Monday, September 29, 2008

Metro tix and Apartmints

I went to Paris tonight for dinner at a friend's place. Getting there and back, I accumulated many metro tickets. I'm not metro savvy yet, which might explain how I somehow purchased a children's all-day ticket, valid specifically Saturday, Sunday and holidays, specifically in zones 1 through 5. Needless to say, that one was useless, so I had to buy another.

The friend has a real-life Paris apartment with two roommates, like I would like to get. We had a realistic conversation about apartment hunting. Everyone's looking now, so there's a lot of competition. It could take a month to find a place. The government may reimburse me for part of my housing, but it's not guaranteed. I already knew these things, but hearing them said again dampered my 'yay! France!' mood a bit.

Also a mood killer: losing my metro ticket in a pocket somewhere on my trip back home. To transfer from the city metro to the suburban train, I needed to revalidate my ticket. The one I lost. I found two others, but not the one I needed.

As I frantically searched, I heard someone say "Passez! Passez!" He had just validated his ticket and was waving me through before the doors closed. "Merci" I said with a smile.

A few minutes later, as I waited for the train, I found the correct ticket. I gathered it with all the others. Four frustrating tickets for one trip to Paris. Meh, whatever. A nice man helped me through, and I found the ticket eventually. I just had to look in every pocket.

Roundabout close to my close-to-Paris home (but not yet Paris apartment).

To shower or not to shower

Return from long run. Or wake up to the sun, when your body clock says it's really seven hours earlier.

Look forward to a shower. Stand lazily in tub and allow a strong stream of hot water on your face to work its magic. After a short time, all fatigue mysteriously evaporates.

Not in France.

The above senario requires that the shower head is attached to the wall. A shower curtain helps, too. These are foreign to European showers. So instead, one has to hold the shower head in front of one's face.

For an American who has been spoiled by the conveniences of American-style showers, this is just too much work. Am I supposed to sit or stand? Am I spraying water everywhere? My arm is getting heavy.

Maybe I'll start drawing more baths.

The dreaded shower. I know what you're thinking. It looks handsome. But as all girls know, a handsome boy isn't always worth your trouble. Same with showers. I'd be willing to ugly it up a bit with a curtain rod and shower curtain.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Life thus far; Taverny

This morning, I awoke from a 12-hour deep sleep and peeked out my window. Jean-Jacques was tinkering in the garden. I love that my window looks out into a garden, and I love that I am living in the home of someone named Jean-Jacques, a runner, biker, artist and Macintosh (AND Nikon D200) owner.

For a moment or two or possbly three, I considered making this my home for my whole 9-month stay. The Riou home is minutes away from my work, my room is comfortable and dinner always includes heaping vegetables. What more could I want??

Problem is, before I left, I made a list of things I absolutely had to acomplish in France. #2: Live with French roommates. Jean-Jacques and his family are great. But they certainly are not French roommates.

The point of making the 4-point list was to push myself out of my comfort zone. After less than two days here, I would already consider myself comfortable. Soon the idea of scouring websites and making phone calls and visiting apartments in the name of "French roommates" will be less and less appealing.

But it's on The List. I thought hard before writing The List, and each item is very important to me. So I'm sorry to say I cannot let myself live here for 9 months.

On a different note, here are some photos I snapped of my school today. Since it's Sunday, it was closed. So I may or may not have snuck in. Okay, okay I just followed someone else through the front door, that's all.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Under Construkshun

Okay so there is a weird grey (or perhaps you prefer gray. Not even sure what's grammatically correct myself) box outlining my posts, and I guarantee future awkward colors & shapes here and there. I'm trying my hand at a blog redesign. As I've only taken one worthless html classes a couple years ago, this will take a lot of trial, error and time. So bear with me, please. Thnx. <3 me.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Literature and Ink

While browsing other blogs for design inspirations, I found one of my favorite sentences from literature.

Five points if you know where it's from.

It's a gorgeous sentence. I don't know if I would ever get it in tattoo form. Maybe.

See more of Lou O' Bedlam's work on flickr.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Packing List

I haven't started packing. I will soon. But I have started the process of accumulating things on the dining room table. I'll put everything on there that I would like to take. Then, I'll have to take out about half. But here are some things I will absolutely bring.

- Stickers. I might have a couple thousand, from a summer of stalking Target's dollar spot and the like. Stickers aren't a part of French school culture. But kids of all cultures love their stickers. I plan to bribe those little frenchies to make them be good.

- Heaps of over-the-counter meds. Ibuprofen, NyQuil, DayQuil, Pepto-Bismol to name a few. In France, you have to go to the doctor, get a prescription, then go to l'pharmacie for any of those things. Also, the French versions suck. Also, not worth the time or expense, especially when I'm sick, especially when I can just bring the delicious American drugs in my suitcase.

- GU Energy Gels and powdered Gatorade. Again, not available in France. I just registered for the Paris marathon. I can't train without the proper energy replacements. What do French athletes eat on their training runs, wine, cheese and baguettes? (probably).

Departure: SOON

I am leaving the country in 10 days. What? I feel like I should be running around freaking out. But I'm not. Just sitting here with Libby, my cat.

Monday, September 15, 2008

What I Will Miss

I'm on Megabus right now, using the free Megabus wifi. Earlier, I was placing holds on library books with my library's online system. The bus was 45 minutes late, but round-trip from Chicago to Columbia only cost me $34. So there's not much to complain about.

Wifi is almost unheard of in France. So are free libraries, and convenient online systems from which you can order and renew books from your personal computer. Not being on time is pretty standardly French, but bus tickets this cheap are not.

And an unrelated end note. The dude sitting next to me on this bus is obnoxious. He's way too old for the college-aged Megabus crowd. But he is not above spending the whole bus ride on his phone, talking very loudly about how wasted he gets all the time. Shenanigans in Peurto Rico, Istanbul, Madrid, wherever. Miraculously, he's never been jailed. Nope, not once. He just told the dude on the phone that Noel is no longer with them, which "is between you and me." Since he just told the whole bus, I believe he is incorrect.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Faint Memory of Barcelona

In redesigning the format and purpose of my blog, the header I've had forever is going to have to go. This one:
"He said he could see the shadows of two people dancing. they're in front of the tables. they're waltzing around. Her head is on his shoulder. you can tell by the way he holds her that he loves her." "That's a nice story. I'm sorry I don't see it."
It's from an exhibit I saw at a museum in Barcelona in the spring of 2007. I was alone exploring the city, I didn't speak Spanish, and I remember feeling very lonely. Thus, I was in the perfect mood to poke through a museum, where I would not have to speak to anyone and could contemplate art and life.

The exhibit: dark and old looking, and quite creepy. Strange and unstrange scenes, such as a bedroom or a medical office. Dialogues and sounds were activated as you stepped into each space. You felt as if you were stepping into someone's life, getting a little piece of it, then stepping out.

The dialogue I liked the most
was the one I wrote down, and later slapped on my blog. I sat in a chair and listened to the voices of a man and woman. I interpretted that it was about hope and about love. Maybe these are two people who can never be together because they cannot hope and love in the same way.

You can make whatever story you want out of it. But there is some story. I like people's stories, and that is probably why I liked this exhibit.

Learn more about the exhibit, titled "Dark Pool," here.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Bzz bzz bzz

After a week of furious cleaning, menu planning and weather worrying, Sunday's honeybee party went on without a hitch. Papa Mikel gave a brave demonstration to the guests, Momma Mikel worked furiously in the kitchen and Mikel sisters were as dashing and entertaining as they ever were. Here I present to you the photos. Don't be jealous you weren't there.

I bought a dog bee costume at Target. But all three of our golden retrievers are too big for it. Here, Addie sports just the hat.

Dad smokes the bees while Amy brushes them off. Dad admits to being stung once, but we wonder if it was more.

This would have been a lot cooler of a picture if I had reversed the focus. Why do I always do that?

The bees of Hive #12.

Try some Mikel honey? Watch out, this batch had ants in it.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Feeling Better

The other day, I sent an email to my friend expressing a lot of my concerns: shipping off to a foreign country, leaving friends and family, not knowing anyone, trying to get the hang living and working there. In reading his reply, I realized how negative of an impression I gave him.

I don't always feel hopeless and discouraged when looking forward to this whole France thing. Sometimes I do. But just as often, I'm excited about all these challenges. As I'm trying to push through the piles of paperwork I anticipate the French will throw on me, I can always take a break and picnic under the Tour d'Eiffel. I'm not complaining about that.

I booked a hostel today, because I fear that my constant efforts to secure some sort of interim housing while I look for an apartment might not work. So I'll have to stay in a hostel for a week while I look for some dingy futon to sleep on. Then while sleeping on the dingy futon, I will look for an apartment. It's not the worst thing ever, as I feared it might be. It really will be okay.

Friday, September 05, 2008


I've been going to lots of doctors appointments and things lately, where I'm always asked if I'm going back to school. No, I'm moving to France, I say. And then they gush about how that is just so exciting, they wish they could do something like that.

Yesterday or the day before I cried a little because I am scared about France.

How nice it would be to get a job and an apartment here and start building a comfortable little life for myself! But instead I am shipping off to this whole other country where I know hardly anyone, hoping I can make a good year out of it.

I feel better today, more confident about the whole thing. I am excited. I am. And it's terrifying at the same time. Adventures are fun, just less fun when they're taken on alone. I am more prepared for France than I was last time, so I hope that I can get more out of it. I just wish I could be as excited as all those receptionists at the doctor are.