Happy March! Tuesday marked four weeks of being in France… so much has happened, and I’m so excited for the time that I have left here.
March means many things:
1. I’m starting to travel! I’ve spent the past four weekends in Paris, and while it has been very fun – I’ve made a good group of friends, I have a set of fall-back bars, I started really being able to find my way in the city, and begun recognizing landmarks – I’m ready to explore other places.
Tomorrow morning, I leave for Normandy, a northwestern region of France. We are going to visit D-day landing beaches ( Omaha Beach, Arromanche and the American Cemetery), the Tapestry of Bayeux (The story of William the Conqueror and Harold, Earl of Wessex, the men who led the Norman and Saxon armies in 1066…) and a local Normand farm to learn about and taste regional products… It’s sure to be a good time (ha, ha), but really, everyone in the program is able to go, so it’ll be fun to all be together in one hotel, enjoying the nightlife, or creating the nightlife, i should say… (does this remind anyone of aepi formal, freshman year??)
Then, I’m off to Dublin for St. Patty’s Day (sure to be a shitshow), and then the next weekend, I reunite with Mindy, Avery and Laura in London!
2. I can use my NaviGo! I use the Metro everyday to get pretty much everywhere. (I do at least three sudoku puzzles per trip!) The Metro here reminds a lot of the Metro in Washington. You buy a ticket (if it’s monthly, it’s a called a Carte Orange) that you have to pass through when you enter and sometimes when you exit (depends if you are on the local or the express train)… This is going to sound stupid, but every time, it means opening your bag, looking for the little ticket stub – I have a monthly pass – putting it through, putting it back in your bag… meanwhile, you are susceptible to pickpocketing… Anyway, so you can send away for a NaviGo card, which reminds me of a Mobil Speedpass. It looks kind of like a credit card and has a chip in it. You can just put your whole bag on top of the sensor, it goes PING! and you’re through. I have been talking about using my NaviGo for the past month and I am so excited that I can finally use it. (I had to wait until March because I had already bought a monthly pass for February and it’s not transferable). Wikipedia info: “The Navigo pass is a means of payment for public transportation introduced in the Paris region in2004. It is implemented as a Smart Card. It is planned to replace the magnetic-strip-basedCarte Orange. This new tarification system carries a photo of the user on the card itself and is based on an account that the user has with the RATP. Thus, unlike the Carte orange, when a Navigo pass is lost or stolen, it is replaced (for a fee). (If you’re interested in seeing what it looks like – http://www.ratp.fr/corpo/service/navigo.html)
3. I’m going to have a visitor! Lesley is arriving in Paris next Saturday and I am most excited to have a friend from home come see what my Parisian lifestyle is all about…
4. The weather has to get better, right? So, I’m not going to lie, the weather here has pretty much sucked so far. It’ll be kind of nice in the morning, and by the time I get out of class (At 2), it’s already cold. There have been only three or four days that have been relatively nice and sunny. It’s mostly just rain, and my umbrella has become a permanent item in my purse. My french teacher tried to tell me that part of Paris’s charm was the rain, and I guess it is, but I’ll be liking Paris better on a whole different level once the sun appears. Also, I’m going to really be able to start all that sight-seeing once I don’t have to worry about being soaked all day long.
In other news, I switched levels of my French class and am now in the Advanced level. One of my good friends, Beth, who I plan to travel with for spring break is in my class, which makes it go by a lot quicker. I no longer see Notre-Dame coming out of the metro stop I need to take, but I do see the Eiffel tower (when it’s not cloudy or rainy) outside my classroom window. Rock on. In order to switch levels, I had to go to the main Sorbonne building (like Maryland’s Mitchell Building), which is where the actual famous Sorbonne building is (it looks kind of like the Pantheon)… I don’t have any classes there (just like you don’t always have classes on the Mall), but I was able to eat lunch and I can’t describe the feeling of sitting lunch in the courtyard of the Sorbonne, one of the oldest, most prestigious, famous universities worldwide. The courtyard kind of reminded me of Maryland’s mall, which was cool, except there was no grass, just stone…
Also, I don’t know if you guys have heard, but there was a young Jewish Parisian who died here last week on the way to hospital, after having been held hostage by a gang called the “Barbarians” for three weeks, who tortured him. Police found him naked in the street with burn marks all over him. He was kidnapped and the gang held a ransom for him. Their thinking was that since Jews have money, even if his family couldn’t pay 450,000 EURO, the community would be able to come up with the money. At first, the French government refused to classify this as a hate crime… Jacques Chirac, France’s president, went to a memorial at a Synagogue last week, which was quite an unusual thing to see. I obviously do not think that I am in any danger, but this is certainly a reality check and a sad thing to see in 2006. (I urge you to read the Washington Post article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/02/24/AR2006022402016.html).
I don’t want to end on a sad note, and this e-mail is already far too long… People have been asking me for the link to my pictures. They can be found at http://community.webshots.com/user/julieabroad. I tried to describe the things as best as I could… I haven’t been so great at taking pictures when I’m out, but there’s something to be said about living the experience without worrying about documenting it.
PS I look foward to reading all your emails. Hint, hint.