Random thoughts while walking

Trip Start Sep 25, 2006
Trip End Apr 30, 2007

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Digne is really small. I think it's the perfect size, in fact, for someone (like me) who doesn't have a car. In 15 minutes I can walk from the school to the centre ville, the pretty downtown area where almost everything I need is located. It is sometimes necessary to walk a little farther (to get to a supermarket, for example) and on those days I get a nice 5 kilometer walk and a breath of fresh air. Digne's air is clean and dry and the sky here is rarely cloudy. My only complaint is the drastic change in temperature-but it's so predictable that it's hard to dislike. It's always sunny during the day, which makes it quite warm, but it's cool in the shade and when the sun goes down it gets cold!

This town is ideal for walking (minus the sidewalks adorned with dog poo as European sidewalks are), and so I've found myself thinking, on my many promenades, random thoughts that I shall post below.

1. I've decided that my favorite French word is "truc," because it is pronounced with my favorite French sound (phonetically transcribed as /y/) and because it means "thingamajig," thus allowing its liberal use in almost any sentence. So I, with my limited vocabulary, benefit greatly from its invention; any time I don't know the French word for so-and-so, I just insert truc and voilà! instant communication improvement!

2. I wonder where oranges come from. The orange juice here comes from Spain, but it's not as good as Florida OJ, in my opinion-it's more acidic and more watery. There are citrus trees all over the Mediterranean region. I'd always thought that oranges were native to Florida, but it's possible that Spanish explorers brought them to our country, no? I really don't know anything about herbomorphology but it's interesting to hypothesize.

3. On a similar note, I think I learned once where potatoes come from originally, but I don't remember now. I read it in the Bill Bryson book Made in America: An Informal History of the English of the United States of America which I've been reading for over 2 years now and still have not finished. I recommend it. See #5c.

4. Franglais is wonderful and I enjoy speaking it with my fellow American assistants. (For example, "Let's verser to the other side of the rue; we'll need to take a droite up ahead to get to chez moi anyway.") If I can't yet think entirely in French, I might as well think partially in French.

5. Things that I wish I had with me:
a. A French textbook, with which to review grammar. I did end up finding a 2€ Grammaire Française which will be useful, though, and today I bought a copy of La Gloire de Mon Père for 50 centimes at a yard sale. I hope that reading in French will be a good exercise for my brain.
b. Febreze. Everybody smokes here, which sucks for them because they will all die of lung cancer, and for me because my clothes end up smelling like black lung. P.S. If you smoke, I'm only kidding, you only might die of lung cancer. I love you!
c. Books other than the ones I brought. OK, I'm not really giving the ones I brought much of a chance. I haven't really started teaching yet, so I don't know whether they'll be useful or not (they're TESOL materials generously donated by my cousin), and I can already think of some books which would be great for teaching that I left at home (Shel Silverstein, Roald Dahl). But meanwhile, I'd really like to be able to look up useless and trivial information like the country of origin of potatoes when the moment to do so arises.
d. French Kiss, the VHS. I admit here my two guilty pleasures: The Chick Flick and antiquated video technology. While I was getting psyched up about applying for the job I currently have and the prospect of moving to France, I watched French Kiss every night before I went to sleep. I'm not kidding. But I've heard that even VHS readers are different here, so I'm not sure whether it'd do me any good anyway.
e. Some cute, comfy clothes for going out at night, to serve the purpose of looking cute and not dying of, um, discomfort on the walk home. Actually, this isn't really true. Holly and I were talking the other night about how we want to meet some more people (other than assistants) while we're here, but how we don't want to get hit on by sleazy drageurs. So looking cute isn't really necessary, because the point isn't to attract people in that way. Plus, I never owned any cute and comfortable clothes to begin with, so I can't really complain about not having them here, now can I?
f. Teaching materials that, in retrospect, EVERYBODY told me I'd need. Maps, for example. There are no maps of North America in the classrooms here--of course not, why would there be? And it's a pain the butt to download copies of things I could have obtained much more easily in the U.S.

6. That whole toilet seat thing? I think about it several times a day--coincidentally, about as often as I go to the bathroom. They tell me that there are no toilet seats for reasons of hygiene, but your butt goes on it regardless of whether there's a seat or not. I guess if there's a seat, then it's just more work for the janitors or whoever cleans it, because they have to lift the seat and clean more things. So I've decided that it's not so much an issue of cleanliness, but of laziness.

7. I've been informed that American English is not at all in demand in the global world of English teaching and learning; everyone wants to learn British English instead. I guess I understand, but I feel a little disillusioned--I thought that as a native English speaker, I would be sought after by every TEFL employer in the world. This is untrue and I feel forced to rethink career options; it's not as if I had my foot firmly in this door or anything, but it would be almost impossible for me to work legally in Europe because I don't have E.U. citizenship. The assistantship program is an exceptional case because we're being employed by the government.

8. I like the light switches here. They are square (or circular) buttons and many switches glow a little so you can find them in the dark without groping the walls.

9. They like to serve shrimp here with, as Zoe says, "all their clothes on." I like seafood, and seeing them in their shells with eyes and legs and sometimes eggs gives me a little sad feeling right before I rip open the shell and eat them.
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