Sunday, December 14, 2008
Friday, November 28, 2008
My friend Lia and I got train tickets, leaving on Sunday and returning on Monday, for the hour and a half ride from Paris to Brussels - we thought we were smart for getting them at half price, but then we realized that all the museums are closed on Monday and most of the shops are closed on Sunday and Monday. Since it snowed both days, we wanted to spend time in museums and shops, but had to spend the time in bars instead. Oh well!
The center of Brussels is called the Grand Place (and something else in Flemish) and it looks like a cross between Amsterdam and Prague contained in a souvenir snow globe. Seriously, it is too cute...yes, a little too cute. It really was a tourist haven, full of chocolate and lace shops, and several guide books warned us strongly against eating around there. Sunday the city was absolutely deserted, and Monday it was a little more lively but not crowded...most likely because it was blizzarding and smart Belgians were staying home.
The Jacques Brel Hostel (so artsy!) was clean and pleasant, except for the huge enormous trucks that started revving outside the window at both 2 and 4 am. So not a lot of sleep, but yes, a lot of cafe hopping and beer. Beer! Including Hoegaarden, Leffe, Mort Subite, Duvel, and a lovely combo of white wine and champagne called a Half and Half (that was the non-beer option). Plus the classic mussels and frites for dinner, and a waffle (square...the round ones come from Liège). And by the way, Manneken Pis is only like a foot tall.
On facebook, check out the photos of the musical instrument museum - a truly unique and fun place where you wear headphones and stand in different spots to receive (via said headphones) music played by the instrument you are looking at. People dance as they check out the different instruments and if you walk quickly through the exhibit, you'll walk through all the different areas of broadcasted music and hear the song clips one after another.
Below is a goofy video of the restaurant singing happy birthday to someone. This was not a yucky tourist joint - they actually do sing the birthday song in English as a regular thing.
Account of the Thanksgiving dinner I made all by myself to come!
Monday, November 17, 2008
Thursday, November 6, 2008
I ate dinner with my friend Gregoire in Meudon and then at about 11 pm headed back to Paris to meet up with American friends Lia and Laure, Canadian friend Yvonne, and Lebanese friend Sarah T. (I pick up Sarahs wherever I go). We knew of five places to watch the election: Harry's Bar, Breakfast in America (a little restaurant), Joe Allen's pub, the Town Hall in the 3rd Arrondissement (event called Nuit Americaine, which is a term they use in film for making a scene look like nighttime when it was really shot in the daytime, but also has a figurative meaning for something that's flashy but fake), and Americans Abroad for Obama at the Palais Maillot. Nuit Americaine was actually organized by the district, and screened movies (including the unflattering to the US Crash) and served breakfast until it was all over. At 11, there were already lines to get into all these places, so we had a little pow-wow, and decided that standing in the cold for an hour and then (if we got in) sitting either on a bar stool or cafeteria bench for the next seven hours would be no fun. Sarah T., who has CNN, graciously invited us over to watch what was not even her country's election when she had to go to work the next day. We were disappointed not to be amongst a crowd when the results came in, but it worked out in the end. (As for the people crowding up all these places, many were Americans, but there were also Parisians, and I'm sure there were other nationalities too.)
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Well, its been a month, and life is getting...quotidien! The daily schedule goes:
Monday, do something until early afternoon and then Skype with Matt.
Tuesday, do something until late afternoon and then babysit Olivier. Teach him English by playing poker and watching the Simpsons.
Wednesday, go to internship. Have coffee for two hours, have lunch for three hours, then read theater magazines while trying not to inhale too much second-hand smoke.
Thursday, go to French as a foreign language theater class.
Friday, go to history of French cultural politics class and French cultural economic policy class.
Saturday, do something.
Sunday, do something.
Something usually means something, but sometimes it means nothing. I don't know whether to count gossiping in cafes as nothing...I think the French would call it joie de vivre! I have seen six plays so far and will be doing some formal interviews within the next couple weeks. I'm also organizing my vacations, which is also very French (I just learned that French companies not only give you five weeks of paid vacation, but they also subsidize your vacation expenses). In November I'll be going to Belgium with my new friend Lia, and in the spring I'll be in Bratislava, Italy, and elsewhere. Anyone have connections in non-Schengen territories?
This weekend I had a little getaway to Bretagne to my hostess's family estate - well, it was really a getaway for the grandkids, who both had colds. Stay tuned to see if they gave their colds to me. Check out the enormousness of the main house in my photo album; we stayed in the "outbuilding" with a mere four bedrooms and maid's studio apartment.
As alluded to in the previous post, here is a scene-by-scene description of the weirdest French play I saw:
1. MC talks to the audience, pretends theater is a cabaret and play is a soiree. Tells audience he will die before the end of the evening.
2. Disco lights come up on MC singing and dancing to "Sex Bomb."
3. Pregnant woman stands in front of mike talking about l'avenir (the future), raises voice to a screech and then falls down.
4. Some other woman tells the story of her mother working in a factory and cutting off two fingers.
5. Ella Fitzgerald song plays and everyone sings.
6. MC talks about his love for an older woman. Lights come up on woman on couch and MC standing twenty feet away. Lights fade and come up on woman on couch and MC lying on floor. Lights fade and come up on MC sitting on couch. Actress playing older woman has been replaced with actress thirty years younger.
7. Behind a scrim, someone saws off someone else's limbs one by one. Sound of saw is turned way up. "Can't take my eyes off of you" plays in the background.
8. MC goes to dinner with his two pregnant girlfriends. The sound of them gulping water is turned way up.
Intermittently: actors remind us that life is hard, love makes you miserable, and we're all going to die.
I don't really remember much else about this play. The dialogue or what passed for dialogue wasn't hard to understand, but as I can't let my mind wander and still follow the thread of the plot or what passes for plot when it's in French, I kinda stopped trying about halfway through. The play was called Je tremble, or I Tremble, parts un et deux, and it was written in two installations and played at the Avignon Festival in 2007 and 2008. That explains a lot.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Monday, October 13, 2008
The leisurely days have begun to fill up, even though they are still pretty leisurely. Last Wednesday I went to my first official day of internship. I arrived at 10 AM, and eventually Anne-Marie (the theater director), Laurent (finances guy), and Joel (semi-involved guy...he wrote a book about the Carthoucherie) showed up. The theater is really hurting for money, and that Friday they were going to meet with the Ministry to ask for more. The situation was actually perfect for my project. So I sat through the meeting, most of which I got but some of which was a little out of context. It eventually deteriorated into calling the director of the theater next door nasty names (and she's an American...eep!) Then we had lunch for a couple hours, and then they kept talking about the money issues and ignored me. I pretended to read Joel's book for a while, and then I said I had to go, but that they should call me when they needed me. I didn't want to be in the way when they had something serious to discuss, and anyway I had to get out of that windowless room in which about thousand cigarettes had just been smoked. Ick ick ick. The highlight of the day was when one of the actresses said she thought the houses on Long Island, where she has family, were gaudy. I asked if she had seen The Sopranos...did she think the houses looked like theirs? And then they all talked about how big the Sopranos' fridge was, and how it was always completely full. Anne-Marie said the first time she saw an American refrigerator was in 1969, and it had an ice dispenser on the door...she couldn't get over it.
So except for the refrigerator talk, the internship is not at the top of the "awesome" list. But moving on, Friday my classes started, and I missed the first one through no fault of my own: the time was misprinted in the schedule. :P I was lucky to find the professor later on and tell her that I'd be there next week. She was overwhelmingly nice and talked with me forever about the class, offering to arrange interviews for me and all sorts of stuff. Then I actually made it to the next class, where I thought I'd be the only non-native French speaker. I had to go first when we introduced ourselves, but soon it became clear that the French were the minorities in this class. The students are from China, Holland, Bosnia, Greece, Colombia, Brazil, Lebanon, and other places I'm forgetting, so there will be plenty of non-native French. Also, there's no homework. So I'll just sit back and absorb the knowledge.
I also have a book club going (English-speaking...I know, I'm cheating) and a babysitting job (also cheating, since I'm supposed to be talking to the kid in English). It's amazingly easy to speak English in Paris, so I will have to get creative on avoiding it whenever possible. Come to think of it, I shouldn't be writing this blog at all... ;)
And lastly, I have seen two enjoyable plays: Master Class by Terrence McNally and Equus by Peter Shaffer. No Harry Potter in this version, but I think I prefer it that way. And no, those are not French plays! But they were acted in French, so that's ok. I will be writing reviews of them (Aaron) to be posted eventually and to be used in my final report, which will probably be a whopping five pages or so.
Here is a video of a didgeridoo player in front of the Centre Popmidou and more photos.
Monday, October 6, 2008
So I got on a bus and went blindly to find my internship contact, with whom I had been emailing but who had mysteriously stopped contacting me. Luckily I noticed some people reading scripts on the bus so I followed them to the theater. The area is full of former munitions factory buildings since there is a chateau there, and the theaters are all in these little houses situated around a field. I've never seen theaters configured this way before, but it makes a nice little community. Luckily, I found the director and she let me sit in on what I assume was one of her routine 3-hour Thursday afternoon lunches. She is the only one who works every day; everyone else comes in once or twice a week. Some other very artsy-types arrived, and the conversation turned to strange men who had stopped them on the street and told them how lovely they were. Then I got a tour of the little black box theater and even littler tech room, and went on my way with an appointment to start the following Wednesday.
Otherwise, I've done several ex-pat outings including scoping out Nuit Blanche: literally "white night," but the phrase means a sleepless night. Museums stay open late and art exhibitions are displayed around the city. The Metro runs until about 2am (but that doesn't mean there aren't HUGE crowds until the very last minute). We saw a bit a Bollywood movie being shot, but unfortunately shootings aren't very interesting to watch, and even less so when it's raining. (See the clip below.) Then the next night I attended a dinner the next night which has spawned a book/film club! I've already seen the film and read the book, but that's ok!
My first classes at Paris 8 are Friday, and a possible babysitting job is in the works. I also hope to continue my English conversation hour with the possibility of tartare and more tartare to come!
*French movie entitled Being W. The poster pictures George in a Napoleon-esque outfit and throne; he's saying (in English) "God bless me!"
*Haircut at a place called SpaceHair Cosmic: funky or foolhardy? We shall see!
*First play of the trip! And it's by Terrence McNally!
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