First Full Day in Toulouse 1/25/2012


Background to this posts format: During my study abroad with SIT I’m required to keep a journal/analytical notebook. I feel like this feeds into my whole blog-posts thing very well. I will try to replicate the visual aspects of my entries as accurately as possible in my posts.

  • SIT = French
  • Nice French lady w/Christine
  • the magic of French
  • fuzzy brain
  • taking pictures
  • buying body wash stuff

SIT is determined to make us speak, interact & live “French.” I write bitterly, but with appreciate. For example, its rientation right now, yet I’ve rarely heard English spoken from either Isabel or Julia (la directrice & a assistante…je n’sais pas si Julia travaille avec Isabel ou, si, elle es une directrice aussi.) Quand elles parlent l’anglais, c’est à donner (to give?) un mot vocabulaire. Ha! French…. 🙂 probably gramatically incorrect but I need to practice b/c since SIT is determined to only give us only French as a method of communication, our CSP is to be written in French! How do you say the equivalent of !Aiaiai! en Francais? I can’t write French. I mean I can… but I can’t think it. How am I supposed to write, at length, in a culture I don’t know? Luckily I don’t think its due until the last week. If things go as planned- & I’m [sure] SIT’s determination will see it does- then this might might not be as hard or intimidating as I feel it is currently. My bitterness is obviously not rooted in anger but in a trapped feel. Mind you I”m paying for, & wanting, this trapped feeling- but its not something I’m able to just accept. (Thank god for writing! Its so cathartic.) To give an example: Christine & I went to the store together this afternoon- I needed shampoo, etc- & we intentionally distracted ourselves in the book/kid’s section. I picked up this kid’s boo, I remember it from Pau. Its a series of some type. I picked up #1. As I thumbed through I realized that I was barely able to read it let alone comprehend it- a kid’s book! Probably for ages 4 & under. While walking on the street, I remarked to Caroline- earlier in the day, during the tour- on how cute French children are. We heard one speaking near us & within the same breath agreed that we should ask him to teach us to parler francais, b/c we sure don’t know that many words (yet). The final point being, it’s the end of day 1 & I’m already experiencing that that trapped feeling. This excited & terrifies me.

The next bullet is a short and sweet note that I wanted to make so that when I start loathing the French & their language in about trois semaine – je pense- I can read it & not get too depressed.

When Christine and I went to meet the group dinner at the place du captiol we stopped & asked for directions. (Christine did the talking. I feel obligated to write that down. Keep myself honest.) The lady’s first responsed by asking- in French- if we wanted the directions in French or English. We were so happy to ask for the directions & even in writing I’m getting emotional at how kind it was for her to offer both & then actually give us (i.e. speak to us) in French! This is just such a sharp contrast to what I experienced in Pau when I was laughed at by a French woman b/c of my pronounciation. (Since, I’m pretty sure others will read this entry- I have speeck impediments. Not noticable in English, but I tutter in French a lot…at least a lot to me. This event was traumatizing mostly b/c my “bad pronounciation” wasn’t just my poor french, but coupled with my current inability to physically produce French phonetics.) Any who- what a nice lady! She probably doesn’t even know how much that simple question was appreciated.

“The magic of French” should be interpreted as “the magic of the French/France/…French?”

Im not sure why Americans glamorize the French & their culture. It seems paradoxical to the rhetoric I hear streaming from American news media: “Those anti-American French!” essentially. All I can say is th[at] we do. Not in the same way we fetish-ize the English, but we do/are fixated on the French. We love their countryside, their literature (we’d never actually admit this on a cultural level though), their fashion, their architecture, etc. Any person is automatically moved several points up on the “hot-scale” if they are French. In fact, from conversations I’ve had with American women European men are more desirable than American men. “European” when asked for details is generally “French” or French-esque. This bullet point isn’t actually supposed to be a critique of American-culture’s perspective of the French. My comments are merely efforts to understand my own mixture of feelings. I don’t consider myself a francophile by any means, but I can’t seem to avoid veiwing the French as glamourized people, coveted, desired. I made the comment while out with Christine that the people in Toulouse look “American,” but not really. I tried to explain what I meant by contrasting it with the people I remember seeing in Pau (these remembered people were “French”-French). Obviously, this made no sense & I realize that “American” isn’t what I meant. Here, the Toulouse-ians (I’m sure there is an actual term) – their faces– look different than what I remember from Pau. Here the faces, of the women especially, are fuller not so scrunchy & stretched. Also, Toulouse-ians seem more able to smile- not to strangers (that’s Americans who feel obligated to smile at strangers…weird when you consider our mantra ‘Stranger Danger’). When I observed them, over the last 30? hours, they smile more. Based on this alone, I’m inclined to like Toulouse more. I realize that the brevity of my time probably renders these observations pointless, but to me they are important. I left oulouse miserable & ready to return home. These are things I remember disliking about Pau-ians. Therefore, tonight, I was struck by this “magic du Francias” (I’m hoping this translates to “magic of the French”). Everything became shiny (my apologies to anyone who hasn’t seen Firefly, you’ve deprived yourself and need to watch it for your own good. ‘Shiny’ will explained when you pop it in the DVD player) all of a sudden, from the tiny dogs to an older couple speaking soft French to one another & holding hands. So, for tonight the French & Toulouse are shiny. 🙂

“Buying body wash stuff”: I felt like a hurdle was overcome with this minor transaction. I was able to request/ask for a baguette without faltering b/c this first hurdle had been crossed.

“Taking pictures”: I’m holding myself to my promise to take a picture a day. However, I hate feeling like a tourist. However, I love having pictures. However, I hate drawing attention to myself in this way. However, I need pictures. I have organizations expecting them.

This went through my head, & probably will continue to do so, everytime I touch my camera.

“Fuzzy Brain” oh, Fuzzy Brain, Where Art Thou?

This question should actually be a command telling my fuzzy brain to go away. Any one who has learned another language, or who is in a study abroad program, knows what I mean. Its this feeling that your brain is thinking, while your exterior ears are hearing something different than what your interior/brain ears are hearing because whats being thought by your brain is English & what your ears are hearing is not & what your brain is trying to do is comprehend both. This is one of those ailments that gets worse before better.


4 responses »

  1. Great stuff Sarah. Keep experiencing and and trying to understand the interaction of your expectations, the requirements of the program and French reality.


  2. One point: we love the countryside, check. We love the fashion, check. We love the architecture, check. We love the literature—hold it, not so much. In more than a few years of literature study, Mike and I don’t remember much heralding of French literature. Lots of Russian lit, Italian, Greek, Irish, Welsh, very little French.

  3. I love reading your posts. Keep writing – lots of description, in details for me please! I want to feel what you are feeling and know what you are experiencing and seeing ….. I LOVE YOU!

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