March 2014

Monday, March 31, 2014

How Do You Say "Gender-Neutral" In French Anyway?

...and boys don't cry.
It’s an exciting day. You head to Monoprix, the Target of France. You beeline to the home section. You see the all-too-familiar logo as you begin the hunt for that perfect Hallmark greeting card.

Maybe it’s a birthday, maybe it’s a wedding, maybe it’s just a friendly “Thinking of you” card that requires the illustration of a bouquet of flowers because, let’s face it, they’re not worth a real bouquet. While nothing compared to the Hallmark card stores of American mall fame, the choices are all there.

On this particular Friday, I was looking for a card for a friend about to give birth to a baby boy. The French don’t really do wedding showers, but that wasn’t going to stop us, and it was all planned. But I needed the perfect card, and finally, I found the category entitled, “naissance,” or birth. What a find!

Quickly, however, I realized that the task would be a difficult one. My friend, the farthest thing from a 60s housewife, wasn’t bound by traditional stereotypes. But these cards were.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Studying at the Sorbonne: The Costs

I’ve been getting a few messages from prospective students around the world about studying at the Sorbonne. It’s exciting and terrifying to hear from people just starting their journey, and I can imagine all of the questions they have. Essentially my memory of starting at the Sorbonne in 2010 was one giant question mark over my head.

How will I make ends meet? Will I understand the professors? Will the work be too hard? Am I too old? Am I too experienced? Am I not experienced enough? What will I WEAR?

Here I am, over three years later, still making it, trudging away at my doctorate. For those just starting in the undergrad or masters programs, however, there is of course much advice I could give you. So I will. While I love to answer questions via email, I want to make some information instantly handy, so hopefully you’ll find some answers here regarding practical information for the Universit√© de Paris system (note: I am no expert at all on the Grandes Ecoles, like ENS and Sciences Po, but a lot of the same info will apply).

If you have burning questions, or themes you’d like covered, let me know! But why not start with the most pressing: money. Students can work the equivalent of 20 hours a week, which doesn’t amount to much if you’re making 8-10 euros per hour. Don’t rule out other student jobs, like tour guiding for backpacker groups or looking for a paid internship (good luck!), but whatever the case may be, there are a few notes to keep in mind.

Student life can be rough in a city known as one of the most expensive in the world, but fear not. Money woes need not prohibit studying in Paris if you know what you’re doing…

Monday, March 10, 2014

Reburying Hidden Gems: On Travel Writing Sloth

...and this one!
Check out this gem...

Who isn’t a travel writer these days? With so many blogs, websites, books, magazines, and other publications out there, everyone and his (or her) uncle can write about travel. The general requirement isn’t a degree in journalism or even expertise in, well, writing. Mostly anyone who goes somewhere and does something can write about it as an expert (or “expert” if you will). But even that’s not a given anymore. Am I complaining? Not at all. Multiple points of view are, plainly speaking, awesome.

Destination writing, however, is often as much about getting clicks on a website or getting invited to press events as it is about sharing information and helping our your fellow traveler. Whether it’s a blog, a tweet, or a thoroughly-researched in The New York Times, travel writing has exploded with social and other online media, and few of us can remember what it was like in the days when guide books were the only recourse. Ah the simpler times...

But all of this potential and power has made travel writers, dare I say it, lazy. While updating a travel guide recently, I think my track changes feature on Microsoft Word was about to blow a fuse. Aimless litanies of useless information, adjectives like “great” and “nice” splattered everywhere, and passages written by someone who doesn’t have a solid command of Paris geography (let alone the English language) were feeling my wrath.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

First Paris Half Marathon: The Recap

Barreling down Rue de Rivoli, crowds on all sides, darting my way in and out of runners from Mexico and South Africa, I didn’t feel nearly as fresh as the last time I ran this stretch during the first few kilometers of the Paris Marathon in 2013. Instead, I was more than halfway through the 2014 Semi-Marathon, huffing and puffing my way against the clock.

The goal? Ideally, 1 hour and 40 minutes, but I was content with anything under 2 hours. It would be a first. The record for the course was 59 minutes and 44 seconds, so my goal was a modest one at best.

Joined by 40,000 runners, I left the Bois de Vincennes feeling good. Really good. Having binged on Rice Krispy treats the day before (gluten free!), I felt full of energy. Training had gone well, the sun was shining, and I had already gone to the little boys’ room three times (once on the fence right by the starting line -- your welcome, onlookers). Things were looking up.