I've decided to copy this journal format from a friend (hope you don't mind!) and fill out a weekly fill-in-the-blank form on this blog, which will hopefully make my posts more interesting to read! I'm making up the categories as I go along, so here goes:
Week of Jan. 15 - Jan. 21
Themes of the week:
- French movies. I saw Ratatouille in dubbed French on the plane, Hitman (an American movie that apparently flopped) in dubbed French, Garage (Irish independent film) with French subtitles, and Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain with French subtitles to help me understand. Looking back at that progression, I had a hard time understanding Ratatouille on the plane even though I've seen it in English- real, spoken French is so fast! It was still entertaining to see how the nuances describing the American views on French culture were translated. I especially liked Amélie, and I hope to watch it throughout my stay here to gauge my progression in the language!
- Improving my abilities in French. More than anything, my stay at Draveil enormously increased my fluency in French because Claire and her mother spoke only in French to me the entire time, and I wasn't around anyone that spoke English, so it really forced me to become better at speaking. I would really recommend going "cold turkey" on the language if you want to learn it faster!
For the first time, I: tried archery, or tir à l'arc in French. Claire takes archery lessons each week, and I thought I would go along to see what it was all about and take pictures. Little did I know I would be asked to actually try my hand at the sport! One of Claire's instructors was nice enough to teach me, and I got the gist of how to hold the bow and arrow properly (though from pictures, I now realize that I didn't have perfect posture). Towards the end, I even got to try popping balloons that were attached to the target. My left arm was becoming more and more worn out, but I persisted and eventually popped all of the balloons. The end.
Foods discovered: Many, many types of cheese. The previous time I was here, I wasn't as open to trying new foods, but I am eager to try as many different types of cheese as I can this time. It is a French tradition towards the ends of meals to pass around a cheese platter and eat with slices of baguette. Chez les Bremonds, I ate: pelardon, cantal, fourmette, coulommier, brie de Meaux, carréchèvre, epoisses au mare de Bourgogne, vieux comté, and beaufort. I'm discovering that I really enjoy goat cheese (chèvre), and the very expensive beaufort.
- Provins. A medieval town to the east of Ile-de-France, officially named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001. It had just rained the day before we went, so it was quite a bit muddy while walking around the ramparts of the town! There were hardly any other people around, mainly because it was cold and gray outside, but that made it seem as though we were really exploring the town. We went inside la Tour César (Caesar's Tower), which is the symbolic monument of Provins and an illustration of the history of medieval military architecture, as well as the Saint Quiriace Collegiate Church. Though I have been to a few European medieval castles before, it was still amazing to experience the small castle stairways once more- what a contrast with the historical sites in the US! (This was my first full day in France, so I was still absorbing the fact that French history is much more rich than that of the US.) We kept smelling something like freshly baked bread in the distance, but according to a man walking his dog who lived there, it was actually a distillery!
- Rue Mouffetard. During my first full day in Paris, spent with Claire and her boyfriend Sébastien, they introduced me to this very French pedestrian street in the south end of the 5th arrondissement. I was immediately enchanted by the numerous outdoor shops that lined the streets, with every specialty from fruits and vegetables to cheeses to fish to wine, and even other items like watches, scarves, and coats. We ate at one of the many crêperies that had windows and heating pans open to the street. As expected, the crêpes were delicious (and fairly cheap)! To me, streets like this represent exactly what I love about Paris: smelling fresh markets and crêpes while walking on small stone-paved streets.
Lessons learned about French culture:
- The tradition of the galette des rois, or king cake. The cake is usually eaten around Epiphany, January 6, but as Claire's mother explained to me, it is usually eaten throughout the month of January. Traditionally, a figurine is placed in the cake and whoever finds the figurine in his/her piece of cake is the king or queen for the day. To guarantee fair distribution of the cake slices, the youngest person at the table (which happened to be me) sits under the table and yells out a name for each slice of cake. A few bites into my slice, I realized that I got the figurine in my slice, so I was crowned queen!
- How to shower without a shower curtain. It may seem bizarre to those of us in the US, but some of the bathtubs here do not include shower curtains! I felt very awkward at first, but then learned how to shower sitting down. I managed not to spray water everywhere, which was a very good thing.
Frustrations: Trying very, very hard to understand what is going on at all times, but not having the brainpower to follow every conversation. Became especially frustrated when I couldn't understand exactly what the guy at France Telecom was saying when I bought my phone. I need to improve, otherwise I won't understand the language when it matters!
Progress in French language skills: I can now talk more fluently, especially after having learned how to understand real, spoken French, which is very different from the French we learn in classes in the US. "Je ne sais pas" (I do not know) becomes "Je sais pas" or "Jsais pas" (I don't know) which becomes "Chais pas" (I dunno). Still having trouble conjugating verbs correctly while talking.