Sunday, August 30, 2009

We have just been going going going until today, where we had a free day. Lets see, to catch up:
Friday, we went on 2 arrondissement tours. In the morning, we met in the 11th, where the Bastille is. Gilbert wanted to show us the little passage ways and ins and outs of the 11th, where we saw a beautiful open air food market, very Parisian, as well as little streets and big boulevards, all to show us the different characteristics of the 11th, and to help us orient ourselves further in Paris. After a lunch of delicious greek sandwiches, we met with a “proper” tour guide, (for Gilbert doesn’t think he’s a proper tour guide) who took us through a tour of the 18th, the arrondissement that is farthest north of Paris and home to Monmartre. On our tour, we spilled out a little of Paris’ borders, outside the ‘peripherique’ its called, into a ‘banlieu’ (suburb) called St. Ouen. It felt very different in comparison the actual city of Paris, even though it was just minutes outside. Maybe it was because there was practically no one out, I don’t know. We visited a building called ‘Main d’Oeuvre’, roughly translated as handy work (? I’m taking a guess) which was a really cool organization that provided exhibition spaces for local artists, as well as housed a restaurant, gallery, and many different offices all related to the arts. We were pretty pooped by the end, so much walking, which resulted in a few blisters, but oh well.
Yesterday, we went to Fontainbleau, which is the biggest forest in the ile de France, and has a very grand chateau. Although the chateau wasn't my favorite as far as chateaux go (i know, how snobby to do i sound), the forest was wonderful, it was really nice to be in the woods. Again, we walked A lot.

On our tour of St. Ouen, we learned of a very large flea market that happens each Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, so today, we went to that.
It was huge, like a museum that just goes on and on. I got a 3 old, very pretty postcards, dated around the 20’s-40’s, and a simple black watch for 5 euro (I know, dad, I got a watch!). Then, Sam wanted to see Sacre Coeur, so we made the treck up to Monmartre.
OH, but before we got up there, I cannot forget to mention the little smoothie place where we got lunch. It was called “Smooth in the City”. Let me tell you, after bread, butter, cheese and ice cream for days on end, which although sounds heavenly to most, after about a week of having almost nothing but, a fresh salad of seeds, tomato, cucumber and onion, a yogurt parfait, and fresh pineapple, orange and mint smoothie, all for 8 euro, was absolutely heavenly. I could feel my body thanking me.
I returned early to my foyer, where I am now, because I am just a bit tired from the week. Tomorrow, apparently we have a whole day of classes, IFE classes, not yet our actual Sorbonne classes. Hopefully it should be interesting, I just hope I don’t fall asleep without coffee…
Oh! I almost forget to mention my babysitting experience on Friday! I’m glad I didn’t forget. One of our directors from IFE sent out an email on behalf of one of his collegues, and she was looking for a babysitter for her 8 year old son that night. I immediately responded, jumping on not only the opportunity to get to play with a French kid, but also to earn a bit of extra money
Turns out that Esteban, the little boy, was adorable. I couldn’t have asked for a better babysittee. We played, only in French (for he spoke no English) for almost 3 hours, and for almost 1 hour of those 3, ‘on faisait les accidents’; which basically meant, we crashed toy cars into each other. He loved it, it was hilarious. When it was time for bed, he made no fuss, gave me one kiss on each cheek, read, and went to bed. His only request was that I draw him a picture of my choice, and leave it face down on his floor so he could look at it the next morning.
I get an email the next afternoon from Mathilde, his mother, saying only ‘Esteban absolutely adored the abstract portrait!’

Thursday, August 27, 2009

August 27, the BATOBUS

Today was another day of our tour of ‘Paris by Gilbert’. Each day, he gives us a name of a street in Paris where we have to meet him, and in order to know where we meet him exactly, we have to navigate our maps of Paris and find it ourselves. I like this way of doing things. Today we met him at the ‘Arenes de Lutèce’, in the 5th. And so starts the 27th of August edition of ‘what I learned today…’
1) Lutèce, or in English, Lutetia (sp?) was the original name for Paris given by the Romans. The name Paris came after in 212 a.d., from a Celtic tribe named Parisii. The Arenes de Lutèce, (Lutetian Arenas) where we met this morning dated back to 1st century a.d.! C’est fou! (crazy).
2) The building that now houses the Mayor of Paris, l’Hotel de Ville in the 1st arrondissement, is actually a fake! Fake, as in, replica of the original that was destroyed sometime in the 1800’s during a civil war. Actually, not many Parisians know this, and go on thinking that it’s the original building that’s centuries old!
3) The Marais (pronounced Muh-ray) district is the name of the 3rd arrondissement of Paris. Marais in French means marsh, and during the beginnings of the city, the Marais was actually an inhabitable marsh that was drained and made livable. For the most part, all traces of this marsh are gone now, except for the fact that there is no actual Metro station in the 3rd - the ground just can’t support it.
4) For those of you who aren’t familiar with Monmartre, it is home to Sacre Coeur, a beautiful, almost fake looking white basilica that is also the highest point in Paris. Have you ever wondered where the name came from? During the 3rd century a.d., Paris’ first bishop, St. Denis, was decapitated on the hill that is now Monmartre. It was then named Mons Martis, meaning Martyr’s Hill, or Monmartre!

O god, I can’t get enough of this stuff. As soon as the library by me reopens (Sept. 1), I am going and checking out books on the history of Paris. It is really fascinating me now more than ever because I am surrounded by it.
We learned all of this on our tour via the Batobus, the water bus on the Seine that one can take and get on and off at one’s leisure.
Oh! I also got my French portable (cellphone) today! Unfortunately, that’s only for local calls, but it makes communicating within the group much easier.
Until tomorrow, when I hopefully learn more juicy tidbits of information that I can then relay back to you!
Thank you so much for reading, hope you’re enjoying it!


Things i've learned today, August 26

Just a quick overview of what I learned yesterday, because we have been learning a lot everyday of our orientation with Gilbert, our 23 year old French-American tour guide.
1) Like many other cities, historically, the West of Paris is very affluent, while the East is much poorer, more artisans and blue collar workers. This is also generally the case now. We all kind of take that for fact, but why is that? I always wondered, but never knew anyone who knew the answer, or just never asked anyone who did. For those of you who don’t know, the answer lies in the wind. Literally. According to Gilbert, the wind naturally blows from west to east. So in the days where factories dotted the landscape of every urban city, its smoke would float east of wherever the factory was. So, those in the west would avoid the harmful smoke, where those in the east would not. Thus, rich in the west, who could afford to choose to ignore the smoke, and the east was left to those who didn’t have a choice. Wow!
2) Why are the arrondissements of Paris arranged so impractically? I think it was John who said, “because the French are crazy”, and Gilbert answered, “actually, kind of, yes”. Its because when Haussman was first designing the new arrondissements in the mid to late 1800s, he originally wanted to arrange them in a way which would make sense, where the first started in the top left, and the rest continued left to right, with 4 or 5 in each row. However, it so happens that the 13th would have landed in the bottom left, where the rich, snobby, very superstitious French live. This was not ok with them. They ordered him to change it, so he did, to the snail-shell like pattern we know now, and it just so happens that the 13th (coincidentally, the one I live in), landed in the bottom right, the historically poorer area.
Yesterday, we also took a tour of Science Po, the famous, very selective university for Po(litical) Science. One of our future professors talked to us in French for a while, most of which kind of went over my head because 1) he spoke very fast, and 2) I was pretty exhausted. However, I did catch that the room that we sat in, when it was first built and rented as an apartment by an ambassador, was the room in which the Declaration of Paris, or Treaty of Paris, or something (dad, help?) was signed, and that document helped contribute to the United States becoming the United States. Again, WOW!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Je marche. Puis je marche plus.

"Marcher" in french means to walk, for all those who don't speak french.
As the title implies, living in Paris so far has been nothing but walking. And taking the metro, but walking wherever i can. Contrary to what I had anticipated, with the combined issues of a tight budget and all the walking, i will probably end up losing wait instead of gaining weight, despite all the bread, cheese and crepes.
Today John and I went to Monmartre, where there are probably 0 Parisians, and we just sat on the steps and talked for a while, it was really nice. After we parted, I walked to the place where I will have my "stage" (internship), at the Institut National d'Histoire de l'Art, which is part of the Biblioteque National in the 2nd. It seems pretty exciting.
Yesterday, Sam and Emily and I went to Pere Lachaise cemetary, the famous one, and its huge and beautiful. I will try to post pictures when i can.
Tomorrow we start orientation, which I am very excited about because we finally have a plan and a schedule, and we get our phones on thursday! Usually I don't mind not having a phone, but thats at Goucher, where I know where everyone generally is, I know my way around, and I speak the language. But here, where we're all spread all over the city, its really hard to make plans with people and not feel isolated. But come thursday, it will get a bit easier.
I'm feeling better, still not 100%, but I know it will come.
Alright, well I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Bonjour from Paris!

So I'm here, its my second day, and I can say that today was definitely better than yesterday. Traveling took a long time on friday/saturday. I left North Carolina at 7 am, and after many layovers and delayed flights, got to Paris at 7 am on Saturday. I was met in the airport by Gilbert, a twenty something Parisian who works with IFE, my program. We sat and waited for Natalia, Max and Kat to arrive (supposedly 2 hours later, but it ended up being only Natalia, and Kat and Max got delayed and came much later). Gilbert and I sat, to his dismay, in a Starbucks in Charles de Gaulle for about 2 1/2 hours and just talked in french. I was really surprised that I felt completely comfortable and relatively confident with my french. It was a really nice feeling. Gilbert is also pretty awesome, he is the "mec" (slang for guy, new word) who will be giving us orientation for 10 days before all the school starts. Natalia finally came, and we took a taxi to our respective foyers. Mine is in the 13th arrondissement, which is in the South East near the periphery of Paris, and its nothing fancy, but its fine. Its in a safe, relatively quiet neighborhood right next to Paris' oldest China town, and I have a single with a sink, but the bathroom and shower are communal on each floor. I'm working on personalizing it and making it nice.
Lets just say Saturday was not a fun day. I felt extremely homesick and lonely, and really wanted to come home. Max showed up pretty late, but then he and John and I went to dinner, which made things a little better, but still not really.
However, today got better. John and Max and I went for a long walk to the Seine and Notre Dame, Louvre (just outside), etc, and then I went back to the 11th to meet Sam (girl) and Emily, and we hung out a bit and then went to dinner in the Marais (3rd). I needed some girl time, so that was good. We met this wonderful and goofy french man who sat next to us at the restaurant, a regular apparently, named Christian, in his 50s i would say, who teaches weekly free french classes to foreigners. He instantly chatted us up, apparently everyone knows we're American, whatever, we are, but he was very nice, he taught us some things, and its generally really good when we get to practice with natives. Again, I was really surprised at how comfortable I was speaking. I learned:
The word for tip: pourboir
How much do you tip: "ce que tu veux" translation: whatever you want, but usually 10%
Two words for the bill: 'addition' ou 'note'. According to Christian, smart, educated girls use 'note', but the waiters said that either is really ok.
We did a lot of walking, which was good, and I'm starting to get a sense of direction, although I got turned around a lot.
Tomorrow I think I will go for a walk in the Bois St. Vincennes, right outside of Paris but near me, and then Sam, Emily and I will go shopping for useful home items, etc.
I'm starting to feel better, thinking of all the places I could go and see and such.
But still, a year is a long time, and its just the beginning...
a bientot,

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

2 more days...wait,1? Oh boy

So for a while now, I've been trying to get it through my head what I'm actually doing, which is (for those of you who aren't quite sure) is spending my junior year abroad studying in Paris. As a quick overview, my first semester I will be taking language classes 5 days a week at the Sorbonne with a group from Goucher, while having a mini-internship that is different for each individual. Mine will be at the Institut National de l'Histoire d'Art, which translates to the National Institut of Art History. (If anyone is interested in the website, just google the name, and the website will pop right up). What will I be doing there? I'm not quite sure, but from the website, it looks like something thats right up my alley, with a huge library that resembles the Library of Congress, as well as an art gallery. PLUS, its basically across the street from the Louvre, which doesn't really hurt. My second semester, I won't be taking classes, but instead will have a full internship (so instead of half a day only 4 times a week, it will be like a full time job) while researching and writing a 30-50 page paper (in french) on a topic of my choice. Oh Boy.

Thinking about all of this is a bit overwhelming, but I've realized that there is only so much you can think about something before you can't think anymore and you just have to DO IT. Well, that is what I'll be doing at 7 am or so on friday morning, when my plane leaves from Asheville for Atlanta, then on to Dulles, with a 5 hour layover before, finally, Paris. I will be living, along with one of my best guy friends, in a foyer (international student housing) in the 13th arrondissement (one of Paris' 20 different sections). Basically, I'm pretty pumped, but also a bit apprehensive.

I really hope to keep up with this blog, because it is important to me to let those people I love and who are interested in knowing what I'm doing, know! I will also be a good record for me.
So, I will try to make it interesting for y'all! (hopefully that won't be too hard).

T-minus 1 full day.
Here we go...!