June 1 Forgot to buy a new monthly metro pass yesterday. Since I didn't have enough money on me to get a new one, I just picked up a single ticket to get me to school. Had a lecture on movements leading up to Algerian independence, and a French class devoted to the 'present participle'. Apparently it isn't what I thought it was. Not too complicated though. I managed to grab a sandwich in the 15 minutes before my next class. There we discussed "Tea in the Harem", a book on the lives of the young Arab immigrant underclass in France. Somehow I didn't realize that Thé au Harem d'Archi Ahmed is actually a very ingenuous reinterpretation of Théorem d'Archimede. Although the problems it describes are obviously not limited to France.
Our discussion wound up being one about national shortcomings. Problems attached to minority underclasses are apparently less controversial than I thought. Perhaps it just has to do with how you phrase the question though.
After class, we watched "Night of Destiny", a movie dealing with similar issues in a more positive context (and a later one). Though in many ways predictable, it was definitely a well-fashioned movie. Feel like I should be seeing more movies. Time. Need more time.
Returned home for dinner, although it turned out that the host-family was out, so it was just me and the other student. Got sidetracked reading about post-colonial studies, and digging through the index of Edward Said's "Orientalism." That's quite an index: from Nerval to Nasser.
June 2 Realized after last night that I'm a bit short on material for my paper. Went to the library to remedy the fact. Was somewhat disappointed that the collection of documents on Nasser by his former friend, Muhammad Haykal had disappeared (in the computer, but not on the shelves). At any rate, trying to rationalize nationalist movements is always fun. Probably because there isn't even really a good general definition of what a nationalist is. Or rather, there are a lot of definitions, some mutually contradictory.
Spent the afternoon at home trying to get started on my paper. A lot of ideas, but no paper yet. Visited my uncle for dinner. Realized suddenly that I've only another week of class. Better figure out summer plans quick.
June 4 1840 Treaty of London. 1979 Camp David Accords. Anglo-French dual control debt administration. IMF and World Bank. Cyclical history.
Aside from that essay, did some reading of Franz Fanon. Not certain what I think. Also went out and bought some new eyeglasses. First time in 5 years apparently. Of course the kind of frame I have now has gone out of fashion and is unavailable. My relationship with fashion is somewhere between nonexistent and aggravated.
June 3 Almost all day writing. The unfortunate fact is that I've just exceeded the word limit, and I still haven't finished the substance of my argument. Back to work tomorrow I guess. Had a nice dinner though, and managed to avoid getting rained on, so it's not all a loss. Oh and a big hearty thanks to the Dutch for their "nee." Guess they're going to have to come up with a new EU constitution. Sucks for the neo-liberals. Interestingly, the only party in France firmly behind the constitution was Chirac's. The Greens, Communists and National Front were all against it by 80-20 or more. Guess even right wing nuts can come in handy.
June 5 While I had high hopes for the morning, I did not actually get all the far. I did however bring this journal more or less up to date, a feat requiring several hours, especially when it came to posting photos from the Pyrenees.
In the afternoon, my uncle came by, and we drove in the general direction of Chartres, home of perhaps the largest and most graceful gothic cathedral in France. Originally we were going to go to the chateau and estate of Rambouillet, but the weather was not encouraging.
The cathedral was indeed impressive, although the stone seemed to have darkened considerably, on account of either oxidation or pollution, I couldn't tell. We also saw a little part of the town too, although it is a small enough town that from a distance on the highway, the first thing you see is definitely the cathedral (110 meters tall).
On the way back, we went to Rambouillet, which was in the process of closing. So we saw only a little bit. We took the smaller secondary roads, and I noticed that they have signs up which claim to mark the sites where people were hit and killed by cars. A rather grim, if hopefully effective, method of causing people to drive slower.
We also stopped at Versailles coming back to Paris. It was amazingly empty (and also closing time), but I got to the main view out on the garden, as well as the front courtyard, devoid of people. Wow! Returned home for dinner after that, before going to bed.
June 6 Last Monday of this quarter. Had a little French review for the test on Wednesday (amazing how much I've forgotten) and an afternoon in the Institut Catholique reading about women in Algeria. While I admire Frantz Fanon as an activist, I'm really not sure I buy his arguments on Algerian women. In practical terms, he doesn't seem to differ much from the French in the opinion that veiling is backwards and retrograde. At any rate, we had our final discussion of the quarter for 'Empires and Cultures', came home for dinner, and went to sleep quickly.
June 7 Our morning lecture was on American history: is America the exception, or is America an empire, much like previous ones, albeit with a few twists and a marked distaste for the term. Most of the events I was familiar with, but the framework of analysis was new. Gives the phrase 'empire of liberty' a new meaning I guess.
All afternoon spent studying French. I seem to have lost large quantities of my notes, which wasn't helping. Then discovered they were actually on my computer. Dinner was larger than usual, for it included the family of the Italian student who's staying in the same house. Nice dinner, but the conversation was hard to participate in (a mixture of Italian and French).
June 8 Last day of class of the quarter. First, had our final lecture of 'Empires and Cultures' tying together the various themes. Has nationalism failed in parts of the third world because the people there aren't ready for it, or because it isn't really a universally practical ideology? Immediately afterwards came the French final, which was pleasantly straightforward. The discussion for Franco-Arab encounters was a bit disjointed, but I actually became more involved in this one, than in the others, mostly because other people kept making statements that just didn't seem true. Mainly dealing with the place of Islam in French society, and trying to explain the extremely adverse reaction of the French to the choice of Muslim girls to veil in schools (I refer to a firestorm of media attention that culminated in a law banning such behavior). Looks to me like the old colonial prejudices die hard, even when the empire has been dead for 40 years.
June 9 Trying to do entirely too much at once. In the morning, rewrote my Egypt paper. Finished, and ran off to school to print it and have lunch. Then came back, and did reading for my next paper (on the veil/foulard affair in France). Beginning to have some ideas on what to write about. Important, since its due tomorrow. Went to pick up my new pairs of glasses, and was unpleasantly surprised by the inordinate 2 hour wait I had there. I really don't understand what was going on, and I know that they know that I was waiting. Quality service, that's for sure. So I missed the Italian student's final recital, which was a shame.
Dinner was a Stanford event at the Train Bleu restaurant in the Gare de Lyon. So I decided to make use of my nicer clothes which really haven't done much good. Dinner was tasty, but long. I miss the types of conversations that used to go on back at Stanford. Sigh. Got home so late that I fell asleep immediately.
June 10 Woke up, and immediately remembered that I had a paper due in 11 hours. So I sat and I wrote. Continuously for almost 6 hours. That was my final paper. I didn't have the mental willpower to do much of a review, so when I'd finished, I simply ran off to the center and printed it out. Then I did a bunch of errands, getting money from the soon to be closed bank account Stanford sets up for us, getting a recharge for my (almost out of calling time) and finally getting lunch. Hopefully the last pannini I get for a while from this place. Not only are they not too cheap, they're extremely slow. Did odds and ends at the center until around 6, when a few of us went out to get ice cream and celebrate being finished. Sat in the Luxembourg Gardens, and watched the world go by, while making silly conversation. Exactly my sort of thing. Came back to the house for a lengthy, elaborate and final dinner with my host family (I'm moving tomorrow to my uncle's place). Did a bit of packing, and then collapsed. It has been a long quarter.
June 11 Apparently got up about 5 minutes after my housemate left. For Stanford. Oh well, see him in a few months I guess... For the morning, began packing up all my stuff. There's not really all that much. The biggest part was actually taking down the reams of paper I've accumulated (in lieu of course-readers) and sending them off to recycling.
A friend wanted to go around and see Montmartre, so that's where I went. Took a surprisingly long amount of time to get to the right metro stop. We worked our way up the hill where Sacre Coeur is located, passing crowds of other tourists, and a square full of artists painting portraits, caricatures and the like. The church of Sacre Coeur is itself quite impressive, although if my professor was correct, at least part of its purpose was to efface the memory of the place as the last stand of the 1871 Paris Commune. The inside was more or less what one would expect of church. However, you can go up to the dome, by climbing a narrow, badly-lit circular stairwell. We did this. Quite an experience: climbing stairs in the dark while getting dizzy. The view from the top was quite impressive: we saw pretty much all of the major paris landmarks from above (Eiffel Tower, Tour Montparnasse, La Defense, that sort of thing). Good times.
Going down was a bit nerve-wracking, but once that was over, we took the little 'funicular' train down to the base of the hill and had lunch in a pizza restaurant. The weather outside was just about perfect. I went home via the Abbesses metro stop, which is in serious need of clean-up. It looks sort of like a like an abandoned warehouse in a ghetto.
Back at home, I finished up all the packing stuff, and then set about catching up on unfinished business, like postcards, letters and flute-practice. Got a fair bit of practice in, although my fingers are still pretty un-nimble, to say the least. Had a pleasant discussion with my host-mother, for what will probably be the last time (and the longest, too). My uncle came by around 9PM, and after a quick set of goodbyes, we hauled my bags down with the aid of the elevator, and headed off to what will be my new home for a good chunk of the summer.
As it happened, one of my friends needed a place to store luggage while she runs around Europe, so she dropped by, along with someone else who was helping with a truly enormous suitcase, and suggested going out to dinner. That we did, except for the fact that we took the wrong metro line, compounding the error by leaving sometime around 11PM. Thus we found the desired place for dinner around a quarter of midnight. The meal for me was quick, though tasty (they planned to spend the whole night out, and weren't worried therefore about missing the last metro). Good times, and I managed not to miss the last metro (good because I didn't have my map to walk home). Arrived home late and tired around 1AM.
June 12 Had a leisurely morning of unpacking and whatnot. My uncle recommended visiting Reims, so that's what we did. We took the scenic route through Paris though, and then the long (and somewhat scenic route to Reims). Consequently, it had gotten relatively late, and we stopped before Reims in a hillside town for lunch. Reims itself was about 150 km of driving on the route we took, and much of the town was actually barred to road traffic, so it took some time to figure out what we doing.
On our way toward the famous cathedral (where 34 French kings were crowned), we saw that a large chunk of the main streets were barred to all traffic. Learned at the tourist office that there'd be a parade commemorating Joan of Arc in a few minutes. Just our luck.
The inside of the cathedral was chiefly notable for being a lot better lighted than the one at Chartres, possibly on account of the weather. At any rate, the stain glass windows, including a set by Marc Chagall, were quite spectacular.
When we got outside again, the parade was just beginning, and the streets were absolutely packed. Most of the parade consisted of various groups of people in medieval costumes. There were knights on horseback, foot-soldiers in chain mail, legionnaires, WWI-style infantry and nearly everything in between. There were even a group of barbarians running around shouting maniacally and waving red torches. Towards the end, they had a cage with a bull (looking rather bored) and another one with a lion (looking definitely asleep). Oh, and there was some sort of a druid deity that was gigantic, requiring 4 different people to maneuever it. Even the members of the various marching bands were colorful.
After the parade, we made a quick walk around the town. For our return, we took a side route that brought us to the town of Chantilly which had a very nice chateau, with a view over a lake. Unfortunately, we didn't have all that much time to enjoy it, since it had gotten quite late. Arrived back at the house sometime around 10PM, had a quick dinner, and went straight to sleep.
June 13 Not very exciting day. Reading over old notes, doing administrative whatnot at the Stanford center, and not generally being frightfully productive. Came back home somewhat tired, and with a headache in the evening. The weather has heated up a lot which really hasn't helped me that much. Most of the important things on my todo list have been pushed back a day.
June 14 All sorts of fun. Began by scanning a whole series of documents I'd picked up earlier. Went to the Institute Catholique library, which doesn't appear to have what I needed. So walked down the street to the André Malraux municipal library. Nice, but small (around the same size as the HMB public library). So moved along. Via a circuitous route, reached the St. Genevieve library right next to the Pantheon. Sore feet, but this one appears to have most of what I might need. They've got lots of newspaper archives, and even a few English language books. So far, so good. In the afternoon, moved along to the American Library, which appears not to have all that much of interest. Did pick up a few books on the Holocaust, and France in the '30s. On the way home, there was a giant traffic jam, surrounding a stopped fire truck. Then I heard a persistent meowing sound. Yep, the fireman was rescuing a stranded cat (and infuriating countless drivers in the process. Life is funny. Did some reading in the afternoon.
June 15 Went by the library of the Center for the Unknown Jew & Holocaust Memorial. Aside from the security check, which I've mentioned previously, the library was actually okay, except their catalogue is most definitely not digitized. Yay, card catalogues. Their collection is eclectic, but has some good stuff, so I may be back. Next tried to go to the Beaubourg Library. By the time I found the place, the line was simply enormous. Later, I realized it was probably because they hadn't yet opened it. At any rate, I didn't even bother to wait. Off to St. Genevieve to get a library card, and look at some books. Researching is not a fast process. In the evening, a few folks were getting together so I joined. Bread cheese and champagne in the shadow of Notre Dame wasn't a bad way to spend the time. Everyone's leaving pretty soon, and most aren't too excited about the idea. I'm not, and I'm not excited either, but that's another story. Unfortunately, we ended up enjoying ourselves a bit too much, missing the last metro. So I walked home, a good solid 90 minutes of fast walking in post-midnight Paris. Having the map did wonders. Home at 2AM.
June 16 Meeting with my professor in the morning. Fortunately I woke up on time. Met at a little café to discuss my research (barely started), next years courses (apparently a bit limited), and graduate school (uh-oh, had forgotten about that). A pleasant discussion, but it looks like I've got a fair bit expected of me. That means I'd better deliver. Spent the midafternoon all at the Stanford center photocopying and whatnot. Went by the American library to pick up some light reading and return other books. Not sure if Iranian history is light, but that's what I ended up with, as well as the Stephen Kinzer book on the 1953 coup, "All the Shah's Men." It gets a surprising amount rather wrong. Also picked up a new phone my uncle had ordered. Turns out walking after last night is definitely not that much fun. And its hot out. Quite hot.
June 17 I suppose I could call today a full day of work. Got to the St. Genevieve library at 10, stayed 'til 4, without interruption. Found some interesting things, but not enough to merit all the time spent. Looks like I really need to focus on periodicals now. After my session, was feeling pretty exhausted, and so wandered off to the Stanford Center for lunch and a little distraction. The weather is abominable, and set to get worse. I'm not excited. Arrived home latish. My aunt is back from Iran, so now there are 4 of us.
June 18 Woke up latish, and slowly set about various odds and ends. Accompanied my uncle doing the week's errands. It looks like French and American supermarkets are much the same, as are the malls they're found in. Weather is in the 90s. After a very quick lunch, we ran (literally) to the Radio France building, where they had a free concert/conversation with musicians and composers. I had a bit of trouble understanding the conversation, but the music was excellent, performed by a number of quite young artists. Still, 3 hours is a long time, and I was just as happy when we finally got home. Did some real flute practice for the first time in a while. Some things, strange to say, may have improved since last I played. Was less pleased to realize that since I changed my return plane ticket Thursday night, I have seen neither receipt, nor charges on my credit card. Not especially helpful, considering I spent quite a long time on the phone arranging it. Did get to speak with numerous folks over the phone whom I've not heard from in ages. All manner of my relatives will be in the U.S. for the summer. Funny how I won't.
June 19 Our plan was to stay somewhere nearish to Parish, but far enough away that it had interesting Chateaus. Leaving around noon, we first stopped in the town where Emile Zola lived for a considerable time. Admired his house briefly, and then moved on to a park with very nice shade, and a small chateau nearby. My uncle ran into an old neighbor their. Next up was the chateau of Villarceaux. We did an almost complete circuit of the chateau and grounds, which were quite nicely set up. The guide explained part of the interior of the chateau too, and there was some music and dance. Ample quantities of shade made the whole thing quite pleasant. Even 90 degrees in the shade can be tolerable. Returning, with a very quick visit to another town, was slow and hot, as we almost immediately hit significant traffic. It took 2 hours to go around 40 km. Back at home, had a quasi-dinner and spoke at length with my folks, trying to rationalize the middle-to-end of summer plans. Still some work to do.
June 20 Overslept. Compounded the problem by doing errands in the morning. By the time that was done, not a lot of productive time left. Still, made one library visit. Then came home, had dinner, went to sleep. Not especially exciting.
June 21 Visit to the Bibliotheque National (François Miterrand). Takes a while to get down there (completely on the other side of Paris). Building is enormous, and entrance is hard to find. Getting in was pretty easy, but only for the reference library. They have what I need on microfilm, but you're limited in how many things you can ask for per day, and they only have a certain number of machines to display it on. Hmm... Access to the research library was, as expected, restricted. For the afternoon, wound up back at St. Genevieve looking at more marginally helpful books. Have pretty much run my copy card out of money. Friend whose been wandering around Europe showed up in the evening. I'm jealous.
June 22 Up somewhat early. We managed to haul my friend's very hefty suitcases out of the basement, and eventually, to the La Muette metro. Learned that you can't swipe your metro ticket twice in the same few minutes (was trying to get the luggage through the turnstyle. Did so, said goodbye, and off she went. Three heft suitcases plus a smaller bag and an art portfolio don't look like fun to maneuver through metro connections to the airport. And my shoulder hurts from the heavier bag. Ouch.
Back at home, went back to sleep briefly, before making my way up to the ISEP center. Spent most of my time there reading.
June 23 Was rarely productive today. Visited the library of the Alliance Israélite Universelle. Their librarian was most helpful, and they appear to have at least 2 of the newspapers I'm looking for. Suddenly realized that even a weekly is a lot to go through for a period of 1 year. Let alone 5-6. And no, there's no subject index. Still, one has to start eventually. Stayed there until closing time. At home, had an Uzbek friend of my uncle's over for dinner. Interesting conversations, but since Farsi was the lingua franca, I didn't catch a lot of what was going on. After dinner, took a walk around the area. I don't know why, but city walking makes me tired.
June 24 Somehow, I wound up at the American library, rather than where I was hoping to go. Had to return some books, and ended up getting somewhat sidetracked. Found an interesting, though not especially relevant (for my purposes) book on the Iranian Revolution. Also dug up a surprising quantity of stuff on jstor. In the evening, returned just in time to go with my uncle to a concert. Mahler's 9th symphony at the Theatre de Champs Elysees. An excellent production, but our seats didn't permit good viewing of the orchestra, and my appreciation for Mahler is somewhat limited. I think the phrase 'overdone' popped up in my mind a few times. That and sleepy. Stayed up too late the night before. Walking home in the cooler evening (the concert hall was like an even) by the Seine was nice though.
June 25 A day of errands, and catching up. For the week's shopping, we wound up at smallish supermarket in the suburbs, with a surprising quantity of North African products. Nice place though, and considerably cheaper than Monoprix. In the afternoon, had a leisurely lunch, read, practiced flute, and the like. Pleasant day, all told. What did I do again?
June 26 So we went off to Normandy today. Rather early in fact. Left the house around 9AM, and drove north. The weather hovered somewhere between marginal and okay, with grey clouds the whole way up. Finding an open gas station proved a surprisingly challenging activity, but sometime around noon, we made a stop in Pont Audemer, a rather sizable and well appointed town.
I was somewhat anxious to buy some bread, which we did, at the first of almost a dozen bakeries that we passed. Any town with that many bakeries can't be bad. Pont Audemer was an old town, with a massive church, nicely decorated with large amounts of colorful flowers. The interior of St. Ouen was in fact less interesting than the exterior.
From there, we continued on to Honfleur, a medium-sized port town not far from Le Havre. Finding parking was of course difficult, but once we'd done that, we found a bench next to the harbor, and had a pleasant lunch. Despite the clouds and the breeze, the temperature was just about right.
After lunch, we commenced walking around the town, which proved to be highly tourist-oriented. Enormous numbers of shops had the requisite apple cider and postcards to appeal to non-locals (one a local product, the other a tourist necessity). Eventually, we left the harbor area and followed a road in the process of repaving up a hill and then down to the beach.
Right around the time we reached the beach, the weather began clearing up, and so we in fact had the benefit of a beach, not to jammed with people, in full sunlight. Quite a number of those who were there showed no hesitation swimming in the Atlantic. Either they are very brave, or its not as cold as it looks.
Our return was long enough that I actually fell asleep for a good chunk of it. Not especially surprising, since it is 200km from Honfleurs to Paris. Had a late dinner when we got back, and went to sleep.
June 27 Made a quick trip to several libraries in the morning. None quite had what I was looking for. I did however find a period of good weather in the Pyrenees, and tentatively planned a trip. We'll see how it works, though I suspect 3 days for a circuit of Mont Perdu is gonna be tough. The maps I've been looking at make everything seem disturbingly simple. Walking home in the sweltering heat, with everybody and their catfish out trying to take advantage of the 'solde' (major sale) was definitely an experience.
June 28 Was hot as all heck today. Probably in the mid-nineties, with equivalent humidity. Made another morning trip to the map store. I'm trying to arrange an itinerary for this weekend's trip to the Pyrenees, and I need some type of detailed map. I found what I needed, and left 8 euros poorer. All this spawned because my attempts at a reservation for the refuge I was originally planning to go to proved futile. They're full, and not even the fact that the guy spoke Spanish could hide that.
Walked to St. Lazare afterwards, where I read a bit, and then found a quiet (and shady) spot to wait until the library opened (Bibliotheque de l'Alliance Israélite Universelle). Managed to mix myself up, and so walked in circles for a bit before reaching the library. Boulevard de Clichy seems to be a center of XXX rated book shops and other marginal establishments.
Found some more useful items in the library which I looked at until they started closing in the evening. Returning home required only 2 correspondences this time, since I pretty much knew what I was doing. Did a little flute, caught up on Wimbledon, and called it a night shortly thereafter.
June 29 Didn't do much with the morning. Back to the library for the afternoon. Since the books are wide (and old), I can't photocopy the pages. Librarian suggested I use a digital camera to capture the pages I was interested in. This plan had but one flaw: my camera decided to run out of batteries right as I was getting down to business. So all I did was read again, and not potentially relevant material. Left feeling incompetent as usual. Evening was quiet, save for a brief walk with my uncle. Wound up at Trocadero, where I got a picture of the fully lighted Eiffel tower (first ten minutes of each hour they light it up). Colorful. On the way back it rained. A lot. We did surprisingly well with just one umbrella.
June 30 Absorbed by the task of reading yet more old newspapers in French. Well, that is after this morning, when I simply tried to stay cool, and catch up on the wonderful world outside, not to mention Wimbledon tennis. Oh yeah, and pack, since I'll be swapping rooms with my cousin who's leaving for Iran next Tuesday (and the one I was staying in will be rented out to an American student from New York). Curious.
So in order, I: 1) packed, 2) went to the library and read, 3) came back home for an evening concert (singer-friend of my aunt's gave a performance at the house) and 4) got on my train, direction Lourdes.
The newspapers were a bit too much for me, some 600 pages of L'Univers Israélite. Given that the stuff is now more than 65 years old, I can't help feeling that if somebody would just scan the darn thing, it'd do wonders for researchers, not to mention saving the rather fragile actual physical archives.
Since I am on my way to the mountains, I dropped by the American Library for some light (in both senses of the word) reading material. Wound up with Eric Hobsbawm's "Echoes of the Marseillaise." Hope it's good.
The concert was a mixture of western classical music and Iranian folk melodies rearranged. Very well-performed, but there weren't any seats left (about 15 or so people showed up to listen). The social gathering that followed left me feeling rather lost and unexcited. So it was just as well when I left for the train station around 10PM.
My train was effectively the same one as on the last trip to the Pyrenees, but this time I saved 20 euros and got a seat instead of a bed. The beds are nice, but there are 6 to a compartment, and the whole experience left me more than a little claustrophobic, what with the lurching of the train, and the swaying of various bunks. In any case, I had a seat, with nobody adjacent to me, and a pretty good amount of space. So I alternated between reading, sleeping, and lying in a quasi-comatose state. Not the greatest fun, but manageable.