So 17.5 bucks is cheap, right?

That's what I thought about bus tickets to New York.  17.5 bucks each way.  Sign me up!  Max has Columbus day off and we had this great idea to go to New York for the weekend on one of the cheap China Town buses.  So, I bought the tickets on Monday during an extra long break between French classes and the planning began.

...but it was brought to a frustrating halt when I realized that ALL of the decently priced hotels in NY were booked and that even the not so decently priced hotels were booked also.  I usually plan months or at least several weeks in advance, so, note of hindsight to myself: It was your fault.  But really!?  145 is a steal for a crazy carpeted room with a shared bathroom?  I feel a bit snobby even saying this (so do your best Carlteton Banks impersonation) but it is hard to get a good room in that city!  (Really, nobody remembers Carleton Banks from Fresh Prince?  "Its not unusual to be loved by anyone..."  anyone?) 

No worries, Airbnb to the rescue.  I have used this option before and had a really great experience.  People basically sign up on this website to offer their guest rooms as an often cheaper and usually more personalized lodging option than a hotel and the website regulates the whole thing to ward off skeevies.  We stayed in a lovely apartment in Rome for a fraction of the local hotel price back in June and I hoped that airbnb could do it again this time.  Last night was a little frustrating as it appeared that all of the rooms listed "available" in NYC were just a tease and had been scooped up before I could get to them.  But this morning proved more hopeful.  I found a little place in Brooklyn where the proprietor, get this, works in the theater!  We are going to NY almost exclusively to 1) See Shows and 2) See Art.  A close third is to buy paper.  She offered to help us maneuver the plethora of theater options out there and give us the low down on which are good and which are not so good.

Hooray for social networking.   


Like it Stinks, Joker Face, Chicken Bum

Remember that "Friends" Episode where phoebe tries to teach Joey to play the guitar and she refers to the chords by the things they make her hand look like?  "Iceberg"  and "Bear Claw" are B sharp and A respectively because, well, that's what her hands look like when she plays them.

My French textbook has become a similar exercise in association.  In my attempt to learn the different sounds and corresponding shape my mouth needs to make in order to produce those sounds, I have reverted to marking up my text with all manner of bizarre associations.  But at least I'm consistent.

"Like it Stinks" is always the sound like at the end of the word "Bleu"

"Joker Face" is the nasal vowel like in the indefinite pronoun "un" because that is the face you have to make to get it right.

"Chicken Bum" is the really ou-y u of "tu"

Chicken Bum?  When our proffeseur taught us to differentiate the French u from the English u (too) he said, and I quote

"I know ziz iz not vehry nice, but zyou 'ave to make your lips like a chicken's bum.  Like a circle all the way around."

And they say the French are unapproachable!


La Porte

After our study abroad in Jordan the summer of 2008, Max and I backpacked through Europe for a few weeks.  We started in Greece and then moved to Italy and lastly France.  By the time we got to Italy we had studied enough from our "Pocket Italian" and started recognizing enough similarities between our Spanish and Portuguese, respectively, that we did pretty well linguistically.

When we walked out of the Charles Du Gaulle Airport in Paris we felt pretty confident about our ability to piece together enough French to get around.  It's a romance language, right?  But in truth, French isn't so much like Portuguese or Spanish are to Italian.  It didn't just "come to us" in moments of dire need like I thought it would, and we spent a lot of time making grand hand gestures and pointing at things.

French class at FSI has begun for me and Max and for me, at least, it's been a bit like that week in France.  I have appreciated my Spanish training to the extent that I understand formal and informal and the general concept of conjugating the verb "to be", but my pronunciation...is not awesome.  I do have to say; however, that my teachers are fabulous and I am really enjoying class so far.  Max and I are in the same class (ahh, I know) and we study French for about 5 hours a day each day.  It's intense.  One of our teachers is from France and the other from Congo.  The one from Congo is especially cheerful and energetic.  It's like he really thinks I can do this or something - a pretty good quality to have in a language teacher.

Several people have pegged Max for a ringer in our class because he picks up accents so well.

"You've taken French before, right?"
(yeah right)

It's all that singing I tell you.  Parents: teach your children to sing if you want them to pick up languages.  I really think it has been the single greatest factor in him learning languages so well.  French is almost tonal in its crazy vowel scheme, and I've been practicing "La Porte" (The Door) all weekend to get it just right.  But it sounds like just another "Fa" or "La" to Max.

During our two hour lunch break we usually sit under the trees at FSI and practice together.  It's kind of awesome.   


The Main Event

 Yesterday The 5 of us (Max, Myself, His Sister, and His Parents) braved the sweltering humididity and took the metro to the Main State office in Foggy Bottom to see Max sworn in as a foreign service officer.  The ceremony was perfectly meaningful and perfectly short.  Way to go my sweet Max.  I can't recall being so proud. 

 We looked down at the translation devices and noticed that they are all of Max's languages (save Portuguese).  It seemed perfectly predicting of our impending French-ification. 
Here's a pic from flag day.  Can you see the glee on our faces?