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Monthly Archives: September 2010

I think my title means “Money, it’s madness,” or something to that extent. I’m pretty sure, after my third consecutive trip to the hypermarché Cora this week, that I have everything I need for my studio apartment…pretty much. There’s so many things I forgot with each trip, like dishwashing soap or toilet paper or a sheet for my mattress (Nutella, though, was often the first thing in my basket. Priorities, yo). At Geneseo, living with 7 other girls meant that usually someone had remembered to bring forks or the odd cleaning supply, but here, no dice. Real life is rough, man — especially when I check my bank account and see my purchases inflated from the euro-to-dollar conversion.
So now that my pantry is stocked and the basics of living here are covered, I’m praying that my ridiculous money-spending sprees are over…until my next paycheck, at least.

So, my second day living in Évreux.

Things I thought upon waking up this morning:

1) I still don’t have a coffee machine. Crap.

2) I’m in France?! Crap.

My sister, I think, once attributed my yearning for everything to stay the same all the time to my astrological sign. Us Cancers! We like to nest and cuddle and watch movies on the same couch every night. It’s not that I wasn’t adventurous, or didn’t go out, but deep down, there was always some point in time where I knew it was time to go home. And knowing that home is that much farther away makes it even harder to peel myself off the laptop, leave my room, and see the country I came here to see.

I saved this banksy quote during sophomore year of college: “Leave the house before you find something worth staying in for.” There’s so much I like about that suggestion, so much that I don’t always follow. But I’m here, I keep telling myself, and I paid x amount of dollars/euros/holycrapwhathappened tomybankaccount to be here, so let’s make the most of it. And financial pressure aside, I can’t help but thinking (now that I’m 22! and a graduate! and old! boo hoo!) that there’s only so much of life that you can spend waiting, and there comes a time to just do.

But all navel-gazing deep-thinking aside, when I woke up, I couldn’t fix the “problem” of being in France, so I chose the easier task: getting a coffee machine. I had remembered passing Cora on my first harried walk to the CROUS (student housing) office and decided to check it out this morning.

Cora. Is. The. Super Walmart. of France. Okay, it didn’t have the septuagenarian blue-vested greeters or that funny smell like the Geneseo one, but it was enormous, and it made me feel like I was in the first week of freshman year, debating whether I should buy a gray dry-erase board or a white one.

But they had coffee machines. And coffee. Success! I filled up my basket with that, among many other kitcheny/apartmenty things and went on my way. The coffee bag opened when I got to the register, but luckily I didn’t have to buy it and deal with the consequences of a grind-filled towel (I just looked sad and said, “C’est ouvert?” and they took it away. Phew). I made it home, put my things in the kitchen, and started to (slowwwly) make this place look like mine.

The day really didn’t start to pick up until this evening, when I met another teaching assistant who lives in my building, and we walked around town until we met up with some other assistants. At our dinner table, the six of us repped four countries – the US, Canada, Ireland and England! And we ate delicious pizzas (mine was quatre fromages – Camembert, Chevré, Roquefort, and….Emmental? Yum) and all got along really well. I was worried Évreux would be a bit dead compared to Montpellier, but it seems like it will be an interesting year, for sure. And that dinner, and meeting new people, is really the reason why this post is so upbeat-sounding — not the fact that tomorrow morning I will be waking up to brewed coffee. But it can’t hurt.

Also maybe the fact that I have a lime green frying pan, courtesy of hypermarché Cora. Sometimes I think this country is made for me, I swear.

You see what I did there? With the subject? Whatever.

Traveling makes every small success seem like a Herculean feat that deserves its own particular parade. You found a place without getting lost – gold star! Somebody asked for directions and you pointed them the right way – in their language! Whenever I do something right, I prefer to briefly imagine myself as Billy Crudup in Almost Famous, standing on top of some suburban kid’s roof, shouting I AM A GOLDEN GOD. This is mostly because I have no one to pull over and say, “See this? I tied my shoes. I’m in a foreign country. Isn’t that great?” so I tend to exaggerate in my head.

Things that happened today that merited a drug-addled dive into a backyard swimming pool shouting “I dig music!” (Billy Crudup again. Seriously, have you ever been in a dorm room for more than 48 hours and haven’t watched this? You haven’t? Well, fine.) ….

1) Calling a student residence service in Évreux so I could have a studio apt with my own kitchen and bathroom near the centre-ville

2) Maneuvering my Starbucks cup into the crook of my arm while zipping my enormous bag at the train station. This sounds lame, but I was seriously impressed when I did it. And yeah, coffee-wise, I’m not ~adjusted~ yet. No offense France, but for right now, when I have a choice between a teeny tiny café at, um, a café and a grande (venti, even!) cuppa deliciousness…I’m going to go for the latter. At least until I buy a french press (see, I’m trying).

3) Deciphering the train announcements well enough that I was not stranded or on the wrong train when we had to change trains at a town along the Paris-Évreux route called Mantes-la-Jolie! My french teachers would be so proud!

4) And…finally…finding the CROUS Rouen office and them telling me that yes, a studio was available for the residence I wanted, getting the keys (and a microwave, oh la la) to said furnished studio, and moved in! Not technically, because my suitcase is still at Cassandra’s. But if I wanted to sleep there tonight, I could. And that is the best.

If you can’t tell from the picture above, I’m in Paris, staying at my friend Cassandra’s apartment in the Marais (I think? I know. I should be better at this). It’s pretty sweet — we’re right by the Hotel de Ville, Centre Georges Pompidou, Notre Dame…and, certainement, les creperies. This was nutella and banana. And my dinner. Mmmm. After carrying my (27kg?! How did I not get charged extra for this?!) suitcase up five flights of stairs again (ain’t no thang), then buying a jambon sandwich and napping off my jet lag curled up on the bed, I took a stroll while Cassandra (who is American but could basically be Parisian with her awesome accent) went to see a guy she tutors in English.

While starting the walk, I had my reservations about being here, mostly because I had just woken up from a nap, and I am always out of it when I wake up from naps. I am the worst napper ever. But anyway. It was really nice to walk along the Seine and take everything in after the chaos of getting here. I took a picture of the moon next to the Notre Dame, which caused a man carrying an unopened Heineken can to come up and tell me “La lune! C’est jolie! Et la bas, une étoile, comme une petite bébé.” AND I COULD TOTALLY CONVERSE WITH HIM IN FRENCH. I mean, he knew immediately that I was not French, but still, accomplishment of the day.

Typing in an internet café in Paris is hard work. Im surrounded by intense gamers and the keyboard is just different enough than the standard American one to be annoying. I can type the euro sign as ,uch as I want? check me out: €. Other than that, hanging in Paris sans showering or sleep is less than ideal, but it aint no thing (I have no idea where they hid the apostrophe on this thing. However, another euro sign for your time: €. Youre welcome). Its pretty easy to communicate thus far…after spending the summer terrified that all the French I had learned in Montpellier/Geneseo had escaped me, its comforting to know I can still say, “Can I leave my bag here?” which is a useful phrase when your bag is 27 kg and youve been carting it around the streets (even bringing it up and down 5 flights for practically no purpose…but thats a story for another time).

I’m leaving for Paris (via Dublin, a big shout-out to Aer Lingus for airfares that were two-hundred bucks cheaper than everywhere else I obsessively checked) in four days. FOUR DAYS. That’s basically the length of my labor-day weekend, which is NOT LONG AT ALL.  Here’s what I’ve done to prepare for my move overseas:

1) Purchased Henry & June by Anais Nin and A Year in the Merde by that guy who went to France and wrote about it, thinking that these could be formative reading materials for the inevitable waiting outside of gates, in train stations, sleeping on the street corners of Évreux, etc.

2) Lingered in bookstores contemplating buying even more beloved books (including but not limited to Loorie Moore, Sloane Crosley, Joan Didion, Lonely Planet) briefly believing these could act as a literary security blanket in the event by Big European Adventure was a devastating failure, even going so far as to wait in line until the sluggish cashiers gave me enough time to come to my senses and realize I couldn’t justify ~30 dollars and precious weight and space in my checked luggage, no matter how witty and articulate and perfect for my future library said authors would be

3) Looked at this still  of Jean Seberg and Jean-Paul Belmondo from À Bout du Souffle (or Breathless for the nonpretentious among us) and felt slightly regretful of not even watching French movies, reading French books, eating French cheese, drinking only espresso, etc. so that drinking thimble-sized coffees and hearing “Attention à la marche en descendant du train” instead of “Get off the fucking train” everywhere would not come as a shock

4) Occasionally muttered French phrases that I remembered while my dad and stepmother were out and about. Example: “Oh, c’est humide!” when it was humid

My suitcase is still empty. My teaching materials are nonexistent. I thought senior year was bad (or really, really good, depending on how you look at it) for procrastination.