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Posts Tagged ‘Small Talk’

I really wish I could explain why I found myself in a university building in the south of Paris listening to a Ska Band play covers of “Gangster’s Paradise” last night at 1:30 a.m.

I mean, I could explain how I got there: I took the infamous RER, the oft-on-strike high speed rail system that connects the center of Paris to its sprawling and sometimes tense suburban ring. While the ride there was uneventful, I did happen to come across the end of a riot/fight between the Paris police and some teenagers in the Gare du Nord. Mustard Gas was used, so my eyes looked really great when I got off the train in the suburb for the fête that I was planning on attending there.

Things just seem to happen here, and they are louder, weirder and blunter than anything I have ever experienced at home. Sure, I’m still very much in western culture — the above mentioned Ska Band played a really rousing version of Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” at one point — but it is a different variety of western culture that it will take some getting used to.

My day was long, as many seem to be here. Finished off our final methodology class with a lively discussion of Hannah Arendt. Newly emboldened by my evening the night before, I spoke up for once, feeling like I both understood and could find the words to explain the argument presented by the philosophic texts we were reading.

Then, I made the unusual choice to walk home from school — I don’t live close to Sciences Po — because it was a pretty day and I had no other commitments. It was a good choice. I walked through some parks and gardens and odd neighborhoods, and eventually found my way back to the 10th and my apartment. I will have to do more of that kind of purposeless wandering in the coming week. Paris is laid out in such a way that that sort of thing is almost encouraged.

After a quick run, I took the metro to visit my friend Victoria in the Jardin de Luxembourg. She and I went to high school together back in Michigan, and she’s here for the year at the Sorbonne. It was so wonderful to see her — it’s been a while — and it was great to know that I have another old friend here in the city when I need some sort of comfort.

She and bought some crepes from a crepe lady in the Jardin that is really very friendly and who calls Victoria her “amie Americaine”. We decided we would speak French to each other, and it was awkward seeing as neither one of us is fluent at all, but it was fun to have someone to speak bad French with. We watched some old men playing a traditional French ball game — kind of like bocce, but more French, with a lot of precise tosses and funny little French men in hats smoking pipes — and then agreed that we would definitely meet up regularly during the text term to awkwardly speak French to each other. Apparently, there is a bar somewhere in the city whose theme is “Medieval France,” complete with costumes. We are going there, without a doubt.

Returning home, I made myself dinner and cleaned up my room a little. I met Xavier, my other roommate, who seems like a really nice guy. Apparently, the fact that all three of us were there was a weird coincidence that won’t happen too often.

I then decided to put on my pajamas early and stay in for the night.

And yet, when my new French friends texted me to come out to the big party in the suburbs, I somehow managed to get dressed again and pull myself out there.

I could describe it more, but just know that it was a very strange experience. I had a pretty good time, speaking French and such and trying my best to make the awkward small talk that I can’t even do in English that is so requisite at these kinds of parties.

We stayed until 4, and then rode the night bus back into the city. It was weird to see how many people were still out that late. Like most major cities, Paris never really sleeps, and when the residents prefer to party until 5 a.m. when the metro reopens rather than cut short their nights out, you can get the general picture.

Today, it is raining. I got up at 2. We’ll see what I end up doing.

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