To GT-Lorraine...and Beyond!

Over 25 years of academic excellence and adventure

Author: Julie (Page 2 of 4)

A Spring Potluck to Remember

Posted by Julie

Springtime is something to celebrate here in Metz. The clouds have retreated for a bit and the sight of the sun warms our hearts. With all of the rain, every snapshot of Metz overflows with a lively green, and these gargantuan dandelions have sprung up by every sidewalk.

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Georgia Tech-Lorraine in the springtime!

While all of the outdoors celebrates warmer temperatures, we are celebrating, too. This semester has been pretty amazing: Georgia Tech-Lorraine has brought us so many opportunities – from traveling on the weekends to meeting new people in a social environment unlike any other I’ve seen – and we all see that.

At the Spring Potluck, we gathered to commemorate all the great things that have happened at Georgia Tech-Lorraine over the past months. It was easy to see how far we’ve come: from awkwardly introducing ourselves to the other people sporting Georgia Tech gear to laughing and joking over a plate of turkey and an assembly of our friends’ dishes.

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The potluck was brimming and delicious.

The picture of amity, the Georgia Tech-Lorraine lounge was transformed into a banquet hall with colorful tables and decorations, and a long, beautiful assembly of food. The BDE provided raffle prizes featuring jerseys, mini speakers, and Kinder Bueno – a favorite snack of GTL students. The president revealed the winner of the March Madness bracket competition, as well as the winners in each of the five categories of the photo contest: best food picture, best group picture, best landscape or architecture picture, best cultural picture, and – because we’re millennials – best selfie. There were so many amazing entries; students really have an eye for beauty. Who says engineers aren’t creative!? (The winners can be seen here.)

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Maybe the preparation for this event was intense, but the results were pleasing. It was great to be a part of bringing together the students for some friendship and bonding. And food – don’t forget the food. We’re college students, after all.

Thank you to all of the volunteers that helped set up, and to all of those who helped clean up after. You are appreciated!

Making More Than Just Train Connections

Posted by Julie

Studies have classified three ways of learning: auditory, visual, and hands-on, which are generally reflected in how we experience anything. There are a great many ways experience travel, and really no bad way; you can learn a lot no matter how you experience a locale. As far as I’ve seen, though, traveling can also be divided into common experiential thought processes: shopping, eating, historical sites, museums, art, and activities. Of course, there are some other outlying processes, and most people pursue a mix of the thought processes.

However, there is another way to learn about a city and its culture that I’ve seen as increasingly beneficial: personal connections. This is on the rise, with the increasing popularity of shared economy companies such as AirBnB and Couchsurfing; the latter especially encourages interacting with hosts and experiencing a city with them. This personal touch from someone in the area leads to memories that wouldn’t be possible otherwise, as it adds more knowledge than one could gleam out of all of the blog posts about a space.

Not only do you get recommendations on all of the experiential thought processes and the related points of interests of each, your new friend can impart knowledge or even funny stories, and the personal connection can be invaluable. Most people I know have met fascinating people along the way, whether via rooming or just wandering the city, and are still connected with them through Facebook, or even actively talking to them!

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AJ playing with the kids we met on the train.

Why I do I bring this semi-obvious point up? Well, it’s story time. Quite possibly my favorite part of  Easter weekend was our short train ride between Prague and Berlin, and no, not because we finally sat in a car similar to those of the Hogwarts Express. (EEP.) We did sit in a similar carriage, but the important details were our neighbors: two German sisters, each with their respective kid. After settling in, my friend pulled out a deck of cards, and AJ has a really great fancy-shuffle he can do. (That’s a technical term.)

The kids were immediately spellbound by his magical card manipulation, and from there he taught them how to do his bridge shuffle, played Uno, and learned the word for “red” in German. The family spoke little English, and AJ and I spoke close to no German, so communication was limited, but I had a conversation with the adults. We stumbled through broken English about life in Germany and their policies. It was interesting to see a different normal and to learn about their experiences more than anything. Though a difficult conversation, it was certainly the most rewarding during my trip.

The value doesn’t always rest in conversation, though. The personal connection can be just as powerful. AJ hung with the kids, who knew some English from their studies, but they were more interested in the cards than politics. Ask him (like I did), and he would say it was the best part of the trip too. (“Most definitely the best.”) From what I saw, our car was the most fun, as there was a kid watching the

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Some of the candy I received from the German family.

action from the corridor window. We both knew as the events were unraveling that this would be one of those moments that we would never forget.

So, what is my recommendation in life and in travel? Talk to and interact with people. Perspective is a powerful tool to understanding more of the world, and every other person has it. And often, it leads to places you never imagine.

Bonus: your new friends might graciously donate the rest of their candy to you, too.

 

Medecin(e)s Without Borders

Photo courtesy of music.msu.edu

In all of the preparation we did for studying abroad in France, one of the (huge) tiny details was insurance. Really, it was pretty simple; fill out a form and make a fixed payment. I didn’t really give much thought to insurance at all, except extending it. Why we needed international insurance, I didn’t know, but I am here to reaffirm the statement that the lovely people in the Georgia Tech-Lorraine office in Atlanta know what they’re doing.

Health insurance is important. Yeah, we drag our feet about it, but it’s for the moments we don’t see coming – those images that whiz by and you have that sudden dread as you see it hurtling toward you.

(For me, the “it” was the ground.)

Metz had just recently opened up into gorgeous blue skies and nearly warm weather – but with all the running we were doing playing soccer, I was still in a t-shirt. We had made friends with students from Supelec and started a great game of football, and everything was going great. Then I collided with a couple friends, and soon after the ground.

Without all the details, it boils down to this: initially, things were a little confusing. My head hurt a lot, but I wasn’t too worried. But there were people who were concerned: Ed, my friend and an RA walked me back to GTL, and he told Karen (the awesome person I wrote about before). Concussions are serious. I got a follow-up call at 1am that morning, and the next day.

I didn’t have all the symptoms, but we decided it was necessary to go to the doctor – just to be safe. And besides, more terror had struck. Turns out I’m allergic to whatever brand of mosquitoes they have here, and my eyelids were pink and swollen.

(You see? The foreshadowing came true. Everything hit me at once.)

Well, we went to the doctor. Yes, we had to wait a couple hours without an appointment, but I got a prescription, and an official diagnosis. (No concussion!)

And it’s not just me who has been sick; many people have come down with something. There’s a lot to do around here, and between school and traveling like it’s a second job, it’s pretty easy to get worn down, but the Georgia Tech-Lorraine staff have done this before. They have the English-speaking contacts and connections to get us to the right places at the right time. And I can file with the insurance to get my money back. (Bonus round!)

Advice from Real-Life GTL Students

Posted by Julie

At this point, we are well over halfway through the semester. We’re about two and a half months older, and quite a bit wiser. We aren’t sages yet, but we do have some thoughts about how we would have approached this semester and what we would have done differently. So, for all those planning on coming to Georgia Tech-Lorraine, or even for those just generally traveling, here’s our thoughts on traveling, Europe, Georgia Tech-Lorraine, and travelling Europe at Georgia Tech-Lorraine.

 

Don’t worry so much about things not going as planned. Things end up working out in the end.  – Jessica

Jessica’s advice holds true for j12779022_10208896617761798_4447155126991845723_oust about any experience, but especially for travel: there will always be something that doesn’t go as planned, but honestly? There’s no need to overly stress. We have lots of opportunity to travel, and the rules at Georgia Tech-Lorraine allow for a certain flexibility, so if your train gets stuck in Frau, Austria, generally it’s fixable. Also, I’ve found, personally, that when things don’t go as planned – that’s when the magic happens. Those are the memories you’ll keep. (Like wandering around Naples at 10pm with your friends to find that one pizza restaurant that guy in Rome recommended. Totally worth it, by the way.)

 

Interact with the students around you – especially the French ones – more. – Joy

All I remember about our first orientation meeting is my extreme skepticism12768270_1233192183361624_3995472953783433646_o toward one statement made by Ms. Bass: “GTL students become like a community.
You will know everyone, and you will probably be friends with most everyone.” 200 students, and I’m going to be friends with all of them? Riiight. But it’s not so far from the truth. Between classes, activities with the BDE, mutual friends, the Universal GroupMe, or just walking up to someone in the student lounge, there are many ways to meet people. You just have to go for it. All the people here are in the same boat as you, and really, most of them don’t bite. Ask to borrow sewing kits, where to eat downtown, and people to travel with for the weekend, and you’ll generally find a friend.

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Spend a little more time planning out your travels. – David, Pranav, Ije

This was quite a popular remark. People come with grand dreams, but realize there are some realities to study abroad, train travel, and the limits of mortality. It does help to plan out where exactly you’d like to go, and prioritize your dreams, but be aware that if you want to travel with others (which I highly recommend), sometimes there will be curveballs.

 

Don’t just follow other people when choosing where to travel. – Indiana12783787_10206586667692259_9026917480081343070_o

This follows the last one pretty closely. Define your dreams, try to travel with others and make friends, but don’t limit yourself to what others want to do solely because all of your friends are going somewhere else. People have realized throughout the course of the semester that cities aren’t nearly as interesting as adventuring and hiking, or maybe Italy was not everything it’s cracked up to be. Form your own opinions and pursue them.

 

Budget anything and everything. – AJ12573928_10208349260392297_2029775313939866714_n

A basic, but vital necessity. Fall semester, I made a massive spreadsheet, detailing fees, tuition, food, trains, activities, and any other thing for which it is possible to spend money. There was extensive research: I frequented the Georgia Tech-Lorraine page, but researched on train ticket websites, travel blogs, packing lists, and more. There is more to living abroad than one might realize, and it is necessary to consider all possibilities. (Including, dare I say it, nightlife, for those legal and willing.) It’s easy to spend way too much, but if you have a form laid out, you can see what steps you need to take so you aren’t high and dry and begging your parents for money at the end of the semester.

 

Branch out and do new things despite 773593_10206494390895489_5985898670448672616_othe cost. – Sienna

Now, we’ve been responsible; we’ve budgeted for our trips. However, that being said, if something really compels you, and you know you’d regret it later on, DO IT. #majorkey

 

Politeness at PAUL

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PAUL logo courtesy of en.wikipedia.org.

Students at Georgia Tech-Lorraine generally have a few choices for lunch: make your own (but pasta gets a bit old after the first 15 times), go to CROUS (the student cafeteria for French schools which is actually amazing), or stop by Paul (or Boîte de Pizza, a new addition this semester).

I am of the personal opinion that Georgia Tech-Lorraine students represent a large chunk of our local Paul’s revenue. A mix between a boulangerie, patisserie, sandwich stop, and resto (the French abbreviation for restaurant), Paul is right on the path for many students – particularly those who live in the Lafayette dorms.

So, if you’re on your way to class, stop by for a croissant or “le Parisian,” but to avoid appearing as tactless tourists, it’s nicer to try to speak the native language. And so, I’m going to give you a quick rundown on how to order at Paul without offending anyone. Copy any of these into Google Translate to get a feel for pronunciation.

 

INTRODUCTORY FORMALITIES

You may hear the employee say «En suite,” which means “Next.”

«Bonjour» or «Bonsoir»: Depending on what time of day it is. “Bonjour” is more for mornings and early afternoons, but “Bon soir” is for late afternoon and on. They will say it first, and to be cordial, you say it back.

 

ORDERING

« Je prends…»/« Je voudrais…»/ « J’aimerais…» = “I’ll take…”/ “I would like…”/ “I would love…”

All are acceptable to begin your order, but many (especially in fast food) skip this formality as well.

Then [insert food item here].

Check out their delicious menu here to get a heads up on what you can add to end that sentence.

If all else fails, and you don’t know what something is in French, you can ask « Comment on dit en anglais?» or “How do you say this in English?”

« Et aussi… » = “And also…”

If you want multiple items.

« Ça c’est tout?» = “Is that all?”

Asked by the server. Easiest reply, if you are finished? “Oui.”

 

PAYING

« Comment on paye?» = “How are you paying?”

Asked by the server. Generally cash or card – but it’s best if your card has a chip in it!

« Par la carte» or « Par la carte bleue» = “By credit card”

« Avec l’argent » = “With cash”

 

TEARFUL GOODBYES

The server says «Merci» and «Bon journée» or «Au revoir».

You repeat for politeness.

 

Other good words to know are basic numbers (as I would be impressed if you wanted to order 96 pains au chocolat). Check out this article for basic food words like chicken, allergy, and vegetarian to make your life easier.

The Great Collaboration

Posted by Julie

A few weeks ago, something big happened: I met new people! This, of course, isn’t newsworthy in and of itself. In fact, that statement has become so regular here at Georgia Tech-Lorraine that the fantastic feeling of shaking hands with a new person happens probably about daily. It’s more whom I met, and why I met them.

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A small subset of both the GTL BDE and the Supélec BDE.

There was a meeting – top secret (not really) – between some members of the Bureaus des Etudiants of three major universities here in Metz. (A Bureau des Etudiants, generally referred to as the BDE, functions similarly to the Residence Hall Association back home in Atlanta.)  Students from Georgia Tech-Lorraine, Supélec, and ENIM gathered to plan a job fair called Mission: First Job for their students.

The meeting was entirely in French, which was a struggle for a few of us Atlantans – but it was a good test of my French skills for sure! Details were discussed and plans laid out, then we were sent to fulfill our respective duties.

The meeting itself was productive and interesting, but my favorite part of the night was the little soiree afterwards. The Supélec BDE invited us to snack with them after, presenting us with a host of delicious foods, as well as interesting conversation. I got to learn what life was like in our neighbors’ houses, and even for students that bridge the gap between our schools, as one member is a student both at Supélec and Georgia Tech-Lorraine as a dual-degree program participant.

Topics like daily student life in our respective countries were broached, as well as perspectives on our home countries. It inspired some very interesting conversation, and there were many common experiences, such as schooling tracks, and some very different ones, such as the elections for BDE officials.

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The Supélec BDE Président and the GTL BDE Président.

What most excited me about this meeting? It was the start of a great relationship with our fellow students. We’re already working together on one project, and several more were pitched throughout the course of the night – the dreams of connecting our students for maximum experience possible. This is why I wanted to join the BDE: I wanted to connect our cultures as much as possible for more of a first-hand experience with people our age in another country. And so, I am frightfully excited about our future plans.

Stay tuned!

Leaving Our Mark on the Community

Posted by Julie

That last week has been the best Metz I’ve ever seen – a balmy 60° underneath blue skies and gold-tinted sunbeams. Personally, I think it was the universe getting excited about our volunteering event at Fort Queuleu.

Students have asked for an opportunity to volunteer, and while there are too many hoops to jump through for volunteering genres such as soup kitchens and homeless shelters, we found this early on and have been working to make it happen for a while.

You may remember that one of the first blog posts I wrote was about my International Affairs trip, which included Fort Queuleu, a former internment camp just a 20 minute walk from Georgia Tech-Lorraine. The tour was particularly impactful – from the storytelling of our guide to the creative, connecting visuals. I was amazed that so much history was hidden in the hills so near us, so I was incredibly excited about this opportunity.

We joined a group of maybe ten other dedicated volunteers who convene twice a month to clean up and preserve the history of the region. Many spoke little English, so it was a great way for the group to brush up on their French, or even learn a little for some. We still had conversations and laughs with the others, despite the language barriers.

While some cut back bushes and undergrowth, we were assigned to work with a few people on the refurbishment of the entry gate. For my group, the morning crew, we brushed off the moss and rust with metal brushes and painted on a first coat of protective glaze, after which the afternoon group painted on several more.

With the weather as perfect as it was, and the people so nice, I don’t think I have enjoyed a BDE event more. Of course, there are several lined up soon – so that title may be tested!

My favorite part? As I was walking out of the park area in which Fort Queuleu is situated, another French woman was leaving as well. She started up a conversation, and I explained why our students were there. She was very happy and impressed that we wanted to help the community as much as we did. I found that this was also her first time volunteering, as she had recently found out that her mother was a part of the underground movement to overthrow Nazi rule during occupation during World War II – which is when Fort Queuleu was used as an internment camp for French resistance.

It was so nice to be a part of something bigger than me; something that has such a personal connection to the people that live here. It’s nice to say that I didn’t just visit Metz, but I lived in and contributed to the community.

 

Grad Student Profile: Meet Emanuele Testa!

Name: Emanuele Testa

Major/Field of Study: MS ECE

Year in grad school: 1st semester

Partner Institution: University of Brescia

Home Country: Italy

Favorite quote: “(He) who does not risk certainty for uncertainty,
to thus follow a dream,
those who do not forego sound advice at least once in their lives,
die slowly. …”  
from, “Die Slowly” – Martha Medeiros

Favorite Song: “Wish You Were Here” – Pink Floyd

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If you don’t know Emanuele, you’re missing out. And I’m not just saying that because he’s in my group for the CS 4261 app.

Emanuele, unlike many graduate students, hails from Italy, and surprisingly, that comes up more often than you’d think. People tend to think that here at Georgia Tech-Lorraine there are two types of students: French and American – and no deviation. Even I started with this frame of mind, as I introduced myself to him, asking where he was from, and it wasn’t Paris, Lyon, or another French city. We had a presentation in class that narrowed the entire scope of logging into the app based on whether the student was American or French – and I couldn’t help but see if he responded to the exclusion. He’s very gracious about it; it’s not mean spirited – people just don’t know!

At the beginning of our shared computer science class, we had to share our interests to the class to be more comfortable with each other’s interests and skill sets, and I remember even then Emanuele describing his interest in robotics. So then, it’s no surprise that his dream job lies in designing robotic medical machines for tasks like surgery or rehabilitation. It’s also not a surprise that his favorite class is ME 6407 (a.k.a. robotics).

Like I’ve often seen in Europe, a Master’s degree is not seen as optional in some fields – and Emanuele agrees, citing the need to specialize in something. He chose Georgia Tech-Lorraine specifically, though, because we have a dual-degree program with his home university, the University of Brescia. He seems to like his decision, though; when asked for his best recommendation for other graduate students, he recommended attending, describing Georgia Tech-Lorraine as “an amazing opportunity.” As he says, “An American degree definitely makes a difference in your future employment opportunities, [whether] you want to work in Europe or in any other part of the world. It’s a multicultural and creative environment and a great opportunity to improve your English!” His favorite part of Georgia Tech-Lorraine, though? The people, as the “students are very friendly and the staff here is very helpful.”

When he’s not studying or hanging with friends, Emanuele is probably playing the piano, watching the latest awesome movie, or traveling (not such a surprise hobby at Georgia Tech-Lorraine.) His dream destination? Bali, Indonesia.

Brussels in the Heart of Georgia Tech-Lorraine

Posted by Julie

Unless you live under a rock, you’ve probably heard about the recent events: a terror attack carried out by ISIL agents struck Brussels in its airport and a metro station near the hub of the European Union. All across our screen, new channels flash images of smoking airport terminals, people running haphazardly in the streets, and first responders caring for victims wrapped in shiny security blankets. As of tonight, 31 dead and 271 wounded.

And even before that, but much more quietly, innocent civilians on a beach in the Ivory Coast on the 14th of March. 22 dead and 33 wounded.

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Image courtesy of USA Today.

Tuesday morning would have been just like any other for Georgia Tech-Lorraine students shaking off the sleep with coffee and class, but just after 8am, our classmate posted in our GroupMe. We all watched closely – whether via Reddit threads or CNN feeds or elsewhere for details. Many of us have visited Brussels, and some of us were even in Brussels this weekend, in the very spots where the horrifying events took place. Many have friends and family living, working, visiting. All of us had settled back into our routines at our “home base,” but watching the events unfold was still heartbreaking.

Terror attacks both move and paralyze humanity. They prey on the fear of the unknown, causing chaos and suffering as the world stops to watch. However, every single one of them has hit the core of humanity – from Paris to Syria to Thailand to Egypt to Nigeria, and now the Ivory Coast and Brussels. The thing is, though, they are a worldwide endeavor of radical organizations – even in the United States, such as in San Bernardino or Chattanooga. It’s a reality, and a grotesque one assuredly. It shouldn’t exist, but it does, and it can happen anywhere. The best thing to do is to love above all – and to prepare and be vigilant.

Unpredictability is a hard enemy to fight, but to all parents: everyone at Georgia Tech-Lorraine is doing everything in their power to keep your child safe while studying abroad. Even things that I cannot describe for our own safety! Parents, if you’re curious, ask your student. From the moment we are waiting at the airport to leave, people in both Atlanta and France are prepared, watching, ready to help if anything goes wrong – I specifically remember Mme. Bass saying that they stay up to make sure that students arrive safely – to touching back down in the United States.

Due to constant vigilance, there is constant improvement. More safety measures have been put into place even since last November; there are meetings about our safety – even one already drawn together to discuss the attacks in Brussels – and how to best respond and protect. Weekly updates, as well as emergency ones, inform us on the state of affairs and important events and advise how best to avoid problem areas.

Information is one of the greatest powers garnered by travel and wielded by Georgia Tech-Lorraine to promote the well-being and security of staff and students. Some channels remain voluntary, such as notifying Georgia Tech-Lorraine staff as to where one travels during the weekends for emergency purposes (though I highly recommend it, as I was told it was a great help to confirm the security of all students after the Paris attacks). However, most aspects are integrated into life at Georgia Tech-Lorraine to maintain the success and safety of the program.

Scroll back through the previous posts of this blog, and you’ll find it celebrates the absolute opportunities attainable at Georgia Tech-Lorraine – and in some cases, no other place. You see so much good going on here, and there is so much done to protect it. This experience has changed my life beyond my words to describe, and I am a big fan of words – which is part of why I love writing. And by extension, I love the words said by others people (a.k.a. quotes). I could throw the cliché ones at you (FDR’s “The only thing to fear is fear itself,” anyone?), but here’s by far my favorite quote about fear:

“Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future. If we can acknowledge our fear, we can realize that right now we are okay. Right now, today, we are still alive, and our bodies are working marvelously. Our eyes can still see the beautiful sky. Our ears can still hear the voices of our loved ones.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

There is an undeniable amount of uncertainty to any facet of life. At any given moment, another person’s path may come careening into ours, intentionally or unintentionally, crashing and smashing the plans we had so neatly laid out. We get in our cars, risking accidents; we climb the mountain, risking injury. Never before has this proved a reason to cower and hide, and it shouldn’t be now. Fear is the tool of these attacks, and we cannot let it manipulate us into not living on our own terms. There is too much good in the world to stop seeking it, though not without reason and sense.

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Image courtesy of PBS.org.

And so, we here at Georgia Tech-Lorraine mourn the people we lost in Brussels and Cote d’Ivoire. Remembering their lives in peace rather than anger, we look to tomorrow and pursue a better world.

Meet Katia, Queen of GTL Student Events

Name: Katia Ménard Pons

Position: Academic Office & Campus Life

Favorite Part of Position: Working with open-minded students. Helping students settling down in Metz and leave the school with great memories at GTL besides classes!

One Thing to Tell Students: Living in a foreign country teaches you so much not only culturally, but also personally.

Phrase That Best Describes GTL: Cultural exchange

Favorite Color: Depends…  Everything should match to the situation, so I won’t have the same answer if it is to decorate my house or to dress as I think everything has to fit with its environment! So it can be red, yellow, or blue!

Favorite Food: Is the quiche Lorraine a good answer? You should try and judge by yourself ! J

Interests/Hobbies: Spend time with my children and watch a good movie at the cinema with friends.

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Katia is in the top row, second from the right.

Katia is one of the names that most GTLers are most likely to recognize. Whether due to direct contact or mentioned in passing, her name is on a great many things that we see on campus: our distance learning and field trip classes, BDE event support and scheduling, Portes Ouvertes (a.k.a. Open House), health insurance for Master’s students from outside of France.

I, myself, as a member of the BDE have had the pleasure of working closely with her for some time now. Try to imagine seven American college students sitting in a classroom scheming about events for the student body – from paintball to a banquet – and Katia’s sitting there right alongside us, steering us away from havoc.

Working with students is her favorite part of the job, though, so maybe it’s not as crazy as it seems. She particularly loves speaking with 20% of students who are eagerly pursuing learning and speaking French – so don’t be afraid to test out your language skills with her! She supports GTL as a new experience, and that’s what she wants you to know: it expands horizons not only culturally, but personally, as a “challenging situation which gives you the opportunity to open your mind to a new environment and a different way of living.”

There’s a lot to learn when living abroad, and there’s also a lot to learn about Katia! Her favorite food? Quiche Lorraine (and she recommends trying it). Her favorite pastime is spending time with her children, or going to see a particularly great film at the theater with friends. And don’t ask her what her favorite color is, as that all depends on what the subject matter is. She won’t have the same answer depending on whether it’s for the house, clothes, or otherwise (but she listed red, yellow, and blue, so if you’re getting her a birthday card, shoot for those).

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