Everywhere But Home

News and musings from wherever my crazy life takes me. My body may be back in Illinois, but at least for now, my mind is still in Mongolia.

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Camp MaKaJaWan is a wonderful place with much to offer and teach us all. The scouts come here to learn from us—about scouting, about merit badges, about being a wild and crazy yet responsible role model. Camp has taught me all these things as well (though I’m still working on the last bit), but mostly, it has taught me more about myself and the person I want to be. Over the last two years, watching the OA ceremonies has inspired me to continue trying to be worthy of that honor. I want to be the kind of person who is dedicated to serving others, who embodies the scouting spirit. Last year, I was blessed enough to work for and with other such people. I learned from working with the other ranch staff last year, and I grew as a teacher.

This year was decidedly different. To most of the camp staff, this was the “best summer ever,” but for me, this summer has been a hard one. Both of the other girls on the ranch staff were cold and distant the entire time I was at camp. They never explained their system to me, never so much as introduced themselves when I arrived at camp. They would go off to the ranch together and leave me behind on a regular basis. When the three of us were together, they would talk to each other, but never to me. One of them was particularly nasty. I don’t think she ever said a single kind word tome; if she deigned to acknowledge me, it was to order me around or to sneer at me.

Towards the end of the summer, I did a couple of stupid things in one day—took Stanley out to Gilwell without asking permission, assumed the hummus the other two had gotten was for everyone. I apologized for both, and then I did what I’d wanted to do for weeks: I told M. that she had treated me like sh*t all summer (and yes, I actually said it, my first-ever use of that word), and that I wanted to know what I’d done to make her think I deserved that. She said that I brought it upon myself, because I was arrogant and incompetent, that I thought I knew more than I actually did.

Now, I’ll admit that that last accusation is probably entirely true. I accept that I may have been more arrogant or more incompetent than the other two; I made more than my fair share of mistakes this summer, including neglecting to ask permission for some things when I should have. All I will point out is that I was obviously deemed competent enough to be worth rehiring, and that don’t think someone who assumes the right to the front seat of the car and the first shower when we get back to the cabin ALL SUMMER has the right to call anyone else arrogant.

But, questions of my own competence aside, what really rankles is the idea that I deserved to be treated like garbage all summer. No one, no matter how stupid or incompetent or just plain mean, deserves to be made to feel worthless and unwanted, and I’m going to try for the rest of my life to uphold that conviction.

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French Innuendo and Vulgarity 101: Things Not to Say Unless You Really Mean Them

In case any of you ever go to France, here is a list of thing of which you should probably take note. Some of these blunders have actually been made by people I know personally; others, I’ve just heard about elsewhere. Regardless of where/how I learned it, here is a handy-dandy list of things to bear in mind.

  • “Hot” and “cold” have the same sexual connotations in French as in English if you use them with être. To say “I’m hot,” as in “I’m sweating profusely and would love to sit in a building with A/C… except it doesn’t exist in France,” it’s j’ai chaud. Similarly, j’ai froid means “I could really do with one of those scarves you sell everywhere in France.” By contrast, je suis chaud means “I’m horny,” while je suis froid means “I have no sex drive.” Or “I’m dead.” Take your pick.
  • You can turn some French verbs into nouns and vice versa quite appropriately; others you cannot. Un baiser is a kiss, but if you try to make it into a verb, it means something quite vulgar.
  • Pronunciation matters. A brasserie is a bar; a brassière is a bra. Beaucoup (a lot) and canard (duck) can quickly become “nice a**” and “a**hole,” respectively, if you’re not careful.
  • There’s a good chance that any word beginning with “chi” is a reference to sh*t.
  • Everyone knows someone who tried to say “I’m embarrassed” in Spanish class and ended up announcing that they were pregnant, right? Some equivalent French scenarios:
  • Jam = confiture. While jam, jelly, and preserves are basically the same thing to most Americans, note: preservatif means “condom.” NOT jam.
  • If you are enthusiastic, thrilled, or delighted by something, say that you are impassioné(e)Je suis excité(e) is not the kind of announcement you make in public.
  • So you’re on your way somewhere and will be there shortly? Then use arriver. Sure, je viens translates as “I’m coming,” but it’s got a dirty meaning in French too.