Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Time To Pretend.

Although it's a description I have tried to fight off my whole life, I think it's safe to say that here in Paris, I am straight up spoiled.

I was initially upset that I had to abandon my romantic idea of living in a single apartment in Paris and choose the homestay option instead. But then I had to use the same logic I use for most things here and question- when else in my life would I be able to live with a French family with both luxury and ease?

Still, the first few days were tough. The language barrier was a bit thicker than I anticipated, and my normal social life routine had to be very different. With about 25 students in my program and only four living in the dorms, meeting up before doing anything can be annoying. But really, I have another year waiting for me back in Madison of house parties and just bumming around the apartment with my roommates.

So I stopped feeling sorry for myself and started to actually see what I get to come home to every night. I live with a posh, older woman (who has sexier brown boots than I do) in a very classic, beautiful apartment supplied with antique pieces and six bedrooms and my own little fireplace and my own huge armoire (where I can store all my unsexy boots.)

I gave my "Madame" a photo book of Chicago and two UW mugs. The first night we went through the entire book together and she was so impressed by the skyline (my heart strings were pulled, twisted, and snapped right off.) She asked how many floors were in the Sears Tower, and I didn't know, but I looked online and tried to bring it up the next day at breakfast. I thought my French was somewhat coherent considering I translated every word ahead of time. But after I said, "I researched on the Internet and found out that the Sears Tower has 108 stories," she replied with, "Oh wow! Did this happen today?"

But my Madame is a great lady with five kids (all moved out) and sixteen grandkids. She won't let me put dishes in the dishwasher, and there's even a cleaning lady who comes once a week (don't you dare judge my abroad life.) My Madame's son and his two kids were over one night, and I loved them. Well I actually hardly interacted with them, but they could piece together my broken French, so I wish they were around more.

I live walking distance from the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Elysees. I pass a market on my way to the Metro in the mornings, and today I will hopefully (but doubtfully) venture on my first Parisian jog down Avenue Foch.

In case you are rolling your eyes at this post, remember that I am not bragging about my life, because this is not actually my life.

And to be honest, the best part of it all is having the company of someone who, before I leave, will always wish me a bonne journée.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Lost Girls.

I am a bad person and here's why.

As mentioned in my previous post, I came to France with preconceived notions of being surrounded by Parisian beauties. And fine, I wasn't entirely wrong.

It is not unusual to see a tall, thin woman with a beautiful haircut and dangerously high-heeled boots walking hand-in-hand with a taller, thinner man with a more beautiful haircut and a complementing outfit. I, however, am walking hand-in-hand with my over-sized map of Paris while trying to push through some not-so-automatic doors I had mistaken for the Metro exit.

But after figuring out exactly which underground path to take, my alone time on the Metro has become a favorite daily activity. Most of the time I have to put in my headphones once French eavesdropping starts to make my head spin. But fortunately for me, you can people watch in any language.

On my way home around midnight the other night, a Parisian girl who fit my previous general description got on to my car. All of her hair was pulled up into her hat making her look even more model-chic. I stopped staring so that she wouldn't catch the American envy in my eye. But a couple minutes later she caught my attention again for a different reason. Get this... she was completely bent over in her seat, head between her designer boots, puking into a plastic bag.


I didn't think it was possible!! I thought public hurling was reserved for college campus game days, not for a city where people don't even spill crumbs from their baguettes. But man did it feel great to be wrong.

During the whole performance I was nudging elbows with the old French man sitting next to me, chuckling as he offered her "un autre sac."

So maybe delighting in the misery of the flawless makes me a bad person. But after a week of stumbling French phrases and wrong, very, very wrong turns, I earned this one.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Now At Last

Paris, for a while, seemed to be a make believe fairy land. Everywhere I looked eager couples and independent women were planning their extravagant escape to Paris to start a new life of glamor and love. But without fail, no one ever seems to make it that far.

Well, this girl did, suckaaaas.

No Ross Gellars or Mr. Bigs or Laguna Jasons or unexpected suburban fetuses or revelations of transexuality could keep J.Hindi behind. (If you understand all of these references... I am embarrassed for/love you.)

Anyway, let's get out of the 2D world.

I am a girl who really tries to not hold expectations of the unknown for fear of being disappointed. But when you're at home for an extra month waiting to go abroad, it's hard not to daydream.

I expected Paris' population to be exclusively tall, thin and beautiful people who look like they just came out of some hipster photoblogger site.
I expected Parisians and their babies to be clad in horizontal stripes, scarves and looks of disdain.
I expected to get spit on by every waiter, cashier and passerby.
And I expected to think the Eiffel Tower was over hyped.

Lucky for me, I was wrong on all accounts.

Instead, I see a mix of people like any other ginormous city. People are young, old, black, white, circle, square, etc. My waiter was jumpy and jovial and the man at the cell phone store gave me a discount and even remembered my name when I went in the next day with some friends... "Iiiindi! Ca va!?!"

And the tourist trap?

Well first off, I didn't spot the Tour d'Eiffel until about 35 hours after I landed. (Yeah, only I could lose the Eiffel Tower in Paris.) I was in the back of the cab driving from my student center to my new homestay. For some reason, the sight of it made me so absolutely excited and emotional. If it weren't for the scary roundabout intersection we were driving on, I probably would've grabbed my cab driver by the shoulders and girlishly shrieked, "Oh my Gaaad it's Paaaa-ris, Monsieur Cabby! It's so pretty eeek! I luff ittt!" And I was just seeing it through awkward angles out a taxi window, so I can kind of understand why a thousand billion tourists get giddy and take leaping pictures in front of it.

Okay well, I've rambled on more than I swore I ever would on a silly blog. So I'll just leave you with my two favorite parts of my homestay thus far.

1- I have a sink and mirror in my room sectioned off, so I don't need to be worried about obsessing about my curly hair or dragging my lazy ass to the bathroom to brush my teeth.

2- Every morning on my walk to the Metro, I get to just stare at the Arc de Triomphe.

I think I can live with that.