Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Memoires du Paris: Rainy Day

I lived in Paris in 2006. I didn't write this then, but this is compiled from journal entries and memories. I didn't check any of the French; it's all from my poor memory. Please forgive my mistakes.

It is just one of those days. As usual, I've dressed wrong for the weather here. Again.

When I peeked outside my 7th étage flat this morning, it was sunny. Coolish but sunny. But I have yet to learn that a few hours here means the weather can turn and now it's like a monsoon. And my little shoes are soaked to the bones.

Now I'm freezing. How do you say "freezing" en Français? Merde! I can't remember. Froid? And I'd thought my French was getting good. But my French teacher asked me a question I just didn't remember today. And she was pissed! Said, "What? I have to speak in English now?"

Then my advisor hated my research paper. Again. 50 pages of writing and she wants me to start over from scratch. It sucks. I just don't get what she wants from me. And she expects me to just know. A big case of cultural barrier.

I wrap my scarf up around my face and muscle my way down the busy street, trying to keep the rain out of my face because it stings like crazy and not get my eyeballs poked by someone's umbrella. It's miserable.

I can't even feel my feet anymore at this point, but YES there's the metro.  I swipe my carte orange rush down the stairs because I see my train and I really don't want to wait for the next one and damn it is packed! Fuck.

I wait a bit to see how many people get off and wedge myself in next to a bar. Not that I'll need it; we're packed in here so tightly, there's no danger of falling.

The tain reeks when it's packed like this. I'm convinved that's why they call Paris the city of love. Pheromones. It's hot down here, especially on the train. Everyone starts sweating and gets on the metro and magic happens.

Except that's not magic on my ass. That's someone's hand. Another Frenchman who thinks he's being sly on the packed train. I see your game, buddy. Careful not to make eye contact and still keeping a hand on my purse (in case he's a pickpocket), I scooch away from his hand. He gets my hint. Switches to holding the bar and inching his hand closer and closer to mine. Damn I hate rush hour on the metro. I keep moving my hand away from his, a little cat and mouse tango on the bar until I finally get to my stop.

Grands Boulevards. I like this stop because the walk home is interesting. I could take another train and get off on Cadet which is closer to my flat, but I'd have to change trains at Chatelet and that bites.

So I work my coat back on and my scarf and gloves and even though my shoes are still wet, I know I'm almost home. The walk from Grands Boulevards is lovely. I pass the best crepes stand in the whole city and contemplate indulging in one but I'm on a budget. Then my favorite boulangerie where the smell of baking bread wafts out and comforts my cold nose. Then the cute patisserie with the best marzipan I've ever tasted in my 26 years. Then the market, which I'm skipping today even though I need a few things, but it's cold and I'm almost home.

I make a turn at the pharmacy, pass the Indian restaurant and the internet cafe. As I cross the street at the Folies Bergères, I hop off the sidewalk and feel a little like Mary Tyler Moore. Then my cute little street: Rue Saulnier. Just a few doors down, the the mighty wood door to the courtyard.  I punch in the code and heave the heavy door open with my entire body and hold the door open for my neighbor who is leaving. "Bon Soir." "Bon Soir."

Then I sprint through the courtyard to the 200 year old building, through the door, up l'escalier du mort (so named by my roommate) and my thighs are aching by the time I reach the top (per usual). down the little hallway to my front door.

L'escalier du Mort

Andrea (yes, my roommate's name is Andrea, pronounced like Andre) isn't home, so I settle my crap down, open up my computer, open iTunes and start a playlist of French folk music, and get ready for a night of writing. I go to our miniscule doll kitchen to make dîner pour une. As des pâtes with creme de chevre and les tomates cooks, I open my bedroom windows (and love that they open out the old fashioned way) a crack and let the smell of the rain waft in. For the first time all day I'm enjoying it.

I peek my head out a little and let my hair get wet so I can see the light from Sacre Cœur. I can't believe it took us a whole month to realize what an awesome view we have. It's breathtaking. I can't believe I live in such a gorgeous place.

The view from my flat
Maybe my paper can be put off a bit. I open my notebook and scrawl out a poem. A poem about a deluge, partly in French, to challenge ma tête. I sink into the poem. Let it sooth me. Whittle away the stress of the day.

An IM pops up on my computer: Alice. Even though I'd been with her this morning, we'll probably spend the next several hours talking online and I won't get much sleep. This is the nature of our relationship. But it's comforting.

There are more and more days when Paris is kicking my ass. Why do I still love this city when it sometimes hates me so? I sometimes crumple at the end of the day and cry it out, consider throwing in the proverbial towel and going home.

Tonight is not one of those nights. Today was a challenge, but I survived. I played Paris once more at her own game, but at least I'm still in it.

Tomorrow I will wear better shoes and carry more layers since you just don't know what the weather will do. I'll study harder and not freak out when I'm put on the spot in class. I don't know what the fuck I'll do about my advisor, but it's just a paper and I'm in one of the most beautiful cities in the world so I won't let her ruin it.

I pull on my cozy socks that Lynnette sent me in a care package and settle into my small bed with my laptop and books. The sound of the rain soothes me and before I know it, I'm happy again.

Je suis heureuse.

13 comments mean you love me:

TheTraveler said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Love how you have captured the essence of Paris flaws and all.
Perhaps it's because I've been there a few times and experienced the Metro, being stuffed in like a herd of cows going to market.
Or the ever changing weather, that no matter how you dress, it's always going to be the wrong outfit at one point or another in the day.
And if only I had a euro for every umbrella that smacked me as I passed people on a wet street.
And those damn flights of narrow, steep, winding stairs, I find it hard to believe I didn't lose weight after navigating those everyday.
But then with all the bread, cheese, pastries and culinary delights, as well as the many friends wanting to cook for us, it's no wonder I gained 8lbs instead.

Thanks for this one, a lovely walk of memories so easy to partake of.

Shnerfle said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I. Am. So. Jealous.

I've never lived abroad, and you captured the beauty and the adventure and the fear and the plain old WORK that it must be... Or so I imagine.


Andygirl said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Zea- thanks so much! I got so teeny when I was there (had to be those death stairs twice a day) that everyone worried I wasn't eating when I got home. oh I was eating! hee!

Shnerfle- thank you! I don't know that I'd live abroad again but it was an amazing experience. well, never say never. *muah*

Anonymous said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Awesome post. I went to Paris last Christmas. I visited Sacre Coeur! Lots of friggin steps to get to that church, but what a view!

I remember how difficult it was writing a paper when I was studying in Australia. My teachers were the same way; they just expected me to know how to write like an Australian. And that's when I learned that paper writing in the US is not the same thing as paper writing in Australia. Hurray, learning curve.

But then again, my thesis advisor in the US was just like your French advisor: she expected me to understand her via osmosis or the Force. Both of which I can not do.

Think of it this way: those frustrating moments show that you've made a foreign place home. And then you remember that you're in freaking Paris, and the world seems a little brighter. ; )

linda said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Love your post. I just went to Paris in September and I loved it. I envy you for living there on your own. I would go back for the food alone. The food was even better in the south of France. I ate everything in sight and walked so much, that I didn't gain a pound. Such a wonderful place and a wonderful post.

Andygirl said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Colleen- exactly! I finally did figure out what they wanted out of me and it wasn't my writing skills. very bland, factual, succinct writing. hardest paper I've ever written. I learned SO much!

and oh yeah! Sacre Coeur is ALL about the steps. hee!

linda- thank you!! oh the food! I know. it's amazing. where in the South did you go? I spent lots of time there too.

we hate you. love, us said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

You...lived...in...PARIS?! Omg, that's my DREAM!!! J'adore!

I'm dying to go there. Chocolate croissants?! Shopping?! Oui Oui!

I'm a dork.

But really, that's amazing that you lived there.

Andygirl said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

hehe I did! I miss it terribly. if you ever get to go, do it! the wine, the food, the museums, the parks, the people, the jazz, and even the shopping (though I mostly lived at a corner boutique or H&M): it's all amazing. Paris is a tough city and you have to kind of earn her love. but once you master the city, it's home. mmmm I miss it!

Ali said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

One of my friends had a 7th floor flat at the same metro stop. We called those stairs the stairs of death too. One of my best friends and I stayed with him while we were homeless for two weeks, waiting for our lease to start.

Ah, Paris.

And it's a frozen wasteland in the winter.

Simone said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

this is a lovely piece. what an incredible experience you gave yourself. love that view. thanks for sharing.

Andygirl said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Ali- that's so crazy. such a small world. and yes it is!

Simone- thank you!

kris said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I have never been to Paris.

But I adore how you have managed to capture the sense of living there and yet not fully belonging. The joy of adventure and the bitterness of cultural and language barriers and misinterpretations.

And the view out of your window?

How could it have taken you so long to notice that view?

It's exquisite.

I want to go to Paris just to take such a photo from my window.

Andygirl said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

when you first get there, there's such a cacophony of experience that it takes a while to actually notice things.

but it was lovely there. and I miss it palpably.

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