Archive for the ‘Vermont’ category

What we can learn from the French

February 25, 2011

What we can learn from the French

It’s been seven years since I last lived in France, but I picked up on a lot while I was there. Plus, I’ve visited France a few times since 2004. I know you can’t clump everyone together and say they’re all one particular way. But you can point out things you noticed about many of the people you encountered.

  • The French know how to eat healthily.

This has been written about a lot (e.g. French Women Don’t Get Fat) so I’ll stick to what I observed personally. I noticed that French people (in general):

  • Don’t snack between meals (and when they snack they just have a cookie or a few pieces of chocolate)
  • Eat big lunches and relatively small dinners (That way, they have something to look forward to during the work day AND don’t go to bed on a full stomach.)
  • Have small breakfasts with coffee (Because they have big lunches, they don’t need a huge breakfast. And, coffee helps suppress your hunger).
  • Drink water with their meals (much healthier than soda, of course)
  • Eat lots of vegetables
  • Eat a wide variety of foods (For example, they don’t just eat chicken and beef. They eat chicken, beef, ham, pork, duck, rabbit, horse, fish, bull, boar, guinea fowl, oysters, mussels, shrimp, sea urchins, etc.).
  • Finish most meals with a dairy item (yogurt or cheese) and a piece of fruit
  • Take their time eating

I think all of these habits are good for you.

  • The French exercise less than we do.

But, because they eat healthily they don’t really need to exercise. I mean, their daily activities (walking, doing chores, etc.) are enough for them to get their daily dose of movement. Maybe we should follow their lead given this recent Wall Street Journal article.

  • The French take time to cook.

Obviously, this point relates to the first point I made. But I will expand on it a little here. Most of the French people I encountered just go out to eat for special occasions. The rest of the time they make their own meals. This allows them to control what goes into their bodies, save money, and go out to nicer places when they do go out. They also have a fair amount of dinner parties; those provide a great opportunity to see their friends and share their favorite recipes.

  • The French are polite.

OK, maybe this is a real stretch. And maybe their politeness often masks their true feelings. But frequently I observed French people saying (or doing) the right thing at the right time. Say your brother-in-law just died, for example. The next time they saw you they’d start off the interaction with a “Oh, I’m so sorry about your brother.” Or when they are invited to a dinner party they bring along a gift. While these might seem like obvious things to do, I’ve noticed this type of behavior isn’t always practiced here (and yes, I’m guilty of not being polite as well).

  • The French are experts in their fields.

In France, it’s really hard to get into a particular field when your degree is in something else. So, you’re forced to find a job in your area of expertise. While this certainly limits you choices, it helps ensure you’re good at your profession (or at least better at it than your average bear). Here, you might just get a sales job because you’re deemed friendly. But you don’t necessarily know the ins and outs of how to be an effective salesperson.

  • The French are into equality.

I’ll always remember this one particular experience I had while teaching English in France. I was in a fifth-grade classroom, quizzing the children on their knowledge of animal vocabulary. One of the students– Yoan (pronounced “Yo-on”)– was answering practically every question correctly. Each time I interrogated the pupils, his arm would shoot up in the air. Sometimes no one else would raise their hand, so I had to pick him. He’d get the answer right, and I’d congratulate him.

Well the class’s main teacher (a French woman) was not a fan of Yoan’s behavior. Whereas I viewed his ability and willingness to answer the questions as a positive thing, she viewed it as a horrible thing. She started screaming at him, saying it was not his place to answer so many questions. The others deserved a chance, she said, adding that he couldn’t participate any more. While most Americans would consider her reaction unfair or harsh (I think), it actually worked. Once he stopped raising his hand, the other students began participating in the exercise.

  • The French are fashionable.

They don’t necessarily have many clothes, but they know how to pick out items that fit them right. Sometimes this means spending more money on individual garments, but overall they might even spend less than your average American.

In a future post, I will write about what the French can learn from Americans.

Photo credit: www.flickr.com/photos/kalleboo/2036413105

A visit to Norwich University

October 19, 2010

My boyfriend’s brother attends Norwich University, a military college in Northfield, Vermont. This past weekend we visited him. Here are some pics:

This is a picture of a competition between juniors and seniors over who could disassemble a cannon, bring its parts across a field, and reassemble it first. The winning team got to fire its cannon. It was pretty fun to watch. By the end everyone was quite tired from running back and forth. It also seemed like a challenge for them to put the parts back together. I mean, they pretty much knew what to do but at one point the juniors (who actually won) got held up by a misplaced part.

Here’s a picture of the juniors about to win:

We visited the Sullivan Museum and History Center on campus. They had an impressive collection of new and old war artifacts. Here’s a large highway sign depicting Saddam Hussein that was taken from Baghdad in 2000. The text beneath the image reads “Saddam Hussein, Great Leader, Great People.”

Other artifacts included a piece of Adolph Hitler’s desk, Benito Mussolini’s phone, and a swastika armband. I learned that M&Ms were invented in 1941 for American soldiers. They needed a shell-covered chocolate snack that wouldn’t melt in their pockets.

I also learned that Norwich’s founder, Alden Partridge, would travel around the region, speaking about the importance of higher education and a well trained military. He would charge men to see him speak, but women would get in for free. That’s pretty sweet, huh? I guess it’s the old version of women getting into bars and dance clubs for free. Maybe Partridge was trying to meet a wife this way.

Speaking of women and the military, we saw an awesome photo exhibit in the Sullivan Center depicting different aspects of World War II. One of the photos showed a YMCA dance (in the New York City area) that had been held for soldiers on temporary war leave. The caption stated that girl “volunteers” attended the event to guarantee the soldiers had a good time. Organizers made sure that there were two of them for every soldier. Not a bad deal for the soldiers, huh?

We also watched the Norwich vs. Husson University (in Bangor, Maine) football game. Norwich crushed Husson, 52-7. Here’s a picture of Norwich freshmen soldiers-in-training (they’re called rooks) doing leg lifts during the game:

It was pretty funny seeing the rooks do various exercises (including push-ups) whenever Norwich did something good.

Right next to the football field is a giant anchor dedicated to the Navy and Marines. I’m not sure if it was actually used on a ship.

Hi blog!

October 15, 2010

Just wanted to let you know I haven’t abandoned you. I’ve been pretty busy the last week with work, visiting my parents, etc. Anyway, I’m off to Vermont today but I’m sure I’ll have pictures/entries to post when I get back.

I do have a minute, however, so I will just a noteĀ  a few observations I’ve made over the last week:

  • The political ads being shown on Syracuse (NY) television are quite hostile.
  • Refrigerated chicken sandwiches from rest stop mini marts aren’t good.
  • Babies sleep through anything (I guess they don’t need rapid eye movement sleep like we do).
  • Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Cunningham is a great interviewee (heard him on the radio).
  • The Syracuse newspaper has become very locally focused.
  • You can get a great meal at the Little Falls (NY) Veterans of Foreign Wars post (the squash soup, salad, roast beef, mashed potatoes, carrots with cauliflower and broccoli, cherry cake, coffee and wine were to die for!).
  • Some people never age (what’s their secret??).
  • The Olive Garden’s bottomless salad doesn’t taste quite as good as it used to.
  • The Manlius Art Cinema (independent movie theater in Manlius, NY) may have uncomfortable seats but the hospitality is second-to-none.
  • Opening an old box of photos, letters and knickknacks can be quite an emotional experience.
  • One of the best places to shop for household items is the LaFayette Apple Festival (in LaFayette, NY).
  • Homemade apple donuts are fabulous.
  • Some people I saw at church 15 years ago still stand in the same pew.
  • You can rent a large four-bedroom house in East Rochester (NY) for $1,800 a month.
  • You can rent a charming two-bedroom apartment overlooking the beauteous Cazenovia (NY) landscape for $800 a month.
  • New York State is still talking a lot about government “consolidation.”
  • The Shoppingtown Mall (DeWitt, NY) still has a lot of jewelry stores.
  • Those Chilean miners looked awesome coming out of that mine (I’m sure many other people noticed this, too).

Photo credit: www.flickr.com/photos/mattcarman/218943199

Vacation is over

August 21, 2010

Just got back from an awesome wedding in Cavendish, Vermont; a drive through northern New York state including stops at Fort Ticonderoga, the Ausable Chasm, and Plattsburgh; and four days in Montreal. What a great time I had!

I will post some of my pics (the ones here are borrowed) once I get a new transfer cable for my camera. Here were some highlights from my time away:

  • I learned what Fall webworm is from seeing the moth’s larval-stage nests in northern New York. They are disgusting-looking! Imagine having them in a tree right next to your home!

Fall webworm webs

  • I saw that Montreal is undergoing a TON of construction. It’s like everywhere you walk there’s a crane, orange cones, and pits in the ground. One big project is a new arts center along Rue St. Urbain. I understand they’re trying to get work done before the weather worsens and college starts, but wow! If you’re unemployed in Montreal, consider becoming a construction worker!

At St. Catherine and St. Urbain streets

  • I saw how happy my friends Lindy and Steve were to get married. Their lovely wedding in the garden of a rustic castle in Vermont and handmade vows made me tear up majorly.

They're married now!

I’ll be back with more insights from my trip!

Images from www.flickr.com/photos/8008443@N07/4910915557, www.flickr.com/photos/urbexplo/4658704560/lightbox/#/photos/urbexplo/4658704560, and Johanna Howland