Thursday, December 9, 2010

Worst Poem Challenge

So, I was chatting with a friend the other day and we were talking about writing. I minored in Creative Writing at Presbyterian College and I feel ashamed because I haven't written anything lately. My friend and I swapped stories of contests; at PC it was the erotic short story contest and at her college it was the worst poem challenge. So I took the liberty to write two short terrible poems.

The first, of course, has to be about Limoges.

Ode to Limoges
Oh, Limoges
You are indeed an aquarium
Many fish you have
Many fish you lack
You swim because you are the fish
The one with the big fin on its back
You have false coral and invisible walls
Which makes the inhabitants confused
You are the fish
You are the tank
You are--the Aquarium

Oh goodness, and if that didn't pain me enough, I wrote another of one of the greatest clichés of all time.

Beauty as a Rose
Your face is like a rose
Cheeks rouge
Stem slender but with thorns
Every beauty has her thorns
But yours seem less sharp
Worth the pain to
Caress your supple petals
Supple, ripe, beautiful
Your nose is the center
Perfectly symmetrical
And your red hair I need not compare,
For it is obvious
You are my rose
It sucks that your name is Violet

No lie, that was kinda fun. Any other terrible poems out there? Share!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Everyday French

So there are quite a few phrases here in good ole France that I knew existed, but are used much more than French 1 taught me.  And I suggest to anyone coming to France to get used to these phrases, they are so helpful in everyday conversation.

  1. ou autres choses comme ca--or other things like that                                This is amazing when you're saying anything that has to do with examples.  I cannot tell you how invaluable this phrase is.  
  2. ou quelque chose comme ca--or something like that                                  This is really helpful when you're asking for something or when you're trying to explain something.  Especially when you're talking about ideas, this is really helpful.
  3. je ne sais pas--I don't know                                                                     Pretty self explanatory but usually it gets slurred together by the French and end up sounding like "shaypah."  I have used this so many times when someone asks for directions.  I've only been here a month people, I do not know street names.
  4. du tout--at all                                                                                                 This is good to use with any negative statement to emphasize that it completely negative. Just add it after the 'pas' in the statement.
  5. vraiment, tellement, vachement--really, seriously, truly                              This signifies importance, always used.
  6. je pense que--I think that                                                                              To state your opinion
  7. Donc, alors, en faite, en plus--Thus, moreover, therefore                     These are good transition phrases
  8. Selon a--according to                                                                                   This is really good when you are talking about anything to do with opinions. To state when someone thinks something.
  9. Il faut que--it is necessary                                                                           Use this when you need to do something, you should use the subjunctive after, but if you use present tense people will understand.
  10. J'arrive a comprendre--I arrive at comprehension.                                     This is actually pretty funny, because the French never 'don't understand.'  They might not arrive at comprehension but they never don't understand.   They do not say "je ne comprends pas" ever.  It must be a French thing, in no way would it be possible that they don't understand something.  If something is confusing it is because of you, not them.
  11. Qu'est-ce que c'est--What is                                                                      You'll use this a lot.
  12. truc--thing                                                                                                     This is one of the most important words to know.  If you don't know what something is, use the word 'truc' for it.  Seriously, best word ever to know.
So there is is, some of the most useful things you can know in the French language.  I think my favorite is 'truc.'

Friday, November 19, 2010

So, What Type of City is Limoges?


I've heard it called "the smallest big city" in France.
I've heard it called "nothing spectacular."
I've heard it called "a charming and tranquil place."
Oh and also, "a good place to be young."

I'm not so sure what that last one means, but so far I've found Limoges quite agreeable.  But I can tell you some of the things that I have done here that I have never done in the States.  Last weekend, I participated in a goth parade.  That was pretty unique.  Who would have thunk that Limoges has a very lively goth subculture? Definitely not me, considering most of the teenagers at my high school are dressed to the nines everyday.  But anyways, I actually walked in the parade (while wearing my black skinny jeans and bright yellow jacket, I stood out like an American in France.  Oh, wait...).

In addition to the goth parade, I went to the party that followed, also goth at this really cool club in downtown Limoges.  I hung out with my new English friends (they own the goth store Rezurektion in Limoges, check it out on the web).  Again, I stood out like crazy considering that I was not wearing dark eyeliner and leather, but none of that seemed to matter.  I had a great time and met some really awesome people.

What else have I done here? Oh, yes, just last night, I went out with my baker to this awesome restaurant where he performed in a Bluegrass group.  Two Americans are in the band, the singers, and the other two are French through and through but have a little space in their hearts for the good ole bluegrass ballads of the US.  I never would think to go out with my baker for a night of awesomeness, but it totally happened here.

Oh, and I have officially made pancakes by hand.  They were so delicious.  my roommates wanted to try a real American breakfast, so I bought the flour and everything, because there is no Bisquick or Aunt Jemima here.  It went pretty well, but next time, I need to put more baking powder in the mix, they were very dense pancakes rather than super fluffy.*  But the taste was absolute heaven.  I even found the maple syrup here, imported from Canada, and it cost 3 Euros.

Another new experience that I had was eating a Boudin Noir.  I went to a charcuterie feast type thing, called the Petits Ventres.  Holy Crap, I've never seen so much meat in my life!!! I ate so many sausage-y things that night, I thought I could never look at another sausage again.  But back to the point, Boudin Noir is a sausage that is pretty much just blood.  That's right, I ate a blood sausage, totally blood and a couple of nuts (chatagnes). But it was delicious.  There's a first for everything.

So here is just a taste of a couple of new things that have happened in my life in the past moth that have really stood out.  I still can't get over that I marched in a goth parade.  That was pretty cool.

*Update: I wrote this a little while ago and have made pancakes since that were extremely fluffy and perfect.  The key is more baking powder and also to whip the egg whites separately and fold them into the pancake mixture after.

Whadya Know?

So, anyone who knows me knows that I don't really read that often.  Here is my official apology to every English, History, or whatever subject teacher that assigned a book for the class to read and I neglected to do so.

Dearest teachers,

I lied.  I lied by omission when I showed up to class to discuss a book or turned in a paper.  I'm sure you already knew this, but in your class when you assigned that classic novel, I probably read the first couple of pages and then just got the Spark Notes.  I'm terrible sorry, for I have finally realized the error in my ways.

I had always thought that I was too busy, or maybe that the book would not be interesting enough.  I mean, it is well believed by many that if it is assigned as homework, then it can in no way be an interesting book.  When I should have read Wuthering Heights in its entirety, I skimmed.  When I really tried to read Olaudah Equiano, I fell into the best sleep of my life.  When I heard the name of the book The Invisible Man, I thought of that terrible movie with Chevy Chase.  And for this, I am sorry. 

In the past month, I haven't had internet at my house, I haven't had television, I haven't had any sort of entertainment.  Except for books.  And what an entertainment it has been.  I have read half a dozen books in only a month, including Jane Eyre and I am now in love with Bronte, Charlotte that is.  I have read classics and some not-so-classics, but I am reading.  I love it.  It is the most joyful thing to do.  While I was reading Jane Eyre, I experienced something.  It's hard to describe it, but I could not put the book down.  I felt what she was feeling, I felt the most intense pity when Jane had to leave the man that, I knew as well as she, loved her with every bit of his heart.  I found myself devouring every word of every page and savoring the beauty of the writing.  I felt what one is supposed to feel when reading a book, a classic, much like the ones assigned in your classes.

So, here it is.  I am sorry.  I was wrong, you were right. I need literature in my life.  I need to make time for the classics.  I need to read and write and enjoy.  And now I promise you this, I will find the time for reading the classics.  And if a book is assigned in grad school, I will read it with enthusiasm because I know it is worth my time and effort.


P.S. Thanks for the good grades.  And if I ask you for a recommendation for grad school, let's pretend I didn't write this one blog.  Please?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

La Pays du Grève

So one thing that is very noticeable here is that there are so many grèves, which are strikes, all the time. It amazes me as an American, a South Carolinian, and a Seneconian.  I have never actually seen a real strike in my life in the States.  But here in France, in Limoges even, there are strikes about every week. It is so interesting to see and to, in some way, as an outsider, live, this different way of living (I think I just used too many commas, sorry Stutts).

Normally, there is a grève every Tuesday or something like that. Either the transportation system, the teachers, or the students are on strike. But that's not the funny thing.  One wonders what they are striking continuously about.  Who wouldda thunk it? It's all about the retirement age, or retraite. Right now, their retirement age is at a firm 60 and Sarkozy, the French president and others want to raise it to 67.  Maybe it's because I'm young, maybe it's because I like staying busy, or maybe it's because I'm American, but I honestly  don't care.  It's almost more amazing from an American standpoint because the French hardly work it seems.  Everything is closed on Sundays, we're talking that not a thing is open like restaurants and all that.  And if things are open Saturday at any point, then they are not open at all on Mondays.  And also Wednesday afternoons are likely to be free for time with the family. And Fridays, don't even think about going somewhere Friday afternoon that isn't a bar, brasserie (a bar that serves food too), or the movie theater. Oh and you cannot forget about the lunch breaks which last every day for about 3 hours. C'est bizarre à moi.  Sometimes, I wonder why they complain about the age increase. Did you know that to be a full-time teacher in a lycée, or high school, you only have to teach 18 hours a week?

So why do they care so much?

I am finding that in France there is much more political interest than in the US. I learned in my first political science class with Dr. Raber that, for the most part, the average American in politically ignorant and/or apathetic. And even if we do know, we are not likely to act upon it in such a radical way. Of course there are radicals in the US, but it is not the radicals here who are protesting, it is the majority--the regular people who do not have radical beliefs.  And another thing, the strikes here are not seen to be radical, they are  just a normal part of life here.  They are well organized and the police make the roads available to them, the buses change their route. It's amazing. People even sign up for the strikes so that it is ok that they miss work that day.

So what's my point?

Oh yes! I think that maybe the French care so much about this in order to keep their lifestyle. They value simplicity, except when it comes to paperwork.  They value the feeling of family togetherness  that comes with Wednesday afternoons, Sundays, and any long-lasting lunch.  The French want to plan their meals with care, buying the freshest bread from their favorite boulangerie.  And in order to keep this way of life, they march in the streets peacefully and well-organized.  If they can maintain the retirement age, they can retain their cultural values. Family and life is always more important than working.  They think that we Americans work too hard and I believe them.  Just looking at this past summer that was hell for me, but I worked so hard.  I felt like I couldn't take a break for myself.  I was American--overstressed and overworked.

I come from the land of milk and honey, or at least the land of the super Wal-Mart and the good ole 9-5 job.  Perhaps we work too much and don't think enough about the simple things in life. Maybe all this work is what makes us complacent about our lots in life, the retirement age and all that.

I hope that I am making some kind of sense here, but I fear that I am not. Just remember sometimes to take a time for yourself. Read a book, go to a park, eat a long lunch, make a pot of soup for a bunch of friends to enjoy.

Take time to think.

Love what you do. And one thing keeps coming back to me during my stay here.  Right before I left I saw the film "Eat Pray Love" with my mother and it's message is the one I want to convey now.  Don't just exist in a world, experience it.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Bon Apetit

Ok, let's get down to it.

The food is absolutely incredible here!!!!

I haven't even tried the good stuff yet, I'm talking super cheap market brand stuff being absolutely wonderful. I don't know what the French have done, but I have never tasted such incredibly delicious goat cheese, or any cheese for that matter. When I go to the store, I say to myself "I have no idea what I'm buying right now but it costs less than a Euro."  But it really doesn't matter, because everything is so freaking good.

The cheese, the wine, the baguettes, and I can't even get started about the chocolate. The other day, I had a single chocolate covered raisin that completely changed my life and my way of thinking about everything I've ever eaten. It just doesn't compare.

I feel like I've had many a conversation with non-natives and we have several theories about why this is:

Theory 1:  It's France!  We are simply new to this place and the novelty is what is so great. I'm sure the French people don't think "Holy Crap, this is delicious" or more correctly "Merde, c'est tres delicieuse"every time they eat a baguette.  I have to say that I do believe that this is one reason why I'm so taken by the food here. I'm in France! I've only thought about this for so long and now it's a reality. Of course I've idealized everything in my head and maybe that has influenced my tastebuds.

Theory 2:  Everything is made with better ingredients here due to the French people's extreme sense of nationalism.  This theory is linked somewhat to the first.  I don't yet know if the products are actually better here. I have no idea what the processes or rules for manufacture are here. But I have, indeed, noticed the people's sense of nationalism.  It is everywhere; it is prominent.  Even though globalization has allowed for American cinema and the like to make its way across the pond, France is grasping whole-heartedly to its culture.  It will not bow down. The French people are actively maintaining their way of life through greves and political movements like that.  On the whole, they take pride in their country and want it to be the very best. All I can say is if it's pride that is in their bread and their cheese, we need a little bit more in America.

Theory 3: The French are aliens who insert chemicals that produce a euphoric feeling in the brain and body  into the cheese, bread, and wine to better control the population of humans throughout the world.  They want us weak of food comas when they take over.

But for now, I'm just going to have to accept my inevitable weight gain.  But hey, at least I'll be smiling when the aliens take over.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

In Liomoges

I finally made it to Limoges on Sunday. I met the head of the English department; his name is Alain. He is very nice and it's great to know that some people speak English because I have recently found out that I do not know enough French to get by here. Sad but true.

Alain took me to a Russian professor's home to stay the night and that was absolutely wonderful. She and her husband were so nice. She spoke English but he did not at all. They were the perfect French couple one would imagine. Everything was great, then Monday happened. I went to Renoir, went to an English class with Alain and realized that this is going to be very hard. I met my roommate at Labussiere named Maria, from Spain. Then the Spanish prof took us around the city. I didn't know his name or who he was, but he took us to lunch and then made us purchase a card (for what? I don't know; turned out it was for the bus) and he took us to Labussiere, the apartment for language assistants. Let's talk about this apartment: no internet, no tv, no radio, no living room, smallest kitchen I've ever seen, teeny-tiny fridge, hard bed, and the smallest armoir ever. I am going to make this work because I do not  want to pay more for my own apartment. But at this point, Maria and I don't really want the other assistant to show up so we can turn her room into a living room.

For now, I am overwhelmed and have no idea if I can do this for 8 months.

And hey, did you know that the keyboards for the computers are really funky here. They switched letters and for numbers, you have to shift. It's crazy! I need to get a memory stick so I can type on my computer and bring it to the school to put online.

Wish me luck, I'm going to need it.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I'm in the Airport: Doesn't sound exciting, does it?

So, the two main men in my life dropped me off about 10 minutes ago.  I teared up as I said "see ya later."  For those of you who saw me after graduation, you might not know why now was a time to cry and then wasn't.  Well, it's pretty simple actually.  I'm scared to death...  Just now was the first time that I have ever checked in, if that's the term to use, by myself at an airport.  Aw hell, it's my first flight by myself.  Yay. 

I walked into the airport, not knowing really what to do.  Luckily a wonderful woman named Lynda who works here helped me through the check in process, where my bag weighed in at 49.5 pounds, just a mere .6 left to breathe.  Suddenly glad I left those BCBG heels, but not really.  And then I realized, when I come back, I have to do this in another language.  Yay.

Then I went to the bathroom.  My bladder was about to explode from that last glass of good ole southern sweet tea that I had at Taco Casa before arriving at the airport.  Finally, I proceeded to Concourse A, going through the security check.  I didn't beep.  Yay.

And now here I sit.  I see so many people doing just what I'm doing.  A man playing on his i-phone, a woman searching for mints in her bag, a 30-something couple reading a newspaper together with their legs sitting crossed atop a silver and black utilitarian table; all just sitting, waiting, for their flights.  And for some reason, I keep expecting something profound to happen or something groundbreaking to pop into my head.  Perhaps Morrie would show up and I would have a very enlightened Tuesday.  Alas, nope. 

But one thing did come to me, among all the scary thoughts and worries I have in my head, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Sounds silly?  Not really.  First you must understand my love of Buffy.  I have every season and am collecting the comics as we speak.  I adore her tenacity, vivacity, spunk, and one other thing--her ability to overcome anything.  I mean, c'mon, she defeated a crazy demon Frankenstein thing, saved the world from multiple apocalypses, she fought a god from a crazy hell dimension, she defeated the very first evil, she fought countless vampires and won, all the while fighting her own personal demons.  So, basically, we're very similar...

So you can see how I thought of her in all this.  My world is being turned upside down, a lot like hers (just in different ways).  Rather than fighting a destructive Fyarl demon, I am battling my worries, the little part in my brain that says "hey, listen to me while I think of the worst possible scenarios that could happen."

And then in true Buffy fashion, I decided to stand up (not literally, that would just be weird right now).  I am standing up to my fears.  Just like in the season four Halloween episode.  Do you hear that, fear?  You're just a tiny little demon that I can squash with my little human foot.  


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Getting ready

Ok, the big move is in a week.  Exactly a week from today, I'm going to be on a big plane making my way across the pond to that country named France.  It's weird how I always feel like a little kid when I say that I'm going to France to spend 9 months.  It's like asking a child where they want to go in the world. 

"I want to go to France, mommy."
"Sure darling, you can go anywhere you want."

But now, I'm doing it.  It's a four-year dream that will finally be achieved.  And how do I feel about it?  Oh God, what was I thinking? I know, I know, I majored in French; this shouldn't be as bad as I think it's going to be.  Oh God, I should have studied more.  

Yep, I'm freaked out, excited, nervous, anxious, worried, happy, ecstatic, and a million other things that would make this list really long.  But I suppose c'est la vie.  There are a million questions that need to be asked and answered and I have no idea where to start.  I need my visa to be ready SOON.  I don't know what's taking so long.  I don't know if I should just go ahead and close my Wachovia account and travel (with every penny that is to my name!) and just open an account with a French bank.  I don't know.  It's scary and worrisome, but somehow I know I'll be just fine.  Everyone has rough patches, and everyone can get through them.

On a happy note, I have found some very promising housing ideas.  Rent will only be 300 euros.  So YAY!  I have a job; I will be an English teaching assistant in a school, lycee Auguste Renoir, in Limoges, France.  I have a roommate who is in the same program as me, which is exciting, and we have sworn to only speak French in the house.  So on the whole, a lot of things are going pretty well.

But packing may be another issue.  So many shoes I have to leave behind.  It makes me sad to think of leaving my beautiful Chinese Laundry high heels that go so well with that yellow dress of mine.  Or leaving the red hot BCBG peep-toe heels that flatter any black dress. 

Right now, my mantra is to just go with it.  Whatever clothes I take will be the clothes I wear.  My lack of shoes will just have to... well, I could always get more shoes there.  And everything will work out because it has to, right?