After a couple months of fun, laughter, discovery, traveling, photo-taking, and Paris, I had to focus more on the "study" part of "study abroad." Yes, it may come as a shock, but I have been attending classes and doing assignments in between all of my European adventures and Parisian discoveries.
Last week is what a typical university student would call "midterms." Quel dommage, I actually had to spend my week studying and taking exams. Pauvre moi. Throughout study time, I had a few experiences that really brought smiles to my face. Most people would say I was just procrastinating. However, after some research, I found that there is no direct translation for the verb "to procrastinate" in the French language, thus it's impossible for me to truly procrastinate in France! This is my theory, at least.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
This past weekend, I spent the majority of my time either sleeping or trying to absorb information from class notes, books, and powerpoint presentations. On Sunday, I decided to take a break from my studies and use the chocolate chips that I single-handedly imported to France. I love to bake, and I tend to bake when I want to take a break from my responsibilities. Thus, I had the perfect opportunity to bake on Sunday afternoon! It was a unique baking experience as I used Madame's old-fashioned scale (in grams, nonetheless) in order to measure out the flour, sugar, etc. Also, I couldn't help but chuckle at her reaction of just how much butter and sugar go into a batch of chocolate chip cookies. After a bit of language-barrier-enhanced recipe interpretation, and ingredient substitution (who knew brown sugar wasn't a staple in French homes), I successfully made a delicious batch of chocolate chip cookies! The whole family enjoyed them, and all 36 of them were polished off within two days. A little taste of America was savored by everyone, including yours truly.
French Story Time
This week, Madame and Monsieur have been hosting their adult children and grandchildren. I must say, it's felt a lot more like one of my own family gatherings with little kids running around everywhere. The children, ages 7, 4, and 1, are very well-behaved, and seem like my own nieces and nephews. I have gotten a full dose of French-little-kid-cuteness this week as Timothé, the little 1 year old grandson, has taken quite a liking to me. He runs up to me with a big smile on his face, arms outstretched, ready for a hug. It's irresistable! It also makes me miss my own 1 year old nephew, who I will get to see upon my return to the homeland. Dinners have been spiced up with childish banter, babies crying and laughing, and parents just trying to get through it all peacefully. The other night, instead of studying for my exams, I complied with the children's request to read them a story. This turned out to be one of my favorite familial experiences thus far, for a couple reasons. First of all, it was a great way for me to practice my French pronunciation and vocabulary. I had the help of 7 year old Lucile, who would correct my pronunciation and define words that I didn't know. Lucile commented that she liked hearing "my funny accent." Secondly, it gave me a real insight to a key in learning a new language. One must truly put aside pride and embarrassment in order to learn a foreign language successfully. I realized this after humbly taking advice from a 7 year old about pronunciation when reading a simple children's story.
My Little Café Around the Corner
At the beginning of my semester, on one of my neighborhood walks, I stumbled upon a little café right across from the Pont Neuf Bridge. For those of you who are unfamiliar, the Pont Neuf is the oldest bridge in Paris, and just happens to be about 50 yards from my front door. Across from this monumental bridge is a very subtle café, just on the edge of a little neighborhood park in Place Dauphine. It's a quieter corner of a busy area, which may be what keeps bringing me back to this little place. I've been three times now, and each time I am more satisfied about my experience. On my first visit, I simply ordered an espresso. I was let alone to sit and tend to my studies and sip my café for a solid two hours, uninterrupted. Ah, the joy of French café culture: you can sit somewhere and be left alone! The second time I went to this little café, I had the Tomato and Mozzarella Salad... which is the exact reason I returned a third time. This salad is life-changing. Huge chunks of the freshest buffalo mozzarella are alternated with ripe and juicy red tomato slices, both which encircle a small bed (but more like a love-seat) of fresh greens drizzled with the most genius combination of olive oil and sweetened balsamic vinegar. After I had this salad the first time, I thought about it for a solid week and a half. It comes accompanied with the obligatory basket of fresh baguette slices, perfect for soaking up every last bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
After my third time of sitting in this quiet café around the corner, fully engaged in the heavenly plate in front of me, while writing in my journal and reading schoolbooks, something happened. Instead of the standard "au revoir" that is exchanged upon departure from a restaurant, I got an "à bientôt." This change in salutations is huge, because I went from the "goodbye" customer to the "see you soon" customer. That's right, I did it. I became a regular! As one of my good friends once noted, studying abroad is a succession of miniature triumphs and failures. This was definitely on of the triumphs.
The Eiffel Tower in the midst of its famous Light Show - with the Pont Neuf bridge in the foreground. One of the best things about my living situation by far.