Tuesday, September 22, 2009

So Much to Tell, So Little Time to Write!

Well gosh, the time has finally come when I don’t have oodles and oodles of extra time with which to write daily blog entries, but alas, that’s probably a good thing. I’ll start with this weekend, because it truly was a lovely weekend.
This past Friday night, I was exhausted after a long week of classes and getting up early, and I wasn’t really planning on doing much of anything. However, when I hear a good proposition of something spontaneous, sometimes, just sometimes, I like to take advantage of it. A bunch of the kids, French and otherwise, were going to a bar in the 20th (arrondissement) to listen to some gypsy jazz. That sounded pretty great to me, so we left at around 10:30, and we found ourselves at a quaint Moroccan looking bar with a cave-looking basement where the concert was. It was so great! The band consisted of a guitarist, a bassist (who also played the accordion), a clarinet player, and violin player (who also played the drums), and a very jubilant, bouncy lady who had a beautifully smoky gypsy voice. It was an intimate concert, and both the band and the crowd had loads of energy. I also tasted my first kir cassis, which is basically white wine with current flavored liquor = DELICIOUS. Did some schmoozing (sp?) afterwards, and it was an allover very enjoyable night.
Saturday morning, I slept in, and it was glorious. This past weekend happened to be the “journées de patrimoine”, which meant that basically everything that is run by “l’etat” (which to the French is THE WORLD, or just rather the very centralized French government), is free and open to the public. This includes all public museums as well as the presidents house, the “hotel de ville” (city hall) for the mayor of Paris, and a slew of other tours that are offered. John, Sam, Emily, Kat, Natalia and I took a tour of Bercy Village, which used to be a town, but is currently a park. To be honest, I wasn’t really listening very closely because I was too taken by the park itself. I didn’t even feel like I was in Paris – it didn’t have the extremely manicured feel that is so present in the Luxembourg Gardens, (although it is very well taken care of), and it also had a very modern appeal to it. You can see in the pictures, of which I have many more of (Sam and I couldn’t help ourselves but to have a photo shoot…). We spent most of the afternoon in the park, eating ice cream while watching Sam ride a carousel (surrounded by 4 and 5 year olds, mind you). That night, a few of us went to Monmartre to eat crepes and drink wine while watching the crowd of people get progressively drunker as the night went on. Oh, what a life.
Sunday morning, John had reserved two spots for us to take a walking tour of the neighborhood around the Musée de la Vie Romantique in the 9th (how romantic). We saw the ateliers of: Eugene Delacroix (famous romanticist painter), Georges Sand (writer), Fredric Chopin (composer), and Richard Wagner (composer). The lady giving the tour was fantastic (dad you probably would have really liked her, and mom you probably would have found the tour fascinating). I then picked up Sam, dropped off John, and the two of us girls made our way to the Bois de Vincennes (bois=forest/woods), just outside the city limits of Paris. Ahh, how wonderful to be in untamed (kind of) nature. There was also a huge, medieval chateau there, which we walked through. We then found the “parc floral”, charmed our way into paying 2.50 euro instead of 5 euro (and when I say charmed, I mean showed the guard our student cards and he gave us the discount price he gives every other student), and we meandered through gardens of seasonal flowers and dahlias=MY FAVORITE FLOWER EVER. There were rows and rows of them, it was amazing! After hours of walking through flowers and woods, we dragged our tired legs to the metro to return back to Sam’s foyer, and she, John and I cooked dinner. Like my use of charmed, I use “cook” here very loosely. We bought bag salad, to which we added dressing, we bought an already cooked rotisserie chicken, but we did cook the rice! Anyways, it was much cheaper than anything else, and delicious. I then went home to get some sleep before the (drum role….) first day of my internship!
The lowdown: I work at the INHA (Institut National de l’Histoire de l’Art). I have my own desk (score), my own computer (um, score), and a fellow stagiaire (intern) whom I haven’t met yet. Oh, and I already have my own project, which is pretty darn cool. Still unknown intern Florent (boy, who until I read this over again, I realized I was calling Flaubert) and I are supposed to work on creating a brochure that will propose different study abroad programs to universities in the U.S., Canada, and certain Asian countries. The INHA wants to attract different universities to hold classes, etc, at their site for a few months out of the summer. Florent and I will propose the idea in the brochure, tell a little about the organization, throw out a few ideas, but then it’s from the feedback and interest that we get from the schools that we use to create our programs. Pretty neat, eh? I have no idea how much work this will involve, or what else I’m going to be doing; all I know is that its way better than serving coffee and answering phones (in French).
This upcoming weekend, Sam, Emily and I are going on an excursion to see the Chateaux in the Loire Valley! The trip is organized by an international students club, and it was pretty cheap for travel, lodgment and tours. I’m pretty pumped.
Oh, I’m also making a lot of friends at the foyer and in class. Its really nice to chat with people at dinner, there are a few French girls who help me with my speaking whom I really like a lot, and a few Americans in my language classes that I also really like.
All in all, things are pretty good here. Sorry this was so long, but a lot has happened, and hopefully you were interested enough that you are currently reading this sentence! If not, its ok I understand, but then again, you wouldn’t know that because you didn’t get this far, so oh well.
Until next time, when I’ll probably have stories of provincial escapades and tons of pictures of castles,

Bisous bisous!


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Yay! and grrr

This is going to be a short post because im writing on a french computer, and even though just a few letters are moved around, im just about to chuck this thing out the window. Buuuuut i just wanted to update everyone on 2 exciting things:
1) i just bought a ticket to go to the Loire Valley through an organization for young international students. Im going with Sam and Emily and im pretty stoked. And it was a really good price.
2) I LOVE MY INTERNSHIP! or at least what i know of it. i had my interview today, and it was great. alright i cant take this anymore, i promise ill write more when my lazy old american hands have access to my beautiful american keyboard.
But thqnks for listening to ,y ra,blings even though it zqs short qnd i cqnt zrite everything i zqnt to becquse this is zhaqt happens1
ya. thats what happens. ugh.
a tres bientot

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Week Come and Gone

I think it’s been about a week since I’ve written, and it seems that the time is starting to go by a little quicker here! The first week of classes came and went. I think I wrote about my French professor, but I don’t think I mentioned my phonetics class. Well, I’m taking a phonetics class. What does that actually involve, you might ask? Well, I wondered the same thing before it started. It’s broken up into 2 half-hour sections (that fly by in a matter of minutes). The first section is in a classroom, and we learn a quick lesson of, lets say, how to connect certain words when speaking, its called ‘enchainment’ in French, like chaining words together (you see the root ‘chain’ in the word). Our professor is named Aude, and she is very classy and always wears high heels and dresses and chic sweaters. She is also very Parisian, and this being the case, while speaking she connects her words like it’s her job (ha, it is!) making it very hard for us to distinguish the individual words in the mush of enchainments. Apparently that is an especially Parisian thing to do. So she repeats sentences, some a bit long, and we’re asked to repeat the sentence after her. Sometimes it’s quite comical because, if we can’t distinguish the actual words in her sentence, we just have to go on the sounds we’re hearing, and sometimes it’s a bit hard to remember all those sounds, so the class just ends up mumbling the last few bits. I can tell she’s trying not to laugh, but not in a mean way at all; it is really funny! The second section is in a language lab where we each sit at our own cubicle with fancy recording devices built into the desks. We are each given our own headset with a little mouthpiece, which makes me feel like I’m a part of air traffic control – I think I enjoy it a little more than I should. Aude first speaks examples of the rules that we just learned into the headset, and we repeat after her. After we’re done, we get to rewind the tape and hear ourselves speak in order to judge how we’re doing. That process is repeated over. I like it; it’s actually kind of fun.
I’ve also been meeting some new friends, which is a really nice comfort (note: this does NOT at all discredit my amazing Goucher friends that are here with me! Sam, you’re probably reading this and I love you do death, Kat, same goes for you if you are…). Meg and Molly live in my foyer and they are in IFE, but in the program that I’ll be doing next semester. Then there’s another Meg in both my phonetics and French classes who’s actually from San Francisco and goes to UCLA. En plus, I went with John the other night to dinner at his friend Pia’s apartment. She’s his friend from home, and she’s also living in Paris this semester. She lives in a funky little studio apartment in the 6th, and I love it and I want it. She invited her 2 friends Davis and Zoe from her program, and we had a lovely evening! We all just seemed to click really well, it was really great.
What’s on the agenda for next week, you might ask? Well, I have to write a small paper today for my class tomorrow, and we have our first weekly IFE classes starting Wednesday. We have a phonetics/methodology class on Wednesday evening, and a culture class called Paris-France-Paris on Friday morning. Wednesday is going to be busy once our internship starts, oy: Internship from 9-12:30/1 roughly, then phonetics from 1:30-2:30, then French from 3-5, then Methodology from 6:30-8! That’s a busy day, yo. But I’m kind of excited to be busy; its felt like vacation here for a while. I also have my interview for my internship this week – I’m so excited to start that!
Even though I speak English for the most part when I’m with American friends, I’m starting to feel like I live here, and not like a tourist, which is really nice. But don’t worry Mom and Dad, I’m not speaking English all the time! I’ve actually been told by a few French people that my French is really good, which always makes me feel nice :)
Alright, that’s about it – I should get going on my little bitty paper. Then I think this afternoon, Kat and I will go to the Louvre for a bit. Mmm, yay.
Thank you all for continuing to read, it really means a lot!
Love love love,

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Fun Weekend! (Boring Title)

This past weekend was the last weekend before classes started, so I wanted to do things that I maybe wouldn’t have time to do after. Saturday morning, Kat, Sam and I walked along the boulevard Champs Elysees for a while, taking advantage of the fact that we are still pretty new here, so we are allowed to do touristy things like that. In the afternoon, I met up with Fanny, my host sister in Montpellier during my study abroad trip to the South of France in summer ’06. She just happened to be in Paris for a few days now, so we met and talked and walked for hours. It was so nice to see her again, and although we only knew each other for one week, after a half an hour, it feels like we’ve been friends for years! So strange. It was great getting to practice my French with her. After a while, we met up with her best friend Lucy, whom I also knew in Montpellier. It was so wonderful! That was a good day.

(Fanny is the blonde and Lucy is the brunette)
Sunday was free museum day! So, my first priority…The Musee d’Orsay. Ahhhhh it was like heaven. We were third in line (well, actually, Sam and Kat were, Max and I just hopped in with them as the doors were opening), and for about 5 sacred minutes we were able to be in the museum when practically no one was! It was magical.

We saw the Max Ernst exhibit – he was a collagist during the 20s and 30s. I don’t quite understand his stuff, but anyone who’s interested should really Google it. The prints were so interesting. He took old prints from the 1800s and collaged the images he wanted to create a very bizarre, but apparently very meaningful image. Then made our way upstairs to the Impressionist floor…AHHHHHH IT WAS AMAZING. I couldn’t get it all in fast enough.

This, the Van Gogh, was the most amazing painting to see in person. FAVORITE.
I wanted to stare at each painting forever, but I also wanted to see everything at the same time. It definitely warrants many return trips. Later in the day, Sam and I set off for the 16th, the historically (and currently) very rich area in search of the Monet museum. We found it, but to our dismay the museum was definitely not ‘gratuit’ (free) because it is ‘privee’, and apparently free museum day is not an all inclusive event. We decided to forgo that (for now), save our euros and rest our tired feet at a nearby very cute park. We must have lounged for 3 hours, talking, people watching, dog watching, etc. It was lovely.

The girls on the balcony of the museum

I'm sorry if this is creepy but this dog at the park was the cutest thing i've ever seen.
Monday, first day of class. I got to one of the Sorbonne’s locations at 10:30 to pick up my class schedule and books. I’m in advanced from 3 to 5 pm. In between schedule pick up and class, we found (finally, we had been on this quest for days) PATTES DANS LE BOITE. Alright, that’s probably a terrible spelling of pattes (?), but it means pasta in a box, and it was AMAZING. A much needed break from baguette sandwiches (oh aren’t we so deprived?). I then peroused in a ‘librarie’ (bookstore) for a few hours, and then went off to class. There are about 20 people in the class, 2 boys and the rest girls, from…San Francisco, Brazil, Sweden, New York, Baltimore (us), Australia, England and Columbia. It was really cool hearing everyone’s little ‘about me’. It’s going to be basically a language/grammar course, but the professor is really sweet and witty. I think it will be good. On Wednesdays we also have a phonetics class, which is eh, but ok. I can’t wait till our internships start!
Just as a note, yesterday i got a library card (which i've been wanting to do) and I checked out 3 books on the history of Paris and different interesting historical facts on each arrondissement. I'm so excited!
Ummm, that’s about it for me I think. I still miss home, but I’m trying to be here! I’m just trying to live one day at a time, and do things I enjoy instead of doing things I think I should be doing. I want to take an art class, I want to read a lot, I want to go to a lot of museums, I want to meet interesting people.
Thank you all for taking an interest in my adventures :)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Rise of Fall

Its beginning to look a lot like Autumn…or feel that way anyways. Today I got to wear my colder weather, fall clothes: sweater, jeans and boots, which I was very happy about, because I brought mainly cooler weather clothes (and those are the more fashionable ones as well).
Yesterday, Wednesday, was the day for our Sorbonne tests, those that would determine what level we are put in for our language classes. It was a mix of oral comprehension, multiple choice written grammar questions, and a little essay. I didn’t really think I did all that hot, which wasn’t really a problem because its not graded, and we will be in a class which is right for us. After the test, we had a very small interview with a grader, who asked us why we were in Paris, for how long, all that, and although he didn’t do this with the students before me, he talked with me a little longer and took the time to grade my test. (Maybe it was because I didn’t ask him to repeat each of his questions twice, or maybe it was just because there weren’t a lot of other students after me). As I had thought, I did alright, and he said I was in between levels strong intermediate and weak advanced. He asked me which I preferred, and I asked if I was put in advanced and it was too hard, could I change easily? He said yes of course, so I chose advanced. I think that’s level 4, and the highest is superior, level 5. I imagine that most of us are in one or the other, or strong intermediate. We’ll see how that goes.
Later in the day, I went out for crepes with John and Marielle, a friend John made from his foyer. She’s French, from just near Lyon. We went out in the Marais, and according to Marielle, the crepes we had were ‘the real deal’. Oh good. It was nice to go out with a native French speaker and just speak French and be understood.
Today we had another class, this one a little farther from my comfort zone of art history: political science, more specifically, the organization of French government and political structures. The prof, Mathieu, was very nice, clear, and very knowledgeable, but it was a bit harder for me to keep up. Nonetheless, I learned a lot.
We then ate a huge Indian food lunch, which was delicious, and walked towards the Parc des Buttes Chaumont, located in the 19th (very north) and the biggest park in Paris. It was really beautiful, but a bit strange because it was ‘built’ during the 19th century, during the Romantic era, and the architects wanted it to look very ‘sauvage’ (wild or untamed). So it has that look, but it is actually very planned and domesticated. I think Gilbert said it was originally a quarry where they mined the stone for many of the buildings. The even constructed a ragged looking cliff, and put an ancient looking temple on the top. It seemed to me kind of a mix between a nice park and Disneyland. We then walked through Belleville, and now I am back at my foyer. Tomorrow is the last day of our orientation, and then we start classes at the Sorbonne on Monday! It will be nice to finally have a schedule.
You know, it’s really interesting. I’ve never been faced with how American I actually am until I came here. I mean, it makes perfect sense, but I just didn’t think I would be faced with it so clearly. The eating habits f the French, for example, is where I see the biggest contrast, I think. The French take food very seriously, as I already knew. Food is associated with relaxation and is never mixed with work, school, or transit. This is the complete opposite of the American lifestyle in which I was raised. We’re always on the go. We eat on the bus, in the car, grab a coffee and drink it on the way to work. That’s just how we do things, and I never though to question it. At school, we finish up our homework while we eat breakfast, or we grab a meal to go because we don’t have time to eat. I have found that the French find this appalling and completely illogical. No on eats on the metro, no one munches their baguette while walking I was really frustrated the first week because I really wanted coffee, but with the exception of Starbucks (American), there was absolutely nowhere to order a coffee ‘a emporter’ (to go). In talking to Jerome, an art history professor and one of our instructors during our orientation, he said that it shocked him just to see us drinking coffee during his class. I don’t think he was insulted; it was just so backwards to him. It was then that I realized how built into me that on-the-go attitude is. To be honest, I love getting coffee on the go, ad drinking it in class. It doesn’t make it less enjoyable to me; I almost feel that I enjoy the class more because I’m drinking something good while in it, if that makes any sense at all. It’s just so different, I can’t even get over it. Americans snack all the time, it doesn’t matter where we are, we still enjoy the food. On a similar vein, it was funny because during Jerome's class, he said that we could take a ‘petite pose’ (break), and we all assumed, ok 5 minutes. No, his version of a little break was 20 minutes! I always knew how much the French, and Europeans in general, appreciated and valued time to relax and enjoy food and friends, but I never realized how much of that opposite culture was built into me. I wonder if that will change after 9 months of being here. I have no idea, but it will be interesting to find out, as well as to discover other ways in which I am, actually, very un-French.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Smattering of photos

A bit more learning, a bit more exploration, and a few thousand bones?

So, i have yesterday and today to recount.
Oh and the first picture is from Sunday, when we visited Monmartre after the Marche aux Puces. So thats Kat and I on the pelouse (lawn).
Yesterday was our learning day. Although we haven't officially started classes, we had two that were part of our orientation yesterday. The first was right up my alley. The professor was great, and he taught us a 3 1/2 hour course on art history, society, and power. It was so interesting. I learned so much I can't even recall it all right now! So its good I took a few pages of notes. Then we had lunch, and discovered the wonders of Monoprix. Its kind of like target, which is great. Our second class was a bit less...well thrilling. It wasn't boring exactly, because it was very useful and I learned a lot, but it also was definitely not exciting. It was on french methodology, as it relates to French scholarship and dissertation writing. It made me a bit nervous to be a student in France, I'm not gonna lie.
At about 3:30, we were let off for the day, so Sam, Kat and I indulged in a bit of retail therapy... I got 3 items of clothing that are original in my wardrobe, useful for my internship, and are very Parisian. yay. The rest of the day was spent doing girly things, something i quite enjoyed.

Today was a very different day. It rained, quite a lot, to start. However, we didn't mind it much for a few hours, because we visited Paris' catacombs! I think i'll have nightmares, not about all the bones, but rather about descending what seemed like never ending dizzying set of stairs.

It was good to see once, but I don't really think I'd like to revisit it. After the visit, we had a few hours to kill, so we walked a bit in the rain and then found a cafe where we passed a few hours having a rare filling meal. At the time of our rendez-vous with the art-historian gallery owner (who also taught at Carleton, I asked him if he knew about frisbee, only some of you will appreciate the reference. He said no, he didn't know of it at carleton. dommage). Instead of doing our walking tour of the east, we sat in another cafe for almost 2 hours while he talked to us about some of the areas of Paris, the arts scene, and all that. Again, I loved it. He then showed us the way to his contemporary art gallery in the 10th, very cool stuff. I usually prefer a bit older genres of art, but the way he explained it, and the motivations behind the artists work I really appreciated.

After the visit, Kat, John and I took a walk from the 10th to the 3rd and the 4th, where we stopped at the best boulangerie in Paris and ate on the bank of a canal. It was pretty beautiful. We did some more walking, and I made my way back to my foyer where I got on the internet and saw/talked to Mary, Kate, and Tabby! (Ha, not MaryKate, mm ya...). It was WONDERFUL.
Tomorrow we have our placement tests for the Sorbonne...at the Luxembourg gardens of all places. Strange, but Parisian?
Today was better than yesterday, which was better than Monday. I'm trying to take everyone's advice and take it day by day.
Until the next post!