Monday, March 9, 2009

Passenger Side.

It's a common struggle for American students studying in European cities to break away from the "Study Abroad Bubble" and actually integrate themselves into that particular culture.  

Well today, I did it.  I was let into a very exclusive part of Parisian life.

A group of about ten of us were discussing literature, and I thought I was leading a pretty good conversation until one of the participants became overly distracted by a sponge.  I had to grab the sponge and pretend to eat it in order to regain her attention and make the group laugh.    

Oh yeah, she was five years old, and I was reading Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?  

Shall I backtrack?

My UW program offers an extra 3 credit internship at the local schools in Paris working with English teachers.  I requested working with younger kids, convincing myself that kids are the best way to learn a language with their combination of no patience and simple sentences and vocabulary.  And I was going to be doing arts and crafts with a bunch of adorable French children, how could it not be fun?  Can I work with five-year-olds, too?  Sure can!

I am an idiot.

I showed up at the elementary school for my first day (late, naturally) and as soon as I walked into a room of five-year-olds doing army crawls on the floor (I have no idea) the teacher handed me a box of books and chose ten kids to sit in some small closet with me as I read to them about animals and colors.  

It sounds simple, but when you have one kid scrubbing your foot with a sponge while his buddy is throwing the couch cushion over his head and the third punk is making up gibberish words when I ask Comment dit-on 'chien' en Anglais? it gets a bit tricky.  And let's be real here, my "stern" French words made them laugh a lot more than my sponge-eating stint.  

Now listen, in my defense, I thought I'd be able to handle a bunch of monstrous children speaking a language I half understood because it is for sure not my first time in such a situation.  Exhibit A and Exhibit B.  After spending months in Syria with my cousins' Arabic-speaking kids, I assumed these French suckers would be a piece of pie.  

But fine, hand me the white flag, I am more than ready to wave it.  
I eventually moved to the 3rd grade class with a teacher who was a pretty yet just as scary version of Miss Trunchbull.  After recess, she lectured the class on how they need to respect the American student teacher (moi) and then said something I didn't understand but all 25 kids gasped at once, so it must have been pretty awful.  She was perfectly kind to me, but the class ended when she dragged a sobbing child kicking and screaming (Note: not a cliché, the boy was le-git kicking and screaming) out of the class where she pried a notebook from his hands.  

Part of me wanted to sprint right out of L'École Trinite and e-mail in my no-weeks-notice.  Those brats can be monolingual like the rest of us for all I care.  But then right after I helped the girl who addressed me as Maîtresse Jen-na zip her coat, I walked outside and literally saw un petit écolier eat Le Petit Écolier.  (Translation: A little schoolboy eating a cookie, not another little schoolboy.)  My heart melted, and I had to remind myself that it was my first day...

My first day in my freshman dorm I was convinced my only friends would be Joey, Ross and Phoebe.  My first day at the Badger Herald I was redesigning the front page until 3 a.m. and vowed never to return to that office.  And my first day in Paris I was dragging my luggage in circles looking for an internet cafe to book the next flight home.  

Okay, I digress but the point is this: All of these aforementioned experiences carried on pretty well and produced (slash are still producing) some mighty fine friends and memories.  

So I just have to man up and not let those French midgets push me around, because if I can handle Dre, I can handle anything.

Until next time,

Maîtresse Jenna

P.S - If you have some universal child education tips, POST them.

P.P.S - Dre, if by some strange chance you read this.. I'm totally kidding and it's nothing but love.


  1. I would say caffeine beforehand, alcohol after, but I work with high schools. Your formula may be adderall and cocaine.

  2. P.S - If you have some universal child education tips, POST them.

    you can call pam if you want, she is the expert.