just another American bumbling around Paris.

Category: société

grand fête sous la fenêtre!

Il y a un match de foot ce soir?!!  I have no idea what’s going on, but there’s a vuvuzela-rich party going on in the street below.  Lots of screaming, chanting, singing, flag-flinging, and honking.  And dancing.  And fire!

And they all dance like my former Syrian roommate!!!  Arab dance, it’s all in the arms.


Strasbourg St-Denis, 12 mai 2012


putaine carpette

I’m not happy today.

Last night I accompanied a friend to a dinner, because her ex-boyfriend was in town and had invited her to this dinner with his friends.  I was there to provide moral support, of course.

It was at a Thai restaurant.  The cheapest thing on the menu was 10 Euro soup, and I’m really poor since I’m working with limited funds until the end of May (which includes several vacations, which inevitably means restaurants and the like), and I don’t have a job lined up at home, so I’m trying to watch myself.  I’m doing an admittedly bad job, but I am trying.

So my friend and I both got soup, since I like soup anyway, as did the rest of the women, and the table split some little appetizer platter that had egg rolls and little shrimp guys and such.

One round guy at the table ordered this big dish with some lobster bits on top, and the other two guys both got some seafoody thing that cost substantially more than our soups.  One guy also got some mango dessert thing.  At the end of the night, this woman said, “so do we split the bill into 8 bits or do we each pay for what we got?”

Wtf?  You serious?  OBVIOUSLY PAY FOR WHAT WE GOT.  This is why I got a shitty little soup (it wasn’t even that good…).

I wasn’t really in my element, though.  It was 3 Lebanese people, a French guy, a Spanish woman, a French woman, and my friend that I was accompanying.  They were all at least 30 years old.  I’m 24; I’m not a kid, but for some reason, in the moment, I lost my tongue, and I couldn’t tell these older people who make more money than I do, “no, of course I don’t want to pay for that fat guy’s lobster.  I’m poor, this is why I ordered soup instead of lobster.”  They saw my face; I know they did.  The ringleader Lebanese girl said something to one of the guys in Arabic and he muttered something back, and the French guy piped up, “ahh, but I had a dessert…” but no one offered to pay more.  No one did anything.  We had even been talking to the ringleader earlier in the evening about how small our salaries are and how much we pay for rent, and she knew very well that we were both pretty broke and still had a month to go with no paycheck.

Afterward my friend and I felt sick.  “Ahhh,” she said, “that’s a new pair of pants!  20 Euros!!!”  I thought of all the nice French restaurants I never eat in.  How I could have spent that 20 Euros.  One little soup!  I was even hungry afterward.

We were kicking ourselves for the next hour, and I still am.  And reflecting more.

I feel gloomy and stupid.  I’m not a dumb person.  I don’t think I’m demanding or critical.  Even when my students were turds I was pretty damn nice, and on my last day, at my going-away party, I saw how much they had all liked me.  And I thought, “okay, people notice when you’re nice and give them respect even when they don’t necessarily treat you the same way.”  But they don’t always.  Sometimes they just take advantage.  And so I’m feeling pretty much like a doormat now.

This ex-boyfriend of my friend’s is a nice looking guy and all, but I’m sure he isn’t perfect.  I’m sure he has unlikable guy qualities.  I’m sure he farts and burps and eats a lot and thinks his opinions are facts.  Most guys do these things.  He’s alone now.  Just over 30 and alone.  Why did he leave my friend?  My friend is beautiful and smart and funny.  She’s such a good person.  I looked at her at dinner, and at him, and thought, who is he to reject her?  What the hell is he looking for if not her?  I wanted to ask him, “hey, what’s your problem?  You think you’re going to find someone better than that?  Who do you think you are?  What do you think is out there that’s better?  You were fucking lucky to have her.”

I’ll never understand the world, and I’m sorry to sound so defeatist, but I’d rather be taken advantage of than take advantage of someone, if these are my options.

vive l’esprit de tradition


Charonne, 18 mars 2012

carnaval des femmes

Place du Châtelet, 18 mars 2012



A good percentage of the participants were male.  My mom’s university does an annual (I think it’s annual?  If not then I suppose it happened just the one time) Take Back the Night walk in honor of rape victims, and I recall one year a few women got into a huff over men wanting to participate.  As if men can’t be against rape, too.  These dudes were great!  I couldn’t take my eyes off this drummer; he was so happy, he just couldn’t stop smiling.

école solidaire

follow up to immigration post:

a school near République supporting immigrant families.


16 mars 2012

les françaises: no argument

This is not to say there is no argument from me.

homme idéal

The ideal man is the one that you choose with all of his faults.

République, 14 mars 2012

Maybe the women don’t mind.

comment attirer les hommes européens

dames   messieurs

toilettes dans un resto thailandais

Even after the endless post-DSK discussions, the subject of French men cannot be exhausted.  My interest was piqued again this afternoon when my adorable friend Jenise posted the following video (which talks about European men in general, but I’m talking about Parisian men here since a. Paris is the tourism capital and b. I live here) on her tumblr:


The height of irony.  The woman’s head is 100% Marshmallow Fluff.

I’m surprised she has spent more than 10 days abroad, as that is probably the amount of time (maximum) that it takes for the novelty of being such an object of ‘desire’ to wear off.  But it does, and then you just feel like a walking pair of boobies.  A generic, nondescript, ageless pair of boobies (size doesn’t even matter!).  As Jenise said, all you need to have is a pulse.

I remember the first Frenchman I met after I first came to Paris (well, the first one I really talked to).  His name was Geoffroy, a 25-year-old professional waiter who “had made 3 diplômes!”   He tried to kiss me right there in the street, and when I leaned back he looked at me questioningly and I said, “what are you doing?!”  He said, “I thought you wanted it!”  I responded, “no, I don’t want to kiss you in the street,” and he smiled and said, “you prefer to kiss in bed?”

So, okay, if you want to meet guys…easy peasy, lemon squeasy.  But there’s a limit, yo.  If you want to avoid them, difficult difficult, lemon difficult.  I quickly became very bitter (you like that lemon reference?) about the men here, as did many of my friends.  Here is one Scottish woman’s comment on the men of France and Belgium, which I think very concisely sums up the problem (commentary on:  The Seducer’s Partisans):

The culture in France and the Francophone world seems to support the view that male ‘seduction’ is a compliment for a woman and she should accept it graciously. Even if she rebuffs a man’s advances, she should do so gently to avoid upsetting the delicate male ego.

Where I come from, as is common in Northern Europe and most English-speaking cultures, male advances are an insult to a woman unless they are actively solicited in some way and consent is obvious. Catcalls, wolf whistles, comments on your appearance by strange men on the street, greetings from men you don’t know, being given the ‘once-over’ are all viewed negatively in our cultures. They are viewed as being threatening to women rather than complimentary.

French women, on the other hand, seem to view this kind of public harassment from men as part and parcel of daily life.

I think the most unnerving advance I’ve encountered happened when I’d been in Paris for only two weeks and was incredibly insecure about my French and about being new, which made it even more unnerving, of course.  There was a strike and the metro was packed.  Right before the doors closed a very large man pushed his way in RIGHT behind me, and the result was that every single person in the car was dislodged, since we were packed in like sardines.  I could feel the full weight of his body leaning on me (his front was facing my backside) for the first leg of the trip, until we got to the first stop.  As the train slowed, he grabbed my butt with his hand and whispered “merci” in my ear.  I was shaking with fury but had no idea what to say or do.  I was afraid the others in the car would roll their eyes at me and tell me, ‘ohh you stupid foreigner, don’t you know that bodies touch on the train?  You Americans are so uptight!’  I was absolutely disgusted, and if it happened again today, I would whip right around and he would feel my wrath radiating from my right knee as it met his family jewels.  Just disgusting.  I will point out that this man was clearly an immigrant, but immigrants add to the culture here.  And the culture is that men get away with a lot more than they would at home.

French men are not all bad…they’re beautiful, they’re trim, and they know how to dress (although actually, DSK is an exception to the first two criteria).  They’re smart and willing to tell you about all things French (which could also translate to arrogance, but I’m trying to be positive here).  Unlike the women, they do eat a bit, and they have impeccable taste.  A lot of them cook.  It’s just a bit of a shame that many of them probably do it for more than one woman at a time. :/


l’immigration en France

I’m still talking about immigration with my students this week (predominantly students coming from immigrant families, since, you know, we’re in the Parisian suburbs and 40% of France’s immigrants live in the Paris metropolitan area) and plan to show them this article to add a bit of meat to their discussion (which hasn’t been falling too flat, but nevertheless).

Sarkozy, in Rousing Talk, Takes Conservative Stands, from the NY Times

la police

the side of my apartment building at Stalingrad, 18ème, 7 février 2011

I don’t know what to say about all of this.  I’m not sure what the percentage is today (it can only have gone up, I’m sure), but in 2008, 19% of France’s population was foreign-born immigrants with French-born children.  Their immigrants come from everywhere, but primarily from:  Italy, Spain, Poland, Portugal, Greece, Turkey, China, Romania, Mali, Cameroon, the US, and, of course, North Africa.  In addition to those countries, I’ve had students whose parents come from Argentina, Chile, Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Comoros Islands, Mauritius, Haiti, India, and other countries that I’m simply forgetting because they’re such a diverse group of kids.  The Maghreb people represent 8-10% of the immigrant population in France, which seems like a rather low estimate to me, but voilà.  France is also the European country with the largest number of black inhabitants.

This all makes me love France so much.  My students tell me the government gives loads of financial and social aid to immigrants, helping them find places to live, giving them money to start new lives, and allowing their families to join them here in France.  And of course there’s the health care.  It’s just amazing.  France is an amazing country.

I do have students who tell me they are “100% French,” and last week I had two boys tell me there were “too many” immigrants in France.  Okay, these feelings exist.  And here is Sarkozy, saying scary things again.

But you should hear my students talk about immigration.  One of the questions I posed to each student (since it is impossible to make every student participate in general discussion and you must ask each one a direct question) was, “if you left France and immigrated to a new country, where would you go, and why do you find that county attractive?”  Some of them said they’d go to England or the US for a few years for work, some of them said a beautiful island, some of them said Spain for the beach and the lower cost of living, but so, so many of them said they wanted to stay in France.  “Eet eez good here!”  It’s so good here.

Even if there are some negative feelings, and even if things may change in the future, as of right now, as an American, I can’t quite believe what goes on here in France.  The government helping immigrants to this degree.  Another question I asked them was, “what about refugees?  Do you think refugees should be limited?  Should they always be welcome?”  One girl said, “of course!” and the response was overwhelmingly pro-refugee.  Many of them do have concerns about immigrants taking advantage of the social aid, which is a huge problem, but they ask that the country simply monitor these social programs more closely to ensure that resources aren’t being wasted or abused.

My students asked me what country I would immigrate to if I left to the US permanently and after a bit of thought, I said I’d probably choose France.  Or Switzerland (to which they responded, “ohh mais non, c’est nul la Suisse!”  As if…).

femmes de montreux

Montreux, mai 2008

Carnavale à Paris

Carnavale!  Place Gambetta dans le 20ème, 10 février 2012.

“Si l’Amérique Latine est comme ça, pourquoi on est à Paris?” – me to my Mexicans

femmes de carnivale 2

c’est trooop, le froid…

Oh la, it is seriously too cold these days.  I don’t know why I’m such a big baby about it; I’m from Illinois, for crying out loud.  I’m used to walking to class in several feet of snow.  I’m accustomed to not being able to move my arms due to all the layers the cold necessitates.  I’m used to much worse weather than a nip in the air and a bit of wind (especially in the metro.  I have never felt such wind in my life).  But God help me, I can’t take it anymore!  Paris weather, from what I’ve heard and what I experienced last year, tends to improve during the month of February.  We’re halfway through, vacation starts in a week, and I’m here for the duration, so let’s do this, bitches.

Image (Our adorable friend Tere guiding us to Sunday brunch, which ended with a wait on the sidewalk.)

After a last-minute relocation (on n’a pas envie d’attendre une heure et demi, merci) for brunch and a latté, Maria and I went to the famous 59 Rue de Rivoli, which I’ve walked by and stared at millions of times, but never actually seen from the inside.  It’s quite an impressive setup…  59 Rue de Rivoli is basically 6 floors of artists doing their thing how they want, where they want, in whatever form they want, and it’s free for the public to come check out.  There’s a good amount of rubbish lying around (some areas of the building resemble some crazy old person’s musty attic more than a cool Parisian artist’s workshop, but maybe those things aren’t so different?) and lots of colorful graffiti covering the walls.  There was a Seattle artist who had a setup I really liked, and I wanted to get a postcard of a lovely painting of Sardinia to send to Claire, but the dude was nowhere to be found.  Perhaps I’ll return to seek him out.

No pictures are allowed, which I understand and respect, but there was explicit permission to take a photo of this announcement that the building now charges artists to use its space, and new artists are being forced to shut down and move, patati patata, so voilà, dutifully passing the message along…


We went on this particular day because there were a variety of free spectacles de musique going on.  We arrived as two musicians were setting up their space, and as we moseyed toward the door a flustered woman hurried after us.  “J’ai des infos qu’il faut transmettre!!”  “Euh…okay.”  “Le concert de [ce mec] va se passer sur le 3ème étage, pas le cinquième!”  “Ahh…”  Maria had been texting so she wasn’t sure if the woman wanted her to send out a mass text or what.  The woman continued in a flurry:  “Il y a des chaises pliées mais il faut les installer toute de suite pour tout le monde!”  We peered at each other and at the woman.  She repeated her plea about unfolding the folding chairs.  “Vous comprenez?” she asked Maria.  Maria kind of squinted, so she turned to me.  “Vous comprenez?”  I looked at her.  She looked at me.  I looked at her.  “…vous voulez de l’aide?”  Bingo.  We headed back in to set up the noisy, creaking, ancient, HEAVY folding chairs (meanwhile, a woman with a violin looked thoroughly irritated that I dared to set my empty coffee cup and purse so near to her so as to free my hands to set up the chairs for her audience).  A woman with a clipboard rushed up to me as we were arranging chairs and asked if I knew the musician’s first name.  I had seen it on the sign, so I told her what I thought it was, and then quickly assured her that I didn’t work there.  “Ah non, moi je travaille ici!” she responded reassuringly.  Of course.  Of course you do.  Sigh…