samedi 24 mai 2008


So my drawing/watercolor teacher was none other than Kitty from "Arrested Development". In the midst of our quiet painting sessions, I almost wanted her to scream out "Spring break! Woo!" Naw, but she did look and talk kind of like her.

The whole class was me and 3 French kids she knew who were MICEFA students at Brooklyn College in New York, so that was cool. And these kids are AMAZING at watercolors. I had emailed Meghan (the teacher) about how my level was very debutante, but she encouraged me to come anyway, and I'm glad I did. WATERCOLORS ARE SO MUCH FUN!

We went to Jardin du Luxembourg and painted there. I used Meghan's brushes and watercolors, and she showed me some techniques, and I just played around before she asked me to do a scene. I chose a treeline that obscured the Pantheon. I was taking a while just to draw the general shapes of everything, so Meghan said, "My art teachers did this a lot at school to discipline us: you have two minutes to draw all the shapes for the scene. GO!" I flipped out and did the circles for bushes and trees and squares for buildings and the half oval for the Pantheon, and when my two minutes were up she was pleased. "Now, you can paint."

It was really illuminating to see things in a different way, just on a much deeper level. I've been in my tattered copy of Franny and Zooey again, the book that goes wherever I go, and two days ago I was on the part about no-knowledge I think which made me think of another short story by Salinger, and anyway, it doesn't really matter what this means to you because writing this out is for me and not you, and anyway this story was about seeing things first before being told what they are, and how children should learn things this way. So, in Salinger's sense, and with painting and watercolors in mind, I was seeing everything with a child's eyes. I was seeing, but not thinking immediately about names or assigning the recognizable to my other memories. I was just seeing something like it was the first time.

And it was beautiful.

Seeing this way...Now, it's like my memory is much clearer, and I can remember where the shadows where and where it was was lighter and darker, and the shapes, and where I was sitting. It's not like those basic memories where parts are displaced or mixed with other memories. It was just one perfect memory.

It started to rain so we went to a cafe to get a drink and then started painting there. And then when the weather got better we went back to Luxembourg to paint again. It was a really fun way to spend the afternoon and not worry about my tests and papers and leaving Paris. It was a really good way to relax. Below are some things I worked on:

After the class, I watched some performances at the Mime Festival at Luxem. It was really cool! I no longer have this neutrality towards mimes. They are quite the performers. Really funny too.

"I know I can make it through!"

Yesterday was Taylor's birthday. It was originally going to be at Lily's, but she had to go back to the States, so I suggested mine since it's fairly large enough for 6 or 7 people. Everyone brought something alcoholic and something solid, so there was more than enough wine, beer, and food to go around. For hors d'oeuvres, small salami sandwiches, pan roasted potatoes (originally for dinner, but everyone was eating them!), olives, cheese and crackers, gummy bears. For dinner, salad, a roast chicken, and grilled aubergines. For dessert, Taylor's chocolate mousse birthday cake, of course, with mini ice cream cones on the side.

Taylor brought his Degrassi: The Next Generation dvds and we watched a couple episodes and assigned characters to each of us. This was my first time watching it, but I really liked it. I could see the 8-10th grade me watching this stuff, and I wish I did. Lots of laughs around my small, round table.

Today, I've got a drawing class, and it should be good since it's nice out. I don't know where we're drawing, hopefully a garden somewhere.

jeudi 22 mai 2008

the final dinner

Just got back from the final MICEFA dinner with all the CSU kids. It was really tasty and fun and just up the street from my studio. Had to say goodbye to Lily who's leaving tomorrow. Rosalie was enthusiastic as usual (she says Hi, Mom and Dad!), and it was nice to see her and Fred there as well as their kids (who are really in their 20s). Rosalie's speech before dinner was so funny. She said, "You're not better or're just different." I don't know why that made me laugh so hard at the table. I'm weird.

In retrospect, I had a really great time in Paris despite some trying moments, but I really learned a lot from them, and I'm glad they happened because they would not have led to the place where I'm at right now which is a very nice place both in a spiritual and physical sense. This was a really good year as a whole, probably the best of all my college years. I don't think I could stay in Paris for longer, but maybe in another city in Europe. I just feel like I got what I needed out of this year here and now I can move on to another city. I've never had that feeling in any city before, the feeling that the time you spent there was enough. But Paris...Paris was good for a year. A school year, at least.

So it was a good night, and I was gutsy and apologized to someone about my being weird (long story that you don't get to know) and that was a really huge step for me since it's really hard for me to be apologetic on a deeper level, and I feel so much better, and said person accepted my apology so that was nice.

mercredi 21 mai 2008

presque fini

School is almost at an end. Had 2 "finals" this week. They were just tests, really. After our test today, we went to BIA for our final "l'histoire de Paris" lunch. We finished the test early and got there around 11, and they don't serve lunch until 12 so we got American coffees and studied for our next classes or did some homework in our cozy little booth in the back. At noon, we ordered our delicious burgers and shared nachos. Oh American cuisine...

So it was a nice French style lunch since we were at the restaurant for more than 3 hours, haha. Then Taylor and Topher walked in and saw us and were all, "Thanks for not inviting us!" Afterwards, Melissa wanted to study a little before her next class so we went to another café down the street, le Café Barnum. A nice café on rue Monge. The waiter was really sweet and slightly impressed by our French accents, haha. Especially Melissa's, haha. He was funny though. I got a demi-citron and Lucia a demi-pèche (beer and peach syrup), and when he put our drinks down he said, "Here is the demi-citron, I think. And the demi-pèche...I think." But he got it right.

I like the idea of studying with a beer. It sounds counter-productive, but it's like studying with coffee. It's nice. And I'm savoring the beer. One demi, and I'm good.

We studied for an hour or so and went our separate ways. I was done for the day, so I walked around to burn off the burger and went to H&M to see if I can find something nice to wear for our final MICEFA dinner tomorrow. The dinner is going to be just up the street from me! Nice.

mardi 20 mai 2008

Firenze: Day 12

Woke up late and got a croissant and cappuccino next door to the hostel. It cost less than 3 euros for both! Heaven. Keisha was having some money trouble. She couldn't withdraw money from an ATM, and when she called to check her balance it had been really low. So we spent the morning hashing that all out.

Went to the Uffizi and stood in line for almost 3 HOURS. Unbelievable. It was worth it though. Unfortunately, we couldn't take photos. I really like religious and medieval art. Saw Botticelli's The Birth of Venus. Sat on a bench and just stared at it for a while. It looked...faded to me, like it was almost disappearing. Maybe when they print it in books, it looks better, they enhance the colors more. But at that moment, I felt so lucky to see it right then and there, right before it got worse. And I thought about an excerpt from Fight Club, how even the Mona Lisa is falling apart.

Afterwards, we went...leather shopping. I took the girls to the Scuola del Cuoio or the Leather School at the monastery of Santa Croce. Started after World War II by Franciscan friars, the leather school is located right behind the church. It felt kind of hidden, which was really nice. You walk through this garden behind the church, and go up a set of stairs and down this hallway in the building at the back, and then you'll see these rows of work benches and old men putting leather wallets together. Between each workstation was a door into a room where women were sewing.

Glass cases held purses, bags, briefcases made in leather, ostrich, elk. I'm a huge bag girl, so this was heaven. For all of us. I was glad to have Keisha there too who knows quality when she sees it since she's worked at Louis Vuitton, and she was impressed. We looked at bags and wallets. The sales guys were really nice, letting us touch everything, not harassing us or bothering us. I found a gorgeous red Epi leather wallet. Epi is textured leather. It has ridges and the texture of tree bark almost, but with the ridges really close together. It was bright and it looked fun and mature at the same time. Unique as well. Handmade right there, no middleman. Inside the leather was smooth and black. I bought it. 99 euros. At Louis Vuitton, it would retail for over $600.

The workers there said I can come back tomorrow and get my initials on it (YAY!!), but not today since they were closing. We decided to come back tomorrow before we leave for Venezia. Keisha and Lucia were also thinking about what to get for themselves.

Went to other leather stores around the area, but nothing measured up to the Leather School. The girls were looking for nice leather carry-on bags. I love the idea of a leather carry-on bag or weekend bag, something that would age well, that would go wherever you traveled. Something you could pass on to your children that would have a lot of history to it.
We found a deli and ate some really, really great food. I got chicken and roast vegetables (aubergines, zucchini, bell peppers), and we shared a bottle of the house wine. It was really good and cheap and finally another meal without pasta. We just sat and savored the meal and talked for more than two hours. I love that. Back in the States, I can't remember a restaurant where we could stay for more than two hours. That rarely happens. And where the servers don't bother you every waking moment with, "How's everything doing? How's the food?" Here, they leave you alone, especially when you're having an intense conversation.

Afterwards, it was dark out and we wanted to end the day with the Piazza Michaelangelo. Our Vatican tour guide said that it's the best place to watch the sunset. Unfortunately, we missed it, but we still wanted a view of the city. We crossed the river Arno and walked up a hill until we found it. A large parking lot for buses but with an incredible view of the city. And a replica of the famous "David". We watched the view without saying anything, just taking it all in for a while.

lundi 19 mai 2008

the first goodbye

Sarah leaves tomorrow. I can't even begin to imagine what's going on in her head right now amidst all the packing and getting ready, closing the bank account and buying last minute souvenirs for friends. Tonight, had dinner at Pondicherry, our go-to Indian restaurant near Gare du Nord. Susie got us a table for eight: Sarah, Lily, Peter (their roommate), Taylor, Susie, Lucia, Melissa, and me. The food was great as always and cheap. Had the masala dosai and a lassi mangue. We complained about school, laughed and made jokes, and made plans for the future.

Outside the restaurant before all going our separate ways, we hugged and said goodbye to Sarah and made plans to meet up in SF or at Chico where she goes to school. Then Sarah said, "Can we hug again? I'm really going to miss you guys." And then we all hugged again. It was really sweet.

Going through this just makes me think about what I did before I left the States to come here. I remember my brother having to go to work so he couldn't see me off. He said goodbye, and I was half-asleep. Mom, Dad, and Cher being the ones to leave me at the airport. I remember my last meal in the States being a McDonald's big breakfast.

I remember having a crush on a boy. At present, I no longer feel anything for him other than the platonic feelings I have for my other guy friends. I think being in Europe for a year will do that to you. I just hope to God that he doesn't feel anything for me anymore, that he has a girlfriend now. I don't know, in hindsight I feel really foolish for thinking that I will still like the same boy after being gone for a year in Paris.

I'm going off on a tangent here, but it's weird how much I really like being alone. Being in Paris really brought that out. I really don't feel like it's totally accepted in the States. I remember my friends back home being weirded out that I'd go to the movies alone. Here, it's okay. I see girls and guys alone at the movies, restaurants, cafes. I mean, I love my friends and their company, but I can do things without them and be okay. And it's nice to know that I can do that, that I don't have to depend on someone being there with me. Mom once said to me, "You're a loner, just like you father." And Dad once said, "You have the hands of an assassin." I think I must've been a ninja or an assassin in my past life. Just a lonely traveler. Maybe a Hessian like Christopher Walken.

It's a nice balance though--having a great group of friends to share experiences with and being able to get away alone and rely on myself. It's the best, and I can't imagine it any other way.

Pisa and Florence: Day 11

Day 11

Woke up early. No time for breakfast. Andrea dropped us off at Termini station and hugged and said, "Ciao, bella" to each of us. We were a bit late, and we rushed to our train platform. It felt really Darjeeling. Next time I shouldn't pack so much.The train was pretty empty. The girls slept mostly while I wrote and drew and stared out our train window. Saw a lot of countryside and for almost an hour, we traveled along the beach. Arrived in Pisa around 11H.
We left our baggage at the station and walked around town, looking for a place to eat. We settled at an outdoor cafe that was alright. Then we got gelato. The tower is across town, but the town isn't so big. We took photos and I took some of people posing ridiculously in front of the tower. It was just too funny not to. Went souvenir shopping, and I got some really nice Florentine stationery because I could not help myself.

Went back to the train station and got tickets (5 euros to Firenze!). We mostly slept during the 3 hours. Arrived at the train station and walked to our hostel which took maybe 20 minutes, not that bad. The hostel girl was super nice, and so was our place. I was expecting to rough it a bit, but ours was like a hotel! We had our own bathroom and a spiral staircase to a loft that had 2 beds and another bed downstairs. Pretty sweet. Our view overlooked all the red rooftop buildings and here and there we saw a church dome.
We chilled for a bit and consulted my Let's Go Europe 2007 for a place to eat. I named some places and prices. Keisha was interested in Acqua Al 2 for their blueberry steak. It was finally decided, and we headed out for dinner.

The restaurant was dimly lit, and they let us in even though we didn't have a reservation. A lot of the diners were American. It felt like being in Pasadena. We then found out that they have another restaurant in San Diego. I got the balsamic steak, Keisha the blueberry steak, and Lucia the fish.

My food arrived, a big mass covered in a thick, dark substance that resembled oil. It was scary. Keisha and Lucia stared at it too. I cut of a chunk and dipped it in the sauce. Everyone said my face practically melted at first bite of my steak. It was heaven. We all ate slowly savoring our good food and pausing to sip the house wine. This older American couple sat by us and kept wanting to talk to us. At times, they were totally silent, listening to our conversations about guys. They were a bit uppity, well-to-do types from San Diego. We could sometimes hear the wife getting mad at the husband. It was weird. When they overheard us ordering limoncellos after our meals, they were all impressed saying, "So! You've been here awhile now!"We walked around the city at night. Got gelato and stood along the River Arno and then went to Ponte Vecchio, the oldest bridge in Firenze. Listened to a musician do "Mad World" by Tears for Fears on guitar. It was quite moving. Walked back to the hostel, passing by Piazza della Republica. An amazing, but long day.

dimanche 18 mai 2008


Here are some photos from Giverny. But before I get to those, some pins and postcards from Senlis:
A view of the garden from the second story of Monet's lovely abode.
Me skipping for joy in such a lovely garden to the laughter of my friends.
The Japanese bridge in the distance
The quaint food stand.
Pouring on my lovely street.