Thursday, October 31, 2013

We're Not In Munchkin Land Anymore

One of the best things about having a blog is that you can publicly condemn your "fictional" characters via your rapier wit. For example, the Giant... JK Rowling discusses the implications of Giants in her soul-enchanting-love-heralding-spiritually-inspiring masterpiece, "Harry Potter". "Harry, they're just vicious, giants. It's like Hagrid said, it's in their natures, they're like trolls... they just like killing, everyone knows that." Now, do I think that the Giants of Paris fit this perilous description? Surely not. But if we replace the word killing with "possibly unintentional but sometimes quite provocative douchebaggery", I think we've come a lot closer... Is it of course possible that I am harboring just a touch of women-spurned animosity? No doubt! But mainly due to my injured narcissism than anything else. No hearts were wounded, no pride debased. But its seems as though three times is definitely a charm to those who do not understand magic. And whilst the Eiffel Tower continues to guide the hearts of love-imbibing wanderers, I shall simply hex those threatening its gaze...

And speaking of light and love, I am daily astounded at the very true reality that Parisian women own more black clothing than I could possibly have imagined. Not one piece of color on some of these waifs! What is it they say about how smiling on the outside makes you smile on the inside? Well, how can you smile when you are constantly cloaked in a shroud? Not that I don't own some black clothing, especially in winter, but I think I just look bizarre when there isn't even a tiny bit of flare to cut through the fog. There are days that, being as short as I am, and making jokes about giants, I feel like I am a Munchkin lost in the pre-technicolor Kansas monotony...

Happily, this past weekend was full of the decadent frivolity I so often crave. My good friend from New York whom I met during my epic years at Nespresso, and who I often refer to as Dorothy from Kansas, was my first visitor to these Parisian lands! Though she was vacationing with her French boyfriend, I was lucky enough to get one whole ladies night with my fun friend. After showing her the Trocadero and Eiffel Tower, we trekked back to my apartment through twister-like winds and torrential downpours to prep for our evening out. We had decided upon a restaurant called "Le Refuge Des Fondues" where we were promised fondue and wine in baby bottles. A small, stuffy little establishment clearly marked by tourists, you are invited in and than offered a hand to climb onto a chair and walk over the table to sit down. You are then brought a tray of strange little appetizers along with an undefined aperitif. Following this, two questions: #1) la viande ou du fromage? (meat or cheese?) and #2) rouge ou blanc? (red or white?) No menu, no prices, no explanations, no fuss... As you are sat rather closely to other tables, we were told by two American girls on our right that the cheese was not good, and then later in the evening made friends with three British folk to our left, whom we joined for a final drink at another bar post-dinner. Let's keep in mind that my friend and I had two glasses of wine before dinner, an aperitif and two baby bottles at dinner (each baby bottle was possibly 2-3 glasses), and then another glass to end the night. I have no regrets about this evening, as it welcomed my dear compatriot to Paris and inaugurated my first night out on the town with a friend from home, but in addition to possibly texting every man in my phone, I had a two and a half day hangover... 

Upcoming Trailer: This weekend I head to Ireland! And... Language Exchange is DEFINITELY not only about exchanging languages ; )

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Insecta Nostra

Today I post nothing more important than an epic poem in honor of the insect rebellion currently taking place in Paris, France slash anywhere I happen to be at any given time... But coming attractions will be new chronicles in the adventures of Angela's dating life in Paris, friends/family visiting from the States, and a trip to Ireland! Stay tuned!!!

Insecta Nostra by Angela Lewonczyk

A sinister conglomerate of creatures 'hind the scenes,
Will gather under cover for a cause.
To battle ancient foes, they must eliminate all doubt,
That left to their devices they will pause.

When winter comes they hibernate, but not to mirror sleep,
For in the frigid doldrums they will plot.
A target for their prime objective, planning must be done.
And no small moments ends with captives caught.

By night they dive-bomb graciously, disguised in cloaks of fog.
At first the sound of silence feigns respite.
But closer to the victim conjures melody of sorts,
The endless beastly buzzing that will blight.

At times it's so bewitching that in absence doesn't cease,
A phantom wraith-like droning hovers near.
Though currently not reigning terror through the waning hours,
Their omnipresence tortures sleeping ears.

And in the morning, pock-marked by a plague of feasting blood,
All repercussions lasting through the day,
The prickling and tingling of avaricious lust,
Embroiders fairest skin with scars to stay.

The cruel Insecta Nostra takes no prisoners in flight,
A war on human peacefulness to win.
But calling forth their fury, making enemies for life,
Will soon condemn to worse than bleakest sin.

Friday, October 18, 2013

When It Rains, It Turns Into A Cataclysmic Cloudburst

Not being a woman of notable balance or middle ground, the term going from zero to one hundred very often applies. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I was experiencing a discernible battle with transition and boredom as the result of new surroundings, lack of money, and a schedule yet to be determined. The following week, things improved drastically! I had social plans, school started, and the makings of a new life began. But why stop at balance and contentment when you can catapult into exhaustion rivaling the most severe form of jetlag? This week I had class every morning at 8am, several students, and I continued on with my epic language exchange experiment. In addition, the battle with the insects of Europe continued, to my utter detriment...

The Parisian weather has been exploring its stereotypical range of rain, clouds, and damp weather that will apparently continue for 95% of my time here. I assume this is why mosquitoes in a big city are continuing to thrive despite evening bouts with low temperatures. As the merciless chill threatens to throttle their existence, they find the warmth of my cozy little body and stunningly attractive female figure a firelit siren enabling them to cling to their desperate lives a bit longer. That is one theory... Another theory is that there is an entire underworld of insects... A seedy mafioso bent on the destruction of American blondes traversing their lands... I have no proof as yet, other than the fact that two nights ago I was actually bitten on the EYELID whilst interrupted from sleep, but I sincerely believe this Insecta Nostra has issued a price on my head...

Meanwhile, Thursday was a day of relentless French, beginning at 8am with my morning classes and continuing with three different language exchange meetings. Three men in a row, all in my general age range, with common interests... Online dating much? Happily, none of these turned into some skeezy afternoon attempt to "romance" my vulnerable heart. An unexpectedly beautiful Parisian day, I also experienced a wonderful sampler of Parisian haunts. My morning meeting was at a traditional café in the 5th, an espresso, facing the street not each other, the blazing sun cutting through the mid-morning chill. The man I met drove up on an old vespa and rambled about politics in an exasperated French way. I then went on to a post-lunch meeting near the Jardin des Tuileries. An outdoor café, MORE espresso, and conversation lasting over two hours. By the time I headed to my evening rendez-vous, I was admittedly exhausted and rather unclear how I would stay awake, especially after having had more coffee throughout the day than normal and consequently dehydrated beyond belief. This time I had two glasses of wine and my first cheeseburger in France while sitting at an extremely crowded pub-like bar near Montparnasse. All of these men were quite nice and delightful to chat with, attempting to force more French out of me as much as they could. When I first meet someone, it's almost impossible to get me to speak in French as much as I should, knowing that they can understand my English better. I have too much to say... always... When hindered by lack of vocabulary, I tend to word-vomit in English to supplement, enhance, and effectively negate the purpose of language exchange. I am, however, learning and improving daily... This weekend's goal? Rest, French, French, more French, and hopefully some new pictures soon... Oh, and French...

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Dust Begins To Settle

A complete 180 can have such rejuvenating effects, it's frankly mystifying... Last week, as I so eloquently admitted, was tricky, to say the very least. But no matter how lost or lonely I may have felt, I knew that there was a bright light (preferably shimmering with glitter and starstream) shining in the distance... And as the prophet in my heart so aptly predicted, I metamorphed into a week that was full of the tasks, outings, and activities I was hoping would begin creating my emerging Parisian life...

As I have mentioned, language exchange can have its difficulties, but my second attempt this week was met with much more enthusiasm and success. The guy I met with is a young burgeoning journalist who is fairly fluent in English but perfectly willing to lay down the law and make me speak French for a while.  Floating on the wings of success, the next morning I actually went to the laundromat for the first time... Ever... No seriously, I have never in the ten years I lived in NYC actually done my laundry at the laundromat. I have walked in, passed over my full bag of laundry, and paid them to wash, dry, and fold it for me, but I have been inherently against spending my time in a steamy layer of unwashed goods while wishing to be ANYWHERE else on Earth... But in Paris I finally conquered this foe and was happily rewarded via a conversation in French with a jolly old Frenchman who loves America and Obama but hates the current French president. That was pretty much the extent of our conversation, but I was proud nonetheless.

Wednesday night, the Giant took me to a Chinese dumpling restaurant in the 11th Arrondissment. I have been officially forbidden to reveal its exact location, as it is a small hole in the wall that is constantly packed out the door because oh sweet Jesus yes, those dumplings are good. Ever since that night when I even sense the gentle rumblings of hunger in my stomach, I immediately wish there was a bowl of these heaven-bites by my side... Sigh...

Last night, however, I went to a concert near Oberkampf with a great friend of mine from my last time in Paris. The band is called "Icona Pop", which I realized I had heard their big hit before, but knew nothing about them... Let me describe... Two young women emoting like banshees via elements of David Bowie's Space Oddity years badly done mixed with moments of Abba greatness but tainted by modern techno pop nonsense and boxed music. I admit I was actually guilty pleasure entertained by the first half of the concert until their angst because so self-indulgent I couldn't support their moody girl power anymore... Perhaps I am just jealous that I am not yet allowed to frolic on stage in narcissistic wonder and actually get paid for it... Or perhaps they need to learn how to dance...

And amidst the glimmering social life I now lead, school FINALLY began on Thursday and I have gotten more student leads. 8am classes can be intense but I am thrilled to start having a full schedule and become fluent in this romantic romance language... Now let the money come rolling in...

Monday, October 7, 2013

Language Exchange NOT Online Dating

Yesterday I decided to enter the land of language exchange once again. This involves a website that I used the last time I was in Paris, to great effect... However, while not under the same circumstances this time around, I find it exceptionally appropriate to relay something I wrote for a potential show after the last time I used the site...

"Like Alice meeting all of her quirky companions in Wonderland, thus began my first experience with “online dating”... And yes, I put it into air quotes for a reason! For this is not the online dating that anyone else would be used to... In reality, it is called “language exchange”. My dear compatriot, the Australian (the man I was dating at the time), actually turned me onto the site, a suggestion I feel fairly certain he later regretted, more than once reprimanding me that this was an “educational site” and commenting on my “other boyfriends”. In essence, you write a few words about yourself, state where you are located, what language you speak, and what language you want to practice. You can contact others with blurbs that appeal to you, or wait to be contacted. Purely by accident, I managed to interact with only men at first. I assumed that it might be a little bit easier to begin with men because I was shy with the language and if all else fails, I could flirt! Little did I know that this would turn into quite the “dating” experience, fully equipped with men I would have absolutely NO interest in but who would certainly take a liking to me, men who I felt were delightful and might want to date, men who were big ole teases in the end, and men whom I would part ways with amicably but never to hear from again. Language exchange turned out to be a lesson in many more ways than one...

The first date was with “Short guy with Latin Name”, semi-lecherous, tried to dance with me on a Parisian bridge after rather enthusiastically suggesting that we write a song together, as he was a composer... Then there was “Glasses guy with Russian Name”, one that turned into almost a best friend. On our first meeting we got drunk and he taught me naughty French words. I saw him weekly for the rest of my time in Paris, while always wondering about more... “Actor guy with French Name” was the one who I had a lot in common with but when we finally met up he was way more shy than I anticipated. When I told him I was nervous about speaking French he told me I was just not trying very hard... “Older guy with Short Name” was not actually much older but fell into the cliche “father figure” role, explaining how airplanes work so as to calm my nerves about flying. But who also seemed to have a little TOO great a fondness for me in the end. “Invisible guy with Nerdy name” was all talk/no action, sending me flirty messages but never arranging a time to meet! He looked up my last show on youtube and commented on it. Perhaps he was unimpressed or thought I was unattractive despite this being an “educational site”? And one of my last outings was with “Hipster guy with Slavic name”, another surprise in a boy I could perhaps have wanted to actually date at some point. He brought me to a little theatre, normally used for acting, but to see some live jazz and we had a quirky experience with a host who looked AND acted like Toulouse Lautrec from Moulin Rouge... Interwoven amongst these all were various ups and downs, all creating the tapestry of my romantic adventures while my “constant prince” stood waiting for me..."

I don't think I could have written a better anecdote at this point. As I said, yesterday I embarked on my first exchange this time around. He was a nice man, a little bit older I assume, but far too stoic for me. I may have also acted a little hyperactive because the espresso I bought sort of sent me through the roof. In addition, I have a massively hard time attempting to speak in French when the other person knows so much English. If we haven't noticed, I like to express myself, and if I don't feel I have the vocabulary to correctly depict my thoughts, I can't handle it... Though not committed to the idea of only men, we shall just have to see what further "language exchanges" may bring...

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Muddled Ex-PAT-Ations

As a self-proclaimed soul-rambler, it is my inherent duty to ramble things that are difficult as well as sublime... And thus declared, I must say that this was my hardest week in France so far. Moving to a new city or country is a daunting task for anyone. Add to that the fact that none of my family, very few friends, and my native tongue are not present and it becomes increasingly more difficult. I have recently discovered that it might be even more difficult when it's the second time around. I came to Paris two years ago attempting a similar adventure, but being vaguely aware that due to visas and money, I probably wouldn't be there as long as I wanted. I was accompanied on the flight over by a best friend, she left the same day my classes began, and the following weekend my cousin visited. I experienced pockets of loneliness or cluelessness, but they were few and far between. I started to feel bits of what it would be like wandering Paris with little money and no structured schedule during my second month, but I had a boyfriend, friends, and knew I would be leaving soon. 

Imagine, if you will, going back to college 10 years later. I think we've all had those moments of wishing we could go back to the good old days and frolic in the nostalgic bliss of our memories. But people change, time passes on, and nothing could be as it was, most particularly because of what we've learned since then. Coming to Paris a second time has been a truly strange experience, because it's like stepping into those memories without any of the support you built at the time. I remember Paris as it was, but I do not know Paris as it is now. Not for one second have I regretted my decision, but building a new life is, for me, inexcusably difficult. When you want something so badly, it is hard to admit that amidst all of its beauty and magic, there are moments of sadness or loneliness or difficulty or longing. Old friends have left, the ones who remain have their own established lives, and sometimes the one you deeply love is not the one you are supposed to be with... Not now anyway... But love is abundant. So you trust that there is more to share and you open your eyes to what is new...

The other fascinating variable, of course, is that I may be one of the most emotional people on the planet. My siblings endure a similar ailment to a lesser or greater degree in different ways, but I somehow managed to be smacked with the emo-stick pretty damn hard. I wear my emotions on my sleeve and frankly, if I don't, I run the risk of Chernobyl-esque levels of meltdown. All you men out there who think women are inherently insane? No. It's most likely because you have suffocated our emotions and we consequently explode. That being said, one of my best friends in the world once told me that my emotions tend to be so powerful that they permeate all those around me... Superpower or tragic flaw? Probably a little bit of both...

And of course, one of the things that happens to ex-pats when they feel a little lost is that they find other ex-pats to commiserate with. I am not opposed to this by any stretch, but I also came here to experience new culture and language, so it's not my favorite path. This week, however, I made two stops in the American realm. I find this particularly ironic because I was so infuriated at the U.S. government shutdown that I wasn't too keen on hanging out with fellow Americans. But I am also on the hunt for English students, so I was told that both the American Church and the American Library might be good places to advertise. 

I chose to go to the American Library on Wednesday evening because there was a reading by an American author from his new book entitled "Paris Deadline". I was not familiar with the book or the author, but the blurb mentioned historical fiction and a mechanical duck, so I figured nothing bad could come of it. I'm pretty sure I managed to get tipsy off a half a glass of wine, and then found myself possibly the youngest person in the audience by about 20 years. The best part, of course, were the not at all whispered non-sequiturs spouted by some of the older members of the group, as if this was a conversation not a lecture. Oh Americans, we really can't ever shut up ; )

On a more religious note, I originally went to the American Cathedral where I was told I could post an ad, but the first time I attempted this, there seemed to be a choir practice or something, and I was admittedly intimidated by the overly religious feel wafting through the doorway as I entered. I left its vicinity post-haste and decided that perhaps I am too liberal and non-religious to capitalize off of Christianity. However, determined to find students and conquer my fears, I returned two days later, only to be told by an extremely friendly Frenchman, that I was most likely looking for the American CHURCH, not the Cathedral, and he gave me directions to walk there since it was not at all far. When I arrived at the American Church, I knew instantly that this was a more appropriate venue. However, I was greeted in the office by an extraordinarily ill-tempered American woman and my brain instantly thought, ok religion and American combined clearly have no place in my new French world. We did reach an amicable conclusion in the end and I left on much happier tones, but despite all awkward ex-pat acclimating, I felt quite clear that this is where I am supposed to be for now.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Political Poetics

On a day like today, watching the American government shutdown from afar, I find myself rather speechless... Or actually not at all speechless, so here you go...

Here is my dilemma, as an ex-pat cross the seas,
I do not understand the wish to spread chronic disease.

A testament of battling the things that seem so trite,
Our government is on the verge of universal blight.

Forget about the basic right of all to live or die,
Protected by a nation who will save or at least try.

Who cares about the needs of many when the pride of few,
Manipulate the system, stopping laws from passing through.

Remember back in days when tea was thrown from on a ship,
A symbol to break free from monarchy cracking the whip.

But now the same hot substance has been bastardized by greed,
A small vocal minority has made our nation bleed.

For how long we can stand this wound is anybody's guess,
Perhaps we should continue till all finances depress.

But for the love of all who care for 'Merica's great wealth,
You might want to consider standing strong first for its health.

Let us also remember poem #32, in honor of the need for universal healthcare in general...

In basic life philosophy it seems to be the case,
That health would be a top priority.
We put aside the petty and vindictive daily tasks,
And fighting for survival is the key.

But in a land where life support is difficult to earn,
Though freedom is the mantra to believe.
You'd think it would be easier to find an antidote,
For freedom cannot well-being achieve.

A company that makes its money sacrificing aid,
For benefits that sadly assist few,
Should question their agenda when depriving fellow man,
Of basic human rights that they eschew.

Unfortunately for the masses not just business fails,
When choosing fundamentals that betray.
A large conglomerate of ignorance sustains the cause,
By selfishly defying in dismay.

My hope is that in lieu of universal negligence,
Or battling for trifling concerns,
We realize we cannot be so shallow when we've lost,
Ability to think or breathe or spurn.