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January 2007 Archives

January 9, 2007


I hate telephones. I'm awful on the phone, avoid calls, don't call back. I just... it's uncontrolled conversation. I like to have conversations in person where you get facial expressions, gestures, more context. On the phone you can be caught off guard. If that's the case, better make this call short and have only the important information. "We're meeting when?" "What am I bringing?" "See you there." The end. But why not just use text/email for such informational conversation? "Reply at your own pace, but please do so soon."

This thing, though. Man, I might actually enjoy using the phone if I had one. I may even temporarily get a credit card to get this thing...

January 10, 2007


January 11, 2007

the circus is in town!

On my walk home from class I heard a megaphone making announcements. At first I thought it was coming from the soccer pitch near the school, but it was coming from further away. When I turned down good ol' Faubourg Lacapelle I could see three tall, yellow Renault semi-trucks (semis here don't look so industrial, polluting and Optimus Prime-like, they're more rounded and European...and I don't see them as often as I did back home) slowly coming my way, down the one way street.

As I walked toward Rue de la Banque I could see people looking out windows, stopped on the street and frantically trying to get into their cars before they'd be stuck behind the slow-moving trucks. It was a fair spectacle. The trucks' horns were honking multi-tones and the drivers were yelling, "Come see the Frankie Mueller [or whoever] Circus, right HERE, in Montauban on Friday, Saturday and Sunday! Attention! Attention! You don't want to miss this!"

I stopped and watched them go by, expecting and not believing the animals in the cages on the trucks. The first truck had three cages. In one were two lions with a female playing with a male. There was another, lone, lion. And a tiger lying down. The second truck had a small sign above the windshield that said something like, "Hippopotamus of the street". I thought that had something to do with the size of the truck, but no, there was a hippo inside. Its face was buried in a pile of hay. The third truck had another two lions in it.

While the trucks were driving by and the neighborhood was being treated to loud, annoying horn honks, loud speakers demanding us to come and caged animals I felt really bad for the lions, tigers and hippo, oh my. Having to stay in the cage and being subjected to the noise and people must be awful. And it just reaffirmed my hatred for circuses.

But, it all had an air of small-town, old America when the circus would come to town with a parade of all the freaks and animals coming right down main street. If there were (human) freaks in the show I got today I wouldn't feel as bad.

January 15, 2007



I had a Toulouse-Saturday planned and instead of going at 2 like I wanted, I decided to lay in couch and read. Finally I got up, showered, shaved and put this creme (cream? crème? doesn't it have to have milk in it to be called cream or something?) on my face, for dryness. I'm putting on my jacket and brushing my teeth, looking at myself in the mirror and am really impressed with myself. My hair is mildly wet and pulled behind my ears (I do that now, I pull it behind my ears, Rae's suggestion, and every time I do the motion I think of Wayne Campbell). My face is creamy- well, not creamy, but moisturized and glowing. I have this moist, healthy look all about me. I feel good.

I walked toward the train station and bought a baguette to accompany the Emmental (aka Swiss) cheese I brought. And just as I finished it I passed the Rive Gauche Coiff'Homme hair salon. I'd been considering getting my hair cut there as it's not too close to downtown and probably cheaper. (I've been meaning to get a haircut since I put it on my google to do list on September 8.) I walked in and the man smoking and reading a magazine stood up. I said hi and told him I'd like him to cut my hair. "Basically, what I do is grow my hair for six months and then cut it. I want it like this, but shorter. But not too short." He nodded, understood and went to a corner to put out his cigarette.

He returned and showed me to my seat and I put on the sheet-thing, but this one had sleeves! (It made me think how much easier clothes would be if they were just sheets with sleeves. Maybe with magnets on the back. So you pick up your sheet-shirt and then do a little hip-swinging motion to bring one edge close to the other to make the magnets do their thing. Make this already!) He brought over a sink, put on his old, leather stylist's utility belt and washed my hair with just his left hand.

He asked me where I'm from, what I do, how I like teaching, etc. We talked for 5 minutes and then returned to the normal silence I enjoy while getting a haircut. It really bothered me that he was only using one hand while washing and conditioning my hair. At first I thought he was showing off, because he was kind of massaging my head too- and doing a good job! But once he got to cutting I could smell his cigarettey right hand as his scissors came close to my nose.

This was quite the cut, a real process. Shampoo, conditioner, very thorough combing and brushing, cutting the ends by pulling straight up, pulling my hair from one side of my head to the other and cutting over there (to make layers?), using a straight razor on the back of my neck and around my ears, making elaborate, quick snips around my sideburns. He then asked how I liked it and I said it was good, but wanted a little more cut off from the back?

"The bottom?"
"Yes, err, the bottom."
"But if I cut it more while it's wet it won't look right when it's dry. You understand?"
"Yes, that is logical. I understand. I just don't want the style of the English players of football. You know? In English we name it after a fish. A mullet." [I make a swimming fish gesture at the back of my head]
"Oh, the Coupe à la Waddle?"
"I do not understand."
"Football? English player Chris Waddle. He played for Marseille."
"Okay. Not that."
"You don't worry."

He then pulled out a device that I thought was the Suck Kut, but was just a blow-dryer with a narrow vent. He blow-dried my hair very closely and incrementally and brushed it out. I haven't used a blow-dryer in ten years. I looked like a kid I rode the bus with in elementary, John Kuenzer. He claimed he was Tommy the Green/White Ranger's cousin. He had an enormous head with hair just heaped on, begging for a balloon to stick to it. His hair was nice- not like a mop or all staticky- but was so big. That was my hair. He carefully tried to make a part, but there was nothing left to be done. Without the ample supply of grease and moisture, my hair was doomed to be full-bodied and laughable. He smiled and showed me the back with a mirror.

"Yes, thank you. This is very good. Perfect. Thank you."
"Good. My pleasure. That'll be 20 euros."
"Oh, you don't take the bank card? I have the need for an ATM."
"That's not grave. There's one around the corner."

I returned with the money and he offered me a pen or a lighter. I took a lighter, like an adult version of a "You didn't even cry!" lollipop, and went on my way, thinking of how I could finally light the candles Rae sent me.

Forgotten conclusion statement: He did end up giving me a bit of a Waddle coupe. Whatever I used to have going for me with side curls or whatever is gone, but the curls in the back remain and they remain too long. They stick out and dangle. I do not like my haircut, Sam I Am. And I rarely do. I'm never pleased with what the person has done and always feel guilty for not clearly communicating that at first. I allow myself one "well, could you..." statement and if they still mess up, whatever, I'm out. I'll still say I like it / it's perfect (I say "perfect" in French a lot, for some reason).
By the way have I ever talked about how those heavy industrial equipment companies put cherry pickers on the highway side of their compound and raise them up and to me it looks like they're all giving a toast?

January 18, 2007

The dog broke it? You are smoking!

Today at the junior high a teacher gave me some dialogue prompts from when she taught French in England. They were in English and she suggested that I use them for her students for another class period, after I prepare some vocabulary and modify the prompts a bit. I've become accustomed to her giving me handouts and using them on the spot so I decided to use what she gave me.

The prompts were okay, but too "useful" and outdated. "You arrive at a hotel and the staff cannot find your reservation." "You are at a grocery store." "You are trying to rent a car but only have a 500 franc note." They were something like this. A bit longer, but stuff I couldn't whip up vocabulary for and I didn't think they would be interested in doing them. Mainly, I wouldn't be interested in watching them.

Instead, I decided to twist one around about staying at a friend's house. While your friend is out you play with his dog and it breaks an ornament. Explain to the friend what happened. I suggested that the friend doesn't believe your story.

To get them going I wrote additional vocabulary on the board.

Look what you've done!
I don't believe you!
My parents are going to freak out!
Look, it wasn't me.
I'm sorry, please forgive me.
Get out of my house!
What did you do?
I believe you, but now the dog must die.

Unfortunately, most of them used the last one. I was thinking about the ridiculous phrases I'd learned from my French and Japanese slang phrase books and wondered what, not too risqué, equivalent I could use. Their dialogues were short and fraught with laughing at their lines, but they were creative- some groups prepared and improvised a bit.

Some of my favorite lines:
· The dog broke it? You are smoking! (You must be high)
· My parents must freak out!
· Why you lie? I don't believe in you.

We had time for one more. I told them to do a dialogue in which they go camping but they didn't bring a tent, each thinking the other was supposed to bring it. And they had to make a place to sleep for the night out of materials in the area

· Where is the tent? You were supposed to bring her!
· Who do you take you for? Tarzan?
· It's a bear! Somersault up the tree! (They confused 'somersault' and 'climb': two separate words the group asked for)

I think dialogues are the best thing I can work with them on in class. It gets them talking, they have fun, and (most importantly) I'm not talking the whole time like normal. In fact I get to sit there and play 'dictionary' for most of the time. Though if a word is too complicated I tell them to simplify what they want to say so the whole class can understand each other. [This is where I demonstrate that I have no conclusion and just want to end the entry.]

January 19, 2007

I think I did quite a number of things wrong today.

Last night I couldn't fall asleep (I've developed a 7-9ish nap habit that throws me off) for hours on my newly-being-used bed and felt like a zombie for my 8 am class. Last week I'd set my alarm using am/pm instead of 24 hour and slept right through it. The teacher told me not to worry. Today the teacher wanted me to talk to a handful of students about school in America: how it's structured differently, what people do, the requirements, unique things, etc. There are really only two classes at the junior high that I enjoy and they're both "European section", which means they take an extra hour of language study because they're smart.

All the rest are 6th graders who don't care or are just acting like 6th graders. These kids today couldn't understand a word of my English so I was forced to speak in French which they frequently snickered at. They didn't appreciate the knowledge I dropped on them. I hate junior high kids.

I walked home, took a nap, woke up, went to the high school. On my way I heard an ambulance and a man standing outside his apartment kind of flagging it toward him (on our one-way street). He was incredibly cheery, smiling broadly. As I passed him he smiled, nodded at me and said in his incomprehensible accent, "Good morning young man!" I said a simple hello. He then said either, "Looks like we fell out of the bed today! Look at your hair!", or, "Someone fell off a horse!" I was leaning toward the horse-falling off because of the ambulance, but that didn't make sense. It really weirded me out that he was so jovial while awaiting an ambulance. Why was he accosting young passersby while his wife presumably lay dying in the house?

The second group at the high school, the smart ones who are a lot of fun, were locked out of their room and told me their teacher was probably absent and we wouldn't need to have class. I unlocked the door and said if anyone wanted to have class we could. All but one came in. We chatted for a little while and then did the dialogues using pictures I cut out of magazines. Someone suggested writing a story where you only see the last word of the previous line and most did that, but didn't have to. Another person asked if they could use profanities and I said, "Why not? It's a free day, go to town!" I'll get to that mistake in a minute.

Someone mentioned how much fun playing hangman in English is and I said, "Okay, I've got one!" as I'd been wanting to try out a joke.

A few kids laughed, most groaned. And a couple were overwhelmingly silent. I quickly apologized and mentioned how much I oppose the death penalty and don't think it's fair that he didn't stand trial for all his other crimes, etc. I think I saved some face. They got back to work and eventually presented their vulgar, nonsensical stories.

My last class of the day was filled with people giggling and a large window wide open (we're on the 1st floor). I kept telling them to laugh and let it all out of their system, it's okay. Two girls were laughing a lot and I kept trying to describe what we'd be doing today but they wouldn't stop laughing. While trying to write on the board my marker ran out and I ran to my nearby cubby to get another one. When I came back the two girls were standing up doing something weird. I said, "Oh, I see what's so funny! You're going to change places and see if I notice. Oh, that's a riot! Very funny. It's okay."

Finally a girl spoke up saying, "No, no no. They are students from the other high school and they were trying to leave. You didn't even notice that they aren't from our class! Ha ha ha." I let them leave and it was hard to keep the class calm after that. At least laughing, mischievous high schoolers are more respectful and fun to deal with than junior high kids. The only other problem I had was with the snitch who wouldn't shut up about getting married to her boyfriend of 6 months, including it in her dialogue. She got me and the rest of the class into an argument about marriage, gender control, population control and global warming. Off the topic and largely in French, but a good discussion nevertheless.

I then went home and watched Jack Bauer and David Palmer meet face to face.

January 26, 2007

Please allow me to quickly get this down. And, uh, get down.

· I recently heard a bird (owl, perhaps?) that sounded just like the Pillsbury Doughboy.
· My right foot is usually colder than my left foot!
· The two features I use on my phone are: alarm clock, impromptu flashlight. Who needs telephony?
· I declare now that I have officially given up Sudoku because of its role in me losing a digital camera. All's fair.
· I have much more to say re: watching two seasons of 24 in a week, but here's a question. When law enforcement officers tell criminals to "drop [their] weapon[s]" or after killing a criminal in the field, do they pick up those guns and use them? C'mon, free guns!
· Welcome to the students who found me. Congratulations, you curious/enterprising French kids.
· I ate foie gras at my landlord's and it was delicious. Like butter made out of a talking chicken that can tell you a fortune, give you a pat on the back and whistle a three-part harmony. I'll eat it again, but maybe only once. Shout out to Alain for the taste. I am grateful.

Note: I'd like to thank Vegucator for his comment and discussion in the g-rad forum. Though I praised foie gras here, I failed to mention my true feelings on the matter. I'm a temporary carnivore in between vegetarian and vegan stages wishing to try non-vegan/vegetarian foods before I make the leap. Production of foie gras isn't pretty. It's arguably crueler than the slaughter of most animals for food. I don't condone the process but wanted to try it once. Call it questionable morals but for the sake of my experiment, I feel that trying it was valid.

January 29, 2007

Kevin and Justin Go to White Castle

I saw the castle in Carcassonne with Justin yesterday. Pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good.

January 30, 2007

Pardon my French (had to have one entry with that title)

The one good thing about teaching kids awful stuff in English, is I get to learn it in French as well. A couple weeks ago I was working with a class that just couldn't talk in English and a kid wanted to know how to say "ralentir" in English. Call me an idiot, you francophones, but I didn't know what that meant. And I had them use it in a few sentences and then I knew. Every so often I make sure to try to learn some French while I'm over here and it's a decent feeling knowing that my lacking skills can be improved as if I'm at a spelling bee. So when they told me, "If you are driving a car and going very fast but you see a dog in the street, you must 'ralentir'", I jumped up and shouted, "Slow down!"

Just after class today one student was describing another and said he liked to kiss everyone. He said, "How do you say 'Il saute sur tout ce qui bouge' en anglais?" I made a motion like 'sauter' (to jump) and said, "Now...is this something sexual?" He nodded his head fiercely and made another jumping motion as if he were an animal mounting and screwing another. "Uh huh," I said. "Now, you can't repeat this, but, 'He'll fuck anything that moves'." I couldn't help but think of high school when Dan would do an impression of Jay from Clerks and then do the circus seal motion.

To balance it out I also taught, "It's like that and that's the way it is" as a translation of "C'est comme ça, et pas autrement." What I used was probably heavily influenced by that Run D.M.C. song, but people say that, don't they?

About January 2007

This page contains all entries posted to spacebase in January 2007. They are listed from oldest to newest.

December 2006 is the previous archive.

February 2007 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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