Adventures in Yonderland

A log of my adventures, both real and imagined.

Archive for the month “January, 2013”

University and France: Part 2

I know it’s been about a week, but I’m ready to start back up into this little mini-series! Please forgive me, I’ve got 18 1/2 hours of class in three days. Whew.

Okay! So. Once you finish Lycée, you theoretically take the BAC or which there are three. Math, Literature and Economics. Each BAC contains other sections (science, math, lit, etc.) with one major focus. I think the idea is to make sure everyone has the basic tools they’ll need in their areas of study.

Anyway, once you pass the BAC, you “apply” to a university. My understanding is that, with the exception of a few “Grands Écoles,” any university is required to accept you as long as you’ve passed the BAC. And this is where things take a turn for the jank. You see, almost all the universities in France are public. Which means for France that tuition is unimaginably low (at least for an American). I don’t have a statistic to cite, but I’ve heard Aix-Marseille is something to the order of 300 euros, Sécurité Social included (sécurité social is their health insurance. It has nothing to do with US “social security”).

So that means that the grand ol’ Fac de Lettres (the college within the University that I happen to attend) looks like this:


Yes. I did just represent the entire school with a kind-of “worst-case scenario,” but I know my IU Bloomington friends probably don’t have any idea what it’s like to be in a university where the walls are regularly covered in graffiti that isn’t corrected for months, if it ever gets corrected. They are doing some wall repair and repainting, but good god. Look at where I’m coming from.


The long and short of it is, largely free education can have some pretty interesting draw-backs, the state of the Fac being one of them. The others are coming up later. Don’t worry. I love reminiscing over the Fac.



Tonight I saw a wonderful ballet called Giselle. It played at the Grand Théâtre de Provence as part of the Marseille 2013 Culture Capital. I have to say, I love all that “high society” entertainment. Ballets, operas, plays, basically anything beautiful that also allows me to look super classy! I didn’t know if I would like ballet to be honest. Before this I’d only ever seen the Nutcracker. But it’s just beautiful. Music, movement, and a bit of story thrown in there too. Plus, if you don’t like it, you can always space out! I did! And man was that constructive. Writer’s block, bye-bye!


Cursing in French

Disclaimer: There will be cuss words in both French and English in this post. If that is going to offend you, please feel quite free to skip it and move on!

After half a year in France, I’ve just finally begun to figure out cussing in French. And boy is it weird.

Here’s the thing. And I didn’t realize this until I went to see Django Unchained with French subtitles: they don’t actually seem to* have all the cussing variability the English language so generously provides.

For instance: “putain” is supposedly the French version of F—. However, I quickly caught on that it isn’t used like f–k. It doesn’t seem to hold the same power. I mean, it’s by no means a good word, but it doesn’t quite have that, well, rape connotation to it (I should specify here and say that the original definition of f–k did have rather violent sexual connotations that don’t necessarily exist anymore, although they do kind of provide an undercurrent). It felt more like a cross between damn and f**k. Not quite as bad or soft as either.

Upon further consideration though, I discovered something interesting. “Putain” is completely different! Haha, it seems logical, but it just doesn’t have the same usage, connotation or meaning. It stems from “whore,” but the usage is a mix between f–k, damn and shit. Because the word for shit is used for a much more specific situation where things have really turned sour.

Anyway. I just wanted to say to y’all. Cursing. Doesn’t. Translate.

*added after original publish. Keep in mind that I’ve only been here 6 months.

France and Colbert

Watch it please. It’s fantastic. Also, you may grab a wonderful glimpse of what happens when the French protest. It ain’t nothing like you’ve seen before.—the-mali-conflict?xrs=share_copy

The French and Education: Part 1

Welcome to a sub-set of my adventures: French Education. I feel like I’ve had enough University here to know a bit about how it works (and doesn’t), SO it’s time to start my new game show!

Okay. Just kidding. But I am going to do my best to educate you all on what this is:


Yeah. I know. Reassuring. HOWEVER, I feel I must start here, at French “Lycée” (high school):

France- Nathan 019

So much difference, right?

Anyway, to start off, French education is at least superficially similar to the US right up until the third year of high school. I say superficially because these are also the people who start teaching english in what would be 4/5th grade.

However, “Junior” year our young French students, full of teen angst and hormones, must decide what area of study they’d like to go into for the next five years.

Yes. That’s right.

You see, the last two years of French high school are basically two years of college prep courses focused on whatever you plan on studying in University (because unlike the US, ALL French students are direct admit into a single major program that they are more-or-less restricted to). This intense studying is all for the purpose of passing the ever-famous “BAC” or Baccalauréat.

The BAC is basically like if you took an AP test and pumped it full of Impossible Steroids. Or so I’m told. You’ll see way in later episodes.

And this is the beginning of French University education.  The genesis so to speak.

And also, if you’re wondering if it IS in fact possible to be in two places at once, I recommend this lovely piece by NPR.


This. Everyone should watch this. AND everyone should be this happy all the time.


Not really. However, I won’t leave you all behind either.

Today I had 7 hours of class in French starting at 8am with a 1 hour break at noon. During which I did not eat because I had no money on me. Awkward.

Yesterday I ran around between 5 hours of class and my dinner family which while busy, was wonderful.


…A series on “The Fac” and the French education system. Pictures of a most interesting sort to be included.

Obama at His Best

Watch this. And then take everything he says about peace, and remove everything he says about specifically America. And then make it for everyone. Because that’s what foreign policy should be.

I for one like to have the context. Here is a pretty full one for Mali.


Mali’s problems did not start with the fall of Libya’s Qadhafi. They started even before it gained independence from France. A diverse set of ethnic groups were forced to coexist without much thought of the immense potential for conflict caused by that arrangement. France’s 25th hour short-legged attempt at Shock and Awe is potentially a doomed effort because it is a decade late. Relying on inept militaries, and hoping to win a guerilla warfare without a credible strategy is a defeat waiting to happen. A decade into wars of pacification, Western nations should resist the urge to fight in yet another war without fully thinking through the consequences– potentially disastrous. None of this is an argument to look the other way on the spread of Jihadism, it is a call to think, then act decisively. Too much is at stake.

Unlike some writings popping up with depressing regularity in English-language…

View original post 1,858 more words

This is going to be an English major rant

New Reading Standards Aim To Prep Kids For College — But At What Cost? : NPR.

So, especially if you’re American and care about the education system in America, you should read this.

I am an English major (and I’m in France. I know. It makes sense if you think about it). I love more than almost anything reading. I’ve read Chaucer in old English, Shakespeare, Joyce, Stevenson, Fitzgerald, Dumas, Bradbury, Austen, Woolf, Brian Jacques of the Redwall series and so many more. I don’t tend to like non-fiction. Not for fun anyway. Don’t get me wrong, a speech by Martin Luther King Jr. is incredible. The Declaration of Independence is fantastic. All these kinds of things are wonderful things to learn.

But why in English? Why not in History? The speeches by MLK Jr. are a perfect way to capture the hopes, feelings and power of the Civil Rights movement, so why not use it? Better yet, why not coordinate topics and read works like Invisible Man, The Bluest Eye, A Lesson Before Dying or any of the other many classics dealing with racial issues. Why not link Things Fall Apart with colonialism in World History?

But to say, “Okay, so these works of literature are about this topic and that’s what we’re going to teach you about” is ridiculous. A single novel, if well written, is about life. It can say anything and everything about a life experience. That is the beauty of studying English. You pick out a thread of truth and develop your arguments, then find that someone else has another thread of truth different from yours, and another person has found another thread of truth, until by the end of it you hold in your hands a web of lessons coming both from you and the text.

I appreciate what is being done and the effort being put into this project. Obviously something needs to be done. But there is a certain kind of critical thinking, of imagination, of experience that could be lost if we let it. And I know that experience has done more than instructed me, it has provided refuge. A safe harbor. That’s the real beauty of being an English major.

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