Things I don’t want to forget

“Alban cried when Anouk was born. Jean too, actually. Just like at the end of Rocky.” Emilie  The idea of Alban crying is… odd. I’m not sure he actually cried at the end of Rocky or if Emilie just teases him about it.

 

 

(I blew the seeds off dandelion head.)

Anouk: But, Rebecca, you’re supposed to make a wish!

Me: I did. I just didn’t say it out loud. I said it in my head, because if you heard it, it wouldn’t come true.

Anouk: Well, you could have told me to cover my ears. Like this. Cover your ears, and I’m going to make a wish.

 

 

Jean started calling me Re…ca right before I left. I thought if my life were a movie, he’d say “Rebecca” as I was leaving, but that didn’t happen. He got close enough.

 

 

One of the schools gave me a book of Corrèze and signed it. Anouk and Jean were there too. Jean can’t write yet so he signed by drawing a snail. The principal presented it to me over a glass of champagne in the school kitchen. (I’m not likely to forget this, but I thought I’d write it anyway.)

 

 

The amount of alcohol in the school refrigerators in general. How often are these people sober?

 

 

In another school once they had rabbit guts in the fridge. I assume it was something one of the teachers brought to share with everyone for lunch. Something like she brought the whole rabbit and the guts were left in the fridge. I never would have noticed. But a couple of kids came into the break room just to tell me that there were rabbit guts in the refrigerator and show them to me so I would know how disgusting they were.

 

 

The looks Isabelle and I exchanged when Emilie said she was fatter than her and talking about how she was going to lose the kilo (2.2 lbs, I believe) she gained.

 

 

I told Emilie that Seth told me to say thank you for making sure I was okay, and that it was a relief to him at the beginning that I was with good people. She nodded and said, “We didn’t eat you. We’re not cannibals.”

 

 

Anouk: (after at least 2 months in) And this, Rebecca, is the bathroom.

Me: Oh, really? I thought it was the…

Emilie: You thought it was the kitchen?

Me: Yes. Because, you see, we eat in the bathtub in the US.

Anouk: Mom, did you hear? Rebecca said they eat in the bathtub!

 

 

At a bar once with Meg, a guy came over and first tried to impress me with his English. That didn’t work. He then tried to impress me with his knowledge of US geography. Kentucky is next to Brasil. That almost worked (sarcasm). Everyone’s reactions to this story later were priceless. Maria was amazed and Emilie said that when she first saw me she thought I must be Brazilian or Spanish because of my dark coloring.

 

Me: The last Harry Potter movie came out on my birthday.

Shannon: I’m sorry if this is weird, but is your birthday July 15th?

 

On Easter Sunday, we had an unplanned party, and it was one of the best parties I’ve ever been to.

 

Whenever I would pick Jean up, he always put his hand around the celtic necklace I wear and said “Beau… collier, ca. Beau, collier.”  Translation/filling in the sentence blanks: Your necklace is beautiful, Rebecca. Funny how after the first time he did that, a student told me he thought my necklace was pretty and then one of the Spanish guys commented on how it fit me well. (Isn’t that generally why people wear jewelry?)

 

Emilie picked up a leaf once and put it in her hair. It was an amazing hair accessory.

 

All the plays on words we (mostly Kaitie and Elli) would come up with, and Maria’s famous expression “C’est pas logique: c’est la France.” It’s not logical: it’s France.

 

Of course, there are thousands more, but then I’d be writing a never-ending list…

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Since You’ve Been Gone (Also: “Since You’ve Been Home”, but that’s not a song).

I’ll probably be posting for the next month or so about France/Italy, because I never got around to saying a lot of what I wanted to. But first, something a little more relevant.

Since I’ve been gone:

  1. Mice have taken over the house. They poop everywhere. I have no idea whether anyone has thought to put up traps, but I don’t see any. Midnite is the only cat allowed inside and he’s old and doesn’t like mice. So that’s useful.
  2. My sisters took over my room. Predictable. But the state I got it back in is… Interesting. Because of the next thing.
  3. The leak (that’s been going on at least 3 years) in my closet has been fixed. However, the mold is still there, possibly still growing on the old water damage. I had to move my closet into my room before I left, and had everything precariously arranged. (I think.) My sisters had to do whatever it was that they did to live in my room while I was gone, meaning nothing is where I think I left it and a couple of things are broken.
  4. My dad built a tack barn for the horse stuff. It has a lock and everything. It’s also where they decided to put the cat food.
  5. I’ll spare you the sob story of me being a horrible plant mommy freshman year of college. The short version is that I had a lavender plant hanging on to life in a clay pot (I transplanted it as it got bigger, and I was keeping it in a pot because I wanted to take it with me wherever I moved) until last summer, when I finally told my dad to plant it outside. It grew really fast in the soil, and now, it has flowers! It’s so big and purple!
  6. Last year, we (my dad) redid our back porch, which included ripping off the steps and ripping out the bushes just in front of the house. 😦 And throwing away the old broken door with a “Love an Engineer” bumper sticker on the window that someone stuck there becasue they thought it was a window sticker… Anyway, my dad finished making the space between where the house and the stairs start look fancy. No more bushes, no more falling apart brick wall thing .I don’t really know how to describe it, so I hope the picture makes it make sense.It’s too fancy. I’m not really sure that this is the same house I grew up in.
  7. There’s also a new dormat that I like. It looks like rocks!And my shadow, but that’s not really supposed to be there…
  8. Robert’s in Hendersonville (?), KY for the summer. He’s a paid intern for Tyson chicken. All I know is he’s living in the middle of nowhere and I haven’t seen him since August.
  9. Rachel’s moved into Robert’s room. There’s a pink rug.
  10. No one had cleaned out the litterbox in forever.
  11. The girls are using the top of the dryer as a 4th closet or something instead of just a temporary storing place.

Since I’ve been home:

  1. My sisters tried to singlehandedly start World War 3.
  2. Eeyore, the little grey kitten Ryann had to adopt right before I left now lets me pet her. She’s also bigger than before.
  3. The horse slobbered all over my hand. At least she didn’t bite it.
  4. Rachel’s ring ceremony was yesterday and her junior prom is tomorrow. Since she needed more reasons to be a princess. But seriously, I was laughing throughout the ceremony for some reason, although it probably looked like I was crying. I think I was slap happy, but in my defense, funny things were happening. I feel so old.
  5. The sister fight was so bad that Ryann didn’t go to Rachel’s ring ceremony. As far as I remember, she normally would have gone without a second thought because Rachel is her best friend.
  6. I woke up at 5 my first morning back and did laundry. I still don’t feel adjusted properly. I’m so tired I fall asleep in my dreams. Also, a couple of people have pointed out that I have reverse culture shock.
  7. I’ve applied to summer jobs.
  8. I need to figure out my life before school starts in August.
  9. I have a disaster of a room to clean and try to fit stuff in. I think I’m going to do a major clothes/book/stuff donation. There just isn’t enough space. Maybe this is a sign of needing to move out. I am ready to live in more than one room.
  10. On mother’s day, my mom told all the waiters that I had just gotten home as I was explaining the Italian on the menu to Seth.
  11. I want cheese and baguettes and Emilie’s crepes. Even French restaurant crepes aren’t as good as hers.

All these adjustments and I haven’t made it back to TKD yet. I’m very much an uprooted plant at the moment. Luckily this time I know I have help.

Things Children Say/Do (Part III)

Their General Bluntness:

Anouk: Rebecca, I find you really beautiful without glasses.

Thanks?

 

Class one day: Rebecca, we don’t have a teacher because his wife is dead!

Pretty sure I didn’t breathe for a bit.

 

Anouk: I want to KILL Cruella!

Emilie and I both had to explain to her why such violence towards a fictional character probably wasn’t good.

 

 

Knowing how to irritate people:

(during a lesson on St. Patrick’s day, while I’m trying to explain how leprechauns are different from elves) Kid: I went to Ireland once.

Me: Really? Did you see any leprechauns?

Kid: (scoffs) No. They don’t exist.

Me: Well, it’s like Tinkerbelle. You can’t say they don’t exist, or-

Kid: They don’t exist.

Sometimes I act more like a child than an 8 year old. Oh well. To be fair, this was probably a stupid thing to ask of an 8 year old. But I want faeries/fairies/however you want to spell them to exist. It’d be fun.

 

 

Interesting cultural understandings:

(In a different class, putting a poster of St. Patrick’s day stuff on the board. In the center of the poster is a leprechaun and a sheep) Me or Teacher: Okay, can you describe what this is a poster of?

Kid: An Irishman!

Me: … (in my head, then sorta mumbled later on) Irish people don’t normally have pointed ears, but oh well.

 

One of the teachers let the kids just ask questions about the US on my last day. Anything they wanted. They came up with interesting things, like “How many cities are there in North America?” and “How do you grow food in America? How do you raise animals?” Luckily I could sort of answer those ones…

 

There is a girl in Emilie’s class I’d always assumed was Spanish because her name is Rosalinda and she seemed to be a couple of years older than her peers (meaning she was put in a class lower than her age when her family immigrated to give her time to catch up with French in order to understand the actual lessons.)

Rosalinda: Rebecca, did you know “oval” means “egg” in my language?

Me: No, I didn’t. It comes from “egg” in English, because it’s the same shape. What’s your first language?

Rosalinda: Turkish.

In which Rebecca learns not only the nationality of a student, but also a word in Turkish. Your linguistics lesson of the day: “oval” and words like it (“ovular,” “ovaries”) really do come from “egg,” which in French is “oeuf.” Makes sense. There are so many cool things hidden in language.

 

(doing a presentation on the US. There’s a picture of George Washington. One student was really, really confused.) “He’s a president! Now? Of France? Oh, right, we’re not talking about France. Wait. He’s dead?”

(after explaining that university in the US is really, really expensive, the teacher then asked questions about driving. It cost at least 1,000 euros just to get a licence in France.) One girl (Elisa?): So, you go to the US to get your driver’s licence, but come to France to go to university.

Smart kid.

 

 

Firmin:

I don’t think I’ve mentioned him. Laguenne is the only school I worked at without a different class for special needs kids. Firmin took a liking to me after the first lesson and spent the next three weeks telling me a story about some doctor lady who is from England but now lives in Canada but was his doctor at some point… I never fully understood, because he always told the story while turning in circles. He asked me in all seriousness, “Have you seen her?” Like all of North America is as small as Tulle and its environs. (“Environ’s an English word too, right?) And he kept repeating, “Il y a beaucoup de neige en Canada… Mais c’est vrai qu’il y a beaucoup de neige en Canada.” Yes, indeed. There is a lot of snow in Canada.

 

 

Wisdom on boys:

Zoé: Boys are stupid. It’s horrible!

Me: It doesn’t change, either. Well, actually, it does get a little better. Some of them aren’t stupid anymore.

Zoé: No, it doesn’t get better. Boys are dumb. They always will be.

I wish I’d heard something like this about girls… (Likely a boy wouldn’t tell his female teacher that, though.) The only thing I heard about a boy was a “Pierre, you can’t touch girls’ butts!” from the teacher. I think it was the same day he and Zoé were fighting over something and he tried to get her in trouble for hitting him. So this is probably part of why she thinks boys are stupid.

And I thought I was getting away from this by working with children.

 

 

Jean being cute:

There’s a flower in France called a coucou, more officially called a primevère. According to wordreference.com, in English these are called primroses. They’re small yellow bell flowers.

original photo here

Emilie was trying to describe these to me and how it was weird that there weren’t more of them. She somehow spotted one on the side of the road and pulled over and told me to pick it. She then said it was mine, because otherwise it would be war if Anouk had one but Jean didn’t. For the rest of the day Anouk was upset and searched everywhere for a flower because it was so unjust that she didn’t have one. Of course, I left “my” flower there in a glass of water. According to Emilie, a few days later, Jean picked up the glass and stood outside the guest bedroom where I normally sleep saying “Ka, Ka.” He can’t, or maybe just won’t, say my whole name. I spelled it with a “k” to differentiate between my name and “caca.” Anyway, when Emilie told him I wasn’t there, he cried. He had to go to the daycare that day (I guess because the grandmother was busy?) and he took the flower with him.

 

Anouk was at dance class. While shopping, we passed raddishes, which Anouk loves. Jean saw them and exclaimed, “Anouk!” So Emilie looked at the price and bought some raddishes.

 

(holding out a leaf) “Tiens, Ka.” (translation: “Take this as a present, Rebecca.”)

 

 

Anouk being a sponge for whatever goes on in her life:

“Well, I’m not voting for anyone. Because politicians are all liars.” (the exact words of her mother)

 

“Okay, we’re going to play orphans. Our parents are dead and there’s a hunter trying to kill us. Let’s run!” Er, what? Again, what goes on at that school of hers? I know this is probably a normal, healthy way of dealing with dark things (because dark things are going to happen), but a 5 year old saying this so directly is shocking.

 

 

Last day of classes:

Thursdays I worked (past tense!) one hour before recreation and one hour after. During the recreation, two girls kept begging me to stay.

Girl #1: Please, please stay?

Me: I can’t. I’m sorry I can’t…

Her: You don’t like us!

I do! I just have to go home.

I have an idea! All your family and friends can just move here!

Um… What about the horses? You can’t move them.

Yes! Pleasee!

Girl #2: Horses are her favourite animal.

 

Continued… Me: I’ll come back!

Her: Okay, when you come back we’ll meet here.

Me: Okay. How will I find you?

Me: Next year you’ll have another English assistant and you won’t even remember me.

Her: I don’t want another assistant. I want you! And I will remember!

 

This continued almost throughout the entire recreation. These two girls, and later a boy surrounded me and were hugging onto my arms and begging me not to leave. I had no idea I’d left any impression on them at all. I looked over at the circle of teachers and shrugged.

I managed to get into the teachers lounge for a tea. I said, “I have no idea what I did!” Kathy, the teacher woman who takes care of Firmin, just said, “You’re good with children.” Oh.

 

At the end of the next class, the teacher explained that it was my last day.

Sebastian (not the “best” student, but you can tell he’s intelligent) : Oh my God!!

Teacher: See, Sebastian can speak English when he wants to.

 

It was raining as I was waiting for the bus. All the seats in the shelter were wet, so I stood in the corner. It hit me that I was done working, that a chapter of my life was closing. I teared up a little. The image is sort of poetic, really. Or maybe my days as an English major ruined my perspective on perfectly normal events.

 

 

Some lasting effects:

I saw a kid walking down the street about a month ago by herself on the way to the high school. When I got there, I told Maria, “That girl is walking out there all by herself.” Maria then teased me about how, because of my work, I worry about children. “She’s by herself, him, he’s cold- he should go get a jacket, oh, that one’s sick…” I’m not really sure it’s because of work, I think it’s more that we’re taught in the US that all sorts of bad things can and do happen to children when they’re alone. I think Tulle might be a little safer than a big city, and in all reality, the girl was probably right down the street from home.

 

Anytime I see a kid under the age of 12, I keep expecting to recognize them. I taught 3/4-ish of the children that passed through Tulle on a regular basis. Almost anytime I left my apartment I saw one of them. Even in Italy, I thought I recognized children several times. Then I remembered, not only am I done with my contract and in a different city, but these kids are in a different country speaking a different language.

La fin

I hate saying goodbye to people. Elli left last week and two Spanish-speaking friends in Brive left a few days ago. I’ve finished work, which means I’ve had to explain to small children that I’ll probably never see them again.

Things I’ll miss:

  • People, obviously.
  • Kaitie sneezed. Three people said “bless you” in three different languages. I’ll miss the silly things like this that happen in our daily lives.
  • Also misunderstandings due to this multiculturalism and our different accents in French. The other day we were talking about how your hair still grows after you die. Maria said “and the nails” and somehow, because of at least one mis-hearing, it led to jokes about how we’ll be sexy when we die because our… chest area will grow.
  • Bread
  • Emilie’s crepes.
  • Anouk insisting on holding my hand. I guess this goes under “people”…
  • The ways people say my name in their language.
  • Chocolate.
  • Getting drawings from kids [with my name spelled n’importe comment. In case you were wondering, there’s no “q” in my name].
  • Working in something that applies to (both!) my undergrad degree(s) and feeling occasionally useful.

Things I want to do when I get home:

  • See people, obviously. My cat counts as a person. Well, I’m his human, but whatever. He’s the second most important. (Unrealistically. My family is realistically more important. But I don’t cuddle with them.)
  • Hug!
  • Hear the way my name sounds “without an accent.” I know I said I’ll miss it being said differently. I make no sense this way. I’ll also like that people will know how to spell my name.
  • Be in situations that are at least slightly more logical. Like post offices having tape.
  • A return to TKD. I think all my friends here can tell I have the restless legs. Even though my legs will be so sore…
  • Peanut butter.
  • Root beer.
  • Wear more than the same few sets of clothes.
  • Living somewhere where people aren’t screaming or crying every 30 minutes. Nevermind, that’s not a certainty.
  • Having the convenience of things being open on Sundays and having everything I need sold at one store.
  • This one applies to the first one. (And is kinda what I meant by part of it.) Cuddling. Not being so far away. Having some part of that sappy ideal movie William Wallace would have had if  the English hadn’t been so eager to kill people.

“What is my life?”

Possibly amusing moments where these words went through my head.

  • Getting off the plane in Austria, I ran into a wall and said, “Pardon” in French.
  • Asking the lady in the convenient store in the Brive train station for a bag because I felt sick.
  • Almost anytime I’m playing some inventive game of Anouk’s. Particularly the morbid one where people pretend to fall to their deaths trying to climb up the slide. “Rebecca, it’s your turn to die now!” What?! What does she learn at school? But don’t worry, Jean is wise beyond his two years; he’s a doctor that knows all the magical reviving powers of sand and dandelions.
  • I got a good story idea in the middle of class because my back hurt.
  • The only day the bus is on time is the only day I’m 30 seconds behind it.
  • I heard an unnecessarily loud plane today. Then I thought, “Oh, it’s almost time for Thunder over Louisville” (meaning that the planes would be practicing for the air show beforehand). Then I remembered that they probably don’t have Thunder over Tulle two weeks before Derby.
  • Anytime I’m reflecting on life lessons/things I think sound meaningful and cool during something boring or when I should be paying attention to the world.
  • Any time I think about the future, I realize I’m thinking about my days with French patterns. ex: having a two hour lunch break.

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.

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.