Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Thursday, November 10, 2016

*Sad Face*

So it's over and done with.  Yesterday was a sad, dark day for me. For as much as I did a media blackout in the days coming up to the election, I was glued to the TV yesterday.  Starting at 6am when a girlfriend called me from Maison de la Radio and until C came home from class at 9:30pm.  I woke up horrified with Trump's number of votes, and that horror continued to grow as the day went on. To my disbelief, even my own state didn't call the election until yesterday evening.

I know so many people thought it wasn't possible, but I've had this sneaking suspicion for the past six months that it really was.  I come from a blue state, and the number of people I've spoke with there who said "I just can't vote for Hillary" far outnumbered the ones who said they could.  And the fact that these were normal people, educated people, people who had traveled abroad, people I respect - that is what scared me.

Hillary wouldn't necessarily have been my first choice as a Democratic nominee, but I would have been proud to call her our President and there is no denying that she is by far the most qualified candidate we have had in recent history.  And now we are faced with the most unqualified candidate in all of history.  But it's done.  (Half of) our countrymen have spoken. And we are stuck with Trump for the next four years.  So the question now is what do we do?  How do we face a president who has complete control of the government and the upcoming Supreme Court Justice nominations?  How do we protect those that the Republican party stands against? How do we safeguard all of the progress that has been made in the past 8 years? 

These are the questions I woke up with today. I was inspired by both Hillary and Obama's speeches yesterday and they sheer grace they both showed in defeat, but I am struggling with how to respect both the voice of the people and fight for what I believe in.  I am scared for the future of my country, and I worry about how we can find common ground.  I'm concerned about how I can continue to work with people who so obviously supported Trump - I'm just so baffled by how people who travel as much as I do were still able to vote for him.  And what am I going to say to all of our customers abroad?  I'm sure with the exception of China and Russia, they are all like WTF??   Plus, so much of our business is à l'étranger - how will Trump's supposed "tariff renegotiations" affect us?   And how can so many Americans think other countries are just going to sit back and say "Okay US, you can increase your import taxes, but we will just keep ours the same for you"??  But I digress...

I have no answers to these questions.  But I do know we have to take time to grieve and then get back up. I know expats struggle with how to help from afar, but one concrete thing we can do is prepare for the upcoming elections in France. I know many of you can't vote, but the FN is already gearing up to put into place some of Trump's campaign practices, and we can still make a difference in France by having those complicated conversations with our friends and loved ones here.  Immigration, le mariage pour tous and fear of the other are just as hot button topics in France as they are in the US, and we can help change that by putting faces to those issues. By explaining how changes in the laws governing them will affect you or those you know personally. By encouraging civil discussion instead of hateful rhetoric.  I have had some heated discussion with my in-laws over these very same issues, and it is so hard you guys...but I am making the commitment to continuing to have those discussions with them, as well as with my fellow countrymen.


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Well folks, today's the day.  Since we won't know the answer until early tomorrow morning (pending no recounts), I'm planning on staying away from the news as much as I can since my blood pressure can't really take it anymore.  I'm going to go to pilates, bake a cake, get some work done and then go to a movie tonight. The 'secret' Facebook group "Pantsuit Nation" is probably the only election-related thing I will look at today, just because there are some beautiful posts on there and they are slowly restoring my faith in humanity.

Bon courage to everyone, and here's hoping for the best possible outcome.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Warning - depressing post ahead!

I don't know about the rest of you, but I feel like my heart rate has been permanently elevated these past few weeks. I'm both waiting for and dreading the outcome of the US election all at once. Mostly though, I'm just appalled by how vicious this election cycle has become. Every day, I wake up to new, even more horrific, ads and insults.  The people at these Trump can they also be Americans?  I just identify in no way whatsoever with these crazy white extremists. 

It has me wondering - have they always been there, lurking beneath the surface?  Or is Trumpism like a disease that's spreading across the US?  I mean, the US is by no means perfect, but the one thing I was always proud of was the people.  I just keep going back to what I was taught in school - we're a melting pot. We're a place where people can keep their language and culture and also be American. We're a country united by our diversity. Where has all that gone?

I also think the media has had a huge role in the negativity in this campaign. What's happened is that they spend so much time on Trump's craziness (and really, there's no lack of fodder), and that to appear fair, they feel they need to give equal negative coverage to Hillary.  And the only major negative thing she's got is the whole email fiasco, which is why we've been hearing about it over and over for the past six months.  I get it's a catch-22 for journalists - really, how can you cover Trump and not appear biased - but I still feel the media is largely in part responsible for the situation we find ourselves in today.

The other issue I have - and C and I actually got into an argument about this last night - is why aren't more people standing up to say that this kind of talk is not normal?  That it's unacceptable and hateful and not the kind of example that we want to set for future generations?  Why is no one saying "STOP. You've gone too far. You can't say someone should shoot presidential candidates, and you can't show up at rallies wearing a mask of our current president with a noose around his neck.  You can't say assaulting women is no big deal.  You can't lump entire religions or groups of people into one basket."  And on and on. Where are all the reasonable people?  I know they're out there. Why are they not saying anything?   Though maybe they're like the Minnesotans in the most recent This American Lift podcast, and they don't dare speak out for fear of offending family and friends. But the other side is not in anyway worried about offending people...

C's side of this was that you can't reason with the crazies, so it was no use trying to talk with them or convince them.  But if that's the case, how does it ever stop?  Where are the limits of society?  How do these people know when they've gone too far?  For me, it's similar to the gun control debate - there's no easy answer and both sides are so heated that they can't have a civil discussion, so we do nothing and people keep getting killed.   But how is that a solution?  I just can't accept anymore "Well you can't reason with those people anyways..."

I feel so strongly about this, and I'm starting to understand the expats abroad who feel the call to go back to their home country to fight for change because things are falling to pieces.  (Though this normally happens in third-world countries, and we're talking about supposedly the "strongest nation in the world" here).  With all the places I've visited, I've often wondered about the countries who used to be superpowers and who are now in ruins.  It was just so inconceivable to me - How did they go from being number 1 to the bottom of the list?  I'm afraid we're now going to see it firsthand.

The worst part is that politicians all over the world are starting to tow the Trump line because they see it brings in voters. It's happening in the UK, the Netherlands, France, etc.  What kind of world are we going to be 10, 20, 30 years from now if we all go back to being isolationist and protectionist countries?  If we only worry about protecting ourselves and not the greater good? 

C thinks I'm taking all of this way too much to heart and that it's not worth the negative affect it's having on me, but I just can't help but feel a sense of despair and a profound disappointment in my countrymen. It's really got me down and all of the above is what keeps me up at night, wondering what our future will be and how I can influence it. I just feel so helpless watching it all happen from over here.

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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Australia done and dusted

Since I'm back home writing this, I obviously survived my AirBnb encounter in Australia. ;)  (More on that at the end of the post).

While the voyage there was long - oh so long! why???  - I really feel lucky to have been able to discover at least a bit of Australia.  And I say a little bit, because as a product of the American education system, I didn't realize until recently that Australia was nearly the same size as the continental US!

I had to spend a few days in-country before I was allowed to go visit my first customer, which luckily gave me the time to swing by Melbourne to visit some old friends who used to live in Paris. They were wonderful hosts and took me to several wonderful places.  We drove along the Great Ocean Road:
And visited an animal sanctuary where I got to cuddle wombats and kangaroos:
And checked out a few vineyards:
My time with them went by far too fast, and then it was off for a week of work near the Barossa Valley, north of Adelaide. It was pretty remote there, the weather was atrocious and I didn't have internet all week, but I met some lovely and generous people.

Then it was off to Sydney for the weekend, and I walked my socks off for three days all over the city.
I also took a ferry out across the bay to Manly Beach:
And did a beautiful 6k coastal walk:

I couldn't get over the expansive blue skies; they reminded me so much of the wide open spaces in Minnesota.  But the thing that struck me the most about Australia was the people - everyone I met was so friendly and talkative and curious.  So even though the trip was horrendously long, it really made for a nice change of pace after all the 'difficult' places I've been traveling these past few years.  It was such a relief to 1) be able to communicate with everyone without needing to use hand gestures or Google translate, 2) be able to dress normally 3) to not have to worry about my safety, 4) to be able to eat fresh fruits & veggies and 5) to not have to be paranoid about the water or ice cubes.  I mean, you really don't realize how much all of that stuff wears on you when you travel until you're in a place where none of that is an issue!  So I'm not sure if I'll ever go back again since it's so far and I won't likely need to go for work a second time, but I'm definitely glad to have been there at least once.  It's just too bad New Zealand wasn't in the cards this time...

As for my AirBnB host - he turned out to be just overly-friendly, though in the end, he seemed a bit disappointed that I preferred to do Sydney solo.  But I did sneak a peek at the book he wrote on Tinder - and I tell you, it sure makes me glad I have no need for dating apps and the like!

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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Is AirBnB the new Tinder?

I've been busy preparing for my trip to Australia these past few days, including booking accommodation.  I'll have a weekend in Sydney, and because the hotels are mega expensive and I'd like to be within walking distance of most things, I decided to save my company some money and go the AirBnB route instead.  I booked a room in the heart of Sydney with a friendly American who had excellent reviews.

We exchanged a few messages through the site, and then he asked if I had Whatsapp.  I do, and I thought "Oh yeah, that could be useful if I have any trouble getting from the airport to his place", so I sent him a message.  That message has now turned into daily messages from him, and I'm starting to get a little bit nervous.

His texts have been really flirty, asking what I plan to do for fun in Sydney, if I like to go out, do I want to do a wine tasting with him, etc. I've been trying to emphasize I'm coming for work and will need to detox over the weekend, so no partying etc, but he just won't give up. Yesterday morning's message was "I know all the best hikes in the area with wine tastings at the end".

So today I went back into his AirBnB profile to read a bit further.  I'd already read the first few pages of reviews before booking, and they were overwhelmingly positive. A lot of them mentioned things like dinners out or having breakfast with him on his balcony.  Then I went back and read his profile again, and saw at the bottom that he says he's a Tinder expert (so much so that he has even written a book on it!).  And 90% of the reviews on his page were left by women, which is also odd - you normally don't see many women staying with a solo man on AirBnB.

All of that plus the messages he has been sending me has me now wondering - are the kids nowadays using AirBnB to hookup?  Are there secret clues in his profile I should have been aware of?  I mean, I guess I can definitely see the appeal for the hosts - you meet people from all around the world, have sex AND get paid.

Or I'm reading too much into this, and he's just bored and being a nice guy, which is why he has such good reviews.  What do you guys think?

A mon avis....

You are reading WAY too much into this.
This guy sounds sketchy, watch out for roofies.
Girl, it's not your money - you should be staying at a hotel!
Sage Quotes

Either way, I wasn't planning on bringing the pocket taser I bought for India to Australia, but maybe I will just in case lol.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2016


Continuing on with the anniversary theme, C & I will be celebrating our 5th wedding anniversary shortly.  And because he starts his masters program next week and I'll be leaving for Australia, we decided to get out of dodge and take our anniversary trip a few weeks early.

We spent a fantastic week exploring the Cyclades, a chain of islands off the coast of Greece.  Normally I enjoy trip planning, but I was in the midst of a major travel spree when we booked this trip and the though of having to plan one more itinerary - even a fun one - put me over the edge.  So we booked a trip through Promovacances that included all the transport, boats, hotels and breakfast, and I'm so glad we did.

Our trip had a great combo of culture - including two stopovers in Athens:
Day trips to several different islands, including Santorini and Mykonos:
One of my favorite day trips was to Delos, which is basically one big ancient excavated city that you can run and explore as you please (there's basically no shade on the whole island though, so bring your sunscreen and a hat!):
And then we had a day puttering around the islands on a local boat:
We just cruised around and stopped off every hour or two to swim in these gorgeous turquoise waters:
And they still left plenty of time for relaxing on the beach or just wandering the beautiful streets:
We were based on one island the whole time (Paros), which was nice since we didn't have to pack up and go each night. I'd definitely recommend staying there for future trips - it's a fairly large island with good boat connections, and it's also much more affordable both hotel and food-wise than Santorini or Mykonos.  It took about 5 hours to get there by boat from Athens (but you can also fly in), and it was about 2h by boat to Santorini and 1h to Mykonos/Delos.

I think as far as Athens goes, one day would be enough (and it's worth it to by the city pass that covers all of the sites). We walked everywhere, so we didn't use the metro at all, but it is apparently affordable easy to use.  The one thing that surprised me about Athens was how cheap it was - both hotels and food were much cheaper there than in the islands.  C and I often grab food at bakeries or grocery stores for lunch when we travel, and both days we were there, I got a large freshly blended juice and a sandwich for under 4€!  Not bad for a capital city.  Though if the number of boarded-up stores give any idea, it's just an indication of how much the mainland is still suffering after their economic crisis.  (It seemed to be pretty much business as usual out in the islands.)

Has anyone else out there been to Greece?  If so, where did you go and what did you think?

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Sunday, September 11, 2016

13 years

I can't believe it - I missed my own Franciversary.  Thirteen whole years in this crazy country...

I know thirteen is normally an unlucky number, but I'm currently feeling really positive about this next year.  There are a lot of potentially exciting opportunities coming up with my company, and my travel schedule is continuing to be a whirlwind.  I just got back from back-to-back trips to Russia & Greece, and drum roll please...I'll be going to Australia at the end of the month, with a potential stop-over in Kuala Lumpur for a conference. How cool is that?  (The 28-33 hours of travel time on the other hand is decidedly less cool...)

I'm also feeling more positive about juggling all of that with C's impending studies - mainly thanks to all the encouraging comments and messages from all of you. It kind of reminds me of when I went through my big Breton break-up - for as difficult as it was, it helped me immensely to know that so many others had gone through equally hard times and had come out happier on the other side. So yeah - bring it on 13, show me what you've got!