Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Graduate Nod

You know how sometimes you sit down to do something with the intention of being so productive that you'll impress even yourself but you end up just sitting in front of your computer screen for three hours with your mouth half open, drooling a little bit, checking twitter every two minutes and watching clips of SNL that people posted on your Facebook wall? No? Me neither. And that's certainly not what I've been doing for the past week...

J.K (Rowling) I've been (sort of) productive and have even finished (most of) my flashcards of vocabulary words in preparation for the GRE, have gotten my school supplies (three notebooks and one new highlighter), and have made three new (genius mixes) iTunes playlists in anticipation of all the studying I'm going to be doing in the next 10 weeks before I make my triumphant return (for three weeks) to the states to celebrate Washington's crossing of the Delaware (FREEDOM!).

I'm gonna go ahead and say that any post without a George Washington reference is a lost post 

Anyway, today is my first day of graduate school. I've only had 1 out of my 3 classes (The Late Bronze Age Aegean), but I can say this with all the certainty of my 23 years of experience on this world: graduate students are possibly the worst humans. We are walking contradictions of what we wanted to be when we were little kids and exhibit all the telltale signs of people who are trying so hard to accomplish something first and best that you can literally see the fire in our eyes. Granted, that could be the reflection of the fire we have just started at the library to avoid a deadline, but that is neither here nor there. We walk around with our various forms of carrying cases containing computers, text books that we refuse to return to the library even though eight other students are waiting to photocopy the same article for class tomorrow, notebooks, half eaten breakfast bars, silenced cellphones, and empty glasses cases cause we (I) have forgotten the actual lenses at home. 

Reasonable Person: Katie, you've been a graduate student for three hours. Give me a break with your cynicism.


My favorite thing that I have experienced today is the "graduate nod". I saw it once or twice during some anthropology seminars at NU that graduate students sat in on, but I had not, until an hour ago, experienced it with such vigor and in such high numbers. Definition of the graduate nod: a slow and steady nodding of the head as professors or colleagues talk to you so that they know for sure that you're not only following what you're saying, but that you really understand whatever it is they're saying to you with your whole soul. This is the graduate school equivalent of that dude in your 150 person lecture that couldn't keep his hand down cause he just had, HAD to tell the professor that when he went to Italy with his family last summer he saw Michaelangelo's David and noticed that if you get under the statue itself his expression changes to one of fear instead of quiet contemplation. All those kids are now in graduate school.
Pictured: a young Katie-type nerd who wouldn't shut up and put her hand down in lecture cause she had to tell the professor that she visited the Francthi cave and totally knows what he's talking about. She'll learn the graduate nod soon, though. 

I'm actually sitting in the archaeology common room right now and it's full of people who are on their lunch break and could be spying on me so I keep surreptitiously clicking back to the other tab I have opened on my browser (ESPN) so that people won't know the horrifying truth: I'm a blogger. Who loves run-on sentences. Woof.

Well, it's off to Themes, Thought, and Theory in World Archaeology. And then Early Egypt and Sudan from 10,000 BC. And I'm pretty sure someone just melted plastic in the microwave cause it smells like a glue-gun in here. I feel like George Bluth, sr. after he spent too long in the hot tub.
His wisdom defined a generation. 

Currently listening to: Bob Dylan The Bootleg Series 3
Currently reading: The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson
Currently craving: For Harry Potter to stop being such a tease and show himself already. I know he's around here somewhere. Jeez!
Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you: the internet. 

....but seriously Harry. Enough with this coy game of cat-and-mouse. 

Peace, love, and awkward pictures on the internet that I can't help but enjoy.


Thursday, September 30, 2010

They sell cupcakes at Topshop

How do I even start this next session of blogs without sounding like a complete cliche of myself? Cause, let's be honest, the last time I wrote I let the fantastical and trite image of an American abroad take over. Not that I regret my last blog post - I wrote exactly what I felt and I'll stand behind that - but hey, not everyday is so full of self discovery that you are allowed the chance to wax poetic for your family and friends.

I guess I'll just get right into it. I've been here for a week and it's taken me about that long to get settled and actually want to blog. I got off my plane at about 6:00 a.m. London time last Tuesday and hopped in a cab instead of braving the Tube due to the weight and size of my two suitcases (memories of me sweating and running through Charles de Gaulle Airport only eight months earlier swam though my head and no one wants a repeat of that hot mess). I won't even go into what happened at the airport when I tried to check in with two bags weighing about 70 pounds each. OK I will cause HOLY CRAP DO I HATE UNITED AIRLINES NOW and SO SHOULD YOU. The woman who was checking me in was rude and made an already fragile Katie even closer to tears due to her comment of "ha, since when? You can pay $400 if you want to check that much luggage" when I asked about a 75 pound weight limit. So I did what any strong, independent young woman would do in that situation and I turned to my boyfriend with tears in my eyes and willed him with my psychic powers to make her stop and make everything be OK. Unfortunately, his powers of making this evil woman stop glaring at me with her devil eyes didn't include smiting her and instead he got me a plastic bag and we began throwing my clothing into it as quickly as possible. My dad and boyfriend then bid me farewell and I went into the security line crying from saying so many good-byes and watching Steve sling 30 pounds of my belongings over his shoulder like an evil reverse- Santa.
That is actually quite alarming, and to be fair Steve only looks at me like that if I ask him to rub my feet.

So, after an uneventful flight filled with many more tears, I got into a cab. When I got here (a two-bedroom apartment in a student housing building just five minutes away from campus) I was able to immediately check into my room and so I made my bed and took a nap. It probably wasn't the best idea, because that night I couldn't sleep to save my life. Between the sounds of the double-decker buses roaring past and drunk people shouting at each other I probably got about three hours of actual, deep sleep time. And if you know me, you know how much I  love my sleep. I was cranky and hungry and in no mood to be alive when I woke up on Wednesday morning - I would've been content to lay in bed all day if it hadn't been for the weekly fire alarm test at 9 a.m. that sounded so much like a freaking air raid siren that I jumped up and hid under my bed in anticipation of the German bombs. They didn't come, so I got back in bed, ready to sleep until my hunger pains became unbearable. Then I remembered something important: I'm in London, I'm trying to be a responsible adult, and most of all I had to pee. So I sucked it up, rolled out of bed, didn't complain (cause I had no one to complain to, duh) about how hungry and cranky I was, and got dressed. Did I shower? No. I had no towel. It was a special day for everyone who came in contact with me before I found a towel at this cute, cheaper-than-Crate and Barrel type furniture store about a two minute walk from my place.

The rest of the week was supposed to be spent doing orientation stuff, but it turns out that "International Orientation" = Freshman get to have parties and drink and make merryment with each other while the grad students have nothing to do beyond getting their ID card. Which I did. And I enrolled and I opened a bank account and I went grocery shopping and bought a colander and pots and pans and I even managed to get a phone and Skype with some family members. Over the weekend I went to Buckingham Palace and had a "Royal Day Out" (their name, not mine... I'm not nearly clever enough to come up with catchy slogans as a way to wrangle tourists to spend the extra ten pounds and "make a royal day of it!"), which included a tour of the art collection of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, a tour of the Royal Mews (the stables and where the carriages are kept), and finally a tour of the State Rooms within the palace itself.
A view of the back of the castle - not my photograph but this is the view I had when I walked up from the tube station

Even though it was a beautiful and sunny Sunday morning when I left my flat, it had started to sprinkle when I got to the castle to pick up my tickets. I first went to the see the art collection, which featured a lot of art depicting favorite scenes from operas and many family portraits, as well as a lot of art that had an Indian influence due to the colonization of the country at the time of the reign of Queen Vicky (we're close friends now, so I feel OK calling her that). It was really cool, and I even gave into my nerdiness and did the free audio tour. So, yes, I was one of those people walking around with the ca. 1993 style head phones and large keypad to type in the numbers of the art to learn more about it. And boy howdy did I learn a lot, including the ridiculously cute and heartwarming detail that the royal children used to put on little plays for their parents at every holiday and anniversary. Did I ever do anything cute like that? Nope. I just got angry at Grace and Seth for getting married when I had to be a bridesmaid every time. And then I got left in the ball pit at Discovery Zone. And no, I'll never let that go.

I didn't even get to wear a sweet bridesmaid dress like this. DAMN YOU CLARKE!

Anyway, after I went to the Stables and saw absolutely nothing awesome (that was for you, Auntie JG) except for a solid gold carriage used ONLY for coronation ceremonies, I went and stood in line to see the state rooms of the palace where there is ornate decoration a la Versaille. Those rooms were absolutely badass, and they only open them up once a year for two months while the Queen is summering at Balmoral Castle (her Scottish home). Needless to say, it was crowded. Beautiful and breathtaking, but crowded. And, if you've ever had the pleasure of traveling or touring with one of the wonderful Fine woman while they are in a crowded and/or stressful situation, you know this: I get to be a grumpus. A major, major grumpus. I literally wanted to start punching children in the face who wouldn't get out of my way and I was on the verge of standing up on one of the silk-upholstered couches and just screaming  at the people who didn't understand that they were not, in fact, the only people in the room trying to look at the chandelier. I even took off the headphones of my audioguide and just walked through the rooms, needing to get OUT. 
It's got nothing on the Tucson. 


I got out of the palace and onto the royal gardens that provided guests with the privilege of walking the stone path that normally only people invited to a garden party would get to experience. I, however, made the prudent decision to wear a pair of flats that are essentially ballet shoes. If you've never experienced walking over thousands of tiny rocks in little more than your bare feet, I highly suggest you try. It's a great experience! Add to that the muddiness of the path, the chill of the day, and my long black pants thoroughly saturated with mud and water, it was indeed a grand stroll in the garden. 

To get me through the walk back to the tube, I did something I rarely do here: I listened to my iPod. I tend to walk around without it on so that I can hear the sounds of the city (and I'm afraid I'll miss my tube stop or not hear someone shouting after me that I left my book on the cafe table) and to just really experience everything. Steve's step-dad recently got a hearing aid but hates wearing it because "the world is just too noisy". But, as I'm new here and not yet as accustomed to the sounds (whereas in Chicago I'd much rather listen to Arcade Fire than hear "this is Belmont. Doors open on the left at Belmont. This is a redline train to Howard"), I quite like walking around iPod free. But this time I put in my new noise-canceling headphones I listened to Sigur Ros as I calmed down and walked back through Green Park to the Tube. And then I finally got home and had a dinner of homemade pasta and Diet Coke. Sweet, life-giving Diet Coke.

Yesterday graduate student orientation finally started. I got two different syllabi and met 16 of the 18 students in the Master's in Near Eastern and Mediterranean Archaeology course. The entire graduate school of archaeology is about 130 people (all having different specializations), but there are so many smaller course options that classes are going to be small. There are four American students in my class, and the rest are European. It was extremely overwhelming to have all this new information thrown at me after almost a year of being out of school, but I know that I'll be able to do it. The only setback is that I'm going to have to finish my dissertation early (it's technically not due until September 10, 2011) because I'm deadset on going straight into a PhD program next fall. I'm most likely going to return to the states due to a lack of funding here for international students ("lack of" = I'd have to pay for my PhD), and the fact that the more I speak to different professors, the more I'm told that the best candidates for jobs are those with an American PhD. That gives me an interesting perspective on my time here: while I will definitely return to England after I'm done with my degree (unless I get deported for calling the Queen Lizzie and former Queen Vicky), it does mean that this time has an expiration date. I'm definitely going to make the most of it, and hopefully I'll do well here and will have some great stories to share with everyone. 

Currently listening to: The Suburbs by Arcade Fire
Currently reading: "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" by Stieg Larsson
Currently craving: peanut butter

They absolutely do not have good peanut butter here. But they do have Nutella, so everything is (sort of) all good.

Peace, love, and nuts. 

- Blowfish.

Monday, March 29, 2010

So? Onward.

This will (most likely) be my final post from France - next Monday I'll be in Paris and I absolutely cannot be bothered to write a blog post when I have only 2 days there. From Paris, it's back to Chicago on Wednesday the 7th. Wow. I cannot believe that time has passed so quickly, and I am definitely not ready to go back to the states. While I am obsessed with my friends and family and cannot wait to see them, I've become comfortable in St Brieuc and absolutely love my life here. I don't even mind waking up at 6:30 to go to school because I have such a good time teaching the kids and hoping that I'm making a difference in their English educations. 

Shit! I'm going to have to break my own unspoken rule about "Sex and the City" references and pull a Carrie Bradshaw here: as I'm sitting here in the teacher's lounge on my last Monday at St Pierre, I can't help but wonder, what have I learned in my time here?
Damn you and your astute observations. You think you're cool with your trendy NYC apartment and sweet-ass wardrobe? Yeah, so do I. Failzorz.

I made a list of about 20 things that I can say I've "learned" while spending eleven weeks here, things ranging from how to request a pork-free galette in french to how the weather on June 4-6, 1944 affected the allied troops' landing plans at Normandy. But, upon further reflection, everything I've learned can be boiled down to one thing:

1. Yes. 

OK, I know that I generally shy-away from anything overly corny and/or emotional, but even the most sarcastic and wanna-be-apathetic twenty-somethings (read: me) have to give in to those deeply introspective experiences and accept that sometimes you just gotta let it go and write it down, cool-ness be damned. So? Yes. Don't worry - just know this: nothing can happen without first saying "yes" to your most ridiculous and outlandish dreams. Obviously, things don't always work out and really awful, shitty things happen along the way but at least you have this thought on your side: you're living it and that's better than sleeping through it. Trust me. And, I think my mom would be proud. 

So? On to Paris. And then a brief interlude in Chicago for a summer full of friends, kickball, Superdawg,  running in sprinklers, Cubs games, Lake Shore Drive, fireworks, sunburned shoulders, and Lake Michigan. 

But, for those of you wondering, "did you manage to embarrass yourself this past week in any special way?" Why yes! Yes I did! Glad you asked. This weekend I went to the Cote Granit Rose, an area about an hour away from St Brieuc that is home to the most amazing pink-granite-rock lined beaches. It's still along the English Channel, just to the east of where I'm living. There's a hiking path carved along the coast that snakes around for about 6 km, and there are huge rock formations that you can climb all over along the trail. 
Shown: heaven.

Being the adventurous type (ha!) I scurried up and attempted to scale what could only be described as a sheer rock face of slippery granite. There was a group of people on top, so I figured that they had gotten up by hoisting themselves over said sheer rock face. I desperately wanted a picture of me up there, so even those my first attempt was a failure, I tried again (cause hey, "yes!" and all that, right?), this time going at it at a run. I jumped up, missed the place where the rock jutted out to grab onto, screamed like an insane person, and fell on my ass. Hard. Picture Barney Rubble doing that leg-spinning wind up, running at a rock, crashing into it, and then falling. Only I was wearing my brown parka and don't have a pet dinosaur (yet). While another group of hikers ran over to make sure I was OK, my host family only chuckled and pointed to a sign saying "CAREFUL! SLIPPERY ROCKS!" Then, I saw that there were stairs on the other side to aid tourists in picture-taking opportunities. Sometimes even I wonder how I get myself into these situations. 

Of course, before I return to Chicago to continue my reign as falling champion of the Windy City, I have the opportunity to get myself into some excitingly awkward situations in Paris. I hope that many of them will involve stolen antiquities (not that I steal, of course - they've already been stolen from their places of origin by western colonizers. Ethnocentricity FTW!) and the like. Who doesn't appreciate an American getting too excited by the Nike of Samothrace and accidentally knocking it over? 
JK (Rowling), I'd never do anything to hurt her (intentionally).

My life should be in parentheses. 

Currently (re)reading: "Ordinary Men" by Christopher R. Browning
Currently listening to: iTunes genius mix based on "Nightswimming" by REM (love me some 90's soul-searchingly-delicious ballads)
Currently craving: Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

A wise man once said to me: "So? Onward." And onward I shall go. 

Peace, Love, and Voyages. 

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Je Peux Sortir Avec Les Vaches

I have reached my final resting place in France: I'm staying with the school accountant and her husband, in the small town (literally 9 square miles) of Hillion. Human population: 4,031; cow population: 1,456,324,123 and counting. They're everywhere. And the weirdest thing? I don't really mind the smell anymore.  But what I do mind is how they tend to stare. 
I DON'T KNOW YOU, COW! STOP JUDGING ME WITH YOUR EYES! (but it's cool how you provide us with delicious dairy products. Carry on.)

Let's see...last week was entirely uneventful. I managed to avoid embarrassing myself (for the most part); I read two books; I dropped some knowledge bombs on French children; and I even caught up on 30 Rock episodes. My life in St Brieuc has become increasingly normal and it's beginning to feel more and more like I live here. Which is equal parts awesome and sad because this is my second-to-last week teaching... and is also somewhat happy because, even though I've been planning my escape to Europe since I was 10, I do love the good old US-ofA and I miss my friends, family, and Manny (not Dusty, that little shit). 
except for my sister and her boyfriend because they are tan and pretty and just went to St Croix and I still look like Casper the Friendly Ghost's more-dead-looking Uncle Nuttellabelly

BUT! before I depart this wonderful country of baguettes and berets, I am going to visit Paris for two and a half days. I should probably save the buildup for next week's blog, so lock up your kids and hide your valuables, cause pictures of antiquities from the Louvre with witty captions will be present. 

Sunday there were regional election here, so I went to the city-hall/centre-ville/civic center place with my new host family to see what this whole "voting in France" thing was all about. I'm going to be honest: I was nervous. This was the perfect opportunity for my crazy/socially-awkward tendencies to rear their ugly head and get me arrested for tampering with the sacred process. I had visions of me stuffing the ballot box with pictures of George Washington, or perhaps standing just outside the curtains of the voting booths to frighten the unsuspecting citizens while holding a sparkler. I don't know where this stuff comes from, but it generally involves some sort of act of "patriotism." Woof? Indeed.
"Damnit Katie! Do you know how hard I worked to make us legit? I HAD DYSENTERY! YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW!"

OK, but really...I didn't do anything to shame the Founding Fathers. I stood quietly in the corner while my host family went about the voting procedure - identical to that of the US, only they put the actual envelope with the ballot into a clear box - and didn't so much as hum "Yankee Doodle". 

So, there was this one time (last Thursday) that it was 11:45 p.m. and I needed a pair of scissors to cut a tag that was itching my back. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a pair of scissors in my room, or the bathroom. I didn't want to go opening and closing cabinets all willy-nilly so late at night, so my genius mind came up with this: take my disposable razor, break it open, and use the blade to hack at the offending piece of cloth. Great plan, right?

Right. Until I actually tried to break open said razor. They are made surprisingly well and are in fact much more durable than one would think. During the ten minute period of time that I attempted to extract the blades, I managed to break three nails, cut both of my thumbs, get spots of blood on my sleeping-shirt, and break the blades in half.

Flash-foward to 12:12 a.m. : I have tissues wrapped around my thumbs, I have a half-cut-off tag hanging off of my shirt, and now I don't even have a razor. Needless to say, if you can't find scissors and your tag is bothering you, change your damn shirt and leave the razors alone. There is a reason they are encased in plastic. I felt very Liz Lemonesque as I was standing in the kitchen at half past midnight  munching on some bread and I saw scissors sticking out of a drawer. BLERG.

Things that are hard to explain with my level of French-speaking ability:
1. The Health-Care Bill
2. Why people don't like the Health-Care Bill
3. Why it took so long to pass
4. Why Americans don't always get to retire
...basically most things that are politically relevant. But hey, who doesn't enjoy perpetuating the stereo-type that all Americans are poorly informed?

Currently listening to: Nirvana Nevermind
Currently reading: "The Sea" by John Banville
Currently craving: a title for my thesis. I proposed "Naked Ladies on Vases: THE MUSICAL!" but that didn't fly; I've gotten "Not Your Mother's Flower Vase", "Women on Vases and the Men Who Loved Them NOT", and "Diet Coke and it's Influence on the Roman Empire: How Naked Ladies Took Over" by various members of my family. Not to sound ungrateful, and I won't name name's here (but it rhymes with Grace), but my thesis has nothing to do with the Roman Empire (but, to be fair, everything to do with Diet Coke). Suggestions? Also, BASEBALL SEASON IS NIGH. 

13 days, children. 13. days.

Peace, Love, and Opening Day!
- Blowfish.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Howard! Or, how I learned to stop worrying and love Canada

This Monday morning finds me in an unusually chipper mood. Maybe it's due to me displaying my Cubbie pride; perhaps it's due to the sunshine. Either way... good times.

 = I have a sweet collection of tee-shirts. 

I spent this past weekend in Caen, Normandy in order to tour the memorial museum and some of the sites related to D-Day. Overall, it was a completely amazing experience and I can't wait to go back, hopefully with my family in tow. 

Friday night I arrived in Caen after a brutally long train ride (almost 5 hours for what could've been a 2 hour car ride. Damn you French rail-system), checked into my hotel, and went out for a stroll/in search of Diet Coke. The city of Caen is pretty large, and it has a couple of really gorgeous cathedrals that managed to withstand the German occupation, bombing, and subsequent American occupation during WWII. Caen is famous (according to Katie, and that's really all that matters) for being the home to William the Conquerer, his thigh bone, the first big city in France to be liberated after D-Day, and a really convenient tramway and bus system. 

it runs like buttah

After a delicious meal of a kebab and chips, I returned to my hotel to watch Dexter and to take advantage of having wireless in the evening and therefore the ability to chat with people in the states who don't wake up before noon. 

Saturday morning I woke up to grey skies and a craving for a pain-au-chocolat, so I got dressed, put my trusty guide book (a big thank-you to Matt and Hanna for sending me a great guide to Brittany and Normandy for the holidays! It's been a big help, as was the 10 euro note I found tucked inside) in my purse, wrapped my Arsenal scarf around my neck, and set out. After securing said pain-au-chocolat and a DC (it's never too early), I went to the bus stop to wait for the #2 bus to the Caen Memorial. My tour wasn't set to begin until 1 p.m., but I wanted to get to the museum a few hours early to look around, as I'd read that there are great archives there and a film about D-Day that was definitely worth seeing before getting to the beaches yourself. I sat myself down on the bus stop bench, took out Balzac, and was quickly absorbed into late 1890's Parisian culture. So absorbed, in fact, that I missed the first bus. And the second. I looked up in time to see the second one zoom by, and being the city-slicker that I am I jumped up and attempted to run after it for about a block before giving up. I was so annoyed with myself for missing a bus twice that I kicked the ground like an angry two year old and was given a reproving look by a man reading his paper at an outdoor cafe. I turned red and retreated back to the bus stop, head hanging, sad Charlie Brown music playing in the background. 

exactly George Michael, exactly.

When the third bus came, however, I was all over it like Arsene Wenger to a 15 year-old prodigy. The Caen Memorial is designed not to be a museum to D-Day but instead to be a memorial to the battle and the soldiers that fought and died there. As such, there is an entire section devoted to Nobel Peace Prize laureates, and a replica of the statue of the gun tied in a knot from the United Nations building in New York. The archives, it turns out, are accessible only to "friends of the museum"(aka rich people who give money) so I had to be content with perusing the general collection. It was pretty cool nonetheless. 

After leaving the petite bibliotheque I saw the 20-minute film the memorial put together to show the preparations leading up to D-Day, and then the attack. There is a surprising amount of original film available, and the director split the screen so that on the right hand side one saw the Germans building all sorts of blockades along the Normandy coast, and then on the left hand side there was montage of images showing the American, British, Canadian, and French forces gearing up for the attack. The two images came together to show some film of the storming of the beaches. The director then cut away to show the Norman coast as it is today - beautiful and serene. It was an incredibly interesting juxtaposition of imagery and it really put what I saw later into perspective. So, if you're planning a visit, make sure to check it out. 
Omaha Beach today, as seen from the American Cemetery

At 1 p.m. I met up with my tour group, which turned out to be three men from Norway (two brothers and their father), and me. It was pretty cool to be in such a small group because I was able to ask as many questions as I wanted and have the full attention of the guide while the Norwegians were translating what she was saying to their dad. This was our itinerary:
1. Arromanches: you can see the remains of the floating port that the British made (at Gold beach) still in the water. The Americans set one up at Omaha, but the storm that happened a few days after June 6 destroyed it beyond repair. 
2. Longues-sur-Mer: German artillery base. The remains of about six huge German bunkers are here - only one is destroyed and only partially so you can really see how well built their "pill-box" shaped armaments were. It's open, so you can walk in and around them and even sit where the Germans did to man the weapons.
3. The American Cemetery in Normandy: this space is actually technically American property, given to us by the French government. Fun fact: last year during the 65th anniversary celebrations, President Obama welcomed President Sarkozy to the cemetery, not the other way around. The cemetery itself looks a lot like Arlington National Cemetery in its overall layout, but of course it is much different. There's not much to say about it - you have to go there to really experience it. It overlooks part of Omaha beach and all of the names on the crosses/stars of David are facing west towards the United States. Suffice to say I spent my hour there weeping intermittently and feeling extremely proud to be an American. 
4. Omaha Beach: we were taken to what is known as the "bloodiest sector" of Omaha beach, and it's immediately apparent why: the tall bluffs that line the beach are pock-marked with German artillery bases tucked safely into them. If you've ever seen "Saving Private Ryan", this is the part at the beginning where it looks like the American soldiers are being shot like fish in a barrel. Because they were. It's astonishing that anyone was able to get off those boats, let alone be victorious in their mission. I learned a lot about the Allied tactics, the German tactics, and about how all of the plans for the Allied powers got screwed up thanks to the weather. The amount of planning that went into this assault...I was just blown away by this part. There are still "dragons teeth" (giant cement pyramids set in the water to stop boats) along the shore line that give visitors a taste of the inanimate objects erected to stop an attack. I could go on for a while, so if you want your ear talked off about all this, just call me...
5. Point du Hoc: literally "point of the point" where American Rangers scaled a cliff to cut off the German guns that were up there. This is one of those stories that you hear and your mouth drops open, your palms sweat thinking about it, and then you say to yourself "if that were me, I would've pissed my pants and died, my body laying on the ground as a defensive position the only thing I could've hoped to do to help". A taste of what happened: the Rangers (an elite sect of the army) were given the task of surprising the Germans before D-Day and cutting off their guns so that they couldn't stop boats coming/soldiers who were trying to take the beach. The weather was so crappy that their boats, however, got pushed way off course, and by the time they got to the cliff the battle had started so the Germans were none-too-surprised. Nevertheless, these guys SCALED A CLIFF with ladders and ropes, climbing head-on into German forces. They engaged in TWO DAYS OF HAND-TO-HAND combat, and didn't even find the guns right away. They found decoy guns. OK, let's say I managed to get up the cliff, and I storm over to the gun with a grenade in my hand, only to find out that they're fake. I would have probably pissed my pants and died, AGAIN. Instead, the Rangers followed tracks in the mud to where the real guns were and finished that shit. I can't even express how in awe I am of those men. And my silly little rendition of what they went through does in no way properly express what happened. Wow. 
Scale that with enemy fire raining down on you, and get back to me

After an amazing midday like that, what do you to end it? Sit at a cafe and write about my experience? Meditate on the horror of war and its repercussions? Oh right, go shopping. Obvi. 

to be fair, I needed to get some DC for the evening.

Saturday night I decided to eat dinner at a small restaurant advertising galettes (a salty version of a crepe made with eggs and various cheeses and meats) and crepes. I sat down to a table by myself, but within about a minute the table awkwardly close to mine was inhabited by a older gentleman, also by himself. I didn't say anything to him but instead continued to read Old Goriot and be anti social. When the waitress came, however, the man asked if she had a menu in English. I decided to be nice and offer to translate the menu for him, beginning with the question "Oh, are you American?""Canadian!", the man responded to me. And right there, in an ordinary creperie in Caen, a beautiful friendship blossomed. This wonderfully friendly Canadian is a jewish doctor from outside of Toronto (not around London, the only place I know in Ontario besides Toronto) who is currently touring Europe as a chaperone with his son's high school. We chatted all through dinner about various topics, including, but not limited to:
1. His daughter's college applications
2. Hockey
3. The weather in Canada
4. How he feels about being a Jew in western Europe
5. Hockey
6. His son's college applications
7. Hockey

Mid-way through the meal I spotted a large group of young people walking down the street, the majority of them wearing team Canada hockey jerseys. "Is that your group?" I asked. "Oh, yeah! That's my son, the one in the Canada jersey. No, not that one. The other one. No, the other one. Yeah, that's him." His son was a skinny looking kid with an appropriate 15-year-old-boy-emo-haircut who caught sight of his dad, half-waved, and then ran away with his friends. I thought that Canadians all wore flannel shirts and moose-skins as coats, but boy was I off base. Turns out "Canadians" are much like "Americans", but with a queen and monopoly money. This man, this Howard, was a gem among men. Vive la Canada. 
What we would call a "Canuck"

Sunday morning welcomed me with a bright, sunny sky, and an espresso at the cafe downstairs from my hotel. There just happened to be a market going on in the middle of the street, so while I munched on my pain au lait I couldn't help but feel just a teensy bit stereotypical...and I loved it. I might've let a smile or two slip, but then I quickly recovered and arranged my face in an appropriate grimace while I read the used copy of East of Eden in French that I found at the market. Cue the Edith Piaf.

After breaky, I went to the Musee de Beaux Arts, Caen's small but impressive fine art museum. They had a great collection of 17th century oil paintings, so I did what I also do at museums and bought postcard sized prints of them to frame and put in my room (slash apartment in London next fall!!!!). #DIY'sthatnevergetdoneFAIL

Alors, I'm back at St Pierre. I just got done eating lunch and hanging out outside with the cool French kids from terminale that I try and buddy around with. I even managed to get some pictures with my compy whilst schooling them on the importance of Snoop Dogg and The Smiths via my iTunes.

Little known fact: France is in black and white. Weird, but strangely appropriate.

And, before the usual, I have disturbing breaking news: hipsters have commandeered the monocle. Once an accoutrement for the aristocratic upper class of sweet European countries, it has now become an ironic statement of apathy. Awful

Appropriate use of a monocle. 

Currently reading: Faustine by Emma Tennant
Currently listening to: LCD Soundsystem Sound of Silver (in a totally non-ironic way)
Currently craving: Band of Brothers on DVD (I left the copy of the series that I took from my poppa at home. woof-tastic.)


Peace, Love, and Tom Hanks.

- Blowfish.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Act II, in which I dance with a Priest

The first week back after vacation was nothing exciting...I spent a lot of time daydreaming about Thailand; planning my trip to Normandy (12/3-14/3); and not really productive in any way, shape, or form. But hey, I'm still in France and continually getting better at speaking, so I got that going for me. I've also spent an inordinate amount of time on my computer, organizing my iTunes (having been motivated by a facebook update by Micaela indicating that she was doing the same thing), looking at pretty things I can't have (specifically the shoes from Sonia Rykiel's spring/summer 2010 ready-to-wear line* that would literally break my bank account into a thousand tiny pieces), waiting around on gchat for my friends and family to wake up and chat with me, learning about English grammar (thanks to: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/semicolon ) and hey, I finally made a decision about graduate school!

*not that this is a fashion blog; I leave that to the professionals: http://designskeleton.blogspot.com

After much deliberation, I've decided that I'm headed to University College London's Institute of Archaeology, to commence Fall 2010. Start saving your pennies and come visit me!

Last Thursday, I had the chance to go to the grammar school of Lea (the 8 year old daughter of the family I'm currently staying with) to teach them childrens how to talk good. Her school is very small, and goes from Pre-K - 5th grade. I arrived at school during recess, in which I had the opportunity to do something I am rarely able to do: observe toddlers at play in their natural environment. For some reason, I had never really appreciated how hilarious children are when left to their own devices... it's like watching a 60 Minutes episode on the dangers of hallucinogenic drugs. The kids stumble around and  trip in their untied shoes; they weave in an out of the older kids' legs; they growl and scream at each other incoherently as if they're deep in a 'Nam flashback; they start playing games but get distracted by bits of dust flying around in the air; they fall at random intervals and start crying before realizing there's nothing wrong and then they get up and walk away as if nothing happened. All of this is happening while their coats are only half on, their winter hats and gloves have been abandoned to the asphalt, and most of them have some sort of liquid (be it snot, spit, or some sort of melange) on or around their noses/mouths. 

When I did get into the classrooms with the children, they had the best questions about America I have ever heard. I don't know what the French are teaching these kids about life in the states, but I sincerely hope they never change their curriculum:
1. How do people walk in the USA?
2. Do you have electricity?
3. How many famous people do you live with?
4. Do computers exist where you live?
5. How do people get from place to place in America?
...and of course, the inevitable:
1. How many children do you have?
2. Oh, well then what is your husband's name?
3. OK but what's your boyfriend's name?
4. Do you have a horrible disease that prevents people from wanting to be near you? 
(ok that last one I just inferred from their confused and pitying faces) ...Yet again, pwned by France's youth. Thanks for reminding me to feed my 35 cats. 

Newest use for a scarf: cheese-catcher. As in, "I'm glad I had my cheese-catcher on today, cause I found that piece of Camembert from earlier and boy was it delicious."

Saturday: I made a Texas Chocolate Cake for Lea's school party ("Soiree DISCO"). It was OK, but rather dry due to the fact that French people have never heard of buttermilk so I had to substitute it for regular milk and lemon juice (yeah, that's a valid substitution so lay off me!), and I think I could've added a bit more butter. Which is just downright ironic seeing as how Bretons (people from La Bretagne) put salted butter on everything (that, and eggs. We had pizza last night with cheese, anchovies, and eggs as toppings. Also known as taking something that Katie loves and turning it into a weird hybrid of tastes that shouldn't be combined. Ever).
Above "beurre de Bretagne sale": the reason my pants are too tight. Woof.

So, yes, on Saturday night I did indeed go to the "Soiree Disco" with the fam. It reminded me a lot of when I was younger and we had functions at our primary schools, except this time there was alcohol. Something you should know: French people drink constantly during the weekend. Saturday morning I woke up to the doorbell - the neighbors were coming over (11 a.m.) for drinks. Saturday afternoon: repeat. Saturday night: Disco party where the Kir (creme de cassis + white wine) was a-flowin' like beer and I was standing awkwardly trying to understand slightly drunk French conversations. It was sort of like Aspen.

Lloyd Christmas: I'm talkin about a place where the beer flows like wine, where the women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano. I'm talkin about Aspen.

Harry: I don't know Lloyd, the French are assholes.
(photo taken of me and Julia on her motorbike in Pai)

The children apparently decided to say "screw you" to the "disco" theme, cause every child under the age of 10 was wearing some sort of randomly selected halloween costume. I saw an indian, a Cleopatra, several princes/princesses, fairies, a dragon (awesome), ninjas, a chef, some soccer players and even some vampires (even more awesome). I guess that "soiree" means "dress up as what you want to be when you grow up, and yes mom I'm going to be a dragon so take your dreams of me becoming a doctor and spread that on your toast and eat it."

Also in attendance at the disco was the new priest in town. This young gun is in Hillion (the small town outside of St Brieuc where I currently reside with my new fam) to help the old priest phase into retirement and then take over for him - I guess that's how things work in the Church. So, being the token "jew" in St Brieuc/Hillion, I was of course introduced to the priest as such and was then berated with questions about judaism. I felt like an awful person, parading around as a chosen one when in fact I am only half chosen, but I answered his questions nonetheless. The priest then asked me to dance. To the song "YMCA". I shit you not. But what was I going to say? "No" to a holy man? So there I was, living a double life, dancing with a priest, to the Village People. 

Currently listening to: Grizzly Bear Veckatimest
Currently reading: Old Goriot by HonorĂ© de Balzac (as in, "it's hot as", right Rachel?). I finished Satori in Paris, and absolutely loved it. Although I have to admit that reading about the drunken exploits of Jack Kerouac in Brittany couldn't really turn out any other way... 
Currently craving: an anecdote for Nutella- addiction


= delish-tastic. 

Peace, Love, and Hazelnutty-goodness
- Blowfish.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Oh, My.

OK, I know, I know, I'm sorry. But seriously, I've had precious little time to update this bitch. And, there is no wireless at the new house I'm staying at so I had to wait until I got to school today and could use my computer. ANYWAY! I was in Thailand. It was amazing! I stayed with my friend (from good old e-town) Julia (http://something-shiny.tumblr.com/) who is currently living in Chiang Mai, a city about 10 hours north of Bangkok. But before I delve into our adventures, who wants to hear about my trip over here? I like to pretend that I'm some sort of Zach Morris/Dora the Explorer hybrid when I ask you all these clearly rhetorical questions, so just picture me turning and looking straight at you, asking a question, waiting a couple seconds for an answer, and then saying something awesome like, "Great! Bueno! Let's go! Vamanos!"

I'm like Dora's illegitimate half cousin who, like her Mexican counterpart, also has a passion for maps and a monkey for a best friend

I spent the Friday and Saturday before my departure in Le Mans, where I did a language exchange when I was in high school. I stayed with my old family, and had a really good time just hanging out with my buddy Anne Laure and watching the Olympics. Then, Sunday morning I left for the train station to begin my marathon journey to Chiang Mai. Le Mans is about a two-hour train ride away from Charles de Gaulle airport, and I spent the better part of that first leg of the trip making new play lists on Spartacus, III (my iPod...yeah, it has a name. But honestly, at this point are you really surprised?) and reading a french tabloid (which, by the way, is pretty much exactly like US or People but with a couple celebrities I don't know and more boobs). I decided against bringing my beloved Frye's to Thailand with me, so instead of clomping around in leather calf-high boots, I was squeaking around in my green and maroon Nike dunks. But don't worry guys, I was still wearing my LuluLemon yoga pants and LuluLemon wrap sweater and white Hane's v-neck tee-shirt. When you find a winning combination like that, you don't put it out to pasture. You work that shit till you get a hole in crotch of the pants and can't go out into public anymore (so you stay inside).

If you've ever been out shopping/traveling/to a movie/pretty much anything involving a line with me, you know that I have a rare and serious condition in which I am unable to chose any line except the one in which there will not only be a group of narcoleptic blind people, but there will also be several crying babies, geriatric patients, and probably a freak mudslide, thereby causing me and whatever poor souls are with me to have to wait in this longest and most obnoxious line. But of course, by the time one is IN that line, you can't switch. Cause the narcoleptic blind people will have the same idea and then cause you have to wait just as long (and then you'll probably kick yourself as you watch the crying baby give you the finger as he zooms by in his gigantic designer stroller). So, of course, as I'm waiting in line at the EgyptAir counter to check my bag, I realize that there is a group of about 10 retiree-aged German tourists; a woman with about 14 bags; and a family of 8 (including crying twin babies who are both giving me the stink-eye).

About twelve hours later I got my bag checked, made it through security, and went to chill out at my gate. Instead of said-chill-age commencing, I was forced to listen to a large group of high school students, apparently also bound for Cairo, laughing and throwing shit at each other and generally causing enough noise that I had no choice but to grumble under my breath and share a knowing look with the old man sitting next to me. That's right folks, I've turned into a crotchety old lady at the ripe old age of 22. Though in all honesty, those hooligans deserved to be subdued by my mighty fist.

The flight to Cairo was uneventful, minus the embarrassing moment I had when I forgot how to speak English/French/German and stared blankly at the flight attendant who asked me in all of those languages what I'd like to drink. The man sitting next to me looked at me and asked me in Arabic before I remembered what words were and answered in a mixture of English and French that I'd like a diet coke (ah, oui! desole, je would like une coca light, please).

It transcends all nationalities and cultural differences.

I got to Cairo at night, and can actually say that I set foot on the continent of Africa because we had to get off on one of those ladder things and walk to a shuttle from the plane. That's right, 3 continents in one trip. Bad. Ass.

I spent the two hours before my flight to Bangkok staring at a beautiful Spanish man (I caught sight of his passport...his name was David and I wanted to ask him if he'd like to watch Dexter or perhaps cuddle a little bit, but I held my tongue for fear that he'd report me to airport security for being a creepy-ass American and I'd spent the next six hours trying to explain what "spoon me" means and why I felt the need to scream it as I threw myself at an innocent Spanish tourist) and reading. I always love seeing people that I've been on another flight with and we're both catching this next one- it's like we share a special travel bond and we're old friends or something. "Oh hey, people from the row behind me CDG to Cairo! Can you believe this line? I know, right! Tourists...ugh. Remember when we watched All About Steve and we both laughed at that one part? Good times man, good times."

I love Sandra Bullock and I don't care who knows it.

I managed to sleep for about four hours on my flight to Bangkok, so that when I landed I was sufficiently dirty and gross looking to go through customs. And, just in case you're traveling to Bangkok soon, you should know that they take your picture when you give them your passport. So there will always be a permanent record of my hot, oven-baked ball of ass looking face in Thailand. Awesome.

I then boarded my one hour flight to Chiang Mai (yeah, I decided to take a plane. It was only about $60 and I thought that was reasonable considering that I'd rather chew off my own arm than to sit for another 13 hours on a train). So, I arrived safely, if slightly-less dignified, and much smellier than when I left Paris.

Julia and I spent the week frolicking around Chiang Mai looking at a bunch of different wats (temples) that are nestled neatly between modern buildings, riding around on her motorbike, sitting outside drinking Chang and Signha beers, eating a shit ton of Pad Thai (for a discussion of shit ton versus crap load, please refer to previous blogs), and soaking up some much-needed sun. Chiang Mai is a very interesting city: it has a bunch of different neighborhoods, and the central area is surrounded by a moat. There are pictures of the King everywhere, and there's even a video that's shown before movies begin that celebrates his life. After spending 10 days in Thailand, I have to be honest: I have a bit of a crush on the King. While he may be in his 80's, he was a cutie during WWII and he even wears nerdy round glasses.

Seriously. His Royal Highness King Bhumibol. Love him.

Over the weekend that I spent there Julia and I went to a small town even closer to the Myanmar border called Pai. Not only was it incredibly beautiful and full of really nice people, but we had hammocks in our bungalow. We met a man claiming to the be the first hippie in Pai, and I chatted with a cool Scottish couple en route to Australia during a bonfire and even got to speak in German to a cute backpacker from Stuttgart who informed me that my German was too polite and I needed to "loosen it up a bit".

Bungalows in Pai...as close to "roughing it" as I'm willing to get.

And then, the most highly anticipated moment of the trip: elephant riding. It's been my goal in life to meet, make friends with, and then get married atop one of these majestic creatures, but after this experience I have to say that I was a bit crestfallen with the whole thing. When we pulled up to the "elephant camp" we saw three elephants standing under a shaded area, the biggest of which was equipped with a large seat across his back that looked sort of like an amusement ride seat. Except, however, for the lack of seat belts and/or other safety implements. Julia and I were offered straw hats (which we refused...I am so not into putting other peoples' dirty hair molecules on my head) and we were instructed to just get on and hope for the best (read: the guide pantomimed to us to just get on and then he proceeded to chuckle when we stumbled nearly fell to our deaths getting adjusted). The guide, a small thai man wearing long sleeves and long pants in 80+ degree weather, sat at the head of the elephant and used a combination of high-pitched squeals, butt pushes, foot movements, and a hammer-like object to try and get the big guy to maneuver itself through the "jungle" (which looked a like Wisconsin or some other mid-west location). The elephant was having none of this, however, and every few seconds he would use his trunk to grab some leaves and chow down. The guide, during these brief pauses, would start going nuts and would use a combination of his yells and butt-pushes to get the elephant to move again. Instead of being productive, the elephant would turn in a big circle or shift suddenly to the right or left, soliciting gasps and sudden grabs from me and Julia. After that hour long trek, we returned to the shaded area with the other elephants, and were then told to get off. Relieved, we hurriedly scrambled off the back of the elephant and started to get down the ladder when we were signaled to stop and wait. We looked around, saw the guide un-doing the elephant's amusement-ride-seat, and realized we were now in for the "bareback" portion of the program. What. The. Crap. The next hour saw me and Julia grasping onto the world's roughest rope while the elephant lead us down to the Pai River. This round, however, instead of being side-by-side on a seat, I was in front and Julia was behind me, so not only was Julia forced to hold onto me like I were Brian, the hottie New Orleans-er we met on our journey to Pai, but she was also completely off the small blanket they had provided us as a barrier between our legs and the tough elephant hide. Hilarity did not ensue. Unless you count the insane Israeli guy who was riding another elephant (which he decided was a "lady-boy" elephant and kept shouting that) and kept trying to surf the poor thing. He was then dunked in the Pai River, which Julia and I refused to do on account of the large elephant turds floating by. Woof. Please see Julia's blog for photos.

After that (mis)adventure, Julia and I relaxed at the hot springs, then spent the rest of the evening shopping and eating. We were champions at seeking out mago-sticky rice and roti covered in chocolate. To say that I was a bad influence on Julia's healthy-eating-and-living kick is an understatement. I forced the poor child to drink diet coke, eat every four hours, and sleep until noon. I also forced her to watch soccer, including the Manchester United vs. Everton game that was on Friday night when we got to Pai. I was rooting for Everton to beat ManU so that they would lose points and Arsenal could try and recover some lost ground, so I was definitely in the minority of the British/Thai fans that were crowded into the small sports bar nestled in between tourist shops. I explained a lot of the rules and stuff to Julia, and she even started to appreciate the subtle art of checking out how hot a player is without drawing too much attention to oneself. When Jack Rodwell (an Everton midfielder) scored a goal and took off his shirt revealing some nicely defined abs, she muttered "oh my" and we continued watching without spilling too much drool and/or wolf-whistling.

Yes, please.

Leaving that vacation was the worst party. But what was even more shitty was the customs "line" at the Bangkok airport. Instead of a "line", it was a literal clusterfuck of tourists all smooshed together trying to get their departure stamp and make it to their gates on time. One Chinese girl fainted, and another puked. PUKED. The terminal then smelled like vomit, thereby causing the other travelers to gag and dry-heave. It was honestly one of the worst hours of my life. Yes, ONE. HOUR. Even though I had two hours to get to my gate, I barely made it on time. Sanity not in tact. Running through the Bangkok airport sweating and smelling like puke is definitely not one of my favorite memories from that vacation.

By Thursday night I was back in St Brieuc. Except that I'm no longer living in St Brieuc - I'm actually in Hillion, a small suburb more in the country and farther away from civilization than St Brieuc. But, it's really nice. It's very quiet, and the smell of cattle doesn't really bother me anymore. Plus, I can see a lot of stars. And now I live with one of the PE teachers at the lycee, her husband, and her two daughters (Camille, age 11 and Lea, age 8). It's fun having smaller kids around- they like to read stories in English and eat copious amounts of Nutella with me.

My favorite teaching tool. That, and a whip. Just kidding. But seriously. A whip.

I did get to watch the Olympics (Jeux Olympiques, or J.O as they're called here) last night: Canada vs. Les Etats-Unis. I managed to convince my host family that I am in fact mentally unstable as I was unable to stop my voice from rising four pitches when I saw Jonathan Toews' hot ass in a team Canada jersey and said, "il joue pour l'equippe de Chicago!! (he plays for Chicago)" and clapped my hands. And then every time another Chicago player was on the ice I would giggle and point like an idiot. I honestly don't know what's wrong with me, and I don't care to find out.

...for those of you expecting a photo of said hockey player and a witty caption, I hate to disappoint you but I got sidetracked after googling "Jonathan Toews" and read about the Blackhawks for a half an hour and now don't feel like going back. Yep, I'm that lazy. Also, the first thing that comes up as "did you mean" upon googling Jonathan Toews is "Jonathan Toews girlfriend". At least I know the rest of the female population is as insane as I am...woof.

Speaking of sports, I'm seriously jones-ing for some baseball/spring training news. So, if you wonderful people in the states (read: Max B, BSto, Nick, Maps Tubin, etc.) could send me some great anecdotes coming out of Ho-Ho-Kam Park, I would greatly appreciate it. And yes, Dad, I did know that our roster is chock-full of old farts. But not having Milton Bradley starting in right field is enough to carry me past such mundane issues as Derrek Lee's artificial hip and Big Z's prescription for Lipitor.

Or Mark Prior's artificial arm...I have a Mark Prior jersey hanging in my closet, but I refuse to wear it out of shame. To think that there was a time when Uncle Mush had to console me over his marriage. Those were the days...

So, it's Monday and I'm back in the teacher's lounge at St Pierre, downing coffee, reading Digg.com, and researching my upcoming weekend in Caen/Normandy/Cherbourg. Look for news stories discussing a crazy American tourist getting arrested for a variety of things, including but not limited to trying to re-create the storming of the beaches.

Maybe I'll pull a Gertrude Ederle and swim across the English Channel first...

During these upcoming weeks we'll be focusing on English grammar during class. That means ample opportunities for me to embarrass myself with my lack-of-knowledge regarding the way English language works. For example, we were doing a work sheet in relation to verb tenses. The sentence was: "I'll wake you up early for fear you (be) late for your exam." So, the students had to conjugate the verb "to be" into the correct form. I wrote "I'll wake you up for fear you will be late for your exam." The students all copied what I wrote, cause as the American I should know English. The correct way to write the sentence is: "I'll wake you up early for fear you should be late for your exam." The students were all like, "But Carolin said this was right!!!" I just sat there and turned red. Then apologized sheepishly. And stayed red in the face.

The red and black mean that I changed all my answers. At least once. #englishfail.

Currently listening to: Tegan and Sara "Under Feet Like Ours"
Currently reading: "Sartori in Paris" by Jack Kerouac
Currently craving: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, season 3

Although, I did have a dream about Dexter teaching his son how to properly dispose of a body, but then it turned out that all his son wanted to do was dance. Maybe I shouldn't tell people these things.

Peace, Love, and Awkward-blog-silences.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Your Mom is my Doppleganger

Superbowl Sunday in St Brieuc turned into “Katie Watches Rugby and Doesn’t Understand it but Wants to Watch Sports” Sunday...It did make me a bit homesick to be watching such a clearly European sport on the D-Day of the (American) Football season, but it was better than nothing. I spent the afternoon trying to keep up with the French commentary during the match between France and Scotland (Le XV de France contra Ecosse), and scouting out potential husbands amongst the players. And let me tell ya, there are some hotties on both sides. It makes me feel like a traitor to my sex to watch sports and be inevitably drawn to who’s eyes manage to convey the greatest insight into their soul (#16 for France, in case you were wondering), but hey, I can’t help it. It’s like a guy watching the cheerleaders that the television networks can’t help but zoom in on every five minutes and not noticing their racks/butts/whathaveyou while they’re jumping up and down waving shiny shit at your face.

Let's be honest. You're not thinking about that last play.

And neither am I.

I did, in fact, develop quite an affinity for the sport. It’s just as, if not more, physical than American Football, but it has less padding and a more non-sensical set of rules. Every couple seconds the players jump on each other and battle for a ball that’s clearly hit the ground but the play doesn’t stop. And I have no idea why the play does stop when it does. I felt annoying asking Gerard (my host dad) too many questions so I sat in silence trying to deign the rules by just watching. Didn’t work. So, wikipedia it is.

Most days I spend between fifteen and twenty minutes choosing an outfit for the day. I put an extreme amount of care into my appearance (seriously, I’ve turned a corner. No more LuluLemon-stretch-pants-American- Apparel-v-neck-and-zip-up-hoodie-to-class for this girl!) in order to wow the oh-so-fashionable French students/so the teachers take me seriously. Today, for example, I’ve paired a black blazer with a vintage-looking yellow silk blouse, boy-friend fit jeans, and red flats. I’m quite proud of this ensemble, but it seems to be for naught. I’m pretty sure that the professors still wouldn’t take me seriously if I were wearing a tee-shirt claiming my illustrious and expensive American degree in block letters. And, as for the 17-year-old for whom I’d forsake my goal of having British children, well, I’m just that 22-year-old American girl who stares a little too long and who makes comments under her breath in English about 17 being the age of consent in Illinois. Can I get arrested for this? Benson and Stabler would NOT approve. Woof.

Yeah, I stole them from my sister. I do what I want.

This grey Monday morning in St Brieuc has proved quite productive, despite a miserable beginning: when I arrived at school at 7:45 a.m. I found out that I didn’t actually have a class to teach until 11. That means that I could’ve slept until at least 10 a.m. I thought briefly about running back home and getting back in bed, but I resisted and instead spent the morning figuring out logistics for my trip to Thailand. After reading an e-mail from Julia, I realized that I’m not actually landing in Bangkok until 12 p.m. on Monday afternoon, and thus will not reach Chiang Mai until Tuesday morning due to the overnight train I have to take. Plus, I’m spending Friday evening - Sunday morning in Le Mans visiting my host family from the first time I was in France, so I have to book trains for that too. This whole Thailand experience will be infinitely more interesting due to my complete lack of ability to speak the Thai language. Also, I have to change planes in Cairo, and in case you were wondering, I don’t speak Arabic (yet). Luckily, “diet coke” or “coca light” translates into most languages without much trouble.

And, I hope I don't get stopped by a sphinx. I'd never be able to solve a riddle under that sort of pressure. Oedipus was a clever bugger, but apparently not too wise...

I had an anonymous (Aunt Tina) request to say a little something about my current host family. I have pictures of the house and my room, but because I don’t have the cable for Annie’s camera with me, you all will have to wait until I return to see them. Whoops. Anyway, I’m currently staying with an English teacher and her husband. They’re both in their mid-50’s, and very nice. Josiane speaks perfect English with a wonderful British accent; her husband speaks very little English but cause I’m a French rockstar (read: I can speak enough to request to watch the Arsenal game on TV) we’re all good. When I get back from Thailand, I’m going to be staying with one of the P.E. teachers and her family. She has two little daughters, and I’m super excited to get them to re-create the Capucine video with me. That, and to ask them to call me mean names and ridicule me about being a spinster with tons of cats just like Livi does, cause I do miss that little firecracker.

How do you say "Crazy cat lady" in French?

A slight problem I’m having here: I’m bored in the afternoons. I need a hobby. I bought the first season of Dexter on iTunes last week and watched all 12 episodes in the period of about three days. I already bought season 2 and it is waiting for me when I get home, but seeing as how there are only three seasons available for my consumption, I need a new hobby. Any ideas? I’ve been considering teaching myself Italian, but the only textbook I have access to for this are written in French. Although, it would be an interesting challenge to learn Italian from French...

I have this really weird habit of, when finding myself in an awkward and/or boring situation, coming up with the most outrageous and socially inappropriate action to take. For example, today during lunch I was eating a banana and trying to keep up with the conversation (I think it was about cell phones but I can’t be sure), when my mind began to wander. What would happen if I stood up, yelled “AMERICAAAAA!!!” and smashed the banana into someone’s entree? When I’m at a play or recital I often think about what would happen if I ran up on stage and started to tap dance... I don’t know why I get these impulses, but sometimes I think it’d make a good reality show. That, and get me committed. Said actions, however, remain ideas in my head...for the most part.

Banana: not for shenanigans.

And, just to blow your mind: http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap100208.html

Shameless plug: Go to Superdawg, now with a new location in Wheeling, Illinois!!!!

Currently reading: interesting question (that I pose to myself, I know). In the past week I read: “Fiesta/The Sun Also Rises” by Ernest Hemingway and “Look Back In Anger” by John Osborne. I picked up “Lord Jim” by Joseph Conrad, but it lacks the grip of “Heart of Darkness” and I’m quickly losing interest. Big ups to BSto for recommending some good titles re: France during WWII...unfortunately I’d have to order them from Amazon or summat so I’m not sure I’m going to get around to reading those right now due to all of my funds being funneled into Thailand adventure.

Currently listening to: The Decemberists Castaways and Cutouts

Currently craving: Superdawg. Duh.

Always, always, always a good choice

Peace, Love, and 100% pure beef.

- Blowfish.