Monday, August 28, 2006
St. Chappelle, considered by many guidebooks to be one of the best churches in Paris, is located on Ile de la Cite. Although I have been here for a year, I saw it for the first time last Sunday. I must say, I have been building it up in my mind for quite a while and was more than a little disappointed. Yes, there are tons of stained glass windows and yes, the majority of the bible is displayed on these windows, but it just seemed so small.
I love churches; being in Europe and seeing all the churches I have read about all my life is really a treat for me, but maybe I have seen too many, because I was just not very wowed by this one. I am sure St. Chappelle is fantastic in the morning or evening sun, but the sun was being very stubborn on Sunday and refused to shine at all. I didn't get the full majestic feel of the place because it was dark.
The history of this church is very interesting though. Louis IX (St. Louis) supposedly bought the Crown of Thorns and part of the cross from Constantinople in 1241 and commissioned the church as a place to display the relics. Oddly enough, the relics cost almost 3 times the amount of the construction of the church. During the revolution, the church, because of its association with the monarchy, was severely damaged and most of the statues and spires were destroyed.
However, I am afraid the history is more interesting than the actual church. It is very small and if the sun isn't shining, the beauty of the stained glass windows is lost. As an amateur guide, I cannot recommend this church for three reasons: there is an unreasonable charge, the lines are long and it isn't nearly as impressive as Notre Dame (which is free and located only a few streets away).
Thursday, August 24, 2006
The first picture is Rue Rompi Cuou, or Butt Buster Street (see previous post). The second picture is of the beach right on the strip. I never went to this beach; it was always very busy.
These last three pictures were all taken in Bormes Les Mimosas. The views from this old town are amazing. It is atop a cliff and you can see everything from it. The town itself is quite charming but caters to tourists, so it is just a little too nice. It was beautiful though and it reminded me a lot of Capri, Italy.
I spent most of Tuesday and Wednesday at the Prefecture, the French equivalent of the DMV and social security office, to tie up some administrative paperwork. After spending so much time there AGAIN (I spent more time than I care to remember when I got here last year), it made me long for the DMV! I will never complain about going to any American bureaucratic office again, I promise, cross my heart! I had number 68 and after waiting in line for 5 hours, they skipped my number. When I told the woman, she said she had called my number 3 times and suggested I was stupid. Well, the number appears on a huge digital screen at both ends of the counters. I might well have misunderstood someone saying my number in French, but I can read numbers and number 68 never appeared. After arguing with the woman in what I am sure was the worst French ever, she agreed to wait on me, after everyone else! I waited until the person with the last number, number 112, was waited on and then got to talk to her. I ended up spending 8 hours there. ARRGGG!
Street sign in the old village of Bormes Les Mimosas. Translated, it says something like "Butt buster street."
While I was at the Prefecture, I got to watch a show by BBC about sea horses. There was no sound and the program only lasted about 5 minutes, but they showed it every 15 minutes; I saw it a lot. It got me so interested in sea horses that I did a bunch of internet searches on them when I got home. Now I know the internet is not 100 percent reliable nor does it have completely accurate information, but I think this might be fact because I found it on every site. The males give birth! How fantastic is that? I think this is a brillant idea and more species should adopt this practice.
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
I have neglected posting about my trip to the south because I haven’t really had many good things to say about France in the last week. However, before the guy on the metro attacked me, I had just gotten back from two weeks in Provence, on the coast around Bormes Les Mimosas, Le Lavandou and Toulon. It was great because I got to play in the water a lot and it was relatively inexpensive (stayed at a friend’s grandparents). However, the weather was not fantastic and the water was extremely cold, between 62-68 everyday. I don’t know if any of you have ever swam in water this cold, but let me tell you, it is really painful. And while there are no sharks (really, there are no sharks), there are a ton of jellyfish. None of this stopped me much; I got in the water everyday and enjoyed every minute of it.
View from the top of the old town of Bormes Les Mimosas.
I also got to experience nude beaches. I have been to topless beaches before, but never to nude beaches. It was quite….entertaining. I met a lot of people for the first time while they were naked. It is very weird meeting people and being introduced when they are naked. I was never naked so I always felt a little out of place shaking or kissing random nude men. One of the nude beaches, or rocks, we visited often was a gay beach and I felt like an anthropologist studying the gay man in his natural habitat. At first, it was a little awkward, but nobody ever really paid attention to me because I am a girl; in the end it was just another place to swim.
The views are fantastic in the south. There are lots of cliffs and bluffs and the water is amazingly clear. Besides a ton of jellyfish, I saw a squid, countless types of fish (even anchovies), and a lot of gold sand. I was literally a gold dust woman most of the time there.
The food was also amazing! My friend’s parents and grandparents fed me a ton (not exactly a good thing when bathing suits are involved), but we also ate mussels two nights. I love mussels, and these were fabulous. An old lady who calls herself “Grandma Mussels” cooks them in a roadside stand; you just take your pot to her and she fills it up.
I always love trips to the beach because I love the water. If I could pick anywhere to live in the world, I am pretty sure it would involve a beach. This trip was really special because I got to spend two weeks just going to the beach and hang out with my friends.
I will have to post more pictures in my next entry because blogger won't let me put anymore in this one.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
2. Alot. Listen up people, I am a teacher and if you choose to use “a lot” it is two words, not one.
3. People who pick their noses in public.
4. People who make-out in public.
5. People who listen to music on their cell phone/ipod loud enough for me to hear it.
6. Gas prices (European and U.S.)
7. Celebrity obsessed people.
8. Using public transportation.
9. People who admonish me on my blog but do not sign their names (if I ever find anonymous….)
10. Random Europeans who tell me how much they hate the U.S., especially if they listen to Rap music, eat at McDonalds, or wear Levi’s.
11. That I am not incredibly, ridiculously wealthy.
12. Bad comedies
14. Bad hair days and fat days.
15. People who bash the military.
16. People who try to “convert” me to their chosen religion.
19. Transfat and the fact that I know what transfat is.
20. The state of health care in the U.S.
I am going to tag Diamond Lil because she sounds like she is having a tough day.
Saturday, August 19, 2006
Apology and Disclaimer: This entry is rather personal. I try to stay away from entries like this because I don't really want my inner life on display for the whole world, but as I have said in the past, "It's my blog and I will curse, use bad grammar, bitch, complain or cry if I wanna."
As the days slowly pass and the “incident” becomes less traumatic, I am faced with growing confusion and filled with questions. My mind and emotions have always been subject to what I like to think of as a roller coaster effect and for as long as I can remember, I have always over thought everything.
One of my friends (Amanda), recently said I am very cerebral, and well, if there is one way to neatly box my personality and my being, it is that word. Cerebral. I do live in my mind and have, more often than I care to think, wished the wheels would quit spinning. They never do, probably never will, so I deal with it the best way I can: burdening my friends with my thoughts, writing them down, introspection, etc. I always think by telling my friends and by saying what I am thinking out loud will help, but all it ever really does is annoy people. I know nobody can make my decisions for me, and I wouldn’t accept a decision from someone else, but for a brief moment, after letting it out, I feel somewhat relieved. And it is nice to hear other people’s reactions; it makes me feel less alone. When I can’t discuss things with others, I tend to have the conversations in my head, which adds to the roller coaster effect, which usually confuses me more. Writing (or rather typing, because I am a child of the computer age) never really helps either because I tend to write in the same circles. I always think, “If I can just get a clear and concrete idea….,” but those clear and concrete ideas elude me with every keystroke. What I end up with usually looks as if it should be bound in a psych book. Introspection is the worst, because, well, that is what I am usually trying to get away from. I can think things through and never find the answer, winding up more confused and more convinced that the answer will never come.
So that is where I am today. You see, what happened on the metro the other day seemed like a culmination of every negative feeling I have had since I arrived in France. At the time, it seemed like a cut and dry sign telling me to leave and yet, in retrospect, it wasn’t so bad. The guy didn’t mug me, he didn’t rape me, he didn’t shoot or stab me. Millions of people experience things ten times worse everyday, and I am whining about some guy who pulled my hair on the metro. Don’t get me wrong, I know it was horrible; I haven’t been able to sleep more than a few hours a night nor have I been able to eat, but am I overreacting?
Do I really want to give up a dream I have had for years just because Paris is a miserable place to live? Ever since the first time I came overseas, I have wanted to travel. Life is too short to wait until retirement; who knows if I will even be around that long. Living in Europe is increasingly hard for Americans because of all the restrictions of the E.U. If you aren’t working for an American company or in school, there is a very small chance of ever finding something. If I leave, I may never have another opportunity to come back.
I know my circumstances are terrible. My “home” is a morbid box, I share with students. I have to share a toilet, shower and kitchen with people 7 years younger. I live in a horrible neighborhood in the worst part of France and the place where I will move if I stay is much worse. The university where I work is despicable. There are no resources; I am expected to provide my own books and teaching materials. The classes are painfully overcrowded and the students are way too aggressive. I can’t learn the language; I rarely understand what people are saying to me and I don’t think it will get any better if I stay another year. Other than my few friends, I don’t like French people. I swear, I have tried, but more often than not, I find them to be miserable people. I don’t know more than a few people and those few people are the same people I met the first day I arrived; they were all introduced by my friend Sebastien. I have made no friends independently. As you can deduct, I am not exactly thriving here.
I know the good is outweighed by the terrible; the museums are great, the wine and food are fantastic, the city is romantic, and my friends are beautiful, but I feel, more often than not, that I have to struggle to see this through all the shit. I know satisfaction and happiness are no guarantees and they only come if you work for them, but I don’t know if I am fighting a losing battle here. I don’t want to fight; I didn’t want to fight, I wanted it to work, to click, or at least be easier than it has been.
I know I should leave, but I don’t want to run away from failure, that is not who I am. If it was, I would have run away at 19 when life was really crappy. I feel that running away from this will mark my personality and that it will always hang over my head. Logically, I should leave and try something else, something better, but what if leaving is not better? What if I regret it? What if it changes who I am?
Thursday, August 17, 2006
I had just gotten back from the south of France (more on that when I don’t feel as if I want to blow up this entire miserable nation) and was making my way through public transportation, thinking about spending another year here and trying to convince myself that I would like France even if it killed me when it finally happened. I was violently attacked on the metro.
At first, it seemed like a joke. I was on a double decker metro, sitting on the steps reading The Scarlet Letter, when something hit my foot really hard. I didn’t realize what it was so I looked down and saw a young black male on the bottom level. He had punched my foot for some unknown reason. He looked menacing so I just quickly put my head back in my book. I don’t know if that pissed him off or if he has a little dick or was abused by his mother (and frankly, I don’t care), but something antagonized him enough for him to come up to me and try to punch me. I blocked the bulk of the punch, thank god, but it wasn’t over. He yanked me off the steps by my hair and starting pulling handfuls of my hair out. By this time, I was yelling and screaming, “Stop, Help me!” Nobody helped; everyone was watching, but nobody even bothered to get out of their seat. My attacker thought this was hilarious and began mimicking me and then to my horror and, I admit, my surprise, the fucking assholes on the train started laughing at me. There I was, being pulled around by my hair like a fucking rag doll and the only thing my fellow passengers could do was laugh. Nobody came to my rescue. I was too scared to fight back because I was convinced I saw a knife in his pocket.
When it was all over and the guy got off the train (without any of my possessions), nobody came to see if I was alright or if I needed help. My fucking scalp was bleeding and nobody even gave me a kind smile as I shivered, bawling in the corner. NOBODY. NOBODY. Not even the fucking assholes who were sitting within arms reach of me. FUCK YOU FRANCE. I HATE YOU! I am tired of searching for good things and trying to make myself enjoy it here. I am done! I have had to constantly tell myself I don’t hate it here since my second week. Well guess what, I have been lying.
Don’t get me wrong. I know people get assaulted everyday in the States, but I can’t image anywhere in the States where people would actually laugh at the assaulted. I am sorry, but from where I come from, this guy would have gotten his ass beaten before he ever had a chance to grab my hair.
I am mad because this happened; I am mad because I have to take the metro and I have no other options; I am mad because I am afraid to take the metro now; I am super mad at myself for not fighting back, but I was terrified; I am mad because I was terrified. But mostly I am infuriated at the other people on the metro. How dare they ignore blatant and abject violence and laugh while it occurred. I didn’t even think the French were capable of that. Thanks for disappointing me AGAIN!
Before all this transpired, I was thinking about how much I missed the slow life and how I was looking forward to going some place new next year. I am not a religious person, but I do believe in signs and I definitely see tonight as a sign. A big fat sign that says, “ANGELA, GO HOME!” Or at the very least, “ANGELA, GET THE HELL OUT OF FRANCE.” Guess what? I am not ignoring this sign. I am leaving. I can’t live in place like this anymore. I won’t force myself to be happy in a room the size of my former bathroom; I won’t try to force positive thoughts anymore; I won’t try to convince myself that if I only knew the language, I would like it better. I refuse to live another year among people who think bathing is bad for their skin and who act as if they would die if they were nice to strangers. Fuck it, I have had enough.
As I have always said, my friends are great and I love them and will miss them dearly, but I am tired. And I don’t think sleep will help my kind of tired. I feel like I lost and I feel like a complete failure.
Thursday, August 03, 2006
Well I had an awesome time in Germany. Thanks Gary, Deb and Kayla! Two weeks of living in a normal house and doing normal things like riding in a car, going to the gym and spending the American dollar is much sweeter than it sounds. My cousin and family live in Germany right on the Czech border. All the surrounding area is countryside and it was really nice to just be so close to nature. I forget how hard city living is and how much I miss being able to get away from it all. The country air did a lot of good too, because most days I was up around 6:00, which is way more normal for me than the 8:00 mornings in France.
This is another picture of Prague. I took it from the courtyard of the castle. See the tiny flag on top of the building? It is the American flag!
Coming back to France was hard because...well, the list is just way too long. However, tomorrow I am off on my next vacation in the south of France. I am really excited about this because supposedly there are no sharks in the ocean and I love to swim! I plan on spending at least 5 hours a day in the water.
I will be back August 16 and I don't go back to work until the last week of September. All this vacation time is really tough on me and I am not being sarcastic! I am one of those people who likes to stay busy. I have no idea what I will do for a month. There are a few museums I haven't seen yet, but I can't go to them everyday. Any suggestions?