It’s that time again for Midnights in Paris. Today’s episode finds me looking for a place to live and meeting the oldest woman in the world. Sit back, relax, and enjoy.
After a few days of acclimating to Paris, it was time to sign in for my class. Registration was at the Sorbonne administrative offices in the 5th arrondissement. Paris is broken up into numbered districts like the French version of the Hunger Games. Each has its own vibe, some are very local, and anything around the tower or Champs-Elysee is more touristy and crowded. The 5th is where the students all hang out. There are lots of internet cafes and small, cheap eateries.
I made my way to the school and signed in with the lady in the office. She explained that they have a service that could set me up in a room with a host family if I couldn’t find housing on my own. Huzzah! As much as I liked my cozy little hotel room, I need something a bit more permanent for the time being. She gave me the phone number and address of a woman who took in students all the time and came highly recommended. She also handed me the address of where my classes would be held…
all the way across town.
I stopped in one of the plethora of internet cafes to update my friends on Facebook of my Parisian adventures. It would be so nice to finally have a chance to see some familiar faces after a few days without internet. I went to type in all my info and very quickly realized that I did not know where anything was on the keyboard. I was not aware until that moment that French keyboards were different than English keyboards.
Keyboards for other languages are DIFFERENT. Who knew? Not me. Obviously.
Where is the “Enter” key? How do I capitalize something? Why is this so damn DIFFICULT? This was not going to work, but I wasn’t about to be the “stupide americaine” who asks for a different keyboard. I fumbled through and finally managed to figure out enough to check my email and tell my Facebook friends that I was indeed alive and would tell them everything about Paris as soon as I was settled. After checking on a few things and getting a little homesick, I made a call to the woman on my note from the Sorbonne and set up a time to see her room.
“Mme. Marie Duchamps” was written in curly, European letters on the slip of paper I got from the office. I followed the directions to her house and rang the buzzer.
“Bonjour…uh…je m’appelle Angelle Bonnecarrere. Je viens de la Sorbonne at je suis une etudiante la pour la classe du Francais.”
Lucky for me some of that high school/college French stuck…kind of.
“Ah yes, come up, Angelle.”
I climbed the stairs to find an open door with a lady standing behind it who couldn’t have been more than 5000 years old.
Give or take a few years.
She turned out to be an artist. Her husband had died long ago, eaten by a dinosaur I suspected. The bottom floor of the apartment was her studio and the top floor had a master bedroom, kitchen, bathroom, and guest room. I didn’t figure there would be many options and honestly I didn’t feel like traipsing around the city using my rudimentary French to find a good place to live, so I took it. It was affordable and living with an artist seemed so romantic and so FRENCH.
Even if she was around when the earth cooled.
Excited, I checked out of my hotel, grabbed a cab, and moved in with Marie, and her cat, Chocolat.
The first few days of cohabitation always go well. You are extra polite, extra talkative, always there to sit and eat dinner, share stories, etc. Marie had a computer on a desk in the hallway that I was welcome to use whenever I needed. I thought it was incredibly sweet for her to do that, but had brought my own laptop. The shine of my new accommodations started to wear off with this conversation:
“Marie, I was wondering if you have wireless internet set up in the apartment. I wanted to hook up my laptop to check on some things.”
“There is a computer right here.”
“Well, yes…but I’d like to use my laptop sometimes…and..I…”
Did she just fart? What was that?
“There is a computer right here for you to check things.”
“Yes, and I really appreciate you letting me use it, but…”
She totally just farted. Is she fart-blocking me?? Well go ahead and fart-block me, lady.
“I’ll just run to McDonald’s on the corner to check stuff. They have free Wi-Fi. It’s not a big deal.”
Fun Fact: If you are ever in need of free Wi-Fi, McDonald’s is the PLACE. Buy a soda, or water, and sign on. It’s fast and awesome. All the cool kids are doing it.
Little did I know this was only the beginning of Old Lady Tales: Paris
Marie came to me two days later and said she was doing a load of whites and would I like to add some of my clothes. I’d been doing my own laundry since high school so I was definitely not going to let this poor woman do it. That would be awful and my mother would be mortified. However, she insisted and I was eventually forced to hand over some of my lighter clothes. I piled them reluctantly into her basket and she hobbled off to do the wash. Presumably in a river somewhere with rocks, which is how I imagine she did it in the Dark Ages.
I left to make my way across town to find the building where my classes would be held and attend orientation for all the new students. A few hours later I came back to my freshly laundered whites folded on my bed. When I say whites, I mean greys. They were grey. many of us throw clothes in the wash without a thought or care of how they come out. Whatever, right?
When someone else presses to do my laundry and it comes back a mess, I get a red haze over my eyes and a small target hones in on the person’s forehead with the words “TERMINATE” written across it.
What do you mean by “my jeans kinda shrank”?
This is why I insist on doing my own laundry. It saves lives. So there it was, in neatly folded, grey, piles. I suppressed my urge to be angry and went into the kitchen where Marie was fixing her dinner.
She was putting a bowl of what looked like yogurt and melon into the microwave. I was pretty sure neither of those things should be eaten warm and that it was more than likely the cause of her incessant farting problem, but there were more pressing matters at hand.
“Marie, thank you so much for doing my laundry. That was really kind of you. Don’t worry about the rest I can take care of it next time.”
“No, no, I do the laundry for all of my students.”
Here we go again.
“It’s really alright. I can take care of it.”
“As you like.”
What on earth did that mean? Why was she letting me win this? There is a land called Passive-Aggressiva and this lady was their queen, apparently.
The next morning, as if Chocolat also had to voice his displeasure, I stepped in cat puke outside of my bedroom door.
“Yes, Choco has a plant on the window sill that he eats and it helps him purge when he needs to.”
When he needs to what now?
A few days that plant had a little “accident”, when it encountered my elbow “accidentally”, and fell on the floor…”accidentally”.
Stay tuned. There’s so much more to come…