Thursday, January 28, 2010

What's better than sliced bread?

Sporks and good dive bars, but that's beside the point.

(Is it "besides" the point, or "beside?" Grammatically speaking "beside" is probably the correctest, but I like adding that s when I say it out loud. Gives it some ooomph. I know it's definitely "you've got another THINK comin'" not "thing," and "for god's SAKE" not "sakes"--does god have more than one sake? Well, maybe, but no, NO, it's singular. SINGULAR SAKE. Which makes me think of sake, like, the rice wine goodness that goes so well with beer and never ever gives me a hangover. YUM.)

The point, actually, is that last week I went to the theater with a bunch of 17-year-old French high school students. For some reason, I didn't really expect the ENTIRE AUDIENCE to be made up of 8,004 teenagers and, like, 6 harassed-looking French English teachers, but there you have it, life is just full of surprises.

One of the teachers I work with decided to organize a field trip (OMG field trip! I haven't been on one of those since my own high school daze aaaaaahhhhhh!) to the theatre anglais to see a very heavily adapted Picture of Dorian Gray. Since I got to go for free, I was all, hells yeah I'll go. And so yar, I went. It was mostly horrible, as most of my theater-going experiences usually are (there is just SOMETHING about stage acting that seems so over-done and makes me oddly uncomfortable and embarrassed) but at the same time IT WAS AWESOME. I couldn't figure out why all the actors were speaking in what seemed like slow motion, but then it dawned on me they were enunciating so much, not only because they were British, but because they were trying to make it easier for the students to understand. That was really cool! And it seemed to work, too: our group of little shi--I mean, very intelligent and mature étudiants managed to laugh at even some of the more obscure humor, and I was duly impressed, if not slightly jealous of their level of bilingual-ity.

**kK Tanget 05**
That reminds me, I REALLY need to go visit Père Lachaise! Gah! What is wrong with's like 2 metro stops away! I could WALK there on a nice day! Or even a not-nice day! Oooh, that would be good...go in the rain...maybe there would be fewer people crowding the tombstones.
**possible end to kK Tangent 05**

The teacher that organized the trip was really glad I came, and sent me a text saying that she "appreciates" me, as do the students. Even though I doubt the students actually said anything like that, it still made me feel nice. And then on my walk home and happily stumbled upon a surprise co-op where I greedily snapped up some ingredients for my Green Power Juice, along with some RAW MILK--that's right, straight from the udder, baby!--that I promptly put on the stove for some good-ass chocolat chaud. (Or good ass-chocolat chaud, depending on whether or not you like putting the wrong emPHAsis on the wrong syllABle, "wrong," in this instance, being neither right nor wrong, really, just personal preference and a penchant for reading really nerdy webcomics.)
And on another happy note, Squash and I found a dive café! That's right, just like a dive bar but IN FRENCH. It's all dark and kinda seedy but in a welcoming way; the drinks are cheap, the customers regulars, and there's even a cat that sleeps on a couch in the back. (The bartender thinks I'm from California, which is so funny I won't bother to correct him.) I raised a tumbler of Jameson to the 86-year-old-man club, tossed back the rest of the drunkard Squash's half-full wine glass and then ran across the street for the best pizza in Paris. No seriously, apparently chivalry ISN'T dead. Or did I mean miracles DO occur. Or will wonders never cease. Whatever. It was Good. Ass-Pizza.

I can't decide which is more exciting, good pizza or a DIVE BAR IN PARIS. woohoo!


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Ginger, le Frenchy Spice

My schedule has changed a bit and I now have a group of secondes, which are basically the equivalent of American sophomores. I was dreading this class because, aside from the fact that it's at 8:00 IN THE MORNING ON A FRIDAY, considering how awful a lot of the older students are, I was pretty sure these younguns would be worse.

Boy was I wrong.

These kids were HILARIOUS. They spoke way better English than over half of my older classes, and they had a real sense of humor to boot. I think they were a bit nervous to start out with--there was lots of giggling and furtive look-at-the-teacher-look-quickly-away-omg-is-she-going-to-like-us??? action for the first few minutes until I started off by introducing myself. Then the one boy in the class does another little giggle and says "Oh, we begin with introductions now please?" And I'm all, "Sure, you start."


I tried, I really did try.

But after taking one look at his flaming orange fro and white freckly skin, I lost it. I laughed so hard I had to put my head down on my arm to try to hide the tears. Everyone was laughing at this point, but mostly at me. I LOVE people with a sense of humor, especially concerning themselves, and this kid totes took the cake on that contest. He is definitely the class clown--and he never once revealed his true name (I looked it up later; it's Florient).

For the rest of the hour we had a raucous discussion about books (everyone loves the book Twilight--Ginger pulled it out of his bookbag to show me a real life copy--but not the movie b/c the movie is "hideous, too long and poorly acted"), movies, music and even the longest words in our respective languages.

Yes, that's right, after arguing in pretty impressive English about whether or not Avatar was the greatest movie ever created (it's not; that title goes to Braveheart--in the 'epic' category, anyway, thankyouverymuch), the students ask if I want to know the longest word in French. In between gasps of laughter I manage to squeak out a petit 'oui!' and Ginger jumps up to spell it on the board for me:


At least, I think that's how you spell it. And in case you're wondering, it means "against the law." LOL!!!

Luckily, my life-long nerdism paid off--I have a very clear memory of when I was in middle school and I was reading a book that talked about the longest word in the English language (of course for the life of me I can't remember what exactly it was that I was reading...some memory, eh!), and so I was able to trump their wimpy anticonstitutionellement with a whopping:



And then I panicked, because I had forgotten what it actually meant! And just as I was about to pray that they didn't ask me or wouldn't notice I was moving too quickly to the next subject or something, I hear a chorus of "WHAT DOES IT MEAN MADAME!" Fuuuuuuuuck.

"Well, kids, you see this word here, 'establishment'? Yeah, that's like, you know, the typical, normal way of doing things in society. And if you're 'anti' the 'establishment,' that means you like to go your own way and be your own person! REBEL! It's good for your heart! But drugsarebadstayinschoolmmmkay."

So now I have a bunch of French 15 year olds convinced that the longest word in the English language is about being true to yourself and rebelling against society. Honestly, I like my definition better than the real one, which I raced home after class to look up b/c I AM A MORON:

"The opposition to the withdrawal of state support or recognition from an established church, esp. the Anglican Church in 19th century England."

Whatever, at least I didn't try to convince them that German is a Romance language.


Monday, January 18, 2010

Bien joué: Terrible sequels and horizontal stripes

OK, so there are books one must read even though--nay, BECAUSE--one knows they will be horrible. Current reading list: Dracula The Un-Dead, by Dacre Stoker (direct descendant) and Ian Holt (um, expert).

Putting aside the fact that the book is written by what appears to be two 17-year-old boys and a hopefully appropriately-aggrieved and over-worked editor (I say 'hopefully' b/c to me the book has an air of heavy shit-this-is-the-best-I-can-do-with-what-I've-got-to-work-with editing; otherwise, if this editor actually thinks this acceptable material, well, humph, let's just have a little chat with Elizabeth Kostova, shall we??), it just once again proves that Sequels Are Pretty Much Always Terrible, especially if they deal with Draculas, Rosetta Stones, Knights Templars, and/or Cardenios. (Exception: a sequel by Christopher Moore dealing with ALL OF THOSE SUBJECTS AT ONCE.)

So, anyway, after altering the dates of Bram's story to fit their own arbitrary timeline, scene one opens twenty-five years after the infamous staking. Jonathan Harker is an over-bearing drunk of a father and husband, who thinks Mina is in love with what used to be Dracula and as obnoxiously as possible forces his theater-loving son to go to law school. The Dis-Band of Heros is taking angst to a whole new level, and really, why do people think it's a good idea to try and keep secrets and then be self-righteously surprised when other people discover said secrets, have a huge hissy fit they weren't informed earlier and then storm out into the dark dangerous night? Anyway, the real fun begins when Someone Important is impaled Vlad Tepes-style in the middle of Picadilly Circus, and a hot lesbian vampire reveals her plot to make Inspector Cotford her new pawn in a fun-for-hot-lesbian-vampires game of eat-the-human.

And I mean really, how can you not love lines like these:

"He stood at the crossroads of destiny. His dreams would have to wait."

"His coat, still damp from the earlier rain, did nothing to warm his body. Neither did his swirling, angry thoughts do anything to warm his soul."

"Tears from heaven poured to the earth as if God knew that tonight his reign would finally end."

"The razor-sharp blades sliced his fingers from his hand, the digits spinning through the air as he shoved Bathory's blade aside."

"Feeling cold and unsteady, he looked down. He had been gutted from his chest to his privates, and his innards were spilling out of his body. Marrow felt ill, and a strong urge to vomit. But as he tumbled back, he realized he no longer had the stomach for it."

Oh, did I mention that Bram Stoker has a cameo as a whiny, put-upon playwright stubbornly insisting a drunk John Barrymore play the stage version of Dracula, and, as if that weren't enough, Van Helsing is now suspected of being Jack The Ripper? Throw in a most beatific Luke*-I-Am-Your-Father showstopper followed by a couple of vampire fireballs off a really tall cliff and, wait for it...two mysterious large-enough-to-fit-a-human boxes being loaded onto, oh yes, THE TITANIC...No, it's just too fun. You must read it for yourself. It literally is just as good as you think, if not more so. And by "good" I mean terrible in that awesome must-read way, like Jemaine Clement is Ugly Hot, or Crap TV is Really Fabulous.

And oh yeah, you might have heard of this teensy French (and Squash and The Sultan before they even got to Paris) obsession with black-and-white/navy-and-white/black-and-grey/navy-and-grey stripes. Apparently these stripes cast a magicky spell on anyone who stays in France too long (any amount of time greater or lesser than an hour) and it actually becomes your number one desire to parade yourself around in public with horizontal stripes on your person.

I clung desperately to the edge of reason for about four months.

Now, with your own eyes, you can see how far I've fallen. Next thing you know I'll have stopped shaving my legs and armpits.
Oh wait...

*So I've definitely been in France too long...I just wrote down Luc for Monsieur Skywalker's prénom. I almost left it to see if anyone would notice but wait no, that's just embarrassing.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Bien joué: French Brussels Sprouts

OK, so sometimes you just have to write really bad poetry to express the fabulousness of certain things you can't otherwise describe in a normal way. Ahem:
Ode to Brussels Sprouts

O fair and wonderous greens
Put now my colon at ease
You're on your way
With little thyme snips
And petit bits
Of precious sweet potatoes cooked très parfait

Wilco on jiwa croons of stars
And below, on Grande Armee, the cars
Swish sleepily through the rain...
Cute baguette man has sold us his wares
That we dollop with sweet Camemberts
While digesting great green goodness again

Santé! cried les legumes
Brussels Sprouts, patates douces and mushrooms
As we roar-laugh and sip wine
Making way for café
And déjeuner the next day,
Anticipant more sprout meals with a smile.

And that's an "I'm just sayin'" Random kK Tangent, too embarrassing to even have an assigned number. Feel free to throw tomatoes, but make sure they're fresh enough for me to be able to cook them with the next batch of brussels sprouts.
I'm just sayin'.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

When the lights...go the toilet

Well, one of the perks of being a teacher, assistant or otherwise, is that you can use the REAL toilets near the teachers' lounge. (Really, I don't understand why they can't just put seats on all the toilets! Us girls ain't askin' for much, now, are we?!) There's really nothing else I really needed to say about this, but I just had a quick flashback [spoiler alert: eye muffs, to all you sensitives with "tmi" on the tips of your tongues] to one time when I had to spend a little *extra* time in this quaint room, and the automatic lights went out b/c I guess they thought no one was still in there and wanted to save electricity, so I had to sit there waving my arms frantically back and forth like I was trying to catch someone's attention before they got run over by a car crossing the street.

So I think I might have mentioned my new best friend, Monsieur Hot Pink Juicer (sorry've been replaced by a machine*). On my worst days he cheers me up by promising a magical mixture of whatever I choose to throw at him. Squash kindly provided the recipe for my all-time favorite: carrots, apples, ginger (AND LOTS OF IT), spinach, and lime. YUM!!!

Monsieur Hot Pink Juicer, surrounded by his lovely ladies Carrotte, Pomme, Citron Vert, Gingembre, et Epinard

There is seriously nothing better in the morning (or any time of day, really) than a cup of strong coffee, a piece of buttery toast (my palate raises its nose and disdainfully sniffs at anything less than President-quality), and a glassful of nasty-lookin' but fan-friggin-TASTIC tasting happiness-in-a-can-baby! I'm bringing it back to the States with me when I leave, even if I have to throw out all my clothes to make room for him in my suitcase (just kidding, sort of), and EVEN THOUGH I'll have to use an adapter EACH AND EVERY TIME I USE IT. That's right. I hearts my juicer.
(He'd take a bow, but he's busy getting some beauty rest.)

Speaking of rest...[kK tangent 2684] I think it's about time to head to the library. While I don't think they'll have acquired the new Jasper Fforde yet, I did see some tasty nuggets in the sci fi/fantasy section (down in the depths of the's like a dungeon down there! but at least my little space friends have Biography/History for companions, lol!). If I'm lucky I'll get a spot on one of the two couches, where up to four strangers can get really cozy trying to share half of each bench cushion while pretending not to notice (or notice and pretend not to judge) each other's reading materials. I love taking naps in the library! I'll just be reading along and...zzzz...
[possible end to kK Tangent 2684]

I really can't be bothered to say anything entire brain is taken up with anticipation of having another glass of Green Power.
[*what! YOU'RE Dumber and I'M Dumb! Or have I been upgraded to Stupid Idiot?]

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Did you know...

...that I've just eaten 4 sugar cubes? OK, well it was really 6, but that's just crazy, who eats 6 sugar cubes and actually admits it. But there you have it, I just ate 6 delicious, brown chunky sugar cubes. So there.

So it was the first day back at school today...always a fun day, especially for teachers I'm finding. My first class was actually not so bad: There were 8 of them and they were pretty well-behaved. Maybe it's because it was 8 am and they weren't awake enough to be disruptive. But the teacher wanted me to have them talk about their anti-smoking ads they'd started in on before break, so we talked about them for a while, and when I found out that all of the students smoked I was like, "do do these ads make you want to quit smoking?" and of course everyone was like, 'duh, no,' so my brilliant, properly-caffeinated brain pulled out a lesson plan from my magic wooly winter beanie cap and blurted out, "OK, make your own anti-smoking ads!" I think I might have had a vague hope that they'd come up w/ something personal and less roll-your-eyes-ok-we-know-cigarettes-are-bad banners, but let's face it, I was mostly excited that I didn't have to put forth any of my own effort for the next 30 minutes.

So OK, the ads weren't that spectacular, in fact I'd say they were pretty much pure shit, but the students cracked me up anyway when they got up to present what they'd drawn. One group of girls had two different men separated by a line down the middle of their paper. On one side the sun was shining, the man was smiling and carried a bulging briefcase. On the other side it was raining, the man was hunched over grumpily clenching a burning cigarette (how it remained lit in the rain is still a mystery to me, but hey, like I said, it was 8 am on Monday morning after a 3 week vacation) and he had no briefcase. The slogan was "Don't Smok, It's for your Futur", and the lesson was that you will be unemployed if you keep smoking cigarettes.

What. ... ?

It was after the first group turned their paper into me that the group of boys in the back realized they actually had to give me a finished product, so they scrambled and gave me a drawing with a man's head (smoking a cigarette, of course) sticking out of a freshly dug grave. Their slogan was "Smoking Kill Your Life." Go figure.

The next class I couldn't have gotten to be interested in anything, or even properly seated, if I'd taken in a giant chocolate marshmallow attached to a Bag of Fun from Magic Teenagers-Aren't-Full-of-Angst-And-School-Is-Really-Really-Fun-I-Swear Land. And I really just have nothing more to say about that.

Luckily I got to end the day with a class I normally dread. (haha how funny does THAT sound!) However, only 3 boys showed up (the 3 girls were either sick, still on vacay, or didn't want to come b/c they'd be the only girl). The boys are usually the worst behaved and speak the least amount of English, so I was groaning very loudly (inwardly, of course) when they came in and told me why they would be the only ones in the class today.

However, after 5 minutes of outlining a few notes about women's suffrage (what a day to have THAT lesson!) I just sighed and said, "Let's listen to music now, shall we?" So I gave them a choice of about ten different songs and they were excited in that teenage boy way of being excited, which basically means they were no different, except for a slight gleam in their eyes and the amount of time they took to shuffle through the papers and try to decide which song they wanted to start with, and then a rewarding little, "we want song to not know," meaning they were interested enough that they wanted to explore something they weren't already familiar with.


So we started with "Funeral" by Band of Horses--they didn't like the lead singer's voice, which is funny b/c I love that song but I've recently realized that I, too, don't much care for his voice. They also thought the lyrics didn't make sense, which they don't, so we had a little discussion about how lots of times songs have good music but crappy lyrics and why it might be more fun to listen to songs in a foreign language so you don't have to worry about not enjoying the music b/c you can't understand the words anyway. (Well, OK, I did most of the talking but they were able to communicate their agreement and "huh, that's a good point, I feel the same way but never really thought about it like that before." Or maybe I'm reading too much into my own awesomeness, but I swear that's the impression I got from Rowdy No. 1.)

They were able to fill in most of the words I'd blanked out on Spiritualized's "Soul on Fire," then we went popular and headbanged to "American Idiot," and then ended on "California Stars." I love teaching the word "twangy" to these's such a funny word and they just look at me, like "wtf, mate." But it's so awesome b/c as soon as the guitar solo goes glidey-melty during a pause in the lyrics, I say "Hey, that's twang," and there's this fabulous "Ah HA!" moment, not on everyone's face, but on those whom it does register, it's really pretty cool. This time all 3 of them got it, and the little Arab boy that was acting the least involved in the class (staring off into space, not filling in too many lyrics) piped up to say that was his favorite song and that he really liked it.


Thus endeth Christmas vacay and beginneth the new semester. Le Sigh.


Saturday, January 2, 2010

You little phoquer!

So I just learned that if you finish a bottle of wine (or champagne) on New Year's you're supposed to be married by the end of the year. Well, if that's true then I should have been married at 16. Just sayin'.

Yar, so we're eating dinner tonight at the dinner table, watching tv and chatting as usual. Well, everyone else is chatting, I'm happily absorbed in shoveling in pasta and green beans as quickly as I can into my black hole (also read: stomach). And then I hear Madame say, "ooh, fuck!" and I choke and nearly spew bits of half-mashed veggies into Benjamin's water glass across the table. Madame looks at me, all innocent-eyed confusion, and I was like "QUOI?! COMMENT?!" And she points to the tv, where all I see are a bunch of seals and icebergs and furry-hatted humans. I start giggling, b/c I am immature, and Benjamin (who speaks really good English) is like, "haha, no, it's 'fuck!'" like that's supposed to help me, so I swallow the last bits of the mouthful I managed to not let fly and start laughing again, b/c by this point I knew it had to be a French word I was lost-in-translate-ing. Sure enough, they both spell out p-h-o-q-u-e, and point again to the tv (which by this point has a close-up of one of the seals) and keep saying "fuck, fuck, fuck!" And I seriously can not stop laughing. Even now, like 5 hours later.


Off to the library to return some books...I never even made it out of my jams yesterday, much less the apartment, so I figure it's about time to get some fresh air, even if only for about 20 minutes!