January 17, 2010

It’s Amazing…

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:24 pm by Theresa [Hey, Traveler]

…the things I can’t write about when I’m afraid everyone involved can understand.  Must I move to a foreign place to be free of self-censorship?  Or should I just learn to write without looking over my shoulder?

Let this be our little secret no one needs to know we’re feeling…higher and higher, higher, higher and higher.

I’ll finish up with some quotes from Emerson that I love:

“A sect or party is an elegant incognito devised to save a man from the vexation of thinking.”

“Books are apt to turn reason out of doors.  You find men talking everywhere from their memories, instead of from their understanding.”

March 22, 2009

Happy Travels to me…

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:03 pm by Theresa [Hey, Traveler]

Here’s an apt quote I came across while reading “The Piano”:

I am a part of all that I have met;

Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’

Gleams that untravel’d world whose margin fades

For ever and for ever when I move.

–Alfred Lord Tennyson, “Ulysses”

March 7, 2009

School Daze

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:37 am by Theresa [Hey, Traveler]

My students are adorable.  Big, tattooed, pierced, hoody-wearing, pot-smoking adorable kids.

So adorable in fact, that the school has to slather every fire alarm with thick brown grease so the pupils won’t keep pulling them during the school day.

So cute that they’ve blown up the toilets in their own dormitory.

And they are especially sweet when they are picking up and moving a teacher’s car into the middle of the road or breaking the side mirrors off.   What better way for future auto-mechanics to get their kicks?

Actually those aren’t *my* students.  Most of the ones I see are nice and funny and actually adorable if not a teensy bit unmotivated at times.  The other ones are just the rif-raf I have to wade through to get in the front door.

Oh man, I’m gonna miss this place!

February 22, 2009

Kiss Me Once, Kiss Me Twice, Kiss Me Deadly

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:38 pm by Theresa [Hey, Traveler]

Remember that chain email that asked all sorts of silly questions about your preferences like “Chocolate or Vanilla,” “Coke or Pepsi,” “Kisses or Hugs?”

I’m not sure about the answers for the first two but undoubtedly if you are French, the third one was “Kisses” hands down. (arms down too, yar)

In America we shake hands for hello or we give hugs to our friends to say hello or good bye (we even sometimes hug people we’ve just met–if we like them ;)) and when I was in Japan I gave up the handshaking and hugging in favor of bowing and some weird slow motion high-five kind of touch.  And here in France I have yet another greeting to get used to: kiss-greetings or le bise. A bise is not really a kiss.  It’s sort of an air-kiss-while-brushing-cheeks gesture.  The cheeks might touch but the lips never do so make sure you turn just a little–like you’re aiming for an ear.

Admittedly, I’ve been here a while so I’m pretty much used to it but I still have a few unanswered questions.  There is more to it than you would think (or maybe I just need some medication to control my HAD [Hyper Analysis Disorder]).

At first I was confused.  When do you bise?  Who do you bise?  Do you bise when you first meet someone?  What about after you’ve met and spent an enjoyable evening together? (like a friend of a friend or something).  And, when you are with other foreigners, do you scrap your old customary hugs because you are in France and go in for a bise?

Over the months, I’ve come up with a few answers:  you can bise friends and colleagues (but not if you don’t like them, have never talked to them, etc.).  You generally only bise colleagues after a long absence (say, after winter vacation…so not on a daily basis.  No one would ever get any work done, they’d be busy rubbing faces for half the morning.)  If you are with other foreigners who don’t bise but hug (Brits, Americans…) for goodness sakes, don’t bise!!! Take your hugs where you can get them!  You can bise someone you’ve just met at the end of the night if you like them and they are not creepy. hehe.

Something I have not yet mastered: the bise feeling. My radar is not finely attuned enough to tell when/if someone wants a bise good bye or not or if they are just waiting for me to make the first move.  This is complicated somewhat I think because I’m an American and a lot of French people know that Americans are huggers and probably have their own ideas of what your bise hang-ups might be.   To further complicate matters, there are different kinds of bise greetings depending on where you live.  For instance, in Montpellier, the standard is three kisses: left, right, left (or right, left, right….I can never remember which way it goes or if it even matters); but in Beziers, its just two kisses–one on each cheek.  So you have to be cognizant of where you are when you bise also!

This brings me to my last question: If you live in Montpellier and see someone in Beziers who also lives in Montpellier, do you bise three times (because you are both Montpellierians?) or do you bise only twice (because you are in Beziers?)

A final note: even though ‘when in Rome, blah blah blah’ I am still trying to hold tight to my hugs.
If you are ever in France and someone with a bad cold/cough/acne/stench moves in close for a bise, you’ll quickly begin to appreciate that extra little bit of personal space a hug affords.

ooooooo 🙂

February 11, 2009

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:10 pm by Theresa [Hey, Traveler]

It just occured to me that during all of my travels– through all the strange and happy moments, stressful times, depressing lows and enthusiastic highs…in my mind I have never been quite clear about one thing:

Am I dreaming in reality, or am I living very lucidly in unreality?

February 2, 2009

Je peut parler le francais!

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:18 pm by Theresa [Hey, Traveler]

Good News!  I finished my first real book in french.  Granted, it was originally a Spanish book and translated into french but still….I read it in french and not spanish!  ‘Le Monde du bout du Monde’–The World at the end of the World.   It was a good story about Japanese ships whaling illegally off the coast of Chile.  And despite that description, yes…it WAS a good story.  haha.

Next up, ‘L’Amant’–The Lover, a true french book in it’s original french.

While my reading skills are coming around the home stretch, my speaking lags far behind.  It’s gotten a lot better and I have a lot more confidence and I’m less worried about making mistakes and have more faith that people can actually understand the things coming out of my mouth but I still have a looooooooong way to go.  :p  I know its improving even though the old dude taking tickets on the train the other day made fun of my accent–like TRULY made fun of me.   (Like, acted like I had a major speech impediment.)  Oh those stinky franchies!  (Sorry unstinky franchies for making you take the rap for one belittling dude–oh smell!)

Today it poured buckets and they closed school early.  (Even though it was sunny when they closed school–the rain MIGHT come back!) So…while the students waited restlessly to be released (they were released in waves so I still had to keep a few in my class) I told them ‘on peut parler en francais’ –we can speak in french.  So while I started the class in English, we ended up chatting away in french and it was kind of fun.  I usually pretend I don’t speak french (which is not too big of a stretch) but I finally broke down and just chatted because its hard to have a good conversation with students when all they can say is ‘I live in Beziers’ and things like that.  Some of the students have pretty decent skills but I wanted to include everyone (and be included as they were speaking french to each other anyway.)

So….I had no class today, went home early and hopefully (I feel awfully lazy saying this) it will continue to rain and I won’t have to go to school tomorrow either.  Instead I can stay home and crack my french book.  :p

January 15, 2009

Snow in Montpellier

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:11 am by Theresa [Hey, Traveler]

Last week it snowed in Montpellier.  School was canceled at the Junior High School.  Yay!

I didn’t have to go to the high school because the students are STILL on strike.  They have been striking since about a week before the holidays.  Apparently nobody wants to return.  Actually, every high school in my town is back in session, except for mine.  I guess future auto and boat mechanics of France really enjoy sleeping in.  Maybe school will be canceled for the rest of the year??  Here’s hoping.

January 11, 2009

A New Year!

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:57 pm by Theresa [Hey, Traveler]

It’s been a while since I’ve written….again.  I haven’t made any New Year’s Resolutions but maybe “updating my blog more regularly” can be one of them.  :p

The holidays passed very eventfully (good events, of course!).  Scott came to see me for three whole weeks!!

In Frankfurt we went to the Christmas Market, fell in love with mulled wine (or gluewein as the Germans say), took a lot of pictures, found one of the last remaining Woolworth’s (and took a picture of it), met up with my German Assistant friend and her boyfriend, ate a lot of sausage, watched a little German television, lost my chapstick in the hotel (my strawberry one, dangit!) and shared a chocolate covered pretzel the size of a dinner plate.

For Christmas Eve and Christmas we stayed in Montpellier and went ice skating and shopping, visited some touristy sites, found a short cut from the tram to the center of town, discovered a fabulous neo-classical quarter just behind the mall, took a picture of a policeman’s dog who had paws like horse hooves, opened presents, relaxed with coffee at a cafe, cooked a HUGE Christmas dinner of chicken, mashed potatoes, broccoli cheese rice casserole, green bean casserole, pasta salad, stuffing, gravy and appetizers of gouda and dried chorizo and bread with olive oil and vinegar, watched a terrible Christmas movie, played plenty of Ploppy, and perfected our own mulled wine.  Yum!

At New Year’s Scott and I went to Barcelona where we partied with some cool Brazilians, bought champagne off the street for 5 euros, made fun of people and got made fun of, ate six grapes at midnight, danced at the Apollo, forgot my coat inside the club and waited 30 minutes in line for it (total shit), avoided the heaps of  smashed bottles in Las Ramblas, saw the majesty of Sagrada Familia, visited Scott’s old house in El Masnou, ate expensive tapas, drank the water and got sick, sipped absinthe at the bar where Hemingway and Picasso hung out, took a million and one pictures and slept on the train ride home.

The holidays were a blast but I suppose all things must come to an end.  Scott went home on Tuesday and I went back to work…another day another euro.

November 12, 2008

Enterprising Homeless

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:09 pm by Theresa [Hey, Traveler]

Montpellier has an abundance of two things:  good looking guys and homeless people.  Those two are generally mutually exclusive unless you go in for that dirty, dred-locked look.  This post isn’t about the handsome folks though.  Just thought they deserved a little mention.  :p

Now, I don’t mind the odd accordian player in the square with his hat out or even the electric guitar dude in the train station who has his amp turned up waaay too loud, and I even put money in the breastfeeding gypsie’s cup, but the other day I had a run in with the most enterprising begging yet.  While dozing on the train I was awoken by a fellow handing out flyers.  Here is what it said:

Hello dear brother,

I am homeless and hungry and I need some money.  Please give anything.  Thank you and god bless.

It was handwritten and then photocopied and cut out.  After a few minutes the guy made his way back down our car to pick up the flyers and money (but I didn’t see him get much) and I couldn’t help wondering why he didn’t try something a little more productive to earn money.  The guy obviously went to some trouble to make flyers and hand them out and then pick them all up, making the rounds on the train…seems like a lot of energy for begging.  But alas, there wasn’t even a sob-story on the flyer.  Perhaps if he had just gone that extra mile …colored paper perhaps?  a special font?  maybe some card stock even!?? or envelopes!! yes, envelopes for the cash!!!

November 9, 2008

Bull F***t

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:17 pm by Theresa [Hey, Traveler]

A couple of weeks ago I witnessed something really and truly tragic.  Goaded by my curiosity I went to a bull fight at the arena in Beziers, one of the only towns in France that is still allowed to hold them.

The arena was nearly empty when we arrived and the lady at the ticket booth warned us “you know, they will kill the bull…”  but we went in, nonetheless.

The scene opened with a strange dance performance by the matadors and their helpers, carrying sweeping capes of yellow and pink.  Then all but one matador left the field and at the far end, a door was opened for the bull to come out.  But no bull came.

Up above the doorway, a man wielding something like a huge harpoon, stuck it down through strategic holes in the roof, jabbing the bull to make it angry enough to at come out and fight.

When it finally appeared, the matador taunted it with his red cape in a strange and sad sort of dance that even still, wasn’t without a certain artistry.  Until…

Until other “helpers” came into the ring, spinning above their heads some sticks like strange colorful nunchucks, which had points on the ends like fishing hooks, so that once they were jabbed into the bull’s hide they would be sure to stay there, dangling grotesquely, while the bull charged and missed the cape time and time again.

After about fifteen minutes, finally, the coup de grace: the matador jams a long steel blade into the nape of it’s neck and a thick, maroon stain oozes out from the wound.  The bull is breathing hard and with every breath comes a stream of blood, falling in thick drops onto the dirt.  But it’s not dead yet.  You see, the stadium was empty today because it’s not regular bull fighting season and unbeknownst to us we were watching matadorial “students” practice on “easy” bulls–more timid and gentle than their peers.

And so it took the matador another four attempts to finally kill the bull.  Even then it swayed dizzily on it’s feet, back and forth for several minutes, while the crowd cheered heartlessly.  Once it was dead, a tractor came out along with several coarsely dressed workmen, snuffing out any vestige of poetry to be found in the moment.  Three of the men bound the bull’s legs to the tractor so it could be dragged out of the ring and the fourth man crudely severed the tail and the ears, handing them ceremoniously to the matador who then paraded around the ring to a standing ovation.

In a grand gesture, he threw one of the ears to the audience who then scrambled after it, like a foul ball at a Dodgers game.

Then they cleared the ring and did it all over again.  Four more times.

Never in my life have I witnessed something so despicable, so grotesque, so horrible: both the fight itself and the audience, taking such rapacious pleasure in a gruesome and cruel “sport.”




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