Vocab Friday: March Madness!

What, were you expecting brackets? Cheerleaders? An explanation of why I picked Richmond to go to the final four last year? We’ll you’re not going to find anything like that here. This is France, and the only connection they have to the glorious madness that is the NCAA basketball tourney is the half-French Joakim Noah. And he left for the NBA (Zzzzzzzzzzz) years ago.

Nope, I’ll have to resign myself to watching live updates of the first round games and living vicariously through my old office pool until I get can home and hopefully catch the 2nd and 3rd rounds on TV, preferably with a stack of Matchbox mini-burgers in front of me. In the meantime, I’m gearing up for a whole different kind of March Madness– also known as Parisian weather in the springtime.

It starts off innocently enough: suspiciously long streaks of sunshine, a few days that hover in the 50s, a few daffodils poking up through the defrosting ground. But right when you’ve been lulled into thinking it’s OK to leave the umbrella at home BAM! The wind picks up and the sky lets loose with a barrage of hail. Yes, I said hail.

Five minutes later it’s blindingly sunny again, albeit 20 degrees colder. All of a sudden you can see your breath and want nothing more than to seek shelter and a nice bowl of onion soup. But before you can get to the nearest cafe, the wind starts howling again, this time bringing black clouds and a gush of rain.

By the time you make it home, soaking wet and thoroughly confused, the sun is back to mock you. So you hunker down inside, turn up the radiators, and vow not to step foot outside until May. Except that you wake up sweating to death because the temperature has swung completely in the opposite direction, and when you open the windows for relief a swarm of mosquitos blows in along with a cloud of pollen.

And when you ask your French teacher what the hell is going on, all she can muster is “C’est printemps à Paris. Et les moustiques n’existe pas ici.”

That’s springtime in Paris. And oh, mosquitoes don’t exist here.

*     *     *

Here are a few critical words you’ll need to survive here during the madness that is March:

1. la grêle

Pronunciation: la grell

Definition: Hail

2. le vent

Pronunciation: le vehn

Definition: Wind

3. le soleil

Pronunciation: le so-lay

Definition: Sun

4. les nuages

Pronunciation: ley noo-age

Definition: Clouds.

5. les jonquilles

Pronunciation: ley jon-keeyeh

Definition: Daffodils



Vocab Friday: The Rainy Edition

Do you see that? Isn’t it depressing? And also kind of unfathomable? I mean, it’s not like I live in Seattle or something. But it’s been raining here for a week straight already. And apparently there’s no real end in sight.

I know, I know. If I have to be steeping in cold, damp weather, I’m lucky that it’s Parisian cold, damp weather. I guess. Of course every now and then it’s lovely to cosy up with a glass of wine and listen to the drops plinking off the tin rooftops. But after day 2 or 3, the charm wears off. The perpetual darkness starts to weigh on your soul. The frigid droplets that gust horizontally and then up and under your umbrella stir a certain hostility that cannot be described in pleasant words. By day  4 or 5, after the wind has ruined 2 umbrellas and continues to rattle through your chimney at all hours of the night, the crazy starts setting in. And by day 6 or 7, when the water has splashed into your knee high wellies one too many times and you realize that the intensity of the downpour increases every time you merely consider venturing outside, it’s about all you can do to not claw your own eyes out just so you don’t have to see the gray sky anymore.

Did I mention that it’s only November? And I have months and months of this weather ahead of me? Coupled with the fact that it is still dark at 8am, I swear I’d never get out of bed if there weren’t things like this waiting for me in the morning:

I asked my french teacher if this was normal. She gave me the shrug and said oui, c’est normale. But sensing the distress in my countenance, she offered a wonderful phrase to help cheer me up:

Il pleut comme vache qui pisse

It’s raining like a pissing cow. Or, it’s raining like a cow who pisses. I hope you just got a nose-wrinkling visual. But that’s actually what it feels like! After endless days of this maddening downpour, I feel like instead of a giant rain cloud hovering over my head wherever I go, it’s a giant cow taking a leak. A little more apt than cats and dogs, no?