One of my postings on the other computer was out o…

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One of my postings on the other computer was out of sequence, so I am posting last night’s writings now. If you want to read Ch. 31, see the previous entry:

Ch. 32 – A New Year

Card from Pablo: (Picture of chimpanzee) Even though I can’t be there at midnight this New Year’s Eve…

(Picture of chimpanzee, puckering up) …Consider yourself kissed! Happy New Year!

How about that? Kiss me now!

Love,

Pablo

Postcard to Tim and Rita (Picture of the Houses of Parliament in London): Hi! Thanks for the phone call on Christmas – it really made my day! I loved London. We even had tickets to a play (Cats), and we were right close to the stage. It was great. Right now, we are in Paris and I’m playing translator for Mom and William. Mostly, we’ve been eating a lot – and sightseeing. I’ll write a longer letter when we get back to Angers.

Love,

Claudine

Mother and William returned with me to Angers, and I was able to retire to my own room – they shared one at a little hotel between the dorm and my school. They had a great time walking down to the boulangerie, charcuterie, and small grocers to buy little picnic meals to eat in the hotel room. I believe that they even took pictures of their food – they like doing stuff like that.

The downside was that it was still frigidly cold outside, and had even snowed. Our side trips, for the most part, had to be cancelled. We didn’t rent a car, because we were unsure about driving in those conditions. Even the French were having trouble – there were a lot of fender benders happening on the streets of Angers. We managed to bundle up and visit the chateau – I finally got to see the famous tapestries. We also took a train to Saumur and visited the chateau there.

I had a good time introducing my mother to my friends – she was feeling better, and was actually a pretty cool mom to introduce to people. I believe that Andrew’s note of regret was referring to overzealous inquiries he had made as to the exact nature of the relationship between my mother and William. He was such a nerd – when Elaine’s parents visited, he followed them around, trying to get their views on the coal miner’s strike in England.

We even managed to have a little King’s Cake party in our room – it was during the day, so we didn’t get in trouble with the neighbors. We had a great time – it was just the guys and us – and maybe Keesha and Trisha and Carol. Elaine was not yet back from vacation, so she didn’t get to meet my mother. On January 12th, Mom and Williams returned to Paris to board a plane to take them back to Louisiana. I had already begun classes, and had nothing to look forward to except for exams and my report card.

And there was still snow on the ground. This was a new thing to me – walking to school in the snow. Running errands in the snow. I had only experienced snow for short periods of time, and was always able to go immediately inside and warm up. Now, I was being forced to walk on cold, icy streets, where the danger of slipping and breaking my tailbone was always a danger. Let me just say that, the first time you fall on your ass, it’s funny. After that, it’s just a nuisance.

Another card from Pablo (Smaltzy Hallmark card with poem):

Dear Claudine:

Before I write something else, I want to tell you I’m sorry for not answering your letter quickly enough. I had started, but I do not like it and start all over again. But, the reality of everything is that I think about you all the time – even when I’m sleeping.

Good news: starting the first of February I will be moving to a new place. I’m moving in with one of the assistant managers of El Torito. His name is Jim. He is a super guy. I like where we are going to live – a townhouse with a fireplace, nice bedroom. However, during the coolest weather of the winter, I will be alone (me and my fireplace). Perhaps when you come back – even though it will be summer – I will make a fire in the fireplace!

I’m in the best of moods – I feel great. School starts next week. I will probably take not many courses. I need to buy many of my things for my bedroom.

Well, I’m so impolite! How is my favorite lady doing? Are you speaking French like a Parisian? (French speaker) I do not know if I spelled that right!

I saw this card and thought that it was perfect for us. Do not you agree with this? Circle your answer: Yes or No. If it is “yes” you get a trip to Nicaragua. If it is “no” you still get a trip to Nicaragua. (cont. inside)

I’m writing you sitting in my bed – that is why it’s so sloppy. Claudine, I like to ask you for a big favor. Please, por favor, do not show this and any other letters of mine to anyone but yourself. It is such bad spelling that I feel bad enough having you read it. Okay? It’s a deal. Let’s secure this deal with a kiss (drawing of lips) mmmm, hum hum that was good. May I kiss you again?

This weekend I will be going to New Orleans. I will be picking up Chico. I may go to Pat O’Brien’s and have a beer (cerveza) around 4:00 AM, just like we did once. How did your mother enjoy her trip? I’m sure it was wonderful.

Well, Claudine, amore, I do not want you coming back speaking English to me. I don’t care if we have problems communicating. However, I will do my best understanding your French. Okay, so study hard, practice a lot and think that the countdown is less than six months.

Be good, girl, look our for the French guys – they work fast. Your always friend, and, more than that.

Your bartender,

Pablo

P.S. – I miss you. Pablo

Invitation from France-Etats-Unis: Soiree Galette des Rois

After the success of the Thanksgiving Day soiree, held at the Centre de Congres, The Angers Committee of the Association France-Etats-Unis will bring together again the friends, members, sympathizers (American or French) dedicated to developing ties between the United States and France, to a friendly party.

This soiree is organized around the holiday of Epiphany, which commorates the arrival of the three kings at the birthplace of Jesus. This is a typically French celebration – we will begin with a cold buffet accompanied by the wine of Anjou, and we will finish with a galette des Rois. After dinner, guests will be able to dance to music from America and from France.

The celebration will be held at the Salons Welcome-Curnonsky, on Friday, January 18 at 19h30. The cost will be 35 francs for children and student members, 50 francs for association members and students, and 70 francs for friends.

The tradition of the King’s Cake was not unknown to people from Louisiana, who celebrate from Epiphany to Lent, but the cake is very different. In Louisiana, the cake was really just a glorified brioche dough, iced and sprinkled with the colors of Mardi Gras: purple, yellow, and green. It was sort of like a big cinnamon roll. They also made versions with fruit filling, that were sort of like coffee cakes. Inside the braided dough was a plastic baby. Whoever got the slice with the baby was the king (or queen) for the night, and got to wear the crown that came with the cake.

In France, the cake was made of two layers of puff pastry, with a layer of almond paste (called frangipani) inside. It was really good! It also had a much nice token to secrete inside the cake – it was a ceramic figure called a santon – I believe that they were figures that could be added to a creche – or manger scene. The game was played wherein someone was positioned out of sight (we made them sit under the table.) and, as the cake was sliced, that person would name who would get each slice. This was actually quite wise, because it was often possible to see a part of the santon if it was on the edge of the slice.

We had a great time at the party, and even managed to dance the night away. The people of France-Etats-Unis were very good to us. We drank and ate a lot, and managed to get back to the dorm on the icy roads without hurting ourselves.

Ch. 33 – Back to the Grind

While I was living in Angers, I tried my best to keep a diary. I was more faithful at some times than others. I had so many letters to write that I had to choose to do that at times. I became re-inspired by reading a quirky book from England, called The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, aged 13 1/2. It was so funny, and I became really attracted to that style of writing. I had been sporadically writing in a journal since I was in elementary school. I got off track, with my travels with Mother, and then the focus on exams.

Starting off again on yet another foot at the end of January, I decided to write about everyday life, and to just let the big topics flow – whatever that meant. I think that it meant that i was going to try and write, even when I didn’t think anything exciting was happening in my life. School was still awful – I think that most of the members of my Louisiana group would have backed me up on that opinion. I had missed a couple of classes, and had to take make up tests. I took a make up test in Expression Ecrite (that would be Written Expression), and managed to make a 21 1/2 out of 25 in Business French. And final exams for the semester had not even started.

The French have a very different system of grading than we do in the United States. I had even heard that grades were not even given in secondary school, but I was pretty sure that there had to be some system that let students know how they were doing before end of the year exams. Many grades were given on a scale of 20 or 25, but you could not simply multiply by 5 or 4 to get an average. It was more complicated than that. That is why they were required to add an American grade – off to the side. I made mainly B’s and C’s.

We had all returned from our various destinations. It seemed like things were cooling off a bit between Chuck and Carol. He was being a bit of a jerk to Carol, and I didn’t know how much more she was going to put up with. That was the thing about making the decision to do something as drastic as traveling to a foreign country together.

In the meantime, Alan still was infatuated with Elaine. Elaine, however, had been back home, and had a chance to reconnect with James, her boyfriend from the University of Wales. Nora was getting on Elaine’s nerves – they were spending too much time together. Nora also did not like Alan because he was too opinionated. Trisha was still catering to Didier, even though they had decided to cool it – he obviously was feeling some pangs of guilt about his other Louisiana girlfriend. Nathalie was sick with the stomach flu, so we were avoiding her. The health craze was going strong, and we were spending more time in the gym to work off our holiday pounds.

At the end of January, I had another call from Pablo. We must have talked for 40 to 50 minutes – I didn’t know how he was going to pay that phone bill! We talked about a lot of things, but there were times that I felt like he wanted me to say something, and I wasn’t saying what he wanted to hear. I didn’t think it was fair of me to encourage him by long distance because I didn’t really know what our relationship would be when I got back home.

He said that he hadn’t dated anyone since I left for France, but he did own up to taking Kris, the Bennigan’s waitress, out for drinks. I acted casual, and said that I hoped that he had a nice time with her. He assured me that they could be nothing but friends. I felt a lot better – at least I had someone, even if he wasn’t in the region. From what I could see from my friends’ present relationships and those complications, I felt like I was the lucky one.

Maybe we were suffering from some form of cabin fever – there was still snow on the ground. Our teachers, who had lived in Angers for years, assured us that this was atypical weather. Generally, it didn’t snow for more than 2 or 3 days in that area of France, and the snow rarely stuck. Ice on the streets for such a long time was unheard of, and the city had long run out of their alotment of sand and de-icing agents for the roadways. It was a state of emergency, and yet we were expected to attend classes – which were a 30 minute walk away. I actually went on strike for a while – if I looked out of my dorm room window and saw ice and snow on the street below, I just rolled over and went back to sleep.

We did attempt to make the best of things – we had the necessary snowball fights (I forgot to wear mittens, and almost got frostbite), and we even made a snowman or two. We found an ice-skating rink and tried our hand at that. I had never been ice-skating before, but found it simpler than I expected. I suppose that it was due to all of those years of roller skating. I was surprised that I could balance on those thin blades as easily as I could on four corners of wheels (there were no roller blades then). I laughed and pointed at Alan and Chuck as they became too ambitious and floundered about the rink, yelling and cursing and sliding into each other. They finally got fed up with my upright, dignified state and chased me around until they could make me fall. I should have known this would happen – they had already tried to push me off the short flight of stairs on their floor when I had been roller skating in their hall. They were such boys.

The thing that was keeping me going was the promise of yet another vacation – we had another week off at the beginning of February. We had to hand it to the French, they sure had a lot of holidays. I was determined to go to Spain. At that time, I was not very confident with traveling solo, so I had to try and find travel companions. Sandy was the first to step up – and she was actually a Spanish major. I was so excited – for one whole week, I wouldn’t have to think of what to say in another language. I was going to leave it up to her.

At first, Chuck expressed interest. I was very excited – I really didn’t know Sandy very well, and I didn’t know what it was going to be like to travel with her. Then, Chuck invited Carol along – apparently their off-again, on-again relationship was on, again. Then, Carol told us that Chuck was thinking of going to Amsterdam with two other girls from our group. I focused my attention on Carol, then, trying to get her to commit. In the end, Carol’s dad was going to visit Brussels on business, so she and Trisha were going there to meet him. Sandy and I were on our own.

I made a phone call to my sister and Chad, and talked with them for a while. I had bought Chad a wool cap made with the family plaid, and Elaine said that he wore it all the time. Mom misplaced the tie that she bought for him, and gave him a scarf instead that matched the cap. That meant that Elaine was short one gift. I vowed to get them a really nice wedding gift – the dollar was very strong and I had my eyes on a bottle of Dom Perignon for them to toast the wedding.

I got a “care package” from Emily that month – it was such a surprise! She sent a daily zodiac calendar. I was a great fan of astrology, and had already devoured the Cosmopolitan magazine Yearly Bedside Astrologer that I had purchased in London (it was worth the $7.00). Now, I had a personalized horoscope for each day! She sent two Harlequin romances, which I devoured in a week and passed along to the other girls in our group. She even taped the yearly top 40 with Casey Kasem and sent it to me on a cassette. It had all of my favorite songs, and even some new songs by this singer named Madonna that Emily was wild about. I was so happy to have new music – Chuck had threatened to throw my Big Chill soundtrack out of the window if I played it again.

So, we whiled away the days, waiting for vacation time. Sandy and I purchased tickets, and I read up on Spain in my trusty Let’s Go guide. I spent time with Alan, and he annoyed my next-door neighbor with his loud laughter. He was trying to get over his crush on Elaine, who had received a letter and mix tape from James, her other love interest. In the meantime, Carol found out that she got the job she applied for to be a nanny in the Vosges mountains for the summer time. There was never a dull moment in our group.

On the day before we were supposed to leave for Spain, I took my last final exams, and Sandy and I went to the CLOUS office to purchase our tickets for Spain. I had to borrow about 3000 francs from Sandy, since my latest check from home had not arrived yet. Friday night, we had a little party in our suite. It was on the level, because “Jeanne Emarre,” my upstairs neighbor, had gone home. We had a pretty good number of people there. The usuals were there, plus two students from Northern Arizona joined us because they came looking for Keesha, who AWOL. Keesha was supposed to go with them to Italy, if she could raise the money.

Chuck was indeed going to Amsterdam – with Mindy, Marla, and Miranda. They were going to try their hand at hitchhiking. Carol and Trisha were headed to Brussels – I think that Chuck had plans to join them later, after experiencing Amsterdam. Alan and Elaine were staying in Angers, but were planning a trip to Saumur on the weekend.

The party broke up fairly early, but Alan stayed around to talk. He was actually quite drunk, and he sat on my bed and we talked until 2:00 AM. Elaine stayed, but she mostly listened. As usual, Alan tried to turn the conversation to sex, so she had little to add on that subject. Alan got really deep in his insights, the drunker he got – he was so funny. With his new haircut, sitting at the foot of my bed, he looked like a little boy. I just sat there and joked around with him, wishing that he would realize that Elaine was not right for him – I was. (Of course, I was also right for Pablo… I was supposed to play the field that year!)

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