26 December 2009

Noel in Paris

White Christmases are severely overrated. I prefer a sunny Christmas!

The first week of vacation has been pretty great, not that my work week is so difficult, but hey, who doesn't like vacation time?

This week Mel and I searched for the American grocery store in Paris-- aptly called "Thanksgiving"-- because we needed to buy some goods for Christmas.

Holy overpriced Macaroni and Cheese!

I thought that stuff was intended for poorer families and college students. You'd definitely have the blues if you spent 4 euros on a box of it (about 7 dollars). I'd love to know what kind of Americans are so homesick for a box of the blues that they're willing to dish out that kind of money for a little taste of childhood. Though I suppose there are some curious Europeans who wander in there thinking it's an American delicacy, which it is when it costs less than two bucks!

After purchasing the necessary cooking items, Mel and I purposefully lost ourselves in the Marais.

Dead birds that I couldn't resist takinga picture of to share with everyone else.

We found lots of very cute boutiques and several places that we'd like to revisit once the SOLDES begin in January.

For those unaware, the SOLDES (sales) happen twice a year in France. Once in janvier and again in juillet and they last for about a month. Imagine black Friday for a month, and you've got it!

Once we tired ourselves out we sat down for some falafel. I'm slowly becoming obsessed with falafel.

On Christmas Eve Mel made stuffing and I helped her make sugar cookies to bring to JC's family's Christmas party that night.

Finished cookies!

Both the cocokies and the stuffing went over well with the Frenchies, though I hardly recognized the stuffing when it was so delicately and perfectly placed in a small portion on my plate. I went back for seconds.

JC, me, and my new friend Petunia

We arrived home from the party around midnight and decided that we couldn't wait to open our presents, so we put on some Christmas tunes and dove right in!

On Christmas day we put ourselves into coffee/cocacola/chocolate comas and had a "True Blood" marathon on Mel's computer. I didn't leave the apartment once and it was a fabulously lazy Christmas. I even got to talk to my family for a little bit on skype.

21 December 2009

Paris sous la neige

Paris on December 20, 2009

A white Christmas? Don't get too excited. A day later and the sand on the streets used for traction is the only evidence that it snowed at all.

View from the kitchen window:

View from the kitchen window:

View from my bedroom window:
I'm wondering how that smart care will fare in the snow...


An ornament that I bought at the Christmas Markets in Strasbourg:

And Mom, you bought me this chocolate for Christmas... just so you know ;) I ate the white one on the top right and it was DELICIOUS!!!

4 days until Christmas!!!

Joyeux noel

14 December 2009

Never wanting to leave...

Things are really great on this side of the Atlantic...
  1. Though it's quite chilly outside, no snow to report. Though I hear that when it snows in Paris it's absolutely beautiful... we'll see about that. I'm not exactly a huge fan of snow.
  2. This is the last week of school before Christmas vacation.
  3. I had a good weekend... and it's still the weekend for me ;)
  4. Successfully started studying for the GRE math section (not that this is particularly fun or exciting, but I'm proud of myself for my self-discipline).
  5. The sun is shining.
  6. Christmas is in 11 days!
  7. I've been in France for three months already...
  8. And we can't forget the fact that every day I look out my window and see Paris.
I won't travel for Christmas break because I waited a bit too long to finalize my plans and the prices skyrocketed overnight. It's probably best that I save my money anyway. I have plenty of things to do in the city of lights, and now that I know that I can visit any national museum for free, I really can't complain of boredom ever again!

Here are some pictures of the Louvre at night:

09 December 2009

The Beauty of Life as an Immigrant

Before leaving for France, I remember thinking that the thought of moving to Paris frightened me much less than the thought of moving to New York City. I couldn’t figure out why. Three months in Paris later and I still feel that way. In fact, I feel much more at ease doing a lot of things in France than I do in the US.

For example, I talk to strangers on a regular basis (such as asking the poster-replacement-guy on the street if I could have the old posters), take a train for an hour to work 3 days a week, traveled to another city alone for a weekend, and attend a weekly conversation group. It sounds so silly when I put it into words, but I can’t honestly say that I would have done any of these things in the US. It’s a lot harder to step outside of your comfort zone when you have the choice, and it’s much more fascinating not to have the choice!

Moreover, daily life in France seems much more enchanting. On my hour commute to work I have the fortune to enjoy some of the most amazing people watching in the world, at the grocery store I have a whole new selection of foods (though I have slowly found my favorites), and I know that any contact I have with another individual outside of my cozy apartment will be in French, and not English. Maybe it’s just the vagabond in me (others feel extremely happy never leaving their home town), but I love and embrace change!

Of course, the minute I open my mouth and say something to a French person, I know that there’s a 80% chance that the following dialogue will occur:

“Oh, you’re not French, are you German? English?”

“No, I’m American”, I always respond

“But you speak French so well! I’ve never spoken French with an American before!”

While I find this very flattering, it’s frustrating to have this conversation every time you open your mouth to a French person. Fortunately, if I speak to a French person in French, even if they try to respond in English, when I continue speaking French they will always speak French to me. Also, the adults have been much more gracious than the children. The kids at school make fun of my French like it’s a sport, and the adults tell me my French is great… which I’m sure is because as an adult they understand how hard learning a second language really is.

Ultimately, I have concluded that I feel more daring in France because, though I get by with the language, I am not a native speaker, and so there is a lot less pressure on me to get things right. I have the language barrier excuse on my side (which becomes my best friend in certain situations), but I also think that people take an interest in talking to me because I’m unusual. In the US I think I’d act the same way towards a foreigner…

05 December 2009

A nice samedi afternoon

There's not much better than a Saturday; am I wrong? The sun is actually shining, something I haven't seen too much of in the past week, and despite the colder temperatures, I just keep thinking about the even colder temperatures that I left behind in Michigan... and the snow. I really love that it hasn't snowed yet. From what I hear, when it does snow Parisians can't handle it. After 4 years in West Michigan and 18 years in East Michigan, I think I've had my fair share of snowy winters, and I'm pretty sure I'm not going to be one of those people who miss snow. I guess we'll see!

Work is going well. The kids are obnoxious as usual, and I have been speaking to them a lot in French, which is technically against the rules. The thing is, I like practicing my French with the kids, and they respond to me in a more positive way when I speak in French to clarify misunderstandings (so far). The program expects a lot out of people who have no training in the education field and no teaching experience. If they want us to be such great teachers they should probably reorganize the program a wee bit. Oh well, I'm doing the best I can.

Though I don't believe that money can buy happiness, the stress one feels when in deficit makes for a painful existence. Since the government paid me last week I have been in much better spirits (not that I was in bad spirits before, just that I no longer feel guilty for going to the grocery store). Overall I've been very happy this past week! Things are going well!

On today's agenda?
  • post office
  • cleaning
  • searching for a new pair of boots (I had to throw my 15 euro boots away in Strasbourg because the soles fell off, ha! So now I'm going to invest in a nice pair).
  • making a haircut appointment :)
Happy Saturday! Joyeux samedi!

01 December 2009

To Christmastown and back

I've been more or less absent from the internet world for over a week. It's difficult! I depend on the internet way too much. Our cable box exploded (not literally, don't worry) about ten days ago which leaves the apartment phoneless, internetless, and cable tv-less. Our new box should arrive in the mail any day now...


Here is a photo from Assistant/French Thanksgiving. It wasn't quite like at home, but it was really fun and great to taste some comfort food for a change! I made a green bean casserole that I thought was going to turn out gross but was gone in about 2 minutes flat.

Field trip to the Louvre

On Friday (Nov 27) I accompanied a class of CP and CM1 kids to the Louvre (this would be the equivalent of first and second graders in the US). For insurance reasons I had to go to the school in the morning at 8:45 even though (a) we weren't boarding the bus until 10:00, and (b) I live in Paris already. The trip to paris via bus should have taken an hour and a half, but because of the bouchons on the highway (bouchon = cork, but the French use it for a trafic jam), the trip took three hours. We arrived back in Paris at 1:00pm.

Touring the Louvre with nineteen 7 year-olds was... fatiguant. Our tour lasted an hour, and I spoke about 6 words of English: black, blue, white, star, bird, painting. The rest of the time I was busy yelling « rangez-vous » to the kids so that they would stay in order. They listened to me about ¼ of the time.

Despite my complaints, I must say that it was a very educational experience for me to see what a field trip is like from the other side (and in a foreign language)!

Rewind a few days...

The weekend before Thanksgiving I was feeling a wee bit restless. Because I've been pinching pennies (or Euro 1 cent coins) for a while now (surviving on help from gracious family members, which is what I was thankful for on Thanksgiving), I haven’t really had a chance to leave Paris in some time. Julie, Alexis, and Alana mentioned an interest in traveling to Strasbourg (east of France on the border with Germany in the Alsace region) to visit the famous Christmas markets. I jumped on the bandwagon because it was exactly the kind of « girl trip » I knew I needed.

(Oh, and le gouvernement français finally paid me, so I'm feeling more or less on top of the world right now.)

See Strasbourg on map below

Strasbourg: Capitale de Noel

Sooo, on Saturday afternoon I took the train all by my lonesome to Christmas town. Every day I become more and more impressed with the tasks I find myself accomplishing here in France. I can already see a massive improvement in my willingness to approach strangers while speaking French-- something that I'm not sure I have ever really felt comfortable with in English. The biggest lesson I've learned is that if you put yourself out there, things will happen more easily.

I met up with the girls in town on Saturday evening. We walked around the marchés, took pictures of the HUGE Christmas tree, and listened to some Frenchies attempting to sing English Christmas carols. I think Strasbourg is the most charming city I have ever seen! I felt like I was in Disney World the entire time.

For my first dinner I had Tartine Flambée. It consisted of:

dough (or ½ of a baguette)

melted shredded cheese

crème fraîche (the most useful cooking ingredient in the world and it does not exist in the US.. it's like sour cream but thicker)

lardons (like little pieces of bacon that also don't exist in the US but are in almost everything here)



I fell in love with this food immediately. I even bought myself a dish towel that has the recipe for tartine flambée as a souvenir.

Another regional delicacy found in Strasbourg (and I mean EVERYWHERE in Strasbourg), is vin chaud (hot wine). It's basically like hot sangria.

On Sunday we went on the boat tour down the river, had brunch with Julie's old French roommate from Georgetown, and visited more markets in the Petit France quarter. The other girls left on Sunday night, but I decided to stay until Monday because it was actually cheaper that way. I had a wonderful time wandering around the city by myself!

I've been in Europe for 78 days already!