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Paris, je t’aime.

I figured that was an appropriately cheesy title for my end of the semester post. 🙂

Last Thursday I officially finished the Goucher Paris Program, completing a major requirement for my major. It feels amazing to have finished, but a little scary because it makes me think about the future even more. I know what I want to do, but no clue how to go about doing it, but I’ll figure it out. Anyway, here’s a little recap of my last week.

Last weekend I spent most of my time working on my internship report (rapport du stage), presentation (exposé) about Paris and the cinema, and procrastinating. Last Monday I had my last day at my stage, unfortunately there was a quiz so I didn’t get to have one last restauration class, but I  did get to help correct some work done by the second years, talk with some new interns, and just enjoy l’atelier for one last time. That night I handed in my rapport du stage and had my last class with Marie. We learned about different French accents, ate some chocolate, and just talked about the last couple of months.  Tuesday, we went to la Bibliotheque Francois Mitterrand for an exposition of Raymond Depardon, a photographer who spent years taking pictures of small town France. The work was amazing, and I highly recommend everybody googling him for a look at his work. 😛 We spent some time in a café so that Eliza and I could do our exposés. Everything went well, so that by Tuesday afternoon I was completely free from homework and major obligations. So free, that I slept until 4pm on Wednesday. I guess three and a half months of running around, always having something to worry about, finally caught up to me. Thursday I had my last Paris-France-Paris class in the morning. We had our last lesson and then discussed what we liked and disliked about the class. Looking back, it was a very interesting class, I learned a lot about Paris, French culture, and just history in general. After class we had a little get together at IFE for our GPP group. We ate some good cheese and bread, and just relaxed after finally finishing everything. I had to leave half way through to head to my stage for their Christmas party. It was really nice to talk to everybody outside of my internship and classes, I ended up staying longer than I thought I would. I’m definitely going to try and visit l’atelier next semester and keep in touch with some people there.

Thursday night was the Foyer’s Christmas dinner. So, we all were served a candlelight dinner of couscous and chicken while listening to Moroccan music. After dinner there was a concert with Moroccan music, and we all ended up dancing and having a great time. Most unique Christmas dinner I have ever had, but it was wonderful. After the concert, we headed to a friends room for Pengpeng’s going away party. As the year ends, more and more people are heading home or away to do other programs. It one of the sad aspects of living in a foyer and studying abroad. It’s also why I’m really glad that I’m staying another semester, at least I don’t have to be the one saying goodbye for a while. And thankfully Pengpeng’s studying in England next semester, so she won’t be that far from us.

Friday night I went to La Bellevilloise with a friend to see a concert. It’s an amazing building, with multiple performance spaces and a restaurant. I also now feel I can safely say I’ve seen what Bobo (bourgeoise bohème) looks like (bobo is the french equivalent to hipster).

Saturday I spent the day at the Louvre with the group looking for mummies and some star trek reference. A good way to take advantage of the -26ans free tickets.  That night we went to Mains d’oeuvres, a cultural center on the edge of Paris where Eliza did her stage. Mains d’oeuvres was celebrating it’s 10 birthday, so there was a huge party with lots of music. We thought we were all special because Eliza got us on a list to get in for free, little did we know that every person slightly involved with the center added their 10 closest friends to the list as well. So, when we got there we had to wait in this mass of people, worse than the metro at rush hour during a strike, I literally had no control where I was going. Luckily we all made it into the building with little trouble. We listened to some good music, danced a little, and headed out before the metro closed for the night.

Looking back at these past couple months, it doesn’t necessarily feel like four months in Paris. It feels like four months in an amazing city, with great friends, and new experiences around every corner, but its not necessarily Paris City of Lights, City of Lovers, Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower and the Seine. I guess I view Paris in two ways. My days spent at museums, the Eiffel tower, Bateau Mouches and all that touristy stuff, and my days spent staying out late dancing and walking home after the metro closes, watching the Big Bang Theory with friends crammed on a tiny foyer bed, staying up late during Ramadan and becoming addicted to mint tea, walking to my stage every morning and learning all the short cuts.

I’m not sure if I could pick a favorite moment or event from this semester, but here’s some highlights.

  • Our first couple weeks here, staying up late with friends and learning how to become comfortable with French.
  • Every time we played Assassin, including the time when we had to use our Navigo cards.
  • Hearing Abba being played on the pan flute in the metro.
  • Dancing until the early morning in a boat on the Seine.
  • Just hanging out in the foyer waiting to prank Rabi for his birthday.

I could list a million more things, any time I hung out with friends, any new experience, but those ones were particularly important for me.

I thought I was gonna get all philosophical with this post and dissect my time here, but I think it’s better to just leave it as is. I am so glad I chose to study abroad and that I chose to stay in a foyer. My classes and stage improved my French and taught me things I could have never learned back in the US. My time home, here at the foyer, hanging out with friends, well my French has definitely improved, I’ve had the most incredible experiences, and thank goodness for skype or else I would never dream of leaving these people in May. I can’t wait to see what the next semester brings.

Joyeux Noel, Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays everyone! I’ll try and keep updating during the break as I hopefully use the time to really explore Paris and maybe France a bit. We’ll see where the New Year brings us. 🙂

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Very busy and good week

I can’t believe how behind I’ve gotten with my blog posts. I’ll try and remember everything that happened, but as usual it’s never a good thing when I forget to update my blog.

Sunday

I forget what I did during the day, but I spent the night watching Love Actually dubbed in French with the group. It’s amazing how many people you can fit into those tiny rooms. 🙂

Monday

Had my stage in the morning. It’s vacation week, or possibly two weeks I’m not sure, for the students. So, it was eerily quiet with only 4 or 5 of us there. I worked on translating titles of a book about restoration into French. Then I went to my grammar class, and then Marie’s class. We worked on vowels I think… The “ou” sound is still impossible for me to do, but thanks to Marie I did it correctly once, which means it’s possible, just very very hard. Oh, we also worked on the Nasal sounds and how to tell the difference between them. Then I headed back for some diner au foyer. Afterwords, Eliza and I tried to figure out what to do with our lives and ended up just getting completely sidetracked. I’ve reached the point where I can’t keep going through my education with no goal other than to speak French. It’s not enough. You can get away with that a bit in the US, but I want to work in France after school, and they know what they want to do in High School and generally stick to it. It’s not exactly professional of me to go around saying “I have no clue what I want to do” and the longer I take to figure it out, the longer it takes until I actually get to do what I want to do. Silly American education system…

Tuesday

Very very crazy day. Started out by getting up early, taking my sweet time getting ready, and then realizing that I had to make it not the 20 minute walk to IFE, but the 30-40 minute metro ride across town. My Paris-France-Paris class was out in one of the banlieus and I had completely forgotten. Luckily, we made it to the train station before our train left, and if we had made it early we would have just been sitting around waiting for it to leave. We spent the day walking around the Cité-Jardin of Suresnes. A cité-jardin is basically a village built to house workers. The unique thing about it is, for the first time they didn’t just build housing, but schools, a dance hall, retirement home, and parks as well. The buildings were considered very modern and luxurious at the time, but the rent was reasonable so that workers could live there. Unfortunately, the Cité-Jardin of Suresnes is now a wealthy neighborhood, and most workers have to live in the crowded banlieus. But the idea was revolutionary and worked until the housing turned private. If only things like that happened more often.

After walking around for three hours, we trekked back to Saint-Michel where I grabbed some chevre pizza and headed to my grammar class. My grammar class continues to bug me because nobody really respects the professor or the class, and a lot of the homework is basically busy work. But, we also do Dictées (professor dictates part of a text and we have to write it out using correct grammar, agreement, and spelling) and other stuff that a French geek like me considers fun. 🙂 After class, it was time to run to IFE for another Paris-France-Paris class. Because our professor was sick one day, we decided the best way to make it up was to have some night classes. Good idea, but 4 hours of the same professor in one day is kinda rough. Especially this Tuesday because at night we had our first test! And what was it on? Everything! It was essay format and we basically had to write out everything we could remember and then try and prove some kind of point with it. Luckily, we all finished the test on time, and I was all ready to make it back to the foyer in time for dinner and relax with friends when our professor decides to finally explain what we need to do for our presentations. Not only did this take another half hour, but it stressed me out even more because it turns out my presentation has to be the most complicated 15 minutes I have ever heard of. Once we finally escaped, Eliza and I took the bus back to the foyer, bought some chicken from the Muslim boucher down the street so we didn’t have to cook, scrounged up some salad from the supermarket to at least try and be healthy, got all our supplies into the common room, were about to sit down and eat, annddd the fire alarm goes off. Everyone in the building has to evacuate and walk down the street, leaving out meal sitting on the table untouched. Once we got the word that we could return to the foyer, we all headed back inside and were corralled into the common room, where we were given a speech about fire safety. Very informative and good stuff, they even smoked up one of the side rooms so we could see how quickly the danger spreads, however this was around 9:30, and I was very hungry. Once that ended Eliza and I were finally able to eat our dinner, which thankfully was very very good. 🙂 We got to end the day by talking to friends and relaxing, but it was still by far my longest day in Paris. I just couldn’t catch a break.

Wednesday

Had my stage in the morning, where I had a meeting with the director and the head of my program to discuss how my stage is going so far. Basically, all seems well except I of course don’t talk enough :-). One frustrating point, the head of my program, Thomas, always stresses how we should try and eat lunch with the workers at our stage. Which I’m all for, but it’s always very hard because everybody eats late and a random times. Thomas asked the director about lunch at my stage, and she said that I’m welcome to eat with them and they always eat around 1. I thought, sweet, I’ve finally figured it out, I can start eating with them and practice more French and it’ll be good. However, that day nobody at at 1, the majority of the group left around 12, 1230 mysteriously, not to go buy lunch, and didn’t return until after I left at 1:30. So, to future GPPers, if you get frustrated by your stage, we’ve all been though it. Stages aren’t always the perfect experience where you become besties with your boss and have a job lined up for the future. A lot of the time they’re confusing and random, but as long as you get something out of the experience, it’s all good. And remember, always talk to the IFE group if you have any problems, they really are incredibly nice and there to help you with any problems.

After my stage I headed to grammar class and the back to the foyer for dinner. I honestly can’t remember if anything interesting happened that night.. Gotta work on that memory of mine.

Thursday

Went to my stage in the morning, where I translated a blurb about the Atlelier into English and a pamphlet about the Atelier into English. After that I headed to my Grammar class and then back to the foyer. For dinner, it was “Jazz night” with a New Orleans theme. Now, this doesn’t mean we had real Cajun food, but it does mean that we had a candlelight edible dinner with music. Very classy for the foyer. And it was the first time I cleaned my plate at a foyer dinner. My tummy was very happy. 🙂 After dinner, there was a live Jazz band in the common room. The music was good, but it felt a little off for us Americans since the french woman who was singing didn’t know how to move like most Jazz singers would. As much as she tried, she couldn’t get passed this all angles, barely moving French stereotype. But she had a very good voice. Then I had a wonderful skype session with the goucherites instead of doing my homework and went to bed. I still find it hard to balance keeping in touch with friends (which helps keep me sane), hanging out with foyer people (which keeps me happy), and all the things I have to do for my program (which keeps me graduating on time).

Friday

Another crazy day, but in a very good way. Started with my stage, which was incredibly empty since almost everybody is on vacation. I continued translating, but just spent most of the time being frustrated as I watched a very typical French workplace, they just sat and gossiped and smoked cigarettes until noon, while I actually did my work because I wanted to leave early. I know the concept behind how the French work, and it makes sense and everything, but it’s really hard to change my work habits and how I think. But, I got to leave early and run some errands, finally finding nuts in the grocery store, had to look next to the wine and party supplies, and buying stamps for all the birthday cards that are now a month behind. As I got in the metro to head to class, I could hear the cries of strikers heading to the manifestation and music from the guy who always plays bob marley songs in the metro, and it just hit me really hard that I’m really in France, I don’t know if that makes any sense, but it was just one of those moments. In my grammar class, we worked on using “en” to replace words with “de” and how to make the sentence flow instead of sounding incredibly awkward. After class I headed to a library to try and get some research done for my exposé. The french libraries are good and all, but they kinda remind me of the southington library before they renovated it. I checked out two books about Belleville and then headed home. There was a workshop going on to learn Japanese cooking, but I decided to head to an Italian restaurant with some friends instead. It turned out to be more a pizzaria than an Italian restaurant, but the food was still really good, and the company too. Afterwords, I chilled with some friends in the common room, and we somehow ended up watching The Patriot. I spent half the film trying to explain who the colonists were and why the british we attacking. Then I hung out with some Goucherites visiting Eliza and called it a night. All in all a very good night.

Saturday

I can’t believe I finally caught up to today, but here it is. So far, I woke up, did laundry, researched what libraries I should go to, and wrote this. It’s very frustrating because the libraries I need are closed Sunday and Monday. So I either go today, or rush there after class during the week. At this point, I think I’ll choose the later because I’m really tired and should probably look through the books I have now before getting more.

Tonight, my Goucher friend John is coming to visit from Scotland. But
I don’t actually know what time he’ll get here because the strikes have completely screwed up transportation.

Anyway, hope everybody has a wonderful weekend and a happy Halloween!

J’ai besoin de dormir

I promise I will actually update soon. However, today was a little too crazy to have time to actually write what’s going on.

Instead, I leave you with a link that explains how I’m currently feeling about traveling in Europe.

http://blogs.goucher.edu/ois/2010/07/27/fair-des-voyages/#more-17

This is a former GPPer who lived in the same foyer I’m in now. While I never thought of food the way he does, I do think my experiences at the foyer are just as important as any time spent adventuring through Europe. I have nine months here, I’m sure I’ll travel at some point. But for now, I barely have time to explore Paris let alone Europe.

Louvring it

I’ve been horrible at updating my blog this week. So, I’ll try to remember everything that went on since my last update.

Wednesday I went to my internship (which in French is called un stage, so if I slip that’s why). The director was there so she actually gave me stuff to do. We cleaned out the classroom because classes will be starting this week and they needed somewhere for the professors to put their things. So I cleaned out cabinets and ran up and down the stairs with bags of garbage. She started adding paintings, photos, and drawings to the pile so I asked her if she really wanted to throw out the paintings, because they were beautiful. She said yes, but if I wanted to take some I could. So, I wound up with 2 paintings, 2 drawings, some watercolors, and a bunch of random photos. I put them up in my room and it finally feels like home, which is funny because I don’t exactly have oil paintings in my room at home. Guess it’s just the parisienne influence. After the massive clean out I took the subway, with all the paintings, to my class. Surprisingly nobody looked at me funny for carrying a pile of paintings in the subway. Maybe they made me look more artsy and parisienne :-P.  We continued to work on vowels in my phonetics class and the subjonctif in my grammaire class. Once classes were finished I headed to the foyer to eat dinner before going out for a play. During dinner I talked to one of my Frenchie friends about smoking. He said he had his first cigarette at 12, smoked occasionally at 13, and actually started smoking for real at 15. And he knows people who started at 8. It’s crazy. Anyway, that night I went to see the play “A deux lits du delit” with Lauren and Erin, friends from my Sorbonne class. It turned out to cost only 4 euros, although we could only see half the stage since we were in the cheap seats. It was a very funny play about 2 men who go to a hotel to meet their mistresses, who turn out to be the other man’s wife. I didn’t get all the jokes, but I understood the majority of it. We’re going to try and make Wednesday night play night, because it’s easy to get cheap tickets as young students in Paris.

Thursday I spent my internship scanning papers into the computer. Also, I got to help make some sort of resin for “fixing the paintings.” No clue what I actually did but it was cool. I left mon stage a little early since, guess what, another strike! Go France! This time it didn’t really affect my time in the metro at all, it was mostly on the outskirts of paris and RER lines. But, since I walk to the Bastille metro I got to see some of the manifestation, which basically consisted of a bunch of giant balloons which some name on it I didn’t recognize, and a bunch of people trying to hand out fliers or sell me stuff. So, I got to class fine and honestly can’t remember exactly what we learned Thursday. We might have started talking about questions and cinema in my Grammaire class. Thursday night we couldn’t eat at the foyer restaurant because of the strike, so one of the foyer boys was kind enough to cook for Eliza and me. We had something which involved putting slices of bread with ham, mozzarella cheese, chevre (i think) and tomatoes on it in the oven. It was really really good and filling. Then I just hung out with the foyer guys and did my homework.

Friday I spent the time at mon stage starting to translate the website. The girl before me did most of the work, but there’s still a lot to finish, and it’s tricky because there’s all the complicated art terms. It’s fun though because I really have to think about what I’m doing.  Then I headed to my class, again no problem with the strike even though it was still going on. In my phonetics class we continued with vowels, which are really tough for me. You have to think about where you put your tongue, when open your mouth, and where your lips should be. And it can change three times in one word, but you can’t talk all sing songy like we do in the US. In my grammaire class we continued to work on questions and discussed films. Hopefully tomorrow I’ll be going to see one of the films we talked about for class. After class I went to a cafe to catch up with the GPPers and Jessica, and then rushed back to the foyer only to discover that the restaurant was closed because of the strike, so we ate kebabs instead. Then I rushed to the Louvre to meet up with Lauren and Erin because on Friday nights the Louvre is free to almost everyone, unless your old and not european. It was cool to just wander around with no worries even if it was only for half an hour.

Saturday, I woke up and headed to Cyberphone to buy some more minutes. The more people I meet the faster I use up my minutes. But at the same time I don’t want to not send texts because it’s really cool and important to text in French. Then I headed to the foyer brunch. I got there late so I didn’t really eat to much. But, apparently the French eat pancakes with caramel. It wasn’t bad but it just didn’t feel right. I had planned on going shopping and seeing a movie, but my friend bailed on me. So, I ended up playing pingpong most of the day and then going out dancing with the crew. We went out to a bar, which was nice because it meant an earlier night since the bar closed early.  I love dancing, but the bar was a little too crowded, so I honestly had a better time just walking back to the foyer afterword. We missed the metro, so it was a 40 minute walk or something like that. It’s nice just to talk to people and relax.

Sunday

My friend bailed on my again for the movies. So, thankfully Eliza was incredibly nice and went with me. We saw “Des Hommes et Des Dieux” which is about 7 monks who stayed in Algeria during the war. It was good but it was really heavy and deep. I think seeing it once was enough.

Today, because this post took about 4 days to finish, I started my stage by sitting in on part of the first class. Basically all the students introduced themselves, the heads of the atelier introduced themselves, and they said all the rules of l’atelier. After that the directrice showed me a painting that still had paper stuck to it from the packaging they put on it for transport. It was stuck to the border, and she had me make a solution to help take it off, and then use it on the painting and  peal the paper off. I’m not sure if that made any sense, but I was working on an actual painting, moving it around and everything and it was awesome.

Then I headed to my phonetics class and worked on open vowels, not fun. I love my phonetics class, but it makes me really mad that we didn’t do any exercises like this in High School or College. It feels like I didn’t really start learning French until now, and now I’m really behind. It’s not actually true, it’s just frustrating.

In my grammar class we worked on how to make phrases comparing things. Like, compared to his brother, paul is short. Which was kind of boring until we used it to have a very very animated conversation about whether TV is good or not. It was the first time we actually stayed in class to long, so hopefully we’ll do activities like that more often.

Then I headed to class with Marie at IFE. She started teaching us phonetics, which was good and confusing because she teaches it a little different than my prof at the Sorbonne. We had some fun doing French tongue twisters and just trying to pronounce these crazy French vowels.

For dinner at the foyer I ate tater tots and carrots because the meat did not look good today. It might be a bad habit to start skipping the meat, but I’d rather stick with my ham or chicken sandwiches at lunch and skip mystery fish for dinner.  I sat with the normal crew, and we had a heated discussion about films which was awesome. And then we got on the topic of pronunciation. I love when people correct my French because I want to speak well, but I’m so frustrated about all the different U forms. I wish I could magically wake up with the ability to say Cours correctly.

Now I’m exhausted for some reason. I think I’m just going to go to bed even though it’s only 10:20.

Bonne nuit!  Sorry if this post was written randomly or poorly, it took a couple days to finish.