"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.

Friday, July 30, 2010

21 days

If all goes well I will be arriving in Paris in 3 weeks. I say if all goes well because I don't exactly have my visa yet -- a minor detail, right? My visa appointment is Monday, as in 17 days before my departure date which means more than likely my visa will be mailed back to me in time as long as my nightmares of bringing the wrong documents (or envelope), missing my appointment, or being refused my visa altogether don't come true. Either way I know these next few weeks are going to fly by and soon I will begin my new post-grad life in Paris. :)

Monday, July 26, 2010

strikes, les martiniquais, and how the english saved the day

After waking up at 3:20am to catch my flight to Martinique -- and arriving 17 hours later -- the ride to the hotel felt like a dream, especially in the somewhat delirious state that my lack of sleep fostered. It was too dark to make out the landscape, but I could make out the occasional "Carrefour market" signs which made me feel like I was back in France (and I guess technically I was). Man, I miss brioche.

The next morning, after a night of much needed sleep, I woke up to this amazing view outside my window. This picture sums up my vacation quite nicely: I spent most of my days going to the beach, going to the pool, and reading which is not my typical vacation style (I prefer fast-past urban vacations to lounge around getting sand in your shoes vacations) but I have to admit that it did feel nice having absolutely nothing to do for once. Plus, I was in good company. :)

Then all hell broke loose the last full day I was there. Arnaud was leaving a day earlier than me because of work. He and his fellow coworkers were planning on eating lunch at the hotel, then leaving for Fort de France. This plan was ruined by the kitchen staff striking in a sign of solidarity because the hotel was closing down soon. Would striking save their jobs? -- Of course not, but I feel like it's more of a reflex action. I found the whole situation bemusing particularity to do guests comments like "Did they announced this in advanced? Une grève sauvage, ça se fait pas!" To me strikes seem inherently "sauvage" but I guess there is a proper, civilized way to go about refusing to work.

Waking up the next morning at 5am I am unaware of the chaos that awaited me. Arnaud had arranged for a car to pick me up at 5:30am and by 5:15am I was waiting in the reception area, reading to kill time. Minutes go by and still no car -- I begin to get a little nervous. A little voice inside my head is telling me "This guy isn't going to show up." By 5:40am, there is still no car. I start to panic a little. My flight is at 7:35 and the airport is about 30 minutes away. My cell phone won't make calls but I notice the phone on the reception desk. No one was at the reception so I go and start dialing. When the phone starts ringing I feel a little relieved, but then curiously the hotel phone on the other side of the desk starts ringing as well. I tell myself it could just be a coincidence. The security guard enters the room and answers the phone and I hear his voice in my ear "Hotel de Baie Galion." I explain the situation in French, my checks flushed red with embarrassment, "Sorry, it's me. I'm trying to make a call." Fortunately he was very sympathetic, though not very helpful. I explain how my taxi is late, I'm worried I'm going to miss my flight, and my boyfriend is the one who has the driver's number." "Your boyfriend in England?" he asked. How to I always end up British in these situations? "No, my boyfriend's in Martinique. Are you sure there is no possible way to dial a cell phone from the hotel phone?" "No, I'm sorry. It doesn't work for cell phones. Is your boyfriend Martiniquais?" I wasn't really in the mood to make small talk about where my boyfriend was from. At this point I was almost in tears. I had no idea what to do if I couldn't get in touch with Arnaud.

Luckily, a hotel worker drove up. She and the security guard make small talk for several minutes, then she notices me sitting nervously and helplessly in the lobby. After explaining my situation, she kindly offers her cell phone. I call Arnaud who said he'd call the driver then get back to me. His call back isn't great news. He got the driver's voicemail, so he called his friend, an English women named Suzy, who agreed to come to my rescue. She pulls up around 6am, and I jump in. Just as she is making a u-turn to exit the hotel, who other arrives than my driver. Suzy rolls down her window, yells at him, then speeds off. At this point, I have a dreaded feeling that I am going to miss my flight. When I rush up to the ticket counter, there is still a long line waiting and I feel relieved. As I try to enter the line, a man stops me and asks for my name. Fortunately he lets me in, and not even a minute later hands me a sheet of paper with my name written on it, stating "Give this to the last passenger at 6:30am". The poor guy who arrived after me was denied access to the plane. One minute later and that would have been me as well.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

parisienne is a state of mind

Oh, Paris, I can't get you off my mind so I might as well devote a little of my energy to writing about you. These past few days I've been skimming other blogs devoted to Paris (and there are so many!) in search of inspiration and in hopes of curing my homesickness. Unfortunately, seeing gorgeous pictures of baguettes, charming bistros, and iconic symbols of Paris have only compounded my desire to be there. But it also has made me say to myself again and again, "God, how lucky am I!" I mean seriously, how did this happen to me? I used to daydream about what life in Paris would be like, and when I got the opportunity to study in Paris for a year I thought it was my one chance to live out this dream. Somehow, everything fell into place and I am actually moving to France. No more make-believe for me, this is the real deal. The other day someone told me, "You're not moving to France, you're becoming French!" I smiled, but you know, it a way it's true. After all, Parisienne is a state of mind.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

the wonderful world of french bureaucrats

Lately I've been making a bunch of lists: a list of things I'd like to do in Paris (such as the cooking classes), a list of things I need to take care of before leaving the country, a list of things I must be sure to pack, a list of things I need to do soon after arriving in France, etc. Since I'm forced to wait for a piece of paper -- the ever elusive arrêté -- from l'Académie de Créteil (the school district I'll be teaching in) before being able to apply for my visa (and thus buy a plane ticket to Paris), making these lists seems to help me feel better about this state of helpless waiting that I am currently in. At least planning out my future is the one thing I can be proactive about.

Today the teaching assistantship program sent out a list (what a reoccurring theme today) of my fellow Académie de Créteil teaching assistants so at least I can get into contact with others who are in the same helpless state as me. It's in moments like these that I realize how much control the government (French and American) has - I mean, who are these people to demand paperwork from me so that I can move to France to be with boyfriend? It's weird how much of a role they are playing in my personal life at the moment. Anyway, I guess an answer to that is - they are the French bureaucrats and thus a piece of paper stands between me and being able to move in with the man I love. Correction: actually, several sheets of paper stand between us. We're talking about bureaucracy here after all.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

my paris wish-list

I already have a wish list of things I'd like to do once I get back to Paris, though I definitely don't have the time or the money to do them all. One thing I'd really love to do is start taking cooking classes. I have always enjoyed cooking, though I've never really learned any real cooking skills. Sure, I can create a great meal following a recipe, but I want to be able to look in the pantry, chose ingredients that go well together, and whip up an amazing meal without consulting a recipe book. And of course I should take advantage of living in a city that is world-renown for its cuisine. I may not be a Julia Child but I'd be content with becoming half the cook she is. :) In a lot of these classes you start off in the morning going to the open market and picking out fresh products, then going back to cook a three-course meal. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it. Unfortunately, one class cost around 150 euros and it's hard to find long-term classes for unprofessional cooks.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

something else to look forward to

Looks like I will be returning to France sooner than expected, just not the part of France that is located in Europe. In July, I will be going to Martinique for a week to visit Arnaud who is currently working there. It will be nice to be finally done with school (as in graduated!) and get to spend a responsibility and worry free week with the boyfriend.

Friday, April 23, 2010

globalization and the french

“Why do I write in French? It is the possibility to belong to a culture that is not mine, not my mother tongue.” - Andreï Makine, Soviet-born writer

This is a quote that from the New York Times article "In an Age of Globalism, Pardon my French". This article touches so much on what I wrote about for my French honors thesis and I highly recommend reading it -- the article, not my thesis that is. :)

Voila le link: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/25/arts/25abroad.html

Monday, April 12, 2010

the perks of dealing with americans

Saturday I emailed my resumé and cover letter inquiring about the possibility of interning with MICEFA, the exchange program through which I did my year abroad in Paris. I open my email Monday morning and already a reply (thus the title of this blog entry) - and a positive one at that. Things seem to be falling into place nicely. It'll be nice to have a reason to go into Paris on a regular basis, instead of staying in the suburbs.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

the day paris and i met

When I was younger, I thought I wanted to move to London. For some reason, London seemed like this magical, marvelous place. Convinced that London was the greatest city on earth, I was so excited when my family decided to go on a family trip across Europe. We went through Italy, Switzerland, France, and England - London was to be our last stop. The stop before it: Paris.

Driving into the city of Paris, the city doesn't seem all that impressive. Like most outskirts of a major town, there was graffiti, run-down buildings, and way too much traffic. We were on a bus tour and arrived in Paris as night was falling. By the time we got into the city it was already dark. Before going to our hotel, we stopped at Trocadero, the main tourist location from which to view the Eiffel Tower. Then it happened. I remember this moment so clearly: stepping off the bus, looking up, and there she was. Yes there was the Eiffel Tower, lit up so bright that it seemed to me like if I reached out my hand I would be able to touch the monument's cold metal. But it was more than that. No, there in front of me stood Paris. I was struck by a complete coup de foudre. It was in that moment that I fell in love. There, amidst the tourists and barterers loudly selling Eiffel Tower key chains, I fell in love. Despite all that was going on around me, all I could see was Paris and how beautiful she was. All I knew was that I wanted to get to know her. And that my friends, was the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

the long-awaited acceptance letter

I am now officially accepted into the teaching assistant program for l'Academie de Creteil. Now I just need to keep my fingers crossed that I will be placed in/near Maisons-Alfort so I don't have to commute 2 hours to work. I'm also in the process of trying to secure an internship so here's to hoping everything goes my way . . . .

Monday, April 5, 2010

patience is a virtue

The study guide for my history midterm sits in front of me but I'm finding it hard to concentrate on memorizing the amendments of the constitution. Instead I am obsessing over whether I'll get accepted into the teaching assistantship program in France and if I do get accepted, whether I really have to wait until mid-September to get my visa as per the official guide on the French Ministry of Culture website. That would ruin my plans of arriving August 1, plans that I am quite set on.

On the positive side of things, I did however read about someone who got placed in the high school at Maisons-Alfort. Now wouldn't that be great, being able to work in the school whose bells I can hear from the bedroom window? One can hope, right? Of course, I applied to teach primary school, but there are bound to be primary schools in M-A too!

I just need to get used to waiting because waiting is what I'm going to be doing for the next four to five months.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Sunday, March 7, 2010

losing focus once again

I'm sitting in Mozart's, this romantic little coffee house in Austin, and find myself browsing the Science Po website once again. I came here to specifically work on my senior thesis but don't find myself being the least bit productive -- which is bad since writing a good thesis would probably greatly up my chances of being accepted into say, Science Po.

Anyway, I've been really missing Paris lately to the point that I am losing my focus. Graduation is so close, just a few more hoops to jump through and then . . . Paris.

Bon, back to trying to focus on the task at hand - finishing my classes and thesis with flying colors!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

reflextions on the future . . .

I made an appointment for a final degree check today and it got me thinking about the future, a future that I happen to be very excited about. A future that I happen to be very impatient for its arrival. In approximately 6 months I will be moving back to Paris, though this time my stay there will be indefinite -- well, at least for the foreseeable future.

I cannot wait to be back in the city that I am completely in love with. For those of you who have never been in love with a city, and I mean really in love, let me attempt explain it to you. This type of love is deep and true and I have to say, I think Paris feels the same way about me. In fact, I am certain that my love with Paris is a reciprocal one. I know this to be true because Paris changed me, because Paris gave me the most unforgettable memories, and because Paris is there waiting just as impatiently for my return.

However, I won't actually be living in Paris, but a quaint little suburb called Maisons-Alfort, lovingly nicknamed Maisons-Arnaud after the man who has a special place in my heart, Monsieur Arnaud Saint-Cyr who is of course the reason that M-A, and not Paris, has been chosen as the place of my new abode. But I have to say, Maisons-Alfort has a special place in my heart too. During my time there, the local grocer actually recognized me but more importantly would smile and talk to me every time I stopped by -- something that I never experienced in Paris because Parisians just don't have the time, or the desire, to smile. And my apartment will be undoubtedly bigger than any apartment I could afford in Paris, not to mention less lonely.

Yes, in 6 (hopefully short) months, I will be going home because, after all, home is where the heart is. But I think the most exciting aspect is the uncertainty and the promise of what the future holds.