Community Sing, Paris Style

Yesterday I saw an advertisement for a women’s magazine containing a quiz called “Are you more of a Carla or a Michelle?” The French all completely adore Obama—I guess all of the Obamas. This is good, because all the American bars were completely full during the inauguration, so my friends and I had to find a random bar and get the proprietor to put on CNN. Conveniently, none of the other patrons seemed to mind the three weirdos in the corner singing along to the Star Spangled Banner.

In other news, last night I auditioned for a student chorale at the Sorbonne. I was pretty nervous; as many of you are surely aware, I am a firmly mediocre singer, on top of which everything is always extra scary in French. My auditioner took me into a side room and started off by telling me that they had too many sopranos already and couldn’t take another one. After I reassured him that I could sing alto, he had me sing some arpeggio-type things while he played piano. And that was it—I was in. I have no idea what the point of the audition was, other than to verify that I can actually make noises come out of my vocal chords.

I had my first rehearsal immediately afterwards. It was thrilling just being in the room, an amphitheater with wooden risers and a big painting of the muses on the wall, full of students whispering and sneaking sandwiches and studying while we sang. I looked on with a German girl named Eva and tried to stumble my way through a Verdi piece whose name I forget and a Requiem whose composer I didn’t catch. Fortunately years of musical activity in various forms has made me a decent sight-reader, so I managed to not totally suck. The music was beautiful, and the knowledge that I was sitting in the Sorbonne singing hymns in Latin was pretty mindblowing.

Everything is just going really well at the moment. Classes start Monday, tomorrow I’m headed for Toulouse for the weekend, and I now have at least one real non-American friend in my foyer—a girl from Cologne named Lina, with whom I am going to a Franco-German thing at the international students’ dorm tonight. (Germans are rather friendlier than French people, I have discovered.) I also went to a really lovely Conservative synagogue on Friday night that I think I’m going to try to go back to at least once or twice a month. I feel like I’ve been extending myself a lot and getting really positive results. It’s a good feeling to know I can do this.

Oh, and a note of clarification about a few things. I actually can Skype without much difficulty; I found a better room where I won’t bother people when I talk, particularly if it’s late enough at night or early enough in the morning. So y’all should let me know if you want to do that. But bad news for anyone who I promised floor space to: I’m going to have to go back on my word – my foyer has a strict no-visitors policy. You should still come visit if you can though! I’ll find you a cheap and clean hostel!

More news after Toulouse,

Published in: on January 22, 2009 at 2:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

a la fin de la premiere semaine

You know, this week of orientation really has made me feel more oriented. I would even say that a week ago I was feeling a little disoriented—not surprisingly, I guess, as I was more or less left to my own devices in a city where I was living alone and didn’t know anyone. But I know people now, and my French is already much better, and those things help a lot. I’m also learning to appreciate the large amount of time I have on my own. I’m reading for pleasure (gasp!), writing in my journal, and entertaining myself making lists of patisseries to visit—not to mention taking a lot of long pointless walks through the city, which is basically the best activity.

All sorts of people I know have also turned up in Paris. My French teacher’s daughter, who I have yet to meet but supposedly will at some point; an old family friend who is a sophomore at Columbia and introduced me to her crazy French friends; a long-lost buddy from Academic Team and CTY who is here for the semester with U. Chicago; a girl from my literature class last semester; the daughter of one of my mom’s best friends… I feel sort of popular, even though all my close friends are across the ocean. It’s kind of weird.

Oh hey, and I finally know what classes I’m “shopping” for real! Here’s the list:
A Middlebury-offered cinema course on the Nouvelle Vague (that one is for sure)
A mandatory Middlebury-offered French language class
A Sorbonne class on The Bourgeois, also somehow related to a History of Ideas class or department or something
A Sorbonne class called The Book-Universe in Science Fiction – I’d get to read Dune in French!
Sorbonne class called The Child in the World of Adults – Alice in Wonderland and Zazie Dans le Metro
Sorbonne class called History and Metahistory
Sorbonne class called The Arab World
Possibly a Sorbonne class on translation
I will get to pick 5 of these, or perhaps have them picked for me depending on how full they are when I register on Tuesday.

I’m hoping that after I’m done getting oriented I can start having more adventures. I really want to travel. We’re going to Toulouse next weekend, which should be great, and I’m going to see if I can make it the comics festival in Angouleme the weekend after that. I will, of course, keep you updated.

Published in: on January 16, 2009 at 1:36 pm  Comments (2)  

Shopping of an entirely different kind

So, uh, listen… I made a fake Yale shopping period schedule for no real reason. Here it is. Tell me what you’re shopping! And if you’re shopping any of these classes, please do tell me how it is. I will tell you what I’m actually taking as soon as I know.

10:30 elementary musicianship – sight singing!
11:35 CS112 – let’s face it, this probably would not be as much fun as Python
1:30 tolstoy – Vladimir Alexandrov taught my freshman seminar and he is the BEST. as is Tolstoy.
2:30 the bible as literature – Leslie Brisman yo
3:30 what we eat and why – taught by Kelly Brownell, famous obesity research dude
Theory of TV and media – what is this even?

11:35 lit theory – I would almost definitely be taking this now, were I at Yale
1:30 francobelgian comic strips – ditto.
2:30 maghreb lit – guess I will be reading the menu at El Mamoun instead

9:25 ezekiel or klezmer music – what kind of cruel world would make me choose between these two classes? but actually let’s be honest, I would probably not take anything at 9:25 if I didn’t have to.
3:30 translation – yet another awesome offering from the French department. next year.

Oh and by the way, just in case anyone is interested in spending a lot of money, my French phone number is 06 46 20 35 53.
Also, photos of an adorable neighborhood right near my dorm will be posted on Facebook shortly; keep an eye out.

Published in: on January 11, 2009 at 5:28 pm  Comments (4)  

Monoprix et al

I still haven’t quite figured out this dorm-type thing that I’m living in. There’s barely any sign of life on my floor, except for the occasional light in the kitchen and popcorny smell indicating that someone has microwaved something. The other night I went up to the library on the 9th floor (the sign on the door said, “Free Entry!”) and it was empty. At 10:00 at night on a Wednesday night. As far as I know, there are a couple hundred girls living here – where are they?

At least the neighborhood has plenty to explore. I live right next to a cute creperie/tea salon with an amazingly obnoxious waitress, a Moroccan restaurant called El Mamoun, a Vietnamese sandwich place, various bakeries, a public library, and a surprising number of hairdressers. Also a LOT of supermarkets. I realized yesterday that I’ve already been to four supermarkets – partially because I need to buy things like paper towels and tupperware that you just can’t get from the local artisans, and partially because supermarkets are more impersonal and therefore less intimidating.

Less intimidating in theory, anyway. At the first supermarket I went to, an enormous Monoprix, I couldn’t find the carts; at the second – Picard! – I gave the wrong amount of change and then nearly walked out of the store without my bag; and at a Champion I had a completely weird interaction with the cashier that I still don’t understand, but I think it involved him making fun of me for buying a lot of household items and possibly had to do with the fact that I look young. The fourth supermarket was basically OK, but seeing as all I bought there was a baguette and a mug, I think that would have been difficult to screw up.

At least all the awkwardness paid off. I don’t know why, but the regular old supermarket produce is FANTASTIC. I bought a bunch of clementine-y things and they are absolutely the best clementine-y things I have ever eaten. The milk is incredible too, though I suspect that may have to do with its fat content more than anything else. Cherry tomatoes and kiwis also got very high marks.

But don’t worry, I’m not about to spend the next five months walking around Paris by myself and buying groceries. Why, just yesterday I went to the Louvre with some of my new friends from my program! (True story.) And I have many plans for more exciting food adventures, of course – beginning with the Quatrehommes cheese shop down the street and the patisserie around the corner. And once I buy some pots and pans, I can start cooking. Maybe I can lure the other girls out of hiding with delicious smells.

Published in: on January 10, 2009 at 10:17 am  Comments (1)