Archive | January, 2010

There’s No “US” in France – A Summer Homestay Abroad

20 Jan

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Last summer I boarded AirFrance, feeling confident and prepared for my homestay in Nice, with three years of French under my belt and twenty other kids on my Abbey Road program. When fast-paced, unforgiving French boomed from the loudspeaker to my unsuspecting American ears, I realized spending a month in France would not be easy.  This was not French class anymore, this was the real thing. After spending a month in Nice, the different French culture made me cherish America.

Once I got past my initial infatuation with the beauty of France, I became aware of the culture. The first thing that hit me (almost!) was a motocyclette, a little motorcycle used for transportation. There are no restrictions – people ride them on the sidewalk and zip by, or into, you. As if trying to dodge little motocyclettes wasn’t enough, we also had to dodge dog poop which lined the sidewalks.

Apparently, there aren’t any laws about that either. I had not expected that behavior from the classy French.

Another part of the French culture that was hard to adjust to were the notorious French eating habits. Being an American, I like to be able to snack and have access to food whenever I want. The French see it differently. Our host-parents barely had anything in their refrigerator. Breakfast was a fresh baguette, and if I was lucky, fruit on the side. Many say a fresh baguette is delicious, but so are frozen waffles and they actually fill me up! Lunch was France’s saving grace. It is the only meal where it is acceptable to eat a lot. My host family would make my roommates and me a delicious lunch every day. Sometimes a sandwich, other times couscous mixed with vegetables and pork. But, when we were hungry from walking around all day, at night we would pig out on Nutella (France’s finest spread) and ice pops. We always did this before our host-parents got home for fear for they’d see us for who we really were, snack-loving American teenagers.

Scenery shot in Nice, France

Some say that the food in France beats American food, but in service, France loses. French restaurants make the best part about France – the food – difficult to attain. When you think about most restaurants in America, you think unlimited water and napkins, comfortable seating, big portions requiring “doggy bags”, and sometimes even a complimentary basket of bread. In France, the tables are small. A group of six was hard to accommodate. The food took forever to come and we would be starving while waiting. Sometimes we did get a few pieces of bread, but it came at the same time as our food. What was the point? For my friend Kate, it was a snack for later stuffed in her purse. It was also difficult to get a carafe of water:  vases with about 16 ounces of water.  Getting a second one was nearly impossible. My friends and I once went around the table stating why we deserved the remaining water. If I was really thirsty, and didn’t win, I would have to spend about four euros (like five dollars) on a drink. That would come right away. To top it off, the portions were small. The best service I experienced was at ice cream stands like Pinocchio because they were huge tourist attractions. They would let me essayer (try) all the flavors I wanted.

What I can conclude from my trip is that the French will never change and neither will Americans. As they say in France, “C’est la vie!” and I have plenty more cultures to see.

Modern Canterbury Tales

20 Jan

Introduction

After seeing so much sin and evil in the word today,

The Church needed something to set people the right way.

They held a meeting to think of ideas that would have success,

The board said there’s no hope – attendance is becoming less.

The leader said, “We can do something that will service a community,”

It can be easy work, and you don’t have to be witty.

Some people do want to do good, but they don’t know what or where,

So we will set up a service and they’d show that they care.

The group’s mind was changed and they brainstormed for hours

Putting together their wise and charitable brain powers

Finally a young member had an idea that would stick

“We give them three options, and they can pick!”

The older members were skeptical, but said “We’ll give it a try

What three scenarios are we going to provide?”

He said, “That is up to you, I gave my contribution,

You are all experienced, you have the solution.”

The group continued saying, “What would the people do?”

We can bring them to a soup kitchen, now we need idea two

We can take them to an old age home and help the elderly

Now who will think of idea number three?

The leader’s face lit up, he knew his idea was best,

“Mine will be the most popular, forget about the rest!”

We will build houses in place where there was a natural disaster,

If while we drive there we tell church tales, the time will go faster.

It is the perfect mixture of religion and good works

And pleasing almighty God is one of the perks.

So the sign went up, hoping for interest form the people,

And the very next week 30 were standing by the steeple.

The church leaders asked about the choice of the group,

One spoke up and said, “I’m not serving soup!”

They had decided to take the trip to help people out of hard times,

And for some reason they all talked in rhymes.

So that was that, the people were ready to hop a board,

The church knew that they were there to serve their loving lord.

Knight – modern mayor

We could tell this man was important by the way he arrived,

Wearing a fancy suit with body guards by his side

He stuck on a smile, and put his best foot forward,

He shook everybody’s hand as he walked toward.

The crowd was starsruck, “Is that the mayor of our town”

He proudly announced, “Yes I thought I’d come on down.”
He added, “If there’s anything you need, I’ll be right here.”

But his wink said, “Vote me in another year.”

What an act of kindness this politician was performing,

He knew soon enough the press would be swarming.

The mayor loudly asked the Priest where his donation should go,

The final act of his good-hearted show.

He then got in his car, ready to be driven away,

The Priest hurried over, “I thought you were going to stay.”

Mr. Mayor cleared his throat, “I have things to do, like protect the city.”

The disappointed priest said, “You not helping would be a pity.”

The well-prepared mayor had been thrown off his game,

He stepped out of the car, “Of course, that’s why I came.”

 

Pardoner – religious, con-artist drag-queen

The pardoner had a curious look,

a husky build and a bottom that shook.

His blond hair was long and smooth skin was moisturized,

He had a womanly bosom, but his body was largely sized.

He skipped to the group, twirling his dress,

The people stared, trying to assess.

In an unnaturally high-pitched voice, he said “For the love of God,

Will you people stop checkin out my bod?”

When he walked his flowing locks would swing,

And the people soon learned, he loved to sing.

Looks could fool, like the rest he was god’s child,

Even though his personality was a little . . .wild.

In fact, in Church, he would always be seen,

He claimed of telling stories and singing he was Queen.

He held out his cap embroidered with a cross,

And said donations would get us in “good with the boss”

When he pulled out his hanky he said it was the veil of Mary

The Preist knew it was just something he liked to carry.

He worked at the subway singing for money, it was also his home,

Oh, he loved entertaining in any dome.

He joined this group for personal reasons,

And to go somewhere warm for the cold seasons.

He was wiling to help but always with his cap at his side

How truthful he was, the group would have to decide.

The Miller – Union Worker

The worker arrived remarkably late,

With a muffled excuse and a worn-out gait.

His protruding stomach entered before the rest of him did,

And once he was in he didn’t shut his lid.

His reason was that he had to drop his truck off at the station,

But his breath said that drinking was his other occupation.

The group exchanged glances, wondering why he was here,

He didn’t seem like a do-gooder, his shirt stained with beer.

His story was he made a mistake and so for that he was sent,

By the church on this journey in hopes to repent.

From the beginning he was off to a promising start,

His attitude cheery and his nametag reading “Bart.”