30 September 2006


Hi everyone, sorry for the lack of recent posts but I've had some trouble with communication. There is no phone line for the internet in my apartment, but in any case, my computer crashed recently. (Great timing; I guess all the traveling wore it out!) For now I'm relying on internet cafes and the computer lab at ISIPCA.

Getting established again has been quite a whirlwind, to say the least! This time there's no school full of teachers and office ladies willing to help me with the details, but at least I can speak the language. It feels really good to be surrounded by French again. Not to mention gardens and goat cheese and colorful open-air markets!

So far I like Versailles much more than I expected (I envisioned a small town full of people jaded by Chateau tourists). But people have been nicer than I remembered. And with its history and established neighborhoods, Versailles feels like a mini-Paris. Luckily I live near the Chateau gardens and a small lake that was donated by Switzerland about 400 years ago. I'm happy to be so close to nature in the middle of a town.

My courses have not yet begun but I've visited the school a few times. It's in the middle of a very charming residential neighborhood, and the old brick ivy-covered buildings look like they were former mansions. The halls smell like roses and violets, and everyone wears lots of black under crisp white labcoats. I can't wait for classes to start.

My living situation has changed a few times but for now this is the deal: the landlord rented the other room to a young Spanish man who is working in France for his Masters (something related to plastics and engineering). Initially I wasn't too thrilled about living with a guy I don't know, but since I'm renting I don't have much say in the matter. Antonio just moved in today, so I don't know him yet, but he seems very nice. And clean. And respectful. And he bought a TV. So far so good!

In the meantime, I've been to Paris a few times, and gone out with a French guy I met randomly while Mom was here. I think next week I'll go to school and try to be productive; I want to help teach the beginning French class for the other international students. It would be a good review for me too.

Mom had a lot of trouble with her luggage (that's an understatement!) but she was a huge help getting me settled and a lot of fun to explore Versailles with! I plan to return to the gardens for another bike-ride soon.

One of my favorite teachers in Japan, a kind man I often played tennis with, recently had surgery for lung cancer. So far he is doing well. I miss all my friends!

France is really wrapped in red tape so it takes a while to get settled. But I am REALLY excited to be here, I feel really good about my situation and my school, and I can't wait to get into perfume. Mom took a lot of photos, so maybe when she emails them to me I can post them on the blog. More updates to come and I hope you all are doing well.

12 September 2006

Last Night in Japan

Meegan took these photos on my last night in Japan. We had dinner at a crepe shop (of all places, but it was one of our favorite spots--yay France!!) and then did a couple hours of karaoke (yay Japan!!) I was so into the music that I didn't know she took karaoke shots...but some of them turned out pretty well. Look how serious I am, hah! Chocolate crepes and karaoke are no laughing matters.

I would also like to point out that it was the first time the entire year that I left my apartment in a tank-top (straps are a huge no-no in Japan). But it was my last night, and I was ready to let loose and enjoy Fuji while preparing to re-enter the West. What a rebel.

11 September 2006


I can't believe that the day after tomorrow, I'm moving to France.

Tonight I am exhausted from a day of hauling and folding and rolling. You'd think international packing would be old hat by now (hah!)...and to a certain extent it is. I've gotten lazier and sloppier because I can remember what I unpacked from Japan a month ago. But it seems that my belongings have expanded.

When I moved to Japan I had 2 suitcases, but a few months later my parents sent me a box of winter clothes. This time I am packing all my winter clothes, plus toiletries that are no longer allowed onto the plane...so this time I just have more stuff. Mom is coming to France as well (yay!!) and she generously offered to take a suitcase of my things with her. In total, I've got my 2 bags plus 1 that Mom is taking. At least we're not paying postage.

The funny thing is, when you look at everything, it's not even that much. It's basically everything I need to last me the entire year, including one 3-pound jar of crunchy peanut butter--which I insisted on packing because it's a delightful, filling, protein-packed spread the French do not import in large enough quantities to find in Paris without great huffing and puffing and wasted metro money. (Ever seen a French peanut butter cup? There's a reason why not. So into the suitcase goes the JIF.)

The initial arrangement was to share my apartment with a young French student. It's very unusual for French students to move out of their parents' houses, and evidently this case was no exception: she changed her mind and decided not to move in to "our" apartment. So currently I have no flat-mate, but this could change as soon as Friday.

As I talk with others or think to myself, I mentally translate my words into French. A few times I've had to crack the dictionary, to look up such random words as: bald, pillow, to dress / get dressed, empty. In Japan, there were often French movies on John's satellite TV. With only Japanese subtitles to assist, I got to practice my listening skills, and for the most part I could understand. I don't want to jinx myself, but I think French will come back to me pretty quickly. I also think that, compared to learning Japanese, it might even seem easy. Au naturel. :)

In the past couple days I've been self-absorbed trying to get everything ready. But don't think that you haven't crossed my mind. I am sad, yes, to leave the time zone again...there are many people to miss. But maybe I'll have lots of visitors this year!

I plan to have the internet at my apartment, but I'm not sure how long that will take to set up. This may be the last post from me until I get things situated...but just know that I am thinking about you all! Much love to everyone and I hope the upcoming "year" is good for us all.

I am so excited, and I can't believe this is really happening.

And I want to say congratulations to a couple of my best friends in the entire world:

Mayumi will become Atsushi-san on March 24, 2007

and then

Hilary will become Mrs. Lee on September 22, 2007.

I can't believe my friends are becoming "Mrs."s!!

One down...and tomorrow and I'm outta' here!
--Ben Folds

07 September 2006

Other Kinds of Prayer

The only sure path is to live consciously, moment to moment, as you let go of the outcome.

Obsessive thinking signals that we are not telling the truth, either to ourselves or another person.

--Charlotte Kasl

Don't grieve. Anything you lose comes round in another form.

Lo, I am with you always means when you look for God, God is in the look of your eyes, in the thought of looking, nearer to you than your self, or the things that have happened to you. There's no need to go outside. Be melting snow. Wash yourself of yourself. A white flower grows in the quietness. Let your tongue become that flower.

I have lived on the lip of insanity, wanting to know reasons, knocking on a door. It opens. I've been knocking from inside!


Between living and dreaming, there is a third thing.

Guess it.

--Antonio Machado

05 September 2006

Certain Kind of Prayer

I don't travel to run away. I don't travel to forget. I travel to learn. But I like the way Paul Theroux said it:

"You have to find out for yourself. Take the leap."

"Nothing induces concentration or stimulates memory like an alien landscape or a foreign culture. It is simply not possible (as romantics think) to lose yourself in an exotic place. More likely, you will experience intense nostalgia, a harking back to an earlier stage of your life."

Every time you give something up and move on to something else, you remember how full your life is, how lucky you are. If you're open to starting over, instead of leaving things behind, you end up staring everything straight in the face.

When I began to feel settled in Japan, I wrote a post about contentment. I was really happy and started to wonder, "So, is this it? Is this all it takes? Can I stop here? Is this good enough? What happens tomorrow when I am content today?" I started to feel this itch, like "home" was closing in on me much sooner than I expected. I was ready to feel settled much earlier than I had predicted. That was scary. But when I was really quiet with that idea, when I really let it sink in, I realized...nope! I'm not quite there yet! I have to keep going! So I leave for France knowing it is the best path for me to be on. What's a year, right? Look how quickly Japan flew by, and look how much I learned. I still want that. But unlike Japan, I approach France with something different in my chest. It's not in my heart or my stomach, but somewhere deeper. It's like somebody snuck inside of me and turned on a night-light: I want to settle down sooner than I thought. It's there and glowing--not blazing yet because now just isn't the right time--but it's going to spark into a flame pretty soon. I can feel it.

And I am so, so excited.

Today I'm getting lost in Paris and perfume. Tomorrow I'll be singing this:

If there’s a plane or a bus leaving Dallas
I hope you’re on it
If there’s a train moving fast down the tracks
I hope you caught it
'Cause I swear out there
ain’t where you ought to be
So catch a ride, catch a cab
Don’t you know I miss you bad
But don’t you walk to me
Baby run, cut a path across the blue skies
Straight in a straight line
You can’t get here fast enough
Find a truck and fire it up
Lean on the gas and off the clutch
Leave Dallas in the dust
I need you in a rush
So baby, run

--George Strait

One thing at a time. :)