Panda in Paris

new frontier

Posted in France by parisianpanda on February 16, 2010
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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.

The field behind my house in Minnesota, December 2006

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.


boulangerie cycle of shame

Posted in France by parisianpanda on February 7, 2010
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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!


This is why you’re fat.

je veux mettre des batons dans les roues

Posted in France by parisianpanda on February 5, 2010
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(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.

gray grey gris

*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.

la chute de l’armoire

Posted in France by parisianpanda on February 1, 2010
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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.

At least my chicken got super tender.

Cleaning up the wreckage

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: