In case you weren't aware...

They say America is the country with the least amount of passport holders per capita. They don't tell you America is the country with the least amount of people who understand a passport is required to leave the country....I'm willing to state the latter pretty confidently, without conducting further research.

I understand if you've never traveled before, you won't necessarily know what is required in terms of international travel documentation.

We realize this in our office as well, we're in the study abroad business after all, and have been for a while now. So, we understand the need to remind students of the requirement to hold a passport should they intend to participate on any of our programs.

Not only do we mention this:
  • on our website
  • in every program manual
  • in all our interest meetings
  • and in all our pre-departure orientation sessions...
We also email students weekly to remind them to upload a copy of their required passport to the post-acceptance portion of their application.

I am a patient person, very understanding.

What I don't understand is how a student can feel justified saying to us, just a few weeks prior to program departure, "I wasn't aware I needed a passport". That's after 2 months of receiving our reminder emails...

This doesn't quite beat the time (before our online application system was in place) the one student just decided all her pre-departure paperwork was unnecessary, so she didn't open her mail, and we had to threaten to not allow her on the flight until she turned it in to our office - that was 4 days before departure.



"Them Internationals"

8:05 Thursday morning, phone rings, "International Programs, this is Jessica, how can I help you?"

[in a very thick southern fried country accent]
"Yes, I need ta speak with sumone about them international students!"

"Good morning ma'am, this is the study abroad office, we primarily work with American students who travel abroad - but I would be happy to direct you to whomever you would like to speak with...."

"Just whoever teaches them internationals - don't y'all teach them inny manners? So rude. These Chinese kids come ta my church and have dinner with us and I cain't stand ta watch them eat."

"Oh, I'm sorry ma'am. I would be happy to help direct you to the appropriate person. There are two offices that work with international students, the English Language Institute and the International Student and Scholar Services Office...do these students speak English or do you think they are in the process of learning English?"

"They speak English okay-alright, but they need ta learn some western table manners! You know they don't even use a kniiiife? Just stick that meat with a fork and bite off it, can you believe that? Or they stick their head down there at their plate and shuffle that food in there like sumone's gonna come up an steal it frum 'em! It's just disgustin, my husband cain't even stand it no more - y'all have got ta do sumthin about it! I thought I'd say sumthin to 'em but I just cain't stand the sight of it no more."

"I am sorry to hear that ma'am. How wonderful that they've found a place to come and worship, isn't that great?"

"Well, yeah, but they've got to learn to be western at the table, it's disgusting I'm tellin you!"

"Yes, I hear your concern, ma'am, and you know if you felt so moved, you could in fact say something to them, but you would probably embarrass them because I am certain they don't mean to offend anyone...Do you want to hear something funny? I do a fair amount of traveling with my job, I work in study abroad, I mentioned earlier, and I'm sitting here wondering if I offend people where I go. For example, when I went to China I ate with my knife and fork....but I don't think the Chinese expected me to be like them, I think they could look at me and tell I wasn't Chinese, and didn't grow up in their culture among their customs. Is that silly of me? I mean, that's just the way I was raised, to use both utensils, but I don't change who I am when I travel to new places just because I'm in a new country - these Chinese students aren't being rude, their customs are just different, not wrong...."

[pause to let it sink in]

I continued, "and what's even more funny, is that I work with a lot of students at the University, American students, and would you believe some of them have some of the worst tables manners I've ever seen? Oh it's just inconceivable, and they were raised here on our American soil! Such a shame, isn't it? Maybe we should focus more on our home grown, here, let's start with Mississippi..."

[pause to let it sink in]

I continued, "I don't think our International Offices offer any specific courses on western table manners to our international students, but I do know they discuss cultural differences between the countries of our world, and how it's important to be tolerant of others. I would be happy to pass on your message to my colleagues in our other offices, was there someone specific you hoped to speak with?"

Southern Fried Country: "Alright then, you have a good day." 



what have i done?

I'll blog about Alaska soon enough, it was amazing - but more importantly after that trip I've ended up on an online dating website.


Yes I realize I can't just "end up" on one of those things, I have to actually put myself up there, unless you're like a friend of mine who has a friend that secretly does it for them and then 'fesses up after the friend really likes one of the matches...end of story is once my friend got over her anger at the other friend for doing that to her, she's in a relationship with a match from online!

I already knew a few couples through the six degrees of separation thing who have met their match on an online dating site, but after Alaska and an email from a dear friend, that number grew by three!

So I decided "why not try it out?" and stayed up last night to see what it was all about, jet lag still has a grip on me - hence the facebook status "why am I still awake at 3AM!!??!?!?"

I'm doing this for a year. It's going to be a fun, entertaining, and who knows maybe I'll find a match?

That's still weird for me to think about.

So after I signed up, I answered what felt like a personality test I took as a student in college on one of the leadership teams I served. I uploaded photos, but which ones? Do I select a variety of funny, serious, goofy, etc? Absolutely I do! Then you get to answer questions...it's not very different from creating or editing your facebook profile, to be honest, but you're just conscious of the fact that it's a "dating" website. Which is kind of strange but maybe that's just something I'll get used to.

After the whole process, immediately I have 6 new matches! Wow. I don't know if that's good or average or I don't care.

You can check out someone's profile, view their photos, and read how they answered those same questions you just spent over an hour completing. If you get that gut feeling of, "ooooh, I know I don't want to go down this path...." you can archive the match. These archived matches can still communicate with you, they can ask for an icebreaker or for you to answer some get-to-know-you questions, and you can decide whether to give them another look. If you're still not interested you just "close" the match and that's that. Much easier than actual face-to-face dating when the guy just can't EVER pick up the hint after you've said a dozen times, "I am not interested in you."

I archived 4 of the matches pretty quickly. One asked today if I would be interested in a chat (online, not on the phone) and so I sent him some get-to-know-you questions. We'll see how it goes...why not?

1 in 5 relationships today met online. Maybe I'll go on a few dates. I'll tell you this, I didn't limit my search to Hattiesburg, MS or the US. I opened it up to the whole WORLD. So far all my matches have been within a 200 mile radius...

I think it will be interesting, and I plan to make the most out of it. And don't worry friends and family, my best-friend-of-an-assistant-DA-who-prosecutes-sex-offenders and her police-officer-husband have already laid down the law, "no going on any dates before a background check is run to see if he's a chester-molester or has any outstanding warrants, only dates in public places and only meeting in the middle (no picking up at your house or near it)!!!"

And before anyone goes and thinks, "aw, poor Jess, she's become so desperate...."

Get over yourself. Puh-LEASE!

I'm just curious to see what it's all about.

In fact one of those friends currently in a relationship from online said to me, "it doesn't seem to me like you have a problem meeting men, you just haven't met the right one..."

True. My mother said something about that with a chuckle in her tone this summer too, I don't have a problem meeting men. At all. In fact one hesitation I had about signing up was that I'm not sure I'm open to meeting a life partner right now, so what if that interferes with the success of this site?

I just had a flash of that movie "How to Lose a guy in 10 days" but I was the main star and the movie was about online dating. I feel like I could write an article for a magazine about this experience! Or maybe I'll just keep blogging about it.

Stay tuned...


Contrary to popular belief...

(1) I am not a travel agent
(2) nor do I have time (or the interest) to go on a "witch hunt".

Oh don't ask how these stories intertwine but they're on my mind and one day I WILL write a book about NOT having all the answers and perhaps these will make an appearance.

Being a sorority advisor has its ups and downs, but in the end you just know the juice is worth the squeeze (can I use that in this situation?) so you keep going and hope for the best.

Some of my favorite moments are when "the advisors" are accused of being on a "witch hunt" - you know, looking for every single member who has ever broken a rule or a part of the standards code that the sorority stands on, so they can be "punished".

I am always so very flattered when chapter members assume this attitude, because quite frankly it's nice to think that they actually think even if I had the time to go on a witch hunt, that I actually would...ahem, nope.

Unfortunately (or really probably, fortunately, for many), I do not have the time nor the interest. And neither do my fellow advisors. Contrary to popular belief, we too like to think of ourselves as having "lives" outside of the sorority...

As an aside, however, if you do get "caught" doing something you know you shouldn't be doing...well, chances are you weren't very good at "hiding" what you shouldn't have been doing in the first place - and remember, we too, were chapter members at one point in time.

And please, trust me, no one goes LOOKING for anyone to screw up. At least not these advisors.

In today's world students find it appropriate to contact you with official business through the facespace. Especially when you are not "friends" on the social network. Yes, they have your email address, but that might not be INSTANT in eliciting a response from you.

Once a student asked for the details surrounding a change they wanted to make to their return flight, about a week out. Within the inquiry there were no details - when, from where, to where, etc...things a travel agent would need to know. I did not ask for these details in my response because? I am not a travel agent.

So instead, I explained they would need to be in touch with the agent and to include some additional details, to learn the specifics. Easy enough, I even included the travel agent's email address (because they are not on the facespace).


The student responded to say in not as many words that their professor directed them to me (correct thing to do) since I booked their flight, but if I was unable to and refused to help, could I please pass them the contact information for the Director of the program, so they could be in touch him instead?

Dear student. Unfortunately, I am not a travel agent, nor is the director. Furthermore, neither of us booked your flight, nor did our office, we pay people to do that. You selected a group flight through your application, but that information goes to the travel agent, who books the ticket, not us, we're not the travel agency. The ticket is in your name, you paid for it, you must take care of whatever changes you are interested in pursuing. I am deeply sorry that I cannot be of further assistance, because if I could help I would, but I can't. So do, please, call the airline and take care of this yourself. And have a fantastic time traveling the continent.

PS - the office is CLOSED!


What's that cliche phrase?

"It's a small world, afterall"? I hate cliches. But in this case I'm going to have to use it.

I do think that it's only a small world for those able to explore it, actually. But that's a different topic for another day.

I've been coming to London for three years now, in the summers. It's funny how you can travel somewhere and have no idea there are people you know who live there. Sometimes you don't discover this until after you've left and you've posted all the photos on the facespace and your friend comments, "when were you in ____? I live there!"

Or sometimes you discover a friend lives in a city by happenstance.

Karen is moving to Singapore for a year for work, today actually - BEST OF LUCK KAREN! On my way to London I sent the usual bbm to Karen and Dewi: hey I'm on my way to London, let's get together sooner this year than last!

Karen responded: hey not sure if you know, I'm moving to Singapore for a year for work, you must come to my birthday/going away part July 2! Will send you the invite on facebook...

So I check out the invite, decide I am absolutely going even if it is in the middle of arrival weekend and I know I will have had no sleep - because this summer is going to be the summer where the program doesn't control my life, I'm taking back some of the control and I'm going to try to actually enjoy...and those of you who really know me know it's very easy for me to just stay stuck in the office "working" to make sure every little detail is perfect...

People I haven't seen in years and years (since 1998 or earlier to be exact, when we lived in Surabaya, Indonesia) have RSVPd that they are going to Karen's party. When I arrive it's just Karen and her boyfriend, James, and we start chatting it up - it's been a year since I've seen her so there's a lot to discuss.

Karen mentions the people who are coming, and the last minute message she got from "Daz" who said he would be there but hadn't responded on facebook.

I'm sorry, Daz? As in my 8th grade prom date?

Karen says, "yeah, he lives here, he's lived here for years, did you not know?"

Obviously not.

Let's back-track to my 13-year-old self in the 8th grade. Like every other 13 year old girl in the world, I was boy-crazy. And Daz had just move to Sby from Australia, he was the best swimmer on the swim team and I had the BIGGEST crush on him. Tall, dark, sarcastic and "mixed" Chinese/English, so you know he was adorable...He was in the 10th grade, and he asked me to go to prom with him. OMG, going to prom as an 8th grader? With a 10th grader no less. There were only a few who were invited. At least that's how I like to remember it. And my dad, Mr. Lamb himself, agreed that I could go.


Let's just say when Daz walked in to the party I reverted back to that 13-year-old-awkward-self and was completely at a loss for words. All I could think about was the night he picked me up at our house by campus with his driver and how nervous I was. What if he tries to kiss me?!?!?!?

Roll your eyes, react however you want, but it shook me considerably that night at Karen's party because I was "prepared" to see whomever else had RSVPd, but was certainly not prepared to see this huge crush from my childhood...

Because I was unprepared to see this blast-from-the-past, I hadn't had time to walk down memory lane to remember ANYTHING from that point in my life (how often do you think back to when you were 13, really?) and since my memory is complete shite anyway, I was in this cloud of trying to act normal but also trying to piece together that period of history.

Of course Daz, the smart ass he is, remembered everything. But he also had the advantage of having just cleaned out some of his old things and had READ THROUGH every letter I had ever written him.

"I wrote you letters?" No, I didn't remember at that moment...

But of course I did...because I am the biggest cheese-ball ever. I still am.

After a while (a few days) the pieces of memory started coming back to me. I vaguely remember sprinting to the high school from the middle school between classes to throw a note at him, or at someone whom I knew he was going to be in class with. I remember that I folded them a special way. I have NO IDEA what I wrote in them, but Daz didn't hesitate to remind me that I would write somewhere on them, or sign them or something, with "a.d.i.d.a.s."


Completely mortified.

No one expects to remember those kinds of details from their teenage past, do they? So I'm just dumbfounded, still, sitting in front of him, catching up with him and others from that past. Daz took the photo shown below. Everyone else has more history, because they stayed in Sby whereas I moved to Abu Dhabi for high school, and graduated there...

Anyway - it's just crazy how life works. Since that night I may or may not have seen Daz a few times :) Afterall, we hardly know each other now, after what, 12 years? We did go to an SIS mini-reunion at the Atkins residence outside of Oxford this past weekend, it was again a blast from the past and such good fun.

Ohhh tell me something new...

Last summer was insane. Really, I don't remember having much fun in London except for a few times:
  1. A very late night/early morning return during a weekend which went from dancing with some Indian dude wearing a shirt that read on the front: "I'm that guy" and on the back: "You're that girl" - to dancing and singing in the street with some street musician playing Wonderwall - to sitting on some steps on the strand side of Waterloo eating 4am McDonald's...mmmmm, lovin' it!*
  2. Meeting up with Karen and Dewi at Giraffe for dinner and buying my first pair of Liz's husband Leo's silver earrings off Karen.
  3. Writing about all the antics that went on around this place...
What antics from last year? They're all a blur now, but James did a good job of reminding me before I landed, I think he's missing being here for it all this summer: the professor that went home, three students that went home, the remodeling of a shower in the dorm, the vibrating room...the list goes on.

Let's talk about this year...


Pre-departure we discovered a student's passport expired in 2009. "Hello, student, your passport expired in 2009, you won't be able to participate on the program unless you renew your passport."

Student: "I thought that passports are good for life"

Office: "Right, well, but it has an expiration date written on the photo page, doesn't it? So it's like milk, after a certain date it goes bad, and it's written on the carton so people don't consume it after that date..."


It's 2:30am, there's a pounding at my door. Jordan? No, she would just walk in...the knocking only grows louder. I take out my earplugs and look at my phone. Two missed calls. "COME IN" I shout, and "Sally" enters, "'Brenda" has dislocated her kneecap!" she exclaims.

...What? Who? What?

"Brenda has dislocated her kneecap, she fell down the stairs on her way back from a McDonald's run, and I think it's pretty bad...you have to come see."

"Okay let me put some clothes on and I'll be right out...what room number?"

On the way upstairs I'm googling 'dislocated knee cap' and the images I'm receiving are brutal-looking. This student is going to have to go to the hospital if their knee looks anything like what I'm seeing on WebMD.

In Brenda's room, she is on the bed, clearly in pain but I'm not getting a good reading of how much. That knee cap is certainly still in place by the looks of it.

I ask Brenda, "Can you bend your leg? can you move it at all? what happened? do you need to go to the hospital?"

[confused, scared, blank stares]

Sally says, "We tried to call Professor A (whose uni they are from) but he didn't answer. Let's call that tall man! The one who teaches sports! He's a doctor, isn't he?"

Yeah...not the same kind of doctor...we're not calling him at 3am.

I'm finally awake and have decided this knee cap has to be strained but it's certainly not dislocated, so I say, "okay, Brenda, you have to speak to me and tell me what you need and how I can help. Do you want to go to the hospital?"

Brenda says, "no!"

"Well do you want to go in the morning?"

Brenda says, "no!"

"Okay. So, it's 3am, you don't want to seek medical assistance, I think that's a fair decision because it looks like you've just badly bruised your kneecap...sooooo, what is it you need from me that can't wait until the morning?"

I didn't really say that, actually, I was very kind because I know Brenda was shocked and scared, and really it was Sally who decided to come and get me, I still don't understand how she got in to my flat after I missed the phone calls....

A few nights later Brenda called me at 3am, "do you have anything that will help me sleep?" Turns out Sally had given her something to help her sleep the night before, and Sally wasn't responding so she called me..."yes, I have some dramamine for travel sickness that might relax you, I'll be right up".

Just another day on the job.


Student: I need a linen change.

Me: Okay, I can schedule you for one, but can it not wait until the regularly scheduled change? In a few days?

Student: No, I sort of wet the bed.

Me: Hmmm? What do you mean by 'sort of'?

Student: I got really drunk last night and wet the bed.

Me: Believe it or not this isn't the first time this has happened on this program, I'll schedule you for a linen change, you might be responsible for any damages made to the mattress.

Student: Okay, thank you.

Note: there is a laundry facility located in the building. There is no way in hell I would have admitted to something like that, I would have washed my sheets and acted as if nothing had ever happened. But that's me.


After the official welcome in the chapel across the bridge, there's always a cocktail style finger-food reception. I'm standing at the veggie-hummous table enjoying some broccoli and 'Miss Congeniality' strolls up, "where can I sit?"

"Hmmm? Oh it's a cocktail reception, so just stand and mingle."

Then I see her plate piled up with appetizers, clearly her meal for the evening, she wants to sit down and get serious with this food.

"Soooo, there aren't any seats at all?" she asks. Clearly she can take a look around herself and answer this question, but surprisingly students these days tend to think less and less for themselves, they are always looking for the answer from someone else and in this study-abroad program's case, those answers must come from your's truly...

"I am not sure, take a look around, if you find a seat, have at it, enjoy the evening."

'Miss Congeniality' has an amazing attitude about her, really it's quite impressive, and she says, "well I see some seats over there, can I sit in those?"



This is really just a general point: students today don't read anything.

I've been told I am one of the best at making a sarcastic point with such a smile and sweetness to me that I am able to get away with more than most impatient people. I am unaware of when I'm doing this, but I do like to make a point, especially after I've worked so hard to get fool-proof information across. And when I say "fool-proof" I mean that I will literally have students proof my "notices" before I post them to ensure I've answered every possible question anyone could think of.

I know that I can be a smart ass when it comes to a question I have already provided the answer to. So when a students asks me a question they clearly have not taken the responsibility to answer themselves, it ignites a fire in me. Think of it as an opportunity to help someone learn a valuable lesson: READ PEOPLE!

For example, we post announcements on the bulletin boards in the breezeway - anyone who enters or exits the building must pass by these boards - and if there is something more detailed to share, we post notices on every flat door to ensure students receive the most up to date information.

It really gets under my skin when a student comes in with a question, that is thoroughly answered on the notice posted to their flat door days ago. So my initial response to their question is, "have you had a chance to read the notice on your flat door?" The student's response is always, "yes, I read it."

Oh is that so? Alright, well let's take another look at it together, shall we? And I will read aloud the very clear answer to their inquiry and then ask, "so tell me again, what is your question?" Works every time.

Sure, sometime I come across as a not-so-nice-word, but I'm trying to teach some life lessons here people, be responsible for yourself!


Much of my job responsibility is the daily management of decisions that have already been made. In some cases I get to make the decisions, but on the highest level I purely manage the decisions that others make, which I feel I am quite good at, even when I don't always agree with the decision. So, I thoroughly appreciate when a student has the audacity to look at me in a ridiculous manner and say, "well that's lame" about a program policy or decision that has been made that I clearly have little-to-no control over.

Thanks, I appreciate your point of view, sorry you feel that way.

That's it, that's all I can muster for now...and the sun has finally come out, I must go outside!

PS - must I mention that the names of the "real" people above have been changed to protect the guilty? Yes, I must mention that.

*For a better idea of point 1 at the top of the list for "fun" from last year, check out minute 3:24 at the following link: http://www.youtube.com/user/SirSeef#p/a/u/2/O6WxZ9bNvDY

A ginger child stole my heart...

My dad has a thing for red-heads (my mother), and I’m guessing it runs in the family because a ginger child has stolen my heart this summer. With fire-ey red hair and freckles, and big brown eyes, he had me at “hewwo”. Actually that’s a lie, it was his first eye-roll that really did it for me. Or perhaps it was when he lost his sixth tooth as he was showing me how loose it was. Who knew a 6 year old could be so charming.

One day he asked if we could have lunch together. He brought a card game called “Whot!” (much like UNO), some pasta, his dad, and fresh blueberries to share. Every day since our first date he climbs on the ledge behind some bushes outside our office window to knock on the glass and wave, smiling his toothless grin.

One day last week he came by and we chatted through the glass. He said he had been to the British Museum and got scared and then sick. “What do you mean you got sick?” I asked. “I threw up, I puked, because I was so scared.” It was the unraveling mummies that did it for him, too much for a 6-year-old.



signals, souris, ghosts and Spain...

Oh this was weeks ago and I'm just now mentioning it, I know everyone's been curious (or so I like to think): I caught a mouse! Well two, actually. The first one we weren't quite sure what to do with. You remember the trap, Lucifer? And how he has three guillotine holes? Well sure enough one of the little darlings went after a piece of weeks-old dry bread and Lucifer got him. I wonder how long he'd been laying there because I wasn't the one to find it, Jamie came in to use my kitchen and screamed quite like a little girl...he knows he did...and I caught on pretty quickly when I saw him staring underneath my kitchen table. When I say we weren't sure what to do with it, we threw the whole thing away.

After proof Lucifer would produce, I decided to enlist a student's help setting the next trap, and this time we set all three holes. Why a student? Well the contraption seemed to fascinate him, and there's not much to do here if you haven't gathered that yet. Anyway, it must have been the sweet granola I put in the back of the trap to lure him in, but I caught a second mouse within hours of setting it. And with this one I found the courage (and held my breath) to release the trap, throw the mouse away, and then I put the trap back in place...wondering if the former POW's lingering scent would ward off his family?

So far I've neither seen signs of any more souris, nor heard any of their ghosts.

It's amazing that the souris seem to be the most action that's happened in our sleepy town since arriving this year. I love being here, living here, speaking French, working with these students, but sometimes I hate it. I hate working through the ghosts of memories that randomly enter my mind without warning. Maybe one day I'll blog about it in more detail, the emotions that come with it, and tell you what I really want to say (I just have to figure it out first). I am so happy to have the beautiful memories, and to have experienced last year...but boy is it harder this year than I remember it being, ever. It's been more than just picking up and moving to France again for three months. This year I'm working with all new characters, mostly, who have no memory of last year's program because they weren't here. I don't fault them for that, at all, but it takes a lot of energy to be internally battling these ghosts, and yet keep my head up, stay bubbly and energetic and constantly "on" for the new cast. And I don't want to have to explain myself to these new characters, or go in to last year and why this year is different for me with spurts of emotional challenges....why should I have to explain why I'm not interested in someone, or doing something?

So, I put up a wall for protection. A few times people have tried to break through it, but it just tightens up and I can feel it happen. That's when I retreat and force myself to take a break, take some time for me to work out whatever is haunting me. Funny how even in this tiny village it's hard to find time AWAY from people. I'm constantly aware of the signals I may be giving off - heaven forbid they are misinterpreted.

I would also like to say that while it's been such a blessing working with an all-male cast this year, it is also exhausting. I am ready for the mini-break after Paris week. Yes, I'm traveling with part of the all-male cast, but I LOVE being alone for a few hours a day on a vacation, there's nothing better. I think we're going to have a blast IN SPAIN! I've never been, and now I'm going.

After Paris week we drive to Normandy and tour the D-Day landing beaches and the American cemetery. The following day, those who signed up head to London on the coach (that's me) and have one night in the city before getting dropped off at Stansted and Gatwick airports. From Stansted I'll fly to Las Palmas, Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands off the coast of Spain.

Six.Nights.On.The.Beach. Sun, sand, sea, and I'm pretty sure I might never take off my swimsuit - that's how excited I am about the WARMTH and the beach. Not to mention, Ryan Air doesn't let you carry on anything smaller than a handbag for all their restrictions, so I might only have room for a suit and a pair of shorts.

After Las Palmas we fly to Madrid and [hopefully] have an apartment in the city-center for four nights before heading back to Paris for one night, and then back home to The Abbey for the end of the semester.

I'm ready.....


Les souris qui me font du souci dans les nuits du bruit...

I returned for another Abbey Program Feb. 6. Moved in to my studio room on the third floor a few days later and so began the nights of not sleeping.

At first I thought it must be jetlag, that's all. But then my refrigerator started clanking around at odd hours of the night waking me from slumber. The first night it happened I walked over to it, to shook it around, looked inside to see where the noise was coming from, etc...found nothing. The sound happens every night, beginning around 11:30 and continuing sporadically throughout the darkness.

Let me describe this sound, because some of you are thinking: ignore it and go to sleep.

Imagine a glacier. And then imagine someone chipping away at this glacier piece by piece for a few minutes until a huge chunk comes rattling off. This sound, this is what I hear. And it is not a quiet sound. It is a huge echoing sound. it sounds like these icicles are tumbling down the back of my fridge.

I checked inside, and there's a thin layer of ice in the freezer, but that should be there, right? I shook the fridge around, hoping more of these icicles would fall and the sound would end, but that didn't work at all. Hmmmm....

Yesterday, during the daylight, I was preparing to boil some eggs (to go with my French mayonnaise, of course) and I heard a sound. Not THE sound, but A sound...so I opened the fridge, thinking I would catch a view of the glacier icicles falling while it happened. Instead, in a brief flash, something dark jumped out of my cereal box and ran down the back of my fridge. THAT'S WHEN I HEARD THE SOUND!

MICE! Or, in French, "souris".



[enter a variation of some stronger and more explicit choice words when this realization really sunk in]

The French word for something which brings you worry or concern is, "souci". The word for mice is "souris". Those of you who know me well will find it completely normal that I might mix these words up occasionally. So, during the host family meeting last night, without any time to worry about the army of mice living in my wall behind my fridge, I was telling a lovely French host mother about my discovery. I said, "J'ai des soucis dans ma chambre" (I have worries/concerns in my room".

She looked at me a bit puzzled.

So I thought, perhaps, I wasn't pronouncing something correctly. I repeated myself and still she looked confused. So I reenacted what a mouse might act like...and she laughed and said, "ooh tu as des souris dans ta chambre!"

Right...souris. "Oui, oui, j'ai des souris dans ma chambre et ils me fait du souci"! (Yes, I have mice in my room and they cause my worry/concern).

I haven't seen a whole mouse since the dash from my box of cereal, but I did see a tail hanging over the top of my fridge last night when I returned from dinner. At that point I took all my dry food and shut it up in my micro-onde (microwave) and went to bed. I heard the little buzzards just as I was falling asleep, but either I slept really hard after that or they didn't come out again when they realized there was nothing to eat.

Today, Matt, the property director, brought me some mousetraps. They are named, "souriciere LUCIFER". They look like an inverse guillotine created by the director of SAW whatever-number-they're-on-now. As grotesque as they sound, I don't have much faith in them.

It's not that I hate mice. I can live with mice - it's just the NOISE. If they would sleep when I sleep we'd have a perfect relationship. Heck, I might even leave them some food now and then.

So....this will be my adventure this semester: Jess et les souris qui me font du souci dans les nuits du bruit. I don't even know if that works but it rhymes.