Archive for March, 2012

News Reflections

My apologies in advance for posting something so heavy. I just feel it needs to be said.

For anyone who didn’t know, last week in Toulouse a crazy guy killed four people (three of them small children) in front of a Jewish middle/high school. He is also guilty of killing at least three other people. After his apartment or whatever building was surrounded for over 24 hours, he jumped out of a window rather than go to prison. He said the only regret he had was being cornered before he could kill more people.

Look up more information if you don’t know. I stumbled across pictures of the Rabbi and children killed at the school, which was heartbreaking beyond words.

There was a minute of silence in all the schools. We went outside on the recreation course (whatever you’d call that in better English), and the entire school and stood in a circle. The principal explained what had happened and why we were going to be quiet, and everyone except two students managed to keep their mouths shut. Of course, these students happened to be in the class I was working with, so I got to hear the principal yell at them later. It was one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever heard. wanted to cry, so I have no idea how those two kids managed to bounce right back and participate in class.

I think part of what made this whole thing so vivid for me is that I hang out with a 2 year old and a 5 year old all the time. I work with children. The idea that someone would chase after someone so small, grab her by the hair, and shoot her is devastating. There aren’t words. (Yet I still want to use words to try to express how  wrong it is.) Because somehow that would avenge Palestinian children. As Irish poet Paul Durcan said in his poem about the Omagh bombing “terror is terror that never ends.”

Well, and the fact that I’m not really that far from Toulouse made the whole thing more real. I’ve been there; it’s a nice city.

See? It’s a pretty place made of brick.

Anyway, my pont is that Emilie, Alban, and I were watching this horror unfold on the news before they’d tracked down the killer. Anouk sat on my lap, eating corn because apparently that’s a good thing to eat after dessert. Then Jean wanted corn and started crying because Anouk ate it all.

In a way, we’re all like this. The news is full of terrifying, tragic stories, there are people starving in Africa, but we focus on the empty bowl in front of us. Obviously, this is completely natural and in many cases necessary for our personal lives to be balanced.  On the one hand, if we tried to solve everything or just thought about it when we have our own problems we’d go crazy. On the other, it’s important to be aware of these things. It’s still interesting how much we grow up but so many of our habits are rooted in/ can be traced back to our two year old selves.

Now, the Algerian father of the guy wants to make a plan against France for being “unjust” to his son or something. Er. Okay. (Emilie says the extremists are going to throw the guy’s race and religion into the election, which isn’t good. Also not fair to the normal people who happen to have anything in common with this guy.) I’m not going through Toulouse anytime soon.

Advertisements

Things I Forgot to Mention about Austria

I’ll try to make it quick, since I’m sure I’ve written enough about my time there. But I meant to say a few things I think are important/interesting.

Regarding Language [Learning]-

I had the impulse to compare everything in German to anything I knew about French. And sometimes English, seeing as it is a Germanic language.

I was talking about how the French periodic table makes more sense, because most symbols come from the Latin words and a huge part of French came from Latin words. Cu= cuivre, Pb=plomb, Fe= fer etc. (Note: I discovered this accidentally last year because my Chemistry major friend made me curious. My kids are too young to do chemistry.) A lot of elements still make no sense, like K for potassium. Mosi then apologized for the German influence making Chemistry harder for us.

Languages are a funny thing, even when you don’t speak them very well. I wanted to speak Italian just because I knew Mosi and Hilli could, and being around other languages always makes me start thinking of how to say things in something other than English. Mrs. Moshammer started speaking automatically to the kids in her nature class in English, either because I was there and that was a sign that she should speak English or because I had been there a few days and she was sort of getting in the habit of redirecting her thoughts.

Hilli was getting ready for a date my last night there. I was downstairs. She turned to her mother and asked something about her earrings in English. It amazes me that people who say “Oh, I don’t really speak English” will fall into these patterns after a few days.

Mr. Moshammer kept throwing Swedish words into his English, because he’s used his Swedish more often. Something like that. The funny part is, I didn’t even notice. I just kept thinking I was misunderstanding.

 

Regarding Family/ good people-

Mosi said something like me being like his sister when he was studying in the States. Like he found himself treating me in the same playful way or something. Obviously, I wasn’t going to realize the full extent of this unless I met Hilli and saw the way the two of them interact, but I was silly for not realizing how much of a compliment that was. I usually consider it a compliment when people remind me strongly of my brother (as in somehow they capture more than just the qualities that annoy me)…

It’s interesting how sometimes it doesn’t take long for people to mean a lot to you. The same thing happened with Emilie and Alban and the kids. I’m pretty sure it’s not due to necessity, at least not wholly, since it also happened with an orange kitten. Maybe I just like good people/cats.

Also something interesting is people’s abilities to joke about serious, distressing things. Especially in a language that’s not their native one. “We always said she should wear a helmet in the woods…”

 

Regarding honey and things that comes from it-

Amazingly, Austrians sort their honey out by the flower(s) it comes from. They have dandelion honey, forest honey, and who knows what else… But they know the difference. I had Mosi ask the honeyman at the market how they managed to get honey from each flower, because we have “whatever flowers the bees liked but mostly clover” honey at home. Can you tell I’ve repeated this to honey customers often? Apparently, the Austrian honeyman inspects honey with a microscope and if it’s made of 50% or more of a certain flower’s honey, they can declare it as that type of honey. They also do some of the putting beehives in fields of that flower. (That’s how I assumed you knew you’d get lavender honey around the Mediterranean in France- because they grow fields and fields of it as far as you can see and it’s supposed to smell amazing.)

I need to figure out how to make cool things out of beeswax. They also smell amazing.

Medieval-style pubs have excellent mead. And a huge selection of them. I had one made from orange blossom honey and one called Dragon something (teeth? heart? breath?) made with forest honey. Both tasted like mostly non-alcoholic sugar. That pub also had a sign that said “Sith happens,” which is pretty much a sign meant for one of my friends back home.

I’m almost positive I’m forgetting something, but oh well.

Österreich!

Austria in German. I can’t properly pronounce it, because the German “r” is something I’ve never heard before. I could feel myself trying to make it a French “r.”

Surprisingly, Austrian German doesn’t sound nearly as harsh as I always thought German did. Maybe that’s their accent, or maybe I’ve just been mislead about the sound of German.

I loved it there. The country is beautiful, and the culture is such a mix of Western and Eastern Europe thriving with history… It just seemed so alive. Then again, I saw it from the perspective of a native combined with my own outside eyes. I would not have seen half of what I did without Mosi.

I flew into Vienna, which is written “Wein” in German. The changes in names in languages fascinates me. I’d never been someplace where I understood nothing. My first French class was in 8th grade. We didn’t learn a whole lot, but still. The last time I understood no French, I was 13. I fully believe that it was good for me. It helped me realize what my parents were going through when they visited. I was too scared to even say “Danke” for fear of mispronouncing it. That may be silly, but going someplace where you have never officially learned the language they live, speak, breathe, and think in, funny things happen.

Mosi showed me a little bit around Vienna for two days, and we stayed at a friend’s apartment. Just walking around, I remembered how big the Hapsburg empire was and how influential it was throughout history. Those Emperors and Empresses were living the high life. I don’t know about anyone else, but I feel like I was cheated in my history lessons for not going over all this stuff properly.

I mean, nobody bothered to tell me that they painted their castles/palaces yellow!

Schönbrunn Palace- the Empire’s central Palace

Schönbrunn from farther away. My photos really can’t capture how beautiful it is. One day (when I have a lot of money), I’ll go back with a nice camera and pay money to go inside all the places I didn’t go into.

Fountain! And weird people in the way.

So some Emperor(ess) or another ordered this thin, pretty building to be built JUST so he/she’d have something to look at from the palace. Be nice have that kind of money, huh? Sorry that the sun is in the way.

It is lovely, even if it has no functional purpose.

One of the archways in the decorative building

At this point, I talked to Mosi about how I thought the way they pruned trees and chopped down trees for looks is silly. I mean, square trees? How in the world is that attractive? That’s just trying to assert your power over the natural order of things, there. He told me everything was forest then (and still is, a lot of times), so it didn’t really matter that they took away some of it. And they wanted to do interesting stuff with the time they had…

I don’t care. I still think it’s silly. I’d still rather have normal looking trees and maybe just a small gazebo, if anything. Maybe if the Europeans hadn’t brought this mindset with them to America we might have less issues than we do now.

We saw lots of cool stuff during the night, but I knew my camera wouldn’t take pictures of them. The natural history and art museums are right across from each other, and I’m pretty sure I saw the opera house.

St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Look at the roof! And the towers! It’s Eastern-European-ish!

I felt too self-conscious to take photos inside. But it’s a wonderful mix of Gothic and Baroque architecture. After seeing tons and tons of typical grey, French cathedrals, the light Baroque-ness of the cathedrals was refreshing. (Obviously a borrowed photo to give you an idea)

I speculated how it was interesting that countries not too far apart thought about building things in a completely different fashion. Mosi said it had to do with the time period as well, but in general, the Austrian empire made their castles and churches much warmer than the French.

On a completely unrelated note, whenever someone says, “Baroque” I think of this quote.

And since Vienna is the capital, guess what’s there? The national library, of course!

Again, the sun was in the way, but it makes the photo look kinda interesting. Österreichische Nationalbibliothek!

Funny, “Österreichische Nationalbibliothek” was written on a carpet in the entrance. That’s not the funny part. The night before, someone had mentioned the way German words can be linked together to make reealllly long words. Mosi pointed to the carpet and asked me if I knew what it said. Without hesitating, I said, “Austrian National Library.” He then stood on parts of the carpet and had me figure out which parts of the words meant what. “National”= national, obviously, and “Österreich”=Austria, so “ische” is the equivalent of our “ian,” and “Bibliothek” is oddly like the French word for library (bibliothèque). I sorta understand now how people feel when I do this to them with French, except I’m a linguistic dork and enjoyed figuring this out. Things like this are like puzzles to me, except easier because I have no spacial reasoning skills.

Anyway, the reason I wanted to go inside is because I’d seen this picture a few months ago:

Look at it! It’s amazing!

Unfortunately, it cost money to actually go into the room, so we just went as far as you could without paying. I saw into a giant room that looked like this, so I was content. If you’re interested click this for the google images page of the library.

Moving on…

This is a monument commemorating the black plague.

Ferris wheel! It’s one of the symbols of Vienna. There are trees in the way, but I liked them there. It’s called the Wiener Riesenrad. Reading that from an English perspective makes that a lot funnier than it should be…

We went to a party with a European student organization Mosi is a part of . It was interesting to me even though I only knew one person there, because there were so many people from nearby countries. I thought about how this type of multiculturalism that was so eye-opening to me was normal for these people. It might not be typical for Austrians, but them being such a small country certainly makes interactions like this easier.

I’m proud of American multiculturalism, and I’ve always been proud that I have roots from so many different places. It’s fascinating to me that people from all over the world (Okay, so Europe and the Americas) who would not meet each other normally in their home country have mixed to eventually make me. Maybe that’s just me wanting to be special, but I think it’s really cool.

But the multiculturalism I saw in Austria is different. Since it’s sort of the gateway between Eastern and Western Europe (even though for some reason I always thought of it being part of Western Europe) the people at the party come from cultures I’d never really experienced before. They are connected by being European in a similar way that Americans are connected, but the overarching “European” identity is more obviously multifaceted than the mainstream American identity. It made me realize how big the world is, how many different patterns and languages and colors manifest in the daily lives of people. Even the smallest town or country has a unique pattern and flow of life to it.

So, this is what I contemplated during the “official meeting part” of the student organization party. I was apologized to for it being boring, but I think I managed to entertain myself quite well.

The “party part” of the party was pretty much like you’d expect it to be. It was difficult for people to understand that I was not part of the student organization, that I am an American living in France and I was just visiting Austria for a week… And some guy, when I said I spoke French was like, “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir?” “Non.” At first this was tolerable, because it’s all “haha yeah, you know that song and you remembered the French words from it” except I wasn’t really amused. But when it led to repetition and a hopeful “pas ce soir?” implying maybe another night, it was creepy. He also spun me a lot and I fell on my bum because he wasn’t a very considerate dancer. He did leave me alone after I told him “NON, JAMAIS” and that he should sleep with his girlfriend and stop being a creeper.

And for some reason, I couldn’t help thinking that even in any even closely similar state Seth has never, would never, let me fall as often as I would in a week of TKD lessons.

Another Viennese church (St. Charles)

Anyway, we went to Graz the next day. Mosi, whose actual name is Arnulf Moshammer (apparently people had problems with Arnulf in the States- I know I probably make the ‘r’ Italian-sounding) has a really, really nice family. The house is scattered with wood samples and rocks and feathers and all sorts of nature-y things. His “little” sister is 25, which was a shock. I forgot that Mosi is old, and by the way he talked about his sister I always just assumed she was younger. But she has horses and likes chocolate and collects fairies!! I think we might have gotten along well.

I thought it was funny the extent to which we went to understand each other. Her English is better than she thinks, but there’s still a language barrier. I was trying to tell her that Ryann wanted to keep a baby raccoon as a pet. Mosi wasn’t there to translate, and just describing a raccoon didn’t help. Hilli’s a biologist, so she went through her textbooks with English in the index until we found it.

Interesting building found during my walk with Hilli

Fun fact: I wandered around the city alone until lunchtime my first day there. It takes less than 15 minutes to get into the city center. All you have to do is turn (left?) and follow the tram tracks. Rebecca someh0w managed to follow the tram tracks for 45 minutes before realizing she was going the wrong direction then went back to the apartment to eat lunch. I have an amazing, amazing sense of direction.

The next day was Mr. Moshammer’s birthday, and we went cose to the Slovenian border to two castles (sorta) and a chocolate factory with unique (aka weird) flavors and drinking chocolate. Yum.

On the road, we stopped to see this clock tower. There’s something odd about the twelve’s place… You have to click it to see.

The first yellow castle-like building we visited

The second one was actually closed, but I got a few pictures of the town. And I saw a cat. We could see the castle from the car window built on top of a scary cliff, but we were in the car and I didn’t take any pictures. I also have no idea where we actually were, but it was pretty.

Town!

A church. There was a memorial for the Jewish in the yard. It was even more heartbreaking than the memorials in France, because it was actually Nazi territory.

I went to work in the forest with Mrs. Moshammer and Mosi the next day. Mrs. Moshammer takes elementary kids into the forest and teaches them about different types of trees and birds. The school is a bilingual school, so most of them at least understood English, and there were at least two native speakers. I talked a little with the excitable girl with the dad from Canada or something… Also, a girl got her foot stuck in a tree trunk and I had to help her get out… It’s a good thing I’ve learned some of that French mentality “there are no problems, only solutions!” and that I knew she could understand my English.

I really wish we had something like that at my elementary school. The kids loved it. And they may not retain most of that information, but they’ll remember some things. Well, and living in a forested region, I suppose it’s more important for them to know the names of trees and stuff. But that kind of hands-on learning benefits them in a way that trying to get them to sit still in a classroom doesn’t.

I also learned a lot. I learned how little I actually know about trees. I can recognize the leaves, usually, but the wood… I felt kind of stupid because the kids could answer questions just about general plant life that I had no idea about. And you can see baby leaves on plants. Which is obvious, when you think about it, but I’ve never looked closely enough to see how leaves grow on plants. It’s so amazing and simple, that’s life. C’est la vie.

I also realized that Mosi and his mom (and probably Hilli too, because she works there occasionally too) grab plants with the same sort of expertise and care that vets grab animals. You know, the way that’s so fast and practiced it seems rough, but they know what they’re doing and is actually calm? Or maybe I’m just crazy.

Oh, and Mrs. Moshammer gave me a feather she or one of the kids picked up for her collection.

We then went to see the castle in Graz but I didn’t have my camera. Here’s a picture from this webpage (just being responsible and citing my sources, since this one isn’t published on the photo) :

Schloss Eggenberg-a guy who lived here was crazy and obsessed with the calendar/ passage of time. There are 365 windows, 52 of which are on the main floor. There are 24 state rooms on the second floor. Each floor has 31 rooms total (max. number of days in a month), and the 52 main floor windows combined with 8 windows in a planetary room makes 60 (for seconds in a minute and minutes in an hour). Like I said, obsessed.

I have the brochure of this place, though, so I do have a physical picture of it.

And the last two days were just walking around Graz!

Opera house

Famous clock tower with cool stairs

A Jewish tombstone, I think representing the Unknown Jew, which is a lot of people… Also, this is relavant to this week.

Ivy!

Double spiral staircase!

This bakery has been there since 1569.

The unknown knight. That’s not his real armor.

Church. Or maybe mausoleum.

Clock tower from on top of the big hill/small mountain.

So if anyone has the chance to go to Austria, go!! It’s a really nice place. I was so sad to leave… Apparently Mr. Moshammer liked me enough to give me the book of Graz! It smells good. I got a perspective I’d never even considered by going there, and it reminded me that life is a constant learning adventure.

Austrian Dialouge

I started writing about Austria, but I’m breaking it up into what I hope is more readable parts. This should really be titled “dialogue in and about Austria,” but I figured that sounded too clunky.

 

Me: (something about The Sound of Music, then remembering people tend not to like it when other countries make movies about their country) Wait… Have you seen it?

Mosi: Yes, actually. I know that’s a big deal/unusual for an Austrian, but I have.

Me: What’d you think?

Mosi: Well, I took it for what it was. (Whatever that’s supposed to mean. If you take it as “a movie made within a historical context” obviously it’s better than if you accept it as “an accurate representation of Austria during that time.”)

 

Mosi, his mom, and his sister work in the forest teaching cool things to kids. (It’s the mom’s actual job, the other two just come and help out.) Mosi was showing me a book or something of regional flowers.

Do you know what this one is?

No.

Yes you do. You know a song about it.

Edelweiss!!!

 

Hilli: Here’s the small cake I made for you to try.

Mosi: (somehow in a completely serious voice) You probably won’t like it. It has chocolate in it.

 

(while Hilli was making the cake) Mosi: and then you staple the biscuits [ladyfingers].

You staple them?

Put one on top of the other.

This makes me feel better about the stupid things I say in French. He’s fluent in English, but sometimes words get mixed up. Not a big deal. It’s still not as bad as telling an entire class of kids that the Statue of Liberty is made of leather. (cuir vs. cuivre) Oops.

 

Mr. Moshammer: When someone doesn’t speak a language very well, it depends on the intelligence of the other person to understand them.

 

Me: (after getting a kind of funny look for gulping water) I’m like a plant. I need lots of water.

Mosi: Water and sunshine… And someone to talk to you, because I’ve realized plants grow better when you talk to them.

Funny how accurate this is, concerning me anyway.

 

Mosi: We’re not alcoholic, I promise. It’s just an alcoholic culture.

Me: Don’t worry. My dad usually has bourbon or beer when he gets home from work and he’s not alco-Well he’s Austrian!

We think my grandmother’s family was from what’s now Slovenia, except for most of my life I was told Croatia… In any case, my dad’s mom is a first generation American from somewhere in the Austria-Hungarian empire. That’s the most recent anyone in my family has immigrated. Too bad she doesn’t like my dad, because she probably has interesting stories. I like stories, and I like the multi-cultural melting pot of America. Maybe I could have found some distant cousins while I was in the area!

 

Me: I heard grappa was disgusting. (link here to explain)

Mosi and Mr. Moshammer: Disgusting?!!

Mr. Moshammer: Here. (He goes and finds some) This was made in Austria, but in the Italian way. (According to the wiki article it has to be made in Italy, but wikipedia may not actually know more than real human beings.) It’s high quality stuff.

It didn’t taste that bad, actually.

 

Mr. Moshammer (later): And here’s another. It’s the same except it was left to cure in wooden barrels.

Me: That tastes more like what I’m used to.

Mosi: ‘Used to?!’ You?!! What are you used to?

Me: Whiskey.

Mosi: What have the years done to you?!

I was going to say something about my smile lines getting deeper, but instead we talked about how you can taste the wood from the barrel and how that makes it more similar to whiskey.

 

Mosi: Oh, and apart from nature things, we might stop by things you probably won’t like at all, like chocolate factories and castles.

Is this an Austrian sense of humour that’s gotten passed down to me from my father?

 

I spilled water all over my lap in a café. Hilli laughed and said, “I can hear you say it. ‘That’s me!'” She’s pretty quick.

 

Hilli: It’s raining. Look! Look at that roof! The slanted one!

Mosi: Yes, the slanted roof.

Me: The one on the house.

Mrs. Moshammer: The red one.

The view outside their window looks similar to this:

Image

 

Mosi: I’m sorry it’s too foggy to see Slovenia today. (from the top of a small mountain/large hill)

Me: Well, you said it looked just like Austria. So I’m sure the border is like drawn in permanent marker.

Mosi: Yeah, and everything is different there. The trees are blue!

And the sky’s green?

Yeah.

… Somehow, I think I’ll survive.

Well, that’s good, otherwise I’d have to drive you over there to see the blue trees.

 

At the Armory/museum Tour guide: So, who wants to try on this armor?

You would have thought I was auditioning for the part of Hermione with how excited I was when I raised my hand.

 

Tour guide: Usually suits of armor smelled pretty bad. People sweat inside, and they greased it up with animal fat.

Me: And then if you had to use the toilet…

Guide: Exactly.

French guy: Um. Just a question. If you had to go pee, what did you do?

Guide: You went in your pants. We don’t talk about it much, but it happens today too.

Me: It’s not like you can say, “Oh, hold on! Wait! I have to go pee!” In the middle of combat…

 

Then we walked into a room of swords.

Mosi: You’re happy, aren’t you? (This was not really a question, I think.)

 

The tour guide didn’t even ask who wanted to play with the replica sword. He just handed it to me. Hilli has pictures of all this somewhere.

 

Mosi: My mom doesn’t want my dad to eat a lot of garlic. Which can mean one of two things. Either she likes him so much she wants to kiss him later, or… she’s a vampire. We aren’t really sure.

Mrs. Moshammer: My secret.

 

My first day back at work, a teacher said, “Ah. She’s back la petite autrichienne!” Some things don’t sound as good translated.  But for some reason, this made me really happy. It’s only correct by a quarter of my blood, but still.

 

Emilie: Your friend’s family was nice and welcoming? See, you can go back to the US and say that Europeans are welcoming!

 

If I think about other things, I’ll add them.

Bilingual families

The night before I flew to Austria, I stayed at the home of Hannah Holler-Egea. She was the study abroad coordinator at Bellarmine and one of my French teachers, but she moved back to France last year with her French husband and her 3-ish year old son. Oddly, she studied in Rennes in Brittany during her university days at Bellarmine and then went back there to teach years later (I think), met Olivier, and stayed there until she was offered the position in the study abroad office. Hannah, Olivier, and Mathieu now live in a village called Étrelles, just outside of Rennes. It had already been vacation for a week by this point, so I was exhausted.

I told Hannah I wanted to speak French because I’d been traveling with anglophones, even though I was afraid she’d be disappointed in me. Or we sort of agreed to do that, anyway.

When we picked Mathieu up from school, she spoke English to him. I’m guessing that was her normal routine. I was surprised by his English, for some reason. It was also the first time I noticed that Hannah has an occasional Southern accent.

Because she’s had lots of practice at switching languages (and I think is just in general in a situation where fluent French is natural), she continued speaking French to me. I was sort of getting whiplash from the language switching.

At first, Mathieu was pretending (?) not to like me. This in itself was a totally new experience to me, because my kids all attack me with bisous. I think the only other kids to take an immediate dislike to me were my siblings, and that’s hardly the same thing. Once he realized I wasn’t going to steal his mother, he dropped his “game.”

Since I did a project on bilingualism last year and the whole language learning/acquisition thing interests me, I probably noticed more about Mathieu than I would have otherwise. I remember my friend Corinne babysitting him in the States and saying, “he has no idea he knows two languages.” Hannah said the move was okay for him, but he understood more French than he would speak. It was frustrating at first, because when he stayed with his French grandparents, he didn’t understand why they wouldn’t respond to English requests.

However, he picked up on registers quickly. Children are adaptable, and when something like that is a survival skill… I almost missed what was going on.

Mathieu explained to me that there was a baby in his mom’s belly, and he was going to have a brother soon. He’s going to be a really good big brother. He showed me his stuffed dog and told me that it doesn’t have boogers. All in French. He spoke to his mother in English the whole time, until Olivier got home, and then everyone spoke French.

At dinner, Hannah and Mathieu were speaking English. She told him that I don’t like vegetables, just like him. But I like meat and bread, just like him. He got really excited about this.

“Does she like ham?”

“You’ll have to ask her.”

“Est-ce-que t’adore le jambon?”

“Oui.”

“She said ‘yes.'”

When we stopped laughing, Hannah explained to Olivier, “It’s because earlier I was speaking French to her.”

That’s when I realized what was going on. Linguistically, the subconscious signals that people use to distinguish when they should speak which language (or even just whether to speak formally or informally) are called registers. I fell under Mathieu’s French register, even though he knew I was from Kentucky.

I’ve been thinking about Mathieu a lot in the past week. He now recognizes that the words he knows come from different languages. He will grow up having a perfect pronunciation and grammar in both, although of course he’s still learning that. He even responds to his name in two languages.  He seems to speak less than Anouk, but I think that’s more a personality difference and not that he is learning twice as many words. I don’t know if his desire to climb things differently and sit on them in every way except the way they were meant has anything to do with him being different than all his peers, but the difference certainly doesn’t hurt. He’s also creative when answering questions, which, again, is probably a personality thing. You’d think four would be a bit too early for sarcasm, but children do adapt to their environment. I can’t say France is full of dull, slow-witted people who never employ sarcasm for a laugh. The things flying in the sky are frogs. There’s a lake somewhere over there, maybe in the sky. Normally life is different, but maybe it isn’t today.

Over breakfast, Oliver and Hannah were trying to explain that Olivier would drop me off at a metro station in Rennes, I would take it to the train station, and take the train to Paris, then fly to Austria, a different country. (“Paris! Random person Rebecca doesn’t know lives there!!”)  Actually, Olivier kept forgetting that I wasn’t going to Hungary, and Hannah teased him about how the Hapsburg empire had ended quite some time ago. Mathieu seemed to understand and went back to eating.

A few minutes later, he asked, “Papa, but why are you going to a foreign country?”

Hannah laughed and said, “Why are you going to another country with this strange woman?” and let Olivier explain again.

Mathieu also liked that my backpack was green, which made me happy.

I’ve heard that children raised as bilinguals have lots of problems, that they learn language slower. I heard this a few months before I started writing the paper that eventually became my research poster project, and it was one of the first myths they said weren’t true. These children have smaller vocabularies in each language for a little bit, but they hit language development markers at the same pace as their peers. But I would say this is a highly individual process, and for research to be completely accurate the researchers would have to have a good basis in monolingual language development as well as both languages the child speaks.

I also heard that it’s harder for them to read at first. I suppose this makes sense, because you might have to go through the recognizing registers process all over again. As I was pondering this on a car ride through the Austrian countryside, I thought something like, “Well, if I ever have kids, they’ll be screwed anyway because neither of their parents were really good readers. Oh well.” Oops. I’m sure the implications of this (and the fact that the thought just occurred to me so naturally) are pretty apparent. I have no idea if this is right as far as child Seth’s reading. I just know he always says he’s not a very good reader, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he just didn’t have the patience for the boring stuff school makes you read. For my part, I struggled with everything in school for awhile, even reading. I apparently have a learning disorder, but I think I just learn differently. I’ve only ever heard about my particular “disorder” two other times, and once was at a conference in Limoges in November. Reading didn’t fully click with me until 2nd grade, when a teacher recommended that I read The Boxcar Children.

Now that I think about it, I owe a lot to the patience of my teachers in elementary school. Except maybe my kindergarten teachers, who didn’t realize I was memorizing books instead of reading them. It’s kind of funny I’m working for elementary schools right now.

I was going to write about Mosi’s family in Austria too, but I think that’s a post for another time. I have too many of these. Maybe I should make a list so I make sure I don’t forget anything. Even though no one besides Mosi would consider themselves bilingual or even good in English, they can communicate. I thought their English was fine for what they needed, and that his sister Hilli’s was better than she thought. But I judge people’s English on the fact that I know how hard it is to always try to speak a foreign language and that correcting every error is not actually going to produce any linguistic growth. I guess corrections are good, though. I appreciate when people tell me things in French… There were still linguistic occurrences worth noting.

I’ve been relying on the kindness of others a lot lately. Not in a bad way, just in the “I’m actually accepting offers to stay with people and whatever help they also offer.” Mosi is not the first person to tell me that I need to stop thinking about this in terms of accruing debt to people. But I still think it would be perfect if Anouk and/or Jean came to the US when they’re older and me having the opportunity to feed them would be perfect.

I’ve realized I prefer staying with families. I really enjoy that dynamic. What this says about me, I’m not sure. But I think it gives a much more home-y, inside view of a culture and how people live there. Or maybe home is just such an important concept to me that I’m interested in seeing how it happens in so many different ways in different places but still is undeniably a home.