Monday, September 28, 2009

Monet and the Internet

On Sunday I got to go to Giverny on GW's dime. They do this kind of stuff for the other GW students all the time (basically, they babysit them) but they forget the Sciences Po students exist. We literally got an invitation 3 days before being like "oh, you go to GW too, come!"

Giverny is where Monet lived for the 2nd half of his life and where he painted all the water lillies. The gardens were very pretty, but I enjoyed his farmhouse more. It's pretty small, but each room is a bright beautiful color and he had amazing Japanese prints all over the house (is it bad I like those more than his own work?) Also, the tour guide kept mentioning how the Nixon administration gave millions of dollars to restore Giverny? ...why? Monet is French, shouldn't the French government do that? Shouldn't we have given that money to people that could have actually used it? That bothered me.

Anyway, that was free, but the best free part was the meal. I got mussels, pomme frites, a brownie (not so good, leave that to the Americans) and wine! Thank you GW, my $50,000 while abroad goes to underage drinking. Anyway, they invited us to two more free trips to Normandy and Brussels!

I learned today that in France they read your grades in front of the entire class! Not so into that. My teacher made a girl cry in class today because of how harsh she was on her presentation of an article. Not that she told the girl how to present it, no, she just assumed she would know the correct format. Can't wait till it's my time to present!

Today I tried to get Internet. My landlord told me I could just walk into the store, give them the name of the person who lived their before me, and all should be well. Here's my conversation with the Internet man:

"Hi, I need Internet, here's the name of the person that lived in my apartment before me."


(Hand him my Illinois license)

"ha ha, American! Wow, so cool. America is so big"

"Yeah, i know."

"But this is France, this won't do. I need your lease, bank account statement, and passport."

"For Internet? (sigh) Okay, how long will it then take to get Internet once I have all of that."

"15 days."

"15! Why so long?"

"This is France. How long does it take in America?"

"Ugh, the same day usually."

"Wow! America is so cool! But yes, 15 days. You are the first American I've met who can speak French, the others can only speak English."

I agreed, said it was sad, and then apologized that Americans can't speak other languages.

So yeah, I won't have Internet in my house for at least 15 days! I have to get a bank account which takes a few days. AH, France you kill me sometimes.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Why am I so computer/internet illiterate? Willem, the kid I watched this summer probably knew more than me. For instance, the post before this is all weird and I can't fix it. I don't really care. Whatever. Frustration!

I am now connected to the internet, but yesterday it was down for the entire Cite aka 10,000 people. Pissed, I tried to fix it myself (bad idea) and accidentally broke the port where the Ethernet cord goes into the wall? Punching/swearing at myself ensued. I was super nervous to tell the reception desk but I just acted all stupid and was like "oh, it broke! I don't know how" and I came home tonight and they had fixed it! I was so surprised because usually it takes longer to fix things here, like how it took them ten hours to get the internet to work yesterday.

It's weird how alone you can feel without the internet in a foreign country. Yes, I want it for stupid things like facebook or watching Top Chef online, but I feel so much more connected to everyone at home by staying in constant contact. I just felt lost all day without it as well as homesick. I can't imagine what it would have been like living abroad without the internet or phone. I guess you would integrate yourself more, but I think I would have been really homesick too.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Beauty in the Bureaucracy

So, last week I had a French lecture class. 50 of us are waiting patiently... 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 30 minutes go by and the teacher doesn't show! SAME THING HAPPENED TODAY. Two different classes, two different teachers, both lazy and didn't come to class. I was pissed because a) I had the excited/nervous first class jitters and b) I heard Sciences Po teachers were very strict and would lock you out of the room if you were late! How are you supposed to train the future diplomats of France if you don't show up to class?

On Saturday I went to the Assemblée nationale and Le Sénat. They're only open to the public once a year, so clearly I jumped at the chance to go. In line there was a video from Bernard Accoyer, the president of the Assemblée nationale, saying that it's the "people's house" which I thought was ironic considering you can only visit it once a year.
It's very odd to me since there are a million tours of the capital/house of reps/senate everyday to anyone.
I have to say I like our system better (shh, don't tell them.)
Even though you can't usually visit them, they both have gift shops open to the public everyday. Ha ha.

Basically, they both look like Versailles. Lots of gold and marble and naked lady statues. It was gorgeous though. The libraries are huge with books dating back from the 1500s and they have the ladders that swing across to get high books. Sort of Harry Potter-esque.

We got to go into the galleries where they vote! It was more or less the same as the one's in D.C. except everything was covered in red Velvet instead of faded blue wallpaper. So yeah, pretty cool especially if you're into politics. It made me miss D.C. and being a slave to the government.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

I am no longer homeless in Paris! Hooray! I live in an adorable studio in the 9th, around the corner from the Cadet metro stop on the pink seven line. Although it's a studio, it has a kitchen and a bathroom, and the living room/bedroom is big enough that it doesn't feel cramped. It's also really sunny which I like. The only bad thing is I'm on the 5th (6th in the U.S.) floor and there is no elevator. And of course it's a winding steep staircase. As my landlord says "it's good for the legs!"

I went shopping at BHV for my apartment yesterday. Think IKEA, Home Depot, Office Max, and a department store all rolled into one. I could have bought the entire store. They had the cutest kitchen utensils. And really bright modern vacuums. There was also a huge selection of espresso machines. Basically, domestic heaven.

My favorite purchase had to be my school supplies. Europe has the best school supplies. Even when I was little I would get excited when I could get school supplies from Europe. The U.S. needs to get it together, they're lacking in that respect.

I sat across from a dog on the Metro yesterday. He was very well behaved, and the train was pretty empty, but I still found it hilarious that he was sitting on a seat. Oh, France. It better than the time I was on the El and the man across from me had a snake...

Monday, September 14, 2009

At the movies...

Amanda and I saw Le Coach last night, a very mediocore French comedy. I didn't really care if it was good, just wanted to practice my French. Anyway, after being at the movie theatre I realized how oddly they change the names of movies. For instance, The Ugly Truth (worst movie ever btw) is translated into French on bilboards and posters, but The Hangover is not translated into French but translated into a different english word. It's called Very Bad Trip here. Why the hell did they do that? And then to translate something simple like 500 Days of Summer the call is 500 Days Together. Why???

Today was super frustrating in terms of internet, apartment, money, banks, and weather. Simple things are to hard here! Sadface.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Communism in Paris

Some sweet Graves

Part of
Publish Post
the Cite
..and some more
The Portugal House

On Friday, I went on a nice little tour of "Le Marais" on Friday. The sciences po welcome committee hosts a bunch of tours every week in different parts of Paris. So, I went to the Marais one (which means Swamp by the way) with some of my friends after class. It used to be a swamp, but then all the royals moved on in during the 16th century. When they left (it was too small compared to Versailles) the neighborhood declined and immigrants inhabited it, mostly Jews. It's still considered the Jewish district, but it's also become very trendy and expensive.

There are a lot of Jewish bakeries there that I want to go back to, as well as place des vosges which is a huge building (used to be for royalty) that surrounds a gorgeous park.

This weekend there was an antique fair on Rue du Jourdain, the big street in front of the cite. There is a lot of cool stuff, but most of it is for the house, thus I have no real use of it. I did get a ring that looks a lot like the one that I lost/was stolen (cough linnea cough) so that was good.

After that, Nina and Gomez and I went to to the Sacre Couer. Wow, I've been there before and I do not remember it being so ridiculously touristy. It just wasn't a pleasurable experience. A list of the touristy tings there:
-a woman dressed up as if she was from the 1900s playing an accordion
-a man making animals out of pipecleaners
-a band singing on the steps
-a billion touristy shops

All of this in front of a beautiful Church. It completely took away from the view, the church, the peace fullness that should be there. I'm thinking I'll try to go again in the winter when it will hopefully be nicer.

Then we walked around the Luxembourg gardens and sat in their nice little green chairs as the sun set. It's very odd to be hanging out with them in Paris instead of the south side of Chicago, ha.

We tried to have a "Communist Party Party" at the Cite last night because there's a Cuba house here. Only Amanda and I dressed up (fail) but a lot of people came, so it was fun none the less. The kitchen in the French house looks like Avec, this trendy restaurant in Chicago. That's where we hung out, so it felt like you were out, not in a dorm.

Okay, so the Cite. My house "Club Portugal" as we call it because it looks like a cross between a W hotel and a club, is nice, can't really complain, but the houses built before 1950 are SO nice. As in, they have pianos, bars, and libraries in them. And they look like castles. Then there is the random Africa house that Nina lives in which is so sad. The danish house even has a little backyard that's surrounded by a high wall of trees so they have privacy. Last night they were having a dinner party! Jealous. Damn, Scandinavia!

Today I went to Pere la chaise. I've been there before, but I didn't really remember it, so I decided to go again. Even though it's a cemetery, it doesn't project death and sadness. It's just a very quiet place that's perfect for a long walk. It makes you think about the history of Paris and all the people who've lived here.

We tried to find the graves of famous people, but the only one we succeeded in finding was Jim Morrison's. I just followed an Israeli couple who seemed to know what they were doing, and there it was! Nothing special, just a grave, but still sort of cool. They had some really beautiful old graves with statues on them, or antique doors leading to family tombs. It was a good day for it too, grey and chilly and all the leaves were falling.

And then I came home and gorged myself on bread, cheese, fruit, salami, and a raspberry tart. SO good!

I've "liberated" two more glasses from bars. I'm not doing it from nice places, just overpriced bars that are crowded. Plus, I need glasses!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Number of abercombie and fitch shirts seen on French men today: 5

Today my methodology teacher professed his love for Obama. Again. He discussed how "bah, oui! I'm somewhat homo-erotically in love with Obama. Who isn't? Look at him!" It was quite hilarious. Everyday we talk about Obama and how beautiful he is. We also briefly discussed how unattractive and short Sarkozy is.

Yesterday I got my Sciences Po student card! whooo hooo! What does that card entitle me to, you ask? Nothing! You get to pay 200 Euros, fill out a social security form, bring a copy of your passport and visa, take ID pictures (no smiling!) and wait in line for 45 minutes. Then you get a bootleg looking student card.

At GW your ID card is very important, it gets you into dorms, the gym, it gets you food, and it gets you into the library. I am still unsure as to what my sciences po card gets me. They don't ask for it at the library and you don't have to show ID at the cafeteria. Also, I entered my birthday day the American way so my birthday is forever August 10th, 1988 to Sciences Po. Oh well!

There are literally 20 different kinds of Activia yogurt here. I guess the French like their fiber! Anyway, on top of those 20 kinds of yogurt there are about 50 other kinds of yogurt you can choose. So, I'm standing trying to decipher which kind of peach yogurt is better, when this adorable old french woman comes and asks me if I can reach the yogurt on the top shelf for her. I grab it and she goes "oh, no the one next to it" even though they are exactly the same. Then she asks me to read the expiration date because "the expiration date is very important, you don't want to waste your money." We then proceeded to talk about expiration dates some more. It was so cute!

Cafeteria meals here are so much better than in the U.S. I had an amazing chocolate tart from the school one today, and last night Nina and I had a gigantic meal of bread, cheese, salad, corn/bean salad, peaches, and a puff pastry filled with meat. It was so good! And only 4.90 euros! I must say, there are more student discounts here. Although, I'm starting to understand why the cost of living here is so much higher; the minimum wage is 8.70 EUROS. OH my god! It's $7.25 in the U.S.!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Le Week-End

Salut! Friday night I had a gggggggreat cheeseburger (American, I know.) This place, Hotel Amour, is known for their burgers, so I had to get one. It had brie and some other hard cheese reminiscent of cheddar, but the cheese didn't overpower the burger. And the meat was so tasty, you could tell it was good quality. It also had just the right amount of tangyness from the pickle...basically i was in love. Anyway, it's a very chic restaurant. Great people watching, very pretty people who looked like they were in the fashion world.

After dinner we went to a not so nice bar in the Latin quarter, but it was full of Sciences Po kids, so that was fun. I just didn't really like the atmosphere because most of the places there are pretty touristy...but the company was fantastic!

Saturday I pretended I was Lebanese and spent the day with Nina and her family friends. We went shopping around the Vavin metro stop and eventually into St. Germain des Pres. There are so many shoes I want, it's so bad. When I find an awesome pair I'm going to break out my babysitting money and buy a pair (thank you , Willem.) Even though I didn't buy anything, I wrote down the stores I liked, so when I have a good list I'll put it up here!

Last night I had a great picnic in the park of the Cite. About ten of us went to grocery store and bought a bunch of stuff. Unfortunately, this was the one time I've forgotten to bring a bag to the grocery store thus far, so I had to buy a plastic bag. All the bags said "reuse me I used to be..." and there is a picture of a tomato. So cute! Too bad mine accidentally got thrown out...poor tomato.

After the picnic we went to a fun bar/club called "The International." There is no cover (whoo hoo!) and drinks are cheap! Plus it's all French bands, so it was really fun. The two bands I heard last night were both really good and had a lot of energy. At one point, the rockier of the two had the audience crouch down on the floor. I'm not sure why he did it, but it looked cool seeing 60 or so people all crouching down during the middle of a concert. Also, they gave you drinks in actual glasses, so I had no place to put mine during the show and put it in my purse and "accidentally" took it with me. So now I have a sweet glass from some vodka company. I think I want to start a collection of glasses I've collected from restaurants here. I'd be a pretty good memento.

Today I went to the musee d'orsay! All the museums are free on the first Sunday of every month, so I didn't have to pay! I saw a great Max Ernst show about a novel he drew where each day had a different theme such as water, blood, darkness, etc. They were prints of these men and women at the turn of the 19th century doing something normal like drinking tea, but then whatever the theme of that day was would be in the picture in a menacing way. For instance, if the day was water, a wave would be overcoming them. Sometimes the people in the pictures had bird heads or dragon wings. I'm doing an awful job of explaining this, but it was awesome. I wanted to buy postcards, but they didn't have any! Why is it museums never have the postcards I want?

Then I tried desperately to find a supermarket but everything was closed! I guess I forgot most things close here on Sunday. I knew shops would be, but I though a grocery store would be open, I mean ya gotta eat! So then I wandered into the fantastic park across from me where it seemed like all of Paris was ( I guess that's where they go when everything is closed.) Again, I watched adorable french children frolic. So cute!

I have seen so many French people wearing Abercombie and Fitch here! Initially I thought they were American, but then they started speaking French, and let's be honest, Americans who speak French are not usually the same Americans who wear Abercombie and Fitch. I have no idea why it's so popular all of a sudden, but it is.

I've also seen a ton of people wearing Franklin & Marshall Shirts. Turns out, a French designer went to Franklin & Marshall, liked their logo, bought the rights to it and is now selling it in France! Maybe I should break out my GW sweatshirt? Or better yet open a GW bookstore here and sell silly French people overpriced collegiate wear!

Friday, September 4, 2009

A $6 dollar Cafe au lait?!

Today we had a tour of the library at Sciences Po. What do you know, librarians in France are just like American librarians! Very sweet, wear cardigans and glasses on those silly strings. For some books you can take them right off the shelf and check them out, but for the majority you have write down the book and all it's information and then give it to someone at the front desk who goes to the "cave" and finds it...this takes 45 minutes, of course. Ah, it will be frustrating.

The girl who gave us our tour was so pretty! She was wearing a cute little black dress and these awesome leather boots with strings coming out of the back zipper. Anyway, she told us that 40% of the books are in French, 40% in English, and 20% in other languages which was pretty cool. I'm not that surprised because everyone who goes to Sciences Po speaks at least three languages.

The Sciences Po campus reminds me of NYU. There are buildings all around the St. Germain des Pres that belong to them, but it's not actually a campus. When you get off the metro you walk down the posh rue St. Germain des pres past designer stores like Etro, Armani, and Sonya Rykiel, as well as super pricey cafes like les deux magots. It's fun to window shop, but it also reminds you that you're a poor college student and can't buy those 250 euro boots...damn the exchange rate.

When I got off at my metro stop for the cite (at the southern most point of Paris) I decided to sit down in a cafe and have a cafe au lait. Keep in mind this is not a touristy area at all. So I order it, drink it, read Paris Match, etc. I get the check and it was 4.30 euros! JESUS. I'm going to start drinking espresso because that's like 2 euros. I didn't feel too bad about the price though because my lunch at the Cite cafeteria was only 2 euros!!! The prices are super cheap because it feeds mostly students. Two Frenchmen sat at the table next to me and they actually asked me if it was okay if they smoked! I was so taken aback because yesterday this annoying woman blew her marbolo smoke in my face all through dinner.

I read Paris Match today (yesterday I just looked at the pictures) and this is what it said about Joan Kennedy, Ted's first wife: "She is beautiful like a Hitchcock heroine, Catholic, and rich. The ideal candidate to marry a Kennedy man." Ha ha, I died of laughter. I mean, it's true, but I can't see that being written about her in an American magazine.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Parc Montsouris

Today was fantastique! I felt like I was getting into a usual groove. I had French class at 9am (much too early, but oh well.) My teacher is so french. She's was very chic in her wide navy pants, tailored white shirt, large red belt, and her hair in a tight chignon. She is sweet and talks slowly which I appreciate.

My methodology teacher is also very French. He's kind of scruffy and came in wearing a leather jacket and a could just imagine him on his vespa riding through the city. He was also kind and patient, but learning the French education system in French is not easy. We talked about the Swine flu and wrote a little paper on it. Instead of a thesis statement, he wanted a question to start the paper. It felt very awkward writing a question to start a paper. Hopefully I'll get used to it!

I bought a Paris Match today, their version of US Weekly, or Peopele, and all the major articles were on americans! Ted Kennedy was on the cover and there was a 20 (20!) page spread on him. Then they had an interview with Harrison Ford and Hillary Swank. It was just odd, I wanted to read about European "gossip" but the majority was american.

I got a Navigo card, finally! The Navigo is the metro card for Parisians (similar to the Chicago card or smart trip.) We kept being told that you needed to fill out an application, have an ID picture, and prove that you lived in France before you could get one, so I kept putting it off. Today, there was no one at the ticket window so I went up and asked if I could get a navigo. The guy looked at me as if i was retarded, of course I could get a navigo! His only question was if I wanted it charged for a week or month. It was so easy! After spending 57 euros I won't have to pay for the metro for another month! It sounds like a lot, but each ride is 1. 60 euros, so I should get my money's I'm determined to use it more and therefore steal (sort of) some money from the government.

I also took an hour and a half walk around my neighborhood today, the 13th and 14th arrodisments. I really enjoy the neighborhood. It's full of working class people, as well as adorable little French families. There is a beautiful park across the street from me called Parc Montsouris. It reminds me somewhat of Central Park in NYC. It's lush and green, there's a large pond, running paths, and also lots of children. There's even an old fashioned mary-go-round that I secretly want to ride...I think i'm a little too big. It was nice to sit and people watch, and especially to listen to little kids speak because it's much easier to understand them.

Aside from the park, there are also many cute little cafes and bakeries, butchers, etc. I think I could enjoy living here, but not in my little room here.

I had a wonderful salad for dinner filled with ham, melons, little filo doughs filled with chevre, lettuce, tomatoes, and crusty bread with olive tapenade. And some red wine, bien sur. I almost took a picture of the salad because it was so pretty, but felt silly doing it. Maybe next time!

P.S. I don't put accents on anything because I'm not using a European computer and I'm just too lazy.

Nina comes tomorrow! Yay, reunion!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The last two days have been a whirlwind. Doing anything in France, so far, is exhausting. Everything is just different, whether it is buying a phone, registering for classes, or looking for something specific n a grocery store (such as silverware.)

Registering for classes was awful. At first, it wouldn't let me register for English classes because I wasn't at the "correct language level." So I signed up for a French class because the system thought my French was better than English (ha) and then rushed over to Sciences Po with some other GW kids to try to get it straighten out. Initially, they told us to take an English language test, which i flatly refused because a. it's my "mother tongue" and b. I would probably fail an English grammar test and then not be able to stay at the Sciences Po!

After they explained how we could register, stuff they should have told us earlier, I am signed up for three classes. Now I have to write to people at the Sciences Po to explain why I need three specific other classes (which are closed) in order to graduate from my university in America. Hopefully it will all work out!

Today I woke up with a migraine, so I didn't go to my two classes, but I heard they were pretty straightforward and that the teachers were nice.

I finally got a cell phone! It was sort of difficult because the phone belonged to Molly who was in France last year, so they were suspicious as to why I had her phone, but I explained the situation and they were able to give me a new number and sim card with ten minutes on it for 20 Euros.

Tonight there's a party for International Students at some club called "Le Wagg" that's sponsored by the Sciences Po. It probably won't be that great, but I'm still going with the GW kids.

It all seems to boring so far! I haven't had time to go out and do anything because all my time has been taken up by errands which take me twice as long here. Although, i was at Notre Dame when the sun set yesterday, and it was quite beautiful.


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Where in the World is Katherine?

My title is so cheesy, but i adore it. Anyway, I'm here! The original name for my blog was going to be the address of my apartment, but since I still don't have an apartment, I can't do that. Maybe I can change that title once I have an apartment.

My flight over was uneventful, except for the fact that I was convinced the man sitting next to me was a terrorist. He had no luggage, not even a book! Who takes a seven hour flight with nothing to occupy him! Since I'm here, I was clearly wrong, but it did freak me out a little bit. There was an adorable little French boy sitting behind me, but then he cried while everyone was trying to sleep, therefore becoming less adorable.

For the last few hours I've been looking up classes. The french have quite a weird system where there is no add or drop period. It's very weird since we have a two week (maybe more?) period in the U.S. Hopefully Sciences Po cracked out system will let me register!

Today it's raining, which I'm not so happy about since it rained in Chicago all summer. I still have a nice few out of my window to the cité campus. If it stops raining I'm going to walk around the campus and neighborhood and try to find my bearings/the best pâtisserie.

Tomorrow I start a French language class for two weeks as well as a class that supposedly teaches you how to deal with the French and all their bureaucratic tendencies.

I'm excited to be here, but I can't wait until I start classes, have an apartment, and feel like I'm really part of Paris.