Tag Archives: france

Oh la poste, tu es trop rigolo

In basically every book I have ever read about French culture, there is always a reference to horrible experiences at the post office. So, here I am to offer the funny side to it.

Today, I had to run an errand for my stage by going to the post office, sending out some letters and picking up a lot of stamps. So, I got in line, and prepared myself for numerous line cuts and obnoxious employers, as I’ve been warned about by many books. As I’m waiting, a man comes over, and tells me I need to use the machine instead. So, I explain to him that I’m not just here to by two stamps, I’m here to buy a bucket full and send some complicated letters. To which he says, well, your paying with a credit card, right? So it’s ok. But, I’m not paying with a fancy carte bleu, just plan old cash, so he agrees that I was right in the first place and lets me get back in line.

I thought that was the end of it, until, he starts talking to his colleague about me, and they pull out a calculator to find out just how many books of stamps I need, and how long that would really take if I just used the machine. After a bit, they realize that, yes, the machine would still take longer than a real live human being. But, apparently I’m too complicated for the poor lady at the desk, so, another lady heads in the back just to get my obnoxiously large order of stamps. When she comes out, she brings me over to another man, who opens up a booth just to take care of my stuff.  He turns out to be a very nice guy, even asked questions about the museum and how much it would cost for his daughter. He even doesn’t mind when I have to pay part in cash and part by credit card.

So, instead of having a stressful time à la poste, I got special treatment and to laugh at the…. for lack of a better word, dorks (in the best cutest silliest form of the word) that work there.

Voila, mon histoire pour le jour.

Update on my life: Pretty much everyone has left on vacation, so it’s pretty tranquille for me. Lots of watching TV with the cool kids who stayed in the foyer with me. Memoire is stressful, visits are getting better and better, and ya, that’s life.

Bonne soirée tout le monde!

p.s. Forget if I’ve said this, but I’m just so happy, I’m taking French, Spanish, and Arabic next semester! Finally! It’s gonna be awesome!!!!


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!

Bill Maher on France

I’ve never loved Bill Maher so much as I do right now, even after watching Religulous. The next time somebody asks me why I’m studying French or why on earth I’d want to move to France, I’ll just show them this video.

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.


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.

Turkey Day Frenchified

I have been a horrible horrible blogger recently. Ever time I go to work on my blog, my internet dies, my computer turns to mush, or I get attacked by frenchies. Now, even though internet has recently decided to be my friend again, although on a limited basis, trial period you know, I still don’t have enough time to really update the two weeks or so I missed. It’s crunch time for my program, on three weeks or so before were done and in that time I have my rapport du stage to write, grammar test, oral test, an exposé, letters to write, and interview with my next potential stage. So, come January when I should theoretically have lots of free time, I’ll try and make up for the last two weeks. Until then I’m just going to try and find time to keep up with the important stuff. For example, our fantabulous turkey sans turkey dinner we cooked this weekend!

While I am not Thanksgivings biggest fan, I still wanted to share the holiday with the foyer friends since it’s a pretty hard holiday to understand. (Try explaining the story about how Indians just gave food to Pilgrims, even though the Pilgrims were killing the Indians off with disease and stealing their land and you’ll see what I mean. 🙂 ) Eliza wanted to do Thanksgiving dinner as well, so we decided to give it a go.

We started preparing weeks before because we knew certain supplies could not be found easily in Paris. For example, brown sugar and evaporated milk do not exist in France. Thankfully, there are a bajillion Americans in Paris and thus there are several stores to serve our double stuffed oreo and peanut butter needs. We went to Thanksgiving, an American grocery store on Rue Saint Paul.  They had all the stereotypical American food and supplies for cooking your perfect Thanksgiving dinner. Also, if you are rich, they will even cook your turkey for you and make you pies. However, for any poor starving students, I would suggest looking at all the other alternatives first because imported goods in a specialized store are expensive. While evaporated milk and brown sugar can’t be found in normal grocery stores, maple syrup can, although it’s still not the cheapest. Also, Bazaars come in handy once again for buying supplies. I found 4 tin pans for 2 euros at a Bazaar just by chance, which came in handy when making the stuffing and the sweet potatoes. Also, you can buy pie crust in any grocery store, you even have options.

Saturday morning we headed to the outdoor market up by Alexandre Dumas so buy our veggies and such. We had to stop by Franprix first for some supplies and wound up with free apples as part of a promotion. (Thank you Franprix for magically knowing that starving students like apple pie!!!!! ) Vegetables are actually really cheap in France compared to the US. I bought a giant bag of carrots for 1 euro, and it was similar pricing for the potatoes and green beans. However, they were incredibly confused that we just wanted one lemon.

After shopping, we got to work preparing all the food. Secret ingredient to cooking a cheap Thanksgiving dinner, friends with cooking supplies! Thanks to a mixture of Zipeng, Pengpeng, Eliza, and my cooking supplies I only had to buy a measuring cup. Although, it was a little tricky cutting up sweet potatoes with a dull knife, but we got creative and it all worked out.

My foyer does have a kitchen, but it only has one oven, 2 stovetops, and a microwave. So, we had to balance out when we cooked stuff while also sharing the oven with everyone who wanted to cook lunch.

Besides being a little stressed out, things actually went pretty smoothly. We ate an hour later than planned, but it was mostly because nobody showed up on time, but that’s just life. Our meal included 4 rotisserie chickens bought from the boucherie down the street, green beans made by Pengpeng, stuffing made by Myles, Sweet potatoes and carrots made by me with the help Younes, Rabi, Pengpeng, and Julia, potatoes au gratin made by Eliza, two pumpkin and one apple pie made by Eliza, and wine from Yoann.

We properly stuffed ourselves and had a marvelous night, Thanksgiving success.

Just a cute video. Rien d’autre.

Last day in good ol’ U. S. of A.

So far I’ve mostly only posted what’s happening and not any of the emotional stuff, but now it’s my last full day in the U.S. and it’s really starting to hit me. I’m still incredibly excited to go to Paris, but leaving my friends and family to go to a place with a ton of unknowns is kinda freaky to think about. I know that in a couple weeks I’ll  be all set and probably having the time of my life, but I’m not good with new stuff and meeting new people is always tricky business.

I guess I’m mostly just really sad to leave my friends and family. Skyping and snail mail just aren’t the same as staying up late watching chick flicks and complaining about life.

Anyway, on another note, packing is really hard. I have two suitcases, but I can’t just fill them to the brim because they have to be under 50 lbs. So, I’m currently playing real life tetris trying to balance out all my shoes and jeans, and not forget about the little things like razors and shampoo. I tried using Space Bags to make everything smaller. But they really only work on big puffy things like coats. Other stuff they just make into weird shapes so they can’t be packed flat anymore.

I can’t help but to constantly think of questions like, where will I eat dinner my first night? Will I be with somebody? How will I find the other Goucher people? What if I get lost on the way to the Sorbonne? What if I don’t test well into my Sorbonne class? What if I don’t understand people and they think I’m just a rude stuck up girl? What if I actually can’t hear people and I’m stuck wearing my hearing aid? What if I get stuck in Iceland?

My brain needs to shut up and I need to be in Paris NOW.

Happy thought, no matter how crazy this semester in Paris turns out to be, it’s better than being at Goucher when half my class in across the world.  (Sorry if that sounded like a dig to anyone who stayed, it’s just own personal preference and knowing that I would go insane if I didn’t study abroad in some way.)

I really need to sleep, but sleep means I must wake up, and waking up means I have to go through my last day in the US.

I really need to go to bed. Goodnight anybody. If my rantings didn’t make sense, just translate them into “Oh my god, it’s almost France time!”