Thursday, September 30, 2010


I drove up into the SB mountains.  It is a warm summer night and I am surrounded by three or four of my closest friends.  We are sitting at a look out spot along the road.  I look out and on this clear night I can see from Montecito to Goleta, the oil rigs looking light sailboats shining on the ocean.  The air is no colder than 75 degrees with a gentle breeze rising from the valley before us.  We start talking about everything that we've done in the last four years and all I can think about is my experiences last year in Paris.  How much my life changed in that time abroad.

Every time I close my eyes, I go to that place.  It is next summer, I am with my friends.  I am back in Santa Barbara with France behind me.  I did it.  I conquered  this seemingly unconquerable year.  I survived and I am back where I know.  As for now, my reality is very much different than my idealized future.  As I sit here writing this, I am still at chez Michele.  I can hear cars go up rue Lacède every few minutes.  I know that if I was hungry I could go outside and get a homemade crepe and eat it on my bed.

And I know that in three days I will be in a different part of this city living with a different host family.  The de Fleurieu's are taking me in for the next week.  Assuming everything goes well with the wire transfers and we can move into our apartment, I'll be in on a week from this Saturday.  And my life will change yet again.

It seems that during my time abroad, the only constant thing is change.  I know, I know, its corny and cliché, but clichés exist for a reason.  I have been in France for a month and a day and in that time my world has been turned upside down.  In that time I have gotten to know a French family, made friends with kids from Europe, the South Pacific, Asia, North America and South America. I have given a presentaion on France's Military Footprint in Africa to a policy advisor for the French Ministry of Defense.  I have traveled to a foreign country by myself where I stayed with a friend from high school.  I have made plans to go to Scotland with a friend to visit another friend (both from UCSB), bought concert tickets to see Michael Bublé here in Paris and made plans to have my brother come over and visit me for thanksgiving.  I have become an english tutor for two preteens and a gentleman in this thirties.  I went from barely understanding spoken French to being able to watch movies in French sans subtitles.

My life has changed so much and I have only been here for four and a half weeks.  With seventy five days left until I return to the United States I can only imagine what will happen.  I know that I have to give five more presentations in French between now and then.  I know I have to write a twenty page memoir in French comparing two law systems and defend it in front of a jury of three people.  And above all I know that I will survive this.  That is the one thing that helps me.

I'm not quite sure why, but this week has been super difficult for me.  I haven't been able to make it one day without an anxiety attack.  Not a major one mind you, but a good freak out.  And talking with my family has helped.  Thank god for skype.  But the one thing that I helps me at this point is the fact that with every breath I take, I am that much closer to being with them again.  Every second that passes is a second I survived here.  And I am looking forward to the day when my favorite part of it isn't crossing another x off my calendar.

But as for now, the visions of next summer, of traveling with Nana, of my Dad and JoAnn coming over in Spring, of Nick coming over in November and of Mom coming in May are what get me through this.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Mon dernier dîner

Tonight I had my last home cooked meal from Michele Bonhomme.  Tomorrow I am going out with my friends and Friday she is going out.  And I am out of here on Saturday.

I don't think it is possible to express in words how amazing Michele and her family have been to me.  They welcomed me in with open arms from day one.  I first got in contact with her about a week before I left the US and she was nice then.  When I got here, she met me down at the door to her stairs.  She helped me with my bags up to my room.

And my room!  What a room!  It is probably 17sq meters (for you Americans, that is 183sq feet).  This room is bigger than apartments I have visited.  And it has a view of the Panthéon from my window, not to mention my own private entrance.

I know I've talked a lot about the food, but here is just a short list of what Michele has made for me: escargots (twice), duck, beef cheeks, potatoes au gratin, lamb, beef, ham, a lot of purées of veggies (usually carrots and potatoes), eggplant, and a lot of food she explained to me but I didn't know what it was....  And her desserts!  Oh my god.  She was trying to loose some weight, so most of the time when she made a dessert and it was just us eating, I was the only one eating the dessert.  And I'm talking home made tarts with home grown fruit filling, chocolate cake with coffee creme filling, and from time to time Georgiana would cook.  She is FANTASTIC.  She made a chocolate cake with chocolate icing.  I don't think I've ever tasted something that good in a restaurant.

I am really going to miss this part of Paris.  The 5th arrondissement is probably the best.  I literally walk by where Des Cartes, Hemmingway and Joyce all lived when they were in Paris.  I am three minutes from a metro, about five from an ancient roman arena (Les Arenes de Lutece), and fifteen minutes (if you are like me and walk slowly) from Notre Dame.  I could look at that church all day and not get tired of it.

How many host families take their tenant out, show them how to use the metro, and take them up the Eiffel Tower all on the first day?

Dans mes rêves

I have always been a very vivid dreamer.  I can't imagine how many times growing up when my mom would wake me up that I would say, "I had the (insert adjective here) dream last night!"  For the last couple of days I have been having some amazing dreams here.

There is one dream that stands out the most to me.  In describing it, it won't make any sense, but I need to try anyway.  I am somewhere near a lake.  It seems like it is the dock of the houseboat we rented for one of our family reunions a few years ago.  Except instead of being a boat, it is the FVC.  Somehow the surrounding area has changed to the faculty lawn at UCSB.  I see my coworkers from this summer walking with vacationers away from the beach.  The sun is out, but it setting.  Brilliant purples and oranges and yellows paint the sky the color of a cowboy cliché (yes, I stole that from John Mayer).  Then we are at the beach.  I have never felt more comfortable and at peace than I did in my dream.  I looked around and I knew where I was, who I was with, and what was going to happen.

Then I woke up.

I feel like living in this city there are times when everything seems to be familiar, walking by buildings I've seen for the last four weeks, knowing I am almost home.  Then there are other times when I walk down roads I know I've been down before, but everything seems different, like it has changed since this morning.  I know it is just my mind playing a trick on me.

As for the apartment, Alyia and I went and signed the contract yesterday.  However, like everything else in this country, nothing has gone quite like it was supposed to.  Because we weren't sure of how much we needed for the payments and all of that, we hadn't wired any money to France yet.  It takes about two or three days for a wire transfer to come through.  The contract doesn't become a binding legal document until they receive all of the money.  So I can't say that I have an apartment yet.

To compound the issue, Alyia is heading to London tomorrow and coming back next Wednesday.  In the mean time, I don't have anywhere to live...  I think I am going to have to find a hostel/hotel close to school I can shack up in until she gets back and we can officially move into our apartment.

And my presentations are coming up.  They make me sick to my stomach.  Today I tried a french hot-dog (baguette with cheese and hot-dog in it) and could only get through about half of it.  It may have been the fact they put mustard in it though.  Why anyone would voluntarily eat that stuff is beyond me...

It is embarrassing though.  Close to my house there is Rue Moufftard which has all these cool shops and boutiques not to mention crepe stands.  I have been to four different ones there.  And by this point, every one of the guys who works there knows my order.  It is always either a crepe with ham and cheese or a panini with tomato, mozzarella and ham.  And that Ben and Jerry's I wrote about a while ago?  Yeah, they know me there too.  I have always taken comfort in food and since I couldn't really eat my hot-dog today at lunch, I treated myself to two scoops of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough (my host family has NEVER tried that!  I am going to surprise them with a pint on friday).

So aside from not having a place to live next week, three presentations in the next two weeks in French and at times feeling to nauseous (btw, I, for the life of me, cannot spell nauseous without spell check) to eat, everything else here is going fine.  I really like Thursdays.  Thursday is the day when I have my English classes.  My French defense policy class is great because I've already done my presentation so I have nothing to worry about.  My Social History of the US in the 20th Century class is soooooo easy.  We literally talked about what Jim Crow laws are for about twenty-five minutes last week.  Thursdays are definitely good days.

Maybe I'll take a nap and dream again.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Je veux pas mentir

This is hard.  I should be doing my homework right now but I need to write this post.  I am actually really surprised at how much I like writing this.  Every time one of my friends tells me they read it, I feel really good.  It's nice to know that people are taking the time and reading what I wrote.  Which has also made it really hard to say exactly what I am feeling at times because I don't want to sound like I am just whining and complaining.  However, I need to remember that this blog is for future A.J., and while it isn't likely that he'll forget how he felt at the beginning of his study abroad, I feel like he needs to hear what I have to say.

Like I said, this is hard.  In fact this is probably the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.  I am on my own in a foreign country thousands of miles away from my family.  I don't have anyone I can go to and really just feel safe and taken care of.  For me, that feeling of security is the greatest feeling I could feel.  After high school, moving to Colorado and Texas I felt really alone, but I knew I was safe because I had family with me.  Even if I didn't have any friends, I had a house and loved ones I could be with.

Not here.  I don't have anyone that I can really just feel safe with.   There is a line in one of my favorite songs that says "Have you ever felt alone in a crowded room?" and I think I can honestly say yes.  That's why I think that its a great thing that I am going to live with another person.  I was thinking about it and living alone in this city would probably just compound the problem.  Today, Aliya and I are going to sign the contract for the apartment I talked about in an earlier post.  Thank god for her.  She lets me know that I'm not going through this alone.  That there are other people with the same problems as me.

However, despite how much that helps me, it still doesn't take away the fact that I have twelve more weeks without seeing my family and truly being home.  That is the longest I've gone in my life without seeing my family.

I talked to Kate yesterday.  She spent her junior year in Bologna, Italy.  I was really surprised to hear from her but she gchatted me and asked how I liked France.  I told her it was good but I was really homesick.  She told me that she was exactly where I am.  I know that people have told me that what I am going through is normal, but hearing it from Kate, someone who did what I am (she spent a year abroad from UCSB) really made me feel better.

Last night helped a lot too.  Dinners with the family here give me that sense of security, if only for a little while.  The problem is that I know I am leaving here this weekend.  I finally just got comfortable and it is time to change my world again.  I'll be moving to a different part of the city, one I haven't spent much time in.

I am sick to my stomach.  I don't really have an appetite.  I guess the good thing is that I'll still lose weight!  I actually was talking with Nick, and he and I have the same waist size, despite the fact that he does all this crazy military PT and goes running and all that.  It kinda is a good feeling.  But the nausea, not so much.

I hate feeling regret.  I don't regret coming to Paris at all.  I am glad that I am in Paris.  But I do regret taking my comparative law class in French.  I honestly think that if I wasn't in that class but in one in English, I wouldn't be feeling like this.  And I hate the fact that I am always thinking "What if?"  I can't stand it, but I can't stop it.  What if I wasn't in this course?  What if I was at UC Paris, or studying in Lyon or Bordeaux.  What if I was back in SB for the first quarter and then went abroad starting in the winter?  What if I came abroad with a close friend?  What if I don't have a place to live next year?  What if my friends find a house without me?  All of these stupid questions are swirling in my brain and upsetting my stomach.

I find it interesting that there was a direct correlation to my homesickness feelings and school starting and the weather changing.  For the first three weeks I didn't mind being in Paris. It was still summer, people were still on vacation, and I was only in my orientation classes.  Now that what I do has actual consequences I feel the pressure.  And it is pressure I put on myself.  I don't want this pressure, but I know that it is this pressure that got me to study abroad in the first place.  I don't want to be just another person.  This pressure to be someone out of the ordinary has led me to some pretty cool places.  The latest being here.  But it is also blinding me from truly enjoying this place.

All I know is I have never looked forward to a flight more in my life than I am now for the one taking me back to the US at winter break.

Btw, sorry that this post doesn't really follow any logical order.  Sometimes stream of consciousness is the best way for me to get what I want to say out.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Quatre semaines

I have been in Paris for four weeks.  In that four weeks I have probably had every emotion known to man. When I was coming over here, I was nervous but I swore I would absolutely love it.  I was going to be different that everyone I knew who had studied before.  I mean, come on, I was going to Paris!  I had taken French for six years and had studied abroad before in High School in France.  I can do this no problem.

I was wrong.  This is by far the hardest thing I have ever done.  Nothing in my life can compare to leaving everyone I know and love behind and starting fresh in a new country where I don't know the customs or traditions and have barely functional conversational French.  When I got here I had no contacts in Paris, no leads on finding an apartment and if it wasn't for I would have either been living in a hotel/hostel or on the street.

Since I started classes, there hasn't been one day where I don't wonder what my friends back in SB are doing.  How are global classes going to be this quarter?  I wonder who is going to hook up with whom?  What is going on back in Suite 6111?  I wonder what I would be doing right now if I were in SB.

And it is so easy for me to get trapped in this alternate reality in my mind.  I can just close my eyes and live in my memories.  I can create a world where I am where I want to be and nothing exists but what I want to exist.  It is easy, it is comfortable, it is safe.

And then I think about my reality.  I still don't have an apartment, I still don't know anyone super well, I still can't speak French, and it is ok.  This is what is going to make me who I will be in a year.  These last four weeks are going to be the hardest part of my year abroad.  It is impossible for me to become more unfamiliar with France.  I can only get to know it better.  It can only become more comfortable for me.  My french can only improve.  I can only become better friends with the people I already know.

And I need to talk about dinner tonight.  I have written about dinners here a lot.  Tonight I was freaking out because I have to turn in a paper tomorrow in my vomit-inducing, cold-sweat prompting, please-for-the-love-of-god-get-me-home, steaming pile of international law systems class.  I hadn't finished reading the articles for it.  One was eighteen pages and the other was six.  All in French.  Anyway, I know how long dinners in the Bonhomme household last (not that its a bad thing at all!), so I was stressing to make sure I had enough time to finish and print out the paper.

Getting back to dinner, Sunday is family dinner night.  I always look forward to it, not because I don't have anything to say to Michele, but because it is a lot of fun talking with Jerome and Georgina.  They are closer to my age and a lot of fun to be around.  Tonight Georgiana told me she read my blog.  After that, we all started talking about homesickness.  It was really nice that they didn't look at me weird for every once in a while wanting to go home.  Georgiana actually put it in perspective for me.  She has been away from her comfort zone for three years, leaving behind family, friends, and all she has been familiar with to start a family here in France.

If she can do that, I can at least do this.  I have to say though, that was our last Sunday dinner.  I am leaving here on October 1. As of 23:51 on Sept 26, 2010 I do not know 100% where I will be living in one week.  But I do know I will miss the meals and the sounds and smells and everything about this household.  The feeling of being part of a family when I miss mine and haven't been home in a long time.  But this is making me a better person.  And in the grand scope of things, studying abroad in Paris isn't really something that anyone should complain about.  How many people are lucky enough to do this?

I just need to take my blinders off and look at the bigger picture.  Remind me of that, ok?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Il fait froid

It's that time in Paris when the weather turns cold and rainy.  Today marked the third day of fall, and boy, if this is any indication of what winter is going to be like...

Today was a lot of fun actually though, despite the bitter chill in the air.  Really it only got down to the high forties, if that.  You know us Southern Californians... We are wimps when it comes to the weather.  Nevertheless, I still triple layered (shirt, sweater, jacket).  I did realize though, that I need a good pair of gloves.  That is going to be my mission for next weekend.  A nice pair of leather gloves I can wear here.

Paige is visiting Paris with her friend Mary.  I felt bad because I was supposed to get together with them this morning, but I didn't really get out of bed until 11:30AM.  By the time I got out of bed, showered, shaved and was ready it was noon.  And Aliya and I had another apartment to look at at 2:00PM.

That apartment was GORGEOUS!  It had 3 bedrooms, an amazing kitchen, large dining room, HUGE living room and it was on a direct line to SciencesPo.  Plus, the rent was less than 1,000 Euros each a month.  The only problem would be getting the rest of the start up money.  Becuase we are foreigners, they needed the caution bancaire which would be 1 years rent.  That means that the first months rent would be actually around 15,000 Euros, most of which we would get back at the end of the year.  But who can get 15,000 Euros together in a matter of days?

So it looks like we are going to be taking the apt. in the 18th.  Which is really nice.  Not 100% done deal yet, but we have another viewing on Monday.

So after the viewing I met up with Paige and Mary.  We walked around, went to that park I feel asleep in (see the pictures I posted a few days ago) and then walked from there up to my area.  By that time we had killed about three or four hours so we wanted to eat.  Just up the street from my host family's apartment is this awesome little square with maybe ten different restaurants and a few bars.  I hadn't eaten at any of them but I wanted to try before I left this area.

After dinner at this great Italian restaurant, the three of us headed down to the Champs de Mars to meet up with my orientation group.  They said to be there around 8, and for some reason I am ALWAYS on time so we were there then.  We ran into Hugo, our French host student, but no one else was there.  After about ten minutes of talking and taking pictures a few others turned up.  The only problem is that the grass made it even colder.  We couldn't really stay that long.

After searching the St. Germain area for a cool place to get a drink, we ended up coming back to my area.  This place was poppin' tonight!  It almost made me wish I drank so I could go and see all these cool bars and restaurants.  But being here has made me more and more excited for my birthday.  I know I want to do something big for my 21st, but I don't know what yet.

I guess I still have a few months to figure out what I should do...

Friday, September 24, 2010

Je suis un prof?

So I had my second tutoring session today.  Well I guess I had my first and my second session.   The incredibly nice woman who interviewed me hired me to help both her son and her husband learn/work on their english.  I had my first lesson with he husband today and the second with her son and his friend.

I'll talk about her husband's lesson first.  Today, Aliya and I had an appointment to see a flat in the 2nd.  We were both about 10 min late and by the time we got there the real-estate agent had left.  This was at 11.  I had the lesson at 1 in an area I didn't really know and still had to run home, get lunch, grab my computer and find the place.  Only problem was that it took me a lot longer to get home than I thought.  I scarfed down my crepe and headed out.  I knew which metro stop I needed so that wasn't bad.

I got off at Chateau D'Eau and walked down Rue Strasbourg.  That was the wrong street.  And also, I think I've found out where all of the French Africans live.  Literally every other store was a black beauty salon.  My favorite store was Afro Afrique.  Anyway, I had to go into one of said shops and ask directions because I was hopelessly lost.  Luckily the lady was super nice and she told me where to go.

Once I found the building, I realized I had another problem.  I had no way of contacting Philippe.  I didn't have his cell number.  All I knew was his office address, but not where in the building it was.  Luckily his e-mail was on my comp, which I had with me.  I saw the name of his company and found it on the marquis.  StuidoBleu.  I walk up to the first floor and ask them if Philippe is there.

Turns out Philippe works in a recording studio.  From what I gathered he is in charge of the sound proofing of the studio.  It was awesome!  We had the lesson in a recording studio!  With microphones and all!  It was sooo cool.  I heard people singing and instruments and all!

Anyway, in the lesson, we talked about what he wanted to get out of the lessons and then we talked about Paris.  His english is really good, but he sounds like those foreign guys on family guy that have been in the US just long enough to almost sound American.  I made some little corrections like, railroad tracks are 200 meters wide, not that they make 200 meters. Little things.

In the lesson this afternoon with the kids, I had them write a story.  I told them to use as many adjectives as possible.  I think from this point on I need to give them a vocab sheet.  And have a theme for the lesson.  But then I dictated the words to John Mayer's "Waiting on the World to Change" and had them underline all of the adjectives and circle all of the contractions.  I probably should have made sure he used adjectives...  At least I know what I can do next week!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Les grèves et le terrorisme et les bonnes nouvelles

So apparently France had some major terrorist threats against it lately.  On Sept. 14, they evacuated both the Eiffel Tower and the St. Michele Metro Station because a suicide bombing threat.  So as a response the French Government has called up more the full french police force.  I'm not sure if they are army or the equivalent of the national reserve, or what, but there are a lot of them and they have guns.  Big ones.

Today was also the metro strike.  I decided not to even bother with the metro on my way home from the library so I took a nice long walk from ScienesPo back to my house in the 5th. It was about twenty minutes and I got to see some parts of Paris I had only driven by on the buses.  The strangest thing though, was that Blvd St. Michele was close to cars today.  I'm not sure why.  It may have something to do with the parade of police cars that drove down it today, but it was really strange.  It was kind of cool.  I wonder what Paris would be like with no cars....

Anyway, the whole terrorism scare has some people here a little on edge.  I haven't felt any of the repercussions of it, so I can't really say I am worried.  Plus with the seven police vans parked every other block, I feel pretty safe here.

 But today has been a day full of good news.  I may have found an apartment.  It is just on the other side of Sacré Coeur from SciencesPo and is a 22 minute direct metro ride to the closest stop.  The apartment itself is really nice.  Two bedroom with a pull out couch in the living room, fully equipped kitchen with a washing machine, dish washer, fridge, stove, stove top and microwave.  It is gorgeous.  Plus the bathroom was literally remodeled last week.  The best part is that its less than 1,000 euros per person plus it is eligible for the rebate from the French government.

Also, I found out that my big lecture on Fridays (the one in French?  The one where I took 2 pgs of notes an the girl next to me had 8 pgs?  Yeah, that one) is posted online with the professors outline.  I can watch all hour and forty-seven minutes at me leisure.  I also was granted access to the documents for that class' smaller conf, which I didn't have access to this week.  It was another one of those boulders lifted off my shoulder.

Let's hope the rest of my days are like this here.

J'ai fini!

Have you ever been told something and it just takes a 900lb weight that was making it hard to breathe off your shoulders?  Well, that's what it felt like the second I sat back in my chair after my presentation today.

I've done public speaking since my Jr year in HS starting with Y&G.  Freshman year I joined UCSB Gaucho Toastmasters and last yea I was its president.  I didn't think that speaking in front of 20 people could get me nervous anymore.  I was wrong.

I think the main reason I was so concerned is that I had a partner for this project.  We had to discuss France's military footprint in Africa for twenty minutes in my French Defense Policy class.  One important thing is that this was the first presentation anyone had given in the class.   My partner was also really interested in this topic.  And my professor is a policy advisor for the French Ministry of Defense.  So there was no way I could fake my part of the project.

Starting last weekend, I searched UCSB's online article data base for anything that could help.  I also scoured google extensively.  My portion was to make the argument that France had indeed decreased its military present in Africa.  I always knew that French Africa was a region I wanted to study, but I didn't really know to what extent France was involved in Africa.  I mainly thought it was the northern coast, you know Morocco, Algeria, places like that.  Almost all of my research was about sub-Saharan Africa.  I'm not going to lie, I had to actually look up where some of these countries were.

After telling my partner, Victor that I could meet him Wednesday at 15:00 (right when I had class) only to tell him I got confused and thought that 15=5, I was feeling really unprepared for the presentation.  But I texted him, saying I was incredibly sorry and that we could meet at 17:00 if he could.  Because my class got out at 4:45.  He said that was fine.  We met for half an hour and that was about it.

But that wasn't all for me.  I live probably 30-45 min away from school by foot and today there is a metro strike.  Going to bed last night I figured I should leave my house at 7:15AM just to be on the safe side.  I set my alarm for six, which would have allowed me to shave, wash my hair and get ready and out the door by 7:15.

I got up at 7:23.

I was freaking out, praying to God that the metro line close to my house was still working.  Otherwise it would be a cab ride to ScienesPo.  Which I did NOT want to do.  I guess someone up there likes me, because it was running.  I made it to class with 5 minutes to spare.

We gave our twenty minute presentation in perfect time.  Then we stood and answered any and all questions the students asked.  The first few were from the Prof himself, so I was really nervous.  But somehow I was able to pass myself off like I had some sort of clue about what I was talking about.

And now it's over!  I have one more presentation in that class and one written assignment and that class is done!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Aujourd'hui j'ai compris!

I think I've had enough of the internal monolog for a while via the blog.  But the one thing I'll say is I have my first exposé tomorrow morning.  The subject is "France's Military Footprint in Africa" and I am doing it with a french student, but in English.  I am about 74% done with it at 6:04PM the night before it's due.  Which is REALLY good for me...  I know Axel and Audrey would agree with that.  Also, I understood most of my class today!  It was my Professions Politiques class, taught in French.

On that note, I am going to go back to trying to describe what I've observed here.  It probably goes without saying, but the French LOOOOVE them some Red Tape.  There is no larger, nor more annoying bureaucracy than the French government (at least not one that I've heard of).  Imagine having to go to the DMV for any and every little thing that concerns your life.  Because that is what it feels like when I do ANYTHING here.  Opening up a bank account, I was probably handed a hundred pages of stuff.  Renting an apartment is even worse, because it involves not only my documents but documents from my dad, my university here, my government and the French government.

That being said, I still can't quite figure out the French people.  When you talk with them, they seem very warm and hospitable.  I've noticed that in not just my host family, but my partner for my exposé tomorrow and some other french kids I've met.  They have been really nice and friendly to me.  But when you pass them on the street, or sit next to them in the metro or on a bus they are very cold and standoffish.  The same thing when you go into a store.

That is what shocked me the most, especially after working at the UCSB Family Vacation Center/Career Services this last year.  At both of those places, we were taught not only to deliver the right information but also that the customer interaction was equally if not more important.  Apparently that message hasn't quite made it to France.  You can walk into a store, look around, ask questions, and you'll be lucky is some clerks look up from their books to answer you.

Also, on the way to school I pass by about three or four men's shoe stores.  I have yet to see one solely female shoe store.  It makes playing the "Gay or European" game that much harder!  Because the men dress so well here, and generally take good care of themselves both materially and physically the stereotype of the metro/gay male we have back in the States doesn't apply.

I haven't put some pictures on here in a while, so I'll do that!

I fell asleep here... It was a wonderful nap

View from the steps of the Panthéon

The President of l'Assemblée Nationale sits right behind where I was standing

I was feeling really artsy, too bad for the guy in the background 

And here is something that I want to have you all take a look at.  Here is the difference seven months makes:

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Je ne pleurerai pas de nouveau

So I am in a great mood writing this, which is really surprising considering the shit-fest (pardon my french... no pun intended) I had yesterday.  But first, let me explain to you the perfect cherry on top of that steaming pile that was yesterday.

In order to understand why what happened happened, you need to be aware of a few things about France.  This is the country of museums.  It seems that around every turn there is a museum.  And being so culturally aware as they are here in France, they have a policy that at most of the major national museums/monuments if you are a resident of the EU you get in for free.  What is even better, is that if you are in possession of a student visa, you get temporary residency status here.  So I can get into those museums for free too!

This last weekend, my friend Julie (from SB) and I decided to go around and go to some cultural sites.  I told her to bring her visa and I brought mine.  Turns out we didn't need them.  So I just left my passport (my visa is in my passport) in my pants pocket.  Last night I asked Michele if I could do some laundry.  She said of course, and that it was no problem.  It wasn't until 10:46PM last night, when I hear a tap tap tap on my door.  Michele peaks her head in and shows me my passport, which I had just put through the wash at 140 degrees.

The front cover is warped so bad I don't think I can fit it in my pocket.  The back page and lamination are separating.  But, and this is the weird part, the actual pages, including my visa and my entry stamp are perfectly fine.  The page with all of my info on it looks brand new.  I don't know what to do!  I figure the safe thing to do would be to go to the US Embassy here and show them and ask them what to do.

Ok, now that I told you how my worst day in Paris ended, I figure I should let you know that I am in much better spirits now.  I still don't know where I'll be living in two weeks, or what I am going to do when I have my presentation in French, but I won't let that worry me.

For the living thing, I have found two other people in my situation.  One is living at La Cité Universitaire and the other has been living in a hotel since she got to Paris, three weeks ago.  The three of us are looking.  I cannot tell you how nice it is to feel like I am not doing ALL the work anymore.  But we have ten days.  We will get it done.

As far as the whole french thing, I have gotten to the point (when not talking about foreign legal systems) that I can pretty much understand what is said to me.  I can make and respond to phone calls in French and I can get directions to anywhere.  So I am progressing.  But I do think to give me the confidence boost I need, I am going to try to find a tutor.  Someone who will let me read aloud to them and make sure I completely understand my work.

But like I said before, I can do this!

Monday, September 20, 2010

J'ai pleuré

So I feel like since this blog is for future A.J., this is a really important post.  Today was really hard.  I know I already wrote about how insane my French class was this morning (the one in french, not my language class) but I didn't know how much it affected me until I got back to my room.  Then it hit me.  It is September 20, I have eight more months here.  I have twelve more weeks of classes, during which I have to give five presentations, four in French.  I still don't have an apartment (yes, I know there are back up options so it shouldn't stress me out, but come on... have you met me?).  I don't have any CLOSE friends here in Paris.  My nearest family is in Washington DC and the next guaranteed time I will see any of them is December.  On top of that, I don't have a fuller operational french bank account, so getting an apartment, assuming I find one, is going to be super hard.

So today for a bit, I let all of that overwhelm me.  I made it three weeks exactly before really succumbing to the major waves of homesickness I was able to stave off with sights like Notre Dame and the Louvre.  But not today.  For a good two or three hours, I was in my room inside my head thinking "What the hell have  I done?"  All I could think about was the fact that today was move-in at SB and all of my friends there were starting a new year, a year in which they will share experiences (mainly 21st birthdays) that I will not be a part of.  A year of inside jokes, I will be on the outside of.  A year of changes in relationships, I will never see.  A year where I basically don't exist to anyone back in SB.

Now, pile that on top of, well everything, and it makes for a catastrophic afternoon.  But, and this is the part that is not for future A.J. but for anyone that is concerned I am not liking France, don't worry.  I realized that not only do I have to do this, but I can do this.  I am going to learn this language if it is the last thing I do.  I have to be proactive and cannot assume anyone is going to help me (because, let's face it.  They won't if I don't ask for it).  I will find an apartment, I will make friends and I will enjoy life here in Paris.

I can do this.

Mes Cours

Today I started my French language course.  I think I am going to like it.  My professor seems to be really interesting.  She is probably in her later fifties, which a quirky, yet comfortable feel about her.  I had my 8:00AM class today (which I'll talk about in a little bit) so I was able to make it to my 10:15AM language class a little early.  I met another American (she was from Georgia) and I introduced myself to the girl I was sitting next to (she was from Canada).

So when my professor got there, when she took role she had us guess the countries that everyone was from.  I already knew two people, one from the choir auditions and one from my orientation group, plus the two new people I just met.  So I knew four of the sixteen of us.  My professor made some joke about how I knew everyone, so as such, she nominated me as the delegate for the class.  It really doesn't mean anything, other than people can tell me when they aren't going to show up to class and I will let the prof know.  But it was pretty cool that she nominated me.

And thank god that the class is easy.  It is Niveau 2, meaning Level 2.  In our workbook it says level B1, which doesn't mean anything to most people, but that actually is important to me.  When I was in Nice, during the summer of 2007, I went to language school there.  They had us take a language placement test.  I was put into the group B1 my first week.  By the end of my 6 and a half weeks in Nice, I had made it to C1.  The C groups are for the people that are nearly fluent.  So I was really relieved that I am back in B1 here at SciencesPo.  I will have at least one easy class.  And boy do I need it.

This morning was the first real class in my Grands Systèmes du Droits Étranger course.  The first hour consisted of a girl presenting one of the articles we were supposed to read.  That is simple enough.  Except for the Prof uploaded them to our E-mail accounts.  And I don't have access to the group she uploaded them too.  And I have no idea how to get access.  So she showed us how to do that before class, saying that this week was ok if people didn't turn in our write ups on the "lectures."  Fair enough.  I mean now she showed me how to get to the group.  Nope.  Still not available.  I e-mailed the SciencesPo help desk and am waiting for their response.

Anyway, getting back to the class.  Everyone brings their computers with them.  Me, I hate taking notes on my comp.  I find that I never look at them when I do.  So I had my pen in my hand, poised to start taking notes.  Then the girl started speaking.  I found that I could understand what she was saying when she said it, but after she was finished I tried to reflect on what she said and I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about.  This happened not only during her presentation but also the two exposés that went today.

Then my prof decided to lecture.  She seemed to be outlining some sort of "dissertation" that people were furiously writing.  Not me.  I could barely keep up.  Then she said something and everyone stopped.  You know those dreams where you have the final exams that determine your entire grade, but you haven't studied for it?  Yeah, that feeling fell into the pit of my stomach.  Saying simply that I freaked out doesn't give justice to the utter panic/horror that came over my entire body when I saw people start to get out a new sheet of paper and pencils.

THANK GOD what she actually said was that we were going to get ready to hear another exposé.  It was at that point that I realized that I really am in way over my head in that class.  I have no idea what is going on, I can't access the documents and the professor, so far, hasn't responded to my e-mails.

I hope the rest of the week goes better...

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Mes réflexions

Here I am, writing this blog post on the eve of my second week of classes.  Last week freaked me out.  I think that was pretty clear.  But I have thirteen more to go before I am done with my first semester.  In those thirteen weeks I have to give four presentations in French, two in English, write at least three papers, one of which is going to be about twenty pages and in French.

I have a lot of work in front of me.  And I think that I am not out of place in feeling overwhelmed.  It is so interesting that in a city of several million people you can feel so alone.  I can spend an entire day in my room and not deal with the outside world.  And there are times when I want to do just that.  But then I look around and I see where I am.  I live five minutes away from the Panthéon, the tomb of some of the greatest minds in Western History.  I can walk to Notre Dame in twenty minutes.  I am living in the city of lights.  I need to remember how few people get to say that they can do that.

I know I've written about how apprehensive I am when it comes to eating.  For what ever reason, dinner REALLY stresses me out here.  Am I going to be understood? Am I going to say something wrong?  Am I going to understand what Michele says to me?  Tonight at dinner it was special.  Michele has a guest over, one of her friends she shared a hostel with when she was a young woman studying in England.  Her friend, Trish, is from Seattle.

Now, Trish, a portly woman in her late fifties, doesn't speak French.  At least not enough where Michele could talk in French.  So tonight at dinner, my host mother spoke English!  All of my apprehensions about this learning this STUPID language vanished when I heard her speak.  I knew I was going to get by.  Here she is, a woman in her fifties, having studied English almost all of her life, and she STILL made mistakes!  And I don't mean to belittle her at all.  It was wonderful!  I spoke to her in English for the first time since I have been here.  When Georgina and Jerome arrived with baby Lucas, they spoke English too.

I may feel that I am stranded in France by myself until December.  I may feel overwhelmed, that I can't do this or that I want to be home.  But no matter how many times I feel like that, nothing beats the feeling that I get when that passes.  It is a feeling of "I can do this!"  I go into dinner dreading it but I come out stuffed and feeling like I may not actually be alone in this city.

Et oui, Paris, je t'aime.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

J'ai fini une semaine

I am officially done with my first week of classes.  And dear lord, am I going to be in for a rough ride.  I'm not saying UCSB is easy at all, but I just don't feel like it is hard.  Here, even in my english classes, I know I have to work.  And I mean REALLY work.  

Luckily, I don't have any final exams.  There are two types of courses here at SciencesPo.  There are "les cours magistraux" and "les conferences de méthode."  The cours magistraux are the larger lecture type classes.  They are the ones that have final exams.  The conf classes are smaller, a lot like discussion type sections back in the states.  They don't have any finals (as far as I can tell).  

Anyway, I am in two Cours Magistraux: "Introductions aux grands systèms du droit étranger" (Introdution to foreign legal systems) and "Social History of the US."  And assuming I understood correctly, in my law class we have to write a paper and then we present it and defend it infront of a jury of three people.  In my US History class we are just writing a final paper.  

So if that is the case, and I don't have any finals, then I am going to be on break from Dec. 18 to Jan. 24.  God, I hope that is the case.  Becuase that would let me spend a week in CO, a week in TX, and hopefully some time back in SB before coming to Pairs and then hopefully going to the Canary Islands and Morocco.  

On that note, I met up with my friends and we planned some trips!  We are going to head to Nice for Halloween because we have a long weekend and there is nothing to do in Paris then apparently.  We are also going to go to Berlin in November.  If Nick gets enough time off, then he is going to come out here over Thanksgiving and we would go to Amsterdam.  Same with Jenn if her Congressman doesn't get reelected.  

I never really thought how much I would want my family to come over here until I realized I wouldn't see them until December.  I mean back home it is a little different.  Sure, they don't make it to SB too often, but I know its a lot easier for me to see them than it is here.  So, I really hope they get the time off to come over here!

On a completely unrelated note, I really like old French people, but more on that in a later post.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Souhaitez moi de la chance!

I still am in shock I'm living in Paris.  Walking around at night, I can completely understand why they call it the city of lights.  There are few things in this world that can compare to the golden shimmer the Eiffel Tower reflecting in the midnight blue waters of the Seine at night, to being able to flash my student visa and get in free to see master works like the Mona Lisa and Winged Victory, to live in a building that was built four hundred years ago, to walk in the very rooms Kings and Queens did.  No, there are few things like that on earth.

All of this has made it clear to me what I want from life.  Aside from the normal "I want to be happy..." blah blah blah, I want to make my mark.  I want to make a difference somehow.  I'm not sure how I am going to do that yet, but I will.

As for the present, I am almost finished with my first week of class.  I have one lecture left, tomorrow afternoon.  I figure now is as good of time as any to talk about my classes.  On Mondays' I have two classes.  My 8:00 AM is my Grands Systems du Droit Étranger (International Law Systems) class, followed by my French language class (although that class starts next week).  My professor for my Gr. Sys. class is really nice.  I'm the only non-french speaking person in the class and so she kind of looks out for me.  She pulled me aside after class and asked if  I understood and if I ever needed her to repeat something or if she should slow down, all I had to do was raise my hand.

Tuesdays are free!  I've decided that is going to be my day to explore Paris/France.  I have another friend who has Tuesdays off so we are already planning on going to Normandy.

Wednesdays aren't bad either.  I have French again, from 10:15 - 12:15, just like Monday.  After that I have my Professions Politiques class from 14:45 - 16:45.  It is really interesting and I think it's going to be a lot of fun.  The professor reminds me a lot of the director of Career Services back in SB.  She is really nice and always seems to be happy.  In the class we are discussing all the different aspects of the political arena, mainly the french poltical arena.  Luckily for me I am with a few more exchange students.

Thursday is awesome.  My morning starts at 8:00AM again... which is a bit rough, but its worth it for the class.  I am in "French Defense Policy."  And yes, there is more to it that just "RUN AWAY!"  My prof is actually a policy adviser for the French Ministry of Defense, so that in it of itself is awesome.  I think that class is going to be the most interesting.  Thursday afternoon from 12:30 - 14:30 is my "Social History of the US in the 20th Century" course.  It is ok.  Not too terribly interesting on the first day, but hopefully it will be!  But my professor.... oh boy is he somthing.  Imagine if Kermit the Frog and Yoda had a french baby who spoke english.  That is how my professor sounds.  It is AWESOME.   He doesn't look like either, but he sounds exactly like I imagine their child would.

As for now, I have to get going.  We have auditions for the SciencesPo Choir tonight!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Le ouch!

So for everyone who doesn't know I have TMJ, or Temporal Mandibular Jaw Syndrome.  It basically means that the joint connecting my jaw to my skull gets inflamed.  Last night I was in a lot of pain before I went to bed so I took one of the muscle relaxers my doctor prescribed me back at SB. This morning, I wake up and I can't open my jaw.  That is normal when I am lying down.  So I sit up and I still can't open my jaw.  That isn't normal...

So I massage my jaw and it is a little better.  If I kind of push it off to the side I can open it all the way.  Oh, side note, since my first class today is at 2:45 I slept in until 12 so it was lunch time.  After my shower, I run downstairs and go grab a crepe.  It's a paper thin pancake.  How hard can it be to chew?  Apparently really hard.  But this crepe was so delicious!  It had grilled onions, probably five pounds of Gruyere cheese and two slices of ham.  Then he added SALT!  The reason I get so excited about him adding salt is that NO ONE in this country uses salt.  I know it is a lot healthier, but the foods just don't taste as good without it!

I think I'm going to have to just write a post about the food here.  My host mother has made me something different every night.  She has yet to repeat a meal.  It's fantastic.

On another unrelated note, I have found that the UC people in Paris are actually really nice and helpful, unlike those folks back in America.  I know they have to deal with every UC student abroad, but even the country specific person at SB couldn't help me.  BUT, Professor Chris Newfield (a UCSB English prof when he isn't the UC Director of all three France programs) and Shelby Ocana have been nothing but helpful.  Shelby responds to my e-mails in a matter of minutes and Prof. Newfield holds virtual office hours on Skype.

Prof Newfield said he wanted to have us all over for drinks.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Quelque chose que je veux dire

It's time again for A.J.'s insight into the French and their culture.

Things they really like here:

  1. Smoking - seriously, everyone here smokes.  It is really too bad because its SUPER expensive.  And you can no longer smoke indoors (thank you French government!)
  2. Walking - I have probably walked an average of 4 miles a day since I've been here.  My 35 jeans are loose on me now!
  3. Cheese - dear lord how they love their cheese.  I have actually grown accustomed to having it at dinner.  I actually really like it.
  4. Dressing really well - I know I've said it before but they French here dress SUPER nicely.  Here is a perfect example.  There was a man, probably around eighty, I saw today.  He had one a navy blue double breasted cardigan sweater with brass buttons.  He had a shirt and a tie, slacks and two-toned brown leather shoes on as well.  People just don't go out walking like that back in the states. Looks like I need to go shopping! 
  5. Holding the shower heard while you bathe - from what I have gathered (and this was the same in Nice) the French do not like to have a stationary shower head.  They all have the kinds where you hold it while you bathe.  You also don't get the luxury of a shower curtain.  
  6. Not having a dryer - most places have washing machines, but NO ONE has a dryer.  I decided I was going to go do my own laundry today.  I spent probably close to 50 euros doing it.  I'm gonna rethink doing my laundry there again.  (I have a funny story about that though, which I'll probably write tomorrow if I can remeber).
  7. Not wearing deoderant - I hate to play into sterotypes, but they exist for a reason...  Just ride the metro at the height of rush hour and you'll see what I'm talking about.
  8. Wifi - it is everywhere here.  It isn't super fast, but even McDonalds has it!  Btw, McDonalds here are super nice.  They have bendie straws!
  9. Baked goods - pain au chocolat = greatest thing ever
  10. Public transportation - the buses and metros here are really fantastic.  And they are always on time and go pretty much anywhere you need them to.  

Monday, September 13, 2010

Je puex le faire

I had my first day of class today.  I only had one, but normally I have two on Mondays.  Today was "Grands Systems du Droit Etranger," or "Main legal systems for foreign countries."  I think it is going to be interesting, but it is going to be insanely difficult.  Not only is it taught in French, but I am the only non-french speaking person in the class.  On top of that we are talking about the legal systems of countries I have never studied before.  But the important thing is that I survived it.

I've learned that I just need to take my time here in Paris one day at a time.  I constantly think about what it is going to be like come April, May, next year, five years, ten years or when I'm an old man.  I am living abroad in Paris for a year.  How many people get this opportunity?  Even if school is going to kick my ass, I can't loose sight of where I am.  I mean, hell, I went to Belgium for a weekend just because I could.

After class today I was supposed to meet up with Audrey, one of my best friends from SB.  She is in Paris visiting the city with her family.  I got back to my house at 10:30 and she texted me saying her family was going to go to the super market and then to the Concergerie (the prison where they held Marie Antoinette before they killed her).  I said that sounded good and I would meet them.  I decided to leave at 11:00 and walk to Notre Dame.  It is feeling a lot like fall here and it's perfect weather to walk.

So I get to L'Île de la Cité around 11:30.  I took my time, went through a random church on my way there. After that I didn't know where they were so I went to a little park Hugo told us about when we took our walk along the Seine.  It was gorgeous and there were not that many people there.  On a side note, I probably should have said my class today was at 8:00AM.  For anyone that has ever met me, they know how much a non-morning person I am.

By 11 I was exhausted.  I was debating actually whether to come home and nap or stay down there.  I mean, they were only going to the grocery store and then they were going to hop on the metro.  So I decided to go sit on the bench and soak in Paris.  Then I closed my eyes.  Next thing I know it is 1:00PM.  I decided to get up off that bench (I think the Parisians were giving me dirty looks) and walk around some more.

By about 1:15 they get there and we tour the Concergerie.  It is pretty cool.  I'll post the link on here to my facebook photo album when I upload them.

So that was my day.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

J'ai Voyagé!

Belgium waffles are freaking awesome!  I got home today from spending the weekend in Brussels with Paige, one of my really good friends from Youth and Government.  She is studying the semester there and was gracious enough to let me stay with her Friday and Saturday night.

Brussels is a really cool, but weird city.  It is tiny compared to Paris.  There isn't a whole lot to see there, but what there is to see is really neat.  I got there at 4:30 on Friday.  Paige was nice enough to meet me at Midi, the train station.  From there, we went back to her house so I could drop my stuff off.  Then we were off to see the sights! 

The Brussels metro is just like the Parisian one, except for where in Paris we have crazy gypsies singing songs and playing the accordion, in Brussels they have retro 90's pop blasting.  It was pretty cool!  So we took the metro from Paige's house to the Grand Place, the center of the old part of the city.  I was pretty hungry after my train ride, so again being the gracious host she was, Paige and I found a waffle stand.  Now, there are waffles and then there are waffles.  I had a waffle!  It was made right in front of my eyes, and topped with strawberries and nutella.  Heaven, in food form.  

After that devilshly good treat, Paige and I walked around some more.  On our adventure, we came across a really odd marching band.  Half of the people were wearing jester costumes and standing around.  The other half were holding instruments and were wearing white and black outfits that were reminicent of Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum from "Alice and Wonderland."  When the band members started to play, the colorful people started to dance what can only be described as a one legged man's attempt to tap dance.  

After we wandered for a few hours, we were ready for dinner.  Again, being in Belgium I had to try Mussels.  So we wandered down a side street off of the Grand Place and we found a restaurant where, for twelve Euros, we got an aperitif (I gave mine to Paige...), appetizer, main course and dessert.  It was wonderful.  Mussles aren't actually as gross as I thought they would be.  I don't think I'm going to have them again any time soon, but they weren't bad.  And they go really well with fries.

After dinner, we met up with Paige's bff in Belgium, Mary.  She is awesome.  She is from Alabama and is also spending a semester there.  We wandered around and then met up with some more of Paige's friends.  We went to an awesome bar that looked like it was from the late 1800's.  It's called Le Mort Sabite.  Apparently it was on the travel channel or something like that.  All I know is it was awesome. Although it was too laid back for the rest of the group.  After that, we headed to an Irish Pub.  Then home.

Saturday started around 10.  Paige and I got up and went to the super market because we decided we were gonna cook that night.  After our adventure to the market, Mary came over and we went to the Atomium.  The Atomium is a really weird, Eiffel Tower-esque (meaning if the Effiel Tower was in the form of a molecule) tourist attraction kind of on the outer skirts of Brussels.  You did get a great view from the top of it though.  

After the Atuomium we walked around some more.  We went to another great look  point and saw the city.  That lookout point, fun fact btw, is the same spot the roller blade party starts every friday night.  That's right, every Friday night there is a roller blade party in Brussels.  People all show up and skate around the city.  It was awesome!  

Then we headed over to a park where we got coffee and rested our legs for a while.  Because Brussels is so small you walk EVERYWHERE.  Needless to say none of my jeans fit me without a belt anymore... Except then we made dinner.  God it was good.  I had waaaay to much though.  

After dinner, we went out and met up with more of Paige's friends.  We headed to a bar called the Hairy Canary.  Again, it was too laid back for everyone else, so we headed to a Karaoke bar.  I guess if you are hammered I can see the appeal of a crowded smokey dive bar listening to terrible people sing songs, but being sober, not so great...  But it was still funny watching my new friends sing.  

And then we went home.  And the next morning I hopped on the train.  An hour and twenty two minutes later I arrived in Paris.  That was my first trip (of hopefully MANY)!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Je peux voyager!

Me and my train tickets to..... BRUSSELS!

This is my first of hopefully many trips.  I'm going to be staying with a great friend from Y&G.  She is studying abroad there for the first semester!  I'll be taking lots of pictures, so I will post some when I get back!

Thursday, September 9, 2010


I don't know how many emails I have sent to people that said this:

Bonjour.  Je suis un étudiant etranger à SciencesPo.  Je reste ici jusqu'a la fin de mai.  Je suis très interessé en votre apartement.  Sera-t-il possible que je peux le voir? Merci.

(Hello.  I am an exchange student at SciencesPo.  I am staying in Paris until the end of May.  I am very interested in your apartment.  Will it be possible to see it?  Thanks)

I have gotten very few responses.  It may be that my French is, as my Fr 26 prof would say, not very idiomatic.  It may be that they have already rented it.  It may be that this is just really difficult.

I know that this blog is for future AJ.  This whole experience is going to be something I look back on and laugh about.  But I can tell you right now, that I do not have ANY desire to laugh about this.  I know my family will do what ever they can to help me and I really appreciate that.  However, let's look at the situation.   I am in France, a country where, despite having almost full comprehension I can say about as much as a four year old (although that four year old can say it better than I can), I am living with a host family who literally has to kick me out at the end of the month and I have no options at the moment.

I have tried to go through apartment hunting agencies, craigslist, private websites.  All have been a bust so far.  It may be that I jinx myself.  Or it may be that the universe hates me.  I'm not quite sure.  All I know is that I want an apartment.

Oh yeah... and future AJ owes me a big one.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Je ne peux pas manger

I know a lot of my posts are bout food, but let's face it.  I'm in Paris, the land of love and food.  If you don't believe me, watch Ratatouille (which my host mother has made a few times since I've been here!).

Anyway, I have found that meals are very central to home life here.  They generally last a long time.  But, for ANYONE who has ever seen me eat, they know that I am a very messy eater.  I feel so self conscious of it because everyone else's place is so neat.  Then there is mine...

I manage to get at least one drop of what ever I am eating on the table cloth.  Also, we use paper napkins, you know the two ply kind?  Yeah, well unbeknownst to me, my hands can never seem to leave those two plies together.  Every time I finish I meal, I put my napkin (or whats left of it) on my plate and carry it into the kitchen.  I try to throw it away before anyone can judge me.  One night I was too embarrassed to take it into the kitchen so I threw it away in my room....

But the food here is amazing.  This is generally how the meal goes.

Small appetizer
Main Dish

It is truly a heaven.  I have also learned the difference between gourmand and gourmet.  I used to eat because I liked the sensation of food, but in my ten days here, I can already tell I have learned to appreciate not only the sensation but the taste.  I eat smaller portions, but I savour them.

And yes, you can really taste the goat...

Un bébé de trois villes.

Sorry I haven't written on here for a few days.  Now that I kind of have a feel for the city, I have gone out exploring.

I've come to the conclusion that if you took the people of NYC, the Architecture of DC and the space of LA you would get a city close to Paris.  The people here are very fast paced and a bit standoff-ish at first, but they can also be really nice.  They don't smile though.  I know I already said that, but it's still quite strange for me.

Yesterday, I tried to meet my friend Emily at the Opera.  She said to meet on the steps.  Unbeknownst to us, Paris has like nine opera houses.  I went to the main one and she went to the one over by the Bastille.  So I didn't actually meet her.  At least not right away.  Instead, I walked around on my own.

I actually was going to be really early to meet her, so I got off at the Louvre and looked around there.  I found a place that Nana had taken me ten years earlier to catch a tour bus of the city.  I remeber it because there was a statue of Joan of Arc in the middle of the square.  It was like stepping back in time for a few seconds.

Emily eventually called me, so I was able to meet her.  That was after I had inadvertently found the red light district.  I assume it was because there was an adult shop every other store.  On that same walking tour, I found the coolest area where there were the traditional butcher shops next to bakeries next to produce stores.  I felt really Parisian.

When I met up with Emily, she had three friends with her.  Two were from UCSC and one from Davis.  We ended up walking around the Marais, which is the Jewish area.  They got some falafel and I had fries.  Sweet jesus, were they good.  Just like In-N-Out!  (For what ever reason, I've been craving American food... mainly Freebirds Nachos).

Today, I went to Versailles.  It was awesome.  It was another place Nana took me when I was ten and so I remembered some parts of it.  We got to the trainstation in Paris around 11, waited until 11:30 to see if anyone else would show and then took the RER to Versailles (the RER is a train that goes from the city center to the suburbs).

We were all starving, so I casually suggested we try the McDonalds near the station.  I needed to quell that American food craving.  So we did.  And it was good.

From there it was about a five min walk to the Chateau.  The weather here is a bit rainy, so not many people were there.  It was 6.10Euro for the train and another 18E to get into the Chateau.  At least it should have been.

If you bring your visa which proves you're staying in France for 6 months or longer you get in for free.  I was not aware of this, and I didn't think to bring my passport with me.  However, we figured that our student cards would work.  They didn't.  The lady at the entrance turned us away, and the lady at the info counter told us we would have to go buy a ticket.

I was about to give in, when my Australian friend Brendan said we should try again with the guy who was at the entrance.  To our surprise he was really cool and let us get in.  So we saved 18Euros (hello Crepes with Banana and Nutella!!).  When we were inside, we saw everything.  By far my favorite place was the Hall of Mirrors.  So much history!!

And now I know how to get in for free, I'm sure I'll be back many more times!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

J'aime ma famille (Ici et la-bas)

I totally lucked out with my host family here.  I think I've written about them, and I have posted a picture of Michele, my host mother.  But tonight's dinner really made me realize how much I lucked out.

For what ever reason, I always get anxious when I have to go to dinner here.  It might be because I may not completely understand what they are saying to me, or that I may not like the food Michele cooks for me, but always I dread going to dinner.  Tonight was no different.

Today we had a big get together for SciencesPo at a park in Paris.  We are all assigned buddies (French students) and today was the day that we were supposed to meet them.  Just my luck, my buddy isn't there...  But I still had a good time.  I made friends with Max, a masters student from Germany.  And I met up with a few of my friends from my language class.  We were all going to go out and get a drink, but I had to be home at 7:30 for dinner.  We ended at 6:45.

Greaaaaaaaaat..... I have to go to dinner.  As it turns out, Michele has her sister and cousin staying here for the night.  Even more people I don't know who speak a language I am having trouble understanding.

So when I get home they aren't here.  They had gone sight seeing around Paris.  When they come back, Michele knocks on my door and asks if I like Octopus.  She says if not I could eat some beef instead.  What do you think I said?  (I did try some Octopus though)

We all gather at the table.  It is a small table so our two guests, Michele, Georgina and Jerome and my self are quite snug.  Turns out, this was the best dinner I've had here (not food wise though...). The six of us talked about everything, from me naming all of the States in alphabetical order to Romanians not being able to get a job in France to Cheese.  It was so interesting!  We were sitting at the table for over 3 hours!  Most of that time wasn't done eating, but me listening to this beautiful language.

Also, I have become friends with Georgina and Jerome.  He is Michele's son and she is his wife.  They are a little bit older than myself, but amazingly nice.  I think we are going to go to an Amusement park next Monday, assuming I can drop one of the classes I want to.

I actually have French friends!!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Mes Photos!

As promised, here are some photos of Paris!

The view from my room.  (Yes, that is he dome of the Panthéon)

Notre Dame

The locks are placed on bridges around Paris by lovers, symbolizing their unending love

This band of kids was playing in front of the Fontaine St Michele 

Le Pont Neuf

Le Pont des Arts 

This is the boat that me and a bunch of my friends are going to go on for our Welcome Program

L'Assemblée Nationale

That is the dome of Les Invalides in the background

The Eiffel Tower... 

God I love this City

C'est vrai. Paris, je t'aime

I have spent a lot of time writing about what I have been doing here, but I haven't really talked about this city.  I have been here a week and I have already gotten comfortable taking public transportation, buying groceries, and just pretty much living in the city.  It is the first time I have lived in a big city, so it was a bit strange.  Well, I guess UCDC helped me prepare for this.  But still...

Anyway, here are some things I have noticed in my first week here.

  1. No one is fat.  Seriously, like no  one!  It is a little strange actually.  All of the men are stick thin, or if not, they don't weigh more than I do.  
  2. Everyone dress incredibly well here.  You can walk down the street and see men in suits and women in extremely nice clothes.  Even the students wear collard shirts every day.  
  3. I haven't heard English.  Everyone says that it is easy to not speak French in Paris, but I haven't found that so.  It may be that my French is better than it was before, but everyone talks to me in French here.
  4. Screw apartment hunting.  It is by far the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.  I think I need to go through an agency.  
  5. The metro is super clean!  It puts DC's metro to shame.  Also, the doors don't open automatically.  You actually have to lift the lever if you want to exit at your station.  Some buses are like that too (I learned that the hard way).
  6. People don't smile here.  I have always been taught to smile at people on the street, but people do NOT do that here.  It seems a little cold at first, but Professor Newfield, the UC Director in France says it is actually a sign of respect.  The Parisian way of life is a very private one, and by not smiling at you, they are actually saying, "Hey, I see that you are your own person.  I will not invade your personal space."
  7. Do not and Walk Signals are merely suggestions.  Everyone J-walks, but you do it at your own risk.
  8. Velo's are out to kill you.  They will ride on the sidewalk, they will ride against traffic, they will KILL you.  Actually a lady got hit by one (she was ok) just out in front of the UC center the night of my orientation. 
That is all I can think of for now.  I'm sure I will have more though!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Je suis francais?

Today was a great day.  Every time I write I probably sound like I am complaining and overwhelmed, but today I didn't feel that way at all.  I have already made a good group of friends from all over the world (Singapore, Australia, Canada, Mexico to name a few countries) and I am getting the hang of public transportation.

This afternoon after getting a sandwhich I opened up a bank account.  It may not sound like much, but it was one of the things I was stressing about, because 1. I wasn't sure if I could do it in french and 2. I wasn't sure if the paper work my host mother gave me would suffice.  As it turns out 1. I can do it in French and 2. I just need to bring two more documents and it is all over and done with!

Then after that, this evening Hugo, our SciencesPo host student, took my group on a walking tour along the Seine.  I have some great pictures of the Louvre, Notre Dame, Pont des Arts and a lot more I will upload soon!

Then after that, Kellyn (from UCSB) and I met up and grabbed a quick dinner (and I mean quick... like 4 min) from Monoprix and headed to the Gospel concert at L'Eglise St Germain de Pres.  It was awesome.  There is that feeling that you can only get when you hear music sung live, a feeling I haven't had in a long time.  I had it tonight.  It was gorgeous.

But by far the best thing that happened to me today was after the concert.  I decided, after parting ways with Kellyn, to treat myself to 2 scoops of Ben and Jerry's cookie dough.  I've been walking close to 5 miles a day here (or at least thats the way it feels).  So I ordered, and I spoke in French.  She responded after I paid her with "Thank You" and then I said "Merci" and she said "Oh, je suis desolée.  Merci!"

She actually thought I was French...

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Aujourd'hui c'est un bon jour

Today was a lot better than I thought it was going to be considering how much I was stressing about getting stuff done.  Here is why

I went to my two hours of French and Methodology.  Then I went to get some pizza with 3 Australians, 2 Canadians and myself.  After that I went to the Subway where I took some pictures for my student card (they had a photo booth there).  Then I went to the library and printed out a bunch of papers I needed for my student card.  Then, I actually went and got it.  So that is one less thing I have to do.  After that, my new Canadian friend and I went to Notre Dame.  We walked along the Blvd St Germain and ended up there.  It was a gorgeous sunny day here too.

Life is good.  Now I just need to get my Carte de Séjour and an apartment.  Then all my stresses will be gone!  Well... except for those 10 min presentations I have to give in French...

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

J'étais heureux

I need to stop living in the moment.  I get too wrapped up in the last major thing that crossed my mind.   Here, let me tell you about my day today.

So I got up for my French class, which I didn't make yesterday (because I didn't know I had it).  It actually was really informative.  I learned where the grocery store near my school is and the major streets and the major cafes (Les Deux Magots and Café Flore are both right down the street from my school!).

Then we had methodolgy.  Today didn't scare me as much as yesterday.  My instructor pretty much told us how to organize every essay that we do at Sciences Po.  It is literally the opposite of any American essay I have ever written.  The French method at SciencesPo stresses a very broad knowledge base rather than the esoteric American system, where one becomes an expert in one subject.  They are very interdisciplinary here.  They love that word.  Anyways, you don't actually state your thesis until the conclusion which is really weird.  Also, the introduction and conclusion should each be three paragraphs and between a page and page and a half.  Also something very different.  And for the body, which they call the development, you pretty much just describe the issue and both positions you can take.

So that made me feel a little bit better about how to survive class.  After the methodology class, I and an Australian guy named Brendan went to Monoprix where we bought our notebooks.  He is really cool.  He is a 24 year old law student from Sydney (maybe it was Melbourne...).  After that, I waited for my friend Julie who I know from my SimCong class at UCSB.  We went back to this great sandwhich place we ate at on Monday and then hoped on a random bus to sightsee.  We had about an hour and a half to kill before the walking tour of SciencesPo.

Julie and I ended up making it to the Panthéon which is right next to my house.  Literally a 5 min walk.  It took us 10 min to get to it though, becuase we got a bit lost.  Once we found it, I ran up those stairs and put my stuff down and we headed back to SciencesPo for the walking tour.

Hugo, our student host/guide, was really nice and took us all over the 6th for 2 hours.  He showed us some cool hidden spots that most people don't know about.  He also told us where we can eat for cheap (less than 3 Euros for a meal!!).

After that I came home and Skyped with Nana for about an hour.  Then dinner time.  Tonight was by far the best meal I have had so far here.  For the first course we had an avocado.  A plain avocado.  It was like I was back in CA!  Then for the meal she made this crepe like thing ( I can't remeber the name) which she fried and added ham and an egg on top.  She served with with some lentils and sausage.  It was delicious.  After that, she brought out some cheese because she says I have to try some French cheeses while I am here.  Turns out I like them!  I really like roquefort and, to my surprise, goat cheese really doesn't taste as bad as I remembered.  For dessert I had yogurt with raspberry sauce.

Needless to say after that awesome day I was feeling pretty good.  On the way to the UC meeting, I walked by the square just up the street from my house and there was a live band playing awesome music.  Just as I was making the turn, passing Hemmingway's old apartment, to head toward the metro station I got this huge grin on my face.  It hit me.  I am in PARIS.

Then I got to the meeting.  All of those good feelings are gone.  The meeting shattered all of my confidence.  I am one of 2 people in the UC SciencesPo program that doesn't have an apartment.  I also don't have any information from OFII which is the office that helps you get the second part of your visa, the part you do actually in France.  Finally, I got an e-mail from this placement agency for apartments in France and they have nothing that they can help me with...  The only one apartment they had was 990 Euros and literally had a sofa for a bed.

Hopefully tomorrow I won't think about that.  Except I know I will because I have to get my student card... Which requires a lot of paperwork I need to print out, yet I have no printer.  See, it's the little things.  Those damed little things!