Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Who ever said BirthDAY, why not BirthWEEK?

I am dubbing this post birthday week to celebrate all the events that surrounded my birthday that were generally great and made turning 21 a memorable time.

Four days out, on April 20th, started off as all birthweeks should, with Pancakes! Thanks to an inpromto sleepover with the lovely Annabel, we teamed up for a bit of a deluxe breakfast. Afterwards, I got down to business with class, yoga, velib'ed home and then spent the rest of the afternoon in cleaning mode as preparation for the big birthday bash the following day. In the evening, Annie and Corina came round to lend a hand in the making of cupcakes, coupled with some good fun baking chats. I also had my first "mother-esque" experience of staying up late baking for the next days activity. Hopefully I don't have to do that too often!

April 21st: I call this birthday part 1. As my birthday is the 23rd and Daniel's is the 22nd, we had decided a while back to have a joint birthday. Bacause this also fell over Easter weekend, Thursday rather than Friday was deemed the best day for the event since most people were probably taking off for the long weekend. Hence, since the big bash was a couple of days early, and this was the great excitement, it felt like my birthday :) After finishing the last few cupcakes and small cleaning tasks, Daniel arrived and we made final plans regarding food etc. After dashing out for groceries, I managed to finish off research notes for an upcoming essay for Vichy France and even squeese in a great little run on this perfect sunny 23 degree afternoon. Talk about productivity! I was feeling on a roll! Before heading to 5pm class, Annie came over to pick up the food prep while I was away.

The Birthday Team! Daniel and I.

Vichy class flew by as I couldn't wait to get home and get the party started! The timing was coming together flawlessly. Changed, hair having thankfully cooperated, guests started to arrive slowly after 8:30. I also finally got to meet Daniel's girlfriend Anne, who's living in London, and she was lovely. Let's get the party started! I love being hostess, and between the doorbell ringing almost constantly, helping people with drinks, and serving up dinner of homemade lasagne (thanks Daniel!) and dessert (cupcakes!), the evening flew by. The apartment quickly filled up with probably close to 30 people! It was wonderful as all of my guests who were in town made, so pretty much all of my friends were there! I even received roses for the first time in years from Ilona - they were pink and beautiful! Never underestimate how happy flowers make me. Thanks to our great speakers we even got a bit of dance party going in the apartment. All in all a smashing success!
I have met some fantastic Finns! Ilona and I excited about my roses :)

Around 11:30 we gathered the troops and headed out, somewhat reduced to try our luck at a night of dancing at the Mix. With a good group, it was bound to be a great time. Unfortunately, this is only possible if the bouncers let your group in. One of the few times I have ever not gotten into a club - bad timing! Thankfully, Emmanuelle stepped up the plate and steered our group over to the Pachanga. It actually worked out quite nicely since there was lots of room on the dance floor but also tables for people to sit and chat. Everyone has said they had a good time. Me, my fun factor was catching up with me, and after making a valient effort on the dance floor, had a bit of a low moment, and Annie and I called it a night at about 1:30. The Out part of the night not as stellar but I guess thats par for the course. Probably for the best, since I went to sleep pretty much instantly upon arrival home. Overall, 21 party was a great night!

The next morning I remembered why I've been able to be so much more productive during the days, and feel like I've accomplished so much more this semester. It because I haven't been stuck on the couch feeling queasy multiple Fridays, Saturdays of Sundays. As much as I loved hungover days with Annie, maybe I don't love the hangover itself. The general tiredness and inability to to anything is always pretty entertaining though, and we seem to cook up amazing meals. This day was no different. Thank you delicious scrambled eggs and homefries for saving my life. The morning was made particularly funny when I stumbled upon Thibault who had stayed over and I had forgotten all about. Sons of Anarchy comforted us all afternoon as we slowly returned to normal selves by the evening and managed to clean up some of the disaster. In some ways I was really glad that today wasn't my birthday, and that now on the actual day, I'll be in good shape!

Saturday April 23rd, 2011: HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME! Sorry, I just love birthdays. It fills me with a nice little warm feeling of happiness all day. Nothing overly special needs to happen, but just knowing that its my birthday makes a regular day just a little bit nicer, and I appreciate that.

This particular birthday started off with a heap of fun, cleaning! I had to get up early in order to finish off party cleaning because I was headed to Bordeaux later that morning. It was actually great because everything was all clean, which makes me happy, I packed and got ready and was not rushed at any point in time. Ahh so calming. Minus a quick double back home to grab my train discount card, I caught the bus to the train station at Montparnasse (my metro line was closed over that weekend). Met my travelling team of Annie and Ayumi and had a great train ride down to the south of France enjoying countryside and getting into my newest book, The Autobiography of Alice B Toklas, by Gertrude Stein. It is one of the stangest styles of writing I have ever encountered with very funny punctuation. When I began, I really struggled, but now that I'm a bit further in, its actually quite interesting. Its all about their life in Paris meeting the leading artistic and literary circles of the early 20th century, including Picasso, Braque, Juan Gris, Marie Laurencin, Sherwood Anderson, Hemingway, and hundreds of others.

Anyways, we arrived in the beautiful town of Bordeaux around 3 in the afternoon, and after a bit of lost wandering, found our incredible apartment that Annie had booked for us. We had an amazing pad all to ourselves only a 10min walk from the center of town! After dropping our bags, we got some groceries and had some delicious baguette lunch before trying to head out and do some exploring around 6pm. We didn't even get 200m down the road when the first rain drops started falling. It was almost comical. Back we went. I actually wasn't too fussed bacause I find rain in the late afternoon rather soothing, and this also meant we could partake in one of my favorite activities - cards!

We had dinner reservations at a restaurent booked through La Fourchette across the river, and it worked out perfectly since the rain has stopped and left the air fresh and sky a pale pink as we walked through town along the river towards dinner. I knew already that Bordeaux was going to be incredible. Along the way we noted the notable Allee de Tourney, among other sites. On to dinner at a funky Brasserie, decorated 1930s France style. It was a perfect vibe, with great music. We all had great entrees and plats, myself the veal with rice in a savoury sauce over a lovely bottle of Chateau Loumede. It was a delicious dinner (plus 30% off -score!). At the end, Annie and Ayumi surprised me with gifts and a very entertaining birthday card. I got a fabulous vintage square scarf for my new scarf collection, and a beautiful fountain pen and notebook to encourage my new writing aspirations. It was so touching, and I was pretty much overcome by happiness. To be in France, in the beautiful town of Bordeaux on my birthday was incredible. On top of that, I was with my two closest friends from my two friend groups, the Capulets and the Montagues, except they like each other. Apparently I'm the friar, don't know how I feel about that one... It was a beautiful thing for me to have both groups represented on my special day.

Ayumi in L'Alcazar, awesome birthday resto.

My better half, the lovely Annabel Waters.

It got better. We finally headed for home after our 2 1/2 hour meal and emerged into a beautiful evening. It was stunning to be on the far side of the river and see Bordeaux, especially Place de la Bourse all lit up across the water. Talk about breathtaking. It was wonderful walking back across the river and to our apartment under the lights. I can truly say it was one of the loveliest nights possible, a cap to a very nice day. In my mind, that's exactly what a birthday should be!

Places de la Bourse lit up at night. Talk about gorgeous.

One thing that was weird about the day was the lack of phone calls to my family. Its on special days like these that I miss you guys most. However, I did enjoy all the lovely messages from friends over facebook and email.

Onto the real first day of exploring Bordeaux! There is no better was to start a full day of adventures and touristing than a big breakfast complete with toast! Toast is not a big thing in France, and surprisingly enough, we all realized how great toast is an how me missed it. Also how my dad was right after all these years and tomatoes on toast is actually pretty delicious. Apparently now that I'm 21 I can appreciate these things.

P.S. Really annoyed because the computer was acting up and I lost the second half of this post and had to rewrite it all! Very lame. To add insult to injury I had copied and pasted the unsaved section to a word doc, but had thought in the end it had saved online so didn't save it. Stupid! Now somehow I have to recapture my carefully written prose of the previous time. Here it goes!

We then hit the streets to see all the notable touristic sites of this lovely town. We walked through the flea market at Esplanade des Quinconces before taking in the boardwalk and Place de la Bourse in the daylight. Then after stopping by the Cathedral St Andre and hiking up to the top of the Tour Pey-Berland to see the city from above. We hit up the Hotel de Ville (nothing beats Paris' though), we made our way over to the flea market at St Michel. I always like a good flea market, and we enjoyed touring around, and all snagged some faded French paperbacks for some reading down the road. It was a great morning with glorious weather, and while all these sights were impressive, it was the quiet streets of Bordeaux and the multiple small squares that pop up everywhere that captured my heart. By the time we had done all this, the hunger was upon us, and we enjoyed some very delicious Thai food, myself revelling in pad thai. Food in Paris is scrumptious, there lacks easily accessible, cheap ethnic food, so this was a real treat.

Ayumi and Annie exploring the flea market at St. Michel.

We continued to see a few things such as the Grand Theatre on our way back to the apartment to make some plans for the evening and take a little rest, since touristing is in fact quite tiring. I then took a splendid hour long nap on the couch while Ayumi and Annie were busy planning. I did rouse by 4 or, and we took off again to check out Palais Gallien, ruins of an ancient Roman Amphitheatre. Bordeaux was first settled in 300BC! After appreciating this site, we headed to the Public Gardens/Park just around the corner from the house to do some reading and lounging, but no more than 5 minutes after our settling in dark clouds converged overhead and we made a beeline back to apartment and barely missed the downpour. Like I said about Saturday, this didn't particularly bother me since it meant more relaxing at our sweet pad, proper vacation style, and more card playing! Somehow, much to my chagrin, I managed to lose Oh Hell to Ayumi after leading the whole game!

Ruins of Palais Gallien

Cards away we set to work to make an unconventional easter feast: A rose sauce pasta with fresh fettucine, aubergine (eggplant), courgette (zuchinni), leek, chicken and cheese. It was absolutely delicious! We bided time before our evening film at the theatre by watching political satire clips on youtube. How Colbert and Rick Mercer do make me laugh. Then, we took a pleasant night walk over the theatre to watch Mon Pere est Femme de Menage (My father is a cleaning lady). The plot revolves around a teenage boy who is looking for a role model in his adolescent, and his best option is his father. Over the course of the film, the boy comes to appreciate his father's love and coming to terms with his humble career. While this might sound like a promising, touching film, we kept waiting for something to happen. It was a little bit of a fail. However, between the pathetic sister who's trying to make it as a pageant girl, and the boy worrying about the size of his cue, we certainly got some laughs out of it. Enough that rehashing it on the walk home had us in histerics. Bedtime featured girltalk sleepover style which is always appreciated.

After making the most massive breakfast ever in an attempt to finish off our food, we headed up the road to try and check out the Museum of Contemporary Art. Unfortunately, being both a Monday and a holiday, we were bi-losing on that account. To comfort ourselves, we strolled up the boardwalk and enjoyed tea and coffee under the sun on a nice patio. After, we made our way back to the botanical gardens at a leisurely pace, and then after checking them out, we settled in for some cards and sunning. It really was glorious out. I had a brief brush with losing my shirt, no such bad luck befell me and we ended up at the tourist info office at 2 to embark on our 4hour wine tour, on one of the most touristy things I've done all year. While normally I try to avoid such displays of being a foreigner, in the name of the wine, I was willing to compromise.

The public gardens where we soaked up some rays

Departing on a coach, we toured through lovely countryside on our way out to the Bourg/Blaye region. Bordeaux has 5 wine regions - Bourg/Blaye, St Emilion, Graves, Medoc and Entre-Deux-Mers. The soil in these different regions affects the types of wines produced. There are 72 different appelations of wine in the region and over 7000 vineyards, most of which are family-operated. Our 50min drive took up past gorgeous rolling hills covered in new vines and past rivers and cute rural homes. It was a gorgeous region, and soon enough we arrived at our first stop, Chateau Monconseil-Gazin, where we met our host Micheal. Vineyards of all sizes in Bordeaux get to assume the title Chateau. This vineyard has been in his family for over 200 years, and they produced both white and red Cotes de Blaye wines. After discussing the process of selecting tending the vines, which can grow up to 10cm in a week in spring, and the harvesting of the grapes, we moved inside to the cellar where there were dozens of huge barrels of wine that were in the process of fermenting. The barrels are of French oak, and the porrous nature of the wood allows for excellent oxygen exchange to age the wine over 12 to 18 months. Each barrel is 600 euros a pop, and Bordeaux producers, in order to maintain the highest quality of wine, replace their barrels every 5 years! A mighty expensive little endeavor. Bext came the best part of all - la degustation. We sampled a lovely light white and two nice reds while Micheal went over the proper method of fully tasting a wine. Thanks to Etienne's tutelage at earlier salon de vins, I was already a pro at using many senses in evaluating the wine - seeing, smelling of of course tasting.

Picturesque Bordeaux Vineyards

French Oak Barrels

La degustation du Vin au Chateau Monconseil Gazin

We were soon sheparded back to bus and over a ridge into the Cotes de Bourg region were we visited the Chateau Rouselle. Our host, Vincent, had a very different story than Micheal. He had in fact bought the vineyard only 11 years previous because of his love of wine. He led us on tour of the vats in which the wine is stored and processed, and emphasized yet again how important the cultivation of the grapes are in making reds. Without grapes of the finest quality, the battles is already largely lost. I enjoyed that all his vats took on the names of the dwarves from Snow White. He was quite a character, with mad scientist hair and a jolly disposition.

The travelling team with Vincent.

Back on the bus and a sleepy ride back to town before saying goodbye to Ayumi who was taking a covoiturage back to Paris. Meanwhile, Annie and I returned keys and decided to check out a very funky looking restaurent on our way out of town that we had spotted on Saturday's La Fourchette search but had been unable to make a reservation. L'Antre de Peggy lived up to the intrigue with magic garden style decor, and we enjoyed another lovely meal before beelining it to the station to catch our train with a whole 2 minutes to spare. Tons of time! Back to Paris for the crunch week of essays - and I even missed the last metro and got to velib home! A truly perfect weekend with close friends - I couldn't have asked for more over my 21st!

Inside l'Antre de Peggy.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Cut to the Chase

I could go on with excuses about the slack on the blog front, but I think we all know that I feel bad for my failures of keeping up to date and continually seem to fall short of my goals in this regard. It seems this pesky thing called life, and living, keeps preoccupying me and taking away from my time alloted to blogging. Good thing classes finally finished this week (May 9th) so I have some extra unallocated time which I have decided to divide between museums, studying for my upcoming exam and blogging! Let the words flow forth!

Monday April 11th: A day to tie up loose ends from the weekend. I finished my readings for Sport and Politics and headed to class. Afterwards, I chatted with Rook about the Paris-Roubaix and the class. Again, I've really appreciated having a closer relationship with a teacher. Definitely going to try and keep in touch and use it for reference purposes come grad school time. After eating my salad in the Sciences Po garden, I hit the library to edit my paper and officially finish it a whole 3 weeks early! I did some blog work (last time I posted) before heading home for dinner with my beaugosse colloc Etienne over some episodes of Scrubs.

Tuesday after dealing with some good old UBC transfer credit mixups that cost me an hour of my life, I headed to school for my longstanding Lina's Lunch date with Daniel and then ballroom. Only one week left before our big performance, and I'm feeling pretty good about our line up of Cha Cha, Tango and Quick Step. In order to motivate the return to the library at 5pm, Ilona and I hit up Monoprix for a little viennoiserie. After a treat like that, I always bring my game face to the apple store (our library). I got down to business with my sport and politics research for my paper. It seems my attempts to refine my sources for my question only led me in more circles. This can be a problem when your very specific angle, like American television network influence on the Olympic programme, hasn't been as widely written on academically. I think I did make some headway though, or at least eliminated a lot of possibilities. I also observed different types of library frequenters. When I come to the library I get into a zone, put my head down and work concertedly for a length on time. This level of exertion is the reason I don't spend infinite amounts of time at the library, or come that frequently. The other type is Ilona. She spends entire days at the library, but features many distractions including numerous library friends coming to say hi and commiserate, facebook etc. For her, the library is both social and work. I'd rather seperate the two into distinct catagories. Work seperate from play. Then the breaks feel real and restful. Speaking of breaks, when I did make it home by 9 I had some dinner and then curled up with Breakfast at Tiffany's in bed.

One thing about my relationship with the library is wariness of what I like to call library burnout. Too much library wears me down spiritually so I have to mix up my study locations in order to get max efficiency. Hence why I avoided the lin this wednesday morning before Structues and Crises class and yoga. Afterwards, I returned for a meeting for my Vichy France term paper, and we sorted out division of labour and content of our essay on Cinema and memory. While I wasn't very keen on the idea of a group paper when it was assigned, I'm appreciating it now when it means that with planning out of the way, its going to be a quarter of the work of my other papers. Sa-weet! Work completed, Annie and I teamed up for yet another fantastic dinner of salmon with roasted baby potatoes and zuchini. Deliciousness. I am going to miss my better half in the kitchen dearly next year. We eat so well together. Afterwards, David rolled up and we had a school comparison party, at which point I showed them the UBC LipDub video made earlier this fall. If you haven't seen it, go to youtube and do so, because its freaking awesome. Libdubs are one-continuous shot to music. Ours involves thousands of students dancing all around campus, a scuba session in the pool and a helicopter. All financed by donations and volunteers. It makes me proud to be from UBC. In 5 days it already half a million hits. Not too shabby. Tom finally made his appearance and we settled down to watch Despicable Me. It was really cute and we all thoroughly enjoyed it. Hehe.

Sadly, for the next two Thursdays, swimming has been cancelled! Oh no! In the end it was all ok since I worked hard on paper all morning before doing some cleaning and running before my Vichy Class. It was all good until I got my midterm back and didn't do so well. It doesn't happen that often that I think I kill a test I studied for when in fact I didn't. This annoyed me to no end, especially since the profs didn't really point out where I needed to improve. I proceeded to rant over beers with Daniel at Le Basile. At 9 we headed north to meet the crew and check out some of the good bar seen by Canal St Martin. Unfortunately, it seems this was a popular idea and so no bar around there could handle the size of our group! While we waited for everyone to arrive, we decided to chill in a Tabac. A tabac is a small convenience store that sells cigarettes and lottery tickets, and occasionally serves alcohol. This particular one was fairly large and featured a sizeable seating area, hence why we sat down and profited from the very cheap drinks. We ended up sitting all night, much to the fascination of the various greasy middle aged men at the bar who were clearly regulars. One even wanted a picture with us, which we naturally declined. All in all a entertaining time with Eva, Daniel, David, Tom, Annie and myself. Called it a night at 11:30 in order to get a good night's sleep in advance of another busy weekend.

Friday April 15th: I managed to pull myself out of bed at a reasonable hour in order to get down to some reading, deciding it was necessary to take a break from all my essay studying. By 2, I was off to meet Fran and Annie for some gala dress shopping along Rivoli. Despite having budgeted 4 hours, none of us had any success, or at least if you evaluate it in terms of dress finding. We all managed to make off with some good cheap spring finds though. I seem to have packed a distinctive lack of summer clothes. Normally I come home before it is rightly summer, and I didn't really take into account last september how warm it would be getting over here in the summer. Add in the effect of some baguette eating and a few of my old numbers are none to comfortable for wearing and it was getting to be a bit of an issue. Accordingly, I've been able to pick up a few skirts and dresses on the cheap so now I'm all covered! I stopped by Annie's briefly afterwards to borrow a dress for an upcoming party next week before heading over to Lauren Bailey's for a little family dinner. Pedro, Poullette, Ayumi and us Lauren's whipped a mighty fine meal with homemade guac, salad, rice and cajun chicken with real cajun spice courtesy of Lauren's texas roots. It was lovely for our whole group to get together and catch up, reminisce about our friends we miss and of course play some old music and dance! It really was a great night, and I know we're all so stoked for the reunion trip in Helsinki! More family birthday cards greeted me when I got home :)

Family Dinner with Pedro, Poullette, LB and Ayumi.

Getting silly with Dance Hats!

Saturday dawned sunny and bright, and this somehow convinced me to stay inside temporarily and finish off my Monday readings by 11. After picking up some groceries for the week I had lunch with Etienne, Loic, and Marie, Etienne's sister who is visiting for a few nights. After, I finally got back to some work on my essay, and its starting to take shape in my mind, which is always a promising sign. Then, it was out to the streets to try and find a gala dress. None of my friends are really my size so borrowing wasn't going to be a good option. This was my last chance to hunt because the next two weeks will really be crazy with work and social activities. I had a recommendation of a small store along Rue St. Dominique and then to try the largest H&M on Champs Elysees. I enjoyed the afternoon of walking around outside, and even stumbled upon Place du Canada while walking up towards to Champs Elysees! After dealing with the hectic change room lines, I finally found success in a lovely cream coloured dress - you'll see pictures in an upcoming post. Best of all, it was only 40 euros and I found a great pair of shoes to match for only 20! Now that is great shopping! Afterwards, I headed back to Corina's for a little chat, which is always nice and we of course discussed plans for the future etc. I also learned about a terrible Sciences Po tragedy, which I will get into detail a bit more. The implications of it, didn't hit me right away, and so though saddened, I was able to carry on with things much better. After a quick dinner at home, I headed up to Oberkampf to go to a cool bar called Pop In with Annie, Tom and David. It was a great bar with lots of personality, cheap beer, and a small cave downstairs that served up some good dancing. It was really an ideal solid Saturday night, complete with last metro.

I got up and headed straight out the door on Sunday morning for a run before heading to my neighbourhood farmer's market to pick up some supplies for a picnic at Bois de Vincennes. Buddy Program had had a meet and greet there in the fall, but I didn't really get a chance to explore so I was keen to go back. Basically it was a perfect day with great friends. Beautiful spring weather and low twenties, picnic lunch by a pond, walk through an incredible tulip garden, fooling around in the playground, walking through a massive forest, playing Nerfball in an giant field in front of Chateau Vincennes, actually paying a toll to cross a river and my first experience in a real old-fashioned row boat. You couldn't ask for a better day, one of the happiest of Paris this term, or perhaps the year. All throughout I kept on exclaiming how days like this nourish the soul. I also found out Annie has no idea what real lemonade it (she thinks its sprite poor girl), and Jordana makes sexy faces rather than happy faces. I also got some more bad news about the tragedy, and spent part of the day comforting Ilona. I think I fully realized how sad it was on the metro home, and got a bit down for the rest of the night. Talking to the family, Sunday dinner with Etienne and listening to Phish over a bottle of wine was soothing. By the end of the night, Etienne and I even talked French and Canadian politics. Weird ending to a magnificent day.
David amongst the beautiful tulips.

Throwbacks to childhood mischief.

Deftly maneuvering our rowboat. Totally in control.

Monday the 18th was a day of a very heavy heart. In the early hours of the previous Thursday, three Sciences Po exchange students died in an apartment fire in the 20th arrondissement. Though we didn't learn all of the details until the memorial this morning, it was revealed that they had been at a soiree at a friends house. Around 3am, a fire started in the lobby of the building, and caught the gas pipe and shot up the stairs (all wooden). Hearing the commotion the party opened the doors and people were forced to jump out of 5th floor windows into the street trying to escape. Police suspected arson. Two of the girls died, and one was in critical care at the hospital. One of the victims, Jasmine, had been in two of my classes first term, History of Chile and French associations. We always chatted in the halls, and she was a lovely girl. The girl in hospital, Grace, had been my partner for the debat only a few weeks ago, and I had just been talking to her on the previous Monday. Needless to say, this tragedy really shook me, and the entire exchange community. We're not very big, but we're so interconnected, and by the end of the year, everyone seems to know everyone to some extent. The senselessness and abruptness of the deaths was shocking, and everyone was put in their shoes, unable to comprehend how lives so full of promise, coming to Paris to spend the year of their lives could suddenly just be over. The parents pain was unimaginable.

That Monday morning was a memorial service at Sciences Po. I attended with Annie and Ilona. All of Boutmy was packed. It was an emotionally heavy service, and it was hard seeing their close friends, many of whom were good friends of mine, describe how incredible these girls were. It makes you realize how short life is, and how we have to appreciate the people around us, and take advantage of our opportunities and blessings here. I can attest that these young women will not be forgotten. I have since learned that Grace, who suffered from broken bones and intense burns, has been making a great recovery in the hospital.

Somehow, I had to go to class afterwards at 12:30. I had lunch with Eva and we discussed how the pain was felt collectively by the whole exchange community. I had to fight back tears all day, and had a massive headache. Somehow, I took my mind off things by pholosophically blogging about the importance of family, and friends as your family. By the time I got home, I was in a quiet mood, but the headache was slowly receeding. That night, I also watched on of the first French movies I've watched while in France (shame on me). It was "Le premier jour du reste de ta vie), and I have to say it was really great. It was full of laughter and tears as a family grows up together and individually. It was what I needed to take my mind off things. I plan on trying to watch more films in French over the coming weeks.

It funny how mothers are often right about many things. One of which is that a good night's sleep will make things brighter in the morning. After being drained yesterday, I woke to a beautiful sunshine and I know that I can't keep carrying this sadness with me. Its important to go on living my life to the fullest as a tribute to the beautiful girls whose lives were cut terribly short. I headed to Daniel's early in the morning to practice ballroom before our performance later that day. The performance was at 12:30, and I felt so special since a number of friends came and watched and took pictures - thanks Annie, Corina, Eva and Lincoln! Daniel and I performed without fault and it was splendid, a really great time, and we got to watch some of the other dance styles and do some group line dancing! After, we grabbed some lunch and ate in the garden together. Then it was library session to write my entire Sports Essay! Except for a hot chocolate break with Annie and Ilona around 5, I managed to write the entire thing in one go! As expected, I was very thrilled with myself. At 9:15 I called it a day and Annie and I went home to cook up some delicious dinner and then for some silly reason she convinced me to introduce her to Sons of Anarchy...

All for now!

P.S. Very proud of two in two days!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Efficiency and Happiness

The end of March and the beginning of April has restored a sense of constant productiveness in my everyday life. This had been somewhat lacking in the winter months for some reason, and this feeling of full days, getting up in good time and working hard all day and taking the nights off has really agreed with me and re-invigorated these last weeks at Sc Po. I feel motivated in my studies and am enjoying Paris more than ever. Its a perfect balance and I've had an incredible sense of happiness and contentment that's easy to lose in the everyday grind and routine. Sometimes I'm afraid my recounts of my days might seem mundane to you the readers, but this is how I remember them in my notes, and when I reread them I can perfectly recall the streets, the weather, where I was, and my feelings. This is why and how I need to record these days in Paris, as a chronology, both commonplace activities and exciting events.

I always breathe a sigh of relief come Thursday, which is funny since Thursdays used to be my least favorite day of the week as a child and were often a source of stress back at school in Canada. Now, I can practically taste the weekend, and look forward to getting to class and getting through them, to the point that I often get comments on my good mood on Thursdays. Thursday, April 1st was like a number of others that I've described, beginning with yet another invogorating session at the pool. I am so glad I signed up for swimming this term, and today it was great to talk to Rook, my sport and politics teacher afterwards. She's really cool and this is the closest I have ever come to know a professor and I really like it. This year, I really feel that I have gotten to know my profs way more than in previous years. The value of small classes has really shone through. I had a test in Vichy at the end of the day that I think I killed, and was in a generally great mood since I found out my previous week's expose garnered me my best mark yet at Sciences Po, an 18! Great results motivate me to keep up the good work and validates my decision to lighten my course load. I celebrated after class with Daniel by what's become a bit of a weekly tradition with a beer at Le Basile. After nipping home for dinner, it was off to St Michel area for a Jazz night that I had planned at a well known bar called Caveau des Oubliettes. I really wanted to link my various scattered friend groups, and this term the people remaining are less keen on the initiative of this type of soiree. I'm so glad I did it, and it was a great night of chatting and enjoying the live music with Eva, Annie, Lauren B, Poullette and Pedro. Its often easy to lose touch with periphery friends, but its always worth the effort to get together, and learn a little more about people and in general just catch up. I highlight this because afterwards I walked Poullette back home near Sc Po, and this was the first time we had ever really chatted just the two of us, and it was so nice getting the share the fresh night air, and our reflections on Paris and life together. Had I not taken the time to send the message proposing this jazz night, I would have missed this opportunity. Action over inaction.

Though Thursday's jazz didn't lead to a late night by any means, I still had a tough time dragging myself out of bed and to Sciences Po for 10am to stand in line for a ticket to the upcoming Sc Po Gala at the end of the month. I had wavered earlier about wanting to pay the 35 euro, but in the end, I am so glad people convinced me to get a ticket, and I think it will be a great night. There was no chance to waver, since tickets sold out in about 2 hours! Afterwards, I spent most of the day studying in the library for the first time ever on a Friday, and was so incredibly productive and pleased with myself that I think I might even come again another Friday morning. I took a break to go for lunch with Corina, which is always a welcome reunion. I really value how we try and coordinate it at least once a week to get together since we, especially she, is so swamped with work. When you're far away, the family of friends is so important, and I really want to see this family that plays such an important part in my life for such a brief time as much as possible. In the evening, I had a brief skype call with an advisor for ACE getting some more details about the co-chair position. I think this overseeing position will suit me very well, and am really excited about the prospects of my final year back at UBC. I also got to chat with Vince for a while and he recounted the week's storm the wall drama. I have realized how exceptional this event is and I have missed being a part of the action, and racing with my team Ultimate Altitude this year. Its interesting how you can not want to leave one place yet miss another at the same time. Finally, I headed to Annie's to pre-drink before we went to a concert series called Night in Berlin at Gaite Lyrique with Milena and two new friends Jess and Annika. The building itself was huge and cool, though in the end the concert itself was just ok, with some good music acts. More importantly though Annie and I got into a really great heart to heart. Talking to good friends really opens you up and helps see things clearly, and was it was a funny contrast to be pouring out our hearts in this clubbing experience. A velib ride home and bed by 3:30.

Despite this late bedtime, I managed to be up at 9 with a smile on my face since I was heading to Fontainebleau for the day! This was a much anticipated chateau expedition, embarked upon with Annie, Tom, David, Camila and Ilona. We arrived at the chateau around 11:30 and grabbed some lunch from a boulangerie before beginning to explore the grounds, which were expansive. I love venturing out of Paris and getting into wide open fields, clear of the crowds. You can finally breath. Of course, the fact it was 24 and sunny was a nice added touch. We frolicked in the fields, did cartwheels, jumping pictures, and general photo antics, and the photo session was amazing, though sadly my camera battery died way too early on. Eventually we headed back to town for refreshments and then onto the interior of the chateau. It was huge, and I loved the regal atmosphere thats overwhelming in the courtyard and walking through the corridors and past the rooms. It was interesting to see how in this chateau, even the walls were covered in carpet, or hidden under too many paintings. In general, I find the 18th and 19th century French chateaus to be somewhat overwhelming in their decor, to the point of seeming tacky. Of course I know it was simply the display of wealth back in the day. My favorite rooms were the hall of Francis I, the main ballroom, where you can see the stage where the King and Queen sat, and the abdicating room, where Napoleon I signed his abdication on a small coffee table in 1814 before going into the courtyard to announce the news to his troops. My keener history face sure was getting a workout. After some fresh air overlooking the pond/lake out in the English gardens, we made the journey back to Paris, which seemed incredibly long, though only just over an hour when all said and done. It truly was a great day, and I even got a small sunburn!

Horsing around in a open field.

Inside Chateau Fontainebleau with the crew.

Finally home and a yummy pasta dinner later, the whole group ended up coming over to mine to watch a movie, taking advantage of the fact Etienne was in Bretagne for the weekend. I love having a great tv since it means I don't have to go anywhere for movie night. Its ideal. We watched In Bruges, which was both hilarious and a little dark, and has definitely made me want to try and fit it in at some point before I go back. The medieval streets just seemed so charming. Annie and Camila even stayed for a sleepover, which was fun as we all stayed up late gossiping like school girls. Good fun.

Waking up at the same time, no matter how much sleep you got the night before, gets easier with consistency. I headed to the local Convention market with Camila on Sunday to grab some goodies for a planned family brunch at noon. I realized how fortunate it is that sucha diverse array of scrumptious local farm goods is a just right across the street from my house every week. After the groceries were fetched, Annie and I got into our kitchen groove as Camila and the other guests helped with some other food prep as they arrived. In the end the table was creaking under the weight, and the happiness of over group was palpable. Try this brunch on for size: a dozen scrambled eggs, bacon, real English sausages, pancakes with real Maple syrup, hashbrowns, grapefruit juice, fresh baguette, pate de campagne, a trio of farm fresh cheeses, guacomole, strawberries, mango, oranges, bananas and apples! Needless the say we ate until Christmas dinner status of fullness. I love my exchange family and our diversity of nationalities, all brought together, taking time out of a study filled Sunday to enjoy great food together. It was truly a beautiful thing. Afterwards, I skyped the fam for a while, and then actually researched and started booking Tamara and mine's Euro trip for June. Having it finally all solidified was a great feeling, and I am super stoked for the Sagadore sisters to embark upon what will surely be an incredible adventure. Despite the afternoon clouds, thanks to Daylight savings, I got to squeeze in a run in the evening, worked on an upcoming expose due the next day and watched Coyote Ugly before bed. Another great day to add to year full of them.

Sunday Brunch with my Paris Family! Camila, Tom, David, Corina, Eva and Annie.

I hate underestimating how long a task will take to be accomplished. Even though you think you've allowed yourself ample time, everything seems to take longer and you get caught rushing. This comment is inspired by the state of affairs on Monday as I scrambled to finish my expose for Russian politics. I thought I had it well under wraps on Sunday night, but somehow, condensing the Russian-Georgian War of 2008 into a 15min presentation was more time consuming than I had budgeted. I did get it done in time though, and overall thought the presentation went well in class. Pheww. Double cause for celebration as it was my last expose of my Sc Po career! Good riddance! Now I only have four term papers to look forward to, goody. I had a celebratory run afterwards anyways, and blogged and watched Entourage at night.

I know I have to really be proactive on these essays, since all four are due in 6 days. However, as all students know, it often seems next to impossible to motivate yourself to start and finish an assignment not sue for another 3 weeks to a month. Yet this was my challenge and I was determined to try and do what I have never been able to do before. I got off to a great start on Tuesday by sleeping in and essentially not accomplishing anything before noon when I let Daniel for a weekly Tuesday lunch. We started making concrete plans regarding a joint birthday party, since our birthdays are only a day apart (Daniel's is the 22nd of April). Back at ballroom, more prep got underway for our performance, this time on Quickstep. In the afternoon though, after a brownie to motivate be, I got my game face on and actually officially began researching for my first paper, which was on Russian Youth Identity in the Post Soviet period for Russian Politics. As I chose the topic myself, I was actually really interested, and the research went well. The hardest thing is to really getting the ball rolling, but once you do the momentum really helps. I ended up staying in the library until close to close, working on the blog. Like I said, this efficiency thing inspires me to be continually more productive. No sitting on the couch watching TV for this kid. Back at basecamp after the full day, I called OSAP about the neverending headache that has been my student loan and finished purchasing the tickets for the Sagadore trip!

Rollin, rollin, rollin! Hello library at 10am even though I don't have class until 12:30! That's right, back at the books researching for this essay. I think I'm largely motivated by fear of stress collapse if I don't do it now more than anything. I even packed a salad lunch earlier this morning and ate it in the garden before class. After Structures and Crises, I took and extra long walk along the Seine before yoga since it was a spectacular day outside, and had a great class to clear my mind. After, I ended up velibing home, and successfully negotiated my way thorough a busy 4pm Paris traffic circle at Concorde. Score! The reason for my early trip home was to prepare for my REC interview for the Point, which I had learned of on Monday. I really want to be on REC for both the social community that my friends who've joined have told me about and to get some experience working in journalism etc and could use some experience. I think the interview went well, though this one had some curve balls I didn't expect, like "why should I not hire you" and "what's the funniest joke you've ever heard?" All in all though, I think I gave it a good shot and now to wait and see if I'm two for two on interviews. As soon as it was done I made my way over to Pont des Arts to celebrate Ilona's birthday. I'm not a very good bridge sitter, but nevertheless you can't beat a nice night outside on the Pont and this night was no exception, especially since Ilona was completely overwhelmed by the huge crowd of people that turned up to pass along their wishes and enjoy 'un verre'.

Though Thursday swims, as I keep mentioning, are great, today's was extra memorable since I swam in the same lane and even talked to my pool crush. I found out his name is Felix, and we did the set together, chatted and he even gave me a high five at the end of practice. Omg. Haha I know its lame, but this brief flirtation in the week is nevertheless exciting. The day unfolded with some cleaning, and then a garden meeting with Ayuli to try and plan out a Roubaix trip on Sunday (more details later), followed by a group meeting for my Vichy group paper before class. After class, Daniel and I decided to venture a bit farther afield for our Thursday beer and ended up having a drink down a cool cobbled alley off Rue de L'Ancienne Comedie by Odeon. This street is one of the oldest remaining ones in Paris. I hardly need say we had a great chat over our beers. Just before 9, we went our seperate ways - for me this meant around the corner to a new Hideout (which I had in fact already been to but not the usual Chatelet one) for end of week drinks with Tom David and Annie. An altogether enjoyable time, being thoroughly entertained by the terrible music that was being broadcast. In the end I peeled off first around 11 to get an early night in anticipation of a big Friday.

I was feeling a little under the gun to get this paper done, and since I hadn't worked on it all Thursday, I was bringing my game face to the library at 9:30 on Friday - the earliest ever for a Friday! I decided to start it off at the garden tables out behind the old library. However, at this early hour, the sun hadn't quite warmed it up. I toughed it out for about an 90min before finding a beautiful Mac in the new lib for intense research session pt.2. By the time it hit 1:30 and my time to leave deadline, I had actually finished everything I had hoped to for that day, completing all my research and writing out my detailed plan so that all that remained was the physical writing. In the world of history papers, the hardest part was accomplished! Needless to say, I was pretty thrilled with my mad skills, and this buoyed my mood all afternoon. Feelin' like a champ.

I swung by Annie's to help her carry some things en route to Parc aux Buttes Chaumont, found in the North East of Paris. I had heard that this was one of Paris' best kept secrets as far as parks were concerned and so I killed two birds with one stone by checking it off my list of touristing things to do and also riding the 3bis metro line. Only one line remains and then I've been on all 16 Paris metro lines! Back to the Parc. We rendez-vous'ed with David and Camila and then went to find some grass to sit on and enjoy Pimms. Pimms is an English alcohol traditionally had chilled with sprite and fresh fruit as a summer beverage. Tom had brought a bottle back with him on his last trip back to London to give to David, and David, being the gentleman that he is, had graciously offered to share it with our crew over an afternoon of sunbathing. There we were, sitting on a hill in an incredible parc, drinking this very tasty drink, being serenaded by Tom on guitar in 25 degree whether. A fabulous reward for my hardwork all morning. After about an hour or so of sunning, we decided to explore the parc a bit further, and this excursion solidified its hold on my heart as by far my favorite parc in Paris. Unlike the famous ones of Tuileries and Luxembourg, this parc is untamed and natural, with trees and rolling hills, as well as featuring a pond/lake and cliff with the lookout temple of Sybil giving a view of Sacre Coeur in the 18th. There was also a cool waterfall feature. All in all, the visit to Buttes Chaumont was a smashing success on a fine spring day.

Getting our Pimms on.

The Temple of Sybil.

The excursion left us all a bit drained of energy, and so Annie and I went home to make some delicious food - a vegetable cheese sauce bake. Soo yummy. We also had our first encounter with rancid meat, thank you MonoP. Hopefully I don't have to smell anything like that ever again. The homey food revived us, and around 9pm I started to get ready to meet Eva and Corina for a bit of dancing. We met at Champs Elysees and went to a friend of Corina's in her master for a bit of pre-gaming. I wasn't having anything to drink since I had bit plans for the following day regarding my essay. At around midnight we headed to a club just down the road called Regine's. Thanks to some printed passes we got in for free! Free things are great. The club itself can best be described by the French word "moche", which means ugly. It was kindof tacky, and the music, all pop from various decades, left a little to be desired, but surprisingly, we ended up having a great time just dancing. Eva, Corina and I are a fabulous dance crew. We stayed until a bit before 2 before calling it a night. Best part: 0 euros spent! Now that is student budget effectiveness. I had a nice velib ride home and was in bed by 3. P.S. I have also already received 5 birthday cards this week - Thanks for all the love family!

Saturday = Essay champion. Nbd. (No big deal for those not so up on youth lingo). Basically I got up and got progressively more stoked as I finished writing my Russian politics essay on Youth Identity in one day. Probably one of the best essay writing streams ever. When it just flows out like that, I feel pretty clever, and elequent. Now if only my teacher, dear Gilles, agrees with me... To celebrate I went for a run and then despite initial plans to hit up champs de mars for some drinks, I stayed in and hung out with Etienne and Loic and enjoyed their jam sesh. I also got to hear about their SCANDALE weekend in Bretagne, including the "Ce n'est pas ta voiture story". Oh Loic.

26 and sunny! How many times do I have to reiterate how fabulous Paris has been in the spring. Early morning before going to check out the Paris marathon with Ayumi. The Paris marathon is one of the older ones in the world starting in 1986, but died out before a revival in 1936. Its now also one of the largest marathons in Europe with 37 000 racers. Arriving at Bastille just after 9, we watched people going by the 5km point before relocating to catch the leaders coming through at the 21k mark. We were a bit of a scene with the cheer factor, especially after we were given free 'clappers'. Very appreciated to give the hands a break. All my go to english phrases were nul, so we got creative. The best had to be "Bien jouer les mecs!". Thankfully we quickly picked up the more commonly used cheers of "Bravo" and "Aller". We also tried to read people's names on their bibs to add a personal touch to the cheers, however this largely failed since they print the names much to small to be read when people run by. At least Pascal appreciated our efforts.

The leaders coming through around an hour in.

Ayumi demonstrating proper clapper technique.

Flowering trellises on Promenade Plantee.

As exciting as it is watching people run by, we decided had had our fill by 10:30 or so, and after watching Benjamin Kiptoo of Kenya take home the men's title in 2:06:31 and compatriot Rita Jeptoo take the women's crown in 2:22:52, we decided to do some exploring of the quartier. First up was going to Bastille market. The tomatoes purchased were some of the best I have ever had the pleasure of eating (second only to the ones from the organic farm in Bretagne). After strolling through the 11th, we walked along Promenade Plantee, an old elevated railway track that has been converted into a garden walkway. Its lovely to walk above the noise of the street and see the buildings and flowers. Ayumi and I had a lovely time chatting about spring travel plans and revelling in the fine weather before heading back to mine for some lunch.

The afternoon featured some Paris-Roubaix action on my big screen. Unfortunately we were not able to secure a car and take in the race, so we settled for the marathon and then race watching in the end. I was glad how it worked out in the end. It was jokes how we had the French video playing on the tv, but then ended up streaming english commentary from my laptop connected to the speakers. Sadly, instead of my beloved Paul Sherwin and Phil Liggett, we had to settle for some crap commentators, who spoke at about a 40sec delay. Naturally when shit went down and then the commentators freaked out well after we had seen the accident, it was quite entertaining. It was a pretty exciting race, with my fave big Tom Boonen having some terrible luck, while Cancellera and Thor Hushovd were being silly and ended up sucking. A nobody, Johan Vansummeren of Garmin-Cervelo won. He was such a dear, and a massive stick rider at 6'5. Its nice to see a domestique like him have the chance to have the ride of their life and take home the most prestigious race in classics one-day cycling. Cancellera pulled it together and showed why he is a powerhouse to take second. All in all an exciting race, and great to get to watch at a reasonable time.

In the evening I went for a run (I had to get out and burn some calories after watching all those athletics all day). I was loving the weather so much that I even ventured back outside at night to do some readings by the church around the corner from my apartment. After some distractions at night, I settled down to dinner and entourage. A weekend with a little bit of everything!

P.S. I have been a little distracted and so this post has been written ever so slowly over the course of this month. My bad. Good thing I have loyal notes to keep me straight.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

March Highlight Reel

This great Sunday night turned into a not so great Monday morning, but thanks to my effective weekend of working, it was just fine, and I got through my classes, had a Eureka moment on the debat on Italian fascism and took it easy in the evening. Forgive me for that extremely long run-on sentence.

Tuesdays of course is a great day, largely because of ballroom. Before that however, I really got to enjoy the fact that spring has truly come and hit Paris in full force, and its as if Parisians are blossoming with the flowers, bringing such an energy and happy vibe into the streets. The parcs are full of people and the Seine is lined with picnics. This day, I had my first outdoor lunch of the season and went to Pont des Arts with Annie, Juliette, Fran, Katie, Louis, Lincoln, Nick and Sarah Coskeran before heading off to ballroom. A lunchtime picnic on the Seine really just puts you in the best mood ever, though not very conducive to returning to indoor library sessions which are sorely needed right now. In dance class, Daniel was sick so I had to partner with the teacher. It was actually great fun because since she is pro, it is so easy to follow along. However, I feel like a giant dancing with her small fragile French lady frame. Oh well. I've always said I'm too big to be cute, but hopefully with these lessons I'll be able to try and aspire to be tall yet graceful as well. Good luck with that. Upon returning to Sc Po to get more work done and meet Grace for our debat, I took advantage of the air and worked in the garden for about an hour on work. Its much more spiritually uplifting, and I was much more productive than I am at home.

At 7:30, I also went to go see a movie with my sport and politics class, called Boxing Gym. Its by director Frederick Wiseman, and this documentary was unlike any other. I couldn't believe that in 90 minutes, no narrative emerged, but was instead just an observational construction of the multi-ethnic and gender community that emerges in this random boxing gym in Houston. It was pretty boring at the time, and it was only when I started writing up my analysis and opinion piece for class that I thought it was actually kindof a cool movie. Our class was watching it as a replacement for a seminar in April when Rook (prof) is away at a conference. It was nice though to go as a class and get to chat with people a bit more. Watching the movie also made me want to re-apply myself to a workout regimen once I go home.

When I got home, I was greeted by Annie. She has been having problems with her door in this spring heat. Apparently when it swells in these hot temperatures, it shifts in the frame so the lock doesn't line up, and she's locked out. This was the second Tuesday in a row that it has happened, so I gave her my keys and she was crashing at ours. It was fun to have her aorund, to rant about various things and laugh. She also helped me come to an important decision that I will elaborate on in a little bit. The best part was that the next morning we got up and made pancake breakfast with real maple syrup, blackberries and french vanilla ice cream while listening to the Boy George Culture Club cd. You just cant help but be in a great mood after that kind of morning.

Back to my important decision. This made my day much much brighter, and my step lighter. I decided to drop a class for the first time in my life. Histoire politique de l'Europe. My reasons were multiple, and can be summarized by wasn't following the narrative of lecture, struggled with the language barrier in the conference and so wasn't participating, getting stressed out because I didn't know what was going on and I have a 4hour exam for this at the end of the term, and not learning anything. Add onto this list the fact that I didn't need any of the credits, continuing on seemed like a waste. Each assignment was incredibly time consuming, but by dropping the class I felt I could focus on my other courses which I am truly loving and do really well on those. I called Mom on Tuesday and talked the matter over with her, and we decided that the reduced stress and workload was the best call. Now I feel recharged to apply myself to my assignments, rather than overloaded. With only a few months left, I don't want to be able to once again balance the ability to explore Paris and do well at school.

This decision buoyed my steps as I headed to Sc Po at noon. The rest of the school day rolled along with another solid Middle East class. I'm probably not supposed to say this, but our prof looks mighty fine in his suit, even in his middle age. He has such energy, striding across the classroom and waving his hands, constantly reminding us of of various interesting tangents that are very engaging, but could be dealt with in an entire other course. The walk through Tuileries from yoga is always refreshing. I can't wait until May when classes are over and I can wander aimlessly for hours. I returned for my final conference for Histoire de l'Europe, and gave my debat without a hitch. I think it went quite well. Not two minutes after we were done, I told my maitre de conf that I wasn't going to validate the class and wouldn't be attending anymore. It was a bit intimidating, telling your teacher you're going to drop, but I thought it was the responsible thing to do. Grace and Sarah cheered me on. And just like that, there were only 4 classes. Stll a respectable number with plenty of work to go around if you ask me.

After velib-ing home for some dinner, I headed up to the 18th to grab a drink at Rdv des Amis. Its becoming quite the familiar watering hole. I teamed up with Annie, David, Tom, Camila, and Camila's sister who was visiting. Pints to celebrate the class drop! We caught up on whats what in day to day. The latest gossip was news of Shawn's being accepted for a Michael Kors Internship in New York this summer. That is just too lucky. We debated for quite a while how he managed to pull off such a feat, especially it was decided he was a "goober" and "elf-like". We have decided he will have to hum the tune "making my shoes like an elf" while employed this summer. Lucky duck indeed. We also discussed the latest youtube craze videos. This week the music video "Friday" was all the rage. If you haven't seen it or heard it, count yourself lucky.

Another big decision also came up that week, regarding the upcoming triathlon club executive elections. Would I return to my former gang, or not? This wasn't just a matter of being on exec, but almost a reflection of the direction of my life in terms of sports and social group. A fairly weighty thing to decide on in one night. After much deliberation, I decided not to run for a position. To cut a long story short, this year has diversified my interests and I want to pursue those when I get back to UBC. I also think that the current direction of UBC TC is headed down a different path than the one I'm on with triathlon. Don't get me wrong, the triathlon club is making huge strides and I fully support them and the race series, but I know that for my own happiness, I need to remain periphery next year.

The 'high' if you will of dropping that class spilled over into Thursday, and combined with morning swim and the fact it was St Patrick's Day had me beaming. I even did my first speedwork in the pool of the year, though only a modest 10x50 holding some respectable spilts. After Russian Politics and Vichy France, Daniel and I went to La Basile to grab a drink since we had missed our normal Tuesday lunch date and caught up on life. I really enjoy conversations with Daniel since they range and we can engage in really academic, theoretical discussions, but also just talk about life, people and relationships. I'll definitely miss our chats next year. After a quick dinner, I headed to St Michel to meet Annie, David and Tom to take in some Patty's Day festivities - namely green beer. We went to an Irish pub, Galway, and spent a couple hours trying to come up with nicknames for Annie, practiced photo face slaps and making truple chins. It really was great fun. I was fading pretty fast though, so around midnight we decided to change venues and find food to revive me. The plan worked brilliantly and a kebab later, we were at the Hideout by Chatelet enjoying 2,50 pints. I had an amicable chat about history, Frenchness and foreigners with a Breton guy, Romain, and before we all called it a night (a good one at that) around 3. Annie and I trekked it back to hers to crash, sometime around 4.

Annie getting "slapped"

Super stoked at Galway

My really cool friends heading to Chatelet. At least David's normal.

Friday, understandably tired, we headed to mine made the best homey pasta and watched That 70s Show. It was acceptable since it was cold and grey outside. Then, Annie helped me prepare for my first interview ever. It was with ACE at 5 via skype, and even though it was kindof stressful having to think fast and organize your thoughts concisely and articulately, I think I handled it well and was pleased with myself at the end. It was certainly good to have some practice at it in a relatively low pressure postion.

I've also been hanging out with Ayumi more recently in an effort to stay in touch with the old Dutch crew. We're sort of spearheading the Helsinki reunion trip, so I went to hers for dinner and planning session. Hopefully we get a good turn out, it really could be such an epic trip, and there's still 11 people left in Europe so its really worth while. We also chatted about UCU, University College Utrecht, which is the school Boudewijn, Boris, Lisbeth and Timon attend. Its only 700 students in 3 years. I can't imagine how small their campus is, and how different campus life would be in comparison to UBC, which is mammoth by all accounts. Even though I bet the family and community feel would be really cool, I have to say the sheer amount of resources on UBC campus is great.

Sometimes I'm not so bright, like this weekend when I inadvertantly did the wrong readings for Sport and Politics. Well at least they're out of the way for next week...

Saturday evening Annie came over and we made an awesome Thai vegetable stirfry. Its was just so colourful, I wish I had a picture - complete with beans, bok choy, mushrooms, red and green peppers, chopped peanuts and peanut sauce. Further evidence of how great a team Annie and I are in the kitchen. Over dinner, I finally got to see the episode of Its Always Sunny in Philedelphia which features the Troll Toll song, and it defintiely lived up to the hype I've been getting from Annie, David and Camila. The food however, made me feel rather lethargic and we ended up bailing on a French soiree in the banlieus after realizing that it was going to take up forever to get there. Instead we stayed in and David came over. While listening to some pretty terrible music, we discussed how basic the lyrics of so many popular songs are. Therefore, how hard could it be to write a song!? Thus, Voleurs of the Night by Punk'd in Paris was born. It was based on Tom's mugging up in Barbes a few weeks earlier, where he had his velib and iphone stolen. It only took about 5 hours of brainstorming, writing, recording and mixing to produce the final 2min product. I used Garage Band on my Mac for the first time and it was awesome. If you're interested, you can search the clip on soundcloud. Maybe I do have a bit more appreciation for the musical process.

On Sunday afternoon, David, Tom, Jordana, Camila and I headed out to Chateau Malmaison. The country manor was the summer residence of Napoleon and Josephine, and is about a 25min train ride from Paris. While I obviously get pumped when seeing anything related to Napoleon, the best part of the day had to be just walking outside in the gardens, enjoying the spring air. Thank you one less course for giving me time to check out castles and really enjoy spring. We frolicked about in the gardens for quite a while, checking out the many "remarkable trees" and seeing the years first daffodils. The whole time I had the Troll Toll song in my head - its quite catchy. The main lyrics are "you gotta pay the troll toll to get into this boy's---oul". I have a feeling none of you readers are appreciating this. Your loss. The inside of the Chateau was quite nice, not as overdone as some other 18th century chateaus. Most impressive was Josephine's bedroom, where she had her initials embroidered on all her furniture, and also seeing one of the famous David paintings of Napoleon riding through the Alps on the Italian Campaign. Overall I was a pretty excited camper. The chateau sits on the outskirts of Rueil-Malmaison, and so we decided to extend our stay and check out the town. Like all small French towns, it was incredibly charming, and had an incredible Town Hall. We also went to an exceptional boulangerie for afternoon treats. A great afternoon outing, low-cost at that!

Malmaison Crew: Camila, myself, Jordana, Tom and David

Frolicking in the spring air.

THE David painting.

The best part of Monday was the love of the continued fine weather! After the day's classes, I velibed home and then was so enthused that I went for a run for the first time on a Monday! Now that its light so much later, this is actually a possibilty. Hopefully it becomes a bit more of a trend.

On Tuesday I got to take advantage of my new freedom on Tuesday mornings, as a result of no more Histoire Politique lecture. I have vowed to head to school at the same time though and use the time effectively, instead of wasting it by sleeping my life away. I did get the library early to start working on an upcoming expose before meeting Daniel for lunch. Rather than going to Lina's down on St Peres as per our normal routine, at my suggestion we grabbed sandwiches on the road and ate at Pont des Arts before ballroom. This particular ballroom class we decided to start writing down the various moves and combinations we were learning in the various styles in order to remember them better for following weeks. That is always the hardest part, especially for Daniel who has the responsibility to lead me. Hopefully this will help. Rather than head back to Sc Po afterwards, we went down the road to Starbucks to study. I love studying in cafes, finding that I focus much better than at home, but that the ambiance is preferable to the library. Back in Vancouver and even Kingston I had a few favorite haunts but I haven't really done much cafe studying at all this year for one reason or another (its not as much in the culture). I'll try and do it a bit more in the coming weeks, especially since so many cafes have great outdoor patios. This way I can enjoy being outside while studying.

I headed back towards the Left Bank to meet Jordana at le Bon Marche to go see the Dior exposition. We'd been meaning to see if for quite a while, but finally got our act together since it was closing the upcoming Saturday. We had finally managed to find a good time, but when we showed up it was closed for a private showing! What kindof luck is that! We agreed on to meet on Thursday to try our luck again, and then walked around the Marche and oggle at the clothes. Its Paris' oldest department store, and is simply massive. Its also really upscale, and one stop shopping for Haute Couture and designer labels. Oggle indeed. Afterwards, I headed back up North to meet Ayumi & Co for some Mexican food at a restaurant that had been received good revies in Paris food blog. Too bad they failed to mention it was really only a takeout counter, rather than a restaurant. In the end we couldn't resist the delicious smells and ordered tacos and burritos and ate them over across the street by Canal St Martin. The tortillas were homemade and delicious, and even received a thumbs up from Poullette, who is Mexican and great cook. Its not too far from Annie's, and a great price, so I will be heading back soon! Once the food was inhaled, our group of Lauren Bailey, Poullette, a couch surfer friend of hers, Ayumi, and myself headed over to Rdv des Amis to meet Boris for drinks. Its spring break for UCU and so he and a bunch of friends decided to spend the week in Paris, and we weren't letting him leave without visiting. It was great time at the bar, and I really got to know Boris a bit better than ever before. Yet another I wish I had known him better in the fall moments. Last metro home.

Lauren B, Ayumi, myself and Poullette at Rendezvous des Amis

Wednesday: Usual fare of class and yoga, but no stress from the conference for Histoire de l'Europe. What a great feeling. Again, I am committing myself to staying at Sc Po until 7 though, just like before, to work on assignments etc. Plus, this gives me a chance to use to beautiful iMac computers in the new library. It makes computer work practically a joy. In the evening, I went over to Corina's for a visit since we hadn't seen each other in a little bit. We ended up going to this Irish pub McBride's for a Sc Po social, which was not that good , and went home in good time. The social was for Crit, an annual sports showdown between the 6 Sc Po branches across France. It rotates in location, so it was lucky that it was in Paris this year. Sadly, none of my 'sports' are included in the program. I only rarely see demonstrations of school spirit at Sc Po, but crit brought it out in full force, which was kindof cool.

Thursday was consumes by my work on preparing my expose on clandestine newspapers in the French Resistance for Vichy france. I even ended up skipping swimming to get it all done, which was annoying. It was a rushed day, and the presentation itself, since I had to go with only 15min left in class and I knew time would be tight. I think I nailed it though, so just have to wait and see. After, I met Jordana to have another go at the Dior expo. This time, it was open, but only for 10 min, so we had to rush through. Thankfully it was really small so we got to appreciate everything. The clothes were truly spectacular, and Dior has really succesfully commercialized this Parisienne dream. The expo was a multi-media exhibit as well. The coolest part was a large digital book in which you turned the page by waving your hand across the image. Each page showed the noteworthy designs of the year between 1947 to present, accompanied by a quote from Dior. The poor 80s and 90s.

I also went out for another take at salsa night, this time with some friends from my old salsa course from the fall. We went to this really cool bar in Bastille called Le Balajo, and I had a great night working on my skills. It was great because I was dancing with people I knew, and so there was less pressure if I made a mistake, and we could try moves together. In general, I like how salsa nights have a great camaraderie. Everyone is dancing with everyone, and willing to teach. Hopefully one day I'll get to move like some of the great dancers that were on the floor that night. It was the most fun I'd had at a salsa night, so I hope this group goes out again. After, I metroed and velibed home. This particular velib night was notable since I had to walk a ways to find a stand, which only had two bikes - one with no chain and the other with a front flat tire. So yes, I rode 20 min on a front flat tire, cringing at the damage to the rim. Sorry velib. Hopefully I don't have to make another ride like that anytime soon.

I am calling this Friday, March 25th, a near perfect spring day in Paris. After a very restful, long sleep, I got up and booked tickets for the Helsinki reunion in May and wrote some fun peer pressure emails to Timon and Bou. By 11:30, I was out running in shorts and tank top, doing my route along the Seine and by the Eiffel Tower. I may have been feeling less than fabulous o nthe run, but the gorgeous weather couldn't even dampen my mood. Back home to shower, I then headed to Avenue to Breteuil to picnic with David and Annie in front of Invalides. It was summer dress weather, and time to tan! We had a delicous spread of food, and Corina and her visiting friend Raluca joined. After, I took Annie to see the Dior expo before it closed and spend a bit more time, and then we did some Bon Marche window shopping ourselves. I walked all the way home and grabbed some groceries and cleaned to apartment spick and span (feeling very accomplished) before going to picnic # 2, this time on Champs de Mars in front of the Eiffel Tower with Juliette, Fran and co. We had some wine back at their apartment when it got a bit chilly. I went home around 11, and so tired from the day, curled up with Twilight in bed. Not too shabby indeed.
Enjoying the picnic-ing

Dior dresses at the expo.

Motivation on Saturday to get up early and get at my homework was the afternoon trip with Etienne and Loic to the March Salon de Vin, this time at Porte de Champerret. Equally overwhelming, I am still amazed by how many vendors are there, and the hoards of people that pack the exhibition hall. After a bit of touring with the boys, I split off to do some sampling with Ayumi and her visiting friend. All said in done, I picked up 11 bottles, of 3 varieties and came away with a much better sense of my personal preferences in wine. In the end, this visit was only about 2.5 hours, but when you're at a crowded, hot wine fair, even that does one in. After stopping back home for dinner, I went up to Annie's. We had bought tickets to see this DJ Peaches play at this really trendy hipster club, Social Club, that night with some other friends of hers, but they all bailed last minute with work and sickness. In the end it was just the two of us, but nevertheless it was a great night. When we arrived just after 11, we discovered Peaches didn't come on until 3am! Based on the need to seriously do homework the next day, we ended up just dancing up a storm to the opening acts, which were really good, and still managed to catch the last 2am metro almost all the way home. Europe's love of techno has finally rubbed off on me and I had such a great night, a reminder that I should try and get some more good dancing in this year. I won't mention that after velibing the remainder of the way home, I arrived after 3 - because of time change. Despite this unreasonable hour, I decided it would be a good idea to watch the second twilight movie. Sometimes my stupidity even impressed me.

More Salon de Vin craziness

Trying to get my hipster glam on for Social Club.

Sunday was pretty boring, including a run, finishing my expose, watching the final twilight movie and general chilling. However, at night Loic and his brother Alexie came over for dinner and Etienne cooked up a magnificent Sunday dinner for the four of us. It was great to practice my French, and I am so impressed by how well I follow conversations, and how my own oral is getting a bit better. Etienne and I normally converse in an entertaining mixture of French and English, so when I am immersed in full french conversations for a few hours, I still get all excited.

Monday was also business as usual at school, plus my expose for Sport and Politics, this time on labour migration. It was really annoying since I had emailed everyone who was originally on the list to present that week, but then someone else had switched weeks and not informed our group, so by the time I got to present on the readings last, the class was questioned out and we had kindof been over a lot of the relevant material. After getting over my initial frustration, I still think it went ok, and I later was talking to the teacher, Rook, and she said it was fine. I also started a new trend after class is over at 5 of going straight to the library and working on the blog. I have really fallen behind, and these more recent weekly posts have been a result of this strategy of library blog sessions. Normally by the time I get home, I am just so tired, I don't have the energy needed to be creative an put life into the posts. So now, hopefully I will be able to get on top of it. Darn life for being so full of wonderful things and making blog writing a bit of a chore! I closed out the day by watching an absolutely terrible film called, D'Artagnan, about the Three Muskateers. Love the books, but terrible movie.

Tuesday's big news was an email received that informed me I was being offered the co-chair position for ACE! Even though I had only applied for the Alumni Director position, they felt after my interview that I would be a great leader and offered me a head position! I was obviously both thrilled and flattered, even though it will mean more work. This actually caused a bit of dilemna as I was just in the process of applying for the UBC REC newspaper, The Point. With the added time committment of the Co-chair position, I wasn't sure whether I should still apply, but after skyping Chrissy and discussing, I decided I might as well submit my application and see if I get an interview. I also started a new book today, for leisure, which is something I haven't done in awhile. It was the one I picked up from Shakespeare & Co a little while back, The Paris Wife. Spring in Paris makes me want to read about this incredible city as well. Its so exciting reading about people going by the places I'm living today! It feels me with bubbly emotion that's hard to describe. In ballroom, we also learned that we will be having a year end performance as part of Sciences Po's Semaine des Arts/Arts week. We started work on a routine, or enchainement for Tango. I'm excited about the opportunity to show our friends what we've learned over the course of the year. I closed out the day with a drink at Le Basile with Ayumi after a good library session once again.

Wednesday was overcast and I was in a blah mood, but at least I had tartiflette for dinner and afterwards hosted our "group" of Annie, David, Tom and Camila for brownies and movie night - Get Him to the Greek. Our friend group has really upped the game of getting together during the week and having a great second term. Its been lovely.

And this brings me to the end of March! Next stop: April!