The Chichimeca goes to France

The continuing adventures of your favorite Chichimeca, a.k.a. the mysterious "Mademoiselle X", as she takes on the Fifth Republic with the aid of the intrepid Monsieur B!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Settling In...

My first full week in Paris has been mostly about adjusting. Adjusting to really nice weather, great food, fun things to do. Yeah, culture shock is hard...

M. B and I headed to the Petit Palais to see an exhibit on the archaeology of Peru. M. B had a vigorous debate with the gentleman who sold us our tickets at the entrance. We were trying to get a discount under any of the following pretexts: I'm a student, he's a researcher, goverment employee, we're archaeologists, etc. The only one that seemed to stick with the ticket seller was being associated with history or archaeology. M. B didn't qualify in this individual's mind because he wasn't really a student and I didn't because all of my ID's (I tried both my US and Mexican credentials) said "Anthropology". "No! Not Anthropology! Archaeology!!!" the ticket seller insisted. "But Archaeology IS Anthropology!" retorted M. B. "No! It's only Archaeology!" declared the ticket seller smuggly, full of assurance and finality on the subject (Lewis Binford eat your heart out!). Imagine this to repeat itself for about 3 more rounds. But, in the end, this lively intellectual debate apparently sufficiently entertained the gentleman because we both ended up receiving the discount. As for the exhibit itself, it was nicely done and there was a good balance between education and just looking at cool artifacts.

There's plenty of opportunities to enjoy a drink on the terrace of a cafe with the great weather. We recently went to one just up the street from M. B's apartment. Everyone was in a very good mood chatting over beers, soft drinks, and glasses of wine. There are a lot of children in the neighborhood, and there were quite a few running around playing with water guns to stay cool in the afteroon. There are also more drunks wandering the streets here in the summer. One such individual made a scene slurring angrily to the father of a 4 year-old that he had sincerely feared for his life when the small child pointed a bright yellow plastic water pistol at him and that it's a shame that such violence is allowed among the young. Eventually he calmed down and wandered off (probably to refuel and spread joy in another quartier).

Saturday I went to the local public swimming pool. I suppose it may be similar in the US because I haven't been to that many there, but it seemed a bit more orderly than I expected. There is a vending machine immediately at the entrance that sells the swimming caps that are required for all users, male and female. Also, men are not permitted to wear loose swimming trunks. Instead, the skin tight "Speedo" style is required (maybe that explains in part the European men that appear in, shall we say...unflattering fashions on American beaches). After changing and then taking your mandatory shower you are allowed to enter the pool. It was a little crowded for my taste, but everyone else seemed happy to swim their laps.

Later in the afternoon M. B and I took a walk through Montmartre to visit the Pigalle neighborhood. On the way we stumbled onto a few places new to not only me but also M. B (something that doesn't happen too often). One of these was a semi-hidden pétanque club. That's the game of outdoor bowling, like bocci balls. We spent a few moments observing the players.

Finally we got to Pigalle. Once the home to various cabarets and artists, today it is best known for strip clubs and sex shops. But still, this is Paris, and so despite the mercantile emphasis, it's really quite pretty. And the sex shops are pretty hilarious. This is also where the famous Moulin Rouge is located.

And for those of you who are looking forward to Samuel L. Jacksons upcoming Oscar bid "Snakes on a Plane" you'll be excited to see it's making the rounds abroad as well.

Sunday, after a leisurely lunch, we headed to the Parc Floral to see one of the outdoor jazz concerts. Once there, the park/botanical garden was so pretty, the weather so nice, and the crowd around the ampitheater so dense, that we decided to just stroll and look at the plant exhibits and walk-in butterly exhibit. It's really a very nice place to spend the afteroon, especially for families. After, we passed through a neighborhood that I think was in the Marais that was originally a jewish neighborhood. Today it's pretty touristy, but the architecture is very interesting. There also lots of little bars and resaurants to sample. M. B was happy with a shawarma sandwich; I preferred an Italian gelato.

Finally, today I started my French classes in a school in downtown Paris. I'll have to update my progress. Today I just got placed into my level (B-1, not exactly sure what that means). The school's teaching methods are interesting. There are no textbooks, only "authentic documents" (ads, articles, songs, that are part of French life). There is also no formal lesson plan. The teacher brings things to read, listen to, and discuss each day and grammar and vocabulary will supposedly flow more naturally this way. We also have lessons with drama coaches who will teach us intonation, gestures, and other tricks to get through a conversation when "we have no idea what people are actually saying to us". Sounds like just what I need!

Le Petit Palais (aka, M. B's house) Posted by Picasa

My neigborhood Posted by Picasa

Petanque Posted by Picasa

Le Moulin Rouge Posted by Picasa

Snakes on a Plane!!! Posted by Picasa

At the Parc Floral Posted by Picasa

The eternal struggle between man and windows that don't wish to open... Posted by Picasa

The Battle Continues! Posted by Picasa

Victory!!! Posted by Picasa

Monday, June 12, 2006

Voilà L’été!!!

I made it to Paris late Saturday morning (VERY early Saturday morning California time). I'm still working on the whole sleeping through the night thing. It's hard too because the sun rises a little before 6 am and doesn't set until almost 10 pm. So it's basically always day for me, but day is actually night? Anyway, I'm going to have to gradually cut down on the naps.

The weather is beautiful, in the 80's and sunny in the day and in the 60's at night. It's a lot of fun to go strolling around town, although the sidewalks and cafes are a bit crowded.

Saturday I mostly adjusted to the new time zone. I'm staying at M. B's place in Montmartre in the 18th arrondissement. It's a great neighborhood a stone's throw from all sorts of shops that specialize in wines, cheeses, fresh produce, charcuterie, etc. M. B prepared a tomato, mozzarella, and fresh basil salad for lunch, which we followed with California chocolate, fresh cherries, and espressos. Then we took a walk around the Butte and took in the spectacular view of the city from the front of Sacré Coeur Basilica. There were a ton of tourists and some self-styling guitar heroes singing an annoyingly earnest version of "No Woman No Cry" (I won't if you promise to stop singing!). But it was very relaxing on the whole. Later that night M. B topped himself at dinner with a dish of rabbit marinated in red wine with vegetables and tagliatelle pasta, and cantaloup for dessert. Sunday we met up with some of M. B's friends to go to an outdoor dance on the Canal St. Martin near la Villette. There was a band with an accordion, fiddle, drums, upright bass, etc playing traditional folksy music and waltzes on the bank of the canal. Afterwords we grabbed a outside table at a cafe a bit down the canal and had an apératif followed by a salad for dinner.

Today is a little more normal. The cable guy came by to install a new phone line for M. B (and luckily was able to help us figure out why his cable modem wasn't recongnizing my computer). It was kind of cute to hear the two of them being very polite to each other (lots of "Bonjour monsieur! Merci monsieur!". Not your typical Cox Cable tech. I'm going to do some dissertating now, but will be back with the news on Thursday. I'll try to get some photos too!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Vive la Différence!

Hi everyone! Welcome to my new blog. As you can see from the title, I'm jumping across the Atlantic for a European adventure. For the next nine weeks you can witness my newest round of intercultural exchanges. Of course this time I don't really speak the language (French that is), so you are guaranteed that from the first moment hilarity will ensue. Apart from my linguistic pièges there are sure to be other cultural misadventures (like the time M. B and I visit a cheese shop with a selection of several hundred varieties. As the guest of honor I am invited to pick my favorites, but can't recognize even one! ). Anyway, I hope you will find it entertaining and will tune in from time to time. My goal is to post more regularly this time around, shooting for Mondays and Thursdays. À bientôt!