Saturday, December 12, 2009

Le dernier weekend.

It's not REALLY my last weekend in Paris, since I don't leave until the 21st, but it IS the last weekend in Paris with my friends, since most of the people in our program are leaving the 18th or 19th.

Before I say anything, have you seen this version of "Pokerface", by Lady Gaga? It is on the piano, an acoustic wonderment of fabulous. I don't even know what that means, the point is, this shit is pure gold, if you haven't seen it yet you need to, and if this doesn't convince you that Lady Gaga is amazing (if you haven't already been convinced of that), well then you're just a big bag of poop.
Isn't it...just ridiculously satisfying? And since we're in this feel-good mood, I'm going to share with you a short video of another metro performer that I caught a few days ago, at Chatelet station. I've seen this guy a few times, working it solo or with a couple other bandmates. He's always playing the tambourine with his foot though, which I think is pretty respectable.
Super cool, right? Moving on. This weekend I kind of went insane, if by insane we mean decided to raid vintage stores all over Paris and give flea market vendors hell. Chelsea, Sarah and I hit up some excellent vintage clothes shops yesterday in the Marais (and if you know anything about me you know that we ate falafel while we were there), and I found some really amazing things for really amazing prices (think dresses for less than 10 bucks). I got things like this:
This awesome short sweater with fun flower print.
This fabulous dress thingy with buttons on the sleeves:
And this AWESOME pink pleated skirt and purple belt:
I bought other things too, but I don't want to show you because some of the things are gifts and I don't want to ruin the surprise. Anyways, this has been the only time I've actually seriously gone out in Paris in FOUR MONTHS (I know, I have an insane amount of self-control, I deserve much praise) to do any sort of shopping, and I feel really great about the things I got, either for myself or others, and feel good about the prices too. The great thing about shopping at flea markets is that you can bargain with the vendors. I had SO many hilarious conversations with vendors today at the Marché aux Puces (literally, "Flea Market") at Porte de Clignancourt. I can't find any sufficient photos of the area to really convey how large and intense this place is--it's one of the largest flea markets in Europe, covering lots and lots of acres, filled with lots and lots of people, and selling lots and lots of things, from clothes and shoes to antique furniture to electronics. It was an adventure exploring the labyrinth of stands, and hilarious to talk to vendors about prices and stuff. One guy asked if he could have my "phone call" (presumably asking for my number, but I just replied that I didn't have a "phone call"), and another said I could have an item at a lower price if I agreed (I did) to give him my number (I didn't).

I think I'm going to try doing some packing tomorrow, if only for the sake of assessing the situation. That is, I'm unsure if I'm going to need another real suitcase to get home, since I only came with a suitcase and a medium-sized duffle bag (let's not talk about the panic attack and hurried selection/cutting process that occurred mere hours before my flight from Dallas, upon realizing that navigating through the metro and train stations with two huge luggage was going to be impossible). I found an excellent deal on a shuttle service that will be much cheaper than a taxi for getting back to the airport, so I don't have to worry about sweating/crying/injuring myself/losing my fucking mind on the metro with my suitcases on the loooong ride to the airport. That way, I can pack everything I need, in as many suitcases as I need, and rest easy that it will all get to the airport with me, in a non-sweaty and stress-free manner.

All of the sudden (k not really) it's gotten REALLY COLD here. I was wearing lots and lots of layers today (two pairs of pants, etc.) and still couldn't feel my extremeties. How do you spell that? It's telling me it's wrong. I don't care.

I'm strangely really excited to go home and get a job again. I'm planning on working again at the restaurant I worked at last summer, or another restaurant if that doesn't work out for some reason. I should have probably focused more this semester on finding a job of more substance for next semester, like a meaningful internship, but I really just need something with a steady income to hold me off until I get a real life job. In January I submit my application for Teach for America and...well, I guess we'll just go from there. Omg let's not talk about it anymore, I'm getting nauseated.

Funny story: Sarah told us today at McDo that she has started asking for an "Evian" instead of a "bottle of water" because they keep misunderstanding her order. In French, a "bottle of water" is "un bouteille d'eau" pronounced boo-taye-doh, kinda. So, the French employees at McDo keep on giving her potatoes, for some reason, instead of a damn bottle of water. We figured out that it was because they thought she was saying POTATO, like PO-TAY-TOH. Which kinda sounds a lot like BOO-TAY-DOH, right? And if you just add a little hint of an American accent on the correct way to pronounce "bottle of water" in French, it's really funny and very similar. So poor Sarah was walking away with French fries PLUS potato wedges every time she went to McDo, and no water. HAHAHAHAHHAA. Seriously, being in another country where you don't speak the language has a crazy amount of consequences you would never expect.

Alright friends! Here are some things to entertain you (other than my high intellect). This is the most recent Chanel no. 5 commercial, with Audrey Tautou (arguably the most beautiful woman on the face of the planet). The song in the background, Billie Holliday's "I'm a Fool to Want You", is basically exquisite. I don't have a TV at home here, so I don't know how often this commercial airs, but I do know that it shows before movies at the cinema, and every time it makes me a) want to be Audrey Tautou, and b) want to have that man. So, I guess the advertisers are achieving their goals, since what they're telling me is I need Chanel no. 5 to get a and b.
Okay, and this is Mitchell Davis. He is apparently hugely popular on this YouTube thing all you crazy kids are using these days, except oh I didn't know about him until like, two months ago. He is funny and cute and funny and cute. Those are the two things that make him likeable. Anyways, check out this video, entitled "Usher", that I love (and check out his YouTube channel, livelavalive, if you want more Mitchell--which you do).
This here is the Black Keys, with their song "I Got Mine" performed live on the David Letterman show. I've gone through a lot of mixed feelings regarding the Black Keys, but suffice it to say I've been really hooked lately, and am enjoying it while it lasts.
And finally, here is Fiona Apple with "Extraordinary Machine". I've been OBSESSED with this song since high school, as many friends who have ridden with me in my car could tell you. Choice lyrics: If there was a better way to go then it would find me/ I can't help that the road just rolls out behind me/ Be kind to me, or treat me mean/ I'll make the most of it, I'm an extraordinary machine.
I'm sure that's enough for now. I hope this post has found everyone in happiness and harmony.
Peace, love, and Paris,

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Um, what the hell? How did time go by so quickly? What is going on?

I can't believe I've spent nearly four months in Paris, living and eating and breathing and being hot and being cold. It's unreal.

Amy came and visited during Thanksgiving break (in the USA)! It was SO amazing. We had such a good time, just hanging out and being soul sisters and strolling around Paris like we owned the place. We had sleepovers, we had crepes. Paris is perfect BFF setting.
Anyways, Steven, Amy's brother, was also here, and it was great having a guy around so we didn't get harassed as much as we would have, plus he could take cute pictures of us. While Amy was here, I had an emotional breakdown at the Musée d'Orsay, a place I've mentioned before, and which I'm proud to say is my second huge famous French museum emotional breakdown location (after the Louvre episode during drawing class). Here's what went down...Background: I was very stressed about school things. Story: Amy and I had planned to meet in front of the museum one morning, at a large statue of a rhinoceros, at a certain time. We both arrived to the meeting point late, and missed each other. She didn't have a cell phone while she was here, and I kind of...well okay I MAJORLY flipped out. I thought she was lost or dead or something, with no French speaking abilities. I made a panicked call home, at like 4 am Texas time (thanks for still answering the phone in the middle of the night after all these ridiculous years, parents), and started bawling and hyperventilating and talking to my mom about Amy being lost in Paris and how all my teachers hated me. Mind you, I was literally standing at the base of a huge statue of a rhino, in front of the second most famous museum in the world (already lost my marbles at the number one), as security guards, vendors, and Asian tourists stared at me. I went inside the museum twice, still bawling, gave up my search, still bawling, got TO THE METRO STATION BAWLING, but turned around and went back to the museum...and found Amy standing at the rhino statue. I ran to her, hugged her, and bawled harder. The whole time, she had been inside, enjoying the Orsay, figuring we'd catch up at one point or another. Oh. I guess that's how common sense works. Moving on.

Here's a lame video of Amy and I on the Champs-Elysées. Things to note: the dancer performing on the street, the Christmas lights on the trees lining the avenue, the Arc de Triomphe (you won't miss it), and me sounding like an alien.
Life in Paris has strangely become...just life. How weird and surreal, to "get used to" living somewhere so amazing and wonderful? Going home is going to be really bittersweet, because while I miss things like my bed, Taco Bueno, and a general American disregard for the environment so I can take twenty minute showers and use my own gas-guzzling automobile everyday, I'm going to miss SO MUCH about Paris. Let's have a rundown.
  • FOODS. While I miss food at home LOTS AND LOTS (my parents have been informed of what drive-thru to take me to IMMEDIATELY when I arrive at DFW), there really isn't a sufficient American replacement for the crèpe. I mean, one could argue that your basic pancake fits the description pretty closely...but if one argued that, I would refute that point by bringing up the fact that one does not put egg, cheese, and mushroom in a pancake, fold it up, and stuff one's face with it on the metro while people stare. Other French food I will miss as well, but I can't think of specifics because now I'm just thinking about a crèpe.
  • Style. People are WAY too done up, and the style is generally exactly the same everywhere you look, where I come from, so it's nice to see really diverse ways of dressing and expressing yourself, with a different kind of "European" feel. Plus, in Texas you don't really see winter chic in the same way as you do here. When we get cold in Dallas for our week of winter, we wear sweatshirts and ugg boots. In Paris, people have great coats and layers, scarves and different style boots, cute hats and rosy cheeks. In the winter, I look like a hobo.
  • Culture. I love French language, and I'm going to miss hearing it and using it everyday. I hate the thought that I'm leaving so many museums and cultural sites behind. There's so much to see and learn and appreciate here--the history of the city can be kind of overwhelming at times, when you find yourself in a grand old cathedral or surrounded by ancient castle walls or simply walking on cobblestones. I'll miss that personal feel of greeting shopkeepers and/or employees when entering businesses, and wishing them a good day when I leave. I'll miss seeing street demonstrations, and the rhythm of urban life...of walking down the street and thinking, "holy shit I'm in PARIS." I'll miss people wishing me "bon apetit" before I stuff my face with an aforementioned crèpe.
  • My host family. THEY'RE LITERALLY THE BEST. They're seriously SO COOL.
School has been going well, and I can't believe it's already the last week of classes. I have one paper left and finals, all of which are happening next week. My political science class has been really cool and informative, especially on a current events level. I feel like I'm up to date on European political issues in a way I've never been before, and I really hope I keep up with Europolitics when I get back. The things going on here are ridiculously interesting to me, like further integration of the European Union through the Lisbon Treaty (that was recently ratified), and continued issues with immigrant assimliation/integration in European societies and governments. But ya know, I'm just a nerd. My drawing class has had some definite ups and downs, but I'm walking away with a real foundation and understanding of basic drawing concepts, and some really unique and cherished experiences and the very least, I can always trust that my mom will like all my work. French class has been REALLY great, and an awesome confidence builder. Whoulda known I'd be able to write a minimum 3000 word essay on the philosophy of theatre? In French? Much less discuss these concepts out loud? I did a class presentation on mimes!

Check out some graffiti in my hood!

I'm going to try my very best to take some more great pictures the rest of this week and wrap up my four months with at least one more post. I hope everyone is doing well and enjoying a happy and harmonious last month of 2009. Can you BELIEVE it's doing to be THE YEAR 2010?! Insane.

I was going to end the post with music like I have been, but I feel like I've been listening to the same music on repeat for the past four months, and it's starting to annoy me. Instead, I thought I'd share some quotes that I've come across, in the past four months (either while researching a topic for school or just stumbling upon them during everyday Paris life), that have struck me in some way or another or seemed indicative or symbolic of my beliefs. I'm super obsessed with quotes--they bring out the ridiculous idealist in me. Just be generally informed, I'm sort of blue-blooded. If by some rare chance you were like, an alien, who could read English but not interpret political/social ideologies and nuances, or, I dunno, you just don't know me very all? Whatever.
"Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one whit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class I am in it, while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison I am not free."
- Eugene Debs
"The chief danger about Paris is that it is such a strong stimulant." - T.S. Eliot
"This has always been a man's world, and none of the reasons that have been offered in explanation have seemed adequate."
- Simone de Beauvoir
And, a favorite treasure, found this summer just before I left:
"This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning god, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body."
- Walt Whitman
Goodnight everyone!
Peace, love, and Paris,

Sunday, November 8, 2009


I have a (scientifically proven, by me) theory that everyone is basically nuts.  Everyone is crazy, it's just something you accept, most of the time you get it from your parents (thanks, guys) and other times you get it because you just have to be a lunatic sometimes to get by.  HOWEVER, my time in Paris has proven to me that some kinds of crazy are definitely worse than others.

A few nights ago, a crazy neighbor on the floor of our apartment building basically lost it.  Background story: this man is old and senile, hates women because his wife left him 20+ years ago, and has threatened to kill the landlord's wife.  At 4:30 in the morning the other night, homeboy woke up I guess with an incredible urge to scream.  I woke up to a man's voice YELLING at the top of his lungs in French I couldn't understand.  He was repeating himself a lot, and it was clear that he was addressing someone directly, in the second person...someone who obviously wasn't there, because it was 4:30 in the morning and he's standing in a dark apartment stairwell.  I've actually never in my life heard someone scream and yell like that.  I am by myself this weekend in the apartment, as Anne and JC are out of town with Anne's choir group.  Needless to say, I was terrified that Crazy McCrazypants was going to bust up into the apartment (despite two locks), so I went to the kitchen and got a knife and mentally prepared myself to murder if it came to it.  I fell asleep again a little while later, and haven't heard from McCrazypants since then.

Then there are psycho people on the metro.  Men are different here than they are in the US, with respect to how they approach women.  They can be really obnoxious and unyielding when trying to get female attention, like by saying really stupid things or following you around for a couple blocks.  But that's just a cultural difference, and women are different here too in how they respond to such mating calls.  Some guys - as in every society/culture - take it way too far, and therefore get to be labeled "Crazies" as well.  A man on the very crowded metro the other day was positioned in such a way that we would have been face to face had he been situated in front of me, but he was off to the side a little so that he was looking over my right shoulder.  As everyone was pressed up against each other with little room to move much less breathe, the guy's arm fell directly in front of me.  As the metro was swaying and rocking people to and fro, it became clear that he was touching me inappropriately, and it needed to stop.  Moral of the story, I punched him in the stomach.  Just because they're psycho doesn't mean they don't need to follow everyone else's rules.

I haven't posted in so long - about a month!  Can't believe it.  Anyways, during this long sejour I went on Fall Break and had an AMAZING time.  I visited my best friend Jessica in Copenhagen, where she is studying abroad.  It was incredibly surreal being in DENMARK, and staying with her host family, who live in the suburbs of the city.  It's just so different, a tiny little country that you know exists but few people actually see/visit.  It was SO great being with her there, and meeting her friends.  We participated in the 350 climate change event, and our 350 photo was on the front page of the New York Times website for awhile!  Here's an awkward video of the event, in which a creepy man asks my name, and there isn't really much to see:

Did you guys know that Denmark is cold?  Well it is.  I spent most of my time there with my coat on and hood up.  I had an absolute blast though, and would love to visit again (maybe in the summer).  
Next I went off to Italy, to meet Sarah, Maddie and both Chelseas.  I flew into Florence in time to see the Duomo at sunset, and enjoyed a fabulous gnocchi and wine dinner with the girls.  The next day we went to Siena, and walked up a mountain with our luggage to the Duomo there.  That church is probably the most beautiful I've ever visited.  It helped that the weather was absolutely gorgeous.  After Siena we took a train to Rome and spent the remainder of our week there.  We hit all the big Rome sites - the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, the Roman Forum, the Coliseum, the Vatican, and had a BLAST doing it.
We ate delicious food the entire time (read: delicious carbohydrates in the form of pasta, pizza, and gelato), and acquired many inside jokes.  Sarah and I had a mental/physical breakdown regarding our footwear, seeing as we were essentially backpacking in Europe for a week in ballet flats.  The foot pain was like none other I've felt before.
Two nights I soaked my feet in the BIDET (awkward), and I was popping Ibuprofen like I was a pharmaceutical company tester for overdosing.  In our painful delirium, Sarah and I got spooked that we would have to wear unattractive prescription shoes, like CROCS, for the rest of our lives when we got back.  I decided to look on the bright side, saying I'd decorate mine with those stupid little rhinestone and letter clip-on things.  Sarah suggested I write out my to-do list on my shoes everyday.  I said I was going to put profound quotes from famous authors on them.
The Vatican was a really amazing experience, seeing the Basilica (or Basilisk if you confuse normal every day language with Harry Potter speak, like I do) and the Vatican Museum where the Sistine Chapel is.  It was a beautiful and moving place, and made me think about a lot of things.  I realized that I had been to lots of holy places for different religions.  To be very frank, it makes me really uncomfortable to think about all the monuments and things built to honor religious deities.  But, I also consider them as works of art and in that way think of them as  important cultural objects that warrant lots of respect.  Here's us at the Vatican, taking it all in:

And Maddie running into a crowd of pigeons outside, but kind of getting a little scared in the process:

Classes have been going well, and I've gotten through midterms with my sanity intact.  The next big thing to be working on now are my term papers.  I'm writing one on immigration in Europe (specifically, comparing Eastern European and African immigration into France and Great Britain) and one on socialism between the world wars (specifically, how the Socialist Party in France grew and insured itself a place in the national political dialogue for the rest of the twentieth century, versus at the same time in the US how the Socialist Party ceased to exist).  I'm excited about researching both papers and am immensely interested in both topics.  

We are over halfway through our time in Paris.  It's sad in a lot of ways.  I feel very much at home here, in the sense that the day-to-day rhythm feels natural and the culture something I feel very close to.  However, real life calls - I need to go back to the States and GRADUATE (eek) next semester, find a job, figure things out, be an adult.  Long-term, I'm planning on working and living abroad, so it won't be so much "Goodbye, France," this December as much as "See ya latertotes!"

I've been making a list of things to eat when I get back stateside.  Not that food in France isn't AMAZING, but there are some things you just MISS, you know?  Anyways, topping my list is Taco Bueno, followed by Taco Bell, Chipotle, Blue Goose, Pappadeaux, Chili's, Cheddar's, Royal Thai, sushi, and that Chinese take-out place that's next to my house.  You know what else I miss? Fucking central heating.  This building is FREEZING.  I don't care what they say about those stupid radiator pipe stupid things being "on", they DON'T WORK.  I sleep every night with tights and sweatpants, a shirt and sweatshirt with the hood on, warm socks and gloves, and a sheet and two comforters over me.  The water that comes out of the sink feels like literal ice and every time I brush my teeth I want to cry.  I dread showering because I know I'll be freezing the whole time.  I miss driving a car.  I miss sleeping on a couch in front of the TV.  I miss my family.  The people here are getting REALLY tired of me talking about "OMG my mom..." or "OMG my dad..." or "OMG my FREAKING AMAZING LITTLE SISTER..."

Amy is coming for Thanksgiving! Amy is coming for Thanksgiving! Amy is coming for Thanksgiving!  That is CERTAINLYTOTES something to give thanks for!  My best friend in the whole wide world is coming and we are going to have a BLAST UP IN THIS BITCH.  I can't wait for her to be here, she's never been to Europe!  I wish we could have spent a whole semester studying abroad together, but this is a great consolation prize.  Seeing her is going to be FANTARIDICUTOTES.

Let's talk music!  This song, "Skinny Love," by Bon Iver (a play on the words "bonne hiver" in French, which mean "good winter") is basically amazing, and there isn't much else to say about it.

And this is Feist, with her song "I Feel It All."  I originally heard this song in a performance she did on the Colbert Report some time ago, and it was extremely moving with respect to the things I was going through at the time.  Some choice lyrics: Oh, I'll be the one who'll break my heart/ I'll be the one who'll hold the gun/ I love you more, I love you more/ I don't know what I knew before/ But now I know I wanna win the war.

Finally, here is David Guetta's "Missing You".  David Guetta just released a new album that is REALLY GOOD.  I mean, you don't really listen to the songs for the lyrics.  Anyways, Guetta has a lot of popularity in Paris and throughout Europe, first of all since he's Parisian and second of all since Europeans go crazy for house/club music.  His song Sexy Bitch with Akon is amazing, but I have my personal favorite off the album here:

You cannot possibly sit still and listen to that.

Alright, it's back to homework and a cozy Paris evening for me!  I hope everyone is doing well and enjoying happy times.

Peace, love, and Paris,

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Things in Paris I could do without...

After being here awhile, the excitement of a new, foreign place fades and with it goes the illusion of perfection.  Paris is an amazing city, one I would much prefer living in than Dallas, and one I plan on returning to many times in my future.  I love the people, the culture, the language, the food, and the rhythm of day to day life here.  Paris is, in my opinion (keep your panties on, it's JUST MY OPINION EVERYONE, and hello, I'm the queen of hyperbole), pretty much the best place ever created in the history of the universe.

But that's not to say that there aren't things that TOTALLY FUCKING BLOW about this city.  Let's go over some of them, shall we?

  • The mosquitoes.  Listen, I don't really know if everyone in Paris has a problem with these insect monsters, or if I'm just extremely delicious or something (that's probably the case, let's be real here).  But I live in TEXAS and I feel like we have a pretty decent strain of mosquito genetics - I mean, c'mon, it's mothereffing TEXAS.  But no.  These blood-thirsty demons in Paris are INSANE.  The night before last, I was bitten THIRTY-ONE TIMES in the span of a few hours, IN MY BEDROOM.  I have a kind of weird reaction to mosquito bites (IDK why, it's happened since I was little), and the bites always swell up gigantically (think a one inch diameter, on average) and are very hard to the touch.  So, imagine 31 of those, all over my body.  Including a few on my face.  Several on my hands.  Why would they be on these weird places? Oh, because I was wearing PANTS AND A SWEATSHIRT.  So the 31 mosquito bites are in the places they could get to in that outfit.  And get this, there were only TWO MOSQUITOS in my room.  The next night I plugged in two repellants and the psycho bugs were still showing up for dinner.  I basically lost my shit and went on a really insane rampage wherein I was hitting walls, slapping my hands together, standing on the bathroom sink, and prowling around my room for a few hours to kill every. single. one.
  • The smell.  This city is big.  It's home to over eleven million people.  And boy are they packed tight.  Needless to say, some neighborhoods get a little rank.  I'd bet that the scent of a public restroom in this town is enough to render babies unconscious from a couple blocks away.  Think of the amount of waste created by eleven million people.  Just think about it.  And try not to gag.  
  • The metro.  I know, I know, the metro is SO SUPER COOL AND URBAN.  And it is.  I get it.  But I feel like everyone complains about their morning commute, and I don't see why I can't be one of them.  The metro, when you take it every SINGLE day, MULTIPLE times, you're just over it after a while.  Think of the weird physical sensation you have when you're riding in an airplane.  The air is stuffy, there's this unsettling pressure feeling in your head, your stomach isn't *exactly* agreeing with the situation, and you're battling for the arm rest with some fatass who got the aisle seat.  Okay, so the metro is like that, but add MILLIONS OF PEOPLE you're smashed up against (who DON'T WEAR DEODORANT), it smells like butthole (refer back to my second bullet if you've forgotten what that's like), you're underground and sweating, you gotta stand up because there aren't any seats, the driver (conductor? whatever) is a maniac slamming on the breaks at every stop so you're trying NOT to fall on the 3 year old (or 80 year old) in front of you, someone has decided that bringing their ladder and bags of cement on board was a good idea, you get crushed in the doors as they slam shut, annnnnnd there are 9482094829 BILLION BACTERIA EVERYWHERE WAITING TO ATTACK AND KILL YOU.
  • The cost.  Everything in this city - I mean everything - is more expensive.  Some things are the same price as things at home would be, like say, a generally cheap clothing store like H&M.  A pair of jeans is like $40 there.  Okay, so it's the same price...but it's in EUROS.  So it's 40 euros which means those jeans of pretty shitty quality at the least expensive store around actually cost $60 USD.  Sweet.  Other shit, they don't even play around with acting like it's low price.  Basic drugstore cosmetics? Pshhh, totally out of my budget.  I refuse to spend 20 euros (that's THIRTY DOLLARS) on some powder foundation I buy at home from Walgreen's for less than ten bucks.  Read my lips, L'Oreal Paris, you "generic brand", you...AIN'T. GONNA. DO IT.  It doesn't even stay on after I sweat my ass off riding in your goddamn metro.  Don't even get me started on the cost of food, school supplies, hygiene products, etc.
  • Xenophobia.  Unfortunately, Paris isn't void of this fantastic human tendency.  There is a major problem with racism here, and arguably in all of Europe, that most Americans know little about or don't realize.  Western Europe has experienced skyrocketing levels of immigration in recent years from Eastern Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.  And I guess that means some people have gotten defensive - and in turn, offensive.  Questions of identity, citizenship, birthright, access to opportunity, and extension of rights across races carry with them a lot of tension and heated opinion in this country.  I was asked today while in a restaurant with friends for lunch where I was from originally.  I replied that I was American, and was born in Texas.  "No, originally," was the response I got from the restaurant employee.  Oh, okay, since my skin is like, half a shade darker than most people here, and because my hair is - *gasp* - curly, I can't just pass off as a regular old American.  When presenting my student ID card for tickets to museums, movies, etc., I am often asked where I'm from when people read my (sorta) ethnic last name (OMG ITS NOT SMITH SO OBVI YOU'RE A DIFFERENT).  I usually get a less than positive response (silence, curt nod, one of those stares like a person is inspecting you) when they hear that yes, one of my parents was born in a country where they don't speak a Romance/Germanic language and the people aren't Caucasian. Quelle horreur!
That said, I am having the absolute time of my life here in Paris and absolutely LOVE this city.  Show me a place that's perfect, and I'll show you the photo album documenting the time in my life when Ryan Reynolds and I were "going steady" (ScarJo has nothin on me).  Paris is a city different than any other in the world...full of culture, art, rich history, amazing sites, a unique and beautiful way of life, and yea, it's own problems too.

Let's get down to music shall we?  I've been listening to a lot of A Perfect Circle while I've been here; I think it's just one of those weird situations where you revert back to something that is very familiar to you when you're in a new situation.  I listened to every album from A Perfect Circle basically on repeat for like two years in high school, and really haven't listened to them much since then.  This is "The Noose."  Please be aware that some language in the following songs may be offensive to some readers. [:  

Next up, this is "Homecoming" by Kanye West, featuring Chris Martin (the lead singer of Coldplay).  This is one of my favorite Kanye songs, and I LOVE what Martin's input on piano/vocals gives to the whole thing:

Annnd here is Mariah Carey, performing "We Belong Together" live.  I love Mariah, I love this song.  Say what you want about her, the woman is a DIVA who can SING.  I respect the fact that she does whatever the fuck she wants every single day and doesn't give a shit what anyone says.  She is, if you will recall, the most successful female artist in history, with more #1 singles than any artist ever, except the Beatles.  Even if you don't like the song, watch her break it DOWN around 3:03.  

And just for funzies, in case you thought she was a huge joke, here is THE queen, Aretha Franklin, singing "Touch My Body" by Mariah. HA! HATERS TO THE LEFT.

Everything about that was WIN.

Peace, love, and Paris,


Sunday, October 4, 2009

Un Mois À Paris

I've been in Paris over a month.  Wow.  One down, three to go.  I don't want this to end.  

This past week definitely had its ups and downs, and there were times that I missed home a lot.  Isabelle (our program director) has an interesting take on homesickness: that it's the manifestation of your heart and mind getting closer and more adapted to another culture, and therefore your heart and mind start missing being as close as they were to your previous home culture.  It's a good way of looking at things, I think.

I was sick this week.  Not the whole time, and feeling shitty came and went, so I was still functional.  At first sign of sniffles/sore throat, I headed to the pharmacy and got some good stuff that really helped, along with Vitamin C and (finally!) hand sanitizer.  Wednesday was not a good day - I woke up feverish and feeling TERRIBLE, then realized that the company I had purchased a plane ticket to Copenhagen (I'm visiting Jessica later this month!) from had charged me twice on accident (or not).  I had to deal with that situation immediately and it was really stressful, seeing as my bank is in America and the travel company is in Spain.  Note: Bank of America has an amazing 24-hour online service where you can IM with a bank representative who can help you with everything, just like over the phone.  Later that day, after forcing myself to go to my evening French class (it's my hardest class and only once a week, so I can't afford to miss any days due to illness), I got home and realized I had forgotten my keys inside the apartment, and my host family was at the opera.  I sat outside in the dark for almost three hours waiting on them to get back.  It was miserable.  To top everything off, I had a paper due the next day that was hanging over my head, and after getting inside the apartment and eating dinner with the fam, it was close to midnight before I ever sat down at the computer to start work.  BLAH.  A few hours later and not so much as an introduction to my paper written, I texted my best friend Amy and asked her to get online if she could.  Amazing lady that she is, she was immediately on and we had a great talk wherein I got to vent and let everything out, and go to bed feeling not so preoccupied and burdened by everything.  I woke up in the morning and wrote my paper easily before class.

The rest of the week was great, and last night was awesomesauce.  It was Nuit Blanche (White Night), a city-wide event where lots of museums, parks, cafes, etc. stay open all night.  We went to the Buttes Chaumont park, which had a bunch of cool abstract art stuff like a thousand red umbrellas all over the grass (whatever that means/represents) and stuff.  Here is me and Chelsea (fellow curlyhead) at the park:
After walking around a bit, seeing some street performers and artists, we got on the metro and headed to Rex Club, the most famous techno club in Paris.  Mathieu, my host family's son (remember? writing his doctoral thesis on techno music), had invited me and got me in for free, which was nice considering that getting into clubs here usually costs 15-20 euros.  It was a really cool place, and a techno group (band? DJ? partnership of two guys wearing masks at the front of the club?) called Dopplereffekt (really famous apparently and from Detroit) was playing.  Erika, Shelley, Carolyn, Alexia and I sorta got a feel for the music, which was a more mellow (not a techno expert here, don't kill me for using normal dumb people language) sound than what you think of if you're thinking techno rave house music stuff.  Here's what they sound like:

After about an hour, Alexia, Shelley, and Erika decided to head out to another club, while Carolyn and I stayed.  Here's Carolyn and I in the club, me sweating like crazy:
About ten minutes after the other girls left Rex, Dopplereffekt finished their set and a Parisian guy came on.  It was exactly the type of music we were looking for, and it was a shame that the other girls had missed it.  It was awesome, and Carolyn and I danced for awhile and enjoyed the different vibe since the crowd loved it and everyone was dancing and basically going crazy.  Here's some shaky video I took of that:

So cool, right?  It was an awesome experience, and I can't wait to go back.  Around 2:30 or 3 in the morning, Carolyn and I had had just about all we could take of the bass booming in our ears, and we headed out of the club.  Originally we were gonna split a cab home, but then after a little communicating with Chelsea, decided we would meet up with her, the other Chelsea, and Maddie at the Champs-Elysées.  So, we walked.  Yup.  We walked from Rex Club to the Champs-Elysées.  Carolyn has a map of Paris, and we figured the stroll was about 3-4 miles maybe.  It was so surreal walking across the city of PARIS, in the middle of the night.  You see some pretty cool things walking around this town.  Like this:
That's the Ministry of Justice building.  And this:
That's a large spire that I don't know the name or significance of.  But the moon's in the pic!  Oh, and then this:
That's the Madeleine, a really big Greek temple-style church.  Pretty sweet huh?  Especially at three in the morning, you just come around a corner from some random street in the middle of Paris, and it's like, oh, hey, huge world-famous building.  How you doin?

We met up with the other girls on the Champs and walked all the way down hoping the McDo would be open.  It wasn't.  We settled for QuickBurger, and by the time we had ordered and eaten, it was 5 am.  Which is about the time the metro lines open, so we headed to the nearest station and caught our respective lines shortly thereafter.  I got home a little past six this morning, and immediately crashed.  I woke up at 3 this afternoon.  My host family thinks I'm crazy.

The graffiti keeps changing on my street!  Recently this was put up:
Then it was changed to this a couple days later (sorry for the metal gate that's in the way):
Check out this cool dog someone painted:
And then last night during Blanche Nuit someone put this up:
I absolutely love my hood.  I can't imagine living anywhere else during my semester here.  

It's bedtime in Paris!  I hope everyone reading is doing well and having a happy October so far.  Keep it real, yo.

Peace, love, and Paris,

Friday, September 25, 2009

Time for my annual embarrassing public breakdown!

I don't know how many people can say they've had an emotional breakdown in the Louvre, but after this week, I can.  Actually I can't imagine WHY anyone would have a breakdown in the Louvre, unless they were super moved by a piece of art there, but I've been to the Louvre a few times now and have never been emotionally moved to breakdown by any pieces there - and BELIEVE ME, I would be the FIRST person you know to totally break down because some painting from three hundred years ago touched me.  Remember when I talked about the Louvre?  Big museum with the glass pyramid in front, home of the Mona Lisa and eleventy billion other works.

My drawing class met there on Thursday, and we were in a section of the museum filled with 18th century sculptures (of people), with a glass ceiling so it's flooded with natural light.  We've been working on the human figure and faces specifically for the past week or so, and we were told to choose a sculpture and draw the head.  Before I get any further, I would like to go ahead and mention, to get it out of the way, that there is basically NO REASON for me to have an emotional episode at the end of this story.  So just know that.  This is going to be anti-climactic.  Carrying on: I chose a statue of some woman, and I started to draw.  Of course mine looks terrible, because this is the third week I've ever drawn anything with the intention of it looking good and gaining the approval of others at any point in my entire life.  So it looking terrible doesn't really surprise me at all, or really even bother me that much.  Ivo comes around, gives me some pointers and direction, then moves on.  I continue drawing, if by drawing we mean making squiggle lines for hair and shading haphazardly because I have no comprehension whatsoever of light and shadow.  Fast forward twenty minutes, Ivo comes around again and asks to see my drawing.  I say no.  He asks why.  I shrug.  He asks what's wrong.  I take a deep breath.  He asks what's wrong again (hopefully you're thinking of this in an Italian accent).  Annnnd that's when I start to cry.  A lot.

See?  There's my emotional breakdown in public for the semester; glad to get it out of the way, ya know?  I consider myself lucky that I had it in the Louvre, I mean really how many people have had to ask security for tissues in broken French with snot and makeup running down their face in like the most famous museum on earth?  Epic.  Anyways, Ivo was really flustered and I told him I needed two minutes and I went to the bathroom and got my shit together (sort of).  Ivo explained that I was stuck between a sketch and a real representation - a drawing.  I agreed.  He told me to go sketch whatever the hell I wanted "for pleasurrre - thas importante, yes? Ze PLEASURRRE," for the remainder of the class period.  I went to the other side of the gallery (or whatever a specific room in a huge museum is called) and ate a peach.  The end. (Yes, Mom, I'm taking my medicine.)

ANYWAYS.  Other than that, the week's been going great, if kind of tiring.  Meals at home have been absolutely top-notch, it makes me think of being a little kid when my family would sit down to an awesomely satisfying hot meal every night together.  Tonight JC made (Anne is out of town till this weekend) codfish and rice, lots of great spices and flavors.  And we had goat cheese after! OMGGOATCHEESE.  I literally have to stop myself from eating all of it, because I don't want people to think I'm a maniac (lies).  And we had canteloupe (I don't care to check how to spell that correctly if that's wrong) for dessert.  JC had his melon with liqueur...I just drank my apple juice.  They think I'm basically a six year old.  

OMG hilarious video to share with you!  We (Alexia, Chelsea and I DUHH) were on the metro last night on the way to meet the group at the Eiffel Tower, where we were gathering to celebrate a fellow student's birthday with a couple bottles of wine.  There were some very fun violinists playing for the metro crowd, and I was trying to get some vid of it - until Alexia and Chelsea directed my attention to two sleeping Asian girls!  Listen to me crack up:

They're sleeping!  With their heads just bowed down like that, rocking along with the ride.  How do they know when to wake up and get off the metro?  It is a wonderful mystery that I couldn't stop laughing about.

So we got to the Eiffel Tower just in time to see the hourly light show.  In this video, we joke about being on the "left" of the Eiffel because when we called to meet up with the group they told us they were sitting on the "left side"...too bad the Eiffel Tower has four sides.  Where is left?

We took a few pictures while we were there too but all of them are absolutely terrible.  I spent about 40 minutes doing my makeup that evening only for my face to be utterly DRENCHED in sweat after going down the apartment building's stairs, walking down the cobblestone street, and going down into the metro IN HEELS.  My hair was a hot mess too.

Oh, hey, this is "Blue Lips" performed by Regina Spektor, my soul sister and alter-ego should I have been born an artistic person with any sort of creative talent:

Isn't she wonderful?  She's a Russian-born Jew who grew up in Brooklyn; her music is not only unique and innovative, she also make allusions to so many great references: the Bible, classic literature, current events, etc.  She sings in Russian and French sometimes too.  Because she's a badass.

Okay and now I'm leaving you with literally the best video ever taken of anything ever.  I cannot stop watching it, it is hilarious, I watch it over and over and laugh every. single. time.  I give you, "Sneezing Panda":

IT'S SO FUNNY.  The mama is so spooked!  She's like, WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU AND HOW DID YOU GET HERE??!  Look at her face!  Look how her whole body jumps! BAHAHAHAHA.

Okay I hope you guys actually liked that, even if not quite as much as I did.  Tell me what you thought!  That's what comments are for!

Peace, love and Paris

Monday, September 21, 2009

Ay! Ay, Shakira!

I have been called Shakira twice so far during my stay in Paris.  Once on the Champs Elysées a guy came up to me and called me Shakira as he touched my hair (gross), another time on the metro to get my attention a guy said "hey hey hey Shakira" a bunch of times, which resulted in me giving the deadliest look I've ever given before.  I mean, not to deny that being called Shakira isn't a huge compliment, but honestly I don't look like her save for very large curly hair, and these guys weren't exactly who I want attention from here.

This weekend we took a class trip to Normandy, where we visited lots of museums and memorials and cathedrals.  Our first day we spent in Caen, where I ate this pasta:
That's right.  It definitely says "SALMON" on the side of the plate, in some delicious sauce or another.  I eat so much salmon in this country it's ridiculous.  I can't get enough of the stuff.  Wanna bet me?  Here's a picture of a pizza I ate the next day:
Double right.  That's salmon pizza, with crème fraiche and mushroom and OH MY GOD DELICIOUS all over it.  We stayed in a Best Western Hotel that had rooms painted in different pastel colors.  Chelsea and I decided the proper reaction for entering our hotel room was screaming and running around:

We visited the Memorial to Peace, which is a museum/memorial of World War II.  The saying on the front of the building reads, "La douleur m'a brisée, la fraternité m'a relevée...De ma blessure a jailli une fleuve de liberté"...which means, "The pain broke me, brotherhood relieved me...From my wound sprang forth a river of freedom."  And outside are various stone blocks engraved with quotes about the struggle for freedom.
"I was born to know thee, to name thee, Liberty."  The museum is amazing, one of the best I've been to.  We watched a video documenting the D-Day landing of American troops at Normandy, which only underscored the emotional weight of visiting the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial and Omaha Beach the next day.
The memorial contains over 9,000 graves of fallen American soldiers, most of whom lost their lives on D-Day.  It was an emotional experience for me, basically because everything of this kind is an emotional experience for me.  Walking along Omaha Beach was crazy, trying to envision how intense the landing was.  Here is a picture of our whole group on the beach:
And a video of us (by us I mean me) running around telling everyone to say hello in the
We tried to take cool pictures of us jumping in the sand, but most attempts were epic failures, as most attempts at jumping are for me:
The last day of the trip was spent in Le Havre, a city in northern France that is gray, boring, smelly, and ugly.  It was Sunday so nothing was open.  We walked around in smelly rain and talked about the architecture of the reconstruction of the city after World War II BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH over it.  The best part was that I ate a gallette (crispy crepe thing) with salmon and spinach and it was DELICIOUS.  I am the most predictable person ever.

Classes are going really well, if a tad on the EXTREMELY DEMANDING side.  Luckily I'm only taking twelve hours.  My poli sci class has a ridiculous work load, but the teacher is great and the material interesting could be worse.  My French class that I was so intimidated to go to is actually shaping up to be my favorite class.  We went to a play last week on Tuesday and had our first class session Wednesday night.  I was even more afraid about going to class after seeing the play because it was a contemporary surrealist German...subtitled in French.  My head literally hurt afterwards.  So I was terrified that everyone was totally on the ball and ready to discuss this most confusing thing I've ever watched ever, but it turns out our professor is basically the coolest man on earth.  His name is Bruno, he's super funny and passionate.  We spent that class introducing ourselves, talking about our previous experience with theatre and French literature, and all is well.  I'm excited for this week's class session, in which we will actually be getting into some material.  My drawing class is going well, though it's getting more frustrating.  I feel pretty inadequate as an artist and have less than zero experience drawing, whereas I feel like most of the people in the class have had art lessons before, though it's an introductory course.  Anyways, so I had a mini-breakdown the other day involving a leaf and shading, but I think the trauma is past.  Come spring, I'm gonna be a regular DaVinci.  Don't even worry about it.

So there is video on someone's camera of me and Chelsea rapping on the train back to Paris, but I'm going to have to hunt that down for you people.  Extremely valuable footage.  I'll leave you instead with a couple of songs in my regular iPod rotation this week.  First up is "Let It Be Me" by Ray LaMontagne (again), and I dare you to listen to this and not cry.  Or maybe I don't, because if you listen to it and don't cry it's just going to be revealed what a sensitive emotional idiot I am and how I cry at every other instance of artistic ability and profound human expression.  

Did you cry?  Don't lie.  Ok so then there's Shakira, my idol slash hair twin, and her new song "She Wolf".  I couldn't find a good version of the video to embed, which is a shame because homegirl basically goes psycho and does the weirdest dance moves ever.  It's okay though, because it's Shakira, and she has license to do whatever the hell she wants 24/7.  I sometimes (all the time) listen to this song on repeat and have to stop myself from dancing on the metro.

It is now naptime in Paris.  I hope everyone is doing well.  If you're reading, I would love comments to know who all is keeping up with my lame adventures!  You can comment by scrolling down to "Anonymous" and then just sign it with your name once you comment (like my mom does every time.) 

Peace, love, and Paris,