Bienvenue à Marseilles

I am so lucky! I had the greatest Frenchie in the world, Julie, to show me around town for the 2 days I stayed in Marseilles. In the photo above, we were walking on the promenade by the Mediterranean coast (AND YES far-away-ROOMIE, I AM WEARING THE DRESS YOU GAVE ME! Bethany Rickwald is boss.)

I only had time to walk around Marseilles a little bit only because I was suffering from Jet lag the first day. I didn’t get to see very many things, but of course I got to see the coast and the beach (for those of you who know me well…).

I think I suffered my first case of culture shock, only it was a small false alarm. It was a great experience staying with Julie’s family. They were so generous, and Madame Mandoyan cooked spectacular, a french version of my mom (wine, cheese, portion of meat, veggies, and fruit…and and don’t forget the important french bread! ‘Tis a sin to forget le baguette). I found myself already starting to think more in French and speak it more. The problem was I was having a hard time understanding her parents, and therefore I was getting very frustrated. Lo and behold, Julie tells me, “You know my parents have accents right?” Her parents are originally from Armenia, and so that explains the accent that made it hard for me to understand. PHEW, I can understand French! 😀

I took a panoramic picture of the view from the Mandoyan’s house. They had a breathtaking view from their backyard, and of course I had to take it. On the far right you can see the Mediterranean Sea with the Château d’If (the prison from the Legend of Count of Monte Cristo) and on the coast is Notre Dame de la Gare, a renown cathedral. To the left would be on your way to Aix-en-Provence, which takes about 20 minutes. Click below to see the panoramic picture in a separate window.

View of Marseilles from Mandoyan Residence

View of Marseilles from Mandoyan Residence

Over the Atlantic Ocean

I did it! I got over the huge pond we call the Atlantic Ocean. It was very stressful, beginning with wishing my family farewell at the security gate. We were delayed an hour in Detroit to Newark because it was “rush hour” in Newark, and we could not lift-off until they said it was “less congested.” I was convinced I missed my much-awaited connection to Paris, France. I got to Newark and asked costumer service what I should do if I missed my plane, and it turned-out they delayed the flight, and I could make it in 15 minutes. Little did I know that with my two heavy carry-on bags, I would have to run across at least a mile or two through the airport to get to my gate.

I was so mad because I wanted to talk to my parents and some friends while I waited for my flight, but no it was impossible. Then as I walk into the cabin, I was bewildered by how gigantic it was with 10 seats per row, like nothing I had ever seen before. As I found my row, I see that I’m late and there was no way my bags would fit. I was embarrassed that I had to make the man in my row get-up and help me with my heavy bag and somehow he fit it in the overhead.

I had the window seat, and it took me a few minutes to compose myself from being embarrassed, the stress, and being out-of-breath from running. 5 minutes later, the plane starts moving to start to leave, and it turns out that the other man and I had the whole row to ourselves with room in the empty middle seat.

Did I mention that the man happened to be a good-looking Belgian man? His name was Dennis, pronounced Denny in French. Since I didn’t sleep the whole time, we found ourselves talking the whole time. We must have talked 75% out of the 7-hour trip. He gave me some contacts and suggestions about Aix, since he had studied there when he was an undergrad. This man has a career that I want, for he has been EVERYWHERE. No kidding. He also speaks French, English, Spanish, Portuguese, and German. WOW. Also, his girlfriend is Mexican :(.

Anyway, I arrived in Paris and immediately made my way to my connection to Marseilles. It was easy, but I was a little overwhelmed with being in a French-speaking country, all alone, hauling my luggage everywhere, and with lack of sleep. I took a shuttle to the Metro for 8 Euros, and waited for Julie for about an hour. It was funny because I had to go to the bathroom badly while I was alone, but there was no way I could leave my luggage (with French terrorism regulation, if you leave anything unattended, it will be blown-up for security reasons), especially since they look like these large black cases…bomb cases to be exact. I thought of my earrings in the suitcase, and decided that my bladder could hold that much longer.

Colombian-French Politics

Ingrid Betancourt

Ingrid Betancourt

I always wondered who I could look up to as a woman in Politics, especially if she was someone I could relate to. Íngrid Betancourt was a popular politician, especially for her anti-corruption campaigning, her candidacy for 2002 presidential elections with the Green party, and most controversially was her kidnapping by the communist group the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) for over 6 years.

To make a very long story short, she has heavy connections with France including: her attendance of the the Institut d’Etudes Politiques (in Paris, not the one I am attending in Aix), and her dual citizenship in France and Colombia. Therefor the French government was very involved in the kidnappings in Colombia.

How I relate to Brigitte Bardot…



-Mambo scene from Et Dieu…Crea la Femme

(Apart from portraying a promiscuous wife in the movie, being slapped by her husband in the clip, and being quite racist in real life…)

You see the Cuban Mambo (or Latin) musicians playing for Brigitte, a French character, to dance to.

It is inverted for me. This next year, my life in France symbolizes my dance floor, the constant yet incomprehensible French spoken around me will represent the music played for me, and this time I (the Latina) will be enticed to proceed no matter what tries to intrude.

A Year in Provence

My college friend Anna “Poofie” Malecke gave me this book, which she acquired from a little corner bookshop. It turned out that this book was also on my list to read to “prepare to study abroad” in Aix-en-Provence. So, I have decided to share my favorite extracts so as to understand the region and culture better:

On the accent: ” Half-familiar sounds could be dimly recognized as words through the swirls and eddies of Provencal: demain became demang, vin became vang, maison became mesong. That by itself would not have been a problem had the words been spoken at normal conversational speed and without further embroidery, but they were delivered like bullets from a machine gun.”

On Spring: “The almond tree was in tentative blossom. The days were longer, often ending with magnificent evenings of corrugated pink skies. The vineyards were busy again as the well-organized farmers treated their vines and their more lackadaisical neighbors hurried to do the pruning they should have done in November.”

On the open markets: “We walked slowly along the rows of trestle tables, admiring the merciless French housewife at work. [She] was selling free-range eggs and live rabbits, and beyond her tables were piled high with vegetables, small and fragrant bushes of basil, tubs of lavendar honey, great green bottles of first pressing olive oil, trays of hothouse peaches, pots of black tapenade, flowers and herbs, jams and cheeses–everything looked delicious in the early morning sun.”

On the lunch breaks: “Nothing was hurried. Work stopped at noon for lunch in the shade of a tree, and the only sounds for two hours were snatches of distant conversation that carried hundreds of yards on the still air.”

On greeting: “Only snobs kiss once, I was told, or those unfortunates who suffer from congenital froideur. I then saw what I assumed to be the correct procedure-the triple kiss, left-right-left, so I tried it on a Parisian friend. Wrong again. She told me that triple-kissing was a low Provençal habit, and that kisses were enough among civilized people. the next time I saw my neighbor’s wife, I kissed her twice. ‘Non,’ she said, ‘trois fois‘.”

On Aix: “The Cours Mirabeau is beautiful at any time of the year, but at its best between spring and autumn, when the plane trees form a pale green tunnel five hundred yards long. On the shady side of the street, appropriately, are the banks and insurance companies and property agents and lawyers. On the sunny side are the cafes.”

On the wine: “It had been our first experience of an evening formally dedicated to mass intoxication, and we had enjoyed it enormously. Any friend of the grape was a friend of ours.”