Thursday, December 8, 2011


(This is a work in progress for the moment.)

Life Lessons I've Learned This Week:
  1. Make travel plans in Europe well in advance.
  2. #1 goes double if you intend to travel with a Eurail pass. Why? Because the "limited number of seats able to be reserved by Eurail pass holders" on any given train must be about three. Two weeks out, they're all gone.
  3. That said, if you're very nice and look disappointed enough, the ladies at the train station will do their best to help you, even if it takes forever and they're less than happy about it. (Understanding French probably helps, too.)
  4. THAT said, where there's a will, there really is a way (even if the ladies at the train station give up). We are going to Amsterdam before Christmas, and we are taking the scenic route, and high-speed, mandatory-reservation trains be damned.
  5. Young women should not sit in the Place de la Liberté alone. Especially not in the evening. Two times now, and two awkward encounters. (The first time I was totally alone and the guy was much creepier, but it was still light out and I just told him off and moved away. This time I was with a friend and the guy was much drunker and we had a couple of big male friends coming to meet us, so I was a lot less freaked out.)
  6. There is no public place in Brest ideally suited for meeting with a tutee, at least not that I've found yet. This poses a problem as I am due to meet with my first tutee tomorrow.
  7. If you write a tongue twister on the board, your students will speak. They might just mutter it to themselves because they don't want to risk being laughed at, but they will speak nonetheless.
  8. Hot chocolate, spiced wine, and a cookie do not a dinner make. Especially not after a long, stressful afternoon/evening. They do, however, go a long way towards making one feel Christmasy.
Other Facts I've Learned This Week:
  1. It's impossible to be angry while looking at a penguin. (Allegedly.)
  2. There's a chocolate museum in Bruges.
  3. French Christmas markets close almost as early in the evening as everything else in France. What's up with that?
  4. It would be cheaper for me to get TESOL certification (the most widely recognized ESL teaching certificate) than it would be for me to go to bartending school, and wouldn't necessarily take any more time. What's up with that?
  5. English is a "timed-stress" language, while French is a syllabic language. And apparently pointing this out can improve the English pronunciation skills of native speakers of syllabic languages. It's really interesting, trust me. I can't believe I never noticed before how different the rhythms are. I guess it's less obvious going from English to French than the other way around.
  6. When everyone told me it rains all the time in Brest, they were not, in fact, exaggerating and/or referring to the drizzle that normally passed for rain during my first two months here. Sometimes it rains as heavily as it does in the tropics. Sometimes it does so for days at a time.
Two Related Lists:
Things I Had Planned To Do With My Wealth Of Free Time This Year:
  1. Journal religiously and write lots of letters and postcards to my friends in other places.
  2. Read lots of books.
  3. Write a book, or two or three.
  4. Figure out where I'm going to go from here.
  5. Hone my stovetop cooking skills.
  6. Drink lots of wine.
Things I Actually Do:
  1. Carry around a mostly empty journal, be constantly behind on updating my blog, put off answering emails, and buy postcards I don't get around to sending.
  2. Read lots of Wikipedia articles and entertaining blogs.
  3. Think about writing a lot. Mostly when I'm lying in bed at night or walking down the street by myself.
  4. Think about life possibilities that have nothing to do with going back to archaeology, and thereby induce entirely new existential crises instead of solving the old ones.
  5. Eat like a hobbit. (And only sometimes use the stove.)
  6. Drink lots of wine. (And coffee.)

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