Fréjus, France

Fréjus, France
Aqueduc Romain

Saturday, September 26, 2009

September 2009

Life keeps humming along through another transition. After going to the cabin every weekend of the summer, we have not gone since Labor Day so we are getting used to spending all of our time here in Ashland. Irie quickly adjusted to her schedule at her new school, Willow Wind which is an alternative school within the public system. She has restarted piano lessons and we are getting a new (used) piano tomorrow. She is also taking a hip-hop dance class, and Lisa is still searching for a french tutor for her.

While Lisa and I both danced hula together in the park every Weds., the separate official classes have begun so Lisa is dancing on Weds. nights, I am dancing with the kane (men) on Thurs., and Lisa is teaching a beginner's class on Fri., all through our friend Andrea's organization Integral Dance. Last night we were delighted to have the world's oldest touring musician here in Ashland. Bill Tapia is 101 years young and plays the ukulele. Lisa, Andrea and a few other dancers got the honor of performing with him during two songs
Here are the videos:
I Want to Speak Hawaiian

The unusual excitement in Ashland this week was a large fire on the south end of town that destroyed one house and threatened a whole neighborhood.
It turned out to be about 190 acres (while another 4 times as large raged in Medford the same day), and there are other fires in closer to our cabin that have caused smoky hazy skies all week. Our friends, John and Taylor, were not home so I raced over and rescued their two dogs, one bird, and a frog before they evacuated the nieghborhood. Luckily, our brave firefighters were on it and kept it from causing a lot more damage. I filmed from John's garage roof and here's that video. Warning: some foul language from my excited mouth :)

I start University classes tomorrow (finally), but have been keeping busy with a paintbrush. Last week I painted our house, something that was long overdue, and we are loving the new look.
This week I painted for someone else so actually made some novel.

France seems a long way away, though we still think of our french friends and way of life all the time!

Friday, September 11, 2009

La Rentrée

I love this time of year. September in Ashland is generous with good weather, not too hot, with the occasional nippy mornings. But I really love La Rentrée. It could be translated as a return to school, but in France it's much broader than that. After the lazy, vacation days of August, the whole of France goes back to work and school and gets down to business. That's what it feels like for our family as Irie started school this week. She changed to a new school, Willow Wind, which is within the Ashland Public School system but not quite like the other elementary schools. She has a core 4th grade class, 4th grade math and then some electives. This fall she chose a film-making class, a weather science class, and a couple writing classes focusing on stories and heroes.

Though Irie was nervous for her first day she looks more relaxed than she did a year ago when she started Hippolyte Fabre!

This time of year also sees us starting our withdrawal from Bon Pin. The work is completed and we are spying some projects to start next year. We're enjoying cool nights and mornings with the wood stove and assuming swimming is done. We'll only go up about every other weekend through October then close it up. Staying in Ashland allows us to focus on the goings-on here. Like unpacking, still!

While I started my practice up again in mid July it is really feeling on a roll now. I will shift my schedule to taking Wednesdays off, French style. Rick is registered for classes at SOU which start at the end of the month.

Both Rick and I were off and running on our hula endeavors shortly after re-entry this summer. I co-taught a session of Hula in July that Rick participated in. I will be teaching a beginner class this fall as well as continuing my own hula studies. I really miss my French hula dancers and the enthusiasm and beauty they brought to our classes. I feel fortunate to be able to return to a hula community that has grown in ohana and commitment. We thank our dear friend Andrea for her strength in holding hula in Ashland and creating and growing the hui Ka Pi'o O Ke Anuenue.

We're also happy to report that our copine française, Nathalie, has also gotten down to business with her new blog titled "From Frejus to Ashland. We are so touched that she has started this means of communication to us.

Goals for the next few weeks: get a smoothly running schedule hopefully only using one car, finish unpacking, purge clutter, sit in the hot tub with a glass of wine.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

We're not in France anymore...

and whether we can figure out whether that is good or bad is pointless, because we are HERE! And busy. I realize it's been 18 days since my last post, and I keep wondering when it will be my last. Because we're not in France anymore. Thus, I'm not actually learning anything "in" France today, or any other day. However, I may still be learning something today from being "in" France last year. I hope that makes sense.

The things I've learned are not simple or easily explained, but directly impact how I conduct my life on a daily basis. BE HERE NOW has become much more than a cliché, but in fact, a realized life mission. Communications, whether in person, on the phone, or via email, whether with a stranger or someone I know, have become something to cherish, an encounter from which something can be gained, and thus I am striving to be in the moment for each and every conversation. It's far too easy to find oneself dashing about and using that as an excuse to not make real contact when running into an acquaintance on the street, or even just buying groceries at the checkout. I know because that has been me. A smile or a few nice words can go a long way and I'm doing my best to be on the contributing side of human kindness. There is a very faulty stereotype in America about "the French" - and it is wrong! So many people in France made the effort: to get to know us...even when they knew we'd be leaving, to befriend us or our daughter, to make us feel welcome, to be helpful neighbors, to converse with me and work to understand my limited french. At it's simplest, they took the time to interact with us, strangers, and this relaxed state of living wore off on me in a way that I am trying to properly express right now. So there's a very big example of "what I learned in France yesterday!"

As for our lives here in Oregon, while it's been busy, I do feel that a rhythm is being established. Part of that revolves around our weekly excursions to the cabin. We have gone to Bon Pin en Oregon every weekend save one since we got home. In the interim since my last post, Irie and I stayed for 11 days while Lisa went home for 3 days to work. Irie had her friend Rachel for a few days,

went on a horse ride,
and biked around the lake.
Gary comes every weekend and we work our asses off! The remodel is almost complete, and what's left is stuff I can do on my own. We now have a working wood stove and washing machine, a somewhat more level foundation, a new open floor plan which has turned our tiny galley kitchen into a very functional space for food preparation and entertaining, a reworked dining room, and an enlarged back deck. I still need to get rid of the piles of brick and concrete from the old fireplace and loads of yard slash, plan on using the volcanic rock to build a permanent outdoor grill, and then we'll move on to the bedrooms and bathroom. Maybe next year. Here's a before and after:

Meanwhile, we have added a new member to our family. When Athena came to visit us in France she promised Irie a pet fish upon her return home. Irie never forgot and called Athena last week to remind her of her promise. Well...a fish became a hamster! A little black bear hamster that is now and forever dubbed "Pooh Bear" and who is already charming his way into our hearts.
He likes to sleep by day, when not being smothered in Irie's love, but gears up each evening and spends much of his night running on his wheel.

This weekend is our 1st Annual Fête at Diamond Lake and we're expecting about 5 families for at least one night. The weather is perfect with warm swimmable days and cool campfire nights. That's all for now.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Party Announcement

Little time to post these days. Lisa working during the week while I run around getting supplies for another long weekend at Bon Pin. Leaving again tomorrow and the van is loaded up with a wood stove, a washing machine, 10 bags of concrete, more wood, and we still need to pack necessities. And this time Irie and I are staying for 11 days! Driving two cars so Lisa can return to Ashland Mon-Thurs for work. Looking forward to a week+ in the woods!

Anyway, with the crazy month of reintegration and work, it's soon time for a fun break, so we have only one thing to say: it's TIME FOR A PARTY!

Also, for notre amie, Nathalie, yes we do have "good pines" in Oregon!

Monday, July 27, 2009

très occupés

Summer is always busy, even when one is not going through "reentry." Thus, it was another big week. Grandma and Grandpa Browne arrived last Mon. with Maggie and our "new" van. I dropped the parents off at the Medford Airport this morning at 5 am. Maggie, the world traveller, knows she is home and has been very relaxed! The van is making a wonderful painting rig. We actually went to Toyota to see what the deal is with the "Cash for Clunkers" bill that just passed and found out we don't qualify because one has to have had the clunker registered and insured in their name for one year, but the program ends Nov. 1 or when the billion dollars runs out. Oh well, they were all sold out of new Prius' anyway. It appears from the first weekend that this is a tremendously popular program so we hope they'll renew the bill next year.

I felt bad that we weren't better hosts, but my parents knew we were crazy busy between our jobs and moving in to the house. We took them to Roseburg on Tues.
for Music on the Half Shell by Hapa and two other Hawaiian guitarists. The city puts on major acts every Tues. right next to the river all summer...for free! We brought a picnic of wine, cheeses, olives, crackers, fruit, etc., and found a spot quite close to the stage. Lisa even danced a hula.

Thurs. we all went out to Emigrant Lake for some swimming as it has been 100℉ for over a week. Friday night my parents went to the Elizabethan Theatre and saw Much Ado About Nothing after Music Man was sold out. Meanwhile, I went out to the local hippie fair with friend Tony and immersed myself back into the local culture. The music was good, the freaks were a sight, and the place was full of a interesting smells :)

Saturday, besides shopping for cars (kind of), we also shopped for a wood stove for the cabin. Irie's friend Alex had a birthday party at the public pool in the late afternoon, and Lisa and I attended a 40th birthday party for one of her hula friends. Yesterday, we were invited over to our neighbors for a small pool party which was a very nice way to spend a hot afternoon. All in all, it was yet another busy week. Here's our photo gallery.

In between all these events Lisa and I continue to unpack boxes, find missing items, paint, fix things, and hang various decor on the walls. The culture shock is not severe, but constant. Little reminders of differences, things or people we miss, and good and not-so-swell reminders that we are indeed back in the U.S. This week should see a bit more normalcy as the house is without guests, Lisa and I are both working, and Irie is at Le Cirque camp. We will return to Bon Pin en Oregon this weekend which give some relief from the heat and it will be August already.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Settling in...

We seem to be settling back in to our Stateside routines. Lisa finished her first week of work, and while feeling a bit fatigued at the end of the week she was also psyched to put her experiences and development of the past year into practice in her work and noted that it felt good to be earning money again. I amazingly already scored a painting job that will put me to work for the next 2 weeks and give an added boost to the finances. Meanwhile, Irie is happily exploring her old toys, books, and most importantly...friends. I'm not sure how I feel about it, but the reality is that her behavior is vastly improved since we returned home. However, she also now speaks longingly of France and her French friends and indicates she realizes what an experience it was for her. Better late than never!

Friday morning we again headed up to the cabin with a full Prius, but no Maggie, who is due to arrive with my parents tomorrow. The weather has really heated up, evidenced by the helicopters filling their buckets to fight a nearby forest fire (between us and Crater Lake), and by all of us swimming multiple times each day. Irie and I got a closeup flyover of a bald eagle, but I didn't have the camera on hand, and the same was true of a scarlet tanager that landed 10 feet away. Our friend and jack-of-all-trades, Gary, joined us up at Bon Pin for some serious work. He and I completely dismantled the huge fireplace in a 7-hour battle against ants, bats, concrete, volcanic rock, and dust. Amazing but I don't think two men could have been more whipped! Here's a before and after: The cabin feels so open now, and we are excited about the changes that will include a stabilized foundation, new wood stove, new countertop space, a washing machine, new linoleum in the kitchen and bathroom, and a much more open floor plan. Then we'll move outside and see if we can use some of that fireplace rock for a big permanent grill. If only we could eliminate the mosquitos.

For the moment it's back to the real world...both of us working (I know, it's about time :)) The house has started to feel like our home again, though we have not resolved the issues of damages and missing items yet.

Houseguests, the return of our beloved Maggie, a Hapa concert on Tues., hula on Weds., and no cabin this weekend. Lisa wants me to add that hula on Weds. includes me. I too am putting into practice some of the aspects of my personal evolution learned spending a year in France, and that includes joining the kane (men's) hula group. I'm not sure how well I can dance, but I'm willing to find out. We are noticing that while we are surrounded by the old and familiar, we are seeing it with fresh eyes.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Back in the U.S. of A

So it's been about 9 days. Where am I? How do I feel about the vast changes that have occured so very quickly? Or am I just too busy, and at the end of the day too tired, to reflect much about it? Yes and no. It has definitely been a whirlwind. I already wrote about our entry back into Ashland on the 4th of July and moving back into our house the next day. At times I look around our valley, and while loving the views of the surrounding mountains already drying out in the heat of the summer, realize this is certainly not the Mediterranean region of southern France. I drive around in my little Prius surrounded by BIG trucks and SUV's and vanity license plates, reminders of what I have not experienced in a year. I notice new businesses and buildings or old familiar haunts gone out of business in this sputtering economy. We are trying to find our culinary way as we replace French favorites that can't be replicated here. It was a joy to get our first farm box from the farm co-op! The most important of all is seeing friends and acquaintances...and making sure that I stop what I am doing to take the time to really connect with whomever crosses my path. This is something that we take from France that is very important for both Lisa and I - to be here now and treasure each human interaction, to revitalize our role as part of this community with newfound influences from the world, just as when we were in France we never forgot we were representing America and Americans.

Besides the insights and reflections it has been a week mixed with the unpacking of box after box after box and slowly organizing the house (which still has a long way to go), shopping to restock our completely empty kitchen, dealing with the issues surrounding the old tenants and the property management company, major yard work,
getting our car and scooter back and insured,
getting our new phones up and running and in turn making contact with old friends, helping Lisa get her office ready for today - her first day of work in 13 months, and planning for a weekend at our cabin.

I had visited the cabin for about 2 hours on June 10, 2008 with Will who was going to caretake the place and modernize the electrical system, but Lisa and Irie hadn't been up to "Bon Pin" since Oct. of 2007. We were all excited, and it was great to walk out onto our landing and see Mt. Thielsen standing guard across a calm lake, still holding onto a bit of snow. The cabin, like everything else in our repatriated lives, needs lots of work! That's OK, it is with enthusiasm that I see the changes that will occur and make the cabin an even greater place of repose.
We fell back into old habits quickly: coffee on the landing in the warm morning sun, interior cleaning and yard work (there is always wood to be cut and chopped) in spurts throughout the day intermingled with lounging in the sun, paddling around in the tahiti and swimming in a surprisingly not frigid lake. I put up the dock so that maybe soon I can get the boat in the water and go trout fishing. In the evening after grilling, we had a small fire outside in the fire pit and later played games before diving into our cozy beds for the night. Dirty and exhausted, but delighted to be back.

Today begins a new week of more of the same. Lisa is officially back at work and she seems refreshed and excited about it! I am bidding on a paint job, have a new shopping list a mile long after our cabin visit, and a laundry list of other items that need attending to. Our walls are still empty, except for the metalwork we bought in France which is the Frejus city symbol. I wrote about it here last fall. We also want to squeeze in some fun. Tomorrow, I plan on celebrating Bastille Day by going to a concert my friend Alice DiMicele is playing. Weds., we are excited about seeing the new Harry Potter film, and Thurs. we are going to dinner at Jason and Kim's who we are excited to see again! Then it will be off to Bon Pin again.

Have a great week everyone, and Happy Bastille Day to our French friends!!!