You know when two animals live together-like two hamsters sharing a cage- and one of them dies, so the second one becomes sad, and later dies of depression because of the loss of their companion? Well, in a nut shell I feel like that is what coming home from studying abroad will be like. I’ve made soul sisters here. Do you know the feeling of the friends you have that feel like you’ve known even before you met? To me, the friends I have made here are souvenirs and picture albums of my greatest memories of Paris. If I can’t return home with Paris, at least I will return home with the best mementos of Paris- they are a reminder that Paris did happen.
Our program ends in a week. I leave next Saturday. Which means that this next week is full of “lasts”. It’s hard to determine how to spend your final week in Paris, after spending nearly four months trying to fit in all the “To-Do’s” on your list. It’s amazing how not even a third of a year is enough time in a city as Paris. But this week’s lineup is nearly as good as this year’s Summerfest lineup.
First off, tomorrow my friends I are spending the day at Roland Garros tennis courts, soaking in the sun rays and sweating to the shine of the sun while listening to the pop of the tennis courts as they hit the court of the FRENCH OPEN. Given we could only get tickets to the Qualifiers because the real rounds were all sold out/ we’ll be gone by that time…
Saturday morning is a time for shopping looking for last minute gifts for friends and family (but what usually ends up being for myself) and visiting a new exhibit at Le Grand Palais by the same artist that hits close to home- the Chicago bean! This time, Anish Kapoor creates a giant eggplant fort balloon of sorts that captivates the entire exhibition space. I actually have no idea what to expect… here’s a link that you can check out for yourself: http://www.worldarchitecturenews.com/index.php?fuseaction=wanappln.projectview&upload_id=16659
After the eggplant, we are heading to the Paris Mosquée for an assortment of colorful treats. There is a beautiful Mosque you can tour, a hookah lounge, a little restaurant for couscous plates, and a hammam. I haven’t been to the Mosque or hookah lounge, but I have visited and relaxed at the restaurant for vegetable couscous and the hammam. A bit unnerving, my host mom- or madame- urged me to go. She said all I would need is a towel and swimming suit bottoms. And to not be surprised when I see a room of naked women. For those of you who just now became alert, you read right. I didn’t know what a Hammam was until I showed up at the Mosquée but it basically is a steam room or sauna for women that is hotter than Dantes Inferno. At the Hammam, you are treated like a princess. Well, that’s exaggeration- I felt like cattle- and then a fetus, but that’s later in the sequence.
After slight hestitation and much confusion, we found out way through to the sauna room. We bought a package that included entry into the sauna, a gommage, a massage, and thè menthe, or mint tea. The first part- the sauna- was marvelous. We sat there, just sweating, like we had earned the favor to feel so hard worked. We tested out the next room- the hottest room there- and let me tell you… it felt like a pepper had swallowed me whole. My breathing immediately felt heavy and problematic, so we quickly retreated back to our spot. We never knew hot until that day. I noticed skin was just peeling off of my body. After spending maybe 40 minutes in the sauna- isn’t that pretty long for a sauna stay? (We even saw a pregnant woman inside! Is that healthy?) – we moved on to receive our gommage. I would assume no one knows what a gommage is. It sounds realy slick- like yoga move- or hot dish- but it actually is the removal of dead skin. HA! Didn’t see that coming I bet. Once I got up to the table, this old sweaty Muslim woman in just a tank top and skirt rubbed me all down my body with a brush. I laid on this dirty plastic table top with dirty water in the center while she had control of my body- turning me over from side to side- getting rid of all my dead skin. This is the cattle metaphor part. I felt like I was just a being to be cleaned. Felt good though, so no regrets. After the gommaging, we moved into the massage room. Here we waited for our massage and mint tea. This is the best part of the experience at the Hammam.
In a room centering around a fountain are four masseuse tables encircled by lounge seating areas for the women to sprawl and enjoy their hot mint tea. While waiting for my massage, I felt like I was partaking in a ritual females must take before they become a woman. Once it was my turn, I had to get naked from the waist up in front of all these uninhibited ladies. It was weird at first, but I appreciate everyones nonchalant attitude about nudity. My massage felt like I was getting prepped to enter the world as a newborn adult. She oiled me everywhere- I think it even got on my eyelids- and she definitely massaged everywhere. But it felt so normal and I’ll venture to use this word- outerbodily. This is the fetus metaphor part. Then the sad part came where I had to take the metro home, feeling like a sensitive vulnerable puppy. Oh because did I mention how soft I was?! My skin was silk. You could have made me into a coronation robe for the duke and duchesse of York.
Undoubtedly, we are making a return for all the other goodies I didn’t experience. I only wish I could do this in America again. So after our Mosquee visit on Saturday night, we are going for a scavenger hunt around Paris for my wonderful friend’s 21st birthday. The following day we’ll hit the Pompidou and Chez Gladine’s for dinner.
Then we have one more school week just in time for terribly fun tests and a great paper to be written in 15-20 pages! Shouldn’t be too hard to study and write while I have only one week left in this beautiful, enchanting, heart-stopping city, n’est pas?
A few things I will miss along the way: