A Travellogue

This was written just after Christmastime, at the start of 2007, as I travelled from Boston to Marseille after spending a short week home.

Alright, let me preface my “travel thoughts” section with the somewhat-obvious point that I arrived safely and am now sitting in my room in Aix feeling very sleepy but wonderful after a nice long shower and tooth-brushing. God I love hygiene. Anyway, so there you have it. I am safe and sound and back in France. I’m sending you my travel thoughts, because they might be amusing…especially since I was extremely tired while writing most of them! I love you guys so much, and I miss you already!

Logan Airport

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How often do people sit alone in a seedy Boston airport diner called Houlihan’s? Well, pretty often . . . apparently. I’m definitely not the first. I’m not even the only one to be doing this right now. Go figure. Nothing like travel. You step off of national soil, and step onto an airplane with hundreds of other people from all over the world. Yes sir, there’s nothing like flying to open up the world . . . and make you realize how small and insignificant you actually are.

I get a real kick out of airports. You know the movie Love Actually? I love that movie. It’s true: arrivals gates are fun places to watch all sorts of people welcome their haggard loved ones. Still, arrival gates? Come on…they’re overrated. What about departure gates? I’ll bet you don’t have too many people crying broken-heartedly at arrival gates, do you? There’s always at least one at every departure gate (ahem…yes, I have done it before). I think it’s nice though. It lends a touch of tragedy, and if I’ve learned anything from Hollywood, it’s that tragedy sells. But you don’t just have tragedy at departure gates. You’ve got the whole range of emotions: love, sadness, hatred, anger, excitement…and (my personal favorite) panic.

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I just watched an old woman have her panic-moment of the year. Seriously. There she sits. After the third consecutive time that an airport door-alarm has sounded for high pitched 10 minute periods, her nerves are on edge. She sips her little plastic bottle a little faster…begging the question of what is in said bottle. But that’s not even the end of it. Oh no. If you have ever traveled, you know that the news station is constantly on in any airport and playing a continuous stream of depressing news (just to enhance your travel experience). So, there we’re sitting when the perfectly coiffed newscaster goes into a ten minute discussion of an uncommon rash of tornados that are “sweeping” across the country, inhibiting much travel. She didn’t stop there, though. Oh no. Then she told us about two missing airplanes that have been assumed lost. Apparently, this “freak occurrence” is “evidence that horrible accidents can always happen, despite all our best efforts.” I’m not going to lie. I laughed. I wonder how many beats that poor woman’s heart just skipped.

Flying...

But it only makes departure gates even better. People leave countries in a strange state of mind. They are angry, sad, honeymoon-ing, you name it. And in the midst of it all, I am sitting at Houlihan’s nursing my strawberry smoothie (that tastes suspiciously like alcohol) and a tall glass of unsweetened iced tea. Can it be that I’m getting used to travel? Impossible. But I have transitioned. I am no longer the sobbing first-flight, ticket-clutching touch-of-tragedy girl that I was the first time I flew out of country. Oh no. This time I am the tea-sipping, computer-typing, bag-slinging cheerful person who gets waved through the security line without any pat-downs or feel-ups or wand-checks (…actually, without even going through the second check-point in the security line…) because most airport security people realized that such an incredibly white, happy New-Yorker who is named Abigail Adams is probably not the next terrorist to pop up in America’s Most Likely. Thank goodness some people are still logical. Gosh.

But really, you gotta love travel. Now I’m going to chug the rest of my tea (which I’ll regret later when I get a claustrophobic attack in the airplane bathroom cubby) and get in line to board my next plane. Catch you on the flip side!

Flying Away

Frankfurt Airport (or Frankport, as I like to think of it)…aka: the Flip Side

Frankfurtvia

I guess you could sort of call this the flip side. I’m waiting in another departure zone in Frankfurt. After about 11 hours, I have a slightly less rosy view of airports in general. Some places grow on you. Airports stomp on your spirit. Just kidding. Sort of.

I flew the whole way here next to a very sweet girl named Christiana. She’s a German law student who is practicing in Boston to be near her boyfriend…and she is beyond terrified of flying. Our first exchange involved us switching seats so that she wouldn’t have to look out the window. Then I proceeded to watch her put up a picture of her loved ones in front of her and pull out a well-worn stuffed animal of a British soldier which she held onto for dear life. (It ended up being some cutesy story about her boyfriend giving it to her for “protection”.) She was practically crying when we took off, so although my book and i-pod were calling, I decided they could wait and Christiana and I talked about lots of everything.

You know what’s amazing? It never fails what country or what language, but the names that are paged over the intercom in any airport are always impossibly to understand or pronounce. “Would Mister Stoner Von Mildersaday contact airport security?” “Would Michana Legivovichicala contact the terminal?” Seriously. And they must never recognize their butchered pronunciation, because the poor woman usually has to make the announcement at least 5 times. Thank God for modern convenience. Sigh.

I read a 200 page novel on the plane. Thus, consequently, I did not sleep. Right now it is about 10am in Germany and I feel like my teeth are growing some unknown new species of fungus, my face might just be able to oil a frying-pan after the in-flight meal that was served, my palms are blistered from carrying my carry-ons around and my inner eye-lids have turned into sand-paper. It sounds like I’m complaining, but I just want you to get a clear image of me right now. I just sat up and gave up trying to use my computer case as a pillow. I am sitting at departure gate E6 and a large group of Japanese tourists/businessmen (?) is playing an unbelievably animated card game behind the decorative palm trees. The pinstriped, buttoned-down man behind me is reading a book (in French) about Hinduism while the German news is going full force. The only words I can understand from the news real is “Bush”, so maybe it’s a good thing I can’t understand.

It’s actually not so bad. Once I finally got my second boarding pass (apparently my flight got delayed so that my lay-over is now for 6 hours instead of 2) and got through airport security, I slept for about an hour and a half on these little benches. And I found a rest-room (even if the girl in the stall next to me was puking her brains out), so that was nice. All in all, I’m fairly ready to arrive in France. Or even to just depart from Frankfurt.

Oh and I now have a German stamp in my passport. And I haven’t even had a beer. Not to mention I can’t find Frankfurters anywhere in the Frankfurt Airport. That seems a little contradictory, eh?

Home: 14 Rue de la Mule Noire

Rue de la Mule Noire - panneau

Well, after the 6 hour layover, in which I actually did sleep a little bit, I got onto the last flight back to Marseille (THANK GOD). I actually stepped onto that tiny little plane and my seat (17H) had a big sign taped to it that said “DO NOT OCCUPY” Soooo, that threw me for a little loop, but me and one other lady ended up getting bumped up to the front of the plane. Normally that would mean we were in first class, but since it was an eensy-weensy little baby plane, It basically just meant that they gave us water in a glass instead of plastic and we got offered tea multiple times instead of just once. It didn’t matter though, because I slept almost the entire way…well, for about an hour of the hour and a half flight. Once I got off the plane and collected my eggplant colored luggage, I changed my dollahs at the airport and took the first bus home.

Rue de la Mule Noire

I actually think that the walk from the bus station to my doorstep seemed like the longest part of the trip. My back might never be the same! But now I’m half unpacked and squeaky clean, so it was all worth it!

There you have it. Aren’t you glad you got to be a part of all of that?

Méchantes Ados : Teaching French Through Mean Girls

I have never been the biggest fan of Mean Girls.

(We’re talking the movie, as I don’t think anyone is actually a fan of mean people, regardless of gender.)

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It’s not that I disliked it, per se, but given my choices for high-school film satire, I prefer 10 Things I Hate About You, She’s The Man, Easy A, or even Clueless to Mean Girls. Recently, however, I’ve been shown the (somewhat dubious) light by a fervent group of persuasive students in my French Classes. After listening to them unanimously extol the virtues of this film, I subsequently decided to integrate it into my class as a year-end part of a unit on story-telling.

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Some of you (particularly if you are a teacher) might think that this is playing with fire. . . as Mean Girls is more than a little bit inappropriate.

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So, in order to navigate this, which I decided would be okay since all of my students had already seen the film in English AND because it got them excited about French Class even in late June, I made a permission slip for all students to get signed prior to showing the film. (Download a modify-able copy of it by clicking  THIS, if you’d like!) I did this right at the beginning of my Comment Raconter Une Histoire unit, so that by the time students had an opportunity to learn/work with basic storytelling vocabulary, we could watch the film (en français, bien sur!). After showing the Canadian-French version of Mean Girls (Méchantes Ados), we rounded out the year with a final “story-telling” project; the making, and subsequent sharing of our very own “Burn Books”.

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I set it up a little differently, because I didn’t want any truly nasty things being written in my class… just juicy secrets, or as the French might say des secrets explosifs/croustillantsHERE is the link for my project prompt, if you’re interested in integrating this in your own French 2 class! With that set up, students began to engage in the process towards their final creation! As always is the case when I let my students be creative, I was ridiculously impressed with the  outcome!

Check them out:

Awesome Student Burn Book 1: Written by “Polar Bear

Awesome Student Burn Book 2: Written by “Happy-Go-Lucky”

Burn Book Gone Wild. . . & French

Check out the amazingly histerical and wonderful student work I received in class today!

l'album brulant cover

Page 1: The Zebra went to the mall to get a spray tan because she was really a horse!Oh Horsey

Page 2: The Ostriche went to the club with the giraffe because they were strippers.OH my, scandalous!

Page 3: The tiger went shopping at Whole Foods because he was a vegitarian.Tofu!

Page 4: A lady-owl went to the speach therapist because she couldn’t say “who”!Well, Owl Be!

Page 5: The fly went to the garage to buy a car because he couldn’t fly.GET IT? IT'S A FLY!!!

Page 6: The butterfly bought makeup at the mall because she was part Moth.True Colors?

Page 7: The polar bear lived in the forest because he thought he was an albino.Not your Niche, Polarbear

Page 8: The Hippo had a baby with the Muskrat because she wanted a hippopotomuskrat!New Species Alert

Things You Didn’t Know . . .in French

Student Work is one of my favorite things. Especially the following pages of an assigned French “Burn Book”… I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

l'Album Brulant

Page 1: Your garbage man made friends out of garbage at his home because he smelled so bad that nobody loved him. The Garbage Man

Page 2: Your waiter watched you at your house last night because he thought you were pretty.Your Waiter/Stalker

Page 3: Your butcher became a vegetarian ten years ago because he loved animals. Your Butcher

Pate 4: Your gas station attendant stole 9 cars last week because he had the opportunity.Your Gas Station Attendant

Page 5: Your fireman set fire to a house in Ohio because he was a pyromaniac. Your Fireman

Page 6: Your librarian never learned to read because she went to a bad school.Your Librarian

Page 7: Your taxi-driver bought a GPS because he didn’t like maps.Your Taxi Driver

Page 8: The neighbourhood homeless man won the lottery recently, because he was lucky.

 Your Neighbourhood Bum

Reflections on being “home”…

This was written in June of 2007, shortly after returning home from a year spent living in Aix-en-Provence.

crossing under

I’m there…here…

When all is said and done, I’ve decided that going abroad is sort of like being a chronic not-dater. Nobody really gets it unless they’re in the exact same situation. So you end up sounding lame and whiny whenever you discuss said subjects.

Every time I begin a sentence with “In France…” or say, “When I was in France…” I feel like an unforgivable snob. And a poser. I mean, I wasn’t in France on vacation or anything. It wasn’t like I was pall-ing it up with Johnny Depp in his Villa. It’s just that, if ever speaking about France, I’m obliged to say “In France”, because that is, in fact, where I was. I can’t help that it sounds pretentious! But the other day I was talking to someone and I said “I haven’t been to the gym since I was in Paris!” (by the way, slight exaggeration, but only slight)…and they sort of rolled their eyes at me, as if to say “Oh right, back when you were in PAAAARIS. Sheesh.”

Here

In fact, I’m discovering that most people want to hear one of two responses when they ask the inevitable question asked to all first-time-back study-abroaders. And, yes, you know the question. It comes in a few different forms, but is generally the same. “SO, How was FRANCE?” or “Oh my GOSH, how was FRANCE?!?!?!” or even better, “So, FRANCE! Was it just completely amazing?”

The majority of people are looking for one answer: YES.
(The slight acceptable variation being: “Yes, it was incredible.”)

These people, who we will call the “Yessers” are slightly interested in you as something of an oddity for having not been around for the past year, but for the most part, you could’ve just been dead for the semester. Or you could’ve been really bogged down by classes and just not had time for your social life. Either way, to the Yessers, you’re back in their realm, on their turf and nothing has changed. You’re still the same person. You are unchanged. You have not matured or learned anything. You are who you were. And you couldn’t feel more de-valued by them than you do when you speak to them, because you realize that they honestly just don’t care what’s happened to you.

The Yessers are the worst.

Lost but home

The second group of people are slightly better, but only slightly. They are the “Anecdoters”. These people want the funny stuff. They want a few French Smoker stories, French kiss stories (if you have them), French food (and especially alcohol) stories … and that’s about it. You know what? I give MAD props to the Anecdoters just for trying as hard as they do. And they really do learn much more about the whole year than the Yessers, but ultimately, to them, you haven’t really changed much either. And you are integrated back into the natural grain of their lives without so much as a slight blip in the heart moniter.

To be honest, I can’t really blame everybody. Well, the Yessers maybe I can blame a little. But in all honesty, I have been home for almost three weeks and I have no idea what to think. It probably doesn’t help that I don’t know what to say when people ask. Even when it’s just a “Yesser” question.

It’s easier to pretend I was never gone. So much easier.

Sunset at Home

And then I realize that it’s been a year and everything and everyone has changed, but most of all that I’ve changed.

I miss speaking French. I don’t have anyone I can speak it with here, really. I miss living in France. It wasn’t all parties and sight-seeing and wine, you know? It was just real life in a real place. It was calm sometimes and stressful sometimes. I helped cook food and did my laundry. I went to the gym and did my grocery shopping and babysat for spoiled little brats. It was just life. And now, even thought it’s part of me, it’s just not there. Severed. And I know about 5 people that understand that.

curious

So strange. I wonder what I should think?

My Real Life: Living With Roommates

roommatesI have lived with 17 different people since leaving for college back in 2004. 17 is a large number. In my years as what-feels-like a professional roommate, I have learned a lot. I have met some lovely people and some not-so-lovely people. I’ve had some wonderful experiences and some unexpected experiences. I’ve done some growing up. . . some. I might even have begun to understood what is important when living with people. But if nothing else, having roommates cycle through my life has provided me with moments of sheer ridiculousness. I have decided to share them, in all their limited artistic glory, just because they happened. To me. Which is pretty darn wild. SO, with a complete lack of chronological order, it begins.

married bf killer