Monday, November 29, 2010

Rattrapage (Catching Up)

It took me a while, but I cleaned out my inbox completely, got up to speed on my lessons (for now), and breathed a sigh of relief for the resolution of all of my banking problems. I am now contentedly caught up, you might say, except in one regard: the blog. There are several things I need to write about:

1. Emma's visit to France from November 15th to the 21st
2. Teaching
3. French life (including: medical visit, hanging out with the other assistants for Thanksgiving, and more)
4. Normal life? (including: music, language learning, ???)

I wonder if I can cram it all into one post... hop, c'est parti! Here we go!

Emma always seems to have epic adventures when she visits me places! When she visited me in New York in 2007, we saw Spring Awakening on Broadway, had Sugar Sweet Sunshine cupcakes in Central Park and had lots and lots of fun wandering around New York and just being BFFs. This time her visiting me was part of a larger, even more awesome journey around England, France and Spain. Here is just a small sampling of the adventures that went down over the past week!

In the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles. Trop classe.

Giddy with excitement, in front of the secret door to Marie Antoinette's chambers in Versailles. That back room is practically a character of its own in Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette.

Toasting with macarons from the venerable La Durée (they have a shop inside Versailles, which is only logical).

One of many attempted pictures with the Arch of Triumph. We went walking along the Champs Elysées for some nighttime window shopping, trying on hats in H&M. We also went in Zara... so "French" haha.

Allée du chat qui pêche - Alley of the Fishing Cat

We got cheese fondue with my friend Francisca, the Chilean Spanish assistant at my high school.

Emma was excited to see some HP paraphernalia at a comic/figurine shop in the Marais (I think), but was disappointed to find...

... it was just Draco. My old favorite haha!


The Galeries Lafayette, a huge department store with everything from shoes to McDonald's... wait, McDonald's??! Ugh.

Playing in the leaves at Parc de Georges Brassens in Massy, where I live.

Posing in front of the ridiculously overpriced Moulin Rouge in the Montmartre neighborhood. (We made up for not being able to get in by watching the movie Moulin Rouge that night. :D)


One of several attempts at a picture in front of the Sacré-Cœur basilica. Why do people not know how to get monuments in the background of a photo?? I had to specifically ask this person to get "the whole thing please."

At the top of Sacré-Cœur!! 300+ stairs in a very claustrophobia-inducing spiral staircase. Cause that's a great idea.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

I am alive!

Hello, my three faithful readers! Just so you know, I am ok haha. Emma's in town so we're busy! Never fear, a new post is in the works!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Linguistic Adventures

Started my Japanese class at the Institut Japonais last night! I was smiling the whole class just to be able to listen to a native Japanese speaker teach us the basics - in French. My nerdy multilingual dream come true. The only problem is, I think I'm learning Japanese with a French accent. Theory has been confirmed by a certain Japanese-speaking American boy I talk to quite often. I am very frustrated by this, because when I learn languages in English, somehow I don't seem to fall into the accent trap. So I blame it all on my fellow French classmates and their cursed vowels. Dangit. I will just have to tune them out. Like whoa.

For five months, I get to tote around a big red binder and spend my free time listening to a CD called "Réussir en Japonais 1" and finally feel satisfied in formally learning the language of my great-grandparents. I really really need to nip this accent thing in the bud though. Podcasts and anime ahoy!

The flip side of this accent problem is that I seem to have acquired a picture-perfect French accent that, like some sort of bizarre trench coat, I can easily slip onto my English and seem to be French for all intents and purposes. Spending many class hours with students who continue to say things like "I 'av alreddy been beetun bai a cat" (my personal favorite, used as a lie in the game "2 Truths 1 Lie") may dangerously impact my English. Code-switching is the weirdest thing.

And I do it on computers, too. In France, computer keyboards have an AZERTY layout instead of QWERTY, and lots of the keys are flipped or just plain weird. So sometimes my motor memory gets confused and when I type, my fingers itch to substitute a q for an a, or a comma for an m. Why, France, why??

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Trash taken out: check
Groceries bought: check
Desk cleaned: check
Payment for Japanese course I start tomorrow in Paris: half-check (it's complicated)

Lessons finished: ummmm
Ideas for Emma's trip listed: well, you see...
Emails responded to: oh, gosh...
Bank problems sorted out: well, I TRIED, didn't I?
Health insurance and transportation pass: uh, it's raining?
Flyer for private tutoring: eh, that can wait

Jake&Amir videos watched: 3, soon to be lots
Cookies eaten: 3
Firefox tabs open: 22
Future life plans pondered: 1
Blog posts: 2

Well, I think that speaks for itself! I hope your lives are more productive than mine. It feels a lot worse to procrastinate when you're supposedly on this awesome adventure abroad... oops?

8:51 p.m. I think this counts as productive:
Raspberry vinaigrettes made from scratch: 1

Recipe modified with help from the comments on

1/2 c vegetable oil (I used walnut oil)
1/2 c raspberry wine vinegar (or substitute red wine vinegar and several tbsp raspberry jam/jelly)
1 to 2 tbsp white sugar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp oregano (I substituted a few grinds of a mixed herb mill that smelled vaguely like oregano)
1/4 tsp black pepper

Place all ingredients in a bowl and stir.

I had mine on a salad of romaine, walnuts, cranberries, cucumbers and shredded emmenthal cheese (the cheese I could have done without). I halved the recipe and it yielded enough for probably 3 salads.

Mes regards les plus distingués

Dear BNP Paribas,

It sure would be great if you could hurry up and régulariser my compte and send me my PIN so that I can finally pick up my ATM card and checks so I can pay for stuff. I am getting a little harried by the constant fees cropping up in my Chase statement. My poor American checking account. I would really like to start dealing in the euros I've actually earned, instead of the incredibly weak dollars I spent the past many years saving...

Dear French Soy Milk,

Why do you taste so unpleasant, no matter what brand I buy? Please make a deal with Silk so France can enjoy good soy milk for once. Shame on you.

Dear Raspberry Jam,

You continue to be universally delicious. Keep doing what you're doing.

BNP Paribas: 0
French soy milk: 0
Raspberry jam: 1

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Faux Meditation

Over the past year, I've developed a strategy to help my easily-distracted brain focus better. If I'm reading for class or doing important bureaucratic paperwork stuff (hello, France, I'm talking to you), and my mind wanders, I just write down whatever comes through my mind. It's kind of a cheater's version of meditation, you might say, since from what I've read, certain practices of meditation involve just calming your mind and acknowledging mental distractions but not acting on them when they come around.

In the spirit of this faux-meditation, here are some things that are on my mind. Some of these I did, in fact, write down while doing some reading of Willa Cather's My Ántonia for one of the English classes I'm working in.

  • It would seem that the cheese I like and have bought more regularly than anything here is not Brie like I thought (although I do enjoy Brie), but Ortolan. It's very mild and texturally easy to deal with, and honestly I think that since I had such a strong olfactory aversion to the Camembert that I tried two weeks ago, I'm probably not going to become a strong-cheese-lover very soon.
  • Lesson ideas: repeat of my Halloween Tree lesson for the kids I didn't see last week; a discussion of this spooky Emily Carroll comic, retweeted by the one and only Neil Gaiman; finding out students' individual goals for English proficiency (being able to talk about sports, politics, etc); oral analysis of the way dialogue in My Ántonia (1918) differs from modern spoken English; particularly odd linguistic tricks in English like the ability to say "[direct object]+[verb-ing]" as in "bureaucracy-braving." I also need to figure out a neat way to make all students participate without making them hate me. (They're probably going to hate me anyway.)
  • Random stuff:
    • Figure out zones to purchase access to on my monthly Navigo metro/RER/bus pass
    • Eyebrows
    • Tupperware
    • Reserve flat

Monday, November 1, 2010

Live and Learn

VIE DE MERDE, you guys!! FML! I missed my train back to Paris from Marseille haha. The most hilarious part is that I missed it because I was waiting for my food at... MacDo HAHAHA yes, laugh with me please, it'll make me feel less like an idiot...

Luckily, the "12-25" discount travel card I have allows for one instance of stupidity, and I've changed my ticket for a mere (that should be in quotes) €17 (because I already paid like €60 for this half of the trip). Also luckily, MacDo has free WiFi, and also luckily, I speak French enough to be funny and self-deprecating with the ticket agent, and also luckily, this train station is not all outside...

I feel dumb.

ETA: I'm back, safe and sound! :)