Monday, August 13, 2007

In Paris

Well, I've made it to Paris. My flight from Newark left a little late, but it actually arrived early. There were strong tailwinds. I got some pretty good sleep on the plane, although I was still a little groggy when I landed. Things were looking good, until my bag didn't appear. I left my information with a helpful Continental airlines person and headed toward Cite Universitaire, which is where I'm staying in Paris.

I found it without any difficulty. I'm staying at the Maison des Province de France building. The room is nothing special, but overall it's a pretty nice place. More about it tomorrow, when I'll try and post a few pictures. Right now I can't get the internet in my room to work, so I'll be posting this tomorrow when I can get online.

When I arrived I wasn't optimistic that I would see my bag any time soon, so I set off in search of a change of clothes. I had been wearing the same clothes for longer than I cared to think about, and the thought of having to lecture tomorrow in the same clothes I'd been wearing for the three previous days didn't excite me. I talked to a helpful person at the reception desk of the building I'm in and she gave me directions to a street where she thought there might be some clothing stores open.

I found a quite interesting store that had discount stylish t-shirt type things and button down shirts and shoes. Tres branche. Or at least maybe a little branche. I got two T-shirts which are weird and which I like and Doreen will probably dislike. I was psyched. There was a great radio station playing, which I later found out was 101.9, "fun radio." I'm listening to it now on my mp3 player. The format is Soul and Dance. I really like the stuff that they play. Some great French soul/hip-hop stuff a la Mc Solaar, and then some good dance and electro. It's unlike any station I've heard in the states, with the possible exception of a station in San Francisco, whose call letters I can't remember.

Thus far speaking French has been an adventure, but has gone ok. Except for the interaction at the airport where I needed to leave info to try and find my bag, I've tried to conduct every discussion in French. Often people switch automatically to English, but there have been some conversations that have been all in French. Actually, calling them "conversations" is a bit of a stretch. But there has been some successful communication. The woman downstairs doesn't seem to speak any English and we've had quite a few successful interactions: she gave me directions to the clothing store after I explained that my luggage hadn't arrived and that I really needed a shirt; I checked in and got my key; and later I asked her to turn on my phone and then she told me how to use it.

One of the challenges for me is to get over worrying about being correct. My goal isn't to say things right, but simply to be understood. E.g., I really need to figure out how to make a phone call so I can find my luggage. If I accomplish this task, then my communication has been a success, even if I've made dozens of grammar and pronunciation errors. In English, at least written English, I try to be really really careful about grammar and syntax. (I know this doesn't always some through on this blog.) So entering into a conversation in which I know I will make errors but I need to do it anyway doesn't come naturally.

It is now 11:20 pm local time. I am sitting on my bed at the Maison drinking a surprisingly good glass of red wine. It's "Art de Vivre" from the Roussillon region. It's a 2-Euro, small, screw-off bottle that I got at a supermarket this afternoon. I normally wouldn't get such a thing, but it's France, and the supermarket was a small little natural foods sort of place. It's quite drinkable. Nothing special, but nothing offensive, either. But this is fine, since it doesn't have any pretensions or illusions or grandeur. It seems comfortable with itself. It's not nimble or spry, but is quite solid.

Tomorrow, barring heinous jetlag, I'll get up kinda early and try and find the place where they serve breakfast here. Then I'll set off to the Institute de Systems Complex. The first set of lectures is at 9:00am. My lectures are in the afternoon. I think I've got most of Monday and Tuesday's lectures planned. Wednesday I have off, and then I lecture again on Thursday and Friday. I'll need to do some prep Tuesday night and Wednesday, but things are under control.

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