Category Archives: Daily Life

Buying Local = Tastes Better?

I would say that the majority of the time, buying local does taste better. It also has a lot less mileage, perhaps fewer chemicals, and/or less processing. Cool, I like that! And I normally am a huge supporter of local farms, farmers markets, and locally stocked stores (one of my favorite farms is Polyface Farm, fav. grocery store is C’ville Market, and of course the City Market, all in Charlottesville, Virginia).

But grocery shopping here in France can be somewhat depressing, especially when I’ve been mainly exposed to the hyper-marchés like Carrefour. Not to say that we don’t have hyper-markets in the US – we do and I’m pretty sure America invented those horrible things (aka Walmart, Kmart, Food Lion, Giant; even the names convey “We’re big and we like it!”) – but, when you arrive in France, you kind of expect to have grocery stores to go along with the stereotype of amazing French food. Right? No, wrong!

And what does “local” food consist of in my Carrefour? Fruit from Corsica. I love Corsica and, even though Corsica is on the other side of the country, that’s more local than the other stuff there. They had some delicious Corsican clementines last fall and now they are offering an abundance of grapefruit. I’ll take a few of those, thanks!

I’ve now eaten two Corsican grapefruits and feel even more depressed. They are not very juicy and they hurt my stomach a bit. I have previously bought Florida grapefruit from the Monoprix (where I hate to shop because: 1) it’s expensive, 2) it’s expensive, 3) their fresh foods selection is despicable). And the Florida grapefruit was WAYYYY better (go Florida citrus!).

You think that the Corsican grapefruit would be logically a bit better due to it’s shorter travel distance, compared to it’s Florida friend who probably has some sort of United Airlines Frequent Flyer Miles, and perhaps a shorter storage duration than the Florida grapefruit. But noooooo. The Florida grapefruit wins here. I like supporting the Florida citrus business, so I guess that’s alright. But I’d still much prefer to buy local!!

There is a local “farm” store around the corner but I’m afraid it is going to be extremely expensive. I’ll have to go check it out. But, until then, I’ll have to decide where I’m going to buy my fruit: money-hungry Monoprix or crusty Carrefour.

I’d love to know if you have any grocery store options that are any better than those two!

PS – I have been to the market in Wazemmes but I am not sure how “local” the produce is there. Does anyone know? I don’t know why but I have the feeling that the produce is bought from sellers and that the men who sell fruits and vegetables in the market are also sellers and not really farmers. I’d like to know if I am wrong though! I love it there and we try to go as often as possible but it’d be even better if it were locally sourced.




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What would you have done?

Sometimes I am shocked by people, in both a good and a bad way.

Two Tuesday afternoons ago, I met a group of international friends to go together to class, Sociétés et Réligions Aujourd’hui, which was that day being held at the mosque. When the 8 or 10 of us were gathered, we all took the metro, and got off at the station closest to the mosque. As we walked up the escalator and onto the street, my friends stopped in horror.

There, weaving between my friends, was a bulky bully, surrounded his five friends (which comprised of three cheering tracksuited boys, the classic skinny, a hyper commentator bouncing around all over the place, and a fake-bake bottle blond with some skin issues), ruthlessly beating on a gawky boy, who was desperately clutching his schoolbag, with blood pouring out of his mouth. It couldn’t have been any more stereotypical.

At first, I didn’t immediately see what was going on but, when I did, I swiftly pulled my friend Saori out of the way of the bully. We all just stood there for a moment, totally repulsed and in awe of what we were witnessing. Then, suddenly, as if we all had the same idea at the same moment, we started to plan how we could save the boy.

Although I wanted to help the boy so badly, I knew that a group of international students was not likely to stop a big French bully. I looked around, trying to find someone to ask for help, and saw a man lounging by the metro smoking his cigarette. “Monsieur, est-ce que…” “Non.” I hadn’t even finished my sentence and he was already shaking his head and taking another puff of his cigarette. Jerk. I looked around again. No one. I knew that no one passing by would do anything. Maybe if we all linked arms and surrounded the poor boy in a circle (yes, this is my fantasy of a 3rd grade anti-bully strategy)? But this looked impossible too. Each time the boy wiggled out of the grip of the bully and tried to run, the gang would run after him and re-corner him.

Just as I was about to give up, my friend Basia diligently walked up to the group and told the bully he had to stop. I felt so honored to have such a friend who was brave enough to stand up to a bully. The kid just laughed, made fun of her (adorable) accent, and her to her “Fuck off bitch, this is not your problem.” (The kid said it in French but I’m not going to write what he really said here… it’s too terrible.)

I gave up. There was nothing to do. I walked away.

At my high school, lunch wasn’t lunch without a fight. I’ve seen so many altercations, so many people get the shit get kicked out of them. I’ve seen a kid get their ribs broken, another kid get smashed on the head with a chair, a girl get hit by her boyfriend, I could go on but I’m sure you get the idea. It’s sad to say, but sometimes I’m not even phased when I see teenagers fighting. Of course, I am upset, angry, frustrated, confused, stupefied, but sometimes you just cannot do anything and it’s best to let them work things out. Basia didn’t feel that way; I am amazed by her courage and bravery.

I’m sad that I’m not phased. I’m sad that I did not have more power to react and intervene. Or maybe I was smart that I didn’t get in the middle and get punched by accident. Maybe, sometimes, it’s best to let people duke it out and find their own solution?

Finally, I saw our professor, who is very tall and authoritative-looking, come out of the metro. I ran back to the scene and all of us asked him to please stop the fight. The professor was slightly effective, although the bully tried to keep beating on the kid while the professor was talking to them. About three minutes later, the police came and things were settled. The bully and his friends ran off and the poor kid, with his mouth bleeding, was trying to convince the police that everything was fine. Ah, life.

What would you have done?


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___ make everything better

Yesterday was a difficult day. I learned that my granny is in the hospital and that my roommate situation has yet again changed for next year. Eck. But at least class was canceled that evening (which means 3 hours next Monday…?!?!) and I got to come home early.

All I wanted all day was a huge hug to make everything feel ok. HUGS FOREVER!

Here’s my list (just a few of many many things that make me feel great):

Hugs make everything better.
Tea makes everything better.
Blue skies and sun make everything better.
The smell of a loved ones perfume makes everything better.
Fluffy pillows and a cozy comforter make everything better.
A beautiful dinner (breakfast/lunch/any meal) makes everything better.
Warm sweaters and big socks make everything better.
A magazine with glossy photos makes everything better.
Your friends and family make everything better.
The beach makes everything better.

I could go on and on. But I’m sure you know exactly how I feel when I say that sometimes all you want is to cozy up, feel good with the things you love, and take a little me-time.

What makes things feel good for you? I’d love to know…maybe you’ll inspire me (please do!).


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Laughing in the face of death

Last night Olivier and I watched a television documentary which described a recent French research project which reconstructed the Milgram experiment. I was so thrilled to watch this documentary, I don’t get much sociological titillation here, and it was fun to revisit an experiment that American sociologists talk about so often.

The research, which was re-framed as a television game show, with the same number of participants as Milgram, chosen in the same manner, and told that they would be participating on a game show pilot test. In each “show” there was a “questioner” and a “subject” that would receive shocks. Of course, the “subject” was an actor, who pretended to be shocked out of his consciousness by the “questioner”. The “subject” was placed in a small chamber, away from the view of the “questioner,” and strapped into an electrical chair. The “subject” was then given a list of words – two words on each line, each set of words associated with one another – which the “subject” had to memorize in a span of 30 seconds (impossible), asked 30 questions to tell the “questioner” the correct pair of words, and, therefore, the “subject” obviously got each question wrong and received a shock – increasing in value with each question.

You can watch a clip of the show here (don’t worry if you don’t speak French, it’s pretty clear).

One result that was very interesting to find is that as the shock intensity increased, the “questioner” would laugh, in an attempt to externalize their nervousness and to reach the “subject” to let him know that the situation was supposed to be all “fun and games.” The laugh most commonly occurred around the “middle” shock amount and subsequently decreased as the shock (and the cries of the actor) became stronger.

This nervous laugh is extremely fascinating. Normally, the laugh is reserved to demonstrate joy, pleasure, amusement, but it has been reappropriated to express nervousness as well. The first logical explanation for this nervous laugh is that expressed in the experiment – an attempt to bring a light-heartedness to the situation. But it is still a quite disturbing image to watch someone laughing (sometimes hysterically, to the point of tears) while they believe they are shocking someone to unconsciousness, even death. Of course this brings a lot of questions to the surface, such as sadism, an innate aggressive nature of human beings, etc…I’m not sure how much I agree with either of those principles (thought I do think that humans are by nature relatively aggressive beings due to the need for survival), but I don’t think that anyone on this show consciously took pleasure in knowing that they were causing potential pain to the “subject.”

I’d love to hear your opinions about this! I’m eager to read what you have to say.

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Smell Update

Today Olivier had some big news for me…something to confirm my suspicions…something to make me feel somewhat more sane…THERE IS A YEAST FACTORY NEAR LILLE! He found out today because someone at La Voix du Nord was talking about the factory.

YESSS. I am not crazy. (Although you might still like to think otherwise.) I knew it smelled like yeast. I guess that’s what you get from working in a kitchen (besides many other wonderful skills) but I am damn good at recognizing smells and tastes.

If you’d like more information about the factory:

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Summer, Summer, Summer, Where are you?

I can’t have summer, but I can listen to this and pretend that I’ve got the beach, the waves, the sun, the sand, and a cold hummingbird cocktail in my hand. And, of course, my friends, we’ll all fly to paradise together and live there for the rest of our lives.

And here’s a recipe for the hummingbird (in case your mouth was watering or you were confused and thought I was talking about the bird)

For one serving:
1 oz bananas
1 oz coconut cream
1 oz creme de bananes
1 oz rum
1/2 oz Tia Maria® coffee liqueur
1 oz strawberries
crushed ice

Please leave me songs that remind you of summer! I need some more sunshine tunes!


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The Fragrances of Lille

When leaving my apartment each day, I’m always welcomed onto the street by various funks:

– Sewage
– Yeast
– Old man body odor
– Stale beer
– One of my friends, Jenn, thinks she smells chocolate and one night I slightly understood what she meant, but it still smelled like yeast to me.

It’s never all of the odors at one time, thankfully, but it can still be entirely overwhelming and extremely off-putting. For example, a lot of the time I don’t want to go to school, solely because the stairs that lead up to the school smell like poop central.

But TODAY – HOLY SHIIIITTT. Literally. In the morning when I went to school, no problem…no big funk, just the normal city stench. But at around 11 am when I exited the metro and was walking the two blocks home…I almost ran. I had to! It smelled like a stink bomb ( x A MILLLION) had been set off. I even tried to cover my nose and mouth with my scarf to protect myself from the awful reek but it was no use!

Does anyone have any explanations as to why Lille smells so terrible? I’ve been through a list of things in my head such as: factories, paper mills, sewage issues? It’s GROSS! Tell me whyyyyyy, whyyyyy???

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