Halley Knigge (Griffin)

Write. Share. Communicate.


So R and I have officially become “les stalkers.” We managed to discover that, among the many celebrities who flock here for fashion week, the Olsen twins, Victoria Beckham and Katie Holmes are all in Paris right now. We’re not particularly concerned with the latter two, but all week we’ve been on a mad quest to find Mary-Kate and Ashley.

Because I’m a freak, I printed out the schedule of all the fashion shows this week when Mode à Paris first put it online. I’ve been (not-so) casually wandering (lurking) in the Jardin des Tuileries, around l’École des Beaux Arts, up and down the Champs Elysées, peering (furtively) into tents trying to catch glimpses of runways and (stalking) androgynous fashion models.

After our final class of the Stage d’Integration this morning, R and I met Hadrien (a SciPo boy who we met last year while he was studying at UW) for what was pretty much the best pizza of my year. After lunch, since Beaux Arts is just a few blocks from Sciences Po, R and I decided it was a prime opportunity for some celebrity stalking. Hadrien respectfully decline our invitation to try to find the Olsen twins, so R and I headed over to watch the set-up for Christian Lacroix’s afternoon show.

Sadly, my camera is en panne (out of order) at the moment, and is taking a necessary vacation at the Canon repair center way way out in the 20ème. Luckily, the error is an easy fix, and a free one while the camera’s under warranty, but that means I have to implore my parents to priority mail the warranty and receipt to me.

Most of the time I feel completely and utterly confident venturing into the world with nothing but my little Paris map book and my generally more-than-adequate French skills. There are some situations, though, that just bring me crashing back to reality – the reality that as good as I would like to think I am at speaking French, there are just some things that I have absolutely no idea how to communicate. For example, what was wrong with my camera, the fact that it’s under warranty but I’d have to have my papers mailed to me, and that I wanted them to start the repair now and I’d either bring the warranty papers or be prepared to pay cash once it’s ready to be picked up. After all that, I was more than a bit sweaty and flustered by the time I’d exited the repair shop without my poor camera.

As any good stalker knows, it’s no fun with no camera, so R and I made a necessary detour into the nearest Monoprix to buy a disposable camera and some chocolate (always important for undercover missions). We arrived at Beaux Arts to find metal crowd control barriers and men in suits and red ties lurking around guarding the doors. Okay, we were the ones lurking, they were just guarding. Luckily, we have skills of extreme wiliness, because we made a wide loop around to the back of the building where the show was being set up and snuck in through the back door. Unluckily, the men in suits were totally prepared for our sneaky attempts, and we only made in halfway down the hallway before we had to turn and run right back out again.

After our bout of joyful stalking, R went to open a bank account, and I headed home for nanny duties. When I mentioned what R’s afternoon activities were, Cassie started describing the difficulty of opening a bank account in France, and asked me if I needed her to be a guarantor. She was quite surprised to hear that I already had one, and couldn’t understand how I’d managed it with no fuss – until I confessed that I’d just told them I was from Sciences Po. She “Oooohed” and nodded and immediately understood. She says it’s easy to get things done as a student in France – IF you come from Polytechnic or Sciences Po. I still have trouble comprehending the reverence given to students of Sciences Po by the French – mainly because having been admitted to the International Programme is really not due the same awe. She and her husband (Jean-Baptiste) went out to dinner with friends, and I, after eating dinner with the kids, watching the Babysitters Club movie and putting them all to bed, have been reclining on their couch ever since.

It hasn’t been quite a week yet, but I’m still feeling like a perfect fit here. When I arrive in the afternoons, it’s just me, Georges and Irma (Ear-ma, to the French), the cleaning lady until C returns after retrieving the other children from school. The other day I had a long conversation with Irma in French while Georges was napping, and most of it was her expounding the family’s qualities. “Ils sont formidables, vraiment.” “C’est une famille trés gentile, n’est pas?” It’s always a good sign to be loved by your cleaning lady – it probably helps that C never ever calls her as such – always, “Irma, who helps me out during the day.”

I’m starting to feel like the Pied Piper of little boys. Everytime I enter the family’s appartment, Georges runs toward me shouting “ALEEE, ALLLEEEE!!!” and doesn’t leave my side until he’s in bed. I was quite tickled when C told me G had become “remarkably fond” of me after my third day working for the family. Apparently there’s a new girl at his preschool, and when C asked him what the “nice girl’s name” was, he shouted “ALLEE!” and started looking around for me. It’s nice to feel loved – especially living alone in a strange country many many miles from everyone I love.

Paul (7) was, I suspect, the reason I got this job, because the two of us clicked immediately last month when I met the family for the first time. The girls are great too – I got extra cool points tonight A) from Ella because my fingernails are painted black like Hilary Duff and B) from Zoë for having been to a Maroon 5 concert. It’s funny, because through most of my day, I try to blend in with the Parisians, but once I start nannying, I’m as American as possible. I’m a kind of novelty for these kids, who consider themselves “so Americain” but are really very French at heart.

* I am currently sporting a trashy-looking cigarette burn about half an inch below my left eye. This injury was the result of a poorly-calculated goodbye kiss (cheek, cheek, French style) with one of the five schmabillion smokers in Paris.

** Hadrien confirmed my fears about street-runners. He tried to tell me to go just outside of Paris and run in the Bois de Boulogne or Bois de Vincennes. When I told him they were too far and I’d rather just run in the street, he just looked at me. “C’est trés bizarre, ça.” Joy. I guess I’m just going to be bizarre this year.

*** I couldn’t resist buying these sponges, even though they were a euro more than the others. My life is definitely rosy-er after cleaning the bathroom with pink sponges – isn’t yours?

Author: Halley (Griffin) Knigge

Storyteller and adventurer with a focus on new and social media. Ten years of award-winning writing and editing experience, eight years working professionally to share compelling stories through brand journalism, three years as an airline spokesperson, two years as a Tacoma Arts Commissioner and 30+ years of learning something new every day.

4 thoughts on “

  1. Looks like the ciggybutt burn is under your RIGHT eye. Maybe you’ve inherited your grandmother’s tendency to mix directions. The sponges are truly awesome.

  2. Hey, I wasn’t burned in this picture yet…

  3. Hmm, shouldn’t you wash your face before you take a picture? Or maybe I should clean our screen.

  4. that’s the best pic i’ve seen in the past 5 minutes ugh… Mrs Lofton made a really bad comparison to ancient people intermarrying in their familys today…

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