10 Moments that Remind Me I’m Back in Canada

It’s a weird thing to experience culture shock when returning to your native country, but after a year in France, it’s taken me by surprise how accustomed I had gotten to the French way of doing things. This past week has been filled with little moments of readjustment and adaptation, and while I certainly haven’t experienced a moving to Uganda level of culture shock, I’ve still had to get reacquainted with my own country in many ways.

  1. It’s amazing how distracting it is to actually be able to understand what everyone around you is saying. While it’s been a nice relief from the stress of conversing in another language, it’s also been amazingly difficult to concentrate on anything now that it’s so easy to eavesdrop on everyone’s conversations.
  2. Cars actually stop for me now when I’m waiting at crosswalks. Sometimes I don’t even have to be at a crosswalk, just in the near vicinity of an intersection, and they will stop to let me cross. What is this madness?!
  3. Random strangers keep asking me how I’m doing. “How are you?”, “How are you doing?”, and “How’s your day going?” come at me fast and furious from every cashier, bank teller, and gas attendant I come across. It only took me six tries to settle back into the automatic, “I’m good” response.
  4. People speak at such a higher decibel here than in France. Seriously, I’m standing right in front of you. Please stop shouting at me.
  5. In Canada, the first floor of a building is the same thing as the ground floor. On more than one occasion, I’ve overshot while en route to the ground floor and wound up in the basement. This was funny the first time around. Not so funny the third and fourth time.
  6. People here buy their bread at the supermarket. Blasphemy!
  7. Drivers in Vancouver are renowned for their spectacular lack of driving skills, but what they lack in automotive agility, they certainly make up for in patience. After a year in Paris, it is absolutely amazing to me that people will actually sit and wait for other cars to get out of their way instead of reaching for the horn every four seconds.
  8. Handheld shower heads are now a thing of the past, and I can’t say I’m upset about this.
  9. Unless you purposely lock your front door, it will magically stay unlocked, even if it closes behind you. Never again will I have to worry about locking myself out of my apartment. Until I move back to Paris that is.
  10. Finally, I had forgotten how wonderful the smell of salt water can be and how beautiful the mountains look in the morning. Paris is beautiful, but it doesn’t have an ocean or mountains.



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Reflections on a Year in Paris

Last September, I packed my bags and moved to Paris. I did this because I was following one of my last options for a career that I’ve wanted since I was a child, and even though I didn’t have a job lined up at the time I made my big move, I had long since decided that moving to a foreign country where I didn’t speak the language and didn’t know a single person was worth the risk if it meant going for my dreams. It was terrifying and exhilarating all at once. Now that I’m about to leave France, I’ve been searching for a way to describe what this past year has meant to me, and the other day, while aimlessly scrolling through my Facebook feed, the answer reached through the screen and smacked me in the face. It happened when I noticed that a friend had posted a status that required a click on the “Continue Reading” button, and it’s always been a general rule of mine that if someone takes the time to write a status update of that length, the least I can do is give them the courtesy of reading it. Near the end, I came across this: “To me, the whole point is to walk into the unknown with a brave heart and weak knees. I could utterly fail at this. So what?” And there it was.

Before I left for France, I can still remember the look of shock and surprise on people’s faces when I told them that I didn’t have the job yet. I had been planning my year in France for months, so I think everyone had just assumed that I had a contract signed and ready to go, but in reality, I had actually already received several rejection letters prior to my departure. This may have been my cue to pause and review whether or not packing up and moving to a foreign country without a job offer was a smart idea, but I threw caution to the wind and pressed ahead with my plans. I reasoned to myself that once I was actually in the country, I would be able to find a way to talk myself into a job, and I reassured my shocked friends that I was well aware that this whole plan could blow up in my face, but in keeping with the whole “no regrets” life mantra, I was prepared for that to happen.

Well, blow up in my face it did, and if by “prepared for that to happen”, I meant spend a week curled in the fetal position in bed crying, then yes, I was absolutely prepared for my dreams to disappear in an instant. As I lay there, day in and day out, wondering what the hell I was going to do with my life now that my assumed future was gone, I often wondered if the gamble had been worth it, and whether or not I should just pack it in and go home. But then I remembered. I was in Paris. The irony was not lost on me that in failing at my own dream, I was still living out the dream of so many others.

Now, as I look back on the past year, it’s hard to believe that time has passed by so quickly. I came to Paris with only one goal in mind, and yet somehow, this city managed to give me so much more than I ever could have hoped for, or even knew I needed. It gave me art, culture, and history in abundance. It gave me adventure, and allowed me to journey into the unknown on a daily basis. It gave me friendships that I will treasure forever, and kindness and compassion from complete strangers that the stereotypes of the French would have you believe to be impossible. It gave me the opportunity to learn a new language, and learn to trust in people in a way that isn’t possible when you can incessantly ask questions to understand every last detail of every process or exchange. It gave me a new career that I love, one that challenges me everyday, and one that has given me a new and exciting plan for the future. But most of all, it gave me a life that I love in a city that I adore.

As a Millennial, I was told repeatedly while I was growing up that the key to life was following your dreams. The only problem with this philosophy is that no one ever taught me what to do when the universe isn’t as enthusiastic about my dream as I am, and so it never occurred to me that in following it, I could fall so spectacularly on my face. And yet here I am, a year later, still standing, with another dream firmly on the horizon. I guess the key to life really is following your dreams. You just have to be prepared to find a new one every now and then. “To me, the whole point is to walk into the unknown with a brave heart and weak knees. I could utterly fail at this. So what?” So what indeed.

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Trailer Talk – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Release Date: March 25th, 2016

In the summer of 2013, I saw three of that summer’s big blockbuster offerings in quick succession, and I came away from that experience deeply unsettled. First up was Iron Man 3; a film that spent nearly 90 minutes convincing us that the so called bad guys with the explosive skin were actually human beings worth saving, only to have Tony Stark and his robotic suit army indiscriminately kill them all as soon as the plot demanded a high action climatic battle. I guess they were hoping that Robert Downey Jr.’s charm and witty quips would let that one slide.

Next up was Star Trek Into Darkness, wherein the final act saw a spaceship crash-land in the middle of San Francisco, slaughtering thousands of innocent civilians in the process, without so much as a word of recognition or remembrance for these deaths by the final frame. Perhaps the filmmakers were hoping we’d all be so distracted by Benedict Cumberbatch’s sexy villain voice, we wouldn’t notice that the film had so callously murdered thousands of people for the sake of spectacle.

However, neither of these films compare to the ending of Man of Steel, which saw Superman and General Zod engage in a destructive rampage throughout a city full of people, leaving nary a building untouched by the time Superman supposedly saves the day. Again, not a word is spoken of the thousands of people who would have perished in such a grand scale devastation of a large urban city, and when taken together, the lack of empathy these three films showed towards the massacres they portrayed was almost alarming. Big budget action movies have always revelled in chaos, violence, and mayhem, but I can’t remember the last time a summer season produced so much death and suffering with so little remorse.

This weekend, the new trailer for the upcoming Batman vs. Superman extravaganza was released at San Diego Comic-Con, and since the first trailer did little to pique my interest in this film, I didn’t expect much from this one. However, just 60 seconds into this extended trailer, all of my expectations went completely out the window, because it quickly became clear that not only would this film focus on the consequences of what happened at the end of Man of Steel, but it also hinted that perhaps the destruction of the city of Metropolis was not merely spectacle, but instead an important plot point that was necessary in order to set in motion the events of future films.

Before seeing this trailer, my interest in this film lay solely in the fact that it would mark the first appearance of Wonder Woman on the big screen. Now, however, I’m almost entirely sold on the film as a whole. On the basis of this trailer alone, I’m genuinely interested in seeing more of Ben Affleck’s take on Batman, the few shots of Wonder Woman in action look amazing, and Jesse Eisenberg somehow comes off as both charismatic and creepy in the role of Lex Luthor, and I want to know how he’s going to sustain that for an entire film. However, above all else, I’m relieved to see that there will finally be some consequences to the events of Man of Steel, and I’m looking forward to seeing how these will play out.

One more thing. It’s been two trailers now and we’ve yet to hear Superman utter a word. They actually let Henry Cavill talk in this one, right?

Verdict: Against all the odds, I’m actually excited for this one.

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15 Thoughts While Running A Marathon

A couple of hours ago, I finished my first ever marathon, and while I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I loved the experience, it certainly was an experience, and when running your first marathon, what better one to do than the Paris Marathon? I can think of worse ways to pass the time than running past the Louvre, Chateau Vincennes, and the Eiffel Tower.

Still, 42.2km is still a heck of a long way to run, which meant that I had plenty of time to think along the way. I thought I’d share a couple of these thoughts with you in order to give you a window into the thought process that goes into running a marathon from start to finish.

1) (at the starting line) “What the Hell was I thinking signing up to run a full MARATHON?!” -this thought was later repeated at every kilometre and mile marker throughout the race

2) (at the 5km mark) “I don’t need to, but if I time it right, one of those gorgeous firemen can catch me if I faint.”

3) (at the 7km mark) “I can’t believe how great I feel! This is going to be easy.”

4) (at the 10.5km mark) “Wow. I have to run that distance another THREE times.”

5) (at the 18km mark) “So this is what my life has become. The location of the next porta-potty has become the only thing I care about.”

6) (at the Half Marathon mark) “What is that tingling sensation in my left leg? (pause to check) Okay, you have got to be kidding me. Really pants? You decide that now is a good time to split open, meaning that the inside of my leg has now been rubbed raw?”

7) (at the 23km mark) “I wonder if I’ll lose a toenail to this race?”

8) (at the 25km mark) “Interesting, I didn’t know I could chafe there.”

9) (at the 30km mark) “Hit a wall? Not me! I only have 12km left. I can do this!”

10) (at the 33km mark) “Where are all these tears coming from?! I’m not in pain and I’m not upset about anything, so why can’t I stop crying?!”

11) (at the 36km mark) “Okay, now I’m in a lot of pain, but this is getting ridiculous. HOW DO I STOP CRYING?!”

12) (at the 38km mark) “After averaging 9 minute kilometres for the past 10K, suddenly I’m averaging 7 minute kilometres. Wow. When you’re worried that you’re about to be pulled off of the course because you’re too slow, it really motivates you to move faster.”

13) (at the 41.5km mark) “WHERE THE FOCH IS THAT FINISH LINE?!?!?!” -inside joke; the Paris Marathon ends on Foch Avenue

14) (about 5 seconds after crossing the finish line) “Would anyone mind if I just curl up into the fetal position right here and take a nice long nap?”

15) (about 5 seconds after being handed my finisher’s medal) “So when can I do this again?”

As you can tell, it was a roller coaster of a day, but I did it. I ran a marathon. Okay, I may have walked a fair amount in the back half of the run, but I still finished, and now I can say that I’ve accomplished something that less than one tenth of 1% of the world’s population will ever even attempt. And that feels pretty darn good.

Until the next one!

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It’s Another 10 Lessons Learned From Living In Paris

When you live in Paris, you never stop learning, and therefore I knew it would only be a matter of time before I had another Top 10 list ready to go. So without further ado, here are my latest lessons learned from living in Paris.

1) I know that texting has become one of the dominant forms of communication in today’s digital age, but in Paris, it’s a way of life. Parisians simply won’t call you. Everything is done via text; so much so that most phone plans come with unlimited texting, but only about an hour or two worth of calls per month, because that’s all you really need. While I’m not particularly opposed to this method of communication, it can get rather frustrating when I’m trying to type out a paragraph on a mobile that would not look out of place in 2001. I think I may be finally warming up to the idea of getting a smartphone.

2) I may not have the most discerning of tastes when it comes to food, but after seven months in Paris, even I now know that French bread really is the best bread in the world. I’ve lost count of how many baguettes I’ve devoured during my time here, and I am well aware that going forward, no other bread will ever measure up for the rest of my life. However, when it comes time to share baguettes with your fellow Parisians, put the bread knife away, because here, no one cuts bread. If you want some, you simply tear off a piece, even when you’re at group gatherings. It’s a refreshingly informal custom that I’ve come to love.

3) Oftentimes, the bathroom is a separate room from where the toilet will be found, which means you have to be very specific when asking for directions at a party. Additionally, sometimes the bathroom is a separate room altogether located outside of the apartment, and therefore don’t be alarmed if you’re directed out the door and down the hallway past the building’s elevator. No one is trying to get rid of you, it’s just one of the many quirks of living in buildings that are hundreds of years old.

4) In today’s computerized world, typing is no longer a special skill so much as it is a necessity of life. I have grown up typing on a QWERTY keyboard, and until I moved to France, it never even occurred to me that there may be other keyboard layouts. But other layouts there are, and in France, they use what is called the AZERTY keyboard. While I have yet to master the art of typing in this layout, I have managed to trim the time it takes me to write a short email from 30 minutes to a mere 20. I consider this a huge win.

5) I may be alone in this thinking, but when I’m on public transit systems, I will often choose to stand instead of forcing myself into the one available seat in the corner that would require me to step over half a dozen people to get there. Parisians don’t share this line of thinking, and if there is an empty seat on the Metro, no matter how inaccessible it may be, they will climb over half the train to get there. It really is quite the phenomenon, and is one that has kept me entertained on many a Metro ride.

6) If patience is a virtue, then it is not one that French drivers possess. During my time here, I’ve come to observe that the average time it takes Parisian drivers to honk the horn when something is in their way is approximately four seconds. Even if it is perfectly clear that whatever that obstacle may be will be gone in 5 seconds, they can’t resist a quick honk to make sure everyone is aware of their inconvenience. I’ve observed this phenomenon in many large cities, but in terms of the length of time it takes to reach for that horn, the French win hands down.

7) If you order tiramisu in Paris, it will come in a mason jar. I don’t know why, and I don’t particularly care why. They’re that delicious.

8) There is nothing more stressful in this city than bagging your own groceries at the supermarket, because in France, this task falls to you, the shopper. Seven months in, it still amazes me how people can expertly bag their food, pay, and be out of the way before the next customer in line comes through without so much as breaking a sweat. This is a skill I have yet to acquire, and my incompetence in this matter has gotten to the point that I refuse to go to the supermarket between 5PM and 7PM, because the pressure of rush hour is too much. Seriously.

9) Speaking of the supermarket, be sure that you know exactly when it is open and closed, because there are no such things as 24 hour stores in France. Everything opens and closes at random hours, and invariably, they will always be closed when you need them. Plan accordingly.

10) The aforementioned honking aside, I’ve discovered that everything operates at a lower decibel in Paris, and this is particularly apparent, not to mention most welcome, at restaurants. Even when a place is packed, you never need to raise your voice to be heard, because the French tend to talk much quieter than I’m used to, which keeps the ambient noise down. Since I’ve been living in Paris, I’ve noticed a marked difference in my average volume, and even though I’ve significantly lowered my voice, I still tend to stand out when I’m in restaurants as the loud one. I’m working on it, but old habits die hard.

That’s all for now, but I’m sure there are many more lessons this beautiful city has yet to teach me. Until then, it’s off to the bakery for some baguettes and tiramisu!

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Trailer Talk – Tomorrowland

Release Date: May 22nd, 2015

Wow. Just…WOW. Of all the trailers I’ve seen recently, Tomorrowland is probably the most spectacular, because it somehow manages to tell us everything and nothing. It teases a fantastical new world, but it clearly has characters who are grounded in reality, and it hints at a fascinating premise without giving the whole plot away. This is a fine line that few trailers manage to achieve. There’s also a flying bathtub and a spaceship being launched from within the Eiffel Tower, so what more could you possibly ask for? From watching this trailer, not only am I incredibly excited to see Tomorrowland, but this trailer alone proves that Brad Bird can do no wrong.

Verdict: Seeing this as soon as it is possible to buy tickets.

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It’s a Fine Line Between Excellence and Crazy

Yesterday I ran the Paris Half Marathon, and while I huffed and puffed and dragged myself through 21.1 kilometres of beautiful city roads, I occupied myself with primarily two thoughts. The first was the realization that running a race through the streets of Paris is a special kind of torture, because everywhere you look, there are people sitting at outdoor cafes who are waving at you with a wine glass in hand, and everywhere you turn, the smell of freshly baked bread weakens your will to continue in favour of pulling over to devour some baguettes and croissants. It was because of all this that I mostly focused on my second thought: Why is it that humans seem determined to take everything to the extreme?

This train of thought started when it occurred to me that by the time I was crossing the starting line of the race, the winner had finished his race half an hour ago. Seriously. This happened because I am not, nor will I likely ever be, a fast runner, and therefore yesterday morning, I found myself in the last starting group of the race. With over 35,000 people registered to run, being in the last group meant that I wasn’t even required to show up in my starting area until an hour after the race had begun. The runner who ultimately won the race finished with a time of one hour and 12 seconds, meaning that by the time I had managed to navigate the chaos created by 35,000 other runners trying to get to their starting gates, someone was already collecting his finisher’s medal. By the time I finished with my time of 2 hours, 46 minutes, and 49 seconds, he was probably long gone, having already collected his winner’s trophy, and in all likelihood, was probably sitting at one of those Parisian cafes enjoying a drink.

I thought about this when I finally crossed the starting line and began my race, and as the afternoon wore on and my strides became ever slower, I contemplated what exactly it would take to condition your body to run 21.1 kilometres in an hour, and more importantly, why anyone would put their bodies through such extreme levels of stress and exhaustion. It’s an amazing accomplishment, no arguments here, but where does that drive come from? The need to push yourself ever farther and faster?

As the miles ticked away, I distracted myself from the increasing muscle pain by thinking about this uniquely human attribute of pushing ourselves to the extreme, and how any activity, no matter how mundane, can be taken to the far end of any scale. For example, there are those people who aren’t content to simply hike up mountains, but instead have to jump off of them wearing something called a wingsuit. There are those who decide to make life as a grocery store bagger more exciting and compete in the Best Bagger Championship every year, and apparently stacking cups is now a worldwide sport. I know I’ll never forget the day I discovered that people don’t just ride snowmobiles, but actually compete to see who can flip them in the most spectacular manner. And don’t even get me started on the Guinness Book of World Records, which is full of people taking nearly every action available to one extreme or the other.

I thought about all of this during my run, and at around the 17 km mark I had a thought. Do we do this out of some deep seated drive to pursue excellence at all costs? Or are humans just plain crazy? I never did come to a conclusion on the matter, but the debate kept me going through the last couple of miles, during which the difficulty of running in the fierce afternoon heat certainly had me leaning towards the latter. The only thing I can say for certain is that I’m happy that there are people who are willing to try and be the best at something, no matter what that something is, and that kind of drive and determination should always be celebrated. On the other hand, after yesterday’s gruelling run I’m still planning on attempting a full marathon next month, so maybe we really are just crazy.

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Agent Carter – “Valediction”

This week marked the end of Agent Carter, the limited series run that was tiding us over until Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns next week, and while this episode was a great hour of television, it definitely left me wanting more. If anyone from ABC happens to be reading this, please renew this series. This can’t be the end of it. Now, onto the actual recap.

The episode starts off with Peggy, Thompson, and Sousa checking out the aftermath of last week’s movie theatre bloodbath, and I couldn’t help but break into a wide grin watching Peggy amble up with the guys as if this was the norm. If it wasn’t official before, it is now. Peggy is finally considered an equal. After Sousa is accidentally doused with the rage inducing gas, the team is able to determine that it contains a dangerous hallucinogenic that makes those who ingest it immediately turn into killing machines. At this point, Howard Stark himself arrives on the scene, and as always, James D’Arcy’s comic timing is masterful, as Jarvis’ reaction to the SSR agents’ demand of, “Hands up!” is priceless.

Stark explains that the gas was intended to be a way for soldiers to stay awake for days at a time during the war, but when its dangerous side effects became known, the gas was stolen under the orders of one General McGinnis and dropped on the Russians before the Battle of Finow. Now we know why the Russians were all dead before the battle even started, as well as why Stark was there in the immediate aftermath. He deduces that Dr. Ivchenko, now known to be Johann Fennhoff (aka. Doctor Faustus in the comics), wants revenge for the destruction of his comrades and family that Stark’s invention inflicted, and so Stark offers himself up as live bait in the form of a public press conference on the steps of city hall to draw out Fennhoff and his associate, Dottie.

Naturally, Peggy thinks this plan is too risky, but Stark insists, claiming that his conscious needs him to fix the mess his invention created. Of course, Peggy’s worries are proven correct when the press conference is interrupted by gunfire and Stark is kidnapped and taken to his private airplane hanger where Fennhoff is waiting to complete his plan of vengeance. Using his powers of hypnosis, Fennhoff convinces Stark to pilot a plane over Manhattan and drop the gas over Times Square, where hundreds of thousands of people have gathered to celebrate V-E Day. Peggy and company arrive just in time to see Stark take off, and a plan is quickly hatched to stop him. Peggy will try and break Stark’s hypnosis over the radio, while Jarvis will act as the back up plan; going after Stark by plane under orders to shoot Stark down if Peggy doesn’t succeed.

I don’t think very many people were ever in doubt that Peggy would succeed in getting through to Stark, but that doesn’t make the scene any less poignant, as Peggy finds herself once again talking to a man she cares deeply about over the radio as he’s threatened with death. It’s a beautiful scene that perfectly illustrates the bond between these two characters, and how they are both still trying to get over the loss of Captain America. Steve Rogers may have been the love of Peggy’s life, but he was also the first time one of Stark’s inventions brought something good into the world, and their shared grief in this scene is palpable.

Of course, Peggy finally does get through to Stark, and upon his return, everything appears to get wrapped up nicely. Fennhoff is arrested, Peggy is finally able to say good bye to Steve by pouring the last of his blood into the Hudson, the other agents at the SSR give Peggy a well deserved round of applause for her work on the case, Angie (remember her?) and Peggy become roommates at one of Stark’s more luxurious residences, and Sousa finally takes a chance and asks Peggy out on a date. It’s everything you’d expect in the final episode of a season, however, like most season finales, it also lays the groundwork for future story lines. Jarvis hints to Peggy that he would like to continue his work with her, Thompson proves that old habits die hard when he takes most of the credit for solving the Stark case, and Dottie is revealed to have escaped. But all of this pales in comparison to the final scene, when it’s revealed that Fennhoff’s new cellmate is none other than Arnim Zola, the once and future henchman of Hydra. He tells Fennhoff that they are in America, the land of opportunity, and as such, they have much to offer each other. Cue end credits and me praying to the TV gods that Agent Carter will be back next year. Seriously, are you listening ABC?

All in all, Agent Carter made the most of its eight episodes, and produced many solid hours of television. However, beyond that, it really succeeded in adding to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole, and in particular, it managed to create more depth to the characters and the relationships between them. I know that after tonight, every time I hear Tony Stark spit out the line, “That’s the guy my father wouldn’t shut up about?” in The Avengers, I’ll think about Howard Stark piloting a weapon of mass destruction towards Manhattan under the illusion that he is finally going to find his long lost friend; an illusion made possible because it exploited his greatest shame and vulnerability. It certainly puts an extra level of shading to the relationship between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers, one that will likely pay off for years to come, so once again, ABC? Please keep this show going. That’s all I ask. Oh, and if you could renew Galavant, I’d greatly appreciate it, but I don’t want to get too greedy. I’m fine with just Agent Carter.

That’s it for these recaps, but new shows are debuting every week, so stay tuned for more TV Watch to come.

Line of the week: “Howard, you are the one person on this earth who believes in me. I can not lose you.” -Peggy

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To Kiss Or Not To Kiss: A Lesson in French Greetings

Living in another country for an extended period of time gives you the chance to really get to know and understand a culture and how its people think. Since my arrival in France, I feel like I could write a book about the French way of doing things, because things certainly are done differently here. Not better or worse, just different. Case in point: how you greet people.

I am a woman, which means that in France, I can either be referred to as Madame or Mademoiselle, depending on my marital status, or lacking that, my age. While France has recently made steps towards banning this distinction on official forms, it is still fairly prevalent in everyday conversation, because as we all know, old habits die hard. Unfortunately for my fellow Parisians, I don’t have a ring on my finger to make the distinction immediately clear, which means that I often put them in the undesirable situation of having to guess which one to call me based on a split second assessment of my age. Now, I don’t mind being called either, but it has been interesting to see how my hairstyle and wardrobe affect this decision. Hair up? Always Madame. Hair down? I’ll almost always get Mademoiselle. However, if I’m in my running gear, we’re back to Madame, no matter what my hair is doing. I also recently discovered that I’ve been inadvertently flirting with several of the men in my apartment building when a friend pointed out to me that in France, if you correct someone from Madame to Mademoiselle, what you’re actually doing is signalling your interest in that person. No wonder some of the women in my building have been giving me stink eyes in the elevator.

Next up is a very important grammar rule in a language full of grammar rules and gendered spellings. While I am enjoying my time learning the French language, it is exceedingly annoying how it contains the ability to grossly insult someone without ever resorting to profanity. I’m talking of course about the dreaded “tu” vs. “vous” decision that is in of itself a minefield of potential social blunders. Both tu and vous mean “you”, with tu referring to the singular form of the word and vous referring to the plural. What I didn’t know upon my arrival in France, is that vous is also used as a formal expression of you, and it’s used as a sign of respect towards people both in the singular and the plural. Unfortunately, I’ve learned the hard way on one too many occasions that the French do not take too kindly to being addressed improperly, and despite the leeway I’m given as a foreigner still learning the language, I’ve managed to ruffle quite a few feathers by using tu too early. Take my advice; when speaking French, always remember to err on the side of formality. The French will tell you when it’s okay to start using tu, and you’ll impress them with your language skills in the process.

Finally, we come to the kisses. When meeting new people, I am accustomed to shaking their hand as a standard form of greeting. At the end of the encounter, if it’s a formal setting such as a job interview, you shake their hand again, but if it’s someone you met in an informal setting, such as a party, you hug your new friend at the end of the night. I myself love hugs, and I will go in for one at every opportunity, but I’ve had to curb this habit since I moved to France. Here, the standard greeting is what is called a bisou, or the two cheek kiss, and everyone does it. Women to women, women to men, men to men, it doesn’t matter. The standard greeting and goodbye to people, even those you’ve just met, is to give two air kisses to the cheek, one on each side. If you forget and go in for a hug, it really weirds Parisians out. I know this from experience because there have been many times where I found myself going for a hug, only to try and clumsily transition into a bisou. It’s unbelievably awkward every time, but as I said before, old habits die hard, so it still happens with embarrassing frequency.

Learning a new language and culture is fascinating, but you have to be prepared to look like an idiot from time to time. I know I have on many occasions as I’ve bumbled my way through Paris, but it’s the only way to really learn and know a country and its customs. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t learn from my mistakes, so the next time you find yourself in France, remember to use caution when correcting people, always go for formality, and pucker up, because there will be a lot of bisou coming your way.

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Agent Carter – “Snafu”

After last week’s cliffhanger ending, I couldn’t wait to see how everything would play out, and this week’s episode of Agent Carter did not disappoint. After a brief flashback to Russia and the origin of Dr. Ivchenko’s crazy hypnosis ring, we’re promptly back in the interrogation room, where unsurprisingly, Peggy is handling the situation quite well. She doesn’t reveal anything too damaging, she staunchly maintains her innocence, and when her competence is questioned, she simply calls out Dooley, Thompson, and Sousa individually for how their attitudes towards her have enabled all that she has accomplished. It’s a wonderful scene that shows just how far her three fellow agents have come as characters over the course of the series. Sousa, who previously bonded with Peggy over their shared experiences of discrimination, feels genuinely betrayed by her perceived treachery, while both Thompson and Dooley seem at least willing to hear Peggy’s side of the story.

It isn’t long before the interrogation is interrupted by Jarvis, who shows up at the SSR demanding to see Dooley and waving around a written confession from Howard Stark as his entry ticket. After a short and rather one-sided negotiating session with the Chief, it’s decided that upon arrival of Stark at the SSR with a signed copy of his confession, Peggy and Jarvis will go free, and not a moment earlier. Peggy isn’t exactly thrilled with this deal, but she becomes downright enraged when she finds out that the confession is a fake; one concocted by Jarvis in a panic when Peggy didn’t arrive at their rendezvous after last week’s events. Stark’s loyal aide is still convinced that they can prove his boss’ innocence, but Peggy is far less optimistic. That is, until she witnesses Ivchenko tapping out morse code on the windowsill of Dooley’s office to Dottie across the street. She quickly interprets the message, and realizes that not only is the good doctor working for Leviathan, but her former neighbour is just across the street plotting something big with him.

Peggy immediately marches up to Dooley and declares that she’s ready to talk, and talk she does. She tells Dooley, Thompson, and Sousa everything that has happened from the moment she first met Stark in that alley, and she does this in the hopes of gaining their trust so that they will believe her about Ivchenko. Sousa is the first to believe her, with Thompson not far behind, and before long, Dooley is sending a task force across the street to look for Dottie. Unfortunately, this action is witnessed by Ivchenko, who quickly springs into action once he realizes that he’s been compromised.

While Dottie is taking out the team across the street, Ivchenko uses his ring to hypnotize Dooley, and uses this power to have the Chief take him down to the SSR’s lab to retrieve an item of great importance. We’re led to believe that it’s Steve Rogers’ blood, but Ivchenko bypasses the vial in favour of another seemingly innocuous box and heads for the door. Throughout this entire sequence, it’s unclear as to whether or not Dooley really is under the doctor’s spell, or whether he’s just faking it in order to prove Ivchenko’s guilt. I will admit that when Dooley finally does let the doctor walk out of the SSR and into Dottie’s waiting car with the mysterious box in hand, I was more than a little disappointed that Dooley wasn’t stronger in overcoming Ivchenko’s mind games. I guess I had underestimated how much I had grown to like Dooley as a character, and it was sad to see him fail his team in such a big way.

Even more sad was the state his team later finds in him, when he is discovered in his office wearing one of Stark’s more volatile inventions: a jacket that is set to overheat and explode at any moment. While the team tries desperately to figure out a way to get Dooley out of it, the Chief knows that his time is up, and in a heroic last stand, he runs himself out of a window to save them all from being consumed in the explosion with him. It’s a shocking end for a character I never once thought to be expendable, and it succeeds in dramatically upping the stakes for next week’s season finale. It also provided the show with one of its best moments so far, when seconds before his leap out the window, Dooley asks Peggy to promise him that they will get the people responsible. He singles her out specifically, and in doing so, he places his trust and faith in Peggy to get the job done. It’s the validation that Peggy has craved throughout the entire series, but it came at too high of a cost for all of them.

The only good thing to come out of all of this is that Peggy’s name has now been fully cleared, and judging by the way her co-workers are seemingly following Dooley’s lead in their attitudes towards her, Peggy is free to get on with the task at hand. And this will be no easy task, as it’s revealed in the closing moments that the item Ivchenko stole from the SSR is a gas capable of turning anyone who comes in contact with it into a frenzied mob of violence and destruction. Not exactly a good thing to have on the loose in the streets of New York City. Next week’s episode promises to be action packed, so please check back to find out how this all wraps up.

Line of the week:

Dooley: (to Peggy) “And you, promise me you’ll get the son of a bitch who did this. Say it!”

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