18 December 2008

Bonnes fêtes

I am a wreck and apparently I am supposed to leave for Amsterdam at 6 a.m. tomorrow morning. I haven’t packed, and I don’t feel particularly prepared. I also feel that I won’t be able to enjoy it in my current state. But I am working on it.

To clarify: I had to give up the New York Times internship. The rules of the Smith JYA Paris are non-negotiable, and I cannot leave the program before the end without losing all of my credits for the year.

I will get over. I know I will. It’s just hard to realize it now. Hopefully I can enjoy my petit tour of Europe despite my present situation.

Thank you to all those have been supportive during this difficult moment and Happy Holidays à tous!

16 December 2008

I hate this

I am beginning to learn that dreams are apparently just meant to be shattered.

At this moment, I hate Smith College and I hate France.

13 December 2008

Des bonnes nouvelles

Ça n’a rien à faire avec Paris ou la France ainsi je vais écrire en français pour que je puisse lier ce « post » à mon expérience parisienne. C’est à la fois un exercice de la langue et une opportunité pour montrer mes capacités françaises et pour vous convaincre que je peux vraiment le parler.

Donc, je vous raconte : je viens de recevoir des très, très bonnes nouvelles.

Jeudi soir était la folie. Après d’avoir eu un jour long et fatiguant de cours, je suis rentrée pour découvrir un mail et un message du Dow Jones Newspaper Fund. J’ai immédiatement dû courir au tabac pour charger mon téléphone portable, qui était épuisé depuis mardi, pour téléphoner aux Etats-Unis.

Le type au téléphone m’a rapidement appris qu’il voulait m’offrir un stage. J’étais très contente. Ensuite, les nouvelles s’amélioraient. Le Dow Jones Newspaper Fund donne des stages à travers les Etats-Unis aux bureaux de « copy editing » chez des dizaines de journaux.

À quel journal travaillerai-je ? Le NEW YORK TIMES, m’a-t-il dit. J’étais en choque. Je ne pouvais rien dire. C’est incroyable. C’est formidable. C’est CHOUETTE ! Le New York Times est le top. Je ne sais pas comment j’avais autant de chance, mais je suis ravie !

En outre, je n’étais jamais à New York. Un été à la ville sera incroyable.

En plus d’une petite danse autour de ma chambre pour célébrer, j’ai contacté ma famille et plusieurs amis par Skype pour partager les bonnes nouvelles. J’étais également contente de raconter l’histoire à ma mère d’accueil qui partageait mon excitation. Hier soir, j’ai fêté les nouvelles avec deux amies de Smith. Nous sommes sorties pour dîner et partager du vin à un resto préféré.

Maintenant, tandis que le choque et l’excitation se calment, il faut que je débrouille tous les détails, y compris comment je vais complètement convaincre M. Bloom que je peux quitter le programme et la France deux semaines en avance…

Des autres bonnes nouvelles : mon frère va arriver demain !

For those of you who are non-Francophone, here is a mild English approximation of the above text rendered by Babel Fish (hilarity may ensue):

That does not have anything to make with Paris or France thus I will write in French so that I can bind this “post” to my Parisian experiment. It is at the same time a exercise of the language and an opportunity to show to convince my French capacities and you that I can really the speech.

Therefore, I tell you: I have just received very, very good news.

Thursday evening was the madness. After to have had one day long and tiring course, I returned to discover an email and a message of Dow Jones Newspaper Fund. I immediately had to run to the tobacco to give the responsibility my cell phone, which was exhausted since Tuesday, to telephone in the United States.

The type on the telephone quickly taught me that he wanted to offer an internship to me. I was very content. Then, the news improved. Dow Jones Newspaper Fund gives internships through the United States to the offices of “Copy editing” at tens of newspapers.

With which newspaper will work I? NEW YORK TIMES, has it says me. I was in shock. I could nothing say. It is incredible. It is formidable. It is OWL! New York Times is the signal. I do not know how I had as much chance, but I am delighted!

Moreover, I was never in New York. A summer at the city will be incredible.

In addition to one small dance around my room to celebrate, I contacted my family and several friends by Skype to divide the good news. I was also glad to tell the history with my welcome mother which shared my excitation. Yesterday evening, I celebrated the news with two friends of Smith. We left to dine and divide wine with a preferred restaurant.

Now, while shocks it and the excitation are calmed, it is necessary that I clear up all the details, including how I completely will convince Mr. Bloom whom I can leave the program and France two weeks in advance…

Other good news: my brother will arrive tomorrow!

10 December 2008

Petit à petit

The last time I reflected on language here I was negative, upset and notably disappointed. But lately, I’ve been thinking back to my first French classes at Smith, or even my classes last year, and I realize how far I’ve come.

The mere fact that I had the courage to give an oral presentation in front of a class of French students is miles of progress from the days I would cry after Fabienne’s class because I wouldn’t and couldn’t participate.

I used to avoid my French professors’ office hours for fear that I would have to speak to them in French, but now, it’s commonplace that my advising sessions and other awkward interactions with Peter Bloom all take place in the language.

Even as recently as last year, I froze and suffered from mild panic attacks when instructed to discuss something in French with a classmate. Today, I can easily carry on an average conversation about life, classes, stress, plans, etc. with my friends.

Not to say that my French is perfect – what an exaggeration that would be (Upon completing my presentation, the professor’s first remark was that it was very “courageous” for us American students to present in French, a tell-tale sign that my French was flawed) – but I am beginning to appreciate my own progressions and improvements. The progress may be on a smaller scale and at a slower pace than I was hoping for, but the progress is there.

I still know there is always more work I can be doing to improve.

I don’t speak French nearly as much as I should. This time of year, the language pledge is becoming extremely lax, even at Reid Hall. It’s unfortunate to see how quickly we can devolve into English. All it takes is one English speaker, and suddenly we are all relieved of the burden of the effort to think in French. I know I’m not nearly as vigilant as I should be, but it’s hard when I am one of a few trying to keep French up.

With the holidays quickly arriving, I will have a lengthy vacation from French with my non-francophone brother visiting and our travels bringing us to non-francophone countries so I am determined now to keep my French up for these last few days before break.

I’ve come so far and I know that with each speaking opportunity I am making progress, no matter how small.

08 December 2008

La Pluie

England may have the reputation as a grey, rainy land, but Paris is an equally damp and godforsaken place this time of year.

Snow may be a rarity here, but winter is certainly the rainy season.

For the past week, it has rained nearly every day. And not a fleeting downpour or some friendly scattered showers, but a consistent, lasting drizzle that soaks through your clothes, your shoes until you are damp to the core and bitterly cold. It may be 40 degrees Fahrenheit, but when considering the wetness factor, it might as well be freezing.

It’s miserable.

And in the few, fleeting moments free from rain, either the ground is thoroughly mouillé [wet] from the most recent shower, the sky is a dark and menacing grey, threatening a new downpour, or, most likely, the both.

So don’t even think about a pleasant sunny day until spring.

No wonder the French are of such bad humor all the time. Endless months of rain are enough to make anyone a sourpuss.

Full disclosure: today, of all days, it actually was not raining.

Also, you should see Charade immediately, preferably in an intimate Latin Quarter cinéma, but your living room will do.

02 December 2008

C’est déjà décembre?

I saw a movie Sunday that somehow captured a lot of the sentiments that I am feeling about Paris at this moment. The movie was, appropriately, entitled Paris, and I had been jonesing to see it since it came out in February.

Considering the rarity of French cinematic success aux Etats-Unis and the significant time lag usually associated with the eventual appearance of French films in the States (voir Ne le dis à personne [Tell No One] which came out in 2006 but just hit American theaters this summer), I assumed I would have to wait to see it until it eventually made it to DVD. Luckily, the film’s star, Juliette Binoche, is currently being honored with a retrospective at La Cinémathèque française. Donc, I marked the date of the film in my agenda the moment I saw it on the schedule and made sure to make it to the séance [showing].

Directed by Cédric Klapisch (L’Auberge espagnole [The Spanish Apartment]), the film featured his classic fractured visuals of city life and intimate stories of la vie quotidienne [daily life] of insecure and flawed human beings. Among a fairly small pantheon of contemporary French filmmakers, Klapisch has a style and flair that can make the occasionally difficult subject matter that he treats palatable, pleasurable and even funny.

He displayed his mastery of this craft perfectly in Paris. The film revolves around a number of tragically unlikeable Parisians with the central story focusing on a young man in need of a heart transplant – a procedure which he has only a 40 percent chance of surviving.

For me, the film touched perfectly on the fleetingness of Parisian city life. It represented all-too-accurately a number of Parisian tropes that I have encountered on a daily basis and revealed stunning panoramas of the city with the same attention to detail as the bustling city streets and open-air markets.

Likewise, Klapisch captured the contradiction of feeling lonely and isolated in such a vibrant and vivante [living] city. His characters were connected, yet distant with but the smallest details of living in the same city connecting them. So close, but so far.

Lastly, it may be somewhat infantile – meme si c’est [even if it’s] entirely natural – to attempt to apply the life lessons learned from the gravity of the situations within the film to my own severely less grave life, but the film’s ever-present (but certainly not trop [too] heavy-handed) carpe diem sentiment reminded me to make the most of my short time in this city.

The last few days I’ve been glued to my room cranking out two exposés [presentations], but now that those have both been delivered, it’s time to explore Paris anew.