[France] Au revoir!

Photo taken from 2nd story-Eiffel

The decision to spend my last week in France in Paris was, without doubt, one well made. After nearly 10 quick sniff-n-run visits this semester due to train transfer, airport transfer, welcoming, and seeing people off, I was ready to never come back here again. Nevertheless, I figured I never really did give it a chance…all my visits included me…freezing my toes off, spending most of my time in underground Paris metro system, running breathlessly, dragging small and big suitcases up stairs, down stairs, from one body-squeezing metro car to another. The other enjoyable visits I had were only a day long, never close to outweighing my built-up “animosity” to the sight of Paris in general.

The warm weather has given a point-booster to my stay in Paris this time…plus the fact that I have no reason to rush myself, I have had the time and comfort to stroll down the Parisian streets and learn why it is deemed a world-famous romantic city. Sun opens access to undiscovered parks and green spaces…a book and a worry-free mind, best place to be. Sun opens access to cafe on the terrace, sipping, and munching on a melting coffee-dipped chocolate, people-watching all the colors that the Parisians have dug out of their closets for summer. Sun giving a different cheerful gleam to all monumental sites as opposed to the gloomy, rain-dripped, soul-less mass that greeted me other times. Nights here are absolutely amazing, it is warm enough, moderately breezy enough to stroll along the light-lit paths hugging the side of the Seine, who glitters in all her beauty under the early summer’s moon. Such cheesy description, yes I know but Paris in warm weather brings out the romantic in everyone.

Considering these are my last days in Paris and in France…I had a whole list of things that I needed to do. In the past 4 days, I’ve finished a box of chevres, half a box of camembert, countless bread…I’ve drank some kind of wine for every meal with my cousin. I’m a big food person, you can tell. I’ve been, in the words of Mme. Rouchet, trying to “profiter” my every day left here. I have kebab checked, I need to get a croissant, a pain au chocolat and at least 2 more coffee on the terrace before I mount my plane tomorrow.

No, my checklist does not only include food….though..,it does count for a lot ^^. I went to see Versailles, like I always wanted, spent at least 30′ in the Hall of Mirrors. I climbed up the Eiffel Tower yesterday and took a picture of myself similar to the one of grandpa with part of the Tower in the background. I walked along the Seine at night for around an hour. I ate with my cousin in a Vietnamese restaurant in the 13th district. I stood at a traffic light in the middle of Champs-Elysees and got my ‘wanted’ photo of Arc de Triomphe. I ate in the Latin Quarter again last night with Vanessa. Today, I probably will go see Montmartre again, and then visit the Jewish Quarter, find a good place to eat tonight, watch a french film, go to sleep and call it FRANCE ^^.

There were some unexpectedly exciting things that happened unlisted. I met Rit, my former co-worker at Thai Chef in DC, right in front of the Louvre, out of all the places. I had not seen him in a while and to meet a close friend like that just randomly in the middle of Paris. I was, as you can imagine, super-happy. Second wonderful thing that happened, I met Sarah Jessica Parker. Yes! I was walking on Champs Elysees and I saw this huge group of people congregating in front of Sephora. Curious like I always am, I jumped in questioning people as to what was going..turns out SJP was merely a few meters away signing autographs. So after only a 30′ wait in a crazy mass of fans, I was standing there in front of her…for 20 seconds, she said “Bonnn – jurr” (which I thought was hilarious) and then “Merrr-si” …I was kind of frozen, just nodding and stuttering a “hi” or two. Yup, anyway, that was my 1st ever 20 seconds in front of a celebrity and in Paris, out of all the places. Good way to wrap the trip up.

Vanessa was also in town, so I had dinner with her yesterday. My cousin has been out of town for work so it was nice to not be kind of alone here. My stay in Paris has also prepared me better to leave France. It is utterly beautiful here, but again as Mme Rouchet said in her “re-entry” meeting, the place is not the same without the people. It is clearly not as fun being by myself. I’ll wait for a reunion. Au revoir France! A +!

Advertisements

[France] La fin

The end is near, and everything in this city seems to have a stronger grip of my heart. Sunshine lingered in my room today, as it shoned through the little Brecard’s window, the sidewalk on the way to the center seemed oddly nostalgic, the rooms at IES hold a certain air of unrelenting memories, the faces I see imprinting themselves to the depth of my eyes so that I’ll never forget. This place I called home, my refuge in a foreign continent, my haven of emotional support. It is hard to let go but we know goodbyes are never easy…they also don’t last forever. Until we meet again, family, friends, love – Nantes.

Un gros calin du ciel a la terre, de la France aux Etats-Unis, de mon coeur aux votres! Je vous adore :).

[France] Chasing my tail

These flowers, which I saw in Holland, are named “Forget-me-nots”

Dedicated to my memories.

Yesterday, I found out that he had gone, half a month ago. It is a strange feeling, looking at this picture, thinking about the last time I saw him, his face clear and crisp like yesterday’s moon, guarding in the back of my mind the idea of never seeing it ever again. A piece of my heart, …now under the possession of beautiful Past.

Today, and there will have been only 5 days standing between me and my depart. It is a strange feeling, sitting in this bed, in the midst of exam papers, and objects of built-up stability and memories, guarding in the back of my mind the idea of leaving it all behind soon enough. 5 months…now all under the possession of beautiful Past.

Time has not only caught up with me, it has left me lost and dumbfounded in the dusts of its unrelenting tracks. An event or two from reality pulls me from obscurity…and it is only then that I realize Time’s departure long before. Discouraged, I bury myself in the arms of beautiful Past, seeking caress and warmth. Yet, her beauty only digs deeper into the pain.

I’ve lived birth,joy, friendship, love, separation, nostalgia, sadness, death…each dragging me down, tying me to the fate of Past. It is the guilt of my abandoning and forgetting you,Past, that pulls me back. But if I learned anything from this journey, it is better to seek concurrence with Time, and live in hope, than to chase after my tail, and live in vain.

After all..I would never cut off my own tail, I promise.

[Travel] Life goes

If they ever paid me to write a daily journal for a living, I’d be like Thoreau in a torn-up tent in the middle of heaven-knows-where now. I’m not so very up-to-date, you may say.

The Spain trip ended in February giving way to waves of midterm and essays in March, I thankfully did not drown, but there were some water-swallowing…Studying leisurely for 2 months and then all of the sudden, having to write a 10-page paper in French, History of French Art, mind you: Nothing to laugh about. The exams went eeh…yeah they went. You can only suffer during so much time, yet the papers were unlimited devices of torture because the amount of time I need would always be at least 5 times that which I would need for a normal paper in the States. As a result of this 3 week-long- seemingly-never-ending-drag, my daily habits changed…No more talks until 11 pm with my host parents, no more Dr.House in french, no more late-night leisure reading of which that pleases me. Dinner, unfortunately, still stayed late, which meant less sleep. Just me and my gigantic tea mug strapped down in front of German Expressionism, a distasteful style that became ironically more incomprehensible and unappealing the more I read about it. European Union and its enlargements served to be a more engaging subject for my second paper, yet, the eternity that it took me to do research and actually sculpt out that paper was enough to make me indifferent after I had handed it in.

Before I knew it, I was on the border of April, planning for the 2nd big trip of the semester. Last paper placed with a big sigh into my prof’s hands, last scribbles on the exams scribbled, I was packed and ready to do the typical Eurotrip with Amy. 2 weeks seemed mighty long and yet so quickly did they pass by. Eyes filled with fully-loaded 14 days of sightseeing, body flattened like tires overused, and clothes desperately yearning to be soaked in perfume…we returned this past Saturday. It never felt so great to lie in my own bed with a mug and a book, and oh, CLEAN pajamas, sleeping in only until my hungry stomach permitted it no more. Monday was a horribly out-of-it day for everyone. We need a vacation from that vacation…I need a recuperation from all that fun. To bring justice to those wonderful traveling days, I will tell them slowly and hopefully, with enough enthusiasm and memory, as if I wrote it the day of. Keep out for the next posts!

Coming back to Nantes was amazingly comforting. Traveling made me miss home like always, yet also, I longed being back at this city, with my host family, our lively dinners, a french speaking environment, an ambiance that has been attached to me for the past 4 months. It is after all my home in Europe, a place I do know well in this foreign continent. And then I find it shocking that I would have but 3 weeks to savor it. My friends here, having been hit by the same realization, are squeezing in all types of plans, and outings in the next 3 weeks…perhaps a boating down the Erdre, the river running through the center of Nantes, or a karaoke-night. Hopefully, we’ll have dinner together tomorrow after class. I’m skipping Grammar Friday, to spend a long weekend from Thursday with my host family at the seaside. They have been such an integral part of my life here, living alongside this family has pushed me confidently through my days here and learning from them was what made this trip an unforgettable experience. It’s unimaginable, leaving and yet, it casts its eeriness on me. I remember being disappointed each time my 3-day-camp ended each of the 3 summers that I was there…I can’t foresee parting ways with this 5-month life and all that it taught me. I look forward to being home, to start the summer…it is just too difficult to leave spring. Life, like a wheel, rolls on, I suppose…I’ll enjoy myself before it makes the full turn.

[France] St.Valentin

 

val-008.jpg
        I didn’t think much of Valentine’s day this year, but considering the fact that I’m in a country renowned for being utterly romantic, and also because I was bored out of my mind last night, I wrapped over 60 palmiers (a french pastry), each attached to a heart, each containing a french cheesy love quote….to distribute amongst my host family, and people at IES. Voila, a product of my random moments of being artsy for my dear friends, to whom I couldn’t give in person…hope love was in the air for you today, no matter what kind. I leave you with one of the french quotes that sounds horribly cheesy and lame when you translate it…French makes everything sound classy, I suppose.

” Meme avec un miroir, je refuse de te partager” – Chairil Anwar

“Even with a mirror, I refuse to share you”

    Anwar must have been a pretty possessive lover….”Honey, I love you, but you’re not allowed to look at the mirror cause my temper will go off the roof due to jealousy”. Ahhh, enough for lameness, many a grammar exercises await me ….and yet I’m ever so distracted. Love!

[France] Normally Foreign turned Ridiculously French

        I did something typically american today in walking out of a class at the university, one which I took today for the very first time. I define it american just because, in my standing up while the professor was in his mid-lecture, my nature was simply that of a student doing her course shopping. I had in mind the intention of trying out the course, yet since the professor, whose speed of speech outruns in all matters that of my comprehension, had fixed the course for 2 hours, I figured it absurd to continue pretending like I was studiously taking notes. It would have been much too awkward to just sit there, and reiterate the gibberish that I was hearing, while the french students around me, armed with their rulers, colored pens, and correction pen, composed the beautiful art that is their notebooks. And so, I set out to do the first thing that came to mind: escape and try out another course. Lucky for me, I had strategically placed myself in the middle of the very first row of seats so that my face can but create this obstacle-less, direct line with the fixed eyes of the verbose professor. By the end of the first hour, I found my hands slowly, as unnoticeable as possible, reaching for my jacket and in less time then I can recall, I closed my notebook, stashed it in the bag, stood up, my eyes stuck to to the ground as my feet had no other destination but the door. It can be compared to a pause of time, that short 30 seconds, as the professor who had talked continuously for the past hour actually stopped…
        No, I hardly think shopping for a course came to his mind the minute he saw me stand up, that would have been the american way of explaining things were it the first week of courses at MHC. Nevertheless, the french fashion of stand up, walk out, in mid-lecture, can only equate to none other but the ever-so familiar french word that is “la greve” – the strike. The university here has had its fair share of students on strike during the end of last semester due to Sarkozy’s plan of privatizing the education system. For over 9 weeks, students across different departments would stand up, and walk out of the classrooms. More radically, the scenes of desks and chairs stacked one upon another to bar off the door were part of the daily college life during this period. The campus bears still now, 2 months after, spray-painted threats of “a bucket of water over the head for each class that you go to” or “Join the strike, or else”…
        So, yes, now in rethinking the situation, I do understand the tension which my seemingly nonchalant action may have caused. I might as well have been lighting a school-wide strike fire for all that poor french professor knew. It would have been for a reasonable cause as last thursday, all government officials were on strike due to low salary. I was on my way to the fac (university) by tram passing Place du Commerce (Center of Nantes), which was flooded with an ocean of heads, accented by many-a anti-sarkoziniste banners, and flags. Our course started late as the person normally in charge of opening the door, was perhaps also in the crowd. Protests and strikes, like cheese and wine, like art and cuisine, I believe, are to the French indispensable aspects of life. You can have the Eiffel Tower as much as you can have a French man with a beret on his head, shouting “Revolution” with his mustache-covered mouth and waving a baguette with his hand to represent this romanticist country – romanticist in the very sense of art: there exists always the subject of oppression, of struggle and of hope in romanticism. Then again, I exaggerate a bit for I have hardly seen a beret the past 3 weeks I’ve been here.
            The picture above is similar to the many stickers I saw placed at different angles excessively at all bus stops. The sticker reads “Long live the Strike. They make profit. They fatten [with money]. They pollute. They lie to us. They exploit us. They despoil us. They give us nothing. They have given up. The strike is a tool for defense and for success. It’s a right“. In alleviating myself a bit from the guilt of disrupting the professor’s train of garrulousness, I have concluded that, my naturally, positively, normal, american action today was but a naturally, politically undefined, normal, french thing to do. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. When in France, protest as the Frenchman would (even if you don’t really mean it). I must keep guard for the next protest to arrive so that I may very well capture it in a photo for you to see – the side of French life that made my abnormality seem normal.

[France] 3rd week

malomichel-002.jpg

    Despite being constantly overwhelmed with everything, it’s been moving at an unbelievably slow rate, as I thought today might as well be into the 2nd month. Yet, they told me this feeling of time stretching only means it’s warming up to pass by my eyes before I know it. The usual dabbles of adaptation and cultural shocks are my first weeks in France, as are the daily jolt of enthusiasm and those every-so-often nightly daze of nostalgia. It’s a hodgepodge of sentiments that has pat time on the back and yet all the same, pulled it back by the neck.

        Yes, my first french days are accented by wrinkled eyebrows, as my hands shuffle the poor battered map. I must admit that I have no sense of direction, but I would expect myself, after 3 weeks, to know 3 or 4 blocks like they were the lines in the palm of my hand. But, no, getting lost has been a daily routine. The small, winding roads, as picturesque as they are, hold no logic, whatsoever to me. And so, I set off day to day, wandering to corners of Nantes, where the possibility of being astray rests inevitable, but my eyes have no limit, and they do nothing to soothe my lost condition. Then, my limited french vocab get me home as I meet the most interesting french people, who go out of their way to help me find mine, and who rebuke any preconceptions I’ve heard about french people being cold and distant. An unknown woman ran back to her home once to get a map for me and even offered me tea….as did a shopkeeper who told me I can always come back to her for more random questions. Of course, there are very so often sketchy and strangely nice people like the man, who claimed his wife was also Vietnamese, and insisted that I talk to her in order to find the right street.

malomichel-075.jpg

        Finding classes has been a bit frustrating, as the university system here is nothing like that of the pre-set, organized, computerized American one. There are no syllabus, no information, no schedule known until a few days before the start of classes…and even then, professors find the liberty to change everything a week well into the semester. This does nothing to ameliorate the scattered, pen-marked, 3-yr-old sketch that is my schedule and it does even less to comfort my punctual advisor who insists on detailed descriptions of each course for valid credits. So far, nevertheless, the courses which I have chosen are wonderful…but I leave 1 or 2 weeks to know for certain.

        I have not had time to socially do much, yet hanging out with some of my recently-made friends here has been highly entertaining. Last weekend, we found it only just to the end of orientation, to go find a ‘discotheque’. We thought it prudent to go around 10 and come back at 12, only to find out the nightlife in Nantes is not even warmed up at 12. And so, a group of clearly confused looking kids found refuge in a bar, and lived up the stereotypes of American students being loud as we spoke lousy french while playing rounds of drinking games, with strawberry juice (for me, at least). The discotheque then finally opened at 12h30 with amazingly wonderful music, a mix of randomness, that kept us dancing for the next 3 hours…It was “super-chouette” (Awesome)! We left at 3h30 in the morning, tired, sleepy, and yet still dancing our way home through the cobbled stone streets of Nantes.

malomichel-064.jpg

            This weekend was spent with IES in Mont St. Michel, an abbaye built on an island in the Bretagne region, and St. Malo, a seaside, fort city in the same region. I had seen pictures before but the real thing was just so overwhelmingly beautiful. St.Malo stays in my mind, as the sound of its seashore still rests echoing…despite our teeth clicking to the rhythm of the frigid wind, I and a couple of others, still found our barefooted selves running into the water and across the smooth sand of St.Malo….

malomichel-024.jpg

        The day was unforgettable, fun, and yet long and tiring…much so that the sight of Nantes held comfort to our eyes on our way back. Nantes is beautiful, and so it be only 3 weeks that I am here, it already has attached itself to my identity, perhaps because I know no where else in this land, but also because, I feel at eased when I am here. My mind meanders so often to family, to C. and to my friends back home that at times, I question my being here…nevertheless, the city and the people here assure me of my presence, and remind me everyday the reason to which I am in France.

        I share with you my moments in Mont St.Michel and St.Malo. Sweet dreams. Miss you lots 🙂

malomichel-068.jpg