Merry Christmas everyone!! I'm here in Connecticut for my family Christmas vacation. It's great being here with everybody and I'm having a lot of fun with my cousins. It didn't snow this morning, in spite of our efforts of cutting out snowflakes and watching "White Christmas." But it's still very wintery outside and the muted pastels of the New England sky behind bare branches make it a postcard Christmas anyway. It's strange taking this break away from my life in Lyon. I feel like I've already forgotten my French and that my whole life there was just some fantasy I made up. But I'll go back and then this side of the mirror will seem like the dream. Maybe I'll get visitors one day and then the worlds can combine a bit... Today is the wonderful culmination of a Christmas season that included the Festival of Lights (Fête des lumières) and a hot wine and ginger cookie party to christen my new place. The Festival of Lights is a huge three-day lighting of the town of Lyon. It's rumored to attract 3 million visitors per year. There were fantastic displays all over the city, including a giant Ferris Wheel at Place Bellecour; 3D projections on a church in Old Lyon; and grand arches all over the Rue de la République. But mostly the atmosphere was fantastic, with everyone out and about, drinking hot wine and eating roasted chestnuts. Though seriously lacking money, I really wanted to invite people over to my new place. Hot wine and ginger cookies were reasonable and it made for a very festive atmosphere. My friend Kaci and I spent the day before making snowflakes for my window too. I wasn't able to fit a ton of people into my studio, but the eight of us were still relatively comfortable and talked about our plans for the holiday and our countries' Christmas traditions. My voyage here was probably one of the worst in my life. But as it's Christmas I don't really feel like recounting it. It just involves being very sick and unhappy for about 12 hours. But, as cheesy as it sounds, seeing the smiles on my cousins' faces make it worth it. Seven and nine, they both received an absolutely incredible pile of presents. Really, they've played with a new one at least every hour and haven't gone back to the last one. But my older sister and I have been playing quite a bit with their toys too, so they're not the only guilty ones. It's so great that my two cousins are finally old enough to interact with. I feel like I've been waiting so long. But now I can ask them questions and get meaningful responses. It's going to be so interesting to see what kind of people they will grow up to be. These are really the only children I've ever known, except the ones I grew up with. Well, it's about time to open the stockings, so I'd better not keep them waiting. Merry Christmas everyone. May the presence of family be more comforting than the presents of Christmas.
Yes, the rumors are true: I finally have my own apartment!! Unfortunately it doesn't have internet yet, and after the blow to my bank account of three months' upfront rent and Christmas coming up, I'm not sure when it will. So for now correspondence will be staggered. Anyhow, it's a studio, so it's tiny, but it has a real bathroom with a bathtub and the whole place looks practically brand new. It's furnished with a desk, three chairs, a bed and an equiped kitchen. The building is nine-years-old and was built specifically for students, so it has a laundry downstairs and a payphone, etc. It's located incredibly well as far as transportation goes (one block from two bus lines, one block to the tram, 10 minutes to metro), but no one would call it "centre-ville." My fifth-floor window is west-facing, meaning I have an expansive view of the city including the hill and castle-like basilica of Fourvière hill. I haven't quite figured out how heat works, but we'll get that settled soon... I moved in yesterday morning and the first thing I did afterwards was search for a Christmas tree, an IKEA and food. In that order. The Christmas tree didn't work out but I'm still trying and IKEA had decorations for cheap so my room is rather festive anyway. My last day with my host family was rather... indicative. The grandparents and I had been getting along quite well the last week, even more so, actually, after they found out I was moving out. I think they had a little more respect for me then. I certainly had more respect for them than the rest of the Araignouses because they gave me hot meals and even homemade chocolate mousse in a well-kept apartment, like a normal host family. It just so happened that I was leaving the same morning as the grandparents. I had heard them talking about going somewhere the night before but when I asked they assured me they would be home for dinner at 8:30. I thought it was a little weird that the grandparents wouldn't take them out to dinner the last night they were there, but I planned my day around them being home anyway. At 8 p.m. I get a text message saying "oh, sorry, we're going to a restaurant." Oh well, it's probably better that way. I was just about to feel nostaligic, and that made me go: "Oh yeah, that's why I'm leaving." The next morning as I left I shook hands with the only person in the house and the only person I've really been living with the last three months – my pothead host brother – and walked out the door with all my stuff. It's kinda weird to just not live there anymore. But my place is still way better.