Monday, August 27, 2012

Instagram, The Bum, and I

In my last post, I Am Alive, I sort of promised to have a great post for you all.

Well...this isn't it.

Instead, I would like to make a post about Instagram. If you have an Iphone or an Android, then you know exactly what I'm talking about and for those of you who don't, I'm sorry.

Instagram is an app that allows you to take pictures, make it look like you just used a lomography camera and then share it with friends, strangers, puppies, inmates, butterflies, brick walls, bums and anyone else on Instagram.

Yes, I am an addict to Instagram, but not to the point of having a million pictures (at least not yet). That said, I would like to share a few Instagram pictures of my own.

This is a picture I took in Miami

 A very loved place in Miami

Piano in Orlando

 For those who would like to follow me, you can follow me @hdrea. Please let me know that you are one of my readers as I would love to follow!

Also, I'm curious to know how many of you use Instagram and how often do you use it? What was the first Instagram picture you ever took?

Hanny the coffee bean

Thursday, August 23, 2012

...And Then There Were Horses

Well, folks, after having traveled for three hours from Miami to Boston, spent four hours waiting to travel on a six-hour flight to Paris and then proceed to wait and take a couple of trains, I finally arrived (safe and sound) in my new base of Sablé-sur-Sarthe, right in the Loire Valley. And let me say this: the air is so clean and pure here that it is as if my olfactory senses were getting a high-five from nature.

Oh, I also mentioned in my previous post that there would be horses.


and LOTS...

of horses.

Barb the oh-so-happy-she-might-explode-from-the-joy-or-dissolve-into-a-babbling-mess French Bean


This is what my posts look like when I have not slept for 48 hours straight and have swollen feet from extended periods of pressurized sitting down on planes.

Monday, August 20, 2012

In My Quest to Remain Tri-Lingual...

One of my life goals is to be able to speak the Romance languages. As it is, to date, I speak three languages, two of which are Romance languages: English, Spanish and French. Even if I never meet the goal of learning Italian, Portuguese and Romanian, I'd like to retain my tri-lingual talent instead of having it bite the dust.

Thanks to living in a Latino-megalopolis like Miami, I am confident that my Spanish-speaking abilities remain fluent and the only things that I truly need to brush up on are where to place accent marks on syllables and how to conjugate verbs with "vosotros" instead of "nosotros" and remember that "vos" is equivalent to "usted." Perhaps, as a means to make my Spanish more authentic, I should consider changing my relatively standard American accent to sound more Cuban when I speak in English.

Hm. Maybe not.

As for my French language skills...well, much like my cartooning skills, they've diminished. More specifically, my ability to carry a conversation fluently has atrophied.

I came about this realization when I discovered my new cell phone's capacity to record. Like any curious individual faced with technology, I tried it out the recording function and spoke to my phone in French.

A few words in and I was at a loss of vocabulary. I found myself grasping in the back of my memory to remember basic words like enregistrer (to record) and avoir quitté (to have left). No one in my area speaks French so it shouldn't have come as a total surprise to me. And yet, my little francophile self was very, very alarmed by the egregious change.

I am certain that my reading and oral comprehension have remained on a similar level and that, thanks to the recording, my pronunciation hasn't worsened; that in itself is an achievement when I consider that fact that I live in an area that is predominantly non-French-speaking.

Still, I am not one to give up without a fight. If I needed to raise my level to my former francophone glory, then so be it. I began to re-watch some of my favorite, albeit depressive, French movies to refine my oral comprehension...

...which had the inevitable side-effect of tugging at my heartstrings and warping my general worldview. 

Getting a bit fed up with having my tear ducts drained every time I re-watched Au Revoir Les Enfants and Les Choristes and wondering why the best French films never had particularly happy endings, I decided to embark on another pedagogic strategy. With the help of French Trainer Barb (who is totally different from regular Trainer Barb), I delved into a different strategy of coaxing the hidden vocabulary by stating basic sentences that described the things I saw.

If I made a mistake, French Trainer Barb would waste no time in correcting me.

*Ah, ah, ah. The "douchebag" insult doesn't exist in French. One would say "a cretin" or "an idiot" instead.

*In fact, the French word for "douchebag" is (literally) "a vaginal pear." (I am so not making this up.)

French Trainer Barb also recommended that I listen to great French music, like Daft Punk.

Yes, listening to Daft Punk and watching movies in a foreign language are a couple of  methods of maintaining fluency; reading is also a good one. However, the best way of performing the upkeep would be to, of course, face a real world situation in which I face the throngs of needing to fend for myself in a foreign country, a.k.a., immersion. A good example of immersion would be to return to France and thrust myself once again into a French-speaking world.

Which is exactly what I am going to do.

Last month, I got an e-mail that had been filtered into my Spam box. It was from a French high school principal who had kept my résumé when I had sent it to his school in early 2011. He offered me a job to teach both English and Spanish full-time for the upcoming school year in the Loire Valley. He wanted to schedule an interview with me via Skype, if I was interested.

I said I was interested. I had the heart-stopping interview on Skype. And I got the job.

After more than a year of being unemployed, someone out there in Croissant-and-Baguette Land realized that I was a valuable two-for-one deal that shouldn't be passed up. It could not have come at a better time, too.

For all intents and purposes, I am, technically, employed. I have signed the job contract and the Direction Départementale du Travail, de l'Emploi et de la Formation Professionnelle  (DDTEFP) have given me their blessing and given my contract a literal seal of approval. The French consulate in Miami processed the visa application and I am now the proud owner of a shiny sticker (the third one in my current passport). All that's left for me to do is to pack a 50-pound suitcase and board a couple of planes on Wednesday, the first one connecting to Boston before heading over to CDG-Roissy.

Now that I am employed with a French job, that means that once I have integrated with French life, I will have to inevitably deal with being buried under a mountain of photocopies, applications, photocopies, signed pages, photocopies and passport-sized photographs. I'm also running out of passport-sized photos for my applications. I knew that the Famous French Paperwork and I would become BFFs soon enough.

And in case any of you are wondering: yes, I am a bit nervous about this prospect of teaching both English and Spanish full-time. In fact, I'm also stricken by the paralyzing thoughts of "what the Hell have you gotten yourself into/you have no idea what the eff you're doing."

Yet amid my worries and temporary feelings of insecurity, I am far more excited by the fact that I was the best (possibly only) candidate for the job and I gladly welcome a chance to have my life go in another direction. In France, no less! I can only imagine the eye candy that will be captured on my little Canon camera throughout the next year. So, dear readers, expect future posts featuring croissants, baguettes, cheeses, châteaux, wines and horses.

Yes, that's right. I said horses. Lots and lots of horses.

Here's a cartoon of a horse.

I clearly need more practice at drawing them on Microsoft Paint.

Barb the French Bean


To anyone who is currently down in the dumps in life, I beg of you to hold out a little longer. As cheesy at it sounds, things will turn around for the better when you least expect them to do so. In the meantime, keep your chin up and remain hopeful at seeing a brighter moment in your future.



Tuesday, August 14, 2012

I Am Alive

Isolated in an ivory tower...

Captured by pirates...

Fighting the oppression in Narnia...

Alright, I have no amazing excuse as to why I have not posted in a while, except the usual excuse of life getting in the way. I have been busy to the point of exhaustion, but I am alive and that's exactly the point of this post (obviously).

With that said, I shall now end this post with a few odd photos.

This is a candle for a beer bottle

 I thought this was funny because it does have some truth to it

 Kronenbourg in the bathroom of a restaurant. I could have gotten drunk in the bathroom...

-Hanny the coffee bean