Monday, January 26, 2009

Why do I get excited when I hear Britney Spears on French radio?

Today I got that "I'm not a complete failure after all" feeling that has been oh so rare these past few weeks!

I had my first test today. And I don't think I completely ruined it! C'est magnifique!

And I spoke in my history class! Everything I said was wrong (he asked us for synonyms of words we didn't know and I guessed!), but at least I'm trying! Haha- that's the same professor who called me "charmante", who is mustachioed in the French style, and who was limping this week. I hate to see other people in pain--especially jolly old French professors who encourage you despite the fact that you're an American who can't speak French. (He's always laughing at Kelley and me when he hears how certain cognates are pronounced in English.)

Furthermore, have I mentioned how much I adore our geography teacher? He's another one of those happy Frenchmen, but he's unintentionally hilarious. I don't know why, I guess I'm just really amused by his enthusiasm for "les villes françaises" and his very kind and slow way of speaking (he makes sure we all understand everything he says).

The lady profs are another story for another day.

Anyway, I remembered (thanks to Mom) that not everyone who reads this has facebook (where I've been posting all of my photographs), so here's a taste of things I've seen (or tasted...) in France.

My dorm room decorated with tons of maps!

More of my room (to the left of the shelf is my closet space/sink/mirror/mini-fridge)

The view of the Cathédrale St. Croix in Orléans

The church where I first had mass in France- St. Aignan (and where I nearly died on my way there and back)

Me at Joan of Arc's House explanation needed?

Le Tour Eiffel (when it sparkles!)

The view from outside the Sacré Coeur

Sacré Coeur!! (Kelley on the left, Laura on the right)

My first alcoholic purchase ever! (It's a pink wine that cost 1 euro...not a very good pink wine, but worth a euro! This is my "don't steal my cheap wine!" face that I made while wearing my new sweater that only cost 5 euros!)

Anyway, this weekend I stayed in Orléans and the weather was too crummy to venture out to the castles, but soon! Kelley and I decided to get some shopping done instead and that's when I bought my phone!!! I almost forgot! I bought a French phone so that I can talk to people here (I still want to replace my other one, but this one is good for local calls).

So, if you need to contact me from France/Europe, here's my number: 0646571312

If you have to call from the states, call from a landline because it's cheaper. Here's what to dial if you're calling from home:


I think I receive calls for free, which is good considering I don't have any money on my phone yet (I have to buy phone cards for it).

In answer to your question, Mom, I'm hopefully buying a laptop tomorrow since the library's about to close, so don't be on the lookout just yet! :) And don't worry about me getting too attached here- it hasn't happened yet and I'd miss you all way too much to ever live here by myself.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Vous êtes charmante, mais...

I think that title was the beginning of a sentence from my history professor, followed by some vaguely comprehensible phrases (something like, "You are charming, but you need to practice speaking French... a lot more").

Anyway, if that doesn't give you an inclination as to how I'm doing in mes classes...Well, the point is, I'm still quite miserable. But at least I'm "charmante". Ew. that's the phrase a lot of thugs use to catch the ladies around here. I wonder if any of them are EVER successful.

However, in spite of school, life is much better after my samedi à Paris!!! Before, I was still pretty skeptical of my continued presence here, but now that I've tasted a little of what I expect to enjoy for the rest of the semester (at least on the weekends), I'm a happy camper.

First, Laura, Kelley and I rode the train for about an hour to get to Paris (around 10 AM), but sadly, when we arrived, it had started raining. But it was only a drizzle, so we walked along the Seine before deciding where we would take the métro for the day. And what do you know? We came upon the Notre Dame!!!!! Now I understand why that cathedral is so well known around the globe (as compared to the lesser known Cathédrale Sainte-Croix in Orléans): it's astoundingly large and ornate in every detail. We looked on in awe, taking a gazillion or so pictures, but we didn't go inside to meet the Hunchback because the line was ridiculously long (it's still vacation time over here).

So, after some light shopping, getting a cup of tea and doing some more sight-seeing (everything is so historic in Paris) we decided to head in the direction of Montmartre (where the Moulin Rouge and the Sacré Coeur are). Figuring out the métro all by ourselves, we got there and almost immediately after we arose out of the underworld, I caught a glimpse of the Sacré Coeur. We headed in the direction of that beautiful basilica, but Laura warned us that while it might not seem like much, it's a pretty big endeavor to climb all the steps it takes to get to the highest point in the city. But climb those steps, we did! After, of course, we shook off some tourist traps (a.k.a. guys who try to wrap string around your finger/wrist to where you can't escape and then who charge you outrageously for the permanent bijoux). I was proud of myself for escaping with pretty stealthy ease, but poor Kelley was almost caught! Luckily, Laura and I saw that she was stuck, we told her to come on and I yelled at the group of men to allez! Laura said they called us lots of bad things in French, but I didn't care. What could they have done to me in such a large crowd (and in front of a church no less)???

Anyway, after a great many steps, we finally reached the top and saw laid out perfectly visible before us, the city of Paris. It was spectacular!!! While the clouds were gray, the slight rays of sunshine that peeked through them cast beautiful colors on the thousands of buildings below. And the air! It was so clear and smooth! I felt like staying up there for the rest of the day. But Laura and Kelley had other plans, so we almost didn't even go inside the actual church, but after peeking in the doors to see when/if we could entrer, we found that we could! And oh my heavens!!!!!!! That is the most beautiful church I have ever seen in my life! (And I feel I have some credibility in that sentence now, after going inside 3 other very old churches for mass or otherwise.) It has so many stained-glass windows with the most touching and the most tragic stories of Jesus' life depicted upon them (after all, it is called the Sacred Heart for a reason). And the number of tabernacles! I've never seen so many in one church before! I almost didn't know if I should genuflect before each one, but then I realized in my utter stupidity that only one (or maybe 2) had candles lit beside them. I spent probably what seemed like too much time to the others looking around (they finished before I did for sure! But alas, I'm the only Catholic among us) but I had to ask when I saw the basilica store if they had books with the mass in French. Unfortunately, the librairie was closed until 3 pm, and by then I knew we'd be exploring elsewhere. But I do fully intend to get one soon so that I feel like I can understand at least the majority of mass!

Anyway, after descending the massive staircase, we had another quick brawl with the swindlers (they kept asking me if I was French because I only angrily spoke French to them. It was kind of a compliment, or at least I took it as such! :) Haha- I told them, "C'est une église, c'est sacré!" because I was mad that they were hustling people outside this magnificent basilica). But then we got a little lost looking for the Moulin Rouge (which we never found) and after giving up, we decided now was the time for the Eiffel Tower and crepes!

We mounted the métro again and walked the rest of the way to the Tower, looking in desperation for a crepe stand (we were all pretty hungry at this point). But then I finally saw a full glimpse of it! When I was with Hakim's sister before, I had only seen the tip of Le Tour Eiffel, but now that I could see the whole thing, I almost died. We walked all around it and under it, but once again the tourist lines were much too long, so rather than ascending the tower, we crossed the street to purchase our ridiculously over-priced chocolate-banana crepes. But oh man oh man, that crepe was the best thing I've ever bought. EVER. Then we explored and shopped some more (and by that I mean Laura shopped because I'm too scared to spend too much money right now), got lost again (in Paris! it's okay when it's in Paris) and returned to take pictures of the Eiffel Tower at night (when it sparkles on the hour for 10 minutes) before heading home.

What a marvelous day!!!! Now I will confess that there were some events later that night which were nothing but unpleasant, but nothing could ruin the beauty of the morning/afternoon. I will also confess that it is my renewed goal now to find me a French boyfriend who has a car, lives in the 16th district of Paris and will buy me things and come with me and my friends when we want to go places at night (the latter part being the most important).


PS- Aunt Mary, I left a comment for you in my previous post! :)

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Paige Cunningham
2, rue de Montargis
45072 Orleans cedex 2


So, if you are not aware, my sisters and I often like to compare ourselves to the Little Women sisters, and of course, I generally declare myself the Jo of the group. But in France, I have discovered that I have become the Beth. I miss home so much and time passes soooo incredibly slowly here. I feel like I've been here for an eternity and it's only been a little over 2 weeks. Also, I am, like Beth, sick right now (no doubt due to my absurdly drafty dorm), but luckily, I'm pretty sure it's not scarlet fever.

But, my dorm room has become very much a prison cell. It doesn't help that I'm reading Villette- a Bronte book whose main character is a dull, hermitish-type girl like me who, in the first volume, goes crazy from solitude after being left behind during summer vaction at the French school where she teaches English. Anyway, as I have habit of doing, I see very much of this prudish girl in myself, and I don't want to get feverish from solitary confinement like she did and end up roaming unknown French streets in the rain and passing out. Luckily she was saved by her friend, Dr. John, and a priest, but if I were in a similar predicament, I probably would end up dead or worse.

But, I am very grateful for my friends here. One gave me her alarm clock (no way to keep time when your phone is dead and you lack a watch!), another- her battery charger (she wasn't using it and I need it for my camera) and another very generously lets me use her lappy all the time. (Since I am sick and she and the girls are out, I'm using it while she's away.)

Anyway, classes here are mostly absurd. I have geography, history, writing, grammar, oral practice, and "atelier chanson" (that I haven't been to yet because the professor was absent and will be so next week as well). But I have class till 3 PM on Friday, which sucks hardcore if I want to spend weekends in Paris with Julia. But my history and geography teachers are amiable enough. My writing teacher scares me a little, but I think she's kind at heart. My grammar/other writing teacher is okay, but I hate how he's constantly looking over my shoulder to see how miserably I'm completing whatever excercise we're working on. And finally, my oral teacher who, upon first impression, seemed as harmless and sweet as confiture, is now the bane of my existence. She hates Americans, or so I gather. My friend, Kelley, and I were forced to introduce ourselves (everyone else had already been there from last semester) and the teacher could not understand us for the most part. I had to repeat the word, "Dallas," at least 100 times and Kelley got a lecture about her pronunciation of Monaco, saying that we put too much inflection in our words. She also got mad at us for not taking notes on some CD she played (because we couldn't understand a word!!!) and she asked us if we take notes in America. Without answering, she concluded that we didn't and said, "Ca ne marche pas ici." Oy. I do not like her and that class is going to kill me.

I guess I might as well recount my church story while I'm here. Well, on Sunday I went to "messe", taking the tram by myself and without much fear because I thought I'd just go to the cathedral which is not far from the "De Gaulle" stop. Well, of course the ginormous cathedral wasn't holding mass at the time our tour guides (from the day before) told us, but luckily there was a map posted inside with other churches nearby and their mass times. I decided to go to one that didn't seem too far and I tried to memorize the streets I needed to take to get there. Well, of course, walking down little cobblestone streets, I got lost. But eventually, I found the Loire River and could see the top of the church from there. After nearly giving up (mind you, I was wearing, in my own stupidity, heeled boots that were INCREDIBLY painful on those hilled and bumpy streets), I finally found it. And of course, mass was already finishing when I got there. But, mustering some courage, I stuck around in the cold and after mass, I asked a few people in my terrible French when the next mass was. Well, one guy didn't know and seemed as clueless as me. But another lady said there was one at noon, but it was different than the one that just finished. I didn't understand what she said was different about it, but I stayed anyway. I think she said the first one was a classic Latin mass and the one after is in all French. Not that it matters, I didn't understand anything anyway and I tried faking my way through all the parts that didn't have words on the guide to follow along with. But it was a beautiful "little" church that was so old, it was clearly under repair (scaffolding was all about the inside of the church). But you could still see the enormous altar and huge windows tipped with stained glass. It was lovely and distracting (but like I said, I couldn't understand much anyway). After finding a map outside the church after mass, I tried to memorize my way back home, but of course, I got lost again. This time to my very near detriment. I found a large street (Bourgogne) where one of our tutor-type people had said there were a lot of bars, so I took it, hoping it would lead back to the cathedral. Well, it was quite empty, and as my feet were just about to crap out on me, I was walking rather slow when I came upon a man. He was staring and smiling at me with an evil, mischievous smile on his face. Being the only girl visible at the time, I nearly froze. I saw a restaurant near by that was miraculously open (nothing is open on Sundays!) and I pretended to look at the menu posted in the windows, as if I would go in. The guy must have guessed I was pretending because he kept staring (the restaurant had mostly Arabic food, and well, I'm super white, so that must be why). But just as I was about to have a cow, a group of people my age came up behind me. So I carried on (with the others right behind me going the same way), pretending to decide that the restaurant was not to my liking and I finally found my way back to the cathedral and back to the tram stop. One of the pads of my feet is now bruised looking from my painful journey, but otherwise I came out of all that alive! :)

But I am definitely not going to that church again by myself (and hopefully the other Catholic churches nearer to the tram stops have mass at regular times). I miss my car. Crystal- you had better be taking good care of my baby!

Otherwise, there is not much news. Ha!

Love love love!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Pas de technologie

So, I still can't use the computers here because the lady who was supposed to give us our ID cards today was malade.

But I'm still alive! Just so you all know. :) I will update lots and lots and e-mail everyone once I have the chance.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

AAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!! Murphy's. Law.

Sometimes, I'm pretty sure God hates me.

My phone, she is broke. I didn't do anything. It was working yesterday morning and by lunchtime it wouldn't turn on. I've tried everything. Well, it seems the only way to remedy the situation is to buy a new one and a mini laptop while I'm at it! I'm going to have no money in a few days.

Um- sooo- I'm using a friend's computer right now, but I just wanted to let everyone know that I'm alive and that I will not be able to use the computers on campus till Monday when we get our student ID cards.

But to answer Linea- I check my hotmail account (and by check I mean I just did for the first time in 4 or 5 days) and you can e-mail me (everday!) there.

Anyways- my purse strap also broke, but luckily I overpacked and I have handles for it and another messenger bag in general. Lots of other things have gone wrong, and the first couple of days at school were the worst ever ever ever.

BUT: The Beacon of Light:

Yesterday, I finally found the other English speaking peeps on campus and we went shopping in Orleans where I finally got to see the BEAUTIFUL centre-ville where the most magnificent cathedral in the whole wide world is just sitting in the middle of tiny streets with a gagillion little magasins. And now I know people! Yay!

I miss all of you more than you can possibly know. I LOVE YOU! And I will e-mail/message everyone when I get to use the computers on Monday.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Oh man.

Well, today was certainly special. I slept for longer than I thought I would because I'm still pretty jet-lagged, and after lunch (another delicious feast made by my temporary host family), Hakim's sister, Sophia, took me to Les Champs Elysées!!!! Pictures do not do it justice- all of the trees were covered in purply blue lights for Le Noel and luckily we stayed late enough to see them all lit up. In fact all of the stores (the very expensive magasins) were beautifully decorated for Christmas. BUT my camera is out of batteries and the ones I bought for it don't work. I'll take pictures when I come back because I'm definitely coming back. Anyway, if you aren't aware, at the end of the Champs Elysées is the L'Arc de Triomph. Sophia and I walked all around and under it, but we didn't go inside because it was crowded and cold. But it's all good because the outside is fantastique!!! We also went to a French McDonald's (just for you Crystal!) and Le Gare St. Lazare and ran away from les manifestations, but I'm super fatiguée and don't feel like writing more maintenant.

Friday, January 2, 2009

le premier jour!

My first day in France!

So, already I am completely lost with this keyboard. They have totally different keys because of all the accented letters: the a is in a different spot and it makes everything trés difficile. I have to use the shift key for the period. Ridicule.

But I am sure you all want to know how everything else is, and not how much trouble I'm having with this keyboard.

Well, everything is excellente so far: my temporary host family is so nice, although they are trying not to speak English at all, so it's difficult and embarrasing for me. But they fed me very well this first night: they had smothered potatoes just like you make, Mom! As well as chicken avec champignons (mushrooms), salad (with the best cherry tomatoes ever), delicious beyond delicious bread and crème caramel for dessert. They only had one crème left and they let me have it while they ate regular yogurt. Right now I am waiting for my lemon tea to cool.

Hakim- the student whose family I am staying with is awesome. I think he is taking me to Paris tomorrow: I said I wanted to see the Eiffel Tower and he said he's lived here his whole life and never been to the top floor! So we are both going to do it and it will be AMAZING. The Khennouf family lives in a suburb of Paris (Colombe) so I haven't seen the skyline with Le Tour Eiffel just yet.

Oh! Also- I have been forewarned that Orléans gets very cold...eep! Hakim's mother doesn't seem to think that my red jacket is warm enough, but it's difficult for me to tell yet because I wasn't outside for very long. But she told me about the sales they have en janvier- similar to Black Friday.

Well, my incompetence with ze french keyboard is cutting my time short....
more later!