What's been going on with me is... well, everything! After a HUGE hassle and pain in the ass with the bank, I finally have my bank card, my secret code, AND my phone! WOO! Victory. My host family actually cheered for me when I came home with a phone yesterday. That's how ridiculous this has gotten. Well you see, what happened was the bank hates me... so they were supposed to give me my bank card "quelques jours" (which is the nice precise measurement of "a few days") after I got in all of my documents. So, four days after I turned in my documents I went to the bank, waited in line, and asked if they had my bank card. They replied that they did not have it back but to check again in "quelques jours"....so about five days later I go back.... No bank card. I'm told to call my banker. I call him, no answer. I email him, no answer. After another set of "quelques jours" I go BACK and ask for my bank card....it is not there, I am told it will probably come in next week and of course that I should call my banker. I call him, he doesn't know what the hold up is-- the only explanation he can give me is that in the last 3 weeks they've opened 300 accounts at this branch and they all have to receive their cards which come in 30 at a time, once a week!!! (is that not ridiculous to you?? that someone might be waiting 10 weeks for their bank card?!). So, I wait, and I wait some more. And meanwhile all of my friends who have opened bank accounts with Société Générale get their bank cards within FOUR DAYS of opening their accounts. So, after waiting I got back to the bank. I know what I'm going to be told, but I have a great and very frustrated speech prepared. As usual, I wait in line, head to the welcome desk, ask about my card, and the lady at the welcome desk (with whom I have become very well acquainted at this time) tells me what she always told me: that I need to call my banker to see what's going on. Well, I have my speech prepared now... which came out much angrier when I was rehearsing it rather than in real life. But I tell her, rather defeatedly, that to call my banker, I would need a CELL PHONE, and to get a cell phone, I would need a BANK CARD. So, wouldn't that be nice if I COULD call my banker, eh? GRR. So, long story short... I finally received my bank card TWO WEEKS after it was supposed to come in. (Their excuse as to why Société Générale's cards came in so fast? "Oh, they must not have as many customer's as us then... they're just not as good." Good one, BNP.) Anywho, got the bank card, but, what had not come in the mail? My secret code (pin #). It was supposed to be sent directly to me, but I NEVER GOT IT. So, until I get that, my card is useless. COOL. So, even after getting my card, I had to wait another FIVE DAYS for my pin # to get to me in the mail. (it came yesterday). This stupid ordeal has lasted me a month. But has taught me a lot of patience? Maybe? Or how to express my frustration in a foreign language? Lesson in French Bureaucracy? I don't know exactly what I'm supposed to take from this or why this was a necessary experience, but I guess I learned something? ::End rant about bank trials and tribulations::
What else has been going on is that my best friend from Tulane, Stephanie, who is studying outside of London for the semester came to visit me!!!! It was AMAZING. She got here on a Tuesday evening and stayed until Sunday morning. A) It was great to see her because we hadn't seen each other all summer and had bunches of stuff to catch up on (she works at a summer camp too, thus why we are kindred spirits) and B) we got to do all the great touristy stuff that I hadn't done yet!!
So, the visit consisted of lots of great food (like steph and I always love to do), some wonderful Parisian sightseeing, and Stephanie being confused most of the time. Did I mention that she does not speak a word of French? (Hence studying abroad in a foreign country that still speaks English.) We did work on teaching her to say "merci" which I ended up giving up with and telling her to pronounce "messy"... it works. We joked the entire time that she was my deaf mute companion, since she couldn't even order for herself at the restaurants we went to ... poor thing. Anytime I wasn't specifically ordering her food, she was convinced that I was talking bad about her in French. Once when we were walking home from the metro kind of late at night, a guy on the street started talking to her. He was saying "ma reine, ma reine, vous êtes si jolie" which means "my queen, my queen, you are so pretty" (French men on the street... creepers)... but steph wasn't getting any of this, so he continued on saying (in french) "what? you aren't going to speak to me?" At this point I told him "Well, she doesn't speak a word of french, so that conversation will be kind of difficult"... he walked away. But Steph was entirely convinced that I had told him some bad joke about her and that's why he walked away. haha.
My host family was so incredibly nice and let steph stay at the house with us. (I have found that the downside of living in a really nice neighborhood is that there are NO hostels nearby... only really swanky hotels.) My host mom even invited us to dinner on thursday night. No one talked to Stephanie in English (I'm not sure that they know enough to feel comfortable having a conversation), so she just sat there eating and looking confused. I at least tried to clue her in on the topic of conversation some of the time. Here again she thought that anytime I was speaking in French and referencing her, I was obviously making fun of her. I told that to my host family and they thought it was hilarious and suggested that I try it ;)
Our touristy fun started on wednesday with a trip to the Eiffel Tower! It was only 9 euros for the elevator ride all the way to the top, so we took that. The view is really amazing. At the top, they have panoramic photos pointing out the monuments that correspond with each angle of the view. It was a foggy morning, so Paris was covered in a haze, but it was still very beautiful. We also went to the second tier (there are only 3) to take some pictures with the great view in the background. They can be seen in my facebook album that I posted a few days ago! One of our favorite things about going to do touristy things is getting accosted by pushy vendors.... NOT. Ugh, they are sooo persistent, in your face, and they are absolutely everywhere! My least favorite are these guys that wait to accost you with string. Yes, string. They have several strands of pre-cut string in their hands ready to make their sell. What are they selling? Crappy friendship bracelets. What they do is they accost you with the string and try and tie it around your wrist where they make the bracelet. That way it's already around your wrist and you have to pay for it. It's kind of fun though because when they come up to me, I have my response ready: I roll up my sleeve, showing them my WAY more impressive friendship bracelets and say "non, non- je peux le faire moi-même!" which means "no, no! I can do it myself!"... it makes me feel kind of empowered to say that to them. They get caught off guard. It doesn't stop them from trying to convince me that no, their's is different, let them demonstrate.
Thursday, we made a trip up to Montmartre to see Sacre Coeur. We got to the metro station, and saw that there were elevators to go up (there are elevators at lots of stations, usually this doesn't really mean anything), but we decided to take the stairs. We start climbing up this spiral staircase, and we get to the landing, and then we start climbing another flight, and another, and another, and each time we turn the corner of the spiral, there is another flight just waiting for us. After the 9th flight we're laughing so hard every time we turn the corner to see more stairs, it's just getting ridiculous. We finally get out of the metro after more than 12 flights of stairs! Not small flights either... long winding spiraling flights. Apparently Abesses (the metro station) is one of the deepest in Paris at 36 meters (which I just looked up and is 118 feet). So, needless to say, when we got to the bottom of Montmartre and saw all those lovely stairs, we voted to ride the funiculaire (gondola) instead. We did walk down though! The view from Montmartre is absolutely lovely. You can see a beautiful part of Paris that looks like it's straight out of a scene from a movie. We walked around the area, taking in the different views, and also went inside Sacre Coeur, which is the beautiful church that on top of Montmartre. The inside is truly awe-inspiring. Steph and I talked afterwards about how if you were a peasant and you went to mass at a beautiful church like that, how could you not believe in God? Well, the vendors here were no less insistent than anywhere else. There are a bunch of artists that walk around with a sketch pad, accosting people to let them draw their picture. It's kind of sad, but I've gotten very good at pretending they don't exist... that must be difficult to be rejected so many times in one day. I wouldn't be able to do it.
After we came out of the cathedral, on the steps of the hill there was a crowd gathering. We went to see what was happening, and it turns out that it's a popular place for musicians to play. Everyone sits on the steps and listens. There was a duo performing, one playing the guitar and singing, one playing the bongos and doing back up. They were from Mexico City, but spoke English very well and played some Bob Dylan, the Eagles, John Lennon's Imagine, as well as my personal favorite, Oasis' WONDERWALL!! Steph and I were definitely singing along to that one. :) It made me very happy since that song reminds me of camp and great times. The best part about this concert was that directly behind the musicians was the spectacular view of all of Paris. It doesn't get much better than that.
Our last stop on the tourist train was the Louvre. Steph and I took art history, Renaissance to present last semester, so we felt like we would be missing out if we didn't go see the Louvre together. We took the requisite picture standing in front of the pyramid which you can check out on facebook as well. It was great to see some of the different paintings that we had studied, and we definitely felt very knowledgeable. Unfortunately, we didn't realize that the museum closes ridiculously early! We got kicked out at 5:30, before getting to see some of the most popular stuff that had been crowded all day like the Da Vinci's. The best part of the whole museum visit though, was that it was free!! If you are 18-26, regardless of nationality, you get in free (to most any museum) any time!! EDUCO also gave all of its students Louvre cards that say we're art history students, so we don't even have to stand in line to get tickets! We just flash the card and get straight in. Very cool.
That night, Paris was having its annual "Nuit Blanche" which is an all night kind of installation art festival. Stephanie, my friend Chris, and I got some food and went up after dusk to a park at Butte Chaumont to have a picnic and go see the art. At this particular park, which is on a hill, an artist had set up a bunch of swivel-head lamps in different clumps, winding all the way down a hill and along a creek. It was definitely an interesting sight. At the end of the trail of lamps was a lake in which an artist had set up a bunch of blinking red and blue LED lights... I can't explain it, but the effect was beautiful. The water was just constantly shimmering and blinking. There were also folded paper boats floating around with softer red lights in them too. It was definitely magical. As we continued, we saw a field on the side of a hill that was covered in opened red umbrellas. This was probably one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. It looked like a field of majestic poppies. Or pillows. The field was absolutely covered with them. I tried to capture this one with my camera, but as it was dark, I could only get the first couple of rows. It wouldn't show the depth to which the field continued. Some more art that we saw were some different spray painting portraits, and some break dancers. By this point it was getting late, and we were hungry, so I'm sorry to say it, I had my first taste of MacDo. (this is what the french call McDonald's). And actually it was quite an experience to order at a fast food restaurant. You try saying "chicken mcnuggets" in a French accent with out feeling stupid! Also there is so much slang that I don't understand and they talked so fast and it was really loud! So I was very surprised when we all ended up with what we ordered!! Although somehow we had all supersized our orders without knowing it... haha. It was quite the experience though.
All in all, Steph had a great visit, and I can't WAIT to go visit her in London! I've got several friends in the UK, so it's triple the reason to visit... not that I need too much more of a reason!
Well, I guess that's it for now. I will write back soon to let you know how class is going. My school just started this past monday, so I've only gone to one of each class. This week I'll probably have a better idea of everything.
À bientôt mes amis! I miss you all!! :) thanks for staying tuned.