Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Bier, et plus

Ah! So many stories to tell. I can start with this one, but it really doesn't do justice to what really happened at Oktoberfest. It leaves out the grimier details--not that the trip itself was grimey. It leaves out things like the experience of sleeping on the floor of the hotel room because we had one king bed for 5 people (but only 88Euro a night!), or the incredible discomfort of sitting in one place for 6 hours straight, standing up on benches just to get away from the overweight 40-year-olds continuously blowing smoke in my face. It also leaves out the best detail: an unmentionable name that made staying out until 3 AM worth it, even though I knew I would be getting up at 8.

And other details to come, when I'm not late for a rendez-vous halfway across the city.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

This one time, on the metro...

Communication is something that I have really been paying attention to lately. It's really interesting how much you can pick up from non-verbal cues. Tonight, while waiting for the subway, I noticed a young guy, early twenties, walk onto the platform with his grandparents. When the train came a minute or two later, I of course made sure to jump in the same car (fate can't happen without opportunity, bien sur).

Because of the other people in the car, grandpa was sitting in the back of the car, grandma was sitting in the middle, grandson was leaning on the wall next to grandma, and I had the perfect view smack in between all of them. Grandson was playing cool, arms crossed, looking more like security detail than anything else. Grandma was getting frisky, though. She kept saying something to grandson, and trying to get him to sit down on one of the empty seats around her. When that didn't work, she focused on grandpa. She patted the seat beside her, waved him over, and gave him what can only be described as a seductive look. Grandpa wasn't having any of it. She thought about it for a second, then decided to get a little more animated with her gestures. She tried again to elict a response out of grandson. He cracked a smile, and as she was laughing, she threw her head back and knocked her head against one of the poles behind her.

At this point, I could no longer pretend not to be watching. We made eye contact, and both started laughing as the train pulled into my station. Just as I was about to get up, she waved. I smiled and waved back as I exited. I feel like I made a new friend.

My life is average. Except it's SOOOOOO not.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


I am not a huge fan of English right now; rather, I'm trying to force myself not to be, but this caught my eye this morning. I read it and it made me rather triste. I love Maureen Dowd for addressing it, as well as just being rather awesome and a bit bitchy in general. It's not something that we can afford to ignore. Part of me thinks that trying to pretend that it doesn't exist just gives it tacit approval to continue. And yet addressing it would be a politically unstable move.

I wonder if race is something that we can ever overcome. I think that it's human nature to fear change and differences. That is not to say that it is right to act on that fear, or that somehow that makes it okay. But just because it is wrong, and tout le monde knows/is taught that it is wrong, doesn't mean that it will go away. There are still people that steal, rape, murder. There always will be. It is not like smallpox, it can't be eradicated (can it?). At the same time, condoning it doesn't help the situation. We have made great strides since the 1960's. I guess I'm just a little depressed that some people could still have such thoughts.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Attempting to get back on the horse.

I went running today. A first since I've been here. The first cardio I've gotten for two weeks. And thank God, I was going out of my mind. The problem with exercise here is that 1) no one does it. Ce n'est pas vraiment francais..., and 2) when they do, they run within the confines of a park. This isn't a total surprise, since it's rare (and weird) to see people running down the streets of New York, too, but it becomes a problem for a person like me who doesn't live very near to a park, and lives up on a hill, to boot.

I tried to run once before, last week, but not only found the stadium I was told "tout le monde" runs in closed, but also had some knee pain, so I gave up and walked home. Today, I finally found the motivation to get up and try the nearest park to me, Parc des Buttes Chaumont. It's about a mile and over a hill, and because I've had a couple of Velib' mishaps trying to go places when I wasn't entirely sure of the route, I walked. I was a little nervous because the park's name describes it's terrain: Chaumont Heights/Hills. However, I didn't find it incredibly difficult. Perhaps simply because I was so happy to be getting my HR over 120 for the first time in ages (in my defense, I probably walk at least 3 miles a day, plus up and down metro stairs several times a day).

Because I didn't know where I was going, or how the neighborhood would change on the way there, I decided to leave the iPod at home and be a little more alert. Unfortunately, that also meant that I have no idea how far I went or even how long I ran. I'm guessing somewhere between 3 and 5 k, like 20-25 minutes, which was decent for my first try in weeks, with hills included.

I'm off to Reims tomorrow, so no exercising again (but plenty of champagne caves). Perhaps Sunday I'll try again.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Ce n'est pas trop fort. Jamais.

Every time there is coffee in the coffeepot when I wake up in the morning (because my family hasn't left for work yet), and I reach for it, I am inevitably warned "sorry, our coffee is very strong." It happened to me the first morning with Beatrice, my host mother, and again this morning with Carlos (her partner). Both times I laugh. I say, "rien de cafe c'est trop fort." No coffee is too strong.

And so it goes with me in Paris. I have yet to find many cultural adjustments that don't suit me. Sure, the lack of exercise that people get around here is a little intimidating. But it's not unheard of to go for a run. It's possible, I will just have to try a few different things before I find what works for me. Plus, my genes are finally catching up with my. My knees were hurting yesterday when I was trying to run (love ya parents, how many knee surgeries do y'all have in total?).

And yesterday I got and activated my bank card, so I can now use the Velib', Paris's (almost) free bike service (definitely free as in free speech, not quite free as in free beer, unless you switch every 1/2 hour). There are stations everywhere, including one on the way to each of the two metro stops that are close to me. I won't be using it today though, in the pouring rain. What I will be doing today is gathering some of the things on my growing list of "things I need," including, but not limited to, an umbrella, a mirror for my room, a camera better than my iphone, a pair of boots, more scarves, possibly a coat, though not quite yet, and a swiffer (maybe). And a stain-remover pen.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Don't let me forget to write about these at some point.

I haven't forgotten. Just been busy. During orientation week, we had three different excursions, called "parcours" with a French professor. I was in the "vie politique" group, which went to the Pantheon, Cemetaire Pere Lachaise (saw all of the hommages to those that died in concentration camps, a different one for every camp, in the WWII section), Hotel de Ville (office of the Mayor of Paris), and the museum of the history of immigration, which most people didn't like but I found fascinating.

Below are two photos of the great hall at Hotel de Ville (which is normally closed to the public, as a working public building), the Pantheon, and a photo that I took of my street, which is very normal, residential, and Parisian.