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Archive for the ‘Things Parisians Seem to Like’ Category

So, I am here. In Paris. Finally.

I am really rather tired, and I must apologize if this post seems a little tangential and ever-so-slightly off. I couldn’t really sleep on the plane — the very French, very prepared man seated next me built a little sleeping fort out of his coat and made it rather hard to find a comfortable position on my aisle side — and once I landed, I had to do some quick navigating to find my way to the apartment of the UNC alum with whom I am currently staying.

And I must say, it is rather comforting — and confusing — to look out the window of this room, covered in UNC basketball posters and memorabilia, and see the graceful 19th century architecture of Baron Haussmann. It’s a collision of two very different worlds, all within my frame of vision.

My voyage here was fine, despite the lack of sleep. A quick hop from Detroit to Philadelphia, and then a delayed but rather empty flight from Philadelphia to Paris-Charles DeGualle, a bus ride on the “Car AirFrance”, a walk of several blocks with my luggage and an awkward conversation in French with the landlord of this building convincing him to let me in — apparently my hosts neglected to tell him I was coming — ended with me here, typing away as Karl, the French-speaking housekeeper, does whatever it is he is doing in the next room over.

I had to apologize to Karl. While my responses to his questions and helpful suggestions may only be simple affirmatives like “yes,” “thank you” and “perfect”, I really can understand everything he is saying. I told him this in my fractured French, and he smiled. It’s interesting how we automatically assume that lack of verbal ability means lack of understanding. I hope both of these skills improve while I am here — kind of the reason for me being here, after all. I could have stayed at Carroll if I wanted to just learn about journalism. What I want is to be fluent in French. A little journalism is also fine. But mostly French.

If the two combine, I have no complaints.

The most startling thing about being in another country, I’m realizing, is discovering all the simple little changes that differentiate that country from yours. Sure, there are big changes — language, architecture, cultural attitudes, etc. — but there are subtle changes, too.

The way people carry themselves on the street. The way the children’s play area is designed in the airport lobby. The way signs are written, and public announcements explained. Even the symbol to cross the street   — which, as a warning note, is tricky here in Paris. There isn’t a warning countdown, or blinking red hand. The symbol switches from boldly striding green man to cautious and immobile red man in a matter of seconds. The cars soon follow. You have been warned — all these things are slightly off from what I am used to. It’s truly a symbol of how far away from home I am.

But I’ve noticed other odd things about France. As I walked down Rue de la Pompe (yes, that is the name of the street), I composed a short list of things that the French, or rather, Parisians, seem to really care about, as well as an accompanying list of things about which they don’t really give a shit.

(A note: this is based on one exhausted-American’s walk from Porte Maillot to Place Victor Hugo in Paris in January. It is not meant as a universal description; rather, it is a list of things noticed.)

Parisians Like:

1.Scarves

2. Boots

3. A combination of the above that results in looking remarkably, painfully stylish.

Parisians Don’t Really Seem to Like:

1. Immigration Formalities (I spent a month on my visa application, but that didn’t matter to the stamp-happy customs guy)

2. Customs (I have a bag full of insulin and tiny little needles. No one seems to be concerned about this)

3. Wide traffic lanes (The bus ride here was rather scary)

The lists might get longer.

I might even have a post towards the end of the term made of solely of the likes and dislikes of modern Parisians, based on my keen observations. Get hyped.

For now, I am going to probably eat a little something and then take a much-needed nap. It’s 1:30 — or rather, 13:30 — here, and not 7:00 am, so I should be asleep anyway, according to my internal clock.

I might go running later. Or I might sleep. Or eat. Or wander around the city. I just have so many options.

I think sleeping, with its lovely friend eating, is winning out.

But I’m here.

Et tout va bien.

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