April 2003 archive

(132 entries)

April 30, 2003

Please don't mug me

I went to the bank to close my account and they gave me all of my money in cash. I have never seen so much money in one place. The freakazoid teller compained that she hadn't known in advance, when I had made the appointment to fermer mon compte a week ago. Thus she was not prepared and only had one billet de cinq cent, so everything else was in 100s and 50s. I now have this enormous wad of cash and I don't know whether to carry it with me everywhere I go for safekeeping or hide it for safekeeping. I may just put it in my passport pouch, put the pouch around my neck, and hide myself in the wardrobe until the 5th.

srah | 3:51 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship

April 29, 2003

Just another day at the cybercafé

Dennis/Christophe just gave me roses as a going-away gift and kissed me on the top of the head. This is a strange place.

srah | 12:15 PM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, cybercafe

srah: star of stage and screen!

... well, except for the stage part... and the star part...

The point is, if you are watching Belgian or French movies or TV shows or news programs any time in the near future, keep an eye out for a stunning brunette walking by in the background. Because standing behind her is a wacky, goofy-looking girl in pigtails, trying not to stare directly into the camera as she walks back and forth, hoping to make it into the background of whatever they're filming without looking like she's trying to make it into the background.

I found myself in front of cameras twice today, in Bruxelles-Midi/Brussel-Zuid and Paris Gare du Nord. The Paris one seemed to be a man-on-the-street interview for a news program, but the Brussels one looked more like a movie or TV series. I had nothing to do and was walking around in circles anyway, so I walked by twice for good measure.

srah | 8:43 AM | TrackBack
Tags: travel

Ignore the things that go on in my head

I am going to admit here that for years I used to confuse Saki with Steve Biko. I have no idea what made me connect them in my mind, but there you are. Hearing about the old salt mines under Detroit always makes me think of toothpaste, and I can't explain that one either.

What strange connections/confusions do you have?

srah | 4:49 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

I now pronounce you Belgium

Christianna packed me a little snack for the train, which included both a bar of chocolate and a chocolate-covered waffle. I am so going to marry this country.

srah | 4:25 AM | TrackBack
Tags: belgium, food, travel

If it pleases you

The French-speaking Belgians say s'il vous plaît for everything. I'm not sure if it means "please", "thank you", "you're welcome", "here you go", or all four. People keep saying it to me as they hand me my change.

srah | 4:06 AM | TrackBack
Tags: belgium, french, travel

April 28, 2003

"Death" in Dutch: dood

After our evening ride we returned to the apartment, looked at Fanny and Antoine's wedding photos, and watched an English-subtitled-in-Dutch National Geographic report on Mount Everest. Christianna and I have agreed that not only do we have absolutely no desire to climb Mount Everest, but we never want to leave our homes again.

srah | 7:11 PM | TrackBack

Olé encore!

Belgian thee met melk report: level three.

The milk was forgotten by the server, and there were lemon slices on my saucer. This merits a ranking about equal to that of the United States. Of course I am basing it on one experience and I don't know if the results would be any different in Bruxelles or Wallonie.

Did you notice that "tea with milk" is one of the few Dutch words/phrases I've picked up? Dank u wel for noticing; yes, I am an addict.

srah | 7:09 PM | TrackBack
Tags: belgium, language, tea, travel

A bicyclette

Apparently the mode of transportation in Belgium is by bicycle. The streets are full of bicyclists and bicycles are chained up everywhere in Antwerp.

I passively participated in this preferred pastime this evening. Christianna and Robbie only have two bikes, but I got to ride on the back of Robbie's. It was much less harrowing for me than when Sophie and I rented a tandem on Mackinac Island, as Robbie's feet touched the ground when he stopped and he was strong enough to keep the bike upright even with me still on it.

srah | 7:03 PM | TrackBack
Tags: belgium, bicycles, travel

Citrus facts

As you may know, Citroën is a maker of French automobiles. What you may not know is that citroen is the Dutch word for lemon.

In other interesting related news, the Dutch word for orange apparently translates as "sinus apple". Yum.

srah | 6:57 PM | TrackBack
Tags: cars, dutch, language

Vincent had the wrong idea

You have to keep them on the head.

One year ago today, I was blogging about earwax. And now I am all alone in France with no ears but my own. Plenty of ears turn in my general direction during school hours, but they don't do a lot of listening. More importantly, I don't have any ears to fondle. But the day will come when I will have several pairs of ears at my caressing disposal and I can go back to being the weird ear-fetishist that everyone knows and loves.

srah | 4:01 PM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, ears

Thoughts from the train

I bet a Dutch person who learned English in Scotland would hae a really interesting accent. If such an animal exists, make yourself known. I am going to marry you.

I prefer the Flemish Brugge to the French Bruges and Antwerpen to Anvers, but the French Ypres and Bruxelles to Ieper and Brussel.

I am constantly convinced that if I concentrate hard enough, I can understand spoken Flemish. I can't, but something about the tones of the language makes it feel like I should.

I do understand some written Flemish, but I invariably translate it into ridiculous pidgin English. Thus "We komen aan in Gent-Sint-Pieters" becomes "We coming on in Ghent-St-Peter's" and "De volgende halte is Gent-Dampoort" becomes "The forthcoming halt is Ghent-Dampoort".

srah | 11:03 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Tags: language

The mad American strikes again

I feel like I have to make my return to Vichy with some kind of flamboyant Belgiocity, in the way that people come back from Mexico with enormous sombreros, from Scotland with kilts, from Jamaica with dreadlock wigs, or from Easter Island with huge foam-rubber Moai heads. I don't know if the huge foam-rubber Moai heads exist, but if they don't they should, and maybe if I write "huge foam-rubber Moai heads" here often enough I can become the number-one search request for "huge foam-rubber Moai heads", which would really be quite an honor.

Back to the subject at hand. I can't think of a typical Belgian hat or costume, which kind of ruins my entire plan. So instead I will have to buy the largest praline the world has ever seen and strap it to my head. It will be sufficiently insane and touristy, might be strange even for Vichy, and when my hat melts, my head will be delicious.

Huge foam-rubber Moai head.

srah | 10:19 AM | TrackBack
Tags: belgium, huge foam rubber moai head, my favorite posts, travel

Jan van Eyck was not on Diagnosis: Murder

I hope the shopkeepers of Bruges won't be comparing notes on That Girl With the Pigtails because I claimed to be an anglophone or a francophone in alternating shops. I considered switching to Spanish, but then I realized I don't speak Spanish. Thankfully, Bruges is touristy enough to be able to handle me.

Brugge/Bruges (everything has a French and a Flemish name here) looks, to me, more like Oxford, England than Oxford does. That is to say it looks more like my mental image of Oxford than Oxford does and if I knew - even after having been to Oxford - what a dreaming spire looks like, I would bet that Brugge has got them. It's a quaint little canal town that sells lace and pralines to tourists. I had a Belgian specialty called carbonade for lunch: beef stewed in beer and served on a bed of frites. I bought souvenirs, took a boat ride on the canals, and now I'm returning to Antwerpen/Anvers to discover Christianna and Robbie's home town with them serving as guides and translators.

srah | 9:50 AM | TrackBack
Tags: travel

The guilt of the anglophone

I feel a bit confused and vulnerable and guilty speaking English to everyone here; I could pretend to be a francophone, but in most cases I assume English would be their second language and French only third. The most frustrating thing to me is that I don't know how to say "I'm sorry", something I want to say to everyone to apologize for my raging anglophony.

srah | 6:03 AM | TrackBack
Tags: belgium, language, travel

Four-twenties Walloons baked in a pie

Damn. According to the tourist guide Christianna lent me, Walloons have changed the numbers for 70 and 90, but not 80.

srah | 3:36 AM | TrackBack
Tags: french, travel

April 27, 2003

"Help! Help! I'm being repressed!"

Belgium is a fascinating place. I may have a skewed impression, considering my hosts are Flemish, but it seems that the French-speaking minority forces the Flemish-speaking majority to submit to their language when the conflict comes up, and the multilingual flamands give in. Now I get to represent two overbearing, aggressive languages here in the the Flemish town of Antwerp, when I try to me débrouiller alone in town.

srah | 7:11 PM | TrackBack
Tags: belgium, flemish, french, language

I'm so Belgium

We went out for a beer tonight after I arrived. Thankfully Christianna knows what I like and ordered for me, because I am in The Land of Beer, and I am a stranger in the aforementioned land. The place we went had a selection of one hundred different beers. I will abstain, however, from commenting on their musical atmosphere, as the songs over the course of the evening included "Love Cats".

We went out with Christianna's friends, all of whom speak impeccable English. Damned polyglot Belgians. When they weren't speaking English, they would throw in phrases of Flemish, the Belgian dialect of Dutch. Dutch and German are cousins, but clearly Dutch got all the good genes because it is infinitely more attractive than its relative.

srah | 6:53 PM | TrackBack
Tags: alcohol, language, travel

Mad American

I made an ass of myself by asking the Information Man at the train station a completely ridiculous and random question that turned out to have a completely obvious and stupid answer.

I was waiting for Christianna and Robbie, who were running late. I had already bothered the Information Man once to page them, then he saw that I was still there but I explained that I'd had her on the phone and that she was just running late.

I had been trying to figure out the Belgian name for the number 80. Whereas the French call 70 soixante-dix, 80 quatre-vingts and 90 quatre-vingts-dix, the Swiss and Belgians have invented actual names for these numbers. I just don't remember what they are. So as Information Man and I were tight like that and both standing around with nothing to do and he was, after all, an Information Man, I decided to ask him.

Me: Excusez-moi, monsieur. "Quatre-vingts" en Belgique, ça s'appelle comment?
IM: Quatre-vingts?
Me: Oui, le nom belge pour le chiffre quatre-vingts.
IM: Soixante-dix-neuf?
Me: Quatre-vingts. Ottante, ou quelque chose comme ça?
IM: Quatre-vingts.
Me: Ah, je croyais qu'il y avait un nom différent en Belgique-- hi, Christianna!

And upon the arrival of Christianna and Robbie, our thrilling conversation ended. I still think he's wrong, though. Maybe Bruxelles is different from the rest of the country, maybe he's French, or maybe he's Flemish and learned French in France. I'm sure there's something like ottante or octante that is used in Belgium. Perhaps I will have to buy something that costs 70 to 99 cents.

srah | 6:38 PM | TrackBack
Tags: belgium, french, travel

"I can't believe I ate the whole gopher"

In Belgium, you can buy waffles from a vending machine. Is this a great country or what?

I am also quite content to be in a country where I can say nonante for 90 instead of quatre-vingts-dix. I don't know where this desire to say nonante comes from, as I've never spent any significant time in Belgium or Switzerland, but it makes so much more sense than the ridiculous compound "four twenties and ten" numbers the French use.

srah | 3:04 PM | TrackBack
Tags: food, french, travel

Linguist lost

As you may know, I have yet to travel to a country where I don't speak the language. Hearing train announcements in Dutch panics me a bit because I don't understand anything. Not the same I don't understand anything I felt in Chile, where I could at least pick out words and general meanings of sentences, but a complete lack of comprehension. And here I am, going to visit the Flemish Christianna and her nederlandophone friends. What am I getting myself into?

srah | 1:07 PM | TrackBack
Tags: language, travel

Subtitles ahoy!

Sophie and I are hoping that the Nice People will get frustrated with their shortcomings in French (the presenters are already making fun of them for misgendering things and saying someone has nice horses instead of hair) and revert to English, a language they have probably all been studying for longer and know better. Not because we are great fans of English or Watching Subtitled TV or anything, but just because all that extra subtitling work would somehow teach TF1 a lesson. Live broadcasts will be interesting, if they find several languages to communicate in. Translators, start your typing!

I wonder if TF1 gave any thought to this in advance. The Belgian speaks five languages, the English girl is half Portuguese, and Swedes can always speak a million languages. Are we sure that French will always come out on top?

srah | 12:57 PM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, france, language, nice people, tv

I hate Paris in the springtime

"Don't worry," said the conductor. "Forty minutes is plenty of time to cross Paris and exchange your ticket. Take the RER line D and you'll be there in 15 minutes."

Very true, except when it takes 15 minutes to get from your train to the RER and you have to wait 10 minutes for the next RER train. Then it takes more like... 40 minutes to cross Paris.

Luckily I had been forced to pay an arm and a leg for a Full Tarif ticket which ended up being exchangeable for a ticket 5€ cheaper for a train an hour later. All is well in srah-land and as of five minutes before departure, there are no tuna-reeking gosses near me.

srah | 12:51 PM | TrackBack
Tags: france, paris, travel

Haiku Fever epidemic

Am bored out of my
mind in the train; will torture
myself with haiku.

I am afflicted,
when I visit assistants,
with Haiku Fever.

I don't know what langue
to speak with Christianna.
English? French? Flemish?

Why I like Belgium:
Multilingualism and
pommes frites and waffles.

I am sad to leave
Grenoble but it's Sophie's
turn to visit now.

Sometimes I wish that
I lived in an area
more geared t'words tourists.

Then people would be
sure to stop and visit when
they came to the States.

Other passengers
wonder why I keep counting
up to seventeen.

Haiku is too hard.
Not in the least relaxing.
I should learn to knit.

Will you be upset
if I don't bring you a gift?
I don't like to shop.

In elementary
school I hated haiku. Same
now; the "why" changed.

Then: because it was
too difficult. Now: because
it's an addiction.

En fait, a haiku
is supposed to be about
nature. Nature sucks!

srah | 10:55 AM | TrackBack
Tags: belgium, haiku, poetry, travel

More complaints about transportation

It amuses me, in a frustratedly amusèd way, that I can make the trip from Grenoble to Brussels in about the same amount of time it takes to get from Grenoble to Vichy. It all has something to do with the relief of the Massif Central, says the SNCF. Excuses, excuses... all I know is I'm lucky to be in Vichy rather than Aurillac, which is six hours from Paris...

srah | 10:27 AM | TrackBack
Tags: france, travel

A consommer avec moderation

Children are fine in moderation. But a multitude of children, running all over, chattering, (accidentally?) kicking me, using talkie-walkies in a no-cell-phone area, watching my favorite movie and blocking my view of the screen, and stinking up my train compartment with tuna fish sandwiches when I am stressed about the continuation of my voyage simply will not do. I am going to eat them, I've decided.

The children, that is. Not the stinky sandwiches.

srah | 9:52 AM | TrackBack
Tags: children, travel


We really don't have enough contact with the Portuguese in the US. I don't think I had given Portugal another thought since we learned about their XVIth century conquests and the Line of Demarcation. They seemed to disappear from history and geography after that.

I desperately need to find an attractive Portuguese man. I am in danger of creating my entire image of XXIst century Portugal based on the two Portuguese men I've seen on TV, in C'est mon choix and Nice People. There must be interesting and attractive men in the country, but apparently they don't export well.

srah | 9:04 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, nice people, portugal, tv

Travel panic

Ces connards at the Grenoble train station sold me a ticket for the 25th when I asked for the 27th. For the TGV, it doesn't create any graves problèmes, but for the Thalys to Bruxelles, my billet n'est plus valable. What unbelievable assholerie. I am an idiot myself for not checking the date on the ticket, but I've never had this happen to me before and it never even occurred to me. If they make me pay for a new ticket, I will bite someone.

srah | 8:44 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, travel

April 26, 2003

I am the Weakest Link. Goodbye.

Just in case you, like me, have a mental block for a good half hour because you can only remember eight of the nine planets in our solar system, I present them to you (in Order As I Remember It):

Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune (the elusive ninth one), Uranus, Pluto.

Or, if you prefer:

Mercure, Vénus, Terre, Mars, Jupiter, Saturne, Neptune, Uranus, Pluton.

Because here at srah blah blah, we are multi-lingual like that, even if we aren't terribly branchée on the scientific. Boo-yeah.

srah | 6:22 PM | TrackBack
Tags: french, science

La question que tout le monde se pose

The damned Belgian on Nice People speaks five languages. The damned Belgian I'm visiting tomorrow speaks at least six. Why was I not born in Belgium?

Sophie and I are both disappointed that our parents aren't foreign, as this would have given us a fine linguistic head-start. Being Belgian or Luxembourgeois wouldn't have hurt, either.

srah | 6:09 PM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, belgium, language, nice people, tv

Shameless watcher of bad TV tells all

I watched the first episode of Nice People tonight. It's a reality show where they're locking young people of various European countries up in a villa, then voting them off one by one. A sort of cross between The Real World, Survivor, and an auberge espagnole.

Personally, I think it's a shame that anyone has to be voted off, because the pleasure could just be from watching people from different nationalities interact, like the assistants do. Voting people off means we won't see them anymore and that someone will have to win. Yechhhh.

srah | 5:49 PM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, nice people, tv

Parfois, je suis heureuse

I am forcefully introducing Sophie to Cabas by making her download all of his songs. One of these is "A veces soy feliz". But if it's a veces, shouldn't it be estoy rather than soy? Temporary condition and all that? Remind me to stop thinking, especially in Spanish. I have no idea what langue I'm parling anymore.

srah | 1:20 PM | TrackBack
Tags: cabas, in spanish, lyrics, music, sofie

Quiero té

It throws me off that in Spanish, the verb querer can mean either want (as in Yo quiero Taco Bell... sorry I couldn't come up with a better example) or love (as in Te quiero), two ideas that are very different to me in English. I can see how in cases of romantic love the two could overlap, but it shocks me sometimes when I translate into English in my head and find someone saying that he wants his mother a lot.

Goes to show you you shouldn't translate things into English in your head, I guess.

srah | 1:12 PM | TrackBack
Tags: in spanish, language, spanish

April 25, 2003

De retour à Grenoble

I am spending the weekend in Grenoble with my host family. Sophie slept in, so I snuck out to run errands and take advantage of the Big City. Everything is pretty much as it was, the mountains are still lovely, I got to do a bit of shopping, and I even had 54 minutes left on my cybercafé account. I find that my disdain for Americans In France extends to my fellow CUEF students now and that even when one of them was talking about Michigan, I couldn't bring myself to associate with them.

srah | 7:30 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, grenoble, host family, travel

April 24, 2003

My Cherie Amour...

Sometimes I think that headphones should be forced to carry a tag that says, "WARNING: Use of headphones may lead to over-emphatic lip-synching or singing out loud in TGVs. Use with caution." I think that would be much safer for all involved.

srah | 3:40 PM | TrackBack

Hey you! On the bicycle!

Spotted today in the Capital of All Things Weird: a car inching (or should I say centimetring?) down the road, a speaker strapped to the top. Unfortunately, they were not advertising a Rhythm and Blues Show, but some kind of reptile extravaganza in Cusset with Real Live Crocodiles From America!

srah | 12:32 PM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, vichy

April 23, 2003

Poor neglected JH(.net)

yowza!I haven't been able to do much with JohnHannah.net since I've been here, so it's sort of just sat there and waited patiently for me. It still loves me, in its fashion, even though I forgot its birthday a month ago. So I would like to take this day to thank JohnHannah.net for its patience and to tell it that I will be home soon to make everything all better and give it new pages and make it pretty.

And while I'm at it, thanks and happy birthday to John Hannah, without whom there would be no JohnHannah.net. Or maybe there would, because I'm insane like that. Anyway, thank you and joyeux anniversaire, John, and I hope you're having fun in Moose Jaw.

srah | 5:02 PM | TrackBack
Tags: john hannah, john hannah dot net

Life is a bowl of vichyssoise

I haven't decided yet why, but it is. It would have made a good tagline, if I'd come up with it more than 12 days before my departure...

srah | 4:48 PM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship

Going to the movies alone

Saw Laisse tes mains sur mes hanches tonight, which wasn't particularly spectacular and just made me feel lonely.

My observations on the film and its previews: Jean-Hugues Anglade looks like a French Kevin Spacey. Mmmm, French. Mmmm, Kevin Spacey. If I see another preview for The Recruit, I am going to bite someone. The Hulk looks disturbingly similar to Shrek. And the saddest thing about my departure from France is that I will miss the June 11 release of Mais, qui a tué Pamela Rose?, the greatest French cinematic classic since La Tour Montparnasse infernale.

srah | 4:36 PM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, movies


Inspired by my post about the similarity between Vichy Sundays and Art Fair, my subconscious decided to supply me with an even better comparison: Football Saturdays.

I was driving my car in Ann Arbor, but I was having trouble getting anywhere because pedestrians were taking over the whole street.

"I've lived here... twenty-three years!" I exaggerated, as if that would impress them. It didn't.

"Maybe you should get out more!" someone yelled back. I got free of the pedestrian hordes and continued along my way, but ended up at Michigan Stadium.

I saw two of my students, Rémy and Eric, going towards the stadium and it occurred to me that I had a ticket to the game at home and that if this was an important game, I might be able to get some money for it. I went through a door and ended up in the teachers' lounge at Valéry Larbaud. Another student, Dorothée, was there, so I asked her if she liked football. She seemed to have only a vague idea of what the game consisted of, but she was able to tell me that U-M was playing Waterloo, so I realized my ticket wouldn't be in high demand. I went to clean out my locker and found a book about a talk show. Flipping through it, I came across a color photo section entitled "Why we're glad Alec Guinness is dead" and a chapter devoted to the strengths and weaknesses of what they called the "Terrieses" from Monty Python.

I feel like I dream about Monty Python a lot. Odd. Could it mean something?

srah | 5:50 AM | TrackBack
Tags: dream

Whirlwind ending

I'm off to Grenoble tomorrow, then to Belgium from there, then I'll return around the 29th to close my bank account, and I may be off again on the 30th or 1st to Aurillac, if I'm all packed and ready to go. Don't worry if I'm not posting - I'm sure I'll be writing anyway and you'll get a big glut of posts whenever I get a chance to type!

srah | 4:06 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, travel

April 22, 2003

More ennuis

Another thing that will be difficult to handle is the inevitable question: How was France?

"Good," I will reply. My interlocutor will look at me expectantly.

"Really good," I will add.

On the other hand, I may end up with someone who will press me for more information, and who will unwittingly open up the floodgates of monologue, so that I will talk for hours on end about everything that's happened to me over the past seven months.

I can already envision the difficulty I will have getting people to understand the sheer Stefanocity of Stefan. I don't know if it's possible. You will just have to stand on the Franco-German border and wait for an orange bagnole to pass by in one direction or the other, so that you can experience it for yourself.

srah | 4:01 PM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship

Another fun day at the cybercafé


Make it stop...

srah | 9:37 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, music

Shortbread depresses me

When I lived in Grenoble, I never stopped being amused by France and the French and Europe in general. I think the difference is that I have accepted and adapted to a lot more this time, rather than being amused and staying on the surface.

I lived with things and was amused by them in Grenoble, but went back to my "normal" life in the USA afterwards. Now it feels like this is the normal life and I will actually have to readjust to my own country. My concern is that I will find it boring and bland and will reject it. I have in front of me a box labelled:

sables ronds pur beurre specialité ecossaise/ zandkoekjes met boter schotse specialiteit/ original schottisches buttergebäck/ biscotti rotondi scozzesi di pasta frollo al burro/ rodajas de torta seca de mantequilla original de Escocia.

I know it sounds stupid, but I could probably have a nervous breakdown based on the fact that these cookies would only be labelled as "pure butter shortbread rounds" in the US. I am mentally delicate at the moment. Be kind.

srah | 4:23 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, france, language

April 21, 2003

Bon cinéma!

For weeks now, I've been looking forward to seeing Bon Voyage. The previews looked incredibly stupid, but the leading man looked really hot. No, not Gérard Depardieu. The other leading man. Anyway, WWII-era costumes and Grégori Derangère were all this movie had going for it in my opinion, but I am shallow, so I considered it well worth paying 6€ to see a Hot Guy In Costume. I am glad I did, because it turned out to be a funny, dramatic, good movie with, as an added bonus, scenes filmed at the Aletti Palace Hotel in Vichy. Rather ironic that a Vichy hotel was the stand-in for a pre-capitulation hotel in Bordeaux, actually.

I am quite impressed with our cinematic excursions this week and will be awaiting the North American DVD releases with bated breath.

srah | 5:17 PM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, movies, vichy

Ah, ces Américaines!

Vichy, as we know, is insane. While everything was unexpectedly open on Easter Sunday, everything was unexpectedly closed on the fake fake holiday of Easter Monday.

We managed, however, to have a visit to our favorite salon de thé (yes, THOTs, we are old ladies), where I nibbled on a Paris-Brest and drank a thé au lait (rather than protein-rich beet juice). There's a joke in there somewhere, but I don't expect you to get it and I'm certainly not going to explain it.

srah | 12:59 PM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, holidays, vichy


I dreamt night-before-last that I was walking down the street and this guy en rollers with ski poles started harassing me and skating very tight circles around me. I got mad, tore the ski poles out of his hands, and pushed him off balance, so that he fell on the ground. He just smiled in a particularly evil way, then people started yelling at me. Why had I attacked this fine young man for no reason? His dad was upset because he would never play hockey again - but he hadn't even broken anything! They started demanding recompensation for his imaginary injuries and I was screaming at them at the top of my lungs in the dream when I woke up and yet, according to Renata and Jennifer, I had not made any noise at all in real life.

Last night I dreamt that math was a requirement at Albion and I didn't understand anything that was going on in the class. I had left my worksheet blank, but I had another copy that my mom had started, just for fun. The professor claimed I'd been trying to cheat by having my mother do my homework. I replied that I hadn't planned on handing in my mom's copy and that if I'd been trying to cheat, I wouldn't have handed in a paper with my mom's name written all across the top. To punish me for whatever I'd done, the prof called a pop quiz, but I couldn't even see the questions through my tears, much less understand them. I tried and tried and sobbed and sobbed and finally got up and went to the bathroom, where a group of girls were talking about their answers to the quiz. I didn't understand anything they were saying and I was crying too hard to pay attention, but then the prof came in and the girls said they were trying to help me, so I got in trouble again. When I woke up, my face was perfectly dry, even though I'd been sobbing all through the dream.

srah | 3:32 AM | TrackBack
Tags: dream

April 20, 2003


Renaud was so adorable in Wanted that we squealed whenever he came onscreen. I was in a Renaud mood when I got home, so I put on the Best of '75-'85 CD I burned from Renata. In Dès que le vent soufflera, Renaud sings "La mer, c'est dégueulasse/ Les poissons baisent dedans."

In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, after Indy bluffs to the Germans that Marcus Brody will blend in and disappear in Egypt, it flashes to Marcus in Cairo, looking for someone who speaks English or ancient Greek. When someone offers him some water, if you listen carefully, he responds, "Water? No thank you; fish make love in it."

What is the connection here? Are they both making reference to another earlier quote about the watery behavior of fish, or is Brody (1989) quoting Renaud (1983)? I find it hard to believe that they would both independently come up with the idea. Is there some kind of vast fish-love conspiracy? Can this quote be found elsewhere? What's going on here?

srah | 5:46 PM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, french, indiana jones, movies, music, renaud, wanted

'If you say baseball one more time, Zéro is going to shoot you.'

A cinematic masterpiece has been born! Renata, Jennifer and I finished off our Traditional Easter Sunday with a kebab and a movie. We went to see Wanted, wherein a band of French braqueurs including Gérard Depardieu, Johnny Hallyday, and an adorable gun-toting Renaud, set off for Chicago for a heist. They wind up with the FBI, the Chicago Mafia, and a Latino gang all after them, and hijinks and gunfights ensue. It is wonderful and perfect, and yet not really a good movie. Nonetheless, I suggest it highly.

The weird thing about the movie is that it seems to have been made especially for us. I don't know who had the idea to make a movie with Johnny and Renaud speaking English, but we giggled and sighed and laughed at both the French in-jokes (Renaud and Johnny fighting over the radio, for example) and the purely American things like the take-off on Judge Judy. De toutes les façons, we really appreciate that someone made this movie just for us and I hope that others will enjoy it too.

srah | 5:23 PM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, movies, wanted

Sunday, damn bloody Sunday

One thing I will not miss about Vichy is Sunday afternoons. It reminds me of Art Fair in Ann Arbor. Suddenly the town is invaded by hordes of shoppers who descend upon it, much to the chagrin of the natives who can't get anywhere because of the crowds. Strangely enough, both cases involve Andean pipe bands playing on street corners and selling their discs.

Vichy, as a heavily touristic town, is one of the few places in France where shops open on Sundays. Thus people come from all over the region to shop, to see, to be seen, and to walk slowly down the sidewalk, seeing and being seen, while Sarah just wants to get past them, go the ATM and get home.

srah | 1:07 PM | TrackBack
Tags: ann arbor, assistantship, vichy

Frightening prospect

People threatened me with nervous breakdowns the last time I came home from France, and nothing happened.

I'm afraid it will this time.

srah | 12:40 PM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship

Easter morning in Vichy

We woke up this morning and Renata made us French French French French French French Toast. Then we ate cookies and chocolate-covered marshmallows, and watched Télé-Foot. We have come to the decision that we will reform the rules of soccer by requiring all footballers to remove their shirts after every goal. We feel that this would make a great difference to the sport and increase ratings in the ever-valuable Female and Gay Male demographics.

Then we watched a crappy talk show where the subject was Who is the most seductive European? They brought on male guests from Norway, Italy, Portugal, Germany, Ireland, and France to try to seduce the audience. I was rooting for poor Conrad, who had to fight against his crippling Germanicity, and we were all horrified and embarassed by the anglophony of the tadpole-headed Sean, who thought that it would be cool to say "get down and dirty on the dance floor" in a declaration of love. We were all frightened that the nasty chauvinistic Benjamin would win, just because he was French, but thankfully Italy triumphed in the end.

srah | 12:01 PM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, holidays, tv

April 19, 2003

Briouding in the rain

Everyone left this morning, and only the Americans remain. We took a trip to Brioude today, to see Eleonora, yet another assistante colombienne. It's a small town, but it has a XIth century basilica and several assistants and is very nice. We had a walk around town, a drink in a café, and pastries chez Eleonora, then tripped off towards the gare in the rain before regaling our fellow train passengers by singing delightful songs that they really appreciated. Almost as much as they appreciated the smell of Renata's feet.

We came back to Vichy, made Whatever We Have Sitting Around Pasta, which was surprisingly good, and all piled into bed together for a sleepover at Presles.

srah | 5:52 PM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, brioude, travel

April 18, 2003

Last post from Valéry Larbaud

And I have nothing to say.

Bye folks. Hope I'll see you again soon. If not, behave yourselves and be wonderful people. Hasta la proxima. Ciao.

srah | 12:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship

¡La hora de la siesta!

And now for the resumé of today's Spanish lessons, just because the THOTs seem to be amused by it. I will talk about my lesson with the 1ASMS, because the mendigo cartoon wasn't very interesting and de toutes les façons, Rémy has already read all of the notes I took during the first hour.

En mi segunda clase de español del dia, vemos un comic que habla de una familia que ve demasiado television. Una noche, la mujer se despierta a las dos y veinte de la mañana. Mira a su marido, que sigue durmiendo. Se levanta y pone una cinta video en la videocamara. La cinta se compone de los recuerdos de vacaciones de la familia, cuando se diverten en la absencia de la television. Por fin, la mujer besa la television, porque tiene una mejor relacion con la television que con su familia, y se acuesta.

Damn, I write a lot. Corrigez away in the blahblahs, hispanophones.

srah | 11:11 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, classwork, in spanish, spanish

I need a nap

I may keel over dead. Two and a half hours to go. I may also fall asleep in Spanish class. I have just realized that I came completely unprepared for Spanish. Great. Must aller renseigner myself as to what we're doing today.

On the positive side, I finally got my cup of tea and watched opticians playing mini-golf. I feel like the school has gone insane today. Maybe it's me.

Carrément. Ouais. C'est sûr. I felt that had to be said: further proof that it is me. Night night.

srah | 8:25 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship

Ho hum

Never mind. I'm a dumb ass. Tables and chairs and a sign that says "Tea Room" really should have tipped me off. Must go consume liquids.

srah | 5:51 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, tea

La balade anglaise

It's the day of the Commerce students' big project. They have decorated the school like an English street and brought local merchants in to sell British wares. It's a bit surreal that in addition to the electronic humming bell we usually have, we also have a recording of Big Ben to announce the breaks between classes.

If we are so English today, why can I still not get a cup of tea? Teeeeeeeeeeeeeea.

srah | 5:44 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, tea

Good morning!

Went out faising la fête with a mess of opticians last night. Opticians like cookies and Reese's cups, if you are ever interested in buying their affections. They also like to drink alcohol and then speak English... or just drink alcohol. Or just speak English. Would you like some pâté? But of course! And I would like some carrots also! I give you some wine. Yes, I want some wine! We went to Aurélie's for the apéro, out to dinner, to the Fous du Roy, and finally ended up at Le Loft, a newish night club with an excessive number of 40-year-old men. Srah had Malibu-and-pineapple-juice, vin rosé, Malibu-and-pineapple-juice, and whisky-and-orange-juice. Sylvie confirmed my suspicion that men are more aggressive in Vichy than they were in Grenoble, and we had a nice little discussion about France/USA relations, then the club closed and I went to bed at about 4:30am.

Why am I awake and blogging now???? I can't decide if I am drunk or exhausted. Probably a little bit of both. At least I am not as hungover and seriously fucked up as a certain English-babbling Norman(d). Good morning. Good night. How can a girl get a cup of tea in this place?

srah | 5:33 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship

The Very Easy Friday Five

1. Who is your favorite celebrity?
Good question. I have no idea. None whatsoever.

2. Who is your least favorite?
Unfortunately I think I have a lot more celebrities I dislike than those I like. Andie MacDowell is always at the top of the list, but we'll also throw in Tom Cruise, Charlton Heston, Britney Spears, Johnny Hallyday (sacrilege! I will be thrown out of the country!) and John Revolta.

3. Have you ever met or seen any celebrities in real life?
Yes - Dave Coulier, Blake Sloan, Marty Turco, several other players who went pro and can probably be considered celebrities, John Hannah, and Tom Wilkinson. What do we consider a celebrity? I know/knew Jim Tobin and Fotolu.

4. Would you want to be famous? Why or why not?
I would like to be David-Sedaris-famous. I think I would like to be a little famous, but not extremely so. I would like to be somewhat recognizable but not enough that people would attack me all the time. I would like to be famous for my talent rather than my face.

5. If you had to trade places with a celebrity for a day, who would you choose and why?
As in the previous question, I think I would pick an author, who has some degree of anonymity. I would pick Sedaris again because I think he would get some interesting material out of switching places with me and being an English assistant for a day.

srah | 5:05 AM | TrackBack
Tags: friday five, memes

April 17, 2003

In case you were wondering...

The English and French equivalents of to suave up/suaver were invented on the way home from Thiers. They are, respectively, to englarm/englarmer and to fratouille/fratouiller. Use them at your discretion.

srah | 9:49 AM | TrackBack
Tags: french, language, words

What is that blinding light?

That's the sun reflecting off my recently-exposed winter-white legs. Just like last year at this time.

srah | 9:46 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


I dreamt last night that I pinned one of my students down on the ground and tickled him. I won't identify him here, and that way all of my students can fantasize that they were the lucky victim.

srah | 9:43 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, dream

The Empire of Srahnce

The Empire of Srahnce is a tiny, environmentally stunning nation, notable for its burgeoning llama population. Its compassionate, intelligent population of 5 million have some civil rights, but not too many, enjoy the freedom to spend their money however they like, to a point, and take part in free and open elections, although not too often.

The large government juggles the competing demands of Healthcare, Social Welfare, and Education. The average income tax rate is 24%, but much higher for the wealthy. A small private sector is dominated by the Basket Weaving industry.

Crime is moderate, and the police force struggles against a lack of funding and a high mortality rate. Srahnce's national animal is the llama, which frolics freely in the nation's many lush forests, and its currency is the donut.

- Nation States

[via the k-tron]

srah | 7:44 AM | TrackBack
Tags: discovered

April 16, 2003

Retour au futur

Agnès and I were talking about my return to the US and she mentioned that my universe will change completely when I return. I've realized she's right. When I was in Grenoble I met people and had experiences, but between classes and family life, things were quite similar to my life aux USA.

Now I will be moving back to an environment completely different from the one I've adjusted to here and there are probably over 300 faces I will never see again. Three hundred people I have met here, who I might never see again, whether they be students, teachers, fellow assistants, friends of friends, or just familiar faces in my daily life. I'm afraid the realization of this enormous number has come as quite a shock to me.

srah | 6:12 PM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship

Movie night - again

I went to Agnès' ce soir for dinner and a movie. We talked about end-of-the-year activities and watched Mon Oncle by Jacques Tati, a comedy without dialogue. There's speech, but it's almost unnecessary. Monsieur Hulot must be the ancestor of Mr Bean, but his character was set in a futuristic world from the 1950s. Very funny little thing and I'm glad I passed up Pile et Face to get a chance to see it.

srah | 6:02 PM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, movies

Renata's money can buy knives

Renata, Jennifer and I made a trip to Thiers this afternoon, to revisit the site of one of our first voyages ensemble, and so that Renata could buy some knives. We had a walk by the river and up and down the hills of the town, enjoying the delapidated romance of the lovely city. We returned to the same pâtisserie we'd loitered in the last time and I had a thiernoise, the local delicacy: layers of meringue and praline cream covered in a chocolate shell. Jehosephat, it was tasty.

We returned to Vichy and - much to the delight of my male readers, I'm sure - the three of us climbed into bed together. Well, technically we all just sort of collapsed on Jenny's bed and didn't move for about an hour, digesting pastry and recovering from hill-climbing. So much for titillation.

srah | 5:57 PM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, food, thiers, travel

April 15, 2003


It has suddenly struck me that when I go home, the main problem may be boredom. This is completely ridiculous, since I regularly complained of boredom here in Vichy, where I don't have a TV or computer. I think, instead, that I fear monotony. I fear that life won't be as incredibly strange and unpredictable as it has been here in the Epicenter of All Things Weird.

srah | 6:46 PM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, vichy

Movie night

We saw the Club Cinéma movie Mies vailla menneisyyttä tonight. I am now fascinated by Finland and the language, and even more fascinated by the fact that French has two different words for the people (finlandais) and the language (finnois) of the country.

srah | 5:46 PM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, finland, french, movies

There's vomit on her sweater: mom's spaghetti

First of all, I am in no way in favor of wearing vomit-stained clothing. In fact, you might go so far as to say I am against this practice.

Second of all, if I was wearing a sweater onto which I had vomited my mom's spaghetti, it would be unspeakably atrocious. I haven't eaten my mom's spaghetti in at least seven months. Can you imagine how that would reek?

So no, I am not wearing a vomit-stained sweater. I just felt I needed a title for this post. So after the long introduction and explanation, I bring you the main idea of this post: The weather is so nice today I could vomit.

The sun is shining, the sky is blue and cloudless, there is a light breeze, but it's still hot. When I say "hot", I don't mean "warmish". I don't mean "pleasantly warm". I mean short-sleeves-and-still-sweating hot. It is beautiful and gorgeous and lovely and I only hope it lasts! It is so wonderful it almost makes me sick. Srah is finished teaching and summer is here!

srah | 12:34 PM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, weather

Plans for the future

"So, Sarah, you finish work this week, but you don't leave until May 5. What are you going to do inbetween?"

No idea.

First I have to get through L'homme sans passé, a trip to Thiers, movie night chez Agnès, faising la fête avec les S2OL, la Balade Anglaise, a goodbye party for all of the assistants, shutting off my phone, filling out paperwork, leaving information for the next assistant, and setting up an appointment to close my bank account.

Then, and only then, can I start to think about vacation. So it will be a while. Beurk.

srah | 11:12 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship

A rather uninteresting tale

As requested by Katie, here is the suite of the Story Of My Stalking Neighbor. As my loyal readers know, I finally got up the nerve and told him I didn't want to see him.

And now I don't anymore. I am almost disappointed, because it's so anti-climactic. It doesn't give me any fascinating stories to write about in my blog, and thus I forget to inform my readers... because nothing has happened. We still pass each other in the courtyard and I say "Bonjour" because I am civil and American and such, but he has left me alone. So... there.

srah | 11:00 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, stalking neighbor

Multi-language question

I'm not quite sure that I understand how this is supposed to work, but I will answer the damned question. In German.

Multi Language QuestionWelchen Beruf wollten Sie ausüben als Sie ein Kind waren ? Üben Sie ihn jetzt aus ? Wieso nicht ?

At one point, I'm sure I wanted to be a princess. I am not a princess because I was not born one and because I have not yet ensnared a prince. I remember wanting to be a scientist, because it sounded smart. Later, I worked on my elementary school newspaper (The Mitchell Talks News... envisioned but not named by yours truly) and decided I wanted to be a journalist. Then I worked at the public library and decided I wanted to be a librarian. Then I worked in the Albion College archives and decided I never wanted to work in a library again. Then I worked in some more libraries, and now I want to make web pages and be paid for it. The End.

srah | 10:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Tags: language, memes

Hooray, I am popular

The S2OLs have invited me out for couscous chez somebody on Thursday night. I will be there with bells on. Figuratively.

More likely with cookies on, I imagine.

srah | 9:33 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship

Notes on the cahier

I am hiding out in one of the computer rooms, trying to come up with things to do on the computer in order to avoid popping into the salle des profs every two seconds. I have left my cahier de souvenirs in the teachers' lounge for the last hour and a half, in the hopes that at least one teacher will have signed it when I finally emerge and peek. Probably not.

I'm wondering if it would be indiscreet to quote some of the entries left by students (males in particular) in my cahier here in my weblog, just because they make me guffaw. Probably. Sorry. I bet it really sucks that all I blog about is my friggin' notebook and you can't share in the joy. Tant pis.

srah | 9:29 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship

Mon blason

Arlequin m'a fait un blason personnalisé. "Ben dis donc!" as we learned to say in the "euuuuuuuh" lesson of high school French.

Yes, we had an "euuuuuuuuuuuh" lesson in high school French, and I found it very valuable. We actually watched a whole video of French people saying "euuuuuh" in order to learn that we should make that sound instead of the "uhhhh" sound when we were thinking about what to say next. It was very helpful with pronunciation and saying "euuuuh" keeps you in the French mindset while you're searching for the next word. Whatever. It works.

srah | 9:22 AM | TrackBack
Tags: french

Becky wants you

This is my sister. Her name is Becky and she is 18 years old.

Becky wants me to bring back French boys for her when I return home. If you are a French boy and would like to volunteer, go visit her weblog or her website. Then she can stop nagging me about it. Heh heh.

srah | 9:19 AM | TrackBack
Tags: alfie, boys

The dullest blog in the world

Damn, I have competition.

[via Katie]

srah | 8:28 AM | TrackBack
Tags: discovered


Thanks to Alex and the continued efforts of the assistantes amérivichyssoises to mangle and reinvent the English language, a new expression has been born: to suave someone up. Suaving someone up consists of speaking Spanish in an effort to seduce them.

We have also invented the equivalent French verb suaver, which we repeat loudly and often in front of the other assistants, who never ask us what we're talking about because they have learned to ignore us.

We are now in search of a word that would mean "speaking French in an effort to seduce someone". We decided that fuaver sounded too much like fava beans. Any suggestions?

srah | 5:23 AM | TrackBack
Tags: french, language, words

Wouldja like to take a survey?

Renata and I have been conducting a survey for the past few days and I would like to invite you, dear readers, to take part. There are two questions.

1) Is the best flavor of tea "Renata's Ass"? Yes or yes?
2) Spanish sucks.

Thank you for participating. Your answers will be ignored.

Oh, the insanity. This is what happens when Renata and I are hopped up on chocolate chip cookies and Franglais.

srah | 5:18 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship

April 14, 2003

Meet up!

This seems like an interesting idée. You can meet up with people who have the same interests as you. I can see how the French-language one would be useful, but I think a meeting of bloggers would be extremely awkward. Everyone would be wishing they had a keyboard through which to communicate.

srah | 10:39 AM | TrackBack

Last day of classes

I'm going to miss these little buggers. Even the ones who never wanted to work. Especially the ones who never wanted to work. There are so many silly things, but also so many lovely things written in my cahier de souvenirs. You make me laugh out loud, and I'm going to go cry now. I'll miss you.

srah | 10:27 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, teaching

More end-of year observations

I feel so much happier these days, especially after reading the inscriptions in my cahier de souvenirs.
Even if they're flat-out lying, it's nice to finally realize that I was
appreciated, and I find that the last-period classes are very happy and fun
and relaxed. I should have done this earlier!

srah | 6:15 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, teaching

April 13, 2003

All hail Sarah

Once again, I am the chouchou of the cybercafé. And all it took to buy their affections was a dozen homemade American-style chocolate chip cookies. Yay me.

srah | 9:52 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, cybercafe

April 12, 2003

Be wary

It has suddenly occurred to me that this kind invitation to spend the night may be nothing less than a ruse to keep my cookies hostage in the apartment. We must be on the alert for cookie-rustlers.

srah | 7:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship

S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y night

My marathon of cookie-baking is finally at an end and I am spending the night in Stefan's bed. Unfortunately (or "fortunately", as it is pronounced in Chilean), Stefan is not in it.

I knew that I had some chocolate chips and I thought I would use them up before I leave, by making cookies for my SMS students' wee party on Tuesday. When I got home and actually looked, I discovered that although I no longer have a four, I had managed to accumulate 1.5 bags of chocolate chips, a bag of peanut butter chips, half a bag of Hershey's Kisses, and a bag of chocolate chip cookie mix. So rather than Cookies For The SMS, I ended up baking Cookies For Everyone In The Entire World. Renata and I hae calculated that I must have made at least 16 dozen, although some were very small and some were very eaten.

I have donated some to my colleagues in informatique, Amandine and Cédric, others to Renata, Andrés and Johanna, and the rest will be dispersed among Everyone I Know. A large amount will be left in the teachers' lounge to entice people to sign my cahier de souvenirs and another large amount will be left in my stomach.

After a visit chez les BTS and a chat with Andrés and Luisa, it was remarked that there is an extra bed here and no need to go home at all hours of the night. So me voilà, taking up residence in the chambre of the absent Stefan, which is full of Brassens lyrics and bottles of Ricard, as the chambre de Stefan ought to be. Night night.

srah | 7:46 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, baking

Undisputable fact o' the day

American sauerkraut and French choucroute are like chalk and cheese. That is to say, one is inedible and the other is delicious and French. Pass the Riesling, please.

srah | 7:35 AM | TrackBack
Tags: food, france, united states

Les fumistes fumeurs

It's amazing that one can study a language for twelve years, live immersed in it for two, and still discover words that one didn't know or had always misunderstood.

When my colleagues at the lycée described students as fumistes, I always connected it with the verb fumer and between that and the context of the sentence, took it to mean "someone who does nothing but sit around all day and smoke". Possibly specifically smoke pot, but I wasn't sure.

Now in my slang dictionary, I have discovered that I had the general idea right, but I was still off. The dico describes a fumiste as "a lazy individual, one who doesn't want to work" and adds that literally, a fumiste is someone who works with le fumier.

You learn something every day.

srah | 6:32 AM | TrackBack
Tags: french, words

Today's longing

I miss popcorn and toast.

srah | 4:15 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, food

April 11, 2003

Foutez-moi la paix!

It's a shame that young people today living in apartments can't have a little party without the cranky neighbors getting upset and writing angry diatribes about the little fuckers in their blogs. Go to sleep, dammit, and stop leaving the door to my apartment building wide open in the middle of the night. This is what happens when you let young people rent apartments. Damned rabble. Go home.

srah | 5:23 PM | TrackBack
Tags: apartment, assistantship

Go away, Mr Clown, you scare me

Saw an entertaining movie called Effroyables Jardins ce soir with Renata and Andrés. Despite a large number of clowns figuring prominently in the film, it managed to be enjoyable and sad. It is unusual for me to be unhappy during scenes of violence against clowns, but this film managed it.

srah | 4:57 PM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, clowns, movies

Undebatable fact o' the day

The only Cure song worth listening to is "Love Cats". And then only once a year.

I feel like I've been deluged with Cure songs recently. They're following me everywhere I go, giving me the opportunity to finally realize that while I own a Cure CD and have just checked one out of the library, the lead singer's voice has an Annoying Level second only to that guy from The B-52s.

When I am Queen of the Universe, there will be quotas for these kinds of things.

I swear that as I typed up this post, written in my little book two days ago, "Love Cats" was playing in the cybercafé. Kill me now.

srah | 4:25 PM | TrackBack
Tags: music

En la clase de español

Hoy, estudiamos la grammatica de francés. Para aprender lenguas, es muy importante conocer bien su misma lengua, entonces revisamos el subjunctivo y el condicional de francés antes de estudiar esos tiempos en español.

Correct me, lurking Spanish speakers. I know you're there. If you let me prattle along in bad Spanish, I will always sound like an evil baby. Please help me learn to talk like a hillbilly instead.

srah | 11:16 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, david sedaris, in spanish, language, me talk pretty one day, spanish

Where am I? What's going on?

Is the war over? Saddam Hussein's government has fallen? How can we tell? Did he surrender? Is he dead? I'm confused.

srah | 11:06 AM | TrackBack
Tags: war

A plaintive wail

I don't want to leeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeave...

srah | 7:54 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship

The Friday Five

1. What was the first band you saw in concert?
Probably the Michigan Marching Band or the Mitchell Elementary School band. If we're talking real concerts, Dave Matthews Band. I believe my entire real-concert experience is DMB, K's Choice, DMB again, and Travis.

2. Who is your favorite artist/band now?
I have loads. The Beatles are pretty steadily at the top of the list, but we can also throw in Renaud and Charles Aznavour for the heck of it. My favorites change daily - I am quite fond of Cabas aujourd'hui.

3. What's your favorite song?
Once again, changes daily. Cécile ma fille, Emmenez-moi, Et maintenant, The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead and Embraceable You are at the top of the list.

4. If you could play any instrument, what would it be?
It couldn't be anything that involved lung power, of course. The flute was disastrous. I have always been interested in the drums. I would be an eensy weensy elfin drummer. Heh. Actually, I would rather play no instrument at all because I hate practicing and I hate playing the little not-songs that they make you play when you're learning. I want to play something people will recognize, not "A Brown Cow in the Country" or something like that, made up by the songbook writers.

5. If you could meet any musical icon (past or present), who would it be and why?
Hmmm. Renaud. He's neato. And Stefan would be jealous.

srah | 7:54 AM | TrackBack
Tags: friday five, memes

April 10, 2003

Note to students discovering my site for the first time

Si j'accomplis une chose cette année, je voudrais que vous reteniez ces deux mots et que vous cessiez de dire le mot français avec une prononciation anglaise: interessant interesting et soucis worries. Interessant and soucis do not exist in English, and it is my mission in life to prevent you from using them. Have a good vacation and go sign my guestbook.

srah | 10:32 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, french, teaching

The final Thursday

When I first arrived at the school, I said that one of my hobbies was making websites, and I wrote the address on the board. Now, at the last session of each class, I write my email address and website address on the board so that my students can keep in touch, and give them a little song and dance about how this is the last time I'm going to see them and if they'd like to keep in contact with me, they can find me there.

"C'est quoi, ça?" they ask.
"Ben... c'est mon adresse de courrier électronique et l'adresse de mon site web."
"Vous avez un site web?"

Why are they still vousvoying me? And more importantly, how much of the other stuff I said during the year completely escaped them? Sigh.

srah | 10:31 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, french, in french, teaching

Nearing the finish line

I just found out that both of my Thursday classes are cancelled next week. My Tuesday classes are having parties, so I finish working Monday at 4pm.

It's all happening so suddenly. I want to take pictures of my students, but I'm not going to catch up with everyone. I want to tell everyone to look me up if they come to the States, but I forget when the end of the hour rolls around. I'm still learning people's names. I barely know these kids, and I would have liked to have had the chance to know them better.

I wondered, months ago, how I would feel at the end of this year. The answer: rushed. Nostalgic. Mostly satisfied. Rather sad.

srah | 6:52 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, teaching

Sarah Sarah über alles

I have declared myself la reine des mouchoirs, due to my constant sniffling and nose-blowing. I have invited Andrés to be le roi, as he is the latest victim of the Vichy Death Plague and we sniffled and suffered together all weekend, surely infecting everyone else. I also declared myself Emperor of Germany, but that's just because I'm insane.

srah | 5:37 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, health

April 8, 2003

Well? Who needs to get well?

I am off to Aurillac again this evening, to spend some bonding time with my fellow assistants before we are cruelly torn apart by the Fates. Hopefully I will come up with something to do in class on Thursday while I am there. Hopefully I will get some sleep and my cold will get better - or at least not any worse. Hopefully my little friends will all sign my cahier de souvenirs and we will dance and joyously sing. Or something. Goodbye and I'll blog to you on Thursday.

srah | 4:09 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, health

Oi be a monkey poirate

is a
Banana-Eating Pirate Monkey

...with a Battle Rating of 8.3

To see if your Food-Eating Battle Monkey can
defeat srah, enter your name:

[via Bitsy, who I trounced]

srah | 3:16 AM | TrackBack

April 7, 2003

Un seul élève

One student. ONE STUDENT! At the last class session before I leave! Cursèd bureaucracy. They could have told us in advance that the students would be doing oral exams today and would miss class.

It is a lot harder to be an assistant if you never have any students to assist.

srah | 4:25 PM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, teaching

An unhairy AnnArborite protests

"The women looked like I would have if I'd stayed in Ann Arbor. They wore their hairy legs and underarms as a badge signifying their higher power of reasoning and their disinterest in conventional standards of beauty."
- A Map of the World, Jane Hamilton

As I was reading this book, it suddenly struck me that I knew what was going to happen next. I got excited about my new-found psychic abilities until I realized that I had already seen the made-for-TV-movie-esque film based on it.

srah | 3:26 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack
Tags: ann arbor, books

April 6, 2003


I dreamt last night that it was the last day of class and I ran out of things for my students to do, so they ran amok. Then the principal showed up and saw I had no control of the class. As if it couldn't get worse, one of my students then told me that she hated English and it was all because of me. I hope it goes better than that in real life.

srah | 4:57 AM | TrackBack
Tags: dream

April 5, 2003

Have you been snuffled by a mammoth today?

Andrés, Claude, Renata, and my drugged-up self went on a car trip this afternoon to Vulcania, a museum/learning experience in the middle of the chaîne des puys. It is an enormous place and required more than the three hours we had for it. The subject is volcanoes and it focuses a bit on the puys, but it also touches on other seismic activity and volcanoes all over the world. It reminded me somewhat of Dynamic Earth, minus the lovely narration by John Hannah.

There were many interesting video presentations, including one in 3-D (complete with groovy glasses) showing different eras in the history of the Massif Central. A nice little mammoth stuck his trunk out into the audience and gave us a little sniff and a smile (if mammoths can smile) before suffocating to death under a pile of sudden volcanic ash. The tears streamed down my face, but that was because I was having a coughing fit.

The odd thing about Vulcania is that it's in the middle of nowhere. You come off the autoroute into the park, drive farther in, park, get out, and walk through more nothingness and fields to get to the museum. Then when you get there, it looks like a futuristic shrine to volcanoes. Renata and I have decided that the "museum" is just a cover-up for a Raelian compound.

srah | 4:34 PM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, auvergne, travel, vulcania

What to do?

I have two weeks left teaching. That means I'm going to see some of my students for the last time this week. I ought to do something really special, but I don't know what. I have to take pictures and bake a lot of cookies or banana bread or pumpkin pie. I have to come up with a superfun game to play and remember to give everyone my email address, but I also still have to keep from giving the teachers the impression that I'm slacking off because it's the end of my time here (even if it's true). Ah, the pressure.

srah | 4:25 PM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, teaching

More drug-crazed ramblings

At least I realize they're drug-crazed ramblings. That's something, at least.

In between sending telegrams to The Front (textos to Renata), my other personality, the Major-General, has come up with the observation that girls are like cats and boys are like dogs. Or maybe it was me who came up with that. It's so crowded in there, it's hard to tell. Anyway, between the two (or seventeen, or however many there are) of us, we have managed to forget the evidence to support our claim, except that boys are often less complicated and more eager and drool a lot more.

srah | 7:21 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, boys, health, medicine

What ho!

I don't believe in silverware. Especially when I'm sick. It's soup bowls to mouths for the duration, laddies!

Has anyone else noticed that these drugs seem to have turned me into a British officer from a WWII movie? I better not run into Stefan or Johanna until I've recovered, or I might feel obliged to "stick it to the Jerries." Whatever that means.

Toodle-oo, chaps!

srah | 7:01 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, health, medicine

Lunchtime... or the munchies?

I sink I am a widdle dwugged out by the Fervex.

It may be, however, that I want to be drugged out and am making myself think that I am.


srah | 6:39 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, health, medicine

A la pharmacie

I don't know what it's like at a pharmacy/chemist's in England or Sweden or Jamaica or Australia or wherever else you're reading from, but American pharmacies tend to be quite discreet. If you have diarrhea, you skulk over to the diarrhea section, snatch something off the shelf, based on your own specific symptoms and needs, edge over to the cashier, pay, and run away. With prescription medicines, you hand your paper to the man behind the counter, he gives you an unidentifiable bottle, you pay for your Viagra, and leave.

In France, however (and in Chile as well), to get the simplest of items, you have to walk into the store, stand in line behind the whole world, and then loudly announce "I HAVE DIARRHEA. QUITE BAD DIARRHEA, ACTUALLY. WHAT WOULD YOU SUGGEST FOR IT, MY GOOD MAN?"

Thankfully, diarrhea is one of the few symptoms I don't have. Oh Jesus, what kind of search requests is this going to get me?

I went to the pharmacy on Thursday and told the man I had a cold, in particular a sore throat. He gave me something, I paid and left, then discovered he had given me sore throat lozenges with nothing for the rest of the cold.

I returned today, because my main symptom is now a cough. "I have a cold," I announced to the woman. I managed to avoid the man who had sold me the lozenges, lest he think I am a stalker or a cold medicine junkie. "I have a cold," I informed her, "Especially a cough."

She looked me over. "How old are you?" she asked.

"I am twenty-two years old," I answered. I probably could get by just find on children's medicine, because medicine strength probably should be based on size rather than age. But I figured I ought to be honest.

She suggested a few brands, but I didn't know anything about any of them so I went with the first one. She packed it up and wandered off without saying thank you or goodbye. I think they hate me there. They are probably selling me children's strength rat poison.

Now I am at home, sampling my drug cocktail... of DEATH! I felt it had to be described that way, since Cleo isn't blogging in her blog anymore. The medicine is for colds, flu-like states, and allergic rhinusitis. Is that what we say? God only knows.

The lovely garbage comes in granules that have to be dissolved in "une quantité suffisante d'eau chaude ou froide". That's clear. It is to be taken orally (that's nice of them to clear up, because I was planning on shooting it directly into my veins...) and is reserved for those over age 15. Dear god, the pharmacist thought I was fifteen! No wonder none of my students respect me.

I am now choking down this delicious mixture of lukewarm, grainy, mediciney/citrusy water. It will probably cure me, if only because my body will realize it will be tortured with another dose if it doesn't straighten up and fly right.

Either that or the rat poison will kill me.

srah | 6:20 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, france, health, medicine

April 4, 2003

The Friday Five

1. How many houses/apartments have you lived in throughout your life?
Two houses (Ann Arbor/Grenoble), two apartments (both in the same building in Vichy), and four dorm rooms (Albion - Wesley, Spanish House, German House, French House).

2. Which was your favorite and why?
Home in Ann Arbor is my favorite, because it's home in Ann Arbor. Of the apartments, I prefer the new one but do miss my oven. Of the dorm rooms, I do have a special fondness for 303 Wesley, but I might have to go with the Bowling Alley in German House.

3. Do you find moving house more exciting or stressful? Why?
Stressful. I'm sure I'm going to forget or break something. Thankfully I don't move a lot. When I lived in dorms, I barely unpacked during the summer. My parents loved that.

4. What's more important, location or price?
Price. I am cheap, but that's because I have no money.

5. What features does your dream house have (pool, spa bath, big yard, etc.)?
Dishwasher, washing machine and dryer, dishwasher, roof, floor, walls, dishwasher, self-cleaning floors, dishwasher, enormous bathtub, dishwasher, skylight in one room of the house, doors, all-you-can-eat buffet, oven, and dishwasher. I hate doing dishes, in case you hadn't noticed.

srah | 4:25 PM | TrackBack
Tags: friday five, memes

May 5th

Not that I'm counting or anything, but there's one month and one day left...

... until I am at home, smooching the evil dog and kicking the boyfriend. Or vice versa. Or not.
... until I can see the people I haven't seen since September.
... until I am living in a house with a dishwasher.
... until I can drink Vanilla Coke and eat at Arby's.
... until I can watch television, videos, and DVDs in my own home.
... until I can abuse my sister physically, instead of just doing so on the Internet.
... until I am reunited with my beloved computer and can update other parts of my website that desperately need updating.
... until I can be babied and pampered when I have a cold.

Now it is time for me to go home and hack up a lung. I advise you to buy stock in Ricola.

srah | 11:13 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship

Thanks for sharing

I have no friggin' clue how the stock market works. I have no friggin' clue how time travel works. Money and time make my brain hurt, because they're both the kind of thing that can be measured... but that doesn't really exist.

You may have an crinkled ugly greenygrey Abraham Lincoln or a crinkled beeyootiful colorful 5€ bill in your pocket, but it doesn't really mean anything. You can give it to the man and he will give you a baguette (and hopefully a lot of change), but it isn't really worth anything. Apparently it represents something nice and maybe your government would give you some nice doubloons if you asked for them, but it's really just a piece of paper.

Once we get into big bucks and trading, we get even more imaginary. You can own parts of companies, but you can also own parts of companies and not know what companies you own. If you have a company, you can sell parts of it to other people, but you can keep some of them and if you have enough parts, you get a fancy title and an office but you don't have to do any work anymore. I think.

Listed on BlogSharesI just thought I would explain that to you, in case you didn't know anything about how the stock market works. I hope you feel educated by my explanation and that it will make you want to buy shares of my sad, worthless blog. Or maybe I just want you to link your valuable blog to mine. I don't know. I don't understand how this works.

Explanation of time travel to follow in a later post. Or possibly never.

srah | 10:10 AM | TrackBack
Tags: money, time travel


Hoy día en la clase de español hablamos de McDonald's. Mis estudiantes, que son estudiantes de hoteleria, y que deben tener standards, van al McDonald's dos veces por semana.

Might as well use my Spanish, or I'm going to keep forgetting it.

When Sonia asked the students who enjoyed going to McDonald's, the hand of the petite ricaine was one of the few that wasn't raised. I was afraid during the whole class period that I was going to be asked for the American opinion on McDonald's. In Spanish.

I wouldn't say that I don't like fast food - because it is fast and cheap and portable (rapido, barato y portatil?) - but McDonald's is really the dregs. The poor French don't have anything to compare it with, except the Belgian chain Quick, which is almost as bad. I certainly hope that if they had tastier options like Arby's and Burger King they wouldn't continue bouffing the merde that is MacDo.

srah | 9:30 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, classwork, food, in french, in spanish, mcdonalds, spanish

All het up about fruit

Why do both English and French have the same word for the fruit and the color orange? Why don't we call that color "carrot", something orange that probably would have been more familiar to the French and English back when colors were being named?

Maybe the fruit was named after the color, which I think would be super-dumb. We don't call lemons "yellows", now do we? And why wouldn't you be able to come up with a better name? Even "orangefruit" would be better.

srah | 7:59 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Tags: language

This means you

If you are reading my blog, please make yourself known. Real-life/online crossovers freak me out and it is very odd to have someone tell you at the pizzeria that they're looking forward to Eminem's new Old MacDonald album.

srah | 7:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Much improved

I'm feeling better now. I now have some semblance of a will to live. I still have a sore throat, cough, and stuffed-up ears, but I don't feel like fainting or throwing up, and I'm not alternating chills and overheating. My headache is gone and the sensitivity of my arm and leg hairs has returned to normal (zero, unless you're pulling on them).

Also, the sun is shining. This may have made a difference. It's harder to want to continue living when you're living in grey, windy nastiness.

srah | 6:59 AM | TrackBack
Tags: health

April 3, 2003

's only a flesh wound

I am very disappointed in myself for leaving work today. I left Véronique a note and took off because I was not getting any better and all I would do was stare blankly into space, trying not to fall over. I don't know if it's the Protestant Work Ethic or what, but I was disappointed in myself for not being able to work through it.

This is the first time I've left work for health reasons - I even came in earlier in the year when I was shivery and nauseous and faint. I don't like to let anyone down, but it had to be done today or I might have collapsed, shivering and shaking and coughing my lungs out, on the floor of room 212.

srah | 1:55 PM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, health, teaching

Don't leave the hypochondriac alone with her imagination

A peculiar symptom of the plague or whatever it is I have is very sensitive arm and leg hairs. I am most likely insane. Can I take my pants off yet?

Mommy has very kindly put ideas of SARS into my head, so now I have malaria, consumption, plague, and SARS. Lucky girl.

srah | 1:47 PM | TrackBack
Tags: health

I am dying

Don't get too attached to me. I am convinced I have ague. Or consumption. Or just hypothermia, because they seem to think that because there are no students, they don't need to heat the building. I am wearing my coat and scarf, but no one else seems to be as cold as I am. Unhealthy.


srah | 5:23 AM | TrackBack
Tags: health

Birth of Chewbacca

People from my class at college are getting married and having babies, the disgusting beasts. What is this world coming to?

srah | 4:21 AM | TrackBack

I hate Thursdays

I never ever ever get to teach on Thursdays. And yet I still have to come in.

I have to come in to discover that there's a transport strike or a teachers' strike or something today. Of course, this is being treated by the students as a students' strike, so I only have two students to teach, so class is cancelled. J'en ai marre! I could be sleeping and nursing my poor sickie self back to health, but I had to get up and come in here.

What's more, my afternoon class seems only to be missing two students, so I can't just go home. I have to hang around and sick up the teachers' lounge until the day is over.

The, Thursday, The.

srah | 3:25 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship

Beautiful sentiment

Excerpted from a texto from Andrês received today:

thanks for existing Srah

I think that's one of the nicest things anyone's ever said to me. It's very nice to be thanked, not for anything you consciously did, but just for existing. Now I feel all warm and fuzzy. And shivery and phlegmy, but that's my cold.

srah | 2:17 AM | TrackBack
Tags: andres, assistantship, health


I'm sick and I don't know if I'm going to be able to last the whole day. You don't want details, but it involves choking on a lot of snot.

srah | 1:32 AM | TrackBack
Tags: health

April 2, 2003

"La terre, sans toi, c'est petit"

I have a cold and I am cold, and it's raining. Mme Messana keeps turning the heat on and off as the weather changes, but she's always about a day late, so there's none at the moment. I don't want to go anywhere because of my cold, but I don't want to stay here because of the cold.

I am torn and bored and boring. Changing the subject, this is a good song.

srah | 5:14 AM | TrackBack
Tags: weather

Of course I didn't do it, but I wanted to

Sometimes the role of the assistant is one that requires great self-control. For example, when giving mock oral exams to an extremely nervous student who is stuttering and twitching, you must resist the urge to be overwhelmed with maternal instinct and take him in your arms and cuddle him and tell him everything is going to be okay.

Especially if he is 23 years old.

srah | 5:05 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship

Fear and Loathing at Presles

Last night as we ate chez les BTS, there was une guêpe flying around our heads and alighting on the ceiling light fixture. Then Renata, Johanna and I went back to the assistants' apartment to get ready for bowling. I lay on my back on Renata's bed, then felt something on my face.

My blood ran cold. The wasp had somehow followed us through the hallway and was on my face. I reached my hand up... and discovered that the nosepad of my glasses had come unscrewed and had fallen off. I was able to sufficiently remedy the situation with the help of Renata's swiss army knife. This should last me until Thursday or Friday, when I can have my opticians have a go at it with their expertise and teeny tiny tournevis. It is nice to be in a technical school, quand même.

srah | 5:00 AM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship

April 1, 2003

Picture time (again)

I went bowling tonight with Johanna, Renata, and Amandine, Bernadette and Cédric, three BTS students from Presles who are Renata's neighbors. Johanna brought her digital camera, so I am instantly able to bring you shots from our outing, where I came in fourth with 78 points, having been in first place until the 8th frame. As if you cared.

After bowling, I went back to Johanna's apartment and we looked at the pictures she's taken here, all of which seem to feature me in my Michigan sweatshirt. I swear, I do have other clothing. She let me copy some to disk, so I bring you the oevre of Friedl. I like the last one because I look super-sexy. Or evil.

srah | 6:22 PM | TrackBack
Tags: assistantship, bowling, photos

AFD continues

I was going to write an April Fool's Day post about my favorite new singer, Avril Poisson (a poisson d'Avril is an April Fool's Day joke in French), but I really can't be arsed to make anything up. So you'll just have to imagine how funny it would have been.


Back to work.

srah | 8:50 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Tags: holidays

April Fool's Late

I hate April Fool's Day. I always think of something clever on April 2nd. If I try anything today, it is going to be really lame.

srah | 2:25 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Tags: holidays

Tuesday This-or-That?

April Fool's Day edition:

1. The Bogey-Man or Henry Kissinger? The Bogey Man, because it sounds like booger, which is an even funnier word than Kissinger.
2. Whips 'n chains or soft ropes with furbound cuffs? Whips 'n chips and soft marshmallow ropes.
3. Fish sticks or Amazon.com? This is a tough decision. Amazon.com brings a great selection of products, but you have to pay for them. You have to pay for fish sticks as well, but they are usually much cheaper than CDs. Fish sticks can be used when one wants to pretend to be a walrus and also have the advantage of being much tastier smothered in barbecue sauce than Amazon.com, so we will choose them.
4. Whitewall tires or color TV? Is this a racist question?
5. Leather or lace? Laser.
6. Abraham Lincoln or leftover turkey? Leftover turkey is dry, but holds up better in the microwave than Honest Abe.
7. Movable Type or Star Trek? Movable Type has more realistic backdrops.
8. Happy Happy Joy Joy or Bounce Bounce Bounce like Tigger? Happy Happy Bounce Bounce
9. The Michelin Man or the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man? L'quel d'entr'eux est français, pauv' con? Je suis tenté de choisir M. Michelin (il a pas un nom en français? je l'ai oublié), en tant qu'Auvergnat, mais j'ai commencé à imaginer des s'mores gigantesque qu'on aurait pu faire à la fin de Ghostbusters... miammm...
10. Thought-Provoking Question of the Week: If you HAD to marry one of the talking M&M's in the TV commercials, would it be the red one or the yellow one? Why? The green one, because she's FOXY.

srah | 2:22 AM | TrackBack
Tags: memes, tuesday this-or-that

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