kathryne goes to france


familiarity, please.
13 May 2007, 9:50 am
Filed under: college, europe, exchange student, france, french culture, study abroad

Sometimes I get tired of grocery stores that never open on Sundays, of dragging laundry across town and back, of sharing a bathroom with a pack of barbarians, of putting forth effort to use the Internet.  Sometimes I get tired of eating only foods that don’t need to be refrigerated (or risking it with foods that do), of cooking without an oven or microwave, of involuntarily becoming a vegetarian.  Sometimes I get tired of feeling confused more often than not, of taking classes that are entirely in French, of trying to conjugate verbs properly when I’m speaking.

Sometimes I crave familiarity.

Sometimes I just want to know what people are saying.  Sometimes I just want to drive directly where I want to go and sometimes I just want to bike to class.  Sometimes I want to go grocery shopping at a store that has everything I need, and sometimes I want to go at 1 a.m.  Sometimes I just want to eat a sandwich made just for me at Subway.  Sometimes I want to meet Liz at Moe’s and laugh over a burrito with jalapeños and free Diet Coke refills.  Sometimes I want to wake up at 315, with Tessa’s birds chirping in the other room and Grace listening to NPR in the kitchen.  Sometimes I just want to be with my friends and my family.  Sometimes I just want to speak English.

Yet I don’t want to go home quite yet.  I don’t feel like my time here is done and I don’t want to leave until I’m satisfied.  Who knows when I’ll be able to cross the ocean again?  I’ve learned that I have to take anything familiar that I can get.  While I was on vacation in Italy and Spain, hearing French was comforting for the first time.  I had no idea what the Italians and Spaniards were saying, and it was nice to overhear a French mom say, “No, that’s too expensive,” or “don’t worry, we’re going to eat after this.”  They’re such ordinary statements, and I know everyone else was saying the same things, but at least I understood them.

I crave familiarity at the same time that I crave new experiences.  I get so bored at home, in Oklahoma or even in Bordeaux, when I’m not doing anything different.  Figuring out new things can be exhausting, but they’re usually a bit of a thrill, too.  I guess that even though new experiences are difficult, I love the challenge.  That must be it.

But sometimes I just want to go home.



lundi perfection
12 March 2007, 7:34 am
Filed under: bordeaux, college, europe, exchange student, france, study abroad

The weather in Bordeaux today is perfection.  Sunny, slight breeze, not a cloud in the sky, mid-60s, couldn’t be better.

I love Mondays.  I only have three hours of class to sit through—two of which are spent in a class that’s actually interesting (littérature moderne) while the remaining time is spent with a silly French phonetics teacher.  I’m done by 12:30 and then I have the rest of the afternoon to play.

I wish Tuesday through Thursday would take notice and somehow, miraculously, follow suit and become Mondays as well.



Berlin Memorials
1 March 2007, 9:57 am
Filed under: berlin, college, europe, germany, study abroad, travel

Forgetting about the past is impossible in Berlin. This may be a gross mispropriation, but it almost seems odd that so many memorials and museums exist for cruelties of the past, when during the time, all of Germany was involved in perpetuating these regimes. The Nazis, anti-Semitism, extreme socialism. Build it up together and tear it down together. Ex: book burning. It’s like the Germans collectively endorsed such actions and now collectively renounce them. Did they need the experience to know it was wrong? How much of it was the people’s choice? How informed were they when they were making their decisions?



falling up the stairs
15 February 2007, 7:44 pm
Filed under: bordeaux, college, exchange student, france

What a day I’ve had.

I woke up at 3 a.m. feeling delirious and feverish. Went back to bed, woke up this morning with a cough and an ominously raspy throat.

As I was getting dressed, I discovered a spider the size of a centieme crawling around inside my black ballet flats. I immediately charged him with taking up residence in my shoes and sentenced him to the death penalty. The spider now rests on the bottom of my shoe.

For lunch, I attempted to heat up yesterday’s Dominoes pizza with my turbo-powered European hairdryer. It worked until the power in my room randomly went out, and I ended up eating pizza that was warm on the outside and cool on the inside. I still feel rather ingenious for coming up with that heating technique.

After lunch, I found a note in my mailbox stating that I had received an envelope and needed to pick it up from the dorm’s office. I didn’t have my hopes up—I thought it had to do with the French dorm bureaucracy—but I was overjoyed when Intimidating Receptionist handed me a package with a Norman return address. My friends made me homemade Valentine’s Day cards and sent them across the ocean to me! Mes amis are really wonderful.

I survived the second class of the day and used the restroom afterwards. I ran into Piotr the Polish guy on the way to the computer lab. We awkwardly talked about his upcoming skiing trip to the Alps. As I was walking off, I realized that something weird was going on with my skirt… turns out my skirt was tucked into my underwear. I busted out laughing and kept walking while trying to pull down my skirt to its correct position as discretely and quickly as possible while Piotr laughed and said, “C’est bon, C’est bon!” (It’s good, it’s good!) Fortunately the skirt is long enough to keep me covered even if it’s folded in half. I can’t believe I was that girl: the girl with her skirt tucked into her underwear.

I giggled my way back to the dorms and then realized that I couldn’t find either my key or my phone. I assumed that my phone was locked in my room, but I didn’t know where to look for my key. I checked my door to see if I had left it in the lock. No luck. I was about to search the campus when I thought to check with the office. After a frustrating chat with The Receptionist Who Does Not Speak (the lady has lost her voice and I don’t think it’s ever coming back), she handed me both my phone and my key. I guess I was so excited about the Valentine’s Day cards that I left them on the counter.

Immediately afterwards, I stopped in Jenny’s room to talk to her about doing laundry today. I started to leave when she handed me my phone. I had forgotten it again. Then I tripped up the stairs and broke a fingernail.

I’m surprised that I survived today. Everything feels off kilter and I don’t know why. I don’t think I can blame it on the Sudafed.

I’m sick but I’m still flying to Ireland tomorrow. I hope it goes well. Wish me luck!



nap time
30 January 2007, 10:26 am
Filed under: bordeaux, college, exchange student, france, study abroad

Class is going to kill me. No lie. Five hours of French class in one day makes me go brain dead. I had things to say, but I need a nap.

As a sidenote, I also need to do laundry. I’ve been wearing the same pair of socks for six days in a row. C’est dégoûter.



france makes me stupid
26 January 2007, 8:11 am
Filed under: bordeaux, college, exchange student, france, study abroad

France makes me feel like an idiot. I have my dumb moments in the U.S., but here, I am perpetually MR. My French accent is practically nonexistent. I can’t even order yogurt—which, by the way, is one of the only reliably edible items available at the cafeteria. The French word for yogurt is “yaourt.” Please take a gander at that word and note the three (3) vowels, looking so smug, all in a row. I dare you to say it. I tried my best today to say it right but it came out all wrong. All I could do after that was motion to the display case and make a circle the size of the yogurt container with my hands. It’s sad that after taking five years of French, I still have to rely on body language to communicate.

Yesterday I told a French guy, Fredéric, and his friend the wrong time to meet us. We wanted to meet him at 10 pm today. The French use 24 hour clocks, so I should have told him to meet us at 22h. Instead, I told him 20h.

Note to self: 12+10=22.



sea change
24 January 2007, 4:37 am
Filed under: bordeaux, college, exchange student, france, study abroad

It seems that my mood went south with the weather. Until yesterday, I was focused on the good aspects about being here instead of the bad. All of a sudden the weather, which had been drizzly but decently comfortable, gave way and rain and flurries of snow started falling from the sky. It essentially feels like Oklahoma here, without any of Oklahoma’s perks (e.g. good food, easily accessible Internet service, and real toilet seats.)

Class. I endured three and a half hours of French class (in a row) today. My mind was wandering after the first thirty minutes. How is my attention-deficit self going to survive this semester?

Toilets. For some reason, the French decided to forego regular toilet seats and opted to sit on the toilet rim instead. Sick. I actually have favorite bathrooms based on cleanliness/toilet seat factors. Crazy, no?

Bathrooms. The co-ed bathrooms and showers in the dorms are particularly disgusting. The smell in the stalls can best be described as a subtle but undeniable cross between dissection chemicals and a Port-A-Potty. It’s not an overpowering stench, but it still makes the nose crinkle like after you drive past an angry skunk.

Showers. The showers are not so hot, either. Literally. The first time I took a shower here, I heard someone puking while I was washing my hair, and someone lit up a cigarette in a stall before I was finished rinsing out the conditioner. Since then, my showers have been sans puker, but with smoker. Why?

Noise. A girl on my hall (la mademoiselle de chambre 208) drives me crazy and I’ve never even met her. All I know is what her laugh sounds like. Each time I’m sitting in my room with the door shut and hear her laughing, I can’t help but imagine a hyena being mauled by a hungry lion. And she laughs all the time. Considering that laughing is my all time favorite thing to do, I’ll never have the heart to ask her to shut up. I do wish, however, that she would sound a bit less like a dying safari animal.

Don’t get me wrong, Bordeaux is pretty great. Things will be looking up after I get a new battery for my laptop.