lundi 28 juillet 2008

I saw a French chicken cross the road...and other musings.

Bonjour, toute le monde.

Just thought I would give an update: I've returned from France and am already homesick for it. A friend of mine wrote the other day about the UK, that she has a "longing, for a little set of isles I've yearned to visit since I was a wee girl; a place on which I've never set foot but somehow feels like Home."  I feel similarly about France...though I didn't spend a lot of time there, it is home.  

Anyway, one horrible thing about France is the Charles De Gaul airport~I was stuck there for three hours because our plane was late.  Not only was I stuck there, but apparently an efficient security system is completely beyond their realm of comprehension.  In the States, there might be two large lines and then ten or fifteen security checks for people to go through.  At the Paris airport, there's just a mass of people waiting to go through two security check points.  The worst part, though, is that once you actually get through the security checkpoint, there is only one snack bar for the entire terminal, with just one person behind the counter.  I think that was one of the only times I muttered, "This is so typically French" and meant it in a completely negative way.    

I am now home safe and sound, luggage intact, and was only awake for 28 hours straight on my travel "day."  I posted  a few new photos (of my host family and some friends) at the end of this album.

Now to a few days of doing what I love: reading books (currently The Code of the Woosters and Economic Policy), newspapers, laughing with my family, cooking, catching up with friends, and listening to my latest favorite song, by an Aussie band.  

One last funny anecdote: on the way to Fletcher's house this week, a chicken crossed the road. This was funny for three reasons.  First, it was the only chicken I've ever seen cross a road. Second, at lunch one day, we all had been reading The Book of General Ignorance, in which we learned that a chicken with its head cut off can live (and thrive) for five years. Finally, I found myself actually wondering (before I thought about the joke) why it crossed the road.  I mean, really, why would a chicken ever need to cross a road? 

The other day I read (in the Book of General Ignorance) the best quote by Lord Keynes: "My only regret in life is that I did not drink more champagne."

Until the next time, 


"Falling" by Macalmont and Butler.

lundi 21 juillet 2008

The British Open.

Bonsoir, toute le monde.

Yesterday, my friend Fletcher called and said, "I'm coming to pick you up, but Tomtom [his GPS system] just told me I have to turn around, so it'll probably be like ten minutes."  In Fletcher time, that's like twenty minutes.  But eventually, he and I and two of our friends wound up at his parents house for the afternoon and evening.  We had a great time: it involved ping-pong, dominoes, heavy doses of Paul Simon, The Kooks, and a song called See You Again.  We also had lunch (we had some amazingly hot mustard, of which I've become a huge fan) and Fletcher's signature drink, the "Tropical Thunderstorm" (dark rum, coconut rum, mango-orange juice, and tonic).  I could leave it at that, and you would probably think we were pretty cool (minus See You Again), but I have to confess that we sat around for a good portion of the afternoon reading Herald Tribunes and watching the British Open (I'm a bit sad that Greg Norman didn't win...but how cool is it that Harrington is defending the British Open~has that even happened before?).  Anyway, we had a great time, and I'm playing golf at the oldest golf course in Europe (itwas established in 1856) on Friday, because Fletcher needs someone he can actually beat at golf (that would be me).  True story: I actually have a golf course appropriate outfit here in Pau, too, so that's a happy coincidence.

Just thought I would give you an update on my Sunday in France.  



dimanche 20 juillet 2008

The day I bought a beret.

Bonjour, mes amis.

Yesterday, we went to the Parc National des Pyrenees and hiked to Lac de Gaube.  It was a beautiful day, as you can see from these photos.  

Before the hike, we went to the Musee du beret, which I had thought was going to be lame.  It wasn't.  We watched a video about the history of the beret, which was really informative.  There are only two authentic beret factories left in France.  One in Nay (where we were yesterday), and one in the town where we went whitewater rafting.  They stay in business mostly because of army orders (the French army orders berets for their uniforms, as do some African armies, as well as some sects of the US army), as well as individual buyers.  Different berets are specific to different regions in France (although now people wear whichever one looks best). For example, berets from Corse are wider because there is a lot of sun there.  There are three traditional colors of the french beret~black, navy, and brown (and red for some special occasions).  The video we watched also interviewed people about the beret, which was so adorable that I wanted to steal the dvd out of the player so I could watch it again (don't worry, I restrained myself).  There was one elderly gentleman who told a story about the beret.  He said (with a really thick southern french accent) that when you're little, you get a little beret and steal cherries with it, and when you're an adult, you get a big beret so you can beat the kid who stole the cherries.  

We also learned about the process of manufacturing the beret.  It's knit by a machine in a circular motion, and then shrunk in hot water and soap.  After that, it's dried, and then all the little nubs are brushed off with a rotating bristle brush machine.  Then it's inspected, and then they add the official silk lining and symbol, to show it's an authentic beret.  After that, they add leather strips to it, to help it maintain its shape, and then a red bow to indicate the back brim from the front.  The authentic ones are completely waterproof and practically indestructible.   

Of course I bought one.  I'm going to wear it all the time, I've decided.


vendredi 18 juillet 2008

Rafting helmets: the universal equalizer.

Bonsoir, mes amis.

I hope all is well on the other side of the pond.

I had a first today: I went whitewater rafting in the Pyrenees. You may wonder, "Was it as cool as it sounds?" The response is a resounding yes. Not only did I go whitewater rafting, I also jumped down a waterfall (it was only about three meters~no, I can't convert to yards~high, but it was cool just the same).

Remember how I said that my new dream summer job is to be a journalist who follows the Tour de France? Scratch that. I want to be a whitewater rafting guide. They just whitewater raft all day, get a great tan, and meet lot of cool people (like our group, obviously). It also helps that the guides we had were really cute french boys, which made the job seem extra-appealling.

The only downside to the day was that we all had to wear ridiculous outfits: wetsuits, watershoes, enormous lifevests, and helmets. Wetsuits flatter no one (I repeat, no one), watershoes are squelchy and ugly, these particular lifevests were red and absolutely enormous (we all looked like the Pilsbury dough boy's lobster cousins), and the helmets were plastic (they looked like those helmets you put on kids who are, you know, special) and came in pale pink, pale blue, or florescent yellow). Rafting outfits are definitely bonding and equalizing apparel.



jeudi 17 juillet 2008

Funniest thing ever.


J'ai une petite histoire:

My host dad got back from rockclimbing tonight (the rest of the family is on holiday) around 23h45 (11:45) and he helped me with my French presentation (he thought it was funny that I thought the humor in "Asterix et Obelix" was "typically French"), until about 00h15 (12:15), while listening to some techno-esque music.  We then said goodnight, and I went into my room. For about the next fifteen minutes or so, he blasted the music and sang to it (he's something of an aspiring musician, though he can neither play the guitar nor sing very well).  It was the funniest thing ever.  


Une petite poignée (a small smattering).

Bonjour, mes amis. 

Just a quick note. 

I've finally had a moment to upload some pictures onto Facebook (some old Paris pictures, some new Biarritz photos from our trip this weekend, and a photo of me and my teacher from the first summer session).  

I started the long and frustrating process of packing/freaking out about my luggage not arriving back in the States (we've had four different students lose their luggage or have it arrive late with things missing from it).  Somehow, even though I didn't buy a lot of things, I managed to fill a second duffel bag (!).  Also, I neglected to bring a luggage scale, and the only scale I can find in the house is (obviously) in kilos, so that doesn't help me much.  So complicated.

I'm off to pack for this weekend (mountain hiking and white-water-rafting), and finish my chorizo and boursin baguette sandwich, which I am having for dinner.  

One last thing: I heard a cute song today in my History of French Song class, by Gerard Lenorman, called Si j'etais president.


mardi 15 juillet 2008

I don't even know how to categorize this.

Bonjour, mes amis.

Before I launch into my saga, I just had the most mortifying experience. I attempted to order pizza (for delivery) for dinner (salmon pizza and Spanish chorizo pizza~le saumon et l'espagnole), and I had my little speech all prepared. I called, and the guy who answered acted like I was a complete idiot. It doesn't seem like ordering pizza should be difficult, but you have to give an address, phone number, town, and what you would like (in my case, I needed both of the pizzas without olives). Luckily, the pizza arrived. It's the same thing when you call for taxis~I've simply concluded that communication in a foreign language is more difficult when it's not face-to-face.

Alors, ce lundi, c'etait la Fete de la Nationale (Mondaywas Bastille Day). We were at the starting line for le Tour de France in the morning, c'etait super (it was great). We were so close to the cyclists that we had to be careful not to accidentally touch them. I was with three friends and all of us kept saying (like giddy children), "Guys, we're at the Tour de France!" We didn't stick out as tourists at all. This was the 62nd time the Tour de France has gone through Pau, and this "etape" (chapter, or 'leg') of the route is one of the most challenging in all of the 21 etapes in the race. There was a huge parade preceding the departure of the cyclists, and tons of media coverage. I've decided that my new dream job for a summer is to be a journalist who follows the Tour. There were journalists from all over the world, and camera men were everywhere, climbing trees and lampposts to get a good angle.

One observation: I always thought of the French as quite patriotic, but other than the flags on the castle, no one even said "Happy Fete de la Nationale" or burst out into the national anthem. Everyone was excited for the Tour de France, but no one seemed to care that it was Bastille Day. C'etait un peu bizarre (it was a bit strange).

Metta and I went back to my house after lunch for a small afternoon nap, which turned into a two-hour long nap. The Wednesday before, we had been followed to my house by a strange cat, and when we returned to the bus stop later in the afternoon, the same cat followed us back and sat at the bus stop with us. We thought it was a bit strange, but forgot about it. Sunday night, Metta and I were walking back from the train station late (after our trip to the coast), and the same cat jumped out from nowhere and followed us home. It looked like it wanted to come into the house, so we closed the door behind us and made sure all of the windows and doors were locked (mind you, my host family was still out of town at this point. They had said they would be home on Friday night, but no one arrived until Monday morning, when my host dad showed up and simply said that the rest of the family has decided to stay for an extra week at the coast). Metta went into the restroom, and I was in my room. All of sudden, I heard Metta shreak. I rushed to the restroom, and she simply pointed at the window: the cat was staring in at her through it. A bit later, Metta was brushing her teeth in the bathroom (not the same room as the room with the toilet. In France, there is usually one room with a toilet, and another room with a shower and sink). I heard a loud "Thunk" on the bathroom window and Metta shreaked again. The cat had literally thrown itself against the window, in a vain attempt to get into the house. It then proceeded to spend the night mewing outside of my bedroom window.

Monday, when we returned for our afternoon nap, my host dad had opened up the house, and we saw the same cat roaming around indoors. I asked, "Pascal, that's not our cat, is it?" He simply said, "No, I've never seen it before." The French are so strange. But not half as strange as their cats.

For my french class, Metta and I have to give a thirty-minute presentation on the topic of our choice. I chose Asterix et Obelix, a french comic book. It's really funny, with typically french humor (for example, they make fun of other countries and their languages, comme ca).

That's all for now, but I hope to write more soon,