Afterword

Just before the end of last year, I wrote what was supposed to be “the last chapter” of je parle américain as you know it, because I planned to transform the blog into something entirely new. As it turns out, I haven’t made any progress with that, so je parle américain has been quiet of late, just “sitting on the shelf” collecting dust — to stay with the literary theme. Sometimes, though, events transpire that simply demand you pick up the pen again — or return to the keyboard as the case may be — and actually finish the story …

Afterword Continue reading Afterword

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Fourth Fourth

Today is my fourth Fourth of July in France. For my first Fourth, I got on a soapbox. For my second Fourth, I waxed sentimental about who was eating my apple pie. For my third Fourth, I tried to make you laugh. So … what’s on the agenda for my fourth Fourth?

Continue reading Fourth Fourth

Cream soda, anyone?

Saturday evening, we went to a little Christmas party with friends, which featured a “White Elephant” gift exchange. Just like last year, we each had to bring a gift that cost less than 5€. Michel and I ended up with a set of six “tapas glasses” — which we’re going to use as lowball glasses — and a box of …

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Bottle Caps

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Continue reading Cream soda, anyone?

Back in the Kitchen

In my last post, I mentioned that I’ve now spent four Thanksgivings in France. I think it’s probably the time of year when I feel most like an American expatriate. What I mean by that is that it’s the day when I feel the pangs of homesickness most acutely. Thanksgiving’s not a holiday here, of course, so I get pretty nostalgic watching my Facebook newsfeed fill up with status updates from back home about thankfulness, good food with family and friends, and even travel headaches. Looking back across the Atlantic at what you’re missing can easily give you the blues … which is why expats just have to make Thanksgiving right where they are! To be frank, I haven’t always succeeded on that score. Out of the first three Thanksgivings I spent on French soil, only the first featured a traditional American feast, so it really was high time for me to get back in the kitchen … Continue reading Back in the Kitchen

Even Americans Want a Taste

For better or for worse, there’s no denying that American fast food has become arguably as popular in France as it is back home. If you live in a city, there’s always a KFC, a Pizza Hut, or a McDonald’s in the neighborhood. What’s interesting from an American perspective is how these places can feel simultaneously so familiar and so foreign. The idea, of course, is to take an American brand and make it appeal to a French consumer, so sometimes you end up with some interesting cross-cultural creations. Some are very clear efforts to transform traditional favorites. Take, for example, the one that even made the news back in the States: Continue reading Even Americans Want a Taste

No, I’m not the professor.

Rodney Dangerfield, in Back to School

Today, I went back to school.

“Wait a minute. You’re still taking French classes?” you’re surely asking in utter disbelief. “Shouldn’t you be fluent by now?” Well, no and yes … kind of. I’m done learning French. I’m not fluent, but there are only so many times you can take the same course over and over to “ameliorate your competence” before you get the side-eye. Now, I’m going to Université Paris Descartes to earn my licence. “Licence? What’s that? It sounds like either (1) what you need to drive in France or (2) what you need to practice law there.” Well, no, it’s neither that mundane nor that prestigious. It’s a bachelor’s degree …

“What?! A bachelor’s degree?!” Continue reading No, I’m not the professor.

525,600 minutes

Every August 15, a big anniversary rolls around.

August 15, 2010 was the day I left the US with big dreams, 130 pounds of luggage, and a one-way ticket to Charles de Gaulle. The days leading up to the anniversary are always full of reflection and nostalgia for me. I spend a lot of time looking back at what I’ve accomplished — or failed to accomplish — but I also look ahead to what the new year might bring my way. It’s a bit like New Year’s in mid-summer.

Two years ago, on my first anniversary as an expat in France, I recounted the beautiful story of what led me to this country in the first place (“The Patience of a Butterfly“). Last year, as my second anniversary rolled around, I waxed rather philosophical about it all, writing about change as the very essence of life (“Every Beginning is Only a Sequel“). This year, I’m doing something quite a bit different. You see, I have a Facebook tradition every August 15: I start a new photo album into which I will post scores of photos of my life during the upcoming year. A few days ago, in preparation for “Ma vie à Paris: la quatrième année,” I was scrolling through last year’s album, and I was reminded of what a monumental year it’s been: chock full of the usual stresses of expat life, of course, but also charged with exciting developments that promise good things to come. This August 15, then, I’ve decided to share with you a little photographic montage of the last 525,600 minutes of my life as an expat — the mundane and the exciting, the frustrating and the promising, even the delicious and the inebriating … and the sentimental, of course. So … how do you measure a year in the life? Continue reading 525,600 minutes

We Are the World

Lire en français.

Yesterday morning, I woke up early, got myself ready, and went off to my last French class ever. It was the culmination of five semesters of studying French — as Moses once put it — as “a stranger in a strange land.” It’s been a long road, sometimes frustrating, sometimes nerve-wracking, but always fulfilling. I’ve learned a lot these last few years. I often joke that even after four years of French in high school, I could barely string together enough French to order dinner when I first met Michel. Now, I’m now somewhere between a C1 and C2 level of competence, depending on which skills you’re measuring. Grammar is definitely my strong point: on the TCF I took in February, I got a perfect score! I may not be able to speak French that well off the cuff, and I might still have a very noticeable (but hopefully still charming) American accent, but if you put a French sentence in front of me, I can diagram that thing like a pro! That’s probably a good thing, because my next academic endeavor looks like a foray into the world of linguistics at Université Paris Descartes (Paris V).

But I’ve gained a lot more than a second language. Continue reading We Are the World

Goin’ to the chapel … the city hall … a meadow?

It’s been a big weekend for civil rights here in France. If you’ve followed our news lately, you’re certainly familiar with the movement known as “Mariage pour tous” (“Marriage for All”). It’s the popular name for a legislative initiative to open marriage to same-sex couples and extend adoption rights to us. After months of vigorous debate and sometimes violent opposition, it was adopted this spring by the National Assembly and the Senate. Opponents immediately challenged the law’s constitutionality before the French Constitutional Council — the equivalent of the Supreme Court in the United States — and we waited for the ruling with a mix of hope and anxiety. Continue reading Goin’ to the chapel … the city hall … a meadow?