Wednesday, October 22, 2008

On American Politics

So, I've been pretty disconnected from the whole presidential race thing (mostly by choice), and I tend to get most of my political updates from SNL. I know. I'm lovin' Tina Fey as Palin, and I watched the Couric/Palin interview (SNL version) the other night when I probably should have been sleeping. As I was watching, I thought to myself, Why, maybe I should check some news websites and see what Palin is doing in real life. So I did. I watched the real Couric/Palin interview and OH MY GOD they didn't even have to write that sketch! Palin is that ridiculous is real life! I know this is old news for everyone else, but she is really speaking gibberish! Just look:

Awuh? I think she changed the subject at least three times per sentence! Of course, then there's also the classic I'll Get Back To Ya moment, and Palin not being able to cite another Supreme Court case besides Rowe v. Wade. I DON'T GET IT, WHY DO PEOPLE LIKE HER? No, not like, love, worship. For answers, I turn to Jezebel.

There has been a lot of Palin coverage on this feminawesome website, and you should definitely do some poking around if you haven't been keeping up, but I particularly like the efforts that are being made to call out Palin for putting up with (and encouraging, it would seem) a culture of sexism and degradation at her ralleys. Hortense gives us this gem on the obsession with Palin's hotness. She points out that Palin has been given a lot of guff for tolerating offensive remarks being yelled about Obama at her ralleys, but that Palin should also be held responsible for allowing men to yell her "Marry me, Sarah" from the croud and exploiting her looks as a campaign tactic. Obviously, Palin is no feminist, and she blasphems each time she uses it, but how could anybody think she is when this is the norm? She's running on hotness, and the people who notice (you know, the men who go to her ralleys just to look) don't seem to care! In fact, they love it! Why why why why why????

I have already voted. I mailed in my absentee ballot two weeks ago. If McPalin is elected, I'm staying in France.

My hip hop teacher is 14.

Yeah, as in 1, 4. I thought it was gonna be this guy (Amar), and technically it is that guy, but this 14-year old is doing some kind of internship, and he is teaching the classes. So, technically, Amar is there, watching making sure everything is going well, but in fact, he only stayed half the time, and then things kind of disintegrated. Because, you know, that's what happens when there's a 14-year old in charge.

So let me just say, I was advised to go this class today by Amar when I met him on Saturday, and when I got there I was super nervous. It was clear that I was going to be the oldest (I think that the second oldest was 18), and the class mostly consisted of adolescent girls. I feared they would all be better than me. If only that had been so. The first half of the class was fine. We sort of learned a routine, or tried to. I got it easily because it was all stuff I had done before, but Kid was really moving too fast for beginners. Amar intervened a couple of times. Then we took a break for an indeterminate amount of time, Amar decided to leave, and Kid was left in charge. So, he shows off for a few minutes, while we're still resting or whatever, then asks what we want to do, saying he has no idea how to finish the class. And thus, things devolved into most of the girls sitting around, and me showing some of them how to do some freezes and six step. Kid was helping a bit, but mostly just trying things himself. So, yeah, I was teaching things that I hardly know myself, but in the end, it was kind of awesome. Like, I'm gonna go back. I just felt bad for the 7 girls sitting on the wall, feeling like they had nothing to do when Kid told everyone to practice freezes. I'm totally unqualified to teach this stuff, but these girls seemed to think I was the shit. Which is good, because I'm old, and I wouldn't want to be that lame, old person in the class.

Also, before he left, Amar asked me to show him all the freezes I knew and some other stuff, and it was as though he was testing me for something, but I don't know what. Maybe it was just amusing for him to watch me try. In any case, it was an adventure, and even if I don't learn anything new from Kid (and I think I will), it's a good way for me to keep practicing what I know. And to be admired by throng(s) of teen girls.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

I had plans last night!

Last week, I had my work coordinator leave my phone number with the high school so that the language assistants there could (if they wished) call me and be my friends. You see, I'm the only primary school language assistant in my town, and although my host family is great, I'm a bit isolated from the world of 20-somethings. Mostly because I don't think it exists in Flers. Anyhow, I had heard tell of these mysterious "other native language assistants" who worked at the "middle schools" and "high schools," so I decided to investigate. And by investigate, I mean ask my coordinator if they truly existed, and if so, how I might contact them. And thus we arrive at yesterday afternoon, when I was trying to leave the house again to (once again) set off in search of the elusive hip hop class and its potential promise of registration.

The phone rang. My host mother answered and you cannot imaging my surprise when she said it was for me. It was Nela (though I didn't know it then), the Spanish language assistant at the high school, and she invited me to dinner at her apartment, with all of the other assistants. It sounded too good to be true! Would I really meet four new people, all in one night, all vaguely my age and doing the same kind of work I was? Oh, life was too sweet. I hurried off to find my dance class, which I did (eventually) and communicated (after a long wait) with the teacher, who told me to come the following Wednesday. I could totally do that.

That evening, Nela and Andrea (German) came and picked me up in a car! And to think, all this time I've been walking everywhere! We got to their apartment, right by the high school, just as Samantha (British) and Hannah (German) were arriving on foot. We said our hellos and went inside. It was kind of ridiculous how easily we all fell into conversation with each other, and in French, which of course is none of our native language. We ate dinner and drank cider and griped about our problems with the program and laughed about the errors that students made in each of our respective languages. It was absurdly fun. Just look at us! We're already taking pictures of all of us together with one person whose in the photo holding the camera!* We're so adorable and diverse! BFFs, obvs.

Around 11:30, we decided to go out and see if anyone was still awake in Flers, though we highly doubted it. The streets were, as we had imagined, pretty empty, although we did get verbally accosted by some gentlemen outside a bar that we decided not to got into (but whyever not?), and Andrea suggested that we all insult them in a different language. Unfortuanately, I was the only one who followed through.

We came to one bar that seemed pretty happenin', but decided that the animal-print bench seating was not so much our style. The bar was called the Why Not? Like, literally, no translation. We could think of a few good reasons. So we carried on, undiscouraged, and found La Taverne, a much better scene (in my opinion), with normal tables and plenty of room in back. And thus commenced my first night out in Flers. It didn't last long, as we had already been eating and talking and drinking for several hours, but it was important. It meant something. Plus, the girls who ordered cocktails totally got glow-in-the-dark sticks in their drinks. We only stayed for one round, and then made our way home. As I was being accompanied to my house by my four new friends, we came across this little treasure:
Translation: PRIVATE CLUB, The clientele who come to this club must
be accompanied by a person of the opposite sex.

This sign was outside of (what seems to be) the only discoteque in Flers. I'm assuming they made this rule because they were getting too many desperate male clientele, but come on! Really? Andrea made the point that it would have been no problem for us to go back to the bar find some people of the opposite sex to accompany us, but why would we want to? Needless to say, the adventure of the Discoteque lies ahead, but I went to sleep last night with visions of friendship bracelets and toenail painting dancing through my head.

*We actually took five of these pictures. One for each of our cameras.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Latest TV Obsession

So, every Friday night, channel 9 airs three episodes in a row of Kyle XY (dubbed, of course). And, as I am not yet in the habit of going out on Fridays, I've been staying in and watching it with host-sister (9) and host-brother (10). Yeah, I'm awesome. Anyhow, as it turns out, I'm super addicted to the show, and (in a strange turn of events) I'm going to Paris next weekend to attempt social skills and interactions with people my own age. What does this mean, you might ask? It means I'm going to miss the next three episodes of season two of Kyle XY!

So, dork that I am, I decided to see if I could buy those episodes on iTunes and watch them this week. So, I'm browsing iTunes, trying to figure out which episode I watched last, watching some free 30-second clips and oh my god his voice is totally different in English! Like, shockingly. Observe. Here is a clip from a dubbed episode (as I originally knew his voice):

Now, here is the same clip in English (spoiler alert, they kiss!):

Awuh?? In French, he's all, "Oh, I'm so sad and worried all the time and kind of whiney!" I thought he was all innocence! In English, he's like a man trapped in a boy's body! Where did that voice come from?! I don't know if I can watch it in English. I mean, don't get me wrong, I think he sounds better with his own voice, but I just can't quite adjust to the reality. You are a different character, Kyle XY, a much sexier one, and I don't think I want you that way. Matt Dallas, I thought you were a pretty boy. As it turns out, you're a pretty man.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


So, this is the shit in France, right now. According to my host sister (18), this is the only kind of dance anyone is doing in the clubs. I wouldn't know, of course, because I just sit at home and dream of friends.

Lili Azian totally reminds me of a dancing, Belgian V-Mars. You know, she's adorable and I imagine her to be sassy beyond belief. And I bet she and Jey-Jey could totally solve crimes together! I almost couldn't chose between this video and dude alone in his garage, but then I realized that d.a.i.h.g. is totally Jey-Jey in his home videos before he got famous and got to be in a real music video! Or maybe after. Who am I to say?

Okay, new goal: learn tecktonik, find Lili Azian and Jey-Jey, and start a Dancing Private Eye(s) service. I think maybe if I was really French, I wouldn't even have to learn, I would just know. Oh, to be French.

P.S. - This video is awkwardly too big, but you know, I'm not very good at this crap yet. Also, did you notice how the black dude (whose name I admittedly missed) was featured like, 0.7% as much as the other two? Hmm...

A note about French televison

Most of the television shows in France are U.S. series dubbed into French. There's a ridiculous soap opera, Plus Belle La Vie, that we watch every night, and there are some really trashy game shows, and that about sums up the original French programming. Plus the news, but your know, everyone has that.

To be honest, I've been watching a shameful amount of Charmed. (I'm pretty sure the only other Aaron Spelling show that's dubbed here is Beverly Hills 90210*, but what other Aaron Spelling show is there?) There is nothing redeeming about the show except that my host sister loves it (she’s 9) and yells “Sharms!” whenever it comes on. Also, everything is funnier dubbed.

How does Alyssa Milano still have a career, you might ask?

Item 1: Ridiculous Outfits

Item 2: Boobage

Rose McGowan looks particularly ridiculous in the picture. I totally watched this episode the other day. They Halliwell sisters (mmhmm) accidentally summon Lady Godiva (she's naked!), and through some magical mix-ups, they alter history and women everywhere are oppresed! All the ladies are dressed like nuns and they can't even talk in public! Next to these Puritans, the Charmed Ones (yes, that's what they're called) look like total sluts! How could it be?!

What happened to the good old days, Sam? Remember?

Tony Danza was such a bad housekeeper. Angela only kept him around because she totally wanted to do him.

*Shannon Doherty, total jerk, but the missing link! At first I thought they killed her off on both shows, but that would have made her recent comeback on the new 90210 a bit awkward.

Dear Anne, eat more pastries

So here I am in France, and I've realized that the convenience of living with a host family has kept me from getting out and eating all the fresh baked goods that are readily available to me. Also, making friends and going to bars, but that's a different story. (Plus I totally have at least TWO friends now, both by force of having spent three days together in training, but whatevs.) Anyhow, my mission of the last week has been to start taking advantage of the pâtisseries on every corner. I justify my actions by with the following reasoning:

1. My heart condition is pretty much guaranteed at this time, what with all the cheese I'm eating. I might as well throw some sugar and butter in there, too.

2. Many pastries contain fruit(-like substances).

3. I walk frickin everywhere, so perhaps I can delay the impending onset of obesity.

4. I'm in France.

5. Pastries are delicious.

6. Pastries are the most delicious in France.

I was feeling a bit down in the dumps today after a failed attempt at finding a hip hop class I had read about (it totally exists, I just got lost). I was walking home, sullen and dejected, when there in front of one of my newly discovered pâtisseries was a woman making fresh crêpes. I think she was my Fairy Godmother, only French. (I guess I had always imagined she would speak English, for the sake of convenience.)

I decided to console myself. I bought a crêpe* that I had just watched her make, with a sprinkle of sugar all rolled up inside. "I will try again on Saturday!" I said to myself, "because that's when the other hip hop class is!" I walked home content, both with my recent purchase and my overall resolve to eat more sweets.

*This was by no means the first pastry I've had in Flers. It was merely the most recent and the most delicious.

Monday, October 13, 2008

I broke the internet.

Yeah, so if it wasn't working for you about two hours ago, that was me. In my ceaseless efforts to configure the house wifi to my computer (or the other way around), I unwitting did something awful last night and the box went dead. No more blinking red lights, no more recognition of ethernet, nothing. My host father (a very jolly Frenchman) may have actually growled at me. Like, I told him what I had done (so not my fault), he proceeded to go about remedying the problem, and then this guttural sound rumbled at me from the next room. It sounded a lot like, "But what did you do Anne?!" (In not so jolly French.)

In the end, he just exchanged the box for a new one, asked dude at the store how I should configure my computer, and abracadabra! I have wifi. So, the moral of the story is, it was totally worth it break the Orange Livebox. Plus I paid so much penance yesterday by being dupped into a five-hour lunch.

Yes. Five hours. My host mom was all like, "Oh, Anne, we are going to eat lunch a friend's house on Sunday. Do you want to come?" and I was all like, "Oh yeah, sure, I love lunch, it's a delicious, short meal!" Slight dramatization. So we (host mom, dad, sis, bro) get there, and there is a young husband and wife and a small child. The kids all play and the men and women talk to each other respectively. I sit at the end of the counter (where we are eating appetizers, round one of meal) and stare dully at the food. At a certain point, the husband and wife realize I speak French and ask me complicated questions about the subprime housing crisis. Fun.

So, an hour and a half later, we start the real meal. We eat meat, rice, bread. Dude of the house asks me if Walmart is really open 24 hours. I say I think so, but I don't like them because of their sexist hiring policies and union bans. Then we have cheese/salad round. Omg, I love French cheese. Like, I might die of 400 clogged arteries in France, but I will die so happy. Anyhow, I thought we were done. I was just biding my time. And thus we rolled into hour four.

Coffee and desert was proposed and then served. Delicious banana cake. No objections. Surely we were done. No. No no no. This is the part where we go outside and admire the yard and the countryside for an hour while the kids play on the swingset! Well, not quite an hour, but we got there at 12:15 and finally left at 5:30. Sunday Lunch: my first lesson in French culture.

So we finally went home after a (thankfully brief, only 30 minute) stop at host father's sister's house. And then I broke the internet. So maybe it wasn't pennance. Maybe it was revenge.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

I am stupid French

The following is a description of (probably) the best thing that's happened to me in France, so far:

I was in a yarn shop the other day, trying to buy yarn and needles of a certain size, and the store was going out of business, so everything was on sale. I made friendly conversation with the shop owner as I looked around. The selection was a bit sparse, as it had already been combed over, and I ended up buying yarn for a different project. I told the owner that I was ready to buy, and she was very disappointed that I was buying so little (as it was a liquidation sale).

This is when I began to explain that I was looking for yarn for a certain size of needle, but she thought I was looking for needles (which, by the way, is a particularly difficult word in French), and directed me to them. I explained again, and she looked at me blankly. After at least two full seconds of staring, she said (in French), “Oh, but you have said such stupid things! I don’t even know what you just said!” But this is the best part: I swear, she said this as though my accent was convincing enough, but that I was just dumb! She just thought I was a really stupid French person! Amazing.

Anyhow, an old woman who was sitting in the shop knitting seemed to understand me well enough (and perhaps pity me in my mentally deficient state), and she explained what I had said to the shop owner. I successfully made my purchase and left. I was initially offended at how blatantly the woman had called me out for being stupid, but then I started to think about it more, and just laughed to myself in the street (further supporting the theory of my craziness/stupidity).

How do you get from CDG to Paris Mont 3 Vaug?

I clicked on the title box, and that is what came up. It's the question I asked google before leaving the country. The answer ended up being, an airport shuttle, a train and the métro, oh, and then have fun killing 5 hours until your train to Flers actually departs!

And that's just what I did. Or rather, I wandered bleary-eyed through the empty streets of Paris (apparently no one leaves their house before 10am on a Sunday) and discovered things like, a rack of bikes for public use:

I also stumbled upon (or, you know, purposefully sought out) Serge Gainsbourg's grave/shrine in the Montparnasse graveyard. I love me some Serge, and I thought, what better way to start my Frenchy adventure than with him, the old (ahem, deceased) Frenchy pop icon? I couldn't stay long, for fear of falling alseep in the cemetary, so I headed back to train station to eat a sandwich, and fall asleep (a little bit) on top of my luggage.