- Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong: Why We Love France But Not the French - This book is a good intro into French culture, especially for someone like myself who has never been to France. It was interesting to hear [often humorous takes] about French pride, dogs, strikes, grandes écoles, and other unfamiliar things.
- Talk to the Snail: Ten Commandments for Understanding the French - Not meant to be taken too seriously (though I sometimes believe that humor can provide a look into truths that are otherwise hidden), this book paints a ridiculous picture of the French people. Needless to say, I love it.
- ISEP Study Abroad: Travel Tricks 'n Tips (Pinterest board) - The whole account is great, but this is particularly awesome - especially with all the packing tips.
- CollegeFashion.net: Study Abroad tag - I like their advice because a lot of my anxiety clearly comes from figuring out what to wear, so. There's that.
Thanks to the above sources (and a few others), I will be testing the "truth" of the following statements:
- Any attempt at speaking French will be good
- The French are really, really into being French
- The French are really, really into their dogs and think that their dogs are super-awesome
- The fashion is also super-awesome
- As is the food
- If you need to go, you might have to fork over some cash money
- The showers are different
- A knowledge of history and current events is appreciated
- Traveling! To! Other! Places! Gets! People! Excited! Because! Everything! Is! "Sewwwww!" Close!
Additionally, after watching a couple of hours of DVDs about traveling to France (including some Travel Channel stuff from the very snarky Anthony Bourdain) I'm realizing that what I'm hoping to experience abroad isn't exactly standard... or maybe it's not something that many people voice very often. That is, I don't have a pressing need to see every monument. I want to see things that matter to me and who I am.
I realize it's possible to argue that I'm just not as invested in history as I should be, but right now, in this state of mind and this point in my life, I'm looking for figures and places that I can relate to and that move something within me.
I see that figure in Angela Davis. During winter break I read an article about how Angela Davis studied at la Sorbonne and how that made an impact on her life. I watched old footage of a French interview with her, heard her use "ce qui" like a pro, took in her smile as she turned to someone for French equivalents.
It means so much to have someone ahead of you to model yourself after. This is why I think I'm going to try and get to know the women saints of France.
Manong Philip Vera Cruz once said, "We need the truth more than we need heroes." While I agree that heroes can cause admirers to fall victim to idolatry or what have you (which is what most of today's society has fallen into, given celebrity worship), I believe heroes give the downtrodden a much-needed sense of hope. Perhaps the real danger of reverence comes when the accomplishments turn out to be falsehoods and the hero turns into a being that is no longer human.
The beauty of saints is that, despite the connotations and the way many of us use the word today, they are human. They are relatable. They, in a sense, show you that the impossible can be possible. That is why I want to spend my time in France finding the women saints: I want to find humanity in the legends. I want to be inspired to be better.
I am going to France to learn the language and learn about myself. If I have money to travel, that will be great, but if money can only keep me in France, so be it. Four months is not enough to extinguish all of France after all. It probably isn't enough time to get through just the southern part of it.
Throughout all of this muddled thinking, I'm reminded of something my dad says all the time. He always says you should know where you're going before you start the car; even if you've never been to that place, you know what you plan on doing and why you're even going there at all.
Sometimes I think about the different countries I could visit, but then that mental manifestation of my dad giving me that car lecture starts up again. It's a bit frustrating, but that silly guy has a point.
So here I am. I'm going to be in that car on the 25th. Once I'm in that car, I'm going to have to start that engine. Where am I going? What am I planning on doing? Why am I going there at all? I only have so much gas and money, but I also only have so much time.
So what's it gonna be? What do you want to do? Qu'est-ce que vous voulez faire?