First, a quick overview of the weekend:
My great-aunt invited me to lunch on Saturday, so I went with fellow Techers Yubo and Cedric and we had a lovely time (besides the fact that I’ve seen her once before and that was twelve years ago). She then drove us to Versailles where we explored the château and the gardens before walking through the town itself.
I met up with some fellow exchange students at the Centre Pompidou (modern art museum) in Paris on Sunday morning and spend a while soaking in the weirdness (but I secretly love it) before having a leisurely lunch at an outdoor café. I also explored the Marché des Fleurs and walked around Notre Dame before grabbing some groceries and calling it a day.
On to the stories:
Credit for this first story goes to Cedric, but it’s too good not to repeat here. Polytechnique is a military school, although that does not apply to me since exchange students don’t have the right to participate in the military activities because we are not French citizens. Anyways, the first-year students were on campus the last few weeks doing basic training before heading out to do their mandatory six months of service, so whenever I walked around campus I would see them in uniform and formations and doing pull-ups and such. So Cedric was walking by a commander that had just given a first year a command, and the student yells, “COMPRIS!” which means “understood”. However, he is supposed to address the commander afterwards (like saying “Yes SIR” instead of just “YES”), so the commander yells back “COMPRIS QUOI?” and the first year students yells at the top of his lungs, “QUOI!”. So in English, their conversation literally went: “UNDERSTOOD!” “UNDERSTOOD WHAT?” “WHAT!” So that was pretty entertaining.
As I mentioned before, on Saturday, Yubo and Cedric and I had lunch with my great-aunt. After chatting over red wine and apple juice (well, the apple juice was just me. I really can’t get behind wine. I want to like it, but it just tastes so much like…wine. Oh well), we headed to the table and my aunt started to serve lunch. A baguette was broken in half and sitting in a basket at the end of the table, so my aunt asked Yubo to cut the bread since he was sitting the closest. He grabbed the basket, looked at it quite confusedly, looked up, and shoved the basket into Cedric’s face, saying, “Cedric, you do it!”. Apparently he was worried that he would cut it the wrong size or shape or something. To be fair, he says he doesn’t eat a lot of bread at home, but still, how can you go through life having never ever seen a sliced loaf of bread? It’s the best thing since, well, since whatever came before sliced bread!
After exploring the château and the gardens of Versailles, we wandered through the town and Cedric decided he needed something to drink. We sat down outside of a little café where the boys had beers and I had my cute little sparkling limonade. Then Yubo gets out his deck of cards and starts shuffling and convinces us to play a game with him. I felt pretty touristy but also Cedric and I dominated Yubo so that was entertaining. Some kids just can’t win.
The Centre Pompidou is incredible. I even got to add my mark to the wall of chalk chronicling the visits of guests of yore. Some of the pieces were incredibly weird, but they caught my attention which I guess means they achieved their goal. For example, there was a video with three guys wearing bathing suits, snorkels, and flippers running from wild animals in different places (i.e. jungle, ocean, arctic ice, etc.) and then escaping by jumping through the “frame” of the camera lens to the next place. There was also a video of a woman trembling while carving letters into her own thigh with a knife (unfortunately it wasn’t in English or French so I’m not actually sure what she wrote…).
I felt pretty cool during lunch after the art museum because out of the six of us, the server mostly looked at me when he was asking things in French, and I was able to respond appropriately. This is mostly because right in the beginning when he was taking our order, I helped out one of my friends who got confused between an “entrée” and a “plat” because entrée actually means appetizer in French which is super confusing.
The day wouldn’t have been complete without an awkward selfie in front of Notre Dame. I’m not sure how people do these things regularly – I felt pretty silly trying to line up the camera such that both the cathedral and my face were in the picture. The former cross country coach at my high school was an expert at this: he used to grab people’s cameras when they weren’t paying attention and then take a selfie of himself with that person in the background (usually doing something embarrassing of course). Part of me wishes I did cross country just for that, but also, ew.
And of course, as we all expected (except for me apparently), the bank in town was closed again on Monday when I tried to go deposit a check. C’est la vie.
PS. More pictures to be added once I can successfully upload them from my phone. The wifi networks here block some random applications but only sometimes and it’s quite the mess.