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

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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 …

<drumroll>

Bottle Caps

IMG_0024

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

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

franecdote 1670 : Mission Impossible

Detail of a portrait of King Charles II of England
by Thomas Hawker

It’s time for the next “franecdote” — an interesting fact or story from “THAT year in French history“ where “THAT year” is this year minus the number of Facebook fans je parle américain has every Thursday.

Screen Shot 2013-07-07 at 11.07.00 PM

Today’s franecdote is from August 1,
when je parle américain had 343 Facebook fans.
So …

The year 2013 — 343 fans = 1670

I’ll never forget from my South Carolina history classes how important the year 1670 was: it’s when England first settled the Carolina colony at Charles Towne, now known as Charleston. Carolina had been named for King Charles I, but Charles Towne was named for his son, Charles II. And it’s that King Charles who figures prominently in today’s franecdote. “But this is about French history, right?” Indeed it is, because the franecdote for today involves not only King Charles II of England, but also King Louis XIV of France. It’s …

Usually there’s a <drumroll> here,
but today this is more appropriate:

The Secret Treaty of Dover Continue reading franecdote 1670 : Mission Impossible

Saturday Afternoon Gardening

© 2013 Michel Denis Pouradier, all rights reserved

Photo credit: © 2013 Michel Denis Pouradier,
all rights reserved

Yesterday, Babydog proposed an impromptu outing to escape from La Courneuve for the day. Given the way I generally feel about my neighborhood, I was all in favor! We initially planned to take the train to Beauvais to see the cathedral, but then decided to make a less expensive excursion to Versailles. Because of early closing hours this weekend, though, we finally settled on an afternoon at France’s chief botanical garden …

Le Jardin des Plantes Continue reading Saturday Afternoon Gardening

franecdote 1681 : Digging Ditches

It’s time for the next “franecdote” — an interesting fact or story from “THAT year in French history“ where “THAT year” is this year minus the number of Facebook fans je parle américain has every Thursday.

Screen Shot 2013-07-07 at 11.07.00 PM

Today’s franecdote is from July 25,
when je parle américain had 332 Facebook fans.
So …

The year 2013 — 332 fans = 1681

There were a lot of interesting things that happened in 1681: King Charles II of England granted a land charter to William Penn, who went on to found the colony of Pennsylvania, a woman was flogged in London for “involving herself in politics,” and the last dodo bird was killed … maybe.

Dodo

But, since this is about France, the franecdote for today is …

<drumroll>

The Grand Opening of
The Canal Royal de Languedoc Continue reading franecdote 1681 : Digging Ditches

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

Enter Stage Left

Molière in the role of Caesar in Corneille’s “The Death of Pompey,”
by Nicolas Mignard

If you’re a fan of je parle américain, you’ve probably noticed a recent decline in the frequency of my posts. That’s primarily because I’ve been so busy with what has to be my final semester of French language classes. Instead of writing for je parle américain, I’ve been summarizing French news articles, drafting letters to imaginary newspaper editors about the controversies of the day, outlining arguments for oral presentations, synthesizing multipage French documents into concise 100-word summaries without omitting anything essential … oh, and writing a play in French. Continue reading Enter Stage Left