Friday, May 30, 2014

Talking to a Stranger

Last day of class. Today was another 6-hour stretch, so I didn't have time to do much today. Not that I really wanted to, since I was out all day yesterday. But I couldn't just go straight "home" after class, so I headed to the Eiffel Tower and sat on a bench along an edge of the park that it towers over (Parc du Champ de Mars). Just like I did Tuesday at Parc Monceau, I was going to stay there for at least two hours reading and people-watching. But then out of nowhere came a Senegalese gentleman who took it upon himself to join me on the bench, even though he saw that I was preoccupied, and start up a conversation. And it was like he had nothing better to do; he just sat there and kept talking and trying to get me to talk back. He was friendly and all and we had a pleasant conversation about various topics. But then he invited me for coffee, offered to show me around the city this weekend, and wanted to exchange contact info, and it's like Dude, I don't know you. I don't mind talking to a stranger if the conversation is interesting and I don't get any bad vibes or sense any alarms going off. But I also have no problem giving people phony aliases and fake numbers. I don't know you, man. So on the one hand I got two hours of unexpected French conversation practice, but on the other hand I didn't get to spend my time the way I'd wanted to. I was really counting on some alone time! The scene was perfect and Mr. Senegalese man kinda ruined it, nice as he was. Eh well. It's the Eiffel Tower. I can always go back.

 Bread and Butter [Paris] photos

Hokkaido + L'Île de Giovanni + Le Murmure (Thursday pt. 2)

My plan after le Louvre was to go see a movie, and I was originally going to take a bus to the cinema. But I couldn't figure out where the bus stop was and had hours to kill, so I wandered. I wandered through le Jardin du Carrousel and le Jardin des Tuilieres. I wandered along la Seine. I wandered across Pont des Arts, the "real" Love Locks bridge (I was mistaken about the one behind Notre Dame, which is Pont de l'Archevêché). Eventually I wandered my way all the way to the neighborhood that the cinema was in. No need for a bus at all, it turned out.

As I got closer to the cinema I couldn't ignore my hunger anymore, and it was just then that I spotted a Japanese restaurant called Hokkaido (or Lucy Hokkaido). It had two floors and looked really pretty from the outside, so I figured what the hey. Other than the fact that they sat me in a small corner right in front of the kitchen, I had a very pleasant experience. The decor is dark and simple on the first floor, while a large and colorful tatami room is on the second floor. The staff was very nice and the service was great. I ordered a special that came with 8 pieces of sushi, 4 skewers (brochettes), miso soup, salad, and rice. Everything tasted wonderful and was filling but not too heavy.

After leaving Hokkaido I headed for Forum des Halles, which houses the cinema that I was heading too. Above ground Forum des Halles is a large mall, but underground it's also a huge metro station (Châtelet/Les Halles). So it's super convenient if you want to eat, shop, and catch a movie in the same place, but it can be overwhelming when you're trying to get somewhere and have to change lines there. Anywho, I went into the cinema (UGC Ciné Cité Les Halles) and bought my ticket to see the Japanese film L'Île de Giovanni (or Giovanni's Island, originally ジョバンニの島). The entire film is a flashback of the post-WW2 Soviet occupation of the island Shikotan, told from the point of view of two young brothers. This film is without a doubt the saddest animated film I have ever seen. I hadn't even heard of this event, and seeing it told from a Japanese perspective was just heartbreaking. The people who lived on this island lost everything, and I mean everything. I won't lie and say that I didn't cry, because I did. I'll probably write about it more in depth at another time, but I would definitely recommend L'Île de Giovanni to anyone who has the chance to see it. Plus, since this film was in its original format with French subtitles, I got excellent listening and reading practice while watching it. I heard Japanese and read French, killing two birds with one stone. 

Since I'd accomplished all I'd set out to do for the day, I returned to the apartment. I was just about to eat something pre-made that I'd gotten from the grocery store, when I got a message from H inviting me to join her for dinner at this place called Le Murmure Café near where she lives. I was wary about spending more money than I already had that day, and I had homework to do. But I knew that this would be a good opportunity for me to be more social, so I went back out and met H at the café. As usual, we had a good ol' time eating and conversing. The croque madame and apple pie that I ordered were out of this world! Also, it was my first time eating a meal on the terrace of a restaurant, feeling the neighborhood's energy and observing the people around us. I'm glad that I went despite my original misgivings. Changing things up can pay off, and my day started and ended on a high note.

Bread and Butter [Paris] photos

Le Louvre (Thursday pt. 1)

Yesterday was undoubtedly the best day I've had since coming to Paris!

I had the day off from class because it was Ascension Day, which is a public holiday. Almost everyone I've met who lives here or has been here for a long time has told me this: You must take advantage of the time you have in Paris and do something or go somewhere new everyday. There's so much to experience in this city that it'd be a waste to stay inside doing nothing. So instead of sleeping in and staying in the apartment, I got up early and went to le Musée du Louvre, the most visited museum in the world.

I strategically arrived at le Louvre within an hour after it opened so I wouldn't have to stand in line for too long. To get into the museum I didn't have to wait at all, and then I just had to wait 10 minutes to buy my ticket. It's impossible to see all of the museum in one day, so when you go it's best to have an idea of what you'd like to see during that particular visit. So after getting a map, I made a beeline for the big one: La Joconde (aka The Mona Lisa).

It seems like every time I travel, I have a moment where I get really emotional because it suddenly hits me: Wow, I'm really here. Last year in Japan this happened when I went to Todaiji. And here in Paris, it happened in le Louvre. Even as I had to brace myself against pushy people in the crowd and my view was obstructed by flashing cameras and people taking selfies, I was greatly moved while looking at La Joconde. And the exact same thoughts were going through my head as when I was marveling at the daibutsu in Todaiji. I can't believe I'm seeing this. This is so beautiful and magnificent, I feel like I don't deserve it. Who am I to be able to be here, in this city that only some people get to visit, looking at a masterpiece that only some people get to see in person? God is so awesome. I was incredibly humbled, to say the least. After taking a few minutes to appreciate La Joconde I walked around to look at other paintings, but I couldn't keep myself from getting teary-eyed. Wow, I'm really in Paris. In le Louvre. This is unbelievable. And I just kept hearing Jonathan McReynolds's "Cannot Tell It All" over and over in my head. Being in that museum had a more powerful effect on me than I'd anticipated.

I ended up spending a little over three hours in the museum viewing La Joconde, La Vénus de Milo, the Italian paintings, and the French paintings. My last stop was the collection of  art from Africa, Asian, Oceania, and the Americas. Which, I might add, is one of the smallest collections in the museum and is considerably difficult to find (you see how they do us?).  And oddly enough, my favorite painting wasn't La Joconde by DaVinci, but Scène de déluge by Girodet. It's a heart-wrenching portrayal of a man who can't bring himself to give up his future or his past, and desperately tries to hold onto both at the same time. All in all, my visit to Le Louvre was more rewarding and refreshing than I'd expected, and despite the massive crowds it wasn't nearly as stressful as I'd thought it might be. I'm proud of myself for not being too intimidated to go on my own and cross such a big Paris "must" off my list.

Click here for part 2!

Bread and Butter [Paris] photos

"Great Black Music"! (Wednesday)

Today I returned to la Cité de la musique to experience the museum's current exhibition, "Great Black Music".  Ria had alredy been this weekend, and she was so enthusiastic when telling me about it. She said that it takes a long time to see and hear everything, and that it took her five hours. I thought that was silly and didn't understand why it would take that long, but I ended up being there for over four hours.

The reason why it takes so long to get through this exhibition is because they give you a lot of music to listen to. Instead of your average audioguide, you are given an mp3 player that allows you to interact with the exhibit. Throughout you will see numbers corresponding to songs or commentary that have to do with a certain artist, genre, or theme. You just select the number to listen and watch on the provided screens. And what's more, if you provide your email address, you can "like" as many songs as you want and the exhibit will send you a playlist of your selections after you turn the mp3 player in. How cool is that?! Technology has its benefits.

"Great Black Music" is divided into the following sections: Legends of Black Music (black artists from around the world that everyone should know), Mama Africa (music from northern, western, central, and southern Africa), Sacred Rhythms and Rites (including candomble, voodoo, santeria and gospel), Timeline, Black Americas (music by African-Americans, Latin Americans, and Caribbeans), and Global Mix. Obviously Black Americas was the section that I resonated with most, since it's the kind of black music I'm most familiar with. This part of the exhibition also made me feel really proud to be black. I was looking around and listening and seeing how much people were enjoying the music, and was like Yeah, that's right. We did this. This is just one of many awesome things we've given the world. 

As the conclusion of the exhibition, I felt like something was missing from Global Mix but couldn't really put my finger on it. Great Black Music's themes are strong and its narrative is really well done in the beginning and the middle, but something about Global Mix didn't leave me satisfied. I can't really explain it. But I must admit that Global Mix is the most interactive section. You've got the mp3 music and video selection thing, but then you've also got dance tutorials and virtual spray-painting and turntables. Overall, I LOVED this exhibit. You definitely get your money's worth with all the different artists and musical styles you get exposed to, and the ambiance is a lot more relaxed than in your average museum exhibition. Great Black Music is magnificent!

As I said before, I was there for over four hours and I didn't even get to listen to every single song they had available. If you'll be in Paris between now and August 24th, and you want to get as much out of "Great Black Music" as you can, set aside at least 3-4 hours so that you can take your time enjoying it all.

Bread and Butter [Paris] photos

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Wandering in Le Marais (Tuesday)

Yesterday I had class in the morning and afternoon (that's six hours of French total, back to back), so I didn't have as much time to go exploring as I usually do. But I still wanted to go somewhere new and unwind a bit, so I headed to Le Marais. Le Marais is near the city center and is one of the oldest parts of Paris. One of the teachers at my school recommended it to me, saying that there are quite a number of interesting shops, historic buildings, pictoresque parks and gardens, museums, and cultural neighborhoods (including those of certain Jewish, gay, and Chinese communities). I wasn't there for too long and didn't buy anything, but I'll give you a few tips just based on my observations.

I went down one street (Rue Pavée) and happened upon Le Square Georges-Cain, which is just across the street from the Swedish Institute. The square is open and you can stand anywhere in the garden and see the rest of it, so it's not very big. Still, there are a number of things to see. At its center is a bed of flowers which surround a statue of a nude woman. A path goes around the garden and its benches are arranged to face the statue. On the ground and along the walls of the buildings that border the garden you'll also find old sculptures that originally came from other parts of the city. Why they were placed in this garden specifically, I have no idea. But they certainly make this garden less than ordinary.

After walking around Georges-Cain I went back up Rue Pavée and turned right onto Rue des Rosiers. This street, from Rue Pavée to Rue Vieille du Temple, happens to be one of the busiest streets of the Jewish quarter in Le Marais. The type of establishments I saw the most were restaurants, bakeries and cafes. But they don't offer the sort of goodies that you can just find anywhere in Paris. If you're looking for good-quality Jewish pastries, pita, felafel, or anything else of the sort, Rue des Rosiers is the place to go. A bakery called Murciano looked especially scrumptious from the outside, plus its decor is blue which I really liked. And there was a line outside a place called l'As du Fallefel, which is apparently a big deal. I also noticed quite a few Jewish bookstores, so I would also recommend this street if you're interested in Judaism, issues that concern Jewish communities, or texts written in Hebrew.

After Rue de Rosiers wandered down a few more streets before I had to head back "home". One of the last interesting places I looked around in is a must for chocolate lovers. Maison Georges Larnicol is on Rue de Rivoli, and has almost any kind of confection you can think of. Chocolates, macaroons, chocolate covered raisins, chocolate covered nuts, some pastries, you name it. This would be a great place to go if you have a sweet tooth and have a penchant for chocolate.

When I have time, I would definitely like to go back to Le Marais so that I can see more. (I keep saying that I'll go back to places, although I'm not sure that I will. I'm kind of one-and-done when it comes to sightseeing. Plus my daily schedule will be different starting Monday. We'll see. But I digress.) Anyway, Le Marais is a must-visit that I highly recommend!

Bread and Butter [Paris] photos


On the phone with Ma today,

Me: "This is just too much. All the great people are leaving us! First it was Madiba and now it's Maya? Pretty soon there won't be any more great people left."

Ma: "Well... it was their time to go.  More will have to come."

When I was in 6th grade I did my year-end project on Maya Angelou. At first it was for no reason at all; I was vaguely aware of her as someone who's important but didn't really know why. Through that project I discovered one of the most wise and beautiful souls that has ever graced this earth. From my enthusiastic attempt to comprehend I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings in 6th grade she's stayed with me, like the grandma that I never had. Her lessons have been invaluable to me and I won't ever forget her.

Rest in Peace and Power, Maya Angelou.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Peace and Quiet in Parc Monceau

Today was a slow day, but in a deliciously soothing way!

After class I'd planned to go to la Cité de la musique, which houses le Musée de la musique. I got all the way to Parc Villette on the northeastern edge of city were the museum is located... and found that it's closed on Mondays. Since this is the second time this has happened, you may be wondering why don't you check the website beforehand when you go to museums? The thing is, I did! But I didn't see anything about it being closed on Mondays. So I'll just have to go back Wednesday when my afternoon is free again.

I tried to walk around the area a bit, but I wasn't in a wandering mood because I was disappointed about the museum. And to be honest, today was one of those days where I was feeling sad for no reason. So I took the metro back to my neighborhood, spent an hour snacking and watching YouTube videos, and then went to Parc Monceau. Parc Monceau is a not-too-small, not-too-large park just a few bus stops away from where I live. I passed by it last week on the bus and had wanted to go back, and I figured today would be a good time. I could get started on some reading I've been avoiding, maybe write a song or two, and be alone in peace and quiet without holing myself up in my room.

I rode the bus there and stayed for two and a half hours, and I'm so glad I decided to go. It was exactly what I needed. Parc Monceau is just quiet enough, with tons of beautiful plants and flowers, a pond, walking paths, plenty of benches, and a number of interesting statues. And there are plenty of opportunities for people watching, which is oddly therapeutic.While there I read a couple of chapters of a book called Évidences invisibles (Raymonde Carroll), which is an analysis of cultural differences and similarities between French people and Americans. I have to read it and keep a journal about my observations as part of one of my assignments this summer. It sounds like complicated and boring stuff, but I'm surprised by how entertaining this book is. I can read it without much difficulty, and I'm already starting to reflect on certain situations I've encountered while here. Thankfully I haven't had any great misunderstandings or difficulties with people yet.

After walking around for a bit, for most of the time all I did in Parc Monceau was sit while reading and writing. Yet I left feeling so refreshed, I wasn't sad anymore and I wasn't even disappointed about not being able to go the the music museum today. Everything was just as it was, and I was fine with that.

Bread and Butter [Paris] photos

Tattoos! (Sunday)

So in the States today is Memorial Day and all weekend people have been shopping and grilling and whatnot. But in France yesterday was actually Mother's Day. So my Sunday started with pain au chocolat and chouquettes that R-M's son and daughter-in-law had brought over.

After breakfast I went to ACP, and then I met H at le Musée du quai Branly, which is just down the street. The museum's slogan is "là où dialoguent les cultures" ("where cultures speak to each other/are in dialogue"), and its areas of focus are Asia, Africa, Oceania, and the Americas. It exposes visitors to aspects of the cultures of various indigenous populations in these areas, while seeking to avoid exoticism and orientalism.

Our visit was relatively short, but rewarding. For starters, we got in for free because we're younger than 26 years old. I love not spending money! Additionally, we went there primarily to see "Tatoueurs, tatoués" (one of two major exhibits going on there right now), which showcases the history and practice of tattooing all over the world. Why were we interested in this one, you ask? Because we're young, tattoos are popular, and the subject of the exhibit is a hot topic, you know. Same reasons why all those other young people were there, I suppose. (I also might get a tattoo or two within the next ten years, and figured it would be good to learn about what I'm getting into.) After getting into the museum we had to wait in line for over an hour to get into this exhibit. We worried that we wouldn't make it in time for closing, but thanks be to God we got in and had two hours to see it all.

"Tatoueurs, tatoués" is organized chronologically, with subsections according to theme (militarymen, prisons/prison camps, side shows) geographical location, cultural group, or tattooing style (Japan, Europe, North America, Polynesia, Chicanos/Latinos, etc.). On display are paintings, drawings, photos, videos, and artifacts that have to do with tattoos. What I appreciated most about this exhibit is that it makes clear that tattooing isn't just some enduring heathen activity that won't go away, but is a cultural practice (forced or voluntary) that predates history itself. Furthermore, tattoos have functioned in various ways: as punishment, as a mark of social status, as body art, as a means of telling ones story or paying homage to a person/event, as self-expression, as resistance. And on top of that, there are sooo many different styles and methods of applying tattoos! I had no idea!

The only thing I didn't too much like about the exhibit was that they had tattooed body parts (either real or silicon molds) on display throughout. There were portions of real tattooed skin and there was even a real, shriveled, tattooed arm! I understand why showing these items is necessary when discussing tattoos; in fact I applaud the  organizers for covering all bases to make sure the exhibit was thorough. But I just couldn't look at the body parts for more than a few seconds. Don't expect to find any photos of them because I didn't take any. Also, I just realized while writing this that Africa is pretty much absent. Don't know what that's about, but I highly doubt that populations in Africa haven't participated and don't currently participate in a practice as hold as tattooing.

The exhibit "Tatoueurs, tatoués" will be at le Musée du quai Branly until October 2015, so if you'll be going to Paris within the next year and a half, I highly recommend this exhibit. I'll have to go back sometime so I can experience the rest of the museum.

Bread and Butter [Paris] photos

Saturday, May 24, 2014

True dat.

Via Kim Katrin Milan's FB page:


Today I visited le Château de Versailles with the other people in my program. It was an outing that the program had arranged before we arrived in France. We took a train from Paris to Versaille, walked to the château, then went exploring in it for a couple of hours. We were supposed to visit le Jardin de Versailles too, but I'll tell you how that went in a second.

The château is enormous and beautiful and historic and so on. Sorry, I really can't describe it any differently than I'm sure tons of people already have. It is definitely a sight to see. Le Château de Versailles is known primarily as Louis XIV's (the Sun King, the absolute monarch) castle, and looking around I just kept thinking, Wow, the royal court and family must have really lived it up here. And they must've had a lot of money and time on their hands. See the photos for yourself. As to be expected, the place was full of tourists from all over the world. Judging from the languages I was able to make out, there were visitors from France, Spain, Portugal, Korea, China, and the US. I'm sure there were many others though.

Now, about the garden. We got our tickets to enter (you need one ticket to enter the castle and a separate one for the garden), and E and H went in ahead of me while I went in search of a restroom. When I came back they met me at the entrance, and we all left the castle grounds to find something to eat. We opted for a restaurant called Le Lyautey, and I ordered lasagna with a green salad and pineapple juice. I don't know why the reviews are so lackluster for this place; everything I ate was delicious. No doubt all food tastes better when you're starving, but for real, I was surprised by how delicious it all was. And the portions! That's one of the things I've come to appreciate most about
France. When you order food, you get just enough. The purpose of eating is to be satisfied, not to stuff yourself silly.

The only picture I got to take while in the gardens
After finishing our meals we returned to the garden and I kid you not, we were there all of five minutes when it started raining. Now that didn't bother me much, but apparently E and H were allergic to wind and water, because they insisted on walking back to the station to return to Paris. And I didn't want to have to go back alone, so I left with them. I was so frustrated and disappointed, though I tried not to show it. I paid for château AND gardens, we all did! Not going through le Jardin de Versailles meant not only missing an opportunity to experience more beauty and history, but it also meant wasted money. And sure I have time to go back to Versaille to see the gardens, but the point is that I don't like wasting money. I don't Ma don't got it like that! And what do you know, by the time we pulled away from the train station, it had stopped raining. Quel dommage.

But! With bad always comes good, immediately or eventually. When I got back to the apartment my host mom R-M was cleaning and going through the hundreds of random things she has, and she kept giving me stuff. She gave me a pair of earrings, some rare ceramic thing made in France, and a carved elephant figurine. When she was done she said, "Sometime while you're here you need to tell me what kinds of things you like, so I can tell you where to get them. Or I could just give them to you, you know I have so much stuff here, it's no big thing." I was surprised, confused, and thankful all at the same time. Haha.

Bread and Butter [Paris] photos

The "How Stuff Works" Museum (Friday)

Also known as le Musée des arts et métiers. (FYI no one actually calls it the "how stuff works" museum. That's just how I've chosen to describe it.)

For my afternoon class yesterday we did a guided tour/scavenger hunt in this museum.  E went on Thursday and didn't really like it, so I thought I might be bored. But I actually really enjoyed Arts et Métiers! It's attached to a church because the museum used to be a monastery. At some point they decided to use part of the building as an institute to train future engineers and scientists, and now the entire building functions as a museum and technical institute (the church is no longer a functioning church but serves as part of the museum). Inside there's a huge collection of all these different contraptions (most of which invented, developed, or improved upon by French people, of course) that served as models for all kinds of things we use today. Clocks, calculators, weights and measures, musical instruments, transportation, globes, thermometers, methods of communication, cameras and video cameras, food packaging, even the Statue of Liberty! If you are an engineer, chemist, physicist, are are just interested in how things work, this is the museum to go to when you come to Paris. I don't even like math or science and I found what I learned to be fascinating.

Also, a note about the group I was with. My fellow students in this afternoon class are all au pairs who've been here since September and return to their respective countries in July. They come from the US, Canada, Germany, Poland, Indonesia, and Australia. They're all girls my age and they seem nice. One in particular that I got along with well is a tall, kind, half-Togolese German girl (let's call her Ria). I asked her why she decided to come to Paris as an au pair, and she said that this is part of a gap year she's taking to help her figure out what she wants to do next. She said that taking gap years is actually pretty common among German secondary school graduates like herself.

After the museum I was starving because I hadn't had time to grab lunch between my morning and afternoon classes. So I headed "home" and happened upon a pizza place called Tablapizza. I was nervous at first when I walked in because I hadn't eaten at a restaurant by myself before. What to say? How to carry myself? Won't it be awkward by myself? Won't it be too expensive anyway? You could say I'd been avoiding it. But I ended up having a great dining experience. The food was great, the staff was pleasant, the restaurant was nearly empty with upbeat music, and I had a great view of Place de Clichy (aka my hood). And I call it a pizza place, but what they serve is certainly not anything like your ordinary American pizza. I ordered a carré normand, which is a square pizza-like dish with ham, onions, potato, cheese and some other stuff. It was delicious, but a little too heavy for my liking. I would definitely recommend it, though. I also had cheesecake in a jar and a bottle of Orangina. I left Tablapizza more than satisfied!To tell the truth it's the most I've eaten in one sitting since I got here.

Bread and Butter [Paris] photos

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Two Gardens, a Museum, and a Mosque (pt.2 - Thursday)


Today it was back to the regular morning class schedule. H and myself ate lunch at Cojean as usual, then headed to le Jardin des Plantes. Our respective instructors had recommended this botanical garden and the nearby La Grand Mosquée de Paris to us yesterday, so we figured why not? We walked through le Jardin des Plantes first, and were surpised to find how spacious, calm, and beautifully groomed it was. With lots of paths, seating, and shade, it's the perfect place to go for a walk or run, read a book, spend time talking with a friend or lover, or just sit and reflect on life. There are also numerous facilities there, including la Ménagerie (a small zoo), and le Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle.

We took our time perusing the garden, and then we went across the street to visit La Grande Mosquée de Paris. Well, we didn't actually go through the mosque but we sat in its cafe for a while. The first floor of the mosque has an outdoor cafe and an indoor restaurant, with a room to buy pastries in between. Neither of us were hungry, so we both opted for a cup of thé à la menthe in the cafe. It was absolutely perfect! I'd never had it before so I had nothing to judge it by, but it was so much more delicious than I'd expected. Surprisingly sweet, and the mint not too strong. Perfect, as far as I'm concerned.

H decided to go home from there, but I still wanted to do something. My "host mothers" (I've come to consider M like another host mom), and the two instructors I've met at school have all insisted that the best way to get to know Paris and have great experiences in it is to just se balader.That is, to walk, go for a stroll, or wander. So I headed to Place de la Bastille and did just that. I saw la colonne de Juillet and l'Opéra Bastille of  course, but then I wandered a bit and didn't find anything interesting. However, I turned down a rue Saint-Antoine and happened upon one of the most beautiful things in the world─a bookstore! This particular little yet well-stocked bookstore is called Librairie La Belle Lurette. I only went through one half of it because I came across its section of Asian literature and that was it for me, haha. But seriously, I was very impressed by the variety of written treasures that they had to offer! Before leaving I bought a copy of Une langue venue d'ailleurs by Akira Mizubayashi. It's about his experience figuring out his identity though reconciling his love for French language/culture with his attachment to his native Japanese.

So  I guess my host moms and instructors were right. I tend to prefer having a plan, a schedule, structure, control, order, a reason. BUT! It turns out wandering can be rewarding too.

Bread and Butter [Paris] photos

Two Gardens, a Museum, and a Mosque (pt.1 - Wednesday)

As of yesterday I've been in Paris for a week! And I'm taking it day by day. Of course I still have moments where I feel unsure or out of place, but then I just remind myself, "You're here, and you're doing it already." That I am.


The last two hours of class yesterday consisted of  a cultural excursion to le Jardin du Musée Rodin. The garden is full of various beautiful plants and flowers of course, but it also holds numerous important and well-known sculptures made by Rodin. I was vaguely aware of the artist before, but until yesterday I hadn't realized how much of a master of detail he was. His interpretations of the human form are so realistic! And his depiction of people in various states of torment, anguish, loss, desperation, and shame are incredibly moving. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the garden. My favorite sculpture was Porte de l'Enfer (The Door to Hell). 

Our group toured the entire garden and then we sat in its cafe for some hot chocolate and conversation. Then we all went our separate ways since the day's class period was over. After eating lunch with E and H at Cojean, I returned to le Centre Pompidou with E since it'd been closed the day before. First we visited an exhibition dedicated to the works Henri Cartier-Bresson spanning from the 1920s to the 1970s. He had so many hats during his lifetime that I'd prefer not to reduce him to a simple label, but for the most part he was a photographer. He traveled all over the world capturing the essence of life in various places and his work includes themes such as poverty, leisure, political engagement, economic crisis, cultural traditions/rituals, and world events seen from ordinary people's perspective. I couldn't pick a favorite photo or drawing because the entire exhibit was magnificent.

Next stop was the other major exhibition, dedicated to the works Martial Raysse from the 1960s to the present.  Like Henri Cartier-Bresson, Raysse did a little bit of everything. But while his specialties were sculpture and painting, while Cartier-Bresson dealt mostly with photography, drawing, and film. Another difference I noticed is that while most of Cartier-Bresson's work is in black-and-white, Raysse's work is FULL of color. It pops, and it is also more interactive and weird (in a delightful way). I thoroughly enjoyed this exhibition as well. The piece that I appreciated the most was a painting entitled Diane des terrains Vagues (Diana of the Wastelands).

After leaving that exhibition we started to go through the actual museum (le Centre Pompidou also contains Le Musée national d’art moderne/MNAM). But we underestimated how massive it was. By then we'd already been in the building for three hours, we were all art'd out, and we both had other things to do, so we left without seeing all of it. I certainly wouldn't mind going back to see the rest though. Not only are there many odd, striking, moving, and thought-provoking pieces in le Centre Pompidou, but the view of the rest of the city from the top is fantastic!

Overall, a day well spent getting exposed to various forms of art. What I've always loved about art is that you can find a way to appreciate it even if you don't "get it" or haven't studied it.

Click here for part 2!

Bread and Butter [Paris] photos

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Making my rounds (Monday and Tuesday)

Nothing much to report about yesterday and today, but here goes.

At school the class from Friday was split up according to each student's level, so yesterday was my first day in my assigned class. There are two other students besides myself: one of the students in my internship program (let's call him E), and a young lawyer from Brazil who's lived in Paris for six months. Our instructor's name is V. V is a little intense and the grammatical material we're going over is challenging, but overall I really like the course! I'm constantly learning new things, my fellow students are pleasant, and V has a great sense of humor.

After class yesterday E and I stopped at the usual spot for lunch before heading to Jardin du Luxembourg. It's the second largest public park in Paris, it was created and gradually modified by various monarch's. Today, the Palais du Luxembourg is where the French Senate meets. We walked around about half of the park before leaving.

E had something to do so we parted ways. But I really wanted to go somewhere else. So I went to le Quartier Chinois (or as we would call it, "Chinatown"). At least that's where I meant to go. Le Quartier Chinois is on the southeastern edge of the city which is an area that I'm not familiar with. Plus, it's not a huge tourist attraction so while it is marked on maps there aren't any signs to tell you the way once you get near it. So after getting off the metro in that part of town I went the wrong way at first, which wasn't so bad because I happened upon the national library (la Bibliothèque nationale de France) along the way. But I was eventually able to re-route myself and get to le Quartier Chinois. It's a lot smaller and more diverse than you'd expect. I'd say the busiest and most concentrated part of it is Avenue de Choisy, though as an outsider I didn't find much in terms of entertainment or sights to see. There is a mall, but I didn't go in. I was also exhausted and frustrated after such a long detour, so I just found a place to get bubble tea, got some, and headed back "home". I'm not sure that I'll go back over there, but I certainly don't regret going.

After class, me, E, and the other student in our internship program (let's call her H) headed to Centre Georges Pompideau. But alas! We got there and found out that it's closed on Tuesdays. So we walked by la Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris, which was nearby, and then visited the "love locks" bridge. I've found that there are at least two bridges along the Seine where people (tourists) leave padlocks, but the one behind Notre Dame is the most heavily decorated. People from all over the world leave signed locks here, either as a symbol of eternal love or in memory of a loved one. It was nice to look at.

It was raining by the time we got to the bridge and we didn't have anything else we wanted to do, so E went his way while me and H went ours. But we passed Notre Dame again on the way and I got the nagging feeling that I should go in. So despite the outrageously long line, I did. It's dark and beautiful and gothic and spacious and holy inside. Though I feel bad for the people who actually pray and worship there, because unfortunately it's also crawling with tourists. It's hard for me to describe how the cathedral is laid or what's in it because it was dark, I'd never been in a cathedral before, and there were a number of catholic images that I didn't quite understand. But I will say that walking around in it is definitely an experience that you mustn't miss. I walked around the sanctuary twice. Afterward I thought I'd get in line to go up into the towers, but then I thought better of it since I still had homework, reading and writing to do today.

Ahh, I have to keep reminding myself that I'm not exactly a tourist.

Bread and Butter [Paris] photos

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Finding Solace on a Sunday

Let me be very transparent with you. Last night I returned to the apartment with sore feet, feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, alone, and a little sad. Everything is in French. Don't know what to say to people anymore. What if there's no one to talk to when I really need to discuss my feelings? I don't know if culture shock is setting in or if I just spent too much time outside among too many people yesterday. Either way, I've been feeling a little insecure.

So today I decided to go to church. The American Church in Paris, to be precise. I've decided to push myself to do one new thing/go to one new place everyday this summer, and ACP was it today. Plus I figured that if I can't get rid of the insecurity and discomfort I feel being in this strangewonderfuloverwhelming place, at least I can take some time to find comfort through my faith. And hearing English spoken, that part's important too. The American Church in Paris is a Protestant church whose body has existed for over 200 years this year, and it has existed at its current location for over 80 years.

I took a bus and went to ACP's 13h30 Contemporary Service. And it was really nice! There are literally all kinds of people there, different ages, ethnicities, nationalities, you name it. Some are English-speakres but I noticed that others are not, so I wonder what about ACP attracts them. I'm sure each member of the congregation has his or her own reasons. Everybody there was just so kind! I thought it was especially cute how during the time where they welcome visitors, everyone greats each other with "Peace of Christ" (or was it "Peace of God?"). Senior pastor Scott Herr preached a message based on 1 Peter 2:1-10 and John 14:1-14 entitled "Like Living Stones". His message was about not being so self-confident and self-reliant that we keep ourselves from following God's way. He also talked about how Jesus's love is radical, and how as Christians we are called to witness to others and build bridges with other communities. Going to ACP today was the respite that I needed.

I might take more pictures the next time I go. Since it was my first time going today, I didn't want to disrespect the house of the Lord by treating it like just another tourist attraction. Also, I couldn't ignore the fact we were finished by 2:45pm. That is definitely not what I'm used to. Back home, Black Christians know: if you go to service on a Sunday and it ends in less than 2 hours, then you didn't go to a black church. Haha.

I'm feeling more encouraged now. Going to ACP today helped me to really feel that God is everywhere. Now I'll probably just spend the rest of my day in the apartment writing and looking up places I'd like to visit while in in this city. I know that it might seem that I'm wasting an opportunity to explore Paris on this beautiful sunny day, but I need time to decompress. Give me a break, it's only my fourth full day!

Bread and Butter [Paris] photos