22 + 23

I’m going to slightly gloss over yesterday because the primary highlight was going to a South Indian festival (Onam) that a friend of mine invited me to – and indulging in some excellent food while there – and instead skip to this evening because I did something I never actually thought I’d do.

I went to a Meetup event. 

To backtrack a bit, while I was in Greece, there was a point where I started getting into an anxious semi-panic about feeling lonely and isolated (which, given that I do have a pretty solid network here, was probably a bit dramatic), so inspired in part by that, as well as by an itch to try and break into the theatre community here a bit, I started feverishly browsing Meetup. Before I knew it, I had signed up for an acting class. Their first meetup was at a pub this evening – a sort of introductory, say hello type thing. And honestly, up until I walked through the door and headed to the table where the rest of the group was seated, I was fighting an urge to turn around and head home because the thought of these kinds of events and how awkward they can be – I really, really hate small talk – usually puts me off. Thankfully, this one wasn’t awkward (also, I had already paid the registration fee for the class I signed up for so I figured I was more or less tied into this thing). Except for an exercise in which we split into small groups to analyze story structure/character motivation in a film (a sort of introduction to text analysis for actors, if you will), the majority of the evening consisted of everyone sitting around a table listening to the man who’s going to be running the workshops talk. 

Also, as a wonderful surprise, I ended up running into an old acquaintance there (though it took us a minute to recognize one another). Funny how small the theatre community can feel sometimes. 

And yeah, there’s a question in the back of my head of whether or not I would have been motivated to sign up for this were I still in a relationship, but I’d like to think it wouldn’t have made a difference (hell, I took pottery on my own when I was still in Boston/with the ex). Anyway, I could always just be cliché and say this is part of my whole ‘renewal’/’reinventing’ process, even though I’m essentially just doing an activity I’ve always loved doing and always sought out. 

17 + 18

One of the things that always nagged at me while I was in Boston was the thought that – although it was the right decision – I would throw myself off the momentum I had gathered during my M.A. and my M2. This may or may not have contributed to my bouts of imposter syndrome (which I’ll probably bring up again at some point), but needless to say, a lot of my mental energy was spent trying to snap myself out of whatever rut I was stuck in.

We can say this photo symbolises my state of mind, but honestly, I just like it.

Thankfully, what with the number of meetings I was running to and from yesterday and today, I think I might be starting to get back into ‘research mode’. Student card : check. Health insurance : check (with a side of confusion trying to explain to the really nice girl at the uni helping me that yes, I have EU citizenship. No, I do not have an EU health card because my primary residence was in the US. No, even though I also have US citizenship, I do not have a visa/titre de séjour because of the aforementioned EU citizenship, etc). Library card : check.

This last one was the one I was worried about most, since the hoops I had to jump through to get my original card to access the research library – as opposed to just the public section of the library – back in 2012 were prime examples of gatekeeping at its finest (to give an idea: part of it involved proving that access to the BNF – The Bibliothèque Nationale de France – was indispensable for my work as a mere first year master student by providing a list of works we needed to consult that could only be found in the research centers. On the advice of my thesis director, I…embellished my list a bit). Thankfully, renewing my card did not involve as much nonsense as the initial inscription (and honestly, being a doctoral student helps a lot). It remains to be seen how long it takes me to fully get back into the swing of things, but at least now that the majority of the administrative work I had to take care of is done, I’ll have one less thing weighing on me. 

New Season, new hair (day 12)

Why no day 11? Because yesterday my day consisted primarily of going to a Greek épicerie (Kilikio) to buy some olive oil – and if you read my post on the Peloponnese, you will know that I am very particular about my olive oil.

So on to day 12.

For someone as drawn to chaos/disorder as I am, you’d think I wouldn’t be as into taking rather symmetrical photos (Instagram @effie143).

Next to summer, I think fall is my favorite season (and honestly, sometimes it gets very close to edging the former out for the top spot). Something about the warm colors of the leaves, the crispness in the air, and the fact that I can go back to wearing as much black as possible makes the fact that vacation is over a little more bearable. And as I am still running on an academic calendar, fall is also a season of new beginnings, chances to start fresh.

 
And so my back to school shopping this year included a haircut.

 
I think many people would agree with me when I say that finding the right hair salon – or even stylist – can be a somewhat stressful experience. Compound this with living in a foreign country where vocabulary used in such settings is not necessarily part of your arsenal and you’ve got a situation that almost makes you never want to get your hair done again. Thankfully, during the first year of my Masters in 2013, I went through that gauntlet, and after having an exceptionally ‘meh’ haircut thanks to a Groupon, I managed to find what I think might not just be my favorite salon in Paris but my favorite salon anywhere.

 
The salon Messieurs-Dames, located in the upper Marais is excellent for many reasons, but two in particular stand out. One : they are bilingual, and although my communication with my stylist both this visit as well as my previous one almost four years ago was in French, it’s nice to know that you can drop in some English here and there to really clarify what it is that you want. Two : they cut the hair while it’s dry. The benefit of this is that you can actually get a better idea of what the finished result is going to look like, and for someone with wavy hair (like me), there is a certain peace of mind that comes with knowing what your hair is likely to look like when you do it at home, especially when you’re rather low-maintenance with it.

 
Oh and a final bonus : my stylist dried my hair with the curl/wave intact instead of straightening it. “Natural, but better,” he said. And because I really only treat myself to a haircut once (maybe twice) a year, a little primping was more than perfect.

Should probably also point out that he was very…discrete when he found out that I trim my own bangs. I know bang trimmings are free usually, but I can’t help it if I get lazy about that sort of thing.

In terms of pricing, the salon is about mid-range, with prices varying depending on the stylist (although average price is about 60eu). As I mentioned, frequent hair appointments are not something I regularly budget for, so I tend to chalk up my semi-annual visits as part of my ‘treat yourself’ budget.

 
And I know that there’s this sort of stereotypical idea that post-breakup haircuts are usually very dramatic, but for me, I think what I really needed was something that I knew would make me feel good when I looked in the mirror. I take risks in plenty of other areas in my life. Right now, what I want – what I need – is to wake up in the morning, take a look at myself and say “Damn. I look fucking good,” and believe it.

 
So here’s to haircuts and the power of letting go, of feeling light again, of casting off the weight of 6+ inches of hair and maybe of a few other things as well.

More small successes (day 10)

I want to get back to the whole ‘recording mini successes’ idea I had a few weeks ago because I think today’s success merits it.
I finally have hot sauce again.

I don’t care if this thing cost twice as much as it would in the States. It’s mine, and I love it.

Granted, I had to shell out about 9.50eu for it at Lafayette Gourmet, but when your grocery store shelves are not lined with an abundance of different hot sauce brands, you kind of take what you can get. And it’s worth it. I still need to add a (giant) bottle of Siracha to my collection, but as I have yet to make a trip to Tang Frères in the 13th – where I am almost certain I will be able to find it at a decent, if not still somewhat annoying, price – its designated spot in my pantry remains empty.

And because multiple successes are also better than just one, I’ll add a trip to Pizzeria Popolare (of the Big Mamma restaurant group) for dinner to my list. Locals and visitors who have eaten (or attempted) to have eaten at one of the Big Mamma restaurants know that due to their policy of not taking reservations, the lines can stretch around the block, with wait times at some of the restos at times exceeding two hours. General wisdom suggests to arrive a bit before opening time to make sure you are seated right away, but luckily, this being a Tuesday, my mom and I managed to get in after only ten minutes of waiting after arriving thirty minutes after the restaurant opened. This speedy entry may also have had to do with the number of large (think 4-5 people) though incomplete parties ahead of us, but I’ll just go ahead and add tonight’s experience to my list of reasons as to why it benefits to dine solo (or à deux) in Paris.
Oh and the pizza? It was delicious, and at only 5eu for a Margherita pizza (what I ended up ordering) incredibly wallet-friendly.

The Margherita at Pizzeria Popolare (Instagram @effie143)

I’m going to get a bit political for this last success, but only because I have been asked recently what it’s like living abroad when there is so much turmoil going on at home. This success is courtesy of my phone plan, which allows me to call the US for free while in France. It’s very easy at times to forget your position as a voter while being so far removed, but voters abroad are not insignificant in number and our voices do – and will – count if we make ourselves heard. So when, for example, news started trickling in late Monday night (early Tuesday morning for me) about the impending end of DACA, I felt confident knowing that my call to my rep’s answering machine would not only not cost an arm and a leg but that I could make as many as I theoretically want. Travel is a privilege. And especially for those (like me) who have dual citizenship (US-EU in my case), the fact that I can move freely without worrying about where my home will be, or if I will even have one to return to, is something that can very easily be taken for granted, as are the numerous benefits this movement will bring to my education and future career opportunities. Travel itself may not necessarily be at the center of the conversation around DACA, but movement is. And the sudden restriction and hyper surveillance of movement of thousands of individuals – who were already under some level of constant watch – is irresponsible and inhumaine.
So if you are abroad and your phone plan (and your finances if international calls are not included) allow it, call your representatives.

Back in Paris, Day 3

Roaming around the kitchenware section of a department store is pretty much a recipe for disaster for me because 1) I want everything and 2) I immediately remember the limits of my budget (also, does one really need a spiralizer?).

On the plus side, I did manage to snag (among a couple other things) a filter coffee maker – because there are some American things that cannot be given up, apparently – and a small kitchen scale for when the inevitable urge to bake hits (as well as for my daily coffee measuring. Again, habits).

This evening I met up with an acquaintance at the Canal, and during the course of our conversation, the subject of what we were planning to do after finishing our respective PhDs inevitably came up. Maybe it’s cliché, but every time I get asked this question, I can’t help but think of the opening of The Graduate when everyone is hounding Ben about his ‘future’. 

(Side note : this is also the film that inspired my affinity for bourbon because if, as a woman, you’re going to take inspiration on how to live your best life, why not take it from Mrs. Robinson?)

I mentioned that I had been considering getting back to writing again, specifically for theatre. I haven’t written a full play since high school, but I have little free-form sketches and imagined dialogues scattered amongst the pages of countless notebooks stored mostly in my parents’ house in California (if not lost forever). Part of me thinks I should just buckle down and make something out of them – especially in Paris, which up to this point has been one of the few places where I’ve felt an insatiable itch to write – but there’s this nagging fear in the back of my head of putting out something in the world that I consider to be an intimate part of myself. Maybe I just set too high expectations for myself for what I consider to be ‘worthy’ for public consumption. Aren’t we all our own worst critics, after all?

Speaking of books, I’m leaving for my annual visit to the homeland (Greece) soon, and am looking for book recommendations since I pretty much sped through the one I was hoping to save for the trip (final side note : everyone should read Wajdi Mouawad’s Anima. Non-French speakers, I’m not sure if there is an English translation available, but if there is, get it. Now. Seriously. It’s that good. TW : I should note that it gets very intense/violent at times, so it might not be the best read for everyone), and now I’m very close to just bringing my copy of A Thousand Plateaus with me.

So, any recommendations, friends and readers? I’m open to pretty much anything and everything. To give an idea, past summer beach reads have included the following : 

  • Les Misérables
  • Anna Karenina
  • War and Peace (this one being a particularly hilarious choice, given that a large part of it takes place in the dead of Russian winter). 

Back in Paris, day 1

I’ve decided that in order to recultivate a sense of optimism/general positivity, I am going to – either on here or elsewhere – list a few things I did successfully throughout the day.
Here are today’s successes :

1. Successfully moved in to my apartment. This included lugging 5 suitcases (3 of which were rather giant) up six flights of stairs. I guess all that working out paid off.

2. Successfully filed a change of address at the bank. Before my last move out of Paris three years ago, I made the decision not to close my bank account here mostly because opening an account in Paris (well, France in general) is almost hilariously complicated, and I had a feeling I’d be back relatively soon. I also found out that in the time I was gone, they never received my change of address info for Cambridge, which explains two things. First, the fact that I never received the standard letter that accompanies a request for password recovery (this was two years ago, and I haven’t been able to log in to my account since. Also, it’s 2017. There has to be a better way of doing this). Second, as a follow-up to the first point, the fact that despite my supposed “nomad” (according to their system) status, they still kept my account running, so now I know that the occasional transfers I made into it so that it appeared active were worth it.

3. Successfully purchased my year-long Navigo pass. A mini success to accompany this one is the fact that I was first in line at the window. Granted, I was also at a less-frequented station, but this just goes to show that sometimes it pays to trek out to the slightly more obscure ones. 

Today also involved doing some shopping at Monoprix, with this particular location being the same one I shopped at three years ago back when I – when we – first lived in this neighborhood. It was strange walking around there again, at once familiar and unknown. Some of the cafés are still the same, others have been replaced by new ones, and still there are those that I wondered if they were always there, and if so, why they seemed so strange to me. 

I also walked past the old apartment building. I feel as though this is going to be a repeated but inevitable occurrence. Maybe someday I will be able to pass it with indifference.