Quick Note on Friendship

You know, just the other night I was with a group of French when I saw another American studying in Aix that I know passing by, and we waved and said “hi” and she continued on her way. Very normal for us Americans, that’s just how it goes. But the French people were all confused. They were like, “Americans are so distant. It’s weird.” Because they stop, “bisent” (cheek kisses) and chat for a bit. And it made me think for a minute.

Because, in a sense they have a point. I mean, I find the French colder than Americans, but they do have a good point in that we engage in that very superficial kind of greeting very often.

But here’s a secret about me: Even if I just wave and say hello to my friends. I would hardly hesitate to do anything for them. It doesn’t matter what they need, what they have done, or even how they have treated me. I might be individual in that. But I actually do believe in love. In honesty. In helping other people. In forgiveness. And maybe that causes me pain sometimes, but that is when I turn to friends who will do the same for me. For those I count my friends, and they are many, I will say that I will always love them and listen to them.

But distant. No. Perhaps in the sense that we are far, that we don’t just engage in familiar conversation. But when I say “hello, how are you?” It’s an invitation. And that’s where us Americans get the completely opposite stereotype of being welcoming as well. Because, well. We are.


Having a “Ball”

So yesterday I went to a ball.

Okay, it wasn’t quite a “ball” in the traditional sense. Actually, it was like a club. Except it was spread out over the campus of a school. I think there were six rooms with different music? Live Rock, “Disco,” traditional “club” music, salsa and honestly that’s as far as I got. BECAUSE, the live rock was TOO COOL. I’m not sure I can express how much fun it was to listen to French people playing “Sweet Child of Mine.”

Which leads me to my next tidbit: The weirdest stuff that happened to me last night (least to greatest, of course).

1) Old people. Yeah. So there were a lot of like, adults there. Like A LOT. I saw a gray-haired man in the Club room. Which was just kind of like, “Um…okay.” It’s France. Go figure.

2) Peeing in public. Yeah, so before y’all freak out let me just say that this is what happened. They had like this bathroom hut with tarps in the back of it that were pretty open. But you’d just walk to the back, walk up to this wall of falling water and, well you get the idea. So strange.

3) The nipple guy. So we were dancing in the Disco room and this guy just comes through and on his way past, twists my nipple and tells me I’m cute. I will say it took me a good five minutes to replay what he said to figure out that he said “mignon,” so much confusion. One minute I’m being polite, the next there’s a man touching my chest. I still have no idea how he was that accurate.

4) The french girls I was dancing with started making out with each other. I was just kind of like…well this is awkward. Now what am I supposed to do? I should also mention at this point in the night our group had gotten separated. So I was just like…um…and left to go find some friends to dance with haha.

5) And my favorite one of the night: French people singing “Stand By Me.” Wins the competition for both weirdest and best. So much great.

And that was my night. Spent dancing away with some really cool people. It was a lot of fun. I even made a friend just waiting in line to get in. Oh. And I got to dress up.

So Last Night

I went to a language exchange dinner that was hosted by a church. In a word, it was awesome. I met a girl studying her undergrad here in France who is from the Dominican Republic. I met some really cool French people and one girl who is studying alternately in France and Germany (go figure). The food was pretty good too. Salad, some weird cooked chicken paste thing (I make it sound awful, but the thing was delicious, especially with the roast vegetables, apples and rice) and really delicious fruit for dessert. I think I’m going to meet some pretty cool people there.

I also went to the supermarket to buy food because I managed to run out (this is what happens when you buy 4 euros worth of groceries). AND I caved and just bought boxes of cookies. Haha but they’re SO GOOD. It’s non of that super-sugar, super-fat stuff. Uh-uh, this is like animal cracker-type wafer thing with milk chocolate on top.

And paprika pringles. Oh. My. Goodness. It’s a trap. It. Is. A. Trap.

Luckily I need food. Lots of food.


I saw the moon for the first time since coming to France.

Yeah. It’s strange, but I think that’s just one of the things that can happen in the city. But I suppose before I go off on a long tangent about how awesome nature is, I should probably explain how I came to see the moon tonight. Because normal people are probably more interested in that adventure.

SO, the program I’m here with runs this dinner exchange thing that we can sign up to do. Basically, I go to a family’s house, teach their kid(s) English for like an hour/hour and a half and then they feed me and correct my French. Because I live in an apartment with other Americans, I decided this would be a good idea so that I don’t totally lose my ability to speak French while in France because to be perfectly honest, that would be very embarrassing.

ANYWAY, the family was freaking awesome. I can’t even describe. They were SO NICE. I’m super, super excited to be hanging out with them. And they fed me a full meal AND wine. Which I dunno, is just really cool. And I feel like that’s also the first time that I’ve had like an in-depth conversation with a French person about things that aren’t like “what’s your major?” “where do you live?” (Both questions, by the way, I REALLY don’t like. Because A) no one knows where Indiana is haha and B) not only is the major system different in France, I INVENTED MY OWN. How am I supposed to explain that concisely and in a way that everyone is going to understand? I can’t even figure out how to do that in English haha). But it was great.

And best of all: they live in the country. Well. As country as it gets near Aix.

But it’s beautiful. I mean, I’ve gotten really used to living in the city, but stepping outside like that…just makes my heart pine for green things. For trees and plants and the friends of the forest I’ve had to leave behind living in the middle of a city.

On the way home, through the branches of trees, above small swatches of farmland. That’s when I saw the moon.

I Met a French Person

Which reminds me of this video by Improv Everywhere:

Haha. ANYWAY, for realz though, I actually met some French students. They all go to “Sciences Politiques” but that’s whatevs. I almost went there so it counts.

I should say that last weekend we hosted a birthday party for a French girl who studied in the U.S. last year, so she knew some people from our group (not me. She didn’t go to my school, however she does know my roommate). So I met some people there, and then one of the French girls had another like get-together-type party last night. And THAT was cool because the proportion of French to English was a lot higher. Especially because a lot of the Americans left really early. Ha. Hard night from the night before I heard.

But it was cool. I got to sit and follow some conversations, not follow others. I told an anti-joke and got to relate the story of how my relatives are responsible for Kiefer Sutherland‘s first name. It’s pretty cool to know some French people, so I’m hoping this will continue.

YAY for French Friends!

(And certainly for friends in general)

Just Saw My First French Film (in France)

It was SO French haha. I was trying to contain laughter at the end because I straight-up couldn’t believe just how French that movie was (Ce Que le Jour Droit à la Nuit). For those of you who aren’t familiar, French films tend to be really artistically depressing. Happy endings? Nope. Literally, my first thought when I saw how the film was going to go was, “What the hell happened to this country?” Because, I mean, it’s a cultural thing. The French people aren’t really that great at making the traditional “happy ending” film that Americans are familiar with. And really, I mean, it’s fairly recent I think. I mean, there has always been a tendency for bitter-sweetness in French literature, but it’s definitely gotten worse. Ever since the two world wars that just destroyed this country’s optimism. And I don’t mean to say that France is a depressed country. Not at all. They live some of the most beautiful lives I think of anyone. They are simple lives that take the time to enjoy the simple pleasures of life and I think that is really one of the greatest faults of American culture, the fact that we don’t tend to enjoy those really simple things. Like food, friends, family, communication. The fact that America is known for McDonalds is, I think, a testament to that. I mean, I haven’t even seen a McDonald’s in Aix.

But get this. The first world war impacted the French more than the second. And the second time they didn’t just fight the Germans, the were INVADED. Think about that. Being invaded by an authoritarian government was less bad than just fighting a war. That’s bad guys. Real bad.

And it still echoes. In literature, movies, “la mode de vie” (how you live), how they treat life here. They still believe in love here. Like Romance-era love. You know. The kind where the main character waits his whole life to be with one woman he loved like forty years ago. The culture still believes in that. But at the same time, if this movie is anything to go by, they don’t put much faith in things changing after forty years. It won’t change so that they guy gets over it. It won’t change so he does something to fix it, the problem just remains unfixable until they die, at which point all the ridiculous crap that separated them in life falls apart and it’s all “happy.”

I’m sorry people. But life doesn’t suck that bad.

Anyway. It was a good film. And it made me think. About love, life and the shit people have done to others. Arab-French tensions were another big feature in the movie. And there was a whole big thing about “Algeria is my country too.” And that’s true. That’s the terrible truth because even if you believe in the place you live, you can’t refuse that right to people who lived there before you, who still live there. And you can’t treat them like less-than-humans. Because when they rise up and take back what was always there, you lose more than just a house.

Haha. And now the post gets serious. Sorry.

But at the same time, maybe it should.

Les Politiques Francaises (French Politics)

Alright, so finally, I’m going to explain a little bit about French politics and just how different it is from American politics. I think really this helps explain a lot about the popular opinion in America that is very…dismissive of the French people.

1)    There isn’t really an equivalent of the Republican party here. It just straight-up doesn’t exist. The “right” wing of their political spectrum is said to correspond with the Democratic party. Yep, that’s right. Sarkosy would be considered a Democrat in the good ‘ol US of A. And if you go any farther right here you get the facist party. You know, the racist, crazy people. So, sorry Republicans, unless you’re secretly facists, you don’t really exist here. I can see how that would cause some people to write off France.

2)    France doesn’t really have much of a standing army. They actually use diplomacy. This is where the French get the reputation for not fighting or being terrible at battle. The simple fact of it is, they don’t want to fight. Especially in Iraq. There’s a huge arab population here that is already very dissatisfied with the French government, so even if France did have a really huge army, they would have faced major political difficulties. Well that and most French didn’t think it was a war worth starting. Which is basically what most Americans think at this point. We’ve been there so long people hardly talk about it any more. And that’s scary.

3)    From what I’ve heard, most French people are very content with their social programs. I mean, they pay crazy high taxes, but they get a lot back from the government. There are housing stipends, free healthcare (major plus for them. French people actually have some of the best quality and duration of life largely because of this, walking everywhere and wine), really good homeless and unemployment security systems (like, really really good. Most Americans would balk at how high it is). And really, a lot more too.

4)    Last one for now: the French actually have a law that limits expressions of discrimination in writing. That I found interesting. Like, freedom of expression is somewhat bounded, at least in what you can write, especially in newspapers. It’s interesting coming from an American perspective in that aspect because we are so protective of our First Amendment rights that it can actually be very hard to prove libel or things like that. No value statements here, just an interesting point of difference.

So, it’s a very interesting place. Lots of foreign outlook because it’s centrally located, lots of culture, lots of pride.

Interesting tidbit for you: Mitt Romney actually spent a good deal of time in France when he was younger. And speaks French. However, he’s afraid of being associated with such a “socialist” country, so has never brought it up in his campaign, nor has he ever equated Obama with the “socialist” France, because that would inevitably start a discussion about it that isn’t going to help him.

Interesting tidbit. I think it’s silly, but politics gets kindof funny every once in a while.