Sometimes in Paris you see signs of America. Little things mostly, and not McDonalds and KFC. There is a metro stop named for our 32nd President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Near Champs Elysees that honors him for being an ally in World War II. FDR is my favorite president of all time. The New Deal was unquestionably the best Federal program the United States ever has seen and really should be a guide to all incoming presidents.
There are so many facets to the program, but the best part was the Works Progress Administration. We witness the evidence of the WPA every time we drive over a major bridge, or admire a post office mural. The program also employed a huge variety or writers and actors and artists. Not to mention the laborers that pulled their families out of the depression with the opportunity to work and make a difference in the country.
Of course, I’m not an expert and I am sure there are many people that would argue the other side of the President and his programs pointing out the flaws and scandals. I rather enjoy the contributions he made that can’t compare to the world I live in now.
Each building and bridge here has double the history and beauty and craftsmanship than those of the states. The craftsman of those times has been replaced by glass manufacturer’s making skyscrapers and malls lacking in the subtle curves of the statues and gargoyles on the buildings here.
I sat on Pont Neuf after my exam and contemplated “The Year of Living Dangerously.” That’s what I have named my first year in Paris. The Bridge was started in 1578 and is one of my favorite place to be. From the stone benches, I can see the top of the Eifel Tower I watch all the happy selfie stick toting tourists as they capture the magic that is not lost on me yet.
No one likes exams, especially when you don’t do well. Maybe the really smart people that can be hired in college to take exams enjoy it since it is a paycheck, but I’m sure they feel the stress in a different way. Generally, it is not something that inspires Hallmark cards and flowers.
I try to remind myself of High School, when we were taking the SAT exams for college, and would say,” its ok,” I am going to retake it for a better score. Slightly inspired by the kudos my Conversation Exchange partners have given. Even Gloria could squeak out a few words of approval stating she is able to understand me better.
I will jump back into the studies and hope that by some small miracle, I achieved the 51% needed to prove a B1 level required by the government for citizenship. While the exam was good in pushing me to be more active in my learning, it also confirmed that the last year was not as productive as hoped. I thought I’d be fluent by now.
I am assured it is a hard language by many and that if I keep to it, I will succeed. The truth is, I got a little lazy with the studies and realize the wasted time now was a crime. I can safely look back at the dangerous year and realize just how lucky I have been.
A man stood in front of the Metro doors until I pushed the button for him to see how they work. I often struggle thru the conversations when asked where a specific location is, instead of stating I don’t speak French. Which I do admit to saying when they ask for money. It is just fun to pretend I don’t know why this dirty smelly person is taking to me.
I got home from the exam and received a message from Yuwei, my classmate that also took the exam. As she left the test, she was surrounded by men in a bad part of town that took her phone and purse. I tried to offer her support thinking about my own violation last year when I was basically helpless here. She left town for Singapore the following day and was relieved to get away from Paris for a bit.
I look back at these miracles that I got thru and realize that I won the battle. I’m still here. Each step that I took over the year helped me to learn how to survive. What will the next year bring? Juan Marcos and I struggle telling each other of the interviews and rejections we face and how we are assured by interviewers that in a few more months and our language skills will ensure employment.
Where is FDR when you need him. I applied for a dream job. American people, writing, Social Media, and rejected. I interviewed at a great hotel bar and was rejected. Seems like a pattern, doesn’t it? Of course, they felt like dream jobs now, but there will be another.
I decided to celebrate the exam completion by using my Disneyland passport one last time before it expired. I was so desperate for some sense of home and the use of the English language, I bought the pass and found great joy in my visits not to mention the toilet seat covers which do not exist in the city.
I decided not to renew the passport. There are affordable options to pay monthly but now I am a different person and rather take that monthly payment to see more exhibitions. Despite the free museum, Sunday which comes this weekend. It doesn’t include the special collections.
Having committed to a new game plan, I felt in necessary to spend this month’s allowance on my first show since the pass is now expired. I went to the Grand Palace to see the Gauguin exhibit. He’s one of my favorites. Are you Jealous? Hung on the wall in my college apartment for three years. It was surprising to find a new favorite and see some of his pottery which I never had seen.
I have a love hate relationship with so much of France. The artists like him and Rodin were such womanizers but I loved their works so much, it has been hard to enjoy them without avoiding the social aspect of their lives. I age and learn more, I see so much more to their lives. Although Gaugin started a epidemic in the islands with his European diseases, he himself followed a dream to do something different so late in life and I can’t help but admire that.
To balance the spending, I was also able to go see the Bourdelle Museum with Claude last week which is free. He was a friend and collaborator of Rodin and made some incredibly large bronzes that are throughout the city. exceptional work and the museum has a lovely garden and his studio is attached and open for visiting as well.
Halloween seems to be growing in popularity. Sill nothing like in the states but a few haunted houses are still going on and the bars of course will take advantage of an extra-large drinking crowd if they can get them.
My new tradition is to attend the Salon du Chocolat. Having gone last year, I knew exactly what I wanted to do upon my return and armed with a zip lock bag for my samples and a giddy excitement, I made my way to the second floor and signed up for the Japan Chocolate experience cooking demos.
While France still leads the world in Michelin Stars, second place is Japan. Their ability to be inventive and progressive with cuisine is inspirational and they focus this show on the combination of chocolate and savory dishes. Of course, the Sake chocolate pairing was a different story, but with my background, how could this be missed?
I think that the current year will change me again. The new theme will be “The year of cooking dangerously.” Having no job, I find myself in the kitchen more than ever. My dinners are becoming more exciting and I have never cooked so much in my life.
The Prefecture has a rendezvous to break my heart and results of the exam will hurt me again shortly after. In between the sad struggles, I’ll find the silver lining. I invited The Breakfast Club to celebrate Thanksgiving and will struggle with my favorite butcher to order a bird now that I have an oven. I hope to make it to the second round of a Photo contest and may have news as to being published in a book of cocktails due out for the holidays.
Perhaps I’ll pass and Maybe the Prefecture will be helpful, but I’ll be practical and know that there are more challenges ahead. In the words of my favorite President, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” With hat being said, I’ll go to another pool, museum and explore Paris searching for the next smile and adventure to share.