Body Image and Nutrition

I guess most people would call me fortunate, and say I have no right to talk about this issue. I received a stream of recessive genetics- blonde hair, blue eyes, and fair skin. Most people assume I’m healthy just because my waist is small. But I’m also only 5’2″, have a small bone frame, and grew up on a small farm, which gave me muscle mass.  All of this is more important that my waist measurement or the number on the scale. Those are only very small indicators of health, and in some cases they don’t apply at all. Society puts dualistic negative imagery concerning an ideal body that has nothing to do with health in our heads, and it’s harmful to everyone. And since we are all society, it’s important to know how we hurt each other and ourselves and do our part to change it. Which is why, even if it won’t be well-received, I’m writing about this.

To the people who pay attention to body image stuff, it’s common knowledge that the media is putting out a harmful image, especially of women. This article that I read yesterday written by a former Vogue editor stated that some models have eaten tissues to fill up their stomach. And they think passing out and being hospitalized is normal.

This is clearly detrimental.  Apparently models have also started getting breast reductions to look pre-pubescent, which doesn’t even make sense. From what I remember in high school, all the women on TV were supposed to have implants. The modeling industry is trying to stop this; they pledge not to use models they know are suffering from eating disorders. That’s all well and good, but I don’t know how they actually propose to regulate that. And the damage is done.

It’s probably a chicken-egg situation, but we see smaller and smaller people on TV and in magazines while people (at least in the US) are getting bigger and bigger. I don’t know if the media wants to promote a body type the opposite of the trend so people are dissatisfied. I don’t really care. All I know is that it’s an unhealthy dualism. Because while there is an obesity epidemic, (and the use of the word “epidemic” here makes me cringe, because diseases are epidemics- it’s scary when a lifestyle becomes an epidemic), eating disorders are also becoming more common. Because in promoting an unattainable image, we think that’s normal and natural. It causes body dysmorphia, which is the fancy way of saying we have a skewed view of what’s normal that negatively impacts us. People start to think that starving is beautiful and perfect but also normal and natural. And anyone who looks differently is an ugly, unworthy minority.

This is not just a physical problem. The body dysmorphia and eating disorders are also psychological. People convince themselves that if they eat from someone else’s plate, it doesn’t count as eating. I had a friend who tried to eat my cookie, even though she refused to eat more than half of hers. She also started losing her mind, because your mind isn’t going to function when it’s too concerned with making your body survive. Two people with eating disorders have tried to diagnose me with something, even while eating consistently bigger meals in their presence.

And, because we love unhealthy duality in this culture, there is counter movement. Big is beautiful. Curvy girls are better than sticks. Real women have curves. Say no to size zero. Everyone is beautiful. The first and the last are positive sentiments. The middle ones are not any more helpful than the modeling industry.

See, as soon as we select one body type to be the ideal, we ostracize a huge part of the population. People are shaped differently. Women are shaped differently. The emphasis should never be on trying to attain an ideal image, but on being the most healthy you you can be.

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Things like this are so negative, and it should be insulting to everyone. First off, there are naturally smaller people. It’s insulting to men, because different men prefer different natural body types, which kind of goes along with different natural body types existing. I think it would be insulting to not be called a real man for liking  smaller girls and that someone would presume what type of woman you prefer if you are a real man. Also, this image implies that women should look a certain way because men like it. Forget looking the way you want to look, forget even thinking about a six pack, because real men like soft curves! (Credit to my friend Allison for some thoughts on this) No, this isn’t better just because it’s promoting the opposing viewpoint.

As an aside, I’d also like to say that most naturally petite women have curves. They may not be as noticeable, because you notice their petite-ness and not that they have proportional bodies. Or proportional means small curves.

Like I said, the emphasis should be on embracing your natural body frame and nourishing it, taking care of it because you pretty much have to live in it. Big is beautiful. Queen Latifah is one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever seen. She’s always my default example, maybe it’s because she seems to shine. She’s radiant.

Yes, beauty does come from the inside. To me, it does shine from the inside just like a weird, contagious sunshine. One of my favorite quotes from Roald Dahl describes it perfectly: “If I person has ugly thoughts, it begins to show on the face. And when that person has ugly thoughts every day, every week, every year, the face gets uglier and uglier until you can hardly bear to look at it.

“A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts it will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”

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I think it’s the smile.

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However, this does not mean you don’t have to be healthy. A skinny person can be unhealthy as easily as someone who is not skinny. And health should be the goal, because it will enable you to live the best life you can live.

The number on the scale can be a general indicator of health, but not always. Muscle weighs more than fat. The obsession to eat the least amount of calories possible is also misleading. Calories and fat are necessary for existence. Calories are our fuel, without putting something in our bodies we can’t function. And a certain percentage of your body needs to be made of fat, for cushion and just regular functioning. For women, the absolute lowest percentage for survival is 10-12. You’re not even supposed to approach those numbers if you want to be healthy. Anywhere from 14-31% body fat in a woman is varying degrees of healthy. I had a fitness nut talk to a group of us in high school about this and how important it was to realize that we shouldn’t strive to be models. He measured our body fat percentage. I had somewhere between a 25 and 30%, I think. So healthy, but could eat better and exercise more. The percentage numbers are lower for men, because they don’t have certain areas- the curves- that are necessary for women. Someone with a body fat percentage of 15 or 20 could weigh a lot more than you’d think, because they have a lot of muscle mass. The number on the scale is not the important part.

There are also different bone structures. I was told by this same fitness person that an easy way to tell is to take your thumb and middle finger and put them just above your wrist. If they overlap, you have a small body frame, if they touch, it’s a middle-sized bone structure, and if your fingers do not touch, you have a large bone structure. I don’t know how true this is, because I think after a certain point you will gain weight in your wrist and hands. But generally speaking, your goal weight range varies a lot. Someone my height with a medium bone structure, should definitely weigh more to be healthy. So, BMI can be a useful tool to measure health, but it’s not always accurate.

The final thing he impressed upon us was what happens when you don’t eat. When you’re really hungry, your body goes into starvation mode. It burns fat to fuel itself. It also converts muscle to fat to fuel itself. This is how you can get to the point when you’re so hungry you’re not hungry anymore. And if you starve yourself, the muscle converted to fat is most of your muscle. He said the models he’d measured had more body fat than any healthy person he’d ever seen. Some of them were in the 50s. That’s half fat. They just didn’t have enough energy to have muscle mass. And, at first anyone who’s starved themselves (this could mean anorexia or just someone who skipped a meal because of work) your body doesn’t trust you. It stores some of the fuel you gave it as fat because it doesn’t think you’re going to give it fuel again. This is how people working office jobs stay overweight even though they don’t have time to eat at least 3 meals a day.

A body is constantly running, especially when awake. Logically, it’s important to give it fuel often, whether that’s in 3 large meals or several smaller meals throughout the day. (Different people say different things. In France, where they have some of the best heart health, they only eat three big meals. People here say it’s better to eat lots of small meals, since your body is running constantly, kind of like keeping your car close to half full to keep the engine parts running well). But in any case, it’s unhealthy to go more than like 8 hours without putting something in your system, especially if you have the means.

Food expert Michael Pollen’s advice is generally pretty good to follow: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants. He spoke at my university in undergrad, and it was one of the most eye-opening, dynamic speeches I’ve heard. Cognitively, I knew most of the information he was saying, but experiencing a speech like that is almost a workshop, which is different than just knowing something in your head.

As horrible as it is, fruits and vegetables are the best thing for you. Anything that goes bad is better for you than anything full of chemicals to make it not go bad. I’m the worst example of this healthy eating thing, but it’s a part of growing up. The best chicken I’ve ever had was four years ago from my back yard. Free range, all natural, high school boy’s farming experiment chickens. So local and organic, if you can afford it is way better. This is also logical, because it’s the way we were built to eat. They say it’s better to spend that amount right now on food  is worth more than paying for medical costs later. An ounce of prevention. It’s something useful to always keep in mind, but I know that’s hard when you’re living one a college student budget.

France has this sort of PSA advertisement called manger-bouger. It means eat-move. And it really is that simple. EVERYONE needs to eat. It doesn’t matter what your natural body type is or what type of body you’re trying to get. The diets people promote usually involve starving yourself of something your body is used to, so of course it’s going to be unsuccessful. It would be sufficient just to change from giving your body empty calories to giving it nutrient-rich calories. I’m the prime example of how hard it is to do, but if you’re going to take the effort to change your eating habits, change them to something that makes sense. And EVERYONE needs to exercise. It’s good for your heart and  your psychological well-being. Even if all that means is walking.

If you’re beautiful on the inside, you are beautiful. But taking care of your physical insides is important, because it’s how you show everyone your nonphysical unattainable beauty. Manger-Bouger. Eat and move. That’s the goal to keep your insides healthy. Give your body fuel. Use all the fuel you give it. It’s a constant cycle, and there’s some area we could all improve on. So worry about the improvements you need to make, and recognize just because others have different struggles within these issues doesn’t mean they’re wrong.

France Trip #3

Mostly this is a long venting/reflection and not anything close to a semi-professional-ish blog entry using the good, precise English skills I know I possess, but I suppose that’s normal. It’ll at least make me feel better.

So, after I’ve lived in this country twice for a total of about a year (4.5 months + 7.5 months) I’m back again for grad school credit. For some reason the school doesn’t care about my previous trips and they require I go to a francophone country for a month before I graduate.

I didn’t really care about this requirement, because I thought it just meant I could see Emilie and the kids again, maybe visit Maria in Lyon and Hanna Holler/Egea in Etrelles. Then maybe Seth could meet up with me and we could go to the Lavender fields near Avignon, since summer is when the lavender is all in bloom and I’ve never been in France in the summer. And since purple and green are my two favorite colors and lavender is one of my favorite flowers, I really would like to see giant fields of it.

But what the school doesn’t tell you when you apply and when you’re accepted is that you also have to get credit for your trip. And conveniently, the best and easiest way to get credit is to do a program through the university and its sister city campus.

I know I shouldn’t complain, because this is a great opportunity and I’m in a foreign country. But I have a stomach bug and life isn’t rainbows and sunshine.

Seth always tells me I’m an independent person. I never really thought about it before now, but he’s probably right. I studied abroad for a semester in a full immersion program, meaning I was in classes with regular Frenchies. I met other Americans/anglophones, but I didn’t know that was going to happen. I got to pick the destination, also. Rather, I got to pick up to three schools I wanted to go to and they put me in one. Rennes, with its beautiful greenness and surviving Celtic culture was my first choice. I got accepted there, and of course I thrived there. A year and a half later, I was teaching English in three elementary schools. I went by myself. I met other English speakers, but I met more people that don’t speak English, including the elementary school teachers. I made my own path there: some sort of cross between the host family life, the crazy backpacking life, and the multicultural life.

So, I suppose being told where and when I was going to go already limited me. Being told there was no internet made it a less attractive prospect. When they raised the rent of a dorm room above what I pay for my house, it didn’t seem any better.

I am glad at least I have friends with me. Without that I may go crazy.

Anyway, the program is this: 9 students from the University of Louisville and l’Université de Montpellier exchange places and work internship-y jobs for the month of July. There is so much university hand-holding going on it’s horrible.

I came over a week early so I could see Emilie and Alban and Anouk and Jean. They’re going to be on vacation when the program finishes, so staying a week late wouldn’t work. Unfortunately, Emilie had some out-of-town work thing going on that week, so I didn’t go to Tulle until Friday (after arriving on Monday in Paris.) The original plan in Paris was to stay with a French girl from school, but she’s still in the US. My 4 nights in Paris turned out not as well as planned, but that’s a story for another day.

I was so glad to see Emilie and the kids. I saw Alban for three minutes the whole weekend, unless you count watching him in his concert. But both of the kids smiled so huge when they saw me. Anouk wouldn’t stop hugging me and trying to climb me like a monkey climbs a tree. Jean can say my name now! Emilie also almost ran to hug me. It felt like I’d only been gone for a few weeks. It felt like home, oddly. Or maybe not so oddly. I found a niche there, and that’s something to be grateful for. Those two nights in Bar were the first in the country I didn’t have nightmares, and also the last for awhile.

I arrived safely in Montpellier, but I couldn’t tell anyone because I had no internet and no credit on my prepaid phone. They didn’t tell us what our job was until the first day of work, so that was interesting. Luckily, I work at the zoo, so at least theres a possibility of my job being entertaining. My friend Kelly works with me. We’re supposed to work at a kiosk in the middle of the zoo and greet people, but today was the first day they actually had a kiosk. Except I was too busy recovering from all my puking to go to work. Kelly said they think I’m just being French and lazy but really I’m disgusting and walking to the kitchen and back just now made me want to throw up.

And I have to quarantine myself, so even though I can hear everyone in the kitchen and mostly hear what they’re saying, I can’t go out and talk to them. So I’m lonely, and I really want my kitty, my boyfriend, and my mom, not necessarily in that order. I bought a 5 day internet pass to at least pass some time while I have enough energy to be concious but not enough to leave my dorm room.

At least Montpellier is pretty. I’ll post pictures later, hopefully in a more positive post! I’ve been feeling negative about the situation even before the sickness but maybe a bit of 5 day internet will cheer me up!

Conjugations (That they don’t teach you in school)

Verb: to love

Present: I love.

Past: I loved.

Future: I will love.

Our language tells us to use the past tense when someone has passed into the next world.

But language sometimes falls short.

Because It’s not true.

It doesn’t matter where you are,

I love you.

I will love you.

 

 

 

Just an early morning attempt at poetry… RIP Drew, mon cousin.

Disney sequels generally aren’t good, but I’ve been thinking about this song a lot. Because  my [second] cousins are definitely Drew and Adrienne’s kids.

Water II

Because I’m spacey and forgot important things. And also because March 22 is World Water Day.


Here’s a song called “The Water” by Johnny Flynn. It’s in the French movie Un Amour de Jeunesse (Goodbye First Love, actually a better title). You can listen to it while you read.

Oddly, pools terrified me when I was little. I also hated sitting in the grass, go figure, but I think I’m allergic to some kinds of grass. One of the drawbacks of having an overactive imagination is being afraid of lots of silly things. I’m pretty sure my imagination is part of the reason I worry so much now as the adult-ish person I am.

But anyway, as much as I love it now, I was terrified of water in large quantities when I was younger. In first grade, my parents, brother, and I went to Lakeside over labor day weekend. Lakeside is a pool in Louisville that’s been fashioned from an old quarry/lake, so in some sections it’s actually just the old lake. ( To 6 year old me, the 3 or 4 foot water looked drown-able, even though I should have been tall enough to be fine. I just stayed on the center of the raft that my parents’ friend had.

Of course some teenager (or just a normal bigger kid that wasn’t a scardy cat) jumped on the raft and turned it over. I was convinced I’d almost drowned. I don’t know if my mom still has this somewhere, but when Ms. Bullock had us write a journal entry on our weekend, I said that I almost died and drew and colored a picture of me under the water. Of course, I was never in any danger. My dad pulled me up almost as soon as I’d gone under.

I have no idea how much later it was when that lifeguard got me over my (deep water) hydrophobia. I thought I was 7, but I think there was a summer where I refused to get in “the big kid pool.” So it must have been a month or so before my birthday.

My parents had signed all four of us up for swim lessons. I refused to leave the wall. I was too scared to jump in. I feel so ridiculous thinking back on it. But you can’t rationalize the fears of a child. After two or so days of our lessons, the lifeguard/teacher took me to the middle of the pool and showed me I could touch the bottom, and going underwater wasn’t scary.

It must have taken an extraordinary amount of patience. Our babysitter of the time said I climbed on top of the poor girl. But after that day, I wasn’t afraid anymore. I learned to swim in no time and soon was on the swim team. Although I’m not really sure I liked swim team; I’ve never been particularly competitive and Im not good at incorporating breathing into exercise.

It’s pretty amazing the difference one person can make just by being patient.

I don’t think I’m that patient, but I probably should be.

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Bellarmine requires students to take a seminar every year, officially called an Interdisciplinary Course (IDC). There are a lot of things that could go wrong with these, but I loved 2 out of 4 and one was alright. Sophomore and Senior year my IDC was on the environment. Sophomore year’s was taught by an elementary ed professor who had a sort of hippie-elementary school approach to the class. This was the “alright” class, if you hadn’t guessed. While I learned some things, (and personally enjoyed the painting, paper-making, field trips, and dash of creative writing), I knew the Senior IDC would be completely different. Her approach worked much better overall, and even though we didn’t paint, she pushed everyone to think critically and back up their opinions with facts even if she agreed. That was probably better for my education. She’s an artist, so there’s a connection between the two professors I just thought of.

Anyway, in both of those classes, my final paper was on water. The first, on my mother’s project, because in theory getting already cleaner water means spending less on the purification process. She hadn’t won anything on it at that point, so no one knew anything about it. (Although, at least in this area, if you type “riverbank filtration” into google, my mum’s name comes up.) The second one was on water harvesting and purification methods, so basically ways people in third world countries could get water without getting their water privatized by Europe. (By the way, if I’m in France and have to buy bottled water, I refuse to buy Vittel if there’s another option for this reason.)

In my translation class this semester, we have to lead a translating workshop on a document of our choice. We had to pick our topics by the second or third day of classes, and I ended up picking the water situation in Haiti or Northern Africa.

Through the past two academic experiences and my father, I found out that there’s a non-profit that does water work in third world countries. My dad signed up to go to Haiti right after the earthquake, but then they stopped letting people go because of cholera, ironically a waterborne illness.

So, I now I have another unattainable-without-another-career career idea. (The first is writing fiction.) I want to help people get water! It kind of makes sense with all this water knowledge surrounding me…

I have no idea if other people ever get the feeling they’re “supposed” to do something, but I do on occasion. I’m making my own path, but I’m following the natural gaps in the forest instead of taking a machete to it. I think forests prefer that, even metaphorical ones.

I can’t imagine a life without water, or even one with severly limited water. I’m always thirsty. I’m constantly drinking water. I wake up at least once a week with a dehydration headache that has nothing to do with alcohol and everything to do with not drinking enough water the day before. I joke that I’m a rainforest plant. Seth jokes that he’s a water-y person who needs someone earthy to hold him together. There’s your sappy metaphor for the day. Of course, I wanted to write about water in a literary fairy way, but I decided that sort of half-fiction is not fit for a personal narrative.

So, I know people who live with less water adapt and all, but if I can help the other thirsty people/ people with water that makes all of them sick, it sounds like a good idea.

I’m going to get a glass of water. Yum.

 

EDIT: For any science-y people (or anyone interested), a 14 year old  girl has done a pretty cool experiment that may actually solve the water crisis.

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Italian dialogue (found in my notebook)

Alena/Arina the Russian with the gorgeous red hair said lots of funny things. She could communicate in English, but it takes a patient listener. Her Italian was hardly comprehensible  and the poor girl had so many problems understanding the grammar, because they don’t have most of the same verb tenses or the same alphabet. But here are some of the things she said in class.

“Ohhhhh! The ice cream in Italy. It’s yum.”

 

Teacher: You like garlic?

Me: Yes.

Her: Oh, yes! Garlic… garlic is wow. In St. Petersburg, we (she runs her finger down her neck) little garlic in winter. Not (chews) but (gulps). Just little garlic.

 

In Russia, you have two ways to get vodka. You can go to store an buy it, or you can make it. The kind made in home is good.

I think the Texan said this: You make vodka? (In Italian) several repeated tries… You know how to make vodka?

Her: Si si! of course! It’s very easy! Everybody knows. Only three ingredients. (She then draws instructions and tries to explain to us how to make vodka.

 

Somehow, she accidentally said she was in the Russian mafia. I think she was telling the story of how someone in the mafia tried to rob her and she said no, and someone misunderstood and asked her if she was in the mafia.

 

 

Language things! :

In class one day, the teacher explained the word fiasco. In Italian, it means two things, a catastrophe like in English, but it also means a really big bottle of wine.

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A long time ago, only the first definition existed. Well, in Venice the glass blowers were making their Venetian glass.

urlGlass blowing is really cool. And hard, from what I understand. I should go to Venice.

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imgresAll that work makes something pretty like this.

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Sometimes, the glass blowers would accidentally make a vase or something too big and say “Guarda, ho fatto un fiasco!” Look, I made a fiasco! They also made a new word that spanned across several European languages.

Just looking at the sign for a terracotta store in Italy made me think. Obviously, “terra” is Earth, “terre” in French and the basis of “[extra]terrestrial,” “terrain,” and lots of words. Prosciutto cotto is cooked  ham/bacon. So literally and linguistically, terra cotta is cooked Earth.

Other random things people said:

It’s important to know that the David statue is in Florence, and they have a few replica Davids around town.

Clothilde, a French English teacher told Jess the New Zealander after we’d been sitting somewhere dusty, “Jess, you have a white bum like David.”

Itai: And, it’s another fake David.

Me: Made of copper, it looks like. hehe David Copperfield.

Itai: David Copperfake.

Clothilde: Mm. I don’t like him in green.

Lena from Germany: pelle de gallina

Me: Oh yeah, goose bumps. A goose is an animal. With wings.

Lena: A bird?

Oh yeah, thats what those are called. I’m afraid I came off condescending, but I really just didn’t know how to speak English anymore.

Me: The sign said there was another panoramarama place over there.

Itai: Panorama-rama?

 

Water

Water makes up roughly 75% of our world and our bodies. It’s a parallel, cited by some as coincidence, but is probably more so by design, whether that means nature or a divine power. (In my opinion it’s both.) Even in the desert there’s a water table somewhere under all the sand. Scientists theorize there can be no life without water, at least going off of all known rules of existence.

Water seems to surround me more than other people. My parents met working at the water company. So, I owe my existence to water more than other people. The whole city of Louisville gets better water because of their projects. The Eastern part of the city actually gets its water from a well. My mom’s project to construct a tunnels from wells to the water plant won the Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement Award in 2011. I’m not exactly sure what that means, except that it won against the Cowboys Stadium and a bridge in Korea. My brilliant mother accepted the award barefoot because she could only find one shoe. Sounds an awful lot like someone else in the family…

When we read Exodus in bible study in high school, I pointed out that the Egyptians used  Riverbank Filtration to get their water when the Nile River was blood.I soaked up a lot of terms just by being around my mother. Just like on the beach of the ocean, if you dig by a river, you’ll hit water. The sand filters out a ton of the gross impurities in the water, hence the name Riverbank Filtration.

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Yuck. I’d rather get water from a riverside well too. Source

The rest of the city uses a salt water purifier to clean the water. Somewhere along the line, they decided it would be safer to ship salt than chlorine gas across the country. Whoever was originally contracted to make the giant salt water purifier didn’t do a good job, so then they hired my dad to fix it.

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When I was 5, I got a stomach bug. I couldn’t keep anything down, so I got dehydrated. Rachel was a week old, if that, so the nurses were nice and came over to our house to give me an IV. They couldn’t get any blood from pricking my finger. Looking back on it, the single most terrifying moment of my childhood was probably these strange ladies trying to get blood out of my toes and then throwing me on the kitchen table. I’m pretty sure I was fighting them; I knew I was screaming for my mom.

Anyway, I’m pretty sure this affected my relationship with water. I always make sure to drink plenty, especially when I’m sick.

 

 

My first “real” job was at a pool supply store. Ironically, my first summer there I almost passed out from a combination of things, but one of which was probably some sort of dehydration. It was the last time I ever took a soft drink with me to work. Ryann and Rachel have both worked at our neighborhood pool, and Robert’s done landscaping and agriculture, which requires water. So, I grew up around water-y people.

 

 

I’ve also never lived in a city without a river through the middle of it. One of my friends pointed out that there are very few older cities without a river, which probably has something to do with it.

urlLouisville is on the Ohio River.  Source

Hey, I had a postcard that looked just like this!

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Rennes, France is at the junction of the Ille and Vilaine rivers

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And we visited some awesome places on the ocean. This is one of my pictures from St. Malo.

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These are from the Côte Sauvage, where there were really big waves.


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One of my friends took this picture and found out I was in it later!

Click on it to make it bigger and find me!

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291908_10150501917031124_290285232_nAnd, of course, Tulle.

I’m a woodsy-earthy type person. I think part of what’s driving me crazy right now is that I have no oasis. I thought it was bad last year; my apartment in Tulle was the first place I couldn’t just go outside and plop in some nice, lovely grass. But right now, even though I have grass, it’s surrounded by cars and noise and city and neighbors. So like normal people, except I grew up being able to disappear. Even at Bellarmine and last year I could escape easily to some woods.

Water is a part of the Earth, and I live in a fairly wet area. So, wherever you find Earth, you’re probably going to find water. The only thing that cheers me up more than green or water is both of them together, which is easy to find in Kentucky woods. Different lifestyles work for different people, but I know I’d be happiest someplace where I can see green and water.

296053_10150501922686124_1331606764_nLaguenne, France

Update!

Now that it’s been almost a year since my France adventures, I guess it’s time for an update.

Italy:

I had three weeks between the end of my contract and going home. So, I applied for a scholarship to go to an Italian Language school in Italy. I got placed at a school in Florence.

Of course I was really excited. But of course it was a disaster getting there. There were bad winds in Florence, and the plane had to land at Bologna. Then we took a bus to Florence. I was supposed to meet with someone to talk about a place to stay, but of course no one was there by then. Luckily I’d booked a hotel just in case. I got lost trying to find it though and didn’t get a chance to eat dinner that night.

The class went okay. I remembered my Italian and got into the habit of speaking it by the time I left. I also met some really cool people. Kat the Polish Canadian, Jessica from New Zealand,  Itai from Israel, and Alena (or Areana??) from St. Petersbourg. Alena/Areana the Russian has the most beautiful red hair I’ve ever seen, and she was hilarious.  I wrote down some of the things she said in my notebook; I’ll have to find it. I also met a Texan, but he gave me nightmares.

Italy is lovely. However, in Florence there is pretty much no green space. The Romans liked their piazzas, the stone courtyard-y places. Bellarmine, since it’s modeled after Italy, has one in front of the chapel.

I loved pieces of Italy, but overall I was so homesick (or just Seth-sick if I’m going to be completely honest) to try to re-integrate into another country, another language. Also, the lady I was living with scared me and her cat pooped on my floor. Most cats love me, or at least tolerate me, even mean ones. So I think this lady passed on her meanness and scariness to her cat.

DSCF6524But I got to see Siena and discover how much Bellarmine failed to recreate it!

Sorry, I didn’t really like the Siena dorm complex…

The return:

I stayed with Maria (the spanish assistant) and her boyfriend in Lyon for two days coming back from Italy. It was hard saying goodbye to her… Then I went back to Tulle, where I’d left my suitcase with Emilie, Alban, and the kids. I spent my last few days with them.

Leaving them was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

I spent my last night in a nice hotel in the airport with my fat suitcase. There was a pool, but when I went to swim there was a creepy guy and no one else there, so I ended up not swimming. I found out they changed the time of my flight when I went to the airport part of the airport that morning, so it was a good thing I’d stayed on the grounds.

On the plane, I was next to a woman who drank two or three Bloody Marys. I drank a ton of water. I was nervous to be back for some reason. And I’m pretty sure I had reverse culture shock pretty bad. I felt like I didn’t belong or something. But these things run their course and then I get over them.

The summer:

The first time I went back to TaeKwonDo, it was right after I helped my friend paint her house. She has one dark teal wall, and I put some on my face as war paint, and went to TKD like that. So the first time these people had seen me in almost 8 months was with paint on my face to match my pretty teal headgear. (Most people have white or black sparring gear; I wanted to be different so got teal… Alexander the 9 year old doesn’t like it.)

I applied for work to pretty much every place between my parents’ house and the water company. No one got back to me, and Leslie’s, the pool store of doom, called me without applying. So I worked there, the fourth summer in a row… I found out a month after I’d quit that they sent me $50 for winning some great customer service contest that I’d never heard of. So, in retrospect, maybe it wasn’t horrible.

Oh, but funny story. I got a phone call one day:

College age-ish dude: So, I’m opening my pool a little late [this is near the end of July, I think]. I was in Europe backpacking with some friends, and I just got back last week and blah blah blah Rebecca doesn’t care because this is not useful or impressive information, and I got your all’s opening kit. [box full of packets of chemicals] Now, they told me to get two of them because my pool is 20,000 gallons.

Me: uh-huh. That’s right.

Him: Okay, so they told just to throw it in the pool. But there’s a problem. None of that cardboard or anything is dissolving.

I was too shocked to laugh. I had to explain that normally you have to take the assortment of chemicals out of the box and follow the instructions on the box on how to put them in… ug.

Grad school:

I started looking for a place to live close to UofL pretty soon after I got home. It’s really hard to find a place for one bedroom… I’m renting a house now a mile away from campus so I walk. My sister found this adorable kitten with its eyes closed:

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who actually turns out to be a wild child

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Of course, she brings it home “for me, because it was my birthday.”

Sure, Ryann. It’s the third kitten she’d brought home in less than a year, and the second that she hid in her bedroom before telling my parents. I named the cat Kit Kat, and she’s wild and crazy, but she’s growing up. I’m learning how to be a parent.🙂

I don’t know how well you can see in this photo, but She has leopard/jaguar spots on her butt.

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I always said I wanted a wild cat.

I guess this is what they mean by “be careful what you wish for.”

So my first semester of grad school I was trying to put up with a wild animal as well as get everything done, as well as learn how to be a Teaching Assistant. Or rather, learning how to be a professor so I can teach those chillins something next year.

I hadn’t written French in almost two years by the time I got to school, so needless to say, it needed a lot of work. But of course, that’s improved a lot, and I’m probably going to get spoken improvement over the summer, even though I don’t really want to go on the program UofL suggests.

There’s always room for more, though.