Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Omelettes’

You might blame it on the mid-20th century existentialist literature that I’m reading — in French, no less. You might blame it on the perpetually grey skies or my generally bored self or maybe just the fact that its February, and I’m from Michigan, and being as such I therefore recognize that it is currently the worst month in the Gregorian calendar year.

I’m not too certain. In fact, I’m not even certain about my current state of mind. Reading the title of this post, you might think that I’m unhappy. But I’m really not. I’m enjoying myself immensely, I’m improving my language skills and I find my educational pursuits fascinating.

Perhaps I’m a little lonely, and maybe I could fill up my waking hours with more varied things than just eating, running and cooking elaborate meals for one — sometimes two or three or even four, mind you.

But I’m feeling like I’m in a good place right now. I’m reading “La Peste” (The Plague”) by Albert Camus, a book I’ve already read in English, and it’s making me feel both French and wholeheartedly inspired.

Dr. Bernard Rieux, the heroic main character, has a lovely statement near the beginning of the book, where he decides that, despite the descending chaos of the world around him, “L’essentiel est de bien faire son meiter”, or “What’s essential is to do your own job well.” The rest will follow.

So, even though I try to live my life like that usually, I am going to use Dr. Rieux’s sentiments and help me find a greater happiness here. If I do my job — go to school, enjoy the city, live my life simply — than nothing else should bother me. And it doesn’t. And it won’t.

The last two days were pretty similar. Monday was Monday, with the media in transition lecture, a lovely, but cold run and a gathering of the dinner party gang — at my apartment, this time — for some scrumptious balsamic butter penne pasta. It was a delicious meal and a most enjoyable evening.

Also, I discovered the joy of Carrefour, the massive French supermarket chain at which I should have already been doing all of my grocery shopping. It is cheap, it’s quality is superior to many other cheap local grocery chains and they have really, really good generic brand cereal. A rather large Carrefour isn’t too far from my house, and it better believe that I will be back soon. And how.

Today was also rather simple. French class, media and politics, a chilly run, tasty omelette and baguette for dinner, followed by an evening of homework — I actually have some now! Huzzah! — and silly jazz music on the radio.

I’ve also gotten into the habit of grabbing the free newspapers in the main campus building — there are quite a few, including Le Figaro, The Financial Times, Le Monde (if you are lucky and quick), The Wall Street Journal and others. So that’s nice.

But don’t worry. I’m not unhappy. I’m not happy. I just am. Leaning more towards the happy side, of course, but mostly just pushing on forward.

Happiness is coming soon, too, I’d wager.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

So, I really am a student of la belle France. For this semester, I have dutifully paid my fees, bought my carte d’etudiant and filled out all the requisite visa forms in triplicate — exactly like they asked me to do, even if when presented with said forms, the consul office in Atlanta seemed not to care about my hours of work.

That means, of course, that I am un vrai etudiant français — and as such, thus subject to all the perks and benefits, including FREE ADMISSION at the vast majority of the vast collection of vast museums here in Paris.

I had kind of suspected this — the websites for some of the bigger museums kind of indicate if you try hard enough, even as a foreign exchange student you get the same thing — but I wasn’t sure until I went to the Musée D’Orsay with Jean-Baptiste, a French friend.

But, as you might well know, two of the things I love most in this world include things which are free and things which are French. Et, voila, I am there. So, to start, today was a pretty good day.

I ran early in the cold — I wasn’t going to get up and do it, as the rain on my skylight over my shower/plant nursery/bathroom/general living space indicated the ugly weather outside — but I’m really glad I did. It felt really refreshing and made me wake up. Runs do that sometime.

I then made the not so long trek — do I really need a metro pass? (YES) — down to Sciences Po to purchase my course pack — with enough money today! HOORAY! — and then spent the rest of the day there, reading in various buildings and pretending to be studious until the time to meet Jean-Baptiste arrived. Classes start Monday, by the way. They do. I’m sure of it.

Then it was off to the Musée d’Orsay, for a lovely afternoon of impressionism, art nouveau and other such wonderful things. It was a lot of fun to walk around the museum with a French friend, speaking in French and talking about art. When I spend time with the French gang I’ve randomly assembled, my French improves a lot, but it still hard to fully express myself. It’s a process, I know, but I really love to talk — you are reading my blog, after all, so you know this — and not being able to fully use all the right words is incredibly frustrating.

Additionally, I tried to explain a complicated argument presented in a recent article in “The Believer” that concerned the democratization of art museums and the ensuing commodification of high culture into easily digested, smaller culture pieces. This was not a good idea, and not easily explained in a foreign language in which I am not yet completely fluent. At times, we all make poor choices.

We got coffee, talked a little more, and then I left for home to meet Victoria, my American friend from high school, for dinner and a movie.

We have agreed to only speak French with each other, which is a fun time for all, including the passersby. Tonight, a man at a grocery store looked at us very strangely. We know we aren’t French. We know our accent is not great. But we are trying. And that’s enough.

We made some yummy omelettes — I need to start cooking other things soon, I think — and then walked down to a big movie house nearby to catch “La Princesse et la Grenouille” — “The Princess and the Frog”, which I’ve already seen in America, but Victoria has not — thinking it would be doubled in French. I’ve seen the bandes annonces — trailers — and they are clearly in French.

Unfortunately, we must have found the wrong theatre, because was the same sassy and sweet movie I saw at the venerable Milford Cinema One Screen in Milford, Michigan last month with my parents, only with silly French subtitles below. Really. Victoria and I laughed at some of the malapropisms displayed there more than we did at actually intended humor in the movie.

We decided the next movie or cultural outing we take will be a truly French one.

But it was a truly lovely day, and tomorrow I have more to read and run and a French party to go to — NOT in the suburbs, thanks be to the Metro — and more fun things to do. Life is improving, peu en peu.

And I’m slowly starting to love Paris.

But don’t tell Paris. I think it’s seeing other people right now.

Read Full Post »

To be able to cook is a most valuable skill. It can make you friends. It can make you dinner. It can make you happy.

And yesterday, for me, it made me feel just the slightest bit French, for maybe the first time.

It was, again, a long and weird day. I discovered that I could take Metro Ligne 5 completely from the station at Gare de l’Est to the station at St. Germain-de-Près, which is right next to Sciences Po. No transfers, short walks and a speedy metro means a very quick morning commute. I left my house at around 8:30 for a 9:00 session and got there with 10 minutes to spare. Good to know I can run late and still be on time — not that I’m planning on that at all for this coming term.

Methodology was once again a little frightening, but it is very interesting, and I think I’ll be decently prepared for the expectations of my professors here, which are markedly different and much more driven on a personal, subjective level than in the States.

Afterwards, I discovered the joy of LaVazza vending machine coffee. Really, it’s that good. You put 50 centimes in — that’s right only one half of a Euro — and pick the type of coffee drink and the level of sugar you want. Push the button, down a cup drops and in goes the fresh and tasty coffee — black for me, but if you get sugar the cup includes a tiny stirrer — and then it’s yours to drink. Needless to say, I had probably 4 throughout the day, finding the machines everywhere on campus.

I paid 200 Euros for my Carte d’Etudiant — a glorified UNCOne Card — and made some account corrections at my new French bank,  then meandered down to the Ecole de Journalisme, where we were supposed to have a meeting, I thought. I thought wrong. It was NEXT Thursday, so I waited around there in the basement writing my first DTH column — coming out Monday, folks! Check it out! dailytarheel.com — and then soon discovered my error. Je fais beaucoup de petits erreurs ici en France, bien sûr.

On the way home, I discovered a large indoor farmers’ market just down the street from my house. The food is good and plenty cheap, so I know where I’m going to get my veggies and cheese and such from now on, or at least until the markets outside open for the spring.

But now, the Frenchiness sets in. I had arranged to meet up with Yousef, a graduate student at Sciences Po who is friends with one of my friends’ friend at Yale — I know its confusing. I have a friend who goes to Yale, and his friend at Yale has a lot of French friends, Yousef among them, so he gave me his contact info for guidance and friendship and housing search help and all that fun kind of stuff — to have some coffee or something.

We decidedly went with the something else.

We met at the Place de Bastille, a crowded place full of smoking teenagers and confused tourists, and walked to a student center so he could print some stuff for a local queer youth group he is involved in at Sciences Po. Then, we met up with one of his friends to go to a French Feminist Meeting in a public meeting hall on the other side of the city. It was crazy and radical and wonderful and I could understand most of the meeting, although it made me really tired.

As we were leaving, a very vocal woman grabbed my arm firmly and thanked me for being a brave and noble man in a world that is hard for women.

You know me. I try.

Then, we met up with some more people to discuss a conference Yousef was planning at Sciences Po around the topic of being openly gay in the French workplace — or “outée” — with some businessmen in a café. Throughout all of this, I listened attentively, barely speaking and holding on to the stock phrases I heard to keep my head above the flow of conversation.

But the best part was that I could understand it all, or most of it, to be honest. I was lost a little sometimes, and couldn’t take part in the debates and discussions, but I could follow, which was the most exciting part.

Then, we went back to Yousef’s apartment and I made Yousef and his roommate and a friend omelettes, with roasted apples and hazelnuts and feta cheese. Apparently, they don’t cook, so I got to wow everyone with my imaginary and supposedly creative cooking abilities.

As I cooked, I slowly found myself joking around with everyone, talking about general conversationy things — things that I could and would say in English, normally, with my old friends — and I got this huge boost of confidence. They all complimented me on my French and understood everything I said, and I was pretty much the same for them. It was great.

They all told me that I was a fantastic cook and that I had to return “tout de suite” or I’d be in trouble. Which was nice, because many people have told me it’s hard to make French friends while here studying for the term.

I took the last metro home, and on the way back, I couldn’t help but keep a publicly indecent smile on my face. I was so happy to have French friends, with whom I could speak French. I know I’ll see them all again, and maybe when I do, I’ll feel even more French.

Mais oui, c’est très genial, ça. Bien sûr.

Read Full Post »