09 September 2010

New Blog

Hey, y'all. This adventure is over, but you can check out my new blog at www.americourt.blogspot.com which will be full of observations as a repatriated American. Enjoy :)

And my even better site, www.filleamericaine.com, which launched May 1, 2011.

08 September 2010

America the strange

Dear faithful readers,

As most of you know, I have successfully made it to the States, something that has been both exciting and difficult for me this past week. I'm still in the process of setting myself up here in Michigan, but I am eager to begin blogging again once things become a bit less hectic! Don't lose faith, I still have plenty of things to say, haha.

Love lots,

Courty

30 August 2010

Cher Paris,

MERCI.

19 August 2010

Paris is DEAD

There is quite literally no one in this city. Okay, that's a gross exaggeration, but let me put it this way, I had to walk to five (yes, FIVE) different pharmacies today before finding one that was open. I was about to give up after number four, but something inside of me told me that it's not physically possible to have no open pharmacies in a city. Where are these Parisians getting their perscriptions?! Oh wait, they're not... they're all on vacation in the south.

This week has presented me with a strange combination of laziness and stress. Did you see that damn ticker on the left of this page? TWELVE DAYS left in Paris. That's it! I figured with two weeks to go I should probably start packing my stuff. I wanted to make sure that everything that I have accumulated in the past year (which is an astonishing amout of affairs) would fit into my four suitcases. Moving is always an unpleasent experience, made twenty times more so when constrained to Air France baggage restrictions. When I checked the Air France website I learned to my dismay that I am only allowed to check two suitcases, which means that my lovely backpack will be hanging out in Paris until I come back to get it.

I read an article in the New York Times today which discussed the newly accepted life stage of "emerging adult", a stage that one goes through during their twenties. Apparently us new millenium twenty somethings like to put of adulthood as long as possible in the self indulgent hope of "finding ourselves"-- or at least that's how someone put it. We don't want to get jobs, spouses, have children, or buy houses. Apparently we just want to move to Europe and have a glorious, soul-searching helluva time. Given my current lifestyle, I had to laugh while reading the article.

Though I can't lie, sometimes I wish I had less choices as far as careers and graduate school programs are concerned because the world of endless possibilites is extremely exhausting, and it's hard to deal with all of these choices from across the Atlantic. Sometimes I think it would be easier to live the traditional way and spend no time figuring out who you are...  but then I remember how much I have profited from this year abroad, how much it has changed me, and how boring life would be without more similar experiences.

03 August 2010

a little somethin' somethin'

28 days-ish. Currently in Bretagne enjoying the best crepes in the world. I ate lobster and oysters for the first time. Enjoyed the lobster, not so much the oyster. These next 28 days are going to go by so fast. This most incredible, LIFE CHANGING year is about to end.

I'll update about vacation more when I'm, well, not on vacation. I feel far too lazy right now!

23 July 2010

Sorry for the neglect!

It's been more than two weeks since I last updated, and if anyone cares, I am deeply sorry for my apparent laziness, I've just been enjoying my last couple of months here!

Next week is my last week working full-time for the American family because they are moving back to America after four years in Paris. Then I'm off to Britany with the coolest and nicest Parisan lady ever... her and her son are in Philedalphia right now and she just sent me a text message to say "Hi from America, Courtney!" I'll definitely have to stay in touch with her. I'm also trying to upload a super cute video that I took of her son while he was playing with blocks. It may or may not work.

Boy oh boy could I use a break from this city... especially after the kind of week I had, which was filled with personal dilemmas about a job in Paris for next year (which I decided against), and a failed attempt to watch the Bastille day fireworks at the Eiffel Tower (and by failed I mean that I listened to the fireworks from the back of an ambulance... don't worry, I was the support rather than the victim and everyone is o.k.).

To top off my experience with French beaurocracy, I'd like to remind my faithful readers that after TEN months in this country I have not yet recieved any information from the social security office about my medical insurance (which I was supposed to recieve within the first three months in France). Secondly, for some insane reason I decided to attempt depositing cash into my bank account at my bank (the exact branch where I opened my account) at 4:00 on a Wednesday. I so innocently believed that I would encounter no problems doing so, but apparently (and with no explination) it is not possible to deposit money into my bank account at 4:00 on a Wednesday, or so I was told by the bank employee who looked like he was counting down the minutes until the end of the day and his next cigarette. Ulitmately, I would just like to say that I have yet to have a successful experience at the bank!

Hmm, what else has happened since I last graced this blog with recounts of my adventures? Oh, I watched the World Cup final between Holland and Spain at the "Fifa Fan Fest" by the Eiffel Tower. It was NUTS. There were people everywhere and my minor case of claustrophobia definitely reared its ugly head. When the game hit overtime we decided to walk away from the crowd and ended up sitting in the middle of the road outside of a cafe to watch the rest of the match on their flat screen tvs. About 30 people joined on the street, and every so often we reluctantly let a car pass by. Finally Spain won and we went home! Go Spain!

So I've uploaded a few pictures from work and sitting in the street (don't think the video of the cute kid worked but maybe I'll try again later). Oh, and FYI I was waiting on a metro platform and I saw the guy who plays Natalie Portman's blind boyfriend in the movie "Paris t'aime". My first spotting! I'd much rather see him than Lindsey Lohan.

Sorry I've been neglecting you, blog! But now that I'm not living the fantasy life of 12 hour work weeks and sticking around Paris (aka no traveling) and all of my friends are leaving one by one it makes things seem less interesting. Saying goodbye to Alexis last week was hard because her and Julie were my first and closest friends here and now they're both MIA. I'm starting to get really excited to come home!




02 July 2010

Hot tamale: the Parisian chaleur

The passing of time has given me a painful whiplash. During the third week of June I suddenly became busier than I have been since before graduating from college. My 50+ hours-a-week of nannying and babysitting is making me loads of money, and is thankfully keeping me busy enough to not spend it all (though I did take advantage of the twice-a-year sales that started on Wednesday). My babysitting skills have become in such high demand that I may start raising my prices! And I'm digging the benefits: moms giving me old purses (as in really chic French purses) and buying me Bisquick and syrup in Belgium.

The heat. The heat in Paris is an unbearable 90 degrees. If it weren't for the four showers that I take every day I'd probably have already died of heat stroke on the metro. Speaking of which, I feel like I'm descending into the depths of Hell every time I enter the Metro's mysterious underground tunnels. I spend a couple of hours a day trapped inside of the barely ventelated train cars drowning in a pool of my own sweat and smelling the pools of sweat and overpriced perfume coming from other passangers. Welcome to the city of love.

Any freetime I've had I have spent trying to make the most of these past two months and taking naps to catch up on sleep (oh, and avoiding the metro). A couple of nights ago, us Paris leftovers went to a bar on a boat in the river to celebrate our friend Marni's last week in Paris and to say goodbye.

I plan on spending this fourth of July weekend recuperating from a long couple of weeks, watching football, and celebrating the birthdays of two of my close friends, Kelsy and Jen!

Here are a couple of pictures from when I took the girls who I nanny to a park in Boulogne (just outside of Paris) on a beautiful day!

24 June 2010

GOOOOOOOOAAAAAL!!!!

USA WINS! So proud of my country's team! I watched this game live in a bar full of Algerians.

20 June 2010

I love this city. This city frustrates me, stresses me out, and has even given me gray hair (no, I'm not kidding, I've plucked at least a dozen of those little buggers out of my scalp since the new year. They are all shorter than my normal hair, the exact length they should be if they started growing when I arrived in France in September), but I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this city. I love how, depending on the day, I either feel like I live in a small town or one of the most miraculous cities on earth. When in the neighborhoods in which I live, work, and spend free time, I always see the same people, the same dogs, the same grocery store clerks, even the same homeless people. While the regularity is comforting, I enjoy that whenever I go outside of the places I know by heart I find the most fascinating things. For instance, last night I walked past an old 16th century hotel on my way to work, but I always see the same black woman on the subway singing "Heal the World" and "One Love". She wears huge silver hoop earrings. Maybe the next time I will give her some change because she actually sings pretty well, and I'm a tough critic.

I will have a break from the city during the first week of August, when I will go to Britany with one of the mom's I work for and her son (the one who understands English but only speaks French and looks like Dennis the Menace). They are taking me to their country home on the beach for the week. I get to see a part of France that I have never seen all the while being paid to do it. Fabulous!

So I'm happy that I could take a break from my new obsession, World Cup Football, to update my blog. The French team is a complete mess, and the U.S. got robbed by a horrid referee, but I'm having a blast watching!

11 June 2010

Mid-year crisis

I'm not sure how it became the 11th of June so ridiculously fast. I suppose this is what adulthood is like, lots of time passing very quickly and the feeling that you're not sure where it went. Though, in reflecting on the first half of 2010 I have realized that it has already been an eventful year. Even though it's been over a year since I graduated from college, I'm still used to measuring my success with grades and the quality of my term papers, but I guess those methods are a lot more concrete than measuring with lessons learned and experiences..uhh... experienced.

But ladies and gentlemen, I have officially taken the plunge. Last weekend I acquired my plane ticket back to the one and only Detroit, Michigan for September 1st (my little brother's 19th birthday). Despite the two-and-a-half months that I have left with this incredibly dynamic adventure, I must say that I'm not entirely sure that it will give me enough time to mentally prepare myself for repatriation. I will, however, have no trouble with seeing those smiling American faces that I miss so dearly! I plan to immediately dive face-first into a plate of greasy Mexican food. I had a dream about nachos and soft tacos a couple of nights ago that still has my mouth watering.

Today, though, marks the beginning of a very special European experience: the opening day of the World Cup. With a new appreciation for "foot" I hope to actually follow the tournament, not because I wish to become a die-hard football fan, but because I fear for my life if I don't know how "Les Bleus" are doing... though no one seems to have much faith in them this year. I'm also afraid I won't be able to carry on a conversation if I have nothing South African-oriented to say.

But I can begin working towards that goal another time, because as girls we are, tonight Jen and I are ignoring the football match and sharing some wine on the river bank. Maybe it will be less crowded? Or is that wishful thinking...

No matter... the weather is beautiful and life is good!

04 June 2010

I love when...

J'adore when the subway doors let out their "doors are closing" alert signal and a couple of lucky latecomers rush through, just in time to miss the final clenching. If the victorious latecomer is foreign, they will sit and grin in amazement at their skills for the next couple of stops. If they are Parisian they will continue looking pissed off as if to say, "Putain! How dare the metro doors close before I'm ready to board!"

On the other hand, I also love watching people miss the subway completely. In that case, the victory is all mine!!!

31 May 2010

Babysitting, repatriation, denial, lack of euchre players.

I wrote this blog entry by hand while babysitting. Don’t worry, the baby was asleep and it was 11:00 at night:

Since Lawrence went to sleep I have been spending my time reading one of the thousands of old books sitting in perfectly messy piles around this very chic Parisian flat on boulevard St. Germain. The family who lives here treats me very well. The dad is a Midwestern American just like me, the mom is French. Lawrence, while he understands everything I say to him in English, only responds to me in French. Sandra, the mom, is very laid back and sweet and asked me to come with her and Lawrence to their house in Normandy for a week in August. Nothing is for sure yet, but I hope it all works out!

Apart from my sporadic babysitting gigs, the atmosphere is slowly changing in Paris. The streets are significantly more packed with tourists—none of which seem to know how to use sunscreen, which is evident from their farmer’s tans. Most importantly, the people who have become some of my closest friends over the past eight months have begun their slow repatriation to the good ol’ U.S. of A.

Me, I think I’ve adequately stated that I’m not ready to deal with that yet. Actually, I’m in some serious denial that this whirlwind of a year will ever end, mostly because I haven’t even taken the massive step of buying a plane ticket home. From watching my friends wrapping up their Parisian adventure, I have learned that I must accept the fact that there are things in this city that I won’t be able to do before I leave, but that’s okay because I’ve got three months left and I’m sure I’ll be back someday soon!

The beginning of summer weather and the toll of eight months in a foreign country has also shown me the things that I miss about home (besides family and friends which I hope is obvious). I miss being able to print unlimited amounts of personal documents at GVSU computer labs, having all of my own belongings (which are currently boxed up in my mom’s basement), private transportation (only because of the recent accumulation of unpleasant stenches on hot days in the métro and a lack of ventilation), being around people who know how to play euchre, being able to see stars at night (or any non man-made form of nature for that matter. Sorry Paris, but square-shaped trees and imported farm crops on the Champs Elysées is not going to cut it), and barbeques.

A plus!

17 May 2010

Ruckus

Bonjour, folks... due to a busy schedule accompanied by an overwhelming lethargy I have not properly updated my blog in the past couple of weeks, nor have I taken the time to organize the photos that follow. They are from Lauren's visit in Paris!

Courtney and Lauren at Big Ben


Courtney and Lauren at the Tour Eiffel


Courtney and Lauren at Versailles


Courtney and Lauren at the Moulin Rouge!


Courtney and Lauren at the Notre Dame of Paris cathedral


Kelsy and Courtney at the "Refuge des fondus" restaurant in Montmartre where they serve wine in baby bottles to avoid paying a tax on wine served in glasses.


Quoi de neuf?

The month that has passed since I finished teaching English at Jean Mace has been very dynamic to say the least.

I have had two of my good friends come to visit me, Sarah and Lauren (at separate times), I went to London for the second time, and I have been a babysitting machine... juggling work with four families. Babysitting in Paris has actually been much more lucrative than my teaching job.

Working with all of these kids has made me think a lot about second language acquisition. I find languages so fascinating... and it's so important to start learning a second language at a young age because after a certain age you can no longer learn a second language to the same capacity that you can learn a first language. This leads me to believe that us adult language learners will never become truly bilingual.

In the meantime I'm working on getting in with the nannies of Paris. I met this Filipino nanny who was BFFs with Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis's nanny and got to meet them last weekend. I don't mean that I want to BECOME a nanny, I just want to get in the inner circle. I'll have to learn some nanny street cred.

Last week I had the opportunity to spend some time with the three American girls who I will be babysitting full-time in July. They are fantastic! The family, the parents of which are American diplomats in Paris, drove to the American base in Belgium and bought me some American groceries unavailable (or way too expensive) in France: peanut butter (of which I now have plenty!), pancake mix, syrup, taco seasoning, and bagels and cream cheese. YUMMY!

Anyway, the girls are super independent, responsible, and smart which I believe is going to make the month of July much more pleasant for me.




30 April 2010

Il y a un an

Realization:

I have changed so drastically in the past year since I graduated from GVSU I can barely even wrap my mind around all of the things that have happened to me. As my dear friend Sarah told me this week during her visit, that means that I am doing this whole European adventure thing the right way.

News:

I landed a babysitting gig for the month of July which was the final piece of the "How to stay in France through August" puzzle. Tomorrow Lauren arrives, and next week we go to London!

Closing thought:

I remember sitting on the plane on the way to Paris last September wondering "Who will I be when I am sitting on the plane on the way back to America?" Though this adventure still has some steam left, I am already amazed in the difference between that girl and this one.

22 April 2010

The week's happenings

Prepare yourselves for a really stupid metaphor (or simile I suppose):

This week I feel like a hot air balloon whose ropes have been snipped and is merely floating around in the sky without an anchor or a purpose. I'm going where the wind takes me, baby!

I warned you it was bad, but it’s the only way I can find right now to accurately describe my sentiments.

I also find myself using weird terms like “sentiments”. Normally I would refrain from the word sentiment to avoid sounding like I used the “find synonym” button on the word processor, but it’s not my fault! The French language has set-up camp in my brain and has taken my English hostage. AIDEZ-MOI!

So finally, after seven plus months of living in this city, I became self-motivated enough to visit a couple of museums this week. On Sunday, I spent the afternoon writing in a bustling and sunny park at Chatêlet (not a museum, I understand, but definitely some world-class people watching).

On Monday, I took advantage of my age and country of residency (national museums are free for European residents under 26 years-old) and visited Monsieur Napoléon Bonaparte at les Invalides. I learned quite a bit about French military history (by my own choosing, might I add).

On Tuesday, after my first spring trip to the open-air market by my apartment, I went to the musée Carnavalet (also free entry), which stuffed me full of nonsense about the French revolution.

Yestearday, after babysitting two non-English-speaking kids who live in spitting distance from la tour Eiffel, I wandered to the NYU in Paris “campus” because I am interested in applying to their “Teaching French as a Second Language” program. The campus consisted of a townhouse hidden in a garden behind a building and is ridiculously adorable.

On my way to the campus, an 80 year-old Parisian man stopped me on the street, told me I had a nice smile, and then asked me to sit and have a coffee with him. He seemed pretty harmless and so I said “oui, pourquoi pas?” During the next twenty or so minutes I endured his stories about old Paris and about how he used to own a famous café called “L’Ombibus” in Montmartre (the neighborhood where one finds the Moulin Rouge, Sacre Coeur, and all that jazz). He was difficult to understand, but I enjoyed his stories nonetheless.

On today’s menu: article writing and apartment cleaning. Nothing worth talking about, but the weather is beautiful, I’m in a Bobo café, and the overall mood in Paris is good. I couldn’t ask for more.

16 April 2010

Entering the Abyss

Bye bye Jean Mace!

I felt so incredibly sad when leaving the school after my last day of work this morning. I didn't realize in the slightest how attached I had become to those kids and the teachers. They were all so cute and sad today, and it really meant a lot to me. I was there to teach them English, but they taught me more French and enriched my experience here more than they will ever know. Yes, I did waste a lot of time inside of that building... but I'm realizing now that I learned a lot in the process. Maybe it wasn't a waste of time after all.

So that's all I had planned for life after college... now what? This is a weird feeling...

Stay tuned.

12 April 2010

The End of Life as a Teaching Assistant

I have not been feeling very funny or witty lately, so I apologize for my recent lack of anything remotely interesting to say. Actually, I did spend time writing a new post a couple days ago and then accidentally exited from the screen, consequentially losing all of my hard work. It was a big bummer mostly because I was entirely too lazy to type anything else until now.

I suppose a lot is new, though maybe the reason I haven't been writing or taking pictures as frequently is because most things have become so normal here. I have made the official decision to try to stay here until my visa expires in September, and I have been a busy little bee looking for babysitting gigs to keep me afloat until that fateful time comes.

This is my last week of work at JM! The principal gave me yellow roses last week, and one of my classes collectively wrote me a poem in English that has nothing to do with me. This is what it looks like:

(You can click on the image to blow it up and read the poem. It's quite hilarious, actually, and was written by what would be the equivalent of 2nd and 3rd graders. It was pointed out to me that at the bottom someone had written "A love you" and erased it. These kids are priceless.)


In other news, I really hurt my foot this weekend and could barely walk until today, which was good because I had to babysit this afternoon at the park. Speaking of which, I have found quite a few babysitting gigs to keep me busy this summer. I'm still not sure how this whole living-on-a-whim-in-Paris thing is going to work out, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it will because I know in my gut that it's what I need to do. I'm just not ready to leave this country yet, and when I do, I know I will just be trying to find a way to come back.

My dearest friend Sarah is coming to visit in two weeks for a few days an I can't wait to have her here. And then in the beginning of May miss Lauren will be coming for a visit. I'm so excited to share Paris with her that I made a spreadsheet breaking down the days and what we are going to do for each part of every day that she is here.

The most boring tidbit of news that I have to share is the fact that I have been taking the bus instead of the subway more recently, and I must say that it provides much better views of the city. I mean, not that complete darkness complimented by intermittent florescent lit white tiled tunnels isn't interesting, but I happen to prefer ground-level.


No sooner is the rage of hunger appeased than it becomes difficult to comprehend the meaning of starvation. It is only when you suffer that you really understand.
-Jules Vern




04 April 2010

Remembering...

It's been a sobering weekend. Today I learned that a boy from my high school class died in a fire, and even though I didn't know him that well, it really bothered me. It made me think about the loved ones who I have lost. Sometimes I need to think about them to gain perspective...





RIP Fred, Grandma Rosie, Grandpa Johnston, Uncle Mike and Renden.

Your loved ones miss you every day.

01 April 2010

Poisson d'avril

This morning when I woke up and realized that it's the first day of April a couple of things came to mind:
  1. Excitement that warmer weather is hopefully around the corner. (But seriously, Michigan, what's with the 80 degree weather this week? Is this some cruel "haha you thought you were getting away from the cold by moving to Paris" joke that the Universe is playing on me or what? FYI: It's freakin' cold here!)
  2. Aggravation that I had to pay a whopping 109 euros for my monthly public transportation card this morning. Bye bye newly deposited paycheck...
  3. Fear from the sudden realization that I only have two weeks of work left and that I take the GRE in less than two weeks!
When I arrived at JM this morning I kept getting paper fish stuck to my back by the children. I eventually associated this with the fact that today is April Fool's Day, and that coloring fish and sticking them on people must be the French way of celebrating that. They're called the poisson d'avril, and it might be one of the stranger traditions I have encountered in the past seven months.

In the theme of "holy s*** my contract ends this month", I decided to remind the principal and all of the teachers of this fact. The principal had no idea what I was talking about, and one of the teachers seemed so horrified that I'm leaving that she promised to tell the inspectrice that she absolutely needs me to stay for another month and is going to try to get my contract extended. We shall see...

In the meantime I have found some extra work, though it wouldn't possibly be enough to support me without finding something more substantial. I'm pretty determined to drag out this whole living in Paris thing as long as physically possible, though I'm sure my recklessness will have some adverse effects on my financial situation. Oh well... when in Rome, n'est-ce pas?

Last night we all went out for Julie's 24th birthday. Alexis and I kidnapped her and dragged her to see the "How to Become Parisian in an Hour" show that we've all been hearing about. It's a one-man show where the guy makes fun of the differences between tourists (mostly American) and Parisians. It was entirely accurate as well as hilarious. Julie even got pulled on stage!





30 March 2010

Corsica: the short version

Back from a sunny and extremely lazy weekend in Corsica! We didn't have much time there to enjoy the landscape, but here is what we did see in Ajaccio:

A cathedral facing the Mediterranean. I might actually go to church if I could walk out and see such a fantastic view.


The birth home of Napoleon Bonaparte. One of the coolest places I have ever visited. The house is beautiful and I learned more about the Bonaparte family than I ever intended on knowing.


Some chick enjoying the sunshine. Unfortunately she is still too pale to allow this picture to be shown in it's color version.

Other important parts of our trip included eating scrumptious pizza, drinking wine from Ajaccio, and learning how eggs are created inside of a chicken. I'm pretty sure I won't be eating any for a while!

24 March 2010

Parisians in the Sun... and the Kitchen


The weather in Paris (and from what I've heard, in the rest of the world, too) has been absolutely stellar. I have spent so much time outside-- even if it means leaning out of my bedroom window (remember, no screens)-- because I want to soak it all up. The Parisians really come out of the woodwork when the sun starts to shine. They are no longer stuck in their ridiculously small apartments. The cafe terraces are all bustling with chain-smoking, coffee-drinking Frenchies. Everyone seems to be in much better spirits... ENFIN!

Today I attended a cooking class with a few friends. I really want to learn how to cook (as of right now my cooking skills are limited to adding fresh vegetables to a frozen dish), and taking a cooking class in Paris was one thing I have had on my to-do list for quite some time. We spent a half-an-hour cooking the meal, and then spent about an hour eating our creation with the two other ladies in our class. It was SO much fun and I learned several useful cooking tricks from the chef.

This weekend: La Corse! Julie, Alexis, and I will be leaving for Corsica on Saturday morning and are returning on Monday evening. I look forward to sharing the experience with you all..





21 March 2010

I'm not using facebook for the time being so please contact me through my blog (by leaving comments) or by sending me an email at johnstco@gmail.com if you would like to get in touch. I would love to hear from you!

Munich, March 2010



17 March 2010

Munich and back to Paris

Visiting Munich this past weekend makes more than 12 cities, 5 countries, and 2 continents visited in the past three weeks and I must say that I am fatiguée and very glad to be back in Paris where it is sunny and beautiful (no, I’m not joking). It’s actually warmer here than on the Côte d’Azure. Weird.

Alors…

I went to Munich for a few days to visit my childhood best friend (and twin), Sarah, who lives there and works as an Au Pair for two little kids. We had fun hanging out, catching up, soaking up the culture, and engaging in both profound and superficial conversations. She’s going to come to Paris at the end of April to visit so that I can share this city with her as she shared Munich with me.

On Sunday we visited Dachau, the first concentration camp in Germany and a model for all other camps during the Thrid Riech. Ever since taking a class entitled “The Holocaust” during my Freshman year at GVSU I have wanted to visit a concentration camp (a weird desire, I know), because I feel that it is a place that everyone should see before they die. While there, it’s difficult to wrap your mind around the significance of the events that transpired only sixty years ago, and it’s amazing how close the camp is to the center of the town of Dachau.

All that remains of the barracks are their foundations. While we walked through the camp I was constantly stunned by how systematic the whole thing appeared to be, from the changing rooms to the gas chambers labeled as “Showers” to the fact that the Nazis had all prisoners write postcards to their family members telling them that all rumors of their disappearance were false and that they were doing “just fine”. To say the least, a place like that really makes one think about the future of the human race, and the uneasy energy in the air doesn’t exactly encourage positive thoughts…

But I’m back in Paris now and ready to finish up my last five weeks as an English Teaching Assistant. This week especially I have taken note of just how much my French has improved since I arrived here in September, and I must say that I am quite proud of myself. I will continue to work hard on that vocabulary, though! I have to profit as much as possible from being here as I can.

Today I trekked to the Musée d’Orsay (for free !) and spent some time walking down the Seine taking in the (somewhat) fresh air and absorbing the sunshine. Spring has finally arrived… I think.

09 March 2010

Bienvenue en France take two

All I have to say is that I couldn't be happier to be back in Paris after two weeks of traveling all over the world (4 countries on 2 continents). I was skipping with joy when I got off of the plane at "Chuckie-D".

Vive la France!!!!! I never want to leave.

***

There's just something about life here that makes me feel more... alive. Super corny, I know. But what can I say? My life has been super corny lately. I'm an American girl living Paris for crying out loud.

Visiting home was, uh, *thinking of an appropriate adjective*...I don't know. I definitely had fun, but everything there just felt so dreadfully normal. Sometimes I feel that I could spend all day doing absolutely nothing in Paris and still feel a sense of accomplishment, though this feeling had started to dissipate towards the end of February. I mustn't forget the bad moments that I have experienced here. There have been some really bad moments, moments in which I haven't even been able to recognize myself. It's been a painfully wonderful experience, though, and I wouldn't change any of it. Not one bit. And if anything, my trip home gave me a renewed passion for my life in France. It all feels fresh and novel like it did back in September.

It's so easy to fall back into old habits when at home for one week even after six months of living abroad. I hate that. I've spent a lot of time changing myself and I don't want to be dragged back into life before France. I'm never so proud to be American as when I'm not actually in America. Weird, isn't it? Thinking about living in the United States after this program ends scares me to death, but living in Paris forever is about as possible as socialized healthcare in the United States (sorry for the political comment but it seemed outrageously appropriate).

But I think it's important to take notice of the moments when you feel really, REALLY happy, and to try to figure out why those moments made you feel that ecstatic. And let me just say that I felt really, really, REALLY happy when I stepped off of that airplane at Charles DeGaulle and said "Merci, bonne journee!" to the flight crew. I nearly cried with joy. This inefficient, judgmental, bureaucratic nightmare of a country makes me so, so happy, and I am more than ready to take on my last three months here. So I'm sorry, France, for hating on you so much a few weeks ago. I suppose I just needed a break from you. Everything in moderation, right?

Stay tuned...

27 February 2010

La belle France.... An International Road Trip

Okay, so... this past week my wonderful friends Alexis, Julie and myself embarked on a road trip in France. It was the most spontaneous, adventurous, versatile, and wonderful trip I have ever been on.

We started in Paris (of course) and hit the following cities/towns:
  • Montresor (a small medieval town with an amazing Chateau and a beautiful view)
  • Bordeaux
  • Saint-Emillion (wine making region of Bordeaux for a wine tasting tour and a tour of a 8th century underground church!)
  • Biarritz (surfing capitol of Europe)
  • San Sebastian, Spain (adorable Spanish city on the Atlantic)
  • Toulouse (lively city in the south of France)
  • A small town north of Toulouse with prehistoric cave paintings!

Atlas is opened and we're ready to take off...


Chez nous: Chateau in Montresor, France. This is the little blue machine that made it all possible...


Cheateau in Montresor. When we arrived the curator said "Let me open the Chateau for you girls". It's the first, but hopefully not last time that anyone has said that to me!


Group shot in Montresor...


These pictures are out of order, but this is on Monday morning in Biarritz, France. We were so happy to finally see the ocean after spending so much time in rainy and cold Paris!


We couldn't have been happier when the sun came out in Biarritz on Monday. We ate breakfast outside at a cafe facing the ocean. Life is good :)


My purse posing for a picture on the rocks in Biarritz.


San Sebastian, Spain. The sun sets on one side of the island and not the other.


Top Secret photo from our top secret personal tour in San Sebastian. We couldn't have picked a better hotel!


San Sebastian, Spain.... do we have to go back to Paris? Really?


My first dry martini.... holy strongness! Took us about 2 hours to finish one drink.


San Sebastian, Spain.


After climbing a mountain because the Funicular is closed on Wednesdays. The Spanish aren't much more logical than the French... but we still made it to the top for the view.

Hotel de Ville in Toulouse, France. Some of the most beautiful artwork I have ever seen...and it's in the city hall? Unexpected!


City Hall in Toulouse, France. I told you it was beautiful!


Driving up the side of a mountain in the south of France. Pictures cannot capture how absolutely amazing this was.


A little town built into the side of a mountain in France.

19 February 2010

I must say, this was one of the most productive weeks I've had in quite a long time. It was fabulous.

Though I knew it would happen, I had my first article published on the website for which I am writing for my internship and it was a big boost of self confidence. I would write about the weird things that go through my head all day if someone would pay me for it, but apparently I'll even do it without pay... because I just did.

I also studied a lot for the GRE, cooked dinner with miss Kelsy on Monday, attended my Convo group, went to a Mardi Gras celebration, saw the movie "Valentine's Day", celebrated Alexis's birthday at a delicious Italian restaurant right next to the Tour Eiffel, oh yeah... and I worked a little, too.

As of four hours ago when I left the ugly green gates of Ecole Primaire Jean Mace I am officially on a two-and-a-half week vacation. Tomorrow Alexis, Julie, and I leave for our road trip through France! We barely have anything planned for our trip so it is going to be an excellent adventure. Hopefully this adventure will include cute French villages, wine tasting in Bordeaux, sunshine, Spaniards, delicious food, and great memories. With my road atlas of France in hand I am ready to take off!



Caitlin and me at dinner


Tim holding Flat Sylvia for her Eiffel Tower photo op in front of the restaurant.


Birthday girl Alexis and the ginormous Parmasean cheese wheel!


The adorable Alana and Lauren at dinner

15 February 2010

5 month mark

It's official... I've been in France for five consecutive months!

Now I realize that Parisian apartments are known for having loud neighbors (as are any big city apartment buildings), but I'm quite positive that the people living above us are the loudest, rudest, most annoying neighbors that ever existed. They stomp around, move furniture, scream, run, yell, all day and all night long... and they don't even have small children. Just this past weekend, while the parents were out of town, one of the kids decided it would be okay to have a raving 15th birthday party starting at 7pm and ending at 8... the next morning. It sounded like the party was going to come crashing into my bedroom from too many stomping stilettos. And this was at 7:30 in the morning. J-C went up there twice to tell them to be quiet and take off their footwear, but this was at midnight, so it clearly didn't work.

Instead, the little brats actually had the nerve to type a note to post in the elevator saying "I am celebrating my 15th birthday with a big party so please excuse the noise." I have some choice words I'd like to use with them, but instead I am going to keep my blog PG-rated and take my anger out on them by buzzing up to their apartment at all hours of the night whenever I feel like it. It's too hard for me to express my anger in French anyway... so I'll take the passive-aggressive route instead.

Deep breath.... anyway...

I've never been away from home for this long, and I recently fell off of an emotional cliff caused by a myriad of events in all aspects of my life that left me feeling unmotivated, uninspired and useless. The fall was pretty painful and it made me realize that I really need a break from this whole ex-pat experience thing. It's starting to make me act like a completely different person, and though I realize it's all part of the experience, all of that change is a little overwhelming right now. Sooooo I've decided to go back to Michigan for my second week of vacation (the first week of March) for a little rejuvenation. Just having that ticket in hand has already made me feel much better.


13 February 2010

Je me pleinds: S.O.S.

I live in what I believe to be one of the most incredible cities in the world. I have an excellent web of friends who I have come to consider my family here. The weather, while it seems cold and miserable, is ten times better than that of Michigan. (I think I’ve just accustomed myself to the winter here and now I don’t know how I’ll ever manage in Michigan again. Hopefully I won’t have to.) Also, I see incredible things on a daily basis. But quite frankly, I am feeling very homesick right now! I have got to cut myself some slack, because five months in a foreign country is quite a remarkable feat, and definitely the longest I have ever gone without seeing my mommy, my doggie, or my house. It’s hard to tell if it’s just the winter blues or something more, but though just last week I was having nightmares about leaving this country, right now I need nothing more than to get out of it. This city is driving me coo coo crazy and I cannot wait for vacation. Everyone seems to be at each other’s throats and the novelty of being in France has definitely worn off. Ugh, I feel like I’m constantly complaining! One day at a time.

Needing some love from home to keep me going...

08 February 2010

The Super Bowl

The Super Bowl. The first things that come to mind when I think of this cultural phenomenon are greasy food, beer, commercials, lots of yelling, and above all, a great game of football. While I wouldn’t even begin to describe myself as a fan of professional football (I tend to prefer college football, but even then I wouldn’t consider myself a connoisseur), as an American I have been raised to appreciate the importance of Super Bowl Sunday.

So, it was quite interesting to experience (or not experience) Super Bowl Sunday from inside my Parisian apartment. Honestly, I hadn’t really realized it was Super Bowl Sunday until about 11pm when I checked my Facebook before going to bed and saw a flood of status updates about the game. “Oh yeah!” I wandered to my living room at midnight when the game started here and saw my roommates, J-C and François, attempting to sing along to the National Anthem. (Let’s just put it this way, they begin the song by singing “How far can you see?”).

François was wearing his Reggie Bush jersey (I hope it’s obvious why all French people watching the bowl rooted for the Saints) with his trendy pajama pants. When the game started he started eating his Super Bowl snack: Toast pieces with Nutella. The cultural warp caught me so off guard that I had to take a picture.

Now, I only watched the first quarter before going to bed (it was 1am by this time), but I did take note of the subjects that the French sportscasters talked about during the game. One of the sportscasters had played in the NFL, and the other one kept asking him questions like “There are so many players on each team. Does it bother them that they don’t all get to touch the ballon (football)?” or “What’s the Heisman trophy?”

Fantastic.

06 February 2010

Smorgasbord of topics

This Past Wednesday:

While I always have the best of intentions for my day off right smack in the middle of the week, I usually end up spending Wednesdays sleeping in until noon and then spending the afternoon sitting around the apartment. Eventually I make my way to the supermarket before it closes at night. This Wednesday (and the last one), however, was much more fulfilling.

I woke up at the horrendously early hour of nine o'clock to prepare myself for my GRE Math tutor at 10:00. I have made so much progress in math since I started with my tutor, and on Wednesday morning I even defied my book by finding a mistake in their answer section. Rock on! After my tutoring session I stuck around the cafe to work on my internship. On top of my grueling 12 hour/week work schedule I am now writing articles for a website 10 hours/week. So far it has been a great excuse to hang out in cafes and people watch.

Of course, shortly after diving into my work I received an invite to go ice skating at the Hotel de Ville outdoor ice rink. I accepted. Skating for the first time in two years on crappy rental skates was... a challenge, but I also had a ton of fun and I hope to return again for another round.

On Wednesday afternoon I met up with Kelsy at the Pere Lachaise cemetary so that she could snap a picture with Jim Morrison. Mission accomplished. Oddly enough, there was a group of Frenchies standing next to his grave looking quite somber. I found this strange. Were they seriously in mourning? C'mon now... We had a fun time gossiping while walking through the cemetary (weird, I know), and the weather was pretty great. Thank you again, Paris, for your lack of snow and your moderate temperatures.

Wednesday evening Kelsy and I trekked to a Chandaleur party with some buds from our Tuesday evening conversation group and stuffed our faces full of crepes and cider. Yum yummy yum!

Travel Plans:

Julie, Alexis, and I have been busy finalizing our plans for our February vacation, and I am getting ready to go visit my dear friend Sarah DW in Munich next weekend. Call us crazy, but for our February vacation we are renting a car for a week to drive through the south-west of France, then coming back to Paris, hopping on a plane to Sicily and spending the second week of our vacation in the "warmer" Sicilian temperatures. I am also hoping to make some progress on this whole Italian citizenship thing. Did I mention that I'm eligible for Italian citizenship?

Mumbo Jumbo About Myself:

All in all, this sejour in France has passed far too quickly. I have already been here for almost five months! I still have very mixed feelings about the end of my stay (even though it's a good four months in the future) and while part of me wants to stay here forever, the other part of me knows that a) setting up camp in France is practically impossible, and b) I actually miss some things about the United States. I can't believe I just admitted that. On the contrary, on two occasions this past week I woke up in the middle of the night bawling my eyes out. Why? I had dreams about returning to the U.S. and I was so upset that I actually started crying in my sleep. Seriously... what could possibly be so scary about the U.S. that the mere thought of returning there has me in tears? That's just embarrassing.

I've got 4 months to figure it out, but I'm hardly going to dwell on it. I have plenty of distractions...

Love,
Court




30 January 2010

Productivity at last!

What a productive week it has been! The weeks accomplishments included completing mundane chores, studying for the GRE, attending my conversation group, visiting the Orangerie with Kelsy, and booking plane tickets to visit my dearest Sarah DW in Munich the second weekend in February.

I also managed to have my work schedule condensed. Now that I have done so, it has made my time at work a lot more productive, making me feel more energized. Yeah, it's kind of a pain to commute 1.5 hours in each direction for only an hour of work on Tuesdays, but it's better than sitting around bored out of my mind! Silver lining, right?

Not to pat myself on the back or anything, but on Thursday one of my favorite teachers that I work with pulled me aside to tell me that she thinks it's my destiny to become a teacher. She said that I am dynamic with the kids and they seem to love me. Then at lunch she told me that one of her 8 year old students approached her and said the same thing (without the elevated vocabulary and in French of course). This really caught me off guard. First of all, I have never wanted to be a teacher; and second of all, I had never with children until this past summer. Though it was during that time when I realized how hilariously entertaining kids can be. Quite honestly they used to scare me, and I was never sure how to appropriately talk to them, but now I really enjoy being around them. So my lack of interest in becoming an educator really has nothing to do with the children, but more to do with the system itself. Too much bureaucracy, too much pressure, and too much stress. It's the kind of job that invades every aspect of your life, and it seems like these teachers never stop working, whether it be on lesson plans, grading notebooks, or some administrative work. Every day of teaching is filled with peaks and valleys, so I suppose(as with any career) I must decide if the peaks are high enough to outweigh the valleys.

Only 3 more weeks until the next vacation! But let's be honest here, my entire life is one big vacation...


25 January 2010

London!



On Friday I went to London to visit my pops. 'Twas a long day. Let's see... between my commute to work and my trip to London I rode on a total of ten trains on Friday. I must say I'm a wee bit sick of trains, though I prefer riding a train for 40 minutes to work over driving 40 minutes any day. Though the underground trains in London must have been built for elves because they are so small you can't even stand in them.

Overall it was strange to spend the weekend in an English speaking country. When I got onto the tube and bumped into someone I let the words "Pardon, excusez-moi" slip out of my mouth
instead of "Excuse me" (is that even what we say when we bump into someone in English? I can't remember anymore). Then, when the server brought me my dinner at the bar I said "Oh,
merci beaucoup!". I'm a fool.

So here are some pictures from the weekend:

In other news...

I have learned a lot about myself this week. The best way to really learn a lesson is to learn it the hard way. Let's just say I've got a lot of really good material for my tell-all memoirs when I'm old. We'll leave it at that because I'm not old yet. Forever young, right J-Z?


Optimistic like always,

Court

19 January 2010

The Big Picture and Sore Feet

I hate paying attention to detail. I'm a big picture person, and when it comes down to tedious tasks... peace out. Follow through has always been a challenge for me because I always find a new, more exciting idea to become attached to when the previous one begins to become mundane. For new years I made a resolution to work on following through. Maybe I'll even end up committing to an idea for more thant five minutes, but let's not get too ambitious here. I have got to quit giving up on projects 3/4 of the way through, but sometimes I just can't get myself to philisophically justify paying attention to detail when there are bigger fish to fry.

But, there is one passion of mine in which I obsessively pay attention to detail, one thing that I find myself doing whenever I have a moment to spare, and that is writing. When it comes to writing I am a perfectionist, always reorganizing, editing, and analyzing the most minuscule stylistic things. (I hate that I just used the word things, for example, but I couldn't think of the word I wanted to use and I'm sure you won't judge me). I could write and edit all day long. (Shout out to the FMCWMA for allowing me to earn money by doing what I love for a short amount of time). So if writing can conquer my inner detest for details, maybe I should pursue it as a career. Why couldn't I have become obsessed with investment banking or nuclear physics? Of course I would be predestined for the most inaccesible career on planet Earth.

Baaaa.... anyway...

The past six days have been mentally exhausting. I've walked a mile in a pair of shoes that I would rather not walk in again. Ever. Where did I even get these shoes? I never thought I'd have shoes like these, but everyone else had them and they seemed fun and exciting. Maybe a little too exciting. Now i have sore feet and I want to channel my anger by taking a nice long run but I didn't bring any tennis shoes to France (I figured it'd be a great excuse not to exercise. "Whoops, forgot my tennis shoes!").

But things are looking up! I had a lot of fun this weekend despite events that inspired my shoe analogy. I went out with Alexis on Saturday and we hung out at our friend Alex's apartment, learned a whole new meaning for the Tour de France (and consequentially will never be able to think of it the same way again), and saw my old high school pal Kelsy who is now in Paris for a semester abroad.

This week my goal is to keep busy and really dive into my 20 hour/week study schedule for the GRE that will last until March 10 (dooms day), and on Friday I am going to London to visit my dad while he's there for business! Hooray English speaking countries!

4.5 weeks until the next vacation...

xoxo Gossip Girl

(That's for you, Jessie)

16 January 2010

Day 124

I've officially passed the 4 month mark! Four months ago I was freshly in Paris, and four months from now I will be done with the program... yikes! (bikes)

It's been a whirlwind, that's for sure, and every month has been unique. We've already been back to school for two weeks (five more weeks until the next vacation), and it amazes me how quickly time passes, but at the same time, these past few days have felt like an eternity. Hopefully a nice productive yet fun Saturday will break me out of that rut!

Tuesdays are the worst days of the week, and not because they're the longest day. In fact, Tuesdays are the shortest work day of the week for me. The problem is, for the last two weeks, I have spent my Tuesdays from 8:45am until 2pm sitting in the fluorescently lit teacher's-lounge without anything to do. I walk to the classroom with which I am supposed to work, and the teachers all say "Sorry, I don't have any plans for English today... we'll talk later", but then a whole week rolls by and it happens all over again. It sucks. Luckily I have maintained an optimistic spirit, and the silver lining of this situations is that I have six hours to study for the GRE without distractions. How lucky is that?! Who wouldn't want to practice reading comprehension and algebra all day?

Oh, and last Tuesday the principal brought champagne for all of the teachers to celebrate the new year.

Next weekend I might visit London because my dad will be on a business trip there. After four months in France, it would be strange to visit an English speaking country... especially one where I am clearly still a foreigner. Going out to dinner and ordering in English? Speaking to a shop assistant in English? Does that really exist?!

The travel bug has bit me with a desire to get out of the city, so I look forward to making vacation plans. Some friends asked me to go to Prague at the last minute (called me on Thursday night at 11:30 when they were leaving the next morning at 7:30), but I had to decline because I work all day on Friday. Boo! Soon we will be making plans for our next vacation (two weeks in the middle of february), and I feel more than ready to go on a big European tour.


09 January 2010

philisophical rant about complacency: welcome to adulthood

For quite some time I haven’t felt like “myself”. Okay, so I’ve been through a TON of life changes in the past year or so. I don’t know, maybe graduating from college and moving to a foreign country can perturb one’s fundamental life balance? But regardless, I’ve put on my detective hat in an attempt to discover why I feel so different.

The Courtney I’ve always known has felt anxious for something to happen. I always felt uneasy if I had nothing to do, and I always had eighty-seven things planned a year in advance. I used to worry constantly about the future, trying to picture myself in some clear cut lifestyle.

Then… something happened. Perhaps it was one of those shocking life changes or maybe the French have infiltrated my brain with their “everything in life is for pleasure” attitude, but when I first sat down with my 2010 planner to mark down all of the exciting/mundane things I’d have to do this year (as an organizational freak it is one of my favorite things to do), I realized as I was flipping through the pages that I have not a damn thing planned.

And it’s not that I have nothing planned for 9 months in the future that’s strange, it’s that I don’t even have any plans for February, March, April, May, June, July, or August. Nothing. People ask me when I’m coming back to the U.S. I can’t even tell you a month let alone a day. I mean it people, I HAVE NO PLANS FOR MY FUTURE.

So I tried to sit down and make a list of "life goals". I couldn't even do that. I don't really want anything right now. Miss never satisfied doesn't want anything? Blasphemy!

But… here’s the really scary thing: I don’t care! I'm 22 and I have all doors open for me. Not a bad situation to be in.

After a few weeks with this inexplicable feeling, I found a word to describe my situation. It’s called complacency.

Herein lies the problem. I feel completely A-O-K with the fact that I have no future plans. But then I worry that I should be worrying more about my future. I’m worried that I’m not worried? Are you serious? Will the worrying ever cease? Don’t people search a lifetime for complacency? Or is that different from happiness? I worry that my complacency indicates a lack of inspiration and motivation. Of course I would be the one to move all the way to France to become uninspired and complacent.

So my question to you:

Is complacency a good or bad thing?

01 January 2010

Bonne Année!

Here's to hoping the next 10 years will be fantastic!

Last night's reveillant (awakening of the new year) followed a rough day. Wasn't feeling so hot at all yesterday, but I managed to sleep it off before the celebrations...

The greatest part of NYE was finding that there was a THIRD layer of chocolates in my fancy box of French chocolates. I thought they were gone and I was going to throw them away until I picked up the box and realized it was unusually heavy. It can't possibly be true, can it? And indeed it was! God bless the French and their sneaky 3rd layer of chocolate!

We ended up celebrating the first moments of 2010 in a stairwell in a line. Can't say I've ever done that before! But I had a great time celebrating the new year with Julie, Alexis, and Emily. We danced to a lot of 80's music and then ate Pizza at 5am in a little pizza shack where we encountered a lot of hungry drunk Frenchies who were overly delighted to practice their English with us. Perhaps a New Year's resolution of theirs? If so, they're off to a great start!

Tonight Mel and I are going to see the Mozart Opéra Rock! Great way to kick off the year, no?

Meilleurs voeux for 2010!