Week of Jan 23-27

Questions:

– Why is it near impossible to speak with a proper French accent? Literally cannot get the ‘r’ sound down. My French friend Sarah makes fun of me all the time because one of the trains is called “RER” but I pronounce it “air-ee-air” when it should be “eehrrr-uhhh-eehrr.” Fail.

– What are you supposed to look at when you sit on the metro? In some of the trains, the seats are awkardly positioned so that you are literally knee-to-knee with other communters. Do you look out the window, stare down the other person’s shoes, fiddle with your ipod? It’s a mystery to me. Usually I creep on French people and check out their different fashion choices. NB: socially acceptable for men in Paris to wear scarves. Also acceptable: pointy leather shoes, man-purses. Not socially acceptable: laughing quietly/grinning when you see two people lurking trying to read articles from a newspaper that a woman is reading. A creepy guy will see you smiling and take it as an invitation to sit down next to you and give you his number. Don’t worry, Mom, I did NOT call him.

-WHERE IS THE PEANUT BUTTER? And how can I get my hands on some?!

– Why does my host brother think it is a good idea to spray me with a mini water gun at all hours of the day?? Quite the jokester. He also fooled me with a fake egg that he snuck into the carton in the fridge.

Anyway, weekly recap of notable-ish happenings:

Monday: Went to my first real-deal French class at Paris VII. Some friendly French people helped me find my way.. merci! Succeeded in finding the classroom. Everyone opened their little netbooks (they are very popular here) and “Ecritures de soi” (Writing of the self/biographies) began. The professor was very nice, goofy, and young. He went over a syllabus and we read an excerpt of a novel. I was proud that I could understand most of what was happening, but it was very intimidating to be one of only 16 students in a class!!! Yikes. Especially when the prof asked who had not previously done a dissertation (they are a common way of evaluation) and I was one of two people to raise my hand. Concentrating and listening to French for 3 hours made me very sleepy by the time the class was out at 9!

Wednesday: First meeting of my seminar on “Diversity.” Half Americans and half students from Sciences Po (prestigious French higher ed.) Great professor and talkative French students. Hopefully I will be brave enough to be more talkative throughout the semester.

Thursday: Midterm in my grammar class. Bleh. Afterwards I had a ‘mixer’ type of lunch with French students. Learned that the show “How I  Met Your Mother” is very popular here! Also attended a mixer event at an Irish pub bar with some French engineers.

Friday: Fun filled day! Grabbed lunch at a famous falafel place called ‘L’as du falafel” in the jewish quarter. It really is worth the hype!! Then had a “galette de rois”, special puff pastry cake-thing eaten the twelfth night after Christmas. There’s a little trinket hidden inside and the finder gets to be ‘king’… and guess who found one. ME! Though there were like 8 cakes and 16 kings walking around, so I didn’t feel SO special.

Then went ice skating at Hotel de ville, THEN went to an exhibit on Sempé, a French artist who is often featured on the cover of The New Yorker. He also illustrated the famous “Petit Nicholas” series that is a children’s classic. He’s very talented, and is super funny.

I also had an interesting evening that involved sangria and a secret bar in Odéon!

Picture of Hotel de Ville and the outdoor skating rink! What a beautiful day (finally!)

Cathedral and Champagne at Reims

Important note: Reims is not pronounced like “reems”. The correct way sounds like “rinse” with a French accent or “rrrrance”- basically France with the F cut off.

Last Saturday my program chartered a bus for all 50-60 of us to visit Reims, a major city during the Roman empire that is northwest of Paris. We tourned the Roman Catholic cathedral of Reims, where kings of France were once crowned. Beautiful stained glass and gothic architecture. Check out the “rose window” in my first picture. Only downside to the day was that it was super chilly and windy both inside and outside the cathedral.

Got a spinach and pine nut quiche at this cute tea room in town… NOM NOM. Then hopped on the bus again to visit Pommery Champagne. The group toured these creepy caves where millions of bottles of champagne used to be stored. There were names of major European cities in each cavern where the bottles would be stored at cool temperatures. Oddly enough, now they show off all of this crazy contemporary art down there. Flashing lights, sculptures, and one dark cave where a sound clip of a dog growling played!

Best part of the day was most definitely the tasting.. here’s me and Danica saying “tchink!” (French version of cheers). French urban myth is that you have to make eye contact when you “tchink”(or take the first sip? I’m forgetting) otherwise you will have bad sex for seven (or some number) of years….!

Le Louvre

Last Friday I spent a few hours wandering around the Louvre with a girl in my program who is an art history major. Seriously the best way to tour a museum- she knew so much more than a dinky little guide! I was treated to detailed explanations of myths, artistic movements, techniques and style, and more. Pretty cool!

Some facts on THE most visited museum in the world:

-One of the world’s largest museums, it is located in the 1st arrondissement on the right bank of the Seine.

-The museum is in the Louvre Palace- built in the 12th century. Louis XIV chose to live at Versailles instead of the Louvre Palace, and the place was mainly used to show of art/sculptures. It wasn’t until the French Revolution that the Louvre became a museum. I loved walking through the ornate hallways and gazing at the intricate stonework that was on each wall… so crazy.

– There’s SO MUCH. Egyptian antiques, Islamic art, sculptures, paintings, bronze, glass… It would literally take a year to list everything that is displayed. 380,000 objects, accoring to Wikipedia.

-But of course, the most popular painting in the place is “La Joconde” (Mona Lisa) by Leonardo da Vinci. It’s very small and there were tons of tourists crowded around the supposedly bulletproof glass that protects it.

As a student, I get free access to the museum… wahoooo! Needless to say, I’ll be back for more at some point!

-A

 

Paris Pros/Cons

Weather

Pro: Even the rain is dainty here! Just soft grey mist. No huge rainstorms or whipping winds for the most part. And no mounds of snow preventing me from walking to class.

Con: SO MUCH RAIN/mist. AND CLOUDY DAYS. On days when I forget my parapluie (umbrella). Of course. Plus humidity hates people with curly hair. I miss the sun! Gotta get that vitamin D. Plus, bad lighting means bad pictures!

Food

Pro: People really take time to enjoy their meals and savor their food. And the food is certainly worth savoring… so delish. Even getting a coffee with a friend is a long, drawn-out event. I also really like eating dinner on the later side. My host family usually eats around 8:30ish.

Con: I am going through serious peanut butter withdrawls. It’s so weird that it is such an American staple but I cannot find it anywhere here! No shelf space for American comfort foods, I guess. Nutella just doesn’t cut it when I crave some salty PB to go with an apple or some celery!

People

Pro: There are lots of fun/nice/interesting American students on my program- and it’s nice to be in the same boat as far as being confused and out of place in a foreign country. And all the French people I have approached when I’ve been lost have been very helpful. (I had to ask 4 separate people how to find this French university building… oy… horrible sense of direction)

Con: It’s hard to befried French people! I haven’t really made a huge effort yet, but it’s definitely not like a nice lil liberal arts college where everyone knows each other (duh, Alex). And it is especially difficult because the Americans tend to clump together, making us less open to talking to French people. However, my host family is BOMB.COM- very accomodating, generous, interesting, helpful. I’m enjoying getting to know them! Also, I already have a great French friend with whom I did a high school exchange with- and I’ve enjoying hanging out with her!

Hi Mom! Look at me being all cultured ‘n stuff! (At L’Orangerie, a museum located opposite the Louvre near the Tuileries Garden. It has some of Monet’s waterlilies- so beautiful- but unfortunately you can’t take pics in that room. It’s an oval space where the waterlilies encirle you in their awesomeness/beauty…!) The second pic is (really far) in front of the Louvre, famous home of the Mona Lisa, and TONS of other Italian/French/other works of art)

-A

A French joke

Learned this from the niece of my host mom who often babysits for the kids.

“Qui est le cousin de l’oignon?” (Who is the onion’s cousin?)

**Then you pinch the person and they saiy “aiiiie!” (French equivalent of ouch)

And the joke is that “aiie” in French sounds like l’ail (which is garlic, relative of the onion) Silly silly.

Took this pic when I was wandering around Montparnasse with my friend Danica last week. It is “A la Defense Nationale” outside the Denfert-Rochereau metro exit and the Catacombs, which I have yet to explore. We had an expresso and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream (who knew they have it in Paris??) at Indiana Cafe, a chain restaurant/bar. 

-A

A crêpe a day keeps the doc away?

Juuust kidding. Don’t worry mom, I have been eating more than crepes! But I could eat a crepe for every meal if I really wanted to because there are crepe vendors on LITERALLY every street corner. Yum. The French know what’s up.

I began my intensive 3-week grammar bootcamp class this week. For three hours each day I review verbs, pronouns, vocab… write mini compositions… listen to the equivalent of French NPR (they talk sooooo fast! and there are too many political parties to keep track of! The presidential election is coming up so I hear a lot about Sarkozy and co.)

Lucky for me, I don’t have any other classes yet so I’ve been able to get out and explore! Here’s a picture of some of my friends checking out a metro map at night.

Walking around in Paris this month is especially crazy because of the biannual sales. For six weeks in January, basically EVERY store has massive sales (we’re talking like 60% off of fancy coats and handbags!) “Les soldes” (the sales) started just after I got here and will be going on until mid-February. Parisian women (and men) flock to the stores and pack the subway with giant bags filled with merchandise. I haven’t bought anything super exciting yet, but I’ll keep all you loyal blog followers posted! I did buy a cute patchwork bag at a flea market but the stupid cheap thing is already falling apart because I put too much heavy stuff in it… 😦 Learned my lesson! Anyway, here’s a pic of my friend Cara posing in the metro in front of one of the “SOLDES” advertisements. 

I had an adventure on Thursday when I failed miserably at finding a Philosophy class at one of the Paris universities. Even though I knew I wouldn’t be able to take this class because it conflicts with another class I’ll be taking, I decided to go to the first class and get a taste for what university classes are like. Took the metro, successfully found the building. It was swarming with young Frenchies!! All wearing skinny jeans, fashionable boots, smoking outside, and gossiping in French! I got all the way up to the 14th floor with time to spare. Opened the door to what I thought was my class… only to have like 40 people plus the professor turn around and look at me!! “Pardon!” I said- before quickly shutting the door!! Whoops…

I was sulking and texting a friend in the courtyard when a journalist from “Le Monde” approached me and tried to sell me a special student subscription. I have no idea why he was trying to convince a foreign student to subscribe, but I was proud of myself for understanding what he was saying about how reading newspapers is important and stuff about freedom of speech etc. He didn’t even care that I had no interest in buying it, he just wanted to tell me his philosophy on newspapers. For like 15 minutes. haha a funny random encounter…

-A