Saturday, June 19, 2010

Song of the Week 27

This is it guys and gals, your very last song of the week.  I have had this one picked out for quite some time, actually.  While it does not reflect the depth of my musical taste, it does reflect my mood just about perfectly.  So even if you've heard it before, please, in honor of a completed Masters and a depleted Master's student, have a listen to "Schools Out" with Alice Cooper and the A*Teens.

Peace, Love and Waffles.


As the previous post got rather nostalgic, I suppose many of you are still wondering about the final results of the year.  Let me tell you (well, actually, you already know this), I had my ups and downs, struggles, tears, smiles, and everything in between this year.  It all came down to opening an envelope today.  I was planning to save it until after I got on the plane tomorrow but Alex wouldn't let me.  So after deciphering my grades through the envelope by holding it up to the light, Alex reassured me that I could open it.  I passed.  I PASSED!  I PAAAAAAAAAAASSSSSSSSSSD!!!!  Basically, I am relieved and shocked and awed and emotionally numb.  I am not sure I can give an appropriate reaction at the moment, but I can tell you that I will be sleeping much better in the nights to come.  Thank you for all of your support, dear readers.  You are amazing people and I could not have made it through this year without you.  Right now I am crying at the prospect of leaving my friends but smiling the biggest grin you have ever seen at the prospect of leaving the College a free person, and, GET THIS, a Master of European International Relations and Diplomacy.

You can call me Master from now on.

Peace, Love and Waffles.

To Friends

I cannot believe it myself, but it is true.  My year in Bruges has come to a bittersweet end.  The last week has been a blur of friends, hugs, Italian food, and tears - both happy and sad.  Today was my last day in Bruges.  Tomorrow I wake up at an ungodly hour to head to the airport with the same pair of amazing people that first drove me into this city.  Paul and Kaatje will leave me at the airport tomorrow morning, June 20, 2010, and close the final chapter of my days in Belgium at the College of Europe.
At the moment, I am sitting in my eerily empty room in my usually boisterous residence staring out the window and trying not to think of all the goodbyes I had to say tonight.  I have done a fair amount of reminiscing this year.  Trust me, I miss my "old life."  I think about my friends and family in St. Louis everyday.  I also think about Furman and the friends I made there on a daily basis.  I have missed so many people and places this year.  That being said, saying goodbye to my friends at the College has been so much harder than I thought it would be.  It's funny.  Earlier today I remembered a conversation I had with my roommates Alison, Annie, and Jaclyn last year, just before we graduated.  We were sitting somberly in our living room trying not to think of soon being forced to leave each other.  We were talking about our plans for the following year - what we would do, who we would meet, etc - when Alison said what we had all been thinking: "I don't want to make new friends.  I like the ones I have."  I felt the same way.  Making friends is a long and sometimes lonely process.  We had spent the past four years building some of the strongest friendships of our lives and, quite frankly, I was not interested in starting over.  However, life is funny.  One minute you are sitting in an apartment in Greenville, SC dreading the prospect of that is the process of friendship, and the next you are pushing your bags through the door of your dorm in Bruges, Belgium, dreading the thought of leaving the people who became so dear to you after only 10 months time.  I think that there is a part of me that will always dread "starting over."  What can I say, I am not big on change.  What I can say is that I will never dread meeting new people and making new friends.  After everything is said and done, it is the people who come into our lives that define us and our experiences.  This has certainly been true of my experience this year and I have a sneaking suspicion that this might be one of those life lessons that applies to the rest of my existence as well.
So I would just like to thank all of the new people who came into my life this year and made it richer, tastier, and oh so much more fun.
Thank you Rita, Alex, Paul, Kaatje, Inês, Irene, Oline, Oran, and everyone else who made this trip worthwhile.

Peace, Love, and Waffles.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

To France and Back

Hello and Bonjour to all of my dear readers who have been so horribly neglected over the past couple of weeks.  I apologize for my prolonged absence but, you know, duty calls.  And by duty, I mean another obligatory trip to la France.  And by obligatory I mean I had several days off whilst living in Europe and could not possible stay away from France while I was so close.  So on Saturday morning, I left for Paris.  I stayed with a friend from Furman (Brita) who is currently working as an au pair for a family just outside of Paris.  It was great to see her and catch up a bit and we had a lot of fun.  We spent Saturday, which was super sunny and blistering hot (FINALLY!) on a picnic in Parc Monceau with baguette sandwiches, fresh cherries, our books, ipods and sunglasses.  It was a wonderful afternoon.  Then we met up with a couple of her au pair friends for gelato, drinks, and pizza around the Centre Pompidou.  It was a great day with lots of fun surprises, like the giant chalk mural of the Mona Lisa!
Sunday was super fun as well.  While Brita was off at a writing class at Shakespeare & Co., I met up with Kyliemac from the Katia and Kyliemac Paris podcast which I have listened to faithfully for the past two or so years.  It was so much fun to get to chat in person.  We had coffee and then walked all over the place, even stopping to pay a visit to the Statue of Liberty (PS, in National Treasure 2, they so cheat on the camera angles.)  Anyway, I was really pleased to have had the opportunity to meet a part of my favorite duo.  

Sunday afternoon at 4:33, I found myself running (literally) to the train station and fighting my way to the front of the ticket line for my train that was set to leave at 4:40.  I grabbed my tickets and dashed on to the train just in time to hear the announcement that we would be delayed until 6:00.  At 6:00 they kindly informed us that we would leave around 7:15.  So much for the mad dash and getting to Brive-la-Gaillarde in daylight.  Ah well, at least I had three pleasant seat mates and a complimentary boxed meal from SNCF (this never happens on trains in France).  After the 4+ hour journey, I arrived to find the Verdiers waiting for me at the station.  It was a wonderful reunion.  It is amazing how much and yet how little things change over three years.  I got all caught up with Marie and Christian, who, for those of you who don't know, were my original host parents from the first time I stayed in France in 2003 when I was only 15.  They are a wonderful French family and I like to refer to them as "ma famille francaise."  I was in Brive for less than 24 hours, but in that time I managed to sleep in "my" old room, pick the cherries off of the cherry tree with Christian before the birds could get them, eat nearly an entire quiche, and speak more French than I have this entire year living in a partially francophone country.  It was great.  
Monday morning we headed off on a lovely drive through the Dordogne region to the Atlantic coast near Royan.  The Verdiers were sweet enough to take me on a mini holiday to their "maison mobile" in the Parc de la Côte Sauvage.  Their house looks out over a tidal marsh with beautiful views of the dunes.  We enjoyed drinking our Cognac flavored aperitifs, hitting up the local marché for fresh fish, produce, and escargots, and leaving our baguettes and fromage behind when the sun finally decided to show itself on Wednesday.  In Royan we took advantage of the rain to browse the shops and even caught a French air force exposition.  This is me in a Mirage.  Pretty cool, but no thanks.  

The sun came out on Wednesday and we took full advantage of it, even getting clobbered by a giant rogue wave that nearly claimed my camera and ipod as victims.  We caught a heartwarming Gerard Depardieu film called "La tête en friche" in the evening and headed home for my last night at the seaside.  Sadly, I had to leave on Thursday morning.  It was so wonderful to see Marie and Christian again and to spend several blissfully relaxing days in a country that I love with good friends with whom to pass the time.  I miss it already.  But I will be back, and next time, I have promised to try and bring my  Mom and Dad.  The Verdiers are eager to meet the rest of my family and I am eager for my family to fall in love with France just as I have.  We'll see.  In the meantime, here are some more of my favorite pictures from the week.  Again, a special "merci" to Brita and Marie and Christian for hosting me!

Peace, Love, and Waffles.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Wait, What?

This is what I have been asking myself all day.  Because, you see, today I had my last exam.  While it was slightly scary and by no means easy, I managed to talk my way through it and come out of those doors a free woman.  I would say that, in no uncertain terms, I am immensely relieved to be finished (at least with the course work).  Instead of elation, though, I have been experiencing a strange sort of emotional numbness that is very confusing.  The problem is, I am not quite sure what to do with myself now that I have absolutely nothing to do.  Now, a couple of weeks ago, with loads of work still in front of me, I was an expert time-waster.  But now, all that has changed as my life has radically shifted from one filled with European thoughts to a life void of academic aspirations and articles about the EU.  I am so happy and so proud to be finished, but I can't help but wonder what it actually means for me to have completed this year. I have been a student for the past 20 years of my life.  That is who I am.  At least, that is who I was.  I am not sure who or what I will be/become over the coming months and years, and frankly, I am getting anxious about when and how I will figure that out.  The good news is that I can put off the "future" for at least another three weeks.
Tomorrow, it is off to Paris for the weekend and then down to Brive-la-Gaillarde and Royan to see the Verdier family!  (By the way, I will not have my computer with me, which means no internet access and no contact with the outside world until Thursday the 10th.  This is actually the scariest part for me because lately I have been in a very committed relationship with my laptop and I don't know how we will handle the time apart.)  Anyway, after France I have a few more fun things to look forward to in Bruges.  Then the results are in on the 19th and it's back to the States on the 20th.  I am extremely excited to be going to Charleston for a week before heading home for the wedding of two dear friends, Alison and James.  After that, STL and then life.  So I'll keep you posted.  Thanks for reading.

As always,
Peace, Love, and Waffles.

PS, did I mention I was DONE?  Not sure you got the message.  I am FREE!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Song of the Week: 26

I've got it!  Thanks, once again, to Sally.  She is my partner in musical crime so I think it only appropriate to go with her pick for this weeks Song of the Week.  I haven't gotten my hands on much new music lately and for the past couple of weeks I have been focusing on artists I already featured on the blog, so choosing a song is only getting more difficult.  Never fear, I have it!  "It" is oh-so-appropriately entitled "On My Way Back Home" by a group called Band of Horses.  I just love the sound!  It reminds me of a mix of Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes (two other folksy bands I have really enjoyed this year). This song fits this week so well, too.  As of Friday at 12:00, I will be finished and then I myself will by "on my way back home."  So I could not be more excited to feature a song that describes my sentiments so fully.  And for all of you Starbucks fans out there, the song is actually this week's freebie!  So grab a card at the counter along with your next latte.  You won't regret it.  Enjoy the song!

Peace, Love, and Waffles.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Fun Fun Fun

Ahhh, what a great week.  The sun has been shining, I am working my way through two new novels, and I have not touched a text book or syllabus in an entire week!  I realize that I still have one exam to go.  Don't worry, I will be resuming my regularly scheduled study program tomorrow.  First, though, I would just like to tell you about my "mini-break."  I did not leave the walls of the city this week but that does not mean that I wasn't on vacation.  I took myself out to lunch on a few occasions, went on a bike ride around the entire ring, soaked up the sun out by the windmills for three days in a row, and have almost completed my final Rotary report (along with Season 4 of Smallville).  :)  Needless to say it has been a happy week.  I am less than eager to resume my studies, but I think I can pull it out for one last isty bitsy exam.  Motivation will be in short supply, but let's hope that I can make do.  I am sure it won't be a problem.
This week wasn't all just sleeping in and reading great books, though.  I did have another Rotary presentation to give.  I only need one more to complete my obligation!  Woohoo!  Anyway, a huge "thank you" to the Torhout Rotary Club for having me.  I really enjoyed visiting your club and we happy to be able to share my presentation with all of you.
In other news, on Sunday I went on a delightful picnic with two good friends, Alex and Mariana.  We had sandwiches, salads, apples, and tarts from one of my favorite bakeries.  Not to mention plenty of sun and tons of fun.  I even broke out the SPF 50+ for the occasion. (You know it's serious when that happens).  Anyway, check out some of the pictures.  We had a blast with the almost summer-like weather.

Finally, I wish to inform you that I received what I believe to be the final 100 Post response yesterday.  Mia sent me 100 kernels of Nebraska corn, along with some other goodies (POP ROCKS!!!!).  So a HUGE thank you goes to Mia for being an amazing sister and sending me such a thoughtful package.  Thanks again to everyone who participated in the challenge.  Your postcards and letters adorn my walls and make my room much more like home.

Well, I hope that everyone has a fantastic weekend.  I know I am looking forward to it; although, it is getting difficult for me to distinguish the weeks from the weekends nowadays.  Have fun, stay safe, and enjoy the sun if it is shining on your part of the world.

Peace, Love, and Waffles.