Monday, December 20, 2004

Here in Morocco...

Well everyone, I made it to Morocco. The weather is really great--a little chilly at night, but the sun shines during the day and warms everything up. I'm in an Internet cafe so I can't post any pictures yet, but I will as soon as I can--probably when I get back to France. I had authentic couscous last night. It was really good. I also ate several Moroccan sweets (Sophie and I discussed what they would be called in English and I don't know. They are somewhere between cookies and candies. But I suppose that cookie would be close enough.) Hamid, Sophie's husband, is really nice. He has English classes two nights a week so I'm going to see if I can go with him to one--it would be really interesting for me.

I took a shower this morning. It consisted of a large tub of water and a small pot to use to pour water over myself. It was quite effective--I feel squeaky clean now.

There are several women here who didn't cover their heads or faces. It is mostly the older women who wear the more traditional dress. Other than being blond, fair-skinned, and freckled--and not speaking Arabic--I don't feel too out of place. As for speaking Arabic... Hamid tells me that it is easier for English speakers to learn Arabic than it is for French speakers to learn. I'm going to ask him to teach me some Arabic while I am here. I would like to learn how to read the language a little bit--even if I can't get any meaning out of it.

Anyway, I recommend visiting Morocco.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004


Hey there everyone. It is settled--I am going to Morocco for Christmas. The husband of one of my French friends lives there. (Yeah, watch me destory the English language in a single statement.) I am leaving this Saturday (December 18) and I get back December 27. I am looking forward to seeing the sun again.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Thanksgiving, USA

I've copied this from

Art Buchwald
For release 11/25/04

By Art Buchwald
Tribune Media Services

(ITALICS) Paris Singer was attending a garage sale in Bethesda, Md., when she came across a yellowed newspaper clipping dated 1952. It was titled "Explaining Thanksgiving to the French." She bought it for $10. Much to her surprise, when she took it to an expert at the Library of Congress, he told her it was a collector's item, and there were only five of them left in the world. It was valued at $80,000. It now hangs in Ms. Singer's living room under glass. (END ITALICS)

One of our most important holidays is Thanksgiving Day, known in France as le Jour de Merci Donnant.

Le Jour de Merci Donnant was first started by a group of Pilgrims (Pelerins) who fled from l'Angleterre before the McCarran Act to found a colony in the New World (le Nouveau Monde) where they could shoot Indians (les Peaux-Rouges) and eat turkey (dinde) to their hearts' content.

They landed at a place called Plymouth (now a famous voiture Americaine) in a wooden sailing ship called the Mayflower (or Fleur de Mai) in 1620. But while the Pelerins were killing the dindes, the Peaux-Rouges were killing the Pelerins, and there were several hard winters ahead for both of them. The only way the Peaux-Rouges helped the Pelerins was when they taught them to grow corn (mais). The reason they did this was because they liked corn with their Pelerins.

In 1623, after another harsh year, the Pelerins' crops were so good that they decided to have a celebration and give thanks because more mais was raised by the Pelerins than Pelerins were killed by Peaux-Rouges.

Every year on the Jour de Merci Donnant, parents tell their children an amusing story about the first celebration.

It concerns a brave capitaine named Miles Standish (known in France as Kilometres Deboutish) and a young, shy lieutenant named Jean Alden. Both of them were in love with a flower of Plymouth called Priscilla Mullens (no translation). The vieux capitaine said to the jeune lieutenant:

"Go to the damsel Priscilla (allez tres vite chez Priscilla), the loveliest maiden of Plymouth (la plus jolie demoiselle de Plymouth). Say that a blunt old captain, a man not of words but of action (un vieux Fanfan la Tulipe), offers his hand and his heart, the hand and heart of a soldier. Not in these words, you know, but this, in short, is my meaning.

"I am a maker of war (je suis un fabricant de la guerre) and not a maker of phrases. You, bred as a scholar (vous, qui êtes pain comme un etudiant), can say it in elegant language, such as you read in your books of the pleadings and wooings of lovers, such as you think best adapted to win the heart of the maiden."

Although Jean was fit to be tied (convenable à être emballé), friendship prevailed over love and he went to his duty. But instead of using elegant language, he blurted out his mission. Priscilla was muted with amazement and sorrow (rendue muette par l'étonnement et las tristesse).

At length she exclaimed, interrupting the ominous silence: "If the great captain of Plymouth is so very eager to wed me, why does he not come himself and take the trouble to woo me?" (Ou est-il, le vieux Kilometres? Pourquoi ne vient-il pas auprès de moi pour tenter sa chance?)

Jean said that Kilometres Deboutish was very busy and didn't have time for those things. He staggered on, telling what a wonderful husband Kilometres would make. Finally Priscilla arched her eyebrows and said in a tremulous voice, "Why don't you speak for yourself, Jean?" (Chacun à son gout.)

And so, on the fourth Thursday in November, American families sit down at a large table brimming with tasty dishes, and for the only time during the year eat better than the French do.

No one can deny that le Jour de Merci Donnant is a grande fête and no matter how well fed American families are, they never forget to give thanks to Kilometres Deboutish, who made this great day possible.

© 2004 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Someone sent me a virus. It was a very severe virus. Look what it did to my mouse. Posted by Hello

New Pictures

Here are some pictures of my recent adventures. This is why I've not been posting on my blog--I've been a little busy... I still don't have anything to do at the IUFM, but I'm not complaining anymore. I've gotten quite used to all my free time.

Palais des Papes, Avignon. Posted by Hello

Avignon from the Pont D'Avignon. Posted by Hello

Pont D'Avignon. Posted by Hello

Me in Avignon. Posted by Hello

Mom and a Smart Car. Posted by Hello

My 26th Birthday Party. Posted by Hello

Neat Water Fountain in Lyon. Posted by Hello

Mom in Lyon. Posted by Hello

Sacre Cour, Paris. Posted by Hello

View of Paris. Posted by Hello

Berlioz's grave. Posted by Hello

Versailles. Posted by Hello

Deirdre and Anaid in Tours. Posted by Hello

The Chateau at Ambois. Posted by Hello

Tours. Posted by Hello

"It's a Lacroix, darling..." Posted by Hello

Louvre, in Paris. Posted by Hello

Me in the French Alps, skiing. Posted by Hello

November 17-December 4

November 17, 2004

Sometimes I think in French automatically and it is hard to stop. I’m just like, “what the hell am I doing? Why am I thinking in French? I don’t have to be thinking in French now. I can switch to English.” And then I continue thinking in French.

Not to give you guys the impression that my French is any good. It is still absolutely rotten. Most of the time when I speak French it is just a word salad. If I have a thought I want to express quickly I don’t bother too much with grammar—I figure my listener can puzzle it out. It puts us on slightly more even ground—neither is ever exactly sure what the other is saying.

You will never guess what I’m eating: A salmon quiche. I have never really thought of salmon as a French thing. I always thought of it as an Alaskan or Canadian thing.

Hey! You guys all need to go check out the Amy, Matt, and Marcus link. You also need to pester Matt for some pictures of Marcus (I recommend the Halloween ones) so he has something else to fill his time at work rather than reading my ‘blog (poor guy… to be reduced to such a state). The kid is cute—I’m showing pictures of him and Abigail (another cousin’s daughter) to everyone.

Wahoo! I should have some more pictures soon. Mom is flying into Paris on Friday. I’m really looking forward to seeing her. My Mommy! Yea! I’m settled in and everything, but I still miss my friends and family (and I consider Mom—and Dad—both).

Okay, off to study some French. I am meeting a French friend today and we are going to speak only in French.

November 18, 2004

I spent two hours last night speaking in French. I was so tired after that I fell asleep at 8:30pm—this was after forcing myself to stay awake (I wanted to go to sleep at 7pm but I knew that if I did I would be awake all night). Maybe that is why little kids need so much sleep—I mean little, little kids. Learning a language is hard, exhausting work. Imagine having to do it while you are getting new teeth and working on gross motor skills—unbelievable. I’m amazed that I did it once—and now I’m trying to do just part of it and it is kicking my ass. But even a month and a half ago I would never have been able to carry on a conversation in French for two hours. So there’s progress…

Later. What is it about me that creates such strong emotions in high-maintenance people? They usually start by absolutely loving me then very quickly decide to absolutely hate me. And here I am, pretty much calm through the whole thing. There is something about being around HM folks that brings out the stoic in me. Maybe that is what eventually pisses them off—the fact that I am more difficult to affect than other people—and that other people affect me more easily. I don’t know, but look at all the HM people in my life (mostly people I’ve lived with) and look at the pattern. Uncanny, ain’t it?


I now have several books to read. First, one of the other English assistants finished reading A Passage to India and lent it to me. Then, the German Assistant (who reads books in English) finished Tom Jones and passed it on to me. Then, Shari’s box with Uncle Tom’s Cabin and The Fountainhead came in. And last night my French friend lent me a book in English—The Nanny Diaries. Tomorrow Mom comes with more books! How lucky I am! How loved! These will certainly last me through Christmas.

Anyway, the deal with the books that Shari sent me is that she bought the same editions for herself, we’re going to read them together, and I’m going to explain all the English-major-y parts to her. UTC’s—not too much a problem. I’ve read excerpts of it in a literature class and have all sorts of ready-made thoughts about it. Ayn Rand, however, scares me a little bit. I know the basic premise of her philosophy, but I am concerned that I will not understand most of it. I wonder if Dad has read any Rand—he’s good with the whole philosophy thing. I may have to recruit him into our reading club.

I’m enjoying APTI. I am glad that I did not read it any younger. Not that I would have not understood it, but that I would have thought about it differently. I would have been harsher on the characters—for example, the Brits who so quickly dismiss the Indians. I suppose my age and experience (wise old crone that I am!) has taught me much about pack mentality—how hard it is to break away from the established convention. It has also taught me much about culture differences—that the way one culture perceives something can be completely different from how a different culture sees the same thing. That is, I think, one of the themes in the book. I also feel that Forester does not present his characters too black and white. I think that if the same book were written today all the issues would be even grayer, but for Forester’s time I feel it is quite modern. Any thoughts?

November 29, 2004

Well, the Argentinean has decided that she doesn’t like me—I think it has something to do with the fact that I eat too much butter. That makes me inconsiderate, selfish, and fat—you know, just like all the other Americans. I’m so glad that I don’t live in that little hallway near the kitchen. It has become a luxury to live about a kilometer away from that mess. (Figurative. Not literal. The Argentinean came up with a nifty little cleaning schedule for us to follow. She is not on it very often, but I’m sure she worked really hard drawing the lines.)

Anyway, I’m not the only one on the Argentinean shit list. Dagmar, the Austrian, is on it because she wakes up and eats her breakfast too early. Alessia, the Italian, is on it because when her boyfriend stays over he takes showers too late.

So I’m just spending more and more time away from the kitchen. It is now easier—my father gave me a teakettle for my birthday (yea daddy!) and my mom left me with some tea and sugar. Oh, and Mom, you will not believe what I found in Tours. Coconut tea. Cool, huh?

More later. It is late and I’m tired. Blah.

December 2, 2004

Well, I have backslid with the French. I have spent too much time hanging out with English speakers. Not that I’m complaining—I really like all the English speakers I’ve been hanging out with (otherwise I would have not spent time with them.)

My room smells like stinky cheese. Jo (the Brit) came up to my room earlier so I offered her some tea, bread, and stinky cheese. I was trying to make her finish up the stinky cheese but she wouldn’t do it. So now I’m just going to make her take the stinky cheese down to the kitchen. (Hi Jo!) I gave Jo the address to my ‘blog so now I can’t post anything mean about her. Not that I have anything mean to say about her.

So, catching up. Mom and I had a very nice visit. We met in Paris, in the airport. Then, after dumping the stuff at the hotel, we walked some and met Anaid (one of Mom’s accounting students from GW) and had Greek food. Then we went back to the hotel and watched some Star Academy. Then next day, we caught the train down to Valence, where we went to the grocery store (with the aisle of yogurt. Actually, it’s an aisle and a half of yogurt—both sides) and bought MEAT.

The next day, my birthday, we went down to Avignon. Wow, that place is cool. Check out the pictures. That evening, we went back to the kitchen and cooked Chicken Fried Steak for everyone. And Mom formed her impressions of my roomies (Helena and Jo were her favorites).

The third day we were both tired so we decided to stay in Valence. We took a walk in the park. A guy jumped out of the bushes and looked slightly scared so I thought there was something in the bushes—an animal of some sort. Mom and I both looked in the direction of the bushes, then back at the man. At about the same time we realized that he had exposed himself and was hanging out of his trousers. We turned about and walked off. Freak. The men in Valence are really kinda creepy. Ewww.

Anyway, the day after that Mom and I went to Lyon and walked around. And bought cool stuff.

The next day we went to a creperie for lunch, then hopped the train back to Paris. When we got to our hotel we found out that the girl had not made reservations for us and the hotel was completely booked. So, we did what any sane person would do in that position—we went shopping. When we got back the guy at the hotel made a bunch of calls and tried to find us a hotel. We wound up staying at a three star hotel. Yea, us. Mom left the next morning.

I spent three more days in Paris, sleeping in the youth hostel. I saw Sacre Cour, Montmartre, Pompidou, Versaillles, and _The Incredibles_. I also went with Anaid to Tours and Ambois. (Yes, it was a busy trip).

I spent most of the time walking. As a result, my feet have now developed what I have decided is a repetitive stress injury. The tendons on the tops of my feet have become inflamed. I have confined myself to my bed and am taking Tylenol. I hope to be able to go skiing on Sunday but I will not let myself go unless my feet are better.

December 3, 2004

Okay, the Argentinean is going down. There are certain things that one can do t o me and I’m just like, yeah, whatever. For example, lecturing me in a foreign language for fifteen minutes about how I am selfish and inconsiderate because I eat too much butter—not a big deal in the big scheme of things. Yeah, I’ll be a little annoyed, but, in the end, I really don’t care. But trying to control my life—hell, she’s going down.

That is just one of those things that really, really, really piss me off. Yeah, really. Especially if the person meddling has absolutely no authority over me. Which, I figure she, as a random chick from South America, does not have. Urg. See, I’m so annoyed my English is becoming pidgin. And my spelling and typing, usually bad, has become even worse. Arg. Urg. Grr.

So, anyway, what she did: she went up to one of the English teachers in the middle school and said that I was really bored and depressed and that I needed something to do. This is right after the Argentinean spoke to me and I said that I was fine with not having any work at the IUFM—that I was able to use the time to travel and do other things, at which she replied, “yeah, but do you actually do anything?” I was like, “Yeah, I do.” She was like, “No, really, do you ever actually do anything?” I was just like, “whatever” and I figured it was settled.

Hell no. So anyway, without having been asked she went up to this random English teacher and “intervened” for me. Bloody Fucking Hell. Little third world twit. (Sorry for the language but pushy people bring out the absolute worst in me. Think about the Army.) Anyway, the English teacher spoke to Jo and Jo told her that I was just fine, thank you. So I figured that was the end of that. Then, today, the Argentinean tells me that the English teacher was asking her when I was going to come and talk to her about working. What the hell? I was like, “I don’t want to work at the middle school” and she was like, “why not?” and I was like “Hullo. I have other stuff to do. It’s not my job” and she was like “but you don’t have a job” and I was like, “yes I do.”

So, I think I am going to have to go talk to the English teacher and set things straight. I was trying to avoid that—I figured that once Jo and spoken to her things would be finished. Now it seems like the only thing I can do is go to her and apologize to her for the mixed messages that she has been receiving but that there was a misfire in communication somewhere. Ii is not fair to her to be dragged into the middle of this. I guess that is part of what annoys me so much. If it were just me, then, well, whatever. But the fact that she has been put to trouble to try and figure out what is going on and that she was given the false hope that I might be able to come and help out—well, it makes me quite angry.

But I’m better now. I have vented. Breath in, breath out… and all that jazz. Hmm, do you suppose we can invade Argentina next? They have WMDs, don’t they? I’m sure they do… somewhere…

December 4, 2004

I am going skiing tomorrow in the French Alps and I should be excited but I’m not. I’m just annoyed and upset over this whole Argentinean thing. Why do high maintenance people hate me so much? What is it about me that gets under their skin?

Latest thing: the rice in the sink. I made some rice the other night and some of it got washed down the sink and clogged it up. I poured some drain cleaner in it and it was fine. Then, last night, I guess the sink clogged again and the Argentinean took it apart and found all sorts of junk in there—not just rice but vegetable peelings and whatnot. So who does she get pissed at? Me. I hate having to deal with the stuff. Anyway, the Russian and the Brit have warned me to stay away from the kitchen. I just don’t want to have to deal with this. I really don’t. I mean, here I am, in a foreign country with all sorts of new experiences spread out in front of me like some Midwest buffet and I have to deal with a spoiled princess from Argentina. She is like a flea that keeps trying to burrow under my skin. Honestly, I don’t even care that much about who she is and what she does, as long as she leaves me alone. Yet she insists on making me a target for her meddling and anger. What have I done to her anyway?

I can sense a big showdown coming. The Argentinean is going to fly off the handle at someone here and right now I’m at the top of the list. I’m the one weakest in the language and, lets face it, not to be paranoid, but I’m the American. She has openly admitted to me that she did not want to live with an American. So it will happen and it will probably be me. Damnit, if I wanted to deal with crap like this I would still be living with Vicky. In America.

Sorry to vent all this out. I’m just annoyed and disgusted and frustrated. And I really don’t want to deal with these little games. Sometimes I cause really strong emotions in people—I don’t know why. And it is the same pattern—people just love me at first and then they can’t even stand the sight of me. Middle school—yup. High school—I remember one girl coming up to me and absolutely laying into me. I didn’t even know who she was. Army—oh, everyone there hated me. No exaggeration. I think the First Sergeant wanted me dead. That’s the only logical explanation for why he acted the way he did. Oh, I forgot the school of music—my roommate there. Oh, and then there was the horror that was living with Vicky. I think I managed to make it through UMBC without anyone wanting to kill me, but I was hanging out with English Majors. Now I have the whole wrath of Argentina against me. Good grief. Again I ask—what is it about me?

Anyway, enough of all that nonsense. Skiing tomorrow! You guys will not believe how insanely cheap it is for me to go skiing. I paid 37 Euros for the bus ride there and back and the lift ticket and some lessons. I paid 14 Euros to rent the equipment for 48 hours. We are going to L’Alpe-D’Huez. It has 37 green slopes, 34 blue slopes, 31 red slopes, and 14 black slopes. I am quite excited about it—and I don’t even like skiing all the much. Oh, and my little brochure says that the mountain is a “paradis pour les amateurs.” (I trust I don’t need to translate that for you).

So, now that I’ve talked up the skiing here, who is going to come and visit me and try some skiing? : )