Sunday, March 29, 2009

Just for Aunt Mary

For one of my loyal readers, I thought I would reply to all of her comments here.

1. I also wish we had a pedometer because we walked about a gazillion miles during the first half of our vacation. It would have been interesting to know. I'll just tell myself I walked a gazillion steps.

2. I'm sorry you hates me. You're going to hates me more when you see where I'm going next. (3 weeks till our next vacation!!!)

3. I don't know why I love the pot smell...It could easily induce vomiting, but I guess I associate it with our exciting trip to Amsterdam, sooo....uhthereyougo.

4. I was wondering where the Mary comments had gone- what were you doing in Mississippi?

5. I don't remember you talking about Miep Gies- that's incredible!!! We'll have to talk about that some more when I get back (in less than 2 months!!!)

6. The fact that I got to see Starry Night was definitely a little miracle. God has my bizzack. :)

7. I will definitely come back one day with the entire family!! It just isn't the same without you guys. Really. And hopefully I'll have some wisdom to share like how to keep us from spending money on silly tourist traps and how to navigate public transportation in various countries.

8. You didn't really convince me about the cowboy-roach dancers. Nope. haha

9. I don't want to translate that entry because it's just me whining.

10. I thought I should probably post that picture on xanga instead, but for some reason it's here...I guess I've been using the xanga for entries like "plein de tristesse" lately. Alas.


Anyway, I think I've waited too long to write about the rest of my vacation and now I'm pretty sure I've forgotten many things. I'll do my best to fill in the blanks later, but I have 3 tests this week, so we'll see how much I can actually accomplish.

In other news, Julia Jay finally came to see me in Orleans!! We had superfuntimes eating lots of $.87 cake and watching movies/youtube clips all weekend. Haha- it only took about an hour to show her the highlights of Orleans, so we enjoyed taking it easy this weekend in my dorm. However, I did take her to the flamingo park on Saturday, and it turns out that the room for papillons (butterflies) is free with your admission! It was amazing. Almost as amazing as seeing one of the male peacocks open his tail feathers!!! I don't think I've ever seen that in person. BEAUTIFUL (although it looked a little painful). But I think we were distracting the mating ritual (they flare out their feathers to attract the gray lady peacocks) because he wouldn't turn around to face the female peacocks so they could see the plumage. Surely they won't swoon if they can only see the guy's butt. Anyway, at one point, a rooster (that we actually heard cock-a-doodle-doo) crawled under the fence into the peacock's area while he still had his feathers spread out, so the peacock walked over to the rooster and shook his feathery display, making it bend like an awning over the rooster. The general theory proposed for the existence of flamboyant peacock tail feathers is sexual selection, but methinks there could be an element of defensive intimidation in it too...It was pretty terrifying to behold.

On Saturday night we actually cooked dinner! Alfredo chicken pasta with green peppers and artichoke hearts. Mmmm mmm. And then we had caramel tea and more delicious marble cake. I'm going to die of a heart attack.

Our most important goal for this weekend, however, was to plan for our next 2 week vacation. Julia's begins a week before mine, but for her second week and my first, we're going to...drum roll please...GREECE! Athens + Santorini (island). OH MY GOSH! And although this isn't final yet, the plan for my second week is-----LONDON. The tickets are really cheap right now, so it's very probable that I'm going to England. I might pass out from excitement just thinking about all of this. EEE!!!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

today my mind was transported back in time. and to mars.

the things one accomplishes in one's day...

plein de tristesse

Je vais échouer à tous mes examens.

Je déteste La France.

déteste déteste déteste

Je n'en peux plus

Au revoir mes notes. Faculté de droit. Ma vie.

Tant pis. Je ne voulais pas être avocate de toute façon.

Je dis toujours que je serai une clochard, n'est-ce pas?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Les étudiants français sont ridicules

Here is why the French are ridiculous:

For the second week in a row, my Monday classes have been cancelled à cause de la grève. That means geography, history and grammar will have make-up days during what could have been extra vacation time. It also means that I don't have a clue as to when I'll have to make up our history exam over the French Revolution, Napoleon and the political regimes of that time period.

For three months now our building has been on strike. However, because I'm not in real French classes, the strike hasn't affected me until last week (since we're all foreigners, our exchange coordinators/directors have tried to keep our schedule as normal as possible). Two weeks ago, the students piled all the chairs into one room and turned over all the tables in pretty much every classroom of the humanities building where all of my classes are located. Can we say, "CHILDISH"? Seriously- it didn't change the fact that we IDF (Institut de Français) kids were going to have class- it just made it more annoying for those of us who had to flip the tables back over and find the guy with the key to the room with all of the chairs. Ugh. Everyday I walk into Faculté des Lettres (our building) and a bunch of Frenchies sitting at tables covered in poster board, flyers, coffee and pastries (of which Kelley and I partook one day very stealthily...) glare at me because they know I'm going to class during their so-called "cause". Whatever. I'm not French and je m'en fiche. I'm certainly not going to skip class when that was the major purpose of STUDYING abroad. I don't know how they're getting an education by skipping 3 months of classes. Surely it will affect their diploma???

Grrawr. This week, our classes have all been moved to a building that is about 15 minutes away from my dorm. Je déteste les français. I don't even know where my classes are tomorrow. I just have to keep checking for signs (we're lucky if they'll put one moderately-sized piece of paper on one door of our usual building).

Surely there is a more intelligent way to get your ideas to M. Sarkozy.

AND OH MY GOODNESS. Today one of my professors was trying to compare the French government to ours. She didn't know what she was talking about. And when I called her out about the way our Senate is elected (she said it was elected by the elite like the French senators who are chosen by a select group of governing entities), she wouldn't really admit that she was wrong. First she didn't believe me that they are elected by popular vote in the US (yeah, lady, since the 17th amendment...geez) and then she said (roughly translated), "Well, I just meant that there are members of the US government who aren't directly chosen by the people, like France. Do the people choose the president in the US?" To which I replied something about the electoral college and she said, "Yes, that's what I meant- our senators are chosen indirectly like your president." YEAH RIGHT. Just admit that you were wrong and that America trumps France's pathetic copycat government. She also talked about political symbols in France like their "drapeau tricolore," and when she asked us what the white color of their flag meant, I had a very difficult time resisting the urge to yell, "Surrender!" (luckily I couldn't think of the word in French- remise- anyway).

France sure has made me patriotic...

I almost kicked some German ass the other day. Last week in the same civilization class where the above incident took place, we were discussing labor conditions in France. Our professor asked each of us if the French worked more or fewer hours than salaried workers in our own countries. The French have 35-hour work weeks. America wins again. But when some German girl had the audacity to say, "I've heard that even though Americans work longer hours, they work slower, so they actually work less" (to which the professor could only clumsily state, "I don't know if that's true"), I really had to hold myself down. I might have made a Nazi joke to Kelley. But come on! She had two American girls sitting right behind her!

America is the best. End of story.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Barcelona! One day at a time...

Wow, it's really about time I started re-capping Barcelona. Sorry, I was a little hesitant because we were there a lot longer than Amsterdam and we covered a LOT more ground.

Here goes...

When we got to the airport in Barrrrrthelona (the only way I allowed myself to pronounce the city's name while we were there...), the sun said, "Bienvenidos!" Sunshine might not seem like a big deal to anyone back home, but it has been rare in gray gray France, so when we finally saw some in Spain, it was miraculous. And methinks a good omen! We all sang and danced a little jig. Everyone instinctively knows we're American anyway-- no harm in drawing more attention, right?

After lugging our stuff to the shuttle bus stop, we paid a whopping 4.25 Euros to get to Placa Catalunya (that's as far as the bus would go) and at that lovely pigeon-filled square, we got incredibly lost for a ridiculous amount of time. We tried for several minutes to figure out the maps of all the bus routes, but they made absolutely no sense. I'm convinced that you have to channel Einstein to read bus maps and schedules. Especially in Barcelona. We ended up asking an info desk for tourists (twice) how to get to our hostel. They told us to take the metro. Ahhh, the metro. How you have become my friend in so many cities! It's cheaper in both Barcelona and Madrid to ride the metro than it is in Paris. In fact, everything was cheaper in Spain...friggin' Frenchies...

So, we take the metro to Barceloneta—a little peninsula of restaurants and super meerkats (haha- a.k.a. supermarkets in Catalan- 'supermercat')--that eventually leads to the beach where our hostel is. At this point I was really sick of pulling my stupid suitcase around and carrying my messenger bag that felt a lot heavier than when I left Orleans (I didn't really buy much in Amsterdam...), and I was definitely regretting not having a backpack like the other girls. Stupid me. I am the worst packer ever. I truly brought the most idiotic junk possible to France. I have so much advice to give future study abroad students.

Anyway, we fiiiinally get to Sea Point Hostel. As the name suggests, it's right on the beach!!! Sweet! The inside is wonderfully light and airy- lots of pale blues and yellows. In the little room next to the reception desk, there are a couple of couches and three computers with free internet! That was a definitely a comfort to have while we were there. Especially because they're open 24-hours. There are also some little sea-related paintings on the walls of the hostel, but my favorite part of the decor---Alice in Wonderland quotes pasted on the walls! So quirky and adorable. Love love.

We asked for some advice from the nice reception desk lady (I definitely called her the 'front lady desk' at some point while we were my foreign language skills improve, my English deteriorates), and she told us that the Magic Fountain (the one place you told me to go, Mom) was closed and kind of lame and she pointed out all the major shopping districts, sketchy areas, and tourist sights. Very helpful. This hostel seemed a lot more laid-back and personable than the Bull Dog in Amsterdam. Well, the Bull Dog was definitely laid-back, but in a...stoned way, not in an I-live-on-the-beach-because-I-take-life-easy way.

Starving, and after learning that all of the restaurants on Barceloneta were pretty much the same, we finally just picked one at random and sat down--outside! It was lovely! Although, I'll confess that my toes did start to freeze because I was wearing flip flops (Kelley and I wanted to put our feet in the sand as we were heading to the restaurant). Well my friends, sunshine does not = warmth. Blast. But lunch was tasty and expensive. I ordered pollo (that sounds more exciting and Spanish than if I had just written "chicken") and a coke (I had learned by this time that there is no point in ordering water if it costs the same as a coke! That's at least one thing France has over the rest of Europe- free water- woo). During our first Spanish meal, I had already managed to horrify our waitress with my grossly inept use of her language and I even found time to embarrass myself by cracking up a British couple next to us with my loud American antics (I was reading an informational map about Barcelona and when I read that Gaudi died by getting run over by the tram, I might have shouted, "HOW DO YOU GET RUN OVER BY THE TRAM?")...

After lunch, Kelley and I went out exploring by the beach. We took a walk along the boardwalk (oh yes, we sang the song) and on the street-side, we saw that a (possibly flamenco?) dance class was in session! So cool! We saw them dancing twice in that building while we were there (the second time looked like a hip hop class)- I wish we could have joined them! I want to take so many dance classes when I get back home. I've probably been watching too many So You Think You Can Dance youtube clips lately...That show is intense.

Anyway, after strolling down the boardwalk some more and wishing we had bicycles like the rest of Europe, we then stepped down to the beach where a group of nifty-looking lounge chairs and a small space of exercise equipment (where some Spanish guy doing chin-ups was definitely trying to impress Kelley and me) led to a large, rocky platform. At the start of the platform there was a no-people sign. On my first day in Barcelona, I broke the law. Somebody else was already out on that platform anyway and as we walked across it, all of the large rocks and cement blocks were painted or sculpted with various animals, skulls, etc. Clearly that platform was made for people to see! It was an exhibition! Silly signs...silly suis francais maintenant! Vive la revolution!

We sat by the rocks, watching the loverly sunset, and then we went back to the boardwalk-- all the way down to the harbor. Oh the splendiferous architecture we saw along the way! And not just Gaudi's either. Just along the beach, there are several interesting buildings like this ginormous copper fish (constructed for the 1992 Olympics), a big face sculpture (titled "David and Goliath"), a colorful statue from the Paralympics and a neato tower/memorial whose plaque I could not understand (Catalan is even more difficult to read than Spanish). We also found a cute little shopping area in the ritzy part of town whose third floor provides a nice view of the harbor. Since it had gotten dark, we went back to the hostel to meet up with Laura.

At the hostel, we made some new friends! Americans! New Yorkers! They were also on break from school in Paris. Veronica and Gary. Gary said his name was easy to remember because all one need do is think of the snail in SpongeBob. :) Anyway, they had already been in Barcelona for a little while and they told us to come with them to Tarantos for our first night- it's a flamenco dance show popular with tourists (flamenco dance definitely didn't come from Barcelona...haha). And it was only 6 Euros! So, of course we agreed and went with the Yankees to Tarantos! ;)

On the way there, we saw the famous Columbus monument. Too bad it was already dark- I couldn't even see the top of the statue. Despite the poor lighting, we decided it would be classy to take lots of pictures sitting on top of the lions around the monument. The flamenco show wasn't scheduled to start for a while, so we probably spent way too long doing our sassy little photo shoot, but what can you do? We are American tourists. Ooh- that reminds me- I found this written along Port Vell one night---

I found out later that written right next to "tourist terrorist", somebody wrote, "Do you not know how the economy works?" BAHAHAHAHA

When we finally got to the famous square where Tarantos is located (Placa Reial), Gary (who actually speaks Spanish) talked to the bouncer-looking dude who told us that they would start selling tickets for the next show in about 30 or so minutes. So we hung out around the fountain (there are lampposts there designed by Gaudi!) for a while talking about how lovely Barcelona is, how ugly French weather is, and eventually about how we all surprisingly missed speaking/hearing French (Veronica and Gary have the opportunity to speak French more often than the rest of us because they both stay with French families in Paris...). While we were waiting in line, we even spoke a little French to each other (but that lasted for about...2 minutes).

Show time! Although we were early getting to Tarantos, we got distracted and ended up getting in line to buy tickets kind of late, so we had some semi-crappy seats to the left of the stage where the 10-foot band member who plays a box (he beats it with his hands and feet) blocked my view half the time. Alas.

First, the band- consisting of a wicked cool singer, an amazing guitar player, a bluesy bass player and the box guy- played some awesome songs (you can listen to them here: and then the first dancer finally came. She. Was. So. Intense. In flamenco, you're supposed to feel the music, and boy howdy, you could tell she was dancing from her soul. I'm surprised the floor held up with how fast and hard she and the others stomped on it. I took some mini-videos of her, but they turned out kind of cruddy because I just wanted to watch. Maybe I'll try posting them when my internet is working better.

Then. Then then then. The love of my life came on stage. Oh goodness- I didn't know men could dance like that- and in a suit no less! This guy could make any woman "flood" the room, as Laura would say. Hahahahaha- so many inappropriate jokes. Love-of-my life liked to do this move where he would quickly remove part of his jacket from his shoulder on one or both sides and then he would put it back immediately--it was incredibly attractive, but difficult to describe. At one point during this heartthrob move, Laura, who was sitting in front of me, turned around at the same time I was reaching over to her because we were both going to tell each other, "Cause of death", but we ended up bumping heads. Haha- "cause of death" is another inside joke that's probably best not to explain here...

Oh goodness- I seriously would have done lots of really horrible/immoral things to dance with love-of-my-life, but as fate would have it, he was wearing a wedding ring. Slash...he was kind of old. But dude. He made me literally weak in the knees. Haha

To finish it off, a little girl danced flamenco so well, it should be humanly impossible. She was probably 4 or 5-years-old. My life has no meaning.

We all floated back to the hostel on a cloud, getting some goodies at the grocery store nearby before going to bed. I bought clementines, Spanish pastries and chocolate milk. I have some serious health issues.

J'ai fini day one of Barcelona. Geez. This is going to have to come in installments.