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Monday, 19 September 2005

le week-end

I am writing Saturday at 23:37

Mark Twain once wrote something funny about how French people don't even know their own language: they can't seem to speak it or understand it when you speak it to them. Me: "Je voudrais de la savon sans parfum." Shopkeeper: "Huh? Savon? Soap? You want soap with perfume?" I eventually got some sort of bar that advertises itself as being "soap-free" . . .

Me: "Je voudrais achetais un baguette si vous plait." Shopkeeper: "Deux baguettes?"

Me: "Vendez vous lait de soya?" Shopkeeper: "Eh? Lait? Milk? Oui. Soya? Huh? I don't understand. Sorry."

I must look up soy milk when I get online again. I understand the larger supermarkets carry it. Not that it will matter if I look it up, because apparently, I can't pronounce for heck. The only phrases I can get out are "hello", "goodbye" and "I don't speak french," which I seem to be employing more and more often.

My apartment is near the Porte de Saint Dennis which is exciting for some reason that I can't remember. It either has to do with medieval French drama or the gate was once attacked by Joan of Arc. I think that a long time ago, the king would go sleep at St. Dennis and then process into the city, but I can't remember when or why. Then he would pass tableaux of people doing mannequin-like poses of scenes from the bible. Eventually, this turned into modern drama, if I remember correctly.

I miss the internet.

I read once about a sleep researcher at Stanford who told his students that if they felt sleepy, they should nap immediately. He gave extra credit if they employed this advice during class. I can't remember who he was, but I know he took early retirement. Anyway, I've been following his advice, which maybe he has a modified version for jetlag, because my sleep schedule is all messed up.

Today, I walked to Notre Dame to go to a bookstore near there, Shakespeare and Company, (they have a branch in Berkeley) where I failed to buy 500 French Verbs or a large French dictionary. I should have bought these things before leaving. I prolly also should have brought my French textbook.

Tomorrow, I don't what I will do. All the shops are closed, so no running errands. Maybe I should learn the days of the week or something. Monday, I need to get my residency card and then do everything which I didn't do today.

Sunday 23:25

I'm reading Paris to the Moon. It was highly regarded in 2003 and there was a copy on my bookshelf in Berkeley and so I brought it with me (but not my french textbook). The writer keeps marveling at the strange way the French do things. For example, there are THREE prong plugs on the power outlets?? It turns out the third one is for grounding, a safety feature that's necessary because of the 220 volt power. Who knew such a thing existed?! Also, the french nail wooden crosses to the bottom of their xmas trees in xmas tree lots. Wooden X-es on the bottom of Christmas trees? Whoever heard of such a thing?

Today Cola and I went to the huge flea market by Porte de Clignancourt. I don't have access to etymology handy, but this market may be the source of the term "flea market." Apparently, their used jackets for sale were even more sketchy in the past then they are know. It's a huge tourist destination with mobs of people milling around the huge area filled with stall after stall selling identical leather jackets, T-shirts that say "FBI", zipper sweaters, etc. I almost bought a blue corduroy jacket, but 30€ is a lot for a used jacket.

On the way back, we did manage to get me a towel, an alarm clock and other exciting and sundry items including toilet paper. I remember a speaker at one of my elementary schools talking about how difficult life was for illiterate people. They would go to the store and see a box with a picture of chicken on it and buy the box. When they got home, they would discover they had actually only purchased the breading one might use for certain chicken recipes. So it was when I first tried to buy toilet paper, I got a package that looked exactly as if it should have contained same, but alas, was paper towels. My landlord left a few notes, one talking about the importance of avoiding putting strange things in the pipes (as this is Parisian plumbing after all) and anther with the phone number of "the best plumber in town." "Just in case."

In Paris, you can't flush giant wads of paper towels or the pipes get screwed up! And their plugs have three prongs!


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