Sunday, October 15, 2006

Jetlag, Job stress, and Jazz.

Salut from Paris on a sunny Sunday afternoon!

It has been a week since we arrived, and the bevy of experiences that have already piled up in our memories are too many to recount. This is a city with such a kaleidoscope of sounds, smells, sights, tastes, and tactile experiences, that even seven days' worth has become pretty much a colorful blur. However, our mental and physical paths seem to circle around a few basic concepts.

First of all, jetlag. Yes, it is an undeniable fact, and what's more, the quintessential excuse for any flighty (no pun intended) mistake one might make. We are slowly becoming accustomed to the decalage des horaires, but these things take time (again, no pun intended), and if I hand someone the wrong change or use the wrong verb tense, je m'excuse, je suis un peu fatiguee. So there.

Job stress. I was forewarned (by past participants in this teaching exchange) that I would have absolutely no idea what was going on at my job for a while. Uh, yeah. After a week of something like hunt-and-peck method, I have established that I am teaching 14 hours (though my schedule says 15), I am teaching 4 different types of classes (though I don't have any books for them), and I have about 60 students total (but if you bring them to the scheduled room, it'll be wrong).

The professors for whom I am lecturing tell me out of one side of their mouth that I must do [insert mystery lesson here], and then turn around and say I can do jolly well what I please, as long as they're happy and practicing their English. So, I try to strike a balance. Actually, this week, I just tried to survive. The (near) breaking point was when I had to fill in for a colleague, while covering my own class. That is, running back and forth between two classrooms, teaching the same thing to two different groups. Why couldn't we combine them, you say?

Don't ask. There's some compelling French reason.

I do have some very sweet students who are eager to learn, which brought me much joy in the thick of it. For the next couple of months, I have two very long days but also two weekdays off as well, so I am able to spend time with my husband and catch my breath.

Except that every time I try to stop and catch my breath, it gets stolen away by some encounter with Paris. Our recent wanderings have brought our feet in the direction of live music (which we expect will continue with some regularity, as much as our budget can take!). Our first show was at Caveau de la Huchette, where a Benny Goodman-style band from Switzerland serenaded half a dozen couples with hot, dance-driven swing. Abbey was asked to dance a foxtrot, which was a somewhat humiliating experience, given the fact that she doesn't dance the foxtrot. Everyone was very kind, however and you couldn't beat the atmosphere.

Caveau de la Huchette, which has hidden revolutionaries spouting off about liberties,
covered secret passageways to other parts of the city during times of oppression,
and was a secret meeting place for French Templars in the 16th century!

Last night, it was a bit trickier to find a place, given that it was Saturday night. We learned (the hard way), that if you have your heart set on a particular place, you'd better call ahead with a reservation. Fortunately, we had a veritable constellation of interests, most of which were in the Saint-Germain-des-Pres neighborhood. We finally found a spot here:

...where a Parisian singer of Malian origins sang her samba/soul-influenced tunes with fervor and finesse. Her quartet was quite extraorinary as well, and Karl soaked up as much of the piano and bass solos as possible. It was on the priceier side of things (18E for entry + a drink), but worth every euro. The club has hosted the likes of Charlie Parker, Stephane Grappelli, Miles Davis, and the Duke.

Well, it is probably about time that we make something to eat. You know, it's a French custom to get just the food you need for a day or two, which I think is a beautiful reminder of the daily goodness of God. Just as we pick up a baguette, a few fruits, and a new bottle of wine everyday before dinner, we must look to the Lord for new mercies every morning.

Miss and love you all!


steph said...

It looks warm there. I bet you're missing the 30 degree weather we've been having. David and I are so glad you've made it safely and are settling in. Time is already flying..

Anonymous said...

Your temp is the same as mine tonight! I saw a Stephane G. tribute concert last week and thought only of you 2 (not U2:) The musicians were wonderful! Happy you are finding your way and not (jet)lagging too much. Isn't teaching intersting??!! Sounds like working under the terms of a contract - don't combine the class - just run your tail off!
(as your Mom used to write)
Luv, auntie ruthie

tri-mama said...

What a fantastic week! Glad to see you adjusting and enjoying life. We miss you, but it sure is going to be fun seeing Paris through your eyes.

Anonymous said...

Ohhh cultural tainted occupational reality! PTL His grace is new every morning and evening...and at all times in between!What a store of anecdotes for the future you are accumulating now.


Joyfulartist said...

I'm having such a fit of jealousy but at the same time I'm so happy for you! I love Paris! I hope this week goes better for you, Abbey and that Karl keeps on cookin! Keep a list of all the great spots you go to so that when we visit Paris again we can check them out. May blessings go forth from you like ripples on water.
Jan the joyfulartist