13.1!

I ran my first half marathon today!  That’s 13.1 miles (or 21 kilometers) and that’s the longest I’ve ever run in my life, and I survived!  And I would do it again!

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I was feeling pretty nervous this morning, hoping I’d trained enough in the last few months and eaten enough carbs in the last few days to reach my goal of 2 hours and 25 minutes.  Rain had been forecasted for the 24 hours leading up to the start of the race and all through the morning, so I was crossing my fingers that it would stay dry.  Luckily it ended up being a beautiful day for running (cloudy and high 50s) and the rain held off until tonight.

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The race started from the Promenade des Anglais at 9:30, so I gathered all my gear, including my iPod with a 3.5 hour playlist (thanks to everyone who contributed!), and left my apartment around 8.  The London Marathon was also happening this morning and I read an article that runners were wearing black ribbons as a Boston tribute.  I didn’t have any black ribbon so I tied a piece of black yarn around my wrist as I was heading out.  There were over 3000 runners for the half marathon, plus all the runners that did the 5K or 10K, so it was a pretty big event for Nice.

Black ribbon for Boston

Black ribbon for Boston

After everyone was lined up but before the race started, we had a moment of silence for Boston, and then we were off!  I breezed through the first 8K or so, posting a few 6:30-ish kilometers.  I had a lot of energy and even though I didn’t have anyone in the crowd cheering for me, specifically, I pretended everyone was 🙂  I was thinking, hey this isn’t so bad, maybe I can try a full marathon soon!  (HA)  For the most part, the course was flat, with just a few tiny hills.  The view was, of course, gorgeous, with most of the race taking place along the sea, but also around the port and near the art museum.

After 10K, the 10K runners that had started with the half-marathon runners finished their race and we were left to run another 11K (to the airport and back).  I could feel myself slowing down a little, as blisters formed on the bottoms of my feet and my toes (from which I had lost 2 toenails in my training) started to hurt.  But I kept plugging along.  I managed to run the first 10 miles (16K) of the race without stopping at all (I was very proud of that!)  At 16K, I took a minute to shake out my muscles, down some Powerade and a piece of banana, and kept going.

The last 5K was really hard, but I managed to find a group of runners to follow.  One of the guys somehow still had a crazy amount of energy and was dancing with all the different bands that were stationed along the course.  It was awesome and inspiring to watch (and reminded me of something Sam would probably do :)).  By 19K, I couldn’t feel my legs, but I kept telling myself I had to keep going.  The best feeling was seeing that 20K sign and knowing I was almost there, and the worst feeling followed closely when I realized I still had another kilometer to go.  But I finished strong, powering across the finish line at 2:23:33, a solid minute and a half under my goal! 🙂

Go me! :)

Go me! 🙂

Tonight, my feet hurt, I think I’m going to lose another toenail, my legs are sore, I have blisters on blisters on blisters, and I definitely need some new running shoes, but I had a GREAT day today.  I felt so good when I crossed the finish line!  And tonight’s dinner is my reward: French toast, scrambled eggs, (real American/English) bacon, and a pint of Haagen-Dazs caramel cone explosion ice cream 🙂 🙂 🙂

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And as long as we’re talking about ice cream, here’s a little update on the ice cream flavors I’ve tried at Fenocchios recently (with help from Emily, Isabelle, Alexandra, and Gary, of course!)

Chocolate mint
Stracciatella
Rocher
Irish coffee
Peach
Avocado (really really good, actually!)
Milk chocolate bar
Rose
Rhubarb
Chocolate orange
Black currant
Cappuccino
Chocolate and hot pepper (not very hot pepper-y)

Today’s French word:

lèche-vitrine (lesh vi TREEN)– literally lick-window, it’s window-shopping!
La plupart de temps je préfère de faire du lèche-vitrine, mais j’ai reçu une autre bourse, donc je peux m’offrir une nouvelle robe!
Usually I prefer to window-shop, but I just received another grant so I can treat myself to a new dress!

My First 10K!

I mentioned in a previous post  that I’m starting to train for a half marathon in April, and today I completed my first milestone in training.  I finished my first 10K (6.2 mile) race– the Prom Classic in Nice!  My goal was to finish in under 62 minutes, and I came in at 1:01:28, so I was pretty happy about that 🙂

I’ve been carbo-loading on bread and pasta for the last few nights, and after a short yoga session this morning, I fueled up with some toast and a banana, filled my water bottle, put on my running shoes, and made my way into the city.  It was funny to see all the runners get on the tram into the city, knowing we were all going to the same place.

The course was a loop along the Mediterranean Sea, from the beginning of the Promenade des Anglais to the Nice airport and back.  It was a beautiful morning– about 56F and sunny.  I’d never run more than 5 miles before today, so I was crossing my fingers that I’d get through that extra 1.2 miles.  The race started in 5 waves, depending on your goal time.  When I was about a mile into the race, the first runners were already coming back down the Promenade!  The first place finisher this year finished in 28:50!  I reached the 8K (about 5 miles) mark pretty painlessly, but the last 2K were a little difficult.  I guess I have a lot of work to do before April!

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Overall the race was great!  The course, the time, the weather.  My only complaint was post-race organization.  The finish-line area was too small to hold all the runners, so it took forever to get to the water table.  Plus, there were no bagels or fruit left by the time I’d finished!  Oh, well.  My post-race indulgence was waiting for me in my freezer at home: Ben and Jerry’s Caramel Chew Chew ice cream 🙂 🙂 🙂

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Obligatory sweaty post-race picture 🙂

 

Our French word for today:
courir (coo-REER)- to run (because why not?!)
J’ai couru 10 kilometres aujourd’hui et mes jambes me font mal!
I ran 10 kilometers today and my legs hurt!

How to celebrate Thanksgiving in a country that doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving

1. Don’t do work.  Any work.  At all.
Ok, to be fair I’ve been very productive in the past 2 weeks.  I’ve written an 18 page preliminary report and drawn up sketches to show my bosses from Nice AND Chicago.  I think I deserve a break.  Plus, it just wouldn’t feel like a holiday if I worked 🙂

2. Take advantage of the things that would normally be closed on this day in the US.
For example, museums.  On Thursday, I walked to the Nice Archaeology and Roman Ruins Museum.  It’s small, but cool.  I’m not that into history museums (I like the art museums better), but I liked looking around at all the ancient stuff.  Plus, since I’ve been around here for a little while, I recognized some of the modern areas mentioned in the posters around the exhibits.

Outside the museum is the site of the ancient city of Cemenelum, the capital of the Alpes Maritimae province.  Most of the remains are from the third century, but some of them have different construction periods between the first and seventh centuries.  These remains display an ampitheater, 3 thermal baths, streets, a sewer, a school, and shops.  Here are some pictures!

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I also went to the grocery store (usually not open all day in the US) and bought a steamer, which I am excited to try at some point for dinner this week!

3. Be sure to incorporate as many nationalities as possible.
In order to avoid eating Thanksgiving dinner by myself, I invited my friend Isabelle, who is from England, over to eat turkey with me.  So we had an American girl and an English girl celebrating an American holiday in France.  Doesn’t get weirder than that.

4. Eat turkey.
Obviously, come on.  I debated my menu for Thanksgiving dinner for a while, starting with duck, moving on to chicken, and finally settling on turkey because it’s just not Thanksgiving without turkey.  I got 3 turkey legs from the store, and potatoes, green beans, apples, and rosemary from the outdoor market.

This is going to count as my Sunday Night Dinner for this week, but sorry, no recipes this time.  Here’s the menu:
– roasted turkey legs with rosemary roasted potatoes and onions
– green beans almondine
– croissants
– mini apple tarts with cinnamon and honey
– and Isabelle brought a lovely white wine (Picpoul de Pinet)

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Loot from the market

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The delicious spread 🙂

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Apple tart for dessert

 5. Give thanks for everything!
I’m not going to lie, it was REALLY hard to be away from home for this holiday.  Because Chicago is only 7 hours from Cleveland, I’d always gone home for Thanksgiving.  I’ve never celebrated the holiday by myself or had to cook turkey by myself and it was intimidating.  I was sad in the morning, thinking that I should’ve been at home and looking forward to real apple pie, turkey and gravy, mashed potatoes, pumpkin bread, Mom’s stuffing, Grandma’s jello, sweet potatoes, green beans, and rolls.  I should’ve been sitting around talking to and laughing with my family, and getting ready to go Black Friday shopping with my sisters.  I should’ve been enjoying the colors of the changing leaves and the quickly cooling weather, and I should’ve been listening to Christmas music.  I was seriously missing all of it.

Walking home from the museum, I saw the first beautiful changing leaves I’ve come across in Nice.  That cheered me up a little bit.

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As the day went on, I kept telling myself that going home was obviously not going to happen and to quit dwelling on it.  I’m thankful for different things this year.  I’m thankful to be here in this beautiful city, having a once-in-a-lifetime experience that not everyone can say they’ve had.  I’m thankful I’m working on a project that I really like, with helpful supervisors and support in Chicago and Nice.  I’m thankful that I’m making friends here and I’m thankful that Isabelle came over for dinner so I didn’t have to eat alone 🙂  I’m thankful that things are starting to become familiar and I’m starting to feel a little bit less like a stranger.  And I’m SUPER thankful for the care packages I received today 🙂 🙂 🙂

Today’s French word is:
reconnaissant (ruh-ko-na-SAHN)- grateful, appreciative, thankful
Je suis reconnaissante de mes amis aux Etats-Unis et en France.
I’m thankful for my friends in the US and in France.

If at first you don’t succeed…

… it might be your accent.

Seriously. One of my biggest fears before coming to France was that I would forget how to speak French or that people wouldn’t be able to understand me or that I wouldn’t be able to understand anyone else. But so far I’ve been told by a cab driver that my French speaking is very good, by a rental agent that my French writing is very good, and by two different people at a hostel in Paris that my French accent sounds like it could be Québécois or British. So this post is about my speedbumps and subsequent successes during my first week in France, which may or may not be due to my accent/ability/inability to speak French. And bear with me, people. This is going to be a long post with lots of pictures (so easy for Uma to understand… 😉 )

When I finally got to Nice, I turned right around the next day and got on a train to Paris to set up a bank account and meet the head honchos at the Franco-American Commission (where Fulbright is based). I walked around the Bastille area of Paris, visited the cinémathèque francais and the musée du cinéma, stayed at a hostel, tried my first French candy bar (the pic below), and then went back to Nice the next day. Overall, a pretty successful trip.

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Now at this point I’m back in Nice. I’ve already mentioned a little bit about the temporary studio I’m in, but let me take this moment to fill you in completely. The entire studio is probably like 150 square feet total. There’s a bathtub that’s half the size of a normal tub, with no shower curtain, and the ceiling above it is about 4 feet tall. There’s no toilet in the studio– it’s out on the landing– which is fine and not a big deal, but there’s also no easily accessible hallway light, so if I have to go to the bathroom after 7pm, I have to take my keys so I can lock the apartment door, toilet paper, and a flashlight. The “kitchen” is actually just a sink, a mini-fridge, and 2 hotplates. The bed is pretty nice, but it’s a weird shape and the ceiling above it is like 2 feet high.

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BUT I’ve had some good leads on apartments, so hopefully within the week I’l be posting pictures of my new place. Here’s some pictures of views from potential apartments:

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Public transportation in Nice is pretty similar to any other city, with several bus lines and a tram line. It’s only 1 euro to ride one way (that’s HALF the cost of an el trip in Chicago) and there’s a website to help you plan out your trips. Seems easy, right? Mmm, no. One of the first bus trips I took I started on the Promenade des Anglais, the biggest road in Nice that runs along the Mediterranean Sea (the equivalent of Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive). Apparently, when you take a bus from this street you have to actually “hail” it– like wave your hand and signal the driver to stop. I didn’t know this, so when the driver stopped for me about half a block past the stop, I got a lecture on how you have to wave your hand to stop the bus because he could get in an accident. Then he said something I didn’t catch and I gave him a blank look. And then guess what he said to an old woman on the bus?! “Oh, she doesn’t speak any French.” Because I didn’t understand ONE sentence. I really want to become part of the community in Nice and I don’t want to be taken for a tourist or a dumb American, so that made me kind of mad. But I’ve taken the bus a few more times and haven’t had any more problems. I even managed to get back from an apartment viewing without looking up directions!

As for feeding myself, I’ve basically had to re-learn how to go grocery shopping. Aside from the fruit and vegetable stands and the boulangeries/patisseries (bread and pastry shops), there are regular old supermarkets, too. The first supermarket I went to didn’t have peanut butter and I also forgot the word for turkey, so I took a lucky guess and grabbed some sliced “dinde” to have for lunch (I was right, by the way). Since then, I’ve found a closer supermarket AND it has peanut butter AND nutella in a GLASS jar #livinthelife (in the US, it only comes in plastic jars). I even found an instant cappuccino mix that actually FOAMS when you add hot water 🙂

So I guess the less is if at first you don’t succeed, try again and again and again until you get it right. Even though I get discouraged sometimes, I know I have to put myself out there or I’m not going to learn anything!

Au revoir for now!

P.S. I’ve gotten a request for a phonetic French lesson– the sounds that make up French words are different than the sounds that make up English words (there’s even an entirely separate French phonetic alphabet), but I’ll try my best. Today’s word is:

décalage horaire (DAY-kal-aj OR-air)- jetlag
Il y a une différence de six heures entre Nice et Cleveland, donc j’ai connu immédiatement le décalage horaire.
There’s a difference of six hours between Nice and Cleveland, so I immediately experienced jetlag.

Life ain’t always beautiful, but it’s a beautiful ride

In high school during basketball season, we had to run the “beep test” every so often (for those of you who are unfamiliar, the beep test is a terrible fitness test where you run back and forth across the gym trying to beat the “beeps” as they play faster and faster until you can’t run anymore and/or you throw up). I thought that was the hardest thing I’d ever done.

In college, various organic chemistry tests, engineering problem sets, and then the MCAT quickly topped the list of hardest things I’d ever done.

Until now.

This is definitely the hardest thing I have ever done. I’m not quite sure if I was expecting it to be a piece of cake to come to a foreign country that speaks a different language where I know no one and have no apartment, bank account, or phone, but I wasn’t expecting it to be this hard. It’s only been a week and I already miss peanut butter, Pandora (doesn’t work here), Netflix (also doesn’t work here), leaves changing color, fall weather, refrigerated milk, and not having to carry my keys, toilet paper, and a flashlight to the bathroom (more on that later…)

For the first few days, I hated it. Why was I here? What was I thinking when I signed up for this? Would I ever feel comfortable in this new place? Would I ever be able to stop crying? I wished I had just one person here with me to share it with– to maybe take half of the burden so it wouldn’t be so hard.

So I gave myself one week to cry in my apartment, and then I did one of the things I do best: I made a list. I actually made a lot of lists. And that’s what this blog is dedicated to… not to lists, per se, but to the content of those lists: my fears, goals, expectations, accomplishments, frustrations, and other random encounters over the next eight months. I’m planning on having the best year of my life, and I want to share it all with you 🙂

So let me start by sharing my first list: my goals for this year
1. See 1 new city every month.
2. Join a church.
3. Take a French class.
4. Join an athletic club.
5. Lean how to cook a French meal.
6. Explore tourist-y Nice.
7. Discover not-tourist-y Nice.
8. Make new friends.
9. Find an apartment.
10. Get a phone.
11. Volunteer.
12. Finish my Fulbright project.
13. Get hooked on a French TV show.

I’ll keep adding to the list, too. If anyone has any other suggestions, I want to hear them!

But this is why life isn’t always beautiful. Sometimes it’s unbearably hard and lonely in a cramped studio with 2 hotplates, a minifridge, and a bathtub you can’t even stand up in. But I know the experiences I will have this year will make up for that. They will be beautiful.

Au revoir!

P.S. At the end of every blog post, we’re going to have a French lesson… one new French word I’ve learned that day/week. Our first word is:
mansardé– an adjective that describes an attic room with slanted ceilings
Ma chambre est mansardée donc je ne peux pas me tenir debout!
My room is in the attic with slanted ceilings so I can’t stand up straight!