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As you can probably guess, this post might be a little girly. I was just thinking on how I am surrounded by mostly XX chromosome species most of the time. And I don’t know… it’s a different environment for me because I mean I have friends who are girls, but I grew up with my two brothers, and have always had my guy friends to balance out the estrogen of my girl friends. But here… it’s like there estrogen ALL over the place! It’s like I have 6 sisters! hahaha mom – how did you do it?  Yet another situation I find myself not really knowing how to handle myself… It is interesting because some of the girls come from a different cultural background as myself and I am treated differently in the sisterly aspect by each one of them. It’s very curious! Hazel is like the very outgoing blunt older sister who has many stories and experiences to share and she knows what she wants and plans accordingly but loves to joke around with her younger sisters… Sasha is like the older sister who loves being around people and who loves to experience a lot and push others to do branch out and the same but I still feel like I need to watch over her, Olga is the sweet smiley younger sister who is very family-oriented and has a fun sense of humor but is mature for her age. Raquel, Daniela, and Andrea are the sisters who I see every other day and they bring a whole new set of  crazies (good crazies) to the table. Hahaha so I was with Hazel, Sasha and Olga – we had all just made dinner together and were enjoying our meal and talking about having a Halloween party at our place and were talking about costumes when a Disney song came on my computer so Sasha says “Oh! We should each be a Disney Princess!” So we decided that Hazel should be Mulan, Sasha would be Belle, Olga would be Jasmine, and then they were trying to figure out one for me and they said “Well we need someone with blonde hair…” haha I said “What?! My hair is clearly brown!” and they said “No… it’s definitely a dirty blonde at best… you should be Cinderella!”  WTF am I colourblind? Well enough of that… but yeah it has been…nice? Yes… a huge dose of femininity =) 

At a sweet Irish pub, the band playing "Sweet Child of Mine"

At a sweet Irish pub, the band playing "Sweet Child of Mine"

 

Hot Tub Pic! From the left: Andrea, Olga, Moi, Sasha, Raquel, and Daniela

Hot Tub Pic! From the left: Andrea, Olga, Moi, Sasha, Raquel, and Daniela

 

With our Umbrellas Combined! XD

With our Umbrellas Combined! XD

 Hazel has been taking most of the pictures which is why she is not in them as often – we should remedy that… but she does have a pretty sweet camera! (Not as awesome as Arien’s but still awesome) and they are all very lovely but I miss you guys a lot =)

You know, it was funny… we have very interesting conversations. Like how Olga, Raquel and Andrea have all said they miss the men in Mexico because they are true gentlemen. I was a little taken aback by this comment and inquired further – and told them how I don’t exactly have the best perception of Mexican men because of how I am treated whenever I get even remotely close to Manassas. They said that it is because the ones who can’t afford to stay in Mexico are like that, and they go to the U.S. to make their lives. However the men in Mexico are apparently “very polite, sweet and family-oriented and treat them like a real lady, and if they ask you out on a date, they will treat you exceptionally well, pay for everything, and return you at the end of the night.” Come to think of it, Isauro is actually pretty polite and won’t let us carry our own groceries, opens the doors for us, and is the only guy who tries to keep the house clean! Huh. Yeah, cause the other two, they may ask if you need help but they mostly do it sort of in a way “just to say I did ask” way… And to be fair, I know in the U.S. at least I believe that part of the reason that chivalry is dying is because more and more women are … um…. a bit on the feminist side… as in, I have seen many situations where a guy will open a door for a woman and she will say some remark like “What? Do you think I can’t get my own door”  0_0 !!! My jaw dropped the first time I heard that. Geez. No wonder chivalry is dying… it’s being stomped to the ground! I just hope that given the chance, men will act like true gentlemen, and ladies should let them. You are not any less equal if you let a man hold open a door for you or walk you to your car.  Hahaha I know that I hold open doors for guys, and some of them accept it and thank me, and others will try to stop me rush to open the door for me. I guess I’ll try to let them do their thing? I love old men – they treat you with such kindness but sometimes I feel like I should be the one opening the door for them, but then they insist and I feel like if I don’t let them, they will be saddened or insulted. So in ethics class we spent half the period (oh – all our classes are one day a week and 3 hours each with a 15 minute break in the middle) talking about how with each generation we are getting more and more demoralized… that was a fun topic…. sorry if you can’t detect my sarcasm – it was a sad discussion, especially when I can visably see the disrespect and loss of morals in a lot of situations. Of course I won’t exclude myself from this – there are many times in which I have been very selfish and all I can do is keep learning, and stop myself before I make the same mistakes.

Sidenote- CERAM smells like Christmas. haha because, it is surrounded by pine trees and we are up in the mountains. And it feels different from the Autumn feeling that I love so much in Virginia, but I can still feel it clearly in the atmosphere here too. I feel like my soul is fine-tuned to this season… like it understands it… and I can feel all the previous years course through me, the quiet intensity of it all comes back every time. How about that for thought? I will have pictures from old Antibes soon!

~ Pictures and minor post updates throughout the other posts below! ~

 

Villa Atalante

Villa Atalante

 

Well here it is, Villa Atalante.   And no, we are not actually making a sitcom.  I don’t know how we did it – a combination of perseverance, combined efforts, and luck.  It is a really beautiful place and I remember the first sign that it was going to be wonderful was when we were being shown the villa by Brian’s agent Florent, and the pressed a button on his key and the wrought iron front gates opened before us. Hahaha – Florent told us that Roman Abramovich is our neighbor and we were joking that we would have a block party and we would be able to say “So guess what Abramovich did when got totally smashed at our pool party??” But… not… haha. We’re so weird. 

So the whole gang is: Hazel -26, Chinese from Canada;  Jonathan – 23, Belgian from Belgium; Sasha – 23, Croatian from Canada; Me – 22; Benjamin – 21, French from Grenoble, France; Olga Maria – 20, Mexican from Mexico; and Isauro – 21, Mexican from Mexico (He is a friend of Olga’s and is such a polite and nice guy – he’s like a younger brother) and so far we all get along pretty well!

So about the Villa:  It is a stone villa (with beautiful ivy crawling everywhere!) and it has a lot of space for living, and we are just down the road from the beach. We have… six bedrooms and each bedroom has it’s own en-suite bathroom and shower, and 2 of them have whirlpool tubs as well.  So there are 9 bathrooms total. Sasha has the biggest room which has doors that open out to the outdoor terrace and she has a king size bed.. or bigger. It’s huge. and massive closets. We have 2 fully equipped kitchens, one on each floor – and I mean fully equipped. We have everything we could ever need and more – Everything from a juicer to a french press coffee maker, to all sorts of knives, wine glasses, china, tart pans and cooking equipment. Yes, I am in heaven. There are windows in the kitchen as well and they open out and when the breeze comes in it’s just wonderful. And we even have a half kitchen outside near the grill. We have a pretty large heated pool, a hot tub, a pool house including a shower stall, a bathroom and a changing room, a pretty decent sized sauna, lawn chairs, two huge outdoor tables and chairs enough for 6 or more to eat dinner on, and a lime tree! We have a ping-pong table, a dart board, a huge yard and garden, statues, an outdoor garage, an alarm system, huge decorative iron gates that open automatically when you let someone in – which you can do from the 2nd floor kitchen as well as the main foyer (as in they ring you, and you can listen to who it is, and there is a surveillance camera where you can see who it is and zoom in. We have 3 bars (one on each floor and one outdoors) and a huge wine rack, 2 smaller wine racks, 2 huge living room/terraces, two dining rooms, a study with a library, a printer, fax/copy machine, and a mini artist/drafting table, a huge front door, a marble staircase, hardwood floors, huge windows, 2 washers and 2 dryers and a room for ironing and washing clothing, a fireplace, several cd/speaker systems thoughout the house if not one in each room (and one in each kitchen!) an outdoor speaker system, remote controls for a/c and stereo devices, lights that come on all over the villa and yard, a sprinkler system!  Best of all, there is a view of Antibes and the mountains, and a view of the Mediterranean. All the windows either have wrought iron and wood doors and shutters or automatic shutters. My room has 2 tall french doors that have two wrought iron and wood doors behind them that open out to the garden, as well as windows just the same that open out to view the backyard and stone arches. We also have a gardner, a pool guy, a plumber, an electricien, and a jack-of-all trades guy so if anything needs fixing we just call our agent, Florent and he sends them over! Crazy…  So…. um now you don’t have to be scared for me, right?

 So a few things that I love:  Eating dinner outside on the terrace watching watching sailboats on the Mediterranean, all of us in the upstairs kitchen making dinner (and making fun of Benjamin’s pasta and cheese every. Single. Day.) listening to the Riviera radio as the breeze blows through the windows and just having a good time, everyone’s (especially Olga, Sasha and Isauro’s laughter while watching Big Bang Theory in the downstairs living room for 6 hours straight – haha Isauro has the most infectious laughter – he reminds me of Alex a little when he laughs.. but you know… just Mexican… and they are about the same age and both such gentlemen. I also love how I can open my French doors in the morning, play music from my laptop, and just relax – or, run out my room across the lawn and jump into the pool! Hahaha. Funny story – I was the first one to run and jump into the pool, and the second I hit the water the alarm went off! It was an alarm for if children accidently fall into the pool when no one is watching – which is really smart to have, but it scared the crap out of me!  We just set it to swim mode and all was fine. =)  I also love my orchid – I had always wanted one but they were too expensive and they are so cheap here! So it brightens my room, along with my sheets! But… not the picture of the three clowns hanging above my head… creepy. Must find something to cover over that soon… I also love playing “find the statues” cause we had to do inventory to make sure everything was there (that took soooo long it is such a big place) and it said there were 4 statues on the property but we could never find the fourth until recently. My favorite is the Lion on the right-hand side. Something else I love – waking up in the early morning after having a coffee in an espresso cup with a croissant smeared with Nutella and walking down to the bus stop and being greeted by a beautiful view of the cap and the Mediterranean, and also – walking half a mile down the street to see the beautiful blue water (all the pictures of the water you see on the side bar that leads you to my Flickr page are from the ½ a mile walk along the rocky beach).  I will keep updating my photos as they come now that I finally have my camera! =) I also posted the fireworks display we saw in Juan les Pins for you (although Olga was the one taking it and I think she forgot that you shouldn’t tilt the camera on its side when taking a video haha)! If you click on the “Slideshow” button on Flickr I personally think it is the best way to view the pictures and the video! Enjoy! ♥

So if you would like my address just let me know, I just decided not to post it online for the world to see is all  =)

– Post updated below –

I know I said my next post would be about our living space but something came up – Ethics class, which reminded me of several recent conversations I have had with a few people – about things you may be aware of, and things you may not. I guess this is a sort of disclaimer (before I very excitedly post about our place after all we’ve been through) saying that I truly realize how blessed I am in life – having a place to rest my head, security, food… (and other more intangible aspects) what might seem like simple things that we either choose to believe most people in the world have, or really, we know that many people do not always get to experience some of these “simple” things. Basically,

We don’t always know or remember how good we have it.

I don’t ever want to forget the people and events in my life that have brought me to this point, and myself for making decisions – those defining moments that lead me to where I am now. Mentally and intellectively (teachers, professors, friends, parents and the list goes on), financially and security-wise (mostly my parents), and about love, loyalty, friendship, and everything in between… and hope, and faith.  I had a conversation with Olga the other day that started with her telling me how back in Mexico, her boyfriend hired 15 Mariachis to go perform and sing to her underneath her window at midnight on her birthday… isn’t that so romantic? =)  Mmmm…  yes, but then we started talking about something very disturbing to me. She told me how the Mexican president had been cracking down on drug cartels for years, and the governor of Chihuahua (where Olga is from) had always given permission to one drug cartel to sell their drugs in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. However, recently he gave permission to one more, which has created a war. Seriously, didn’t he see that this would happen? Even I could see that would inevitably come to pass – just look at history. Well, in this drug war, everyday people who are not even involved in any of that business have been shot (wounded or killed) in the gunfire out on streets where there are supermarkets because the ones shooting at the other cartel missed and hit innocent civilians- she said that all that is done about it when they realize they shot the wrong person is “oh, it wasn’t them. oh well.” She said it’s terrifying to be caught near that situation- of course it is! It’s horrible, to live in such a place where your security is compromised because of the constant drug wars, and you don’t even know if when you wake up in the morning to go out that you will be safe. I know that this can happen anywhere, that you could die that day for any reason, and there are even worse situations to be in… but wow.  Then we started talking about summer jobs, and I mentioned that I worked for Ironbridge for $5.85 an hour plus tips and that I knew it wasn’t much but I wasn’t really doing it for the money. Which sounded pretty lame on my part when she then said to me “Do you know that the average wage for a worker in Mexico is roughly 7 dollars (like 70 Pesos) – for one day of work. And they have to feed themselves, or their family, pay rent, and find transportation all on that 7 dollars a day.” You know, being here I have met a lot of people from around the world and despite all their differences and cultural backgrounds, they can still agree on one thing:  Americans are ignorant.  Last year in my World Regions class, the professor John Boyer (Boyer as we call him) said something that makes even more sense today for me as it did then: “The reason why a lot of people in the world hate Americans is because we don’t realize why they hate us.” Most of us don’t know how good we have it, and many of us don’t care or don’t know about others around the world and their situations. To Americans, ignorance is bliss – that we sit up on our pedestals in our own little world. It is a pretty interesting (bad interesting) feeling that comes over me when people from all different parts of the world meet me, ask me where I am from, and as soon as I say “The United States,” they say “Oh.” and it feels like judgement has just been passed. Wow. That’s a bit unfair isn’t it? Not everyone is like this image they have of us, this stereotype. But I wonder if we can even call it that anymore. Critically looking at us as a nation, we are just recently really starting to care more about the environment. Half of the stuff we aquire ends up in landfills – we are never truly satisfied, it seems. We just want more and more. My Ethics professor told me ( I was late for class cause the bus came early!) and she caught me up on what they had gone through before I got there and added some to it) that at the conference she was at last week for several large companies from around the world, 2 were from the United States and she asked the question “What has your company done towards going green? And one of them actually said “Well it’s bad for business – going through all those new environmental regulations is a pain and takes up a lot of our time and resources.” The other American came up to her later and said that he wanted her to help his company get started on becoming “greener.” Which is good, and the reason for this 58-year old businessman’s sudden shift of goals was all because he had realized that his 2-year old grand-daughter would be growing up in 2050: If we (Americans) carry on like this and keep abusing the world we live in, by 2050 we will need 10 worlds to accomodate the way we live our lives, and Europe will need 3… yet, we only have one. There is an interesting-looking book on this subject that I plan to read called “Just One World.” by D. Mark Smith.  Yeah, one thing I noticed when I came here is that Europeans seem to be a lot more “green” – you know how in IKEA they make you pay for one of their synthetic/recycled bags to put all your purchases in and you thought that was unfair? Well they are doing it for sustainability, and every big company in Europe does it. (You probably noticed that IKEA is a Swedish company no doubt?) They do it so that you will bring back your purchased bag and use it again and again – and it works. Carrefour does it and whenever I get on the bus I see so many people carrying a carrefour bag to use to put their groceries into.  Also, what’s pretty cool at the Heathrow Airport in London is that they had been having a problem with smaller birds getting caught in the aeroplane engines and doing damage to them, and they had been trying to fix the problem in the past by using poison. Now though, they have a woman who sends out a falcon before the planes go out and it flies over the area, marking the territory so that the smaller birds stay away and they don’t have to use poison, or kill the birds. Just so you know, there are some pretty nonsensical things that Europeans do too, for instance: I figured out why when coming in to the Nice Aeroport down from London we had to make a really wide circle in the air before landing. It’s because there are 14 houses harboring very wealthy residents who pay the airlines to not take the shortest route by flying over their houses in Antibes (because the plane makes too much noise), thus spending 5 more minutes in flight than necessary – and considering how many flights come into Nice Aeroport, that is a pretty decent amount of extra pollution added into the air. It’s all actually pretty fascinating to me – which is why I decided to drop my organizational behavior course (the curriculum was way too similar to the intro to marketing class I took 2 years ago) and take “Introduction to International Relations.” The guy says everything in English, and then says it all again in French, and switches it up a bit. Hahaha – but the first class was pretty interesting – a little world history with a small dose of politics to get us going. Thanks for listening, and don’t worry I am not becoming anti-American – I am just saying part of what I see. But there are many things that I love about the United States, such as the freedom that we and those before us have worked so hard to aquire and maintain… it is really such a beautiful thing. We do try send our troops around the world to try to help other nations and promote the same freedom we enjoy in our own country. And I don’t care what anybody says- we are united. I have seen people come together when it matters the most to help those around them both from the person inside the situation and also the one seeing it from the outside. My friends and I were in a serious car accident a few summers ago and one of the things that I remember most because it amazed me was that everyone surrounding the area ran over and out of their houses to help us. They collectively used a big wooden pole to prop up the car (which was on its side) and they pulled us out. I am very thankful that people acted like I hoped they would, when it mattered the most. The other time when humankind amazed me was when I was in Maryland with someone close to me one summer ago, we were driving on a smaller road when we came to a slow pace because of a car accident, and when traffic moved to be right near it, we could see many people all trying to help – the person was still inside the car but the car door was stuck, and we watched a man pull off the door with just his bare hands I believe in an adrenaline rush. It really moved me – partially because I had also been in an accident but mostly of the intensity and will of mankind to act, and to protect. My friend commented that if he were a superhero looking down on this scene, of normal citizens acting with such intensity to help others in such distress, he would smile. I know you did not know that when you started reading this, it would become so deep – or maybe you did expect it and I hope you take something from it.

Oh – the reason why my Ethics class smells like a Hollister store is because almost half the people in my class are undergraduate (try Freshmen) girls from American University. They are pretty annoying actually… so I only know one awesome girl who is going to that school right now, but she’s a grad student so maybe that’s partially why the difference. =)

Imagine about a mile of outdoor cafes and bistros set upon their own private beach just thirty feet from the water, their intoxicating smells drifting out to welcome you in on this particular balmy evening. The atmosphere is very hospitable, making you feel light and calm, taking your worries and woes from you and checking it at the door. You are engulfed in a sea of very well-dressed beings who frolick in their summer playground. I wonder how these people make plans for dinner- “Sure just let me park my yacht on the Mediterranean and I’ll take my speedboat to shore and we can have dinner on the private beach in the moonlight.” Yeah, no I am not kidding, there is an army of yachts on the Mediterranean and they are enormous (some of them have helicopter decks!) – they look like they are battleships ready to attack you where you stand!

The beach at Juan les Pins is beautiful – it is so clear and blue-green in colour, however tops are pretty much optional. Oh well, you get used to it eventually. So things I like in Juan les Pins: Ferrero Rocher and Creme Brulee gelato/ice cream mix that is presented/spooned into the shape of a flower (I’ll post a picture soon), the Italian father and son duo who sell me my pistachio and cafe soft serve ice cream for 1€, and the best display of fireworks I have ever seen over the Mediterranean. We were all sitting in our residence and suddenly we heard them – fireworks. And suddenly we were on our feet, running through the streets of Juan les Pins towards sounds not unlike titans crashing together in the night sky, illuminated by streaks of brilliant colour rising and cascading over the Mediterranean Sea. They were being blasted off from three different ships, and the show was amazing – it was set to music too, such as The Can Can song (we have a great video to post on facebook of it!) and 007 film soundtracks, Queen, and other traditional French songs. It was beautiful! Oh – and there are crêpe shoppes everywhere. Sasha and I shared one from a Grand Marnier shoppe, where the chef cooked one right on the street for us and let Sasha pour (more like drench) the poor thing with Grand Marnier (orange-flavored liqueur) but I have a pretty awesome picture with her barely being able to lift the gigantic bottle with a huge smile on her face (and the GM dude put his chef’s hat on her head for the photo, he was pretty fun).  You know what is really disturbing to me though? In most of the clothing shoppe windows there are dog purses. I don’t mean purses that look like dogs, I mean that they are purses literally meant for women to carry their little dogs around everywhere with them, right under their shoulder. So…. weird…  Oh! but there was a metallic living statue dude – he put on a brilliant performance, which by that I mean he stayed in one position for… forever. Oh you know what’s kind of funny? Johan called the day after I told him off and said that he decided to lower the price for all of us to 1800€, and I declined, and so he said that we should call him when we don’t find a place and come back to him. And then he said we should all go out for drinks cause he is lonely. And I am not a mean person, and I usually give people the benefit of the doubt and try to trust people first and then if they have wronged me, I pass judgement… so I don’t feel so bad for the fact that it was reeeally hard not to burst out laughing when he said that, I actually bit my lip holding it back. Glad Sasha didn’t hear, she would have laughed for sure. But I did say “well I’ll call you if we decide to, thanks for the offer.” People keep saying I am too nice for my own good… is this true? Hazel has also called me a “sorry” whore – I give it up (the word) too easily. Basically, I apologize way too much, which could definitely be true, I have noticed this. You know what is interesting? Is that people who are almost strangers to me can see a lot of my traits right away and have no problem informing me of them – which I don’t mind, I actually like it, this blunt honesty. I have gotten compliments as well, but I like hearing how they analyze me in every aspect.  So next post I will tell you about our new place! And hopefully post pictures! But guess what! We have a lime tree!!! You know what that means, right?? Mojitos forever, baby! Well… now all I gots ta do is go plant some mint. And you know, grow a Bacardi Limon rum tree. It’ll work – really. =)

 

Crème brûlée & Ferrero Rocher gelato flower

Crème brûlée & Ferrero Rocher gelato flower

 And of course this is Sasha… being Sasha. Hahaha. The guy was pretty cool too – he let her try on his Grand Marnier chef hat!

 

Sasha drenching our crêpe with Grand Marnier

Sasha drenching our crêpe with Grand Marnier

 

Now this is the life: You get to sit on a beach in a big comfy chair/couch and eat your dinner casually while watching the setting sun.

Couch Café in Juan les Pins

Couch Café in Juan les Pins

=)  So I know you got excited reading the that title and I will get to that in a little bit buuuuuut first – back to my horror story part III:

So Sasha and Olga return to us looking like death… yikes. On one of Sasha’s huge suitcases one of the wheels came off and on Olga’s, both wheels were now kind of sideways. eep. lol. And it was really really hot that day… They said it was pretty bad pulling their baggage all over trying to find the residence, and then finding the right bus back to us. Apparently they met J.H. while they were waiting for a bus back to us… well, they had never met him before so this is based just on his facebook profile picture. Hahaha I remember now- Sasha said “hmm. he looks like a little French boy holding a tuna.”  hahaha but um… upon further inspection it was actually a pretty badass crocodile. And he’s not French, he’s from Belgium (which gives us hope that he may actually be a decent person) and he’s not so little. Haha I guess Sasha recognized him and yelled out “Jonathan??”  and he looked shocked and instantly said “No.” lmao. But then she explained who she was and all was good. Apparently he had just visited Johan’s place and didn’t like his pipe sticking out of the wall as a showerhead to say the least. He said he felt pretty ripped off, especially after he went by a real estate agency nearby and one of the agents knew Johan’s place and said it was way overpriced and needed a lot of work done and that we shouldn’t pay more than 1500 Euros for it (when Johan had wanted 2600 Euros for it!). So then we all decide to keep looking now that we have the residence and Jonathan still has his place for another week. Plus we wouldn’t get internet for two more weeks. So he calls to say all this as well and that we should all discuss things ourselves over drinks tonight and I explain that it would be fine but we have to move our luggage first. Haha so he asks us which bus station can he meet us and offers to help. So ask Sasha this and she says “I accept your offer!” hahaha she’s hilarious.  So then Johan calls just as we are getting ready to drag all our luggage over to the bus station a bit or a ways down the road, and I say “I will call you later tonight we are really stressed right now- we happened to find a residence to stay in and we have to drag all our luggage on the bus over there now, and it will take some time so we will meet you tomorrow.” And then he has the AUDACITY to say “well, ok but remember that you have to come over to paint Benjamin’s rooms tomorrow and help move the stuff out of the room.” OH! did I not tell you this fun part yet?? So Yeah, the day before this he said that if we wanted Benjamin as the sixth person because he had a car, etc, then we would have to help paint his room because it needed a new coat, AND to help him move the stuff out of the room. Hahaha Sasha heard my short-tempered voice and looked like she was about to grab the phone and start yelling obscenities into it so I said “I’ll call you tonight. Bye.” LOL. Thinking back on this makes me laugh. A lot.

So then us girls literally drag our luggage down the street but then we see the bus coming and so Hazel and Olga run really fast and I try to help Sasha who’s arm is about to tear off because her suitcase weighs a TON. And the wheel is broken so she has to drag it. So here we are, four young women trying to run as fast as we can with all our luggage flying about us and the bus driver takes one look at us and PASSES US BY! I swear that bus is supposed to stop there! Hahaha…. man. So we wait with all our luggage until the next bus comes and it looks preeeeeetty hilarious. Hazel got a picture and I will upload it as soon as I can steal it from Olga’s camera =) So yeah, the effort required to get all our stuff onto the bus full of people is pretty funny too (we get some preeeetty interesting looks) but finally we reach the bus stop in Antibes that we need to get to before we transfer to the one that will take us to Juan les Pins. And right as we get off we see Jonathan coming towards us holding back a smile as he takes Sasha’s suitcase from her and pulls it behind him like it weighs 2 lbs. So we all introduce ourselves as we run around like crazy trying to find the bus stop that will take us to Juan les Pins, which ironically is the one that we got off at.  Triangles are my faaaavorite shape. Not. So finally we get to our destination, Coulour Soleil which is a residence and to our room … 104, which funny enough is the same number our last room was. So this room… (because it IS one room) is one room with a bunk bed, a bathroom, two couches, a table with chairs, a small kitchen and a balcony.  We are pretty sure our suitcases take up half the space. So we all just lay there and relax. I am pretty sure every part of our bodies ache.  So we are all just sitting there on the urge of passing out when Hazel decides to check her email and she has an email from the guy saying that the place is still available! His name is Brian and he is from Great Britain but he has a place in Cap D’Antibes and is renting it out starting October or the middle of September. He asks if Hazel is from Hong Kong (from her last name) and says that he is planning on going there in a few days and can’t wait. He is very polite and you can tell he is British haha, and ends the email with “Oh do call back soon.”   So Jonathan inquires about this place and we show him the pictures and he laughs out loud (I did too at first, honestly) and then realizes we are not joking and says “Seriously??”  So then she is starting to email the guy back and we are all huddling over her as she types and we say “Play the race card! Play the race card!”  hahaha cause it appears he likes Asians? So there are six rooms in this place and we would need a sixth person… Oh yeah and Jonathan got pretty pissed when he found out that Johan was trying to make the girls paint Benjamin’s room and that’s pretty much when we decided to all screw Johan over and steal his to-be tenants from him. So I said “If only I had gotten Benjamin’s number…” and he says “Oh, well I have it.”  Ha. Sweeet. So Johan has called three times while we have been sitting there and I won’t answer because besides from being royally pissed off at him he is calling after he knows that we just spent all our time pulling our things over here and I said I would call him later.  So we get the number for the agent who is dealing with Brian’s place and call to see if we can still see his place today- and by some miracle the agent is still there – on a Saturday! But we have to get over there like, now. So I am pretty much herding everyone out of the room saying “We gotta go now!! Let’s go!” hahaha. So we make it to the bus leaving for Antibes and we looked at the wrong bus schedule for the transfer bus to the Cap, so we had to call a cab so we would be there by 5:45 because the agent was being nice enough to wait until then for us to get there. We made it in time, met the guy outside the place and we walk down the street to where the place was. After the gates automatically opened before us we had a very hard time staying calm. We were thinking to ourselves the whole time “this is too good to be true” and it was hard to allow ourselves to feel joy because we were not sure if it would last for long- we were too used to being burned. Haha… we kept trying to keep each other calm but in the end we just… let ourselves be happy, what the hell. =)  You could hear screeching all throughout the place. LOL… mostly by Sasha and Hazel. Though even Jonathan and Olga kept saying “Oh… my God.” And I… was a little scared to let myself go… but in the end I just couldn’t help it and I basically prayed right then and there that our misfortune might turn around, please, God. 

We were on such a high, it was amazing. It was really, really nice to see everyone so happy =) Especially Hazel. It was… one of the happiest moments I have ever had because it was fascinating to me that even though I just met these people we had already been tested so much, with such stressful situations and with each other, and funny that we could be linked so much, and we could hardly contain our happiness, it was bursting out so physically. We… kept taking turns jumping up and down. Hahaha. Wow. Yeah just remembering, our hearts felt like they were about to burst. Oh yeah… and then Johan called and I finally answered it- apparently he was trying to get in touch with us because he had convinced his family that we were “trusted people” and we could stay in his villa. Ha. Too little too late. And so I told him right there that we were not interested in his villa, for several reasons. One, the price he was charging was way too much for what his place was worth and there was so much work that needed to be done, (oh he tried to start to say all the things he would change but I wouldn’t let him get a sentence in) and I told him that we were very insulted by the whole Hostel situation and lack of hospitality, and that “I am giving you some advice for your next tenants if you get any, you should be up front from the start with everything. Just don’t hide anything. Don’t call back with something new every time. I hope you change this and good luck in the future. Goodbye.” Hahaha… everyone just kind of looked at me smiling and said they couldn’t have done it better. And you know what? Even though we are not guaranteed this new place at all, I have a much better feeling about it, and Hazel, Sasha and Olga kept reminding me that if something is meant to happen, it will, and if not, then it won’t – don’t push too hard to try to make things fit when they won’t. I think I know all too clearly what they mean… Yeah. Just “be,” right?  And I’ll do just that. =)  Sidenote?:  “Stolen” by Vitamin String Quartet (it’s an instrumental cover) – the intro is brilliant… I would love to compose a piano part to integrate with the strings for that song. The song is great, but it needs something… a little more creativity, and a little more power in the chorus… and scattered throughout… maybe a trumpet for the crescendos and to add a touch of playfulness…  it has so much potential. Wow. I can see this as a symphony… I need to learn more about musical theory, but I can imagine a revamped version of this song performed beautifully in an outdoor concert demi-dome… I love the thought of music resonating into the still night and flowing out to where everyone can hear and enjoy it.

So!  We get back to Juan les Pins and we are to meet Benjamin to see what he is like (they were saying that basically it was like we were holding interviews for who was to live with us in our place, and actually, it really was … and it was kind of weird being in that position). So we all wandered around looking for a place to eat before we went to have drinks with Benjamin. We found a nice looking Italian place and I had some penne carbonara and it is basically a cream sauce with egg, but the way they did it was neat, the just put half an egg shell in the middle of my pasta and there was a raw egg yolk in it, which I drizzled on top. It was yummy! Especially with the pieces of bacon. Yup, I know- fatty, huh mom? =) But at this point I didn’t care. I could probably have stuffed 5 puff pastries into my mouth I was so happy. It was a really nice and filling meal, and we all got along great, which is typically, you know, a good sign for roommates.  So with our hearts and stomachs full we went to L’Esterel, a pretty cool Irish pub (they are really popular with French people in their 20’s). So we met Benjamin (who is French) and his girlfriend and he seemed pretty cool – we didn’t tell him about the rest of the place at first, just his room because we wanted to see what he was like as a person just looking for a place to rest his head (he hadn’t been able to find anything and was living in a hostel). And then we surprised him – well, actually Hazel could barely keep it in and said “Oh can we just tell him now?” hahaha so, she showed him the rest of the pictures and he was amazed and very happy. Glad we could spread that feeling to someone who needed it just as much as we did.

Oh so we ran into a few people that we had all met with before one way or another (I almost roomed with the two of them before I met Sasha, Hazel and Olga) named Raquel and Guilherme. Raquel is Mexican, and. Haha Guilherme (or Guil) is actually Brazilian, who goes to school in London, and is now studying abroad for a year in South of France. What’s funny is that he definitely has an English accent… well, he actually sounds exactly like Ewan McGregor and I told him so.  So when you meet people you have at least met once before (or for the first time, sometimes) it is custom to do the kiss on each cheek thing, and so Raquel was coming over to me to kiss my cheek, but after the first one I went for her other cheek (as custom!) and she wasn’t expecting it so we almost kissed. Lol.  Everybody laughed, and then Olga takes that opportune time to tell me that it is only one cheek in Mexico. Hah. At least I found that out first with Raquel before I tried it on anyone else!

5/7 Roommates! From the left: Hazel, moi, Olga, Sasha, and Jonathan

5/7 Roommates! From the left: Hazel, moi, Olga, Sasha, and Jonathan

So I wanted to say that you all are truly lovely.  I watched all the videos that you guys made for me! And it made my day… wow. There were very cheery ones, funny ones, deep ones, some that were probably filmed after they had just watched “Taken”… hahaha… others were thoughtful, some were very creative, some gave advice in a lot of different aspects, and some were very looooong lol.  And all of them were very sweet and caring. I even teared up a little bit! Thank you all for keeping me in your thoughts and prayers, and in your lives. Thank you for having faith in me – tis what keeps me going! =) I miss and love you all. ♥

So back to my horror story part II. I think I left you at the night before when we were drowning our sorrows with cheap French red wine and cursing Johan to the depths of Hell… sound about right? Ok, then to continue on: Hazel decided to do some last resort apartment/villa searching on the net and found a couple places but we could not be sure if they were already taken so we did not get that excited. There was one in particular that when we saw the picture of the place, we laughed out loud. We decided to message the guy just for kicks, because seriously what are the odds that we would get an answer to our prayers in less than one day, before we were doomed to sign the contract with Johan? (Turns out he didn’t have a way to print out the contracts and called to say that he may have to have us sign the next day, Sunday so he could go to the city and get them printed) So the next morning arrives, at 7 o’clock and we had stayed up a little bit last night to fall asleep watching Juno to try to cheer us up a bit… I think we ended up going to sleep around three. So when I awoke I decided I would just start the day like it was on purpose, why not? So I brewed us some coffee (we had been drinking the hazelnut blend that I got from Bay Village on TJ’s beach trip this summer and it was very tasty!) and started blasting U2’s “Beautiful Day.”  I would have torn open the curtains but they were already parted and the sun was fiercely streaming through the glass. We started cleaning, called the residence to see if we could get the place in Juan les pins for a week but they would not pick up at the desk. We figured they were probably checking people out of their rooms like they were about to be doing to us in countdown: 02:29 hours. So Sasha and Olga packed and left some of their belongings with Hazel and I while they took their first load to the bus stop to secure the residence in Juan les Pins. Luckily, Olga had gotten her French phone the day before so we could keep in contact. So Hazel and I went to work cleaning the room and the kitchen, bathroom and balcony and finish JUST as they inspector guy comes through the door. Ok, maybe he came in and told us we had 5 minutes to get all our suitcases out.  So we piled everything right outside the door and he approved of the cleanliness of the room and gave back our security deposit. So Hazel and I lugged down the rest of our baggage plus Sasha’s many travel items and second suitcase.

So as we waited on the corner next to a mountain of luggage awaiting a call of success from our other party of two, an unexpected thing happened. We were blessed in meeting someone amazing and also very sweet.  A dearly aged gentleman pulls up in his car and notices us sitting there with all out belongings and asks in French if we are waiting for someone. We try to the best of our French-speaking abilities to describe our situation and he smiles as we tell him about our friends who we expect to return with good news. He then gives us a Palmier pastry (the one affectionately called “elephant ears”) that he had just picked up from a pastry shop and said that we must be hungry. We say “No, no we are fine!” but he insists with a gentle smile. We realize that in all our recent misfortune we have become a bit emotionally numb and are furthermore startled to receive such a simple yet unbelievably kind gesture. It is a very warm feeling that flows through you when you are bestowed with such selflessness that you can’t help but stand there in awe. We then notice that he has a basket of food in the seat of his car and several more in the back and is about to attempt to carry them all himself. We instantly hurry to his side and ask to help him take his purchases to his room and he obliges, saying “Merci. Vous êtes très gentile, très très gentile. Merci, merci,” and I leave it this way, in the beauty of the language and the moment but it translates to “Thank you. You are both very sweet, so very sweet.” And we help him to his room and then back towards his car when he pricks his finger on a thornbush and starts bleeding! What is strange is that earlier when sitting with just the two of us we had been too tired to even get some lotion out of a bag, but all of a sudden we find ourselves leaping forward with energy, scattering the contents of our suitcases upon the road just to find this sweet soul a bandage for his finger. Ha ha ha =)  He then offers us a ride to our destination but we have just received a message from Olga saying that by the grace of God and all that is Holy that they were able to book the residence and were thus on their way over to us. We politely decline and so he bids farewell with a sweep of his hand from his lips out to us and away as he drives off.

So Hazel and I are filled with this strange joyful energy and suddenly life is not so bad and our bones don’t ache as much, we feel light and bubbly. We start to talk about gestures of kindness and character and why are we here, in this place, now. I confess a few of my real reasons for coming to France and Hazel tells me a little bit more about her life, and her journeys to Cambodia and Vietnam.  She showed me pictures of the most beautiful scenery at water’s edge – the sun just dipping down beneath the clouds into the ocean, casting a grey-blue haze over the sea of fishing boats that seem to lay still in eerie silence. She tells me about her travels into the markets when she would sit down around a cookpot with other Vietnamese villagers and watch the man tending fire reach his hand into a bucket and take a handful of a meat  (and not the parts you are used to eating) and drop them into the pot. She says he then offered her the most unusual parts- such as cow’s brain, small intestines, large intestines- and stared at her with a smirk on his face, watching closely for her expressions. Of course, she ate whatever he gave her, in a “bring it on” sort of way. She said it was pretty unsanitary, yet it tasted pretty good. She then told me about how when walking along the streets she would see many children who were missing limbs, had extra ones – all these children who had been affected by Agent Orange in the Vietnam war. Instead of going to school, most of their parents would make them go out to the streets to get pity money from foreigners, so they learned the art of selling… anything, exceptionally well. For instance, there was one boy who called out to hazel in almost perfect English, (which they pick up from listening to the foreigners who pass through) saying “Miss, would you like to buy a book? Come on, you know you want to” and Hazel would reply “But no, I don’t” and the little boy said “What if I could name all the provinces of Canada?” And she thought about it and said “If you can name them all, then yes I will buy a book from you.” He listed them all off rapid-fire, impressing everyone around him. He retained all this just from learning from the travellers who pass through. If only he could go to school… and there are schools there, apparently it’s just that the parents will get more money from what their kids bring home than from sending them to school.  It is so interesting to listen to people and their stories… especially about travelling… I would love to keep travelling and learn as much as I can, experience as much as I can. Hazel has four years on me, but she has seen a lot – listening to her really makes me want to get out there too. You only have one life to live, right?

  Oh, P.S.?  About our dear kind friend? He was Italian.

Was among several of the choice phrases used that day.  As I told you earlier, I have to work back from several days ago and recall. Oh, and this I do recall – fear not. So while I am sitting here using a really confusing French keyboard and downing a Fanta (what is it with these citrus drinks?? If it’s not Fanta orange then it’s Fanta lemon, or Orangina, or Limonade, etc… the list goes on and I am really not complaining – I find them quite refreshing actually) I am putting all my thoughts in order.  This particular post is one of the ones that will describe the crap we have gone through and I am putting a disclaimer up right now so none of you tries to board me on the next plane back: This story has a happy ending. It’s just several posts down the line… =)  No freaking out ok? Ok? With that understood, you may read on:

So us girls had been trying to find a real place to live for the remainder of the semester (or however long each one of us is staying) and we came across a villa. The outside looked nice, and it was located in Cap D’Antibes which we heard was a little further away from Antibes, Juan les Pins and the city life but beautiful (I mean it IS right by the water) and there was a bus that came through the area. So we started to get in contact with the owner, a guy named Johan. A name that we say very bitterly if even at all now. At the very beginning he was very nice, although he was in Paris at his “prestigious business school,” HEC and therefore could not meet with us yet because he was to arrive back at his home in the cap on the 5th of Septembre. And that was the day that we had to be moved out of our Residence in Antibes, and we could not just arrange to stay there for another week because the weeks to follow were booked. So we made him very aware of this fact. So Johan speaks English pretty well- really well in fact so at least that was good. At least. So the guy told us more about the place and he said he could not really find pictures on his computer of the inside of his villa. The stats on this place are: 4 bedrooms, two bathrooms, one half bathroom, an equipped kitchen, a dining room, a living room, internet (I asked), a garden, a pool, a patio and a terrace (balcony that you can walk out onto from one of the rooms on the second floor) with a view of the sea.  So basically so far we would have to see his villa in person on the day that we had to be moved out… risky right? But so far we had not found many other options, and most places were taken… make that every place. We literally walked into every real estate place etc that we saw and they all told us the same thing – that there were only studios left, nothing with two or more rooms available and the ones that were wanted a three year contract or they were not furnished, no beds, nothing. So we asked Johan if he could come back sooner and he wasn’t really going for that. So over the next couple of days he would call pretty much three times a day. Each time he told us something new. For example, he told us that because we were not French citizens, we had to have all the money up front because normally where if it was a french student renting, the owner could just ask that they have their parents sign something that says they would pay it if their son/daughter didn’t. Ok. Then he said that we needed to have that letter anyways. Ok. Then he said that we would have to have one account to put all our money in and that we could make it so that nobody could touch it/put a lock on it and the bank would take out the money for each month every month and put it in his bank account. So basically either way we needed to have all the money upfront. Ok. And then he says that he will be staying 5 days with us while we are there after we sign the contract because he wants to enjoy the place for a few days while he is there and he needs a room to stay. Ok. And then he said we needed to pay 200€ a year for insurance in case someone robs us and steals our things. Not his things but ours. Ok. Then he tells us that his pool is broken and needs to be fixed so we couldn’t use it the first month. Ok. Then he says that he pays 300€ a month for a gardener, a housekeeper, and someone to take care of the pool. And we have to pay for it. We asked if he could cut the cost of the housekeeper if we clean the villa ourselves. He said that if after one month and the maid comes and sees if our cleaning is satisfactory then he might be able to cancel it. Ok.  Then he calls to say that the services are combined so he can’t cut them. Ok. Then he calls to say that there is a guy who is interested in taking the 4th bedroom… ok, that means one of us would have to share a room with another girl. Ok. Then Johan lets something slip about not having internet. Turns out, the place CAN have internet, but for 30€ a month, along with telephone and cable. But then he has a tv and he won’t let us use it. Ok. So then we ask that when it gets too cold to swim if we don’t use the pool, can he cut the costs for the person who comed to maintain it. He says no, because they would have to empty the pool and if one of us fell in it would be a liability for him. Ok. So then we find out that having the guy move in and take a room does not help decrease our rent, it stays the same. Ok. So he gave us the guy’s number, Jonathan is his name… too weird for me (especially when I keep getting text mesages from him) but no one else can talk to him cause they don’t have phones yet. So I also have to deal with Johan the owner this whole time.

Luckily this villa mate guy seems pretty decent and actually pretty nice on the phone, and he has a car. Sweet.  He is from Belgium and speaks perfect English and he works in Sophia Antipolis which is where CERAM is located.  Things are looking better cause it is normally a 40 minute bus ride to our school from the Cap. Ok. So then in the meantime us girls are running around getting everything we need set up, getting french bank accounts, etc and doing everything we need to do for orientation and classes for Sasha and Hazel who are in the Masters program. Ok. So then Johan calls to say that he can meet us on Friday, the day before we have to move out. 1 day is better than none. Ok. So then on friday he calls to tell us where to meet, we find his place after a half hour. And find out that… he has been there since two days ago. And that the pool is literally green and brown. This “garden” is dry yellow grass. The lawn chairs are dirty. So are all the sheets on the beds. Olga sat on one of the beds and it broke (and she is my size just a little shorter). The beds were pretty much cots. The bathroom for J.H. on the first floor was messed up and there was only a pipe sticking out of the wall for his shower. Heh. and A window was broken, etc. the whole place needed cleaning. So then we say we have to discuss everything with each other, and the problem is that we are desperate. And do not have a place to live for the next day… so Olga and Hazel are thinking it’s too far from the city, the guy is just not worth trusting and it’s too expensive (1650,00€ for us girls and that split comes out to $577.00 each month BEFORE utilities of water, electricity, etc.) And this decision is stressing us because we don’t want to split up… but finding a place for four people would be very difficult. Oh and he has a fireplace but he just won’t let us use it because of liability issues. heh. Figures. Also there is a projector to watch movies on and a sound system (which we find out from Jonathan the next day that Johan was actually charging 200€ a month to use it but didn’t tell us). So anyways I am pretty sure that Johan was listening to us talk amongst ourselves so he comes over and says that he plans to fix the front door. And that he will have the pool cleaned in 2 months tops (and we have a feeling he means the 2 months more than sooner) Oh and then he says that it will take 2 weeks for the services to install internet. And then when he heard that the distance would be a problem, he says that he has actually been talking to this other guy named Benjamin who is French and goes to CERAM who has a car. And that there was a room in the basement he could stay in. And so we thought ok, well if the guy is fine with it, and maybe he would not mind driving us and that would lower the rent for us too. But no, then we find out that Johan has put all his stuff into the basement room and says that if we want him to stay there then we could help move the stuff out. And then he says that the room needs a new coat of paint and we have to help him paint it. And then he says that no, no, Benjamin’s crap room is not helping to lower our rent, it is just 300€ more for him to open that room and an added person using everything. And then he says he is planning to put down new grass in April. Really? Lot of good that would do us… So then he says that actually, this is his family’s home and he has to ask them for their final say on everything. So we leave his place, after asking if we sign the contract the next day would we be able to move in that day (just asking in case we had no other options) and he said yes.

So then we leave his place and head to Juan les Pins to at least try to have a good night and enjoy ourselves because we haven’t even been to Juan les Pins yet, which is supposed to be a really nice beach city. So when we are on our way there for a night out on the town (before we have to wake up early and move all our stuff by 10 in the morning to Johan’s place and we are dreading it) we get a call from Johan saying that his family is not ok with six people living there. I was starting to get pissed off (heh. Sasha, Hazel and Olga were already there) and said “well our answer depends on if he can stay there because he is a means of transportation.” and he said “oh…” so then he calls back in an hour and says “I convinced my family to let him stay there.” and so ok, things are right back to where they were, still in sh*tville and then we try to eat dinner at a nice Italian place and he calls again to say that we can’t stay at his place without signing the contract first. So he says something about staying there for 17€ a night each. We have nowhere else to go so we say ok. So then he calls back one more time to say something else but he said there was a miscommunication and he meant that our bags could stay at his place but we would have to stay in a hostel  for a couple nights until the contract was made. WTF. Knowing that we have nowhere to go, who the hell puts 4 girls out on the streets when NO ONE is staying in your place?? And why would would we leave our stuff with him? Haha. Sasha then said one of the best quotes of the night; “Is that why the French have condom dispensers on the side of the road, for f***ing people over?!”  Yeah… they really are on the side of the road, easy access.

We barely had an appetite, we could not really enjoy our meal. So the busses stop running around 10 at night or so we find out, and either we would take more than an hour to walk back, or take a cab. We bought 2 bottles of red wine, called a cab and we were on our way back to our residence. So we start talking and suddenly I get the urge to tell our situation to our cab driver and ask how renting a villa works and if we really have to go through all this crap. He said that if it is a villa they have different rules and that we do in fact have to pay the 2 months security deposit in advance and the money up front, but everything else sounded strange to him. So then Sasha then says “Oh yeah? How do you say ‘bullsh*t’ in French?” LOL. He laughed and told us but we didn’t remember it. So we got back to the residence, were exhausted, hadn’t packed yet, and we cracked open both bottles of wine. Oh and Hazel started throwing back shots of the wine… and started to turn red since she is one of those who lacks the enzyme that helps break down alcohol… (she’s Asian). Ha ha so then we decide to skype Jonathan and see what he has to say about all this.

So we told him how bad his room was and found out that Johan was making him pay 580€ for it (that’s a lot).  Basically, he was supposed to meet Johan the next day and Johan didn’t want us to meet at the same time… shifty. So Jonathan says “How bout this, I meet him a little early, and you come a little late and we ‘accidently’ meet? Oops.” And so starts the collective scheming against Johan the Terrible. We found a residence that we had been looking at in Juan les Pins earlier that day that might be available (just one room and it would be all of us crammed in there for 420€ for one week) but the reception desk was closed so we would have to ask if it was still available in the morning. So we went to bed not knowing where we would sleep the next day and it really put things into perspective. I hope none of you ever have to experience that feeling.

P.S.,  Basil finally jumped.