Tuesday, March 25, 2008

French TV and talking

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have been trying to watch a lot of French TV in order to improve my comprehension. This does not necessarily mean french series, as many of the shows I watch are US shows dubbed in french. Anyways, I even have a french-tv-watching schedule that I try to follow in the evenings. I forget what I watch on Mondays but on Tuesdays I don't miss Pékin Express (french version of Amazing Race), Wednesdays is House, Thursdays is Nouvelle Star (french version of American Idol) and on Fridays if I'm home I watch Bones, my obsession, whose second season has just started up back here. When I used to come home earlier, every day I would watch Gilmore Girls episodes, most of which I missed when they first showed so it was fun catching up, and Las Vegas.

The good thing about watching TV series on the french channels are that they usually show at least two episodes in a row so I get at least two hours of listening to french spoken at a normal and, for the most part, very fast pace. What's more is that I don't limit myself to only watching the shows I mentioned. I watch quite a few other ones, both French and American, when I catch them showing and I watch at least one french movie per week on the tele as well as at least one other dubbed in french, usually on a Sunday afternoon...

My favourite french show (reality or scripted) is Pékin Express. This is no surprise as I used to love Amazing Race. I know no one who reads this blog has any idea what's happening in Pékin Express but I wanna make a quick comment. It's down to the last 4 teams now and I am stressing for the teams as I am watching it. I really want either Gérard and Cédric or Jean-Pierre and Joël to be the eventual winners but in this show anything can happen. Also, it's done a bit differently from how I remember Amazing Race. For one thing, the french one apparently has always had a team made up of two people who never met each other before the race began (in this case Jean-Pierre et Joël). In addition, teams who win each stage don't actually win prizes, they just get an amulet worth a few thousand Euros. However, if a team that has won a stage ends up being eliminated they have to give their amulet to another team. Thus, in the last stage of the race, the two remaining teams usually have all the amulets that have been won in the race shared between them.

Talking about comprehension...for the last 3 days I've spent most of my working days in training. It's done in french. Most of the time I feel like a fool when it's time to do the exercises and explain to the trainer why I'm dooing what I'm doing. Often my mind goes blank and I can't remember the simplest words. I mess up my tenses, say the wrong words, the worst pronounciations, you name it and I've done it. Of course, as soon as I'm done with training for the day I can remember what I wanted to say in perfect french. Worse is when I know what I want to say beforehand but once it comes time to talk my mind freezes. Today I was so considering resorting to english because I just could not seem to properly explain myself. Frustrating.

Hmm, back to French TV. They have a lot of game shows and reality shows here, similar to America. I'm more interested in the shows where people can win MONEY or gain a substantial prize. From french versions of One versus One Hundred, Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, Amazing Race and Don't Forget the Lyrics to their own like Des Chiffres et Des Lettres (literally means digits and letters), they have it all. Every morning I turn on my TV, there is a show where they give away thousands of Euros for answering simple questions.

Why am I going on about this, you wonder? Because France is much smaller than Canada and I'm pretty sure they're less rich as well but cheap-ass Canada barely has any game or reality show, like the French, that gives away lots of money or big prizes to people. I don't really care about Canada's Next Top Model or Canadian Idol. Those things require talent or beauty. lol. I'm talking about the shows where the ordinary Jane or Joe can seriously think about entering and getting a real chance at winning. Are Canadian companies really that cheap that they can't sponsor Canadian versions of these shows or sponsor a Canadian-developed game show? Or is it that Canadian networks just don't think there is any benefit for them in creating a Canadian show like that? I would REALLY like to know. Maybe I should go do a google search to find out...

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Oh To Be In Paris (Part III)

Last time I wrote up on Paris, I forgot to mention these things:
  • A lot of people in Paris have bikes, aka motorcycles, compared to Canada. Of course, this makes a lot of sense because in Canada it would be very dangerous to ride a bike with the frequent snowing that occurs in the winter, which lasts quite a while. Whereas, in France, or at least in Paris, it barely snows. Today, I saw a very nice Peugeot bike. I didn't even know that Peugeot made bikes but I most definitely liked the one I saw today.
  • When I was in Quebec, one of my friends had housemates who were all from France. These housemates of hers used to gripe about the price of wine in Canada. They swore that they could buy wine for $3CDN. I didn't really believe that they actually sold wine so cheap in France especially considering that one Euro is 150% of the value of a Canadian dollar.
    Until I got here. Lo and behold, it is indeed possible to buy a bottle of wine for 1.50Euros which is actually less than $3!!! In fact, alcoholic drinks are generally very cheap. I bought a huge bottle of Sangria for 1.50Euros at the supermarket the other day. Also, when you go to restaurants or pubs, the price of a glass of wine is oh so much cheaper than a glass of water or non-alcoholic drink. My parents were not lying when they warned me that the French don't drink water (thus implying that they're more likely to drink wine than water).
  • On my bus ride to and from work, there is a point, when the bus goes over some bridge-whose-name-is-unknown-to-me, where I have an excellent view of the Eiffel Tower and the mini-Statue of Liberty. I get the view of the tower in the daylight on my way to work and a lit up view of it in the night on my way from work. Magnifico!
    The first time I was passing over the bridge and my eyes wondered downward until I saw the mini-Statue of Liberty, I was a bit surprised. While I knew that the French were the ones that gave the Statue of Liberty as a present to the US, I didn't know that they had a miniature version of it in the Seine River.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Oh To Be In Paris (Part II)

I have decided to add to the list I made earlier on the note-worthy things about Paris and the French.
  • The French REALLY do love their baguettes. Many of them go to the bakery every morning before they go to work to get their morning baguette fix. Others go in the evenings so that they don't have to wait in the long lines at the bakery in the morning. At the very least they buy their baguette fresh from the bakery on weekend mornings. You know you're in France when you find that all Chinese restaurants sell a sandwich made with the baguette bread and porc/chicken instead of just the staple rice dishes. In fact, many of the small take-out Chinese places, called a traiteur in French, often have more sandwiches and salads on the menu than other dishes.
  • There is dog poo everywhere in Paris. Like a British classmate of mine noted, the worst thing is that so many people have a small dog that they walk everyday but no one picks up the poo. This is despite the fact that there is a law in place for people to clean up after their pets.
  • I find the traffic signs here much more confusing than the ones in Québec and that is saying a lot. I swear the location of the traffic lights make it seem like they are trying to hide them from public view. Also, the central meeting point of intersections here are much bigger than the normal 4-way maximum smaller ones in North America. In addition, the centre of the intersections here is usually shaped like a circle so that the road area that serves as the meeting point of all the cars approaching from the intersection is a huge circle. I've seen 4- or 5-way intersections where 3 or 4 of the cars approaching from the intersection from different directions all press forward in what seems to be a race of first-to-reach-the-centre-gets-right-of-way but none of them ever really slow down. I don't think I will be driving in France anytime soon.
  • On the subways here, musicians are allowed to get on the train and sing, play or do both. Often, they have a contraption in which they've plugged a mike or their instrument to boost the sound of their music. This contraption is usually firmly secured to one of those small wheeled carts that I see a lot of people pulling around when they go grocery shopping. I know there must be some proper name for the contraptions that increase the sound but I dont know it. Anyways, so far, I've really enjoyed all the musicians that happened to get on the train car in which I was sitting. Today I found myself tapping my feet to the lively singing in italian being done by two men who got on the train. They had background music that they were blasting from their contraption, no mike, but cheerful faces AND they were clapping.
  • This past weekend, thanks to my cousin knowing people in the film industry, I found out about and went to the 2008 European Independent Film Festival. It was in its third year and I guess that in order to increase attendance and visibility the event was free . I love watching foreign films so it was the perfect event to attend. I liked meeting the people, actors, directors and film-makers trying to make a name for themselves. My only regret is that I didn't take better advantage of the situation and watch more films.
    Oh, during the closing ceremony, they had an independent artist perform. She played the guitar and the instrument that looks like a very small guitar and she sang. It was her singing that I loved. She only introduced herself as Melissa so I have to go find her name in the program. Melissa had a great voice. Her singing and me appreciating it made me remember that there are a lot of excellent artists out there who may not be as well known as Christina Aguilera or Amy Lee but they are just as talented. Also, I should make the effort to discover and start listening to some of the excellent indie artists out there.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Life's Little Moments

Hmm, this past week I learnt that my family's kitchen was basically destroyed by a fire. Luckily it didn't spread to the rest of the house. The damage is a bit less, thanks to my pig-headed father refusing to leave the kitchen until he put out the fire, although it was almost completely in flames and they had called the fire truck. He's very lucky he didn't get burnt. We have insurance so I trust it will get fixed soon and all will be OK.

In other news, don't you love those little moments you observe in life which leave you with a smile playing on your lips? Like the time I was on the subway in Toronto...It was a late summer morning so it was nice and sunny. The train was above ground and passing by a slighly wooded area when I SAW A DEER. It was one of those deer that looked like Bambi - brown with white spots. It looked fairly young and must have been because it was standing right by the train tracks. I don't think an older deer would have stood so close by as the train passed. When the train passed by, the deer looked up and seemed to look right at me before turning and bounding away. I felt awed - it was the first time I saw a real live deer. I turned around excitedly to look at the other passengers and see if they had also seen it. However, no one else seemed to have noticed. They were all doing something, whether sleeping or reading the paper or talking. I remember wishing they had gotten the opportunity I had. That would have livened up their morning. In that one second when the deer looked at me, I felt a huge connection to nature. That really made my day. I arrived at school in an excellent mood. Even now when I remember I feel a smile tugging at my lips.

Then there was the time, I was walking to church, angry at my family because, like always, we were late for church but that time we were really late and no one seemed to care. I had left them all at the house. I left in a huff because they were in no rush to leave...
On my way to church, I approached an old man with a little girl no older than four who I assumed was his granddaughter. They were walking towards me and holding hands. Because I think that young children are God's cutest creation I slowed down so that I could get a better look at the girl. In so doing I was able to better observe them...Although the old man was shuffling along slowly, the little girl, because of her size, was taking quick, bouncing steps and chatting excitedly. She would look up at him every few seconds. As they came closer I realized that they were talking in Ukrainian or Russian. To be honest, I'm not sure which language it was but it was most definitely an Eastern European language. I could also tell that the little was questioning the old man every now and then because she would chatter for a few seconds, then say something and look up at him. He would then lovingly look at her and respond with a smile. I felt touched to witness the interaction between someone who was just starting life and someone who was nearing the end. I know it is a very cliché thing to say, but it truly was beautiful to see and I felt my anger quickly dissolve.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Little Mosque vs. Aliens

Before Aliens in America (final pic in this post) there was Little Mosque On The Prairie (cast pic on bottom left). In fact, I just finished watching the last few episodes of Season Two of this Canadian sitcom. While it still has the feel of a Canadian comedy, it has definitely improved from Season One and I find myself looking forward to Season Three in the fall. The show is about Muslims living in a rural community in Canada. It follows a young imam from Toronto who trades life as a lawyer to go the religious route in a small town. It deals with how the Muslims and the rest of the community interact. When the show started I watched the first few episodes because I really liked the concept of the show. I'm all for sending a message, etc. I also believe that, as a practising Christian, I would identify with some of the issues young Muslims face as I am also bound by rules and commandments. Plus, the creator of the show went to my uni.

I found the show to be ok, not very funny but no worse than some other sitcoms on TV. As I mentioned before, it had a distint Canadian feel to me, much like Corner Gas, except with Little Mosque... I actually got the jokes. I am glad that the show at least tries to show all the different types of Muslims, like the immigrants, the very traditional, the moderate, the converted, Canadian, etc. Anyways, the show didn't garner my attention enough for it to be must-see TV so I missed quite a few episodes. However, this past Christmas it was heavily advertised as having two episodes on one night for the holiday season and I started watching it again. I just caught up completely and I am impressed. It's still not the funniest thing out there but it's gotten much better. I was glad to find out that as of this season the show was being broadcast in over 80 countries including some in French-speaking Africa, the Middle East (such as Gaza) and several European countries (Finland, Belgium, Netherlands, et al).

I still hear people say insensitive things about Muslims, even in Toronto with all its diversity. Heck, I'm sure I have some misconceptions about Islam too and I sure don't know a lot about the religion. Little Mosque... clears up some misconceptions and also serves to inform. Dare I say that I've learnt some things about Islam from watching this show. I mean, I honestly didn't know that, in Islam, it is forbidden for women to dance in front of or with men who are not their husbands. Nonetheless, I think the main point of the show is not to highlight differences but to show that regardless of religion, we are all the same. Thus, there are a lot of everyday sitcom situations that are explored.

I know there was hope that Little Mosque... would get picked up in the US but alas they had to come up with their own series and I'm sure they'll talk about Aliens in America like it is a completely original idea. There are a few differences but the premise of a Muslim integrating into North American life and the social message that the show sends are the same. However, with Aliens... being an American show, of course, the main Muslim is not American because it would be too much for him to be Muslim, brown AND American. But I guess I should be commending them. Baby steps are always good. Actually, I quite like Aliens... I think it is funny. And hey, it is filmed in Vancouver!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Loving The New Place

I moved into the apartment last night! See the entrance pic, i.e., the one with the door. That's my window on the bottom left. The same one behind the green curtain in the pic with the TV. I live in the rez-de-chausée aka the ground floor apartment. Did I mention that I absolutely love the fact that there is a washing machine, WIFI internet and a TV in the apartment? Because I do. I really do. Trust me when I say most apartments in Paris don't include these amenities North Americans take for granted.

I only brought my carry-on luggage as my other two big suitcases were too large to bring on the metro and my uncle offered to bring them to me next week. Nonetheless, though I'm not fully settled yet, I love it! City life is most definitely the life for me. I like that I can walk up the road and find a pharmacy, at least 2 supermarkets, at least 1 ladies' fashion store, at least 2 bakeries, a butcher shop, at least 2 bars, a café, 2 banks, numerous little stores and at least one each of a Chinese, a French and an Indian restaurant.

I went grocery shopping today. I love going grocery shopping on my own. I get to decide what to buy and what I want to make for dinner and it's all very exciting. I like trying new recipes. I haven't bought much meat to cook yet because I believe I brought some seasonings like a huge container of curry powder and one of jerk seasoning and maybe some others but I left them in the big suitcase. Since I can't verify yet and I don't wanna spend more than necessary, I will wait and live off dumplings, pasta, bread/baguette/crêpes and noodles this week.