Archive for February, 2012

Reason # 1 Million It’s Good to have a French Mom while in France

(Particularly if she has two small children)

If you get a cold, she has a miniature pharmacy in her house. I was just planning on drinking lots of orange juice and tea and eating lots of garlic… I bought some cough syrup when I realized the coughing part was taking longer than normal to go away. To me, I am inconvenienced but not ill. It’s just a cold. To her, I was sick and she basically handed me all sorts of things it never would have occurred to me to take.

“This, you put it in water and it melts. It’s for decongestion. And this is for the runny nose. And if your throat hurts take some of this syrup. Then you can put some of this essential oil on your forehead and temples to help with the decongestion. Now get some rest.”

I thought I was going to die of a drug overdose. I’m stubborn and usually don’t take anything except for the occasional allergy pill, so having so many different drugs in my body might make me explode. But I think their medicine might be more natural… I’m not completely sure, though. All I know is “natural alternatives” don’t seem to be unusual.

They could just combine all these drugs into one pill… But that’d be too simple and too much like taking Tylenol Cold or something.

Whatever else can be said about this, I do seem to be getting better faster than expected. I’m just lucky I have someone who cares about me so much over here.

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St. Valentine’s

Tuesdays I normally work in two different schools, the one in Laguenne and the one in downtown Tulle. There was a snow/ice/freezing rain storm forecasted and they canceled all the school buses and (I was told) the city buses. Since I couldn’t get back from Laguenne without walking (and was told in the cold it’s impossible) I didn’t go to work in the morning.

On the way to late morning work I saw a city bus. Oops. Maybe they decided it wasn’t the end of the world, since it felt warm. But the river was frozen, so it must have been colder than I thought.

The principal made sure I watched google’s Valentine’s video. It was cute.

During Emilie’s class, we were going over shapes. I said, “show me a heart,” and Emilie commented that it was the day for hearts. One of the kids proceeded to talk about how his mom left his dad for his godfather, but then the godfather left her… I had no idea what to do. Emilie said, “It’s the house of broken hearts.” No wonder he’s so messed up.

I went to one of the CP classes instead of the class I normally go to. The CP teacher wanted 5 minutes of my time, and the other teacher said, “Oh, good! I didn’t want to do English today, anyway!” I prefer 6 year-olds, anyway, so it wasn’t a big deal. I told them their names in English and read The Hungry Little Caterpillar to them. When I was leaving, one of the boys told me I was pretty.

It’s heartbreaking to me, the idea that these kids will grow up, and the possibility that the guys could be insincere flirts.

After work and Emilie picking up the kids, she passed by my apartment to get me, like normal on Tuesdays. I was taking out my trash as they arrived. Apparently Anouk thought I dashed back inside to say goodbye to my parents.

Emilie: But Anouk, her parents are in the United States.

Anouk: But… That’s not here?

A five year old’s perception of the world is so funny. She just knew the US was a faraway place where I lived. The apartment complex is a strange place 30 minutes away from her home where I live… That made it the United States.

I mentioned to Emilie that I’d heard Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis weren’t together anymore. “What?!! We’re going upstairs to the computer right now to see about this.” Anouk: But what’s wrong, Maman? “What’s wrong is Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis aren’t together anymore!!” But, in fact, an article published yesterday said that it was a horrible rumor and all goes well. I just thought her reaction was funny. And for some reason, it made me happy that it was a rumor.

Alban didn’t get Emile anything for Valentine’s Day. Apart from that, most of what I heard about the holiday was online. It was kind of nice not to be surrounded by the commercialization of it.

That Ghost Searchers TV show was on, with French people talking over the English. There was a guy from Kentucky on there! Before the translation started, I could hear his occasional southern drawl.

I brought my computer especially so I could at least talk to Seth for a few minutes. It was three minutes before midnight by the time he got home from work, so everyone else was asleep, almost including me. It wasn’t as fun as planning to make mashed potatoes and not even thinking a masher might be useful until the potatoes were being cooked, but it was still good. It makes life a little easier, anyway.

Edit: After reflecting, and at the risk of being really sappy, I’m putting in a clip from one of the most romantic movies ever that captures some of my life right now.

Mel Gibson can say French words! But seriously, apply the first French sentence in present tense and imagine how perfectly boring the story would have been if no one died…

Family

“And now we have to drop off our third child…”

I’ve been thinking about family a lot lately, what with working around children and spending time with a French family and having my parents visit and all.

Regarding children, I’ve come to two conclusions, one of which is absolutely terrifying.

1) I think I want (not many) children.

2) I do not want children any time soon.

It should be obvious which one is the terrifying revelation. Children are expensive, can be annoying, and take so much energy to take care of. It’s a job that never ends, worse than the song that never ends. But there’s something amazing about a 5 year old hugging you before bed saying “Good night, Rebecca. I love you. See you tomorrow,” even when they’re not yours and you only hear it twice a week.

I’d already accepted the biology of the child situation anyway. My grandma said all my parents had to do was sit next to each other for my mom to get pregnant. They were trying not to, and there were five pregnancies in six years. (This is including the miscarriage between Robert and me AND my parents having to wait 6 months after that…) Well, and most healthy women get weird biological signals when it comes to having kids, even if it’s only subconscious.

The interesting thing about spending time with a young couple with small children is I can see examples of what works from a sort of outside perspective. And I can see things that I would want if I were a mother and things I wouldn’t.

The visit with my parents was great. It was really good to see them after so long. Translating is hard though, especially with my dad’s sarcasm and people talking a lot in different languages at the same time. Yes, all that information is being processed in the same brain, but in completely different channels. But everyone turned out okay. I’ll probably post pictures once I get them off my camera. We got to see the wine countryside outside Bordeaux! (I’d already visited Bordeaux, but I preferred the countryside.)

And of course, I introduced them to my French family. I have a habit of making new families the way most people make new friends… This makes at least the fifth extra family I have, haha. Anyway, my parents bought gifts in the Louisville airport: a horse plush and a t-shirt for both of the kids, and burbon balls for the parents. All Kentucky-themed stuff, of course. The kids took to their stuffed horses immediatly. My mom for some reason thought I’d said Anouk was 8, so she got like a size 12 t-shirt. The girl takes after her mum, who is my size… So she can wear this shirt as a blanket. Oh well. I suggested she could wear it as a cape, except I didn’t know the word, so I said she could wear it on her back like Superman. She thought this was a great idea, so held the sleeves under her neck and ran around the house saying, “I’m Superman!” She also tried to talk my parents’ ears off.

Emilie saw my dad liked the pâté from “their pig from last year named Nuff-Nuff” (really a neighbor’s pig) and gave him a can of it. Somehow, it made it though customs and back to Kentucky.

Emilie and Alban both told me last week after my parents had left that they are super nice. I kind of wanted to ask what they expected, but I’m afraid of the answer. I mean, what kind of people would produce a child, who at the age of twenty-two, would take more pictures of rocks in a famous museum than of the historical artifacts? I never claimed to be normal.

Last week Emilie left me alone with the kids for the first time to get gas for the stove. Along with that was a sitcom-worthy rant of “It annoys me, because the only thing I ask Alban to take care of is the gas for the stove, and we always run out of gas! I can’t heat food without gas!” But the town of Corrèze (different from the departement and the river) isn’t far from Bar, and it was supposed to be thirty minutes, even with all the snow on curvy country roads.

I hadn’t really anticipated any problems. Emilie made both of the kids promise to be nice, and made Anouk promise not to throw any fits. At first it was fine. We all coloured, and Anouk and I decided that after the Madagascar TV show went off, we’d put in a movie.

Well, Emilie had told Jean earlier they were going to watch Dumbo, his absolute favourite. Anouk decided she wanted to watch Sleeping Beauty. When I mentioned Dumbo, she got upset, and Jean kept saying “Bumbo, bumbo.” She started to throw a fit at the idea of watching anything other than Sleeping Beauty and he sounded like he would cry if he watched anything other than Dumbo. I asked if they could choose another movie that they wouldn’t cry over, which was way too complicated for kids so young. But Jean grinned when he said “no,” so I get the impression he enjoyed seeing his sister all wound up. I ended up turning the TV off, since someone was going to cry no matter what I did. Then we went upstairs and played a computer game.

I think I may be related to my father.

A friend of Alban’s from out of town spent the night in the pull-out couch upstairs, because they were both in a concert the next day. Normally on thursdays, Emilie goes to work by herself, and Alban drops off the kids, since he works later. He also drops me off, since the school of music (also the centre culturale, where choir practice is held) is right across the bridge from my apartment. This time it was a bit more complicated, because Olivier was in the front where I normally would be, and I was squished between the two car-seats in the back and getting hit in the face with babydolls. After dropping Jean off at his mom’s, Alban said the quote I opened with. He then apologized, but whatever look on my face wasn’t offense at being called a child. It was just because the familial idea got to me.

Right now, hanging out with Anouk and Jean, or nearby reading a book, while Emilie plays the piano and singing… Her voice filling the spaces of the stone barn-turned-home… It’s my little piece of paradise. That and  conversations while I’m somewhere between sleep and awake with a certain someone back home who teases me for all the silly clumsy things I do.

I may get attached to people really easily.

Hippie Alert!

I just thought I should share some songs I’ve heard in the past week that I really liked.

“Il y en assez pour tout le monde- There’s enough for everyone.” It would suffice to share on our round planet. Air, pure water, fish that we can fish, jam… And tons of potatoes! Clothes, school supplies… Love, hugs and kisses, and justice… All put to a really catchy tune. Like I said on facebook, yes, this is an oversimplification, especially when it comes to the “milliards de dollars,” but maybe it should be simpler. People should just be nicer. If only idealism were practical… In any case, it’s cute.

They sang that in one of my classes, and I thought it was really adorable… Especially since it was the smaller students who get really into songs.

Moving on.  “Together” by Bob Sinclair and Steve Edwards was playing in a cafe on Sunday.

I’m probably silly for not having ever heard this before. I just thought it was really pretty. I guess it’s the video that makes it. Also, one of the African kids is sitting in a chair that says “La paix” on the back of it. Peace.

It doesn’t really surprise me that they played a music video I’d never heard of from awhile ago in a French cafe. English music is cool. They like it. Well, and I live in a box or something. Emilie and Alban know way more about American movies and their stars than I do.

So, that ends my adorable kid hippie music post. Maybe the fact that I like these so much is a sign that I really am a child… Although at this point I don’t think anyone debates that.

Vacances

So, again, when it’s weeks away from the next vacation, I start posting about the last. Oh well. Technically, there’s never that much time between scholarly vacations, though.

I got all my OFII stuff sorted out the first day of vacation. I now have a lovely picture of my healthy lungs. I had an hour between my doctor’s appointment where they gave me official paperwork saying there isn’t any TB in my lungs and the appointment at the OFII office to give them this paperwork and get my carte de séjour (green card, maybe?). Genius me decided to walk to the other side of Limoges to save a euro thirty on bus fare. A town with which I am only vaguely familiar. And it was raining. And I was wearing my flats because I don’t think about what clothes I throw on in the morning, even when everyone makes a big deal about how there are supposed to be thunderstorms the next day.

The only dry part of me was the waistband of my jeans. I left giant puddles on the OFII office floor. My shoes made suction-y noises and echoed as I walked past Asian immigrants/students/language assistants also waiting to talk to people. I apologized for the puddles, but the OFII man just said, “C’est pas grave. Avec le temps qu’il fait… C’est normal.” Translation: No big deal. It’s raining and you obviously walked here without an umbrella, so it’s completely logical that you’re soaked. Okay, that’s not really what he said. By the time I got back to Tulle, I wanted nothing more than to take my socks off and sit in front of the heater drinking tea to ward off a pesky scratchy throat.

A few weeks before, I joined the choir that Kaitie and Elli had been going to. There was a concert the day after my being drenched episode. I was excited about singing in a European church, although to them it was just like the choir concerts back home in any old church.

Again, I thought things through and didn’t eat dinner beforehand. So my tumbly was all grumbly, making music of its own, and my hands were cold because that’s just what they do.

The adventure to get to London is something I already posted. Maria is super nice and let me stay in Lyon with her, which was a huge change of plans. The train rides were horrible and longer than they should have been, but it was all okay.

A bad picture of a Lyon church on a rainy day.

And there was a museum of miniatures for film! (Although C3PO is life-sized.)

On the plane to London I ended up being a translator for French people. By that point, it was too late  to pretend to the two guys next to me that I didn’t understand French, which led to awkward comments about my beautiful eyes. But I also realized that city people are similar the world over: they don’t always know about the smaller towns a few hours away from them. (And I guess, being guys, they’d never heard of the fabric tulle…)

London was a huge culture shock. I didn’t understand their English at first; I thought they were speaking French. I maintain my theory that England English is very French, with the Norman invasion and the proximity of the countries and all that stuff. But London is massive and my phone wouldn’t work  so I had to go into a bar to borrow a phone and call my friend to come get me. I’m sure the bartenders thought I was crazy, but hey, it worked.

And some obligatory England photos, even though I think anyone who reads this has access to my facebook:

Hopefully this doesn’t need an explanation. And yeah, it really does rain a lot in London.

Fountain, government building, park and sunshine!

Buckingham Palace in a cage

The Rosetta Stone, in the British Museum. It’s lonely because it’s a rock sitting in a glass box all alone always separated from the outside world. I know, I’m crazy and slightly Pocahontas-like.

And there’s a giant library in the British museum!

And I took about 5,000 pictures of the rocks that were in that museum.

Old sword and jewelry from an Anglo-Saxon burial ship. You can probably tell which I thought was more interesting.

Giant sword bigger than me! (Yes, I can hear the comments: “That’s not a hard thing to be…” )

The Globe reconstruction

St. Paul’s, where we went to Midnight mass Christmas Eve. Because I’m a dork that knows too much about Disney movies, this was the song going through my head most of the night. (Again, sorry if you’ve already seen all of this on facebook…)

It wouldn’t be England without tea.

And then we went to the Natural History museum, so I could see more rocks and take this one picture of the Devonshire Emerald. It was much more stunning in real life. I walked out of there wondering why we have to cut gemstones because they’re beautiful in their natural form. (In my head I said, “beautiful” with my friend Shannon’s English accent, where they pronounce the “t”.) Then I realized we can’t usually wear rocks unless we cut them.

Peter Pan in Kensington Park, where J.M. Barrie met the kids.

Shannon is an English assistant in the Corrèze. She’s from a small town near Norwich. She offered to let me visit and show me around. She said the Norwich Castle looks fake, but it isn’t.

We also visited Cambridge. Surprise: it was cold and rainy. We took a punting tour on the river to see all the college buildings.

The Bridge of Sighs, modeled after the bridge in Venice prisoners crossed before being imprisoned/executed. Supposedly they would look back on the beautiful city and sigh, because they were never going to see it again and they wasted their lives. In Cambridge, this is the bridge students cross on the way to their exams.

Cambridge is lovely, and Shannon’s hamlet is even nicer. But that’s just my opinion, because I prefer trees and cats to being around tons of humans. Shannon’s parents are hilarious, nice people too. They gave me warm gloves. 🙂 Which was perfect, because I lost mine Thanksgiving weekend. Shannon’s mom also lent me a universal phone to put my French sim card in, so I’d have a working phone for the rest of my few days in England.

New Year’s was interesting. By that time two of Brandon’s three roommates were back (they’re all European, so they went home for Christmas.) The assortment of people we had over at the flat was interesting: an Italian studying in England, an Italian living in Paris visiting England, a Parisian (the second Italian’s boyfriend) studying in Madison, Wisconsin visiting England, an American studying in England, and an American living in France visiting England. It was like a cycle! (There was a Norwegian whose actual nationality is too complicated as well, but he wasn’t there during this discussion.)

We went to the river to see the fireworks. I waited in line forever to go pee before midnight. I have no idea what was taking some people so long. Behind me was an Irish girl who was hoping to go pee and find her boyfriend/fiance person before midnight. That area was packed and finding your people through all that mess… I hope she found him in time. And even if not, I’m sure that didn’t put a huge stress on their relationship.

I wonder if it’s weird that I often think about people I ran into and wonder what happened to them and how they’re doing now. As a side note, I always meet really interesting people when I’m waiting in line for a toilet.

Wandering through the masses of people trying to find everyone was a mess. I heard Big Ben, so I stopped and looked at some fireworks. It never occurred to me to look at the actual clock tower, so I missed the best fireworks. All that occurred to me is that I was listening to Big Ben bring in the New Year and I had no idea where my friends were.

Here are the awesome fireworks that I missed.

You only have to watch the first 30 seconds, because that’s the part I was talking about. Especially if you’ve seen Thunder over Louisville, which is a better (and longer) firework show.

On the way home, we crashed a squatter’s party. Nobody really explained this to me, I just remember telling everyone as long as there was a toilet, I didn’t care. I’m small. Oh, and before that, something I said made Brandon realize that Rita Dixon is in fact Seth’s sister. Except then I had to explain that she’s now Rita Harris. I have no idea how much of that conversation was understandable or memorable.

I realized in the squatter’s house that at some point my phone had fallen out of my pocket. But, I still had my sim card. So I had any numbers I had texts from, and all I’d have to do is buy a new French phone. Which was fine because the phone I lost was the one I bought studying abroad two years ago. Except at that point, I was upset because I get attached to things, especially when they’re green, and my plan to save that little bit of money didn’t work. I can be really silly.

Apparently, Brandon’s Italian roommate irritated/upset/made me feel threatened when we got back to the flat, and I kicked him in the face and knocked his glasses off. Or maybe we were roughhousing and I forgot that we weren’t really fighting. But anyway, without realizing it, I kicked an Italian in the face. Not the first time, actually. The first time the Italian guy at Bellarmine and I sparred in TKD, I accidentally got him in the face. Oops.

On the plane home, I ran into three other assistants, which was nice. I bought a phone in Limoges, then got back to Tulle to start planning classes, do stuff for grad school applications, and talk to my family. My family was having Christmas with my older brother, his wife, and my nephews in Nashville, and my parents’ present was a picture of an almost baby! I’m going to have another adorable, small relative who says funny things.

To end this [possibly unnecessarily] long post, I’ll give you a clip from Finding Neverland that was going through my head as people stared at me for taking pictures of rocks. Also relevant because the movie is about J.M. Barrie writing Peter Pan and Johnny Depp is from Kentucky and lives in France. (Even though he and his French mate lady are now broken up 😦   )

So there. If Johnny Depp says so, it must be true.