Yesterday may have been my strangest day yet. I got up at 7h, got dressed, checked my email and packed my lunch for the day. Then R and I took the metro down to the 7ème for class.
On the way home we stopped at Monoprix to buy some notebooks and laundry soap, then headed home to wash three enormous loads of laundry – hey, it’s a pain to go to the laundromat! That’s why we tend to let a lot of time lapse in between trips. Over the past three weeks, both R and I have adopted more French-like hygiene habits. (Perfume, for example, is an amazing invention – you’re going to be sweaty by the end of the metro-filled day anyway, so stop trying to be clean all the time and just cover up the body dirt with some good Chanel).
We have also adopted the practice of “airing” our clothes rather than washing them. Okay yes, I realize it sounds disgusting, but we’re in France! Everywhere we go, we end up reeking of cigarette smoke, thus all of our clothes tend to smell pretty funky by the end of the day. Laundry, however, is usually around 4 euro (5 dollars) per washing machine, and 4 to 5 euro to dry clothes – we are way too cheap to wash a 10 euro load every week. Instead, we hang everything out the window for a few days…usually by the second morning our pants smell almost completely normal.
After our enormous laundry haul, R went to meet some family friends for dinner, and I stuck around the apartment to work on my list of “things to do.” After a few hours of dishes, changing bedsheets, going to La Poste, doing homework, cooking dinner and returning emails, I started to feel kind of odd. Everything just suddenly seemed so very normal. Except that I’m in Paris. The dishes:
I’ve spent so many days of my life “getting things done,” but this one was the first that ever took place in another country. This is really when it started to hit me. Up until this point, everything (even the stress and school) felt like a crazy Parisian vacation. Hanging out at the Jardin des Tuileries, stalking tourists at DaVinci Code sites, going to bars and restaurants, meeting people, buying baguettes – none of it felt like real life. But now it is. It’s just happening in a brand new location.
Even classes are bizarre. In some ways, I feel like I’m sitting in a French class at UW – but then I look around at the walls of the Grand Siècle mansion I’m learning in and remember that Mary Gates Hall doesn’t exactly look like this. Today we were discussing different French political parties in my first class, and my professor made an offhand comment about having to leave right away to meet the woman he’s working for. Who’s the woman? None other than Ségolène Royal – a Socialist who could very well end up being the first female president of France after the 2007 elections.
That’s not even a weird “I’m in France” thing – it’s a Toto, we’re at Sciences Po now thing. R and I have unwittingly entered a twisted web of political connections – a world whose inhabitants scoff at a degree from La Sorbonne, and whose administrators take their school so seriously that just 3 absences over the course of a semester will earn you an automatic failing grade.
As jarring as it is to hear casual references to Royal and other powerful political players, it’s all a part of the world I’ve entered. It’s a world with the Eiffel Tower, baguettes, politics and “France’s elite” – but the laundry and dishes are always accruing.
** I’m heading down to Nantes for the weekend, so you won’t be hearing from me until at least Monday morning.