So much happens everyday but I've attempted to summarize the more notable details.
My apartment here is actually not that much of a change from my old one in the East Village—it’s newly renovated, so it’s (unfortunately) not a gorgeous, old Parisian apartment (like most of my friends have). It’s definitely comfortable, though—my room is a bit bigger than my old room in New York, it fits a full size bed, a desk, and a gorgeous old armoire. I have a cute window box with (dying) flowers and detailed trim on the edge of the ceiling (my Dad’s a builder and would tell me when I was little that detailed trim always indicates a building that probably won’t fall apart too quickly). I’m on the 4th (really 5th) floor, and there’s a tiny one/ two person elevator I can take if I don’t feel like walking up the stairs. The toilet and shower/ sink are separate, which is the standard for any French abode. It’s a bit awkward at first—the toilet is next to the kitchen and the sink is on the other side of the living room so you have to walk through it to wash your hands. I live with a French man from Marseille, who is 28 and has lived here for 7 years or so. He plays jazz Piano and is currently in Hong Kong to play a few shows (and just got signed to a label on the day of his birthday last week). He’s a really down to earth guy, and is quite a good cook (well, relative to what I’m used to seeing of guys I hang out with in New York) but keeps almost no food in the fridge, and is a bit unkempt—the paint in the bathroom is peeling and sort of looks moldy from the steam of past showers, I discovered maggots in an old glass jar of granola (I think it used to be granola?), and there’s often a week old pot of white rice hardening in the fridge. Ok, this is all true, but I think sounds a lot worse than it is. The apartment is nice—and I’m a huge fan of how environmentally friendly the buildings are here. He never leaves the lights on when not in a room (as with almost every other French person), the lights in the staircases of every building are timed (I could never see that happening in Manhattan—that’d be some sort of lawsuit waiting to happen or something), people rarely plastic bags to grocery shop or to store food in. Plastic is barely used here, just glass—which again, I really love—it just makes more sense, it’s less wasteful—and there’s no individual size bottled water to be spoken of. They’re just way less wasteful here, in the everyday details (I should’ve noted each thing when I came, because now odd little things I noticed in the first few weeks are just starting to seem normal).
I live an hour from class—but I actually like the distance. I’m probably in the coolest area of Paris—near the Bastille
, in the 11th arr
, where I’m a ten minute walk from Oberkampf
, a good place to go out at night. I’m also right near Belleville
, a very diverse neighborhood north of the 11th, where a lot of artists live. Everything around me is way cheaper than where most of my friends live, there’s every store I could ever want to go to within a five minute walk of me, and one of the best outdoor markets (marche d’aligre
) in Paris across the street from me, which is open every morning, as well as a “Bio” store, where I can buy vegan food (i.e. fake butter or veggie burgers) if I want to. Anyhow, I take the metro to school—there’s probably a faster way to get there, but I’d have to transfer a lot, among the rush hour crowd, so I prefer to walk to the Charonne 9 metro stop
and take it all the way to school—the La Muette 9 stop
. I have a navigo
, an unlimited metro pass (so I can take the metro just about everywhere, as often as I want). If I get on the metro before 8h15, I can usually grab a seat; then I listen to music and read the end of a Lit class reading on the way to school. If I don’t get a seat, it’s pretty awful, because I have to stand for 45 minutes, crushed by surrounding warm Parisian bodies on the violently jerking train. But I also only have class on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9h, so it’s really not that horrible (and then 16h on Wednesdays and that’s it; I have a great class schedule). I also know I would be late for class every day if I lived close by, because my morning, sleeping logic would tell me I could get dressed and to class in ten minutes, when in reality it’d probably take twice as long. I tend to “rely on smooth scenarios in which accidents or unforeseen problems never occur.” (Surowiecki; great article
I read yesterday in the New Yorker on procrastination) At least now I know that if I don’t leave by 8h10, I will definitely be late to class—no guessing: 8h10 or I’ll be late.
My day at school typically involves me strolling into NYU’s gorgeous maison
, with several cobblestoned courtyards, surrounded by old Parisian buildings clad with flower window boxes and vines. The pictures on the study abroad site do it no justice, I am going to have to take some photos before it turns to winter. The school is in the Passy
neighborhood, the 16th arr, which is really a pretty boring neighborhood—Parisians reaction to when I tell them the neighborhood of my school is—“Passy? Oh god, that’s trop chère
and only old, rich, retired people live there, and it’s just a horribly boring neighborhood in general, far from everything.” If there wasn’t a great fruit market and Italian restaurant across the street from school, I’d probably hate it too—but it’s ok, just very out of the way from everything in Paris, and yes, definitely expensive and boring. Anyway, NYU has a main building, where most classes are held—with a basement library (nothing compared to Bobst, of course… I surprisingly miss that place even though I used to have to not only go there to study but also for my student job), a lounge on the first floor with couches and round table, and an awkward coffee machine with powdered espresso (which I refuse to purchase on the principal that there’s a boulangerie across the street that—although more expensive—has way better espresso and I can interact with a French person rather than a machine while buying un café emporter
) and soup. There’s also a wonderful petit maison
where my French class is held, and it has beautifully vibrant green framed windows.
As for all my other everyday habits—I haven’t really slipped into a routine yet. In New York I never really have a routine anyway, because I am always sleep deprived and overworked, but here I am trying to feel it out first, and then will hopefully get into a practical routine (but not so predictable that I never see new places or people). After classes, I’ve tended to hang around NYU, hoping the internet will work (and it never does, despite my having dragged my macbook to Passy
—the printers rarely work too… I’m not complaining, really, I just find it amusing that it’s just not really a concern or priority here), while sort of doing homework but also lingering with friends and deciding when to get my next coffee. I smoke a lot more here, unfortunately—which is what I find myself doing as afternoons turn into evenings here, if I am amoung friends. I really don’t smoke cigarettes in New York, and it doesn’t really appeal to me too much in New York, but here, there’s just something about sitting at a café and drinking espresso and smoking a cigarette—I know it may seem silly and even stupid, but I rarely indulge in anything so obviously frivolous, so here I’ve chosen this vice. Anyway, cigarettes are a lot less expensive here—usually four or five euro. Coffee is about the same price as in New York, but of better quality, and I actually drink less despite the fact that a lot of my day is spent sipping espresso at cafés (in New York I used to drink anywhere from four to six or seven shots of espresso a day—via Americanos, etc—here I just have two or so, one espresso per café visit… sorry, for the lengthy discussion, I really like my coffee). As for the cost of food—well I could go into depth about this, but because the French actually eat whole
foods, as in not packaged or processed—and because most food can be grown in France or just south of France or on a French island—good, healthy food here is so, so much cheaper. I used to buy figs every morning (now they’re going out of season)— a whole box of them, with about eight or nine gorgeous figs, for 2 euro. Their fruit is unbelievable here, and way cheaper than the US. Packaged food is harder to find, and is really expensive (as it should be)—so prices for food are sort of flip-flopped (also due to US subsidies on corn and soy which is in almost all of our food except plain veggies and fruit). I could buy a weeks worth of groceries for 20 euro here, the equivalent of which would probably cost 70 dollars in the US, and the food here would be of way better quality. I literally have bought more than enough vegetables and fruit to last me almost two weeks, and it was less than 20 euro. So, you’d think it’d be less expensive for me to live here, but I can’t resist the temptation of restaurants here, so I actually spend a lot more on a weekly basis. Also, along with the food, the wine here is quite wonderful. The cheapest wine at the Franprix
near me (equivalent to a NY bodega) is of better quality than 20 dollar wine in New York.
Other than eating and going to school, I spend more time here with friends than I do in New York. Usually I don’t see many people on week days in New York, I just go home and do homework by myself, but here I tend to study at my friends apartments and make big meals with them, and try to explore a new place in Paris every other day or so. I also wander around my area a lot, aimlessly, exploring. Weekends have tended to consist of a balance of sightseeing and going out to eat or to bars (which often aren’t at all worth going to). After a month here, I’ve finally made Parisian friends, and I went to my friend’s show (he plays bass in a band) the other night, which is more along the lines of what I do in New York on weekends—and it was really awesome to see a small band here play in contrast to small bands in Brooklyn. There is some sort of music scene here, but it’s more centered on jazz, and is not as “hip” as the Brooklyn music scene that I’m usually around, so the shows I’ve seen here are a lot less jaded and apathetic. People actually dance. Bands are super enthusiastic and pumped to be on stage, and are unabashedly sentimental. I’m not saying one is better than another, it’s just quite interesting to see the contrast and to theorize why each scene has evolved to the way they are in relation to the cities they are in.
Anyway, I often miss how easy it is to have a good night out in New York—because a lot of the nights here (not as much lately) have been disasters since we don’t know where to go and what to do and usually end up a place where there are mostly Americans (and sleazy French people) and therefore don’t meet cool Parisians (which is not so secretly everyone’s goal here) and end up spending too much money, and often end up without a way home (because the metro closes at 1h30-- also, I've been harassed almost every weekend night I've walked home, even if it's only midnight or so, that's also something I miss about New York, I am never bothered when walking around late at night. A few days ago, a man wouldn't stop following my friend and I, and literally grabbed my wrist and wouldn't let go when I told him to stop (in French and English). A lot of French seem to unquestionably believe stereotypes about American girls...) But of course, in any new place, an adjustment period to daily life should be expected. Hopefully the coming months will consist of my making more French friends (I’m being optimistic here)—I feel like that’s the easiest way to understand their culture and definitely the best way to improve my French.
(photo by me)