Saturday, February 26, 2011

My German friends and I 

Some awesome Hillsong girls!!

Caught in the Rain

It is pouring down rain outside right now, which is typical of Paris in the spring... or really any time of year. And yes, I know its not really spring yet. But the last couple weeks have been so great. You can just feel spring coming in Paris. There are birds everywhere, the weather has warmed up a bit, and all of the stores just got in their spring collections... which means its time for shopping :) But because I got caught in the rain, and I mean a down pouring, I ran into Starbucks and I'm sitting here now waiting for it to pass with some peppermint tea and overly priced WIFI. So, I thought I'd write a little bit.

Things have been going very well this past month. Really, I'm just loving life lately. I went with my host sister, Reanna, to the top of Montparnasse yesterday (the tallest building in Paris), and we sat in the restaurant that overlooks the city eating creme brulee and staring out the window at the most incredible view I have ever seen. And I thought to myself how lucky I am to be here. It's terrible, but I forget it a lot. And I know my host sister totally takes it for granted, like most Parisians I'm sure, having lived here her whole life.

Last Thursday I got to go to Cologne, Germany for the weekend to visit some friends who live there. It was so easy... just a three hour train ride, and I was in a totally different country. I actually love taking the train because it is so much easier than flying. But growing up in Idaho, I didn't really get a lot of experience with it :) I decided I'm going to try to do a lot more traveling in the next three months I am here, because there are so many places I want to experience! And I live so close to everything now, I might as well take advantage of it! 

Cologne has a really cool vibe. I loved the city, the German people (everyone speaks English), and the atmosphere of it all. It has one of the most famous cathedrals in Germany right in the center of the city, which I got to go to the top of (over 500 steps, baby!) and a great night life. I was only there for four days but I did so much and had so many amazing experiences. And tasted so many new foods too... I can't say I'm too big a fan of German food though. I laughed sooo hard when I saw a hamburger that had sausages instead of hamburger meat at McDonald's. Typical.

Last night I went to a Hillsong Powerhouse service (Powerhouse is the name for Hillsong's young adult group). I have just in the last couple of months started getting involved with Hillsong, and I am so glad that I have. Because it is such an international church with campuses in over ten countries (I don't know the exact number really) there are students from all around the world that come together. Probably sixty percent of the conversations are in English, and all of the messages are translated. I have met so many great people through it already from Australia, Indonesia, the UK, Sweden, and of course the states. I'm really excited to get more involved. There is just such a passion and a fire for God there that reminds me of GC Downtown back home (for those of you who don't know, that's the name of my youth group in Boise). And I miss that a lot. 

This week I'm planning on FINALLY going to Versailles. I cannot believe that I have lived here for this long and not gone there yet. When you live here, you lose track of all of the touristy things a bit. But since that was probably the thing I was most excited about seeing in Paris, I'm really looking forward to going :)

And, weirdly enough, I only have about three months left here! I can barely believe it. I don't really know how I feel about it... I know I am probably going to fall in love with Paris in the spring time, and then have to leave. But for now I'm just going to make every moment count. And try my best to learn more French. :)

I miss you all! Thanks so much for your thoughts and support and prayers :) 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I admit that I don’t usually feel like blogging at all, but on the train ride home today I had all of these thoughts floating around in my head, and I thought it would be a good idea to put them down somewhere. So here goes. 
I was just out eating dinner at a cafe with my friend from Australia that goes to a university here, and she mentioned that she was feeling like everything was so surreal; like she couldn’t believe that she was actually in Paris at that exact moment. And we started talking about it, and it hit me too. And we had this moment of complete awe of how an American and an Australian girl both ended up in Paris sitting in this French cafe, when a few months ago we didn’t even know we would be moving here. And I am the first American she has really ever met, and I am pretty sure she is the first Australian I have ever met… and we met in France. So there you go. 
Anyway, sometimes I just have these moments here where I know I am exactly where God wants me. Where things make sense, and I have peace. Those are the moments you live for. The ones that get you through the days of doubt. Their perfume is so strong that you can’t forget about them when you are discouraged because the scent lingers. I have been having more and more of those moments lately. 
The longer I’m here, the more I understand Paris and the Parisian culture. (I am not saying French culture because Paris seems to be a lot different than the rest of France honestly). Sure, there is the romanticized city that everyone thinks of… the city of “amour” and excitement and fashion. People really do carry around baguettes and walk little dogs and smoke cigarettes all the time here. That city does exist. But Paris is so much more than that. The people are so much more than that. Its a real city with real people. People that are affected by years and years of history whether they know it or not. And at first it was sometimes hard for me to understand why Parisians are the way they are, because believe me. the culture is way different than in America. But I am beginning to understand. I’m beginning to blend into it a little I guess. And also, it is such a multicultural city. So there is a little bit of flavor from all over the world… so there is that side to the city as well. 
Alright, only one more thing I want to say. My friend from Australia told me that Australians call McDonald’s “Macca’s”. Actually, she said something about “Macca’s” and then was totally shocked when I had no idea what she was talking about. The french people call McDonald’s “MacDo” (pronounced like Mac-Doh). I just thought it was funny… I mean, its American. Not like I’m really proud of that. But it’s funny that every country has to have their own word for it. The french also call Starbucks “Starbuck” because they are French and have to do everything their own way. And also because they have a hard time with the “s” :) 
Anyway, that’s all for now. I miss you all!
J’espere que vous passez une bonne semaine :) 

Four Months…

I don’t really know what to think about the fact that I have been here for four months. In one sense, it seems like I should have been here for way longer than that. It feels like I have been here for ages…. so much has changed. On the other hand, I can remember thinking that January was so far away. I remember arriving here and everything being new and thinking that in a few months I would be settled in and used to everything. And that few months just blew by. 
The last month has definitely been the most fun one here so far. First, my sister got to come for two weeks to see me! And it was so great to see her. I got to show her around Paris, and I knew where everything was. I knew my way around this city! And that felt so good. I was showing her my home, which is Paris! :) Unfortunately it was really cold when she was here, so I’m not sure she like that very much. But we had a lot of fun. She got to experience all of the creepers on the metro and we almost got our stuff stolen by these professionaI theives that are all like, 13 year old girls. They have no ID, but in france if you are under 14 you can’t be prosecuted, so if they get caught they are only held for a couple hours and then released. They all say they have the same name and all say they are 13, even if they aren’t. They even did an interview on the news after they had been released from prison laughing about the whole thing… just interesting. Anyway, we didn’t get our stuff stolen luckily, because we were paying attention. But it was an experience.
And I finally went to the top of the eiffel tower (I was saving that for her). And of course I took her to Galleries Lafayette and the Champs Elysee. The best part about Christmas was London, though. We went there for one week to stay with the same family I stayed with last time (old family friends). And London around Christmas time is just unbelievably cool. The atmosphere is just so amazing there, and I am in love with it there. I could hang out at Oxford Circus all day, every day. 
I was really sad to see her leave, and for a couple days it brought back a wave of homesickness to be honest. But then it was New Years, and a night out with some friends in Paris cured that fast. 
The french are so funny. They were barely excited for Christmas, but they go wild for New Years! They don’t usually send Christmas cards, but they send New Years cards here I guess? Weird. Walking down the Champs Elysee at 1 a.m. New Year’s Day was crazy. The whole street was shut down so people could walk on it. It was lighted up and gorgeous (if you didn’t look at the lines of champagne bottles everywhere and the piles of fast food trash). And everyone was yelling “Bonne Annee” and trying to kiss you. But it was seriously so much fun. We met a lot of people that night… The funniest was this one Italian guy who followed us around for an hour telling us he loved us. But he didn’t know any english or french… so the conversation wasn’t that fantastic :) I didn’t end up getting back until late morning New Years day. The metro was free all night, so even though the metros were crammed with people, it was great!  
Then, the last couple of weeks I have just been working (doing whatever a personal assistant does…) ha. People always ask me “what do you do during the week?” And it honestly changes all the time. Sometimes I do research papers, sometimes I work at home, or in the church offices, or I do errands. But I never really know how to describe my job. I’m just helping out I guess :)
I have a really good feeling about this next year. I know the remaining months here are going to be amazing, and I am curious to see what will happen. God has already done so much in me since I have been over here, and I’m ready to see what else he is going to do! He is so faithful to always be there for me if I’m ever having a hard time! There have been so many times when I was feeling sad or having a hard day, and something happened right after to cheer me up. And looking back on those days, I can see God there just trying to make me happy. Which is so cool. Sometimes growing experiences are a little painful, but God wants us to be happy :) So he helps us out. 
I’m really excited for this week too… I’m going to hillsong Paris (finally) on Friday night to a young adults service. And then Saturday is my birthday. And I’m turning 19, in Paris. A year ago on my birthday I didnt know I would be here for my 19th. But its pretty exciting. 
I miss everyone and I’m sorry for the really long blog :) If I keep them coming more often I won’t have to write as much, but blogging is so hard. 


There is now a giant Christmas tree in front of the Notre Dame, and it just makes me love it there even more. Now that it has gotten cold, I have started just “stopping in” to the Notre Dame to get warm. I just sit there and look up at the amazing architecture and stained glass and listen to people from all over the world talk about how beautiful it is in different languages. I like just sitting there quietly and taking it all in. Its beautiful to me… This incredible building that was created to represent the splendor of God… no matter what one believes, the builders’ attempt to glorify God in the best way they knew how is breathtaking. 
Today was my day off, and after I stopped by the Notre Dame, I decided to go see Luxembourg Garden. I hadn’t been there yet, and though its probably best in the spring or the summer, I was blown away by how gorgeous it was in the snow. And I was so cold, but it was worth it. It kind of reminded me of that song “Winter Wonderland” in a way. 
After, I just walked and shopped for ahwile, but this is not exactly the most fun activity when it is below freezing. And I was kind of sick of being alone (everyone I could think of had school or work today so I just went in by myself). I don’t really love being by myself… I honestly never had. Sometimes its fun, being alone and exploring Paris, but since I have been meeting people I have been dragging them into the city with me so I can have a partner to take it all in with.
Anyway, I was walking and trying to figure out what to do next, when I bumped into my friend Guiome (I’m not exactly sure how to spell it), which was really surprising because it is a huge city and there are people everywhere. But we ended up getting Starbucks and having just about the funniest coversation ever, because we had to try really hard to understand each other. I know a lot of french now, but people have a hard time understanding my accent sometimes. So i speak broken french and then they speak broken english, and anyone listening to the conversation must think we are ridiculous! haha. But a lot of things get lost in translation I think! 
Only thirteen more days until my sister gets here and only nineteen more days until London. I can’t wait :) 

Hey everyone, 
I’m really sorry I’m not better at blogging. There is just always so much going on, and taking time to write it down is hard. And I honestly don’t know how many people read this, but it is good for me at least so I can remember everything that happens to me over the year. 
Its getting colder here, and the air has changed to that type of cold that hints that snow is coming. I’m not sure snow will come though… apparently Paris doesn’t get snow like Idaho does. But there will be some. Fall is really pretty here, but most have the leaves have fallen now. And all of this is making me really excited for thanksgiving. Except there is a problem with that, because that doesn’t exist here! I didn’t fully realize this until I went to starbucks with a my friend Sabrina really excited to order a pumpkin spice lattee and they didn’t have them. This makes sense… No thanksgiving=no pumpkin flavor. But stilll, Starbucks is American. 
The McDonalds’ are different here too! They have pastries. I mean, leave it to France to have pastries at McDonald’s. And I’m not talking little apple pies. I mean like nice pastries. They also have different types of burgers and sauces and everything! I feel like they have more choices than America actually. 
Anyway, back to thanksgiving…even if there were thanksgiving here, I doubt the french would make a big deal out of it. They aren’t as in to celebration as Americans are, I don’t think. At least thats what my friends in England said. In England, everyone has been ready for Christmas for a month already. Every store was decked out with decorations around Halloween! 
This is one reason I love London. Seriously, it is one of my favorite places in the world! I went there for a week and it was amazing. I stayed with my mom’s foreign exchange friend from HIGH SCHOOL. Small world. Her and her husband live in Harpenden, which is the eighth most expensive place to live in England. And for good reason. It looks like a Christmas card, its right outside of london, and there are tons of huge houses everywhere dating from hundreds of years ago. England is a lot like America. They have most of the same stores, all of the same tv shows and movies, and they like the same things. They just have a way cooler accent. I seriously think someone could yell at me with that accent and I would just think it was cool. I tried to pick up a few words while I was over there, and the couple I stayed with taught me things like how a “cup cake” is a “fairy cake” and the trunk of the car is the “boot” and the hood is the “bonnet”. And if you say “awesome” there, people think you mean awesome as in scary. So I got a lot of confused looks when I was describing everything as awesome. The english say “lovely”. Which is another reason to love them! How could you not love people who think everything is just simply “lovely?”
I spent almost the whole time trying to figure out how I could move there one day :)
While there I shopped, went to museums, ate at a pub from the 1400s, stood in the train station that Harry Potter was filmed at!!!, and honestly had the best time. My favorite store IN THE WORLD is now Harrod’s. It is so amazing. Floor after floor of restaurants, designer clothing, jewelry, pet stores (even a bakery for dogs…). It was by far the biggest and classiest store I have ever been in.  
Also, at one point, when coming home from London with my friends, they had to evacuate a few thousand people from one of the most crowded stations in london. No one had any idea what was going on, but the guy next to me seemed to think someone must have found unattended baggage or something. And England is on high alert for terrorism. Try going through airport security there. Anyway, luckily no one panicked. Because we were crammed together like sardines trying to get outside from three stories underground, and one person freaking out could have been bad. 
Anyway, I will be going back to Harpenden for Christmas with my little sister, who is getting here in less than a month! I’m so excited to see her. I miss her and everyone so much. Maybe its the fact that I know I am an ocean away, or the fact that I won’t be going back for a long time still, but I have a little bit of homesickness. It comes and goes though. Mostly I am just constantly learning new words and making an idiot out of myself trying to speak french :) I hope people think its cute and not frustrating. I am getting better though! I can have full conversations, and I think in french a lot. (And it freaks me out) haha. 
I am going to try to update more from now on! 
But for now I miss and love you all! Thank you so much for your support and prayers :) 
P.S. My very first cross country coach, Ivan Benson, passed away this week. He was such an inspiring and kind man, and he was the person who talked me into doing cross country in the first place. If it weren’t for him, I’m sure my life would be so different.. I don’t know if I would have gotten involved in xc and it is now a huge part of my life. Its really crazy how much impact a person can have on another. And he had an impact on a lot of people! So please be praying for his wife. He is in heaven sooo happy right now :)