It seems to take me a long time to draft blog posts. I am quite behind on catching up on my days, so I may have to ad-lib by skipping ahead sometimes. Just know that I'm having a wonderful time most of the time! The rest of this post was started over the weekend haha...
Just to get this out of the way and not to freak anyone out too much with details: the hostel I stayed at, although wonderful in terms of location, atmosphere and social potential, gave me bed bugs. :( It has been taking up a lot of my thoughts, and it makes me feel absolutely leprous. But I'll spare you my more grisly worries and woes. I bought some pesticide for the mattress/sheets/etc, and it's in the process of working its magic... Sigh. (10/6: I don't know if it worked 100%. I'm going to continue spraying the living daylights out of all my clothes and linens as I use them and hope I don't asphyxiate myself on the fumes...)
In any case, I'll do a quick rundown of other stuff I did over the past week!
Went with Elisabeth to Père LaChaise cemetery, where Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde, among other famous and not-so-famous people, are buried. There is a tradition of kissing Oscar Wilde's tombstone, so Elisabeth and I both went prepared with lipstick. As I still haven't bought a new USB cord, the pictures will come later. But I kissed the part of the tombstone that had this quote: "La vie imite l'art bien plus que l'art n'imite la vie." Life imitates art much more than art imitates life. I really connected with that quote. There are a lot of things from Oscar Wilde that have spoken to me, come to think of it.
Elisabeth left that night, but before she went, we had dinner and gelato one last time (the gelato was amazing ugggh I'm going to get so fat here - as I write this, I've just finished having part of a baguette with Nutella...).
As seemed to happen with each of my new friends at the hostel, when one left, another sauntered right on in to take their place. Not literally, of course; they are all amazingly unique people! And I mean that - I really enjoyed being surrounded by people with that traveler's mindset. Openness, adventure, etc. In any case, on Tuesday I hung out with Nelson from Guatemala, and we saw three of the most important churches in Paris - Notre Dame, Saint-Michel and Saint-Germain. I'm not a very churchy person, but it was good to spend time with someone new and see these important monuments. There are lots of random pictures of me around/near these churches, but... the camera thing. I'll get around to it soon! There's lots going on.
In the afternoon, I trekked to Massy, a smallish town about 30 minutes southwest of Paris, on the commuter train (RER). I was there to visit the apartment offered to me by Laetitia, one of the English teachers at the school I was assigned to. I still can't believe how lucky I am that this offer came to me out of the blue, because everyone else I knew at the hostel who had been staying there temporarily while they found lodging in Paris had been having a really tough time finding affordable places in the city itself. I had been looking too, but I was very stressed about it because no one answered my emails. It was tough without a phone (although I got one on my second day here, and it's been a life saver). In any case, the apartment and the town and Laetitia are all lovely! We arranged to have her pick some of my bags up in her car (omg don't know what I would have done without her car!!) the next day at the hostel. Overall, successes!
That night, I ran into Nelson and a couple of his pals from his hostel room, Megan & Pierre (Canadians) and Lee (American), and we all had dinner nearby. We shared some wine and I had some shrimp (it was kind of eh... I guess you can't win all the time with French cuisine! Maybe I should save the seafood to the southerners). Lots of food adventures as always! Although, now that I'm moved in to my own place, I have to say it's comforting to not be eating out every meal :-/
Nelson left in the morning and I said goodbye. That's the thing that sucks about making friends while traveling - you never know when you might see them again. But I met up with Lee the American for some breakfast and conversation. I can't tell you how much I have appreciated English as a language and, more importantly, as my native language, while I've been here. I'm sure I would feel the same nostalgia and possessiveness about any other language if it were my mother tongue, but here, I think the privilege of being able to speak it when I'm tired of French is the most amazing blessing. I have always had a passion for using my native language to its fullest potential (or at least trying), whether in prose or poetry or academic writing or other stylistic turnings. But here, my appreciation has increased tenfold, simply because speaking English makes me feel at home, or something like it.
After meeting with Lee, I tried again to set up a bank account (and failed - apparently I have to do it in the main town where I'll be staying, so Massy). But he and I had made plans at breakfast (which was café au lait and potato omelette for me, by the way :D) to do a bit of exploring. He was only in the city until the end of the day Wednesday, and he had had some recommendations from a friend who had been to Paris, so I met him up near the centre-ville (center of town, downtown I guess you could say? but it's not the same connotation) to try to find a puppet store and a few other esoteric things that had been on his friend's list. We couldn't find them, so we had ice cream (my favorite default haha) and sat in a park watching pigeons and small French children playing, and we talked about America, children, culture and media and stuff. It was a good time! The pigeons here are just as sad and decrepit as the ones in other big cities I know, like San Francisco and New York. You know: missing toes, bald patches, etc. There was one particularly sad pigeon at the hostel that I nicknamed Gimpy because he had one bum leg and he hung around the courtyard and flew into the bar to stumble around pathetically at least once a day. Hope he's doing ok. (He's probably not. :-/)
Then Laetitia came to pick up my stuff and drove off to Massy with it! We decided I would bring the rest of my stuff (backpack and guitar) to move in on Thursday evening. I was so excited haha. I spent the next few hours talking to Michael I believe (this enigmatic character, as I'm sure he seems to you all... unless you know the story), and generally loafed around the hostel. I have so many mixed feelings about that place now that there are bed bugs to consider. Ugh. Hopefully after I told them about it, they fixed the problem...
Ok, so now I am about a week behind. I may try to do some stream-of-consciousness rambling about my adventures at the school and with the students later today, but I can't guarantee anything haha.