Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Halfway point...

When Rob most recently asked us to write a blog entry because it was an “interesting” time in the year, I started to wonder what was so interesting about now as compared to two months ago, or the beginning of the year. This is what I came up with. Here we are, basically halfway through our time in Paris. We’ve got the city down – we all got through (more or less) a semester in the French University system, we survived the holidays with or without our families but we still have all of this coming semester before us, not to mention the summer, before we have to be back at Smith.

So, I’m no longer noticing things like how tight French men’s jeans are and how small the kitchen appliances are – they’ve become norma

l and, as such, unremarkable. Being here for five months provides a different point of view on the city and its inhabitants. When one of my professors asked a room of us Consortium students – Smith, Middlebury and Hamilton – what we didn’t like about Paris, I talked about things like the heteronormative relationship between men and women I see in some of the host families, the lack of queer culture (that I’ve found), and the French tendency to make everything into a “polemic” and staunchly debate one side or the other.

One aspect of living here that I’ve been most disappointed by is my lack of contact with French people – Parisians, especially. Sure, I have a close relationship with my host family; I have French friends in Maguy and Martin and I have a few international student friends. But, I suddenly realized the other day, given the importance of female friends in my life, it’s kind of strange not to have a single close female French friend that’s around my age. And I began to wonder: does having come with a group of 20 some Smithies mean that I haven’t been looking or needing to cultivate close female friendships?

In the traveling I’ve done since I got here, when I would go to new cities alone without really knowing anybody, making friends became a necessity, and I had to make it happen all on my own, just like feeding myself at each meal. When you don’t know anybody, and want to talk to someone, you make new friends. There’s just not a choice. That said, I’ve also really come to appreciate how the French view the friendship-making process as just that, a process. It takes time, it takes effort, and it means some awkward initial interactions. There’s often that moment of wondering what the heck you’re doing with that person, and then a few months later, it’s become a real friendship. So, I’m wondering if the combination of being here as a group, plus the legendary disinterest of Parisians means that I’m not going to make many French female friends.

But that’s where the time in the year where we’re at is interesting, once again. There’s still somewhere between 4 and 5 months left here – enough time to do something, to change something about what I don’t like. So…who knows. Maybe this soccer team will mean a whole group of French friends. Maybe the next trip I take I’ll end up sitting next to, and hitting it off with, a young Parisian woman. In any case, it’s fun to think that there’s still time de profiter de Paris!

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