La réalité de Paris

What are the first images that one thinks when someone says “Paris” (Pronounced Pear-E en français (note: that is not the phonetics translation)). Bien sûr (of course), one thinks of the Eiffel Tour, observing the vast collections of art, having a picnic by the Seine, taking vast walks through gardens blooming of fleurs (flowers), and kissing a loved one (or stranger pourquoi pas) in the streets.

La réalité: Paris is not as luxurious and plushy as one would think. C’est comme une autre grande ville (it’s like another big city). There’s dirt in the streets: tons of cigarettes litter the sidewalks of cafés from people smoking, the occasional dog poo, and actual dirt one would find on a baseball field from dry vacant lots that covers you when the wind blows. Beaucoup des touristes (Many tourists), which means it’s crowded everywhere. And since I’m not from a big city and a different country, there’s a lot of things I’ve gotten used to (my walking pace is a lot faster here than in the south, haha!)

But that’s the reality, and to be honest, I’m not complaining. I knew a little bit of this (and was definitely warned) before coming here. The reason I chose Paris was to learn about the culture (not only French but Parisien), live in a big city (something I have not done yet until now), and learn about la capitale (some of the background history).

The reason I bring up this reality of Paris is because it’s interesting how people view Paris from a cultural perspective. In class we read an article about how many people feel an extreme sense of culture shock when visiting Paris because it is not how they envisioned the city of lights. This in particular is true for the Japanese culture. Apparently, because there are so many cultural differences between the French and the Japanese, many become extremely depressed during their visit. I believe all cultures go through this when they enter any country but it’s different when you’re from a background that is extremely opposite. I say this because it’s not true, the French (or Parisiens) do not hate Americans. When I meet someone they can easily tell by my accent that I’m from somewhere else and are delighted to hear me say I’m from les États-Unis (that’s when they start practicing their English haha). I have only been given disrespectful looks at a café or touristy spot only because there are many tourists here (and I’m sure the tourists like to assume that everyone in Europe can speak their language or don’t even attempt to speak French).

What do I think of Paris? I’m beginning to understand that it is a melting pot. There are many foreign exchange students, people working for embassies, and many visitors from around the world. I have only been to one museum because I prefer the free galleries of graffiti paint on street corners and vans that decorate les rues et les boulevards. There’s a lot of culture and many exhibitions that cater to everyone, Paris makes sure the youth and students can attend the museums and galleries for free until they are 25. People are cultured in the arts and knowledgeable of their city. Like every city, it is expensive, but until you find those loop holes and local joints, it’s manageable. And unlike most cities in America, they have tons of little parks and green spaces in every arrondisement…with free wifi! The food…can actually be a hit or miss haha. But when it is good, it’s dangerously good.

Do I like it here? YES! (: However, am I drinking champagne by the Eiffel Tour, stuffing myself with delicious crepes, or receiving random roses from flirtatious guys? Well…maybe that’s for another blog post 😉 just kidding! Vivre la vie qui est libre! Faites-la l’espace où tu veux rester!

Aujourd’hui (le vendredi 14/9/12) je suis allée à Giverny

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Today I went to Giverny. Giverny is where Claude Monnet lived, the jardin (garden), which was also his studio, is located in the petit village of Vernon. Vernon is only an hour outside of Paris and one has to take the train to get there. Mes amies, Emily and Annalise, et moi hurried to catch the 10:20 grande ligne. Il fait frais et beau mais il y a beaucoup des orages (The weather was cool and beautiful but there were a lot of clouds). Pas du solieil. But it was still a decent day and I wanted to go see the le jardin des coleurs (colorful garden) before the autumn freeze hit.

Once we arrived, we decided to walk the 5km (1.93 miles) to the garden and take a nice brisk walk through Vernon. Très genial et sympa (brilliant and nice). There is obviously a huge difference between the city and the country side. But it’s even more different when you’re in another country. En France, I have noticed that, for the most part, people live in petite vieille maisons (small old houses) as opposed to bigger more developed homes. It was neat, yet also creepy haha, to take pictures of people’s front doors, gardens, fruit growing in their yard, and the occasional le chien (dog) or le cheval (horse). We pet two horses on our très longue promenade (very long walk). The sign said it would take 1h30 (1 hour and 30 minutes) to walk to Giverny. It took us 2 because we stopped to prendre beaucoup des photos (take many photos).

Après notre déjeuner (after our lunch), we strolled through the jardins de Monet. Even though it was a cloudy, ill spirited day, the flowers were still magnifique! One can clearly see all the colors in his jardin inspired the vibrant splotches of oil on his canvasses. The lovely jardin l’eau (water garden) where his famous water lily and bridge paintings adapted from had a tranquille flow and a spell-bounding trance. I was astounded by the beauty and nature of this immense flourishing garden. Monet and sa famille moved here in 1883, and it’s still here thriving and radiating tantalizing hues of indigos, jade, olive, emerald, lemon, ruby, and victorious blues.

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After taking une promenade (a walk) through the jardin, we toured la maison de Monet (Monet’s house). He lived in a small cottage with walls painted just as strikingly colorful like his paintings. There was a collection of his original work in one of the rooms and in la salle à manger there was a collection of Japanese artwork that Monet collected. He really liked their style of art, c’est bizarre because it is more animated than his impressionist work. An interesting fact: Monet had walked into every room of his house…except for his kitchen! He obviously didn’t think it was a room he needed to be in. I guess sexism translates everywhere in the world unfortunately (with the exception that this was back in the 1800s so it was more prominent). Personally, I think Monet made a huge mistake because sa cuisine (his kitchen) est la meilleur chambre dans la maison (the best room in the house). Check out these stunning shades of virtuous sapphire blue. How could one avoid a kitchen with colors like that!

It was a lovely day at Giverny, but what was even a lovelier sight were the different national backgrounds of the tourists touring the jardin. I’m not a huge fan of tourists (and especially rude loud ones who don’t even attempt to speak the language of the country they’re in). But it reminded me how art is not only a cultural aspect, but it’s a worldly subject. Even though there are different cultural norms, identities, languages, and so on, art speaks every language, and that is the language of emotion. You do not have to be trilingual to understand Monet’s stroke of paint brush genius or the beauty of each petal and lily pad strewn through the jardin. Art speaks for itself in a way that everyone can translate.

Ma nouvelle famille à Paris

After anxiously awaiting my home stay assignment, I moved into my new home, the place I will be staying for four months. I was super nervous to find out who I would be living with, what their name was, where they lived, if they would take me in graciously, if they would try to make me clean a lot, if they were temperamental, or if they would even like me. I know that might sound a bit ridiculous to say, especially since host families volunteer to take someone in (why wouldn’t they embrace me), but living with someone and having a room mate is a different situation. And I can only imagine because I’m an unknown foreign kid staying with someone from a different culture who may have certain rules, customs, and habits. Which I am totally interested in learning and respecting but that’s the thing, I really didn’t know what to expect!

            So after class on Friday we were gathered in a big room and handed a sheet of paper that gave the name, address, phone number, and a brief description about the person. My host’s name is Anne-Christine. The brief description said: Elle est très chaleureuse (warm) et ouverte (open), elle a une fille étudiante de 19 ans qui habite à la maison (she has a daughter who studies and is 19 years old who lives at the house). When I discovered this I was very relieved. However I had to call my hôtesse to let her know when I was coming, which was also another nerve-wracking moment ahhhh.

            I split a cab with my friend, Emily, and je suis arrivée à 19 (dix-neuf) passage Alexandrine in the 11ème (arrondisement). The neighborhood is cute and quant, not bougy (comme bourgeoisie) laquelle je préfére (which I prefer). I took the elevator up two stories and when the doors opened I saw un petit chat blanc et noir (a small black and white cat). A door was open and I was hoping that the open door was my home and I would have un petit ami qui est un animal (a small friend that is a pet). Turns out I was in the right place.

            Anne-Christine welcomed me and gave me a tour around the house. She speaks some English so when I couldn’t quite understand her she would repeat it for me in English. I’m still trying to learn comprehension skills ahhhh. She showed me my room and it is very nice. The bed is much more comfortable than the bed in the traditional dorms and I have tons of space to store clothes even though I did not pack that much ahhh. I have a window and a pleasant view. I also have a little ledge so I might try to grow some les épices (herbs).

            Anne-Christine showed me around the neighborhood. Il y a une boulangerie (There is a bread shop), une patisserie (mmmmm), une petite super marché le métro, etc. We stopped at a boulangerie for bread and the super market to get things for dinner. We picked up cheese, nuts (pour l’apèratif), coke, and de la bière (BEER!). Then we returned and had some beer and nuts while waiting for the pasta to be done. I explained to her that I typically do not eat meat, unfortunately she had meat in the spaghetti sauce and apologized but I told her not to worry! I would eat my noodles with du buerre, du sel, et du poivre. C’était super! I helped mettre la table (set the table) and Anne-Christine, her daughter Adele, and I had our first meal together.

            I learned a little bit about them and I explained how I was truly sorry if I did not understand them because I was trying my best and know I don’t speak French well. They both reassured me and said it was okay and they understand. A huge relief to me, whew! I am happy to be in an accommodating home in a lovely neighborhood. Anne-Christine and Adele are très gentil et très sympa! Je sens confortable ici et je suis heureuse (I feel comfortable and I am happy). Here are some photos of my room. C’est officielielle, j’emmenageais.

À le FIAP

As much as I want to write about the mini adventures I’ve gone on, I’m afraid it would be disappointing without showing the beaucoup des photos (many of photos) I’ve taken. The reason I can’t is due to the incompetence of the FIAP WiFi. The FIAP is a youth hostel/hotel for International students and it has been my home for the past week. I still do not know what FIAP actually stands for, but it is pronounced “fee-app.” Because it would take over an hour to upload pictures, I will give a brief description and break down of the glorious FIAP (au contraire).

The lobby is bleached in white, linoleum floors and thick concrete walls. The sitting area in the lobby consists of oblong plastic chairs with an awkward lily pad shaped desk attached to it. All the other furniture tries too hard to look like l’art de moderne. The rooms are tres typical, splotched in salmon pink and lavender, an 80’s color scheme. The major positives of the room consist of the following: being able to open the windows (however if the room next to you has their window open also you can hear everything they’re doing), you have to turn one light switch on in order to control all the light switches (a plus for conserving energy unless one forgets to turn the major light switch off), and once you start taking a shower, the water only stays on for less than a minute before you have to push the shower lever in again to get another minute long shower (a pain in the ass but awesome way to conserve water and think consciously about using water while taking a shower!)

But the greatest bonding moments at the FIAP have taken place during dinner. All of the CIEE students have been given meal passes to eat at the FIAP cafeteria. Even though I am living in France, one of the greatest food countries in the world, the food at the cafeteria is definitely sub par. Because the FIAP is an International centre, they provide salt and pepper on each table (a rare commodity in France) and it has been the only two seasonings that have been boosting the food ratings. Each night the FIAP serves un fillet de poisson, poulet ou steak frites, pizza, and random legumes (veggies). There’s also a small salad bar that serves random cold sides which can be a hit or miss based on what kind of sauce they use. The desserts are the tastiest, however. Never a disappointment even though you know they were not made in une patisserie (pastry shop).

No matter how flakey and dry the fish fillet is, how bitter the grapes in the fruit salad are, how sour the booger colored artichokes taste, one thing is certain, the FIAP vin de rouge (red wine) saves the entire meal. The thin consistency of the wine itself whispers how cheap it is. One subtly notices this quality because it is definitely better than Franzia (however, slap the bag is a fun game). However, le vin de rouge makes everyone feel a little warm inside and un peu pompette (a little tipsy). The greatest thing about the FIAP wine is that you can accrue refills, if you’re willing to sneak back into the cafeteria without getting caught. It has almost become a game who can get the most glasses of free cheap FIAP wine, but it works! Using it to “pregame” comme les americaines sommes-nous has been useful and cost effective.

No matter how bland, tasteless, tacky, and frigidly uncomfortable the FIAP is, I will always remember the bonding moments I’ve experienced and might even come back for a visit (I also have lots of breakfast passes left over since I stash fruit for breakfast haha). I would not be dissatisfied if we had a CIEE reunion. Until I get better internet to post pictures, ça c’est pour maintenant.