Wednesday, August 23, 2006

International Nights

Wow, I've been writing a lot of posts recently! It's been awhile since I had the free time and the motivation, I suppose.

Well, this isn't really motivation... it's insomnia. I turned off my lights two hours ago, and just couldn't get to sleep. I could vaguely hear my next-door neighbor, Raj, watching a movie, but it wasn't enough to keep me from sleeping. Anyway, I got up and started using the computer, but in the living room the movie is much louder. I figured it was some loud annoying adventure movie, since I could hear lots of bass and what I thought were explosions. After about half an hour, though, I realized that he was watching a Bollywood flick. Of course this doesn't rule out any explosions, but I was surprised to hear high-pitched warbling coming from the wall as well as big bassy booms.

Good Night, Everyone.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


As I was walking on campus the other day, I walked past the seal of Old Dominion University set into the path. I carefully avoided walking on it, and immediately caught myself remembering Wittenberg. There, you are taught never to step on the seal. That will make you fail your next test. The only time you are supposed to walk on it is on or after graduation day. I stepped on the seal once my freshman year, ironically while cramming for a biology test. I didn't fail, but I didn't do well either (what do you expect when you start studying on your way to class?). After that, I was a good Wittenberger. Jube, on the other hand, gleefully stomped on the seal whenever we walked by. "I'm not really a Wittenberg student," he would tell me, "and I don't believe in all that superstitious crap anyway."

At Wittenberg, we also have the Kissing Bridge near Graduation Hollow. If you kiss there once, that means you're pretty serious. If you kiss twice, you're going to get married. During nighttime walks you could see lots of couples kissing on the bridge, and at times you had to practically wait in line if you wanted to have a chance. Jube didn't believe in that, either, but look where we are now...

I don't know what traditions Old Dominion has, especially since it's a pretty young university. I did hear some students last night at midnight laughing and talking in a foreign language in the parking lot near my house. Most of the tenants here at my apartment complex are international students, which suits me well. Of the international students, I would say over half of them are Indian, and that's who I saw last night when I looked out of my window. A group of about 15 students, including two girls in saris, circled around one of their friends--the one without any luck, I guess. They threw two dozen eggs at him, and he sat like a pro and took every single one of them, even inviting head shots. When he was finished, he wiped off the goo from his head and smiled for the camcorder that one of the girls had used to film the entire fracas. I had to laugh--I'm back at school again.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Plus ca change...

Hi again everyone! I'll have been in Norfolk for a week at about 4:30 tomorrow afternoon. I've been doing lots of stuff, like finding a graduate assistantship, moving into my house, getting my student ID, and (joy of all joys) getting a replacement social security card.

You see, before I moved to France two years ago, I put my social security card in a safe place so I wouldn't lose it abroad. Unfortunately, I have now forgotten where that safe place was, so I didn't have my card. This wouldn't really be a big deal, except that the guy who takes care of the tax forms in my department is a freak and demands more than the government wants (sound familiar, anyone?). He wouldn't accept my passport, drivers license, and birth certificate, and had no sympathy for my carless state. I had to get a taxi to drive me 20 minutes to the Social Security Office in Norfolk. Both of my taxi drivers took the scenic route, so I got to see lots of pretty houses along the way, and some things that made me smile: the Social Security Office is on Robin Hood Road, and we passed Sherwood Forest Elementary school on the way out there.

When I walked into the office, I had a pleasant feeling towards American bureaucracy, despite my present troubles with the Office of Homeland Security regarding Jube's visa. The kind old police officer at the information desk directed me to the correct room to get a replacement social security card, after having signed a paper and checking my ID. My mood was a bit dampened when I entered the room only to find an almost exact replica of the Prefecture in Nice: rows of seats filled with people, and enough crying babies to rival the foreign affairs office. Now, I know that the Social Security Office has more babies than other bureaucratic places in the US, because they all need to have a number assigned to them, but it's definitely annoying to sit next to a one-year-old who keeps touching your book.

I even got to hear a fight between a young woman and a mother. The young woman had called one of her friends on her cell phone, nearly deafening those around her, screaming about a fight she had had the night before, "and I don't know what the fuck she wanted, but she fucking hit me right in the head. Shit! That bitch don't know what kinda shit she got herself into!" The mother asked her to please use less curse words, but either the young woman didn't hear or didn't care. Finally the security guard had to intervene, and the young woman left before her number was called.

Once that was finished, I went back to finish filling out the papers for my job, where the secretary kept me for about half an hour longer than she had to. Oh well, at least I'm used to waiting now.

Also, when I was in France, I kept thinking about how flirtatious the men were. For example, when I went parasailing, I didn't have my swimsuit. The employee said, "No problem, you can borrow mine," with a big grin at his baggies. Well, I have discovered that in the American South, it's pretty similar. Today I had a man compliment my skirt while I was at an ATM; the employee taking my picture for my student ID said, "It'll be great, you're pretty!"; and at the Social Security Office, as I moved past people to find an empty seat, one of the men said, "I know you ain't that fat!" Luckily, after two years in France, it doesn't faze me at all.

So those are my impressions of the US so far. It's different than I remember it, but maybe that's just because I've absorbed other customs in France. I felt really uncomfortable, for example, when the bagger bagged my groceries for me and then helped me take them outside. On the other hand, everyone is super nice, like my teller at the credit union who found out about my wedding and told me about her 13-year-old daughter while I was opening my new accounts. I felt strange that she was sharing so much personal information, and I had to tell myself that it's just like that in America!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

What? A New Post?

I know, I know, how can I imagine that anyone is still reading this? Since I last posted, a lot has happened. I spent a month working at a summer program in Nice, which I will avoid writing about except to say that I went to the hospital twice, spent the night there once--and wasn't sick a day. Kids are crazy. I also began to realize that bureaucracy is bureaucracy everywhere you look. If I thought I had problems working in France, then Jube is having a crisis trying to work in the US! Our visa troubles aren't finished yet, and I don't want to bore anyone with the details. So you're not getting any.

I arrived in Washington, D.C. last Thursday night at 8:30. I cried at the airport, I cried in line... I tried not to cry on the plane, but I was so emotional that V for Vendetta really jerked those tears. How embarrassing! The pilot announced that the weather was 36 degrees (C) as we touched down--I thought France was hot, but the south can't compare with the tropical heat of a Washington Metro Area summer. On Friday we drove down to Norfolk, Virginia, home of Old Dominion University and my new apartment, which I discovered. It has air conditioning. Then my mom took off for her vacation, leaving me at home to watch the dogs. And I got sick. Is it the air conditioning? Was it the close quarters on the plane? Or did I just catch the bug going around here? Whatever the reason, I ran a low fever for 3 days and still have a deep wet chest cough as my companion while I call all kinds of different places to try to find a job.

So I'm safe, I'm in the US, I'm still sick... and hopefully soon I'll have a more interesting post for you.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

guest entry

carnet de correspondance

Hi blog readers, this is a guest entry from Jube.
Just a quick note to let you know that Gem has been away from her computer because of her summer job in Nice, and now she is back in the USA, but she can't blog either. Although her adventures in France are over, I am sure she will post more when she can.