Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Matter of Perspective

I'm currently in the middle of a week and a half of vacation (for la Toussaint, which is All Saints' Day. Yay Catholicism!). So it's lovely. I sleep late and do nothing productive except for writing an occasional letter, usually, but yesterday I did something, and it was fun.

Do you want to know what I did? Okay, if you insist. (Blogging sort of drags me into a vortex of narcissism. But that's okay because I'm a teenager and teenagers are supposed to be narcissistic. So anyway. What I Did on My Vacation.)

I had been staying in touch with a friend from my pre-host-family-switcheroo school, and we had decided to go to Paris together over break because it's halfway between our towns and besides, Paris is cool.

So yesterday my host brother and I met my friend and her friend from Bordeaux at the Musée d'Orsay. It was fun. There was a stupendously long line to get tickets, so we decided to wait and try again later. We walked over to the Louvre (very close, but on the other side of the Seine) and took pictures of stuff outside. Mostly of the Louvre and the Tour Eiffel, but I also took a picture of a pigeon. I like photographing pigeons. [This would be a good time to post my pictures but that means figuring stuff out, so y'all can use your imaginations, can't you? Good.]

45 minutes later, we decided that the wait outside the Musée d'Orsay wasn't going to get any shorter, so we tacked ourselves onto the end of the queue (which means both Line and Tail in French, interestingly). 45 minutes later we had received our tickets from the caisse. The tickets were free, by the way. So essentially we had just spent 45 minutes in line to be handed valueless pieces of paper before going into the museum. But hey, admission was free, so I can't complain.

We looked at the paintings, but too quickly. My friend's friend was more of a Take a Picture to Prove You Were There and Keep Moving kind of person, unfortunately. But I did see lots of famous stuff, briefly--by Monet and Pissarro and Degas and Van Gogh. And one painting by Salvador Dali, whose work I like.

We spent the most time on Van Gogh's paintings, mostly because there were lots of photographs that needed to be taken. I spent almost the whole time in that room looking at this painting (image from the internet, not from my camera...):

I liked the blue swirls. They were mesmerizing.


ANYWAY. We finished at the museum, and Laurent went home and I stayed with my friend. We took the métro to the Tour Eiffel and took some more pictures. And guess what. I decided that elle est belle, after all. On a sunny fall day, with a French friend, in Paris, I think anything would have seemed beautiful, but that's not the point (or maybe it is). The point is that I like the Eiffel Tower now. Until I see her on a cloudy day, anyway.

My conclusion: We see reality as we want to see it, and there's no such thing as objectivity. (I think Plato or some other Great Man already said that 2400-ish years ago, but oh well.)

Then I took the métro and the train and the bus all the way home, all by myself, and walked home from the bus stop while watching the beginning of a lovely sunset (at 5:45 PM. Winter approaches.). Anyway, I got home by myself, in France. I was proud.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

In Which I Talk a Lot without Saying Anything

I'm not in the mood to organize, so this is just going to be drivel. (I love that word, even when it applies to my writing.) But anyway, I'm sorry.

First thing: I successfully made quesadillas, guacamole, and pico de gallo for my host family. Successfully-ish. I think they liked them? But they didn't have any idea how to eat them. No, you don't use a fork and knife, and no, you don't eat the guacamole by itself. (I corrected them on the former but not on the latter.) A pimente vert turned out to be about as spicy as oatmeal...I thought. I tasted it and barely detected anything resembling a spicy flavor. Soooo I got kind of lazy with the whole mincing thing and just chopped it into pieces.

The Difference between Texas and France: When I got a bite with a piece of piment, I appreciated the (mild) heat. When my host family got bites of piment, they had coughing fits. Oops.

And at the end of the meal Laurent asked me if we put ketchup on quesadillas in America. I tried not to laugh too hard. Yay stereotypes...

But other than the above, it was a success.


In other news, remember that test that I thought I failed? If you don't, you can refer to the previous post, but anyway, assuming you do: I didn't fail! I got a 13/20, which mathematically translates to a 65% in America, but the grades don't work that way. Proof 1: The teacher explained the grading system to me by saying a 14/20 in History is very good. Proof 2: The class average was 12/20. So I didn't fail. And the teacher said I have a bonne expression écrite.

This is all just because I bothered to analyse the given text instead of regurgitating what the teacher had dictated, which is apparently what my classmates did. But I was happy. My expression orale will be better (and by better I mean comprehensible) soon, I hope.

That's enough for now. The nutella is calling from the kitchen and I have a poème en prose to write for French class...I know. It doesn't seem possible to me either.

P.S. The title was an allusion to a Talking Heads song. 10 points if you noticed.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I was there.

So. On the 26 septembre, there was an AFS Flashmob in Paris. It was theoretically a protest against a French law against going on exchange or something, but I never really found out the specifics. What I do know is that I am assez fan of these flashmob-things, which involve dancing spontaneously in public places (in this case Montmartres).

Here's the link to the video:

(I can't tell you which one I am because I don't have a particular desire to be stalked. But I'm there, I promise.)

In other news, today was my first day of school. I started at 10:25 am (which was excellent) with an hour of math (which was not excellent). Well, the teacher was nice, and I understood what he was teaching, more or less, but I have a month of catching up to do. So after I post this I'll be teaching myself Chapter 12 of the textbook...The teacher at my old school started with Chapter 1, logically enough, but here I think they're starting that chapter tomorrow, after having learned Chapter 12. Oh well. At least it's the same book.

Then I had an hour of French. The teacher is, um, dynamique. She's very small and very intimidating. And...I have a whole bunch of Baudelaire-studying to do to be ready for the Bac de Français, which I'm going to take at the end of the year. Blah.

After that I ate lunch with 2 classmates. And what a difference. The food here is fantastic. It's a lunch line as opposed to table service, and the food is a LOT better. Today it was Moroccan-spiced lamb with couscous. I love the French. (CULTURE SHOCK HONEYMOON PHASE HEREBY ACKNOWLEDGED.)

After lunch I took (read: failed) a history test on the Industrial Revolution, but I don't think I failed it that badly. (...You know you're an exchange student when you differentiate between levels of failing.)

Then I had a second hour of history in which I answered a question with the name Lenin and was told, No, the answer is Lénine. I'm not even kidding. They change the spelling and everything.

My last class was 2 hours of TPE. I joined a group that's researching something about penicilline, which hopefully won't be too hard. But instead of doing actual work we participated in another group's experiment about the conductivity of the human body. You can guess how scientific that turned out to was a lot of shocking people and screaming.

So yeah. It was a good day.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

La Cuisine Tex-Mex

I'm going to make quesadillas for my family later this week, and so yesterday I went to the grocery store with Hervé to get the ingredients. It was...difficult.
  • I'm going to have to substitute lemon for lime in the guacamole.
  • Jalopeno? What's that? We'll see how my pimente verte compares...
  • Cheddar cheese is hard to find here. We finally spotted a few lonely blocks of it in the corner of the cheese display.
  • Black beans are an Exotic Food. I'm not even kidding. First we looked in the bean aisle, which was full of chickpeas and fava beans and red beans, etc. Hervé asked me if I was sure that black beans weren't the same as red beans/that black beans really existed. (They aren't, and they do.) I shrugged and said I could omit them from the quesadillas, and we continued on to the exotic food aisle for my tortillas (which are...well preserved. I'm pretty sure they could survive an atomic bomb.). And lo, I beheld some cans of black beans hidden behind the taco seasoning. I was thrilled. A year with no black beans was seeming kind of gloomy. So now there are some exotic black beans in the pantry. The labels are in Spanish and everything.

Come back next week to learn the outcome of the dinner.
There'll also be another First Day of School post (sigh) sometime soon.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Centre Pompidou

(This post is a non sequitur.)

Last Wednesday I went to the Centre Pompidou with the American boy whom my (ex-)liaison was hosting. IT WAS SO COOL. (It's a modern art museum in Paris.) There was an exhibit featuring female artists, and at the entrance to the exhibit they had changed the names of some famous artists. Andy --> Annie Warhol, Jean --> Jeanne Nouvel. And I liked the art. I don't always, but that day I was in a suitable art-viewing mood. My favorite part was this video that was being projected on the floor of the sky and stuff (I'm being inarticulate, I know). So American Boy and I decided to lie down on the projection screen (it was allowed) and listen to the accompanying soothing music. It was very peaceful.

Also it was free for students, which is fairly normal in France (10 points for Socialism).

My Year Abroad, Take Two

So. I found out that someone wanted me (yay!) Saturday afternoon. I stayed at my AFS liaison's house until Sunday afternoon (and we went to the Nuit Blanche in Paris, which was cool. All-night art installations in Paris.). Then on Sunday we took some trains, traversered Paris, and arrived in Osny, where my new family lives.

The parents are Chantal and Hervé, both engineers. I have two sisters (Anne, 22, and a 20-year-old who's in Germany named Corinne) and two brothers (Laurent, 16 as of 2 days ago, and Hugo, 11 until tomorrow). I haven't started school yet because I have to register, which is apparently insanely difficult in France because of the bureaucracy, but I don't mind because free time is lovely.

What room has an African theme. It's in the basement but I like it.

They have Nutella! This is going to be a problem, as I think there must be something in it that inhibits self-restraint.

Today I went out to lunch with my AFS liaison (a new one because I changed departments in France). She's nice. Very grandmotherly. She went to Indiana in 1952. On a boat. Whoa... I ate the first crepe I've had in France (it was a crepe aux 3 fromages). Then we were going to go see about registering me at school but the Proviseur was busy, so we didn't. I'll go later this week, then.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Calling in Favors

When I took driver's ed this summer, the teacher was always joking about how it's a good idea to have a best friend who's a mechanic. I disagree. When you're in France for a year (and sans permis de conduire), it's a much better idea to have a best friend who knows web design. Because really, who needs a functional car when you could have a shiny new blog layout instead?

Thanks, Eva.