I’ve neglected this blog for far too long. Instead of writing an unending post about my life thus far, I’ve decided to create a list. A list of things I’ve done, of pictures, of events, of differences between here and over there. A list of everything. It might be rather long, but at least it’ll be more organized than a mammoth paragraph of infinite drivel. Here goes:
Elementary children call their teachers by their first name. This continues to be a slight shock to me everyday, when I hear little 6-year-olds call their 1st grade teacher “Marie” instead of “Madame Dupont.” If I ever called a teacher in my Catholic grade school by her first name, I would have gotten written up and sent straight to the principal’s office. Hearing tiny children born just yesterday – in 2004! – exclaiming “Marie, Marie!! On écrit en lettres rattachés?“* or “Marie, Marie!! Il m’a poussé!” is still so strange to me.
*(Marie, do we have to write in cursive?)
**(Marie! He pushed me!)
I’ve realized that there are two things I like more than chocolate: creamy cow’s milk and butter. When in the U.S., I never drink cow’s milk. Ever. It’s disgusting. Instead, I drink Silk soy milk and Blue Diamond vanilla almond milk. But in France, my favorite guilty pleasure is lait bio demi-écrémé– organic semi-skimmed cow’s milk. Sooooo good! So rich, in fact, that I’m pretty sure in American it wouldn’t be considered anything less than whole milk. What I love about cow’s milk in France is that it tastes so pure. Milk in the U.S. makes me want to vomit. It’s just so pungent. This may be the Trader Joe’s/Whole Foods organic food groupie in me talking, but I’m serious when I say I can taste the hormones in American milk. There’s just something amuck about it. I can’t stand it. But in France, I don’t mess with soy milk, because 1) the French have no idea what the hell they’re doing when it comes to soy and 2) cow’s milk is just too damn good to drink anything else! Add to that higher dairy and food safety regulations, and you can’t go wrong!
And as for my second indulgence, butter….well. Melted butter on toast, butter spread thickly on warm pastries, butter in warm pastries, butter as a base to the food I’m cooking…The stuff is just orgasmic. I’ve considered going vegan on several occasions. But when I think of what I’d be missing out on — warm croissants, fresh beignets, pain au chocolat, moelleux au chocolat with hot, melted insides — it seems like more of a twisted form of torture rather than a health-conscious dietary choice.
Orléans is beautiful. The architecture is so regal, it really must have been the city of the aristocracy in its day. There is construction going on everywhere because they’re building a tramline. They recently built their first one a couple of years ago, and the second is due to be finished in 2012. But even with all the tarps and orange plastic dividers everywhere, there are moments when I look up and what I see is just breathtaking. Like when I walk to my tram stop to get to work in the morning, I always look right towards the Cathedral Saint-Croix as I pass. I’m never disappointed. I never got this feeling when I studied in Poitiers- the town had its own sort of quirky charm, but it was not half as grand as Orléans. Though the city may lack a vibrant nightlife, it has a captivating, subtle grandeur. Don’t take this as affirmation that I feel perfectly settled in here, because I don’t- there are times when I still feel very much the outsider. But I appreciate the beauty that the town possesses.
The French are so direct. When I come to school looking nicer than usually (ie, have carefully brushed hair, actually have a little eyeliner on), my kids scream out, “T’es belle! Non, mais t’es trop belle!” In the U.S., little kids would say something more like, “You look pretty, today!” or “You’re pretty!” But the translation of what my French students say is “You’re beautiful. You’re just too beautiful!” Yeah. Those little French kiddies show know the art of flattery to a T, haha. In line with this Franco-frankness are the posters and warnings that I see. On the back of cigarettes is written, plain and simple, “Smoking kills” (Fumer tue) in 72-point font. In my doctor’s office, I saw the poster above, which reads,
“My little one, you dream surely of a Prince Charming. Not of a husband who hits you when he comes home at night.
Don’t let violence start. Act now.”
I think the simplicity lends a profound effectiveness to what is written and illustrated. A little girl who sees this poster in the doctor’s office will have her attention caught by sleeping beauty’s prince strangling her, and will ask her parents right away what is going on in the picture and why.
6. I’m getting better at dealing with raw flesh. I’m a pescatarian — a vegetarian that eats seafood — so dealing with raw, dead animal is always awkward for me. I hate having to touch it, look at it, smell it. It just seems that much more real raw than when it’s cooked. I just think of what kind of fish it was, how it probably liked enjoying swimming in the sea, and how it’s now headless and wrapped up in a vacuum-sealed package. Which is why all the seafood I’ve ever eaten has been cooked by my parents or made by my loving roommate, B. In the U.S., I mostly cook tofu and soy products for myself, and rely on nuts and a multivitamin for a source of protein and B vitamins. However, the selection of soy and tofu products in France is very limited, and whenever I do find tofu, it’s always pricey- i.e., 4€ for 2 little veggie patties. Add onto that, I didn’t bring a multivitamin here. So, when I started feeling fatigued and weakened at the beginning of my stay here, I knew that I needed to get my B vitamin levels up and start consuming more protein. Enter salmon, stage left.
I haven’t actually been brave enough to buy any other type of seafood, but I’m pretty sure I will once I get tired of salmon. However, I just got use to peeling the skin off the salmon without cringing in revolt, so it may take a while.
In France, washing an 8 kg load of clothes costs 4,50€ ($6). Drying clothes costs 1€ per 9 minutes. I repeat 1€ per NINE minutes. Doing laundry in France is expensive as hell! Every time I leave the laundromat having done a load, my wallet is at least 10€ lighter. Because drying is so expensive, virtually everyone owns a drying rack in the country.
However, as for washing, if you don’t have a washer, you’re either spending 25€ a month to wash your clothes, or washing them by hand. Thankfully, one of my French friends here is so generous that she lets me do my laundry at her house. It was such an unexpected, pleasant blessing when she offered to let me do my washing at her house. The week that I don’t go there (I do laundry twice a month, but I go to her house once a month; I don’t want her to have a high water bill because of me), I either wash my clothes by hand, or stuff all my dirty junk into the teeny 6 kg wash load, which costs 3€. It’s so weird because in Poitiers, drying clothes was expensive, but washing them was never this pricey in the town laundromat. However, I mostly did my laundry in the student residence where I lived, and it cost 3€ to wash and dry total.
This experience really is teaching me to be grateful for EVERYthing, and I do mean EVERYthing. I plan on living in a developing country next year (depends on which internship I get, so I’m unsure of which one), and I most likely will have to do without amenities that I’m used to right now- hot water…running water period…stable electricity…heating (I would say AC, but most buildings in France don’t have it hahaha. In fact, restaurants that do have AC have little signs on the outside of their windows boasting that their establishment is “climatisé”, like it’s an extra perk lol)…washing machines…etc.
8. Student loans, student loans. On the one hand, they gave me my education. On the other, they’re eating up what little money that I do make. All the more motivation for me to get my masters (sigh…more loans) and get a decent-paying, top-level job to pay them off!
That’s the end of the list. I’m going to the Christmas market now, and I’ll try to write more next week. Take care! x