General Update: Sooo it’s been another two weeks since I’ve written, despite my claim that I was splitting my last post in two….but that’s okay! The French have no perception of time and therefore I’m showing you that I’ve actually become even more acclimated to the culture. You want your French friend to meet up with you at 12:00? They’re guaranteed to stroll in 45 minutes or so later. The course horaire (schedule) may say class starts at 10 in the morning, but the professor comes and goes as he or she pleases…if they even come to class at all. I’ve just been assimilating; I went from being sheepishly slow and lazy and tired to proudly slow and lazy and tired.
So this week and last week make up a Parisian congé (vacation/break) for high schools and many offices. Unbeknownst to everyone on the program, this actually would affect our lives…and subsequently produced a cataclysmic #firstworldparisianproblems phenomenon. The many shops that we all depend on were closed last week, and something like the following have frequently come out of our mouths:
“I can’t get a baguette from across the street …FOR A WEEK?!”
“My favorite boulangerie isn’t open for 5 days? No pain au chocolat??” (This person clearly has no reason to live.)
“There’s a LINE to get into some of the most famous museums in the world because high school kids are off? Screw that I’m going home.”
“All three cobblers on this street are on vacation? But I need my shoes to be cobbled!” (I’ll admit that this one was pretty much just me being silly and making up verbs in the process. And don’t you worry, I did find a ready and willing cobbler on my fourth try and my shoes are good as new. Whew that was a close one, amIright?)
However, I did manage to stuff my face with more fondue back at Le Refuge Des Fondues with a bunch of lovely friends. It was amazingly fun the deuxième fois. Yet it’s amazing how quickly I forgot to be wary of the unlimited cheese fondue my second time around. My stomach can only handle so much cheesy awesomeness. So we went from this:
To becoming victims of this:
Where I went (and how I ruined it):
1. The Catacombs:
So I actually went here a while back, but it’s totally worth noting. The Catacombs are basically several kilometers of underground tunnels stacked with the skeletal remains of over six million dead (duh) Parisians. Many centuries ago there was overcrowding in the church cemeteries, so little by little the French ceremoniously moved the dead underground into these tunnels and caverns. Little did I know that these stacks o’ bones were just a short walk from school. So one sunny day after class when I was casually asked if I’d like to tag along to The Catacombs, I didn’t really realize I was actually being asked, “Hey, care to ponder your mortality for the rest of the day?”
The whole experience was both fantastic and eerie at the same time. I was greeted with huge stacks of bones lined up in a way that neatly separated the skulls from the rest of the bodies’ bones. Incredibly old signs that discussed the transient nature of life popped up every now and then. Needless to say, this is pretty much what went down. I went from this:
2. Rugby Game at Stade de France:
This was AMAZING. I won free tickets to a Paris vs. Toulon game with four other people from my program. It was incredible – we had great seats, the teams were evenly matched, and in the last three seconds of the game the team that was behind scored a try and then made their conversion kick to tie up the game. Afterwards, there was a spectacle pyrotechnique, aka fireworks, just to conclude my day in complete Hollywood-ending fashion. To top it all off, since I was the only one of my friends who played rugby, I had the opportunity to happily explain a sport I’m actually knowledgeable about to people…when’s that ever going to happen again?
Although I wish the TWRFC girls had been there…
It never ceases to amaze me when the slight cultural differences you were never previously cognizant about become apparent. The stadium had given out free Paris Rugby flags for the fans to wave during the game. After, the five of us desperately wanted ones of our own as souvenirs. As Americans, we figured the girls could flirt their way into getting some flags and the boys would just have to steal them, and if three of us were successful we’d be lucky. I mean, that’s how it’d go down in Yankee stadium if they gave out free paraphernalia to only some people. Not the case for the French! You just ask politely, and the flag is yours. We were all astounded to have procured flags in less than five minutes.
The odd part is, if you accidently slightly graze the same person on the metro, they will probably curse you off with a huffed Merde! and think about shanking your eyes out. Do that in NY, a mere “sorry” will have you covered. I’m still trying to figure this one out. They’re like friggen living Sour Patch Kids.
Observation of the Post:
In honor of the “Shit X Say” YouTube phenomenon, I now present to you my own version: Shit French People Say to Me Because I’m American:
1. “Wait, you don’t like McDonalds?”
That’s right! I don’t eat fast food, save some glorious Chipotle burritos (Side note: Paris is supposed to open its first Chipotle in a couple of weeks. Right by my house. Ohhh boy.) McDonalds is ridiculously popular here, but for all the wrong reasons. It’s expensive (like 5-7 euro for a meal,) it isn’t opened almost 24/7, and the French are so obsessed with preserving their fine food culture that they sometimes make sure to tell you what exquisitely fresh farms the meat and produce came from. They simply like it because it’s American food. I shouldn’t be surprised about the recent news about the introduction of the McBaguette. Globalization at its finest.
2. “You pay HOW much for college?!”
They only pay about 3,000/year for college here, so it’s mindboggling when I tell French people what I pay to go to Tufts. I just like talking about it to see their faces contort into a weird mix of shock and pity and slight fear because someday this could happen to them. Oh no wait, socialist country jk lol.
3. “You’re American, so aren’t you like really religious?”
This one gets me every time. I do not understand how a country that was based so heavily on Christianity came to preach secularity to such an obsessive degree. I mean it’s not actually true in terms of France being completely secular, just like it isn’t true in the United States (a discussion for another time perhaps) but to assume that every American is another Rick Santorum is a pretty painful assumption. The French newspapers cover the Republican primaries so heavily though, one can hardly blame them. In my class at Paris VIII, my teacher was making some bible references and literally said, “Oh, our exchange students can help us, they know a lot about the bible because they’re American. Rebecca and Abigail – those are biblical names.”
On that note, I’ve got an EU midterm to study for. Next week, I hope to post about my upcoming trip to London… if the laziness doesn’t get to me again.