Saturday, December 27, 2008

Why I'm going to call this a post-Christmas cleanse

Talia's visit is starting off with a real bang, as less than 24 hours after her arrival I bundled her up and put her on a train to Paris to enjoy a day at the Louvre, by herself. She doesn't speak French or know her way around the city or the train system, but I did give her a map, because that's just the sort of hostess I am. The kind who invites her best friend to travel thousands of miles by airplane and spend hundreds of dollars to come visit for five days, and then gaily pushes her out the door saying, "Have fun! Don't forget your mittens!" Canaan and I, meanwhile, are spending the day huddled under comforters in our pajamas, waiting out the after-effects of some kind of stomach bug/food poisoning/turns-out-it's-not-a-hangover-after-all form of rampant, full-body ick. One of us spent the night retching into a toilet of questionable cleanliness while the other alternately shivered and sweated on the couch while watching a show about ice fishing and desperately trying to think happy, non bile-inducing thoughts.

Other than that the Christmas holidays have been very pleasantly spent so far, beginning with a trip to Normandy that included oysters, foie gras, champagne, and opening presents at midnight. It also included a visit to the majestic Mont Saint-Michel and a shell-seeking mission on a cold and windy beach.

Saint Michel was one hell of an architect

Personally, I would have added an exclamation point

Buggies on the beach

Dazed & Droopy

Healthy, happy, and blissfully unaware of upcoming stomach trauma

Christmas day itself was spent mostly on trains, while Christmas night found us at the luxurious abode of the Evolving Revolver, who hosted a party for us Christmas orphans. We ate good food, drank good wine, and chatted with some lovely and hilarious people. All of this was followed by a White Elephant gift exchange, also known as a Yankee Swap, and people, I must have the best Yankee Swap luck. Remember how I lucked out last year with Noodle the dachshund? (You all remember Noodle, right?) Check out my catch this year...

Framed Korean masks! And their braids are made of string and swing back and forth when you shake them! The absolute best part of this gift, however, is the English translation of the story, which I will take the liberty of transcribing for you:

(Important Intangible Cultural Asset No. 69)
The Mask of Hahoe Byeolsin Exorcism
The exorcism was originated from Hahoe-ri, Pungcheon-myeon, Andogkun, Kyeong-buk, Korea. According to the legend, the Hahoe mask was made by a boy named Heo by the revelation of god at the middle age of Konyo Dynasty. However, it is known that the boy was died by the anger of god at the moment when a girl who has been in one sided love made a hole on the door of work and looks at his working on the mask.

A lesson to us all, really. Should you find yourself in one-sided love, make not a hole on the door of work, lest you too be died. It's sad when you realize that most angry god-related deaths are completely preventable...

I hope everyone's holidays were equally pleasant, though hopefully less nausea-inducing. I'm off to take a nap and maybe comtemplate the possibility of eating something at some point. (Baby steps). A bientôt.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Why all I want for Christmas is not to be someone's back-up plan

Internet, I feel I'm usually a pretty intuitive person when it comes to men. When I meet a guy and then he asks me out again I think, Hey, maybe he's into me. And when I never hear from him again I think, Aha, not interested. (Yes, I know my powers of perception are astounding). But every once in a while a guy comes along who doesn't fall into either category, and frankly, I'm left scratching my head. Please follow along with me as I present this brief timeline:

November 8: Go on first date with Emmanuel. A reasonably good time is assumed to be had by all.

November 9: Receive Okcupid message from E stating his sincere wishes for my safe return the night before, and giving me his actual, non-Okcupid e-mail address for future correspondence. He closes with his vague intention to attend a movie with me "one of these days."

November 10: Reply to his e-mail indicating that I had a very pleasant time on our date and would be more than happy to attend a movie with him in the near future, and to let me know when would be best for him.

November 12: E replies that we will keep each other updated in order to hopefully go see a movie the next week. Given that he sends the e-mail on a Wednesday, his wording of "next week" leads me to suspect we may have a non-date on our hands.

November 15: I politely reply affirming my continued desire to see a movie together, and once more to let me know when would be convenient for him. I close with my sincere wishes for him to pass a relaxing weekend, as he is obviously very busy at the moment.

Two weeks later...

November 29: E replies indicating that he was out of town the last weekend, and actually the weekends before that too, and he has a lot of work this week. But he still hopes we can get together to see a movie! I click my heels in the air in glee and start planning my date outfit. And by that I mean wait three days to send him a two sentence reply.

December 2: I reply that I as well was out of town the last weekend, and that maybe when he has some time we can get together.

And then, just when I think I've heard the last of him...17 days later...!

December 19: E-mail from E telling me about a website that he says is like the "French Craigslist;" this after I complained about the lack of used home furnishings available in France on our date. (Our date that took place six weeks ago. And counting...) He ends with his wish to see me "soon" for a movie or a drink.

Internet, tell me...I often read too much into things when it comes to guys. Is it possible I'm reading too little into this?

On another note, this may be the last you will hear of me for a little while, as between the 23rd of December and the 5th of January I will be traveling, celebrating, drinking, meeting fellow ex-pat bloggers, and having a riotous time with Canaan, Talia, and Elizabeth when they come to save me from being sad and alone in (the suburbs of) Paris during this holiday season. Saints, all of them, and the Evolving Revolver, too, for hosting a Christmas night party and sleepover for all of us not-quite-orphaned-but-it-feels-like-it souls stuck here on the other side of the Atlantic this Christmas. I'm already humming There's No Place Like Paris for the Holidays...

Cheers everyone, and here's wishing all of you a Merry Christmas (or not, as you prefer) and a Happy New Year!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Why optimism is insane

Christmas has come early around here; after holding out for over two months, Meetic (the French, if you will) has offered me a free three month pass, no strings attached. (Although, we all know how my last No Strings Attached Experiment ended. Here's hoping that this faceless corporation knows how to treat a girl). Two days in and I am already conversing with handsome, bearded strangers on the Internet. Given how my last encounter with a handsome, bearded stranger from the Internet ended, however, it does beg the question: Will I ever learn? I believe it was Einstein who said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. In which case, I am obviously certifiably insane. I keep banging my head against this brick wall, hoping that just once the bricks will crumble and a handsome prince will be waiting on the other side. But up to now, all I've gotten is a headache. (And this prince talk aside, we all know I'm not some hopeless romantic. I'm not into royal lineage or fairy tales- at this point, just a guy who calls me back would be nice). I know, I know...this try, try again attitude clashes with my natural and deep-seated pessimism. You think that under this gruff exterior there is probably a sunny optimist just dying to break free, right? Well fear not, dear readers. There is no metamorphosis taking place here, and this caterpillar isn't planning on pinning on her butterfly wings anytime soon. Let's just say that in my naturally dark and perverse way, I am determined to prove what deep down I already suspect: that I will never find anyone and I will be alone forever.

And so in lieu of New Year's Resolutions, which I have never really been that into in the first place, I offer this challenge to the new year: Bring it, 2009. In 2008 I got food poisoning, went through financial and geographic upheaval, got pooped on, and was rejected more times than I can count. You think you can beat that, 2009? Well go ahead, do your worst. See, 2008 thinks that it's gotten the best of me, but what it doesn't understand is that with adversity comes massively lowered expectations. So it's raining and I forgot my umbrella and my phone hasn't rung in five days-- hey, look, chocolate! Man, I love chocolate. What's that you say, 2008? Why don't I marry it, then? Maybe I will, 2008. (But only if this guy I've been waiting for to call me back for the last three months doesn't ask me first. Any day now...)

So, 2009, I heard 2008 say that I'm not worthy of love and will be alone forever, and there's not shit you can do about it. Are you going to take that, 2009? But you know, 2008 is probably right. I'll bet you can't find someone for me by the end of next year. I mean, your friends 2007 and 2008 have had their chance, and to be honest, they've blown it. What makes you think you're so special, 2009? No, I just don't think you can do it. But you know what...what the hell. Go ahead and give it a shot. I dare you.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Why I wish life came with do-overs

The first time I met him it was raining. I arrived fifteen minutes early, wearing suede boots and without an umbrella. I exited the metro and huddled under the shallow awning of a carousel with a handful of other bedraggled passers-by, and avoided the wing of the airplane every time it came around. He arrived and we took quick stock of each other; I hoped I didn't look too much like a drowned rat, although if I didn't already, by the time we made a break through the rain and reached the café across the street I would for sure. He was tall, good-looking, and bearded. My favorite type. And he was a photographer, which didn't hurt either. As he sipped his Coke and I stirred my tea, though, it quickly became clear that we didn't have that much to say to each other, and what we did have to say was lacking in intensity and any kind of real interest. He thinks I'm the most boring person in the world, I thought, and in thinking it I found myself suddenly bored, as well, by the conversation, the whole situation. He'll probably make some excuse after this and take off, I thought, and found myself not all that horribly disappointed at the prospect. You win some, you lose some, after all. So when he proposed a walk around the neighborhood afterward, I was somewhat surprised. I accepted, but figured he was probably offering out of some feeling of obligation, a thirty minute date being a bit shy of societal norms for this sort of thing. And so we took a brisk walk as he showed me the important sites in the Marais. The rain had changed to a bone-chilling drizzle, and we squinted and burrowed into the collars of our coats. "I'm not actually a big fan of walks in the cold and rain," he said after about ten minutes, "but if you want, my apartment's right around the corner. I could make some hot chocolate." Well now this is an interesting development, I thought, surprised. I wonder if this means he's going to try something... And ignoring my better judgement regarding everything I've learned about meeting strangers on the internet, and going to the homes of men/potential axe murderers I've known for less than an hour, I followed him to his apartment, lured by the thought of warm radiators and hot cocoa. I trailed him up the slanted wooden stairs of a gorgeous old building in the Bastille district, up to the sixth floor. His one-bedroom was cozy, filled with large-format photographs and naked mannequins, and was probably worth a fortune. He said he would never have been able to afford it if his parents didn't own it. True to his word he made hot chocolate for me, and pasta for himself, which he also shared with me. We chatted more as he cooked, took phone calls, and typed e-mails for work. It wasn't thrilling or even particularly interesting, but it felt comfortable, and though we sat side by side on the couch for over an hour, he didn't even try to kiss me. Eventually I mentioned that I should probably leave, and he told me that it was up to me; he had an appointment in an hour, but he didn't care if I hung out until then. But I thanked him for the cocoa and took my leave, becoming suddenly awkward in the doorway, my mind blanking on the protocol until he called me back for a kiss on each cheek, saying, "We are in France, you know." I then made my way down all six floors only to find myself trapped in the entryway, pressing the button that said porte to no avail, the door not budging. I finally called him on the phone and made him come down all six floors, and all because I was pushing on a pull door. He gave me a hard time about it and ran back upstairs to the warmth of his apartment without a backward glance.

I didn't particularly expect to hear from him again, but he had given me his Skype name, and so in the spirit of what-the-hell, the next day I added him to my contacts. Surprising me once again, he accepted my request and started chatting with me right away. And if he spent the bulk of the conversation making fun of my imperfect French and my inability to open doors, it didn't really bother me. We continued chatting occasionally over the next couple of weeks as my curiosity as to whether this was actually going to go anywhere slowly dwindled. And then one Saturday afternoon, he asked if I wanted to see a movie that night. And I said yes.

We met at the theater, which I made the mistake of calling a théâtre in French, rather than a cinéma, which he was quick to gleefully call me out on. Afterward, he asked if I wanted to get a drink. When I accepted, he said that if I wanted, we could get a drink back at his apartment. It was close, and it would be cheaper, after all. Back in his apartment once again, we finished off a mostly full bottle of muscat. The conversation was easier this time, particularly as we came to the end of the bottle, and he seemed a bit cheerier than before. Then his teasing, always just a shade away from taunting, took on a sharp edge; méchant, I told him. He agreed. "I am mean," he said, "everyone says that."

"What do you mean?" I said.

"When I was in L.A. last month everyone always said, You're so meeeaaan, you're such a mean boy."

"Well, that's weird," I said. "But you seem like you could be nice, sometimes."

"I am," he agreed.

"So which are you, then? Are you mean or are you nice?"

And then he leaned over, and he kissed me.

"Well, that's nice," I murmured.

He pulled back, looking startled, and then he gave a short laugh. "No, this is mean," he said, and he took my hand and led me to his bedroom.

The next morning I got dressed and then placed my hand on his shoulder, not wanting to wake him, but not wanting to leave without saying goodbye. Still mostly asleep, he dutifully turned his mouth upward for a kiss, and I had the eerie feeling that in the slumbering depths of his mind, he was expecting someone else. I let myself out, went down six flights of stairs, and pulled, this time.

I told myself that it was a one-night stand so that it wouldn't be true, to jinx it into being something else, something less sad. I told myself that I would never hear from him again because I desperately wanted to be proven wrong. After all, he had surprised me before. But his words echoed in my head, "No, this is mean," and I wasn't sure. A slow week went by, and I kept checking to see if he was online, if he would talk to me, but he never was. At first I thought he must be busy, and then I thought me must be avoiding me, as before he was always online, for most of his waking hours every day. And then, the sudden realization that the question mark icon next to his name meant not that he was offline, but that if he was, I would never know it. He had blocked me.

It rained again today. At least the ducks are happy.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Why all I want for Christmas is some sun

Things are looking a little different lately when I take my walks along the river. Every time I go down there the water has crept a little higher, taking over riverbanks, walking paths, and park benches. It keeps rising, but at least the geese seem happy.

Where the sidewalk ends

We are all drowning
The same spot, two months ago

All I want for Christmas are some sunny skies and drier weather. Please get on that weather machine stat, Santa.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Why winter in Paris is still winter, and I am still me, after all

I haven't been much in a post-y mood lately, if you haven't noticed. When not slumping around from school to home and back, I've been spending hours and hours in and around my bed, which doesn't exactly lend itself to interesting inter-personal encounters or cutesy and bloggable life lessons. I have no energy, no motivation, I have run out of men to date, and even the mere act of having to keep myself fed is enough to send me into a desperate tail-spin. (Three times a day? I have to eat something three times a day? Who came up with these rules?!) Something must be wrong, I keep thinking. Something serious, perhaps. Except that it all feels vaguely familiar. Oh's called winter. And apparently it happens every year. (Thank goodness I have my blog to keep me accountable).

So yes, the winter blahs have hit with a vengeance. I managed to evade them throughout the month of November, but they caught up with me in December, pesky little buggers that they are. And although I am in a very different situation this year as compared to the last, the basics remain pretty much the same: eternally gray skies, a dating standstill, and a city where I essentially know no one. And though I am happily finished with all things exam- and paper-related, I have replaced that pesky little annoyance with with a different but perhaps even more dispiriting problem called So Much Time, So Little To Do.

So, while I indulge this dreary and macabre mood of mine by putting off everything important that I need to do and reading through my entire ex-related blog archive instead (for example), please accept this peace offering of FILLER! The old inbox has been filling up again with all manner of illiterate, ill-worded, and otherwise ill-advised seduction attempts, and before I delete them from my mailbox and from my life, I thought I would share some of them with you. It's certainly not the first time I've done this, and I guarantee it won't be the last, but in that vein I present to you my ever-expanding list of Unsuitable Suitors - FAIL Edition. Let's dive right in, shall we? Get ready, 'cause the first one's a doozy:

hello cutie, how re you sound so real and interesting i felt i should give my self a try Hamilton a simple 34 yrs old man from Uk,who is absolutely God fearing,,i run a link 5x business across asia and beyong,,as well as making the amescua biodisc a relevant factor to our everday usage and knowlege to the world at large...i went tru your page and its like we share the same dream .. i wanna be ur best friend if u are ready to go beyond your normal stage and accept the fact that A true friend is the one who holds ur hand & touches ur heart and leave a footprint. A true lover is the one that warms ur heart, caresses ur soul supports ur dreams, builds ur confidence, forgives ur mistakes, wishes u happinness, give u freely, appreciates ur presence, willing to lets u go, lovingly welcomes u back,see the better side of you that no one else sees and adore your everyfeelings, i wanna support your dream and help you grow emocionaly and financially ..if u want a man by ur side to love and care for u..then am willing to be one to help you through..thanks i hope to read from u soon.


Hello, even if your photos don't show it I think you're probably really pretty. Am I wrong?


[Translated from the original French, with all original punctuation and formatting:]
hello cute princess,i kiss you strongly with all my heart,have a good day
i would like to be a tear to be born in your eyes,to live on your cheeks and die kissing your lips,i do not know you but i really like you,i would like to be with you even if it's just for passing a few moments,i accept,know that i understand whatever your decision,i kiss you very strongly and most of all do not forget that i like you


[Also translated from original French]
Franck: So, Rachel, [ed. note: read as "rah-shell"] who lives in Chelles [ed. note: read as "shell"]. Is that humour or coincidence?

Me: It's a coincidence, but I find it rather poetic, non? And you, Franck? You don't happen to work in a bank, do you?

Franck: Why would I work in a bank?


That's it's for today's edition of Unsuitable Suitors. If you have your own submission, please do share in the comments. It might even bring me out of my funk. The Internet! Possibly better than Prozac! And if all else fails...there's always chocolate. Stay warm, everyone.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Why "beauty draws us with a single hair" (but beauty never clogged up a shower drain, did it?*)

We've had a visitor sleeping on our couch for the last few days. She is apparently a friend of a friend of my roommates, a live-in nanny between jobs who needed a place to crash for a little while. She is also quite young, and quite beautiful, and had my roommates in quite a little tizzy, but that's a story for another day. Not least among her many charms is her head of massive, long, dark, curly hair. She called my name up the stairs one afternoon a few days ago as I was attempting to sleep off a migraine, and explained that she was going to wash her hair, and did I have a brush she could borrow? She had forgotten hers. I imagined that washing and drying that mess must be quite an undertaking, and I surely couldn't imagine doing it without the aid of a brush, and so I said sure, ok. You can just leave it in the bathroom when you're done. And then I returned to my half-conscious position on my bed. An hour or so later I heard her calling my name again from the hallway. I groaned and pulled myself upright and tottered to the door. She was returning my brush. Er, thanks, I said. I set it down and returned to my previously scheduled activity of doing absolutely nothing. A couple of hours later I felt well enough to venture to the shower myself. Running my brush through my hair afterward, it broke apart in my hands, the handle separating from the head. It didn't snap apart or even make a sound; it just fell limply into two, sad little pieces. I was dismayed. I had used this brush for years, and with my current money problems I try not to spend any more money than I absolutely have to. Look, it can still work, I tried to convince myself. I can just hold it in my hand like this...It might be a little awkward when blow drying, but still... And then just as quickly I had a bit of a Scarlett O'Hara moment, looking myself in the mirror and telling myself, I'm not in the poorhouse yet. Yes, I will have a brush with a handle...and I will never go knotty again! And so, my mind made up, on my next trip to the local Monoprix I bought myself the cheapest and most indestructible-looking brush they had. (Eight euros. Eight euros for a brush!)

And then all was well for about twenty-four hours or so, until I attempted to once again partake of that daily cleansing ritual called a shower. I noticed immediately there was a problem. The tub wasn't draining, and soon I was standing in tepid, soapy water up to my ankles. Right after no hot water and poor water pressure, I think lack of drainage has to be one of the more annoying first-world shower-related problems known to man. I have lived here for months and this was the first time this had happened. And I was pretty sure I knew what the problem was. And so I toweled off, removed the drain plug, and looked into the eye of the beast. Usually I would tackle a job like this with an old toothbrush, but although there are many toothbrushes languishing in our bathroom in various states of disuse, I wasn't sure which ones were the castoffs, and I didn't want to take the chance of guessing wrong. And so I went in barehanded, reaching into the drain and pulling out a veritable never-ending rope of slimy, wet hair. Now, is the proper way to measure slimy, wet drain hair by weight or by volume? Did I pull out a pound of hair, or was it a cubic liter? In any case, it was a hell of a lot of hair, and more importantly, it wasn't my hair. Jesus Christ, she only washed her hair here, what, twice? Three times? I thought. How could there be all of this? I threw the offending hair in the trashcan, washed my hands, and did a little dance of ick before I noticed that my finger was bleeding. Now I suppose I could assume that I cut it on the drain, but I know better. This was powerful hair, hair that breaks brushes and blocks up metal pipes, and it sliced my fucking finger. This hair was a force to be reckoned with. But reckoning would have to come later. For the moment I bandaged myself up and went on my way.

Several hours later I came home from the préfecture, where I had finally retrieved my precious carte de séjour. As I walked up the stairs to my room, I heard the sound of a blow dryer (my blow dryer) going in the bathroom. Once in my room, a quick glance showed that my brush, my new, eight euro brush, was missing. Well, just come right in and help yourself! I thought. In other words, I was slightly annoyed. You might think I would be in a good mood, having just gotten my carte de séjour and all, but actually, you would be wrong. I had just spent an hour and a half in the préfecture with no reading material (my own stupid fault), and then two hours taking two buses to get home when it should have only taken thirty minutes (but almost never does). It was raining, I had a broken brush and a cut on my finger, and I was in no mood, if you know what I mean. Back downstairs, a quick glance in the newly vacated bathroom showed that the brush was not there, either. I headed to the living room just in time to see the girl, freshly coiffed, rolling her suitcases towards the front door. I hurried to catch her before she left. "Lilia?" I called. "Um, hi! Do you have my brush?"

"Oh, yes, it's right here," she said, pointing to Patrice's desk. "Patrice actually went up and got it for me. I hope that's ok?"

"Oh, yeah. You know, actually I had to buy a new one, because the last one broke," I said for some reason, probably because I was still annoyed.

"Oh, did I break it?" she said. "I'm sorry..."

"Oh, no, I mean, it just broke after you gave it back to me, so you know...whatever."

And then I tried to cover up my bitchiness with forced polite conversation in an act that fooled exactly no one. "So you're moving to a studio in Paris?" I cooed. "Oh, you're so lucky!" And the poor girl stood there nervously responding to my questions until finally making her escape.

"Well, goodbye, and sorry about the brush, and have a good...a good..." (Oh just say 'life', I wanted to say, you know you want to) "um...a good afternoon," she finally settled on.

And this is exactly what happens every time I try to stand up for myself, or whatever you want to call it. I immediately feel bad, and so I go from a raging bitch to a smiling, passive-aggressive bitch, which really is the worst kind, isn't it? And now this girl is thanking her lucky stars she's out of this house and away from this raging lunatic making such a big deal out of something when really, it's just a brush. God.

I don't know if it's the completely dismal weather lately or if it's hormonal craziness, but I did just go off of birth control a couple weeks ago (due to lack of health insurance or money to buy more and not out of any desire to produce human life, although that would also require having what one might call "intercourse" and others might call "sexual relations," and I am having neither, so no worries there). [Updated to add: Oh what a difference a day makes! Worry away, dear readers...] So, yes, I think I will blame hormones for my recent bitchiness, short temper, anti-social behavior, and overwhelming desire to be no further than one room away from my bed at all times and call it a day. Now where's my damn chocolate? No, seriously, where is it? If I find out you touched my chocolate I will hurt you! Oh wait, there it is. Well...carry on.

*(bastardized) Alexander Pope

Friday, December 5, 2008

Why I will soon be selling discounted knife sets. Lifetime guarantee! Call for more details!

So, I've written before about my magical teaching experience wherein the children are all smiling, eager cherubs and we practice the ABCs to the dulcet tones of a harp being gently strummed in the background. Yeah. We're going to call that beginner's luck and then never speak of it again. Yesterday was unfortunately one of those much more common days where the kids were little shits and I kind of wanted to kill everyone.

I asked the kids to name some bands they know for a little I like/I don't like practice. After listing Fallout Boy, Sum 41, NTM, and Tokio Hotel, someone mentioned the Beatles. This was followed by snickering, which I ignored. "Yes! The Beatles!" I said. I pronounced it as we do, so it sounds like beedles. "Bee-TULZ," the boy corrected me, emphasizing the t and stressing the second syllable. I decided to let this go, and simply repeated, "Yes! The Beatles!" But not content to just let it be, he shook his head, and then insisted, slowly and clearly as if he was speaking to an idiot, or a five year-old, or a five year-old idiot, "No, no. Bee-TULZ!" Oh no, he is not correcting me in my own language, I thought. "Well thank you for that pronunciation lesson," I snapped, "BUT I SPEAK ENGLISH!"

I've also run into a problem lately wherein the kids are much more interested in chatting with their friends/dropping pens on the floor repeatedly/listening to the sound of their own shrill little voices than they are in anything that's going on at the front of the room. With my repeated shushings quickly losing their effectiveness, I decided it was time for a good old-fashioned yelling. Instill a little fear in them, or at least shock them into silence for a few minutes, I thought. First, I gave it a go in English. It is my first language, after all, not to mention that it is, of course, an English class. And so I gave them a stern talking to. I orated, I gestured, I lectured and I gave ultimatums. It was quite impressive, if I do say so myself. The problem being, of course, that they didn't understand a blessed word. They blinked at me for a few seconds, and then, probably assuming I had just given a dramatic reading of my grocery list or something, went right back to chatting loudly with their friends. I learned my lesson, and so the next time I needed to yell, I went at it in French. The problem this time being that while I am quite comfortable being a hard-ass in English, in French it becomes a bit more complicated. I found myself searching for words, tripping over my tongue, making grammatical mistakes and then backtracking trying to fix them, a problem that worsened the more upset I was. It just kind of takes the oomph out of a scolding, you know?

And so when one girl, who had been a loud, obnoxious pill the entire class period, stood up at the end as if it was time to go, when it was not in fact time to go, I knew I had a choice to make. I took a deep breath and decided to go for the French. I had had enough and I wanted her to know it. "You know," I said, "if you want to leave so badly, you can." A tiny glimmer of hope appeared on her face. "You are more than welcome to join your teacher and your other classmates in the computer lab if you want." Her face fell, and she sat back down. "No, really," I said. "It's not worth it for you to be here if you don't want to be. So. Do you want to stay? Do you want to keep playing the game with us?" And that's the worst part, really, is that I have to go through all of this, and all we do in the class is play games. You would think I was making them copy the dictionary or something, but no.

"But that's the same thing," she said. "Staying here and playing the game are both the same thing."

"Yes, I know," I said. "So do you want to stay? Do you want to keep playing the game?" I said again, hoping she would catch on to the fact that it was a yes or no question, and not an either/or.

"But it's the same thing," she insisted. "Those are both the same thing!"

And I finally lost it for a minute, and reverted to my old friend, sarcasm. "YES, THANK YOU FOR EXPLAINING THAT TO ME!" I said. "NOW IT ALL MAKES SENSE!" But she just continued staring blankly at me like I was the dumb one.

And so, in a few brief paragraphs I have managed to call my students "little shits" and infer that one or more of them might be "dumb." You can just send my Teacher of the Year award over right now. Yep, I'm pretty sure I've got this thing in the bag. (Now if you'll excuse me, I'll just be on Craigslist looking for another line of work. I hear telemarketing is nice).

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Why you should avoid big box blogs

It was a somewhat surreal experience to open my Google reader the other day, and have it recommend my own blog to me. It was my top recommendation, right after the Red Lobster Blog. ("The stories and experience of Red Lobster employees.") On the one hand, it was nice to know that my Google reader knows me well enough to think that my own blog might, perhaps interest me, (should I be interested in my own blog?) but on the other hand it was slightly baffling to find out that my top recommendation was the Red Lobster Blog. I have never worked at a Red Lobster, I may have eaten there once in my life, and I have little to no interest in chain restaurants in general or the employees who work in them. What was more concerning, however, was discovering that while my blog has 25 subscribers, the Red Lobster Blog has 216 loyal followers. 191 more people are more interested in hearing about who picks their nose over their sizzlin' shrimp scampi than they are in reading about little old independently-owned, non-franchised me. In this world of Wal-Marts, Red Lobster blogs, and the ever declining economy, it's the mom and pop blogs that get hit the hardest, you know? We work our tails off two to five times a week, enduring backaches, neck strain, and possible carpal tunnel syndrome, and all for a handful of comments at the end of the day. But we can't feed our egos on a handful of comments!

Please, readers, support your independent bloggers. I'll be here, performing marketing research and re-thinking branding strategies to better serve you, in the hopes that maybe, someday, I will be able to work my way up the corporate ladder and compete with the likes of the geniuses behind the Red Lobster Blog. Either that or I'll start a new blog called The Secret Olive Garden - Everything you never wanted to know about America's favorite faux Italian-themed restaurant! (Post #1: From Antipasto to Zuppa di Toscana - Your waiter has spit in them all!) The first twenty-five people to subscribe get a free order of breadsticks!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Why I love four day weekends

I apologize for the lack of posting around here lately, but with one birthday, two Thanksgivings, and a Grenoble reunion weekend to celebrate, the blog kind of got lost in the shuffle. It was my friend Canaan's "golden birthday," which means that she turned 27 on the 27th of November. For those counting, in addition to her golden birthday, the 27th also happened to be Thanksgiving, which I'm pretty sure means she's going to have an awesome year. From the amount of presents and chocolate and well wishes she's had thrown at her, I'd say she's already well on her way.

This is Canaan and I before consuming delicious homemade pasta, wine, and tiramisu with her (actual, real French!) friends.

This is Canaan looking sultry and smoking the hookah. This is Rachel taking the picture because the last thing she needs is to pick up a hookah habit. Can you imagine going on your smoking break at work with a hookah under your arm? Awkward.

So, after our first catered and only semi-authentic Thanksgiving feast with Canaan's study abroad students, she and her friend Caitlin decided to create their very own Thanksgiving celebration for their friends, roommates, and hangers-on. It was a lot of work, but they pulled it off. (I mostly just supervised. But moral support isn't just going to give itself, you know?)

Here we are hunched around our 17-lb. turkey. Apparently hunching is sexy. Everybody hunch now!

The amount of food that was cooked and consumed in such a short period of time was quite frankly a miracle, considering that none of us had ever actually cooked a turkey before. But in the end, everything came off without a hitch, and eight French people, three Americans, one Greek and one Brazilian professed thanks and dug in. After several bottles and one box of wine, however, the evening quickly degenerated.

Here are Canaan and I pretending we want to eat a piece of bread that I know we couldn't have had any intention of actually eating. My skirt was unbuttoned and I could barely hold myself upright at that point, so why feigning interest in more carbs seemed like a good idea is beyond me.

Here Canaan is pretending she doesn't know me, as I attempt to combat the droopy-eye effect that so often plagues me in photos. Much better, non?

My long weekend also included a trip to see my dear, dear old host parents from my study abroad days. My host mother makes the best gratin dauphinois ever. It made up for the fact that when I walked through the door, she greeted me by saying, "We actually had two students named Rachel. Paul said he recognized your voice, but we weren't sure..."

"So, wait," I said. "You didn't even know who was going to show up tonight?"

"Well, we were eighty percent sure," she said.

Here I am looking droopy-eyed with my former host parents, Jeanne and Paul. If I can't be the only former American student Rachel, at least I can be the preferred former American student Rachel.

And finally, I leave you with a view from my seat on the train going home today.

'Tis beautiful, non? But look closer. 2nd class, no smoking, bugle playing? What the hell? Apparently woodwinds, harps, and loudly ringing cell phones are all a-ok, but when traveling on the TGV, make sure to leave your French horn at home. You have been warned!