Wednesday, September 30, 2009


There is just something great about a country that takes two hour lunch breaks everywhere, everyday. Everyone sits around at a cafe or stands around with a baguette sandwich, and they talk. It's just what you do.
There is also something great about a country in which a pregnant woman, who despite being pregnant looks like a supermodel, would wear a full unitard with a cardigan, just out and about.

France is very laissez faire. Not economically, mind you, there seems to be plent of regulations, but socially it is a free for all. Kind of.

That doesn't really do it justice either. It's just all about sitting around and talking for a 3 hour dinner that begins around 8, and having time to go home and cook yourself a lunch, or buying a sandwich and really taking the time to enjoy it in the park.

I was walking home this evening, and I just really liked France. I don't know if I like my job or if I have any really new best friends for life, but I really like the idea of taking time. It is important here to be relaxed. For instance, I still haven't paid for the place I'm staying. No one seems to care; I'm worried I'll come back to find my stuff in the street. But I don't think it'll happen. They seem to trust I'll get around to it, and I will.

Angers is really beautiful, and we've had what the British girls call "holiday weather" since I've arrived. Even though I'm stressed and tired and a little homesick for familiar things; I have occasional bouts of loving being here. This must be a good thing.

Today, I talked to the other foyer; they have a room open. I have until Friday to decide. Let's just say: private bathroom and nice beds. Plus, they have meals included.

So after an afternoon of walking and my visit with the other foyer, I had dinner with some other girls at a restaurant. I had a small glass of wine, and we had a nice chat. Mostly about being away from boyfriend and crying. It was good.

Afterward was my walk home where I decided how much I love France. It's cool, but not too cool. Various people sat at outdoor cafes, drink or coffee in hand. When two guys sitting at an outdoor café were approached for a cigarette, they didn't hesitate, and everyone involved wished each other a bon soirée.

I reached my foyer and began getting things together for the trek to the shower when I saw this:

Papers will be signed tomorrow.
Good night, all!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

I never thought I'd be so glad to see a toilet seat...

So, here I am in France. I know my last post was fairly positive, but let me tell you the true story.
And, in true literary form, though maybe not as subtle, I'll give you some foreshadowing: it gets better.
Jet lag sucks. I've never had it this bad, but here's a sample of my sleeping schedule.
I arrived Thursday.
Thursday: went to sleep at 10:00, woke up at 4:00 am Friday.
Friday: didn't fall asleep.
Saturday. Slept from 7:00am to 8:00 am, the went running, walked around all day, went out with some people and had wine. Didn't fall asleep.
Sunday: Fell asleep around 6:45am and woke up at 10:30 am.
So, you can imagine how I feel.

This next bit I have emailed to someone who is following the blog. So, sorry for that.

On top of the lack of sleep, I basically have the room/living situation from Hades.
I am staying at a foyer, which is similar to a dormitory, though not associated with a particular university. I won't type the french name because I think anyone can look at this, but it's called the Foyer of Good Advice.

The foyer looks beautiful from the outside. It's an older building with Ivy on the walls, there's a gated entrance. (I'll post pictures later). The flowerbed is manicured, and there are flower post on the doorstoop. The entrance way and inner doors have stained glass windows.
Inside it become a bit darker and the lovely dark, old wood takes on a creepier feel. It's a very old house with a huge appendage. Inside this newer, attached building it looks like a hospital.
But, I live in the old building.
My room is hidden in a corner on the 2nd highest floor, you wouldn't know my room was there until after peeking around a staircase. Ah, yes there it is; one might also lock a princess here in a fairy tale. Although it is purely an aesthetic complaint, the wallpaper is faded and stained and reminiscent of a house in a horror film. Every ceiling is cracked and stained.
I have a very nice tall window with a nice view of the trees. But, the bed.
The bed might have been a hospital bed... in the 20s. It has a metal frame and a kind of metal webbing that holds the mattress. It is smaller than the twin bed I slept in as a child, and it sinks distinctly in the middle. Maybe, this is the good advice? Something about roughing it out?
I have a closet with a sink in it.
You'd think there'd be a bathroom somewhere nearby, but that is not the case. Down one flight of stairs and into the "hospital wing" and down the hall, you'll find the closest bathroom.
Now here's the strange thing. The foyer is all-female. There are no men here except for the director, and I think he has a private bathroom.
Not a single toilet in the entire place has a toilet seat. It's just a bowl. And it's not like they were simply made with out seats, you can see on the toilet bowl exactly where a seat is supposed to connect. What became of these toilet seats? Were they stolen one by one years ago? Did they take them off because there was something unsafe about them? Presumbly, sitting on a seat would be safer. Is this good advice? Maybe they're telling me, be a man, pee standing up, life will be easier. Which reminds me, I saw a story on this on the news when I was staying in Lake Charles, and Kevin was in class. Go Girl!
Additionally, the shower heads are not mounted on the wall, so you have to hold it the entire time or put it down and freeze while you shampoo your hair.
I'm not going to mention how little I've showered since I've been here, which leads to an interesting point.
French people are not as obsessed about covering body odor as Americans. This is a fact.
Maybe, they all have horrible bathrooms like mine, and they can't be bothered to deal with them.

I'm not trying to sound like a pity party. I just think this is a very important part of the new place I'm in.

On top of the room, the first two nights were miserable because the other assistants weren't here, or I had no way to contact them.
Saturday, however, I went from being a lonely, crying, miserable princess in the attack who could barely speak to her mom without sobbing to an assistant de langue with 3 new British friends and 2 new Americans friends.
I finally got a French phone, so if anyone wants to call long distance, I'll send it to you!
I get free incoming calls.
So I hooked up with these girls, we shopped Saturday afternoon and went out last night. It was fun and a relief after my 48 hours of sleepless in solitude. We went to a bar the American girls went to last year... They were both here last year. I must mention that this bar is also toilet-seat-less. The evening was topped off by this ridiculously dancing French man. I can't even explain it. One girl got a video. If she posts it, I'll totally put up the link.
One of them, stays in another foyer. It is a clean, newish building with painted walls, no faded florals there. Her furniture is matching, and it has a meal hall included. She has a private bathroom with a toilet and shower. I peed there today.

I've never been so glad to sit on a toilet seat.

Tomorrow, I'm going to see if they have a room open.

Friday, September 25, 2009


Bonjour tout le monde, et bienvenue au monde francophone!
Ici on parle le français trop vite et sans respiration.

Do you understand? No? Well, that is how I feel. :D
Everyone speaks very fast, and when they realize you speak English they revert to incomprehensibe English. Not that I'm complaing; I just haven't ever been in a situation where everything was in French.
Some people speak English to me, but not many...

Le voyage
(Interesting fact the word, "la journée" does not mean the journey, but "the day" in English. "Le voyage" is the best translation. Maybe that's not very interesting.)

I arrived at the Memphis airport at about 12:15 in the afternoon. I arrived in Angers at 6:41 the next day, making my trip just 35 minutes short of 24 hours.
The most awesome thing that happened during the whole trip was sitting next to these two Bohemian looking women. I thought they were mother and daughter, and when the younger woman went to grab some food, another woman asked her mother if it was India Arie. I ended up talking to her mother for a while. They were in Memphis because India was the entertainment for the Dalai Lama when he received a civil rights award on Wednesday. The Dalai Lama also spoke at the Cannon Center that evening. Her mom showed me the pictures of India Arie and the Dalai Lama. She was really friendly and pretty much awesome.
I flew into Minneapolis, which was uneventful
The least awesome thing was my 6 hour flight to Reykjavik. My seat was in front of the emergency exit and did not recline. I slept, but I also got a migraine.
Also, there was no free food on that flight.
In Paris, I ran into some other assistants at the baggage claim, none of them were headed to Angers or Nantes, but it was nice to meet them. It's nice to know other people are also terrified.
Then, the next worst part -- and this is totally my fault -- ... my bags. They were so heavy. I'm talking 85 lbs. together. I lugged them from Charles de Gaulle to the Train Station, to Le Mans, where I changed trains, to Angers. C'était terrible!
My arms still ache.

In Angers, a very nice man, M. Daniel, met me and took me to the foyer where I am staying. He did not speak very much English, but I probably had my best French conversation to date with him -- probably because I had to...

The people here are nice. M. Daniel was unbelievably friendly, gave me his telephone number; he will be the person who coordinates my schedule among the (apparently, they don't bother to tell you all of the schools where you will work) 3 schools where I will work. Mme. Morange took me around today and visited a couple banks with me. And the people who work here for the most part are very friendly. But, the French girls who stay at this foyer are not particularly warm and fuzzy.

It's one of those things that (international) people always tell you, Americans smile too much. I wouldn't say I am über friendly to everyone I see, but French have a different way about them.
I haven't put my finger on it yet, but I will explain it when I do.

I'm tired. I think this all I will say for now. I will try to make future posts more interesting.
Bonne chance tout le monde!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


I leave at 2:16 today. Here is a bit of hope from the fabulous people at Rough Guides travel books: "Angers and Around: ANGERS, capital of the ancient county of Anjou, is an oddly depressing place. Although undoubtedly majestic, dominated by its monolithic château, the town seems a less welcoming and friendly destination than many others around it. The main reason for coming here is to see its two stunning tapestry series, the fourteenth-century Apocalypse and the twentieth-century Le Chant du Monde." (488)

As exciting as that makes Angers seem, I'm not really worried. I'm sure for a site-happy tourist Angers may fail to deliver, but I'm not there to see the sites. Other people have said it's a fun little city, and as long as there are nice people, I will be fine. Plus, what could be bad about apocalyptic tapestries.

I wish everyone the best of luck in the coming year; of course, with the internet it's hard not to stay in touch, so I'm sure I'll be in nearly constant touch with anyone and everyone. But for now, aurevoir!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Il y a longtemps que je t'aime... And other stuff (Un mélange*)

Okay, departure is two weeks from today. Most things are in order. (Kind of) I have plane ticket, passport, visa, a place to stay, and a person to meet me at the train station in Angers. But I don't have a train ticket from Paris to Angers. Hopefully, this will resolve itself.
Packing is number one on my to-do list. So is emailing Mme. Morange, the girl at the foyer, etc etc.
The other thing is:
I'm also applying for grad school. I have to meet with professors before I leave to ensure good recommendation letters. I might have a panic attack about this stuff.
The list of schools I am applying to changes on a daily basis.

Enough of the boring stuff!
I watched the movie Il y a longtemps que je t'aime. (I've loved you so long)
Watch this movie. In short, Kristen Scott- Thomas plays a French woman who has been released from jail, after 15 years. She stays with her sister (Elsa Zylberstein) as she adjusts to living in the real world. Both women perform beautifully, and the film won some nine awards.
Stick with the movie until the end; it's just great.

When I was younger, my dad had a job in which he travelled frequently. He would often go to India and Algeria. There are many things I could say about these trips, and they will probably pop up again in my monologues. But, for now, I remember him telling me that his Indian friends learned to speak English by watching American/British (I guess it was probably more British than American) television.
Obviously, language classes, reading, and writing contribute markedly to one's education, but the importance of hearing someone speak, conversationally, is crucial to gaining fluency.
Watching the movie reminded me how far I am achieving any semblance of fluency. Sure, I can understand a lot of French. And sure, I can conjugate a verb or two. But the overwhelming prospect of conducting every social transaction in French is weighing down on me. It will be sudden and irrevocable submersion.

These are the things on my mind.

*mélange = mixture