James in Paris

James, a French and history double major, is returning to France in Spring 2009 for his second semester abroad. He is hoping to reconnect with old friends and his French family while working on his language and culture skills in preparation for graduation and a master’s degree program.

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Viewing the future from Paris

IMG_5015.jpg“If you ask a French person where the ‘RRRR’ is, they will look at you like you’re crazy.”

Wow, well it’s been a little bit since I’ve last written. I guess you could say the last couple of weeks have been a bit … confusing for me, in the sense that I’ve been trying to figure out exactly what it is that I want, and can do, for the summer and following semester. I still don’t have all the answers, but I feel like I’m making progress. So, time for updates!

This week I am on vacation from classes. While everyone else in my group has taken the opportunity to galavant elsewhere, I’ve decided to spend most of my time in Paris. And, I must say, it has been very nice. I realized that, while I have lived here for some time, I have never really spent any type of “vacation” time in Paris. It’s just nice to be able to relax, enjoy the city, take walks, and visit some museums. On that note I plan on visiting the d’Orsay today :).

Three-city tour

I have, however, decided to take a small little trip outside of the city tomorrow and Thursday. Tomorrow morning I’ll leave to go to Nancy, then later on in the afternoon I’ll head off to Strasbourg where I’ll stay the night. Then, bright and early the next morning I’ll take the train to Reims, and then late in the afternoon I’ll come back to Paris. Three cities in a day and a half … I’m sure I’ll be quite tired after all of this! The nice thing though is that the whole trip was rather cheap! I bought this “carte d’abbonnement” (subscription card) for people between the ages of 12-25 (I feel kind of odd being placed in the same category as a 12 year old … but oh well) that gives you 50% discounts on train tickets.

The card itself was about $60, but it has already been worth it! I only paid $80 for four different train tickets! That’s really not bad at all. Plus my hostel is only $30 in Strasbourg! So the whole trip, three cities, cost me less than $115! If I do say so myself, I know how to travel on a budget :). Of course one of the reasons I decided to stay in the city was because of the cost of traveling.

Not knowing exactly what I’m doing this summer, I’m trying to be a bit more cautious about how much I spend on the off chance that I need to have some cash extra set aside.

What next?

The last few weeks have been all about me just trying to figure out, frankly, what I’m doing here in France. At times the whole thing seems too big for me to handle, and I feel like I should just ship myself back to Texas where I belong. But then I sit here and think about all that I’ve already accomplished, and all that I could accomplish if I really wanted to. Right now I’m coming across some … roadblocks to say the least. But, on the bright side, I feel like those obstacles are finally starting to go away. But still … what is it that I really want to do here? What is it that I’m really hoping to accomplish? And, even scarier … with graduation only a year away … what do I want to do afterward? I have no idea, to be honest, and I need to figure it out soon.

If I want any chance of getting into a master’s program I need to start studying for GMATs and preparing to apply to universities. Even if I decide to stay in France until December, I still need to get on the ball about what I wanna do after graduation. Though, my attitude at this point is to just take it one step at a time. Once I figure out
my plans for the summer and the next semester, I can begin to figure out my post-graduation plans. I think that’s the smartest thing to do, I hope. I just really want to get all this stuff figured out ASAP. I really don’t like being unorganized when it comes to matters of my future, and I like to plan everything out to the “t.”

On another note though, I keep having this awful, anxiety-driven fear that my whole world is just going to come crashing. I mean, look at everything. Here I am, little ole’ James from Dallas, Texas … totally out of my comfort zone. I’m living in Paris for goodness sakes! And I’m planning to stay in Paris for some time! I’m currently dating
someone absolutely wonderful. I spend my days wondering what museum, what city, what spectacular thing I will see next. I’m studying topics and subjects that I absolutely love. I speak a language that I’m equally in love with. I’m successfully making plans for my future, I have the support and following of all my friends and family, I’m healthy, and … I dunno. Everything is smooth sailing … do any of us
really get to be that fortunate?

I’ve also noticed that I haven’t gone to church once since I’ve been here … but isn’t that the case when our lives are going great? Isn’t it only when we are in despair that we turn to God? Hmm … I dunno. I think I need to change at least that aspect of my life. I think I’m just a bit overwhelmed and … lost right now. I have all these things in front of me and I have no idea which direction I want, or should, go in. The one thing I know is that time is flying by and I need to catch up. But I can’t let this fear of
running out of time rationalize quick decision making that could ultimately have a negative impact on my future. *Sigh*

I don’t know about everything else, but I do know that I’m very happy right now. I’m happy with my life, with my choices, with everything that I’m doing. It’s a great feeling … I just hope I am smart enough to keep it up.

Riding the “RRRRRRR”

My poor mother has been the butt of all my jokes to French people lately. The other day, while going over an outline of things my mom could do while she was here in Paris, she read the part that I had written out loud, which said, “You can take the RER from the airport to Paris.” Well, in French, “RER” is pronounced, of course, the way they
pronounce the letters, which comes out sounding like “air euh air.” My mother, in all her hilarity, pronounced it like “RRRRRRR.” So, she read it like this: “You can take the RRRRRR from the airport to Paris.” I laughed so hard I couldn’t help myself. I politely told her the right way to say it and she laughed. So, since then, I have told all my French friends and family about my poor mother’s problems with the “RER,” and they’ve all found it to be quite cute and hilarious.

The other night my French mother overheard me talking to my real mother about it, and my mere chimed in and said, in French “c’est ‘air euh air!’ ” They both laughed … I think it’s the first time they’ve ever actually talked to each other in any way! On top of that, there is this film about to come out in France called “La fille du RER” (RER Girl). I sent my mother the trailer for the movie as another part of the joke :).

Paris at night

The weather continues to be miserable here though, which is actually a good thing because I know that when the weather does get nicer I will no be able to accomplish anything! There is nothing more heavenly than walking around Paris on a sunny afternoon. Actually, I lied. My favorite time in the city is actually at night. I love going to this one bridge behind Notre Dame (I’m sure I’ve talked about this bridge a
million times) where this accordian street musician plays classic French songs. I love it because there are no cars allowed on the bridge and, during the winter and spring months, it’s kind of away from the tourists. So, most of the time at night it’s just me on the bridge. Just me and my city.

It sounds kind of weird but sometimes I feel like I’m in a relationship with the city more than anything else. We go on long walks together, we’ve been through good and bad times, I look forward more than anything to returning to it when I’m gone, and I love absolutely everything about it (even its faults)! Pretty dorky, huh? It’s just so beautiful here though! Especially at night, when all the buildings are lit up and the city is calm and somber. Nighttime is when this city really … I dunno, wakes up. Paris really becomes “Paris” at night – the city of light, the city of romance, the city of passion and unconventionality, and, most importantly, the city of my dreams. It’s during the night that you can really see all of the things that truly make Paris an amazing city. The things you can’t see in the museums, in all the monuments and landmarks. These are the things that continue to make Paris thrive, and the things that make people like me desire to live here so much.

IMG_5023.jpgSpeaking of faults, have I mentioned the strikes? Yes, of course there are strikes! This time it’s with the teachers, and I have to say I kind of agree with them on this one. The government wants to cut jobs, salaries, etc. because of the economy and budget problems. I won’t get into the details but it’s very interesting. Luckily it doesn’t really affect me, but my friends in France haven’t had classes (well … at least no professors) for weeks now. And there is no immediate end in sight. There are protests, demonstrations, all sorts of things. (In the photo, the sign says “Paris 7 en greve,” which means “Paris 7 on Strike” – Paris 7 is a university in the city.)

The other day while I was going to the national library there was a large group of students holding a rally and handing out fliers. Apparently there is going to be another protest on the 19th (when I say protest it is necessary to realize that these usually involve thousands of people taking to the streets). Too bad I’ll be in the East of France that day. Maybe I’ll see some there though!

All right, well now I must be on my way to the dreaded national library. Though, not before I make a stop and eat at my favorite Chinese restaurant. Is it sad the owner knows me now? A bientot!

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