Footage of Bastille Day

Regardez ces images et savez: Vive la France! And don’t forget to click “more” for the rest of the story. Also, if you hover over the photos, you’ll get their titles in addition to the captions below them.

We start our journey in the early evening, as the prisoners are settling into their nocturnal routines.

We first find ourselves a few miles north of the Bastille, making sure our presence as the French is known throughout the province. Fiction catches our eye.

We remember the days of the Revolution we're about to start.

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Because Good Grades Totally Mean I’m A Good Person

Last Tuesday I took the first French midterm. The class had their choice between taking it Tuesday and Wednesday, and I had something planned for Wednesday, so I decided to take the exam on Tuesday. We’re learning stuff at such an accelerated rate anyway, the dents the informational assaults leave in my skull are nearly permanent. Studying more wouldn’t have helped.

Remember last weekend when I went to Jackson Hole? I did bring my textbook, and I opened  it for about 20 minutes the entire weekend. But I was sitting at a counter in a friend’s friend’s apartment, and two rugged and very intelligent and interesting mountain men were talking very intelligently and ruggedly about something interesting, so did I study? Not really. They did ask me how to say a few things in French, so I answered them.

Then I closed my book, and I didn’t open it again until I got back to Provo.

Tuesday was the first school day after the holiday, and class got out at 11am, and I figured I could take the test at 4:30, which would give me 5.5 hours to review.

They give us a two-hour time limit for the exam. I took an hour and 45 minutes, which included double-checking the answers I knew and didn’t know.

But at least I got it done, and I didn’t have to worry about de-stressing on Wednesday before going through with my Wednesday plans, which, as far as I’m concerned, were far more important than the exam.

So, while people accused me of being an overachiever, and while sometimes I admit to being one, the reason for taking the exam on Tuesday was less achieverist and more … humanist?

We got our exam results and grade printouts today. I was expecting the worst.

The worst did not happen. I am relieved. I have a good grade in the class so far.

It’s seriously blowing my mind.

And I have to be ready to do it again next Tuesday.

A-splishy, A-splashy

I was fighting myself. It was a physical battle. I yanked and tugged and pulled, and just like me, I wouldn’t give a single inch.

It took five minutes to slick that thing on, all black and foamy and rubbery. I sort of felt like I was wearing a baby seal. Scratch that. I felt like a baby seal. Bark, bark. See me flapping my flippers together? Feed me some fish, Jimmy.

Then I walked out of the bathroom and saw how my good friend Heather here was wearing hers.


I went back into the bathroom, unzipped the front, removed the wetsuit – which came off so much more quickly than putting it on – reversed the inside-out limbs, and commenced fighting myself again.

It went on more easily. And it actually fit much better this time. The crotch didn’t look like where my butt should be. I zipped the back shut.

By the way? It’s a kid’s size 12, so I felt like a tweener seal, hormones bubbling, about to jump into the frontier of adolescence.

Thank goodness we had those wetsuits, because kids, the water was cold.

Thirteen of us fit on the raft. For the first half of the trip, I sat in the middle, up front. I sort of was up the creek without a paddle. A few agitated waves splashed onto us, and we almost tipped a couple of times.

We floated pretty swiftly. The river chilled my feet and I folded my hands and put them between my knees whenever we weren’t against the rapids.

For the last part of the trip, I relieved a nice lady of her paddle. Paddling is fun. Paddling against rough waters is awesome. Paddling out of eddies isn’t so fun, but it’s important so that the raft doesn’t get stuck.

Sometimes counterflowing eddies form whirlpools. Sometimes the water is high enough to make them dangerous enough.

Sometimes eddies form fun little dips that suck a raft in and spit it out. The one we saw emptied a full raft that was ahead of us. It was funny seeing a raft but no people in it. We wanted to try surfing that spot, but we couldn’t maneuver the raft close enough to catch it.

They name their rapids weirdly:  Big Kahuna, Lunch Counter, Champagne. Lunch Counter? I need to think about that one for a little bit.

I like that part of the Snake River. Beautiful trees, towering cliffs. We only met grade 3 rapids, though. I’d like to try some with higher difficulty.

Colliding with climbing waves on numerous occasions, I got really wet. By the time we reached the end of the trip, the cold had seeped through my wetsuit and I was shivering. The sun also hid behind the clouds from time to time, which didn’t help. I was grateful to be paddling.

When we got to shore, I stood in the sun and peeled off the top half of the damp, black layer so the warm air contacted my skin.

It would be so fun to do that again. Fight the river. Win.

Fight the wetsuit. Win the first time.

Broad Stripes and Bright Stars

Officially, this is my first Independence Day as an American citizen. A draft of something lengthy and involved and emotional and largely unfinished sits on my laptop. I hope it emerges eventually.

I love this country. I love my freedoms here. I love the servicemen who devote their lives to keep this country safe and relatively secure. I love this country’s founding fathers and their vision. I want their vision, especially when we get things wrong.

I love my family and their sacrifice and unending support. I love my friends.

I love seeing new and different people every day, making eye contact that means we know we’re in the greatest country in history.

These thoughts are no different from previous years. But a friend reminded me yesterday of my citizenship, and I got excited, and I started clapping, and now there’s all this … power.

I’ve lived and worked and thought like an American for all of my life. People have assumed I was American for just as long.

And now I am. I wish I could describe it. There’s nothing like it.

Happy Independence Day. Happy July 4th. Share the excitement about being American.

I’m off to a picnic and maybe attempt to watch the fireworks. We’ll see.

Go Fourth and Ryed

For July 4th, my roommate, another friend and I took the Metro North Railroad, New Haven Line to Rye, New York. Westchester County. We caught a shuttle bus to the Rye Playland. A playland, you ask? Why yes. A playland. What is exactly is a playland? It is a place. A magical place. A place that may only exist on the outskirts of your imagination. Yes, it’s a place that lives in the boondocks of your mind, or even the ghetto of your conciousness. It is a place that sees no wrong in marrying a third cousin. It is a special place with beautiful trees and an idyllic pond. It is a hamlet of amusement; the chance of a lifetime. It has rides that spin and swerve and drop and paddleboats and miniature golf. Spectacular “divas” from the music community perform there. Icons such as “Michelle Williams” of Destiny’s Child. And “Natasha Beddingfield.” It has wonderful delectables, like funnel cakes and hot dogs and cotton candy and caramel apples and those nachos with the fake, melted cheese. It is a place you shouldn’t miss visiting; they might inbreed there.

We spent a few solid hours at the Rye Playland. The crowds weren’t bad at all. We managed to ride all the rides we wanted within an hour and a half. We partook of some of the food, and we rode the rides. As with any amusement park rides, some are more fun than others. In case you plan on exploring this fantasy sparkle dreamland, let me assess the rides and attractions for you.

As a side note, I am happy to say I was tall enough for all of the rides.

Superflight: minimum height – 50″. Straps you in the Superman position. Loops and sharp turns and a bird’s eye view of the rail below, as well as the parking lot. Lasts approximately 7 seconds.

Zombie Castle: just like “It’s A Small World”, except the soundtrack has puking sounds and voices telling you you won’t leave the place alive (as opposed to the sounds and voices in your head during “Small World”). The glowing red exit signs are scarier than the zombie displays. This ride is a dimension that bends time, so I have no clue how long it lasts.

Dragon Coaster: a rickety, wooden-track roller coaster. A few really good dips, a tunnel of darkness that I pretended was Space Mountain. I screamed “I (heart) Rye Playland!” when the ride was over. The photo of me on the ride showed me being clearly traumatized. Lasts about 15 seconds. Trauma does not respect time.

Crazy Mouse: Has a 6′ maximum height requirement. Not a fun ride, as it inflicts whiplash from all neck angles. Lasts WAY longer than it should.

Double Shot: a vertical ride, launches straight up 85 feet, then free-falls to dislodge your stomach. This happens twice, except your stomach is stuck up in your sinuses the second time. Lasts 4 seconds, then 4 more hurling seconds.

Sky Flyer: a pendulum ride. Swings higher and higher until the momentum carries you all the way around. For a frozen second before the cabin decides to tip over, you hang, suspended, upside down. Relax your arms and legs for the onlookers below to see dangling limbs. Lasts not long enough.

Log Flume: a “wet” ride. A fakeout dip with a little bit of a splash. A 3.7-foot ascent anticipating a big splash that drenches you. The soothing smell of chlorine. Lasts about 12 seconds.

Thunderbolt: a spinning ride, specifically designed as a dry cycle after unboarding the Log Flume. Loud, bass-heavy music plays as you hover, round and round, forward for a few orbits, then backward. Lasts 8 seconds on high heat.

Starship 2000: a rotating platform. Instead of the floor dropping as soon as terminal speed is reached, the pad you are leaning against raises. Your body flattens against the side of the ship, and when the ride stops, the operator peels you off like putty. I felt especially woozy after this ride. Lasts 10 seconds Earth-time; at the speed of light, where

 t=7 seconds. Approximately.

Mini Golf: the sign, if you glance quickly, looks like “Mini Self.” But don’t expect a miniature clone of yourself when you pay. 18 holes. Much more fun with the 5-stroke maximum. Watch out for the divets and the concrete bunkers. Watch out for kids trying to poach your turn.

If you first look at this wondrous place – the mystical Rye Playland – when you arrive and it turns you cranky, you won’t be cranky after spending a day here. You must overload your senses with junkfood and the rides that barely one-up the McDonald’s playland. You must act and think and laugh as a child. You must spin your head and twist your stomach to the verge of vomiting. If this is your approach, your fun is guaranteed.