Saturday, September 15, 2007

Clubbing: Voluntarily being beaten with a stout heavy stick

Last night there was a “Back to School” party hosted at a venue called “Brazil Tropical.” For some reason, I assumed it was a bar, but it was actually a club. I had never in my life been to a club before, by deliberate choice. Last night’s experience only served to confirm my previously unfounded abhorrence of night clubs. In fact, I have never been quite so disappointed in my generation, now particularly in what passes for courtship.

So basically, it starts with getting in to the club. Since there was an agreement with AUP, there weren’t any issues for any of us last night and it was free, but generally speaking, the ratio of guys to girls has to be at least 1:3 to get in, and the girls are expected to get all dolled up and dress as skankily as possible. And normally you have to pay for this, unless it’s ladies’ night or something. If you don’t meet these expectations, you can be “bounced” (which almost makes rejection sound like a fun time) based on the completely arbitrary decision of the bouncer (or the equally arbitrary instructions that he’s received). If this happens, you either have to try again somewhere else, or all your preparation was for naught.

Once you’re in, it doesn’t actually matter what you look like, because you can’t see anything anyway. You can, however, feel your clothing vibrate to the bass independently from your body. (Based on absolutely no knowledge of physics, I’m going to assume this is related to some kind of density differential.) You have to scream to talk to people who are right next to you, leaving any conversation, meaningful or otherwise, an impractial option.

Given all of this, I’m not entirely sure how people actually “meet” in clubs. You can’t talk. Isn’t that kind of necessary to get to know someone? I mean, yes, you can see whether or not they’re dancing on a platform and evaluate their grinding, but overall, that seems like a pretty poor general impression of a person.

Maybe I’m not being entirely fair. I’m told that clubbing is often only the end activity of a process, preceded by dinner and drinks. Perhaps in that context it’s a little more acceptable; conversation’s been had, and you just want to dance and have a good time, maybe work off that 8-lb steak. That’s fine, I think. But I'm not stepping into a club again, not even by accident.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Classes Dropping Like Flies

Today I received an email notifying me that my senior seminar on comparative democracy was cancelled due to low enrollment, so now if I choose to continue, it would be entirely independent study. This means no class on Friday afternoons. However, I decided I really do like my class on Friday mornings, which is kind of annoying since I'm now in the predicament of deciding whether I should learn (which is what I'm here to do) or have the option of travelling on Thursday nights/sleeping in on Friday mornings (the former of which is arguably also what I'm here to do).

I did drop a class on Turkey and the EU for an art history class about Germany and Russia between the two world wars, both because I think it's interesting and I should expand my horizons or whatever in the name of liberal arts, and also because enrollment in an art history class means I get a sticker on my ID that gets me free admission and line-skipping privileges to most of the museums in Paris.

Unfortunately, I found out that the unlimited movie pass, although charged monthly, must be held for at least a year. I'm not sure if there's a way to just stop paying them after four months, but I'll have to do some further investigating.

Tip: When abroad, buy any available textbooks at betterworld.com. It's cheaper, shipping is $2.97/book (anywhere in the world) and carbon-free, and the proceeds go towards some kind of literacy program. The only downside is that their selection isn't nearly as extensive, but it's still pretty good, and I don't know of any alternatives.

It occurs to me that there are a lot of "little things" that I won't even notice, in that they are the same "little things" that make New York different than the suburbs. Thus, having already become accustomed to these things, they're not weird to me. Also, my travelling attitude in general tends to be more like, "That's different. Ok." As opposed to, "Holy crap, is that how they do things here?" So since I absorb cultural differences quickly, I soon forget that it's weird by American standards.

I can't update on the weekends until I get internet at home, but I'll have more pictures for you on Monday, hopefully.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

It figures.

A headline on BBC News' Americas page:

Dollar hits new low against euro

Blurb:

The US dollar slips to new record lows against the euro as investors bet interest rates will be cut next week.

Excellent.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Little Things

So here are some of "the little things" that distinguish Paris from New York:
  • People walk much slower.
  • People are much nicer and a lot more formal.
  • The streets are not in a grid. In fact, the city is too old for the roads to be logical in the modern sense of the word. There are, however, a lot of streets that lead to the Arc de Triomphe. I assume this is a Roman thing.
  • There's no shower curtain. Water just sort of goes everywhere.
  • Obviously, things are in metric.
  • This may not be universal, but Mme Mangenot does a little laundry every couple of days, instead of amassing a two- or three-week pile of dirty clothing and washing it all at once.
  • Also, people generally only have washers (if that, since it is city life after all), not dryers.
  • Apparently, the water pipes in buildings are kind of loud and utilities in general are really expensive, so people definitely subscribe to the "if it's yellow, let it mellow" philosophy late at night.
  • There really are a lot of little dogs and baguettes everywhere. All the time.
  • On many of the Metro lines, you have to push a button or turn a handle to open the doors to get on or off the train.
  • Dinner is eaten later, which to me is on time.

There are certainly other things that I haven't noticed, or have already gotten used to, but I'll try to make a list like this periodically.

Yesterday, I had my senior seminar for the first time. At the moment, there are two of us in the class. Basically, this means I'll have to do the work and everything, but we can meet individually with the professor whenever. This is ridiculously convenient, as I can probably get Fridays off which means: travelling!

Unless I get this internship at a law office. In which case, it will mean working.

Tip: Don't drink black tea every morning at breakfast. It's only been a week, and I swear my teeth are yellow-er. Or maybe, use a straw. I'll have to test that.

Monday, September 10, 2007

First Day of Classes!

So today was the first day of classes, which means I had math class, of all things. I guess you could describe this as riding a bike, but only if I were riding that bike somewhere I'd never been. That is, once things were explained to me, I remembered what to do, but I couldn't come up with the directions on my own. This is what happens when you take AB Calculus when you're fourteen, and then try to take Calculus II (which I presume is BC-ish) five years later. Anyway, the homework is really easy actually, so that's good.

At NYU last semester, I didn't purchase a single one of my textbooks. I'm wondering if I can do the same here. Although, at NYU, the smallest class size I've been in was around 50, and here the largest one I'm in so far is about 20. It could be difficult.

I went to the bank today to open an account (at HSBC, as previously mentioned). The teller only spoke a little English, and I only speak a little French, so it was mostly two ships passing in the night with occasional contact (although it probably would've helped if he'd spoken a bit slower), but luckily the woman waiting in line behind me was bilingual, so she helped us through that trying time. I now have an appointment on Wednesday, and hopefully it will be goodbye to international transaction fees! (Except in Canada, evidently. Who'd have thought that this would be the front on which Canada decides to take a stand? What rebels.)

Tip: If you're living abroad for a while, and you're paying your rent in cash (as we are required to do), make sure to notify your bank in advance of a large withdrawal. Many banks have a limit for how much can be withdrawn in one shot. (For me, it's $300, which is not even close to covering my rent.)

Tip: This is for college, not travelling, but go to cheapesttextbooks.com to buy your books. Also, if it's not a time-sensitive subject, buy the previous edition. This often makes the difference between spending $120 and 6 cents. (I have actually purchased a textbook for 6 cents + shipping/handling.) Amazon is helpful for finding the ISBN number of previous editions. The only downside to this is that it may take a while for you to get your book, whereas the bookstore offers instant gratification. However, if you're remotely social, you should be able to borrow someone else's every now and then to hold you over. This doesn't always work for books with problems that you need for homework, so check before you buy. Previous students of the class (with the same professor) are the best resource.

No pictures today. (What would I even have taken a picture of? Candide learning calculus? Riveting.)

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Bateau Mouche

We went on a boat tour! Unfortunately, it wasn't that glamorous, and it was definitely freezing. It is, however, extremely convenient for consolidating all your sight-seeing. So here are even more pictures.

First, of course, our friend Candide on the boat:

Then, a way better picture of the rugby ads in the Eiffel Tower:

And now, actual sites:

Pont d'Alma

Notre Dame

Musée d'Orsay

Louvre

Institut de France

Dance class on the Seine (This is a terrible picture, I know.)

Picture that actually came out very interestingly (The edges are blurred, but the center isn't.)

Trees! In a city! Along a river!

What the recording introduced as a "Manhattanized area"

Mini-Statue of Liberty (which, by the way, more people took a picture of than any other thing on the tour)

General scenery

I liked this bridge a lot:


To end the night, I went to "chez Pizza Hut" with Hannah. I realize Pizza Hut is about the lamest place I could go for dinner, but let's keep in mind I'm a student (i.e. on a tight budget), and the Pizza Hut on campus has a buy one-get one deal if the order isn't delivery. Besides, Candide had a good time.