Friday, October 31, 2008


Does anyone remember when I mused about not knowing who Jean Nouvel was? Well. I need to give myself a big fat kick in the shins. Because he is a big freaking deal. He's a world-famous French architect who has designed hundreds of stunning buildings and recently won the Pritzker Prize. Opera houses, apartment buildings, museums, offices, restaurants… he has done them all, and they're always, let's be cliché here, breathtaking.

When I mentioned I was going to his book release, people were really impressed and expressed a tad bit of jealously. My host sister wondered if it would be totally ridculous to bring her portfolio with me (she just graduated from architecture school). My future roommate mentioned that she is doing her second internship in the Jean Nouvel office, but I'm not sure if she's met him before. This was actually a public event, and anyone was welcome. But I was the only one I knew that went.

His book was awesome, two volumes of photography highlighting all his work, with clever captions. It was also €500, so I didn't purchase it. And after I got there and snapped a few blurry photos, I really felt I should have him sign something. But I didn't bring a book. And I didn't want to buy something small and meaningless there. So I whipped out my Paris Moleskine and flipped to the back cover.

When it was finally my turn, I handed him my notebook. It's not a book, I told him, but this is where I keep all things France, all my thoughts and ideas. I said something about really liking the Lyon Opera house. He signed his name, for some reason wrote the date as 30/08/08, and then apologized for messing it up.

Now I am really excited about adding his buildings to my must-see list. And every time I see one, I will open my notebook. 'Look! Look!' I can tell anyone who is willing to listen. 'The same hand signed this notebook AND designed this building!'

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


I'm trying to think back on any job interviews I've had, and nothing memorable sticks out. Typically nervousness isn't an issue, when I've got a resume and a bit of self-confidece to fall back on.

But being interviewed as a potential roommate? This almost makes me ill. I saw an apartment last week that I loved. The people, location, price, apartment, all were great. But in order for this to work out, I had to pass the interview.

When competing for a job, you can always tell yourself that maybe someone had more experience, or knew someone who knew someone. There are all these factors that you can't control. But when competing for a roommate position, it's entirely personal. If they don't pick you, it's because they didn't like you. They did not like the person you are. When you think you're a good fit, this is pretty tough to stomach.

I got "called back" for a second interview last night for this apartment. I was so nervous. I was taking deep breaths and trying to make myself focus. Focus on being myself, I guess.

But I made the cut. I was the top pick. I don't know how many emails they sifted through or how many people they interviewed, but it felt good to be The One. I don't move in for another month, but I'm okay with that. This housing search has been stressful and time consuming. I'm glad to finally remove Craigslist from my homepage and delete my profile on all those housing sites. I'm excited to move to Paris!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Here's a sampling of some of my photographs thus far.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Sci-Fi Film

The initial excitement of being in France has worn off, and now I am starting to be grumpy pants when things don't go my way (which is often). Thankfully I had an unexpected distraction this weekend: shooting a sci-fi movie.

A friend was in Paris to help two friends shoot the film. These three persons made up the majority of cast and camera crew. Other characters were played by a drunk girl we met at the Eiffel Tower and someone who had replied to a Craigslist ad. A majority of the props were purchased from the dollar store. These included glow-in-the dark stars (weapons), wigs (for character changes), and a singing airplane toy (spaceship), to name a few. It was probably everything you would expect a low-budget sci-fi movie to be.

I never really caught on to the plot, but I did catch that it took place in the future after earth had been annihilated, there was Planet Tolerance, a mission to save something-or-other, a love triangle, and murder.

My contribution to the film was standing by bags to make sure no one stole equipment. I also waved glowsticks in front of the camera to create a space-like scene and covered a table in tin foil to set the Control Center scene. I felt mildly useful, and even got a free McDonald's lunch as a thank you for all my hard work.

The Filmakers.

The "Control Center."

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Sample Post

This is the sample I submitted for the mentioned-below internship. Not my masterpiece, but whatevs.

"Barack Obama, Change & Progress"
Dorothy's Gallery

Bastille is unlikely destination for the marriage of art of politics, but if you turn down the right street, you'll find it. Dorothy's Gallery, 27 rue Keller, boasts a well-lit, blank canvas for its current exhibition, "Barack Obama, Change & Progress." The dozen or so pieces, created by both American and French artists, represent interpretations of what the Democratic candidate has brought to the American election, and what the artists hope he will have opportunity to bring to the United States. Several mediums are present. Some, such as the shadow box that lights an image of Obama's head, put his face front and center. Other pieces, such as the tiny Obama silhouette with a wooden leg, challenge more reflection from viewers. All of it is patriotic, reds, whites and blues so bright, you almost forget that one of the most important colors of the exhibition is black.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Will Write for Free

I applied for an internship at GoGoParis. They already filled the position, but the editor in chief really liked my resume. She said they couldn't offer me anything because the budget is so tight, but they'd happily take me on as an unpaid writer. I said absolutely.

Maybe I already did my time. I've had how many unpaid internships? Enough to cram a resume full. But did anyone go to journalism school to become rich? "Rich" and "journalism" don't belong in the same sentence. That's, like, grammatically incorrect, or something.

The reason I'm doing this teaching thing is because it came with a salary. It's not a lot, but it's enough to live on. And it leaves me extra time to do stuff I like. I like writing. I like poking around, learning something I would never have been interested in otherwise.

My first assignment is to cover the release of Jean Nouvel's new book, which spans his complete work of architecture. Who's Jean Nouvel? I dunno. But I will find out and write about it and not get paid for it. Happily.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Mean Landlady

The search for an apartment has begun. Or shall I say the miserable, disheartening and exhausting search for an apartment has begun.

Today I went to see a room rented out by this lady. Based on my keen journalistic sense (or because I saw a saint-like image in stained glass), I deducted that the building was at one time a priory. This would explain the many rooms with shared bathroom/toilet/kitchen and sink-in-room situation.

Anyway, the room was sweet. Hardwood floors and a huge Parisian window with lots of light. Awesome location very close to central Paris. The only uncool thing? This woman who owned the building was absolutely wretched.

She insulted my French constantly, and at first I wasn't sure why. Then I decided it was because she was hard of hearing and refused to admit it. While she was putzing around being old, mean and deaf, I snuck into the kitchen and chatted with a girl who lives there. I was able to get some good information. "She's strict," and "she likes money."

Okay forget it. I am not living under the iron fist of a greedy old French lady who is mean to me. I'm an adult, and I make my own decisions. Decisions such as… I will not live there.

And so. The search continues.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

What the *&#$^?

I had my first Freak-out France moment today. Where I got all mad at France while peering through my American-colored glasses. It happened in the computer lab at one of my schools.

I spent about an hour last night preparing a Halloween wordsearch. Lots of clipart and stuff. Not hard work, just time consuming. Then saved both a pdf and word document onto my jump drive, with the intention of printing it off at school today.

Problems: Finding the someone to give me the key to the computer lab. Five minutes later, finding him again for computer's login information. Windows98 operating system. Locating jump drive on computer. Already existing hatred for PC computers worsening because this one is in French. Discovering several minutes later from fellow teacher that jump drives do not work. Last night's work wasted. Making new Halloween wordsearch. Internets slow. Keys on french keyboard all in weird places. Typing things such as 'It,s Hqlloween." Missing lunch.

The real problem is I'm spoiled. I own a MacBook Pro (well my credit card company owns about half). Those ancient days before wifi are kinda fuzzy. I guess it's not really fair to expect any primary school to have a magnificent computer lab. I'm lucky they have one at all. With a color printer, nonetheless.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Slice of Life

I was at a local grocery the other day, a small one with two checkout aisles. One cashier was working.

A mother came in with a stroller. She pointed out to the cashier that the stroller's bottom rack was already heavy with groceries. The woman was just grabbing something quick, and didn't want the cashier to charge her for the stuff on the bottom.

"Leave your baby up here with me," said the cashier. "I'll watch her." And so the mom did just that. She left the baby in the care of the grocery store cashier and disappeared into the store. I was gone before she finished shopping. But I'm sure the baby was perfectly safe.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Teaching; Reflections

I have eight classes, 20+ kids in each, 45 minutes every class period. After two days, I have seen all my students. I have introduced myself as Miss Betsy in front of them all, instructed them to write their names in BIG letters on a teepee-folded piece of paper, and directed the repetition of "Ello my nam iz…" more times than can possibly be counted. I will give rewards to those who keep their name cards the whole year, because I cannot possibly remember all the Margauxs and Axels and Maximes (boy's name) and Anaïses.

The key for my own success and sanity will be preparedness. For each class, I know I need to have 12 activities, ready-to-go to pull from my pocket, even if we only hit nine of them. Kids will take advantage of 10 empty seconds by chatting or flicking each other with their rulers. As soon as you turn to tell someone to shut his mouth, everyone's concentration is lost.

I also worry about gaining the respect of the teachers at my schools. I'm younger, and have officially been teaching for… mmm… two days. I don't have a closet-full of tried and true teaching methods, so I'll have to develop them. I hope the other teachers don't snicker at me along the way.

So here's to 9 months of getting back to the basics of my native tongue, drawing and photocopying so many worksheets I begin to dream about them, and making both kids and adults respect Miss Betsy.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

An American-Shaped Head

Today I was sent to a school to observe an English class. I met the school's director before class started.

"Where are you from?" she asked me. When I said 'Chicago,' she nodded knowingly. "You have an American head. I have a friend's who's father is American. He has the same head. He's from Boston. You look very American."

I've thought about other things that might sell me out. Wearing sweatpants in public, or not styling my hair before I leave the house, or my accent. I never really considered the shape of my head.

It really doesn't matter much. I'm proud to be American, and I can tell you (in French, if you wish) exactly why. So I'm not ashamed of the shape of my head. I just didn't know it was so telling, that's all.

editor's note: Apparently I kind of gravely misunderstood this conversation. It was just an expression I translated too literally. Read the comments for a more detailed explanation.


Found a lovely room in heart of Paris. €500 a month. It's a family from the UK who only uses the house for family vacation. For a €300 deposit, they'll send their dad to Paris to "usher you into the house." They want to ensure that you are serious in taking the room.
We have had some bad experiences in the past where my dad scheduled to meet with people but on arriving Paris none of them came money,energy and time wasted.Since them my dad maintained that anybody that wants to rent our house must make deposit before he will leave UK to Paris.
Well I guess I better wire them €300 then.

Or flag the posting as spam.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Good Days and Bad Days

Here in France, everything does not always run as expected.

For example, my American debit card. After droppping a hefty €92.20 on a metro pass, my cash was just about out. So I went to the ATM to replentish my supply. Didn't work. Even though before I left, I spent hours on the phone, making sure this would not be a problem. Still it was. I will not go into the details of the new problems, of which there were several. All this on a day when the metro contrôleurs had fined me €28 because I was in a zone where my pass was not valid. That my friends, was a bad day.

But the unexpected also works in my favor.

According to my contract, I can be assigned work in up to three schools. Three schools means a lot of traveling, especially if they're far apart, and more classes and kids to keep straight. I was only assigned two schools. Even better, the directors worked together so that I work two days in one school, two in another. No travel between classes required. Even better, I'm not working Friday afternoons or Monday mornings. Or Wednesdays. My contract does not guarantee such a good schedule. But I was lucky. Receiving my schedule made today a good day.

Tomorrow, who knows? We'll just have to wait and see.