Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Is Monet's House for Rent?

This post might be rather long. I've inserted a table of contents. Feel free to jump around as you please. I suggest you start at the beginning and read till the end. But that's just me.

  1. Giverny-Monet's House and Gardens
  2. Rosh Hashanah
  3. Finding an Apartment
Saturday, Amanda, Lia, and I went to Giverny. We took a train to Vernon and rented bikes. 12 euros for the whole day! There's a shuttle you can take to Monet's garden and house, but we thought having bikes for a day would be great, and it was! On the bike ride there, I had the most amazing moment. I finally realized so much what this trip is about. Not to get all sappy, but this is my chance to explore. I have this amazing opportunity to see a part of the world I've never seen before, experience new cultures and new things, and actually live life to the fullest (lame I know, but true). I always make the joke, "Oh, you went to a party this weekend? That's cool, I went to the Eiffel Tower for a picnic." And silly stuff like that. It finally hit me during this bike ride how amazing this all is. It shook the homesickness right out of me. I do feel it still sometimes, but as is with anything when times get stressful or during the holidays. But there's no time for that business, it's time to get started for real.

Monet's garden was stunning. I couldn't believe it. His house was so beautiful and big, covered in flowers and vines. 

The whole garden is well tended and bursting with color. I took a million pictures of flowers. Not exactly sure what I'm going to do with all those photos of flowers, but y'all know how I love my florals.

Now, I'm sure you can only imagine how gorgeous the water garden is, so whatever you just imagined, multiply it by a million and you might be half way there. We were so lucky with the weather. It was a wonderfully beautiful day. This is one of those places that doesn't seem real. One of those places you hear about and never think you will see, and then you do. This picture gets to be medium sized instead of small sized because it's just so beautiful. I won't bore you with any more details about Giverny. Just know, it was incredible.

2. Rosh Hashanah wound up being a lot better than I expected. Rebecca's family friends invited us over for dinner, and, surprise!!! They took us to services! It was so great and the whole night was more than I could have hoped for. Services was fairly liberal so not too long, it was great. After that, we went back to the family's house for dinner, which I loved. Even though I may be Jewish, I learn new customs from other Jewish people all the time. We passed around a type of food, said a prayer, then repeated the process over and over again. It was so interesting. Each prayer and food represented something different. Something new and different to add to my Judaism. I really liked it and might want to look it up and maybe do it with my family some day. Shanah Tova!

3. I'VE FOUND AN APARTMENT. This whole process has been absolutely horrible and stressing me out to the max, but my fellow Hoosier, Maggie, and I couldn't be happier. The apartment belongs to a friend of a friend of a friend (that's right) who owns the apartment but lives south of Paris. She needs to keep the apartment for her daughter in a year so she rents in out so she doesn't lose it. We are each paying only 350 euros a month, we each have our own bedroom, there's a full living room with a couch bed and a full kitchen. After all this searching and hell I've gone through, it's incredible we found such a great place. Don't worry, it's completely legit and I'm not getting ripped off or my money stolen or anything. But, I'm extremely happy that is over and done with! 
This is our building in the 12th! You can all
thank Google Maps for this one. Such an adorable building
with a big gate at the entrance. We love it!
This didn't turn out quite as long as I thought, as I am tired and a bit lazy. Thanks for reading and hopefully the stress of school doesn't interfere with my blogging too much as the year goes on. Love you all!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Singing from the Coeur

What a day. This may have been one of my favorite days so far in Paris. My friend, Amanda, and I went to Sacre Coeur. Not only was the church absolutely beautiful, the view from the steps was even better. Before we headed up to the actual building, we wandered around the little town for awhile. It was so adorable! There were artists everywhere painting scenes of Paris. Each artist had it's own distinct style in the way they portrayed Paris through their art. Some were clearly Notre Dame in a cartoony, colorful way. In others, the Eiffel Tower was sort of an illusion, but once you saw it, the scene was so clear. I am definitely planning on heading back there and buying some of the art, maybe a present for Mom and Dad?

After walking around for a while, we headed up to the actual Sacre Coeur, and I couldn't believe my eyes. It was a look out of almost the entire city of Paris. You could see Notre Dame, Musee d'Orsay, and an incredible skyline. As you can see in this photo to your left, there was a man standing on a light post doing tricks with a soccer ball. People were going crazy for this guy, shaking his hand, putting money in his little hat, it was insane. At one point, he kept the ball balanced on his face and scaled the entire light post. After the soccer show, Amanda and I went into the physical building of Sacre Coeur. They don't allow you to take cameras inside. It's kinda cool. The only way you can see what it looks like in there is by going inside. I like that idea, keeping it sacred. I may not be Catholic or Christian, but the church is so lovely and such a special and beautiful place. 

After walking through the church, we sat back down on the steps to admire the view. Lucky for us, there was a couple that had just gotten married being serenaded by a man and his guitar. He sang them a lovely song about love and then began singing a Bob Marley song to everyone. He would yell "Come on, Sacre Coeur!" to get us all singing. It was quite hilarious. After that, he asked for suggestions. Being the brave, abroad-going, Paris-exploring gal that I am, I yelled out, "The Beatles!" and he played "Ticket to Ride." After that, he called me the beautiful girl with the request and proceeded to play "Imagine." Almost everyone sitting on the steps began to sing. What was so amazing to me was that all the people on these steps were  from all over the world, yet we were all singing together. Besides that the lyrics of the song are all about the people being one, music, in general, is such a unifying thing. Everyone was singing together, enjoying the beautiful view, and really seeing Paris. It was a great moment for me and really helped make the day amazing. After the lovely serenade, we walked around the little area and bit more. We stopped in a chocolate shop and found a chocolate model of the Eiffel Tower. Doesn't matter how touristy it was, I had to take a picture with it.  I hope to head back there soon and enjoy the sights again! 

HI MOM!!!!!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Fakes and Falafels

Some great, some not so great, things have happened over the past few days. Let's start with the not so great so we can blow right past it.

My housing search is rough. I'm trying my best not to let it affect my time here, but it's pretty rough. I just gotta keep reminding myself it will all work out in the end. I'll have somewhere to live. May not be as close to my school as I'd like or as "cheap" as I'd like, but I'll definitely have somewhere to live. 

Currently, I am being scammed by three different people from Craig's List Paris. Don't worry, everyone. I'm completely 100% aware.

 Obviously I know it's a scam when you say,
"If you notice you will discovered that the price we are offering is far below standard renting price this is enough for you to know that we are not after the rental fee but the absolute care for our property and i  know there is no way i can be sure that you are the right person to live in our place because we won't be able to meet in physical before sending you the keys and the documents to occupy the place"
This person's name is apparently "Moore Cribbs." He signs the emails "Cribbs." MTV called.

Or, when you tell me the apartment is in the 1st district of Paris and send me a photo that looks like this,

I know you're trying to scam me for my money. First of all, NO apartment in Paris looks like this. A large space, a flat screen TV, a DOOR that leads directly to the outside? Nice try. And when your email address says your name is "James Luke" and you sign off using the name "Adrian," I don't think so. All three of the places I am talking to have suddenly had to leave Paris for a job or some other silly reason and the only way I can get the apartment is if I send them my information, and money of course, and they will mail me the keys. I may be just an exchange student from the US, but do NOT underestimate me. 

Now on to the good stuff!  A group of friends and I went to the Eiffel Tower for a picnic dinner on Saturday night. It was so much fun. There were birthday parties, party buses, wedding parties, and party people everywhere. It had such a great vibe. Gave a good feeling to the end of the summer and a great feeling to the start of a great semester in Paris. 

These are my friends Lino, from Switzerland, and Amanda, from Canada. 

We sat on the Champs de Mars for almost three hours just talking and hanging out. Seeing the Eiffel Tower sparkle at the top of every hour is so fun. I feel like a little kid seeing a Disney princess for the first time. 

Then on Sunday, I went with Amanda and some other friends to the Jewish quarter where we ate 'the best falafel in Paris' for dinner. It was amazing. I've never really liked falafel before, but this was WOW. Except, it was missing hummus. That was a bummer. I was hoping for hummus. We decided to hit up "Falafel King" next time. They'll give me lots of hummus. Sunday night falafel will be a dinner tradition. We also went into an adorable bakery. The lady asked what I wanted and I said I didn't want to spend too much. She gave me a little mini cookie and that was it! Didn't make me pay or anything. Got a free cookie! I think the Jewish quarter is where I belong. The people I was with made fun of me, but it feels great to be there. Little Judaica stores all around, pushy Jews, falafel, it's just a great place to be. I definitely want to go back and spend some more time there exploring. 

And just for fun, I leave you with this, the ending to one of the emails,
"my family and I really known how you are feeling about this whole thing, cos you sound skeptic from your other email, and that's very wrong, if you are thinking that we just wanted to take your Advantage for nothing. When We known how people worked and earn their money, We will never think of taking some advantages over you and your money, please take that out of your mind, that is really awful thing on the earth that We will never think about doing. Please understand us better, we  are not trying to lure you into this, everything about us and our  apartment  is 100% real ok,we will like you to know one thing that we  wouldn't do such a thing when we have blood running through our vain.I really understand how you feel .It's just that the bad once has lay down a very bad Reputation for the Good Once."
Because your rambling about how it's not a scam is going to help me think it's not a scam. If only those bad once didn't lay down a very bad reputation for the Good Once.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

California Dreamin'?

I'm going to write things a bit out of order here because today's events were good, but not as funny as yesterday's. Plus, if you know something funny is coming, maybe you'll keep reading! Tonight, a few friends and I decided to grab some dinner and go sit by the river seine. On our walk over, we passed this little band of old men playing jazz music. Except for the kid playing the bass. He looked young and a little out of place. But it was so great. There was even a little old lady doing some sort of dance to add to the atmosphere. Sitting by the seine with some wine and some friends is the cool thing to do. So, we thought we'd try to be cool and it wound up being a wonderful night. Two other girls and I sat and ate dinner and just talked for about an hour. We had a view of the sun setting over some random bridge to our left and a view of part of Notre Dame to our right. After the cheap chinese food, we bought some ice cream and walked around a bit. 

This is when I had my "OH MY GOD I'M IN PARIS" moment. We were walking down some cute little street and we passed an outside cafe. Someone inside was either playing the piano or the they were playing music. There were lights on the trees and a great atmosphere and I just felt it. As cheesy as it sounds, it was great, and I think really something I needed. 

One class I have is called "Equality and Diversity in the US." Why I decided to take a class on the US during my semester abroad in Europe is beyond me. But, I needed a class so I clicked the little box and that's that. Anyway, if you don't know, each french student is required to study abroad for their third year of schooling. In this class today, we went around and introduced ourselves and one french girl said she taking this class because she's interested in doing her year abroad in the US. The teacher asked where specifically and she said California. When I introduced myself, I can honestly say, I felt pretty awesome. California is such a destination, which we forget some times. But to me, it's boring, and PARIS is the place to be. She said she'd never been to the US before, which is crazy talk to me. But Paris is the norm to her. Such an interesting difference. 

Another one of the classes I'm taking is a lecture class called "Foundations for the social sciences: analytical and critical social theory." It seems like it's going to be an interesting class, a lot about philosophy and theories and how people can go in circles when having discussions. Doesn't seem to be too hard but will definitely be a great class and my first about anything related to philosophy.

I usually google my teachers beforehand but didn't get a chance to for this professor. He walked into the classroom wearing a nice suit and rolling a suitcase. The class went through the usual routine of quieting down as soon as the professor walks in, then realizing that he's not ready to start and everyone continues talking. As he was unpacking his suitcase, I kept an eye on him to see exactly what is was he had in there. Out of the bag came, of course, a lap top computer, some notes, some sun glasses, and, to my surprise, a bag of peanut M&M's. I thought to myself, okay, that's fine, so he likes to snack during the lecture. Can't blame him, seeing as though the lecture is two hours long.

He decided to give a simple little intro lecture just to get us started on the ideas of the course. First, he posed two questions. "Are you (really) free to choose?" and "Is it 'reality' you can see in front of you?" Already, it was clear this would be an intriguing class. He talked at us about the "model society" and the "model man," what exactly it means to be able to chose freely, and if we actually have the power to choose freely. Society can be viewed as a box. The example of a free model society is America (which he decided to spell "Amerika"). And the people within this box who are most free reside in the bottom left hand corner. This bottom left hand corner of Amerika is also known as California. And within this bottom left hand corner called California, the people who are most free are from a place called...Los Angeles. 

Already, I could tell this wasn't going to be good. I was utterly embarrassed and pretty much laughing out loud to myself in a silent classroom. Fortunately, he went with the typical surfer dude stereotype, a boy named Brad who was free to surf and vote and be Amerikan. 

Yet, the real fun had barely started. As the lecture continued, he removed his tie and began to get more comfortable with the class and the lecture really became interesting. We began discussing reality, and if what we're seeing is really real, if all the knowledge we've learned is actually applicable and meaningful in the broader scheme of the world. Before I knew it, the sunglasses were on. There was a blue peanut M&M in one hand and a red peanut M&M in the other hand. He told us we had a choice. Some of you can see where he's going with this. We could either take the blue "pill" and keep on living believing the reality is, in fact, real, or we could take the red "pill" and join him in the journey of discovering if reality is actually real. Guess we didn't have much of a choice. Guess I'll be seeing how deep the rabbit-hole goes, as long as I don't have to be reborn in a gross pod of goo, or whatever.  

Monday, September 3, 2012

Home, Omelette Me Go Home

To be honest, today was the first really good day I've had since I've been here. I've been pretty homesick the past couple days. The whole crying over Skype, "I-miss-you-but-I-know-things-will-get-better"type of thing. Not so good, but I know things definitely will get better. After all, I AM in Paris! (And I'm not going home, so I can choose to either sit and be miserable or go out and try to have fun! But those are my only two options because I'M NOT GOING HOME.)

But today, what a great day. I woke up at 6:30am to crappy, rainy weather and proceeded to my first class, which was French, Level 0. That's right. Not even level one, but Z-E-R-O. THAT'S how unprepared I was coming to Paris. The problem is, I might be the only one in the class who actually doesn't know any French at all. And, to my teacher who explains things in French, you're a wonderful lady and a great professor I'm sure, but I'm sorry when you ask if we understand and everyone else responds yes that I'm the only one who says no. And, if you wouldn't mind, no matter how slowly you say whatever it is that you're saying in French, I still don't know what it means. So, bonjour, je m'appelle Stephanie, okay? 

After class, a wonderful friend named Amanda went with me to the bank to finish opening my account. Thank goodness she came because, even though there's a sign outside that says "WE SPEAK ENGLISH," there was no English spoken during my appointment, except on my end. I then purchased a cell phone, which was probably the highlight of my day. I can finally communicate with people, maybe make some friends. 

Another great part of this day was my first attempt at cooking while in Paris. Today's menu? An omelette with mushrooms and cheese. I bought a pan, spatula, and cooking oil, grabbed my eggs, cheese, and other necessary things for this omelette and headed to the weird kitchen with Amanda. As I was cooking the mushrooms, it smelled as though something was burning. All was well when I suddenly realized I hadn't taken the paper off the bottom of the pan, which was sitting directly on the hotplate. Don't worry, I pulled it off BEFORE I set the kitchen on fire. All good. The omelette was pretty great, and even though I spilled cooking oil all over the floor, cut the mushrooms with a plastic knife that was on the verge of breaking on a plastic plate that probably melted when I set down the omelette, I would say it was a successful meal and overall a successful day!