Miscellaneous Moments, Part XIII

  • You know you’re in too deep with your French major when you cringe at how some people pronounce “Bonjour” in that one Beauty and the Beast song.
  • There’s nothing more entertaining than listening to American college students attempt to figure out what the flavor nature (plain) chips were: “Maybe they just threw a bunch of nature in a bag!” “Can you have chips au naturel?”
  • These past few days, so many people have been asking—in English and in French—what I want to do in the future, and I’m sure that at least one of my French professors will be delighted to hear that I automatically reply, “I’m thinking about going to grad school for a French PhD.”
  • On the train, the French guy next to me was working on a paper in English, and I desperately wanted to offer to edit it for him because my inner-writing tutor has been starved for a year.
  • In the hallway, I got stuck in one of those “Sorry I don’t know what direction you’re going in and I’m trying not to walk into you” dances, which would’ve been fine, except I didn’t know which language to apologize in. I tried to say, “Pardon” and then wondered if I should be saying, “Sorry,” so instead what came out was a mumbled “Porry.” (It’s like the time I couldn’t decide between “You’re welcome” and “No problem” at the Writing Center, what left my mouth was a muffled, “You’re problem.”)
  • Shout-out to Jt for inviting me to her house to hang out with three other teachers—they fed me rose tea, apple-walnut cake, and dark chocolate, and then we played Bandido and Uno…except I kept forgetting to say “Uno” when I had one card left.
  • I’ve finally figured out the secret to being an adult: making an official phone call to the bank, in French no less, without panicking.
  • Iv, a Spanish teacher at Claudel, asked if I liked Laon and I replied, “Ouiiiii” before finally ending in “Et non,” to which he gave me the thumbs up. I mean, the city’s got a stunning cathedral and view, but, as several teachers have told me, “It’s dead,” aka there’s nothing to do.
    • He also asked if I liked the orange Cheeto who’s somehow in charge of the US, and when Iv said “No, not at all,” he laughed and said we could be friends.
  • Isn’t it lovely when you tell R, a German teacher, that you’re leaving on the 8 before your visa expires, and she jokes that it’s good that I’m escaping while I still can, before Le Pen becomes president? And then Iv chimes in, saying she wouldn’t hesitate to throw me in French jail because, as R put it, I’m American and Asian. Yay bigoted politicians!
  • A cute waiter gave me 7 pieces of candy with my bill, and I didn’t know what to do with all of it, so I left exact change, took 5 pieces, and ran. I’m an adult.
  • I’m still thinking about that flaky, buttery, still-warm pain au chocolat I ingested before leaving Rouen. I’m going to miss French pastries so much.
    • On my way to the train station, the cutest baby with a rabbit hat and two bottom teeth waved enthusiastically at me while babbling in French gibberish.
  • Sure, an open bag of madeleines marked “Mangez-nous” (Eat us) in the middle of the staffroom might be suspicious, but I ate them anyways. Here’s to hoping that nobody wanted to poison an American savoring as much French food as she can before she leaves.
  • That awkward moment when the Claudel teachers are joking about whether or not Trump will let me back into the US and F says, “She’ll be fine, she doesn’t look Muslim.”
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Miscellaneous Moments, Part XII

  • While walking back from Méchain, I stopped outside the front of a closed-down building, unable to resist the temptation of two cardboard boxes filled with books and labeled “Servez-vous” (Help yourselves). After combing through all the books, I left with one—okay, who am I kidding—two books: a battered, much-loved copy of Meïpe ou la délivrance by André Malraux (that’s so old, the price is in francs), and a copy of the play Saint Joan by Bernard Shaw. The next day, the boxes vanished, and now a week later, I still haven’t been able to find the building or the boxes. If it weren’t for the two new books in my room, I’d be convinced that I made the entire thing up in my tired-from-climbing-up-the-mountain, lunch-deprived state.
  • Ml was very rudely gossiping about a teacher in the staffroom, and when she asked N what he thought, he just kind of blankly replied, “Je ne sens rien” (I feel nothing/I have no opinion), which shut her down immediately. Meanwhile, I sat there in front of my computer and tried desperately not to snicker.
  • While FaceTiming my mom, she started casually writing down everything I want to eat when I get back. The list, with the exception of peanut butter, consists entirely of Asian foods, and she mocked me when I told her that tofu doesn’t exist here: “You chose to live there.” Thanks, mother.
  • After Al and I shared total confusion about my work at Méchain, i.e. giving out grades and being left with half a class for 30 minutes without direction, she explained the grading rubric to me in about 10 minutes. Thanks, Méchain, you couldn’t have told me this yourself instead of dumping me with terminales and the extremely unhelpful instruction of “tell them how to improve,” making a Claudel teacher explain my job at another school to me?
  • There’s nothing more bizarre and more satisfying than having a conversation with a teacher in two different languages—M-L was using French and I was defaulting to English, but we understood each other without a hitch.
  • Please stop forcing heteronormativity on me. I may have died of laughter when a BTS student (they’re usually around 18-24) asked my age and then the teacher said he might ask me out for a drink, but only because I’d never accept going anywhere with a guy unless I know them.
  • Jt told one of her classes, “Sarena is very good at PowerPoints. She never says exactly what is on the slide,” and I was like, aw, that’s the nicest teaching praise I’ve gotten.
  • You know this job leaves you with way too much free time on your hands when you try learning German on your phone and wander outside for half an hour to watch the sun set. Likewise, I absolutely did not stand on a sidewalk for ten minutes, talking to a cat because I was trying to get a good picture of it and its shy calico companion.
  • I nearly snorted with laughter because La called Ml an idiot, and you know it’s bad when someone who doesn’t even work with her doesn’t like her.
  • This wee French baby started arguing with his dad that he could cross the street without looking because there were no cars, and it’s one of the cutest things I’ve ever witnessed.
  • You know you’re a nerd when M-L asks you for help translating and you happily finish a 223-word French to English translation in about 30 minutes.
  • Saying goodbyes is my least favorite part of endings. Maybe it’s for the best that N was on a school trip during my last day at Méchain—I stashed his and M’s letter and present in his pigeonhole and ran, thereby avoiding any potential possibility of tears.
  • I tried so, so hard not to laugh when the tour guide in Dublin said, “Boy, did we get behind Catholicism.”
  • That moment when you don’t have your glasses on and you think “Witness history” says “Whiteness history” and you go, “History is already white, who needs more of that?”
  • In Dublin, we got some lovely hostel roommates, though I felt really bad because one of them was Scottish and sometimes I couldn’t understand her accent.
  • Few sunrises are more stunning than one seen from an airplane window.

Miscellaneous Moments, Part XI

  • Me, when there’s unexpected sunlight in Laon: “Sorry, I can’t work today, I have to…go outside…and photosynthesize.” That’s a legitimate excuse, right? (It’s gotten so bad in the north of France that a) my solar powered-watch stopped working last month and b) what I thought was a permanent watch tan has nearly faded.)
  • The highest (or lowest, depending on how you look at it) peak of my adulthood: eating soup with a baguette.
  • I got the strangest sense of déjà vu when I was in Amsterdam, and then I realized it was because I was walking down the exact same street to Dam Square that I’d been on two years ago with my parents.
  • Although I despise the smell of cigarette smoke, I decided to stay outside and talk to the French assistant I’d met just outside the hostel earlier, and she joked, “I’m not smoking what they’re smoking.” (This was Amsterdam. I’m sure you can put two and two together.)
  • I told a guy “De rien” on the train…except we were in the wrong country. We were in Amsterdam. Don’t let me be an adult.
  • On the walking tour in Copenhagen, there was a group of Americans studying abroad in Lyon, and one of them was considering TAPIF. Small world.
  • I almost cried when I found an entire tub of lemon cookies in my mailbox from M-L because I’d helped her with something. (Don’t let people do nice things for me.)
  • “Take one napkin. Save the environment,” the cafeteria napkin dispenser says as I pull out 10 of them and wrap a slab of still-bloody beef to smuggle to my room and cook for dinner because I can’t handle the French style of rare meat.
  • I was about to walk down a steep hill on my way to Méchain when four of my students walked past and shouted, “Bonne chance!” after me.
  • Ml sent me a topic that she said her students would debate, and asked me to explain it in my own words. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but if you need to email a native English speaker and ask them for an explanation, isn’t it logical to, you know, not have the students debate the topic?
  • When Ak asks you if you can come to her class the minute before it starts and says, “I’m sorry I couldn’t ask you earlier,” but you’ve run into her three times this week and she has your email address ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (and then you do nothing the entire hour except be used as an accent and read a short article out loud).
  • Good god, some of these children are so horrifically behaved—yelling, throwing pens, hitting each other with rulers, giggling over their phones, and taking selfies during class. They’re so…privileged.
  • Shout-out to F for agreeing that I shouldn’t be doing any grading at Méchain because it’s ethically and morally wrong (her words, not mine! Although I wholly agree).
  • After sending me a passive-aggressive email, Ml told me that she wants me to prepare a 55-minute long activity when I take her entire class by myself (illegal under the assistant contract, sigh). Don’t even try being passive-aggressive with me. I have three more days at Méchain and absolutely nothing to lose. (Sorry if I’ve been sounding salty lately, my pent-up salt is all spilling out at the end of the year.)
  • I couldn’t help but laugh when R was talking about what he did over the weekend and proudly announced, “I pet a cat.” He was trying to say, “I babysat a cat,” and looked so dejected that I told him “pet” meant caresser and gave him the word “babysitting,” which he promptly modified to “cat-sitting.”

Miscellaneous Moments, Part X

  • While I was doing absolutely nothing productive on a computer in the teachers’ room (though it probably looked like I was busy because I was working on a story and Word always looks official), N came up to me and asked, “Can I be very rude and impolite for a second?” I responded with a hesitant yes, and it turns out that he just wanted to borrow my computer to type up six lines and then print out seven copies of his hurried grading sheet. Sweet cinnamon roll. I’d hate to experience what he calls “incredibly rude.”
    • He also joked, “Only experienced teachers drink wine.”
  • R described one of her students to me as “a good-looking, blond boy,” and I had to resist the urge to laugh because that’s probably one of the worst possible ways to describe boys to me.
  • M-L: “We’re doing a lesson on the preterit, so maybe we could come up with an activity?”
    • Me, a native English speaker and a three-year writing tutor who’s been paid and published several times: “The hell is a preterit?”
  • While giving Jt feedback on the two groups of students she sent me, I could not for the life of me remember how to say “Have a nice day” in English, so I blurted out, “Bonne journée!” Bilingual struggles.
  • You know that winter in northern France is way too cold when you check the weather and scream, “YES IT’S GOING TO BE 45 NEXT WEEK!”
  • French cafeteria food is ridiculous. Seriously, where would you find delicious orange-soaked duck in an American cafeteria for $3.85?
  • Possible scenario to the question, “What did you do in France?”
    • Me: “I babysat.”
    • Them: “But your resume says you worked with high schoolers—”
    • Me: “Okay, I babysat a lot of kids.”
  • Isn’t it wonderful when you get up at 7:10, only to reach school and discover that no one told you class was cancelled? Hooray! Welcome to working in France! (Karma promptly struck back when I forgot I was supposed to grade a group of terminales and skipped the hour entirely.)
  • While examining a 4-pack of apricot juice, I accidentally dropped one of the glass bottles right there and then in the middle of the pristine Carrefour aisle. I told the first employee I found, but all he did was thank me for telling him as he walkie-talkied away for a cleaner, so I bought the rest of the pack in my shame.
  • For the second time in a week, I turned to leave after paying in Carrefour and almost walked face-first into a column. Who decided to let me adult on my own?
  • S asked me if I’d be willing to come talk to her terminales about immigration/the immigrant experience in the US. Give them my opinion? Hell yes. Stay netural? Pfft, that’s not happening, even if you bribed me with free books. I’m here to be salty, or as Madeline said, “throw buckets and buckets of salt.”

Miscellaneous Moments, Part IX

  • I had a trilingualist nightmare where I didn’t know enough Chinese, so I started speaking in English and then woke up thinking in French. Send help.
  • It’s kind of weird knowing that I’ve seen some of the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets of my life from a high school atop a hill.
  • Guess who got onto the wrong bus? And then had to stay on it for half an hour, all the way to the train station, where I could take the correct bus? At least I got a good look at the Christmas lights in Laon. (This experience was nowhere near as scarring as the time I got so lost in Nice, I showed up two hours late to the OFII office. No, I’m not still bitter about the fact that they put two completely different addresses on the envelope.)
  • Besides bananas, eggplants, meat, and cheesecake, I don’t consider myself a picky eater. (Yes, I’ve already been told I’m a sinner for hating cheesecake. Several times.) But Méchain’s cafeteria was serving kangaroo, so I grabbed a piece of still-red beef—I don’t even like beef—and noped my way out of there. At least I got smoked salmon, shiitake mushrooms, a little bag of chocolate, and a mysterious melt-in-your-mouth dessert so delicious that I basically cried over the first bite.
  • My BlaBlaCar from Dijon to Laon had the best riding companion: a dog who left her fur all over my jacket even though she only touched my hand.
  • N texted to check in on me, and my immediate thought was, “Why is this human being so nice how is he real?”
  • N told me that Méchain was holding a teacher gathering for a French tradition that consists of eating a galette des rois, or slices of cake to see who ends up with a little plastic fève.  Some important adult gave a speech beforehand, but I was far more interested in the mini-dance Martin was doing behind the podium. (In my defense, a column was blocking my view of the speaker.) Meanwhile, Lily, not knowing that I also work at Méchain, asked her mom in bewilderment, “So she only came to eat cake?”
  • F told asked if I’d do a presentation on the history of women’s rights in America, and I may or may not have gotten a little carried away… I had to cut out so much information, but at least I got to keep Beyoncé in it.
  • It’s not awkward at all when you start crying because La hugged you after you told her the winter break news, and then the headmaster walks up to the two of you and hands you a glass of cider.
  • I was going to grab a take-out pizza for La, but the restaurant was closed (at 9pm on a Friday night, welcome to Laon), so I popped into a kebab place instead. I accidentally said, “and also” instead of “et aussi,” so the owner paused and said, “Do you speak English?” Turns out that he’s from Canada and ended up in Nowheresville, France because he “chased a girl and married her.” His French son gave me the food and told me in English, “You are beautiful,” but he said it so genuinely that it was the first time I wasn’t creeped out by a man. They also undercharged me 50 cents, and I appreciate the fact that I now have extra coins for the bus fare.

Miscellaneous Moments, Part VIII

  • Somebody help; I’m so used to typing on French keyboqrds qt work thqt I now keep hitting the Q on my lqptop insteqd of the A.
  • Normally I walk to Méchain because I’m poor, but one day I spent three minutes in the 20oF/-6oC weather and promptly climbed aboard the bus. Welcome to winter in the north of France. (As Iszi remarked, “I can hear your voice grumping about it from across the Atlantic.”)
  • I almost mowed a student over in the canteen because he was so small, I didn’t see him over my tray. I’m sorry, kid.
  • S asked if I’d help her call internship students and pretend to be an Anglophone who’d just moved to Laon, and the guy who answered at the Centre de Jeunesse told me that the student we were trying to reach didn’t speak or understand English. That moment pretty much epitomizes my experience with French administration.
  • My BlaBlaCar driver to Amiens joked, “I practice a sport that’s very popular in the US, shooting,” and I very nearly added, “Yeah, white policemen love it.” Salty? Me? Nah.
  • Two girls saw me waiting outside K’s classroom and started whispering to each other in French, “That’s the assistant! What’s her name? No, you go ask her!” while I tried desperately not to laugh. Eventually they came up to me and asked if I could speak French, and then got beyond excited when I did.
  • I haven’t decided whether it’s more distressing for me to see baby-faced high schoolers smoking or making out.
  • A museum review on TripAdvisor said, “Main issue is that all of the explanatory signs are in the French language.” Please. Who let that person travel?
  • While watching House of Cards, my inner French major screamed at the grammatically incorrect sentence “C’est une collègue à moi.”
  • Atheist me, having never been inside a church before France: “What on earth is a crèche?” (I vaguely thought it translated into “manger,” but wasn’t even sure what that word meant. After plugging it into WordReference: “What on earth is a nativity scene?” Yes, in case you hadn’t noticed, I know nothing about Christianity.)
  • By happenstance, I found myself talking to a retired Claudel English teacher, and she excitedly told me, “Come look! I have all the states’ flags and medals. I immediately went, “States have medals…? Is this another American tradition that I’ve never heard of because apparently I’m not white enough?” Then she opened her massive binder, and OHHH. This precious lady thought that the state quarters were medals.
    • N called me while I was talking to her, so I didn’t pick up, and he left me a three-minute voicemail with legitimate quotes like, “Your task, if you accept, is to create a ten-question quiz about America. It will be a very nice atmosphere, it will be two days before the holidays. Let me know if you are okay… If you are in Laon for the holidays, let me know, maybe you could stay at our house for a day and we could have fun. Bye bye, all the best.” You cinnamon roll, I’d never refuse a request from you.

Miscellaneous Moments, Part VII

  • I was so exhausted one day that I spent a good thirty seconds trying to get into my room, and could not for the life of me understand why the key wouldn’t turn…and then I realized that I was on the wrong floor. So I fled up another two flights of stairs and texted La to make sure she hadn’t panicked over a potential intruder—except, of course, she wasn’t there, but now she knows all about my massive failure anyways.
  • The hand dryers in the teachers’ bathrooms are so loud and terrifying that I’ve taken to drying my hands on my jeans like a heathen.
  • I ran into Ml in Méchain’s parking lot, who oh-so-kindly informed me that I can’t hear any of the fire or terrorist alarms in my library classroom. Great, thanks.
  • As I was walking to Carrefour, I nearly stopped walking in the middle of the sidewalk in pure bewilderment. Apparently it’s a casual thing in Laon to ride a horse down the street.
  • Al started talking to me about lesson plans and teaching, and then worried that she was getting too chatty. No, keep talking, please. I’ll take all the advice I can get.
  • That awkward moment when both N and Al ask you to explain the American grading system…and you realize you don’t know the numbers for anything below an A- because, er, you’re such an overachiever that you’ve basically never gotten anything below a 90 in college.
  • I’ve been here for two months, and I don’t think I’ll get over the fact that teachers at Claudel straight up drink wine during lunch. Is this a cultural thing in France, or is this more related to the whole “drinking to forget” concept?
  • You know you make a great American when someone who isn’t even from the US tells you, “Happy Thanksgiving!” and you go, “Oh, I forgot it was Thanksgiving!”
  • It’s been two months since I arrived in France, but the assistant principal’s secretary thought that I was a student: “Oh! You’re Madame Tien?” (To be honest, I don’t know whether I’d prefer to be mistaken for a student or addressed as “Madame.”)
  • I asked At if I could help her with anything, but didn’t have a pair of scissors with me, so she asked C if he had one. He started laughing, and it wasn’t until I started trying to cut the papers in half that I realized why: they were lefty scissors, so it looks like I cut the papers while drunk.
  • Nothing’s really intimidating anymore once you’ve spoken on the phone for adult things in French. Thrice.
    • Ahhhhhhhhhh (portrait of me internally screaming after some worker from the bank called me and I had to ask him to talk more slowly because I couldn’t understand him over the phone and he thought that I didn’t speak French)

Miscellaneous Moments, Part VI

  • Okay, I won’t lie, it’s kind of cute when students excitedly say, “Hello!” to me when they see me outside of class. Even if I have absolutely no idea who they are because I’ve probably seen over 200 kids at Méchain and Claudel. (I remember a single student’s name, Clément, because he kept asking me questions and his name card was easy to see in my glasses-less state.)
  • Me, playing a word game on my phone: “What do you mean, that’s not a word? Wait…it was French and this is English.”
  • I asked a cashier at a Carrefour in Lille if I could pay with my bank card, and he nodded and said, “Très beau français.” I still haven’t decided whether I should be honored or insulted.
  • Our first day in Brussels, C and I witnessed an old lady get her leg stuck between the metro car doors, and she barely got free before the car started moving—a near heart-attack was a fantastic way to begin our time there. At least our time there ended on a more positive note, with free drinks from Starbucks.
  • One of my most memorable quotidian moments was spending an hour chatting entirely and effortlessly in French with our Airbnb host’s elderly husband in Belgium. We hit it off by agreeing that Trump is completely crazy and that if Clinton wins, it would do wonders for societal progress, like how Obama has opened so many doors by becoming the first black president. He was also so beautifully aware of masculine and feminine spheres that I felt completely comfortable telling this old white man that I barely knew that I’m a feminist. Plus, he kindly gave me tricks for pronouncing French letters that are notoriously difficult for Anglophones who also speak an Asian language: r and u, or Rolls Royce and Uruguay.
  • You know you’re officially bread-spoiled when you snack on the remnants of a day-old Belgian baguette and mutter in disgust, “God, this tastes like American bread.”
  • On the ride back from Amiens to Laon, I forgot to composter my ticket. Again. At least the contrôleur didn’t fine me this time, either.
  • If one more man asks how old I am and then goes, “You can never tell how old Asian women are!” I hope they step in a pit of fire. Age is arbitrary. A human construct. No one looks their age.
  • During vacation, some employee asked me what I was doing at Claudel from his 4th floor balcony. Look, why would I spend the time and effort breaking into a gated high school campus? You don’t even have Wi-Fi.
  • Me, curling into a progressively smaller ball beneath my blanket: “Why is it so cold? Oh. I forgot to turn the heater on.”
  • Je remarked that, since I’m the guinea pig English assistant being shared between two schools, teachers might start a bloodbath over me. Please, no. I hate conflict. (In AP Gov, classmates started fighting over whose review game team I’d be on, and I tried to melt into my desk before the teacher calmly assigned me to a side.)
  • While doing some rushed grocery shopping at Carrefour, I grabbed a bag of pains au lait for breakfast and didn’t notice that the expiration date is January 4, 2017. I don’t know whether I should be impressed or terrified.
  • In case you weren’t aware of how small my feet are, I wear a European 36 and Tess, N’s five-year-old daughter, wears a 31.

(FYI: I’m no longer living the sad, nearly Internet-less 8G life, because I now have 50G thanks to my new SIM card, so that’s why I’ve been posting so frequently. If I’ve met you in person, and you feel like Skyping/FaceTiming/video chatting, feel free to hit me up!)

Miscellaneous Moments, Part V

After not having seen blue skies and sunlight in days, I walked straight into a patch of sunshine, closed my eyes, and photosynthesized for five minutes. And then, clearly, the proper response to such a gorgeous day was to spend 30 minutes walking 2.1 miles—casually muttering, “I’m going to die” the entire time because a good portion of the journey consisted of walking down a steep mountainside—to Carrefour to use the Wi-Fi and update my blog (and buy groceries). The Internet-less life is a difficult one.

  • A trio of girls walking behind me on the way to class addressed me as “Madame,” but I didn’t realize they were talking to me until they said in French-accented English, “Miss?” I’m not old enough for this.
  • I saw a coconut merveille in a boulangerie and bought it on a whim because it reminded me of the time Madeline and I watched Le gout des merveilles at the French Film Festival. Unfortunately, it was more of a meringue than a pastry.
  • After finally introducing the Spanish assistant La to L and S, we went to a pizza restaurant for dinner, and talking to people my age in a foreign language helped me realize just how much my French has improved over the years.
    • On the way back to our rooms around 10:30pm, La and I terrified an employee at Claudel because he’d never seen us before and wondered how two strangers had gotten into the gated campus.
  • Some gutsy high schooler sent me a friend request on Facebook. Honey, you could be the best-behaved, brightest girl in Claudel, and I still wouldn’t add you.
  • A Méchain Spanish teacher kindly drove La and me to the school, and when they spoke in Spanish it was even more confusing than when I watched Captain America: The Winter Soldier in French the night before. Also, the teacher gave me several mini heart attacks because she kept turning around to talk to La. While driving. With one hand. Stick shift.
    • I attempted to journey back to Claudel by foot, except I got so lost that I gave up and paid 1.10€ for the bus. On the bright side, I’ve finally figured out how to use the @ sign on a French keyboard.
  • While J was explaining my overly complicated schedule to me in French, Ml thought I couldn’t understand and repeated some parts in English, like stressing how important it is for the students to talk more than me. Pfft, trust me, Ml, I’m not as talkative as you. It won’t take any effort on my part to listen more than speak.
  • Yes, I know these high schoolers are children, but I’m so tired of being asked, “What is your origin?” that my fist might accidentally run into the face of the next adult who asks.
  • At Méchain’s canteen, La and I sat with two young teachers—C of economics and R of French, Greek, and Latin—and C informed me that they know an American who lives here in Laon and that they could introduce me to him. Please do—I’m really curious as to what an American is doing in a tiny city in the middle of Picardie.
  • Typing on American keyboards now confuses me because I keep hitting the “q” instead of the “a,” since their locations are switched on French keyboards.
  • La and I went inside a grocery store and the cashier said, “Merci les enfants,” “Bonne journée les enfants,” and “Au revoir les enfants,” and I legitimately looked around for children before I realized she was calling La and me the children. Sigh.
    • When we got back to Claudel, we went into the library and asked if we could use the computers, and the worker asked, “What class are you in?” Welcome to the struggle of never looking your age.

Miscellaneous Moments, Part IV

  • Because high school here starts at 8, I usually have to get up before sunrise to get ready (and make it to the bus stop on time if I’m working at Méchain). The last time I regularly got up that early was middle school. I’m not sure if I’ll survive the month, much less the year. Lately, I’ve been going to bed around 10pm like an old lady.
  • Every time I see N, I get beyond excited because he’s a cinnamon roll who lights up whenever he sees me, too. He’s the nicest teacher I work with and the only person who regularly does la bise with me, so sometimes I get really confused about whether I’m supposed to do it with other professors or not. (La bise happens pretty regularly at Méchain, but I’ve never seen any teachers do it at Claudel, which could be an interesting observation on the level of formality among adults at the two schools.)
  • I forewent lunch at the canteen or in my room for a simple sandwich from a bakery, and when I bit into it, I nearly cried over how good it was. I’ve missed French sandwiches.
  • I’m sure I looked ridiculous chasing a crunchy-looking leaf across the asphalt, but it was so worth it.
  • Every time a teacher tells me, “Don’t hesitate to ask me if you need anything,” I’m so tempted to say, “Will you adopt me if Trump wins?”
  • While hurrying to the copy room to make one final photocopy for orientation, I walked past a dog and got so excited that I stopped and smiled at it, and the dog stopped and smiled right back, ignoring the owner’s pleas to get into the car. Sorry, dog owner. (Luckily, she didn’t notice me stealing the dog’s attention.)
  • I’m still the klutz who can’t figure out whether to push or pull doors open. Also, picture: me at Méchain’s gate, trying desperately to pull it open because I’d been awake since 7:30 and wanted to leave, only to learn that I was supposed to push a button to open the gate and escape.
  • Half of the time I don’t know what I’m eating in the canteen—I unknowingly ate some lamb once—but everything tastes delicious. It’s not like Estes where I won’t even go near some labeled foods.
  • I bonded with A over our mutual love of Harry Potter and Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
  • Random teachers will come up to me at Claudel and Méchain and ask how I’m settling in, and I’m like, “I have no idea who you are but thanks?”
  • M just sent a Canadian student off to the library to talk to me for the remaining 30 minutes of class. She’s here on a Rotary exchange, and because her grades don’t count, she’s not trying—she got a 0.5/20 on a test, which is honestly…impressive. Also, apparently Canadians only have 4 hours of high school???
  • In Méchain’s canteen, I was so baffled by the fact that they were dishing out entire personal pizzas that I stood there and stared. I repeat, an entire pizza. And then a cafeteria worker yelled at me for using the priority line for teachers because he thought I was a student.
  • I told a French, Greek, and Latin professor, as well as a fluent class of students, about my Wiki page on Discours sur le Bonheur. Maybe they’ll go read it?
  • It’s barely October here in northern France, but it’s already so cold—40 degrees in the mornings and evenings—that I was wandering through Amiens wearing two flannel shirts and might return to the US sans my fingers and nose. I’ve already turned into a weenie who gets so cold, I might as well become the next cryogenic experiment. (The Niçois winters have spoiled me.)