Sunday, March 29, 2009

Fête Internationale !

So, I just got back from an international party at the Italian, Spanish, German, Chinese, and Columbian girls' apartment (où je me suis un tout petit peu bourrée la gueule, mais bon c'est une histoire pour un autre jour, ou pour jamais) where there were two Italians, two Spaniards, two Germans, two Chinese girls, one Belgian, one English guy, five Mexicans, and me. And as I was walking home, I realized that I can't remember the last time I spoke to a truly monolingual person. Sure, there are people here whose second language isn't very good, but even those are few and far between. And people who speak three languages nearly fluently are actually quite common. It's just such a change from the US, where speaking even a few words of another language is so rare.

And I sense that this could go on, but really my half-drunk musings are only interesting to me, so I'm cutting myself off. Only three more weeks of teaching, and only 7 more weeks in France! They'll have to drag me away kicking and screaming - I don't want to leave. Especially now that I've started to make French friends.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


They attacked me! Oh no!

And by "vampires" I of course mean the lovely people at the Etablissement français du sang (French Blood Organization), and by "attacked" I mean that I went there voluntarily to give blood. I would like to say that it's because I'm selfless and a good person and all that, but I think really I was just curious about what kinds of snacks they would serve afterwards (I was not disappointed).

I had called up before vacation to find out if I could still donate, being a foreigner and all, and the woman barely listened to me before asking if I wanted to come in and donate that day. I couldn't then, but I set up an appointment for today. So on Monday night I made myself a hamburger - I even found Worcestershire sauce! - and last night I had lentils, in an attempt to get my hematocrit up to normal-people levels (although in France it only has to be 12 for women, and I think in the US it has to be 12.6). Then I looked up the questionnaire online to make sure I knew what they'd be asking me (you'd think that the word for malaria would be "malarie", but no, it's "paludisme"), drank my weight in water, and set off for the collection center.

They of course had no record of me in their system, so everyone thought I was a first-time donor, but luckily I had my American Red Cross donor card, so I showed them that and they were reassured that I wasn't going to faint on them or anything. The doctor who did the mini-physical loves English, so he was really excited to see me and conducted most of the exam in really good English, aside from a few medical terms he didn't know. He also asked if he could have my e-mail so he could practice his English with me, so I gave it to him and we'll see if he follows up. My hematocrit was 12.4, so that was good, and everything else was fine. On to the ickiest part!

All the women working in the blood-drawing area were wearing white coats with skirts, tights, and boots. Welcome to France. The procedure was mostly the same, except that to my great delight they used alcohol instead of iodine to clean my arm, so I don't have a gigantic sticky brown stain to deal with. Also, they didn't bother to cover the needle with a gauze pad - apparently the French have a stronger constitution than we weak Americans and can stand to look at a needle poking into their arm. I even watched as it went in, so I felt quite brave. I was also given water to drink while donating, which I swear helps it go faster, and we had chairs instead of those stupid bed-like things the Red Cross is now using in the US that make me get a wicked head rush when I'm finished. So the donation went without a hitch, they filled all their little sample tubes, and I got to go through the door marked "Restauration".

There was a whole little kitchen, with a stove and microwave and everything, and the nice woman working there asked what I would like to drink - they had hot drinks, fruit juice, iced tea, mineral water, and even Coke (although I don't know about the wisdom of serving a diuretic to people who've just lost a pint of fluid). So I got pineapple juice, and then she asked if I wanted some apple tart with it. Which of course I did. So she brings all this out on a little tray, with real dishes, and then I notice the little basket of Petits Ecoliers and madeleines and apricot-filled cookies sitting on the table right next to the basket of individually-wrapped portions of Président cheese and butter. The apple tart was delicious, as were the two other kinds of cookies I tried. France definitely wins in the snack department.

Then it was back to the bus and back home to eat more lentils and drink my weight in water again. This is the best I've ever felt after a donation, and I don't know if it was just because I really paid attention to drinking water, or because I could sit up during it (seriously, Red Cross, get a clue), or because of the apple tart, but I'm seriously considering going back in two months, right before I leave, because why not? Maybe they'll have something chocolate next time...

Monday, March 2, 2009

Whirlwind Tour

Okay, so I'm back from Lyon safe and sound (and probably about eight pounds fatter - we ate a truly inconceivable amount of food). And I would post about it now, except that I'm leaving for AMSTERDAM in about 6 hours. Woo! There will be posts about Lyonnais food and museums and Roman ruins (never let three girls loose on sparsely-fenced ruins with cameras) later, but now I'm going to go unpack and repack and try to remember my towel this time.