I've noticed something really interesting over the course of the last 2 months: I'm losing weight. I'm losing weight despite the fact that everything I eat here is loaded with cheese, cream, butter, and/or chocolate. And bread. I eat mountains of bread. And yet... my pants won't stay up on their own.
I have several theories as to why this might be. 1) French people take meal times seriously, and a good dinner with friends or family often lasts for two hours or more. Although this leaves plenty of time for eating seconds (and in many cases, thirds), it also slows down the pace of each course, and (gasp!) actually allows you to recognize when you've had enough. And instead of inhaling your food, you have more of a chance to actually taste and enjoy it, which I think also leads to eating less. 2) Dessert isn't a big deal. Yes, the French are known for their pastries, and yes, I have had some really stellar ones here. But in general, in day-to-day life, there isn't much focus on dessert. After you've eaten your fill of a really rich entree and had a glass or two of wine and plenty of bread and cheese, a huge dessert doesn't really even sound good. Of course most of us want that little something sweet after dinner, but I find that a small piece of chocolate or a small piece of fruit is usually all I need. Add to that a cup of hot coffee or tea with milk, and who needs cake or pie or cookies? Not the French, apparently. And 3) There's not much of a (if any) taboo on fatty foods here. I think in the US we are always looking for a way to cut back the fat in our meals (and with the way we eat, many of us probably should), but that means that there's a lot of guilt and stress that goes into those things that we do add butter or cheese or cream to. And stress = weight gain. It's kind of an abstract theory, but I think because the French don't feel guilty about all of the rich things that are central to their cuisine, it enables them to enjoy those things in a (mentally) healthier way, and in a more steady, moderate way. I think the tendency in the US is to make things like butter, cream, and cheese a "once-in-a-while" treat, but I think this also leads us to be more reckless when we do eat these things, and causes us to binge on them or otherwise overindulge. Then we feel guilty and/or stressed, and stress = weight gain. Also, this may not be scientifically accurate, but it seems to me that a cup of cream consumed over the course of 4 meals in 4 days would be easier for the body to process than a cup of cream consumed in one sitting. Just saying. Anyway, in summation, I don't really know why I can eat all this rich, fatty deliciousness and still lose weight, but I'm certainly not complaining.
I've had two very full days of work so far this week. I've mostly been giving powerpoint presentations about my life and where I'm from, showing photos of family, friends, and, of course, dogs. The kids are loving it, and it's been a lot of fun for me too. I also have a huge, wonderful map of the US that Mom sent me, so we've been talking a lot about life in America, different fun facts about the states, etc. The kids are downright gleeful when I tell them that Michael Jackson was born in Indiana, but they are soon disappointed when they find out that this doesn't mean that he and I are friends, or that I've never even met him. And they ask lots of strange and interesting questions, too. Now, my students are mostly 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders, and yesterday when we were looking at the map and talking about the different states, I had a student ask me if the death penalty was legal in Indiana. I'm not sure I even knew what the death penalty was when I was that age, let alone what a controversy it is. When I told him it was indeed legal in Indiana, he then asked me if anyone famous had been executed there.So weird, haha. Then today I had a student who knew more about American government than I do. Again we were looking at the map, and he started grilling me about Barack Obama. And he was asking me questions about policy! Do you have any idea how strange it is to discuss health care reform with a 9 year old French kid?! Tres bizarre. But I am quite enjoying myself in most of my classes, and I am SUPER excited because starting this Friday I will get to spend 2 hours a week working with a choir! There were too many conflicts between my schools to give me all English classes, so at one of my schools I will also be teaching music, haha. As strange a placement as it is, I couldn't be happier. I miss my high school choir days! Look forward to a comical post about it soon, as it's been a few years and a few packs of cigarettes since I last sat down in front of some sheet music, haha.
And lastly, I have some sad news to report. Sad for me anyway. I think I may have to switch back to shampoo for the duration of my time here in France. I had about one week of fabulous hair, and then I started to feel this gunky, glue-like substance building up on my roots. Thoroughly grossed out, I headed to the internet and my guru of all things natural, Crunchy Betty. You see, the water in Northern France is exceptionally hard, and apparently all of the calcium and magnesium ions in the water react with the sodium and carbonate in the baking soda when I mix my shampoo, and this causes what I've come to refer to as "glue roots," ie "must wear ponytail" hair. I've been told that I can try making my shampoo and conditioner with either rainwater (very easy to come by in these parts, but probably not so clean), or water that's been boiled and cooled. So I think I will try the boiled water option for the next week or so and see what happens, but if I still have glue roots I may have to throw in the proverbial towel, at least until I get home and have access to soft water. I'll keep you posted, but don't expect any photos. Glue roots are not pretty.
So that's what's good in the 'hood at the moment (ooh I feel like such a gangsta haha). I'll leave you with a photo. Not of France, but instead, of Indy, because this particular photo elicited a collective gasp of delight from every single class I showed it to today. It is a really great photo, and it makes me proud to call Indy home.