Author Archives: Nathan '11

À la faveur de l’automne

Bonjour tout le monde!

Today I’m writing from my cozy room in the hamlet of Palette, just outside of the French city of Aix-en-Provence where I’ve spent the past two and a half months studying. It all seems like a whirlwind, especially considering how long I’ve been here already.

The beginning of the trip was probably the most challenging part; adapting to living with my (fantastic) host family, making incredible new friends (both French and American), and getting used to five different classes in French. But in French there’s a word for figuring it all out–“se débrouiller”– and that’s exactly what I’ve done.

My program, the American University Center of Provence, AUCP as we call it affectionately, is pretty challenging but puts a lot of emphasis on plopping les Américains right in the middle of French society. Between daily interaction with my host family, meeting with my language partners, regularly participating in a French association (in my case, a pottery studio), and doing community service with local middle schoolers, I get dynamic French practice and also make some awesome friends. There is of course, also that thing called class…

A typical week here looks like this:

Monday– Translation class (my favorite!) from 9-10:30; French Cultural Patterns course from 10:45-12:15; eat delicious French things (or packaged turkey and yogurt) for lunch and hang out with friends and the American Center;then Provençal Lit and Film class from 3:15-4:45. Ensuite, high tail it to the bus stop for a 4:55 bus that takes me back to my village, where from 5:30-7 I hang out with and tutor a middle school student who really likes Linkin Park. After that, walk home to the other side of the village, check in with the host fam and then we eat around 8. After that, homework and skype.

And since that was so long, I’ll condense the rest:

Tuesday– no class all day, noon head over to the Fac, the French university, to hang out with French college students; 5pm movie screening for my film class; 7:30pm pottery studio time; 10pm le dîner

Wednesday– 9am (bleh) Translation (yay!); 1:15 Painting and drawing class–woohoo!; 5pmish bus back to the village, host family time and then dinner

Thursday– 9am (bleh) Identity of Immigrants class until 12:15 (argh…it’s mostly lecture, unlike CC classes); lunch slash catch up on homework for; Provençal Lit and Film at 3:15. Thursday after class, two friends and I get a glass of wine and then walk an hour home to our villages.

Friday– 10:45am French Cultural Patterns, 5pm cooking class with one of the city’s top chefs (so awesome…this will be my next blog topic!); after that, digestion and hanging out with my friends.

On the weekends, I generally spend a lot of time with my host family around the house, going to dinner at their friends’ houses, or going on school outings around Provence. Saturday night is usually dedicated to hanging out with my language partner, Christophe, and friends, practicing French and getting into general shenanigans.

I’m loving my experience here so far, and am glad to have two months to go! More blog entries to come soon. À bientôt!

And as for the namesake of this entry, here’s a song I love by Tété–“À la faveur de l’automne”

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Summer in the Springs, Fall in the France

This summer is going by way too quickly. Working in the admission office everyday is keeping the pace up and then additional projects piling up from my two translation jobs are keeping me on edge.

In addition to giving students tours and interviews in the admission office, I translate documents from English into Spanish for a hospital and also for the Colorado Department of Transportation. The hospital recently asked me to formalize my business by providing them with letters of attestation to my translation ability, my personal translation method, and higher pay. I can’t argue with that. However, working 8:30 to 5 every day, I’m running low on time and energy to keep up with their fast pace, let alone my commitment to another client. Busy busy busy. But fortunately, they have asked me to find other students within CC’s Spanish department to translate for them, so I’m looking forward to starting up this partnership between CC and the hospital.

In order to relax a bit, I’ve been hanging out with my awesome roommate and friend, Colin. I don’t think I get along with anybody as well as I do with Colin. We both like to cook and fish, among other shared interests. So for fun, we’ve been doing just that. We’ve gone fishing three times in the last month, but unfortunately with no luck a single time. Still, it’s been a great breather to get into nature up at Eleven Mile Reservoir.

We’ve also been doing a lot of cooking. Among my favorites this summer have been French onion soup, tomato basil bisque, spring rolls, and all things grilled. This weekend we made sushi with fresh fish and crab. Then the night before Colin headed home to Chicago, we made a curried crab and corn chowder. It was really fantastic. Colin says I should open a soup restaurant. I’ve had it in mind for a long while to go into the restaurant business. Looks like this is something I want to explore.

Another thing I’ve decided I absolutely want to continue is studying Arabic. I love the language and it is undoubtedly a useful language whether for business or government opportunities. At this point, I’m pretty sure that I’ll take a year or two off before graduate school to explore some of my interests; maybe I’ll take one of those years to master the language.

Finally, I’m getting so excited to fly off to France for the semester. CC has an affiliated study abroad program with the American University Center of Provence which means that I’ll pay CC tuition (with my financial aid in place) and get credit back from the program. I’ll be in Aix-en-Provence from early September to mid-December. I’m really looking forward to exploring the South of France; everyone tells me it’s completely different from northern and central regions where I have family, so I’m stoked for the adventure. I’ll be studying French language, culture, and specifically architecture and urbanism in Provence. I’m also slated to take a drawing or painting class. So excited. I’ve also already scouted out the sushi restaurants in Aix, and learned something delightful–the term “en livraison”–delivery. Delivery sushi…while taking art classes…in France. But worry not, I will definitely sample all the different Provencal dishes. I’m too much of a foodie to miss out on that.

Oui, s’il vous plaît.

At this rate, my next entry is likely to come from across the pond, so à bientôt!

This and that

It’s summer and it seems like this is the time when I should be able to relax my mind, yet there are millions of thoughts flying in every direction. The following is a collection of some of those things.

“Bang Bang Bang” by Mark Ronson featuring MNDR and Q-Tip.

My friend Eleanor shared this song with me and I have come to thoroughly love it. It’s just fun and incorporates lyrics from “Alouette”–what more could you want? Also, the music video is awesome. “Ronsons–le gouter qui bang!”


The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruíz

After reading a great article about the spiritual argument for same-sex marriage by a CC friend, I picked up a book she referenced called The Four Agreements. In the book, the descendent of a line of Toltec shamans, Miguel Ruíz, explains that there are four basic steps necessary to live happily and peacefully with those around us. Essentially, one must agree with oneself to the following practices:

  • Be Impeccable With Your Words
  • Don’t Take Anything Personally
  • Don’t Make Assumptions
  • Always Do Your Best

I find myself trying to put all of these practices into use every day. I have to be mindful of them, but some of them are becoming more automatic–being impeccable with my words, for example. The idea behind this tenet is that our words are our one source of original expression, of original transformation of our will into communication. To be impeccable with words is to say only exactly what I mean, to not disguise negativity in my words, and to not gossip. I definitely self-check myself before I speak now, which I’ve found has already prevented me from saying some things of questionable intent, and I’m already happy to be more positive and intentional with the way I speak. I hope that the other practices will help me to become a happier person and a better friend.

Smoothie/dieting kick

In an attempt to get into better shape, I’ve adopted smoothies as a regular component of my diet–generally one in the morning and maybe one for lunch. I buy Naked Juice smoothies and then blend them with skim milk and ice. I’m starting to feel like they’re not a great idea because they’re pretty sweet and I’ve gotten my best results by adopting diets with foods with low glycemic indexes…but they are filling and make me feel pretty good in the morning…hmmm…trade-offs. For other meals I’m trying to go heavy on salads with vinegar and oil dressing, tomatoes, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

What’s probably more important is that I should go to the gym more often. Early in the spring semester, I went to the gym almost every morning before class, or late every night to do cardio. I probably lost 15 pounds in a month and a half, which I’d like to do again. I just need to commit myself to going daily in the summer, which is more difficult than it seems it should be. Mrah. It’s been nice to go with my brother and also my best friend sometimes, I just need more consistency.

Écoutez, France, j’arrive!

I finally just got clearance from the French Consulate to conveniently fly to Los Angeles in order to apply in person for a student Visa for my semester-and-then-some in France this fall. So later this month I’ll fly out of Colorado Springs at 6 in the morning, show up at the Consulate, do a little dance for them, and then hopefully walk out with a shiny new Visa. Then I’ll wander around LA and hopefully get into some light trouble before flying back to the Springs and arriving there at midnight. Dix-huit heures de full-on-fun! Laissez les bons temps rouler! is what I say! But I am very excited to study abroad in Aix-en-Provence this fall at the American University Center of Provence. And, because CC requires a half-block orientation in Paris for the program in order to receive full credit for the program, I’ll spend all of December somewhere in the Eastern hemisphere, probably visiting friends in the Middle East (شرق الاوسط–“sharq el owset”) to practice my Arabic and Hebrew. About this trip, I am super excited, and it will be my first extended stay outside of the US. Kinda nervous, but so ready for it.

Don’t Lose Yourself

I think I’m observing my dad become depressed and stressed out, and that bothers me a lot as he has always been the column of support in my life. It’s silly, but I’ve always had a favorite song associated with his contact in my phone as his ringtone; every time he calls, Laura Veirs’s song “Don’t Lose Yourself” plays and I hear the line

Don’t lose yourself; don’t let yourself be lost.

I always benefit from it, but now I want to return the message to my dad and hopefully remind him that things will always work out in the end–it just takes holding on.

The death of the word was upon us
And the discipline of the wind
We see less and less all the time, dear
Just look at this mess we are in

Don’t lose yourself
Don’t let yourself be lost
Don’t lose yourself
Don’t let yourself be lost


CC Urban Dictionary

The cool thing about the way we speak at CC is just that it’s like totes legit. Because we communicate on a completely different wavelength of the English language, below you will find a short introductory glossary to CCSpeak.

totes–adv. totally, completely. That’s totes legit.

legit–adj. from “legitimate”, cool, nice, good.

ColoradoSpringsMidSizeC Springs–n. Colorado Springs. Locals (such as myself) cringe at this misnomer. It’s Colorado Springs, friends, or, “the Springs.”

Pikes–n. Pikes Peak, our very own 14er (14,110 feet to be precise). Again, call it this way and locals will give you the look, and rightly so. It’s totes Pikes Peak.

clutch–adj. totes necessary, crucial. Man, that Chipotle burrito was totes clutch.

dank–adj. awesome (for food, delicious). So during our break in class today, I picked up a cheese bagel at Colorado Coffee…it was dank.

shred–v. to snowboard awesomely atop awesomely fresh pow

pow–n. powder snow. Wassup, broski? A coating of fresh pow at Breck. That’s what’s up.

Breck–n. Breckenridge- a ski resort, similar to A-Basin (Arapahoe Basin) and the Beav (Beaver Creek)

garden-of-the-godsGarden–n. Garden of the Gods, an open space near to CC characterized by its stunning red sandstone formations and its past as a holy place for the Ute Tribe. Referring to it as “Garden” will confuse and subsequently irritate locals like me. Sup, Nate Dog? Wanna go climb in the Garden? Wait, there’s a climbing wall in the CC Farm? That’s odd. Oh wait, you mean Garden of the Gods. Yeah man. Ok man, do me a solid and don’t call it just “Garden” ever again. Whoa, what are you man,  a local? Yes. Yes I am.

the Libe–n. Tutt Library

the Twomp–n. well-known off-campus house, home to LAX players. So…you wanna check out the Twomp tonight?

#### [insert street name]–n. off-campus house (eg 927 Weber) Whoa, that barbeque smells dank. Where’s it coming from? Oh ya know, the Carnivore Club is grillin’ it up behind 927 Weber.

Woogs–n. Wooglin’s Deli, located practically on campus. You hungry dude? Nah, man, I just ate a dank spinach feta quesadilla at Woogs.

King Chef–n. King’s Chef diner downtown, purveyor of legit diner cuisine. You hungry dude? Nah, man, I just downed a Half-Merl Scramble at King Chef. I even got into the Clean Plate Club and got the sticker to prove it.

Rasty–n. Rastall Dining Hall. Dude, what’s cooking at Rasty? It smells dank. Ah man, I heard the got all their produce from CC’s organic permaculture garden located behind Dicky C.‘s house.

511532079_53fa04ebc1Dicky C.–n. CC President Dick Celeste. Dude, who’s that snazzy-looking guy riding on the Segway? Dude, that’s Dicky C. Wow, he seems cool. Yeah, he’s totes legit like whoa.

Like whoa–adv. seriously. Man, I’ve got a hankering for some Hot Pockets. Like whoa.

Play that (funky) music

I give credit to my friend Meg for her sweet music blog entry idea. And so, shamelessly, I’m going to copy her and share with you some of my fave music.

One of my two favorite artists, Laura Veirs,who happens to be the daughter of a CC professor, Val Veirs, is based in Portland, OR, and writes and performs music that I’d describe as indy-folk-rock. She has performed at CC and also in nearby Manitou Springs, sponsored by CC’s radion station KRCC. Her recently-released album “July Flame” is awesome, possibly her best yet, and features a number of gems including a song by the same name:



My other favorite artist, Lila Downs,

is a Mixtec Mexican-American singer who performs songs she’s written about the struggles of women, immigrants, and other groups in Mexico, in addition to singing and re-vamping classic Mexican rancheras and cumbias.

Lila’s song, “Ojo de Culebra” has by far the most plays in my entire iTunes library. It gives me chills.


Lila sings of the psychological chains she feels:

Se me cae se me cae, como a la culebra,

yo lo tiro yo lo tiro, todo este rencor

Se me caen se me caen, esas falsedades;

así yo me limpio también del dolor.

It falls off me, it falls off me, like the skin of the snake; I throw it away, I throw it away, all of this rancor. Those falsehoods fall off me, they fall off me; that way I cleanse myself of the pain.

I love this song so much that I sang it with my friend Juna (who just graduated) in CC’s mariachi band, Mariachi el Tigre.


Finally, my favorite-end-of-the school-year song award

goes to “Night Vision Binoculars” by Passenger. The pottery instructor at CC, Greg Marshall, always has Radio Paradise playing in the studio, and this song came on and got me hooked. The next day I had it stuck in my head and so I searched RP’s playlist page frantically to find it and was well-rewarded:


Click here to listen to Radio Paradise in your iTunes player.

Well, that’s all for now. Coming up: an entry about the house I’m living in this summer. Then, an insider’s guide to CC Lingo. It’ll be totes legit. I’ll catch ya at the libes. Later.

Summer Cordon Bleu

During 8th block, my amazing friend Megan Helseth showed me a great website, Stumble Upon, that presents users with other randomized websites based upon the user’s interests. At the time, we were up pretty late editing video for our final project for our anthropology course. Well, I was hankering for a late night snack and that caused me to check the categories “cooking” and “food” on Stumble. This was simultaneously a horrible and wonderful decision–horrible, because the first website that came up distracted me from the project for the rest of the night, and wonderful, because that website reignited my passion for cooking, which will keep me busy all summer.

TasteSpotting entices you with a gallery of mouthwatering photos of various gourmet dishes, and clicking on a photo rewards you with its corresponding recipe. There are very creative recipes here–baby back ribs with strawberry glaze–for example. Then there are more conventional ones–delicious pad thai, perhaps? And then some weird, but probably tasty ones–peanut butter and bacon cookies, anyone?

My cousin who also goes to CC is staying with us for a couple weeks, and since she’s vegetarian, my omnivorous family and I looked to TasteSpotting for some veggie enlightenment. Our first hit was grilled fruit and veggie kebabs, which we came up with ourselves using one of our favorite marinades. Cantaloupe tastes a bit odd when grilled, but we learned that bosc pear is fantastic when lightly charred.

fried avocados are delishAs an appetizer we made fried avocados (two CC friends’ suggestion). We sliced the avocado flesh into quarters (lengthwise), bathed them in buttermilk momentarily, coated them in a mixture of flour, panko crumbs, and spices, and then fried them in canola oil. We whipped up a dipping sauce comprised of miso paste, orange juice, curry, honey and a bit of mayonnaise. After letting the avocados cool and drain on a paper towel for a minute, we dove in and the results were truly heavenly. Heated up, the avocado’s flavor intensified and played very well with the pepper and garlic powder in the batter. In combination with our refreshing citrus-miso dipping sauce, this was a killer appetizer that we made without a recipe. The picture I took does not do these sumptuous morsels justice, but it gives a basic depiction of the concept–the concept of delicious.

The next culinary adventure on our to-cook agenda is seared watermelon steaks. I’m probably not going to go Julie and Julia style here and post all my trials and tribulations in the context of recipes, but I may just keep a recipe-of-the-week going.

Until next time…