My toes tapped to the music I hoped I remembered correctly. Never the most coordinated dancer or the most Irish of women (we’re talking a minimal percentage here), I moved my toes from floor, knee, hop back, two, three, four.
With St. Patrick’s Day looming at the end of the week, as a well-bred American felt it my duty to share the traditions of the holiday with my Frenchie students. To try and explain the idea of shamrocks, the deliciousness that is a minty McDonald’s shamrock shake, and what exactly is a leprechaun is a feat for the French who really aren’t so familiar with the concept.
I took a sip of a cereal-bowl sized cup of coffee at Les Puces des Batignolles in the 17th. “It’s tricky, you see,” I explained to Kahwehgi. “To explain culturally what a holiday means and is to a country.”
I would never have thought relocating to Paris would bring me closer to Hollywood. But when you’re living under the roof of an international movie producer who’s film Call Me By Your Name got nominated for 3 Oscars, I suppose this is what happens.
When I submitted the Google survey about meatballs, I didn’t really think anything of it. Pleasantly reminiscing on my voyage to Sweden to try authentic Swedish IKEA meatballs, recalling my fangirl “Meatballs for the People” t-shirt in my dresser drawer, and bethinking my first date here in France had been over a dinner of meatballs, I truly thought nothing of it. With a tap of a screen, I sent mere honest confessions through the Paris-savvy app HOOK straight to the inbox of Merci Alfred.
It all started on Valentine’s Day. And I promise you this isn’t going where you think it is. It happened to be on February 14th, sometime before the Kygo concert, I received a little book the size of a coffee mug. “Things to do Around Paris,” Kahwehgi read in French. “All the things to do just right outside Paris.”
Flipping through the photogenic pages, our seatbelts were soon buckled for Val-d’Oise.
Here’s a little something for you on Val-d’Oise: most folks aren’t traveling to go visit Val-d’Oise. As an archaeological peek into the past, most site-seers steer their way towards the charms and attractions of the “cosmopolitan historic” capital city, Paris. I surely didn’t know much about the department of Val-d’Oise until reading my little mug-sized book. But then I learned about Pontoise, and its maze of 900 quarries hollowing the city’s underbelly into a massive stone-mining regime. I read about its blooming public gardens, hilly landscapes, and sunny river walk. I turned to Kahwehgi.
When I say “art,” you think paint brushes. Maybe pastel crayons. Perhaps shards of broken stained glass. Chiseled statues so life-like you touch it just to be sure it is truly stone-cold. But when people say “art,” my mind jumps to Paris.
Paris has come to enchant me in the world of art. Maybe not enchant all the way through, but surely enrich me. Take my grueling semester of Romantisme everything, or Romantic Era like literally everything, during my Parisian semester abroad. I learned the thing called technique to assess paintings for light, shadows, and human emotions. My trips to the Louvre (or maybe the museum of La Vie Romantique, if we’re staying on theme) had me check-marking different elements of art.
Cool, I thought. Never thought of a painting’s inner emotions via shadows before.
Chicago knows winter better than anyone I know. I speak with a bias, being born and bred in the brutal tundra winters of the Windy City, but currently making home in Paris, I thought it to be cute when the radar broadcasted a little snow for my Frenchie city. Snow cute! I thought, no frozen precipitation will change my Wednesday coffee rendezvous!
Then, it snowed in Paris. And the city senselessly lost their way.
Trains, shut down. Metros, incapacitated. Tramways, forget about it. Even the bus, it got lost somewhere down the last boulevard. Everyone tightened their scarves around their necks hoping someone else with a puffier jacket and more waterproof boots will know what to do.
It’s a winter wonderland of white in the most confusing of ways.
Hate to be cheesy, but I have a story to share. A legitimate story, one written to pay homage towards a beloved American sandwich thousands of miles away from me in a land far, far away.
This story, my friends, is a story about grilled cheese. Written for English tutoring but shared here with you.
Take a seat with me at MataMata Coffee Bar, for I saved us a table outside. Enjoy some peanut butter cookie, for it nearly tastes as much like home as this story reads like the savory goodness of the motherland.
The Achilles heel of my existence is striving for the rather unattainable: to be liked by others. And by others, my goal is to be liked by all the others. I promise, I don’t ask for much. But like Achilles, you’re not built to have it all. And cueing from Achilles, I won’t have them all either. Not all the macarons from LaDurée, not all the meatballs from IKEA, and not all the admiration of folks across the globe. Reminds me of my yesteryears as an American babysitter when I helped the 3rd grader boy clear out his closet and found his diary scribbled with the profound words of: “Today I hurt my friend’s feelings. I felt so bad. But… life goes on.”
Little dude had something right: life goes on. Here I am at 23 reminding myself, you can’t have it all but life goes on.
Sugar and the holidays are two words that double dip into the same milky glass of connotation. For me, the holidays are simply not complete without a confectioner’s selection of sugar-sprinkled cookies, spicy gingerbread, and buttery sablés. Sugar can come without the holidays, but the holidays can’t come without sugar.
So why, why, I plead, did I agree to a challenge for a week-long sugar detox the week leading up to Christmas?
Would this guarantee me a spot on Santa’s nice list? Would the reindeer giddy-up a wee bit faster to reach my little Parisian rooftop? I came to the conclusion sugar detoxing before the holidays was a dose of… not smart decisions.
Teaching is a lot like theater, perhaps more so than I reckoned. Never would have reckoned my starring years as a Stone Wall, Plate, or Goat Herder would have lead me to this moment to fully command a class. As I stood in front of thirty pairs of Frenchie kids’ eyes, it struck me quite readily this was my audience and this was my show.
Even if for a mere 45 minutes.
As a pipsqueak little kid, becoming a teacher is an idea I fancied. Charmed by the idea of sharing ideas, making crafts, and writing pretty handwriting across crisp white paper – I was totally sold. As time wore on, my ideas of what I wanted to be brewed in as much variety as coffee: allongé, café filtre, américano… But do you notice a theme here? They all derived of similar… notes.