So the main thing that is really the advantage of my program is that in living here, and working, I really get the chance to be a Parisienne (to the extent that a flip-flop wearing, native English speaking American can be a Parisienne for 2 months...) But anyway, you get to experience to some extent la vie quotidienne - the daily life. We are not just here as tourists (and let me tell you, it has become quite easy to pick out who are the tourists on the metro). Now granted, I am doing several touristy things, visiting museums and so on, but I really get to see what the daily grind is like. If there is one word it is good to know about daily life in Paris, it just might be grève - that is to say, strike. There is toujours un grève - people are serious here about maintaining a high quality of life. Here is the first grève I saw up close and personal, I believe on Thursday:
I should have taken a picture looking down the length of the street - there were hundreds and hundreds of people. Ever since the turbulent month of mai '68, May is the main month for strikes. The worst is when the RATP strikes - they run the Metro, bus, and commuter rail systems, and on strike they either limit the number of trains running or certain lines won't run at all. Luckily for me, I live pretty near to where I work, but this could be a huge problem for a lot of people in the program here!
I am glad June starts tomorrow.
So anyway, I started at the gallery Tuesday, and as it is now Saturday evening, I have completed my first full week. The first three days, it was just me and mon patron (my boss), Eric (as in, Eric Mircher, as in, Galerie Eric Mircher). Contrary to the stereotype of the laid-back, laisser-faire European worker, Eric seems to be always in a hurry. Basically from what I have seen in the last week, his job is to first and foremost keep the collectors happy, and then to try to keep the artists happy, and then to make sure everyone else stays on task to keep those collectors happy. Most frequently, he has dictated emails to me. His assistant Lou came in the last 2 days... I think she is preparing for final exams right now, so maybe she was off to study for that, or maybe she only works part time regularly... I'm not sure.
Eric speaks mostly English to me, but Lou doesn't really speak English (she took Italian instead). I think Eric uses English mostly because he's in such a hurry, and he thinks I will understand more quickly... He did tell me he will use more French as time goes by. Alors, comme il veut. He is not, however, fluent, so when there are emails to write in English (he deals with Canadian, American, and Chinese artists, dealers, shippers etc), he tells me generally what to say but then I put them in "my good English." At least then I really feel like I'm useful!
On Wednesday, Eric asked me to run an errand to the Centre Pompidou, the "modern cultural center" or something like that. It was built in the '70s under then-president Pompidou, who said it would "cause quite a stir" - in comparison to the rest of Paris' architecture, I should say so :
The long tube going up the side of the building is actually the escalator. When Eric asked me to go on the errand, it was about 12:30. I usually lunch about 1:00 for an hour, so he told me to head over there, and then take my lunch and be back at the gallery by 2:30 - sounds good to me! I got a chance to look through the museum of modern art there... I only had about an hour, but that was plenty. When I was leaving, however, I rode the escalator up to the top level. This was the first time I really got to go UP, and see Paris from above, and it was pretty incredible.
This is looking out over the centre Pompidou fountains, which you can see in the foreground, towards an unknown church. I like the juxtaposition of the new with the old.
And there she is, the Tour Eiffel! Note as well the gold dome to the left. I am not sure what that is, but it is certainly pretty.
Looking out to Sacre Coeur, the church on the tall hill of Montmartre :
It was incredible to get to be up to see all of the city like that. Unfortunately, it was not outside, but within the plastic tubes, so there is some glare on the pictures... But oh my goodness, it was magnifique all the same. It makes me impatient to visit the top of the Tours Eiffel and Montparnasse and of Notre Dame!
Friday, I walked during lunch South from my office down to the Basitlle - the site that the revolutionaries stormed on the 14th of July, 1789, to start the revolution. The revoltionaries tore down the Bastille, a prison as well as a munitions stock. Several decades later, this column was erected to commemorate the spot :
Once again I got lucky with blue skies! The building you can barely see to the left is the Bastille Opera House, commemorated 14 July 1989. I took pictures of it as well, but they will have to wait for another time.
Other than work, I had class again on Thursday, and I have been mostly eating pretty well. Tuesday night, we celebrated my birthday over dinner. Each tuesday, my host mom, Catherine, makes dinner for us (us being me and Kendall, the girl who lives here with me). She offered to give us cooking lessons, but she wouldn't let me help last week since it was my "birthday" :) It was too bad she wouldn't, dinner was incredible and I'd love to know how to make it! We started with a salad, and then had ratatouille and rice and tomatoes stuffed with pork and spices, and then she made me a cake for dessert. I had never had ratatouille before, and it was delicieux - even though it had fenouil, et courgette - fennel and zucchini, two vegetables that are not my favorites. But everything cooked for so long, and with so many good flavors, you couldn't even tell. The cake was "Catherine's own creation," and was some kind of white cake layered with strawberries, and then mascarpone and fromage blanc, which is basically like a very thick not sweetened yogurt. Wonderful. I want more just thinking about it! Catherine and Jacques' son Francis came to dinner as well, and there was good conversation to go along with the good food. I had been told the French really like to discuss politics, and I am finding it to be very true! It makes me very glad I was following the American election before I left the states, so I can talk about it!
Today Eric was really nice and asked me just to work 11-2, so it wasn't a real work day. I was going to be good and go swim afterwards, but I went to the pool that is only a few blocks from my office and looked in the window, and it was so crowded! It is a 25 m, 6 lane pool, and there were at least 5 people in each lane. That is crowded enough when everyone is doing the same practice, let alone when everyone is different and you have to pass rec'ies all the time... So I decided against it. I thought about running, but then I thought about lying in bed, and the latter was more appealing, go figure. So I feel kind of guilty having taken an entire afternoon pour me reposer chez moi (to relax at home), but I think I will be much more refreshed tomorrow. The BU program has offered to reimburse us up to 30E for any trip we might want to make into the Ile de France region (the region surrounding Paris), so I think tomorrow I will try to go to Chartres to see the Cathedral, which I have studied and understand is absolutely magnificent. I am hoping to make it to mass, and get to experience that.
All that being said, I am probably going to be lame for a Saturday night and go to bed early so I can wake up early and go to church.... Alors, bonne nuit, et