It feels like I’m constantly answering this question…particularly this week because I met so many new people! And two of my classes are preparing presentations about different aspects of the United States and Maine because they will be spending two weeks there in February. Things like religion, food, “being a teen”, and education are some of the research topics. So I was there to answer any questions and aid their research. The most difficult topic seemed to be religion. The teacher said France is not a very religious country (even with all of the Catholic holidays…) and that people don’t really attend church or temple and that it’s no where near as important as it is in the US. Now I don’t know if I’m just oblivious or if I’ve spent too much time in the Greenhill and Lehigh bubbles, but I have never felt like religion is a large part of the American culture. Then I talked to that teacher and the seniors that I teach and they all pointed out that God is in our Pledge of Allegiance and politicians bring up religion all the time AND there are churches everywhere! So yeah, I guess it is a large part of our culture, at least from an outsider’s perspective. So I was asked about the different forms of Christianity and the Bible Belt and its origins…things I was not prepared to answer! But other topics were also interesting, like eating habits and the binge drinking culture (which apparently is starting to become popular in France) and our education system. There also seems to be an obsession with the US and school uniforms. This topic was brought up in our orientation as an example lesson and in some of my friend’s classes, as well as in these presentations.
In another class, the teacher made a quiz about Texas and couldn’t believe that I actually knew the state insect and state bird. The French think Americans are REALLY patriotic but I don’t think they can even understand Texan Pride 🙂
This week Anna and I saw the movie Blue Jasmine with our French friends Josephine and Romane and some Brazilians. We met up for a drink before hand and they taught us that the popular slang right now is to invert French words i.e. instead of saying “merci” you say “cimer” or “les femmes” becomes “les meffes”. So THAT complication has been added to my French proficiency…whyyy?!
Thursday a colleague of mine invited me out to trivia night with her friends! We had to split into two teams but were at the same table so we shared answers until the tiebreaker. The other half of the table won the free bottle of champagne but they shared 🙂 Makes me miss Thursday Trivia at Sottos (shout out to Lehigh friends)!
I also went for a run this week and I live right by the Loire River…it’s like running over the bridge of the Lehigh river in Bethlehem!
Friday night our other French friend Geraldine invited us to a Western movie/Cowboy event happening at Ile des Machines which is a former boat/sea warehouse thing which has been turned into a tourist spot with a giant mechanical elephant and a 3 story carousel with underwater animals…I’m sure I’ll be visiting soon so I’ll have a whole post on it. But basically in this giant hangar they set up a bar and an inflatable screen with chairs and bleachers and showed Dead Man with Johnny Depp. It was cool to go to this cowboy night and have a little French piece of Texas! We met up with some other American assistants in the bar area called Bouffay afterwards!
I spent today taking pictures of the Chateau and walking around the city a bit. I really love the uniqueness of Nantes. In Paris, when you turn a corner you see a beautiful monument or piece of history, there are those kinds of things in Nantes, but here when you turn a corner you stumble upon an interesting piece of art or temporary exhibition. First of all, there’s that giant mechanical elephant, but today I was walking to the Chateau and passed a square called Place du Bouffay and it was filled with pictures of people and a paragraph about a project/business they’ve had success with because of a loan from the bank BNP (the whole thing was obviously sponsored by BNP) but each stand also had speakers behind it so you could hear the person giving more details about their story. It was a really diverse selection of people too from a fashion designer from Africa to a woman who farms tropical fish in her apartment!
In this square two weeks ago was an exhibition with a bunch of plants and details about a Green project that started in Nantes (Nantes claims to be the most Green city in Europe) and traveled across Europe. Also this week, in a different square, there was a bike event where people could get info on how to rent or a buy a bike as well as get their bikes repaired because they want to make Nantes (more of) a biking city!
Yesterday was the official start to mes vacances! We get the next two weeks off for La Toussaint (All Saint’s Day) so I’m planning on leaving for Paris tomorrow and spending Monday there then heading to Manchester via The Chunnel! And I’ll be there in time to celebrate Grams’ 80th birthday! The second week I plan on going to Bordeaux, which is about four hours South of Nantes, with some other assistants for a couple days to see another area of France and taste the wine of course!