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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Only three months too late…

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

So, I know, I was bad and didn’t post last week. You must think I’m pretty shitty at resolutions. I have however been writing in my journal, despite being dead tired thanks to finals madness. So I’m working on the whole blogging thing. And so, in honor of the wonderful inauguration that is going on this afternoon, I’ve decided to finally tell you the story of election night in Paris.

It started out well planned enough. Some friends and I had RSVP-ed to a party at Porte Maillot, since my mom told me way too late that she was willing to buy my tickets to the Embassy bash (not that I’m bitter or anything, but what ever). So Champagne and I head over to Porte Maillot (which is way the fuck away from where I live) to meet up with Alix, Jamie and several other Smithies.

And then we waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Until around 2 am when the organizers of the party asked that everyone (all 1000 of us) get in line in alphabetical order and people started getting mad.

So, being the smart girls that we are, we left. After several night bus misadventures (always check the direction your bus is going in), including running into another group of American girls on the bus and copious amounts of pre-gaming, we found our way to a Canadian bar that was going to be open until 5 am.

So we drank.

And we danced.

And we celebrated as results came in, state by state.

Until, at 5 am, we finally got the results.

The bar went wild and I have some great videos I’m going to post later, but I’m in class right now, so I can’t pick which ones I want. After that, we hung around the bar until they literally kicked us out and we ran around trying to find a place with CNN so that we could watch Obama’s acceptance speech.

Finally, I decided to head to a talk Sciences Po was hosting to watch the speech, while Champagne and the rest went home. We were even on the French news! I also have some videos from that I’m planning on posting at a later date.

From there, the night kind of wound down into morning. I saw Obama’s amazing acceptance speech at Sciences Po, got coffee at a café around the corner, met up with Champagne (who had been accidentally locked out of her house) and pretty much hung out until it was time to meet up with my presentation group for my class on women and politics. I gave my presentation at around 10 am, got home at 1:00 and was asleep by 1:05. All in all, it was a pretty wonderful night and one that will probably stick with me for the rest of my life.

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Bonjour Monsieur President…

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

I have a whole long post to do about my crazy, crazy election night in Paris, but I just wanted to show you this:

Historic, wonderful, amazing. I have regained faith in my country, that I thought might be lost forever.

I now have been up all night and still have 4 hours to go until I can sleep.

See you on the flipside, US!

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This crazy city I came to love…

Posted on October 10, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

Somehow in the last couple of days, I have fallen madly in love with this crazy city I live in. I was actually kind of mopey about being here and being settled and being a little meh about everything earlier this week, but something happened and all of that changed. I think that this is largely related to my starting to take the bus instead of the metro, which for me really makes all the difference in my attitude toward the city. I love sitting in my adorable little seat, watching Paris go by, getting a sense of the placement of things, rather than just being crammed into a cattle car and having absolutely no idea where I am.

But the bus is not the only thing I love about Paris. I love that there are so many art exhibitions and films and plays that I could not possibly manage to attend everything that looks interesting to me, even if I had a limitless bank account. I love the omniprescence of bakeries and the daily necessity of a fresh baguette. I love that little gardens are everywhere and that apartment buildings are rarely more than five stories tall (though mine is nine). I love finding new little treasures, like the diner I saw today on my way to class from my dance class that was serving apricot strawberry pancakes and Texas chili (um, definitely visiting there when I get homesick). I love that everyone and everything has style, from the people on the metro to the reusable sacs you can buy at nearly every store. I love discovering new foods, like fresh figs (omg, heaven!) and this pastry that has a different name everywhere I go but is essentially filled with chocolate chips and custard. I love my adorable host mom, who brought me dinner in my room, because I had collapsed after dance class and C had come down and we were giggling like mad watching Michelle Obama on the Daily Show last night while talking to the boy. I love delicious 3 euro wine. I love how amazingly international Sciences Po is. I mean, in my dance class alone, I met someone from Canada, someone from Australia, two people from China, one from Spain, and one from Poland in the five minute water break in the middle of class. I love the passionate liberalism in France, where the right wing resembles the Democratic party in the US and the left wing is socialists. I love that there dogs are welcome practically everywhere and can be seen sitting on their owners’ laps in front of most cafés in Paris. It’s just such a wonderfully cool place to be, so international and yet so very attached to its own culture. Paris is a beautiful thing. Come visit me if you don’t believe it.

And now, just to give you an idea of the crazy that is day to day life in Paris, I have two short stories.

The first is one of those the entire world passes through Paris stories. Saturday night was Nuit Blanche, which is basically a bunch of art installations all over Paris that go all night long. I could write a really long post about the adventure that was the night, where I ended up seeing only one installation (though it was a pretty cool one), but instead I will leave you with a short vignette. I was in Gare de Lyon attempting (and eventually failing) to see some sort of “spectacle de Bollywood” (it doesn’t really translate into English) with a group of fellow Smithies. We may have been previously partaking of champagne (straight from the bottle – classy right?). Anyways we decided to stop in the bathroom before making our way out of the train station to try and find the spectacle and lo and behold ran into a couple of guys (adorable, obviously gay guys at that) from the building we share with about 15 other American universities. So, we started talking to them and one of them turned out to be from SMU. So, we started playing the “do you know so-and-so game?” and I mentioned my high school. For those of you who do not know this about me (and I’m sure you are few and far between), I was a giant Latin nerd in high school. Vice president of the Latin club, coached certamen (google it if you don’t know what it is), went to NJCL conventions every summer, card carrying (literally, National Latin Honor Society, bitches) nerd. So my new friend asks me do you know this Latin teacher … and names one of my high school Latin teachers. And thus commences girly screaming and hugs outside of a Paris train station bathroom. It turns out that my Latin teacher taught at his middle school (incidentally of the same name – go Episcopals!) when he was in middle school AND that my Latin teacher’s little brother is his twin brother’s best friend. Crazy, crazy small world we live in.

The second story is less exciting and more about the bizarre things that happen in everyday life here. I was on a bus this afternoon on my way home from a very long day when a bicyclist swerved in front of our bus. Like so close that I thought he might have been hit. Now in the majority of the world, the cyclist would look a bit contrite or maybe at most throw a finger at the bus driver and go on his way. But no, this is Paris. The cyclist (previously so intent on his destination that he swerved in front of a BUS) starts cursing at the bus driver, who was quite nice to me and stopped the bus again for me when she saw me running to catch the bus, who curses back in some of the foulest French I’ve ever heard. And then he starts to follow the bus. So he and the bus driver are screaming swears at each other for about half a block and the entire bus is looking around in either shock (them) or amusement (me). And then he turns and bikes off. The bus driver returns to being a very nice woman who is kind enough to give directions and to let people know when to get off if they’ve asked her directions. And that was my ride home.

Oh, Paris, how I love you.

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