What is this blog all about?

The main purpose of this blog is to give an overview of the things I do, in my everyday life, in order to improve my English. Since I am a very lazy person, I mostly read, and watch movies, and do things which make it possible for me to improve my vocabulary, my grammar and my accent without getting bored... So this blog is going to be about the books I read, the movies I watch, and some other things which I find relevant (or not)...

I hope you'll like it! Don't hesitate to leave comments if you have any suggestions concerning what I should write about!!

samedi 26 juin 2010

What it's for, or what it's about...

I’ve been working reader! Real-working! A mission! Cool and interesting!

I met another one of those guys. Did I ever tell you about the volunteer interpreter guy from Copenhaguen? I think not. He was a volunteer interpreter. From Spain. Very tall, lean, handsome, with the whitest set of teeth and the nicest, brightest smile I’ve ever seen. Cultivated and funny, and he could play the guitar and sing. And then someone said he had trained as a doctor. I’m pretty sure the man’s hobby was saving kittens from fires. Made me want to go back to bed.
Well I met another one of those, yesterday. Same kind. Organic farmer, sporty, looked like a hippie, taller version of Edouard Baer (if you are not French, you might not know, but I do. And it’s a good thing, to look like Edouard Baer in my book). Then he said he was also into music. Then he said he had worked with orphans in the Himalayas. I hesitated, and then I grunted and decided I found them both annoying. Do you think it’s a healthy reaction?

Anyway. Over the course of the week, I found out one more thing to tell to my imaginary group of students about being an interpreter (yes. I’ve got followers in my head. They follow me around and say “yes master, you are wise”. In fact they are mostly a little group of Claires from the future, whom I tell that I am very stupid now, and they’d better improve before their turn comes. It is a little less self-important than it might seem).

Where was I? Oh yeah. One of the things I tell my imaginary group of students about being an interpreter, is that you need to be able to stand alone in the middle of a big, empty hall, and look like you’re OK with it and you belong there and you need no help at all. I believe this to be an impossible task.

This is one of the parts of my jobs that I like a little less: arriving at the venue with no idea what to do, who anybody is, where you need to go, and generally what to do with your arms, that are so bloody long, and your mouth, which you suddenly realized is a little frowny, but then you smile, and then you feel stupid, and then you bite your lips, and you look stupid and affected, and then you start frowning again. Sometimes, I try reading, but read what?

The best is when you have something related to the theme of the conference, (not a book, because you don’t want to look like you don’t care, not your vocabulary list, because you don’t want to look like you don’t already know it all by heart). Like maybe an article about the eating habits of penguins if you are going to a Linux conference. Loosely related. Knowing all the while that no one gives a damn what you read, I’m aware of that fact. But I can’t help it. And my little group of followers are still running around in my head, waiting to be impressed by my amazing skills.

In any case, followers or no, when I am sitting alone in an uncomfortable leather chair that is much too close to the ground, studying my shoes and making bets with myself on the number of places where my feet are going to hurt when I take them off tonight, I often wish I just were home. Home sounds nice, at 7.30, when you are alone and embarrassed. So here is a list of things that make me feel like home.

1. Knitwear and jam. Not both together, of course. My mother used to knit (she stopped now, somehow), and all my pullovers when I was a kid smelled like the hospital, because she had knitted them there (my mother’s a nurse). Now I’m the only person in the world who actually likes the smell of hospitals. As for jam, jam makes me feel like home for exactly the same reason. My mother makes jam. It is like a fever, a passion, an industrial endeavor, call it what you like, but it causes my home to smell like hot orange juice or strawberry very late at night. Somehow, jam only works if you make it very late at night. I keep annoying my mother about making crazy sorts of jam and letting the whole fruit in them instead of mashing them up, but the truth is, whatever the shape and form, it’s always nice to have your home smell like jam when you go to bed.
2. Talking about knitwear, that old dark blue pullover which is one of the rare items in my closet that are actually too big for me. Never felt cold in that pullover, and it probably has to do with the fact that it was worn both by my sister and my father. Who could feel cold in a pullover like this? It’s thick and itchy, and it’s got a nice, night color. It weighs about 5 kilos. It is immortal. It is the father of all pullovers. And it still looks new.

3. De Palmas’s “Marcher dans le sable.” Reminds me of when I was in high school in a weird, good old times kind of way. It’s not particularly happy, either, but somehow to me, it will always taste of summer, laughs, running around in fountains and sun.

4. The Star Wars movies. After watching them 678 times each, (probably a little more for episode 6, I guess) they still totally work. (Do I need to specify that I only like episodes 4 to 6? I hardly think I do…) I know the dialogues pretty much by heart, but only in French, because I was too young to read the subtitles when the rage was full on…

5. The Indian restaurant where I helped out when I was at the university. I still go there regularly, and even when I just think about it, it makes me feel like home. I went to a street festival the other day, and there was a stand with Indian cuisine, and it smelled like the restaurant, and I wanted to teleport. I did not, and I still had a great evening, but you get the idea.

I’m leaving Germany next week, and going back home for a while. Well, I’ll be off to Brussels soon, even though the European tests of death are postponed till April next year (Can I swear on the Internet? I believe I cannot. I shall refrain. I already said Arsch last time…), so I won’t stay home very long, but still. Bye bye Stuttgart, live long and prosper etc. Maybe I’ll tell you about homecoming, and leaving places where you settled for a while next time, if I find 5 interesting things to say!

samedi 12 juin 2010

Because I'm bad, really, really bad

I'm in a terrible mood tonight. Blue and angry and annoyed and mean at everyone I see, for some reason I don't clearly understand. I also know the solutions to this problem (singing very loudly, watching Bones with my mother, reading more Shakespeare and dancing to the Sugababes while brushing my teeth) are not immediately accessible, which only makes matters worse.

Somehow, I believe that reading more Shakespeare and listening to "About you now" would achieve about the same result. Is that not really, really weird? I think it is. Maybe I'm just dehydrated.
In any case, since I am in a mean mood, I figured this top 5 would be a good idea for today, might even improve the situation. I've been wanting to write it for a while. Indeed, I did it again, reader. I went to that gothik-metal-dark-anything-as-long-as-there's-a-K-in-it club with my roommate on a pretty much weekly basis.

And I looked at people a lot, for three main reasons: 1. they are fascinating, 2. my "pretend what you hear is Rihanna and not Rammstein"-plan did not work out at all, and 3. my German, though it is improving a lot (I think), still does not suffice for me to understand what (mostly drunk) people say to me when very loud music is playing in the background.

Have you ever noticed, reader, how getting better at something is exactly like growing up? You don't really notice it yourself when you do. Except when you need to reach that box on the top shelf, and suddenly you actually can. Well it's the same with my German. But still, it's not enough for me to pass as a person of average intelligence when loud music is playing in the background.

The few people I have managed to talk with were really, really nice, though, and they really did try their best and did not give up on me even though they had to repeat everything 5 times. Special thanks to my roommate there, for introducing me to all his cool friends and not being ashamed of me, even though I must seem quite lame. Still, as I have very little skill in the area of deaf-mute small-talk in German sign language, I mostly tend to smile daftly, and then take off and go have a soda in a dark corner.

No dearth of those. Mostly I spend the night grinning like a crazy person, sitting in my dark corner, and I am not at all respecting the law in there that says you need to look blasé and sad. I can't help it. And I'm not mocking them, either, it's a kind of nervous fascination thing.

Sometimes, however, I do mock. And this is what I want to tell you about tonight. Tonight, the top 5 things that make me happy even though they really should not. The top 5 Schadenfreude. Cause I'm in Germany at the moment. Not all of them relate to Gothic punk rock dark metal clubs, though, but this is still where my inspiration came from.

1. Women who have very high heels and cannot walk in them. I cannot walk in heels either. I love high-heels shoes, and were I not freakishly tall, I would probably wear some every day. Except for the fact that I would then have to stay seated at all times. But somehow, the sight of a girl going down the stairs veeeery slowly and a little unsteadily in heavy boots with 5 inches heels makes me unreasonably happy. When I am wearing sneakers, that is. Because I am cruel. When I am the girl walking down the stairs, needless to say, I do not find it as amusing.

2. My roommate who forgets to take his laundry out of the washing machine. Do not ask me why, but it makes me happy. Then it stinks, and he has to wash it again *delighted laughter*. I nearly hoped he would forget it in the washing machine again the next day. He's really nice and all, my roommate, I have no reason whatever to wish either him or his T-shirts ill luck. I have no plausible explanation for this particular guilty, happy feeling.

3. Metal fans who are not happy with the rock remix of Katie Perry's Hot and cold being played at their favourite club when they were expecting something by some band named something like "Stabbed Puppies Kry Acid Tears of Fire". Whadayamean "cliché"? Honestly, I am only slightly exagerating, and this is exactly why I find it all so awesome. Because sometimes it's fun to just go for it. Especially when it means I get to wear a long black skirt and really dark smokey-eyes make up. Still, I rejoiced over the depressed look of that guy on the dance floor yesterday. The brief struggle before he decided that his pride could not take head-banging to the beat of a pop song, remixed or no. Then he mimicked his head exploding, Mars Attacks style. Hu hu hu...

4. This creature. If you really, really mess up in this life, you'll be that thing in the next. The fact that it is so very ugly makes me unreasonably happy. But then again, it probably is a reasonably happy creature, and it digs galleries, who am I to judge. Unlike the little bugs that I saw the other day at the pet-shop with my roommate. They were all white, so we asked the seller what was wrong with them, and he said "we powdered them up with vitamin powder, because the (whatever bigger bug he was feeding at the moment) need vitamins". "DIE WERDEN EINGEPUDERT"! OoÔ

5. People who lose soccer matches. Only when they are not French, though. I know. I'm getting used to disappointment. I've been going to "public viewings" of soccer matches lately, twice, in fact, I've seen both Germany's games, and I don't really know why, but the "aaaargh" and "booooooh" (and occasional "arschloch", ok, I have to report this, because it's the truth) make me grin. I've not had my own "arsch" kicked yet, but I supposed it won't be long now. Only they are already happily making fun of me in return, so in fact I guess I'm safe.

Well I do actually feel better now, strangely... I'll go now, and try to be good.

Nothing else matters

My brother got married last week.

It was an eventful day, what with the groom cutting his finger and actually severing a nerve hours before the ceremony, but it was his index and not his ring finger, so everything went fine. He was sent back from the hospital and allowed to enjoy the evening. Probably less so the surgery the next day, but hell... We all learnt a little lesson (do not use scissors on your wedding day) and he was there at his own wedding, which is already a reason to rejoice :)

It has been a crazy time for my brother and his wife, since they have been simultaneously looking for a job, moving from the other side of the Atlantic, and preparing the wedding. And not once did I hear them say they were stressed out about it. Makes me dumb with wonderment. I do hope, however, that last saturday marked the beginning of a new, calm period of utter boredom. OK, right, no. I do hope that last saturday marked the beginning of a really great time in Paris where they will have plenty of professionnal and personnal success. Maybe just a few weeks of boredom would be good, however. Just a tiny little bit of sleep.

Here they are, reader! I will not show their faces, because you need sunglasses to look at them safely.

Picture is courtesy of my step-brother V, I hope he doesn't mind. He was the photographer for the wedding, and his pictures, I must say, are remarkably non-blurry and very impressive

You know, sometimes in life, I figure I'm too lucky for it all to be true (not always, though. Mostly I forget, but I really am very, very lucky). This is exactly how I felt last sunday, sitting in church next to my sisters, at my brother's wedding, listening to the choir in the church of my grand parent's village with the whole family. I just watched all the people around me, and figured I was just plain lucky. If I ever have children, I want to have a lot of them, so that they're as happy as I am to have awesome brothers and sisters.

As for my brother's wife, S, she looked amazing and perfect. She makes me feel austenian and want to use big words and say "you're my sister now". Don't ask me. I'm so very glad they got married. I'm so very glad they're coming back to France and we'll get to see them more often, because I really missed them a lot.

I look at them and I figure : I wouldn't see them anywhere else with anyone else. They kind of just belong together, in a very logical way. You can never be sure of anything, and as I said, I have not seen much of them over the last few years, but when I think about them, I figure there must be an equation somewhere that's just been perfectly balanced. They're a reason to be optimistic, and I wish them both all the very best.