The Beer Tower

Recently, in the foothills of the Alps, we stumbled upon a new extreme sport: the beer tower.
The goal? To stack up as many beer crates as possible without falling.

It was hosted by the local outdoor adventure base and the local craft brewery so all the necessary equipment was provided: harnesses, beer crates, helmets, belay devices, and beer!

The atmosphere was convivial and laid back. It was funny to see all of the French hippies that came out for the event, although not surprising with the craft brew/ climbing combo.

For the qualifying round there was a 1 min 30 sec time limit.
Cyril and his cousin Thomas stacked 10 each and qualified for the final round. I just missed it with 9.

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And the fall!!

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Thomas just barely got to 10 before the stack toppled!

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It’s not as easy as it looks folks! And I swear, I only drank one beer before my attempt;)

In the final round, contestants stacked as high as possible with no time limit. It kicked off with a guy that stacked 21 crates. Easy! He ended up ‘winning’ but wasn’t officially part of the contest because he was an employee of the adventure base.

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The winner

Cyril only stacked eleven before falling. He was disappointed to have cracked so quickly but in the end he got 5th place and some sweet goodies to take home.

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Thomas took home the third place prize with 17 crates. Bravo!

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And here is a video they made from last year’s competition. Enjoy!

 

 

French songs that I can’t get out of my head- Edition Aznavour

These two years have flown by too fast. I am leaving France in three weeks!  It is going to be a busy time because I have quite a few things to do, people to see, places to go, and blogs to post, including a few posts about my favorite French artists and songs. You don’t need to understand French to fall in love with this music.

Charles Aznavour is an incredibly expressive singer, songwriter, and performer. Born in France to Armenian immigrants, most of his songs are in French but he sings in eight different languages. He is 92 years old and still touring! It is hard to chose just a few songs to highlight as he has written over 1300!

  1. La Boheme

This is one of my favorite songs. I discovered it in the film Demolition on the day my grandmother passed away last year and I was touched by its melancholy tone.

In the song, an old artist describes with longing his youth when he was poor and in love in Montmartre, a neighborhood that used to be a cradle for artists in Paris.

It starts like this:
I will tell you of a time-past that the young do not know. Back then, Montmartre gathered its lilacs under our windows…

Je vous parle d’un temps,
Que les moins de vingt ans,
Ne peuvent pas connaître,
Montmartre en ce temps là,
Accrochait ses lilas,
Jusque sous nos fenêtres,

2. Emmenez-moi

I love Emmenez-moi because the lyrics paint a picture and the chorus is so fun to belt out!

A lonely dock worker from the dreary north of France dreams of stepping on a boat and sailing to the ends of the earth.

Emmenez-moi
Au bout de la terre
Emmenez-moi
Au pays des merveilles
II me semble que la misère
Serait moins pénible au soleil.

Take me to the edge of the earth
Take me to the lands of wonders
It seems to me that my misery
Would be less painful under the sun

3. For Me Formidable

This original, upbeat love song plays on words as it switches in between French and English. Charles can’t seem to decide if he wants to seduce the woman in the ‘language of Molière’, or in the ‘language of Shakespeare’.

4. Je m’voyais déjà

This Broadway-esque song is the story of a old singer who never was able to make it big as hard as he tried. But he still believes that he can make it!

J’ai tout essayé pourtant pour sortir du nombre
J’ai chanté l’amour, j’ai fait du comique et d’la fantaisie
Si tout a raté pour moi si je suis dans l’ombre
Ce n’est pas ma faute mais celle du public qui n’a rien compris
On ne m’a jamais accordé ma chance
D’autres ont réussi avec peu de voix et beaucoup d’argent
Moi j’étais trop pur ou trop en avance
Mais un jour viendra, je leur montrerai que j’ai du talent.

I tried everything to stand out
I sang love songs, funny songs, and even fantasy
If nothing worked out for me it’s because I was in the shadows
It’s not my fault, but that of the audience which didn’t understand
They never gave me a chance
Others, with less talent and more money, made it big
I was too pure or too ahead of my time
But a day will come when I will show them that I am talented.

If you love these songs, look up La Mamma, Que C’est Triste Venise, and She.

I hope you love Charles Aznavour as much as I do now:)

French kids say the darnedest things round 5

I recently completed my last week working in my schools as part of the TAPIF program. It was bittersweet. I am excited to move on to grad school next year, but I was sad to say goodbye to my kids and fellow teachers.  These past two years I have taught in the same three schools and have gotten to know people pretty well. Teaching young kids wasn’t always easy but I learned a lot about English and teaching. And the kids were oh-so-cute!

Here is the final chapter of my French kids say the darnedest things post!

*As in previous posts, dialogue in Italics was originally in French

It was funny because my students wore a lot of clothes with American or British flags on them and English words that I knew that they didn’t understand. Teachers told me that they wore them more often on days when I came in to teach because they wanted to show off their English cred.
One day a girl wore a pink sweatshirt that said America and Minnesota (my home state) on it. I was super excited, ‘Wow! You have been to Minnesota before?!?!‘ Apparently not-she looked at me like I was crazy.

One day with a more advanced student we drilled irregular past tense. So I said verbs and my student would quickly comeback at me with the answer, but the first things that came into his head weren’t always the right ones.
‘Go’ – ‘went’
‘Sleep’- ‘slept’
‘Bring’- ‘brought’
So far so good, but then it turned into a word association game (what is the first word that comes in to you mind when you hear…)
‘Feed’ – ‘food’
‘Think’ – ‘thank’
‘Ride’ – ‘read’
‘Want’ – ‘went’
‘See’- ‘ya later!’
And then later we went over opposites and I asked, ‘What is the opposite of weak?’ ‘Weekend!’

After New Years I taught my classes how to say ‘Happy New Years!’ However, because the RS combo is hard for them it sounded a lot like ‘Happy New You!!!’, which was funny because then I could pretend that everyone had noticed the haircut I got over break:)

In some of my younger classes, we never got around to doing an official lesson on classroom instructions. However, some especially naughty six-year-olds picked up on important ones early because I was always reprimanding them in English. For example, they would often mimic me, ‘Be quiet!!’, and put fingers up to their lips. It could be annoying when I was trying to get the class to be quiet and I would have one or two parakeets repeating after me. I would have to stare them down and be like, ‘That means you too kid!’
Sometimes I think ‘Be quiet, sit down, listen!!’ is what will stick with them the longest after I am gone!

I played Simon Says a lot with the kids to work on classroom materials and instructions. After they understood the vocab pretty well I would choose kids to come up and give the instructions. They could either say Simon Says….. or try to trick their classmates by just saying the instructions.
One time a kid forgot to say ‘Simon Says’, and was really confused as to why nobody was carrying out the action. He was so distressed and confused that was cute. He really thought that no one understood him.

When I did lessons about food and likes and dislikes I used this awesome song.

It is quite silly because it introduces two different foods and then mixes them and asks if you like the disgusting combo. There were always a few silly kids in the class (usually boys) who liked to insist that they loved the disgusting combos like donut juice or popcorn pizza.
‘Do you like tomato pancakes?’
‘Yes I do!!’

One day with seven-year-olds we were working with the book Brown Bear and the kids were having trouble remembering the word ‘Duck’. The teacher tried to help them, ‘You guys know Donald Duck, right?’
The kids were confused. ‘Who? Donald Trump?
No the other Donald! You don’t know Donald Duck?’

In one class when we learned body parts I described a monster for them to draw.
‘The monster has a rectangular body, three legs, and six feet.’
The children were so confused. They all protested, ‘But he only has three legs!!!! It isn’t possible to have six feet!!
I was taken aback by their squareness. ‘Seriously kids, use your imagination- it’s a monster!!

This quote is from one of my adult students. We were talking about life expectancy and things that can shorten life expectancy, like obesity. I asked her, ‘Why do you think are some reasons that obesity rates are higher in rural areas than in urban ones?’ She said, ‘I think they eat more because they are bored’, I laughed and asked, ‘Really?’ She was dead serious, ‘Yeah, I mean, I eat when I am bored.’

One day with an eight-year-old class I went through and asked everyone questions on their favorite things. ‘What is your favorite number?’ What is your favorite food?’ ‘What is your favorite color?’ When I asked one kid, ‘What is your favorite animal?’ He replied excitedly, ‘My favorite animal is a hot dog!!’

On my last day of classes in the schools a lot of students gave me drawings. When one eight-year-old handed me his drawing he said proudly, ‘and it even has my address on the back!’ …okkk. The whole class laughed, this kid is a bit out in left field in general…

Here are some of my favorite drawings I have received.

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My favorite 6 year old class made this for me. Everyone drew something. It says ‘Thank you’ over and over

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This one is so sad! I felt guilty for leaving when I saw this one!

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I got a lot of British references on the drawings, even though I have talked to all of the classes about American culture.

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This says, ‘I love the Statue of Liberty,’ but the kid drew Big Ben. 
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‘Merica!! This kid understands whats up!

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A lot of kids misspelled my name like Herine or Erine, but I get that all the time here!

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This one says, ‘Thank you Erin for teaching us many things. Thanks to you we learned many songs and also words. Thank you very much.’

Misadventures in Easter egg dyeing

Sometimes I struggle in France because I want to do things my way (traditions, recipes) but it doesn’t work out because I can’t find the right materials and ingredients. I have to remind myself that these things aren’t big deals and to accept that I can’t have everything that I have in the United States. I love the adventure and discovery that comes with living abroad but sometimes the small differences send me for a loop.

Two weeks ago, I realized that it had been two years since I had dyed Easter eggs and I missed it terribly.

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Eggs that I dyed last time around

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Perhaps being with my Minnesotan friends and family is the real reason I miss dyeing eggs.

I decided it would be fun to introduce the tradition to Cyril and his family. In France, the ‘Easter bells’ hide chocolate eggs for children to find. The Easter bells?? Seriously? But then again the Easter bunny doesn’t make that much more sense.

Because of the late notice it wasn’t easy to find a pastel egg dye kit that would ship in time, but luckily I was able to get one shipped from Germany. (The shipping cost more than the product but no matter.) Unfortunately, I forgot to pack it to bring to the south of France for the weekend…

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At first Cyril thought that they had sent me an empty package. Such a big box for such a small thing!

I decided to go with plan B: regular old food coloring. I had never done it like that before but thought why not?

After searching two supermarkets I found the food coloring and then added some crayons to my basket. Crayons are great for decorating eggs because they repel the dye from the eggshells. I had wanted a white crayon in particular because the white crayon designs are super classy, but the only pack on sale didn’t have one- oh well- I could get over that.

Last but not least, I went to find the eggs. This is where I hit the wall. I had noticed before that eggs in France had brown shells, but I didn’t realize that they are exclusively brown. Also, all eggs in grocery stores are stamped in red with the date on which they were laid. In short, impossible to dye. I had come this far only to be thwarted by the eggs!! It was almost too much to bear.

Photo credit http://www.gourmet.com/food/gourmetlive/2011/081511/fresh-french-and-gorgeous.html

However, despite my egg dyeing failure, Easter turned out well.

On Easter morning when I came downstairs for breakfast, Cyril’s mom handed me a basket and said, ‘Now before you can eat, you have to go find the chocolate eggs in the garden. I am afraid they are going to melt!’ I was pleasantly surprised and had fun searching. It had been a while since I hunted for eggs.

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After church we headed over to Cyril’s grandparent’s house for Easter lunch.

Cyril’s mamie, Roberte, prepared frog legs for the appetizer so that I could try them. Frog legs are one of France’s famous typical dishes. Last time I visited the south she made me escargots (snails). Check out that blog post here.

Roberte did an excellent job; they were very tasty.

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Tasted like chicken;)
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The second batch came from a different supplier and were smaller

In return for all of Roberte’s hard work in the kitchen, I indulged her and the family by saying ‘grenouille’, the French word for frog, several times. I can’t say it quite right and French people find it adorable/hilarious.

I hope everyone had a great Easter weekend with friends and family!

Authentic Morocco

In February Cyril and I had the fortune to travel to Morocco with our friend Chédid. He acted as our guide, and did an awesome job welcoming us and giving us an authentic taste of his home country. We stayed with him and his aunt, first in their home in Agadir, and then in the mountain village where his family is from.

Cyril went to Morocco once before with his family, thirteen years ago. However, they didn’t venture very far from their beach-side resort. This was my first experience on the African continent and in a predominantly Muslim country.

Day 1

When we arrived, Chédid took us straight away to one of the largest walled markets in Morocco. The Souk El Had (Sunday Market) is an impressive maze of 6,000 stands overflowing with fresh produce, spices, tableware, rugs, furniture, and tailor-made clothes. It is possible to buy almost anything here.

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In France, as long as I don’t dress like an American tourist, they can’t tell that I am a foreigner until they hear my accent. However, they would describe me as ‘blonde’ even though by Minnesota standards I am far from being one. In Morocco, you could spot me from a mile away. Cyril has a Mediterranean complexion so he didn’t stand out as much as I did. Cyril and Chédid gave me a lot of flack for being so pale. Chédid began referring to us as the ‘white man and the transparent woman’.

For lunch that day Chédid’s aunt, Tahra, prepared couscous for us. We ate our dessert outside in the sun while Chédid and Tahra tried to teach us a bit of Berber and Arabic. I struggled; it took me a full day before I could remember how to say hello and thank you. The words went in one ear and out the other.
Cyril was much better than me. When Chédid spoke with his aunt, Cyril would pick out random words and ask, ‘What does that mean?’ He was pretty good at remembering words that Chédid explained, but often forgot their meanings, so he would whip them out at random times and use them out of context.

Chédid speaks four languages fluently, which is humbling. He can switch easily between French, English, Arabic, and Berber. Berber and Arabic are about as different as Arabic and English. Berber is Chédid’s first language because he is a Berber, an ethnic minority from the south of Morocco with its own culture and language.

Tahra only speaks Berber, but we were able to communicate just fine. She is such a cute lady, with an infectious laugh and a great sense of humor. It was hilarious because occasionally she would embarrass Chédid with her jokes and he would just shake his head and refuse to translate them.

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I think this picture captures Tahra and Chédid perfectly

That afternoon we explored the Crocopark, a cool botanic garden/crocodile zoo fusion. It was a delightful park with a design that cleverly integrated its two aspects while making it seem much larger than it was.

It offered several opportunities to get up close and personal with crocs, as well as croc-themed playgrounds, a laboratory to see the babies, and an ecologically-themed art exhibit.
I had pushed the guys to go because I had really wanted to visit a botanic garden, but in the end they enjoyed it as much as I did.

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As we were driving through Agadir on the way home we passed a verdant green, gated estate. Chédid pointed it out as the king’s palace. I said, ‘Ooh! Can we visit it!?’ Chédid laughed at me, ‘You are so cute and so American! That is definitely off limits unless you are invited!’

That evening after dinner Tahra prepared tea for us.
Moroccan tea has no equal and Chédid’s aunt makes the best:) She prepared numerous pots of tea for us during our stay- to accompany every snack and to help digest after every meal. Even the way they serve it is elegant; I would fly back to Morocco just for her tea!

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Day 2

We started off the morning with a stroll along the beachfront and visit to the little city zoo.

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It was the perfect time to see the Bougainvilleas in bloom!

The most striking feature of the city is a hill to the north on which is written God, Country, King. It is even lit up at night, Hollywood style.

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The afternoon was chill- we ate a late lunch at a sumptuous restaurant that specializes in tajine, stew slow-cooked in a special earthenware pot, followed by a nap on the beach.

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Quite a lovely restaurant

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Chédid took us to a resort golf course on the way home so that we could watch the sunset. This was the only place of the trip where alcohol was on the menu. It was a bit strange to be on vacation and not drink alcohol, but we survived just fine.

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Enjoying the sunset
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Quel beau gosse!!

For dinner we met Jalal and Soufiane at a kebab place.  They are long-time friends of Chédid’s that Cyril got to know at grad school. With all of the time we spent with friends it was a homey vacation! The place was great too; there was a butcher counter in the restaurant where we could pick out the kebabs and the meat we wanted, and then they grilled it up at the restaurant.

When we left the restaurant we had to pay for our parking. Even at restaurants like this one with their own parking lots and at the beach far from the city, there was always a parking attendant hanging around that would ask Chédid for money as we left. Sometimes they looked semi-official with a badge or a neon vest, but other times it seemed like the attendant was just some random guy that had camped out for the day at the parking lot and claimed the territory as his own.
Once we asked Chédid if a particularly-suspicious looking parking attendant was legit and he shrugged, ‘I don’t know, but it doesn’t really matter anyways, besides I would rather have someone here watching over the car.’ In any case, it was a fixed rate that was never more than 50 cents.

After dinner we went up to the top of ‘Hollywood’ hill to get a good view of the city at night. On top there are the ruins of Agadir’s old walled city, its medina. It has been abandoned since it was flattened by a terrible earthquake in 1960. Agadir was completely rebuilt after that so it doesn’t have an old fashioned city center.

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Day 3

Off to the mountains! All four of us piled into Chédid’s car for the three hour drive to his family’s home in the mountains. We took a pit stop in Tiznit to check out its medina and have lunch.
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Another souk

As we drove to Chédid’s village the land became progressively more arid and we steadily gained altitude.

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On the way Chédid pointed out several ‘saints’ shrines. Technically saints aren’t allowed in Islam, but the Berbers have bent the rules a bit. They kinda do their own thing, the Berbers…

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This made us laugh- “Ici on fait le crédit berbére” It means, “We take Berber credit here.” aka cash only

According to Chédid, Berbers are very rooted to the land and to their families. Even though many have moved to other parts of Morocco and abroad, everyone maintains a connection to their village and their roots. People are very loath to sell their land, even after moving away. In the mountains we saw almost no beggars because people there take really good care of relatives, no matter what. In contrast, there were an abundance of beggars in Adagir, even by Parisian standards.

After settling into the house and checking out their orchard we took a hike around the area just before sunset. Chédid showed us the argan trees that this region is famous for. They dominate the vegetation here, but grow nowhere else in the world.

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Chédid’s family’s orchard
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Mostly olive trees- Cyril and I took some of their homemade olive oil home with us!
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They had a few almond trees mixed into the orchard. We came at the perfect time to see them in bloom! Their scent is heavenly. If we had come two weeks later, we could have partaken in the region’s almond tree festival.
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An argan tree- its seeds are used to make a high value culinary and cosmetic oil
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The argan tree seed shells were striking
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We crossed paths with some shepherds bringing in their flock for the night
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Chédid’s village (photo taken the next morning in better lighting)

His little village was picturesque, with its own mosque, just like the other little villages in the mountains. Religion was more present here than in Agadir. The call of prayer echoed off of the mountains 5 times a day. We even heard it at the top of the Jebel el Kest mountain.
Cyril, Chédid, and I drove to the small capital of the region to eat dinner. We met with Chédid’s cousin and one of his best friends, Amina and Hicham, who are married (what a matchmaker Chédid is!).

After dinner we walked around the village and I couldn’t help noticing an abundance of cats!
In Morocco, stray cats, some scruffy but most regal, were omnipresent. They seemed like the Moroccan equivalent of squirrels. Homeowners and market vendors put out scraps for them but people don’t keep them as pets.
There had been a cat hanging around Chédid’s family home earlier that day, so I had asked him, ‘Is that actually your cat?’ ‘No it is more like the village cat; it makes the rounds to all of the houses, as it pleases.’

That night before going to bed, we headed outside to stargaze. I have never seen stars that bright before. In the mountains, far away from blaring lights, the milky way shows its splendor and all of the little stars that make the up the backbones of the constellations are visible. It was incredible!

Day 4

My favorite day of the trip! We took a scenic hike up to the top of the second-highest mountain in the range. It merited a separate blog post.

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Before hitting the road to go back to Agadir, we stopped by Amina and Hicham’s house for a snack and to say goodbye.

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We could have spent more time in Morocco, especially in the mountains where the company and scenery was excellent. We said our goodbyes and promised return!

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Hiking in Morocco

My favorite day of our trip to Morocco was the one which we spent hiking up Jebel el Kest, the second-highest mountain of the anti-atlas mountains. This mountain range is in Berber country, deep in the south.

We drove the car a third of the way up on a winding one-lane to a scenic village called Tagdicht. We met our guide there and set off on foot.

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Tagdicht

Our guide was a wizened, surefooted old man that kept up a constant stream of chatter in Berber. Our friend Chédid translated occasionally when it was pertinent.

‘This plant is used for tea.’

‘Do you see the entrance to a cave up there? Apparently it’s huge; they don’t know how deep it goes.’
‘This path leads to a village on the other side of the mountains.’
‘Those are gazelle droppings.’

The rest of the six hour hike the guide went on about his life, told tourist stories, and gossiped about so-and-so in such-and-such village.  Chédid was a good sport, showing interest in the right places with the Berber equivalents of hmm-mm’s and yeahs. I would not have been capable of following a conversation; I spent my time admiring the plants and landscape, taking pictures, and trying not to sprain my ankles on the loose rocks.

Chédid translated one tourist story about a woman that went hiking without a guide and got her leg crushed by a rock. They had to take her all the way to Agadir, three hours away, for proper medical care. ‘So what is the moral of the story?’ Cyril joked, ‘That we shouldn’t go out without a guide or that we should tip extra well so that the same thing doesn’t happen to us?’

In any case we wouldn’t have found our way without him. The path was not always clear, its only marking an occasional cairn.

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It was quite steep in some places
The colors were magnificent. The ochre-red soil contrasted beautifully with the vegetation and the abundant yellow and purple flowers.

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A pool under an almond tree

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Taking a break at a mountain stream
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Still a ways to go!
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What colors!
The inhabitants of the village used to cultivate lentils on the terraced mountain slopes up to an hour’s hike up from the village. Now those fields are mostly abandoned, and wildflowers have taken over.  I wasn’t expecting to see so many this early in the season; the variety was delightful.
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I had trouble identifying many of the plants- so let me know if you have any suggestions!

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Rumex simpliciflorus Murb.

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Asphodelus fistulosus L.
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Fumaria
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Erodium cicutarium (L.)
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These daffodils dominated at the top of the mountain.
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Narcissus romieuxii

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Androcymbium punctatum Baker
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Adenocarpus bacquei Batt. & Pitard
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Aizoon canariense L.
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Dipcadi serotinum
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What awesome spines!

After a solid three and a half hours, we reached the summit!

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2375 m (7792 ft)

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Cyril, Chédid,  and I

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Back to civilization! We didn’t cross a soul the entire hike.
Stay tuned for more about Morocco!

Escargots

France has many peculiar dishes, the most famous of which include escargots (snails) and frog legs. However, as of yesterday I had yet to try either. It’s not as if French people eat these two things often; they are just the stereotypical dishes that Americans like to talk about when discussing French cuisine because they are strange to us. Nevertheless, I felt a little bit like a failure having not tried them after almost a year and a half in France!

Cyril isn’t particularly a fan of either, so he never made of point of introducing them to me as he did with other French specialties. Lately, whenever I asked about escargots, he would tell me, ‘You shouldn’t order them at a resturaunt! My grandmother’s are much better. They should be the first ones that you taste!’

Escargots themselves don’t have much taste, so how they are prepared is really important. Cyril was right to make me wait; the way his grandma makes them, with butter, parsley, oregano, and anise seed, is heavenly!

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Mamie is dishing out her specialty!

Apparently Cyril’s ‘mamie’ also makes some mean frog legs so that is on the menu for next time we go south to visit family!

English is Weird Reprise

I can’t believe that I left out one of the weirdest things about English in my English is Weird post! So here is a little addition.

Phrasal verbs!!

Did you know that in English we have these things called phrasal verbs? Phrasal verbs are made when you take a normal verb, add a small word behind it, and BAM!, it takes on a whole different meaning. These are super hard for English learners; even advanced students hit a wall with them. Also they can’t avoid phrasal verbs because they are so common. Sometimes the thesaurus equivalent sounds too formal when used in everyday speech.

Here are some examples with get:

Get along (with) To be on good terms; work well:  It’s important to get along with your mother in law.
Get at To imply: What are you getting at? Do you think it’s my fault?
Get out of To avoid doing something: Brian’s trying to get out of working tomorrow.
Get over To recover from (illness, disappointment): Has she gotten over her cold yet?
Get rid of To eliminate: Please get rid of your attitude. It’s bringing everyone else down!

phrasal-verbs

And then there are many phrasal verbs with more than one meaning…

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Those poor English learners!!

English is Weird

This post is all about things I didn’t realize about my mother tongue until I started teaching it as a second language.

English is actually really weird. Sometimes I feel like I need to apologize to my students for how strange English is, almost like she is a crazy old great aunt.
‘I am sorry, I don’t know why she does that. You’ll just have to get used to it, because she isn’t changing!’

1. -ED Magic

When you add ed to make a verb past tense it can make three different sounds:
Looked and laughed sound like they end with a t.
Peeled and honored sound like they end with a d, but the e isn’t pronounced.
Added and exited actually sound like they end in ed.
Many of my students want to say ‘I look-ed at her!’

2. Prepositions

Prepositions are basically assigned randomly. They may make sense to you when you read them but that is because you are brainwashed:)

On a bus
In a car
At school
On the playground
On the weekend (at the weekend if you are British-weirdos!)
In an hour
On Friday
In the afternoon
At night
Travel to
Arrive at the restaurant
Arrive in France

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3. To do or to make, that is the question! 

Make vs do is not not easy!

In French they only have one word which encompasses make and do: faire. So even asking them to split up faire into two different concepts in their minds is difficult. My students always mess this up.

Normally make is for producing, constructing, creating or building something new.

Do is for tasks and jobs.

But there are so many expressions that don’t follow these simple rules, especially with make

you do the dishes but you make the bed
make money
make friends
do exercises
make up your mind
make a face
make a bet
make an escape
make a decision

If you want to check it out on this grammar website it is actually uber confusing: http://www.vocabulary.cl/Intermediate/Do_Make.htm

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4. Conditionals

When making one type of conditional sentence, you use simple past tense for the if clause.

If I won a million dollars, I would buy a house.
If I was president, we wouldn’t be in this mess.
If all the zoo animals escaped, there would be chaos.

This is hard for English learners to wrap their heads around because why would you use the past tense to talk about something that has not happened and probably never will?

4. Spelling

Some words have random silent letters that I never noticed before. I only realize they are silent when my students mess up the words as they are reading aloud.

Answer
Receipt
Listen
Sword
Hour

Ocean… Why is it spelled like that and pronounced like oshun?

The gh combo can make the f sound, as in tough, or it can be silent as in through.

There are the double oo’s and the craziness that is ou.

Blood and flood
Food and mood

None of these ou’s makes the same sounds

thought, through, thorough, tough
My students generally stumble when reading those words. Sometimes it isn’t even close at all!

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5. Infinitives and gerunds

Infinitives and gerunds after other verbs- really confusing.

Just a review, (hang with me here) infinitives are to +verb as in to go, to play, to work, to live.

Gerunds are verb +ing as in going, playing, working, living.

-For some verbs you can follow with both a gerund or infinitive but it changes the meaning of the sentence.

Ann remembered bringing her wallet to the beach
Ann remembered to bring her wallet to the beach.

He stopped smoking.
He stopped to smoke. (As in he stopped what he was doing and took a smoke break)

Not the same thing!!

-For some verbs you can follow with both a gerund or infinitive and it doesn’t really change the meaning of the sentence.

I like to play basketball.
I like playing basketball.

-There are many verbs that can only be followed by a gerund or infinitive and they are mostly assigned randomly.

Gerunds:

Avoid: He avoided going to school. (He avoided to go to school)
Imagine: Helen imagines working there one day. (Helen imagines to work there one day)

Infinitives:

Agree: James agreed to lower the price (James agreed lowering the price)
Decide: We decided to stay home during the holidays. (We decided staying home during the holidays)

Imagine learning English as a second language and coming across this fun brain twister. The right answer for the gerund vs infinitive rule seems obvious to us but it is actually super hard!

6. Live and read
Then there are read and live which can be pronounced two different ways depending on the context.
I live in boulogne-Billancourt
This broadcast is being brought to you live from New York!
Have you read this book?
Read this book!

7. The THE enigma

There are some many different rules!! This little tidbit is just talking about proper names.

You wouldn’t say, ‘At the Panama beach on Pacific coast in the California, we could dip our toes in Pacific ocean while looking at sun.’ *Cringe!*

Rather you would say, ‘At Panama beach on the Pacific Coast in California, we could dip our toes into the Pacific ocean while looking at the sun.’

Use THE with the names of:

oceans
seas
coasts
rivers
swamps
archipelagos
collections of lakes (such as the Great Lakes)
mountain chains
deserts
references on the globe (such as the Equator, the North Pole)
geographic regions (such as the Northwest, the Middle East)
bridges (except Tower Bridge)
pagodas
hotels
theaters
museums
institutes
skyscrapers
the Sun, the Moon
extraordinary works of art or architecture (such as the Mona Lisa, the Colosseum, the Great Wall of China, and the Taj Mahal)

But do not use THE with:

individual lakes
individual islands
beaches
waterfalls
individual mountains (except the Matterhorn)
canyons (except the Grand Canyon)
people’s first names
streets (except the High Street)
public squares
hospitals
stadiums
malls
parks
churches
temples
universities
colleges
languages
religions
days
months
holidays
HOWEVER: There are additional exceptions to some of the above categories. For example, THE is often used in the pattern “the … of …”.

Examples:

The University of Colorado
The Temple of Ranakpur
The Cathedral of Siena

This is just a small exert taken from a large article on when and when not to use the/a/an (http://www.englishpage.com/articles/advanced-articles.htm)

8. Adjective order

And finally, there is this!

adjectives

The Elements of Eloquence: How to Turn the Perfect English Phrase by Mark Forsyth

funny

And we can read this sign the wrong way because of this rule:)

At the end of the day, it is amazing to think about how we native speakers internalize all of these rules and use them effortlessly and without thinking.

Let us observe a moment of silence for the poor souls who are trying to learn our language…

French Kids Say the Darnedest Things Round 4

You asked for it and here it is! Another edition of funny quotes from my students!!

I renewed my contract with TAPIF (Teaching Assistant Program in France) again for this year with the same district and same three schools as last year. I have most of the same teachers and a few new ones as well. For the most part my classes are shorter so I have more. For the young kids it is mostly a half an hour and for the older ones it is 45 min instead of one hour; I prefer this because when lessons are too long it is hard to keep them motivated and attentive! The kids are adorable, as usual. This year half of my students are the same as last year, which is great because there is some continuity. 

My French is much better than it was when I started the program last year but this year I am really trying to speak absolutely no French at all to the kids, except if we talk about culture. It’s an adventure to be sure. 

** Quotations in Italics were spoken in French

When I went back to my schools for the first time, a seven year old with the biggest doe eyes raised his hand, ‘You left before the end of the school year last year. You aren’t going to do that again, are you?’ And I told him, ‘I am sorry but my contract doesn’t last the whole school year, I can’t stay all the way until July.’ Then he asked me, ‘And next year, are you going to leave early too?’ He melted my heart!  The kid thought I was a fixture of his school because last year was his first there. But there isn’t going to be a next year. Even if I wasn’t planning on going grad school next fall, one can only do the program for 2 years max.  

In another class when I visited for the first time a six-year-old girl raised her hand and said, ‘Sometimes I speak English with my sister…even though I don’t speak English.’ ???? A little while later she started singing. The teacher asked, ‘What are you singing?’
A song in English.’
Well then sing a little louder so we can all hear.’
The song was to the tune of the abc song.  I listened super hard to try to make out the words. The teacher laughed and asked me, ‘That doesn’t mean anything does it?…’
Nope, not at all!’

I talked about Halloween in a lot of my classes. We went over some fun vocab like ghost and witch and pumpkin. For the 8-year-olds I found a small text online in French explaining Halloween origins, including the legend of miserly, selfish Jack, who had even gone so far as to trick the devil so he was doomed to wander forever with his lantern between heaven and hell.
A girl in the back raised her hand, ‘What is hell?’

For some vocabulary, the kids have a reference because of English words, brands, and characters that the French have borrowed, like ‘snow’board, Minny’mouse’, and angry birds.  However they frenchify the pronunciation a bit. Because of Spider-Man and Batman, spider and bat are easy words for them to remember, although they say ‘speeder’. It drives me nuts.
‘It’s Spiiiiider, children, spiiider! Now repeat!’
‘Speeder!’
‘No! Spider!’

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One kid did this on this review crossword puzzle. He was so proud of himself!!

Some kids are SO EXCITED to answer questions and participate- I love it! Some always keep their hand up even after they have answered a question such as ‘What’s your name’, because they want to answer it again. I ask, ‘Who hasn’t answered yet?’ And they wave their hands even more. I give them a look and say, ‘I know you have already answered!’ They smile guiltily but keep their hands raised. 

One day we were playing a ‘point to’ game where I would call kids up to the board and tell them a vocab word, like cat. When they would point to the right picture I would say ‘cat’ and have the class repeat. One time I forgot to do the repeat part and started to move on to the next word and one kid yelled out the first word all by himself. I had deprived him of that simple joy of repeating a vocab word, you know?

Eating with the teachers is hilarious because they love to gossip about their kids.

One day, two of the CP (1st grade) teachers were complaining, ‘This year, one of the kids doesn’t even know his days of the week…’ They used expressions like ‘They were rocked too close to the wall’ or Il a été fini au pipi’ This one is quite vulgar (hilarious but vulgar) so I won’t spell it out.

Also, two of the teachers confessed to me that they speak in English with their husbands when they don’t want their kids to understand what they are saying. Then one of them asked me wide-eyed as if she had just realized something mind-blowing, ‘What language do you speak when you don’t want the children to understand?’

It is interesting to see how the kids interact with each other during lessons. In the beginning in the seven-year-old class we learned, ‘Hello what’s your name?’ and ‘My name is ____’. For most of the kids it was a review. There was one little boy who had moved from another school and hadn’t learned English before. The first lesson he didn’t want to participate at all. He just crossed his arms and shook his head mutely. The other kids tried to encourage him, including this adorable, painfully shy girl. She told him, ‘I was scared at first too, but even I did it! Look at me now!’ She is the best, I love it when she volunteers to speak.

It is easy to see the different levels of maturity. In the six-year-old classes especially there are a lot of kids who giggle uncontrollably when I play them a song for the first time. It is hilarious because the few mature ones get pissed off at this and hiss at everyone, ‘Stop laughing, IT’S NOT FUNNY!’ The looks on their faces are a mixture of rage and exasperation.  I can tell that they are thinking, ‘I am surrounded by idiots.’ 

When drilling vocab with kids right after I teach them new vocab, kids often say mushy nonsense words. Sometimes they actually say a real English word by accident, just not the right one! I mimed ‘I’m tired’ and a girl raised her hand and answered ‘I’m dead!’ The teacher and I laughed, ‘Close, but not quite kid!’ 

One of my students is bilingual- his mother is Canadian. As I was leaving the lesson one day I heard him sing, ‘She was drinking…’ That stopped me in my tracks.
‘What are you singing???’
He smiled, ‘Grandma got run over by a reindeer! I am singing it for my American school.’ And he started singing, ‘She was drinking too much eggnog…’
I joined in because hey, that is a great song:)

In one of my classes as we talked about thanksgiving, the teacher gave them a short text in French to read. At the end it says that every year, the American president chooses one turkey to pardon and it lives out its days on a farm, never to be eaten. The word pardon in French is gracie, which sounds a little like their word for fat, gras. When she asked them, ‘what does that mean?’, they could not get the word ‘fat’ out of their heads. 
The president puts fat into the sauce.’

No, it has nothing to do with fat.’

The president takes the fat out of the sauce?’

No!’
The president puts the fat into the turkey?’

No, no, no!’

Kids are like that though! Once you get an idea into their head they can’t let it go!

And last but not least-One day I asked the kids if they were going to dress up for Halloween and if so what they were going to be. Kids started volunteering their costumes,
A ghost!
A princess
Kylo Ren!
A vampire
another ‘Kylo Ren!
Then a kid raised his hand, ‘I am going to be Darth Vader!!
One of the Kylo Rens shot back at him, ‘You can’t be Darth Vader, he is dead!

I had to step in, ‘Ok children, Calm yourselves!’