Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Mistaken Identity

Let me start first by stating that being gawked at is a relatively new concept for me. However, since being in Atlanta I have grown accustom to men being total...well, to keep it clean, jerks. Not all men mind you, but a good enough majority to make me resent.  Often they stare at you from cars and "holler" and the begin whistling, hooting, staring, grabbing  etc... In attempt to, some would say get your attention. Though I believe it is just for the soul reason of pissing you off and ruining your day.
I am very dismayed to find that Paris, the supposed city of love, is not to much different for me it seems. I have been hit in the back of the head in an attempt to get my attention, asked to have sex with by a group of 14 year old  French boys and then had the Birthday sex song sang to me.  I have had a parks groundskeeper try to kiss me and make me his girlfriend, and I have been hit on by scaffolding men. All within the same week.
Now, I have heard and have had discussions about this with French and Americans alike. Verdict: men in france, or perhaps just in Paris, find foreign women way more easy to talk to and tend to want to date them because they are not as mean as their french counterparts. I don't think this makes us easy... however, (and I am trying not to pass the blame on anything specific, because the image of women  in America is a bit complex, and is definitely a philosophical discussion for another day) I do beileve the TV images of women especially women such as video vixen in hip-hop,  have given a good part of the world this impression that we are "loose" crazy one night standers.
Though, with all this taken into account I still could not understand why I was such a "hit" here. I am really quite plain, a bit cooky, but really I am just as silly as the next American girl. Then I was offered a little insight to my problem.
I was walking back from my music school, and had just turned on to the main street. A man walked out of the hotel, saw me, and his eyes got huge, wide, as if he was terrified. He then proceeded to point at me, screaming, "CORRINE, CORRINE!"
I looked at him, terrified, and sped past him. This for me was my last straw. My mind was on a rampage, WHAT the F***, I thought. What in the hell is wrong with these people. What in the world is corrine...corrine? Is that even french? I have never heard that before in my life what french word....
I stopped. It hit me. Corrine...Corrine Bailey Rae.
He had mistook me for the famous British artist Corrine Bailey Rae. I had mistaken his being star struck for terror and insults. I can't tell you how big of a smile that put on my face. Still a bit ashamed at how quick I was to judge all of the french men on the street as just trying to be insulting. Some, as it appears, are just in wonderment of an American look-a-like of a British superstar.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

When partying in Paris...

So I am sure there has not been any realization that the posts are way out of order and incredibly delayed. So I move forward by going back. 
A couple nights ago, a group of us decided to go out. For me it was to celebrate getting into the music school, with only a 24 hour notice that I would have even have an audition, as well as, making it through a brain melting two weeks of orientation. (Spelman isn't the only one...) So we dressed up and went out for a night on the town. The street off of Saint Michel is a very lively, narrow and swarming with French and American men and women whooting, talking, and dancing . 
My night began normal enough, we attempted to dance salsa, which, is something I can't believe I have not tried to do before because I absolutely love it. The men, were nice, eager to dance and eager to teach us the steps. The music was fun. I was shaking and moving... I felt like I had a butt...almost anyways. Though it wasn't long before my group wished to look elsewhere for fun and excitement.
Things always tend to get a bit ridiculous just after meeting some new men. These two were from Harvard, coasting around the country for some fun before they were forced to get a job. They were both nice and sweet and soon became a part of our little entourage. Not wanting to return to far from where we had already been, we settled for a lounge that used one word we knew: sexy.  Bras were laced all through the lights and dangling from the ceiling. No sooner had we sat down then did a glass break at the bar and millions of tiny plastics swords (you know the one that they put fruits on for drinks) flew down the back of my shirt and all over the floor. Then some "helpful hands" came to the rescue to help remove some of the plastic swords.

I am not even going to try to explain what happen next. How my bra was somehow, unhooked, pulled off of me, and held over my head for the whole club to see, before being placed on one of the near naked, most assumedly gay, non-deodorant wearing, sweaty, french, bartenders. There is no way to even explain my look of astonishment when my only black bra, two sizes to small was hoisted in the air, and my new harvard acquaintes laughed, pointed, and said
" Isn't that your bra...."
Don't worry though my consulation prize was my jus de pomme (apple juice) with a sparkler, that I thought was going to catch my hair on fire. Total cost 8 E  (12 dollars). My bra being sported by a man strictly in underwear and given back to me in his teeth. priceless.
With all the excitement that we could possibly take we said our goodbyes and left.
Now, no trip out in a new place can be complete without the adventures "How do we get back?"
The metro had stop running. Paris has a night train, though right now the name escapes me. Anyways, they are buses that pick up the late-nighters, and drive all over the city so that people aren't stranded. You just have to find the right stop...and not attract people that are right out of the movie Taken, who only speak to you in english, and try to ride home with you to see,"where you sleep"....
We left at 1:30 am, I stumbled into my room at 4 something in the morning. Which will now explain why in the previous blog, I am just a bit late for my cooking lunch.

Just in case anyone was wondering, my bra was not harmed in this incident and I am proudly wearing it as I write... after it had a trip through the washer machine.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Teacher, I dedicate this blog from a Paris room

Last night, was the first night that I had gotten in touch with my family through skype, since I had arrived in paris. Which was wonderful. Until I heard the bad news. My teacher from high school passed away. Cancer wins again. 
He taught english, but the class I remember him for was his Shakespeare class. He was a wonderful teacher, funny, enthusiastic and laid back. He really deepened my enjoyment of shakespeare, and just reading new and challenging things. I will miss him. I had a bit of conflict with writing this, naturally, I didn't want to step on anyone's toes. I also didn't think it was anyones businesses. However, this is apart of my experience here. I suppose I write this blog for me just as much as anyone else. 
Today, I also write for him. When I pass a shakespeare tavern here, I think of him and my heart becomes a little heavy. Though my thoughts on an afterlife are a mystery even to me, I hope that he is in a better place. I think the best I can do for someone who dedicated himself to English literature, is to write a simple blog to commemorate him. May he rest in peace.

The Joy of cooking...

We had a welcome lunch today. I was a part of a group of sleepy IES students that were 15 minutes late, because we all got lost. The lunch was a cooking class taught by a french chef. Upon arriving, and after washing my hands, I made sure to notify the nearest way of exit. (The window in the left corner where I could drop myself down on to the roof of the building nearby) ...You see my french skills as bad as they are are in no way as near as bad as my cooking skills. I am the girl,that the girls, in LLC my freshman year, were muttering about when they had to evacuate the building, at 4 in the morning when the fire alarm went off. Yes that was me...I had fallen asleep and left a pot of pasta boiling. I swore I would never cook again. Yet here I stood, with the chef speaking rapid, elegant, french and showing me how to cut and chop vegetables. I just nodded my head each time he looked at me.
This is also the day I made my roommate cry, unintentionally of course. I was just the unfortunate one who got stuck with cutting the onions and she was just the equally as unfortunate one who had to be stuck right beside me. After all of the chopping, of onions, sugar snaps peas, carrots, fennel,tomatoes, and lemon we mixed into Kuinoa. ( They are these little grains, in case anyone was wondering. Maybe I was the only one who didn't know)  We seared chicken and put it in the oven to bake, and we mixed the chocolate for the chocolate souffle. It was scrumptious. So simple and so filling. I really love my program.
Though I hope my mother does not stumble upon this particular entry because then I am sure to never have her cook for me again, for, she will realize, as I did, that I am perfectly capable of cooking something without burning it. (with supervision)

Friday, September 18, 2009

Culture Shock (Mercredi 9)

I had a bit of a meltdown today. After only two long days of orientation, little sleep, I absolutely broke to pieces. I opened the book that had been passed out and realized we were starting , yet another three hour block of orientation, this time the entire book was in french.  I felt my head shut down and tears swell. I had to get away, I ran, but the bathroom was full, the halls full, then someone ask the wrong question at the wrong time, and the tears flooded forward. 
Next, I was attempting to be comforted by a series of question, along the lines of is someone bothering you, are you sick, did your boyfriend leave you (when the hell did I ever mention a boyfriend), because of course those are the only plausible and logical reasons why I would be having a mental breakdown in a brand new country and culture.
- " I can't speak French," I blubbered, "I understand nothing."
he said not to worry about it. I stared at him skeptically and tearfully. I wanted to punch him in the face for even attempting to tell me not to worry, even though I must admit I have had said those same words to comfort many a friend in many a rough time.
He rushed me outside, which cued other advisors also to rush in to see the distraught me he had pulled aside. As they tried to reassure me that everything would be and was o.k... I began hyperventilating. I cannot begin to tell you how embarrassed I was. (Little did I know this was just the beginning).
Now I must say I was in no way homesick. I was a bit of a lot distraught, but not homesick. I was just overwhelmed. I was happy to be there, but unable to communicate my feelings, feelings of isolation and unable to express myself, that was a lot. I had to release. I just wish I had chosen a better place. Though I am glad to know I that I am in the care of a very supportive staff.
So I took what they said and the comfort they bestowed and the horror stories they told and took my seat in the auditorium. Maybe, I thought, I am not alone in this way, maybe is it true and there are many of us struggling, but we can't or won't allow ourselves to express what is within afraid that showing fear makes us weak that uncertainty makes us weak... I opened my book. Actually maybe I am alone on this one
Then a voice comes from behind, no not within my psyche, as I originally thought.
-"I don't understand one bit of this"
I turned around to face a red haired girl, with the same perplexed look as me.
I smiled
I laughed
I sighed. 
I learned a very valuable lesson today, that is often forgotten. You are never truly alone.

(dates are off) (Dimanche 6)

Immediately, I have already started trying to reject the language. I have been here less then 6 hours and I want to close my ears to, make everyone speak and listen in english. How american am I? It is as if I have been culturally programmed to self-denote if unable to speak my own tongue. It is the strangest thing to me. As if I am a stranger to myself, with strange thoughts. I am quite ( I would like to think) open minded, but somehow excitement has not set, so has come to play house in my mind. My teacher spoke of homesick, though I don't think that it is not yet. it is still quite early. Though it might be a preemptive strike.
I naturally eavesdrop. I know its rude, I cannot help myself nonetheless. My ears love sound. It is nice to eavesdrop here, fascinated by the language, but unable to understand and unable to comprehend anything before or after 'the' in a single sentence. what joy.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Bienvenue à Paris!

We arrived in Paris (My mom and I...) a little worse for wear. The instructions from my program as well as the google website recommended taking the main train that makes it way from the airport through the center of Paris. It mentioned it would be far cheaper. The euro is kicking the american dollar ass right now. We are american. We like cheap. 

I wish they (whoever wrote these articles) would have notified at the bottom just how ridiculous this trip is for two women, with two heavy suitcases each, and only one with minimal, I repeat minimal french language skills, to negotiate their way around the city. I wish I had the energy to write it all. Between jet lag, stumbling around blindly, cramming on trains, picking suitcases up and off of the train, it was  less then the exhilarating feeling we thought we would gain from being in Paris. We arrived at our stop and began rolling towards the exit only to find a series of stair going up...-In fact, a nice thing to note, that in the ENTIRE TIME we worked our way towards our destination, there were ramps and moving panels going down with the options of stairs. However, on the way up and out there were stairs, solid, non-moving, concrete, stairs and that was all. We lugged it up the final stairs only to wander a bit up  at the top. Then something beautiful happened, we met somebody, who, somewhere between my broken french and his one word english,  helped to direct us through the park to our hotel. We gave him 20 euro. Pretty steep, but it was all we had and we appreciated the help. ( I know what you are thinking and yes after all the time sweat laborer and confusion it would have been worth it just to have called damn cab.)

So, three hours later and 15 minutes after our plane landed we finally stumbled into the Hotel Arc de Triomphe. We checked our baggage and made our way to our room, tired, sweaty though surprisingly not irritated. Perhaps it was to tiring for that. (Though I am now only speaking for myself)

My mom took a nap as I took to staying awake fearing napping in the day and waking up in the middle of the night. Though my mom made sure to roll over, look at me and say," I am never doing that again. We are taking a taxi next time." I shook my head. I don't know if there would be a next time. I had to agree though, too much of an adventure for the first day.