Meanwhile, in Paris…Round-Up #1

Because there was just so much to capture, so much to do, so much to see, and so many joints to rub with Aspercreme after traipsing around the city to keep up with regular blog updating during the trip. (On the latter statement, I used my trust Fitness app and my calculator: we walked a complete total of 56,065 steps, from when we arrived in Paris to when we departed.) By no means an obnoxious complaint, of course, and pardon the obnoxity (not a word). We just packed in so much in those eight days in the City of Lights that by the end of the day, when WiFi did its job, I sat on the sofa like a zombie and eyed my sleep mask more than my WordPress app.

Anyway, I’m baaaaccck.

We arrived back in the US of A last Thursday, which was Friday, France time, which meant that the jet lag I suffered after my Germany/England trip was going to visit me, Parisian style. But other than waking up on Friday with aches on body parts I didn’t even know I had, I was able to eventually come back to normal. Back to work, back to supervisors that confuse administrative staff for babysitters, back to life. But, again, no complaints. As one of my travel buddies and good friends astutely put it during our trip, “we work so we can travel.” Many more photos will come as the week and the month wears on. I took many for me, which means there were many for you, dear reader. Below, however, are a few things I learned, some travel tips, etc.

Pinterest Travel really is a thing. If you don’t already, I welcome all future travelers to start pinning away when they decide where they’re going. Yes, we pin things that will never happen in reality (or maybe just me? See my recipes and home decor boards), but it’s worth making actual travel plans by pin. The three of us happened to do this on our own and were able to have a list of places we wanted to visit, restaurants we wanted to stuff our faces in, etc. Images of Paris that I’ve gazed at for months and months came roaring back to me, reminding of all the places I wanted to go that I didn’t have a chance to visit the first time I visited the city twelve years ago. So, yeah, create them boards, y’all. They will come in handy.

English may not be the evil that shall not be named after all. The last time I visited France, I was with French speakers. They did all the communicating for me (see past posts on the ineffectual nature of my brain and the French language), for one thing, which made things cushy and great. But I certainly wasn’t blind to the French side eye the natives cast in my direction when my friends would mention that I was American. Anyway, it’s 2016, people. This time, you had three ladies who spoke very little French (I know my vocab, but conversation? Le crickets). I wondered how we would do, how we would communicate, all the side eye that would come in our direction if we butchered the language, whether people would even give us the time of day (they’re known to not give you the time of day, by the way). It was fine. Once it was established that we were ‘Mericans, most of the people helping us easily switched to English. It was awesome. Didn’t mean that we didn’t try to speak like the natives, but it was nice to recognize that the pressure was off.

Le Metro. I envisioned a lot of Uber rides to our destinations. I just did. When I go to New York, for example, unless I’m with someone who lives there, I avoid the subway like the plague. Cabs and Uber for me. But the advantage of living like two steps away from the metro station where we were (13th arrondisement and about 10-15 minutes outside of Paris) was that we learned how to use the system. And it was awesome. First of all, the French have a pink line, so applause for that on its own. Second, it’s very, very easy to figure out. Grab a Navigo card (valid for a whopping ten years), load it up, grab a map (which has all the touristy sites listed on it) or an app (I loved the Paris Metro app; very handy for creating routes and easily seeing what lines to take), and you’re good to go. We only made use of Uber to Versailles, which would have taken a zillion hours by train, and for those nights when we were gallivanting around the city way past our bedtimes.

Honorable Mentions that I’m sure you know already. 1) It helped to not reside so close to Paris. We were away from the crowds and able to get everywhere by train. If possible, with any city, really, some distance between you and the hotbed is really quite nice. 2) Bring cash. Just better. A credit card in case of emergencies, but cash is just better. Make friends with the ATMs in the area. 3) Use up your coinage. Most banks won’t covert them.

Last but Not Least in Any Way. Pick pockets don’t play. Mind your stuff at all times. There were plenty of occasions when my starry-eyed appraisal of the city kept me from noticing that the opening to my cross-body handbag was behind me rather than in front of me. Don’t be like me. Or, as it also was in my case, have a good friend to quickly remind you to come back to earth and watch your bag.

It was a marvelous. magnificent trip, dear readers. I loved every moment of it. Even the aching joints and the Aspercreme. There’s more to tell and I will tell and I will share. At this point, though, I leave you with a photo I took with my girls during the trip. The smiles say all, n’est-ce pas?

  

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Lessons in Frenglish

Let me explain my relationship with the French language. In 7th grade, I was in a class called International Foreign Language, where we were basically given a smorgasbord of different languages and cultures to learn about. French, Spanish, German. Needless to say, I quickly fell in love with French. Can’t really explain it; maybe it was how it sounded, the chateaus, the croissants. By the time I reached 9th grade, where I could finally choose which language to study, there was no doubt: français all the way.

Sigh. My high school French teacher had this on the wall. Gazed at it way more than the stuff on the board.
Sigh. My high school French teacher had a poster of this chateau on the wall. Gazed at it way more than the stuff on the board.

However. There’s a difference between hearing that lilting language and learning it. I came to despise verb conjugations and masculine vs. feminine. All I wanted was to move to Paris and communicate with the proprietors of various boulangeries. I didn’t sign up for passé composé and conditionnel. (If you speak French, congratulations for knowing what I’m referring to, and you feel my pain, don’t you? Or do you, le traitor?) But guess what? The love was too strong. I couldn’t leave. Deep down, I didn’t want to. Year and after year, I sat in the next-level French class (somehow passing, might I add), convinced that the same remedial part of my brain that couldn’t get Math was stopping me from comprehending the mechanics of this language. Yet I was still hopeful that I’d join the ranks of the kids who were now practically fluent.By the time sophomore year in college came and it was time to take a language course, the Stockholm Syndrome returned. I signed up for French like an automaton, forgetting that those conjugations and verbs weren’t going anywhere.

Enter Professor Oliver Morgan.

Prof. Morgan's twin.
Prof. Morgan’s twin.

He looked like Tim Matheson. I suppose that’s what stopped me from dropping the class. (This Square Peg freely admits moments of superficiality.) He was also charming, had a wry and cool sense of humor, and was a great teacher. I couldn’t stand him. Read on. I could see it his eyes: he was going to teach me French whether I liked it or not. He wasn’t going to throw his hands up in defeat like my French teachers in the past who couldn’t get me to speak in anything other than present tense and short phrases, which therefore allowed me to rest on my laurels and gaze at posters of chateaus. He was going to woo me with stories of his French wife and their bilingual children who spent 6 months of the year in France. He was going to call on me and force me to speak to him only in French. And because I saw that determination in his eyes, how he ignored my scowls and sarcasm, I found him highly irritating. In the end, I supposed that determination and his handsome face worked. I started paying attention in class. My comprehension improved somewhat. I passed tests with more than my ability to remember vocabulary words. Because essentially, that was it, the problem I had from the beginning: I could remember all the words. I just struggled to put them all together and in the correct tenses. Finally, in Senior Year, I took my last French class. Guess who the professor was? We had a much better time together.

Last year, I met some new French-speaking friends who, to my everlasting shock, marveled at my “perfect” French accent. I almost collapsed. I told them of my past struggles. They waved it off and continued complimenting me and said to stick with it. Whaaat? Following that, some friends and I went on a trip to Montreal, where I stunned myself by conversing with people in my usual Frenglish, but–wait for it–more French than English! Again, whaaat?

One day, my dream of living in France will come true. I, too, will walk to the local bakery and order mountains of baguettes like Professor Morgan’s children. I figure that living there and being immersed in the language and culture will cause a miraculous loosening of my brain and tongue, releasing all the French hiding in the medulla since was I was 14 years old. Until then, Frenglish it is.

Oh, other lessons I learned: 1) try, try again; 2) don’t give up; 3) eat lots of sweet bread.

 

how not to be ignorant about Africa.

We won’t get into exactly what inspired this post, only that its absolute necessity is imperative. Shall we, then?

africa
Image courtesy of Free World Maps. Link here: http://www.freeworldmaps.net/africa/

  1. Africa is a continent. Not a country.
  2. When something weird happens in a country within the continent of Africa, it does not represent the entire country where it happened, the people in that particular country, or the people that live on the street/town/city where the weird thing happened. It is an isolated incident, borne from the choices that particular individual or group made.
  3. When someone is from Africa, do not assume that those sad commercials in which flies mill about the crying faces of starving children with distended bellies applies to them and/or represents where they came from. Yes, abject poverty and starvation exist in Africa, but the assumption that all Africans either lived in abject poverty or came from such is ridiculous and inane. Even if they did, how about not assuming?
  4. Disney’s The Lion King. I can’t even. That Swahili in the beginning of the movie? Is not the universal language spoken on the continent. Stop asking Africans what it means.
  5. Speaking of asking Africans random questions, it is 2013. We live in a Google world. There’s likely a library in the vicinity of your home. If you have a question about the continent, kindly research it on your own.
  6. I am proud to be an African woman. I am also an American woman. The fact that I do not have the dough to regularly visit the country of my birth does not diminish the fact that it is the country of my birth, or that I am proud of it.
  7. Oh, you thought this was just about the ignorance of non-Africans, huh?
  8. Ignorance is universal.
  9. Believe that.
  10. We all possess a level of ignorance about things we don’t understand. Rather than relying on age-old prejudices and/or foolery, take the time to sincerely find things out. You will be happier and the possibility of major side eye coming from me will be significantly reduced.

Africa3