Dublin, the boy in Paris, Christmas at home, 21st Birthday, and Chinese New Years, oh my!

Posted on May 20, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |

So the post a day didn’t exactly happen, because of finals and a nasty cold that I can’t quite quit, but I’m pushing through to try and document as much as possible of what happened during my long absence, before getting to the good stuff of my amazing spring break trip of awesome (pictures are already up on my flickr if you are curious and want a sneak peek.) Anyways, I’ve decided that the best ways to get you all caught up is via a short picture diary of the major events of December 2008 to January 2009.

First stop, Dublin: December 5th to December 7th

Travel Companions: Jamie and Alix

Where we stayed: Charles Stuart Guesthouse in a huge triple room. Very friendly people plus tasty traditional Irish breakfast every morning.

Favorite thing eaten: Sausages and Grand Marnier hot chocolate at the Temble Bar Food Market.

What we did: Saw Malahide Castle, went on the Guinness Factory Tour, walked around St. Stephen’s Green, and window shopped on Grafton Street.

Favorite memory: Going to a club where Jamie and I went to grab drinks and turned around to ask Alix what she wanted only to find her making out with the HOTTEST guy I’ve ever seen. Like epically hot. So sad I don’t have a picture.

(more…)

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St. Paddy’s Day, Paris style…

Posted on March 18, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

My oh my, two posts in one day. Whatever are you all going to do? Or more properly, what are y’all gonna do?

As it is the great Irish drinking holiday today, also known as St. Patrick’s Day, C and I decided, after getting out of class at 8, that something had to be done. I got home to find my host brothers, Simon and Josua, as well as two of Simon’s friends in our kitchen preparing to (aka drinking before) head over to my university in Paris, where there was a general meeting for students active their universities’ strikes.

By the way, the strikes have continued and spread. Several days ago, students took over the Sorbonne and barred the doorways. Today, the Sorbonne occupation spread to Sciences Po, the university I took classes at last semester. My older host brother, Simon, is a bit of a hippie and quite active in the grève at his fac. The more I learn about the movement, the more I support their aims. Plus, it’s been pretty fun to be in a country where it is perfectly acceptable to be a socialist and where strikes and protests are a part of everyday life.

Anyways, so C and I hopped on over to our local Monoprix (a supermarket chain that is absolutely partout in France) and joined the many students buying copious amounts of alcohol. We picked up some Bailey’s and some hot chocolate mix and ran back home to make some Bailey’s hot chocolate to throw in a thermos before heading back to the fac to meet up with Simon. Once we got there, we hung out for a bit enjoying some live ska (please come back ska, I miss you so) until the music stopped and crowds started to get a bit rowdy.

We finally found Simon and his friends, just as people were starting to get riled up about the possibility of a march. We hung back a bit, seeing what was going to happen, before deciding to join up with the march, which involved a run that ended up being way longer than I expected, but we managed nonetheless. The manif itself was amazing. C and I walked from our house, near Bibliothéque Mitterrand, down through the Quartier Chinois and Place d’Italie all the way to Cardinal Lemoine. The students originally intended to march all the way to the Assemblée Nationale, but as we were leaving we heard several say that they would instead be stopping at the Sorbonne.

It was a relatively small manif, maybe 200 or 300 students, but it was still amazing to see how politically active French students are in comparison to their American counterparts. While there were a few students who got a bit violent, stealing trashcans and throwing beer bottles at windows, the group was relatively peaceful. All along the way, we saw people hanging out of their apartment windows and shouting along with us, as if recalling the days when they too took to the streets at midnight. My favorite was probably this white-haired man in his late 60s, waiting at a bus stop, just watching everything and smiling. I even took part in the chanting, whenever I managed to understand what was being said. Mostly though, I just sat back and watched and tried to keep an eye on Simon.

There is going to be a grève generale on Thursday, which will be significantly more widespread than this relatively small protest. It will be interesting to compare tonight’s student movement with the workers’ movements going on on Thursday. Seeing the French traditions of grève and manifestation has certainly been an interesting experience. There are times when it seems like everything in society is affected, from the metro to my thirteen year old host sister, who occasionally chants at the dinner table “collégiens en grève,” which basically means “middleschoolers on strike.”

And there you have the omniprescence of the strike and the political protest in France, so common that even the middleschoolers participate, if only for a day off of school.

(Pic comes from a trip to the Guinness factory in Dublin that I visited in December, more about that trip another time.)

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Still Alive!

Posted on February 25, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

I figured I should check in so that you all know I’m still alive and haven’t totally forgotten about my website. Clearly my New Year’s Resolution to blog once a week has fallen through (ugh has it really been a month). I’ve also been crappy about writing in my journal. I have however lost some weight thanks to getting back together with SparkPeople, so that’s good. I wish I could give you some amazing excuse about why I haven’t gotten my shit together and finished either of the 3 drafts I’ve been working on, like how I’d been traveling like crazy or had sooo much work, but I don’t. I’ve been pretty much at home and, though internship applications have consumed a large portion of my free time, I really haven’t had that much school work. In fact, my university is on strike.

That’s right, Americans, almost all of the professors and, more recently, many of the students are on strike. The reasons are somewhat complicated having to do with the privatization of the university system (which is currently all public) and the position of professor/researchers and their intellectual freedom. My friend Abby wrote a really great post on the exact details of it on her blog here and here. Basically, universities are going to become way more expensive and way more competitive, and professors are going to have little intellectual freedom and only be forced to teach when they can’t quite write enough papers in a year. So the French are doing what we would do if we were all of a sudden told that university would be 10 times more expensive, comparatively crazy difficult to get into (currently you just have to pass your end of high school exam to be admitted to any public university), and full of crappy teachers teaching just because they weren’t good enough to research. Oh wait, that’s how it is already in the US.

Or rather, the French are doing what we would do if we were French. Which means, instead of threatening massive class action lawsuits, they’re going on grève (again see Abby’s post for intense sociological analysis of the history of grèves and their importance in France. I’m tired and going to bed. My mom’s in town and we’ve got another fully crazy day of sightseeing tomorrow, which means hopefully you will get a great interesting post about Paris landmarks on Sunday after she leaves. Or, you know, in three months when I finally get the energy to write it.

P.S. That horrid picture was taken by my lovely boy when he last visited me. He’s coming again in just over a week, so there should be more pictures of me on this site in coming weeks.

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A busy month in Paris…

Posted on October 5, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

First of all, thanks everyone who commented on my last post. I love y’all!

Obviously, I may have perhaps dropped the ball a bit in blogging this month, but I’ve been busy exploring Paris. Can you really blame me? Just kidding!

Honestly though, this month has been crazy busy and also really calm. I feel like I’ve finally settled in with my host family and I just finished my first week of real classes after surviving through a hellish month of orientation at two different universities. I’ve also taken my first trip outside of Paris, with my program, to the Loire Valley, but more on that later.

And now, a crazy long post with lots of pictures (there are way more on my flickr, if you’re interested), about what I’ve been doing for the past month. When I last left you, Champagne and I had pretty much just visited the Eiffel Tower. Since then we have:

Eaten pain au chocolat while strolling through the gorgeous Jardin du Luxembourg on a gorgeous Sunday morning. (I think I may have to make this more of a habit.)

Seen Notre Dame (the day before the Pope visited, so it was crazy and covered in scaffolding). I anticipate a return trip to hear the bells ring at night fall.

Visited Versailles and seen the super cool Jeff Koonz exhibit there. We had an amazing picnic to which we brought pastries from Ladurée, this amazing patisserie near Sciences Po.

I went on a sweet night time cruise (which I have a great story about…ask me if you’re interested) of the Seine and made new Sciences Po friends.

Gone to the Louvre (which I sadly have no pictures for, but will later as I have a sweet student card(!) that lets me in free when ever I want).

Spent a weekend in the Loire Valley, visiting many chateaux, bonding with our fellow Smithies, eating so much fondue, having a blast at wine tastings, entertaining our associate director’s adorable son, François, and going on a 13 km bike ride around a forest, afterwhich I promptly got incredibly sick and spendt most of the last week in bed.

We also went to Nuit Blanche last night, which actually turned out pretty crazy and I’m going to try to blog about later this week.

And now that I am a for reals Parisian university student, at not one, not two, but three universities, I’m pretty busy with classes. Here’s what I’m taking for the semester, just in case you’re interested (with both French and English titles so you can be impressed at my mad language skillz):

  • Changement global et développement durable – Global change and sustainable development
  • Langue et composition I – Language and composition I
  • Phonétique – Phonetics
  • Femmes et politique: régression ou révolution – Women and politics: regression or revolution
  • Mai 68 – May 68 (if you don’t know about the student revolutions in Paris of May 68, wikipedia it because they are wicked interesting and started the student revolutions in the US of the late 60s/early 70s)
  • Danse moderne – Jazz
  • Danse contemporaine – Modern dance (hopefully, this is not totally official yet)

So that’s pretty much what will be keeping me busy until the end of January/beginning of February. I promise I’m going to try harder to be better at blogging, especially when cool stuff has been going on. I also have a couple of posts floating around about stupid and embarassing language mistakes I have made as well as French fashion. There is also a potential question and answer session about what Paris is really like coming up. Comment if you would be interested.

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My first week in Paris…

Posted on September 4, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |

I’ve been so completely busy this week that there hasn’t even been anytime to write. Actually, there has been time to write, but it has been completely filled with talking to the boy whenever I could because he left for Kenya yesterday and we don’t know when/if I’ll be able to talk to him in the next 3 months.

So I guess I’ll start out with some pictures from my apartment. My host family lives in this gorgeous modern architectural wonder in the 13th. Neat little factoid: Parisians give their address as the nearest Metro station, so “je habite Bibliotechque Mitterand” or “I live at the station Bibliotechque Mitterand.”

Here’s my adorable bed:

Here’s the gorgeous view out my window:

And here’s our building from the street:

I’ve been adjusting well (I think) to life in Paris. Champagne and I take the Metro to class every day. I have only recently realized, however, just how horrible my French accent is. It’s really difficult because I understand almost everything, even my very very fast-talking French history teacher, but I have a really hard time expressing myself and remembering little things, like to call my host mom “vous” and not “tu.” (Don’t even get me started on the tutoyer/vousvoyer thing…it’s killing me. Anyways I’m probably taking on an extra 2-credit tutorial in phonetics this semester, because my accent pretty clearly gives me away as American.

Speaking of class, this week we’re at our college’s orientation program, but next week we start at orientation at Sciences Po. This is kind of sad, because I’m loving my 2 French history and political science classes, as well as my oral expression class (not anywhere near as dirty as it sounds), and even my phonetic class is pretty fun. However my two favorite profs are from Sciences Po and I’m hoping they’re indicative of the quality of teachers there.

Anyways, enough of the boring school stuff, on to the fun Parisian adventures:

Tuesday night, we had an exciting evening of going to the Eiffel Tower, which was super fun, except for our inability to find a friend who we were meeting there (she went to the wrong Metro station) and a super expensive post-Tower snack (18 Euro for a hot chocolate, a crepe and a not very good glass of bordeaux!).

Anyways it was a blast and I could write all about it or I could just post the sweet video blogging we did, and I’m tired and still have a reading to do, so you’re getting a video blog:

The rest of the night can be found here.

On a side note: so I know that people are reading this blog, cause I’m a creeper and read my blog stats, but I don’t know who. Would you drop me a comment occasionally (don’t use your name if you don’t want to), so I can see who’s out there? I like writing a lot better when I know people other than the boy are reading, cause he gets all this info anyways.

Thanks muchly in advance.

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First meeting and meeting my host family…

Posted on August 30, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

Today was an especially busy day. Looking back at it, I’m not really sure how it all fit into one day. Champagne and I got up around 7h30 to get ready and pack up our hotel room, as we were moving in with our host families today. In the midst of getting ready, I’m pretty sure I blew out my hair straightener, even though I was using a converter. 😦 I don’t know what I will do if I don’t have a straightener all year long.

Anyways, we were finally ready to check out around 8h45, which was when we were supposed to be meeting people for breakfast. So we got checked out and left our bags in storage. Then we headed up to a delicious “American Breakfast,” which turned out to be a giant buffet that included traditional French pastries, scrabbled eggs and bacon, pancakes, rice soup (I think this was for the large Japanese population present), museli, and like 6 different kinds of cheese. Everything was pretty delicious. I’m now especially fond of chocolate museli and plain yogurt.

We finally left the hotel to go to “the Hall,” which is what I’m calling my program’s center in Paris with everyone but two girls who were running late, around 9h45. We got there and had a super busy day of filling out forms for our Carte de Sejour (residency card), our Carte Imagine-R (Metro/bus card) and our Carte de BNP Paribas (bank card). Our director is a bit intimidating as he corrects every little error one makes in French, but the associate directrice seems really kind. On the plus side, we had a delicious lunch of quiche, grapes, cookies and mirabelles, which are like little yellow plums.

The Hall, by the way is absolutely gorgeous. It’s on this tiny side street in the 6eme (6th) Arrondissement (see below), but is full of so much green space, you wouldn’t believe it. Several other programs share the space, but we have our own library and class room and have access to a bunch of study spaces which is pretty sweet (or schwete, as the French prounouce it).

After all of the forms (I was the last appointment with the bank), Champagne and I wandered back to our hotel. On the way we bought flowers for our host moms, who by the way, live in the same apartment on different floors of the same building. We hung around the hotel lobby with everyone until 18h, when our host families started to arrive.

My family was actually the first to arrive, which was pretty exciting. My host mom, who I’m calling Madame here until further notice, and her thirteen-year-old, Anna, met me at the hotel. Madame seems really nice and Anna is adorable. Her best friend, Fiona, is the daughter of Champagne’s host family, so their families are good friends.

We drove to their apartment in the 13eme (13th) Arrondissement. First off, I supose I should explain the system of arrondissement. Paris is organized into 16 official neighborhoods, called arrondissements, which each have pretty unique personalities. In my observations, the lower numbered arrondissements are more towards the center of the city. The 13eme is fairly new, but seems pretty cool. The apartment building is totally not what I expected, but totally awesome. It’s super modern, but also super stylish and has a giant garden with a playground in the center of it. My room has an awesome view, but since it’s the middle of the night, I don’t really have any pictures for you.

We’re across the street from the BnP, the Bibliotechque nationale de Paris, which is one of the three great libraries of the world, along with the Library of Congress and the British Library. On the other side of the building is the Seine, the large river that runs through Paris, which has a huge park on the other side of it.

The apartment is adorably decorated. Lots of super modern bright Ikea stuff mixed with antiques. My room is small, but cozy and I already feel at home here, maybe because every wall surface is covered with books, including Lord of the Rigns in French, which I am kind of dying to read.

For a little more about my host family, Anna, my host sister, and I bonded over a mutual love of horses. She’s constantly nagging her mom to buy her a pony she has her eye on named Romeo, which is totally something I would have done at her age. Madame works at a university nearby and Monseiur, who I haven’t met yet, since he is away on business, is an architect. They each have children around my age from previous marriages, one of whom is an ethnologist and the other is an engineer. They also have an adorable cat named Verguille, which means Comma.

The rest of the day was filled with unpacking, a delicious dinner of veal ratatouille, sautéed vegetables and potatoes, and learning stuff around the house. I feel like I can’t take it all in quick enough.

Oh well, I better get off to bed. We’re touring the neighborhood tomorrow and Champagne and I want make a run to the Monoprix, which is their equivalent of Target.

Goodbye until tomorrow or Adieu à demain!

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First day in Paris…Le premier jour à Paris

Posted on August 30, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

So much has happened in the last 48 hours, I don’t think I can even capture it all, but I’m going to try to while its still fresh in my mind and my journal. Champagne and I ended up being on the same flight as 8 or 9 of the other students in our group. After a very annoying flight (we sat on the runway for 2 hours!), we finally made it to Paris at around 9:30, or as Parisians would write, 9h30, which is the way I’m writing time from now on because it’s easier and I need to get into the hang of it.

After a very long bus ride and a not quite so long bit of wandering around Montparnasse, we got to our hotel at around 12h30, only to discover that the rooms that were supposed to be ready at noon wouldn’t be ready until around 3h. So, a large group of us dropped off our luggage and Champagne and I decided jetlaggedly to go in search of some lunch, specifically a crêperie she had seen on the bus ride into Montparnasse.

Well there was a bit of difficulty finding the crêperie or any reasonably priced French food because Montparnasse is quite an ethnically diverse neighborhood, though we did manage to find some really cool Indian, Chinese, Pakastani, Tibetan, and Japanese places we wanted to try. We ended up running into a couple of girls from our program who had found this cute Italian place called Pizza Roma. After much wandering (jetlagged, I’m telling ya), we ended up deciding to get pizzas there, which we quite delicious. We also managed to order everything in French and our waiter mostly understood us. I also had my first legal glass of white wine, which was quite exciting.

After lunch we wandered around Montparnasse a bit more, we decide to go back to the hotel. Our rooms were finally ready, and Champagne and I took much needed showers and I took a much needed nap, after making plans with the others in our group to meet up around 8h to go to dinner.

After meeting everyone in the lobby, we decided to go explore more of Montparnasse, specifically the Place Denfert-Rouchereau. The group of 18 soon realized that it was going to be impossible to find a place with a table for all of us, so six of us went off to a place we had seen before called Chez Papa, which we chose mainly based on the sweet picture of the old possibly Jewish man. However, at six people, we weren’t able to get a table, but we will be back.

So we wandered around side streets a bit more and ended up at this adorable little crêperie called La Belle Ronde, where we made a pact to try and get no one to speak in English to us the entire night. This actually worked and the waiter even joked with us in French. We then ordered 3 25cl bottles of wine for the table, and you can imagine where the evening went from there…just kidding. Champagne and I each had these delicious crêpes with melon, proscuitto and crème fraîche. The table split a chocolate and hazelnut crêpe for desert and then headed out to meet up with the people we had split off from earlier.

The entire group decided to go out to a bar to take advantage of our new legal drinking age status. We ended up in this tiny little place called Smoke that had a hilarious Asian bartender with the habit of dancing around the bar to ABBA as he served drinks. I had a kir, which is white wine and cassis, aka the signature drink of Paris, and it was delicious. Around midnight, we decided to head back to the hotel, which somehow was quite nearby as we had been walking in circles and called it a night.

Next up, maybe even tonight, the first day of the program and meeting my host family.

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Hello world!

Posted on February 27, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , |

First post. Off to French class. More to come later.

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