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! :)