August 2007

Moving to a foreign country, one is required to relearn things they thought they’d mastered. Some are expected (driving a car, communicating with others). Others, not so much (doing laundry, taking a shower).

We’ll start with taking a shower. In France, and in much of Europe, there are no shower curtains. They just don’t exist. I believe this is because people sit in the bath and use the handheld shower to wash their backs and such. I could be wrong. However, if you’re an American and you’re used to standing up for your shower then you’re in for a very wet bathroom. Since I’ve been here a couple of times in the past I’ve already pretty well mastered the showering-without-a-shower-curtain technique. I’m just not really sure I like it so much. I seriously avoid taking a shower until the very last minute. I never really like showering much in the U.S. though so not much has changed.

Now, let’s talk about my laundry. First of all, my washing machine looks like it was made in 1964.

Because of this I’ve been afraid to use it. I’ve been worried that either my apartment would flood or my clothes would be ruined. But, having no other plans today and no euros, I decided to test it out on the sheet for the guest futon.

At first things seemed to be going OK. It washed and spun and such. But when I opened it at the end of the cycle (which was no easy feat in and of itself) I found that the sheet was sopping wet. Not knowing what went wrong (with my limited laundry vocabulary), and not understanding any of these symbols on the machine:

I busted out my giant French-English dictionary, which can just barely be seen in the picture with my washing machine. My first thought was that I must have to put it on a separate setting for the spin cycle. I figured it would be the last setting on the machine, but I looked up the word just to be sure.

vidange = to empty

Ah, OK, let’s try that. Nope. There’s still water in it.

So then I looked up a few more words and found this one:

essorage = spin-drying or wringing out

Now we’re getting somewhere.

But the essorage cycle was part of the original wash I did. So I tried just running the whole thing again.

Not a good idea.

Now instead of the clothes just being sopping wet, the washing machine is FULL of water. If you look closely at the washing machine picture again you can see two white lines near the bottom of the glass part. That’s the water line. And it’s definitely not supposed to be there. The first time I ran it there was no water in that outer chamber near the glass. Now it’s about halfway full.

Um, so I think the draining mechanism must be broken.

The questions now are:

Do I risk opening the machine to rescue that poor sheet with the hope that my apartment won’t flood? Or do I let it sulk in there until it starts to smell like mildew (yum)?

And what do they call a washing machine repairman in France?

I have a feeling I’m going to be hefting my laundry to the laverie libre (laundromat) for awhile…


I hope you aren’t all bored with these blogs yet. I haven’t got much else to do at the moment, since work doesn’t start until Monday.

Today I walked probably at least six miles. I also went WAY outside the city. I was looking for IKEA and one of the metro guys told me I had to take the RER to Montigny-Beauchamps. It’s a 6 euro roundtrip ride on the RER. And the damn store wasn’t even there. As I was getting on the train I thought to myself, “I should just go to that Monoprix I saw yesterday on rue Daguerre.” But the call of IKEA was just too strong, so I went. It ended up being about an hour of wasted time, but I did see a different side of Paris (Beauchamps is actually its own little town). People actually have houses out there. Of course, there weren’t many people there. It was a much different feel. And I didn’t want to stay for too long, so I ordered a panini and got on the next train back to town.

I ended up going to Monoprix, but remembered there was one on the Champs-Elysees, which is closer to home than rue Daguerre. I was in one of the tourist meccas of France and thought of embracing it and taking a picture of l’Arc de Triomphe for you all, but then I thought better of it. L’Arc never looks nearly as imposing in pictures anyway.

Some good news: I found my metro stop finally. I kept trying to find it by walking to it, but with my terrible sense of direction I always ended up at a metro stop further up the line. So last night I took the metro home to the stop I’d been looking for so that I’d know where it was at. (I also walked about six blocks in the opposite direction from my apartment once I got off. I had to ask some old lady which way my street was once I was pretty certain I was definitely going the wrong direction.)

One cool thing I saw near my metro stop was this house:

Sorry, the picture isn’t very good because I was trying to take it quickly before everyone realized there was a tourist on the loose.

Also, by going the wrong direction when I got off the metro I discovered a grocery store only a couple blocks from my house. When I first got here I went to my old neighborhood because I knew where all the stores were, but it was FAR. I’m glad I’m getting to know my new neighborhood, although I am a bit sad not to be living near the Trocadero anymore.

I also took some pictures of the outside of my building but I decided not to post them just in case some creepy Frenchman sees it on here and figures out where it is. Gotta be careful when you’re a girl living on your own.

I did take a picture of what I’m eating right now though. SO delicious. Pain au lait with Nutella. Pain au lait is essentially sweet bread and it really brings out the yummy nutella flavor. Oh, and I don’t know if you can tell by the picture (below) but a lot of the jars here are made to be reused. They don’t have screw-top lids. Instead they’re fitted lids that slide on and off. The glass jar becomes a drinking glass after you’ve used up all the product. If people collect these you can tell what type of foods they buy. Mine will all be nutella glasses I’m sure. My French family’s collection is of mustard jars. I’ll take a picture of it when it’s empty so you can see what I’m talking about. A bientot mes cheris.

Today was a pretty uneventful day for me. I slept in until a little after 4:30 p.m. Then I went to drinks with one of the other writers from The Nervous Breakdown and his wife. It was really nice to meet some other Paris dwellers. Now I’m back at home and eating dinner, but I thought I’d post some pictures of the apartment.

My bedroom, lovingly called The Cave:

No, the SpongeBob pillow case did not come with the apartment.

My unfortunately decorated bathroom (brown toilet and bath?):

My kitchen:

That’s the cave back there where the lamp is. It’s a pretty big kitchen, although this picture doesn’t look that big.

And the main room with the guest futon:

The pictures make it look pretty small, but it’s actually a good size and there are lots of windows so it has good lighting. It’s a bit dirty though. I’ve been dusting like crazy and I want to buy some space rugs to cover some of the icky spots on the carpet. Other than that it’s pretty nice. Oh, and it’s drafty at night. I slept in sweatpants, a t-shirt, socks and a sweater last night. It’s much cooler here than I expected.

Okay, then talk to you again tomorrow. I still have a story due in Sacramento that I haven’t worked on yet. Yikes! No more procrastinating, promise swear.

Don’t even try to pretend you don’t love my new super-exclamatory subject lines.

I just wanted to let everyone know that after more than 24 hours of being in transit, I finally made it to Paris. I was stuck in the Boston airport yesterday for six hours. The Boston airport, for the record, is the worst airport EVER. Granted, they’re doing construction on it so it may improve. But for the time being it sucks balls, especially when trapped there for six hours.

Note to self: In the future, do not use frequent flyer miles to purchase international travel. You will be stuck in the Boston airport for six hours.

Moving on…

My new apartment is AMAZING! Some of you have heard of my old Paris apartment, which was about the size of an American walk-in closet. It was one room that contained the toilet, shower, stove, closet and bed. Kinda not the best place to have guests, unless of course you like your guests to watch you take a pooh while they’re also watching TV and eating dinner.

This apartment though. Oh, you can all start planning your trips to visit me now. It’s definitely not an American apartment, but it’s nice if you’re poor and living in Paris. (Trust me, I’ve seen far worse places). Not only does it have a separate bathroom and kitchen area, but it has two, count ’em TWO, futons. That means you may not have to sleep on the floor if you visit.

And the best part? I have a BALCONY! And not some dinky balcony. It’s a balcony big enough for a dinner table and chairs. I am SO eating out there whenever possible. So, here’s the view from my apartment:

OK, so I’m going to go now. I just wanted to let you all know I was safe and super excited. I’m off to find my way around. I still live in the 16th, but am not very close to a Metro station. I’m off to see if I can find one within walking distance.

Miss you all and will continue to write as long as I can steal this internet connection from whoever is paying for it.

My flight boards in 15 minutes and I’m taking advantage of the FREE internet at Sacramento airport, mostly because I don’t know if other airports on my route are nearly as nice.

Anyway, I just wanted to thank all of you for coming out and saying BYE to me. It was so much fun hanging out with all of you on Friday night and seeing my girls for the last time this morning. You’ve all been fantastic friends and I’m going to miss you super lots.

I’m especially going to miss inappropriate conversations in public:
“When women gain weight, do you think their vag gets fat too?”

I’m also going to miss book club (aka gossip central).

And having my friends available as a sounding board BEFORE I flip out about something ridiculous (I think Tony is going to miss this more than me).

Aw, and speaking of Tony, I’m going to miss him super duper lots 😦

EEEWWW!!! A cricket just walked past my toes. Ack, it’s coming back this way. Noooo! I don’t want to squash it but if it gets any closer I for sure will.

Sorry about that.

Back to the sappiness…

Leslie, I promise there will be a photo/video of me looking as American as possible (sandals with socks, fanny pack, etc) before I come home.

Sofia, I miss you so much already. Who else is going to have a personal dance party with me?

Steph, thank you so much for always hosting stuff at your house and being so fab. We have to go to Sophia’s at least once when I get back. For old time’s sake.


I’ll write again soon. I’m certain there will be plenty of missteps and problems once I arrive. My bags, in case you’re wondering, ended up weighing 98 pounds (not including my carry on). Oh, trust me, there will be blogs to come.

Now, I’m off to board this plane and hopefully sleep off this champagne headache…

How do imagined wrongs escalate into gigantor fights? I seriously don’t understand how me getting upset about something minor turns into the war of the century.

Case study:

Tonight my boyfriend and I went to dinner at Ink. It’s one of our “places.” We thought it’d be nice to do some fun things at some of our favorite places before I leave on Sunday. And it was nice. One of the most fun dinners we’ve had together.

I even wore makeup and broke out my new Sex and the City-inspired clutch purse that I bought for my going away party tomorrow night.

To most men I would think those two items would signal some action later in the night, especially when found on a woman who has basically lived in her pajamas for the past three weeks.

I imagined something straight out of a romance movie. You know, us coming home and helping each other undress etc., etc.

But we all know life never happens like a romance movie. And I know that whenever I fall into this little fantasy trap that I end up being disappointed. I know this, and I do it anyway. Tonight was no different.

On the way home Tony says, “Oh, look, it’s 9:30. That means we’ll make it home in time for the show.”

I look at him incredulously and say, “What show?”

“Mad Men.”

“Ugh, I hate that show! There are way too many commercials.”

“Oh. Well, uh….”

“No, it’s fine we’ll watch it.”

I know, I know people. It was my mistake. If I didn’t want to watch the show I should have said so instead of using girlspeak. I’ve been speaking girl my whole life though and it’s hard to break out of it.

Even after this conversation I’m still playing the fantasy show in my head. I figure I have twenty minutes to try to seduce him and make him forget about the show.

So we get home and I go in our room to change. Tony comes and hangs out for a bit. But then all of a sudden he has his iPhone out and I know we’ve gotten to the point of no return.

Now I’m pissed that things haven’t gone how I wanted and he’s confused because he doesn’t know what’s gone wrong. He goes in the living room and flips on the TV. I sit in the living room for a bit, but the show isn’t on for another twenty minutes and he’s watching the Discovery Channel. No thank you.

I opt to go to bed instead. And now he knows he’s in super trouble. He turns off the TV and comes into our room to see what’s wrong.

At first I do the whole “nothing’s wrong” thing, which always pisses Tony off. So then he’s mad at me for being mad at him. He doesn’t understand what my problem is. I try to explain that “I put makeup on for crying out loud.” And he says he knows and I looked very nice and it goes on.

Somehow it turns into a roaring fight. Seriously, we’ve never gotten into such a bad fight and I don’t know how it escalated to that point.

As I was lying in bed I kept thinking about a conversation we had at dinner, in which I told Tony that I’ve never felt so happy before. I told him I can’t believe I’m leaving for France without running away from something. For the first time ever I’m really happy. I have great friends and a boy I love. I don’t hate my job (mostly because I don’t really have a job). And I live downtown with no bills and no car to worry about. Really, life doesn’t get much better. I even wrote a blog about it over at The Nervous Breakdown.

And now I’m lying in bed crying over an imagined slight by my boyfriend.

The irony doesn’t escape me.

Those of you who have been reading my blog for awhile know that the horrors of the diamond trade are of great interest to me. I’ve been wanting to read a good investigative book about diamonds for quite some time and it seems that I picked the perfect book.

The Heartless Stone by Tom Zoellner was great because it didn’t only focus on Seirra Leone and Angola. Zoellner visits Japan, Canada, Brazil, Russia and India to discover the diamond trade. Don’t get me wrong, Africa is in there and it’s a big part of the book, but not the only part, which I hugely appreciated.

One of the things I found most intriguing was that diamonds weren’t even part of marriage in the United States until 1937 when De Beers realized they needed something major to turn their business around after the Great Depression. Because of a well-timed advertising campaign, diamonds are now the first thing couples think about when they consider marriage. The diamond engagement ring is THE thing a man has to have before he can even propose marriage. I found that whole chapter amazing, as well as the Japan chapter, where diamonds were thrust upon young couples in the same way as in the United States. But now, twenty years later, the new generation is abandoning the “traditional” diamond engagement ring.

What it comes down to is: diamonds are just a hunk of rock. They’ve been made valuable by advertising’s ability to get us emotionally attached to them. Zoellner points out that that’s the reason people don’t resell diamond rings or jewelry.

I recommend this book, especially if you’re looking for a reason to avoid buying a diamond.

I also read half of The God Delusion by Richard Hawkins and half of Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain. Neither of them were interesting enough, in my opinion, to finish. I was bored and skipping pages after awhile. If I’m going to skip half the book there’s no point in trying to finish it, right?

So, uh, four days to take off! I hope to see you Sacramentans at my going away. I’ll miss you super lots

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