9/22/08

La samba des jours avec toi

Time for another "brief" resume...er, no, that's not actually the word in English...what am I trying to say? Summary. While I wouldn't say my French is improving in leaps and bounds, I'm definitely getting worse at English, for whatever that's worth.

Friday: First day of class for "Religion, pouvoir et société en France: XVI, XVII, XVIII siècle." We spent most of the (three hour) class covering the basics of Christianity, by which our professor actually meant Catholicism. As in, "to be a good Christian, you must believe in the edicts of the Pope and the councils, which are comprised of representatives of all Christian priests." Um, right, about those Protestants and Orthodox churches...Still, he's an interesting lecturer (for which I am excessively grateful, given the length of the class period) and I think it's going to be a really good class. It's also quite comforting to have other Middkids in the room. Also the first class for "Histoire de littérature du Moyen Age," which...isn't as interesting as it sounds, so far. The professor printed out the notes for us, and then pretty much read them aloud for the hour and a half class. At least it won't be much work. Thanks to the foibles of the bus system, I had a few hours after that class finished before any prospect of getting back to Mignaloux would present itself, so I headed into downtown. My jeans have been getting a bit loose, so I figured the obvious solution was to eat more pastries and hence bought an extremely tasty and beautiful strawberry tart, which I consumed in the sun in the Place Charles de Gaulle. Just in case that didn't work, I went to Monoprix and bought a belt.

Saturday: Into town a bit early so I could peruse the market in front of Notre Dame by myself before meeting the rest of the group. This is a serious market. You can (and people obviously do) buy all your groceries for the week there. The dead chickens (with head and feet attached) disturb me, the bread makes me drool, and the flowers are a constant temptation. Fortunately, I know they couldn't survive a day of wandering around with me, so my pocketbook is safe. I did indulge in fresh raspberries and a baguette (I refrained from the amazing and huge donut-shaped loaf of bread). Then I met some other Middkids plus Jeanne, a former Middlebury French T.A. and Poitiers native, and we had a picnic (I tried pâté - and didn't like it at all - but was fairly proud of myself for being brave) before heading off to see a few things for the Journées de Patrimoine, i.e. "all those cool buildings they don't normally open to the public are on view this weekend." The things we visited weren't really what I had in mind, but we did see a pretty nifty little chapel absolutely covered in wood carvings, the inside of a nunnery (disappointingly modern - turns out it's also a retirement home, run by the nuns), and the Baptistère St. Jean, which before it was a baptistry was a Roman villa, and after it stopped being a baptistry was a workshop for a bell-maker who used the baptismal pool for casting. There are some neat frescos on the walls. I thought about striking off on my own after the group disbanded, but I'd had enough walking so instead headed home, where Christelle and I were abandoned by the rest of the family, who had various things to do. We foraged for dinner and ended up making a salad with grapefruit and corn (such obvious things as tomatoes being lacking), and I was told off for not being familiar with Moby (a singer, apparently?). It was really quite a nice evening.

Sunday: Church as usual - it's getting harder to understand the American pastor as I get more acclimated to hearing actual French people speak French. Also, the really weird non-liturgical communion thing is getting old. This coming Saturday night I'm planning on checking out mass at the Catholic church in Mignaloux (never mind that I can't take communion there at all). Afterwards, Christelle and I were supposed to pick up Brenda from the friend's house where she'd stayed the night, but were instead invited to join them for lunch. It turned out to be a whole crowd of British people, two of whom own this gorgeous and huge property that they've turned into a sort of auberge thing, the rest of whom were just down for the weekend (would that I had that much money). They were practically caricatures of themselves, gossiping about the royal family, discussing football, and saying "tremendous" every other word. It was quite charming. The oyster I choked down to be polite was not so charming. Followed by seafood pie, which I also ate (not wanting to be a stupid American is making me very adventurous). At that point one of the British guys started quizzing me on American politics, making it very clear that he was very right-wing, but also much better informed than me, so I mostly made polite, noncommital hem-hemming noises. It was awkward. The afternoon was passed working on my English-to-French translation homework, which was truly evil - obviously chosen for all the descriptive language, whose plethora of English synonyms boil down to three or four French words. And then dinner with my family, which was...seafood casserole, and whole miniature lobster things. Christelle had to crack mine open for me, as I had no clue what I was doing. I nearly chickened out, but I peeled off its little claw-foot-things and ate it mostly without shuddering. But really, I almost had a heart attack when Brenda took the lid off the casserole dish.

Today: I'm starting to get acclimated to this early morning thing, though I wouldn't say I enjoy it per se. I went to second-year translation this morning (my first time, having missed it last week), and it would have been excellent if the students would just stop muttering all the time. I could barely understand the professor or the person reading their translation. My third-year translation class this afternoon was about half the size and therefore didn't have that problem, but my professor drives me a bit nuts. She's English, and we clearly don't speak the same version of the language. I'll translate the French in a way that sounds perfectly natural to an American, and she'll look at me like I have three heads before giving me a brusque "no" and telling the class the only right way to translate it (her way, obviously). It's a pity, because French-to-English is the side of translation I actually want to be able to discuss in depth and talk about nuance and interpretation and such. Oh well. In between my classes (a space of five and a half hours - quite long, but not long enough to make going home worth it), I went to the library (which is dead quiet and full of silent, studious people, quite a contrast to the section of the Midd library I'm used to working on) to read more of my Histoire d'un voyage faict en la terre du Brésil. I probably covered 80 pages in the space of several hours' concentrated reading. So, you know, only 500 more to go. I might make it by the end of the semester. Upon getting home, therefore, I did the responsible thing and watched a James Bond movie. My host family has the complete collection, and I've only ever seen the most recent, so I watched GoldenEye. It was pretty excellent, in a cheesy action movie sort of way. I have a feeling I will be taking further advantage of their DVD collection. Although I had to change the region settings on my laptop in order to watch it, which I'm slightly displeased about as apparently you can only do so five times (which seems quite arbitrary). Oh well.

And now, having caught up with myself, I am going to head to bed. I really want my 1 a.m. to 9 a.m. sleep schedule back.