Saturday, November 29, 2008

For Today

I will not admit that I am a bit homesick because I am living in Paris. It is just so freaking cool here. Eiffel Tower, wine flowing through the streets, the most beautiful language in the world… what is there to miss around this time of the year?

- marshmallows (necessary for hot chocolate and those yummy corn flake wreaths).
- peanut butter and Hershey's kisses. Peanut butter blossoms, my favorite cookie.
- crackling fires
- board games and other unusual happenings with dearest friends
- snowflakes
- reading on the couch in the company of pets
- marathon prep for holiday meals
- overeating every day from Thanksgiving to Christmas
- a person whose name starts with a J
- my family
- belonging

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Born to Teach? Probably Not.

I have been having more betterish/better days at school lately than bad ones. Kids can be cool. Like the one that asked me if I go back to Chicago everyday after I am finished with school. That's cute.

But still at least once a week, I am completely wiped out and frustrated when things don't go my way. And sometimes I feel like a bad person. Today, I made a kid cry. Really, it wasn't my fault. He was being bratty all class. I told him to cut it out, and he didn't. I brought him to stand in front of the class, and he still didn't stop. So I put him in the hallway, where he cried. He was just bugging me, and I was stick of reprimanding him. But really, I had no idea that standing in the hallway was so traumatizing. If I had known, I wouldn't have put him there.

The kids have their days, just as I have my days. Sometimes our good and bad days match up in terrible ways, but sometimes, it's pretty okay.

But I know this isn't my passion, and I was reminded of this when a friend emailed me a story to look over. As I read the article, then read it again many times and wrote comments, I missed writing so much. Sure I write this blog, in my journal, posts for a website. But this isn't the kind of writing I get the most out of. It's not the kind where you are hunched over your computer perfecting a sentence word by word, delete, retype, think, think, think, what am I trying to say, and why does it matter? Hours of this is just as exhausting as hours of teaching, but at the end, I feel more accomplished in one than with the other.

I am inspired to start writing more, and with the heaps of free time I have on my hands, I'm going to do it. Maybe the warm and fuzzy feeling I get will trickle over into my teaching, thus making me a better teacher.

Monday, November 24, 2008

sorry :-(

Have you been looking for updates? Sorry, I haven't been giving any. I moved a week ago, and my new place doesn't have internet. This has been an excellent lesson in how I waste my time and in how truly necessary 24/7 internet access really is(n't). But I am ready for this lesson to be over.

Leaving the cozy comfort of my home to seek out free crappy wifi or to purchase decent wifi is not fun. Neither is working on a French computer at school, because those machines are soooo slow. Also, someone switched all the keys on those computers, because they are not where they should be.

So. We have received our router in the mail, which is a big big step. But now we are awaiting for the password for our network. The other roommates have been trying to secure an internet connection in the apartment for THREE MONTHS. So this almost-here-internet is a bigger deal for them than it is for me. Still, this past week has felt like three months. Internet, please come soon.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Condé Nast in the kitchen

Tonight is a Thanksgiving potluck at my new apartment, but I didn't feel like trekking all the way to the uncessarily over-priced American foods store. I've already paid them my $10 in Libby's Pumpkin and PET evaporated milk, and I don't feel like doing that again.

So I was thinking cheesecake for tonight. A simple cheesecake. Because I as much as I love to experiment, most of the time it doesn't go well (ask Jake about the Guiness cupcakes. Disgusting, which was all my fault). And when I must translate measurements and temperatures to metric… uh… forget about it. I need easy.

Back when I was a young student still in college, I learned about in one of my journalism classes. This is a website that pools together all or most of the recipes published in Condé Nast magazines.

It is there I found this yummy recipe for Deep Dark Chocolate Cheesecake. I actually don't know yet if it's going to turn out. It's still in the oven. But the uncooked batter was scrumptious. Just don't tell anyone I didn't use Scharffen brand, which the recipe INSISTS upon. I will take a picture and add soon.

Little Successes

When you start learning a language, it's easy to see improvement. It's a very steep learning curve, in which is there no way to go but up. Once you get to a certain point, the curve flattens dramatically. I know my French is better than it's ever been. But I feel I've hit that learning flatline. Eeking closer to fluency is a slower process now, with very little evidence to show if I'm getting there or not.

Last night, I watched a movie with my host family. Now I've probably watched more French movies that any non-French person I know. I always, always miss something. There's slang, multiple story lines to keep straight, weird French names to remember, cultural references, and so on. And once I miss some minor yet important detail, it's hard to force myself to concentrate.

Last night, I decided to focus very very hard so as not to miss anything. And I was able to follow it all the whole way through. I felt very content at the closing credits, becauce I think this is the first time I have competely understood an entire French film. It's nice to be able to see proof that I'm getting better at this.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Mid-November Goals

In the theme of change, I am moving in less than a week. I think it's also time to set some new goals for myself. I arrived with a few, but I've accomplished them. So time for some more:

1. Be nicer to my family
2. Budget wisely so I can blow all my money on my European vacation in February.
3. Go to one Paris museum every week. Or maybe every other week. Just more museums in general because Paris has a ton.

Sunday, November 09, 2008


I was riding the train home from Paris. The guy across from me was experiencing varying levels of triumph and defeat on his PlayStation Portable. At one stop, I noticed a kid shuffling slowly down the aisle. I wondered why he was walking so slowly.

Then he ripped the guy's Playstation from his hands and dashed out the door. The guy chased after him, but the thief had surprise as his advantage. He was too far gone and only a minute later, the Playstation-less guy returned to his seat on the train. And that was that.

This whole 10-second event ruined my day. I've had things stolen from me before, but never from my hands. I would like to trust that people are good. I hate to admit that people so selfish and conscienceless exist in this world. But they do exist. I just saw one. That's just sucky. I hate you thief.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Etiquette at a Reading

I saw David Sedaris read his work last night. It was on the tiny second floor of a popular English language bookshop in Paris. I will spare you the annoyance of gushing about how funny, and down-to-earth, and insightful he was, even though that's all true. Instead, I dedicate this post to things that really super duper annoyed me, none of which concerned the author himself.

1. People who handed him 3+ books to sign. I think even two books is pushing it. He is probably sick of signing books, especially after just finishing a 33-city tour. So just give the guy one book and get on with it. That huge stack, one for yourself (Laurel, like Lauren, but with an "L"), one for your mom (Kirsten), one for your stepson (would you mind adding something like "to a fellow writer, because he wants to be a writer too") and another for your best friend… ok no. There are plenty of other people here and you are wasting everyone else's time by being greedy.

2. People who get really good seats but don't deserve them. I was within spitting distance of David Sedaris, and two people sitting by me hadn't read any of his books. (They intended to though. Because all their friends said he was great!) People who arrive the earliest get the best seats, I know. But I am sure there were many latecomers who deserved more to sit there, people who actually appreciated the author because they had taken the time to appreciate him by reading his work.

3. People who do not care to respect the author's wishes because they are more important than said author, obviously. David Sedaris requested that people refrain from taking photos. They're distracting when he's trying to read. The woman behind me took a photo. I wouldn't have known if she hadn't approached David Sedaris afterward and apologized, but "it's for my stepson." Huh? How does that make it okay that you blatantly ignored his request? That just makes it more rude. Also, I couldn't help but entertaining the idea that her stepson doesn't really care if he has a blurry photo of David Sedaris. So I will go on to assume that the photo was a waste.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Long Day in Line

Today I tried to make an appointment to apply for my residency card. I braced myself for it not going well. It did not. I went to one place, where I was told to go to another place, where I waited for three hours to be told to go back to the first place. Went back, and it was the correct place, yet I didn't have any of the documents I needed. So It was a wasted day.

The whole process was completely ridiculous and genuinely French. Doing anything of importance here requires 1. waiting in line, 2. being sent elsewhere, and 3. heaps of paperwork. If you're not from France, it's exponentially more difficult. I almost feel guilty for saying so, but this is a xenophobic country. It's not a stereotype. France chokes at the thought of outsiders coming in. So they purposefully make it hard for the non-french.

Even though today was miserable, I wasn't too bothered. France is France, with its gorgeous architecture, rich history, beautiful language. Oh, and also its sucky bureaucracy. It's part of the package. I'm not going to appreciate it, but I'll stomach it.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Cover Band

Last night I accompanied my host sister to see her work colleague's band play. I get kind of ick when I have to hang out with a room-full of unfamiliar faces. But I had nothing else to do, so no good excuse not to go.

I assumed this supposed cover band would play on the side while people chatted and drank 33cl beers. However, in this typical Parisian bar (read: tiny), the 12-man brass band overpowered any hopes of conversation. I never expected to hear renditions of "Toxic" and "Gangsta's Paradise" with so much heart and soul. While the audience started dancing salsa, there was a lot of emptying of spit valves on the makeshift stage. It was hot, and dancey, and fun.

The worst part of the evening was when we missed the last train home. So we had to call home and have my host dad come pick us up. It was really cold and awkward to stand by a train station for 20 minutes at 1:30 a.m.. But we eventually arrived home, safe and sound.