Tuesday, November 26, 2013

silver and gold

this entry is going to be a little more of a “captain’s log” style… too much to recount!

as i mentioned in my last post, i had a medical appointment on wednesday, in bordeaux. basically, the immigration office needed proof that i am, in fact, alive and not likely to cost them too much over the course of my stay here in france. so, i spent two hours on wednesday afternoon hanging out with several other assistants (we’d all been given the same appointment window), and intermittently entering various offices to discuss my vaccination history, strip from the waist up for a chest x-ray (no TB here, yay!), read a tiny line of text across the room, and finally get that long-sought-after OFII sticker in my passport. now, i’m a legal citizen! at least, until june…

one nice (read: incredible) part about my job is the flexibility. the principal had no issues with me taking wednesday and thursday off for this doctor appointment, so i made the most of my time and went up to paris for a long weekend! i was excited to see the city again, but i was more excited to finally get a chance to catch up with one of my closest friends from my semester in angers! jessie lived across the hall from me, and is basically the reason i stayed sane during my time abroad. she introduced me to several other international students on our floor, who ended up becoming like family to me. seeing her this week in paris felt like a true completion of my prodigal return to france! she met me at the metro stop near her house late wednesday night, and i’m pretty sure we didn’t stop laughing until i left eeearly monday morning. love that girl.

being back in paris was a little surreal – i’ve visited several times before, but it had been over two years since my last visit. it was also the first time that i’d gone primarily to visit friends (as opposed to going for touristy purposes), and i genuinely enjoyed the lack of pressure i felt to go, go, go all day, every day. i spent a lot of the weekend simply walking around various neighborhoods, soaking up the atmosphere and marveling at the beauty that i found in literally every direction. i did, however, do a few touristy things… i spent the better part of thursday afternoon meandering through the louvre, since i hadn’t been since 2008 and i can get in for free with my newly-validated residency visa. i was particularly blown away by several of the greek and roman scultures, but my favourite part was the decorative arts wing, which includes the napoleonic apartments. having just finished reading vanity fair, it was cool to see what the setting of the novel looked like in person. i really enjoyed walking through rooms that held such historical significance, especially since they’re not reproductions – real life happened in those rooms. or, as real as early 19th century napoleonic society could be. i love imagining all the women in their gowns and jewels and feathered hair ornaments, perching daintily on the crushed red velvet couches in the salons, and the men with their breeches and starched neckclothes and quizzing glasses. if i had a time machine, that’s definitely where i would go.

thursday actually was kind of a luxurious day. when i left the louvre, i walked along the rue de rivoli until i passed a fancy-looking bookshop (you know how i can’t resist the allure of a nice book display) and ducked inside… only to almost immediately and very nearly bump into karl lagerfeld, of chanel fame. he came in to pick up a few gifts, and you would have thought a member of the royal family had walked in, with the way the employees jumped up to help him. although, i suppose that he is sort of royalty in fashion-loving paris. i continued my walk all the way down to the eiffel tower, where i enjoyed a little picnic dinner and watched that steel celebrity sparkle for a little while. there really is nothing like it anywhere in the world. right as i was about to head back to the apartment, jessie called and said she’d gotten tickets through her university to attend a play at the “theatre de la ville” for free that evening! evidently, it was the play to see in paris right now, so i scurried over there and met up with her and her classmates. it was a packed house – there were even people standing outside, trying to scalp tickets! so, i guess it really is popular. i had no idea what the play even was called, let alone what it was about! as it turns out, it was a two-man show called “the old woman,” which is a sort of theatre-of-the-absurd work, based off of a russian poem, and performed by none other than willem dafoe and mikael baryshnikov! it lived up to its genre… it was certainly absurdly bizarre, but i enjoyed it purely as a cultural experience.

friday was all about friendship. i walked around a little in the morning, did some grocery shopping, and then had a big lunch prepared for when jessie got home from school around 2pm! we ate and talked for a long while, just enjoying the opportunity we had to finally catch up after nearly two and a half years! it was so lovely, and really felt like we picked up right where we left off. then, around 8, jessie got ready for a night out with her NYU classmates, and i got ready to go have dinner with another friend of mine in paris, devon! she was a french major at belmont who graduated my freshman year, so we never really got to know each other during college. however, since she had studied abroad in angers, she was always the person to whom  we were referred with questions about life as an exchange student. so, we’ve communicated on facebook intermittently for years. now, she’s living with her french husband (who she met while studying abroad, precious!) in paris. she is a true gem – we sat in her little studio apartment and talked for almost 5 hours; i only left because i had to get the last metro home! it was so, so great to finally have the opportunity to sit down in person and get to know each other – it already felt like we had known each other for ages!

saturday was much more relaxed. after the late night, jess and i both enjoyed sleeping in and making breakfast for lunch! one interesting thing about the holiday season over here is that, for obvious reasons, it goes straight from halloween to christmas… so paris was in full christmas mode during my visit! we spent the afternoon wandering through the christmas market that lines the champs-elysees, stretching all the way from the place georges clemenceau to the place de la concorde. jessie’s friend emily joined us, and we did a little shopping and a lot of eating – there is nothing like holiday fair food. from there, we headed down the seine to my favourite place in paris – shakespeare and company. i go there every time i’m in the city, and it never fails to make my heart skip a beat. i have dreamed of working there since the first time i visited, and that dream is still alive. one day! the evening was spent walking through bustling streets, eating crepes in paper cones and enjoying the festive atmosphere.

the grand finale of my weekend in paris was a wonderful ex-pat thanksgiving dinner, given by two lovely friends of my friend, devon... it was an absolute treat! devon invited me (and Jessie!) to join her home-church group for a big meal on Sunday. i’ll save my reflections about celebrating thanksgiving abroad for my post later in the week; suffice it to say, i have been immeasurably blessed with friends in this world, both old and new, and i thank the lord every day for those relationships!

as always, to see photos from this trip, check my facebook album here, starting at photo 25!

the title of this blog comes from the “friends both new and old” concept… but it also reminded me, indirectly, of a great christmas tradition in my family (and many others, i’m sure). here’s a sneak preview, to get you in the spirit. it’s that time of year again!

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