Monday, April 27, 2009

A month and a week

Yes, I'm still alive and in France. I haven't died of butter over-consumption yet. Actually, for a change, I've been pretty darn busy, and so blogging got pushed further and further from the front of my mind. I've been doing all sorts of other important things like tasting all the desserts I can get my hands on, lounging at cafes with friends, and trying to come up with a thesis statement for one of my final exams.

That's right--exams are a mere few weeks away. My last class is next Wednesday afternoon, and then the nightmare begins. I have two oral exams to give and one written. Written exams are a piece of gateau for me--I might not be able to talk my way out of a wet paper bag, but I can write my way out provided I have the right type of writing utensil. I've been known to come up with some terribly attractive turns of phrase, and although I tend to drift into purple prose mode (Virginia Woolf ruined me at an early age), written exams do not scare me at all. Oral exams, however, tend to be frightening, and taking oral exams in your second language isn't exactly something you look forward to. But after discussions with my professors about the particulars of the oral expose, I feel a little better, if only for the fact that they sound as if they will take pity on me

The tricky thing about these exams is that the French have their own way of doing things, and there is one specific way that one should give an expose. In the states, I go to a nice, open-minded liberal arts school where giving a presentation has no structure, and pretty much any way you do it is fine so long as your point is well made. Power points are great. Overhead transparencies are great. No visual aid is great. It's all just great. Here, that is not the case. There is a method. There is a class given to help you learn this method, which I unfortunately missed because it was given last semester. So I've tried to learn by gleaning and watching the other students give their exposes, but it's just not that simple, and I tend to be a little rebellious when someone tells me that there is only "one way" of doing something. Whatever.

The first two photos in this post are from Strasbourg. I was there the day after the G20 summit, so I missed the riots, unfortunately (hey, can you really blame me for wanting to see them? history in the making my friends), but I got to see and be intimidated by the hundreds of cops wearing full-body armor and carrying shields around town. I don't know what it is about cops, but they generally scare me. I don't care who you are. If you carry around a gun, you scare me.

But Strasbourg. Strasbourg is a beautiful city. It's small enough to be walkable (although the tramway is pretty cool, and while I didn't use it it looked straighforward and efficient), but big enough to be worth a couple of days there. We (my boyfriend J. and I) did not have the traditional choucroute garnie or a flammenkuche, but we did see the cathedral pretty much all the time (it's hard not to see the cathedral all the time), and we enjoyed the canals, which are great for taking long walks. Any city with canals has an undeniable charm.

Yesterday my friends and I (all from North America) were talking about the things we miss about home, the things we will miss about France, and the first things we will do when we get home. Apart from sleeping (how do people sleep in second class on planes?), I will probably take my car for a little spin. Honestly, I don't miss my car here. Walking everywhere has been wonderful, and you certainly see more when you walk than when you drive. And yet, I do miss my car. That ability to go wherever you want whenever you want. Rolling down the windows and letting the wind whip some life into you. Ah, yes, I do miss that. I'm also going to practice my parallel parking when I get back. I've watched so many French people do it perfectly that I feel I might be able to imitate them. I'm a terrible parallel parker.

I will also eat a sausage biscuit and buy some root beer. I will wear my pajamas to the grocery store. I will get dirty. I will go back to work and love it. But then, of course, there are things I will miss about France. I will miss the good bread, the good pastries and desserts and the macarons, the little old women and men carrying their baguettes under their arms, the cathedral across the street from my house, the endless conversations at cafes, the TGV...

I will not miss French boys. The French people--wonderful, friendly, great people. French boys--overrated. I've been yelled at, honked at, whistled at, stared at more than I care to think about. I'm constantly on guard when I go out, and I pretty much never go out alone after 9 p.m. Maybe I should be flattered, but really I'm just irritated and wish they would all just back off. I think that in the states women are more aggressive, and so guys don't try their luck by making crude advances. There are also probably a lot more sexual harassment laws and regulations. Whatever the reason, I don't have trouble with this in the states. I could probably count on one hand the times I've been honked at, and to my recollection I've never been yelled at. Here, it's a daily thing, and while there are plenty of guys who don't act like complete fools, there are enough for it to be annoying.

The short story is that I only have about a month and a week left. I'll miss this place, but I'm ready to get back to my real life--goat-wrangling and cheese slinging.
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