17
Jun
09

I Survived Week 2. No, Really!

I’m so far behind in my writing. Ugh. To catch myself up and leave out all the boring bits (which I like to think I do habitually):

Monday 8

A mandatory phonetics course commences today. The professor doesn’t “look, act or dress” French, as one classmate puts it, but her handwriting and pronunciation are impeccable. It’s cold and raining, and there’s ongoing construction around the building our classroom’s in. Basically, we get soaked while waiting to go in. For an hour, we repeat words into recording headsets and make funny faces (“Ooooh Eeeee Eeeegrek Looksemboor”). Positive side: There’s an AMAZING boulangerie right next to the metro stop, so I can get a cheap, chocolatey snack to hold me over til lunch every day.

Claustrophobia-inducing cubicles, headsets and the number five, oh my!

Claustrophobia-inducing cubicles, headsets and the number five, oh my!

That evening, I go to a cinéma in Montparnasse to see my very first French movie without subtitles, Ne Te Retourne Pas, a psychological thriller starring Sophie Marceau and Monica Bellucci. It follows a woman who deals with questions of identity and finds that her family and home are morphing into the completely unknown. In short, it’s friggin awesome and you should go see it (or wait for a subtitled version to come out, or wait for an American director to steal the idea and remake it entirely ahemm… Ils / The Strangers).

Tuesday 9

I am sick as a dog. I stay home from class, organize my newfound collection of postcards (not the tacky ones from the souvenir shop, but rather the ads to convince one to stop smoking, etc.) I just can’t get over the graphic design here. Everything is absolutely tasty to the eyes. I save myself €5 by doing my laundry in the sink. Yeah, it’s that expensive here. About €3 to wash a small load, then another €2 to dry it. Thanks, Cité, but I think I’ll hang dry my underwear from the curtain rod you’ve furnished the room with, allowing the entire street below to feast their eyes!

Wednesday 10

I can’t speak, period. I receive a 17 out of 20 on my first exam, which is the equivalent of an A. On the French grading scale, they say anything 18 or higher is reserved for God. After class, I meet up with Rachelle to visit the Deportation Memorial. The cold rain only added to its austere sense of forboding, and the use of triangles and suffocatingly narrow halls reminded me of Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. Forgive, do not forget.

Mémorial de la Déportation

Mémorial de la Déportation

The UCF crew meets at Crêpes a Go-Go near the Pantheon to discuss our adventures thus far with Charlotte, our extemely hippie, frizzy-haired, French professor who loves to tell things the way they are. I order veggie soup and tonic water. It’s nice for the throat, but I still can’t talk. Among 20 of us, the bill comes to €160.

Madeleine (Maddie) is a badass.

Madeleine (Maddie) is a badass.

When the rain finally slows, I head over to Shakespeare & Co., the famous anglophone bookstore. I buy a copy of French Milk by Lucy Knisley following a recommendation by Maddie. Knisley illustrates her days leading up to, during, and after her stay in Paris with her mother. I find it interesting that she and I are both around the same age, worrying about post-university life, and traveling with our mothers in Europe (well, not quite yet in my case).

Shakespeare & Co.

Shakespeare & Co.

Thursday 11

At last, we experience some sunshine! I walk along Champs-Elysees and… I just don’t get it. How do some people explain a €100 keychain from Louis Vuitton (pronounced Vweeton, not Vuhton)? And what’s the point in having “the real deal” if everyone who even cares about the brand is too preoccupied with whether its a knockoff to even enjoy its aesthetic value?

The entire mindset puts me in a sour mood, but I take a random train to a random stop to Opéra, where I enjoy my first Croque Monsieur – heavenly, absolutely heavenly despite I never enjoy ham – and read about my home basketball team, the Orlando Magic, once again in DirectSoir, a twice-daily publication whose morning edition is called DirectMatin. It’s so strange to read basketball scores in French, but it’s great practice. My eye is irritated and green goop is oozing out of it. Great.

Café Opéra. Myummmmmm.

Café Opéra. Myummmmmm.

Friday 12

I wake up with my eye glued shut. My poor Quasimodo eye. Before class I visit a pharmacie with The Australian from class (she’s so spunky I love her to death). The pharmacist spoke English, but the moment I showed her my eye there was no need for words. For only €12 I got cleansing solution and eyedrops, sans prescription, sans insurance. I love it.

"Does this mean you're allergic to Paris?"
“Does this mean you’re allergic to Paris?”
Médicaments!

Médicaments!

While waiting in the lobby, a man asks me to read a short paragraph about Machiavelli’s The Prince and if he could record it. Then, he asks to read it to me and see if his pronunciation is correct. My professor had encouraged us to do the same when practicing our French, which I had, so I’m ecstatic to reciprocate. His name is Henock Franklin and he’s a professor of philosophy in Haiti. He was preparing a lecture for a university about his Creole translation of The Prince. That’s just about the coolest thing that’s happened to me so far.

The picture is crap, but I like it anyhow.

The picture is crap, but I like it anyhow.

That evening we trek to the Louvre once more, this time focusing on French paintings, the ancient Orient (the Code of Hammurabi FTW!) and Napoleon’s apartments. We came, we saw, and unsurprisingly we still have yet to conquer.

Napoleonic Néléphant.

Napoleonic Néléphant.

The Louvre just. Doesn't. End.

The Louvre just. Doesn't. End.

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