Wednesday, October 20, 2004

October 15-October 20

October 15, 2004

Well, I think some culture shock has set in. These past few days I’ve just felt annoyed and disgusted by everything. I can’t say that I think everything is better in America, but it seems that these past few days I’ve been more aware of the differences between France and the US. I just keep reminding myself that how I may feel now is not really a reflection of my true feelings about France—it is just a temporary reaction to being in an environment that is so different.

Here are the things that have set me off in the past few days:
Dog poop in the middle of the sidewalks. No, there is no rule that states that people must clean up after their dogs. As a result, there is Dog poop everywhere and one must constantly watch where one is going if one does not want to bring home the smell of fresh shit on one’s shoes.
Pasta every night. The problem with shopping and eating with five other people is that you must conform to the smallest budget—which, in this case, means that we’re spending about a dollar per person each day on food. That means a lot of cheap pasta with butter. Dr Atkins is doing cartwheels in his grave.
The shower. Yes, I’ve replaced the shower curtain, but now there is a new problem—slow drain. That means in the fifteen minutes it takes the water to warm up, the bottom of the shower collects about three inches of cold water. I have to step into this cold, dirty water (I found a coffee stir stick in the shower last week. How fucking weird is that?) with my poor little flip-flop clad feet. Agh. I think the shower has a personal vendetta against me. It’s the only reasonable explanation.
Rain. Yeah, I can hear my parents snickering now. It was actually hailing about five minutes ago. Well, its actually not so much the rain—it’s the odd relationship between the sun and the rain. Right now the sun is shining fiercely. But I know it is only an evil ploy to lure me outside so it can spit out some more wet stuff. Actually, the rain is not so bad, but it is causing me major problems with:
Umbrellas. So far I’ve bought two, and within about ten minutes (three minutes with the first one) they have fallen apart. I’m going to get a staple gun and fix this second umbrella, because I’m damned if I am going to spend any more money on umbrellas.
Living in a school. Need I say more? It is like being in a Drew Barrymore movie, only without the handsome professor. Oh, and there is the fact that French kids are in school for about ten hours a day and that they have school on Saturday and that some of them stay here overnight.

I know that this list makes it seem like I hate everything here and that I am miserable, but that is not the case. I actually wrote this list half-jokingly. It is very tongue in cheek. The other assistants seem to like me. I went for a walk today with Dagmar and we spoke in German. And Natalia is going to give me French lessons. Also, on Monday I am going to sit in on a French literature class in the Lycée. It is also really cheap to go to an opera, ballet, or concert. Even Valence has its own theatre (I don’t know if it is any good, but if it is not, I can always hop on a train to Grenoble or Lyon).

October 19, 2004

Listening to Tracy Chapman now. I got to talk to Mom on AIM—that was cool. I was going to call her tonight, but she has to work all day so I can’t.

I haven’t posted anything to my weblog because there hasn’t been too much to post. So far I am doing nothing. I figure that, in the last two weeks, I have probably put in about five hours of work—and that is if I count the walk to and from the IUFM from where I live.

Official Vacation time:
23 October-3 November
11 November
18 December-2 January
12 February-28 February
28 March

Unofficial Vacation time:
1 October-11 October
15 October-17 October
22 October
10 November-15 November
18 November-22 November
26 November-12 December
6 January-10 January
12 January-17 January
20 January-23 January
27 January-30 January
10 March-27 March

Yeah, so most of those dates include weekends, but this is nuts! Oh, and when I meet with the two PE2 English teachers my first week here, we set up a time on Thursday for me to come to class and meet the PE2 students and introduce myself. Well, I sent an e-mail to one of the teachers and said, “See you Thursday.” She sent me one right back and said, “What’s on Thursday?”

Holy shit.

I know that I have friends and family back in the states who are working their asses off right now and would love to have some of this free time. I know you all are just disgusted with my complaining. And I’m not really complaining—I’m just more perplexed than anything. I mean, if I were paying someone for twelve hours a week, I’d sure as hell be making use of those hours. If I were running a school—If I were in charge of the education of some 200 students—I’d sure as hell be paying attention to what is going on and when it is supposed to happen. Even if I were only in charge of about 25 students, I’d make sure they knew their responsibilities (meeting with me for 10 hours each) and that they knew how to fulfill their responsibilities. It is no good for me to be there if:

No one knows who the hell I am
No one knows they are supposed to meet me
No one knows how to get in touch with me
No one knows what they hell they are supposed to meet me for

If this English teacher gets back to me and says Thursday is off, I think I will make up some flyers for the English Dominantes to pick up that tell them their responsibilities with me and how to get in touch with me. I don’t want to school to turn around and say that I never fulfilled my responsibilities to the school and the French government. Fucking A.

ANYWAY—on to the good and interesting news:
I have been planning my mini-vacation for Toussaint and I’ve decided to visit Provence. I am going to go to: Nimes, Pont du Gard, Arles, Marseille, Aix-en-Provence, and Avignon. I am going to try to get to Les Baux-de-Provence and Gordes, but I don’t think the train goes to either of them (In fact, I know that the train doesn’t go to either one because I checked. But I might find a bus or something. I will check at the tourist office.)

Oh, the song I’m listening to just reminded me (Sloop B John)—the British girl was asking me about Grits. She wanted to know what they were made of. I had to admit that I had no idea. So now I’ve asked my dear friend Shari to send me some so I can show everyone why the South lost the Civil War. Grits are nasty.

Now playing—The Deserter, which I think has one of the best lines in a song: “When next I deserted…” Granted, there are certainly reasons why I would like that line more than the next person.

Oh, and I haven’t complained about the shower in a few days. That is because I have seriously cut down on the number of days in a week I shower. Last time I took a shower I put garbage bags on my feet. It was still gross, but at least I could pretend it was less gross.

And it is fucking cold in my room. The school gave me a plug in radiator, which was awesome when it worked (which it did… occasionally. If the room got too cold, it would shut off). Then, one day I returned to my room from somewhere (not work) and it was gone! Now I only have this dinky wall radiator which, when it works, never actually thaws completely. When I woke up this morning I thought I was going to freeze to death. I was huddled under my two wool blankets and cotton sheet, curled into a ball, with the covers pulled over my head. It was awful. Then when I finally got up and dressed (which was at about 13h) and went outside, it was warmer outside than it was in my room. Why the hell is that, no matter where I wind up living, my room is always the coldest? It was that way in every house we lived in in Maryland. When I stay with Mom my room is the coldest (which is lethal in Mom’s house). When I go to the Midwest, the room is stay in is always to coldest. And it is never the coldest before I move in—but once I’ve slept there, it is frigid. I can deal with cold when I have nice, cozy covers on my bed—but these two thin wool blankets (so thin I think the sheep had mange) don’t cut it. Then I go to the kitchen (about a half a km away, usually through the rain) and it is like a sauna. The other assistants have the heat cranked up (well, two of them are from Italy and Argentina, so what do you expect—the Austrian sleeps with her window open), then they put wet clothes on the radiator, then they leave the stove on.

Oh! I just checked my radiator and it is warm. I’m going to go over there and huddle next to it for a few minutes. Bye!

Okay, I’m back. That was nice. I was almost warm for a while

Later—it is evening now. I have just spent the past hour (or so) working on French prepositions so I figure it is time for a break now. The radiator has been warm since this afternoon—warmer than it has ever been. Occasionally I get a faint burning smell—sort of like a fireplace smell. It is not unpleasant, but it did have me going to check the radiator the first few times I smelled it.

Listening to Josquin right now—and I have the laptop on my lap, so I’m actually almost warm.

Another entry into the Deirdre-has-no-pride/is-a-nerd category: I am sitting in on a lycée class. That is the French equivalent of high school—this class would be 10th grade. It is a French literature class and they are reading Racine’s Bérénice. I pretty much have no clue what is going on, but I’m hanging in there. The teacher was talking about the three unities of plays (or whatever they are actually called) but it was cool because I knew what the hell he was talking about (well, we covered it in a lit class). I think the students must think I am a major weird, really slow alien for sitting in on a HS class voluntarily. But I think it is cool. Next class we get to watch a film version of Bérénice with GD—the big-nosed French guy-in the lead role. I’m struggling with the play, but I am trying.

Also, one of the other assistants is giving me French lessons. I have offered her English lessons in return, but I am not sure how interested she is. I think she might have decided that she prefers to learn British English. If she mentions that to me, I will give her my little spiel, but I won’t bring it up. I figure, she knows I’m here and willing if she wants to work on her English.

I was looking in my French guidebook and in some regions of France they only get about 1.5 hours of sun (on average) every day in the winter! My region is supposed to get about 4. That freaked me out, until I looked at Paris (1.5) and Brittany (1.5). No wonder the French never smile. I bet they don’t have a high rate of skin cancer.

I have to do a debate on the stereotype that all Americans are fat. (The English teachers actually told me this when we had our meeting. I saw actually because it was one of the few pieces of specific information that they gave me.) I know that the US has a really high rate of obesity, but I have a theory about this. I believe that we are a nation of extremes. We have really fat people, but we also have really skinny people with eating disorders. I have been looking for rates of eating disorders by country but so far I haven’t found anything. If anyone knows of anything, let me know, okay? I also want to talk about how people have formed the stereotype. It is not from Hollywood and television. Where do you guys think it comes from?

By the way, here is my list of stereotypes of Americans:
All Americans are fat.
All Americans have guns.
All Americans are religious.
All Americans drive SUVs.
Americans do not know anything about other countries.
American women are easy/Americans appear to be prudes, but they are really
Americans are racist.

How is that for a start? I am sure there are many other stereotypes out there that I am forgetting/have not thought of yet. Anyone have anything to add?

October 20, 2004

Well, I’m back. I went out this morning to buy a shoulder bag (une gibecière). Damn, stuff here is expensive. I could have picked one up in the states for about $20—in fact, I wouldn’t have had to buy one because I have about ten scattered in various places. I won’t mention how much this one set me back, but I will say that I bought the cheapest one I found. I’ve decided that when I get back to the states, someone is getting une gibecière, slightly used, for a birthday present.

Jo’s parents (She is the English assistant) are visiting right now. I would like to meet them, but I haven’t seen here since they’ve been here. I figure she is probably staying with them. I think the other assistants a jealous. I’m glad I’m not the first assistant who has a parent come for a visit. I figure they already think I’m a spoiled rich kid (because I sometimes eat meat with my meals).

I’m trying to figure out how little I can pack for about ten days. How often do I need to change my underwear and socks anyway? (I did shower this morning, by the way). How often can I wear the same shirts without starting to reek. And do I look enough like a German that I can get away with it? : )

So I woke up this morning at 5am, sweating like a blanket wrapped pig in a sauna. I’ve been sleeping practically on top of the radiator every night, and last night it must have been on all through the night. And of course I’ve kept it cranked. Hence toasty Deirdre at 5am. Hélas! (See, I’ve learned something from Racine).

Now I just sound like a princess: “It’s too cold. It’s too hot. I’m hungry. I don’t like pasta. The streets are icky.” Yeah, well, I’m a princess. (With a limited vocabulary).

Speaking of limited vocabulary, I wonder sometimes what possibly gave me the idea that I could learn French. I mean, I can barely speak English. I use short words all the time, I constantly can’t find the words I want to use, and I make up new words and phrases (insert word here that means the same as all the time and constantly). See what I mean? Hell, I couldn’t even learn German when I was at the prime language learning age.

I just looked at my guidebook for the average monthly rainfall in the French Alps in October. It is 3.25 inches. But I think it is a mistake. I think that is the average daily rainfall. Because, guess what. It’s raining. Again.

Oh, and it says that the average number of hours the sun shines each day in January is 2. What the fuck? How many hours does it shine in Maryland? Hell, we don’t even bother to measure it. At least we have Le Nord and Picardy, Champagne, Alsace and Lorraine, and Burgundy and the Franche-Comté beat (they only get 1.5). We are even with Paris, Normandy, and Brittany. And we get our asses kicked by The Loire Valley (2.5), Provence and the Côte D’Azur (a whopping 5), Corsica (4.5), Languedoc-Roussillon (4.5), The Pyrenees (3.5), Poitou and Aquitaine (2.5), and Périgord, Gascony, and Quercy (2.5). I think the Argentinean, Italian, and I are going to go crazy.


At 4:28 PM, Blogger STAG said...

Well, Princess, lets see what other stereotypes there are....(evil grin!) Americans always have the answer even when they don't get asked the question, their forign policy is kept secret from their own people and as a result most Americans learn what their government is doing from Hollywood. (Che was a dickhead matter what the movie says!) American domestic policy seems to be entirely based on fear...fear of blacks or whites or queers, fear of racists, fear of terrorists, fear of burgulars, fear of that respect just maybe Michael Moore was onto something in Bowling for Columbine. Americans are as insular as 19th century Japan. Hmmmmmm....

Well needless to say, stereotypes are just that...bull shit. Americans are just folks, just like any other nation's folks. What there IS is a media which perpetrates these stereo types, a movie industry which is not concerned with culture of ANY kind. And a news media which seems to have the policy that "if it bleeds, it leads"! All you can do is smile, be gracious, remember that people will judge all Americans by their experience with you. They could do worse!



Post a Comment

<< Home