Giraffes are random

I used to think peppers and potatoes were about as similar as chalk and jeans. Turns out they are both in the nightshade family. But sweet potatoes are not!

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In other news, I got to spend a chunk of my shift decorating a Christmas tree. Things are getting festive!

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Giraffes love bananas (and all other fruit)

I have always loved fruit and always will.

I think the riper the fruit the better it tastes. Having said that I always find myself taking very ripe bananas off people’s hands. They’re thinking ‘oooh I can’t eat those, they’re more brown than yellow!’, I’m thinking ‘cha ching, free bananas at their prime!’

Sometimes they’re too ripe to just eat, even for me. In these cases I like to turn them into delicious oat cookies.

It’s simple, mash the bananas, add some oats and a whisked egg. Add whatever fillings you like. My go to fillings are raisins, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, linseeds and some orange zest.

Over ripe bananas mean that the cookies are already quite sweet, but if you have as strong a sweet tooth as me feel free to add some sugar or honey.

Line a baking tray, dollop your batter on and bake at 180°C for about 20 minutes, or until they start getting a bit golden brown.

Enjoy!

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Here’s the exact quantities I used for my last batch. These cookies are very forgiving so please play around to find what proportions you like best:

  • Over ripe bananas – 4 (550g)
  • Rolled oats – 250g
  • Egg – 1
  • Sugar – 3/4 Tbsp
  • Orange zest – 1
  • Raisins, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, linseeds – to taste

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 180°C
  • Mash bananas and mix in the oats.
  • Whisk the egg and add to the mix
  • Mix in your sugar, zest and other fillings.
  • Grease and line a baking tray. Dollop your mix onto the tray.
  • Bake for around 20 mins (until the cookies turn golden brown)

Please don’t throw away your ripe bananas, turn them into a healthy snack instead! If you have any other ideas for over ripe bananas (or indeed any other fruit) let me know!

Giraffes leave and pass it on

And today I finished my last day at school. No more students catching sight of me and screaming various versions of ‘Girija!’, ‘It’s the assistant!’, ‘Hey look it’s Girija!’, ‘Helloooooo’, ‘How are you?’ down the hall or across the school grounds.

My last classes went as I’d expected and I have eaten so much chocolate that even I might had enough of milk chocolate for a while (I could of course ALWAYS have more dark chocolate).

I was pampered most by the teachers. I must have let it slip that I like to bake because I now have a pile of fancy pastry making equipment and recipe books, along with a Breizh pride apron. But the best present was the smallest.

Apple Pear and Honey Tart

I now feel very small having given them nothing but a box of tea each and made them a tart.

I finished my last hours of work for the year baking with a five year old.

Goal – Live in France. Check.

Nantes has taught me all it can. And it’s time to make my way home now.

 

But as my adventure ends someone else’s is about to begin. As I write this a certain 16 year old is getting ready for her first adventure in a foreign land, sans parents.

A week in Nantes. She has seven days full of endless cups of hot chocolate, tea with cats, dancing lights on castle walls, picnics and ice cream by the river bank, marine world carousels, mechanical elephants and a giant bird’s nest 32 stories high ahead of her.  And to finish of her first grown up voyage, a picturesque weekend in Paris.

I’m in charge of this trip that will hopefully get her a taste for travel and leave her needing more. After all what are big sisters for?

The sweet pea Fairies – Cicely Mary Barker

Breizh – Britanny/Bretagne

Sans – without

A Giraffe not at the wrong place at the wrong time

I was walking from the station to school this morning  contemplating all the things I was going to do over the weekend, when I saw a police car by the school…

To myself, ‘Hmm that’s strange, I wonder what’s happened.

Ooh if the weather’s nice tomorrow I’ll get myself some ice cream.

That’s a lot of students by the gate, I’ll use the secondary one’

I get to my lesson, I’m in the classroom with my half of the class when one of the girls burts in saying “La prof veut que vous revenez dans sa salle, elle a peur*

We go back to the classroom where the teacher locks the door… odd

“They’re coming towards the building.”

‘They?’ There was a lot of noise outside and it finally clicked. There was a protest happening and judging from the teacher’s reactions not a silent and peaceful one.

“Now, this is what we’re going to do,” she said to the girls, “you have the choice of going and joining them if you want, but if you decide to stay I’m locking the door and it stays locked till they leave.”

“Do we get marked as absent if we leave?” is all one of the girls wanted to know.

“Yes.” “Oh.”

“Well there’s no point locking the door, they broke those down too the last time” one of the others was helpful enough to point out.

I asked the teacher what this was all about. The protest was against the authorities trying to deport a student sans papiers (without papers), before he could sit his BAC (the big end of school exams). He had just turned 18, and so just turned ‘deport-able’.

A lot of the students protesting just take this as an opportunity to vandalize the school target the teachers and seemed to be the teacher’s opinion. This has happened before and the teacher managed to escape unscathed because she had access to a fire extinguisher. It must have been bad because she didn’t stop shaking for a second.

Luckily we were in the building farthest away from the entrance and the protesters didn’t make it that far. More often than not I work in the other building, the one they did get into. Lucky I wasn’t today.

I finished work at midday and didn’t stick around to find out how bad the damage at the school was, I was happy enough to wait till monday and get away from the mob. Hopefully it wasn’t too bad. I got to the station where my train back was ‘delayed indeterminably’ because the protesters were blocking the tracks. Though 5 minutes later I was safely on my way away from the heat of things.

This has been the second time so far that a violent protest has happened where I would usually be and so would have been caught right in the middle of things. The second time where I just happened not to be there. The other time was the protests in Nantes against the construction of a second airport. I’d heard things about this airport but didn’t realise how big an issue it was till the 22nd of February.

There was a protest, as there usually is, in the town centre. But this one got ugly. The most central tram stop (commerce) was burned down and the police used tear gas and jet guns against the people.

I just happened to be away that weekend unlike other weekends where I go to the centre of town, usually around commerce.

The tram stop on fire

It is true that the French like to be heard and if a French person is unhappy chances are you’ll hear about it.

There is always a protest of some scale happening in town if not there are posters around telling you about the protests and strikes to come. For the most part my day to day life is unaffected by the protests, the biggest inconvenience I face (if any) is that have to walk around a group of people to get somewhere, or that I have to get the train earlier or later than I had expected.

But in these two cases, whether or not I support the causes, I’m glad I was lucky enough not to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Manifesters being gassed

*the teacher wants to you come back to her classroom, she’s scared!

IMAGES:

http://www.ouest-france.fr/nd-des-landes-un-centre-ville-devaste-1951408

http://www.francetvinfo.fr/politique/notre-dame-des-landes/un-million-d-euros-de-degats-apres-la-manifestation-anti-aeroport-selon-nantes-metropole_539185.html

Giraffes with biscuits

I’ve been lucky enough to have spent sometime in Austria this year. Austria is one of those places I knew existed, but never really gave much thought to.

My impression of the place is a happy one. Everyone I met seemed content being who they were doing what they had to do.

When you walk into a room it’s customary to say ‘grüß gott’ to everyone around. For the longest time I couldn’t figure out what they were saying, because all I could hear was ‘biscuit’.

So, now when I think of Austria I have the image of a happy people going about their business, saying a cheerful ‘biscuit!’ to everyone they see.

Schloss Wolfsberg in der Gemeinde Wolfsberg im Lavanttal in Kärnten

Who wouldn’t be happy with so much biscuit-love going around?

 

Photo from – http://www.willkommen-oesterreich.at/urlaub-kaernten/lavanttal.html

Shapeshifting Giraffes

This week I had a couple of lessons with 6èmes* who were learning how to describe people. I learnt that –

I am short and I am tall

I have a long neck

I am chubby, I am slim, I am thin and I am medium (?)

I have a round face, I have an oval face and I have a square face

I have a long nose and I have a small nose

I have long fingers

I have long arms and I have short arms

I have green eyes, I have grey eyes and I have brown eyes

I have brown hair and I have blond hair

I have a big mouth

I have short hair and I have long hair

I have curly hair and I have straight hair

If that doesn’t paint you the clearest picture of what I look like, I don’t know what will

*11 and 12 years old

A Giraffe bitten by the travel bug

After moving cities one month into my year abroad I was feeling the pinch a little and I was too busy marvelling at the wonder that is Nantes (which at this point I was treating as my saviour). For over a month and a half I didn’t leave Nantes – except to travel to and from work. I eventually got sick of being really sensible with money I hadn’t got yet and sticking to what I knew and decided to finally venture out of Nantes one weekend (one Sunday if I’m honest, baby steps).

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I was still waiting on useful things like rent aid, travel reimbursements and my salary, so a long distance trip was out of the question. And I still wasn’t feeling too adventurous so I decided to stick close to home.

Luckily as an Erasmus students you tend to have the luxury of uni friends and other Erasmus students willing to have you stay scattered all over the country (and in most cases scattered over several countries).

 My first adventure was to La Baule, a lovely coastal village two towns away from St Nazaire, my workplace. Rosie, fellow Erasmus student, showed me around. This was just before Christmas, so I got to see these weird and wonderful human size teddy bears and reindeer, lined along the main street, that started swaying and singing Christmas songs to you when you at the press of a button. Three hours later we’d finished our tour of the town.

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After lunch we cycled over to salt-city Guérande. It’s old town – walled and medieval – reminded me of York with its cobbled windy streets packed with gift shops and cafes. It was thanks to said shops that I learnt there are a lot more varieties of salt receptacles in this world than you could ever imagine (or need). We also stumbled upon a never-ending bizarre street performance by three people dressed head to toe in red.

The weekend after it was back to England for the holidays. Two weeks on I was a little reluctant to come back – the comfort of home and family had been missed. I was in a strange state of limbo the day and a half before work started again – and then BAM! it hit me. I love it here and I don’t have that long left.

There’s so much I still want to, no, have to see. Still waiting for the rent aid and reimbursements I planned a couple of weekends away with the remainder of the previous months salary and decided to wait till I planned anymore. I’d made up my mind though – it’s about time I took advantage of this year and got out as much as possible.

In the last couple of weeks alone I’ve been to Rennes, La Roche Sur Yon, Les Sables d’Olonne, Le Pellerin, Coueron and discovered more of Nantes.

As if it was meant to be, I got my rent aid for December a couple of days ago… now on my list of definite trips; Orléans, Le Mans, Bordeaux, Wolfsberg, Noirmoutier en l’Ile, Lyon, St Michel, Pornic, Paris and Amsterdam. They way I’m feeling now, this list is only going to get bigger. The fact that I’ve grown strangely attached to French trains only helps matter.

Giraffes like lights

Every evening there are lights shone onto the castle (Chateau de Ducs de Bretagne) wall – acting out some mysterious story. I initially put it down to the fact that it was Halloween time and thought it would stop soon. But the evenings keep going by and there is always a new story.

Tonight’s was probably me my favourite. The strange circle to the right was there, as ever. To the left were blades of grass swaying in a light breeze. Sometimes you just need to take a minute to look at the bizarre (or not) little things happening around you, without trying to make too much sense of them. 

This is what it’s really about – http://www.nantes-tourisme.com/illuminations-chateau-2938.html

A giraffe et son auberge Française

About a week before Christmas break something weird happened to me.
All the English teachers like talking to me in English (it’s the only chance they have really) while I want to talk to them in French. Every once in a while though I give in. This was one of those times.
Now, anybody who has met me knows that I’m terrible at explaining things in a nice concise way. I always got told off for using 500 words when all I needed were 5.
We were discussing a rather controversial issue that had just come up in the news. This is where I struggled, not only am I terrible at expressing myself but now English decided to fail me. I couldn’t find any words let alone make comprehensive sentences! I automatically switched to French and found that I was able to say exactly what I thought with surprising ease.
I’d got to a point where not only was I comfortable speaking French, but I could actually say what I meant better than I can in English.

You might be thinking ‘Yay! Good for you!’, you’d be wrong. Not soon after I went back to England for the Christmas holidays. I got back to France a few days ago horrified to find that I couldn’t speak French anymore!

I’m not worried about either though – thanks to ‘l’Auberge Espagnole’ I know that I’m not the only one to have ever had this happen to them!

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0283900/

Giraffes win pub quizzes in France

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A sensible habit to develop whilst in France is, of course, to become a regular participant at a local Irish Pub quiz…

This week I was part of the winning team for the second time (at that pub and ever in my life). It was a good week to win. Being a Christmas special, instead of half price off fish and chips in the local chip shop (in France), first prize was Father Christmas chocolate!

 

I learnt that I know that –

1) Father Christmas’ clothes were originally Green.

2) Shaun (not Sean) is the name of the sheep in Wallace and Gromit – A Close Shave

3) It was in 1931 that Coca Cola started using Father Christmas in their advertisements

How, why and where from I know these random pieces of Christmas trivia from I couldn’t tell you.