Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Saying a Conflicted "Au Revoir" to France

         Saying goodbye to France has proved difficile. The country that seemed so intimidating and overwhelming when I first moved here seven months ago, the city full of seemingly impossible tasks like getting a French bank account and phone, has grown to become my second home, full of amazing restaurants and fun friends. Saying goodbye to my students was equally difficult, especially when they did cute things like bake me cake or make me cards which read "C'etait cool avec vous. Merci. Bye," in sincere and heart-felt franglais (If anglais = English, and francais = French, franglais = Spanglish, but for French. And that is as close as you will ever see me come to doing math).

View from the club-boat. Much less glamorous if you only knew that it was taken from the window in the women's restroom. But still.
         My teachers invited me to delicious lunches with eight courses, two of which were cheese. My friends and I celebrated in epic style by partying in péniches, or clubs on boats. (Dance moves were busted. Phones were lost. Good times were had by all.)  We indulged first in drunk-food-kebab the night of, and hang-over-kebab the day after.  There were picnics with Nutella-covered strawberries and chips with as-close-as-we-can-come-to-guacemole, since France has tragically never heard of cilantro. There are the two GIANT suitcases that weigh more than me, fully packed to the brim with scarves, coats, and 13 pairs of shoes, 9 of which I purchased while I was here because I just. Couldn't. Resist. There is my bare and naked looking apartment, stripped of photos, posters, and knick-knacks. 

         There is the sadness of leaving and the excitement of coming home, and the same strange melange of emotions I experienced upon leaving college. There is Mexican food soon to be had, but crepes soon to miss. There are old friends I'll now be able to see, and new friends I'll now have to Skype. I'm leaving someplace incredible to go to somewhere just as familiar and good.

         I just can't decide how I feel. 

Bisous, Lyon! I shall miss you.
          [Editor's Note: Don't worry! This blog will not cease to exist. In fact, so much happened that I never had time to write about, that it will be years before I run out of France-related things to post on here...]

Friday, April 22, 2011

Interesting Things I Have Seen During My Travels in France

A wall in the Petite France area of Strasbourg.
A restaurant near the train station in Obernai.
On the Ile d'If, off the coast of Marseille.

Not gonna lie, it's that last one that disturbs me the most.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Tanning in France: More Problematic than One Would Think

          As a native Californian, I have never been this pale in April, ever. I blame the astoundingly normal number of cloudy days with cool temperatures here in France, which fellow Frenchmen and the rest of the world have long been accustomed to. They may have settled for eternal pastiness, but I have not. Yesterday, I set out to the Parc de la Tête d'Or to remedy the situation, only to discover that tanning in France is fraught with perils of all kinds. 
          The perils classified themselves mainly into two groups, the first of which being creepy men. Guys in all settings tend to be way more aggressive in Europe, whether in a club or on the street, and they take the smallest sign, like accidental eye contact or any remark sent their way as encouragement. So, despite asking around first and doing a little research about how weird it would be to lie on a towel in my bikini, despite being assured that it was normal and that women did it all the time here, there was a certain amount of leering. The worst part was not the gardener telling me that I was magnifique, or even the guy who had the balls to sit down next to me and talk to me for 20 minutes despite my slightly irritated demeanor. He wasn't so bad, because, I at least got to practice my French with a real French person. 
           No. That was not the worst part by a long shot. The worst part was the FLYING. ANTS. 
          If right now you are thinking "WTF?" then yes, that is the correct response. Ants with wings, than can land your towel or on you, that couldn't care less that you're just trying to read or that you're being pestered to death by strangers. It's hard to pretend to be asleep to avoid creepers if you have to keep swatting insects off your legs. But do the ants care? No. They have no compassion, because they're disgusting freaking ANTS. And extremely mobile ones at that. 
            Needless to say, the two hours spent tanning were all kinds of disgusting, but both my reflexes and my patience have infinitely improved, and I'm not a pale-ish white color of "ick" anymore. Right after #1 (Wearing My Five Inch Stiletto Wedges To Work in a Moment of Foolish Hubris), we'll but this as the #2 most painful thing I've done for beauty. 
I was going to work in relevancy somehow by saying how the dog feels beautiful, but let's be honest;  I really just wanted to put this picture up regardless of what it has to do with.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


        So, I was being a literature major the other night, doing literature major-y things like looking up poems online, and adding the suffix "-y" to words to make them suit my needs. I felt in need of a little Walt Whitman, and there, on the page, the French internet decided that along with my classy poetry, what I really needed was some big, French ass:

Really, France? Really?
What is the ideal booty? I don't know France. I'm gonna read sonnets for a while, so you tell me.

Mexican cat is confused. It's probably culture clash.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Mardi Gras in France

The eerie Carnivale head above the tourism office in Nice. I have taken the word of other French people that Carnivale is not always that creepy. 
Real French Fact #13: Mardi Gras, while a French expression, is actually called Carnivale in France. We kept the right language but still somehow got it wrong. Equally wrong, the French don't flash each other for beads; instead, it's a lot like our Halloween, with everyone dressing up in full costume and having a parade. 

Related Personal Fact: I had no idea about any of  that. I learned about the traditions of French Carnivale by walking onto my high school campus and seeing a girl dressed up like a giant wedge of Laughing Cow Cheese. 

        She had a gigantic triangular tin foil body, with realistic label, and two empty circular cheese containers dangling from each ear as earrings. The ensemble was completed with a tin foil hat and some leggings that were patterned full of pizazz. 

        A little dazed and confused, it took me until I saw the flying pig and the slutty Little Red Riding Hood before I realized there was some holiday going on. Turns out there was a huge costume contest going on and I was walking through the back stage of it to get to my classroom. My class, flush with the excitement of the festival, was unruly, loud, and totally unwilling to work, which was not so fun. What was a lot more fun was finally giving up during the last 5 mins of class and taking pictures of them because they were so cute:

        While leaving campus, I saw another girl dressed as what she perceived to be an American gang member, complete with American flag bandanna, fake guns (which would get her straight-up expelled in an American high school), and the word "Blood" on one arm, and "Fuck" on the other. I think these were the most intimidating words she knew in English. A for effort!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Class of 2010 Can Relate, I'm Sure

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Treadmill: 1, Melissa: 0

LOL-Cat knows what I'm talking about.

      Last night, feeling fat from a (perhaps overly) decadent dinner of baguette, fois gras, brie, and white wine, I decided to go on a run. I suppose it was my experiment to see how many different ways my body could hate me. The answer? Many. 
          What's bad is going on your first run in two months and feeling pathetic, dehydrated, out of shape, and horrendously sweaty. Maybe, for some reason, your mouth starts to taste like white wine. What's worse is when you realize that the stupid European treadmill is set to kilometers per hour, not miles per hour; so you're actually running even slower than you thought, and still gasping for air like a dying fish. 

          "WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME?!" I felt my body grumbling two minutes into the first mile. Just after the 20 minute mark, I'd say it had escalated into a steady, enraged, scream. 

           "Shut up, body!" I thought back. "We are going to be thin and beautiful, with abs of steel! So, suck it!"
           Venomously embittered, my body decided to play its trump card, and I got a huuuuuuge cramp, not just anywhere, but on both sides of my butt. (If people on the floor below me heard the sound of a dying chimpanzee, rest assured, it was only me, trying to work out in some misguided attempt at la sante.) 

          Not only do my abs look just about the same and as un-steely as ever, but I now have a strong Pavlovian-styled aversion to muscat, which may take a while to go away. I hobbled back to my apartment limping with both legs, and decided that next time, I'm just going to stick to the couch.

One of the last times I was in really great shape, for my birthday. I brought the picture to France as motivational material, but lately it has just been something I stare at mournfully while I shove pain au chocolat in my mouth. :-\

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Oh no...

          A few months ago, I was pleased to find out that my students had no idea what Jersey Shore was, and satisfied to know that it hadn't yet contaminated France. And then I saw this:

In the Marseille train station
          This is bad, bad news for us Americans. My students already ask me all the time "Is America really like Desperate Housewives?" "Is America just like Gossip Girl?" with the full belief that the answer is yes. This is NOT GOING TO HELP our reputation overseas. My students believe what they see on TV of America, and then apply it to all Americans. They are going to think that we are all overly-tanned, classless idiots.

          The end has begun.

          But since I'm already wasting precious moments of your life on Snooki, I might as well show you the completely amazing thing that she did on TV the other day. No one can describe it better than one of my favorite gossip blogs, wwtdd.com: "Snooki is roughly the size and shape (and color) of a basketball, so she should be good at rolling, but I was still genuinely shocked last night when she launched into a cartwheel-body splash onto Michelle McCool, getting the pin for her team to win their six way, inter-gender grudge match at Wrestlemania XXVII. Never in a million years would I have guessed she was athletic enough to pull that off. I couldn’t be any more amazed unless she proved she could read."

Friday, April 8, 2011

Le Printemps

          And for once, I'm not talking about shopping.

Be on the lookout for Ville Fleurie signs as you travel, because they represent how beautiful the public flower arrangements are in the town. The highest mark is four out of four flowers, and this town, Cassis, scored 3/4. 
          Spring has sprung, thank God, and I can happily see proof all around me. There are daffodils next to my bus stop, they're replanting the rose gardens in the Parc de la Tete d'Or, and leaves and blossoms are sprouting on the trees lining the avenues and the rivers. As someone who has never spent more than a month and a half outside California, I'm filled with the reassuring sense that things are becoming normal again.

The lake behind my favorite château of the Loire Valley, Château Azay le Rideau.
          Fall in France will always remind me of scarves, beautiful walks to school, and exploring the Loire Valley as it turned red, orange, and fold. Winter was a frightening time for me, and will always remind me of being bewildered and shivering, lost in dismal alien territory, clutching my numb fists in my pockets and pacing as I waited for the bus so that I wouldn't freeze in place. 

          But with spring, the tourist attractions are now open both earlier and later. The shops are filled with coral, white, and khaki clothes that I'm stocking up on as if they'll soon be currency. (Ok, so maybe I'm talking about shopping a little.) Everyone can eat outside at the cafes, which makes my neighborhood seem much more alive. If I so choose, I can go to work in my new, light-weight white trench coat, flats, and only one pair of pants, and I won't freeze to death! Life is good.

Flowers in Cannes

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

My April Fool's Day in France

The chocolate fish that you can find in stores everywhere around April 1st

Real French Fact #12: The French call April Fool's Day Poisson d'Avril, or April Fish. That is because they're a little limited on the sorts of pranks they pull, and by "limited" I mean exactly one joke-- putting paper fish on people's backs. (One fellow English Assistant who didn't know about this tradition came home with her back covered in little fish that said "I love you," among other things.) Oh, the French. They certainly know how to run one single joke into the ground over, and over, and over. 

          Despite being seemingly unrelated, I assure you it is a relevant fact that I think babies are wonderful. I love watching them, playing with them, and "Awwww!"-ing over how ridiculously small their shoes are. But I'm literally the only person my age I know who enjoys their miniature presence. All of my friends are disgusted by them. In their eyes, the fact that I would be anything but indifferent to their adorable pudge makes me the Crazy Baby Lady. I think that this is a little unfair. I'm 22 and thus far have never had a baby-- this should be a factor in my favor. As should the fact that I plan on waiting a good, long time before ever popping one out, so to speak. Just because I enjoy babies doesn't make me crazy, but I'm always aware of how my friends perceive my adoration, so I try to hide it, to be normal. Or at least not relentlessly mocked. 

          This was especially difficult on April Fool's Day at a restaurant in Vieux Lyon with my boyfriend, the most important person to hide my babymania from. I was facing a baby at another table, and my boyfriend was across our table from me, back to it, oblivious to its existence. Silently, I absorbed the baby's saggy little jeans, his teeny sneakers, and his cute mini, button-up dress shirt. My eyes flickered towards him once and a while, as I also concentrated on listening to my boyfriend. I will not stare at the baby, I will not stare at the baby, I will not stare at the baby.

         "France has been really fun," Boyfriend was saying, and I nodded, acutely aware that Baby was wiggling off his chair with a ferocious determination and tottering around. "I really liked the museum too," continued Boyfriend. The baby fell on his butt, blinked in shock, and stood up again. I pressed my lips together to hold in the exclamations of cuteness. I WILL NOT STARE AT THE BABY.

          "Oh, I thought the Roman ruins were the best," I added, no doubt sounding slightly strangled. The baby had it's foot in it's mouth. He stared at me with his giant eyes.

          "Yeah!" said Boyfriend. "It was-- Mel?" He raised an eyebrow. I must have been red in the face trying not to implode, or to wave and make a silly face, the way Crazy Baby Lady would.

          "Yeeeeees?" I squeaked, tearing my eyes away. Boyfriend turned around, saw the baby, and instantly understood, shooting m the exact look I had been trying to avoid, a look that said: "Your womb is like a baby-hungry monster, isn't it?"

          "IT IS NOT," I was about to glare with my eyes, when all of a sudden the baby turned around. 

          "AWWWWWWOMG IT HAS A LITTLE FISH STUCK TO HIS BACK! THAT IS SO CUTE! OMG! OMG!" I froze, and into my brain popped the idea that had to dispel Crazy Baby Lady rumors.  So I added, "... Um. But. I don't want children or anything." He stared at me, skeptical and confused. Frantically I continued, digging myself deeper and deeper into the Psychotic Girlfriend Hole: "You know. Yet." 


          "...Eventually. But not now, at all. Just at a normal... time... uh." Boyfriend watched me silently for a moment while I attempted to physically suck the words back into my mouth.

          "You realize that means someone pranked a baby, right?" Boyfriend said.

          "Yes, isn't it CUTE? It's a tiny fish! Cause he's tiny! Get it? Get it?! ...I'm not crazy!"

          You ever notice how saying "I'm not crazy!" never sounds credible, ever? Yeah. I think I lost this round.

On the bright side, I can now share with you this cute baby in a beret that we passed in Nice. On the down side, I'm now a super creepy person who takes pictures of babies in the street. :-\