29 July 2009

Exchanges last a lifetime

Seven years ago, I embarked on my first oversees adventure with the Lone Star International Jazz Exchange (aka Pink Jazz). It was a musical exchange in which students from the U.S. played with students from Kepler Gymnasium in Germany and a few French musicians from Gourdon, France. It was an experience of a lifetime playing the universal language of music in an international setting. We travelled throughout Germany and France on a tour bus playing concerts for eager crowds of jazz loving Europeans.

Although I rarely pick up my trumpet anymore, the exchange lives on with the people and places that I met and visited.

I first met Deike when the Lone Star International team hosted the exchange in Fort Worth, Texas at Texas Wesleyan University. I made friends with many of the German students but one in particular named Deike. We went our separate ways after the exchange. The next year when Ibbenbüren, Germany hosted the exchange at Kepler Gymnasium, Deike and I were able to meet up and experience the exchange from the other side of the world.

That same summer in Ibbenbüren I met the Rattay family. Tim played the saxophone ,his sister Tanja sang in the choir with me, and their younger brother Thilo attended the Gymnasium where we practiced. This was 7 years ago. Four years ago Tim visited my family and I in Texas. Four months ago I visited Tim, Thilo, Herr and Frau Rattay in Germany. This past weekend Tim and Thilo visited my parents in Colorado.

Excuse my reminiscent post, but I cannot help but love exchanges for all the opportunities and friendships that they create. It is very rewarding to keep in touch and watch friends around the world grow up with me. When I visit these friends, I have found that we just continue where you left off last time even if it's been years. Lone Star was just the beginning of my positive exchange experiences. Sister Cities International and University exchanges have kept my international studies interest high. I encourage everyone to go find one in your community and to get involved now!

28 July 2009

You call this fromage?!

Today I was rather disappointed when I squared up to the "exotic cheese" aisle at my local grocery store to discover the lack of quality cheese available. After eating a hard and bitter goat cheese that I had settled on, I felt homesick for all of fresh and unpasteurized cheeses that I ate as a staple food while I was living in France.

I was spoiled rotten with bountiful fresh fromage de chèvre in France. I would buy a 6 oz round of goat cheese for 2 euros just about every week at the Lumière market near my apartment. Before I could even unwrap the paper, white juices would ooze down to my elbows. It was a beautiful fluffy and spreadable consistency. Once in a while I would mix it up by buying cow (vache) cheese which was also a very soft cheese but with a different flavor than the goat's.

In addition to having a soft cheese available, it was imperative to have another cheese chilling in the fridge in the case of guests, a new bottle of red wine, or running out (god forbid) of option 1. I became such a fromage addict that I took notes in my cheese journal on each new cheese that I tried. French friends offered suggestions of their favorites or the specialty from the region in France of their family. I was able to find most cheeses at just about any market or grocery store. Many times I would talk with my sister over Skype and be polishing off a pound block of this cheese or that. She called me disgusting but I know she was jealous.

In my cheese research, I found many good online databases of French cheeses. For those cheese-loving readers out there, check these out: C'est Cheese and Fromages

If you are lucky enough to live by a Central Market or Whole Foods type of store, you can probably find some imported cheeses from France and around the world. Feel free to take suggestions from this sample of my cheese journal:

(smiley faces tell whether I liked or disliked the cheese)

*Brie de Maeux: hard brie. waxy and so smelly that it smelled up my entire fridge and it's contents. :-(
*Bleu d'Auvergne: best blue cheese I've ever tasted. large holes of deep blue mold. very strong smell, creamy and salty. :-)
*Compté: wonderful hard and crusty cheese. similar to parmesan but not as salty. :-)
*Camembert- buttery consistency, easily spreadable, smelly, do not eat waxy rind. :-)
*Cousteron- mild gooey cheese, rind is tasty. :-)
*Tomme noire: amazing semi-soft cheese with buttery taste. do not eat black wax rind. :-)