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Monthly Archives: January 2011

How do you make a room of 6-year-olds dance?

They caught on to the Happy Days theme song quicker than I thought, but it was kind of hard to convey the meaning of “groovin’.” Still, I hope one day they go to England or America or Canada or New Zealand and say, “Would you like to, uh, do the groovin’?” A girl can dream, right.

I hate waking up on Monday mornings but I really love being in France. I love randomly giving a girl Ana ran into my pack of pink cigarettes from September, and trying to explain that I only bought them because you can’t get pink cigarettes at home. I love spending the morning singing “Hello, Goodbye,” and the song you can listen to above. I love going to Paris for the day, because why not. Why not! On the walk back home for lunch today I was thinking about sitting in my dorm room with Marissa sophomore year, saying, yeah, why don’t I take another French class. It had nothing to do with anything except I just liked learning it. And now I’m here, and I get to speak it everyday. Sometimes without thinking. Almost always with mistakes in conjugation.

This photo is from December and it has nothing to do with anything — it hasn’t even snowed since we’ve been back. Temperatures hover around 4 to 10 degrees Celsius (40s to 50s F? I could just google this but I’ll leave that to you) so compared to the frigid climes of New York, its been pretty awesome.

One of the perks of having not-super-freezing weather is getting to play Ultimate Frisbee! Or as they say in French, l’ultimate (for a handy pronunciation guide, see the subject of this post. Side note: since being in France, I can no longer spell pronunciation the English way. It’s so hard. But anyway). Some friends are on the team and I decided to go for the first time last week, not really sure what I was getting myself into. And it was hard. Holy crap, was I hurting for the next three days. I went back last night, despite not having cleats and ending up doing very elegant spins and slides all over the muddy fields. I think I’m going to stick with it — it’s another chance to speak and hear French, get in shape and destress, and learn about French curse words on the drive home. Yesterday’s: foutrement. I’ll let y’all look that up yourself.

because who doesn’t need reminders about great days:

  • Only having one class all day, thus having the chance to catch up on sleep and snuggle in bed with coffee before deciding to go out for a walk in the sun
  • Having a great class who liked the game I played with them, and then
  • Learning a new way to go to the library, because I had books to return and the class I just taught was going with their teacher. I couldn’t remember going to the public library as a class except for kindergarten, and I guess it’s because most US schools have a library at the school, but for some reason taking advantage of the public library and showing students how to use it seems like a valid idea. When the teacher led us in a different direction than the one I thought we were headed, I was all like, “You learn something new everyday!” to which she replied “And that’s how you stay young!”
  • When I was returning the books I took out, the librarian saw my Amsterdam and Baltic countries books and asked if I was traveling there and we chatted. “Les pays-bas et les pays baltes, ils sont presque les mêmes mots, mais tout a fait different…”
  • Borrowed some CDs from Evreux’s collection, which a friend just told everyone are selected by people who are hired specifically for finding new jazz, rock, rap, etc. CDs, which is partially why their selection is awesome and not crappy. I also took out a graphic novel called “Hicksville,” and I think it’s about a town in New Zealand from the 1-minute glance I took at its pages, but reading the name of a town where my family lived before I was alive, where a certain electrician grew up, where I played in the IKEA ball pit when I was 5, where my stepmom grew up, ad nauseum, meant I couldn’t leave it once I saw it. That, and the fact that it was also published by L’Association, enough to convince me to take it out.

Now I’m off to the first (of hopefully many!) Evreux frisbee practice I’ve ever been to, even though I haven’t played in two years. I hope it goes well!

The other day in class, my English teacher bid and I were talking about the difference, sound-wise, between words like thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, etc. and thirty, forty…you get the idea. To underline her point, the teacher wrote “teenager” on the board and asked the class, “Do you know what this means?” Everyone was silent, except for one girl who raises her hand, saying, “Well, Teacher, I do know the song by Katy Perry, Teenage Dream.” But she didn’t know what it meant.

When we finally explained that a teenager is someone who is between 13-19 due to the -teen suffix at the end of their ages, the girl raised her hand again to ask, “So, Teenage Dream means rêve d’ado?” all while giggling hysterically that this pop song could have any actual meaning behind the words being sung. French people do this all the time— singing their hearts out to John Lennon or Michael Jackson or Lady Gaga until you ask them if they know what the lyrics mean…and they often don’t (at least kids, anyway. Adults might know enough English to figure it out). To think, France is raising a legion of pre-ados hollering about going all the way in their skintight jeans and they don’t even know it.

Just came back to my little bedroom after a weekend in Paris. I went there to meet up with Marissa !!! who came from her current home in Aguadulce with her awesome roommate, Chiqui for the weekend. Alix, Jill and Mairead came for the night, too, and we had a weekend of delicious pizza, Kinder bueno milkshakes, a few beers, walking all over the city and conversations muy profunda about life, the future, and being indie. It was also a weekend of facial wounds, because when I said a sad goodbye to Tweet and Chiqui at Musee D’Orsay, I was walking back towards the Metro along the Seine, feeling all cool and chic and thinking about how I had done this right before I came back to New York, and right before I went to Montpellier….when I bit it. Hard. If you know me, you know that’s the only way one of these stories can end.

For some reason, I couldn’t keep myself from tripping on the sidewalk and I couldn’t keep from smashing my face into the pavement. Two nice women ran to me and were all like, “Are you okay?!” and offered me tissues until I was like, “Yeah, I’m okay. Is there any blood?” which sounds kind of dramatic but hey, my face really hurt (and it’s killing you! I know, I know) and there was nary a mirror in sight. At this point, the formerly nice women responded with looks of horror and rushed away, leaving me and my bruised dignity on the sidewalk. After the obligatory range of reactions— try-not-to-cry-you’re-22-years-old to isn’t-this-funny-ha-ha-silly-me to at-least-my-teeth-are-intact — I decided to treat my pain with a book of Lorrie Moore short stories (Birds of America) at Shakespeare and Company, where the bookseller went on and on about my bird scarf, which had gotten out of the scuffle blood- and dirt-free (this is going to be a barometer to my state of mind from now on: How was your day? Well, at least I got out of it blood- and dirt-free…). It made me feel a little better about the past hour or so. So that’s it: you might fall on your face in front of French strangers, but then someone will really like your bird scarf.

And now you gotta have my back, Paris, we’re blood sisters. Or at risk for terrible infection. Or something.

When we all got back from our winter breaks, my friend Jill said the minute she got off the plane, everyone was staring unabashedly at her — and that was how she knew she was back in France. It’s true. Maybe it’s just the small town we got placed in, but I really don’t think I look super out of place on these streets…and even if I did, isn’t it, like, common decency not to make someone feel like they’ve got snot hanging out of their nose, or something? You know?! Maybe it’s meant as something different here. I don’t know.

But it’s always fun when someone pipes up and says something instead of just gawking. Today I stayed after class to eat a student’s birthday cake (some kind of log cake with nutella and some chocolate cake. Mmmm.) and the teacher had poured me a cup of diet Coke. I managed to eat the cake and was about to slip out quietly when a little boy was like “Wait! Don’t forget your drink!” with such urgency that I wanted to tell him it’s okay, I won’t die of thirst on the walk home, but his concern was nice. Still, I didn’t want to be all uppity and be like, “Oh, sorry I don’t like soda, it’s fizzy and disgusting unless there’s rum in it,” when I had just been smiley and eating birthday cake, I acted like he had saved my life by offering me about four ounces of soda and took it with me on my merry way. So I was walking the forty minutes home, just chilling with a half-full cup of Coke, waiting to throw it out, when a man in a big black SUV (who knew they had those here?!) was all like “Madame!! Your coffee’s cold now, isn’t it?”

Of course French people would be concerned for my coffee temperature out of all the things they could holla on the street, which is sort of why I love this country. Even if it was a weird pick-up line, at least it spiced up the afternoon. I was going to explain the birthday and the soda but finally I just decided to say “But I’m no longer thirsty!” and we laughed and I felt good about my excellent grammar and pronunciation. Then he was like, “Hey, where you goin’ ?” and I mumbled and ran away before he could talk to me any more, because that is what I do. Now that I’ve typed this story out I realize how trivial and dumb it is, but I like it anyway so here it is. Deal.

Taken from Meggy’s blog at Fashionforwriters.com. Credit your sources, yo!

Imagine that you are going to lose your memory of 2010 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture an alarm to the things you want to remember most from 2010.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the first thing I thought of was 32 North, the brown-turned-gray-painted house on North street, that slightly uphill street were we could wave to our neighbors. I will remember the smelly dishes always piled up in the sink, the mugs I would avoid using, the television in the fireplace. My only other idea of home is my bedroom in my father’s house on Long Island, which I love and hate for different reasons, where I spend most of my time alone. I want to know that there will be homes like 32 North again, where you can wake up by other people’s footsteps on the creaky floors and giggle together and dance so hard the front windows fog up. I spent a lot of 2010 lamenting the fact that I lacked a great love, but in honesty, I had many people to love. Six of them shared my address. That is a gift.

I want to remember the first time it felt to read a poem in front of a microphone. And then memorize better poems and spit those in front of crowds, in front of legs-folded college poets who had heard poetry all day long and wanted more. That feeling of being outside of myself, forgetting that I hate my voice and my stomach is probably too large and my hair too awkwardly triangular for flattering photographs, was beautiful. Is beautiful.

The long car ride down to South Carolina with my friends from my neighborhood who have always been a part of my life. Saving one Justin Bieber song for every state. Turning down the wrong road in Turkey, North Carolina. Tearing up when Liz and her father danced together. Twisting my ankle on the locked pool fence, another sign that I will never be very good at defying authority. Seeing everyone again this Christmas. Feeling like we haven’t spent a day apart.

Forcing myself into New York on a weekly basis even after that botched interview, because I was still thinking of Blazer, because I knew the city had more for me yet. Calling people about furniture donations, making karaoke plans with the other employees in the downtime. Walking around by myself in the village, debating subway routes with my father. Getting the internship a month after my bad interview. Doing a good job. Getting free bagels.

I impermanently moved, something I’ve been getting good at since I started at Geneseo, only this time it was overseas. I want to remember that weird first week that felt like months, waking up in Cassandra’s apartment at 2p.m. with jet lag wishing I was in my father’s basement watching Project Runway, desperate for something that felt normal. Walking around the Notre Dame at night, buying a crepe and briefly feeling like I could do it. Going to Evreux. Meeting everyone. Realizing I was not going to have a horrible time. Riding bikes home in the rain. Riding trains with new friends. Knowing anyone could be a new friend. Everything that felt terrible and difficult in the present tense that feels small, unnoticeable, now. Everything that felt impossible, now crossed off.

I tend to downgrade anything that I love or I’m proud of with a negative caveat – Oh, it wasn’t perfect, my life is good but its not that exciting – which I hate, but after all the above, I’ll allow this: 2010 was hard. There were questions, churning, uncertainty, too much thinking about how other people saw me. That’s for another day, another journal. Here’s to 2011, a year in which I promise to write more, hug more, and stop telling myself I don’t deserve better.