Guess who's on holiday? Wait, no, it's still not me...

Today was my official last day at the Nouvelle Sorbonne (otherwise known as the place where profs use old tissues to wipe the blackboard and have no problem lecturing while literally 99% of the class is sleeping and/or texting their friends in the SAME classroom). While my other final exams were before Easter break, today was the big one- Proust, Aragon and Simon mixed into ONE MIGHTY EXAM based on over 1700 PAGES OF READING! Rock on, why don't we do this every week?

For no logical reason (I really think it's just because they like screwing with us), they put three different classes in the same amphitheater for the final. There was no order to this madness, everyone sat wherever, which meant that handing out the exam questions went very orderly. By this I mean that three teachers of three DIFFERENT classes all said at the same moment "raise your hand if you're in 16th/17th/20th century!" So every person in the room raised their hand and that made things very clear and efficient, just like they like it in France.

Here's a picture of us taking the test (though I don't remember all those red flags, hm, must have happened while during the first of four hours when I wanted to shred my exam question and my head in the same machine):

Golly, you must be saying, Jen sure does have it nice finishing all her work before May even starts! And yet, wrong again there partner, because GM'07 has yet to make its big debut. Plus I have that pesky business class that continues on through May, at the end of which I will have to pass a "concours" and write business letters like there's no tomorrow. I'm sure I will be well-prepared because the teacher usually lectures on useful topics like cow breeds and the major benefit of the EU, which according to him is that small towns that don't have enough money themselves to build a swimming pool can ask the EU and they usually get it! I don't know about you, but that sure sounds like a reason to join an economic union! Think of the diving boards!

To celebrate the "hey, you aren't yet done, but you really feel like you should be!" feeling, I'm going drinking on a bridge with some friends. Hopefully I will not fall in the Seine, although that could be a fun story, depending upon how mutated the Seine fish are and the level of cuteness of the firemen that come to pull me out.


Who moved my cheese? plus reasons NOT to go for a run in Togo

Proof of genetics:

Mom: So how's the South American?
Me: Ok... he does this thing that bothers me.
Mom: What's that?
Me: He eats all my cheese. Like, once in a while I buy some good cheese... and of course, I offer some to him as a snack or whatever... but he also eats it for breakfast. This is a South American thing, I think, to eat cheese for breakfast. And I'm sort of screaming in my head "HEY STOP EATING ALL MY CHEESE, I WANT SOME FOR TOMORROW," but of COURSE I don't say anything because what the hell? It's cheese. And I feel like an idiot. It's like the dessert fight with the ex.
Mom: Dessert?!
Me: I would get mad because he would eat all the good dessert in the first two days after our food shopping trip and we'd be eating applesauce for the rest of the week. And sometimes I wanted to space out the good desserts so I'd have something to look forward to later in the week. Well, we had a big fight about that. I'm ridiculous, I know it, I recognize it, but it just doesn't change the fact that I feel really strongly about food fairness.
Mom: Do you remember when Dad was mad that I gave his can of red beets to the church food drive? He said that it wasn't mine to give.
Me: You see? I get this from you freaks! I remember writing in my diary about a fight that you and Dad had about... wait for it... whether it was more cost-efficient to buy the MINI-SNICKERS or the REGULAR SIZE. Thanks for all the crazies.


Text message from Kate to Mom:

"I went out for a run and when I got home I found out someone had castrated my dog!!"


As some of you know, Kate adopted a puppy a few months ago in her village. She had decided to take him to a vet in Lome, the capital, to be fixed. According to her, the villagers misunderstood "I'm taking him to Lome" for "wait until I leave the compound and then DO IT YOURSELVES." I guess she isn't too upset because it cost 50 cents to do it, but I would have said something along the lines of "HEY HOW ABOUT YOU LEAVE MY DOG AND HIS BALLS ALONE?"

The whole castration misunderstanding puts a little dark cloud over the idea of vacationing in Togo next year, to say the least. I'm all for new experiences, but Jesus. This place sounds like a Tim Burton movie gone wrong.


Forget Namibia, the neighbor's garage will do just fine...

So my friend David gets this kitten. Are you ready for it? Be sure, because it's REAL freakin' cute....

I know. I KNOW. When I held this minuscule thing for the first time my ovaries kicked me in the gut and started screaming about babies. And I told them that I needed to start with the feline species (mostly because adopting a kitten doesn't require those pesky things like sperm or husbands or at least serious serious boyfriends). And also a kitten knows how to piss in a litter box from the day he's born.

So here I am, practically asking everyone I see in the street where I could find kittens, and my friend Elise drops the bomb the other night that a strange cat wandered into her neighbor's garage and had 4 kittens last weekend. Which is essentially the same way we got this lovable tub of lard 8 years ago:

And the best news is that there's an orange one among them. Negotiations are currently underway to see if they'll keep one for me and if they'll keep him/her til the end of August when I'm definitely in the country for a while. And of course, I'll have to promise to do humanitarian work in his home village because that's just how adoption goes down these days.


A little sick of not being home

Yesterday one of my best friends in New York called with the good news that she's engaged. She's getting married to a wonderful guy; they're the kind of people you feel should be getting married in this world and we've all been expecting it for some time, but the fact that's it's actually happening is exciting.

This phone call led me to a downward spiral of homesickness which ended with me making oh, about 30 phone calls to friends and family in the States. Most of the time I feel like I'm not missing much over there, but then your friend goes and gets engaged and the only thing you want to do is have brunch with her and her friends and talk about flower arrangements.

I guess I called everyone a bit too early because most of them were still sleeping at 11:30am (or... they were hungover. Yes. That sounds appropriate.), but I did manage to get a few of them and it was so good to TALK about everything and everyone and life and love and cultures. I haven't had so much success making French friends that can have these kinds of talks; is this possibly a cultural thing? Is the willingness to spout philosophies of life for hours on end an American thing?

Yesterday's talking resulted in a quiet Monday; I did get my final draft of GM'07 back and now there's only some grammatical errors, an intro and a conclusion that stands in the way of me and a 50-some page MASTERPIECE. I am considering printing a bunch of copies and handing them out in the metro like free newspapers.

You know everybody wishes they could get some Andre Gide lovin for their morning commute.


And the verdict is...

Sarko vs. Sego!

Indecision '07 French style

It's Sunday! And you know what that means... the French presidential election is here! Today's election will decide a top 2 candidates and then round two goes down in two weeks, at which point someone else will be resting his/her head at the good old Elysee.

For those of you living outside the borders of Francia, here's a quick rundown of the top four candidates (there are about 12... yes, American readers, be shocked and surprised! More than 2! This shit is exciting!):

Nicolas Sarkozy

First thing that comes to mind: isn't this the guy that my middle-school students in Clermont complained about because he was preventing them from smoking marijuana?

Reputation according to the Frenchies: Sarko's definitely the front-runner, though young people don't like him. He's said some awful things about immigrants and has a reputation as a hard-ass who, as Interior Minister, created an arrogant police force that added fuel to the cultural tensions. He'll protect rich people's taxes and is very friendly with George W. French people don't like that.

Where he stands on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being uber-liberal and 10 being ultra-conservative): 7

Segolene Royale
First thing: ooh! a woman! Maybe that's what this country needs!

Reputation: Sego has taken a nose-dive. People were optimistic and open to her as a candidate in the fall, but she's proven that she doesn't really have a vision for the future. She's got a bunch of kids and isn't married, but that's okay in this country. She's socialist and is probably going to attempt to hold up the 35-hour work week (a very stupid idea that gave people even more vacation and created a lot of stress for business people because, duh, you can't do your job in 35 hours).

Scale: 3

Francois Bayrou

First thing: Center! What a compromise!

Reputation: Center! What a loser! From what I understand, French people complain that Sarko is too conservative, Sego is too socialist, but Bayrou, well, he's just too damn much in the center. Apparently this is a problem because no one in the government will support him if he gets elected. His biggest problem seems to be a lack of homies in the government (and yet... couldn't this also be a breath of refreshing air? Seems not). The only candidate that seems to have an ok chance of beating Sarko if they face each other in the second round.

Scale: 6

Jean-Marie Le Pen

First thing: CRAZY MO-FO... and yet wait... didn't these people vote him to the second round last time?!?

Reputation: Le Pen spouts off about the "truly French" people (see: white people with "de" or "le" in their last name) and is the scariest option for basically, oh, everyone. Immigrants shudder when they think of this dude. Le Pen got to the second round in the last election, when he faced off with Jacques Chirac. People took to the streets the next day and Chirac got elected by like 80% in the end because people were so freaked out. There are apparently many closeted Le Pen voters, so who knows what could happen this time... though I will say that if Le Pen makes it to the second round again, I don't want to hear JACK SHIT about G.W. and our voters.

Scale: 17

There are eight other candidates, among which you'll find farmers, ecologists, etc. But they only make up about 5% of the votes so they're nowhere close to these top four. The general feeling is really difficult to read here. I'm pretty sure that everyone feels like things are going to get worse for foreign students and immigrants, no matter what happens. This is a shame because HEY FRANCE, GUESS WHAT, YOU HAD A LOT OF COLONIES AND NOW ALL THOSE PEOPLE WANT TO PROSPER TOO. Despite the feeling of overwhelming doom, it is a really cool time to be living in France and it all just goes to show that no one is ever truly happy with their politicians.

I'm off to ask if I can help count the votes in my district. They need volunteers, though I'm pretty sure that my passport is going to exclude me from any kind of vote-counting. At least I'm not from Florida...


Violence in Virginia

I followed the awful situation at Virginia tech all day Monday, updating my Internet browser often while I was working on GM'07 to see if they got the killer, to see who it was. And it's true that I was glad to have the media outlets on the Internet as a resource; since the ex moved out and took the cable cord with him, I haven't been able to watch TV, so I'm obliged to the old Internet for all my news.

This morning I checked several news sites, as I normally do when I wake up, and watched a few videos on CNN. The shit really made my stomach turn, and by that, I'm not referring to the tragedy (which was obviously horrible and unbelievable), but by the way the so-called journalists were SO. OBVIOUSLY. BIASED. Wolf Blitzer and Paula Zahn, among other assholes, kept trying to make this a black and white story. The reporter who interviewed the killer's roommates would have been thrown out of court with the leading questions he was asking. It was clear to me that the killer was a loner-type of kid, who had many social and psychological issues- but you cannot say something like "Blah blah never mentioned his roommate's problems to his family; being the good son he is, he didn't want to worry them." Why throw in "the good son he is"? How is this at all relevant to understanding the story? And how could you have graduated from a journalism program with this kind of story painting?

It was slimy to watch them label people heroes for doing their jobs (i.e. English teacher reporting the killer's writings to the counseling center). I understand people are grieving and I'll say it again: what happened Monday was something that should never have happened and it's awful that it wasn't prevented. But you can't start making a journalistic fairytale like this; you can't label people good guys and bad guys- because the world isn't like that, as much as George W. and the media like to pretend it is.

My thoughts are with those who lost friends and family members Monday. I don't personally know anyone affected (at least not that I've heard of yet). And I'd like to know more about the situation, as anyone would. But boy, has our media lost my entire confidence in its ability to professionally report the news.

Feel free to leave comments about sources of good, unbiased news that you've found and appreciate.


So anyway...

Erica blew in from Boston like a hurricane full of Easter peeps, good new music, and a willing suspension of disbelief that nothing is more important than talking about everything. This is my favorite thing about Erica and the reason why inefficiency has a field day whenever we hang out; there's no sense fighting it, we're just going to sit around and talk until the moment we go to sleep and then again from the moment we wake up. It's one long, continuous conversation. I'm pretty sure that the first thing one of us said this morning upon waking up was "it's just that..." which was of course referring to something we'd said 12 hours earlier. Sleep is no match for the important life-dissecting things we have to say to each other.

As it turns out, neither is a thesis.

What is not helping is the EIGHTY DEGREE weather we're having here in Paris. My desire to analyse texts while chained to my computer is only slightly less than my desire to embrace a new career with the idiots at France Telecom. I am hoping that I'll have more time to update things here in FOL-land, but I promise at least some pix of this B.E.A.U.T.I.F.U.L. spring city.



Cough. I'm so cough sorry that cough cough I have been cough cough cough shit cough about posting cough lately. Cough cough. I've been cough trying to figure cough out how to cough speak cough cough without cough cough coughing. Cough I sound like cough cough I have cough the black cough lung cough.

Now I went and typed that so much it really looks misspelled.


Five recent Google searches that indicate my domestic handicaps, a cry for academic help, and a way out of it all

-Do I have a fever?
-Deviled egg recipe (followed immediately by:)
-How to boil an egg
-MLA citing help
-Visa requirements to visit Turkey


Finally, a use for the bathroom in which I froze my ass off all winter...

My Paris apartment is beginning to feel like one of those high altitude places that necessitate separate cooking directions on cake boxes. This afternoon I quickly whipped up some American boxed cake, poured it in my French Pyrex-like dish, and stuck it in the obscure box that is used to warm things in my kitchen. My old oven broke in January and the landlord replaced it with a new, incredibly powerful, can cook a pumpkin pie in 15 minutes, machine. Boxed cake should take 33-36 minutes to bake and this afternoon? THIRTEEN MINUTES, BABY.

Let it be known that I was skeptical of the quality of this heat; I stuck my knife in it a hundred times to find where the uncooked batter lay... "you can't have just cooked this cake in less than half the time!" I said out loud to the Whirlpool magic. And so I stuck it back in for another two minutes because I wanted to reassure myself that I wouldn't be serving anyone raw eggs cooked no longer than an extended commercial-break. After about a minute and a half, the cake OPENED FROM WITHIN and proclaimed its done-ness.

I then moved it to the icy bathroom, which is finally serving its purpose as a larger, oddly-shaped refrigerator where I do things like cool cakes and chill champagne.

Questionable? Or just real damn smart?


Difficult to guess how many science degrees they have between them, what with the going to church ALL WEEKEND

Steve: I'm going to the dead service tonight.
Me: What? Who died?
S: You know, Jesus.
M: Oh man, I forgot about that one. Mom told me that you guys are going to the 6:30am service on Easter too.
S: Yeah, I have to plan my whole vacation around that thing! Go to bed early on Saturday night, see the friends earlier, do work earlier, tired on Sunday.
M: That's why I stay out of the country for things like this. I told Mom, if you guys want me back for Easter, you're going to have to let go of anything happening at 6:30am. You know, God wants me to have my sleep.


Paris Newsletter: Month Seven

Dear Paris,

This month you decided to bring on some serious Dickens' weather. It was the best of times and the worst of times for March; long stretches of gray, rainy coldness were interrupted by short afternoons of sunshine and 70-degree delightfulness. During one of these particularly cold and rainy days, I passed by Monceau Fleurs, as I do everyday and saw that they were blowing bubbles with machines. I paused on the corner and watched as grumpy businessmen smiled when they realized what was falling down around them and kids in strollers reached their arms high into the air.

It reminded me of a day a few weeks ago when the South American was sitting at the kitchen table while I did the dishes. I squeezed the dish soap and a bubble came out and floated across the counter towards him. We spent the next 10 minutes speaking in hushed voices, not letting that bubble hit the ground, jumping over the couch to create wind, using hand motions and blowing in different directions to keep it high enough but not too high. It finally fell behind the armchair and popped but it makes me smile to think about two adults running around a fairly small space, all in the hopes of keeping one bubble alive.

Erica came to visit last week and I took a bus to meet her at the library one afternoon. I'm sort of into buses lately, especially when it's nice outside; you really feel better when you're not spending your commuting time underground. This particular bus passed from the south of Paris to the north and went by Notre Dame, Chatelet, and the heart of the city. The sun was out and Notre Dame was just doing her thing as usual, and I was struck by how life has grown around these old monuments, how so many people have been born and have died since Notre Dame was built. "I'm SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO lucky to live here," I thought to myself. This feeling hits me everytime someone from my pre-Parisian life visits and so I suppose that the number of visitors this month could have something to do with my current status of "IN LOOOVE" with the city (why am I always sitting on the left?!?):

I had a party for St. Patrick's day and at a certain point in the evening, I stood back and quietly watched what was going on around me. I realized that I didn't know any of these people a year ago (other than Yacoub ...) and the reality of having friends and not being alone on a Saturday night filled me with such a feeling of peace. There was a point a few months ago when I didn't think I could achieve that here, that I imagined myself going home in June with a somewhat negative memory of Paris and the people who live here. This has been overcome.

I'm still struggling with GM'07, but it's going to get there by May 4. There have been more than one night spent tearfully writing something that I wasn't proud of just to hand it in on deadline, but now that my classes are basically over, the next month stretches out ahead of me like a comforting amount of time to clean everything up. Others have written their theses before I have, and with a little help, I'm going to get there too.