Thursday, May 30, 2013

Celebrating My Sweet Parents!

I will tell anyone that I have wonderful parents, but today, there are a few extra reasons for celebrating them!

 Firstly, May 30, 2013 marks 32 years of marriage for Jane and Carlyle!

Secondly, it was publicly announced yesterday that my dad is the new CEO for Big Brothers/Big Sisters! I am so excited about his new career path and I know he will be a blessing to so many people in this role.

Thirdly, my mom has just begun her training program for The Nashville Teaching Fellows Program, meaning she will be intensely trained all summer to be a certified teacher and she will teach in a low-income Nashville school this upcoming year. Those lucky students will have the most kind-hearted, loving teacher in all of Nashville.

And, as always, they are fun-loving and generous parents that have been incredible examples for all four of us over the years!

We love you, Mama and Pooch!

I wish I could be there this weekend!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Playing with Polaroids

The dragons go crazy over my little Polaroid camera...and since cameras are not technically allowed in "the free school"...I took this opportunity to teach them about polaroids and let them capture a little bit of what goes on here at school. 

Aren't they adorable?! I will be so sad to say goodbye to them in six short weeks.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Beyonce and Berlin

So I ventured to Berlin for the second time this weekend and it was, unfortunately, not super exciting. I stayed in a really cool area that reminded me of Brooklyn and had tons of cool shops (and delicious mexican food!!) and I toured the Berlin Dom, which is a beautiful building situated right on the river. I do really like Berlin's artsy vibe, but the rain and cold weather were a downer this trip. The two notable things were...



That is all. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Travel Troubles

Now that I have told you all about how wonderful my weekend was, I will tell you about how wonderful it was not...On Saturday as we sat around the lunch table, Wendy, a hilarious lady from Texas who was in Aix to do Jill's painting workshop, told us this insane story about her first trip to Aix-en-Provence. To summarize, Wendy drove six hours in the opposite direction of Aix, had a sobbing breakdown to a French police officer, arrived 24 hours late, cracked out on red bull, and exhausted...only to request a beer at 8am and freak everyone out for a first impression. 

We all laughed about the absurdity of this story, and a little while later they casually asked me how long it took me to get to Aix from Wald-Michelbach, and I had to admit my first embarrassing travel mistake. I meant to take a little nap on the train Friday morning, but my nap turned into a deep sleep and I slept through my stop, went all the way to Switzerland, and turned what should have been a 7 hour trip into an almost 12 hour one. Whoops. Everyone laughed and joked with me for not sharing my story as we all laughed at Wendy's mistakes, and I assured that them the trip back would take less than 7 hours. Little did I know, the worst of my travel issues were ahead of me.

So on Monday morning, I woke up at 8 to leave. The sun was shining and it was a beautiful day, so I just decided to enjoy it a little bit and take the 1:30 train (which was the last train I could take and still make the bus to Wald-Michelbach that night). I went to the station at 1:30, and they told me that there was no possible way I could get back to Germany that day. After much debate, I ended up having to wait til 4 to leave and pay for a whole new ticket to get to Paris, but I just went back out to enjoy two more hours of sun in Marseille so I was not too upset about it.
I couldn't be mad, this was a pic I snapped as I waited the original two hours in Marseille.
When I got to Paris, I had to switch train stations and was extremely short on time, so I took a motorcycle taxi through the city (in the pouring rain, with my bags) to avoid rush hour traffic.

When I arrived at the main station, I had about 30 minutes til the last train of the night left for Germany. At this point, its 7:30 pm and I am getting frustrated. They tell me there was absolutely no space on this train and there was no chance of me getting to Germany that night. Being desperate, I decide that if I shed a few tears they would certainly let me on. I start to cry and beg these two train conductors (one spoke english, the other I was begging in German...) and they were not budging. But, once I'd started to cry, I couldn't just give up. And plus, I'd left beautiful France and passed up an opportunity to stay and paint because I had work, so I was not going to miss work for anything at this point. So I kept sobbing and pleading with them. And I know I have been known to exaggerate, but I kid you not, this went on for a solid twenty minutes. Finally, as the train is about to pull out, the man train conductor took pity on me and said I could get on. I was ecstatic. And while I technically got what I wanted (which was to be on the train), I did not get a seat so I slept in the hallway and people walked past kicking me and tripping over me all night. The even more miraculous part, was that the conductor continued to take pity on me, asking exactly where I was going (the train was going to Berlin and Munich) and offered to make an "unofficial stop" in Mannheim just to let me out. So, at 2:20 am, as I was half asleep on the floor, this kindest German conductor came and woke me up, stopped the train of probably 500 people, and let me (and only me!) off the train.

So, I hailed a cab and finally made it home at 3:15 am. When I called my mom to let her know that I was, in fact, alive and tell her all that I'd been through, I said, "It's a good thing this weekend was so amazing or I'd be furious about all that I went through to get there and back!"


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Southern France

I just had to do a whole post on lovely Aix, but I wanted to share about the rest of my time in the south of France! I spent the other parts of my weekend in Marseille, which is an adorable beach town nearby. 

I arrived on Friday afternoon and walked around the port to get a feel for the city. I met some English speaking friends at the hostel, so we went out for a seafood dinner and explored the city by night until it started raining.

Saturday morning I headed to Aix-en-Provence, which was a quick but beautiful bus ride through the hills away. Sunday, when I returned, I decided to hit up the beach for some rest and relaxation.

The water was bright blue and could not have looked more inviting. The beach was also a prime place for people watching, complete with a French man serenading me, so the entertainment was not lacking at all. I relaxed, wrote post cards, walked along the beach and took it all in until the sunset was approaching.

 When the sun started sinking, I climbed up to Basillique Notre Dame for an incredible view of the city and the harbor at sunset. From there, I couldn't help but read a few verses from The Bible and soak in the beauty of creation. I was literally surrounded by incredible sights on all sides, it was wonderful.

Monday morning I woke up to leave, but could not bring myself to do so, so I spent the morning exploring the markets of Marseille and taking one more walk by the water before my departure.

I would also like to comment that previous to this weekend, my encounters with France were limited to my three visits to Paris. I have mixed feelings about Paris, and would have said that I was not crazy about France overall. I stand corrected. I still have mixed feelings about Paris, but if I had to spent the rest of my life in southern France I would not be sad about it.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Aix-en-Provence....My new favorite place!

This weekend, I decided to take an impromptu trip to the south of France (and I am SO GLAD I did). When I told my mom, she immediately contacted Jill Steenhuis, a family friend and incredible artist who lives in Aix-en-Provence and she warmly welcomed me into to their beautiful home for the day Saturday. That is when I fell in love with the adorable city of Aix.

Jill is a longtime friend of my mom's from Camp Desoto, but she has lived and painted in France for 30 years now, where she lives with her husband, Serge, and three boys, Alexander, Sergio, and Jimmy. This family is a breath of fresh air and indescribably entertaining and kind. Jill was hosting a painting workshop this week, so there were four others in town, including a fun girl about my age named Grace, who became a fast friend!

When I arrived on Saturday, Serge had cooked a delicious French meal for us, Jill showed us around their beautiful property (despite the rain), and Sergio and Jimmy invited us to go out to the Cedar Forrest with them. Grace and I embarked on this little adventure, which was a beautiful windy drive through wine country (cue my never failing carsickness...). As we drove and all got to know each other, the boys explained that it rains so rarely in Aix that everyone just stops everything. They do not know what to do so they just take a break from life. We all laughed about it, but when we got to the forrest where we should have seen the incredible views, it was full of fog and Sergio and Jimmy had to admit that they, being French/Americans, were also completely unprepared and unaware of how to deal with the rain and the unexpected fog. Despite, the lack of views, it was a spectacular adventure and fun to see so much of the untouched French countryside.

Their home was an amazing French Chateu, and I cannot even begin to describe how much I adored it, but my favorite part was the studio. I am fascinated by Jill's painting, but Serge and Segio both are also artists, so this family is not short on artist talent at all.

We returned from our exploration to find another incredible meal, complete with all four members of the painting workshop this week, who were fun women who added a great deal to the house full of characters! Again, it was a mouth-watering meal, complete with hilarious conversations and story telling!

After dinner, Grace and I went out to meet back up with Jimmy and Sergio and their friends. On a side note, these boys were Alpine campers and we vaguely remembered each other from the good ole Barn Dances, so it was funny to be reunited halfway across the world. Their friend, Paul, who had gone to Alpine with them but never really learned English, was so excited when they told him I was a "Desoto Girl"! It's funny how small the world is and to think that these are "The French Boys" that were always the talk of DeSoto back in the day.

After hanging out, Sergio took Grace and I out to see the Mount Saint Victorie, the mountain that Cezanne (who lived and painted in Aix) painted over 80 times. It was breath taking to see by night, although of course pictures could not capture it. Below is one of my favorite Cezanne paintings, as well as our attempt to capture it at night (which ended up just being our faces).

After a fiasco that ended in us not finding my hotel and sleeping in Grace's hotel room, I got up Sunday morning to finally explore the city of Aix-en-Provence. My love affair with this place continued. I wish I could put into words the smells, the shops, the sights, and the wonderful feelings that ensued as I walked around this city. I loved wandering through the French the markets. It was just one of those places that gets more incredible with everything you see.

All to soon, I was headed back to Marseille, but I literally cannot wait for my next visit to Aix. I will share about the rest of my weekend adventures soon.

Thursday, May 16, 2013


As the end of this is drawing near, I have been thinking about some of the things I have learned. Obviously it would be impossible to put everything I have learned into words, but I want to try to do a few posts articulating what I can. The generosity that has been shown to me has been incredible. When I think about my life a year ago, I was about to walk across the stage and end my four year chapter at Wake Forest. I tearfully said goodbye to wonderful friends, had a few fun summer adventures, then said some more sad goodbyes and moved to the sticks of Germany. Alone and without knowing the language. I could have never imagined what my life would look like today. 


One thing that has really struck me, especially being a person who is constantly guilty of being selfish, is the generosity of others. It really has been amazing to see the people, most of whom I did not know, bend over backwards to welcome me.

...You were roommates with my friend's mom in college? Sure, thank you for having me over for Thanksgiving, taking me grocery shopping, and constantly opening your home to me.

I am your son's teacher? Yes, I'd love to come over for countless home cooked meals.

Yes, I was casually friends with your daughter at Wake. Thank you for taking us in for a weekend, pampering us, and showing us all around Belgium.

You are a stranger at the next table, but you heard us comment on how delicious the fondue looked. You really did not have to buy one and send it over to us, but we'll take it!

Yes, I have friends in town from America and I have to work. Want to take them hiking all over Odenwald? You are too kind....

These are just a few examples of how people have reached out to me, welcomed me, and taken away my feelings of loneliness. It really has been neat to see so many people, whether they know it or not, be incredible examples of God's love for me this year. Kindness seems so much more meaningful to a person who is isolated in a foreign country, and I will never forget how wonderful it felt to have so many people reach out to me.