Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Dinner Chez Joseph with the gang. (Clockwise, starting with me, Natalia, Dagmar, Helena, Alessia, and Jo.) Posted by Hello

Post dinner drink. How about that look on my face? Posted by Hello

Before our Match de Foot. Notice how fresh we all look... Posted by Hello

During our Match de Foot. Posted by Hello

This is after our match de foot. Posted by Hello

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

March 29, 2005

We had another Briffaut-Camille Vernet language assistants match de foot yesterday. (I was in Venice for the first one so I missed it). Wow, am I sore now. It was three hours of football (soccer for all us Yankees). I may never actually walk again. Turns out I am (as I previously suspected) bloody awful. This was no Bend it like Beckham here… Oh well. I did have fun. That is, until I saw the pictures, where I looked like a blob of pinkish jelly hulking my way back and forth between the goals. Yuck.

Anyway, I am proud of myself because I had (almost) no fear. I mean, I refused to play goalie because having people send balls flying at my head is not my idea of good, safe fun, but I did manage to get the ball away from Paco (yes, this is Helena’s Paco, who turns out to be quite good at football) several times. Granted, once I got it, I had absolutely no control over it, but hey, I was proud of myself for the little I did accomplish. (Still not sure what that was, but hey, whatever…).

As for other news, I think that Sophie has had Yanis by now. When I was over there for lunch yesterday her water broke. It was not at all like I thought it would be. We were getting ready to sit down for lunch and she excused herself to the bathroom. When she came out she was just like (quite calmly, too) “I think I broke my water” and then we all sat down to eat lunch. When we were finished, she called a friend to take her and Hamid to the hospital. So, yeah, who knows. But I am so glad that Hamid will be (was?) with her when she gives (gave?) birth. I think that has got to be such a comfort to her. (She was smart too. She made sure he ate before they went to the hospital. Talk about presence of mind!).

Anyhoo, that is all the recent news. ‘course, by the time you guys all read this, there will be all sorts of other stuff going on, but oh well. I will try to record all that for you too.

Oh yeah, I still have to write about my Strasbourg/Basel/Berlin trip and my Venice trip. Yeesh. I will get to it. Eventually. I promise.

March 28, 2005

Well, it’s almost time for me to go back to the states. Wow. I was feeling excited about it, but as the day approaches I feel like it is coming too quickly—that I want more time here in France. I was looking at my map last night and I realized that there was no way I could see all that I wanted to see in the next couple of weeks. Agh! Also, right now I actually don’t feel too much like traveling. I just want to stay around the kitchen and hang out with the other assistants.

I don’t know what it is going to be like for me when I get back to the states. I don’t know how different it will be. But I want it to be different. I don’t want it to be too much like France. Or… I don’t know. I mean, I’ve only been here six months. That is really not that long, in the grand scheme of things. But, then again, I suppose when you’ve accomplished a lot it is actually longer… I mean, again in the grand scheme of things. How many other six month periods will I go through where I will accomplish so much? (Then again, this is me we are talking about… I tend to be an experience junkie…) Okay, then there is the newspaper article that Mom was telling me about four months ago. It said that students who spend a semester in Europe are often depressed when they get back because of the lifestyle change. They get used to things in Europe and have problems re-adjusting. When Mom told me about this I had only been in France for a couple of months so it was a little difficult to imagine, but now… Well, I don’t think I will become depressed, but I do wonder how difficult it will be for me to re-adjust. And also, there are some things that I don’t want to change.

For example, my palate has changed considerably. When I got to France, I didn’t like red wine. It was too bitter for me. Instead, I would only drink Rose or White—the sweeter, the better. Now I prefer red. Also, I never used to like dark chocolate. Now it is the only type of chocolate that I will eat. I have stopped drinking coke. (I know, I know—how weird is that?!) I haven’t had fast food in the longest time. Now when I am hungry, I go to the kitchen and prepare something to eat. I no longer even think about a microwave—and six months ago I was convinced that I would starve without one! I wash all my clothes by hand (though it will be awesome to get back to a washing machine) and hang them up to dry (and I am already wondering how I can do that when I get back to the states—it saves electricity). Speaking of saving electricity, I still do not sit in the dark like the rest of my roomies. When I enter the kitchen I turn the lights on—I think it drives everyone else nuts (especially Dagmar) but I can’t stand to sit around in the dark.

Ah well…

So, I did a rough practice pack yesterday. I think I will be able to get the most important stuff back. But wow, I’ve bought a lot of gifts. I really haven’t bought that much stuff for me, actually. Most of it is gifts (as in, one suitcase full of stuff for other people). In fact, chances are that, if you are reading this, I bought you something. How cool am I?

Oh, and Yanis is not here yet. I spoke to Sophie yesterday and she said that she and Hamid are doing fine, but that Yanis (her baby) had not yet arrived. So he is now a few days late. She is really ready to give birth—I know that she is exhausted and that she feels like she is getting bigger every day. Also, she is excited to meet this new person. She has known him for nine months now, but she has never really gotten the chance to meet him. But if she does not give birth naturally by the first of April, the doctors are going to induce labor.

It will be interesting for me to see Yanis too. I have seen all the sonograms (is that the correct word? I think it is.) She showed me the very first one—the one where Yanis is still, I don’t know, not a real baby yet, and she said that when Hamid saw it, he decided that Yanis looked just like him (this was before Yanis was Yanis. He was just “the baby”).

Okay, gonna get a shower and eat something, then head over chez Sophie to say hi to her and Hamid.

March 27, 2005

Well, first of all, I think that Sophie had her baby. I called Mom and she said that when a pregnant woman starts to clean, that means that baby will arrive soon. Then, when I called Sophie the next morning, I only got her voice mail. So yeah, I think Yanis is here (that is the name of her son). I can’t wait to see him. It has been really neat to watch the whole process. I have seen Sophie since her third month and it has been super interesting to see the changes. I have gotten to actually see Yanis move inside her belly (that was weird!) and I helped set up his room. So, yeah, it has all been very cool. This does not mean that I want to have a baby. It just means that I think my future roll of “Aunt D” will be super cool.

Anyway, back to the saga of Nimes. You all may remember that I have been planning on going there since January and have been thwarted by everything under the sun (or under the wind, as is the case here in Valence). Yesterday only added another chapter to my struggles. I woke up, ate breakfast, made a sandwich, packed my bag, and set off to the train station. I bought a ticket for Nimes, with a train change in Avignon. I had an hour and a half before the train left, so I decided to wander around Valence. In the old part of town I discovered something very interesting: the Lycee students (our equivalent of high school) from all the different schools were together in different colored t-shirts. At first I thought it was another protest, but then I saw the giant floats. Hm, it was to be a parade then. It was only 10am, but already the kids were walking around drinking. It looked to be like our Homecoming, only with all the schools and without the king and queen and court. I snapped a couple of pictures and went back the the train station…

…where I discovered that my train was running late. So late, in fact, that after waiting 45 minutes (and thus missing my connection in Avignon), I hopped on another train bound for Avignon, figuring that I would find another train to Nimes when I got there…

…which was not actually the case. In fact, although I had arrived slightly after noon, the next train to Nimes was at about 5:30pm. Yeck. When I went to speak to the guy at the information counter, he recommended I take the train to Arles and then, from there, catch a train to Nimes. (Arles is actually further south than Nimes and I would be effectively backtracking, but okay, whatever. I had every intention to getting there.) So, I went to the platform to catch the train to Arles and discovered…

…that it was running an hour and fifteen minutes late. Bloody hell. So I waited, made a phone call, drank some tea, and read. When the train finally arrived, I hopped on and made the trip to Arles. Once I got to Arles I realized…

..that because the previous train had been so late, I had missed all connections to Nimes until late that night. So I decided screw it, I’m going to Arles. I walked out of the train station and into a giant party. Turns out that Arles has bullfights in its Roman Amphitheatre every Easter weekend. So there were people everywhere (mostly drunk or getting there), piles of Bull poop in the street (I suppose that they had run the Bulls through town earlier), and carnival rides and games for the kiddies. Oh, and about 20 or 30 bullfight protesters (but I was interested to see that there were some, as I usually think of cruelty to animal protests as being a mostly US American thing). So I wandered around town (it had, naturally, started to rain at some point during this whole adventure) and snapped some pictures of the Roman ruins and Romanesque Cathedral. I did briefly consider buying a ticket to see a bull fight in the ancient Roman amphitheatre, but then I decided against it. As neat as it would have been to see an event in the amphitheatre, I didn’t really want to watch a bullfight. (Plus, I figured that if I did, my Auntie M would probably start planting pipe bombs in my car).

Anyway, there were several brass bands wandering the streets, playing bullfight music. There was one in particular that I encountered several times. The bandmaster was dressed in red and black and had a silver cape and a black top hat. He (very slightly) resembled Alice Cooper and he looked like a tool. I took several pictures.

At the end of the day I drug my exhausted carcass back to the train station and bought a return ticket for Valence. At that was that.

Later. Happy Easter. The dodgy kabob shop is open for business. Not that it is 11pm or anything. I swear, in the USA if there were a kabob shop that was never actually open during the day but that had groups of young to middle-aged Arab men meeting there at all hours of the night… well, I leave it up to your patriotic imagination. My complaint is that they are noisy and they leer. (But that describes most French men, so…)

Speaking of leering, I saw the creepy night watchman again. He remains convinced that I am a German. There were other people about so he didn’t do his sig heil bit but he did insist on answering my question with ja. As I seem to know more German than him (at least I know German vocabulary outside that of Nazi politics) I could probably convincingly pretend to be the German assistant… but why bother? I’m more curious to see if he ever actually learns that I am not German (I suppose that realizing I’m from an English speaking country is probably too much to ask, so I’m going to settle for him to realize that 1) I am not German and 2) I am not a Nazi—not necessarily in that order). Crazy old bastard.

Those guys are really loud. They are about a block away and yet if I could speak Arabic I would be able to understand them clearly. If the US government decided to set up a sniper when they took then it, he would definitely be posted in my room. (Can you imagine me as a sniper? Hell, I couldn’t hit anything at pointblank range. But I can dismantle and clean a weapon like Forest Gump… sir…) And it’s not like I can throw anything at them, because we all know about my (lack of) throwing skills. (Reference to Grenade story. If you haven’t heard it, ask for it next time you see me. That and the firing range story. Or maybe one day I will put them up. Who knows…)

March 25, 2005

Actually, in my mind it is still yesterday (it is only 12:38 am on Friday morning). What an interesting (yester)day I’ve had. I woke up in the morning, got a shower, threw my dirty laundry in a bag, and walked to the gate I usually use to exit Camille Vernet (the school is completely fenced in, with several different gates on can use.) When I reached the gate, I found that it had been padlocked. I walked to another gate. It, too, had been padlocked. Meanwhile, I saw several students climbing over the fence, both to get in the school and to leave the school. I also saw a handful of students walking past, beating on drums (which they had borrowed from the school). I finally found a gate that was locked, but which I could use my key on. I walked around to the front of the school and saw a massive group of students banging on things and chanting. They were not letting any other students into the school. (I also saw one very bored looking policeman sitting in his patrol car). Yup—those wacky French students were faireing la grève… (they were on strike). Today (actually, yesterday) was the day that the Minister of Education was going to sign some changes into effect. (As a side note, the train workers were also on strike… again.) Vive la grève.

Anyway, I headed on over chez Sophie. She is going to have her baby any minute now (or she may have had him in the last few hours—who knows!). Her husband was going to arrive from Morocco later on and she wanted to clean her apartment. I figure you can’t really reason with a pregnant woman and I didn’t want her to hurt herself, so I offered to help (as in, I wanted to be there to keep her from trying to do too much). Of course, there was something in it for me. Sophie had just bought a nice, new washing machine… hence me with my bag full of dirty laundry. Anyway, we ate breakfast together, put some clothes in the washing machine, and started to clean. After about an hour or so, Jo (the Brit) cam over and gave us a hand. We took a break and Sophie recounted how she and her husband, Hamid, had met. Très mignion.

Moving on. Tonight Natalia had decided that all the assistants who live at Camille Vernet should go out to a restaurant (which she, of course, picked. And made the reservations for). I was a little uncertain about how the evening would go and I wasn’t really looking forward to it—I really didn’t feel that I had the energy to cope with Natalia. And sure enough, the evening looked like it was going to be a trial. Natalia asked us all which wine we wanted, becoming annoyed if we said we didn’t really care. Then, she set about ignoring everything we had said and she chose for all of us the wine she wanted. (Which was a good wine). Then, she set about choosing the topics we were to discuss. First we had to go around the table and say what we had gained professionally from our stay in France (nothing in my case—well, something impressive to put on my resume). Then, we had to go around and say what we had gained personally. (A wariness of Argentinians). Then, she started speaking about her first memories and impressions of all of us. Someone (I don’t remember who—certainly not me) decided to ask her to tell each of us what she thought of us. Hmmm, this could be dangerous. At this point I had nightmare flashes of the violence and blood that would erupt inside Le Pere Joseph. Thankfully, everything went well. We stopped about halfway through, paid our bill (120 Euros—yipe!), and walked over to a bar. After Natalia finished, I went next. Here is (basically) what I told everyone:

To Natalia: You have a lot of energy. Sometimes too much, but you are always interesting to be around. I think my main memory of you will be when we were in Annecy back in October. I remember we were sitting on some steps and you said, “On y vas?” (shall we go) and I thought “en hiver? (in winter) What the hell?” I will always laugh about that.

To Dagmar: You are a very easy to get along with (I had to ask Jo for help translating that one into French). I am jealous of your ability to learn languages to quickly and well. You speak English and French very well—and I assume your German is fine too. I had a lot of fun traveling with you in Strasbourg—you are very easy to travel with. You are very reserved and don’t talk much about yourself so I sometimes feel that I need to ask a lot of questions to pull you out of your shell.

To Alessia: It has taken me a long time to get to know you, but the more time I spend with you, the more I like you. I have to say, quite frankly, that I never did like Jose. (At which point Alessia was like, “really?” and Natalia was like, “Uh, yeah. It was pretty obvious.”) I think that Jose was incredibly lucky to have found you and that he was an idiot to throw it all away.

To Jo: (Will continue later)

To Helena: (Will continue later)

Everybody mentioned my sense of humour. I am very proud of that. I mean, it is one thing to communicate in another language—but to make jokes? (And not fall back on the basic body function jokes?) And have other people from other cultures and languages find them funny? I am worlds impressed with myself.

Another thing that people mentioned to me (and which totally surprised me) was that, out of all of us, they figured that if someone was not going to be able to make it through to the end, it would be me. They seemed to think that I was having a really hard time of it and that, especially in the beginning, I was not happy. This was interesting to me because I had never seriously considered leaving early. I mean, there had been times when I was frustrated and had the idea run quickly through my head, but never for more than a few minutes. And I hadn’t really thought of any of it as being all the difficult. I mean, I have been through so much worse that, well, even the hardest parts of this were not even close to approaching the worst I have been through. In fact, I have found this experience to be actually easier than I thought it would be. (But maybe that is just because I was really, really worried before I actually came out to France—and that worry was actually based on my previous bad experiences). As I have mentioned before, I had a lot more riding on this than any of the other assistants, and I, as a result, gained more. Yea me!

March 23, 2005

Think it’s that time o’ the month again. I can tell because I am cranky and clumsy—never a good combination. I spent a good bit of time today trying to figure out how to hang my wet laundry up in my room. Now that the weather has gotten warmer the radiator is not on, so I can’t leave my wet clothes over it to dry. I now have several pairs of underwear that really need to dry quickly. I tried hanging them on my curtain rods. As well as making rather odd-looking curtains, they were too heavy so the curtain rods kept falling down. This of course frustrated me—in addition to making me uncomfortably aware of the size of my ass.

On the topic of being made to feel uncomfortable, I had a rather odd experience before I left for Italy. It was a very nice day outside so I put on a skirt and top, wrapped a scarf around me, and set out to Sophie’s place. On the way, I received several odd stares from everyone. By the second block, I was feeling horribly self-conscious—like maybe there was something really wrong with me… you know, like I had another asshole in the middle of my forehead (seriously, that is what the looks were all like). I was practically in tears when I reached Sophie’s place (okay, I wasn’t actually … but if I had been premenstrual, I would have been). I asked Sophie if there was anything wrong with the way I looked and she said no. I then explained to her what had happened to me. She said (and I swear, I am not making this up) that it was probably because I was wearing Spring clothes and it wasn’t Spring yet. I was like, Yeah, but it’s warm outside. She said that it didn’t matter; until it is Spring, it is not normal to wear Spring clothes.

While I was in the Chambery Train station I bought a French Cosmo (magazine). While the equivalent American magazine would have weight loss solutions, it would also emphasize the importance of being happy with your shape. Not so with the French one. Every other article was about weight loss, and one even suggested that all women should be under 46 kg. For those of you not living in metric, that is about 101 pound (or about 7.2 stone). How f-ing insane is that? No wonder none of their clothes fit me. Actually, I had anticipated that I would have some problems with my self-esteem in France. I have found otherwise. I think that is because the body image here is so extreamly out of my possible range that I don’t even feel like I should bother. Thus, I just ignore it and concentrate on taking good care of my American clothes. Really, most of the women here look like little girls—no tits and no hips. Sure I could look like that. If I were seven.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Italian laundry. Venice. Posted by Hello

View of Piazza San Marco from the top of the Basilica di San Marco. Venice. Posted by Hello

Basilica San Marco in Piazza San Marco. Venice. Posted by Hello

View of Chiesa di Santa Maria della Salute from Isola della Giudecca. Venice. Posted by Hello

March 22, 2005

March 22, 2005

I need to go back and translate Helena’s blog entry. Actually, fuck it. Learn French. I am going to have to start posting some things in French anyway once I leave France. I am going to give a couple of the other assistants my blog address.

So, Jo has taken me to task for not writing more in my blog recently. I’ve been quite busy, actually. And now I am really far behind in everything—so it is going to be even more disordered. Oh well.

I just got back from Venice this morning—at 1:00 am. I have discovered that leaving Valence is easy, but getting back is a problem. Yesterday I woke up at 4:30 am. I had already reserved a train to leave Venise at 11am, but the night before I was supposed to leave I found out that there was going to be a train strike between the hours of 9 and 5. Thus, every train that was set to leave between those hours was cancelled. This was a problem because I had bought my tickets in France separately and I was (obviously) no where near a French train station so I couldn’t change them. So I needed to be in Turin before 5pm to catch my French train. Anyway, I woke up at 4:30, threw my things in my bag, and arrived at the train station about 5am. I asked it I could buy a ticket directly to Turin or if I would have to change trains in Milan (which I had had to do on the way out. And if so, I might not have made it to Turin before 5pm because I would have to arrive in Milan before 9am and… well, I was concerned). As it was, I was able to go directly to Turin on a train that left at 7:52am. I spent the next few hours doing some last minute wandering of Venice with my growing-heavier-by-the-minute shoulder bag.

I arrived in Turin around 1pm. I did not want to spend the next four hours waiting in a train station so I decided to walk around some (and maybe find the shroud of Turin—which, coincidently, if only on display during religious holidays. The rest of the time you can only see a replica). So, anyway, I spent four hours wandering around Turin with my heavy shoulder bag. How exhausting. Then, the train to France was 35 minutes late (interestingly enough, trains can leave whenever—at 12:52 or 6:38 or 9:27—but they are always late in increments of five minutes). I got into Chambery and took the next train to Lyon. At Lyon I had a two-hour wait for the next train to Valence. It was now around 10pm and I was exhausted. I called Dad and spoke with him some—note particularly coherently, I might add. While I was on the phone with him, some French teenager came up to me and asked me for money. He reeked of alcohol and his eyes looked like he had been using some serious drugs. After I got off the phone with Dad, I decided to take my last Euro and buy some tea from a vending machine. I then took my tea into the waiting room and was promptly accosted by an honest-to-goodness lunatic who tried to take my tea away from me. As I was clutching my tea with both hands, a guy in the background was assuring me: N’inquitez pas, il n’est pas dangerous (Don’t worry, he’s not dangerous) and I was like yeah, easy for you to say—he’s not after your tea.

On the train to Valence I was afraid to fall asleep because I figured that if I did it would be like the sleep of the dead. Remaining awake was particularly difficult as I was on a Corail Lunea, the French night train. The seats recline really far and there is a place for you to put your legs and there are no lights.

I finally arrived in Valence around 1am, completely exhausted. I walked back to Camille Vernet, even this small journey not without incident. As I had almost reached the school, I heard a noise behind me. I turned around and saw a guy with his hands dangerously near his crotch region. I figured I was about the be flashed (again), so I turned back and doubled my pace. When I made it to the gate of Camille Vernet I looked back and he was gone. I let myself in, walked across the school, dragged myself up the three flights of stairs to my room, and collapsed…

Venice was totally cool.

Oh! And here are my street musician stats:
In a 72 hour period I heard Franks Sinatra’s I did it my way five times and How high the moon and La Volare three times each. I have a version of the Gypsy Kings doing La Volare on my computer. I call it La Voltaire because there is a line (it is in Spanish, obviously) where it sounds like the singer is saying “Beep beep, bee da bee da doop. And Neitzche has died in the soup.” (I have confirmation on this. I played it for Jo and she can hear it too.)

Well, I have discovered that I need to do a little more studying on religious holidays. I figured I had the basics of Christianity down, but every now and again (especially in Catholic countries) I realize just how ignorant I am. Take Palm Sunday, for example. What exactly is it? It occurred when I was in Venice and there was a Catholic Parade (or, as they prefer to call it, a procession) that was just fascinating. It had everything—alter boys choking on incense, creepy looking catholic preists, senile looking catholic priests, nuns, and lots of people carrying giant palm fronds (I did feel very sorry for the palm tree that gave up its ability to perform photosynthesis just so I could enjoy the parade and take lots of pictures). Anyway, the whole thing started me thinking “just what exactly is Palm Sunday?” Here is the thought process that produced:

I know that Easter Sunday is when Jesus rose from the dead and Jo just informed me that Good Friday was when he was crucified (I had previously thought that there was a three day difference between the two events but now I know better). I don’t think it was the day that Jesus rode into Bethlehem because I didn’t see a wheeled horse and I know from going to several church museums that there is always a wooden wheeled horse with a wooded Jesus on it that gets dragged through the streets on the anniversary of when Jesus went into Bethlehem. I don’t think it was the last supper because I figure that is probably around Carnival and Fat Tuesday time—I mean, it all deals with food so it must fit together. Unfortunately this leaves me with nothing else, so I have decided that Palm Sunday is when Jesus went to the Caribbean.

So, now that I have blasphemed myself past the point of no return (which, actually, I think I managed to do several years before now), I think I will retire. My sleep time from my afternoon nap has run out and I need to re-charge.

Okay, I’m back. I’m not asleep yet. I was just looking at the pictures I took at the very beginning of my French adventure. On my very first day in France I went out to Luxembourg Gardens in Paris and just walked around. When I look at the pictures I took, I am reminded of how uncertain everything was back then—hell, I didn’t even know where I was going to be living! I barely spoke the language and I knew next to nothing about Valence. I am continuously amazed at how far I have come since then. My objectives in coming to France were quite different from those of the other assistants. I think I risked more, but in return I have probably gained more. I really think that it is only my parents and close friends who really understand the extent of the challenge this journey was. (God that was a really crappy sentence… please excuse my writing: I’m tired).

I have the world’s loudest alarm clock. The alarm itself it not the problem—it is the ticking. I usually have to stuff it in my closet under some clothes just to sort of muffle the ticking. Right now it is in my nightstand, which I think only serves to amplify it. I feel like Captain Hook…

March 11, 2005

I brought my laptop into the kitchen one night and let Helena (the Russian) read some of my blog entries. She decided to add one of her own.

Le 11 mars 2005

Bonsoir, c`est Lena. Je suis tres contente d`ecrire ici… C`est vrai, c`est l`honneur!

Donc, ce sont Dagmar et Alessia qui sont rentrees du theatre. Avant ca on a ete toutes les deux avec Justine. Et c`est Natalia qui va arriver bientot avec sa copine de Paris. Il n`y a pas de grands choses a raconter, tout se deroule comme d`habitude…

Justine: Le matin elle a accompagne Jo chez le medecin pour prendre le rendez-vous. Elles l`ont pris pour 10.45. Et, contente pour sa copine anglophone, elle s`est dirigee, conscience pure, a son favorite IUFM. Elle y a bien travaille et venue chez moi, qui etais malade, et a apporte du jus d`orange. Apres nous nous sommes dit au revoir jusqu`au soir pour regarder les photos de ma disquette… Mais putain merde!!! On vient de realiser que la disquette n`allait pas a Notebook… En plus, on a bcp rigole puisque nous toutes les deux, n`avons eu rien a foutre cet aprem et l`avons passé a dormir… Mnt on ne sait quoi faire parce qu`on veille tres bien et on n`a pas du tout sommeil. Maybe on va se faire jouer nos nerfs en regardant un film horrible…

Alessia: notre mignonne Italienne vient de se regaler de l`omelette (heureusement, pas les PATES!) preparee a la va-vite, vu sa faim après etre rentree du theatre. En ce moment elle est en train de prendre Vitamine C, appelee Orange.

Dagmar: est la seule personne de qui on peut que dire: elle a fer-me le ma-ga-sin.

Jo: AHHHH!!! Cette jolie anglaise, ma voisine, elle m`a quittee pour 2 jours! Il faut dire qu`elle survit une tres belle periode (comme moi) dans les rapports humains;) Elle s`entend vachement bien avec Michael, un jeune Francais… et voila cet aprem ils sont partis en deux ailleurs de Valence.

Moi, Dulcinea: je suis toujours malade, mais je ne le sens pas, vu les soins de mes colocs et Don Quichotte. En fait je travaille pas depuis deja 2 joursJ Dieu merci je reprends peu a peu ma forme et mes forces.

Natalia: finalement, elle s`est fait permettre de travailler toutes ses heures d`avril au mois de mars et, ainsi, elle a pu confirmer sa date du depart. Donc, elle nous quitte juste au debut avril.
Pour le moment c`est tout!!! To be continued, of course!

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Going to Venice!!

I just bought train tickets for Venice and reserved a youth hostel room. Yea! How excited am I!

Seriously out of order....

February 11, 2005

Well, today is a lot better than yesterday was. And yesterday was on about a par with the day before. Only, because it was on the same lever, it was actually much worse, because it was the second day of crap. No, that doesn’t make sense to me either. Suffice it to say, yesterday was double crap and the day before it was single crap.

Today was much better though—probably because I am not going in to the IUFM. I’m on strike. Yeah, that is what I should do—Faire la Grève. Actually, all the students in France yesterday were on strike. There was going to be some change to the Bac—the big test the students have to take when they are 18—and the kids didn’t like it. So they went on strike. Not only that, but it worked. Last night, the Minister of Education announced that he was not going to make the changes. Vive la Grève!

So, another reason that today is so much better is because I got two letters—handwritten ones. I love technology and the Internet, but handwritten letters still have a special place in my heart. There is just something more personal about them than about e-mails. Not that I’m complaining about receiving e-mails—I love it all. One letter was from Amy Ensley, my cousin who is now living in Texas (but she is still way cool). She is pregnant and her baby is due April 9. It is a girl (which is what I guessed it was—way to go me! By the way, I also guessed that Sophie’s baby was a boy, and I was right. That’s two out of two.) The bad news is that she is thinking about calling the baby Abigail—which she ABSOLUTELY CANNOT DO! I already have TWO cousin Abigails—I can’t deal with a third one. The other baby name is Isabel, which I really like. It seems more powerful—it makes me think of hurricane Isabel, which knocked out Dad’s power for a week. According to Amy, the baby is a strong kicker, so Isabel is probably a better name. In fact, if she and Matt name the baby Abigail, I will probably just call her Isabel anyway. So there.

The other letter was from my friend Kelly, with whom I worked in the Writing Center at UMBC. (Any time I talk about the WC, I get all grammar and punctuation paranoid.) Kelly and I would get into rather in-depth conversation about grammar and punctuation and whatnot. I miss having these conversations. We also spoke about other things too, but there are not many people with whom one can discuss the difference between a gerund and a present participle—or the intricacies of the dash! Kelly is working in West Virginia now and she is not too happy with it. She mentioned something in her letter about College Park, which is the University of Maryland. I’m not sure if she applied for a job or graduate school there—I hope graduate school. That would have been cool if I had gotten to apply too. Then we would have seen each other there. Oh well. I will eventually make it to Graduate school. Eventually. One day. In the future.

Speaking about the future, I had a job interview this morning. In English. (whew. Job interviews are tricky enough in one’s maternal language. Can you imagine having to do one in a different language? Eww, how awful would that be?) Anyway, I think it went well. The woman told me that she was definitely interested in me. The main problem is with the visa situation. She told me I should just marry a Frenchman and get an EU passport. Anyway, I need to look into that more. She is worried that, if she emplyes an American, she will have to pay lots of money for the visa. The other problem is that she would not be able to employ me full time. But I think I would be able to do some one-on-one teaching to pick up some extra money.

I am not going to think about all this now. I have a vacation that starts tomorrow. I am going to forget about all of it, then deal with it when I get back. I think that is a very good plan—the best plan.

Your intrepid reporter,

March 4, 2005

Well, I went into the kitchen to have dinner and found everyone (minus the Brit—heaven knows that she would never, ever be involved in something like this) watching the most awful Euro-trash program on television. It was one of those singing-dancing-joking spectacles that only exist on the continent. There is absolutely nothing like it in the States. The other assistants were watching, rapt. It was like the Far Side cartoon where the Maestro dies and goes to hell, which turns out to be a room full of banjo players. I obviously can’t leave these guys alone with the television. I should have re-eduated them months ago—where was my head? I just assumed that, since they weren’t French, they wouldn’t be susceptible to the plague of Euro-trash TV.

But I shouldn’t be too surprised—they all think that I can sing. Ha! What I can do is merely a parlor trick. I can fool folks into thinking that I can sing because I can carry a tune, I always stay within my vocal range (that means no SSB), and I know when to stop (the most important).


I can’t believe that my stay in France is almost over. I finish with the IUFM on March 31 and I have to be out of the country by April 15. Wow. I am excited about going back and seeing my family, but I am really going to hate leaving everyone. Even if I stayed, though, it just wouldn’t be the same without all the other assistants. Half the time when I look at plane tickets, I am looking at the first possible date. The other half I am looking at the 15th of April… I don’t know if I want to stay or go.

I have, at least, decided what to do about my future. I spoke to Mom about it the other day. I am going to apply to Salisbury for a MA in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). They offer an assistantship which, if I can get it, would cover my tuition and give me some extra money (not much, but Mom says I can live with her, so… Boom-a-rang Baby strikes again!) While I am in Salisbury, I am going to apply to the Graduate school at UMCP (University of Maryland at College Park). I want to transfer there to complete the MA TESOL and work on (at the same time. Remember, this is me we are talking about here) MA in English. UMCP is, from what little I know, a decent school. The MA in TESOL should help me find a job… and it will be something that I’ve tried and I know that I like. The MA in English will help me feel that I am actually getting an education. I mean, lets face it, the classes for the MA TESOL look pretty dismal. The classes for the MA in English, on the other hand, look pretty cool. Also, UMCP has a strong music program… which I can become involved in during my, um, free time. (This is in addition to the French, German, and Latin classes that I plan on taking. Oh, and all the exercise classes that I will take so I can get in shape…)

But we will see. UMCP might not even want me. If they don’t, I can stay at Salisbury… if Mom doesn’t kick me out or murder me after a couple of months. (If she did, it would probably be over Iggy, Mom’s, um, cat thingie.)

Well, gonna watch another episode of Alias. Sidney’s mom just escaped with Sloane and Sark and Emily was shot after going to the CIA and wearing a wire.

March 6, 2005

There is an expression in Maryland: “Don’t like the weather? Stick around.” As true and appropriate it is for the weather in Maryland, it might fit Valence even better. The weather here is, quite frankly, insane. Today, for example. When I woke up there were giant, fluffy snowflakes drifting down from the sky. It looked like I was inside a washing machine that someone had put way too much soap in. About five minutes later (the time it took for me to fill the electric kettle, wash a teacup, and pour boiling water over a bag of English Breakfast tea) not only had the snow stopped, but the clouds had completely cleared off and the sun was shining. About half an hour later (the time it took for me to run the water in the shower to get it to warm up, brush my teeth, hop in the shower, and get dressed) it was gray and cloudy again, and the snow was small and wet, falling as quickly as if it were rain. At this time Jo came up for a quick chat. I offered her a cupa (which she declined, having just come from the kitchen and a very large breakfast). When she left, about an hour later, the snow had stopped and the cloud cover was disappearing. This has been going on since yesterday, when I woke up to (again) giant fluffy snowflakes cascading down from the heavens. When I started this paragraph it was snowing like mad. Now the sun is starting to come out. My only explanation is that, because the wind blows so much and so hard here, it must be blowing weather in and out more quickly than normal.

Alias: Sindey found out that Will was innocent (which she knew all along) and that Francine was the double. She killed Francine, then woke up in China where she discovered that she had been missing two years and that Vaughn had gotten married (actually it was less than two years. I can’t believe that Vaghn got married. I mean, I saw it coming as far as the plot line was concerned, but realistically it is so… um, unrealistic. I mean, where is the period of mourning? Not to mention the “never going to date again” period, the “never going to fall in love again” period, and the “she was my true love and I will never find another like her” period. Then he would have had to meet someone, have her break through his emotional barriers (which, if he really thought Sidney was dead, should have taken years), decide that he can learn to love again, propose, and plan a wedding (which just by itself would take well over a year—and believe me, I know). So this is a giant suspension of disbelief that the show is requiring of its viewers. (Ok, than there is the fact that Sidney worked as a double agent, made it through grad school, and speaks at least Russian, German, French, Spanish, Chinese, and Arabic fluently—plus some others that I’ve forgotten about. But that is still more reaslitic than planning a wedding in under a year…) So, yeah, those are just my thoughts on all that. Go watch the first two seasons if you want to know what I’m talking about.

Anyway, GOOOD NEEEWS: Mom’s proposal defense went totally kick-ass. I finally called G & G up today (Granny and Grandpa—maternal grandparents) to see if they had heard anything about it all. Grandpa read me the e-mail that Mom had sent them. The folks on her committee were saying that it was the best dissertation to come out of GW and that it was amazing work. Well, duh.

I knew that the proposal technically should go well, but I was nervous about how Mom’s advisor would behave. That man is, I’m convinced, about this close to being Bi-Polar (He’s an ex-Marine. How can sane can he possibly be anyway?). Sometimes when Mom gives him something he acts like it is the best thing he has ever seen, and sometimes he acts like it is complete crap. There have been a few times where I have wanted to go in and have a little “chat” with this dude. But maybe things will be better. Sounds like Mom won’t have to do too much work to finish this thing off—I hope that she is able to finish with GW really soon now.

You know, if Mom had done this PhD thing when she was younger, she might have become a leader in the field of accounting. Then again, it might be her added years of experience that make her work so much better. As it is, I think she is still more interested in teaching than in research and becoming really important and (relatively speaking) famous. Funny thing is, there are probably people who would give their left nut to have thought of and done what she has done—people to whom research and fame is really important. And for Mom it’s not. She did what she did mostly because when she does something, she does it as well as she possibly can. That is what makes this whole thing just that much cooler. Yea, mommy.

I am probably going to go back to the states on April 12. Wow, that is so close. (Now the sun isn’t shining any more. Looks like it is going to start snowing again. By the way, none of the snow has actually accumulated on the ground. What a weird, um, city-town Valence is. Weird, weird, weird…

March 7, 2005

Okay, it is snowing again. Well, it was when I last looked out the window. Then again, that was about thirty minutes ago so I’m sure it has stopped by now. I’m sure the sun has not started shining though—it is 9:38 in the evening. I am listening to a cd that Mom sent to me—I’m not sure what it is. I think I like it, but this is only the first time I’ve listened to it so I will need to listen a couple of times before I make up my mind.

I know that I’ve bitched a lot about the IUFM in this blog. I think I sometimes give folks that I am not having a good time here—really, that couldn’t be further from the truth. I am already feeling nostalgic about my time here. On one hand I want to go home and see everyone and on the other hand I am not ready to leave yet. But I know that if I were to stay it wouldn’t not be the same—part of what I really like about my experience is that I am surrounded by wonderful (mostly) people. And even the one that sometimes gives us all problems, well, under it all I do like her—I just don’t have any illusions about her. But I suppose that, in the end, she is as crazy as the rest of us.

I have started buying gifts for people. I am trying to think about how I will get everything back. I am going to be leaving a lot of stuff here in France. Some of it I will be mailing back. I may mail my clothes and carry my books with me on the airplane… how’s that for priorities?

I want to try to get to Venise before I leave for the US. I am trying to figure out when I can go and how I can get there. Pain in the ass—as bad as the French train site is, the Italian one is so much worse. I can’t even check prices or reserve tickets on their site. Anyway, I imagine the Italians are none too pleased with the Americans right now… I suppose those swarthy Italian types look just like swarthy Middle Eastern types to the Average US soldier.

Anyway, I did mean to go down to Nimes this weekend but… it was windy and snowing. That happens to me just about every weekend I plan on doing something. I should just plan on not doing anything and see what the weather is like.

Every time I go someplace new I get a map. Then, when I get back to my room, I put the map up on the wall. My walls have so many different maps on them now—I should get a picture just before I go.

Oh, I found a postcard with Snape (Alan Rickman) on it. I put it up right over my bed, mostly to freak Jo out if she notices it (she thinks that it is creepy that I think A. Rickman is hot. We got into this conversation again last night because Tom Cruise was on television. Neither of us think he is all that, and I, naturally, brought up Alan Rickman as the pinnacle of sexiness—mostly to freak her out. It worked.) So yeah, she probably won’t notice it. I haven’t seen too much of her recently—she has other things going on. If you are reading this, Jo, hi! I went shopping today.

Ugh, another exciting and joy filled day at the IUFM tomorrow. Yea. Ack.

Oh, by the way, there is another strike tomorrow. And the teachers are going back on strike Thursday. Vive la grève!

10:15 pm
Hm. Did I mention that I lost my rug? I had a nice little rug that I kept next to my bed. Well, it had become a breeding ground for dust bunnies (they must be Mormon) so I set it on my windowsill for, like, three seconds. I was at the sink washing my hands (the bunnies were hippie, patchouli-wearing Mormons so they were a little, um, filthy) and I noticed something flapping away like a giant albatross. Yup. That was my rug. This was during the school day so there were, like, zillions of little pigmy French kids running around outside. I don’t think my rug actually got any of them (damn) but I was too embarrassed to run down the three flights of stairs to retrieve the thing. (Actually, the three flights of stairs is a bigger part of the equation than the embarrassment). Sooo, so much for my rug.

Oh. And remind me to tell you guys all about my adventures getting from Berlin, Germany to Valence, France.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Back at the IUFM

IUFM= It's Up Fucked Mother (It's a Fucked Up Mother)

Yeah, it's not that good. Here is the new contest: come up with a thingie for the letters IUFM. Must be funny. Your prize? I will laugh and then probably NOT jump out of my window.

Mom is giving her proposal defense tomorrow. Funnily enough, I'm not actually nervous for her. I'm more nervous for Hilary and her family, who have offered to put Mom up for the weekend. Good Luck, Hil. We have all warned you and I still don' think you fully appreciate what you are getting yourself (and your family--including Dog) into.

Oh, and here's a funny didn't-run-spell-check story. A student just sent me an e-mail telling me that she couldn' meet with me during a certain time because she had "curses."

IUFM situation

I am totally tired of this place. I have half a mind to just send out a mass e-mail to everyone and tell them that, if they fill out their own sheets and figure out where they need to go, then they pass their habilitation definitive. Bloody fucking hell.

I keep thinking about Tony Soprano's line about what his mother did to this father--how she wore him down into a tiny little nub. I think he might have been talking about the Valence IUFM. I am so tempted to just get the heck out of dodge. I mean, what would happen if I just took off to Maryland some time next week? Or even this weekend. How cool would that be? I wouldn't even say goodbye to anyone--I would just clear out my room, leave the keys somewhere, and fly back to the states.

I'm obviously not in a very French mood today. Blah.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Strasbourg, France. Posted by Hello

View of Strasbourg Cathedral towering over the city. France. Posted by Hello

Strasbourg cathedral, France. Posted by Hello

Strasbourg in the snow, France. Posted by Hello

European Union Building, Strasbourg, France. Posted by Hello

Overlooking Riquewhir, France. Posted by Hello

Winter vineyards in Riquewhir, France. (Where were you, Shari?)  Posted by Hello

Unterlinden Museum, Colmar, France. Posted by Hello

Colmar, France. Posted by Hello

Cathedral in Freiberg, Germany. Posted by Hello

Me in Freiberg, Germany. Posted by Hello

Statue with the Basel sity emblem on it. (Switzerland) Posted by Hello

View of Basel, Switzerland. Posted by Hello

For my crazy Mom and Sister. Posted by Hello

This is just cool. Posted by Hello

Basel fountain, Switzerland. Posted by Hello