First thing’s first, the reason why I’m here (theoretically): classes! The French university system is, shockingly, very French in nature. The essence of the French higher education system is quite easy to grasp from the comfort of an armchair, bed, or, if you’re a pregnant woman giving birth while reading this blog, stirrups. Think of any principle of user-friendliness and then imagine its diametric opposite. If the Sorbonne’s motto weren’t “Here and anywhere on Earth” (read: “Yeah, you could go elsewhere. But we’re Parisian, so why would you?”), it would be “You’re welcome” (read: “L’Oreal is a lying bitch. You are not worth it.”) Lectures consist of the professor. TDs (which are like discussion sections without the discussion) is a dish based on the fine French educational tradition of pedagogery with that subtle hint of condescension that is the lifeblood of French culture.
Which isn’t to say I dislike it. On the contrary, I find that the lectures are fascinating, dense, and comprehensive. I actually feel like I’ve learned a fact every time I come out of a class. There is only a small chance that this is a product not of the level of instruction but the sheer mental effort I expend on actually paying attention. Because French people talk really fast and sometimes you spend an entire lesson learning about the French monarchy and wondering why they’re talking about sour bread until you realize that the word batard here refers to illegitimate son. And not this:
Hello. I am a baguette and I am next in line for the throne. Bow to me, for I am the Carb King.
Also, because I’m crazy, I’m taking Russian. Which is three hours on a Wednesday in a room that barely fits all of the students in it. And my Russian professor is this young woman who can speak about as loud as a mouse on sedatives. And quite often I’m not entirely sure whether she’s forming words at all or just moving her lips and squeaking in a vaguely guttural and Slavic way. In any case, her timidity brings out the truly terrifying side of the French student in that they completely disrespect her in every way. When a French student doesn’t respect the teacher, he or she talks. Not over the teacher, because that would imply in some way that the teacher had managed to make any sort of quantifiably significant impact on the life of the student. No, they simply talk as though they had agreed with their friends beforehand to come and hang out in the classroom. Every so often they copy something down off the board, but it’s more a validation of the chalk board’s existence than it is of her. In fact, I would say that the primary instructor is the chalk and my Russian teacher is an Agent of the Chalk. Her general ineffectuality is compounded by the fact that she never brings a real eraser and so instead uses a sponge and a bucket of water. Which requires her to bend over ever five minutes and literally make an ass of herself. It’s depressing. Also the room humidifies itself and that’s a huge problem but separate and for another time.
Next topic: Family! As I’ve said already, my host family is so awesome it’s only appropriate that their toilet glitters. The mom interviews hackers for a living and she also can talk for an hour without stopping. Both of these things are awesome, because as long as she talks I can pretend like I’m not totally awkward. Her husband is equally nice, although they truly are an opposites-attract couple in that he is a man of few words. But he laughs at my jokes when I’m quick enough on my pieds to tell one in French. So there’s that. And the sister who lives with them is probably reading this blog so hi Annie! (J’espère que tu ne seras pas dérangée d’être mentionnée sur ce blog. Tu seras célébrée aussi quand je deviendrai une vedette de l’Internet).
Their cat, however, is another story. We do not get along. He is a tiny clawed terror and is definitely channeling the spirit of my ex-dear cat Jake, who stopped talking to me when I left him for College. Which totally isn’t fair because he still gets to sleep in my bed every night except those nights that I’m at home. When he sleeps in the hallway like the jilted ex-pet that he is. If you’re reading this Jake, I think it’s totally immature that after two years you haven’t either moved out or moved on. Or both. What was I talking about? Oh right, cats. Anyway, the essential part of the story is this: I love cats but this cat scratched me because I wouldn’t share my chips. Which meant I missed my favorite part of the episode of Friends that I was watching. Luckily, Bable the Chat will be leaving soon to join my host sister in Nantes, where he can terrorize her for a change.