Monday, December 29, 2008

Accumulating Stuff

I am moving again, and going through the process of sorting and packing. I arrived to France with a big suitcase, a biggish backpack and a carry-on. But now, after only three months, I have much much more. How does this happen?

Some of it is from packages I've received from my family (thanks Family, love you guys!!). But some of it… how do I have so many papers? Old worksheets I've drawn up, lessons plans, to-do lists. I don't even know what else. Just a bunch of… stuff.

I hate the process of going through what is essentially junk. Still you must think very hard about every single item. Do I need this? Am I willing to carry this up six flights of stairs to keep for another six months or more of my life? Maybe I don't need it now, but is it something I will need later? Is this piece of paper from my telephone company really important? Ahhhh so many questions.

But in fact I find this cleansing quite good. If I weren't moving, I wouldn't be doing it. Instead I am being forced to get rid of things I don't need.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Do as the French do

I am leaving tomorrow to spend Christmas with a friend's family in France. I thought a bottle of wine would be an appropriate gift. The problem? A France wine aisle is even more expansive and overwhelming than an American chip aisle.

I meandered up and down the aisle for several minutes, getting nowhere. There was just so much wine. I don't know anything about wine. In terms of buying wine for myself, I usually bolt for something cheap and red. But a €3 bottle certainly wouldn't do for a gift.

Then I spotted a French couple deep in discussion. They would select one bottle, chat a bit and put it back. They looked very intelligent on wine buying. I decided I would buy whatever they did. They spent about another 10 minutes trying to pick a bottle. I spent another 10 minutes pretending I was trying to pick a bottle. They chose a 2005 Antonin Rodet Nuits-Saint-Georges. Thirty second later, I did too.

I felt that this was very clever of me. I told the story to my roommate's family, who was over for dinner tonight. 'What wine?' they asked. I revealed the bottle. 'That is really good wine!!' they told me. 'What year?' they asked. 2005. 'That is a really good year!!!!!!!!' they told me.

This made me feel even more clever. I am so good at picking wine. Ask me sometime, I can give you some tips.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Why I am Constantly Tired

I'm approaching my three-month anniversary here in France, and I'm sure you want to know how it is. Have I settled in okay? Have I made friends? How's my French? I bet awesome, right? Am I loving Paris?

Well, let me ask you a question. On what day of the week are you asking? What time? Be specific, and I can more clearly answer your questions. I cannot answer generally.

If there is one thing I wasn't prepared for coming here, it's the giant swing from really sucky to really awesome. I expected this at the beginning, but still three months later, it's a constant. On any given day, multiple times a day, I'll find my mood changing dramatically.

When living in a different country, culture and language, little things become big things. Feeling stupid because I realize after the fact I've just asked two people for a "recipe" (recette) instead of a "receipt" (reçu). Why did I make that mistake? I learned these words years ago. I must have sounded riduculous. Then I am made happy by a warm baguette or a peaceful boulevard I see on the walk back. Delicious bread and ancient streets, things I could never get back home.

And big things are still big things. Feeling empowered and independent by going to the cinema alone. Feeling small and alone when I start hunting for apartments again.

Every day presents me with any combination of little and big things, good ones and bad ones. But this is the point, right? This is why I am here. This is The Experience. All I can say is that it's exhausting to feel so much and so often.

Did I explain this well? I don't feel like I did. Maybe some more examples would show my point better. But I am too tired to replay the last few days or weeks to find a good way to show what I am trying to say. Those days were challenging enough in real time.

Tomorrow is the day to think about. It could be a good day or a bad one. It could be a good day five times and a bad day six times. We'll see when we get there.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

What Paris Sounds Like

Paris clicks.

In Chicago, it's considered acceptable, maybe borderline trendy to wear Asics to and from your downtown job. You switch into your work shoes once you get there. In Paris, I've never seen a pair of Asics on anyone not a tourist.

Here it's heels. Not necessarily high heels, but those too. It's wintertime, so boots for women. Men wear leather, brown or black, pointy. Man or woman, young or old, businessman or student, whatever you are wearing, it will certainly click.

No one talks during rush hour. Everyone is going their separate ways and rushing to catch the metro. So this sound, of hundreds of heels clicking on the lineleum corridors between metro lines, is a very loud one. And very Parisian.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Spoiled American; part 2

When I first arrived, I complained about this country's lack of shower heads and curtains. Now I've got another beef. Can we stop being so environmentally conscious and get a clothes dryer up in here?

Air drying is lovely. In the summer, smelling of the outdoors, fresh. But we're approaching the worst of winter.

It's cold right now, and my sole pair of sweatpants are in the process of drying. They probably won't be dry for another three to five days from now. At night I dream of my past life in the United States, where I could dry any article of clothing in 45 minutes. Of the drier that not only dries, but makes things warm and fluffy. What I would do for a pair of warm and fluffy sweatpants straight from the dryer right now. Or a warm and fluffy towel! Instead my freshly laundered and racked-dried towels are kind of… crunchy.