kathryne goes to france

27 June 2007, 11:59 pm
Filed under: europe, exchange student, france, french culture, study abroad, travel

I miss watching French people walk around with baguettes sticking out of their bags.

At the same time, there’s something strangely comforting about looking down at the ground beneath me and spying richly red Oklahoma dirt.


19 May 2007, 7:31 am
Filed under: bordeaux, europe, exchange student, france, french culture

In all fairness, I should say that the stereotype that the French are smelly is largely untrue. There are, however, several with B.O. issues, and the problem is that when you find one who stinks, he really stinks. Tram rides next to a stinky one are the worst, because there’s nowhere for your nose to go when the trams are crowded, and you’re stuck, in a confined space, next to Stinky. I think France should consider broadcasting public service announcements on the necessity of deodorant.

Seriously, it’s only getting hotter outside. J’ai peur.

Why French women don’t get fat
18 May 2007, 9:46 am
Filed under: europe, exchange student, france, french culture, study abroad

Why French Women Don’t Get Fat
a) They smoke like a chimney
b) They are mutants*

Don’t bother reading the book; that’s the truth.

*Due to the significant, positive correlation between buttery pastries and slender women.  French women are, indisputably, mutants.  Very lucky, thin mutants.

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.

6 May 2007, 11:50 am
Filed under: bordeaux, europe, exchange student, france, french culture, study abroad

The other day on the tram, a little French boy asked Mandi, in English, “What languages can you speak?”

His mother speaks French, English, Spanish, and a little German.

My mother speaks English.

He speaks French and broken but understandable English.

My brothers speak English.

I think it’s so interesting that even little Europeans expect everyone to speak more than one language.  Kids in the United States don’t ask questions like that.  It’s generally presumed, and rightly so, that we speak English and not much else.  The question doesn’t cross their minds because we don’t think about language much in the U.S.  Why would we, if all we hear everywhere we go is English?

cultural confusion
10 April 2007, 9:53 am
Filed under: europe, exchange student, france, french culture, paris, study abroad, travel

I spent my day in Paris surrounded by tourists. As I was trying to make my way through the crowded Musée d’Orsay, people were speaking different languages around every turn. Hearing American English, French, German, British English, and Chinese, mixed in with languages I couldn’t even identify, was completely overwhelming. I didn’t know whether to say “excusé moi” or “excuse me” or or “désolée” or “sorry.” I feel like an idiot when I say “excusé moi” to Americans, but do they even notice that I’m American anyway? And does saying “excuse me” in the correct language matter if we all know what they mean? Besides that, when I’m surrounded by as many Americans as I was today, should I start talking to people in French or English? Which is the better bet? It’s so confusing.

I can’t decide if all Americans really are as uncouthe as they seem over here or not. Granted, we’re out of our element when we’re in Europe. We’re not used to being surrounded by different languages everywhere we go. We don’t know how to travel on a subway system because we’re accustomed to driving cars everywhere we go. And I probably shouldn’t be talking about the kids in Musée d’Orsay who exclaimed, “Dude that sucks!” because I say that all the time.

Not only that, but do all the other Europeans walking around with me just seem more sophisticated because their style and body types are a little more in line with the French? And do I just assume that they’re having conversations about significant topics just because they’re speaking in a language that I can’t understand? Are all the Italians running around saying the Italian equivalent of “dude that sucks” after all? Do I just think that they’re talking about something important because it sounds prettier when they say it?

Je ne sais pas. I’m off to Rome tomorrow. My head’s still spinning from seeing so much art at the museum (I feel like I just read my entire art history book at once) and I have to wake up insanely early tomorrow morning to catch my flight.

Lessons learned today:
Rousseau is awesome.
Realism is a bore.
Americans are amusing.

le christ vivant!
8 April 2007, 11:17 am
Filed under: bordeaux, europe, france, french culture, photos, study abroad

Today we went to an Easter service at la Cathédrale Saint André de Bordeaux. I’ve only been to a couple of catholic church services in the U.S., but I could tell that the format was the same. French hymns sound kind of funny. It takes more more syllables to say something in French than it does in English, so the lines sounded rushed even though the tempo was the same as it is at home. I liked that the service was in French. Even when I couldn’t understand all the words, I could tell what they were saying based on the context. Easter services are pretty standard no matter where you are.

On one hand, the service seemed totally normal. A baby cried, a cell phone went off, and an old lady sang too loud. Some people were dressed up and some were in jeans. The church officials collected an offering and gave communion, and we recited the Lord’s prayer. On the other hand, I was sitting in a cathedral with light streaming through stained glass windows as music played from a huge organ behind us. The interior of the church was cold, not because the air conditioning was turned up too high, but because we were in a huge stone building without a heater.

Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.