Category Archives: World Traveler

24 hours later

So now I am in CA. I got in last night at 8PM PST. That is almost exactly 24 hours since I left the house in France. Everything went surprisingly smooth. Kim dropped me off at the train station in Rennes and 3 hours later I was at the airport. I dozed off a couple of times. Around the time that I thought we should be getting to the airport. I got up and started watching for any indication that we might be there. The train was going awfully slow, but arrived on time. I asked for directions to terminal 1 (in French) and it was an easy tram ride to the terminal. I was 2 hours before the departure. I was a little confused because my flight was booked through Expedia on a Lufthansa flight operated by United. It all worked out and even though the price was ridiculous they let me on the plane and I was off. The plane was not even half full. The eight hours went by fast. I listened a little to the air traffic control conversation and I was surprised to hear a lot of French. I though English was the required language of the airwaves. Next thing you know I was in Washington DC. I have to confess that i looked to get through customs the easiest way possible so I lied. I know I really shouldn’t have. I said that I had not visited a farm and that I was not carrying any food. Next time I am going to be honest. It is a small thing, but I need to not do that again. I bought a Vanity Faire Magazine and waited 3 hours in Washington for my flight to LA. Next thing you know it was 8PM PST (5AM France) and I was riding in the car with my mom. Strange feeling. I didn’t want to be here. the circumstances require it, but I wanted to finish my tour. I have a trip to WA in an hour (it is 5AM and I am wide awake) and a 20 hour drive back to LA. I am going to stop by the Van’s Aircraft shop in Oregon. Am I ready to start the next dream?

The End

I was still in limbo as to where I stood I work. I had lost confidence in my old boss in being able to tell me the truth. Every ring of the work phone made me think I was going to get one last call. I felt as if I were living outside myself, observing myself, distracted by the thoughts of what might happen. I decided that I should call my new boss. I went to log on to the network to get his number and I couldn’t login. My fear was that it was over. I had been fired, but they just hadn’t got around to telling me. I called 800-support to see if there was something wrong systematically. At first they were nonplussed and thought they could just reset my password. Then the help desk guy says. Have you been on a leave of absence? My last memory of conversation with my old boss that I was to treat this like a leave of absence. I walked around a bit dazed. I then thought I would access our internal work pages to see if I could login there. Here is what I saw.

That is a little hard to read so I will tell you it says that I am on a paid leave of absence until March 1st. Does that mean I should just go on vacation until then? March 1st where did they come up with that and why? I still had no idea nor any communication from my old boss. The phone would ring and I would think, “This is it” I thought I would send myself an email and see what happened,

Ok so no email. Now what. I thought for sure that I had lost my job. I went out and did a soft search for jobs. “Boy this is going to be no fun” I looked at Wells Fargo and Citibank. My heart wasn’t in to it and I knew it would have to be if I were going to find a job. Zombie like I played games with the kids (CK and I won at Hide and go Seek) The phone rang. I let it go to voice mail. It was HR saying that they had status on my appeal. What appeal? I never got to state my version of things. I called them back. It turns out that I had appealed to get Kendra back on my health care benefits (Thank you Obama!) and it was approved. Phew. I still knew nothing. The phone rang again. It was my boss. “Can you come home as soon as possible” “Yes”. I still don’t trust him. I booked a flight through Expedia. I leave Thursday morning from Paris and I get into LAX Thursday night. Because it was cheaper to do so I made it a round trip to return in April. The total cost $600. Crazy price. That is less than what I was expecting to pay 3 months from now. When I show up are they really going to let me on the plane? I told my old boss. He called and said to show up for work in Chandler on Monday. What? How does that make sense? I called him back. “Are you setting me up to be let go and I have to go to Chandler to be told?” “No not at all” I still don’t trust him. I lost a lot of faith in Bank of America through this whole process. I knew I was taking a chance by doing this thing, but somehow I thought that Bank of America would have its act together. I guess they are just the some of their individual employees. That makes a lot of what goes on there explainable. So I will be home in two days. I am already missing it. I walked around the house. I showed Kim how to turn the heat down. I am going to miss the kids. We did not plan beyond me keeping my job. Can I really be away from Kim for 5 months? Where am I going to stay? Do I have to stay in Chandler? Can I go to Washington to get our car? Should I stay with my mom? What are the parameters of my new job and new boss? Should I ask? Am I in the dog house? It is time to move on to the next dream. I think I am going to build a plane.

A Saturday on the Farm.

We went to the Dagry’s on Saturday. Sister Dagry had taken some lamb orders up to San Malo so it was Brother Dagry and the boys. While we were waiting around we couldn’t keep our eyes off the TV. That is “Freinds” in French. Kim always wanted us to have TV in order to help us learn French. I think she is right. We bought the stuff for TV reception but never got it to work.

After lunch we went out to look at the sheep. They have 42 new baby lambs. This is his hobby. He is actually retired. Kim picked up the newest lamb just two weeks old.

Xenia got to hold the lamb too. We didn’t know where the other kids had wandered off to. I think CK may have been in the card playing with his iPod.

I learned a lot about sheep farming. (Is that what you call it?) I was feeling pretty good about my French and then I think Brother Dagry got comfortable with my French and I started understanding less and less. I guess he was talking to me like I was a little baby all the time. When he was showing me the farm he said a word that I understood. “broussailleux” I learned this word from Harry Potter. In describing Hagrid’s his beard is said to be broussailleux (overgrown). See my next post on learning with Harry Potter

These are the sheep coming home. It was a good time a day on the farm.

Me and My Baskets Part Ways

First order of business the French language. The french call football, “foot” and basketball, “basket” This makes sense since we call the sport, “Tennis” We don’t say Tennis Ball. Why not. So anyway Tennis Shoes are not for playing tennis and they are called ‘Baskets’ here. Not Baskets in French, “Baskets” the English word. They are not called chaussure basket (or roughly translated basket shoes) they are just called baskets. Now my baskets are what I wear everyday except for Sunday which I oddly call my Sunday Shoes. But I noticed that when we were out and about I was pretty much the only one wearing baskets. That is except for Kim who was also wearing baskets. At the movie theatre, everyone had nice shoes or at least shoes that didn’t look like they were about to go jogging. I thought it very interesting. Another thing here is that clothes in general and shoes in particular seem very expensive. Fortunately all of the prices are posted in the window. Typical shoes would be a couple of hundred dollars and on the low end they would be $100. Then the Soldes hit. If you read from my previous post Soldes is the national sales day. Every one advertises that it is Soldes. Most of the mannequins are stripped of their clothes and give t-shirts with “Soldes” emblazoned on it or they are just left naked. It is like a President’s Day sale that last for a month. My shoes were losing their soul. So it was time to go Soldes shopping. We walked around and I found these pair of shoes on sale from 60 Euros marked down to 30 Euros. I could have got more expensive or more American, but I went with comfort and French. They are comfortable.

Since I was taking pictures I snapped this picture of Kim in the Kitchen. She bought that recipe book holder at a Soldes counter. I thought it was adorable. I am not sure that we will want to bring home something that heavy, but it was a couple of Euros and it is cute.

Sunday in Rennes

The following is an unedited video of church. This is essentially 3 hours of French class with no instruction. It can be very tiring. The first hour was Priesthood / Relief Society. I was very happy that when the Bishop spoke I generally could understand what was going on. But then when Bernard got up (the first in the video) to speak I was lost. I don’t know if it was his accent or what, but I have interacted with him quite often and I feel dumber and dumber when I had hoped my French would be getting better. Second in the video was Antoine. He is Martine’s son and the Bishop asked him to speak about EFY. After Priesthood / Relief Society was Sunday School. The Sunday School Teacher is Sister Giuo (sp?) Just a month ago I couldn’t understand a word she said. I am getting more, but I find her and her husband very difficult to understand. Again I don’t know why some people are easier than others. I know that some French people talk to us like we are babies, but I can understand some French when they are talking to other French people. At the end of the video I had to capture the Sunday School president getting up on the stand to signal that time is up. It is quite funny. I caught some of the intermediate Hymn and elder Lyman giving a talk. This was all done on our iPod which I am sure is against the rules and I do feel a little guilty, but I wanted to capture some of this.

I had a pretty good day at School. Typical of my perception of French we have gone to class now for a week and no one has even asked us when or if we are going to pay. We plan on paying, but I found out that Mary didn’t pay until nearly the end of semester. It will cost us $700 for the two of us (or more if the dollar continues to fall) I think it is worth it, but if this were just about learning French this would be a very expensive language training. The final bill for just Kim and I is going to be around $3000 for language instruction.

As I get closer to planning our trip home I have to decide when and where. Currently the cheapest tickets are with Iceland Air. The reason is that Iceland is not on the Euro and when the country crashed they crashed hard. The devalued their currency and essentially gave everyone a 50% paycut. So now 500 Euros is worth twice what it was worth before. So most likely we are going to fly with Iceland Air. Today the cost of a one way ticket in July is about 550 Euros and the next cheapest airline is 1900 Euros. Things may change, but July is a big travel month so I don’t expect things to trend in our favor. We will probably buy tickets at the end of this month which is a sad thought to be planning our departure so soon. Now the question is should we stop over in Iceland for a few days. What is there to do and see in Iceland? I don’t even know. It will only cost us about $20 to have a stopover but of course we would have to rent a cottage or something and of course we would spend money on anything we would do. But when are we ever going to go to Iceland? Speaking of trip planning I plan on working in England the last week of February. I don’t know what we are going to see there. I think we are planning on have a Jane Austin day and maybe a Shakespeare day. It will still be Winter so a lot of places are not open. So if we see where Jane Austin is buried, so what? Is visiting the movie site of Pemberley visiting England or visiting a movie set of England. I know one thing we are going to catch some movies. If we see no other movie we are going to see tangled. McKala has seen it in French. We’ve been catching subtitled American movies like Afterlife but the kids movies are dubbed as are most of the Adult movies. BTW we watched After Life and I liked it but no one told me that the movie was 1/3 French and of course the French don’t put English subtitles. I guess it was sort of a warmup to watching a real French movie. I know after watching After Life that I am not ready.

Saturday Night

I’m sitting at McDonald’s near church. I have the iPod. I’m waiting for Kim to be done with her Relief Society activity. Kim is in charge. I could have dropped her off and gone home but I thought I would sit at McDonald’s and study French instead. The truth is I have spent the whole time reading about building airplanes. I have so much to do but I have started thinking about coming home. I got notification that I would get a bonus this year. It will be $17500. It is so sad that it is all spent. After taxes we will pay tithing, will pay off Christmas, and then have just enough to buy our tickets for home.

The French is coming but has its ups and downs. The down today was when I went home teaching. I was completely lost. But then things got better. I ordered Fries and McNuggets at McDonalds and actually understood everything including them telling me they would bring the nuggets to my table later. Then we all went to the Dagry’s Farm for a late dinner and Michelle and I walked around the farm while he showed me their 42 new baby sheep I asked questions about where he learned how to raise sheep, how old the sheep should be when they are slaughtered and a host of other things. I was having a real conversation. Rough, but real. And to top it all off I think I finally am getting the difference between Ce Tout and Sais Tu. One means that is all and the other means do you know. They sound the exact same. I don’t have pictures from our Saturday dinner, but it was a great time. Best French lesson in a long time. Now I have French class tomorrow for three hours. Some people call it church. I am now understanding the whole sacrament prayer, but I am missing most of everything else.

I have some pictures from today and a small video of going to the library and the boulangerie. Not that exciting, but a quick snapshot of our day.

Because we don’t have TV and Miranda and McKala are monopolizing the computer to finish school the kids just sat down and played a game of Mr. Tock. One of the games we picked up at Christmas.

Martine has this game and we played it with her so much we thought we needed to get our own copy.

Later we all went to the library. It is a small library and we picked up some English and French books. I will have to write about the French animation later. It is quite different than the US

We can walk to the library

We had to get bread for lunch. I have not tired of the bread.

Feeling Sick

1. I did not have a good day yesterday and I think today was the same. Because of my upbringing, being sick is a mystery for me. I don’t do it well even if I recognize it. I think I was under the weather yesterday and today. See I can’t even say I was sick. Is it normal to feel dizzy when you walk up stairs. So yesterday I struggled with French. I was a little down because I kept beating myself up thinking I would be further along. At one point I even thought of leaving the church meeting and hiding in the bathroom. I feel like my French has gotten worse. But I must struggle on. I was feeling better last night after Kim gave me some drugs. So we stayed up late watching American TV. Because I like to think of myself as a good husband I volunteered to get up with the kids and let Kim sleep in. Kim had complained that we needed to get out of the house this week. Last week we spent most of the time in the house studying French. I found it comforting even if it didn’t seem to help. Kim was getting cabin fever. So I told Kim we needed to go into town to have lunch. We called up Megan and went downtown to a French café. After we left I was walking up the stairs and I started feeling dizzy. Not like I was going to lose my balance, just that my balance was a little off. I asked Kim to drive and I passed out in the back seat. I then went home and crashed for 6 hours. Kim would come in and give me updates. “We are going to eat dinner do you want to come?” “I am going to have family night, is that OK?” “We are going to have prayer should we come in here?” I got up for the last one and sat down for prayer. Kim gave me some drugs and I am feeling better. I still feel like I can go lie down and sleep throughout the night. So that is a quick update. Work is good. Living in France is good. We are planning our trip to England at the end of February. McKala is doing ok at home. Dakota seems to be heading down the same path that McKala took earlier. We had a talk about it today. Hopefully she will stay in school. I keep telling McKala she did not quit, we pulled her out. Hopefully she believes me. So we are trying to plan our week in England. What is it that we would want to see there? I think one of the lame things we are going to do is go to the movies. It will be nice to take the kids to “Tangled.” I am thinking Buckingham Castle, Stonehenge, and Shakespeare’s stuff. Any other ideas feel free to offer suggestions.

Can’t Sleep

I stayed up until 4AM last night to finish some work. I am at a place where work is not eating at me and that is a good place. So I went to bed at 4AM for no reason other than there was work to do and I like to do work. It was all very acceptable. But I woke up at 10AM.. Why can I only sleep 6 hours? I spent the morning studying French. That is a read Harry Potter and wrote down vocabulary words that I didn’t know. Learning French seems impossible. Reading a book and finding 30 words I don’t know. I can do that. I started getting a little impatient when it took me longer than I expected to find the last of the 30 words. I think the last word was stool as in the stool the goblins sat on at Gringotts as they counted the wizard money. McKala was using the computer to finish her school work in AZ. Where does she go to school? She goes to school in AZ. She wanted to stay in school in France, but we overruled that decision. She decided to stay. We decided she would not. So she goes to school in AZ. I grabbed some moments of French Video on the Internet. The first time I understood a few words and the context that they were talking about students. I read the transcript and watched again. A few more words. I watched again while reading the transcripts. I translated the entire script in Google Translate. I watched again. 30 minutes of video watching. I decided to go to work. I was late for a meeting. I remembered that the meeting was 7AM, but that is because my work calendar has me in AZ and my computer is on CA time and I am in France. So now it is 3AM. I am going to try and sleep again. Tomorrow we are having 50+ people over from Church. It will probably be a day of cleaning. I think I will sleep in for at least 6 and half hours.


Monday was a Holiday (Martin Luther King Day) and we are in between semesters at school so we decided to take a road trip. According to the French Office of Tourism, le château de Chambord is the 4th most visited historic site in France behind, The Eifel Tower, The Arc de Triomphe, and the Abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel. Sadly the most visited of all the sites in France is Disneyland. I talked to a couple of our French friends and they all knew of Chambord but not all of them had been there. The artist at Disney took a tour of the Loire Valley and they said that Chambord was one of the castles on which they based the Beauty and Beast Castle. The Loire Valley is the Valley that is defined by the river Loire as it heads West. This river was the great Highway of France until railroads replaced it in importance. As Kings travelled up and down the Loire they built castles and then nobility joined in the castle building to show that they were important too. The first castles were actual military fortifications that defended the country, but later during the Renaissance the castles were simply fancy houses.

This is the view as we approached the castle. This is considered one of the first examples of Renaissance architecture. Built in the 15th century (but never really completed) It wasn’t a fortress, but because King Francis the first liked the look it is built like a castle. Also this was not really one of the King’s castle. It was a hunting lodge.

It is unknown who the real architect was. One of the highlights of the castle is a double staircase. Because of the design and the fact that Leonardi de Vinci was invited to the Loire valley by Francis I (remember the movie Ever After?) and the staircase is similar to some drawings Leonardo de Vinci had done.

This is the backside of the castle, now the entrance. The center part that rises above the outer part is called the Keep. Again because this is not really a castle the outer part is not a protecting wall, but just some supporting housing for staff and the like. The tour is just of the keep and noticeably missing is any kitchen which was in the supporting structure. In the picture with Kim is Megan and Ben. Megan we met in French class. She brought Ben along. He had come to our house for Thanksgiving. He is from Guernsey which because it is kind of like England ergo part of the European Union he got in Free. We had to pay 9€.

Inside the castle they had moved some of the original architecture inside. The castle has a history of being abandoned for long periods of time. The roof ornaments were made from a really soft stone which made it easy to carve some intricate details, but over the years the stone couldn’t withstand even the rain.

This is the face of the clock that once stood on the roof.

There are 77 staircases in the castle. This visit was so different from any other places we have visited. We were just left free to roam about as we pleased. It was very strange. We climbed a lot of these staircase exploring all over the place.

This room was decorated as the queen’s bed chamber. Now the castle even its prime was vacated of all furnishings when the King left. But this castle had even been abandoned for 100’s of years. All of this furnishing was brought in afterwards and are examples of the furnishings, not the actual.

One of the problems with the castle was that it was designed for good looks and Francis liked the look of Italian architecture, but this is cold, wet France so the castle was a bear to keep warm. During the 1800’s after the revolution as they were trying to sell stuff off they actually burned the doors of the castle to try and keep it warm enough for the massive garage sale. It is strange that we were free to roam and there were fires burning in some of the fireplaces. We were glad to warm ourselves.

This is the very top of the castle where the double staircase ends.

Here you can see the tributary where the King could come up from the Loire. It was dependent on the flow of the river. Again this hunting lodge was not really in an ideal location for a true residence. It is hard to see, but the grounds are massive and surrounded by a wall so it still remains quite wild.

Here we stumbled on a corridor of hunting prizes.

Kim loved this frame with the boar’s head and pheasant

Our final shot on the double staircase. It is really hard to see in the picture, but these are two staircases that circled each other and allowed people on each stair case to be seen without actually walking on the same staircase. I am on the other staircase.

Les Soldes

Just a couple of notes with a couple of random pictures. The first picture is of Mary and Megan. We have had a week of French lessons on clothes and fashion. It seems a little over the top. We spent a lot of time on what seems to be very important to the French and meaningless to us. Our teacher was a little surprised when they were told that wearing pajamas to school was something that actually happened. She thought it was just something they had in the movies. So Mary and Megan wore their pajamas to class and around town. They stuck out in town. Of course everyone knows we are Americans because we wear tennis shoes and dress pretty sloppily. My tennis shoes are wearing out and I am actually thinking I need to get some French shoes. Now is a good time because it is Soldes. Soldes is the national sales days that is regulated by the government although it is hard to pin down what regulation is done. I went to the actual French government site and with my limited French I think I discovered that stores are allowed to have two other sales periods of their choosing during the year. It appears that the sales start at 8AM and that the same guarantee that exists during regular times must be in place afterward. We have been shopping a couple of times and the things I notice are 1. Most of the mannequins (the store mannequin not the models) are stripped of all their clothing. I don’t know if you remember (or saw) on previous posts but one thing I like in France is that all the clothes on display have their prices posted. I have come to believe that it is the law. So the mannequins are stripped of their clothes because the “Soldes” is a clearing out completely of all the items in the store. We did see one store (H&M) that did not have their mannequins stripped and it looked out of place. I went up to the window and there was a note saying that these items were not available in the store. We learned that the 2nd half of the “Soldes” the prices drop again so I think any shopping we do should be after the prices have dropped again. Of course the risk is that there will be nothing worth buying. Clothes are expensive here. I mean I am not going to buy a jacket that is normally $500 for $300. If they drop the price to $50 I may consider it. So we will see. I will have to give a final report on the whole deal once we have been through one cycle. One thing certain. Most of the French dress really nice and clothes are important to them.