24 November – Abbe Pierre, 1:11pm
Today we showed up, did some Moore (frustrating, but useful), and then went to our cooking session! We had grand ambitions to make breakfast burritos, fried cheese balls, and coffee cookies, but our flour was somehow not right so our dough for the tortillas just wasn't working very well – either too runny or too chalky, never sticky or doughy. So we gave up and made scrambled eggs and used the dough for the cheese balls. They were good, but definitely were lacking something. The eggs were very tasty, not overly fried like they tend to be prepared here, and with nice crisp onions, green peppers, and tomatoes, and a little bit of VQR. The cookies from the dutch oven were pretty good if a little dry, and the frosting was kind of like coffee ice cream. We fried the rest of the dough which was absolutely a horrible idea and just absorbed all of the oil. Ergh. Overall, an awesome session, learned a lot, and who doesn't like a class that involves making and eating food?
Romongo – 8:50pm
Our French class, which I wasn't looking forward to all that much, turned out to be quite fun! We played 99, a game of Miriam's. The goal is to get rid of all of your cards first, dealer goes first and each person in turn puts down a card, counting up the total of cards played as they go, but the total cannot exceed 99. Kings are worth 4, Queens 3, Jacks 2, and Aces 1 or 11 as you like. 8's and 4's are worth zero, so you save them until the end to play when the pile is at 99, and 8's reverse the order of play. 10's take off 10 points from the pile and are also useful at the end for allowing everyone to play one more round. The rest are worth their face value. If someone is unable to play they take last place for the round and the remaining players continue. The first person to go out is the winner, but play continues until the rest of the players determine their order, with going out earning you the subsequent places, or being unable to play earning you places ascending from the lowest. Ex: If player 1 of 4 is unable to play, s/he takes 4th place and players 2-4 continue. Player 3 goes out and takes 1st place, and players 2 and 4 continue. Player 2 is unable to play and takes 3rd, so player 4 takes 2nd place, regardless of his/her ability to play.
After we got the hang of it, Miriam instituted a new rule – winner gets to ask the group a question. We started with fairly simple things: if you could go to anyplace in the world, where would you go. Miriam said to Spain – apparently in addition to French, Moore, and English she also speaks Spanish! I said Scotland for family, tea, and curry. The next was mine – if you were on a deserted island, who or what would you take? I took the easy answer – Jean-Luc, because we'd talked about it earlier and he's both funny and useful as a doctor. Miriam said her granddaughter who is 9 months old. Alicia and Emily debated the relative merits of various family members. The third soft question was a favorite food. I had tea on the mind and all the memories of family, Scotland, and college friends connected to it. Alicia described a delicious burrito that had my mouth watering, and Miriam wanted chocolate mousse. By the end of class we were all very hungry!
Just finished reading: Mind Over Water – Life Lessons from the Art of Rowing. I wish I had read this while I was in college, although I made a point to avoid reading about rowing and just try and enjoy the sport for what it was. Although it explains the rowing terms that it uses and might be of interest to non-rowers, I'd really recommend it for rowers or perhaps people who know a little about rowing through a friend/relative/etc. Although it's a little more philosophical than I typically look for in a book, it really does have a lot of good points and the rowing metaphors and examples are something I can clearly connect with. His writing style is very engaging and you can hear the cox giving the commands, feel his inner turmoil during a hard workout in a single, recall the sound of the crowd at Head of the Charles and the tension of sitting at the catch at CRASH-B's. I think that's why I liked it so much – even though he only coxed for Harvard for a semester his first year, he still describes the sights, sounds, and memories I have of being a collegiate rower in New England. I've had the privileges of rowing the Charles, of participating in CRASH-B's, of traveling to many regattas and experiencing the things he's describing. It of course also conjured up plenty of bittersweet crew memories, the celebratory highs, working through the difficult lows, being surrounded by a group of fun and diverse teammates who always kept things interesting, to say the least. I believe that being a member of the crew team stands to date one of my best life decisions, and one of the things I've done in my life that I'm the most proud of. And I'm kind of glad that I brought along a book that spells out some of the things that I had internalized from my particular rowing “tribe” as a reminder that in this new challenge I have the skills and experience and personal drive to be successful. Pretty nifty. (can you tell it's late at night? I seem to get philosophical the later it gets)
Looking forward to Thanksgiving tomorrow! We're all staying the night at Abbe-Pierre, so no drunken peddling back home, and we have time to just chill and unwind together now that we all know each other a bit better. I'm sure it will be a good night with good food and better company. Plus dancing! It might not feel like fall or the start of the holiday season, but we're going to do our best to celebrate in style.