I hope you are all enjoying your summers thoroughly, and that the lovely [scary hot] weather at home is giving you all great tans and instilling a bit of fear…it’s quite the opposite across the pond, where the weather for Paris is always predicted at 70 degrees with 60% chance of showers. Fortunately, the rain rarely comes and falls for about 5 minutes, the wind blows, the clouds move a tad, and suddenly there is sun, until the wind blows again and the weather changes. It seems that everywhere I live has mercurial weather, but that’s perhaps because I haven’t lived in California or Antarctica. Hélas.
Besides the weather, which I kind of like but kind of hate passionately, Paris is wonderful. The limestone buildings glow in the evening light, contrasting against the grey sky, and the language rolls into my ears like rivulets twisting over slippery rocks. My words aren’t quite as beautiful; were they rivulets, they would pool in shallow depressions and eventually gain enough momentum to run onwards, creating an almost-constant sound. But that is how language goes, n’est pas?
And now I’d like to share a few moments from Paris with you, if you don’t mind.
“But, only Asians live on the sixth and seventh floor. Are you sure you’re in the right house?” she asked, perched in her doorway, her face a mix of confusion and worry. I wasn’t sure. I had no idea, in fact, if I was in the right building, because apartments 40-47 were all built by the same architect in 1914 and were like six peas in a pod, neatly lining the street near Pont de Versailles station. “Non, madame, je suis super desolée mais je sais pas, est-ce que je peux utiliser votre téléphone, s’il vous plaît? J’ai pas assez de crédit, et ….” The woman whose home I’d entered handed me her phone with concern, and I dialed Anneli’s number for the sixteenth time, my fingers shaking and my eyes blurring with prickling tears. I turned away from the woman for a moment, waited, and heard nothing but faint clicking. Anneli’s phone wasn’t working, and neither was Mandi’s. I called Steven again, and for some reason, it went through, again; the only problem was that his calls weren’t connecting to either of the girls, and we were both about to run out of credit. It was already 9:00, and I’d been trying to get into Anneli’s house for exactly an hour to eat dinner and plan our evening. Obviously, it wasn’t working. Distressed, I thanked the woman and left the apartment building, knowing I was in the wrong place and that there was no way Anneli could see me from her 7th story window. I walked to the métro, defeated, and was letting line 12 rock me to sleep when my Bollywood-esque ringtone jolted me upright. It was Mandi, who said that her phone wasn’t working and that she couldn’t get through to Anneli either, and that she had just failed to enter her building. I told her I was going to meet Steven instead, as I hadn’t eaten, and she said she’d probably do something else and maybe I’d see her later. Our hopes lowered, we ended the call and I sunk back into my chair, my eyes closed, counting the 15 stops until my next transfer.
It’s a’ one two three take my hand and come with me cause you look so fine that I really wanna make you mine. His eyes were more than halfway closed, his shirt buttoned incorrectly, but his feet grooved to the driving beat. We threw our heads up and down, tasting the humid air with our hanging tongues as if to quench our wild thirst, but only succeeding in looking absolutely insane. To put it frankly, I didn’t give a care; I was on a perfectly-crowded, perfectly-lit dance floor in Paris with two awesome girls and thirty-odd French guys just off of Rue Oberkampf at 3 in the morning. I swung my wet hair out of my face, singing the words to Jet’s best song along with the rest of the club, the only difference being that mine were correct and not tilted sideways with the smooth French accent. The music went on. I was so glad to be wearing sneakers instead of flats. I could dance forever, and had been dancing for at least two hours among well-dressed, kind of skinny, faintly cigarette-smelling men and my ladies, stopping to refuel on cold water and ice cubes snatched from champagne buckets. Mandi and I had gone to the bathroom a few songs ago, which was a thin corridor of black-lights and white writing, contrasting slightly from the higher-lit rest of the club; I was glad that I only looked relatively insane (maybe just suffering from a personality disorder). Now, however, I could be sure of nothing about my appearance except for the fact that it felt like I’d been swimming in the tropics for the past twenty songs and that the guys here were pretty good dancers and, if they weren’t, they were at least fun to watch. Four five six come on and get your kicks now you don’t need money with a face like that do you honey? Nope. I don’t. Which is good, because I don’t have any more cash.
My iPhone charger wasn’t plugged in so there was no alarm, but it’s a good thing I am fast at getting dressed, because I’m already a half-hour late to meet Anneli for brunch and I haven’t even left my flat. Exactly twenty-seven minutes later, I’m at Bastille again, this time for the pleasures of Sunday morning, also known as brunch and less tourists in the Marais. I see Anneli (orange dress, grey sweater) before she sees me (orange shirt, blue pants). We embrace in our démi-français half-english way, hugging and cheek-kissing all at once, and decide on Fontaine Café for the morning special of croissants, coffee, and wifi. As expected, all are slow, but we have plenty of time to spare and it’s best spent together before the afternoon clouds roll in. Over buttery, feathery pastries and café allongé (luckily not the expected tiny cup of espresso) we let delicate French words roll off our ever-studious tongues, weaving stories of childhood and countrysides that bind our friendship tighter. A firetruck passes by, the siren tearing at my eardrums, the contents of the packed-vehicle eyeing us like we’d just eyed our croissants. A little boy in a red striped shirt and mussed hair reminds us of Hanna Anderson, yet another thing we had in common growing up, and more stories fill up the hours of the morning. By the time the waiter comes with the check, it’s hard to stop talking and stand up. It’ll be even harder to cease speaking French and leave Paris, but I suppose we have some time.
There’s little else cooler than seeing someone you haven’t seen in more than a year pop out of the métro via the escalator, and Tess was no exception. Our roles had changed, she no longer a foreigner in my state, me no longer the one speaking a native tongue. Tess and I had graduated high school together last June and by some twist of fate I’d ended up in Paris for summer school when she’d just completed her Baccalauréat in the same city, with high honors nonetheless. She leaves tomorrow for the south of France, to Montpellier, and I come the center of Vermont, just near the capital with the same name. But today, we were having coffee and catching up. As she smoked her skinny Vogues and talked about her upcoming years of preparatory school for Les Grandes Écoles, I couldn’t help but feel excited and bizarre; this encounter reaffirmed how intertwined our lives become as get older and meet more people. I used to be afraid of growing up, but at least for now, I’m liking it.
About class, if you want to know:
I love class but hate how people slip into English so easily. We are only in Paris for 6 more weeks, babes. Let’s stick to the nation’s tongue like taste buds. The readings for class are kind of a lot, but really interesting, so I don’t mind reading them. I haven’t been able to always get through the readings, but I find that we discuss a variety of things throughout class and so it doesn’t always matter that much. Class is kind of like this:
- Sprint to school (fast-walk, at least). Jiyae (my roommate) forgets where to turn which always makes me laugh, but Reid Hall is across from the cool hotel with painted tree shadows on its façade.
- Go over les actualités, from newspapers such as Le Monde, Le Figaro, and Le New York Times/International Tribune.
- Brief history and summary of the arrondissement we visited the day before. (Side note: I thought this was going to be a stupid order, because I like learning about things and then going out and visiting them, but this works really well because our discussions are more grounded in experience.)
- Discussion of parts of the texts we read.
- Launching of the broad philosophical questions of the day, also prepared by the students responsible for the arrondissement of the day before.
- 10 minute break, where most people buy 45¢ espresso. (I finally bought some yesterday, and met these awesome girls from Barnard and Hamilton who showed me how to use the supah-high-tech machine. Coffee wasn’t strong but tasted really nice, even though there was slightly too muchsucre.)
- Discussion of parts of the text within the context of philosophical questions.
- Done at 13h00.
- Lunch until 14h00
- Afternoon excursions until 16h00 or later, frequently with theatre or movies or supplemental activities after the excursions. (I tend to go home unless it’s mandatory, as I want to rid myself of my backpack and take off my shoes.)
How does this relate to Harvard? Well, Harvard made it possible for me to go, from offering the program in the first place to graciously giving me funds once I’d applied for them. If you have any questions about Study Abroad, especially summer, let me know!
Just doing some learnin’ near the Pantheon, sporting my future University’s hat — La Sorbonne