Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Lesbians and their dogs

I've been in Paris for about a week and a half.  For the four days I had Kate with me, and for the next three I had a friend from school.  I walked around the city with them--mostly the parts of the city tourists go to see: the Seine, Notre-Dame, the Louvre, Jardin du Louvre et Jardin du Luxombourg, Champs-Elysee, Arc du Triomphe, le Tour Eiffel, and then back across Pont Neuf, and down St-Michel through the Latin Quarter.  So this is my second full day in Paris alone.

It's hard to get out of bed in the mornings, either because I haven't got a class to go to or because its cloudy out.  It could be both.  I think it will get better, already today feels better than yesterday did.  I'm getting used to being alone, though I know some days will be much harder than others.

Apart from classes which I haven't really started doing the readings for, I'm taking some notes, though not about anything specific to classes.  I'm trying to get all of the new information I'm soaking up everyday out on paper so I can start looking for specific things like Consumption and Waste or Attire and Adornment.  What most worries me is my French comprehension, so I'm deciding to do an hour of French listening a day either in film or podcast form (church also counts).  I'd sit and listen to french speakers for an hour, but I can't seem to eavesdrop on one conversation long enough to get enough real practice.  So, that's my attempt at making myself learn French.

Participation and Involvement - Entertainment
Yesterday, I wasn't sure I'd get myself out of the apartment to wander the streets alone, so I decided to go to a movie.  To kill two birds with one stone, I went to see a French movie called 'Intouchables' which did really well in the box office initially and was still showing at the cinema less than a block away from my apartment.  This is the first time I've gone to the cinema in foreign-language speaking country, specifically France so it'll take a few séances (that's what they call film shows) to be sure there is any trend to my initial notes, but here it goes.

Whereas in the États-Unis you can stand in line and buy tickets for 10pm at night at 11am in the morning, Paris ticket-offices don't sell tickets to a show until 10 minutes before the film starts.  Also, in the United States there is a particular etiquette in a movie theatre: you can talk during the commercials and especially before the commercials, but typically when the trailers begin, everyone is quiet.  So far, in my grand experience of one movie, this is not the case in Paris.  While there were a few people in the theatre who did not speak once trailers started it was because they, like me, were seeing the movie alone.  Everyone who had come to the theatre with a friend/date/family spoke loudly--did not even bother to whisper--all the way  up until the movie started.  As someone who goes to the cinema often, this was extremely annoying to me until I realized that they might not have the same reverence for trailers that I have--and then I didn't blame them, because reverence for trailers does seem a little strange.

I do have to say--I love that they call them séances, though I'm sure it doesn't even come close to having the same connotation in French as it does in English.  In French it just means 'session' or 'show' while in English it connotes some cultish meeting with the dead.  Regardless, that's interesting.

Well I watched the entire movie and didn't understand a single word of it, which I knew would happen.  It did get me thinking in limited French for about an hour afterwards, however.  At the end of the movie, whereas the lights come up immediate in the United States, the lights were dimmed for at least half of the credits.  I always stay for the credits--something my father always does, that I have continued in my own film viewing--so I felt a certain appreciation for the French who stay for part of the credits until the lights are at least brought up, though most of them stayed even until after the lights came up, until the credits were nearly finished.


After the film, I wandered St-Michel to find a MonoP* and Boulongerie to get some food.  So far I've been eating bread, goat cheese and tomato at almost every meal, which, while I realize is nutritionally problematic, is not being contested by my taste-buds.  I did have eggs yesterday...with tomatoes and goat cheese and bread.  Haha.  Well, I'll be working on that, trust me.  It's just that I'm so used to getting food in bulk and I'm used to having a microwave, or an oven.  So the amount of things I feel capable eating are limited.  I'm also quite the wuss.  I usually scout something out several times before I feel comfortable going in and then I get out as fast as I can.  I'm just getting used to my hallway, for example, which I now feel comfortable walking down in my bare feet.

I also hate looking like a tourist.  Because while I am a foreigner, I'm not exactly a tourist.  Also, I hate that I can't understand the things other people say to me.  It's not my inability to respond that bothers me nearly as much as my ability to listen, which I've always used far more often than my ability to speak.  So for those of you who think I talk a lot, imagine how much listening I must do to make up for it!  I do in fact listen to everything around me, as I am unable/incapable of ignoring anybody.  But when they're speaking in a different language it seems a lot easier to assume they're not speaking to me--but the catch is: they might be, I would just have no way of knowing.

Anyway, so I'm just going through some minor "OMG" moments trying to keep my ears and eyes open.  Which reminds me, I'll be walking around in Paris and hear the most bizarre coupling of words in French and think to myself, "Wow, I must have misunderstood that."  Then the other day I was walking by a café and overheard these two English girls talking saying, "...the lesbian and her dog..." and I couldn't help but laugh.  And I realized--I heard them rather clearly, she said "the lesbian and her dog," and I didn't think I misunderstood them, I just realized that I overheard a few odd words in the conversation.  It made me re-think what I was hearing in French--maybe the French are talking about lesbians and their dogs, also, and I'm just overhearding odd things, rather than misunderstanding.  This is why I've decided to listen to podcasts and movies rather than eavesdropping on conversations (though trust me, I'm trying to do that too) but I literally understand nothing.  So many different voices, and accents--its killing me.

Oh, but I have to remind myself, it's just day 2 on my own.  Kate was not speaking to me in Chinese and Jake was not speaking to me in Russian.  So I should cut myself a little slack.  I am getting better at recognizing the tourists: English, Indian, Italian, American, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, French, Spanish, German.  Though I can't understand what they're saying (except the Americans and sometimes the English) I can distinguish between their languages, which I'm rather proud of.

Back to the main point: I will continue looking for food I can eat.  I will continue going to films.  I will continue to eavesdrop on French conversations.  There's an update on the last week and a half.  I must remember to say 'Bonsoir' in greetings after 5pm.

Au revoir!


  1. ahh! so exciting! you are in paris! I mean, i never want to go there ever, but so exciting! you went to a foreign movie. Could you understand snippets? Like phrases? What were the themes in the movie? Was it weird? Did it feel like one of ours? The last time i randomly watched a french movie it was called love story or something like that and it started with a guy in a three way relationship with two girls and by the end he had no girlfriends and a boy friend. It was kind of confusing.

    Get out of bed and go! You can do it! There is so much to see and do. Are there any neighbors who can help you speak? Are their old women you can help with their gardening? i feel like this is something old women in France do frequently. Hm. I don't know where you should go. Maybe you can volunteer somewhere?

    But it will be awesome. I am so excited.

  2. Jen! You are doing so great! I know, you're rolling your eyes at me after you read that, but whatever. I don't care what you say-- you're going great!! It's okay to spend the first few weeks not doing assignments and instead getting your bearings around the city. At least, that is my belief.

    I am having flashbacks of my first few days in Rome. It is quite interesting the different reactions people have. Some think it to be so great to be in a big, foreign city to go to all the monuments and to see all the museums. I'm not saying that it isn't great, but trying to get involved in a community -a big city for that matter- is a lot more difficult than most realize. Trying to make friends and to form relationships, and to occasionally have to fight off wards of loneliness, is difficult, especially when doing so in a different language. I'm not saying that this is your case, but it was definitely mine.

    Have you been going to Institute or FHE during the week? Does the woman who owns your apartment talk or visit you at all? Have you met any neighbors who live in the same building? Where do you meet for church-- is it the little courtyard in the Marais district?

    If you haven't visited the Parisien Pantheon, I assign you to visit it for me. It is so beautiful. Maybe I will try to send you my Paris Walks book (if I can find it) for you to explore!

    Thank you for your post and keep us updated. Just imagine, from a couple of years ago, a tall, brown haired, lonely, and much younger version of myself exploring Paris and most likely having just as hard of a time with the language as you. Who knows, maybe you'll see me in Montemartre one of these days. ;)