Great Expectations: Frequent Disappointments

For several weeks, I’ve been anxiously awaiting the arrival of the U.S. Consulate at my high school. Well, they came, they saw, and they rolled out before I even had time to pledge allegiance to the Consul’s flag pin.

Here’s the background: About 45 high schoolers from around the world are chosen each year to participate in a month-long conference in the U.S. that will remain unnamed on this blog. (Hey, I don’t want to get sued.) It’s a fascinating project that allows globally-minded leaders to get together to discuss current issues while getting a free summer trip to the states. Some kids at my school were tapped to take part in the application process, which includes a tête à tête interview with the regional American Consulate. These kids have to be not only engaged individuals with top grades and legitimate reasons to want to experience American culture, but they have to be able to express all of that in the program’s lingua franca: English.

So we’ve been practicing. I took some extra time the past few weeks to ensure that the seven candidates knew how to conduct themselves in an American-style interview (snappy business casual attire, shake hands instead of chest-bumping, etc.) and express their main points clearly (keep the main thing the main thing, don’t quote Breaking Bad unless absolutely relevant, etc.). By the day of the Consular visit, they were shaking like leaves on so many proverbial trees, and they were totally ready.

So the Consulate (which consisted of two people) showed up at about 9 AM and started meeting the candidates. I stood outside the interview space and acted as moral support the whole morning as each kid hyperventilated on his or her way through the door. As per usual with anything on a tight schedule, the interviews went waaaay over time and we were rushing to get the meetings over so the visitors could get to their next engagement- a conference on Franco-American relations with about a hundred of the high school’s seniors.

This “conference” ended up being a recitation of literally every single link between the US and France since 1776, facilitated by the worst Powerpoint presentation I’ve ever seen, followed by a blanket “thank you” by the Consul for everything France did to help make America da best kuntrie evarr. I was pretty disappointed. It was probably relatively interesting to the students, who hadn’t heard it all before and are likely less OCD than me about how images should be centered on slideshows, but for the cynics in the room, it was mostly disappointing, and felt more like an advertisement for the U.S. than a spontaneous exchange of ideas about international relations.

I was still hopeful, though, and incredibly psyched to be invited to a private lunch meeting with the consul, the school principal, and several other English teachers. I’d looked forward to it all day while I was standing outside waiting on other people and giggling through the American study abroad advertisement. Unfortunately, a bunch of other profs gatecrashed and basically made it almost impossible to speak to the consul or anyone else at the luncheon. I know I have some weird pet peeves, but it was beyond my intercultural abilities at that point in the day to empathize with the insane rudeness of inviting oneself to a private meal. Beyond that nonsense, we weren’t there just to nosh and chitchat, but to debrief on the students’ interviews and provide further details so that the consul could eventually make the decision for which kid will get to go on the trip of a lifetime.

I. Couldn’t. Even.

Meh. It was certainly an exciting day, and a very successful one for the students who worked tirelessly to prepare for it, but less than wonderful for the poor little English Assistant who had hoped to schmooze with the Consul so her pending State Department application would be well received. Let this be a lesson to us all. Or, at least, those of us who tend to get overly excited about events that have nothing to do with us.

Les Petits Bonheurs

While reflecting more about being blessed/lucky and the contentedness that I felt when listing out the reasons I have to be happy earlier this week, I decided it would an interesting exercise to actively document my happiest moments for the next month. Anyone who has a tendency toward anxiety or depression knows that it can sometimes be basically impossible to see the wonderful things about life that are right under your nose. Personally, I’m a heck of a cynic even when I’m not feeling low. It’ll be hard, but I’m hoping that writing down a positive moment or little blessing each day will remind me to be more appreciative of my world.

A quick Google search for “happiness counter 30 days record” led to tons of websites that invite users to upload testimonies and photos about the happy little things in their days. I won’t be using an official site; rather, I’m simply going to keep a computer file of mini-journals and photos to keep track of my own assignment.

Would you be interested in reading or even participating in such a challenge? Again, these daily entries will be very short records of at least one thing that made me smile during the day. Let me know in the comments below if you think I should make the most notable moments public by writing them on this blog!

Appreciating It

My apologies for the lack of posts lately! The days pass so quickly here, and sometimes it’s all I can do to get half of the day’s to-do list crossed off within twenty-four hours. 

Three weeks ago seems like yesterday, and weekends are a total blur. Some of the other assistants have begun counting down the days to our next vacation (which begins March 1st) and even to the end of our work contracts (April 26th). I’m quite conscious of the fact of tempus fugit, and I can’t imagine anything worse than this time ending so soon!

My problem is with individual days. I don’t want May to come so quickly, but I frequently find myself wishing for 11 PM so I can dive into bed. I wake up in the morning with a groan and a violent smacking of the snooze button, and I majorly stress over getting things over and done with during the day. Basically, sometimes I forget how good I’ve got it.

I’m living the dream!

I don’t even mean the dream of living in France-just the dream of living.

I have a family that loves and supports me, even from a few thousand miles away. I received an affordable university education that is recognized throughout the world. That lovely warm bed I’ve mentioned is there for me every night, along with multiple boxes of tea to choose from each morning. I have change in my wallet that allowed me to pick up the medications I needed last week at the neighborhood pharmacy. My eyes see (thanks to LASIK), my ears hear, and my tongue tastes the delicious food that fills my fridge. I have trouble deciding what to wear from my closet full of clothes. I’m twenty-two years old with the world at my feet and a million possibilities for the future.

You get the picture.

I’m going to try to do a little less worrying and a lot more appreciating in the next few weeks. It’s easy to savor vacations and parties, but remembering to be happy through the beautifully average days is just as important. I think it’s something we could all manage to work on.

 

 

A Reunion à la Touraine

Feeling sick is no fun, especially when you’re miles and miles away from a familiar healthcare system and your mommy.

Luckily, I’ve managed to navigate both roadblocks and be an adult while trying to get over this yucky cold. I’m currently resting comfortably in bed with all sorts of wonderful French miracle cures from the pharmacy, and not planning on doing anything productive for at least the next 48 hours. In the meantime, please enjoy a few of these iPhone photos from last weekend’s reunion trip to Tours to see my old host family.

(You can see more about the family and my time in Tours on my Cast of Characters page.)

 

Tours' Hotel de Ville, officially remodeled with its beautiful new tramway.

Tours’ Hotel de Ville and city center, officially remodeled with its beautiful new tramway line

A panoramic shot of a country home I passed by. I'd love to hear about who lives here.

A panoramic shot of a country property I passed by. I’d love to hear about who lives in that house on the hill.

Chateau de Saché, the vacation home of Honoré de Balzac, a noted French writer.

Chateau de Saché, the vacation home of Honoré de Balzac, a noted French writer

inner workings of a printing press inside the Chateau de Saché

inner workings of a printing press inside the Chateau de Saché