Monday, December 24, 2012

Lighting Up the City

I love Christmas time. Just like Dickens says, it seems to be one of those special times that people "open their shut-up hearts freely" and try to think of others a little differently. But in addition to the special feeling, I love the sounds, smells, tastes, and sights of Christmas, and in particular, I love the lights. Being from Utah, I'm used to seeing every house lit up with tiny lights and have seen the incredible lights on Temple Square countless times. So, I had fairly high expectations for Lyon's own Fête des Lumières (festival of lights).

There are several legends and traditions tied up in this festival--all of them in some way linked to the Virgin Mary. According to some, she saved the city from the plague whereas others state that she saved them from the Prussians. Any way you slice it, December 8th attracts millions of people to the streets of Lyon each year. Unfortunately, I was in Nice that day...but--to regulate some of the traffic, the festival has been extended to the days preceding the actual celebration! So, joining with a few pals, I set off to investigate two days earlier when the crowds were nowhere near as insane (rumor has it it was impossible to move in the entire downtown area, because there were literally wall-to-wall people).

I have to admit...I was initially a bit disappointed. While there were a fair amount of lights strung up between buildings, I didn't see much to convince me that Lyon's fête was really all that. That was, of course, until we came across this:


This small clip is only a fraction of the entire show; it went on for at least seven minutes! I couldn't believe how awesome it was to watch the cathedral transformed into an amazing display of moving lights. Turns out they did shows like this in other areas of the city, too--but I didn't know until it was too late to pass by... Furthermore, when we were negotiating the insane metro after travelling from Nice the night of the main event, I was inspired to see apartment windows lit up with small candles--a tradition only broken out for December 8th. Lesson learned? Brave the crowds next year and see more of the awesome light shows... In the meantime, I still got to enjoy the Christmas lights hanging all over the city and even in our charming little Ecully. The French really do know how to do Christmas right! :)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Light and Color

As I've already mentioned in a previous post, I love visiting cathedrals on sunny days to see how the gray walls are painted with color from the stained glass windows. It fills me with an incredible sense of wonder that people in abject poverty and who lived in a period that we commonly consider "dark" could create brilliantly beautiful masterpieces. It's ultimately a testament to the light that always has existed in all of us--even when life isn't as beautiful as it could be.

The other day, as the sun finally broke through what seemed like weeks of fog, I took the boys to la Cathédrale St. Jean. I believe it's the oldest of Lyon's many churches and it has some beautiful stained glass high up on its towering walls. After prepping them on what to look for--the design of the windows and the way they capture and change light--I couldn't have been more pleased by their reaction as we entered the ancient doors. They immediately ran towards a patch of multi-colored light, their faces filled with wonder. Each window after that and each ray of pink and blue and green sunlight dancing around the gray walls was awe-inspiring--and I experienced that indescribable joy of sharing something I loved with an audience that truly appreciated it as well. It was one of those moments every teacher prays for.

We also stumbled across a clock housing a chime from the 14th century--and it was only there that the boys were distracted enough for me to catch the looks of wonder for once. Check it out!
You'll have to imagine the wonder
on his face...
It looked a lot like this! :)


















We followed up our outing by making some stained glass of our own out of colored tissue paper framed with black construction paper. All in all, it was definitely the most successful field trip to date! (And a fun art project too...!)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

A Fascinating Tale

Once upon a time, there was a young woman who created a blog, developed a modest following, and then inexplicably allowed the blog to fall into a state of neglect. What, you may ask, lead to such abandonment? To be honest, no one could be sure--even I myself, the recounter of this odd tale, have been mulling over the potential reasons during the entire period of said blog's dormancy. It is supposed, however, that the young woman was simply feeling uninspired... But, enough of the silliness! Allow me to catch you up on some of the recent happenings!

               An International Thanksgiving
Aside from Independence Day, there is probably no holiday more completely American than Thanksgiving--not necessarily because it's a time of eating more food than is good for you, but because it embodies centuries (yes, we really can claim at least that much history!) of unique and even religious tradition and American points-of-view. So it may seem odd that to celebrate Thanksgiving this year, the Roneys invited two Australians, a Canadian,
and a sort-of Frenchman (it's a long story) to join us! However, that provided an excellent opportunity for me to get the boys to prep a brief lesson on the history of Thanksgiving! It made my teacher heart glow to listen to them as we stuffed ourselves with the biggest (24 pounds, almost didn't fit in the oven) turkey I've ever seen.


Fall Goes Out in a Blaze of Glory
I recently discovered a very interesting quirk related to, of all things, French lawn care and groundskeeping. For whatever reason, no one seems inclined to rake leaves. At least, that is how things went in our little town of Ecully. As a result, the narrow roads were lined with mounds of bright yellow and orange leaves and the still-green grass was positively carpeted with blazing colors.
And while I don't know how good that can be once it snows and everything under the white blanket decays, it was simply lovely to look at!

Snow Falls Near Spare Oom
We finally got our first real snowfall of the season last week. It came down in huge, fluffy flakes while we cozily sat inside and worked on our lessons for the day. Unfortunately, it didn't last terribly long. Regardless, I still got a very Narnian picture out of it before rain melted all the snow away!

My Dungeon Becomes More Homey

Remember how I live in the affectionately named "dungeon room"? Well, the longer I've been here, the more I've been able to add a little bit of loveliness to my living quarters. I thought I'd just give you all a little peek so you wouldn't imagine me living in the boring, all-white room I first showed you. Now I just have to figure out how to spruce up that lamp shade!

We Have a Variety of Adventures
Unfortunately for you curious people, this last section is actually just a teaser for my upcoming blog posts (and yes, there will be many!). In summary, here's what to look for!
*The most successful field trip thus far
*Everything gets illuminated
*I spend a lovely day near the deep blue sea

And as for that fascinating tale that started this post, well...I have no intentions of abandoning the blog again! :)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Rhythms

Life changes do funny things to our brains. Initially, everything is like this great big adventure: new and strange and terribly exciting. But the brilliant excitement gradually wears off, and you find yourself picking up a steady rhythm. Things start feeling normal--getting up each day, eating the same things for breakfast, going to work, hanging out with friends on the weekends. And then suddenly a few months have gone by and the newness of life has become commonplace. Case in point: my life is drastically different from what it used to be, but that's a fact that I have to remind myself of from time-to-time: "Oh yeah, I live in France now. And that's normal. It's not a vacation. I don't live in the U.S. This is 'home.'"

When that realization first started sinking in, it was easy to resist it--the idea of settling in when few things feel comfortable is preposterous. However, rhythms make it easy to push down roots until I find myself getting increasingly attached to this big, noisy city. What was once strange or quaint or potentially a little ugly is starting to look beautiful--not in the way something looks lovely when we glance at it for a few moments--but in the way that family is beautiful. It's something which winds itself around your heart until you find yourself becoming oddly loyal to it, still knowing full well how imperfect and irritating it can be. And I guess that's what this new phase of life is like too. It's beautiful because I'm starting to understand it; I love it because it's becoming mine.
Sadly, this picture isn't mine--but this is really what the city looks like at night. Any wonder I love it?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Caught in a Whirlwind

You know those moments when life just doesn't seem real but you can't quite pin down why? Well, I just got dropped back into my normal life today (as normal as my life ever is, I suppose) and have been contemplating the whirlwind that deposited me after two days of insanity. So what happened?! Lunch, dinner, two big meetings, and a day of travelling with...well...please refer to the picture on the left...

A very excited crew of missionaries greeting the Andersens
For any of you who don't know, the man in the picture is Elder Andersen. Not only are he and his wife  among the kindest, happiest people I've ever met, but he is actually a great leader in our church. For more info on who he is and what he does, just click here! But whether or not you pursue that link or already know tons about him, let it be said that Elder Andersen is undoubtedly a man of God and it was an almost surreal privilege to spend time with him and to get to know him.

We found Donald Duck's helmet!
And now for some details! The Andersens are here in France for a short time to visit and give firesides for Church members and missionaries, but as they are friends with the Roneys, we had the benefit of hanging out with them a little more. In connection with their visit and to the delight of my young pupils, school was cancelled for two whole days! Not to worry, though, during a field trip to the medieval village of Pérouges and charmingly Alpine Annecy, I managed to squeeze in a few impromptu history lessons and curiosity-provoking observations for the boys...  And, naturally, there were still all of the usual shenanigans squeezed between some incredible scenery and excellent food. (Tartiflette, anyone?) Above everything, though, I had the wonderful opportunity to listen--nearly one-on-one--to a truly great teacher as we drove for a couple of hours for our "field trip" destinations. I think the whirlwind feeling came from how much I learned; it's always refreshing and a bit exhilarating to find myself back in the student role! I was born to be a learner...



Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Photo Dump

I've started gathering a pile of photos that haven't made it onto the blog yet, because they didn't fit into any specific story line. But since I love them, I decided to dump them all into a post just for kicks. So, here are some random shots!
Waxing philosophical...?

Cathedral at Carcassonne--loved the door!


View of Lyon from La Basilique de la Fourvière
Nothing brings out London's intellect
like some healthy competition!
The boys scream in fake horror as I discover
them in an elevator writing in their
journals...GASP!
On the terrace at Le Nord...We've been here more times than
I feel like admitting at present...

Fun and games at the space museum!
Castle House! It's just a block away...
Gnarly tree roots and fungi along the side of my favorite path

Carcassonne!
Random parade we stumbled across
Vieux Lyon
And that's all for this week's photo dump! I have a feeling that this may become a regular occurrence...

Monday, November 12, 2012

Roman Ruins, Anyone?

I'm learning that the best way to have a fabulous field trip, apart from picking a fun location and loading my brain with info about it beforehand, is to prime the boys with some sort of educational application before we go. Case in point, Lyon, under its erstwhile name of Lugdunum, was once a very important city in the Roman empire. Of course, it didn't maintain its Rome-ness forever (did anything?), and some of the nifty Roman structures such as a forum, a temple, and two gigantic theaters fell into disrepair and were even buried. Therefore, this called for a lesson on archaeology! After a discussion on what archaeologists do and how they locate sites, the boys were ready to explore an actual "dig!" Granted, the site we explored--the théâtre romain--really isn't a dig anymore...but with the help of a nearby museum packed with artifacts, we had plenty of things to see for a firsthand look at archaeology.
Did I mention the theater has a lovely view of the city? Those Romans knew what they were doing!






















After sending the boys off to discover some artifacts in the museum, I stumbled across an interesting collection of stones--signs of the first Christians in the area (dating back to as early as 400 A.D.). Call me crazy, but when I saw these, I couldn't help wondering if this is where hipster art comes from. Maybe if they'd done owls...



The boys running up ancient stairs















Anyway, enough of the teacher babble! We had a fun afternoon running around the two ancient theaters (partially redone so as to accomodate modern plays). However, I discovered that it isn't just Halloween super heroes who don't like being filmed. Apparently, my students think it's a game to dodge my camera at all costs...result? More sneaky pics of kids jumping around. Moments like these make me want to knock their heads together... BUT...maybe I should just threaten to make them wear curtain clothes if they misbehave!
Kelson jumping off ancient walls
Random ancient graves...luckily,
they were vacant!



Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Visit from Fall

Kaedon was unwittingly my model for this one...
Within the past several years, fall has become my favorite season. When I expressed as much to the Roney boys, they decided it's because my birthday is in the fall. Of course, I think it's for somewhat less selfish reasons! :) The smells, the tastes (pumpkin, anyone?), the increasingly chilly air, the rainy days which enhance the already unusual colors and paint the ground with leaves...add to that an excuse to wear scarves and sweaters, and I'm a happy girl! But while I drooled over pictures posted all over Facebook depicting the brilliant colors popping up as early as late September in Utah, fall didn't visit my corner of the world until much more recently. Regardless, it did come--and just in time to enjoy it whilst the Utahns are shoveling a foot of snow! Now, at the risk of this becoming a photo blog, here are some pictures I've been snapping lately as fall slowly edged its way into our neighborhood.  And this way, I get to introduce you to my surroundings! :)

Rose petals? Nope! They're LEAVES!
The street where I live...

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Halloween Hijinks

The one day of the year that everyone wants it to be overcast and gloomy is undoubtedly Halloween--at least everyone in the U.S., that is... You see, Halloween has only barely started to catch on in France, and the number of normal people turned morbidly-fascinated-terror-seekers hasn't quite reached a comparable peak. But here in the Roney house, we were all pleased to wake up on Halloween day to a lovely cloud cover dipping down into bits of misty fog.

It would have been more
visible with yarn...
President and Sister Roney were out of the country at a mission president's conference, so apart from the made-to-order weather, creating a fun Halloween was largely up to me! Courtesy of my friend Steve Carter, I got the idea to start the day off with some tricks and treats... Unable to find yarn, I made do with some boondoggly clothesline to form a small web (spun by the newly created Halloween hero The Great Spider) which lead to a bag of Halloween treats (left by none other than The Great Pumpkin himself...).  It turned out to be a pretty big hit! When the boys finally came down for breakfast and school, they were in remarkably good moods! Of course, maybe that was owing to their superhero trappings...

Spidey and the Hulk in action
And speaking of superheroes, apparently they don't like being filmed! I was only able to snap the picture on the right before they darted away! And slyly trying to photograph them while they did their homework didn't bring me much more luck...

But, when we went out later to tell some fun Halloween stories, I was able to get a quick shot of a monster. Unfortunately, his ninja companion predictably dodged my lens completely...

We situated ourselves on a lovely, ginormous stump just off the grounds of the "castle house" whose lawn was appropriately infested with menacing crows. We there proceded to tell funny ghost stories after which I regaled them with a quickly abbreviated version of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
Perhaps I should have read some Poe instead...

And what happened next? Well, after school, we set to work making some awesome pizza, and I even got a semi-decent pic of the re-costumed superheroes! In the end, I think that pizza + a Halloween movie + (Orangina - trick-or-treating) = a successful Halloween party. :)