Friday, November 26, 2010

Ben L'Oncle Soul

I have 16 days left (GASP!) to find this man.

Can she do it? Not while she's trapped in a library writing 20-something pages on global health inequalities, thats for sure. Contrary to the pretty picture I've painted of macaroons-and-long-walks-along-the-Seine, my program does involve work. Ah yes, the "study" in "study abroad.."

Next week is looking a little something like this:

Tuesday: French final exam, plus class group meeting from 12:30-7pm
Wednesday: Credit One final exam, two hours to (coherently) write as much as I know about Health Care Expenditures
Thursday: Credit Two final exam, two hours to (coherently) write as much as I know about Global Health Inequalities
Friday: By midnight, my group and I must send in our final 100 page paper.

So no, my friends, no care-free frolicking around the city of lights this week. As gross as all of this sounds, I'm actually deeply fascinated by everything I've been learning. I want to study, to research, because I'm hungry to know more. My particular dimension of the paper will discuss culture's role in creating health inequalities. For instance, is the gender divide in access to resources further exasperated by the cultural norms of the society? I still have a bit more research to do as we are taking a comparative approach, developed vs developing countries. We'll see how this goes, wish me luck!

In other news, it snowed today! I was about to start a prayer when I noticed flurry movement outside my window. As soon as I finished, I opened the window to a winter wonderland that I didn't think I would get to experience here. It was beautiful! I contemplated going for a walk outside, (getting lost is my favorite Parisian past-time) but my daunting paper was hovering over me like a curse. So instead, I stood for a good ten minutes with my hand outstretched, catching the flurries and dreaming of a grande peppermint mocha. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Plumpinuts for you, and you, and you!

Monday Nov. 15:

Wake up at 6am, exhausted but I need to finish last minute packing for our two-day trip to see WHO and MSF in Geneva, Switzerland. By 9, I deliriously make it to my assigned train seat and see it transform in my mind to a Serta mattress. Realize the alphabetical listing has me facing Bruno, my 40-something, very French, program director. Awkwarddd. I knocked out anyway.

Three and a half hours later we drop our bags off at our surprisingly nice hotel and head off to MSF (or Doctors without Borders). After two presentations from various members, I find myself with mixed feelings on the organization. To put it simply, they do the dirty work many others are afraid to do. They send doctors to places others fear to tread. They remain neutral and impartial, helping anyone on any side of the conflict. I admire them for that.

But my only issue is sustainability, or rather the lack thereof. MSF has been tackling the effects of malnutrition in Africa for a while now. We discussed the power of "Plumpinuts," a peanut-butter-essential-nutrient-concoction that takes a weak, malnourished child to happy and healthy in two weeks time. They find the mother, give her a box of the peanut-paste, and check back in two weeks.

But then what? Just sending the kid back to the same situation? He'll be back to being malnourished in a few months! Long-term vs short-term solutions, ladies. When I asked about this, the presenter started to get real and talked about the internal debates MSF was having about taking a more developmental approach.  But they are doctors, essentially. You go to the doctor and he will put a band-aid on your boo-boo and nothing else. At the end of the day, their presence in the world is ubiquitous and imperative and I was happy to buy an "I Have MSF: L'engagement C'est Contagieux" free-trade t-shirt.

Oh yeah, and it was also my 21st birthday, along with my friend Amanda (yeah Scorpios!). The whole group went for dinner at "Restaurant Edelweiss" for traditional Swiss fondue. Though I can't say I liked the cheese, I inhaled the chocolate. If you can't tell by now, it runs through my veins. Of course, someone tipped off the two yodeling musicians playing behind us that it was our birthdays. They hilariously played for us on the bells, the saw, the spoons and some ten-foot long traditional horn, which they insisted the birthday girls had to play as well. Fun times in Edelweiss!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Joie de Vivre: Living to Eat

Hot chocolate. Chocolate macaroons. Chocolate cheesecake. Chocolate fountains. Chocolate couture. Chocolate art. Chocolate exfoliant. Chocolate soap. Dark chocolate. Milk chocolate. White chocolate. Green freaking tea chocolate.

Chocolate sensory overload is what I experienced last weekend at Salon du Chocolat, Paris's annual chocolate festival. Yup, pretty much the best 12.50 I've ever spent in my entire life. The free samples were out of control, as was my appetite for more. Forgive me God, for I have been gluttonous. And I'd do it again.

I don't know when or how it happened, but since I've been here I've stopped eating to live and started living to eat. I've never been a big foodie but I've always appreciated a good meal. Life is simpler and slower here and exactly what I was looking for. Today, I ran out in the pouring rain because I needed my fresh baguette. As in, I would die with out it. My taste-buds dance at the thought of waking up at 7am on a Saturday for a hot croissant.

The French are shameless and unapologetic about their carb consumption or caloric intake; it's guilt-free living and it's fabulous! They just walk everything off by the end of the day anyway. Back at home, everyone is obsessed and it makes me nervous when I don't even need to be.

Time anxiety is also something I don't miss. At Northwestern, everything is so tightly scheduled that lunch dates have a start time as well as an end time. "I'm free from 11-12:30!" Have you noticed that? Here you stay in a restaurant to your heart's content, 2 or 3 hours is casual. I've had some of my best conversations an hour or more after the check was placed on the table. It's that "joie de vivre" that I needed and simply refuse to give up when I return.