And away we go!
André – still frustrated that his leg is not healing correctly. He has been bike riding but it is getting too cold and icy for that. At least he finally seems to have recovered completely from the grippe. Lately he’s been frustrated as our phone company tries to worm its way out of repairing our phone (we have insurance). The first time he called they couldn’t work with us unless he had the (broken) phone in his hand. Then, when he called back, they conveniently had lost our records. Now we have to snail mail them the original receipt proving we bought the phone in an Orange store. Of course, they don’t accept faxes of this material and will not provide us with a loaner phone in the meantime. Jerks. He continues to work hard at Smartesting, just finishing up another quarterly meeting and is also very busy monitoring his Agile Skills Project and might present at an Agile conference in Norway in June. (Hmm…. how can we all go??) He is enjoying dancing with me at the Folk Balls and we are looking forward to going to another in February – this time with another couple.
Rebecca – let’s see. I’m still doing my classes and working on trying to learn French but am getting very frustrated. Not much to do but keep trying but I hate constantly feeling like a fool. I tried to tell the class about US vacation time policy the other day and was greeted by nothing but blank stares. I had to try three times before some of them got it – and could explain what I meant to the teacher. Everyone says I’m improving, but I think they are probably just patronizing me. I mean, what are they supposed to say? A small example of my slowness follows…. The other day Zander was given a chocolate by his teacher. Of course, I wanted him to break it in half so I could try some but he popped the whole thing in his mouth. OK, the wheels start spinning here, how do I say; “You are greedy” in French? Well, I know I learned this recently, greedy, greedy….. Hmmm…. I remember it was something like a synonym to greed in English. What are the synonyms to greed? Grasping, grabby, selfish…. no, no, no… it was a big word. Oh! Avaricious! I’ve got it, it’s avare! “Zander, tu est avare!” Of course, this came out of my mouth about a minute after the chocolate went into his, and he wasn’t really sure what I was talking about. André says this is good progress, connecting my neural networks etc… but to me it is too little, too late. I am still working on my French resume to try to find part time work teaching English. The facilitators are telling me all about how real French do their resumes. André says he’s seen French resumes and they look nothing like what I have been creating. My plan is to have a ‘normal’ English version and then the one my teachers have been helping me with. Trying to test out teaching a bit more, I recently shared my continent blog with my classmates in the one class who are trying to speak English better – that was very fun. Now that the holidays are over, I am starting to seriously plan our next big trip, to Germany in February. We will be mostly staying in Berlin with friends but plan on a one night each in Nuremburg, Munich, Zurich and (most excitingly) Prague! It takes a lot of budgeting and planning to work it all out. Of course, my tutoring efforts with Zander and the others are also moving along and I’ve been doing lots of cooking, cleaning, blogging and crafts! Being without a phone makes life difficult. I have been borrowing André’s phone to survive – but of course, that means he doesn’t have one!
Zander – Was thrilled to be back at school and theatre after vacation. The video of his play from a recent blog has already been viewed 39 times – more than any other I have posted – Go Zander! Recently got his first quarter report card and it isn’t great – but the teacher says he is working hard and has a good attitude, so that’s positive, right? Unless we/the teachers can figure out how to speed up his decoding, he’ll just keep falling behind faster and faster… He loved our adventure to Freiburg and is enjoying playing in the snow as much as possible. Of course, he is also still working hard at home at trying to learn to read. He wrote about a hundred perfect 5’s on post its and transformed our house into 5 world in yet another effort to get that darned 5 the correct direction in his mind. If it works we are going to try doing 6 world in a few weeks. He caught a stomach bug the other day and had to stay home from school. I am proud to report that, for the first time ever, he managed to puke into a bucket rather than all over the house. I knew this day had to come at some point! We have been having fun playing with our new pottery wheel. That is a very, very, very messy little tool – and really quite difficult to master. It is also super fun. Unfortunately, without a kiln, it is hard to fire the green ware. But I am hoping to save them until spring and then dig a pit in the backyard to bake them in – should be an adventure.
Callie – hated the idea of going back to school. She just loves being home with Mom! (Who can blame her) Nothing really new for her. Loves music and singing, loves drawing. Is learning to read and write in both French and English. She is even enjoying doing some clay modeling like her brother. We are currently planning her birthday party – I got the right kind of ingredients back in July when we were visiting the US – can’t wait to have a cookie cake! I’m trying to plan more activities this time since last time the kids were so riled up!
Griffin – Is well, the news for Griffin is so huge, so monumental, so significant, so very shocking that I am going to do a solo blog about it… later. Plus he wanted to do modeling as well and I think his numbers are pretty great, don’t you???
French culture - Here are a few quirks that we’ve recently uncovered.
Instead of leap frog, French kids play ‘saute mouton’ which translates to leap sheep. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think of sheep as particularly bouncy animals. On the other hand, when you are trying to fall asleep, you count sheep jumping over a fence, not frogs, right? I wonder if French count sheep….
When I am going to see someone in 2 weeks I usually say something like. “See you in 2 weeks!” or perhaps (if they were also English majors) “See you in a fortnight!” In France they say “A quinze jours”. This means in 15 days. Of course, 2 weeks is not 15 days. It’s 14 days. So why not ‘a quatorze jours’? Inquiring minds want to know. And as long as we are talking numbers and the passage of time, I have to mention that there are 3 quarters in a year to the French. Math simply does not seem to be a strong point.
When ordering bagels or donuts or buying eggs in the US, we ask for a dozen. This, according to Wikipedia, comes from the French word douzaine (which is 12th). But, in France, it is more common to hear people ask for a dizaine – which sounds like a dozen but means 10. I looked up the word dozen and found there is a lot to know about this topic. It seems in many cultures, instead of using hands to count by 5’s, people used them to count by 12’s. If you use your thumb as the counter, and count each segment of your finger as 1, you get 12 on each hand. A cool way to count much higher, if you ask me. It’s one of those things where I think, “Wow – that is so obvious, why haven’t I been doing this for years???” We tried to show it to the kids, Griffin tried it but it was just a bit over his head, Callie picked it up right away and Zander kept insisting that his fingers had way more then three segments each. There you have their personalities, in a nutshell. The idea of a baker’s dozen (which I don’t think exists here in France) started in 13th century England where bakers were subject to fines or jail time if they were found shorting people. To be on the safe side, they would put 13 in a batch. Also, it is the optimum number that fits comfortably, without overcooking, on a baking tray.
Finally, we have idiom watch. In the US, we say just one rotten apple can spoil a barrel. In France they say happiness can come from just one good apple. Apple idioms are very popular, apple of my eye, an apple a day, apples and oranges, how do you like them apples--all leap to mind. And I know at least one other great French one. If you say “La fille est tombee dans les pommes”, it does not mean that she fell into apples but rather that she fainted. Good to know. I think I will try to bring that one back to the US with me. I’m imagining the next time I give blood. “Oh dear, I feel like I might fall into the apples!”
Hope you are ready to catch me!