28 September 2007

A few tidbits for you Anglophones and a lot of linguistics for the Francophones

This post won't be very interesting unless you speak French, because I'm going to put in a lot of linguistic trivia that can't be translated. But first the anglophone news:

Two recommendations:
- Go to your library (or just search YouTube) and find some music by Tri Yann. It's a Breton/French folk group which was founded in the early 1970s by three guys names Jean, Jean-Paul, and Jean-Lous hence the Breton name: "Three Johns." Some songs will remind you of Peter, Paul, and Mary, some will remind you of old Irish music, which makes sense because Breton is a Celtic language and the cultures have a lot of similarities. So don't be surprised if one track has bagpipes and the next has electric guitars! All of the music is really fun, and most is very cheerful. You'll like it even if you don't speak French. Or Breton.

- If you like herbal tea, Lipton makes an infusion which is probably called "Marocco" in English. It's mint-spice "tea," and I like it a lot. It comes in what they call pyramid-shaped teabags, but they're actually tetrahedrons. Nonetheless, the teabag shape is entertaining.

Progress in Dutch
We learned the alphabet and did some more pronunciation, and did a lot of practice. Our language teacher seems to have the same philosophy as the Russians: "повторение мать учения," repetition is the mother of learning. It's becoming easier to see how Dutch is related to Middle and Old English. With Dutch pronunciation, you'd actually pronounce a word spelled "knight" [knixt], like it was once pronounced in English (that's kneexxt, pronouncing the k and with the x as a guttural sound).
See you later, unilingual folk. Remember, though, "Knowing only one language is a handicap: one only sees the world in one way."

Francophones rejoice! Trivia abounds below.
- in French, reading silently while moving your lips is "oraliser," not "lire en bougeant les lèvres" or however you want to try to say it.
There are three main reasons why French spelling is a nightmare:
- French is a very "inégal" language: there are no phonemes represented by a single letter (the s sound can be written s, ss, c, ls, ti, ç, x, sc, cc, tz, or st) and no letter is pronounced in one single way all the time.
- In the middle ages, there was confusion because a word could be pronounced multiple ways depending on the meaning. For example, PIE could be pronounced [pi] or [pie], so they added a d when it meant foot, to make reading easier.
- My favorite: ever wonder why there are so many silent Ls at the ends of words? Outil, fil, and so on. Turns out that public scribes were paid by the letter, so they liked to up their salary by changing spelling slightly. That also can account for some of the places where you're got "au" instead of a simple "o."
- The city of Metz is pronounced "mess." Why? "On dit /mess/ au lieu de /metz/ parce que les gens de /metz/ seraient des "metzains." (pun, since it sounds like the word for doctor)
- One of the reasons we need spelling is to make communication easier. Our professor gave an example of a "polysémie syntaxique avec déplacement de frontières" that she heard on the radio. The news program was telling the outcome of the trial of a German man who had been charged with some serious crime. However, it was decided that he wasn't "solidement allemand." Quoi?!? Oh-- "solide mentalement." Big difference. However, in writing or reading you'd never make that mistake.
- A punny advertisement that could end up confusing children: "Votre pharmacien à un réponse à toux." (toux means a cough)

Finally, a poem written by the famous poet Verlaine, to his friend Duvigneaux who was a proponent of adopting a more phonetic spelling system. I don't think this is the whole poem, but it's all I could find through Google. Vous devrez oraliser ce poème, impossible de lire normalement!

É coi vréman, bon duvignô,
Vous zôci dou ke lé zagnô,
Et meïeur ke le pin con manj,
Vous metr'an ce courou zétranj?

Contr(e) ce tâ de brav(e) jan
O fon plus bête que méchan
Drapan leur linguistic étic
Dans l'ortograf(e) fonétic ?

Kel ir(e) donc vous zembala ?
Vi zavi de cé zoizola [HA!!! That's my favorite.]
Sufi d'une parol(e) verde.

Et pour leur prouvé san déba
Kil é dé mo ke n'atin pa
Leur sistem(e), dison-leur :.... !

O revwar, me zami! Ke votr(e) wi ken çe pas bie.

26 September 2007

Classes and Cooking

There are only a few weeks this semester where every single one of my classes meets, and this is the first. It's been quite busy! So here's a quick summary of what I've had so far, and a recipe follows.
- Monday's translation class was boring. We just went through a translation, and the teacher didn't do it in a very interesting way.
- In the evening I had my first Dutch class, and it was fun. The next one is tomorrow, and I'm going to spend a chunk of this evening studying. My first homework!
- Tuesday's translation class was really interesting. The first session wasn't too great, since all we did was silently translate, as much of the passage as we could get to. However, yesterday he handed back our translations, with mistakes marked, and we went through it as a class. This teacher is really good: he pointed out the places where literal translation was or wasn't appropriate, talked about grammar challenges, and taught expressions. There are four exchange students in the class, and he has us "vote" on which expression is most commonly used now. Best of all, though his job is to explain the grammatical intricacies of English, he also points out bits of French grammar and expressions for us, so that we learn on both ends. It's a really good class. Homework is to finish the translation for next time, and we'll continue going through it.
- Today I had my second anthropology class, and it was again interesting. The first part of the lecture seemed to be rather pointless, but the end was really interesting. He talked about the evolution of the terms used in anthropology (for example, far away societies that are very different from ours were once called barbarian, then savage, then primitive, then archaic, and now they're called exotic), and about the roots of the word ethnologie, which is the French word for social and cultural anthropology. Of course, anything remotely related to language and linguistics is fascinating, so I really enjoyed that part of the lecture. We also read and discussed an interview with a prominent anthropologist about contemporary ethnography (English equivalent of ethnologie), and though it was pretty dense and technical, I could tell by glancing at what my neighbors were underlining that I was reading it at the same speed as the French students.

Now a recipe!
Pizza Sandwiches (a Kel Miller invention)
Slice a soft roll in half. Smear soft cheese (or whatever cheese you have around) on one half, and spread a couple spoonfuls of tomato sauce (jarred pasta sauce works well) on the other half. Put a few slices of salami or sausage in the middle, and any vegetables you like. I like mushrooms. Sprinkle on some oregano (optional) and close the sandwich. Wrap it in tin foil and put in on a pan over low heat for about a minute on each side, longer if necessary. If you can take it off the heat and the foil still feels warm after a moment, it's done. (If you smell burning, it's overdone. Just cut off the black parts). Unwrap the sandwich and eat! You'll probably want to make two or three, unless you buy gigantic rolls.

24 September 2007

Ik spreek Nederlands! Well, not really. Yet.

Hallo! Ik ben Kel Miller. Ik woon in Angers. Ik spreek Engels, Frans, en Russisch. Ik kom uit America.
/halo. ɪk bɛn kɛl mɪlr. ɪk von ɪn anʒe. ɪk spre:k ɛngəls frans ɛn rusisx. ɪk kəm œyt amerika/ is as close as I can get to the IPA, with punctuation added for a bit of extra clarity.

That's all I know at the moment, but so far I like Dutch. Néerlandais, in French. Today there were only three in the class: me, and two French girls named Pauline and Alice. Both seem nice, and both seem like they are good at languages. There will probably be more students next week: the courses in lesser-studied languages are offered to students at UCO (my university), the public university, and another private university. However, the public university starts classes next week, and the language class schedules have only been up for a few days, so it's likely that a lot of people just didn't know that class started. On Mondays, Anne is our teacher. She's from the Netherlands, and teaches Dutch both at the Catho (UCO) and to the kids of the four hundred Dutch families living in the region. She's very cheerful and energetic, and has that combination of patience and motivation that builds confidence in students just starting to make the really weird sounds of the new language. I like her a lot. On Thursdays, our teacher will be Sarah, who speaks Flemish. Flemish and Dutch are the same language, but with a few slight differences in pronunciation. For example, the letter g is pronounced as a guttural throaty sound in the Netherlands (like x in Russian, or the sound in "ach" in German), but in Belgium it's actually pronounced like a g. In the Netherlands, r is pronounced more like an American or French r, whereas in Belgium it's more rolled. So we'll get to learn both dialects. Monday's class is more grammar based, and Thursday's is more vocabulary and conversation based. So far it's fun and easy, except for the pronunciation. There are way too many vowels, and tons of diphthongs. If you're interested, you can check out the Wikipedia article on Dutch phonology. I warn you though, it'll give you a headache even if you love IPA. For example, try the lovely diphthong [œy], where œ is the French vowel "e" and y is the French vowel "u," or in German ë and ü respectively. Have fun with that.

The other class I had today was translation, English to French, this morning. The teacher seems nice except for the fact that she seems to consider all Americans to be idiots. Becky and I are working on proving her wrong, but she seems to assume that we don't understand a word she's saying. The way she teaches isn't particularly interesting, but I did learn some new vocabulary and the nice thing about translation classes is that you really get into grammatical nuance, which will be good for my French.

Tomorrow should supply new adventures, and not only school-related either. Until then, Vaarwel!

21 September 2007

Château d'Angers

Surprisingly, the castle isn't as interesting as its history. The castle itself (the royal residences) is actually very small, though the lands are big. Interesting, but not hugely interesting. The geography of the castle is something like this:
There's a dry moat around the castle, where there are pretty gardens and lots of grass.
Inside the moat are the fortress walls. There are seventeen towers, and it's enormous.
Inside the fortress walls there's a central garden, a gatehouse, a little vineyard, a few minor buildings that are mostly in ruins, and the chapel/royal residences. You can go inside most everything, but everything is either empty or converted into tapestry museum. I like tapestries, but I'm not a huge fan of empty. Fun to explore, and it feels old and imposing, but not fascinating. And there aren't many signs explaining what things are, they prefer for you to buy an audioguide.
However, I got took some fun pictures to post. Don't get me wrong, it's an impressive castle, but I suppose now that I live in France I've gotten spoiled and this one just doesn't seem as impressive as it should be. I love the fortress though.

Here's a picture of one of the outer walls. The fortress walls are built into the natural stone in places, which contributed to its strength. The château d'Angers is one of the few castles in France that was never defeated or conquered.

Here is the interior of the chapel. In French, a chapel is called a "Sainte Chapelle" (literally, "holy chapel") if its relic was from the Passion. Usually the relic is a splinter of the Cross, as it was here. Churches used to be colorfully painted, but over time it fades. You can see a bit of the original paint here. The second picture is a close-up of one of the murals.

The most important work in the tapestry museum is the Apocalypse Tapestry, which is the largest tapestry series in the world. All together, it's 100 meters long (a bit more than 100 yards) and there are two rows. They were made in the late 14th century, so the colors are very faded, but it's still very impressive. You're not allowed to use flash, so none of my pictures are great, but I did get a good one of a butterflyish creature whose wings are rather patriotic.

Here are some pictures of the view from the ramparts. This building is the chapel and royal residences, which are connected.

This shows the exterior of the towers, which is striking when compared with the modern road and buildings across the street.

You know how in the Midwest there are squirrels everywhere? In Angers, there are lots of lizards. This is the first time I got my camera out in time to get a picture before one flitted away.

This is a view out of one of those little holes you fire arrows out of in a siege. You can see the moat garden and a pigeon.

Here are some of the towers and the moat, and in the distance you can see the Place du Président Kennedy. No kidding.

Here's a picture my camera's self-timer took of me. You can sort of see the center of town and the top of the cathedral.

The castle walls are old enough that a lot of plants have taken root. Even on the towers there are flowers growing.

The tallest tower, which once had a windmill on it, offers a panoramic view of the city. Here's a picture of the Maine, one of the two rivers Angers touches.

Here are the central gardens of the castle, also viewed from the windmill tower.

Finally, a bit of superfluous randomnity. In Russia, I lived in the city of Blagoveschensk (Благовещенск) which is situated at "intersection" of two rivers, just like Angers. Fun coincidence! Here are, for your comparing delight, satellite pictures from Google Earth of Blagoveschensk and Angers, respectively. I wonder Y both of my study abroad years have been in places that look like this...

The End!

Castle Trivia!

I'm leaving in half an hour to go to the castle, so I'm surfing Wikipedia. Here are some interesting bits of trivia about the castle and the lands it used to rule (little places like England, and Ireland).

Catherine de Medici had the castle restored, but her son Henry III had the towers shortened and used the stones to build streets and develop the city of Angers.

For a while, the castle was turned into a military academy. One of those it trained was the first Duke of Wellington, who later defeated Napoleon at Waterloo.

The Plantagenet dynasty, which is now sometimes called the Angevin Empire even though it wasn't an empire, ruled over half of medieval France, England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland to some extent. The first Angevin dynasty also ruled Jerusalem; the second ruled Croatia, Poland, Hungary, Sicily and Naples. It wasn't a very strict rule, except in England, where the king established rule through shires and sheriffs and reduced the power of the nobility. What time period was this? 12th and 13th centuries: the time of Robin Hood! Kind Richard, the one they all liked in the stories, was the Plantagenet king.

Essentially, the Plantagenet dynasty was the main part of the Norman invasion, which took English into a new era. The Norman influence is why we have so many Latin-based words in English now.

The Angevin kings replaced beer and cider with wine as the main drink.

The castle holds the Apocalypse tapestry, which happens to be the biggest in the world.

Time to leave for the bus. I'm sure I'll have more interesting tidbits once I've actually been inside the place!

20 September 2007

My schedule and some numb-on-ick devices

I think my schedule is finally done! Here it is:

2:30-3:30: translation from English to French
6:15-7:45: Dutch

11:15-12:15: translation from French to English
6:00-8:00: Vocal ensemble

9:00-11:00: introduction to cultural anthropology (not every week)
5:00-6:30: French

8:00-11:00: General Linguistics (not every week)
6:30-8:00: Dutch

8:00-11:00: Comparative Linguistics (not every week)
plus 7:00-10:00: rehearsal for the Maîtrise de la Cathédrale (cathedral choir)

So essentially, those weeks when I have every class I have 17.5 hours on campus, plus 3 hours of Maîtrise practice. Most weeks I have fewer hours. So this is the lightest course load I've ever had in my life, and yet I can't make it any heavier: all of the other languages I could take conflict, I'm in every linguistics course they have, all of the useful math classes are Thursday morning, and the sociology classes either conflict or are already a third over. It's weird.

Mnemonic Devices!
In French, translation to French is called "version" and translation to English (or whatever other language) is called "thème." We anglophone exchange students came up with a clever way to remember which is which. Thème is to English, Version is vers le français. We've had fun sharing our various mnemonic devices with each other. Unfortunately, the celsius poem I learned in Russia doesn't translate well into Fahrenheit. The general poem goes:
"Under ten is cold, ten to twenty is not. Twenty to thirty is pleasant, thirty and over is hot."
You can change around the numbers and adjectives a bit to fit what climate you're in. In Siberia, we liked,
"Under negative forty is cold, negative forty to negative twenty is really cold too. Negative twenty to zero is still freezing, zero and over is not." [Positive temperatures in general could be considered warm.]
Fahrenheit just doesn't give such nice round numbers, in either version of the poem.

Bedtime. Tomorrow I'm going to the castle :)

Terror, Shame, Satisfaction, and Frustration

If there's a noun form of "really startled" that would be more accurate, I suppose. When entering your kitchen in the morning, thinking of nothing more significant than whether to have fig or mango yoghurt, it's quite a shock to see a many-legged, creepy monster in the sink. A centipede. Not those cute little ones, the two inch long flattish kind with a hundred long legs, obviously enjoying the remnants of flower-scented dish water in the sink. Here's a picture I found on Google images (Warning: if you click on it it will be really really big. I don't know what kind of person would want this is their desktop picture, but that's what it is meant to be):

Four paper towels and a lot of resolution were sufficient to kill the thing. I hope it came in through the window when it was open, if there are more living here that would be bad. I'm supposed to have a studio, no roommates.
However, I am pleased to report that when I saw the creepy crawler in the sink, my reaction was to say "Bon Dieu!" rather than anything in English, which made me happy.

When frying an egg, don't forget the oil. It results in an inedible, stuck brown egg, a non-stick pan that's less non-stick, and a very unhappy spatula. Stupid mistake to make, really.
However, once you've successfully cleaned the pan and correctly fried a new egg, put on some mixed herbs as well as salt and pepper, and it's even tastier. I quite like fried eggs now.

I had my first Linguistics class today, and it was great. In France the term "The science of language" is becoming more and more common, which is nice. Here are the two possible conversations. I've had the first about thirty times, and the second, which is a lot longer and more interesting, once.
1) Other Person: So, what do you study?
Me: Linguistics.
Other Person: Really? So you just learn lots of languages?
Me: Um... no. Linguistics is the science of languages, it's more theoretical and historical.
Other Person: [having lost any interest in my interests] Oh, I see.

2) Other Person:
So, what do you study?
Me: Linguistics.
Other Person: Really? Me too!
Me: Really???
[talking, talking talking...]
Other Person: The phonemes are similar to those in Hungarian.
[talking, talking talking...]
Me: I bet that's the root in Proto-Indo-European.
[talking, talking talking...]
Other Person: It's a linguistic isolate, like Korean.
[talking, talking talking...]
Me: Which is why when children make so-called "grammatical mistakes" they're really showing that they understand the grammar, not that they don't.

The class was supposedly lecture based, but was largely discussion, relying heavily on the Socratic method. I think it's going to be really really interesting. We talked for a while about the difference between the ideas of "langue" and "langage," both of which are translated in English as "language." In French there are nuances though: it's kind of like langue is a subset of langage. All langages are langues, but not vice versa. (All languages are tongues but not vice versa? That's the closest we can get.)
One thing I particularly liked were some examples of kids' "errors" when they understand grammar but don't recognize the details.
- Elles sontait dans la maison. [Idea: il est--il était, elles sont--elles sontait; correct form: elles étaient]
- La jupe noirte [Idea: vert, jupe verte--noir, jupe noirte; correct form: jupe noire]
Impossible to translate those, but interesting if you speak French.
The course is essentially a survey, but with emphasis on sociolinguistics and neurolinguistics, which is nice because I haven't had much of either yet.

Italian has had an interesting life in my schedule. First it fit, then I got the linguistics schedule and it didn't fit anymore. Then I found out that the other section fit my schedule, and today I discovered that it's at the same time as Dutch, which I'd rather take. I'll have other chances to take Italian, but I may not have another chance to take Dutch. It starts next week, and I'm excited.

I notice now that three of my four noun headings aren't too cheerful, but don't worry: today was a great day, despite the insects and cooking stupidity and scheduling annoyances!

18 September 2007

Late, Late, Late, Late, Early

Monday my bag arrived! Three weeks late, but I've reached the point where I don't really care if the airline apologizes or gives me anything for it, I'm just glad to have it back. Maybe that's their strategy...
It's nice to have different shoes to wear, and a cozy sweatshirt, and SOCKS! I've been changing clothes about three times a day, just because I can. Last week I would have said, "Aw, shucks. It's cold outside. I suppose I'll be chilly today." Today, I get a choice of sweaters, and can wear a different one when it's chilly in the morning, warm in the afternoon, and cold at night. Plus I have different pants to match the sweaters, which is exciting. It's wonderful to have so many choices!

Yesterday was my first math class. And last. I somehow misread the schedule and ended up in a chemistry class (awkward moment) so I was late to the math class once I found it (also awkward). Algebra 3 is more at my level, but it's at the same time as a linguistics course, so I decided to try out Algebra 1, which would be very easy material and would serve the sole purpose of keeping my brain in math mode. But I hated the class. I've never hated a math class before. The material was relatively easy, but the notation was confusing.* The teaching style was, in my opinion, harsh and scary. The teacher spoke very fast with a lot of slang, so a lot went right over my head. In short, as I politely told the professor after class, "The math is too easy but the French is too hard." I think that was a diplomatic way to say "I'd rather take anything other than this class."
* For example, to prove that the multiplication of complex numbers is commutative, they used z*z'=(x+yi)(x'+y'i)=xx'+xy'i+yix'+yiy'i , which I think is absolutely stupid compared to the easier to read, harder to mess up w*z=(a+bi)(c+di)=ac+adi+bic+bidi . Plus all of this is read confusingly, so I felt completely lost for a lot of the class. Which is ridiculous, since I would be a lot less lost without the primes. They got even worse with the exponential forms, with theta primes in exponents, since the primes look like exponents themselves.

Today I had a translation class, which I'm taking because I need to add a bunch of classes now that I don't have five hours of math in my schedule. The schedule said that the class was in room 401 (fifth floor) from 11:30-12:30. Easy-- I take the 11:13 bus and have plenty of time to get there. Except that the 11:13 bus arrived at 11:23, so I got to campus at 11:30. And by the time I had run up the five flights of stairs, I had enough of an asthma attack that it took me about two minutes to get enough breath so that I'd be able to apologize when I got in. Luckily the professor was very nice, introduced himself again and asked where I was from, and didn't see too bothered that I was 5-- no, make that 20-- minutes late. That's right. Becky, the exchange student who convinced me to take the course with her, explained that the schedule was wrong and the course starts at 11:15. She at least had arrived early enough to be almost on time! However, the class was interesting, and we did a small translation that wasn't a bad text. It doesn't seem like it'll be a bad course. I'm planning on taking an English-French translation course too.

Nothing could go wrong. Choir practice started at 6:30, I left home at 6:00, the bus was on time, I arrived on campus on time, I found the room when I thought was on time... and apparently it started at 6:00. Great. So I waited until they were in between warm ups, then hoping the door opened into the back of the classroom (it did!) went in and excused myself. I'm getting really good at that. Luckily, the director was nice, and I had a quick conversation that I had NEVER had before in my life:
Choir director [apprehensive]: Which voice are you?
Kel [guilty]: Soprano
Choir director [relieved (!!)]: Phew! We don't have many of those.
That's right. Me, the soprano who's usually in the alto section because there aren't any altos. Me, the soprano who occasionally even has to sing tenor at church. Being welcomed for who I really am, not what a low range I have, for a soprano. La Maîtrise has about five altos (me included) and ten sopranos. The UCO Ensemble Vocal has about 13 altos and, including me, four sopranos. Four. Smallest soprano section on the planet. Plenty of tenors and basses as well.
The big piece, which will be performed in February with the Schola Cantorum of Nantes, is the Verdi Requiem. The choir is a bit slower at sightsinging than I would like, and the tenor section is a bit throaty, but I think it'll be a fun group to sing with. And a way to feed my choir addiction, which is all I really need.

Every Tuesday, there is what is called "Mardi Café" (Tuesday Café) which is a gathering of exchange students and French students who want to meet exchange students or speak other languages, at a different bar or café every week. This week was at the James Joyce, which is a couple blocks away from one of my centertown bus stops. I only stayed for about twenty minutes, since it was packed with people watching rugby, there was smoking inside and out, and it was cold. I couldn't see the situation getting any better once the other 30 people expected showed up, so I decided to take the 9:53 bus home. My next option would have been 11:13, and I didn't want to wait that long. So I left early, and very happily so. Next week is supposed to be at a calmer place though.

Tomorrow my alarm clock will beep at precisely 9:00, though I don't have any morning classes. My first obligation is French class at 5:00, and I'll take an earlier bus just in case. Nothing (I hope) will go wrong...

15 September 2007

Three VERY Eventful Days (plus some extra randomness)

Here's the essential outline of this post, so you can skip what you want once you see how long it is:
1) Thursday's trip to Orléans and Blois
2) Friday's trip to Nantes, suitcase excitement and auditioning for the cathedral choir
3) Saturday's choir concert ("Wait... singing in a concert the day after auditioning?!" you say? You're right. I love this choir!)
4) Extra photos I hadn't posted yet

Here goes!
1) Thursday's trip to Orléans and Blois
I got up at 5:30 and guiltily took a shower. Technically I'm supposed to avoid, if possible, using the water in between 10 at night and 6:30 in the morning, since the pipes are noisy on the lower floors, but I don't plan to be up that early often. The sun hadn't risen yet, which meant that all I had to light the bathroom was a small flashlight, since the electrician still hasn't shown up to fix the wiring. (Apparently, this phenomenon isn't unique to America!) The bus was running early, which meant that for the third time so far I had to run to the bus stop waving to make the bus wait. I didn't get lost on the way to the train station, which meant that I was there twenty minutes early, which is my standard "getting un-lost" time that I allow myself when I decide when to leave.
In short, there is a deal going on where you pay 35 Euros for unlimited train travel for two days anywhere in the Pays de la Loire, for up to five people. Great deal, so ten exchange students (me and three other Americans, a Hungarian, and five Germans) decided to get the ticket for Thursday and Friday and explore. Because the train was so full, we had to split up, so we ended up in two groups, one speaking German and one English. Judit, the Hungarian girl, is an English major who doesn't speak a whole lot of French, so she liked that.
Two hours of uncomfortable train ride later, we arrived in Orléans. It's best known for being the home base of Joan of Arc, and she's the major tourist pull... not that there are many tourists :) We first stopped in a modern church near the train station which was really neat. The stained glass was modern, it was more geometrical than your traditional enormous church, and it was very clean, unlike most churches in France which are centuries old. It also wasn't a traditional cross-shape, which made it actually a little bit disorienting. Here are pictures of the outside, some of the modern stained glass windows, and a rose window which is over the organ, both of which are on the wrong side of the church according to the traditional design.

Outside of this church is an amazing bench, the back of which is shaped exactly like the human spine likes to be, and is therefore very comfortable.

With little mishap, we found the center of town. In the main square (which is a circle) there's a big statue of Joan of Arc. But the general feel of Orléans isn't as homey or France-y as Angers is, and all of us felt like there was something a bit off about it.
However, there were some nice things, and here are pictures of them :) The cathedral (though far from being one of my favorites) does have nice statues, and I liked the geometric "rose windows" which weren't anything like roses but were where they should be. And outside the tourist office I got the chance to see what I would look like as a cartoon version of Joan of Arc.

We got a snack at a patissier, and then headed to the train station to go to Blois. Unfortunately, then my camera battery died... but Blois is cool and you should look it up on Wikipedia for pictures. Becky and Mandy (two of the other Americans) had already been to Blois twice, and know the area and the castle really well. One of their visits was an interim (like Intersession, a short course between semesters) French architecture course, so they gave us a tour of the castle with commentary. It's really neat because under all of its various royal inhabitants, new wings were added in different styles. Very little is left of the medieval wing except a neat tower, but the Renaissance, Flamboyant Renaissance, and Greco-Roman style wings are intact. There are salamanders and porcupines everywhere, which were the animals representing Louis XII and Anne of Bretagne. Most of the doorways in the castle are shorter than I am, so Becky took a lot of pictures of me in various doorways, which I'll post here once I get copies.
Blois has a very different feel from Orléans. It feels a lot more like Angers; old, friendly, busy, cheerful. It feels more French. We ate lunch at a panini place, and listened to a band performing at the bottom of the street. They had a double bass, two banjos, and two guitars, and were singing something like French bluegrass in tight three-part harmony. It was impressive, but very strange to hear banjos in France. On the train Sandra, one of the German girls, and I had a long discussion with the conductor, who explained to us that our tickets actually weren't valid where we were since it wasn't technically in the Pays de la Loire. We showed him the misleading schedules and advertisement, and he wrote down the information so that he could reprimand the people who sold us our tickets, since it was clearly their fault. Apparently, our trip would have cost about 35 Euros a person if the Angers train station staff hadn't misled us. Good thing we weren't charged! We got back to Angers around 7:30, and luckily we decided to meet at 9:00 the next morning to go to Nantes.

2) Friday's trip to Nantes, suitcase excitement and auditioning for the cathedral choir
I charged my camera, so I have LOTS of pictures of Nantes.
Our first stop was the Jardin des Plantes, which is like a cross between a park and a botanical garden: a big park where all the plants are labeled. Usually signs in park say things like "No dogs on the grass" or "Please do not walk on the grass." Here the sign says "Grass reserved for small birds." Here are pictures of one of the small birds signs, a pretty spot in the garden, an interesting small bird who was walking on the grass, and a fence which has branches growing intertwined in it.

While heading towards the cathedral, we stumbled upon another church, which was pretty. France's many "small" churches are really impressive.

The cathedral in Nantes is interesting as well. It's had an unfortunate history, including being bombed in WWII and burning in the 1970s. But now it's completely restored, and inside has been cleaned. The outside is about halfway done being cleaned, and all the new stonework is amazing. Only one original stained-glass window is left in the cathedral, over the tomb of François II. My guide book says that it is the largest stained-glass window in France, but I'm not sure if I believe that. The rest of the windows have been added in the restoration. Almost all of the glass is light. Near the ceiling there's a lot of clear and pale green glass, and many of the lower windows are beautiful, light designs that look a bit like fire. This is definitely one of my favorite cathedrals. It's clean and very bright, and just feels cheerful and welcoming. François' tomb is interesting too. It's surrounded by statues of virtues, of which my favorite is Prudence. She is standing on snakes for some symbolic reason, but what I like most is the old man's face coming out of the back of her head, which represents Wisdom. The idea is that Prudence requires the constant companionship of Wisdom.
I also enjoyed the original stations of the cross and Bible scenes, admittedly because headless statues crack me up.

Next stop was the castle, which once was home to the notorious Blue Beard himself. He was executed because of all of the children he gruesomely murdered. The castle is within a medieval-style fortress, like the Angers castle. It has a moat! And a drawbridge! Very exciting. Here are a couple pictures of the fortress, the moat, and the drawbridge, and a picture of the actual castle in the courtyard.

Many castles are decorated like they were as royal homes, with fancy furniture and original ornamentation. This one isn't. It was used for storage for a long time (the wing of the castle which was being used to store gunpowder and weapons in the 19th century exploded) and was never fully restored. One large wing is now a museum covering the history of Nantes, which is interesting because Nantes has only been a part of France since the 1500s when Anne of Brittany (Anne de Bretagne) married Louis XII. The museum is big and took a long time to go through. I didn't take many pictures, but I of course took one of the playing cards, which are displayed along with some early paper money, which is handwritten.

The current temporary exhibition is on Anne de Bretagne, and is really interesting. It covers her whole life, and there's a lot of interesting stuff. She owned the first globe ever made. It has Europe, Asia, and Africa, and oceans. That's it!

Although the handwriting on the old letters is almost impossible to make out, the size of the letters was fascinating. They were all on one sheet of paper! All of them had small print. Some letters were the size of a greeting card, some the size of a poster. The document allowing Louis XII to annul his marriage with his first wife was about eight feet long and two feet wide, and the marriage document with Anne was about three feet long and as wide. My favorite was the account list for Anne's funerals, which listed all of the expenses for the three-month-long proceedings. This one is about two feet wide and more than fifty feet long. It even listed how much the four hundred peasants were paid to carry candles from Blois to Nantes (pretty far apart) in the funeral procession.
My favorite part of this exhibit was on the requiem written for her funeral. There was a screen showing the original score (old-style music), with a line following each of the four parts in time with the recording playing, plus a modern transcription to follow along with for comparison. It was fascinating. I watched three times, to read along with the top two parts on the original and then to watch the modern transcription.
We also discovered the shortest door we've found so far. We couldn't figure out why the four doors in that room were so small though. The main entranceway was normal, it was just the doors around the walls which were tiny.

After a crêpy lunch (crêpes with meat and vegetables and dessert crêpes) we were tired enough to want to go back to Angers an hour earlier than planned. And am I ever glad we did! I decided to go back to my apartment before heading to the choir audition to refill my water bottle and relax for about 25 minutes, and when I opened my e-mail I found a note saying that my bag had finally gotten to Air Canada and could be delivered to me! So I called them excitedly, confirmed my address, and then they called back to confirm that it really was my bag and time of delivery. Monday morning, I'll have all of my clothes and shoes and everything else I've been missing.

Despite the bus running behind schedule thanks to the traffic, I got to the address "between the castle and the cathedral" where the Maîtrise de la Cathédrale has rehearsal. [Last week I saw a poster advertising auditions, so I e-mailed the director and got invited. I love that I live in a place where you can be told to go somewhere "between the castle and the cathedral."] Their rehearsal is from 7:00-10:00 on Friday nights. There was a handful of newcomers. We were told to join in as much as possible for the first half, which was a final run-through of music for a concert to be held the next day. They have lots of sopranos, so I joined the alto section. I'm used to singing alto at church and soprano elsewhere :) I'm good at sightsinging, so I had almost no trouble with the concert music. I was sitting between a Chinese girl who's going to university in Angers (not as study abroad, she's here for good) and.... a COUNTERTENOR!!!!!! I'd never met a countertenor before. I like countertenors. Their voices are so pure sounding. For those of you who don't know, countertenors are men who sing in the alto/mezzo soprano range. Their speaking voices are usually at a normal, low pitch, but they sing in a higher range. It's a very pure, powerful voice. Choirs used to have, instead of female sopranos and altos and male tenors and basses, boy sopranos and countertenors, and male tenors and basses. But there aren't many countertenors anymore, or at least many who know what they are and get trained. Cyril (the countertenor) is really nice, and really easy to sing with.
Halfway through rehearsal there's a break, and we new people had our auditions. Judit (the Hungarian girl) got in as an alto, I was accepted as an alto-soprano flip-flopper like I usually do, a French girl named Bénédicte was accepted as a soprano (her voice is significantly higher than mine even) and a French guy Pierre-Henry was accepted as a bass. A woman also auditioned as a soprano, and didn't make it. She honestly didn't have a good voice, and not a great sense of pitch or rhythm. The director explained very politely that since there were so many sopranos already he really couldn't take another, and that she should look into taking lessons since you could hear that she was singing in an unhealthy way. She seemed to take it pretty well, but I'm sure she was really disappointed.
Second half of the rehearsal was going over music for the next mass the Maîtrise will sing, which is on the 23rd. I love the choice of music. And I got to learn how to read medieval music, which has four lines instead of five and quite different notation. Here's an example I found on the internet:

In addition to singing one or two masses each month, the Maîtrise performs several concerts each year. I'm SO excited to be a part of this group.
Surprising part though: Etienne, the director, wanted all of the new people to be at the concert, singing if we felt comfortable or just mouthing the words if not. Judit and I walked toward our respective homes with the two Pierre-Henrys, both of whom are college-aged and really nice. Pierre-Henry 1 was a Rotary Youth Exchange student in Ohio, and we were both happy to find someone else who'd done that. He's one of those people who just exudes intelligence. Pierre-Henry 2 is the son of a colonel in the French army, and lived in Sénégal for two years, where he started to learn Russian. He's entering the army in March, and will be working in communications and, once he's studied more Russian, interpreting. Both of them smile about ten times more than most French people. In fact, the whole choir is a very smiley bunch. I don't know them well yet, but it's a great group of people. Thanks to the wonderful night bus schedule (9:00, 11:00, 12:00) it looks like I'll be walking home from choir practice each week, unless I feel like waiting at a bus stop for an hour to avoid the 25 minute walk. I didn't get lost, and it wasn't significantly creepy, so I think it'll be fine.

3) Saturday's choir concert
This weekend all the monuments and museums in Angers are free, and the city has special events all over the place. One of the events was a tour of the cathedral, showing what parts were built when and how the styles changed over the centuries. (The cathedral is built on the foundations of the old cathedral, which burned down in 1148. So it's more than 800 years old.) For each historical period represented in the cathedral, the Maîtrise performed a song or two from the period. There was a Gregorian chant, a Gabrielli Kyrie, a Renaissance English song (one of the tenors is from England, so the diction was quite good), Ave Verum Corpus by Mozart, a Brahms piece, and some 20th century English songs in Latin, and maybe a couple more that I've forgotten about already. I've only sung each of the songs two or three times, so you can't blame me :)
I really like the people in the choir, and it's a really good choir. I'm thrilled to be in it.

4) Extras
First are some pictures of the playground in one of the big parks, which is fascinating. Totally different equipment than in America. I need to borrow a French child so I can play there without looking ridiculous. One picture shows a disk thing. It's somewhat tilted, and when you stand on it it spins around pretty fast thanks to gravity. It's scary. Another shows a collection of dangerous looking things to climb on and spin around. The last shows a rope webbed thing which reminds me of those dome-shaped monkey bars we have in America, except webbed rope instead.

Here is a picture of La Maison d'Adam (Adam's house) which is the oldest house in Angers, and one of the castle and garden.

Now that I've gushed about the choir, future blog entries will be, I promise, shorter than this one! That is, unless I get into the Ensemble Vocal at UCO as well, and love that too...

14 September 2007

New "shortest post"

MY BAG WAS FOUND AND WILL ARRIVE MONDAY MORNING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I'll post more later tonight, I'm halfway out the door at the moment but needed to write in all-caps somewhere :)

12 September 2007

More Little Points of Note

As in, (5, Θ/2) of F#.
(Sorry for that.)

Choosing classes is rough. I'm not even done yet, which is ridiculous since I had my first class today. Who knows if I'll be able to continue taking it (there are still classes to be added to my schedule and if they're Wednesday morning too, I'll have to decide what's more important). The course is called "Introduction à l'Anthropologie," and if you need a translation I'm worried. There are five main branches of anthropology, and this one is social and cultural anthropology. In a nutshell, it's the study of cultures, and how environments affect cultures, and how people study cultures. Under normal circumstances it would be interesting, but taking it in France, in another culture... wow. The professor seems very nice but somewhat distracted and tangential, which means that you take a lot of notes in the margins as well as the notes on his actual, intended lecture. He says the French equivalent of "um," "heu," a lot, and sometimes backtracks to add things he'd forgotten to mention, which is awesome for me since it makes taking notes a lot easier. And, he uses the ne explétif, which is exciting. I enjoyed the class, even though it was three hours long (with a break in the middle) and it's on a weird schedule. He didn't assign homework, it doesn't seem like there will often be homework or even assigned reading, and the next class is in two weeks. I sat next to a girl named Marion who turns out to be as shy as I am: during break we walked downstairs together in the middle of the crowd that was the rest of the class, and managed to have about a minute's silent conversation before another girl came over and got us to talk. After class Marion and I went to lunch in centertown, and we talked significantly more, though very little :) She's from a little town about 40 minutes from Angers, she has two sisters, and her family has animals like pigs and sheep. She's only been to Paris once, when she was too young to remember much.

Going Out
Bars in France are nothing like bars in America. It would cost you a fortune to get drunk (drinks are expensive and small) so when I went out with a large group of exchange students I was pleased to see that most, like me, got pop. We sat around for two hours and chatted about a million things in a million languages (well, three: French, mostly, plus some English and German since it was a group of mostly Americans and Germans). The purpose of our "meeting," for lack of a better word, was to make plans for two day trips around the Loire Valley! There's a special deal going on with the trains, which I'll explain more in detail tomorrow once I get back from Orléans and Blois :)
Exchange students are a nice bunch, and I'm glad that in this country it's possible to go out at night with a bunch of people of an age to drink and not have anyone get drunk.

Student ID
My student ID is... ridiculous. You'd think that if you were using a digital machine to do IDs you would say something like, "OK, I'm going to take the picture... 1, 2... 3." Or perhaps you might verify on the computer screen that the photo looked normal. But, in the case of the UCO ID office, what you do is remain completely silent and not even look at the student, then give the student her completed ID. A lot of people ended up with funny looking pictures, but mine's the most amusing. At the point when she took the picture, I was obviously staring off into space to my left. I look pensive and bored, and I'm not even facing forward. And that's how I will be seen by everyone who gives me a discount anywhere. Woohoo.

Shoe Shopping
It's the end of the season, so I shouldn't gripe too much, but NO ONE HAS MY SHOE SIZE!!!! WHY?!?!? I've seen people here who have normal (i.e., size 10) sized feet. And I've been to almost every shoe store in town, skipping only the ones that have nothing but three-digit prices in their windows. I found one pair of shoes that is absolutely wonderful: comfortable, classy looking, fashionable, practical in every sense of the word except that they're off-white. I just don't normally have any reason to wear white shoes. They were out of brown and black in my size. But I love them, even though the color's not great... I welcome comments persuading me of the usefulness of white shoes.

The Library
I went to the library! They're only open Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday afternoons plus Wednesday and Saturday mornings. Third time's the charm when getting there when it's open, I suppose. There are ten branches, and one of them is about 5 blocks away from my apartment. It's one of the small branches, the bigger ones are in or nearer to the center of town. After looking around for a couple minutes, I had pulled together the nerve and the vocabulary to ask how to sign up. I got the deluxe membership, which is 20 Euros for a year, and lets me check out CDs and DVDs as well as books. The books-only membership is 6 Euros. But I wouldn't mind checking out some French music, and I don't mind supporting libraries at all. I checked out a few books on my new library card: a fantasy book on the "new" shelf, a cook book with French tapas recipes (tapas are appetizer sized small dishes, each of which is just about the right size for a meal for one person), a Diana Wynne Jones book I haven't read in years, and a book on the history of math. Did you know that there are illuminations of numbers? Illuminated letters are those fancy large letters decorated and gilded and such, and the book has some pictures of illuminated numerals. And it has information on different counting systems, and so on. Fun book. I'm a geek.

More cooking
After the library I went to the grocery store, because I had decided to buy fish. I am trying to be extremely adventuresome in the kitchen, and so far succeeding. Yes, I've been eating ramen, but only about twice a week. I've gotten pretty good at cooking a steak, I've perfected my rice pudding recipe, and now I've cooked fish. Cooking is somewhat of a challenge because I don't have an oven, just two very powerful gas burners (low heat? Doesn't exist) and a microwave.
So the recipes are:

1) Steak: Buy a thin, inexpensive steak. Take the plastic off and sprinkle on a fairly liberal amount of all the spices you have. I use a mixture of herbs (thyme, oregano, and whatever's in the herb mixture I got), pepper, salt, cayenne, and garlic. Heat a non-stick pan and then put in a little bit of oil. Dump the steak in, spices down. Sprinkle spices on the naked side of the meat, then flip the steak over. Get out a plate, knife and fork. Now it's done! Hurry, take it off the heat-- don't even bother to turn off the burner yet, get the meat out of that pan! Sorry I can't give you more specific cooking times than "however long it takes to sprinkle on more spices" and "however long it takes to get out a plate and silverware." [If you don't like rare meat, you might want to triple or quadruple the cooking time]

2) Fish: Get some boneless salmon, and take out the few bones that are in there. If you choose, like I did, to use your tweezers, make sure you wash them well afterwards. Slice the salmon into relatively thin slices, and dip them in flour. Heat a non-stick pan and put in a little bit of oil. Start at 9 o'clock and place the salmon slices in the pan, clockwise. When you finish the circle, go around again and flip the pieces. Once you've flipped them, go around the circle and take the fish out of the pan. If you do this at a slow, even pace it gets cooked very nicely. If I had a clock in my kitchen I could give more details.

3) Rice Pudding:
Get a fairly large non-stick pot (if you don't use non-stick you will regret it later). Pour in a quart (or a liter, it's close enough) of milk, half a cup of water, a third cup of rice (you're supposed to wash it, but I've never remembered and it turns out fine), a pinch of salt, and half a cup of sugar. That makes it pretty sweet, so you may want to reduce the amount of sugar.
Bring that mixture to a boil over medium heat, then reduce to low heat and simmer it for half an hour, stirring rather frequently. [If your stove, like mine, has no temperature lower than high, then twenty minutes should do. When it's about to boil over, since a simmer is impossible, just take it off the heat for a moment.]
Here's the weird part. Put in a piece of lemon peel cut from a fresh lemon. Then let the whole mixture simmer for about another half hour, or until it's thick enough to stick to the spoon a little bit. This is kind of tricky to judge. If you use a black plastic spoon, at the beginning of the process the milk will just run off the spoon when you take it out. At this point, enough will stick that you can tell it's there, though it's not going to be opaque or anything. Turn off the heat, and remove the lemon peel.
Beat an egg in a bowl, and add a spoonful of the milk mixture. Beat that a little bit, then add another spoonful. Do this a couple times, then add the egg mixture back into the pot and stir it in well. Put it back on the heat for a few minutes, then turn off the heat and add a dash of vanilla. Spoon the pudding either into a large dish, or into individual serving dishes, and sprinkle it with cinnamon and ginger (which are both optional, but highly recommended). It is chilled enough to eat after just a couple hours, but is best if you let it get really cool by leaving it overnight.

The problem with the rice pudding recipe is that I had to buy an egg. I got a half dozen, which is means I had five eggs and nothing to do with them. Eggs make me somewhat nauseous. However, two nights ago when I got home I was very very hungry, so I decided to go with the "hunger is the best sauce" philosophy and cook an egg. I had to google "how to fry an egg," which is pathetic since I can make things like rice pudding and cream of mushroom soup from memory, but it wasn't bad. [Note: I had my first fried egg at Truman, when my Lenten penance was trying things that I didn't like but hadn't given a fair chance since I was really little.] With sufficient salt and pepper I can even say that it was somewhat good. Four eggs to go.

- FIN -

07 September 2007

Life (so far) in Angers

I don't think I've mentioned it before, but Angers is pronounced "on-ZHAY." Here are some highlights of what has happened:

Centre Ville
The center of town, as it's called, is a really fun area. It's almost all a pedestrian area, with cobblestone streets and no cars. Lots of stores, lots of restaurants, plus the bakeries and butchershops and cheese chops that no French town is complete without. There are also a smattering of churches, a cathedral, some very old houses, a couple fountains and squares, and a castle. The castle is a fortress built into the rock by the Maine (pronounced like "men") river, and it's enormous. I've seen other castles, but this one is way more imposing. It's not some frilly aristocratic mansion with golden statues, it's an enormous stone monster with no windows other than those skinny ones useful for killing people. No doors on three sides of it. I plan to devote an afternoon next week to visiting it, and I'm very excited about that.

Business stuff: bus pass, cell phone, and bank account
The bus pass was surprisingly easy to get. I live about ten minutes away from the university by bus, and the student trimester pass (good for four months) is the most economical way to travel. The bus system is quite extensive, which is important because there are two major universities in town, plus a lot of high schools and elementary schools feeding students into the bus system, in addition to average commuters.
The cell phone was also easy to get, but horrifyingly expensive. Unfortunately, it's important to have. I got a medium-priced phone that takes a pre-pay plan, and 45 Euros worth of minutes (which you pay 35 Euros for, getting 10 free). How many minutes do you think 45 Euros pays for? Nope, fewer... Fewer... Guess again... Nope, you still didn't guess few enough: one hour and twenty minutes. Divide that out and convert the currency, and it costs an arm and a leg per minute. It's not just the prepaid minutes that are expensive: if you get a monthly plan with a contract, that same amount (about $50) gets you two hours of anytime minutes and two hours of nights/weekends. It's ridiculous! So I now have a classy looking emergency phone, that I will use mostly for the sudoku and alarm clock features.
Haven't gotten the bank account yet, since they require, in addition to identification, proof of residence and proof enrollment in the university, and I won't have the latter two until Monday. But, the bank gives you 60 Euros as a "gift" when you open an account, and once I have an account I can apply to the French government for help paying my rent, which they give to 90% of students, even the foreign ones.

The Grocery Store: Super U
Super U is amazing. I like grocery stores in general, and this one is a lot of fun. Choosing yoghurt is an adventure, since they have so many incredible flavors. I currently have fig and white peach yoghurt in my refrigerator. The meat section is interesting, and they even have fun meats like duck and rabbit. Watching the French poke and squeeze cheese to pick one that fits their taste is fun. There's a machine that prints out labels for produce, which is entertaining. I go almost every day.

The campus is, for a university with 12,000 students, minuscule. There are about five main buildings, but the big shock to an American student is the lack of a Quad and therefore the lack of green. There are trees, but the whole place seems very grey and too paved. The oldest building is called the Palace (le Palais, actually), and it does look like a palace. The frilly kind though, not like the Angers castle. The newest building is the maths (plural in Europe) and sciences building. I find it funny because when you're in the lobby, you look up through the ceiling made of shiny glass and blue metal, and you see a stone church that's a few hundred years old. It's rather surreal.

Orientation is, of course, too boring to detail. Choosing classes will be an adventure. Getting my "carte de séjour," which is kind of like a residency card, will be an adventure and a half.

Choosing Classes
Thursday and Friday of orientation (yesterday and today) are taken up by meetings with the heads of departments. UCO is comprised of eleven or so "instituts" which are almost separate enough to be separate schools. Someone who's a student in IMA (math) wouldn't take anything from IPSA (psychology/sociology), IALH (Arts, literature, history, and music, which isn't in the acronym) or IPLV (languages). This makes life especially difficult for exchange students, since most of us want to take classes in more than one institut. To complicate things further, most of us take classes in more than one year, so even within one institut you get conflicts. Want more complication? Great! IMA is the only institut which guarantees that their classes won't switch time or day in the middle of the semester, or even on a weekly basis. So the meetings serve to introduce us to the department as well as to give us the schedules of the classes we want, unless they're in IPLV, which hasn't decided on their schedules yet. So here's what I have so far, from the instituts I will be associated with:
IMA (math): The three courses I would like to take, Linear Algebra, History of Math, and Probability, are all Thursday at 10:30. Woohoo. So therefore I'll take History of Math, and go back a level in Linear Algebra so as to review for a semester and then advance next semester.
IPSA (sociology and psychology): Sociolinguistics may be at the same time as my mandatory French class, in which case I can't take it. It starts in November for some reason. Sociology is at the same time as my Algebra class. Anthropology doesn't conflict with anything, but it's on a weird schedule: three hours on Wednesday morning, almost always every other Wednesday, but sometimes every three.
IPLV (languages): Italian doesn't conflict with anything so far! However, they haven't decided the schedule for the linguistics courses yet, which are at the masters level. IPLV classes start the week of the 17th, but they're trying to get the schedules up Monday.
So it seems like I'll be able to get a normal class load, but not in the most ideal way. I'll hopefully know for sure Monday, when the IPLV schedules are out and once I have the meeting with IALH (humanities and arts).

Mushroom Soup recipe
My mushroom soup recipe has been, I think, finally perfected! The amounts I'll give you here will feed one hungry person or two not-hungry people.
Put about a cup of water in a small pot with chicken bouillon, and whatever spices you like. I use oregano, thyme, cayenne, pepper, cilantro and garlic, and whatever else I feel like adding. Don't overdo it on the pepper. A little goes a long way! [If you want, you can use chicken broth instead of the water and bouillon, but you may want to add more salt] Bring this to a boil, then add a few handfuls (about 2 cups) of frozen mushrooms. If you can't find frozen ones, a drained can of mushrooms would probably be fine.
In a large pot, melt a teaspoon or two of butter. Take it off the heat, and whisk in a heaping tablespoon of flour to make a nice paste. Then whisk in about 2 cups of milk, making sure the paste dissolves well, and bring this to a simmer.
Boil down the mushrooms and spices until there's very little liquid left. This way you won't dillute the milk too much, and you'll bring out all the flavor of the mushrooms. Pour the mushrooms into the hot milk, and stir for a little while. Bon appétit!

05 September 2007

Shortest Post

I don't have much to post, since a day in meetings and presentations at the university, plus a tour of the small campus, is little to report. I'll summarize all of orientation once it's over.
I learned an AMAZING French expression today:
"Je chante comme une casserole."
Literally, "I sing like a saucepan," this is how the French say that they don't sing well. I also liked:
"Je nage comme un fer à repasser."
Literally, "I swim like an iron," that's how you say you're not very fishlike.

p.s. I also met a girl from Hungary whose name is spelled exactly like its phonetic transcription: Judit=[judit], which I found amazing. (Yes, I admit to being a geek)

04 September 2007


Back to the weekend.
Saturday I was incredibly lazy, and besides going sock shopping and walking around aimlessly, I did little other than nap and watch movies.
Sunday, however, I went to my favorite museum in Paris. This is my third visit, and I look forward to going back the next time I'm in Paris! And the time after that, and the time after that, ...
What is this museum? It goes by more than one name:
Musée National du Moyen Age (National Museum of the Middle Ages)
Musée Cluny (Cluny Museum-- Cluny was the guy (I think) who founded the Sorbonne)
Le Musée le Plus Chouette de Paris (the coolest museum in Paris, and this is, as far as I know, a name only used by me)

So, here are some pictures!
This is me by the Seine. I took a picture of some Italian people, and since I was holding my camera the lady offered to take a picture of me. If my smile looks forced, it's because she took about 30 seconds to chose the perfect angle, and I was wondering when she would press the button.

This is the view in the courtyard of the Musée du Moyen Age. It's in a castle, which makes the museum even cooler. There's a well with a gargoyle, lots of very short doors, crazy cobblestones... heaven.

This is a detail of some of the stone work over one of the doors. It's gorgeous, and there is detail like this all over the place.

I mentioned before about how the heads of the Gallery of Kings at Notre Dame were lopped off during the revolution. Here are some of the original heads! The ones on Notre Dame are recreations.

This is (probably) a playing card that was unearthed somewhere. You can't tell from the picture, but it's about 6 by 3 inches.

Here's a sheet of music. It's from the era where a stave had four lines, and length of notes was often denoted by how long the little solid rectangles were. It's interesting to look at.

The chapel of the castle is absolutely incredible. I didn't get any good pictures of the murals on the walls, but I got a great one of the ceiling. If you enlarge the picture, you can see the detail better.

This is a wooden statue of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. It cracked me up because Jesus is holding up two fingers in a modern "peace" gesture, and because he has a very spiky halo. In the Middle Ages, statues were painted. Even the cathedrals were once very colorful, but the paint wasn't replaced once it wore off. Sometimes you can see little hints of color, but it's rare.

Voilà! Such a wonderful museum.