Panda in Paris

london and so many other things

Posted in France by parisianpanda on May 2, 2010
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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.

Parliament and Westminster Abbey from the Eye

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.

This is what he looks like.

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.

This church was the inspiration for the first tiered wedding cake!

This is the church Shakespeare attended!

This bridge wobbled too much when it first opened, so they had to close it until a team of New York engineers fixed it. We saved them, just like after the war. ***

Seeing as the last time I was here the weather was less than stellar, I also spent a good amount of time in parks.


Tulips and the London Eye

Seriously, what is it with Europeans and squirrels?

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!

Carnival rides on the pier

Gazebo on the beach at night

Chocolate-truffle-peanut-butter milkshake from a place called, I kid you not, Choccy woccy doo dah.

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.


paca pâques

I went south for Easter  weekend with David.

First we were in Toulon…

He is happy because he's not in Paris.

Place de la Liberté

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…


Me being saucy (Before you get too jealous, it wasn't really warm enough for me to be barefoot with no jacket...)

Steps from the beach to the bike path

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.

GET IT! HE IS DON QUIXOTE BECAUSE HE'S SPANISH! (This was his idea, not mine.)

The place in Hyeres where you have to catch the ferry to and from Ile de Porquerolles is called La Tour Fondue…

Does it look like a melted tower?

The next day we got up early and took the train to Nice…

Beasts of the fountain

Cote d'Azur, being azur

Bittersweet graffiti

He's thinking about Nutella.

We took a detour to Villefranche, which was beautiful before it started raining…

Cute little passageway...

Villefranche right before it started pouring...

…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.*

USA baby. U. S. A.

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.

Private beaches in Cannes. Marylin Monroe is also arbitrarily on everything.

My parents told me to take this because there is a picture of me on this carousel as a baby.

We finished our trip in Antibes, which had nice beaches and a fantastic view of the Alpes.

I got more sunburned than I'm proud to admit considering how short of a time we were actually in the sun.

Other things:

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:
a) London
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.

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.

je n’ai pas peur des americains

Posted in France by parisianpanda on January 25, 2010
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“ni des cons ni des poiliticiens
mais j’ai peur de t’attraper la main
et que tu m’esquives encore”

Mickey 3D : Matador

1) I have decided to stop complaining so much about work, because it is sort of unreasonable to complain about a job that gives me an almost-livable salary for 12(ish) hours a week of n’importe quoi. I am still going to make fun of people at work who do ridiculous things, though, such as:

a) During a lesson about cliches when I had students think of cliches they have about Americans, one girl said all of our movies have “happy hands.” Everyone in the class agreed, American movies definitely always have happy hands. I had no idea what she was talking about, so I made her show me what she wrote – “happy ends.” This is an example of hyperforeignism, because there is no aspirated H sound in France and the French often forget to pronounce the H when speaking English, so sometimes they overcompensate and put it where it doesn’t exist. This is like when Americans use the expression “coup de grâce” (“blow of mercy”/the final blow that puts someone out of their misery) and pronounce it without the “ce” sound because often in French they don’t pronounce the end of words. (In this case what Americans say sounds like “coup de gras”/blow of fat.)

Happy hand?

b) A conversation with a French teacher at the high school:

Teacher: Your name is Amanda?
Me: Yes.
Teacher: That’s weird. It sounds African. Is that a common name in your country?
Me: Yes, it’s very common.
Teacher: That’s so strange. French girls are never called Amanda.
Me: [No, because French girls are all called Anne-Laure-Sophie-Claire-Marie Dupont-Chateaubriand.] No, the French version seems to be Amandine.
Teacher: Yes, but only old people have that name.
I smiled politely.

2) I finally went to the university to inquire about enrolling with my weird transcript. I didn’t really succeed at explaining that I do not have grades, not even ABCD grades, until finally the woman said as long as they’re in English and not Danish someone will be able to read them. I will have to take a French proficiency test, which makes me nervous because I’m bad at standardized tests and because even though I get lots of compliments about my spoken French I haven’t had to seriously write in French since the last quarter at Evergreen. I would still rather take a French proficiency test ten times that take the GRE once, because I’ve realized the only reason I can add/subtract/multiply/divide at all is because of the flashcards my dad made me do constantly in elementary school and not because I actually understand how math works.

3) Yesterday David and Katarina called me out for doing this French air-puff-lip thing that involves filling your lips with air and blowing when someone asks you a question you weren’t expecting and you’re trying to think of a response. I have either picked this up from Corentin or my old host mother, because they both do it constantly. Two is not really a good sample size for calling it a “French thing” but I’m going to assume it is anyway.

4) We have started doing pub quizzes on Monday nights. It’s sort of like knowledge bowl in high school, except with more alcohol and less crushing disappointment.

5) Can anyone tell me why the little feedjit thing on the right thinks I’m in Bordeaux whenever I come on this blog from the high school? I am quite far from Bordeaux.

6) I have evangelized Community to David and Katarina. I’ve loved it ever since I went home for Christmas. How come no one told me how great this show was earlier?


you’d think after 22 years I’d be used to the spin

Posted in France by parisianpanda on January 14, 2010
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“but it only feels worse when I stay in one place,
that’s why I’m always pacing around or walking away.”

1) My birthday was on Monday and lots of multinational fun was had.

Yeah friendship!

Some more friendship!

Still more friendship!

My mom called a bakery and had them deliver me a delicious cake even though she can't speak any French! Thanks Mom!

The old picture-of-a-picture trick!

My roomie, Spanish assistant and matador extraordinaire

Florian the German assistant, who is pricelessly photogenic.

He is opening champagne but you can't see it!


Anyway, fun was had and memories were made. None of my friends drunkenly kissed my roommate’s feet as they were leaving, which means my 22nd birthday one-upped my 21st birthday in classiness, but it’s mostly because Levallois is tenfold a classier town than Olympia, Washington.

2) I tried going to the university in Creteil today, which was a bad idea because I woke up too late to wait in line to talk to the secretary without being late for babysitting, after riding the metro for an hour to get there and then spending another half hour being lost. At least I know where it is now. If I grow a spine by Wednesday I will probably go then.

3) There is a burger joint down the street from the lycee called Fleche Burger. “Fleche” means arrow in French but is pronounced like “flesh,” so it is one of the most unappetizing restaurant names I have ever come across. It is a good thing for their business that I am probably the only native English speaker to spend so much time in Colombes.

4) I was talking to an Irish woman in my improv class today about expat life in Paris. She has been here for ten years and said as much as she likes the city and the lifestyle, she hates that everything is “unnecessarily difficult and getting anything done requires a fight and a status battle.” It sort of comforts me to know that this is a tangible problem and not something I’m “not used to.” I think it is one of those things like winter in Minnesota, where if you have not been living there since the day you were born and have it in your blood it is never something you really get “used to.” It did not, however, make me feel like going back to the University at Creteil to inquire about enrolling.

5) Speaking of improv, it takes away 85% of my stress whenever I go and I don’t understand why I didn’t start doing it sooner. I still think I made the right decision deciding not to try and do theater professionally, but spending 2.5 hours a week getting out of my own head and being someone other than me is really essential for my mental health.

6) Speaking of getting out of my own head, I’ve been thinking of taking up paint huffing because my American anti-drug education told me that kills off a number of brain cells. I could use a few less, my brain is in overdrive as it is. But whatever chemicals are in spray paint in America are probably banned in Europe like every other chemical that is harmful to your health. Jerks. Doesn’t Europe care about corporate welfare?


(PS Now that I have both a functional computer and functional internet access, people really need to start Skyping with me, especially if they live in Rock Maple.)


Posted in France by parisianpanda on January 7, 2010
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1) New Year’s in France was pretty fun, especially after midnight when everyone wanted to play “let’s-practice-our-drunk-English-with-the-American-girl.”

2) I was supposed to go to a French grad school today to discuss whether or not they will accept my crazy Evergreen transcript but then I slept until 1 pm because it’s my day off, so now I’m going next week. Have I mentioned I have a crippling fear of rejection? Because I have a crippling fear of rejection.

3) I have started actually putting a little bit of effort into my lesson plans, and it actually makes my classes run a lot smoother. Who know? I used one of Jennie’s lessons (fabulous resource if you aren’t already using it) about American cliches of French people. Most people tend to think they’re pretty funny, but one of my students on Tuesday was VERY offended and insisted French people weren’t like that at all and came up with a whole list of American cliches as what he called “revenge,” some of which I’m not sure exist. (American men are not as good as husbands as French men?) Even the other students thought he needed to calm down… “Mais c’est une blague, quoi!”

4) My “I-do-not-watch-French-TV-because-it-is-awful” policy has turned into an “I-watch-French-TV-precisely-because-it-is-awful” policy, which is probably only going to get worse next week when we get cable. I am currently watching an American after school special dubbed over in French about a teenage boy who RUINS his life with a pornography addiction. My favorite thing about French dubbing is they always read signs out loud instead of subtitling them, so every time the boy visits a porn site he says things like “big jugs.” No wonder his well-intentioned stepmother catches him.

5) My birthday is on Monday and I have invited people over. Hopefully our new neighbors don’t hate us.

Bananée! (I assure you this is a hilarious pun in French.)