The Good, the Bad, and the Skeevy

Today was…an adventure, to say the least. I spent lunch struggling to eat spaghetti with a fork and knife—eating noodles without chopsticks seems so unnecessarily complicated?—stared at my email for about five minutes because a professor asked if I’d write him a letter of support for his tenure application, and then made the mistake of leaving the school just as a massive flood of high schoolers got out of class.

As I was taking in the view from a bench right outside Claudel, I got an iMessage from the other American assistant here, informing me he was temporarily lodging at Claudel for the weekend, so we made hasty plans to meet up.

S and I then wandered into town and into the first bar we saw, where I had my first beer—which was surprisingly drinkable?—and my first, and skeeviest, bar experience. All of my warning bells went off when the bartender asked for a kiss from me, but not from S, so I played the stupid foreigner card to avoid having to faire la bise with the skeeviest man I’ve ever met in my life. Not to mention, the bartender made the awful heteronormative assumption of asking whether S and I were dating or whatever. Oh, and he took one look at me and started talking to me in English (if I were the kind of person who cursed, I’d do it right here). It’s fine, go ahead and assume that I can’t speak French because I’m Asian. It’s not like I haven’t written an entire Wikipedia page in French or anything. Or, you know, studied abroad in France for a whole year. Or majored in it.

While S and I were just trying to have a nice conversation, the bartender came over and annoyingly started talking to us in half-comprehensible English, but didn’t understand any of the English we said to him. He asked us a bunch of questions, like where we were from in America, and then asked me that accursed “Where were you born?” question. So I firmly said, “America,” and he wanted to know where my parents were from—“America” and my grandparents—“America.” I’m actually a first-generation child, but for the first time in my life, I felt perfectly comfortable lying to someone. Like, what did he think, that I was going to tell the truth to someone who called me “a yellow girl?” Hell no. (I concur with Madeline, who’s angrily yelling via Discord, “He can eat my entire dick!”)

After I surrendered the remaining half of my pint of beer to S, we tried to bolt out of there, except he made S sign a ten-dollar bill and then pretty much forced me into giving him la bise, so I deeply unhappily did it. And then, after we left, I promptly scrubbed my cheeks with my flannel shirt to get rid of the awful, hair-raising feeling of his stubble against my skin. (Nearly two hours later, I’m still scratching my cheeks, trying to get rid of the feeling.)

S and I both agreed that it was a completely uncomfortable experience, and that we’d never be setting foot in there again. Although S handled the situation with a lot more grace than I did, he said he’d been manically rubbing together the coins in his pocket, which I envy, because I absolutely would have been doing the same thing if girl pants had reasonably-sized pockets.

So yeah, that was the most uncomfortable moment of my life, as a woman and as an Asian. Way worse than when I was waiting alone outside the train station in Nice and a guy tried to flirt with me by guessing my ethnicity. PSA: If you ever visit Laon, don’t ever go inside the bar Vortex. Don’t do it.

Anyways, I then took S to the view of the plains by the cathedral, and we talked a bit before heading back to Claudel. When I got back to my room, I checked my email and made a pleasant discovery—there’s another English assistant here, an British guy, working at a lycée not too far from where I live. So that makes four of us in Laon—me, the afore-mentioned other American, the English guy, and the Spanish girl!

 

Interrogation Day at Méchain

Although my contract doesn’t officially start until October 1, it’s not like I have any pressing plans here, so I agreed to let the Méchain teacher’s 15-16 year old students interview me for a project today. N picked me up at Claudel, then drove me down to Méchain, where I sadly learned that I pretty much have to stand on tiptoe to faire la bise with practically every teacher. Tall people, what’s your secret? Share.IMG_2108.JPG

My heart was trying to climb out of my ribs just before the first class, because there’s nothing like having a classroom full of teenagers staring at you. But when I started answering their questions, all my anxiety disappeared, especially when I realized they were probably more nervous than I was—I was effortlessly speaking my native language, while they were talking to a native speaker with a language they’ve probably never used outside of school.

For each of the three classes, I had to answer some of the same questions over and over again, like “What’s your name/age/favorite color/music/film/sport/food?” “Where do you live in America?” “Are you married?” and “Do you have siblings/pets/children?” One girl asked, “Do you like Mr. V?” and when I glanced over at N, he rolled his eyes. I mean, obviously I was going to answer, “No, I hate the teacher who’s been super nice to me.”

Sometimes things got slightly awkward when I couldn’t understand the students’ pronunciation, like when they said “clothes” instead of “color,” but N would step in and clarify things. I did have to explain words like daycare, lifeguard, and salesman, as well as concepts like stir fry, Parks and Recreation, and the difference between college and university. But really, the only bump was when some over-achiever asked, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” and I went, UM I DON’T KNOW QUICK BS SOMETHING and so I blurted out, “Teaching or grad school?” My favorite moment, though, was when a student adorably said, “Do you have a woman?” when he was trying to say, “Are you married?”

Méchain has a smaller English team, five teachers as opposed to Claudel’s ten, but they’re equally nice and spent lunch mocking the burkini ban, which was fine with me. The lead English teacher here has actually been to Richmond, interestingly enough! N took me through the canteen, graciously paying for my lunch, and honestly, I’m jealous of these high schoolers. The food at both schools is delicious and edible, unlike *cough R-MC food cough*. Meals include a dessert, fruit, cheese, or yogurt; a main dish (some kind of meat); side dishes (vegetables and/or pasta); and a mini-baguette. At Claudel, it costs 3.85 euros, and though I’m not sure about Méchain’s price, I’m also allowed to cut students in the food line. (Interestingly, Méchain students are only allowed to have fries once a week—imagine the rioting that would happen at R-MC. Also, high schoolers are in school from 8:00-5:45, those poor souls.)

I start working at Méchain next week, on Monday, Tuesday, and mostly Thursday, so hopefully it won’t be too nerve-wracking. I mean, I did walk around the school in a circle because all the corridors look the same and I didn’t know how to get out, but eventually I found the entrance/exit. Oh, and I walked in the wrong direction while looking for the bus stop and tried to ask a deaf professor for directions, but welcome to my life. Now I have to awkwardly listen to the three recordings of my interview answers, because N has to grade about 60 oral compte-rendus of my life, and it’ll save him a lot of time if I summarize what I said in case a student says, “She has ten cats and a zebra” when in fact I mentioned no such thing.

 

 

Miscellaneous Moments, Part II

This is going to be a (probably very long) ongoing collection of random moments that are too short to stand alone as a post, but that I thought were still blog-worthy:

  • While I was walking back to Claudel, a police officer ran past me shouting, “Machete!” into his walkie-talkie, which was just a bit concerning. Good thing we were going in opposite directions.
  • Some middle-aged dude living next to me opened his door to ask whether my keys were working fine after he heard me struggling with the lock. I appreciate the nicety, but did he have to do it shirtless?
  • It’s fascinating how cities transform in the rain—it started drizzling Sunday afternoon, so I retreated from my brief, misty Porte de Soissons and Tour penchée adventure and took shelter in the school courtyard, listening to the rain fall above me as I experienced my first taste of chilly northern France. While I sat there watching the slanting sheets of rain, the funniest little half-smile ghosted across my face—who could’ve guessed that, after my sixth-grade English teacher told me I needed speech therapy because being painfully shy would “hurt me later on in life” (no I’m not still salty about it), ten years later, I’d be sitting in France for the second time, wondering if teaching was a good fit for me?
  • Adulthood benefits: F, my main Claudel contact (I’m just going to start using initials. The whole “this teacher” and “that teacher” is getting too complicated), took me through the canteen for the first time, and I’m allowed to cut the line for getting into the building, scanning my card, and putting away my dirty dishes. (I’ll have to make sure I do it with a teacher, or else no one will believe I’m actually older than the students. Maybe I should’ve just grabbed some of the wine from the fridge in the teachers’ eating room.) Also, F looked beyond sad when I told her that R-MC’s cafeteria is the nightmare of the campus.
  • A math teacher thought that I was F’s adopted child. Sigh. (To be fair, I’ve been zigzagging my way across campus to delightedly step on all the crunchy leaves, so that probably doesn’t help.)
  • F started talking to me about the American elections and suggested I research why people are voting for Trump. Please, no. Racism, misogyny, homophobia, religious intolerance, sheer stupidity? I don’t know, take your pick. Then M-L (another English teacher) struck up a conversation about the horrors of a certain orange-faced nightmare while I was sat there going, “Please stop talking to me about Trump let me live in denial.”
  • I accidentally wrote “abandonner” instead of “abonner” in an email to F, telling her that I’d abandon instead of subscribe to a newsletter. Excuse me while I hide in a corner.
  • While I was using the photocopier, trying and failing to copy my passport, a teacher said, “Pardon?” so I turned and put on my best innocent “I’m not wasting paper” look, but luckily he just wanted to know if I was the new assistant—he was the only English teacher I hadn’t met yet.
  • Unlike when I’m in America, I don’t have to spell my first or last name out loud when I tell it to people. It’s great.

When Dreams Become Reality

On Saturday (9/24), I decided to take full advantage of my free afternoon and do some exploring. As I wandered toward the pedestrian street and the cathedral, two guys around my age turned and waited for me. My first thought was, “Oh god they’re going to catcall me,” but one of them just asked if I had a cigarette lighter.

Awkwardly, it turned out we were all headed for the same place, so after I snapped a picture of Picardie, I turned and moseyed into the cathedral because I’m a suspicious person in a patriarchal world and didn’t want to keep talking to random dudes. (Why did they want to know how old I am, or where I live???)

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The cathedral was built from 1150-1180, and meandering through it, I felt like a blip in time, much like when I’d stood in the Colosseum. After I finished very self-consciously click-clacking through all that history in my heeled boots, I sat in the tourist office for a while, playing “How long can I sit here and use their wi-fi before it gets awkward?”

Eventually, I wandered back outside to the panoramic view, gazing out at the vast Picardie landscape sprawled out before me, a sea of houses and plains and bright blue sky. And right there and then, with the sun shining down on me and the wind ruffling the grass and my hair, I had an emotional moment. My thoughts drifted to my friends and professors who helped me get to Laon, and standing there on top of the hill, I absolutely did not start crying. After having so many people encouraging and helping me to fulfill my dream of going back to France, it was kind of bittersweet that, in the end, I was taking in that incredible view alone.

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But I know that they’re all happy for me, so I wiped away my tears and walked away from that picturesque backdrop, filled with a new resolve to do my best in TAPIF, to take advantage of this opportunity of a lifetime by living life to the fullest here. So I promptly went into a bakery and bought a ridiculously delicious strawberry macaron, confusing the baker—“Just one? That’s all?”—and, while wandering through narrow French streets, ate it for all of you.

 

Miscellaneous Moments

  • Probably the shining moment of my jetlag was when I noticed there was a line for the RER B machines, though not the change machine, except I couldn’t decide whether to ask if I could cut the line in English or French, so I ended up pointing at the machine and cutting the line.
  • For the train to Laon, I completely forgot to composter my ticket, but luckily the contrôleur was nice about my criminal past and didn’t fine me. (Or maybe he took pity on the sheer confusion on my face. Hey, it’s been two years since I’ve ridden a French train.)
  • I noticed a dude waving his arms wildly outside Claudel’s gates while the Claudel teacher was talking to me, but just assumed it was some guy being weird. It wasn’t until he shouted, “Hello, let me in!” and the Claudel teacher responded, “Why would I, you’re the enemy!” that I realized he was the Méchain teacher. Oops.
    • He and a school librarian were talking about asking me for English book recommendations, and despite running on a single broken hour of sleep, I thought, “Yes, hello, it’s my time to shine.” (It definitely doesn’t mean I’m a nerd if I’ve read all the books the librarian showed me, Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, The Fault in Our Stars, and If I Stay.)
    • When he said the students might ask me if I have a boyfriend or girlfriend, the anti-heteronormativity part of me felt so touched.
    • He also told me, “The students are shy and not very self-confident about their accents.” Oh, don’t worry, you couldn’t have found a better person to understand that struggle.
  • I can’t figure out why on earth the past English assistants left Christmas trees here. Nor can I see what’s on the top shelf of the closet, because even standing tiptoe on one of the excessive five chairs in the room, I’m too smol. I have to stand on one foot just to reach the coat hanger on the back of the bedroom door…the struggle is too real.
  • When I first tried to find the salle des professeurs, I walked straight into the wrong building, into a room brimming with high schoolers, where I stared in bewilderment at the wall as if a staircase would appear, and then walked right back out. (Listen, I was too jet-lagged to remember the tour I’d received when I’d been awake for twenty-three hours.) I asked an office worker where to find the room, and the lady peered at me before asking, “Are you an assistant?”
  • I made the mistake of going outside when the bell rang, and when I tried to navigate through a sea of high schoolers, my first thought was, “Good god I blend right in with these children. Help me.”
  • I’ve gotten so many weird looks from professors in the salle des professeurs and the computer room. Look, I’m sorry that I’ve got such a baby face that I seem to be part of the student populace.
  • How many times have I said, “Bonjour, enchantée” or “Je suis l’assistante d’anglais” over the span of three days? We just don’t know.
  • I bought a baguette at Carrefour for 35 cents, and Madeline went, “…what is this magical place.” I don’t know, wife. Bread that cheap and delicious exists nowhere in the US. Somebody stop me before I eat too many baguettes for my own good.
  • I woke up feeling awfully nauseated on Friday, so I went to the nurse and she asked, “You have to consider, is there any possibility that you’re pregnant?” and I nearly snorted. If that ever happened, it’d be some scenario as outlandish and improbable as the one on Jane the Virgin. I envy the nurse for getting to see the expression on my face.
  • I don’t know what to do with the fact that everyone has gone out of their way to be nice to me—one of them actually drove me across the bridge to Chambry to go grocery shopping, and brought me back. Plus, a Spanish teacher said she’d introduce me to the Spanish assistant (a girl), after she arrives on Saturday, so I can have a buddy to explore the city with. I’d offer them Reese’s, but I only brought a bag of 14 with me, intending to give them to my two main teachers’ families, so…

Travel Diaries

Guess who finally got WordPress to work in the teachers’ room? (Thank god. I tried to desperately update my blog last week, but couldn’t, because it turns out that Internet Explorer hates everything. Now I’m using Firefox.) So I’m going to slowly dump all my outdated posts here, starting with September 20-21.


-When I got to Philadelphia, I met up with another TAPIFer, posted in Lille, and we hung out for about fifteen minutes. Right before we boarded, another assistant (posted in Amiens, too!) ran up to us and introduced herself. I probably should’ve tried to sleep, considering the flight was so empty there were 100 unfilled seats and the rest of my four-person row was gloriously unoccupied, but I was just too excited because everything felt so surreal—if I hadn’t chosen to major in French over English, if I hadn’t studied abroad in Nice, if I hadn’t loved my senior year French classes so much, I wouldn’t have been on that plane to Paris, about to embark on the next stage of my life. Before the plane closed for boarding, the intercom announced, “If you’re not planning on going to Paris, please get off at this time,” and a mom and I made eye contact and burst into laughter. Seriously, I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to go to Paris, especially with the Pennsylvanian sunset painting the sky in streaks of pink and pouring liquid gold through the windows.

-My first thought upon seeing Laon from the train window was, “Oh my god it’s so pretty I’m going to cry.” (No, I wasn’t jetlagged and emotional, I’m just allergic to feelings.)

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Outside the train station, as I waited for for the Claudel teacher to pick me up, I stared in awe at the cathedral at the top of the hill, shrouded in clouds. The teacher’s three children gave me bisous on the cheek, along with an adorable welcome sign, and I had lunch at her house.

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She then took me on a tour of Claudel, where my fourth-floor room (I forgot the French count the first floor as zero) looks out upon the canteen and some other buildings. (I’ve accepted I will never have a window view as pretty as my Niçois one.)

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Unfortunately, I forgot all the information, not to mention the teachers’ names—I was so tired I would’ve been willing to curl up on the concrete in the middle of a high school courtyard and pass out there and then. Later in the afternoon, she surrendered me to the Méchain teacher for a tour of that school, and then a trip to the supermarket. Finally, I was abandoned at my room at 4:40, where I managed to stay awake until 7:40 before I gave up and passed out for thirteen hours.

Au revoir, America

As I find increasingly creative ways to avoid packing the last few things I need, I can’t decide which is worse:

A) The fact that my inner bookworm is currently whispering, “You have extra space? Pack more books!” while my common sense is arguing, “Sarena, no.”

B) The fact that this conversation actually happened:
Pat: “How many books are you bringing?”
Me: “Uhhhh…like…two…and a half?”
Pat: “A half? How can you bring half a book?”
Me: “It’s like 50 pages, so it doesn’t really count. It’s a really small book.”
Iszi: “Is it the one from your French class last semester?”
Me: “……Yes.”
Iszi: “SARENA OH MY GOD YOU FUCKING NERD.”

 

So while I leave you with my sentimental nerd problems, here’s a look at my much less complicated itinerary:

Richmond (3:30pm) –> Philadelphia (4:47-6:20pm) –> Paris (7:55am) –> RER B (?) –> Gare du Nord (9:55am departure?) –> Laon (ideally 11:27am)

If you, for any reason, want to be notified ASAP when I arrive in Paris or Laon, just let me know, and I’ll add you to the list of people to email! Hopefully I don’t fall asleep on the way to Laon, since all of that traveling and then staying up in a potentially futile attempt to avoid jet lag might as well equal pulling an all-nighter. (Which, even as an irrefutable nerd, I’ve never actually done for school.)

Speaking of school, after seeing all my R-MC friends for what will probably be the last time this year, I’m feeling a bit nostalgic. So here’s a much-deserved shout-out to all of my friends, teachers, and professors who never condemned or criticized me for being quiet, who saw past my shyness, who helped me get to where I am today. You know who you are. (I’ve probably hugged you or written something for you or cried on you. Or, if you’re especially [un]lucky, all three.)

Anyways, this will be my last post from this side of the Atlantic Ocean until…I’m not actually sure. Until some unspecified date past September 21, when I find or buy Internet in Laon, whenever that will be. In the meantime, here’s a site with a lot of pretty pictures: https://www.glamourapartments.com/blog/travel/laon-gothic-gem-of-picardie/.

PS. I figured that link was a better—albeit less hilarious—way of ending this post than Madeline’s suggested, “Bye bitches.”

TAPIF Trivia

As September 20 draws closer and I continue to procrastinate on packing, I thought I’d make a list about what I know so far in terms of working, housing, and other miscellaneous categories. This list is mostly because all the information I have so far is scattered across various emails and months and is pretty much as disorganized as my suitcases, so I figured I might as well put it all in one place.

(At least I managed to move everything from my room to downstairs. And put mostly everything into the suitcases.)

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Anyways, moving on to the actual info:

  • I have breaks from Oct 19-Nov 3, Nov 11, Dec 17-Jan 3, Feb 11-Feb 27, and Apr 8-Apr 24.
  • One of the Claudel teachers is going to help me open a bank account at Banque Populaire.
  • My mailing address is: Sarena T / Lycée Paul Claudel / Place Foch / 02000 LAON.
  • According to the previous TAPIFer in Laon, I’m supposed to try Maroilles, a local specialty of stinky but delicious cheese.
  • My studio is 30m2, and while I have no idea how big that is, I’m just satisfied that the kitchen has a fridge, stove, and toaster oven.
  • On October 7, from 9:30-5:00, all of the language assistants in Picardie (all 70+ of us, not just the Americans!) have orientation in Amiens. Judging by the Facebook group, most of us are interested in hanging out and spending the weekend there, so that’ll be a nice way to meet other people who are in France for the same reason that I am.
  • There’s an American assistant in Laon as well, only he’ll be helping at the collège/middle school level. The Spanish lycée assistant is still a ghost at this point, because I’ve heard absolutely nothing from or about them.
  • How do I pack for 7 months? We just don’t know. (Don’t ask me for packing tips because I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m almost finished and my big suitcase isn’t even full.)
  • Apparently, I’ll be alternating my 12-hour/week work schedule between the two schools, so I’ll at be Claudel one week and Méchain the next, and so on. I don’t know if this still applies because of the alternating weeks, but my first two days I’ll just be shadowing teachers to see how the French school system works.
  • Schedule permitting, I have the option of teaching primary school children from 4-5pm on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.
  • The Méchain teacher I’ve been emailing very politely invited me to his house for dinner with his family on October 1, giving me the option to refuse, and I just sort of sat there and stared at the email like, “Why would I turn down a free ride to and from someone’s house, free food, and the chance to meet three small children?”
    • He also asked whether I’d join his class on September 29, from 10-12 and 2-3 and eat lunch with him outside. (God, do they have a two-hour lunch break? Where was this at my high school, where I pretty much died during 21-minute lunches because I’m an incredibly slow eater? In my defense, my mouth is so small that I’m missing 6 teeth, but I digress.) He wants his sophomore students to interview me and then write a newspaper article about me. I feel like I’m being turned into some sort of celebrity.
    • According to him, speaking English perfectly is 90% of the job, which is actually kind of comforting.
  • I have to go to another OFII appointment. Hopefully this time, it won’t be as traumatic as when I got so lost in Nice, I showed up two hours late. At least the workers honestly didn’t care, though I suspect they were involved in the conspiracy of putting two completely different addresses on the envelope.
  • The Claudel teacher I’ve been emailing asked me if I could bring brochures, ads, posters, buttons, or anything else authentic related to the presidential election, and while I have seen nary a bumper sticker relating to the election here in VA (maybe everyone’s still in denial—heck, I’m still in denial), I figured it was best not to tell her that, if I ever get anything from Trump, I’m burning it. Immediately.

Little Study Abroad Things, Part VI

This is going to be the last post of its kind, since I’ll be in France for TAPIF soon, and afterwards, my francophone experience won’t be solely study abroad-related:

  • Every time I see that Brie Larson is going to be Captain Marvel, my first thought is, “Why is she named after cheese?”
  • I absolutely did not start crying when one of my English professors emailed me to see if I was okay after the Nice attack. Nope, definitely not. You’ve got the wrong person.
  • I’ve filled out so many French forms that I now have my passport number memorized. I’d say send help, but it’s turned out to be pretty handy.
  • My mom told me to read the instructions on the back of these fancy Korean instant noodles. I ended up translating them from French because the English was crumpled up and I didn’t feel like straightening out the plastic.
  • Nothing’s more tragic than walking past crêpes and macarons in San Francisco and not having the time to buy and consume them.
  • I pronounced “Valor” like it was a French word. Oops.
  • At the city hall in Sacramento, I was entranced not by the gorgeous architecture or by the rare Pokémon, but by the volume of L’Encyclopédie sitting in the library museum.
  • Seeing ports and hills dotted with clusters of tiny houses always makes me miss southern France.
  • I started giggling at the redundancy of a sign that read “Lycée Français de San Francisco School.”
  • We got these massive macarons in a bakery in Napa Valley, though I almost cried over the sandwiches that resembled the ones I used to eat in Nice for lunch. (The near-tears could’ve also been my inner French major cringing every time someone pronounced “macaron” as “macaroon.”)
  • I told this lady that I majored in French, and her response was, “Interesting. You know, it’s not very useful.” Okay, thanks for sharing an opinion that I couldn’t care less about.
  • At the French Embassy, the guy who worked at the gate promptly switched languages after I told him that I’d majored in French. It was the most heart-warming response I’ve gotten from an adult who inquired after my major in the three months since I’ve graduated.
  • I got really excited because Iszi put my French major to good use in World of Mirth: “Sarena, this has vaguely French things on it. I don’t understand. Explain.”
  • On the other hand, another friend told me, “I saw some French things and then got really disappointed because ‘Man, I wish Sarena were here so I could mispronounce everything and make her angry.’” Oh, and another one promptly launched into, “Honhonhon baguette Tower Eiffel.” Olivia and Shawn, I trusted you. Why would you do this to me.
  • I popped by R-MC for a visit on Labor Day, and one English professor remarked, “You’ll get to use the languages that you love! Well, you don’t love English as much as French,” and another English professor started excitedly telling me about the fact that his American Lit class discusses French ex-pats: “The class was tailor-made for you!” I’m glad this is the legacy I’ve left behind.
  • On a chat I screamed, “NO THIS DOESN’T LET ME USE FRENCH ACCENTS LIKE SKYPE DOES.” And then, later, a friend yelled, “SARENA COME BACK U FRENCH NERD.” Again, I’m glad this is my legacy. (Along with the fact that my friends still mock me for when I accidentally went over page limits back in school. No, I absolutely didn’t once give my ASL professor two pages when she asked for a minimum of two paragraphs.)

My French Fail

So the story begins like this: on the bright, sunny day of August 17, I was driving to the French embassy to apply for my visa. Somewhere on the highway near DC, I was about to drive past a green car with a magnetic ad stuck to one of its doors. The first thing I saw, in large letters, was “Got dents?”

“What a clever dentist ad!” I thought. (After all, “dents” is French for “teeth.”)

As I drove past the car, I realized that the ad was not talking about teeth. The large magnet was populated with pictures of dented cars. “Got dents?” was actually talking about car dents.

(Look, don’t question why I thought it made perfect sense for an advertisement to use English and French in America. I’d gotten up way too early for the morning visa appointment.)

The story ends like this: after I recounted my nerd gaffe to Madeline and Iszi on Facebook, they replied:

Madeline: “OH MY GOD SARENA. YOU SWEET CHILD.”

Iszi: “: | Sarena pls. Dear sweet Sarena. I only love struggle busses.”