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Monthly Archives: February 2011

In France, Valentine’s Day isn’t the fraught holiday I remember from all the years I happened to be single in February (all of them) where my enthusiasm for conversation hearts and red-and-pink streamers was overshadowed by the fear that my valentine’s envelope wasn’t filling up with as many cards as the other kids’. Here, Valentine’s day is not a chance to shill perforated sheets of cardboard with Hannah Montana saying “You’re the best of BOTH worlds, Valentine!” (and debate heavily in the cafeteria about what such a statement could imply on the part of the giver) but a holiday strictly for couples. And even though I am sans amoreux, there are many things to love about today. Let’s count the ways:

  1. I played a game with a group of second-graders where we had to get in a circle. Kids are notoriously bad at making actual circles whenever they’re asked to do this, but this time I had someone who agreed with me. One kid surveyed the scene and declared, “C’est pas un cercle, c’est un patate.” It’s not a circle, it’s a potato. I wish there were more situations in which I could use this sentence.
  2. Nearing the end of my last class, the teacher held up a pair of leggings that mysteriously appeared on a shelf, and a girl got up to claim them. A boy next to her was all like, “Tu as oublié tes pantalons a l’école?” with such sass that I decided the incredulous You forgot your pants at school? is another one I wish I needed to say more often in France.
  3. Instead of lesson planning when I came home, I drew Valentine’s day cards for my friends, bad puns all around.

Featured are a candy apple (une pomme d’amour), “Il y a du monde au balcon” a.k.a. “Nice Rack”, a cup of tea, a Highland cow (une vache, but vachement is a familiar form of ‘very’) and “MarMITE you be my valentine?” Whenever I can find a way to be productive without actually being productive, I’m all over it.

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Today as class was ending and everyone was headed to lunch, a teacher asked me how to translate ‘Bon appetit!’ I explained there wasn’t really an English equivalent — ‘Enjoy your meal,’ maybe, but it was kind of weak — and she immediately responded by saying “Oh, they don’t have a word for it because your food is so bad that no one wants to eat it anyway! Ha ha ha ha!”

I don’t know if I should take offense or be in agreement, because I know some damn good cooks in the USA (myself definitely not included), but things like the picture above just aren’t a part of our lives at home like they are here. In the supermarket, baguettes are prodded and squeezed until the right one is found, then its carried away sticking out of grocery bags or just clutched with a piece of bakery paper wrapped around the middle. The top end is always missing, because you can’t wait all the way home, after taking off your coat and putting the keys in your pocket, to taste it.

Especially when you go into a bakery in your town that reportedly makes the best baguettes in town. You now know the secret password — not just a baguette you want, but a baguette de tradition, or as this bakery calls it, a campaillette. While you’re in line, hearing everyone before you ordering one or two of these, the owner comes out with a basket full of them, saying “Hot campailletes! A miracle.” Indeed.

I’m learning that being a teacher means you encounter weird shit everyday. I turn around and my students are writing their classmates names in hearts or chewing on their backpack handle (yes. really) which is generally annoying if I’ve been trying to excitedly explain how adjectives go before nouns for the past ten minutes. Most of the time, though, I just find it hard not to laugh.

The drawing you see above is from a lesson where I was teaching about things in nature: trees, mountains, grass, sky, sun, etc. I was saying things like “Draw a purple sun,” and the kids would have to draw it. When I started with grass, this boy pointed and said, “Oh c’est l’herbe piquant,” Which I took to mean “Oh, it’s spicy grass,” which I loved, but now after looking it up I can see piquant means prickly, too, which is fun but not as fun. And if you can’t find his purple mountains (holla at America the Beautiful whaaaat) or green hill, it’s because the former is being overtaken by the yellow sea and the latter is being dwarfed by his brown flower. After we moved on to something else, I asked him why he was still drawing, and he responded, “Je fais un monde des ténèbres,” or “I’m making a world of darkness.” Naturally, when everyone left I made sure I asked to keep his as a keepsake. I should have gotten it signed. This is a masterpiece.

This same boy also kept asking me how to say sausages in English, and when we were going to draw those. Um.