Sunday, March 7, 2010

Everybody (Backstreet's Back)

That's right.

It has been over a year since the first real post on this blog. This little Haricot Parisien was ready to change her life and move to an unfamiliar city with a loose grasp of the language and barely no known acquaintances. Those five months of my life were just ripe with material.

And now? Now I am a part-time student whose last week of class consisted of watching George Clooney movies and meeting the editor of Madison Magazine. My only indication of this semester's midterm season is from the seething glares of my library-captive friends.

So in between taking notes on media ethics and rewriting cover letters, I thought I'd spark the ol' blog back up. Minus the presence of the Madame and Metro-riders, I expect these posts to follow the style of the former-- silly anecdotes of my life interspersed with happenings of the beloved Madison, Wisconsin.

Party on, Garth!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Bye Bye Bye: The Epilogue.

If you have ever been to my house in Court 3, then you've probably been sufficiently weirded out by Abu Sayyah, the taxidermi rooster that sits in our kitchen. His feathers are real but the eyeballs are not.

Most people can't make eye contact with him anyway.

So this rooster is a Mothers' Day gift from my brother that sort of mocks my mom's strange love for buying rooster-themed objects for the kitchen. Well it turns out that 100 years ago (kidding Mommm) back in the Middle East, a beautiful little rooster centerpiece used to adorn the coffee table in my grandmother's house. Just recently this decor made its way through the Syrian customs right to Oak Brook, Illinois.

I have to admit that the little centerpiece is quite charming. But I mean it's a rooster...

But through all the teasing from my brothers and me, my wise mother just smiles and says, "It's not the thing, it's what it means."

I'm the girl who saves every ticket stub, receipts from fun meals, notes from the 6th grade clique, and I forcefully believe in the importance of signing yearbooks. So it would only be hypocritical of me to knock clinging on to an object for its sentimental value.

When my mom was in Paris, I tried my best to show her a combination of my "regular" spots and new sites. I took her to get falafel from the Marais and eat it in the Place des Vosges- a routine well-known by any and every American student in Paris.

During this meal I realized a harsh reality: The falafel from the Marais isn't that good. (I'm not even going to pretend to be humble on this topic. The best falafel I had was in Damascus from a stand outside my uncle's apartment. Yeah. I said it.) But why I love L'As du Falafel so much is because it reminds me of our first tasting after a less-than-enthusiastic tour of Musee Carnavalet or stopping for the sandwich in between class and thrifting through Paris' best.

On that same note, Shakespeare and Co. might not be the most extensive bookstore in Paris. Regardless, I find myself constantly praising it because it brings me back to my favorite day when I walked across the city at the height of spring and ended up bumping into two of my best friends from the program after browsing the books.

The Arc de Triomphe was the last stop on my walk home and the Seine became our hangout when every other option was out of our Euro-range. I couldn't tell you the name of the opera I saw, but I remember in full detail sitting on the steps with the classiest Parisians (if classy = homeless) after the show.

I do miss Paris, but in reality I know if I were to go back tomorrow it wouldn't be the same city to me. I understand that the city can still run without Jenna Hindi (I mean it's probably way boring but whatev) but my semester is over. And I'm okay with that.

After three weeks of seeing my friends and family in non-Skype land and listening to trashy Chicago stations in the car and using dollar bills and telling jokes to waiters (just cuz I can) and being lazy by the pool, I can't help but be excited to be home.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Sweet Home Chicago.

I ordered a Coke on the plane because Dana ordered a Coke on her plane because I was craving one back in January.

And then I had coffee and then landed and saw my brother and then ran up and down the stairs in my house laughing like a crazy woman. I ate Haribo in my kitchen and belly flopped onto my bed. I talked to friends on the phone who are in my time zone and sent texts to friends from my beloved mint green phone and got instant responses.

I even get to see the beautiful faces of my girls (with no pixels distorting them or time differences cutting us off) but not before I enjoy a classy meal of take-out Thai food with the Hindi's.

Reverse culture shock shmeverse culture shock. The customs line smelled like shampoo and deodorant, and the only thing that's brought me down all day is getting Chris McKim's voicemail recording. (Fix it, Chris, fix it!)

I woke up in Paris this morning, but now it is over as is this silly blog.

This hyperactive bubbly note is a horrible one to end on, however, so check back for the epilogue.

Now if you'll excuse me I must go shower with two free hands.

Come on, baby don't you wanna goooo... back to that same ol' place...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Here Comes The Sun.

"Well, Inshallah, next time you come, you will stay for a longer time."

You said it, cabby.

On the way to the Casablanca Airport on Sunday night, I spilled my heart in broken Arabic to my cab driver about how our short weekend in Morocco just did not suffice.

From take off to landing I was waiting for the inevitable Weekend Disaster. Maybe I would lose my wallet (too easy) or get heat stroke in the Moroccan sun or accidentally poison myself by eating raw veggies. My paranoia was unwarranted because now, back safe and sound in Paris, I can say that besides stubbing my toe on a rock in the Sahara Desert, everything was perfect.

Along with some spiffy souvenirs (that I used my inherent Syrian bartering skills to purchase.. I have found my calling) I managed to pick up a Berber husband. I caught a glimpse of the life of a nomad and instantly decided it really wouldn't be the worst thing in the world to ditch my French literature papers for some mint tea and tajine dinners. Our charming tour guide Yusef never faultered in enthusiasm and always led us to deliciously delicious lunches. Throughout our tour he kept teasing me about being his Palestinian wife... poor guy has no idea how seriously I am taking him.

I kid I kid.. but between camel rides, authentic hammams, freshly squeezed orange juice, mountain views, a desert sunrise and rooftop terrace hookahs, it was the first time all semester that I left Paris and didn't want to go back at the end of the trip. The hostel we stayed at in Marrakech had free hookah and tea and the friendliest staff I've ever met. Saying goodbye to them (along with Tour Guide Yusef who semi-lives in that hostel) on Sunday morning gave me the same pit-in-the-stomach/lump-in-the-throat feeling I get when saying bye to my family.

Maybe it was because we spent a third of our time in transit, but leaving Morocco felt like having an iPod run out of battery a minute into your favorite song. I can't complain because it's just another one of those study abroad problems that isn't really a problem. We checked off quite a few boxes from our Life To Do List and flew home before anything could sour our trip.

Mm, I realize that this entry doesn't dive into much detail, but I've got plenty swimming around in my mind. So in two weeks when I see you in person, ask me about Morocco. If you're lucky I'll post some pictures.

But for now the next step is my big final exam- showing Salwa Hindi what's good in this glitzy City of Lights.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)

For the full effect of this blog entry, listen to the audio clip here.

This American Life produced a show last January that featured The Most Unwanted Song on its show "Numbers." This song was created from a poll evaluating everyone's least favorite elements in music including, but not limited to, bagpipes, holidays and cowboys.

The song was amusing and cute at the time, but when a far too similar melody kept me up in the mornings this past weekend in Marseille, that charm was lost. At one point, for no clear reason, opera music played at the same time as unrecognizable hip hop right outside our hostel room window. The previous morning the most obnoxious children in the EU were released next door where they engaged in a screaming contest.

I mean, what is the deal? I expected the sounds of crashing waves along the Mediterranean coast to be the most invasive sounds I heard, not the chanting of devil children.

Regardless, the unfavorable window orchestra was only the grain of salt to a pretty spectacular weekend in the south of France.

For an inexplicable reason, port cities always seem to win my heart. And when you fill those port cities with French and Arab infused culture, you've got a pretty happy Jenna Bean. It was disorienting, in the best way possible, to be in a city that was so close, yet so far, from Paris. Street signs looked the same and the French language dominated, but the people and atmosphere hardly felt like Europe at all. Everywhere we went people were excited to hear the story of our semester. They spoke in French to us, slowly and patiently, and seemed genuinely eager to help us in our touristy quests.

You can only imagine the warm hospitality I received when I played the Palestinian card to the Algerian and Egyptian citizens of Marseille. I spoke more Arabic this weekend than I do at a typical wedding in Syria, and I loved it.

Every time I have gone on a weekend travel, I always return to Paris completely content with my study abroad decision. This trip wasn't any different, but it did open my eyes to certain elements Paris lacks. We walked through a non-touristy neighborhood that was completely covered in narrow streets, crowded buildings and colorful shutters. Kids played soccer and skateboarded in the streets and women hung laundry outside the windows. Imagining living with a family on one of these streets broke my heart, only a little bit, because I am more than positive that it would have been the extra warm, extra inviting host family I don't completely have here in Paris.

But after a money-saving walk to the apartment across the Bastille, Louvre, Concorde, Champs-Elysees and Arc de Triomphe, I won't even pretend to complain to be back "home".

PS - Courtesy of Miss Pastor, here is a glimpse of street life in Aix en Provence we were lucky enough to catch.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Oh Happy Days.

I have the greatest mother in the world.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Everything Is Alright.

You know you're having an okay day in Paris when you're whistling along with the waiters at your study cafe to the background music of Mr. Andrew Bird. The next song was Heartbeats.

And it's a good day when you buy the perfect fitting vintage shirt for five euro less than you expected to pay.

I celebrated the first day of June by picnicking with a long-term friend and watching the tan lines around my rings deepen.

I officially have one month left, which in abroad time equals five minutes, so I better get back to work.