Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Adorable Children, Oatmeal Cookies, Peanut Butter, and Aerobics

As I predicted, the advent of Internet in my apartment heralded the advent of Lisa-never-posts-on-her-blog-anymore-itis as well. I do apologize, and I will try to get better (as the novelty of Internet wears off more and more - really, one can only check Lifehacker once a day).

So, a few vignettes, in no particular order. (I like vignette postings because I don't have to actually organize my thoughts or think of transition sentences or anything. If only you could write papers this way.)

A few weeks ago, a fellow assistant named Ben told me that one of his teachers has a daughter in my school who doesn't get to see the English assistant, and that she would really like to. So I found out her name and class and asked her English teacher if I could come in at least once. The teacher was really excited for me to come, so last week I did the question-and-answer session yet again, for a class of 15-year-olds. They were adorable - really enthusiastic, and even the ones who weren't very good asked lots of questions. After class, the girl who had requested my coming in came up and said, in English, "Ben said you were really nice and it was true!" Unfortunately by the time the idiotic grin had disappeared from my face and I could once again formulate a coherent sentence, she had left the room, but hopefully next time I see her I'll be able to thank her properly. That made my week.

Last Friday, I decided to have a "Soirée Princess Bride" at my house, so I invited a bunch of assistant friends (it ended up being mostly Americans, with Ben, who's English, as our token European) over to watch The Princess Bride and eat oatmeal cookies and drink milk. All I did Friday was bake cookies, clean the house, tidy my room, and rearrange the living room furniture, and now I totally understand the Pre-Party Panic that grips my mother before parties. What if there's not enough food? What if there's not enough to drink? What if the cookies don't turn out? What if nobody has fun? What if they think the movie's stupid? I will never make fun of her again. I understand. Fortunately, everything came out beautifully, even the oatmeal cookies with their European substitutions (real brown sugar and vanilla extract are impossible to find in this country), and my friend Christine brought fresh cow's milk that she buys directly from the farmer and we all had milk and cookies. And muscat, which is a really sweet, really alcoholic wine that I've become addicted to, and after serving it at a few gatherings at my house I'm now known for it. You're supposed to have it as an apéritif, but we tend to drink it whenever the fancy takes us.

My craving for peanut butter, which has been steadily growing in intensity ever since Christmas break, got to the point of no return today and I decided to go on a hunt. A lot of stores sell Skippy, but it'll be a cold day in hell before I think of that as peanut butter. So I went to a new store, near the market where I go every Sunday. It's huge - a real supermarket - so I was very hopeful. First I found the Skippy, right next to the Nutella and all the jams, but I decided to look further. In my methodical, aisle-by-aisle search (I'm not very good at finding things in American grocery stores, let alone French ones) I found chips, lentils, red beans, chickpeas, cereal... Lugging my basket (French stores don't believe in shopping carts) I rounded another corner and found Nirvana: the international foods aisle. It started out with Great Britain, with a helpful Union Jack above the shelves: McVitie's, liquorice allsorts, lemon curd, marmalade, and tea. Then Great Britain sort of merged with the US, and there were Oreos, various salsa/queso substances, and... DR PEPPER. Now, I rarely drink soda, but there in the aisle of the Intermarché it was a sight for sore eyes. I love Dr Pepper. So I picked myself up a can (99 centimes) and scanned the shelves again for peanut butter. There it was... in the British section? It was a brand I didn't know, but it had sugar rather than corn syrup like Skippy, so I figured I'd try something new. I continued down the aisle to the "Asia" section, where China, Japan, India, and various other generically-Eastern cuisines sat side-by-side, and sometimes mixed-up, since clearly they're mostly the same - no distinct cultures or languages or anything (French people have a good deal more unconscious racism than Americans do). I did find some curry powder that looked nice, though. Then it was time to lug everything back home and make myself a peanut-butter-and-banana sandwich to eat with my Dr Pepper. Nothing has ever tasted so good.

Finally, a brief gym incident: during classes the instructor plays a constant high-speed mix of techno remixes of pop songs, a lot of which are in English and very familiar to me. Sometimes this helps, like when I can't do another crunch and "Shut Up and Drive" comes on, and sometimes it totally throws me off, like when I'm trying to remember the step routine and "I Kissed a Girl" comes on and I am compelled to sing along and then I fall off the step. Not so much with the multi-tasking. Today, during cardio dance (basically we just prance around, but I do break a sweat and it's fun) we were going over a particularly difficult skippy bit and an extremely-sped-up version of "Truly Madly Deeply", by Savage Garden, came on. Savage Garden was one of my very first CDs, so in addition to a burst of nostalgia for 7th grade, I had to mouth the words, and therefore messed up. Then I got back on track and managed to mostly ignore the song for a while. Then a new song came on, and it sounded incredibly familiar but I couldn't place it, so while I was trying to figure it out I just flailed about anyhow, occasionally on the beat, to the great amusement of all the French girls in the class, I'm sure. Finally some of the words came through: "I Touch Myself", by the Divinyls. Oh yes. At that point I pretty much went all out with the mouthing along, because why not?

And there you have it: snippets of my wonderful life. I'm on vacation next week, and the week after (woo!) so I'm going to Lyon for a few days, then Amsterdam for 6 days. If anyone has recommendations for either city, let me know!


  1. I don't recognize any of those songs. :P

  2. I recognize ALL of those songs as ones that would pour out of Gwendolyn (yeah, i spelled that wrong. Whatever) whenever I was anywhere near your room. Anyway, I have similar problems finding anything besides skippy (no wonder peanut butter hasn't caught on outside America), and, like you, an international foods store came to my rescue. Now I am fully stocked with something that vaguely resembles Teddy's, but costs about twice as much.

  3. When I was studying in France (almost 30 years ago) a friend of mine used to go once every 6 weeks to one of the US bases in Germany for a haircut (he was an army brat) and would take orders from the PX - peanut butter, maple syrup, rootbeer and Bailey's Irish Cream were common requests... At that point you also couldn't find fresh corn (it was cattle feed in France!)...