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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New year, new post…

Posted on January 7, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

So I’ve been back in Paris for the last couple days and am slowly getting un-jetlagged and un-crazy busy. I had a wonderful time in Austin, ate more Mexican food than I could have ever imagined eating (oh, enchiladas, I miss you already) and had a wonderful time enjoying the obscene amounts of eating and present giving/getting that is the holidays with my family. I have some pics to put up later, so you might actually get two posts this week.

Oh, and I did the whole celebrating the anniversary thing with the boy, which officially puts us at SIX YEARS. I’m really proud of who we’ve become both as individuals and as a couple and I frankly think he’s one of the coolest people on the planet. So, S, I love you and I can’t wait to see what happens in the next six years, but I’m sure it’s going to be a blast.

I don’t want to do the whole list the presents thing, but I do have a few faves: the 3 GORGEOUS necklaces the boy bought me, each one different, but somehow totally me, a gorgeous new purple wallet with a gold latch (love!), a new backpacking backpack for my spring break trip, camel cashmere shawl-neck J. Crew sweater that is taking some serious effort to not wear everyday, Andy Warhol plates for S and I’s apartment (see below), some rad books that I’ve been wanting for a really long time (everyone, go out and read The Handmaid’s Tale and World War Z, right now!) and two of the hottest pairs of shoes I’ve ever owned.

I promise that the title has nothing to do with my intended frequency of posting this year, which in fact brings me to the real topic of this post, my New Year’s resolutions.

  1. Write a blog post at least once a week. – I’ll be trying to catch up on what happened between the elections and now in the next couple of weeks, because one of the things that has been making me so hesitant to post is the size of that post. So you’ll be getting that story in the coming weeks. I promise not to try my very best not to be too overwhelmed by finals to keep going.
  2. Write in my journal everyday. – Ok, so not exactly any of your concern, but I figure that if I put it out here, I should actually do it. Plus there’s so much stuff about Paris that I don’t really feel comfortable putting out on the internets, but that I want to remember.
  3. Make a serious effort to eat sustainably and healthily and to exercise regularly this summer. – I suppose a bit explanation is required for this one.  S and I are moving in together this summer (OMG so excited!!!) and I’m going to have a major, if not majority (I can already see the spats), say in what I’m eating on a daily basis for really the first time in my life. So I’m trying to put my money where my mouth is on my whole sustainability/healthy eating/semi-vegetarianism/locavore stuff I’ve been spewing at all of you for so long. In more qualifiable terms: I’m going to make an effort to have the majority of my meals be vegetable and grain based, rather than meat based, I’m going to source all my fruits and vegetables (and meat when possible) locally, I’m limiting myself to fairly round meals I cook myself, and I’m moving my butt at least 4 times a week. I’m also going to try and document this on my other blog, which I will be returning to at the end of May. If you don’t have the address for it and want it, shoot me an email.
  4. Some relationship stuff that needs to stay off the internet, but that’s good. – Also putting this up so I can hold myself to it.

And with those resolutions, I have one for you guys out there. I know someone is reading, because I do have stats on how often someone not me looks at my blog (I’m not a creeper, I promise, it’s on the page when I sign in). In return for my promise to update at least once a week, I want at least one of you to comment or Facebook me or Skype me or AIM me or Twitter me (oooo, fancy new Twitter, everyone should get one!). It makes it a lot more fun to write this stuff if I know that someone’s out there reading it AND I miss you all a bunch and like to hear from you when I’m feeling homesick.

And on that note, I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday and I wish you peace and love and happiness in 2009!


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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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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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