Awkward Encounters with the French Language

As I speak French more and more, I end up having some awkward conversations. I usually end up walking away and laughing at myself, as I’m sure they laugh at me too. For example:

– In the dining hall today I rolled my r in “riz” (rice) and he said “pas de r” meaning don’t use the “r”

– There have been a couple times when people say things and I don’t know if they’re trying to be funny or serious so I just laugh. Ben told me a great example of this: in the dining hall,  he was asking for pasta and waiting for it to be done cooking. The chef broke the silence by saying “bon soir…” so Ben assumed he was making a joke about it taking a long time, so he laughed. The chef didn’t laugh back.

– Last night, when Ben, Amy, Caila and I were getting crepes near Sacre Coeur, the crepe chef messed up a couple of the orders and was getting angry. He started mumbling things like, “stupid young people,” “I don’t give a crap,” etc, in French. I wanted to say back, “je comprends le francais” (I understand French), but I refrained.

– Also in the dining hall today, I was reading for class while eating. A french woman came up to me and said (in French) “you’re eating and studying at the same time!?” and I said “le multi-tasking!” with a French accent. When you’re put on the spot in another language in another country, awkward stuff comes out. “Le multi-tasking” is definitely a phrase you can use in French, but it still felt really awkward.

I’ll keep y’all updated on more awkward things… haha

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Joyeux Anniversaire

6/25/2014

So I already knew my birthday was bound to be amazing since it would be in Paris, but I had no idea how great it would actually be.

To start off the day, we had breakfast (as we do every morning) in our housing’s cafeteria. We were given a ticket that gets us breakfast every morning, and lunch or dinner each day. It has taken me a couple days to get adjusted to the food, especially the breakfast food, because I’m so used to having a scrambled egg, bacon/sausage, and a protein shake in the morning. I’ve been swapping that out for yogurt with honey, pain au chocolat, crossants, ham slices, boiled eggs, and/or fruit. After breakfast, we headed to an electronics/book store called Fnac, where we bought our book for class. We then went and got our sim cards replaced in our phones so that we could text and call each other within France! If anyone gets an iMessage from a 07 89 number, don’t worry, that’s probably me! I can still iMessage for free (if I ever get internet…) even if it is coming from my French cell phone.

We had baguette sandwiches for lunch at the mall called Italie 2. That place was slightly frustrating because it was so loud and busy and I could hardly hear what the lady taking my order was saying to me, let alone translate it in my mind. Either way, I still got my sandwich so it all worked out! A couple of us got to shop at our first French solde (sale) at Zara. There were about 6 items I wanted to buy because all of the stuff there was so cute, but I ended up just getting two shirts and a pair of shoes. Even with the sale, most things were more expensive than they are in the US, unfortunately..

Next, we went to Notre Dame. It is absolutely huge and beautiful! For my birthday dinner, we ate at this restaurant across the Seine from Notre Dame. I had a croque madame, basically bread with ham, cheese, and an egg on top. It was DELICIOUS! We finished that meal with gelato (I had raspberry and lemon) and went to meet up with the rest of the group at Fontaine St Michel to start our bike tour.
I have to say that the bike tour we took of Paris has been my favorite thing we have done so far. Paris is breathtaking as it is, but getting to view it all as you bike in perfect 70 degree weather and sunny skies… Amazing. We biked around 5 miles and saw so many sights, and almost died a couple times in crazy Parisien traffic. I want to do it again!

To top off the best birthday, after the bike tour, we went to watch the world cup at a super fancy French bar. My amazing new friends here bought me a creme brulee and sang Joyeux Anniversaire for me!  They really made my day special and I’m extremely thankful for the great new friendships we are all forming.

I also want to shout out to my friends from home and of course my mom and dad for throwing me a surprise before I left. I didn’t see it coming at all, and it was so awesome to be reunited with some of my favorite people. Overall, the feelings I’m feeling are of overwhelming gratefulness for the opportunities I have here in Paris and the wonderful people in my life both back home and in Paris!

6/26/2014

Main highlights/observations of today:

– Worked on our essays at a little cafe by the Fiap (thats what our housing is called); a man came up to Ben and I and started talking to us.. with his pants undone. Creepy. We went back home after that.

– Took our placement test to find out what Sorbonne class we’ll be taking. Also met a new friend who may be in our class, she’s from Duke!

– Finally felt like I was respected by a waiter because I could actually converse effectively with him in French! I think I was all warmed up from the French oral part of the exam…

– Found a delicious crêperie! It’s called Le Jardin Secret or something like that, I don’t really remember, but I had a plain sugar + butter crêpe and it was divine. Definitely going back there.

– People here can tell we’re American from miles away. However, it seems to be true that if we speak French, we are able to gain their respect.

– The sun sets around 10pm here. We have been waking up around 8 every day, so the days seem so much longer! I love it.

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We made it!

6/24/2014 3:30pm

I left CLT at 4:45pm and arrived at CDG around 6:40am Paris time. Here are some scribblings from my notebook:

2:26am

I think I’ve slept a total of 10 minutes so far… the flight from Raleigh -> Charlotte was great. The man who sat next to me lives in Paris and told me all of the places that I should go for a less touristy experience. He was very nice and I found out was also on my flight from Charlotte -> Paris! Dinner was delicious, despite my expectations. I had chicken, rice, broccoli, bread, salad, and a brownie. I took two benadryl like I was supposed to, but for many reasons I haven’t been able to fall asleep. I’m not sure if I’m using the neck pillow correctly because it is killing my neck…

6:45am

“In America everything is big and tall.” An American woman sitting behind me said this to a French woman as she was getting out of her seat on the airplane. I think this bothered me because, although this may be true in some ways, is that the way we want to portray our country to foreigners? It really matters how we talk about our country, because the things we say can turn into stereotypes. Anyways, not a big deal, but just a thought I had.

We took the train and arrived at our housing around 8 or 9am. We sat outside in the courtyard for a little bit, then went to get our metro passes. My pass will give me unlimited rides on the metro line, which will be useful for going to and from class.

My room is so nice! The shower head probably has better water pressure than my shower head at home, to be honest. There doesn’t seem to be much air conditioning, but it is nice outside so my roommate and I have had the windows open a bit. I posted some pictures above my desk to make the room look a little more homey. I’m really excited about living here. It seems like it’ll be a great space.

I’m now headed to buy a couple items from the super market, and tonight we are going on a tour of our neighborhood!

6/25/2014 9:54am 

So we toured our neighborhood, the 14th arrondissement, and I love it! Our tour guide was really funny. He said that the catacombs are something that only American tourists are ever interested in, and that Europeans don’t understand why. Also, he said that which arrondissement you live in says a lot about you because each arrondissement has a personality, made up of social status, way of life, etc. The 14th has both young and old, and not many tourists, which is nice because we are getting a more real French experience.

After the tour, we went to our first dinner in Paris! We found a restaurant called Chez Fernand. It was a bit awkward with the waiter speaking french to us, especially since he knew we were Americans, but we managed. I had a beef stew with potatoes and carrots and some red wine, it was delicious! Dinner took a long time (as we were told it would) but we sat in a l’exterieur and it was a beautiful night so we really enjoyed sitting together, talking and joking around and finishing our meals.

We then decided to venture into Paris to see the Tour Eiffel and l’Arc de Triomphe. L’Arc de Triomphe was beautiful at night, and is even more gigantic than I had imagined. We got pretty good at navigating the metro to get there (thanks to Wael’s phone…) and saw the Tour Eiffel on our metro ride back to the 14th. Overall it was such a fun first night in Paris!

The internet is proving to be a challenge, although I’m hoping it’ll be fixed since I feel like I haven’t been able to talk to my parents much yet (also due to the time difference).

Today happens to be my birthday 🙂 Our plans for the day are to get our textbook for class, buy a French telephone portable (cellphone), maybe some shopping, then a bike tour of Paris at 7! It should be a great birthday!

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Introduction

A bit about me:

My name is Samantha and I’m a rising Junior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I’m currently a Journalism and Mass Communications (Advertising) major with a second major in Global Studies (International politics, nation states, and social movements with a focus on Western Europe). I’m in a sorority, but this coming fall I will be a recruitment counselor and therefore can’t write anything about that until after recruitment! My hobbies include playing the piano, writing music (especially with my band), photography and photo editing, learning new languages, and yoga.

I was born in Mississauga, ON, Canada, and have always been exposed to a minimal amount of the French language. I think that is what sparked my interest when I went to high school (that and my Spanish curse.. many of my friends have heard that story). I started taking French classes in 9th grade, and have continued to study it through a conversation class at UNC this past semester. I took a mini-break freshman and sophomore year at UNC to take Italian 101 and 102. I also enjoy listening to French music, and watching French films and tv. Because I have fallen so in love with the French language and culture, I have been eager to experience France first hand. On Monday (June 23), I will be headed there for the first time. I’ll be studying in Paris for 5 weeks, taking one language class at the Sorbonne and another class taught by a UNC professor who is accompanying us on the trip.

The first assignment of the UNC-taught class asked for us to list some adjectives, images, ideas, and places you associate with Paris. I’m documenting this here because I’m curious to see how my impression changes throughout my trip.

Amelie, music, accordion, dirty, enchanting, lights, grass, busy, old, love, exploration, history, art, fashion, inspiration, Tour Eiffel, Arc de Triomphe, coffee, wine, business, Chanel, crime, chocolate, pastries, Engrenages, Yann Tiersen, croque-madame, croque-monsieur, pâté, coq au vin,

My flight to Paris sets off on Monday evening. Before then, I will try to post a bucket list I’m working on of particular things I would like to do/see while in Paris. Suggestions would be greatly appreciated! I hope that my posts will be interesting enough to entertain friends/family, but if not, I’m doing this to have it all documented for myself.

I see this blog as a blog of life experiences that I hope will extend beyond my trip to Paris. However, this is the start.

I also thought I would explain the title. Many friends encouraged me to choose something in English, however, I wanted it to be something French. The title means “my blue heaven” (roughly), which is a phrase that I have often used. The original meaning behind this title was a song by Taking Back Sunday called My Blue Heaven. I had one of those weird moments where some part of the song inspired me. It became my go-to username for social media sites, for lack of a better idea. After this, I was accepted to UNC, which has been nicknamed “blue heaven.” My favorite color is blue. I feel a strong attachment to the ocean as well as the sky. I think that this phrase has, over time, come to mean something to me, hence why I decided to make it the title for this blog.

Thanks for reading!

Samantha