lundi, novembre 27
posted by Gina at 15:30

Until last weekend, the best birthday party in Paris I'd been to was the one my old roommate threw that involved 6 foot tall speakers and a near eviction. But then along came Alex, who also knows how to throw a fabulous birthday party. So well in fact that people came from all over the country to get down and live it up in the 6th. Here's some photos from our soirée people.

vendredi, novembre 24
posted by Gina at 09:46

Hip hop, or as I now pronounce it, eep opp, has some great artists coming out of France. Nothing makes me happier (outside of marital bliss, of course) than when French groups collaborate with their American counterparts. Hocus Pocus is a group from Nantes who got together with American group the Procussions to make this catchy little tune. I know I've posted this video elsewhere, but it's so cool that I have no shame putting it up again here.
dimanche, novembre 19
posted by Gina at 10:26

I'd never watched a rugby match for more than a minute but have noticed they make American footballers, who are basically playing the same game, look like pansies with all their protective gear. Last night, I was glued to the tv watching France play New Zealand who, as with each international game, started the match with the Haka, a Maori war dance. The clip below is from another match, but you can see the intimidation. Maybe I'm mislead by the throat slitting action at the end, but they look like they're about to dive into a carnal blood bath instead of a legal sport. If I was about to take on this group, I'd probably do a girly shreik, run out of the stadium and take up chess instead.
vendredi, novembre 17
posted by Gina at 15:43

Paris, while expensive as hell, has free perks here and there such as the exhibits at the Hotel de Ville. We went yesterday with the intention of seeing Doisneau's photos. When we saw the Doisneau line was about 5 miles longer than the line for the other exhibit, we went with the latter: Cabu et Paris.
I had never heard of this John Denver look alike sketch artist called Cabu, but was touched by his drawings that capture the many sides of Paris from the Assemblée Nationale to the sex shops at Pigalle. Cabu has been sketching Paris for more than 50 years but he still captures the little things you'd come across looking at the city as a newcomer. There are the monuments of course, but he also sketches scenes like the little Japanese tourists hauling designer shopping bags that stand taller than they do. The African men who stand outside the Chateau d'Eau metro stop hollering to hustle people into the hairdresser's across the street. He includes little notes in his sketches like "Rendez-vous at Saint Sulpice with a copy of the Da Vinci Code." . What hit me most about what Cabu had to say about the city was that he moved to Paris when he was 17 and still feels 17 when he's here. I first set foot in Paris when I was 24. A few years later, I don't feel any different than I did at 24- not to compare that to Cabu feeling like a teenager at the age 68. But it made me wonder if I'm still living here when I'm 70, will being in Paris still make me feel like a fresh faced 24 year old? I know enough people here will tell you that living in the city could actually age you quicker. In any case, I still have moments where I'm running late and walking in the street and getting frustrated at how slowly some people walk in the middle of the sidewalk and how there's just too many people about and I think I'm going to crack and then I get a glimpse of the lights dancing on the Seine, a quiet, constant backdrop to the noise and traffic, and I remember why I live here.
lundi, novembre 13
posted by Gina at 16:29

Saturday night, we headed out to Diablitho Latino in the 11th and had a nice night of dancing in one of the coolest salsa joints in town. Herminio, our favorite salsero in Paris wasn't there, but a lot of familiar faces showed out for a friend's birthday. I dig Diablitho Latino. There's good dancers but no salsa snobs (my mind goes back to a night at El Floridita in Hollywood when some guy on the dance floor corrected me on my alleged "extra steps." After which, I showed him some more extra steps and walked away). Diablitho's other big plus is that they stick to good salsa music and don't play zouk. Caribean music's nice enough to listen to, but there's no pulse to it. It makes you want to lay back in a lounge chair with a cocktail served in a coconut rather than get up and dance.
On this particular night, there were way more latin girls at the club than French girls. Or was it just that they were more visible? To state the obvious, latin girls' style could not be any more different from the French. It's like comparing apples and... parachutes. While Parisiennes have their 300 different ways to wear a scarf, the latinas have their skin-tight lycra, huge hoop earrings, and bra straps (or in some cases, entire bras) that intentionally show. Walk into this place from the cold street scene where everyone's bundled up, and it's "Fifi, I don't think we're in Paris anymore."
They say salsa is different between LA, New York and Miami with all that start on the one beat versus starting on the five. Personally, I've never paid attention to all that business. Dancing gets more difficult and less fun if I think too hard about it. There are a few stylistic differences I see in Paris (and I'll talk about the girls because that's usually who you watch more, right?). Parisiennes, though they can dance well, stay straighter and stiffer when they move while girls in LA are all hips and shoulders swiggling all over the place.
People watching aside, the reason we were there was to celebrate lovely Léa's birthday. There were a lot of faces I hadn't seen since her birthday party last year, so it was a sort of Léa's birthday reunion. My husband, who'd never been to a salsa spot before meeting me, showed off his freestyle on the dance floor. We got a good workout in before grabbing our coats and stepping back outside into the cold. Back into November in Paris.
mercredi, novembre 8
posted by Gina at 14:00

The Franprix market by my place is notorious among our friends for its bitchy cashiers. Not in an uptight, stuffy kind of bitchy, but more like a "I work for minimum wage and I can't stand customer service" kind of bitchy. Anyone who lives in France can tell you that trips to the market don't come complete with a friendly high school student wearing a Vons apron who is happy to bag your groceries for you while you take care of the bill. Here, you bag it all yourself and if you're lucky, it's during rush hour when everyone's just got off work and waiting impatiently in line behind you as you try to put your change in your wallet that won't zip closed, bag the bottles of wine in an upright, protected position and chase run away oranges.
I have seen markets where the cashiers will take note of the hold up and lend a hand, but the Franprix chicks usually cross their arms and glare no matter how many people are in line.
The other day, I was there waiting in line, holding my groceries with three people in front of me and four behind me. In a small market like this one, that's traffic. One out of three cash registers was open, while two other employees were chatting in the corner, ignoring the abandoned registers and the growing amount of customers.
Then, the woman behind me steps up.
"Are you going to open the other register?" she yells. They keep chatting.
"Tenez, je vais lancer une pièce," she says, digging in her purse.
Is that just a figure of speech I haven't learned yet or did she just tell me she's going to chuck her change at them?
Turns out, it's not a figure of speech. She pulled out a few coins and hurled them, one by one, at the head of one the Franprix employees chatting in the corner. This is the best trip to the market ever.
The girl turned around and instead of getting mad, did a little, half-hearted "Oh my, I didn't realize there were so many people" and jumped behind the other register where I was the first get be rung up.
After I paid and started to close that damn, unzipping wallet of mine, she actually helped me Miracles do happen!
Leaving, I wanted to toss a chunky, 2 euro coin at her head and do an Italian grandma style "Thatsa so you donna forget de next time!" I didn't, but from now on, I'm not coming here without extra change in my pocket.
dimanche, novembre 5
posted by Gina at 17:15

Trying to make good use of the last few days of having free time on my hands, I took what seemed like a quick little idea from an interior design magazine and painted our place. Three days of non-stop work and voilà, I'm the proud mother of three beautiful walls. Naturally, I spend the majority of my days staring at my masterpiece. That's a bit of what I was doing when we became two of the five million people in France affected by the blackout that hit Europe last night. When our lights and tv shut off around ten o'clock, we poked our heads out the window, as did most of the other residents on our street, and saw there wasn't a light on anywhere.
This morning, the power was back and the sun came out and we were able to continue our wall gazing- as you can do now, too.

Before painting, I used an electric sander for the first time in my life to get the walls smooth and paintable. The sander was significantly more powerful than I thought it would be and as I strained from side to side, my entire torso violently spasming along with my feet teetering on the ladder, I realised I probably should have contracted a will before starting this mess. Luckily for the walls, I survived the sanding. Now, the painting. The magazine said it was "a long and tricky project." What it should have said is "this project is so labourious, it will make you gleeful that you only live in an uncomfortably small studio apartment!" I did the walls totally beige and then, to make sure each stripe ended up perfectly parallel, I measured from ceiling to floor each 23 cm beige section and then each 20 cm grey section. Yes, each centimeter of each stripe was delicately executed by moi. Halfway through the paint job, I was saying "I don't care if we have ten kids one day. After this is done, I will never move out of this place. Ever."
vendredi, novembre 3
posted by Gina at 12:05

Of course, when I say fabulous, I mean long, drawn out and at times, miserable. This day long seminar is organised by the Minister of Employment and the Department of Immigrations and brought me out of my warm bed and out into the bitter cold morning, wandering around the streets of Colombes, trying to find the meeting place. Since our address isn't in Paris proper (yet a 5 minute train ride into town), all my paperwork goes into the Hauts-de-Seine Prefecture instead of Paris. Remembering the fun that was getting my titre de sejour in Paris when I was here as a student, I thought working with another prefecture would be easier. Less people! Maybe even a tolerable staff! The only thing that is different is that now when I have to wait in line at the Prefecture, I'm the only woman who's not wearing a veil. My dad suggested I go wait in line wearing a big sombrero, just to mix it up a bit and show my culture. I didn't go for it.
The beginning of our Journée Civique was directed by a small, wiry woman who needed hair gel. She began with a quick, roundtable introduction where we said where we come from. It went like this:
"Ivory Coast."
"Ivory Coast."
Before going into her day long lecture on how to live in France, the director said that despite the cold, we would have to open the windows every now and then otherwise everyone will fall asleep and she would be the first. Very motivating introduction.
Throughout the day, she touched on some points that I agreed with (it is important to know the history of your host country, when you live in a new country it is you that conforms to the standards not the other way around, etc.). But there was the occassional moment where her mind shifted from logical discussion to soliloquies from left field.
"When they Bastille was stormed, do you think there were six or seven prisoners still locked inside?...Interesting number, six... you turn it over and it becomes...nine..."
"Now, a juge de proximité handles small cases up to 1,500€, cases such as a dog who bothers your neighbors. (Pauses for dramatic effect) And when the dog goes mad... we put him down...(Another pause) Anyway, the juge de proximité..."
This talk was already not your usual professional presentation, yet things got worse when she talked about the internship she had done in Louisiana. Oh, America... it seemed to have quite an effect on her. This must be why she talked about the States almost as much as she talked about France. And every reference to America was accompanied by a wave of the hand in my direction.
"The cost of health insurance is incredibly high in the US!"
All 20 heads in the room turn in my direction.
I have gone from immigrant student of the French administration to unwilling symbol of the American system.
At lunch time, I chatted with Baba from Mauritania, who seemed surprised that an American had to go through the same formalities that he did. I admit that, while unfair, I know some things are easier. I left France for California in September when I was still waiting for my carte de sejour (which I technically didn't have the right to do). The comatose customs guy at Charles de Gaulle barely looked at my passport when I came back to France. I think I could have replaced my photo with a portrait of me drawn by my three-year-old niece and he would have let me pass. Baba said that it wasn't the same story for someone he knew who had tried to visit back home.
Then, we got coffee (two each) and regrouped back in the room for the last few hours of dramatic pauses and references to America. Finally, at the end of the day, we were given the necessary certificates of participation and a website that lists all the information we had spent the day going over. As in, the website that I could have read instead of getting up and hitting the streets in the November cold. For some reason, I am not surprised.