Friday, January 10, 2014

Lactose Intolerance

I have been lactose intolerant for a while now. Or rather I have been accepting of this for a while. 

But it's still hard. 

Like, not eating any milk products is the pits. I have tried lactade pills, and they take away the pain but not the damage (like bleeding, which isn't cool) So I avoid lactose as best I can. 

But I am weak. 

I like food. 

But over time the price gets steeper. I still remember the last time I had ice cream. It was May 23rd 2010. I was in London and I was feeling very optimistic about the dairy there because my sensitive stomach had experienced no problems whatsoever in England. So I was like, "This place is magical. I can eat whatever I want without a single consequence." 


I went with some friends to Pizza Hut because on Monday nights they offered their cookie pie with lots and lots of ice cream at half price. So the 5 of us bought one and devoured it in under 3 minutes. And I was like "This was a wonderful idea. I love ice cream!" 

This is my tongue and ice cream loving each other.

On the bus ride home I was like "Maybe that wasn't such a good idea." 

By the time I got back to the flat I was like "That was the worst decision I have ever made in my entire life." and I laid on my bed for 4.5 hours writhing in lactose-loathing pain. 

The problem is that everything milk touches is delicious. Pudding? Delicious. Ranch Dressing? Delicious. Creamsicles? Devilishly delicious. Hot Chocolate? Delicious. Cheese? Yes.

It's like my tongue has a party every time it eats milk products and my stomach gets angry because it's not invited. 

Buttermilk pancakes and ranch covered carrots = grumpy stomach.

Yogurt and chocolate Creamsicle = a stomach that has really had enough of this.

And then if I eat a little bit of milk, it's like the lactose impairs my reason. 

Then I can't stop and my innards are seizing up in protest but my tongue gains control of my hands and just keeps stuffing my mouth with dairy and more dairy and I go on a dairy eating rampage as though dairy is the only thing that will save the planet from collapsing in on itself.

My stomach gets revenge by sending the ghosts of all the consumed milk products to haunt my night (aka acid reflux up the wazoo that keeps me up all night long).

 Every time it happens I swear I'll never eat dairy again. 

But then I see a plate of nachos and I reconsider.

Monday, November 25, 2013

A Little Lesson in Writing French

To attempt the DALF C1 test, you must be able to write 500 words, coherently and on a certain subject, all in French. Since this is a difficult skill to gain I write a little on the side and my host mom corrects my work. Here's is my latest attempt. 

On the left is my original essay, gone over with her corrections. On the right is a continuation of her corrections. Pretty sure she ended up writing more than me. What's more, she got her boyfriend to come in an approve her transcriptions. I think she is very proud of her work.

After the arduous corrections phase comes the translating phrase, where I attempt to decipher her handwriting.

This says "enfants" as in children

This says "fille" as in girl.  

This says "porte" as in wear or door.  

European handwriting is very different from any other handwriting I've seen, and the lessons are standardized, for nearly all French people have a similar, sometimes identical, handwriting. European handwriting is full of odd quirks. There are some people who don't cross their t's (I once tried to correct someone's spelling, thinking he had put in an l instead of a t, but he insisted it was a t. Ok, sorry dude, for being gauche but where I come from a t has a horizontal line through it).

There are other people who only cross the right side of the t, which I find incredibly odd and random. Really? The right side? Just the right side? Why the right side? Why not the left side? Or better yet, both sides? Through? That's a t right?

As you noticed in the above example, my host mother does not really finish her p's. It's a line. Just a line. She wrote me a note once, explaining some change in the schedule and I could hardly make heads or tails of it because the p's were long l's. And it's completely normal. It's not even bad handwriting, it's just missing half of the letter, and a rather important half, I might had.

I had another teacher who wrote her f's as ridiculously long lines. Again, just a line. At this point a straight line could be an l, an i, a t, a p, or an f. So really, reading here is also a lesson in being psychic. You're supposed to know what they want to tell you, and that way you're able to read what they've written. It's a secret code. If it goes up a level they won't even need paper anymore, it'll all be brain-brain communication.

The next part of writing an essay is knowing which words to use. So today, I bought this:

It's a glorious Larousse illustrated dictionary, 2014 and did I say ILLUSTRATED? Because it is. And I got the limited edition that has that pretty pretty cover (not the other one with some French people and a random zoo photo). And it came in a box, so it will travel, safe and heavy, all the way back home. 

This was my face when I saw it at the store. 
So I bought without the least bit of hesitation. 

And inside it's glorious covers: 
The magic of words.

For me the hardest part is the French turn of phrase. It is quite different from English. When my host mom corrected my paper she pursed her lips, "This is not French," she said, shaking her head as if she had a bad taste in her mouth. 

Directly translated from my French: "Also, the law has begun to make limits on ads. Now ads must include messages on health." (grammatically correct, I have to say in order to sooth my ego).
Her rendition says: "Also, the law asks that the ads give a good form of advice on nutrition."

Another example (me): "The biggest problem is the weak will. When one knows that one's weight is too much one becomes self-conscious and aware of what others think.
(Actual French person): "When one is conscious of extra weight, the look that one has for oneself and the look of others give to one affects us badly." 

Like, what? How am I supposed to come up with that? Maybe I can slide by with a paper full of straight lines.

llllo ol lle lelsll ll  llel lol olo lql lulu ulil eelie lelo lloalal lllallall lalllu lo lllol oloill lllo llo llo

Genius! Genius, I tell you! This girl speaks French better than the French! Give this girl an A and an eclair. She's earned it. 

See? Bowls of Hot Chocolate.

Friday, November 22, 2013

French Things I've Discovered

The first would probably be the numbers. For 70 the French actually say 60-10 (sixty-ten) and then on up (75= 60-15) that is until you get to 80 which is actually 4-20's (four-twenty) and then 90 is 4-20-10. Shnazzy, huh? It takes a little practice to get used to and the absolute worst thing is recounting years. Like 1999 is the worst year to say in French. Mill neuf cent quatre-vingt dix-neuf = thousand, nine hundred four-twenty ten-nine. Their numbers contain math problems.

I don't know if it's a southern thing, but they drink their tea and hot chocolate out of bowls. Not in restaurants, but at home. My host mom asked if I would like some tea, and hearing the affirmative she handed me a bowl. Needless to say I was a little confused. And the covers on the hot chocolate always show a kid with a bowl of chocolate milk (chocolate milk is apparently a kids thing unless you get Viennese version).

The plethora of pharmacies. There is a pharmacy at least every three minutes of walking distance, quite frequently less. In the center square of Montpellier you can stand and see 4 pharmacies. This would suggest that the French have a great need of pharmacies. Also they don't have an equivalent to the Tylenol Cold medicine. Instead you get something for each symptom. Therefore you go home with 5 boxes of medication, one for the headache/fever, one for the congestions, one for the runny nose, one for the cough, and one for the sore throat. It's a medicinal party.

Every day I walk to school and there are always (as in always) Muslims outside the Municipal Credit Union. I do not know what goes on in that credit union, but everyday there is a crowd of veil-wearing women waiting for it to open. They all know each other, they greet each other with kisses. Some sit on the steps and others stand. Every day I pass it and try to get a good look on the inside. Do they give free lollipops to the first 10 customers of the day? Do they offer sweet tea? What is it? I WANT TO KNOW.

There is a pen obsession in Europe that is an amazing thing to behold. You can easily find a Mont Blanc pen that costs over $600. I do not know what kind of writing experience such a pen promises, but it must be phantasmagoric. They keep such pens under glass cases. It's like Tiffany's for pens. There are so many pens, of so many varieties. I love it, love it, love it. I found a pen that erases, like honestly erases-leaving no trace of the ink. I have found the best felt-tipped pen ever. And so many colors! It's lovely. And everyone has a little pen pouch to hold their stash. Pen pouches were never much of a thing in my day, but here everyone has them.

Here they sell two kinds of books, a normal book and a pocket sized book. The pocket sized book is a little smaller (though I think you'd have to own a pair of cargo pants to actually fit it in your pocket) and it's cheaper, like under 8 euros. Hence, I have bought a lot of books.

Perfume. There is a perfume obsession here. Multiple stores of just perfume and scenty things. The Sephora here has a little makeup and a ton of perfume. Oh my goodness. And it's expensive average price for branded perfume is 85-95 euros. That's like over $100, and not for a large bottle of perfume. For the average. Whoa.

High school girls don't use backpacks, they use purses.

They're into philosophy. The philosophy section of the bookstore is right inside the door, and it's a very large section.

that's it for now. Bravo if you read.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Hola Barcelona!

The trip for this last weekend was Barcelona. I planned it rather late because, after all, I was in Prague last week, and that is just a lot of voyaging. But we had a three day weekend and the other weekends I need for other things, so Barcelona it was. 

Planning late there weren't many options for places to stay. Everything was rather expensive and the cheaper locations were far far from the center of the city. That is how I ended up booking with the Korean Hostel. I decided on it because of location and price, but then after I got the confirmation email I thought that maybe I should have found someplace else. Oh well. One early train ride later I was there, ringing in to Korea Hostel Barcelona. 

The owner buzzed me in and it didn't take us long to realize that we could not communicate. She spoke Korean and a little Spanish. I on the other hand am limited to English and French. After several minutes of saying sounds at each other she went and found a resident who could speak some French. Apparently the website had not informed her that I was coming, so I was really out of the blue. Tall, blond, American without a whiff of Korean background. But she gave me a key and a bed, so I was happy. 

The first day I walked around and got a feel for the city. I went into some churches and looked around. Barcelona is in the thick of Catalan country, so all the signs were in Catalan then frequently also in Spanish. If you were lucky (which you often weren't) the sign would also have either French or English. 
Sagrada Familia

Behold! The glorious (unfinished) work of Gaudi. It really is amazing. It's not often that contemporaries decide to build a cathedrals. Most every cathedral in Europe has been around for hundreds of years. The process of making a new one is quite rare. And the Sagrada Familia is a rare beauty with some serious artistry and symbolism.

This side of the Cathedral is the Nativity, which recalls the early part of Christ's life. So everything on it is softer, more curved. The center piece is the nativity (which I accidentally cut out of the picture above) and every one else is looking towards it; choir angels, shepherds, and etc.)

Above you can see Mary and Joseph heading to Bethlehem (left) and a Roman soldier killing taking a baby boy away from his parents (right).

The opposite side is called the Passions, and shows the seven passions of Christ (I'm pretty sure there are seven, if my two New Testament classes did their work, and no one needs know how many times I had to retype testament before I got the spelling right).

This side was done by a different artist and is full of sharp edges and angles. Some people don't like it but I found it a remarkable method of transmitting the pain and difficulty of all the challenges Christ faced. The edges make it impossible for the statue to rest comfortably. Its like in your head you're trying to fix it, to make sense of it. We could go on about the psychology behind art but we'll leave it there. Above you see Christ with his crown of thorns.

And here is Christ at the whipping post. See?! Look at that back. Doesn't that look like the most painful back in existence? (And I'm talking about the backs in art renderings. Leave all those slave photos at home).
Voila, l'interior: 

I overheard a tour guide saying that this is the tallest open space in existence. Now I don't know if that's true or if he was just trying to impress his clients, but it felt true. It was so so so tall and open. The back half of the windows weren't stained and that let in a remarkable amount of light. Also all the stone is white. White white white. So everything was tall and light and white. It was... heaven, really. Like, high up, lots of air, cloud-like. Not a figurative heaven when you bite into a molten lava brownie, but if heaven were really up in the clouds it would kind of be like the inside of Sagrada Familia. 

Just, just so beautiful. I loved the ceiling, how there are these little, I don't know. The little circle things that look lie a star-like opening where light can come through?. Wow, that's a great description. Ok, you see the ceiling in the picture? Yeah, I liked it.

They had religious music playing and a sectioned-off area for people to pray. The area they use for actual services is below the main level (there were little windows and we could see people being religious down there). I liked how they try to keep it a holy and religious building. I mean, it is a cathedral, after all. I have walked in on so many weddings and other services, so it was nice for them to let us in but keep us separate from the actual observers.

And here is this umbrella-Jesus thing. It is quite unique but I totally dug it. So much like and love going on right now. It honestly looks like an umbrella but somehow it works. Like really works. Maybe it's supposed to be a holy halo or something. Whatever it is, I approve.

Above are some Gaudi-designed apartments with balconies that look like bones. It's a pretty cool building, but it's sad how a lot of the mosaic is falling off. It's really close to the Korea Hostel. 

Speaking of the hostel, it was full of Koreans (go figure, right?). For breakfast the next day I arrived and soon found myself the soul (the Seoul *ba-dump-ch!*) non-Korean present. Twenty Koreans + me. And I don't know if I could be more non-Korean. Maybe if I was black. That's pretty non-Korean too. Either way we were all having a traditional Korean breakfast, which included rice, lamb, potatoes, carrots, a green salad, and a sea-weed soup. 

As we started eating I felt a good deal of curious Korean eyes on me, all of them asking "What are you doing here?" But they were very nice and I was able to talk with those who knew English. I impressed them all with my ability to use chopsticks (eating a green-leaf salad with chopstics: check). 

Anyway, on with my Gaudi tour. 

Here is the Palau Musca, which was beautiful. I went back three times, but I guess, despite what the internet and my guide said, they were closed and so I only got to admire the outside. I hope they're happy about that.

Still the outside was fabulous with a lot of detail. I found it quite funny that this spectacular building is on some small side street, connected to other buildings, and the above photos were as far back as I could get. I mean, give it some room guys, this is a serious work of art!

Just look at all the detail of the tile work (look at it). Absolutely fantastic. After the disappointment of not being able to see the incredible chandelier inside, I dragged myself off to the Palace. I forget what Palace, but it was a palace and Gaudi was the architect.

The palace is as classy as it gets. Like, holy cow. This was a residence, like a family's house, in the middle of the city. And we're talking all marble everything except for the incredible woodwork, the largest organ of the time, a personal chapel, fireplace in every room, gold leafing on everything. It was a serious crib.

Here is a ceiling, and since being plain is boring Gaudi had some fun. At one time all the hanging things provided structural support. Now the official Palace guide said this so I have to believe her, and I'm no architect certainly, but I'm still pretty sure all that wood is hanging down, and at the moment I don't get how hanging down helps something else stay up. Unless it's on a see-saw. But I'm almost certain that is not what's going on here.

Wall of cool wood. When you buy your ticket for the palace you get the audio guide automatically. So if you want a really quiet ambience in your museum give everyone an audio guide. People don't talk to each other, they barely make eye contact.

The windows in most of the bedrooms were stained glass, and the portraits are all characters from Shakespeare plays. If you want your kid to grow up serious, put portraits of Macbeth and Hamlet in his room. It may look sunny but aint no body happy there.

 -Oh, darling, the mantle looks a little drab, don't you think? We should put something there.
-Alright, dear. Pick something you think is nice.
*Insert majestic masterpiece of inlayed marble--you read me right, that's a marble painting*
-Oh that looks much better, Beatrice.

Crapping in style, because when lords crap, it's business. 

Happy chimneys, a rooftop full of them. Bob Ross would be so proud. 

Gaudi basically owns the town. 

Park Guell was a failed real estate venture that's quite successful now and without any houses. It is a climb to the top. It's like Darwin Tourism, where only the fittest get the view (other such Darwin Tours are El Duomo, the hill in Sete, Notre Dame Paris, and etc).

There were a bunch of structures like these. I don't know if it's supposed to be a call back to ancient times or what. And they didn't serve much purpose. They stood there and provided some shade. Cool to look at though.

These birds were making a racket. Like, some sort of hullabaloo was going down and there was some serious drama because these shrill squeakers would not shut up. Then I saw a bunch making nests in the palm trees and maybe its mating season or something. That would incur a lot of drama. These suckers making houses, but who's gonna be the daddy?
*SQUEAAAK* You daddy? You daddy?
*SQUEEEEAK* Maybeh! Maybeh!
*CHIRP* You want it *shakes tail feathers*
*CHIP CHEEP* Want. Want. *CHIP* Commitment issues.
*Angry SQUEEAAAKK* You daddeh!

Photographic proof of my presence there. 

The Gaudi house. He was an austere religious man and one heck of an architect. 

Here are some chairs he designed. I am not a designer by any means, but everyone seemed very impressed by these chairs. If you look at this and see a bench and a chair, you would be wrong. There's so much more going on here! The line, the contour, the material. I mean, jeeze!

And I would procreate just so I could use this crib. That crib is rocking it, srsly. So majestic. 

Now we have finished the Gaudi tour and can take a look around the rest of Barcelona. Here is a lovely square with palm trees and a fountain. I hope you enjoy the look of that. It was in the 70's all weekend. For the first of November, that's pretty awesome.

I don't know what this was, but it looked cool so I took a picture, and it must be cool because now you're looking at it.

The planes went flying just so I could get the wonderful photo of the Barcelona Cathedral. This is one epic piece of Gothic architecture. Very refined and detail and points everywhere. 

Above the doors. 

Here is a part of the Ancient Roman structures that were added onto by the medieval people. Also I got a shot of the kid kicking the bubble and that made me happy.

I'm pretty sure that every city in Europe was original Roman. Everywhere, no matter where you go or what you try to do, Ancient Rome is like, "Did that."

Cool church stuffs that in the old cathedral connected to the Ancient Roman wall. (Ancient Rome: *cough* Pantheon *cough*)

And now, the time has come for my traditional art dump. Went to the National Museum and took pictures of it all, because no one can stop me and I love art.

The national museum followed the Gaudi palace and tried to out-do everything on level of classiness. Two waterfalls (only one pictured above) and a giant fountain. Plus some regal pillars standing in the middle of the random square at the bottom. So many stairs. So so so so many. Hence I opted for the escalator option. The museum is big enough as it is. No need to get ridiculous.

I love sketches. Absolutely love them. I often prefer them to paintings, perhaps because they're so raw and quick. That's how you tell an artist from an amateur, I think. How they sketch.

Art day at the museum! 

The Slump. And I just have to say that there are a lot of randomly naked people in art. Clothes are totally optional, and usually not the first choice. You see clothes on a statue and you're like, 'Wow, clothes. I wonder why?'

 I loved this statue. It's called "The first chill" or something like it. The artist did an incredible job of depicting the difference between a young body and an old body, the way the sin hangs. It was cool.

 Clothes. Wow. 

Now this is clothed. Fur coats and a getaway buggy. Love it. 

 Reflection (duh).

I couldn't stop looking at the way the light worked on her arm.  

The Godhead, in porcelain. I dug it. 

I really liked this ballerina, her hands, and the way the figure changed at every angle.  

This statue made me laugh so hard. I don't know quite why. The tiny head? The snobbish expression? He seems to be saying "Hhng" in a way that expresses his displeasure/distaste. I mean. Look at it. Hehe.

 How you doin'? Lies. It's Picasso, depicted in a way that I'm sure he appreciated. Note the eyes o-O

I took a crooked picture of this photograph, and I think it only enhances the artistic nature of the piece.

Concentration camp. 

Picasso depicting someone in a way I'm sure they appreciated (perhaps the sculptor? Perhaps it's payback).

And we will end with a sculpture of Don Quixote, because, I mean, srsly. It's awesome.