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October 2006 Archives

October 4, 2006

You search for murder?

Some would say that living for three weeks without steady/constant access to the internet would be the most trying time in their life. Me, I'd call this the most trying time in my life. I'm praying that my landlord (who works for the phone company) can hook me up soon, as I'm tired of these 3€/hour prices. I've already borrowed a king's ransom from my parents. (I spent 3 days taking out 300 euros a day from an ATM and then gave my landlord rent + most of the securit deposit as 900 euros, all in 20 euro notes.)

Thankfully my landlord is cool in other ways. He teaches me Occitan. He's taking me to look for mushrooms at his parents' woods tonight (I immediately thought of Morgan. And Bob). On Friday he's taking me to a rugby match. He and his wife treatme like a well-respected (American trying to speak Frenc) curio who lives above them. His wife took me to the market today and bought me lots.

My French isn't coming along that well. I speak like a Jimmy from South Park, except I'm even slower because I try to remember the gender of a noun or how to conjugate something in the subjunctive. Thankfully people are correcting me at every turn. It hurts at first, but I like it.

I watched one kid accidentally bump into another at school the other day. The kid bumped into said, when translated literally, "You search for murder?" I giggled all day.

I don't start 'teaching' until next week, but I had to introduce myself and talk to a class... for the whole hour. I told them about:
· Lake effect snow
· How my nephews are almost Irish Twins (I kind of regret that)
· Disney making movies based on rides
· How unathletic I am

They were pretty attentive and welcoming, but some were sleeping and they'd talk to each other in French the whole time. I'd ask questions and get nothing. To get things moving I suggested everyone say their name and their power animal, and they couldn't repeat. One girl said, "My name is Melanie, and my favorite animal is the monkey that sleeps in the tree all the time. I like to sleep all the time too."

I'll soon be asking for your help. I'll have plenty of time here to read and watch movies/tv on dvd. (And sleep, I have to stop sleeping 10 hours a day.) In exchange for you sending me books and movies, I will return what you sent when I've finished, and throw in some French stuff in the return box. Sounds like a deal to me! Details to come...

October 12, 2006


Confession: I've taken 20 pictures since I've been here. I pass this butcher on my street every day and I looked more closely at the pig the other day, realizing where it's from.

I'm downloading last night's episode of Lost right now. I thought iTunes would have this shit together immediately after it aired, but I'm stuck with a 3 hour download now. I'll be talking to the landlord about getting the internet, again.

I have a library card! I've read "Les yex à vif" and "Blonde platine" by Adrian Tomine and "Blankets" by Craig Thompson. All in French! I checked out some more BDs (bande dessinés, comic book/graphic novel) today as well as "Rum Punch" by Elmore Leonard (in English). I started reading "The Lexus and the Olive Tree" but it's boring and too pro-globalization. I'll finish it anyway.

I took 6 students from the English class I talked to last week to a room and we discussed a one page thing they read, an excerpt from some story about a Russian Jew at Ellis Island. They weren't talking much so I asked them about movies, things they like, anything. Only 3 of them really talked and 2 were completely silent the whole time, except parroting what a neighbor would tell them to say. I made a deal with them that we'd talk in French for 5 minutes at the end of the hour if we spent the entire time talking about in English next time. They were all courteous and happy to talk and it felt good, though I wonder if this will bite me in the ass later. I asked them what they want to talk about and they didn't know. It makes me think about some teaching styles that make use of the web, computers, etc. that just use technology for technology's sake, like, "Hey! You get to choose man! How freeing!" In reality it's lazy on the teacher's part. So I need to get unlazy and present lessons/games/discussion topics to get them talking. I start at the junior high next week and 'full time' at the high school then too.

Seriously, e-mail me at hommedeterre [at@at] g-g-g-g-g-g-MAIL {dot.dot} com if you'd like some French stuff as a reward for sending me books/dvds. I beg you. There isn't much in English that I want from the library here and I won't have money to buy books from the big book store in Toulouse until late November. E-mail me and we can discuss. Thanks.

PS: Sweet car, Kyle!

October 13, 2006

Simple life

While here I'm excited about living a simple life. I've had fun these past few years, but it has tired me out. People always complain/brag about not getting enough sleep, and none of us really do. And I don't have any sleeping disorders, I just chose not to sleep much. (I'm not the only one and I'm not complaining.) I was regularly sleeping 4 hours/night for 2 years. That's why I became the guy who fell asleep at parties. I wanted to keep up with everyone (w/o 1st shift jobs) and their fun outings. I'm going to slow down a bit here. I've made a list, naturally.

· Read 4 pages of the my French-English dictionary and 2 pages of my French-English book on idioms out loud, to practice pronunciation, every day
· Sleep 8 hours/night (I've slept an average of 11 hours/night for a few weeks, though)
· Make sure I walk around town and see the Garonne river and Pont Vieux every day
· Write in a personal journal every day
· Take at least 2 pictures every day
· Exercise! Sit-ups, push-ups, pull-ups! every day (I have these metal bars and old wooden beams in my living room to help this)
· Look into optimizing my diet (low-calorie diet, food only bought fresh at the market)
· Figure out how to do all laundry in my apartment, more DIY stuff
· Study some sociology, economics, philosophy, linguistics and other topics
· Make good on my correspondence promises with people
· Read like a bastard (books I brought, French comics from the library, books people send, local newspaper)
· Study programming, starting realistically and simple
· Look into transcendental meditation perhaps
· Finish the website I'm working on...

October 18, 2006


So I live on "Rue de la Banque".

At 51, 2me Žtage, on the right.

Living room!



the view!

and bathroom!

There are these window...holders. Things that keep the window closers open. I don't know that kind of vocabulary. They're everywhere.


And you know what? There's lots of trash on the ground. Well, not lots. But mainly cigarette packs. And they all have grave warnings. Things like, "Here's a phone number to quit smoking." "Smoking hurts the ones you love." "You should see what your lungs look like." Sort of like that. But there's also the simple and elegant "Fumer tue". (Smoking kills) There are packs that have it written in English too, "Smoking kills". There are packs that have it written in Spanish, but it's slightly different. "Fumar puede matar". (Smoking CAN kill) Are hispanophones slightly more invulnerable than their French and English speaking cousins?

October 25, 2006


At 7:20 on Friday morning Wendy, the English teacher (and English woman) whose class I assist on Fridays at 8am, picked me up in front of the nearby jail and drove me to the school. I mentioned my doctor's visit debacle and she commented on the money wasted and that if I had a car it would be much easier to get to Toulouse. In fact, she had an older Peugeot her family wasn't using and perhaps I could borrow it. What? She's just offering me a car? I don't even think I'm legally able to drive in Europe. Am I? Wouldn't I need an international driver's license? I'm leery of borrowing anyone else's car and especially of driving in a country of roundabouts, only white lines in the middle of the road that seem to arbitrarily divide between one-way and two-way traffic, dirt bikes popping wheelies on the streets cars parking on the sidewalks.

I've paid a lot of attention to French traffic, in fact. When walking to the schools I can't help but notice the differences here. The small cars are perfect. With its roads already in place, most of Europe has had no choice but to develop Twingos, Minis and that car from Herbie. I can now identify Renaults, Peugeots, Citroens and Opels on logos alone as well as tell you which company recommends which gas station (most cars have stickers saying this). But I'll never understand the pedestrian walkways. Firstly, you can't see the traffic light at crosswalks so you can't judge when it's safe to walk. And then while waiting for traffic to clear or the light to change cars will stop arbitrarily and either flash their lights or the driver will motion with his hands for you to cross.

I once started walking across the other side of a four-lane boulevard with one lane of traffic cleared and the next to be cleared by the time I got to it. As I was a footstep through the first lane a driver in the next lane slammed on their brakes to let me cross. I tried to motion with my hands, "You could have kept going and I'd go behind you, idiot!" but it didn't translate. From what I hear laws are really lax here (though j walking is serious business in London) but can only speculate if it's illegal to drive in a crosswalk while a pedestrian is walking. Now, though, I wait for the car to signal me, traffic to be cleared or French kids to start crossing first.

The first day I walked around the city I quickly recognized several street names that I saw in Paris and thought about mandatory street names in every city- France's 'State & Main' is something like 'Emile Zola & Résistance'. I love street names in France and think we could learn a thing about their naming scheme. For the most part street names here are named after people. And the street signs will often tell you their birth, death and profession. It's so refreshing in comparison to near my parents' house where in Ottawa County roads are named after presidents, right in a row, and their Kent County counterparts are mile numbers, right in a row. True to European form, street names don't remain the same for very many blocks either. I've gotten used to it and have grown to thought of them as separate streets that are connected, but divided by intersecting streets. This just gives the road commission more possibilities in street names, however.

Alain, my landlord, gave me an almanac that included a map of Montauban and a list of all its street names. I went through and copied all the names I recognize. (Some have been translated.)

People (French, English, American, fictional characters, etc.)
Agatha Christie
Albert Camus
Albert Einstein
Alexandre Dumas
André Gide
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Benjamin Franklin
Blaise Pascal
Camille Claudel
Charles de Gaulle
Charles Perrault
Christopher Columbus
Claude Debussy
Dr. Albert Schweitzer
Edith Piaf
Edouard Manet
Emile Zola
François Rabelais
Franklin Roosevelt
Frédéric Chopin
Georges Clemenceau
Gustave Eiffel
Gustave Flaubert
Hans Christian Andersen
Henri Matisse
Honoré de Balzac
Jacques Cartier
James Watt
Jean Jaurès
Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Joan of Arc
John F. Kennedy
Jules Verne
Karl Marx
General Lafayette
Leonardo Da Vinci
Louis Armstrong
Louis Braille
Louis Malle
Louis Pasteur
The Lumière Brothers
Marcel Pagnol
Pablo Picasso
Paul Gauguin
Paul Verlaine
Pierre and Marie Curie
René Descartes
Simone de Beauvoir
Snow White
Thomas Edison
Victor Hugo
Winston Churchil

French Motto

Symbol of France
Coq (Rooster)

The Arts
The Future

August 19 1944
May 8th 1945
September 22nd

War Related
Battle of Dunkerque of 1940
Combattants of Indochine (Viet Nam)
The First Army
11th Regiment Infantry
First Surprise Battalion
The Free French (liberated ones)

Things I Don't Fully Understand
Athletic Journey
Tenth Dragon
Black Ladies (possibly black queens like in chess)
Little Funnies
Reds (probably Communists)

These aren't just types of trees, the family name of the first inhabitants on the street (I'm looking at you, Finnegan), numbers or letters. They're primarily artists! They value art that much. The schools I work at are named after a pre-French Revolution feminist and the apprentice of Rodin (the guy who made The Thinker). The other major high school is named after a major French historian. All of these people were born in Montauban. Hell, I even saw a nursery school named after Jacques Brel (big-lipped singer of "Ne me quitte pas"). This is part of their culture- at least when naming things. I'll get to this generation's culture another time.

About October 2006

This page contains all entries posted to spacebase in October 2006. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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