12.16.2010

Home fo' da Holidays

I'd just like to report I am back in Lake Geneva, decking the halls and making merry. Thanks to everyone who followed my Parisian adventures, I really appreciate it. You made this so much more than just a vanity project. I love ya bunches! Actually, it's more than love, it's luff. I luff ya.

Merry Christmas to all and best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year!




12.12.2010

Alexandra's Paris


Here's a map of Paris, according to moi. Enjoy!

Alexandra's Paris - Paris, France - a Gwigo Map by alexandrashanahan

Au Revoir, Mais Pas Adieu

Here I am, writing up what is to be my last blog post from Paris. As exciting as it is to be coming home to a house full of people who love me, the thought of leaving the city of lights brings a (single, glistening, melodramatic) tear to my eye.

I've seen beautiful things here and met some wonderful people, but it's time to go. I'm not super depressed, because I know I won't be able to stay away from Paris forever. I don't know what life circumstances will take me here again, and who will be with me, and how long I'll have to wait, but I'll be back. I can't wait to have more adventures here, because there is so much to this city that I haven't even been able to touch. It's not for a lack of trying, by any means, but there is so much history and culture and life here.

Ok, so here's the point where this post gets self-indulgent. But this is a study abroad blog about my personal growth, and HELLO anyone who has ever kept a personal blog is totally into themselves. So deal with it. I am important, read on:

Study abroad is supposed to be this life changing experience that you'll never forget. I know I'll never forget this semester, but I'm not sure I've noticed a change in me. Maybe other people will correct me on that point, but I think all I've done is put to use qualities that I've had all along.

For one thing, I am a person of considerable strength and determination, as well as someone who is generous and thoughtful, and I deserve to be happy.

I've had mostly happy days, but some very sad days. I know I have more of each to come in the future for the rest of my life, but it's not a problem. I can deal.

I'm fortunate enough to have the necessary people here for me who make it all easier. My sister Angelica, who is wise beyond her 17 years, told me "So what. It's not part of the big picture". She's brutally honest, and right. The trouble is sooooo not worth my time.

My family always tells me I can do whatever I set my mind to. This semester tells me that it's true. It's not always easy, but it's true. You have to be a go-getter, and passionate about life and happiness, and I am.

I am thankful for everything I've learned here, inside and outside the classroom. I am truly a lucky girl. As a cherry on top of this whole European Union experience, I've just been offered a summer internship in Washington D.C., at the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs. I am so beyond excited. I'll have another city to explore during what I'm sure will be a fantastic summer. I have a lot to look forward to!

In the more pressing future: Christmas! Christmas tree hunting, baking cookies, and parties are all in store when I get home. I can't wait. See you on Tuesday!

My plans for my last day in Paris? Probably this sweet shop: http://cafefernando.com/a-letoile-dor-and-denise-acabo/

and suitcase shopping! (fun)


So, I guess this is au revoir, Paris. Notice I didn't say adieu. I will be back, you can count on it.

Bises! xoxo,

Alexandra

P.S. To come: A map of all my favorite places in Paris!

12.11.2010

Christmastime in Paris

For your viewing pleasure...

I will miss you, Sciences Po. Luckily I found this jewel to help me bring back the memories wheneva I want. I must warn you, French people are zany.



And, I can't forget about Claude Francois, France's favorite son, who brought us "Alexandrie, Alexandra". I get a lot of attention because of my name, people usually break out into the dance once they hear who i am. But I don't blame them, what a great song.

12.07.2010

Would you rather: get groped by the TSA or let them see you nekkid?

I mean, both options sound good to me, but if I had to choose....

I have no idea what the French authorities require at the moment, which is what matters for me next week, and I probably won't until I get to the airport on Tuesday, but I hope it's not the same as it is in the States? Apparently, the TSA body scanners that magically take off all your clothes have some sort of radiation issue, so many passengers are opting out, choosing instead, an "enhanced pat down". Apparently, this pat down is so enhanced that they get ALL up in your business, and can touch your face, chest, behind, and groin with their open hand.

I guess if it's in between getting microwaved in the buff and being molested, I'm going to have to go with the naked body-scanner. I've got nothing to hide, and a little radiation now and again never hurt anybody, right? Right? And I think that the pat down might actually be traumatizing. What's next, cavity searches in the name of security?

I'll leave this be with the words of a brave soul who dared to speak up against his sexual harassers:

"Don't touch my junk. Don't touch my junk. I'll have you arrested if you touch my junk."

Oh Hello, December.

I didn't want anyone to think I was dead, so I figured now that I am FREE from any academic obligations, I should finally update my poor bloggy.

Yes, today was the day I turned in the 20 page paper on Denmark's social model that has been driving me crazy for the last week. I also just finished taking 3 exams. But it's all over now, thank goodness, and the only thing I have to think seriously about for the next week is packing and getting to Charles de Gaulle in time to catch my flight. In the meantime, I can let my brain melt into mush and just go around, museum-hopping, shopping for Christmas presents, and sampling my fair share in French pastries before I am shipped back to the land of the chili dog.

But my life lately has been terribly boring, I've just been studying, so I will hearken back to our class trip to Strasbourg that we took the week before Thanksgiving.

Strasbourg is located in the sometimes German, currently French region of Alsace. The city became a symbol of France and Germany's friendship forged by the 1951 European Coal & Steel Community, which later grew into the European Economic Community, which grew into to the European Community, which finally became the European Union in 1992. The Franco-German alliance is the basically the glue that keeps Europe together.

Strasbourg is home to the European Parliament, which is the only directly elected institution of the EU, and to the Council of Europe, which is NOT part of the EU, but actually the oldest organization working towards European Integration, founded in 1949 with its main focus on human rights, after the great human rights injustices of the Second World War had occurred. The Council of Europe includes member states who are not interested in joining the EU, like Switzerland and Russia, organizes the European Convention on Human Rights, and is home to the European Court of Justice, the highest court in Europe.

One cool thing was that we sat in during a European Parliamentary session on the state of Greece and Ireland and got to hear the President of the Commission and former prime minister of Portugal, José Manuel Barroso, defend my two native lands (some parliamentarians were throwing around the idea of reinstating the drachma and the Irish pound) in flawless English and French (he was also to cool to wear a headset that translated the proceedings into six official languages). Also present was the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, who has been lampooned for his lack of stage presence.

Which reminds me of one of my favorite photographs:

Poor Rompuy! :( But really, this explains a lot about the European Union.

Also in Strasbourg is the FAMOUS Strasbourg Christmas Market.

It's supposed to look a lil' something like this:


Unfortunately, our trip was booked for just a few days before the Christmas market opened, so it looked a little less...put together. Place was a mess. But I'm sure it's very pretty once assembled!

I still managed to find gingerbread, soft pretzels, and vin chaud (hot wine), so I was satisfied.

Probably the most memorable experience of the trip was ending our night in Strasbourg in this rundown karaoke lounge that looked like a stripper bar. We loud Americans took over the place and sang Billy Joel's The Piano Man, thoroughly amusing and perhaps mentally and emotionally scarring the Strasbourgians. My solo was the best verse, the one that starts "It's a pretty good crowd for a Saturday". We then had to leave and take the little tram that closes at midnight or so back to our hotel, so we only stayed for one song, but man, it was worth it. We rocked that place.

11.27.2010

I miss these crazy fools

But I'll be back in LG sooooo soooon. December 14th here I come. I am currently trying to study, but it's not really working. I am too distracted by live updates from the NU-Wisconsin game. Horrible, horrible. But remember last year's game? That was awesome.

OH, and I miss this dog too.

11.25.2010

Gobble Gobble

Ever since the Pilgrims sailed to Plymouth Rock on the Mayflower and gave all the Native Americans smallpox blankets, we Americans have set aside the last Thursday of November to gather with family and friends to give thanks for the cornucopia of gifts rightfully bestowed on us by our Manifest Destiny.

I'm missing out today on the food and festivities that normally bring everyone together at my grandparents' house today, and I'm more than a little bummed. However, this holiday is about more than about food, and we traditionally go around the dinner table and talk about what we're most thankful for, as cheesy as that is. I didn't want to miss out on the official kick-off to the holiday season, so here goes:

First, I am thankful I have the best and most supportive family on the planet. They'll always be there, whether I like it or not (I usually like it), and I'd rather spend time with them than with anyone else. I'm lucky to have such smart, compassionate and generous people in my life, who give the best advice and love life so much, and make life worthwhile for me too.

Second of all, thank you to all my friends, especially my 3 soul-mates. After some ups and downs with friendships and living and learning, I know that true friends stick around no matter what, to share the highs and the lows. All of you make me happy day in and day out, and I appreciate all the funny things you do to make me laugh and heart-to-hearts over tea. To friends new and old, ones I speak to every day, and ones where it's been a while (drop me a line, why don't you. I'd love to hear from you!), thank you all.

I am thankful to have such incredible luck. I have no idea why I get to have all these great opportunities and awesome people around me, but thank you, and I'm working every day so I don't let you down.

I'm grateful to be an eternal optimist, and to have the gift of tireless perseverance. This is the key to my well-being, I'm pretty sure. My sense of humor does not hurt either.

I'm thankful you can always clear your head and refocus, any time you want! Life is tough, but I feel enthusiastic and hopeful for the future. What a great way to start the happiest time of the year!

Happy Thanksgiving!

***I'm writing this at Starbucks (of course) and they just turned on the Christmas music this second! I wasn't sure if I was going to hear any in France. First song of the season: So, This is Christmas by John and Yoko.
I am also thankful for Christmas Music.

More to come this weekend on my trip to that other city of brotherly love, Strasbourg.

11.22.2010

Skinny-Fat

Today in French class, we talked about bread, the center of the French universe. Our professor said that French people considered bread as the most important part of a balanced diet, and that the American obsession of carb counting is what is making us such fatties. If we ate more bread, we wouldn't have to worry about the chub.

Yes, lots of Americans are overweight, and it's an issue, but I would argue that Americans are much healthier than the French.

The French may be thinner on average, but that doesn't mean they're fit, or healthy. No one I see on the street looks particularly toned, because no one does any physical exercise whatsoever. Running on the street will attract dirty looks, and gyms are few and far between. I was reading French ELLE in a café once, and had to laugh at the "fitness" advice they gave to petite women such as myself. In order to 'feminize' our figures by whittling ourselves some sort of a waist, just do some stretches that might have been considered a warm up in an American-style work out and call it a night.

My teacher also neglected to mention that French women are obsessed with staying thin. There is even a verb for "to get fat" (grossir), that's how serious they are. If they didn't have to go to great lengths to maintain their lean figures, they probably wouldn't make such a big deal.

The French are skinny-fat, I've decided. Skinny on the outside, but fat on the inside. If someone actually tested their cardio-vascular fitness, they'd do miserably. And have we forgotten about smoking? Lung capacity, ha! At least I can blow out all my birthday candles without wheezing, Frenchies. Then I'm gonna eat my cake too. And then regret it, because carbs = the devil.

11.19.2010

Danger at Barbes-Rochechouart

I've only felt unsafe in Paris once. It was a bit worrying to discover that the metro closes relatively early: 12:30 on weeknights, and 1:30 on weekends, but honestly it's never been a problem. You can walk for miles in most parts of the city at any odd hour of the night, and no one will bother you.

Ironically, the one time I felt like I was in danger was at noon. Last Saturday I woke up early to check out the marché aux puces (literally flea market) in the village of St.Ouen, just north of Paris. The North suburbs of Paris are actually pretty dangerous, but Ina and Jeffery Garten frequent this market to look for chic antiques, so clearly it must be totally gentrified and pleasant and smell like lilacs from Ina's favorite gay florist in the Hamptons.

The market itself was very interesting, once you got past the people selling Nikes that fell off the back of a truck, and a whole lotta junk, you could find covered markets selling everything from vintage Chanel jewelry and sweet first-editions, to modern art and antique furniture rummaged from estate sales and royal palaces. I spent a few hours wandering around, and decided to head back towards the center of the city. The market was closest to the final metro stop on one of the lines closed for renovation, so they had a bus shuttle service to Barbes-Rochechouart, a metro stop in the 9th arrondissement. Once I got off the bus I was submerged into a huge mob of people, so I guarded my purse and headed towards the metro station entrance. Once inside, I was confronted with perhaps 12 young men, probably my age, all waving metro tickets in my face. "They're free!" they said. Obviously not, why would you be standing around a metro station giving away free tickets when you could be out making money? Opportunity costs, people. I reached in my purse to get my own metro ticket ready so I could just walk through them with a purpose and as little eye contact as possible, when I totally panicked. The next part is kind of a blur of fight or flight and tears, but I'll try to break it down for you.

They were definitely cat-calling as I came in, being alone, but whatever, that's relatively normal and doesn't phase me much. Then they started laying their hands on me, or grabbing my arm and pulling. One of them swooped in and tried to kiss me, but I managed to get away in time. All while this was happening, they were trying to get me to take one of their stupid tickets.
All I could manage to say to these people was "I have one, I have one". Not one "stop", nor "leave me alone", in French or in English. I couldn't raise my voice at all, and I didn't even consider hitting anyone. I was too petrified and my body had gone on high alert.

I manged to make my way past them to a metro turnstile, and i put my ticket through the machine. I did this too soon, because the woman in front of me was passing through, and this voided my ticket. In my state of panic and fear, I just started to cry. Some of these men tried to give me their tickets again, but I was pushing them away and crying and running to the handicap entrance and trying to get through and considering jumping over the turnstile to escape what I thought was potential bodily harm. One guy in particular kept following me and grabbing my upper arm, telling me my ticket was "finished" in English, I couldn't tell if he was trying to actually be helpful or not, but I sure didn't want him touching me. During my breakdown I somehow pulled myself together and took another ticket from my wallet and put it through the machine and ran away to the platform.

It scared me so much, and I've never felt so helpless and alone. And disappointed in myself. Why did I let them get the better of me and overreact? Why didn't I say no? This probably happens to some people every day, and I'm sure they don't freak out like I did. What if I was actually in a dangerous situation? I probably wouldn't be able to defend myself at all. I'm supposed to be a strong and independent woman, but I felt like a fool.

Next time, I'm making like the Gartens and taking a cab.


Anyway, you should all read my friend and classmate Jennie's article on North by Northwestern. It really spoke to me, and she writes in a really honest and beautiful way. Enjoy! : I like you, but... By Jennie Wong


**Funnily enough, the photo accompanying her article is a platform in Barbes-Rochechouart. Darn you, Barbes-Rochechouart!

11.14.2010

Spain Summary

OK, I've been terribly busy lately. So sorry I never got around to writing about my Spain trip! I wanted to make sure I wrote a bit before I forget, so here are my thoughts. And I stole all of these images from the internets.:


Barcelona:
-Catalan is confusing
- Barcelona is definitely a summer party town. There are all these clubs on the beach, and everyone hangs out outside. It's definitely not a place I can imagine living in year round.
-La Sagrada Familia is epic, though it's still in the process of being built, so there is scaffolding everywhere.
-Park Guell was lovely, we visited the Gaudi museum and sat out on the winding benches and chatted up vendors selling their wares. I bought some leather bracelets, and my friend Nisha had some jewelery custom-made.
-My biggest disappointment was missing out on the Picasso museum. It was closed on Monday!
- I loved how everything was open so late, perfect for a night owl like me. Stores didn't close until 9 and later, and people don't sit down and eat until 10. Best tapas I had in Barca were at Tapas 24. A review with nice photos here.
-Worst? Some random joint on Las Ramblas that was handing out free shots. It wasn't my idea, obviously.
- We also hit up Barcelona's fabled night life. Most notable was Razmatazz, an absolutely humongous club, with several buildings and multiple stories. All the Northwestern students who were "studying" in Barcelona claim a room nightly here, with their friends from UChi, Stanford, Brown, Princeton and Harvard. All this social awkwardness and intelligence interrupted by the effects of alcohol makes for an interesting experience to say the least.
-The market is awesome! But don't let your waiter overcharge you for swordfish at one of the little bar/restaurants inside.
-Overall, Barcelona is a nice city, but one I'm not itching to visit again.

Sevilla:
-Beautiful Weather! It felt so good to wear sandals again.
-We took a free walking tour from our hostel, and it turned out to be one of the best experiences I had during my trip. I learned interesting tidbits about Spanish history and the story of Sevilla, which is rich in Spanish-Christian, Moorish and Jewish culture.
-The Cathedral is the third-largest church in Europe (after San Pietro in Rome and St. Paul's in London) and very interesting to tour. It used to be a Moorish mosque, and the famous tower used to be a minaret. You can climb to the top of the tower using a winding ramp. Apparently, back in the day, someone used to ride to the top on a pony to do the Call to Prayer in order to preserve his voice. Neat, huh?
-I met my friend and former roomie Rachel for dinner one night, and we headed to the neighborhood where Flamenco was born. Some friends wanted to pay up to 30 euros for a flamenco show, but I dined right next to an impromptu floor show, at no cost.
-Even though I liked the daytime walking tour, the night life tour was a very different story. Pancho of Pancho Tours runs a very shady business. Be wary of him. It is very unprofessional to try to make out with your clients. However, I did get to meet a Brazilian hottie on this tour. Hey Juaon, or Joao, or Juan...or however you spell your name.
-Most tapas I had in Sevilla were excellent, and very rustic. I love the little sandwiches (bocaditos) with iberian ham or chorizo, the seafood, and the vegetable dishes.
-I really really really want to go back to Sevilla. It's so romantic. It would make the perfect vacation, and there is a lot more I'd like to see around Southern Spain.

Madrid:
-The weather...Colder than it's ever been in Paris and rainy the entire time. I wanted to get out and explore Madrid, but it was really hard when all you wanted to do was curl up in bed and sleep.
-I hit up the Thyssen and the Prado museums and they were very nice. My favorite painting, The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch, hangs in the Prado, so that was really a treat.
-Visited Hemingway's fave Sangria bar, Las Cuevas de Sesamo, and the Penthouse rooftop bar after that. Went to la Chueca barrio for dinner one night, since my stolen-from-the-hostel lonely planet guidebook told me it was "THE place" to eat in Madrid. It was Sunday, so there wasn't much open, but it was still very trendy. Most gay neighborhoods are that way. Hey, Boystown, hey!
-I don't think I gave Madrid enough of a chance. It's really similar to Paris, so I'd definitely like to go back again and explore some more, hopefully when the sun is shining. The Passeo del Prado is beautiful.
-Found an Indian fusion restaurant called Root, because at this point, I was sick of patatas bravas and cured meat.
-Madrid is LOUD at night. Our hostel was near plaza del sol, but still, I had to wear earplugs to drown out all the noise on the street.
-Halloween in Madrid was kind of scary. Everyone was dressed as a zombie, or some sort of bloody witch. Or a ghost buster, but that's kind of random. You couldn't tell if someone was actually injured, or if they were just having fun.

But overall, a great trip. But I'm glad to be back in my beloved Paris.



Because Spain doesn't do pastries well. And Paris has LaDurée and Pierre Hermé. And it's Paris for goodness' sake. I'll have to write soon on Paris stuff. I'm so behind.


Alright, now on to my millions of homework assignments. Not joking. In the next week, I have 2 political briefings to compose since we're role-playing a session of the European Council in one of my classes. I'm Ireland! I feel so typecasted. Plus a grant proposal, plus an outline for my 15 page paper, plus an annotated bibiliography for our poltical economy debate class. FML.

11.05.2010

Paris vs New York, a tally of two cities: le café


Paris vs New York, a tally of two cities: le café

So cute, right? I've only been to New York once, but I can just pretend it's Chicago instead. I miss you, CHI. :( Even if you have freakish chi-clones off of Lake Michigan. What was up with that?

Starbucks

Hi! Using the Wi-Fi (Wee-fee, in French) to do work at Starbucks. I no longer feel guilty going here. Have you ever had French coffee? IT SUCKS. Starbucks isn't the best ever, but it's better than what I could get most anywhere else in Paris. Italians make good coffee. Spaniards make good coffee. Americans make good coffee, since it runs through our veins in place of blood. The French do not. They drink a lot of bad coffee out of teeny tiny cups, and are too stubborn to improve it. But Starbucks is always full of Frenchies, so they must be coming to their senses.

And also, they play really good music. It's always the same, and I think I have the playlist memorized, but I like it just the same.

And they play so much Sam Cooke! He has the best voice ever, I'm pretty sure. Why does all good talent die so young?



11.03.2010

Some Pictures. Ole!

Placa de Espana, Sevilla

Wine in Sevilla

Sitting by the River in Sevilla


Nicole and I in front of Barcelona's Arc de Triomf


We went to the sub-zero Ice Bar on the beach in Barcelona (Barca is basically Miami in Spain). Clearly I was too occupied with the cold to realize I was having my photo taken. Sooo silly.


Probably the best tapas I had all trip, in Sevilla! Grilled Squid and Spinach with Garbanzo beans. Very rustic. That fat man on the left really ruins this picture. I can see your belly, sir.
My Dress matched the flowers in Park Guell, Barcelona!

16th Arrondissement: BCBG rap

Hello, I'm back from Spain! I can write more when I'm not such a busy bee (this weekend?). But here's a funny rap about the Parisian neighborhood I live in. I'll post the lyrics in English below, but I just stuck the french ones in a translator, so it probably doesn't make sense to those of you who don't speak french. But I don't really care. Tant pis!

BCBG rap (Bon Chic Bon Genre, Good Taste Good Style, aka French version of yuppie)




hey dude
Let me introduce myself
My name is Charles-Henri Du Pre
I live in Neuilly
In a neighborhood but then lost
I am the only son
In a mansion
Is the cross, the banner
To sustain me.
Not an Arab corner
Neither a Euromarket.

Auteuil, Neuilly, Passy: This is our ghetto

Hey man, my name me
It Hubert Valery
Patrick Stanislaus
Duke of Montmorency
At 5 ½ years
I already had my Ferrari.
J'pouvais not lead (pouvais is could...I could not drive?)
Of course I was too young!

Have you grabbed my friend
Our desire to revolt?
I want to scream
"Damn, flute, shit, shit ..." (lol)

Auteuil, Neuilly, Passy is no picnic
Auteuil, Neuilly, Passy: this is our ghetto.

Hello, how are you?
Hello, how are you?

Y is tired of Fauchon
From Hédiard, salmon, caviar

Hello, it's Patrick on the device
Yeah, that's Pat, 'You okay?

And me? And me?
You do not know what is my life?
A rub Chantal
Or Marie-Sophie
To make the hand-kissing
Has evil sluts fucked (ed. note. whaaaa?)
Finally, I wanted to say
In girls a bit stuck ...

I want to be a thug,
True true outlaw.
But when you're born here,
You do not choice. (choose?)
Y is fed up with Mylène
Ségolène, Gwen, Celine, Eglantine
Marie-Chantal ...

Y is tired, my brother,
It has big problems.
Y is tired, my brother,
To experience the system.

My future self is already mapped out:
Private boxes, Sciences Po (ed. note. HOLLA!!!), ENA or H.E.C.
And in the worst case
If I do not work,
I'll have to resume
The box of candy.

Hello, how are you?

Auteuil, Neuilly, Passy is no picnic
Auteuil, Neuilly, Passy: this is our ghetto.

Dude, we're all products
In a society dependent on economic
Market fluctuations
Destabilizing the market.
Yes man!
And out of this straitjacket
Economic, capitalist
We need to say no, no, no, dude!

Hello, how are you?

Auteuil, Neuilly, Passy is no picnic
Auteuil, Neuilly, Passy: this is our ghetto.

Hello, how are you?

We come from a family who has ever suffered
We come from a family that can no longer suffer.
X2

10.22.2010

Espana!

Hello! I've made it to Barcelona, rested up, ate lunch at a nice Spanish restaurant, and now I'm writing from the common room of my youth hostel, located in the center of town. There is youth...and backpackers...and weed...and very, errr, friendly German men.

This trip should be interesting. It's a nice place, apparently, as far as hostels go, but I've never really "roughed" it in my whole life. So spoiled! But is it so much to ask to have a towel or a blanket in your room? Or a chocolate on your pillow? sob sob sob.

I'm so excited to put to use my Spanish I've picked up from watching Dora the Explorer. Here's a non-exhaustive list that will come in handy for the next 10 days.

-Hola
-Adios, hasta luego
-Muchas gracias, senor/senora/senorita!
-Yo tengo una fiesta en mi pantalones
-Vamanos
-Donde estas la biblioteca?
-ay dios mio!

I can also count to ten. I should be ready to go go go!

Besides that, I'm looking forward to seeing some of the city's architecture. I'm an art nerd. The Picasso museum is a short trip away, and that is a must-see.

Oh, and I guess it's harvest season, so I'd really like to take a trip to a cava vineyard!

Now, on to Tapas! Buenas Noches, homies!

10.21.2010

Shameless Plug


Oh heyyyy,

This isn't my only blogging commitment, you know.

And look at the fancy graphic they made me! I am so honored. Click through and check out STITCH Fashion Feed, the blog for NU's premier culture and style publication. We also print a magazine twice a year.

It's homecoming week back in E-town, so all posts are purple-themed! Go 'Cats!

10.17.2010

America is my country and Paris is my hometown. -Gertrude Stein

Indeed, indeed.

Also,

"The best of America drifts to Paris. The American in Paris is the best American. It is more fun for an intelligent person to live in an intelligent country. France has only two things toward which we drift as we grow older- intelligence and good manners."
-F. Scott Fitzgerald

Why, thank you sir!

I should probably doing something substantial besides looking at quotes of American expats, but I can't bring myself to read since my brain feels like a fuzzy cloud floating aimlessly behind my eyeballs. I've been sick for the last few days. It's gross.

10.15.2010

Waffles in Brussels and Souflees in Paris

I'll be in Spain a week from now, which means it's almost Toussaint, which means it's almost December, which means I'm almost home. Time flies, I tell ya.

Welllll, let me give you a quick rundown on what's happening in Gay Payree and elsewhere.

Monday, a friend and I went to Père LaChaise, a large cemetery in East Paris filled with the bodies of the rich and famous. We hobnobbed with Oscar Wilde, Molière, and Jim Morrison. I'll try to get some pictures from her to put up so you can see my pretty face, as well as the beautiful fall colors. That day was so gorgeous, and the light in the cemetery was just perfect. Paris doesn't do fall very well in general, so that beautiful day soothed my ache for my favorite season back home. It's constantly rainy and cold here, and nobody jumps in piles of leaves, or carves pumpkins, or drinks hot apple cider, or goes apple picking, or goes for a hayride, or dresses up for Halloween. Thanksgiving is going to be ROUGH, you guys. Yeah, yeah, I know I'm supposed to embrace cultural differences with open arms, but when those differences mean I can't have Papou's cranberry sauce, naturally I get a bit rowdy.

Early Tuesday morning I took a truly amazing (technology we don't have at home (yet) blows my mind) 1.5 hour high speed train ride to Brussels, city of chocolate and waffles and capital of Europe. It was a cute city, nothing compared to Paris, but what can you do. Belgium is kind of the Canada of Europe. What are these Beligians all about? No one really knows. All we can tell about them is that they have 2 official languages, and make waffles (which coincidentally go along great with maple syrup).

To add to the oddness of the Belgians, one of the main attractions is a fountain of a little boy taking a whiz. It's called "Manneken Pis", or literally, little man piss in Dutch. I refused to go see it, because that is basically the silliest thing ever. Why would I go out of my way to watch a little pudgy baby pee? I don't need to go all the way to Belgium to see that! French parents don't change diapers, they just let their babies go to the bathroom on the sidewalk. I've seen it far too many times.

We visited the European Commission and the Council of Europe, gained some knowledge, and I got some free EU goodies. All in all a successful field trip, even if I ignored one of Belgium's national treasures.

Now I'm back in Paris, fresh off a visit to the Opera Garnier and a cooking class. The cooking class was fun times, y'all. My friend and I figured it would be us and a bunch of 50 year old ladies, and we were totally right. Our chef, Emmanuel, was laid-back and unpretentious and helped us make cheese and chocolate souffles along with a salad. There was also wine, so, score. Emmanuel clearly loved all the adoring attention he got from the ladies, but who can blame him. Everyone was moaning with pleasure or in the throws of ecstasy after tasting their chocolate souffle (***OMG LOL, There is just something *special* about chocolate, right ladiezzz??? ;-)***), so I guess he does have the right to be appreciated as well. Thanks, Emmanuel. You rock my world.

Oh yes, and everyone is on strike again! Which means lousy mail service, and a crowded sweaty metro, with only a few trains running. Blahhhh. My absentee ballot better get to the states in time!

Bon Week-End, everyone! Now off to start on my piles of papers....

10.10.2010

Stuff French People Like.

This is a list. Sort of like "Stuff White People Like", but different.

1. English. Sometimes it's the writing on their shirt that gives it away: "Who are you and why are you reading my shirt?" or my personal favorite, "Cat". Sometimes it's their use of expletives. I wonder if they apologize by saying "Pardon my English"?

2. PDA. I know Paris is romantic and all that crap, but everyone is smooching everywhere. I can't escape it. People are even smooching at the next table over, 4 feet away from my face. I feel like the third wheel, and I don't even know these people!!!

3. Dogs. French people love dogs. Probably more than their children. I saw a French lady hit her child, but I've never seen a French person hit their dog. And that's, like, proof, right?

4. Baguettes. At any time, 8 out of 10 Parisians are carrying a baguette. True story.

5. This joke. I've heard it about 3 times on the metro: "What do you call a person who speaks 3 languages? Trilingual. What do you call a person who speaks 2 languages? Bilingual. What do you call a person who speaks 1 language? American."

6. Carbs. My meals at home are quite nutritious, but I worry about what I'm eating the rest of the day. All my options seem to involve cheese, bread, and chocolate. And all the mayo they put on every sandwich!! I don't understand how French women only eat terrible things, and they stay thin. Someone told me it's just because they eat richer ingredients, which fills them up, so they eat less overall. I'm not sure.

7. Correcting you. French people will tell you when you've butchered their language. Not in a rude way, but they'll make sure you know you've made a boo-boo.

8. Drinking in the streets. Any open container is okay in France. A very popular night activity is gathering wine, cheese, and bread for a picnic down by the Seine, or in the Louvre courtyards, or in the Tuileries, or wherever. Some friends and I did this on Friday evening, and it was great! On Saturday, a few of us went to a festival around Sacre Coeur in Northern Paris. There was music, creepy people in costumes, dancers, food and drink from France's different regions. And no fence! That so wouldn't fly in the U.S. But it was a lovely day with lovely weather and lovely people.

9. 16 euro hamburgers. I mean, really?

10. Sitting in a restaurant/café/coffee shop for hours on end. No one ever gives you dirty looks or asks you to clear out. It's glorious. You're paying a premium to occupy their space, so take your time! There is a hierarchy of prices: Sit on the patio>sit inside>stand at the bar>To-Go

Well, I'll be M.I.A for a few days since I'm going to Brussels to visit EU institutions on Tuesday and Wednesday. Think of all the waffles that are waiting there for me. Until then, Adieu.

10.04.2010

Alexandra can't figure out how to buy a Navigo Pass

After spending a month stubbornly buying booklets of metro tickets, and killing a whole lotta rain forest, I finally decided it might be a good idea to get with the program and Al Gore by buying a Navigo pass. It's this plastic card that you buy and fill up every month, or every week, and ride unlimited. So, passport photo in hand (the French LOVE passport photos. They use them for everything. It's nuts.), I went to the Rue de Bac metro station after class and tried to buy a Navigo pass. But it didn't go so well.

Me: Hi, I need to buy a Navigo Pass! (Straightforward enough, I thought)
Metro Station Lady: Which one, dumb-ass*?
M: I beg your pardon?
MSL: There are 4 types, regular, student...yaddayaddayadda, whatdoyouwant?
M: Um, well, I'm a student, so that one I guess.
MSL: Shoves an student card application at me

End Scene

I read the application on the train home, and it was some sort of contract for 12 months, which wasn't what I was looking for. I figured I needed to buy a regular old Navigo pass.

So at the Victor Hugo station, I went to the booth and asked the gentleman there how I could purchase a monthly Navigo pass. He told me to go to the ticket machine to buy a voucher, and then bring it back to the booth. I went to the machine, and there was no option to buy any sort of Navigo voucher. I went back to the booth to ask about this, and he'd already locked up and left for the evening. Apparently actually helping me get what I needed was below him and his time.

Clearly the universe does not want me to save money or trees.

*ok, an embellishment. But it was implied!

10.02.2010

Rive Droite ou Rive Gauche?



When living in Paris
, there comes a point where you must choose between the banks of the Seine. There is no getting around it. You must choose, and then forever define yourself by your choice. I've yet to figure out where I belong, but luckily I live here, so I have time to figure that out. You, however, do not have that luxury, so you desperately need my advice.

I live on the Right Bank (North Paris), and go to school on the Left Bank (South Paris), so I am well qualified to help you evaluate what kind of personality you have. According to some largely untrue stereotypes. Let's go.

1. Do you prefer art or literature?
A. Art
B. Literature

2. Would you dine at an Asian restaurant on on a street lined with sex shops and massage parlors?
A. God, no. I'm getting food poisoning just thinking about it.
B. Bring it onnnnnn. As long as it's authentic!

3. Do you enjoy capitalism?
A. YES
B. NO

4. Do you claim to be well-versed in philosophy, while in reality you've only read the wikipedia summaries?
A. No
B. Yes

5. Macarons or Crepes?
A. Macarons.
B. Crepes.

6. Do you know a tourist trap when you see one?
A. Yes. English on the menu, sub-par food, neon signs...Latin Quarter...
B. No. This place looks lively! I much prefer it to 'typical Parisian' haunts. Too bad I don't realize I'm wasting my money...

7. Would anyone ever describe you as quirky?
A. Never. I haven't a quirky bone in my body.
B. Sounds about right. Call me the quirkmiester.

8. Are you rich or poor?
A. Rich.
B. Poor. But not really. Because I live in Paris. I just like to pretend!!! teehee.

Tally your As and Bs to find your Parisian Personality:


Mostly A: You're Right Bank! Congrats, you are a snobby, shiny, Golden Triangle-shopping, workaholic member of the Bourgoise. Unless you live in Monmartre or Le Marias...but we don't talk about that....
Mostly B: You're Left Bank! Congrats, you are a snobby, ethnic food stand or literary café-patronizing (yo guys, I know this really cool little place), pseudo-intellectual bohemian.
Equal number of A and B: You pont-sitter! Your wishy-washiness lands you on Ile-de-la-Cité, where you will be forced to share a cot with Quasimodo in his bell tower.

9.26.2010

Hot Jazz

Sorry for the lack of updates lately, I can no longer steal my internet from the Casa Fernandez, so I need to figure something else out.

This weekend has been rainy and cold. I refuse to wear a coat, so don't be surprised if I catch pneumonia. Coats are for wussies and people who have never hiked to class in 10 feet of snow with gale-force winds coming off of Lake Michigan. Hoo-ah!

I tried to go visit the Musée D'Orsay after class on Thursday, but it was a free day, and the museum was full with pushy tourists. So I couldn't admire any of the paintings without getting elbowed by large German women. Being far too delicate for such an aggressive and Deutsch-speaking crowd, I left before viewing any of my favorite paintings.

After that, I headed over to the Jewish quarter in Le Marais to look at some of the shops and to try Paris' world-famous falafel. Most of the well known places (like L'as du Falafel, recommended by Lenny Kravitz, or so says the sign in their window) were closed. Probably for some Jewish holiday I'm not aware of. So I stopped by another stand, and may have gotten food poisioning... My hommos and eggplant pita was pretty good, but an hour later I felt really dizzy and nauseated, and had to cancel my happy hour plans to go home and pass out.

Also, my dinosaur of a camera bit the dust. Good bye, old friend. You always kind of sucked, but thanks for the memories.

So, to make up for that disaster of a day, I planned a jazz club outing for everyone who wasn't getting crunk at Oktoberfest this weekend. I had been around Rue des Lombards before, on the trip to France I took with the BHS French department, and remembered it for its oddball nightlife. There are several Irish, Australian, goth, and gay bars around which makes for a colorful crowd. There are also a few jazz bars, so I suggested that we go look around and pick one we liked. We ended up at Le Baiser Salé, which translates into "The Salty Kiss". Thierry Fanfant, a bassist who comes from a long line of Guadeloupean jazz artists, and the rest of his quartet were playing, and it was a lot of fun. Their style was a sort of Afro-Caribbean jazz. They sat our group up front, so I was right next to the pianist, who was really excellent. I've attached some of their songs, so you can take a listen. I much prefer the live version, however. The club was intimate, warm and full of happy, singing and dancing people. It really put me in a great mood, and I was very impressed by the musicians. All and all, a really fun night, and I'll definitely back to see some of the Monday night jam sessions, which are free! I love free.

Also, fashion week starts on Tuesday??? How did I not know this? I'm going to try to get into some of the shows. Maybe STITCH can get me a press pass?




la macaque par Thierry FANFANT

be green par Thierry FANFANT

be green par Thierry FANFANT

9.22.2010

Elizabeth Gilbert

"This is a good sign, having a broken heart. It means we have tried for something."

"I was full of a hot, powerful sadness and would have loved to burst into the comfort of tears, but tried hard not to, remembering something my Guru once said -- that you should never give yourself a chance to fall apart because, when you do, it becomes a tendency and it happens over and over again. You must practice staying strong, instead."

"There is so much about my fate that I cannot control, but other things do fall under the jurisdiction. I can decide how I spend my time, whom I interact with, whom I share my body and life and money and energy with. I can select what I can read and eat and study. I can choose how I'm going to regard unfortunate circumstances in my life-whether I will see them as curses or opportunities. I can choose my words and the tone of voice in which I speak to others. And most of all, I can choose my thoughts."

"Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings.

"Faith is walking face-first and full-speed into the dark. If we truly knew all the answers in advance as to the meaning of life and the nature of God and the destiny of our souls, our belief would not be a leap of faith and it would not be a courageous act of humanity; it would just be... a prudent insurance policy."


Though I make fun of this book/movie ("Oh, rich white ladies and their problems!!"), I think I'm going to go see Eat. Pray. Love. or Mange. Prie. Aime., as the posters in the Metro say. I'm turning into my mother (or Oprah), but this Elizabeth Gilbert woman might know what she's talking about.

9.19.2010

Are you down with the RATP? Nope, you know me.

Never cross the RATP (Paris' CTA), they are ruthless.

Justine and I took advantage of the Journees du Patrimoine (This weekend, buildings owned by the French state not normally accessible to the public were open) by visiting the Chateau de Vincennes, built by Charles V of France, from 1340-1410. Well, King Charlie didn't build it himself, but you know what I mean.

On the way back into the city, I had to buy another set of metro tickets. Instead of waiting in line, Justine suggested I just follow her in through the turnstall, because it was a Sunday, and no one would be watching, and her friends do it all the time.

Of course, as soon as we passed through, we were approached by a stern-faced RATP employee who wanted to know what in the world we thought we were doing. Justine went into the famous French pleading mode I read about in Polly Platt (which normally works like a charm on men, she insists), but this woman would not budge. Even when Justine begged her to "look at me, like a human being". Zero tolerance. Stone cold. 50 euro fine.

Justine insisted on paying, so I just feel horrible. That was the most expensive metro ride ever.

9.17.2010

Cheating on Lucy


This is Jean Monnet's (The Father of Europe, not the impressionist, you silly goose) dog. At least, it lives at his house, just outside of Paris. So cute!

9.16.2010

Solo in the 16th

Even in a city of millions of people, it's still possible to feel pretty lonely. I mean, not all the time, and I'm not whining for your pity, or anything. I was just making an observation.

Today I was extremely exhausted. I'm not sure why, I didn't go to the Integration Party for Sciences Po last night, even though I bought a ticket. 11pm-5am on a school night? My, my. However, one of the French students told me there will be a "mariniere" party on a boat on the Seine in early October. As you can see in my profile photo, I am big on sailor stripes. They are kind of my thing.

My lame-ness (or not?) paid off in the end, as I was able to answer my professor's question that she uses to trick Americans. (Q: Where did the idea for seperation of powers in government come from? American Answer: The American Constitution, Correct Answer: Montisquieu) Wow wow wow, this makes me sound like a terrible snobby uptight person who hates all fun times and only prides herself on answering obscure questions about philosophers. Maybe this is who I am. I might as well embrace it. But, no! No, it isn't. I like to have fun just as much as anyone else. I just think my definition of fun is a little different.

Now, the Onion just wrote an article about study abroad that pretty much accurately describes most student experiences. This program is probably one of, if not the most, rigorous that Northwestern offers, and carries quite a bit of prestige, so working is not optional. So, I'm not really looking for that kind of study abroad. I don't want to travel around every weekend, or drink until I'm drunk as a skunk. I DO want to know Paris like the back of my hand, I want to learn, and I want to make good friends, American and Parisian.

Sometimes I do feel a bit lonely all the way out here in the 16eme arrondisment. It takes a while by metro for me to get anywhere, I have dinner at home at 7:30, and then the metro closes again at 1:30 or so. I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm grateful for Sonia's hospitality, and her insistance for me to use French at all times, but sometimes I'm a bit jealous that a lot of our group is in a more centralized location. And at the same time, as much as I love my fellow Americans, I'm itching to meet some French friends too. Plus, I have a lot of time on my hands, with no job or extracurriculars (yet, I think I might check out the SciencesPo choir/orchestra tomorrow) to keep me constantly busy. It's still early, but I'm waiting for the pace of things to really pick up! And filling my free time with shopping is a terrible idea for my bank account, so let's hope something comes along quickly.

My cell phone is in working order now, and I can call anyone I want to, so I really shouldn't be complaining. I just think I spend too many Parisian nights in my room studying, when I could be in some café studying, perhaps with another human being.

I'm going to definitely make more of an effort to organize meetings outside of school, starting this weekend. Sunday I'm meeting up with Justine and some of her friends to visit President Sarkozy's palace/residence.

I've had a good week so far, it's just lonely when you're tired, alone, a bit sad and worried about family at home. But this too shall pass!

9.13.2010

The Real World: Paris

Lately, I've been getting some complaints that my blog is boring (Angelica). To remedy this, I've finally found time to breathe between inhaling flaky pastries to write a blog post for you all. How generous of me, I know. :-)

So far, Paris has really blown me out of the water. Last time I was here, for 3 days as a sixteen year old, I came, I saw the monuments, and I left with photo-perfect memories. Living here is another animal entirely. It's soooo different, like...a real city? Who would have thunk it?

I am absolutely amazed at how many young people are out and about...all the time. Day or night, there are huge groups of kids, in high school, or college-aged just loitering about, hanging by the Seine, or on bridges, or on street corners. Sometimes there is alcohol, sometimes not. My friend Justine says that this is partly because Parisian youth have lots of money and little supervision by workaholic parents, which make sense. I suppose rich American teens do the same thing, but inside family homes, since the police wouldn't look kindly on large public congregations of young people or underage drinking.

Paris also seems much more diverse to me than it did four years ago. Maybe this isn't statistically true, but since I'm actually living here, I have noticed all the ethnic minorities and their integration (or not, regrettably) into Paris, instead of monuments and palaces. It is interesting that some non-native French are considered completely assimilated, but others are not. Recent European immigrants or 3rd generation Black French do not seem to face the same difficulties as Arab immigrants, for example. All citizens are supposed to be considered French, and that's all, no hyphenated labels here (statistics on ethnic origin are not kept by the French Republic). But just because race and religion are officially ignored by the state, doesn't mean ethnic and religious prejudice doesn't exist. Whether the struggle of ethnic minorities in the suburbs is a class issue or a race issue, it's still a major problem in France.

But not all of Parisian life is troubling. Hardly. Trust me, this is coming from someone who just had dinner in the Latin Quarter, and then just swung by the Louvre for a few hours for FREE. I am just blown away and thankful that I am able to do such amazing things. In the past few days, I've ordered my first cocktail (a mojito, and just 1. Mojitos are very trendy in Paris, btdubs.), visited the most AMAZING department store (Le Bon Marché) that I've ever seen. I've visited the first of the trifecta of Parisian burial places, De Passy (Manet, DeBussy, Fauré). Pere La Chaise (Wilde, Morrison, Piaf, Chopin, Delacroix, Callas, Proust) and the Pantheon (Voltaire, Hugo, Curie, Monnet, Dumas), I'm coming for you. I've sat on café terraces or park benches with views of the Eiffel Tower, reading for class and sipping café crème, so happy to be in the most beautiful city in the world. Life is pretty good, here and now. I like it. Classes are great, and I love Sciences Po already. I'd like to branch out somewhat from our Northwestern-English bubble, though there are so many amazing people in my program! Justine has offered to invite me to meet her friends, who go to another grande école in Paris. I'm also considering where to go for Toussaint, a long break I have from school at the end of October. If you have any suggestions, let me know! Or if you know any good Parisian jazz clubs.

And as Blair Waldorf says, you can't let anything prevent you from jumping into the belly of the beast, which is Paris. Gossip Girl premieres tonight, I'm a little excited.

Also, there are new photos below. I'm not a photographer, I'm sorry, and I don't take many, but hopefully you can get some idea of what I'm up to.

Strolling through Paris

9.06.2010

J'ai un problème...

Tomorrow there will be a huge strike against pension age reform, with two million Frenchmen expecting to take part, and I have to find some way to make it to class at 10:15... Google tells me it's about a 50 minute walk, which is a little ridiculous. Trying to take the metro will be too risky, with only a 1/3 of trains in service. Apparently the buses will still be up and running, so we'll see if I can figure out a route.

It's a huge no-no to be late to class, especially if you have a French professor. All this trouble because they're planning to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62! My goodness. Can't the French be happy with their 35 hour work weeks and 7 weeks of paid vacation?


Agrandir le plan

9.05.2010

To Normandy and Back Again


I'm currently writing this update from the Starbucks terrace on my street. I know, an American at Starbucks. How typical. But seriously, this is the only place I've found with stable Wi-Fi. I'm tired of pirating my internet from "Casa Fernandez" and "BERTRAND" at the apartment.

Anyway, I returned last night from our orientation trip to Normandy. It was a nice trip, and I was glad to meet and get to know everyone in our group. The first day required us to meet at the Opera Garnier at 7 AM, and after that we were swept away to Normandy, birthplace of impressionism and very good apple juice. Our first stop was the World War II memorial and museum in Caen, and after that we were herded by bus around to an endless parade of different war memorials, cemeteries, and D-Day beaches. It was a somber day overall, mostly devoted to the American and German cemeteries, death, war and destruction. The countryside was beautiful, on a brighter note. It was a bummer to have to spend a whole day focused on negative things like casualties and battles, even though they are admittedly an important part of American history.

After our grand tour, we found our hotel in Caen, a city that was rebuilt after being destroyed during the war. Unfortunately, it still was extremely sad. I think one of my classmates described it as something out of the Eastern Bloc. She was absolutely right. Depressed neighborhoods, Concrete buildings, prostitutes everywhere. After throwing our bags in our rooms, we hit the town in search of dinner. At a small restaurant right next to our hotel were two young men who harassed every woman who walked by, shouting "Mamma Mia, do you speak English?" or "OH MY GOD. OH MY GOD". Usually French men restrain themselves to a silent check-out or a double-take, but these two were notable exceptions.

After escaping our harassers, a small group of us wandered through Caen's near-empty streets (on a Friday night) and found a tiny Iranian restaurant. I had the Moussaka (I have no idea if this is what it's actually called in Persian, but it tastes similar to the Greek dish) and some rose wine. (we don't know the people at the back table in the photo, by the way. But don't they look friendly?)


The next day was much more my speed. We got up and left Caen around 9 to visit two resort towns near the sea, Honfleur and Deauville. Honfleur is a busy little town, with hilly and narrow streets lined with old buildings, and lots of seafood restaurants boasting mussels and a great view. The Saturday morning market was in progress, so instead of getting lunch at a pricey cafe, some of us bought chicken, cheese, fruit, and bread from street vendors and had a picnic by the marina. We had a lot of time to spend in town, and were left to do our own thing, which I appreciated.

Our next stop was Deauville, site of the Deauville American Film Festival, and Coco Chanel's original boutique. No Meryl Streep sighting this year, I'm sorry to report. The town itself was quite impressive with beautiful villas, expensive shops and chocolate shops, and the largest beach I have ever seen, filled with unimpressive men in impressively small speedos.

Now I'm back in Paris, about to start the school year tomorrow morning. I can't wait to be on a schedule so my Parisian life can get going! I'm sort of worried about my French oral skills. Sometimes French people tell me that my French is good, and other times I'm stumbling over my words and feeling totally inadequate. I don't think I did very well on my French class oral placement test either... I froze up when the examiner was asking me questions. In my defense, they were pretty strange, for example: "What did you do when you were little?" and "How do you feel about Facebook?". My answers: "Uh....I went to school???" and "Uh...it's good??? " I guess I've only been speaking for about a week after a LONG period of inactivity, but still, not good. I suppose if my French class is too easy I can switch out, but I should have known to elaborate a bit...

In addition, I'm experiencing a bout of culture shock. While I was wandering around my neighborhood, looking for cafes, the post office, and the supermarket, I noticed that being in Paris doesn't feel like a vacation anymore. I realize now that I'm not going home for a very long time, and it's me up against the French world, which is making me feel sort of hesitant and scared. This is strange because in normal circumstances, not much intimidates me. I want to live like a normal French person/student, so hopefully I'll snap out of it soon!

My photo album of the trip can be found in the post below this one, so check that out!

Trip to Normandy (Photos)

8.31.2010

Nervous for nothing, I'm sure.

I have no idea where the snooty Parisian stereotype comes from. So far, I've made lots of 'friendships' on my way to or in Paris, and I've found that Parisians are willing to go out of their way to help you and befriend you, as long as you are polite. I sat next to a fellow study-abroader and sorority girl from SMU on the airplane, who was incredibly kind and empathetic and made my 8 hours aboard Delta flight 44 as pain-free as possible. After having trouble finding my airport shuttle, because I was directed to the wrong terminal for pick up, a AirFrance staff member named Ralib took care of everything for me, got another shuttle lined up straight away, and even gave me his phone number in case I need anything during my stay in Paris. The shuttle driver and I bonded over rush-hour traffic, and he even told me I was 'hyper-cool' for dealing with the delay. At my host-apartment on Avenue Victor Hugo, i've enjoyed the company of my Turkish host-mother, Sonia, who should brag about keeping a virtual United Nations of host-children, with deux Japonais, un Brésilien, et moi, l'Américaine. That being said, the others are leaving, since they are summer students. This means I get a room with a sweet view of La Tour Eiffel, but it also reminds me that I'm starting my SciencesPo orientation with a blank slate tomorrow.

I'm looking forward to meeting my classmates, since it is difficult to enjoy and navigate a city (especially at night) without friends. Plus it's just a bit lonely. At the same time, I am extremely nervous, which is bizarre, if you think about it, since most are Americans, all are Northwestern students, and many are Poli Sci majors, like me...

I put a lot of weight on first impressions, and I know that forming these friendships will be important, for the rest of my stay in Paris, for the next 2 years at Northwestern, and beyond. I will be spending the next 3.5 months with these people, and it kind of freaks me out that I've never met any of them before.

But if all else fails, and I'm just too socially inept to get along with people who are exactly like me, I have Justine, my French friend, who will hopefully introduce me to her school friends and give me the inside scoop on the city.

Either way, I'm sure I have plenty of long-lasting friendships on the horizon.

8.30.2010

In Paris, at last.

Somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, I realized that I need to fall hopelessly, unabashedly, head-over heels in love with Paris this fall. I mean, it shouldn't be the hardest thing to do, with all the bread and cheese I can eat and beautiful architecture to gawk at. But I need this to happen. I'm going into this knowing that our love affair won't last forever, since winter quarter in Evanston awaits. But somehow, I'm alright with that, realizing it's going to end. It will be terrible, since Paris makes me so darn happy, but at least I will have seen it coming. I never thought being a lovesick fool would do me any good, but right now that seems to be the only cure for the pain I'm feeling.

Okay, Paris, wine and dine me, do your worst. I am strong enough to handle it, and I need some joie de vivre, stat.

But otherwise, I'm here, and ready to get this semester started and to meet my classmates on Wednesday. I can't wait to get into the swing of things!

Now At Liberty by Dorothy Parker


Little white love, your way you've taken;
Now I am left alone, alone.
Little white love, my heart's forsaken.
(Whom shall I get by telephone?)
Well do I know there's no returning;
Once you go out, it's done, it's done.
All of my days are gray with yearning.
(Nevertheless, a girl needs fun.)

Little white love, perplexed and weary,
Sadly your banner fluttered down.
Sullen the days, and dreary, dreary.
(Which of the boys is still in town?)
Radiant and sure, you came a-flying;
Puzzled, you left on lagging feet.
Slow in my breast, my heart is dying.
(Nevertheless, a girl must eat.)

Little white love, I hailed you gladly;
Now I must wave you out of sight.
Ah, but you used me badly, badly.
(Who'd like to take me out tonight?)
All of the blundering words I've spoken,
Little white love, forgive, forgive.
Once you went out, my heart fell, broken.
(Nevertheless, a girl must live.)