Friday, May 28, 2010

Au revoir

Today was my last day in Paris. As my last few hours in Paris tick away, I would like to point out that this blog will soon end. I'll probably write one or two entries when I get home, but then I'll stop. Thank you to anyone who took the time to read it, double to those who actually enjoyed it!

I didn't do much today. This morning, I woke up, took a shower, mailed 10 pounds of books back to the US (the post office guy asked why I had so many, and I told him it was ENS's fault - he understood!), and then headed over to CUPA. We were going to meet and go to a restaurant to celebrate the end of the newspaper, but I never got the email saying which restaurant, so I just assumed we'd be meeting at CUPA. Before going there, though, I went to La Rue Plumet (where Jean Valjean lived in Les Mis!), took a few pictures, and listened to Eponine's song (in French, of course), "Mon histoire." Then, I got to CUPA and no one was there. I texted Chantal and she told me she was already at the restaurant, which was in the 13th arrondissement right behind the library! I was honestly ready to kill her - I live there! I had trekked all the way out there just so she could tell me to run home because they were all already there? Well, I came back, met them on a boat, and we had a fun lunch. I almost forgot how angry I was.

After lunch, Chantal and I headed back to CUPA to print out the newspaper so I could have a copy before I left. It looks nice! Then, I met Alix at La Fontaine Saint-Michel to get my last Berthillon. My favorite ice cream server was there and she was very sad to hear I was leaving. She told me that I have to come back. I wholeheartedly concurred, while I ate my triple scoop white chocolate, salted butter caramel, and raspberry rose.

My last meal with my host family was nice: salmon and rice. M. and Mme De La Taille loved the last newspaper. On the news, they had a special about Les Mis, but we didn't hear it because they couldn't figure out how to make the volume work on their new TV (they got a flat screen because their old TV died). Then, I headed over to Melissa's (fellow CUPA student - one who was here for the whole year) for a goodbye party. There, we all discussed how we were more French. I said I was more French because I was turning negative (but that's only because I don't want to leave, I'm sure - I've been very positive the whole time I've been here otherwise, I think!), and other comments that were thrown around were ones about cheese and not showering.

So, today I said goodbye to basically all the CUPA students, the CUPA staff, Alix, and tomorrow morning I will say goodbye to my host family. Leaving stinks. At least the French for "goodbye" is "au revoir" which literally means "until we see each other again." I'm definitely not saying "adieu."

Thursday, May 27, 2010

My last French class

I'm not sure if my philosophy TD today was actually my last French class, but I didn't bother to ask if we were having the CM tomorrow morning, and besides, it's optional. I'm tired and I want to sleep, so since the class is over and I will never take philosophy again, I think it's okay if I miss the last CM (not that I'm even sure there is a CM...). Anyway, in the TD, we talked more about Sartre, then about technique.

After that, I got some falafel in Le Marais, followed by some awesome chocolate, and then it started to pour! I came home and Mme De La Taille had gotten my suitcases from the basement so I can start packing. It was a harsh realization - I'm leaving Saturday morning...Anyway, I packed one suitcase and my big carry-on, then chilled waiting for the rain to stop. It did right before I went to teach Jerome English for the last time of the semester.

Then, I had twenty minutes to get home. Usually, that works. But, I had to wait 10 minutes for la ligne 10, it's about 10 minutes from Segur to Saint-Michel, and then I switch to the RER C. But, the RER C was going to take a good 25 minutes to get there, so I decided to take the bus. I left the metro, ran over to l'Institut du Monde Arabe to catch the bus, and found out that there are manifestations today for retired people. So, the buses weren't running, but I had already walked halfway to the next metro stop where the RER C would stop before getting to my stop. So, I kept walking, hoping I'd make the train I had decided not to wait for, but I didn't. The next one would be in another twenty minutes. So, I kept walking, and walked all the way to the Gare de Lyon (kind of out of the way) to take ligne 14 home, because it runs every 3 minutes like clockwork. It took me a whole hour to get back and I had walked so much that I was actually tired (and I'm a pro walker after all this time in Paris, so it must have been quite a walk...).

I got back, ate as quickly as humanly possible, then met Eileen and Sarah at Strasbourg-St. Denis for the moules frites and the Moose again. I love Thursday traditions! We're regulars at both bars and even though I really wasn't hungry for the moules frites after the dinner I had five minutes before I rushed off to get them, it was fun anyway. Then, we went to the Moose (Canadian bar) and I had a coke, because I'm really just kind of sick of alcohol and how expensive it is. And then I said goodbye, went home, and here we are. Now, I'm going to sleep.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Les Miz in Paris!

I spelled the title incorrectly because it was in English, even though everyone here speaks French. I guess whoever decided to bring the tour here forgot that in Paris, they actually speak French, regardless of the language in which the musical is the most popular. Every time I told someone here I was going to see Les Mis (and yes, I said Les Mis in French) in Paris, they'd get really confused and finally I'd say: "Les Misérables" and they'd get angry that I had called it that. Even when I clarified that I was talking about the musical, they said I shouldn't call it that. Oh well...that's what I call it.

Anyway, before talking about the musical, I should probably mention my day before 8:00 at night (or 20:00, as the French would say). Well, I woke up, didn't really do much, went and bought my last Lebanese sandwich maybe forever, got a free baklava with it because I'm the guy's best customer, bought some Berthillon ice cream (melon and coconut! It's better than Grom and the Bac one, no doubt - it's the texture), and headed over to Paris 8 (my last time!! That's the one place I'm actually excited never to see again) for my history test. It was just like the last one, but he didn't let us use our books this time. Overall, I suppose it doesn't matter - he's only counting the better of our two grades, and I got a 14 on the first! On the way in, though, it poured! Bye bye beautiful summer 80 degree weather.

Finally, Les Mis. It was fantastic. The production is to celebrate the 25th anniversary of it in London (which apparently makes it the longest running musical in the world according to them. They apparently forgot about The Fantasticks, but that's okay - the point is, both longest running musicals and The Phantom of the Opera, the longest running Broadway musical, are all based on French books!), and they've redesigned the whole thing. The set was incredible, the backgrounds (projected onto a screen on the back of the stage) are based on Victor Hugo's drawings, and the actors were phenomenal. I loved Javert specifically, who really captured his struggle perfectly, and Eponine who, even though she looked nothing like her "parents" in the musical (she was black; they were white), sang "On My Own" beautifully. The backgrounds were mostly fantastic, I should say. During "One Day More," they all marched in place and the background moved backward so it looked like they were moving forward - that was a little too much. They did a similar effect while Jean Valjean was carrying Marius through the sewer. It was bizarre. I didn't like Gavroche's death either. They eliminated the revolving stage aspect, which was mostly a relief, but then Gavroche died on the other side of the barricade and you didn't get to see anything. Plus, now that I know what the actual French Gavroche was supposed to sing as he died, it bugged me that this little British kid thought he could impersonate Victor Hugo's myth gamin. The strangest part of all were the subtitles - half the time, they were just the French lyrics, and the other half, they actually tried to translate the English lyrics (retranslate?? I'm not sure anymore...) and it ended up being wordy and unnecessary. Why wouldn't they just make all the subtitles the French lyrics?

Oh, and apparently the most phenomenal part of the whole musical was the orchestra. The two gay guys sitting next to me explained that, in Paris, there aren't usually live orchestras in productions like these. French people kept coming up to look at the orchestra like it was an endangered species. When they started the overture, the audience applauded. They were good, but I can't imagine being that excited to see a pit orchestra. Obviously, I'm spoiled in America. Either that or French people need to start seeing real musicals. It's probably the latter.

By the way, the theater is beautiful!! The two gay guys sitting next to me said that they should perform Phantom there, but I told them the Opéra Garnier would probably be a little more "authentique."

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Final Academic Checkout

That's what I did this morning at 10:00, so I didn't get to sleep in. The whole process took about five minutes. I had already filled out all the evaluations on the website, so all MaryAnn did was look at my sheet, see that I only had one more paper to turn in and one more in-class test, and said that I'm officially checked out. Lucky me...

Then, I got some Wokbar (right next to CUPA - fast food in Paris that I actually like) and went to the last literature and Paris class, which was a field trip around the Passages de Paris. It was so neat - the Passages are little streets of shops and restaurants in between buildings covered with skylights. They're really beautiful, old, and I'm angry that I had no idea they were there before. Needless to say, that is probably where I will be spending my Thursday afternoon - apparently, back in the day there used to be about two hundred of them!

Finally, the CUPA soirée. We all went to Pascale's (she's a girl, in case you're confused by the name) apartment (really, really nice!), had great food (not French food, though. And sorbet for dessert, but it wasn't Berthillon, so that part wasn't the best...), and I played my flute and Miranda sang. It was nice. Pascale agreed that impayable is a good word to describe me and that my definition of "extraordinary, something bizarre and pleasant" is dead on. Anyway, I am officially checked out - after tomorrow's history exam, I won't have anything left except packing my bags. This is so depressing...

Monday, May 24, 2010

I'm up at 2:25 in the morning finishing a paper...I really need to get back to Hopkins.

Even though I love Paris, I have to say I've been lazy with this paper. I've had seven pages for a while now, but since the professor wasn't really clear about what he wanted, I've been trying to add bibliographic references even though I'm not sure he's expecting them. He acted like he didn't want this paper to be academic. He said he wanted it like a journal with dates and times, only with complete sentences. Then, he wanted us to have a little reflection on memory at the end. Basically, this assignment makes no sense and I'm going to be glad to be rid of it. Hopefully he doesn't fail me because I can't figure out what he wants.

Anyway, this morning I was going to wake up at 10:00 because I was tired, finish my paper, and enjoy the rest of my day before my flute lesson. Well, when I woke up, I had two emails from Justine saying two things: first, I can't use the word "impayable" in the first person or negate it (drats...); second, that she was busy this week and the only free time she had was this afternoon for lunch. So, instead of doing my paper, I ran over to Porte des Lilas (so far away...) and had lunch with Justine. It consisted of some kind of foie gras type thing (much better than what they gave us at CUPA, I have to say), bread, cheese, and asparagus. She said it was a typical French summer lunch. Her apartment is really big - I think it's the same size as where I'm living, but the De La Taille's apartment is meant for five people. She only shares hers with two other students, one of whom plays the harmonica, which is kind of annoying; and the other one has a German girlfriend who doesn't speak French. And she has lots of books, but that's no surprise. She even had several Pléiade editions! I really want to buy one before I leave, but I hear they're kind of expensive.

Aside from all the work and the fact that you're technically working for the government, it must be nice to be an ENS student. I mean, they get paid so they can afford nice apartments, and they get to live in Paris! In exchange, they just need to give up ten years of their lives to be teachers. Considering I think it would be fun to be a teacher, that doesn't seem like it would be that bad. That is, unless they have to teach at Paris 8. The mindset is just so completely different. l'ENS seems comparable to Hopkins or other really great schools in the US, but at Hopkins, you need to pay $50,000 a year for the privilege of going there, it has nothing to do with the government, and you aren't guaranteed anything when you leave. Well, it's not exactly comparable to what I do at Hopkins since I'm undergrad. Grad schools in the US (at least, the programs I'm looking at) don't cost anything and you get paid a stipend because you teach. Then, I guess I'll have to compare American undergrad experiences to the classes préparatoires, but I have no idea what those are like here. Jerome told me that students work really hard in the classes préparatoires, then go to the grandes écoles and slack off (except at ENS because those students have to read a lot).

After saying goodbye to Justine, I headed back home, practiced my flute a little (I have to play at the party tomorrow night, so I decided to pull out some impressive-sounding pieces), then headed over to La Salle Pleyel, a big concert hall near La Place d'Etoile for my last flute lesson. It was so cool to play there. I wasn't on the stage or anything, but still - Chopin used to perform there! I got to see the back stage area where the orchestra members have their lockers, I got to see the hall while people were rehearsing, and I got to enter through the artists' entrance! On Wednesday, I'll be going back to hear my professor's rehearsal. He said he has an American friend from New York coming to the rehearsal too. It will be fun to do that before my second history partiel and Les Misérables.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Well, I didn't finish my paper, or get much else done today...but I took a taxi!

The title of this post basically sums up my day. I woke up early, wrote a few pages of my paper (just two left, and I'm going to finish it tomorrow morning no doubt, considering it's due on Tuesday...), then met Lu at Belleville where we walked around, got some crepes, then went to Buttes Chaumont and walked around. It's so cool having a friend who speaks Chinese and French, but no English (well, she speaks a little, but not enough to bother trying to speak English with her). She and I communicate with our second languages - it's neat.

After that, I came back, got my stuff, and left for our CUPA picnic with Marie at Versailles. It was really nice (but I definitely wasn't hungry after everything I ate with Lu) and we had conversations about just about everything. It was strange - Marie had no idea how much we paid to study in Paris with CUPA. She couldn't understand where all the money goes. Apparently, MaryAnn and Nathalie aren't paid super well, the computers in the basement certainly don't cost that much, and the universities are practically free. Some of the students were complaining about the constant "cautions" where we have to pay thirty euros to assure that we'll go to the spectacles. If it's our money that bought the tickets, why should we have to give them more? The cautions were stupid - luckily, I got all mine back.

Finally, we left Versailles and headed back to Paris, got some drinks, and were chatting at a bar too late so I missed the last metro (I didn't actually miss it, but I would have had to change, so I wouldn't have been able to get back home) and had to take a cab. It was really easy - the guy didn't notice I was American, wasn't rude, and didn't drive me around in circles. To me, the route he took seemed the most direct route I could think of. I don't know why CUPA tried to make me so nervous about the cabs here - I could have stayed out really late every night (it was also surprisingly cheap - 10 euros to get back to Bibliotheque from Saint-Michel - it would be more expensive in Baltimore).

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Je ne veux pas partir...

I didn't get much of my essay written today, and I'm afraid tomorrow will be just as unproductive. I'm going to try to wake up early and crank out a page or two tomorrow morning before I leave to meet my friend Lu for a goodbye lunch. Who knows how long that could take, then we're having a CUPA picnic at Versailles at 5:30. Good thing the essay isn't due until Tuesday, but I really wanted to have it finished this weekend. It could still happen, but it's probably not very likely.

This morning, I wrote a little, then headed off to Les Deux Magots to have lunch with Paola, her old host mom, and her granddaughter, Elise. Mme De La Taille told me that Les Deux Magots is just as chic as Le Procope, which I love so much. Afterward, I taught Olivier English, got some ice cream on Rue du Bac (this time, I just got a cone instead of a gigantic sundae), then went to an actual French person's birthday party (her name is Nathalie, by the way). She's a friend of Jerome and Olivier, so I went with them. It was so much fun - talking to tons of French people in a group like that. Jerome's girlfriend speaks five languages! I told her she's my new hero. Sorry, George Steiner. So what if I'm fickle? In fact, as we were leaving, she started having a conversation in Portuguese with some random people who were walking out at the same time. Anyway, back to the dinner - it was at a French cafe-version of an American restaurant. It was called "Indiana". I got a Caesar salad, which wasn't very good, and I'm not just saying that because they put avocados in it. I considered getting a cheesecake for dessert, but thought better of it and just got a coke. Basically, the whole dinner everyone just kept telling me how well I spoke French. I don't see why people think the French are rude - everyone was so polite, I kissed more cheeks tonight than I've kissed in my whole life (you need to give everyone the "bise" when you walk in and when  you leave), it was basically just chill. And the best part was that I didn't speak English at all! My new favorite sentence, though, is: "Je ne veux pas partir." I said it basically to everyone there, because the conversation was always the same: "Where are you from? How long have you been here? When are you leaving? Oh, that's so soon - are you sad?" to which I'd respond: "Je ne veux pas partir." Especially since the weather is getting so nice. It's been getting up to about 80 degrees every day!

Well, I'm going to go to bed so I can wake up early and do some work before meeting Lu at Belleville. We're going to try to figure out what's there and why il faut y aller.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Frozen Hot Chocolates ENFIN!!!!!!

This morning, I had my philosophy CM at an ungodly hour. I had practically just fallen asleep when I woke up to leave. The class was kind of interesting, I suppose. We talked about racism. He thinks that women are a different race, and very inferior to men. Then he said he was just kidding. I'm not sure anymore. In order to understand racism, I apparently have to read de Tocqueville, but I'm feeling lazy since I'm only here for eight more days and since I have no more grades for this course. So, maybe I'll read it when I get back to the United States. : (

After that, I should have come back and taken a nap. But I'm not smart like that - I instead wrote about two and a half pages of my literature paper about the bridge. I don't know where it's going, but hopefully it's strange enough for the professor. Finally, I took a very long walk from my house to Gare de Lyon, then took the metro to the Louvre, walked to Pont Neuf so I could spy on a homeless guy who couldn't walk without a cane and a MacDonald's cup for spare change, then got some gelato because I figure I was eating too much Berthillon (melon and coconut - Grom's two new flavors for the month of May), went to my favorite little park with the broken tree and the rosebushes to skype with Allison while the bells of Notre-Dame were ringing, and then taught English. Guess what - Jerome had no idea what impayable meant. I told him it's what I am, since I don't think I know exactly either. His mom explained it, kind of.

Finally, the frozen hot chocolate!! Paola brought the blender and I had the powder, and we made them!
The ingredients

"Me and my baby, my baby and me" (by baby, I mean my frozen hot chocolate - just trying to make a Chicago reference)


With a drop of Chantilly!

Paola and me with our spoils...aka, frozen hot chocolate!! I'm impayable.

Mme De La Taille and her frozen hot chocolate. She loved it!

Pierre liked it too. 

Thursday, May 20, 2010

My third test in three days

Sorry this is so late - I had a rough three days. Actually, with respect to what I do at Hopkins, they were a piece of cake. But whatever - I'm allowed to be lazy once and a while. This morning, I had my philosophy class very early (9:30) at Clignancourt. We talked about Kant, which was interesting, but not as interesting as Sartre. I think existentialism only makes sense in French. When it came up in classes at Clarence, it never made sense. Anyway, Alix came late to class because she was sick. She had bad hives. After class, Mlle Benoliel explained how the colle would count in my grade. In fact, it won't really, unless it will help. She said if it were a catastrophe (but also made sure to mention that she's sure it wasn't a catastrophe) then she'd just drop it, but if not, she'd just average it in with my other grades. I should be happy about that, but I still don't know any of my grades!! She's nice, though - and apparently she studied in NYC for a year, so she knows what it's like taking foreign classes.

Between that and my exam for my l'OuLiPo writing class, I got a panini and some Bethillon (well, I won't be able to get it again for a long time, so I need to profit now!), then went home for a little bit before the exam. Well, the exam was simple. It consisted of: first, a lipogrammatic translation with the letter "o"; then, a homosyntaxism (where she gives you what type of speech each word in the sentence should be. In this case, ASVSA or Adj/Adv, Substantif, Verbe, Substantif, Adj/Adv); a haiku about the ocean; and finally, a plain creative writing exercise without constraint imagining that I had written a whole collection of haikus about the sea and I had to write the preface to the book. Basically, I was just happy I didn't need to do that dumb Perec one where you can only write using words whose only vowels are E's. It's just too hard in French...and in English. I think the only "revenente" you can do in English is basically "the three trees see me."

After that was my last l'OuLiPo meeting, but before that, I had to call the doctor frantically. You see, Alix's hives are actually chicken pox, and I was afraid I might get them. Apparently, there's only a five percent chance that I will. I'm still a little nervous, though. After that, I went to the OuLiPo meeting (fantastic, though Jacques Roubaud wasn't there), got very sad (the emotion, not the club), and met Eileen and her friend Sarah to get the free moules frites if we bought a drink at that bar again and then we went to the Moose (the Canadian bar where they all speak English). It was really fun, and I really do like kir, and moules frites. Who knew mussels tasted so good! And, that was my day. My philosophy CM was moved to 8:00 tomorrow morning, so I should probably go to bed...I'm just not very tired since I'm sad I won't be able to say goodbye to Alix considering she's going to be contagious for 10 days and I'll only be here for 9...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The day I took my first and (hopefully) last colle

First, since in philosophy you need to define everything, a definition. Une colle: Argot scolaire. Interrogation périodique de contrôle. (according to Larousse) Today, I had to do one for philosophy. The whole process seems designed to make students nervous wrecks, and I'm sure they're worse at l'ENS. So, basically, here's what my experience with the colle was. I walked into Clignancourt-Sorbonne and wandered around looking for where I was supposed to be (good thing I was 45 minutes early), finally found it up on the second floor, then read my notes until Alix got there and then complained about it a little. Finally, the professor called my name and I walked in. It was the same room where we have the TD for the class, and there were already two students diligently working. The professor told me to pick two numbers between one and forty and so I picked eleven and twenty-two since that's my birthday. Luckily for me, twenty-two was the same exact topic as my dissertation subject from last Thursday. So, I got to write a second time about how one can say man is unachieved. For twenty minutes, I wrote down exactly what I planned on saying, while other students delivered their exposes in the same room. I really didn't like that part - it made it hard to concentrate. Before my turn came, the girl who gave her expose was horrible! The professor basically chewed her up, and that scared me a little, but it did sound like she hadn't put any effort into it. Finally, it was my turn and I delivered my expose. She told me I did a good job, said a lot of "justes choses" and that I had referenced a lot. But, I had spoken too quickly and I should have mentioned Sartre and biological responses to my arguments. So, yeah, that was it. I'm sure she knew I was American - I just didn't say it. 

Before that, I got a Lebanese sandwich and some Berthillon ice cream (banana and melon)! Berthillon is still the best - no way around it. After the colle, Alix and I tried to get on ligne 4, but it had stopped running from Porte de Clignancourt, so we had to walk all the way to Porte de la Chapelle to take the 12. I was late for dinner...We had fried eggs and artichokes! It was good. Oh, and cidre - still not the biggest fan of alcoholic cider.

So now, all that's left academically is my writing workshop's final exam tomorrow (she said it should only take an hour and a half), my seven page paper, and my second history partiel (which doesn't really matter since I already know I'm passing!). So, not too bad. Also on my plate: parties, coffees, frozen hot chocolates, lunch at cafes, seeing Les Mis, and probably Giverny.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Le Bac à Glaces

Today, I had my dissertation for my literature class, except it wasn't really a typical dissertation. He basically said he didn't want it organized or anything, so I think my essay was a little too academic, plus the topic is just too vague. How does he expect us to analyse a text in terms of memory? I had basically decided that, no matter what the topic, I'd write about Les Mis since he really seems to like that book, and luckily for me, one of the two texts we could choose was actually from Les Mis! It was about the sewers, so I wrote about Hugo creating a utopia from the sewers, where everything eventually passes beneath the earth and is equal, including the characters at that point in the novel. Then I analysed it with respect to the four metaphors he told us about working on memory and added in some stuff about contradictions and the mixture of the collective and historical memories.

But the really interesting part about the exam: the entire time, students outside were having a party and blasting music. It was really very distracting. At one point, the professor decided to go outside and stop them. It didn't work. Then, he had to go to a conference and left us all in the room alone doing the assignment until some temp came in to watch us. It was very bizarre - I have to say, I miss Hopkins exams with their serious atmosphere and intelligible questions that we've been prepared to answer. On the other hand, I'm very happy that I've reached a level in French that I can write a five page essay in three hours sur table focusing on the subject rather than the French.

After the test, I met Alix and we went to Le Bac à Glaces like Justine had recommended. Once again, she was completely right. It was really really good. Not quite Berthillon, but what is? Plus, I didn't miss a day of Berthillon since it isn't open on Monday's and Tuesday's. I suppose next week, I'll go back to this new place while Berthillon is closed. I had an eight euro sundae with tropical sorbets, meringues, whipped cream, and strawberry sauce! I'm turning into an ice cream freak - and I'm apparently impayable. 

When the ice cream was all gone, I went to teach Jerome English and he told me about how no one in Italy was able to speak English with him and that he had a real communication problem. But, he said a German girl told him his English was really good. Et c'est tout ! I had dinner, then talked on skype and procrastinated instead of trying to figure out how to study for the philo colle (practically on the spot expose...) that I have to do tomorrow. It was a nice day!

Alix and the ice cream!

Chateaubriand died across the street from the ice cream! We had such a great view. Now, I've seen his grave, his birth place, and where he died. Too bad he's not my favorite author...

Monday, May 17, 2010

London Pictures

I also realized that I never wrote about my second day in London. Well, I went to the St. Paul cathedral, had some scones, met Therese at Covent Garden, got Chipotle for lunch (not as good as in America!), studied a little with her in a cute little cafe (she had tea), took a walk, we got Subway for dinner (better than in America!), and saw Chicago! I really liked Chicago - it was so cleverly staged and choreographed, so even though the music isn't the best, it ended up looking like a piece of art on stage. At least, a piece of art that is very critical of America. The woman who played Velma was fantastic. She was Australian and played the role with the same type of attitude that you'd play the girl from Anything Goes. The whole cast was pretty phenomenal (except I wasn't the biggest fan of Roxie) and they all spoke with American accents. I couldn't even tell (except with Roxie one time) that they were British (or Australian at all).

Okay, so here are pictures:

The top of my egg building

The New Globe Theater

The Millennium Bridge

The Tate Modern - ugly, huh?

Tower Bridge

St. Paul's

A double-decker bus

St. Paul's again

Tea and scones!

The tkts booth in Leicester Square

A Pret!

Covent Garden

Alfie, who helped the unicycling juggler - so cute!

Alfie really made the poor guy sweat. He just wasn't as cool as the tattooed one...

Enron the musical?

Platform 9 3/4!

The King's Cross Station, under construction

A pretty apartment

The British Library

Welcome to the Club

Today was a good day, though I am still a little tired from London. My day started with my last ENS class, which was probably the best one yet! We finished up the discussion on the literary language, then did a recap of everything we talked about in the course, tied everything together, and made tons of comments that I found hilarious. For example, they said they were "modest" about certain aspects and probably could have explained more. Honestly, I don't think they could have gone much more in depth about anything, considering they talked about everything under the sun that has to do with literature, and all that with only two hours a week for one semester! Needless to say, I'm pretty upset it's over, and that I'm not doing the validation. It would be interesting - maybe, for the big French paper I've elected to write next year, I'll write about literary history!

After class, I met up with Justine. I think I've changed my mind about the concours here - sure, it's nice to know that everything is just based on one test and that you'll never apply to a school and not know why you did or didn't get in, but I think it turns really smart students into nervous wrecks. Seriously, Justine seemed so stressed. She said basically every day she just reads and reads and reads, studies a little more, has something to eat, then reads some more. Her written exams (the seven hour disserations) are over, so all she has left are orals, which means she gives mock orals basically every day and she said they're intense. Plus, she said if you don't do well on the concours, you can't be a professor, can't get a doctorate in France, and are just out of luck. So, even though it's nice that the process is somewhat objective (as objective as a philosophy concours can be, I suppose), it might just be a little too tiring. Now wonder they get paid to be students there! On another, somewhat related note: what is wrong with those Hannah Montana-dancing pompom ENS students? How do they have time to waste with that when they have concours for which they need to study?

Anyway, Justine wanted to speak English since she apparently hasn't since she left the US, and I don't think she'll ever speak English with me again after today. Apparently, I speak to fast and she hears too slowly. I would say something, she'd give me a blank stare, and then she'd say: "I'm sorry. I did not understand anything you just said." She told me about a new ice cream place I need to try on Rue de Bac, but I was too full to go there afterwards (considering I had two crepes!), so I just went to Pont Neuf and took notes for an hour and a half.

I figured I'd write this now, since I'm planning on studying for my literature in-class assignment that's tomorrow tonight, though I don't exactly know how since the class doesn't make a lot of sense. Then, tonight when I want a break, I'll upload pictures from London (that is, if I get around to uploading them).

Sunday, May 16, 2010

More stupidity

I'm tired of the fact that, when I'm stupid in Europe, I end up losing tons of money. Today, it seemed great - after Therese and I had tea and scones (don't worry, Marta's are still better), I decided to spend a few hours at the British library, go back to Therese's dorm to get my bags, meet her at the library so we could get a last Pret a Manger meal, and then head to the station for my 5:31 train. Well, the library part worked really well. I spent hours there, headed over to the King's Cross station to take a picture of platform 9 3/4 (which is between platforms 8 and 9, by the way - I know I'm not very good at math, but shouldn't it be between 9 and 10?), then headed back to Therese's dorm. I got there and left a little before four to meet Therese at her library, but the bus didn't stop for me!! I was in such a hurry I had to take a cab for 8 pounds, but I made it to Therese by about 4:40. Obviously, we didn't have time to go to Pret (it was closed anyway - London closes early on Sundays). So, I gave her her key, said goodbye, and rushed to the tube to get back to the station. I made it there by 5:10 (just 20 minutes early instead of the 30 I had wanted to get there) and apparently, when you're rushed, you're not supposed to wait in the line with everyone. Apparently, the line is for tons of different trains and not just the one I was late for, so I was supposed to go straight to the booth. But, I didn't know that, waited, then the stupid machine wouldn't work and someone finally told me to go to the booth where they told me it was too late and that I had missed the train.

I headed to the ticket office where some very rude British guy told me there was absolutely no way I could get out of England today (obviously he was an idiot...) and that the earliest I could leave would be 11:00 tomorrow morning (British time, so already an hour into my last ENS class...). After a few good minutes of freaking out in the line, a nice ticket salesman told me he could get me onto a folding chair in the train and that it would be uncomfortable, but I could leave at 8:30 (for a 70 pound fee, of course...). So, I waited and talked to a bunch of French people. They said they wished all Americans were like me! I'm not sure if that's a compliment or not, but I said merci.

Finally, I got on the train and a conductor was telling the four of us who were supposed to sit on the folding seats that we couldn't, but then someone called him and said they had real seats we could sit in. This other girl and I were shown to this secret little room near first class, and the seats were really comfortable. Then, when the train stopped (finally - like an hour late!) at Gare du Nord, we realized we were locked in! We had to bang on the door forever to get someone to let us out. It was funny - she kept saying that the situation was "ouf" (French backwards slang Verlan language - the word fou or crazy backwards). And then I came home and I'm sitting on my real bed, pretty tired, but also amazed at what I'll do to see a musical or two.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


The end of my European semester is turning into a regular Tale of Two Cities. "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..."

So, London. This will be quick, by the way, since I've hijacked Therese's computer because mine can't connect to the British internet since it's too much of a francophile. First of all, it's more endearing than I remembered it to be. Obviously, I prefer Paris, but I do LOVE the musicals here! Plus, I had great gnocchi last night for dinner and saw The Phantom of the Opera! I'm very lucky that the British exist to translate wonderful French stories into musicals. And Phantom is so much better than I remember it - when it's performed on stage, it doesn't matter as much that the story makes no sense or that the lyrics aren't very good. It's just really impressive to watch, even from the nosebleed section where you need to pay 50 pence for binoculars to be able to see the phantom's deformed face.

I would also like to say a few things about British food - or the lack thereof. It seems that every restaurant here is ethnic and even the ones that say they serve a traditional British breakfast or "fish and chips" have something else available. Thank god for Pret a Manger's, though! I just love them and their free wi-fi and their miso soup. Even if they forget the accents and pronounce it incorrectly, it's such a great store! They also have a Tim Horton's here, but they don't have iced caps! And what's worse - they have a Caffe Nero (remember, from Florence?) but NO GELATO!! Today, I'm sure I'm going to run into a Duffs sans chicken wings or a Teds that only sells coffee.

Tonight, Therese and I are seeing Chicago. I'm excited since I've never seen that one - I had to go bowling instead because of stupid GBYO.

Oh, and I should probably mention that there are a ton of French people here. I thought it would be weird to hear English all the time, but I've been hearing so many different languages that I'm just confused. One more thing - my train arrived at the King's Cross Station yesterday!!!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Place de Furstemberg

Today, Paola and I went to the Place de Furstemberg where Delacroix's house and studio were. He lived there in his later years until his death. It's a museum now, and it's technically part of the Louvre. But it's way cuter and less imposing. Anyway, I think I like Delacroix. I don't know anything about art, but his paintings are very intense. I like the one of the revolution, and the way he draws horses, and there was one really great one of Macbeth. The best part was seeing his palette, though. It was so neat to see his paintings and then see how he painted them. Leave it to me to go to an art museum and get more excited about a dirty old palette than the art. 

Afterward, we went on a scavenger hunt to find Delacroix paintings in churches. So, we went to Saint Sulpice (famous from the Da Vinci code, but the "rose line" isn't a rose line and it's under construction right now) where there are two Delacroix's and then to Saint Paul (in Le Marais) to see another one. We also got some great falafel. 

Finally, I relaxed a little while waiting for Scott and Sheryl (who never called...) and now, I'm going to bed because I have an 8:00 train to London tomorrow morning!! I'm going to see Therese and a few musicals. It'll be great and probably expensive, but I'll have fun. It will also be good preparation for returning to an anglophone country and having people absolutely hate it when I speak French.  

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Side Note

The Wednesday before I leave, I will be seeing Les Misérables from the front row center! Yes, that's right - my seat will be orchestre A13 and I will be so close to the stage that I'll feel like I'm on the barricade with them! I'm so excited. Now, I know that Les Misérables the musical is a waste of time because it ignores Victor Hugo's digressions and thus erases the whole purpose of reading a Victor Hugo novel, as my Paris 8 literature professor would say, but Les Misérables is practically the reason I'm here, so I'm still very excited to see it from this close up. I can't remember exactly where I was sitting my first time (I was only eight year's old, after all), and we were way up in the balcony in London three years ago, so this time will be a new perspective. Maybe Javert's suicide, aside from being a brilliant song, will actually look dramatic from that angle and not just like he's jumping off a plastic bridge.

Now that I think of it, I bet my philosophy professor went to ENS too - is that where ALL professors go?

This morning, I started off the day kind of annoyed. I had a newspaper meeting at CUPA, but I didn't really want to go. I hadn't even started reading my chapter for history yet (and today's was a long one!) and I'm basically the only one who has written anything yet for this second edition of the newspaper. Then, on the way to the meeting (I was running a little late...), Chantal called to ask where I was, which annoyed me even more because I was only five minutes late. Finally, I get there and no one else is there - it's just Chantal and me. Plus, two of the other people working on the newspaper with us had a class and wouldn't be able to join the meeting until 11:00, so why were we starting at 10:30? Anyway, we started the meeting in the basement because all the rooms were full, then eventually Laura got there and then at 11:00 we were able to steal a classroom and Elizabeth was able to join us. We basically reiterated everything we had done in the last week, but in a more rushed manner since the newspaper's supposed to come out the 20th.

After that meeting, I decided to get a crepe and some Berthillon ice cream. Then, I sat in the Luxembourg Garden and read my history chapter, got to history a little late (mostly because of the stupid ligne 13), and found out that there was no quiz. I guess I didn't have to read that chapter after all, but it will probably be important for the last partiel (which doesn't really matter since I got a 14 on the first one).

Obviously, my day was a wasted one, except for the ice cream, of course! But, Arnaud from my history class said he read some of this blog! I was so surprised to hear that - who would have thought that French people are reading it? We decided that Professor Cornette is the best professor at Paris 8. My other professors are good too, but nowhere near as impressive. Arnaud likes this one so much, he decided to major in history in addition to political science. Professor Cornette went to ENS - he says it basically every class. And, I just realized today that the professor of my philosophy TD probably went there too. Alix had said that she had spent time studying at NYU, and ENS has a program for philosophy students to do that. Yup...I guess that means basically all my professors went to ENS. All that's left to do is find out if my writing workshop professor (who looks remarkably like Jessica Blau!) went there.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The day I learned that my literature professor went to l'ENS

This morning, I started freaking out because I thought my seven page paper about my bridge was due next week. It's okay, though - it's really due the week after. Plus, this assignment is very strange. He basically wants me to go sit on the bridge and take notes and give him seven pages of journal-like entries of what happens on this bridge with a reflection on memory tagged on at the end. I don't know what to make of this class. The on-site visits are really interesting, as well as the question of memory and the effect of literature on memory (and possibly vice-versa), but overall, this class isn't organized and doesn't really seem to have a point. Anyway, back to my day. So, I hurried and ran to the Pont Neuf (okay, so I took the metro) and took a bunch of notes. I also wrote a full page (1.5 spaced like they tell us to here) about the bridge before I left. I think I'll end up turning that page into my reflection on memory, but I still don't know how to treat this project.

Anyway, it was time to go to class, so I was waiting for the 13 at Clemenceau where I bumped into Naina, who was also going to be late. Well, we discussed how disappointed we are with French schools, how we hate Paris 8, and how Sorbonne is a disappointment. Naina is really upset that she didn't know about ENS. Basically, we're kind of mad at CUPA - it's their responsibility to tell us what academics are like here before we jump in and choose classes, but in my case at least, they steered me wrong! It's because of them that I'm taking three classes at Paris 8 and I'm lucky to be taking the philosophy at Sorbonne - it took a lot of convincing to get into that instead of just taking philo at Saint-Denis. How hard would it have been for CUPA to tell us: "ENS is the best school in continental Europe. Try to find classes there - it's the most comparable to your American universities except, of course, that it's a graduate school so it's difficult. And Paris 8 is no better than a community college, despite the quality of the professors. The students are a whinny bunch, mostly immigrants, and the classes are far from intellectually stimulating. The rest of the universities aren't much better." How hard would it have been for CUPA to tell us that? I decided that the best experience we could have had would have been to take the classes preparatoires - that's basically the most analogous to our universities in the US. It's how they separate the really really good students who will eventually go to ENS or another Grande Ecole from the ones who just aren't as good. It seems harsh, but c'est la vie. I'm not sure it's possible for foreign students to enroll in those classes, though.

We get to class and we're discussing memory in a very vague way. Then, the professor mentioned something about when he was at Normale Sup'. It's incredible that the students there end up at Paris 8 after they bypass the universities entirely. It's like a cruel joke. It is the point of the school, though - it was created after the Revolution to provide the Republic with teachers. Students there are paid to study, but only because technically they're supposed to teach for the government at high schools for some time afterward. Most don't, though. They just end up being professors at second rate universities, I suppose.

After class, we went to CUPA, signed a card for Cecile (she had a baby girl!), printed out my train tickets for London, and got some thai stir fry and gelato, then taught English. It basically rained the whole day - it was miserable. It better get nicer so my sitting at Pont Neuf will be more enjoyable.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Language of Literature

That's what we talked about at ENS today - about the language of literature and how it's different from the language people speak. I thought it was a really interesting lecture, especially when they started talking specifically about French and the literary French v. spoken French. This section included a discussion on writers who rebelled against language (like Georges Perec), those who believed that it's an author's duty to purify the spoken language, and those who believed the two were completely separate. Then, they talked about style and how it differed from the language of literature, including a discussion of Flaubert's "mot juste" and how writing is a never ending process. Style as the written expression of thought - anyway, it was an incredible class. I can't believe I only have one more.

Afterward, I had lunch with Lu and we discussed if it's easier to learn French if you start with English or Chinese. I thought that it might have been easier if you start with Chinese, because it's so completely different. Whereas with English, you basically need to unteach yourself your own language to work on the accent and sentence construction. But Lu said it's pretty hard to learn a completely different language, and she thinks the only reason she was able to get to where she is in French is because she had already studied English, so it wasn't completely foreign to her. Though, apparently, when you start studying French in China, you have to stop studying English. Interesting...

Then, I was going to sit on my bridge, but it started raining. Wearing the sunglasses wouldn't make me inconspicuous if it's raining, and I don't know what I'd see if I sat there spying on people in the rain. Hopefully it won't rain tomorrow before my course, and I can sit on the bridge for a little bit before leaving, or afterwards. It's not like I have a ton to do.

I taught English too, and then came back for dinner. Ultimately, not an exciting day (except for that awesome class!), but I caught up on some reading. Pray that the weather tomorrow is back to how it was over break!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

ABC = Another Bloody Castle

Today, I saw another castle: Chantilly. It would have been more interesting with a more interesting guide - the one we had spent about ten minutes per painting, and all the time was spent telling us things that anyone who has a functioning set of eyes can see. For example, there was one painting of a dog barking. She had to point that out. I know nothing about art - I would have been happy if she had spent all that time talking about what made them good paintings, but instead, she wasted my time. We didn't get to finish the tour because we had lunch reservations and apparently, two and a half hours for a tour just didn't cut it with this lady (who had been a tour guide there for at least twenty years, based on the picture on her ID badge). She didn't even show us the book room!

Anyway, the lunch was fantastic - and very French! A goat cheese salad and bread (I didn't like the ham, though), chicken with a tasty sauce, rice with almonds, and spinach, and bread, then a chocolate/coffee layered cake with some chantilly (aka whipped cream). All served with red wine, of course. We had lunch at the Hippodrome overlooking the horse track. I felt like I was in Saratoga again, a little.

Finally, they gave us tons of time to walk around, but there wasn't much to do. We saw kangaroos (some eccentric king's collection?), walked in the gardens, saw a waterfall (another mini-Niagara Falls, but even less impressive than the cascade at Buttes Chaumont), and raced through a little labyrinth. It was a relaxing day, but I think they could have picked a better day trip than this - it was a nice castle, but enough is enough! I'm sick of them!

Anyway, here are a few pictures.

The castle - very pretty

An intense painting on the Italian wall (even though the artist was French) of a guy killing a baby...

I liked the ceiling a lot - Hermes!!

The oldest painted glass, apparently?

Pretty salon

A hallway with pictures of wars. Oh, and Nathalie with an H. 

We took a walk though the woods

A kangaroo!

Niagara Falls! Oh wait, sorry - I'm blind...

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Le bateau mouche ou le dernier jour parisien d'Alexandra

This morning, I woke up early to go to Giverny with Alexandra and guess what - she had sent me an email. It said that she wanted to spend her last morning in Paris actually in Paris, so instead, she figured we'd climb the Eiffel Tower and take a boat tour along the Seine. I would have been happier about this change of plans if she had told me last night, because then I could have slept later, but whatever...

We got to the Eiffel Tower, looked at the immense crowd of people at 9:30 in the morning waiting in line to climb up, gave the new plan a second thought, took a few pictures, and went straight to the bateau mouche. I took lots of pictures, but I'm kind of too tired to upload them. Besides, they're all things I've already posted on this blog, just from different angles. Maybe I'll post them later. Tomorrow, I'll have interesting pictures (hopefully) because we're having our CUPA day trip to Chantilly, which is what whipped creme is named after, I guess.

After the bateau mouche, Alexandra left for London with her family and I decided it was time to go to Belleville like Justine had suggested. But, I didn't know what to do in Belleville and ended up walking around, getting lost looking for a park, getting caught in the rain, and ending up (somewhat miraculously) near Porte des Lilas, so I took the 11 back to Chatelet and went home from there. I didn't take pictures because it was raining, but I found another church. They're everywhere here!

Friday, May 7, 2010

48h des arts

This morning, after my wonderful philosophy CM (we talked about Sartre - actually very interesting. I should read his stuff. He went to ENS, you know?), I met up with Alexandra and her family at the Musée d'Orsay. This was the first time I've been inside there in three years - the building's still incredible while the art still fails to amuse me. I did like that they're now displaying Van Gogh's self portrait, though. That's a pretty famous one. They had an exhibit on "Crime and Punishment" (not the book), so I got to see a bunch of paintings of brutal deaths. 

After that, I taught English, then went to ENS for their kickoff party for their "48h des arts" or "48 hours of art." It's (according to the website) when the Normaliens get inspired and just perform nonstop for two straight days. The kickoff party was supposed to include sangria, a concert, and a party en K-Fêt. Well, first off it didn't start on time. And by "on time" I mean the typical French fifteen minutes late for good measure. It started practically an hour late, and all people did was drink the sangria (which came out of a bottle, by the way) and eat junk food, including mini-smarties. What statement are they trying to make with that? During this time, I was waiting for Paola to get there and started talking to this girl, Julia. Unsure of whether or not this party was open to non-students, I kind of stretched the truth and said I'm a student there in comparative literature. The fact that she bought it made me very proud of myself - I think I've learned a lot this semester! 

The party started, and by that, I mean a bunch of "pom-pom girls" (I put it in quotes because that's how you say it in French, apparently...) started dancing to "Nobody's Perfect" by Hannah Montana. The fact that Hannah Montana has infiltrated my blog about studying abroad in Paris is making me resent ENS a little. They were pathetic, to say the least. Once they were finished, the Normaliens moved onto sword fighting, juggling (while standing on each other's backs), and some other random talents that were interesting, but certainly not very impressive. I never thought I'd watch a school full of students goofing off that would make me think: "Hopkins is such a party school!" Paola and I skipped the party en K-Fêt and went to an Indian restaurant for dinner instead. Chicken korma (oops...I mean poulet korma) at last! Oh, and a rose lassi! Yum!

Finally, I met Alexandra and her brother for drinks. I had a mango mojito. Well, half of it - I still don't really like alcohol despite my time in Europe, so sangria and a mojito kind of seemed like overdoing it. 

Now, I'm going to go to bed so I can have yet another night of insufficient sleep. Alexandra, her brother and I are going to see Monet's garden and studio at Giverny tomorrow morning. The train leaves Saint-Lazare at 8:20. 

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Pourquoi pas?

This morning, I did a philosophy dissertation. Well, it was a mini-dissertation. We only had an hour and a half, so all she wanted was an introduction, a conclusion, and an extremely detailed plan. The question (sujet): "En quel sens peut-on dire de l'homme qu'il est un être inachevé?" or "In what sense can one say that man is an unachieved being?" I started writing notes down to come up with a problématique, and jotted down a few paragraphs of an introduction, then started on my plan. Now, this was all just drafts, because I figured I'd have enough time to recopy everything neatly and add a little more as I rewrote. Halfway through my plan, however, I realized I wasn't going to have time to do that. So, I immediately began frantically scribbling a new introduction (because my notes just weren't complete enough) and ended up with a full page just for that. Then, I started rewriting my plan, and I noticed several stupid mistakes while I was copying it (which makes me a little nervous that there were more I didn't catch). While I was rewriting that, I was adding more every second. I just couldn't stop, and didn't even notice that my hand was going numb until I got to the conclusion. A sentence into the conclusion, Mlle Benoliel informed us that we only had fifteen minutes left, and I started writing faster. But, since she's not a sadist, she said we could have an extra five minutes if we needed it. I finished the conclusion, took a deep breath, and handed it in ON TIME! Four full pages of philosophy! Woohoo! I think I was one of the lucky ones since the feeling in my hand came back while I was in the métro.

Ultimately, it was an intense exercise. But, it was really strangely rewarding too, and interesting. I see why they don't have a philosophy regents - you have to think, and New York State certainly doesn't want us to do that! Apparently here, the philosophy sujets of the Baccalauréat are a big deal and are publicized on the news. Considering that the Bac is basically a nation-wide Regents exam (that is neither curved nor absurdly easy), I find it interesting that they have such a big philosophy component, especially since most American students never study philosophy - especially not in high school. But, back to my dissertation, I would have preferred a good-sized four hour one. It would have been better - I'd prefer to write the whole essay and have just a little more time to think through all my thoughts completely. Alix agreed with me, so this isn't just me being nerdy. Now, seven hours like Justine's dissertations is a little too long, but four would be manageable. You know what I should have asked Justine when I saw her last week? I should have said: "Yeah, I saw Le Roi Lion nine times. By the way, what is man?" (Nice segue, huh?) I bet she could have answered that one. Then I could have counted that conversation as studying for philosophy!

During the dissertation, I told myself: "If I think I did well, I'll get myself some Berthillon. If I don't, I'll get some Berthillon anyway." So, when it was all over, I went to Saint-Michel, got a Lebanese sandwich for lunch (my usual server wasn't there, but the guy who was gave me free baklava!), and then headed over to Berthillon. Yup, raspberry rose and melon! And my favorite employee was there, and I told her I needed to get that ice cream every day because I had to leave at the end of May. She asked where I was going, and I told her to the United States, and she said I was really lucky and that she really wanted to visit there. I told her it wasn't a visit and that I'm from there, but I preferred Paris, and she said she hadn't realized I was American!

After that, I went to my writing class. It was basically my last one. You see, next Thursday is some kind of holiday, so I won't have class, and then the week after that is the devoir sur table (in class assignment) where she'll give us two or three small exercises "sous contrainte" and then one larger thing to write without a constraint. She says we'll have three hours, but should only need one or one and a half.

Finally, I went out for dinner with Alexandra, her parents, her younger brother, and her sister-in-law's mother and her husband. It was a cute little restaurant in the 15th arrondissement, traditionally French, and I tried rabbit finally! After the debacle in Lyon, I thought I'd never get to try it. And I'm glad I did - I'll add that to the short list of meat that I will eat. I even liked the mushroom ravioli that came with it - how do the French make mushrooms taste good? The best part of dinner, though, was Alexandra's sister-in-law's mom (her name's Giselle, by the way, so I'm going to write that because it will be quicker). Giselle's husband didn't speak any English, so I was translating a lot, and at first, apparently, Giselle thought I had an accent in English and that I was saying things in a French way. It was kind of loud in the restaurant too, so I guess for a while, while I was speaking French, she couldn't tell I had any accent. She actually thought I was French! Then, she eventually noticed that I had a little accent in French, and called me on it and asked if I was American. I'm so excited that someone really did think I was French! Her husband thought my Berthillon obsession was hilarious!

Anyway, that's it - I'm going to go to bed because I have the CM for philosophy tomorrow morning bright and early and I certainly didn't get enough sleep last night. Oh, I forgot to mention my great nightmare: I dreamed I was doing the dissertation, but that I did the whole thing in English and didn't notice until the very last second. Before the class, I had a banana just to make sure that wouldn't happen.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Nothing to say

I'm very sorry, but I have nothing to say. I didn't do anything today except read my history chapter, look over various philosophy sujets, and pretend that that counted as studying seeing as I have absolutely no idea how to prepare for this dissertation that I have tomorrow morning bright and early. In history, I messed up. After getting the 14 on the midterm, I decided I shouldn't get any more 10's on the quizzes because it will only lower my average, so on today's quiz, I was pretty sure about four answers and guessed on the rest. Well, some of my guesses were actually right and I ended up with a 12. When I handed in the paper, and made the "It was very hard, especially since I'm American" face, the professor graded it on the spot and was very happy that I had the highest grade yet again. I don't understand - I thought I was being so careful!

Anyway, tonight I also saw Le Roi Lion...again. I'm starting to think I'm a hypocrite. After saying that I wouldn't see it ever again, I've now seen it basically twice in two weeks. Maybe Pierre and Justine had a point when they said I was crazy. I can't remember if I mentioned this before; it was really funny because they both said the exact same thing. I said I had seen Le Roi Lion, and both said: "For the 10th time?" and I said: "9th" and they said they were just kidding about the 10th time comment. Now, at least, when people say "10th time?" I can just say "oui."

So, now I'm going to stay up a little later and try to figure out how to study for philosophy. Then, if all else fails, I'll just go to bed.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

La Maison de Victor Hugo!!

Today, I was an insufferable know-it-all! For my literature class, we went to Victor Hugo's house at La Place des Vosges and I got to impress my professor with what I've learned from my new agenda! You know, sometimes I feel like the only reason I've been doing well in France is because of Justine. That's probably right...

Anyway, this house is very ostentatious, kind of like Victor Hugo's writing. It screams: "I know I'm the best, and you can't deny it." I wonder if he was picked on in school...he had a gigantic nose. Nah - I'm sure the students at Louis-le-Grand are beyond making fun of each other. They all must have respected his brilliance. They did name a courtyard after him there. In the house, there was a whole room devoted to China, and I also got to see his desk where he wrote STANDING UP!! In the room with the desk, there was also a bed which Hugo obviously never used. You see, there was this gigantic bookshelf filled with just the books he wrote. After seeing the mountains and mountains of literature, I figured it was highly unlikely that he slept very much. I guess it was interesting to see the bed in which Victor Hugo never slept, and where he worked and never sat down. Obviously, the man was a machine - a scary, scary French machine.

The rest of our visit consisted of the CUPA visit to Le Marais with Michel, but backwards. Instead of starting at Hotel de Ville and finishing at La Place des Vosges, we started at Vosges and left at Hotel. We saw a few different things, though - I particularly enjoyed one story he told about this cloister in the middle of Le Marais that was founded because of an antisemitic legend in the middle of the Jewish (and gay) quarter! He's a very interesting professor. Oh, and I apparently misunderstood the final assignment for this class. When he said a creative writing assignment, he didn't mean a short story exactly - he just wants us to go to our place twice and write down everything we see and relate it to the history of the place, mention what we thought of it, what we were expecting, what differed from that, etc. I'm slightly disappointed. I wanted to write a short story.

Other than that, I taught English today. Jerome said the funniest thing. He said he hoped he wasn't giving me a bad impression of French people. His exact words were: "I'm not depressive, I'm just sensitive!" It was a pretty funny statement. And, I went to Paola's house for dinner since her host mom wanted to meet her friends. Her host mom is really cute - she reminds me of Mme De La Taille. The only problem was, I got there at around 8:30 and didn't leave until a little before midnight. Yes, French meals can be pretty long - with the apero, the salad, the main course, the cheese, the dessert, and the coffee. Plus, afterwards, we had to watch the burka debate. Basically, I think I'm going to go to bed now after a very long day. I should probably wake up early tomorrow morning to read my history chapter that I completely forgot about during the vacation. Or, I could just ignore that and figure out a way to study for philosophy. I don't want to get a 10 on the quiz in history, because if it counts, it will lower the 14 I got on my partiel!

Monday, May 3, 2010

La fiction et l'histoire littéraire

Today, my courses started again! And yes, I was excited to go. I woke up early, took the RER C to Saint-Michel, headed by Notre-Dame, La Fontaine Saint Michel, between La Sorbonne and Le Lycée Louis-le-Grand, turned at the Panthéon, and arrived at l'Ecole Normale Supérieure for my class! While I was walking in, I bumped into Lu and even made my "salut Lu" joke, which apparently no one finds funny but me. In class, we talked about the relationship between fiction and literary history and how the one affects the other. We ended by discussing the four major phases of modern fiction (by modern, he meant since the advent of Romanticism): a Balzac phase that redefined Romanticism (and erased Chateaubriand), the "library phase" of Flaubert, the avant-garde movement, and finally metafiction! It was an incredibly interesting lecture for me after all of my fiction classes at Hopkins.

Oh, when I say we "discussed" or "talked about," I want to be clear - I really mean we all took notes while M. Murat (Mlle Macé wasn't there today) read from his 30 pages of typed, single spaced, notes clearly organized into a very in-depth dissertation format. Yes, it was a great class! While I do love the conference atmosphere of Hopkins classes (besides the math ones, of course), I do think that the French students have something here about learning from the professor. As students, we should be in classes to learn from the professors. They aren't there to learn from us, so what made the classes in the US into what they are now? We can learn from the other students outside of class, but it wastes time when we do that in the classroom. Discussions are fun, and can sometimes be productive, but to me, they're a little too new and sort of experimental to me. For writing seminars, which is a pretty experimental major, the new conference idea works well, I think - but not with other courses. I wonder if the graduate level French class I'll be taking with M. Neefs at Hopkins next year will be like this ENS one - one two hour lecture a week and just a 15-20 page single spaced research paper at the end.

After my class, I had a two hour flute lesson! Even playing for two hours straight, M. Pelat still kept me an extra twenty minutes. I love my lessons. We recently realized that the reason he keeps thinking I'm always just a tiny bit out of tune is because in the US, we tune to A 440, but in France, they tune to A 442. He's also been trying to get me to play high E with the pinky even though I've always done it without it because that's what I was taught. That and other boring exercises to make my tone more precise and improve my dynamic control, but I won't go into that on this blog because it's kind of late and also because it would probably be boring.

Anyway, other than that, my day wasn't exciting blog-material. M. De La Taille left for the country again. Apparently, he doesn't like living in the city and is tired. So, it was just Mme, Pierre, and me. Afterward dinner and the news, we started watching a movie about some guy who couldn't get a wife and ended up shooting some girl and then himself in the head, went to a mental institution, and that's where I decided that enough is enough. It was trop bizarre - what is with French movies?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

"Les Dimanches de Ville-d'Avray" au Champo

Today, I decided to relax. Instead of going to some exhibit on fashion with Alexandra and Paola (which undoubtedly would have put me to sleep since I'm still a little tired), I practiced my flute, read a little, and went to go see an old movie at Le Champo, an old movie theater in the Latin Quarter right next to La Sorbonne. It first opened in 1938, burned down in 1941, and was reconstructed. It's cute, little, and shows old movies. I saw "Les Dimanches de Ville-d'Avray." It was another post-war disillusioned movie about a man who had psychological (by the way, in French, you pronounce the P in psychologique) problems after bombing a village during the war and who met a young girl with whom he felt better. Of course, everyone misinterpreted their relationship and it ended up being depressing - he died and the girl thought she was no longer a person. But, it was really well done. I liked the filming, and the writing - old movies have such charm. They talked differently too. I suppose it's natural that the French language has changed a little since the 1960's. Old American movie actors talked a little differently too. This movie reminded me of Harvey a little, but it was depressing and there was really no rabbit. Or was there?

After the movie, I got some Berthillon ice cream (no surprise there, I'm sure): raspberry with a hint of rose, and white chocolate! Then, dinner with M. and Mme De La Taille. Yes, M. De La Taille is finally back from the country. After dinner, Mme and I watched a movie on television - Au revoir les enfants. It was about the Holocaust. A priest in a Catholic school tried to hide Jewish boys there, but they ended up getting caught and all died in concentration camps. I swear, French movies are almost as uplifting as their books!

Well, that was my vacation. It's actually a relief to go back to a schedule and classes and work. It's not hard to find things to do in Paris for two weeks straight, but it is tiring. University life is much more relaxing. At least, it is here.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Parc Astérix

So, I think M. De La Taille is home, but I'm not sure - I didn't see him. He's been in the country for a while. Mme said he goes there when he gets tired. I wish I had a house in the country. Who am I kidding? I wish I had a house in Paris!

In other news, Mme De La Taille got a cell phone and I've been teaching her how to use it. It's going well, I think. The problem was, first I had to figure out how to use it. French cell phones are a little different.

Finally, today, Alexandra and I went to Parc Astérix. I finally understand why there isn't a direct translation of the word "fun" in French. You can't even really say "exciting" without the extra innuendo that I obviously don't want to include when I'm talking about amusement park rides. This park was definitely a waste of a lot of money (29 euros to get in, 8,50 to CDG airport, 6,80 to and from the park, 8,50 back from the airport, plus what we spent on food). I'll give it this much: it was better than Foire du Trone. Not that it would take much to beat that county fair imitation. It was really adorable for the first twenty minutes. All the buildings are made to look like they're from the comic book, they have a huge Colosseum with spectacles every few hours (a dolphin show and a skit about the Gauls versus the Romans), and lots of food (but nothing really exciting). However, Astérix and Obelix were kind of absent. There's this huge mountain with Astérix perched on top, and on the merry-go-round, you can sit inside Obelix (?? - strange), but other than that, it's just a mini 6 Flags. Not only that, it's an expensive mini 6 flags where the rides aren't really worth the wait.

In fact, today was the first time since I've been here that I've found myself looking at French people and thinking "pathetic." Seriously, I got a headache listening to them scream on the rides. Do they seriously think that they were exciting? The one roller coaster we went on was okay, but I wouldn't have gone on it a second time, and the most surprising was how much people screamed on the swing ride. That's just pathetic - everyone knows that one's for babies!

So, that was my day. Tons of wasted hours at an amusement park, but it's okay - nothing was open in Paris today anyway. The first of May is a holiday, and aside from the people selling flowers on the street, no one works. Olivier said it isn't fair - last year it fell on a Friday, so they all got the day off from work. I think they have too much time off here. A two week spring break was a little too long for me, especially since I really didn't do any work. When I have spring break at Hopkins, I end up spending the whole time writing long papers and studying for finals. Plus, the whole thing is only a week long. Everything's just very different here.

I'm going to stop now since my computer is making a strange noise and I think it's probably telling me it's time for bed. Good night!