Tuesday, February 26, 2013

French Class Update: Nationalities

First, I realized that there aren't 30 students in my French class.  I thought I heard the teacher say 29 at one point, but I must have misunderstood.  But that's why I'm in French class, right?

It's more like 22-23ish.

Today (day 4), there were 21 of us in class, and we learned how to say our nationalities/countries of origin in complete sentences.   Here's what I caught - I missed one or two, but this is pretty close:

United States
Afganistan (2)
Indonesia (2)
Germany (2)
Denmark (2)
Bosnia (2)

A room with 21 people, 15 countries represented.  That, my friends, is Luxembourg for you.

P.S.  Je viens des Etats-Unis.  Je suis américaine.

Friday, February 22, 2013

The First Days of French

my complementary school binder
Two days of French class under my belt!  Woohoo!

Do I sound sufficiently excited?  Because the truth is, I wasn't dreading starting my class, but I definitely wasn't looking forward to it either.

However, the morning of the first day, it suddenly hit me: 

"Hey, wait a second.  I'm a good student.  I've always been a good student.  I work hard to a high standard.  I'm determined and detail-oriented.  I make good grades.  Sure, I have a strong streak of procrastination, but ever since I was a wee kindergartener, I've been a good student, gosh darn it!"

There are a few things in life we're each good at and, for me, being a student is one of them.  It's an utterly boring yet useful skill.  I realized I completely forgot this about myself, I suppose because the last time I was a real student in a real class was...yikes...10 years ago!

All this to say, I feel much better about it all now.

Anyway, here are my thoughts and impressions so far.

Demographics:  There are about 30 people in the class, and it feels quite full.  About a quarter are males, the rest females (not to be sexist, but this actually makes sense considering it's during "working hours").  If you divided the class in half, I'd probably be in the older group, and the largest segment is young women in their twenties.  It sounds like we'll find out everyone's nationalities next week, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if there are at least 20 represented!  I'm fairly confident I'm the only American, and it's also quite possible I'm the only truly native English speaker.  Yet when the teacher isn't speaking to us in French, such as when she gives us a specific instruction we must understand, she uses English.  And I'm sooo grateful.  After all, it's not one of the three national languages here, so one can never assume it will be used.  Still, I suppose its status as a "world language" makes it the obvious common-language choice in a multinational French class.

lots of group and partner work
Instructor:  I quite like the teacher.  She is a fit, energetic, and positive woman around 40ish.  She repeatedly chastised our group (with good humor) for low energy and reminded us to "do gymnastique once a day!" Apparently she travels 40 km each day to class, so I assume she lives in France.  

showing us the bibliotheque 

more school tour - cafeteria
Content:  Yeah, taking the most beginner class was a good move.  It appears that many of the students are in the same situation as me in that they know some of the basics already.  For example, on day two we went over numbers 1-100, and it sounded like several of us knew them all.  I feel a bit worried for the people who are truly brand new to French.  And yet I'm guessing that almost all of them are at least bilingual already, so maybe that experience of learning another language will carry them through.  The pace is quick, and we're expected to practice a lot at home.

One quick story:  First off on the first day, we played the classic go-around-the-circle-name-game in which you must say your name and all the names that came before.  But remember all those nationalities?  I've never played the name-game with such a high degree of difficulty!  Sonnhild, Fitri, Ma Jufeng, Aigars, Zainab...x30 and all in their native pronunciations (and we only got the spellings later).  Whew!

Friday, February 15, 2013

UK 2013: What It's Really About

Okay, so the weather in England was absolutely terrible -- below freezing temperatures, wind, rain, ice, snow and more.  No real surprise there--it's Februrary.  In England.  Fortunately, our trips to England are not about sight-seeing; that's just a bonus if it happens.  It's really about...

A batch of homemade playdough..

A cozy ipad session...

Bringing a native along...

Losing a front tooth...

Eating home-cooked food (and not made by me!)...

Preparing a giant impromptu English breakfast...

More eating...

Making music (it's ALWAYS about making music)...

Indoor "ice lollies"...

Giggly chiropractic treatments...

MORE eating/drinking...

And watching these three having the best time for hours on end...

As they say, Cheers.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

UK 2013: Llandudno, Wales

It's map time!  I'm terrible at geography, and perhaps I'm not the only one?  Below are a couple maps of our journey thus far.  As on all our visits to the UK (well, three so far since Pete and I have been married), we took the train from London (B) to Chester (C) to see my mom's other two sisters and my Nana.

Chester (C) is right on the border of England and Wales.  Llandudno (D) is an hour from Chester.
My mom told me she missed Flat Stanley in the last post.  Well, he's back! 
The Victorian/Edwardian town of Llandudno is home to the largest seaside resort in Wales, and various family members have visited over the years.  There's a now-famous story of my dad ordering the British version of a milkshake here, against everyone's warnings.  This was our little family's first visit.  As it was a nice February day (freezing cold, grey, but not raining), we set out for a walk along the beach.  No problem - Oregonians are well-versed in bitter-cold beach walks.
my almost 91-year-old Nana is still a great walker
she even ran a bit ;)
Stanley said he'd like to come back in the summer.  We forgot to make him a coat and hat, poor chap.

James too
We warmed up with some lovely fish and chips.
for a flat kid he can really pack it away
Nana Alice and Daphne are good buddies
Near the train station is the (self-proclaimed) premier modern art gallery in Wales.  My cousin has a couple pieces on exhibit.

yay, cousin!  (you gotta love a language with words like "yn" and byw")
the pot piece across the middle is Jesse's
We especially enjoy the Welsh language because it's even more strange than Luxembourgish.  By the way, did you know that Wales is called Cymru in Welsh?  To me it sounds like a Scottish person saying "cuhmree."
Rest assured, we did not let Stanley out of our sight.
Bonus picture - we saw this nifty medieval castle out the train window.
Conwy Castle.  photo: wikipedia
As I've said before, I'm not a great one for describing tourist attractions, historical sites, and the like.  I leave that in the capable hands of Wikipedia.  See blue links above for more info!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

UK 2013: Natural History Museum

Our Saturday excursion...

Clearly you could spend days looking through the museum, but we just quickly toured a few exhibits.  Really crowded on a cold and rainy Saturday afternoon!
my mom's baby sister and her hubby
looking up at me.  behind is a small section of the line for the dinosaur exhibit
once you get inside the dino exhibit there's a hanging bridge you walk along

animatronic T-Rex. EEK!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

UK 2013: London Eye

River Thames, Big Ben, etc from the Eye
We're in the UK visiting family over school midterm break.  It was almost a year ago that we paid a visit for my Nana's 90th birthday, and we made the final decision to move to Luxembourg while on the trip.  Crazy.

I'm trying for a quick blog-as-we-go if I can, to keep it simple and not fall behind.

In October of 2012, easyJet began service from LUX to London-Gatwick.  I've seen deals as low as 8€ per leg for the one-hour flight.  Gatwick is just a 30 minute train ride to my aunt and uncle's house in the south of London, so we couldn't pass up the opportunity for another visit.  You will see we brought a bonus guest this time; one of Daphne's friends from the States is doing a Flat Stanley project for school and asked to send his Stanley to us. Our trip to England corresponded nicely with Stanley's journey.

Following our new-ish Simplicity Sightseeing philosophy, we set out to see just one thing on our first day: the London Eye.  Pete and I rode it with my cousin 10 years ago, and we enjoyed it despite the fact that tickets are expensive.  

The easiest landmarks to spot in a photograph (besides various Ts mugging for the camera) are the Millennium Bridge leading to Charing Cross Station...

And Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.

Stanley appeared to enjoy himself as well.

On such a clear day in London you simply MUST ride the Eye.  Stanley agrees.