La Vie en Rose #1: Misadventures

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Heyyy, today’s my first day of grad school at ISIPCA! Who’s panicking? (Low key, me).  But it’s a stretch even calling it a day at school. We have an informational meeting at 2:30 and then a big mingle from 5:30 on. Tomorrow is the real deal (taking place from the very reasonable 9:30-5:30, with about an hour break for lunch)(High school break was 28 minutes, 22 if you cut out the three minute passing periods on either side).
This is also the latest in the year that I’ve ever not been in school- for approximately my entire life.

So I’ve been in this beautiful country for about a week and a half and there are so many things to talk about! It’s amazing and beautiful and entirely new!
I’m looking forward to documenting it and writing about it and sharing it, but first I think I’m going to start on a slightly more personal note, which will be a few of my ‘misadventures’ or other weird experiences, thus far.

  • At least in the suburbs of Versailles and Le Chesnay (where I live), there is an obsession with locking your doors and security systems. Which, considering that the houses are million-dollar houses, I guess makes sense? We have a locked gate and then a locked door into the house, and one day I forgot my key in my room.
    Now at home, I hardly ever lock the door when I go out (because we have a television from the 90s and not many portable values. Plus my neighborhood is pretty quiet (like no one is going to climb that hill just to steal shit) and I have a few scary but loyal neighbors who would draw and quarter anyone who tried to mess with us). So I’m not used to needing keys. Out of four keys, one for each of my four college years, I lost two. because I never locked my room or my suite.
    So I forgot my key and was stuck outside the gate of my herbergement. In true Chelsea fashion, my response was to scale the gate (8-10 feet) and try to break into the basement, since the front door was locked. It didn’t work, so I knocked for AN HOUR AND A HALF. This led to a burst blood vessel in my knuckle (which has since healed). Obviously, no one was home.
  • There was my whole pizza-eating odyssey a few days ago… Most of the restaurants and cafes here close in the mid afternoon, maybe 3-6. It was around 4:30 pm (when the French have le goûter, or an afternoon snack (which as far as I’ve been able to tell is actually tea but more often alcohol) and I was very much in the mood for a pizza. Now, if you’re familiar with America you know that pizza is readily available somewhere nearby 24/7 if you’re anywhere fairly densely populated. But I could find (even with much searching) no one willing to sell me a pizza until 6:30 pm. Was the pizza worth the wait? (Not really, no).  But it didn’t end there. I managed to fool the restaurant workers into believing I was local (or at least French) which lasted until the end of the meal when the waitress asked me something I did not understand (I think she was making conversation, which I wasn’t expecting and I had a very deer-in-the-headlights feeling). So I explained that I was American and apologized, and she told me that that was a surprise because I have a very French ‘visage’, or face. Hm. Okay, I’ll take it.
  • A few of the pastry places here have coin-operated payment systems, so there are real life cashiers but you put your coins in a little slot.  The money here isn’t very difficult, but I’m still not used to the sizes and everything, and I already get that stress of not finding my change fast enough when I’m dealing with the familiar dimes and nickels and quarters. Multiply that x10 when you’re dealing with a heartless machine with no patience but a hungry mouth waiting to weight your centimes.
  • I finally checked out the chateau yesterday, which was beautiful and amazing and lovely (so much so that it would be unfair of me to begrudge the fact that I overpaid by 7 euros). While I was in the majestic and imposing Hall of Mirrors, where Marie Antoinette was married to Louis XVI, a couple asked me to take a picture for them. I assumed that this meant to take a picture of them, using their camera. But the woman proceeded to take a picture of me standing with a man who I assume was her husband/SO. I have since learned that this is a bit of an Asian tourist thing, which is good because I was completely bemused at the time. My hair couldn’t be weird because I was surrounded by mirrors and would have noticed.  After checking out Le Hameau later in the day (after a lovely picnic with my new soulmate, the baguette) I got completely lost in the hiking trails outside the more manicured garden area. It took me a good twenty minutes of walking in the wrong direction before I realized I could turn to google maps.
  • Speaking of google maps, I have a new phone. It’s a Huawei, which would appear to be a French equivalent to the Samsung Galaxy. It runs Android, so it’s not been hard to get used to. What has been hard to get used to, and which I have not yet succeeded in getting used to, is my phone being in French (I asked for it, so I can only blame myself). My keyboard is not QWERTY, but AZERTY. Autocorrect believes all of my English words are nonsense (my class is taught in English so that’s what we use to correspond- it’s also obviously what I use with my friends and family from home). I will say that it’s a lot easier to add accents on this phone, though.
  • There’s a lot of exciting and unfamiliar fruits and legumes here, but I want to focus on one in particular, le figure de Barbarie. It looks like a spiky hand grenade but is in fact a cactus fruit. Being a big fan of figs, Ihad to try it and picked it up a few times while in the store to check it out. I did this on one day and again on another day. And both times I was completely confused later on to discover that I had a host of teeny tiny, almost invisible but very potent splinters. I have obviously since then discovered the culprit, and discovered that the fruit, contrary to it’s appearance has a very subtle flavor.
  • I’ve been having a lot of (ever night) nightmares, largely about amputation. Largely about my arms or hands. My first google result says: “We are suffering from a loss of power or ability… When we dream of the amputation of one of our own limbs, we risk or fear losing or cutting off, by repressing, a part of ourselves.”
    That could be accurate. There’s also a bit more about emasculation, but when psychology gets into the penis stuff that’s when I think it starts being nonsense. But I wouldn’t know, having never had a penis.
  • Another one: there is a French obsession for meals al fresco, which is completely understandable given this beautiful weather we’ve been having (and also the fact that on cold days there are heat lamps and on rainy days they just unroll the awning a bit further- like I said, they’re obsessed). Last week I was at a restaurant where there were no free tables outside, but one at which three women were seated, all of whom were done eating. I asked (politely and in French) if they planned to stay at the table much longer). They proceeded to try to order wine (or was it coffee?) from me. Having NO IDEA how to respond to that in French (or honestly in English) I backed away, probably after turning a lovely shade of pink.
  • I can’t wrap up this list without mentioning my excellent trip to Paris. Not so much because of the trip itself, but because of the abortive return due to electrical problems on the RER. We took one train which decided to make an earlier top it’s terminus (without telling us why) and then took another which did the same. It was at this point that we were told there were electrical problems on the tracks between where we were and our final destination. The answer: take a once every hour bus. Then another train (for which we didn’t have a ticket. Snuck on). It was a cold and late evening b the time we got in, but I guess funny in hindsight? After the trip in I was ready to praise the RER and abuse the Boston 111, but maybe not so fast…
  • This one is not so much a misadventure as the high point of my life up to this day. I found a kitten. Correction: I rescued a lost kitten. I am a true hero. I came home at the end of the day to find a little white kitten with a grey paw and eyebrow in our yard. It was shy and seemed like an indoor cat (evidence: the surprised reaction to stepping on a dry leaf). I eventually managed to seduce the kitten into my arms, then walked around the block hoping to find someone who was looking for it (her). Met with success. Wish I could have kept the kitten.

Of course please don’t take away that I’m not thrilled to be here. When one of your top botched experiences is being nervous collecting change, you’re pretty much living your best life. All of these are experiences I’m happier for the having (except the nightmares, could definitely skip those).

Looking forward to sharing more soon!

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