonderful hostess. She’s about my size, smaller I think.  More thin.  But she has brown hair like me, a bit shorter though.  And she looks like, well, like a classically French woman. She knows how to dress just right.  The classic black on black. She’s a school teacher at a school only a few minutes walk away. I think she was a bit nervous about what I’d be like. I could see her visibly relax when she saw that I didn’t mind the cat, that I didn’t mind that she smokes now and then (I really don’ mind. They’re those tiny homemade/hand-rolled kind). She actually stood up a bit taller when she saw that I’d be alright—polite, respectful, and all whatever else those things were that she was nervous about.  (Thanks Mom for teaching me manners. They DO come in handy at times.)
L’appartement. Oh my goodness. How did I get so lucky?  
(I did it again, hit send instead of save just now! But at least this time it didn’t go, no addresses in da kine. Maybe this monkey can learn something after all).
La Madame’s appartement is in a large building by a rock wall. We are on one of the higher floors. Part of the rock wall is exposed in my chambre. For real! The bathroom is directly across from my room. It also has part of the rock wall in it. Immediately on the right when you enter the bathroom is the shower. It has a wooden base with the drain in the center. The shower head is the completely hand-held kind, there is no whatchamacallit to hang it on.  You should see me (not really!) in the morning when I wash my hair and try not to get the water all over the tile part of the floor directly by the entrance to the bathroom.No. There is no shower curtain, or floor mat for that matter. Thank goodness I brought a pareo. It sure comes in handy. Since I only bought one towel, I want to save that one pour moi! not the floor.
The rest of the apartment is comprised of a large entry/great/living room and a kitchen.  La cuisine is directly on your left when you enter the apartment. It’s got a cool wall with opaque glass on top dividing it from the main living area. She has the normal things, a fridge (smaller than most in the US, but still big), stove and oven set like Tones and I have, sink and above but beside the stove-top is the heater for the apartment. Throughout the apartment are the wall type of heaters like I remember Bearden Elementary School having long ago. The one in my bedroom is unfortunately next to the window, so most of the heat hides behind the curtain at night when I close it. Fortunately, I brought the red flannel pj’s covered with dog heads that Jan gave me for Christmas a few years back (merci beaucoup encore Jan!).
La Madame is a very good sculptor. The apartment is full of many, many figures, which she has made. They are very good. The recurring theme is the human figure–male and/or female figures and heads. There was literally a head rolling in ma chambre the first evening I arrived. 

I didn’t break it, I promise! Fortunately all was well with Madame (Yes, I told her about it!) She simply moved about 5 heads, really, 5, up higher on the shelf so that I could have a place to put my makeup and lotion.

The appartement is furnished like an antique store or art shop, but sparsely. The metal table with a class top, where we have our dinner, was made by her father (John, it reminded me right off of the bookshelf in your apartment in Brooklyn; the one that you say you threw together which is so cool). There are also some really neat chairs he made and a lamp.
We eat on square clear glass plates.  Really.  It’s très, très sheek/chique (at this moment I cannot begin to think how to spell that word. Tony, help?).
Okay, believe it or not (probably yes, if you’ve actually taken the time to read all this; and I do hope you’ve printed them rather than sat at the computer for so long; and read them somewhere else like John et Cat who read the last one on the train from Brooklyn to Manhattan; I love the image of that!) 2 hours, 50 minutes and 58 seconds have gone by.  Assez!  Enough for today.  And I haven’t told you one thing about the school except that the ordi are in the hallway and it’s bad manners to be a pig and not share . . .  but I will tell you this ONE thing.  Yesterday after Barbara from Switzerland wrote her address in my little rainbow colored book, I looked it over to make sure I could read it.  As I read her name and address and came to the street number (37), all I could think of was treint-sept.  I actually was trying to find sieben und dreissig (she’s Swiss after all) and could not.  Vraiment. That’s when I knew for sure that the school was working . . . . Alors, à bientôt mes amis!!!!