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As I was sitting in the local health unit waiting to get my once-every-ten-years tetanus shot, an elderly grandma struck up a conversation, asking what I was doing for Thanksgiving. I told her I really didn’t know, that plans hadn’t been finalized, but I was definitely going to be with family. She then proceeded to tell me that she begins to prepare up to 2 months in advance for the holiday (which, in her mind is even bigger than Christmas). She will be roasting 4 turkeys in 3 ovens the day of, baking 6 cakes tonight, already has the collard greens and string beans cooked and frozen in the freezer, and Wednesday will be spent baking macaronni and several other side items. I told her I didn’t even know anyone who HAD 3 ovens at their house. But she then explained that she has 13 brothers and sisters who are still living (originally there were 19 of them), and they’re almost all coming in with their families to her house. Talk about a major event! Finally, she went on to explain that one of her sisters couldn’t make the actual Thanksgiving day meal, so last Friday one side of the family had a pre-Thanksgiving dinner. But don’t worry about this little old woman working too hard. She only cooked 2 turkeys for that.

In my house, Thanksgiving has always been a nice meal (often topped off with the beginning of Christmas when we roam into the attic and break out the Christmas tree), but never have I experienced such a feast as what this woman cooks EVERY SINGLE YEAR. In fact, the biggest Thanksgiving I’ve ever had was last year in France when practically all of the American and Canadian assistants (plus a few other nationalities) in Annecy got together at someone’s apartment and each brought a dish to share. It was a lot of fun, but it wasn’t like we were all related.

I like Thanksgiving, but really Christmas is the holiday I couldn’t do without. That’s why, even though I haven’t always had a big Thanksgiving meal (like the year I was in Wales), I do always make sure to find and decorate my own little Christmas tree. Twinkle lights and decorations (store-bought or hand-made) required. But I do appreciate learning other people’s perspectives on their favorite holidays and why that is (mine are undoubtedly because some of my most-cherished memories revolve around Christmas).

What’s your favorite holiday, and why?

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Salut tout le monde! It’s been a busy few weeks for me with new jobs and activities to get used to. But as usual, I have been blessed to have lots of opportunities to meet interesting people in the international community, many who live right here in Louisiana. I’ll tell you about a few.

First of all, this past Thursday was the release of the Beaujolais Nouveau (which I celebrated for the first time last November in France). This time was a much more up-scale affair at the J.W. Marriott in New Orleans with the French American Chamber of Commerce. And I’m happy to say that we sold out of Beaujolais before the end of the night (either my sales skills are improving or everyone just really liked this year’s batch).

Then this afternoon I had the pleasure of attending the first Cajun festival in Baton Rouge. It was held on the grounds of  Magnolia Mound Plantation, and the weather was just perfect for an outdoor event. On a beaucoup parler en francais, met lots of other francophones (some French, some from Louisiana), and danced to a live band playing Cajun music. I even learned how to play the accordion (now I just have to find a cheap one to practice with). Voila un photo de moi et des autres qui apprendrent comment jouer des instruments!

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White Christmas/Noël Blanc

Oh ! quand j’entends chanter Noël
J’aime revoir mes joies d’enfant
Le sapin scintillant, la neige d’argent
Noël mon beau rêve blanc     

Oh ! quand j’entends sonner au ciel
L’heure où le bon vieillard descend
Je revois tes yeux clairs, Maman
Et je songe à d’autres Noëls blancs

La nuit est pleine de chants joyeux
Le bois craque dans le feu
La table est déjà garnie
Tout est prêt pour mes amis
Et j’attends l’heure où ils vont venir
En écoutant tous mes souvenirs

Oh ! quand j’entends chanter Noël
J’aime revoir mes joies d’enfant
Le sapin scintillant, la neige d’argent
Noël mon beau rêve blanc

Oh ! quand j’entends sonner au ciel
L’heure où le bon vieillard descend
Je revois tes yeux clairs, Maman
Et je songe à d’autres Noëls blancs
Je revois tes yeux clairs, Maman
Et je songe à d’autres Noëls blancs

Silent Night/Douce nuit, sainte nuit

Douce nuit, sainte nuit !
Dans les cieux ! L’astre luit.
Le mystère annoncé s’accomplit.
Cet enfant sur la paille endormit,
C’est l’amour infini,
C’est l’amour infini !

Away in a Manger/L’enfant de la promesse

1. L’enfant de la promesse
Au milieu de la nuit,
est né dans une crèche
et nos yeux éblouis,
contemplent la présence
de l’Amour infini:
la Parole est silence
dans les bras de Marie.

2. Si douce est la lumière
qui dissipe la nuit.
Le Seigneur de la terre
vient s’unir à nos vies.
Si tendre est le mystère
en ce jour accompli:
la Parole est lumière
sous les yeux de Marie.

3. Que montent nos louanges
à l’Amour éternel!
Dans les cieux tous les anges
chantent l’Emmanuel.
Sur le monde rayonne
le plus beau de ses fruits:
la Parole se donne
et nous ouvre l’Esprit.

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http://www.flickr.com/photos/55231565@N03/5123478631/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/55231565@N03/5123478639/

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For anyone who is looking for an internationally-oriented event tomorrow, the Hispanic Apostolate of the Diocese of Baton Rouge is hosting their 24th annual Latin Festival on Brightside Drive (near the Louisiana School for the Deaf). The festivities begin at 10:30am and continue until 6:30pm with lots of food, music, and fun.

As long as the rain holds out, this should be a great event. See you there!

LATIN FESTIVAL 2010 SCHEDULE
10:30 a.m.    Opening prayer with the Rev. Rafae Juantorena, Lazaro Avila and Rosa Eads
10:45 a.m.    Music with D.J. Santos
12:15 p.m.    Food booths, interviews with Memo Castro
12:45 p.m.    Grupo Mestizo
1:10 p.m.    Introduction, Latin Ballet of Virginia
1:15 p.m.    Latin Ballet of Virginia
2 p.m.          Introduction of Candidates to Queen of the Latin Festival by Marissa y Azucena
2:15 p.m.    Karaoke Contest with Marissa y Azucena
2:45 p.m.    Latin Ballet of Virginia
3:30 p.m.    Crowning of the Queen of the Latin Festival
4 p.m.           Banda Blanca Group (from Honduras)
5 p.m.          Raffle
5:15 p.m.    Banda Blanca Group (from Honduras)
6:30 p.m.    Closing

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On the Inside

Did you know that English is not the official language of the U.S.? In fact, we don’t have an official language, period. As a life-long American, I never knew this until I started teaching an ESL night class through Catholic Charities, and we went over questions for the U.S. Citizenship test.

There are a lot of things I learned in school (and throughout life) about my native country. But sometimes it takes an “outsider” to make you realize integral things about your world that you never noticed. That’s one reason why I enjoy hanging out with international crowds so much. It’s like seeing the world in a fresh, new light, as a child would see it. Everything is unique and interesting, exciting.

In the spirit of trying to change things up a bit in my life and become a more involved American, I decided to become an election commissioner. It’s a simple process really. I called my Clerk of Court’s office, signed up to attend a 2-hour training class, sat through the class and passed the 15 question test afterward. Then they showed us how to open and close the fancy (new), electronic polling machines. Who knows when (or if) I’ll get called to work an election, but at least I’m in the running now, and I can make a bit of cash while helping fellow citizens excercize their right to vote. It was a simple decision, but one that I feel quite happy about.  I’ll get to experience the polls from a different perspective, and it will give me one more reminder not to take the priveledges I was born with for granted!

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