Freitag, 17. April 2009

old people and poop sense

I notice that throughout Paris there is a popular pairing of young folks and old. It is more then once per day that I see a young person escorting an older person through the street, listening and engaged. I don't know what this is about but I like it in a really big way. I dunno if they're related, volunteers, if they're good friends or golf buddies, if they're just walking together for that one quick moment that I see them, exchanging less than 20 words and then moving along, or waiting to steal their purses and run off quickly.
Also, when walking in the street in Paris, I keep my eyes to the ground to look out for dog doody. Often, on my way, I see dog doody in the ways of others. The thought creeps up that maybe I should shout out a warning and then the Parisians (seemingly without ever having looked down) avoid the poop with ease and suavity. Neat.

Dienstag, 14. April 2009

You are sooooo good looking

When I was learning sign language, I asked a Deaf person "what do you say when someone sneezes?" He looked at me askance. "I mean, what do you sign when someone sneezes?" His look was equally confused. "Nothing." He signed. "We don't do anything when someone sneezes, unless it's gross and they need a tissue."

When I was learning German, it was easy and automatic to say "Gesundheit" when someone sneezed. It was actually a bit embarrassing. One day, some one sneezed, I said "Gesundheit" and then "Oooooooh!" as I often did when using a word like that or "Kindergarten" or "schadenfreude" or any other word that I had taken ownership of through my learning and collecting of the german language.
In fact, I said gesundheit so naturally that it put off a fellow teacher in the kindergarten where I worked. She and I were the English teachers and, me being the native speaker, she deferred to me often in questions of more casual speech. "Jessica, we're meant to only speak english in front of the children." Of this, I was aware. Absolutely none of the children at school knew that this teacher is actually Swiss and simply speaks flawless English without an accent. "I know. That's what I say in the states, too." This teacher said "God bless you", something that I had not said in years and years.

In class, my french teacher was terribly polite and impressed upon us the importance of certain niceties while we are here in Paris. Answering and initiating pleasantries and the inclusion of Madame or Monsieur whenever possible, and so on. She taught us that someone sneezes we say "A tes sohuait." I asked what we say in the polite form and she told me not to worry about it. I pressed her again and she seemed please and told me.
The other day, when in a sparsely populated metro I was sitting next to a stressed-looking man, when he sneezed. "A ves Souhait", I said quietly while wearing my ipod. He was so pleased that he lightly tapped the inside of my elbow while saying thank you.
I liked that teacher.

Samstag, 11. April 2009

ack! kinderphobia

I was in the park today and it was gorgeous.
It's the Saturday before Easter and all sorts of families were dressed up for all sorts of religious services. They were lovely. Flowers were in bloom and they air was beautifully perfumed. An old man played hop scotch where a small girl had drawn a hop-scotch field (?) in chalk. I don't know why they make them retire early here. The man seemed plain ol' youthful.
I sat on a bench writing postcards when three young children started toward me. The young girl rolled toward me slowly and wobbly on roller blades. "Madame!" She had a flower for me. It was crazy. "pour moi?" I asked, terrified that she would require more french than I am capable of.
She confirmed that it was for me and while thanking her I put it in my hair. "It looks lovely!" She said and I thanked her again. Then child two came rolling down and as he tottered behind my bench he slipped and fell down. "D'accord?" I lamely asked searching my brain for any sort of comforting french phrases I may have in my brain. "Pas mal! Pas mal!" he repeated over and over again. At first I thought that he was saying "s'par Mal". Like he'd fallen a few times already. Then I realized that he was french and not swiss and that he was saying that it didn't hurt.
"C'est vrai?" I asked still feeling terribly dumb.
"Pas mal, madame, merci, pas mal."
Then came the third. He had no roller blades but some sort of helicopter that launches when one pulls a string and pushes a trigger. He demonstrated it for me and launched it over a small wall. Then he wanted to clamber over the wall and get it. I helped him and tried my best to express my absolute admiration for his helicopter, but I don't even know the damn word for helicopter. Grrr. Yet again, the little one didn't seem to notice that I was incapable of more than monosyllabic speech. Go figure!

Freitag, 3. April 2009

bad weather

I'm not complaing. For almost an entire week it has been gorgeous and sunny and warm, but I'm a bit dissappointed.
Every afternoon my brain is fried from foreign languages and that, in combination with being in love with the 19th and 20th, I stay around my house walking and reading in the parks. My mantra has always been "at the weekend, at the weekend, at the weekend....." I imagined myself waking at a decent hour and going to investigate the heart of the city at the weekend. Now it seems that the weather had not heard my plans or had plans of it's own. I remain hopeful.
I spent this afternoon in the 6th. I had lunch, had a stroll and had a lovely time chatting to the owner of the Tea and Torn Pages bookshop. The "tea house" part of the shop looks like the kitchen of an apartment and has one seat entirely covered by a verly large ginger cat. There is a large sign in the book shop portion which says "Untended Children will be sold into slavery." The owner of the shop was terribly interesting. She was born in South Amercan, spent her teens in the states and moved to Paris because she thought "it might be nice".
Tonight I will actually venture outside the city to have dinner with folks I met at the Unitarian church.

Donnerstag, 2. April 2009


I am most definitely an immigrant. Being in Paris and saying/feeling "I'm only here for a month" has a decidedly different feel for myself and others. For me, I don't have to find a level of sustainable homeyness. For others, I will be spending money here and then leaving.
After I was in Zürich for about 4 months, I visited Berlin, Germany. The vibe there was wonderful and when I saw the RISD originated Andre the giant sprayed all around, I though "This place is far more like the US than Switzerland is."
Almost one year living in Zürich, I visited Vienna, Austria. The Viennesse love of American Football, burgers, and large portions of greasy foods made me think "this place is a lot more like the States than Zürich is."
My time in Italy last spring left me free of any comparissons, so uique was the Tuscany.
Now I am in Paris and while the presence of GAP and Unitarian churches makes me chuckle, it's the reminders of Zürich that give me comfort. The "maccaroons" that look like big ol' Luxemburgerlis (they come in foie gras flavor), the "Mövenpick Switzerland" ice cream in the shops (Ben and Jerry's is more represented here than in Zürich, mind), the plentiful German labels and signs in the organic health food store. They all say home to me.
Home; a word that is difficult to define with each new language I learn.
Meanwhile in my french class a woman describes herself as German-croat and says that she lives in Paris, because she's got a 3 month lease here. I think that she may actually be more american than I.

Mittwoch, 1. April 2009

the city of lights

It's spring and the daylight is incredible. It reminds me of the first time of the year when the children would be picked up from the kindergarten and get home before the sun. Nevertheless, I've been spending my evenings at home so far. Never out later than 7, in fact. I may have a walk after dinner, but for the most time it's been early to bed and early to rise with a lot of walking in between.
Today is a week since my last operation and I'm thinking less and less like a patient. I was meant to meet up with a bunch of folks for an aperitif tonight, but it's been postponed until next week so my agenda is empty. I think that I should explore outside my neighborhood. I have plans to do touristy things with my classmates in the days to come and I'm in the heart of the city in the early morning and early afternoon, but I think that I am too in love with my quarter and need to go out and see more. In the interest of baby steps, I will go to the north west part of the city. I live in the northeast end and up to now have been no further west than tuillerie. I dipped my toe in the west bank area (not literally) to go to church last Sunday, but most of my time is spent in the 19tt, 18th and 10th. Time to get a bit adventurous, no?
Today is April fools day,which apparently is Poisson d'Avril. This answers the question that I had yesterday "what do sardine shaped chocolates in silver foil have to do with April 1st?" Apparently when one plays a trick on someone else, it is called une poisson, thus the fish. For example, my teacher tapped one shoulder but she was on the other side and I turned the wrong direction to investigate the tap "Poisson!" she said and giggled. Now, my teacher is a total dear and terribly enthusiastic and spends her days talking to adults as if they were children because our language is the equivalent of a year old. Nevertheless it was a pretty lame trick. Apparently in Australia, April fools day is only valid until noon. No tricks after noon. That seems about right for a country who have to celebrate Christmas in summer.
Today we did some tongue twisters or "les Virelangues"
par Example:
Un chausseur sachant chasser sans son chien est un bon chausseur

Le chausettes de l'archiduchesse sont-elles séches ou archiséches?

Being the big loser nerd who answers too many questions in class I'm going to practise these tonight and kick some ass doing them tomorrow. That's right, I'm lame. Monday evening I used a mirror to practise my mouth positions for "e", "u" "o" "eu" "on". I gotta get outta this neighborhood.