Nous Sommes Arrivés! (We have arrived!)

I am finally in France! Our planes all arrived yesterday morning (Travis at 6:40, Emma at 8:25, and me at 9:40), and the airport was quite the adventure. We had not been told ahead of time where to go or how ot recognize M. Denizot when we arrived, so I was fairly anxious when I got off the plane. However, as I was last, I figured I would figure it out because I would see the familiar faces of Travis and Emma. I proceeded to collect my luggage, confused by the fact that I had not been given a customs form, nor was I stopped to go through any kind of customs check besides the checking and stamping of my passport. However, I had nothing to declare, so I guess all is well. As I exited the baggage claim area, I hoped to see Emma, Travis and M. Denizot standing in front of the arrivals exit waiting for me. Unfortunately, this was not the case. I proceeded to spend the next hour and a half walking back and forth, up and down the terminal, looking for any sign of a familiar face, or even for someone who might be waiting for me (had something happened? Was no one going to collect me?) I was close to tears, but persevered. I stopped at the ATM to withdraw the cash I would need later to pay for my dorm room and thought that if no one came, I could take a train or taxi to Amiens.

Finally, at about the hour and a half mark, I saw Travis. I almost burst into tears upon seeing him, but kept my composure. “Thank God!” I gasped, “I thought you left without me!” Soon after, M. Denizot appeared, and we introduced ourselves. “Je suis très heureuse pour vous voir, ” I said, as I had to Travis, “J’ai pensé que vous êtes sortis sans moi!” But, as I soon learned, I could not breath easy yet. Emma was missing! Her plane had in fact landed, Travis and M. Denizot told me, and she had been on it, as they had confirmed at the information desk, but she was no where to be found! I asked if they had tried to call her, and, discovering that they had not, I whipped out my phone. “Sorry dad,” I thought as I dialed her number on my American cell phone for the 4th time that day (I had tried to call her several times when I was lost myself). She didn’t answer. I tried again. She didn’t answer. Finally, I got a hold of her, and we learned that, after arriving and looking for Travis and M. Denizot at her terminal (the same one at which Travis arrived) for the better part of an hour, she had attempted to go to my terminal, thinking that perhaps she had misunderstood and was meant to find us there. However, the attendant at the information desk gave her the wrong information, and she was sent to Terminal 2D. I was at 2A. To make matters worse, when we called her, M. Denizot misunderstood her, and we ended up at 2B. Finally, after about another half hour, we found Emma, and we were able to get in the car and drive to Amiens, which was about an hour and a half away.For most of the drive, Emma and Travis slept, and I spoke with M. Denizot (in French!). I was thrilled that I was able to understand and converse with him, and also very thankful that my trip to England prior to my arrival had adjusted me to the time change, as I knew my brain would not be working as well if I, too, had just arrived in Europe.

When we arrived in Amiens, we went to L’IUFM (the education college) to eat lunch and meet a few of the professors. Perhaps most importantly, we met Anne Petit, who will replace M. Denizot when he retires. We also learned that she, and not M. Deinzot, would be the one with whom we will be working for the rest of our trip. Lunch was a bit overwhelming, as they all spoke very quickly in French, but after telling them that, they slowed down, and, to our relief (especially for pour jet-lagged Emma and Travis), Anne spoke in English for the rest of the day. She actually has a British accent when she speaks English because she taught there for a few years. She took us to check into our dorm rooms, and then showed us around the town a little bit and took us to the grocery store to buy essentials for the weekend, promising that we would have more time to shop at a larger grocery store later. We also each received “Une Carte Monéo” (Monéo Card), with which we pay for our meals at the University restaurants (for only 3 euro a meal!) Anne was enormously nice and helpful, and we were able to get ourselves settled in. The room is very small, but the view from my window makes up for it:

After we had moved in and Anne left us, the three of us went to the cafeteria for dinner, and then explored Amiens a bit. Emma and I actually ended up getting a little bit lost, but we are always able to find our way back to our dorm room by looking for the steeple of the beautiful cathedral we can see from our bedroom windows. Then, we returned chez nous (home), where we unpacked and then went to sleep.

Today, Jenny, one of the girls who came to Oklahoma from Amiens in March, and who was born and raised in Amiens, took us around the city, showed us how to take the train and the bus (the train for trips to Paris and other cities, the bus for getting around town), and gave us a brief introduction to all things Picard (“Picard” is the adjective describing things from the region of Picardie, where Amiens is located… picard:picardie :: french:france). We got to see the inside of the cathedral (it is the tallest in France, we are told), and I took many pictures, which I will post on facebook. We will go back there for a formal audio tour and to climb the tower next week as part of one of our courses. We also tried un macarron (a macaroon), which was invented in Amiens, and therefore is known as its specialty. It was delicious!  After our tour of the city, we said “Au Revoir” to Jenny, and we returned home with very sore feet! There is hope for me losing weight in France yet!

Overall, the trip has been wonderful thus far. The city is gorgeous, we know how to eat and a little bit about where to go, and have met some wonderful people. The beginning was rocky, but if that is the worse thing that happens, we are doing very well for ourselves. Travis and Emma are napping now, so I have time to update, and I will begin working on some of my schoolwork for the independent study I am doing while here. Later, we will all meet up to go into the city center (which Jenny showed us earlier) to eat dinner in a pub, cafe, or resto (“un restaurant” is often shorted to “un resto”) there.

A demain (until tomorrow),


Read more.

Pierrefonds…and everything else I have done in the last week.

Hello all,

The last time I updated was right before we went to Normandy and
Pierrefonds and Compiegne..
Saturday morning, Sibel (one of the students who came to Oklahoma), drove
Felicity, Travis and I to see the castles of Compiegne, and Pierrefonds. About
an hourish from Amiens. They were both beautiful. My favorite was Pierrefonds
because apparently part of Harry Potter was shot there. It also looked like a
castle out of a fairy tale. It was incredible. Compiegne was beautiful, the
gardens reminded me of the gardens of Versailles. It amazes me that these places
exist because they are so different from anything in the United States. It is
crazy to me that people just live in towns with these castles, and can look out
their window and see them. I am envious.
On Sunday, Amandine (one of the students who came to Oklahoma) took us to
Normandy. About a 3 hour drive from Amiens. It was such an experience..I am glad
that I got the chance to visit the location but, at the same time I wish a place
like that didn’t exist. I’m not sure if that makes sense.. The beaches are
beautiful and the view is spectacular but, there is this gloom hanging over
everything. You can just feel it. The death and the pain are clearly still in
the atmosphere. It is very hard to explain how it feels to be in a place like
that. It is something that I think everyone should experience, because it really
makes you think about war and fighting in a different way. We went from beach to
beach seeing all the different locations, such as Omaha beach. Next we went to
the American cemetery and that is when everything just felt extremely real. You
walk down the path and slowly the graves start to appear..rows and rows of white
crosses that go on for what looks like forever. As you get closer the immensity
of the cemetery really takes over. I couldn’t help but get choked up, I was
fighting back tears. All of these men and women…some only 18 years old, it is
heartbreaking. I walked through the rows and found an Oklahoman, but as I was
walking I saw a grave from almost every state. There are 9,387 graves..and
around 300 of them are unknowns, 4 are women. When you walk away from the
cemetary you walk towards the Garden of the Missing..which is exactly what it
sounds like. The garden that commemorates those who were never found..there are
1,557 names. And remember….these were JUST american soldiers.
Normandy was an incredible experience for me, although the weather was
awful. Very cold and rainy, though that is how the weather was in 1944.

United Way of Norman names campaign cabinet

By Jed Dembowski The Norman Transcript Sun Jul 17, 2011, 01:39 AM CDT

NORMAN — The United Way of Norman Campaign Cabinet consists of volunteers from across the community. These volunteers commit to helping the United Way raise money during its annual fundraising campaign. Their work includes making calls, writing letters, delivering campaign supplies and so much more. While many of these volunteers are very visible during the campaign, others do a ton of work behind the scenes. Without these volunteers, this year’s $2 million campaign push would not be possible. United Way of Norman thanks them for their time and commitment to making our community the best it can be.

Campaign Chairs:

Sean Crandall, Arvest Bank
Length of United Way Service: 10+ years
Why I Chair the United Way Drive: I volunteer and give to the United Way because of the ability for my gifts to span the entire community.  No other agency can provide me with access to the entire network of social services like the United Way can.


Tyler LaReau, LaReau & Associates, Inc.
Length of United Way Service: 10+ years
Why I Chair the United Way Drive: I love the fact that the United Way of Norman works with wonderful agencies whose programs are impacting so many lives.


Workplace Division

Deidra Peters (Co-Chair), Republic Bank & Trust
Length of United Way Service: 10+ years
Fun Fact: Adopted children from China and Russia

Casey Vinyard (Co-Chair), SportsTalk 1400
Length of United Way Service: 10+ years
Fun Fact: Huge Dallas Mavericks fan!

Kristi Morgan, University of Oklahoma, College of Arts & Sciences
Length of United Way Service: 5+ years

Nancy Coggins, Sooner Theatre
Length of United Way Service: 2 years
Fun Fact: Was crowned Ms. Petite Oklahoma

Kelly Collyar, University of Oklahoma- Outreach
Length of United Way Service: 1st Year
Fun Fact: Plays adult kickball on Wednesday nights at Rotary Park

Kelley Grace, Eide Bailly
Length of United Way Service: 3 years
Fun Fact: Likes to travel- especially in Europe

Scott Hofmann,BancFirst
Length of United Way Service: 6 years
Fun Fact: I used to be 4ft. 3in. tall…

Marci Jacobs, Embassy Suites Norman Hotel & Conference Center
Length of United Way Service: 3 years
Fun Fact: Has an identical twin sister

Mark Ledbetter, Republic Bank & Trust
Length of United Way Service: 6 years
Fun Fact: Visited Branson, MO every year for 20 years

Jeff Lester, Eide Bailly
Length of United Way Service: 1st year
Fun Fact: Put jalapeño peppers on almost everything he eats

Carlee Suchy, McClain Bank
Length of United Way Service: 1st year
Fun Fact: Has seen the Yankees play in 4 different states and recently had a conversation with Mariano Rivera

Teresa Turner, University of Oklahoma
Length of United Way Service: 2 years
Fun Fact: Played the role of the judge in “A Few Good Men” at the Sooner Theatre- A Stone Soup Production

Chad Vice, Havenbrook Funeral Home
Length of United Way Service: 1st year

James Chappel, OG&E
Length of United Way Service: 2 years
Fun Fact: Current Community Liaison Partner Tinker Air Force Base Energy Committee. Also in the United Way’s 2011 Campaign Video.

Public Service Division

Roger Brown (Chair), Norman Public Schools
Length of United Way Service: 1st year
Fun Fact: Has run every Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon

Jeff Bryant, City of Norman
Length of United Way Service: 10+ years
Fun Fact: Chaired the 2010 United Way Campaign with his wife, Sherry

Linda Price, City of Norman
Length of United Way Service: 2 years
Fun Fact: Does kickboxing


Small Business Division

Tom Cooper (Co-Chair), First American Bank
Length of United Way Service: 10+ years

Cindy Nashert (Co-Chair), State Farm
Length of United Way Service: 1st year
Fun Fact: Loves Zumba!

Andy Sherrer, Republic Bank & Trust
Length of United Way Service: Several years
Fun Fact: Can shoot the 3 from way downtown

Residential Division

Brandon Hopper (Co-Chair), Valliance Bank
Length of United Way Service: 6 years
Fun Fact: Recently drilled a hole in finger

Kevin Hopper (Co-Chair), Arvest Bank
Length of United Way Service: 16 years
Fun Fact: Shot 3 holes-in-one. Looking for 4!

University of Oklahoma

Daniel Pullin, University of Oklahoma
Length of United Way Service: 5 years
Fun Fact: Still plays with Star Wars toys (with his 2-year-old son, of course)

Laura Tontz, University of Oklahoma
Length of United Way Service: 1st year
Fun Fact: Unexpectedly helped deliver her best friend’s baby

Celebrity Sing

Jennifer Baker (Co-Chair), Sooner Theatre
Length of United Way Service: 9 years
Fun Fact: Can write her name with her toes and loves to fish!

Julia Chew (Co-Chair), State Farm
Length of United Way Service: 20 years
Fun Fact: Water Safety Instructor for the Red Cross and lifeguard through college

Mark Krittenbrink (Co-Chair), Krittenbrink Architecture L.L.C.
Length of United Way Service: 10 years
Fun Fact: Big, loud and obnoxious gets you on the news in Cape Town, South Africa

Debbie Barnhill, BancFirst
Length of United Way Service: 18 years
Fun Fact: Rides 4-wheelers on weekends with her grandchildren

Sherry Bryant, Community Volunteer
Length of United Way Service: 2 years
Fun Fact: Chaired the 2010 United Way Campaign with her husband, Jeff

Ryan Clark, Republic Bank & Trust
Length of United Way Service: 3 years
Fun Fact: Can hit a golf ball really far, but rarely straight

Kym Johnston, Box Talent
Length of United Way Service: 3 years
Fun Fact: Has planned events and booked bands for just over 10 years, working with some amazing local, regional and national acts

Richard Mayeaux, Design 200 Flowers & Gifts
Length of United Way Service: 1st year
Fun Fact: Loves pets and enjoys opera

Autumn McMahon, University of Oklahoma, Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education
Length of United Way Service: 2 years
Fun Fact: Can juggle and wiggle her ears at the same time

Jed Dembowski is vice president for marketing and communications for United Way of Norman. His column will appear twice monthly in The Norman Transcript.

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