Merci Beaucoup Thursday, Jun 17 2010 

I have agonized over how to begin the end of this adventure. I have found that I have the same emotional ties over writing this blog in the same way as I would have with a book I don’t want to end. But like all good things, it must end, and as Fyodor Dostoevsky says in The Brothers Karamazov, “To a new life, new places, and no looking back!”

Thank you to GOD who was, is and continues to be faithful in spite of my faithlessness and loves you and I more than we can possibly conceive.

I owe thanks to so many wonderful readers, faithful in encouragement when I was down, sharing joy with me when I was ecstatic, praying for me when I was subject to fear.

Thank you to Molly DesRoches, who, in spite of my neurotic breakdowns, stuck with me through thick and thin and helped me to see the brighter side of things.

Thank you to my family who prayed, sent care packages, called and loved me from 6,000 miles away.

Thank you to my aunt and uncle who had chocolate chip cookies and ice cold milk waiting for me when I landed in Minneapolis, not to mention a warm bed and boundless hospitality.

Thank you to the wonderful, amazing, intelligent, patient and kind teachers without whom I would never have the language skills I possess now.

Thank you to my classmates for making the world an exponentially smaller place.

Thank you to Laura Trude and Laura Vein (aka Laura the Chef) for coming to visit me overseas. It means so much to me to have such intelligent, beautiful women care enough to drop everything to visit.

Thank you to ALL the students at the Aumonerie, specifically Marthe, Francois, Thinh, Louis, Jean Christophe, Guillaume, Benedicte, Pierre and Jean Baptiste who made me always feel welcome and, with their love, helped me grow in my language as well as in my faith.

Thank you to Mary Elise Holmgren, without whom I’m sure I would never have had the social circle I now possess.

Thank you to the Arneberg-Larson grant for the generous scholarship which helped fund this adventure.

Thank you to my French advisor and instructor, Dr. Sarah Mosher and the Office of Study Abroad at the University of North Dakota.

Thank you to the Universite de Caen Basse-Normandie for their help and accommodation.

And thank you, all of you, for making this the most enjoyable writing experiences of my career. The next adventure is just around the corner, and I am excited to share it with you. You can follow my writing at a new blog called “His Glorious Undertaking” and see where life leads me next.

“And now, unto Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you faultless and with great joy– to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore!” Jude 1:24-25

Kelli Bren

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I Can Ride My Bike With No Handlebars Tuesday, Jun 8 2010 

Did you pack your Chucks along with your Gucci talons (high heels) from Monaco? Good deal! Because now, instead of promenading along the gilded streets of Monaco, we’re off to Dijon, where the famous mustard originates, the wine flows more freely than water and the tourists get sloshed every day (because they can!)

Countryside near Dijon, France and beautiful vineyards (or as Laura would say, "wine fields!")

Armed with a lot of water, and good shoes, the two Lauras and I took a train from Dijon (which seemed wrong, since we had just arrived in the city less than 24 hours earlier) to Beaune. Beaune is the capital of the Burgundy wine-producing region, and although nearby Dijon is much larger, Beaune is largely unspoiled by gawking tourists and remains blissfully picturesque. It boasts a “smashing Saturday market,” so after renting bicycles for the day, we wandered to the market, and “smashing” it certainly was!

Me and my bike!

We bought fabulous mustard seed-coated formage (cheese), a twisted baguette, sweet tomatoes and the rest of our yummy picnic lunch.  Packed with our pique-nique lunch, we embarked on a 24 kilometer trip to Puligny-Montrachet where some of the world’s foremost Chardonnay is produced. We explored on our bikes via rolling, sweeping hills and zipping down and around the old streets of picturesque villages and gazing at the zigzagged rows of vines on either side of the roads.

A column naming the vineyard's owner and city of origin

Vineyards.... and a horse and plow!

Baby grapes...

Everything was smooth riding (with the exception of some huffing and puffing up some hills) until the moment where Laura T thought it would be a good idea to tumble, headlong, off her bike and on to the pavement, effectively scraping herself in several places and scaring Laura the Chef and I silly. But what a trooper she was! After getting bandaged up (along with popping several painkillers), she hopped back on her bike and away we went.

My Lauras, just before Laura T had a close encounter with the pavement.

The fateful road... and a wicked rough hill to bike UP. (A moment of silence, please, for Laura Trude's skin.)

When we reached Puligny-Montrachet, we were tired. Some of us were sporting abrasions, others were sporting awesome sweat stains and others were regretting the giant 1.5 liter of Coke she had purchased earlier (It turns out that Coke is heavy not to mention NOT thirst-quenching!). But none of the above were going to stop us from tasting the world’s finest Chardonnay and Pinot Noir!

Wine tasting (and spitting bucket in background). In case you didn't know already, you don't DRINK all the wine in a tasting. You unceremoniously spit it OUT, right in front of everyone. Counter-intuitive? Yes.

So we signed up to taste (NOT GULP!!!) wine while we lazily soaked in the atmosphere of the Burgundian countryside. That night, back in Beaune (and still sweaty and somewhat bedraggled by this point), we had a delicious meal of Boeuf Bourguignon, regional wine, cheese and exquisite dessert.

Boeuf Bourguignon

Pretty Laura the Chef at a great dinner in Beaune!

By the end of the day, when we removed our Chucks (not our Guccis!), we were exhausted: physically and emotionally. But I think it is safe to say that it was my all-time favorite day of this last fling in France.

Boeuf Boeurginon

To learn about Pugligny-Montrachet, click here… and then get a corkscrew and a wine glass! Chin! (Cheers!)

To see the surrounding area of Dijon and a map of the route we took biking, click here.

Remember to check out Laura the Chef’s blog! It boasts a great new post about our Ice Cream Overload in Nice from a few days ago!

[I have 24 hours left in the country and only a few more blog posts before I say farewell. Stay tuned for the final installments!]

Saying Bonjour et Au Revoir Tuesday, May 25 2010 

This part of the trip is always about what little things need to be completed last-minute so that the experience of studying overseas finishes with such a smooth ride that you almost don’t recognize its finale. I seem to have accumulated an enormous list telling me what last-minute things I need to do before I leave Caen. Who do I need to visit? What words of encouragement do I need to speak? How in God’s green earth am I going to fit everything in my suitcase??!?

Within the last week, I have been saying goodbye to people here who I know I may not see for the rest of my life. It’s a difficult situation because I deeply love my friends in France and have been blessed excessively by their presence in my life these past 4 months.

When my friend Martha asked me to play violin last week at the Feast of the Pentecost Mass and consequently her confirmation service, I couldn’t think of another way to be a bigger blessing. I met Martha the very first Sunday in Caen at Eglise St. Pierre. Molly looked at me like I had lost the last remaining marble when I told her that I was going to thank the pretty violinist for playing in church. I had no idea what to say to Martha! I stumbled through bad French while she looked on at me, amused, and then asked in a perfect American accent, “Are you American?” My jaw must have hit the floor because she laughed and we instantly became friends. She introduced Molly and I to the “other girl from Minnesota,” Mary Elise Holmgren. Mary Elise, in turn, introduced us to many people from the Aumonerie, the Catholic student organization that has been the source for so many wonderful conversations and friendships.

My sister, Marthe, whose friendship has shrunk the world by a whole ocean.

"The other Minnesota girl," Mary Elise, who helped Molly and I make so many irreplaceable friends.

Friends at the Aumonerie house during a BBQ

Since that time, I have made friends with people from all over the world, on every continent and from every financial, educational and even emotional status! I have laughed with, cried with and been angry with people. With my friends, I have giggled until my stomach muscles begged for respite, been introspective and frightened out of my mind. During this journey, when all else failed, we held hands and prayed. It has not been an easy time, but one that with faith and friends is far from impossible. I grieve to say goodbye to my wonderful friends from my classes, but know that they’ll always be close to my heart.

Preston Leslie and me at a cello recital in Abbaye Aux Dames.

Mary Elise, Molly and the birthday boy, Louis Guillotte

Me, François Cogez and Molly in the garden at the Aumonerie house

Today, I welcome one of two Americans friends to France for the last 14 days of staying in this beautiful country, rich with culture and sights to see. Laura Vein [“Laura the Chef”] is currently making her way north to Caen to see me while I struggle through the last little hoops of my education at the Universite de Caen Basse-Normandie. While I pass my exams, she’ll be soaking in the sights, smells, tastes and sounds of Caen… and then, it’s off to more exciting adventures when Laura Trude arrives on Sunday. We will be traveling from Paris to Nice, Nice to Monaco, Monaco back to Nice, and then Nice to Dijon. From Dijon we return to Paris and catch our respective flights. There will be many pictures, stacks of stories and many adventures.

Stick around while we wrap up this journey as friends!

Culinary Creativity in Caen Saturday, May 15 2010 

I love to cook. I’m typically quite handy when it comes to baking, cooking and most anything in between. However, most chefs would be horrified at what I have been working with as far as kitchen facilities for the past 4 months. This post will shine light on a previously unexposed area of life at the Université de Caen Basse-Normandie and the source of very minor cultural annoyance I’ve had to learn to work around.

When Molly and I first set foot in Bâtiment B (Building B), we were overwhelmed with joy because we had beds. If anything else was wrong with the building on that fateful, exhausting day of travel, jet lag and culture shock, we didn’t bother looking for it because we were so thrilled to have a bed. But as time wore on and we explored the building, our friends’ accommodations and houses, we found ours to be severely austere, especially with the lack of a cuisine (kitchen). Okay, okay, having no kitchen is a bit of a lie because we do have a room that’s officially labeled “cuisine,” but what’s inside is a double-burner induction stove and a sink. The end. There is no garbage can, no soap, no utensils and no towels.

Orange Shrimp, Rice and Garlic-y green beans for the 2-Burner Stove WIN!

Try to contain your excitement over my stove. It boils water in less than a minute.

Before I start to sound too whiny over my “kitchen”, let me tell you that there are a lot of things you can do with a two-burner induction stove and a sink, and the novelty of a stove that boils water in less than a minute is pretty awesome. After all, my mother has made incredible meals while camping with a kerosene stove. Surely, I thought, I can manage to make food for 4 months on an induction stove!

So Molly and I started in on the pasta saga. I have, since that first meal of pasta on January 30th, eaten enough pasta to make anyone hate Italy for the rest of their lives. If I ever have another noodle it will be too soon. Without a proper refrigerator for most of our time in France, we were limited not only in our culinary abilities but our sanitation regulations. If your Camembert cheese is green and fuzzy, it’s not OK to pair with wine. If your milk has an IQ of over 15, it’s NOT okay to drink. If your “refrigerator” is illuminated by sunlight and is over 65 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s not a fridge–it’s a balcony where you can grow flowers and get a tan.

The First Pasta Experience of very many pasta experiences we'd encounter in the next 4 months.

Nonetheless, over 4 months of experimentation and Carrefour shopping trips, we have become experts in how to cook with 1 very dull 3″ paring knife, 1 cutting board, 1 strainer, 1 whip, 1 rubber scraper, 1 spatula and 1 can opener. Among our repertoire of favored meals is cheap packaged soup with lots of chunky potatoes, carrots, onions and garlic, tuna pasta, a squishy baguette and pate and egg sandwiches with chived-whipped cheese spread. We’ve found that it’s not the end of the world to use your dish towel more than thirty times in a row or dry your dishes on the same towel you’ve used all month.

What IS concerning is what will happen when I get my hands on a real kitchen again!

Are you ready for this, Chef Laura?!

What my desk looks like on any given night we have soup for supper.

Inner Child (A Picture Post) Tuesday, May 11 2010 

You might remember from a post earlier this month my bemoaning the fact that I had too much studying and time-wasting to do to visit the beautiful green hills that surround Caen. This past Sunday, the bemoaning came to an end because I got to visit one of the beautiful green hills with my friends. And while my French textbooks collected dust, I “parled” French and pique-niqued at Colline aux Oiseaux with Molly, Mary Elise and Louis.

Colline aux Oiseaux (Bird Hill) is a beautiful park tucked inside Caen with such care and discretion that you’d never know it existed unless you searched for it. The second weekend Molly and I were in Caen, we went to the Mémorial de Caen, the World War II, Cold War and Peace Movement museum that has reaped international acclaim for its beauty and expensiveness. Colline Aux Oiseaux is just behind the Mémorial, and I was struck by how much had changed in my life since I had walked those same steps to the Mémorial de Caen almost 4 months ago.

Louis preparing for the pique-nique!

Mary Elise and the Dijon mustard that tried to kill me.

This is the second "EXCITED ABOUT BREAD!" picture that Molly and I have taken.

The sun peeked out between the clouds that threatened to take over the sky, and we perched on the hill to enjoy the panoramic view of Caen while we ate our sandwiches, cornichons (pickles), a salade aux legumes (vegetable salad) and tarte aux fraises (strawberry tart) from the marché dimanche (Sunday market). Far below where we enjoyed our lunch was a miniature version of Basse-Normandie, complete with special monuments (Basilique de Lisieux) and the Drakkar (Norwegian ship) of Cherbourg.

Petite Basse-Normandie. On the point to the left is Cherbourg and the little Drakkar boat and to the right is Lisieux. Between the two and almost obscured is a small house signifying Caen.

After the petting zoo which included “Love Me Pet Me Love Me Pet Me Feed Me Love Me” the donkey (and his brother “Grover”) and some chèvres adorables (cute goats), we walked around the beautiful and extensive gardens nestled next to the hill. There is a hedge maze for children next to the rose garden, and to our embarrassment, we found it wasn’t nearly as easy as we had thought it would be.

Cute, non? :)

Tres Belles Fleurs

The hedge maze that turned out to be a tad complicated to navigate...

The beautiful rose garden that, in about a month, will be fairly bursting with roses.

Flowers poured from anywhere there was a little dirt to grow something. We wandered through a miniature German vineyard and a sweet English garden with flowers fairly dripping from the trellises. I believe it may be possible to spend the whole afternoon in such a lovely place.

Flowers dripping off the trellis in "Devon, England."

We sang show tunes (and elicited ‘looks’ from passers-by) and when we encountered a gently sloping hill, Mary Elise, Louis and I were obliged to roll down it, squealing. After rolling down the hill and picking the grass from our clothes, we fed the resident ducks and lusted after the ice cream for sale outside a little cafe.

It was a perfectly wonderful day, and I have decided that I am, at heart, 8 years old.

The Funny Things We Say Monday, May 3 2010 

The Quote Book of this oddessy has grown! When you factor in jet lag, culture shock, late nights, early mornings, French men, hunger and lack thereof, you will find that we said some pretty funny things. Enjoy!

At the Minneapolis Airport, predeparture: “So you don’t have any livestock? Small farm animals? Nothing like that? No? Good. You look like a Chicken Smuggler. That’s why I asked.”–TSA agent to Kelli

Upon arriving in France, at Charles de Gaulle Airport, Paris: “We’re going to have to ask you to remain in your seats as we switch ports. It looks as though we’re parked in the wrong spot.”–Our pilot

“Don’t your intestines have enough length to, like, wrap around the earth, like, four times?”–Kelsey Baumann

“My left boob was just compromised by a deaf Frenchman!!!”–You know who you are

Upon being critical of the French cultural kisses: “Lingering bises tend to be sort of like Magellan circumnavigating the globe.”–Thomas Carlson

On finding shoes that will fit big feet in a country where big feet don’t appear to exist: “GERMANS. Now THOSE are some big women!”–Kelsey Baumann

On warding off bride gifts from other foreigners: “At least you haven’t gotten a goat yet.”–Danielle Beyer, to Kelli

On the topic of the goodness of Kebab meat: “It’s meat with garlic shoved in it. How could that NOT be good?”–Kelli Bren

On the potency of a certain kind of beer named Elephant: “Elephants. They’ll get ya every time.”–Kelsey Baumann

Upon realizing she’d begun a collection of pet-named creepers: “Now I gotta watch out for KFC AND Goats?!”–Kelli

When we realized we were getting sick of eating the same thing over and over: “EAT THE ______ RAVIOLI!!!”–You know who you are

On the taste of French milk: “Whoo, boy! This milk…. man! It’s like sucking on a cow’s nipple!”–Kelsey Baumann

In reference to the pet name we coined for pining French men: “Shoot that chien!”–Kelli

In honor of Thomas’ Magellan quote and after a series of cultural kisses: “You just got Magellan’d!”–Molly DesRoches to Kelli

While walking into the Trouville casino: “I feel like I’m walking into hell…”–Kelli

Franglais (French-English) fun with Desperate, pining French men: “Roti that Pigeon!” and “Pose that Lapin!” (Literally translated, “Rotisserie-bake the pigeon, “Stand him up!”)

In Lisieux at the childhood home of Saint Therese: “C’est le cheveux de St. Therese! C’est le vrai cheveux de St. Therese!”–Wrinkly Little Nun

On being ill: “My throat feels like I swallowed a cat.”–Danielle Beyer

On our dress-up day in Oral Communication Class: “Well! This will be the second time I’ve cross-dressed…”–Preston Leslie

While at the D-Day Beaches: “Okay, so what were the 4 countries that helped liberate France in World War II? USA, Great Britain, Canada and…?”–Danielle Beyer
“The Germans? No, wait, that’s not right.”–Laura Fugelburg

“I’m so hungry I could eat my own hand… but I don’t know where it’s been.”–Danielle Beyer

On an inappropriately short skirt on a woman in a bookstore: “And we’re back! On a ladder! Man, that’s so awkward. Do people not look in the mirror? They’re called full-length mirrors. Use them.”–Kelli

“There is a giant head statue in Paris. So clearly, I had to pick its nose.”–Danielle Beyer

In Salzburg, Austria, on board our tour bus: “You look like a grown up Gretel [from The Sound of Music]!”–Peter, our tour guide to Kelli

On the French strikes that cause so many problems with travel: “SNCF, wrecking lives one train ride at a time.”–Molly DesRoches

“Let me reflechier on that for a second.”–Molly DesRoches, Franglais Fluent

“I oublied that.”–Molly DesRoches

“My milkshake bringeth more menfolk to the yard. Verily, ’tis better than thine.”–Molly DesRoches

“That makes my heart happy!”–Kelli

“I don’t need sweets because I’m with you!”–You know who you are

On calling home at Easter, my cousin’s big news: “Grandma told me I’d make a good stripper.”

“Everything on you sparkles!”–Thomas Carlson

On not understanding anything in class: “Comprende.”–Anne

“I just got kamakazi kissed!! The nerve!”–Kelli

[rancorous laughter] “It’s my personal joke: You said ‘Merci Beau Cul’ when you meant merci beaucoup.”–Nordahl’s Father to Kelli at Chateau des Ravalet (Depending on how you pronounce “beaucoup,” it could sound like you’re saying “Thanks, nice tush!”)

Brothers and Sisters (A Picture Post) Monday, Apr 5 2010 

On Easter Sunday, I went to church at Eglise St. Pierre and reveled in the joyous ambiance that is the epitome of Easter Sunday. Sun streamed into the stained glass windows and the smell of incense filled the sanctuary. As the organ blasted arpeggios and powerful chords, I closed my eyes and soaked in the happiness.

Eglise St. Pierre, where I worshiped on Sunday (It was a lot more populated on Sunday!)

I came home after going to Sunday Market where I bought a fantastic galette and a baguette. I ate the last of my Peeps and Bunny Mallows–sweet, sweet taste of America!–and felt that all was right with the world. Just when I thought it could get any better with a mid-afternoon nap, I got a call from Molly asking me if I wanted to come over to the Aumonerie house for Easter celebration. The Aumonerie is a group of students who meet at least once a week to worship and fellowship together.

I have one brother who I love to pieces. Everybody should have such an awesome brother, but unfortunately for all of you, he’s mine. But yesterday, I got a whole bunch of amazing brothers and sisters through the Aumonerie to supplement my sibling cache! That is by far the best Easter present I’ve ever received! Jean Christophe, François, Thinh, Joseph, Mary Elise, Molly, Martha and I sang songs while accompanied by instruments and laughed ourselves ill over silliness. We played games and had an Easter Egg Hunt outside in the grass. We danced around like kids and ate amazing food. My fingers were joyful when my sister Martha let me play her violin.

The Aumonerie House, where I spent Easter!

Lovely Spring Daffodil

Martha, Mary Elise and Molly

Jean Christophe, being funny with a scarf and Mary Elise playing guitar

Easter Egg Hunt!!!!!

Jean Christophe found an Easter Egg! Haha

Being Funny with Ballet, Mary Elise and François

Jean Christophe, Me and Martha goofing off after the Easter Egg Hunt

It was a joyous day, one that will remain forever in my memory as one of the best Easters I’ve ever had the privilege to celebrate. Christ the Lord is Risen! Alleluia!

Classes in France Friday, Mar 26 2010 

I have recently received quite a few inquiries about what classes are like at the Universite de Caen Basse-Normandie. Because today’s lessons involved Prince Charming and dressing up, I thought that today would be the perfect opportunity to tell you what it’s like to spend 5 hours a day in constant French language immersion.

At the end of my school days, I am about as industrious as swamp slime. I sit, my brain completely fried, in a vegetative state, and although significantly less green than swamp slime, I am about as unmoving. The reason behind my complete lack of cerebral action is caused by the long lectures and hoops we have to jump through during classes conducted completely in a language I swear some days I do not understand at all. But today was different…

Today, when I walked into class after a measly 5 hours of sleep, my professor started a lecture on adjectives again. Oh no, not another diet incentive! But alors! we talked about people other than our classmates!! After covering every personal attribute I thought existed in French, we got to write about our personal Prince or Princess Charming.

I mentioned a few weeks ago a certain person who has made my academic career a bit of a struggle. In the states, we call such people “creepers” because they tend to spring up where you least expect or want them to be. Here, we call them Petit Pigeons (little pigeons) because of the extraordinary annoying qualities that both parties share. I have a petit pigeon in my class, and you can guess how he described his Princess Charming. If you need help, I can send you a picture of myself. So, in retaliation, I wrote the complete opposite of what my petit pigeon looks like.

I went to my Oral Language class later that day and Madame lugged a giant plastic bag with tons of clothing into our classroom. Wigs, belts, hats, dresses, scarves and capes were present and we were instructed to put on whatever clothing we desired and get ready for a fashion show. I put on the most fantastic skirt with ruffles on every surface and a corset that zipped up the side (and horror of horrors, I thought it might not zip). Then, with much pomp and circumstance, we marched down the homemade catwalk (in reality, the building hallway!), strutting our stuff and talking in French about our friends’ awesomely atrocious outfits. We raved and cheered and clapped and oohed and aahed. The spectacle was straight from Fashion Week in Paris.

One guy put on parachute pants with vertical stripes, a Chinese silk shirt, a red cape and a giant black curly wig with feathers shoved into it. He was fabulous. Another American (because it would be the Americans who have crazy fashion sense) put on a polka dotted kimono, a huge ruffled pink skirt with metallic embellishing and over all and a wicked cool pair of MUSICAL SUSPENDERS to top it off. How completely original! Haute couture at its finest!

A real-life model, Olga (with Preston) knew how to talk to the camera even in a crazy hat.

L->R; Seong Yeul, Preston, Christina "Keetina", Danielle, Petra, Me, Laura, Yi, Farshad, Olga

HAHAHAHAHA Farshad struts down the catwalk... HAHAHAHAHA

Petra is so pretty!

Preston rocking the curly wig with feathers... and the cape... and the catwalk.

We twirled, smiled and showed off our vetements (clothing) while the photographer snapped away… because here in France, we know fashion and education and we do it simultaneously. And that, folks, is how classes in France are going.

An American Valentine to France, With Love Saturday, Feb 13 2010 

The prequel for this post is necessary. Stick with me and learn about the history of this region before I tell you about the unique “Valentine’s Day Gift” from the United States to France.

66 years ago on June 6th, 1944, on what is now known as D-Day, the Allied Forces took Lower Normandy by storm in order to overthrow the Nazi control in France. An air assault of 24,000 American, free French, British and Canadian troops were dropped after midnight into German-occupied France. At 6:30 AM that morning, the largest amphibious invasion of all time commenced involving 175,000 Allied troops. 195,700 Allied Navy personnel and Merchant Marines in over 5,000 ships were involved. Total casualties are roughly estimated at 10,000 on the Allies’ side and between 4,000-9,000 casualties on the Axis side.

With sheer brute force and willpower, the Allies broke through the German “impenetrable” grip on Northern France although the odds were against them. With the help of firepower and guns, the Axis powers were pushed back into French countryside where other battles then raged with equal intensity.

66 years later, the city of Caen is still feeling the aftershock from this monumental event. It has shaped their culture in an extremely unique and beautiful way. Like a Phoenix, my current University’s symbol, this city has come back “from the dead” and has become more populous and beautiful than ever. (If you’d like to see pictures of Caen after the D-Day invasion and German occupation, check out the War Museum post from a few days ago or the Museum’s website.

With this kind of background, it’s only fitting to now introduce the ruckus that has the city buzzing. This weekend is La Saint-Valentin, a day known for roses, romantic dinners, chocolate and all around joy and happiness. It’s also known as Single Awareness Day. France loves Love. Everywhere you look there are ads for perfume, chocolate, French lingerie, Love Love LOVE and above all else, the mandatory evacuation for the entire CENTRE VILLE (CENTER CITY)!!!!!!

What?

Oh yes. In the process of expanding this beautiful university to its full capacity, the construction crew happened upon a 550 KILOGRAM AMERICAN BOMB FROM WORLD WAR II. In case you were wondering, 550 KILOGRAMS is 1,212 POUNDS. THERE IS, AT THIS EXACT SECOND IN TIME, A BOMB THE SIZE AND WEIGHT OF MY CAR LITERALLY IN MY FRONT YARD. Apparently this is not a very big deal, because the construction crew discovered the “little sweetheart” about a week and a half ago and have waited this long to defuse it.

We have to leave the center of the city, no questions asked. We must open our windows because if there “happens to be an explosion,” they’d like to “reduce the amount of glass shattering.” (Excerpt from email sent yesterday from the Universite de Caen Basse-Normandie) Caen residents and students don’t regard this as something very serious. There are no dooms day marches, no protests and no strikes. We Americans are sheepishly trying to disregard the fact that they are defusing a bomb from OUR country in THEIR country on VALENTINE’S DAY. We love France. We love the French. We love French Bread and French Toast and French Wine and Non-Creepy French Men. We do not want an American bomb blowing the entire historical section of the city into next week.

So please, get the best French version of MacGyver there is, some really high-quality paper-clips and chewing gum, and for goodness sakes, hold your breath and make no sudden movements on Valentine’s Day.

Happy Valentine’s Day, France. With LOTS of Love, America.

Traveling Creep Tuesday, Jan 26 2010 

It’s creeping closer and closer and closer and then before you realize what’s happening, your father is simulating the packages you’ll be bringing and whether or not everything will fit in the trunk.

I have a bizarre mental picture concerning the Beverly Hillbillies, but as long as the Beverly Hillbillies get to the Minneapolis St. Paul Airport, I don’t care. We’re down to the last 48 Hours in the USA, folks! I can’t believe it! We pick up the lovely Molly DesRoches in Fargo, stop at Concordia to give my brother, future bridesmaid and cousin a hug and kiss and then leave from there for a non-stop trip to the Twin Cities.

I have everything I need. I have all the words I need to say. I have books, music and notebooks. I have addresses, phone cards and Tide-To-Go pens. I have so much hand sanitizer that I would put some hospitals to shame. I have not, however, gotten to say goodbye to really special people in my life. We’ll hopefully get that done today. It’s the last check-mark on the to-do list! Then we’re on to a whole NEW set of challenges that involve inadvertently unwittingly insulting a little old lady and embarrassing myself horribly and running smack into a French door, nose-first.

My friend Laura is almost ready to take off from Minneapolis to Chicago and then to Charles de Gaulle.

Kelsey and Danielle are already whooping it up in Caen and they’ll pick me, Molly and Laura up from the train station when we arrive. I’m praying that all the paperwork got done, and I have a room where my suitcase can properly explode.

Here we go! Stay tuned!