Monday, August 27, 2007

Pre-France hesitations

The more I think about my stay in France, the more people ask me about it, and the closer I get to the date of my visa appointment, the more hesitant I get about this whole thing.
The hesitations have been recent, so don't think that I've been all nervous about this for a while.
I keep thinking about things that, during my last stay in France (studying abroad for five months in a city about three hours away from where I'll be), really bothered me. Let's make a list. I shall call it the "...fucking French..." list. Pardon my language, but France can be ridiculous.
-Ubiquitous dog crap on the sidewalks.
-More smokers and fewer non-smoking areas, like restaurants.
-Mopeds. I rank these on the safety scale just below donor-cycles. Ask my dad about the etymology of that one.
-Phone conversations. As I mentioned in my last post, phone conversations in French are my weakest interaction. I don't necessarily get nervous about them, like I did when I was little and had to call people (even my friends!), but I can't anticipate the direction of the conversation all that well and therefore the vocabulary I'll need.
-Food. A sub-list, if you will:
--American food I will miss but can replicate almost as well in France:
---grilled cheese sandwiches
---boneless skinless (meatless fatless tasteless) chicken breast, the easiest and most bland piece of meat to cook
--American food I will miss and cannot replicate at all:
---real pizza (not this silly French business with one olive in the middle and if you want, a fried egg on top for 1E more)
---Anchor buffalo wing sauce
---Smucker's peanut butter
---potato chips with normal flavors
---donuts that aren't filled with apricot (?) or prunes (don't even get me started)
---Chicken wings. Specifically, Mom's.
Send me any or all of these things and I will break international postal law to send you a bottle of cognac.
Back to the issue of things that make France silly...
-My inability to read people. Try it: walk into WalMart or wherever and pick out a person. What is that person's socioeconomic status? Are they married? Do they have kids? What do they spend their money on? What are they in that store for? Why? There's a lot about a person you can guess through social contexts and stereotypes. I cannot do that in France. I am not familiar enough with the social contexts of France, and may never be. This makes for a very lonely expatriate.
-Disenfranchised youth whose malaise I cannot decipher for the aforementioned reason. I'm hoping that my students will be too young and too rural for this.
-35 hour work week which basically translates into any given store being open for exactly 35 hours a week.
-Grocery stores that close at 7pm. (What.)
-Banks that are closed on Mondays. (Whattt.)
-French bureaucracy. I will be staying in France under different and more permanent terms, which will require more visits to administrative offices. This should prove frustrating, tearful, amusing, and generally unnecessarily aggravating.
-A single woman in France gets a lot of looks and catcalls, not necessarily from French men, but also from the north African population. Yay. I have stories from my last stay.
-I will not have an immediate social network from which to find friends. In La Rochelle, I was in a university setting, in classes with French and international students, so I had a really neat group of people to be with and made some really good friends (and enemies...those Spanish girls HATED me!). I will not have that. I will be with teachers, while I am the temporary foreign assistant.
-There are more.

Don't think that I'm getting down on this experience - I cannot believe that a program that is randomly selective (there are no criteria or qualifications for this job; everybody and nobody is hired) and this cool hired ME! I get to spend ~12 hours a week giving English lessons to elementary school kids. How sweet of a deal is that. And I get all the baguettes I want. (You have no idea how much I am looking forward to baguettes. Omg.) I am so excited, really. I do believe that this excitement is also creating some of my hesitations and rememberances (omg who remembers Hamlet with Dr. Bedy??) of my past experience.

Also, is there anymore France for me to discover? Everything tells me yes. I need Lonely Planet France and I'll let you know.

1 comment:

Karina said...

There is a new law that will go in to effect Feb 2008 which prohibits smoking in ALL public areas (it is already banned on all trains and in train stations) but will be banned in all cafes, restaurants AND bars. So wait a few months and you will have a very smoke-free environment.
I'm so excited myself :-)