GM'07. Mission completed.

Hello my name is JenMA. I can now officially add those letters to the dusty old CV.

Some random notes from today:

1. I could not believe how much hair was in my apartment while I was cleaning today. Is this disgusting for you to read? It sort of was to clean too. I almost called Locks of Love and told them to roll over here to create their fall collection. This is what you get after having 6 female guests in 3 weeks. I am thinking of inviting only bald people to stay from now on.

2. I watched Keeping the Faith tonight, which always makes me want to be Jewish. Seriously. If Ben Stiller was a rabbi in real life, I'd be doing shabat every Friday. What's that? You haven't seen that movie? Well I guess you know what your weekend project is.

3. I have no pix from last night's pub night, though I wish I did, especially of the time when I thought Maddy went to the bathroom and she called from McDonald's to ask if we wanted ice cream. The image of her scooping up her strawberry sundae while the rest of us were guzzling cider was one for the books.


Time Travel

I just finished going through my notes and folders from every class I've had since last July when I started this program with Middlebury and I feel totally overwhelmed by everything I've learned and accomplished in the past 12 months. I don't know exactly who reads this blog, but for anyone considering a M.A. in French, this program has been an incredible experience, both stateside and abroad.

A whole stack of paper is now crammed in bags to be recycled, pages that each had their 15 minutes of fame. Corrected versions of my thesis which I remember clutching and carrying around Paris with me are no longer useful and so they go into the bin with scraps of ESL vocabulary exercises and old shopping lists.

The photocopies handed out in Vermont last summer seem short and fat compared to the sleek A4 pages that I've become used to. Reminds me of that time at the end of freshman year of college when I was packing to go home and found a whole bunch of palazzo pants, which (let's be honest) were never that good of an idea to begin with. "Who was I??" I remember thinking, though now looking back, I believe I was wearing jean overalls at the moment of palazzo judgement. Do we ever attain a level of fashion that doesn't seem utterly embarrassing 5 years later? Maybe that's the name of the game.

We're going out tonight to say bon voyage to lots of friends, so I'll try to post pix tomorrow. And the long-awaited Goldfest and the Sunshine Band '07 stories are coming up later this week too... stay tuned.


More Figuring

I walked through Parc Monceau on the way home tonight; it was nearly 10pm and it was still light out. I don't have much time left in Paris before I head back to New York and sometimes that hits me in this crushing way and I can't breathe and I can't remember why I wouldn't want to spend every one of the summer evenings by the Seine or in a park or walking amongst the beautiful buildings that live here. Because despite everything that I miss back home, this feels so right sometimes.

There are many things I have to work through this summer though, things that can only be thought about and decided outside the pressures of a full-time work schedule. I feel confused about my future again but instead of immediately imagining a possible plan, I'm forcing myself to stay in the uncomfortable space of uncertainty. It's funny how habits become dictations and I'm at a point that my habitual plan-making is starting to feel like it's preventing me from growing. I guess that's when you know it's time to try something new.


Sergeant Sarko

Ah, irony. My last post started with a declaration of un-deadness and then I go and disappear for a week. Don't be offended though; I haven't been communicating with anyone. My mom wrote me an email last night making sure I was still alive and hadn't moved to Belgium without telling her or something equally unfair to a mother. Goldfest and the Sunshine Band '07 trickled out of Paris between last night and 5:15am this morning. I can't even start to climb the retelling mountain of how great the past four days were with them, so that will have to wait until I have more than a nap in me.

But I will leave you with this in-cred-ible photo I just found on the IHT. I think it really blurs the line between president and California police detective who just received a call from the president. Those sunglasses do it all.


The Motorcycle Diaries

Hey! I'm not dead!

Last night's moto ride through the city threatened to change my status from living to dead, which would have been really a big let-down I think for all involved. Luckily, there was no death, only terrified holding on and thinking to myself at every red light "KEEP YOUR SHIT TOGETHER, WE MADE IT TO ANOTHER LIGHT."

I was mildly concerned with a variety of moto-related things before the actual voyage happened, like where do you put your hands (ie. how do you not grab someone's crotch as you're riding on his moto with him?) and where do you put your bag (ie. shouldn't there be a trunk installed or something equally useful?). Needless to say, there was no crotch grabbing because my hands were as good as nailed to the dashboard with tiny invisible nails made out of fear. The notion of resting your head on someone's shoulder is also impossible (for those of you who spend your nights dreaming of becoming Amelie) because your HEAVY AND CLUMSY HELMET gets in the way. Also, any dreams of seeing Paris by night sort of went out the window when I forgot to put down my face shield and wind scorched my eyeballs all the way up Blvd des Malesherbes.

I can't wait to do it again.


All Quiet on the Western Front

So we're on this quest last night to find the film Paris je t'aime because Kate decides it's the thing she MUST do before leaving the city. We scour the 17th and 8th districts for hours, trying to find a store or a machine that has the freakin' film. In the meantime, we order pizza at Pizza Hut and march on towards other movie stores while we wait for the fine PH chefs to cook our cheesy lard.

At a certain point, I say to Kate "ok, if it's not at the next one, let's just go home and watch something else." And fate must have heard that one- but not only fate. Embarrassment on a god-like level also must have heard that one because what happened next was basically the most embarrassing moment that I've had in a good ten years.

We approach the video store; I try to pull the left door handle open and it's not budging. I kind of fight with it a little (because WE MUST CONQUER THIS MOVIE RENTAL PLACE LIKE THE OTHERS!) and realize that it's locked. So instinctively, I reach my right hand up to push open the right door and sort of fall into the video store. I suddenly realize that I have just mimed opening the right-hand door because IT WAS ALREADY OPEN. So now I'm standing there with my hand up as if I'm supposed to be pushing the door and I look up to see the rental guy AND a customer looking directly at me, watching this scene, obviously wondering simultaneously "what is that girl ON?"

We laughed about that for hours.

I put Kate on the bus to the airport a few hours ago and am now trying to do a massive cleaning session with the apartment because it looks like vandals broke into the place, made a feast and left dirty dishes everywhere, then decorated with huge piles of trash. I'm so tired that I can barely sit up straight and yet tonight I'm going on a date with someone who is picking me up on his moto. Having never ridden on a moto before, I am unsure as to the dress code (skirts not allowed, I presume??) and I'm a bit concerned about falling asleep on that thing, though I know that fear of seeing my brains squashed on the place de la Concord will probably keep me awake on the way to the restaurant.

Also, getting four friends from two countries and a variety of airports (including Beauvais! who doesn't hate Beauvais!?!) to my apartment on Tuesday is proving to be more difficult than lining up allied forces for D-Day. Churchill may have had his challenges with building a port overnight, but he didn't have to organize hairdryers and adapters for four New Yorkers storming into Paris by land and sea.


Ensemble avec Guillaume Canet, c'est tout

We left Mom off at the airport shuttle this morning and tonight Kate and I hit the Champs-Elysee for shopping and a French movie. I have to admit that I'm not good with names of actors or directors and so when I saw the name "Guillaume Canet" on the screen after the film was over, it didn't ring any bells. However, one thing became clear while watching Ensemble c'est tout- Guillaume Canet can ring MY bell any freakin time he wants to because he. is. hot.

Turns out, Guillaume also did a couple of little projects you may have heard of, like DIRECTED Ne le dis a personne and starred in Jeu d'Enfants, which featured that other actress that basically became Edith Piaf in La Mome. As my sister put it, Guillaume Canet is like a French Ben Covington in the hot bad-boy moody sense, except he's all grown up and matured. Plus, he's a chef in this movie, and ladies- who doesn't want him cooking your dinner?



I bet you can't guess what that number is so I'll tell you. It's the NUMBER OF MILES WE WALKED TODAY. My Mom brought a pedometer with her to Paris and so after pouring cheese into our mouths for dinner, we walked our asses home for an hour and a half across the city.

My body doesn't know how to respond to this EXTREME calorie/exercise combination; all I can say is I'm going to need to be put in a freaking full-body cast by the time the weekend rolls around if this pace continues.


Pimping a Mercedes in Normandy

We decided to rent a car and go on a little trip to Normandy this past weekend, and by that I mean rent a Mercedes and drive for about 1000 km. The Mercedes part was not my choice- if I'd had my way, the rental car woman would have given me an old Ford tempo with a broken back door like I used to have, because I was pretty nervous about taking on France by road. I have become quite the city girl in the past 9 months and the thought of driving around ROUND POINTS and driving the highways in KM and not MILES freaked me out a little.

Picking the car up went fine and I was driving through Paris to get back to my apartment to pick the girls up when I somehow ended up on a street from which it was NOT possible to make a left. I'd missed the Rue de Rivoli and was headed north, convinced that I wouldn't be able to go left until I hit Brussels, when Reamur-Sebastopol swooped in and saved the day. We piled in and drove up to the Normandy coast, stopping at the D-Day beaches, Mont St. Michel, and the Bayeux Tapestry, paying French highway tolls all along the way.

The only other glitch to the weekend was the fact that I seem to be going blind. We had only gone about 15km when I realized that I have to squint to see the signs in the distance. This is very upsetting news for me because I have always prided myself on being the only one in our family who doesn't need lenses to distinguish shadows and now I am just like everyone else. I can't help but think that getting glasses this summer is only the first step in an aging process that begins with the eyes in July and ends with having a hip replacement before coming back to France at the end of August.

On our way back to Paris, we stopped in Rouen for lunch. I can honestly say that I don't know why everyone on the face of the planet isn't falling over themselves to move to this city. We loved it, so much so that Kate mentioned wanting to live in France after her 2 1/2-year stint in Togo and that was a fun moment during lunch because my Mom's eyes almost fell out of their sockets and into her big salad as she said "WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO START YOUR LIFE???"

We've got a couple more days together before they go back to their respective continents and then I've got a two-day break before Goldfest and the Sunshine Band '07 bust in. And June just keeps on rollin...


Crashing of the plates!

Me: Yeah, so we've been having a great time and we went to a nice little restaurant last night in the Marais.
Student: Oh! I know a restaurant that is very interesting. It is a crazy. Go in the Latin Quarter and then you find some Greek restaurants. One has a name, Les Argonauts. Go there and it is very interesting.
Me: Really? What is it like?
Student: The man who brings of the food, he is very crazy. He is singing and dancing and crashing the (makes a hand motion)...
Me: Plates?
Student: Yes, he is crashing of the plates on the floor to be crazy. And if you want to dance, it's no problem. The man will take the table napkin and you can dance on the table with the man too.
Me: Wow, that sounds pretty intense!
Student: Yes, it is very interesting. I think your mother and sister will like it very much. The crashing of the plates is the best!


Linguistic progress and grr... ROWERS

At la Poste, changing traveller's checks, after translating between them for 10 minutes...

Fonctionnaire (to Mom): Can you please make a signature here?
(Mom signs the checks, he forks over the value for the sad excuse of an exchange rate)
Fonctionnaire (to me): Does your mother speak French?
Me: Er..


Watching a rowing team practice on the Grand Canal at Versailles this afternoon...

Kate: Oh, that guy is RIPPED.
Me: Um, he's like 15 years old.
Kate: No, he's the coach. Look at that outfit! Don't you think he looks good?
Me: That thing is so tight; one might politely suggest the need for a cup. He looks like an Olympic figure skater. Seriously, that's Brian Boitano.


Take THAT, GM'07!

Today was the big Defending Of The Thesis day and all in all, it went ok. By that I mean that I almost sounded like I had control of my voice and somehow managed to respond to a question that took a lit professor TWENTY-FIVE minutes to ask. I'm not saying that I had a good answer, I'm just saying that a few syllables came out of my mouth and I did not drool in response, which is sort of what my brain wanted me to do. I also did not stand up and give him the finger, which is another suggestion that my brain came up with. I'm pretty proud of that.

After that ordeal was over, I headed over to the old English-teaching homestead to meet with my boss and to ask him if he would not only take me back as a teacher next year, but also convince him to let me go home for 6 weeks this summer. This has kind of a been a key concern of mine, you know, the whole earning something in a post-M.A. life. Luckily for me, he was happy to ask me back and told me to take 8 weeks vacation instead of 6! How French is that!?! So now I'll be home for two whole months, 8 glorious weeks of eating watermelon and cooking on the grill and playing with the cats and doing the lists of chores my Dad writes for me to keep me in shape for society.

On second thought...


Paris Newsletter: Month Nine

Dear Paris,

My sister Katie arrived yesterday from Togo to spend the next two weeks hanging around Paris and doing things like using electricity and running water. We went on a long walk last night across the city and I made it a point to take her a certain route to get the best glimpses of everything. There is no thrill like showing something you love to someone you love. Every time she said "oh. my god. it's so beautiful here" I felt immense pride, as though I'd constructed the whole city myself, laid every stone for Notre Dame and organized the long line of impressive monuments that stretch from the Arch de Triomphe to the Louvre. I usually feel lucky to live here, but I feel that most when I have the opportunity to share that with someone else.

May was a strange month in France because the weather blew and we were on vacation at least once a week for bank holidays. This meant that I had a bit more free time, yet was caged in my apartment more often than not. I did a lot of lounging and watching Seinfeld seasons 1-5, but also did quite a bit of fruit-shopping at the African market at Chateau Rouge. I did this last weekend with Angela, Blythe and Kathryn, and we came back to my place and made fruit salad afterwards. There is nothing like fruit salad on a rainy Saturday afternoon.

My trip to Ireland was killer in the seeing old friends department and got me thinking a lot about growing and changing as a person. It seems as though my trips to Ireland serve as bench marks and when I think back to the last time I was there or the time before that, it's almost difficult to recognize that girl. I certainly don't have everything worked out in terms of what's ahead for me, but it does feel damn good to know that, despite the emotional flailing and falling, I'm different today than I was a year ago.

A couple of my students told me about an auction house called Drouhot in the center of Paris (and incidentally, not far from one of the places I teach) so last Thursday I wandered in to check things out. I couldn't believe what was being sold at this place: Egyptian bracelets from before J.C., 16th century desks, old paintings, and beautiful old jewelry. At one point, I was watching an auction happen in one of the rooms where they were selling the jewelry. I was leaning against the back wall when I had an itch on my ear and almost went insane not itching it, for fear that I would end up giving the signal for "yes, I'll take that pearl broach for 5,000 euros and here's my credit card to pay for it."

The end of May also marks the 1-year anniversary of this blog. I specifically remember trying to decide how to start such a project. But things have been rolling and I promise that I'll get around to fixing the header that's way too short on the right hand side (thanks for being polite and not saying anything, but I sort of cringe every time I see it and think MENTAL NOTE: FIX THE SHIT AT THE TOP OF YOUR PAGE SO YOU DON'T LOOK LIKE A DESIGN FOOL). So here's to a new header coming up shortly and another year of blogging from Paris- or wherever things take me.