Nuit Blanche

Today, my host sister Virginie asked me to explain Thanksgiving to her. That was interesting. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s a silly holiday, but still yummy, and that’s what matters.

While Americans know how to party, I’ve decided that the French really know how to celebrate. In France, they have an annual festival (this last weekend) in Montmartre, where there is the one remaining vineyard in Paris (who knew?), for wine. All the wine in the country. This is exciting enough, but, as I was wandering around waiting for my friends, sitting in a square/park reading, I discovered the coolest part: there’s a parade!! Or, as I have learned, my newest word – un défilé. Yes, there is a parade, my friends, with representatives of each area in France where wine is made, and people dress up in period costumes, and there are marching bands, and people give out wine if you have a glass (I didn’t, sadly), and there are little kids twirling batons, and at the end, there are sheep! I frickin love this country.

That was Saturday. Saturday night was la Nuit Blanche. Another example of the French dominance of the art of the celebration. And of their complete incompetence when it comes to anything bureaucratic.

La Nuit Blanche is a phenomenon that started in Paris and has spread throughout major European cities. It’s a night once a year when tons of museums and monuments are open late or all night, there are theatrical and dance performances and art shows of all sorts, and everything is free. Even Versailles was open all night. Craziness. Oh, and, the whole city’s lit up. Especially the fabulous Place de la Concorde, which once ‘came equipped with a guillotine.’ ;-) Supposedly, the public transportation is more accessible than normal, but I can attest that this is not the case, despite the fact that a metro line runs all night, as does a RER line. Liz and I ended up walking home from Saint-Germain because it was so absurdly inefficient. On the positive side, there are tons and tons of people everywhere all night, so it feels absurdly companionable. My friend Neal said he took the night bus home that night and everyone was just packed in and some guy was making jokes that just had the whole bus laughing. Ahhh la France.

Those are my French celebration stories for the week. Now we return to the less-interesting aspects of my life. Classes!

Yes, this is my first full week of classes. As others have pointed out, it’s rather amusing that I’m just starting while everyone at home is in the midst of midterms. But classes are going well thus far. Taking notes is a little difficult since one feels compelled to both take notes and listen, but it’s hard to do both simultaneously, because focusing on what one is writing – in French – and what the prof is saying – in French – is very difficult. So one often finds oneself so focused on writing something down that one suddenly realizes that the professor is somewhere completely different and one has no idea how he/she got there. It’s very irritating, but I suspect it will get better with time.

That’s the other thing. Time. I expect everything to get better with time, in regards to my French abilities. But it doesn’t feel like it’s improving much. Which, let me tell you, is horribly frustrating. I imagine myself like someone trying to speak English, and I hate to think I sound so stupid. They must think I’m here by some horrible mistake; don’t they have a standard for people they let study abroad? I just have to trust that it will get better, I guess.

That’s all for now. I want to give a short shout-out to my boys, the Oakland A’s, who’ve made it past the ALDS for the first time in years! Their ALCS against the Tigers (most unlikely matchup ever) starts in an hour, and if it weren’t already 1 am here, I’d be out at a bar watching it. Got to watch most of the last game of the ALDS (sweeeep!) with my friends at an awesome Canadian bar, where I met a couple from Pleasanton who were there for the game too. Fabulousness! So proud of my boys!

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