To Suisse! To Suisse! Plans have been finalized: I’m headed east to play in the snow, eat chocolate, and enjoy neutrality for Noël break. Francesca was kind enough to invite me to come stay in Lausanne as well, so I made my way back to Gare St. Lazare to see if I could change my tickets… and once again was greeted with a smiling employee who was very helpful. She completely reimbursed my original return ticket, and when I lingered a beat after receiving the new ticket, she asked if she could help me with anything else and I stumbled: “…you can’t get me tickets for swiss trains, can you?” (I was under the impression I had to buy those online) “Well, yea I can!” She beamed. It was thus with my magical 12-25ans card (remember I got reimbursed for it? Yea well it arrived in the mail two weeks later and apparently works so I guess it was free… sshhhh don’t tell!), that I bought a 28euro ticket to travel between Zurich and Lausanne. Freakin’ awesome if you ask me. Because of the card, the ticket is valid for up to two months on any train between Zurich and Lausanne, any seat.
Speaking of Suisse, there is a yummy treat I like to enjoy at CROUS (yea I forget what it stands for but it means the student cafeteria for Paris Universities) at Censier (meaning Paris III… you can call them by their physical locations too) called ‘chocosuisse’ …a spiral cream, chocolate, pastry affair that totally curbs my hunger in the desperate hours between class and the oh-so-far-away 20h dinner. Recently, there has been a new addition to the employee pool at Censier CROUS… an older man with an accent (…Marseille?), who likes to crack jokes and be a general amusement to all us stressed-out cinéma/litt-studying bohos.
For example, I approached the caisse one desperate Monday evening, just before my cinéma class, and said, “Bonjour chocosuisse.” Note that I did not place a comma in that phrase. Well, it’s because in actuality I just sort of spat the phrase out so quickly (I was so in need of nourishment), that it really did sound like I skipped the comma. Consequently, M. New Mec replied, “Bonjour, chocosuisse? Bonjour Monsieur Chocosuisse! My name is Guillame, not chocosuisse. Hey! [to other employee] This chick just called me Mr. Chocosuisse!” I turned a bit pink but smiled, apologized, and rephrased as he chuckled his way to the display case. “Sorry,” he looked up from the trenchs of pastry, “we’re all out. How about a raisin thingy?” “That sounds great,” I replied. He brought me my sugar, wrapped it carefully in a napkin and then said, “Hey, I like your wallet. It’s all pink and stuff.” I fished for change and replied, “Yea, it has poppys on it,” mostly because I couldn’t think of anything else to say. He made a face something along the lines of well, evidently, and I scooted off to class.
Last week, I was in line again (this time for actual lunch), when I heard him teasing a boy who was paying for his salad: “Hey, man, I gotta hand it to ya. Look out here, it’s nothing but chicks! Be strong, man.”
In other news à la fac, I *finally* was accepted into the inner circle of INALCO students. After waiting one month for my application to be returned (with a verdict), I got my news via mail and then had to run it all by Midd Staff to complete the process. I then returned to the INALCO Headquarters (no, seriously), to the mysteriously STILFLING hot room near staircase 1A (just don’t ask).
institut national des langues et civilisations orientales
There, I was greeted by a friendly dude who didn’t seem to notice that it was somewhere upwards of 80 degrees in his office. He read my dossier, scanned my copies of passport, visa, insurance, and blood sample (no, just kidding), and then had to ask a superior about social security, since I insisted I wasn’t gonna pay for that shit. It must be noted that this “office” looks more like a back storage room and has no fewer than five desks, all at various angles, and a gigantic stuffed rabbit in a back corner. Friendly dude went to another desk to see another dude who was equally unperturbed by the 80 degree air temp norm, who then reffered him to another dude who wasn’t even sweating who then murmured something in his ear (probably, “it’s hot as balls in here”), and then I was granted a pass on my secu. Stamped and ready to go, I was passed on to dude #2, more specifically Litte Asian Man, who, letter by letter, typed all my info in a computer circa 1993, and then told me to hand him the sheet the printer coughed up. This he attached my photo too and stamped five times. Whew, I thought, dunzo!
Ohhhh no. Litte Asian Man then asked how I was going to be paying today. Card? Card. Okay, go see the card people. I raise an eyebrow. He handed me the whole mess of documents and told me to turn tail and go to staircase B and find the people to pay. I exit the room-of-hellish-temperatures and make my way to staircase B, where I discovered a small sign indicating that I should ascend to the 3rd floor to pay. Four flights of stairs later (might I remind you that in France, you start on FLOOR 0), and after having given myself a horrible fright when I came upon a life-size cutout of some Ottoman King propped against the stairwell, I followed a series of ambiguous red arrows thru a set of doors, past a printer and a woman eating lunch, down a hallway, and to the right through a door. I was welcomed by a nice woman who charged my card, handed me a reciept, and thanked me. I did a 180 and went right back to staircase A, where I proved my mettle and recieved another set of papers that I am supposed to take to Porte Dauphine so that I can actually recieve my student ID card and enroll for classes.
Francesca came! Here we are behind Notre Dame.
In other news, Francesca and Drew came to visit!! Francesca jetted up from Barrrrrcelona (lisp that r, baby), and hung with me for the weekend. Drew was whisked up from Italia to see his lovely Leah. We managed to all get together for dinner on Sunday night, of course at that place à la butte with my favorite grumpy hostess and 16euro fixed menu: kir, entrée, plat, dessert. I enjoyed veggie salad and pasta, the second of which was totally just the veggie salad minus lettuce, plus alfredo sauce– but was awesome all the same. After ye typical French noms, we headed down to La Concorde to ride La Grande Roue.
We sent Leah and Drew off to ride in their own car, and waited in line to ride ours. It was there that three hilarious things happened almost at once:
1. One of the ride operators starting seriously trying to get into our pants (mostly Francesca’s).
2. The group of Russian guys behind us started talking shit until Francesca, polyglot that she is, turned around and chewed them out.
3. Ride operator #234 came over to chat, thus thoroughly distracting original ride operator, who then told me to get in the car when I wasn’t supposed to, which caused a lot of shouting and everyone to look at that silly tourist in the bright blue toggle coat who tried to get on the wheel when she wasn’t supposed to.
When our turn finally came, the Russians tried to get in with us and, to his credit, original ride operator defended our honor but we insisted we didn’t care (for laughs, right?), so Francesca and I enjoyed views of Paris by night with 5 random russian dudes… only two of whom spoke French and barely at all at that.
La grande roue, Place de la Concorde, Eiffel Tower (sparkle, sparkle!)
Later that week, I was back in Monoprix, in the self check out line (“Where You’re the Hero!”), waiting with my basket of THREE items: yogurt, card, and smoothie. Ahead of me was a SDF (sans domicile fixe, homeless), who had a basket full of the cheapest booze one can lay one’s paws on chez Mono’p. Now, the magical thing about the self-service caisses is that they accept *any* form of payment. It’s a haven for all my loose 1 and 2 and 5 centime pieces that just waste away in the bottom of my wallet otherwise.
I love it.
But it must be said that the self-service checkout is supposed to be limited to 10 items only and I suppose there must be some sort of system block in place because I watched a lady take a FULL shopping cart to the register and proceed to do three different checkouts. Dick move, if you ask me. Then, to cap the experience, the SDF proceeded to pay for his booze in small change. Not like small change and bills. *Just* small change. By the time I had made it to a station, bought my items, bagged them, and left, he was still inserting centime after centime… occasionally checking the screen anxiously.