funny

Bachelorette Parties, Baby Showers, and Fruit Salads

No, no! This little one is not getting married anytime soon- though suitors do abound, if I may be so bold. It’s just that I realized I never spoke (wrote?) about something that struck me as particularly interesting about French culture.

I am under the strong impression- due to personal experience, narratives, and my countless nights out on South Beach- that here in the United States a bachelorette party is all about getting trashy, getting that awkward lap dance, and adorning one’s body with phallic paraphenalia (or… it just so happens that’s all I have seen). I mean, it even feels like a Bachelorette Party is just an excuse to “cheat one last time”.

In France the “enterrement de jeune fille”, which if we want to transliterate means “the burial of the young girl”, is slightly different. From what I got to see, the bride-to-be is dressed in the most ridiculous of tenures (not that sporting a penis necklace around your neck is not ridiculous enough). I’m talking “Tacky Day” on drugs—spandex, brightly-colored afro wig, etc.
She is paraded around the city and given a series of dares. Sometimes they even blindfold the girl and take her to an undisclosed location, kind of like that last episode of SVU….except, of course, this is fun.

Anyway, I think I have pretty much failed at not being biased on which one I find less degrading.

 

Then there’s this cultural thing that made me cock my head to the side and scowl:
Baby showers.
Now, it is no secret I don’t particularly care for children. I am very selective of the children I like- either the kid is genuinely witty (yes, WITTY), his or her parents are people I like, or the kid has to be related to me. Other than that, my dormant maternal instinct will remain as such, and I will be the awkward person not cooing and saying how cute the baby is.

Sorry not sorry.

Anyway, now that that’s out of the way, on to the story!

One day I was invited to a baby shower in Paris. It was, as a matter of fact, for a very well-loved couple from our exchange group. It was all kept hush-hush, as it was a surprise. In the email exchanges, I volunteered to make a fruit salad, because I’m boss at making fruit salad!
So I went to the market and selected the most delicious-looking fruit. I was going to show how much I liked these two people through fruit. Mmhmm.

As life would have it, the night before the baby shower, I went out and I, uh, got classy trashy.
I stumbled back into my apartment and plopped on my bed, boots and all, when I remembered: the fruit salad!
I got up slowly, because that’s what you do when you’ve had one too many, and made my way to the kitchen. I wielded my ceramic chef knife around and cut up the fruit. Oh yeah…they were going to love my fruit salad. Mm mm! Fruit!

Anyway, the baby shower was a success. We made merry and showered the mom-to-be with presents for Incoming Baby. It was the closest thing to a family Sunday afternoon that I had had in a few months, so I felt pretty happy to partake in an activity I would most likely avoid like the plague back home.

A few days later, while exchanging drinking stories, I decided to tell the story of my drunken fruit cubing skills with my sweet blade.
“What was it for, anyway?” asked my French friend.
I was stumped. How do you say baby shower in French!? Bébé douche?
“Um…in English is called a ‘Baby Shower’”, I replied.
She stared at me. Her French eyes filling with French judgement.
To make the story short: why on God’s great Earth would we celebrate and gift a baby that is not born yet? What if the baby dies before it is born? (this was an actual question). We were decidedly the craziest and most obtuse society for partaking insuch activities.
An uncomfortable silence ensued, my friend looked down and laughed at herself.

I sat in silence, feeling sillier than a jeune fille.

“See, Miss, I have a band and I go on tour every weekend”

Oh, teaching! This is the wonderful world I willingly (and enthusiastically) entered and continually hope I don’t lose love for. In the two short months as a college adjunct, I have heard things and I have seen things that have made me laugh uncontrollably, made my jaw drop in horror and was told things I would assume only the crazies say. So, I feel, it is only fitting that I compile the, um, most interesting answers and statements I have heard whithin the four walls of my (super cool) classroom.

And now, I present them to you:

“Wait, so, do we have to memorize the vocabulary?”
-Nursing student, upon being told there would be a quiz on the unit we just completed.

“So that’s how you say that? ¡Dále!”
-Student upon learning how to say ninety-five.

“You write Kobe Bryant is better than LeBron James on that board and you walk out this classroom”.
-Quick exercise on the comparatif.

“Oh, is he tall?”
-Student’s first reaction upon seeing a picture of Omar Borkan after an exercise of superlatives.

I don’t know. Maybe he’s like 5’5, or something.

Student [holding up test]: Why did you mark this wrong?
Me [points at incomplete answer]: It was a two-part answer and you left the second half blank.
Sudent: That’s impossible.
Me: [stares].

“Oh, but Miss, I was writing something else when you were explaining that!”
-Student’s defense upon being confronted after the failure of an entire section on a quiz.

“Why would you take off points for accents!? That’s not right! You don’t do that on French 1 or French 2! You do that on French 3! That’s ridiculous!”
-Same student as above. Seems to be an expert in the matter.

Me: Anyone having any issues with the online homework?
[several hands go up]
Student [same one as the other cases]: (proudly) I don’t!
Me: All right, I’m going to speak with tech-support and-
Student without issue [cutting in]: I have been having problems, yeah!
Me: You just said you didn’t. And I already saw your progress report online. You’ve completed all the questions.
Student: No, I don’t have any problems with it.

Mhm.

Me: [After a particularly passionate, though succinct, explanation about the Basque Country and the Basque mouvement for independence].
Student: …so?

Me: [has a small heart attack after nearly misreading the following sentence on an exercise: “Malthide brosse son chat”.]
Francophone student: OH MISS YOU DIRTY!

BECAUSE EDUCATION, MAN.

The other side of the desk

My first week as a College professor lolwut? has concluded.
It was, to say the least, the weirdest week of my life. I don’t recall booking tickets into the Twilight Zone, but it seems I was the lucky winner for an indefinite trip into a parallel dimension, with a panoramic view of my past.

It all happened my chance- I had grown *very* discouraged in my job search and I applied, for giggles, to a community college (will not disclose the name of it because, well, I don’t feel like it! :D). A week later, on a Friday afternoon, I was driving back from Ikea when I got a phone call from a very nice lady telling me that a French instructor at X Community College had to resign over a family emergency and they were now in serious need for an instructor. I pounced at the opportunity. A few hours later, I was getting bombarded with information, and 48 hours later, I had gotten a security clearance and background check, input into the system and launched into a classroom where I was to teach 21 people beginner French.

Being on the other side of the desk- to be the one with the information- is certainly a very interesting experience. It’s nothing at all like giving a class presentation. It’s serious business. It’s up to you to teach and teach right. Teach correctly, and teach passionately. It’s about infecting others with a desire to learn and to encourage them to not second-guess themselves because hey! if you did it, so can they! (and I must attest to myself as evidence- I picked up French my second year of Community College).

Now, all of this sounds very idealistic. I sound like a noob, like a rookie. And I am! But I also believe in teachers and professors. It’s these people that shaped me and pushed me to broaden my academic spectrum; the ones that pushed me to excel and get out of my comfort zone! It was also the terrible teachers/professors that I had that made me feel like I could make a difference- that anyone that comes under my tutelage will not only be taught, but taught well.
Some of the students I have took the course because, whatever, they needed an elective credit and they chose the first thing that came to mind which was French (again, maybe because we all feel entitled to all things French, as I’ve said in a previous post). Little did they know that learning French is not just about saying “J’adore”- no. It’s about culture, it’s about learning a violent history, about learning how the language they speak (English/Spanish/Creole) has been directly affected and touched by French. But aside all that, even if they don’t choose to continue, they will have been exposed to something else. Something that maybe will escape their logic, but they will remember despite the fact that it was “hard”.
It’s not about teaching a language, it’s about all the aspects that come with learning it. It’s a challenge- and if it doesn’t feel like it, if it never got weird or nonsensical at some point- then it was not done correctly.

All of a sudden I had more priorities and more things to be wary of: Did I word it right? Do they understand? Why didn’t you complete the homework? Can everybody see red on the board? Why are you not making an effort? did the photocopier seriously just jam?
I may blend in with the crowd but I can no longer check a guy out- that’s just creepy, even if there’s only like a two-year difference in age. Also, I have to deal with silly people from IT, who don’t seem to understand anything I tell them:
Me: I need the adapter to plug in my computer to the video projector.
IT: Well, there’s a computer all the way at the bottom of the desk.
Me: Yes, but it’s missing the adapter to plug the cables in. I have a Mac and have my own adapter, but the link between my Mac and the PC is missing.
IT: Well, if you have a Mac you need your own adapter.
Me: *Kicks a puppy*

Then again, this position comes with perks: Staff and faculty parking. Oh, yes. No more third-degree burns from walking in the sun. Only some pre-hypoxia when I jump in my A/C-lacking Ferrari.

So, yeah, there it is. That’s how I can condense some mayor points of my first-week experience. I will, of course, touch up on other things that I’ve observed- some injustices faced by my students, and some little victories and light-hearted anecdotes.

Stay tuned, because I finally may have found some inspiration to write again!

The Day Richard Gere Fixed My Toilet (and gave me a history lesson)

Bathrooms are a funny thing in Europe. That is, if you have the good fortune of living somewhere that actually HAS a bathroom.
You know you’ve heard it- that horror story your mom’s friend’s cousin’s sister-in-law told at some dinner party a few years ago about her travels through Europe and how sometimes you come (hopefully not) face-to-face with a gaping hole in the floor. How barbaric must it be to squat and go back to nature, right?
Actually, yes.
(A thousand times yes!!)

Once upon a time, my toilet stopped working.
Not a big deal, right? Just use the plunger and let Jesus take the wheel.
Don’t forget I’m in France, though. My toilet is not a regular toilet. As a matter of fact, my toilet has an plug that is to be plugged in to wall for the engine to work to flush it.
A plunger is irrelevant in my life.

After letting out a cry of despair, I had to do what I had been dreading most of my stay: use the latrine in the hallway. Which belonged to my neighbors from across the hall. And smelled like dirty cat litter. I mean this thing is worse than the girl’s bathroom at the club after 3am.
Justpopthatsquatanddontlookdowndontlookdowndontlookdown.
I pulled on the lever to flush and down came the walls of the Hoover Dam.
I don’t think I’ve ever run so fast in my life. Faster than I do when I flush an airplane toilet. Did I even undo the lock?

JUST RUN, BEATRIZ! RUN!

I ran straight to my landlady and begged her to call her plumber.

Twenty-four hours later, I welcomed the man I have been waiting for more than my own Prince Charming: Monsieur Plumber.
But what sight doth met myne eyes when I threw my palace doors open?
Richard Gere.
And I’m not talking about a slight ressemblance. I’m talking Richard Gere, complete with those squinty eyes and white hair.

OMG HIIII!

For a tiny second, I was glad to be living in Paris.

He went into the bathroom for a “diagnostic”. I explained to him what was happening with the toilet. But, of course, as a good French man, he held up his hand and told me “Je sais” (I know). Of course he knew. He’s a plumber. “I installed this bathroom”.
My b!
I should have learned my lesson because I tried to explain to him that I had tried to fix it on my own. Hand up. “There’s a motor. You have to have unmounted the toilet to ‘fix it’.”
I’m sorry, Mr. Gere, sir! I really am! I am woooormmmssss!
After an uncomfortable silence, he asks me what it was like to use the hallway bathroom.
I smiled uneasily (“You Americans…”), but before I could get my answer out, he launched into the most fascinating monologue about shit I have ever heard.

“You know, the Romans already had some pretty advanced bathrooms. They had these long slabs of marble or whatever, with holes in them, and people would just sit down and use them and it was a group activity. They had running water underneath to carry away all the waste. You’d be shitting side to side with your neighbor, your mayor- didn’t matter! Can you imagine? Just farting up a storm and taking a shit next to your boss? That’s the ultimate concept of equality! Oh! Also, did you know that in the Middle Ages people would throw out onto the streets their chamber pots and sometimes people would get drenched in crap and pee!? HAHAHA”.

Thank you, Mr. Gere. What has your plumber taught you?

Degenerate.