France, Paris, Study Abroad
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School?!

Well okay here we go…I finally have found some time to write a new blog post!! I’ll probably end up splitting it up into a couple; there’s just so much to cover! I think I left off with orientation week, so I’ll pick right up with our first week of classes…Hang in there people, it’s gonna be a long ride.

MONDAY

First day of class wooooooo! This entire week, we had an “intensive” class schedule, because once our internships start, we’ll only meet once a week. But in reality, that meant that we had class from 11-5:30 everyday with a one hour lunch break. My class is called “Paris Aujourd’hui: French society and civilization through the performing arts.” We have units on music, film and theatre. Being the only theatre major in the program, I was obviously glad to be in this class. The other options (a class on French lit or a grammar class) each had pros and cons, but how could I not take the one about theatre. This is week it was structured so that from 11-2:30 we worked on the “song” portion of the class and the afternoons were devoted to the “theatre” portion, because two different professors teach each section. Hanadi and Elisabeth are great teachers. Hanadi I think sometimes forgets that we’re not all fluent in French (though to her credit, we have like 5 fluent or near-fluent students in the class) so it can sometimes be difficult.

Now that I think about it, actually, Monday was the only day we didn’t have a full schedule: We only were in class for the first portion of the day because Elisabeth couldn’t come in for whatever reason to teach the second portion. It was rainy and miserable though, so we just went home and started our homework….HOMEWORK?! I’m now remembering that this is a program for academic credit….didn’t realize so much homework would be required! Because we have two different professors who each assign different homework, it’s a bit like doing work for 2 completely different classes and was at first very overwhelming, but I think I’m back in the swing of school and all of that again…I hope.

So, moving on to TUESDAY! The first (of many) big event of this day was my INTERVIEW for my internship!! Also know as the entretien pour mon stage (pronounced stahhj). I was so incredibly nervous all day because the interview would (obviously) have to take place in French and do I actually know how to speak French?! I have barely said anything more than “Oui” “D’accord” “Non, merci!” and “C’est bien!” since arriving here and now I have to go do a job interview?! AHHHH.

I left class to head to the gallery, a 20-ish-minute métro ride away, and found it immediately. Somehow I’ve really lucked out in terms of being across the street from métro stops! When I got there, I met Charlotte, my “maître de stage” aka my boss. She was very very nice and (thankfully) did most of the talking for me. She gave me a quick tour of the gallery…quick because it’s only about four rooms. One other woman, Emmanuel, works there. The others are usually in the accompanying studio in Ivry, just outside Paris. She told me that I’ll be their third intern from BU. The last one just left in April! It put me at ease to know that they would be used to my learning curve and language barrier…we exchanged details, discussed my start date (next Tuesday!) and I headed back to school.

That evening, our class went out to see a movie called “Intouchables.” I really enjoyed it, although to be perfectly honest, I didn’t understand a lot of it: no subtitles…not even French ones. Alas. I’ll have to watch it again. After the movie, my friends and I went in search of dinner and Place de la Bastille. Lana had learned about a rally/free concert in support of the newly signed gay marriage law in France and a lot of people were performing, including one of my favorite musicians: MIKA! The rally actually ended up being really interesting, too. I have actually been to a fair number of rallies in the US, mostly Obama rallies or the Rally to Restore Sanity…so I feel like I can talk with some amount of expertise on the similarities and differences that I perceived. First, it was hilarious to see everyone walking around the crowd carrying their mid-sized bottles of Chardonnay. Second, there were just as many French flags being waved as Gay Pride flags…I feel like no one would fly an American flag at a gay rights rally in the U.S. In between musical acts, different groups came up to speak, including several politicians like the mayor of Paris–also something that I feel would be unlikely to happen in the U.S. By the time Mika came on stage, the Place was completely FILLED with people, it was crazy. Although, I read later on a French news site that people were surprised at how small the turnout was. I was glad I went, because little did I know how prominent this subject would become later in the upcoming weeks……….

WEDNESDAY

Wednesday was a pretty regular day of class like any other. The main event of today was our weekly dinner with our host family. The whole gang was there: Me, Steph, Louis, Béatrice, Marie-Laurence and Jean-Baptiste! The family is just so funny, especially all together. Béatrice has been planning for a dinner party next week and testing out a bunch of different recipes. Her creation tonight was….ambitious: layers of ham, foie gras, ham, fig jam, ham, foie gras, and jello! Steph, Louis and I all tried some, but Marie-Laurence and Jean-Baptiste refused. It actually wasn’t that bad. There were a lot of different textures going on, which made it difficult, but it tasted fine. This was also my first experience with foie gras, which Louis informed me is duck liver and that in America we eat Goose liver and it doesn’t taste as good. The alternative meal was a dish that apparently the two students before us loved: bananas wrapped in ham and cooked with some type of cheese. Marie-Laurence and Jean-Baptiste did not want any of that either. It was also a bizarre combination, but also surprisingly not so bad.

They asked us if we were enjoying Paris, where we had been over the weekend, and gave us some suggestions about places we have to see! Then they quickly backtracked telling us we should avoid certain places this weekend because of the huge strikes that were set to take place this weekend against the gay marriage law!! Because it’s a Catholic family with six children, I had a feeling I probably shouldn’t tell them that I went to a rally in support of it, which turned out to be a pretty good intuition. I guess the French people are up in arms because 1) they love a good protest march and 2) they not only disagree with the law, but it was passed without extensive discussion by the National Assembly and the Senate…it’s hard to tell which is more important to the French (and to our host family): the actual law or the way it was passed. But I want to keep reading and talking to people about it hopefully. It’s a pretty interesting topic.

After dinner, Béatrice had to drive Jean-Baptiste to his apartment (his school is on the other side of the city, so he has an apartment nearby for when he has class at 8am), and we accompanied them both. Turns out his apartment is just a few blocks away from where my gallery is!! Béatrice joked about him coming to visit, but he is very disengaged and doesn’t like to fraternize with us…I guess if I were in his position, I might feel awkward about having strange Americans always coming to live with me. Especially since his mother keeps volunteering him to do things with us…which he quickly turns down because “he has a lot of work” or is “too busy”… It’s fine, Jean-Baptiste. We don’t want to hang out with you anyway! 😦 We’ve decided it’s our mission to get him to hang out with us even once.

Anyways, after dropping him off, we took a quick tour through Paris by car. It was crazy to actually drive around the Etoile, the huge convergence of TWELVE roads with the Arc de Triomphe in the center. We were out a little too early to see everything lit up, but it was still a lovely night.

THURSDAY

In our theatre class, we spent the week reading a short contemporary comedy by a French playwright called “Vendredi 13” or Friday the 13th. It’s a pretty silly little play, and on Thursday night after school, we got the opportunity to go see it!! It played in a tiny black box theatre in Montparnasse, which was not unlike the Under St. Marks that we played in New York earlier this year! It was really really really helpful that we had read it before going to see it, because truthfully, I don’t think I would have understood a lot of it without the added benefit of having seen the words before. Honestly, it wasn’t the type of play I’d have chosen to go see…but it was a fun experience.

FRIDAY

It’s finally FIRDAY YAYYYY! Seriously though, we were all SO worn out by the end of the week, that we were all rejoicing for the weekend. The first part of the day, we watched a really fascinating movie about one of the French singers we’ve been learning about: Serge Gainsbourg. Serge is basically the reason the French have pop music…he introduced the French to all different genres of music throughout his career, including jazz, reggae, etc. He also was kind of rule-breaker, making him notorious in his time. Turns out he made some pretty awesome music, too. Check him out on youtube. Anyway, I think his life should be made into a musical. He had exactly the kind of life and was exactly the kind of celebrity that America loves. Lots of women and affairs, lots of drugs and cigarettes, lots of secret insecurities, and most importantly lots of talent. He was like the French Johnny Cash. Sort of. So, if anyone in the motion picture or musical writing business needs a blockbuster idea…..

After that, we broke for lunch. Rebecca, Lana and I had been frequenting a boulangerie (bakery) for lunch and are in the process of trying to develop a relationship with the woman who runs it…so naturally we went in to say hello and get a croissant or a piece of quiche or the brilliantly simple ham and butter baguette. The last part of our class that day, we had a special guest: Jean-Pierre Martinez, the playwright of “Vendredi 13!” As you know, I’m already best friends with a famous playwright, Ken Ludwig, so Jean-Pierre’s visit was not all that thrilling, but it was fun to get to talk to him. He used to be a screenwriter, so he talked about the difference between writing for TV and theatre and also told us about what he thought made theatre specifically “French.” His answer cracked me up: French plays tend to be pessimistic, cynical and mocking…sounds about right. We are going to have 2 more theatre outings over the semester: We are reading in class “Un Air de Famille” by Jean-Pierre Bacri in a few weeks and then the entire program is taking an outing to the Comédie Française to see Molière’s “L’École des femmes” or “School for Wives.” It’s not a piece of Molière’s that I’ve read before, so I’ll have to do some background research so I can keep up…

Friday night, a big group of people were planning on going out to a club, but Lana, Rebecca and I were tired from the week and not really all that interested, so instead we decided to go take a nice walk and look for somewhere to have a casual drink to end the evening. We ended up at the Opéra métro stop, right outside the Paris Opera and the Palais Garnier, the building that The Phantom of the Opera is based on. It’s a really fun neighborhood and we were perfectly content to walk around and get a little lost before heading home to sleep.

So, that rounds out the first week of classes!!! It was horrible and rainy, plus we were super busy this entire week, so we didn’t have a chance to go out and see anything really besides go to the concert/rally and the quick car trip. I’ll leave this post here and start again with the weekend and the beginning of my internship when I have a chance!!!!

À Bientôt!!

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