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Thursday, May 21, 2015

A Personal Tale: Inspiration, or the Lack Thereof

Paris France
This place...

I wonder what Fitzgerald or Picasso did when they felt like this. I mean, I could drink more, or go to a brothel. I just kind of assume that’s what these guys did back in the day when they needed inspiration. Maybe not. In any case, you’d think a city that spawns so much art, fashion, design, food, and literature would be a gushing spring of inspiration for me. But sometimes it just seems like a dusty old well, with only Timmy’s bones at the bottom (you know, that time Lassie got distracted).

I know, I know. Paris is beautiful. Its streets are bustling. Its people are gorgeous. Its monuments are monumental. I am lucky to live here, blah, blah, blah. I know. But right now, I just am not feeling it. Stuck between finishing a PhD thesis and waiting hopefully for citizenship, the joie de vivre and cancan dancing that usually mark my days has faded to the background, allowing (gulp) real life issues to come to the forefront.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Things Learned During a French PhD

Books, books, books everywhere....

I’m halfway there – or at least I tell myself. Writing a doctoral thesis, and in a different language no less, is an experience that fortunately one need only do once in life. I’m thinking back to that time I told myself, “Yes, this is a good idea.” I’m sure I wasn’t sober.

There are stages you go through until you finish the document, if you ever finish it. For the moment, I’m in what I can only imagine is something like stage 3 of 5.

Stage 1 was the easy part -- pretending to work. This is the most enjoyable part of an academic’s career where you say, “Yes, I am doing a PhD.” And that’s about it. Maybe you read a few books, but let’s be honest here, you’re relaxing. Then there’s stage 2, when the work starts and you feel like you’re actually making progress. One interview completed? Have a drink. Two interviews transcribed? Time for a vacation.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Paris Marathon: 3rd Times's a Charm

The bling...

It all starts off great. Standing in the corral you look behind you, thousands of colorfully-dressed runners set against the Arc de Triomphe, as 54,000 marathoners barrel down the Champs Elysées. It’s surreal.

I approached the starting line and too the opportunity to empty my bladder once more – the last time I’d do it for several hours. And we were off, running past Mayor Hidalgo towards Place de la Concorde, along rue de Rivoli, and past the Louvre. These first few miles are exhilarating as people from all over the world cheer you on in different languages. Then the thoughts start running through my head...

Mile 1 Already? OK by me.

Mile 2 Mexican and British tourists should be cheering for me, too, right? We're almost the same...

Mile 3 Helloooo firefighters.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Profiterole Chérie and the Very Cream-Filled Day

pastry sweets profiteroles
Caramel. Cream. That's all you need to know.

Macarons, éclairs, cream puffs, madeleines – there’s no shortage of shops dishing out one product, and doing it well. I love an éclair from Eclair de Génie or a cream puff from Popelini, but when I stumbled upon Profiterole Chérie, I was intrigued.

The last time, and maybe first time, I had a profiterole in France was at the iconic Chez Georges restaurant, where Julia Child used to dine. Choux pastry filled with ice cream and covered in chocolate – how can you go wrong?

Friday, March 20, 2015

A Spring Awakening in Paris

Marche d'Aligre florist
Parisian florists do their best work in the spring...

Goodbye dark grey velvet skies and 4PM sunsets and hello spring. Every March 20th we celebrate as if it were the first spring we ever encountered. The sins of winter are forgiven and Paris will soon be at its best. We'll all shake off the sleepiness of the winter and step outside and enjoy the prospects of warm temperatures and some sun, if the smog and clouds ever lift (thick enough to hide today's partial solar eclipse. Way to go, Paris)

Some of us are sitting inside, hammering away at a keyboard and combing through books trying to finish a doctoral thesis. Others, I imagine, aren't. Hence the unimaginative post. But it's curious to think of Paris coming out of hibernation and the different reasons that various Parisians will celebrate...

Play this in the background while reading...

Monday, March 9, 2015

Studying at the Sorbonne: 5 Myths to Forget

Study at La Sorbonne

I’ve had a lot of emails recently from potential students all over the world trying to apply to the Sorbonne. It’s been really interesting seeing how everyone interprets the process and the problems faced by all of us. It’s not easy.

But I wanted to put a few things out there, since many of the same issues keep coming up over and over again. Here are just five of the “myths” that I’ve noticed running around about the “Sorbonne” that need some clarification:

1. “The Sorbonne” is the name of a university in Paris: Wrong. You cannot attend “The Sorbonne” so to speak. This is a colloquial term that is often misunderstood and misused. It refers to the general university system in Paris, but let's be clear.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Running A Fowl at Square du Temple

Paris wildlife
Show off...

Ever since last year’s World Cup, Paris has had a very odd couple living in one of its parks. The Square du Temple, in the upper Marais, just south of Place de la République, is green space dedicated to playing children, summertime sunbathers, and bench lovers. Man I love a good bench.

But after the World Cup, allegedly, a local who had purchased a rooster, France’s team mascot, let the bird loose in park. Later, feeling sorry for the lonesome fowl, someone bought him a hen, according to an old Frenchman who explained this to me a few months ago while I was staring at the birds.