Tag Archives: differences

A good excuse to make your bed….

Today, I came back to my room after a meeting to find this guy crawling above me on the top bunk mattress.

image

Iowa is constantly surprising me with its differences and similarities to Connecticut. For example, the grass looks the same, but randomly has these prickly plants that hurt if you walk on them. Both states have a nice collection of creepy crawlies, but I think Iowa wins in the creepy spider department. Cedar Rapids has similar chain stores as my town, target, walmart, applebees, even olive garden, but there’s also places I’ve never heard of like Kum & Go and Maurices. So far, no Goodwill sightings though….. And certainly no Trader Joes 😛

 

Halfway there

I’m slowly but surely getting used to how work, well, works in France. But there are moments where I see how easy it is to slip back into the American mindset. This morning started like any other, except that instead of helping out or observing, I translated texts that are going to be put in the new exhibition and the activity books. As I sat in front of the computer, typing up the texts and wordreferencing any words I didn’t know, I immediately felt like there was a deadline hanging over me.  I got completely focused on my work, staring at the screen for two hours straight. Even when I finished the first part, instead of taking an early lunch I kept moving through. I finished both texts and was only a little bit late for lunch, but I felt horrible afterwords. Staring at the computer had given me a headache, not moving made me jittery, and I hadn’t spoken French all morning so it felt like I had just walked in. I completely understand why the French take so many breaks and why they were so confused that I’d finished translating so quickly.

I made sure to take a long lunch though, I wanted to be sure I felt normal again before dealing with the kids. While sipping my tea, I ended up sitting in on a meeting. It turns out my teachers were right, the French really do use their breaks for business, they just hide it in conversation. For instance, everyone was just eating lunch and they were talking about the next  couple weeks and before you know it there’s a meeting about stagiaires working the weekend (something I’m hoping to avoid). It was really interesting to watch the different interactions and all the little details that go into running the museum. Like how many people need to be there during the weekend, who has the key, who’s going to close up, who’s trained to do what. It’s a lot of details to wrap your head around, and these people did it during lunch break, no grand documents just their coffees.

After lunch I headed downstairs to watch a visite. It was the calmest group I’ve ever seen, they all listened and took their time completing the activites. I really didn’t have to do anything besides point them in the right direction and tidy up after they left. After that I helped with an art workshop where the kids made their own version of this painting:

Salvador Dali

It wasn’t my favorite activity because there were a lot of rules: you had to make the background the same way, the cloud had to be on top and the flower had to fit in between the cloud and the earth. But it was still fun to watch the kids.

After that I took a long tea break. I didn’t do it on purpose, I was just sitting talking with the stagiaires in between workshops. But then, somebody offered me a tea, and I thought “I’m in France, I’m gonna drink some tea!” Before I knew it the next workshop had started, but instead of rushing outside I realized “There’s two people out there, and two other stagiaires with me, and nobody is freaking out, enjoy your tea.” So, for the first time I took a break, I enjoyed my time, and I had a good conversation with my fellow stagiaires. We actually got talking about the internet, and I put in my two cents about how I check about 10 sites every day, half of which I check twice. This shocked the Frenchies! Turns out most of them didn’t have internet until the end of high school, and they check mail and facebook rarely now, seeing internet instead as another form of research. It really put the U.S. in perspective and showed me just how much I need to learn how to translate “Americans are attention whores.” I think I’ll wait a bit to tell them about my blog….

When the time was right, the tea drunk, and the conversation finished, we all wandered to our perspective activities and everything was wonderful. I ended up helping the cutest little boy with his art work. When you’re only three feet tall it’s hard to reach the other side of your painting and when you’re too young to know if you’re right or left-handed it’s hard to use scissors, but his painting came out wonderful anyway. Then I helped the little ‘uns wash their hands, which always leads to the most interesting conversations. One girl offered me her silly band after showing me all of hers and discovering that I only have two. Another little girl asked if I was German. To which I responded, “No, guess again.” A little boy piped in “Portuguese?” “Nooo, which country speaks English?” “England” “True, but what other country, it’s really big” “Russia!” Which doesn’t quite speak English, but they got the U.S. on the next try. It made my day to see a little girl not thrown off by my accent, just curious, and then have a fun conversation about it. Sometimes it works out to be l’americaine.

After work, I was invited to join the other stagiaires to go for a drink. It was really nice to just talk with the group and be able to really get to know people. It feels really good to know that I was able to follow the conversation, and anything I missed was either funky French tv show references or drowned out by the band practicing at the table next to us. After a while one of my favorite stagiaires turned the conversation towards the U.S. We talked about whether New York City is a different culture than the rest of the US, whether Americans really are obese, I taught them that Wendy’s is the best fast food in the world, and then she asked about 9/11. I was kinda surprised because no body here has asked me about it before, and all the questions before were pretty typical. But after telling them my experience, how it basically was a day of complete confusion for me, it turns out they had very similar experiences. Many of them were picked up early from their various activities (being 3pm here when it happened they were out of school as we were starting it), and knew what was going on just as much as we did. It was interesting to see how what I’ve always thought of as ‘our day’, the day when the US was hit and not somebody else, really had an international impact.

One of the reasons I’m so happy with my stage is because of how welcoming the stagiaires are. Throughout the night they always made sure to include me in the conversation, even if it was just to see if I’d heard of a certain TV show or if I understood the story. Even on the train ride home, they kept the conversation going, sincerely interested in where I live and how I like the museum, which likewise gives me the opportunity to see where their coming from. It turns out a couple of the stagiaires finished their required stages and just kept going because they like it so much.

Well, it’s time for me to turn in so I can wake up and see what tomorrow brings. 🙂 Hopefully I get some more cute kid stories to share. Bonne nuit!

Deuxieme jour

In general, I’d say my deuxieme jour du stage was a success. The morning was tiring because I was tired and I just couldn’t get French to come out well, which made people hesitant, which made things more tiring. But, my chinese leftovers at lunch woke me up and the afternoon was much more eventful.  (Also, everyone completely understood why I was tired and were still incredibly nice, score for the stagiaires!)

First, I was able to help with some translations. The new exhibition which will be built next week is based on an American artist, Keith Haring, and for the first time in the museum’s history there will be real original artwork in the exhibition. So, the museum is borrowing artwork from the U.S. Therefore every aspect involving the art work, from the loan agreements to the transportation, has to be translated into English, sent to the US and then translated back into French. The workers have a very good level of English, but I was still able to help out by making sure it sounded natural and making it more polite since translations tend to be very direct. It was amazing to see all the work involved, I only had to translate two emails and I still got lost between everything involved and all the communication necessary. I would love to pick the directors brain about all the work involved, a possible subject for my mémoire (final paper) too. (Sidenote: When I start leading tours it’s going to be a little tricky because I’ll have to decide between slightly confusing everyone by saying Keith Haring, or sounding French and saying Keissaring)

I also helped out with ateliers (art workshops) again. I started with the youngest group I’ve seen so far, the youngest being 2 and a half. A couple of them had trouble sitting still or leaving their moms, but it’s amazing to see what even young kids can do if you give them the chance. And they’re always so proud! Later I helped with the “big kid” ateliers, where we decorated the Mona Lisa in the style of Marcel Duchamp and the surrealists. It was really cool because the kids basically had free rein to decorate three Mona Lisas however they wanted, cut them up, color them, add little jewels or flowers.

I feel very comfortable at mon stage, but it’s still a little tricky, bien sur puisque c’est que le deuxieme jour. The language doesn’t pose any problem of comprehension, except when little kids start inventing stories. However, sometimes there are parents who talk extremely fast or people who talk really quiet, and it’s hard to explain to them that I don’t have trouble with the language but with how they talk. Also, sometimes I just don’t know how to respond to the kids questions, but luckily kids are smart and don’t notice too much. It also takes time to learn the vocab needed for naturally telling a kid not to do that, or the french form to compliment a very pretty painting. Even animal sounds, during a tour today there was a picture of Dali with his chicken, and the guide asked “what animal is this? it makes a sound like ‘cloc cloc cloc’ ” And I realized, all my little kid tricks have to be translated, dogs may not bark here, it just wouldn’t work with that French ‘r’.

I should be asleep now, but I got caught up talking to friends. Once again I find myself juggling between work and social time. And other simple things, like the fact that I now have to shop either Saturday with the rest of Paris, or after work with half of Paris. Waiting in line to buy socks today was not fun… But I’ll figure it all out, bonne soirée tout le monde!

What I will miss the most…

Although I’m not leaving for 4 months, thank goodness, there are some things I already know I’ll miss terribly when I get back, or are going to be huge culture shocks that I’ll have to deal with. Again, in no particular order of importance.

  • Noise level. The French live at a perfect noise level for me. When you talk, the whole room doesn’t have to hear. The French pretty much only scream in clubs or at concerts. Which is amazing for me and my silly ears. So, I have a feeling I’m going to be unintentionally rude to many an American when I tell them to please talk a little quieter.
  • Meal time. The French respect food and each others company. They basically do the exact opposite of what I do back home, and I love it. They start eating around 7:30, eat at whatever pace pleases them, while talking and laughing, and then wait for everyone to finish, talk and laugh some more, and then leave as a group. If somebody gets there late, we wait for them. I love it because it’s forced me to really get to know people and enjoy dinner time. Stop and smell the roses and all that. I’m curious if I’ll revert back to my habits of being the first to leave when I get back to the states. Hopefully I can convert everybody to the French way. 🙂
  • While being late generally depends on the person, the French always do what they say they’ll do. If somebody says “Let’s go see a movie” we see a movie. If we’re all eating dinner together, nobody backs out half way through. It’s so nice to have people you can actually rely on.
  • Public transportation. Even the college town shuttle can’t hold a candle to Metro, Bus, and RER in one city.
  • Walking everywhere. I might just start being silly and parking really far away just to enjoy the walk. I’m really spoiled here, the Bastille is a half hour walk, and then half an hour more and I’m at hotel de ville, 15 minutes and St. Michel. If I wanted to, I could walk everywhere here.
  • Kebabbbbbbb
  • Boulangeries that are open until 2 am and have incredibly nice people working there.
  • Dancing with people who know how to dance.
  • The beautiful graffiti, tags just aren’t my kind of art.

This list seems to be getting a bit silly, so I’m going to head to bed. But as with all the other lists, I’ll update it whenever I think of something new.

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Update: Here are some silly things I’m going to miss too.

  • Buying Kelloggs cereal where the ingredients are also listed in Arabic.
  • Being told that I sing wonderfully simple because I know how to pronounce the english words correctly.