Monday, June 7, 2010

La vie est belle, non?

Premier jour des cours! I was brutally awakened by a Charlie horse in the middle of the night so my plans to go for a nice morning run were temporarily put on hold and I opted to sleep a little longer. So I woke up around 9, jumped in the shower and joined Elisa for some breakfast. I wasn't very hungry after last night's late night excursion with the group to the Louvre where 9 people shared 3 bottles of wine, always a good choice. So instead I had some hot black and orange tea and a little apple juice and got to know Madame Dru's 26 year old actress of a daughter. She has very dark hair and usually pins it back in very intricate ways. Today it was almost french braided but twisted into these loops and bobby pinned down. She had on a V-Neck polka dot shirt and some southern style pants that had a nice crocheted material on the hips and flowed down to her ankles where they tied into a bow. She speaks a little English with a heavy accent but her French is beautfiul and she knew to speak a little more slowly for me as she explained her weekend adventure. She was in the premier of this ironic play that acted out over the top advertisements with a dark twist, and between each of these advertisements there was almost an intermission where the actors shared a story and you found out their relations. It sounded interesting enough and she seemed pleased with how the audience reacted. After breakfast I bid Elisa and Madame Dru "Tchao!" and found my way to the Sweet Briar Office.

For me, it is easiest to walk to class because the metro is a little to the side and won't take me any closer, so I walked along a main road called Rue de Saint Michel and took in the morning sounds of Paris. There were people strolling along the street with a mug of caffe in their hands, people resting on benches reading the newspaper. And of course a few librairies and boutiques were just opening their doors. Kind of ressembled Miami with how few people seemed to be at work, but there is much less traffic and a slower pace of walking. I cut through the Parc de Luxembourg and walked down La Rue Fleurus to find building 34 and got there around 10:50 for orientation at 11. We sat down in one of the classrooms and were handed a new itinerary, a European cell phone, so petit and adorable. All the girls were given a shiny purple phone and the boys a much sleeker black one. Then they handed out a short book, and told us this Friday we would be seeing an Absurb Play in the Latin Quarter and should read the play before attending so we can follow along. It's only one act and should be a quick read, plus I find the Absurb rather amusing so I'll dive in a little bit this evening and continue throughout the week. The directors are all very nice, speak wonderful French of course and are only strict about us speaking French while in the Sweet Briar school and on their excursions.

After orientation the group left for a pique-nique dans le parc de Luxembourg. I pulled out Evan's camera and took a few pictures of the park-goers, sans shoes, pieds aux chaises, just living a relaxed life over a baguette and a good novel. The sky was bright and blue, with a few white clouds but it was lovely in the shade. A nice breeze flows through the park along the paths. So we ate lunch for a little while, joked about a few things that happened last night and along the way to Paris, and a few people mentioned their plans for after Sweet Briar. Since we had our first Expression Francaise class at 2, everyone dispersed around 1 to explore a little bit and then head back to Sweet Briar. Joseph and I went to a little cafe so he could get something else to eat and we had a glass of wine.

Alors, Aventure avec Joseph #2:
--Never walk inside of a cafe (the restaurant part of the cafe) during lunchtime and try to only order a glass of wine.
We didn't realize the waiter would be upset if I just sipped a little wine so I quickly ordered a slice of peach tart and apologized for the confusion. We talked about classes and cafes we had noticed along the way and our desperate need to go to a good Pharmacie for shampoo and facial products.
--Do not wear your sunglasses indoors in Paris. It draws attention to you and the French hate extra attention
I had to explain to Joseph that he stuck out like a sore thumb when he wore his sunglasses inside so he quickly removed them and we continued our meal. But hey, at least we're figuring these unwritten/unspoken rules out sooner than later, no?

After our adventure at the cafe, we had a few extra minutes to step inside some pharamacies to browse around and collect ideas for the kinds of things we wanted. For example, I conditioned my hair with a jasmine and eucalyptus oil mixture, which I would never see in the US for less than 40 dollars a bottle, if at all.

Then we made our way back to the 7th floor of the building for class. Madame Mellado arrived at exactly 2 pm and when she walked in we were greeted by a woman with deep reddish hair, a little wirey but wavy to her shoulders, wearing bright red liptick accompanied by a green jacket and rose colored shirt underneath. Her pointed toed shoes matched her shirt and her accessories dangled from her neck, ears and wrists. Probably around 50 years old she came in excited as can be, asking us our names and how our picnic went earlier in the day. Wasting no time we started talking about how the class would go for the next four weeks. She wants to cover idiomatic phrases in French with us because that is really how we will improve our writing and sound convincing. Secondly she wanted to fix small grammatical problems along the way without taking the conventional grammar route. And thirdly she wants to rid us all of our horrific anglaicismes! So hopefully by the end of these four weeks I will have mastered a few useful French idioms and abolished a few bad habits.

The first thing we learned was how to properly say at the same time in French. Bon, easy enough right? She gave us all a sentence to write first in English, and then we would translate into the French. Par exemple, We arrived at the same time --> Nous sommes arrives en meme temps. And we went around and read our sentences and then discussed what was right and what was wrong and why. She kept saying she would throw us out the window and when we were all wrong she slammed her fist on the desk and yelled, "Niecht!" of course she was joking and said it was normal for us to not know the idioms right away. We talked about how to say "The more I....the more I..." in French, saying "As a..." and how there is no neutral pronoun in French so you have to resort to the masculine form when you are referring to an unidentified object. Example, when you say nobody, or something, or someone, etc. And finally we talked about how to figuratively say "I can't wait!" because in English you don't say it in a proper way, it's figuratively. So naturally we just translate into French and say "Je ne peux pas attendre." but that's too physical of a phrase. So now we say "J'ai hate que..." which is in a sense, I made haste to... So that was our first class. She is wonderful, eclectic and free spirited. Plus her French accent when she speaks English is just incredible. So enunciated and flows smoothly.

Apres class we met up with the other students and took a small tour with one of the directors. We walked around la 6eme arrondissement and then turned and found ourselves in the midst of la 5eme arrondissement. We walked around the boutiques, learned about different Cathedrals and saw how afternoon city life functions. We stopped at a fountain and I found myself once again, turned away from the pretty monument all the tourists were taking photos of, snapping away at a street performing musical group. A saxophone violin and I believe guitar were all playing wonderfully together. And that's not always a combination you would expect to work. So I took a few photos and realized I was centered in more than just a few tourists' photos of the Saint Michel fountain, probably appearing to be taking a picture of them. But ah non, ce n'est pas vrai because I was taking pictures of three beautiful lives in motion. La vie est belle, non?

Joseph, Martin, Nico, Alex, Caitlin, Joyce, Sarah and I stopped at Cafe Saint Serverin for a 5 o'clock drink because all day long while we were in class and the few who weren't decided that it was five o'clock somewhere and had divulged in a bottle of wine for 2 Euros. So we split a bottle of Moet Chandon Imperial Rose Champagne and had a very nice bottle service at 5 pm at this little cafe while ancient Cathedrals towered over us, blanketing us with their great history.

"Les fautes sonts toutes anonymes dans ma classe...commes des alcooliques." --Madame Mellado

After we paid our 91 Euro tab we parted our separate ways around 6 pm and Joseph and I decided to try out the 27 line bus to get home. The metro is about 15 minutes from my house, which I don't mind walking but I had already walked so much and the heat was starting to make the champagne bubbles in my stomach settle harshly. So we hopped on the bus, swiped our cards and talked about coming back to this fabulous street to go shopping for shoes and jackets.

When I got home I made myself a little cheese sandwich and laid down until about 8:45 to greet Madame Dru when she came home from work. Adrien was preparing dinner and I went into the living room to meet his friend Gabriel, who is taller than Adrien but has the same scruffy beard and struggling artist look. I'm really starting to enjoy it, and loving this family more everyday. He wore grey pants, covered in paint just as Adrien's and was very pleased to meet me. So we waited for Madame Dru to arrive and then settled into the living room for a green salad, some bread and wine. The conversation was great, we talked about where we were on September 11th and how it affected our lives and the world. And then I got to talk about old President Bushy for a while and knew they share the exact same opinions with me. They really seem to like President Obama over here, which is surprising as times because I know how bourgeoise it can be around here and that tends to be a little more conservative. So it's nice to hear that the American stigma is slowly changing because of our President.

The second course came out, with another glass of wine and Elisa joined us after her nap. We had rice with cooked ground beef and some green beans. Everyone was free to add their own sauce so I added a little soy, Adrien some lemon and curry, Madame Dru un peu de salt and Gabriel and Elisa, nothing. So we continued to talk about latest news, politics, and the topic of fake IDs came up and Adrien thought it was so silly that they ask for ID in the United States for drinking, even when you are with your parents at a restaurant. Ah, la vie est belle, non?

Next came the Camembert cheese with bread. So much food, so many courses! But so much good food. A very, very, very....very smelly cheese. But spread on bread and followed by a little sip of red wine, the cheese is sweet and light. It blends into the bread and the top layer just soaks in the flavor, giving you a longer taste as you chew. I just had a little bit since I ate around 6:45 and this had already been such a big meal. A great meal though, lots of laughs and Adrien as very kind to translate for me when Gabriel and Elisa went off on tangents, though I only needed a few words every once in a while to stay on track. He was very kind to cook dinner, serve to everyone and help me with conversation. And of course Madame Dru was so polite when she corrected my grammar, and I made little notes in my head to write down when I came back into my room.

For dessert we had chocolate and vanilla ice cream, with a few nectarine slices and a shot of Russian vodka poured on top. I was a little hesitant to have pure vodka on my ice cream without much flavor but very quickly I realized the nectarine flavors kind of spilled out over the ice cream and made a Nectarine Vodka syrup. It was wonderful. Such a nice meal, and I didn't even realize we were sitting there for nearly two hours until Gabriel said it was quite late and he should return home to rest for tomorrow's day of work.

So now I retire to my room to read an Absurd play we are seeing Friday night and to write a paragraph with all of our new phrases. Tomorrow I'm hoping to run before class at noon and then go to Expression class and after my first Art History class with Monsieur Pralong-Gourvennec.

Bon soir et bonnes reves!