My Everything

I’m sitting here, at the kitchen table, coffee in hand and mind completely blank. I’m not sure where this writing will take me… but I want to write. It’s been too long…

I’m looking out the sliding glass doors in front of me as the fog comes billowing down, shaping itself onto the rolling hills. I feel like we are sometimes the fog; shaping into wherever we’re taken, conforming to the rhythm of life. Even on a big adventure like the one I’m on now, I get caught in monotonous days of life. On days like this, I begin to wonder what I’m suppose to do. What I’m meant to learn. If I’m working hard enough at the things God wants me to do.

I have slowly been listening to a series that I’m finishing from my home church in RVA. The study is on Ecclesiastes. Solomon is miserable in the beginning of the book, looking for satisfaction and joy in everything earthly. Throughout the first two chapters, he searches through learning, drinking, material items, relationships, music… everything he could think of that would make him happy. At the end of his life, he warns not to make the mistake he did and run after everything he thought his heart desired, but to turn to God and allow Him to be all that you need.

In this season of life, I am confronting and learning things I never would have imagined I would be encountering at the age of 19. After waiting and having a suitcase packed for 2 weeks, I was gone once I received my approved visa in the mail. Just like that I took off on a plane to a village I knew little about, with a family I had never met, not knowing at all what I was about to experience and learn about life. Looking at it now, I have been thrown into a situation where I can choose to fall into the conformity of the world or I can choose to stand on my own, grounded in the foundation of my faith, grasping onto God and not letting go.

Coming here, I left everything I had and was comfortable with behind. I packed bare necessities, said goodbye to friends and family, and entered a world where I was left alone to feed myself spiritually. In the beginning of my journey, I fell into a depression, immensely wishing I was back home in the comfort of my own church, listening and learning from what I was hearing. Following the sermons online became difficult because of finding a couple hours in the day to sit down without any distractions. My only food came from my quiet times with God. This was new for me as I had struggled to have a routine time with Him in the past. But this time, it was force myself to do it or suffer. As Solomon learned and I have learned, nothing else matters but Him. I feel like I have nothing, but have everything because I have God. Leaving what I have known to be comfortable and familiar has allowed me to draw closer than ever to God, letting Him take control of my life.

In Ecclesiastes 3, Solomon talks about embracing the seasons of life God gives you. This season is definitely a life changer. Though difficult and sometimes wanting to give in, I have never felt so close and in-love with God as I am now. Through this, He is truly and always will be my everything.

Worshiping...

Worshiping…

A Day in the Life of Me

Apparently I’ve become really bad at this whole blogging-often-so-people-can-follow-what-I’m-doing thing…

Anyway… I’m officially happy and content in my not-so-new-anymore routines and surroundings. Since many of you have asked me what my days are like, allow me to enlighten you…

My regular, on-schedule days are Tuesday-Friday:

At 8 o’clock am, my alarm goes off and I wake up the girls to get them ready for their day. I help dress a sleepy-eyed Line for school and a bright eyed and bushy tailed (as my Mom says 🙂 ) Margaux to go to her nanny (more like an in-home daycare with lots of other children). Renaud usually leaves for the restaurant sometime about now. As I help them eat breakfast (anything with chocolate because that’s how the French do), brush teeth, and fix hair, Lorraine is getting herself ready to take the girls and go to work. As close to 8:30 as possible, we (Lorraine and I) get the girls out the door and into the car. After they are gone, I have the morning/afternoon to myself. Usually this consists of going back to bed for a little while, having my 2-3 hour quiet time (because it’s never short…), and/or sometimes, like now, actually writing a blog post. Or writing something else…

At 11:25 am (if I’m up for it, want to, and am ready to go), I walk down to the inn to eat lunch with the rest of the staff at 11:30. Afterwards, I might take a walk through the village and through the park, listening and worshiping to great music while breathing in His glory around me.

The girls come home around 5:00. We play for a while and at 6:20, we walk down to the restaurant for dinner at 6:30 with the staff. After dinner, we return to the house and play more until about 8 pm. I then get the girls ready for bed and put them down.

On Tuesdays at 2 pm, I used to have my French class for 3 hours. However, due to my French coming back to me and improving, I am now moved to a higher level class on Wednesday morning at 9 am. I haven’t started that one yet, so I can’t say too much. I’ll be taking a morning bus at 6:30 am from Marcoles to Aurillac (the nearest “big city”). So….. Early.

Saturdays and Sundays:

Saturdays sometimes vary. I might have the girls all day while their parents are at work, or (more often) I help get them ready in the morning to go to their gymnastic lessons in Aurillac. Margaux then comes home a couple hours later with her mom, and I watch her the rest of the day while Line has her lesson and spends the day with her Grandmother. On Sundays, I have the girls all day until late afternoon/evening when Lorraine comes home. The restaurant is closed Sunday evenings, but Renaud keeps the bar open. Once the girls are with their parents at the restaurant or at home, I’m off for the rest of the night. Sometimes I go to, what I call, the staff apartment, which is the third floor of the inn/restaurant. It holds multiple rooms, two bathrooms, and a kitchen/dining room for the staff members from other cities/countries to live in. On Sunday evenings I usually eat with them to get away from the family for a little while.

Side note/fun fact: We have staff members from France, Mauritius (an island country off the coast of Madagascar, where my family served for 2 years when I was little), Brazil, Uruguay, and in June, Thailand. All are guys except for two girls, Nassima who lives in France but is originally from Morocco, and Jessica from Brazil. I’m becoming close friends with the them.

Last but not least… Monday:

The inn is closed on Mondays which gives me the day off. However, I also have class on this day at 1:30 pm. I normally stay at the house until Lorraine, the girls, and I get ready to leave for Aurillac at 12:40 for my lesson while they run errands. My class has a total of about 30 people, but most days only about 20 are present. I’m the only American, but a few of them speak English. Many of them are Eastern European: Albania, Russia, Ukraine, Kosovo, and others that I’m still unsure of. Others are from Bangladesh, Syria, Morocco, and Sudan. I’m still continuing to learn where everyone is from. We all have to struggle to communicate with each other in French, but that’s the fun part… We laugh and speak very broken, poor-grammar-ed French. Since there are so many different nationalities, our teacher can only speak English, so describing things that we don’t understand usually come through using Google images. 🙂 At 3:00, Lorraine and the girls pick me up and we finish whatever errands are still needed to be done before heading back to Marcoles. The rest of the evening is off for all of us.

And voila! My weekly schedule! Sometimes things change, but for the most part, these is what my days look like.

In my off hours, I like to walk around the village border and gaze out across the vast, rolling hills. I talk to God a lot in these moments. I much prefer being alone, walking around, and talking to Him. I find a lot of inspiration as well as smile and laugh with Him. Other times, I enjoy spending time with the staff. Although sometimes awkward and uncomfortable because of the sexual innuendos, they’re a lot of fun to hang out with. And of course… probably my most favorite thing to do is getting to talk to my Dad every morning usually through Facebook and then Skyping my Mom or both of them later in the day a couple times a week.

As far as exciting things to do, there isn’t very much opportunity. But!!! Being here, in this isolated village, alone most of the time is becoming an incredible bonding time between me and my Creator. I’m witnessing and appreciating the beauty of his nature all around me, every single day.

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I see full rainbows, double rainbows, rain and hail one minute and three minutes later it’s completely sunny. I’ve watched the snow melt on the mountains off in the distance every morning when I wake up. I’m learning to see everything through His eyes. And gosh is it beautiful…

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A Collection of Stories

Since I haven’t done a ton of blogging, which I must say I am quite sad about, I have decided to try to combine as many small stories as I can into one post. Are you ready? Here I go….

Just about every person I had met upon arriving to the village asked me if I had seen Marcoles’s castle. I would have never thought a village as small as this one could even have a castle… but apparently we do. They kept telling the the general location of it, which I didn’t understand because at the time had not thoroughly explored the village. So. One beautifully sunny day, I decided to go on an adventurous scavenger hunt (as I decided in my child-like mind it would be terrifyingly exciting.) I put on my jacket and shoes, grabbed my purse and first went to the restaurant to have a bite to eat with the rest of the staff. Then I was off. I walked farther down past the Inn and found the supermarket they said it was near (I also didn’t know we had a supermarket. We do…). To the left of the supermarket was a long, tree-lined, gravel drive way with a open white gate at the entrance. I looked down it and saw an old looking mansion with lots of windows. I decided this was probably it. I started down the driveway and to my left was an open plot of land. Further down, stood two beautiful black horses. As I neared the building, the driveway split off continuing straight and starting a new path to the right. On a tree standing in the crook of the split was a sign posted “propriété privée” (private property). I wasn’t all together sure whether or not the sign was meant for the castle or the property that split off from the straight path, so I decided to continue further straight, but with caution. As I neared the castle, there was a small bridge in front of me. After it, the path continued straight only a bit further before turning into a large, circular driveway. I stood, staring. The “castle” (more like a very large mansion, but still quite nice for a small village) was positioned straight in front of me. I felt exactly like Elizabeth Bennet and decided that I had to complete this picture. I pulled out my iPod and headphones and put on the soundtrack to Pride and Prejudice (I know… I’m weird and such a girl, but it made the experience even more real). From where I stood before the bridge, the driveway split into two smaller paths to the right and the left, both leading into woods. I had remembered Lorraine saying that I had to go right because it was forbidden to go left and walk the grounds of the castle. I went right and followed the trail into beautiful, lush, green woods. I later saw that the bridge was over a fairly large pond. I stopped to take it all in. It was enchantingly gorgeous. I felt as if I had stepped back in time and was spending my days walking, reading books, and taking in the beauty of nature.

The long, never-ending driveway

The long, never-ending driveway

Bridge and large pond.

Bridge and large pond.

Marcoles's castle

Marcoles’s castle

I actually secretly went venturing on the left pathway as well without being seen... :D This is the other side of the bridge.

I actually secretly went venturing on the left pathway as well without being seen… 😀 This is the other side of the bridge.

Horsie :)

Horsie 🙂


Lou, le pas méchant loup — Lou, the not bad wolf

Line’s class put on a small production at the village theatre (very small, but adorable). I decided to change out of my jeans for the night into something nicer. I asked Line if she wanted me to wear a dress and she eagerly said yes. She sat down on my bed with me and picked one out. After I put it on and paired it with a pair of tights and a cardigan, she stared at me in awe and giggled. She then ran over to me and tackled my leg in a hug. I picked her up and hugged her tight. She told me I looked beautiful and said she loved me. For a 5 year old girl who hadn’t been very good at respecting me for being the authorative nanny, this was pretty darn special to me…

Unfortunately I didn’t remember to grab my phone, so I don’t have pictures of the production, but it was fantastic. 🙂


The Unexpected Suprise

***WARNING!!!!! This story may contain pictures that could provoke the desire to vomit…***

Some evenings, if Renaud gets home early, he asks me to come back to the restaurant with him to help with making desserts or some other dish. This particular night, we were making delicious cups of cream passionfruit juice with a chocolate crunch mixture in the bottom and chocolate straws on top for decoration. Before we started, he gasped and informed me, “I have duck!!” I was very confused as to why this was so important… You’re a chef. Shouldn’t you have lots of types of meat? Still puzzled, I followed the excited man to the freezer where he opened it. As the cold rush of air hit me, I stood there, speechless, my eyes huge, and my stomach in knots almost ready to push everything it had inside it out of my mouth. In front of me were tons of ducks. Full bodies, naked, but some still containing a couple small feathers, and bloody from being plucked and killed. They’re little necks hung broken from strings above them and their blue eyes (yes ducks have blue eyes… believe me. I would know. I am now haunted for life.) stared at me, still in their skull… Renaud laughed as he looked at my white face that contained shock and horror. I turned and walked away slightly laughing. “You have ducks…” I stated. “You have actual ducks…” We both laughed it off and got ready to work. Still… I went to bed that night afraid they were going to come out of the freezer looking for me to kill me.

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I apologize if you are scared. I warned you...

I apologize if you are scared. I warned you…

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And lastly…on a more happy note…

The Discovery of My Singing

Last night, while getting the girls ready for bed, Line was reciting the alphabet in French and then began singing it. When she finished, she asked me what the alphabet was in English. I recited each letter, waited for her to repeat, and then sang it after. She smile and laughed, not ever hearing me sing, and asked me to sing it again. I sang as we walked to their room for them to get in bed. We talked for a couple minutes and then Line asked for the alphabet once more. “The alphabet!?” I laughed. “No.” She said. “Une autre chanson!” Another song, she requested. I smiled and said okay. I turned the light off and tucked them in, sat on the end of her bed and then began singing vaious lullabies that I could remember my mom singing to me during my childhood. By the way mom, “Hush Little Baby Don’t Say A Word” exists in French, but it’s very different. Line tried to sing a little of it and it was things like buying chocolate. Anyway, after each song, she requested another. After three or four, I told her it was time to go to sleep. As I got up and tucked her covers once more, she asked me what ‘I love you’ was in English. I told her and she repeated it back. “I love you, Ana.” My heart MELTED!!! Ah, I couldn’t believe it. There’s something about nannying for girls that don’t speak any English and then when they are able to say ‘I love you’ in your own language…it’s just… ahh… So worthwhile. I told her I loved her too, cranked their music box, and exited the room, feeling wonderful and bubbly. Many more lullabies are coming, and God’s Word will start to slowly be introduced through song. 🙂

Troubles produce glory…

“For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outwighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever!”

 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

This post has been weighing heavy on my heart for a few weeks now, and have decided to let the words flow, now that I am slowly beginning to change. I didn’t want to write them when I was in the moment. This post would become far too depressing and a positive element would not be found. However, I can now write it and find the dawning of a small light beginning to glow.

The past month has been altogether the most challenging time I’ve encountered. After the intial adjustment of being in an unfamiliar country with a completely new family in a tiny village, I began to slip into a slight depression. I missed and longed for the comfortability of home…of family…of friends…but the main thing I missed was the familiarity of the city of Richmond itself. Months before I left, I ventured out and discovered more of the city in my spare time being off from school. For the first time, I was beginning to feel a small, warm place for the city inside of me. It was becoming home. For a missionary kid/third cultured kid, this was a pretty big deal. I didn’t realize how hard leaving it would be, even if it was only for 5 months. I missed my sister, my sister in-law, and my brother. Since my parents moved to Crozet, they became my best friends. The ones I spend the most time with. Moving to a new country, I was completely on my own. The village is made up of many elderly people and a few middle-aged people. The odds of finding young adults isn’t very high.

For many other reasons that I don’t particulary want on a public site, I was sinking. I clung on to God for all I was worth, but I was getting so weary of making myself strong all the time. After a weekend of silently crying in my room every night, finally letting my emotions out, Lorraine noticed a difference and confronted me. I was floating in a state of lethargy, only doing the things that were neccessary and nothing more…shutting myself away from the world. After she came to me, I asked God to give me complete new strength. I new I had to changed. I couldn’t continue like this or the urge to give up and go home would be too strong and I might cave in. God gave me a blessing the day after I prayed to him. That late morning, at 11:30, I went to the restaurant/inn to have lunch with all the staff. After I entered, Lorraine told me something had arrived for me and handed me a large manila envelope. My first package… I was so excited. Lunch was not yet ready, so I sat on the couch in the bar room and opened it up. It was from my Cornerstone Family. Many of the members at my Dad’s church had written me letters, words of encouragement, and scripture verses to hold on to. I smiled and began laughing, feeling strength rise up inside of me as I read each word that was written. A reminder that if we are genuine and true when we cry out to God, He is always there to help us along and provide strength to persevere.

I can’t say that after that day, life did a 360 and completely changed. Although it got better, some days I still wanted to give up. But instead of letting that feeling linger, I asked myself if my emotions were helping me achieve what God wants me to do while I’m here. Days weren’t perfect, but in each day I could feel God helping me along every time I looked to Him. I would find Him in everything I could…even in the smallest of things to remind me He was with me. I have found the only thing that genuinely helps, is finding ways to thank Him and praise Him. Always turn your gaze to Him and not your emotions.

He has given me a few younger people to spend time with. Most of the staff that work  with my host parents are in their early to late 20s. I have had some time with them, “letting my hair down” and laughing. I am also finding joy in growing much closer to the girls. They are becoming like little sisters… laughing with me, dancing, singing, and even being more affectionate. 🙂 They are wanting me around more and always asking me to play games with them. We’re becoming the best of friends.

Each day is different, some challenging, while others are fun and easy. But all in all, each day is one that God has blessed me with. He’s given me the opportunity to come to a country I’ve always dreamed about and doing the thing I love more than anything in the world. Through all of these hard times, my relationship with Him is growing deeper and more intimate. I’m discovering things about Him that I’ve never known before and trusting Him for everything each day. He is becoming my everything.

This is something I wrote a couple days ago. A summary. And with it I will end… for now at least. 🙂

Day after day as I watch the snow melt on the mountains far in the distance and feel the warmth of Spring set in, my emotions and mood change along with it.
Slowly. Very slowly, I become more comfortable in my new season. Day by day I feel myself coming out of a foggy gray-ness. Like the morning fog and dew, thick among the land. But as the sun begins to rise, the dullness of the earth slowly begins to fade. The light casts a glorious light through it all. His light shines through everything.
Although I still cannot communicate well in this new language, I feel myself becoming more comfortable in my own shoes again. Playing with the girls, caring for them as they were my own sisters.
Speaking to them in a completely different language is becoming normal. I sometimes don’t realize that it’s different. My mind is beginning to think in it. I begin to dream in it.
When I miss home, it no longer brings me down. It makes me want to sink everything I have into my work  instead of letting sadness consume me. I want to pull through this…strong…. not giving in or giving up. I want to make people proud. I want to make myself proud. Most of all… I want to make God proud…

A Subtle Spark Can Change Everything

Day after day, morning or night, I pick up my Bible and my Oswald Chambers devotional and spend as much time as I can sinking my mind into God’s Word. As I am struck by various things that God shows me through the words written so long ago, I write down my conversation with Him as quickly as I can in my journal. We never know which every day, normal, habitual, things will have the biggest impact on people. To us, they’re ordinary, natural things that are just what we do so we can talk to our Father. But… our every day actions are the things that are the perfect sparks that to start a roaring fire.

One morning, while the girls were at school and day care, I was sitting on my bed in my room having my quiet time. Normal. Renaud came blowing in from working at the Inn/restaurant to get something and popped in my room to say hello before running back out. He asked how I was and I said I was fine. Then he glanced down at the 3 different books lying on my bed. He walked over to my dad’s brown and black Bible lying open and asked what it was. Before I could answer, he was picking it up to study it. “Oh!” He said, looking at me with a slight grin on his face and nodding his head. “Very good.” Then he gasped and came around to the other side of my bed. “Do you know Conques?” He asked. “Conques??” I replied, very confused if this was some strange French word I had never heard of before. “Oui. Conques. It’s a city very close to here.” “No.” I said. “Here.” He pointed to my computer and I gathered that he wanted me to look it up. So I asked him how you spelled this strange word and he told me. (By the way, incase you want to know it’s pronounced Conk. 😉 ) As pictures of the city appeared, I was in awe. It was incredible. Southern French cities never cease to amaze me at just how beautiful they can get. The main attraction of this city is it’s insanely ancient church that lies in the center. It was finished being built in the 12th century and has a ton of crazy history. (If you want to know a little more, this is a good site: https://www.bluffton.edu/~sullivanm/france/conques/stefoy/indexintro.html ) The front doors of the church hold a beautiful carving above them of the Last Judgement. I gathered that this city is a very famous “religious city” if you will, of France. He asked me if I was interested in going and I eagerly said yes. We set a date for Saturday of that week.

The Last Judgment  Dipiction

The Last Judgment Dipiction

The Last Judgement dipiction.

Front Doors

As Saturday came, the weather was slightly cold and very misty, but I was too eager to go to consider waiting. We got in the old 1984 Renault and were off. 40 minutes of flooring the gas to make it up and down mountains, around sharp curves, and stopping to experience the incredible view of the valleys, we made it to Conques: a beautifully architectured city that’s tucked away in it’s own gorge. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I literally felt like I was walking in a dream, none of it completely real because it was so perfect looking. Even in the rain, it was exquisite…

As we walked to where the church was, Renaud began to try to describe (in little, broken English) how he wasn’t ever christened as a child because his parents weren’t in a church, but also because they couldn’t afford to pay for the service. (I never knew you had to pay to be christened in a Catholic church…) He opened up and told me that he wished there were more churches around that he could attend that weren’t as traditional. I had no idea how to respond to this, but began praying that God would really begin to work in his life and use me to aid Him. When entering the church, to the left of the door was a bowl of water to cleanse yourself before you entered. I don’t believe in needing to be cleansed to enter God’s temple, so I didn’t participate in doing it. Renaud asked me why and I explained the differences between very traditional churches here, and the one that I attend back home. The more I explained, the more interested he became. Sparks were beginning to strike…

A few days ago, while watching the girls, Renaud came home again just for a minute and then was back out. I was sitting at the kitchen table having my quiet time while the girls were playing, and as he breezed in, noticed I was reading my Bible again. “You read everyday?” He asked me. “Yes.” I said, smiling. “I read and write, and then I pray.” He nodded in understanding. “If you want, you can go to church at 5 on Sunday.” He said, referring to the 5 o’clock mass that happens in the village. I told him that I did want to go and experience it soon.

Little by little, my everyday actions are taking on an effect in this family. Lorraine has seen that I read every day as well. Renaud continues to be curious. A friend of mine in Richmond Skyped me in to one of my church’s services. I showed Lorraine and the girls. Lorraine was in awe at how contemporary it was. “It’s like a rock concert!” She said. I explained that we have worship at the beginning and then speaking. The more she watched, she expressed that she wished there was a church like that near here. When Renaud came home, she explained to him what she had seen on my Skype. She went on and on, so excited at how different and non-traditional it was. Both of them are so curious and open to the idea of religion… of something more… My heart breaks that they don’t have better churches here, but every day, I pray that God will open up a way for them to accept Him and thrive in their understanding of who He is.

So… my fellow believers that are reading this: I need your help. I need you to pray with me. Especially for Renaud. He wants to experience more. He has told me that he doesn’t have a religion but would like one. I don’t want him to just find one… I want him to experience the incredible relationship we can have with God…a personal, intimate, one-on-one, deep, thriving relationship. I want him to live it out. I don’t know what these next 4 months hold… but I know God is going to do something huge. And I can’t wait. 🙂

A few pictures from Conques…

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For your convenience, a telephone in it's own alcove for your privacy...

For your convenience, a telephone in it’s own alcove for your privacy…

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Building across from the church... So perfect. Beauty and the Beast, anyone??

Building across from the church… So perfect. Beauty and the Beast, anyone??

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French flirting, kisses, and chocolate…

What a week. Although it’s been (for me), a normal, more taking care of business week, for you all back home, anything I do is unusual and different. So… I will share some of my highlights…or rather… more memorable moments with you.

There are many things I am discovering that are the same here as they are in America. There are also things that are different. And then, there’s the things that may be slightly different in every culture, but all in all, the wanted result is universal. For instance: Flirting. In the U.S., the way men get a womans attention is to whistle. Two notes that slide up and down and we females know… Some male, somewhere, thinks we are attractive and wants us to know it. A friend of mine who is Latino has taught me that in the Latin American culture, they also have a very specific call. Instead of a whistle, theirs isn’t quite as bold. It’s more mysterious and secretive, but just as forward. When in passing, a man will watch you and signal a “ch ch” sound. Now you know, if you ever hear it… Well… in France, they have a similar one. It was a beautiful sunny morning and Renaud (my host father) and some of the other men from the village, including the shoe cobbler, were working on building a car port outside the house. After I had awakened and was ready for the day, Renaud asked me if I would mind walking into the village to the Boulangerie (Bakery) to get some bread for lunch. I was very timid and hesitant because of my beginner knowledge of French, but accepted anyway. As I walked into town, the road curved to the right and infront of me was the Inn. L’Auberge de la Tour. Although I had been in town before and had seen most of the buildings, I still admired how old and unique they looked. As I came up on the Inn, I glanced up when I heard a strange sound. It was coming from the upper window of the Inn. I later found out that it was an apartment on the top floor. I thought it was someone working or maybe even a bird, but when I glanced up, I saw a man staring down at me. It took me a second to realize that he had been watching me as I came down the hill and now that I was near, thought obligated to let me know he was watching me… When I met his eyes, he gave a “ttss ttss”. I slightly shook my head, looked away and kept walking. I thought in my head, “thank you… but no way.” Men… sometimes you just weird us out when you try to get out attention. Especially when you hard core stare at us and then proceed with a mating call… It’s just not attractive.

Curving to the right...

Curving to the right…

Off in the distance...

Off in the distance…

The room at the top, just to the right of the turret, the mesmerized face watched...

The room at the top, just to the right of the turret, the mesmerized face watched…

I later met that man and discovered he’s a very sly, creepy, I’m-looking-at-you-like-I-want-to-eat-you, my-creeper-radar-is-spiking, kind of man… He asked me to come to his apartment to have dinner with him and his girlfriend and said he would invite two other guys and it would be fun. Then after dinner we would drive to the nearest “big little” town to go dancing. Ha! You’re funny… there’s no way. I was grateful when my host father (who isn’t much older than me) expressed his concern at the idea. I knew God put me with this couple for a reason… They’re really looking out for me.

My next memorable moment is probably my favorite. The longer I am here the closer I am getting to the girls. Even though I can barely communicate with the 5 year old, I still find ways to build our relationship. Margaux, the 2 year old, and I are becoming the best of friends. We’re pretty much on the same level of French. 🙂 As I sat in my room, my door closed, I hear the handle trying to be pushed down and opened. When the door finally relases and begins to crack open, a little voice emerges from the other side. “Ana… Ana!” She called. “Oui?” (yes?) I replied. A little, precious, smiling face pops out from the door and comes towards me. “Leesiou.” She said. “Leesiou?” I asked. “Oui.” She replied. I gave her a confused look. “Quoi?” (What?) I quesioned. “Leesiou!!! Leesiou!!” She yelled. “Oh!!” I finally thought I understood… “Besious?” (Kiss?) I asked, hoping that’s what it was, otherwise, it was hopeless… “Oui!!” She replied and brought her face very close to mine. I gave her several kisses and she ran away, giggling. She struggled to close the door behind her, standing on her tip toes. Moments later, she came in yelling the same thing. “Leesiou! Leesiou!” I smiled. She came and kissed my cheek and ran away. She did this quite a few times…. Just like me, she’s a very affectionate snuggle bunny. I love it…..

A very poor picture, but this is Margaux. :)

A very poor picture, but this is Margaux. 🙂

Finally… the perks having a chef as your host father… Renaud had spend a couple days in Aurillac (the little big town that’s 25 minutes away), studying desserts for his restaurant. As a chef, he wasn’t too familiar in the sweet and savory section. Before his restaurant opens in 14 days, he is making tons of white chocolate pillows that white chocolate eggs will sit on. He asked me if I wanted to help mold them and I eagerly agreed. He taught me that the chocolate had to be melted at a certain temperature, then once melted, heated at a higher temperature, and then cooled at a lower one, but still enough to be melted. Once it was at a perfect 30 degrees celcius, we got started. He showed me how to fill the molds and let them drain so that all that was left was a layer of white chocolate making a thin shell. I gently scrapped off the excess chocolate without touching the inside of the mold. I was terrified of ruining any of them, but he was very pleased with my work, telling me that I was doing them perfectly. He told me I should study the making of chocolate. The last mold we filled was a bigger half pillow. We had rubbed the mold in red the night before so that when the chocolate was put in, it would absorb the colored texture. Hey… if all else fails in life, I have a very promising future of opening up a Chocolaterie (Chocolate shop) in downtown RVA. 😉

Before the chocolate, when we colored it.

Before the chocolate, when we colored it.

The melting machine. The wheel turns, picking up chocolate and pouring out of the spout at the top.

The melting machine. The wheel turns, picking up chocolate and pouring out of the spout at the top.

Picture of me filling and draining the chocolate.

Picture of me filling and draining the chocolate.

The little pillow molds

The little pillow molds

The Big Red

The Big Red

Final red half pillow :)

Final red half pillow 🙂

La Jour de la Peur

The Day of Fear…

It all began as a regular morning… I woke up, ate breakfast with Lorraine and the girls, then put on all of my snow gear so we could drive 45 minutes deeper into the mountains to go skiing while Line had her lesson. It didn’t completely hit me that it had been over 9 years since the last time I skied. I had been a few times in Japan and enjoyed it, but really wasn’t the greatest at it. Lorraine told me it would all come back to me. Like riding a bike, you can’t ever forget how it works. I felt fairly confident that I would do okay. I mean, how back could I really be?

As we slid onto a conveyer belt in our skis, the lift scooped us up (literally… it scared me), and we were off. There was no turning back… As I gazed down below me at the Red Diamond hill that many people were skiing down. Some took their time, while others were crazy and practically did the whole thing without ever turning side to side to slow down. I thought to myself, “Okay…I can do this. We’re just going to go slow and steady and we’ll be fine.” As we reached the end of the ski lift, my skis hit the snow and I slid forward….and kept going forward… By the time I finally figured out how to slow down and stop, I was almost in a huge mound of snow before me. I steadied myself, looked behind me and smiled at Lorraine, her Aunt, Cousin, and Cousin’s friend. “D’accord… D’accord…” I said. (“Okay…Okay…”)

The first few hills went pretty well. I felt fairly confident. Little did I know that I didn’t exactly know the proper way to ski to the left, and to the right, crossing the front of your skis, making a triangle to slow down and stop. As we descended a hill and rounded to the left, I felt myself rapidly going faster… I did what I thought was right and tried to cross my skis. If I was slowing down, I never would have known it. I continued moving at a fast pace in a straight direction…watching the curve begin to pass behind me. I knew if I didn’t act in that moment, I was headed for disaster. I remembered what my dad had always taught me in Japan, that whenever you feel like you are about to hit something, flip over and fall on your side, immediately stopping you. So, I followed his advice and did so… However, even after thrusting myself onto the white ground beneath me, my entire body continued sailing forward. I remember screaming for a split second and grabbing at the snow before everything beneath me dropped a few feet. I went soaring into the air, now flying off the side of the track, hitting a wooden barrier, and landing very hard in a pile of snow.

I don’t really remember what my first thought was. Probably something along the lines of “holy crap, what just happened?…” And then “I really hope my body isn’t even more screwed up from this.” After I regained composure and thought about what had just occurred, I gripped my side, realizing I had a very hot, burning, penetrating pain coming from what I thought was my ribcage. I arched my back, trying not to be collapsed on where the pain was coming from and to figure out a way to get out of the snow that I was now molded into. My skis still attached to my feet and half sticking out of the snow,  pulled my legs up, loosening the skis out of the snow. I managed to get one of them off when finally, Lorraine’s Aunt was by my side helping me with the other and asking me if I was okay. I looked down at my hands that were still clutching my side. She asked if it was my stomach. I told her ribs and thankfully she understood. She managed to get me up. My legs almost gave out from underneath me because of how bad I was shaking.

After a few minutes of gathering myself, we climbed back up the snow bank to where the rest of the group was. They all made sure I was okay to continue before Lorrain helped me put my skis back on so I would sail down the hill. The pain in my side was much less and I felt confident I could continue. Lorraine and her Aunt stayed with me the rest of the way, guiding me on how to turn, where to turn, when to slow down, and not to go too fast. When we reached the bottom, I was purely exhausted. Lorraine asked me if I wanted to go again. I said no, but if she wanted to go, I would wait for her. She gladly accepted and left. I sat down on a chair outside so I could see when she returned. My body ached, but it wasn’t in pain. I thanked God for hearing my prayer of protection earlier that morning.

Lorraine went to take Line to her lesson the next day and asked me if I wanted to go skiing with her again. I declined to give my body a rest. Two days later, today, March 5, we woke up to try it again. It was a beautifully, clear day and Lorraine didn’t want my first time to be a bad experience. We went up the mountain and after seeing what was in front of me, I immediately decided there was no way on Earth I was skiing today… What had started out as the most clear, sunny, beautiful day, was now Mother Nature’s revenge. It was lightly snowing, but instead of cute, white snowflakes, it was more like little pellets of ice hitting you in the face at 90 miles an hour. The wind was stronger than I have ever experienced. Lorraine and I had to take Line’s hand to guide her to where her class was meeting so she would fall over from the wind’s strength. Although it was a bit painful, very cold, and incredibly difficult to walk in…it was a very fun experience.

Mother Nature's revenge...

Mother Nature’s revenge…IMG_20150305_043203

The worst thing about it was that I was an idiot and decided to wear one pair of socks. I thought, “ehh…my snowboots are fur lined. I’ll stay warm.” No… I am pretty sure I was starting to get frostbite in my toes…

I will say… the thing that made it all worth it was the view after the storm broke.

IMG_20150305_065524IMG_20150305_070759

The First Day…

Two straight days of travelling really takes a toll… After three hours of driving out of the city and deep into the countryside, we arrived and I was completely dead. Although I felt utterly disgusting and greatly needed a shower, I was much too tired to do anything else.I quickly met my host father, Renaud, and then went straight to bed. I somehow, even though I thought about it all the time, failed to plan how I was going to meet the girls the following day. What was I going to say? What could I say? I didn’t yet know that they knew no English.The next morning, my subconscious was rising out of my deep sleep when I finally began to hear the screaming, crying, and banging that was coming from just outside my bedroom.

My mind began to translate and make out words that were familiar. I learned that Margaux, the 2 year old, was very upset because I was not awake. She shouted in French, “I want to see Ana!! I want to see Ana!!!”. I completely awoke, slightly giggling to myself. As I began to think about how I would make my grand entrance to meet them, it dawned on me that this was the start of the third day I had not had a shower… I knew they were just children and wouldn’t care about my appearance, but I couldn’t walk out looking like a sleep deprived, horrifying, oil machine… I silently unzipped my suitcase, pulled out an outfit and my shower items and planned how to get from my bedroom to the bathroom just two doors down without being noticed. I stood by the door, waited until I could hear my host mom, Lorraine’s voice distant from my door and the screaming from little Margaux leave my ear.  I peaked out, looked to see if any of them were facing me, and quickly walked to the bathroom. As I opened the door, it creaked. I looked around and saw that Margaux was about to turn around. I panicked and quickly went in, closing the door behind me. I turned on the shower and heard footsteps approaching. “Ana!! Ana!!”, she screamed. I took my shower, ignoring the banging and shouting. Once I was done, I put on little makeup to look presentable and opened the door, my heart pounding. As it opened, two curious faces stood before me, gazing up in awe—and confusion. I said hello, knelt to their level, and received their hugs and kisses. As I walked to the kitchen, two giggling girls behind me, Lorraine greeted me. She said that they think I am Anna from “Frozen” and were very confused and looking to see Elsa as well. (Side note: Bekah…I need you to dye your hair, put on a blue dress, and fly to France please… 🙂 ) I laughed and said that children in America think that as well.

The day consisted of quite a lot of silence and awkward staring. Later in the afternoon, Lorraine asked if I wanted to accompany them to the supermarché. I accepted, ready to see the nearest town of Aurillac, 25 minutes away. This will be where my French lesson will take place, so I carefully studied the way there. In the back seat, Line, the 5 year old, requested music. As Lorraine turned on the stereo, a CD began playing very familiar tunes and it took me quite a few seconds to realize what I was listening to. As my ears adjusted to the English lyrics, I smiled and laughed to myself when I discovered we were listening to Adele. Lorraine asked her if she wanted to sing. She eagerly said yes, the track was turned to the first, and a very particular strumming pattern began. As Adele began the song, Line sang along to the lyrics of “Rolling in the Deep”. I smiled as she tried her best to follow all the words of the song. For 3 minutes and 48 seconds, the language barrier was broken. We were both singing the same song.

My first day had gone quite well, other than not being able to communicate with the girls. Lorraine kept me inside most of the day so I wouldn’t get overwhelmed. Renaud later joined us for lunch. We had zucchini, potatoes, pasta, and to my shock, real, authentic, straight from Italy, ham… Renaud went to the counter where a strange shape stood. It took me a minute to realize that what had once been a whole pig was now flesh exposing, horrific chunk of animal. He asked me if I wanted any and being the Third Cultured Kid that I am, I couldn’t turn down a new food experience. I accepted and ate a piece of the bright reddish pink meat along with a potato. To my surprise, it was the most flavorful piece of meat I had ever tasted.  I quite enjoyed it but only if refusing to think about where I just saw it being cut from.

Poor piggy...

Poor piggy…

I knew that the next 5 months would be very challenging, full of new experiences, and sometimes terrifying. But overall, they would be the most adventurous and enjoyable 5 months of my life…

What Will This Day Be Like…

D.C., Chicago, London, Paris, Toulouse, and finally… Marcoles. After over 36 hours of traveling, sitting in airports, eating very little, feeling sick, and getting very little light sleep, God amazingly delivered  me to this incredible little town and gave me some very…interesting and challenging adventures along the way.

When you’re a child, the traveling, airport world is mesmerizing. Gazing up at your parents while clutching their hand with a small little carry on in the other, feeling your stomach completely jump and land when taking off for flight, hearing the oh so many different languages around you is very confusing and sometimes scary, but really… it’s just the coolest adventure you could ever experience. That all changes when it’s your turn to do it alone… Although you still experience the childlike joy when the plane revs its engine and all of a sudden you’re speeding down the tarmac and somehow that huge machine is taking off into the air, everything else becomes chaos…the most stressful thing a young adult can go through when first starting out their new life. Well, may I just say, that I really wanted to be that child again that was safe in the parents hands, experiencing the stress from a very far distance…

While sitting in the London airport, waiting for my new flight to Paris instead of straight to Toulouse, I, like every other human must do, went to the bathroom. I was a little surprised that the toilet was a slightly different Western style toilet with bright blue water, but didn’t really think much of it. As I sat down, exhaling deeply, wanting to burst out in tears because I felt sick, tired, and really just wanted to be in my mother’s arms, I heard a small little voice from the stall across from me. To an American, three year old little girl, her world of peeing in a toilet was completely changed in that one moment… As the tears begin to sting behind my eyes, they were suddenly stopped and a smile creeped across my face for the first time in hours as I listened closely. Normal mother daughter bathroom conversation was exchanged between the two until the mother asked if the daughter was peeing or not and if she still had to go. The little girl replied, “I’m trying to, Momma… but the toilet is so strange!” I thought to myself, if this is strange, my dear… I can only imagine what you would think of a “squatty potty”.

The "strange" potty in Heathrow Airport, London.

The “strange” potty in Heathrow Airport, London.