February 2011

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Just a kid at the Sorbonne...English Class Part 2

It’s time.  The oral presentations have started this week in English class.  The focus: American culture as represented in film.  The players: French students.  Here we go.

The first presentation was, appropriately, unplanned and the professor had no idea that the student had put for an idea.  She had, she said, expressed an interest in giving a presentation but had never specified a film.  “OK,” the professor said, “what film have you chosen?”

Update: He was never president, France.
For the next thirty minutes we were given a presentation on none other than the Simpsons film, which was arguably the most unfair and inaccurate reading of American culture I have experienced yet in France.  Apparently the notion of satire never snuck across the Channel from England, because as far as the student told us, the Simpsons film was a “good view into American society.”

Uh oh.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Just a kid at the Sorbonne...Interested in Applying?

Well NOW is the time.  Check out the Studying at the Sorbonne tab just above to read up on procedures and things to keep in mind.  This is the moment to start shuffling your papers together and getting things in order.

Have any questions?  Ask away.  Don't wait - act now.  That incredibly affordable and deliciously foreign diploma can be yours!

Please Enjoy This Apple Statue

Something new around Place de Clichy has appeared.  A large apple statue, with the outline of the continents engraved into it, sits atop the column where a statue of philosopher Charles Fourier once stood.  The statue was destroyed during the World War II and the German Occupation.

Apparently Fourier was a fan of...apples.  Enjoy.

Not bad for 150,000 euros...

Paris Fail: Crappy Politics

I found this little gem during a walking tour of Montmartre.  I had no hand in its conception.  We all know Parisians don't clean up after their dogs in addition to taking an active part in their government, but this protest may have gone too far.  

More than anything, the real fail is for the person who just happened to be carrying around a picture of President Sarkozy...

Friday, February 18, 2011

Paris Fail: Emasculation

Found in the Tuileries Gardens, not far from where the guillotine once stood.  Quite the specimen of man...almost....
Can you tell what's missing?  Gives a whole new meaning to "Off with his head."

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Just a kid at the Sorbonne...English Class Part 1

Sorry, Audrey.  You're not as iconic as I thought...
You’d think living in France that I would go to extremes to learn about French culture.  I live in it every day, so it’s not that hard.  But leaning about – not just consuming – American culture in Paris?  There’s a concept.  There’s no American cultural center here to run to and hear talks about the “Joys of America.”  But there is, at the Sorbonne Nouvelle, a fantastically obligatory English class that I take with my fellow students.  They learn the nuances of the English language through Anglophone film.  I, on the other hand, learn the oftentimes surprising things that the world thinks about my culture.

Last semester we studied Britishness through film – a concept that I, as a non-Brit, was willing to discover.  The stereotypes and recurring themes were fresh and new and something I had never studied before.  To my classmates it was all about tea and gentlemen.  They almost got it.

But this semester, it’s all about America.  American culture studied by French students in a class directed by a British professor.  Bliss.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Paris Win: Single Rainbow

It was nearly a fail when, riding a bike to work from school, it started to rain.  The sky was sunny it was nearly warm outside.  I was tricked.  Paris had duped me into hopping onto the Velib when, all of the sudden as I crossed the Seine, I look up into the sky and, WIN:

Similar to my reaction: Double Rainbow

Monday, February 14, 2011

Just a kid at the Sorbonne...Back to School


For the first time, going back to school didn’t completely freak me out.  Maybe it was because I knew more or less where my classes were or because I knew what to expect.  Maybe it was because I was just so happy to head back to some old fashion book learnin’.  Or maybe it was because, unlike last semester, people actually talked to me.  Moreover, people knew me. 

Today’s classes were entirely tolerable, even enjoyable, because I had people to talk to.  A Russian girl introduced herself to me, immediately bonding with me on that whole foreigner thing.  The girl from Tokyo that I met last year gave me the standard French bise, a kiss on each cheek.  She’s eternally jealous that I lived in New York and we discussed our Christmas vacations.  There are about 5000 foreign students out of just over 18,000 at the Sorbonne Nouvelle.  We are quite the force to be reckoned with apparently, a sort of mini-UN delegation.  And since we’re all in the same shoes, we are a little extra nice to each other, I feel. 

That said, I had just as many, if not more surprisingly friendly greetings from French students.  The French guy from lecture last semester mouthed a cheerful yet silent, “How are you?” in English across the class.  A French girl from my seminar asked how I was doing and told me about the rumor that grades from last semester would finally be posted soon, as if it were some sort of secret that she wasn’t supposed to share with just anyone (P.S. grades haven’t been posted yet…).  And I even rode the metro home with a Parisian girl from last semester’s English class while talking about our respective projects for our degrees.

Need Crayolas...
All of the sudden I don’t feel like such a foreigner at all.  While the Japanese girl was talking to me outside of class, her friend walked up to her and they did the bise, and she introduced me.  “Oh you,” she said, “I always saw you in lecture classes las semester.  Nice to meet you.” 

Rewind to last semester where it took weeks to count even two stable contacts in class.  Now I feel like a superstar, in my own exaggerated, inflated-sense-of-self sort of way.  But let me have it, just for today.

Anyone else have those moments where you don’t feel like a constant weirdo anymore?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Paris Fail: Street Signs

Someone is going to be really peeved when they find out that Charles Baudelaire was not born in this fountain, which is incorrectly labelled here as "rue Hautefeuille."  His place of birth is on the real rue Hautefeuille up the street.  Not the St-Michel Fountain.

Maybe this is why Parisians are never on time?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Auditory Enemy: The Hammer

Parisian tool of choice...

When my roommate moved in last spring, we had a common enemy.  Every day around 9AM the workers out in the courtyard of our building would get to work.  This usually meant about 3-4 hours of loud, raucous, nerve-chewing noise that, as far as we were concerned, would never end.  The hammers and chisels were slowly chipping away every concieveable piece of concrete in the court yard.  CLANK.  CLANK.  CLANK.  We had our coffee together.  CLANK. CLANK.  We rushed off to work and school.  No need to sit and chat. CLANK.

The summer came and went, and with constant outdoor activities and a new job, I didn’t notice the construction as much.  The new apartment in the courtyard was almost complete and each night when I came home, the workers would be gone, fortunately.  No clanks, just a glass of wine and some pasta.  Life was good.

The roommate left just a few weeks before the construction finished.  She never slept past 9AM as far as I can remember.  Poor thing.  But I was delighted when the construction trickled off and finally stopped around fall.  There were still the occasional drill sessions or glass shatterings, but nothing long-term it seemed.  The worst was past.  November came and I was sleeping until 10AM.  Christmas came and creepily, from my fifth floor apartment, I could peer into the glass-topped roof of the newly renovated courtyard apartment.  Their Christmas tree with gold garland was standing proudly in the middle of their little home.  I only heard Christmas carols and, I thought, sleigh bells in the distance.

All was right.  I thought.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Just a kid at the Sorbonne...

A little festive cheer never hurt some book learnin'...
Waiting for grades at the Sorbonne is tedious business.  Not only do I not know when the grades will appear, but I’m pretty sure that they won’t mean much to me when they are finally posted online.  The French grading system evaluates students out of 20 possible points, and apparently an 11 isn’t too shabby.  That’s like 55% -- not something to call home about in an American mindset.  I figure that as long as my grades stay in the double digits, I’m safe and they can’t kick me out of the school or the country, so let’s cross our fingers, shall we?

Meanwhile, classes resume on Monday, Valentine’s Day, just as the rest of the scholarly world seems to be packing up for their two weeks of vacation.  I’ll be the first to admit that having two weeks of vacation in February just after the Christmas holiday does seem a bit excessive, but I’m in the system now.  It’s been over two years now that I have lived in France.  I drank the punch and I’m all on board.  I just can’t wait until April when the next vacation rolls around.  Work is just something we Parisians (can I say that?) do in between trips to Marseilles and weekends in the mountains, apparently.

But I won’t be heading to the Alps just yet, and that’s not just because I don’t like skiing.  Rather, I can’t ski.  I tend to fall or slide down the mountain the majority of the time.  The skis just make me look that much more ridiculous.

Instead, I’ll be studying my little heart away at the Sorbonne, working on my memoire, which is the equivalent of a master’s thesis in America.  This is the bad-ass long-term project that all master level students pour their souls into.  A more accurate description would be to compare the memoire to a long-winded book report.  With a forty page limit (not minimum) the memoire has to contain at least three, yes 3, sources.  Letters to my grandma contain more than three sources, so I am appalled at the reduction of the task.  I have taken it upon myself to impress my French professors with my perseverance and an astonishing display of research, mostly in English, which will make me seem both dedicated and well-cultured (“He reads in zee English and he writes in zee French!?” they will marvel).  And, in typical Bryan fashion, I am doing too much work.  Or, at least, I am not focusing my work on the correct tasks.  I need to be like the other kids at the Sorbonne.