Tuesday, October 28, 2008

La vie quotidienne

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.

Click here for photos.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Quick post

More to come this week, but in the meantime I wanted to post a video of some musicians I saw last weekend. Also, I have seen two wacked-out French plays that make Sarkozy's philistine tendencies pretty understandable...

Monday, October 13, 2008


Now that my blog has been removed from Google's black list (not that it's a good time to be complaining about oversight, but really!) I can continue on with the non-spammy task at hand!

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

Semaine No1 (hey, that word looks like the name of my street in NY!)

Well, it has been about a week. The days are still pretty leisurely...not that I'm complaining! There's nothing wrong with taking a little vacation. I wrote to the officer of fellowships at Vassar today to confirm the length of my first report. I had the idea that it was about five pages, which is nothing...it's just that the report is due in November and most people start their projects in September. For me, classes didn't start until this week, and I thought perhaps my report would be less informative than some others'. Anyway, the response: 1-2 pages, "reflective" in nature. This is truly the best gig ever.

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!

Approaching highlights:
*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!
I added new photos, but Facebook was being temperamental. I'll check in on it later, but you can see at least a couple new things. (click)

P.S. If you want to know when I've updated the blog, you can sign on as a follower (even if you're a leader at heart). See upper right-hand corner.


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Sarah is in Paris!

C'est vrai - it's true! I have tricked Vassar College into thinking that hanging out in France and seeing shows was worth an academic grant! Well, you can't put a price on life experience.
I arrived on my birthday, Saturday, September 27th. I am living with a family friend in a fancy part of town, rent-free. There is a bus stop literally outside the front door and a metro stop across the street. I am also allowed exclusive use of a new laptop. So in order to say thank you, I cooked chicken for my hostess and me tonight. I think we're even now.
Hee hee. For those of you who remember my correspondence from Japan, this one will be less funny. France is not as funny as Japan. But I will try to maintain a sprightly tone in the blog, and it is more than possible that my being in Paris will be funny to Parisians. Like, for example, when I spilled my coffee yesterday morning.
It's been less than a week of course, but so far I have:
*peeked just around the corner from my front door and seen the Moulin Rouge
*bought an International Herald Tribune and had a petit cafe in a cafe-bar
*spilled the petit cafe all over the floor but got the French waiters to be nice to me and give me another one
*been treated to steak tartare
*bought a monthly metro pass
*met a French professor who said, when I was concerned he wouldn't be able to find me at the cafe, "People who are looking for each other always find each other." Then when I said that maybe the French didn't like the Jeff Koons exhibit at Versailles because it was too modern, he said, "But what does that mean, modern?"
*made friends with everyone by giving them Sweet Sloops candies

Please click this link for my photo album on Facebook. Yes, the university is a dump. But it's free (to some people).