Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Final Countdown

Little by little my fellow exchange students are leaving the country, whether or not they will return after Christmas. I just said goodbye to my good friend Coconut/Stephanie. I've sent a box of books home and am preparing to send another to make room for Christmas presents in my suitcases. I'm about to buy the ticket for my train to the airport, and am trying to figure out how I'm going to drag my suitcases all the way down to the gare (I throw French words into my English now. I've forgotten how to pronounce train station). As the end of my stay here draws to a close, I have to ask myself "Did I accomplish what I intended?"

No, honestly. I wanted to see Europe, the entire country of France, and get and Educational Psychology credit for my major. I wanted to slake my thirst for travel and return to little Westminster refreshed and ready for the coming semester. I wanted to figure out whether a return to camp this summer is feasible. I wanted to focus on improving my piano skills.

But I can't ignore what I've gained: a semester in a country as wonderfully mixed up as my own, a deep appreciation for American television, new information on three important periods in music history, a taste for good cheese, fresh bread—never again will I be content with sliced—and a good kebab, a working knowledge of Paris and its subway system, and a second sight that allowes me to walk home at night and never step in the many piles of dog poo nor run into anyone while eating a kebab and watching a new episode of 30 Rock on my iPod. I also walk faster, have revised my definition of a long walk. I now feel confident that I could live on my own (heck, I bought my own insurance. I'm grown), I've remembered what it is like to live without constant internet and television access, which means I journaled a lot. I've come to accept the skinny jean as a part of this year's fashion trends (though I hope to high heaven it's not as big in the midwest as it is here) and no longer raise my eyebrows when I see a non-black person with dreadlocks. My hatred for dubbing has increased despite my willingness to, on occasion, watch two consecutive episodes of CSI, called Les Experts. I didn't even like CSI when I came here, and am still not sure how I feel about it.

I have a sneaking suspicion that I'll get smacked a lot over the next year as I consistenly compare everything to the way the French do things, etc. I'm already wondering how long I could go without a job if I decided to save my money and travel after university, or how well I would survive if I decided to get a job in France. I am filled with a wanderlust that consumes my waking thoughts and my dreams while I slumber. The sweet agony!

My hands are cold—the student union is not climate controlled (which is why all their pianos are out of tune)—so I'm going to stop before they freeze completely. Out.

Monday, December 11, 2006

I Was Not Meant for England

After two trips to this accursed island, I have decided that only if accompanied by a notoriously blessed voyager will I ever cross the waters to rainy Angleterre. Friday, December 8 was my good friend Herschel's birthday, and on my last Paris trip Nina had asked me to visit that weekend and surprise him. Sure, I said. Nothing major was happening that weekend, and I had been wanting to visit for a while. Then I learned the week beforehand that I was going to have one of my last Classical Music History classes, and I had yet to figure out what I was supposed to be doing for a final in that class. I mentioned this to my parents, and after a few unsubtle remarks about how they knew I would "make the right decision considering your studies" I was completely convinced that I shouldn't go. At least, I was until I found out that the class had been cancelled. Sign me up for a trip to England, please!

Thursday morning I got ready to head across Ye Olde English Channel by plane. I got about halfway to the train station when I realized I had forgotten my passport. So I ran back to the apartment, grabbed the passport, and ran to the train station. I also remembered why I quit cross-country. I was too late to hop on my original train, so I bought a ticket for the next one to Nantes, which would have given me a six-minute window of time to get on the shuttle to the airport. However, the train decided to be 15 minutes slow. By all that's holy. French trains are almost never cancelled, and are rarely late. Why me?

I missed my flight. Again. I was tempted to just give up and resign myself to a long weekend in my room, but Nina was counting on me. Herschel was counting on me, even if he didn't know it. I bought a ticket for the next plane to England, which happened to be to an airport equidistant from Norwich. That was a good sign, right? The flight went smoothly, I got into the Stansted airport without any troubles, and when I bought a train ticket for Norwich the lady said I could catch the next one if I ran.

So I ran and hopped on the train, happy to finally be on my way to Norwich. About two and a half hours later Nina and I had both begun to panick, since the train had not yet stopped an Norwich. I asked the ticket-puncher guy and he directed me to a map of our train line. WE WERE GOING THE WRONG WAY. The lady who sold me my ticket neglected to tell me I had to switch trains in Peterborough (which we had passed about an hour and a half ago), so I was on my way to Birmingham, which is four hours in the opposite direction from Norwich. Oh, for the love of chocolate chips, I thought. My stomach was in knots for the next hour as the train made its way to Birmingham, wondering how I was going to get to where I was supposed to be.

At about 9:30 pm (an hour after I should have been in Norwich) I hopped off the train in Birmingham and raced to the ticket counter. The ticket vendor asked how he could help me.

"I need to get to Norwich," I said.

He snorted a bit. "No chance tonight. The last train left at eight."

I wanted to knash my teeth and wail "Why, God?" and fall to my knees in the middle of the station, but instead I called Nina. I was on the verge of tears; this was supposed to be easy! These people spoke my language, for goodness' sake! Of course, the whole time I was thinking about how Mom and Dad told me not to come, then the song "Mama Told Me Not To Come," then how this kind of mess always seemed to happen to me. Oh, had I known what was to come.

Nina suggested I find a cheap hotel and she would text me with train times for the next day. Alright, big girl, I thought, you can do this. I grabbed a taxi and asked the Indian man driving to take me to the nearest inexpensive hotel. "Oh, I know just the place," he told me. "It's only a fifteen-minute walk from the station, and very cheap." I didn't care if I was sleeping with roaches as long as I could just end the day. I was hungry, tired, my head ached, and all that stress had worn me thin. The cabbie drove and drove as I called Nina to update her on my progress, then answered the cabbie's questions about why I was so desperate for a hotel. I did think we were going for a little longer than I had expected a fifteen-minute walk would take, but what did I know, this wasn't my city.

We went down a residential street and the cabbie stopped. I looked out the window to see a townhouse with the word Hotel on the side, but it didn't look like any hotel I'd ever been to. "Is this is?" I asked, a bit incredulous.

"Thees ees it," he said. "I give you my number so if you want cab tomorrow morning, you call me. I live on this street, too."

"Thanks," I said, paying him and taking his number. I had no intention of using it; the train station was supposed to be 15 minutes down the street.

"If they have no room, I do not mind if you come stay with my family," the cabbie offered.

That threw me off a wee bit. "Oh, er, thanks very much, but I'll try the hotel first," I smiled.

I walked up to the front door and the cabbie pulled away. I peered through one of the doors and was disappointed not to see anything resembling an office or front desk, but I knocked anyway. The cabbie had already left, I had no idea where I was, and I was tired. A little bit later a bleary-eyed, disheveled looking man (did he realize his pants were unzipped?) came and opened the door.

"Is this a hotel?" I asked. He stared at me. "My cabbie dropped me off here and told me this was a hotel."

The man invited me into the kitchen (the place didn't look like a hotel) and told me that he only lived there, he was not in charge, he and several other immigrants lived there, would I like something to eat? Wonderful. I had been dropped on the doorstep of an immigrant hostel, and the proprietor was nowhere to be found. I briefly explained my situation to the man who let me in, and asked if he knew of a nearby hotel.

Over the next hour I learned quite a bit about this man despite his broken English. His name was Sabah Kadir, the word "sabah" in his language meant morning, he also spoke Khudanese, Farsi, Arabic, a little French and German, had lived in Birmingham for eight years, had never had a girlfriend and was afraid it was getting to late in life for him to start a family, that of course he knew where hotels were, and that he was having troubles getting his citizenship in England. He was also drunk. He forgot much of what I said not ten minutes after the fact, and told me that instead of spending money on a hotel I should sleep in his room and he would go sleep in his friend's room. Not like that, not like, stupid, you know, he has a lot of sisters. No thanks, I told him. I really need to use the internet to get a hold of my friend. At 11 pm I stood up and put on my backpack.

"I'll just go find a nearby hotel," I said when Sabah protested. "I really need the internet."

Sabah looked disappointed. "To bad I don't have the internet. I could take you to the library in the morning, and you could use the internet there."

"Yeah, too bad I need to leave before the library opens."

Sabah offered to escort me to the street with all the hotels. I acquiesced, remembering that I was also still lost. I accepted his address in case I ended up needing to stay in the hostel (I'd sleep in a box first), he put on his shoes and finally zipped up his pants, and we were off.

Suddenly he was full of questions. What did my parents do for a living? Are they rich? How long will I be in England? Do I like Birmingham? Am I married? Do I have a boyfriend? Aha , I thought. All of a sudden I did indeed have a boyfriend, though I immediatly regretted telling Sabah that my man was in the States and not who I was visiting in Norwich. How old was I? I answered truthfully, figuring our age difference might put him off. But no, Sabah decided he was twenty-eight. Liar. He was at least in his mid-thirties, especially with all those lines about thinking it was too late to start a family.

"I'm sorry I have so many questions," he apologized. "It is just that our time is so short now, and I imagine that you, lost in England, and me from Khudar (is that even a country? I couldn't find it on Google), maybe we have something together." Yikes. My response was something like, "Oh. Okay." I walked faster.

As we approached the first hotel Sabah suggested I simply go in and use the internet, then come sleep in his room while he gave me the key and slept in his friend's bedroom. "Sure," I said. Not on your life, I thought. We both walked in and I asked for a room. The concierges at the desk told me sorry, they were all booked and thought it unlikely that I would find a room at any of the other hotels on the street, though I should try the B&B next door. I thanked them and started toward the door, while Sabah took it upon himself to explain the entire situation to the two men. I tried to ditch him there, but he was too quick for me. Guess that cold air sobered him up a bit. My heart was in my shoes. I was incredibly frightened that I was not going to find anywhere to sleep and would have to snuggle with Sabah for the night. Sabah redoubled his efforts to make me come home with him, reasoning that I wasn't going to find a room anyway. Please, God. Let there be room in the Quality Inn.

Sabah stayed outside to smoke as I went in to "use the internet." I saw the man at the desk and dashed up to him. "Excuse me but I'm stuck here for the night because I was supposed to be in Norwich but the lady at the train station didn't tell me I had to change trains in Peterborogh and now I'm stuck here and the cabbie told me he was taking me to a hotel and took me to an immigrant hostel instead and I don't know maybe my accent threw him off but now this guy won't leave me alone and the man at the other hotel told me there was little chance I would find a room for tonight since I have to leave as soon as possible in the morning but I really need a room otherwise I'll be stuck with this guy so is there any chance that you have a single room?"

The concierge said "Yeah, sure," then took a ridiculous amount of money from me for a single room. I ducked outside to get rid of Sabah, who wanted a hug and a kiss. I let him have a hug, and managed to turn my head to the side before his lips connected, and he told me to write him. Sure, Sabah. I ran inside and up to my room, scarfing down the junk food I had bought at the train station and texting Nina. She gave me a couple of train times and I went to sleep.

I wanted to be in Norwich before one, so I woke up early, showered, and left the hotel at about 7:45 to catch the 8:15 train. I followed the map the concierge had given me without getting lost once, yet it still took me an hour to reach the train station. I wanted to choke that cabbie. Cheap hotel, sure. Fifteen-minute walk, sure. I got on the 9:40 train and was tensely vigilant at every stop we made, leaping off at Peterborough then stationing myself at the platform where the next train was supposed to come in. That afternoon I was in Norwich!

As far as the weekend is concerned, it was a definite success. Herschel was shocked when he walked into the kitchen and saw me peeling potatos for dinner, the festivities went smoothly, and everyone to whom I was introduced was very welcoming and friendly. I was exhausted when I got back to Angers on Sunday (with no further travel snafoos), but I consided the entire experience worth the memories made. Like Jack Handey's pirates.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Trying To Go To London

Travel Troubles.

It all started with the loss off my most precious documents. The passport is okay, but the people who give visas seem to have decided that if one loses a visa, one must jump through teeny tiny hoops set at dangerous heights in order to get a new one. Except they won't tell you how to get to wherever the hoops are, and you might not see all of them because they're all hidden like little Easter eggs. I had scheduled a visit this weekend to visit my aunt and cousin+wifey in London, and the desk for the airline closes exactly forty minutes before departure. Exactly forty minutes.

Yesterday, (Happy Thanksgiving) my father mentioned that though I could leave France without a problem, I might have some issues if I tried to get back into the country without a visa. I had asked the woman at the American Presence Post in Rennes about this very subject, and she had indicated that I shouldn't have any problems, but I figured (a.k.a. between Dad and Aunt Rhoda I was half convinced that I was never going to be able to leave France, ever) it would be prudent to double-check. I went down to the Bureau of Foreigners (that's the exact translation) and waited for about an hour to have a lady tell me that all I needed to do was attach a couple documents, one of which I didn't have. This conversation, once she actually stopped interrogating me long enough to tell her why I was there, took about thirty minutes, and I was already starting to feel pressed for time. The missing document was something the folks in Rennes were supposed to have copied for me when I went there, but they didn't. It was 11:00 am.

Panic! All I could think of was how the last time I called the APP Rennes (who had the document I needed) it took them four days to respond. Of course, I forgot that I called them on a holiday, but that didn't stop my respiration and heartrate from increasing at a dizzying pace. I rushed to school and found the number for the consulate in Rennes, and with my heart in my throat I called. Success! The lady answered. Ambiguity! She said she didn't always keep a copy of the files she sent to Paris, but she would look. She also told me I would have to come to Rennes to pick it up, which is a two-hour train ride one way. Success? She said she could fax it, but I didn't have access to a fax machine. Panic! At the Disco! I was running around, trying to print off copies of all the documents that I thought I might need, and asking for a fax machine. Success! The woman in the Office of International relations offered to let me use hers. Bigger Success! The document came through, I made copies and trundled home to eat and finish packing and tidying my room. Small failure. I couldn't find a stapler, so I had to just paper clip the documents to my passport. Small success. My room is tidy for the first time in a month.

Success! I got on the train on time, and arrived in Rennes with about an hour until the Ryan Air desk closed for the flight. Failure! It turns out that the shuttle to the airport left while I was getting off the train, and the next one didn't come until 5:01 pm, and would reach the airport after the office closed. I sat down to wait for a taxi, but the most taxis were waiting for customers who had summoned them ahead of time, and there weren't a whole lot of them waiting around. I sat there for an hour. Tiny success. I grabbed a taxi. Failure. The taxi came at 4:40. I had 25 minutes to get to the airport and to the Ryan Air check-in point. Failure! The traffice was ridiculous. I know the taxi driver could tell I was anxious because he kept reassuring me that the traffic would ease up one we exited the city. Bigger failure! We didn't get out of the city until a little before 5:00. HUGE FAILURE I ran up to the desk at, according to the airport clock, 5:08:30, three and a half minutes after it closed. The crabby lady refused to let me slide by; I was obviously not the first late and desperate customer she had dealt with. Despair. I shed half a tear before trying to find another plane to London. There were none leaving from Nantes, so I called home, called Aunt Rhoda, bought time on the internet (which was achingly slow) to search for flights. There was one from Paris, but it would have cost my an extra 200 euros. Er, maybe not. I thought about sleeping in my own bed for the night, but by the time I gave up trying to find flights I had also missed the last train from Nantes to Angers.

So here I sit at the B&B, having choked down a nasty sandwich from the vending machines and reserved another flight (at twice the cost of the original, and this is one way), I sit typing this entry on free WiFi. The internet came with a room that smells as if someone had opened a can of air freshener from the '80s and added some nursing home smell on top of it, and I can oncly access said internet while sitting in the reception area. Thus far six guests have mistaken me for an employee. I don't even know how to end this thing

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Thanksgiving and Peanut Butter

Two small points of interest and a postscript:

1. I will, for the first time ever in my short but venerable life, be missing all Thanksgiving celebrations. Not only am I outside any country that celebrates the day of great feasting, but the two American students who are hosting [separate] Thanksgiving dinners are doing so on Saturday. I am leaving to visit Aunt Rhoda and Company on Friday afternoon, and ergo will be absent from the possible overindulgence that will occur in Angers on a small scale. Hence, I charge anyone with a conscience to pray that I run across some pumpkin pie within the next two days.

2. I have a French nickname. Last Thursday I was sitting in the building that passes for a student union, typing up the Paris blog and reading emails, when a fellow American student popped a squat beside me. Andrea was waiting for a classmate from a translation class to meet her so they could do their homework together. When Stephanie sat down we introduced ourselves, but did not say much more than that. Eventually I pulled a bag of Peanut Butter M&Ms (courtesy of Jessy Elliott) out of my backpack and offered it to the two girls. Stephanie asked what was different about this particular brand of M&Ms, and when I tried to explain that "il ya a de beurre de cacahuètes dans les centres des M&Ms"—there's peanut butter in the middle of the M&Ms—she laughed uproariously at my pronunciation. To soften the blow to my speech ego, Stephanie patiently coached Andrea and myself on the pronunciation of cacahuète. It took me so long to finally say it right that Stephanie decided to call me Cacahuète for the rest of the night (she turned out to be a fairly hep cat), and when I saw her last night she yelled, "Ah, mon cacahuète!" when she saw me. Stephanie and Andrea did not emerged unscathed either, since Andrea could not pornounce the word for frog, grenouille (guess what her nickname is), and in retribution we poor browbeaten foreigners decided to call Stephanie by her favorite word in English—Coconut.

Postscript: When I was in French class this afternoon I repeatedly drifted into the land of daydreams and random thought, and a recurring thought was on the various names for my favorite carnival/fair food: "cotton candy", "spun sugar", and "candy floss". However, the more I thought about it (I was really bored), the stronger my conviction became that the name "candy floss" is a near-oxymoron. The purpose of floss and flossing is to prevent the development of cavities and other such oral afflictions while the effect of candy consumption is the appearance of cavities. Why on earth would anyone want to floss with candy? Isn't that basically putting cavities in your mouth, as in "Here, Mr. Cavity, why don't you just snuggle up between these two molars here?" Such nonsense.

Post-postscript: The correct pronunciation of cacahuète is harder than it looks on paper, and to an anglophone, would not seem at all phonetic. Ditto grenouille.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Examens Blancs

This week we had the French version of midterms, know as "Examens Blancs." It's a ridiculous practice, because they count for nothing, but they each take up three to four hours of one's time. They are scheduled outside of class time (similar to finals in the American system), but classes continue nonetheless. I had three exams, two of which counted as my finals. The two that were important went fairly well in my opinion. The other, well. It was as if I had never gone to that class before, showed up the day of the test, and said, "Hm, this looks fun! Let's see if I can sound like an idiot." So, in a sense, I succeeded there, too. I wiped out. This weekend is going to be completely dedicated to relaxation and figuring out how to delete songs off the computer while keeping them on my iPod.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Paris, Take 2

Permit me, firstly, to apologize for my long absences between posts. If you want to know why, try going to a foreign country for a while where you don't speak their language, going without consistent internet access, midterms that count for nothing for the French but count as your finals, and keeping a blog. So lay off me (Barron). This stuff takes time, expecially when some people thinks they need to point out my grammatical errors.

Well, on November second I packed my bag, bought a coat (that's another story), and shipped myself back to gai Paris to meet Mlle Nina Badoe, longtime friend and fellow international student. She flew in from Norrich, England, where she's studying for the semester, and arrived in the Charles de Gaulle airport about thirty minutes before my train came in to the same airport. As soon as I got in I gave her a call, and she said she had found a friend already (she does that. I don't know how, but she does) who could help her find the train station. I got a call back later saying she had found herself Charles de Gaulle 1, rather than CGD2, where the TGV station is located. No sweat, I thought. I asked a lady to direct me to CDG1, but I guess my thick accent made it sound like I was asking for Terminal 1, which is most certainly not the same. In the meantime, a young man walked up to me and started speaking in a language I didn't understand at all, though it sounded a bit like Spanish. He got across to me that he spoke no French, no English, and no Spanish, and that he was speaking Portuguese. That was about all we understood of each other. He was pointing to phone numbers on a sheet of paper, and I was asking him if he needed to use my cell phone, and he just kept speaking really fast Portuguese, and I was trying to tell him I had no idea how to help him (which I thought would have come across in my complete lack of Portuguese), and eventually he said something that might have been "Thanks anyway," and walked off. So I was misdirected, lost, had to give the phone to a Hertz employee so he and Nina's friend could talk to each other and figure out what was going on. Two hours and an empty stomach later, Nina and friend finally found me as I sat in Terminal One. That sure was encouraging.

We didn't do much that first evening, other than check in at the hostel and eat McDonald's (we had a craving. I have no excuse), but we did take a long walk around the block and freeze before returning for a good night's sleep. The people at the hostel seemed to take a liking to us, and used us to practice their English whenever we showed up.

The first day was the Eiffel Tower and the Moulin Rouge, plus a walk around the Montmartre area. Nina and I both were ridiculously tired after we climbed all those stupid steps, and that was when we decided not to see the Sacre Coeur up close until the next day. There was an American family coming down while we were going up, and the little boy was telling his mother that he was really tired and ready for a break. "My legs have been whining," he said, and I thought that was a very accurate statement. Not much was different from the last time I climbed that thing, save for it was sunny, and there was Buddhist monk running around in his orange robe and some really yellow socks with his sandals. I wanted to get a picture, but he was a sly devil, and I have no evidence of my monk sighting. After the Eiffel Tower we grabbed some lunch and subwayed over to the Moulin Rouge. Nina wanted to walk down the whole thing, but I was afraid of catching herpes. Then two tall transvestites walked past, and Nina changed her mind. Can't say I was sorry.

We stayed in the area for most of the afternoon, looking in shops around Montmartre, trying to find the breakdancers who had been there the last time (no dice on that), and marveling at Frenchiness of Paris. I could techinically sum up our trip in those three words: we wandered around. Or we wondered around aimlessly, because we didn't have a leader. That night we went dancing in a really crowded club, and stayed a lot longer than we intended, mostly because it was hard to move anywhere without climbing over people. We went to bed late, got up early, and headed back to Montmartre. The angry string/bracelet vendors were out in full force that Saturday, and cursed in English at everyone who didn't buy anything. I was really tired, so it was easy to put on a grumpy face that said "If you mess with me, I will rip out your spleen," whenever they came around.

There was also a harpist playing on the steps, which I thought was really cool. There was a family speaking something Germanic, and the dad was wearing giant yellow clogs. I would love to know how he fared climbing all those steps.
The Sacre Coeur was, again, very impressive, and I am of the opinion that everyone should see it at least once in their lifetime. The Moulin Rouge, on the other hand, looks nothing like it does in the movie, and is nothing special (save for the transvestites).

After the Sacre Couer we grabbed sandwiches and took the train to Versailles to see the famed palace. I was thoroughly astonished. I couldn't get the whole thing in a picture. When we walked through the gates there were, of course, more vendors, two who thought I should be able to speak Arabic, but it gets easier to say "no" every time I walk past a guy selling cheap Eiffel Tower keychains.

Versailles deserves its fame. It is massive, ornate, and gets more golden and fancy as one approaches the king's quarters. The chapel inside the palace is a very good idea—no excuses not to go. And, if all else fails, the church service could come to you. I did not, however, like the idea of waking up and going to bed publicly, though it might have been fun to have music accompany your every move. The queen, I think, was worse off. Who wants to give birth with half the court watching? I certainly hope Louis and his successors made that sort of humiliation worthwhile for their wives.

That night I tried to lead Nina back to a Fnac I had seen on my previous trip to Paris from the bus tour (she needed an adaptor for her computer). Apparently it's not easy to find things I've only seen while half-asleep through a bus window, because somehow we ended up walking down the Champs Elysées, and turned up next to the obelisk. Then we walked through the park and came out in the über-posh area, where Chanel and Gucci are located. We stared at expensive jewelery through windows and marveled at the prices, picked out the pieces that were deserving of our life savings, and continued to wander in search of Fnac (again, we were without a good leader), and by the time we discovered we were nowhere near that darn store we had walked for a good hour and a half. So we ate at a restaurant called Hippopotamus, dragged ourselves back to the hostel, and slept.

Sunday we went to mass in the famed Notre Dame, and it was fantastic. Marvelous music, marvelous cathedral, and hundred of tourists to snap photos and distract me from the sermon. It also happened to be the international service, so I heard Scripture read in English, Italian, Spanish, and French. Pretty cool. It was also freezing cold, but that's a side note. After the service Nina and I went to a café near the church, and the waiter spoke English to us the entire time even though I only spoke to him in French (Is that rude? I was offended, and need justification). Then we went to the Louvre. Wow. There is so much in there to see. We stuck mostly to the non-European displays, and took irreverent photos with several pieces of priceless art (I forgot my camera, so I'll post those pictures when I snatch them from Nina), saw the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo, and wore our feet to thin flappy pads. We were there for four hours, never stopping once, and saw maybe a quarter of all the Louvre has to offer. And we usually didn't read the display cards, either. That was pretty much it, that day. We were too worn out to do much else, and Nina had an early morning the next day, so we actually did homework that evening and rested. Then we went out to eat and the waiter asked me if I was from Beirut. Do I look Lebanese?

So it's settled. When I come back to France in a future summer or late spring, I will kayak on the pond at Versailles, see the rest of the Louvre, and find out what's the big deal about the Palais Japonais and the Hôtel des Invalides. Feel free to join me.

Are you happy, Barron?

Friday, October 27, 2006

Quick Note

I decided today that it is high time I catch up on my American music pop culture, so I went on YouTube and began watching music videos. Feel free to contest or echo my sentiments. Just in case anyone was wondering how I felt about this season's batch of media:

"Long Way to Go" by Cassie: Why is that girl always dancing in front of mirrors? I know she was a model and all, but I don't think the directors of her music videos should cater to such narcissism.

"Fergalicious" by Fergie: I will never eat cake again after seeing Stacy Fergeson rub it all over her body.

Girls: Who knew Beenie Man had such a washboard stomach? It does not, however, redeem him. And shame on him for allowing Akon in his video. Two ugly men surrounded by beautiful women…the everyman's dream, no?

"Jump" by Madonna: She looks like a Pink impersonater in that outfit. And she dances funny. Gotta give her credit though, she is 48. Maybe when I'm 48 I'll run around in tight leather outfits and dance around like that too. It might just be what happens at that age. My parents sure hid it well, though.

"Hurt" by Christina Aguilera: what is she doing on that elephant that merits a standing ovation? Nothing. I could sit on an elephant and no one would do anything, save for maybe permanently bar me from the zoo. Awfully melodramatic. I'll do an impression for you sometime, and it will mostly be me crying and falling down and reaching for no one in particular. Oscar material.

Letter to 50 Cent concerning his presence in "Hands Up" by Lloyd Banks: Dear Fiddy. You cannot sing. Please stick to what you're good at, like rapping and getting shot.

Rihanna's "We Ride" reminded me of Kae Chopin's book "The Awakening," at least in the beginning. I am also not impressed with her voice, her dancing, or her production. I begrudge Rihanna her fame.

"Promise" by Ciara: I want to figure out how to make a microphone do that gravity-defying trick. When God made Ciara, he said to her "Thou shalt have deadly dance moves, ridiculous abs, and always wear black." Ciara, the saint, rarely defies this decree. However, when God created Paris Hilton, he told her not to tease and tempt pubescent boys in her music videos. She didn't listen very well. I feel that her "Nothing in this World" video should be a little bit illegal.

K-Fed's "Lose Control": What can I say? He's hard now. We all knew this. I do not, however, condone rapping about money that he only recieves in his allowance from Britney. So what if his Ferrari cost more than my Sable? At least I bought it, stupidhead.

I also watched a black-and-white video of a guy dancing to Nelly Furtado's "Afraid," and was saddened by how cool he was trying to be. But I highly suggest it to other viewers. I got some great dance moves from it.