Sunday, October 12, 2008

Can't let down the guard...

Yesterday, I got up and made pancakes. Ryan really really wanted 'em, so I thought eh, what the heck. So, I try a new recipe I find on-line. I knew I shouldn't, but I wanted to shake things up.

Well, 1) the only organic vegetable oil I could find was sunflower oil and not only did the pancakes taste greasy and have a light sunflower taste to them, the oil brought out the salt in the batter and made them too salty to me (I usually eat them with nothing on them and I like being able to taste the sweet marriage of the sugar and vanilla behind the butteryness of the batter--that was ruined for me) and 2) our stupid induction stove (or the stupid induction pan, one or the other) makes pancakes RAW on number 4 but BURNT on number 5. I've actually been having lots of that happening lately. *eye roll*

The important thing is the kids LOVED them (Sam too) and ate all but five small ones (out of a batch of about 20, that ain't bad for my crew). Even Lolo liked 'em. They were made with all organic ingredients, so that was a feat for me as well.

Later, when A's mom came up to get Ryan, I offered her our extra loaf of bread (which she really wanted to try) and showed her a little of our apartment because she gushed about our view. She walked into my super messy kitchen and as we're talking says, "Oh, you made pancakes?"

"Yeah, but they're not good."

"Can I?" She points to one and I tell her to go ahead but not to expect anything great. And as I'm explaining why they're bad, she tells me she LOVES them. So, I wrap some foil around 'em and send her home with them. I'm such an ambassador of organic American cuisine, eh? *wink*

Ryan played with A nearly all day (as usual). She came over in the morning, they played here for a little while. Then, Ryan went down there for lunch. Then, they brought him back here so A could go to her swimming lessons, but as A is leaving, she turns to Ryan and said, "Don't worry, they really don't last very long" as if they can't tear themselves away from one another. How long will this last? You know, they don't play with each other at school. She has her girlfriends and he has his guy friends (well, and apparently, he's popular with the other little chicks, too because they all say, "Byyyyyyyyeeee, Ryan!" and walk away giggling and blushing. Dude... They're 5!!!), but as soon as school is over, A is the only one who exists.

So, then, around 6, they came back to get him so he could stay the night with A. After they dropped him back off down there, N (A's mom) came up to ask me if I wanted to go to the movies with her since both of our guys were planning to watch the stupid France/Russia soccer match. Well, there's a great movie I've been wanting to see (and she said she really wanted to, too), so we went.

It was SOOOOO uncomfortable!

On the way there, we had a conversation in which I tried to explain how difficult it is to be "myself" in French. Like my French "self" is completely different from my "self" in English. I said that no matter how much you know it's not true, there's always the temptation to think that someone who spends their time talking slowly or searching for words is, well, slow. I said that when I'm home, I always forget that tendency to judge people for whom English is a second language--and I have a MASTERS in ESL!!! She didn't understand what I was trying to say--probably because the words I would use in English to say it are so different from the words most French intellectuals would use and I am not privvy to those words. *sigh*

So, instead, I said, nevermind. It sucks that it's even difficult to explain how difficult it is, yeah?!!!

We get to the theatre (which is in walking distance) and she buys my movie. That was nice. On the way in, she's talking about how she'd love to show me this theatre or that theatre and how we need to get a baby sitter so that all four of us adults can go somewhere together. On the one hand, I'm thinking, "Awwww, it's so nice to have a new friend with whom I can make social plans," but on the other hand, I'm thinking, "Watch out... This person is making plans because she doesn't know you. You don't know her either. She may be ultra girlie or super snobby and you don't know it yet. Just smile and nod. Don't lead her on."

She does her best to get me to talk, but 1) I don't want to talk since she didn't understand what I had said on the way up there (I know a lot of it has to do with the fact that I spent all day--it's a weekend--speaking English to Sam and the kids or online with my friends and it's so hard when we're tired and HORMONAL *eye roll* to just switch over and muster up enough motivation to be intelligent and intellectual and theoretical and all that shit); and 2)I'm still on my guard. But I still did my best to answer.

She asked me, "So, have you been able to get some work done?" This is a hard question. What I SHOULD have said was, "Yeah. I worked while the kids slept." But, it's been awhile since I've had a chance to talk to anyone in person about what I'm doing AND my French/American friend from Charlotte is on my ass to make other French friends, so I'm like, oh hell, let's give it a go. SO, I say, "Yeah, I've gotten some work done. But it's really slow going and difficult right now. I'm writing about my first pregnancy and the subsequent adoption and I'm at a very emotional part in the book. It's very important to me that this part be accurate and done well because I want to be able to help other girls. You see, I'm pro-choice, but I'm not pro-abortion."

She gives me a look.

"What I mean is, I think that women should know of all their options and that they shouldn't ignore adoption as an option, just as much as abortion is."

She looks at me sternly and says, "I believe that a woman should have the right to choose what happens to her own body."

"So do I," I say. "But, the thing is, when someone says adoption, everything gets all serious and sad. And I want to change that. I don't mean that I'm against abortion."

But I can tell I've lost her. It's too late. She doesn't understand that I'm as much a feminist (probably more so) than she. Nope, I'm some American Puritan, who doesn't believe women should have abortions.


I decide to let it go because I don't have enough energy or motivation to repair it.

And luckily, the movie starts.

During the intro to the movie, the dude to my right starts eating popcorn. Even though his mouth is closed, it is VERY LOUD. She looks at him, I look at her, and we both start laughing--trying not to be too obvious and loud ourselves. This puts me at ease.

But throughout the movie (which by the way is "Entre les Murs" which won the Palme d'Or this year at Cannes and is a docu-drama--I mean fiction but not--about a class of students at a school in a rough neighborhood outside Paris and their teachers), she and I are NOT reacting the same way to the movie. I'm laughing with the students at the expense of the teacher and she, as a teacher herself, is NOT laughing.

So, I think, well, just another indication that she and I shouldn't be friends because I'm definitely NOT in agreement with the French high school teacher-student dynamic where the teacher can say anything he or she wants and the student can NOT. I'm not into extreme discipline and making constant examples in the name of "respect" (for which I also have a TOTALLY different definition and method of acquiring). Remember, dear readers, that I used to TEACH in a French high school and I know how crippling a teacher's antics can be on a child. And I ALSO know how easy it is to motivate them when you approach them with genuine compassion and basic human respect.

Then, near the end of the movie, since I haven't had dinner, my stomach is growling like a BEAR! I pull out a Fibre One bar from my stash I had brought over and ate it as quietly as I could. I see her tense up, but dude, I'm hungry, yo. And trust me, my stomach growling was twice as loud as my wrapper rattling.

When the movie is over, she seems pensive and slow to exit the theatre. I'm a gusher as most of you know. So, my first impulse is to be, "WOW! That was AWESOME!!" and to start talking about it excitedly because there were parts that really really touched me. But I hold back and follow her lead... which seems somber.

The first thing she says to me is not, "What a trememdous film" or "Can you believe that teacher?" or anything like that. Her first comment to me is, "At the such and such theatre, people aren't allowed to eat." At first I think she's talking about Popcorn Dude, but a split second later, I realize she's reproaching me. I raised my eyebrows and almost said, "Look..." and started in on her, but I thought, nah. Couldn't be bothered.

After a few silent steps, we actually start talking about the film and that leads to a discussion about education, and then differences in our systems/dynamics. And I say that I am still in shock about the power dynamic in the classroom here. How a teacher can call a student by a familiar pronoun ("tu") but a student would get thrown out of a classroom for calling the teacher anything but the formal "vous." I said that per my own experience as a student and as a teacher, a great teacher EARNS respect and doesn't assume that he or she knows ALL but instead uses the collective knowledge of ALL the heads in the classroom to come to the same information. That way, a student leaves the room feeling like he or she has not only LEARNED something from someone else but has also CONTRIBUTED something to the collective.

She says she disagrees and that for her, it is her job to BRING the knowledge into the classroom--knowledge that they don't have--and to give it to them as well as to control what happens in the room.

While I agree that it is an instructor's role to lead and guide and facilitate learning, I VERY STRONGLY DISAGREE that the teacher has all the knowledge and the children are hungry empty jars waiting to be filled. ESPECIALLY high school kids in bad neighborhoods. And actually that was one of the things that was brought out in the film--the instructor hadn't been having them read complicated things because he thought they weren't good enough, when, in fact, at the end of the year, they complained to him that his reading selection was boring because on their OWN SPARE TIME they were reading Plato!!!!!!!

Anyway, this launched a more thorough discussion about systems (which I'm not going to bore you with because it makes me yawn just thinking about it) and methods of assessment (also *yawn*) and then, of course, as I'd expect her to, she got a little defensive and the French defense mechanism when they feel defensive is to try to make you feel stupid and ignorant which isn't really that difficult if French isn't your first language, so when she started in on that, I just let the conversation fizzle out by nodding my head and saying, "Hmm." (Thanks Arsenio Hall!)

When we got to their apartment, I find A's dad (P) sitting on the couch watching the match (Russia 2/France 2). He says that Ryan is sleeping fine and went to bed without any drama (which is pretty normal for him especially here where the effort of speaking/comprehending French all day pretty much knocks him out).

Here's an aside on P. He makes me nervous. I know it's French and all, but it's no excuse, I don't believe in using RIDICULE as a form of affection. It really plucks my last nerve!!! So, while he appears smiley and jovial, he is quick to become condescending and belittling. For example, when I stopped by to get his wife to go to the movie he says, "Your son won't eat his dinner." Instead of my being RUDE and saying, "Well, that's because you're eating dinner at nearly 8pm!!!" I say, "Oh, it's because he had a sandwich around 6:30" (when we normally eat). He smiles and says, "Ah, that's not a good habit, eating sandwiches. That's a very bad habit. You Americans really eat too many sandwiches, you know?" I want to say, "WTF? I just lost over 40 pounds by eating sandwiches... Ever heard of Jerrod from Subway?" But instead, I let it go. On the weekends, I let Ryan eat more frivolous (?) things because it's the weekend. But really, organic peanut butter and organic, all-fruit preserves on home-made, organic whole wheat bread isn't trash food, okay, y'all? The only reason I don't say anything is because I walk into the kitchen and see what THEY have had for dinner: Microwave lasagna from a freaking plastic dish, accompanied by CANNED green beans which look like they have had all the vitamins boiled out of them. Why would you think that my son would want to eat that shit when he had a wholesome sandwich at 6:30, you punk!

*deep breath*

Anyway, so when we get back, he does it again. He asks me if I'm going running the next day. I say yes. He says he went yesterday (Friday) and gave me one of those challenging looks. As though we're competing. He asks how many kilometres I'm going to do. I say, that I'm going to do ten miles. His daughter asks what a mile is and asks if it's a style of cross-country ski-ing. I scratch my head and let her mother explain that it's a measurement of distance and that no, I am going to run. I then correct her and say that I walk part of it. He says, "Ohhhhhh, you're going to waaaaaaalllllk it." As if there's something less glamorous or serious about walking.

"Yes, I walk the first three miles of any long distance because I have flat feet and bad joints and need to warm up to prevent injury."

He ignores looks back at the TV as if I'm not there. But the match is over, so, I'm thinking he's just a dick.

Then, he says, "So, where do you go run?"

"The park."

"Ah." and then he says something else which I've obviously blocked out but it prompted me to say something about my GPS.

He laughs. "GPS? Why? You scared to get lost in the park?"


I look at him as though he's a child and say, "No, it's to know my pace and distance."


I'm starting not to care what these people think of me at this point and just decide that any other question they ask, I'm going to let it all hang out. I'm not going to hold back the Joelie... The famous shocking TMI that goes along with the Joelie Show.

And sure enough, some question prompted me to tell them that I was a welfare kid who grew up with a single mother in a camper on the back of a pick-up. Blah blah blah. It seemed to actually peak her interest, but seemed to fall on his ears as noise. He started a whole new conversation about the States and the economic "crise" and whether or not it's going to affect us. I talk about it a little bit, but make sure to let him know that because of my transient and migrant experience, I know how to stretch a dime (or a centime as it were).

Thank God, Sam calls and interrupts the discussion. So, I leave and as I'm getting in the elevator, I'm a little sad, but pretty certain, that we are not going to be "friends" with A's parents like we were with peeps back home. Oh, sure, I'm all for a little movie watching and maybe some dinners where I HOPE we'll all drink and knock down the walls of pretention, but for me, for now, they're A's parents--Ryan's best friend. Sorry Ju.

Anywhoo... the good news is that I got up and did my 10-miler. The funny part is, I wore my Space City 10-Miler shirt and I ran that race on October 15, 2006 (Hey FLECK, remember that monsoon?)... I think I did that race in three hours, maybe? (I can't find the results on-line.) But I did today's 10 miles in a combination of running and walking and did it in 2:22.

First of all, just the fact that I did it and finished is a BIG DEAL for me!!! Secondly, the fact that I did it on nearly NO sleep, too much coffee and not enough water is a miracle. Third, the fact that after only two weeks of training, I have shaved a half an hour off of my ten-miler from two years ago is a damn freak of nature. So, I'm pleased. In fact, had I had my hydration belt and even ONE carb gel, I would have kept going to a half-marathon. But it was probably best that I didn't. My legs and feet feel fine, but I think pushing it to doing nearly twice last week's distance might have made me prone to injury. I think I'll fall back to 8 next week and try to move up the week after. I really REALLY need to catch up with my training group (they did a 15 this weekend *sigh*) in order to feel like I'm going to be okay time-wise for the marathon.

I'm also just going to have to be even more careful about getting enough sleep, hydration and diet the day before long runs. I could have totally done that 10 miles in 2 hours today had a had just a teensy bit more mojo.

Just a quick observation and I promise, I'll leave you alone... But, French people are not very smart stretchers. Everywhere I look, they're all doing what I call the "ballerina" stretch (Remember Thither? Putting your foot up on a pole?). They lift one leg and then with their backs bent, lean down into what is probably a very stupid and dangerous stretch. Do they do that just to be cool or has no one told them that that is bad for their back (and for the muscle I assume they are trying to stretch--the hamstring)? Whatever. I'm sure I look funny doing all my American stretches, but dude, at least I ain't hurting. These stretches were taught to me by my coaches and trainers.

Anyhoo, there you go. I'm gonna try to catch a power nap. Oh, wait! I forgot! I got my brand new cloth fem hyg shipment in and JUST IN TIME... I LOOOOOOVE them. LOVE them. I hate that they take so long to dry on the line after you wash them, but as far as comfort and absorbency, they're an A+++++!!! Can't believe I waited so long!

Okay, carry on...


Laurel said...

Sorry your friends are not all you had hoped they would be...

Clearly they do not appreciate the fabulousness that is the Joelie Show.

Miss you!

PS...Daniel has been RUNNING! I finally got him into it!

Rachel said...

Hey, like Laurel said, they just don't appreciate the Fabulousness of you. And sometimes in the beginning, friendships can be awkward. And girl, you and I don't agree on everything but we still love each other. Have an open heart hon, maybe they'll surprise you! Hugs and love ya!!

Erica said...

Hey, I don't have any friends in Houston either!

It takes too much energy to keep a guard up all the time anyway ;)

Joelie said...

Erica, I got all kinds of friends down there. Just let me know if you want me to hook you up with some of 'em. In fact, I have a friend up there in your neck of the woods. I used to have a friend that lived off of 290, but she moved to College Station.

Wendy said...

La de da *twiddles thumbs* I'm waiting for a new blog !!