Paris Newsletter: Month Three

Dear Paris,

I went into Monoprix today to check out their Xmas decorations. As I was perusing the garland and wreathes, an older woman who was shopping in the same aisle was rummaging through the shelves. "No angels..." she muttered, "no one believes in angels anymore." Then she looked right at me. "Have you seen any angels?" I get freaked out when complete strangers ask me things like that. Especially in an aisle among nativity scenes. And at the end of a month that has been draining to say the least.

November has been a lot about having the right ingredients and not knowing how to make things work. Be it a lesson for one of my students which falls on its face or preparing for Thanksgiving (best known as "The Day I Learned How the Food Processor DOESN'T Work). Below you'll find an entire food processor full of freshly chopped pumpkin (I don't mess around when I bake, people). In the time it took me to figure out how to make puree, I could have grown my own pumpkin patch for next Halloween. I'm pretty convinced that pumpkin christened every possible tool and surface in the kitchen EXCEPT the blade in the machine. It would have been faster to chew the damn thing up and spit it back out, mother-bird style.

The Middlebury Program does a good job at trying to present us with many different career options after our M.A. degree is completed (and the 60-page thesis is hot off the press). I must say that I do find myself fairly limited with what to do with this degree in France. While the unemployment rate is lower than it has been in the past, the economy is not really booming and therefore the job options are limited. Plus, the nature of how careers work here in France is such that, unless you're really committed to teaching English, it's hard to break into something as a foreigner. Maybe the exception is if you want to be a painter. I bet you could get by if you were a really good painter (see: reject your parents who want you to be a lawyer and rock out Monet-style with your bad self).

November was a big political month, not only in the U.S. with the Victory heard 'round the world, but also in that Segolene Royale has formally been nominated by the Socialist party to run for president of France. The President of France position seems to be a concept very different than the President of the U.S. On my way to teach the other day, I passed by an official-looking building which I later found out was "L'Elysee," where Jacques Chirac works. However, not ONE of my students were able to tell me if President Chirac also lives there. This detail, the location of where Chirac lays his head at night, seemed to be of the lowest level importance to my students, whereas I was waiting to finish class so I could run and stalk the gates. What American would miss the opportunity to snap a photo of JC walking his dog on his un-presidential- looking lawn. French-American cultural difference? I think so.

With the temperatures dropping and Christmas getting closer, I can't help looking forward to spending a few weeks at home at the end of the month. I'm looking forward to a new semester, new books, a new perspective after the new year. Because despite the homesickness and the tough moments here in a strange land, it really is damn good to live in Paris.




Kate said...

ma chere soeur, ca fait trop longtemps!!!!!! i'll be in lome in a couple of days and will send you an email from there. after that i'll have much more reliable internet. i hope you're well and miss you tons.

love, kate

Anonymous said...

Are your students French? Because if they're French and don't know that the Président de la République not only works but also lives at L'Elysée, then I must say they're not very well educated. EVERYONE knows that! They should watch Les Guignols more... Maybe the problem is the students, not the teacher :)