Le cul entre les deux chaises

An American Spaniard in France or: How I Learned to Make an Ass of Myself in Three Cultures


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Normandie!

Fun French Facts!

Normandy takes its name from the Norsemen who added it to the Viking portfolio of property in 911 AD.

In 1066, a date known to all French children, William (the Conqueror), Duke of Normandy, began the invasion of England. Within five years, he’d pretty much taken over the whole damn island and installed French monarchs. They spoke French for 300 years in England.

The French did not officially regain control of Normandy until 1259 when the Treaty of Paris was signed.

Giverny, where Claude Monet lived, is one of the region’s most popular tourist sites. He painted lots of things that you can still see there, like water lilies. My favorite part is the kitchen, which the man himself painted an incredibly vibrant (but not obnoxious) yellow. I love thinking about how even though he was a great artist, he still had to do things around the house. It’s easy to get to by train from Paris. You should go.


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Uhn

Can’t be bothered to find an idea about which to bother

I’m posting later than usual today ’cause, you know… uhn. Sometimes it’s hard to get excited about… bleh. You just feel like sitting… oof.

This kind of ennui is universal… which is why there are so many fun ways to describe it! Yay for learning!

In my French class yesterday, somehow the phrase avoir la flemme came up and when my teacher described is as that feeling of [slumped shoulders, slouchy posture] I knew exactly what she was talking about and wrote dar pereza in my notes.

When I was teaching English, dar pereza was something that came up a lot because Spaniards are lazy bastards but I always forgot to look up the English version of this phrase since in my mind I just understood. Also: I’m Spanish (see previous sentence).

When I finally got around to it (it only took like, a year) whatever dictionary said “can’t be bothered” which is totally British English to me. I’m not sure how much longer after that I hit upon the classic Americanism of “not feeling like doing something” which I think accurately captures the personal conviction of the average American to not be productive just ’cause.

Now, let’s look at some fun etymology! Flemme is “laziness, a taste for idleness” so “having” it makes sense in this case. Pereza is “negligence, boredom or neglect of obligations” so this one works too. Interestingly, the Spanish word for a sloth is perezoso an accurate way to describe a person who exhibits this kind of behavior.

What I really like is that the Spanish way to express this idea makes it clear the reason for lack of motivation comes from the object or task, not the person experiencing it. Whatever me da [gives me] pereza. It’s as if the person can’t be blamed for not doing X since it’s clearly X’s fault for being so incredibly tedious. Why is this so great? It’s another piece of evidence in my ongoing quest to empirically prove that Spaniards are in fact lazy bastards.

Moral of the story: even when I set out to not accomplish something, I do anyway. It’s the American go-getter in me that made me do it.


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All together now

For the first time since June of 2005, I have all my stuff with me under the same roof. This is tremendously exciting for me since, despite my tendency to perambulate, I actually love being at home and being able to curl up on the couch with a book or whip something up with all of my fun cooking tools.

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Not having all my things with me has made me incredibly sad and also forced me to buy many many duplicate versions of things, like towels, of which I apparently own about a dozen. The downside is that I have to find all the similar items, determine which to keep, get rid of the extras and stick the lucky ones somewhere so that I don’t forget I already have some. This is really time-consuming and basically a slog.

The upside, which is a big one, is that each box I open is filled with things I already like so the whole exercise is like Christmas. I’ve been wearing all “new” clothes for the past week without going shopping. (My rule is basically that if I haven’t seen something for two years, it’s new to me.) Another bonus, that feeling of freedom when I just throw things out. The burden that’s lifted is mental and physical which almost makes up for the drudgery.


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My first French confrontation

Red-letter day this week: I had a heated discussion in French through a door on Wednesday.

Let me back up: the building next to mine has a bar on the ground floor. The person I’m subletting from had written to the mayor prior to my moving in to complain about the noise from said bar.

Honestly, I’ve lived in noisier places but the wall between us is so thin that I can hear people sneezing, so it’s a little annoying. Plus, I have Wolf Ears (as a kid I thought this was a sign that I was from Krypton) so I can also tell when they’re restocking glasses on the shelf and when people get up from their tables.

Knowing all this, the woman who runs the place chose to come over and bang on the door minutes after I finished showering. I’m pretty sure they can hear me (why wouldn’t they be able to?), so her plan was to catch me unawares and thereby gain the upper hand. She’d clearly never met someone like me.

“Who is it?” I asked.

“Can you open the door?” came the reply.

“I can’t open the door right now; who is it?”

At this point, I heard her stamp her feet a couple times like a bull (Wolf Ears!) and we were off! Continue reading


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What’s wrong with this picture?

Taking a shower is practically a religion for me. Back when I lived stateside, I’m (now) ashamed to admit that I frequently took 30 minute hot showers just to wake myself up in the morning. After living with roommates, temperamental water heaters and showers where there’s just enough room to stand, but not enough to luxuriate, I’ve cut that time considerably.

Now, a problem I sometimes have to deal with is how to shower in one of these:

I’ve adapted to having to hold the nozzle with one hand (though I hate doing so), but I’ll be damned if I know how to successfully clean myself without getting water all over every surface in the bathroom, specifically all over the floor.

More annoying is that I’ve asked the natives how to do it (do you sit? squat? back yourself into a corner?) and all the responses I’ve gotten so far are along the lines of, “you know, you just do it.”

Well, no. I don’t know and I’m loath to be so inconvenienced on a daily basis.