Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Mardi Gras!!!

Happy mardi gras! This past weekend I went to celebrate carnival for real in a small coastal town called Granville. It was the 138th anniversary of the festival! I was exactly how I imagined carnival in France to be! We arrived Saturday evening and hung out with my roommates friends. We then put on our costume and headed out. In the streets there were a lot of drum lines/ marching bands performing and EVERYONE was in costume. I was like an even bigger and better Halloween. There was also a real carnival (ie, spinning rides and games) and I rode on the bumper cars, which was crazy because I swear they could get up to 15 mi/hr and if both cars were going full speed head on you felt it. Of course, there were no seat belts. And everyone was drunk. It was obviously very, very safe. Not. It was a lawsuit waiting to happen, but apparently the French aren’t so sue-crazy like us Americans and my friends and I lived, so it was ok, and actually really fun. There were also all your typical rides and games, just like you’d see in the US (though I didn’t spot a whack-a-mole unfortunately).

It was a pretty small town with narrow, winding streets, so I think the actual number of people wasn’t a lot but it seemed like a lot. It was small enough that we saw the same people several times and were able to talk with them which was really cool. Even better, they often wore the same costumes for the whole week (carnival goes from about Thursday until Tuesday) so you could easily spot them again and rekindle your friendship.

On Sunday afternoon Kristen and I woke up to watch the parade. The parade was over two hours long, with all homemade floats that were very clever and well thought out. Kristen and I camped out in the main square, where there was a huge throng of people and we were able to get pretty close to see the floats. There was tons of confetti as well. Literally, tons. Apparently something like 10 tons of confetti were brought in for the event. Amazing. You’ll see in the pictures I posted that it was everywhere. So amazing! I can’t recall ever going to a real confetti parade like that. Luckily the day was gorgeous and the whole town came out and it really felt like mardi gras. Kristen and I then wandered the city, looking at different costumes, stopping in different bars and sandwich shops to dance to music (yes, sandwich shops!). It really was an amazing weekend, and we even conspired to stay an extra night as Sunday night is when they have fireworks apparently. Unfortunately, I had work the next day so we grudgingly left at 8:30pm.

I originally took over 300 photos. I tried to narrow it down, but it is still over 200! I hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Allie visits, other updates, and LOTS OF PHOTOS!

Last time I posted, my friend Allie was visiting. We spent some time in Etretat and Honfleur. But I found the most interesting part of her visit was when we visited the Museum of Natural History of Le Havre. I honestly did not expect much of it since no one had mentioned it to me as a must-see and the building looks a bit dilapidated from the outside. However, the exhibit inside was incredible. They are currently featuring an exposition on the savannah so I figured I’d take Allie for an hour to check it out. Turns out the exhibit is unbelievably beautiful. It is two floors of gorgeous pictures of animals and local peoples from the region in Tanzania and Kenya. They also had a section for children with stuffed animals and great learning tools. The exhibit was especially nice because I had been to the savannah and seen all those people and animals live.

On Friday, January 27th a bunch of friends and I went to see a very amazing concert. The band was called the Orchestre National de Barbès and they use many different instruments from around the world, such as guitars, bagpipes, and traditional African instruments, to play music with a North African feel. They’re style was undoubtedly fresh and funky and kept people dancing the whole time. The concert was free and sponsored by Le Havre for the literary festival that was meant to highlight diversity in French literature. I was highly impressed.

On Sunday January 28th, I babysat for a little girl. It was just for a day because her dad had a Magic tournament to go to. I spent the whole day with the little girl. She was about seven years old and didn’t speak much English, just the basics (colors and numbers). I was her first babysitter, so she was pretty excited. We played all kinds of card games and I taught her how to play “Go Fish” in English. We also played dolls and put on a little make up. She was very sweet and easy going. Very fun! One thing I thought was strange is that for a snack she had hot chocolate with chocolate cereal. It’s strange because that is what my roommate has for breakfast every day. It must be some bizarre French thing; do they not realize that the milk becomes chocolaty from the chocolate cereal?!

For a few days, the region of Seine-maritime (kind of like a county) had a few special days where all the movie theaters were 3euro to see a movie. So I went many times and saw the films Le Havre, Sherlock Holmes (dubbed in French), La Vérié si je mens (“The truth if I lie,” a French comedy), J. Edgar.

In the film Le Havre all of the dialogue is very slow so all of myself and my foreign friends really enjoyed the movie because we understood all of it, but all of my French friends hated it because they found it to be boring and slow. What I like about the film is its very artsy. It plays with time really well, showing the main character in a very old fashioned car, but then in the background you can see contemporary cars. There are also interesting time juxtapositions such as a scene with someone on a cell phone, but then another scene with someone smoking in a hospital. Clearly two different time periods. I really enjoyed this play with time and found that it made the theme of the film seem timeless. Simultaneously classic yet modern. The film itself is about a group of Africans who are discovered when trying to go get to English by containerships. One of the boys escapes and the main character tries to help save him and send him to England.

J. Edgar was quite good but also quite awkward. There were many scenes that made me cringe from the brutal reality and awkwardness. I truly felt ill at ease a lot of the time and at the end had a sense of, “What did I just watch?” It was very raw and intimate, but almost too much so for me. I also wonder how true life it was.

I was also lucky enough to have dinner with two of the teachers I work with. They invited me over to dinner with their husbands and children. In typical French fashion, we got together around 8:30pm to have a few finger foods and chat. The children were then put to bed by the fathers and we continued chatting. Around 10pm we had dinner. Kristen and I were there until 1am! The home was beautiful, with a sitting room that was all glass and the home was on a hill that over looked the center of Le Havre. While we were there, it began to snow around midnight!

This was the first snow of the year, and it was pretty serious. I understand that Le Havre doesn’t usually get very cold and if it snows, it rarely sticks. There were maybe about 6inches of snow here and it stuck for quite a while. I got to see the snow on the beach and all of the beautiful buildings. I will post pictures, because it’s better to see it than to describe it.

Up until now, that’s just about it… Not too much going on here. I’m just relaxing at the moment and not travelling much, but I believe in the next month that should change. Will try and keep you posted!

Pictures from Christmas and Berlin:
Pictures from a bike ride with Kristen, Allie’s visit, and the Orchestre national concert:
Pictures from Winter in Le Havre:
And general photos of LH: