Oh hey there, blog. It’s been a while.
This blog post comes to you in four parts.
Part One: Paris
I’m not there anymore. I left at the end of May. I miss it dearly and hope to be back in the fall for grad school. If not, Madison, Wisconsin, here I come!
Here are a couple of tidbits from the end of my time there:
Part Two: The United Kingdom
I am there currently and will be until about mid-August or so, living in London with Ben aka the lobsterback version of the kid from Almost Famous and listening to him say things like “Oh bother would you like a spot of tea? Lorries and porkie pies and football pitches and Dumbledore, oh bloody hell.”*
It has come to my attention that I have been here almost a month and have taken no pictures of London. Hopefully that will be remedied soon, but I have taken pictures of some weekend expeditions to other parts of England. For example, my first weekend here we took a hiking trip to the South Downs, where I walked 12.5 miles across a bunch of hills which was more fun than it sounds and subsequently got a terrible purple sun burn which was even less fun than it sounds:
Last weekend I went to Bristol to visit my old French host siblings, Lise and Thibault, with whom I spent a week in high school in Marseille. Lise has been in Bristol all year on Erasmus, and Thibault happened to be visiting her.
Anyway, great trip, Lise and Thibault were gracious hosts as usual.
In conclusion, people here care about soccer and they aren’t even hipsters.
Part Three: Frankfurt and Amsterdam in May
I went to see David in Frankfurt:
Cons: Frankfurt is boring and moderately ugly, the city revolves around banking, and supposedly the population triples during the work week because of people coming in to work at the banks and is mostly dead on the weekend and devoid of young people. Pros: David and his Nintendo coworkers, apparently the only young people in the city, are awesome.
Ben and I also had a trip to Amsterdam:
Things to definitely do in Amsterdam: The Anne Frank House (it’s overpriced but worth it) FOAM (Foto Museum of Amsterdam – great exhibits and super cheap,) paddleboating on the canals (don’t bother getting a boat tour, paddleboating is cheaper and so much fun) and frites with oorlog sauce (mayonaise and peanut sauce – it sounds terrible but it’s amazing and I still crave it.)
Things to definitely not do in Amsterdam: walk around at night on streets that have window girls at street level if you don’t like being terrified, see an improv show at the renowned English-language improv theater which will go unnamed but if you ever try to go you’ll know what I’m talking about because it’s in all the guides. I have seen some bad improv comedy but this wasn’t even funny after I did that thing everyone does in Amsterdam that’s supposed to make everything funny.**
Part Four: L’Arnacoeur Watch
The terrible Romain Duris/Vanessa Paradis film I lamented in my last blog is being released in England under the title “The Heartbreaker.” I’ve seen the posters in the tube here in London. They couldn’t even keep the clever pun in the title. I only hope this fate won’t befall my beloved United States. (However, if you see the French film titled “Farewell” is coming to a theater near you, do not hesitate to see it. It’s about French people and Russian francophiles and the Soviet Union and Americans and Willem Dafoe has a small part in it. Go.)
*English people talk like this. FACT.
**Activity to go unnamed because this blog is for the children.
In this ever painful process of throwing away/packing/mailing all the junk that has accumulated in this apartment, I found more cliches about Americans written by my students from my stereotypes lesson. (See this post.)
– The americans are Great actors in life all the days. (Oh, all the days!)
– All women want to become a cheerleader. (Curse you, Bring it On!)
– American are too superficial and they all have the same hair colour: blonde. (This one is ironic because I’m likely the only American they’ve ever met.)
– Their monies are often spectacular. (I think they were trying to say some people are exorbitantly wealthy, but Andrew Jackson is a handsome man.)
– Californians live only for surf. (There was a joke my freshman year of college that when the Californians on our floor were in high school, they all surfed to school. I’m glad this has been confirmed.)
– Some have like names = Bob and Brenda and Kimberly. (Are they only watching films from the 80’s?)
– Their music sounds are everytime sometime about sex. (I’m glad this gross error was corrected.)
– Americans people say allways “damn” “oh my god!!!” (ALWAYS!)
– They know only footbowl, NBA, and base-ball. They don’t know Zidane!! (I am definitely an expert on footbowl, and it’s actually a pretty legitimate complaint that Americans don’t know Zidane.)
– They are arrogant, they think that everywhere speak english. (But everywhere DO speak English!)
– Their gastronomy is equal to the humberger. (Mmmm, delicious quarter pound humberger.)
– The village people. (There were two that said this.)
– Girl -> bitch, pompom girl, Boy -> gangster, footballeur, cowboy. (This outlines the glass ceiling and double standards regarding gender roles in American society really well, don’t you think?)
Oh, how I will miss humorously awful French teenager English.
Speaking of cliches, Matthew and I saw this romantic comedy the other day:
I don’t enjoy many romantic comedies but I think it’s tired to dismiss them collectively as a genre, and occasionally I’ll see one that rings true or is at least original and charming. This wasn’t one of them, as roguishly charming as Romain Duris is.
Essentially, Romain Duris plays a guy who runs an agency with his sister and brother-in-law in which he is hired by friends or relatives of women in unhappy relationships to stage a romantic intervention and break up their couple. They do research on the women beforehand to find out their likes/dislikes/what makes them tick, and on principle will only intervene if the woman is unhappy. Then Romain Duris sweeps in, charms them, finds something to get emotional about, kisses them, claims he’s not good enough for them, the women say “Thank you,” he says, “For what?” and they say “Just, thank you.” And that’s the trick. Oh, and they inexplicably speak tons of languages. (Arnacouer is a pun in French, combining “arnaquer” [counterfeiter] and “coeur” [heart.])
Vanessa Paradis, known in America pretty much exclusively as Johnny Depp’s girlfriend, is getting married in a week (!!!) to someone with whom she is happy (!!!!) For reasons that are left cryptic at the beginning but turn out to be pretty boring, her father doesn’t want this, so he hires Romain Duris, who originally refuses to break up a happy couple but ultimately he takes it because for some reason he owes some Serbian thugs money and he really needs the job, so he pretends to be the bodyguard her father hired to protect her before the wedding.
(uh, spoiler alert…)
So predictably, Romain Duris pulls out all of the tricks and it doesn’t really work, and then he falls in love with her, and then the night before the wedding they have an amazing night together, and then she gets all the way down the aisle before she decides she’s in love with him too, and then Romain Duris runs back from the airport and back up the hill in Monaco where the wedding is taking place and Vanessa Paradis runs down the hill and then they run into each other and kiss and it’s over.
This whole running-away-with-another-guy-who-she-really-loves-when-she’s-about-to-get-married cliche was parodied in the Baxter, the under-appreciated Michael Showalter film which follows “The Baxter”, meaning the guy who gets left at the alter. The thing that makes this cliche kind of work is that “The Baxter,” while always shown to be a great guy, is kind of a square, and the guy who steals his woman is always kind of rugged.
Not so in this film! Both Romain Duris and Andrew Lincoln (aka that English guy in Love Actually who is in love with Keira Knightly who is married to his best friend…maybe this is karma?) are charming and handsome and appealing. They present literally nothing unlikeable about her fiance, or even any real evidence that she’s not in love with him. The only mildly unappealing thing is that his parents are jerks, but so are hers. And everything she likes in Romain Duris turns out to be a lie. He figures out in his research that she likes Dirty Dancing and Wham (seriously, what a terrible character) so he sings along to Wham in the car and, in the epic climactic night they spend together, does the Dirty Dancing dance with her in the middle of an Italian restaurant. (Said epic night sequence also involves a pretty criminal use of CGI dolphins in a swimming pool.) Everything that makes her fall in love with him is based on research he did beforehand to push her buttons.
In conclusion, this movie is terrible. Matthew’s main complaint is that all Asian people in the movie were assumed to be Chinese. (Matthew is half Filipino and frequently assumed to be Chinese in France.) This connects nicely with the “Stuff Parisians Like” post about generalities about Chinese people.
In other news, I got into the American master’s program I applied to, which is great but I’m still hoping to get into the French one. Also I am going to Frankfurt and Amsterdam and have a million things to send home and no source of income so I am going to be destitute when I go back to the US.
I haven’t put anything here in almost a month and a lot has happened. Generally I write long posts full of word vomit, so this time for the sake of my sanity and yours* I will break things up into shorter posts over the few days**. The first thing is my trip to England over “Easter vacation” which was actually two weeks after Easter because of the breaking up of France into vacation “zones” so everyone doesn’t go on vacation at the same time, and also because France only pretends to be a Catholic country.
Most of the time I was in London visiting Ben, who is a very nice young man who lived here in Paris for a couple of months and invited me to visit him when he went home.
I went to London during the Toussaint vacation the year I was in Paris as a student and I’d already visited most of the major tourist sites, so while Ben was at work I did a lot of walking tours of areas I probably wouldn’t have visited on my own and learned interesting factoids.
Seeing as the last time I was here the weather was less than stellar, I also spent a good amount of time in parks.
Probably the most interesting part of the trip was going to Brighton, a seaside town in the south, mostly for an event at a little independent gallery where various artists/journalists/professors talked about reality as a concept, but also the sea!
Overall an excellent trip with an excellent host who took excellent care of me.
Back in Paris, things are starting to get sad because I’m on my last month here (at least for the summer) and people are starting to go home. Katarina is back in Australia, and David’s gone to Frankfurt to start a real grown-up job. Determined not to write about grad school here until I’ve actually gotten acceptances/made a decision, out of fear of jinxing it. At least Matthew is here. He moved into David’s room for the month and he talks a lot, which drowns out all my neuroses bouncing around in my brain.
*I realize it’s narcissistic to assume this blog affects your sanity or even my own.
**I can’t promise this. I have a lot of free time now that my job is over but I am also very lazy.
***I don’t really think this, I just say things like this because in case you haven’t heard, I’m hilarious.****
****I am probably not hilarious.
I went south for Easter weekend with David.
First we were in Toulon…
Then we went, on the recommendation of one of the English teachers where I work, to Ile de Porquerolles. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been, and the only reason I can think of that it wouldn’t be as touristic as some of the other places in Cote d’Azur is that it’s off the coast of some of the uglier cities in Cote d’Azur (Toulon? Hyeres? Eh…) If it was closer to Nice and Cannes, it would probably be packed all the time. It would be nice to go sometime when there’s actually beach weather and bike around the little paths…
The island is mostly known for beaches, bike paths and parks. One of its only monuments is a little windmill called “Le Moulin de Bonheur,” or the Windmill of Happiness, which is supposedly how the owner sarcastically named it in 1971 when it was a ruin and he was placing an ad in the newspaper looking for a wife.
The place in Hyeres where you have to catch the ferry to and from Ile de Porquerolles is called La Tour Fondue…
The next day we got up early and took the train to Nice…
We took a detour to Villefranche, which was beautiful before it started raining…
…then back to Nice at night. There are seven statues of men in different sorts of meditation positions that glow and change colors at night. The “seven” are supposed to represent the seven continents, which sparked a long and heated debate on why in America we learn there are seven instead of five. David thinks we don’t consider “America” to be one continent because we don’t want to be associated with South Americans. He is just jealous because America is the center of the universe and all Spain has is ham and matadors.*
Our last day was the only day during which the weather was actually beach-appropriate. Cannes was somewhat overrated…it has a nice enough promenade but it’s not as pretty as Nice or Villefranche, and most of the beaches are private.
We finished our trip in Antibes, which had nice beaches and a fantastic view of the Alpes.
1) My inability to find summer employment means I’m going back stateside at the end of May. I would have liked to stay the summer, but most of the people I care the most about here will be gone by then anyway, apart from my small handful of friends who are actually French and never seem to have any free time. This means I will probably get to go to Washington in June to see my friends before they all graduate and disperse, which I’m pretty happy about. I am a little bit worried about wasting away jobless at my parent’s house in July and August, but then I will start grad school either at Madison or here in Paris, and everything will be okay.** I’ve applied for a summer job in Portland, but I have learned not to expect much from such things.
2) Places I would like to go before June:
b) Marseille again
c) Frankfurt when David moves there? Maybe?
d) Somewhere Latin with a coast (Portugal? Italy?)
3) Now that it’s getting warmer my students have gotten in the habit of remarking how sexy I look. This job has been good to me but I’m still pretty happy it’s ending.
*In case this is the first time you’ve read this blog, that’s a joke and not actually how I feel.
**Or I will be rejected from all the grad schools I apply to and will starve in the street.
Living with a sports enthusiast, I have gone to two rugby matches in the past month or so. I became moderately interested in it when I was here as a student because the World Cup was in Paris at the time, and because I caught glimpses of it on TV in bars and it looked like American football with all the boring parts cut out, and because on the night of the nuit blanche the French team beat the strongly favored New Zealand All Blacks and everyone in the street went crazy.
I’ve become moderately more interested because one of the teams that competes in France, Racing Metro 92, is based in Colombes, which is the city where I teach, and their stadium, Stade Yves du Manoir (which hosted the Summer 1924 Olympics and the 1938 World Cup Soccer as Wikipedia just told David!) is right across the street from the high school. Earlier this month we saw a match of the Paris team in the much bigger, much flashier Stade de France (complete with groping security and what we are pretty sure was a drag queen pre-show.) The Paris team lost to Toulouse, supposedly because Toulouse is a significantly stronger team but I don’t think their cotton candy colored uniforms help.
Today we went and saw Racing play against a team from a town that starts with a B that I haven’t heard of and still haven’t bothered to look up. It was a little weird taking the bus to Colombes on the weekend. One of the other important things about the Racing team is that it’s home to Sebastien Chabal, one of the stars of the French national team. He’s known because he’s very large, even by rugby player standards (and also because he’s good at it or something) but he’s mostly famous because he has impressive facial hair, which is a big deal for me to say because I lived for some time in the pacific northwest.
In conclusion, we won but just barely, it was an exciting game, and I got a flag of the team and David managed to get a picture on his cellphone of me accidentally poking myself in the eye with it but that will not be displayed on this blog.
I will leave you with a picture of David and his German friends with the weird pizza that we made before I go off and drink the beer they left in our house.
Bisous mes petits lapins!
1) German is a hideous language.
2) One of the English teachers at my school told me she didn’t like Berlin because she thought it had “no soul.” I don’t think this is entirely fair. It’s definitely not a beautiful city the way European capitals are generally advertised as being, but the cheap cost of living has created a community of young people that doesn’t exist in a lot of big cities.
3) Call me the PC police, but concentration camps = maybe not the best place for Facebook photo ops? “Oh, crematorium! SMILE! Check out that blood stain still on the ground from when the Nazis would pretend to take people’s heights, then shoot them in the back of the neck! OMG THIS IS TOTALLY MY PROFILE PIC!” Slightly tasteless.
4) German food was too beefy and greasy and mostly gave me stomachaches, however: Kebab in Germany = WAY better than kebab in France. We went to a kebab place for dinner one of the first nights in Berlin out of desperation and I was a little disappointed, because kebab in France is generally something I eat because I am hungry and nothing else is open, not because I enjoy the way it tastes. How wrong I was! In addition to being a few euros cheaper, kebab in Germany is grilled to perfection, not too fatty, full of vegetables and doesn’t end up half on your plate at the end of it. French kebabs have gone from being disappointing to basically inedible in my book.
5) Hamburg is pretty!
6) We spent all night Saturday at a club called Magnet in Berlin, which was especially fun because:
a) They played music I actually enjoy (The Pixies! The Postal Service!)
b) The alcohol was actually affordable and
c) The crowd was full of people who mostly look and dress like I do.
This is a sharp contrast to clubs in Paris, where:
a) They mostly play David Guetta and a lot of this nonsense
b) 5 euro beer! 10 euro cocktails!
c) The crowd is full of men in their 40s hitting on 17-year-old girls while all the girls who are not 17 stand around the perimeter of the room making judgey faces at anyone who looks like they’re having fun.
David (who is particularly vitriolic against the lack of sociability in Paris) said as we were leaving, “Look! You see how much fun we had! We almost never have that much fun in Paris. That’s every weekend in Madrid!” I thought about this, and told him that I like Paris because I like taking walks around pretty buildings and listening to people speak French, and that maybe I’m willing to sacrifice a more fulfilling and more affordable social life for that. He thinks I am ridiculous. I would probably be a happier person if I didn’t have such misplaced priorities. Oh well.
7) Here is a Takashi Murakami-produced music video that was featured in a Pop Art exhibition we saw in Hamburg. You will enjoy it if you enjoy cutesy Japanese things, vaguely racist double entendres and Kirsten Dunst.
The past couple of days I have been sort of homesick, which is a pretty big deal because I am a person who has moved around a lot and I don’t feel homesick all that frequently.
A while back I met a guy from Oregon who is here studying at the HEC (a pretty well-to-do business school) who said while he likes Europe, as an American he misses the concept of “a frontier”. I remember at the time thinking this was a pretentious and slightly narrow-minded thing to say, but thinking about it the past couple of days there is some metaphorical truth to it.
My students here already have large parts of their future decided for them. They are smart, they will take this type of baccalaureate which will get them into this kind of “grande ecole” and they will be successful. They’re not so smart, they will take this type of baccalaureate and be a nurse’s assistant or a paper-pusher.
And all people have been saying about getting a Master’s in France is that it’s grueling and soul-destroying and unemployment is high, high, high. And for all the aspersions that can be cast about Evergreen and the employ-ability of its graduates, I really did feel like I was learning and being productive and building myself a future when I was there. As much as I would have to pay for a Master’s in the states, maybe that’s a really important element.
I know the idea of a meritocracy and pulling yourself up by your bootstraps and there is always hope on the horizon and blah blah blah that America likes to sell is largely smoke and mirrors, championing stories of certain lucky people to make the exception look like the rule. But regardless, America DOES manage to sell that image. It sells the feeling. Feeling hopeful is equally or more important than hope actually existing, isn’t it?
Mostly I just had a disappointing weekend and I will probably still be submitting everything to everywhere and keeping all my options open, but I should probably start doing more sleeping and less thinking.
1) Why would I get a croissant when I could get pain au chocolat, which is the same thing but with CHOCOLATE?
2) Why would I get bread when I could get brioche, which is the same thing except with BUTTER AND SUGAR?
3) As long as I’m getting brioche I may as well get brioche with CHOCOLATE CHIPS!
4) If I am going to get a baguette, I might as well EAT THE WHOLE THING IN ONE SITTING COVERED IN CHEESE AND HAM AND DELICIOUS!
(mettre des batons dans les roues = “put sticks in the wheels” – throw a wrench in the works)
I was listening to the Dan Savage podcast the other day and this college girl called in saying she really, really wanted to get pregnant, to the point that she was considering messing with her birth control without telling the people she’s sleeping with because she can’t shake the urge to get pregnant. Dan Savage said that she was probably feeling tempted to throw everything off course because when you get stuck in a routine in college, it’s tempting to want to shake things up, get off the tracks, move your life in a different direction, etc. but that having a baby was a pretty extreme manifestation of that.
I definitely and unequivocally have no temptation to have babies at this point* but I have been wrestling with the self-destructive temptation to “throw a wrench in the system.” I am working on getting all the paperwork I need together to apply for a masters in France/America/summer job/renewal of contract/etc. so I have lots of options open for next year, but everytime I go to fill out a form I am overwhelmed with a sense of “Why are you even doing this? Do you even want this?”
Maybe it’s because it’s winter, maybe it’s because I am 22 and my quarter life crisis is keeping me firmly in its grasp, maybe it’s because I see my Facebook acquaintances/fellow Evergreen alumni doing things like literally running away and joining the circus**, maybe it’s because some of my personal relationships aren’t really going in the direction I would have hoped*** and it’s given me the feeling that in the end no one cares what I do because no one will be around but me and I am only really accountable to myself, but I have been tempted lately to just buy a one-way plane ticket to Seattle, with no real plan, just to see what happens.
In the end I will probably pull things together and turn in my applications and choose a direction and make myself a real future like a real grown-up, but this is the first year I haven’t had a solid plan for the following fall and I have sort of enjoyed the thrill of it. And also, as much as I love Paris, I do miss Washington because it’s the only place I have ever felt completely secure and surrounded by people who like me for me, as opposed to Paris where I am made to feel inadequate relentlessly.
In conclusion, aaannnnnngggsssst.
*Although, Axel’s mother is on bedrest because she’s pregnant with twins and the other day his dad was going out for the night. He made sure everything was prepared before he left, but he told Axel to be good and to do whatever had to be done to help his mother. Axel slapped his face on both sides like the Home Alone cover**** and said “Oh, mais je ne sais meme pas comment faire la cuisine!” (“Oh, but I don’t even know how to make dinner!”) which was pretty much the cutest thing ever, and I was reading a movie review the other day that said foreign children are automatically cuter than domestic children, which I think is true. But I still don’t want babies, at least not today.
**I am not acrobatic enough for this but I would probably make an okay clown.
***Not all of them, just a couple of the more important ones.
****I should stop making dated references that are overused anyway.
1) Katarina came over because I was making dinner on Friday night. We were talking in the kitchen while I was tenderizing chicken (which was luckily in a plastic bag). Katarina was supposedly leaning on the kitchen cabinet when suddenly the whole thing lurched forward and fell on our heads and shoulders.
When we lifted it off the oven to put it on the ground our hands got sticky because the back was covered in glue. It’s a good thing that’s what was holding it to the wall, as well as two bent screws. Luckily no people and only two dishes were harmed in the accident, one of which is reparable.
2) This week I am on pretend vacation because the premieres and terminales have a practice bac exam all week, and since only two of my classes are with secondes the teachers told me I could just not come. I have no idea what to do with this week, apart from a lot of sleeping, some shopping and possibly a visit to this place. I should also get around to climbing the Arc de Triomphe at some point, since I can do it for free.
3) I am applying for a summer job as a study abroad counselor for high school students coming to Paris for a few weeks. This is the only job I’ve ever applied for that I’ve actually felt qualified for, instead of just tweaking my resume to make it look like I’m qualified and then hoping for the best, though I should probably not get too cocky because I am excellent and counting my eggs before they hatch.
4) Speaking of idiomatic expressions, I bought a book of them at Gilbert Jeune. Some choice ones:
avoir des fourmis dans les jambes: (to have ants in your legs) To have ants in your pants…it doesn’t rhyme in French, and having ants in your legs is a little weirder than just having them in your pants.
se noyer dans une verre d’eau – (to drown yourself in a glass of water) To be stressed out and distracted to the point that you make stupid mistakes – I am frequently drowning myself in glasses of water.
du jus de chaussette – (sock juice) – weak coffee. Gross.
avoir le vin gai/triste/mauvaise/etc. – (to have happy/sad/bad wine) To be a good/bad/sad/happy drunk…the entire first chapter of this book is about drinking.
avoir un chat dans la gorge – (to have a cat in your throat) – To have a frog in your throat…one of my parents’ favorite stories to recount from my childhood is the time when I was six and woke up with a sore throat and my mother told me I had a frog in my throat, and I was distressed about it the whole day to the point that I told my teacher I was really worried about the frog in my throat. Perhaps if the expression was “cat” and not “frog” I wouldn’t have taken it literally, since at six I probably would have known a cat wouldn’t fit in my throat. A frog however…
avoir l’estomac dans les talons – (to have your stomach in your heels) – to be very hungry. This is another expression I would have taken literally when I was six.
ramene ta fraise – (bring back your strawberry) – get your butt over here. Katarina pointed out that this sounds dirty. I’m resolved to stay away from even the most innocent of fruit metaphors.
5) I am going to Berlin and Hamburg with David and Matthew for the February vacation, and I anticipate everyone in Germany talking and behaving like Karl Lagerfeld.
6) I really wish I was in Seattle for Valentine’s Day so I could watch Dan Savage destroy leftover articles from dead relationships again. Last year was the best Valentine’s Day ever. If you are in Seattle, you should go.
7) This American Life reminded me that this is an excellent song: