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  • Writer's pictureAine Dougherty

Week Twelve in France: Homemade pizza and haricots verts

A little Christmas spirit to spice up our apartment (don't be deceived by this rare sunny afternoon – winter in Mulhouse is not all fun and games).

Yes, every blog post this month will feature a photo of a Christmas tree as its header. And what about it?


07/12/2019: This might have been the laziest Saturday I've had in a while. The only time I left the house was to go to the grocery store to buy ingredients to make cheeseburgers for lunch with J. I couldn't help but think about weekends at Northwestern, when every single second of every day was packed full of social obligations, homework, work-study jobs, volunteering, cleaning my apartment, feeding myself and just the general stress and anxiety of daily survival. Yes, I still have responsibilities, but I'm so privileged to have a more flexible schedule through TAPIF and to be able to truly make the most of this time in France. And sometimes that means spending hours in bed watching Netflix! No shame.

Homemade pizza pre-bake.

08/12/2019: Dinner this Sunday was homemade pizza from my roommate S. and his sweet Italian girlfriend. Almost the whole family was sat around the dining table downstairs, making for a very cozy atmosphere, even if the high-fat mozzarella on my pizza created a more flatbread-like situation once baked. After dinner, T. and E. put up their Christmas tree in the living room, and they put the LOVE statue ornament I gave them on the very top and color coordinated the whole tree around it! I feel at home, no other way to describe it.

09/12/2019: There's rumors of another grève day tomorrow... I'm finally getting a sense of what France work culture really is like, I guess. These strikes are meant to oppose Macron's retirement reform plan, and apparently there's no sign of them stopping. The entire month of December could be an absolute bordel. The rain and wind today was also very chiant (this is an important French word to know, FYI). After an easy but long day of classes, I went grocery shopping, then made myself a cup of English breakfast tea while burning a candle, cleaning my room, doing my laundry, hanging up some posters and photos, and changing my sheets. Damn, this feels good. All it takes is a little extra homey ambiance for my mood to immediately improve.

Good vibes in my cozy little room.

I think this encapsulates nicely the current national sentiment. We are tous concernés.

10/12/2019: Half of my classes were cancelled today due to Week 2 of the grève, but one of the ones I did have went super well. I taught a lesson I planned myself (with the help of the New York Times) to a small group of seniors. We started with an activity that got them moving and interested in the subject, and we actually had some good discussion. I'm excited to continue on this theme of borders because I have an interesting and creative idea for a future class that could be a great and easy way to get started on my Pop-Up Stories project. Then, of course, a break from noon to 5 PM, because nothing is ever simple. At least I'd brought a delicious lunch of pasta, Bolognese sauce and haricots verts with rosemary and toasted pine nuts (since slivered almonds seem not to exist in France). I ate in the lounge with the smattering of teachers who showed up today and actually ended up feeling included in the conversation and enjoying myself! Later on that night, J. and I headed off to see Les Misérables, a very intense, raw and necessary film about police in the banlieues of Paris. Then, we had McDonald's... Shame... (although I certainly didn't feel bad about it while I was eating my sundae with caramel and toffee. The ice cream machine was not broken!).

11/12/2019: I went into this day feeling happy with the climate change lesson I helped plan for this morning – it would have been an easy choice to find a moving speech by Greta Thunberg, but I wanted to show a different face of the movement that my students don't know. So, I chose to focus on Isra Hirsi, a young climate activist who happens to be Ilhan Omar's daughter. (Shout out to my fellow Fulbrighters who gave me this idea during our meeting in October! Credit where credit is due.) A super interesting idea in theory, but in practice it went a bit over their heads because of the cultural differences in vocabulary and concepts. Oh well, I learned something from it anyway! The rain outside and my persistent cold made for a bed-ridden rest of the day, and my microwaveable dinner (couscous with chicken and merguez sausage) didn't exactly help – although it actually tasted pretty good.

12/12/2019: Today, I saw a pug and it made me extremely happy. Another thing that made me extremely happy today was La Stuwa de Noël, a pop-up holiday tea room and café that opens every year in a decked-out mansion in Mulhouse. The vibes... OH, the vibes. They were perfect. Twinkly lights, Christmas wallpaper, knick-knacks on every surface, trees in every corner, wreaths, candles, chandeliers, merry music, and delicious drinks and pâtisseries. I got a cozy chai latte and a sky-high rhubarb meringue tart, which surprised me because it's not exactly rhubarb season in France, but it was delicious nonetheless – tart, airy and eggy in a good way. J. got tiramisu and a decadent hot chocolate with maple syrup, and we spent an hour and a half snacking, sipping and enjoying the atmosphere together. God, I love the holidays. When we got home, we played a round of caps with a Christmas beer – I'm trying to bring (the only good part?) of American frat culture to France – and watched Home Alone to round out a truly wonderful day.

13/12/2019: More infuriating wind and rain today, but my mood picked up when I sat down at the dinner table with the family, including T.'s daughter and her boyfriend visiting from the U.K. On the menu during the festive evening was a decadent veal en croûte with a potato gratin and a tasty chocolate roll cake for dessert. After dinner, there was a bit of dancing, of course. Not a bad start to the weekend!

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