Sunday, September 27, 2009

T'was the night before grad school...

Since last I wrote I have gotten closer to my bankcard, the federal aid from the CAF and figuring out my class schedule, but thanks to the snail’s pace of French bureaucracy I have few concrete accomplishments on all fronts. Life in France is a lesson in patience. I DID manage, with relative ease and little expense, to get a doctor’s appointment and fill prescriptions for meds I’ve wanted to be on for some time that were “tier one” and inaccessible to me in the States even with insurance—here they cost pocket change without any insurance. France could stand to learn from America’s work ethic, efficiency and customer service, but we need to take note of their health care. I wish Obama Godspeed with his reform plans.

This week, I: attended an interview session with Russian/French author Andreï Makine at the National library (seen below). Held my own at the Sorbonne (seen above) trying (unsuccessfully, so far) to force my way into an Arabic class. Got an impromptu afternoon beer with a French Canadian named Philipe. Ate out at a cute café in the Latin Quarter (seen below) with Phinn and her visiting friend Kara, who is on her way to a language assistantship in Pau near the Spanish border (someone to visit later, maybe?). Went out to a bar in the 20th with a group of mostly strangers and spoke French most of the time, taking the last metro of the night to get home. I have also been researching reading nooks for when my work kicks in. My favorite locales so far are the cosy, crooked reading rooms upstairs in the Blackwells-esque Shakespeare and Co. bookstore and pretty much any park as long as the weather holds out. I still need to find a café with cheap coffee and a calm atmosphere to claim as my own, but my search is an organic process and can’t be rushed.

I have an intimate relationship with music and I often have this feeling that the music that will speak to me at a particular point in my life always seems to find me. I can’t figure out if that is due to some sort of providence, or if the spiritual side of me just molds itself to the music I happen to be listening to anyway to create this impression. At any rate, it turns out that Indigo Girls and Rufus, who were my two go-to groups last year, don’t fit city life so well (although I must admit that I never noticed the “Paris was such a lonely town” line in IG’s “Heartbreak for Everyone”) until it seemed prophetic), and as I stroll briskly along the boulevards and jog up metro stairs I’m instead listening The Smiths, St. Vincent, Radiohead, Fleet Foxes, Phoenix and Rilo Kiley. St Vincent in particular is rather amazing—a female vocalist with some very edgy arrangements. Highly recommended.

In fact, St. Vincent was my soundtrack as I used my sunny Sunday to make my first
venture into the really touristy heart of Paris, taking the 1 line up to Place de la Concorde to stroll through the Jardin Tuileries and browse the Musée de l’Orangérie, where all of the Monets that were lacking at Giverney last weekend are apparently kept. Thanks to a new Parisian policy that makes all national museums free for residents under 25 (woohoo! I’m a bonafide resident!), my gaping at the three rooms of wall-length water lily pieces plus a good number of Cezannes, Renoirs and Matisses from Monet’s private collection came free of charge. They had a little model of Monet’s salon set up to show how saturated it was with the work of his contemporaries, all of which are now invaluable museum items. I love knowing that the impressionists (and really all waves of French artists/intellectuals…Sartre and de Beauvoir…Cixous and Derrida…) were all buds, exchanging ideas and paintings over digestifs and cigars. It gives me hope for what now seems like my lonely future with my head in the clouds; hopefully I’ll find some kindred spirits somewhere along the way to float up there with me.

I’m thankful to have had these few weeks of cushion to adjust to city rhythm and recharge after a stressful last semester and a draining summer. I’ve found that weird creative parts of my brain that I thought had died out are starting to glow again—I’m getting back in the pondering state of mind that leads to painting or writing, but I probably won’t have time to do to much of either. Classes start in full force tomorrow. I’m grateful but still a little mystified as to why I was awarded the fellowship that made this all possible, and I can’t help but feel like something grand is expected of me. I’m not sure I’m up to the challenge, but I’m ready to give it my all. Allons-y…

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