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Monday, November 10, 2008

"America is my country and Paris is my hometown"

I take my last post back. I'd get on a plane tomorrow this second if it meant I'd end up in Paris thirteen hours later.

When I got on a plane headed east nearly twenty-four months ago, I never dreamed that a place 9,000 miles from where I grew up would end up feeling like home. I never dreamed that I'd feel so strongly about the place that if I could find some way to make it work family and career wise, I'd love to live there for a year or two, perhaps more.

With the euro coming back down Paul and I have been considering planning a trip to Europe, but I think he'd prefer to go to Spain or Greece, somewhere he hasn't been. I'd love to go back to visit either of those places again, but what I really miss is living in Paris. I miss everything that comes with living in such an amazing city. My favorite restaurants, relaxing in one of the many random chairs that litter the parks and gardens. I miss getting lost in the Louvre, knowing that I never needed to rush because I could always go back and look some more. Of course, I miss the wonderful friends I made there. I miss drinking a delicious 5 euro bottle of Bordeaux from the market down the street and the multitude of bakeries with delicious sandwiches and tarts and of course the butter croissants. I miss the different flavors of Orangina and the saucisson. I miss the metro and the RER and the point when I finally got so comfortable with it that I actually felt confident giving tourists directions. I miss the afternoons when I was on my own and I'd go to the Cuban restaurant near Chatelet, sit outside with some tapas and a sangria and just watch people.

Of course, I'm idealizing Paris, I know. But it's hard not to. Especially when work has sucked a lot of the fun out my life and as much as I love San Francisco and all it's natural beauty, it definitely doesn't have the grand architecture of Paris and the monuments around every corner.

I feel really lucky to have had the experience of living in Paris, especially living where I did, right in the center of the city. A ten minute walk to Notre Dame and a thirty minute walk to the Louvre.

What's the point of all this? I don't really know. I'm just reflecting, reflecting on where I've been and where I might be going. What I do know is that my life has been blessed in so very many ways, and the more I think about it, the more I am confident that every step of my path has been part of God's plan for me. And no matter what I might have thought at the time (like when I was reeling over the recruiting job right before I decided to go back to school) it has all led to good. It's a good reminder to me that I have to be patient and listen. The Lord has something planned for me and maybe it won't be what I've planned for myself, but it will be the right thing.

I don't know if this means sticking it out with my job for a week, or a month, or a year. I don't know, maybe it means I will have to quit. But I think God will make it clear to me when it's meant to be clear. I hope so anyway.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Home is where my heart is

Next week is my last week of classes in France. And now that things are winding down, it's all becoming very real. In less than a month I will be back in California, in a country where I will be able to order dinner with my words rather than my finger and an exciting game of charades.

Paul asked me today if I would miss Paris. Surprisingly, I'm pretty sure I will. Despite the fact that I'm something of a deaf-mute here, it's begun to feel like home. Not real home, which will always be the city I grew up in, but home the way LA started to feel like home after awhile. Home in the sense that I'm comfortable here, I know my way around, I have my favorite spots. And of course, I will miss my French friends and living with Joe and Poon. Last night the three of us went out for dinner and drinks and talked about how the whole experience would have been very different (and less fun) if we hadn't been able to hang out and explore the city with each other.

So, yes, I will miss Paris. I'll miss the bakeries with the delicious croissants and fresh sandwiches. I'll miss the different flavors of Orangina which come in BIG bottles and is the only thing that is available in larger quantities in France than it is in America. I'll miss the metro and RER which make getting around so convenient. I'll miss walking through St. Michel looking for dinner and (more) drinks. I'll miss so much, but still, I'm excited to be going home.

I miss my family, I miss Paul and I miss my cat. I miss Mexican food and my favorite Chinese dish from the restaurant down the street from my parents house. I miss America. I miss California. And even though I will miss France, it's definitely time to go home because it's going to start getting muggy here soon and the tourists are coming out in full force making it a pain to get around.

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Friday, April 13, 2007

Growing on me

I get it now. The whole Paris in the springtime thing? Totally getting it. In fact, I'm never coming to Paris again unless it is spring.

But that's really neither here nor there. The real question is why am I awake at three in the morning watching Scrubs when I should either be sleeping or studying for my big, long-awaited phone interview tomorrow. Yup, that's a good question alright.

Gah. Must. Shoot. Self. In. Foot.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Can't get myself to go away

I'm by myself in the apartment today and I am reminded of just how much I hate being alone. Something about the silence, and myself, is absolutely terrifying. I miss my cat.

Luckily it's a beautiful day outside. I think I will go get lost in Paris. Maybe take some pictures, if y'all are lucky.

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Since I don't feel like working on my Private Equity case study just yet...

I'm behind on posting pictures. Two months behind to be exact. So here's a sample of what I took in February and maybe three months from now you'll get to see what March was like. If you're lucky.

I actually don't really remember this picture being taken. Mainly because I'd had four pints of lager just prior to it being snapped (drinking with the boys, you know how that goes...). We were on the Metro somewhere between Place Monge and Pompidou.

After class one night we decided we should probably check out the "Tour Eiffel" since we are living in Paris and all.

Walking over the Seine away from the Eiffel Tower.

The metro was really packed that night. Surprisingly this is still nothing compared to some of the RER rides we've taken to Cergy in the mornings. I will have to get some photographic evidence of that madness one of these days.

Joe and I were in the MacDo's at the Chatelet mall a few days later and there was an honest-to-God pigeon walking around in there. At one point it got in line and I was wondering, what does a pigeon order at McDonald's? The weird part was that no one seemed the least bit concerned that this rat of the sky was meandering through the restaurant...keep in mind that Chatelet is a relatively nice and touristy area.

After the pigeon sighting we finally made it out to the Louvre where we bought our "Carte Louvre Jeunes" for 15 euros each. It gives you unlimited access to the Louvre for 12 months and a bunch of other benefits like discounts in the gift shops and on audio guides. Definitely a recommended purchase for anyone between 18-25 who is going to be staying in Paris for awhile.

The Venus de Milo rising out of my head.

It was really cold and I wasn't properly dressed but Joe made me wander around outside the Louvre for awhile anyway. At least I got some cool pictures.


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Monday, March 12, 2007

Beautiful day in the neighborhood....

For the past two days, there hasn't been a cloud in the Paris sky. It almost feels like home.


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Sunday, March 04, 2007

Explaining France Part 1

Ever since I moved here, I've been trying to describe France to a lot of folks who have perhaps visited but never actually resided in this fine country. It's a hard thing to do, really, because although France is very similar to America in a lot of ways, it's also unbelievably different. Some of my friends actually do not believe what I have to say about France, so I tell them, spend a couple months here yourself and you will see.

The best description I've come up with so far is that France is like a retarded America with prettier buildings, better food and skinnier people. "A retarded America" sounds pretty harsh, I know, but that's the only way I can describe a country that seems to collectively lost its common sense. I'll get into that later on in the post though, first let me talk about some myths/thoughts Americans seem to have about France.

Something I learned rather quickly upon landing here in France, is that contrary to popular (American) belief, the French do not hate America, Americans or speaking English. Now maybe it's only because I can't understand most of what is said to me in French, but people here seem decent enough and pleasant, altough you will get some rude stares in the subway for speaking loud, American English. And like I said, maybe I'd feel completely differently about this if I could actually understand what is being said to me in French, but I assume that if there's no scowl that they're not being dicks. They could be calling me a capitalist American pig with a smile on their face, but I give them the benefit of the doubt. So Myth #1 was quickly dispelled - the French do not hate America/Americans/speaking English (although a lot of them really can't speak English at all, but hey I can't speak French so who am I to judge).

Now that we've established that the French do not hate America, I feel I should qualify that statement by saying even though they do not dislike America, they still think that they are better than Americans in almost every possible way. They think their culture is superior to ours. I'll give them the food and the architecture and preserving history bit, but as for everything else? No-freaking-way. And I find it a bit silly on their part too since everywhere you go in Paris you will find MacDo's (McDonald's), KFC, Pizza Hut, Starbucks and a whole slew of other very American stores. And although the French will try very hard to convince you that only tourists go into MacDo's, step into one yourself and you will undoubtedly find yourself surrounded by very typically French people. In fact, a lot of the people who work in the American fast food chains in Paris don't even speak English so I find it hard to believe that only tourists go to those places.

Another thing I've noticed that always strikes me as odd is that everywhere you go you will hear American pop music. I'm not sure what the French would listen to if they weren't listening to six-month old American "eep-op" (hip-hop) because that's seriously all you hear. Justin Timberlake, Snoop Dogg, P-Diddy and the like are all incredibly popular. So, again, not sure where they get off being snobby about their supposedly superior culture.

The worst part of it all, is that their "thugs" have taken the worst part of American culture, the ghetto hip hop culture, and somehow managed to make it even more pathetic and laughable. I really didn't think that was possible but go hang out at Chatelet for 10 minutes and you'll see exactly what I mean. My roommate Joe likes to call it "hip-hop gone wrong" and it is, it really is. Somehow they made "ghetto" look really homosexual on top of looking incredibly stupid.

Also, the whole "French are rude" thing? I don't know if it's "rude" per-se or just very different from the kind of politeness we're used to in America. For example, here it seems perfectly socially acceptable to let your dog take a huge dump in the middle of the sidewalk and then continue on your merry way without picking it up. Every time I see this I have to suppress my gut reaction to yell after them, "Are you planning on picking that up?" which is certainly what I would do in America.

People here are also just not quite as friendly as in America. They think Americans are odd because we smile when we say "Bon Soir" as we pass each other in the stairway. It's just not how the French do things. They're not a very expressive people. And to them it's not "rude" when the information desk man looks bored and annoyed at your question, it's simply how things are done here. I have to say, that's one thing I don't like very much about France, I prefer my information desk people to be smiling and actually, um, helpful?

I think I will have to continue on with this post (and explaining my rationale behind the "retarded America" statement) at a later time because well...the toilet beckons. Yup, still suffering from the cacas. And school starts again on Tuesday. All. Day. Long.

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

A funny thing happened on the way to Chatelet

Inspired by some expat blogs I started reading tonight, I've decided that I should probably write more frequently about my experiences here in France. A lot of strange/funny things happen to you when you are an American who lives in France but who speaks very little French beyond "Merci" "Bonjour" and "Je ne parle pas Francais" (I don't speak French).

My roommates and I have done quite a few stupid things since we arrived. For one thing we took the train from Rambuteau to Chatelet for a solid two weeks. If you're not familiar with the Paris metros this may not sound stupid to you, but just wait, I'll explain.

Being from California we're entirely unaccustomed to walking and tend to automatically assume that everything must be far apart. And, walk? Are you crazy?! So for the first two weeks of class we would walk the two blocks to the Rambuteau station, hop on the line 11, get off two stops later at Chatelet and then walk through a maze of underground tunnels, like rats, until we reached the platform for the RER A.

We did this despite the fact that our French friends kept insisting we lived "really close" to Chatelet. Try walking one time! they told us. We kept saying we would but then when it came down to it we all figured it would be some kind of long, arduous journey and one of us would say screw it lets just take the 11 and the rest of us would happily agree.

Finally one day we decided to check out the "soldes" (sales, which happens to be a word the French are only allowed to use twice a year, a story for another time) at the Chatelet mall. As per usual we hopped on the train at Rambuteau. Instead of walking through the underground labyrinth, though, we emerged from the Chatelet station unsure of exactly where the mall was. We wandered for a bit and then things started to look familiar and we realized that Chatelet was all of about 6 blocks from our apartment.

Yes, for two entire weeks we'd been riding the line 11 to a point that was actually beyond the RER A platform and then walking back through tunnels (which reeked of month-old urine) to the RER A. Basically, the same distance to walk directly from our apartment to Chatelet.

We're not in a Master's program for nothin' you know.

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wingless was still breathing at 7:06 PM - 0 comments

The train can be fun

It was a very musical day in the metro today. First there was the guy playing an Asian instrument as we waited for line 8. Then there was the other guy playing the guitar on the 8. Then there was the band at Republique (walking to line 8, later in the day). And then finally...the "coup de grace" (cherry on top) our final metro ride of the night where there were some Eastern European teenagers rapping (in some Eastern European language) to Stunt 101 by G-Unit. And doing some rendition of a stripper-pole dance. And gyrating in this one poor girl's face. And showing off their skinny "muscles." Before going through the train asking for money.

The white-haired lady a few rows down did not look amused.

Ah, Paris, you never cease to entertain.

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wingless was still breathing at 5:16 PM - 0 comments

Those "truth-ers" would have their panties in a bunch

So I'm in a complain-y mood tonight, perhaps due to the fact that I apparently have some kind of stomach bug that sends me to the bathroom every hour on the hour. Even though this has been going on since about Monday or so, for some odd reason I still keep agreeing to go out to happy hours and Mexican/Brazilian food.

Onto the complaining, one of the most upsetting things about living in France, as someone who comes from California, is the smoking. Every-freaking-where. I feel like I'm inhaling so much smoke that I might as well light up myself, except I already feel so dizzy and nauseated by everyone else's cigarettes that I'd probably just keel over or vomit into my plate if I did.

Seriously, it feels like these people are just not capable of going more than 5 minutes without a cigarette. You will see people getting onto the train taking the last puff of their cigarette as though they are going to have to hold their breath for fifteen minutes and actually exhaling all their smoke INTO the train after the doors have closed. You will then see that same person (five minutes later) standing right next to the door with a cigarette in one hand and a lighter in the other eagerly anticipating the moment the train doors open so that they can light up even before they've actually completely exited the train.

Then there are the people who seem to have no qualms lighting up around anyone. Babies? No problem. Pregnant women? No problem. The only thing I haven't seen yet is someone light up around someone breathing off an air tank. But since I haven't seen anyone strolling around Paris with an air tank yet that's really not saying much. I wonder what the incidence of lung cancer is in this country?

Besides the fact that I am probably considerably shortening my life everytime I step into a bar, club, restaurant or cafe, the other irritating thing is how all of my clothes smell like cigarettes. And my hair constantly reeks of cigarettes. Here's a hint for any girls who might be planning on visiting/living in France, never, EVER wash your hair before going to a bar/club/cafe/restaurant unless you enjoy shampooing twice in one day. If you like to take your showers in the morning, bring a shower cap.

This city may be full of delicious foods but there are so many disgusting smells to go with...week-old urine, pungent body odor and smoke, smoke and more smoke. Yech.

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

A beautiful city

I'm coming up on the halfway point of my time here in Paris. Strange how quickly time passes. And at the same time, how slowly.

People ask me how I like it here and I usually don't know how to answer. Like everything else in life there are good things and bad things. I like the sandwiches on every corner and the deliciously fresh bread. I like wandering into areas that look so untouched by time that you feel as though you've walked into another era. I like how the French love to celebrate, everything! I like not needing a car or ever having to drive.

And what about what I don't like? People here smell bad. I'm not kidding. Women, men, whatever. You'll walk past a couple ladies in McDonald's and suddenly the disgusting smell of body odor will fill your nostrils. Sometimes the trains smell like urine and the metro stations smell like poo. I don't like how people here don't respect the American "bubble" and tend to breathe down your neck in checkout lines or just wherever.

Also, growing up in California I always heard people telling me how the downside of California is no seasons. Uh. Seasons? So overrated, in my humble opinion anyway. I'm living through my first real winter and I hope to God I never have to go through another one. What's so great about having to bundle up only to start sweating profusely the second you step into any store or the metro station? Beats the hell out of me. I'm happy in my year-round flip flops weather thank you very much. And why the hell do they always crank the heat up so high when they know people are going to be wearing thermals and heavy coats, etc. This is why I haven't wanted to do any shopping here - the stores are packed and the lights are ridiculously bright and the heat is always turned all the way up. My roommates joke about how good I've gotten at stripping my layers off while riding down the metro escalator.

Truthfully though, I do like it in France. It's like living in another dimension, one that is similar to America but just a bit off. I think I will be happy to go home though, even though I will probably also miss Paris. So far it's been everything I hoped and more.

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Sometimes I look up and it's like...holy crap I live in PARIS

For instance, when I poke my head out of a metro hole and see this...

Or this...("this" being the Champs Elysee)

Oh, oh, and here's one of my favorites...the Eiffel Tower when it lights up at night (picture taken near La Defense)

Or how about when you're looking for a creperie and you stumble across L'Opera instead?

Here's me and Punhea being goofy fobs...

And then there are the nights you get drunk in the Latin Quarter and stumble across some guy painting Che blindfolded. Paris...go figure!

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

More birthday-party-in-Paris goodness

I've been meaning to write, really, and I've been meaning to post pictures, really. I've just been uh...honestly? Lazy.

Last night we celebrated my roommate Punhea's birthday at "Le Petite Marche" (accent mark over that last "e") which Zagat described as "new French cuisine with an asian twist" and you know what? They were right. My French friends were a bit skeptical but they enjoyed their meal and the passion fruit creme brulee? Oohla! as the French would say. Worth every centime.

After dinner we walked back to a bar/restaurant near Pompidou for their delicious mojitos and to laugh at the pictures of Che and Castro plastered all over the walls (and jackets, hats, etc.). Came home for birthday cake and champagne, followed by European beer (which really is better than American swill) and passion fruit Malibu mixed with Orangina. Sometime after that I ended up with a myspace page which I maintain is my equivalent of waking up with a tattoo on the ass.

Pictures to follow. I will quit being so lazy at some point.

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Taping my own mouth shut

There's so much I want to say but so much of it all of it is not politically correct and while normally I wouldn't care, I'm actually a little bit worried about who might stumble across this site and feelings that might get hurt, etc. so I'm just going to keep quiet about it. For now. Until I can't stand it anymore and my head explodes and all the non-PC thoughts just come flowing out uncontrollably. Hopefully it won't be until after May 15th though, because by then I won't care.

In other news it is now freezing in Paris. Literally. It snowed yesterday and I refused to leave the apartment. Today it didn't snow so I went to class. Snow isn't supposed to happen in "real life" only in "vacation life." You know, like when you purposely drive up into the mountains to ski, and thus see snow.

Anyway, I'm going to go before I say things I don't want available on the world wide web (just yet).

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wingless was still breathing at 2:07 PM - 1 comments

Sunday, January 21, 2007

There's no place like home

I think because of the exhaustion due to last night's debauchary (did I mention I only had one alcoholic drink at the club? I was the nerd with the water bottle for the rest of the night) I'm right on the cusp of letting myself fall into some kind of depression. That, and the fact that it's always dark here. It's dark when we leave for the train station at 8 a.m., it's still semi-dark when we get to school at 9 a.m. and on Thursdays when we don't get back into Paris until after 5pm, well it's dark then too.

I'm trying to remind myself that God has really blessed me in a lot of ways already on this trip to keep myself in pleasant spirits. For one, the weather while gloomy has supposedly been the warmest winter weather in Paris for 50 years. That's really something when I remember to think about it. Sure it's not a California winter, but well, what is?

Although I am for the most part enjoying Paris so far (minus the copious piles of dog poo in the streets) this experience has pretty much convinced me that I probably wouldn't be happy living anywhere except the good ol' USA - and California in particular. Sure there are a lot of hippies and libs and spoiled Hollywood celebs, but it's home and it's a great home and I can't imagine living somewhere else without constantly comparing it to California.

I also think that I'm still a bit jetlagged because I can't say I've had a good solid 8 hours of sleep without the help of a sleeping pill (which I've used on four occasions here so far) since I've arrived. I've been completely unmotivated to do anything remotely scholastic, which means that the notes I slopped down onto a sheet of paper remain barely legible with arrows pointing every which way.

However, it is now 6:30 p.m. and I am completely exhausted so hopefully by 10pm tonight I'll be ready to settle into my first non-drug-induced restful 8+ hour night of sleep. I can hope anyway.

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Last night I partied Parisian style and realized that I am way too old for this.

For those of you who have never partied in France here are a few things you should know:

1. The clubs are virtually deserted before midnight.

2. The trains close at midnight. And don't open again until 5 a.m. You do the math.

3. It is apparently perfectly acceptable for straight men (I think?) to bump and grind on each other. I'm talking penis-on-penis action here.

4. French people love American music but do not know how to dance to it. Even the black French people need some help in the dancing department.

5. Unlike in California where smokers are properly banished into a little pen just outside of the club, Parisians smoke freely indoors. Your throat will hurt. Your hair will reek of other people's cigarettes.

I can't say it wasn't fun, because it was in a way...interesting to say the least. But I don't think my tired old bones can handle another night like that. And neither can my lungs. There was a time not so very long ago when all night raves were my scene, but the last one was two and a half years ago (EDC 2004) and I think that time in my life has passed. The main problem here is the stupid train schedule. If people in Paris don't eat until 8 or 9pm and the clubs don't get started until midnight, then why oh why do the trains close at midnight? That's the French for ya, I guess.


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Friday, January 19, 2007

Fake lost in Paris


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There's a lot to say but here are some pictures instead

Two of my roommates (Joe and Punhea) and our French buddy Cedric in the Quartier Latin on my first night in Paris.

The boys with their Nutella crepes.

My roommate Joe enacting how he will think about jumping into the Seine after we get our grades back.

There really is something about the lights of Paris.

Joe being a gargoyle in front of Notre Dame. Can you tell who the character in our apartment is?

This spot marks the center of the city of Paris. We tried to take a picture of the top of our heads as we looked down at it but you can only see our shoes and a little bit of my hair.

Giant chocolate penguins! What more could you want?

I think this is the entrance to the Sorbonne.

Taking pictures in between running after our "Langue and Culture" professor who, as nice as she was, didn't seem to notice we were trying to be tourists.

The French National Assembly.

A little memorial to the end of WWII. Your welcome Frenchies.

The three American boys drinking wine at this great little French-Portuguese restaurant in the 12th arrondisement.

The two American girls (me and Tuwe).


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