So it's been far too long since I last updated this blog, and now the task seems somewhat daunting, but I certainly can't complain because the last week and a half have proved to be some of the most eventful days I've had here. It also helps my own memory to sit down and reflect on my crazy life. (If need be I'd suggest grabbing a snack/comfy pillow, going to the bathroom, etc...this could be a while :)
I'll start with:
Wednesday September 30, 2009: L'Européenne.
This was the first play we attended for my Theatre of Paris course. It's nuts. Not-so brief synopsis: two female 'ambassadors' named Norma and Albine (French and Bulgarian, respectively) decide to reform the European Union by having every single European language spoken at their conventions, rather than just the three official languages there are today (English, French, and German...I'm learning so much). Their means of accomplishing such a ridiculous task is hiring a composer to come up with a new European Hymn, and the big controversy happens when he gets three measly musicians when he was expecting an orchestra. The musicians end up only playing Eastern European music but with an Italian singer, and the characters constantly switch from speaking French, to Italian, to Portugese and back again. It ends in complete chaos since the idea of trying to communicate with so many different languages is preposterous, and the composer (distraught that his hymn didn't work out) decides to become a nightclub d.j. instead. (??) The last scene turns into a techno dance party-slash-medley where the characters sing and put on Nazi-looking uniforms while some dude dances around with a dummy that's supposed to be an old woman.
They're foreign...don't ask.
I just had so much difficulty trying to explain all that, and I still don't really have any idea what went on, ha. My friend Divya and I just sat there cracking up as the characters' antics became more and more maniacal. All in all it was still a good experience. I noticed an awesome mural on my way there, took pictures of a fun little carnival outside the theatre's metro stop, and bonded with new peeps. Good enough for me.
The ostrich mural! My walk every day to the train.
Cute carnival eye candy.
Side of a trailer.
Me and Divya.
Thursday October 1, 2009: Top of the Eiffel.
So I finally made it to the top of the Eiffel Tower with a friend. Yah ya know...just hung out on the landing deck of the Eiffel Tower for the afternoon, it's whatever. ;] Claire and I decided to go even though it definitely looked like it was going to rain, but I promise you as soon as we got out of the elevator (no, we weren't feeling hardcore enough to walk up, and it was only 6 € more to ride) the sun decided to grace us with his presence. It_was_beautiful. God definitely pulled through that afternoon, and yes, that's why I'm cheesily humming "Hallelujah" at the beginnnig of the video. 'Twas appropriately stuck in my head the entire time.
I love that this pic gives an idea of the earth's roundness.
Me and Claire.
L'Arc de Triomphe.
Friday October 2, 2009: Normandy.
The next morning I woke up before dawn to make it to our Normandy group's meeting place across town. We left Friday and didn't come back until Sunday night, and wow am I glad that I decided to do this excursion over some of my program's other options. They offered five trips of which we were free to choose two, but Normandy was the only weekend long excursion. Because of this they figured that it would be the most popular, so anyone who wanted to go was required to write an essay describing their reasons for going. The other options were all day trips (three different castles and Giverny, Monet's home) and just yesterday I went on my second excursion to a castle outside of Paris called Chantilly. That was obviously amazing too, and hopefully I'll have time to talk about that tomorrow, but being there made me realize that if both of my excursions had been to castles I would have been a little disappointed. They're amazing, but, like museums, castles all start to look the same after awhile (kind of ridiculous but sadly true that one's impressions start becoming immune to all the grandeur after just a couple of hours). At first I wasn't sure if Normandy would be very stimulating, and I didn't really have much to write about except that my grandpa was in the airforce during World War II. But what convinced me most was when I talked to my sister Erika about my choice dilemma, and she asked if I'd have any other opportunity to see the coast of France. At that I realized I most likely wouldn't and decided this was reason enough to go.
Yet again, Erika Hueneke proffers wise advice.
The coast of Normandy is gorgeous. BY FAR my favorite part of the trip...but I'll get to that in a minute. The drive was a few hours long, and there was enough room on the bus for each of us to have our own seat. So after watching the sun rise on the Eiffel Tower for a few minutes (ya know, another not so big thing) I took a much needed nap. When I woke up we were just getting to Le Mémorial de Caen, a museum devoted to all things WWII. We ended up having just over four hours to wander around on our own (no guided tours, thank the Lord), and somehow I found a way to fill up the entire time. Apparently I'm a lot more into WWII history than I thought I was and ironically was the most intrigued by Roger Schall's photography of Nazi occupation. Some of my faves:
The last photo is of a small corridor that led you into the next portion of the museum by way of a dark soundroom that looped a loud recording of Nazi chants at one of Hitler's conventions. It's blurry, but you can somewhat tell that the eery blue portrait is of Hitler walking up steps looking rather proud of himself as his minions offer the Deutscher Gruß, or German greeting (c.o. Wikipedia).
Bizarrely cool, but I felt like I was walking into the pit of Hell.
The day only got more depressing from there. The next room I wandered into was a tribute to servicemen whose journals/letters home were preserved for exhibition. Most of them were in English having been written by the U.K force so it was easy to get lost in their sentiments for a while. I was severely, emotionally affected by it, mostly because they were all in a strange place not knowing the language, eager to get their thoughts and dilemmas out on paper, excited whenever a slightly familiar meal was given them, honestly believed in their cause....
kinda like me.
My favorite part is when he mentions the liberation....I can't even imagine what news like that meant to them.
From there I gave myself a small emotional break and wandered around looking at all the old fashioned goods they had preserved. Naturally, my favorite was a vintage tooth paste tube. :-D
But emotions came flooding back as the rest of the museum was dedicated to the Holocaust. Another small dark room had two walls where framed photos of Holocaust victims would light up and then slowly fade. It was a beautiful room with candles lining one wall, and a picture of a small boy made me think of an even more beautiful quote written by a kid during the Holocaust. I first read it when I was probably about his age:
"I believe in the sun even when it is not shining. I believe in love even when I am not feeling it. I believe in God even when He is silent."
The rest of the museum was dedicated specifically to children who'd been massacred during the Holocaust. This caustic quote was written surprisingly by a Frenchman who was later executed for being associated with Nazi intelligence...can't say as I feel sorry for him.
"Debarrassez-nous des Juifs en bloc, et surtout n'oubliez pas les petits."
--"Let's outright rid ourselves of the Jews, and above all don't forget the young."
Some of their artifacts were so haunting; a little girl's dress here, a pair of itty-bitty shoes there, petite ragdolls, a collection of drawings the wee prisoners had done...
It was a like a slap in the face.
But it was good for me to reflect on all of this. I don't often think about major atrocities in our history, but when I do it brings a much needed perspective. The things I learned, the images I saw are all burned into my memory, and I grew up a little bit for having taken a step back to recognize how wonderful and blessed my life is in comparison.
Speaking of which (and on a much lighter note), now for the lovely coast!
After about a half an hour scenic drive through the French countryside we arrived at our hotel Asnelles-sur-mer in Caen, Normandy.
Cute town of Caen.
We had a few hours to kill so I decided to grab my ipod, sweater, and blue lollypop to go prancing and dancing on the shores by myself. An absurdly low tide allowed a venture at least half a mile out, and surprisingly the water wasn't as cold as I thought it'd be. I started with a few Vitamin String Quartet covers of Coldplay, Paramore, and Kings of Leon on full blast, then turned on the Kings of Leon "Because of the Times" album, and ended with PlayRadioPlay, Alex's gift, all whilst tour jeté-ing on the French coast. My IES group must've thought I was mental. But eventually everyone got cold and headed in for dinner, which left me alone to wander amongst the waves, seagulls, and another breathtakingly overcast sky.
Safe to say my morning depression was replaced by God's gift of scenery...and honestly, I don't know how anyone can admire such a place and think it all happened on accident.
That night we were fed my favorite French dish thus far, Saint Jacques. It's a scallop thingy served in its shell with cheesy-cream sauce and a slightly crunchy top. My oh my was it good. We attempted to find a place to go out that night as a group (totally hilarious scene, two young IES staff members leading a group of about 20 of us around a tiny beach town in search of a lowly bar...didn't work out very well). But I ended up just going back to the hotel after a 15 minute search found us a small restaurant that only had seating outside. The jaunt on the beach had made my cold even worse, but I wasn't complaining. The next morning was another early one, and our travels took us next to the Musée du Débarquement d'Arromanches in Arromanches, Normandy. Here we learned all about the 'water roads' that French, English, and American troops built in something like 19 days (??) in order to send supplies over water to troops after D-Day victory (assuming that it was, in fact, a victory; if it hadn'tve been, they would have built all said roads for absolutely nothing...kind of interesting).
Water road model.
The real thing.
The real highlight of Saturday, however, was the visit to the American memorial site Colleville-sur-Mer that's right on Omaha Beach (one of the biggest landing sites for D-Day). Once again, I wandered around by myself for most of the afternoon, and once again it was a rather somber visit. But I can't help but compare the sea of small marble crosses to the sea of white crashing waves I'd so enjoyed the day before; beautiful, strong, and part of a purposeful cause in a larger mission that by no means happened on accident.
My artsy shots.
We only stayed there for about an hour and a half, which was slightly disappointing, but I was tired, sicker by the minute, and completely satisfied with my jam-packed and emotional weekend. Time to go home. I realized after the fact how much time I spent alone, despite meals, and was so happy to have enjoyed all my time of reflection. What a blessing.
Well, dear audience, this ended up being about as long as I expected, and I still have at least three blog-worthy events to talk about from last Wednesday until now. The next one will be much lighter and much more superficial, I promise! Hey, I'm in Paris...gotta do at least a few spontaneous, crazy things now and then right?
À toute alors~