Saturday, January 31, 2009

Pere Lachaise

Today I stopped over by the Pere Lachaise cemetery for a couple of hours. I didn't get a map, but they have some posted around, so I was still able to find the graves of a couple of famous people.

Pere Lachaise is right on my Metro line (albeit at the complete opposite end), so getting there was really easy. I'll definitely be going back because it was truly amazing--but it was freezing, so I could only wander for so long. And next time I'm getting a map so I can walk around more strategically.

Regardless, I did take some pictures that I really like. I'll only post a few here. I took over 60 pictures--the cemetery is really beautiful to me, and so different from cemeteries in Utah. To see the rest you can click here.







Farmer's Market

There is a farmer's market every Wednesday and Saturday just a block and a half away from my apartment.


I ventured over today to buy some fresh produce. I'm now going to get all the produce I can at the farmer's market. The prices were much better. Wow.

So, here's what I came home with for today, since I already had most of what I needed on hand at home.
-some clementines
-a few turnips
-4 lovely Gala apples
-fresh garlic and shallots
-two huge green peppers



I also bought some smoked tofu and some curry sauce at the grocery store. I'm going to try doing stir-fry and some aloo gobi one of these days. But I was really disappointed that I couldn't find any wild rice at the grocery store. Not even any brown rice. Just Uncle Ben's and basmati. Sad. I guess I'll have to buy saffron and just deal with it.

Memorable Meals

Over at This Time It's Personal, I prompted anyone who is doing their personal history with me to write about memorable meals.

I was thinking about the meals I've had in my life that stand out the most, and there are just little snippets from a lot of different meals that jump out at me. So I decided to just share a few quick blurbs about those instead of going into detail on all of them.


-Eating dinner at Grandma and Grandpa Knight's house and realizing that we were eating their "pet" rabbits (this is how I remember it, anyway. I swear it happened, but I could totally be making it up in my mind).
-In my first area of my mission every dinner appointment we had involved pizza and Buffalo wings, because we "couldn't come to Buffalo and not have pizza and wings."
-When I was staying with a family outside of Marseille, France, I had my first meal involving an animal I had met earlier that day. A poor little crab. I don't enjoy meeting my food.
-The first time I had Indian food. It was like a revelation. Too bad it was on a date with a guy I didn't like.
-Ha! Also, when I went to the Bombay House and made the mistake of giving my phone number to the attractive waiter. (He asked for it... don't worry, I'm not that forward.)
-Eating at Sam Hawk with my coworkers. Love me some Korean food.
-One time when mom was working and the kids and Dad were making spaghetti. I didn't realize that food thermometers were different from normal thermometers, so I put a Vick's under-the-tongue thermometer in the boiling spaghetti water. It melted and all the mercury escaped into the boiling pot of noodles. I wasn't going to say anything, but "something" kept urging me to tell my dad. I hate to think what would have happened if I hadn't done anything about it.
-The first time I tried to eat shrimp was my junior prom, and I didn't know you had to take them out of the little exoskeleton shell they have. I was seriously having trouble, so I just gave up and put it back on the plate. It was at The Roof, overlooking the Salt Lake Temple. I am sooooo classy, I know.
-My company paid for a dinner for me and someone else "and if you go to the Olive Garden, I'll be so mad. And you had better order dessert." So I took a friend to the Melting Pot. It was delicious. But it took forever. When I go back, I'll skip the "main course" and just do salad, cheese fondue, and chocolate fondue.
-For "Senior Prom, Part Two" my prom date from earlier that year (who is also one of the smartest and most genuine of men) and his best friend took me and my best friend to the Tree Room. That was the first time I ever ate duck. Loved it. The company. The food. The ambiance.
-Growing up, the aforementioned best friend would frequently cook while I sat in her kitchen and chatted with her. Then we would share whatever she had made. Or we would go to the Olive Garden.
-I used to eat chips and salsa. As an entire meal. Really frequently.
-The first time I ate at my best friend Hap's house, I knew her mother and I were cooking kindred spirits. I love everything that comes out of that woman's recipe box.
-Breakfast at our hotel in Berlin in 2007. It felt like the first time any of us had seen food in days. It was sooo good. Soft boiled eggs... mmmmmm.
-Every get together with my extended family (both sides). Always really good food to be had.
-Rebelling once I knew I was allergic to tomatoes and mushrooms and eating things like veggie pizza and stir fry.
-Trying out Pizzeria 712 and falling in love with it. Everything about it.

Wow. I don't know if it's a good thing or a bad thing that I can think of so many. Of course, considering that I've had tens of thousands of meals in my lifetime, I guess writing about a dozen or so of them isn't too over the top. (Don't worry, I totally pulled out a calculator and did the math. 3 meals a day for 28 years is over 30,600 meals.)

Friday, January 30, 2009

Let's Be Friends

My cousin Jeremy posted a link to SUMO Paint on his blog. It's like a web-based Illustrator, basically. I took an Illustrator class once. It was great. Then my trial version expired and I didn't have the cash to go buy the real thing. But I love Illustrator. It makes me feel all creative and happy.

Sadly, this is about all I can do without taking the time to learn how to use all the tools again. But I like the idea. I think I'll do some more and then print them out as little note cards. Wouldn't that be fun?

You Prefer to Be Alone? Or, The Allegory of the Kiwi Fruit

As I walked into the grocery store today, there was a nice man there offering samples of kiwi fruit. He offered me some, and I said no.

"But, you have to try to know that you don't want any."

Um.... no. I've actually tasted kiwi before--and I know that I don't want any right now.

I take a piece anyway to be nice, tell him it's good, and am trying to walk away when he asks me something else.

I don't understand what he says. Not only is my French imperfect, he has a very thick African accent. We are bound to miscommunicate.

"I am not French," I say, as if to explain that I am generally inept and all of my faults should be excused.

"What nationality are you?"

"American."

"Oh, How are you?" he asks in English.

"Fine thank you. How are you?"


Then we have this half-english, half french (with me saying, "Pardon?" about every 5 seconds) conversation:

Him: Your husband is in America?

Me: (groaning on the inside, knowing where this is going). I don't have a husband.

Him: Your fiance?

Me: No fiance.*

Him: Your boyfriend?

Me: I don't have a boyfriend.

Him: You like boys?

Me: Um... yes, I like boys. (What the??!!)

Him: So, why don't you have a boyfriend? (As if me having an interest in boys in general means I should, by default, have a boyfriend at all times. Oh, of cooooourse I should.)

Me: (This question again, seriously? I DON'T KNOW!!!) Oh, you know... I don't know exactly.

Him: What are you doing tonight?

Me: Uhh...

Him: Do you want to go out tonight?

Me: Um. Thank you, but no.

Him: Why no?

Me: (I'm really not used to so much persistence. Utah boys don't bounce back from rejection this easily). Um. Just... no. But thank you.

Him: So you prefer to be alone?



Apparently.



Seriously. A) How does the fact that I don't have a boyfriend make me a lesbian? and B) How does the fact that I don't want to go out with YOU, especially where you are a stranger I met in the grocery store, mean I would rather sit at home and knit doilies than do anything?



I refuse to accept that my lot in life is to either end up alone OR to keep having these exasperating experiences.



And for the record, I would, in fact, rather be alone than settle and be with someone I couldn't respect, didn't love, and don't find interesting to talk to.



So take your kiwi fruit and... just... give someone else a sample.




*But watch me buy myself an awesome CZ in record time.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Take-Out Photo Monthly Special: Black and White

This month's assignment at Take-Out Photo is Black and White. Those of you who are frequent readers have already seen these, but I wanted to repost them all together so I can be lazy and not link to Marc's site three separate times.
As always, keep in mind that I'm not really a photographer, I just like to take pictures. And, of course, I just switched these color photos to monochrome in-camera because I don't have any post-production software.
At least I have cool subject matter to work with, right?

Cimetiere Montparnasse




Notre Dame de Paris


Eglise St-Merri

My laundry

is taking forever!! And it's not like there's even a dryer here--it's just the washer. Then there's the matter of hanging my clothes up to dry right next to the shower that doesn't have any kind of enclosure (that's right... no door, and no shower curtain... just a really absorbent bath rug).

I'm pretty sure the load that is in the washer now has been there for an hour and a half at least, because I put it in before I showered, got dressed, let my hair AIR DRY, made myself lunch and ate it, and straightened my hair.

That's it. I'm washing the next load by hand. My landlord's over-the-top fragranced laundry soap residue in the washing machine makes me want to gag anyway.

A tripod is a tripod is a tripod...

... except when it is being used as a coat rack...

...or a jewelry stand.


Got these beauties at H&M yesterday. To assuage my frustration at not finding boots.

Too bad I couldn't get the white balance to work out when I decided to take it without a flash. I promise my jewelry is silver colored, not an icky urine color. (The fact that the overhead light in my room is a yellow chinese lantern and my curtains are a yellow-green doesn't help the situation, either.)


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Soldes

In France, companies don't have the right to just declare a clearance sale. They can have promotions (buy one, get one free... or... buy one, and we'll throw this other thing in for half price, etc.), but apparently they are not allowed to even use the word "sale" in their marketing outside the semi-annual "Soldes" time periods. "Sales" are government regulated and they only happen twice a year. Companies can actually get fined for promoting a sale outside of these two "soldes" periods.


Well, I happen to be here during the lovely "Soldes", and I am trying to take advantage of that and buy myself some boots that have a mostly flat sole and a thicker heel than the ones I brought from home.


I am not meeting with a lot of luck. But I am meeting with a lot of shoppers.

Montparnasse Cemetery

On the way from the Raspail Metro station to the "testing center" where I took the proficiency test, I noticed a sign pointing just across the street to the Montparnasse Cemetery. Ooooooh.

I made a mental note to swing by on my way back to the Metro. I'm so glad I did. What an amazing place. Here are some of the pictures I took there.






This makes me even more excited to go see the Pere Lachaise cemetery and look for all of the famous people that are buried there.

Doesn't this kind of make you wish that cemeteries in Utah were cooler? They're easy to maintain, yes... but a smidgen on the boring side, maybe?
There were a few graves with fresh flowers there, reminding me that the cemetery isn't only a burial place for people in ages past, but that there are people who are still being buried there. An older gentleman was tenderly wiping rain water off a gravestone with a handkerchief, and it made me want to cry. I can only assume it was his wife's grave he was visiting and caring for so sweetly.

Super-duper-Superior

That is officially my rank along the language-capacity spectrum in the Sorbonne's eyes.

Well, not the super-duper part, but the Superior part!! Hooray! (Superior, by the way, is the highest ranking. So, it goes without saying that I felt good about that. But I'm going to say it anyway because I'm so Ego-centric!)

I went to take the first part of my language proficiency test today. It was easy. Of course I made mistakes, but they had more to do with remembering to match my nouns with the proper endings to their adjectives (masculine and feminine) than anything. Oh, and a couple of vocabulary problems on the more advanced portion of the test. But I was the first one done, if that means anything (which it doesn't). Oh, and I didn't mess up on purpose. I did my best, because I figure if I'm going to pay 1400 Euro, I might as well try hard.

Once I was done with the test I met with one of the teachers so she could correct the test and do a preliminary oral proficiency test. We chatted for a few minutes about where I was from and if I had ever been to France (when/where/why). After a couple of minutes she said, "I can see without any problem that you are the Superior level both gramatically and phonetically." I didn't expect her to come to that conclusion so quickly (or at all, frankly. I thought I would be Advanced, not Superior), so it took me by surprise when she thanked me and wished me a good day.

Well, thank you very much.

Looks like that BA degree was in fact good for something.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Institute

was much more successful this week.

First of all, I got there early, so I was able to talk to a few people.
Second, I was there for "opening exercises," where they asked all of the new people (me) to stand up and introduce themselves.
Third, someone told me that every week after Institute we all meet upstairs for refreshments and "mingling."

That would have been good to know last week--but I'd rather know late than never, that's for sure.

So I made a couple of new friends tonight. There are several girls here from BYU doing a semester abroad, and they're really nice. I also met a couple of French guys who seem really nice.

I was having a good conversation with one of them, and while we were talking about the Catacombs or something one of the Institute missionaries came over and handed him a Mission Prep manual. He said he's working to go out on his mission two years from now. He needs that long to be "spiritually and financially" prepared. He asked if I had been on a mission and I said yes. We talked about missions (and mine specifically) for a second, and then the next words out of his mouth (and I'm NOT even kidding), were "So, now you're all ready to get married. Do you see anyone of interest here?"

Um. Maybe. But if I do, I'm sure not telling you. That would make me feel weird... and WAY too vulnerable to rejection. Plus, how does going on a mission mean I'm automatically ready to get married???

Anyways, he was a really nice guy, and he was a lot of fun to talk to, so I'm not going to let this one statement tarnish his good record. Plus, he was probably just talking about how marriage is probably the next big milestone I'm working towards. In which case I will put my indignation aside and say that he's probably right. Probably.

The Centre Pompidou

Today I spent quite a bit of time around the Centre Pompidou.




First I got hot chocolate because I was freezing. The hot chocolate was HOT... and it was THICK. It was kind of like drinking a Lite yogurt. It wasn't quite custardy, but it was really, really creamy. Like whipping cream that hasn't been whipped, maybe.

As I was sipping my drinking chocolate, a boy about my age came up to the garbage right near me...


... and rummaged through it until he found what looked like half of a baguette or a sandwich. I almost offered him the rest of my chocolate, but I thought that might be weird.

While I was getting my hot chocolate, there was apparently a fashion show wrapping up in the Centre, because while I was looking at the building and sipping, these uber-skinny waif-girls kept walking out of the far doors and getting chased down by fashion photographers. I walked out of the plaza at the same time as one of them and caught her saying, "...they all rush around and want to take pictures of the models, but hardly any of them even know our names. It's like, if you don't know my name, why do you even want a picture of me?"
Ick. So public, and yet so anonymous. I would hate that.


I left the area to try and go shoe shopping for a while, and then about an hour later returned to grab some dinner. I didn't have time to go to my apartment and get back for Institute, so I decided to treat myself to my first real restaurant meal in Paris. I went to this little brasserie just to the South of the C. Pompidou and I got Orangina (staple), Quiche Lorraine, and this massive Creme Brulee that was to die for. My meal was delicious, and I took some time between "courses" to write some thoughts in a little notebook I bought today.

This exhibit was in my direct line of sight out the front windows of the brasserie. If this is any indication, I think I'm going to like what I see inside.

Seeing that boy rummage through the garbage made me sick. Like when I was reading The Kite Runner, it brought some of the worst things that happen to people right up into my reality. I realized truly how blessed I am to have a family that has always been well provided for, to have a job, and... hello, to be able to move to Paris just because I want to. I am truly spoiled. And I know it. But I'm grateful for it, if that makes a difference.

School Registration...

... is not a one-stop shopping experience here. Today I stood in line for an hour and a half basically to pay my registration fee. I go to a different (third) location tomorrow for my written exam to determine which grammar level I will be assigned to, and then on the 13th of February I will take the phonetics exam (basically an oral pronunciation test, I think).





While in line I met a girl from Seattle who was staying in a hotel while she looked for a place to live. I can't imagine moving here without knowing where I was going to live. Or having to lug my crap all over Paris twice beore settling in. I also met a guy from London who was here at the request of the Red Cross to improve his French. He had just spent six months in Jorda. How cool is that? I wanted to ask if he had gone to Petra, but we started talking about something else. Petra is one place I would like to go before I die. How amazing. (For those of you who don't know what Petra is and won't follow the link I posted, it is the cool city carved out of the red rock that is in the Indiana Jones and the "Last" Crusade movie.)



But, as Jessica would say, "That's neither here nor there."


Because I knew there would be a bit of a wait, I stopped at a bookstore across the street and bought a couple of books to keep me company. I started reading one while in line. It's a play called "Parle-moi d'amour." A direct translation would be "Talk to Me About Love." It's interesting so far... the whole premise is a married couple who aren't happy in their marriage having this big blow-up fight where they air all of their frustrations. It's supposed to examine relations between men and women in modern society. We'll see.


So, this is my school.
Nice, huh?


This is a little statue of a big-time smartie across the street (with a little park and the Cluny in the background).
The inscription says (basically):
"Paris has had my heart from my infancy. I am not French but by this city, which is inurpassable and incomparable in its variety. The glory of France is one of the most noble adornments in the world (or of the world)."

Amen, Montaigne. Amen.

I'm trying to decide if it's the tourists who rub his feet hoping to come back to Paris (like the Trevi Fountain in Rome), or if it's students who are hoping some of his brilliance will "rub" off on them before they write their big essay tests. (Ha. I'm hilarious, I know. Don't hate me.)


In the little park behind Montaigne I took this. It's amazing how gorgeous sculptures can fall into disrepair becuase there are so many that this is "just another" among hundreds.


And this is the back of the Cluny Museum.

I love the building, and it's actually a really interesting museum full of artifacts from the Middle Ages. I think I'm going to buy a 5-day museum pass next week and go on a musem blitz of the city. I'll definitely be visiting the Cluny.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Vegetarian

So, some of you know that I'm trying to be mostly vegetarian. I allow myself to eat meat 3-4 times a week.
That sort of slipped through the cracks over the past couple of weeks as I was doing my final prep, traveling, and getting settled in here.

But I'm getting back on track now and tonight I enjoyed a "vegetarian steak" as it's marketed here. It's basically a veggie burger. This one was Indian style--it came with some kind of sauce (curry or something like it) to put over the top after browning it in a frying pan. It was pretty good, but crumbly, as veggie patties are.

I also had some fresh green beans and a turnip sliced up and dipped in hummus. It was really good. Thanks to Katharina for teaching me that turnips, unlike beets, are actually worth eating.

Walking to the Grocery Store

Today I bought myself that grocery bag on wheels I wrote about the other day. Love it.

I went grocery shopping and I bought 3 liters of water and Orangina (yum), as well as laundry detergent and softener and a bunch of veggies.
When it came time to walk home, I had my purse on one arm and pulled my handy chariot with the other hand. So convenient I might actually bring it home and walk to the grocery store in Orem.

Registering for School...

... is turning out to be quite the process.

Today I went to the Estrapade Center (which is right behind the Pantheon) for my "check-in," where they basically told me everything I already knew (there's this thing called a website...) and gave me the schedule for the civilization presentations for the rest of the semester.

They also gave me a slip with an appointment to go to the actual Sorbonne building tomorrow afternoon to pay my final tuition fees and then set another appointment to take the language aptitude test.

So, by the time school actually starts, I should be pretty familiar with that area. Should being the operative word here, people. I did get completely lost in that area today.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Goin' to the Chapel

The church I attend is just down a little side street from the Pompidou Center. Today I was surprised to find that there are so many American members that they actually hold two separate adult Sunday School classes--one in English and one in French. I attended the French class, and was happy to see that some other native English speakers attended as well, and were even called on by the teacher to read aloud in their less than flawless French.

My records should be transferred over within the next couple of weeks.

I'll try to snap some pictures next week. Or maybe on Thursday when I'm there for institute.

Breaking Up is Hard to Do-oo...

...even when you're not really dating.
Plus in this case it led to some really awkward sight seeing that I could have done without.



Ready?



As you know, yesterday was supposed to be the big pseudo-breakup day. I don't want to get into too many of the gory details, so I'll try to help you visualize it with a little outline/script. Just picture this:


-Me missing two calls while I was in the shower.
-Me ignoring one call because I didn't know what to say.
-Me missing at least one, maybe two more calls because I was in the Metro.
-Not having the courage to call back.
-Me hoping he'll call one more time before I go to bed so I can get it over with.
-No such luck.
-Me going to bed at 10:30 (finally a normal bedtime!!!).
-Waking at 12:30 to my phone vibrating. Thinking it's 8:00 already and my alarm is going off.
-No such luck.

"Hello?" (I have been asleep for two hours and have fallen into deep slumber. I am incoherent, and the man on the other end of the phone is speaking in French.)
"Hey, why aren't you answering your phone? Didn't you get my messages?"
-Me, (because I'm a coward, AND because I shouldn't have had this conversation at English in my state, let alone having it in angry French) choosing to answer the easier of those two questions: "Um, I didn't even get any messages on my phone."
-Him, angry: "Okay, so this is it then? This is how things are going to end? So, we're done then."
-Click.


-Me, groaning. There goes my good night's sleep.
-Two texts to him, a couple of emails to friends later, I finally fall asleep at 3:30 in the morning.



This afternoon at around 5:00 my phone rings. It's him. I'm not going to lie--I'm surprised.
-Me, hesitant: "Hello?"
-Him: "Hi. How are you?"
-Me: (Thinking, "Are you serious?") "Uhhh, I'm fine. How are you?" (You're the one who hung up on me, remember?)
-Him: "Good. Can I come by your apartment?"
-Me: (Thinking, "What is the deal with this? Didn't you get the point?") "If you want to, but only as my friend."
-Him: *Sighs* "We'll see."

We'll see?!?!?! Dude, what about our annoying half-conversation at midnight don't you remember?

So he came over, and I told him I wanted to go take pictures somewhere, but I didn't know where so I wanted a suggestion. He suggested taking pictures under the Eiffel Tower.

We started walking up the street, about an arm's length away, and I am asking him questions. "So, what about this, what about that"... and then... nothing. A big, fat, awkward silence. A lot of it.

"So, this is what it's like to be friends," says he. "There is no in between."

Lovely.*

After nearly 5 minutes of that I just about turned around and went home. But instead, because I'm punishing myself for my bad decision, I decided to continue on. So, after several silent, no eye-contact metro rides, we got to the Eiffel Tower.

I snapped these:




(So not worth it)

-He took me to the Metro, double and triple checked to make sure I knew they way home (because even if he's not the guy for me, he is truly a gentleman), and we went our separate ways. For good.

So, here's to making friends and breaking friends in the Metro. (Cheers.)
*But I'm not going to let you manipulate me into dating you just to alleviate any negative tick marks to my conscience. So stop it.

For lunch

I had:
-baguette slices with hummus
-an apple
-apricot applesauce (yum-tangy and delicious)



Too bad the apricot applesauce looks like and has the texture of baby food. I feel like I'm 10 months old when I eat it. But do you think that's going to stop me? (If you do, you don't know me very well).



Last night I had Orangina and a goat cheese and tomato panini. Don't worry that I hadn't eaten anything almost all day. I sometimes forget to eat here because I'm just busy doing other things. Gonna have to be better about that when school starts.

Gleaning Wisdon from 6 Billion Others

I went to the 6 Billion Others website today to see if I could find out how much tickets are for the exhibit (I can't wait to go!!), but instead found inspiration from one of the videos.

"We don't choose where we are born, but we choose who we want to become."

Smiling at single men in Paris...

... is apparently an open invitation for them to hit on you. Woops! I guess I forgot I wasn't in Utah anymore (where I'm pretty sure you can smile at anyone and they don't take it as a come-on unless they're WAY to arrogant for their own good).

Got invited out for drinks last night by some random guys on the street. And all I did was smile. Of course I didn't go, because I did in fact learn something from my experiences with my Algerian friend. Well, that plus I felt like I was being hunted. So that was kind of creepy.

I'm wondering if this kind of experience is why Parisians don't really make eye contact or smile at each other very often. Maybe they're afraid that everyone will think they're out to "get some."

Let me clarify that I think Parisians, and really most French people I've ever met, are really nice and warm-hearted people. They're just not as smiley and "hello"-ey to everyone they see on the street as what I'm used to seeing in Utah. There are 11 million people in the Paris Metro area, after all.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Little To Do List

Tomorrow is church day! Hooray!

Monday's agenda includes:
-buy new shoes that are WAY more comfortable than the ones I brought. Ouchy. My little piggies got smooshed today walking around in stilettos. Not going to make that mistake twice.
-buy a heating pad so my lame back doesn't get worse from the huge crater in the middle of my bed
-register for school!
-go somewhere besides the 4th and 5th arrondissements
-buy one of these:

It's a reusable grocery bag on wheels. Everyone here uses them. Which makes sense, since it's not like everyone has a car they can stash their groceries in while they stop to do other errands or drop their kids off somewhere. But even young people use them. Hooray! I'm not going to look like an old lady!

I have a couple of other stories from today that I'll share later. Right now I'm tired, and it's only 10:35, so I'm taking advantage of how normal that is and hoping I can roll out of bed in time to get decent for church.

Oooh, one more thing for Monday:

-buy an alarm clock. My cell phone is too easy to ignore.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Looking like a Native and Helping An Old Lady

So, today two people asked me for directions while I was wandering around by the Sorbonne. TWO! And one of them was French!! I feel like I'm a success story already. Is that wrong?

And the cutest thing happened this afternoon. I was crossing the street by a roundabout just a block or so away from my apartment, and there was this little old lady (she must have been at least 70) who was there trying to cross the street. There is no light at this roundabout like there are at some of the bigger ones, and she couldn't get across. So she said (basically), "Can I cross with you? I think they'll hit me if I try to step across on my own."

I said she could certainly cross with me, so she grabbed the bottom hem of my coat and I led her across the street. She was so sweet. And how cool do I feel that I acutally got to help a little old lady cross the street? Pretty cool, guys... pretty cool.

Drama

I think my "friend" is under the impression that he's my boyfriend. So tomorrow I think I'm going to have to have the "I think you're great, so let's stay friends but just be friends and nothing more" talk. How did this happen??

Seriously. I don't do drama.

But I'm gonna hafta tomorrow. Because I have a feeling my "friend" doesn't do "let's be friends." I wish they sold Dr. Pepper in France because it's going to be a long day. Maybe some Orangina and a lovely crepe and panini dinner will help salvage the day.

Maybe. You guys will still be my friends even if I break up with my Algerian-Parisian pseudo-boyfriend tomorrow, right?

Self-Portrait #1

In other--more shallow and less interesting--news, I wore my purple cloche hat today and I took this little self portrait to share with you all. My hair is being difficult what with all the humidity and crazy gusts of wind that randomly crop up around the city, so hats are quite helpful in taming the savage-beastliness. Yeah, it's a little blurry, but you get the general idea...


I really hope I don't look like one of the ladies in those purple hat clubs. If so, PLEASE tell me, and I'll donate the hat to charity.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Wandering Downtown and Making a New Friend

I went to Institute tonight, but gost lost on the way, so I got there late. Next week I'll get there early so I can speak to more people. I just felt silly walking up to them at the end and introducing myself. Not quite sure why. But next week I'll definitely make a point to be there on time. Maybe I'll go to dinner at a restaurant by the Centre Pompidou since it's right across the street.

That's actually where I started my adventure tonight (Thursday night) after Institute. I walked behind the C. Pompidou where the Stravinsky fountain is and took this picture of the Eglise Saint-Merri.



I was going to take some pictures of the fountain, but a) it wasn't working, so it looked kind of depressing, and b) there was absolutely no light on it whatsoever and I had no tripod. Maybe I'll go take some tomorrow in the daylight. Capturing that depressed look of the foundain might be interesting compared with the normally lively and colrful display (and I say capturing in the most broad of terms. My photography skills are still in embryo, as it were).

Then I went past City Hall, which boasted a temporary ice rink out in front and a roof that was glimmering when I came upon it (much like the Eiffel Tower does evey hour on the hour).




Continuing on without any real direciton or purpose, I passed through the square in front of Notre Dame and decided to stop for a picture. It looks freshly sandblasted. So pretty. I loved that there was still a Christmas tree in front of it.


I managed to find a store that was open so I could buy body wash (will I ever remember everything I need at the store?), and I grabbed a baguette while I was there and munched on it on my way back to the Metro. There really is nothing better than a French baguette. Expect maybe a French lover, but I can't provide a comparison for you, sorry.

While waiting for the metro train to come, I checked the map on the wall like 4 times, because I had to make two transfers to get to the line that goes to my neighborhood, and I wanted to be certain I knew ahead of time exactly where I had to transfer. A guy standing near me noticed how often I was looking and asked in French if I was lost. I said I didn't think so, but showed him where I was trying to go and how I was planning to get there. It apparently worked, because he said that's where he was going.

I apparently have an English accent (gosh, I didn't already know that, thanks), and so he spoke to me a little bit in English before introducing himself (Y, from Algeria). We chatted our way through two Metro stops in a random conversation about ourselves in English and French. He is currently studying Physics at a University in Paris, and his internship is at a big Obsertavory here, where he is studying Saturn and its system. Whatever that means. I guess Saturn probably has some suns/moons/other things that are fun to learn about when you care about physics. He is also trying to pass the TOFEL so he can come to the US and study finance. The guy speaks French, Arabic, English, Spanish, and some other language (German, I think). Man. I'm completely jealous.

So, anyways, we're going to go out on the town tomorrow. My dad is, of course, freaking out.

Don't worry, dad. I promise not to marry him. I don't even know if this is a date. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.
__________________________
During our metro-ride chat, he asked if I had a boyfriend and I said, "No."

"Why?" He asked--and he was completely serious.

Ummmmm... Okay. If I knew, then maybe I'd be able to do something about it, right?

How do you even answer that kind of question?

A Short Story about a Traveling Spaz who gets helped by Three French Strangers

So, Sunday night I went to bed at 3:00 and got up around 7:30.

Monday night I went to bed at 2:30 and got up at 4:30.

For those that don't like math, that's 6.5 hours divided between two nights.

Fact 1: Sarah doesn't sleep well on planes.
Fact 2: Sarah had aisle seats on both flights anyways, which doesn't help the situation.
Fact 3: From leaving my house in Orem to entering my apartment in Paris, the travel time was 23 hours.
Fact 4: Air France made me check the carry-on which had about $2,300 worth of camera equipment and clothes in it. They assured me it would come to the baggage claim along with my other bags.
Fact 5: Air France lost this bag.

When I first got off the plane, I was able to easily find the baggage claim for my flight, and my first two suitcases. The valuable carry-on, however, didn't come, even after TWO other flights had claimed all their baggage and I was the only person left, waiting with my loaded baggage cart.

I went to the baggage claim and an Air France employee who spoke some English helped me fill out the necessary forms (let's be realistic here, my brain was in no way ready to deal with this in French).

After filling out the forms, I decided I should just go home. But I didn't. I went out to meet my shuttle instead.

Once I was delivered to the sidewalk in front of my apartment building, I tried to use my phone to call my landlord and tell her I was there. No luck. My phone wasn't picking up ANY networks, even one that would entail serious extra charges.

So, I stopped a man who was walking by with his daughter and asked where I could buy a phone card. He asked whay kind (or something), and I explained what I was trying to do.

"Well, here. Just use my phone if that's all you're trying to do," sayd French Stranger #1."No need to buy a phone card."

Hello! How nice is that? 40 minutes later, I was in my apartment. It's cute. I'll show you pictures later.

A couple hours later my landlord came home and said that Air France had called her cell phone to say they found my bag!! Hooray! I called them back and they said they would deliver it to my door between midnight and 1 a.m. (Less hooray. But still good, because they technically have 48 hours to get it to me, so 13 or 14 isn't too bad.)

After getting my available suitcases unpacked and eating some spaghetti my landlord made for me, I decided to run to the grocery store. I was gross, and I had no shampoo.

Don't worry that while trying to do a simple run to the grocery store, I got lost. TWICE. I must have misunderstood the directions my landlord gave me.

So, I did the worst possible thing a girl could do. I accepted rides from total strangers. They were the nicest total strangers I could possibly have found.

The first (a.k.a. French Stranger #2) was an older gentleman (probably in his mid-60's) who was born and raised in this neighborhood in Paris, and whose grandparents moved here in 1900. I asked him if he could tell me how to get to Monoprix (a supermarket), and he basically said, "You can't be trying to walk there??!! Let me give you a ride or you'll freeze before you find it."

Seeing as I was so tired and hadn't been paying attention to the streets I had taken anyway, I thought I might as well. Plus, if I needed to, I could probably overpower him and run away.

This gentleman (I never got his name) was very nice, but didn't speak English, and he told me that although I had an accent, my French was very good. "And I'm not just saying that to flatter you." (Now picture me, beaming.)

Once I found everything I needed at the store, I walked in the direction I thought I was supposed to take, and ended up at the same intersection where I found my second helpful stranger of the day. Knowing that wasn't the right place to be, I asked a couple passing by if they could tell me which direction to go to get to my street. They didn't know, and I started freaking out. If they didn't know and they were from here, how on earth was I going to find it? (Picture me panicking and looking around frantically for someone else to ask). (Also picture me trying not to burst into tears).

Enter Kind Stranger #2. She had also just walked out of Monoprix, and I asked her if she knew how to get to my street. She (just like the guy earlier) said, "Are you trying to walk there?" (I'm sensing a theme here. But really, it wasn't that far.) I told her I was trying to walk there, that this was my first day in Paris, and I had no idea how to get there, but that's where my apartment was. Bonus: I started crying. I expected her to be bugged by this, but she just said, "No, no, it's okay! Everyone gets lost their first day!" She then offered me a ride, which I gladly accepted.

She asked me about myself, and told me that the same thing happened to her when she moved to Detroit for a few years for work.

We successfully found my apartment, and I took my one bag of groceries up the four flights of stairs to my apartment (which, really, was far easier than carting my 50-pound suitcases up the stairs one at a time). My landlord was in bed when I got home, so I put away my groceries, set my alarm for 11:45 pm, and slept until about 11:55, when I decided I should get up and listen for Air France to deliver my lost luggage.

Lesson Learned #1: Always bring at least a trial sized shampoo and conditioner.

Lesson Learned #2: It's probably worth it to pay for checking an extra bag if that means my camera stays with me no matter what.

Lesson Learned #3: ALWAYS make a mental note of the streets I'm taking as I walk somewhere. If I get somewhere, I've almost always got to find my way back.

Lesson Shared: French people are actually really nice. Don't know why the stereotype is so common that they're rude. Parisians and other French people are no more rude than people in any other country or big city (and actually, I found the same thing about New York. New Yorkers are actually super nice. It was always people who moved to New York that were really rude).

Okay, so this is actually kind of a long story. But I guess that can't be helped.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Busy Bee

As you may have guessed, today was full of errands, weighing and repacking suitcases, and doing last-minute laundry.

I was also able to enjoy a few quick visits from my most wonderful friends, plus some fun shopping with the girls in my family and a delicious dinner (and dessert) at the Cheesecake Factory with the entire family.

It still doesn't feel real.

I'll be back in a few days with my first post from Paris!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Subconscious Anxiety and Its Physical Manifestation*

Last week I emailed my landlord in Paris to tell her what time I was going to arrive and get her phone number so I could call her when I was almost to the apartment (she has to leave work and use her lunch break to let me into the apartment and get me my key, etc.).

After 5 days, I hadn't heard anything. I was slightly worried, but not to the point of it creating any nervous ticks or anything**. I had the numbers of two families in the area who said they would be willing to help me out with anything I needed upon my arrival in Paris. I figured if I was stranded without a place to live for a couple of days, that might be covered in the blanket offer to help.

However...

Today before church as I was getting ready I noticed that my forehead was totally scrunched into a perma-worrywart wrinkle-fest. Wow. I hadn't even noticed my forehead was in a knot until I looked into the mirror.
During church I was just calmly minding my own business, listening to the speaker, or singing a hymn, when I realized my shoulders and next were so stiff I might as well be a marble statue of a Greek god (minus the awesome musculature... and stuff). My shoulders were hunched up to tight around my neck I probably looked like a turtle. :) I had to consciously take some deep breaths and focus on relaxing my body.

Less than an hour later I found myself clenching my jaw like there was no tomorrow, only noticing when I was actually in pain. I finally realized that I was FREAKING OUT on the inside but completely suppressing it so no one could tell. I must have been sunconsciously wondering what I was going to do with four suitcases and freezing temperatures if I couldn't get into my apartment and my "helper" families weren't answering their phones.

Of course, some of you might have already picked up on the fact that I'm freaking out a bit. My doomsday attitude ("Ummm... I think I have cancer," or "Okay, I don't have cancer, but I think my plane is going to crash.") might have tipped you off. I think part of me is terrified that after all this preparation and effort in making this dream a reality, something is going to go horribly wrong.

As it turns out, my landlord (who I heard from today) didn't respond earlier because she was out of town for 8 days helping with a family emergency.

So, all is well. But I still have a migraine (which I thought was from lack of sleep, but I'm sure my shoulder-hunching, jaw-clenching, worry-wrinkle-forehead subconscious wasn't helping). Good thing I haven't packed my economy-sized bottle of Excedrin*** yet.

*Doesn't this sound like a term paper for some kind of psychology major? I would totally volunteer myself for a study.
**Or so I thought.
***Excedrin is truly a wonder drug.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Pretty Pedi

Heather gave me a pedicure gift certificate for Christmas, and I used it today.

This sassy color is now gracing my perfectly groomed toenails.

It's called "A Oui Bit of Red." How perfect is that?





There are a few things I really love about pedicures:

1) No awkward bending trying to reach my toes (I'm not the most flexible person on the planet).

2) I don't have to touch my feet. Not that they're gross or infected with anything, but... you know. They're FEET.

3) The pedicures at Bonny Nails in Orem come with a parrafin wax dip and a nice foot and calf massage. Don't know if that's normal for pedicures or if these guys just go above and beyond, but I'm a fan.

If you have never had a pedicure, I highly recommend treating yourself to one.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Say "Aaaaaahhhhh Yeah!"

No cancer.
No surgery.
HOORAY!!
My only remaining anxiety is that something horrible is going to happen to my plane. What about today's craziness with the plane crashing into the Husdon? Thank heaven for a great pilot, a great crew, and a "safe" place to land. Wow.

"Say Aaaaaahhhhhhh"

Today I am going to an otolaryngolosist. That's an Ear, Nose, and Throat doc for those of us who can't be bothered with science but are grateful for those who can be bothered.

A few weeks ago I was visiting my allergist to get some prescriptions to tide me over in the City of Light, and he noticed a growth on my tonsil "unlike anything I've ever seen before." Awesome, doc. Can't wait to find out what that means.

He encouraged me to see an ENT right away. Lucky for me, I managed to get an appointment for today after calling about 8 different offices.

So. I might have a random skin tag on my tonsils (keep your fingers crossed that this is the case). I might (worst-case scenario) have some horrible tumor in my tonsils. I'll be extremely furious if I have cancer and I don't get to go to France (but it's a good thing I've got my priorities straight, right?). Ha. Or I might have to have my tonsils out last minute and be hopped up on pain killers for my entire trip across the Atlantic.

This, of course, all assumes that they do a biopsy of some kind and can even get the results before I leave.

What joy is mine. (Name the movie.)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Misleading Purchases

Yesterday I stopped by Harmon's to buy



these
these


and these.

The cashier: "Looks like you're headed off to make out with someone."

Well, then.

Me: "Ha. I wish. I'm moving to France, and I don't know if they sell SpinBrushes there, so I thought I'd take a couple of spares."

Maybe if I'm lucky I'll end up buying gum with a purpose while I'm in France. But I'm not holding my (minty fresh) breath.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Filter

This is what I wrote based on the prompt I put up on "This Time It's Personal" this week. The prompt this week is "Favorite Places," so I wrote about one of my favorite places to be: in front of a classroom full of people.

My mind racing. Scanning the room. Looking for a friendly pair of eyes, a nod of understanding, a glimmer of interest. My heart pounding. I want to scream, "Like I'm an expert!! Give me a break!," but I can't. Because that would be unprofessional and completely counterproductive. It's always a challenge to present information in a classroom when you know it's not going to be well received. Maintaining a positive attitude, presenting the information with clarity while my mind is clamoring in the background, trying to think of witty responses to all of the snarky comments I know are coming. This is what's going on in my mind. Meanwhile, my mouth is putting a positive spin on all the things I know they're going to hate about today's training.

This is my job.

10,000 Pyramid. Or however many thousands. Listening to colleagues trying to explain words like behentrimonium methosulfate to each other--a word which I can only pronounce because my coworker kept repeating it over and over while she did a little cheery song-and-dance number. Giving them credit because they finally came up with "you know, the behe...something something sulfate one that's in the shampoo." Close enough, right? I should definitely be the host of a real T.V. game show.

This is also my job.

Laughing my head off as different groups of my trainees come up with clever jingles, posters, and skits to showcase our latest and greatest product (whatever it may be). Wishing that I could spend time chatting with many of them in a setting where we didn't all have to be so PC. Some of them are freaking hilarious. I hang their posters, give them accolades for their skits, and think about passing their jingles and one-liners to the marketing department.

This is my job.

Staying until 9. Coming in at 5. Taking a three hour lunch because I had an early class and a late class. Reading dozens of emails a day. Never feeling like I "finished" anything, because by the time I had finished writing a training, some of the content was obsolete and it needed revamping. Feeling like I was on a constant information overload. Feeling like I had to know everything about everything. Loving every second of it.

This is my job.

Well, it was my job. For four years. Now it's not, and I don't think I could ever go back, because I would feel like I was doing it just because it's familiar. And that would be like taking a step backward instead of forcing myself to branch out, grow, and take risks. But it's a job that I will always look back on with pride, gratitude, and satisfaction because I did love it, and I did it well.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

This year...

I'm going to live by this wonderful quote from Eleanor Roosevelt:

The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Thinking About

-bombing the language assessment test for class registration on purpose so I get put into an easier French class (homework is the last thing I want to think about while I'm in Paris--class was only an excuse to get into the country).
-taking a painting class or two while I'm there.
-all the museums I want to visit.
-panini, drinking chocolate and awesome bread with yummy cheese

Music Appreciation Moment

You may have forgotten about a previous post where I begged for music suggestions, but I haven't. I have definitely been testing the waters. I've still got a way to go because I also wrote about this on Facebook and got a ton of reponses there. But I promise I'll slowly and surely make my way through all of the suggestions given.

Here are some artists that I have a newly-developed appreciation for:

-The Postal Service
-Sondra Lerche
-A Fine Frenzy

Also, as a little FYI... Pandora is where I'm listening to all of the suggested artists. I love Pandora because it offers additional artists based on who you request to hear. It also tells you why it selected those specific additional artists so you can see the patterns in your musical preferences (if any).

The artists and songs I like, according to Pandora, typically feature:

-vocal harmony
-major-key tonality
-vocal-centric aesthetic

To me, that basically means I like pretty songs that I can sing along with. But I'm no music major.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

San Fran

Mom and I left at 6 am New Year's Day to fly to San Francisco so I could get my student visa.
I didn't get home from my New Year's Eve celebrating until 4:30, so I didn't bother going to sleep. That turned out to be a good thing, because this is the plane we flew on.
So small, so shaky. Because of my late night antics, I miraculously slept for most of the flight (I can never sleep on planes).

We got into SF pretty early, but it took us a little while to get downtown to our hotel, which was just cute and old and charming. so we got there just before the normal check-in time, and they gave us a room so we could drop off our things instead of hauling them around the city.

We spent the day eating at a geat local restaurant, riding cable cars, buying new earrings from awesome Chinese street vendors (okay, that was just me), and wandering around Ghirardelli square and the Fisherman's Wharf. It was FREEZING but fun.










I got my visa!! Part of me was convinced they would turn me away. But it was seriously painless. So, it's official! I am going, I'll be legal, and I'll be able to go in and out of France as I please. So my little weekend trips will be possible. HOORAY!!