Sunday, January 30, 2011

I Got Out!! Imagine That!!

Today was a great day for me. I did absolutely nothing the entire day, which was quite nice, until 7:00 at night when my friend, Jess, and I decided we would get out for some human interaction.

We both live in Villeurbanne aka: the ghetto quarter of Lyon and since we don't have much money, we really don't get out that often. Tonight we decided to go out to the ol' faithful Vieux Lyon, considering it had been over one month since we paid it a visit. We ran into a few other Americans and had good laughs and great talks all night. As Jess and I were walking to the metro, naturally we passed the Basilique de Fourvrière, and we both were refreshed with the fact that, yes in fact, we do live in Lyon - a beautiful city with a history that lasts longer than the life of our own country. I stood there just about 150 feet below the cathedral in awe. Do understand, since I never get out, I rarely ever see it.. this is a terrible shame.. Anyway, I had to RUB my eyes to make sure that what I was looking at was real and not a dream.

The pictures do not justify its beauty, but please look at these pictures below to understand what I am talking about. The first picture is obviously a night picture and is the setting in which I saw the cathedral tonight. The second picture I like because the dark and light contrasts show you its defining features in the architecture which make is sooo preettty. =)

I'm sure that you people who read my blog have seen this cathedral a few times, but as you know, it doesn't matter how many times I see it.. It is amazing everytime. France will always be something special to me for exact reasons like this. This is not the first and not the last time that I will say this, but you will just never find architecture like this in America.. it just won't happen. Ever.

Friday, January 21, 2011

1 person living in 2 countries.

You know what is really stressful? Living your life in two countries at the same time.

Upon my arrival in France, it would have been ideal to completely forget about my burdens in America, so then I could just handle my burdens in France.. but it doesn't work like that. I don't even think America knows that I am not there right now.. maybe the consulat in Los Angeles knows, but who else? I also don't think they know that I have a social security number in a different country.. isn't that weird?? So as long as they know, I am still in America!!

Over the past 4 months here, my life in America and my life here in France have just gotten harder and harder. While I am juggling finances in France now, I am also continuing to pay bills in America. This was given that I would have to do this, but a new bill has been thrown upon me: school loans. AHHH, 6 month grace period is not nearly long enough. You are probably asking, why don't you just defer your loans if you can't pay them right now? Well you know, I'm trying! But I was informed way too late about a bill and did not have time to apply for deferment. *sigh* stressful. Upon bills, I have to think about saving money to get back to the United States. For some reason, one way flights to the U.S in July are double the price of round trip flights right now.. pas compris.

So saving/managing money in France for my life in America while living in France at the same time is not the easiest thing. Before coming here, I said that I don't know when I am coming home because honestly, I considered it possible that I would renew my contract for another year.. but now, I am confident to say that I will be home in the next 6 months. My life spread across two countries is just too cluttered to alloz it to last another year and a half.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Reprend le Role du Touriste.

So I have realized that I am taking for granted the time that I have here in France. I wanted to come here and try to live the life as a French resident. You know, be "French," whatever that means. I wanted to just stay in my own city and experience life in the city. I didn't want to travel around as a tourist. It was almost as if I had convinced myself that I would be able to assume a French character, as if I was temporarily not myself. But to be French would be to not appreciate the country and the culture from the perspective of an outsider. To most places in the world, France is a beautiful, cultivated and rich land with lots of history. It is a country with a lasting reputation of creativity, arts, love, intelligence. This is the France that I fell in love with when I took my first French class in 2008.

So today it hit me. I am not going to ever assume a French character and I am okay with that. But with the few months that remain I need to resume my role as a tourist. As a tourist I will be able to file away the problems that I have had with French administration and government run organizations. I can once again appreciate the wonderful that France is.

But how will I do this? I don't have amazing funds, but I will try to make it work - even if hitchhiking is a way of transportation!! ;) The following places are where I want to visit before I go home.

The region of Normandy
  • The artist Claude Monet was especially inspired by this area of France and painted many Normandy landscapes. I would love to see what his eyes saw
  • I would also love to see Mont St. Michel. As you see in the picture below, it is absolutely beautiful, but one of the reasons why it is famous is due to the ocean's extremely high tide and very low tide that has formed it into the tidal island that it is today. Super cool! =) If you don't get off of the land before the tide rises, you could be stuck there until the tide goes back down!

  • As many of you may know, I already posted a few months ago why I want to go to Nantes. The song from Beruit, titled "Nantes" is my inspiration to go.
  • Also, Nantes is located in the Brittany region, which unfortunately I don't know too much about, but would like to discover. Apparently Brittany used to be a small province within itself and had a duke and dutchess!! I really love seeing France's medieval parts =) It is definitely something you would NEVER find on the North American continent, that is why it's so cool.
  • I also remember when studying the art of Paul Gauguin that he spent a lot of his career in Brittany, so naturally, again I am interested in seeing another area that inspired an amazing artist.
  • Corsica is an island south of France located in the Mediterranean Sea. All I have heard are great things about Corsica. My friend, Mathéa, always tells me how beautiful it is. Some of you might know that I love her name and hope to name one of my future children Mathéa, and the name comes from Corsica, so obviously I have to go ;)
  • The Chateau of Versailles was the palace of the three kings Louis XIV, Louis XV and Louis XVI. I have actually already been to the chateau in 2005, but the one thing that I wanted to see there was under construction, and that is the Hall of Mirrors.

  • I have obviously been here a few times, but I feel like you can never get enough of it. I wish to one day go here by myself so I could spend an entire day at one museum, but I'm not sure if I can do that hehe. Good news is that I am going to Paris in three weeks AND Disneyland Paris at that!!! I absolutely cannot wait for this. I dream about it. hehe.
If I succeed to visit all these places, I will be completely satisfied. =) I know that sometimes I complain about being in France, but I mean, when I talk about these beautiful historical French cities and post these amazing pictures, it does make me realize that I am going to miss this place when I go home - and this is good because then I will always be able to view France from the perspective of an outsider. I will continue to remember it with that perfect image of beauty, history and love.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

She Wears Ribbons in Her Hair

I must first show you the adorable Christmas present that I received from my sister - the packaging has everything to do with this post.

Yes, it is sideways, but I couldn't figure out how to rotate a picture on blogger. lol Anyway, I was so happy to receive a present that wasn't just placed in a package, but actually wrapped! It was as if I were opening the gift at home.. I loved the wrapping paper, the fact that she wrote "To: Mallory ♥Melissa" and the ribbon. When I saw the ribbon I thought, "YAY! =) It's red and silky! This is a perfect hair accessory!" hehe =)

Well yesterday I finally decided to use my new hair accessory. I was asked 4 times, "What is that in your hair?" This question was asked by 3 Frenchies and one British. When the last one expressed his confusion as to why I had a ribbon in my hair, I then asked him, "Is it not normal to wear ribbons in your hair in France or something? You are the 4th person to ask me this!" And he said, "Yea, girls don't do that here."

Well, you know what France? It is absolutely normal and ADORABLE to wear ribbons in your hair!!!

Here is proof:

The late 70's band, The Cars, have a song "Just What I Needed" where they sing about a girl that wears ribbons in her hair.

Also, her are many pictures.

Adorable little girl.

Random grown girl who knows that wearing ribbons is totally cute and makes you feel super girly!

Audrey Hepburn.. really I shouldn't even show any more pictures.. Audrey is all we need. If Audrey does it, you should do it. She is the epitome of beauty and class. However, I will continue anyway.

Kelly Osbourne .. I think. ;)

They are even in the arts! You see, Roy Lichtenstein understood the ribbon.

I don't need to justify the ribbon, though, it justifies itself ;) It's feminine, it's youthful and it's playful.. If your girls don't wear ribbons, they should! =)

And Melissa, thank you so much for my new hair accessory. I will definitely wear it again.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

"Talk to the Snail"

My best friend, that you should all know by now, Melissa Hernandez, is currently reading the book posted below, and she can't stop talking to me about it. I am now persuaded to read this book because, as an American living in France, I think it will do me good.

You see, I feel like France is defeating me and I am about to surrender just to return back to the United States. Unfortunately this is not a battle that I can just forfeit because I am on contract so I gotta tough it out. You are probably asking, but why Mal? Why is France so hard for you? Well, let me tell you, France administration is AWFUL! There are endless amounts of paperwork, they only believe in postal mail, internet isn't preferred here yet, and they are never satisfied with what you send as your paperwork THUS anything and everything with the administration TAKES FOREVER. Have I mentioned that customer service does not exist? Oh, and I am not talking about just in restaurants, it's everywhere. Right now the gas company is my enemy. If you call them about a complaint, don't expect to hear, "Good day, ma'am, how can we make your customer experience better?" no.. you will just get a lady/man who is extremely rude and blunt with you who will refuse to help your problem, even if the problem is their fault. The French language is still very difficult for me and I hate the fact that a store/any establishment closes whenever they want, for no reason at all. The French do what they want, and that is the end of it.

The titles of the chapters in this book seem to address exactly what I am complaining about. Take a look. My favorites, the chapters that I find personal to my experience, are numbers: 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10.

1 Thou shalt be wrong (if you’re not French) – Why every Frenchman is Monsieur Right.
2 Thou shalt not work – Why long weekends are good for the French economy.
3 Thou shalt eat – Just because it smells of pig’s droppings doesn’t mean it’ll taste like them.
4 Thou shalt be ill – Getting the best out of the French national drug habit.
5 Thou shalt speak French– Fun ways to mispronounce words and offend people.
6 Thou shalt not sing (in tune, anyway) – A French artiste says, ‘pretentious, moi?’
7 Thou shalt not know – Don’t mention the war, nuclear power, tax or structural surveys.
8 Thou shalt not love thy neighbour – Oui, I am smoking into your dinner, et alors?
9 Thou shalt not be served – Garçon? Waiter? Bonjour? Oh, forget it.
10 Thou shalt be polite (and simultaneously rude) – Bonjour Madame, vous êtes une idiote.
11 Thou shalt say ‘I Love You’ – The perils of French-style amour.

I want to buy this book now, but you know, it will take me sometime because France is really expensive and likes to surprise you with unexpected bills, so I currently don't have the money. Let me say though, I don't hate France okay. I still admire the French culture, it is actually quite amusing and I love that they still hold their reputation as an artistic and romantic country. Also, if I could speak the language with perfect conjugations, perfect liaisons and perfect idioms then I would love the language and agree that it is the prettiest language that exists. I am just happy to have figured out that I like France as a place to read about, a place to see in movies and a place to visit a few times in a lifetime. I will always hold France close to my heart, however, I was not born French, but American, therefore I just cannot accept French culture as my own.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Oh-So-Ignorant and Foolish Élève.

"Élève," pronounced eh-lev, is the french name for a student whether he/she is in elementary school, middle school or high school.

Today I want to call out one of my élèves from CM2 - 5th or 6th grade. As I was walking past a group of my CM2 kids, they all greeted me with a nice and loud, "HELLO!" I love when my kids say "hello" to me because I feel like it validates me as their English teacher and it gives me a little dose of assurance that they like the fact that I am there to teach them English. Well, after this group told me hello, one student said, after I had passed of course, "On dit bonjour là, on n'est pas en Angleterre!" Translated: We say "bonjour" here, we are not in England."

I of course just walked on and brushed the snide comment off of my shoulder, but I have to admit that I was a teensy bit offended and you know what I have to say to that!?! Number one: RUDE. Number two: What an ignorant and foolish child that 11 year old is. He has been learning English since the age of 6, maybe even 5.

What makes me so mad about the kids who don't want to participate in English class is that they don't realize how lucky they are!! I would be in such better shape intellectually and better fit for a job - I am sure - if I had the chance to learn a second language when I was a child. NO. In California they don't care about that. It was an option, just an OPTION, to take a second language when I was in high school! And there was no way that the educational system was going to pay for native speakers of the language to come teach at their schools and live in their country in order to better the quality of the language courses. In fact, my university, UCLA, actually tried to eliminate the language department this past year!

I think that my plan for the next time I teach these classes in which there are rude/disruptive kids, I am first going to ask the class, "Who wants to learn English today?" Those who don't raise their hands, I'm kicking them out!!!!!!!! No really, I am. I am going to say, "okay good. you can sit with the teacher and work on something else while I teach the smart kids English, something that will better them in the future. I don't want to waste my time on someone who doesn't want to try."

UGH! And you know what?! I'M NOT EVEN ENGLISH!!!!!! I HATE when kids confuse England with America.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

What is _______ like in France?

As you all know, the month of December has now passed and we are now in the year 2011. This means I have now experienced two special holidays in a different country, something I have never done before. Many people asked me, "What is Christmas like in France?" or "What is New Years like in France?" My answer is that well, it really isn't that different. Sure there are small little traditions that may differ from my home in America, but at the end of the day, France celebrates these holidays just like we do. The only thing that I found really different was that I didn't have my family, and that made the holidays seem just about non-existent. Besides that though, I am sure you all want to know the little traditions that the French have for these holidays, so I will share.

Christmas music:

This is about non-existent in France. The French will argue this one with me and say, "NOn NOn NOn... we have "Petit Papa Noel!" But see, that is the point.. THAT IS THE ONLY SONG THEY HAVE! and it is AWFUL! So in order to lift my December holiday spirits this year, I wasn't able to turn to Sunny 102.3 and hear Jingle Bell Rock, but my dear Melissa Hernandez sent me a wonderful list of all the Christmas classics, and I did get to stroll down the streets, listening to Jingle Bell Rock, with a smile on my face.

Christmas decorations:

Yes, the French do put Christmas trees in their houses/apartments, but ALL the trees are soooo tiny and usually deformed haha. I assume this is because the French, in Lyon at least, typically don't have houses with large windows to show of their gorgeous large evergreens, and it isn't necessarily an easy task to maneuver a large and pretty tree up the tiny elevators to French apartments.

As far as Christmas lights go.. some people do participate, but you aren't going to find a neighborhood where all the houses have participated in some sort of Christmas light competition or synchronized tradition so that people can drive around and admire the beautiful Christmas decorated houses.

Christmas dinner:

So the big grocery advertisements during Christmas time in France are "foie gras" and salmon. The French eat these two items as appetizers on bread with butter or lemon juice. Foi Gras is probably one of the most disgusting things you can ever eat. It is a spread made from the liver of either a goose or duck that has been force fed.. do you understand what this means? Poor birdies had food shoved down their throats over and over again to get fat. I found on wikipidea that in 2004, California prohibited the act of force feeding birds for the purpose of enlarging the bird's liver beyond normal size, as well as the sale of products that are a result of this process. Crazy, huh? AND I ate this crap!!! I assure you though, only once, cause I refused after.

As a main dish, they usually eat some sort of fancy meat. I have never been one to really appreciate meat, and to be honest, I really don't care, but the meat I had on Christmas was AMAZING. I don't know what it was, but apparently it was really expensive. 4 of us ate, and I think the meat we all ate cost about 80 or 90 EURO total.. wow.

My Christmas day was pretty much awful.. I mean, I don't want to be ungrateful because my good friend Mathéa invited me over for Christmas dinner at her momma's house in Swizterland, but the thing is that I spent maybe a total of 4 waking hours with them. Half of my Christmas Eve and 3/4 of my Christmas day were spent in a train station. All trains to Lyon kept getting canceled and there was one point where I seriously thought that I was going to have to sleep in the freezing cold train station. I was crying, I was shivering, it was not fun. But once I finally got to Lyon, I got to call/skype my family and see everyone, and that was really nice =)

New Years in France.

Throughout my life on New Years day, I always wondered during different hours of the day which countries have already reached the new year.. hehe and this year, I was in a different country. It was totally weird. I called my mom when it was midnight here and it was only 3 o'clock in the afternoon in California... still 2010. Hehe just a weird idea. I had a very nice New Years though. I was treated to a ballet at the Lyon Opera and then came home to make Mexican food!! mmmmm! =)

French New Years traditions:

Eat a Gallete des Rois. This is a puffed pastry cake-like thing with marzipan in the middle!!! MMM! = Almond paste. So when you buy one of these pastries, it comes with a paper king's crown because inside the dessert is a surprise and whoever finds the surprise become the king of the night! lol and guess what... I FOUND THE SURPRISE!!!! too bad it was a creepy ceramic virgin Mary haha.. but I became the queen, and that's all that matters ;)

Unfortunately France doesn't have New York city, meaning there is no giant shiny ball that drops to the new year, so that was a little disappointing, but no big.. That is one of those things I think we take for granted in the U.S.. I mean, its super cool to be able to turn on the T.V and count down to the new year with millions of other people!! haha and when you don't have it, it sort of lowers the excitement of a new years celebration.

Now that all the holidays are over, I am a bit relieved. It was a fun experience, but I wouldn't choose to celebrate these holidays away from home again. New experiences like these are necessary so that we can appreciate what we have and also so that we can celebrate with our traditions on an even greater scale next time we are home! hehe =)

I hope you all have a great year! This is the year I come back home!