Saturday, December 11, 2010

Le méteo et le metro

I was talking to my mom today and I realized that I hadn't blogged in so long that I actually forgot what I blogged about.  She told me I was talking about the snow.  And I have to say, watching the huge flakes fall from the sky so silently was pretty neat.  I used to complain that every time I went to a cold place that all I got was the cold, not the snow.  But not so here.  I got the SNOW!

But snow comes at a price.  A very high price.  On Wednesday we got probably six hours of snow fall.  From all of the Parisians I've talked to that was the most they had seen in snow in over a decade.  The snow was sticking and people were having snowball fights.  We must have gotten three or four inches of snow.  But the real difficulty came the following day.

Every day since Wednesday was just a little bit warmer.  And what happens to snow when the weather warms up a little? Yup, it starts to melt.  But because it was literally a difference of one or two degrees, the snow couldn't melt completely.  Instead it just turned into a disgusting mixture of city and ice.  The four inches of snow became about two inches of ice and an inch of water.  The cuffs of your pants stood no chance.  It's a good thing I had semi water resistant shoes.  Now if only that had any traction.... I almost slipped on that deadly deadly mixture of gross about four times.

The last of the snow finally melted off yesterday.  Now the weather is actually warm (relatively speaking).  Instead of being below freezing we got up to the high thirties today!  It makes me so sad that the high thirties are warm to me...  I need to get back to CA and back to my 72˚ weather all year round... But the one good thing about Paris is that the metro is completely underground and therefore covered from the elements.

That brings me to another thing I wanted to write.  I've been thinking about this for a long time and I've come to the conclusion that riding the Parisian metro at rush hour is a a pretty good metaphor for my study abroad.

First of all, you need to figure out what the hell you are doing.  When I got off the plane I had no idea what I was in for.  That part of the metro journey is going from street level down into the depths that is the Paris metro system.

Ok, so now you have some sort of direction.  Now you just need to get some guidance.  I guess that came in the orientation program for me.  I met some of my closest friends (including my roommate) through that program.  I guess that would be liking going to the guichet and getting your Navigo card (the regular transit card).  Now you can get into the metro when ever you want for the month.  You have gained access, the first major step to creating your life in Paris.

Now that you know how to get into the metro, you have to figure out how to go places.  You get your map and start figuring out the connections.  Does it make sense to take line 14 to line 10 to get from Montmarte to the Latin Quarter or should I take the 14 to the 1 and walk from Concorde and stop at the Louvre before going?  See, its those kind of decisions you are now capable of making.  Now that you have a group of friends, you can start getting your life figured out.  For me that was getting the apartment, and trying to tackle the insane hell hole that is the French bureaucracy.  Getting the Carte de Séjour and trying to open the bank account.

But of course, remember that it is rush hour.  Even though you know where you need to go and even how you are going to get there, it doesn't mean the journey is going to be easy.  There will be trains that are already so full of people you can't get on.  That may be, just as a hypothetical, like a bank saying that they refuse to open your account even though you have brought them proof of residency twice.  Of course that is just a hypothetical.

When you make it onto the train, you are stuck amongst the hundred plus people, most of whom are sweating because of the close proximity to you, and in true french fashion seemed to have forgotten their deodorant.  But with every stop, more people get off the train and your journey becomes easier and easier.  Maybe you completed your exposés, or you went on some trips, or you just spoke in French to people with out them responding to you in English.

Despite the metro car now being relatively empty, it wouldn't be French if something unexpected didn't happen.  You could experience the homeless man throwing a turkey drumstick bone that nearly misses your head and instead lands just opposite from your seat.  That could be, again hypothetically, a letter from the bank that you tried to close your account at congratulating you for finally opening your account and that you were eligible for a prize even though you went into the branch, signed a letter saying you wanted to close your account, then had someone call your cell phone two weeks after you did that asking if you still had your account open, to which you replied no.  Again, strictly hypothetically.

But finally, when you get comfortable in the metro car, not surrounded by people, you've made all your connections, then you reach your destination and its time to go.  I feel like that is how this semester went.  I just got here, but I will be back in the good ole US of A in one week from today.  But I have realized this:

What ever doesn't kill you just makes you more French.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Mes Cours

So I got every course I wanted to.  As of today, I only have courses on Thursday and Friday.  I have five day weekends every weekend.  It is going to be awesome.  Although I have to say I am a little worried that I won't know what to do with my time.  I don't think that that many people have whole days off so traveling with others is pretty much out of the question.  But it does mean that I can really enjoy and relax and have fun in Paris.  Which is exactly what I wanted to do.  Next semester is going to allow me to have the time to go places and be there for extended periods of time.

I think the tone in my blog has gotten significantly more upbeat since I finished most of my assignments.  Right now the only thing that rests between be and going back to the US is my fifteen to twenty page memoire I have to write.  It is on the US and the English supreme court.  I'm not terribly worried about it because it is for the course I am taking pass/no pass.

So after I get my work done on this paper, I should have about three days in Paris with nothing to do (school wise).  That leaves me in Paris in the winter with time.  And boy, is there stuff to do here!  They have set up probably six or seven Christmas markets around the city.  I've already been to one and I know exactly what I am getting people back home for Christmas.  And that was just from the small on at St Germain de Près.  The one on the Champs Elysée has a Ferris Wheel.

Today it snowed for about three hours.  These huge wet flakes fell from the sky.  The coolest part was that there was enough that it actually stuck to the ground.  Paris was covered in probably an inch of fluffy white snow.  For someone from Souther California, seeing snow fall is really cool.  What made it even better is the fact that I don't have to leave my apartment today.  I have no classes on Tuesdays, and I don't have any errands to run today.  So I can sit in my room watching the snow fall, reading my law books, sipping hot chocolate.

I wonder, though, if I am liking Paris more because I know that I have less than two weeks before I am back in the United States or if it is because I actually like it here now.  I guess we'll find out when next semester starts.  Although between now and next semester I am going to be going to Munich, Vienna, Salzberg, Budapest and maybe a week in the Canary Islands.  So I am going to start next semester with a bang!

But above all, I'll be home for Christmas!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

J'aime Chanter

So I didn't blog about it because I wasn't sure if it was going to happen, but yesterday I sang at le jour de dedicace at SciencesPo.  Don't ask me what it was, because honestly I couldn't tell you.  All I know is that they asked me to sing a song and sing two other songs with two girls.  I obviously wasn't going to say no.

So we sand yesterday at the cocktail reception after the day was over. The authors who were at the event during the day signing their books were invited up stairs for french hors d'oeuvres and cocktails while they had some musical talent.  Turns out I and two other singers as well as two piano players were that talent.  Now I don't want to make it sound like we were featured, because we REALLY were not.

The event started at 6:00PM and we got there about fifteen minutes early.  We sang through the two songs the three of us were going to sing together.  One of them, Les feuilles mortes was a song I hadn't heard before.  But that didn't stop us from singing it... After listening to it about three times it was showtime.  The other song, Hymne a l'amour by Edith Piaf was a classic so I had heard that one before.  The song I sang solo is called Le Complimente de la Butte was featured in the movie Moulin Rouge.  I had heard it before and really liked it.

But at the actual reception, it was kind of pointless for us to be there.  There were probably a hundred and fifty people plus in the room all talking.  The piano was only so loud, and we had no microphone.  So no one really heard us sing.  It was still fun though.  I got to go to a real french cocktail party!  Unfortunately for us, the hors d'oeuvres were gone by the time we finished singing, but they had some champagne for my friends (and coke for me).

All in all it was a good experience.  I'm looking forward to our choir concert this Friday too!

Le Semestre Prochaine

I think I could potentially have the best schedule ever next semester.  If all goes according to plan (but let's be real, this is France so the odds of that happening are incredibly slim...) I would only have classes Thursdays and Fridays.

Here is a list of courses that I am going to try to get on Thursday: Transnational criminal law: money laundering, corruption and international embargoes and sanctions' regimes - 8:00AM to 10:00AM; Musique et Politiques - 10:15AM to 12:15AM; Les Grands Enjeux de la Défense 5PM to 7PM.  Here are the proposed courses for Friday: Online Social Networs - 12:30PM to 2:30PM; US Constitutional Rights: variation in Breadth and Scope of Application among the States - 2:45PM to 4:45; French Geopolitics - 7:15PM - 9:15PM.

I have some back up classes incase those ones don't work out.  On Thursdays I could take Borders in Europe - 7:15PM to 9:15PM (except that is when the choir reversals are...).  Wednesdays, I could take European Law on Foreigners from 2:45PM to 4:45PM.  On Fridays there is a course called International Intellectual Property Law: a Globalized field between Cooperation and Conflict from 10:15AM - 12:15AM.

So assuming I can get those, and that my French course fits into them then I am sitting pretty.  That means five day weekends every week.  Think about the traveling I could do.  I could go to Spain, see my friends in Barcelona, Madrid and Grenada.  My spring break would be two weeks almost.  Oh, and I forgot to mention the best part.  None of those classes have a final exam.  I could go out exploring the French countryside.  I could fly off and see Russia if I wanted to!  I really hope that I get those classes...

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Pour quoi je ne deteste pas SciencesPo

Ok, so here is the blog post my family is going to love the most.  Mainly because it means that they get to tell me "I told you so" but also because I hope it will ease any worries they have had about me since being here.

I don't actually hate this school as much as I thought.  I have two full weeks of class left and I am finding out my grades.  In my Professions Politiques class I did surprisingly well.  I got a 14, 15 and at minimum a 16 on my three pieces of work that I get graded on.  I have to say I am surpsied not only because I did well but because this stuff was all in French.  I am fairly certain that my professor took pity on me because I am not a native French speaker, but what ever, I'll take what ever break I can get.

In my Law class, so far I have received a 13 and a 17 on the two items I've turned in on time.  I am still waiting on the two things that I screwed up the dates on.  I am a little worried because I e-mailed my professor the work on Sunday night and she hasn't e-mailed me back.  I sent her an e-mail just making sure she did get it.

In my French Defense Policy class, I haven't gotten any grades back, but my final paper for that course is due tomorrow.  After I turn that in, I will have finished all of my work for that class. That means for both my French Defense Policy and my Professions Politiques course I have nothing left to do except for just show up.

In my Social History of the US course, we have two things we are graded on.  We have our midterm and our final exam.  I wasn't in class last week because Nick and I were on our way to Amsterdam, but I e-mailed my professor and he told me that I got a 15/20.  Oh, I should mention that every one of the grades that I have gotten have been out of twenty.

The French grading system is so stupid, but I think I have kind of gotten the hang of it.  If you get a 15 or higher, you are sitting pretty.  A 15 is a solid A.  I think a 13 or higher is some kind of A.  An 11 or 12 would be like a B and a 10 is a C.  Anything lower than a C is a no pass, so I guess they don't really do the whole D thing in this country.

Good news is I haven't gotten below a 13 on anything!  So that's why I don't hate SciencesPo as much as I thought I did.