Home fo' da Holidays

I'd just like to report I am back in Lake Geneva, decking the halls and making merry. Thanks to everyone who followed my Parisian adventures, I really appreciate it. You made this so much more than just a vanity project. I love ya bunches! Actually, it's more than love, it's luff. I luff ya.

Merry Christmas to all and best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year!


Alexandra's Paris

Here's a map of Paris, according to moi. Enjoy!

Alexandra's Paris - Paris, France - a Gwigo Map by alexandrashanahan

Au Revoir, Mais Pas Adieu

Here I am, writing up what is to be my last blog post from Paris. As exciting as it is to be coming home to a house full of people who love me, the thought of leaving the city of lights brings a (single, glistening, melodramatic) tear to my eye.

I've seen beautiful things here and met some wonderful people, but it's time to go. I'm not super depressed, because I know I won't be able to stay away from Paris forever. I don't know what life circumstances will take me here again, and who will be with me, and how long I'll have to wait, but I'll be back. I can't wait to have more adventures here, because there is so much to this city that I haven't even been able to touch. It's not for a lack of trying, by any means, but there is so much history and culture and life here.

Ok, so here's the point where this post gets self-indulgent. But this is a study abroad blog about my personal growth, and HELLO anyone who has ever kept a personal blog is totally into themselves. So deal with it. I am important, read on:

Study abroad is supposed to be this life changing experience that you'll never forget. I know I'll never forget this semester, but I'm not sure I've noticed a change in me. Maybe other people will correct me on that point, but I think all I've done is put to use qualities that I've had all along.

For one thing, I am a person of considerable strength and determination, as well as someone who is generous and thoughtful, and I deserve to be happy.

I've had mostly happy days, but some very sad days. I know I have more of each to come in the future for the rest of my life, but it's not a problem. I can deal.

I'm fortunate enough to have the necessary people here for me who make it all easier. My sister Angelica, who is wise beyond her 17 years, told me "So what. It's not part of the big picture". She's brutally honest, and right. The trouble is sooooo not worth my time.

My family always tells me I can do whatever I set my mind to. This semester tells me that it's true. It's not always easy, but it's true. You have to be a go-getter, and passionate about life and happiness, and I am.

I am thankful for everything I've learned here, inside and outside the classroom. I am truly a lucky girl. As a cherry on top of this whole European Union experience, I've just been offered a summer internship in Washington D.C., at the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs. I am so beyond excited. I'll have another city to explore during what I'm sure will be a fantastic summer. I have a lot to look forward to!

In the more pressing future: Christmas! Christmas tree hunting, baking cookies, and parties are all in store when I get home. I can't wait. See you on Tuesday!

My plans for my last day in Paris? Probably this sweet shop: http://cafefernando.com/a-letoile-dor-and-denise-acabo/

and suitcase shopping! (fun)

So, I guess this is au revoir, Paris. Notice I didn't say adieu. I will be back, you can count on it.

Bises! xoxo,


P.S. To come: A map of all my favorite places in Paris!


Christmastime in Paris

For your viewing pleasure...

I will miss you, Sciences Po. Luckily I found this jewel to help me bring back the memories wheneva I want. I must warn you, French people are zany.

And, I can't forget about Claude Francois, France's favorite son, who brought us "Alexandrie, Alexandra". I get a lot of attention because of my name, people usually break out into the dance once they hear who i am. But I don't blame them, what a great song.


Would you rather: get groped by the TSA or let them see you nekkid?

I mean, both options sound good to me, but if I had to choose....

I have no idea what the French authorities require at the moment, which is what matters for me next week, and I probably won't until I get to the airport on Tuesday, but I hope it's not the same as it is in the States? Apparently, the TSA body scanners that magically take off all your clothes have some sort of radiation issue, so many passengers are opting out, choosing instead, an "enhanced pat down". Apparently, this pat down is so enhanced that they get ALL up in your business, and can touch your face, chest, behind, and groin with their open hand.

I guess if it's in between getting microwaved in the buff and being molested, I'm going to have to go with the naked body-scanner. I've got nothing to hide, and a little radiation now and again never hurt anybody, right? Right? And I think that the pat down might actually be traumatizing. What's next, cavity searches in the name of security?

I'll leave this be with the words of a brave soul who dared to speak up against his sexual harassers:

"Don't touch my junk. Don't touch my junk. I'll have you arrested if you touch my junk."

Oh Hello, December.

I didn't want anyone to think I was dead, so I figured now that I am FREE from any academic obligations, I should finally update my poor bloggy.

Yes, today was the day I turned in the 20 page paper on Denmark's social model that has been driving me crazy for the last week. I also just finished taking 3 exams. But it's all over now, thank goodness, and the only thing I have to think seriously about for the next week is packing and getting to Charles de Gaulle in time to catch my flight. In the meantime, I can let my brain melt into mush and just go around, museum-hopping, shopping for Christmas presents, and sampling my fair share in French pastries before I am shipped back to the land of the chili dog.

But my life lately has been terribly boring, I've just been studying, so I will hearken back to our class trip to Strasbourg that we took the week before Thanksgiving.

Strasbourg is located in the sometimes German, currently French region of Alsace. The city became a symbol of France and Germany's friendship forged by the 1951 European Coal & Steel Community, which later grew into the European Economic Community, which grew into to the European Community, which finally became the European Union in 1992. The Franco-German alliance is the basically the glue that keeps Europe together.

Strasbourg is home to the European Parliament, which is the only directly elected institution of the EU, and to the Council of Europe, which is NOT part of the EU, but actually the oldest organization working towards European Integration, founded in 1949 with its main focus on human rights, after the great human rights injustices of the Second World War had occurred. The Council of Europe includes member states who are not interested in joining the EU, like Switzerland and Russia, organizes the European Convention on Human Rights, and is home to the European Court of Justice, the highest court in Europe.

One cool thing was that we sat in during a European Parliamentary session on the state of Greece and Ireland and got to hear the President of the Commission and former prime minister of Portugal, José Manuel Barroso, defend my two native lands (some parliamentarians were throwing around the idea of reinstating the drachma and the Irish pound) in flawless English and French (he was also to cool to wear a headset that translated the proceedings into six official languages). Also present was the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, who has been lampooned for his lack of stage presence.

Which reminds me of one of my favorite photographs:

Poor Rompuy! :( But really, this explains a lot about the European Union.

Also in Strasbourg is the FAMOUS Strasbourg Christmas Market.

It's supposed to look a lil' something like this:

Unfortunately, our trip was booked for just a few days before the Christmas market opened, so it looked a little less...put together. Place was a mess. But I'm sure it's very pretty once assembled!

I still managed to find gingerbread, soft pretzels, and vin chaud (hot wine), so I was satisfied.

Probably the most memorable experience of the trip was ending our night in Strasbourg in this rundown karaoke lounge that looked like a stripper bar. We loud Americans took over the place and sang Billy Joel's The Piano Man, thoroughly amusing and perhaps mentally and emotionally scarring the Strasbourgians. My solo was the best verse, the one that starts "It's a pretty good crowd for a Saturday". We then had to leave and take the little tram that closes at midnight or so back to our hotel, so we only stayed for one song, but man, it was worth it. We rocked that place.


I miss these crazy fools

But I'll be back in LG sooooo soooon. December 14th here I come. I am currently trying to study, but it's not really working. I am too distracted by live updates from the NU-Wisconsin game. Horrible, horrible. But remember last year's game? That was awesome.

OH, and I miss this dog too.


Gobble Gobble

Ever since the Pilgrims sailed to Plymouth Rock on the Mayflower and gave all the Native Americans smallpox blankets, we Americans have set aside the last Thursday of November to gather with family and friends to give thanks for the cornucopia of gifts rightfully bestowed on us by our Manifest Destiny.

I'm missing out today on the food and festivities that normally bring everyone together at my grandparents' house today, and I'm more than a little bummed. However, this holiday is about more than about food, and we traditionally go around the dinner table and talk about what we're most thankful for, as cheesy as that is. I didn't want to miss out on the official kick-off to the holiday season, so here goes:

First, I am thankful I have the best and most supportive family on the planet. They'll always be there, whether I like it or not (I usually like it), and I'd rather spend time with them than with anyone else. I'm lucky to have such smart, compassionate and generous people in my life, who give the best advice and love life so much, and make life worthwhile for me too.

Second of all, thank you to all my friends, especially my 3 soul-mates. After some ups and downs with friendships and living and learning, I know that true friends stick around no matter what, to share the highs and the lows. All of you make me happy day in and day out, and I appreciate all the funny things you do to make me laugh and heart-to-hearts over tea. To friends new and old, ones I speak to every day, and ones where it's been a while (drop me a line, why don't you. I'd love to hear from you!), thank you all.

I am thankful to have such incredible luck. I have no idea why I get to have all these great opportunities and awesome people around me, but thank you, and I'm working every day so I don't let you down.

I'm grateful to be an eternal optimist, and to have the gift of tireless perseverance. This is the key to my well-being, I'm pretty sure. My sense of humor does not hurt either.

I'm thankful you can always clear your head and refocus, any time you want! Life is tough, but I feel enthusiastic and hopeful for the future. What a great way to start the happiest time of the year!

Happy Thanksgiving!

***I'm writing this at Starbucks (of course) and they just turned on the Christmas music this second! I wasn't sure if I was going to hear any in France. First song of the season: So, This is Christmas by John and Yoko.
I am also thankful for Christmas Music.

More to come this weekend on my trip to that other city of brotherly love, Strasbourg.



Today in French class, we talked about bread, the center of the French universe. Our professor said that French people considered bread as the most important part of a balanced diet, and that the American obsession of carb counting is what is making us such fatties. If we ate more bread, we wouldn't have to worry about the chub.

Yes, lots of Americans are overweight, and it's an issue, but I would argue that Americans are much healthier than the French.

The French may be thinner on average, but that doesn't mean they're fit, or healthy. No one I see on the street looks particularly toned, because no one does any physical exercise whatsoever. Running on the street will attract dirty looks, and gyms are few and far between. I was reading French ELLE in a café once, and had to laugh at the "fitness" advice they gave to petite women such as myself. In order to 'feminize' our figures by whittling ourselves some sort of a waist, just do some stretches that might have been considered a warm up in an American-style work out and call it a night.

My teacher also neglected to mention that French women are obsessed with staying thin. There is even a verb for "to get fat" (grossir), that's how serious they are. If they didn't have to go to great lengths to maintain their lean figures, they probably wouldn't make such a big deal.

The French are skinny-fat, I've decided. Skinny on the outside, but fat on the inside. If someone actually tested their cardio-vascular fitness, they'd do miserably. And have we forgotten about smoking? Lung capacity, ha! At least I can blow out all my birthday candles without wheezing, Frenchies. Then I'm gonna eat my cake too. And then regret it, because carbs = the devil.