Katie' Pau Life En France

Ma vie En France

WSU Blog Squad #8 June 13, 2010

Filed under: Random Story,Travels in France — katiespaulife @ 4:02 am

I have been terrible with the blog the last month. There were 3 final blogs I wanted to write before I closed this, but I’m only on # 2 and it has been 5 weeks since my return!

This is the final prompt for the WSU blog squad:

8 Preparing for Re-Entry: Reflecting on How You’ve Changed

Many people describe studying abroad as a life-changing event. As your
study program abroad winds down, pick one example of how study abroad has
changed you and explain to us not just how you have changed, but why this
change came about. Consider this your “capstone blog” – something that you
can point to with pride and use to articulate to your friends and family,
even future employers, why your education abroad experience was more than
simply “awesome.”

This one is my favorite of the prompts. People constantly ask me, “How was France?” or “How was Europe?”. I never know what to say, where do I even begin? Surely my travels merit the typical responses of “awesome” or “amazing,” but if I give that reply am I really answering the question? And honestly, there were many extraordinarily unawesome parts to the trip. Lots of good times were had, as well as days of homesickness, awe-inspiring sights, horrible travelling experiences and interesting (for better or worse) people to meet.

I think travelling tends to strengthen one’s love for humanity or diminish it. I definitely like people less after going abroad. It kind of opened my eyes to how unintelligent the human race is and I’m a little less trustful of authoratative figures after being screwed on my travel plans so often. I also can’t think of a stereotype I had before leaving that was broken, but I could give you a long list of ones which were validated.To fully explain I would have to recount the numerous idiots I met (unfortuantely the vast majority were fellow americans), as well as the people who treated me differently because I was a tourist, people who treated me like an idiot for not knowing Italian or Spanish and the people who were just disrespectful to society as a whole.

I think the most pivotal moment in my new disdain for humanity occured when I visited the catacombs of Paris. When you enter there is a sign that says, “Please Respect The Dead. Do Not Take Flash Photos”.
In the very first hallway I hear this american accent and turn to see three tourists laughing loudly and goofing off. One says to another, “It says not to take pictures, but it doesn’t say don’t touch,” as he reaches out and pokes a skull. I hold my tongue and just walk away hoping a guard would find them. A little later on I see another guy flashing tons of pictures. I usually have no problem with illegal pictures, but seriously? In the catacombs?

A guard tells him “No Pictures” and he apologizes, but takes them again once he is a safe distance away. I then run into more and more loud and obnoxious giggling Australians and Americans. I had expected to come into a tomb of silence where people stared in awe and was met with people treating it as a haunted house. I see one guy pick up a skull to show to his girlfriend who screams at him and then bursts into laughter. I also run into the same Americans I met at the entrance who pick up a bone to examine it and toss it back on the pile. I wanted to say something, came so close to saying something, but held my tongue. I don’t know why I did, I shouldn’t have. I left the tombs livid with anger at how disrespectul people can be. The catacombs aren’t some dumb tourist trap, there are a part of history we are priviledged enough to access. Do people not realize the bones are real?

I expected studying abroad to make me more open-minded and gain a new respect for other cultures. Instead I came back a bit more racist and nationalistic. It sounds horrible to say, but if I’m really honest with myself that is the bitter truth. Studying abroad was an irreplacable and unforgettable semester. I refuse to ever sum it up as simply awesome though, it was an experience and if you want me to tell you more about Europe, I’d love to talk about it- just drill me with specific questions, because I can’t describe it as a whole any more than I can briefly tell you how my life has been.

*Also, this is not my final blog. I will be writing one blog about my final trip to Paris -a great end to my stay in France!

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Blog Squad Prompt 6 April 13, 2010

Filed under: Random Story — katiespaulife @ 8:51 pm
Tags: ,

Blog Squad prompt #6:
Hafez Adel, a University of California at Irvine student who studied in
Barcelona, Spain, wrote an article entitled “Slashing Stereotypes” for the
magazine Abroad View. Wrote Adel:
“Living abroad taught me that stereotypes endure because they provide a
comfortable shortcut to understanding complex matters and that they
usually emerge to fill a vacuum of knowledge. Talking with my roommates,
classmates and strangers on the streets of Spain dispelled many of the
stereotypes I held, while studying and hearing stories about Spanish
history dispelled my misconceptions even more… What we [Hafez and his
Spanish roommate] learned is that we know much less about each other’s
cultures than we thought. But what we lost in certainty, we made up for in
understanding.” (Abroad View, Spring 2009, Volume 11, Issue 2, page
26-28.)
Has studying abroad caused you to question any stereotypes?  Is there a
stereotype that the residents of your host culture hold about Americans
that has intrigued, surprised, or infuriated you? Why do you think this
stereotype has developed? Do you think the stereotype emerged to “fill a
vacuum of knowledge” as Adel suggests, or do you think there are valid
reasons for the stereotype?
Conversely, are there stereotypes that you held about the residents of
your host country that have been either dispelled or validated? Blogging
about these kinds of considerations can be an excellent way to document
the way in which study abroad is improving your critical thinking skills.

 

RESPONSE:

 

Hmmm…I don’t really like answering this prompt, because all of my stereotypes about the French have been validated.

 

Plus a few common stereotypes I thought were ignorant before I came here

 

Of course I don’t stereotype every person I meet simply because they are French. As in any country/culture, a lot of individuals have been drastically different than the norm.

However, the French in general, have proved themselves to be…well…something. I’m not going to go into drastic detail, because I can think of at least 2 French people who read this and I don’t want to offend anyone. I’ll focus on one positive and one negative though, just to give a couple examples.

 

Positive:

 

They do eat well!! Lots of cheese and pastries….mmmm, but also they focus on well balanced meals with fruits and veggies. Something that I think Americans often overlook. Having that balance at EVERY meal is very important here in France. (Even with the balance…the skinny girls everywhere are a mystery…it has gotta be in the genes!)

 

Negative:

 

They strike ALL THE TIME!!

This is driving me off the wall! I’ve been through so many stressful situations because of the strikes! From the ordeal coming home from Rome, to returning from Spain yesterday to discover no one wanted to sell me tickets home from the border to Pau, because they are still on strike after a week! I don’t know enough about the success rate of their strikes to pass a judgment, but I will say it is one thing that has made me appreciate the US more. This was one of those stereotypes I did not think was true before I arrived. Boy was I wrong. So very very wrong.

 

 

Okay so onto the US…I’m not sure exactly what the French think of us. Most of them keep rather quiet about their stereotypes around me (for obvious reasons). But I do know they consider American girls to be sluts and think we are all fat. I also think we have validated those to be pretty true.
From what I have seen over here, French girls are actually much much easier than Americans, but when American girls go to Europe (or meet a French guy in the US), things change. Obviously the accent is appealing, and then there is that whole thought process of “I’m young and in Europe – this is my opportunity in life to go crazy!”. Many American girls in USAC have lived up to the stereotype.

 

And we all know the statistics show that USA is the fattest country, so I couldn’t argue that one even if I disagreed.

 

There is one stereotype I do disagree with though. That is that the French believe we all chug massive amounts of coca-cola every day. From what I have seen, they drink way way more coke than we do. And the only people I know back home who are addicted, are addicted to diet coke.

Every French person I’ve discussed stereotypes with sincerely believes we can’t get enough of our coke. This one surprises me, but it is a pretty minor stereotype so I don’t even both to argue it most of the time.

 

In regards to other countries I’ve visited….

 

~ I was never hit on by an Italian and the biggest stereotype I had was that they are sleazy catcallers (sorry Marco – don’t think that of you at all!), but I do know many girls who had pretty negative experiences in that area.

 

~ the Spanish are kind of a mystery to me, no stereotypes come to mind for them. Especially since I cannot understand anything they say.

 

~ The English kids I met here gave me the stereotype that they drink massive amounts of alcohol on a daily basis. And come to think of it…they were all really perverted….

 

~ Finally there are the Irish. I seem to have this stereotype that they are all light-hearted

 

Oh and I now know that they know Americans love Irish accents:

 

I also think I don’t really take them seriously (because of my whole “light-hearted” stereotype). Just last week I met an Irishman in Barcelona who was not breaking any stereotypes for that country by wandering lost and drunk on a subway at 7 am. I needed to catch my bus back to San Sebastian, but luckily I had left early, because he really needed help going home and was begging me to help him find his bus. I spent a good half an hour trying to figure out where he was going and how to get there. Finally I was sending him on his way when he started begging me to come with him. He said we had a connection, because I was “beautiful, sweet and innocent” and he claimed to be charming and said “I have a nice accent”. I told him that is not a connection and he added that he has a swimming pool as well as everything else a girl could want. I shamelessly laughed at this guy (because I don’t think he’ll remember being laughed at) and then finally found a metro worker to ditch him with because by this point I really needed to get to my bus. Probably would have been creeped out by anyone else I met on a subway drunk at 7 am, but I kind of just thought, “meh, he’s Irish”. 

 

What all my close-minded outlooks are leading up to is that I know Studying Abroad is supposed to “expand your horizons”, “open your mind” and all of that junk, but honestly I feel more stereotypical and nationalistic than ever. I sound like a prick in this blog, but that is my honest answer. I would love to travel more and see the world as I age, but I think I’ll always reside in the US. It’s my home and I never realized how important to me our culture is until I left it.

 

The Lupine Lady March 19, 2010

Filed under: Random Story — katiespaulife @ 1:20 pm
Tags: , ,

One of my friends from WSU and Hazen is studying French and Arabic
in Morrocco for the semester. She is keeping a blog for the WSU blog squad as well. Here is the link:

http://madisonaherman.wordpress.com/

I skimmed over her blog this afternoon and the very first entry caught my eye:

“The other day I read a children’s book that my grandmother used to read to me when I was little. It is called “Ms. Rumphius” but I always thought that it was called “The Lupine Lady”. It is funny how you remember things differently when you are a kid. It is a great book you should read it if you haven’t. In the book, a grandfather tells his granddaughter that she must do three things travel to far away places, live by the sea and do something to make the world more beautiful.”

Coincidentally my grandmother used to read me the exact same book. It was always a favorite of mine; right up there with “Rainbow Fish”. The beautiful story is complimented with soft, pretty illustrations that seemed to match perfectly with my grandma’s voice. In the end the granddaughter grows up and accomplishes all three things of course. For the latter, she makes the world more beautiful by planting lupines all over the sea coast she lives on.

I have so many great childhood memories spent at my grandparent’s home. The smell of the freshly cut wood in the basement, making my first batches of cookies, runnign through the woods in the backyard, eating a pound of pasta with butter and parmesan (I would eat an entire package as a kid…god I love tortellini), looking out the windows into the tree tops of the evergreens and of course, being as nosy as I am, sneaking into the old bedrooms to look through pictures, letters and antiques in the armoires.

I’m so fortunate to have had such a great childhood. To all my family members who read this blog, thanks for everything and I look forward to seeing you this summer!

Now I just have one more exam left ( a fake French job interview) and then I’m going to go downtown with my friend Renee to get drinks on the blvd of Pyrenees as we wait for our 11:30 train to pull into the station just below the blvd. Have a good weekend!

 

Funny Story about french men March 18, 2010

Filed under: Preparing to go abroad,Random Story — katiespaulife @ 7:05 pm
Tags: ,

Okay, this is completely irrelevant to my travels, but this is a great example of how sleazy French boys are (Courtney be careful next Spring!).

 

I may have told a few of you about my friend with both an American and a French boyfriend. We’ll call her “Valerie”, just to be safe (this blog is on my Facebook).

 

Valerie met her French boy back at the beginning of the semester when he had a girlfriend named….”Elaine”. He broke up with this Elaine mid-January and hooked up with Val when she was fighting with her American boy. Her and the American made up eventually, but she just couldn’t let “Fabio” go. She’s been torn btw the two all semester and I’ve been rooting for Fabio, urging her to break up with her American boy or at least choose one!

 

Fabio was a great guy at first, took things slow and kept telling her how he would move to the US for her, blah, blah, blah…

 

Then last week he took another friend of mine (who is French) out to dinner. We can call her “Becca”. He confessed his love for Becca and told her he just wanted to be with her. Using lines such as, “What would you do if I kissed you in front of Val and Elaine?”, ect.

 

This is a true story.

 

Becca made their friendship boundary clear, but told Val about the dinner.

Later that weekend Val gets drunk at a party at Fabio’s house and passes out in his bed. She wakes up in the middle of the night and he is next to her. Then he gets up to use the bathroom or something and Val sees Elaine is on the other side of the bed!!

 

She confronted Fabio about it the next morning and he just said, “Well she was drunk, I didn’t want her to drive home…”

“Then why not the couch?”

“Bed, couch, same thing!”

 

Needless to say that relationship is over. I feel bad for Val, but I cannot stop laughing – had to share!

 

Blog Post # 4 March 13, 2010

Filed under: Random Story — katiespaulife @ 7:10 pm
Tags:

#4     Investing in your Experience

“Experience is a personal creation.” Five words that so accurately sum up
the study abroad experience!
Think back to the goals you set for yourself for the abroad experience.
Perhaps you were focused on language acquisition, creating international
friendships, succeeding in a dynamic internship, or developing a wonderful
relationship with your host family.
Perhaps you’ve abandoned one or more of these goals, and set some new
goals for yourself. Either way, are you achieving these goals? If you are,
great!  It probably means that you are making a concerted effort to
actively engage in the learning experience in and outside of the
classroom. It also probably means that you are taking some appropriate
risks – using your language skills outside of the classroom and so on. Can
you describe your strategies for accomplishing your goals — the risks you
are taking, and the benefits of being successful?

Then let us know how your “Investing in My Experience” game goes!

 

My response:

 

Many of you may remember me saying, “Oh yeah, 4 months, I think I’ll be fluent by the end of it”. I now know, that is just not going to happen.

My French has greatly improved – I can read easily, understand conversations and some movies pretty well (depending on how fast they speak), but when I need to speak there is still a lot lacking and I usually need a moment or two to think. It doesn’t yet come naturally. 

My new strategy is to continue my studies this summer when I return home. Like last summer I am going to try to study French an hour a day, as well as speak only French to my grandmother. Having a fluent family member a mile away will be a great aid!

In addition I am hoping to fit French into my schedule at school next fall and subscribe to netflix so I can rent French movies. I am slowly, but surely reaching my goal of fluency, but it is a very long way off and I will not reach it by the end of April.

As far as risks go, I would say the biggest one I’ve taken was choosing to live with a family who didn’t speak English. I’m very glad I decided to do this though; it has been a great experience! My host mom is such a kind and generous person- I am so thankful to have been put here. The only complaints I have are living far from downtown and that we don’t laundry near as often as I need it. Those are both minor problems though and I have benefited a lot from talking with her, watching a tiny bit of TV (not as much as I should) and hearing her converse with her daughter. There have been some dinners where we definitely run out of conversation topics, but we have also had some very good conversations and even when I can’t fully express myself in words she seems to understand. Patricia (host mom) often cooks French meals for me, keeps me informed on current events in Pau and offers to help me with homework. I really got lucky here and though I doubt we’ll keep in touch (I am her 6th student),  I know I will miss her when I return to the states.

 

I think I’ve taken a lot of risks aside from this during my stay in Europe. It has been an adventure and I cannot believe I have only a month and a half left! The countdown is beginning… =(

 

Damn Strikes! March 11, 2010

Filed under: Random Story,Travels in France — katiespaulife @ 11:02 pm

Had quite the morning here in France!!

 

I was leaving for the bus this morning when I realized my key wasn’t in my backpack. As my family and past roomies know, I am the master of losing everything. I searched all over my desk and through my bag for it – I was actually going to leave on time for the bus and this had to happen!!!

 

Patricia came downstairs and I worked up the courage to ask her if she had seen them. She helped me look, but to no avail. I scoured through all my clothes, desk drawers, inside my shoes, in the kitchen cabinets, in my bookcase, twice more through my backpack and under my blanket. Nothing.

 

I tend to absentmindedly set keys everywhere. For example, have any of you seen the commercial with the old woman who puts her keys in the cheese drawer? Her husband finds them and knows it is clearly a sign of Alzheimer’s.

I was 19 when I once found my keys in the cheese drawer, zip locked in a bag of shredded cheese. What will I be like if I live to be 80?!

 

After checking the shoes and bookcase, I told my host mom I was really sorry, but I couldn’t find them. I added on that I knew they were in the house as I used them to get inside last night and hadn’t left since. She told me not to worry, that she would be home for the day. She was very nice about it – I was so relieved!

 

By this point I had of course missed my bus and couldn’t remember if the next one came at 10:50 or 11:12, but I decided to be safe and leave the house at 10:40. I arrived at the stop to find the bus did not until 11:13. I also realized I forgot my IPod, which is my only way of telling time now that my phone is dead. I was not too happy with my memory at this point.

 

Not wanting to return home and tell Patricia I had left my IPod I started walking the bus route. The next stop had a bench and a clock, so I got out my journal and started writing. Soon it was 11:13. “The bus will be here any minute now!!” I thought. I was hoping it would not be late today, because a very sketchy hobo had just walked by me and stopped not to long afterwards to fix his shoe and then to stare. He was about 20 yards down the road just staring into the distance like a zombie. “Please don’t come back and talk to me” I thought, “please let the bus get here soon!”

After a couple minutes the hobo turned around and started limping in my direction. Damn. I pictured the bus arriving just as he was about to talk to me, but sadly my life is not like the movies and I was not saved. Instead, I had some crack addict start asking me for cigarettes. I told him I didn’t understand. I really didn’t – his words were so slurred I don’t think I would have if I spoke French. Among the slurring mumbles, “cigarette” was all I could make out. Luckily he didn’t pester me too much and limped away. That man wreaked though and his stench didn’t follow him for a couple minutes. There are always creepers at the bus stop.

 

Arriving to school an hour late I discovered there is a strike going on with the bus drivers. Why is there always a strike?! Fortunately, the rest of the day went smoothly! I booked my trains and hostels for Ireland and went to Kawitas for dinner! When I came home my host mom had made me a new key and wouldn’t even let me pay her back. Nicest host mom ever. I did end up finding it though, tucked between the mattress and headboard of the bed. I think I even know how they got there. Yesterday some kids played ding-dong-ditch on my house. After hearing giggles the first time I opened the door I re-locked it and went to my bedroom window. The zombie shutters were closed, but not locked so I hit behind them until I heard the bell ring again. I then opened the shutters and said, “Allo!” as a kid ran by me. I must have tossed the keys onto my bed on my way to the window. Thank god I found them!!

 

WSU Blog Squad Post 3 March 4, 2010

Filed under: Pau,Random Story — katiespaulife @ 9:24 am

#3     Lens Shifting & Comparative Thinking
Prompt:

Now that you have been abroad for some time, pick an aspect of your life
in your host culture and compare it to that same aspect in the U.S.  Some
examples of possible topics might include daily transportation, dining
out, relating to one’s instructors, communicating with family members,
playing sports, and so on.
Even with globalization, and even in other cultures in which English is
the official language, there are cultural differences. Obvious differences
might be dress and food. More nuanced differences might be things such as
gender relationships, attitudes toward work or family, attitudes about
time, or methods of worship.
Describe a more nuanced cultural difference that stands out for you, and
then write about what you think this difference might represent in terms
of values and beliefs.

 

Answer:

One difference which I really despise is the French work ethic. I’ve noticed in the service industry especially that people here are downright rude. They seem to have these rules of politeness they follow, but leave it to the French to be as polite as their social rules dictate and a complete jerk at the same time. When you enter a store you will always be greeted with a “Bonjour” or “Bon Soir” and when you leave, always an “Au Revoir,” but in the meantime they will often ignore or treat you like crap. This of course is not true for every store and restaurant, but the overall attitude towards making the customer happy is much less ambitious than the US. I think that job is viewed as more of a necessary evil in France and not something that contributes to the balance of life as  in America.

 

In fact, in class the other day we had a discussion about the max of 35 hours for a work week in France. I was surprised to learn my other classmates Cooper and Kim are against it. Personally I find 35 hours much more agreeable, but to each his own. I think the most I’ve ever worked in one week was 55 – 60 hours, which I loved or despised depending on my job.  Anyway I suppose the French don’t value service as much as Americans, but I kind of miss the approachable staff you find in the US =(

 

 

For more cultural differences see the “culture shock” tab on the blog. It lists all the differences I’ve noticed.