Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Even though I've been pretty busy this summer, I have still been able to indulge in reading books for pleasure. As far back as I can remember, I have always loved reading. As a snobby high schooler I used to think that I could never fall in love with anyone who didn't like reading as much as I did. Then when I met Jube I had to revise my rules, because he really doesn't like reading that much. He does, however, have good taste in books (his favorite authors are Toni Morrison and Guy de Maupassant), so I guess that will have to suffice.

My friend Brooke loves reading even more than I do, I think! When reading her blog the other day, she had posted an interesting meme: turn to page 23 of the closest book and write down the 5th sentence--and of course, you are not allowed to get up to search for the most intellectual book at hand! I thought my results were pretty funny, so I figured I'd post them here. (Two of the books were on Jube's side of the bed, and two were on my side of the bed.)

Le guide conduit son cheval par la guide. --French Grammar, a Complete Review: Pronunciation, Grammar, Verbs, Idioms, Exercises, Francis M. Du Mont

Cela peut etre toutes sortes de choses. --Evidences invisibles: Americains et francais au quotidien, Raymonde Carroll

I pulled a few euros out of my purse and went out, finding a bench at the end of Aunt Mina's street. --Salaam, Paris, Kavita Daswani

On the last night the balconies were full of people, and the heyiya-if filled the whole dancing place, and in the sky the heat lightning danced in the southeast and the northwest, and you could not tell the drums from the thunder, and we danced the Rain down to the sea and up to the clouds again. --Always Coming Home, Ursula K. Le Guin

I know, I know, there are four books here, but I thought it was kind of a funny contrast. Maybe it is just self-infatuated. I do think that it is interesting to see what other people are reading, though! It seems, from the selection I have here, that my reading interests are France and anthropology, which helps to make me sound intellectual. I'm just glad that I went to the library yesterday and returned my guilty pleasure books (and no, I won't admit to what they are!).

On another note, I have always enjoyed the French for "guilty pleasure": peche mignon, literally "cute sin." It sounds much more affectionate than "guilty pleasure"...

Friday, July 27, 2007

Dorm Life

Yesterday I helped my friend Kilmer move in to her new apartment. It is in the same apartment complex as mine, so I'm happy to know someone I can borrow flour and eggs from now. It's just like living in the dorm except that she doesn't have a dry-erase board on her door and I'm living with Jube...

Things have been very busy for me lately--class, work, and homework, lather rinse repeat. I know that must sound like a pretty lame excuse for not updating in a week or so, but I also had to finish reading the books I'd checked out of the library, because they are due tomorrow! And really I should be catching up on housework right now instead of writing here, but I have an obligation to all of you out there who still come to my blog in the hopes of reading something new.

I guess I can talk about my impressions of the local news. It's really kind of funny how it still strikes me as really different from France, even after nearly a year back in the States. In France, the regional news was full of free advertising for "cultural events," like special markets or parades. Here I learn about the horrors of sending your kid to school on the bus or how illegal immigrants are killing sweet all-American teenagers. (Seriously, there was a week-long special edition of the news focused on a kid who was dropped off at the wrong bus stop and had to ask a stranger for help finding his way home.) The Mexican man was drunk and hit the teenagers' car, killing both girls. This one got a lot more attention than local news stories usually do, because Bill O'Reilly picked up on it.

Now there is a brouhaha about a football player named Vick who has a house in Virginia Beach. The police raided his home and discovered dogs who were being trained for dog fighting and dogs who were recovering from it. This story has gone national as well, so now the local news is covering the national coverage--"See how the Richmond courthouse has been turned into a circus by LOCAL dogfighting charges!"

Every day there is another fire reported. Jube jokes about how they are mentioned: "An evening fire today" or "An afternoon blaze" are how they are introduced. He says, "Soon there will be a teatime conflagration!" Unfortunately the same language is used about car crashes and violent crimes, leading viewers to believe that there are daily shootings and pileups (it's hard not to think so when you hear about the "early morning shooting in Downtown Norfolk").

In the interest of full disclosure, I didn't really watch the regional news in France. It was really boring! I didn't watch the national news either... Well, that's not totally true. I usually caught the "Six' Minutes" on M6. It is really just a "headlines" kind of show, where the news is finished in (you guessed it!) six minutes. I wish that that kind of program existed over here. It made staying informed a lot more painless!

Thursday, July 19, 2007


When I first learned French, I cracked everyone up with my Spanish-influenced gaffes. For example, instead of ca me fait peur*, I said ca me donne peur*. Another "hilarious" (to them, not to me) mistake was Tu me fais vomiter** instead of vomir**. I soon learned the right thing to say and instead started making people laugh at how shocking my language was.

For some reason, Jube and I were talking about all the different ways to say "vomit" in English. We have so many wonderful words, like throw up, puke, up-chuck, hurl, retch, heave... and each one is beautifully descriptive of a specific way we regurgitate our food. Jube then taught me gerber, which is a particularly nasty way of saying vomir (or vomit). Since French is not my native language, I had no qualms about using it in front of others, until one day I expressed myself in front of the wrong problem. Poor Belle-maman! She has to put up with three sons who are generally less than delicate at the dinner table and a daughter-in-law who didn't hesitate to say that she dislikes some foods because ca fait gerber. It didn't take me long to stop bandying the word around for the laughter it produced...

Back in the US, I was walking down the baby aisle in the local grocery store and was surprised to rediscover the best-selling baby food brand:

The baby does kind of look like it has a little gift for you, doesn't he? And of course it looks very similar to the French meaning when you open it up and look inside...

*That gives me scared instead of that makes me scared (loosely translated, of course)
*You make me vomitit instead of you make me vomit (yeah, that's a really loose translation)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


Sometimes, after you have been in an air-conditioned building for three hours, stepping outside in the summer sunshine can feel great. Lately it hasn't been like that here. Instead it feels like you step into a very well-lit sauna, fully clothed. Condensation immediately forms on your body, and there is no way to keep your hair from curling. It reminds me of the summers I spent in Washington, D.C., where it would storm at least once a week, which only made it more humid the next day.

It also reminds me of the first summer I spent in France, the notorious heatwave summer of 2003, when thousands of people died in Paris. I don't remember feeling this hot then, maybe because it was less humid. In the South of France, it is certainly hot, but there is really no humidity to speak of (at least not in Montpellier or Nice). Last summer I spent several afternoons sitting in the shade in a courtyard. I didn't sweat unless I moved into the sun or went inside. Here in Norfolk, even sitting in the shade can't protect you from the humidity.

I had to laugh when I saw a public service announcement on the local (Hampton Roads) news the other day: because it is so hot, they are asking people to donate wall air conditioning units for families in need. I remember a French public service announcement I saw last summer, which recommended lots of cold showers and visiting businesses that had air conditioning. The solution I found in 2003 involved getting very comfortable with my own body. Before that summer, I would never walk around my house naked. Like a revelation, I realized how much less hot I felt when I didn't have any clothes on! It was just too hot to wear clothes indoors!

I have to say that this custom has continued for me back in the US. Although we do have central air in our apartment, we don't have a lot of money to run it, and I end up feeling guilty about the environment. Lately, though, my solution has been to turn on the air conditioning for a few hours a day. It's a little easier for any guests we might have...

Friday, July 06, 2007

Round Up!

I've been a bad blogger this week. First I had to write my papers, then I had to start 30 hours a week at my internship, and finally, instead of sleeping in on the 4th of July, I got up early to volunteer at a school event. I've had a couple of thoughts rolling around in my head to post, so here they come:

Jube picked me up at work the other day, surprising me outside of the building. He pulled the car up and said, "Bonjour, Mademoiselle, do you need a ride?"

I laughed and got in. "I have the nicest boyfriend in the world!" I said, catching myself too late. "I mean, I have a great husband!"

I think that I was lucky that I didn't speak any French before I moved to France. I just caught a short video of myself explaining something in French from February of 2005. Wow, I was bad! Thinking back on it I don't remember speaking that poorly. I think that learning in France helped me avoid the embarrassment of the Language Learner that comes from thinking you should be able to speak a language. I felt that way in Spain sometimes, thinking, Come on, you know this! Why is it so hard for you to understand?

Tennis. I'll bet you're bored of me talking about it, aren't you? Well, I'm never bored with watching tennis! I am, however, bored with American announcers. In France, the announcers are certainly biased toward the French players, but they don't try to hide it. They urge them on like real fans--"Allez Grosjean! Allez la France!" In the US it is equally more subtle and more annoying. Instead of enjoying a well-played match, they pepper the commentary with suggestions like this: "She's lucky Venus mishit that return." Or, "Poor little Gasquet! That was a good serve for him! That's Roddick's average!" They say it with straight faces (I'm assuming), without any irony at all, giving the impression that they can't help it if the American players are just better than everyone else. If only there was one announcer who seemed like he enjoyed watching tennis, I would like it more.

Tonight Jube, Lorene, Willy, and I are going to the Bier Garten. I'll tell you how it goes. There are only a few words or phrases I know in German, and das Bier is one of them. I also know Ich kann kein Deutsch, which came in handy in Austria, and "Twenty Minutes!" thanks to Run, Lola, Run. Funnily enough, that also came in handy in Austria. As we were checking into our hotel, Jube tried to communicate in his Bac-level German with the workers. Getting frustrated with us, the woman finally told us, "mumbleblehbleh
zwanzig Minuten!"

"Jube, Jube!" I clamored, "I know what that means! She said 'twenty minutes!'"

"I guess we'll come back in twenty minutes, then," he said to me.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

If Only I Knew...

Why is it that on vacation, when I have plenty of free time, I don't get anything done? And when I have a deadline or a paper due, I will do anything to get out of it? That's why I'm blogging tonight: I have a couple of papers I need to finish by Wednesday (yeah, thanks, I love having things due on the 4th of July!), but I need a break.

I don't really have anything to write, so here's a little Jube mixup from last night:

We were checking out the top 100 movies on Rotten Tomatoes. Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb was rated around 50.

Gem: Oh, Dr. Strangelove! I love that movie! It's sooo funny!

Jube: Dr. Strangelove, huh... Is that with Eddie Murphy?

Gem [howling with laughter]: No. You're thinking of Dr. Dolittle.

Jube: Oh yeah. Hey, don't put that on your blog, okay?