Tuesday, November 29, 2005

the way back machine

They're doing a special on a group of French kids who do coordinated turntable concerts. Excuse me, but I don't believe they've yet given any credit to the Invisible Scratch Piklz. But maybe because I don't know the word for Invisible or Pickles. I am guessing that they're the same as English, but with a French accent. That's gotten me pretty far.

Break dancing is HUGE here. There is a break dancing show on MTV. They sell break dancing competetion DVDs. Too bad they don't have any footage of my brother and I spinning on our butts in the living room when we were 7 and 5, respectively, becuase we thought that was pretty bitchin break dancing.

Have you been hearing the new single off Madonna's album, called "Hung Up?" Because OH MY GOD, I hear it at least three times every day. I'm just curious if America is subjected to the same catchy, catchy torture.

I just found out that Woody Allen's new film, Match Point hasn't been released in the US. It's been here for at least a month.

During my long lunch break today, I went out to get a little exercise. It's all snowly and cloudy today, but I took a slightly longer route that I hadn't walked in several weeks. I just so happened to take pictures of the last time, so here they are:

Wow, these pictures were taken a long time ago. Apparently, it was a beautiful day.

People in the small villages are given a small area in the town's forests. Each person has responsibility to keep it somewhat clean and free of felled trees. As a benefit, they get to cut down trees to use for their wood burning stoves. Plenty of people rely on their stoves as the only source of (free) heat in the winter. This, below, was the largest wood pile I had seen. Smaller ones are common, as people have to leave them to dry for a year or two.

I'm standing on my toes and stretching my arm as high as I can. It's big for real.

My destination: about 6 miles away from Poligny.

Now that I'm putting these up, I remember this as the day that I got to St. Lothain and had to pee really badly. It took me almost an hour and a half to get here. The town has, maybe, three businesses. It was Sunday, so everything was closed, anyway.
I was at a point of desperation, even trying to figure out how I would ask, "Can I use your bathroom? It's an emergency."
I ended up peeing in the woods. Country livin, folks. Country livin.

Oh yeah, this was also when all of the grape vines turned golden. It creeped up slowly, but then for three or four days, the hills were carpeted in gold.

Look, there's little Poligny in the distance!

While putting up these pictures, I found even more old ones. Score. You really don't want to hear about how I spent my evenings knitting and watching Bob le Bricoleur anyway. Trust me.


These are the things I got for myself:

a poster, which goes perfectly with all of the other red in my room, and looks like the opening credits of a Hitchcock movie.

and a little charm. It's popular to hang a charm from the zipper of your bag. I picked this one up at the store Madame Andre. It's a chic store. It's got elephantitis of the chic. The charm was designed by the graffiti artist Andre; the store is run by his wife.

I had meant to, of course, pick up a few Christmas gifts. Unfortunately, the stores were either way too crowded to shop (on Saturday) or closed (on Sunday and Monday). There was one store that I knew was supposed to be open on Monday - incidentally, it was the place with the most things I could get for people. We went 10 minutes before it opened, then walked around the block to waste time. We came back right at 11, and saw a guy (who presumably worked there) standing with the door open, smoking a cigarette. We didn't want to annoy him, so we went to check out another (closed) store. When we returned, a half hour later, everything was closed and dark inside the first store again. I guess he didn't feel like working that day.

This happens more than I ever imagined it would.

New York Herald Tribune!

Hey, guess where I am in this picture:

As a side note, is my head really that round? It looks as if it should be more difficult to support that globe up there.

And guess who I went with:

Catherine! My regular traveling companion. Also, my having-problems companion. During this trip, we had a short money scare. We thought that we were getting paid on Saturday. I had very little money left in my account before I left, but I wasn't worried, as I had cash and relied on the aforementioned paycheck. Plus, I figured that I could charge my hostel room (only 50 euro anyway).
Well, we didn't get paid. And the hostel didn't accept credit cards. I had left extra cash AND my American ATM card in Poligny. What to do? I took out as much cash as I could (not much), and Catherine changed some American money that her mom had sent her.
In the end, it turns out that I didn't really need to worry. I had already (unknowingly, see last post) overdrawn on my account, and I could have just kept doing that. In the end, it was for the better, as this was the cheapest trip I've taken - 40 euro for the train, 50 euro for the hotel for two nights, 20 euro for the food for two.5 days. We ate a lot of crepes and falafel.
I am, however, still waiting to be paid. Also, thank god I at least brought my American credit card. It paid for my ticket home and the dinner after our little money crisis (which seemed a lot bigger and more worrisome at the time), and enough wine to make it all better.

Our weekend was spent walking. And walking. And then walking a little bit more after all of that walking. We also spend a good amount of time poking around the Marais, where Catherine had lived for a summer.

So, here's some things we saw:

Notre Dame, as we walked along the Seine.

The Jardin des Plantes:

(I just wanted to get a photo of the creepy eye-cut-out statue, but I also got the dino bones inside the museum. What luck!)

(Catherine is modeling her Evian bottle as part of a very stupid, yet persistent joke that we developed over the course of the weekend.)

The Eiffel Tower:

The Jardin du Luxembourg:

The ice skating rink outside the Hotel de Ville. With Igloo!

Ile de Saint Louis:

Some very strange group of Asian debutantes....maybe:

I know that picture is fuzzy, but it was the best I could get. On the other side of the Eiffel Tower, we saw one couple, the girl dressed in white, with flowers. They stood in front of their big white limo and some photographer took pictures. I believe they were speaking Japanese. We assumed it was a wedding.
On the other side of the Tower, we came across this: a whole row of girls in white dresses standing by white limos. There were probably at least 20 there, standing around and waiting for their turn to be photographed. Their friends and family were there, also, creating a group of at least 100. Seeing the whole group, we realized the girls looked rather young. So, maybe this is some Japanese debutante party? It was strange.

On our last day, we took a stroll along Blvd. St. Germain, in the Latin Quarter. I wore my new NY Herald Tribune shirt.

On Saturday, we also went to the Grand Palais to see the big Viennese art exhibit. We had to wait for an hour and a half in line -- outside, in the cold -- before getting in. Once we were in, it was still incredibly crowded. Nothing matters, though, when you're standing in a room full of Schiele and Klimt. It was definitely worth it.

It was a really nice trip. The last time I was here, I was 17 and with a high school group. We packed in an amazing amount of sightseeing for two days. Hopefully next time I'm there, I'll have money and it won't be drizzling.


I'm in a grumpy mood right now because of my money situation. It's a combination of things --
  1. my own frivolity;
  2. the fact that checks are cashed and debits are processed very slowly, leading to me thinking that I had more money than I did (like, thanks for cashing my large security deposit 6 weeks later);
  3. still not having been paid for the month;
  4. overall general angst, such as...
  • setting my alarm incorrectly for this morning,
  • having no students show up at my 8 AM class again,
  • hearing nothing from the mayor's office about my residency card,
  • the generally shitty salary that they give us here,
  • the extremely high cost of living even in the middle of nowhere,
  • etc.
I know things will work out, and I'm planning on seeing the people at the mayor's office (about the card) and the secretary at school (about my salary), but it's all coming at once, so I'm in a crappy mood.

Don't worry, I'll still put up pictures of my (very inexpensive, but still too expensive for me) trip to Paris.

Monday, November 28, 2005

I'm home again. Unfortunately, I just found out that the normal Blogger function for uploading photos does not work with video. Bummer.

I had a great weekend, despite one almost-major setback. More about everything tomorrow.

And yes, that's the Eiffel Tower and it is sparkling.

Friday, November 25, 2005

professional monkey trainer

Happy thanksgiving yesterday. I've had the longest, most thorough observation of Thanksgiving this year. In every class, I've explained the history of Thanksgiving, shown the students pictures (which I colored myself, thank you) of turkey, pilgrim, etc., and had the students draw turkeys by tracing their hands.

Of everything I've done this year...possibly in the whole time I have been a teacher, having French kids draw turkeys is by FAR the most successful and popular thing I have ever done.

It seems to me that in France, people transition from children to adults much earlier. That is not to say that I'd trust a 16 year old to file my taxes properly, but they are given much more freedom. They can smoke and drink earlier. A lot of these kids, at 15 and 16 years old, live here in a dorm during the week. Their schedules at school have different free periods and classes all over town; each day is different. Basically, they experience their freshman year of college 4 years ahead of Americans. Combine that with the (yes, stereotyped, but true) French tendency to take ones self rather seriously, and you have adolescents who have nearly forgotten what it is like to be young.

When I pulled out the boxes of crayons from my bag, they looked at me as I was showing them my favorite shrunken head: confusion and apprehension. However, once they started drawing, I couldn't stop them. Nearly every kid, in all of my classes, sat silently and colored in their whole turkey.

After that activity, they were genuinely interested in my lecture on the story of Thanksgiving. I've been told that I should focus on teaching one to three words every lesson. I took the opportunity this week to teach: 1. Starvation, 2. Mourning, 3. Cornucopia. Does that qualify as abuse of power? Other words I have taught: quaint, smooch, torture, gigantic, chronological, aisle, and "I have been robbed!"

It snowed last night! It was unpleasantly cold as I walked home, but today it felt like a still, cold blanket had been layed over the town. Cold, but still kind of snug. On the news, they showed that other towns in the east had received up to a foot of snow!

The party I went to was really fun. Nearly all of my oldest students were there, crammed into a tiny apartment. I had wine spilled on me three times, by three different (HORRIFIED) kids. And yes, I spoke French to everyone. By the third glass of wine, I was ready for a career as a professional orator, in fact. I guess I'd better start drinking every morning. I ended up having a series of small conversations with my different students -- they'd come over to me, chat a bit, then leave. I was rather quiet and left pretty early. Good thing, too, because when I saw a boy this morning and asked him if he had a good time, he replied, "Yes, but...I don't remember much what I said."

So, tomorrow morning I leave for Paris. Tenatively, I will be seeing CocoRosie in the evening; on Sunday, we will go to the Austrian exhibit at the Grand Palais. Also, I'm going to do some work as Santa's personal shopper at Ivana Helsinki. I'm excited.

Finally, the internet connection in my room decided to repair itself. It's a Thanksgiving miracle!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

speaka likea theesa

Last night I went to a Middle Eastern dance class with my friend Helene. It was really fun! I was surprisingly good at it, too... of course, that was compared to a room full of frenchies, who ain't no slaves to the beat. I plan on going every week; especially since I woke up this morning with sore muscles.

I finished a dumb little sweater last night, too. I had wanted a cropped, fitted body and wide sleeves; that's what I got.

The collar alone took me two nights to figure out.

This is what it looks like on me. On me, headless, sitting on the edge of a bed, sucking in my stomach.
Check out my new wallpaper in the background!

Nothing too fancy, you can see. I just put a cable running down each arm. It took me about two weeks to make this, but a third of the time was spent on false starts and a another third was spent on finishing the collar and cuffs. I hate doing those futsy details.

I'm wearing it today, too! Look how dark my room is at 7 in the morning!

I got pretty focused on finishing it. Some other things, like cleaning up after myself, fell to the wayside.

This is what obsession looks like, folks.

I was watching an interview with Roberto Benini as I finished. He speaks french! Kind of! He speeka so crazy!

So happy because he love-a life! Yes!

Tonight is best yet: one of my classes of cooking school students (who are in their early 20s) are having me over tonight for a little dinner party! A party for me! When one of the kids invited me yesterday in class, I was so touched I nearly cried. They want to be my friend!*


Wednesday, November 23, 2005

So where were we?

Ah, yes! I left you with this:



Really, its a pleasant walk, but you inevitably get a bit sweaty. Here's the view from the top. Note: no guard rails! I guess the attitude is, "You KNOW it's dangerous, right?" I don't care if you aren't afraid of heights -- if you were born to hang over dangerous ledges -- this will still make you a bit nervous.

I took this picture by sticking my arm out as far as I could, while still leaning back, because boy howdy, it's pretty far down.

As I headed back into town, the sun was overhead and the ice was all melted. Just look a this curious thing I found!

A gate, in the middle of the woods!

And if you look past the gate, you can see that there's clearly a path leading somewhere.

Unfortunately, I had a meeting to keep, so I couldn't go explore, even though it KILLED ME just to leave that.

The path back into town takes you along the old town wall. These are the old little...uh, guard houses, maybe?

It's old, though, and that's what matters. Today, I found out that there was originally a chateau up at Trou de Lune -- just at the base of the rock face, I believe. That was the little castle in town, which the walls connected to. Does this make sense? I'll try to find a map of the old tow walls. Most of them are still here, too! Old! Neat!

I really wish I knew what's past that red gate.