Greetings from French Camp

Second day of French camp was good. And that’s absolutely what I’m going to call the orientation time where I’m at a hostel because it really is like summer camp, except my parents didn’t drop me off =/

For one thing, we have to wake up at a god-awful early time, which is especially sadistic because we all still have jet lag. We had to meet at 9 a.m. (aka 3 a.m. in EST) to take the Metro to our school, which meant I woke up at 7:30 a.m. and ate breakfast at 8. And when I have 8 a.m. classes, I usually say “eff this” and sleep until 7:50 and then run to class and my hunger keeps me awake until I can run back and have breakfast. So this morning was pretty rough.

I know I set out to write about French food mainly for this blog but I don’t think I will be able to do that for a while. We all received breakfast and dinner vouchers for the time we spend at the hostel, and what we get to eat is basically French cafeteria food. And I can’t bring myself to take pictures of cafeteria food.

Breakfast today was literally orange juice, a choice of Kellogs corn flakes or Chocolate pebbles, a roll or croissant, and for condiments there was butter, honey, and a knockoff version of Nutella. The milk was lukewarm whole milk and the coffee was very, very strong and I added so much lukewarm whole milk it looked like baby coffee.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m fine eating this food. It’s good and it’s filling, but I don’t want people to think that all French food is like this. And yeah, I’ll admit, I haven’t been as culinary adventurous as I would like because my stomach is still acting up and being queasy and I haven’t really been hungry when it is meal time here.

So far we’ve just had takeout pizza for lunch, which I thought was hilarious because the pizzas are like the size of a small pizza in the States so there were like 30 pizzas ordered for 40 people. The cheese pizza was literally a cheese pizza—in addition to mozzarella (and no tomato sauce) they threw a bunch of different cheeses on the pizza so there was a different cheese in every slice (pretty sure I just came up with a slogan there). I had a slice of mozzarella and blue cheese that I traded with someone (see! Summer camp all over again!) who had a slice of mozzarella and brie, and someone else had goat cheese on their pizza. The French meat lovers pizza had big, thick slices of Easter ham that fell off the slice as soon as I picked it out of the box, and there were little crumbles of sausage (however, I don’t think it wouldn’t have bummed out Liz Lemon). But the veggie pizza, man, it had olives, spinach, eggplant, a bunch of other chopped green veggies, and we all think maybe a white carrot or something. It was really veggie-y.

Dinner was at the hostel again, and we get two small sides, a big plate, and a drink. The small sides can be a variation of a small salad bar plate, cheese, yogurt, or an actual salad, or one of the different kinds of dessert. The wine dispenser (like a soda dispenser when you have a bunch of different sodas and drinks and you can press your cup on a lever and the drink comes out…no one I’ve asked knows the word for that) wasn’t available though, which was embarrassingly disappointing.

Basically, we have all of our meals taken care of even though technically we are free to eat anywhere we want. Because the Drexel study abroad office lied to me and I am actually at a summer camp in Paris.

The teachers are like our camp counselors, taking us on exciting excursions like buying phones or going to the pharmacy. It was the worst when we squished ourselves into a Metro car and one of them hollered “CIEE STUDENTS WE GET OFF AT THIS STOP!!!!” and even though I was standing in a throng of college-kids at the other end of the car I still felt like, Mommmmmmmmmm stop it, you’re embarrassing me!

Then we split into groups with a different leader that gave us little lectures on different topics. My group leader, the in-house guidance counselor/director of housing placement/French professor, talked about health and safety tips.  The two takeaways I got from that was a) apparently my international life insurance policy is worth 100,000 Euro and b) I have to stop smiling at French people (mostly men) on the street because they’re going to think that the blonde American girl with blue eyes is hitting on them. And yes, the guidance counselor used me as an example because she said I smiled too much during the talk—and not even at my friends or something, but I smiled too much at her. Um, sorry.

Mostly it was like the talks they give on the first day of camp and then we went on a field trip to the most ridiculous boat ride on the Seine. So I went by the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre and a bunch of other important French landmarks, but I didn’t take pictures because I have them from the other times I’ve been to France. Just Google them or whatever.

After we split up and my group went to Monoprix. Monoprix is basically a Tar-get but it is actually French. I bought my face wash there and was too vain to buy a French face wash, so I just bought the same Neutrogena pink grapefruit scrub I use at home. It’s still cuter than that American face wash, obviously.

But unlike the American Targets that I am freakishly in love with and spend exorbitant amounts of time and money at whenever I’m home, this Target let me down. I was like 99% sure you used le flip-flops for French class, and all of the girls I was with thought that was right. So when I went to buy my faux-French face wash I politely asked Avez-vous des flip flops, or ‘do you have flipflops?’ and the cashier just looked blankly at me. So no English skills, then. I had to be very poetic and ask if she had plastic sandals that you can wear to the beach, and she finally understood what I meant and said no, they didn’t have it and I could try this little boutique down the street. Which was really disappointing, especially because the store had literally twelve different pairs of slippers.

SO now that we have free time for the rest of the night, it was another night of standing on large hand towel in my crappy prison shower because I didn’t get a pair of stupid shower flip-flops. But hey, I still showered, which is better than some of the people at this camp and even some French people on the streets. It’s really disconcerting because the man or woman will look professional or normal and then you walk by and you have to turn around to make sure you didn’t just walk past three naked homeless dudes.

P.S. The French word for “hipster” is “le hipster” or “le bobo.” I have no clue why that isn’t printed on a crop top at Urban Outfitters but it needs to be.

P.P.S. photos take FOR-EV-ERRRRRR to load. And the Internet access keeps dropping. I haven’t tried the wifi on my laptop at school so maybe that will help. But I’ll upload most of my photos on Facebook, FYI.

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Bonjour!

So I had my first blog post written while I was in the Philadelphia airport about how nervous I was and I had both of my flights delayed (Philly to Newark and Newark to Paris) and how I practically ate an entire pack of gum because I was so anxious.

This is not that blog post.

I had everything figured out and foolishly thought that I could just post it in Newark because obviously if Philadelphia’s airport has free wifi then Newark has to have free wifi too.

That was Lesson #1: Don’t assume there is free wifi. Because ususally there is no free wifi.

THIS. IS. FRANCE’S TERMINAL ONE.
ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED????

There is no free wifi in the Newark airport (except the women’s bathroom, which I used to check in AFTER I washed my hands). There is no free wifi in the Starbucks in the Newark airport (wtf, right? Doesn’t that go against Starbucks code or something).  There is no free wifi in the Charles de Gaulle airport.

However, there is free wifi in the hostel I’ll be staying in until September 7 when I move in with my French family. Only bummer is it’s only free in the lobby (le hall en Francais, which keeps tripping me up) and you can only use it in thirty-minute sessions that can be restarted. You have to pay for it in your room, which I will not be doing.

Suffice to say, I don’t think these posts will be as regular as I want them to be. But we shall see.

The wifi has really been the hardest part about transitioning to Paris, which I know sounds dumb and totally American but yeah, at the moment I’m more worried about finding wifi than asking directions—although that could be because I have already had to ask for directions.

So, after I landed and got my luggage and miraculously ran into my two Drexel friends, Lily and Jenn, WITHOUT using wifi or the Internet or text messaging or calls (how the heck did people travel back in the day??), we took this shuttle back to the hostel we’re going to be staying at. It’s called Jean-Paul FIAP and it’s in the 14th arrondissement, which means it’s kind of in the outskirts of Paris. But that didn’t even matter because OMG YOU GUYS WE DROVE PAST THE 1928 OLYMPIC STADIUM.

HOLY SHIT YOU GUYS IT IS AN OLYMPIC STADIUM

If you’re like everyone else who was in the van with me (btw, vans in Paris have two passenger seats in the front), then that would have made you laugh and stare at me. Not exactly the best way to make a good impression in a car full of strangers, but it seemed to work out for me. Although, I was so excited about seeing the stadium I didn’t think to yank my camera out of my carry-on until it was too late and you couldn’t see the Olympic rings anymore. But whatever, I saw it, and this is the first out of at least two Olympic stadiums I will visit.  The second will be when we go to Munich for Oktoberfest and sleep in tents on the field in the 1978 Munich Olympic stadium (I’m serious, I’m going to try and soak up all the Olympic stadiums I can get over here).

Moving past the Olympic stadium thing (sadly) we arrived in the hostel and ate lunch in a cafeteria, which was funny because I haven’t eaten in one of those since freshman year. For the whole time we’re at this hostel we get meal tickets for breakfast and lunch, but I’ll have to report back tomorrow on how the food was because I felt so sick and tired from the plane that I didn’t go all out and try the steak-frites or fruits de mer and just stuck to yogurt, brie cheese, fruit salad, and a roll. But there was a self-serve station of du vin rouge, which to me is as French as you can get.

After successfully keeping down our lunch, a couple of us decided to go out and explore the neighborhood for a bit because we had free time. No big deal. Just a walk around the block. A little recon mission, that’s all.

Even the French have cooler folders.

We only made it down to the end of the street where I happily exclaimed, “Guys, we’re on Rue Cabanis which looks like Rue Cannabis so now I’ll totally remember what street we have to look for!” and this French woman stopped and turned around and started asking in French if we were lost and needed help. First French encounter with someone who wasn’t with our program! Ahhhhhhh! Sneak attack!

And, of course, it turns out she was a French professor at a nearby university and had taught a couple semesters in the United States, like Hamilton College. But she was very nice (and very easy to understand since she talked so slowly!) and asked us what we were looking for and if we needed any suggestions. Someone threw out that we wanted to go to a café and that got her very excited and she started telling us she knew of the best one that was nearby and she would show us where it was.

My first reaction? Well, I didn’t take a cab with a handsome stranger from the airport but here I am anyway following a random stranger to a café. And if I am going to get killed because of my naiveté, I’d rather have had the handsome stranger.

Obviously, I didn’t get killed. The café she was going to take us was actually closed, since this is the end of August and that’s usually when Parisians take their long holidays so a lot of shops just shut down for two weeks. But as she asked us basic questions we all knew the answers to, like where we were from and what college we go to and what our major (la spécialité in French, which I like better because I’d rather specialize in something than major in it), she also showed us spots, like where the nearest train was and what streets have good restaurants. And like a normal person who wasn’t trying to lure us to a secret spot and kill us, she just bid us Adieu! et Bonne chance! and that was that.

I don’t know where people get this idea of the French hating Americans or tourists. We didn’t even ask for help and she just went out of her way to walk us to a café. So as far as first experiences go, it was pretty good.

After we found a little boulangerie that people got coffee at (not me, stomach was still feeling crazy so I haven’t bought anything here yet) and we just sat and talked for like a half hour about random stuff. C’est la vie.

We made it back in time to get our roommate assignments for our hostels. And my roommate is …. Drum roll please… the moment you’ve all been waiting for: JENN EVERETT.

Our room!! … but Jenn’s bed.

As in, the Jenn that I met at the airport. As in, Jenn the girl I sat next to in my first-ever Drexel French class spring term of freshman year that I later became friends with, worked with at The Triangle, applied for our visas together in a horrendous MegaBus trip to D.C., and took a French class with this past summer.

Basically I go to France and am paired up with someone I was really good friends with before the trip.

Our rooms are cute, and this is one of the times that I actually mean that it is cute Today I’ve noticed that I’ve equated everything French with being super duper cute, i.e. the cute little blond French kids speaking French in their cute languages. The only thing I could think of that would be cuter would be if a puppy or a kitty or, yes, a sloth started speaking French in a little kiddy voice. I would die.

But our rooms are peach and purple and girly and quaint and there are little shelves. I have a desk and a chair and a night stand and drawers and a bed that doesn’t look like it will give me an STD. We even have our own little bathroom, even though there’s a fucking step into the bathroom that I’ve stubbed my toe on every time. Our shower is so small I couldn’t take a picture of it but it’s basically its own room but without a shower curtain, shelves, a bar, a door, tiles, or anything else that you would think would be in a shower.

There is a step to our bathroom and I always forget about it until the last minute. This is why Jenn says she’s never heard me swear so much as I have today.

Don’t tell anyone, but I haven’t taken a shower yet. I’m just going to rock the stink like everyone else, even though I put on a fedora to look le chic when I feel like anything but.

Tonight we walked around our neighborhood and went to this cutesy (ugh, see what I mean about the cute thing?!) parc and there were so many little French rugrats running around, it was like a non-pedophilic heaven. OMG and when these little girls rode by on miniature horses??? SO KEWT.

Afterwards we went to this little bistro called “Les Temps de Cherises,” which means the weather of cherries or the time of cherries, whichever makes more sense to you. No one could understand what it meant and we were too chicken to ask one of our advisors. Speaking of chicken….I had the poulet with goat cheese and steak frites. Not terribly adventurous, but that’s how my stomach is feeling now. Of course, I say that, and then I had two glasses of white whine.

Aand this dessert called Coupe Colonel (no clue where that name came from either) that was basically a scoop of lime sorbet with little rind pieces that came in a parfait class floating on about two shots of vodka. All the description said was that it was a lime sorbet with vodka and the vodka was pretty much the only reason why we ordered it. The guy I sat next to took it like a shot and that’s pretty much how we became friends. Now it is like the absolute perfect conditions for me to go to bed, so that’s what I’m gonna do.

Stu Pickles is featured in a public safety poster in my toilette. I feel really weirded out about this and I’m pretty sure 7-year-old Alissa is sobbing.

Tomorrow, we will go on the Metro for the first time. Ooh la la!