Friday, October 22, 2010

My Lovely Lady Bump

I'm back and I'm not alone!

It has taken me so long to get back to posting anything on my blog. Truth is, I've been so got up with work that I was lacking in time and most importantly, inspiration. Then four months ago, a miracle happened. Surprise, surprise - I'm expecting my first child and if you are a mother or mother-to-be, you know the kind of exhaustion one goes through.

Facts: I'm in my 16th week, still experience nausea, have poor appetite, gained 3 kilos, extremely exhausted and still trying to except my bodily changes. I also had 2 visits to my obstetrician with 4 ultrasounds, one of which was a 4D image that showed a pretty clear picture of the little one. We could almost see the 'goods' but the little one was hiding it quite well that I guess we'll just have to wait a little longer to know the sex! So far everything's going well and we're super thrilled!

So, it is what it is for now. "Je suis bien fatiguée" but thought to myself this is a first and I should suck it up (for at least a couple of hours) and document this unique moment. A moment I may never experience again, so I'm going to live it, day by day through my blog. Who knows, if internet lives on and my spot doesn't get erased, my child might just read this someday...

Friday, December 4, 2009

End of Summer

As I put on my beige trench coat, grey skies settle in and cool air gently caresses my cheeks, it’s a sign. Summer is over and that’s the harsh truth. In fact, as I write this, autumn’s almost over and we’re entering into winter.

End of summer has a relatively significant meaning to it. No more tourists, open air parties, no more almost naked bodies on the beach etc. To me, it means good-bye summer friends, tank tops, fun in the sun, dancing in the streets, eating out on the patios and so on. But it mostly also means “Get back to work Helena!” And it is meant literally as I am off during the entire summer and start working again from September onwards. Why? For the simple and irrevocable fact; that is the lifestyle of a Teacher.

This is my 4th consecutive teaching year in France and I have been consistent in maintaining jobs, and not just any kind but the kind I love doing. It’s actually quite the contrary when you are a foreigner, jobs are hard to come by and I thank my lucky stars everyday. I have taught to kids from primary level ages, 9 up to ages 19 in high school. Each year I gain experience by teaching kids of different “quartiers” and backgrounds. This year I have pre-schoolers coming from high profile families. A rather challenging, delicate and singularly demanding tableau considering by virtue I’m not or should I say, was not really at ease with kids that young. Then someone important told me all the more reason why I should get into it, so I will learn by force to be cool as cucumber with them surrounding me every hour of everyday. I can’t deny it, it is working!

One of the many benefits of being a Teacher in France is that we get 2 weeks break every 2 months. I had my first school break end of October and we decided to go pay the green, white and red flagged country called Italia a visit, exploring Tuscany in particular. My partner and I drove through the coastal line from Nice to Florence, which took us approximately 4 hours. The scenery was crazy beautiful and once we arrived in Florence, our exploration commenced instantly.

Strangely enough, what impressed me most about Florence was not the art and architecture this metropolitan city offered from its Middle Ages and Renaissance historical era. It was all the well-prepared food, especially my ever favourite Ossobuco alla milanese (braised veal shanks in tomatoes, white wine and herbs) and accompanied by a bottle of Chianti Classico, my new found best-loved red wine. However, my front-runner part of this trip came in the days that followed. We drove to the country side to this little town called Greve In Chianti and visited a 17th century château where we had our wine tasting plus a guided tour of their vineyard and cellar, where they still stored wine bottles as old as 1900. Our guide was very friendly, as are all Italians, and we spent our entire day there, breathing fresh air, sipping delicious full-bodied Chianti and listening to Italian history. How blissful.

Diverting back to France, generally it rains a lot in Autumn but this year, it has proved to be the opposite. We’ve been blessed with some really nice warm days. Habitually by mid November, my knee length boots are out and are priority stacked right in front in the shoe closet, ready to be worn everyday by now. But that has not been the case and I’m not complaining. Nights are a little chilly and it’s always nice to come home after a hard day’s work and warm up to some divine “Kir” (a popular cocktail made with blackcurrant liquor topped up with white wine) or as the season offers, “Vin chaud” (hot wine). I guess it’s true what they say, the colder it gets, the more alcohol we need! It’s also true that when it’s cold, fatty foods like “Raclette” (melted cheese on potatoes) or “Fondue Savoyarde” (left over baguette dipped in several melted cheese) come in as a requirement to sustain the body. I think that’s a damn good reason to eat and fatten up!

I mentioned in my previous article, that I was learning to play the guitar. I have been progressing on it, mainly because I finally found an instructor who is passionate about what he does and very importantly, is super patient with me! You won’t be hearing me play tunes at a bar, behind a microphone in front of a crowd just yet, but I’m “digging” it and my ears (and my partner’s for that matter) don’t hurt as much as before. A rather good indication I’d say!

Moving on to another obsession, even if you think you don’t need it; Friends. I enjoyed hanging out with my summer friends, there were endless fun, mind-blowing activities, but summer’s over and they have left and I’m still here. As much as it’s hard to see, summer friends leave, new ones come and fortunately are here to stay. These are the ones who will remain here for awhile, and the endless events continue even if they are not as convivial as in summer, they count nonetheless.

It’s official: Summer’s over, in fact summer’s long gone and cold weather is in the air. Any regrets? None what-so-ever!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Summer in the French Riviera

Summer in France is pretty awesome I have to admit. However, summer in the French Riviera takes you to a whole new level. We’ve got the sun, sea, sand, mountains and much more. Everything becomes so lively and animated. People are more outdoors, carefree and laid back. There are more and more visitors to this region each year. My summer in Nice has been an eventful one. I’ve picked up a new musical instrument - the guitar. It just seems so appropriate for summer.

My summer days are also filled with tasting different gelato flavours and have discovered that I simply adore Bacio, which is in fact two heavenly mixtures of chocolate and hazelnut flavours and coincidently means kiss in Italian! I’ve also been having countless barbeques and Mojitos with good live music (most of the time with Jake Hall playing bien sûr) at bars . Mojitos are such a summer drink as it consists of delicious Rum, mint, lime topped with Perrier, so gratifyingly refreshing on a hot summer day and night.

As I mentioned earlier, summer is when you see people go out. You see people wearing summer outfit, the skimpier the better. If you’re someone who is completely fine and comfortable with your physic – Pas de problème ! But for someone like me who loves to eat and is quite conscience of appearances, in other words, I don’t want to look like a total idiot wearing a tube, I need to work out.

So I’ve been hitting the gym 3-4 times a week getting a good 1 ½ hours workout per session. I attend numerous classes – Body Pump, Body Jam, Fat Burner, Yoga, Maxi Gym, Culture Physique, Step and Stretching. My instructors are excellently qualified with a sense of humour, which makes all the difference! I usually, in summer of course, attend classes in the afternoon, which basically means you have a lot of “grannies” coming in for a workout. At first, I thought to myself, “This is a piece of cake and I’ll show these “neneks” how it’s done!” Oh how so grossly wrong was I! These “neneks” have been training for years and what seems to be heavy weight for me, is in fact light weight for them! And we’re talking 5kgs in each hand. These are the real super grannies! Well, what can I say, I’m still young and I’ll catch up with age? Anyhow, all work and no sports make Helena a dull girl!

What else? Salsa. Have I told you that I’m in love with this dance? No? So here it is, I heart Salsa! Dancing is another famous activity here, Salsa in the streets in particular. Every aspect of it is fabulous - in my eyes at least. You move and you groove to the beat of Yuri Buenaventura while dancing with a male partner. People come to these soirées for many reasons. Some simply for the love of this passionate Cuban/Porto Rican dance, some to meet new people, some to meet their special someone, some to get a good workout while having a good time. I go for all the reasons above and to have a smashing time! I have to say though that it’s very easy to be the female dancer as opposed to a male dancer as he needs to do all work as he’s the leader in this sexy dance. But all is good when you’re dancing the night away under the stars!

Could life actually get better than this?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Another part of me

Every 3rd person in the world plays it, it looks facile. I started having the urge since my piano days and I've always been fascinated by it - the beautiful sound that comes from strumming a few strings together and the most modest fact - it's a completely mobile stringed instrument.
Let me introduce you to my latest craze - learning to play the guitar.

Who would have thought that playing the guitar would be hard work. I never knew one could bend fingers that way! And it's confirmed - my left index, middle and ring fingers are sore. The consolation is that they are now slowly but surely developing callouses! It should be well on its way as I put in 3 and more hours of strumming. It's quite easy to give up but what keeps me inspired is this piece delivered by John Mayer at MJ's memorial tribute - Human Nature. That's what I'm aiming for and if all goes well as planned, I should be strumming to that tune in no time *wishful thinking*.

I love music. I love everything about it. I've always been musically inclined. Inside my head, there's an on-going radio that does not switch off. It's quite easy for me to shut everything out by filling it with music. Music gives me passion, it de-stresses and balances life.

I cannot imagine a life without music, so let the music play on!

Friday, July 24, 2009


Antibes is a charming city in the French Riviera with its clean tiny streets, artisan crafts, the best gelato I have ever tasted in this region, decent pubs and bars and a fair amount of expatriates from the UK. I like this city. Or I used too. The other day, my girlfriends - E, S and I decided to spend the afternoon there.

After having lunch at this ever so disappointing Indian Restaurant called Achiana, we walked in the streets and stumbled upon a delightful little street where there were some healthy looking flowers hanging off a balcony. We thought that would make a nice background for our photographs. E was snapping S and I with her camera then mine when out of nowhere, a bucket of water splashed on E! We heard laughs from one of the flats above right after the incident but did not see a face. How outrageous! E got soaked and instinctively became furious! My Panasonic Lumix got wet too and is no longer in proper working condition which made me momentarily frenzied and now infuriated.

Naturally we marched straight to the local Police station (which resembled a deserted place with no one at the counter to greet us) to complain in hopes that an investigation will be carried out at that instant. The assigned Policeman only attended to us once he was done "chit chatting" with another colleague, walked as if he was the king of the jungle and all should bow down to him, looked at me from top to bottom as if to insinuate that I was a prostitute, sat down like he had just consumed a tonne worth of food and waited for us to say something! How harassed and judged I felt at that point! To no avail, nothing came out of it giving reasons that perhaps X might have been watering her plants - that flat had neither a balcony nor plants and of course he had already learned that fact from us earlier or maybe she accidentally spilled her drink! And what, no apology? As unlucky as we were that day, that Policeman treated the case as light as feather.
We left, feeling utterly dumbfounded and speechless.

I wonder how this country's police force could entrust an incompetent fellow colleague to sign an official document which states that he, Guy LUCAS certifies that he promises to make the grade to the duties of providing public security?

I cannot even distinguish which situation is worse - two crazy women splashing water on another human being with no reason, no apology and finding it amusing or a policeman who was just too lazy to assume his role to ensure national security.

This goes beyond my comprehension.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Euphoria at its best

I was never a fan, don't know if I ever will be but at the point when these competitors passed by, I was exhilarated, not to mention euphoric!

Le Tour de France is an event you must (try) not miss when in France. The race takes place in summer from almost every corner of France, varying from city to city every year. This year will be the 96th Tour de France and it kicks off in Monaco on July 4th and finishes in Paris, July 26th 2009, covering a total distance of 3,500 kilometres. The stop-overs include new cities like Brignoles, Gérone (Spain), Issoudun, Martigny (Switzerland), Saint-Fargeau, Tonnerre and Verbier (Switzerland). They go through diversified stages - 3 mountain finishes, 2 rest days, 55 kms of individual time-trials and so on.

Since I am now in the south of France and they were going to pass through Nice, I decided to go cheer for them and follow them to the finishing line of the day, Brignoles - an hour inland from St. Tropez. This is the tricky part, choosing the right spot. If you pick a hilly spot, it happens so quickly you don't even know what passed by but when you're at the finishing line like I was - and at spitting distance too from the cyclists - you get to see and hear every bit of them, even succumb to the sweat shaken off them at the end of the race! I managed to get a close up of the ever famous Lance Armstrong who finished at no. 10 yesterday - day 2 of the race. He was huffing and puffing like the rest of them in the scorching 35°c heat but was generous enough to give away his water bottle to a kid who probably didn't know who he was.

It may seem like a feasible race to some people but to me, that's just plain madness! I can't even imagine cycling more than 10 kms a day! If not, I couldn't help but shout out "Bravo to these courageous cyclists!" Cycling is a sport of endurance which is attained through age. With that said, it gives me hope.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Gone too soon

Michael Joseph Jackson
29 August 1958 - 25 June 2009

Like a comet
Blazing 'cross the evening sky
Gone too soon

Like a rainbow
Fading in the twinkling of an eye
Gone too soon

Shiny and sparkly
And splendidly bright
Here one day
Gone one night

Like the loss of sunlight
On a cloudy afternoon
Gone too soon

Like a castle
Built upon a sandy beach
Gone too soon

Like a perfect flower
That is just beyond your reach
Gone too soon

Born to amuse, to inspire, to delight
Here one day
Gone one night

Like a sunset
Dying with the rising of the moon
Gone too soon
Gone too soon

You will be missed and thought of for the rest of my life.
Rest in Peace.