Friday, August 5, 2011

Final Blog - Delayed due to lack of Internet! (Sorry!)

My final day basically involved running, packing, and resting. For the most part I was with Nicolas at his parent’s house for the day. We ate lunch there and stayed until about 7:30pm. We played dominos and badminton, and just relaxed under the sun, talking and enjoying each other’s presence. We later visited their grandparents’ house where we left with homegrown potatoes, tomatoes, yellow cherry plums, eggs, and pâté. The rest of the night was packing time – trying to guess the weight of my suitcase as well as stuffing as much into my purse and carry-on as possible.
... My attempt at falling asleep failed terribly that night. Before my body finally drifted off to sleep, I thought of every possible situation that could have gone wrong during my return home: my suitcase will be too heavy, I’ll get on/off the wrong metro stop, I was supposed to print my second plane ticket for my connection(even though the website wouldn’t allow it AND I even called the airline for reassurance), etc. Luckily I didn’t have any nightmares!
The morning of my departure, Niko and I were running ten minutes behind schedule. Needless to say, he picked up the speed and got me there at the time planned: 6:40am (so that Niko wouldn’t be late for work). My train didn’t leave until 9:05am however, so I was trying to keep myself busy. Once I got on the train, my stress level abated a bit as I had first class due to the – oddly enough – lower price. The difference between the two classes is basically that first class has larger, fuzzier/more fluffy chairs that recline in two ways by the push of a button. Also, there’s more room as well as four seats per compartment. Now, I’m not talking Harry Potter or Anastasia kind of compartments, but they were still a bit enclosed. As soon as we arrived in Paris, I grabbed my bags and … GO: I went up stairs, down stairs, through hallways, on the walking conveyor belts, asked myself WHY I had to have such a large suitcase and backpack so heavy people would have assumed I was carrying bricks. Despite the fact that I had about 6 hours until my flight, I was booking it, looking at every single sign for direction, looking straight ahead as if I’ve done this a million times, and without smiling so as not to give anyone the idea that I was open to company. Once I made it to the correct metro, I jumped on and 5 minutes later hopped right back off to move on to the RER. I did the same crazy running up and down stairs, rapidly following the signs, etc for the RER. This one lasted much longer – 40 minutes maybe? My last predicament I had before I made it to the airport was which stop to take: CDG 1-3 or CDG2-TGV?!? (aka the airport) I took the first stop, heard the train say that “to get to terminal 2, stay on until the next stop”, and quickly jumped on right before the doors closed again. Making it to terminal 2A, I stopped dead in my tracks as I saw thousands of people forming several lines at each gate. I thought that maybe even 4 hours wasn’t going to be enough. So after scarfing down my sandwich, I asked if #8 was my correct gate. Luckily, I was indeed incorrect wherein I was told to go to gate #3. Okay … #7 – packed with people ; #6 – just as packed ; #5 – also packed ; #4 – still so many people/oh my gosh gate 3 looks like it has sooo many people too ; #3 ... no one. In fact, not a soul. I was so early that I had to wait for the gate to actually open! I was the first one in line and my suitcase just cleared the weight limit. After security, I was left with 3 hours to dawdle around. So that I don’t turn this into a book, both my planes were on time and didn’t crash. (obviously, since I’m writing about it). The only annoying part was finally arriving at JFK with 10-12 planes ahead of us for unloading. Granted, we had to wait and ended up leaving the plane an hour later. In summary, I basically got 1.5 hours of incremental sleep on the plane and couldn’t fall asleep until somewhere around 2am Tuesday morning. I woke up wide awake at 6am and so was running on about a jetlagged total of 5.5 hours of sleep out of 47. Again, I woke up this morning at 6am. (Afterall, it WAS lunchtime in France). Needless to say, I like waking up really early but can imagine it will soon change.
So you all may be wondering by now, what exactly makes France and the United States so different from each other? Throughout my internship, I’ve been working on a list and as it has now finished, you can all finally find out. (This list is of course not exhaustive and only applies to the Normandy and Brittany regions in France)
1.      There is often a café/tea break twice a day
2.      They seem more carefree/not rushed
3.      There is bread at EVERY meal
a.       This includes breakfast: bread, jam/nutella/butter/etc, coffee, tea, OJ, croissant, etc. Sometimes cereal which is often a sugary chocolate type
4.      Late dinners: ranges from 7:30(rarely) - 10:00pm
5.      They hang their laundry over here
6.      Most large scale grocery stores require that you insert a euro to borrow a shopping cart. You then get it back once you return the cart.
7.      You have to bring your own shopping bags to the store, for they don’t have our common plastic bags. Otherwise, you’re carrying all of your things by hand, from the car to the house.
8.      There are “bricolageries”, comparable to a Home Depot or Lowes
a.       Bricoler = to do odd jobs (i.e. pottery)
9.      Nous(we) = On(he or she). Instead of using “we” in the French language(as taught in school), they rather use “he/she/one” instead.
10.  More thin people here. I mostly noticed thin legs, even if the woman or man had a big belly. But of course not everyone is thin here.
11.  Every car I have ridden in thus far has been a manual car, as they are very popular in France.
12.  For special occasions they have aperitifs, or mini bites, to start off the meal.
13.  When purchasing seafood, the heads are often kept on (shrimp, fish, etc)
14.  In the US we have several 4-way intersections. In France, they have many roundabouts instead.
15.  The yellow line to help the driver distinguish between their lane and the oncoming traffic is white. All road lines of separation are in fact white; this may however exclude construction.
16.   There are more chances to pass cars, by means of the dividing dashed line.
17.  The left passing lane is mostly used for passing and not driving. Most of the French keep their blinkers on while in the left lane so to indicate that they “really are just passing”.
18.  The door knobs are instead thin handles and their toilets flush by the push of a button.
a.       I only found out about two weeks ago that the two flushing buttons relates to the amount of water you want to use to flush the toilet.
19.  It is normal for a Frenchman to stop on the side of the road for a bathroom break. Very common actually.
20.  We Americans often shrug our shoulders as a simple indication of “I don’t know”. The French may do this as well, but they often “raspberry with their mouth” instead.
21.  I have been told that Americans speak a lot with their face and say “aw” a bit too much. (Hey, I can’t help it if I find everything cute ;) )
22.  If anything, they often use “after-shampoo” as opposed to conditioner.
23.  Several people roll their cigarettes to save money. Also, there are more people in France that smoke…
24.  The French are very nice and like to show foreigners a good time.
25.  Many prefer eating their steak quite rare.
26.  They eat a lot of bacon, sausage, and meat in general.
27.  The layout of lunch or dinner:
a.       Start with an appetizer, then entree, cheese time, dessert.
b.      (We often have our entrée and only sometimes an appetizer and/or dessert)
28.  There’s lot of colored toilet paper here; pink, green, blue, etc.
29.  At the doctor’s, your temperature is not taken under your tongue. They supposedly expect you to have taken it at home(in the back end). However, they are starting to use these “Thermoflash” thermometers that can sense your body temperature when placed next to your forehead.
30.  There is no traditional prom or cap and gown graduation. Instead, they finish high school, take a specialized test called the BAC, and then get their diploma in the mail.
31.  The driver’s licenses over here are EXPENSIVE. They must drive at least 20 hours with a monitor and once all of the papers are handed out, it’s about 1,000-1,500 euros! People didn’t believe me when I told them how much cheaper our driver’s licenses cost.
32.  There’s a large variety of cheese, including those which are not pasteurized so to enhance the flavor.
33.  The well-known French cheese, wine, and baguette/bread is truly consumed in large quantities here.
a.       There’s several boulangeries(bakeries)/patisseries in the same town to accommodate the French diet.
b.      No they don’t eat frog legs – if so, it’s a rare case. This also goes for escargot. However this is less rare.
Well, there you have it folks. Thanks to those who have been reading! I must say, I am overjoyed to be back at home. Just the same, the farms, food, and fullness of it all will perhaps once more lure me back to France…

Saturday, July 30, 2011

P - I - C - T - U - R - E - S

The Castration

Our first farm - injections with the catheter

At the Haras with Celia

Salting the cheese (small scale farm)

The small scale cheese factory

Camembert cheese aging

Our desserts - berry crepe and creme brulee

our entrees

This was a special cheese - they're wrapping a specific type of leaf around each cheese for the aging process. I believe this helps to give a distinct flavor.

The large scale factory's cheese aging

Separating the curds from the whey and then spreading the curds out

Celia, me, and one of the other employees at the bull facility. We were cleaning out a few stalls.

Feeding the bulls! (At this point we were done so we got a ride!)

Me, Justine, and Sebastian eating ice cream

Take two. (aka funny picture)

Our walk Saturday on the coast

Same picture as above, except without me in it

The weirdest toilet I ever saw. Right before our walk, Sebastian and I stopped at the toilets at the beach. We both entered our own stalls and I immediately exited, mentioned that my stall was a shower, and waited outside for Sebastian's. Turns out, it was a toilet. More specifially, a turkish toilet where you plant you feet, go, and pull the string to flush. Good thing I always carry tissues :P

A picture of what we walked Saturday (approximately)

Petit Vantina and me :)

Deux Jours ... et Puis - les Etats-Unis! (2 Days .... and then - the United States! )

Thursday morning with the Vet was such a cool experience! Before we left for the farms, he showed me around the clinic, explaining everything in English, for he was from Belgum and could speak both French and English at the same level. This was good because there were several scientific terms that don’t translate so easily; for example: progesterone = progesterone while pneu = skin. Our first farm was on a farm to see a cow that just gave birth a week prior. She wasn’t excreting her urine properly so the vet had a look. The diagnosis was that the farmer pulled a bit too hard during the birth, wherein he ripped a part of the uterus. In other words, her urine was spilling into her uterus – ow. So he gave her several medications using a catheter for smooth injections. He also gave the farmer medication for the ear for a later date. I was told that this sort of injection was first used by Americans and that it was brilliant because of the withdrawal time.  Our second farm involved two cows which were both not eating correctly. I forget exactly why, but I do know that the cows were too sick to be properly fixed. They needed to be put down, but the farmer wouldn’t listenL. After a quick stop at the clinic to pick up the necessary tools and medications, we stopped at a farm and met with one of the other vets. Turns out, I got very lucky, as it only happens about twice a year… I saw a horse get castrated! Since the anesthesia would only last about 30 minutes(IF the weight that the farmer gave us was correct), they had to work fast. It turned out that their timing was impeccable and the castration was successful.
I was picked up by Laurence(farmer’s wife) for lunch and then left with her and the girls for Rennes. Nicolas picked me up for the last time. I’m staying at his house for the rest of my time in France. Yesterday I spent the morning with Nicolas, visiting twelve farms for inseminations. After lunch, I switched off and left with Damien. He had five farms; however one involved 32 cows and 11 heifers! Julian met up to help. This was fun because I helped read the numbers out loud to identify which cow received which strain of sperm. We eventually made it back to Nicolas’ where the two spent some time talking and I left for a run and later workout. Once dinner rolled around, Nicolas, Anais, and I left for dinner at a Creperie in Rennes. Both my dad and I took them out for dinner as a thanks for everything; my dad was there in spirit … and payment – thank you Dad! Anais and I got a salmon, crème fraiche, lemon, and chive galette with salad on the side (my galette however included goat cheese). Nicolas got one with ham, cheese, and eggs I believe. We shared a bottle of cidre and alter ordered crepes for dessert; one with peaches(me), with salted caramel(Nikos), and with Spekkulos(Anais). It was a great, relaxing, gourmet night out.
As for today, I had the choice to visit the farms with Nicolas/Nikos for the inseminations or stay back. It’s my second to last day here so I planned to spend the morning out in the town, visiting the local shops. I returned with tomatoes, a nectarine, fresh French bread, an apricot pastry, and pictures. (maybe even a bit tanner?) I shared the bread with Nikos and his colleagues for lunch and split the apricot pastry with just Nikos since it was too small and I didn’t know we were having company. Everyone brought their lunch and we ate out on the terrace under the sun. The rest of my day has been very lax- working on my report, watching a movie, etc. Tonight Anais works late so Nikos and I may eat at a friend’s house. I’ve got to run over to the grocery store before they close(7:30pm) because they’re closed Sundays. Hopefully Nikos will finish his work soon! For my last day tomorrow, I have no idea if we’re doing anything or not. It all depends on if Anais is working as well as the availability of friends. It’s going to be beautiful and would be perfect for the beach. Not sure what’s going to happen. Until then.
P.s. My blog is soon coming to a close. 2 days left!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Rice is to China as _____ is to France

If you tried to guess where I went Monday and you guessed wine or bread, you were wrong. However, if you guessed cheese, you’re a winner! Yes I went to two cheese factories. Do you know what’s better than French cheese? FRESH French cheese; after touring the large-scale cheese factory I purchased tasted four cheeses and decided upon one of the unpasteurized cheeses, stronger in taste. This first fromagerie(cheese factory) makes its cheese from milked that comes from several local farms with the Normande cattle breed. Although they only truly make four types of cheese, their final output is greatly varied. For example, the cheese could be pasteurized, not pasteurized, have an added Calvados flavor, etc. For the tour itself, Célia and I had the director show us around, explaining in more detail how each process was carried out. I was lucky because the information explaining the cheese history and processes were both in English and French.  However, the videos and our tour guide were all in French.(Not a problem) Afterward, Célia and I went to the closest restaurant we found for lunch. We both ordered a salad with sundried tomatoes and goat cheese on toasted baguette for our appetizer. For our main dish, she had beef and I had a white fish with capers in a creamy lemon sauce with rice and a broccoli and potato puree. Lastly, for dessert she had crème brulée and I had a crepe filled with berries and currants. What a great surprise for lunch!
After our gourmet meal, Célia and I left for the little town on Camembert to visit a small-scale farm that makes their cheese directly from the milked cows on the farm. These cows are special however wherein they are crossbred: a Holstein and a Normande. This way, as is the goal, the breed will develop genetics with the highest milk output that is rich in proteins and fats. This cheese was not put out for sampling, but it was still really cool to see the fabrication of cheese. The special thing about this farm is that everything is done by hand whereas at the other fromagerie, mostly everything is done by machine.
Since we still had time to spare, Célia and I sporadically visited a Haras, or a farm with several horses. This specific Haras was where Célia had her 6 month internship, so she singly was able to show me around as well as be invited in for some juice and treats.
Yesterday was much less eventful, taking place at the office for the whole day. Of course, we went out for lunch, but that’s not the point. My time was spent writing an article in both French and English about my internship here in France. I had Célia help me with the fine points and corrections of my final French article. Otherwise, it would be sloppy. Turns out, they are going to post it in their magazine, which is issued four times a year. As long as they don’t forget, I’m going to receive one in the mail back at home. Upon my return to the house, I decided to grab a bowl, my mp3 player, and go berry picking. Yes, it turns out that they have several blackberry bushes here. Therefore, I’ve been eating them in my cereal for breakfast and whenever else I get the chance. Last night Elyse(15 yr old daughter) and I made a special treat for the family: blackberry and apple crumble a la mode. Since her mom and youngest sister were still at a friend’s house, we set the table and got everything ready for when they got home.
Fortunately, this morning I will be driving around with a large animal veterinarian. I’ll be with him until lunch, where I will be dropped off back at the farm. After lunch with the family, I’m riding with Laurence (their mother) and possibly her daughters to Rennes. Nicolas is going to pick me up and then I’ll be resting at his house until Monday. I can’t believe it’s Thursday – where HAS the time gone?

Monday, July 25, 2011

The First Day of My Last Week

WOW what a beautiful afternoon! It was raining this morning – well misting really – but around lunch time the clouds cleared, the sun appeared, and the air was warm! Before I get ahead of myself, let me start with yesterday.
After our lunch of “oeuf a la coq” with toasted baguette, a large pile of steamed, garden-picked green beans, and a pear and apple tart, Sebastian, Justine, and I left for Dinan (sp?).  As this was a good-sized town, there were several stores open as well as several vendors selling their hand-crafted art.  I ended up buying a wooden, crepe spatula and later had ice-cream with Justine and Sebastian. Yesterday’s weather was better in the afternoon as well. At one point during our walk, we hiked down this very steep, cobble stoned road.  It was about .3-.5 miles in length with a great incline. And of course we had to walk back up. Once we returned, I grabbed my belongings and left yet again. We met Nikos and Anais at McDonalds for dinner, ate, and parted our ways. Poor Anais and Nicolas probably did not get home until about midnight last night since they had to drive an hour to drop me off and then two hours to get back home.
The farm that I am staying at is one with great genetics of the Normande breed.  There are about 70 dairy cows here as well as several calves, heifers, and bulls.  The family is super nice too; comprised of a mother, father, and three daughters (one of which is away for the week).  My morning started out … well a bit iffy: I woke up around 7:15 just to be picked up at 10:15 (as I was expecting my ride around 8 or 8:30). Though, that wasn’t really a big problem. My ride for this week happens to be a girl named Sylia (sp?) who is actually 7 months younger than I am.  For the morning, I met everyone at the office and helped Sylia translate a small portion of the company’s website into English. For lunch, we went to a restaurant with the President, a farmer, and another employee.  Following, I toured the facility of the bulls.  I saw their many genetically favorable bulls (about 180) ranging from the age of ~6 months to ~18 months. These bulls are purchased from farms placed on site until they’re at the age of ~11 months. Then, the employees take blood and semen samples to determine if the bull is in fact a true genetically favored bull. If not, they are sent somewhere else to grow large and then be sent to the slaughter house. (No one ever said the life of a bull was easy). I was dropped back off at the farm around 5:30 and took advantage of this beautiful weather by going for a run and working out.  Tomorrow morning I’m going somewhere really special, but the only way you’ll find out before my next post is if you guess right wherein I’m there to tell you. I shall leave you with this: What is French famous for?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

8 Days and Counting

*Sigh* … the weekend. It’s nice to have a break from working on the farm, as it was a LOT of work. As a result, the day after we finished the cement wall I had a sore back, but it’s gone now. Friday evening Nicolas picked me up from the farm, wherein we later went out with Anais, Sebastian, and Justine to a Creperie! What a wonderful surpriseJ; Nicholas ended up paying for my dinner as a gift. I tell you – my American friends – that the French (at least those in Bretagne) are impeccably nice people.  (Thanks Nikos!!!)
After our soirée, I left with Justine and Sebastian and had a long, restful sleep during the night. The next morning, I ate breakfast like a French(wo)man; a croissant containing chocolate morsels, with tea and a yogurt.  I find here that the French very often dip their bread, croissant, etc into their coffee/tea and so that’s exactly what I did and it was actually very good! After lunch, Sebastian and I visited Justine at work and then left for the beach. No … we didn’t go swimming.  Both the weather and ocean were too cold- not that that was stopping other people from swimming and tanning.  We ended up walking about 5 miles along the coast of the ocean.  I love walks like that: nature walks near the ocean, with the waves crashing against the rocks, the coastal breeze blowing in your hair … simply bliss.  In the end we were tired and sore, but nonetheless very happy.  Later that night, Justine made zucchini gratin with pork chops and then waffles (called goffres here).  Problem was the waffle maker kept blowing the electricity circuit the second it was plugged in.  So she ended up making crepes with the batter; I can officially say that I’ve had waffle crepes! They were the most interesting crepes I’ve ever eaten too due to the resulting crunchy texture.
This evening, Nicolas is going to pick me up and drive me to my last destination in Normandy.  So far I know that I will be staying on a farm for lodging and meals, and will be picked up each morning to visit work related to l’OS Normande.  I know that it involves cows, but that’s about it for now.  The rest of my day here looks rainy and cloudy, so I doubt we’ll be doing much outside. I do know that we’re having “oeuf a la coq” for part of our lunch, as I’ve specially requested it. Basically, it’s a hard partially boiled egg with a liquid yolk for dipping toasty, herby or buttery bread.
I can’t believe I have one week and one day left here. Honestly, I’m getting kind of nervous because I’m taking the train from Rennes to the metro in Paris to the RER in Paris to the airport, where I have a connection in London. There are soo many things that can go wrong, even though my friends have given me the metro and RER map of Paris with the directions specifically written out. Still, I’m nervous. Almost done, but not sure how I’m going to feel once I get back! Wondering if I’ll notice any more differences between France and the U.S.A. once I return?

Friday, July 22, 2011


Cutting, skinning, and cooking fish!

Part of the goat barn

Before - after(as I forgot to take a picture): 4 built walls (6 levels with 11 cement blocks per level). LOTS of work. Result? A sore back.

The milking parlor

Left: after milking vs right: before milking

Frederick giving a goat an injection - I forgot to mention I found a sick goat (half of her udder gave blood and not milk). Long story short, two days later Herve was pulling a dead goat out of the barn :/

Herve with his horse Royal

When the controllers came - you can see the milk being measured out at eat "station"

Yay cement walls!

Pouring the mixed cement

One of the replicants of a large church (perhaps a monastery?), made from small stones

Another piece of art

Me with the miniature Mont-Saint Michel!

This morning - I wasn't too happy with the hay nor pitchfork

The technician for grading the goats