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  • Writer's pictureAine Dougherty

Week Thirteen in France: Raclette and kebab

Updated: Dec 22, 2019

Glorious golden hour at the Mulhouse Christmas market.

14/12/2019: Sadly, the first thing I ate today was a disgusting throat spray to help with my persistent cough (which I think can be attributed to living in mold-infested Bobb Hall my freshman year at Northwestern University, five years ago – who's with me?). However, I didn't really mind the spray because I was getting an amazing haircut at the same time. Effortlessly cool S., a family friend of T. and E.'s, cut and styled my too-long, too-frizzy hair to perfection. Thanks to her, I looked beautiful for a day of shopping that included a very nostalgic $1 Ikea ice cream cone!

Then, that evening J. and I met up with my friends at Motoco, a super cool art, culture and events space that has taken up residence in one of Mulhouse's old factories. We grabbed glasses of crémant d'Alsace from the bar and a delicious honey and goat cheese tarte flambée while we walked around the Motoco Christmas market, impressed by all the unique and wonderful pieces on display by the artists-in-residence – ceramics, stunning black and white photography, dyed silk, colorful paintings, drawings and more. After our hipster soirée, we headed back home for raclette with the family. The amount of melted cheese, charcuterie and potatoes I ate was obscene. And yet I still had room for the gorgeous, multicolored sorbet bûche we had for dessert! My grandpa used to say I had a hole in my leg (meaning I always had room for dessert), and it's clear that nothing has changed since I was a kid.

15/12/2019: Tutoring on a Sunday morning means waiting for buses and trams when, in fact, there are none, leading me to walk 45 minutes across town instead. Oh well, I worked off last night's raclette. After our last tutoring session before Christmas break, I headed to lunch at C., my prof référent's house, where I always feel very happy and comfortable with her family (kids, grandma and all). To start, we indulged in our classic apéro with more crémant and my favorite crispy crackers, Tucs. Then, I had at least three servings of C.'s delicious lasagna loaded with meat and creamy béchamel sauce. So, naturally, the rest of my Sunday was spent in a deep, deep sleep.

16/12/2019: Never underestimate the absolute thrill of remembering you have leftovers in the fridge when you thought you were going to have to cook a whole meal. After a blah day of teaching, I scarfed down a Tupperware full of pasta, chicken and ratatouille while watching the Bon Appétit test kitchen staff and Matty Matheson make food I could only dream about having the time and energy to cook. Cut me some slack, it's the week before vacation! Ok, ok, I'll make it a goal to cook something extra delicious before I leave for the States next week. It always makes me feel better.

17/12/2019: Yep, you guessed it – another strike day. Three out of four of my classes were cancelled, and the fourth interrupted by a fire drill, which thrilled the students, of course. After an easy day, J. and I headed to explore the Mulhouse Christmas market (and add to my collection of festive vin chaud cups). I've walked by a couple times, but I haven't gotten the chance to really shop and eat yet. First, a magical, fairy tale ride on the Ferris wheel with a stunning sunset as our backdrop. Next, a cheesy bredzel and the aforementioned vin chaud, of course. You can't go to a marché de Noël in Alsace without getting a cup of mulled wine. That's probably written in a rulebook somewhere.

18/12/2019: Just one class today (and one Thursday and one Friday) means I'm feeling pretty checked out this last week before Christmas vacation. After a lazy day, I headed into town and inhaled a salted caramel crêpe at the Christmas market before meeting up with my flatmate S., our friend B. and B.'s friend visiting from the States. We chatted and drank several rounds at a low-key bar before eventually migrating to the trusty Gambrinus for a lively game of darts. Interesting people, animated conversation and cheap beer. Can't ask for much more than that.

19/12/2019: I nearly cried today when I opened a little bag of Christmas gifts from some of my students. I was overwhelmed at how thoughtful they were – a perfect fir-scented candle, a sachet of Alsatian cookies and a little hand-painted canvas featuring a gorgeous autumn tree (because I once mentioned that my favorite season was fall!). In their notes, they thanked me for my kindness and positivity, which was encouraging beyond belief. After this delight, J. and I headed to his gym for my workout of the month. The endorphins! Why don't I do this more often? Finally, I spent a lovely evening celebrating my friend A.'s birthday, with a mix of fellow assistants and friends, plus good food, as usual. I brought an intriguing and ultimately delicious chocolate passionfruit bûche and partook in (many) Pringles, a jelly donut and a couple pours of my friend I.'s French 75 cocktail pitcher.

20/12/2019: My poor students – I had to give them a little test on the Friday afternoon before break. They liked me before, but now... who knows? We played a little American jeopardy afterwards, though, so we ended on a high note nonetheless. Voilà, my last class of 2019! At lunchtime, I was absolutely in awe of the potluck buffet in the teacher's lounge. French profs decked out in holiday sweaters, plenty of bottles of sparkling wine in the middle of a school day, and an impressive array of sweet and savory snacks. Highlights were the garlicky homemade guacamole, the spinach tart and the perfectly moist pineapple upside-down cake! I still felt a little awkward, hovering around my English department colleagues like a high schooler visiting their sibling at a college party. However, it was still a lovely afternoon, and I can't wait to continue teaching and settling in even more at the school in 2020. À bientôt, Lycée Schweitzer! I closed out the Friday with a little Christmas shopping and the first kebab of my Fulbright tenure so far – a thick pita stuffed with feta, shawarma meat, veggies and a tangy white sauce. In the words of J., no one looks sexy eating a kebab, but it was so good that I didn't care.

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