An American Girl in Paris

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Location: Texas, United States

Overflowing. Christ-follower. Adoring wife. Mother. Francophile. Lover of languages. Aspiring chef. Wanderluster. Dabbler. Communicator. Free spirited, but powerfully attached.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Swan Song

The past several weeks in Paris have been hilarious, romantic, illuminating and introspective, and it’s difficult for me to believe they’ve come to an end. Day after tomorrow, I’ll wake up in my own bed. I won’t walk out the door and find a fruit stand proffering the crispest apples I’ve ever tasted. I won’t look up on my way to school and see the Eiffel Tower peeking out over the tops of apartments spilling over with bright geraniums. And at the end of the day, I won’t settle in under a down comforter with the night air breezing through my open balcony doors.

Even though I’ve come to love many of the things I’m leaving behind—the smell of freshly baked bread wafting around each corner, the perfect Parisian weather (it's 70 degrees, sunny and beautiful right now), even the insanity of the metro—I am leaving here knowing so much more about myself than I did when I arrived six weeks ago.

For starters, I discovered that I can go at least six weeks without a cell phone or a car. I did buy a phone card to call my family about once a week, but besides that, I really did not miss using the phone at all. I’ve never been a huge “phone person,” but it took me living in one of the world’s largest cities to realize how nice it is to be relatively unplugged. And the day South Texas figures out how to build a metro in all of that lovely limestone and granite is the day I’m selling my car. Who needs it?

I’ve also learned it’s tough for me to go three days without the Internet. Sad, but true. I think I need counseling…

I’ve come to realize how utterly dependent I am on my loved ones. That may not surprise you, but it shocked me. I had always considered myself pretty independent. I generally don’t care what other people think about me as long as I’m walking with the Lord (an attitude which can and has gotten me in trouble before). I kinda fancied myself a modern bohemian… You know, the roving journalist, doesn’t need anyone or anything but her laptop. But being 5000 miles away from home in a city where no one hugs each other has made me realize how my parents’ voices calm me like no other, how no one can make me laugh like my brothers can, and how there’s no replacement for time spent with good friends.

On that note, I’ve told you how grateful I am to know solid Christians that I can be in fellowship with, and how painful the absence of that fellowship has been in Paris. At the same time I’ve become all the more aware of how profoundly rejuvenating true fellowship with the Lord is. Praise Him!

I know now that drinking doesn’t thrill me the way it does many of my peers. In saying that I don’t mean to sound pretentious… My point is that it surprised me to discover that. The legal drinking age in France is 16, and I think the majority of my classmates took full advantage of the newfound freedom. I turn 21 in less than a week, and it’s nice to know that I’m not in danger of losing control of myself. I enjoy a glass of wine with friends (Katie and Anna!), a mojito on a Friday night, or even a couple of Coronas watching the game, but I can definitely say I do NOT drink to get drunk. Phew.

I don’t want a tattoo. I had toyed with the idea in the past… I mean, wouldn’t it be cute to get a little bird right on my hip? Answer is: nope. A bunch of the girls I studied with went out one night and got tattoos, and I couldn’t help but think of the Jimmy Buffet song “A Permanent Reminder of a Temporary Feeling.” I don’t have anything against tattoos, but now I know they’re not for me. I like just being Kate… no tattoos, no highlights, nothing altered… just painted toenails and one piercing in each ear.

I like being low-maintenance. I started timing my showers because I didn’t want to use up my host family’s hot water first thing in the morning. Without me even TRYING to be quick, my showers average seven minutes. Who knew? I also began to like letting my hair air-dry (thanks to my blowdryer not working here) and wearing very little makeup (concealer and mascara are my only “must haves”). I like fashion as a science—you know, studying what works, what doesn’t, and why—but I don’t feel compelled to buy every shoe in every shoe store or wear things that aren’t comfortable or just don’t make sense.

For all that low-maintenance talk, I learned that I can definitely be crazy self-conscious about the way I look. Not in the sense of having a bad hair day or anything… But I got three mosquito bites on my face during the past six weeks (the downside of sleeping with your balcony doors open), and it just about killed me to walk around knowing that people thought I was broken out. Oh, the vanity.

Some minor discoveries/ resolutions:

I want to make frequent small grocery trips. Everything is so FRESH here, and people buy new bread every single day. To do otherwise would be unheard of, and I really like that concept. I’ve always hated finding nasty old food in the fridge, but to always have a fresh baguette on hand? Brilliant.

The French have converted me: I, too, love yogurt. I’m probably going to eat it every day.

I have a skin allergy to nickel. It took wearing a Wal-Mart watch for two weeks here to figure that one out.

I want to start leaving the butter out of the fridge for hours at a time. My family in San Antonio has always refrigerated the butter at all times (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but the French generally leave the butter out in case they decide they want some bread and butter. Of COURSE, I love that philosophy, and I discovered that Katie and Anna’s families also leave the butter out. Why not?

I would love to keep fresh flowers in my apartment, even if no one else is there to enjoy them but me. I mean, what an endorphin-booster!!!

I write too much.

And finally, though I thought that this sojourn would help still my restless spirit, in many ways I feel even more restless than before. I’m thirstier than ever for adventure, for seeing new places and immersing myself in new cultures. I’d like to go far beyond Europe… I want to see India and Africa. Come to think of it, I haven’t even seen Chicago. Maybe I’ll try to conquer the domestic front and then tackle the jungles on the other side of the planet. I want now more than EVER to see the world.

But I realize too how nice it will be to see Mom, Dad, Matt and Brett and be a little low-key for a few days. They’re the greatest, and I love them!

And then a week from today, it’s off to my next destination. I get to spend a good part of the rest of the summer traveling as a writer for a magazine, so hopefully I’ll chalk up one or two more fabulous (if not exotic) locales on the “places I’ve been” list.

Thank you for reading. It’s been such a pleasure.



Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Oh No—UNO!

So… remember last week when I wrote about a man that jumped onto the tracks in the metro? Well, this morning it was a dog, which (and I hope this isn’t a terrible thing to say) in some ways seemed more heartwrenching than when the man jumped.

Worst of all, he was a Wire Fox Terrier, the same kind as Uno, my nephew dog (the dog jointly owned by my brother Matt and his awesome gf Steph). He had been on the same train as me before the incident too, and I took a bunch of secret pictures to show Steph! I was super excited when both the dog, his owner, and I got off the train at the same time to switch lines.

(I'm sorry the quality of the photos is so poor; I turned the flash off so as to be less creepy, and the trains shake a little bit.)

Here's fake Uno taking a nap under a seat in the metro.

Here's fake Uno waking up from his nap. Almost time to get off the train!

Fake Uno caught me looking at him and gave me a big smile. Awww!

We were walking together to the platform for Line 9 and I was getting ready to tell the woman how much I loved her dog, blah blah blah (like I do to the owner of every Westie I see), and just like that, the leash was out of her hands and the pup was in the voie, the pit where the trains run.

The woman panicked and ran to press the emergency button, stopping all the trains on that line. I stuck around for a few minutes, the metro security people showed up, and at that point I knew I was going to be late to school if I didn’t take another metro line.

In hindsight, I can’t believe I didn’t get pictures of the Uno in the voie. It really was the most pathetic thing you’ve ever seen.

I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to bring dogs into the metro anyway.

It's 4:00 (in Paris). Do you know where YOUR Uno is?

Lemme know,


I see London, I see… ?

Last night, with only four days left in Paris, I witnessed something so terrible that it made me want to get on a plane and leave right away.

I saw my host “dad” naked.

Let me start by saying that IT WAS NOT MY FAULT. As I blogged about earlier, my host family was SUPPOSED to be at one of their country homes. I know now that Guillaume, my host dad, left work too late and they weren’t able to leave till this morning.

So ANYWAY, I thought it was just me and Eug at the house, and she was in the shower. I had left my grammar book on the kitchen table, so I went downstairs to retrieve it. I heard the TV on in the next room, and I thought I must have accidentally left it on after watching “Superman” in French earlier (it was really something, let me tell ya), so I continued into the next room to turn it off.

It took me a second after I entered the room to realize that Guillaume was sitting NAKED on the couch, watching TV.

Of course, I freaked out and just screamed “Désolée! Désolée!” (Sorry) and averted my eyes.

Guillaume, meanwhile, didn’t move a muscle. He just said casually, “Ce n’est pas grave.” (It’s no big deal.)

My thoughts: Ummm…
a) Why are you still here?
b) Why are you naked?
c) Why are you—Omigah, you’re sitting on the couch?!

By the way, I am NOT going to sit on that couch EVER again.

Weirded out,


Monday, July 10, 2006

Cher "Anonymous,"

Your opinions are not welcome on my blog. I didn't ask for your advice, nor was I pleased to receive it. The things I post here are based on my educational and cultural experiences, and I have chosen to share them with friends and family. NOT with you.

I'm sure you're very knowledgeable about France, its language and its people. Clearly, since you feel you have something to teach, why not enter the classroom and do something constructive rather than picking on novices?

Best regards,


Sunday, July 09, 2006

Changing the subject...

A few of my classmates went to the "Pirates of the Caribbean 2" grand premier last Thursday in Paris. I chose not to go since I was waking up early the next day to go to the country. However, judging by the amazing photos they took, I prolly should have gone.


Look at how close they got to Johnny Depp!!!

And Orlando Bloom!!!

LOOK! That's my friend Jen right in front of Johnny Depp! THAT'S HOW CLOSE THEY WERE!

They also took a ton of pictures of Johnny Depp's woman, Vanessa Paradis, but she's freakishly skinny and I don't like looking at those disturbing pictures, so I won't post them. ha.




Well, that was a very, very depressing ending to an otherwise well played season.

Zidane, why you gots ta FIGHT like that?!

You cannot even imagine the collective sadness that has befallen France.

For the hatas: I don't want to hear it. My heart is grieved, but it's still with Les Bleus.



P.S. "Merde" is not a bad word like it would be in the U.S. Everyone says it, including my uber-religious host family. It's like saying "crap." You know me, I'm no foul-mouth.

I like life. OKAY???

Today has been one of my greatest Parisian days ever, and it’s not even 2 p.m. yet! I’ll start from the beginning…

I had the most wonderful wake up. At 8:30, my eyes just popped open and I was ready to go! Not the least bit drowsy, not hot, with sun streaming in from my balcony… It was perfect.

I walked downstairs to prepare my breakfast, and I had a lovely conversation with my host mother. She told me about this fabulous open-air market that would be going on just down the street today, and then she invited me to eat the Sunday meal with the family. Sunday is ALWAYS the fanciest, tastiest meal of the week, but my usual designated meal days are Tuesday and Thursday, so this will be a lot of fun. They have wine, appetizers, a great salad and a huge chunk of meat, then bread and cheese and dessert and coffee.

THEN she tells me that the whole family (except Eugenie, who’s my age and works each day at the supermarket) is going to one of their country houses (yes, they have two country houses) from Monday through Thursday. As wonderful as my French family is, that was music to my ears. As I’ve mentioned before, it can be a little exhausting to always have to be “on;” speaking and hearing French at school, at the store, and at home, my only respite when I need one is when I take walks or play with my American friends. I LOVE speaking French, but it wears me out some of the time.

So YAY, house basically to myself! And Eugenie and I get along famously, so it’ll be great. She wants to go to the pool with me to lay out, and I’m definitely game! My Buschhorn*-swimming-pool-induced tan had just about disappeared.

And the day just kept getting better. I set out for the Scots Kirk Paris, this English-speaking Protestant church that I had tried to visit with Michelle two weeks ago but ended up missing on account of a huge rainstorm. Then last weekend I was in Dublin… but THIS weekend, Katie Ramsey and I got to experience what I’m sure is one of the most VIBRANT churches in Paris! It was perfect, and I didn’t want to leave. It was so small—I counted 26 people in attendance—but it was enormously friendly and warm. It occurred to me that even in a church of that small size, it contained each element that I believe a church should have: discipleship, missions, outreach, praise, worship, solid teaching, accountability… and everyone was SO GENUINE!!! Katie and I stuck around for “tea and biscuits” afterward, and we were greeted with the greatest warmth, it was astounding. I WISH WISH WISH that I had discovered this place my first Sunday here, and I guarantee you that the next time I am in Paris, I will visit that church again.

And they didn’t do the “stand if you’re visiting” routine; instead, the pastor simply said:

“I can see this week that we have some new faces. It always encourages us to have visitors from Paris and around the world because that adds a deeper dimension to the fellowship of our congregation. Please, when you return to your home churches, assure them that the Body of Christ is alive in Paris.”

Before I visited the Scots Kirk I had my doubts as to the truth of that last statement, as I’ve written about before, but praise the Lord I’ve been proven wrong.

Katie and I made plans to visit a couple of museums during the week and parted ways. As soon as I got home, my host mother and I tackled the market she had told me about. It was amazing. I did the last of my souvenir shopping, and that’s where my host mother and I split; she wanted to go to the fish market (eww), and I wanted to take advantage of the street vendors’ fabulous wares.

And here is the best part: For the first time since I’ve been in Paris, I bought an entire baguette, fresh and warm, straight from the oven. Now, these things are HUGE, and everyday you see the Frenchiest women carrying baguettes tucked under their arms, circle skirts rippling in the breeze, little dogs faithfully marching by their sides.

And minus the little dog marching by my side (I do miss Jackson), I WAS ONE OF THOSE WOMEN. How COOL is that?

I have only five days left in Paris, and I have been thinking about how to make the biggest “Frenchified” impact for when I get off the plane and return to Texas. You know, ideally I’d be wearing a French outfit, have a new French ‘do, be riding a little bicycle with flowers in the basket, and be holding a baguette under my arm. (Haha.) Now, even if none of the other things happen, at least I know it’s possible for me to sport the baguette…

Tonight France faces Italy in the World Cup showdown. Believe it or not, I’m staying home to watch the game on TV with my family. I have friends who got bruised and tear-gassed when they went to the Champs Elysees after France’s win against Portugal, and I definitely want to play it safe. (And save some money. Going out is EXPENSIVE!!!)

That said, if the French WIN tonight, this will go down in history as the most perfect French day ever. They’ve got their work cut out for them against the Azzurri; odds-makers have listed Italy as a narrow 2.71 favorite to win the final game, with France’s odds sitting just lower at 2.97.

Either way, I am officially a fan of France. And isn’t Zinedine Zidane, the god of French football, incredibly good-looking?

Answer is: yes.

Okay, Allez les Bleus, and praise the Lord for a great day!



*For those of you who don’t know, the Buschhorns are the people that I babysit for in Austin. You’d have to not know me very well not to know that though, cuz I’m told that I talk about them alllll the time…

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Bulb Hunter

This one is not a Paris blog post, but...

Let it be known that I know the COOLEST people. All of them are pretty awesome, but today the Awesome Award goes to Brad Gaultney for getting his business, Southern Bulb Company ( in The NEW YORK TIMES!!!

Read the article, you'll love it. The story is so romantic and inspiring, and the people are passionate about what they're doing. (Copy and Paste):



P.S. You can buy bulbs on the Web site, and you definitely should. The Southern Bulb folks are good people.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


"We" are SOOOO awesome!!! France 1, Portugal 0. Next up on our hitlist: Italy. Sunday. They're goin' DOWN.

I can already tell I'm not going to get any sleep tonight because of the insanity happening right outside the apartment. Ever heard a bajillion horns honking at one time? I have.

Allez Allez Allez!!!


P.S. I posted three entries below this one today. Like Jared said, my posts follow the same pattern as Texas weather: nothing, nothing, nothing, FLOOD. Enjoy. :-)

Commercial Commandos

Let me tell you a little story. In 2003, a group of anti-advertising vigilantes infiltrated metro stations all over France, and in the course of a summer managed to deface or destroy nearly all of the advertisements (publicités) in all of the stations. Not just in Paris, either.

These groups became a national phenomenon, springing up in Lyon, Lille, Marseilles, and other large centers of commerce. They asserted that ads “rape” the public and assault our sensibilities. They were systematically executing very specific stabs at one of capitalism’s most vital organs, it’s ability to reach consumers through advertisement.

The whole effort was a bit Fight Club-esque, but finally, their Tyler Durden was captured and imprisoned for the millions of euros in damage his activism had spawned. Within the past week, his case entered the courtroom, and with it began a resurgence of anti-advertisement vandalism in the metro.

TODAY I bore witness to a small part of the activism:

That translates to: "You have the right not to be subjected to ads."

Pretty tame, but it was a little cool to finally see some of the fruits of their labor. Before today, it had been something I had heard about, but not seen firsthand.

Mortality in the Metro

I’ve already told you about what a circus the metro is, but in a lot of ways, I love it. It’s crazy, sometimes crowded, sometimes WAY too hot, but it’s probably one of the most interesting places to observe French culture and people. It enthralls me.

However, today on my way to meet a friend after school, I saw a man try to kill himself by jumping onto the rails where the trains run. That experience was sobering and terrifying, and it took place literally RIGHT outside my window.

The train stopped at the Motte Piquet Grenelle metro station to let people off and pick up new passengers, as usual. But on the other side of the tracks, a man was dangling his legs over the edge. These areas are CLEARLY marked, and there are bumpy tiles on the ground that mark where people are not supposed to cross (about two feet from the edge). So this fella was obviously doing something wrong.

All of a sudden, we heard the sound of a train coming. My first thought was, “Oh My Lord, I’m about to see this man lose his legs,” but then, in a flash, he jumped into the pit.


Miraculously, the sound we had all heard was simply that of a train passing overhead. The largest metro stations have multiple levels, and they echo.

Still, I felt like I was about to throw up. That was the most frightening thing! Security guards pulled him out, all trains on the line were stalled for about 20 minutes, and the man wet his pants and started crying.

The trains are… maybe 500 feet long each, and I was sitting at the window where all of the “action” was taking place. I hope that doesn’t sound crass. The woman sitting next to me remarked that I “had the best seat in the house.”

Lucky me?


Monday, July 03, 2006

Un Mélange...

I have included a link below where you can view some of my photos. Most of them are from Dublin, but there are several at the beginning of the album that I took while Michelle was in Paris. She has all of the good pics from our time together, but for some reason she hasn't sent them to me yet.


Ireland, etc. (Copy and Paste the URL):

Top of the mornin' to ya!

I'd say it's high time I told you about the entire Dublin experience. Unfortunately, I don't have a TON of time to write; Katie, Anna and I are about to return to the marché aux puces (flea market) for the last time. Nevertheless, I'll write until they make me leave...

We arrived in Dublin late Thursday evening and determined that we would stay in the airport till morning since no cabs or buses were running. We felt soooo scandalous, and we literally hid in this little wooden cubicle for hours until an Irish policeman found us. HA! There's a little more to that story, but basically we discovered that it is PERFECTLY legal to stay in an airport overnight, but not in the wooden cubicles. Those are "privileged areas." I think between the three of us we got about an hour of sleep that first night, and it goes without saying that the next morning, the site-seeing was less riveting than it may have been had we gone to a hostel.

However, we made some interesting discoveries at the airport, the most important of which is that Irish McDonald's have oatmeal (much to Katie Ramsey's delight).

We arrived at the hostel around 7:00 a.m. Friday morning only to hear that we weren't allowed to enter the rooms until 2:00 p.m. We wandered around for a few hours and looked at monuments and poked our heads into some souvenir shops. It was SO WEIRD to be able to speak English with everyone; I felt a little guilty for not speaking French! I'm not going to lie, at first I was disappointed not to be able to employ my new skills, and it was interesting to find out how many lingual habits have gotten ingrained in me over the past several weeks. I kept saying "merci," "bonjour," and "pardon" to store clerks and pedestrians, completely by accident.

Also, I began to realize that France has taken a toll on my feet. Even though the flats that I wear are great for getting around, I really believe they have begun to do significant damage to my feet since I have such a high arch. I was trying not to wimp out, but after a few hours I was in unspeakable pain and could not walk without feeling like I was going to cry. We stopped to see a movie ("Thank You For Smoking" -- really Irish, right?), which I loved, and when I took my shoes off, my baby toe on my left foot rivaled the size of my big toe. I'm a freak. No, but seriously, something is wrong, and I felt really bad for being the Super-Gimp of the group.

After the movie we returned to the hostel, showered for the first time in what felt like days, and SLEPT. We decided to go get some traditional fish and chips, and right after we left I decided to puke my guts out in the bathroom of a Burger King for about a bajillion years. Of the three of us girls, I was DEFINITELY the excess baggage, but Anna admitted that she had been feeling a little mooky too, so we decided to go back to the hostel for a little bit. I felt DISGUSTING, not to mention incredibly guilty for spoiling all the fun. It was not the greatest of times. I cleaned up and vegged out in front of the TV (we watched Italy win a football match), then the three of us tried to go out dancing. Unfortunately, we got started too late and we couldn't find any good clubs, and we ended up sharing a pint of Ben and Jerry's and sitting by the river. A little bit of a downer, but I think we were all still tired, so that was the end of day one.

Day TWO was extraordinary. My feet still weren't in great shape, but I was more attentive of them so it was bearable. The non-residential area of Dublin is quite small, so we walked EVERYWHERE we needed to go, which was nice on the pocketbook. We toured the entire historical district, saw the Guinness factory, shopped for souvenirs, and saw a really cool museum that had a ton of ancient religious manuscripts (many of you know about my obsession with old books, so of course that was HEAVEN for me). LOVED that.

Then it was on to find a traditional Irish pub to watch the France v. Brésil game. We left early because we knew how those places fill up quickly, but the England v. Portugal match was in overtime, so we decided to eat a traditional Irish meal at a semi-nice restaurant while we waited for the game to end. I got potato soup and this really gourmet goat cheese tart. It was tasty, but of course I was all decked out in my pro-France attire, and a huge group of guys wearing Brazil jerseys and black curly wigs came in and were being unruly. We decided to see if the bar was free downstairs at that point.

It was free indeed, and the girls and I managed to snag the best seats in the house, RIGHT in front of the TV. I'm pretty sure we were the ONLY France fans in the ENTIRE place, so everyone was giving us a hard time. It didn't matter in the end, because France WON the match, 1 - 0!!! The girls and I made some new friends during the game, and we were all thrilled at first because we thought they were Irish, but as it turned out they were from Indiana and Ohio, and they attend Ohio State. Ha! Of course we would attract the attention of the only American guys in the pub.

After the game we all hung out on this big public square and people-watched. It's funny, because in Paris no one gets dressed up to go out (you'd think they would), and in Dublin everyone gets dressed to the nines. All the women were wearing these INSANE (read: really ugly) outfits, like neon orange mini-overalls and SUPER high-heeled pumps. I kid you not, I saw women wearing heels that were longer (taller) than their skirts. BIZARRE. Anyway, the girls and I had the most fun EVER. Vive la France!!!

The next day was a little low-key since we had to check out of the hostel by 11 a.m. It was raining when we woke up, and we trekked all the way across town to visit an observation tower, but it was closed. BOO. We ended up doing a little more souvenir shopping, eating lunch, and heading back to the airport. We returned to Paris around 8:00 p.m., and I have to admit, I was feeling pretty lazy with my French. By the end of the trip, I was definitely getting used to being able to talk in English again. Sighhh...

Overall, very fun, very easy trip. I wish I hadn't gotten sick (or gimpy), but that really didn't stop us from having a great time. Anna and Katie are SUCH a blast, and I'm lucky to have happened upon two such kindred spirits thousands of miles away from home!



P.S. I have a whole bunch of pictures to upload, but I'm at school and we're not allowed to do that here. Hopefully the computer at the apartment will be available when I get home later this evening.