30 April 2010

It's the Little Things

I just spent two fabulous weeks with my mom.  We had our vacances de printemps the past two weeks, so my mom came out to visit.  We did all sorts of touristy things I never thought I'd do (like go to the summit of La Tour Eiffel and visit Le Louvre . . . I have a fear of heights, so the Eiffel Tower's never been on my list, and the Louvre is always so packed the thought of tout le monde et sa mère being there has always been a turn off . . . but since it's les vacances Paris is unusually empty!!  No lines at all!!  C'était magnifique!

28 April 2010

Food Crisis in Niger

They are saying this year's crop failure and food shortage is going to be worse than the famine in 2005.  For more information: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8648215.stm

Photo slideshow courtesy of the BBC: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8637487.stm

27 April 2010

Sixty Million Frenchmen . . .

. . . Can't Be Wrong: Why We Love France But Not the French by Jean-Benoît Nadeau & Julie Barlow is changing my life!  I'm not very far along in the book, but already I'm learning about so many of the mistakes I make and why when I think I'm being friendly or polite I've completely rubbed someone the wrong way or broken social rules.

If you've ever been interested in understanding more about the French mentality and the deep rooted cultural and historical causes behind so many of their national opinions, or just breaking through stereotypes, I would highly . . . no, HIGHLY recommend this book.  It's lightly written with plenty of anecdotes and interesting tidbits that keep it flowing nicely.

Unfortunately I haven't yet arrived at the chapter that explains away my experience at the post office.

22 April 2010

Customer Service, Tu Me Manques!

Moving to a new culture has been an interesting process.  There are so many things one must learn that go far beyond the reach of vocabulary, grammar, and a decent accent.  Just as every language has it's nuances, so does each culture.  Unfortunately, culture learning doesn't come with a rule book.  For example, it is uncultural here in France to grow impatient while waiting in line.  We all have to do it.  What's the sense in trying to hurry the line up.  And no one seems to mind (too much) that we all pack as if we're in Tokyo when the RER B is holding a grève, because if someone has gone to the trouble of having a strike, we should all support them and just deal with the inconveniences.  After all, if they have something to say two weeks out of every month, someone should listen.

14 April 2010

My Momma's Here!

My mom is here for a two week visit.  We have our spring vacances starting Friday afternoon, so she came for a time of rest from some stress chez elle.  Two good friends were heading back to the states this morning for the break, so they offered me a lift to Charles De Gaulle (a third friend was dropping them off).

In the car on the way home, my mom produced the first gift from home.  She was so proud of this gift and knew it was something I love very much.  Her face beamed with joy as she produced it from her suitcase: a very large jar of NUTELLA!!  Now I love nutella!

But . . .

In the US peanut butter has it's very own aisle.  In France, that place is reserved for nutella.  Ginormous jars in every size down to single servings! (typically for less than we pay in the US . . . even with the conversion rate)

I have assured her that it was a very thoughtful gift . . . just one that will bring much more joy once I'm in Niger!

12 April 2010

This Guy's My New Hero

I don't know Matt.  I don't know where he is.  But his creativity, sense of adventure, and ability to bring people together for a good time makes me smile.

Today as I was walking back from buying popsicles at the store for my friend's little-guy who is pretty sick, I ran into two friends from my school.  B. is French and P. is from Oz . . . they started telling me about this weird thing called FlashMob . . . where large groups of people randomly start dancing in public places (like Bondi Beach, Washington Square Park, and at the Trocadero in my very own Paris) . . . but the dances are typically choreographed.  I was doubtful.  Sounded bogus to me . . . figured they were trying to pull one over on me hoping I'd start dancing like a fool in front of our little Massy bus stop.

11 April 2010

Vous Avez un Petit Accent

Yesterday evening I went to spend some time with a friend at her apartment.  As I walked, in the elevator was arriving at the ground floor.  A resident of the building was already there waiting.  He opened the door for me and asked Vous avez besoin de quel étage?  ("Which floor?") Douze, I responded ("Twelve").  Pardonne? he asked.  I repeated myself Douze as I pushed the button for the 12th floor to offer a visual aid.  Et vous? I asked him.  He told Le quatrième (the fourth).  Since he used the ordinal form of the number I got nervous . . . Oui, c'est correct?  I asked him, as I was about to push the 4.  I'm sure at this point my new stranger-in-the-elevator thought I must have a second grade education.

He turned and asked Vous venez d'où?  Because in my head I was still practicing my ordinal numbers (I HATE NUMBERS!!) I completely missed that he was speaking to me . . . the only other person in the elevator.  OH!  Pardonne?  With a bit of surprise that he, as a French stranger was striking up a conversation, I asked him to repeat himself.  Which he did, but he interpreted my response in such a way that he felt the need to clarify why he was asking such a question to a stranger in the elevator: Vous avez un petit accent (You have a slight accent).  PETIT?!?!  I answered with a chuckle, surely my accent is anything but slight!!  He chuckled too.

08 April 2010

I Think I Have French Aphasia

I am self-diagnosing . . . I have aphasia.

For those of you non-therapists out there reading this, aphasia is an acquired language disorder that impairs one's capacity to process language . . . it impairs one's ability to speak and understand others, and most of the time it impairs the ability to read and write.  This is not an intellectual impairment . . . it's simply a malfunction in the language centers of the brain.

05 April 2010

When GoogleMaps is Wrong

We have a three day weekend for the Easter holiday, so I went with two friends for the night to the city of Reims which is about an hour and a half drive from Paris.  We had heard it was a beautiful little city, and really needed a night away, so we grabbed a change of clothes and a baguette and made our way into the French countryside.

We had looked at GoogleMaps to determine it if was worth driving over taking a train.  Luxembourg (the city and country, shown left) looked close, and according to GoogleMaps it was only another hour and a half.  When we got to Reims, we took a tour of a champagne house and learned (en français) how champagne is made . . . it's actually a fascinating process and the old cave (below) was really neat to explore.  Then, after checking into our hotel, decided there would be enough time after the Easter service on Sunday to explore the rest of the little city, and since (as per GoogleMaps) Luxembourg was only another hour and a half away, we figured we'd pop up there for dinner, see the little city at night (which we had heard was beautiful) and make our way home for an average-hour-bed-time.

04 April 2010

4 April: A Big Day In History

4 April, 3 days AD . . . Jesus resurrects from the dead (at least this year).
4 April 0188 . . . Roman emperor Marcus Areilius Antoniius was born.
4 April 1581 . . . Sir Francis Drake completes his circumnavigation of the globe.