Saturday, October 23, 2010

Paris, le berceau

I feel like I’m living in a dream. It’s not necessarily a good dream, but it’s certainly not a nightmare. It’s more like a surreal state of la vie en rose. I woke up one day and realized, I live across the street from the president and three steps from the Champs-Elysées. There is a baby designer store on my block. I’m talking Baby Prada. Baby Gucci. Baby Louis. Perhaps it is due to the fact that classes here are a far cry from the nerve-splitting stress I usually endure in the states or maybe it is the financial security furnished by the Bank of Daddy that keeps me “living well”, but I am now a resident of an alternate universe where everything is so…insouciant. No stress. No drama. No problems. There’s something wrong with that, right?

Before I continue, I want to make it clear that I’m not living the Champagne life, but the only thing stopping me from popping a bottle right now is my low alcohol tolerance. The real problem actually is the lack of passion, good or bad. You would think that a city like Paris would have the poet in me bursting with life and inspiration, but…there is something very artificial about this atmosphere. I even think differently now. I’m not quite awake, yet acutely aware of my altered state of consciousness. It’s a little unnerving. I keep waiting for something to go. No “wrong”, no “right”. Just “go”.

“Go” happened when I was in Angola and spent the day with orphans from the civil war. “Go” happened when my close friend revealed her deepest darkest secret to me. “Go” happened during my mischievous trip to the Houston hood a few winters ago. “Go” happened during an ex-love’s particularly memorable mischievous trip under my hood. “Go” happens during poetry shows, after research papers, at the dinner table, in the arms of my siblings. It happens. But I’m still waiting for my Parisian “go.” I came close when I visited Sacré-CœurThe view of entire city of Paris from the summit of Montmartre, the highest point in the city, broke me out of a six-week long writer’s block. Perhaps it was the short Italian street violinist playing Titanic’s “My Heart Will Go On” that set the mood, but I was moved. Not part the Red Sea kind of moved, but a little moist eyeballs kind of moved. For those of you who didn’t get the comparison, those were both bodies of waters stirring.

What I have learned in this rose-colored “study” abroad is that “go” is out of my control. And while I’m living in a pseudo-dream my Angolan orphans are still sleeping under bridges and the engine under many a hood are undergoing mechanical restructuring. Life is and continues to be. Perhaps this is just life in transit, but I’m not giving up on the possibility of passion shining through this dream filter.

That’s all for now. The next post will be a little lighter, I promise. Bisous!

--Just Kisses, JK

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Out of my shell and into the escargot*

Oh how I have neglected thee! My third week in Paris is coming to a close and I have yet to share a snippet of my experience. To be completely honest, I was rather hermitic for a while. The switch from a bustling college setting to a secluded homestay can be uncomfy. And as southern belle I’m all about the comfy. *spoiled* Well, when push comes to shove, you’ve got to dig your Bebe stiletto heels in and get to business. So I did just that: took my shy little butt out of the house (a VERY beautiful piece of real estate, mind you) and started exploring. Of course I would have loved to have my besties around (shout-out to UT and BU) but some things you’ve just got to do on your own. Yeah, I’m a real pioneer, I know.

So between my school-organized visits, nocturnal outings, and spontaneous daytime discoveries, I have made quite a few observations about life, Parisian culture, and life as it relates to Parisian culture. Repetitive? No sir. Just specific. Here are 4 in no particular order.

1.   Ig’nance is an endemic cancer from which no great city, race, or class is immune. (Beware Kim Jong Il, Pyongyang could be next). What else would explain the aggressive behavior of some of the men who frequent the Champs Élysées on weekends? Alcohol? *shakes head sadly at the suggestion* Liquor doesn’t make you an a**hole. Being an a**hole makes you and a**hole. It also makes you address ladies in a shockingly improper manner, physically accost individuals that have not solicited your attention, “holler” from the passenger’s side of your best friend’s ride (#noscrubs), and otherwise harass young women that are clearly out of your league. Just stop. You do not have the currency

2.  Baguettes are a hormonal woman’s carblover’s best friend. While white bread has a reputation for being hazardous to your health (death by stuffacation), baguettes are made with magical happy yeast that makes them delicious, filling, and not nearly as fattening as rice or pasta despite the 700 calorie tag. I don’t know how they do it but I do suspect that the long walks to and from the boulangerie metro might have something to do with the splendor of this superfood.

3.  French businessmen are FIIYNE! Just to specify, when I say business men, I’m not talking about local entrepreneurs. I mean international business men who travel around the financial and political districts in packs (God bless them) wearing custom-cut suits (black or navy blue ONLY) and rolling leather Lancel travel bags in hand. *swoon*

4.  Staring is rude. No really, it is VERY rude in these parts. Especially in public transportation, people will do everything possible to avoid your gaze. Which is how you know that when you’re being stared at, something is seriously off. Case in point: One balmy day, I left my slut-o-meter at home and went to school in brown tweed shorts and black suede booties. In my defense, it was nice out and I paired the ensemble with a blazer. However, I digress. All throughout the metro ride and in the streets I could feel astonished French eyes savoring my legs with a mix of discomfort, disapproval, and desire. Let’s be real, I looked good! But so did that other girl working the corner, so... *kanyeshrug*

5.  I love Paris. Fin.

--Just Kisses, JK

*Fun French fact: Paris is divided into 20 arrondisements (sort of like districts) with the premier arrondisement in the center and the rest spiraling out in numerical order to create the shape of an escargot shell. If you don’t know what escargot is, well, I’m just sad. I'm also not an enabler, so do crack open a Larousse.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What Lies Ahead...

 It is 10PM Houston time (on Tuesday). 5AM in Paris. I’m drunk on sleep and carby plane food. Terrible combination. I hope this entry will be lucid…

So, while simultaneously lamenting the separation from my older sis and baby brother [Sidebar: He’s only 5 yrs younger than me but he will always be my baby. #mariahcarey] and the fact that I missed the boat tour of Paris due to the antics of CampusFrance (I want my time back. Thieves! Money ain’t s***. I’ll take a refund on August 28-31.), I started to think about what lies ahead. What will my host family be like? How will the classes be? Will it rain when I land? Will it rain a lot during my stay? Did I waste money on these suede boots? The really deep questions, you know?

The point is I’m a planner by nature. In fact, Five Star office supplies should hire me to revamp their inventory because this whole selling things in threes thing really irks me because I have four classes. I mean really though, what schools have 3 classes a semester? Anyways, back to planning. Planners like to be prepared. What am I preparing for? I don’t know. How can I prepare for this unidentified thing I’m trying to prepare for? I don’t know. What should I expect? Again, idk. I-D-freaking-K. Well it’s really just annoying cus now I have to be some sort of explorer or something (minus the pillage, enslaving, and small-pox infecting).

I bet a few of you are like, “Wow, JK, get over yourself. You’re going abroad. Just go and see.” If that is you, why thank you for that useless bit of advice. I did, however, receive a rather helpful string of words from my older sis’ bf. He said, “Have as much fun and be as serious as possible.” [Sidebar: Whether or not he actually said this remains unknown as my hearing is about as reliable as dollar store condoms.] As far as the advice goes, it pretty much reads: Get laid and get A’s. Okay, so maybe not the first part, but you get the general idea. I’m on both the pursuit of happiness (#kidcudi) and on the pursuit of excellence (#nokidcudi).

To cap off this late night/early morning rambling, I say to you, whether you’re studying at home, studying abroad, on your grind, or “finding yourself” (read: unemployed and not in school) you’re preparing for life. Except for you’re actually living it. Prepare to up your happiness game. Prepare to up your success game. Prepare to up your life game. There is nothing sadder than a LifeFAIL, whether it’s under the Tour Eiffel, the Astrodome, or that bridge where Andy is parading his “Let me not lie, I just want beer” sign. Bisous!

—Just Kisses, JK

Sunday, August 29, 2010

A False Start

As most of you already know, I’m studying abroad this semester. Destination: somewhere exotic, unfamiliar, and filled with wonder. Paris, France. Ok, so not so exotic, and definitely familiar seeing as I used to live there and I speak the language. “Filled with wonder” hits the mark though—especially at Christmastime. I mean, les lumières, l’amour, la finesse, les croissants… it’s all there. What more could a girl ask for?

Let me now answer my rhetorical question cus that’s what all the cool kids are doing. Politeness. Kindness. How about a little consideration? Or even just a smile. Well apparently, these are NOT things you will find at the French Embassy in Houston. However, if you call to ask about an appointment you have already scheduled, you may be lucky enough to find yourself promptly rushed off the phone by a shrilled-toned woman who curtly informs you, <<Je suis avec des clients>> as if you were telemarketer asking for donations for the Toenail Cancer Foundation of America. What ever happened to customer service? I wonder if there is a French translation for the phrase. If there is, they certainly haven’t gotten the concept down.

Now, when you drive down to the embassy itself, braving 45mins of bumper to bumper traffic #hellwheels interrupted by the occasional infuriating lane-drifting cutter, #nosuicide, your luck will most likely continue in the same trajectory, #lawsofmotion. At this point, you will discover that the ill-tempered lady you spoke with is one of two irritable blonde women working the service counter at the office. They will then take turns losing their patience with you as you try to smile off their curt directives and exaggerated hand motions. Your appointment will end in an abrupt and accented, “I cannot help you, your application is incomplete.” Four visits, $65, half a tank of gas, and 3 fancy outfits later, you will discover that you must reschedule your flight because your visa will not arrive in time. Vive la Republique Française!!

All I know is that had better be an isolated incident of French impolitesse, because if this is the norm, Southern Belle JK (read: Southern hospitality) will soon exit the building, making way for Global South JK (read: you better watch yourself). Bisous!

—Just Kisses, JK