Sunday, February 22, 2009

22-02-2009 (Week 6) - Lyon

So this was my first French Ultimate tournament, let alone indoor tourament. If I must say, it couldn't have gone better. Everyone on the team was very nice and fun to be around. All were patient with me while I was learning the new offense and trying to pratice my French as well.

Although the tournament started Saturday (and we didn’t leave Toulouse until Saturday morning), we all met up Friday night for dinner. It was nice to meet all of my teammates there and get some good old homemade crepes compliments of J-P (at least that’s how I would define them). Some ham and cheese for dinner and then followed up by nutella for dessert. It doesn’t get much better than that…

It was on Friday night that I received my forged medical examination note. To fill you in: in order to play at official French tournaments governed by their frisbee governing body, you have to be cleared to play by a doctor. Somehow, someone on the team got a doctor to sign a blank note in which we could write whatever we wanted in it. So they wrote the appropriate words for the note and we were on our way to Lyon after meeting Saturday morning.

Knowing my memory skills, I’m sure it would surprise most of you to learn that I totally forgot to bring my forged medical note with me on to Lyon. Of course, I was freakin’ out the rest of the way there (about 4 hours) once I realized it. How distatrous it would’ve been to drive 6 hours to a tournament and not be able to play. Luckily, French frisbee players are as laid back as american frisbee players and no one cared.

This tournament was a French national tournament of the third tear of ultimate (there are only three). Our team name was BTRaves. Raves, in this case, is some type of legume, or vegetable. If you haven’t put it all together yet, the BT stands for Better Than. …Hmmmmmm

We played two games on Saturday. The first was relatively easy and the second was against the eventual champions. The game was competitive, but I wish we would’ve played them on Sunday, because we were firing on all cylinders then, and ended up winning all 4 of our games. So, we finished with a record of 5-1, good enough for 3rd in the tournament….

The reason it was third and not second was that these results were combined with another previous tournament results. For both weekends, we had a combined loss total of 3. Either way though, we had a great time and got to play some good ultimate.

The party on Saturday was nothing like parties in the States. Instead of going to a bar and getting plastered, everyone went to some private club and got served dinner. It wasn’t formal or anything, and there was a cash bar there, but it just didn’t have the feel that I was expecting. Still not use to eating long dinners…

During the tournament I would wear my KU tearaway warm-ups in between matches. Surely tearaways are not new to France but most of my teammates acted like they were, ripping them off at every opportunity. They would even have the audacity to plan attacks right in front of me (of course it was in another language so it would work most of the time, until I learned the work ‘decompression,’ which is like button or something).

After the tournament I received word that I’ve been asked to play in the outdoor series, which I’m really looking forward to. Outdoor suites my game better than indoor…

Sunday, February 15, 2009

15-02-2009 (Week 5) - Random Toulouse

Ok, I know I'm a little behind on my blogs, but better late than never...n'est-ce pas??

So, this was my first weekend back in Toulouse for an actual weekend in a long time....and I just have some general thoughts I'd like to share with everyone.

Food: The food here is very good. Unfortunately for me (or fortunately if you know me well), I've made myself too busy to go out and actually enjoy French meals. However, the few I've had thus far have been very good. It's very easy to walk into a sandwich shop and get a sandwich. And the sandwich isn't like american sandwiches. It's basically an entire baguette sliced in half with meat and cheese. And the cheese is very good here (as long as you don't get a peice that smells like someone just wiped their butt with it - which has happened to me before). The cantine at work is very good. You can get a very well rounded meal cooked up french style for only a couple euro. Sweet deal, right?! WRONG. They charge you like 6 euro just for being a foreigner. If they knew what busch league meant over here, I'd be telling them they were so.

I also drank my first beer while on work hours the other Friday at lunch. I gotta be honest, I was tempted to buy about 12 and get a game of flip cup going, but my better judgement prevailed.

The only thing that you really need to know foodwise though, is the kinder beuno...It's pretty much the most amazing candy bar I've ever had. And you can buy them by the case at the super market....score.

Oh, and don't forget about nutella crepes. Wow, I've been missing out for awhile on the nutella train. Do they even have that in the states? I have no idea.

Brian and I recently went to a place called 'Meet the Meat.' We were meandering down the street and just scoping out restaurants when this guy came out of one and starting talking 300 miles/minute in French. We were a little struck back, but then he explained everything in english. One of his expressions was, 'so tender you could cut it with the back of your knife.' He said this after proclaiming his english wasn't that good. Either way though, the food was good and it was just what we needed to make our decision.

Dog Shit: It's everywhere. Which in general I have no problems with (if it was in a park in some grass). The first part of the problem is that there isn't any grass anywhere. It's all cement sidewalks, roads, etc. So you have to wait for rain for the poop to dissapate. The second part of the problem is that 50% of the dogs are owned by homeless people, who just let their dogs crap wherever they please, even if it's the future place of the bottom of my shoe.

Objects that I miss: Ketchup. I never thought that I liked it that much until they give you a 0.5 ounce packet of it at the restaurant when you want fries. First off, that's way too small of an amount. Second off, they give you the miniscule amount in the most worthless packaging ever. You can never get it all out of the packet, and if you do, you can never scrape it all off the surface you poured it on (complete waste).

Steak. The steak here is ok and you can find good cuts (as mentioned in the meet the meat restaurant earlier), but you just can't get a nice filet when you want it. That will be the first thing I eat when I take my first return visit on April 12th back to Wichita.

English. I find myself totally absorbing myself in books. Two very good books might I add. Jitterbug Perfume (I won't even try to describe it, read about it online), and Still Alice (a book about a woman's life as she tries to overcome Alzheimer's disease). I normally don't read this much so I've found two explainations for this. 1. When I firt got here, I was bored and needed something to do. When I becamse busy I had established a good habit. 2. I miss the english language, and will do anything to get it. When I took my return trip to Chicago I read an entire Time magazine and USA Today. And I'm definitely not chalking that up to Maturity.

Work in general is going pretty well. Staying busy and working late hours. My days are now mostly full. Monday is just work, but Tuesday/Thursday is filled with work followed immeditely with my new French class. That lasts until 9. I tested into an intermediate class, but it was on Monday/Wednesday, and I didn't want class then, so instead they put me in an advanced class. I was very intimidating at first, but I'm starting to get the hang of it and I'm comprehending much better now. I have problems speaking just because I don't know enough vocabulary, but hopefully that'll change as I keep practicing.

On Wed/Fri I have ultimate practice. More to come on ultimate in the next blog...That's all for now. If you guys have any questions that I could write on, please post them, and it'll give me something to write about...peace.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

08-02-2009 (Week 4) - Chicago

This past weekend I went to good old Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. to pick up my work visa. It has been a long time coming, considering I was suppose to have it in October of 2008 according to Human Resources.

I left Toulouse on a Thursday afternoon. This was the day after I spent the first night in my new apt. I moved in Wednesday night, but only because I had the help of Brian, Jeff, and Justin. After they all left I started unpacking things, turning on the heat, doing some laundry, and cooking my dinner. Ya know, just normal stuff. It was around midnight at this time when the electricity finally went out.

'Merde!' was my initial first thought.

After I regrouped I got my cellphone flashlight on and started to head towards the windows to open them all up to get a little bit of light. I checked the hallway and that electricity was still on, so I inferred it must be a local problem to my apartment. That's when I opened the fusebox. I did some prodding and pushing (but it's midnight, mind you, and I can't see anything), but couldn't find the answer. I figured it must be because the utility bill had not been paid. You see, I had set up a direct withdrawal on the electric bill from my French bank account, but had yet to deposit any money in my account. And since the electricity had gone out around midnight, I smartly figured that must be the problem. (I later found out the circuit breaker had just gone off, and I failed to see the largest button on the fusebox turning the electric back on. Apparently our apartment can't handle 4 space heaters on max, a computer, the stove, the washing machine, and all the lights on at once...oops)

Either way the trip to Chicago was great. First off, it gave me a chance to relax and catch up on some sleep. Also, it gave me a chance to hang out with my cousins Brad and Andrea who I hadn't seen in awhile. They took me out two nights during the weekend and I had a great time. I also got to hand out with an old high school/church youth group friend in Julie. She gave me a tour of the city and let me hang out with her friends that night while attending a comedy show featuring Maria Bamford.

I also went up and down the magnificent mile (Michigan Ave.) and up in the Sears tower as well as visit the Museum of Science and Technology where the most impressive feat was definitely the German sub they had captured during WWII.

On my return to France, I promptly recommenced breaking electrical things by plugging in my U.S. surge protector (110V) into a French outlet (220V) without a voltage converter (designed to downsize voltage). Immediately the lights in my room, as well as the bathroom(s) went out. Took me 2 days to find the right fuse...merde!

Day to day life is starting to settle in. The apartment is coming into shape, and will be almost home-like in the next week or so. We still need to buy some odds and ends and I'm still waiting on my shipment to arrive. We also still lack internet. Living without internet is much tougher than anticipated. I've ended up starting up this other activity called 'reading.' So far it's pretty entertaining. Only time will tell though.

Sorry for the non-pictures, but without internet, I can't upload them. And I can only upload 5 at a time here from work, so not worth it. Stay tuned for pics from London and Chicago. In the meantime, enjoy the video...


Sunday, February 1, 2009

01-02-2009 (Week 3) - London

This past weekend we went out to London, England for London's b-day. In all honesty, one weekend is really only enough to wet your appetite for London. There is so much to see and the city is so large, that if we want to go back, we could spend another week there and not see the same stuff again.

Friday night we arrived in Gatwick (cheaper to fly there) and took a train into town and our hostel. We had the pleasure of Justin's company with us this weekend, as he was in town for to help with a Maturity A review (which we aced, btw). When we arrived at the hostel it was about 12, but most everything was closed, pub-wise that is. So we decided to hit up the hostel bar which apparently is open 24 hours/day.

The night started slow, but turned into a good one by 3am. We played a friendly game of foosball (see video for results), and talked with a girl from Russia for awhile about how much she hated Americans. I tired to enter the conversation with an open mind and told her, "Look, to be honest, I probably fit the bill of what you think about Americans. I don't know much about Europe or its culture. But I'm trying to learn, and you at least have to give me the benefit of the doubt for my honesty, and my desire to learn more."

She didn't.

And by the end of the conversation she was trying to convince us how dumb we were because we didn't know who invented broccoli. I had found her wallet earlier that night and turned it into the bartender. Now I wish I would've turned it into the toilet.

Saturday we woke up and took the tube into town. We hoped on an open top double decker bus, even though is was 2 degrees C at the time, and explored the city. My favorite part of London was Big Ben (which is the name of the bell inside the clock). I probably took too many pictures to attest to that. Saturday night we ventured out again and found 'quite possibly the largest pub in the world.' We just drank a few brews and took the midnight bus home, where we sat up top in the front row and pretended like we were driving...

Sunday we headed out to Buckingham Palace and the changing of the guard. As you can see, one of the guards himself wasn't too impressed with the ceremony (double-click on picture to enlarge). After relatively short Sunday, we headed to the airport to catch our flight, when the snow began to fall. To make a long story short, London got the most snow it had seen in 18 years and our flight was cancelled (after we sat on the plane for 2.5 hours). We were told to re-book new flights online, and we did. We then found a quaint little hostel in Gatwick which we stayed. And believe it or not, they had the superbowl on TV.

Needless to say we arrived late into work on Monday, without repercussion. I think it helped that the snow storm was such a big story. Enjoy the video. I will hopefully have the slideshow posted soon! Right now my apartment doesn't have internet!