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Sat, Mar. 14th, 2009, 03:49 pm

Yesterday was Père Cent, a day to celebrate a high school tradition of the French - get dressed up and throw eggs and flour at your fellow classmates to commemorate the remaining 100 days before you take the baccalauréat exam.

Ariane said that even some middle school kids took part in throwing eggs and flour at folks. Luckily she was saved from the food war, but her best friend got hit in the back of the head with an egg. Yuck!

It also explains why I saw a group of girls dressed up in ridiculous costumes yesterday.

If you read French, you can read a bit more on Wikipedia here.

Honestly, not much else is new. The weather's starting to get a little warmer, thankfully.

Sat, Feb. 28th, 2009, 09:40 pm

So we're on school holidays now. We spent last weekend and half of this week at La Meyf. I came back to Angouleme on Wednesday. Ines and Ariane did, too, but didn't stay. Ines had to interview some lady in Italy via Skype. Ariane had her dance class. They left Thursday and went back to La Meyf, and Friday the four of them left for the Canary Islands. I'm still chillaxin' here in Angouleme.

February mealsCollapse )

Thu, Feb. 19th, 2009, 01:44 pm

A brief glimpse of some January meals...Collapse )

Thu, Feb. 19th, 2009, 12:12 pm

I've been meaning to post for about a week. Hopefully I'll remember everything I wanted to write about...

1. Film - Eden à l'Ouest
Last Friday night we went to the movie theater to watch this film. It's an interesting one, but it's definitely more of a documentary or a "film" than a "movie." In the USA they wouldn't play this movie in just any movie theater. In Louisville it'd play at the Baxter, maybe, and that's probably it. Of course, it's also a foreign film...but even if it were all in English without subtitles, it's still not a mainstream sort of thing. (It was nice to have the French subtitles.)

It follows this one young man who escapes his home country (I don't know where) with a whole boatful of others in hope of making it safely onto European Union territory. They arrive on the shores of Greece but are stopped by the Police or Coastguard or something. Our main man escapes at that point, but his journey from there sure isn't easy.

I'd recommend it if you are naturally geared toward international or documentary films, but don't expect a real plot or a lot of character development. You don't even find out much information about him, period. In any case, it was entertaining, though a little long at 110 minutes for what it was.

2. Bowling in France - Ariane's birthday party
On Saturday afternoon Ariane had her birthday party (her birthday was Tuesday the 10th) at a/the local bowling alley. Ines stayed for a bit at the beginning and end, but was working on cleaning out her mom's apartment with her siblings, so she was occupied with other things that couldn't wait. Gaetan and I acted as the supervisors of the party. Five friends showed up - two boys, three girls - and each brought a present for her. Her main scores were two of the Twilight series books and an iTunes music gift card. She also got some earrings, nail polish and a little alarm clock that flashes green and blue.

Well, logistics didn't work out perfectly, perhaps as expected. The bowling folks didn't tell Ines that the party had to be paid for before you could bowl. Luckily Gaetan had enough money with him to cover it. I also didn't realize that he and I were NOT included in the bowling price of the party. We had to pay for our game separately. Not a biggie. I bowled better than he did, but I still didn't break 100, so it's nothing to brag about. We also played a couple games of pool and he beat me both games.

I'm used to my American bowling alleys, so I really hated the lame velcro-close bowling shoes (they were too loose!) and not being able to find a bowling ball under 10 (I usually play with an 8). I also hated watching little kids just throw the ball down or even toss it. Of course they were playing with ridiculously heavy bowling balls, and didn't care much about form or anything, even if they knew how to do it. Plus they're kids, so I shouldn't really care. But...bowling can be so fun! I also hate the heavy sound the ball makes when dropped on the floor.

Anyway, it was a pretty boring 3 hours with far too much sugar (gummy candies for the kiddos) and not enough bowling action.

3. Pasta à la truffe!
Saturday night we ate at La Meyf with Isabel, Robert and Katrine. The two sisters and one of the brother-in-laws of Ines. Isabel and Robert planted oak, I think, trees a while back and have been enjoying their harvest of truffles! So for dinner we had thin tagliatelle pasta with a creme fraiche sauce with shredded truffle. Tasty, but a little heavy, imo. I also didn't taste much of the truffle...or maybe it just didn't bother me much. I'm guessing the former.

4. Truffle-hunting
Sunday afternoon we went to Isabel and Robert's house (5 minutes away) to go on a truffle-hunting mission! This was a REAL, HARDCORE truffle-hunting mission, too. We had a real pig to do the hunting part for us! Rosalie, our Miss Piggy, was a smart cookie and found a pretty decent amount of truffles. She uses her snout to sniff out (obviously) and actually burrow into the loose topsoil to locate the truffles. Her owner dude (I don't know his name....) then throws her some corn in a different direction (so she doesn't eat the truffle herself) while he picks out the truffles.

Truffles apparently have a symbiotic relationship with the tree's roots. You'd never see them from the surface and could easily mistake them for just another clump of dirt. The overly-trusted-but-very-helpful Wikipedia has more information: here.

I have a few photos up on Facebook and I finally succeeded in uploading a short video as well.

Sun, Feb. 8th, 2009, 10:02 pm

Apparently in high society you don't actually say, "Bon appetit (with accent)." It's like saying, "I hope you digest your food really well!" Also, you ought to say "J'ai bien dine" (with the appropriate accent on that last e) rather than "J'ai bien mange" (again, accent on the last e).

Javanais or something like that is another sort of 'dialect' within French. Maybe you've heard of 'verlan,' the crazy language of the young folk. This Javanais is a language of the older folks, the parental generation, according to Ines. I think she said you add an "av" to each syllable of a word. Alain is pretty fast with it, but I'd have to write it out to even try to do it for a long sentence, I'm sure.

Ariane's birthday is on Tuesday and I think Saturday we're going to the local bowling alley for a birthday celebration. I'm quite excited about the bowling party...and maybe I'll come up with some goodies for the celebration.

Oh yeah, the new French teacher is pretty awesome. She let me switch into the class with the real French folk. One lady is an immigrant, so her French isn't perfect, but she's very advanced and can express herself well. She actually confuses the hell out of me a lot of the time, but whatever. I'm actually enjoying this French class now because it's more active than before! I actually follow along with the class rather than doing my own thing.

Mon, Jan. 26th, 2009, 01:30 pm

Man, it's been nearly two months since I've written in here. I don't think anyone has really missed it, since I haven't heard anything to the contrary.

The first two weeks of December I pretty much spent counting down the time until I returned home to the USA for the holidays - Dec 15th. I also spent those two weeks working at the CEPE cutting commercials out of recorded TV blocks.

I spent a full month in the US. I think I spent most of my time in Indiana, but I got to see a couple friends and much of my family in Kentucky. I REALLY needed that break at home, and even though I didn't do anything super special - I mean, I didn't have a crazy-busy schedule - it was still a really good time. For me, at least. I made it my time and did whatever I wanted to do...which was basically nothing. I think I was a little bit TOO unmotivated and lazy, but whatever.

I hated to leave home and wasn't exactly looking forward to coming back, but I also wanted to start the home stretch and get out of here. I bet you're thinking that's a horrible attitude to have, and I won't argue with you. Although I don't think they caught on to the reasons WHY I have that attitude, Alain and Ines seem to have picked up that I do have that sort of attitude. I've really stopped caring about being here. It's not exciting anymore. My life isn't very exciting anymore either. Yes, I've been told I need to find the motivation within to improve my lot, and that's true...but I don't know where to look for that motivation. I don't know what I want. That's the problem.

The schedule for the French class changed, and for some reason so did my teacher and classmates. It doesn't really matter. I do my own thing (worksheets, mostly grammar) while the teacher works with the other folks in the class. Per usual, the rest of my classmates are late for class, so the teacher (Elisabeth) and I get a chance to chat.

The Festival de la Bande Dessinee is this weekend. They're putting up tents and boards all over downtown. I still need to look up ticket prices somewhere. I plan to take photos even if I don't have a lot to tell you. We'll see.

I've recently read Twilight and The Silence of the Lambs in English, and watched the movie of the former in French. I just started reading a book I bought today at Chapitre, Une Fille dans la ville.

Oh, we also now have wireless internet at the country house.

Thu, Nov. 13th, 2008, 02:22 pm

French vocab lesson!
In paying attention to people speaking, I've finally picked up on a few key phrases and words that French folks here tend to use often. I understand the meaning of most of them just based on context, but a couple I decided to look up online. Please correct me if they're not quite right.

"Ce n'est pas la peine." = It's useless. (or) It's not worth it.
"J'ai fait exprès." = I did it purposely/intentionally.
"C'est nul(le)!" = It's worthless/useless. (Ariane uses this phrase to describe everything she doesn't like.)
"C'est bête!" = It's silly/stupid/dumb.
"C'est dingue!" = It's crazy!
"Tu t'en sors?" = Are you coping? Are you making it through? (My host sister in Strasbourg asked me this a few times while I was doing homework.)
"Je m'en fiche." = I don't care.
avoir une grande flemme = lazy, don't feel like doing anything
tomber dans les pommes = to faint (literally 'to fall in the apples')
un pot de yaourt = a Smart car or other tiny vehicle - this is what Ariane calls them, at least. I think Ines acknowledges the term, too.
le machin = le truc = a thing
le type = un mec = un homme = a man, a guy

Wed, Nov. 12th, 2008, 11:48 pm

More reflections...Collapse )

Tue, Nov. 4th, 2008, 09:19 pm

Homecookin’
So I'm beginning to feel exactly what they mean when they say, "I slaved over a hot stove all day to make you that!" Ariane made a very indifferent comment about the soup I made the other day – that it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good either. I thought it was pretty tasty, and certainly better than the last one I made (I added a few things to the new one). Of course, no comments at all are equally saddening. No one said anything about the new marinade I tried for the tuna steaks. True, the flavor was very subtle, even though they marinaded for 24 hours!

Yes, I am literate.
I’ve been reading quite a bit recently. I’ve finished “The Coffee Trader” by David Liss and “Bridget Jones’ Diary” by Helen Fielding. By the time I post this, I might be finished with “The Mandarins” by Simone de Beauvoir.

Yes, I am legal.
I have a Social Security number in France now. Yay, low-cost health care, and more importantly…dental care! So I’m going to reap the benefits of being part of this beautiful system...which is exactly what they DON'T want. Oh well. I only need the dentist.

To actually obtain my carte de sejour I have to buy a stamp for 55 euro (it's a tax that goes to a particular govt dept for immigration and foreigner stuff), and also go to Poitiers later this month for medical examinations. They want to make sure my American doctor wasn't lying when they said I was healthy!

French Class Friends
Last Thursday (Oct. 23) after French class I spoke fairly extensively with Said. I learned he is married, with three kids (a girl, 12, a boy, 10, and another girl, 3), and has been here in France for a year. He’s a political refugee from Chechnya. He’s a nice guy and pretty interesting. I’m glad we finally had the occasion to talk to each other!

The Public Domain
Did you know there are thousands (maybe more) of miles of public paths here in France? (I think people refer to it as ‘le chemin’ – the path/way.) Jim was telling me about how such a public path crossed right across his property, in front of his house. So, technically, and legally, a random French person (or anyone else) could stop and have a picnic there. So with that concern in mind, Jim and Mary decided long ago to actually buy that piece of the public path from the community. He points out that they eventually realized that people wouldn’t bother to use a public path right in front of someone’s house.

Anyway, these public paths are nice to have around. They often cut through woods and connect properties. They’re actual trails, so you can walk through them without getting attacked by too many plants. As a clarification, since I asked it already – an animal would have to be shot on the actual public path to be rightfully claimed by a hunter.

Near Jim and Mary’s home in St. Jean de Cole there’s a “voie verte” – a former railroad track converted into a bike path! We went for a bike-ride on the trail and it’s so nice to not have to worry about cars hitting you, or people crossing the road in front of you! Luckily no wild animals decided to sprint across my path.

Awkward Introductions
I’ve never been the most social person, but I’m less likely to meet someone so awkwardly when I decide to meet them of my own volition. It also helps if we have a mutual acquaintance and speak the same language. Wednesday or so Luke (Alain’s youngest brother), his wife, and his three daughters came by for some reason. I have no idea why, actually. Luke is really nice and works at Canal+, a pretty big television company here in France. I’ve met him before. He did the kiss-kiss thing as custom and asked how I was doing.

His wife, Martine, came in with his eldest daughter, Marion. His wife didn’t even look at me (or if she did, I didn’t know it). His eldest and I exchanged many glances and since she was hovering near us, I decided to ask her name. I didn’t quite do it in the most polite way, but I just said what first came to mind: ‘Vous etes qui?’ That basically translates as “Who are you?” I think she only mumbled her name, but Emmanuel explained the familial connection. She didn’t ask my name, and I didn’t offer it as an immediate follow-up to my question. Her two other sisters came in later and they both made their rounds to give everyone, including me, a kiss-kiss. They introduced themselves, so I did the same.

Basically, I really hate being the weird American when meeting new people. I’m often content to just do the distanced wave hello or handshake, but I suppose I’m also offended when people automatically offer it instead of the kiss-kiss like they do everyone else. It’s even worse when the two of us can’t decide which one to do.
My experience with this so far has reminded me of what it was like long ago when you had to be introduced by someone of importance and of particular connection to even be acknowledged. You don’t just walk up to someone and introduce yourself because you want to meet them. It was considered very improper. (I’m thinking Pride and Prejudice time here.) And even though it’s not quite that strict nowadays, it’s still very awkward when you have to spend time around folks you haven’t officially met. I think I’ve just ended up not talking to the folks I haven’t been introduced to.

It makes me better understand why one of my good friends and roommates was so offended when another good friend/roommate and I brought over another a friend the first friend didn’t know. She was in a different room and seemingly busy, I guess, so we didn’t do formal introductions. She was, I think, a little insulted that we were such poor hosts and decided to introduce herself. At the time and for a while after, I thought she was just too proper or that she made too big a deal out of it. Now I see that it’s incredibly rude and awkward to be put in that position. Sorry, friend!

More on French Folks
French kids are just like American kids, except they speak French and know French culture as their own. Thanks for stating the obvious, right? You’re welcome. But seriously, you’d never know these three boys were French until you heard them speak. Yes, again, thank you Captain Obvious. Some things really are universal and it’s remarkable every time I realize it.

Oh yes, I’ma changin’
I just went into town (in Verteillac – we have a path leading straight from the house to there) to buy a few things and mail some letters. I decided to buy some treats from the patisserie before returning home. I bought a small plain flan and an amandine. I don’t know why I bought the flan, because I know I’m not a huge fan of it. I suppose I wanted two different treats (even though I’d just bought cookies and ate crumble at lunch), since I never buy them from the bakery normally. But man, I basically had to force-feed them to finish them. That’s not the Darcy we all know and love. I’m pretty sure I’m known among friends to love sweets and to eat them often. Maybe my body is finally starting to become more normal and realizing that too much sugar and fat at once is really gross?

Even More Awkwardness
I’ve had the opportunity to further prove the awkwardness of my situation here. I went to Catholic mass with everyone for Toussaint, and then ended up going with them to the family tomb at the cemetery afterward (the priest blessed it).

We had dinner at Luke’s house again and this time his wife and kids were there. I was caught in an incredibly boring and weird position in that I’m not the age of the kids (though only a few years older), nor apparently of much interest to them, but neither do I really fit in with the adults. I think I felt most like an outsider at that point, when caught between the two different groups.

At the dinner table I was seated at the end, between Alain and Luke, and surrounded by the adults. On the opposite end of the table were all the kids. The entire night I wasn’t very happy and felt really horribly awkward, so I wasn’t quite in the mood to be chatty in the first place, but Luke all of a sudden asked me, “Do you ever speak?” I told him that I speak when spoken to, which is pretty true when I’m around strangers. And I only speak when I have something to contribute. If you’re talking about people or places I don’t know, what am I supposed to do?

I expected that to be a perfect opportunity for someone to then pose a question, but apparently they didn’t take the hint. Alain corrected my grammar and then everyone moved on.

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