A Series of Ecclectic Experiences

It would be lying to say I haven’t been doing anything these days, because clearly I’ve been busy enough to not update, but the thing is that the days all seem to run together after a while. You do one big thing a day, usually, and that’s about it, but it somehow feels like a lot. Until this week, that is. This week, Sorbonne classes started, so I’ve been up at 7 am two days this week, and 8 am another. Oh yes, and I’m sick.

But first, let’s back up. There are many things I want to say, as always.

Saturday, I went with Patricia, Hubert, and Virginie to the latest exhibition at the Grand Palais – Les Trésors Engloutis de l’Égypte, which more or less translates to ‘Egypt’s Sunken Treasures.’ In recent years, there’s been an project to find and recover the parts of the cities of Alexandria, Herakleion, and Canopus which ‘sank’ during natural disasters and severe flooding in the 9th century CE. The exhibition showed many of the recovered artifacts, as well as maps of what the cities and harbors looked like in their heydays. While they were all very interesting, there were just a ton of people, so Virginie and I didn’t last too long, and quite frankly, I found the story behind it far more interesting than the actual ‘treasures.’ The problem is that the stuff’s all been underwater for so long that a lot of the details have been worn down so they’re not as impressive. Though the jewelry and coins were still as shiny and beautiful as they were originally, though I’m sure that’s thanks to much cleaning. One of the particularly interesting things was that – since the cities were at their height during the Greek and Roman empires, as well as the birth and influx of Christianity – was the way the cultures adopted, adapted, and combined religions. They literally combined gods in order to make them match up with ones from other religions. But then, I am a sort of a religion major. By the way, if any of this is of interest to you, by the way, you can check it out at http://www.tresors-engloutis-degypte.fr .

Sunday, I went to my first horse race ever! Selene’s host mom found a free pass in the paper, so the two of us headed out to the Hippodrome de Vincennes after lunch. I had been out in the banlieue at the cousins’ for lunch again, and when I told everyone I was going to the horse races (courses de chevaux), there was much excitement. Apparently it’s kind of a big deal here. I mean, this one wasn’t one of the cool ones where people get all dressed up – that would have been the best to go to – but it was still amusing to just kind of see what it was like, and people-watch. We didn’t bet, because we couldn’t figure out the system, and in any case, we didn’t want to risk what little money we do have on betting. But it was still pretty enjoyable. And we got some cool pictures of the races.

So what else has been going on these days?

I had a funny experience the other day, walking down the street in Saint-Germain. I was walking – purposefully, I would imagine – down a sidewalk that had room for about one and a half people. There were quite a lot of people, so I was constantly having to step into the street. I saw coming towards me two men walking side by side, so I decided to bite the bullet and just walk in the street until I’d passed them. They were still a ways away, though, so after a few steps, I got back on the sidewalk. When they were closer, I stepped back into the street. However, I hadn’t counted on the occasional Frenchman’s sense of courtesy. The man on the street-side had stepped into the street at the same time as I, in order to let me pass. So, I stepped back onto the sidewalk. But, seeing me step into the street, he had done the same thing. By this time, we’d reached one another, and so he stepped back to the street to let me pass, but before doing so, he stopped, looked at me, and kind of faked side to side, as if blocking my path. We both grinned and laughed, and then I passed them, and was back on my way.

I’m sure this sounds absurd and pointless to recount, but at the time, it just seemed to me like another example of Parisian character. Sure, this could happen anywhere, in any city, but the thing is that here, you don’t really smile on the street. And you certainly – especially as a woman – don’t smile at strange men without wanting to give a certain idea. Which is where American women sometimes get into trouble with sketchy guys. (And some of us did have a conversation recently where a friend who’s a semester student said she saw the most beautiful man in the métro and would actually have tried to talk to him if she could have; we pointed out to her that smiling at men in the métro is flirting, so that’s all she would have had to do.) But this momentary experience just showcases the hidden Parisian friendliness which I’ve mentioned before. This fact that two strangers walking down the street can just laugh together for a minute before resuming their stoic, purposeful masks. We pretend we are all wrapped up in our own worlds, but it is impossible to keep up that façade forever, because it is simply not true.

In other news, as I mentioned, Sorbonne classes started this week. I’m taking two literature classes there – Littérature des Voyages, and Littérature Comparée. I thought the first was going to be the most interesting, but now it looks like the second will be. In fact, this Comparative Lit class looks like it’s going to be awesome. We’re reading Don Quixote, Tristram Shandy, and Italo Calvino’s If on a winter’s night a traveler, the last of which I actually read for a class freshman year in college, and absolutely love. If you’ve never read any Calvino, I highly recommend him. It’ll be interesting because I’ll now have read it twice in translation, but never in Italian. Should learn Italian, sometime. After Spanish, Arabic, and whatever I throw in there for religious studies, right? Returning to the topic, though, the TD prof for Comp Lit is awesome – she’s young and animated and excited about the class. Versus the Voyages Lit TD prof, who sits at his desk and reads his notes aloud for 3 hours. It’s going to be killer to survive that class.

Those are my only Sorbonne classes this semester. I’m still taking Photo lab, and the next half of my awesome Art History class where we go to the Louvre weekly. This semester, we’re doing basically from after Louis XIV to Impressionism. I’m taking another class at l’Institut Catholique, Intro to Judaism, but it doesn’t start until this coming week. I’m not sure what it will be like, but it’s the only religion course that I was interested in that fit my schedule. We’ll see if I actually learn anything new, and it will be interesting to see what angle the prof takes.

As I’m sure you were all aware, Valentine’s Day was this week. So, of course, Happy Valentine’s Day to you all! Rather, Joyeux Saint-Valentin! It’s funny because in the US, we have rather made it a day where you tell everyone you love them, and give all your friends little valentines, etc. Here, it’s pretty exclusively for romantic love. Which, again, whatever, that’s fine. Though I did have a lovely little reminder in the middle of the day when I went to get off the métro and there was a couple kissing leaning against the doors. The whole car watched and laughed as I stopped, looked at them (they obviously didn’t see me), and said, “Uh, pardon.” Took them a second. Then they registered I was there, laughed, apologized, and moved. I wasn’t sure exactly what the universe was trying to get through to me there, but I confess to being torn between being amused and feeling sorry for myself.

A couple less-interesting things:

First of all, I have to do a little shameless self-promotion. I’m in the process of trying to find myself a job or internship this summer. I would really like to get myself onto a film set for a real, serious movie, not a disorganized indie film where they don’t give me anything to do, and where I feel like I’m wasting my time. I’d also happily take an internship at a production company where I could have access to seeing how films get made through all that bureaucracy, etc. Or, even better, a production company that’s actually making the movies, so I could get myself onto the set or into the production that way. So, basically, any connections or ideas any of you might have would be very much appreciated. Thanks in advance, guys!

Finally, in case you didn’t know, I’ve been going a little stir-crazy of late, but I’m happy to say that this will end soon. Next week, I take on my first big trip of the year, and my first trip to a ‘new’ country. Next time I update, I will be telling you about Andalusia! Sadly, no Morocco, but Moorish Spain should be wonderful. And warm!

Also, just a reminder that you should check out my movies and books page (see link on the top right of the page) for recommendations. I’ve seen a bunch of movies lately, and I just finished Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo (I don’t know what to do with myself now that I’ve finished!), and I’d highly recommend and suggest most of them.

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