Thursday, October 28, 2010

Venetian Girl, Interrupted

After Rome I was supposed to spend three breathtaking days in Venezia, preferably all 72 hours on a gondola. After a very close call that morning, arriving at the airport with only 4 minutes to spare, we landed in Venice at 8am. One bus ride and water taxi later we made it to the Venice Fish, our first very hostel-like hostel.

We go out and explore the little town for a couple hours, taking in the sights, smells and sounds. This town was cute, very cute, and I couldn't wait for the days ahead. We planned on hitting up the big monuments the second day and visiting Murano, the glass-making island on our last.

By noon, I was exhausted and headed back to the Fish for a nap. I knocked out for several hours and when I woke I found Hira in a bit of a panic. We need a computer, she said, fast! EasyJet sent her a text message letting her know that due to "industrial action in France" our flight had been cancelled. We see that we have only two options, leave the following morning or stay an extra two days for a total of five.

If you can't tell by now, we very reluctantly (and possibly regretfully?) took the first option. We then realized that we spent crucial hours of the only day we had in Venice sleeping and busted out those hostel doors to take in what was rightfully ours, the rest of our day!

Oh Venezia, I did not want to part with you but you are just so tiny and so expensive. We would have spent more time there than we did in Rome and I feared we would have run out of things to do, other than shop. But shop we did, to help ease the pain of leaving early. Instead of visiting the island, we bought Murano glass jewelry. Instead of seeing the sites, we bought post-cards. I bought a beautiful gold and  green hand-crafted masquerade mask that I can't wait to wear. That store was fun.

But now I am back in Paris, with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I can't deny the comforting feeling of familiarity that hit me when I landed and knew exactly where to go, what the signs said, and what the bickering siblings next to me were arguing about. But I was frustrated that these strikes cut my vacation short! Apparently the pension reform proposal has passed the senate and is only one step away from being signed into law by the president. Over 200,000 people took the streets today to show Sarkozy exactly how they feel about having to work two additional years before receiving pensions. Unfortunately, it looks like the strike will not save them from this one. But you let him know just how you feel, Frenchies!


Just returned from my vacation within a vacation: Rome and Venice.

All of Rome was a surreal experience for me. I didn't go to a single museum because the entire city was  standing piece of history. Look to your left, just some casual ruins. Look to your right, its the Pantheon! Yes, I've learned about the Roman Empire like 17 times throughout school but to see it in reality was magnificent. The time period just seems so fictional, thousands gathering to watch gladiators fighting lions to the death. But this actually happened!

My days in Rome were spent choosing in what order I wanted to eat my pizza, pasta, and gelato. Which of the three would get seconds today? Sit down for dinner on a terrace and a dashing violinist will come add a soundtrack to your meal. A few hours by the Trevi Fountain and a couple more by the Colosseum. Rome has been completely taken over by tourism and I couldn't help but wonder how the actual citizens felt about the exploitation of their culture and history. Not too heartbroken, right? We keep their economy going!

Next up was Vatican City. We did the hour long trek there and as soon as we arrive, what else do we find but a reenactment of the passion! It was complete with dead spirits, gladiators and a bloody Jesus. 

It was a Sunday and we stood outside watching the big man himself give the Sunday mass via live-stream. We tried to go in but the Swiss guards wouldn't have it. Don't be fooled by their goofy clown costumes, they will cut your throat if they have to.

An hour after mass was over we were let inside. The ornateness of it was so overly-indulgent, that much like Versailles, after a while I couldn't even process it any more. It was simply extravagant.

Our second day at the Vatican was mostly in line waiting to see the Sistine Chapel. No really, we spent almost three hours in line for it. We finally made it in but much like St. Peter's Basicila, this extravagance was beyond comprehension. How did people make this? I spent my time in the Sistine Chapel in awe wondering about the infinite amount of God-given talent and fecundity that existed in a man like Michelangelo.

Hoping some of that talent rubbed off on me. The closest I've ever gotten to being an artist was watching "The Joy of Painting" with Bob Ross as a child. Yeah, you know what I'm talkin bout. 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Vive La Grève!

You know the French, they really enjoy their protests. But this one's on a whole nother level, baby.

People from all sectors have united to strike against the government's plan to raise the retirement age by two years. Even high school students have taken on this retirement cause with passion and zeal, skipping school only on Tuesdays or Thursdays to make it clear they're not just trying for long weekends. Wish I could tell you more, but I'm about to head to the airport for Italie! Let's hope my pilot isn't on strike too..

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

C'est pour moi: A French Tug of War

So picture this, it's about 7:30 pm and I'm walking out of a boulangerie with my dinner in a bag. It's getting dark and the drizzling rain is threatening to become more than just that. Sans my umbrella, I'm trekking quickly, barely dodging people on the narrow sidewalk, and straight ahead is an old man in a tan suit shuffling along with his eyes glued to the ground. Attempting to slow down and turn sideways to avoid him but BAM! I run into him hard and my purse and apologies spill out.

It takes me a couple steps to gather myself and close my purse when I turn back around to make sure nothing fell out. There I see my blue French portfolio folder underneath his shiny brown dress shoe. I bend down to grab it and start wiping off his wet foot-mark, when he grabs hold and starts cleaning it too.

Aww how cute, I thought. "Pas de problème," I assured him, no worries! But then he begins tugging at it and repeating "C'est pour moi, c'est pour moi!" Okay, I thought, this is a joke. Just tell him it's yours. "Non, monsieur, c'est pour ma classe de français"and I'm reassuring him that really, it's no big deal, I'll take the folder now. But he REFUSES to let go and his tugging is getting increasingly more violent.

Time seems to slow and drag with my increase in heartbeat (uhm why am i SO dramatic?!). I look around nervously to see if anyone can help this angry old man understand that this folder really is not his. We go back and forth for minutes and it induces him to open up the portfolio where we see typed print, clearly my last written assignment. He reacts like he had written the piece himself.

Okay, he is clinically insane, I think. Mental disorder, for sure. Did a split second cost-risk analysis in my mind (rain, panic, it's only for French class, I like my face the way it is) and decided, girl, it's not worth it! Let the old man have the folder and live another day. So after what feels like an hour (and in reality was probably no more than two minutes), I apologize for taking "his" folder.

I walk away completely in a daze with my heart still pounding like crazy. Did that really just happen? I turn around and see him fading away in the rain with a hint of blue between his hands..

WTH how do I explain this to my teacher?! Really, "Sorry Professor, a psycho old French man stole my homework?" What a joke! How do I turn this into a rational explanation? Did I still have stuff saved on my computer? Why did you let him have it, Yomna? You are such a pushover!

In the height of this mental assault on myself I open up my purse, and there it is. My blue French portfolio folder. In my purse. NO WAY.

WAY!! He was right, it was his folder. I was the crazy one. Mental disorder, for sure. We had the same exact blue portfolio and mine never actually fell out of my purse. No words can explain exactly how I felt at that moment. I kind of just stood there for a second in the rain as a hundred different things ran through my mind. How did this crazy of a coincidence just happen? Who upstairs is laughing right now? How could we have had the same folder, inside and out? Why didn't I notice him holding it when I first saw him? Poor guy omg, did I even apologize? Go back and apologize!!

But he was gone and for a few seconds I even had myself convinced that it never even happened. Moral of the day: even the young'ins be crazy sometimes. Forgive me old man, I love you!