Speak French to me, baby

It’s official, I hate Wednesdays. Getting up at 6:30 (also known as BEFORE the butt-crack of dawn here, kid you not, it was still dark outside) does not a happy Claire make. Sheila and I had our breakfast at seven, and she left at 7:45 while I was still getting ready. I tried out the new eyeshadow trio that I bought at Sephora yesterday for retail therapy, and I like how it looks. I left at eight. It’s a good thing I went to find creepy Paris III with Joan yesterday, since she’d printed out walking directions from the Gare de l’Est metro stop, and that’s where I had to get off today since I was going there from home, and not from Sweet Briar. I had some time to spare, so I stopped by an exchange bureau to exchange this month’s ration of traveler’s checks. This place wouldn’t accept a copy of my passport as a valid form of identification, but they did accept my driver’s license, so it all worked out in the end. I made it to my class with about 10 minutes to spare, so I sat outside the room with a bunch of the other students, but I kept to myself. An older gentleman that I assumed was the professor came down to the area (we’re technically in the basement), asked if we’d checked to see if the room was occupied, then looked in the room himself, reported that it was empty and dark, shut the door, and remained outside the room with us. Exactly at nine, another older gentleman came flying down the staircase, threw open the door to the room, and went inside to turn on all the lights. He was the professor, the other older gentleman was evidently a student…

Professor Clavier is an interesting man. He’s tall, and bald, which reminds me roughly of a conglomeration of two of my past theatre teachers, one from college, another from high school. His vocal register brings back memories from high school, his pattern of speech matches the college professor I have in mind. He smells like lavender, which I found comforting. All I knew about the class was that the ateliers themselves were all different, and the professors got to do whatever they wanted with them to a certain extent. I didn’t realize you could look into the specific class (or the professor) any further and use that to help you make your decision on what atelier is right for you. As M. Clavier continued to talk, I spent a lot of energy picking apart his every word just trying to figure out what in the world the main focus of this class was… scenography, dramaturgy, acting at a higher level, directing, lighting, what in the world did I sign up for, man, JUST SPIT IT OUT. 20 minutes later, I managed to figure out that we would be studying… Russian Theatre. Specifically Ostrovsky’s L’Orage (The Storm) and I believe we’re studying some Chekhov later. M. Clavier would be emailing us the text so that we didn’t have to buy it. That’s… helpful. Good to know we have a focal point. Now… what are we doing with it?! Later on in the class, I heard him mention something about splitting into multiple groups, and presenting something, so I’m going to make the assumption that this is either a directing/acting class, or a scenography class. That being said, I will not try to get theatre credit for it back at my American university. Had this been a lighting design class, I would have. So, why are we studying Russian theatre? M. Clavier says that French students never study it, and have a poor understanding of it. I’m excited, I feel like I might have a little bit of a leg up in the class. Have I studied Ostrovsky before? Not that I can recall, but I have studied Chekhov in depth, and I’ve studied a lot of other Russian playwrights, genres, and methods quite a lot as well, so I’m happy. Professor Clavier gave us a 40 minute lecture on Russian history since most French students don’t study it at all, and he hit one key thing about Russia quite a lot: Everything Russia does is centered around the fact that it’s a country built around fear. Back in the 15 century or so, Russia had to fight off four invasions (one from each direction) all at the same time. That’s why all of the villages (for the most part) are set up in such a way that the outskirts are built like barricades to protect what’s inside.

Let me back up a little bit… before M. Clavier went forward with his lecture, he had some administrative work to take care of first. He needed to get some information from us, specifically our names, email addresses… and phone numbers. Why the phone numbers? He takes a train to get to the class every day, and should the train be ungodly late (it was a little late today), he needs our numbers to call us to let us know that class is canceled. He didn’t want to just hand out sheets of paper and have us write all of that information down since email addresses are really particular, and our handwriting is all different, so he had his own method… He called on each one of us one at a time, and asked us for all of that information, and for a quick sentence regarding why we were in his class. He then wrote down the email address (and all of the other stuff) himself so he could read it later. I have a problem with numbers, but telephone numbers are easy. Here, it’s a set of five, two-digit numbers. I haven’t memorized my number yet, so I pulled out a notepad where I’d written it down. M. Clavier got to me, I gave him my name, and my email address, which wasn’t much of a problem, but I was the first person in the class to give him an email address that didn’t involve my name in any way, shape or form, AND I was the first person to have an email address with “.com” and not “.fr” to finish it (there were a handful of .coms after me, so that doesn’t mean much). I had been practicing my phone number in my head… but it flew away as soon as I needed it, and I got a little flustered on the third number, 72. I accidently told him 62. “62, or 72?” “62…” The next number was 80, which is “quatre-vingt” but because I was flustered, I kept saying “quarante” meaning 40. The French girl next to me looked at my notepad, and said “80” for me. Then the professor… read my phone number back to me in English up to that point. Son of a bitch. I was upset, so I didn’t catch the fact that he said 62 and not 72 then either. “Oui. 13.” Then he read the now finished number again… in English. Now I’m really mad. “Oui. C’est ça.” Now the last part… why was I there? I had some impressing to do, clearly…

“Je suis une étudiant étranger, et je suis ici parce que je veux comprendre comment les français étudient le théatre, et comment ils font le théâtre, parce que je veux produire Le Malade imaginaire quand je retourne aux États-Unis.”
(I’m an exchange student, and I’m here because I want to understand how the French study theatre, and how they do theatre, because I want to produce [a production of Molière’s] The Imaginary Invalid when I go back to America.)
M. Clavier smiled and continued with his list. I noticed as he brandished it (after I looked over my line of information) that my phone number was off by one number, so I figured I’d fix it when I talked to him after I gave him my letter of presentation during the break. There are three other foreign students in the class. One from Italy with a very strong accent (which prompted M. Clavier to tell the other students to listen to how the foreign students speak French since our accents are interesting and we actually speak better grammatical French than they do), one from Romania, and I didn’t catch where the other one was from. The break comes, I hand him the letter, and explain that I’m only here until December, which is a little problematic since there’s a big exposition/presentation thing he mentioned the class participating in in January, and I won’t be there for that, but it mentions that in the letter. So he asks me, “When are you leaving?” NOT “Quand partez-vous?” but “When are you leaving?” IN ENGLISH. I said I’d be here until Christmas, IN FRENCH. He responded, “That’s fine. You can stay in the class.” IN ENGLISH. This is a professor, not a shopkeeper. I don’t know if he’s actually practicing his English or if he thinks I’m stupid, but I don’t like this. All I can actually do is keep speaking French to him (and everyone else in the class) and not break down. After the break, he had some pieces of Russian poetry for us. He called some students up to read the French parts, and he read some of it in Russian for us, he even sang one of the pieces! He had some students read from a different Russian play than the one we’ll be studying as well.
I headed for Sweet Briar after the class was over, since there were plans to go eat lunch at Le Jardin du Luxembourg if it didn’t rain. When I got off of the metro, I figured I’d stop somewhere to get lunch to take out, but most of the places had lines out the door. There was a Chinese/Japanese place that had sushi already pre-made and ready for lunch that had a smaller line, so I stopped there. They didn’t have the specific sushi lunches labeled, so ordering was a little difficult… I just asked if it was possible to get sushi and take it to go, “Bien sûr!” so the woman helping me went over to the area, and luckily put her hand over the one that I wanted, so I asked for it… then she told me it was “ten euro.” Not “dix euro” but TEN. I realize I was wearing my rain boots again today, and my “look” screamed “American that doesn’t want to get her feet wet” but I’ve had it with people speaking English to me for this week… Okay, one any other day, the shopkeeper wouldn’t have upset me. After dealing with M. Clavier, I wasn’t in a good mood… I found Joan in the entrance, and she said she needed to get some food, so she was on her way out to do that when she ran into Rouge, so they both went. I waited for them to come back, then we had lunch together. All of us had had similarly “bad” class experiences today. Joan had made a minor French flub that led the professor to not only correct her grammar, but then follow the correction with “good luck in this class.” Kyle and Sheila came down after a while, we all chatted more, then Suzannah came by with Chipotle for her lunch. Everyone but Suzannah headed to Fnac to see if Rouge could find some books she needed for class, and I wanted to try to have Kyle help me buy Sexion d’Assaut tickets, but Rouge couldn’t find her books, and we forgot to go buy the tickets… Kyle bought four pens, though… Rouge, Kyle and I took the metro home after that.
Since that four hour long class this morning is in a big, somewhat empty room suitable for theatre things, I spent it sitting on a bench with no back support, so my back was really bothering me. The pain was starting to climb up my back, so I took one of the muscle relaxants I have for tension headaches to prevent myself from getting one. Between using up so much energy during class to make sure I was understanding everything, and that muscle relaxant, I was so sleepy… I had to take a nap for about a half an hour just so I could function. I watched an episode of Private Practice before dinner, which Sheila and I had by ourselves. Madame told us last night that she was going to have dinner with one of her daughters, so she’d bought a pair of parmentiers for us to heat up in the microwave, and prepped a salad for us to eat. For a TV dinner style meal, it was pretty good.
I’m so pooped… I’m going to bed early tonight.
Le Seigneur Jupiter sait dorer la pilule. Molière: Amphitryon

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