Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Catacombs

On my penultimate day in Paris, I decided to do what seems like the only tourist attraction I haven't done here: the catacombs. After being to the ossuary in Kutna Hora 7 years ago, I didn't really feel that compelled to visit. HOWEVER, both Nick and Julie Delpy (in 2 Days in Paris) mentioned that it's their FAVOURITE thing to do. That's pretty high praise to call something your favourite thing in Paris.

My first thought upon entering the catacombs was: "Anyone who says this is their FAVOURITE thing to do in PARIS is a sick person." But that's because I wasn't prepared for the first cluster of just kind of comes out of nowhere.

The halls are long and dark, and at first, they feel way too narrow, like the piles of bones on either side are pressing in towards you. It's a bit much really. Throw in the smell (dank, earthy, vaguely death-like) and the descent on the never-ending spiral staircase (which is as good as being blindfolded and spun around 10 times before getting a light spank on your way to pin the tail on the donkey). So yeah, the whole thing starts off with a touch of nausea.

A few minutes into wandering the tunnel, though, it gets a bit better. It's awe-inspiring. The street names are etched into the walls and there are musings on life and death throughout. It's all in French but because it's quite simple stuff (which is also why it's profound) it's easy to understand. And anyway, when there are writings on the wall about your "soul" being "tranquil" and a "tomb" being the school of "truth," and you are actually inside a massive, underground tomb, there isn't really much room for confusion when it comes to reading comprehension.

Lexi and I were wondering about the skulls with gaping holes in them, whether they were damaged while being exhumed from the cemetaries or if their owners had died violent deaths. We were discussing it in hushed tones when she interrupted me to say, "Look at this guy!" There was a skull, or half of one, at our eye level, and its entire top half was missing. We burst out into nervous laughter. You don't feel entirely relaxed down there. There's no getting used to the smell and there are puddles. I didn't like those puddles.

About halfway through I was all the way through with big thoughts on life and death and I just kind of wanted out. Back up the spiral staircase and then suddenly spat out onto a regular Parisian sidewalk into the blazing noon sun. THAT was a surreal moment. There's an entire labyrinth of past lives just under our feet.

What I Did With My Summer Vacation

Monday, August 27, 2007

Hammam in Paris

Today I enjoyed a birthday present from Isaac.

On my birthday, almost a month ago, he took me to C5, the resto at the Michael Lee Chin crystal. There he gave me a lovely card (hand-drawn of course) with information on a hammam in Paris! Oh, and a few euros tucked inside for a "Forfait Detente." I left it until late in my stay in Paris because I hadn't had the time to go before. And guess what? It is ONE BLOCK from my front door. Isaac is a genius!

This is what happened.

You don't need an appointment as I found out when I called. So I strolled in, close to 6 pm, and the lady at the counter got me set up, kindly speaking to me in French, lentement.

I whipped off my clothes (bathing suit underneath). Then I descended into the lower level. There were showers like in a high school gym class. Women walked around, casual and naked. I'd been given a little plastic container full of "savon noir." It smelled sweet and earthy and had the texture of hair wax. I rubbed it all over myself. I then went into the sauna. Note: I was convinced at the time that I'd been told to leave it on for 30 minutes but I've since slowly realized that it's just soap - I was supposed to wash it off. Oh well!

After the sauna, I laid out on a slab of heated marble. It was the Sleepmaker. There is no way that you could not fall asleep on this thing. I felt weird being asleep in public, what with the fact that I was wet, almost naked, covered in "savon noir" and glistening like an oily dumpling. Didn't matter. There was no fighting it.

I dozed until they called my number ("Soixante quatre!") at which point I hurried across the tile floor to the area where a duo of sassy young women in bikinis were practically shouting their conversation to each other in Turkish. They were very matter of fact, turning to me to give me instructions in brusque French, but only for as long as they had to before they could launch back into their engrossing conversation. They should have been snapping bubble gum.

They must spend their whole day wet in their bikinis. That would drive me crazy.

The first thing my scrub lady did as I lay down on my tummy was snap my underwear up my bum. Ey! I wasn't expecting that. What a full-bottom (and one-piece! the shame!) North American prude. The scrub lady then went at my skin with a rough orange mitt like she was washing down a dirty car or cow. It was kind of funny, kind of alarming. I wanted to know if I could keep the orange mitt after the scrub but it occurred to me as she was attacked my bare tummy. I was concentrating very hard on staying still and I knew that if I tried to say anything, I might explode with laughter or my head would pop off like a Barbie's, so I kept my mouth shut. In the end, you do get to keep the mitt.

When I got up off the table, the skin that had come off me was in cardboard-coloured pellets the size of pet food - really big. Good work, sassy scrub lady!

Then I went for a dip in the cool pool.

After, I headed upstairs for a perfect little glass cup of sweet mint tea with a sticky honey cookie. I actually licked the paper it came in.

Then, the piece de resistance: massage. Kady is a soft-spoken and friendly tall African lady, thin but athletically built. She took me into a darkened, red room. We chatted a little, about where we were from (she moved here from Guinea when she was 10). Her fingertips are extremely strong. She could be a concert pianist or knot rugs. And from the very beginning, I was instant jelly. When she started to massage my scalp, in my mind I rejoiced. "No way! Scalp massage is the best!" I yelled to myself, in my own mind. She used a deliciously scented jasmine and almond oil mixture which had me smelling my own arms for the entire, one-block walk home.

The best part is, I mentioned how much I love the outfits that African women wear around the streets of Paris. Kady said that she would bring me some! I was confused. Surely she didn't mean that she was going to give me African clothes just because I casually mentioned that I like them? But it's true! We arranged to meet again tomorrow. I'm going to drop by and she said that she would bring me something. At first I demurred, saying it was too kind of her, but she insisted and said she didn't need them all. Can you believe it? She is even nicer than the guy who lugged my huge suitcase all the way up 3 flights of stairs at the metro.

Merci Isaac! What an amazing birthday present.

Weekend Wrap

Saturday I met with Terese, Lexi and Anna from Italy to roam for the afternoon. We went to the market at Vanves and then to Chateau Rouge and Canal St. Martin. It was our first day of sunshine in ages and we couldn't stop talking about it. I'm so happy to have met Terese and Lexi because it's nice to have friends. It was quite obvious that Anna didn't like talking to me because she would just glassily smile at me, waiting for me to be done trying to make conversation, and then turn away. She would kind of watch me talk like I was an oddity. Oh well - that's the weirdness of traveling and hanging out with random people. Anna left us that afternoon and left Paris the next morning.

The three of us had dinner at Pointe l'Ephemere. Charlie, Laurent and his Argentinian friend Martin joined us. Then, all of a sudden, Terese was nowhere to be found. Lexi had left for another party. I started to become worried because how does a person like Terese (very responsible, always on time, wears heels every day because 15 years of ballet discipline have inured her to pain) just disappear? Her phone was dead. I actually scanned the water.

I left the bar to call it a night and called Terese from my home phone. I left a message. 3 minutes later, she called back, elated. She'd gotten food poisoning that came on in a sudden rush and she had to rush home to puke but now, "I feel great!!"

I was relieved to say the least. I called Lexi to tell her that Terese was ok and she told me about being chased by two aggressive louts at her metro stop. I told her about my second racial taunt of the day, as I walked along the street alone that night (racial taunts only happen when the other person is part of a group and you are walking alone - there is no other configuration of the scenario). But all three of us were ok, at home and in bed! Le sigh.

The next day we continued our hang-out marathon. Terese and I went to Musee d'Orsay and then to dinner at a restaurant Charlie showed me. The rough and tumble waiter (with a heart of gold) got a kick out of us because we shyly asked him to replace our filthy glass. He said it wasn't dirty. We stammered in French that it was. On my way to the washroom, I found him and the other bar staff holding it up to the light and laughing up a storm. I don't mind being laughed at, he was kind. And the glass was truly filthy. I'm just happy that we didn't get the usual response we get here, which is sniffy anger.

To toast Terese's last night, we went for ridiculously overpriced drinks at Kong, a bar on the top floor of a building next to the Pont Neuf, outfitted with millennial fusion flourish. My terrible Bellini was 13 euros. Again, I didn't mind. How can you? It's Paris! Overpriced, annoying, rude - there's very little that can actually detract from your good time when you're happy to be here and in good company.

We said goodbye on the street and then I biked home. It was a nice ride home - on the bike, you don't get rude incidents.

Au revoir Terese! Bon voyage!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Rock-ed En Seine

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Bon Soir! Just Before I Retire, Some Notes

Today, in brief: Went to class, had lunch with Terese, went to my last afternoon Prononciation class (goodbye Laure - I've never been so enraptured by the infinitesimal differences of the 3 nasal vowels of the French language). After, I rode my bike to meet Jeremy who was having lunch with Sarah from Saskatoon. She's here with her parents who are doing this very French-sounding bike marathon race which involves sleeping in ditches by country roads (with your feet facing the road so people know you're not dead).

Jeremy, Sarah and I walked into the Dior store (Jeremy is staying in an area that is tres fancy). I went to take a photo of him looking at clothes but one of the gargantuan security guards said, "Excusez-moi, mademoiselle, les photos sont interdits." So, about one million people per second can crowd around and take photos of Mona Lisa but I can't take a picture of my friend in your store. Maybe he didn't like my jeans and backpack. Hell, I don't like my jeans and backpack but enh, whatever.

We got caught in the rain, went for a little walkabout and then we bid adieu to go our separate ways. I took my bike to the Marais to go over to Alexis' GORGEOUS apartment for a super-delicious dinner. She made risotto, summer pasta and a salad of rocket, chevre and peaches. This was the first time that I've eaten in a home with friends in Paris and it felt like being at home with Isaac and eating with our friends. I thought of the arugula growing in the backyard. It was very nice. We laughed and spoke in French, with bits of English, Italian and Spanish thrown in for good measure. It was just the ladies although Matteo arrived (straight from Germany?!) (no wonder he wasn't in class today?!) on my way out. I have a feeling that his arrival is when fete really begins but it was already late and I had the long journey uphill to come home.

Jeremy put me on the list for Rock en Seine tomorrow and Laurent has a Rock en Seine MAP he cut out from the paper (I like his style!). Tomorrow's the last day of class pour moi, et puis? Le party.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Debbie Downer Day

Today was a bad day!

I woke up with a sore throat and I felt exhausted so I decided to sleep a little extra and get to the second half of my morning class and arrive after the break.

Even though it was ominously grey, I decided that Paris rain is never really more than drizzle (WRONGO!), so I took the bike. It was actually quite nice, how dark it was, the flocks of dark birds overhead, the views. Gothic. But then...

Got lost.

Started to pour.

No left turns.

I was also feeling meek about rules and cops, especially after yesterday's French lesson revolving around breaking the law and the fingerwag I got from the cop on the street.

After riding for 45 minutes, I gave up on arriving at a reasonable hour and just started to doddle. Or toddle. Or doodly doo. Whatever it is those Japanese people do. Oh yes, potter.

I arrived in time for lunch and assuaged Terese and Alexis' fears that I'd somehow died on the way home last night. Reasonable, considering that although I'm often late, I've never missed a class.

I was sad to miss the morning session. Little did I know that I'd feel worse by attending the afternoon. The topic today was "home repairs." I was put into a group with an elderly gentleman we'll call Max. His French is undecipherable. I have the dubious honour of being from the same hometown, although he probably would never believe it, given my face, or to put it more bluntly, my race.

He is insufferable in class because he goes on and on and on in his made-up French, which is neither here nor there although the accent is a perfect blend of faded British and Valley Girl. What I didn't already know about him is that he's a big baby. He needed to be coddled and was inexplicably petulant at every turn.

We were supposed to role-play a conversation between a frustrated property owner and a contractor. You know, enact a conflict. He refused to play along and instead insisted on scripting everything. I am not about to have Old Man Valley Girl write my lines. Plus, as I exasperatedly explained to him, it's an oral class, not a gibberish screenplay class.

Finally, we ploughed our way through a scenario which involved me being angry with him for breaking a pipe in my kitchen while doing renovations. I played my anger with the ferocity of a would-be actor in her first community play. It didn't take much.

A third member of our group was from Russia. After some chitchat which involved us each telling each other our ethnicity ("Je suis coreene") she asked me if I could speak Chinese. I said, "Non, est-ce que tu apprends le chinois?" Why else would she ask me if I speak Chinese? She looked puzzled and said, "Non." So that was our third group member.

Our teacher wisely asked us to present last, as past experience has shown that Max will take up the entire class time with his strange tangents. Unfortunately, time restraints don't really stem that issue.

Halfway through the presentation, halfway to the light at the end of the class, Max brought up an heretofore undiscussed subplot. "My wife left me! My children left me! I am but a poor worker!" At this point, he started shaking uncontrollably. He took off his glasses to wipe his eyes. He was jiggling in his seat at the front of the class, but no noise was coming out. His face had turned beet red.

He was laughing.

I didn't dare look at the class but Max's partners from last week were in one corner, and I could feel that entire corner reverberating with the same uncontrollable laughter. It was contagious. Instead of interjecting to try and save our doomed presentation, I shook with laughter in my own seat. I covered my face. Half the class (students who were acquainted with Max) took the opportunity to laugh out loud with Max, rather than hide it as usual. The other half of the class, new students, were just entirely bewildered, Russian included.

Max recovered. And then he told the Russian (playing a surveyor from the insurance company) that the reason he hadn't performed the contracting job properly was because his wife suspected that he was having an affair with me. He levitated briefly, raising his arm to point at me dramatically. Who knew this presentation could veer SO FAR off the rails?

Max managed to hog the presentation time, as usual, and somehow communicated that he would place a basin under the broken pipe, "Gratuit!" He said "Gratuit!" with a flourish that started in his elbows and ended in jazzhands. I'm sure nobody understood was he was saying but me (Russian included), and the only reason I got it was because he had finally gotten back to the previously discussed plotline. However, this is where I decided to ad lib.

"Bon! D'accord!" To the class: "Nous avons fini. Merci."

I quickly hopped out of the seat at the front of the class and marched straight to the back. The prof smiled encouragingly and said, in French, "But you're satisfied with that solution? To place a basin to collect the water from the broken pipe? You described your kitchen as looking like a tornado hit it! You're accepting a basin?"

To which I replied: "Oui."

I just needed to get the hell out of there.

A final word on Max: he will say really weird things out of nowhere. He will not stick to the agenda, the agenda being class. When I was arduously trying to commandeer the sinking ship of our group preparation, he just looked at me and said, "Et ton amie?" I was confused. I was sadly all too aware that I don't have a single friend in that class. "Ton amie!" He pointed to the other Asian girl in the class. I said in plain English, "I don't know her." And then in his crazy French, he went on to explain that he thought we were friends and he also thought we were the same person. Normally, one would forgive his terrible French and assume he means one or the other but I actually think he meant the two things as he expressed them. That's Max.

All afternoon in class, I stared out the window as it rained cats and dogs, or as the French say, "Il a plu des cordes." I thought of my bike. It kept raining.

I had a black cloud over my head by the time afternoon class was done. The one bright spot today was that I met with Alexis for a drink and she took me to a great bar in the Marais called "Le Perle." The entire place was filled with uber-hipsters except for 2 slimey suits. Guess who came over to engage us in conversation until we finally high-tailed it? Let's hope tomorrow is better.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Turtle on Bike Explores City, 16-Hour Day

This morning, the sun was shining, so I grabbed my bike and zipped downhill into town. I was late for class (what's new?) so I was concentrating on speed but when I hit the Pont Sully and looked over to Notre Dame in the morning light, it actually took my breath away.

About 2m later, I got stopped by a cop.

She saw me go through a red (moi?). To be honest, I don't remember doing it so I blame my North American dependence on the grid-system - all these merging streets, who can make sense of them? I quickly read the situation as being one where I just had to apologize profusely and stay quiet for her speech. Then she let me go.

Ironically, our entire lesson this morning was on breaking the law and almost all of the examples involved a velo. I learned that taking your bike on the sidewalk can garner an "amende" (fine) of 375 euros and they will even take your driver's license away! I felt properly chastened.

After class, I took Terese to Jin's studio. Jin was a very gracious host and he told us all about his current project and how he draws inspiration from current events and newspaper clippings. Every surface in the studio is covered in paint, including the glass of rose they kindly offered me (I just crossed my fingers that the smudges of paint were on the outside). Charlie was there in work pants that were more "paint" than denim and so was Cyril, a French assistant as well as Jin's friend Tobias, a Norwegian who had just come from a castle (a literal castle) north of Bordeaux. I liked Jin's art a lot. J'etait emue.

Terese left to meet Alexis to see "2 Days in Paris" and we all made plans to meet in front of St. Eustache church at Les Halles later that night.

I rode my bike around a little to wait for Charlie to be done work. I had a good time exploring a neighbourhood that isn't for tourists. I have a feeling that Parisians probably find neighbourhoods like this unbecoming but I quite liked it even if it isn't all fancy gilded angels.

Charlie took the metro to Les Halles and I rode my bike along the Seine, back into the city. It was so nice to see the sights at night. We went to La Fresque, a restaurant that was highly recommended by Chris, and the girls met us there.

They don't know how "2 Days in Paris" ends, either.

Just as we were leaving the restaurant, doesn't it start to rain? But it was just a little drizzle, a little something to keep me refreshed on the long uphill trek home. All day and night today, I'd been toting a backpack I bought for riding to school with my books. Today I felt like a turtle on a bike, criss-crossing the whole city with a little house on my back.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Quiet Monday Night

Last night I went to dinner with Charlie at a place called Cafe Cafe. Well, he called it that but I have a feeling that isn't the real name...? I'll have to get it from him because it was great place. Delicious, cheap food by the Etienne Marcel metro.

Charlie told me lots of scandalous stories topped by a UFO story. I've never been told so convincingly of a UFO. Well, I've never actually known anyone who's seen one. Until Charlie.

He also gave me THE DIRT on a few artists I find interesting. It was better than Perez.

This morning, the terrible weather worsened. It is freezing cold here and the wet weather made me leave my bike at home.

After class, Terese (yay! after school chum!) and I went down the street to the Bon Marche. We were starving so we stopped in at le Grande Epicerie first (which is actually attached, duh!) and ate the biggest, most delicious (and cheapest?!) sandwiches in Paris, possibly on Earth (to qualify, the sandwich would have to fully adhere to all three elements). It was so perfect (and huge), I may never have to eat again.

Now I'm spending a quiet Monday night in, writing (but secretly wanting to stop and devour my book) and listening to Chris' records. I just listened to Bob Dylan's Slow Train Coming so many times it was making me laugh. Now I'm on The Platters and because the apartment has darkened since first sitting down at my desk, I'm feeling like a creepy shut-in. This is the introductory scene in the movie where you get a glimpse of the person who DID IT. I gotta go turn on a light or something.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

30 Jours A Paris

By the way, if anyone sees "2 Days in Paris" can you tell me how it ends? I saw it last night by myself and was careful to choose the "Version Originale" (as opposed to "VF" = Version Francaise, because no one wants to watch a dubbed movie!). HOWEVER, it didn't occur to me that all the sight gags would involve French conversations with poor Adam Goldberg being bereft of any understanding (he should come to my French class) (and keep his shirt off). Therefore, the "Version Originale" isn't exactly the "Version Anglaise."

I could understand the gist of the French conversations but Julie Delpy's inner monologues were a different matter. When there are no actions to help you out, the French words zing by so fast! So um, do they stay together or what?

Raspberry Sunday

The weather here is kuckoo. It changes on an hourly basis, faster even! Today, wandering by myself, I was getting mad at it, like reverse pathetic fallacy - Can't you be more decisive? Like a human I'd want to hang out with all Sunday?

This morning, I finally got Chris' supertiny washing machine to work. Chug, chug, chug. The prospect of clean clothes put me in a good mood although now, hours later, it's all hung up around the apartment to dry. I feel like a modern, indoors pioneer.

After, I took my usual route along the Canal St. Martin until it turns into Blvds Jules Ferry and then Richard Lenoir. I visited a couple of markets just as they were closing. I didn't really need any produce but just as I was walking by, a fruit vendor started yelling frantically about his raspberries. "HUIT POUR UN EURO! UN EURO! UN EURO!" It wasn't normal vendor energy. It was beyond. I don't need 8 pints of raspberries but I very easily get wrapped up in other people's crazy. I was drawn to it like it was a siren song. I was curious about exactly how frothed up he could get about selling off his raspberries. I slowly drew closer and closer. Soon I was standing right in front, and I'd pondered him for so long, that by sheer proximity, I became very excited about the prospect of 8 pints of raspberries for "UN EURO!" I bought them and he made a big show of handing them over.

I carried those raspberries with me all day. I also bought two heads of lettuce, each the size of an industrial-size mophead. I don't need this much produce! But the lettuce just looked so pretty.

I took those raspberries all around the Marais and even into the Musee Carnavalet for a moment. I took them into countless shops run by high-maintenance ladies with painted faces.

I bought a dress in one such shop. It is supercute from the front but it has so much fabric that it could seriously take a lady to a 10th month of pregnancy. I stood in the changeroom for a long time pondering this dress and decided that it was cute. Now that it is laid out on the bed looking like it could double as a floral-motif duvet cover, though, I'm a little worried.

Riding home was interesting because that's the precise moment the wind decided to pick up (we'd already gone through sunshine and rain, hot and cold, so what else was there left?). It's all uphill on the way home and my paper bag from the dress shop was acting like a sail on my lightweight bike. Not to mention the 8 pints of raspberries.

The first thing I did when I got in was put the produce in the sink to wash. Guess what? All the berries were furry! The furry caused fury. The man should have been yelling "GARBAGE! GARBAGE POUR UN EURO! UN EURO TO CARRY MY GARBAGE!" I carried those furry berries all day. I picked out a few suckers and ate them because I felt it was my right. Now I hope I don't get sick.

It's late afternoon and I'm going to try and get a little work done and tidy the apartment before I head out to dinner with Charlie. Miam!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Canal St. Martin

Last night Laurent took me to a bar on the Canal St.Martin. I'm so happy to find a great space so close to where I live. The bar is an art space and restaurant, too, and it's right on the water. From the Jaures metro stop, you just follow a cobblestone downward slope toward the canal and there are people sitting outside by the water in small clusters. Inside, they were blaring music (unfortunately, leaving much to be desired - Laurent and I still danced, though).

Laurent's a lot of fun for conversation. I told him about characters in class that afternoon and he told me about the time in Thailand that he met a British journalist who left his wife and teenage son for a woman who left Cypress to attend Central St. Martin's in London because she wanted to "see how common people lived." Yes, she was THAT girl and she had been friends with Jarvis Cocker. See? He's full of stories.

Laurent agreed to come with me to Rock en Seine on Friday and we've decided that our little project is to find out how to "have fun" in Paris. With me being in school all day and him having only recently returned to the city, this recon mission will require some effort but obviously should pay off. Not knowing Paris actually makes me miss Toronto for the familiarity I feel for places and people. You feel strangely unmoored when you don't have a clue what's a decent place for a drink even.

I'm happy to report that I think my spoken French is getting better. And it's only been 2 weeks. Truth is, it will never be as pretty as I'd like it to be because it takes immersion and a loooong time. But I was fluent enough to fend off an amorous guy at the bar AND lie to him just enough so that it was a pleasant exchange and then he left me alone. I realize that strange men are only threatening when you don't feel you have any wits (read: words) about you to manipulate them into placidly walking away from you.

This morning I woke up, and opened a package of crepes I'd bought at the store the other day. Crepes in a package! I lit the stove (so old-school) and warmed a few and it was the best packaged breakfast I've ever eaten.

Now - a full weekend ahead of me with no plans? I never have this! I love it already.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Metro, Boulot, Dodo

Je suis epuisee! I got in late last night from a drink with Charlie, Chris' friend from Brooklyn. I met with Charlie late at night because my phone interview with MIA got pushed back to 9 pm, Paris time. Btw, I naively thought my recording equipment would work with the phone in Chris' apartment. I had a moment of near-panic and Nadia saved the day. I was given my interview time quite last-minute and when I went to check my gear, I had that terrible dawning realization that I'd left it until too late. My digital recorder and all its little accessories were not compatible with Chris' phone (if you hate reading electronic device manuals, try it in another language!). On top of that, I had no idea that August 15 is a national holiday. The French love closing their stores as much as we love 24/7. I called up Nadia and she taped a lav mic to her home phone et voila! Somehow, out of nowhere, I scored the best audio person in the city.

After a chat with MIA where her cell cut out three times (that's ok!) and some transcription, I met with Charlie and we had a few drinks. He's an artist's assistant, or at least, that's his day job. He makes his own art, too, and he showed it to me on his iPod. I'm glad I like it because otherwise, what do you say? How often does a stranger show you their life's work, the thing that is most important to them? Do you just say, "Oh! Cool." Anyway, toothpaste never looked so good.

Charlie told me a little about Jin, the artist he's assisting here in Paris and I hope they'll let me drop by the studio sometime. I'd love to see it in person and they're right by my school. Charlie also told me that he used to assist Jeff Koons - I don't even know much about art and I was super impressed.

After I got in last night, I Skyped with Isaac for a little while. He reminded me by email (he is very gentle about corrections!) that the French say, "Tu me manques" instead of "Je te manques" which immediately made me feel silly but slightly awed. Firstly, I feel dumb to have worded such a basic feeling incorrectly ("I miss you") but also, "Tu me manques"? That's pretty presumptuous! "You miss me!" I like it. You do miss me, right?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Au Revoir Maman!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Il Est Heureux, or EE EH EUH EUH

Today I had my first pronunciation class. It's a little different than I'd envisioned. Instead of talking, we listen. A lot. And I'm super into it.

Our prof's name is Laure and today she was wearing a baggy tie-dyed t-shirt with a wolf on it. Her hair is short and lacks any discernible style. She doesn't wear make-up but she does have wire-rimmed glasses. I love it. It is the plain look of a person who is obviously free of earthly concerns. She's got bigger fish to fry, like how to make a roomful of thick-tongued vagrants trill the songbird beauty of the French language. Today it was the difference between whether an "e" is "ouvert" ("EUHHHH") ou "ferme" ("EWWWWWE").

Laure is like an animated marionnette with a French "Hooked on Phonics" soundtrack on blast as she tries to rouse a catatonic audience that is shell-shocked and afraid of what gutteral utterances lie dormant within. Every sound that emanates from her dynamically flexible face is exaggerated by physical gestures, like sign language for a group of wordless, helpless people - us.

"Il est heureux" becomes "EE EE EUH EUH" as she demonstrates the difference between the sounds, bouncing as she enunciates each syllable.

Today, during the break, I saw her lope by me towards the staff washroom. She walks like a teenage boy being called to dinner, but with gusto. She smiles at everyone and I noticed that incongruously, she wears heels! Granted, they're chunky heels but I almost wanted to give her the Birks off my feet. I really feel they would complete her ensemble.

In class she is extremely encouraging, exclaiming, "TRES BIEN!" or "BRAVO!" for every little correct answer. Considering that I think I'm in the wrong level (everything's a bit too easy) I feel like a cheat being showered in undeserved praise. I don't care. Considering how hard it is to get my basic thoughts out in other scenarios, I'm going to stay put, both for how her coddling affection soothes the ego and the way her class feels like being at a show all afternoon. I am completely charmed!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Tourist Hell is Close To Heaven

I've been to Paris several times but I've never gone up the Eiffel Tower. I figure it's for looking at, not being in. Plus, I really can't deal with lines and crowds and uh, tourists.

Well, I've officially OD'ed on tourist attractions after going up the Eiffel Tower this afternoon with mom. Ok fine, we also did a boat on the Seine after - a minor relapse. But never again.

Here's the deal - spending the afternoon with mom is great. Being in Paris is great. Lining up for ages? Not so great. Jostling crowds at the top? Not so great. Waiting for mom for an hour because so many metro stops are under construction that she got really lost? Fine - not the Eiffel Tower's fault. But still.

Close up, in person, it's really quite austere. You can see all the nuts and bolts and cables and pulleys. I'm not afraid of heights but climbing the stairs slowly (for mom) made the trek creepy. Vertigo! It was both exhilarating and terrifying that the thing has no solid walls, that it's essentially a cagey skeleton. It's quite ugly up close, which is part of its overall beauty, I suppose.

I'm glad we did the stairs because I can't imagine waiting even longer at the base just to cram into a smelly elevator. At the top, we asked people to take our photo, only choosing those who had fancy cameras on straps around their necks but guess what? Yes, crapshoot. What is the point of having such expensive equipment when you don't know how to frame a single shot? Now I wish I'd kept the one that made me laugh the longest. This dad had a really fancy camera but when he took our photo, our faces loomed large in the center, we had half of a stranger's body in the frame and nothing of the gorgeous vista. We could have been in a parking lot at a Wal-Mart.

For all my griping, I can't deny that there's a certain romanticism about the tower (although you don't feel it for even a second while you're there) and I'm glad I went with mom. Now I never have to go again.

Attention Aux Pickpockets

I've been conned (several times, once in my own apartment and I even hugged the guy - don't ask) but I've never been pickpocketed. I don't take a crazy amount of precaution when I travel, even when everything about me screams tourist. I'm always pretty aware of what's going on around me though, so I figure that it's ok.

Here's what I learned Sunday morning at 9:30 am on the metro - if you are being pickpocketed, you will have no idea what's happening. There's no being "clever" about it. It just happens and then you're screwed.

I saw a guy being had and I watched the whole thing, not having a clue what was going on. The poor tourist didn't know what was happening, either, but I'll describe it for you.

The train rushes into the station, slows to a stop. The doors open and a man steps on, with a middle-aged tourist couple behind him. He then drops a loud object and bends over, causing a scene by blocking the doorway for this tourist couple standing behind him. By now, the buzzer is going, to let people know the doors are closing. The man blocking the way is being very strange, bent all the way over, like he's playing some weird sport where you play defense by sticking your bum in another guy's crotch. It is all very watchable because it is so bizarre. There are vague thoughts of, "What did this guy drop that is such a big deal?" The tourist couple desperately wants to get out of the way of the doors, which are about to close. All of a sudden, the guy straightens up in a flash and ducks out the doors as they swoosh closed behind him - almost! The male tourist spins on the spot, staring after the man who has slipped out the doors and is now running down a set of stairs, away from the platform. The tourist sticks his hand in the closing doors (aiee!) and begins to pry the doors back open again. His well-heeled wife is staring. Finally, the doors give way and the man shoots out the door, his wife following. You hear him yelling and running down the steps after the pickpocket. The entire thing took about 5 seconds tops. No one communicated with each other, not the pickpocket or the husband to the wife.

Wow. There's no way to be prepared for that but the tourist was pretty savvy. I would have just watched the doors close on my wallet and then boo-hoo my way to the next metro stop.

Afterwards, I tried to re-enact it with my mom. It seems like it would be physically daring to do. Drop something loud, pretend to reach for it, but actually reach into another person's pocket. Or did they quietly undo his watch? Take a ring? Who knows?

For the record, I had no idea what was happening and the train actually had a body in every single seat (where's everyone going on Sunday morning?). Everyone just had that vacant look, even though it was wildly apparent that someone had just been robbed about 1m from where they sat. Does this mean they knew what was happening as it was going on? More likely that they are not into making "OMG" faces like I am.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Flower Power in Giverny

I've been going a little crazy from lack of sleep. I usually need lots, like a baby. A combination of the tiny apartment being so crowded and early mornings for school are what are doing me in. Still, I'm not looking forward to saying bye to my aunt and mom who leave tomorrow and Wednesday, respectively. Yes, I'll have the bed to myself but it's been so fun having lady time.

For example, today we went to Giverny to check out Monet's home and garden. THAT is a very lady thing to do. Especially when I would have loved to have taken this one day to sleep in. Last night, I met Laurent and his friends at a bar that I'd been to with Linda a few years ago. I rode Chris' bike there (taking it out for the first time) and met Laurent and his friends at Menilmontant. Laurent is super nice and interesting. I gave him decor advice for his new place and he told me about interviewing a British ex-pat who moved to Bangkok, met a man living as a woman, paid for his sex change and then married her. Oh, he also told me a little about his current job as a personal assistant for a famous actor (vous devrez deviner qui!) but his boss would be happy to know that he was super discreet. He didn't even tell me who his boss was, his friend did. I was impressed.

Anyway, back to the flowers and waterlilies. It felt so refreshing for my forehead. You know? In that way when you're tired and you have a bit of tension there? Monet's garden was very soothing and it's nice to not think about anything but how pretty flowers are for an extended period of time. He fashioned a pretty incredible retreat for himself. I went a little crazy with the ol' camera and was impressed to see one lady diligently making a little painting by the water, just standing with her mini-notebook in the palm of one hand.

We wandered the small village all afternoon and narrowly missed a torrential downpour. Then we hopped back on the bus and train and came back to Paris. Nighty night!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Hat Trick!

I scored three times at the Marche de Montreuil this morning. These boots are my fave - 3 euros!

Tonight I'm going to meet Chris' friend Laurent for a drink. Which pair should I wear? Btw, is it weird to google someone before you meet them? Because I just did. Chris said Laurent made a documentary in Thailand but he didn't mention that he directed Drew Barrymore's mom?!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Tu Aurais Pu Chanter Cela?

Today we got to SING A SONG in class. I'd forgotten how much we used to sing back in grade four french. The song was "Mon Frere" by Maxime Le Forestier. You should have heard us sing. A bunch of adults, desks in a circle, quietly mumbling, fumbling with the key, until the strings kick in for the chorus and then everyone's voice would swell dramatically for: "Tu aurais pu...chanter CELA!" It was a pretty great moment, in an absurd but entirely likeable way. I like that everyone was really feeling it whenever we got to that part. I imagined how we would have felt if we'd been singing this boozy chanson as 9-year-olds, with its references to the French protests of '68 and the despair of loneliness. I bet we would have been into it.

When I was 9, I was probably already bigger than Tiny Nun is now. I'm sorry to report that it was her last day today! Before I got to find out anything about her at all. She will remain a mystery. On her way out, the teacher said that maybe they would meet again one day. The nun said, "Oui. Le monde est ronde," and everyone laughed. It's funny what will make everyone laugh in a room where no one can communicate themselves effectively (even the teacher since it takes two to tango). We do laugh a lot, but usually after the coffee break, especially towards the end of the week. Youppie for le weekend.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Tout Va Bien

Yesterday after class I rushed to Les Halles to meet Nadia for a seance, which sounds wonderfully creepy but it's really just the French way of saying we met for a matinee (uh, ironic, isn't it?). It was either Nadia or Chris (both cinephiles) who gleefully told me that there are 300 movies playing in this city at any time.

Nadia chose Time, the Kim Ki-Duk film. Talk about wonderfully creepy. We both didn't know much about it but she mentioned that it was a love story. Korean films aren't exactly subtle and it was immediately clear that it isn't a love story at all. The symbolism is pretty heavy-handed. It's about plastic surgery, and on a broader level, identity, both collectively and as an individual. I'm so glad I happened to see this because I've always been fascinated with the Korean obsession for plastic surgery, and it seems that Kim Ki-duk has a few things to say on the matter. Double-eyelid surgery is as common as getting a haircut with young Korean women, and what frustrates me is that there doesn't seem to be much critical thought about the situation. It's kind of like, "Don't you want to be prettier?" I don' t really know how to argue with self-improvement and I don't want to be patronizing and ethnocentric, but I just can't get down with all this facial self-mutilation. Whenever I see Korean movie stars and models, I don't see a pretty face - I see someone who paid a surgeon to cut up their eyes.

Anyway, the film was unsettling (there was plenty of plastic surgery gore, but the creepiest, most nightmare-inducing image involved a simple paper mask) and it stayed with me until this morning.

After class today, I made my way over to the Centre Pompidou for an afternoon of art avec Les Mesdames. The slight, yet continued revulsion continued at the Annette Messager exhibition. I realized that I kind of love being grossed-out, in a gallery atmosphere. There isn't a safer, more sterile environment than an art gallery, where the reality is that you stand there contemplating inanimate objects in a spacious building where everyone's expected to behave, but it's also where you can go through all kinds of feelings normally avoided in real life. Normally, I'm just into things that are cute or nice or soft. But in a safe space like an art gallery, I like being repulsed. It's a rush...and then you just kind of settle down after. Exciting!

One thing: I don't like dismembered body parts, which I think is pretty natural for obvious reasons, but my only question is WHY is there so much dismemberment in modern art? I've been doing the tourist thing for the past week and a half, visiting art from all periods so maybe that makes me especially sensitive to it. Still. I guess if I'd taken art history in school, I may have some better perspective, but that's one of many things the What If version of myself does in a parallel world. The Regular version of myself is about to sign off to devour some petits macarons. Merci bien a tout le monde. Hugs all around.

P.S. Yesterday I got to be partners with Tiny Nun in class. I will try and find out more about her to report back to you but for now, suffice to say she wears a habit to class and is adorable. Today our prof said, "AMEN!" when Italian Pelle Almqvist finally understood how to conjugate the Plus Que Parfait. Then she turned to Tiny Nun and apologized. This class is so much better than OAC French 15 years ago, when I was fifteen and scared, surrounded by grade 12 jocks who were taking it to get out of OAC level math.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Comment Conjuger Les Verbes

Well, there's s one verb I'll conjugate this evening: "je suis ivre." I may not be doing it right, but don't I have a good excuse? Perhaps I should ask my teacher tomorrow morning but I've found that I'm still the same type of student I ever was, which is to say, timid. I don't know if I'll be able to muster the question, "Comment dit-on, I am drunk?" at 9 am.

This morning, I went to school on a Velib. I went to Gare de l'Est and then took the metro the rest of the way down. I ran into class, as usual.

After class, I met with Les Mesdames at the Centre Pompidou, only to discover that it's closed on Tuesdays. I felt like a bad tour guide. It's ok because my aunt loved the area (Les Halles) and we got crepes (Nutella for me).

Then the three of us poked around les Galeries Lafayette and the Jardin du Luxembourg. From there, I took off to meet Treadwell at a bar he likes on St. Denis. I haven't seen him in at least 8 years. He spends every summer here in Paris. He's doing his PhD in French Lit at Emory. It was great to catch up with him. He scared me for a moment with all his "Lacan" and "Derrida" but besides being an academic, he is really wise. It was great, and by the by, he was the one who got me drunk. I ordered a pint (which is a regular maneuvre for most, but past my limit, times two) and then he ordered me a house special, the petit punch. He said, "You see that jar? The one that looks like it has fetuses in it?" (How appetizing). It was rum with fermenting fruits and yes, it is petit in stature and has quite a (burning, eye-watering) punch. After a lovely chat during which he reminded me that we attended Conversat together during my 3rd year, his 4th (I seriously wouldn't remember anything if there weren't other people's memories to lean on) I met his sister and his girlfriend and then we all parted ways. They went to dinner and I went to ride the metro, seeing double.

It rained this evening, so it was nice and cool. I took a Velib from Gare de l'Est again and rode all the way home, working off the damage from the bar. Now it's time for...homework!

Monday, August 06, 2007

Just Another Manic Monday

It was my first day of class today. I had to run because I was late (30 years old and still some things don't change).

I arrived sweaty, out of breath and wet from the rain. I took a seat and sat for a moment. I was supposed to have a "Madame H" but instead, there was a Jellineck look-alike who was even sweatier than I was. Wrong class! I swear this has happened on the first day of every stage of my education except that on the first day of high school, it is devastatingly embarassing. This time it was just mildly annoying (as I was haltingly able to express to the administrative office) as it was a mistake on their end and it meant lining up all morning instead of being in class. I pity the school administrator who must face my ill-pronounced wrath. I went easy on them because I knew that simply listening to my mangled French was punishment enough. Even for me.

The office ladies helped place me in the right class. I had to interrupt it in session. The prof was mad because her class is jam-packed (i.e., I had no desk) and also because my stammering about being a new student was indecipherable. In trying to come closer to hear me, she hit her head on the overhead TV stand. She hates me now. I approached her desk after class and while I was waiting, an American mom asked her if she could bring her a coffee at the start of class every morning. I was in awe of her confidence. I will always be the rain-soaked frantic person who causes others to have inadvertent head injuries, never the smooth-talking caffeine dealer.

After class, I bought my books and did my homework on the metro on my way to lunch with Nadia. She took me to the Passage Brady in the 10e arrondissement for Indian and told me about the NGO she is getting off the ground. I met Nadia at FICA in Brazil in June. She told me that Tabac, her doc, helped affect the public smoking ban in France and that she's working on anti-tobacco laws in Chad and other African countries. I asked her a few questions about making documentaries and she told me fascinating facts about bees. You know that Hot Docs promo they played this year, before every screening? The one about the crab cakes at the party? That's Nadia, except that she's a hot mama.

I finished up the day with a long meander around the Galeries Lafayette and les Printemps, ogling the Vanessa Bruno and Marni. That's the Galeries Lafayette in the photo. Imagine our malls looked like this?

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Crazy Lady Coming Through

Today started off in an idyllic way, grabbing a Velib bike from in front of Chris' apartment and heading toward the center of the city along the Canal St. Martin. It was a beautiful ride and the first thing I saw after leaving the apartment was...ponies!

I happened upon a market at Breguet-Sabin and bought a hat. I've been wanting a Panama hat but this was in a box marked "3 euros". How could I not? It's fun to hand over some change and walk away putting a hat on, especially when it instantly renders your outfit "crazy lady." I was wearing this beach dress I got in Bali and carrying several bags. I was also sweating maniacally. The heat was the thing that tipped the balance. My dress is black and so is my hair. I felt like a walking black hole, sucking the heat out of the air into a vortex of insanity. I stopped being able to think rationally. The hat just made it obvious.

What started off as a great ride this morning got frustrating when I realized that free museum day doesn't include the places I wanted to go (Dali museum in Montmartre, Centre Pompidou) so I visited a tourist booth to see what my options were. I decided on the Musee de l'Orangerie. And guess what? After riding a Velib for a while to get there (pant, pant) I circled for 90 minutes to park the thing. 90 MINUTES. I visited at least 4 stations, waiting for 10-20 minutes at several. This Velib situation is unbelievable but...I still love them! It's like having an unreliable boyfriend. The good times are so great.

I started doing the crazy lady shuffle, which I realized is the exact same thing as my morning shuffle (which Isaac always teases me for). Eyes half-closed, bottoms of the feet never technically leaving the ground. I was just so hot and tired. I decided I needed Ira Glass' voice to keep me in reality and laughed all the way through les Tuileries to this crazy short story by Nick Hornby. I sat staring at Monet's Water Lilies at the Musee de l'Orangerie for a really long time, just listening. Then I figured I had time for one more museum so I decided on the Musee de la Publicite (posters dating back to the 13th century) which is a specialty museum at the Louvre. When I got there, I found out that it's actually in a different location but I could not handle any more time outside. So I stayed where I promised myself I wouldn't go today. And yes, it was a zoo.

Coming home today, I picked up a Velib (flat tire, try again!) and took a detour through les Buttes Chaumont. I saw the ponies, a little girl being lifted off one of them. We'd all had a long day. Poor ponies probably felt as hot and crazy as I did. Now I'm listening to The Shirelles and I can hear the old man blowing his whistle in les Buttes Chaumont for everyone to get out before the gates close. I hope the ponies are comfy wherever they go back to.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Saturday Afternoon At Two Markets

This morning we went to a fleamarket ("marche aux puces" - market of fleas!) at Porte de Clignancourt. I remember being here years ago - I still wear a scarf I bought then. Today it was quite hot and everywhere we turned they seemed to be blaring G-Unit. At first, it was all fake Bathing Ape and G-Star as far as the eye could see. I did find a few vintage stalls but they've got nothing on Kensington Market. As for the rest of the place, it was like someone took a picked-over Value Village and shook it upside down. The things some people were trying to sell were just puzzling. Like, a towel laid out with 6 or 8 old cell phone chargers on it and a beat-up, empty biscuit tin. Seriously? But in a tiny corner stall, my aunt found the cutest pair of French designer pumps from the 60s, never worn. I guess that's why we do this!

Later, Les Mesdames were resting and I took a Velib (still love them!) to Chateau Rouge. It was so great. It's the African neighbourhood and everyone goes around wearing beautiful, bright fabrics, the women with sleeping babies strapped to their backs. In the little, dense street market on Dejean, women sell killer costume jewelry (massive cocktail rings for 5 euro, golden jaguar necklace and bracelet sets for 25 euro) and men aggressively hawk fake Gucci sunglasses. I was slightly overwhelmed. Think fast! Everything is surrounded by rows of fresh produce and fish on ice. The people selling those are less impatient.

Ok question: I know when a vendor comes up to me yelling "Ceintures! Ceintures!" that he just wants to make a sale but I've always wondered whether I'm being rude when I ignore Parisian men who speak to me. I mean, Canadian men do NOT talk to you (like, ever). I used to gripe about that, but if the alternative is every creepy older man trying out "Ni hao," "Konichiwa," and "Hello" (almost always in that order, never "Bonjour") I'll take an order of good ol' Canadan no-eye-contact any day. Does that mean I'm a weird snob? I've grappled with this every time. I don't have to entertain these guys do I? Am I flouting some masculin/feminin flirtation and cultural enjoyment that Parisians derive from some coquettish back and forth? Today a man loudly said to me, "HELLO" and I just ignored him. We quietly walked in tandem along a traffic-free street and it felt awkward (obviously!) because there wasn't a hustle and bustle to disappear into. A smile is fine. I smile or nod back. But a convo? No thanks. No woman ever comes up to me to say "Ni hao" so I think it's pretty safe to say that these older dudes aren't just being friendly and they should bugger off. If I've never had anyone say "Excusez-moi" I think I can safely assume that no one is stopping me for directions. What does a Parisian girl say back? I need to make a friend, fast.

Friday, August 03, 2007

A Month In Paris - It Begins

Here we are again, the three ladies. My mom, her sister and me! This time, it's Paris.

My mom and aunt (forthwith collectively referred to as "Les Mesdames") have never met Chris but they've taken very strongly to him. They're like middle-aged lady detectives, as they've gleaned a lot about his personality from very minute details. For example, they love his tidy apartment and that it's filled with books and old records (this morning we got ready to Dionne Warwick and yes, there was dancing). They love that he obviously cooks (from the bits of garlic and a neatly wrapped half-lemon in the itty bitty fridge) and they joke that they miss him. I think they want to adopt him. Chris has a way with moms, apparently, even halfway around the world.

Before he jetted off for a month-long visit to the U.S., he took me out for a neighbourhood tour even though I was half-crazy with jetlag. He got me a membership for Velib (I LOVE these bikes!), but it only lasts for the week. He's left me his own bike which I can ride as much as I want but I need to figure out a way to extend my Velib membership (you need a bank card with a little chip, like the French have, to get through the automated system). We rode bikes through his neighbourhood in the 19th (les Buttes Chaumont - gorgeous) through Jaures and le Goutte d'Or back to Nadia's, which is right by Sacre Coeur. We had a chat over some Indian food and then we split, to go our separate ways...wish I had a friend here in Paris!

Here's a bit more on what I think of the Velib situation, plus an explanatory preamble. Velib (velo + liberte) is this new system of bikes that are placed all around the city. They're a great ride and they're mostly outside of metro stations (but not always). You get your bank card through the system (so there's a deposit in case of damage) and then you can ride them whenever and wherever you want! If you ride it for 30 mins or less, it's free. After that, it's like a euro or something, I've forgotten. I always try to ride it for 30 mins to my next destination and return it but ha! That's often a problem. First of all, I often circle just trying to find a Velib station. When you want a bike, sometimes the station is completely empty, and when you want to return it, they're full! This has happened to me two days in a row. I've learned that it's best to just sit tight and wait because it's never more than 5 or 10 minutes before the next person comes to take one out. I learned that lesson the hard way. So, to make a long story short, it's great for noodling around but if you have a destination and a fixed time, it can be tough because you could spend more than half an hour just trying to park the thing (like I did yesterday). Still, when wandering a city and getting lost (I went to Colette today and I swear, just like every time, I wound up at a sad looking children's shop on the other side of the city - why? I need to have Parisian addresses explained to me!) it feels way better to do it on a bike than by foot.

From Brazil to Britt, Ontario

June and July became a whirlwind of Portuguese, Project Runway and quality kayak time.

InJune, Isaac and I went to FICA, an environmental film festival in Goias, Brazil. He was there with Puffing Away and I was there to ride his coattails.

We wandered the small town, taking in the colonial architecture in the morning and the air conditioned screenings in the dead heat of the afternoon. Every evening we met up with the other international filmmakers for long dinners that stretched late into the night. We met interesting people from all over, in fact, I'm staying at Nadia's apartment this week in Paris (Nadia is a documentary filmmaker, very cool or "muito legal" as they say in Brazil).

After spending a few weeks working in a secret locale (don't ask me anything about Project Runway! a.k.a., Wha...?), I took off with the King-Wulff clan for a kayaking expedition in Georgian Bay. It was pretty spectacular. It feels funny to travel such long distances by arm (stroke! stroke!) but you also feel quite lithe, floating atop the water, barely breaking the surface. My paddle was often scraping the rocks below (in some places it's so shallow!) and still, the kayak would just glide along.

Sometimes the landscape seemed surreal. It's all smooth humps of rolling rocks, shot through with lightning bolts of granite or pink quartz. On a clear, cloudless day (of which we had many), everything seems to hug the horizon - the trees, the reflection on the glassy water, the rocks and islands. Everything above and below is just vast space, blues and greens.

One thing I could have done without was mosquito hour. At times, I'd hear the hellish chord of 10 different tones of "bzzzt!" right in my ear. Clouds of mosquitos (30? 40?) would just orbit my face like it was a Twinkie or a steak. Just as you think you will lose your mind...they disappear. Only to reappear at the exact same time the next night. Like me, with this blog. Now that I'm back to being wired (albeit on a different continent) hopefully I can keep you posted a little better than I have been.