This is the part where my serious film turns more lighthearted and family friendly. I have a great desire to share with you the event that is laundry day. It is significant enough that when I went back to proof read this blog, I realized I had capitalized laundry and laundry mat every time…
First, watch this video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dDD-SP2iaa8 Why? It’s awesome. Also it will help you appreciate the reference I’m making with the title.
So in September our host mom did laundry for us. When October came we put it off as long as possible. You would. The recommended laundry mat is in town. About a 5 minute walk from the tram or 10 minutes from school. So minimum of 40 minutes from home which means we have to carry ALL our clothes to school on the tram.
Plus, to save money, I planned on hang drying my clothes so I couldn’t do it on a break between classes; it had to be after class before I was going home for the day.
So the first day I brought my clothes to wash, I left them in the office during the day. Little did I know that when I was done with class, the office would be locked up for the night. And so would my clothes.
So I went home, hoping I had something to wear the next day. The following day I took my clothes to class with me, I couldn’t afford risking getting them locked in again. While talking with my director, she found a laundry mat in Avrille (my town). Great news! So I carried my laundry home. I got off the tram and began walking down the street with the address in my hand. I couldn’t find it so I walked back up the other side. I eventually asked and got directions. And walked back down the street a bit further. By this time, my roommate had joined me and we realized that the walk was really long. Really really long. So we turned around AGAIN! I still needed groceries for dinner. So, carrying all my dirty clothes we walked to the grocery store where my bag of laundry filled up the whole cart. Eventually, we were headed home arms full and throbbing. It was miserable. And I, yet again, was forced to scrounge an outfit.
The next day, I took my laundry back into town and finally accomplished my goal.
I don’t have a lot of experience with laundry mats in general, and as you can imagine it didn’t go smoothly by any means. But rather than describing that particular experience, I’ll just provide some general details.
1) The instructions are in French. What average student just has the necessary doing laundry vocab stored away?
2) Ok well any other struggles stemmed from number 1. But learning how to use the soap and paying and what order to do things like paying, closing the door, adding soap, etc was harder than it should have been. It’s enough of a hassle to figure out how you want to split up loads. Especially when each one costs 4 Euros and makes you wait 25 minutes.
Anyway, enough on that. It got easier. It still is annoying and I won’t deny that I bought more socks to put off doing laundry but it’s not all struggle! There is a mini grocery store kiddy corner (it’s called Diagonal hehe) from the laundry mat or a bakery next door to get food while we wait. It also suffices as homework time. OR meeting interesting characters and if not meeting, amusing them with out loud, English confusion.
For example, we met a student, who is from Kenya, but lives in England now and is studying in France. I got to have quite a long conversation with her about our studies and experiences.
On another occasion, Maddy got to the laundry mat before me. When I walked in, the first thing she said was “Emily, I made a friend!” and I was promptly introduced to a nice French man on his way out.
Finally, and possibly my favorite was someone we didn’t actually meet. He was sitting in the corner, reading his book and minding his own business when Tornado Emily and Hurricane Maddy came in.
We, as usual struggled through the process of starting our laundry, animatedly speaking English and making really dumb mistakes. Several times I caught him watching us instead of reading and I saw his grin following our describing ourselves as “stupide Americaines!”. Perhaps the final straw was Maddy’s less then discrete burp causing our not-friend to put his book down and suppress laughing out loud. He then shook his head and went back to reading. By the end of the afternoon I almost felt an acquaintanceship forming with the mysterious book smirker.
I’ve made a somewhat recent discovery. I’ve been curious about a noise I’ve been hearing since arrival and pondering its meaning for a good long time. I first heard it coming from a respectable young woman during a meal at home. It was basically just a single grunt coming from the back of her throat. What was weird, is that this was happing during the meal. I thought she was slightly strange for making such noises while eating but I hadn’t been here long enough to understand the norms.
I heard the same sound several other times after this and could never figure out the context. Until one day it was finally clear! Their short, fairly quiet grunt is the noise that means “uh-huh” or “mhmm”, which explains why when I respond with mhm the French person with whom I’m conversing, continues to look at me expectantly.
What’s more, I needed to share my revelation with someone and the most convenient opportunity was explaining to my roommate on the tram ride home. I don’t think I need to say much more. Just picture me animatedly telling my story that can only be fully described with a lot of mmnghts (it’s a really short noise that I have no idea how to spell, so I just threw in a bunch of consonants) mhmms and uh-huhs. Then imagine the faces of the people around us watching and listening and likely not completely understanding.
So, I had to ask and find out. I took a poll and asked some French people how to spell the noise described above. After some explaining I got my point across. Here was the response:
According to a girl in her 20s: Hum
According to a 17 year old boy: hm
Most seem to agree with “hm” but you can’t pronounce it the way we would read that. Keep in mind that the way the French spell “yum” is “miam” and they spell “wow” as “ouah”.
My final observation for this post is that all French people have the same handwriting. Ok so I’m exaggerating and generalizing, but it’s really interesting how similar their handwriting is (for example from professor to professor) compared to the variety I see at home. I mentioned before that their cursive letters or some print letters and numbers are different from the American way but it is also interesting how uniform the letters seem to be.
Alright, while I’m at it, I may as well add one more pointless topic. Pasta to go. That’s right, amazing delicious, filling, FRESH pasta in a box. These stands will be the end of my figure and my bank account (as if pastries and baguettes weren’t bad enough). They basically offer all of the same benefits as a fast food restaurant, except it tastes way better than fast food and I’m pretending it’s healthier. They even have buy 10 get one “offert” (free) like coffee stands! There are two of these that we frequent and one more has just been discovered.
Unfortunately, they are different companies so I have two running pasta tally cards. However a box of “4 Fromage” costs 5 euro and means I don’t have to make my own food so filling that card probably won’t be too much effort.
I’m not sure if I have mentioned this before, but it is relevant enough to risk repeating myself. I think that if we were to get a pasta stand such as these in Monmouth, or really just in any college town, well any town at all in America, it would be a hit. A booming success. Maybe such things exist already, in some places but I wouldn’t mind there being a few more. Actually, I should not have just suggested this to the entire internet because I believe one could make quite a profit. I’m no business major, but I can think of many reasons why a pasta stand would last at home. Especially one down the street from a laundry mat.