Thursday, October 23, 2008

An American in Paris Blog post #2

I laughed out loud on the subway this morning on the way to work. This is humorous because as busy as le Metro is in Paris, everyone is essentially quiet and tries not to look at each other. I have been listening to a Podcast called Coffee Break French published by the Radio Lingua network. It consists of short 15-20 minute sessions that you can listen to during your coffee break and learn a foreign language with minimal effort. The lessons are just the right pace and provide just the right amount of information that you don’t get overwhelmed, yet feel challenged at the same time. This is the first morning I have had my iPod with me on the subway, as that is just what you do on the subway. I would easily say that one-half of the people riding the Metro at any given time, have some white earphones, usually white, sticking out of their ears. Or, if you are an audiophile, you have upgraded to the larger, over-the-ear studio style headphones that make it sound like the band is playing right there with you on le Metro.

Anyway, the lesson this morning was reviewing verbs. The phrase was “I like” and was, obviously, using the verb “ to like” to tell others about what you liked to do. That is when I laughed out loud. Every evening after work has involved a mad rush to the Quarte Temp, the local mega-mall in La Defense, just around the corner from the office. I have been spending all my evenings here, researching what to buy for equipping La cuisine (the kitchen) and picking up cleaning supplies, toilet paper and all that stuff you have to buy when you move into an apartment again. This all has to be completed between getting off work at 6 O’clock and before the place closes promptly at 8 O’clock. I was priding myself that I was finally getting the hang of things. I knew how to find my way around Castorama (that is Lowes in France), Darty (very much like a Best Buy in the States) and Go Sports—you can figure that one out. I could interact with the salespeople a little, telling them what I wanted followed with a poorly pronounced noun and a point to the shelf. That was usually followed by a response from the sales person as I would quickly say, “Je suis desole—je parle tres peu francais—j’habite en Paris une semaine” if they said anything else other than c’est tous? (is that all?) That is because I can’t understand spoken French yet.

Back to last night. Every night has been filled with shopping, or at the very least, heavy browsing—which is time consuming as I know very few nouns. It is actually part of the learning process as I look at what I know is a washing machine and I crudely pronounce, out-loud in the store, lave-linge. At checkout, very few stores provide you with bags, believe it or not. If they do, they are either useless like the produce bags at US supermarkets or you must pay for them. The question always comes up at checkout, “blah blah blah un sac?” “No merci, j’aim un sac!” So pleased with myself that I was interacting with store personnel, instead of stating that “No thanks, I have my own bag,” I was—with a smile on my face—telling the cashier, “No thanks, I like bags!” This was always followed by hand waving and pointing at my bag on my shoulder because the cashier was trying to give me un sac. The correct verb should have been, J’ai for “I have,” but I didn’t get it quite right. Oh well! Maybe the French cashier got as much laughter as I did out of it. I hope over drinks with his/her friends, they were describing the happy American who “liked bags” and couldn’t speak a lick of French! Until next time…vive le France, et Vive les etats Unis!

This is kind of a long one tonight. As I write this, I sit in a mostly empty Paris apartment. I am quite content though! Tonight, I successfully bought and brought home a new multi-cuisson, a combination microwave, toaster oven and convection oven. The only funny element to this story is I strapped a 24 KG oven to the back of my bike and rode 1 KM to my apartment. I just finished a quiche I bought from the local Monoprix as I sip on a bottle of 5 Euro Burgougne wine. I am so happy because I have been eating cereal all week for dinner. Tonight was the first night I have prepared a hot meal in our new apartment. It will take many weeks to get la cuisine fully equipped, but I can’t wait! This was the best meal I have had all week! All for only 8 Euros (that includes the 5 Euro bouteille de vin). Bonne nuit!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

An American in Paris Blog post #1

What have I done? I have just moved to Paris, France after living my whole life in the USA. I have explored and traveled a fair bit of the USA, but my travels to Europe have been so far, limited. Our good friends, Jennifer Hodgin and Johann Plancher, who live only about 3 KM from here, probably do not know this, but they provided much inspiration for my wife and I to decide to uproot ourselves from American and move to Europe. At Jenn’s suggestion, I am starting a journal on my experiences in Paris and at the things I find irritating, funny and just downright nutty. Jenn says that reading these later on (perhaps years from now) will provide welcome entertainment because, like all humans before us, we adapt to our environments. What seems impossible now will become second nature in just a short time. The account that follows is my experiences of living in Paris as an American, not speaking French.