Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Getting Better!

Yep!  This is pretty much how I feel about my game right now!  

I am so thankful to be here improving my game with such an amazing group of people.  My coach is so incredible.  My team is - day by day - making me a better volleyball player, and I hope that by the end of this year they can say that I did the same for them.  Oh man - good things are happening!  Every practice is getting a little bit better!  Getting so much better all the time!  :)

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Fun with Verbs!

Here are some of my favorite new verbs in French!

faire valloir - to make the most of
focaliser - to focus
mener - to lead
mouvoir - to drive, propel, move
parachever - to perfect
parvenir - to reach, succeed in
percer - to break through
planer - to soar
pointer - to sharpen, aim, check off
potentialiser - to increase the effect of
pourchasser - to pursue
rentabiliser - to make profitable
surélever - to heighten, raise
tâter - to feel out
taper - to bounce
turbiner - to work, toil
valoriser - to increase the value of
vivifier - to invigorate

... and last, but certainly not least!!
zozoter - to lisp

Their word for LISP is even meaner than ours!  Isn't that crazy?!?
Je zozote
Tu zozotes
Il/elle zozote
Nous zozotons
Vous zozotez
Ils/elles zozotent


Saturday, October 19, 2013

French Milestone #1

I finally dreamed in French!  Yay!

We were on the beach and this huge humpback whale was coming up close to the shore and turning over and for some reason I had an exacto knife.  A long narrow part of the whale came crashing down on me so that, for a moment, my world shrunk down to (from the ground up):  sand, exacto knife, the left side of my face, the rest of my head, a very heavy whale part.  I wasn't scared.  Instead, I felt pure shock, followed immediately by complete curiosity.  I found a way to relax there and to signal to everyone on the beach that I was alright.  It wasn't long before I was in front of a mirror in a nearby beach house putting the finishing touches on my white linen outfit.  Tim Kelly from Bring It Promotions came in to announce the details of our evening outing (French reality TV show style).  Haha - so weird!

It's such a relief that this milestone has been reached.  Dream in French.  Check.  :)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Random Ramblings - Part I


There's a 51 bus here!  I swear to God...  I was walking down the street and BAM! there was the freaking 51!!!!!  Ahahah - hilarious.  I almost had to sit down on the side of the road I was laughing so hard.  One day - when I'm really homesick - I'm going to ride that line from end to end and dream about the Bay Area.  Ha!  The 51...  We've shared so many good times...

No 666

There's no 666 here.  I found this out in a very absurd way!  Walking into town on a race day, I passed by two guys still proudly sporting their runner's numbers.  One of them was 666!  So I did what any normal American would do - I pointed and laughed in a way that invited everyone to join in - he just looked down and looked back up and gave me the "What, did I forget to zip?!!?" look.  We continued walking in opposite directions, everyone very confused.

Pick a Lane

They don't have lanes in the community pool here, so swimming is like playing a game of frogger.  If you know me, you know that I am a very weak swimmer.  So, as you can imagine, I am like a baby elephant under there...  I've kicked plenty of people and been caught (on a few occasions) accidentally/intentionally dirty looking some individuals who just stand right in the middle.  I haven't built up enough courage to ask them why they just stand there in the middle of the pool causing others to go out of their way to swim around, but one of these days when my anger has subsided I will find a way to ask nicely.

Pre-game Routine  

To prepare the regional men's team for their first match, I wanted to encourage them to find a pre-game routine.  However, I didn't know how to say "pre-game routine", so I decided to just describe what I do to prepare for a match and asked them what they call that.  They said "obsessive compulsive disorder".  Wah wah!

There's more, but I can't think of it, so that's all for now.  More later!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Poetry is Bravery

Last week I picked up a mini magazine called PROG! at my local newsstand/coffee shop/bar.  The postcard-sized booklet advertises 24 pages worth of cool cultural happenings in and around Tours.  Lo and behold!  The first Monday of every month, a café in Tours Centre hosts a free *keyword* poetry reading.  So, before my usual Monday night sauna and swimming sesh, I built up some courage and jumped on the tram to find some poets, poems, and poetry.  Oh la la! 

Opening the thick door to the café, I realized that the average age was 62 (this number was significantly lowered by one young suicidal-looking gentleman).  Central themes were nature, family, love and tenderness.  Under normal circumstances, this poetry might induce vomiting.  However, since I was too distracted by the meanings of the words (pronounced loudly and clearly), the poetry reading became more like an extraordinary listening exercise.  We went around the room and everyone read something…  Luckily, before I left the house, I jotted down a few of my favorite poems from Birds of Arizona, by William Moor (just in case - anticipating that I might need some material myself).  Here is what I read:

Greater White-fronted Goose




Cinnamon Teal

Mandela and when you are going

Ruddy Duck

A house plan

Wild Turkey

of the
all of

Montezuma Quail

they are and are in
R a
R and
who are in the

Neotropic Cormorant


Cedar Warwing

, that
that the

Yelllow Warbler

Click the

...  Cool right?!  Haha!  I stayed for a while afterwards to talk to the president of their association (who happens to live right down the street from me in Saint Cyr) and another very nice woman who pretty much told me her life story.  Their poetry was not at all what I’m used to.  Poetry where I come from challenges great big ideas with interesting sounding words that cut into your thoughts and graft them with your feelings.  Truly, this experience left me with a deep sense of gratitude for Billy and his poetry and the poetry community in the Bay Area.

I've realized that, no matter what topic you choose to write about or what country you inhabit, writing poetry is an incredibly brave act.  So I wrote a poem.   I’m sure the poem I'm about to share with you has been written before – either by a sad solitary peace corps worker, or a lonely soldier in some dugout somewhere craving the greatest creation to ever come from the United States besides the internet…  I'm warning you - it's so bad that it's even more bad, but here it is anyway:

Peanut Butter Poem

On a sunny afternoon
I will lick you from a spoon

Chunky, smooth, sweet
You’re all I ever want to eat

You make me more me

This week I've been working on a few poems inspired by different circumstances I've encountered while living here in Saint Cyr.  I'm also working overtime on my French...  Billy sent me a link to this site, which is a fun way to learn a new language:  www.duolingo.com  Check it out!

That's all for now.  More later!

Sunday, October 6, 2013


At 10:30 AM Sunday morning the whole team piled into a nine-person van to make our 4PM match against team AMAZON (I mean, Bordeaux Merignac).  This team came down from National 1 at the end of last season and has been dominating National 2 with their scrappy defense and ferocious offense ever since. 

Unfortunately for our record, the road trip was the highlight of the day.  The freeways here are fast, direct, and cost a fortune.  The gas was 110 euros, and the tolls totaled 150 euros!  OUCH!  Coach Maguy said if you aren’t pressed for time the national routes here are beautiful *free* back roads that wind through the countryside and tiny town centers (a great way to see the French way of life up close).

Bordeaux was unlike any wine country I’ve ever seen...  Lush vines extended from the freeway in their uniform lines for as far as the eye could see in every direction.  Vineyards weren’t nestled in a valley, or shelved along steep, rocky cliffs.  They just stretched on and on and on forever.  Rows of trees and solitary farm houses spotted the landscape and spurred deep conversations about food, farming, and the environment. 

You will never believe this, but it turns out that on this three hour car ride, I happened to be sitting next to a girl on the team who has also been to Madagascar!  Oh, we went on and on, sharing with Maguy all the coolest things about Mada.  Since Maguy spent most of her life in Brazil, she could relate to a lot of the eating habits that characterize that latitude (ie tons of rice, a million different types of bananas, and avocados for dessert).  Mmmmm… 

I often forget that Madagascar is where I first developed a respect for food.  Despite annual family outings to Apple Hill and my mom’s lifelong gardening and fearless foraging habits, before studying abroad in Madagascar in my mind food primarily existed prepared, packaged, and priced on a shelf, in an aisle, in a huge air-conditioned building with slick floors and friendly employees.  Madagascar is where I finally realized that even the ingredients for pop tarts are planted, grown, and harvested, before being shook up in a test tube, squirted out a mechanical arm and zipped up in a rectangular foil wrapper.  Haha!

That reminds me of a great bit from Jerry Seinfeld on pop-tarts:

Pop-Tarts aside, it’s really rare to meet someone else who has been to Madagascar!  It was so nice being reminded of the year I spent learning, eating, and experiencing life there while studying abroad.  So many names, faces, moments, and meals flooded back into my memory; devouring banana and nutella sandwiches around a campfire; meditatively chatting while peeling apples and oranges; snacking on boiled manioc doused in sweetened condensed milk; harvesting, de-husking, sorting, washing, and cooking huge pots of white, red, brown, and black rice; savoring samosas and skewers of beef with lemony hot sauce; and washing everything down with THB (Three Horses Beer)...  It made me want to go back so bad!

To put it lightly, the game we played once we arrived in Bordeaux left something to be desired...  Enough said.  Bordeaux Merignac provided post-match pâté and crêpes (YUM!) and on the ride home we chowed down on a yogurt and nutella cake that our setter baked and my dad’s famous chocolate chip cookies (which arrived in the mail this week!).   Even though all of us were stuffed from the snacks, the club paid for a pit-stop.  We sat inside a gas station dining area and supped on delicious (by American standards) microwaveable pasta boxes.  Outside the sun set on distant forests and farms in hues of highlighter yellow, orange, and pink behind wide blankets of dark purple clouds. 

We made it home by 10:30 PM.  My head hit the pillow hard, gears still turning over missed serves and bad plays from earlier that night.   Alas!  Sunday nights remind me to look forward to a sit in the sauna and swimming, and a week of hard work for our next match.

That’s all for now.  More later!