Bittersweet Hospital Experiences

For anyone new to my blog, I am a volunteer in a children’s hospital doing recreational therapy for injured, ill, and handicapped children.  I try to engage them in activities to so they can forget about the reason they’re in the hospital and have a good time.

For most kids we just play games, do art work, or cook.  The conversation normally stays pretty basic with names, favorites, dreams, etc.  I do really enjoy each child I get to spend time with.

Here I am with my name tag! They spelled my name the easiest for the children to pronounce it (in French):  Mickaëla.

However, I have a new favorite kid at the hospital.  He is originally from England, so English is his first language.  He also helped me with some of the other kids, because I’m not super familiar with slang in French.  So would let me know what the slang words were that the other boys were saying.

The English-speaking boy really opened up to me because we could talk in English.  He has terribly violent shakes that start randomly.  I can see him trying so hard to physically force them to stop.  He also has a strict diet where he can’t eat salt or sugar… he says nothing tastes good :(

Yesterday it was chocolate mousse day.  The organization brought in a professional chef who taught the children to make chocolate mousse and then everyone got to eat some.  Now my favorite kid can’t eat this, so I went and watched a movie with him.  He chose Scream 2 (a horror movie).  So I went with him and we watched the movie in English.  When he got nervous, he would shake even more violently and out of control.  I felt so badly for him.  At one point he got so out of control that I sat next to him and held him still until he finally got it under control.  He thanked me, it was the most touching experience I’ve had yet.

We talked some more and I found out that he’s going to be leaving the hospital. While I was sad I wouldn’t get to spend more time with him since we had developed a connection; I’m super excited for him that he gets to go home!

Here are some photos of the chocolate mousse everyone made. I got to taste it, Yum!


la Valse

I thought it was about time to do another post on my dance class.


photo credit to Sarah from Dancing with the Professors Showdance with A.J. Squillante :)

SO the class today was on waltz.  The first half of the class was on drills.  There is a huge emphasis on collection and bending knees and being “supple” to create a fluidity of motion (instead of being stiff).  There have been multiple occasions where they will have us stop in the middle of a count and not fall over.  In all of standard you should (theoretically) be able to pause on any count and be completely stable. We did a waltz drill where we were doing the basic, but in between each three count move, we’d take three counts to settle down (off our toes).  This was surprisingly a great drill to work on balance, control, and calf stretches! We then had to do this with a partner touching only with our core… this took practice.  The first few times I didn’t do so great, not to mention almost all the guys are significantly shorter than me! Eventually I got the hang of it.

The second half of the course was choreography.  We did a natural turn, a spin turn, turning lock to the right, a natural turn out of promenade to get into a close position, and a double reverse spin.  All of these moves I’ve done about a million and a half times, but it was still good practice.  The professor actually picked me out of the crowd to illustrate (with her)  how to drive out of the spin turn (and not stop momentum) into the turning lock.  We got into a kind of awkward position where I was practically underneath her… She then used me as a demo for something with a double reverse spin.  I couldn’t understand what it was, but I was doing something correctly that no one else in the class was doing so she kept leading me in them and having the class watch…

This week the choreography was all bronze moves (with the exception of gold turning lock), whereas in foxtrot we were doing open choreography (which was much more difficult for me because I hadn’t seen most of it before). The group is finally starting to come talk to me before and after the classes.  I think they’ve realized I’m here to stay (at least for now) so they may as well get to know me :)

I have had some pushy guys tell me that what I’m doing is wrong.  In both cases, it has been something that a coach has told me specifically to do!  First it was the thumb in the right hand in hold…. granted this is a thing of preference, but due to Ronen I always put my thumb up for an extra pressure point for connection… The French people have never seen it before and think I’m crazy.  Secondly, I can be very forceful on spinturns, due to Vlada.  Some men just don’t like being pushed around … :P

Quinoa Milk

I have just one word to say: Disaster!

As a side note, they don’t refrigerate milk here.  They use a process called Ultra-high-temperature-processing so they don’t have to refrigerate it. I still haven’t decided if I am okay with this so I’ve searched for non-dairy alternatives.

About a week earlier I tried some Rice Milk that was absolutely, oh my gosh, amazing!!! So I saw this quinoa milk and thought… why not??  I was under the impression the word “coco” would mean it was chocolate.  After drinking the milk for about a week I offered some of it to my friend, who proceeded to tell me that it wasn’t chocolate, it was coconut….. no wonder I never tasted the chocolate.  Then I remembered that cacao is chocolate in French and coco is coconut… oops.

So it’s actually a milk blend of rice, quinoa, and coconut…. all of which have very distinct flavors and none of which actually taste like milk :P

To say the least, I’ll stick to my rice milk from now on :)




Last night I went to the théâtre to see L’École des Femmes, a comédie by Molière.   Molière is pretty much the French equivalent of Shakespeare!

EDUCO organized this event for us and gave us a copy of the play during orientation.  Unfortunately I didn’t read the book (I know I’m terrible…) before I went to go see the play.  However, I had read some summaries so I knew the general story line.

The comedy depended mostly on situational humor, which is easy to pick up on.  Unfortunately some of the linguistic humor was not as easy to catch.  I was astounded by the set-up.  The main scene was a house on an island.  They had boats come to and from the island.  They played soft waves crashing and bird noises during the “day” and crickets and mosquitoes during the “night.” The house had two stories and sometimes characters would be on the top level and you could see them, or they’d be downstairs in front of the house.  The lights would change colors based on the time of “day.”

I struggled a bit with the comprehension.  Some parts were easy to comprehend, others were not.  I actually brought my copy of the play with me, and when I couldn’t understand I would read along so I could see the words.  I have a hard time understand French when someone is full of emotion (angry screaming, crying, etc)  so in the overdramatized theatre that was a little challenging.  Also, they spoke in 17th century French (and if you’ve read any Shakespeare, you know that 17th century English can be challenging for English speakers).

Unfortunately we got lost on the way to the theatre.  The real theatre is under construction and so the Comédie Française was using a separate theatre for the time being.  We ended up arriving about 4 minutes after the play had started so we had to sit in funky fold out seats at the top for the first half, but at intermission we got to move to our real seats.  The theater was smaller than those I’ve been to in NYC but still sufficiently large.

The play lasted 3 hours!!! I was surprised.  While the script matched exactly the words in the play, the director pretty much had free reign to do whatever he wanted otherwise (as long as they didn’t say any words!!).  So sometimes scenes would be drawn out with other “action” going on, just no words.  And of course in the French way, the play ended with a sex joke (actually a few).


Here are some photos of the lovely fall colors in Paris (it’s nothing like Cornell!!) and the note my host family left me when they left for the weekend :)

Il faut parler anglais! Quoi?

That’s right, I’m writing a blog post about being forced to speak English!

  1. Franglish – I went with my friend Megan to an event in paris put on by an organization called Franglish. It is a way for people who speak English and French to improve on their language skills.  We signed up online and they were full for native french speakers but had a few spots left for native English speakers… Perfect! The organization facilitates one-on-one conversations with a native speaker.  So, I was set up with a partner who was a native French speaker.  We spoke French for 7 minutes, then we spoke English for 7 minutes, then we changed partners.  This went on for almost two hours.  Overall Megan and I had a great time.  Most of the people were in their late twenties, early thirties.  There was one VERY FRENCH woman in her fifties who wasn’t very nice (err she was just the epitome of french rudeness), but other than that I really enjoyed all the conversations I had!  There were a couple people who had poorer English skills, and I had to concentrate to understand them and they even had to ask me to slow down.
  2. Breakfast in America – This is a restaurant in Paris!!  Megan and I have been craving pancakes so we went for a late snack after Franglish.  I had a triple stack of chocolate chip pancakes and boy was it good! Megan had Deuces Wild with two eggs, two bacon strips, and two pancakes.  Again, here we were forced to speak English because the waitresses preferred it.  It was appalling to watch French people eat a hamburger (this place is a diner btw).  So the hamburger is served “open” so there’s one side of the bun with the meat on it and another side of the bun with the lettuce/tomato/etc.  The idea is you add the sauce (ketchup, mayo, etc) and then fold it together and eat it with your hands right…? WRONG.  The french ignore the bun with the lettuce, and they attach the meat bun with a fork and knife!!! Oh gosh, I was shocked.  Not to mention they used mayo with their fries…                       
  3. English Tutoring – EDUCO sent out an ad asking for an English tutor.  I volunteered because I love children and thought it’d be a fun experience.  I have tons of tutoring experience in math and science so I figured this can’t be much different…. I was wrong.  Nonetheless I arranged to meet the family at their apartment, I arrive and they are very kind.  The family is Korean and they ask me to take my shoes off. Normally this isn’t an issue, but there isn’t anywhere to sit, I have boots on (it was raining) and I’m wearing a skirt, and they’re trying to introduce me to the entire family… it was beyond awkward.  The mother set me up with the daughter.  She told me the daughter is in her second year at a French/English bilingual school and needs some help with reading comprehension and vocabulary.  Then the mother leaves me with some books and attends her own business. So the daughter picks a book and starts reading it… I pretty much had free reign to do whatever I wanted.  As she was reading out loud, whenever she mispronounced a word or hesitated with a word I would help her learn the proper pronunciation and definition.  Then I would ask “why did he do that? Why does he need that? … etc” along the way to make sure she was understanding.  I ran into a few difficulties:  How to define “else”, how to define “both”, how to define “evaporation”.  Boy the last one was a fun one… she got a science lesson too.  I enjoyed the experience and I think it’s something nice I can do with my native tongue!