Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Return

I am going to Oneonta in a matter of days. I am excited, nervous, and scared. I'm scared because I know I am sentimental, and I hate time travel. Even though I left Oneonta four months ago, that's enough distance from a place to remember the ups and downs--for my nostalgia to rear its ugly head. On the other hand, I will be reunited with old friends, get to play lots of board games, welcome in the new year with people I love, and finally eat some pad see ew with tofu (it's been too long). I've been thinking about living in the moment, and so in some ways I feel guilty about being excited about going back to Oneonta. Oneonta resembles a life I lived, a place I used to be. The voice in my head that thinks it knows best tells me to move on, grow up, make new memories. Don't be that person. The one that sticks around, the one that gets stuck in time. Kind of like the person that never moves past high school, but in my case never moves past college. I liked school. Sometimes I loved it. More than the late nights writing essays, it was the atmosphere that got me going. I won't pretend everyone at Hartwick is a nerd, but I definitely sensed an air of-- People got excited about ideas. Hold up, Angelica. Don't you teach? Well, sort of. We have discussions in class, and sometimes those are really great. My students usually surprise me at least once a class. But there's a weird dynamic. I moderate the conversation. I no longer raise my hand--I call on kids. Maybe this doesn't seem like a big deal. (I'm probably over-thinking things). But as a student, I sort of gushed over things. When the teacher let me speak, I got to add to the conversation. Outside of the classroom, I had peers I could talk to about these ideas we were exploring. We were equals and we could turn things over together. As a teacher, I have to hold back (mostly because the students are supposed to be practicing their English, so me talking wouldn't really help them). Of course, I don't just miss school. I miss my friends. I miss living in a town in which I was pretty much guaranteed to run into someone I knew when I went to the store. I miss the community I left behind. I miss my life. I think the transition between college and whatever's next it totally underrated. And that's saying something, seeing as countless writers have explored the concept. But think about it--you're leaving a part of yourself behind. Some formative shit happened in college. Maybe you learned a lot about yourself (in fact, the only way this didn't happen is if you seriously lack introspection skills). You probably fell in and out of love at some point. You probably did things you never thought you would. You probably proved yourself wrong. Maybe you found your niche, or found out what your niche is not. ALL OF THESE THINGS ARE FREAKING HUGE. This is a big deal. I don't know how we expect graduates to move on without a second glance. I'm definitely changing the way I look at it. 

YAY TRANSITION. Anyway, I'll post reunion pictures soon. Xoxo. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Semester 1 Wrap Up

I have one more day of classes.

This semester has been--well, I don't really know yet. It's one of those things I'll figure out once I get some distance from it. For now when I think of Fall 2014, my mind sort of comes up blank.

So much has happened! And yet it feels like so little at the same time. Time is weird.

I'm definitely in a heady, existential mood. But when am I not?

Here, I'll just recap some stuff that happened:

I got to Nice without a suitcase. Megan and Danica picked me up from the train station and I went directly to the bar most everyone was at, said, "Hello!" dropped my backpack off at Megan's house, and then stayed up drinking and dancing until who knows how late. Jet lag schmet-lag. 

During my first two weeks in Nice, I vacationed, basically.

Classes hadn't started yet, so I was free to get situated. In that time, I got an apartment, opened a banking account, got familiar with my neighborhood, figured out which bars in Old Town have the best happy hours, and spent a lot of time at the beach. 

This is what I wore on my first day of a teacher. It was sort of weird thinking of myself as a not-student, but I donned the lectrice jacket as best I could. My teaching strategy (more or less): listen to the students.

Meanwhile, I did my best to make friends. In the end, I really lucked out. These people are great--upbeat, curious, intelligent nerds-extraordinaire. 

I did a lot of partying. Probably about as much as one would expect a 20-something living in a city with a vibrant bar-scene would do.

Natalie and I made a Jacqueline-o-lantern for English Society. A few of us put on a film night where we showed A Nightmare Before Christmas and Psycho. I really enjoyed the English Society events I helped with this semester, from pub nights/quizzes, to film nights, to the Thanksgiving pot!

Oh, yeah! And this happened:

I also got the chance to meet up with the wonderful Ellen Parent.

 We went to Paris...

Where I was reunited with my Paris study-abroad partner-in-crime, Emma Lofthus! It was marvelous to see her after all the time we'd been apart. Since we'd last seen each other we'd both written our thesis, graduated from college, and moved to France! There was a lot to catch up on and I don't think we even got to say all there was to say, but it was nice to meet again over a cup of vin chaud (at Les Deux Magots, at that!) <3

I also went to an absinthe bar in Antibes, which was fun.

And partied some more.

I made my family's traditional Thanksgiving side-dish, sweet-potato casserole (with marshmallows on top). 

And celebrated Thanksgiving with this awesome crew.

The winter market opened this past weekend. All over town Christmas-themed things have been put up. It's weird, because not everyone celebrates Christmas, but I guess France doesn't care about that. However, I did notice a huge light-up menorah on my way home today. The Christmas market is full of vendors, a Ferris wheel, ice-skating, vin chaud, and dark chocolate made with olive oil, just to name a few highlights. 

I probably won't get a photo of the Christmas market before I leave Nice, so have a stolen collage from Becca's Instagram:

Overall, I'm satisfied with how things have gone these past 3.5 months. Wish me safe travels home. Happy holidays to everyone! And a fantastic New Year. Cheers!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

It's The Little Things...

First of all, I'd like to wish everyone a very happy Thanksgiving. I hope you're surrounded with family and friends, that the weather didn't ruin your plans, and that you're safe, comfortable, and warm.

Now, with that out of the way, let's get to the real point of this post; I'd like to complain a little bit. Just a little.

Even though I'm not currently in the U.S. I know today is Thanksgiving--the day we think about what we're thankful for...and then eat a whole lot. Don't worry! I've got the eating a whole lot thing down pat. I ate two pain au chocolats for breakfast.

And I am thankful. Very thankful. Mostly, I'm thankful for all the privileges I have: I got to move to France for a year and teach. I had the chance and money and access to loans to attend college. I had an amazing public education experience with fantastic teachers and plenty of resources. I can afford books, music, and movies. I can pretty much wear whatever I want, express myself however I want. Although strict, I grew up in a loving family. I have white skin in a culture in which people with white skin systematically benefit from being white. Although I wish racism were dead and that everyone was treated fairly regardless of how they look, I recognize the privilege my skin grants me.

So, yeah. I have a lot to be thankful for.

It seems inappropriate to complain about menial things--small differences in culture that are basically insignificant, but still irritate me enough to be noticeable. However, if we spin this with perspective, we can see the things about 'Murica I, in fact, appreciate. Here we go:

1. Cheddar cheese

You'd think France, the country known for its decadent cheeses, would cover all my cheese-needs. Not true. There's nothing like a hunk of Cabot. I don't routinely buy cheddar when I'm home, but I like having it available to me, especially when I feel like making a bagel sandwich or nachos.

2. Black beans

You probably saw this one coming if you've read my post about feijoada. Basically, in America, you can go to the grocery store and find black beans. Black beans don't function the same way in France. In France, you have to go to an Indian specialty shop and buy dry black beans in bulk. I don't mind soaking my black beans, but oh my God, I've never valued the ease and luxury of canned black beans more since I moved to Nice.

3. Large trash cans
It seems pretty common in France to have tiny, miniscule-sized trash bins. This wouldn't bother me so much, except it does. I appreciate the European tendency to minimize and reduce waste. I really do, honestly. But our kitchen bin is the size of an extra large popcorn at the cinema. We have to take the trash out daily. When I lived at home, we had a large trash can, but we took the trash out weekly. The France way seems to be the same amount of trash, but with six times the effort.

4. Generic brand contact solution

I like to think I'm a fairly pragmatic shopper. I try to stick to a budget, so I shop generic. Especially with contact solution, where the only difference in brand is the style of the packaging, it makes sense to buy the cheaper version. Well, in France I can't do that. I have to buy the expensive Opti-Free stuff that costs an arm and a leg, and I have to go to the Pharmacy to get it.

5. Cars

Don't get me wrong; public transit is super efficient in Nice. Well, when the transit workers aren't on strike. I love being able to leave my house and get to the grocery store, movie theatre, café, post office, bank, etc. in a timely fashion by foot or bus. But when I need to carry my backpack, umbrella, purse, and the green beans for the pot luck, and the pastries for book club, and the...a car would be nice.

What about you? What sorts of things about America or home do you miss, look forward to, or appreciate?

Once more, have a very lovely Thanksgiving! More cultural comparison stuff coming soon...

Sunday, November 9, 2014

I've Been to Antibes and Other Places

I've been doing some traveling.

The last week of October was Toussaint, a Christian and national holiday in France. Basically, I had time off. Ellen came to visit me in Nice for a several days.

I showed her around town. We went to vieux Nice, the beach, a flea market, and a waterfall.

And then we missed our train to Paris. Americans no understand military time!?

So we took a covoiturage (a ride-share). We went with Pierre, who drove us from Cannes to Paris in about 9 hours.

In Paris, Ellen and I saw the Eiffel Tower (both at night and during the day), hung out with Siri (Ellen's friend from college), walked through the Tuileries gardens, went to Breakfast in America, and met Emma (my friend from study-abroad in Paris) and her friend at Les Deux Magots.

Restroom in the Tuileries.

Non-stop drip coffee.

Ellen and I hitched a covoiturage from Paris to Poitiers, where we met Ellen's friend at Bibliocafé, a café full of books that patrons are welcome to read as long as they like. Buying is optional. Also, the drinks are themed. I had a Jane Austen, a beer flavored with violet syrup.

On to Montmorillon, Ellen's beautiful town, where I posed with typewriters, browsed bookshops, and ate macarons. (We went to the macaron museum. Yes, such a thing exists).

And then I went home. 
Where I slept.
A lot.
After a week of work, I decided all that traveling wasn't enough for me, and so I joined Kirsten, her visiting friend, Liane, and Amy on a day-trip to Antibes, a costal town 15 minutes from Nice by train.

One of the highlights of our trip to Antibes was the absinthe bar. Basically, it's this cave-like room with various hats strewn about that patrons are welcome to wear while they drink the absinthe. Instead of downing shots of the infamous alcohol, I felt very proper when I twisted the knob for the spout, which let out water from a pitcher; this water poured over a sugar-cube, which disintegrated into my glass of absinthe. The actual amount of absinthe given is very small, which is why the diluting process is necessary. Very cool!

What have I learned from my travels?

a. Covoiturage is a good way to practice speaking French.
b. Never eat saumon-fumée sandwiches from a rest-stop.
c. Ellen and I are very good at problem-solving.
d. A macaron is different from a macaroon.
e. I like absinthe. 

More tales a-comin' soon.