Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Disney Was Right... It's A Small World!

Yesterday, I was walking down the wrong aisle in the grocery store looking for bar soap and some people passed by casually speaking English.  I stopped dead in my tracks and turned around as quickly as I could and just shouted at them "Are you American?!?" like any sane, but slightly lonely and desperate person might.  The couple was Canadian.  Oops?  They were collecting a lost-luggage-esque assortment of items along with an American woman who lives here in Tours.  When I told her I was here playing volleyball, she told me that she met Kelli Smith (THE marathon winning, ass-kicking wife of TVB star middle blocker David Smith) at this very same supermarket under the exact same circumstances (ie totally randomly).  It's a small world after all  ...and it was about to get even smaller.  After chatting for barely five minutes we discovered that we were both invited to the same Thanksgiving dinner.  What?!?  After we picked up the parts of our exploded heads, we said our goodbyes and I found the bar soap at the end of the aerosol deodorant aisle.

I hope you are all looking forward to Thanksgiving.  I know I am!  :)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Stumble the Mumble

We kicked off this month with a three game winning streak, chased immediately by a three game losing streak.  Our best game yet was against Rennes away, where we won in four close sets (14-25, 25-23, 22-25, 21-25).  We're currently sitting comfortably in the middle of the pack (6th out of 10 teams in our league).  The ambiance at practices, however, is far from comfortable...  Me and my teammates and Maguy are all pushing each other harder than ever to keep moving together in the right direction.

Tuesdays and Thursdays are my double days where I workout in the morning and then practice in the evening.  Some days are harder than others!  On a clear Tuesday morning, I ride to the Saint-Avertin Amazonia to tag team the gym equipment with a teammate who works out there on her break from work.  On days where the weather is begging me to stay in my warm bed, I end up peeking out the garage door from underneath a pile of wool and three water resistant jackets.  Then, post self-pep-talk, I brave a cold and wet commute (I like to think of it as a refreshing ice cold shower - ha!) to Amazonia Saint-Cyr.

Amazonia is one of our generous sponsors.  It is an amazing gym with locations all over the greater Tours area.  From my house, there is one location walking/jogging distance (Saint-Cyr) and two other locations cycling distance (Saint-Avertin and Joué-lès-Tours).  They have all your basic cardio machines (elliptical, stair master, treadmill, stationary bikes) and all the standard workout equipment (weights for every major muscle group and a workout studio with yoga mats).

One funny thing...  All the cardio machines have audio outlets for streaming TV and internet.  However, the first time I saw this compartment flap cover - I'm not going to lie - I checked to see if wasn't an ashtray.  Nop - plugs for ear buds - Phew!  :)

Even more beloved than cigarettes to the French, though, is coffee.  And I believe I've already mentioned how much people appreciate snacks here, right?  Well, Amazonia wins the Best-Snack-Bar-at-a-Gym Award.  Hands down.  They offer an unlimited coffee and tea bar and yummy apples free for the taking!  So, when I can't motivate myself to go workout, the cappuccino gets me through the door every time.  Haha!

Anyway...  Ah yes, the title of this post...  I saw this quote on facebook the other day - no idea who said it - "Sometimes before you can walk the talk you stumble the mumble." This reminded me of another quote from Picasso who said something like "I'm always doing what I can't do, that's how I get to do it."  And THAT is exactly how I feel about working hard.  It can be a lot of two steps forward, one step back, but as long as you can stay the course, you reap the rewards!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Remembrance Day

168 Saint-Cyriens gave their lives in the First World War.  This morning I attended the inaugural ceremony for a fountain next to the City Hall in Saint-Cyr which signifies and honors their lives.  The ceremony was attended by the Mayor of the city, the president of associations, military, police and firefighters, schools, and families.

It was a clear, cold morning, which made my flip flops a special treat for anyone in my vicinity...  They drew some attention away from the weighty topic of the day and added a little (unintended) levity to peoples' mornings.  I got the classic stare, the look + laugh, the double look, the triple look (which is a lot like the double look, but includes disapproving eye contact), the foot to face stare, the foot to face and back to foot stare (which clocked in at an amazing twenty three seconds!), and the very nice "Aren't you cold?"  I was most uncomfortable and, needless to say, had a difficult time focusing on how deep and beautiful this moment was in the history of the city of Saint-Cyr.

Nevertheless!  The eleventh of November is a national holiday in France that commemorates the armistice signed between the Allies and Germany on "the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month".  The fountain remembers the 168 fallen soldiers and innocent men, women, and children from Saint-Cyr who died for France in World War I.  The inaugural ceremony was quite beautiful, and (appropriately) French.  Afterwards there was a snack!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

A Very Very Un-Scarey Halloween

Halloween came and went here without much excitement at all.  Our practice was cancelled that night, so I went to the gym to workout and on my way back home I spotted one trick-or-treater who, from what I could gather, was being asked by a kind old lady to wait on the sidewalk while she searched in her house for a piece of candy.  I just kept riding, laughing to myself a little, imagining her dumping out her purse on her kitchen table, turning wool sweater pockets inside out, eventually getting out a flashlight, and finding a year old candy bar in her basement.  Poor kid.

The remaining bike ride home from the gym also produced one haunted house sighting.  A neighbor decorated inside and out for what looked like a Halloween party with a mostly invisible attendance (but that could've just been my mind playing tricks on me).  Haha!  All in all, it was a most uneventful evening: no costumes, no gunshots, no stabbings, no drunk adults roaming the streets in ripped stockings, no zombies, no screaming until 3am, no sirens...  Why is this list making me miss home???  :)

With Halloween grossly overlooked, I thought November would come equally quietly, but I was wrong.  Overnight, the cemetery around the corner from where I live turned into a botanical garden of chrysanthemums.  It was a Halloween miracle!  I wish I could've taken before and after photos because it was such a beautiful thing to see almost every grave come to life with bright autumn hues - magenta, pink, yellow, orange, and purple - leaving this previously gray and gloomy plot of land just bursting with color.

After asking around and a little googling, I found out that in France Friday, November 1st is All Saints Day (Toussaint) and Saturday, November 2nd is the Day of the Dead (Jour des Morts).  These holidays are marked by the distinct ritual of honoring the graves of deceased family members.  Apparently on this day more than 22 million chrysanthemums (94% of total annual sales) are sold in France alone.  What a beautiful tradition!