Tuesday, December 28, 2010

I'm not mature enough to be this mature.

I've been spending some of my around-the-clock free time researching the career path I've set out. It's intimidating me. I feel a bit like this:

 (from xkcd.com) 

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Chinese take-out: one more thing I took for granted in America.

Nothing exciting to report.  I've spent the last 3 days with little to no human contact watching It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia and Dexter on letmewatchthis.com (thanks Connie Rowse).  I have noticed, though, that the last 2 days have been the quietest I've ever noticed, no cars honking (which has apparently become an 8 am daily ritual), minimal traffic, it's kind of eerie. Dark, too.  Not as many lights on in the windows.  Probably because most of what's around me is offices that are closed for the weekend.  The Eiffel Tower is still functioning, though, lit up at night with cameras flashing from the 2nd and top levels.

I decided to go for a walk tonight, there were more people out than I expected.  I started at Montmartre, took the metro to St Michel and walked by Notre Dame to Hotel de Ville.  It wasn't nearly as busy as usual, but it wasn't dead either.  There was still a guy playing guitar by Sacre Coeur, and some tourists taking pictures everywhere.  At least it's comforting to know I'm not the only one with nothing better to do on Christmas.  Hopefully by New Years I'll come up with some plans.

Back to Dexter, episode 10.  I understand the hype around this show now.

And for some reason, all I want is some veggie lo mein and an egg roll to go.  There are more asian people in Paris than I've ever seen in Florida (outside of Disneyworld) but somehow they still have not mastered Chinese take-out.  I guess it's an American thing.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

I've left my mark on Paris

This week was the inaugural week of my first permanent mark on Paris.  They put a crosswalk sign at the intersection where I got hit.  I'm so proud.  They should name it after me.

The Sarah Stephens Crosswalk Light.
Not the mark I had hoped to leave, but a mark nonetheless.

In other news, I am hosting a "couch surfer" (not really)...a friend of a friend who is stopping in Paris for 4 days after finishing his time in Africa with the Peace Corps.  I'm all about branching out and meeting new people.  He seems nice enough.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Another French guy bites the dust

Every relationship I've been in, both successful and unsuccessful, has been a learning experience.  Mom  told me that dating is how you find out what you like and don't like in a potential significant other, and I have walked away from each situation better for the experience.  For instance, one thing that always sticks out in my mind is the guy who opened my door for me whenever we got into his car.  Not just on dates, but every time.  He essentially made it a habit.  Even now, I get a bit disappointed when I get into a car with a guy I am dating and he makes a beeline for the drivers seat.  Every detail counts.

The most recent thing I've realized that I dislike is excessive indecision.  It seems to be symptomatic of our generation's general lack of a clear destination.  Yes, everybody occasionally needs, and deserves, some time to collect their thoughts and get their shit together.  Maybe a few days.  But when you find yourself needing four weeks to "think about" the future of a relationship that has lasted barely that long, it's time to pack up and move on.  "I don't know" more often than not means "no."  If you wanted it, you'd know it; if you don't, stop wasting my time.

Moral of the story: there comes a time in every relationship when you have to either man up and play ball or get off the field.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My night as a kitchen wench...

...went pretty smoothly.  I stayed til about midnight, mostly washing dishes.  My wish to stay in the kitchen was surprisingly respected, and the Mom even offered to let me go at 10 but I told her I could stay (since my plans did not ever actually happen, but I'll let her think that I'm just so darn generous).  The Boy was helping, and really excited to do so for some reason, so he would take plates out and bring me dirty dishes and I pretty much chilled by myself all night (which sounds bad, but is massively preferable to watching the kids or mingling with French people).  He even tried to marry me off to a 30 year old, pudgy family friend.  Successful night if I do say so myself.

Julien is apparently not talking to me, which has its pros and cons, the pro primarily being that if he doesn't ever talk to me again I will have saved about 70 euros by not having to buy his Christmas gift, the cons including but not limited to the fact that after Connie leaves he his 50% of my friendship base in Paris.

Speaking of Christmas, though, I'm starting to get a bit depressed about it.  Paris is really pretty, they get really into it here, but everyone is going home except me.  This will be my first Christmas without my family, and all my friends are leaving town.  I've considered making a little tissue paper Christmas tree on my wall (or maybe adopting some sad little sapling, Charlie Brown style) and wrapping empty boxes to look like presents, but I wonder if that would just make me even more depressed.  And to top it all off, there is no such thing as a Starbucks Peppermint Mocha in Paris, and my "Chocolate Viennois avec un shot d'espresso" is disappointingly nothing like a Chocolate Truffle.  Instead my favorite boissons chaudes de Noëhave been replaced by the over-sweetened and under-caffeinated Mocha Praliné and Latte Noisette Caramel.  The French like their holiday hazelnut, apparently.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Apparently I really am a domestic servant

I have been asked to, essentially, play wait staff for a dinner party the Parents are having next Monday.  I said yes, caught off guard, but the more I thought about it I was quite a bit offended.  I asked for clarification of my "duties" last night and was told that I was expected to clear the table, bring out food, etc. for them and their friends, and that this party would probably not start until 9 or so, lasting all night.  I told her I am willing to help, but that serving food is uncomfortable and a little too close to a domestic servant for my taste, and she just said "ok ok ok ok" through the whole conversation, but apparently I am still expected to be there for the whole dinner party, pretty much manning the kitchen.  I'm really not satisfied with this though.  So great.  I'm a maid.

This is not a new thing, either.  I contacted Rosie, the girl before me, who said that not only was she asked to do this several times, but so was the girl before her.  Rosie didn't like it either, but never said anything.

Here are my problems with this:

  1. I already had plans Monday.  She gave me advanced notice that I would be babysitting Saturday, and that I would have to work all day Wednesday and late Thursday since she'll be out of town.  I had assumed that since she gave me advanced notice about Wednesday, Monday was free.
  2. I'm already working 10 hours Wednesday (double my usual per-day amount) since she'll be out of town.
  3. THIS IS NOT MY JOB.  I am here to take care of her children.  This dinner literally has NOTHING to do with the children.  I am not here to be a maid or a waiter (which I have done, and I got paid a lot more than this to do it).  This was not mentioned in the emails we exchanged before hand, or in the contract we both signed, and if it had been, I probably would not have taken this job.

So since I told her I would do this, and keeping promises is very important to me, I'm going to man this event and suck it up.  Afterwards, though, I think I will have a talk with her and pretty much say "please don't ask me to do this again."  This is disrespectful to me, it is outside the scope of my job and my hours, and I am hurt and insulted that she is failing to respect the agreement we had before I came.  Hopefully she'll get the point.  And if she pulls the whole "the other girls did it" thing, I now have proof that the other girl hated it too.

And hey, we all know this hasn't exactly been my dream job.  If I get fired and have to come home, fine.  Good riddance to you and your devil children.

Maybe I should try to prove a point.  How offensive would it be to come in blackface?  Or maybe dressed like this:

That might be a good look for me.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Damn these Europeans and their obnoxiously catchy techno songs.

This song has been stuck in my head for days.  I can't stop bobbing my head.  It's a huge hit all over Europe, apparently, and I hear it all the time.  But the video is pretty funny.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

I have an advent calendar.  I don't think I've had an advent calendar since I was a kid and we made them in Sunday School, but Julien told me his mom bought him and his siblings one every year and I thought it was really cute so I bought my own.  The chocolate is pretty good too.  Some of it is solid milk chocolate and some is filled with this white cream stuff, and they are all shaped like stockings or Christmas trees or something Christmasy like that.  I really want a little Christmas tree but I don't have room for one, maybe I'll just make a paper one and put it on the wall somewhere.  But for now my advent calendar is working just fine.

Also, it's snowing like nobody's business.  Yesterday it was doing this miserable half-rain, half-snow thing and it wasn't pretty and my boots were soaked from slushing along the slippery sidewalks, and then when I put them on my heater to dry it left grill marks on them. (Apparently my heater has light-saber laser powers, but it can't get my apartment warm in under 2 hours. Figures.)  And today, just when I was thinking that the honeymoon was over and I was done with snow's nonsense, it got pretty again and I just couldn't be mad at it.  It's fickle like that.

My street (the Palais de la Decouverte on the left)
My first snow man, made from the snow in my window flower box.  Not bad for a first attempt.
Oh and I guess I should clarify about Julien since I don't think I ever mentioned him before.  Long story short I ditched Nicolas for being too clingy and 2 days later met Julien at the bar.  I like him better.  He's 26, a pilot in the navy, and lives outside of Paris but comes every weekend or so to visit friends and family (so there's no risk of becoming a Stage 5 Clinger if he's only here on weekends).  Apparently if my goal was to find a nice French boyfriend, they are in ample supply.  He hates taking pictures but if I manage to sneak one in I'll be sure to post it.

Ciao for now.

Athens, Greece: there's thousand-year-old ancient dust on my boots

I finally got a chance to do some travelling in Europe.  It's really not always as cheap as they say it is (but if your dates are flexible, it can be) and since I work 6 days a week I could only go for a few days (Friday morning to Sunday morning) but it was a great time.  The weather was in the 70s (as opposed to the 20s and 30s in Paris), and everything was so laid back and much more casual and friendlier than Paris.  I really am starting to love it here, but it was nice to get out of the rigidness for a little while.  And they had flip flops!!  I haven't seen flip flops since August.  I miss you my friends.

Everyone we met seemed to love us.  There were 10 of us in the group.  We got free desserts at both the restaurants we went to for dinner, the bartender at the cafe we sat in knocked 50 cents off Connie's drink, took out her laptop to Google Map the Greek Isles, and taught us some Greek words, and the produce guy in the square gave me 2 free oranges.  I don't know what it was about us; my theory is that maybe tourists (which is mostly who was around) aren't usually very friendly, and we were?  That's all I got.  But I'm not complaining.

Paris has a system for everything.  There is a proper way to do everything, a proper way to say everything or eat everything or greet someone (or not greet someone); the atmosphere in Athens just seemed much more forgiving of those of us who might not understand the system.  On the bright side, however, I have never appreciated how capable I am of maneuvering around Paris and its language more than when I was in Athens, where even the alphabet is foreign and I was COMPLETELY lost.  It turns out Greek is really quite phonetic, though, and being in the sorority helped me know a lot of the letters, so we were able to pick up at least the pronunciations pretty well by the end of the trip.

My souvenir is a pair of leather flip flops.  Next to the hostel was a store owned by a guy who custom fits flip flops and sandals, and is the 3rd generation of his family to do this.  The style and concept have become quite popular, and there were many other stores around, but he is apparently the original.  His sandals have been purchased (and I'm assuming subsequently worn) by John Lennon and the Beatles, Jackie Onassis, Sophia Lauren, and Barbara Streisand.  I got the Jackie Os.  And I will probably not be able to wear them again until I come back home, but I like them.
I have Beatles sandals apparently.

making the sandals
and the fitting
All in all it was a success, even though Connie booked the wrong flight home (stupid European calendars) and I made the trip alone.  I'm totally jealous of her extra day.  My travel advice to anyone going to an unfamiliar place: go somewhere even MORE unfamiliar first, you'll feel great about yourself once you get to your destination.

My favorite pictures:
Baklava. Delicious.

It was really windy. This was at the Temple of Poseidon, a 2 hour bus ride
outside of Athens, and, appropriately, by the sea.

one of the Acropolis buildings

Being tourists. We feel a little bad doing it in Paris.

Beach! I miss it.

Temple of Hephaestus, god of metalworking, craftmen, etc. in the Agora

A nice view from the Acropolis

Pantánassa church monastery in Monastiraki Square (Μοναστηράκι in greek, means "little Monastery")

Acropolis from either the rooftop bar at the hostel, or Mount Lycabettus (see below)

Lycabettus (Λυκαβηττός) - it's open 24/7 so we climbed this sometime 
after midnight after happy hour at the rooftop bar.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Death of Laundry Day

Laundry Day is as American as football, apple pie, and Kraft cheese product.  Some hate it, but I usually enjoy a lazy day of washing all the dirty clothes that have been piling up over the last couple weeks at once, wearing sweatpants and my least favorite pair of underwear (since all the others are being washed) and taking warm clothes out of the dryer (especially in winter).  Laundry Day tends to fall on a Sunday, when there's not a whole lot else going on anyway since most people are sleeping off hangovers, and often gets combined with Grocery Day, when my sweatpants get taken to Publix where masses of fellow college students/Laundry Day celebrants are also shopping in sweatpants and hoodies (and, I imagine, their least favorite underwear).

However, Laundry Day, like football and apple pie and Kraft cheese product, seems to be a purely American phenomenon.  I have discovered that, when you don't own a clothes dryer (like most Europeans, apparently), waiting until the last minute to do all your laundry at once is not a good idea.  Instead of warm freshly dried clothes to fold and put away after a few hours, you end up with 3 days of wet clothes hanging from every nook/corner/rack you can find, 3 days of nothing to wear, and a very humid apartment.  The French have mastered the art of doing a little bit of laundry every day, or at least every few days, so their clothes cycle between dry and wet quite nicely. I haven't quite got the hang of it yet.

My makeshift clothesline on a failed laundry day
The death of Laundry Day as a weekend pastime combined with all the grocery stores being closed on Sundays has left me with a problem of how to spend my Sundays (what else is it for, if not laundry and groceries?).  Now that it's snowing, staying in bed seems to be my best bet.

Monday, November 29, 2010

I legitimately don't know why I'm here.

The title says it all.  Not to say that I don't enjoy being here, I'm really starting to like Paris, at least when I don't have to stay outside in the cold for extended periods of time.  I mean it in the sense that the woman I work for should not by any reason or logic need me.  She is a stay-at-home mom, and in addition to me, she has also employed a woman who cooks lunch and sometimes dinner and cleans the apartment 4 days a week, and a woman who does homework with her daughter for an hour 6 days a week and her son 2 days.  She doesn't clean, she cooks less than half the meals we eat, and I share responsibility for her children every week night and 5 hours on weekends.  What in the world does she do with her time?

Also, my job is apparently not limited to caring for the kids.  Sometime this week I am expected to come 2 hours early to change the dates on hundreds of brochures she has printed for an event that her "association" is organizing.  She doesn't work, she doesn't cook, she doesn't clean, her only apparent job is to organize this event, and she can't even manage that without paying someone to do the work for her?  I am taking 2 days off this weekend to go to Athens, so I can't exactly complain about the extra hours, but I was not aware that my job also included secretary work (and this is not the first time I've made spreadsheets, stuffed envelopes, etc. for her "event").

I have a few theories for how she spends her time.  1) She is having an affair. (Quelle scandale!)  2) She is trafficking drugs for the mob.  3) She is an undercover nazi.  I mean, her husband did sell his "orange juice company" to Germans and now spends several days a week in Germany for "business."  It could work.

But, if nothing else, I have further evidence for why I tend to dislike the children of stay-at-home moms (Wilson family exluded).

Oh, and P.S. - if this woman says one more thing about "when you have your own children" I might just have to (tactfully) let her know that her children are severely decreasing the probability of that ever actually happening.  As if it needed to be decreased in the first place.

EDIT: my mother's comment to this post, via email (just thought it was hilarious enough to share):

"If any of your 3 suspicions  are correct, and anyone finds out you have them, you could be 1) without a job, 2) at the bottom of the Seine with concrete shoes or 3) a POW in a very uncomfortable living situation.  I hope they don't know you have a blog...Love, Mom"

Friday, November 26, 2010

There's a winter wonderland outside my window.

So it's November 26, the day after Thanksgiving (which I spend babysitting), and it's snowing.  I am no longer a snow virgin.  This plus the winter carnival thing down the Champs Elysees towards Place de la Concorde make me feel like I'm in the North Pole.  Cue Christmas music.

Sadly, it seems to be stopping, and the sky is clearing up, so I won't be able to walk around in it or anything (it will probably just be wet and slippery by the time I leave my apartment) but I have a feeling this won't be our last encounter.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Travel tip #1: don't get sick.

This week Paris has decided to rebel against me and make it clear that I am not welcome.  Apart from getting yelled at at the bank for not knowing how to deposit money in the ATM, getting yelled at at the internet store because apparently the guy couldn't understand what I wanted from him ("Combien je doit vous payer a la fin de ce mois?" did not seem that complicated to me) and wasting beaucoup de time with the family sitting around doing nothing, I recently developed a dreaded UTI and was forced to seek refuge at a local pharmacy.

Pharmacies here are easily recognizable by the neon green crosses they are required to display.  However, pharmacies in France are not like pharmacies in America, where you can (semi-) privately browse for your drug of choice, pay for it without any explanation, and grab some chips while you're at the register.  In France, everything of value is behind the counter.  You have to wait in line, and when you get to the counter you must tell the pharmacien/pharmacienne what's wrong with you and what symptoms you have (while the other people in line behind you listen in) and then they make their recommendation.  I'm assuming/hoping these people are medically trained to some degree.  Fortunately my pharamien spoke English and understood my problem easily, and happily gave me cranberry pills to drop my last 20 euros on (well worth it).  But all I could think of, as I stood in line waiting for my turn (and letting the weird guy behind me go first so he wouldn't hear what would I was sure would be a feeble and embarrassing attempt at describing my situation in a foreign language), was what if some poor traveler was in dire need of some pepto?  I could only imagine standing there and publicly explaining the problem in broken French and quite possibly a game of charades, all while fighting off the next impending wave of nausea/heartburn/indigestion/upset stomach/diarrhea.  They don't make this process easy for us foreigners.

On the bright side, though, I had my appointment with OFII Monday morning.  I am now officially a resident of France, and I have the sticker in my passport to prove it.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The rude Parisian vs. the Ugly American

I feel like the question I get from 95% of the people I talk to about Paris is "Are the Parisians rude to you?" (or some variation of that).  So here I go to set things straight.  In general, Parisians are not any more rude than your average city person, but living in the number 1 tourist destination in the world has its downsides.

There is a different set of etiquette here than what we have in the US.  For instance, when you walk into a store, it is pretty much imperative for you to greet the store owner with "Bonjour Madame/Monsieur" before you just go about your business.  If you forget to do this, they will be displeased with you, and it will show.  If you follow this rule, the whole trip will be much easier.

Take, for instance, the Snooty, Rude Waiter, a Parisian stereotype.  In America, a bad waiter is one who does not come around often enough to check on you, who makes you wait too long to get the bill, etc.  Essentially, one who ignores you.  Here, however, checking on you too often, and bringing the bill too soon is considered rude; it would be like rushing you to finish and get the hell out.  You wait, not because they are incompetent, but because they want you to have time to enjoy your meal ("deguster" is the word for savoring food).  Consider on top of that that the average American probably does not greet the waiter the way it is done here, and just launches into a tirade of orders (probably in English) spoken a bit louder than the acceptable level in Paris (we do speak loudly, I admit), and the entire experience is ill-fated from there.

Of course, stereotypes come from somewhere, and in 2007 the tourism department in Paris launched a campaign called "Paris est vous," distributing leaflets encouraging citizens (and tourists) to be more polite, and giving friendliness and hygiene workshops to local taxi drivers. Maybe I am experiencing the wake of this campaign and am not getting the worst of it.  In fact, the Japanese embassy reported that in 2006, 12 Japanese tourists suffered from what they call "Paris Syndrome," when excessively-polite Japanese (mostly women in their mid-30s) come to Paris with very high expectations for what might just be their first trip abroad, and are so thrown off by the rudeness of the locals in their "dream city" that they experience a nervous breakdown, and must be deported back to Japan immediately with medical staff to take care of them on the trip. So maybe I'm wrong.

All in all, though, the basic Golden Rule we all learned in elementary school still stands, it just needs a little cultural education to help out.

PS - from the brochure for Parisians and for Tourists:

"The charter of committments for Parisians reads:
   • I will take the time to give information to visitors.
   • I will make use of my foreign-language skills to reply to them in their language.
   • I will recommend to visitors things I appreciate about Paris.
   • I am proud of my city, the No 1 tourist destination in the world.
And the commitments for the visitor are: 
   • I will experience the Parisian lifestyle.
   • I will take advantage of my stay to try French products.
   • I will respect the city and use public transport."

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Parking in Paris

How to park in Paris:

1. Back up until you hit the car behind you.
2. Go forward until you hit the car in front of you.
3. Back up again until there is no more than an inch between you and the other cars.
4. Voila!

(They really do say "voila."  A lot.)


The girl has been good lately.  I don't know what's going on, but I can't complain.  She even apologized to me the other night for misbehaving (which I think her mom made her do) but she was polite about it and seemed genuine, and invited me to play a game with her and her mom before bed.  I don't trust it...I think there's a storm coming.

I have a French conversation partner, finally (because I speak English with everyone I know).  I hung out with a kid named Andres from my class, he speaks Spanish so we're both forced into speaking French which is frustrating at times but good for practice.

Tomorrow starts VACATION!!! A whole week with no kids, no school, just me and Paris.  I wanted to go somewhere but I still have no debit card and therefore no cash (I can't use a credit card at an ATM, can I?), so I'm staying here, but there's still a lot I haven't done yet (Eiffel Tower, for instance).  Also good news, starting in November, Sainte Chapelle, the Towers of Notre Dame, and the Arc du Triomphe are included in the free first Sunday of each month. November 1st will be exciting, I think.

I need to start running, also. But geez it's cold outside...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Bureaucracy is a french word, after all.

Skipped class Monday to go to OFII (Office Francais d'Immigration et Integration) but they were too busy so they told me to come back Tuesday. Skipped class again Tuesday to go early.  I now have an appointment (November 15) to get my Titre de Sejour, which I need to get my Carte Vitale, which I need to get social security to pay my hospital bill.  So now I guess I wait.

The girl hasn't been bad but has started being a bit rude.  She'll ignore me, or she's do that annoying little mimicky voice when I tell her to do something (which, I noticed, she does to other people too, not just me), or call me crazy under her breath (in French, which she thinks I don't understand).  She even told her mom (in French) she didn't want to eat dinner with me (saying "pas avec Sarah!"), and was a bit surprised when I answered, "Yes, with Sarah, sorry to disappoint you."  She was decent all night.
So today after lunch I told her I didn't like how rude she's been to me and that I wasn't going to tolerate that kind of behavior from her, and that if she wanted me to do something for her she was going to have to be pleasant.  She pouted for about 10 minutes, but after she was lovely, even held my hand and said please and thank you.  Maybe she's just testing her boundaries?  I guess we'll see how tonight goes.

One thing's for sure, if I have a kid and it's a girl, I'm putting her up for adoption.  I can't deal with this princess bs.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The most epic nights always start with football games.

Thursday I had the kids alone, and it went quite well.  The girl is so much easier to deal with when Christine isn't home to be a distraction!

Saturday was the boy's birthday, Christine made a chocolate souffle, which was quite possibly the best thing I've ever eaten.  It's like chocolate mousse, but warm and baked.  Phenomenal...I need to get that recipe.

That night I met Connie at WOS to watch the football game at 6.  We really did have every intention of leaving after the game...we started chatting with the bartenders (Pierre, the owner, and Matthew the manager) and Pierre ended up convincing us to walk to Jennyfer (a cheap store kind of like Charlotte Russe) with him where he bought us costumes (skirts, tops, ties, and stockings) on the bar credit card for the School Uniform party they were having that night.  In return we had to host the trivia game of the night, giving lollipops for correct answers and giving "detention" to people who got the answers wrong.  We drank free for most of the night, including 2 irish car bombs (my favorite).  We left at 6 am because we were pretty at risk of face planting at that point.  From 2-5 we just danced because it was better than falling asleep at a table somewhere.

Slept until 2 today (when Pierre told me on facebook he was just going to bed...insane) and satisfied a McDonalds craving with Connie.

Oh, and I tried Macaroons.  Not nearly as good as the American version.

          American Coconut Macaroon                                      Weird, wanna-be flavored oreo French macaroon with creme in the middle

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Pros: I have friends and a life now. Cons: I forget to write.

Connie introduced me to the best chocolate ever, it has SALT in it (cue my raging salt addiction).  I may never forgive her for this.

Saturday Nicolas and I went to Sacre Coeur, it's on a hill that overlooks all of Paris, and the basilica is free to see, but there was a food and wine festival going on so it was too crowded.  I definitely want to go back there. After, I met Isabel and Connie at WOS at 2 am for the FSU vs. Miami football game (which got dropped by ESPN so we had to watch Florida all night).  We waited until 5:30 when the metro started again, and I came home to find we killed Miami, so it's alright.  I would have really liked to see that game though.
Sunday Leanne and I had a picnic on Champs Mars with quiche we got at a Boulangerie (my favorite place in the world, after McDonald's).  The weather was great all weekend, I think this might be my last glimpse of warm(ish) weather for a long time.

Today I went to the Marais (a traditionally Jewish area) and had falafel for lunch...how did I never know about falafel before now?  It's amazing, and cheap.  The Marais is adorable, in the historic center of the city, and is also one of the only places you can get reasonably priced bagels, and, so I've heard, cream cheese.  It is also home to a store called Thanksgiving, which is closed on Mondays :( but has American groceries such as Cheerios, JIF peanut butter, and Kraft Mac and Cheese (which I don't even really like that much but it felt good to see it through the window).  I'll have to check that out one day that's not a Monday.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

"Barack Obama could kill a pregnant woman on live television and still be more popular than Nicolas Sarkozy." -Connie's French teacher (on the 2 presidents' declining popularity)

This city is so exhausting and living here brings out the worst in me.  I am not made for a metropolis.  There are too many people always in my way and it takes 30 minutes to go to the grocery store for 1 thing and it won't make up its mind whether it wants to be warm or cold.  I'm supposed to love this place, but it's just annoying me right now.

Went to WOS last night, I'm trying to become a regular.  Connie came, she's an au pair with kids that go to The Girl's school, she's American, and she likes beer and football, so I think we'll get along great.

The girl was good today, no problems at all.  She's crazy.  Yesterday she pitched a fit because she wanted to take the metro (which she knows we can't do) and she held on to the pole at the cross walk and screamed and refused to let go, so I just gave in (I can't drag/carry this 8 year old the whole way home).  When I talked to Christine about it, she didn't give me any real solutions, but she did say that when I'm with the kids, I'm the boss, not her, so at least she's supportive of that.  That's the best I've gotten so far, I'll take it.

Wine and cheese with Nicolas tonight, I'm apparently going to get a lesson on French cheese (they really love their cheese).

Internet tomorrow!!!!!!!!!

Monday, October 4, 2010

"Every girl over 12 should be on birth control, and they should put Prozac in the water" - Dr. Christina Canody, my pediatrician

When I picked up the girl for lunch Friday (after her awful behavior which appears to have gone completely without consequence, of course) she was standoffish at first, but she gave be a piece of her chocolate, so maybe that was a peace offering?  I get the feeling she's at an age where she's developing a bit of an attitude.  Fantastic...I should have picked younger kids.

Friday Leanne came over and we watched my only movie, 500 Days of Summer (I still love it though), and Saturday she and I went to Nuit Blanche, a city-wide art exhibit.  One we went to was at an art school, and was pretty much a guy and a girl doing what appeared to me a choreographed interpretive dance (without music) of a sexual encounter (fully clothed, I should note)...interesting for a second and then it just got strange.  It was pretty uneventful, neither of us really knew a lot about what was going on.

           The interpretive sex-scene 
          Nuit Blanche lights at Hotel de Ville (city hall), I forget what they say

                                                                 Notre Dame at Nuit Blanche

Today, however, we went to the Louvre.  The museums are all free on the 1st Sunday of the month (and possibly free all the time, if I count as a resident, which I think I do...I have to look into that).  It was neat, my favorite part was the architecture more than the art though (then again, I've never been a huge art person).  We'll have to tackle the Louvre over time, it's wayyyy too big to do any damage in one day.
The pyramid from the 3rd floor window

Inverted Pyramid in the Galleries du Louvre, from the Da Vinci Code if you're a fan

The Napolean Apartments

Yesterday, for the first time, I felt a little guilty for leading these people to believe I was actually here because I like and want to take care of their children.  But then I thought, they led me to believe their children were well-raised, well-behaved, decent human beings, so hey, we're even.  The other day Christine asked me how many kids I wanted, and when I said I didn't know if I wanted any, she got this horrified look on her face, kind of like she hoped I was joking but she just didn't get it because of the language barrier, so I played it off and made something up.  I was hoping this experience would help me like kids more, but I don't see that happening any time soon, probably the opposite.

Dr. Canody was right, they should put birth control in the water.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Oh yeah, kids again.

The girl was awful today. AWFUL.  She refused to do anything I asked and would constantly run to and cling to Christine even though she was having a meeting with someone (and of course she did nothing to help me pry her out of her lap, or tell her something like "no you can't sit with me, go take a bath/eat dinner like you're supposed to").  She knows that Christine will not make her do anything and let her sit with her and so she uses that to get out of what I'm trying to make her do.  What am I supposed to do, yank this 8 year old child out of her mother's lap?  I feel like that's overstepping my boundaries a little bit.  Everything about Paris is seeming more and more like a bad idea.  Geez I hate kids sometimes.

After, though, Frank invited me to go see a movie with "us," which I though referred to him and Christine but actually meant him and his friend from New York.  So I saw Wall Street with 2 middle-aged men.  Kind of strange, but he's really nice, I wish he was around more.  Also, the movie sucked, I don't recommend it.

Nicolas made me crepes last night because I'm still missing my debit card...they pretty much taste exactly like pancakes, just flat.  There's nothing that phenomenal about them, except they're French I guess so people get excited.  Most French/European people I've heard from say they like our fluffy pancakes better.  They are quite nice with cheese though, or confiture (aka jam).

Oh, and I killed my first French spider today.  I'm sure my neighbor thought I was crazy after I screamed, pushed over the table to get to it, kicked the wall a few times (where the spider was) and then yelled "Ha ha, I win bitch!"  I don't suppose I'll be getting any "welcome to the 5th floor" cookies any time soon.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Why McDonald's in Paris is way cooler than McDonald's in America.

I eat at McDonald's about twice a week here.  Part of me feels like I am the typical American tourist treating McDonald's like my personal American embassy, and part of that may be true.  But let me tell you why McDonald's > everything else.

1. It's cheap. I live in an expensive, touristy area and it's often the only thing I can afford.

2. It's familiar. A burger is a burger is a burger, it tastes the same and it even has the same name. No matter how discouraged I am about my French not being up to par, they always understand me at McDonald's.

3. McDonald's here (at least on the Champs Elysees) is ballin.  Seriously.  There is a separate counter for coffee and espresso and pastries (macaroons, croissants, apple tarts, flan, muffins, etc. Think the Starbucks snacks but cheaper).  They have 3 chocolate mousse for dessert.  They even have BEER here.  AND, on top of it all, there are no open container laws in Paris.  I can get my 2 euro beer and then I can take it outside with me (not that I need to, but if I did, I could).  You can even drink on the metro (I've seen people drinking entire bottles of wine en route to their destination for the evening).

There are many things Europe needs to embrace, but in return America could take some hints about fast food.

Also, on a similar note, I've taken to walking pretty frequently, to ration metro tickets and to make myself feel better about whatever love affair with French food I had that day.  My sweet tooth has gone crazy in Paris.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The ATM is holding my debit card hostage.

Newest reason I hate Paris: today I went to take out money but I forgot my PIN so instead of giving me my card back the machine stole it.  I have 2 euros and 15 cents in my purse and next to no food. I will be living on crackers and the abundance of tea the last girl left in my apartment until I either get paid or get my damn card back.  *sigh* It's all for the story.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

I'm still mad that they scared away my duck.

After dropping of the Girl at school yesterday I decided to walk home (to get some exercise and ration my metro tickets) and happened to walk by the Galleries Lafayettes, Paris' massive department store (look up a picture since I didn't take one...it's crazy).  I also ended up near the Madeleine Church (originally a "Temple to the Glory of the Great Army" built by Napoleon, inspired by  the Maison Carrée at Nîmes, now a Catholic church in the 8th).  It's really odd because it looks so old but is in the middle of a much more modern area, not like the historic center at all.

I kept thinking, though, that even though I was walking by all this beautiful architecture in one of the greatest, most historic cities int he world, I wasn't appreciating it.  In Tallahassee I used to walk around campus or drive down the canopy roads and think about how lucky I was to be in such a beautiful place.  Here, all I could think about was how loud it is, how obnoxious the tourists are (as if I wasn't one of them), how fat French women make me feel (partially why I was walking), and how the hoarde of Asian tourists with their oversized cameras scared away my duck at the Tuileries earlier today.  Tallahassee felt like home almost immediately; I'm still waiting to fall in love with this place.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The French are on strike

There was a transportation strike today, which apparently happens a lot.  A strike here is not a real strike, though, it seems.  They announce it several days in advance and only a few workers strike.  Every 2 or 3 or 4 trains still run on each line, and line 1 by my house remained fully functioning.  It was a bit more crowded today than usual, but not even a lot, because everyone is avoiding the metro because of the strike.  Only one of my trains today was really problematic.  No wonder French strikes are such a joke.  A "strike" that only makes public transportation slightly less convenient for one day can't be all that effective.
And it's all because they are trying to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62. You work 35 hour work weeks and get at least 5 weeks of mandatory vacation time a year. 2 more years won't kill you.

Apparently there is no such thing as collective bargaining in France.  Management makes decisions without much input from the workers and then the workers respond with strikes when they don't like it.  This is ridiculous...then again, at least they aren't throwing coups and overthrowing the government every time they don't get their way. Could be worse I guess.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Shakespeare & Co

Went with Leanne and Amy to this cute little bookstore called Shakespeare & Co to see a performance of a monologue (I lost interest and didn't pay attention, but the area was nice).  This bookstore is really quirky and strange, complete with an upstairs bedroom (also with books) and ladders in true "Beauty and the Beast" fashion (it was set in France, after all).
this is what a bookstore is supposed to look like.

entrance 1, before the reading

entrance 2, after I stopped listening to the reading and started playing with my camera instead.
We also walked through Notre Dame while we were waiting for the show to start (didn't take our time, we figured we'd be back later.  It's so nice to think, "we can just come back to Notre Dame some other day when we have more free time" instead of having to cram it all into one trip) and saw this bridge where people had tied ribbons or put padlocks with names on them on the chainlink fencing around the bridge. I don't know why it was there, but it looked pretty cool.
my Notre Dame picture. I'll have to take more later.

I just really liked this one for some reason. Locks and ribbons on the bridge.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Bike at your own risk

Rode a velib today with Nicolas on our way to WOS so I could explain American football to him (my second unsuccessful attempt to interest a European in our version of football).

We went to the Marais looking for apartments for him, then saw Cyrus (it sucked), then biked from Les Halles (a sort of shopping mall) to the bar.  I had heard that there are bike lanes; what I did not know is that bike lanes are also bus and taxi lanes.  So I haven't ridden a bike since I was maybe 8, and now I'm doing so (rather unsteadily) while busses and taxis speed past and hoping they see me before they hit me (or before I hit them, also possible considering my biking skills).

I don't think this is something I'll be doing again, at least until I have some sort of insurance.

Friday, September 17, 2010

How to Tell Your Parents You've Been Hit By a Motorcycle (or, Hospital Food Sucks Everywhere, Even In Paris)

Me: "Mom, remember how we talked about starting conversations like this with 'I'm fine'?  Well, I'M FINE......butIgothitbyamotorcycle."
Mom: "....."
Me: "But I have no broken bones, a few scrapes and bruises, and one suture in my head. That's it. I'm walking and breathing. I'm fine."
Mom: "....well that's exciting."

So I figured since I've never been to the hospital before, why not check it out and get the full Parisian experience?

All I remember is that I was walking home from the family's apartment Tuesday night a little after nine, walking to the intersection, and then waking up in an ambulence trying to figure out why everyone was speaking French and why exactly I was in Paris.  It was one of the more confusing moments in my life.

After 2 nights in the hospital, 2 CT scans and an abdominal ultrasound (and a destroyed Ralph Lauren shirt and a pair of AE jeans), I was free to go, and even without social security or insurance the bill is only 2400 euros (unheard of for uninsured health care in America).  If I can work out social security it will be only 400 euros.  So I guess I'll have to work that out somehow.

Also, happy birthday Dad, sorry I missed it while I was cooped up in the hospital eating bread and water.  I will sent the postcard I bought as soon as I figure out the mail system.

Also, finally went grocery shopping.  Fresh food/produce/meat is expensive, but packaged food is really cheap and I only spent 12 euros on a decent amount of food.  Oreos here taste funny.

Camembert and Heudbert biscottes as I stare out my window at the Eiffel Tower. It's good to be home (or at least as much of a home as this place can be).

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Back to work

I was alone with the kids tonight and they were really good.  The girl was in bed on time, and the boy asked me to hang out with him in his room while we did his homework.  Good signs all around I think.

First French class...big surprise, they only speak French.  I've found I can read French quite well, but I can't understand it when people speak to me...which is pretty much all the do in class. Everyone seems to be better than me...it's awkward.

In the 2 hours between school and work I walked through the Jardins des Tuileries, a garden by the Louvre.  There are chairs and fountains and a ton of people running or just relaxing and eating lunch.  Maybe once these blisters heal (from wearing real shoes instead of flip flops) I'll run there too.  And of course, the Louvre is right there.  Also within walking distance of my apartment.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Some things within walking distance of me.

autumn comes at a normal time in Paris.

Hotel des Invalides from across Pont Alexandre III
lamp posts and golden statues on Pont Alexandre III
Hotel des Invalides

Arc du Triomphe, literally down the road from me.
entrance of the Petit Palais

entrance to the Grand Palais, from the steps of the Petit Palais.
I live on the other side of this building.

my street
the cafe under my apartment

Yeah, be jealous.