Coffee to go

Yesterday morning on my way to school, I was walking down the street, minding my own business with my coffee mug in hand.  I always bring some coffee with me for the walk for a few reasons but mainly that I don’t wake up in time to enjoy it before I have to leave.  So anyway, there I am rocking out to some jamz on my ipod when I see this man coming from the other direction blatantly staring at me.  At first I didn’t really think much of it because I have been creeped on enough times in this town to know better than to react.  But as we got closer, I realized he wasn’t staring at me but rather at the mug in my hand.  He stopped me, pointed at the mug and said “Is that alcohol?”

At which point I wanted to reply “I wish” but instead went for the more appropriate “no, it’s coffee.”  He gave me a once over and asked “You aren’t French, are you?”  to which I gave the obvious reply of “non, je suis americaine.” You should’ve seen the look on his face.  It was like once I explained that I was American, everything became clear.  He just grinned, and said “ahh! bon! bonne journee!” (have a nice day) and trotted off.  Please also note that this man was wearing a little beret-like hat and carrying baguettes which just made this 10 times funnier.

Now I have been here long enough to also know that French people don’t do 2 things right about coffee.  The first being all of their coffees are the teeny tiny espressos that could be part of a magic trick because in one single sip the coffee has magically disappeared.  And two, they very rarely take their coffee to go. I have noticed some funny looks before but never have I been confronted about it.

So basically I learned a few things about myself in that 1 minute conversation.  First, I look like someone who would be drinking alcohol at 9 am.  And second, that despite my efforts to blend in as a Mulhouser, after 6 months I am still just a silly American girl with a funny accent and coffee to go.

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Waggis and whatnot

So this last week has been all about carnival and I honestly could not get enough.  In total, I went to 4 parades in 2 different countries and also spent last Friday night listening to some of the traditional carnival music in the center of town.  Here is the basic rundown of carnival, Mulhouse/Basel style.

The idea for carnival here is the same as elsewhere in the world.  It’s one big celebration with parades and music and food and drinking beer.  It is somewhat different though because carnival in Mulhouse and Basel happens after Lent has already started.  In Mulhouse I think it is simply out of convenience aka they want to have it on a weekend.  But Basel’s carnival is proudly Protestant and back in the day they decided they weren’t going to follow the Catholic church’s rules and would have carnival whenever they wanted, thank you very much.

Some of the carnival experiences include but are not limited to:

1. Parades:  We went to a really cool night parade and one afternoon parade here in Mulhouse.  There are floats created by all different groups and they throw out candy and flowers and oranges.  The floats are all pulled by tractors which I thought was pretty hilarious.  They also had their own version of cheerleaders or “pompom girls” as well as baton twirlers and even marching bands.

2.  Morgenstreich:  This is the name for the special parade that happens at 4am in Basel on the Monday following Ash Wednesday.  This parade, unlike the others, is actually calm and somber.  They turn off all of the lights in old town Basel. The streets are only lit by homemade paper lanterns carried by the people marching in the parade.  Very cool experience, definitely a once in a life time kind of thing.

3. Music:  In all of the parades, except the 4am parade, the music is very upbeat.  Some of it is marching band style while some of it is what they call Guggenmusik.  This is a type of music that is really loud and even off beat at times but it is meant to scare away winter and welcome spring.  The music at the Morgenstreich, on the other hand, is simply drums and piccolos.  I felt transported back in time to the Revolutionary war but it sounds pretty nonetheless.

4.  Waggis:  The waggis are the clowns that are seen all over carnival aka my biggest fear incarnated.  This was the one thing that I thought might inhibit my carnival experience.  For those of you who don’t know, I am TERRIFIED of clowns and always have been.  I decided, though, that I would not let my fears get in the way of my fun.  I felt very proud of myself for not freaking out and even though I did do some running away and some dodging of the waggis, I did not cry like I used to and one even gave me a flower! (okay technically he gave Cheryl the flower because I was too scared to make any contact, but still, it’s progress).

So now carnival is over and I am sad but excited for the weekend (minus working tomorrow morning).  Things to look forward to: car museum tomorrow, Saint Patrick’s day party in my teacher’s village and cookie baking on Sunday afternoon!

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Lazy Saturday

So yesterday had all the promise of being a big day.  I have really tried to start taking advantage of all my spare time here because I still have a long list of things I want to do/see and I’m feeling the time crunch.  But for many reasons (stupid bike machine wouldn’t read my card, stupid bike had flat tires) Brett and I didn’t make it on our second attempt at a bike ride around Mulhouse.

In the end, I did enjoy a nice afternoon on the porch, drinking an Alsatian beer and finishing a good book.  Which I have to say was equally (or maybe even more) enjoyable than a bike ride.  And the best part was when I looked up and saw a hot air balloon literally grazing our rooftop.  At first I could not figure out where it was coming from but then I saw written on the side that it was from the university down the street.  They were having an open house for new students and apparently offering hot air balloon rides and karaoke!  Now, don’t get me wrong, I am a demon deacon through and through but Wake Forest needs to step it up for accepted students day.  Just saying…

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French speaking dinosaurs

This comic is hilarious, especially for French speakers or really speakers of any language requiring the use of gender.  Be sure to click the right arrow to see the next comic as well. Thanks, oldest bro, for this link.

And I saved the best part for last. They are French speaking dinos of course!

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Long lost blog

ohh bloggity blog, I know I have been neglecting you terribly.  I can’t believe I haven’t posted in over a month.  Sorry to my die hard fans out there (aka Ouisie and Hill) but I will try to be better now that my adventure is quickly coming to an end!

As you can tell by my last post, I have been trying to take advantage of life in Mulhouse since somehow I woke up and it is already MARCH.  So that is my excuse for not keeping up with the blog and I’m sticking to it.

Thankfully, even though it is not exactly spring here, the temperatures have gotten above freezing and it turns out that the sun really does shine on this part of the world.  Who knew?

I haven’t exactly crossed off any of my activities on the list from my last post but I have been trying to take advantage of this nice weather.  2 weekends ago, Brett and I decided to try and bike over to the German border.  Ambitious? Definitely.  Needless to say, we didn’t make it but we still biked 22 miles which is pretty impressive if I do say so myself.  Brett was lucky enough to have a real bike that he borrowed from one of his teachers at school.  I, on the other hand, rented one of the bikes offered by the city.  Now, I don’t want to sound like a big baby but let’s just say that Brett was driving a Porsche and I was driving a Hummer.  Those bikes from the city are weighed down with so much extra metal.  Maybe they are hoping all of that extra weight will deter the hoodlums of Mulhouse from running off with them.

So off we went and Brett assured me that he knew where we were going.  The cool part about Mulhouse is they actually have a lot of bike trails.  Unfortunately, we somehow lost the signs that should have led us along bike trail numero six.  As a result, we took a scenic detour through Reidisheim and Rixheim, 2 villages outside of Mulhouse.  With the help from a nice man outside of a furniture store (if you are out there, we promise to buy something from you one day!) we did end up on the bike trail and enjoyed riding alongside the canal for awhile.  Some of the highlights of the trip included:

a.  delicious picnic by the canal including day old croissants and paprika flavored chips.

b. watching this guy show off his crazy rollerblading moves on his homemade obstacle course.

c. The Peugeot factory.  Nothing says nice afternoon bike ride like some billowing smokestacks.  But it was cool to see in person.

We did almost die like 10 times.  I think my motto of the trip became “are you trying to get me killed??!!” Note: Brett was also equipped with a snazzy blue helmet while I was just banking on luck and gravity to keep me from cracking my head open.  Mom would have been so disappointed in me.  But that didn’t stop him from crashing into the side of a bridge…which consequently made me pee my pants with laughter.  (TMI? sorry).

Anyway, after about 5 hours, peddling onto the on ramp of a highway, and a few round abouts later, we made it back safe and sound.   After a few weeks of rest, I think I am up for another trip but maybe this time I will bring a map.  And a helmet.



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Learn me some culture

Now that we are over halfway through our contracts in France, it’s starting to dawn on me that time is running out! So, in an effort to really make use of what time is left, my friend Brett and I compiled a list of fun things we need to do in and around Mulhouse.   Since Mulhouse itself is random, the list is rather random too.  But here’s an idea of what’s to come:

1.  Automobile museum-Mulhouse is known for it’s car factories, and despite the fact that cars aren’t really my thing I feel like it’s a must-see before we leave.

2. Monkey Mountain – it’s all in the name.  A mountain of monkeys! What more could you want?

3. 3 country bike tour – Basically it involves biking in all 3 countries (France, Germany and Switzerland).  We aren’t hardcore enough to actually do the whole trail but we’d like to do a part in each place.  Now if only I had a bike…

4.  Wine tour- An afternoon of trying the different kinds of wine in Alsace. Again, no need to explain.

5.  Hiking in the Alps-Not trying to be squished by an avalanche anytime soon but hopefully in the near future we will be able to enjoy fresh air, a view sans smokestacks and some wildlife other than pigeons, crows and assorted stray dogs and cats.

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Parisian Honeymoon

Last weekend I went to Paris to meet up with two of my best friends from Wake, Ouisie and Caroline.  Care is an English assistant like me, but on a French island in the Indian Ocean called la Reunion.  Ouisie is doing the real person thing and is in law school in NYC so it’s pretty awesome that we found a way to meet up in Paris.

Caroline and her sister, Kat, were staying with family friends who live in Paris so Ouisie and I shared a super swanky room in the Westin that overlooked the Tuilerie gardens, the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower and the Place Vendome.    Hence the title of this post-Parisian Honeymoon.  Not only did we share a hotel room in the city of love, we also had some great jaunts around Paris including a hot date to the jardin des plantes (botanical gardens) and the natural science museum (clearly my choice, thanks for humoring me Ouise!).  As well as a delicious dinner of duck, mashed potatoes and white wine at the oldest restaurant in Paris that we just happened to walk by on Saturday night.

That’s not to say we were always on couple’s vacay 2k11.  Care joined us to relive some of our KKG Paree shenanigans (Sach and Cailin, you were missed!).  We went out in the 6th arrondissement on Friday night where we met up with our random and endlessly entertaining Parisian friends, Pierre and Remy and their assorted crew (including a break dancer).  As always, insanity ensued including a few too many aperitifs and a few too much lost in translation (or so we hope…).

The weekend flew by and I’m sad we all had to go back to our real lives and back to our respective corners of the world.  But it’s always nice to get a taste of home!

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