Thursday, July 31, 2014

ドラマ (Dorama) Time! 5

The following are dramas that I watched while in Paris this summer, just to keep the Japanese language juices flowing in my brain.

アリスの棘 (Alice no Toge) - TBS/2014

'Alice no Toge' is a medical drama/whodunnit/revenge thriller that uses Alice in Wonderland as a motif to characterize the female protagonist and her enemies. Said protagonist is a woman named Mizuno Asumi (Ueno Juri), whose doctor father died at the hands of his peers during a surgery. His peers then manipulated records and the media to sully his reputation in order to cover up any wrongdoing. Determined to get revenge against the people responsible, Asumi changes her name, becomes a doctor, and joins the staff of her father's former hospital in order to pick her targets off one-by-one. She is aided in her mission by a former childhood friend Nishimon Yusuke (Odagiri Joe) who now works as a journalist.

The main plot and the scorned-secretive-woman/goodhearted-naive-man-in-power pairing is very similar to that of 2010's Fuji TV revenge and mystery drama, ギルティ 悪魔と契約した女 ('Guilty: The Woman who Made a Deal with the Devil'). With some important differences: The main character in that drama was framed for her family's death, and she actually kills a target or two or has them kill themselves (whereas Asumi only ends her targets' medical careers). The similarity between the two shows almost made me stop watching once I picked up on it, but I stayed with it because Ueno Juri's acting was just so compelling. While the female protagonist in the other drama made my blood turn cold, Asumi in 'Alice no Toge' impressed me with her controlled two-sided behavior and I was able to sympathize more with her suffering. Plus, this show more carefully explores the meaning, possibility, and limits of forgiveness. If you like a good revenge drama that's not too dark, give this one a shot. The theme song's kinda catchy too.

FIRST CLASS (ファースト クラス) - Fuji TV/2014

This is an underdog story set in the fashion industry. Yoshinari Chinami lives in the country and works at a craft store, all the while dreaming of being a fashion designer. Through a lucky connection she gets hired as an intern at Japan's top fashion magazine, FIRST CLASS. Little does she know, she's stepped into a lion's den. The nearly all-female staff of editors, models, and photographers is mired in jealousy, competition, backstabbing, lies, and, secrets. It's all about fashion and power. Nothing reminds us of this more than the "ranking" system that's in place. Each episode starts with the previous episode's ranking of characters, and then ends with an adjustment to this ranking based on the events that just transpired. Chinami tries her hardest to maintain her idealistic dreams and goodhearted nature, but eventually she learns to play the game and starts to resemble her rivals/bullies more and more as she climbs the ladder to success.

I'm not gonna lie, this drama is corny. And the slightly-off American English narrations just add to the cheese factor. I only started watching it for Itaya Yuka anyway. But I don't know... once I started I just couldn't stop watching! I got wrapped up in all the draaamaaa, and the episodes are so short that I always wanted to know what happened next. (At 35 minutes, this show's episodes are about 10 minutes shorter than those of your average Japanese drama.) Plus the ending theme song is pretty catchy and current. After some weeks the 10th and final episode still has yet to be subbed, so I can't judge the show as a finished piece of work yet. But if you like catty drama, and you're looking for something that's mildly entertaining that won't require too much brain power, 'FIRST CLASS' is it.

BORDER - TV Asahi/2014

This is another drama that I watched because of one actor, and that would be Oguri Shun. Not only is he nice-looking, but he's a brilliant actor, so I was looking forward to seeing what this drama had to offer. In it he plays a dedicated, idealistic, and ambitious detective named Ishikawa Ango who dies and then is revived after getting shot in the head. As a result of this incident he can see and speak to dead people, including the victims of the homicide cases that he investigates. He uses the information they give him to solve his cases in order to serve justice and allow these victims to pass on to the afterlife in peace.

However, his "gift" gradually takes a mental toll on him, and he becomes so obsessed with solving these cases and getting justice for the victims that he dips deeper and deeper into illegal activity in order to get the information and results that he wants. Originally I thought the "border" of the drama's title referred to the border between this life and the next, with Ishikawa as intermediary. But in the last couple episodes it becomes clear that the title can also refer to the border between good cop and dirty cop, between good/justice and evil. The show blurs these lines and casts doubt on whether these concepts are really so separate and opposed to each other. The progression of the individual episodes can be a little dry and swift at times, but it's not until the final seconds of the last episode that you really get what the point of this drama is. It's like a movie in that way. I definitely wouldn't call 'BORDER' Oguri Shun's best work, but it asks some pretty interesting moral questions that make for some good food for thought.

I wasn't wowed by any of these dramas, but if I had to pick my favorite for this round it would be 'Alice no Toge'. Ueno Juri's skillful way of interchangeably portraying bitterness and fragility made me a fan of hers.

Chrisette Michele!

Woot woot! Come December, I'll be going with Ma to witness this beautiful human being and #RichHipster in concert! Chrisette Michele is one of my favorite singers and one of my greatest inspirations, not only when it comes to understanding artistry but also when it comes to being one's authentic self. No joke I haven't been to a real concert since 5th or 6th grade, haha. I'm so excited!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

BOOKS! (Waiting for Gertrude)

Not long before going to Paris, I got this gem for 50 cents at my local library's used book sale. It's the only book that I read while I was in Paris, other than Évidences invisibles. This fantasy novel, this "graveyard gothic", is set in Cimetière du Père Lachaise where important people who've been interred there have been reborn (or "translated", as Richardson phrases it) as cats. It seemed a little quirky to me and I'm not really a cat person, but I figured why not?

Waiting for Gertrude by Bill Richardson

Richardson paints Père Lachaise as a caricature of the city of Paris itself: numerous numbered districts with varying reputations, a strong division between the cemetery and the outside world, and a hierarchy between members of high society (translations) and everyone else (regular cats). The story is told through letters, notes, and  poems voiced by various characters in their cat forms. These include Jim Morrison, Jean de la Fontaine, Oscar Wilde, Chopin, Sarah Bernhardt, Edith Piaf, Marcel Proust, and Alice B. Toklas among others.

Alice is the  main character and narrator in this story, who yearns for the day when her partner Gertrude Stein will be "translated" and join her in this afterlife. Thus, Waiting for Gertrude. She also goes to some pretty desperate and disturbing lengths to try to to bring Gertrude back to her. In addition to Alice's plot there are also numerous subplots involving the other characters. Everyone seems to be intertwined in a web of sex, death, unrequited love, memories, jealousy, mystery, and gossip.

Richardson's writing is extremely clever, with an impressive vocabulary and a penchant for puns. Despite not being what I'm usually into, this book is actually really funny! I was impressed. Waiting for Gertrude was published in Canada and I'm not sure if it's available in the States. But I'd say that if you can get your paws on a copy, then go for it! It's an easy, slightly-nonsensical read that will give you quite a few laughs.

Favorite quotes:
"What an aberrance, for words have always been my currency, my key, my passport, my shield. Words have paved my every pathway. Words, tightly woven, have been the net I've thrown to capture the world, and with words I have anatomized it. To use words to make sensible the life of the senses: that has been my purpose and mission, and I have done it, I daresay, exceedingly well." (p. 36)

"[F]or do we not diminish ourselves when we deny anything, however insignificant it might seem, the possibility of potentiality?" (p. 112)

On the Mend

My uncle (Ma's brother) had a heart attack two weeks ago. It was a shock to all of us, but thankfully he's been surrounded with loving and supportive people during his hospitalization and recovery. He's been home resting for over a week now, so I gave him a call this afternoon. He was actually on his way to have lunch with a friend, his first outing in a while:

"I'm not like your mother. I can only look at the wall for so long... and then something's got to change up!"

Glad to see that he's in good spirits and he's getting out of the house for a bit. I'm gonna keep praying for you, Uncle Rod!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


"Breathe in the words that your skin needs." 

-Bethany,  instructor for this evening's Yin class.

Monday, July 28, 2014


Here are a few emails and text exchanges that Ma sent me while I was away. Some are funny and others are reassuring. Enjoy!

May 15, the day after I arrived (email):
I just read your blog and looked at your pictures.  You have a very nice room.  Its spacious.  Your neighborhood appears to be nice too.  I'm glad your host family is nice.  That should be a comfort to you.  I'm also glad that you finally ate something as well.
Take care of yourself and stay prayerful.  I know by the grace of God that he will protect you and guide you, so you will be alright.
Well its late as usual for me and I'm going to bed now so that I can get up in a few hours to go to work.
Have a great first day!

May 18 (email):
After I got offline with you I read your blog on our trip to San Francisco.  Well done, Miss Lady.  Sorry it took me so long to read it.  I will always remember and enjoy our time together in S.F.  I look forward to taking other trips with you, if you will have me.
Have a better day tomorrow!  God Bless!
Much Love

May 22 (email):
Hey, how are you doing?  Everything alright?  I'm just wondering because you haven't written anything on you blog or posted pictures in the past couple of days.  I guess you are busy with your course work.
Please respond.

 May 26 (email):
Then, he called my cell phone and I saw it was him calling so I didn't answer.  Then, he sent me a text asking me if I had heard from you.  What kind of question is that to ask me, your mother?

June 8 (text):
Contact your father one way or another so that he can quit bothering me.

June 20 (text):
Ma: Did you get this?
       What about this?
       Checking. Did you receive this?
       Did u receive this?

Me: Yes, goodness! Stop spamming me please.

Ma: Ok. Just seeing if u can receive my texts.

June 26 (text):
You have to hang in there. Find things to do to keep your mind off things. Try not to let things bother you. I know that is easier said than done but that is what you have to do. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Things People Give Me #12 (Paris Edition!)

I'm pretty sure that I've mentioned all of these gifts individually, but I wanted to take a moment to express my gratitude again for all that I received while I was in Paris. Who knew that the French people I got to know would be so generous!


Thanks to R-M for these earrings, this elephant figurine, and this ceramic thingamajig made in Limoges!

Thanks to M and R-M for these clothes and accessories, respectively!

Thanks to my boss at La Métisse for giving me all these CDs!

Thanks to R for giving me this book!

Thank you all for your generosity and kindness! I hadn't expected to receive anything from anyone before I'd gone to Paris, but I ended up coming back home with all of these new personal treasures. Merci à tous!


I'm back in the Mitten! At my mom's house, satin bonnet on, watching my dog snooze and everything, haha. Praise God that I made it home safely!

I won't even go into all the craziness I had to go through at CDG to get here. After bidding farewell to M I took a taxi from the apartment to l'Opera, and then the RoissyBus the rest of the way to CDG. And once I got there, well... let's just say it was only by the grace of God that I didn't miss my flight. But whatever, what matters most is that I made it!

Ma was waiting for me at DTW just like last time, and while being with her again has filled me with a sense of joy and relief, I don't know whether I'm glad to be home or not yet. Either way, I'm here now. And I've got a lot of work to do! Get active again, write papers, figure out what my next step in
life is going to be after I graduate... lots of work to do. After the past two and a half months I've spent in Paris, I feel really empowered. I didn't think I'd be able to do it, but I did! I'm proud of myself and I'm so much more aware of my capabilities and the possibilities that lay ahead of me than I was before.

So here's to a month of balanced productivity, relaxation, and reflection before senior year officially starts! Thanks for following my journey in Paris this summer.

Bread and Butter [Paris] photos - JULY
Bread and Butter [Paris] photos - JUNE
Bread and Butter [Paris] photos - MAY

Friday, July 25, 2014

Bird Poop

Walking "home" from work for the last time this evening, taking a few last looks at my neighborhood, reflecting on all that's happened the past two and a half months... and a bird poops in my hair while flying over. Good luck sign?

Last Day in Paris.

The day went by quickly today at work and I was so pleased about it! I was counting down the hours, and then 18h came around I was soooo happy! I'M FREE! I'M DONE! I'M OUT OF HERE!

I'd already packed up my stuff and was turning off the computers that I'd been using when my boss came up to me proposing that we drink some cidre together. My first answer was "no thanks" because: 1) Though my tolerance has improved, I still prefer not to drink alcohol. And 2) I thought he meant going to a bar together to drink, and that's a no-no for me. As far as I'm concerned, Boss = boss. Boss ≠ buddy. But then he explained to me that we were all going to drink a bit together before leaving the office and locking up for the day. I found out that he and another employee Chris had planned this in advance, taking special care to buy cidre with a low alcohol content so that I would drink it. So then I was like Ohhh, okay. Sure. 

The five of us (me, my boss, Chris, Cyn and Cyn's boyfriend) gathered in the lobby to sit, chat and share a drink together. And they were right, there was hardly any alcohol taste to the cidre. But while everyone else was dismissing it saying, "This is nothing but apple juice," I thought it was just right. My boss and Chris went back and forth telling stories, and then somehow they got on the subject of traveling to their home countries (Martinique and Guyane, respectively). Suddenly my boss was like, "Speaking of which..." and then before I knew it he was taking out a bottle of rum while Chris took out a lime and a  bottle of liquid cane sugar. They concocted some sort of special drink that's supposedly a staple where they come from and served some to each of us (giving me the littlest amount possible, haha). It was strong but sweet! I was surprised that I liked it. After taking pictures, chatting some more, saying goodbye and receiving their well wishes, I left a full two hours later than I'd planned. But it was all good. I know that there were many times that I resented having to go to work everyday, doing some of the same things over and over, and facing so many linguistic and cultural challenges. However, I really am grateful to these folks for being so kind to me and teaching me so many things. Merci à tous!

My next stop was a Japanese restaurant in my neighborhood called Yamato. It was average as far as Japanese restaurants go, and I probably could've made my last dinner in Paris really special if I'd given it some thought. But for some reason I'd been drawn to this restaurant. Once I was seated and started eating I figured out why. For one thing, Japanese food is one of my favorites! And after the summer I had last year, eating it makes me feel nostalgic. For another thing, I got a prime view of the neighborhood that I never took the time to appreciate because I was always just passing through. The grocery store that's been keeping me alive all this time, the shop where I bought my souvenirs... places I'd gone into or passed by numerous times but had never really gotten a good look at. It was a really humbling moment for me because I was looking out the window realizing that I'm not going to see this place again, at least not for the time being...

I've been given so much during my time here, and I won't forget any of it. Part of me would love to stay longer, but unfortunately it's time for me to go. Bye. Au revoir.

Bread and Butter [Paris] photos - JULY
Bread and Butter [Paris] photos - JUNE
Bread and Butter [Paris] photos - MAY

CdO again + An "American" Diner in Paris (Wednesday and Thursday)


On Wednesday night I went to le Caveau des Oubliettes for a second time. It was aight.

Ever since going with Ria a few weeks ago, I promised myself that I'd go back and try to sing there before leaving Paris. But I chickened out, to put it plainly. Plus my asthma's been giving me trouble for the past week, and I was neither prepared nor in the mood to perform in front of people. So singing didn't happen.

This evening's concert featured a singer/bassist by the name of Patrick Ruffino. He was passionate and skillful and all, but he was doing too much in my opinion. I honestly think he forgot where he was (hello, this is a tiny music space in the basement of a bar, not le Stade de France). He kept saying that we (the crowd) weren't hype or animated enough, and he kept trying to get us to sing lyrics in his native language together. I understand him wanting his performance to be interactive and to have everyone be a part of it, but his "this is MY show, y'all need to get with the program" attitude really turned me off. He was even trying to direct the jam session! The. JAM. session. Where each musician is supposed to get their time to shine the way they want to. But no, he insisted on having the other musicians follow his lead, while still trying to get everyone on their feet singing in his native language. You're surrounded by artists, man! Just let it flow! Geez. I don't know. The whole
thing wasn't terrible, but it was too forced for me. H and E came with me this time and they really seemed to enjoy themselves (E took the photo you see above, which is why he's not in it). I on the other hand enjoyed myself more last time. On a positive note though, I had a Long Island Iced Tea for the first time and loved it! Probably 'cause it was more sugar than alcohol, but hey.


During their regular office banter I recalled Louisa and Cyn raving at least twice about this American-style diner called HD Diner (Happy Days Diner). I wasn't really interested at first, because all the "amazing" foods they were talking about were nothing new to me. But ever since Louisa finished her internship I was thinking of something we could all do together as a last hurrah before I leave. So I figured, why not check this place out? So after work on Thursday, Louisa met us at the office and we all headed to HD Diner at Bastille. HD has six locations in Paris, but Bastille is the newest so we went to that one. The franchise has this pink-and-blue, 1950s American diner style theme and decor that's corny in a cute way. I ordered "The Favorit Burger", one of their most popular. Cyn and Louisa both ordered the "Colorado Burger". I was impressed! Never had a burger with an egg on it before (haven't had a burger in years, really) and "The Favorit" did not disappoint. The girls seemed to be just as pleased with their selections.

One funny thing I noticed was that they ate their burgers and fries using a knife and fork. I almost wanted to show them how it's done back in the States, but then I looked around the restaurant to see that everyone else was eating their food this way. Here I am, an American in an "American" diner, eating an American specialty, and I'm the only one using my hands. Such an odd situation, you've gotta love it, haha! I was cracking up on the inside.

I finished my meal off with a vanilla milkshake, and then we all took a picture together before returning to the metro and going our separate ways. At one point Louisa said something like "This is the last time we're all going to be together like this," and then I got a little sad. This whole week I've just been focusing on being done with work, like Come on now! I'm tired of this! I'm over this routine! Why can't it be Friday at 18h already?! ("Je ne veut pas travailler" has been my theme song this week.) But it wasn't until Louisa said what she said that I realized Oh yeah, that's right. I'm leaving. I won't see y'all anymore. Paris won't be all around me anymore. I know that's a little late to have realized the reality of a plan that's been in place since before I got here (Friday finish internship, Saturday go home). But like I said, my focus had been elsewhere up until that moment. Anyway, as sad as it is knowing that this was our last time hanging out for the time being, I'm really glad that Cyn and Louisa took the time to have dinner with me. Merci les filles! Vous me manquerez!

Bread and Butter [Paris] photos - JULY
Bread and Butter [Paris] photos - JUNE
Bread and Butter [Paris] photos - MAY

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Kebab + Beauvoir

Didn't do much today or yesterday. You would think that with only a few days left here in Paris, I'd be running around trying to do everything and soak up as much of the city as I can. And in fact, after coming back from Paris Plages on Sunday that's what I'd planned to do. But now I'm just like eh well. Besides the fact that running around like that goes against my homebody nature, I don't really feel like it's necessary. To be honest I'm kinda over it. Don't misunderstand, I'm definitely not eager to go back home. But I am ready.

Anywho, I went to a new spot for lunch today. Since I started my internship I'd been following the others' lead went they went to get carry out for lunch: one day Chinese food, next day pasta, repeat. Surprisingly I haven't gotten tired of it even all this time. But yesterday I walked by the Chinese restaurant and saw a sign announcing that it's closed until the end of August (it seems like the whole city goes on vacation once la Fête nationale passes). And since today was going to be Chinese food day, I had to find another option. So I chose a Turkish restaurant just a few doors down from the office, ordering their kebab sandwich with fries and an Orangina. No one else in my office likes to go there because they say the food is too fatty/greasy. My boss even had the nerve to turn his nose up and ask me why I was eating "that s---" (umm, rude!). But I didn't see what the problem was. This? This is "fatty"? This is nothing! Americans eat like this all the time, and a lot worse too. I actually thought it was great! As my fellow intern Cyn replied to him, "It can do a person good to have something gras once in a while." Thank you Cyn!

Later on my way back from work I stopped at la Libraire de Paris, a huge bookstore in my neighborhood. I'd already brought a few books with me from home, and then I've bought or received a few more during my time here. So I really don't need anymore to weigh my luggage down.  But right when I'd decided that, I remembered that I still didn't have the first volume of Simone de Beauvoir's Le Deuxième Sexe. I randomly found the second volume in a Barnes & Noble back in Michigan a few years ago, but I haven't read it because I wanted to read the first one first. And hello, I'm in Paris! Why order a French book online when you can walk down the street and get it yourself? So that's what I did. It took me a while to find it though. I looked in French Literature, in Philosophy, in Sociology, and Literature en Poche... and I found plenty of works by or about Simone de Beauvoir, but not Le Deuxieme Sexe I. I finally found it on the tiny, hidden Feminist literature shelf (yes, "shelf" not "section", what a shame). Relieved, I paid my 10€ and was on my way.

 3 full days left!

Bread and Butter [Paris] photos - JULY
Bread and Butter [Paris] photos - JUNE
Bread and Butter [Paris] photos - MAY

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Paris Plages

Following church this afternoon (so long, ACP!) I went down river to check out Paris Plages. Every year from mid-July to mid-August, a stretch of the bank along the Seine is transformed into a beach. They bring in sand and palm trees and everything. This event's title is plural (Plages) because there are actually two areas set up like this: one along la Seine and another along le Bassin de la Villette. However, the one that most people go to is along la Seine. I don't know how or why this event originally started, and with no place to swim it's certainly not very convincing to me as a "beach". But it's something fun and positive for people to do outside, and I can support that.

Rather than swimming, there's a whole bunch of other activities that you can do. This includes sunbathing, building sandcastles, playing table soccer (or "baby foot", as the French call it), participating in public dance classes, eating, and sitting to admire the river. There's also la Tour Bistro, a model of la Tour Eiffel made out of 324 red "bistro chairs". It was constructed to honor 125 years of the Eiffel Tower's existence. Apparently a little ways from the river bank you can also watch open-air films and enjoy performances from the FNAC concert series that's associated with Paris Plages.

This is only the information that I was able to gather from my own observations and maps that were displayed along the route. It's possible that there's a lot more going on as part of this event. Honestly I just went down there to check it out and say that I'd been; I had no intention of hanging out or doing anything there. So I walked along the "beach" from one end to the other and back, and then left. Despite the rain and humidity there was still quite a crowd, and folks seemed to be enjoying themselves and in good spirits. After having visited I have to say that Paris Plages isn't really my thing, but I would recommend going at least once.

Bread and Butter [Paris] photos - JULY
Bread and Butter [Paris] photos - JUNE
Bread and Butter [Paris] photos - MAY

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Boba + Baguettes + #CamClash

Yet again, there wasn't anything special that I wanted to do today. I'd been trying to read Évidences invisibles all summer, and I still hadn't finished it yet. So today I just wanted to go somewhere peaceful that had food, where I could sit and finish my book without being bothered. Since I hadn't had bubble tea in a while, I headed to Boba Tea Coffee on Avenue d'Ivry in Chinatown.

A number of reviews online claimed that this place has the best bubble tea in Paris. (This goes for both locations, which are on the same street.) Judging from photos it also seemed like a great hangout spot, with its colorful decor, open layout and working TV. When I got there, I realized that Boba Tea Coffee was just what I'd had in mind! Steady flow of people but not too many, music videos playing on the NRJ channel, and enough noise to keep me awake (I can't focus when it's silent). So I was pleased before I'd even ordered anything. Speaking of which, I chose their kiwi-flavored black milk tea and their jambon yakitori, which is basically a ham and cheese panini with soy sauce. I'm not a boba connoisseur so I couldn't tell you if it was in fact the best in the city or not. I can tell you that it beyond satisfying, though! And the jambon yakitori hit the spot. Absolutely no complaints here.

I was at Boba Tea Coffee for nearly 4 hours reading and people watching. At one point a woman asked to join me at my table while waiting for her order. She was black,  forty- or fifty-something, extremely knowledgeable, and on sabbatical. She told me that her name was Maï. She struck up a conversation with me and we ended up talking for about an hour about current events, our experiences, traveling, the difficulties of learning languages, French and American cultural differences, yoga as a spiritual practice, and so on. She was so nice, and she had quite the reassuring laugh. Before leaving she insisted on giving me her name, number, and address. She told me that if I'm too busy this week (since I'm leaving), I can contact her whenever I'm back in France. "Even if that's like 10 or 20 years from now." Yeah, I know. I still can't believe that happened. Like really, how often do genuinely nice people come out of nowhere like that?

I stayed until I'd finished my book (hurray!) and then walked up and down Avenue d'Ivry before heading back "home". I realized that this was the kind of area I'd been looking for when I went to Chinatown the last time. Last time I was on avenue de Choisy, which has plenty of markets, restaurants and some shops, but doesn't have much going on. On the other hand, avenue d'Ivry is busier and more  geared toward visitors/tourists. Mind you I'm not saying one is better than the other; they're just different.

Before I'd left this afternoon M had asked me to get baguettes while I was out. I stopped at the bakery near us on my way back, and asked for two baguettes. Not only did they give me one for free, but I only ended up paying 190 in total. "Because it's soldes," the lady told me. For people who don't know, les soldes is a period in the summertime during which stores all over France lower their prices and have special sales. The closest thing I can compare it too is Black Friday, except it lasts 5 or 6 weeks and doesn't appear to be as shameful of a custom. I've also heard that Boxing Day is pretty similar. The thing is though, soldes mostly applies to clothing, accessory, and merchandise stores. I didn't know that boulangeries were in on it too! So yeah, today I got 3 baguettes for 1€90. Not bad at all!

I returned to the apartment to find M watching a show called '#CamClash', a hidden camera series in which unknowing people are put in difficult situations, while actors try to . Each episode has a different theme, and this one's was "Le serveur homophobe", where an actor posed as a waiter trying to force his anti-gay views on his patrons. The purpose of 'Cam Clash' is to see how people will react to what's going on and to encourage people to discuss the social issues that are related to the theme at hand. It's the same format as ABC's "What Would You Do?" in the States. Except this version is slightly more interesting to me because I'm not as familiar with French stances on social issues.

Nothing all that special or exciting today. It was pretty chill now that I think about it. And that suited me just fine.

Bread and Butter [Paris] photos - JULY
Bread and Butter [Paris] photos - JUNE
Bread and Butter [Paris] photos - MAY

Looking Like Myself Again (Friday)

I wasn't in the greatest mood and couldn't think of anywhere to go, so I spent yet another Friday night indoors. Rather than just lounging around and wasting time on the internet, however, I decided to finally take my kinky twists out. I was getting tired of them, I wanted to feel refreshed and unburdened, and I wanted to go home next week looking like myself. So out the kinky twists went.


In Between:


Just when I was getting ready to start, I realized that I'd been stupid and hadn't brought shampoo or a single comb with me. All I had was conditioner, bobby pins, an elastic headband, and the oils I've been using for my scalp. Thankfully M let me use her shampoo, and helped me find a comb and a paddle brush in the apartment that would be sufficient. Not exactly what I'm used to using on my hair, but hey, you gotta be resourceful and make do sometimes! I'm just glad it worked out and I didn't have to wait 'til the next day to go to the store.

I started taking the twists out at around 11:30pm. That alone took about five hours, and after washing my hair three times and styling it, I didn't go to bed until after 7am. It was all worth it though! My scalp feels clean, and I feel more like myself. I think I can go into my last week in Paris with a clearer head now.

Bread and Butter [Paris] photos - JULY
Bread and Butter [Paris] photos - JUNE
Bread and Butter [Paris] photos - MAY

Merci, Claudia.

Was feeling down yesterday because a client at work called me fat (he made a joke about how I look "like I eat well"). Then I came home and by chance M introduced me to this dynamic comedienne named Claudia Tagbo.

Of course, I didn't understand every single word she said. But her jokes about hair commercials being unrealistic for black women and the trouble we have to go through just to keep our hair together were on point! Go ahead and give this video a shot. It's worth watching, even if you don't understand French.Thanks M, and thanks Claudia for being yourself and letting yourself be seen, whether people like it or not.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Repas d'au revoir/Goodbye dinner

This evening I was able to leave work early to go to a goodbye dinner held by the organization that put my homestay and internship together. I still have 9 days left to go, but some other students are going back home this week, so that's why we had the dinner today. We met at Le Café du Commerce, a 3-floor restaurant that's just a ways down the street from the Eiffel Tower. It's nearly a hundred years old and was built in the art deco style.

H was there of course, and we finally got to see E again after he'd seemingly disappeared for two months. But there were also a lot of students I wasn't familiar with from other universities in Utah, Iowa, and California. The staff who were there encouraged us to get to know each other, but everyone seemed to be in a "no new friends" kind of mood (myself included), so we all mainly just stuck to our school groups. I will give myself credit for purposefully sitting amongst people I didn't know at the table, even though we didn't talk too much. I actually spent more time conversing with the staff than with the other students. But anywho, despite the lack of mingling across groups, everyone seemed to have a nice time.

Thanks to EUSA for placing me and trying to ensure that I enjoyed my experience here! It didn't turn out exactly the way expected, but after getting over the initial disappointments I've found that that hasn't actually been a bad thing.

1 more week to go!

Bread and Butter [Paris] photos - JULY
Bread and Butter [Paris] photos - JUNE
Bread and Butter [Paris] photos - MAY

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Bastille Madness! (Monday)

Oh. my. goodness. What a night last night was! Yesterday was July 14, "le 14 Juillet", "la Fête nationale"! This date commemorates the beginning of the French revolution back in 1789, and is commonly known to anglophones as Bastille Day. It's kinda like France's Independence Day.

In the afternoon I met up with H to find ourselves a spot on le Champ-de-Mars. This is the enormous park/garden/ lawn that lies right in front of the Eiffel Tower. There was to be a classical music and opera concert ("le Concert de Paris") by l'Orchestre national de France at 21h30, followed by the annual fireworks show at 23h. We got there before 16h, nearly six hours in advance. H wanted to have a picnic, so we stopped at a nearby Carrefour to get a baguette, cheese, chocolate, strawberries, and wine (for H) before staking ourselves out a spot. And once we got our spot, we did not move! This might seem like overkill, getting there so early and refusing to leave our spot. But you don't understand how quickly the place filled up! Crowded doesn't even begin to describe how people were crammed on that lawn. Even as early as an hour and a half before the concert started, there were no more spaces left. I only went to relieve myself once, and I nearly had to fight my way there and back. (Ok, not really "fight". But it was a struggle! People don't want to move even when you ask politely, but then they get mad at you when you trip and step on them or their things. What sense does that make? You can't have it both ways, folks!) Anyway...

As I said, the concert wasn't supposed to start until 21h30, but the orchestra started rehearsal around 17h, so we basically got to sit in on an extra concert. Here's a clip of them playing the Star Wars theme song:

H and I spent hours sitting out in the sun and snacking as more and more people started encroaching. She'd invited two of her friends to join us, and fortunately we were able to hold onto their places until they arrived. One of said friends is an Italian guy our age named Navi, and he was hilarious! One of the first things he said to me after introductions was, "Welcome to Europe! And if you don't like it, it's because you're in France." I was dying!

We passed the remaining time chatting and playing cards before the concert finally started. I was so pleased to see a brotha named Lawrence Brownlee open the show. He sang with so much presence that even the director was watching him like, "Daaang." And to think he was filling in for someone else! Black folks be reppin'! My other favorite was an absolutely stunning rendition of "Duo des fleurs" from  Léo Delibes's Lakmé, performed by Anna Netrebko and Elina Garanca. It's one of the few opera songs that I'm familiar with, and hearing it sung so beautifully just made me so happy on the inside. It was one of the most moving things I've ever heard, and I teared a little bit.

The concert ended and the fireworks started promptly at 23h. But really I should say this was just a continuation of the concert, because the orchestra provided music throughout the fireworks show, while the Eiffel Tower changed into a variety of colors. The whole thing was outstanding! I definitely cried a time or two. I tried to fight it, but I couldn't. The display was splendid, the music was enthralling, and it was overwhelming to think about how I was having this experience and sharing such a joyful moment with thousands of other awestruck people. Before the show even started, La Marseillaise (France's national anthem) really got me pumped. Everybody was standing and shouting singing along, you can't help but be swept along in that collective feeling.  I even started to feel proud, and this isn't even my country!

It wasn't until after the fireworks ended, the lights came on, and everybody started rushing home that I realized just how many people were there. Funny thing is I'd chosen not to go the military parade that morning because just the idea of being in a crowd of over 10,000 people stressed me out. But at Champ-de-Mars I ended up being surrounded by even more people than that, and it actually didn't bother me at all. The only thing that bothered me was that I couldn't get back the way I'd planned. The metro was out of the question because that's where most people were heading, and the bus I'd planned to take wasn't stopping in that area because of the crowds. So I walked. Yep, I walked from Champ-de-Mars all the way to my neighborhood near Place de Clichy. Surprisingly I wasn't scared at all to be walking alone in the dark like that. I guess I was too exhausted, dehydrated, and focused on getting "home" to be scared. With the exception of getting lost for a few minutes and passing by a fight later on, nothing unpleasant happened. I was able to make it to my room at around 1h40. I'd been walking through Paris for nearly two hours.

I took as many photos as I could, but if you'd like to see the fireworks show in its entirety, the Paris city government has posted a video of it here.

Last night was probably one of the best nights of my life! Even with the crowds and the madness, I feel blessed to have been here in Paris for la Fête natonale. I'll never forget it.

Bread and Butter [Paris] photos - JULY
Bread and Butter [Paris] photos - JUNE
Bread and Butter [Paris] photos - MAY

Monday, July 14, 2014

Dog Tired.

After walking around Paris at night by myself (sorry Ma) for nearly two hours just to get to safety and escape Bastille Day madness, this is how I feel.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

RM's Birthday Dinner (Saturday pt. 3)

I came "home" to the smell of good food cookin'! I knew my host mom RM was the one cooking, so I went into the kitchen to say hi. She casually mentioned that she was preparing for her birthday dinner tonight. Today was her birthday and I didn't even know! In addition to M and R, RM's brother-in-law was coming with his wife, and her son was coming with his girlfriend and her sister. I was invited to join them, so that made nine of us altogether.
This dinner was very much similar to the two others that I've had with my host family in terms of order and the nature of conversations. I've become quite familiar with dining customs here. However, this time was slightly different since it was a special occassion. For starters, there was an apéritif (drinks and snacks/amuse-bouche before the meal) and a digestif (coffee andtea after). There was also a lot more food. RM made Catalan-style paella, and we had four cheeses to choose from afterwards instead of the usual one or two. Dessert also featured a number of options, including ice cream cake, macaroons, some small chocolate cake-like thing and another type of cookie/sweet biscuit that I wasn't familiar with.

And how could I forget to mention the alcohol? Tonight we had champagne, white whine, and red whine in that order. Yes, I had a little bit of each, and I didn't hate drinking this time as much as I have up until now (still prefer not to, though). The champagne especially wasn't bad at all. Tonight I think I finally started to understand the whole French wine and cheese thing. Because they can both be pretty strong for me and have scents and tastes that I'm not yet accustomed to, I'm not crazy about either on their own. But together? That's a completely different story. They make each other taste better! Or I guess it would be more sophisticated to say that they complement each other, but you get what I'm saying.

With all the eating, debates/jokes/storytelling, laughter, plate
 passing, clearing and resetting dinnerware, and moving between rooms, folks didn't leave until after midnight. It was swell.

Happy Birthday RM! And thanks for another fantastic meal à la française!

Bread and Butter [Paris] photos - JULY
Bread and Butter [Paris] photos - JUNE
Bread and Butter [Paris] photos - MAY