Phyrgie, Karkemish, Liban . . . lost in translation yet?

While I haven’t literally been to these places, I’ve been studying maps from the first millennium for one of my art history courses. Essentially, those places are Turkey, Iran, Syria, Libya, Israel . . . It’s for a paper due the middle of November; given to me only today, my subject surrounds earthenware and household items in 1000 years B.C. during the Age of (Something) in the Orient-Mediterranean sea geographical area. It sounds a lot prettier in French.

The modern-day map, as well as the expected route of my paper (counter-clockwise): Libya, Egypt, Lebanon, Israel, Syria, Iran, Turkey. Did I mention the professors routinely visit and work on archeological sites there? I’m pretty sure they all speak Arabic and/or Hebrew, considering pronouncing “El-Mina” and “Beth-el” with a French accent is not easy to do. Especially when “h” ‘s are involved. Heehee.

The challenge: Six weeks. Five to ten pages. (Which means, 10 to 20 double-spaced equivalent). First goal: locate  them on an ancient map. “Where in the World is Carmen San Diego” First Millennium Edition would be welcome. The professor did say he tried to find a “sympa” (which is kind of like “cool”) subject for me to write about, tacking on as a joke, “I didn’t give you this subject because you’re a woman” (which the whole class thought was funny, and me, too–a minute later). Haha! France: where the 20-something-year-old profs aren’t secretly discriminatory; they’re openly sexist (I’m kidding. Sort of. Half-joking but somehow remaining confusingly serious is very French). Hooray for my future paper on ancient housekeeping practices and kitchen appliances.Well, okay, on faïence.

Anyways, students gave presentations today, the room is too small, and there are no empty seats–except for the one right next to me (I mean, don’t worry, I have made some friends. It’s just a coincidence). The seat where, of course, said prof. decides to sit. “Great, just great”, as a friend once said. This would happen. Now I have to write actual notes on my paper. Or at least not take up the whole desk because of my horrible posture and, by the way, none of us had eaten lunch yet so the energy level was non-existent. Exception: the nervous presenters. On the bright side, given the close quarters (or rather, hygiene in general), I’m pretty sure the prof. wore deodorant–unlike the other guy who was sitting next to me in a different two-hour art history class.

Other than that, I have a presentation next Monday for another art history class that I’m preparing notes for, about bibles made in Tours, France; I actually go to the library here. Funerary archeology class is well under way, too–I’d say “six feet under” way, but they use the metric system in France  . . . although I must say, I’ve never seen a prof. so excited about burial practices . . . in a class where there are only ten people. For two hours.

Medieval art class is going well, too. I even answered some questions! I think the prof. was asking me, anyways. “Mademoiselle in the back of the class” could refer to 40 different mademoiselles all swathed in scarves due to a sudden October-y chill and poor insulation. (Although, on second thought, let’s be honest: if you have the most boring t-shirt and put a scarf on, BAF! you’re fashionable). The “people of a certain age” tend to sit in the front. The prof., however, constantly walks around and stops mid-sentence to ask if we understand. Fortunately, yes.

In other news, I went out with French friends and host sister last weekend. Since all but one of my classes are direct exchange, it figures. I had an Irish coffee (scandal!) and possibly another (few things to) drink (yes, water, Mom. What else?); then we went dancing. Not “clubbing”–I mean, people actually dance! Home early at 3H. In France, apparently it is normal you leave the house around 11 and come home around 5H. Next morning, Père asks, grinning, “Molly, Did you go?!!” (meaning did I go to en boîte); Like he didn’t see us leave and wave/kick us out the door so he could watch rugby. Uncle Alex and Aunt Jenny, my host parents are your merciless-teasing clones. Funny how things work out, isn’t it?

Speaking of host parents, they always have people in and out of the house, which has led to some funny experiences. Last night, I shuffled downstairs in a very frazzled, fugly-sweater-wearing-ponytail-state of affairs to make hot cocoa (because nothing goes better with reviewing notes about what is now Syria in the 1st millennium than chocolate). Fortunately, I had not put on PJs yet (I bought enormously baggy pajama pants–size conversion mix-up), because we had a visitor. IT WAS 10:30 PM AT NIGHT. What is a (very in-shape-much-younger-friend of my host father’s) visitor doing at this hour?

Well, turns out they were in the same self-defense class together and he was the teacher. Explains being in shape. Not why visitors show up so late. Fortunately we didn’t do the “bisous” thing, because he was tall (forever standing on tiptoes bisous-ing everyone is annoying and no, it’s not cute. I didn’t sign up for ballet, OK?). Instead, he said “Enchanté” and I tried not to smirk (I haven’t heard anyone say that since I’ve been here)! Then another friend from the same group rings the doorbell, walks right up to me and we do the whole “bisous” thing. Recap: trying to read about 1er millenium Syrie, make hot cocoa, keep my sanity, sporting the “not” side of fashionable, and it’s now 11 at night. And even though Mère is in the middle of talking to the two guys, Père can’t keep a straight face as he loudly interrupts and introduces me as the American student. Génial.

Life is tough. Sleeping in tomorrow because I don’t have class. Don’t worry though, I have several hours of research later on!


7 thoughts on “Phyrgie, Karkemish, Liban . . . lost in translation yet?

  1. Shelley says:

    Love your blog, Molly! So many great experiences and lots of fun … And hard work. Love you bunches! Mom

  2. quoide9euf says:

    I’m saving all the stories about how I met Francesco-Pierre for when I see you during Christmas vacation . . . I can’t tell you everything at once!


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