Lost Souls and Lost Navigos

Sheila and I got up a little earlier than we usually do so we had time to run to SFR and buy credit for her phone. After that, we met up with Katie, Rucy, Joan, and Suzannah and went to Monop’ (Monoprix’s mini-version that’s much more food-oriented) to get some lunch. It’s a bit more expensive than Carrefour, but I feel like there are more options in general, certainly more for me. I bought some gorgonzola and squash risotto that was just under five euro, and I microwaved it before we headed back to Sweet Briar to eat it. We headed up the stairs (all eight flights of them since the elevator is still broken) before we ate, and the risotto was pretty good. It was really warm today, which is odd for Paris period, let alone Paris in October, so I was sitting on the floor inside the salle de lecture, which got me more attention from Mme. Grée… I think she just knows that I’m a little odd by now…

We learned about “most of” in Atelier d’Écriture today. There’s no difference when you say “most of” in English, but there’s a difference in French. Your “most of” changes depending on what exactly follows your “most of.” If it’s singular (like “her life” or “his money”) you’ll use either la plus grande partie de or la majeure partie de, whichever you like, though the second one sounds a lot prettier. If whatever follows “most of” is plural (like “my friends”), you’re going to use la plupart de. Ready to try it? “I know most of her friends” becomes je connais la plupart de ses amis. Why? “her friends” is plural, so you us la plupart de. What about “she spent most of her life in Italy?” That’s elle a passé la plus grande partie de (la majeure partie de) sa vie en Italie. Why? “her life” is singular. There are a couple exceptions when something that’s singular is paired with la plupart de whatever, namely la plupart du monde (most of the people), and la plupart du temps (most of the time). There’s also an exception the other way around: la plus grande/majeure partie du monde means most of the world. I had a bit of trouble with this initially. Considering I’d just had a tattoo done that starts with “Presque tous les hommes” and it translates to “most men” I was messing this up all over the place. I almost went up to Mme. Mellado at the end of class, lifted my shirt, and asked her to explain why my quote didn’t say “La plupart des hommes” but since I wasn’t the last one left in the room, and because her response would probably be “because that’s Molière” I resisted. We also learned that when you’re translating “in the 90’s” or any other decade, the proper translation would be dans les années quatre-vignt dix (in the case of the 90’s), and that number is always written out, and it never has an “s” on the end of it (like in the case of 50 = cinquante or 30 = trente).

Katie really wanted to go to the Père Lachaise cemetery, which is on the other end of ligne 3 that we usually take to go home, so I went with her. Our class ended at 4:30, and the cemetery closes at six at this time of the year, but we figured we’d give it a shot. It was about 5:25 by the time we got there. Suzannah has a guide book that gives you a really easy semi-guided tour to see all of the important parts of the cemetery (like Molière’s grave, and all of the other “fun” ones that everyone likes to come visit) which Katie and I will have to borrow next time because we got all kinds of lost trying to find Édith Piaf’s (France’s “national” singer) grave. We ran into one of the security guards at the cemetery and he told us that we’d have to leave soon (it was 5:40 by then) because they were locking up at six exactly, and if we weren’t out of there by then, “you sleep here.” We kept trekking onward, but we gave up at about 5:45, and turned around to go back out the way we came so we could go back to the metro. We walked by the same guard we saw five minutes earlier, and he wouldn’t let us go past him to go back to the exit we came from, he forced us to leave through his exit, which we weren’t too happy about. We didn’t see any of the graves we’d wanted to see, but I did take a few cool pictures…

Sachsenhausen concentration camp memorial

Mauthausen concentration camp memorial

That last picture hit me pretty hard. I’ve been to the Mauthausen concentration camp, and I knew exactly what it was an allusion to. Mauthausen has a rock quarry, and a “job” that the prisoners could have was to “work” at the quarry, which meant carrying huge boulders up a set of steps. The point was to have the giant rocks crush the prisoners and kill them. If you made it to the top, the S.S. Officers would push the boulder back into the quarry (hopefully squashing someone) and make you do it again. The prisoners would have to all carry the rocks up the steps at the same time, so if one prisoner fell, everyone behind him fell, creating a terrible domino effect.

Katie and I attempted to get back to the Gambetta station a roundabout way, but it didn’t work. I thought we’d get there quickly, so I’d taken my Navigo out of my purse and put it in my pocket. After walking down the same road for about 10 minutes, I pulled out my map and sat down on a raised sidewalk to see where we were in relation to a metro stop. Once we knew where we were, I got up, and we kept walking. About five minutes later, we found a metro stop, but I came to the horrific realization that my Navigo wasn’t in my pocket anymore, nor was it in my purse. I asked Katie if we could retrace our steps to see if we could find it, and she said we could, but the likelihood of us finding it would be slim since anyone would have picked it up off of the street if they saw it (and had free rides on the metro until November). So we walked all the way back to the spot where we sat down for a moment, since the Navigo wouldn’t have fallen out of my pocket while I was walking, I had it shoved in there too well… but we couldn’t find it. Katie kept me calm, so we went back to the metro stop we saw, and asked what I could do since I’d completely lost my pass. The attendant said I’d have to buy a ticket to get to Gambetta (since we were at Porte de Bagnolet), and they’d be able to make a new pass for me. Off we went. We get to Gambetta, and explained my situation to that attendant, and they searched for my name in the computer system… and I’m nowhere to be found, which was to be expected since Sweet Briar had made all of our Navigo passes for us before we ever got to Paris. Our names were written on the passes, and our pictures were taped on. This has actually gotten me into some trouble before since some metro workers have been at transfer stations checking tickets and passes, and one asked me why my picture was taped to my pass. I explained the whole “my program did it for me before I got here” thing, and he let me go since my pass was valid. The attendant said there was really nothing they could do for me to actually replace the pass. I said I still really needed to get a new one, so she said that if I had a Parisian address (which I did), I could give her that address and the name of my host mother so they could put me in the system, and take my picture on the spot so that they could give me a brand new card. Since my information is in the system now, if I ever lose my Navigo again, I can go back to another station like this one (since not all metro stations have this capability), and have them print out a new pass for me for five euro, and all of the credit I’ve put on it will be there. Success kid. For the fact that I was able to handle the entire conversation in French. Not for the fact that I lost my Navigo and had to get a new one. All things said and done… I picked a good time to lose my pass! I put a hebdomadaire (weekly) fare on the new pass since we’ve only got one full week left in October, and I’ll put the monthly fare on it next week. I do have three days unaccounted for so far, so we’ll see how to handle that when the time comes. Katie and I headed home about an hour later than we had expected, and with a lot of problems behind us than we had expected to encounter…

I got home at 7:15. All the lights were off, but I knew Sheila was home. On most Tuesdays, I’m home shortly after five or 5:30. Sheila has another class, so she’s used to coming home when I’m already here. I was exhausted, so I went to my room, and she came flying out of hers. “Oh my god, you’re okay!” She hugged me… and then she socked me. “Where the hell were you?! Why didn’t you call me back or text me?!” I looked at my phone while she continued. “I was trying to get a hold of everyone in our group to see if they’d heard from you.” She was right. I had a text and three missed calls from her, and one missed call from Joan. My phone was on silent, and it doesn’t vibrate very much, so I never felt it go off. This all started around six. I not only have a host mother, I evidently have a host Sheila, a host Joan, a host Rouge, and a host Kyle. All of them were worried sick about me. Rouge and Kyle didn’t try to get a hold of me (though I’d called Rouge to ask how she went about getting a new Navigo since she’d misplaced hers earlier in the semester, and she didn’t pick up), but they told me they were all worried, and Sheila was trying to get a hold of all of them to get a hold of me. Kyle was evidently no help to ease Sheila’s nerves. Their conversation went something like “Hey, have you heard from Claire? She’s not home yet.” “No I haven’t. Maybe she got taken.” MEN. I told Sheila that I honestly wouldn’t have worried about her until it was about dinner time if I hadn’t heard from her or if she wasn’t home yet. At least now I know she’d like some notification if I get held up by losing my Navigo or by evil Parisian attraction workers… and it only took a fist-sized bruise to figure that one out…

Madame got a kick out of all the garbage I had to go through. She got home about 10 minutes after I did. We had another tomato-avocado-feta salad for entrée, then some pork and O’Brien style potatoes for plat principal. The potatoes were good, but they were hard to eat, and I was doing a really good job at getting them to fly all over the table as I was eating them. At the end of the meal, Madame picked on me and asked “What’s going on with you today, Claire? You’re getting potatoes everywhere.” I replied with one of my favorite idiomatic expressions. “Ce n’est pas un bon jour pour moi aujourd’hui… je ne suis pas dans mon assiette.” (It’s not a good day for me today… I’m not in my plate/I’m not feeling like myself) Madame laughed and said that’s an expression French people use all the time. Success kid. For the phrase. Not for the potatoes being all over the table.

So what have we learned at my expense today, dear Readers? Just because a phrase is tattooed on your body does not mean it’s going to be correct in modern day French, never go to Père Lachaise so close to closing, and if you do, stay as far away from the workers as possible, don’t pull your Navigo out of your purse until you’re actually in the metro station (I have friends that keep it in their wallets, then pull out their wallets to smack on the sensors, but this is a hassle for me), and always text your Sheila your whereabouts when your Grandma self is out past your usual Grandma re-entry time of 6:00.

Ma mort était ma gloire, et le destin m’en prive. Corneille: La Mort de Pompée

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