27 January 2011

Where to begin...

I've had a hard time convincing myself it will be worth it to sit down and write about my time in Paris thus far; not because the time isn't worth writing about, but because no amount of writing would be enough.
I have learned more French in this past week than I have in the past year, easily. My host family is amazing, and their apartment is lovely (and huge! there are parts I don't even go to). Everyone is nice, but I'm doing a lot of work for my program. It's French-only, all the time– it's not at all a vacation. I went to the Musée d'Orsay this morning before my mandatory orientation class to see some grand Courbets and colorful van Goghs, and then I remembered why I came. It hasn't felt all that different. Ok so it's really, REALLY different. Plutôt.

Unlimited metro pass, I can go basically anywhere.
Cheese, white bread, ham, and butter every single day.
Duck and fish sometimes too, which I normally don't eat that much of.
Someone asked me for directions on the street.
Found an organic food store and bought falafel and taboule; they were delicious.
Spent an entire afternoon speaking French with a group of five friends.
Encountered the biggest dog on the street that I have ever seen in my life.
Walked through a dewy Jardins du Luxembourg in the morning.
Walked in circles around streets, just to get familiar.
Saw the same man walking his golden retreiver two days in a row.
Spoke in French with our Sri Lanken housemaid.
Discussed politics at the dinner table.
Explained how charter systems and american universities are organized.
Opened a bank account.
Learned the value of terrific supermarket pudding desserts.
Sat for hours listening to my host mother and her elderly church friend discuss 'la vie.'
Tried to buy a cell phone; got lost.
Looked up – birdcage lamp!

24 January 2011

Useful French Phrases for the Foreign and Confused: Installment No. 4

(In case you were wondering.)

Who am I?

I'm living with strangers and speaking only French. I do not know this person. Or, rather, I did not know this person existed in me.

Ok, it's time to tackle the handheld shower/ no curtain combo. Here is a glimpse of my room!

21 January 2011

Paris: Pre-departure edition

Buy it here, if you so please

Tomorrow night, I depart for four months in Paris. There's so much to say about it that I truly don't know where to start. How about: I'm nervous, but mostly excited. I'm going to miss my family and friends, but more than anything I'm going to miss my dog and my baby nephew because they're the only ones who don't understand Skype (or the function of mirrors, why peanut butter is so sticky, or why I would up and leave for so long a time). 

Everyone keeps telling me, "But Cat, you're going to Paris," and I'm all like, "I know. DUH." It's one of the most notoriously inhospitable, proud, and frankly pretentious cities on the map. (You know, unless you try to be like them, and even then, good luck.) It has a reputation. It has a million connotations. My course of thought has gotten to the point where I don't even think of the Eiffel Tower and croissants anymore – I think of the cold glances, les bousculeurs (the passers-by who have no qualms about walking into you, be in on the sidewalk, in a store, or while you're taking a picture), and people answering me in English when I attempt to speak French (which I speak well, for an American). People tell me, Just roll with the punches, you'll be fine, to which I reply (in thought), Some advice! Do YOU like being punched?

It's a hard feeling to understand (this feeling you get when you leave a place to go on a journey by yourself, not even knowing the people you're going to live with) unless you've done it before. Paris is one of the most well "known" cities in the world. People assume it's easy to live there because it's a western, industrialized, and chic city. Everyone thinks they know something about Paris. You can read books, you can look at pictures, you can talk to people about their trips, and you can romanticize it to the billionth degree, but at the end of the day, no overarching truth can be deduced from secondary resources (despite anything Law and Order may tell you). It is necessary to GO there. True – I am judging Paris the same way I assume they will judge me, right? Right. But honestly, I've been there once, and I came back knowing even less than I did before I went. The place is baffling. And tomorrow I'm moving there.

So now it's time to embrace the adventure.

Hemingway wrote, "I do not know what I thought Paris would be like, but it was not that way. It rained nearly every day." I know that it's a rainy city, seeing as the field of meteorology is mostly accurate and at our service these days. About the first part though... how clever of him. I hope that at the end of my stay I will look back on these pre-departure sentiments, laugh a little, and think, Wow, you were so wrong about that place.

19 January 2011

So I'm actually reading Eat Pray Love...

And I realllllly like it! For a bestseller, Elizabeth Gilbert is a great wordsmith. I thoroughly enjoy the amount of thought and research that she puts into her writing and speaking. This one in particular is quite enlightening.

14 January 2011

My holidays, my cameras

These were shot using either the rebel t2 or the lc-a. Would you believe me if I said that the color pictures were taken with 400 speed CVS brand film?

10 January 2011


fifth picture from some weird stock photo site. but what a house!

Elegance in a coat

I recently purchased a Calvin Klein coat that looks almost exactly like this one by Hanii Y, featured on Swirl today.
This style is so elegant and timeless. Every time I put it on I feel dressed.

Do you ever feel like you are sitting on this chair?

because I do.

07 January 2011

GREAT STUFF: Mumford & Sons, Laura Marling, and Dharohar Project

Should I be surprised that the entire Mumford & Sons youtube channel is engrossingly entertaining? No. Am I? Yes. I had no idea the band was this globally-minded. I sort of assumed they were another folky group of guys with beards who live in Brooklyn. Which they probably are, but they also went to India and recorded an EP with Laura Marling and the traditional Indian folk group Dharohar Project. (It's only $3.89, buy it!) I like to believe that people (bands included) are more than the sum of their (its) parts, and these guys seem to serve as a testament to that very sentiment.

What happens when I clean out my iTunes, you ask?

I discover the Poetry Foundation.

"You Can Bring Me Flowers" [any time]

The original of anything is practically always better than the redo, the re-conceptualizing, or the re-thinking of it. Ray LaMontagne originally wrote "You Can Bring Me Flowers" as it sounds in this video, but for some reason recorded it slower and stranger on Till The Sun Turns Black. I never saw the appeal of the latter version; in fact, it was a big turnoff when I listened to the album. It sounded like he was avoiding doing his usual thing for fear of sounding redundant, instead of just doing what he does best – good, solid folk music. (It never sounds redundant to me, and judging by how successful Trouble and his new LP God Willin' & the Creek Don't Rise have been, the public seems to feel similarly.) The original version of "You Can Bring Me Flowers", it turns out, sounds so much more natural. Go figure. This is the Ray whom I love. It is his original idea/ plan for the song, as it should be. The addition of the Secret Sisters is the extra (though completely necessary) whipped cream on the cake. 
On iTunes (here: Live - Fall 2010 EP) you can find a terrific version of the following...

03 January 2011

Mia Rae of BeWakeful

I fully support Mia Rae's incredible design aesthetic. It's funky, colorful, and totally unique. It's easy to see that this is a creative person who does what she loves every day. We need more of these types!

all images mia rae's flickr

purchase at her etsy shop