After a busy week together, our immersion group scattered to the four winds on Saturday. One colleague went to Normandy, another to Marseilles, and a third to Belgium. We also left Paris, taking a day trip with our host family to Giverny, before spending the rest of the weekend with our friends in the countryside.
As an international city with a large, diverse immigrant population, Paris offers a nearly limitless array of fantastic cuisine. We enjoyed spicy creole food with our French friends, sampled a bevy of mezes at a Michelin-rated Turkish restaurant hidden in one of Paris’s outlying districts, and compared the dishes at two excellent Moroccan restaurants on our classmate’s initiative, but one of the most memorable meals we had in Paris was one that we prepared ourselves.
Paris’s numerous charms notwithstanding, two weeks seemed like a long time to stay in one place. So when our instructor proposed an excursion, we jumped at her suggestion. She floated a weekend group trip to Normandy as a possibility, but we all had our own agendas for the one free weekend we’d have in France. Instead, we settled on an outing to Versailles.
We just received Munchkin’s spring progress report from his daycare. It was all Cs, with a smattering of Ds mixed in for good measure. This took us aback initially, especially since one of the things we most liked about the FSI daycare is its non-academic nature. Then we looked closer and saw that D stood for “Developing” skills and C for “Consistently” using said skills, the highest “grade” on the report.
From the first sleepless night, the joy of first-time parenthood is constantly punctuated by a myriad of challenges, some anticipated and many not. It seems not long ago that we were grappling with such existential questions as whether and when to supplement breast milk with formula and how to transition Munchkin to sleeping alone. Though they don’t seem to at the time, the challenges of infancy pale in comparison to those of toddlerhood for the simple reason that volition becomes involved, and a toddler’s will is difficult to control. Having finally won the fight over retiring Munchkin’s milk bottles, we have now arrived at the next battle — and most daunting challenge thus far — potty training.
According to a recent study, “traveling will help you lose weight, feel younger, and have more sex.” Now, the word ‘study’ here has to be taken with a large grain of salt — the survey in question was carried out by Expedia, which has a pretty direct interest in getting people to travel more. Given how much delicious food we ate in Paris, we’re not sure that the first claim stands up to scrutiny, but our recent trip did make us feel younger — not so much because we were traveling, but more so because we were traveling without our son.
In a city as busy and bustling as Paris — with its rich artistic and architectural heritage — it is easy to lose oneself in a mad dash between various cultural sites. If you don’t stop and look around every once in a while, you might wind up missing some great contemporary art.
Today, we were invited to make a brief presentation of our immersion experiences to the French department at FSI. We showed a short photo montage, played a funny video clip, cracked a few jokes, and answered a handful of questions. It’s unclear how much the roomful of instructors got from our presentation, but then again — how does one cram two weeks’ worth of experiences into five minutes?
Paris. The city of love, fine art, good food, great wine. And now the city of armed military patrols. We have visited France several times before, and the sight of fully armed soldiers patrolling the streets was as out-of-place in our conception of Paris as a UFO full of extraterrestrials would have been. And yet, this is Paris’s new temporary reality. The state of emergency declared after the November attacks was extended in February for another 3 months, and this decision clearly weighed on everyone’s mind even as Parisians sought a return to normalcy.
Even for someone who loves languages and is fully cognizant of how big a privilege it is to be paid to learn one, the daily drudgery of intensive language learning can grow wearisome. After six dreary months of repetitive grammar exercises, dense articles, and forced classroom discussions, we yearned for a break from the routine. Ennui and wanderlust, as much as a desire for immersive learning, motivated us to sign up for FSI’s April immersion trip to France. Paris in the springtime — what could be better?