Wednesday, January 17, 2007

I’ll never be a true Parisian because I don’t make out in the metro and other stories…

Since I’ve arrived in Paris, I have spent a good 25% of my life riding the metro. And, I know that Paris is the city of love and all that gushy stuff, but I find it hard to believe that anything about the metro, even the Indian guy singing “killing me softly” on his karaoke machine in broken English, is even remotely arousing. Every metro station smells like urine with a side of eau de homeless person. Sometimes, you think you’ve gotten used to the smell and then you get smacked in the face with that extra fresh batch of stank, just as you round the corner. There are also the hairball tumbleweeds and various garbage floating around to add to the ambiance. Anyways, you get the idea, not exactly romantic. However, this does not seem to deter hundreds of people from full on sucking face in the middle of the metro. I usually try to ignore it, but today I was absolutely fascinated.
Picture this, you’re crammed into a small train with about 40 other people, everyone is standing up because there’s no room and you next to you, an extremely unattractive Australian couple. The man is heavy-set, he has a big, bushy, black uni-brow, and a gigantic, has its own zip code size mole on his chin. The woman is also overweight, has bad skin and she has her hair done in clumps of small braids like she went to Jamaica a month ago, got one of the locals to braid her hair, and then didn’t wash it for three or four weeks. Then, all of the sudden, right next to you, dirty braids and the uni-brow mole man start going at it. You can’t turn away from this train wreck, even if you wanted to, because there’s no room. You actually try to turn away, but then you can still see them making out in the reflection on the train window. This goes on for a good 20 minutes, complete with breaks for the whispering of sweet nothings. Welcome to the city of love.

In other news, I finally started my short bus (ie: beginner’s) French class. It is actually doable and I can understand most of what’s going on. IT’S A MIRACLE. It’s like God smiled down upon me and blessed me with grammar and pronunciation lessons. Rest assured that it is still taught entirely in French, much to the dismay of my four classmates who have never had any French before. But, everyone is doing really well and at least trying to speak. Hooray for verb conjugation. Today, we learned about the rooms of a house and some French geography. So, now I won’t tell anyone else that I live in the street. I can’t wait until I can speak in the past tense. It’s going to be awesome. Unfortunately, we still have marketing, negotiation and sociology of the organization classes with the big kids who actually know French, but I feel a little less overwhelmed. Next week, I have taken a vow to speak only French until 8 at night, in order to get ready for the career fair next Friday. Wish me luck!

Friday, January 12, 2007

Mon Francais est tres mauvais

So, my french is bad. Really bad, but at least I understand what I hear, except when someone is speaking directly too me and I get nervous. Kinda likewhen my parents used to refuse to order me dessert in a mexican restaurant, until I ordered in Spanish. Moving on, yesterday, in class, I was trying to explain to my friend Josh, in french, that all the french homeless people have dogs because if you have a dog, then you can't be arrested because then the dog would be left behind and that's cruelty to animals. Anyways, this is what came out in french: "If you have a dog...a law...ha ha ah ha...I LIVE IN THE STREET."
And now for a lesson in French administration. Today we went to the bank to open account, but we can't actually take money out of the account or get checks, until we get our carte de sejour (the visa that allows us to stay in France). But, you can't get a carte de sejour unless you have a bank account. So, now I have a bank account that doesn't work, so that I can stay in the country.
That is it for now. Off to a tour of Paris.

Monday, January 8, 2007

I missed the fat chicks in hot pants memo…

This past weekend I traveled to London to see my friend Simon. First I would like to point out that when I arrived in Paris, the customs people barely looked at me and didn’t even stamp my passport. When I arrived in London, however, I got the third degree. It didn’t occur to me to ask Simon for his address, since he was picking me up and that resulted in me getting a lecture from the British customs officer about how they won’t let just anyone into the country and what if I just left the airport and wandered the streets? Luckily, I was able to just give them his phone number and they finally let me through. It was very rainy, so Simon and his friend Adrian took me out to a couple of pubs before we met up with their friend James at a club/lounge. We had a couple of pitchers of absolute shambles (sparkling wine, vodka and red bull), before James leaned over to me and said, “Emily, when you came into this bar, did you know that all the girls were going to be so FAT?” Normally, I might (might) try to be polite, but after a few drinks, we all know that I have no inner monologue, so I said, “ummm, yeah they are quite big.” I’m not kidding these girls are mammoth and decked out in very tiny school girl skirts or hot pants. I felt like a grandma in my knee length skirt and sweater. I would have had to lose at least ¾ of my skirt, if I really wanted to get the look, never mind the one hundred pound weight gain and the mysterious lack of a bra. But that was Milton Keynes, not London. We went to another club after that that had all kinds of different dancing rooms. It was very cool and luckily I was inebriated enough that I could dance to techno and not feel like an idiot. Very fun!
The next day Simon and James woke up at the crack of noon to take me into London and show me the sights. It was pouring rain, but that didn’t stop us from going all over and seeing Buckingham Palace (aka Buck House as James likes to call it), the London eye, Big Ben and Parliament and the Tower of London. It was amazing to see all the sights in person, even if my pants were completely soaked from the rain and sticking to my legs. Since the boys had satisfied my need to see the Tower of London, we, of course, had to stop at a pub (after I refused to go to the “gentlemen’s venue”) and watch the football match of James’ team (Arsenal) vs. Simon’s team (Liverpool). After that, we went to a bunch of different bars in So Ho and I got talked into eating a lamb and mint pasty which was actually, very good. To end the night, we went to a not so good comedy club where I got made un of for being an American, although, that’s my own fault for raising my hand and admitting that I was American. We finally arrived home, after I herded the drunk boys on to the train. And now I’m safely back in Paris. More adventures to come. I start school on Wednesday. Woo hoo!

Sunday, January 7, 2007

I don’t ski like the Europeans do…

So, last week, Nanda, JR, Jason and I rented a car and drove to the town of Clermont-Ferrand where Nanda used to live. It was awesome!!! We stayed with her friend Yvan (eee-von) and he made us a fabulous, frenchified, five course meal complete with champagne. I almost died I was so happy. Plus his bathroom had a door on it, so that was just the icing on the cake.
The next day, Nanda drove Jason and I up into the mountain in our lawnmower type European rental car (it was a little scary). Jason and I went skiing at the Super Besse. I actually got our lift tickets in French, so I was very proud of myself. It was absolutely gorgeous. The day was clear and sunny and there was actually snow! On my first run, we went on the blue because it had a ski lift and not just one of the ropes that you grab to take you up which we were scared of (rightfully so). I ran into a french man who was stopped into the middle of the slope. Instead of being calm and trying to avoid him, I screamed a mixture of expletives and SORRY as I ran into him and bent his ski pole. He was not perturbed in the least. He just said, “whoa,” and skied me over to the side, since at that point I was on my butt, between his legs and tangled up in my own skis. Good work team. Then, I decided to warm up on the green slope with the ropes that take you up. Well, I tried to sit on the rope (don’t ask me why) and then fell and then forgot to let go and got dragged fifteen feet with the Frenchies yelling “LLEEEEEETTT GOO!” So, after that skiing was a breeze, except for the heart attack I almost had when Jason talked me into going onto a black slope. I didn’t walk down, but I did basically slide down on my side and scrape all the moguls off, as I went. There was plus de snowplowing going on.
After that Nanda’s friends had a big party where all her French friends came over to Yvan’s house and we had a gallet which is kind of like a king cake. It has a little toy inside and whoever gets it is the King or Queen. Since I am the youngest, I had to go underneath the table and call out everyone’s names, so that the gallet was given out randomly. The boys thought this was very funny. In the end, it’s not random, since I ended up with the toy, but I got to wear a Bob L’eponge (the French version of sponge bob square pants) crown and I was very excited. All in all, it was a good trip!

Monday, January 1, 2007

Bonne Année!

So, the other ladies and I have been blessed with the presence of two of our Spanish tracker friends, Jason and JR. For some reason, both of the boys are staying in my room, much to the dismay of Cecile, the lady who runs our residence. This would be fine since Nanda and I bought an air mattress, but JR snores like it’s his job. I can even hear him snoring through my ear plugs. It’s crazy. I tried to kick him out, but there was no hotel to be found and the other girls don’t have big enough rooms for the air mattress. Oh well. You win some, you lose some.

Anyways, let me tell you about New Year’s in Paris. The day started out innocently enough, we got up, ate breakfast, etc. We planned to meet the Lequires at the Sacre Coeur. However, just as we were about to leave, Jason decided to take a last minute bathroom break at Nanda’s electric toilet. And he broke it. The toilet overflowed and there was no plunger to be found in the entire hotel. I even checked the Turkish toilets and managed to walk in on one of the Africans who was in the middle of doing his business. I found a bucket and Jason sawed off the top of a water bottle and he began emptying the putrid toilet water. I threw up in my mouth just watching it. Nanda and I were given the task of tracking down a plunger (plungoir). We went to every shop that was open and all the hotels in the area and no one had a plunger. Then we tried to take the bus to the Auchan which is kind of like a Walmart, but it turns out the bus doesn’t run on Sundays. We looked for a taxi for thirty minutes and, in a moment of desperation, we joined hands and prayed for a taxi. It was amazing because at that exact moment a taxi miraculously appeared. We finally tracked down a plunger and got back to the residence, only to discover that a plunger doesn’t really work on an electric toilet. After more toilet water emptying and more retching, we finally left to meet the Lequires for a New Year’s Eve dinner.

Dinner was wonderful. We ate a sports tapas bar in Montmartre. I discovered kir which is wine with syrup added to it…yummy! After that, we walked up the one million stairs to the Sacre Coeur to watch the fireworks all over the city. It was beautiful. People were dancing, champagne was flowing, I should have known that the night was literally going to go down hill from there. The metro stopped running to our house, so we took a bunch of other metros to get as close as we could to the residence. When we finally got off the RER, we were actually able to catch a cab. The only problem was that it couldn’t take all five of us at once. Somehow, the Spanish tracker boys got left behind. They had no idea where they were going and no phones. We thought they were right behind us, but after waiting for thirty minutes, we went back for them and they were nowhere to be found. Nanda and I gave ourselves some new ulcers worrying about them, until an hour and a half later they finally strolled up. They had walked for almost two hours and finally found the street that the residence is on. At this point, it was 3 am. Then, JR lost one of his diamond earrings and insisted on looking for it in the dark, so it wasn’t until after 4 am that he gave up looking and we finally got to sleep. Needless to say, we’re taking it easy today!