Could Have Been Worse

My exam wasn’t until 3:30pm, which meant that I would be able to sleep in and be well rested for the harrowing journey to school and test taking…wrong! The people above me are remodeling. I woke to the sounds of hammers beating walls into shape and saws cutting the wood to make the walls. It was very, very loud. I mean, it was noon, so they had the decency to do it in the afternoon when everybody else was off at work, but it was still annoying to me.

For breakfast/lunch I had Cheerios, because I had received them yesterday in a package from home. I was happy to munch into their whole grain goodness, even if I didn’t have any milk, and won’t for at least two more weeks. Milk here is just vile.

I skimmed over my notes, glossary, and recipes. But, I realized, I don’t know how to study, at all, so I hoped that I was prepared. I felt that I was.

Off to school…we had to change into full uniform to take a test…what a screwjob. As everybody nervously passed the time by frantically studying, I felt rather calm and oddly excited at the prospect of the test. I felt very prepared, and I was. Before long, it was time to go in.

I was immediately disappointed in the test, it wasn’t a test of our knowledge at all, just making sure we could remember meaningless proportions and details that are of no real relevance, like, the weight of an egg yolk. Aside from a few sections, it was completely comprised of things mentioned in passing that weren’t a part of the text. I was really annoyed, because I had studied all of these things that I wasn’t being asked to demonstrate. There was multiple choice, true/false, matching, and a recipe. The multiple choice was 1/2 “duh” that’s easy, 1/4 “huh” and 1/4 “that was never even spoken about.” I was frustrated. It was all so irrelevant. The true/false section was worded in a manner that it was exceptionally difficult to pick a side. The matching was fairly simple, as was the memorized recipe. I had the diplomate, which I knew perfectly well — the ingredients and proportions that is. We were told to know those by heart, just how much of whatever was in the recipe. But, on the test they wanted to know the baking temperatures. None of us knew that.

Soon it was over, we all helped each other out a bit, as you do, and we had to take a survey about the school. Now was my turn to give them a piece of my mind, and I did. I told them that some of the Chefs were unprofessional, that the course was not at all long enough to be worth the small fortune I paid to go, and that the locker rooms are a joke. Pleased with myself, I waited for the Chef to come in. The translator said he would tell the answers, and I’d like to hear what I had screwed up and what I did right.

There were only two of us who waited for the Chef to come. When he entered, he seemed absolutely appalled that I wanted him to do what I was told he was supposed to do. He began to chew me out, but then the translator stopped him. I was embarrassed, but realized moments later that I had no reason to be in such a state. I am paying him to do his job, so, do it, asshole. Begrudgingly he did just that. I missed a few more than I thought I had because of those tricky true/false questions and a few about sugar temperatures. (The chart is a whole page long of temperatures ranging from 100 to 240, each with a different name. There was no way to learn all of them. So, we were of course copiously quizzed over them.) In American grades, I probably got a B, B-. We’ll see on Monday when they post the grades in the Winter Garden.

As I left school, I was annoyed with myself for missing some of the obvious questions, but then reminded myself that I am here to enjoy myself and not let the little things stress me out like they used to. “C’est la vie…” I said, deeply exhaling, and feeling much better when I realized how insignificant every step in life is. (That doesn’t sound like the most happy statement, rather depressing actually, but it makes me feel better.)

On the Metro, somebody was frantically tapping my shoulder, I ignored it thinking it was a beggar, but it was a man holding his hand out to me with my headphones in it, I had dropped them. It was very kind.

Dad had put $25 in my account yesterday, and I decided to treat myself to dinner with it, so I caught the Metro to Concorde. That has nothing to do with my dinner, I just love to go there to relax, I don’t know how many times I’ve been there, but sitting on those green metal chairs watching the cars whiz by Cleopatra’s Needle as the Eiffel Tower twinkles in the distance is so calming to me. I will probably miss my little spot in that park more than anything when I leave, well, aside from my couch bed, because it is awesome.

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As I sat and sunbathed in the precious sun, I felt my worries drip away and realized what nonsense they really were. As I opened my eyes, I noticed that the ridiculous ferris wheel was gone — I was immediately filled with aesthetic pleasure, but then felt sad. I had never had the opportunity to ride it, and I had wanted to, even if it was an eyesore.

I walked down the Champs-Elysées to the ATM I like to use, eyes peeled for Salma Hayek. She was outside Cartier’s yesterday, but I didn’t see her. I haven’t seen any celebrities in Paris, and that is odd. When I was in New York, you just bumped into them no matter where you were, but here, they are nowhere.

When I withdrew my money to pay for dinner, I noticed that the wind was picking up and bringing a cool chill with it. I was sad because it had been so lovely all afternoon.

I descended the stairs to the Metro and arrived at the Bir-Hakeim station without any problems. I hurried into Iolanda’s and ordered the most delicious food — roasted chicken! I don’t know how they do it, but it is the most magical food in the whole world. The fries and the chicken skin immediately make my happy. I hope that someday I will discover how to make this, I’ve tried and come close, but there is something so good about their chicken. Maybe the chicken is delivered by God each morning…who knows? On a whim, I ordered a coffee for my after dinner drink. It was very good and quickly gave me a kick of energy and enthusiasm. I don’t know why I don’t drink it more often. I probably would if it wouldn’t stain my teeth. So, if you are ever in Paris, I would strongly urge you to visit this fine establishment.

After I sat drinking my coffee, bemusedly listening to the married couple a few tables down practice their French, I got up to leave. I had enjoyed my meal, and I had enjoyed listening to those two discuss their vacation. I hoped that they would have a good time, they seemed like nice people, but I feared the French wouldn’t treat them too kindly.

It was still cold, but I was this close, so, how could I not go to the Eiffel Tower? As I walked past the Japanese Embassy, I looked in the window as I always do, but for the first time, there were people inside and a kindly woman at the register. I swallowed my fear and entered the lavish and sparse Embassy. Going through security was a bit embarrassing, I forgot to take out my wallet, so, that set it off. Chuckling nervously, I past through the doorway and entered Shangri-La.

I can’t believe that I had been so nervous to come here, I will have to go back often in my last few weeks. There are bowls and chopsticks and books and lucky cats and origami paper. I can’t do origami to save my life, but I love the paper. They had it in every color, and I think I will have to stock up on it for making my children’s book that I am working on. It is the perfect kind of paper because it is thin enough to be easy to work with yet has a good weight to it, plus it’s a bit glossy, which looks nice. I picked myself out a bowl for 7€50 and went to the register.

Then, I experienced true Japanese customer service in all of its glory. I didn’t have any more cash after dinner and there was a ten euro minimum, but when I explained the problem, the kindly Japanese woman said that it wasn’t a problem and entered a code to let me pay without having the minimum. It was so kind. Were it a French person, or even a cashier in America, they wouldn’t have bothered helping, they’d of just shooed you out of the store with a look of disdain on their face. I teared up a bit at the kindness. It was nicely wrapped up in a way only the Japanese do, so that it wouldn’t be damaged even if I dropped it off the side of the Eiffel Tower or smashed it between the Metro doors. I appreciate their attention to detail.

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They also have the most adorable lucky cats I have ever seen and I now realize I was crazy not to pick one up. I really hope that they are open on Saturday. Tomorrow, I plan on walking all the way to the Eiffel Tower from Bastille…about 3.5 miles. I’m looking forward to seeing the city in decent weather. It’s supposed to be nicer out. If any of you would like to join me, please send me an email. If you get on a plane now, you could be in France by the time I’m ready to go! I am going to get myself a lucky cat as a token of my completion of the long walk. I‘m already excited.

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Walking to the Eiffel Tower, I convinced myself that I needed to learn Japanese, but wondered to myself why it had to be so hard. I’ve tried to learn Japanese before and, aside from a few phrases, it doesn’t stick. In fact, all I can say in Japanese is, “私は日本語を話さない,” which means, “I don’t speak Japanese.” Maybe I’ll go back to Italian or German first.

All along the sidewalk to the Eiffel Tower are vendors who will try to sell you metal models of the structure for only a euro. For some reason, when they asked if I wanted one, I said, “Merci, messieurs, mais, j’en ai deja trois tours Eiffel en or.” (Thanks guys, but I already have three golden Eiffel Towers.) This caused riotous laughter amongst them and they waved me along.

It was a few minutes before the top of the hour, so I stood in the very center of the Eiffel Tower area and counted down the seconds. 5…4…3…2…BAM! There is something very badass about walking under this structure as it begins to twinkle and sparkle. I should hire a cameraman to follow me around and capture me in dramatic scenarios like that. Oh well…

It as very cold, so I headed to the RER so I could get home quickly. The RER is very hard to figure out, but I think I did it. There was an announcement, but I didn’t hear it, I had my iPod on, but I took the headphones out as the announcement finished. The woman next to me asked what it was about, but I said I hadn’t heard it. We had a polite conversation about the weather. She wondered if I was German…that was a new one, but I took it as a compliment.

At that point, I realized the conversation was in French, how long had I been able to understand, I wondered, or was it a talent that came and went? It was kind of scary to me. On the train home, I thought about fluency, and how I don’t think I’ll ever be truly fluent in French, no matter how much I understand. Kind of like in English, I know that there are thousands of words I’ve never even thought of let alone heard of.

Back in the apartment, I downloaded a Japanese podcast…good Lord it is hard!

Well, I’m going to go watch 30 Rock. Good night, everybody.

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