I am drowning. In French verbs. Croissants. Conversations I half understand. Cathedrals.
And I love it. However….
Some of you (ahem, Principians/our parents) may recall how the entire conglomerate of folks comprising the France Abroad 2012 frankly disappeared during our first 7 weeks on campus. It could have been likely that the only parts of us that you saw during those fateful seven weeks were piles of abandoned French history books, burrito wrappers from the C-Store (probs mine), or our last wishes scrawled on the backs of art history note cards instructing the discoverer of our bodies to scatter our cremated remains in the Seine because we never made it to France. Luckily, my friends, we did not perish whilst valiantly laboring away in Elsah. We are in France at last.
But the reason I write this is because, voila, our schedule is still a beast and a half to manage. Granted, we’re in France. *cue Hallelujah chorus, please* However, personally my “honeymoon period” with France is ending and now I am assimilating. This is not bad! One should not be constantly wandering around flabbergasted because everything is new. That’s fine for the first week and a half or so. But now, I can do the metro-thing with my eyes closed (if you see me, get outta mah way) and order a café au lait like nobody’s business (in reality, I am really getting a lot better at French; enough to make new friends with a German student at my school, interview one of my French brothers about the differences between the French and British school systems, and buy more minutes for my French phone by myself. In French. Oh yeahhh) I am here and it’s feeling good. Really though, when we had our first free afternoon yet today I was so grateful. We have been moving nonstop and it’s been hard on everyone. Thankfully, I believe some adjustments are being made in our schedule so as not drive us into the cobble stones. In the meantime, we’re all being fabulously diligent with out attitudes and are positively dripping with patience. Really good job everyone.
Unfortunately, as you, reader, may have noticed, I am quite behind in my blogging. I would be up all night if I were to try and do the last several days justice. Instead, I am going to include a lot of photos with blurbs about what you’re looking at. And as a consolation prize, I will include a post that I wrote while in transit from Paris to the city of Bayeux in Normandy this last weekend. Bayeux is the site of the museum housing the famous 1,000 year old Bayeux Tapestry, recording the Norman conquest of England in 1066 (and the events leading up to the Battle of Hastings from ’64-’66) May I just say, that it took a great deal of maturity to not happily wet my pants when I saw this beauty: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bayeux_Tapestry. It is 230ft long and very, very well preserved. Do you get how cool this is!?? I had been looking forward to seeing it for a long time. I hope to get a photo up soon. In the meantime, allow Wikipedia to quell your tapestry thirst. The real thing was actually breathtaking.
My post (about last Friday night):
Last night found me in the corner of my small kitchen, French dubstep and club music pulsing in the living room, young Parisians coming in and out (I got very good at remembering to faire les bises instead if shake hands before the night was over) as I talked politics with my brother Edmond. He’s a student of economics in his last year of lycee (high school; he’s 19). At the end of this year he will be taking his exams to hopefully get into one of France’s Grande Ecoles for economics (France’s most prestigious schools). Why the dance club in my living room? That evening it was my other brother Henri’s 25th birthday. He had a bunch of his friends over and it was thoroughly enjoyable for me to meet other young Parisians. Of course they all look like they could all hold their own in a spread in Elle or GQ, but most impressively I was touched by their manners- they all were very relaxed and all said hello and asked about me. Frankly, they were all just mature which I value. It was also interesting to see how the French get down. For example, there was plenty of alcohol but no one was out of control. I have been to several parties in the US where there have been moments when I have felt unsafe and uncomfortable so it was refreshing to never once feel unwelcome or on edge. Again, I think this is due to what I observed was a greater degree of maturity in the French that I interacted with.
Back to Edmond: We spent several hours talking (mostly in English—I had to answer some complex questions that my French can’t handle: i.e. What did I think about China’s rising economy and how the US would handle no longer being the supreme economic power in the next few decades? What did I think about the establishment of a mosque so close to Ground Zero? Which values did I believe constituted the American national identity and did I think they would need to change with the advent of greater and greater globalization?) WOW. I was so impressed with his questions, and felt very prepared to give him intelligent, thoughtful responses. I found that my studies about France greatly improved my ability to understand the US. Edmond would always retort with another question and listened intently to every answer. It was exciting for me to see more evidence of a trend I have been noticing. The French know their stuff. They read the news. They know more about the world by far than your average American student (as has been true thus far in my experience.)
Though the French educational system has faults, when I meet products of the system (my French siblings) I am continually blown away by how much they know and how knowledgeable they are about the world. It was interesting for me to observe how comfortable I felt in that setting. I love talking about all that stuff with people who are genuinely interested in asking hard questions and expecting good answers—being expected to be just as knowledgeable as them. Thank you. There are many times when I feel that possessing basic proficiency in world affairs and in learning how to “argue” is not sufficiently valued in the American school system. And then in terms of conversation, by American standards it would appear that the French argue all the time (often everyone is all talking at once during my nightly dinners) when in fact the French simply tend to be very passionate conversationalists who value being able to support their own opinions well. I have read that the French often find American conversation boring for all the opposite reasons. American’s want to reach resolutions quickly while the French want to develop and explore all the sides of an issue—generalizations for sure, and positive and negative aspects to both as well.
I myself like it. I am a very enthusiastic person and speaker and it just so happens that the French tend to be the same way. C’est parfait! It can be a little intimidating sometime but you just have to learn that interrupting someone when they talk is not really that impolite. In fact you can’t get a word in edge wise sometimes if you don’t! Between Henri’s party and my conversation with Edmond, I found a lot I could value within the French art of conversation, courtesy, and co…..I can’t think of another appropriate ‘co’ word. Ah, zut. Salut! A plus tard.
Ok. Back to the present for a moment. For a quick “flavor of my day”, today I:
• learned a lot and laughed a lot in my four hour long French lesson. Thankfully, our teacher Sonia, a hilarious Parisian woman who gesticulates like a runaway hose, is dressed to the nines, and always tells us all where to find the best restaurants and the girls where the Parisians go to shop, is the best and so the time flies fast. Plus, we get about a 25 minute break for “un petit café” and madeleiens or something else amazing. Take note, America.
• went to lunch with Julia and Elisabeth. Julia found a Chinese restaurant near Place Victor Hugo which ended up being excellent and only 8.30 euro for a very decently sized three course meal. It was nice to get a break from French food. I know, I know, but you gotta mix it up, people.
• accompanied Julia and E. while they got haircuts. They look très chic, indeed. Oh la la.
• met up with our new South Korean friend, Rim, who, like everyone else we seem to encounter (what the heck, Paris) looks like a supermodel. She’s super nice and very authentic. And adventurous. She’s been in Paris four days after deciding to quit her job in the luxury goods market to learn French in France in order to create more career opportunities for herself. She’s here for a year. Zut! What a warrior. We spent the afternoon exploring with her and getting to know her which was a lot of fun.
• went to First Church, Paris for a Wednesday night service. Again, it don’t matter which country you’re in, because inspiration is inspiration. I never get tired of learning more about the universality of good and good ideas : )
• had a great dinner with my French family. Mama de Corn (learned her name is Laurence–makes things less awkward) made crepes. Yussssss…..PS If you’re not a drinker, please note that cidre, though it looks like Martinelli’s, is not non-alcoholic. Zut. Totes a noob Christian Scientist/Principian move. Dry campus, much? Luckily, I am such a pro at tactfully swishing unwanted beverages down the sink when no one is watching. Noted.
• and here I am. Stay tuned, my friends : )