9/27/08

Walk in the Park

Wednesday: Not much in the way of interesting for classes. Not that they were boring, just nothing you would be interested in reading about. I'm surprised how easily I've adjusted to the long class periods, given that I found 1:15 French classes at Midd somewhat murderous. Wednesday evening I had dinner with Elizabeth at the crêperie in one of the university restaurants, which was excellent, then spent the evening hanging out at her house, making applesauce in the microwave (something which had never occured to me) and watching a very French movie on TV before heading to Les Bacchantes for an evening of French folk music/dancing. It was very fun, though I had more success with the couples dancing than the pseudo-contra dancing (turns out it's a lot harder with nobody to call the steps). My favorite dance, which can be danced to pretty much any music and of which I've forgotten the name, is a sort of cross between polka and merengue: one-and-two, three-and-four, one, two, three, four. I have a feeling a lot of waltz steps/turns could be adapted to work pretty well with it; I was itching to try open spirals or flip-flops, but a) I don't lead very well and b) the dance floor was small and very crowded. Oh well. It reminded me somewhat of Dr. Quiring's classes in College Station, plus alcohol and cigarette smoke. But people actually asked other people to dance in a non-sketchy manner, and it was all very social and fun.

Thursday: After not nearly enough sleep, we presented ourselves at a high school in a section of Poitiers I've never seen before (the city is actually quite large, there's just not much occasion to go anywhere other than downtown) to take the TCF (Test de connaissance de français, same principle as the TOEFL). It lasted an hour and a half and reminded me strongly of the written tests we took for Texas French Symposium in high school. I was torn between wanting to do well because...well, I like to be good at things, and not wanting to do too well as we'll be taking it again at the end of our stay to ascertain whether we've actually improved. (Un)fortunately, I don't think doing too well will be a problem. It wasn't awful, but there were definitely questions I wasn't sure of. It had an annoyingly SAT-like tendency to present two answers that each seemed about half-correct. Apparently standardized testing is subject to the same weaknesses in any language. I came home for the afternoon and intended to take a nap, but instead watched The World is Not Enough (Pierce Brosnan as James Bond is not at the top of my list, but he's a little bit swoon-worthy) before leaving with Brenda and her friend Magalie for Tours to see the sketches put on by Christelle's business school orientation program. The drive was gorgeous - an hour and a half of afternoon-sunlit farmland (the kind little kids draw pictures of) interspersed with clusters of houses, each with its own suitably ancient-looking church steeple. I saw plenty of signs for castles once we entered the Loire Valley, though no actual castles. I'm definitely scheming to return there, though. The sketches themselves were amusing parodies of commercials (business school, after all), but the best part was the musical interludes between acts. It doesn't get much better than "Hit the Road, Jack" in a French accent. It was followed by a cocktail party with absolutely gorgeous hors d'oeuvres and miniature éclairs and such (and absolutely fake chips and salsa, which amused me), and then the same drive home, which was not as pretty, what with everything being dark and me being tired.

Friday: More catechising in my history class, though we finally got to some actual French history in the last hour. I spent about 20 minutes being very confused because the city of Reims is pronounced more like "Rhince." Three hours of time-killing and a literature class later, I found myself with at least an hour until the prospect of a bus, so I decided to head downtown and check out the Parc de Blossac, which satisfies every cherished notion of a park (except perhaps the presence of an antique carousel). It's built partially on the remnants of some 12th-century ramparts, and from one end you can look out over the River Clain, which was sparkling charmingly in the afternoon sun. There are proper tree-lined promenades, a fountain, a grapevine trellis, and a grassy amphitheater. Sadly, I've lost my tourist instinct to take my camera everywhere, so I don't have any pictures yet. I'll definitely be returning. Upon returning home, I (sleepily) ate dinner with my host family (it's very comforting to know that French people occasionally eat fish sticks and mashed potatoes too) and watched Die Another Day, sadly concluding the Pierce Brosnan missions. Oh well.

Today: Almost nothing. I finished one translation and tried to start another, but it's a passage of Toni Morisson's Song of Solomon, and there is no good way to render it in French. Either I don't attempt to represent the dialect and strip the text of half its meaning, or I render it in some French dialect that has completely inappropriate sociocultural/economic connotations and adds a layer of meaning for native French speakers not present in the original text. It's impossible. I'll try again tomorrow. Instead, I watched Licence to Kill and determined that Timothy Dalton is not worth it. I'm definitely getting some sort of cultural education by being here...I'm just not sure it's particularly French. Ah well.