Mine sent me this, and it was a total surprise because he had never sent me anything before:
Bradley, I miss you so much. But see you (and the unicorns!) in July!!!
It’s been rather nice here lately. Mid 60’s and sunny. I even took off my coat and lied down outside on the grass today during my break. I have missed the sun so much! And the sun doesn’t even set until 8:30pm these days!
In contrast, my parents have like 5 inches of snow on the ground. In April.
I love that even though the most southern point of France is at the same latitude as Detroit, the weather is much less cold and extreme here than it is in Michigan. Thank you Atlantic Ocean for your warm currents. This frileuse appreciates it!
Needless to say, I’m feeling good this week. I’m sure the weather, spring vacation, and the Dominican Republic all have something to do with it. But I’m also happy for the new English assistants who just received their acceptance e-mails. (Almost a month earlier than last year – way to go embassy!) It reminds me of when I received my acceptance letter and was so excited all summer long before coming to France.
And my excruciatingly long, 12 hour Tuesdays are finally finished! I had a crappy schedule this semester, but the morning labs have finished already, so no more wasting time and nearly falling asleep between classes. One more day of work before spring vacation, and then afterwards, only three more days of work before I finish on April 27 and have all summer off (until mid-September!) And it’s paid vacation, of course.
My former French professor from the University of Michigan-Flint passed away yesterday. Matthew Hilton-Watson collapsed while he was teaching a class and died on his way to the hospital. He had been suffering from pneumonia. He was only 40 years old.
He was one of only two full-time French professors at the smaller Flint campus. He was the director of the International & Global Studies Program and recently created a new minor in French & Francophone Studies, with most classes being in English so that those with little knowledge of French could still learn about the French-speaking world. He was also involved in promoting awareness of the French-Canadian presence in Michigan and the preservation of endangered languages.
I met him in 2000 as a freshman, and took classes with him every single semester. I was lucky enough to have my best friend, Brad, in class with me, but having Matt as a professor was an added bonus. I looked forward to each class – even the literature classes that I thought I would hate. I lost my voice almost every week during phonetics class because I was trying so hard to imitate his near-native accent. His enthusiasm for teaching the language, and spreading knowledge and appreciation of all Francophone cultures, made me want to become a French professor too. I wanted to motivate others to learn French and discover how rewarding learning a second language really is. In short, I wanted to be just like Matt.
And to his students, he was simply Matt. Not doctor or professor, just Matt. He was our friend, our mentor. He was the reason why I majored in French. He was the reason why my pronunciation improved so much. He was the reason why I studied in Quebec and fell in love with Montreal. He was the reason why I moved to France.
I e-mailed him sporadically after I left Michigan to see if any of his students would be coming to France as assistants, or to get advice on what to do with my life here. Just two days ago I had asked for the reading list for his new spring course on Francophone Cultures of the World so I could pretend to be his student again and learn something new. And then I checked my e-mail this morning and learned that he was gone.
Sarah, Alexander and Catherine, my thoughts are with you.
Cette vie est un hôpital où chaque malade est possédé du désir de changer de lit. Celui-ci voudrait souffrir en face du poêle, et celui-là croit qu’il guérirait à côté de la fenêtre. Il me semble que je serais toujours bien là où je ne suis pas, et cette question de déménagement en est une que je discute sans cesse avec mon âme.
This life is a hospital in which each patient is possessed by the desire to change beds. One wants to suffer in front of the stove and another believes that he will get well near the window. It always seems to me that I will be better off there where I am not, and this question of moving about is one that I discuss endlessly with my soul.
Charles Baudelaire – Any Where Out of the World
(One of Matt’s favorite quotes)
Sung by Brian d’Arcy James, who’s from Saginaw and who’s currently starring as Shrek on Broadway.
Christmas decorations are up. Presents have been bought. Cards have been sent. Music is playing nonstop. We’re getting a real tree this week. Vacation starts in 3 weeks. I am so ready for Christmas.
Now where is my snow???
My doigts are croisés that it will look like this in Annecy, but somehow I don’t think that’s going to happen.
Oh well, there’s always next year when I (hopefully) go back to Michigan…
So the presidential elections (only one more month to go!!!) and having to explain the Electoral College and how voting works in the US to the French have stirred up some emotions about why I don’t like living there. The United States of America is just that – a collection of states, but states that are not all that united. All of them must follow federal laws, like driving at 16, voting at 18 and drinking alcohol at 21; but there are also a lot of laws that are decided on by state governments, which I find completely unfair. We are all American citizens, yet we don’t all have to live by the same laws just because we live in different states?
In Michigan this year, there are two proposed amendments to the state constitution on the ballot: legalizing marijuana for medical purposes and allowing embryonic stem-cell research. In some states these are already legal or illegal. In some states, they are voting on other amendments, like banning gay marriage or preventing animal cruelty. How awful is it to tell people they can be married in one state but if they travel or move to another state within the same country, their marriage is no longer legal???
I believe the federal government should have more power over each state, so that the laws are the same everywhere you go in the US. Why do some states have better education systems than others? Why do some states provide more basic human rights than others? Why do some states have better health care options than others? I don’t necessarily agree with France’s centralizing everything to Paris, but at least laws are the same in every région and département. And that is my biggest problem with voting in the US.
The Electoral College favors the Republicans by giving states with small populations a larger say in the overall vote… states that usually vote Republican. Technically, a candidate only has to win 11 states in order to win the presidency. So what’s the point of even campaigning in the other 39 states? It’s obvious that every year the candidates focus on the swing states that could change the outcome and ignore the rest. Why not just have a direct vote so that every American citizen has an equal say instead of each state having unequal say? The fact that the Electoral College was created to limit the impact of women’s and slaves’ votes says something about its true, undemocratic nature, doesn’t it? I’ve always felt insulted that the government believes states are more important than the people or that the people are not intelligent enough to vote for the president, although we do so for the Congress.
For those of us who don’t live where we are registered, why do some states require that you vote in person at your precint the very first time you vote? Isn’t that extremely unfair to those college students who can’t afford to return to their parents’ on a Tuesday during the semester? Or for those who are studying or moving abroad before they have the chance to vote for the first time? What are they supposed to do?
And why even bother to vote if you know your state will give its electors to the other candidate anyway? I’m glad Michigan votes democrat or else I would be very frustrated that my vote doesn’t count for anything. I would still vote, of course, just for the pleasure of voting against the republicans, but I wouldn’t feel that my vote could make a difference. And isn’t that why we vote?
I may be an American citizen, but most days, I don’t really know how to define what that really means. I’m an American who abides by Michigan laws (or used to when I lived there.) So am I really a Michigander first, and American second? I think that’s why I’ve always thought that I’m not really “American” – because there are 50 different types of Americans.
Martha is one of my closest friends from “back home” – i.e. Michigan. I have known her for about 7 years. We met in German 111 at the University of Michigan-Flint and I thought she was the coolest person ever because she had lived in Germany for a few years. Turns out Martha is also the nicest person ever.
Two years later, Martha & I were in the same class again, but this time it was the Writing Center tutor training class. We worked together for almost 4 years in the Writing Center until I moved to France. Martha stayed in Flint to do her Master’s degree, but decided to come back to Europe this past June when I agreed to present with her at the European Writing Center Association’s conference.
So off to Freiburg I went to meet up with Martha. I had seen her 6 months before when I went home for Christmas in 2007, but it’s different when friends come to your side of the world. Our presentation was a success and we had plenty of time to explore Freiburg and the Black Forest on our own. We drove back to Annecy because I had a mandatory interview with ANPE (see last post…) and then went back to Germany a few days later to see Lake Constance, Triberg (the cuckoo clock town), and Reutlingen, where Martha & her family had lived 8 years ago.
Martha joins the statue on Mainau Island
I’ve always loved the thought of Germany. I used to live 15 minutes from the Bavarian town of Frankenmuth where the world’s largest Christmas store is located. So when I thought of Germany, I thought of Christmas. Now when I think of Germany, I think of Martha. I have other connections to Germany & Austria because of my ancestors, but I really don’t know much about them. So Christmas and Martha are to thank for my love of all things German.
Martha was recently hired at Bigli University in Istanbul, Turkey. She leaves Michigan today and starts work next week. I am so excited for her and hope to visit sometime next year. I hope she can come back to Germany too so we can explore more of Baden-Württemburg and Bayern together.
Viel Glück in der Türkei, Martha!
My family in Michigan drove to the UP this weekend for vacation. Flint to Houghton is about nine hours, so they stopped in Newberry on the way. I couldn’t remember where it was, so I looked it up on Google Maps and found this picture of the downtown area:
For most of my life, this is what I thought downtown meant. Wide straight roads. Old brick buildings. Not a person in sight. This is heaven to me. I grew up in the countryside, with the closest city being a 10 minute drive away and the actual city limits extending only one square mile. My concept of “city” was obviously skewed from the beginning.
Then I moved to Flint for college and saw what I thought city-life was. Not true however, as Flint’s population is rather low and many buildings remain empty. But traffic wasn’t bad. The roads were still wide and there were few pedestrians to watch out for. I could walk or ride my bike to school and work. Grocery stores remained a 10 minute drive away though.
I’ve had the pleasure of visiting (and driving in) New York and LA, and traveling through the major cities of Europe, so now I know what “real” cities are like. But I’ll always prefer my original idea. There’s just something so serene and peaceful about the wide, open spaces. Or maybe it’s just the lack of people, and therefore noise…
Can you tell that living in a residential area surrounded by loud neighbors is getting to me a bit? I would give anything to live in the countryside again.
The weather is Annecy is finally summer-like and I have to leave! I’m off to Freiburg, Germany, tomorrow (via Geneva and Basel) because I’m co-presenting at the European Writing Centers Association conference. I’ll be dazzling the audience with my knowledge on tutoring ESL students and explaining the different kinds of tutoring that goes on at the Marian E. Wright Writing Center at my undergrad school, the University of Michigan-Flint. My good friend Martha is coming (I think she’s already arrived?) all the way from Michigan to present with me and I am beyond excited to finally have a friend from back home visit my part of the world. Granted, she has lived in Germany before with her family, so it’s not new to her, but still! I miss my friends!
I’m trying to finalize my part of the presentation, and hoping that my sore throat does not worsen and make me lose my voice before Saturday morning. I’ve made backup copies of everything but I’m still paranoid something will go wrong… Luckily I’m taking Swiss trains instead of French ones so I won’t be affected by the random strikes. CFF beats SNCF any day!
Martha & I will be back in Annecy Sunday through Tuesday, and then we’ll decide where to go from there. Nice? Genoa? Bodensee? Except I cannot check the Annecy-Nice train schedules or prices because voyages-sncf.com does not work right now. Of course. (I also just tried to sign in to my ASSEDIC account and what happened? Their site is down too! I just love French websites!!)
I still need to pack… which leads to the most important question: What should I wear??