Video Test

February 5, 2017

I am putting this page up to see what it looks like to link to a YouTube video – in this case an exiting video of me riding my bike, speeded up 8X.

Here is the link: Bikepath Ride

Test over.

Doug

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A day at Les Baux de Provence & environs

February 1, 2007

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This past Saturday we went to two very old towns which have lovely old stone streets and buildings.  Eguylieres and Les Baux.  At the one, Les Baux, there’s an old medieval castle, somewhat in ruins but some structures still evident.  You could wander through and see the chapel, the great room, and the dove coat (a stone wall w/ perhaps 100 cubbies carved out where birds nested.  Mostly pigeons – some for eating, some for carrying messenges.)  Was so very interesting. 

However, what the pictures don’t capture is the wind.  It was incredibly windy.  Doug estimated up to 50 mph.  You could barely stand at times.  And the wind is, no doubt, why this town didn’t have many visitors.  Many folks visit Les Baux, but in better weather.  Like 1 1/2 million a year.  We were glad to be w/o them but we were cold.  This area of France is noted for having a strong wind that blows during this season – the Mistral.  We’ve been here one month and we’ve had two days where the wind was strong and bitter.  We must pay more attention to the weather forecasts – I believe they do project this.  But as we left our city and drove an hour, conditions change immensely.  From nearly no wind to gale force.  But our kids were intrigued enough that we hung in there for a long time.  Was really a fascinating place. 

(An aside – when in China, my friends and I often said that pictures really couldn’t capture the experience because one couldn’t smell what we smelled.  There were many memorable smells – a scratch and sniff would have been good.  Here in Provence I feel the same way about the wind.  You need to experience it to get the full effect.)

 The last picture is of a Roman ruin – a monument that was built in the 1st century under Caesar Augustus.  Was in amazingly good shape, except on the side that faced the wind.  The first picture was just some concrete vegetables that we passed along the road.  And the second picture is of the road we traveled to get to Les Baux.  The third and fourth are from Eguylieres.  The rest are from Les Baux.  There is a day in the spring when the trebuchets are demonstated – perhaps we’ll return. 

By the way, I wrote a bit about food, in general, and it’s on a new page.  See side bar if you want to read.  I’m still figuring out my way on this blog.  Sorry.  New pages are probably the way to go. 

tid bits from the week

January 27, 2007

Either you’ve asked or it’s occurred to us to share about…….

Bread – The bread here really is as good as its reputation we think.  The closest boulangerie (bakery) to us is Paul’s, a chain – though a very tasteful one – less than a 10 minute walk down the hill.  It was where we ate our first lunch here, arriving and having no food in the house.  David and Daniel like nearly all the breads, but especially the ones with chocolate in them – one has chocolate chips sprinkled throughout, there are buns similar to croissants w/ chocolate filling, and longer rolls w/ chocolate and almond paste inside – or raisin bread.  David also goes for standard baguettes when he needs quantity.  Rebekah usually chooses just a plain flakey croissant.  I like dense breads and choose whole wheat loaves, or cereal loaves – contains some mixed grains, but I’d say no breads are as dense as what I think is optimal.  Doug likes the cornmeal baguette and everything else he’s tried.  Folks buy bread nearly daily and boulangeries are everywhere.  So often you see people walking down the sidewalk w/ a baguette tucked in the crook of their arm or in their bag.  The thought of stocking up on bread for the week (or worse -keeping some in the freezer) seems rather abhorrent.  🙂 

During the month of January, probably the most popular sweet sold at boulangeries is the epiphany cake.  These have flakey crust on all sides and a creamy almond paste filling in the middle.  Hidden somewhere in the filling is a small figurine from the nativity scene – they all sorta look like wisemen to me but presumably they aren’t.  If you get the piece w/ the figurine (and don’t break your teeth while finding it), you’re the lucky one and get to wear the gold  paper crown – comes w/ the cake – and you should buy the next cake for whatever group you’re with.  These cakes are quite good we all think.  They stop selling them in Feb. 

 How’s Our French Coming Along? – Rather slowly, I think it’s safe to say.   We might be making progress that we’re not aware of, but we’re pretty painful to communiate with yet.  David has only French on Tuesday am’s – 4 classes!  Just how the schedule turned out.  David and Daniel are somewhat reluctant to pipe up in French, but they have been pressed to order bread and street food for themselves and have met several neighbors saying “excuse me, but that’s our soccer ball in your yard!” in French.  Rebekah comes home and shares words and phrases she’s learned that day – which I appreciate. She’s doing fine.  Doug is our best speaker, and he plunges in right well.  He’s even willing to ask optional questions on a good day – as in at a favorite lunch spot where the woman is very kind, he inquired – what’s your bestseller?  And after extensive explanations and gestures – he found out! 

However, Doug failed at one verbal exchange.  He asked the bakery man when the next soccer game at the stadium, next door to his shop, was.  They chatted about it, looked it up in the newspaper, and agreed – Sunday at 3 pm.  So we showed up, but there was no game.  We’re unsure what went wrong.  And I failed at a visual communication.  Saw a sign up about a Renaissance chamber concert, noted the date, etc., gathered the family and went ……. to find locked doors.  I just misread vendridi instead of jeudi (French days of the week aren’t capitalized).  So we went back the next night – and the concert was very nice.  Saw the longest stringed instrument I’ve ever seen.  However, I’ve now had two weeks of classes – three afternoons/week – and I hope to some day overtake Doug.  My classes are very promising – conversation oriented w/ great instructors.  8 students in my class – 3 Dutch, 2 Germans, 1 Japanese, 1 New Zealander, and me. 

 I also signed up to meet w/ a language partner.  She wants to improve her English and I my French.  This organization emailed me her name and phone # and vice versa and leaves it up to the individuals to set up times and places.  Good idea – so I thought.  We’ve had several conversations, and we’ve yet to meet.  We realized that choosing a place and describing the location is beyond either of us in the language we’re trying to learn.  So then we tried just to exchange our email addresses over the phone – which is not that easy.  And they assigned me a woman who’s not a beginner! – but the phone is a hard medium.  I think we’ve got a plan to meet now.  We’ll see…….    

Donna’s Hair Cut – I was quite shaggy and so though dreading it, decided to get a hair cut.  Some folks I know gave me names of hair stylists who speak some English in the heart of downtown, but I decided to go to a smaller place close to the market I shop at.  How bad can it be??, I reasoned.  Or didn’t, as the case may be.  I went one day at 11:30 am, realizing that most places shut down for a lunch break from 12 – 2, at least.  I figured there was time before the break, but the hair stylists, though looking completely unoccupied, didn’t think so.  So I made an appointment for the next morning and showed up w/ my dictionary and some prepared sentences, having warned them of my language deficit. 

After having my hair washed and the ends clipped off for ~ 3 minutes, the hair stylist said “done! and am I happy?”  I thought – I cannot pay 30 euros (~$40) for this.  So I explained again I wanted a medium amount cut off all over.  She wasn’t happy – nor was I.  I urged her on for about 10 more minutes, while she muttered, and then she fluffed out my hair while blow drying and hair spraying it.  I looked like one giant grey puff ball – that is, terrible!  She then lectured me on how bad my old hair style was for me and why this is better.  I came home to defluff and wash out the hair spray, and my hair looked not too bad.  I think if I’m not going to wear hip black boots, it’s probably okay to have non-hip hair as well.  Be consistent. 

Church – We feel most grateful that there’s an English speaking Protestant church in town.  Meets in a Reformed French speaking church’s bldg.  French service in the am, English in the pm.  Is a small body – perhaps 50 – 60 people.  But they’re a warm, welcoming, sincere group of believers. Probably half are students – in Aix to learn French, the rest a mixture of ages and nationalities.  Darren, the pastor, has just started a series on responses of folks in the New Testament to God’s challenge or Word. 

 We have also been to two French Protestant services.  The first was 2 weeks ago as occasionally all the Protestants in town gather for one service – in French.  I really enjoyed the songs – many familiar and all predictable in what sentiments might be sung.  Most songs had written words – which helps enormously.  My favorite was My God Is So Great – as the kids came up and did hand motions as well.  Our kids thought a 2 hour service in French seemed long.  And David didn’t care for the wine during communion, but didn’t spit it out!  So last Sunday just Doug and I went to a French service in the am.  Again the singing was great – and the sermon long.  But knowing the Bible text helps either one’s imagination or comprehension – is hard to know which.  Early on in the service, a song leader was welcoming folks, etc.  He then welcomed those who spoke English – and all looked at us (small body – newcomers are obvious).  We must have looked blank – we were unsure if we’d been asked to stand or say something, but I wasn’t about to do either.  However, the leader then handed over the microphone and another man addressed us in English – and said in case we weren’t understanding, we were welcomed and should stand.  By now we could not be more obvious – but we stood.  It was all done very warmly however.  🙂   And even though I understand so little, it’s still encouraging to worship w/ other believers and realize that God is sovereign and the Lord and Redeemer of all.                                 

hiking up montagne st. victoire

January 20, 2007

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This is Rebekah.  What I think of the hike today was it was a little scary in some places and a little fun in some places.  There were great views of the fields.  There was a tunnel/cave that we saw from the ground and we went though it going to the cross.  It was really windy at the cross. 

Daniel – The hike up was not too tiring but dangerous.  There were at least three times when if you fell, you wouldn’t have lived to tell the story.  Also, on the way up we had to climb up a long ways on a semi-steep embankment made of lots of little rocks.  One easily could have slipped and slid hundreds of feet and maybe off a cliff to our doom. The cross at the top was nice but it was windy up there.  The view was great.  You might have been able to see the Mediterranean Sea, and the view of the Alps was very nice.  I was very surprised you could see the Alps.  I’ve never seen the Alps before; they were cool.  The way down took longer than I expected but it wasn’t nearly as dangerous.  I was very tired at the end and glad to get back to the ol’ Peugeot.  That is what I call our car.       

David – I thought that it was somewhat dangerous too, but the views were worth it.  The Alps were okay, but you could see a nuclear power plant.  Part of it is also visible from our school, but I never knew what it was before.  I liked the chapel built in the 1600s.  It was also the only shelter from the wind.

Donna – Well, you have it from the kids’ viewpoint and Doug just added pictures.  What more can we say?  If you double click on the pictures, they’ll be bigger.  And if you want to see the accordian being carried up the mountain by a backpacker, that’s necessary!  Sorta made me want to join their group and sing along w/ them.  Doug planned our route, honestly – it wasn’t me, and he figured that our kids would enjoy clambering up rocks and could handle some steepness going up.  They did enjoy it, but it was more tres difficile (very difficult) than he was counting on. 

Mt. St. Victoire is the only real mountain w/in sight from Aix, and we feel fortunate that it’s on our side of town.  It was painted repeatedly by  Cezanne – you see many beautiful prints around town.  And if you jog or walk a few minutes out our back gate, you see it.  Was a lovely day to hike today – sunny, clear, moderate temps – in the 50’s – 60’s in the sun.  Took perhaps 2 1/2 hours to hike up, and 3 to circuitously loop around and down.  Saw many climbers on the one face.  Few hikers chose our route up, but many hikers had come up other routes and were at the top – w/ their dogs.  French dogs go everywhere.  Trails were marked well in places, very poorly in others – we asked lots of direction  questions from others.  We were grateful to arrive safely home.  And only Rebekah and Doug are having difficulty walking tonight….. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

January 17, 2007

Today was not really remarkable, but if you want to hear about a day, read on….  I’m not sure that this is typical, but I’m unclear what is typical.

 Doug and I woke up a bit before 6:30am.  We’ve adjusted our internal clocks I guess so that we now get up w/o our alarm clocks about on time.  Doug read a bit and I went jogging.  I’ve actually jogged not so often, but hope to get in a groove.  Up until a few days ago, I couldn’t seem to get up early enough to make anything happen before taking the kids to school.  I prefer to jog along the back road from our apartment building, which has a lovely view of Montagne St. Victoire (the only mountain around but is quite impressive – and made somewhat famous by Cezanne’s paintings of it).  However, this road is twisty, narrow, and somewhat heavily traveled.  Hardly a shoulder anywhere on it.  We live just on the outskirts of the city so out our back gate, you go by large villas and gated entrances and have views.  (Out of our front gate you are in a residential area, and just across the street is a walking park.)  However, it’s still dark until about 7:30 so I’ve fallen into running through this park, as the back road is not safe especially in the dark.  The park has a few street lights and nearly no people at this hour which I appreciate. 

Doug has breakfast w/ the kids.  Toasted bread – we eat bread like there’s no tomorrow here – and raspberry drinking yogurt (the yogurts here are wonderful w/ a huge selection of types).  Doug sticks to cereal as he’s done all his life – muesli w/ milk.  I buy mostly milk that’s been UHT (ultra high temperature) treated.  This process allows it to remain at room temperature while sealed and has a shelf life of maybe a month.  Our kids haven’t noticed the difference from fresh (which I did buy initially but it’s harder to find) and I’ve not told them.  Tastes fine when cold. 

At 8 am we roll out the door, usually Donna and the kids getting in the car and Doug hiking off to work.  Takes us ~20 minutes in traffic to get to the school which is south of town.   And Doug ~30 minutes to walk into town where their office is.  However, today Doug goes w/us as he needs to purchase yet more cables, etc.  Traffic is moderate and I find driving this standard route much less stressful than I did initially.  We mostly drive around the edge of town and then through two little burbs to get to school.  We navigate the bottleneck entry into school – is ridiculously not designed for traffic flow and most kids get driven as it’s not close to anything – but folks are pretty patient.  We say good by to the kids, talk w/ a few other parents about various things, ask a school administrator a few questions about the French form we’re trying to fill out for our boys’ required skiing trip in two weeks, and drive on for Doug’s shopping. 

 We go to one of two HUGE stores (like Wegmans but at least 4x the size and w/ groceries, clothing, household supplies, sporting goods, appliances – I can’t think of anything they don’t sell) – this one quite close to the school, 15 minutes from town.  Both are French stores w/ many branches in major cities.  I buy a few groceries and Doug finds a few supplies he needs. However, he still lacks some critical things.  I was rather proud of myself for at least having one bag on me – this store, like many, sells large plastic bags to carry goods, but none are free.  The idea is to keep track of your own and reuse them.  Is hard for me to remember to keep bags on me.  Anyway, we travel on to the next huge store, on the west side of town, and get a bit lost getting there.  Though we have a map – I always carry one.  

 This store is so crowded that there’s no room to park in the acres of parking lot.  So Doug hops out and I putz around in the car.  Soon a gridlock develops in the parking lot w/ a few folks waiting for others to leave, immobilizing other cars, more cars always pulling into the parking lot – a mess.  Folks honk, one man gets out and yells at another man, a woman is mad I’m blocking her exit but I’m completely hemmed in by cars.  A parking spot finally materializes after while of this so I take it but don’t leave the car.  I cannot stand entering one more huge store filled w/ people.  I much prefer a small, quality produce stand close to our house and a close by smallish grocery store.  And interestingly while it’s not completely true, as one French friend explained, often goods are more expensive in these large stores because of the convenience of one stop shopping I suppose and what the market will bear.  Doug comes out w/ what he needs and I drive him to work.  I’ve driven quite a bit around but not in the city, it occurs to me as the scene unfolds.  Soon we are enmeshed in serious traffic once again.  Roads don’t go just where navigator Doug thinks they should, I am trying to avoid the bus lane on the right, people crossing the street wherever as we’re now in the heart of town, cars darting in and out everywhere – yuck!  I end up going down very narrow little stone roads hoping not to hit the barriers on either side, Doug is kindly trying to show me how to get home on the map but I can’t look now ……  I’m stressed.  Doug gets close enough to work to jump out and walk, I chug through much more traffic trying to get home – getting only a bit lost because of a missed turn and one way roads.  And I resolve to never drive downtown again!! 

 I barely have time to set groceries inside the house before buzzing off to pick up the kids as their school is done at noon today.  Wednesdays are half days – other days they’re done at 5:15 pm.  (I must condense before you, the readers, fall asleep…… sorry)  I get the kids and explain we simply cannot go back into town as planned and have lunch – buying some street food – w/ dad as I can’t bear a reentry.  We hang out at their school and play some tennis as planned – as last Wednesday afternoon we looked for free tennis courts for hours and found none.  (Wouldn’t you think that “courts de tennis municipale” would mean available to all??  All seemed to be clubs for members only – so the kids suggested using the school’s courts.  Tennis works out great – beautiful sunny warm day.  Just being outdoors relieves my morning stress.  We go home and an American friend of Rebekah’s comes over to play.  David and Daniel kick a soccer ball a bit outside til it goes over a fence into a yard – oh dear.  Then they hang up clothes on our line out back – no one has dryers here.  And play football on the computer after doing a bit of homework.  No one has much really.   

 Doug walks home – gets home a bit before 7 pm.  We eat a great meal of lentil veggie dish (lentils are sold cooked, in cans here – hard to find them dry – is a great convenience food I think) and rice (a dark brown sticky rice I’ve never eaten before – quite good).  Served w/ sauteed mushrooms and a creamy kind of yogurt/sour cream – no equivalent product in the U.S.  And steamed beans served w/ a bit of the salted butter I unknowingly bought.  Is very very salty – I was going to throw it away til someone suggested cooking w/ it – duh.  And fruit – great fruits here – Rebekah’s favorite is fresh lychees – and store bought cookies – shortbread w/ dark chocolate on top, that I like much more than anyone else.  Daniel’s turn for dishes – we wash them by hand as the dishwasher doesn’t work well.  They’re getting better at this lost art for our family.  Read, talk, pray, bed.   Folks go to bed fairly contentedly; I think our kids have done great w/ adjusting to the schedule and new groove overall.  David borrowed a pleasure book from a friend (he has one!), Daniel enjoyed soccer in sports class but said most of the boys were really good, and Rebekah said she actually likes school.  God has been good to us all.  More on schools some other day.  Bonne nuit (good night)………            

french apparel

January 15, 2007

Anyone who knows me at all would agree that I’m not a fashion plate.  So one should bear this in mind.  Any comment I have on apparel is rather suspect – I’m not an authority. 

 It is fun to see what folks are wearing here.  Two basics became apparent w/in a day or so of being here.  1) The color to wear is black.  Both men and women, young and old – well, not young kids, but adolescents – wear lots of black.  Tight pants.  Longish coats and sweaters.  2) Long black boots are worn by nearly all the women, and some younger girls.  They look great on most everyone really.  These are worn everywhere it seems.  Walking around downtown, to school, to work.  I don’t know as I need a pair just yet, but I like them.  I see very casual shoes – like sneakers – on almost no one.  The exception being adolescent boys and some young kids.  Fortunately our boys fall into one of these categories.  I wore sneakers to the grocery store once (not initially intending to go to the store – was on our way home from a failed tennis expedition) and realized that I was once of maybe 100 people in the store, and I and one other Chinese looking women were the only ones w/ sneakers on.  

Doug and David could both use longer sweat pants.  I’ve looked at several place and it seems that once you’re that tall, you must no longer wear them as I can’t find them anywhere.  I’ve seen a few jogging men at the park in them, but very few.  Sporting apparel is snazzy – lycra, etc.  Usually black or tasteful colors. 

 I don’t have black boots but I was perhaps mistaken for a local – perhaps because of my hip walking shoes which I purchased just before leaving!  They look acceptable, are comfortable, and I wear them everywhere.  Doug thinks I exaggerate the point, but I was stopped on the street the other day and asked if I could take a survey.  I replied that my French was very little, and they smiled and said – we understand.  But I must not have stood too much out as a etrangere (foreigner).  As soon as I open my mouth, it’s quite apparent though. 

 I’ve seen nearly no tatooes, punk hair, dred locks, body piercings.  Mostly people look very tastefully dressed.  That is those that are dressed.  There are some less than fully dressed women on some ads and pictures, that is paintings, of naked women in lots of places.  Like in Doug’s office – takes up a lot of wall space, by our boy’s bedroom door (I took that one down), and in our living room – is sorta stylistic, not really offensive.  I’m pretty sure we’re not ready for the beach scene though.  Is too cold anyway.  Fortunately.              

the french test

January 15, 2007

Today I went to take a French test at the British American Institute.  They give these tests for free so they can then place you in a class w/others of your ability.  And then they charge you.  I’ve heard that humiliation is used in the French school system in ways that Americans aren’t familiar with.  Without a doubt, that was my experience today.  Gracious. 

I’m not sure that my language acquisition skills were ever very high, but I don’t think they’ve increased with age.  So I’ve studied French only for several months before coming.  Since June or so.  And with less than great focus.  I’m barely able to survive on the streets – reading is a bit better.  But I knew that I’m not high on the charts of fluency in French.  Perhaps hardly on the charts.  However, even acknowledging all of that, the test was so very very hard.  I’d like to take it to my most fluent friends (Susan Barr and Karen Wood for example) and see how they would do.  It was very picky. 

 The test had three parts – reading and grammar written test (mulitple choice), writing test (you write out sentences), and an oral interview.  No attempt was made to use basic vocabulary or to start w/ easy questions and progress in difficulty.  It was like – jump into the ocean and see how you do.   I’ve never given up while taking a test before in my life – but 1/3 of the way through the first test I did.  My head hurt and random guessing seemed pointless.  I got 3 out of 29 correct!  The writing section was based on a cartoon, whose caption I didn’t understand.  And complete sentences – I’ve hardly written a thing in French.  And a section on conjugating 12 verbs – French verbs are complicated, or so it seems to me.  Lastly the oral interview – was w/ two French women who were quite kind, fortunately.  Talking w/ me completely in French has got to be pretty painful.  But they hung in there for quite a while.  And they did ask basic questions – fortunately. 

At the end, they amazingly enough said that I was an elementary student – as opposed to a beginner – but that I was weak in verb tenses and conjugating.  This was not news to me.  The last time I felt this dense and impenetrable was when I took a test on Chinese tones, masked w/ increasing background noise, for a friend’s research project.  It was years ago but memorably painful.  So now I hope to get paired w/ a French speaker who’d like to spend some time w/ me, and we’ll take turns speaking in the two languages.  I have decided not to take language classes through this organization but through another.  So….. malheureusement (unfortunately) I must go take another level placement test tomorrow afternoon.  I am rather curious to see if it’s a similar experience.