Saturday, July 9, 2011


recently, some friends and i ran a nighttime 10k in puyricard.

we thought that a nocturnal run would be casual and laid-back. 

we were wrong. we arrived and everyone was wearing running club jerseys and taking long warm-up runs.

this inspired quite a case of nerves, but we were given a bit of courage after making it successfully through registration with 3 people and 1 forged medical certificate. 

while leaving the gym, we were handed a bottle of wine. i'm american through and through but god bless france for handing out wine at their sporting events. nothing inspires vitesse like knowing there's some wine waiting for you at the end. 

it was one of those races where i quickly hit my stride and received the divine gift of running through vineyards and the provençale countryside with cheers of "allez, les filles!" encouraging me all the way. in the south of france "nocturnal" means sunset, so i ran with a soft warmth around me, the sun glinting in my eyes, and little bugs in my mouth. 

and, with the promise of a glass on wine in my future, i exactly hit my goal time.  

allez, la france! 

we lose weeks like buttons, like pencils.

there was a whole pile of weeks laying before me.

i couldn't quite see around it. i missed my family and the people who have known me so long and so well. i felt drawn to virginia.

then the pile began to dwindle and the fewer weeks laying before me, the more i couldn't imagine leaving life here.

now, somehow, there's only one left.

where did that pile go?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

on the road again

"a pain stabbed in my heart, as it did every time i saw a girl i loved who was going the opposite direction in this too-big world of ours." 

Friday, May 27, 2011


oh great. what i thought was "good job" really means "that's what you deserve". 3 years of unknowingly offending the french, done and done.

run, hannah, run!

i ran a 7k here in aix the other weekend, which was delightful for multiple reasons.

first being that it was the first race i’ve run in a while.

second being that i got to run with an amazing group of women from iccp, both dedicated runners and women who were only doing the run as a challenge to themselves. this also included the exciting discovery that one of the girls i work with and i have similar running speeds and styles (being that talking is enough of a distraction that it merits the loss of breath).

kels & i enjoying some chit-chat & post-race endorphins.
and the third reason being that it’s infrequent to see french women engaged in sport. it may be true that french women are not fat, but it’s not because they’re out doing serious workouts, i can tell you that. on the rare occasion that i see a french woman while i’m out on a run, she’s often fully made-up, hair flowing in the wind, and wearing chuck taylors.
some of my students saw me on a run one day and their response the next time i saw them in class went something like this:
-we saw you.
-did you?
-yes. you were running.
-oh okay. yep, i run sometimes.
-but why were you running?
-it’s good for your health. do any of you run?
-(blank stares)
granted, it would probably be a bit of a shock to see my high school french teacher out running sans make-up, hair pulled back, in running shorts, but they seemed mostly confused by the concept that i was just out running for the sake of running.

so to see a conglomeration of women (french and otherwise) out running in aix was beautiful to me. a mass of pink t-shirts pushed down the cours mirabeau. bodies i would assume were out of shape if i saw them in the street blasted past me, far more in shape than i.
it was tough, but i exceeded the personal goal i set for myself, and had a blast in the process.

 and, most importantly, we got in the paper.
super famous. 

write me.

write me letters, like kafka wrote to milena
or at least shoot me a postcard. 

Friday, April 29, 2011

the south

turns out the south of france and the south of the states aren't really that different after all. 

Friday, April 15, 2011

school's out!

from my first day as a student to my last day as a teacher, oh how the time has flown. 
okay, sometimes it dragged. like the times i sat in algebra ticking off the minutes until class was over. 
but these last 7 months seem to have gone by in the blink of an eye. when i arrived in september, i remember sitting heavily on the bed, wondering just what in the world i had gotten myself into. i was unsure how i could make it to december, much less april. if you had told me then that i would make it to april and then happily decide to stay for a few more months, i would not have been able to believe you. but make it i did, and staying i am. 
this past week of school has been great, a return to elementary school when the last day of school meant parties and cake. some classes were easier to say goodbye to than others. monday morning's class was a "good riddance" type of farewell, while thursday and friday afternoon's classes definitely made me a bit sentimental. they brought me cakes and cards and a water color portrait of me in the classroom. one student brought me 18 roses and an offer of a trip to paris together. that particular gift, however, just provoked feelings of extreme discomfort. you can go ahead and add "kindly but firmly rejecting the advances of teenage boys" to the teaching assistant job description.

i'm not overly sad about the ending of this job for two reasons, the first being that i don't love teaching. or, at least, i don't love teaching within the public high school classroom structure. it's become incredibly clear that teaching there is not something you can do long-term or well if your heart is not in it. 
the second reason is that i'm not leaving france just yet. check in with me in july and the not being sad story will be sure to have changed. 

the part of it all that is strange for me is that for the first time in 18 years, i'm ending the school year without plans to be back in the classroom in one capacity or another in the fall. 
but the truth is that i love learning way too much for that to last long, so i think i'll just enjoy it while it lasts. 

Monday, April 11, 2011


you know you've acclimated to european culture when a guy carrying a murse strikes you as completely average. 

that, and when you're only vaguely panicked by the decision to tack on 3 more months to your stay. 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

des livres délivrent

coatless early spring sunday afternoon in provence at the book market. 

too many of my favorite things together to not be what heaven must be like. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


it's mid-january, sunshine is crashing against my face, i am going to pick up my best friend at the bus station and the feeling of complete rightness is rounded out. all of this mixing with the pitch-perfect songs coming up on the shuffle on my ipod makes it all but impossible for me not to stomp down the street like i'm on the season finale of antm. 
i'm reeling in the sense of rightness. not that this is the best moment of my life, not that it doesn't get any better than this, but rather that this is exactly where i'm meant to be in this point in time. designed, privileged, somehow stumbled onto this beautiful life, that all the mistakes and heartbreaks and failures and bad timings somehow led me to where i am now, 23, single, living in the south of france, and going to collect my best friend.
my best friend who has cared so well for me. she encouraged me and told me i was brave in deciding to come to france and then continued to support me in every practical way possible. she drove down for my last weekend to help me pack up my things, plan a going away party, and gift me with a frame she made herself filled with pictures of us and of virginia, with an inscription to not forget, as if i could. she anticipated what a struggle my birthday would be thousands of miles from home and made sure i would have presents to open that morning. it's clear my name came up in the best friend lottery, that i found, to quote her, my once-in-a-lifetime friend. 
she held my hand all the way here and throughout and now i get the chance to show her a bit of the life i've built and try to care for her in a fraction of the way she's cared for me. that i get to experience this season of life with her is so right it sucks the air from my lungs. i am so lucky. 
days will come in the future with more gravity of joy, but in this moment, when the future could not be less clear, i have the sublime feeling of being in the right place for this moment and an urge to savor it because i feel it's all changing quickly.  

i have never made it from the airport to the gare routiere in less than an hour, but despite not speaking the language, sam is an expert traveler and manages to make it in far less time and is there waiting for me. 
what follows is a week of chimay, cheese, rollerblading on the boardwalk in nice, art, yelling at cats, learning french, self-timer photographs, nutella, gros bisous, and an over-turned gas tank leading to a missed flight leading to the silver lining of a bonus night. 
"i thought about one of my favorite sufi poems, which says that god long ago drew a circle in the sand exactly around the spot where you are standing right now. i was never not coming here. this was never not going to happen."

istanbul pt. 1

my foot will not budge. i am desperately pulling at my boot, squirming my foot around. i set the metal detector off and now the security officer is insisting i take my boots off. the left slides off easily, but the right holds firmly to my foot. madeline had already passed through so i'm oscillating between staring desperately and laughing maniacally at her through the metal detector as the officer offers her help, grabbing my foot, holding it high in the air, but then proceeding to pull at it so delicately that i wonder why she's offered to help at all. 
a frenchman behind me in line wants to join in the fun and grabs onto my shoulders, holding me back and telling her to pull plus fort. she continues to hold my foot by her head and do not much else. i try to take my foot back. she continues to hold it in the air. i ask for my foot back. she continues to hold it in the air. i finally forcefully regain control of my right foot and another security officer says not to bother, she'll hand scan me. clearly she was waiting until everyone got their laughs in before making this offer. 
we appear to be the only non-turkish speakers on the flight and as we board the plane, the steward switches into english when he lays eyes on us. this is a sign of things to come. we are two light-skinned, light-haired, light-eyed, english-speaking girls and any hopes we had of passing unnoticed were sorely misplaced. we're entering a week of being shouted at about whether we are a set, whether we are real, whether we are superwoman, whether we scream for ice cream, etc, etc, ad nauseum. 
the safety instructions on the plane are given by a video of small children dressed up as stewardesses and pilots. i understand nothing as it's all in turkish, but the pilot is an 8-year-old boy in aviators laughing wildly and giving lots of thumbs ups. it is, to say the least, disconcerting. we once again question our decision to fly a budget turkish airline named after a mythical creature. we had accepted that we were taking our lives in our hands in boarding the flight. 
passengers clap as we land, which drives me crazy. even worse, they begin clapping before we come to a stop; there is still plenty of time for us to die. but given the situation, celebration of safe arrival seems acceptable this time. 
we wait in the line for non-turkish passports and person after person has their passport stamped and scuttles through. the agent flips through my passport and asks for my visa. i point him to my french work visa, unsure what else he could mean. he tells me no, the visa for turkey. my pulse quickens. we need a visa? i tell him i have no turkish visa (we are only visiting for a few days) and he tells me to go see the officer around the corner. the fact that this conversation takes place in broken english dotted with turkish does nothing to add to my understanding or reduce my panic. 
we approach the window, passports in hand to find no one behind the glass. we wait, our unsureness building until the agent yells loudly in turkish towards the window and a sort of turkish danny devito comes ambling out from the back, short and round and dark, with a cigarette in hand it appears. 
we venture some english and show him our french visas, explain we are only in turkey for a few days, tell him we do not understand. he points to a piece of paper taped to the wall: usa-3 months-15 euros. we try again to explain we are visiting for less than a week. he points to the sheet. 
we return to the agent to try and understand. finally he says "one day, visa. 3 months, visa." we understand. we need a visa. 
we return to t.d.d. who is now wearing a smug smirk. we hand over our passports and 15 euros, expecting paperwork, a form at the very least. he peels off two small rectangular stickers and places them in our passports and hands them back. we read "multiple entry visa valid for 90 days". 
what took months of paperwork, applications, and a trip to the embassy to obtain for france, took 15 minutes in the istanbul airport at 1 a.m. 
we change our money, find the bus, wait, try to speak softly and not crunch our peanut m&ms too loudly to avoid stares, receive stares anyway, and an hour later we are descending onto taksim square. because of its size and the nearly complete absence of street signs, there are a few false starts before we start heading down the road we are looking for, a wide avenue with heart-shaped lights hanging above. it would be charming if it were not approaching 3 a.m., raining, and full of drunk people shouting "hello! very nice!" at us. 
it is also becoming apparent that the vague directions which i thought would make sense once we were actually there, do not. we do know that it is across from the italian consulate, so after walking the length of the avenue with no luck, mad has the great idea to ask the guards in huts in front of the other consulates where the italian one is. despite their confusion at why two decidedly non-italian looking girls speaking english are looking for an italian consulate in the middle of the night, two sets of directions later we are headed down a side street. it is impossibly steep and full of cats (recurring themes in our stay) and we feel sure that this is the wrong street. but in an attempt to stop making the mistake of turning around too soon, we persevere, decide we will continue just down to the lights. 
when an italian flag appears in the right corner of the sky we are filled with more happiness than i would have thought was possible upon seeing red, white, and green rectangles. 
maddie spots the neverland sign up ahead and we enter a room full of plants, incense, very low candle light, and a turkish man who says "oh yes, hannah. welcome, i've been waiting for you." 
he shows us to our room and we peel off our travel clothes to crawl into bed. i prepare myself to once again battle my footwear. but my right boot slides quickly off my foot and falls to the ground. 
in this moment, giddy, exhausted, drunk on the seemingly ubiquitous humor and adventure just waiting to be unearthed, nothing has ever been more hilarious to me than the other shoe dropping. 

Thursday, February 3, 2011


this doesn't have much to do with my french life aside from the fact that one of my favorite paris memories is going alone to the warhol exhibit at the grand palais, being completely taken by his screen tests, and standing watching them for an hour. which might be an example of why no one wanted to go to the museum with me. 

now they're at the moma and you can make your own screen test

c'est super chouette. 


so i've been really bad about posting the last few weeks. there's been a lot going on here, i was writing but being weird about posting, i was sick, but really i just wanted the ego boost of people telling me to post. this is largely an exercise is forced self-reflection, but it's nice to know people are reading, enjoying, and crying because of my blog. ego boost obtained, now there are a bunch of posts coming soon, one of which is about THE BEST DAY EVER. 
but to start off, yesterday was chandeleur! i celebrated chandeleur with my host family in paris, but only could recall that we made crêpes and there was something to do with candles because i remember my host mother jumped up screaming from the table in the middle of the dinner party because the garland around the mirror was on fire. unfortunately she jumped up screaming from the table occasionally because of hot flashes, so it took the rest of us a minute to figure out what was going on. 
chandeleur in english is candlemas, which in america we somehow turned into groundhog's day, which is a holiday my students found to be weird yet adorable. chandeleur is a catholic holiday for the day when christ was presented at the temple. it's the official last day of the christmas season and you wait until this day to take down your creche. traditionally you light all the candles in your house and make crêpes. while making them you hold a coin in your left hand and flip the crêpe in the air with your right hand and this is supposed to bring you good luck and prosperity. there was also something about keeping the first crêpe you make in the closet, but we skipped that part. 

here's my "kitchen", where all of this is going down. 
conveniently located 6 inches from my bed 

i successfully flipped a crêpe

maddie successfully flipped a crêpe

chris tried to show off
and dropped it on the ground.

i think that means he's going to go broke this year. 
happy chandeleur! 

Monday, January 10, 2011

virginia, je t'aime

i received a lot of warning and advice before returning to the states for the holidays. most of it ran in the "be prepared, this will be really hard" vein. and traditionally i tend more towards reverse culture shock, with difficulty re-acclimating to america, so i was prepared to struggle. 
but home was wonderful. i knew i would be returning to france soon, so there was no homesickness for aix, and nothing makes you appreciate the little things about home and america like knowing you only have two weeks out of seven months to soak it in. 
there is a certain caché in popping into the states for the holidays. your presence is rare, and thus, very special. and this goes both ways. we didn't just go out to lunch, we went out to indian-american for the best food ever and who cares that i'm crying and my nose is running because it's so spicy, i'm not going to have it again until may, so i'm going to eat as much of this saag as i can! 
amazing friends traveled to see me (with my little receiving the all-star award).  
i was only home for about two weeks, so there was a type of suspension, i wasn't fully re-immersing myself or starting back up my american life. 
parts of it were hard.
my mom moved out of the house where i largely grew up while i've been in france, so i wasn't going "home" in that sense. i wasn't able to see or spend the time with some people i had been so looking forward to seeing. 
and returning to france was hard. i landed on monday and it was cold and raining in aix. that evening i had a friend over for coffee and i realized once again that this place is hard but it is wonderful and i love it and not everyone can do what i am doing. 
also, it turns out if you burn your hand and complain on your blog about the sad state of your coffee situation, people give you things like a french press, a stove-top espresso maker, and mugs. on that note, i was hit by a smart car while biking a few weeks ago (not a joke), so if anyone wants to spring for a driver, please go right ahead. 
in truth, seeing home, my family, small town virginia, the people i saw and didn't see, from this perspective clarified my love for them. it's the kind of love that cracks your chest open, that in their absence you lay on your bed and listen to bon iver and cry and just ache for a bit. 
but i don't know that i would have seen it clearly had i not gone away. not that absence makes the heart grow fonder (a little phrase i taught my students today), but that absence breeds clarity. absence makes you see what you had, and what you'll still have when you make it home. 

wine law

if i break the cork that means we have to finish the bottle, right? 

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


i think a lot about language and words. i could blame it on my job, but the job followed, though perhaps also amplified, my unabashed and somewhat nerdy love of words, languages, and linguistics. tied to those things come the questions of meaning and connecting and feeling and how as humans we attempt to use words as the ends to our communicative means. these are some works i've read that struck this vein in me. there's no real point to this post, just to ponder my favorite things in the world: words. and it just so happens my favorite word is ineffable, the word for that which has no words. 

"Maybe sorry’s the only sound
to offer pointlessly and at random
to each other forever, not because of what it means
but because it means we’re trying to mean,
I am trying to mean more than I did
when I started writing this poem, too soon
people will say, so what. This is what I do.
If I don’t do this I have no face and if I do this
I have an apple for a face or something vital
almost going forward is the direction I am headed.
Come with me from being over here to being over there,
from this second to that second."
      --bob hicok

"SADNESS OF THE INTELLECT: Sadness of being misunderstood [sic]; Humor sadness; Sadness of love wit[hou]t release; Sadne[ss of be]ing smart; Sadness of not knowing enough words to [express what you mean]; Sadness of having options; Sadness of wanting sadness; Sadness of confusion..." 
      --jonathan safran foer

"i love you both and i know i'm drunk but i mean it and i know love is a meaningless word to some but i can't think of another one."

"I distrust the incommunicable; it is the source of all violence."                                  
      --jean-paul sartre