This Saturday was AWESOME!
In the afternoon, we attended a meet-&-greet with other language assistants at the Jardin des Tuileries. It was nice to meet the other assistants, but I wished more of them would try to speak French instead of English. Language preferences aside, I did meet some nice people. I only remember a few names, but hopefully some of them will become friends.
After schmoozing with the crowd for a while, a small group of us broke off from the main crowd and had lunch at a café nearby. I had an incredibly messy tuna sandwich on a baguette, but it was delicious. Afterward, Peter’s potential future roommate, Katy, accompanied us back to our house after a nice sunny walk along the Seine. Then we hopped on the métro to go meet my friend Jacqueline at her French boyfriend’s house. Jérôme wasn’t there, so we all chatted in English for a while until he arrived. He ended up inviting us to go have some drinks at the Champs de Mars by the Eiffel Tower. Not wanting to miss the chance to make some potential French friends, we gladly accepted.
It was a nice evening on the Champs de Mars. Lots of people were picnicking, drinking, and sitting amongst friends, with the Eiffel Tower serving as an incredibly surreal backdrop to the festivities. This glowing Parisian icon stood out even more as the sun was setting, especially for those magical first 5 minutes of every hour, when thousands of lights sparkle from its surface. (It used to be the first 15 minutes of every hour, but they cut it down to save energy. Go France!)
While we waited for his friends to arrive, we watched a group of Michael Jackson impersonators dance to his songs. There was one guy who even had the same hair style as the King of Pop, and a shockingly similar red jacket. The dancers weren’t that good, but it was still amusing to watch.
Jérôme’s friends got there, and then the kissing began. French kissing. No wait. I mean, that thing that the French people do to say hello to friends. The classic greeting of a kiss on each cheek: la bise. It’s always a little awkward doing this to complete strangers, but it is considered rude not to faire la bise to everyone in the group. As you’re doing la bise, you say your name to those whom you don’t know, and they return the favor.
That is how I met Sandrine, Manu, Laëtitia, Héléna, and Marie-Christine. We all sat in a circle and passed around potato chips, Pringles, mixed nuts, and some sort of bizarre crunchy snack that was quite similar in texture to Cheetos, but was peanut butter-flavored. Ahh, the French apéritif. We drank Coca, beer and some extremely sweet white wine. (Note to self: I don’t like sweet wines.)
We were originally going to stay only long enough for a drink before Jérôme’s friends went out to dinner. But then they invited us along and, once again, pourquoi pas? Why not? I definitely wanted to make more of an effort to speak French to actual French people, and they were really nice, so that made it easier. We took the métro over to Saint-Michel and somehow managed to get a table for 10 right away at this fondue restaurant. (We had impeccable timing!)
I ordered the raclette. It was the first time I had used the appareil à raclette to make my own raclette at the table. Jérôme explained us how it works: you get a plate of cheese and charcuterie (salami, ham, bacon and other cold meats), and a bowl of potatoes. You put your cheese on a little pan and stick it into the machine, which melts the cheese. Then you scrape the cheese off onto your potatoes and meat, and then enjoy the deliciously heavy meal.
We did enjoy, and we were stuffed. Jacqueline and Jérôme left, and then Katy and Marie-Christine left too. The rest of us went to a pub for another drink. It was called O’Neill’s, and is located on Rue des Canettes. (Seems to be one of the best places to go on a Saturday night for partying!) I had a Panaché, which is a beer cocktail of white beer mixed with lemonade. (There was also a Tango, which is grenadine syrup mixed with white beer, and a Monaco, which is the combination of grenadine syrup AND lemonade. Yum.)
It was nice hanging out with French people and speaking only French. It was a ton of fun. Even more exciting was the fact that Laëtitia is an elementary school teacher in the same area in which I will be teaching! She was really great to talk to; she gave me some invaluable tips on teaching the young ones. She told me not to hesitate to use only English in the classroom. Even when they’re that young, they will understand when you talk slowly, make big gestures and movements, and sing songs (apparently they LOVE the alphabet song in English). She encouraged me to use pictures to teach them the English words for things; that way, they won’t be translating from French as much. I felt much more at ease after talking to her.
What a great way to spend my first real weekend in Paris. Looking forward to my second weekend in Paris…T. arrives next Saturday, and then there’s Nuit Blanche. I have a feeling that will be even better!
But that will have to wait for another post. 🙂