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.