Tag Archives: Lessons in French


12 Dec

Now that I’m leaving in a week, I’ve gone from being totally ready to get home (especially since it’s the holidays) to getting a bittersweet feeling more and more as the flight home gets closer and closer.  Everyday I’m finding more things I’m really going to miss.

Things I’ll miss:

Living in history.  I pass the coolest, oldest places just walking to the university.  And I always see something new.  One of my favorite things to do is just walk around the narrow, winding streets of the old town and seeing the shops and homes built right into the Middle Ages.  And the best finds are tucked away and easily passed over.

La Place de la comédie.  The center of the city, in the middle of the old town, I make excuses to walk through there whenever I can.  It’s full of life, full of old buildings, full of cafés, accordion music, shops; basically, it is France in a nutshell.

Taking field trips not to the science museum but to thousand year-old castle ruins and historic cities.  Last week, my medieval literature class went on a field trip to a couple Cathar castle ruins west of here near the Pyrenees and stopped in Narbonne.  We had only really read one story about the Cathars and didn’t really learn much school-wise on the trip (our prof is a really laid back French-American), but the trip gave us eerie mountaintop ruins with gorgeous views of the Pyrenees, probably the quietest I’ve ever heard (if that makes sense; being on top of the mountain in the ruins, no one else was there except our small class, and just miles and miles of open countryside and rolling hills), and a day full of hilarity.  So, why not?!  Also, we learned a new phrase from our prof: “bon, bein, donc, voilà, quoi?!”  It literally means nothing.  Nothing!  All of those words are filler words, and together it just basically means, “well, there ya have it.”  Haven’t used it yet, but maybe it’ll be my parting words to my host family, “Well!  Bon bein donc voilà quoi!  Au revoir!”  Actually, that’s probably not a great idea.

Wine.  I don’t really need to explain this one.  New addition: vin chaud.  My hypothesis behind vin chaud:  so, they were drinking wine, and it started getting a little chilly outside.  They knew they couldn’t keep drinking the cool wine when it was getting so cold, so, they looked at the fire, looked longingly at their wine, and one smart aleck piped up, “Screw it, let’s heat it up!”  And they did.  Voilà.  Bravo, French wine-addicts, bravo.

Fromage cru.  Non-pasteurized cheese is sooooo good.  Paranoid American health standards, you’re lame.

Good bread.  Croissants, baguettes, pain au chocolat, delicious.

The graffiti.  At first, I thought the graffiti was awful and destructive, but now I really like seeing quality artistic graffiti.  Some of it is really impressive.

Christmas markets.  It’s like a party nonstop in the center of town.  The stands are so cute and abundant, the shopping’s great, the food’s delicious, the hot wine is hot and wine, and it seems like everyone comes out to the market–it’s just a sea of people.  There are Christmas lights everywhere, a huge “tree” made of lights, occasional singing performances, and even a tiny bunny hill put up right in the middle of the Esplanade (our pedestrian boulevard, basically) where kids can put on some skis, march up the walkway, and get pushed down the little slope by ski school teachers.  They imported snow and everything.  Ah, France.

Shakespeare.  The pub that we’ve made our home away from home and destination for many trivia nights.  Mari and I got a cider beer (our favorite) there yesterday afternoon and couldn’t stop saying how we wanted to transport Shakespeare home to Minneapolis.  This bar will be hard to beat.

Exposure to different sports.  My family was very nice and brought me to both a Montpellier soccer match (against Lyon who is very good, and we only just lost right in the last minute) and a handball match (Montpellier is very good and rocked Nîmes), and I’ve watched rugby plenty on TV.  These sports games live are very different than in the US.  At least with soccer and handball, there are small sections of hardcore fans for each team, but then the rest of the crowd is fairly calm.  Leaving the handball match last night, my dad asked me about how raucous games are in the US and told me that “the French are too timid for that.”  He’s right, while watching the game, I kept thinking that the noise in that arena was about equivalent to a middle-school basketball game back home.  Handball at least tried to make it into a show with flashing lights, loud ominous music, and even cheerleaders, but it didn’t quite work.  There were soccer hooligans, of course, and they brought tons of flags, drums, and even torches; but they were a very small part of the crowd.  Everyone else was pretty composed.  It was strange, to say the least.

The Americans calling our city Montpillz.  Best nickname ever.

The warm weather.  It’s in the 50s right now, last week it got into the 60s and was tshirt weather.  It’s December, I’m listening to Christmas music, and it’s too warm to wear a jacket.  I asked my host mom today if this warm weather is normal, and she just looks at me a little shocked and says, “This is cold!”  haha I don’t think they would survive one day in Minnesota.

Palm trees, flamingos, and constant sunshine.

My Montpellier friends.  I was really worried about this before getting to France, but I’ve made some really great friends in my program and I’m really going to miss them.  They’ve made the stay and European trips so much more fun.  Luckily, we’re all in the midwest, and one of them even lives just in Minnetonka.  Montpellier reunions in MN or Chicago will definitely be necessary.

Living in France.

Things I won’t miss:

Living by pourquoi pas:  Literally meaning “why not”, it became our motto to live by (à la “you only live in France once”).  But it actually means pants getting snugger and the wallet getting a lot lighter (sorry Mom and Dad).   But then again, it also means taking day trips to castles and weekend trips to Croatia, so maybe I actually will miss living this way….

Getting harassed on the street and tram stops.  I am so sick of French men (sometimes drunk, sometimes not) thinking it’s okay to harass women whenever they feel like it.  I have been slapped on the butt and told “fuck you” among other things.  And don’t even think about speaking English too loudly, it apparently gives them the right to harass you.

Having bread as a huge part of my diet.  Sometimes I think that some French dishes are just excuses to get to the bread.  (but I will miss it, kind of hard to beat French bread)

Not having soap in the bathrooms.

Scratcher.  This is what I named the animal living in my ceiling.  Yep, there’s something up there.  Apparently, a few months ago, he was hanging out in my parents’ room and waking them up in the middle of the night scratching and running around.  Then, in October, he got bored and cozied up into the part of the ceiling right above my pillow (I sleep up in a loft, so it’s literally about two feet from the ceiling).  It’s like having a soundtrack of someone snoring.  From his noises, I’ve decided he’s definitely something bigger than a rat–maybe a squirrel??  I have no idea.  Also, what does he eat up there (he has been up there a long time)?  Nevertheless, he wakes me up and I’m afraid he’s going to somehow get through the crack in the beam, but I hope he’s enjoying himself up there.

Having my name used all the time.  I knew that it was French, and I knew that it meant “clear” (hence, Eau Claire, “clear water”), but I did not realize how often they say “c’est clair,” which means “it’s clear/evident”.  Especially in my classes.  In the US, I think I hear my name so often since it rhymes with so many words it’s ridiculous (think about it), but I don’t want to think how many times my name is actually used here.  I’ve learned to ignore my name completely.  Also, apparently I can’t say my own name correctly, so that’s kind of a bummer too.

Living in a world full of black clothing.  Forget about wearing colors, if I wear brown I feel like I’m standing out.  You may think I’m exaggerating, but everyone wears black all the time.  Especially now that it’s cold out, everyone’s jackets are black.  C’est fou!


My brother had all of his Silly Bandz laid out on the table on display in the hall.  Either he has put it in safe keeping away from the other kids, or else the little punk has traded Minnesota.  He doesn’t know what he’s missing.

You know you live in France when…

30 Nov

When you eat dinner at 9:30.

When people cross freely in front of trams and on the tracks all the time, and you have only been almost hit by a train once (knock on wood).

When the titles of movies are changed…but kept in English.  i.e. The Hangover becomes A Very Bad Trip.  Oh, and when Hogwarts becomes Poudlard, Mudbloods become moldu, none of which are actual French words.  Both beg the question why change it in the first place.

When your university was shut down for two weeks because of les grèves.

When chocolate croissants have lost their magnetism and have become a mere rarity.  (Surprising, yet fortunate for the waistline).

When pronouncing words ever so slightly differently can unwittingly give a whole new meaning to what you are trying to say.  (See earlier sein/sang incident).

When you walk by a vineyard on the way to the university.  A small vineyard in the middle of the city enclosed by houses and office buildings.  Really??…..wonder if the wine’s any good…

When Nutella is the new peanut butter.

When Thanksgiving dinner consists of: eating at 8:30, being served in separate courses, randomly starting with a tossed salad and pita bread, having hot cranberry sauce (actual liquid-y sauce; and I’m pretty sure there were lingonberries in it), soy sauce-esque gravy, a small apple tart, and not having to loosen your belt or wear maternity pants (à la Joey on Friends).  Being oh so truly French, we only had a little bit of each course, didn’t have seconds, and ended with an espresso.  Not very American.  This could very well be the first Thanksgiving I’ve experienced where I didn’t feel sickly full.  But there were no kolaces nor one of my mom’s amazing pies, so I think I would rather have instead taken the dazed inertia that is Thanksgiving night at home.  Not to mention the complete unsettlement of not being at home with the family for the holiday–a first for me.

When you’re considering going all the way to London just because you heard they have a Chipotle.

When you can still buy your Harry Potter opening night ticket an hour before the showing.

b) When no one dresses up for Harry Potter.  (And when you secretly wish you had your mandrake costume with you from HP6 to scare the fashionably-conscious French).

When no one moves for screaming ambulances.

When you start buying mainly stripes.

When you pass about twelve cats on the street everyday, see cats strolling the rooftops in your neighborhood, and it isn’t rare to have a black cat cross your path.

When you can never escape cigarette smoke.

When baguettes are not just a stereotype, and you see people carrying them around everywhere.

When your family eats foie gras fairly regularly.

When you would kill for a large to-go skim latte with extra froth. (preferably from Dunn Bros)

When you end dinner with fruit and cheese instead of ice cream or chocolate.

When you cannot wait to go to a gym.

b)  When you are constantly perplexed at the lack of gyms and people exercising and the amount of pastries, carbs, and wine consumed versus the incredibly high percent of skinny people.

When you start listening to Christmas music November 9th.  The whole not having Thanksgiving thing is really throwing off my timetable for the appropriateness of Christmas sounds and decor.

When you crave Mexican and Asian food.

When you’ve tamed yourself to not respond to people talking to you on the street.  95% of the time, no good would come of responding.

When your little brother is showing you his 24 new Silly Bandz and has no idea what one is and passes it off as “un truc” (a thing), but you look at it and realize it’s Minnesota.  A 10 year-old French boy had a Minnesota-shaped Silly Band.  He also had Louisiana and Nebraska.  And a rectangle.  So, Colorado.

When your host dad deserves an Oscar (this is more of a, “You know you live with the Planchons when”).  The aforementioned fake slap fight garnered the Planchon duo a nomination, but this new performance took home the grand prize.  So, when someone fakes dead/unconscious (*cough Mom *cough), it’s usually fairly short and a cheap laugh.  However, when another person also gets in on it and acts up the scene to a whole new level, it can be unnerving and puzzling.  So, there I was making my coffee one morning when Mateo goes limp at the table, and his dad nudges him, then starts patting his cheeks trying to wake him up.  Not only is Mateo good at not smirking, but Greg was shooting me the most sincere and concerned “what is happening to my child?” looks I have ever seen.  I went from thinking Mateo was being silly to not wanting to voice my doubt because of Greg’s fearful eyes to actually having a moment of confused unease.  Nevertheless, the second I timidly asked, “Mateo?”, they broke and caught me–hook, line, and sinker.  And the Oscar goes to…!

Travel Tips

28 Oct

Learn the secret to a great French accent: To my surprise, my best accent came out when I was dead sick early one morning one week in my phonetics class.  My friends said they were expecting something awful when I had to read out loud, but it was spot on.  Secret = a throbbing head and sinuses, a stuffed-up nose, and a sore throat.  You’re welcome.

Start the day off right: Leave it up to my mom and dad to bring tailgating to France in the form of a 10:30 a.m. wine tasting (it was a Saturday morning after all).  Two bottles of good wine for a total of 10 euro, a day’s-worth of French practice, and a little buzz made for a successful stop.

Question everyday American things that now seem weird to you: A large coffee?  A to-go coffee, for that matter??  Driving a car everywhere.  Having restaurants/shops open all day.  Drive-thrus.  Cereal (very foreign to me now; seriously, what I wouldn’t do for a bowl of oatmeal…or Life).  Being carded (I have yet to have the satisfaction of proving my age).  Being in a place where people know how to walk down a street without playing chicken and walking into each other.  Mexican food.  Asian food.  Having a dryer for clothes.  Having an overhead shower (a luxury I miss).  Having soap in the bathrooms (yeah not so much here).

Remember that Sunday literally means day of rest: Good luck finding places that are open or open for very long.  In general, getting lunch after 2 p.m. is difficult in (not even much) smaller cities, but on Sundays it’s nearly impossible.  Case in point, Sunday in Nîmes with the parents.  Good thing we still had some cheese and grapes left (which is saying something since we’re kind of cheese addicts).

Always have a roll of toilet paper in the car when on road trips: Restrooms are few and far between (even in Montpellier, where their version of a “public restroom” is the McDonald’s where you have to buy something and use the receipt to get in), and if you do find a public restroom, chances are it’s a nicely-ceramiced hole in the floor.  After saying I’d do so many times this fall, I finally popped a squat, no less during our peaceful picnic lunch in the French countryside next to a canal.  Camp prepared me well for extreme traveling.

Go to the source: Roquefort cheese bought in the village of Roquefort.  The stinkier the better for us–this one came in a sealed and lined bag.  Did I mention we should be in cheese rehab at this point?

Be observant: For some reason, I have seen more look-a-likes and doppelgangers here than ever before.  Random people from school, home, even celebs–I saw Jacob Black slash Taylor Lautner.  Edward has yet to be found.

Take your time: The other day on my walk home, I stopped and joined a small crowd gathered around two street artists and, expecting some cheap parlor trick, was amazed at their skills.  They used spray paint, a square and a circle templates, and a kind of blade.  They had some fantastic finished works laying out in front of them, but I didn’t fully appreciate the talent until I saw them create an amazing painting right before my eyes using really interesting techniques.  With the simplest movements and combinations of the paints, using the templates to create layers and edges, and the effortless strokes of the blade, they made detailed and colorful surreal scenes of moons, mountains, etc.  Undeniably true artists.

Don’t be a Belge: I still have yet to figure out how to turn on the TV on my own.  It’s been almost two months.  I would call myself a blond, but here that would be a Belgian.

Know what there is to do in a city before you get there: Going on a day-trip to Sète probably would have been more fulfilling if we had looked at what there is to do or see there, but it definitely wouldn’t have been as funny.  Getting off the train and asking if any of us had brought a map or knew what there was to do brought complete silence, followed by a few hilarious hours of aimlessly wandering, trying to follow signs for the office of tourism which led in all different directions (at one intersection, there were signs pointing in 3 completely different directions).  We found it eventually…but on accident while we were trying to find a place to have a beer.  Meh.  C’est la vie.

Go international: At our usual trivia night this week at our favorite bar, we ended up with a table/team of Americans, Swiss-Germans, and French-Italians.  Though the quiz was fun (and we got 6th out of 26!), it was great enough to just talk to each other about differences and similarities in our countries.  Fun fact: there are 638 muscles in the body, and Rachel on Friends says “oh my god” the most of any character.

When you are asked if you want to go to a torture museum, the answer is ALWAYS a resounding “yes”: In Carcassonne, we toured a torture museum and spent the time split between shock and laughter.  Shock because of the horror of these tools, and laughter because of the hilarious translations of some of the placards into English and the absurdity of some of the tools (I’ll admit it was a bit childish of Mari and I to go through the exhibit laughing, but we couldn’t help ourselves–a mask “most commonly used for talkative women”?  An “instrument of torture for bad musicians”??  The “pear” used for, well, insertions and expansions–I’d like to point out that women get this done annually.  A metal chastity belt with spikes around the holes?  You can’t even make that stuff up).

Take it all in: Having your visit to a Romanesque basilica interrupted by five men standing in front of the altar and breaking into beautiful hymnal music.  Soaking in accordion music on the street.  Trying new dishes such as aligot (basically mashed potatoes with cheese that you have to pull apart–new favorite) and cassoulet (delicious bean stew with duck and sausage).  Stopping for a street musician.  Your host dad and brother giving an impromptu magic show after dinner.

Faites la grève! Actually, don’t.  But, it’s hard not to be affected by these strikes.  The French have the constitutional right to strike, and they use it!  This time around, the strikes are regarding the possible (and now passed) law to raise the retirement age by two years, making French people work until 62 years-old.  The trams don’t run as frequently, they are stopped by rioters (I waited on one train en route for 20 minutes until we moved), manifestations fill the streets, high schools strike and protest in front of the gates (les grèves are really almost a rite of passage for the French; I’m not convinced these high schoolers completely comprehend the situation), and my university–the hippie (liberal arts) uni of Montpellier–was one of only six universities in the country to shut down.  Last week the president locked down the school, and currently there are stacks of chairs filling stairwells and blockading doors to classrooms and buildings.  As my host dad pointed out, one could pull down the stacks of chairs…and yeah one could…but no one really feels up to it…and plus there are students patrolling to make sure that doesn’t happen.  In fact, I’ve heard of classes that have gotten into their rooms and commenced that were told to leave because it wasn’t safe to hold class.  No class at the Uni for the last week-and-a-half.  Zut!

In the end, know what the hell you’re talking about: Awhile back, I told a friend’s host mom after dinner that I was pregnant, rather than full.  Well, I beat that at dinner last night.  We were talking about needles and shots, and I said, “j’aime donner le sein“.  Sein is breast, and I had just said that I like to breastfeed, instead of saying that I like to give blood (sang).  Bravo, Claire, bravo.

Now it’s off to Edinburgh and Amsterdam for the fall break!

Get to see Kat, Jill, Katie, Ariel, Frank (Foley reunion!), and Jimmye!

(updated snapfish pictures–but not the most recent, I need to update it even more)

Mises à jour

4 Oct

Amazing, unbelievable breaking news: my art history professor got to class today TEN (count ’em, ten) minutes early to set up the slide projector (yep, a real-actual-live slide projector–what up 1964?) so that she wouldn’t be late.  We actually started a minute early.  Wow.  I’m still baffled.

As we Americans spend more time in France and improve our Français, we have definitely noticed a steady deterioration of our English.  Between translating and translating back, it tends to be a lot of cryptic Franglish gibberish–especially with idioms.  Exhibit A: Mari declaring, “Good minds think together.”  Come on, same thing.  Exhibit B: me claiming, “If it ain’t broke, don’t break it.”  Well, it’s true, breaking it would also be dumb.  So, right now, we’re all in limbo between two languages, unable to fluently speak either.  We suspect when we return to the States we won’t be able to communicate at all.

Hitchhiker sighted: woman in her mid- to late-twenties walking up the main road by my house with her thumb sticking out…what?  That still happens?  People still do that?  I would say she must have been crazy, but she was well-dressed and put together and didn’t seem to show any hesitation when a guy about 30 stopped and let her in.  I kind of had been getting the feeling that strangers were less generous and charitable in France than in the US (I mean, eye contact is kind of a no-no), but maybe I was wrong.  I’m not sure if this is common place in France or not, but either way, I won’t be turning in my Tram pass and hitchhiking my way around Montpellier.

Although a bit anticlimactic in the American sense of a 21st birthday, I had a great birthday and spent it with some awesome people!  And thank you Northwestern football for the exciting (maybe a little too exciting) birthday win!  I got to watch most of the game on a laptop in a British pub with wi-fi, and it was so much fun–especially since one of the girls watching with me goes to Minnesota (sorry Mari!).  Needless to say, we were getting a little rowdy toward the end.  One Frenchman came up to us telling us how baffled and impressed he was that three girls were watching American football.  He then proceeded to ask where we were from: east coast or west?  As if those were the only options.  He didn’t quite understand when we explained that we were from the center (he claims there’s nothing there).  But one of his friends did chime in and confidently and calmly say in a French accent, “Middle. West.”  He knew what was up.  Although getting a beer at the bar was no big thing, I did learn one new thing that night: margaritas here are a lot stronger–basically completely different.  I don’t recommend it.  We’ll leave margaritas to vacations in Mexico (and summers at the cabin).

Just a quick shout-out to Minnesota accents: Mari (fellow Minnesotan) and I were told by a Welsh bartender when we ordered our drinks, “You guys sound like you’re from Canada!”  Close, my friend, very close.

French Lesson 102

28 Sep

Smoke [smōk] verb: everybody’s doing it!….Seriously, everyone is doing it.

On time [än tīme] adj: 1) a phrase unknown to the French; 2) for the French, on time means ten minutes late; 3) a standard not followed by professors in regard to starting or ending class (yet they are punctual to leave the classroom once class is over and not take any questions).

Beret [bə-ˈrā] noun: a stereotype that has yet to prove itself true to me.

Fedora [fi-ˈdör-ə] noun: a hat worn by French cowboys.

Cappuccino [ka-pə-ˈchē-nō] noun:  an espresso drink made differently at every cafe but usually served with whipped cream instead of foam and dusted with cocoa; as opposed to a hot chocolate that is not served with whipped cream at all…I have yet to fully understand the coffee situation here.

Coffee to go [kä-fē tü gō] noun:  What?  Why would–No.  Just, no.

Sunday [sən-dā] noun: Day of rest. Why leave the house? No need; Streets are deserted.

Bonjour [bōⁿ-zhür] inter.: 1) good day, hello; 2) NOT to be confused with bonsoir and used after about 6pm; you will be called out by your host dad every time you do use it too late.

Cobblestone streets [kob-uhl-stohn strēts] noun: 1) why my feet hurt; 2) with Dog poop: the reasons why my head is down staring at the ground while I walk; 3) an ineffective obstacle that does not stop French women from wearing 3-inch heels.

Walk signal [wahk sig-nəl] noun: as if to say, “yeah the little green man is lit up, and you could walk if you wanted to but I wouldn’t assume you’d be safe from the cars…”

Jambon et fromage [jãbõ e frɔmaʒ] noun: the delicious and simple French PB & J; served on a baguette–not necessarily a croque monsieur.

Butter [bə-tər] noun: where Americans might put mayonnaise on sandwiches, the French use butter (example: ham and butter sandwich).

A Lesson In French

13 Sep

The word for “full” as in “full of” is plein (de)….which is unfortunately very close to a word used to say you’re pregnant, and therefore is not used in the sense to say that you are full after eating a meal.  I hope my friend’s host-mom understands that I’m not actually pregnant.

It’s important to check your surroundings when you first arrive somewhere, especially when that somewhere is your new bedroom….and there is no door.  Hm.  I probably should have caught that.  No worries, it was being painted and was put in a few days later.

The French have a sense of humor, too.  So, when your host-dad yells at your little brother and slaps him hard, and you see your brother fall behind the counter, don’t get freaked out and think it’s real.  They loved the trying-hard-to-be-polite-and-hide-the-shock face, though.  They’re a well-organized comedy duo.

Cigarettes (and the smell) are everywhere, but I’m getting used to it.  Bring on the second-hand smoke.  Non-smoking sections–not so much here (although it is illegal indoors, so, kudos France).

Avoid the grungy-looking guys with the big dogs and the chain accessories who just roam around–we’ve heard they just want to share their music with the world….yet I’ve never actually seen one with a musical instrument.

“Genie pants” (think Jasmine) are très chic.  And look comfortable, sooo we Americans here may be getting our hands on some soon.

It takes a long time to say “hi” to a group of your friends here.  Les bisous, the kisses on the cheek, would never fly in the US.  Although some of the “cool” guys here have adopted the fist bump, so you never know.

Apparently we Americans are relatively paranoid about being clean and germ-free, because there is rarely soap in the bathrooms here.  And also rarely a toilet seat.  Meh, oh well.

There are quite a few stores where they only sell white clothing.  Strange.

When one of your friends comments that she has hardly seen any PDA in Montpellier compared to in Paris, expect to see a ton of PDA in the following week.  It’s too much to handle at times.  For example, do you really need to go at it in the tram…directly in my line of view…while I awkwardly share a seat with a guy and we’re both trying to look out the window for refuge….and it gets heavier for a long time until your friend in the seat behind you finally hits you on the head to stop….but then you take a minute break and you’re right back at it again?  No, I really don’t think you do.  I need to learn to say the equivalent of “get a room” in French.

Pain au chocolat = death of me. Foie gras ≠ cheese.

8 Sep

Those are two things I’ve learned so far.  Very important to remember.

Pain au chocolat (chocolate croissant) is deadly to the core.  These pastries stare at  you from every which way, and there’s really no defense.  You’re beaten the moment you’ve past your third pâtisserie and you give it a second glance.  Down for the count.  And on top of that, Magnum ice cream bars–Grandpa, I wish I could bring some back to the states for you.  They are delicious, and since my Grandpa loves them and you can’t get them in the US, I feel compelled to have one, at least.

The French and their amazing food.  And those are just the sweets.  Let’s not get started on the bread, the wine, everything my host dad has cooked so far, just the gourmet everything (but seriously, kudos to my mom, there’s nothing here that you wouldn’t cook amazingly yourself at home; being such a great and gourmet cook, you’ve prepared me very well for the food here).

But I have to point out that foie gras is not cheese.  It may look like cheese as it’s sitting on the counter with a knife next to it before dinner, but one shouldn’t walk by, see it, and cut off a bit and try it thinking that it is cheese.  And then when one sits down for dinner and her host dad brings it to the table and asks if she would like some foie gras, she will realize her stupidity, but she should decline and save herself the upset stomach that was to commence after dinner.  And she should not let her dad serve her the foie gras, thus getting too much, and feel impolite to not eat it all.  Nope.  One should realize that foie gras is not cheese.