Bonjour mes amis! It's been almost 2 weeks since my arrival in Paris, and what a two weeks it has been! I've moved out of the "oh my gosh everything is SO exciting and AWESOME!" phase and into the "Wow I'm really living here... it's not just a sweet vacation" phase. I've loved every minute so far, but a few moments have indeed been frustrating, sad, confused, and altogether lost. It's all part of the process, or so I've been told. I'm writing this post to insert a dose of reality and feet-on-the-ground-ness into my blogging for the semester. That said, I'd like to share a few daily occurrences that have made my time here, well, French.
One day, I returned home to find myself unable to unlock my door. This happened at a very frustrated moment of my day, as I had just gotten finished with a 6 hour French class/field trip. It was a good class, but after 6 hours of hearing my cute little French professor speak her very fast French, I was done. I can only listen to French for so long until I start zoning out completely and getting frustrated with everything. So yes, after class I came home and my door wouldn't open. Conveniently, no one was home, and no one was answering their phones. I was trapped outside my door and all I wanted to do was go hide inside my room. It was officially a bad day. My first bad day in Paris! It ended up being fine, because I just went for a walk and when I returned, Monsieur was in the apartment to let me in. So, not really a bad day.
I've gotten quite good at charades, because everything I say to my family is said not only in French but also with hand motions. Like, "Does my key work to open the door now?" is said as I motion holding a key and opening a door. Also, my roommate and I have fun at dinner using hand motions whenever we don't know a certain word. Tonight, I had to "stir" the sauce before dinner. I didn't know the word, but I knew the motion. I now know the word, because Madame told me. So yes, I'm learning French and Charades. It works well... until I have to make a phone call in French. That's the real listening and speaking test. It's quite intimidating, but I've done it a few times and been successful. However, my cell phone is expensive and I simply can't make too many phone calls.
I've been thinking about ways to improve my French, and I think I need to take up TV watching. Supposedly there are gameshows like Wheel-Of-Fortune, and those kinds of things could really help with my vocabulary. My family and friends know that I don't watch much tv, but maybe I'll have to change my ways while in France for the sake of learning.
As I said before, we have a cheese course every night at dinner in between the main dish and dessert. I'm taking quite fondly to this habit. Tonight, Madame and Monsieur had their daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren here for dinner. Not only were their two little children (1.5 and 4 years old) absolutely adorable, but the couple was quite nice as well. The father spoke Italian to his children, because he wants them to learn it. Thus, it was a trilingual dinner! Drew (my roommate) and I occasionally will say something in English to the other in order to more completely understand. Together, we can usually figure out what's going on at the dinner table and make pleasant conversation.
It's always funny being introduced to new French people by Madame and Monsieur, because they find Drew and I to be unusual Americans. Madame is shocked that I actually eat dinner with my family at home every night; apparently I'm the first of her American students to practice this tradition. Also, I like the French cheese. I try new cheeses every night, and they are shocked! The son-in-law tonight said that we weren't true Americans, because we actually like French cheese. I'm glad that I'm impressing them with my family traditions and my ability to embrace the French culture.
Staring at My Feet
I take the metro every day, and it's the best form of transportation ever! It can get me anywhere in Paris in about 30 minutes, and it's very simple to figure out. The lines are color coded, numbered, and named. Also, each metro stop has a different vibe and there are interesting French advertisements everywhere. However, with the good always comes the bad. My hands constantly feel disgusting after holding on to the poles in the metro, I get scared when going places by myself, it's creepy at night, and someone always smells bad. Also, I've learned that it's a French art to avoid eye contact. I've found that staring at my feet works best. Every day, I take inventory of people's shoes on the metro. Also it's a great place to scope out the latest handbags - anything to avoid meeting the eyes of someone else. Anyways, in the US I'm accustomed to making pleasant conversation with strangers from time to time. Here, you don't talk to someone unless you're saying "Pardon" while getting off the metro. I miss being able to be jolly and say nice things to people I don't know.
Tomorrow I start my first official classes! I've been doing French intensive sessions for the past week, but now I'm getting into the real stuff. Tomorrow I have "History of Paris Art and Architecture" and "Global Marketing." Both sound very interesting! My Tues/Thurs class are: International and Intercultural Management, International Political Economy, and Advanced French. It should be a good semester, and I'm ready to learn. I'm also ready to settle down into a routine. France is lovely, and I'm learning so much every day. I've experienced frustration, which is kind of like French growing pains. So as long as I'm growing, I'm good. I just hope I can absorb as much as possible!