Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Random Snippets of Conversation

In French class on Monday, while role-playing based on a book:
Marina to Jascha: "Have I ever told you that you're terrible in bed?"

Hercules is on a four-day school trip to the woods.
Me to Narcissus: "Do you miss your brother?"
Narcissus (dejectedly): "Yes." (a few seconds of silence) "There's no one to play Playstation with me."
(Narcissus doesn't know how to play Playstation, he just watches Hercules play. He can sit and watch for hours. And that's what he misses. Watching someone play.)

Speaking of Narcissus, he's currently watching Star Wars Episode III for the fifth time in three days. Where does this kid get his attention span?

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Laughing My Head Off

A linksy for you.

And today's pic:

Monday, May 29, 2006


Ack! Apparently, someone else has a blog called "superfluosity." I don't exactly pride myself on being original, but I was hoping to increase my chances of having an original blog name by making up a word. Alas. Now I have to change my blog name! How sad is that? And goodness knows I'm not creative...


Pics of the day:

Centre Ville, May 26

Saturday, May 27, 2006


Sarah and I met today to check out the gigantic Mediatheque Jose Cabanis. A mediatheque is basically a library but one with computers, DVDs and CDs in addition to books. The word is coming to replace the word bibliotheque, which means library, because they make a distinction between a library with books and a library with all the other newfangled stuff. In America, we just call them all libraries. Anyway, this one is pretty new, so it's very architecturally artsy, and they don't have many books. It kind of reminds me of a less hideous version of the Seattle Public Library, simply because it's artsy and there's lots of light and open space (though it's not nearly as artsy as the Seattle Public Library). A crooked picture of the outside:

The artsy interior: (the first pic is the staircase)

And finally, the Seattle Public Library. *barf* The inside is really cool, but the outside is just another blemish to marr Seattle's aesthetic (there are so many...)

Friday, May 26, 2006

Fried Rice with a Side of Sadism

Okay, okay, I’ll stop whining about the five-day weekend. So far, it’s going alright. I went swimming yesterday and today, which felt great. Today, I met Sarah and her Lebanese friend, Mansur, in town. We went to a café and had absurdly expensive crèpes. I could have ordered a normal, cheap crèpe with something like Nutella inside, but I wanted the one with chocolate, pear slices, and a scoop of pear sorbet for 6 euro (roughly $8; I know, I know). It started out really good, but about halfway through, I started getting full. Then I made the mistake of spreading the two huge balls of whipped cream over the whole thing, and things just went downhill from there. The whipped cream took over until I couldn’t even taste the chocolate anymore. When I realized my mistake, I tried to scrape the whipped cream off, but it wasn’t too effective. I forced myself to eat the rest of the crèpe because it was six freaking euros, but I felt sick by the end. Sarah and I made a smiley face out of the remaining whipped cream (we are so mature), then went inside to pay in order to avoid having the waitress come out and see what we’d done. While we were paying, a group of people came and sat at our table and were making faces at the gift we left them. Ah, social deviance. I really missed out on that when I was a kid, so I guess I’m slightly making up for it now. Not too much, though. The glass I got for my soda was kinda cool, and Sarah thought I should steal it, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. My mother will be very proud.

(You can’t really see the smiley face, because the cream mixed with the chocolate, and it’s just a big mess. But it’s there, complete with moustache (ripped napkin) and silverware-hat.)

Alright, so a word about French laziness: the French aren’t really that lazy (though, in the comments on my last post, a bona fide Frenchmen agreed that they were lazy, just so's you know), but they do have a more relaxed way of dealing with work. For example, going on strike is the national pastime. And what better to do on a four- or five-day weekend then indulge in the national pastime? While Frenchmen all over the country are trying to profit from the break to go visit friends, family, or the beach, the train conductors decided it was high time for a little grève action. That’s right, the train conductors went on strike just as everyone wanted to go someplace. I’m not sure why they’re on strike exactly, but it must be super important for them to strike at such a busy time. This two-day strike during a holiday must be costing the train companies a fortune.

Has anyone ever read “A Year in the Merde?” If so (all one of you), do you remember when the author talks about the subway strike? He points out that almost all the subway drivers went on strike, but just enough of them stayed working to make commuters think they might have a chance of getting to work on time with the subway. He calls it a sadistic move, creating a skeleton service on certain lines, attracting hordes of desperate commuters “ready to cover the quay with their bodies” (translation from the French, so not quite a direct quote). Anyway, this is exactly what the train conductors did today. Some trains, just a few, are running, meaning that anyone who had been planning to go out of town still has to go down to the train station to see if, by some slim chance, their train is one of those running. If it was a total strike, people would just give up and go on with their days, but as is, they still have to go to the train station, and possibly even wait several hours to see if, God willing, a train will go where they wanted to go at some point in the next 24 hours. Sadistic is the perfect word for it.

“Sadistic” from
  1. The deriving of sexual gratification or the tendency to derive sexual gratification from inflicting pain or emotional abuse on others.
  2. The deriving of pleasure, or the tendency to derive pleasure, from cruelty.
  3. Extreme cruelty.
The word comes from the Marquis de Sade, who was a freak, deriving pleasure from sexual cruelty. He was also French. Coincidence? I’ll let you decide.

Okay, so I’ve talked before about how I don’t like to cook. Well, being on my own for four and a half days, I have to whip something up. Today, I decided to make fried rice. Two things made this hard: 1) I’ve never cooked rice before, and 2) the rice was in a glass jar, not a box with easy-to-follow instructions. I asked the almighty Internet how to cook rice, but still managed to screw it up. I went with the absorption method, where the rice absorbs all the water you add. But I added too much water, and the rice was soggy. No problem, I wanted fried rice anyway, I’ll just fry it nice and good and take care of the sogginess. Well, I fried it nice and good, alright. It was dry and slightly crunchy. But it tasted alright and my tummy’s full, so all’s well that ends well, and now I sort of know how to cook rice! I love learning, don’t you?

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Stupid 5-day Weekend

Ack! Thursday is a holiday (the Ascension, whatever that is), and since the French are the laziest peoples in the world (not really, but sort of), this means a five day weekend. Yes, you heard that right, five days. Much like Americans with Thanksgiving, the French see no point in going to work on Friday if they didn’t go on Thursday. Wednesday is only actually a day off for the kiddoes, who often have Wednesdays off. So technically, it’s only a four-day weekend and I can’t pick on them for that because we also have one four-day weekend during the year.

Anyway, I know I shouldn’t be whining, because I have three days off. Yeah, yeah, yeah, tiny violins playing the saddest song in the world, I know. But my host family is leaving town Wednesday afternoon, and I can’t come with because they’re going to stay with family in Deauville and there isn’t room for me. This means I have absolutely nothing to do in a big empty house for four and a half days!! What am I gwanna do? If I wasn't trying to save every penny, I would go somewhere, anywhere, for the weekend. But I'm trying to save for a trip this summer, and I have no friends in any other town, so I’m stuck. Pooh. Sarah suggested that we go to Albi on Saturday, so I’m excited about that, but I can’t stand the thought of spending Thursday and Friday in the empty house. You know, the way I always do, but without the knowledge that the house will be full and active again at 5 pm.
Hm, I’ve been meaning to check out the big, new library in downtown Toulouse for seven months. I think it’s high time I actually went ahead and did that. It’s odd how much I love libraries and bookstores, considering that I don’t really like reading. Well, okay, I do like to read, it’s just very hard for me. I’ve always been a slow reader, and I lose my concentration pretty quick, so I can usually only read a couple chapters at a time. Once I put a book down (which is often, as I can only read a couple chapters at a time), I won’t pick it back up for days, even if it’s a great book. There are many, many books that I’ve started and finished months or years later. It took me three attempts, over four years, to finish the second Harry Potter book. Granted, it was the worst book in the series, but it should have been easy, right?

If I were rich, I would go here for the weekend:

Finding Peace, Then Losing It

I walked into town today and I kept getting this odd, peaceful feeling that all was right with the world. I call it odd because I never feel that way. I’m a worrywart by nature, always anxious, always worrying about something even if there’s nothing to worry about, and peace isn’t something I’ve experienced very often in my life. But I had moments of it today. I was headed to the local supermarket in search of a box to send some unnecessary things home in advance. On my way, I was thinking about the fact that I don’t speak French as fluently as I had hoped I would. Before I came here, everyone said I would come home speaking fluent French. I do speak it way better than before, but I don’t feel like I’ve reached my goal and I only have…and that’s when I realized it. My big sister, Becky, my bestest friend and roommate for so many years, is going to be here in less than one month! I’m not a particularly smile-at-the-world person, and I feel stupid smiling when no one’s around, but I totally smiled when I realized that. I can’t wait ‘til she gets here, even if it means my sejour in France is over.

Before I entered the store, I got the bright idea to check out back, where I stumbled upon the dumpsters full of nice sturdy boxes of just the right size. There was no one around, so I grabbed one and headed home feeling disturbingly pleased with myself. It felt like getting a free lunch; I didn’t even have to ask anyone!

Part of the trail I walk on has trees growing on either side of it that form a canopy over head. I was looking at the ground, at patches of sunlight coming through the leaves. As the sun was being wishy-washy, these patches peacefully grew brighter, then faded, over and over again, having a very calming effect on me. Later, I passed a parked moving van (ooh! An oxymoron!) It was on a quiet street, which cars rarely use, and everything was quiet except for the sound of Johnny Cash crooning from the radio of the moving van. It was all very poetic.

Later that day…

Okay, all is not right with the world. You see, my tube of toothpaste ran out a few weeks ago, so I’ve been using my host family’s toothpaste. This was a great plan until said host family went on a weekend trip, and when they came back, said toothpaste was not returned to its rightful spot on the bathroom sink. There are, actually, two tubes of toothpaste still in the bathroom, but both of them are strawberry-flavored (different brands, bought on the same day; it baffles the mind, I know). Normally, I like strawberries, but not in a toothpaste. Not at all in a toothpaste. It's just plain wrong. It’s ever so slightly minty, so that you feel like you’re brushing your teeth with something toxic. Every time I brush my teeth, and for ten minutes afterward, I have to fight back the urge to gag.

I have an overly sensitive gag reflex, you see, so I’m incredibly particular about what goes into my mouth. It doesn’t matter how many people tell me snails (escargots) have the texture of chicken, you will not ever see me eating one of those slimy, shriveled, turd-resembling monsters.

Jody in Glasgow, New Year's 2006, the first and last
time she ever got drunk (though this photo was taken in jest,
before the drunkeness that left a hole in the bathroom wall)

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Still Waiting for Captain Oates...

Yesterday when I picked up Narcissus from school, he immediately walked up to me and said, “[Kusems], you can’t tell my mom about the gift I’m making for her for mothers.” Um, okay, I’ll try really hard. Kids are so cute. At least he’s smart enough to recognize that he couldn’t keep the secret to himself, so he should share it with someone other than his mom. When my youngest sister, Amy, was little, you couldn’t tell her anything.

While we’re on the topic of Narcissus stories, the other day he walked out of class with a small piece of paper and handed it to me, saying, “This is for poor kids.” The piece of paper asked for non-perishable food items for the poor. Normally, when the boys get home from school, they have a snack. Narcissus got out the almost empty jar of jam, so I thought he wanted bread and jam for his snack. Nope, apparently he intended to give the almost completely empty jar of jam to the poor. He also tried to get out a bottle of milk. When I told him that we needed to buy a new pot of jam for the poor because ours was almost empty, he responded that they were poor, and didn’t have anything, so they’d appreciate the almost empty jar.

As I mentioned yesterday, Izzi is back in England for good. I saw her for a bit on Friday night, and she gave me a parting gift. I’m a sorry excuse for a friend, so I had no gift for her, but I make myself feel like less of a heel by telling myself that she wouldn’t have had room in her luggage anyway.

Okay, so back in January, Izzi got my sister and I hooked on “The O.C.” One of the main characters on the show has a My Little Pony named Princess Sparkle that occasionally figures into the show. I think Princess Sparkle is purple with pink hair, but she may be pink with purple hair. At any rate, a couple weeks ago, Izzi found a purple, sparkly My Little Pony with shiny pink hair at a second-hand store and couldn’t resist buying it. This is the gift she passed on to me before leaving. I will cherish it always and it will be my encouragement to go to England as soon as possible. Well, England or Southern California, heeheehee.

And finally, a bit of very good news (for me). I’ve been looking for a black cardigan since I came to France. I had one at home, but it started falling to pieces because I wore it so often. In March, I found a really cute black cardy on sale for about $10, and I was ecstatic. I wore it once or twice, then lost it. Nice work, huh? I thought maybe it was in the laundry, still waiting to be washed, but I looked last week and it wasn’t there. The last time I remembered wearing it was at Izzi’s, but she hadn’t seen it anywhere, so I started to think it was lost forever. Then last night, I asked my host mom if she’d seen it (which I probably should have done from the start), and she had been saving it in her closet thinking it belonged to a friend of hers. So now my adorable sweater and I are reunited at last. Yay!!

Okay, that’s all, folks. I hope my sweater talk wasn’t completely boring.

Photos: Princess Sparkle chilling with HIV with the Seattle skyline in the background; my adorable sweater

American Movies

Le sigh. Izzi is gone. How very sad. She left Saturday morning, and I got to see her for a little while Friday night to say goodbye. It is all very triste, but I am determined to go visit her in London (or York) at the soonest possible convenience.

I spent the whole weekend at Sarah’s house, so I didn’t miss Izzi as much (no offense, darlin’; you know I love you). I met a few of Sarah’s friends, plus some random hippies, on Friday night. We tried to go out, but couldn’t find a good nightclub, and all the pubs were closing, so it was the same story as always. [Sidenote: all the pubs here close at 2am on Saturday mornings, but they stay open later on Sunday mornings, so it’s better to go out Saturday night than Friday night.] Not finding anywhere to go, we went to Sarah’s friends’ dorms. There were two guys from Lebanon and a guy from Italy, all students in…something or other. Engineering, maybe? That’s what everyone in this town does, most of them for Airbus, but some for the European Space something or other. We passed the early morning watching “Cinderella Man.” It was a boys’ movie. They attempt to put a storyline to it, but the movie is really only about showing people beating the snot out of each other. Russell Crowe was pretty good in it, but Renee Zellweger bugged me.

Saturday night, Sarah and I tried to watch Eurovision. As an American, I had never heard of Eurovision before I came to France. I guess it's a musical/singing competition to which every European country sends one delegate. Competitors are supposed to be no-names, so they're not often very good. There are judges that vote for the winner, but the viewers also vote for the winner. To avoid nationalism, you are not allowed to vote for the competitor from your own country. The first I heard of the competition was in an hilarious sketch by a Moroccan-French comedian named Gad Elmaleh (I'm in love with this man, but I hear he's married; dang it.) He does an impersonation of a Scandinavian at the Eurovision competition, and he sings a song of made-up, Scandinavian-sounding words, then encourages the audience to join in and looks distraught when no one sings along. Okay, it might not sound hilarious, but trust me, it is. Anyway, the Eurovision competition was Saturday night, and we tried to watch it at Sarah's, but her TV's wouldn't work. The mom of the house doesn't believe in television, so the TV's are only used for watching movies (probably non-violent, educational ones). Instead, we watched “Pride and Prejudice” and “Love, Actually.” P&P was pretty good. I liked that they stayed accurate to the book, and Keira Knightley played the role of Elizabeth Bennett really well. I can’t stand the way Keira Knightley talks, with her jaw all thrust out, and I didn’t care for her acting in Pirates of the Caribbean, but she was good in this movie.
“Love, Actually” is one of my favorite movies (yes, it has Keira Knightley, but she plays a really small part and you aren’t forced to watch her talk too much). I love that it has a bunch of different story lines, and only some of them end happily. I mean, part of me wants them all to end happily, but another part of me knows that would make for a bad film. An “American film,” if you will. All the internationals I’ve met here talk about “typical American films” as if all our films are the same, and their films are different. Apparently all our films have clear good guys, and clear bad guys, and the good guy always wins. But this implies that typical European, typical British, typical Japanese, or any other culture’s films are distinctly different. I was talking about this with Laurent, because we saw the Da Vinci Code together, and he called it a typical American film. He said that some French films follow the “American” pattern. So then, are there a significant number of French films that don’t follow the pattern? Do the majority of French films not follow this pattern? I’m curious to know, because I find it hard to believe that Americans are the only people who like to see happy endings with good people winning and bad people losing. I understand the argument that these films simplify human nature too much, and that a human being is not either all bad or all good. But Americans make plenty of films that address this fact. Not all our films or so black and white. Then again, now that I think about it, the blockbusters, the films that are viewed by the largest number of people usually do follow this pattern. Films with complicated characters don’t appear to entice as many Americans as films with black and white characters.

Eh, whatever. So we’re simple minded. So what? We still RULE THE FREE WORLD. Heehee…just kidding.

Photo: fountain, either Jardin Royal or the garden of the Grand Rond

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Two Versions of One?

Okay, I apologize profusely for blogging four times in one day (FOUR times? I have some serious issues to work through!), but I could not remain silent on this issue.

I just saw the Mary J. Blige and U2 video for One. Why? WHY?? WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYY?????????

No, but seriously, why? Why did they need to reinvent one of the best songs ever written? Why did the (warning: personal opinion ahead!) best band in the world need to hire somebody else to make their song, one of the best songs ever written, fresh? Or new, or hip, or whatever it is they're trying to achieve?

To be honest, I thought the redo sounded alright, nice even. But it was different. I see no reason to mess with a good thing. Moreover, I see no reason to let Mary J. Blige come in and mess with your good things. If it ain't Baroque, don't fix it, and don't let Mary J. Blige "fix" it.

Throughout the video, Bono, The Edge, and Adam are all rocking out, apparently having a good time, but Larry, sweet Larry, looks like he's in agony. He looks bored and annoyed. I bet he was totally against this "bright idea."

I love you U2, but I can't understand what you were after with this.

Tom Hanks' Hair

Okay, this is hilarious. Everyone in my family (including John) is required to read this (all the way through!) The rest of you should read it if you like Tom Hanks, or if you hate Tom Hanks (how could you?), or if you like reminiscing about 80s and 90s hairstyles. It's good comedy. I don't agree with all the opinions of the author, but I like that someone wrote this piece and took the time to assess Tom Hank's hair through the years.

Grading the career of Tom Hanks' Hair

By the way, I saw the Da Vinci Code last night. I haven't read the book(s), so I don't know how Robert Langdon should be played, but I found Tom Hanks' hair gross. It didn't fit with the way he played the character. Maybe the character is supposed to be slightly arrogant or sleezy or whatever, and then the hair would be perfect, but that's now how Tom played him, so it didn't make sense. All in all, the movie was...well...I'm not sure. My feeling of it matched what people have said about the book. I liked the intrigue and the mysteries, but the whole thing just flowed a little too easily. The twists and turns were expected. And Tom and Amelie were constantly getting into trouble, and at the very last second, Every Single Time, they miraculously escaped. But only sort of, because they kept leaving an easy-to-pick-up trail behind them. After being cornered so many times, I expected them to get smart and cover their tracks, but No! Eh. It was alright.

It also probably didn't help that I was watching it in French. Alas.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Pirates and Tattooes

Isn't this the coolest picture ever? Narcissus and I were painting with watercolors the other day, and he made a bit of a mess. He was so proud of his "mega tatouage" (mega tattoes on his forearm, hand, and belly). He was very upset when I told him he had to take his bath.

I painted a picture of pirates...(yes, thank you, I know I'm very talented)

So Narcissus painted a picture of the island where the pirates buried their treasure.

At nighttime, of course. He actually painted the island, then painted over it in black.

Really Stupid, Pointless Meme

Put in your area code

First number of prefix is dating status

1- Single but in love
2- Taken
3- Confused
4- single and confused (that’s me!)
5- taken and Happy
6- single
7- Taken and in Love
8- Want Someone but taken
9- Have a Crush
0- Just Dating
Next number put your current mood

1- Happy
2- Sad
3- Confused
4- Afraid
5- Excited
6- Cheerful
7- Sleepy
8- Angry
9- Stressed
0- Other (I’m slightly bored and generally anxious; as usual)
Next number is the color of your top

1- Black
2- blue
3- Red
4- Orange
5- white
6- Green
7- Yellow
8- Pink
9- Purple
0- Other (pink, of course!)
Next number is the month you were born in

1- Jan. or Feb.
2- Mar. (hey baby, what’s your sign?)
3- April
4- May
5- Jun. or Jul
6- Aug.
7- Sep.
8- Oct.
9- Nov.
0- Dec.
Next number is your fave color

1- Black
2- White
3- Pink
4- Blue
5- Green (yay chlorophyll!)
6- Purple
7- Yellow
8- Orange
9- Red
0- Other
Next number is your favorite sport

1- Soccer
2- Basketball
3- Swimming
4- Baseball (I’m not a sportsy person, but I’ve always loved playing and watching baseball)
5- Tennis
6- Football
7- Volleyball and/or Softball
8- Golf
9- Wrestling
0- Other
Last number is your sign

1- Aries (I have no idea what that says about me, and I don’t care)
2- Leo
3- Sagittarius
4- Taurus or Virgo
5- Capricorn
6- Gemini
7- Libra
8- Aquarius
9- Cancer
0- Scorpio or Pisces

I stumbled on this meme today at work in progress. At first, I thought it was something completely different than it is. The blogger had titled the entry “what your digits say about you,” I thought you were supposed to use your actual phone number and it was like a personality test. But that was wrong (and the title was misleading). You’re just supposed to choose the things that fit you, and construct a phone number from it. That seems way less interesting then a personality test. Pooh. Plus, what if you’re “taken and happy” but also “in love?” The test implies that “taken and happy” and “taken and in love” are mutually exclusive. You can’t be in love and also happy? Harsh!

At first, when I was reading it wrong, I thought there were ten questions, not seven, and you were supposed to start by area code. I had to laugh because the first number of my area code (back in the States) is 4, which corresponds to “single and confused.” So true! But it turns out that’s not at all what’s going on. I am thoroughly disappointed in this meme. It is poorly written, confusing, and lame anyway. Even if it were written better, is still would be a totally pointless waste of time. Meme’s are supposed to interesting. This one is not.

So my number is 425-400-2541 (yeah yeah yeah, I’m a snobby 425er). Now what am I supposed to do with it? Is this supposed to tell me something insightful about me? Or is it simply to tell my blogging audience a bunch of useless information about me? Most memes are designed to do that, which is fine, but this one really bugs me. If I wanted to tell you all that, why wouldn’t I find a simpler way to do it? Why wouldn’t I just give my answers (well, I did, actually)? Who of you really wants to scroll up and down trying to figure out what my “phone number” actually means? I certainly wouldn't do it, no offense. I’d like to track down the writer of this meme and give him or her a piece of my mind.

Photo: older photo of Narcissus, but the expression on his face corresponds to how I feel about this meme.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Blonde Math Test

My grandparents sent me this. Awesome!

Math test: It is our understanding that the blonde student was given credit for the answer, but the Board of Education has warned math teachers to be more explicit in the future.

Trop style!

Narcissus' hair has been really long lately. The last time he got it cut was back in December or January. His mom has wanted to cut it for a while, but his dad likes shaggy hair. His mom finally got it cut today because his bangs were covering his eyes.

Before (his hair was actually longer than this, but this is the most current picture I had of long hair): channeling Tom Welling/The Beatles. He really was starting to look like one of the Fab Four. I loved the little curls over the ears.

After: channeling Alfalfa (Little Rascals), minus the insane cowlick thing. The hairdresser split his hair right down the center and put gel in it. It didn't last long.

Speaking of Narcissus, I don't want to jinx it by saying anything, but I think he's starting to like me. I've been here nearly 9 months, I'll be leaving in 5 weeks, and now he starts to like me. Actually, I'm not sure I could say he likes me. He expresses his hatred of me far less frequently, like only once every two weeks!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Little Princes and Velvetine Rabbits

Accidental Excursions posted a passage from the "children's" book "The Velveteen Rabbit" by Margery Williams. It was a very sweet passage that reminded me of one from "The Little Prince" by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Here is the passage from "The Velveteen Rabbit":
"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"
"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."
"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.
"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."
"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"
"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

And here is the one from "The Little Prince":

"Men," said the fox. "They have guns, and they hunt. It is very disturbing. They also raise chickens. These are their only interests. Are you looking for chickens?"

"No," said the little prince. "I am looking for friends. What does that mean--'tame'?"

"It is an act too often neglected, "said the fox. "It means 'to establish ties.'"

"'To establish ties'?"

"Just that," said the fox. "To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world..."

"I am beginning to understand," said the little prince. "There is a flower...I think that she has tamed me..."

"It is possible," said the fox. "On the Earth, one sees all sorts of things."

"Oh, but this is not on the Earth!" said the little prince.

The fox seemed perplexed, and very curious.

"On another planet?"


"Are there hunters on that planet?"


"Ah, that is interesting! Are there chickens?"


"Nothing is perfect," sighed the fox.

But he came back to his idea.

"My life is very monotonous," the fox said. "I hunt chickens; men hunt me. All the chickens are just alike, and all the men are just alike. And, in consequence, I am a little bored. But if you tame me, it will be as if the sun came to shine on my life. I shall know the sound of a step that will be different from all the others. Other steps send me hurrying back underneath the ground. Yours will call me, like music, out of my burrow. And then look: you see the grain-fields down yonder? I do not eat bread. Wheat is of no use to me. The wheat fields have nothing to say to me. And that is sad. But you have hair that is the color of gold. Think how wonderful that will be when you have tamed me! The grain, which is also golden, will bring me back the thought of you. And I shall love to listen to the wind in the wheat..."

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


I called Mama on Mother's Day using a prepaid phone card that required I type in a long code. I read the code and typed it into the phone, thinking ", eight, sept, one..."

Photo: Jody in Glasgow

Adventures in France: Getting There

Instead of having French class this morning, everyone in the class met up at our professor’s house for lunch. It was potluck style, and everyone was supposed to bring a dish typical to their native country. Since America doesn’t have many stereotypically American dishes, and I can’t cook, I made chocolate chip cookies. I didn’t think people would appreciate it if I showed up with McDonald’s.

We talked a lot about what it’s like to be an au pair, how we got here, and it turns out it was a bit different for Jascha than it was for Jody and me. I always forget that it’s way easier for Europeans to move around Europe. What with the European Union, a European can move to any other nation in Europe without too much trouble. They may have a hard time finding a job if they don’t speak the language well, but they don’t require a visa or anything. Non-Europeans, on the other hand, have to jump through all sorts of bureaucratic hoops. People keep asking me if I’ll stay in France when I’m done as an au pair, but for us non-Europeans, that’s not really a choice.

Last August, after we had completed all the necessary paperwork and received all the necessary permission to be au pairs in France, Jody and I had to go to San Francisco to get our visas. We couldn’t just go to the French consulate in Seattle, we had to show up in person in San Francisco. San Fran is a thirteen hour drive from Seattle, and we had to wait until the last minute to go down there (it was one or two weeks before we were to get on the plane to France). We planned the trip so that we would arrive at the consulate first thing in the morning (unshowered and unrested), so Becky*, Jody, and I were driving through the night.

Becky and me in San Fran after 13 hours
driving through the night. I hate this
picture of me, though I think Becky
looks really cute.

The consulate had a security guard who literally barked unintelligible orders at all the visa-seekers in pidgin English. She was a fairly small, Asian woman, but she was incredibly intimidating and by far the most unpleasant person I’ve ever come across. She ordered us to turn off all cell phones before passing through her metal detector. We asked if Becky could come in with us just to wait, and the woman glared her permission. Jody passed through the check, then Becky walked up. Becky had silenced her cell phone, thinking that was enough, and the woman practically guillotined her, shouting, “I tell you to turn off! Why you not turn off?!” It seemed like everyone that went through there only just managed to pass the security check. She instructed us to sit in a row of seven chairs, and when the person in the first chair was called up to a window, the rest of us were supposed to scoot down accordingly. Some people didn’t quite understand her, and when they didn’t scoot down, she would lean in to bark at them. She managed to intimidate every person who walked into the consulate so much that we were all terrified and nervous for the entire time we were in the consulate. We weren’t sure if we were allowed to talk, but no one wanted to take the chance of being yelled at, so no one said a word. We sat still, scared out of our wits, and listened to the people at the various windows. They were all young, between 18 and 25 years old, and a bunch of them were in a group that had come down from Seattle together. As I sat silently in my chair, I listened to three or four people being told they didn’t have all the items, pieces of paper, photos, proofs of existence necessary to get their visas. Jody and I had done our internet research before driving down, as we didn’t want to get to San Fran just to be sent back to Seattle. The girls at the windows argued angrily with the French ambassadors. “How was I supposed to know I needed photos/a copy of my plane ticket/my contract?” The French ambassadors, all of whom were your typical, uncaring, apparently bored Frenchmen, would respond to these comments by directing the angry, accusatory Americans to a photo booth/internet café down the street, as opposed to telling them that all necessary documents were listed on the consulates website. I don’t think the ambassadors were even aware that the website listed the required documents. Anyway, after hearing the same conversation pass at four different windows, I was terrified. I triple-checked that all my documents were there (they were, but who knew if they would want a different one that I didn’t have!) Then a new, but no less scary conversation took place at one of the windows. The girl was chatting amiably with the Frenchmen behind the window (who, for the record, was not particularly amiable in return), and there didn’t appear to be any problems, though I couldn’t be sure, as they were conversing in French. She was totally showing off, that little…show off!

Finally, it was my turn. I approached the window. The guy behind looked at me. He didn’t say anything (typical French), which did nothing to ease my shattered nerves. French bureaucrats expect you to start the conversation, telling them what it is you want. They don’t ask, “how can I help you?” because, really, they’d rather not have to. When I told him why I was there, he started asking for documents. I kept waiting for him to ask for one I didn’t have, but it never happened (thank goodness!). I think Jody and I were the only people there that morning who weren’t missing any documents. In the end, we received temporary visas (what?!) and were told to be sure that our passports were stamped when we arrived in Paris.

Altogether, it was a terrifying and unnerving experience, but oddly enough, it didn’t end when we left San Francisco. The San Francisco French consulate managed to scare us even as we entered France. You see, our flight involved a plane change in Copenhagen and our passports were stamped by customs in Copenhagen. The flight from Copenhagen to Paris does not require passing through customs in Paris, since it’s travel within the European Union. So we got off the plane in Paris and were directed to the baggage claim, but we were freaked out because the lady in San Francisco had told us to be sure we got our passports stamped in Paris. We wandered around and found a customs agent and begged him to stamp our passports, but he refused.

Sidenote: when I walked up to the customs agent, nervous because I was about to speak French for the first time in three years, I prefaced my plea with “We’re American,” to which he responded, “I’m French.” Thank you, Captain Obvious!

When it came time to get our permanent visas, no one cared at all that our passports were stamped in Copenhagen and not Paris. Why was the woman in San Francisco so emphatic about it? She also told us to register with city hall within 8 days of our arrival, which we didn’t do, and no one cared. Whatever.

*Becky is my older sister. She's two years older than me, while Jody is two years younger than me. There's also Amy, who's four years younger than me.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Oh, Sunny Day

Yay for sunshine! Yay for spring!

Bacchanalian Reveling (Okay, not really)

Ah, another Saturday night spent wandering around Toulouse with random French people. Izzi and I have gotten really good at that.

Izzi leaves France for good next Saturday, so we decided to go out this weekend. We have tried going out a few times now, and we have never actually set foot in a single nightclub, even when we have a specific place in mind to go. We thought maybe we’d have better luck (and more fun, besides) if we invited everyone we know here in France. That is a grand total of three people, one of whom already had plans.

I shouldn’t really complain, because we actually had a very good day and a relatively entertaining night. We started by going to the Musée des Augustins (convent turned museum), which was pretty nice. Our group consisted of Izzi, me, Laurent (French guy), and Sarah (British au pair). They had some sculptures, lots of paintings, and several grave stones and covers. Highlights for me were a creepy sculpture called Cauchemar (nightmare) and a sculpture of a guy who looked remarkably like Vince Noir from The Mighty Boosh. There was also a really huge, imposing sculpture of a bishop or priest of some sort who looked like he was going to crack your skull open with a crucifix. Scary! (Sorry for the fuzzy pics; no flash allowed.)

Izzi, Sarah, and I then spent the rest of the day chillin’ downtown. In the evening, we met up with Jascha (German male au pair who replaced my sister). Sarah had to wake up early this morning to go on an archeological dig (sweet!), so she couldn’t come out clubbing with us, but the four of us hung out, drank beers (not me) and chatted at Izzi’s until nearly 1am. We had decided to go to a nightclub down the street from Izzi’s house, but Jascha wanted to get drinks in a pub first. Thus commenced the night of wandering, though Jascha made sure that it was very purposeful wandering. After wandering for a while, Jascha approached a lone French guy to ask about good places to go. The guy took us to one place, then changed his mind and took us to another club. Jascha still wanted to go to a pub to fill up on semi-cheap drinks, so we left random French guy, vowing to return. The wandering began again, until Jascha approached a large group of young French people and asked for pub recommendations. They told us to come with them, and we walked across half of Toulouse (we had already walked across the other half at this point) to an empty bar where one of the French guys bought a bottle of shots. There was roughly 30 shots-worth of booze in this bottle, and he very generously shared with everyone in the group. He was really cute and flirting with me (yay!) but apparently slightly crazy, and possibly bi-sexual. His friend, who was pissed (in the British context, not the American, thus “drunk” and not “angry”) got up on stage, pulled down his pants and underwear, and started jumping up and down. Then Hot Flirty Guy joined him. I’m an innocent, naïve little thing, so I turned the other direction and pretended nothing was happening.

They then led us to a near-by pub that was packed with people where Hot Flirty Guy seemed to know the bouncer. I was following him in when Izzi grabbed my arm and dragged me back out. Apparently Jascha had completely forgotten about the beer in his hand, which pissed the bouncer off. He dumped out Jascha’s beer and refused to let him in. Izzi and I weren’t gonna ditch him, but Hot Flirty Guy insisted that he had to hang out in this pub for at least 15 minutes. He tried to bargain with the bouncer to let Jascha in, then he tried to bargain with us. He told us to go to another pub for 15 minutes, then meet him outside and we’d all go to a nightclub and dance the morning away. We agreed (sort of), so he left and Izzi and Jascha managed to convince slightly tipsy me that the guy was not hot enough to overlook his craziness and exhibitionism. I’m kind of worried about the fact that I didn’t recognize that he was a weirdo. Thank goodness for Izzi. Anyway, it was half past three in the morning, so we gave up entirely on the club scene and went home.

So. We have been trying to go out to a club in Toulouse since Izzi’s birthday in February, and it simply was not meant to be. Izzi and I were not meant to go clubbing in this town. Alas. All in all, though, I was pleased with the night because 1) I got flirted with by a hottie (granted, he was odd), 2) I got several yummy, fruity shots for free, 3) I got out of the house, 4) I hung out with Izzi, and 5) I didn’t spend a dime, which is good, because I didn’t have any. I was borrowing money from Izzi (who rocks, by the way!) and I was able to give it all back to her at the end of the night. Oh, and 6) I got to know Sarah and Jascha better, so hopefully I’ll still have people to hang out with when Izzi’s gone.

Random French weirdness: According to Hot Flirty Guy (who was totally rocking a pink t-shirt, by the way), it is French tradition for the man to sit on the woman’s knee, and not the other way around. He told me this as he sat on my lap. Um, okay, whatever. You’re cute.

Photos: Cauchemar and Vince Noir-esque dude

Friday, May 12, 2006


"Wooden horses from the 18th century"


I experimented some more with my camera. You can change the color that the "color accent" function focuses on.

Random Frenchness: The garbage is picked up at 11pm. Maybe that's not abnormal, but where I come from, the garbage man gives you an unpleasant wake-up call at 5:30 or 6 in the morning. Nighttime pick-up is so much cooler!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Experimenting with my camera

Apparently, my camera has a "color accent" feature. Fun! So far, it only seems to pick up green and yellow. I'll have to keep experimenting.

That's my purse. It's green, like most of my purses, my winter coat, and a good portion of my clothing. Yay, green! The pin on the right says "Legalize Frostitution," which prompted Izzi to ask what frosting is.

"You know, the stuff they put on cakes or cupcakes."
"You mean, icing?"

Same thing! Silly Brits... And speaking of Brits, when I say that's my purse, it means "handbag" in British. But for the record, my "purse" (or wallet, in American) is green, too, with a little yellow pineapple embroidered on the front. So cute! I will never replace it until the day it falls to shreds.

I learn so much from Izzi!

Le Gers

On Sunday, Aphrodite competed in a sailing regata on a small lake in the Gers region of France. We go to this lake often, as it's not far from Toulouse, and I love driving there. We drive through the most beautiful scenery I've seen in France. Granted, I haven't seen much of France, but still. It's pretty. It's mostly green farmland, with patchwork-y hills.

Here are Hercules, my host mom, and Athena (aka "Clop-clop," due to the crutches she's been on for a few weeks).

Random French weirdness: a side-by-side refrigerator, with the freezer and the fridge vertically parallel and often with a water- and ice-dispenser built into the freezer door, is called a "refrigerateur Americain" or "American fridge." If you want to buy one, you go to the appliance store and ask for an American fridge. Does this mean that other types of fridges aren't American?

In Case You Were Wondering...

This entry is for anyone who hasn’t been reading my MSN weblog.

Last June, I graduated from the University of Washington with a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology. I was working as an undergraduate assistant in a laboratory studying cyanobacteria, but as I was no longer an undergrad, my boss couldn’t keep me on past September. I needed to start looking for a job, but slacked off until after graduation. Meanwhile, my younger sister had accepted a job as an au pair in southwest France and was planning to leave the States in August. About a week after I graduated, my sister received an email from her future French boss asking if she had any other friends wanting to be au pairs. The woman had a friend who also needed one. And that is how I got to France: by being a lazy bum and not updating my résumé just long enough to have a job handed to me on a silver platter.

My host family is pretty cool. Every other au pair I know lives with slightly crazy people who take advantage of her. Not only does my host family not overuse me, they actually underuse me, and still pay me as much as overused au pairs get. There are four kids in the family, 15-year-old Athena, 13-year-old Aphrodite, 9-year-old Hercules, and 5-year-old Narcissus (these are my nicknames, by the way, which reflect their personalities pretty accurately). I walk Narcissus to and from school every day, give the boys their baths in the evening, then help Hercules with his English studies. The girls are autonomous, so I don’t work with them or order them around at all. We just watch MTV together (dubbed “Made,” “Pimp My Ride,” and “Room Raiders.”) Other than that, I occasionally do a little ironing. I have the rest of the day free, and weekends are free. I spend the vast majority of my day on my laptop wasting my youth away. I would explore France more, but 1.) I’m a homebody, and 2.) I have no money. Au pairing does not pay very well. On Mondays and Thursdays for 2.5 hours each, I take a free French class with senile teachers. Everyone in the class is really nice, but it is incredibly boring. On Fridays, I go out to lunch with a French guy so that he can practice his English and I can practice my French.

Oh, I forgot to mention, Athena and Hercules both speak fluent English. Aphrodite only recently started learning English, so she has lots of trouble, but she usually practices her English on me. In other words, I don’t speak much French at home, and I haven’t learned much in these eight months. On any given day, I speak more English than French. It’s slightly frustrating, but whatever. I’m too lazy to do anything about it.

My sister was here with me for the first six months, and that was awesome, but she had to go home early and I’ve faced the last two months without her. In January, we met an English au pair (Izzi), and she has kept me company since Jo (my sister) left. I’ve made a handful of acquaintances my age in the last eight months, but haven’t really kept in touch. I need to fix that, though, because Izzi is going back to England in ten days, and I will be so very lonely without her, even if she does make fun of my American accent, and even if she does only like me because I laugh at her jokes.

So there you have it. I set foot back on American soil this July, and then I have no idea what the future holds. Hm, I didn’t mean that to sound so cheesy. I just mean I’ve been lazy up ‘til now and still haven’t updated my résumé or started looking for jobs. You know that saying about life handing you lemons? Up until now, life has consistently handed me the opposite of lemons (not sure what that is; strawberries? Peaches?). It’s made me lazy.

Photo: Izzi and crazy Jo

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Tired of Being Tired

My last few blogs have been riddled with emotion, mostly negative. The last two entries look tame, but that’s after serious editing. For over a week now, I’ve been struggling with mild depression and excessive fatigue. This is nothing new to me; I was diagnosed with idiopathic hypersomnia (IH) two years ago, after struggling with it for at least two years. After being diagnosed, my frustrations only increased. Being diagnosed with idiopathic hypersomnia is not like being diagnosed with many other conditions. The “idiopathic” means “we don’t know what causes it and we have only a very vague idea of how to treat it.” It’s a neurological condition, and it affects your brain’s ability to function properly. Knowing that you have it basically means resigning yourself to a decreased ability to function, for the rest of your life, with little hope of treatment. I was put on Ritalin, which made me more drowsy, then dextroamphetamine (basically, prescription Speed). The dextroamphetamine sort of worked, but exacerbated my very mild OCD and paranoia, and made me less hungry, so that I lost 20 pounds in a month. And then I was dropped from my father’s health insurance in March, 2005, and haven’t been treated for IH since. Not being treated isn’t really a big deal to me, because it feels exactly the same as being treated, except that I gained back those 20 pounds.

Since I graduated university last June and moved to France in September, my responsibilities and stress level have been greatly diminished. In the past eight months, I haven’t noticed much excessive sleepiness, but that may be because I don’t do anything all day. I mostly stay in my room sitting at my computer. Since February especially, I’ve felt particularly good. I still have no energy and get bored easily, but I haven’t felt sleepy during the day. But last week, my IH came back with a vengeance. I’ve been going to bed late, sleeping late, getting 10 or 12 hours of sleep a night, feeling great for the first part of the day, then crashing in the afternoon, then feeling better again by evening.

I was doing my best to deal with all this as if nothing was wrong, when I stumbled upon a weblog where someone was describing hormonal troubles. She mentioned something called “adrenal fatigue” that has to do with your kidneys having trouble producing the right kinds of hormones in the right amounts, causing fatigue and lack of energy. She gave a list of symptoms from some doctor’s book, and these symptoms were all very familiar. Now I’m curious if what I have is really IH, or something related to my kidneys. Instead of being on stimulants, should I be on hormone additives? I’ve been scouring the internet for hours now, and have found no helpful information whatsoever. I can’t even tell if adrenal fatigue is a recognized caused of hypersomnia, or if it’s just some crackpot’s theory.

Sigh. Every time I’ve ever done a sleep disorder search on the internet, I’ve become seriously frustrated. I can’t remember ever searching for information on the topic without crying at some point during the search. There is very little info to be found, and you have to search carefully and tirelessly in order to find it, but you suffer from freaking fatigue, making careful, tireless searches impossible. Plus you have to sift through medical jargon, infinitely harder when your brain is perpetually fuzzy.

I know I have an awesome life, and God has given me so much to be grateful for. I feel kind of ungrateful complaining about this, but I HATE HYPERSOMNIA!!! I just want to be me again…

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Gimme Some Love, Sugah

I hope this doesn’t offend anyone (I don’t see how it could, but whatev), but I love Asians. Especially sweet Asian girls. I miss being surrounded by them. You don’t see a whole lot of Asians in Toulouse, though you see a few. Lately, every time I’ve seen an Asian, I’ve had this strong urge to hug them or fawn over them or something. How odd is that?

Needless to say, I miss my Asian friends (don’t worry, I miss all my non-Asian friends, too!) Last spring, before I knew I was coming to France, I had planned to (someday) go to Taiwan with my friend Tina. I’ve never before had an interest to go to Asia (no offense or nothin’), but thinking about going with her, and buying tons of cheap rip-off purses and sunglasses got me really excited to go. Maybe it was just the shopper in me coming out.

Speaking of shopping, I had a rough week and was looking forward to getting in some shopping therapy today. I headed to Toulouse but only lasted two hours. After one hour, I was getting overwhelmed and anxious (and not finding anything cute), but I forced myself to stick with it for another hour. What is up with me lately? My hypersomnia must be kicking in again. I’ve been an emotional wreck. It’s like I’m PMSing, but it’s not time for that yet. I felt fine on the way to town. I walked to the train feeling all bouncy and content and enjoying France for the first time in a week. The trees that line the path were in bloom. After being cranky for the last two days, I was feeling remarkably better. And then it dissipated while shopping. Isn’t shopping supposed to make me feel better, not worse?

Sigh. When I thought about it, I realized that I always get this way when I shop alone. So clearly, I can’t go shopping alone. But the only people that I enjoy shopping with are my sisters. When I go with other people, I’m too shy to go in all the stores I want to check out. Why, Kusems? Why?? Note to self: add that to the list of things to get right on over.

Well, I bought some gifts for the fam (no, I’m not telling what). I can’t wait until I have money and can actually buy things for myself when I go shopping. It’s not that I don’t buy things for myself, it’s just that I shouldn’t be buying them. I have a three week trip around France to pay for, for goodness’s sake!

Random French weirdness: In the French-dubbed third Lord of the Rings, when Pippin sings his song for the kind of Gondor, the song is dubbed in French. What's up with that?

Friday, May 05, 2006


It took me a while to decide on a name for this weblog, not because I had so many fantastic names to choose from, but because I'm the least creative person on the planet. I have the imagination of a loaf of bread. A loaf of white bread, to be more accurate. But I like this name, because it acknowledges the silliness of blogging. I read an online essay yesterday called “Why I F@&%ing Hate Weblogs.” I had heard the arguments before and I agree with them for the most part. There are so many weblogs out there that are just, well, boring. I especially love (read: detest) the blogs by 12-year-old girls that are all, "Ash was mad @ me today. I dunno Y. Like, mayB cuz I kist Brandon @ the party this weekend. Whatev. Shout out to Heather! Luv ya, girl!" Gag! Personally, I attempt to be entertaining. If you want people to read, you have to give them a reason to, right? I have a pretty cynical writing voice, which is really just an attempt to make people laugh. I love my life and the people in it, so if I sound like I’m whining about someone, I’m likely doing it for comic effect. I apologize profusely if you don’t find me funny or entertaining. Feel free to forget about my blog and never read it again.

That’s one thing about me (the real me, not the writing me): I apologize profusely for anything and everything. It’s because of my Over-active Guilt Complex.

Anyway, “Superfluosity” sums up what I think about my propensity for blogging. First of all, this is my second weblog. Why on earth do I need two weblogs? Because is prettier than MSN Spaces. Yes, I realize that’s totally superficial and that having two weblogs is superfluous. And hence the name. Secondly, blogging in general is superfluous as I realize that I’m not really enriching anyone’s life by telling you all what I think and how I feel. I promise, though, that I do have real motives for blogging:

  1. I’m a temporary expatriate (who hopes to someday be a more permanent expat), and I blog to keep my friends and family posted on what I’m doing in France. Actually, it’s more like, I keep them posted on how crazy or bizarre the French are.
  2. Blogging, like writing, helps me sort out my thoughts. My brain doesn’t work in a logical, orderly fashion. I realize that I could write, or type, privately and not expose it to the world, but I am weak and need constant ego-stroking and the Almighty Internet so graciously has provided a fun outlet to satisfy that need. It’s only right that I take advantage of that, right? Right??
The first motive was my original motive for blogging. After I started blogging, a third motive came up.

  1. I’m addicted and I can’t stop. Before I fall asleep every night, or anytime I do anything remotely interesting during the day, I start mentally writing weblog entries. I call this “bloghead syndrome” and hope to one day beat it, but doubt that will happen anytime soon. As an au pair in a foreign country, I have way too much time on my hands to not be addicted to blogging. When I join the real world again in a month and a half, perhaps I will get a life and no longer have time to blog. One can only hope.