Saturday, April 30, 2011

Despicable Me and Pizza

Last night 7 of the staff kids came over for homemade pita pizzas and movie night! You may remember the last time we did it. Oh man look at how little they were 2 years ago! Lots has changed since then!

My apartment has changed a lot since then too. Different decorations, more books (hehe), furniture rearrangements, and PLANTS! Plants, that are real and alive, I might add.
And that computer sitting on my coffee table in the previous post experienced some major problems, crashed and no longer exists.

Some things didn't change...
Each person still made his or her own pizza (per request of the young-uns)
We still had an American dessert (this time peanut butter chocolate chip cookies)
I still have the American flag hanging up in my apartment.
They are still LOUD. :)

Oh, but this time, instead of watching the movie on my 15" computer screen, we borrowed the campus team's video projector and speaker system. MAJOR improvements from last time.

Here's our group photo. Look how calm and angelic we are.

Ha. This is a more accurate representation of who we are: 

They were very creative with their pizza making. Some looked appetizing, others... not so much. 

This guy (below) is hysterical. I was getting the pizzas out of the oven when he walked into the kitchen and goes: "hey Melissa, do you know what I like best about your eyes?"

Thinking that this was going to be one of those hallmark moments that I'd treasure in my heart forever, I instantly put down the pizza pan, and give him my full attention.

Once he saw that I was all ears, he looked at me with his most convincingly endearing face and goes, "what I like the best about your eyes is my reflection". And he burst out laughing.

Pffffff. Oh dear. Though not as endearing as I had hoped... it was still quite humorous, especially seeing how proud he was of his own creative joke.

Look at how grown up Mallory is! She has become quite the talented singer and dancer!

Great times with these kiddos. They're very special to me.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

52 hours

It's still hard to believe that last week-end I was in the Twin Cities. It seems so surreal...almost like it didn't happen. Good thing there are some a lot of pictures to prove it. 

I'm now back in Rennes -- it was a very shorty trip (52 hours on US soil) arriving in Rennes on Monday evening.

Since many people have asked me how it all went down, here are some more details... on Tuesday night of last week, Amy called me asking me if I wanted to be flown home to spend Easter with my family. hmmm, what!?!?! and hmmm, yes yes please!! So in 2 crazy days, Ruth and I booked tickets, got me to Paris and I arrived in Minneapolis at 4:30 in the afternoon on Friday. I was supposed to arrive at 1, but I sat on the runway, in the airplane for 3 hours. THREE HOURS. There was some valve that wouldn't open for the engine to start. Cool. After 2.5 hours, they served us some peanuts and a glass of water. Generous.

So the 9 hour trip became a 12 hour trip. But knowing that I was going to see my family (assuming the valve would get replaced and there would be no engine problems over the atlantic...) it was not a big deal. 

Chad (Ruth's husband) and their two girls Bella and Piper came and picked me up at the airport (with a sign -- so cute!) and took me to their house, where they let me borrow their car to drive to Ando's house.

So about 5:30, I rang Ando's doorbell and right when he saw me his mouth dropped open and he just starred at me. I quickly gestured for him to be quiet, so as not to ruin the surprise (I really wanted him to film the rest of the family's reaction). He did give me a big, yet silent hug though! So good to see him!

And the rest you saw in the video...

Thank you SO much Ruth and Amy, for making this trip possible. It was SUCH a blessing. I know you know that already, but don't you feel cool getting mentioned publicly on my blog!?! Ha. What an honor.

Shorty after I surprised them one of Andrew's roomates was like "family picture time!!" We willingly consented.

There are just too many pictures to show...I made a couple collages (so fun to do in picasa!) and if you click on them to enlarge them, you can see them better.

We laughed a LOT. A lot. And we took some crazy pictures. Oh, and the twins (AJ and TJ) are Ruth and Chad's boys. We can't tell them apart.

The Easter Egg Hunt on Saturday was a lot of fun. Lindsay and I were in charge of hiding all of the Easter eggs and we hid them in very hard-to-find spots. I still don't know if we found them all. Lindsay was very cold when we were hiding them. 

Not trying to be cheesy or anything but... it was probably THE best Easter ever.

And lest you think from the first picture that my little brother is short...let me reassure you.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Happy Easter!

Some super super great friends of our family spontaneously decided to fly me home for the week-end in order to surprise my family for Easter. My brother lives in the twin cities, and my family was planning on coming up here for the week-end.

I showed up at my brother's house, aka "The Lodge" and after his shock at seeing me at his door, he videoed the rest of the fam's response. :) Dad was in shock. Oh, and you'll understand why his house is called "the Lodge" when you see the deer head mounted on the wall. :)

What a FUN thing! Amy, is this the reaction you were hoping for!?! :)


Monday, April 18, 2011


Sad day in Rennes today. 

I had a REALLY REALLY good week-end (I'll tell you all about it later) but today was not so great. 

Some of you know that a team of 14 of us were scheduled to leave for Burkina Faso a week from today. Well, those plans have suddenly changed.

Since last Thursday, there has been unrest in Burkina due to different elements of the military wanting better treatment (salary, benefits, etc.) from the government. This has caused some rioting, pillaging, and unrest in Ouagadougou (the capital) and another city on the Ghana border. Since Sunday there has been a curfew from dawn until dusk, and both the American and French embassies have advised people NOT to travel to the country.

Today, I talked with several friends of mine that live there, and even though they said that the situation has calmed down and things seem to be fairly normal, there is no guarantee that it will stay this way or if in 48 hours the situation will worsen.

With all of these factors taken into consideration, all of us staff decided to cancel the project to Burkina. There are too many unknowns and too many risks with what is going on right now in the country, for it to be wise to take a group of 14 people there.

I know that this is the right decision; we need to err on the safe side, especially when we're responsible for not just ourselves, but other students coming with us.

But it is a HUGE disappointment. I have been so excited and looking forward to this trip for several years (even when it was just an idea at the back of my mind). 

Hmmmm. I guess eating fresh mangoes will have to wait until another time.  

And Sarah, since I know you're dying to see a picture... I'll show you 2. :)

"American smiles" just for you. :)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

africa on my mind.

 In just 2 weeks I'll be back in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. I'm SO VERY EXCITED. 

I mean, it's going to be hot. Like pushing the 110 degree weather. With only a bit of AC at night. 

But, the people!!! The Burkinabé people are so generous, kind, selfless, loving, and welcoming. 

And eating mangoes all day for super duper cheap!!!! YUM!  

I haven't been back since the first few days of January 2005. Wooooohoooooo!!!!!!

Monday, April 11, 2011

real chocolate...

...and I mean REAL chocolate.

It tastes just as good as it looks. Or better. Yum-o.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


I have started my container garden!!

This may be wicked boring for some, but it's the first time I've had my OWN garden, and I am just thrilled to pieces. I'll be in France this summer so hopefully I'll have some tomatoes to enjoy while I'm here. And if you come and visit, I'll give you a tomato (or bite of one, if my plant only produces one) during your stay. :)

So here's what went down. Yesterday I went with May to a big garden store and I bought two tomato plants -- cherry tomatoes and regular tomatoes. They were also having a special of "buy two 70 litre bags of soil, get one free" (great deal) and so May and I split those.

Did you know that when you plant in containers, it's good to line the bottom of your pot with some gravel or something to help with the water flow? So this morning I found a big rock pile by where they're building new apartments and "borrowed" a bit of their gravel. I mean, hardly any. And then I planted!

Aren't they pretty? The balcony faces south, so they get good sun all day!

I am VERY excited. Grow baby grow!

And re: the picture of the decapitated head that I posted a few days ago... yes, it is random. I'm sure there's some deep historic meaning behind it, but I'm not in the know. It's in downtown, and kind of...unique. :)

Saturday, April 9, 2011

the french excel at public transportation

There are many things the French are good at. In my personal opinion, their transportation system is in the top 10.

They have fast trains that go everywhere -- connecting big cities, small cities, and villages. Rennes is just 2 hours from Paris by TGV. Word on the rails street (har har) is that "soon" we'll be able to go Rennes-Paris in 1h15 by train. "Soon" can mean a lot of things. I mean, "soon", as in 2018, we're getting a second metro line in Rennes. Line "B". "Soon" the US men's team will be world champions at soccer.

So there are trains that go everywhere on a national level, but locally (here in Rennes) we have buses, one metro, and BIKES!!

My new favorite thing (thanks Halle and Tereza!) are these city bikes. The city of Rennes has set up stations around the city, each equiped with 20 or so bikes that one can check out and ride for free for the first 30 minutes. It's a very simple, effective, and intelligent concept. The big plus being you can take a bike to one place, and wander all over the city, not worrying about needing to go back and pick up your bike. You just hop on another one at the station closest to you. And if you only want to go one-way by bike, you can. LOVE IT.

I gotta admit, I also LOVE the Grandma baskets on the front. It's very handy, and you don't feel as Anne of Green Gables-y when everyone has the same one. :)

This was on our way back from the office the other day. There are these beautiful bike paths to ride along, and it's so agreeable.

I like living on the edge. You know, taking pictures as you're riding.

Bonus question: do you know what the number of the bus(es) I take to get to my house is?

Thursday, April 7, 2011


I arrived in Rennes 3 years ago today! It may not seem like a big deal, but 3 years!!! Time has gone by so quickly! I truly love living here, love the people, the city, the crêpes, the cafés...

It really is a great place to live. The French are so kind and helpful -- really truly! Despite some stereotypes that you may have heard, or that certain French people think are true (^^), I have found the people of Rennes to be warm, friendly and kind. I mean, I want to stay longer, so doesn't that say something? :)

In lieu of this "renn-iversary" as Cecile called it, here's a picture of the decapitated head fountain in the middle of the city. I don't think I've ever posted a picture of it. Why a decapitated head in the fountain? Hmmm... why not?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

grand re-opening!

Remember when I was saddened last September because my favorite EVER tea shop closed down in Rennes?

I loved the atmosphere, the coffee, tea, chocolate and pear tarte (YUM) and the eclectic feel of the place.

When it closed, I was sad. Read about that day here

I had gotten used to the idea that it was never going to open again (sad day) until a couple of weeks ago when I was walking around Rennes, and literally happened upon its new location!!!

It's on the opposite side of town, but still sooooo charming and cute!

Lolly (Sarah's sister) and I went to try it out this past week. I was not disappointed. Still so cute, so charming, great ambiance, etc.

When the super sweet lady came to take our order I exclaimed how joyous I was at finding their re-location and how I've been waiting for so long for this day! She smiled kindly and in the nicest voice she could, said, "we've been open in this new location for 5 months already!"

What!?!?! how did I not know about this? oh well. I'll frequent it regularly now.

Rennes people you HAVE to try it!! :)

The pictures don't do it justice. But doesn't it make you want to go there now? :)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

saying hello.

"La bise" = the French way of saying hello with a kiss on each cheek.

Technically not real kisses, just cheek touching whilst making a kissing noise. Although, in my experience here in France, I've realized many variations are possible, including touching cheeks with no kiss sounds, real kisses, and giving 2-4 depending on the region you're from.

It's definitely something to get used to living in France. You say hello and goodbye to everyone this way. No hugs of course, and guys shake hands with other guys (though not exclusively; for family, and close friends they also do the bise with each other). The nice thing about doing the bise is that there's no awkwardness when you greet people. No really. You don't have to figure out if you're supposed to hug, side hug, hand shake, or whatever with the person. Here, everyone gets the bise.

Today, I found myself in a very "interesting" (and later funny) situation... let me tell you. :)

My friend Kirsten and I decided to visit a new church this morning. It's a much bigger church than where I usually go, and I didn't know the majority of the people there. Shortly after we got to our seats, an older lady who was standing in front of us turned around to say hi and introduce herself. Neither Kirsten or I knew her.

Often when you don't know the person and you are both introducing yourself for the first time, you don't do the bise, HOWEVER; in a church setting like this, and as we were friends of Halle (who attends this church and knows a lot of people) we had been saying "bonjour, je m'appelle melissa" and smack smack. kisses to all.

So I figured it'd be the same for this lady. Ha. She introduced herself, I introduced myself. And as I'm going in for the bise, I realize that she is not moving at all. I mean, normally both parties move in towards each other -- you know, we each go 50% of the way, meet in the middle of each other's space bubbles.

Except she's not moving. Slight panic ensues... Maybe I was wrong about doing the bise to everyone in church, and she is totally NOT planning on saying hello to me in this fashion? What do I do? I've definitely already crossed 80% of the journey from my space bubble to her cheek, so I rapidly start thinking through my options: 

1. Retreat back to my own space bubble and pretend that I lost my balance, and was just awkwardly falling forward.
2. Continue through with my greeting and plant a couple of kisses on her cheeks, though she is a total stranger, and regardless of whether she deems this appropriate or not.

At this point, my face is about 2 inches from hers, and that's when she says, "are you from Rennes?" hahaha. "ummm, no, I'm American, but I currently live in Rennes" is the poised answer I almost whisper in her ear, though in my head I was thinking, "OBVIOUSLY I'm not from here -- can't you tell by how I'm standing inches from your face and having a conversation with you??"

Thinking this answer will explain our uncomfortable closeness (because I still haven't figured out if she's expecting me to do the bise or not) I go ahead and decide to give her kisses on the cheek. I mean, may as well make it as awkward as possible, right?

It's then that it dawns on me, that MAYBE she is waiting to do the bise with me, but doesn't normally lean in for the bise, but waits for people to come to HER -- it's possible, I guess and seems like a logical explanation. These things are probably things a French person knows, as the art of doing the bise is in their DNA, but for an American-African such as myself, I didn't realize it right away. Having justified my actions with that explanation, I felt a bit better of having kissed this old lady. So I step back into place, and notice that she's getting ready to do the same thing to Kirsten.

And almost the same scenario happens. Hahaha. Kirsten is leaning in readying to bise her, and the lady isn't moving an inch. By this point I'm cracking up, as I see what it looks like to the confused non-French outsider.

Thinking it my duty to help my fellow American, I start giving her nudges and semi-discreetly whispering "kiss her, kiss her" which just confuses poor Kirsten even more. The lady finally exerts herself a bit more and the bise happens.

As soon as she turned back around, Kirsten and I both had to fight the urge not to burst out in laughter. And that's when I realized she was the Pastor's wife. Hahaha. I knew who HE was, but had never met his wife. Until then.

Halle told us later that she was always like that -- not doing her part of coming 50% of the way... but waiting for people to come 98% of the way to greet her. Good to know.

Ahhhhh, the adventures continue! I can just hear Anne saying, "only you Dorsch. only you."

Friday, April 1, 2011

happy birthday erika!!!

My little sister turned 19 today! Not so little anymore.

Shorty, some people in France wanted to wish you a happy sure to read all of your notes! :)

This one deserves an up close of the drawing...
I especially like, "follow the yellow brick LANE" :)

And this is the best hug I can give you from afar!!! Wish I could do it in person!
I love you so much little sister! 
Happy 19th birthday!!!