Update from Paris

Eiffel Tower at Gallery Lafayette

Oh la la, Paris. Tonight officially marks a week of my departure from America and I have hardly had enough time to catch my breath. Days here have been spent exploring this vast and enchanting city, walking around for twelve plus hours each day until tiring you out before you can make plans for the night. My host mother insists I make plans each night so as to absorb this city to the fullest. My oh my, at least Sunday is a world wide day of rest. I wasn’t asked what my plans were for the night when I came home at seven-I can finally sit down and stretch my body and soul and get those fingers typing.

Like was to expected, saying good-bye was something I wish not to do again. My parents hugged me good-bye in front of the queue for security and we probably made the security guard feel awkward as the three of us were crying while saying good-bye and hugging it out. I lugged my bags forth with wet eyes and came to the conveyer belt to scan my carry on. The woman there asked if I had just said good-bye, to which made me cry even harder. The last look and wave was the worse. But luckily, there’s a happy ending and I’m happy the worse of it has come to an end. Well… at least I thought so when I had said good-bye. After I had passed through, the power went down at the Chicago airport. All the screens were turned off and the planes weren’t leaving nor entering due to the weather outside that resembled a snow globe. This scared the bejesus out of me.  Luckily, during my wait for the power, one flight let their passengers exit. My life was starting to turn around when I spotted none other that Mr. Topher Grace. I was stunned into silence. I just sat and stared, moving my head in the direction he was headed. Later, I was killing myself for not following him. I mean, the plane was obviously going to be delayed with the power out and all…. Why on earth did I not react? Even now, in the heart of Paris mind you, I’m still in awe I saw him.

Finally our plane leaves in the midst of a power outage blizzard and we arrived safely in Paris after an eight-hour sleepless flight. ‘Sleepless’ because A) it’s a plane. B) Life As We Know It was playing. C) chatting nervously about the trip ahead with three of my friends. The sleep I did get was thanks to the in-flight movie Letters to Juliet.

We arrived from a very European taxi ride from the airport to the Accent center where I thought I risked my life no less than five times. Tiny little cars know no boundaries. And most don’t have scratches! One of the many mysteries behind Paris indeed.

The Accent center is our school for the majority of our classes. It’s a cute white building nestled back behind other buildings on rustic old cobblestone. We were deposited to a hotel for the night where each of us fought off jetlag until it got dark. The motivation to stay awake: a late night snack rendezvous with crepes. Most of the night was blur due to our sleep deprivation, but I do remember tours of the area and getting lost in the French language and instead started day-dreaming (its so hard to pay attention-the language goes down so smoothly in your ears), eating our first crepe that tasted like a fairytale, and passing out at 7:30pm to the sounds of Paris (don’t worry! I was in bed). We also somehow (and quite proudly) landed a cell phone and plan while conducting in French!

The next day, we had orientation. We got a lot of needed French survival guide materials and eventually our housing information. Here, the woman who arranges the housing meets with you individually to tell you what your family is like, the codes to get into the apartment, if they have kids, smoke, pets, etc. When I met with Jim (not the woman I was anticipating to meet with) he told me something had changed. Ever wonder what swallowing a rock feels like? Well, finding out I had changed residences from the 4e to the 15e was heart breaking. I spent all my days leading up to my departure on Google Earth familiarizing myself to the Marais and Bastille neighborhoods. For some reason, I couldn’t swallow properly. I just had so badly wanted to live a ten-minute walk to school, right in the trendy shops and club district, right next to the place Jim Morrison OD’d (at least I assume that’s how he died).  Well, within thirty minutes of receiving the bad news, I was sent off to the unknown abyss of Paris arrondissement 15. I felt like I was a little duckling being sent off without her mama bird and just left with two pieces of luggage and 30 euro cab fair.

On the upside to living across the city from my school I got a view of Paris. I saw the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the Seine. But honestly, I wasn’t excited. I could have been passing Delavan-Darien High School, my reaction wouldn’t have been any different. All I was seeing were two imaginary people with the name Bas de Bac in my head. My future temporary parents. We passed many buildings that had that Parisian look everyone knows, but when he pulled up to my building, I thought he must be mistaken. It looked like a factory in down town Milwaukee. More lowered expectations to follow. Well when I arrived on the 6th floor (actually 7th for you Americans out there), I saw my host mom. A tiny Vietnamese lady with audible French and endearing patient eyes waited by the door. Ah! The relief! I handed her the yellow flowers immediately as to thwart off the awkward kissing and it worked! I was brought into a tidy apartment with many doors and all lights turned off. She led me straight to my room and proceeded with a tour. Now, she set a lot of ground rules that day. But with my poor French skills, I had no idea if she wanted me to do a particular thing or not do that particular thing. Some rules: every light should be turned off when not in use (the French are very strict about this! Electricity is expensive), my bedroom door must remain open at all times unless I am sleeping, I can’t touch the computer in my room or the things on the book shelf, I can’t leave anything in the bathroom the three of us share, and when they have company over, I have to exit through the foyer, not through the living room. However, they are very kind. I can help myself to breakfast each morning when I like and my host mom tries to prepare dinner before eight for my American stomach. All in all, I’m okay with the apartment changed. I really like my neighborhood and I like my host parents even more.

However, if they like me is another story. I am pretty sure they think I’m pretty daft. I swear there is a locksmith out there laughing at my expense because these locks are so puzzling. It’s common to have three locks on the door to the apartment (not to mention the two five digit codes I have to remember just to enter the building itself). Well I’m given two keys. One opens two locks, the other one. Up until today it has taken me a good ten minutes to open the door. Usually they hear me by minute five, so they come an open the door and explain to me again how to do it. The thing is, you have to turn the key twice in one direction for all three. However, I do exactly this (I even had my host mom write directions down for me!) and the door still does not budge. The thing is, my host mom tells me to open I must turn it right, and my host dad tells me to turn it left. I’m finding out that my host dad is usually right (I use the word usually, because I have no idea if it’s the same technique each time to open it). It’s the worse part of my day here-trying to open that curious door. One time I came home at two in the morning and my host mom heard me fumbling for with the keys so she just got out of bed to let me in. How embarrassing.

The day after my arrival, my host mom told me I should never give yellow flowers as a gift. Oops. She said she appreciated mine, but yellow symbolized that your husband has a significant other. So since I gave them to her does that place me as the….? Ah well, good to know.

Well, I’ve just skimmed the surface of my arrival in Paris. You have creepy men on the metro stories waiting for you and tales of how everything is different in Paris.

However, after a full day of walking through the catacombs and cemeteries, I need a little bit of a deep sleep myself.

A bientot!

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