"When good Americans die, they go to Paris" - Oscar Wilde

Sunday, November 21, 2010

meeting the artists of montmartre

This weekend artists in Montmartre opened up their studios for the general public. Though on any given day you can trek around la butte and check out artists working on their paintings in the streets, the whole thing, unfortunately, has an insincere feeling. Of the 40 or so artists painting in the square, their works seem almost identical. Paintings of the Sacré Coeur, the Eiffel Tower, and Notre Dame line the streets in a not-so-subtle pandering to tourists (not that I can blame them; these are the money-makers after all).

But yesterday was different. Yesterday, I (and the whole of Paris) was invited into the real world of Montmartre artists. Often the artists studios doubled as their apartments, so the whole thing had a very intimate feeling. Best of all, the crowds stayed at a moderate size so that at each studio/home we entered, the artist him/herself was waiting and ready to answer any questions about his/her works. Even if we didn't have questions, the artist usually couldn't help but explain his/her method, inspiration, and history. Though I enjoyed the art, I have to admit that my favorite part was getting to visit places I wouldn't have the chance to otherwise. The apartments were amazing, and each one very unique. My favorite was a three-story apartment (though not as huge as it might sound since the building itself was so narrow). The stairs to the second floor wound around in a spiral so tight that I had to turn sideways to make it through. One section of the second floor had a circular glass ceiling, that revealed that the room above it held bookshelves piled with mounds of, well, books. The walls themselves had apparently been used sometimes in place of canvas. In several sections you could make out faint sketches of human figures. I felt guilty for being more intrigued by the architecture and history of the building than the artworks that hung on the walls (though the artist kindly indulged my curiosity and explained all the renovations that had been made to the building).

I loved exploring a part of Paris that I rarely (if ever) have reason to visit. Though I couldn't take photos of the artworks/studios for obvious reasons, I took a few photos of the neighborhood along the way.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Day one: Observation

Alright, so I'm finally getting around to blogging again.

I walked into the school, a little nervous and apprehensive. Though I was only observing classes today, there still seemed to be a lot of things that could go wrong. After all, today was the day I'd be making a first impression on the school staff and the students I'd be teaching. The principal, who I was lucky enough to have met the day before, greeted me wearing the exact same outfit as the day before - jeans, a denim shirt, and worn-out black boots. This made me feel a little better about skipping my morning shower so I could sleep in an extra thirty minutes. Which makes a better first impression: a shower or getting enough sleep?

La directrice first brought me into the staff room. Only one CM2 (i.e. 5th grade) teacher was there at the moment so his was the class I'd be observing first. As I was a little nervous about meeting the teachers I'd be working with I forgot to pay attention to his name when she introduced us. Monsieur I-catch-his -name explained to me that though he was technically supposed to have started teaching English, he hasn't yet because there were more important things to be taught beforehand. This school is next to l'HLM, the public housing projects, so many students come from lower-income families who've recently immigrated to France. Consequently, teaching English is low on the priority list as many students are still struggling with their written French. He told me all of his students are really nice and I have to agree that the kids seem pretty amazing so far. Plus, they are very enthusiastic about learning English which should make my job a whole lot easier.

After recess, I met another CM2 teacher, Agnès. Apparently word had gotten around to the students about who I was because as the students lined up to enter the building a girl came up to me and introduced herself: "Hello. My name is Maude." It was absolutely adorable. Once class started Agnès had the students all go around and introduce themselves in English. Just a simple "My name is . . ." but I was still impressed. Maude trumped them all by adding a "Hello" to her introduction again. :) As the students took a test, Agnès asked me if I could help with the Halloween party they'd like to organize this year. I said "Oui, bien sûr." Hopefully I won't regret this, but a Halloween party with all my CM2 students sounds fun and a good way to get to know the teachers better.

My last CM2 class was just as great as the rest. As the teacher introduced me, some of the students made "pick me" gestures. The teacher explained to them that they will all get to be in my class. Little kid enthusiasm is amazing and since my classes with them only last 20 minutes and will mostly consist of playing games, I'm hoping this enthusiasm will last the entire year. But before I get too excited about teaching and how wonderful and welcoming the staff is, I should wait to see what awaits me at my other two schools . . . .

Sunday, August 29, 2010

the metro

Despite the cramped seats and the questionable smells that linger, I love the metro. The metro is a world of its own and weaving in and out of the crowds of people below the streets of Paris somehow makes me feel connected to the city above. After being back in Paris for almost three weeks now, I've rekindled this old love, forcing myself to get back into the habit of avoiding eye contact with others -- or contact of any kind -- while being cramped together into a tiny train car. Occasionally I slip up and smile at my neighbor, but it's a work in progress.

The metro can turn the most dull day upside down (disclaimer: not always in a positive way). The other day I was riding in the metro only to be accosted by a middle-aged man, I'd say in his early 30s. I was reading the New York Times on my iphone when out of the corner of my eye I see a man beelining towards me. "Vouz rentrez chez moi?" (Do you want to go home with me?), he asked, rocking back and forth on his heels. My first reaction was annoyance, followed quickly by my reflex of tucking my new iphone safely away in my bag. Not quite freaked out yet, I calmly yet boldly replied "Vous m'embêtez, allez-vous en." (You're bothering me, go away). I'd like to say that worked, but of course, such a mild reaction didn't suffice. At this point I could tell this wasn't just a random man hitting on me in the metro . . . no, this was clearly a random mentally unstable man who unfortunately decided to get on the metro in the same car as me. As he loomed over me, he tried to reach out and touch my arm. Though my fellow metro-riders in my immediate vicinity clearly noticed my crisis, they all just looked on (avoiding eye contact of course) while awkwardly trying to not get involved, yet intrigued by the action. Now my adrenaline kicked in. This man had to be crazy -- he was breaking one of the cardinal rules of taking the metro: do not (purposely) make physical contact with others. It was time to break out the tutoying. "Ne me touche pas!" (Don't touch me!). My suddenly raised voice surprised him, and he jerked back his hand before reaching my arm . . . but then decided to try again. "Ne me touche pas!" I yelled, even louder this time, attracting the attention of most of my section. Victory -- he moved along the car to pester other people, then got off at two stops later, teetering around picking his nose before reentering our metro car then descending again as one of my fellow passengers shouted "Dégagez!" (Go away).

And then of course, using the metro in Paris means dealing with the occasional strike or two (or three, or four . . .). This past Tuesday there was a strike and I naively believed it wouldn't affect me that much. I made it to my internship with no problem -- early in fact -- but getting home took me nearly 3 hours which is triple my normal commute time. After waiting for the metro for an hour, during which three trains passed but were too crammed full of people to physically hold anymore (see picture above), I opted for taking the bus. Note to self: Don't leave the house on days when the metro isn't fully functioning.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

weekend in the countryside

Well, I'm here. I've arrived. Though I'm not a full-fledged Parisian according to my address, I live close enough . . . at least for the moment (it's the city circled in white on the map). Lately my days have been filled with the mostly mundane tasks that come with moving to a foreign country: i.e. opening a bank account, getting a cell phone, sending in more visa related paperwork, etc.

Before settling down into my new life, however, I did spend a nice weekend in the countryside attending a wedding. The highlight of the trip -- no not cake, but the lovely bed and breakfast we stayed at for the weekend, Le Moulin Trubert. Everything about it was so charmant. The best part: a full breakfast that included homemade bread, croissants, jam, cake, coffee . . . and of course, cheese; we're in France after all.

If you're ever looking for a place to stay near Chartres: http://moulin.trubert.free.fr/

Saturday, July 31, 2010

it all starts here

I've realized that for a while now I've been waiting for my life to begin. Paris -- and travel in general -- taught me how to be completely myself, how to live in the moment and yet when I was placed back into my university bubble my life went on hold again. It's hard to live in the moment when your life is consumed with essays and exams . . . or is that just an excuse because life will always be filled with some sort of equivalent to essays and exams, right? Yes, of course, it's just an excuse. Even right now as I write this all I can think about is the future: (all-consuming) visa worries, looking forward to seeing close friends again, and the delightful nightmare of packing up everything I own. I feel like I'm in a vacuum; I swear I can hear the roaring of the space between today and August 19th colliding. Let me figure out to live in the moment despite the distracting noise.