Posts Tagged ‘Victory’

As you might imagine from the title, the last few days have been up and down. One might say my days have been as erratic as the weather here, which is currently below freezing and showing rather pathetic signs of warming up. It is, however, sunny, which is a win.

Small problems, small victories.

My weekend was rather uneventful. I was a homebody on Saturday — with the exception of a glorious run to the Parc des Buttes Chaumont — and Sunday I went to the American Church in Paris with Victoria. It was a traditional service — sans actual denomination, although it leaned towards Presbyterian — and we both felt very American and very much like children in church again. Afterwards, there was much plentiful and FREE American style coffee.

We then headed off to the student brunch in the south of Paris, which was cheap and tasty — cereal, bread, pastries, yogurt, milk, orange juice, potatoes, eggs, coffee and more for less than 3 euro! — but we had to battle it out with hungry French students for food and for a place to sit. In the end, it was worth it, and we left full and happy.

Small problems, small victories.

School started up again on Monday, as it is often wont to do, and I can honestly say that I was glad to get back into my somewhat regular routine. Classes were interesting, and the sky was blue and sunny, albeit a tad bit cold.

Monday evening, my friend Matt from Carolina got in on the train from London, where he is spending the majority of his spring break, watching football (British football that is) matches and wandering around aimlessly. His visit was sort of spur of the moment, but when he got off the train, I realized how nice it was to see a familiar face from my regular life back in the real world.

We made dinner for ourselves and for some friends of a high school friend — the people who introduced me to the first batch of French people here — which was delicious (mac and cheese, only the fancy and elaborate kind). I also made butterscotch, which everyone always loves.

Tuesdays are my busy days, and yesterday was no exception. French class in the morning — where the clock is always mysteriously stuck on 4 o’clock, exactly — followed by a quick stop in the library to begin the book check-out process and then lunch and Media and Politics class, concurrently.

You see, you aren’t allowed to actually go into the stacks in the library here. You fill out a little form with the book number and title, scan it into a timestamp machine and give it to the people behind the circulation desk. They then send someone into the stacks for you to see if the book is there, and bring it back after a period of oh, say, 45 minutes. When I explain the American university library system to French people, they are stunned.

The short of all of this is that the book I wanted for my paper on the landmark Supreme Court case New York Times Co. v. United States (the Pentagon Papers case) — called “Nixonland”, a book which we used in my favorite history class last term — was checked out, even though the library’s database told me otherwise.

My difficulties continued when I went to my French bank to attempt to deal with a problem with my account. Let me just pause a minute here and explain something. I opened this account in January. I chose the BNP-Paribas student option, because they have some sort of deal with French universities in which they give you free money for being a student and opening an account with them, so I had to give them my SciencesPo student ID. Which I did. In January.

Last week — the first week of March, mind you — I got a call from the bank, explaining that my student ID card has the wrong birthdate on it, or rather, it doesn’t match my passport birthdate. You see, the French — and the rest of the world in general, methinks — write dates as “day/month/year” and not “month/day/year” like we do back in the states. So, somewhere along the line, I must have made an error in filling out the student card registration form, because my card says I was born March 9, or, 9/3/1989.

(So I just had a fake birthday yesterday. Holler.)

The ever vigilante folks at BNP wanted further proof that I really did go to SciencesPo and that my birthday was September 3rd, 1989 and not March 9th. I explained to them last week that, since SciencesPo was on holiday, I would have to wait a bit. Which was fine with them. (I mean, they had already waited more than a month to tell me there was a problem, so what was another week, right?)

In digging through my piles of official papers and things, I discovered a “Certificat de Scolarité” that the UNC Study Abroad Office gave me right before I left campus in December. It basically just says, “Hey people reading this, this kid is really a student at SciencesPo. And also, he was born September 3rd, 1989, in case you were curious. Cheers.” For some reason the dates on the paper are written in American format, unless of course the French have discovered a 25th month (the date in the top right corner is 11/25/09).

But there’s a very official looking stamp on this paper, so I thought it would suffice. I brought it in to the bank first on Monday afternoon, but they told me they needed my passport — a copy of which they already had — so I had to come back yesterday, as I do not usually carry my passport around with me for safety reasons.

Yesterday I returned, and much confusion ensued.  First, the woman at the front desk had no idea what I was talking about. Then, she disappeared with my information and passport and went to talk with one of her superiors. She came back and told me everything was cool. Which was false, and I told her as much, reminding her of the phone call I had received from someone in the office. The woman then disappeared again, for longer this time, and returned with all my stuff.

“You need to fix this date thing with SciencesPo,” she told me, pointing to the birthdate on the certificat de scolarité. “This date doesn’t mean anything to us.”

“Oh,” I said. “But you see, this paper is written in American-style date format, as evidenced by this corner date here. So I’d imagine this is correct then.”

“No,” she told me. “We don’t write dates like that here in France. This means nothing to us, I don’t care if it is inversed. You need something else.”

Okay, I’ll admit, this afternoon was just a big fail. No small wins at all. But I am at the point where I just might give up this bank account quest. So, that could be construed as a win. Maybe.

The evening was one big win for all. My French class had our first — of hopefully many — “dîner de conf”, or “class dinner” at our professor’s lovely apartment. Everyone brought food to share, and the professor provided wine, cheese and bread.

It was a truly delightful evening. I simply adore my French prof, and the class is a fantastic mix of students from many different countries and academic backgrounds. We had a delicious meal of random dishes — including my own contribution of my famous fatoush (FATOUSH!) —and had lively and interesting conversation in French. I truly hope we can do it again soon.

Matt is still asleep right now, and I need to get him up and going so we can have a picnic in the Jardin de Luxembourg before my class today. He leaves tonight on the Eurostar to London.

Life may be a series of difficulties and successes, but hopefully my life is headed more towards the “success” column and away from the “difficult” one.


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So, if you’ve been following this blog lately, you’ve probably noticed an unsettling downtrend spiral in my life. It’s subtle, of course, but I know you smart cookies out there reading this, so you’ve probably been a little upset by the posts where my grand daily victories included such difficult tasks as ‘buying bread’, ‘making dinner,’ and ‘going for a run.’

While, dear readers, NOT TODAY. Today was the beginning of everything else. Or at least, I think it was.

Today, the journalism program I am enrolled in at Sciences Po finally had its opening meeting — small cookies, soda, juice and awkward mingling in a large and echoing room — which, for all its lack of grandiosity, was still something to do. And as such, this day was just full of minor, but varied, victories of a sort.

I left the house before noon — victory! — walked across the city to school — victory! — spent a few hours in Shakespeare & Company — victory! — didn’t have enough money to buy course packs for my classes — not a victory! — and drank a lot of cheap campus coffee — many small victories in a row! In all, by the time four o’clock rolled around, I was really pretty victorious and accomplished.

The gathering, while awkward, was nice, and the other students are a pretty varied bunch. Graham and I, from UNC, four kids from Missouri-Columbia, a girl from China, a French-Irish girl, a Canadian, an Australian and apparently a Russian, an Israeli and a Thai who were yet to arrive in Paris. We made small talk, got a small tour of l’Ecole de Journalisme, and were encouraged to find questions to ask the officials in charge.  None of us had any, of course, but it was still nice to know that someone cared about our complete and total lack of information regarding our program here.

A quick overview of the course work — sounds interesting and challenging — and then we were let free to wander. A couple of us went out for dinner at a little café in the neighborhood — under 10 Euro for a sandwich, salad and coffee! Victory! — and then I walked home in the semi-rain.

Now, I might read a little and prepare for the equally victorious and purpose-driven day that awaits me tomorrow. A visit back to school to buy course packs! A trip to the Musée d’Orsay with a French friend! An evening with Victoria, cooking dinner and seeing a movie! — La Princesse et la Grenouille? Un film français? Qui sait? — Running! Eating! Sleeping! So many victories!

I guess, the real message of this snarky post is that, yes, things are starting to happen more in my life. I am figuring out how much money I can spend each day, if any, and how to stock my cupboard, and where things are, and CLASSES ARE ABOUT TO START!, so hopefully I will have more fun and exciting days of work ahead.

I have never wanted something to start so urgently as I want these classes to start.

Stay tuned for more victories! Art museums? Dinner? French birthday parties? All in good time, dear readers, all in good time…

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I am no longer homeless.

It wasn’t easy — well, I’ll be honest. It was a whole lot easier than I thought it was going to be — but I am now the proud resident of a flat share in the 10th arrondissement of Paris.

(You might be wondering about the early time stamp on this post. Once again, I couldn’t really sleep — although I slept a ton last night, I may have only slept for like 3 hours tonight, I’m not really sure — but that mainly may have been from my being both excited and nervous, which are not good conditions for sound sleeping)

Yesterday was a most wonderful day. It was really beautiful here in Paris — sunny skies and mild temperatures — so I went for a long run in the Bois de Boulogne and in the 16th. It was pretty enough that I would have liked to take as long a run as I did intentionally, but I got a little lost, so the run ended up being longer than I originally planned. I wasn’t too worried though, because I can use the Eiffel Tower as a landmark and find my way back to John’s apartment. When your landmark is the tallest structure for miles, you can’t really complain.

After an afternoon of reading and lounging about, I prepared myself to meet my friend Zeina, a girl from Ohio who went on my Outbound Bound trip in the Sierra Nevadas nearly two years ago. It’s hard to comprehend that that trip was so long ago, but in the interim so much has happened — I’m a sophomore in college, I’m 20, Zenia graduated from Ohio State, she’s living in Paris working in a bridal boutique — that I guess I really can believe it.

It so great to see a familiar face in a foreign city. I was a little worried I wouldn’t recognize her, as the only time I’ve really spent with her was outside in the wilderness, and we were both dirty and poorly clothed at the time — a real touchstone of the Outward Bound Wilderness experience — but when she appeared on the sidewalk outside of the Rue de la Pompe métro, I instantly knew it was her.

We rode the métro to the stop suggested by the landlord of my potential — now permanent — Craigslist-sourced apartment in the 10th. It seemed like a nice neighborhood at first glance — nice shops, pretty cafés, people walking around — and the building in question was at the end of a little side street.

Out front, a tall, pretty woman was smoking nervously — another prospective tenant, I would learn — and inside a little lobby was the landlord, “J.” (still don’t know his name). The woman out front was apparently from Argentina, in the city to study dramatic art. She, J and I waited around until 5 after 8 for some other person who was supposed to see the apartment too, but he never showed up, so J took us outside to the big wooded door that led to our potential apartment.

Let me take a little break from my narrative to say that this apartment was EXACTLY what I thought wanted to find for my semester in Paris. It’s a little kooky and completely unconventional, but affordable and safe and sure to be a fun time. Plus, there’s a cat. So, WIN.

J took us inside the place, which is small, but with high ceilings and a lot of skylights and on the first floor with a garden complete with flowers and bushes and a table “to smoke or have dinner-type parties at” (J didn’t speak the most eloquent English, but he was fluent enough for me).

The kitchen is shared between my room and two other similar set-ups rented by two 30something Frenchmen — a TV producer and an architect who were sadly not present during our tour — whom J assured us “were the best kind of people to live with who like the clean”. There was also the aforementioned cat, whose name was something I can’t pronounce in French, but who was very lovable — he let me pet him on the stomach, which J assured me was special for cats — and also a big fan of this tiny grass-like plant that J had brought for his upset stomach.

I, too, like living in the clean and eating plants, so I’m sure we’ll all get along swimmingly.

J then opened a glass-paned door into what looked like a bathroom and invited us all in. The Argentinian woman decided then she didn’t want the place, which was a win for me, because I already knew that I really did want.

The room, as I quickly saw, was not just a bathroom, but also a bedroom.

It’s hard to describe, but I’ll try. You walk into a tiled room with a shower and a rather large palm-plant — the care and keeping of which is apparently part of my rental contract. J explained: “You just water it when you take showers.” I have to take a shower every two days, otherwise the plant will die, and I’ll be held accountable. I have to make sure I don’t get any soap in the plant. Also, if the plant grows too large, I’m to tell J, so he can cut off the excess and put it somewhere else in the apartment. Sure enough, 3 other plants — the shower plant’s children — were scattered around the apartment’s kitchen area. I don’t know why there is a plant in the shower. I didn’t care. I loved it.

From the shower, one then continues on to the sink and the toilet and a small cubby for clothes and luggage and such. Above said cubby area, accessible by a small wooden staircase, is a desk area and a bed.

So, it’s all one room. All of it.

Enough for me. I’m just one person.

I told J I wanted the place, and we agreed on terms and a 4:00 pm signing this afternoon. Zeina and I thanked J and the the pretty Argentinian woman — thank goodness she thought it was all to weird to rent – and wandered off into the mild Parisian night to have dinner and meet one of her American friends who was an au pair in the city.

I could say more about my night, but it was pretty simple after that and I’m really pretty tired. I have to get ready for school and such.

Just know, dear readers, that I am not homeless. I’ll move in later this week, I imagine. I’ll explain more later, but I have to shower, and if I don’t want the plant to die, I have to make sure that I’m used to the idea of daily showers.

It won’t be hard, of course, but just in case. I haven’t made the formal acquaintance of the plant, but it seemed like a happy sort of plant, and I’d hate to kill one of my new roommates because I don’t feel like bathing.

Death by lack of personal hygiene isn’t fun for anyone involved.

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