Apparently there are crazy winter storms all over France. I wouldn’t know. The weather here in Angers has been unremarkable, except for how freakin’ cold it’s been. I can’t believe that I survived five winters in Minnesota only to be defeated by temperatures that are merely freezing—you know, in the literal sense of zero degrees Celsius—but Angers gets the damp variety of cold that sucks the life right out of your marrow.

The worst part is that I’m never comfortable. My radiator gets warm (not hot, but sufficiently warm), but it’s not much help when there is evidently no insulation between my floor and the garage nor between my walls and the great outdoors. Thus I am never cozy—not even in bed! I’ve started draping my duvet over the radiator for a few minutes before I tuck myself in, just to take the edge off, but I still spend the night curled into fetal position trying not to touch any part of the sheets that I haven’t already warmed.

I coined a fantastic verb the other day when I caught myself saying aloud, “I really need to tapestrize.” Angers is known for centuries-old tapestries, so it would be a great way to immerse myself in Angevine glories.

Oh but wait. Sheets, blankets, and rugs cost money that I would rather spend in Morocco next month. You know you’re poor when…Caitlin and I walked past a pile of discarded boxes and I said, “Hey, cardboard is a good insulator—that’s why homeless people use it! I could cover my walls in that!” (Sadly, I’m not kidding. I actually said that out loud.)

I’ve taken a few basic measures to address the situation that would make you think I have a serious thing for decorating my home with materials intended to preserve food, but no, I’m just that poor.

Good old Minnesota trick, I covered my windows in plastic wrap.

The French have never heard of this, so passersby probably wondered why the F-word I was blow-drying my window.

I rolled up a towel to block the draft under the door and draped an extra blanket between the door and the frame (that’s how big the gap was). I also put aluminum foil, shiny side out, behind the radiator.


As I stood there, warming myself beside it, I thought, Damn, now I really need another poster to make this wall look reasonable. Well, ladies and germs, be careful what you wish for!

The very next day—World AIDS Day, that is—a French AIDS organization had a big stall set up in the Christmas market. I noticed a cute poster of smiling condoms, so I asked the woman there if they had an extra. Did they ever!

The nice woman sent me home with no fewer than three dozen posters from a decade of World AIDS Days. On my bed, they're like an AIDS quilt!

And now, AIDS is the first thing I will think about every morning and the last thing I will think about every night, plus a lot of times in between.


Oh, and this has nothing to do with anything, but I think it’s funny that when I pointed out to my roommate Julie that it was snowing a few minutes ago, her response was, “It makes me want to eat cheese.” What a proper Frenchie.


6 responses to “Schadenfroide

  1. hahahahaha. nice posters!

    i had to do the same thing to my room! i had to block off the drafts and make curtains. it has been intense! it sucks when you wake up and turn over and your pillow is icy where your head hasn’t been.

  2. Try and get hold of a hot water bottle, Em. Maybe your landlady has one. The big, thick rubber type. Fill it with hot tap water or heat some water on the stove–not boiling, just hot–and toss it in your bed a minute before you get in. Very nice to cuddle, and it stays warm for quite a while.

  3. This made me snort with laughter. I love the décor.

    Sometimes I sit atop my bed–over the covers–for a good 15 minutes or so before I get in, which makes the insides lukewarm. Scissor-kicking is also a good sheet-warming method.

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