Adventures in Ancestry

I woke up this morning with six hours of sleep under my belt to find two things: Obama had won the election, and my mother had sent me ten text messages that all said the exact same thing: “Obama has been re-elected!! I’m so glad I don’t have to move to Canada!!!” This offends me on two counts (yes mother, I’m making an example out of you on the internet). First of all, if I’m going to chastise my friends who don’t agree with my political views for saying things like “well I guess I can’t live in California/America anymore” or “enjoy your handouts America, I will keep working hard so you can have them” I can’t be a hypocrite and not chastise my own mother for saying “I’m glad the election turned out how I wanted it to so I DON’T have to move.” Second, really mom? Canada? You of all people know that I have legal pull to petition for citizenship in both Australia and France, and you want to live in Canada? Sometimes I worry about your mental state… Regardless, I try pretty hard to keep my political views under wraps unless directly asked about them. I’m just glad that the election is over so that my friends on the opposite side of the political spectrum can go back to enjoying my company for the next three years, because lord knows I never stopped enjoying their company since I choose to not let things like political views alter my view of someone. Not to toot my own horn, but I really do think America would be a better place if people dealt with friends and politics the way I do…

Sheila decided to skip her class today, so I was up all by myself. When I went out to eat breakfast, Madame joined me and turned on the radio in the kitchen. The broadcasters were all talking about the results of the American election, and I actually got to hear Obama give his victory speech live. It was dubbed over in French, sure, but I still got to hear it live. Madame and I chatted about it a little bit while we ate. I thanked her for letting me hear the broadcast. She usually listens to the radio while she eats anyway, but it was still really nice…

Off to my class I went. More than half of the people were missing… and since we were putting up one of the acts of Talents et Admirateurs today, that meant there was no way I was getting out of reading. We did a breathing exercise for the rechauffement. Professor Clavier had pulled out some scenes that he wanted us to do in large groups of six to eight people starting next week. Each grouping is a set of two scenes. There was one from Trois Soeurs that I’d like to get… Once we talked about that a little (and by “we” I mean “he”) we started working on Talents et Admirateurs. It was a scene we’d done in class before, and as expected, getting people to volunteer to play parts was like pulling teeth. When I finally volunteered and grabbed a script, I realized that I’d volunteered for a part with a decent amount of lines, and I couldn’t decide if this was a good thing or a bad thing. Professor Clavier stopped me part way through the reading part of the workshop to correct my pronunciation (for the record, accueilleira is an absolutely evil word, and with my luck, of course I volunteered for the role that had to say it), and it took me a while to get it right. He was very gentle with working on it, and I apologized for getting it wrong so many times. He said it wasn’t a bad thing at all, and it was good that I was in the class at all. He said that I spoke very well as it was, so I was happy. Once we moved onto the actual workshop part of the class, Professor Clavier gave my character some specific direction, so I took it, and he was not only pleased with me for taking the direction, but for doing things he didn’t necessarily tell me to do that he really liked. Score one for the American… even if I can’t pronounce everything correctly, at least I can act my way out of a bag of talking dictionaries… It took me forever, but I finally went “balls out” in this class! Woohoo!

Sheila and I met up at Sweet Briar so I could do some quick research and find the exact addresses and directions to and between all of the places my ancestors lived that my mom sent me a couple nights ago. Over the summer, my Aunt Pat had been sent a copy of some documents that included the marriage license of my great-great-grandparents (the grandparents of my grandparents, if you want to look at it that way), and it listed six addresses: The addresses of my great-great-grandparents, my great-great-great-grandparents, and four witnesses at the ceremony. When I ran all of the addresses through the RATP website, four of the six were all in the 5th arrondissement and within walking distance of each other, one was in the 14th arrondissement, and one was unfortunately in a suburb of Paris that would have taken an hour to get to, and would have required purchasing a train ticket (not just the metro, but SNCF), so we opted to knock that one off of our list. With a printed map in hand, Sheila and I headed off. The easiest way to get to my ancestors’ stomping grounds was to take a bus, so that’s what we did… and we got off right next to the Panthéon. Nice job, family. As we walked closer to where we needed to go, Sheila couldn’t get over how French the area looked. We’d opted to go for my great-great-grandparents’ and great-great-great-grandparents’ houses first… and the area is right off of Boulevard St. Germain. WHAT. Place Maubert looks right onto the Boulevard! The exact address that was on the documents doesn’t exist on the building anymore, but the building I took a picture in front of has to be the right one…

23 bis Place Maubert is where the Opitician’s place is now.
This building is where my great-great-grandparents (Jean Thomma and Suzanne née Didier) lived after they were married 117 years ago… and I stood in front of it. It would have been much cooler if there wasn’t a whole bunch of construction going on… We headed in the direction of my great-great-great-grandparents’ house after we were done here, and we noticed something truly amazing as we crossed the street onto Rue Maître Albert

This was the side of my family where the practicing Catholics came from. I’m willing to bet money that if they practiced back then, they went to the “usual services” at Notre Dame. Alright, family, you were pretty cool to begin with, but you just keep getting cooler and cooler… When we got to the house, even the address was the right one!

Great-great-great-grandparents’ house (Jean Didier and Margaret née Schiltgen)
We walked around the 5th arrondissement and we found the two other houses of the witnesses to the wedding and took pictures. One of the houses (Michel Kartz, 28 Rue Fossés St. Bernard) was under some serious construction. It’s close to L’Institut du Monde Arab. The other (Michel Schwind, 51 Rue Lagrange) is incredibly close to Notre Dame. We hopped on the RER by Notre Dame to head to the last house on our list, that of Nicolas Didier in the 14th arrondissement. This one was pretty close to the metro, and it was super easy to find. Rue Daguerre has a big marketplace in it now. There’s a fishmonger, fresh fruit and veggies, a chocolate shop, a boulangerie, a patisserie, and even a fresh pasta shop!
Sheila walking down Rue Daguerre

We found Nicolas Didier’s house on the street. If you can see where the lit up green cross that symbolizes the pharmacy is (about the center of the picture over Sheila’s head), that’s where it is. The building numbers have changed a bit, but that should be the right location. We stopped by McCafé after our little adventure since both of us were really thirsty, then we headed our separate ways. I went home to get ready for this dance show that I was supposed to see, and Sheila went to her class.

Madame came home with enough time to whip up a potato omelet for me before I had to leave to go to the theatre. I told her about finding the houses that my ancestors lived in, and the first thing she said was “Ils sont morts, oui?” (They’re dead, right?) That was amusing… I met Joan at the Châtelet metro stop and we found le Théâtre de la Ville and Mme. Grée and Moira outside. Joan realized she’d forgotten her ticket, so she went inside with Moira to sort that out. I’ll sum this up for you really quick… Mme. Grée said that she was the one that usually picked out the dance shows, but she let Moira pick this one out because the last three shows that she picked out all had nude dancers. Oh, this was going to be an awkward night… We were going to see Jean-Claude Gallotta’s Racheter la mort des gestes (repurchase death actions, direct translation, I realize that makes no sense). It was a contemporary dance piece. I was incredibly tired, so I was dozing off for the first part of it. There were two dancers in wheelchairs. The female in the wheelchair had half a torso and no legs. I couldn’t tell if it was art, or ridiculous. Only about half of the piece was actually dancing. Thankfully, most of it remained clothed. I ended up sitting next to Mme. Grée, so I was watching for nakedness (when I wasn’t half asleep). There were men in dresses, a man with arthritis that came out on stage to explain that the arthritis in his knees made dancing difficult and his anglophone accent was arguably worse than anything I’ve ever heard before, martial arts/dancing combinations, video presentations, latin dancing, running around yelling without really dancing, a scene with a modified slap and the man asking the woman repeatedly “tu as rien sous ta robe? (do you have nothing under your dress?),” the dancers ran around in tightie-whities for part of it… and then there was a little segment that appeared to be about the auditions for this show. One man (his name was Frederick) came out and danced in sweat pants and a long sleeved shirt and told a story about how he was quite happy in his mother’s womb until the damn doctor came along and said NOPE (Chuck Testa), time for you to come out now, and that pissed him off, and then he said “Exhibitionism is a thing, right?” and he started taking his clothes off. Completely. He was naked. On stage. I was sitting there (wide awake now) thinking “you were fine with your clothes on, why’d you have to take them off?” and then he actually came down to the front row of the audience to talk more. Thank god I was up in Row Q. That wasn’t the end of it. Guy kept dancing. Legs went in the air. Nothing was left to the imagination. If that’s not a libido killer, I don’t know what is. If a guy so much as asks me to let him buy me a drink, that image will pop into my head, and I’ll probably scream. I left the show thinking “what the #$%^ did I just watch?” This is definitely the last time I let Joan talk me into going to see something with her just so she’s not alone…

I have to get up early again tomorrow to go to class. Oh, this is a killer week… why did I do this to myself…
À raconter ses maux souvent on les soulage. Corneille: Polyeucte

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