Isn’t it strange? Eleven semesters later (!), I find myself more unsure about the future than I have ever been. When I started my last first day of high school, I knew I was going to get into college; I did not know which college, but I knew I was going to get in somewhere. But now, I have no certainties to look forward to. No job, no home, nothing. A very strange, simultaneously terrifying and exhilarating, thought indeed.
As I was saying, today was my last first day of school… ever (well, unless I decide to go to graduate school). It was also the first day in Paris when Seth and I woke up early and spent the entire sunlit day out and about. We awoke around seven (when, apparently, all of Paris awakes), hurried to get ready, and took the subway to school. We grabbed a quick pan au chocolat et quiche de oignon around the corner just before walking into our first “class,” the RSAP introduction. I have known about this for a few days now, but I was wrong about our course load. Students take six classes, not three: studio, French culture, French language, Paris Urban History, Replaying Modernism, and Representation of the Real (the film class). From what I gather, our studio grade is one single thing, and the other five grades are another single thing. Garry, the director of the program, is not nearly as stern as I had imagined; he is actually very friendly and approachable. He talked to us about the program and general Paris things like language and safety issues.
Then we broke for lunch. Several of us headed to a boulangerie around the corner . (I believe it was the one Jonathan and Caryn told us about.) The ladies behind the counter were so incredibly nice, and they were not at all impatient with our terrible French. It seems that many bakeries in Paris do a sandwich+dessert+drink combo for around six Euro, which I have found to be quite convenient. I ended up choosing un sandwich jambon-fromage (a ham and cheese baguette), éclair de café (a coffee eclair), et Coca (a Coca-Cola). The sandwich was so delicious, and it even had mayonnaise on it! And it wasn’t that mustard-laced mayonnaise that the French trick you into buying at the grocery store. It was real mayonnaise! Anyway, we took our lunches to an elevated courtyard, and, even though it was quite cold, we sat in the sun and ate. I decided to save my éclair de café for later. In fact, I am eating it right now. Jealous? Just kidding…
After our thirty-minute break, we walked the block back to school to meet our studio professor. Because we had not communicated with Pierre via E-mail, I had no idea what to expect. He was a very flamboyant fellow. We all talked about where we were from and about the bakeries (or lack thereof, as the case often was) in our hometowns. I mentioned that my house was less than a mile from two kolache shops and that the most practical way to get there was to drive. Pierre asked, “But where do you park your car?” I told him that I normally just park it right in front of the shop. He stared at me blankly. “Are there parking spaces… everywhere?!” he asked incredulously. Why yes, yes there are.
After our brief introductions, he gave us our first assignment. In teams of two, we are to take a subway to the center of Paris. Once there, we must walk, with our teammates, in four southern directions. Three of the teams will follow actual streets. Seth and I, on the other hand, will walk due south, for which there is no single street. Every ten minutes, we are to take five photographs: one of the south elevation, one of the west, one of the north, one of the east, and one of the sky. Every thirty minutes, we must stop into a café or bar for a coffee or a glass of wine. While there, we are to (try to) listen to the conversations around us. In one sentence, we must summarize the topic of the day (or of the half hour, as the case will be). Now, here is the crazy part: we must walk for five hours. No joke. Five hours + ten stops for coffee and/or wine = an eight-hour journey with a whole lot of zig-zagging and, not to mention, a ridiculous amount of caffeine and/or alcohol (oh, and probably some disorientation, too). Seth is very excited about our first assignment. I, on the other hand, am a little worried (but still pretty excited). Our photographs and summaries are due Friday.