Les Noces de Fiagro

French Word of the Day: opéra (oh-pair-ah)- opera

The strike was extremely exaggerated.  The metro workers must have said, “Meh, we’re tired of striking.  Someone else do it this time.” because there were no delays on the metro at all.  (The RER, the train that goes to the suburbs, is a different story, but they’re pretty much constantly on strike so they don’t count.)

To make up for the metro’s working perfectly, the opera people decided to pick up the slack.  Our group had reservations for the opera, but Shelley got a call this morning telling her that there would be “no decorations.”  They said the opera would be performed without a set or costumes.

They were lying about the costumes- the actors were wearing them and they were awesome.  The lack of set, however, made the opera seem a bit more like a rehearsal.  But easily the best sung and acted rehearsal I’ve ever attended.  People at the French Opera gots mad skillz.  For cereal.  I had total voice envy.

I understood the French subtitles, and so this opera was much more entertaining than the last one I went to (Madame Butterfly).  Well, that and The Marriage of Figaro is a comedy whereas Madame Butterfly is just depressing.

Now I’m off to completely forget French for a week whilest I travel to Barcelona and Lisbon.  I’ve never been to Portugal before, but everyone I mention it too lights up and tells me how amazing it is.  I’ll be with three others from our group who aren’t exactly seasoned travelers.   This should be interesting.

I won’t really forget French.  One of my teachers kindly gave me 40 workbook pages to complete after break.  At least I’ll have something to do on the plane?  I thought the French didn’t have homework.  There are just some stereotypes that should be true.

Thanks for the pictures and posters, everyone!  I’m still getting them, so I’ll wait until after break to put everything up.  (I also can’t put them up yet because I’m still trying to figure out where I can buy tape.  Seriously, not as easy as you’d think.)  I’ll show you how it looks when I get them all up.

Pain au chocolat count: 23 (not likely to go up in Spain or Portugal)

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Walking Everywhere Instead of Taking the Metro: So In Right Now

French Word of the Day: marcher (mar-shay)- to walk

You’ve got to give it to the French: they sure are persistent.  Thursday, they’re launching an even bigger strike.  I think this time public transportation is going to be basically shut down.  Seems like I may have to finally figure out how to walk to school.

I also have to go meet my lupus doctor for the first time on Thursday.  I don’t even remember where he is, but that’s going to be interesting.

There’s a possibility that I might be improving in my oral French skills.  When I order food, people don’t stare at me as though I’m speaking Russian to them.  I also was able to properly act out the part of an angry customer to the point where my teacher kept laughing at everything I said and proclaimed me to be the most difficult customer she’d ever met.

And she’s FRENCH.

After class, Théo met me at my school and brought me a pain au chocolat.  Going for the Best Boyfriend Ever award?  I think yes.

All-in-all today was a pretty decent day other than learning about the strike.  And now I have to go do homework about the past prefect tense (passé simple).  Incredibly useful, the past perfect.  It’s a tense no one ever uses unless they’re writing a book.

If I ever write a book in French, I’ll be grateful for this.  Probably.  Not.  (It can be avoided even if you’re writing a book.)

Pain au chocolat count: 23!!!!

Many, Many Manifestations

French Word of the Day: toujours (too-jor)- still (as in, we’re still striking?), always, forever

Yes, the French are still striking.  Everyone seems to think I’m in the middle of all the riots that appear on the news.

Let me set the record straight: The only riots I’ve seen are the ones where everyone in Paris tries to get in the same metro car at the same time.  If it’s not the entirety of Paris, it’s at least half of them.  Apparently we all take the exact same metro at 8:30 am.  And again at 5:15 pm.

The Senate passed the bill to up the retirement age on Wednesday.  Did this stop the strikes?  Of course not.  This is France, baby.

My friend did participate in the manifestations that are going on everywhere.  There’s been some concern from the youth that there will be less jobs for them if everyone is staying in their jobs for two years longer.  Is this a valid concern?  Do you need to have valid concerns to start yelling in streets?

He read his account of the manifestation to all of us (I assume it was written for a paper… Not sure.), and I think he got threatened by a police officer?  I have no idea.  I need to learn how to understand French-speakers who are my age.  He made a motion like he was being choked by another person.  I’m going purely on gestures here.

I got my service learning assignment.  I haven’t started yet, but I have it!  I’ll be working with La 20e Chaise (it’s in the 20th arrondissement and the Chaise is because it’s by Pere Lachaise- the cemetary where Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde and… everyone famous ever is buried).  They do all kinds of things with the community.  For example, they have sewing classes so that poorer women (and men, I assume) can take on sewing projects for extra money.

Some of the high schoolers have asked for English lessons.  They’ve asked for native English speakers to teach them.  As a native English speaker, I’m happy to help.  I’ll start after my school break finishes in two weeks.  I’m supposed to use movie clips and songs and whatnot to teach.  We’ll see how that goes!

Pain au chocolat count: 22

Paquita

French Word of the Day: ballet (you already know how to pronounce this)- ballet

I’m writing this post, so I haven’t been kidnapped.  I hope you’re not all as upset by this turn of events as I am.  Really, the Phantom needs to step up his game.  Maybe he left because the Opera Garnier has become mostly ballets?  I suppose I can accept that.

During the last ballet I attended, Le Parc, I had no idea what was going on.  (to view my complete and utter incomprehension, go here: http://meghantravelstheworld.blogspot.com/2009/03/last-night-i-saw-ballet-entitled-le.html )  Although to be fair, it was entirely symbolic.  You can’t exactly find a plot when there isn’t one (but of course, I tried).

Paquita, however, HAS a plot.  Go Paquita!  I know this because I wikipediaed it.  I wasn’t having another Le Parc incident.  Wikipedia informed me that the main character was a girl named Paquita.  (Suddenly, the name of the ballet makes sense!)  Paquita is kidnapped by gypsies as a child.  She falls in love with a Spanish officer and saves his life when the gypsy king tries to kill him.  He returns with her to his family, and they discover that she’s actually of noble birth and (gasp) his cousin.  Incest has always been encouraged among nobility, so they marry.

That sounds like a play of a decent length, right?  I thought too.  I said, “AWESOME!  I don’t see any room for symbolism here.”

Eventually I’ll learn that ballets don’t follow the norms of literature what with the rising action and the falling action and the saving the climax until the very end to keep the audience enthralled.

The first 25 minutes didn’t involve an introduction of main characters or plot.  Instead, it was what I assume to be the ballet equivalent of break-dance fighting.  I was trying to figure out where Paquita and her Spanish officer were, but they hadn’t even entered the scene.

After the 25th minute, the scene changed and the gypsies entered.  A girl in a white dress came on who looked like Natalie Portman (from my seat at the back of the opera house she looked like Natalie Portman.  I’m sure at the front of the opera house she looks like Danny Devito).  I thought to myself, “Self, Natalie HAS to be Paquita!”  And then a man who was wearing pants more tight and more padded in the family jewels area than any of the other men on stage entered, and I thought to myself, “Self, only the Spanish officer would try that hard.”

It should be noted that he looked like Paul Rudd with a fro (or 70’s Ken; your choice).  Therefore, in my head I referred to the two main characters as Paul and Natalie for the rest of the play.

Because they’re both hot, Paul and Natalie fall in love right away and have the traditional holy-crap-I-love-you-after-two-minutes-together dance.

Then they exit and more break-dance ballet ensues.

I suppose at this point, the writer of the ballet said to himself, “I should probably get this plot moving at some point, shouldn’t I?  I mean, nothing really has happened for the first 35 minutes.”  So within the next ten minutes before the intermission, he threw in the arrangement of the murder of Paul Rudd, the murder attempt, and Natalie Portman’s brave save of Paul.

It was a rather eventful ten minutes.

When the curtain closed, I thought, “How are they going to spread out the end?  There’s not much else happening.  Oh!  Maybe Paul’s family is going to reject Natalie for awhile before they realize they’re related to each other?”

There I go again, thinking about capturing audience attention with plot.  Silly Meghan!

Jenna and I used the intermission to buy overpriced-but-fabulous glasses of white wine and drink them on the balcony.  It was the prettiest venue in which I have consumed alcohol.  Also, I wanted to make myself readily available in case the Phantom wanted to appear.

(We were on one of the balconies of the second floor- a.k.a. the PRETTY ones.)

When the curtain raised for the second act, Paul and Natalie rushed in and accused the general who plotted with the gypsy king to kill Paul, the general was arrested, Natalie saw a portrait of her father and made a gesture (people can’t talk in ballet.  it’s forbidden to have vocal chords) that she had the exact same medallion he was painted with in the picture.  Everyone realized that this meant she was his daughter and of noble birth (it doesn’t occur to them that she could have stolen it or that more than one medallion was made and she just has a copy).  They began planning her marriage to Paul after a minute of hugging, because while it’s not okay to marry a talented, beautiful gypsy dancer of no relation who just saved your life, marrying your cousin is awesome.

If that was confusing to read, it was also a bit confusing to watch.  Thankfully, I had wikipediaed it or I would have wondered why Natalie kept gesturing at the portrait and why she had fainted onstage.  Also, the white wine I had consumed at intermission added to my comprehension, because everything makes more sense after a glass of wine.

Again, this part took ten minutes.

I might have tried to spread the plot out a bit more, but the writer decided that 20 minutes of plot was sufficient for a 90 minute ballet.  Who really needs a plot for more than a third of the play?

Like I said, I would have done it differently, but then, I’ve never written a successful ballet.  Coincidence?

Despite its smashed plot, it really was a gorgeous ballet.  It made me wish I could dance like that.  And that I lived in the opera house.

Still waiting, Phantom.

Pain au chocolat count: 20

Quick Post

French Word of the Day: fantôme (phantom)- phantom, ghost

I’m going to Opera Garnier tonight for a ballet.

I’m telling you this so that if I never write another post again, you’ll know it’s because I was kidnapped by this guy:

Don’t worry.  I’m sure we’ll be very happy together.

Pain au chocolat count: 20, but I’m sure the Phantom has some in his lair.

Hello There, Batman

French Word of the Day: l’air (lair)-  the air of, semblance of

Théo and I went to a party last night at his cousin’s.  One of her friends began talking to us and said, “Wait Meghan, you have a slight accent.  Where are you from?”  And when I told him, he said, “You have the air of a Frenchwoman.  Coming from a Frenchman, this is a compliment.”

Yessssssssssssssssssssssss.  Life’s mission accomplished.  Got a real compliment from a Frenchman.

He’s not kidding.  In French eyes, anything French is automatically the best.  Food?  France is best.  Fashion?  The best.  Soccer?  Not so much, but we can pretend.

We then met some of Théo’s friends at a bar.  They were all intensely fascinated with my Americanism.  I’ve never been drilled so thoroughly on my culture.  (I take that back.  Arnaud, you are the all-time, undisputed most-questions-about-America champion.)

At one point, they had me pick a song.  When I asked what kind of song, they said, “Something that’s popular in American now that will be popular in France in a month.”  I haven’t been in America for a month, so it stood to reason that they would know whatever I chose.  I told them to look on the American section of iTunes.  We did break out into some “Barbie Girl” and “Cotton-Eyed Joe.”  Neither was my influence.  They chose that on their own.  The music choices degenerated towards the end of the night when more alcohol had been consumed.

It’s Sunday, so everything’s closed, but Théo and I attempted to find pain au chocolat.  All the bakeries were closed.  We went to many different neighborhoods in search of a pain au chocolat.  The only ones we could find looked like they would taste awful (Théo is also a pain au chocolat guru).  We decided to go with “the best crepe place in Paris” (which also equates to the most expensive).  I can settle for a crepe with nutella.  It was a pretty darn good crepe.  I don’t know if it was worth 5 euro, but it was pretty darn good.

To top off the day, we saw this:

Why hello there, Batman.It’s blurred, but yes, that is Batman next to the girl in the white coat.  Why was Batman hanging outside a French movie theatre when he doesn’t have any movies coming out?

I don’t know.  Gotham is boring right now?  If I was a billionaire like Bruce Wayne, I’d go to Paris all the time.

Pain au chocolat count: Still 20 (not for lack of trying)

Here We Go Again

French Word of the Day: rhume (room)- headcold

Everyone in Paris has a cold right now.  We all caught it at the exact same time.  I went to a concert (classical, not rock) last night and the two musicians were almost drowned out by a symphony of phlegm.

That’s the lovely image I’ve decided to start my entry on.

I’ve finally managed to wash all my clothes without incident.  In the other foyer, the machine somehow turned all my whites an unattractive shade of brown.  Before you all say catty things like, “SEPARATE, Meghan.  Whites, colors, darks.”  Let me just say, I did separate colors.  Why did it turn everything brown, then?  I don’t know.  Maybe it was trying to make a statement about how all clothes should be equal regardless of their color?  Maybe sensed that my clothes were American and felt a prejudice against them?  I don’t know the inner workings of French laundry machines.

The French haven’t stopped their strike yet.  They had a huge manifestation (demonstration?) on Tuesday.  Many of the metro lines weren’t affected… except for mine, which was running half the trains of its normal schedule.  Thanks, strikers.

The manifestation on Tuesday occurred right by my school during class.  It sounded more like a huge party than a mass of angry people.  They were shouting things, but I couldn’t understand what they were saying.  My teacher said it was something like: “Sarko, tu es feu (fou?), les jeunesse sont dans la rue.”   It translated to “Sarkozy, you’re done.  The youth have taken to the street.”  The teacher said, “It’s hard to control the youth, so when they take to the street, you’re in trouble.”  I tried listening to what they were saying after she told us, and it still sounded like, “Blah blah, blah blah blah blah blah blah blue!”  I guess chanting can be equated to figuring out the words to a song: hard enough in your own language, impossible in another.

Of course, the street that the strikers decided to have their huge march on was the street I need to cross to get home from school.  I inadvertently took part in the parade by jumping in front of it, but no one complained and I managed to get to my metro stop.  Luckily, the strike has lessened and my metro line is running full-schedule again.

I’m out.  Jenna and I are joining Arnaud at his place for some good ol’ American rap before heading to a club with even more American music.  You just can’t get away from it.

Pain au chocolat count: 20