Sunday, May 5, 2013

Closing out the Blog - One Year Later

It's been a year since our preparation program for LSU in the French Alps, and, while I've continued making occasional posts since returning to America, this will be my last post. As I write this, this year's students are about to start the preparation program and their whole summer of wonderful experiences. I like the idea of ending my blog at the same time that the next cycle begins.

ANY NEW READERS: these posts are all in reverse-chronological order (b/c that's how blogs are published), so to read through my European adventures properly, you'll have to start by flipping back to the beginning. You can do this by clicking on the bottom-most link in the sidebar (called "May 13 - May 20").

We citoyens honoraire de Barcelonnette continue to meet for coffee, drinks, or ice cream every now and then, and it's great to see them. I happen to be the only non-French-major out of the bunch, so they're all planning to do French-related things. A few are going to teach English in France/Belgium for a year or so, one is still dating the French guy she met in Barcelonnette, and another is going to study at a university in Lyon, where her boyfriend is from (they met a few months ago at LSU). Two are going to medical school, one is going to vet school, one is an aspiring dancer, and another is an assistant minister (I think) at a megachurch. Carla had a baby a few months ago, and Bernard and Tara are surely pulling their hair out tying up loose ends before the trip starts again in a few weeks.

As for people I've met outside of the program: I regularly stay in touch with people I met who live in Jersey, Boston/Tampa, Belgium, and Tunisia. In fact, my Tunisian friend wants to come visit the States soon, so she might come stay with me, if her visa works out alright (being from a North African / Middle Eastern country makes it a bit difficult).

Tara has spoken with us about improvements to the program, and I've done my best to help her out with that, since I know how much she cares about making the Ubaye Valley program the best it can possibly be. I know she has referred the students to this blog for reference. I hope it comes in handy to them as well as anybody else wanting to know about the experiences of a curious student wandering around Europe.

Au Revoir et Bon Voyage!

A French Surprise during Spring Testing / Orientation

A few weeks ago during Spring Testing (LSU's orientation and advanced placement program for smart highschoolers), I was walking around campus, trying to avoid the hoards of highschoolers with free purple knapsacks wandering around cluelessly, I ran into a group of elderly(ish) people blocking the entire sidewalk. Once I realized they weren't moving, I circumvented them via the nearby parking lot.

But then when I got around to the other side of their huddle, I heard some French words being tossed around between them. I stopped and asked, "Vous ĂȘtes Français?" They all turned their heads. "Oui!" They were so excited to see a French speaker in LA! We continued to converse excitedly in French as I walked dangerously backwards across the Stadium Drive's crosswalk. Turns out most of them were professors from Paris, visiting Baton Rouge for some combination of vacationing and French-language-preservation.

One of the women suggested since my speaking skills were so good, I should go on the Ubaye Valley trip. I told her I already did! This woman, Madame Labat, said she worked here in Baton Rouge as a coordinator for Friends of French Studies. Remembering that they paid for part of my trip, I said "merci" more times than was probably necessary. The French people explained to me how important it was that we preserve the French language here in Louisiana, and why that was their mission.

I said "Au Revoir" and they went on to see le tigre (Mike). I'd had an exciting and interesting exchange with this group of people... and to think I almost walked right past them!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Liberal vs Conservative

In having a discussion with Karin (from Belgium), there was a miscommunication concerning the words "liberal" and "conservative." In simply using these words to describe our political leanings, it seemed that we had disagreeing political views. When I explained the two words in terms of historical examples, we realized that the American meanings of these words were basically the opposite of their European/French meanings. Apparently for her, "liberal" means giving the individual the liberty to succeed according to his/her own acts without being disproportionally taxed - a right-wing/conservative tenant. But for us it means that the government tries to advance civil liberties while being relatively loose/free with tax increases for government spending (on welfare, etc). So we actually agreed on what we thought we disagreed on.

Yet another reason I try to avoid using labels to describe things that are really too complex to be pinned down in a single word.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Kick your feet up

Forgot to mention: I think propping your feet up on things while seated is mildly more taboo in Europe than it is over here. They're not insane about it, but I've heard a few people along the trip complain about how business owners would tell them to take teir feet of of a chair. Once in the lounge area of a bar, there were cushioned stool/ottomans, and the worker there even told one of the girls in my group to take her feet off of them. Hm

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Touring around New Iberia, with a stranger's eyes

We took Karin (the woman i stayed with in Belgium) around New Iberia, showing her a Laotian Buddhist temple, a soul food restaurant, Avery Island, and WalMart. An Australian guy in Berlin had told me going to WalMart freaked him out because they sell guns at the grocery store! Karin had the same reaction. And they sell them right next to the toys, too! I guess i'd never really thought about it.

Monday, July 16, 2012

To-go boxes

... don't exist in European restaurants. You're just expected to eat all your food, or leave the leftovers to be composted.