sexta-feira, 16 de outubro de 2009

who would've thunk??? and more news.

I spent this summer in Brazil doing a summer long service program, during which I worked very closely with many Africans. I learned a huge amount about the African psyche and way of life while in Brazil, and an especially large amount about South Africa. I thought it was so ironic: go to Brazil and learn about Africa all summer.
Well now I'm having the same experience in France, except this time I'm learning all about Asia. During the prestage there were a good number of Japanese students studying with us, but when we returned from break and started our real university classes, we went from 100 students to 400, and at least 200 of those new students are from China alone, the others being from mainly the US, Japan and Korea. It's such a trip--I sit in my classes in French and I seriously feel like I should be in Asia, because 80% of each of my classes is Asian! It's so fun to see their clothes, because little Asian girls can pull off just about anything, and they really push the limits. I've seen everything from purple jumpsuits to pleather tassle boots to a loose leopard-print shirt with a leopard outline in sequins. I'm learning a lot about how different China and Japan are (for one, Japanese accents are MUCH easier to understand, and Japanese names are much easier to say).
Today in my Expression Orale class (11 students, 3 americans, one nun from the Czech Republic, 5 chinese and 2 japanese) we each had to present something special to us, either a picture or an object. I brought a bracelet I got this summer in Brazil, one of the americans brought pictures from her summer internship in DC, the other a chess set his sister got him from Chile, etc. Normal stuff. Then the other students started presenting, and instead of learning about them or their lives, like I expected to, I got a lesson in Chinese and Japanese culture!
One of the chinese girls did a presentation on Chinese Opera, and went too long and had to get cut off so the last two people could go, but I was really blown away. She had brought a cup that had cartoons of opera costumes and masks, and then had cut up all these papers that she taped onto the white board. She had 4 colors--Red, Black, White, and Green--and a bunch of qualities written out which she taped under the color which represented them. She explained to us how the colors on the masks of the characters in the opera tell you about their personality and function within the story: the mask with the most red belongs to the hero, if a mask has a lot of green it means the character is very faithful, etc. She began to explain the designs on the masks and what they meant too, but only got through one before she had to get cut off. What she showed us though was how one mask had a vase shaped pattern on his forehead, which means he liked to drink a lot! It was incredibly interesting, and the amount that she prepared (vs me half asleep this morning throwing the first thing I saw into my backpack) really was impressive.
Other people presented on Japanese/Korean pop singers (she's half/half and lives in Japan), traditional Chinese printed handkerchiefs with birds representing joy that are supposed to keep mosquitoes away (which he promptly gave to our grad-student teacher as a present), those red cords tied into elaborate decorative knots with tassles that you always see in Chinese restaurants (apparently the different designs represent things like luck and intimacy), traditional festivals in Shinto temples, and so on and so on. It was a very cool class.

In other news, I love my history of France and my art history classes. Both have great teachers and are interesting, and it's just so nice to have an actual class in which you do actual intellectual work and isn't just grammargrammargrammarcomphrensiongrammarexcersisesBLAH. =]

Life is good here. As of yesterday it's officially cold, so I bundle up for my bike rides now, with gloves and everything. My host family said they'll turn on the heat probably this weekend, which was happy news. My bathroom doesn't have heating being as it's in between the garage and the laundry room/water closet/ extra fridge room, but there's a funky box on the wall that I turn and that heats up the room AND my towel, so yay for that.

The other day I went and had a very picturesque little dinner with two friends. ND had had a lunch together and there was leftover PizzaHut in the computer lab, so I stole it and we got some drinks and sat on some steps in a park and watched little boys skateboard, a couple make out, a TV reporter filming and talking, etc etc. The weather was beautiful, the sun was out, the clouds were interesting, and to top it all off a gorgeous rainbow appeared just to make me happy. =] It's really nice here now, I'm finally feeling at ease and like I'm making an actual life for myself here for the year. It isn't just a do-this-do-that like it was during the prestage when we all felt like we were in high school, being ushered all together on field trips, lunches etc, but now I have my own time to do whatever I want. I've been living day-by-day lately, not planning anything at all, just making sure I show up to my classes and up for whatever other than that. I end up doing fun things like that dinner, like just hanging out at Rachel's because her house is literally across the street from school, shopping, wandering the town, and so on. We've made quite a few French friends too, so while the French hasn't clicked yet, I am improving. Plus I have homework help. =D

Ok well that's all, I'm going to take a nap now before Rachel and I head over and make dinner with some French kids, but here's a picture to make all of these words a little more interesting. This is from last weekend before we went to a discotheque called Le Dome. It was super fun. The two in the middle are French girls learning to be coast guards! So cool.

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