wake me up when september ends.

what is it about this month that is so damn depressing? is it some innate response to the slow shift of seasons, the melancholic reminder that summer, like all good things, must come to an end? although i’m no longer in school, and nothing about my schedule is really changing, i’m still dragging myself wearily from day to day–minutes tick past, interminably, marking my arrival and departure from point a to point b. drive to work, drive home. eat, sleep, wake up. rinse, repeat.

yes, i’ve finally become a productive member of society, once more back in my natural habitat: the bookstore. i work full time peddling books and memberships to clueless customers, answering phones and placing orders. “do you know about our kid’s club?” plastic forks and metal folding chairs; thirty and fifteen minute downtime to gulp down a microwaved meal. composition book pressed open, pen flying–my break room scribbles. the rapid, air conditioned countdown; too fast, it goes, before i’m back out in the trenches, digging for greek plays, childrens’ bestsellers, obscure computer programming how to’s. pretending to be hip to this e-book jive. tick, tick, tick. until my work is done; numbers punched and time marked; the books i’ve dutifully reshelved waiting for me, lying hapless and hopelessly sprawled, tomorrow, for me to put away again. rinse, rinse…repeat.

buy this car to drive to work

drive to work to pay for this car

i remember cobblestones and dark, sweet red wine; smiling, chubby faces babbling to me in foreign tongues. gently curving white roofs overlooking glittering blue water; wizened, sun-kissed cheeks with gap-toothed grins. red, red dirt kicking up dust into my shoes, the endless quiet and narrow, sloping roads steady under our rickety bus, arid with screaming children; parched exhaustion. (we played childish games on scraps of paper to while away the time; keep our motion sickness at bay.) endless stretch of beach, mesmerizing black sand. unfamiliar. unknown. unexplored. under my feet.

google blinks back at me, patient and mocking. what? what are you looking for? these search engines are useless. sputtering and stalling. i need some sort of kick, a jump, a what-have-you to get me up and going. i’ve never done well with languishing.

tick, tick, tick.

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after all this time: to the ones that i call friends.

it has recently come to my attention there are actually people in the world who don’t know much about harry potter. (i know, right?! crazy.)

as i mentioned in my previous post, the most incredible part of this book series is the friends i’ve made because of it, who ensure me that while the books may have ended, the story never will. so instead of doing a boring timeline (j.k. rowling began writing here and on such-and-such date) i’ve decided to share the love letter i wrote to my friends on a blog we share (www.tiltheveryend.tumblr.com).

i wrote this on june 6th, more than a month before the last movie (harry potter and the deathly hallows part 2) came out in theaters, signaling the end of the franchise (hence the ominous tagline on all of the promotional posters “It All Ends Here”). we were all simultaneously dreading and anticipating the finale, unwilling to let go but excited to see what came next. how strange it is to finally be on the other side…

I feel a little bit the way I did on my first day at Prophecy in 2007 – overwhelmed.

I’ll never forget walking into the Sheraton lobby and seeing those masses of people, running and hugging and screaming and laughing, like they’d all been friends for ages. Finally meeting, in person, people I’d only spoken to online. Listening to and singing along with bands I’d been following on Myspace. Being amongst a group of people who shared my particular obsession—people who were so open, so hilarious, so friendly…it was almost too much. I kept asking myself, why the hell didn’t I get into this sooner?

I read HP for the first time when I was eleven years old. I was at my mother’s office one day after school when one of her coworkers asked me with slight smirk, “So have you heard of Harry Potter yet?” I had no idea what he was talking about or who Harry Potter was but he refused to tell me, assuring me that I’d “find out soon enough.”

Literally the next day, I saw numerous people at school reading the same book with a funny-looking reddish brown cover. For Christmas, my sister gave me my own copy. And I instantly fell in love.

I read the books as they came out over the years, but I didn’t become truly Potter-crazy until 2006, when finally discovered the fandom.

It was [SPOILER!]’s death that did it. I refused—REFUSED—to believe that he was really dead. I remember closing the book in a daze and immediately drifting over to the computer. I don’t even remember what exactly I typed into Google, but of course, the result was that iconic website, [spoiler]isnotdead.com. From there, I stumbled onto Mugglenet.com, and was BLOWN AWAY by how thorough of a fansite it was. It had everything–fan mail, fanfiction, news coverage, pictures, trivia, even essays! There were actually other people who valued Harry Potter as much as I did! And the wizard rock—how was it possible that there were this many amazing bands, who all found different characters and/or points of view to sing from?! Crazy!

I was done for. My freshman year in college was, for the most part, absolutely miserable, and when I think back to the few good times, many of them were spent either listening to Mugglecast (Mugglenet’s weekly podcast) on Sunday nights/Monday mornings on my way to class, or spending hours talking to other Potter fans on Facebook in that group “Eff This, I’m Going to Hogwarts”. It was my haven, where I could be as nerdy as I always dreamed, with the kind of people I had hoped to meet in college.

Everything snowballed from there. Youtube, Myspace, Skype, more Facebook groups…I was meeting so many amazing people who I immediately thought of as friends, just in time for the final book release. Entrenched as I was in this enthusiastic new community, I couldn’t stand the thought of such a momentous event coming and going without me celebrating it, somehow. And a measley bookstore release party just wouldn’t do. 

So I decided to do something crazy: I emptied my bank account and bought a registration to Prophecy (that year’s convention) and plane ticket to Toronto, where it would be held.

Now here we are, nearly one month from the release of the final movie. LeakyCon will be my fifth HP conference (I remember laughing when people handed me Terminus merchandise at the end of Prophecy, claiming that one con was enough for me, it had been fun, but no thanks). This book series that I started reading almost twelve years ago, that I turned to when life was too much, when I needed to laugh, when I needed to cry, when I needed a friend, when I just wanted to stop thinking and escape… It’s impossible to describe all the things that Harry Potter has been for me. I can’t think of another world that I’ve become so much a part of, and that has become so much a part of me—and I’ve read and loved many, many books in my lifetime. Harry has far surpassed being just another dog-eared book that I talk about and love and reread too much – it’s a constant, when so many things in my life are not. It’s home.

So it’s my turn to thank you all for sharing this amazing journey with me. Thank you for accepting me into this unbelievable world. Thank you for our shared insanity. Thank you for the endless hours spent talking, typing, squealing, and so on, even if the subject of our conversations eventually had nothing to do with Harry Potter. Thank you for flying for hundreds, thousands of miles and spending hundreds, thousands of dollars so we can all be together for a few days once or twice a year. Thank you for the hysterical laughter, like I-might-actually-pee-myself laughter. Thank you for taking so many pictures even if we looked like crap. Thank you for messy hotel rooms with too many people and 3 am room service and no space to walk and noise complaints, all the time noise complaints. Thank you for the elevator rides, for the rooftop adventures, for running through the hallways being ridiculous while constantly looking over our shoulders for security. Thank you for passionately screaming the lyrics to our favorite songs and dancing wildly at wizard rock shows. Thank you for continuing to do this, over and over, despite the occasional petty drama, the fights, the tears, the awkwardness, and the negativity in general that is inevitable at each gathering. Thank you for being a part of my life for all these years. Thank you for being some of the most inspiring, hilarious, interesting, intelligent, real people I have ever met. I love you all more than you know, and I couldn’t be happier to face July, and whatever is coming next, standing beside you. We are really damn lucky—you know this, right?

See you all so soon. I can’t wait.

july 20, 2007. my little cousin snapped this picture of me in my slytherin uniform before i went to work the dreaded 'harry potter' shift at barnes & noble (3:45 pm-?? am). i bagged hundreds of copies of deathly hallows that night (beginning at the stroke of midnight), watching excited fans skip out of the doors, eager to begin reading, until i was finally able to do the same (somewhere around 3-4 am). i raced home and read all 759 pages in under 12 hours, so i could return to work the next day--a sniffling, puffy-eyed zombie--without being spoiled.

on books, bikes, and bridges to my past: has it been four years already?

considering today’s date, one might have thought i would wake up emotional, but when my eyes opened this morning, nothing felt particularly different. my covers were kicked halfway off the bed; my room was a mess, most of my suitcase’s contents dumped onto the floor after last night’s half-hearted attempt to unpack; and my fan was oscillating in a dejected manner. the sun blazed brightly outside, and my laptop hummed on my carpeted floor. and i felt the strong urge to turn over and go back to sleep.

like i said, nothing out of the norm.

it’s been quite some time since i’ve written in here, so i’ll try and quickly summarize the past… year of so of my life. in my last entry, i was just beginning my seven month teaching contract in paris, fraught with all the difficulties and frustrations that go hand in hand with uprooting yourself and moving to a foreign country, and teaching students who speak a language in which you’re not yet 100% fluent. living in france was sometimes a whirlwind of parties and champagne and skipping along the seine, and at other times a dark, daunting look into the human psyche, or more specifically, mine, and wondering things like “why am i here?” “what am i doing with my life?” “how can i live amongst a city of strangers with whom i can’t fully interact and what am i doing on this cold grey earth that us mortals are doomed to traverse until the eventual end of our monotonous days…?!” ultimately, it was what it was, which is to say, un-summarize-able.

when i returned, i agreed to sublet an apartment with one of my best friends, and spent a month and a half frolicking around brooklyn with the careless, joyous air of the young and unfettered–we danced barefoot to bhangra music in brooklyn bridge park, ran shrieking through the sand and seawater in coney island at 4 am, nursed hangovers lying in bed, half moaning, half laughing hysterically at our rowdy, disorganized lives. it was gloriously fun, the kind of fun that can never last too long.

i was awarded a brief delay from the sadness of moving out of new york and back to jersey with a week-long trip to orlando, florida for leakycon, this year’s harry potter convention (and my fifth, if anyone cares to know). to describe leakycon would require an entirely different entry, so i won’t even try. just know that it was one of the best, and most intense, weeks of my life. i truly love my potter family. but more about them later.

so now i’m back, in quiet, boring new jersey, and find myself staring into the black, gaping maw of unemployment.

i began my day with the express intention of editing, yet again, my resume and cover letter, sending them to my parents for feedback, and utilizing career builder and monster and craigslist and linkedin and everything, anything, the internet had to offer. in case you were wondering, i am finally pursuing my dream of being a writer (or editor, or both), but before that, i would like to learn about the publishing industry from the inside out. therefore i am on the hunt for an entry-level position at a publishing house (preferably one devoted to children’s or young adult fiction), a task that quickly grows tiresome and boring, because i have a short attention span and even less patience. but alas, for my dream, i must persevere.

an idea struck–write to my favorite authors. ask them for advice. as much as i read and obsess over books, i am frightfully lax when it comes to getting in touch with the authors and expressing my thanks and admiration. i decided to change that today. and as i wrote, the memories came rushing back…finishing what happened to lani garver (carol plum-ucci) on my way home from school in my dad’s car, tears streaming down my face; sitting in an awestruck daze after putting down dreamland (sarah dessen); positively howling with laughter while reading how i paid for college (marc acito); swooning right along with jessica over dreamy/druggie marcus flutie in sloppy firsts (megan mccafferty); discovering something new in every single reading of the perks of being a wallflower (stephen chbosky). i wouldn’t say i was unpopular growing up; i had many friends and was always the first to suggest starting a club or organization of some sort, such as my short-lived babysitter’s club in fourth grade (thanks to the wonderful series of the same name by ann m. martin) or bringing a blank notebook to school that my friends and i could exchange notes in–and for which i’d eventually receive an irate phone call home–(courtesy of harriet the spy by louise fitzhugh, although to be honest, i’ve only ever seen the movie–shh). but the books that i’ve read and loved as a curious child, moody preteen, sullen teenager, and now, clueless 20-something, are, have always been, and will always be, an integral part of who i am. they aren’t just bindings and pages and blobs of ink, they’re friends; the stories affect me in ways that many relationships with actual people never can. they’ve been my anchors, my shelter, and yes, my home; and these connections, more than anything, are what inspire me to want to create the same magic for a new generation of readers.

you may have been wondering why i mentioned today’s date as being significant. july 21, 2007, is a day that i nor many of my friends will ever forget–it is the day that harry potter and the deathly hallows (the last book in the harry potter series by j.k. rowling) was released. this series, more than the hundreds, thousands, of books i’ve devoured and loved, has undoubtedly meant the most to me. the characters have grown up with me, lost loved ones with me, and i have grown to love them like family. but the truly special thing about these books is how they’ve led to meeting people that are now some of my best friends. the community i’ve found through harry potter goes far beyond a story about a boy with a scar, it’s a huge group of people who have not allowed the inevitably of aging, the evil and prejudice rampant in this world, or the negativity and condescension of their friends and family deter them from believing in the importance of imagination, of love, of friendship, of standing up to fight for what’s right. and while i  know that the ending of this series does not mean the ending of  said community, there it still a definite sense of something being lost.

after sending out a few emails, i decided to go to library and check out some of the latest YA fiction. it had been quite awhile since i’d been to my local library; so long, in fact, that i had no idea where my card was. when i walked up to the desk to replace it, i was handed a looking white card with a new, snazzy design, completely different than the perfunctory burgundy one i’d been accustomed to. i turned it over and brought to the librarian’s attention that the back was still bare, expecting him to hand me a sticker with my name and address so i could attach it to the card, but to my confused inquiry he simply replied, “that’s it, you’re done. we don’t do that anymore.” i paid, thanked him, and walked away, trying to quell the peculiar feeling that came over me. it was just a library card, right? and there certainly was no law stating all librarians had to be women over the age of 60, so for no reason should the young man who had helped me contribute to my feeling of unease.

it wasn’t just the surprisingly young librarian, or my new library card: it was the entire library. entire sections had been shifted, so it was hard for me to locate what i was looking for; books i could have found blindfolded, before, now eluded me. i went into what was previously the fantasy section and found rows of computers, their owners looking up at me curiously when i walked in, as i was probably wearing a dumbfounded expression, my arms full of books. i understand that computers being in libraries aren’t exactly state-of-the-art, but still…why hadn’t anyone warned me that my library was so different?!

as i rummaged in my bag for the keys to my car, i was transported to the hot july afternoons of years and years before, when instead of dropping my messenger bag onto the passenger seat, i was zipping up my backpack and pulling it securely onto my back. i was entirely too young and inexperienced to be shifting a gear into reverse and backing out of my parking spot; rather, i was swinging one skinny leg over my bike and pedaling out of the lot and taking my secret shortcut through the tiny path between the trees. i glanced at it as i turned the air conditioner up high and steered the opposite way towards the busy main road; that path had been closed for years now.

when i pulled up to my house, my dad was  filling up one of the tires on my car, sasha, who’s stuck with me faithfully since 2005. i dropped my bag of books through the passenger window, telling him about the disturbing newness of my old library, when my eyes fell upon a welcome sight: my old bike. he was probably puzzled when i abruptly ended the conversation and walked into the garage, ducking beneath a spiderweb and wheeling it out without hesitation. i could not, try as i might, remember the last time i’d ridden any bike, much less my bike, the one that’s seen me through who knows how many adventures.

i can’t describe what it felt like to hop onto that bike and sail out of my driveway and down the street, legs working furiously, and then stand on the pedals, feeling the wind rush past my face, zooming in a circle around the cul-de-sac where my friends and i used to do figure eights and hold races when they would come over. i made a right and cruised down another street, the one where we used to pick blackberries and yes, eat the fallen ones off the ground, as long as we deemed them clean enough (don’t tell my mom). i made another right to ride around a small block, and by this point, my body was already beginning to protest this sudden onset of physical exertion. i couldn’t believe it. i used to ride around my neighborhood for hours, and after not even five minutes i was already out of breath? in retaliation, i rode past my house again on my way back, focused on going down the first drop of “deadman’s hill”, just once, and take both hands off the handlebars as i used to, mindlessly, when i was young. i managed it for about three seconds before i wobbled and slammed them back on, laughing breathlessly. i watched 8 year old carla and her friends and cousins zoom off, whooping as they crested the second hill and listened to them shouting to each other while fading out of sight. then i turned and wearily pedaled home, positively collapsing, a sweaty heap of nostalgia, into my car.

i am 23 years old. i am woefully out of shape, i have no job, no money, and, as the song says, my “love life’s D.O.A.”. but i’ll be damned if i allow the end of my childhood to equal the end of my ability to remember. and i don’t just mean spouting off the cartoons i watched on saturday mornings, what schools i went to, and what my GPA was.

i want to remember the sound of the screen door as it banged against the frame again and again, admitting the thundering footfalls of me and my friends as we rushed into the house. the taste of macaroni and cheese with cut up hot dogs mixed in, although i don’t eat either of those things anymore. how i felt when i got the phone call while working at my college bookstore that my dog, kola, had died. the fascinated bewilderment of watching the skin of my index finger part and the blood pour out, my two year old mind struggling to put together the correlation between the pain and the sharp, shiny silver object i had been playing with a second before. the overwhelming ecstacy of coming downstairs on christmas morning to find a brand new kitchen and laundry room set, so much that i didn’t think my body could possibly contain it. the bone-deep, gut-wrenching fear of the creature i knew would awaken and try to grab and eat my legs as i made the terrifying journey from my room to my parents’ room upstairs after a nightmare. hot chocolate before bed. my father singing to me. my mother reteaching me how to walk after years of slouching. the opening notes of “hedwig’s theme”, which i now find myself absentmindedly humming to the fussy babies i babysit. my princess jasmine bedsheets. the guest room to the left of mine, and how each of my older siblings had their own distinctive scent that would linger after they had gone, back to their exciting, mysterious lives, leaving me alone in the house that now seemed unbearably big. how i would sometimes sit in there and cry, missing them so badly it ached.

these are the memories i grasp, the ones that i know to be the fuel for creating worlds as rich and complex as the one that comprised my life growing up, and the ones that i plunged into, again and again, every time i opened another book. so i’m sad to say goodbye, but then again, i’m not saying goodbye, not really. i’m bringing them to life again, just through my words. and when i have touched just one child the way my beloved books have touched me, i’ll know i’ve made it.

the first harrowing day, part 2.

do i even need to say it? i got incredibly lost trying to find the second school, to the point where a few times i considered throwing my hands up in the air and just going back home.

i pressed on, though, and made it, an hour late. again, no one batted an eyelash at this, which was nice.

then once again, the classrooms-children-teachers shuffle. i struggled to stay awake in the classes while the kids half listened, half turned in their seats every once in awhile to gape at me. i didn’t have to Say Or Do Anything, for which i was very grateful.

another recess, and then the day was over!!! i sat at the teacher’s table like a zombie, sipping my coffee and vainly trying to follow the conversation. there were a group of students sitting at desks in the same room, obviously on punishment, and every once in awhile one of the teachers would break the flow of conversation to loudly reprimand one of them for squirming in their seat or whispering to one of their neighbors. this was always done with a mixture of amusement and annoyance, and the other teachers would smirk or nod in agreement, sometimes adding their own input. i immediately put myself in the childrens’ place, having to sit inside while your friends played and shrieked and ran outside in the sunshine, quietly at a wooden desk or standing facing the boring wall, presumably mulling over sins committed in class but really just intrigued over the grown up conversation happening at the teacher’s table, amazed that they actually have lives and things to talk about besides whatever subjects they study in the classroom.

honestly, a few times i had to remind myself that i was, technically, one of them. a teacher, that is. because i pretty much just felt like an interloper, a kid in a grown up’s body trying to act like i belonged there.

when recess ended, the directrice (or so i thought) wondered for awhile where to put me for the last part of the day, and then – oh, wonderful chance! beautiful fate! she decided i should observe the class of the teacher i’d already mentally dubbed as Hot Teacher, who looked rightfully confused, as his class had gym last period. but i went anyway, and he introduced me to the class, explaining that i’d help them learn english, that i myself was learning french, and then let them ask me some questions.

“what is your name?” a big favorite.

“where are you from?” new jersey always gets either blank looks or sage nods that obviously relays their ignorance, so the “very close to new york” addendum was once again required.

“where do you live?” i got lots of oohs and ahhs when i said paris.

thus the day took an abrupt turn for the better, standing outside in the fresh air with the kids, helping watch them bounce basketballs back and forth to each other, and Hot Teacher even let me referee once of the ‘games’ when suddenly the real directrice, who had been absent thus far, asked me to come back to her office so we could discuss the job. i couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed, but i was there to teach english, after all, not play basketball. to be fair, though, i had been keeping score in english.

when we got back to her office, she informed me that i would not be assisting in Hot Teacher’s class, because he already spoke english. sigh.

but i was able to go over all the classes i would have (five!!!!) and she told me not to come in tomorrow (today, which is why i’m lying on my couch writing this and not falling asleep in the back of a classroom again) because they had a lot of figure out. fiiine with me!

so. i have about 67 lesson plans to make this weekend, a lot of teachers  to email, and i have to deal with the very cold, terrifying reality that the “assistant” aspect of my job is an absolute joke. i’m going from ‘i have a lot of experience babysitting, and i tutored two students for a couple months’ to teaching about 9, 10 classes of 20-25 students aged 6-10.

i still can’t speak or understand french as well as i’d like to, or need to, for this job.

on the bright side, i get to see Hot Teacher twice a week, even if i’m not needed in his class. small mercies…

the first harrowing day, part 1.

yesterday was my first day observing the schools at which i’d be teaching. i awoke a little nervous, somewhat excited, but mostly incredibly tired, because i had only gotten three hours of sleep. and the sun still wasn’t up when i peered out of my balcony doors – never something i like to see. or, not see. so, probably not the best start to the day.

despite my best (albeit somewhat sluggish) efforts, i didn’t make it to the train station at the time i should have, which put the entire morning in Rush mode. however, when i tried to make my first train connection – RER A from nation to RER B from chatelet-les halles, the train was nowhere to be seen. there was a major strike in france on tuesday, so my mentor told me not to bother trying to come in (the RER B always shuts down during strikes) but i’d thought by thursday it would be running again. i’m a bit ashamed to say that for a few hopeful moments, rubbing my eyes, yawning, and squinting at the small television screen in the station displaying all the delays and non-running trains, that the B would still be down and i’d have no choice but to call my mentor to tell her the “bad” news, then promptly take the A right back to nation and gratefully climb into my warm bed.

no. to take the B, i’d have to take the 4 to gare du nord and connect from there. ALONG WITH 385392027 OTHER PEOPLE. to say we were packed into the train like sardines in a can is an understatement. i didn’t even need to hold onto a pole to keep my balance – there was a solid wall of people surrounding me on every side. and there was no change when we pulled into gare du nord – the crowd was unbelievable. marching along, pressed into a tight pocket of space between the grumbling man on your left with his sharp cornered suitcase, the plump mother on your right pushing a stroller holding a squealing baby, stressed-out businesswoman shoving you from behind, and insouciant teenagers right in front…a couple times i made the mistake of looking around, just to confirm that there was absolutely no way out of this – but forward. it took a couple deep breaths (a questionable idea, in a crowded train station, i must say) to keep my claustrophobia from making an unwanted appearance.

finally, finally, the crowd thinned and spread as everyone took off in different directions to their destinations, and i followed the signs for the B bound for mitry-claye, not in the best mood. by that point, i was Officially Late, and i hadn’t even made it to aulnay-sous-bois yet. after finding the train and getting on, we waited for about ten minutes for it go, and i succumbed to sweet sleep for a few minutes…not quite the same standing up. still. just closing my eyes felt good.

i made it to the school just before their first recess, which meant that i’d missed my first round of classes. the man who opened the gate for me didn’t seem too concerned, however, and took me to see the directrice, who told me which classes i’d be assisting in english, and then told me i could sit at the staff table until recess ended. i nearly collapsed into a seat, grateful for a break. it was only a couple minutes to ten, and i felt completely battered. i hadn’t even met any kids yet.

the next hour or so was a whirlwind of classrooms, curious faces regarding me, teachers looking at me like “so, why is she here, exactly?” and a very small amount of english. and confusion. lots and lots of confusion. now that i was there, i realized how much i didn’t know – how long was i supposed to stay in each classroom? how exactly were these lessons supposed to be structured? how am i expected to assist these teachers in teaching english if they don’t speak any english themselves?!?!

i was able to get the exact times of my teaching sessions, which was nice. the directrice seemed just as confused as i was, though, and said she’d call my mentor to confirm everything. i have to say, the communication between the schools and our actual employer is not the greatest – i know a lot of other assistants have been experiencing similar, or worse problems.

at 11:30, my time at that school was over, and i walked out, feeling distinctly shaken, overwhelmed, and starving. good thing i had an hour and a half to find my next school – i figured i’d get a little lost, but i could get lunch on the way and be fine.

right.

climbing the tower of babel.

during my frenzied search for a couch about a week ago, i made an account on couchsurfing.com and discovered a group of people that regularly met at various bars to practice speaking in different languages. it was called the polyglot club, and it was exactly what i was looking for, in terms of networking, meeting interesting people, and working on the five or so languages i’d eventually like to learn.

i invited a couple friends along, but i was the first one to show up at the bar, which was located in the 3rd arrondissement down a relatively quiet street. it was drizzling lightly, about 9 pm, and i lingered outside for a few minutes, wondering if i should wait for my friends or just walk inside and do the awkward hovering thing until i summoned the courage to approach a group of people and start…talking. i firmly squashed down my shyness and walked inside the sweltering bar, and was almost immediately approached by a friendly french man who asked my name and what language i’d like to speak tonight? french, please. and then i was introduced to another french man who was learning english, and while i spoke to him in probably-not-so-great french and he replied in halting english, i wondered, as i often do, exactly what i had been so nervous about.

my friends showed up a little while later, and the small group we eventually formed migrated outside to cool off, exchanging cultural ideas and occasionally correcting each others’ misconceptions or grammar errors. i learned about the bateaux-mouches (fly boats) that float along the seine (a huge tourist attraction, apparently). we discussed the frequency and questionable effectiveness of france’s strikes. the difference between american and french mcdonald’s. ordering beer in france and america – here, you order by [hair] color: brune or blanche; while in america you simply order by brand. the impossible task of finding an apartment in paris.

everyone had a good time, and exchanged information so we could get in touch before the next meeting. i don’t think i’ll practice french next time though – maybe i’ll sit with a group of people speaking spanish and see how much of the conversation i can follow.

i wonder how many languages one can learn simultaneously before their brain explodes?

alors, on danse – stromae

Alors on danse
Alors on danse
Alors on danse

Qui dit étude dit travail,
Qui dit taf te dit les thunes,
Qui dit argent dit dépenses,
Qui dit crédit dit créance,
Qui dit dette te dit huissier,
Oui dit assis dans la merde.
Qui dit Amour dit les gosses,
Dit toujours et dit divorce.
Qui dit proches te dis deuils car les problèmes ne viennent pas seul.
Qui dit crise te dis monde dit famine dit tiers- monde.
Qui dit fatigue dit réveille encore sourd de la veille,
Alors on sort pour oublier tous les problèmes.

Alors on danse…

Et la tu t’dis que c’est fini car pire que ça ce serait la mort.
Qu’en tu crois enfin que tu t’en sors quand y en a plus et ben y en a encore!
Ecstasy dis problème les problèmes ou bien la musique.
Ca t’prends les trips ca te prends la tête et puis tu prie pour que ça s’arrête.
Mais c’est ton corps c’est pas le ciel alors tu t’bouche plus les oreilles.
Et là tu cries encore plus fort et ca persiste…
Alors on chante
Lalalalalala, Lalalalalala,
Alors on chante
Lalalalalala, Lalalalalala

Alors on chante
Alors on chante
Et puis seulement quand c’est fini, alors on danse.
Alors on danse
Et ben y en a encore…

So we just dance
So we just dance
So we just dance

When we say study, it means work,
When we say work, it means money,
When we say money, it means spending
When we say credit, it means debt,
When we say debt, it means bailiff,
We agree to being in deep sh*t
When we say love, it means kids,
When we say forever, it means divorce.
When we say family, we say grief, because misfortune never comes alone.
When we say crisis, we talk about the wold, famine and then third world.
When we say tiredness, we  talk about waking up still deaf from sleepless night
So we just go out to forget all our problems.

So we just dance…

So you say that it’s over because the only thing worse would be death.
When you finally think you’ll make it, there’s more and more!
Ecstasy means a problem, problems or just music.
It grabs you by the guts, it takes hold of your head and then you pray for it to end.
But your body is no heaven so you block your ears even more.
And then you yell even louder and it goes on…
So we just sing
Lalalalalala, Lalalalalala,
So we just sing
Lalalalalala, Lalalalalala,

So we just sing
So we just sing
And then only when it’s over, then we dance.
So we just dance
And well, there’s still more…

apparently this song has been out for quite awhile, but last night was my first time hearing it. of course, translating it into english means you lose many nuances of the lyrics, but i think this one is pretty good. but instead of “when we say” i think of it as “who says” (after all, that’s what “qui dit” means) because it’s more questioning, which i think was stromae’s intent. as my french friend was telling me last night, this is one of those songs you can dance to, but you don’t have that underlying slightly guilty feeling that you’re rocking out to a song with essentially no meaning. it actually says something. and after experiencing everything i have since i got to france, i can definitely relate. and who knows what will come next? i know this is just a brief respite before the next challenge france throws my way. alors, on danse…