Thursday, April 1, 2010

My Fishy First French Grade!

This morning, I was excited and nervous as I sat on ligne 4 going to Clignancourt because I was certain I was going to get my first French grade. But, when I arrived, the professor didn't even mention the assignments that she had said she was going to get back to us today. So, we instead talked about Descartes some more. If George Steiner weren't already my hero, it would be Descartes. I really like his thought process! Did you know he almost invented calculus?

After that, I went to CUPA, printed out my Interactive Story for my writing workshop class at Paris 8, had a Thai Wokbar lunch (more expensive, but sans yeast), and some Berthillon ice cream (caramel au beurre sale + chocolat blanc = great day!!), then headed over to Paris 8 where I turned in my assignment. In class, she decided to have us write a description of a place we'd like to live instead of doing something with a l'OuLiPo constraint. I wrote about Paris - but sort of half the real Paris and the other half made up or referenced from Les Miserables (both the musical and the book) or other French literature. She really liked it! Anyway, while I was writing, I noticed she was laughing, then I figured out why. She was reading my story - I guess she liked the part when I give the reader the choice to steal the homeless person's dog. Right before the break, she gave me my paper back with a 17/20 written on top!! I'm so excited - my first French grade was just 3 points below God and 2 below the professor! I hope the philosophy and the history grades I'm going to get next week will be that good.

In other news, today is Le Poisson d'Avril. I'm glad I knew that name before I came here, because I used it a lot today when I was asking everyone I knew where all the fish were! A story: last year on April Fool's Day, we had French class at nine in the morning. We asked Justine, like any good Hopkins students would, how do you say "April Fool's Day" in French? She answered, "Le Poisson d'Avril" and we, of course, asked what April Fool's Day had to do with fish (poisson means fish, in case it's been a while since you've seen The Little Mermaid). She told us that, in France, the night before April Fool's Day, French kids stay up late preparing their fish. Then, on that very special day, they put the fish on other people's backs. Obviously, we were confused. In our best French, we asked: "But no one notices? Fish are wet, and smelly, and heavy." She thought for a second, then said: "Oh, they're paper fish. Did I forget to mention that?" At last, Kevin (never afraid to speak his mind) said that French people were crazy and Justine said: "C'est un esprit" (spirited).

The caption says: "Do you think he noticed it?"

Initially, I thought this was the greatest April Fool's prank ever. Seriously - a French person coming to the US telling a bunch of dumb Americans that French people have this crazy fish tradition when they don't so that we'd all go to Paris one day and try to pin fish on French people's backs and end up getting strange looks. Then, I googled it - she wasn't lying. That's why I expected to see some fish today, but I didn't. Not a one. Christelle said it's mostly for little kids anyway, but that she likes to put the fish on cars because no one notices until much later. I told her about some American jokes (Grandma, remember when you told Mommy that they bombed the Empire State Building? I told that story in French today!!). Sadly, I suppose I might go my entire life without an authentic Poisson d'Avril. Oh well, tant pis pour moi!

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