October 2002 archive

(116 entries)

October 30, 2002

Pictures, continued

Mouse over for captions, if you please.

Sophie's braids, as done in Mali (and as undone in Grenoble)

Y a quoi à Vichy? (to be continued...)

School sweet school

Trip to la Grande Chartreuse

Assistants' Meeting in Clermont-Ferrand

srah | 10:16 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, clermont-ferrand, grenoble, host family, photos, travel, vichy

October 29, 2002

Language nerd

At the library today, I borrowed a book-and-tape set for continued Spanish study, a book-free Russian tape set, a book on conversational Italian, and L'Auvergnat de poche, a recently published book of words and phrases from the native language of Auvergne. If I tried to learn them all, I would get terribly confused and my head would explode, but it's mostly just to stick my toe in a few new languages and to learn some rules for each one.

The tapes are rather old and stretched, so I may have to pick another language where they have CDs, which would be clearer and easier to understand. It's hard enough to learn Russian with nothing written down, but garbly tapes certainly aren'tt going to make it any easier.

srah | 12:45 PM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, language

Non, merci

I have been offered at least five cups of coffee/tea by at least three people since 3:30, when I sat down at this computer. I still don't know if they're trying to hit on me or make up for me having to wait. NO TEA PLEASE!

srah | 12:00 PM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, cybercafe

First of many

My dad sent me a sample photo from the three rolls I sent with Becky to be developed in the US on paper and CD-ROM. La voici:

srah | 11:05 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, photos

Dave Barry à la française

Hee hee... an internet Dave Barry Column creator.

Recently in Vichy (motto: "Casse-toi!"), residents reported an outbreak of video game nerds. Perhaps you think there are no video game nerds in Vichy. Perhaps you are an idiot. As the French say, au contraire (literally: "I can smell you from France.!"). I have here in my hands a copy of an Associated Press article sent in by alert reader Cheryl, whose name can be rearranged to spell "CLHYER", although that is not my main point. "Cheryl", by the way, only has the letters "Ceyl" in in common with "Monica Lewinsky", so there is no other reason to mention Monica Lewinsky in this column.

According to a quote which I am not making up, from Vichy Mayor Valéry Giscard-d'Estaing (formally "Mayor Valéry Giscard-d'Estaing" and informally "Grover"), video game nerds ranks as a major crisis just behind index finger, middle finger and thumb (insert your "pinky" joke here), as evidenced by the following conversation between Vichy government employees:

FIRST VICHY EMPLOYEE: "I'm totally out of here, dude."
SECOND VICHY EMPLOYEE: "You are quite a poopy individual."
FIRST VICHY EMPLOYEE: "I shall kill you with many sharp knives."

Fortunately I have a suggestion for Mayor Grover, and that is: kick George Steinbrenner's head.

No, seriously, my suggestion does not involve George Steinbrenner's head, although it might involve enslaving Tobacco Institute scientists. My suggestion is more along the lines of a coup de grace, from the French coup, meaning "move", and de grace, meaning "to Vichy and drink stagnant water all day". The procedure (you may want to write this down):

1. flush it down the toilet
2. plunging

But instead the Vichy city council (motto: "We'll benefit and protect people when you pry the hot dog out of our cold, dead fingers") thinks that they (the video game nerds) will play mooing games, scream at each other, and hit on any girls entering the place soon, sending this message to the public, and to the world: "I SUCK.".

Speaking of which, "The Vichy Video game nerds Outbreak" would be a great name for a rock band.


srah | 11:00 AM | TrackBack
Tags: discovered

Attack of the nerds

I knew I would not make it through the week without Internet access and that the reserve-in-advance free access at the library would not cut it because they have a cracked-out system that resets itself to the home page if you don't wiggle the mouse every few minutes, so that you can be typing a blog-post about Persuasion, for example, when all of a sudden you find yourself at the library home page.

Needless to say, that will not do. (And yet I said it, even thought it was needless!) So I was forced to go to Echapp, also known as Chez Nerd. I walked in and the place was packed. I took a look around and asked if there were any free computers. The guy said no and suggested that I try again in half an hour. As I turned around to leave, I heard a voice suggest "Vous voulez pas un petit café en attendant?" I went out the door and one guy who works there leaned out and repeated the offer, which I politely declined, mumbling that I had to go home or something, because I don't like coffee, I didn't want to be surrounded by nerds, and I wasn't sure of the implications of his offer. I'm not sure if he was suggesting it because I was a girl or because I was a potential customer...

srah | 8:28 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, cybercafe

October 28, 2002

The best baguette I have ever tasted

When I first moved into my apartment, I realized that I was going to have to find somewhere to buy my daily bread. My first baguette vichyssoise was from Casino and was rather disappointing. The next day I went to La Mie Câline and found a baguette that was softer and less crumbly - much more to my liking.

Once I found one baguette I liked, I stopped looking, so I've been buying my baguettes there for almost a month. Today I showed up and the woman looked at me and said "Une baguette?" I have been recognized! I am a regular!

It's always been a dream of mine to be a regular somewhere - the Cheers phenomenon, where you want to go where everyone knows your name. Or at least your "usual".

In addition to being recognized, the baguette she sold me was just out of the oven and still warm. Mmmmmmmmmmmm. If I could shrink myself down, I would live inside this baguette - that is how good it is.

srah | 11:27 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship

The most disturbing song in the whole wide world

"Oh virgin..." began the Muzak song as I was grocery shopping. What an odd beginning for a song, I thought, Maybe I misheard it. It was a song in the style of Bobby Vinton, or any one in a number of 1950s-early 60s male singers. It felt very familiar to me, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it until it got to the chorus:

"Like a virgin - that's right! - touched for the very first time..."

Infinitely more hilarious and disturbing that the Mike Flowers Pops' version of Wonderwall was this bouncy little version of Madonna's song. But I'm sure I was the only one at Casino who recognized and understood the lyrics and walked down the aisles laughing to herself.

srah | 5:54 AM | TrackBack
Tags: music

October 27, 2002

Restauration rapide

Once again, we have managed to commit a deportation-worthy offense: that of squatting in a restaurant. We went to a chocolaterie/patisserie/restauration rapide for lunch in Thiers and sat there for an hour and a half, nursing various foods and drinks and chatting and giggling, while waiting for the rain to let up. Thankfully the lady was very nice about it, but we still felt guilty afterwards.

And here's a message for one of my favorite pastries, in case it's out there reading: I love you, flan.

srah | 7:53 PM | TrackBack
Tags: food, travel

Money can so buy knives

Last night when we parted, Jennifer, Renata and I decided we should do "something" today - a "something" that might include travelling "somewhere".

When we met at the train station this morning, we deliberated on a destination and finally settled on Thiers, a 45-minute bus ride away in the Puy-de-Dôme department (63).

On a side note, I only just realized that the last two digits on French license plates refer to the department the car is from - thus cars from Vichy have a 03 for Allier. Now I like to look out for cars from other departments and am hunting for 38s (Isère, Grenoble's department). Now back to the topic at hand...

So we took the bus to Thiers. Along the way we saw corn, cows, and the cute little town of St-Yorre. We arrived at the bus/train station of Thiers, which seems to be famous for three things: being medieval, being built on a hill, and knives.

Being medieval was interesting because there were narrow streets and old buildings with big beams on the outside. Do not ask me what that architectural style is called - I am very likely to describe it as "old, with big beams on the outside." So I hope you can picture it. There were narrow streets with tall buildings on either side, little tunnels and staircases all over, and it was very old and quaint.

Being built on a hill meant that we did a lot of climbing and descending. Climbing sounded like this: ergh ugh hmph. Descending sounded like this: thump thump thump, as we stomped down the street. We went up and down and up and down, not only in the old medieval part of the city, but down to the river, across the bridge, and up the other side a few times. There were some lovely views to be seen and photographed.

Then we come to knives. Thiers' claim to fame is their knife factories, which all seem to be deserted. But there are still plenty of knives made somewhere around, because there are precisely one billion knife stores in Thiers. All of this made me think, all day long, of the great thespian Rob Schneider, when in that great dramatic work Surf Ninjas, he participated in the following exchange:

"We are looking for something money can't buy. The Knives of Kwan Su."

"Knives? Money can't buy knives? So, I walk into a knife store and I tell the clerk, 'Here's a million dollars, can I buy a knife?' and the clerk says, 'NO! Money can't buy knives.'"

Renata bought some knives (who says money can't buy knives) and the chatty knife-selling man talked to us and asked us what we were doing here and all. He thought I was French at first, but later precised that I had *presque* pas d'accent, accenting the presque. Oh well, it's a compliment anyway.

Perhaps more adventures in Auvergne shall follow later in the week.

srah | 7:42 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, quote

Ding dong, the wizard's dead

Am I an awful person? Is it okay not to be completely sad about the death of another human being I didn't even know... even to be a little glad because death stopped him from doing something he was doing very badly? If something else could have stopped him, that would have been better, but I'm glad that's all over.

I am cryptic like Roommate.

srah | 5:30 AM | TrackBack

The Laughing Americans

Renata, Jennifer and I went out last night. First we roamed the streets for a while, trying to find somewhere new to go. We didn't find anything open because, after all, it was Saturday night. So we ended up back at Le Comptoir, where we always end up when we can't find anywhere else to go.

Conversation, as usual, turned to Reasons Why We Are Going To Be Deported and Dressing The Boys In Women's Clothing, which both led to hysterical laughter. We will soon be known all over Vichy as the girls who sit down, order one drink, and spend hours speaking English and laughing loudly and hysterically.

Reasons We Are Going To Be Deported began when we went to the crêperie and, after hours of deliberation, Renata only ordered a tea. We decided that the crêperie would start a campaign to have her banned from all fo the restaurants in Vichy and eventually deported. Now every time we do something ridiculously American, or anything to annoy waitstaff, we suspect that the Deportation Police are after us.

In Dressing The Boys In Women's Clothing, The Boys refers to Renata's housemates. She lives in an apartment at her lycée with the German and Spanish assistants - a sort of cross between an auberge espagnole and Three's Company. The Boys don't know it yet, but whenever the topic of Halloween (or St Patrick's Day, or April Fool's Day, or Arbor Day...) comes up, we try to come up with ways to get dresses on them.

We retired to Renata's apartment, where I got to meet the elusive Stefan and imagine him in a skirt, and giggled we hysterically well into the night.

srah | 4:15 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship

October 24, 2002

The Lady and the (Little) Tramp

This afternoon, I went to see Le Dictateur, the French-dubbed version of Charlie Chaplin's talkie The Great Dictator. I had never seen one of Chaplin's films all the way through and was quite impressed, as were the two other spectators in the enormous screening room.

Chaplin played Adenoid Hynkel, a dictator who was meant to resemble Adolf Hitler, and a Jewish barber with amnesia, who had just been released after 20 years in the hospital for an injury received during WWI. There was, as could be expected, a case of mistaken identity, so that the barber had the opportunity to give a touching speech to people all over the world:

I'm sorry but I don't want to be an emperor. That's not my business. I don't want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone if possible; Jew, Gentile, black men, white. We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each others' happiness, not by each other's misery. We don't want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone. And the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way. Greed has poisoned men's souls; has barricaded the world with hate; has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge as made us cynical; our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery we need humanity. More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost. The aeroplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these things cries out for the goodness in man; cries out for universal brotherhood; for the unity of us all. Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world, millions of despairing men, women, and little children, victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people. To those who can hear me, I say "Do not despair." The misery that has come upon us is but the passing of greed, the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people. And so long as men die, liberty will never perish. Soldiers! Don't give yourselves to these brutes who despise you, enslave you; who regiment your lives, tell you what to do, what to think and what to feel! Who drill you, diet you, treat you like cattle and use you as cannon fodder. Don't give yourselves to these unnatural men---machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines! You are men! With the love of humanity in your hearts! Don't hate! Only the unloved hate; the unloved and the unnatural. Soldiers! Don't fight for slavery! Fight for liberty! In the seventeenth chapter of St. Luke, it is written that the kingdom of God is within man, not one man nor a group of men, but in all men! In you! You, the people, have the power, the power to create machines, the power to create happiness! You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure. Then in the name of democracy, let us use that power. Let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work, that will give youth a future and old age a security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power. But they lie! They do not fulfil that promise. They never will! Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people. Now let us fight to free the world! To do away with national barriers! To do away with greed, with hate and intolerance! Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to the happiness of us all. Soldiers, in the name of democracy, let us unite!

It was a very enjoyable and moving film.

srah | 12:33 PM | TrackBack
Tags: charlie chaplin, movies, politics, quote

Getting clean

I have suffered for some time from an addiction to coke. My own parents first introduced me to it, and my boyfriend is the most frequent user I know. But now, away from all the pressure at home, I am working on kicking the habit.

Oh, I'm sorry. Silly [shift] key. I meant to say Coke, of course. I've only had it twice since I've been here, and neither was out of any real desire for the nasty stuff, which is so bad for you between the sugar, caffeine, and carbonation. The day after I arrived in France, when Françoise's brother Michel visited, we had apéritifs and I preferred Coke to the alternative of pastis that was offered to me. Then when we went on our 25km hike and stopped in a bar to get out of the rain, I ordered one for the sake of having something to drink and because I wasn't sure a bar in Molles would have tea or apricot juice. So that's 18 days I've been off the stuff and I'm not looking to have any more for a while.

How do you feel about pop/soda/fizzy drinks?

srah | 12:26 PM | TrackBack
Tags: food

October 23, 2002

Girl in the bubble

I went out to faire la fête with my 2nd year BTS Optics students tonight. First we went to Sylvie's apartment to make crêpes and play with her cat. Sylvie is from Vizille, one of the suburbs of Grenoble, and offered me a ride there when I need one. Her cat is an enormous, long-haired show cat named Riki-Tiki-Tavi. Marion spent all evening pointing out reasons why Riki-Tiki-Tavi is con. After crêpes, most of the class showed up and we went to Les Fous du Roy, a local night club.

It was pretty quiet when we got there, but after a while, they played music from The Full Monty and these three guys got up on the bar and stripped. Three nasty scary guys. We thought they whould stop when they took their shirts off. We thought they would stop when they took their pants off. We thought they would at least stay turned around when they pulled their underwear down. It felt like that song would never end.

Our group started dancing, but I didn't know any of the music and it takes an effort to make me dance in public even if I do know it. Finally Patrick pulled me out onto the floor to dance to the frighteningly Axé Bahia-like song that is all the rage in France at the moment. I stayed out there for a good part of the night, despite the nasty 30-year-old men from the country who had apparently come into town for a little vichyssoise action. They would dance with you whether you wanted to or not, and when our group was dancing in a circle, they would invade it. Then the rather drunk Patrick would stand in front of them and try to back them out of the circle. One of them came up to Marion when we were sitting down and started talking to her and trying to get her to come out and dance with him. I told her I was glad he'd picked her instead of me because I wouldn't have known what to say or how to refuse him - I would have just started yelling "I DON'T SPEAK FRENCH. GO AWAY, SCARY FRENCH MAN." Another member of our group was dancing with one of them, who got too close. She pushed him away and another one arrived. Finally she just yelled that she'd had enough of them and left the floor altogether.

All of this was very offensive to my American personal-space bubble. It may be because my public-dancing experience is limited to high school dances and Albion frat parties, where everyone knew each other, but touching strangers is a no-no in my book. I think, from the other students' reactions, this degree of closeness wasn't completely normal in a French discothèque either, but French men are much more aggressive to start with and the French have smaller space-bubbles than I do.

srah | 9:00 PM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, cultural differences, france

Blogged too soon

Uh, yeah. Never mind.

srah | 12:59 PM | TrackBack

Persuasion... to invite the loser

I love Jane Austen. I love Persuasion. I love sitting at home all by myself on the first day of vacation and reading Persua... wait, no.

In the cafeteria the other day, Agnès and I sat with some of the Optics students and Agnès asked them if they were having any parties to celebrate the half-term. One of them said that they were going to to something and Agnès said that they should invite me. I just sat there like the loser that I am, who has to be pushed on people because she has no friends of her own. But I tried to be positive and think they did want me, because some of them had mentioned before that I should go out with them "some time". So I gave me phone number to Aurélie at the end of class on Monday.

Now it is Wednesday, the day of la fête, and I have heard nothing. I haven't completely given up hope, but I did go out to buy bread before the boulangerie closed, which I had put off in hopes of being invited out for crêpes instead.

Maybe they'll still call. Maybe I wrote my number wrong. Maybe she lost it. Maybe the soirée crêpes was cancelled and they forgot to tell me.

Or maybe they just don't want me. I'm lonely.

srah | 12:53 PM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, jane austen, loneliness, persuasion, socializing

I'm really leaving this time

Okie dokie. I'll see you after the Toussaint holiday.

Ha ha! I type that, knowing full-well that I will break down and spend the 4€ an hour at Echapp or move into the library and glom onto their computers. So see you when I have my breakdown. Leave me lots of fun comments to read when I get back!

srah | 5:52 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship

October 22, 2002

How I learned to stop worrying and love the Euro

Last weekend at the laundromat, I met a couple of Americans who were hiking through France. We talked as our laundry spun and got onto the subject of the Euro. The woman said she was against it because the countries were losing a little bit of their culture by losing their individual currencies.

It was at this point, talking to her, that I realized: I don't care. I am all about sticking my nose in other countries' business and having an opinion about what they should or shouldn't do. But I was delighted to realize that I don't have to have an opinion about the Euro. I'm not a citizen of a member country, so I can just smile and say that from an American standpoint, I'm all for it because it makes "If this is Tuesday, this must be Barcelona" travelling easier. I can let the countries worry about preserving their own culture. This is a great relief to me.

And while we're being apathetic, I have no opinion on the Nice Treaty either, except that the more countries there are in the EU, the more Euro-designs I can collect. So there.

srah | 5:02 PM | TrackBack
Tags: france

Among the people I would kick in the gulliver...

I thought that I had blogged about this before, but a quick search of my archives turns up nothing before Monday on "Kubrick". So I must have just ranted aloud. This simply will not do! I cannot go on without recording for the public and for my future self, how much I hate the films of Stanley Kubrick.

I saw Dr Strangelove years ago and it scared me. All in all, I found it disjointed and mostly a waste of Peter Sellers. It doesn't seem to me to add much to the genre of bomb-movies. Thus, it is one of Kubrick's best, in my opinion.

The Shining was my freshman-year-roommate Stephanie's favorite movie. It was very thought-provoking, provoking such thoughts as How many men in a bear suit can give that guy a blow job while having nothing to do with the movie?. At the time, I thought it was the movie that was weird, little suspecting the director.

Later that year, in my Film class, I told Dr Loukides that Singin' in the Rain was one of my favorite movies. So he very thoughtfully showed us the beginning of A Clockwork Orange, where Alex and his droogs beat up and rape a couple while singing "Singin' in the Rain". "You'll never think of that movie the same way again," cackled my evil professor.

My sophomore year, a little Kubrick-festival took place at Albion, organized by a History professor whose class I happened to be taking at the time. So he made mandatory the viewing of Barry Lyndon, Paths of Glory, and Dr Strangelove (again) and attendance at a lecture on Kubrick's career. All I remember of Barry Lyndon was that it was long and I couldn't leave to go to the bathroom because whatever I missed would undoubtedly be discussed in class the next day. There was something else, too, like I had the hiccups or I was starving or dying of the Albion Death Plague. I just remember suffering.

Paths of Glory, on the other hand, was the best Kubrick film I have ever seen, by which I mean the least bizarre. It's the only one I've seen where you can forget who directed it because there are no bears giving oral sex or monkeys beating each other up.

Speaking of monkeys... 2001: A Space Odyssey was rereleased - surprisingly enough - in 2001, when I was studying in Grenoble. As you may know, I had nothing to do in Grenoble so I saw something like 75 movies over the course of the year. I decided that, because it was a "classic", it was time to give Kubrick another chance.

You know how the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour makes no sense at all, but it must when you're high? I got the same impression from 2001, except that unlike the time I tried to watch MMT, there was no eject button and I had paid to see it, rather than checking it out of Albion's enabling library. I also wanted to see the ending, where all of the mess that came before would be explained. Which explains why I am writing to you from the Club cinéma in Grenoble right now, because I refuse to leave until someone tells me what the hell that was, with the monkeys and the Big Black Box. Every time I thought I got it, I was wrong.

And now we come to the last one. WHY? I am seriously asking this, because I can't explain it myself. WHY? Why did I watch Eyes Wide Shut, a movie I had no interest in seeing after the previews, a movie which, in addition to being directed by Stanley Kubrick, starred both Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman? Why why why? Orgy orgy blah blah blah. I think I fell asleep. I hope I fell asleep.

I can't believe I've seen seven. I don't know if there's another director in the world (maybe Steven Spielberg) who has made seven movies I've seen. How much of my life has been wasted by watching Stanley Kubrick movies?

So all in all - in case you hadn't caught on - my opinion of ol' Stan is not very good. But, like Woody Allen, someone out there must like him, because he just kept making movies that were, for some reason, considered classics. I blame the French.

srah | 4:54 PM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, movies, stanley kubrick

Pato Potter

click to embiggenMy Pato has sent me pictures, including this one of him in costume as Medvedenko in The Seagull. He got to wear Harry Potter glasses and I think he looks more like my mental image of Harry than Daniel Radcliffe does. This is not something I normally would have thought about my boyfriend, and it is really rather troubling that I should be attracted to Harry Potter. Anyway, Alex is incredibly adorable and ALL MINE. So there.

My own pictures from Vichy should be coming along soon, as they're in the United States being developed at the moment...

srah | 6:43 AM | TrackBack
Tags: pato, photos

Nothing to say

While I would normally never read Doonesbury, my dad sent me this cartoon about blogging...

srah | 3:12 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Tags: discovered

Anniversary extravaganza

I'll probably have to pay for Internet access during our week-and-a-half long vacation, which begins tomorrow, so I'll have to announce my blogiversary early. Happy blogiversary to me on the 25th! I will have been blogging for one year. That's one year of clever posts like:

I had a dream last night that Alex, John Turturro and I were outlaws. We took over these people's house while they were out and locked/blocked all the doors. Just before I woke up, I was panicking because we hadn't closed the blinds.

What a valuable use of webspace.

And while I'm at it, happy 13-monthiversary (today) to the wee Chilean. Hee.

srah | 1:59 AM | TrackBack

The Book-Monster Strikes Again

I am reading American Rigolos, which Agnès lent me. It's the French translation of a British book about America, written by an American. Bill Bryson worked in England for twenty years before going back to the US and bringing his British family with him. So, while he sounds American and all, he has trouble adjusting to the culture he knew a long time ago. He wrote this series of articles for a newspaper back in England, and they were published as Notes from a Big Country (in the UK) and I'm A Stranger Here Myself (in the US).

The strange thing about reading it translated into French is that, like in dubbed American movies, I find myself getting distracted from the actual content by concentrating on the translation and wondering how things were originally phrased in English. We are such a language nerd.

srah | 1:55 AM | TrackBack
Tags: books, language

October 21, 2002

Who'da thunk it, part deux

Hey! My blog is intelligent!

srah | 11:33 AM | TrackBack
Tags: discovered

Who'da thunk it?

I talked to the THOTs about Halloween today and gave them a Halloween wordsearch to do. As I made the wordsearch at the last minute today, I thought 'This is so demeaning, giving them a wordsearch. This is so second grade. They are going to be insulted.' Instead, they seemed to enjoy it quite a lot, it took the whole hour, I think they learned things, and it seemed to be a success. I really have no idea what I'm doing here.

srah | 10:20 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship

Very Harry

There's a possibility that EITHER our old pal J.K. is planning on an eighth book OR they're just trying to cover things up by registering a lot of titles for upcoming Harry Potter books. Personally, I'm disappointed to hear them all at once and have the surprise spoiled.

Just hurry up and get the fifth one out!

srah | 4:55 AM | TrackBack
Tags: books, harry potter, harry potter and the order of the phoenix

Bus boy girl

The buses here can be significantly early, significantly late, or on time. And if they only stop at your stop once every half-hour, you never know if it's not there because it's late or because it's already come and gone early and there won't be another one for a half an hour. In other words, you never know if it's worth waiting. Grrrrr.

srah | 2:17 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship

The voracious reader attacks an Orange

I read A Clockwork Orange this weekend and I think it's affected me. Not in terms of wanting to go out and kick people in the gulliver, thankfully, but in terms of wanting to call people my droogs and describe things as horrorshow. Being written in this strange Russo-Anglo-American slang made the book a lot more enjoyable to read and distracted me from the violent bits that the movie very graphically showed. In the book, I could concentrate on the language and get on with it.

Have I mentioned that I hate Stanley Kubrick?

srah | 2:15 AM | TrackBack
Tags: a clockwork orange, books


I don't usually mind her, but if I hear Shakira tell me one more time that there's an endless story underneath my house, I will track down the station managers of NRJ and burn them alive.

What is Shakira talking about, anyway? My basement? It's not very endless. What's the man she chose doing down there, anyway? Did she choose him to hide there and attack me? I always suspected that of my basement, but I didn't know Shakira was behind it all.

Sigh. Yes, I know the real lyrics. But it's more fun this way.

srah | 1:38 AM | TrackBack
Tags: music

October 19, 2002

"If you think this country's bad-off now, just wait'll I get through with it"

"What type of music do you like?" my students have asked me.

"I like lots of different kinds," I usually answer.

Which is true, as evidenced by my choices at the library's discothèque: Satie's Oeuvres pour piano, Vanessa Paradis' Bliss, Echoes of Chile, and The Marx Brothers Sing and Play.

My book selection ranged from Persuasion to A Clockwork Orange, so that's not much better.

srah | 10:00 AM | TrackBack
Tags: a clockwork orange, assistantship, books, jane austen, music, persuasion

Un mois

Today is the 19th, so I've been in France for one month now. I would say it doesn't feel like a month, but it does, so I won't.

What a fascinating post.

srah | 9:56 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship

October 18, 2002

The Anti-Social

What are my hobbies? Why thank you for asking. I enjoy sitting in the dark and watching movies, sitting in front of a computer screen and typing, or sitting down and reading a book. Anything that doesn't involve too much movement or socialization is ideal, thank you.

So remind me, why am I bored and lonely?

srah | 7:21 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship

1ère ville electrifiée

Just in case you were wondering, Magnet was the first town in France with electricity. I know this because my train passed a sign announcing it. I wonder if that generates a lot of tourism.

srah | 7:15 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Tags: travel


At lunch yesterday, Agnès told a story about how when she worked in California, there was a new employee from Germany. Everyone wanted the two of them to meet because they figured they'd hit it off, both being from Europe and all.

Then someone asked me where I'd traveled and I said I'd been to Chile this summer and to various places in Europe while I was studying in Grenoble. I didn't even realize that I was making the same generalizations about Europe as the people in California had - just lumping together France, Belgium, Switzerland, England and Scotland - until it was pointed out to me.

I thought it was funny how my students lump together the states, thinking that people in Michigan see movie stars in the street and go gallivanting off to Miami and NYC every weekend. But Americans do the same thing, assuming that all French people have been to Brussels and Edinburgh and lumping the very different cultures and countries together.

srah | 6:45 AM | TrackBack
Tags: travel, united states

October 17, 2002

À Angers? En Angers?

I finally got up the nerve to call Antoine today and to speak to him in French, as I only did one hour a week at Albion, during la table française. I am way too proud of myself, considering it took me a couple of weeks to do it. I'm going for a visit in mid-November.

The nicest thing about our conversation was to learn that I'm not the only one who goes around chasing people from my significant other's native country, talking to them despite having nothing to say, in a vain effort to convince them that there is some kind of bond between me and my significant other's native country.

Did that paragraph make any sense? Tant pis, I understood it and that's all I care about.

srah | 2:56 PM | TrackBack

Pidgin English

This morning, I caught myself telling my class that my sister has 18 years old. Their literally-translated-from-French English is affecting me too. I'm pretty sure there's no hope for me and I will come back in April unable to communicate in my native language. Or French, for that matter.

srah | 2:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, french

Do you speak français?

I can tell already that I'm going to miss speaking French when I go back home in April. It will be frustrating and painful. I know this because it happened when I left Grenoble, too.

What I get used to here is that when I speak to Americans (or other English-speakers), they all speak French too. I get comfortable speaking to people who speak my language but don't mind if I start babbling at them in French. It's that easy, comfortable bilangualism that I miss, falling in and out of the two languages with people who speak both.

srah | 2:37 PM | TrackBack
Tags: french, language

Dippy hermaphrodite Austen character seeks new book to read

The book-monster that is srah has finished Northanger Abbey. I think Catherine is one of Jane Austen's dippier main characters, but I also identified with her a lot.

Great, what does that say about me?

I also identified a lot with Henry Tilney, the male protagonist.

Great, what does that say about me?

srah | 2:30 PM | TrackBack
Tags: books, jane austen, northanger abbey

Inertia is a property of srah

The Toussaint vacation is approaching (much more quickly than I'd realized, actually) and Jennifer is making amazing, fantastic, 700€ plans to travel around Spain. Much as I would have loved to accompany her, I don't want to spend 700€ on a trip before I even get my first 700€ paycheck (à la Spain was good, but now I have to starve for a month). Plus, I really don't feel like going anywhere. I know I'll regret it when I have no classes to go to, no Internet access, and everyone's gone, but staying home is so cheap and comfortable. I am a big lazy-ass.

srah | 2:25 PM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship

Marque!... euh, non

Two negative points for me in the ongoing game of Spot the American. Is it just me, or is it harder than it was two years ago? Damned Americanization.

srah | 1:24 PM | TrackBack
Tags: france

Cute but dumb

We had a brief respite from the cold, but I think winter is coming now. Poop.

"J'ai froid aux jambes," said the dumb girl who wore a skirt today.

srah | 1:16 PM | TrackBack
Tags: weather


As my train arrived in Lyon, I remembered that it's the home of Rebeca, whose blog I read from time to time. In this, the second-largest city in France, I found myself imagining that I would run into her at the Lyon Part-Dieu train station and I would have my first accidental Blogmeet. I don't care how ridiculous it is - I'm going to cling to my pathetic, lonely fantasy... and now I've decided that she's going to Grenoble, too.

srah | 1:05 PM | TrackBack
Tags: travel

I bet Bath-water tastes better

Once upon a time, there was a girl who went to spend some time in a town known for its waters. When she arrived, she was very lonely. Sound familiar?

I am reading Northanger Abbey and quite enjoying it, so I will share some of my favorite parts:

"How uncomfortable it is," whispered Catherine, "not to have a single acquaintance here!"

"Yes, my dear," replied Mrs. Allen, with perfect serenity, "it is very uncomfortable indeed."

"What shall we do? The gentlemen and ladies at this table look as if they wondered why we came here -- we seem forcing ourselves into their party."

That's how I sometimes feel. Then, there's my blogging quote...

"But, perhaps, I keep no journal."

"Perhaps you are not sitting in this room, and I am not sitting by you. These are points in which a doubt is equally possible. Not keep a journal! How are your absent cousins to understand the tenour of your life in Bath without one? How are the civilities and compliments of every day to be related as they ought to be, unless noted down every evening in a journal? How are your various dresses to be remembered, and the particular state of your complexion, and curl of your hair to be described in all their diversities, without having constant recourse to a journal? My dear madam, I am not so ignorant of young ladies' ways as you wish to believe me; it is this delightful habit of journaling which largely contributes to form the easy style of writing for which ladies are so generally celebrated. Everybody allows that the talent of writing agreeable letters is peculiarly female. Nature may have done something, but I am sure it must be essentially assisted by the practice of keeping a journal."

srah | 12:40 PM | TrackBack
Tags: books, jane austen, northanger abbey, quote

What say the voices in the sky?

I heard the announcement for the train to Paris as I was waiting for my train to Lyon, in Vichy. The announcement was in French, then repeated in English and in German. What a cosmopolitan little station! I was everso proud.

Speaking of train announcements, why does it seem to be the same voice in every station in France? I can't imagine it's a recording, because there are so many variations on what she has to say - train numbers, which one's late and by how much, etc. I've decided to imagine that the woman sits in SNCF headquarters in Paris and receives messages from the individual stations. Then she presses the "Vichy" button and says whatever the gare de Vichy told her to say. The problem with this theory is that she would never have time to eat or sleep.

srah | 10:50 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, france, travel

Fin de semaine

My weekend this week begins now, at lunchtime on Thursday. Lucky girl! I'm sure I'll have loads to blog on Monday, after my adventures with the Freshies in Grenoble. I'm planning on indirectly telling them they're a bunch of alcoholics. Ha ha. This weekend is also when I'll be seeing the first film from the Club Cinéma, of which I am now a card-carrying member.

srah | 7:02 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship

Guessing game

Anyone know what's in 8 days?

srah | 6:53 AM | TrackBack


I went to the public library yesterday to get a card and feed my voracious hunger for the written word. I am out of control. I will eat read two a night. I need to get started on French ones, because that will slow me down. So I have Foreign Exchanges in honor of me, Northanger Abbey in honor of Becky, and The Pyramid in honor of Piggy and his ass-mar.

srah | 6:50 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, books, jane austen, library, northanger abbey

Jour de la grève

It's strangely deserted at school today. This was not expected to be a big strike, and it isn't as big here as in other schools, but there are still quite a few profs who aren't here, including two of the three I have classes with today. Then all of the students have stayed at home, "in sympathy for the teachers" but probably really to have a day off of school.

I've decided I like it. It's different from the everyday grind - an adventure. The cafeteria staff are en grève too, so we have to fend for ourselves. And, as an added advantage, I don't have to go to any of my classes this afternoon, so I can leave early for Grenoble to see Becky and the other Freshies.

srah | 4:46 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship

October 16, 2002

Suite de la chasse aux Euros étrangers

I have: Belgium (2€, 10c), Luxembourg (2€), Italy (50c, 10c), Spain (20c), and Germany (20c).

These links will show you the country-specific face of the coin and tell you about the person/object pictured. Neato. All that recorded, now I can go spend them and other people can have the joy of finding foreign coins.

srah | 6:51 AM | TrackBack
Tags: france

Collecting Euro coins may be hazardous to your budget

I want to keep all of the foreign Euro coins I find, but they aren't that rare and once you start collecting 2 coins, it starts getting expensive. So instead I will look them up on this very cool site to identify them and then let them back into the wild. More on the chasse aux Euros after I've looked over my collection.

srah | 6:43 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Tags: france

Limaces make me grimace

It rained last night and - whereas in the US, we have earthworms all over the pavement - here, the slugs and snails are out en force. It is so uncomfortable having to mince your way to school through the slugs, in the fear that you will step on one and it will explode all over you, or whatever these enormously obese slugs do when you squish them. Ew.

srah | 6:32 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Tags: france


Dudes, I am hopeless. I tried to put in a Blogroll to update my links and it didn't work at all. Why am I broken? Why don't I know how to do the simplest computer things? Why, when I put it in, did it refuse to be the font-size I told it to be and did it insert random insane characters into all of my other javascript scripts that messed them all up? I think I will have to give up all hope of ever putting this thing on Movable Type because I can't even do this. Help help help...

srah | 6:17 AM | TrackBack
Tags: technology

October 15, 2002

Why don't I count sheep like a normal person?

It is 11:30.

I can't sleep, so I got up and wandered around in circles (small ones - this is a studio after all) and finally decided to eat a clementine. Now my mind is wandering to questions like Do Christian Scientists wear corrective lenses?

Go to sleep, srah.

srah | 5:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

France Télécom, part trois

"Why yes," said the woman at France Télécom, "Your phone is possessed by Satan."

Actually, she didn't say that because I didn't offer my theory on the situation. But it was the phone that was the problem (this time) so they replaced it and I'm all set. Woot, as all those crazy Internet kids say.

srah | 10:30 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship

In case you wondered

Question: Does it make more sense to wait 30 minutes for the bus or to walk home in 25?

Answer: Depends on your shoes and whether or not you have a life.

srah | 7:09 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship

(Cultural?) Misunderstandings

I think I have convinced an entire class of future hotel/restaurant managers that one of my grandmothers was a spy when the Americans fought the Soviets in WWII, and the other was born in the Netherlands and founded the War Brides Association. Oops.

srah | 3:01 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, srahfam, teaching


I had a dream where an enormously tall guy was in love with me but I was trying to convince him that one boyfriend was enough for me. I tried to set him up with CStimpso because she looked so tiny standing next to him.

srah | 2:45 AM | TrackBack
Tags: dream

Yoo hoo, Linda Blair calling... (14.10.02)

I was sitting here, looking over students' papers when all of a sudden, my supposedly-not-working phone started wildly beeping. I can't find any way to stop it, short of unplugging it from the line, so I eventually had to do that. I think it is possessed by the devil, and that is exactly what I'm going to say to France Télécom when I go for my daily visit to their office. I went outside to see if someone was working on the line and that's why it suddenly came to life, but no one was there. They're heeeeeeeeeeere...

srah | 2:43 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship

October 14, 2002

Monday Mission

1. What's the most expensive meal you've ever eaten? What was the occasion? Was it worth it?
The one I can think of is when our freshman seminar went to France and while the boys had to scrounge up some francs on the last night, Roommate and I blew all of ours on a four-course meal. I don't know if it was really expensive, but it felt like it, in comparison to McDonalds or a street kebab.

2. What do you like to do when nobody is looking?
Run to the CDI and hop on the Internet.

3. What's your special purpose?
To spread cultural understanding throughout the land. And help people with the Internet. Hell, I dunno.

4. Do you like Autumn? If so, why? If not, tell me about your favorite season.
I do, right until it starts getting windy. Breeze good, wind bad.

5. Ever recommended a movie to someone only to have them hate it? Which movie? Did you feel uncomfortable about that?
Yes. I am eternally bitter towards Jen and Lewis because I showed them The Pirates of Penzance and they made fun of it the whole time. Kurt was slightly kinder. I am also mad at the thousands of people who crowded into Jen's room to watch Psycho with us and rather than being scared, complained about the heat the whole time and laughed at the end.

6. I've had hay fever all day! Sniffles, sneezing, I tell ya, it's awful! Do you have any allergies? Anything that just gets you down for the count?
Just hay fever, as far as I know.

7. Do you like mixed drinks? What is your favorite? As long as we're here how about you order me something too? Just "suprise me!"
Um... don't know much about them, other than I can never drink a whole one before the taste of alcohol disgusts me. Piña coladas aren't bad, and neither are piscolas.

BONUS: Why do we scream at each other?
Because you screamed at Alf first.

srah | 11:32 AM | TrackBack
Tags: memes, monday mission

You know srah has been allowed too much time on the computer when...

Take This Quiz!

Take the Dessert Quiz

Take the Anime Sountrack Quiz

[via Neverland]

srah | 11:23 AM | TrackBack
Tags: quizzes

Sunday Op-Ed

1. What do I do like an idiot when I'm nervous in class?

2. What would I like to have my students do in English, as long as I don't have to do it with them?

3. What am I really craving, frites à la française?

Click on the Op-Ed icon for the answers!

srah | 11:05 AM | TrackBack
Tags: memes, sunday op-ed

When in Cusset, do as the Romains do

I actually get to observe a class! I am sitting in on the first-year BTS Optique class, trying to learn names and faces. One of the faces is called Romain, just like three of the students in the Terminale BEP Ventes class I had at 9:00.

I found Danièle at 9:00 and she sent me to another room with half of the class, the Groupe N° 1. Luckily I had come up with a list of questions to ask in case I was abandoned with a group of students and had nothing prepared. Which I was.

I had two students who wanted to answer all of the questions, one falling asleep, several who would answer if directly asked, and two who I suspected all hour were making fun of me. I got a bit scared at the end that I would run out of questions, but I got sidetracked on teaching the English names for astrological signs and managed to last until the end.

I had never even met anyone named Romain, but that group alone had three, plus two Pierres! As long as they don't move, I may be able to remember some names. But I'm sure the classes I have at the end of the week won't be so lucky.

srah | 11:01 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship

Jamais il ne se coiffait, jamais il ne se lavait... (13.10.02)

I am in love.

His name is Jojo, he lives in the backwoods farming country of Central Auvergne, he wears a black leather jacket... and he is four years old.

No longer feeling like I was dying of la crève, I wandered around downtown and by the river this afternoon, but when the Sunday-shopping crowds started getting to me and the sun went behind the clouds, I found myself next to the cinéma Mat, just in time for the 2:30 showing of Être et avoir.

The movie, an official selection at Cannes, was a very delightful way to spend the afternoon. It's a sort-of documentary, sort-of narrative look at life in the countryside of Auvergne, centering on a school where all of the students from ages 4 to 11 (numbering somewhere from 10 to 15) are taught in the same room by the same teacher - a sort of one-room schoolhouse deal.

Everything in it is supposedly true and I found it very cute and sweet and real, from the charming Jojo with a marker up his nose to playground conflicts to the older students who help the younger ones. It shows a bit of the homelife of the students, too, with their activities on the farm and their families helping them with their homework. I doubt it will ever be released in other countries, but you should check it out if it is.

srah | 10:56 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, etre et avoir, movies, reviews

Hic! (13.10.02)

"Although alcohol consumption has dropped by 20% since the war, the French drink more than any national group in the world, except the people of Luxembourg."

So says my guidebook. For the sake of the 441,300 people of Luxembourg, I hope that means per capita...

srah | 10:47 AM | TrackBack
Tags: alcohol, discovered, france

Dream (13.10.02)

I spent all night dreaming alternately about teaching in a girls' boarding school where everyone wanted to learn English and wanted to be my best friend and have me go swimming with them, and about running into people from high school on the streets of Vichy.

srah | 10:35 AM | TrackBack
Tags: dream

I feel pretty and witty and gay (12.10.02)

Sometimes I wear skirts so I can feel dressed-up and pretty. But then I spend the whole day hiding inside for fear that someone will see me trying to look dressed-up and pretty.

Sometimes I really do not understand how my mind works.

srah | 10:31 AM | TrackBack
Tags: fashion

Whodunnit? (12.10.02)

What idiot bought me Carambars when she went to Monoprix, starving and bored? I can't stop eating the damned things. Yum yum yum. I am out of control.

srah | 10:23 AM | TrackBack
Tags: food

France Télécom, part deux (12.10.02)

The repairman finally showed up at two and took a look at the wires, which are a complete mess and will have to be redone. But the people who do that don't work on Saturdays, so France Télécom will call me to set up a time when they can come.

Isn't that charming? I do so love it when my chums from France Télécom come to visit. Perhaps I'll have to bake them some muffins.

srah | 10:20 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship

That's Doctor Schtupid Thing to you, schmarty (12.10.02)

There is a French word, connerie, which doesn't have an exact translation in English. My slang dictionary suggests "foolishness" or "dirty trick" but I think of it as something more like "stupid thing that someone does for attention".

I just wonder if Sean knows about this.

srah | 10:18 AM | TrackBack
Tags: french

Open letter to France Télécom (12.10.02)

Dear France Télécom,

I hate you with all of my heart and soul. You told me my land line would work on Tuesday and gave me a number to call if it didn't, which made me suspect that it wouldn't. And, of course, it didn't. I called the number on Tuesday and you told me to stay home Friday afternoon between 3:30 and 5:00 because someone would come by to look at it.

I came home at 3:00 on Friday to find that you'd left a card, saying that you'd been there Thursday at 4:30 and - surprise! - no one was there. I called the number on the card, but it didn't work. Of course, because it would be too difficult for the phone company to have a phone number that worked.

So I had to go to the France Télécom office and wait in line for an hour, with a stupid old man cutting in line in front of me (but of course I couldn't dash in front of him because he was old). Then I talked to the conseillière, who told me that someone would come by late Saturday morning.

I have been trapped in my apartment all morning, waiting for you to come, France Télécom. I am afraid that if I go out and buy bread, you will come while I'm gone and I will miss you again. I can't call and see when you're coming because the number I was given only works from a France Télécom phone and mine doesn't work, which is why you're coming in the first place.

So despite the fact that it is 12:20 and technically no longer the morning and you are probably on your lunch break, I will just sit here, hungry and bored, and wait for you to arrive. Thank you. It's been a pleasure doing business with you.

srah | 4:55 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, france telecom, open letters

Where have all the cobayes gone? (12.10.02)

I was volunteered as a cobaye to the BTS Optique students who are in an alternating work/study program. They have all of the equipment in the school, so they gave me an eye test.

I started out trying to answer in English, but I gave up when I was reading the eye-chart letters too fast for them to translate. All in all, it was the most amusing eye test I've ever had, because the five students testing me would argue over which step came next and what the various results meant. I, meanwhile, was trapped behind the enormous goggle-machine and couldn't see anything because the eyeholes were closed. Then they would shoot eye-related questions at me in French and I would understand nothing. They're a fun bunch, but I hope they'll have some more training before they're let loose as opticians!

srah | 4:40 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship

The sister and child reunion is less than a week away (12.10.02)

My freshman year, our First Year Seminar took a trip to France as part of our studies on cultural understanding and the relationship between Albion and France. Ours was the first year, but now my sister is in the same First Year Seminar and is on her way to France as I write this.

No one from Albion is studying abroad in France this year. It probably has something to do with Dianne and Emmanuel's back-to-back sabbatical years, so there was no one to encourage this year's group to go there. Because Albion has no students studying abroad in France, I am the designated visitee, but I have to go to Paris or Grenoble to be visited. I'm fine with that, if they'll take me out to dinner! I was visited in 2000, too, while studying in Grenoble, so I just have to repeat my role and tell them about differences I've found between France and the U.S., all of which I've lifted from French or Foe? (shhh... don't tell). I am looking forward to seeing Becky and the other happy shiny freshmen. I hope they have fun.

srah | 4:24 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship

It's beginning to look a lot like... October (12.10.02)

I'm getting bored with the CDs I brought to France and today I have actually resorted to listening to the Christmas CDs I brought along. I wonder what the neighbors are thinking.

What is your favorite Christmas song?

srah | 4:18 AM | TrackBack
Tags: holidays, music

Dream (12.10.02)

I dreamt that Lauryn Hill was une assistante and that Robin, who was also an assistant, was all excited because we were going to go out for pizza with Lauryn. Then Lauryn stood us up so we went out for some really bad faux-Chinese food and had to walk home in the dark.

srah | 4:15 AM | TrackBack
Tags: dream

October 13, 2002

Reasons teachers miss school: la crève and la grève

I've decided I'm coming down with something and I fear it may be la crève, which has been going around school all week. So I will just hole up and nap and have hot tea and clementines all day so I can be healthy for my first day of Real Classes.

srah | 10:38 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, health

October 12, 2002

Waitin' for the dinner bell to do the bell thing

On a positive note, while waiting for dinner time to roll around, I finally got bored enough to sit down and sort out my graduate school applications. Half of it will be off to Rackham as soon as I get to La Poste, and all that's left to do is the essay.

Thankfully Mr Colas, the harried Technology Maestro at the school, says he'll be setting me up a user ID next week. Then I'll have access to the school's intranet diskspace, so I won't have to do the whole thing in one sitting.

srah | 10:27 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, school of information, technology

Monday, Monday

I start my official schedule on Monday at 9am with Danièle and the TV2s (17-year-old Sales students). I haven't been able to find Danièle since I got my schedule, so I hope I'm not supposed to prepare anything.

I would explain the different groups to you, but despite the explanations of Annie and Agnès, I'm not sure I get it myself. As I've understood it, first there are the BEP students, who are in a two-year program. They can stop there and work, or they can do a one-year Adaptation class followed by the BAC Terminale class, so that they will have the ever-coveted baccalauréat (high school diploma). Then I think they can go to the university or can do a BTS, a two-year technical degree. I have students in Terminale BEP, Adaptation, Terminale BAC, and both years of BTS. I am so confused, but I guess as long as I'm teaching them English, it doesn't really matter whether I know where they came from or where they're going.

srah | 4:23 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship

October 11, 2002

The Friday Five

1. If you could only choose 1 cd to ever listen to again, what would it be?
That is very difficult, and my favorite CD changes so often. For now, I will say Charles Aznavour's 20 Chansons d'or.

2. If you could only choose 2 movies to watch ever again, what would they be?
Argh! Again difficult, but I'll go with my two favorites: Sliding Doors and Le fabuleux déstin d'Amélie Poulain.

3. If you could only choose 3 books to read ever again, what would they be?
I'm thinking three Choose Your Own Adventure stories, because that would at least add some variety. But we'll go with Me Talk Pretty One Day, the Anne of Green Gables box set (is that cheating?), and Lord of the Flies.

4. If you could only choose 4 things to eat or drink ever again, what would they be?
Coffee ice cream milkshakes, spinach soup, cheese and potato casserole, and clementines. Sounds like a rather balanced diet of things that make me happy.

5. If you could only choose 5 people to ever be/talk/associate/whatever with ever again, who would they be?
That is poop. I don't want to have to choose. I will say Pato, my parents, Becky, and Sophie. But I am very upset at having to choose.

srah | 4:54 AM | TrackBack
Tags: friday five, memes

Happy assistant

One of my BTS Optique students just sat down next to me here in the library computer lab and we had a conversation in English. He thinks it will be very interesting to learn English from a native English speaker. It makes me happy when people are interested in learning.

srah | 4:25 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship

October 10, 2002


I keep speaking to students in French when they come into the library computer lab. Bad srah. I am not supposed to be able to speak French. Why don't they just hire people who actually don't?

srah | 7:00 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship


I have to go home and eat lunch. Perhaps I'll come back and bother you some more in the afternoon, if I feel like hoofing it back up here in this crappy weather. If you find articles or ads in English related to the fields of optics, healthcare, hospitality, or restaurants, let me know, because those are the groups I've been assigned to.

srah | 6:44 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship

La grève?

There may or may not be a teachers' strike on the 17th. I may or may not work. The school may or may not be closed. I know none of this right now. Sigh. The bus strike continues...

srah | 6:43 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship


Especially after watching La Memoire dans la peau, this just seems like a movie to me. But it must be very scary for the people there.

srah | 6:03 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship

The Srah Identity

As I walked home from the movie last night, I felt super-aware of my surroundings, afraid that CIA agents were going to jump out and grab me or just take sniper shots at me from the roof. Yes, because of course, I am a supersecret spy and the CIA is going to take an interest in me.

What I should be more concerned about is normal criminals, I guess. Vichy, as you may have heard, is full of old people. Old people like to get their rest. So Vichy shuts down in the evenings and goes to sleep. Walking home from the movies, the streets are sometimes deserted - or almost deserted with a few suspicious-looking (everyone looks suspicious in the dark) men wandering around. So I hurried home, watching the rooftops and dark doorways, and had Renata and Rachel call me to make sure they got home alright.

On another supersecret spy note, last night we saw a preview for Sorry, You're Not Supposed to Die Until Tomorrow or whatever the new James Bond flick is. Pierce Brosnan looks really old. It's time for him to be replaced by the lovely Clive Owen.

srah | 5:46 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, fears, movies

Hi, my name is - What? - My name is...

Renata and Rachel tell me that they spent their first week observing as the teachers taught, so that they knew the students' level of English and what they're studying in class. Now today they have their first lesson, where they will introduce themselves to the class.

My school seems to have it all backwards. I've already introduced myself and they're going to let me loose on Monday with no idea what the students are supposed to be learning about...

srah | 5:40 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship

Vichy in the dark


That said, there isn't much else to do around here. Tuesday night I saw Le Pianiste with Agnès and Sigrid and last night I was La Memoire dans la peau with Renata and Rachel.

Le Pianiste was good, in a touching-war-movie sort of way. True stories often seem more fake to me than fiction does and there were a lot of violent scenes with people getting shot in the head. But I suppose it did add something to the genre and it was rather beautiful with the music and all, so I enjoyed it. There were times, however, when I found myself reading the characters' lips and getting sidetracked by trying to figure out what they were saying in the original English language track.

La Memoire dans la peau was better than I expected. There was a lot of fighting and action, but there was a lot of travelling, so there was some nice European scenery. During the car chase in Paris, I found myself more concerned for the other drivers than for Bourne. I didn't want him to accidentally kill French people.

srah | 5:40 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, movies

Welcome to Hogwarts! (9.10.02)

I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but one of the things I find interesting about le lycée Valéry Larbaud is that it has some boarding students. I don't know what the percentage is, but there are quite a few of them. They arrive with their enormous duffel bags on Monday and stay in the boarding area at the back of the school until Friday, when they take the bus or the train back home again. I didn't even know that this existed in France before I came here. So you see, at least this year will be an educational experience for me, if not for the students.

srah | 5:31 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship

Vichy: the myth, the reality (9.10.02)

This past weekend, Jennifer, Renata and I were talking about people's reactions when we told them we were going to Vichy. If people had heard of it at all, it was because of its World War II history. But even then, I got an email from an assistant in the Nancy-Metz académie, saying how we must be right near each other because he was teaching in Forbach, on the French-German border.

What do you know about Vichy?

srah | 5:31 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship

La débarquement (9.10.02)

Agnès and I went this afternoon to LeClerc, the big Meijers-style supermarket in Bellerive. She noticed that in the yogurt aisle, they were carrying cottage cheese (marketed under the very French name of "cottage cheese") and said that it was the first time she had seen it in France. Now we just need to get fromage blanc going in the other direction.

Have I told you I love Petits Suisses?

srah | 5:30 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, food

Help wanted (9.10.02)

Any recipes or cooking advice for a beginner in the world of the culinary arts can be sent here. Nothing fancy, please - I've only just mastered boiling pasta.

The word "culinary" reminds me that in the staff list of the handbook that I got from Valéry Larbaud, the yet unnamed Hôtellerie et Technologie Culinaire teacher was referred to as Mr X HOT CUL. I giggled.

srah | 5:30 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, food

Grand discovery @ Monoprix (9.10.02)

As I walked past the cereal aisle, what should catch my eye, but a box of Chocapic! I am so excited.

srah | 5:13 AM | TrackBack
Tags: food

My So-Called Life (9.10.02)

My life is so rich and full of excitement. I am actually rather pleased about the construction that is going on at Monoprix, my local supermarket. They are redoing everything, it seems, because every time I go there (which is every day - I have a rich and exciting life and nothing better to do than go to Monoprix every day), everything has moved. It's actually rather impressive how impossible they've made it to find things from one day to the next. Yesterday I was lucky enough to be blocked in while they were dragging a whole shelf to a new location.

It may sound like I'm complaining here, but I'm not. The more time it takes me to do my grocery shopping, the less time I have to fill. I am BORED.

Just a few days ago, I was saying that I had quite enough to do and my days were full enough that I didn't get bored and didn't need to look for new activities. That was because I had been at the lycée all day long and had come home to do my errands in the evening. Now I'm running out of errands, running out of money (so shopping isn't an option and neither is surfing the Internet, at 4€/hour at Echapp), and the lycée told me that since I've already observed for four days, I didn't need to come in again until my regular schedule starts on Monday. I've been away from the school for six hours now and I'm already bored. Tomorrow, even though I'm not working, I'm going to go to school to use the computers and talk to the teachers. I need something to do...

srah | 3:56 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, boredom, groceries, shopping

Faits divers (9.10.02)

Seen on the streets of Vichy: a street performer/mime-type-thingy-person performing to the theme music from Yogi Bear an act which had absolutely nothing to do with Yogi Bear.

srah | 3:47 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship

Okay, but I think I prefer the poultry kind (9.10.02)

Let's see if you can identify this yummy but not-very-appetizing-sounding food from the ingredients on the package:

Pork fat, pork liver, water, decorative gelatin, onions, milk, seasoning, corn syrup, milk proteins, dextrose, sugar, lactose, blood proteins, preservatives, ascorbic acid, sodium ascorbate, sodium nitrate, natural aromas.

To quote Mr Green, "Urp. Is that what we ate?"

srah | 3:43 AM | TrackBack
Tags: food


Now that I have typed the word yhpargonrop, I can't get to my blog either. Very smart. Must find a way to fix it.

srah | 3:26 AM | TrackBack
Tags: technology

Pet peeve of the day

Ineffective yhpargonrop filters.

This school has some kind of idiotic filters set up, which tell me that the JohnHannah.net Career page and the Television Without Pity MDs recap have yhpargonrop on them, so I can't see them. On the other hand, I sat down at a computer yesterday with a folder called ""tludA" with an icon of a dekan woman. Lovely.

srah | 3:23 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, technology

October 9, 2002

My Stupid Mouth

Sometimes when we have the personal introduction period in class here, I find myself babbling about things no one cares about, or about things they didn't need to know. I really don't know where these things come from. I have classes that think I'm obsessed with Petits Suisses (I am, but why did I need to share?) and mustard (ditto - I swear, I don't just eat it out of the jar), or who I told that if you are speeding in Ohio with Michigan license plates, you're more likely to be pulled over than an Ohioan.

Then there are classes who, through some mistake or omission, think that I am a teetotaler and that I come from Detroit.

Babble babble babble. Maybe when I'm comfortable with them, I can relax and try to sound like the normal person I'm not.

srah | 5:10 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship

October 8, 2002


I get mostly the same questions over and over again as I introduce myself to my classes, so I've had some practice answering those... it's the new ones that throw me out of whack. Do I like waterpolo? I certainly wasn't expecting that!

srah | 6:28 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship

Diamonds on the insoles of her shoes

No, actually, my feet are a little better today. 6€ better, but better. I woke up at 7:44 this morning. For my 8:00 class. I got dressed in five minutes and took a taxi to school and was still almost 10 minutes late so I arrived huffing and puffing and sweating and unshowered, then realized I had forgotten to put my contacts in and was wearing my glasses. So I survived the 2POLs, who didn't have as many questions as I would have liked, then I got a free hour to comb my hair, put in contacts, and blog. Especially blog. Hello. The beep is beeping (they have an electronic bell here) so I should go to my next class. Bye bye.

srah | 3:57 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship

I almost want to go there

I have just read in my guidebook that the country of Andorra is 25km from north to south. We could have walked across a whole country yesterday! I am fascinated.

srah | 3:45 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship

Les fêtes

One of the students asked me today if I was going to celebrate Halloween with the other American assistants. I think they have an overblown image of the importance of Halloween here. When I was in Grenoble, Halloween came and went and I thought 'I suppose I should have made an effort'. For me, Halloween can be passed over if you're not in the homeland. Halloween is really all about costumes and trick-or-treating, both of which are hard to incorporate into an adopted culture.

What will be difficult for me is missing out on Thanksgiving. Even in Grenoble, we had a makeshift Thanksgiving à la française. I don't know about any grande echelle Thanksgiving plans for assistants, so I guess I'll have to buy some smoked turkey slices and try to find some yams to put Chamallows on. Yum.

srah | 3:36 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, food, france, holidays, thanksgiving, united states

Dream (7.10.02)

I dreamt that I discovered a plot against my life by a cult that hated gay music. I have no idea what I had done to upset them - I think they had me confused with someone else. But I couldn't trust anyone because I didn't know who was in the cult and who wasn't. It was very scary and I did not want to get up when I woke up from it.

srah | 3:33 AM | TrackBack
Tags: dream


French handwriting, even at its neatest, can still be a bit difficult for me to decipher. Which explains why, while reading paragraphs written by Danièle's class about my self-introduction, I thought someone said I had lice.

srah | 3:30 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship

L'assistante au travail

The classes are starting to melt together. It will probably be better once I have my schedule and I know which classes will be "mine", and once I start to actually learn people's names. For now, I can't tell the difference between THOT, S2HOT and 1AHOT or between 1SMS and 1ASMS or 2POL and S2OL. Maybe no one knows the difference. Maybe I will never know. For now I just spend the days completely confused, waiting for people to tell me where to go and what to say to the class. I hope I get some more guidance before they let me loose.

srah | 3:28 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship

October 7, 2002

Representative of my country

I'm not a Good American. I'm sorry. I'm not going to take the easy way out, and I'm not going to wave my little flag. I'm going to tell the truth, even when trying to explain, slowly and clearly, to my students. In the end, I sound negative and like I have nothing to do but complain about my country, but I think they should know the real me, and not the easier-to-explain version of the world.

I don't like Señor Arbusto, I don't think we should go to war, I think the United States did not react in the way I'd hoped after September 11, I don't agree with the ages we have set for things like drivers' licenses, alcohol, cigarettes, and voting, and I like the Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel. So I'm not going to take the easy way out and pretend any differently just because it's easier to explain.

So there. That said, I sort of wish I could just agree, because I tend to rant and ramble and get a lot of blank stares.

srah | 6:24 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, politics, united states, war

P'tit bonjour

Welcome to any students of le Lycée Valéry Larbaud who may be visiting. If you are here, please leave a message in the guestbook!

srah | 4:58 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship

And I would walk 500 miles... (6.10.02)

When I woke up this morning, my first thought was not Hmmm, how about I walk until my feet fall off? And yet I did. I will miss those feet, as I've had them for quite a while and have grown rather attached.

Jennifer suggested last night that we go for a bike ride or a walk around the area, so we met up at 10am today. Finding no bike rental shops open, we set off on foot. We walked through Cusset and out the other side, throught a mountainous forest area that reminded me of Le pacte des loups. Every time a twig snapped, I thought it was a horrible wolf-beast coming to get me. But other than the terror and all, it was very pretty, because the road we were on (or were jumping off of, when cars came by) followed the river.

We kept on that road, waiting to come to a town where we could eat, but after 12 kilometers, it was looking pretty desolate. Finally we decided to walk 3 more kilometers to Molles, which - judging from the road signs - seemed to be a town where we could find somewhere to sit down and buy drinks to go with the sandwiches we'd brought. The other advantage was that unlike La Chapelle, which was 3.5km away, Molles was downhill. So we set off.

Yes, it was downhill. For about 1km. Then we got to climb uphill the rest of the way, tired and hungry. All of this wouldn't have been so bad if it hadn't started to rain. We arrived in Molles, and then it was a question of finding somewhere, in this small town, that was open on a Sunday afternoon. We ducked into a bar and had coffee and Coke and squatted there until the rain stopped. They were quite interested to find out that three Americans had come to Molles and even moreso to learn that we had walked the 15km from Vichy to get there.

To get back, we took a more direct 10km route on bigger roads. There were more cars to dodge, but there were more cows to moo at, too. Although we've never seen it, the cows and rolling hills reminded us of our mental image of the English countryside. One of the girls remarked that we should have been wearing Jane-Austen-era clothes as we traipsed across the countryside. I thought Becky would have liked that.

I came home and had dinner and put my feet up. Ouch!

srah | 4:54 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, sports, walking

La dernière gorgée de Petit Suisse (5.10.02)

The best part of a Petit Suisse is the last spoonful of the first one, hence the need for a second. That taste is so lovely, you think it can only get better. But no spoonful in the second is as good as the last spoonful of the first.

srah | 4:37 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Tags: food

Mini-profile (5.10.02)

Name: Sarah
Nationality: American
Favorite fruit: clementines
Likes: finding another clementine segment sitting on the table when I thought I'd just eaten the last one; eating the individual fruit capsules in each segment of clementine.
Best thing of all: a bat carrying a block of wax.

Never mind. I don't expect you to understand how my mind works.

srah | 4:29 AM | TrackBack
Tags: food

A pause would be refreshing

Nothing hits the spot after a 25km walk on Sunday afternoon like a week-long bus strike beginning Monday morning. Ah, la France! Of course, I didn't know there was a bus strike until I had run to school, loaded down with photo albums, thinking I had missed the bus. Blargh. My feet will never recover.

srah | 3:40 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Tags: france, sports

October 5, 2002

First day of school (4.10.02)

What a linguistic mess. I am absolutely forbidden to speak French in class, which is not easy when you go to class directly from the teacher's lounge, where you've been talking to the teachers in French during the recrée and the rest of the morning. My brain hurts.

I "observed" four classes today. I thought that "observing" would mean that I would "observe" classes and not be involved. Silly girl. In most of the classes, we spent a big chunk of time with me standing in front of the class and answering and asking questions.

Terminale Sciènces Médico-Sociales (TSMS): The class was very heavily female, very seventeen, and was more interested in carrying on private conversations in French than in learning about the new American assistante. So we only did the Q&A for the first ten minutes, and then they went back to their regularly scheduled studies on immigration to the US.

Seconde Sciènces Médico-Sociales (2SMS): The class was very heavily female, but was full of students in their first year of high school, who were still interested and full of questions - not old and jaded like the TSMSs. I liked them and found that with one class under my belt, I wasn't as nervous, so I could slow down my talking to make sure everyone understood. They begged me to tell them that American boys were better-looking than French ones, as they'd obviously given up on the boys at home and were looking for something better. One student asked me how I felt about September 11th, which led to me blabbering a long, complicated answer that I'm sure no one understood.

Terminale Hôtelerie (THOT): Véronique had scared me a bit, by telling me that her next class was one girl and twenty seventeen year old boys. Heh heh. She said I could run away if I wanted to, but I enjoyed it. They were a bit more excited to see the assistante than the TSMSs. When they were whispering amongst themselves at the beginning, the teacher said "She has a boyfriend", which made me giggle. They were funny and entertaining and told me about their favorite hangouts in Vichy and want to teach me to cook and want me to teach them how to bake cookies. I think that at that age, boys are more pleasant than girls. High school girls have a tendancy to be hypocritical and catty, and boys have a franchise that I appreciate.

Terminale Professionnel Commerce (TPC): Rather than introducing myself to the class, I sat in on the presentation of their year-long project: the planning of an English Day at the school, including advertising, inviting local stores to sell English products, the creation of an English menu in the school cafeteria, etc. I apologized for being American.

srah | 12:40 PM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship

Prima nocta (4.10.02)

Or whatever.

I met with Mmes. Alléas and Messana, the outgoing concierge and incoming owner, respectively, of the building I'm living in, yesterday afternoon. Mme. Messana is still in the process of buying it, and the process is going longer than originally expected. We signed a new contract, since the one we'd signed before had the wrong address on it, which has led to no end of ennuis for me personally, since I gave the wrong address out to everyone I know and had to knock on the very scary, beware-of-dog-marked door of 35, avenue Paul Doumer, and try to explain to them what had happened and ask if they had received any of my mail.

Anyway, the mesdames filled out all kinds of forms and contracts and receipts and dated everything rather creatively so as to get me the best deal, tax- and refund-wise. They're very entertaining, even if Mme. Alléas kept repeating how lucky I was because if she'd known the deal wouldn't go through right away, she wouldn't have taken me on because she was tired of renters, and especially students, etc.

The big event, in my mind, anyway, was when Mme. Alléas went to show me the refrigerator and the handle came off in her hand. I was very glad it was her, and not me as soon as she left. They tell me Xavier (Mme Messana's son) will bring me another frigo from another one of the empty apparts soon.

So I paid, they gave me the keys, and they left. Srah was all alone.

It was very strange to be in this new, empty place all by myself. I moved my stuff over from Agnès' place in about an hour, then went grocery shopping. I am going to save the receipt from my first Big Girl Shopping Experience because I am a Big Nerd.

I went to dinner chez Agnès, visited Jennifer and Renata for a moment, then went back to my studio.

It will take some getting used to, and I will have to get into a routine before I really feel comfortable. I kept waking up in the middle of the night because I was worried that my alarm wouldn't be loud enough. But eventually I'll get settled in. Come and visit! I only know how to make soup and pasta, but there's seating for three, placemats for two, and silverware for five chez srah!

srah | 12:37 PM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship

Hot potato 1-2-3 (30.9.02)

At our soirée raclette this weekend, I learned that the French are taught that to speak English, you have to pretend you have a great big potato in your mouth. I can sort of see how this would work, but I don't find it particularly flattering or effective.

The nice thing about this revelation, however, is that it creates a nice code word for anglophones. When we were walking around the grounds of La Grande Chartreuse yesterday, Françoise turned and whispered to me "Attention, il y a de grosses patates qui arrivent" when the people behind us passed us, speaking English. So now I will be à la chasse aux grosses patates à Vichy.

srah | 11:59 AM | TrackBack
Tags: food, french

October 3, 2002

Snobisme à la vichyssoise

We had our orientation session this week in Clermont-Ferrand, 40 minutes from Vichy. They brought together all of the language assistantes in Auvergne to give us information about how to teach, what forms to fill out, and how to deal with difficult situations. They also expected us to socialize with our fellow assistants.

For some reason, les vichyssoises-américaines had a big problem with the socializing aspect. We had already met each other, and didn't really have much interest in bonding with people we would never see again, so we mostly hung together. We did adopt a fourth member into our clique, however, as we found Rachel, an english assistant from Birmingham, England, who is also working at the mammoth 2500-student Lycée de Presles in Cusset.

While others were bonding amongst themselves and going to the bar, we did sight-seeing and had ice cream. Just my style.

srah | 12:17 PM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship


No time to blog, but I am alive and do have things to blog when I get a chance...

srah | 6:53 AM | TrackBack

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