31 August 2009

EuroKulture Blogging Class

This semester I am taking a EuroKulture blogging class, a class related to the University of Missouri School of Journalism and the Romance Language Department.

The purpose of it is to explore European culture via blogs in different languages and to comment on the European popular culture we discover complements of the world wide web. We're diving fast into the world of "weblogs" and soon we will have our website up for class blog posts. I will also submit my posts onto my personal blog. You can check it out the class blog at Within the next week we will submit our first posts.

26 August 2009

Back to School during Vacances?!

I've been sitting through lectures all day. I do love school but I can't help but to be jealous of those still on Vacances in France. One year ago I had just returned from being a beach bum in Nice with the rest of France while they enjoyed their annual 3 weeks vacation. I find myself sitting in class dreaming of white sand and the freedoms often associated with nude beaches of the Côte d'Azur. I think we should throw an old fashioned French Manifestation for the right to 3 week vacations in America at the time when school is usually starting. Who's with me?

24 August 2009

Greyhound Bus- Rediscovering the old way to travel.

Last week I was stressed when searching for a way get to travel from Columbia, Missouri to Oklahoma City without breaking the bank. I quickly realized that traveling in the United States is much harder to organize after experiencing the European Rail System. America has interstate freeways but no public rail transportation. If you don't have a car and/or don't want to pay obscene airline prices for last-minute travel, what other options do you have?

My situation in Columbia is that I am two hours west from the St. Louis Airport and 2.5 hours east of Kansas City Airport. The monopolized MoX shuttle to either airport from Columbia costs at least $50 each way before you add on the price of the airline ticket. There's the Megabus, but it only runs once a day and goes to select cities like Chicago.

I recently found out from an international student that there is a Greyhound bus station in Columbia. Who knew?! I did some research and found that the Greyhound Bus Line has a surprising amount of stations and scheduling options, not to mention a very reasonable price. I ended up spending $84 total on my last-minute, one-way ticket. However, everyone keeps asking me about the quality of travel on the ol' Greyhound Bus lines. After traveling on the night bus from Columbia to OKC, I would rate my overall travel experience an 8 out of 10. Just like any other form of public travel, the bus could be loud at times, whether it was a crying baby or a person answering a cell phone. It was nothing that a headphones and an ipod couldn't appease. Second, comfort should be evaluated. Seats are first-come, first-serve. If you can score a pair of seats to spread out in, or a window to lean up against for a night trip, you are set. Otherwise the comfort is equal to the quality found on an airplane or other coach buses.

Next time you find yourself in a last-minute travel situation, I recommend considering a Greyhound bus line. It's not the Eurorail but it's the closest thing to it in the US.

04 August 2009

Timing is everything

Lateness is an epidemic in France. Maybe the laid back lifestyle and the 2 hour lunch break skews a person's perception of time. I'm not saying this is necessarily a bad thing, but it is certainly annoying for a person who grew up learning the importance of punctuality, like myself and many other Americans.

The French tolerate an excuse for those who are perpetually 15 minutes en retard. It is called le quart Français or "the French quarter hour". My professor in France warned us that this saying can be used for any region or city, for example le quart Lyonnais or le quart Parisien. Apparently, this excuse dates back to the day when there was only one bell tower in Lyon. The bells would chime every quarter hour and this was the only means of telling time in the town. So, a person would wait until the bells chimed to know what time it was and then it usually took them 15 minutes to get somewhere...

I question the authenticity this folklore is but even if it is true, I do believe it has had opportunity to be shaken for a couple hundred years now. The Swiss right next door have managed to create top-of-the-line watches but perhaps precision stays on the wrist. For those out there who can read French, I found some amusing blogs about the "French quarter hour":

In a French social scene, tardiness is even worse. It can be an awkward situation when an acquaintance invites you over at 9pm for dinner and when you show up at 9:15 expecting to apologize for tardiness, you are the only guest. This happened to me twice (shame on me) so I waited around rather embarrassed for a couple hours for other guests to show up. I had to learn that when a dinner party starts at 9 pm, you must add about 2 or 3 hours to that time in order to be "fashionably late". I much prefer plain language, where a dinner party that starts at 9 really starts at 9. After living in France, I really appreciate punctuality and have made sure I exhibit the same behavior for the sake of others.