Pix from Paris

It's been a very busy and overwhelming week, so I apologize for the lack of posts... here's some recent photos from good old Paris:


Full-body scan Fridays and the like

Perhaps it comes from being the daughter of an oncology nurse, perhaps it comes from living in today's world, but regardless of the cause, I am somewhat of a hypochondriac. Spending the afternoon in the sun has me checking my skin for malignant spots and a runny nose has, on more than one occasion, left me wondering if I shouldn't be on allergy medication.

All this needless worrying could be forgotten if only for one invention: full-body scan Fridays. Consisting of a head-to-toe scan (including x-rays), you could be kept fully aware of the biological happenings going on inside you. That way, illnesses that don't have symptoms (or don't show until later on when you're basically already toast), could be detected and you could launch a full-scale attack before things get too serious.

Much to my chagrin, this idea hasn't caught on yet and many have even argued that the x-rays would do more damage than whatever is growing inside you (to which I respond: isn't that what scientists should be researching? Ways to give weekly x-rays without harming you or wearing a 5-ton apron to cover the non-examined parts?) But last Friday, I got my wish. I had my medical visit for my long-stay visa and BOY was it good.

I should point out that the first phase of the medical visit treats you much like a farm animal. In a whirlwind 4 minutes, you are weighed, measured, eyes tested, and shoved in a room where your upper half is x-rayed. But the next step was so personal that it made me forget feeling like a sheep. My consultation was with a doctor who was nice enough to humour my questions while we examined my x-ray together (is that my heart? what's that gray spot? should I cover my entire face with a plastic mask so that I don't die of second-hand smoke this year in Paris?). I left her office with my x-ray in hand, a souvenir that I take out from time to time and hold up to the window to show Aurel how much soup was in my stomach that day from lunch. The medical visit was such a good time that I almost asked the doctor for a second date (say... what are you doing next Friday at this time?) but I let it go, as they seem to be very busy x-raying the immigrants of the world.

In other health news, I visited the local Planned Parenthood this morning because buying the pill with my American health insurance was so expensive that I could have had 11 babies, raised them, and put them through Harvard on what it was costing me. The PP in Paris invites you to a discussion group before the examination (and subsequent prescription) and mine was this morning. I got to spend the morning with some French teenagers (seriously, the average age was 17) who were weighing their options of how best to not double the population before they finish high school. The PP woman showed us a variety of contraceptive devices, including something that is about 3 inches long that they insert in your ARM and assures you that you won't get pregnant for three years. Details include bleeding profusely and "anarchy-like" (translation) for the first 6 months and then not bleeding for the next 3 years (which PPw admitted was a little gross).

"Good GOD," I thought, "Who the hell would--"

"COOOL! BONNE IDEE!" Apparently every other 17 year old thought this was the way to go. PPw mentioned that the pill was still the most common, but that you have to remember to take it at the same time every day.

"Do any of you who already take the pill have any advice?" she asked me and the 19-year old African immigrant.

"Well, you can take it before you brush your teeth in the morning... you don't ever leave your apartment without brushing your teeth, so it's a good way to remember," I said. And I am not kidding, but everyone in the room looked at me like I was the weirdest girl EVER, which leads me to believe that many French people leave their apartment without brushing their teeth (this could account for the smell on the metro)...

Moral of the story: PP is very responsible here in Paris and gives plenty of good information to its clients, but the best thing is that I walked out of there with 6 months of birth control for FREE.

I leave you with one of the images that can be found on the PP website here in France, with the hope that it inspires YOU to get yourself educated before you end up in a situation like this:


This one took a whole lot of googling...

In a strange twist of fate, my sister and I found ourselves in the same city this morning. She called from the Charles de Gaulle airport while I was on my way to a job interview sounding much more bright and cheery than I would be after a sleepless overnight flight and an upcoming flight that will take her far away from televisions, chocolate bars and modern toilets for two years.

I may have made the part about chocolate up. What do I know if chocolate bars exist in Togo?

(two minutes and a google search later)

Proven wrong:
"In 1991, Craig Sams, the founder of Green & Black's Whole Earth company had launched a chocolate bar made with organic beans from Togo, West Africa."

Well ANYWAY, she's clearly headed towards a different world.

I had a dream last night that I was leaving for Africa. I'd like to think that I'm suffering from sympathy pains, but on second thought maybe I'm just mourning the fact that I STILL don't have internet or a phone line or a bank account. Before you get all jugemental and New-York efficient on me, you should know that acquiring these three things in France is a little like the search for the holy grail. Maybe my telephone number, bank card and modem are all hidden in the crypt of a little church somewhere in the north of France and Tom Hanks is going to lead me there to discover them. Here's what I might look like when I finally get my grail:

The weather in Paris is rainy and chilly, perfect for a weekend of getting a bunch of work done. But I must confess that I am VERY tempted to attend the 2006 animal expo on Sunday. There are posters all over the metro saying "COME HOLD BABY KITTENS!" or "PUPPIES ARE WAITING FOR YOU!" I mentioned the idea to Aurel who said it sounded like the girliest thing ever so I am weighing the options of attending the expo alone. Am I the girliest loser?

Maybe so.


Paris, 0 €

The annual "Journées du Patrimoine" was in full swing last weekend (every museum, monument, etc. was free) and we took full advantage of the free-ness as usual. We are a bit obsessed with anything free, so much so that I would call us new team-members on the "EXTREME FREE-ness" team here in Paris. To demonstrate our dedication to the sport, MasterMan and I joined two other Middleburians on a FREE visit to the Paris Sewers on Saturday.

The answer to your first question is yes, they do normally charge to see the sewers and the answer to your second question is 4 euros too much. Because really? The sewer museum smells so bad and is so ridiculous that mannequins like this one start to look human:

We did, however, also visit the Palais Royale and the Palais de Luxembourg where the Senate works and those places were AMAZING:


Fashion 101

This morning I made my way to Paris III, which is the New Sorbonne (read: hip and cool and you don't have to speak in Latin anymore) to iron out a few details with my application. While I stood in the long line of foreigners outside Office #14 (read: Ellis Island), I decided to observe the latest French fashions reflected in the student body and see if I could learn a thing or two about fitting in. Here is a photo which best captures how everyone looked:

In other style news, the latest technological fashion screamed out as I was walking down the Champs Elysée yesterday with someone that I will call MasterMan (to protect his identity). MasterMan spent the summer in a factory, sweating and running around fixing machines. As a result, he lost some weight. Enough that his pants are now falling down his ass as he walks. Some might say that he has already achieved the height of fashion: in certain areas of NY, he would fit right in. Unfortunately, MM is not a New Yorker and, having broken his belt, replaced it with something only he could think of.

Me: (Noticing that he was having less difficulty with his pants) What are you holding your pants up with...
Me: (lifting up his shirt enough to see a black cable threaded through his belt loops and two USB-type plugs tied neatly in the front) IS THAT OUR DVD CABLE?
MM: (clearly embarrassed) I just couldn't find anything else...

Yes, ladies and gents, he spent the afternoon walking down the Champs Elysée with a DVD cable tied around his waist.


The American Dream, plan B

Despite the fact that this photo shows Aurel using my laptop at an art museum, we aren't at the Louvre, we're at MCDONALDS. I personally haven't eaten at a McDonald's in years. But here in good old France, McDonald's offers free WiFi, so voila, here we are. And despite having seen Supersize Me, this McDo (as the French say) seems better. Like the hormones in the hamburgers are healthier. Because they're French and probably, along with the hormones and other shit the cows were fed, they were probably also drinking red wine from their trough.

Just a guess.

Last night I went to yet another France Telecom agency, ready to throw down and take names to get a land line. Three time's a charm, because we are now happily en route to having everything our little hearts could desire (internet! cable! land line!), though it will take "up to 4 weeks" for things to be installed. Aurel says that it never takes as much time as they say it will, but I remain cautiously optimistic. Until I surf the net while talking on the phone and flipping channels, I hold little hope.

In many ways, living in Paris is a lot like living in New York and I don't find myself missing much- the culture of the films, tv shows, even cleaning products (see the bald-headed Monsieur Propre in our bathroom), but the mentality really gets to me sometimes. I have come to expect the first answer to be "NON" when I ask anything: does WiFi work here, can I change my phone number, do fries come with that? It's this immediate reaction of the people behind the counter that pisses me off, and has caused much of my frustration over the past 10 days. It just seems like they don't want to try, and that seems unfair because they're being PAID and I'm being a CUSTOMER.

In any event, I no longer understand "NON" as a negative word, more like an introduction. Kind of like, "pleased to meet you." It doesn't get you very far, but it sort of needs to be said to kick-start the conversation. I've given up fighting the mentality of the country and am trying to zen it out and keep things light; we'll see how it goes.


Week 1: StairMASTERS in Paris

First off, I apologize for the lack of photos in the upcoming days (weeks?)... we still don't have the internet at our apartment and I can't say that it looks promising for this week. I've been able to check email, etc at school, but that's rare and there's always about 10 people behind me on line hoping to peer pressure me off the computer. Also, depending on the day, I might have titled the first post from Paris "I'm coming home: see you in 8 hours!" or "Now that I've broken my mother's heart, I'm jumping in the Seine... nice knowing you." I won't lie: the first week in Paris has had its share of issues.

But it has also had a large number of victories. Battered and a little beaten, the truth is that I LIVE here and that in itself is amazing. What began as a minor hope almost two years ago (after reading Hemingway, I might add) is now reality. Sitting at your desk at work, daydreaming about doing something and actually doing it are two different things... and I think it's fair to say that most people (maybe rightly so!) don't dare shake up their lives like this.

I can only compare living in Paris (I make this distinction because it's not the same as living in other parts of France at ALL) is like finally meeting and having dinner with the celebrity of your choice. The sights that are printed on postcards a thousand times per day are the background to life here and when the walk home from the bakery takes me past the Arc de Triomph, I get a little case of vertigo. To read Baudelaire and pass where he used to live on the way home from classes, to learn about the French revolution and later walk through the square where the infamous Guillotine stood- THIS is how to learn language and culture.

My sister will be leaving next week for Africa, which I can't really even fathom. My patience may be running thin with the phone company and my landlord, but let's keep things in perspective: electricity and modern housing are luxuries compared to where she's headed. Our French lessons do differ a bit, despite us both being in francophone countries. I'm looking up "wireless internet" and she's more ... "cockroaches the size of mice."

Our apartment here in civilization is fantastic, spacious, and... A FIFTH FLOOR WALK-UP. These words were included in the description, but we preferred to gloss over them and read "american, fully-equipped kitchen" and "bathtub" instead. The result of the stair situation is that I hope to have a Jane Fonda ass by Christmas... though seeing as how I'm constantly forgetting things when I leave the apartment, it may be Thanksgiving...

Stay tuned for pics of said stairs, apartment, and Jane Fonda asses.


Oh yes, he DID

Fact: Justin Timberlake brought sexy back. To be honest, I hadn’t even realized that sexy was missing. But when Justin danced during the VMAs tonight, sexy came back in all its glory. It was no Mickey Mouse club- N'SYNC shit. Good one, Justin: good one.

Un-sexy, yet democratic Al Gore made a speech about global warming and showed some pics of the glaciers that are melting (possibly sped up by the sexiness that Justin recently brought back). I checked out his website and here are the top three tips I think are easy and do-able:

1. Unplug stuff that's already charged (ie. laptop, cell phone)
2. Call the junk mail people to take your name off mailing lists
3. Dust your lightbulbs to make the room brighter

Easy, oui?

When I saw this picture online today I almost threw up:

I would rather watch "Snakes on a Plane" continuously for thirty years than imagine John Mayer singing "Your Body is a Wonderland" to Jessica SIMPSON. Please John, we loved you because we believed that you appreciated more than inflatable boobs and becoming famous because of a tuna/chicken mix-up. John is NOT bringing sexy back. But I think you know who is.

Tomorrow, I will bring sexy back to Paris because I'M MOVING TO PARIS TOMORROW. A million apologies to those who I didn't end up seeing before I left; to make it up to you, I'll leave you with some eye candy and a promise to visit at Xmas: