What happened today?
June 26, 2013. Wednesday
Alright, yesterday we were under stress.
After morning school, I had to take Zhuzhu to practice her piano thinking we wouldn't have many days left for her homework. The girl has 2 pieces of Suzuki and few short Fabor's theory lessons to learn this summer. But our stress mainly came from the fact that we decided to take them to camping right after their afternoon school, which means we would have to skip her afternoon's practice.
Yes, the girl has agreed to play piano twice a day after school, can you believe it?
Anyway, eventually, we did not skip the piano, which is good. Then we drove to the camping site where we unloaded tons of food that we prepared for lunch next day and headed to a family restaurant in the village close by. One should never dine in restaurant like this one because the food is all pre made and kept frozen, I knew it from the moment we walked in and the owner was watching a table full of men playing some sort of game while drinking wines. The owner is also the cook and server, all in one! We order a pizza for the kids but it was a pita bread converted thin crust pizza that was not even warn enough, Niuniu rejected to take a second bite and Zhuzhu did not give it a chance seeing Niuniu's reaction. They had to fill themselves with the fries from their cousin's plate as Leone only ate the "steak" that was made from ground beef. Papi and Emma ordered "dried meat plater" as appetizers, which in my opinion is the best dish on the menu except the baguettes was as hard as rocks. Their main course was some sort of "steak and fries", which to me are junk food. My order called "veal head", I liked it as it needs no chef to cook - the veal head was boiled with herbs and potatoes that one would not mind to eat days after it's been cooked, thus, it tastes great, except the amount of it was not even enough to be counted as my appetizer.
After the meal, I immediately went to the fridge to steal some of the food so that I would not be sleeping in empty stomach - this is an very important concept for Chinese, we cannot sleep hungry because we would dream of a full table of delicious food without being able to get a bite of it for one reason or another. Just like dreaming of disgusting toilets that you don't want to use when in reality you are holding a pee in your sleep!
Tyvin and Leone slept with Mami in Papi and Mami's single bedroom trailer and our little family borrowed a 2-bedroom trailer from Rob, Papi and Mami's friend, next to it. One of the bedrooms can be converted from the "living room" with a dining table and 2 cushioned bench chairs. It's quite comfy and the kids loved it. However, our first trailer's life almost killed Fabrice: in the middle of the night, the man's coughs and wheezes woke me up, he had severe allergic reactions to something on the bed. After hours of struggle, he figured it might the down feather inside the pillow. Throwing away the pillows psyched him into sleep but it was too late, the episode led to his oversleep and delayed his fishing time from 6 am to 7 am! When the owners of the trailer showed up later that day, we found out Fabrice was almost killed by his hypersensitivities to dog furs instead of down feathers last night - we have changed bedding except for we did not have extra pillow covers so we used a big beach towel found in the trailer as a pillow cover. Either the towel was for dogs to sleep on or the bedroom was so infested by the dog fur bugs that even a clean beach towel was not sufficient to cover them. Poor Fabrice.
This is exactly why we don't' have fur friends in our house!
Fabrice's hypersensitivities to furs not only cost him a whole night's sleep, but also delayed him a hour fishing time. The man got up at 7 am to stand in cold and windy river shore to catch fish. Before he could enjoy it for long, Niuniu got up, and then Zhuzhu, and then Leone and Tavin, all of who fought for turns to fishing! Between taking care of the needy kids and fishing himself, Fabrice managed to catch about 15 tiny fish, I caught 3 or 4, and Tavin and his Daddy Andre who joined us around 10 am caught 1 or 2. At the end of the day, Andre and Fabrice put them back to the river. They took the chance to educate the kids the fishing fun, whereas I would have eaten them regardless! We often eat them fried and they are extremely tasty.
In between fishing and taking care of Tavin and Leone, Andre cooked barbecue sausages, chicken, and merguez for lunch, that went with dried pork and sausage and white wine as appetizers. After lunch, we spent few more futile hours on fishing and then Fabrice and Andre went to with Rob, Emma and to play Pétanque, living Tavin alone on the shore, the 8-yo kid was persistent although his whole day of effort only awarded him 1 tiny fish! Zhuzhu, Niuniu, and Leone were running around wild on the camp site while I sat down with Mami and Rob's wife Susie under the sun who were chatting and drinking and I was sewing a zipper on a pair of pants by hand, an activity effectively helps me to be socializing with my French family.
A friend of the grandparents Rob provided his trailer to us. In 2007, Rob accompanied Papi and Mami to the U.S. to visit us for 6 long weeks! They arrived exactly the same day when I was in hospital to give birth to Zhuzhu! Ever since then, Rob has become someone we must visit each time we come back to France - he wants to watch Zhuzhu grow as much as the grandparents, you see! We presented him Niuniu in the Summer of 2009 in his house, he fed us with wild mushrooms he picked in the forest and chicken raised in his backyard! In the Summer of 2010, he came to meet us at the Camping site and fed us with about thousands of freshly fried tiny fish caught in the same river where we spent our morning.
Rob is a funny guy. He lives in a belief that all the food sold in supermarket are bad, especially meats. So, he raises his own chickens and goats, whose feces are used to grow vegetables in the garden. He does not have cows yet hence he has to go a special local butcher that he personally knows well for that. In fact, all the cows here are raised wildly, as far as I can tell. I see them everywhere here eating grasses whole day long, how can anything be more organic than local grasses-fed cows? But our dear Rob has to know everything that an animal takes in. I guess he can only lives on vegetables if he travels outside of his territory. Rob enjoys his retired life on running, cycling, and traveling, of course. He used to be an engineer/electrician/mechanics but fed up by working on undesirable hours at his job. As soon as he has worked enough years to earn privilege of retirement, he did, at age of 54! Then he spends his time waiting for poor Susie to retire, which was why he came alone with Papa and Mami to our house in 2007.
This year, Rob insisted to welcome us home with a camp dinner, which he started early in the morning from slaughtering chickens, harvesting their livers, and then finally transported them to the camping site. We had cashew, pistachio nuts, and fries as appetizers to go with white wine and champion; following that was freshly harvest salad from Rob's garden served with the freshly harvested pan-fried chicken livers. I was full by then because it's been years that I had not had such delicious chicken livers and I also thought that was the main course since the kids were in the mean time served with cheese wraps (pasta rolled in a big round shape filled with various cheeses). While I was mentally ready to watch the French to complete their meal with cheeses and desserts, 2 courses I consistently skip, Susie brought Burgundy beef in red wine to the table. My goodness, please give me some sympathy for my fasting growing belly! I was not going to eat much of the beef Plat but when Rob presented his 23 years' Burgundy reserve, I could not resist. The glass of wine went well with the cheese also later served. I had to skip the strawberry pie though.
BTW, do you know Burgundy is a region where most of the tasty beef meats are produced in France?
A camping day ended at 10:30 pm we headed home since the kids fell in asleep on our shoulders. We left a big mess for Rob and his wife to clean. And I don't know how late it would be when they finally got home - they had to drive back for Susan to get back to work next day.
June 27, 2013. Thursday
A regular school day. At lunch table, the kids were reporting one of their shows on the coming Saturday Le lion set mort se sour. In the evening, Fabrice's nanny and her husband came for a visit after the kids came home from their school and left at 7 pm. Mami prepared ham and butter cake, pate, peanuts, and baked eggs with ham and cheese as aperitifs to share with them. The nanny is like Fabrice's Mom whose daughter actually was the "first wife" of Fabrice - they "married" at age 3 and the cute photo was presented to me at our wedding in 2005. Fabrice's French wife now is working at St. Tropez in the South of France.
June 28, 2013. Friday
Went downtown with Fabrice and scanned through few shops, but found nothing - the trendy color this year in France is florescent everything: bright pink, green, and other flashing colors, which don't seem to be fitting my office-based job. We went for Fabrice's passport, yet the man forgot to bring his old one to exchange it so he was sent home without his new one! A trip to downtown for nothing! A brief nap in the afternoon after reading Fabrice's grant serves me well. Sweet vacation!
June 29, 2013. Saturday
Wow, I am impressed, I caught up, almost! I had to get up early to get ourselves ready for tomorrow's climbing. Fabrice's childhood friend Pierre and his last girlfriend Sandy will drive from Besancond and Lyon, respectively, to join us. Pierre used to be an ardent climber and devoted teacher for beginning climbers. He was the one who taught me climbing among many other crazy things that men and women could enjoy doing together years ago!
In the afternoon, we attended Zhuzhu and Niuniu's semester ending cerebration. It was well - organized activity and little kids have performed on a stage in the Gym in the big kids' campus because it was raining hard in the morning. The parents were all excited to see their little clones dancing and singing. At the party, we finally met the youngest group and those were the cutest ones on the stage! This also helped me to realize that I was wrong about those little beds - they were in fact in use by this particular group. Thus, another correction has to be made here. The campus has 6 classes in total and 2 classes each age groups of 3, 4, and 5. Niuniu belongs to her age-matched group but Zhuzhu is in class that mainly has kids of 5s. Kids of all ages danced: the 3s followed the children's songs, the 4s and 5s prepared some talking, singing, and gaming shows to demonstrate their advanced motor and language skills. Niuniu was making faces the whole time to his cousin Tavin during this possibly to cover his nervousness of not knowing the lyrics. Zhuzhu joined few "animals" to go around asking few larger groups of animals' names and the types of food they were eating. She was a snake dressing in a dark green T-shirt, which took us took us a whole morning in the rain to find yet the whole le marche of 100 vendors had nothing close to what she needed, eventually we found it at E'Leclerc, a Wal-Mart type supermarche. We were glad we finally located the shirt because she looked lovely in that color.
After the show, the parents took little kids to play various silly games to earn their "tickets" so that they can use them to "purchase" some plastic junks. For 15 euros, the kids brought home a plastic soccer, 2 long sticks for blowing big bubbles, a tiny mermaid, and a rainbow spring. The extra money allowed the grandpa to enjoy 2 sodas and a bag of fries.
Socialism is great, isn't it? Fabrice feels terribly guilty for having his kids so well taken care of by his own government. Hopefully one day in the future we will be rich enough to pay back.
Our day ended with a family dinner at the restaurant where Emma's husband Andre works. The manager served our table personally and then charged only the main course. We had free appetizers, cocktail drinks, red Burgundy wine of 2005, and desserts! Fabrice's grandma who paid the dinner said on the way back that she was "sick" of paying so little for a whole family of 10 - true, it's inconceivable to have such meal for 70 euros. Guess what, I am also so "sick" of taking advantage of my grandma-in-law's retirement!
Another favor needs to be returned to Granny, Emma, and Andre. We are so in debt of the French people!