mardi 28 août 2007

meant to be

This is me, far right, with Sarah and Lucia (left to right) on the Seine.

Typed Aug. 27.
Okay, didn't sleep well the past few nights. It's the stress, the jetlag, the overall excitement and unpredictability of things. This is all understandable. If you can sleep well not knowing where you're going to sleep the following week, then you are insane. Or too calm. Or a hippie. Good for you. I am normal and the product of a lovely family who has always provided me of these things. I am looking out for myself now.

Went to orientation feeling sleepy (of course) and taking in all this new information. I had this song stuck in my head, “Meant to Be” by Squirrel Nut Zippers. It's a lovely song and calms me down. In absolute hindsight, it also totally describes my day: “Some things were meant to be.”

We went to the MICEFA office to make appointments to arrange housing. We filled out a questionnare asking us what we wanted. They wanted me to come back at 2p. I went with Keisha and Lucia to get a quiche lunche—tasty! Flaky crust, warm and filling. The best French lunch ever. When I came back, Topher (one of the MICEFA guys) met with me to discuss housing options. We were having a dual meeting with another student, Chris, who's also in my program. Topher just got a studio that's in need of a student. He asked if any of us were interested. I asked what arrondissment it was in. It's in the 5th. I said, “I'll check it!” I totally just ousted Chris. I felt bad, but he didn't jump on it! I really wanted to live in that arrondisment. I was so happy! Topher was practically laughing at my enthusiasm. I met with Nancy (also MICEFA) and she told me about th apartment and the guy, Chris, who's renting it out. She gave me the address, and it wasn't far, very walkable. She told me that Chris was expecting me in half an hour.

SWEETNESS!!! So, I walked over, totally taking in the scenery, the happiness I was feeling. I tried not to be too happy—i wasn't exactly moving in just yet—but the happiness stemmed from the overall feeling that things were happening. I wasn't stuck, I wasn't scared.

I went down the Rue that the studio was on, and it was absolutely LOVELY. That's right, all capitals. The street was all cobble stones, no car entry, lined with cafes and small stores. I found the door to the building. It was right next to a cafe, across from a church, more cafes, and a small park. Now you understant why that deserves a capital LOVELY.

I climbed escalier A, very tiny wooden stairs. I found the call button for the studio, pressed it and said, “Bonjour, je m'appelle Elaine. Je cherche--” But I was cut off by a lovely male French accent, “Oh! Come on up!” It was very surprising and nice. He buzzed me in. I walked three flights of stairs and met a older French man who was wearing khaki shorts, sandals, and a light blue button down oxford shirt. He was all smiles. He let me into the small, quaint room. My first thoughts were, “Exactly how I imagined” and “Where's the bed?” It was very small, but cute. He showed me the basics, and as if he read my mind, he pulled out a large bed out of the wall. It was huge! Definitely a double bed. He made sure I looked out the window—I could see the church, a tiny roundabout for cars with a fountain in the middle, the cafes, a playground, and the park where Chris plays the accordion with his band, I later found out. All I could think was, “Oh my God, where are the cameras, where's the crane with an Arri strapped on to it, is this a freaking movie?!”

What a dream. This is why that song was in my head! He offered me iced tea from a party he had the other night in the studio. We talked for a long time, and I made him laugh a couple of times too, which is good. We spoke in English. He actually teaches English to French students. We talked more and more..for an hour or so, and then I told him how much I liked the place and that I want to live here. He asked if I wanted to look around some more, and I said no! This is the place. He was really accommodating, telling me that I can pay him as soon as I am settled and moved in. I figured he trusts the MICEFA office and its students since he's been renting this place to them for the last couple of years. He said I can move in at the end of the month.

He said he could give me the keys, but that they were at his house. He proposed that we have coffee at the cafe, and I can wait there while he gets the keys. We went across the street and he ordered a noisette (tiny cup of coffee with a drop of cream) for me, and a regular cafe for him at the counter. He spoke to everyone in the cafe, the bartenders and waiters. It was really nice. He introduced me to them as well. One of them is named Noel just like my Kuya! Hee. Hee. Meant to be. They made a joke about Noel en francais being Christmas so the waiter asked if the name was en anglais ou francais? I said en anglais. They were a bit cold towards me in the beginning and amiable to Chris since he's French, but that's what's going to happen, and there's nothing I can do about it.

Chris complimented my French accent and we talked some more mais en anglais, which was nice. Then he left for a bit to get the keys to the studio. I sat at the counter, absolutely glowing. All I had to do was to keep somewhat cool (aside from the not sleeping) and things will work out for me. And that's what happened. Don't get stressed; it'll just affect the way you operate. A lot of girls here were stressed about finding apartments on the day they arrived, and it sort of made me stressed but then I cooled off by telling myself that everything's going to work out, I'm not going to live under Pont Neuf for the whole year, MICEFA won't let that happen.

After he came back, Chris was explaining the code to get into the building, and Noel joked how he wanted to learn how the code works too, and it made me laugh. I offered to pay for the coffee, but Chris insisted that he pays since he invited me. He let me try out the keys, and then said that I can move in at the end of the month. Exciting!

On my way home, I thought about the whole French being rude and aloof thing, and it made me think of—I know this sound crazy and how is there a connnection? but—I thought of an article I read about Wes Anderson's Rushmore, and how the writer called Anderson's genre of films part of “The New Sincerity”, and I've always loved that phrase and always wanted to be a part of it somehow, and I thought of someway—okay here's how I'm going to connect the two—bringing “the new sincerity” to France. Just that subtle, nervous, embarrased sense of humor and personality. Being nice and shy and eccentric enough to peek a person's interest but forward when you need to (a lot like Max Fischer). I don't know how the French will respond to that, but that's the kind of person I am, and it hasn't steered me wrong so far. Just imagine a city full of nice, smiling, unstressed French people who didn't mind Americans who are desperately trying to learn their language.

Props to MICEFA, the Mission Internationale bleh bleh I've forgotten the long name...for working in their tiny office and making sure students are taken cared of. You've covered all the bases, held my hand for some of the way but also made me take the lead.

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