Wednesday, January 28, 2009

These Things I Have Learned

Many, many things have I learned since I’ve been here. Things that I have learned, have been many. It’s almost as though I’ve learned a lot, and will continue to do as such. Learn, that is. The thing that I have mostly been entertaining myself with, as it is, and seems to be, and will likely remain as such, is as follows: learning.

Excuse me and my cheese-induced cleverness, I’m just incredibly full from the three hour meal I participated in this evening. Tonight, Patrick asked “When shall we start speaking in French in this house, eh?” My witty reply was “Maintenant.” French, for “Now.” An hour later I realized, after the completion of half a round of Camembert, two frightfully delicious glasses of wine, and a semi-lucid conversation, how much French I’ve learned in the past weeks.
And that, my friends, is what brings me to the subject of this particular entry: things I have thus far learned.

For one, the French are a clever folk. They do nothing that does not make sense. For example: the roundabout. Why stop at a stop sign when they aren’t any approaching vehicles? Just fly around a circle until you reach your destination street, and voila! No waiting involved. Sure, it can be substantially dangerous from time to time, say, if a driver doesn’t see that you’re coming and careens into your side, or toots angrily when you don’t give him ample room to swerve around the curve. Otherwise, it most certainly shaves time off your commute. Take, also, the stop light: it turns yellow, then green, to alert you that green is about to come, thus allowing enough warning to get your car in gear so you can zip off the second the green bulbs ignite. Brilliant.
The grocer has got it down, as well. Why wait for the cashier to weigh and price produce at check out, when the customers can do it for themselves. Simply place your produce on a scale, press the corresponding button (for example, “anana” or “pomme”), and out shoots a price tag. Voila!

As I live moments from the French-Swiss border, and am going through customs several times a day, I have learned a thing or two about the proceedings. If, say, my friends’ passports are at home, or I am transporting illegal immigrants, and I can’t afford to be stopped, I simply fly through the stop sign at the customs booth with an air of utmost arrogance. This gives the illusion that I am a pissy Frenchman with no time to spare; no questioning involved. The moment you slow down and hesitate at that stop sign, however, a little man in a cap comes out, and suspiciously peers into your car: questioning ensues! Or, a sexy Swissman will come out and nod you through with a smile; it varies. Sometimes, when well-prepared, I come all the way to a hault…

Fondue! Cliché? Who knows, but the French certainly do enjoy a good fondue party. There are strict rules to follow when partaking in a Fondue dinner. One: never let your bread slip into the cheese without fork firmly attached. My first morsel slipped deep into the pot, and I was immediately given the finger wag. Swiss cheese becomes hard rapidly and, like quicksand, sucks the bread right in; a simple twirl of the wrist should do the trick to avoid such situations. Two: only drink white wine when consuming fondue. I foolishly requested water instead, and once again received a scolding finger wave. “Non! Meeshell, you will become ill. Just have wine. Is good.” They’re paranoid that water will harden all that fondue in your stomach and will transform it back into a block of hole-filled Swiss cheese. Well, next thing I knew, the fondue pot contained a newly-formed brick of cheese, and the room contained several drunk Frenchmen and myself, hallucinating from the wine, and remembering that I was lactose intolerant.

Lastly, I learned that you should never walk down the hall in your underpants, because that will be the exact moment when Patrick comes home from watching the soccer game, and you will be forced to run down the hall in your slipper socks.

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