Sunday, May 31, 2009

Getting Things Done

I applied for a job in Chicago. The tiny chance of maybe, possibly being hired got me thinking. What if I had to leave Paris within the month? Would I be satisfied with everything I did here? Would I have given my time in Paris a good enough shot?

Naturally, the answer will always be no. You can always do more. You can always learn more. You can always see more, especially in this city. But all that aside. Would I have any major regrets if I left tomorrow?

Well… I wanted to go up in the Eiffel Tower again in honor of my late grandpa, who took me on my first France and Paris trip. I wanted to see a ballet and/or an opera. I wanted to eat at Dans le Noir, a pitch-black resturant with blind servers. I wanted to visit an old empty metro station. I'm just naming a few. There are more things I wanted to do.

So I'm going to stop lollygagging. I'm going to make a better effot to get some of this stuff done. Ideally I have until the end of August to cross everything off my list, but you never know. Could be sooner.

To celebrate this new determination of mine, I went to the Grand Palais to see the Andy Warhol exhibit, which I've had my eye on for months and months. I particularly liked the collection of Interview covers, the magazine he started in the '60s. The rest was good, too. I'm glad I went. I have been meaning to for awhile. Today I learned that getting around to doing something means to just go on and do it.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Photo Outtakes

I was editing photos for my little freelance gig, and came across some I never used.

I took this just outside of the Palais de Tokyo. If I had a scooter in Paris, I would want it to look somewhat like this.

This is just around the Centre Pompidou, or Beaubourg, as the locals say. I don't say Beaubourg because I sound stupid thanks to my dumb accent.

This is one of my favorite hipster streets in Paris. It's Rue Tiquetonne. There are a lot of hipster boutiques and even a hipster hair salon, where I got my hair cut once.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Bike in Paris

I thought it would always be cool to have a bike in Paris, and an opportunity to buy one presented itself. Another language assistant was leaving the country. She was offering the bike, locks, lights and helmet for €70. So I bought it. It looks like this:

It's not the perfect bike. Its brakes go EEEEEEEEEE!!!, which is a bit embarrassing. But I can get that fixed. It's a bike nonetheless, and I'm excited to cruise around the Paris streets this summer.

Another added benefit was that I paid the seller with $$. I've been holding onto the 20-dollar bills my grandparents send me every few months. As the seller was leaving for the states the next day, she didn't really need any more local currency. So the bike didn't even cost me €1.

I hope my other bike doesn't find out. My blue Schwinn road bike with yellow handlebar tape is sitting in my parents' garage, and I miss it dearly. It is a great bike, and we have been through a lot together. Like when I dropped it off my car during rush hour on Lakeshore Drive. Or when it dropped me on a cement sidewalk, and I thought I had broken my arm. Ahhh… great memories. I haven't forgotten you blue Schwinn with yellow handlebar tape. You are still my favorite. The Peugeot is only temporary. Shhh… just don't tell it.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Moving On Up: Maps

Anyone who knows me well knows that I get lost easily. In other words, I can lost in my hometown. In September, I brought the following with me to Paris, ready to battle the directionally challenged aspect of my being:

It's a Paris City Moleskine. A notebook with Paris maps and blank pages for taking notes and writing deep thoughts. Back then, it was a great tool. I had one small convenient notebook for writing addresses and directions and for finding places.

But I've outgrown the notebook. I no longer need any of the information written inside. The old addresses and shopping lists aren't doing me much good. The maps aren't always accurate. Oftentimes they don't name those little pedestrian streets of which Paris has a million. The metro map is missing the last stop on Line 14.

Okay, so no one visiting Paris needs to take Line 14 to its final stop. Which is why the book is really useful for a tourist or newcomer. I, however, needed something more serious. Enter this:

Tourists carry fold-out maps. Parisians carry l'indispensable (the essential) Paris Pratique. It's a book of maps separated by neighborhood. It lists all the metro stops, bike stations, one-way streets, and all sorts of other handy info. It's small, thin, and slips easily into a purse or decently sized pocket.

The problem with my Paris Pratique is its age. It's the 2009 edition, aka too new. It's clear that I haven't been living here long, because the corners aren't worn, the pages arent frayed, and the cover isn't warped. It's getting there. My Paris Pratique got rained on a bit, so some of the pages are a tad-bit water damaged. I'm proud.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

So When Are You Coming Home?

I get this question several times a week from my friends, family and pretty much anyone I know back in the states. My teaching contract finishes the end of June, so everyone wants to know how quickly I will hurry back to that whole other life I left in the USA.

Moving here wasn't easy, especially at the beginning. But it also won't be easy to leave. I've worked really hard to carve out a little niche for myself in Paris. Believe it or not, this hasn't been a vacation. I have a life here, too. And I also really like baguettes.

After much deep thought and journal-entry writing, I've decided to stay in Paris at least until the end of the summer. Although making money might be an issue, I'm confident I can figure something out. I'll either keep freelancing or start waiting tables or something.

Why do I want to stay longer? I worry that I haven't given Paris the chance it deserves. There is so much in this city that I haven't gotten around to doing. And I would also like to take a couple months to concentrate on pitching and writing some freelance pieces that have been floating around in my head for some time. Plus I can't deny that my French still needs more work.

So I'll come home, eventually. I just don't know when that eventually is. Probably when I can no longer stand the riduculous level of second-hand smoke here. The first shirt I am pulling out of my wardrobe when I arrive home is this one.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Missing American Food

This weekend, I was in the neighborhood of the American foods store. So I popped in to take in some familiar sites and smells from the homeland. That Betty Crocker cake mix looks so foreign in Paris.

I walked out with a box of €3.50 Kraft Mac & Cheese. Almost four times the price, but Sooooo good, and equally so bad (For those who don't know: it's a box of pasta with cheese-flavored powder. Cook pasta, add powder, butter and milk. Eat. And get fat, because that powder is extremely high in calories). This got me to thinking about what other foods I really miss from home, mostly unhealthy stuff. Here are some things I never eat here:

- Macaroni & Cheese
- Nerds
- Peanut butter M & Ms
- Junior mints
- Peanut butter that actually tastes good (Can be found in the foreign foods section of the grocery store, but doesn’t take quite right)
- Deep dish pizza (Chicago only)
- Italian beef sandwiches (Chicago only)
- Hot dogs smothered with delicious toppings, not ketchup of course (of the Chicago variety)
- Lakota coffee (Columbia only)
- Chicken wings
- Potato skins
- Chocolate soy milk
- Bagels
- Bacon
- Pie, any kind. cherry, blueberry, pumpkin preferably.

I'm sure there's more. I had to do some thinking to make this long of a list. Like I said, these foods just simply do not exist here, so I kind of forgot about most of them.

Also, for fun, I google imaged "american foods." Basically it's pictures of the worst possible everything you could eat.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

A Way in Which I Will Never be French

So I'm 22, going on 23. I graduated one year ago, after a normal time period of four years at college. Then, it was time for me to go out into the world and make something of myself.

And no one, (almost) no one in France understands what the hell I am doing.

"What university are you in?" a teacher at school asked me the other day. I quickly realized she had just assumed I was enrolled in a French university. "Did I tell you I was taking classes here?" I asked her. "No, I just thought you were."

I introduced myself to the secretary at my new office. "I'll be working here a couple days a week," I said. "Oh, you're an intern?" "No. I'll be WORKING here a couple days each week."

And on and on. I am constantly being asked these questions. How is it possible that I have already finished school? Am I sure I finished school? So I'm doing a teaching internship? Does my job pay me? How old am I again? Wait, I work to make my own money? Huh?

I will make a broad sweeping generalization here, and say that French people stay in college until they are about 25-27 years old, then live off their parents at least as long. So it's natural for them to assume everyone else in the world does, too. I try really hard to understand this culture, I really do. But I am contantly annoyed that the French are tagging me as something I'm not, then giving me the impression that they think I am worth less than I really am.

Why does a 22-year-old have to be in school? Is she not allowed to work alongside her superiors? Will going to school for three more years give her that right? Is she is not capable of working to support herself?

Well I am capable, France. And so are plenty of my American friends. I'm not the only one. I came to your country to understand your culture. Now open your ears and listen to mine. I am not a student. I am not an intern. Mom and dad do not pay my rent and feed me. I am a 22-year-old adult. Can you handle that?

Sadly, I think the answer is no. So I'll just keep getting annoyed by this. The question will come again in the next couple of days. So what university do you go to? grrrrr stop asking me!

Monday, May 04, 2009

I'll Try to Keep My Mouth Shut

My good friend Kelly and I registered for the Twin Cities Marathon yesterday. We had our hearts set on the Chicago race, but it filled up too quickly. So the Twin Cities race is our Plan B. Our 18-week training schedule starts whipping us into shape June 1.

The second and last marathon I ran was in 2006. Since then, I've taking some time off marathons and running in general. In other words, I got lazy and fat. Along the way, I've met people who never knew me as a marathoner and just don't buy it. I get "you don't look/seem like a runner," a lot.

Well I'm getting back in the game, but I'm bringing some newfound wisdom. Back in 2006, about 89 percent of my blog posts were about running. I went back, read some of them, got really disgusted with myself, and deleted them all. The thing is, when four months of your life are dedicated to this one final goal, you think about it a lot and mistakenly think other people think about it, too. Now that I've spent some time away from the hardcore running world, I realize how tedious it is for an outsider to hear about it all the time.

So my vow to any loyal blog readers is to not talk about running too much. I can't say it won't come up. A full-time training regime can consume one's life. But I will try to keep this whole running thing to myself. Deal?