Meannedering: Looking Through the Fish Bowl
Sometimes you want to go where no one knows your name.
For three hours each week, I do just that, and take the metro to the other side of Paris, where I can disappear—à la fac.
“La Fac” is the colloquial term for the many universities in Paris; I attend Paris VII: Denis Diderot. Once there, I sometimes pay attention in class, but mainly focus on the other students.
I hope none of my professors are reading this.
I decided to take a class at the fac to get more practice speaking French and make real French friends (the fake ones just aren’t as fun). Why would I want to learn about Victor Hugo and his contemplations when I could be learning the secret to finding cheap shoes in Paris?
There were many problems with my plan from the beginning. First of all, all the hip French students already have other equally as hip friends, who already have cute shoes and know how to text in French slang. Strike one.
The second problem was that there are only six “real” French students in my class, provided they all decide to show up. Apparently, French literary culture of the nineteenth century sounds incredibly endearing to foreigners, notably, a boy from Oxford, two girls from Korea, a Spanish boy, three Americans and an Italian girl who wouldn’t dare go to class without her hot pink Dolce and Gabbana glasses (come on, everyone knows you don’t really need those).
If you’ve ever seen “L’Auberge Espagnol” (and if you haven’t, you should), imagine all the roommates together in one class.
So, my class at the Fac became more of an observation class; they are all my goldfish.
I watch the way they dress, how they talk and whether they “bise” or not (“bising” is the greeting of kissing each cheek). I pay attention to the notes they take, or don’t, the food they eat, and the way they do their hair.
You call it creepy, but I call it investigative journalism.
We do, in fact, have a professor, and class does last for all three hours. He’s a French man with a Spanish name, a hairstyle like Einstein and a hat like Macaulay Culkin during his “Home Alone” days. He talks like a Blockbuster video on fast-forward (remember those?). After about 10 minutes, my migraine surfaces and I retreat back to my observing.
One of the things I’m still relying on one of my six French classmates for is a greve.
Greves, the very common French strikes, are almost like a French rite of passage. Have a problem? Here, grab a picket. While most of the time these strikes occur with the union workers, the students in France have been known to take part in them as well. Have you ever heard of May 1968? The largest greve in Paris happened then, started by students, which in turn brought the separation of the University of Paris.
What college student wouldn’t want to abandon classes for an infinite amount of time to try to reform everything they think is wrong? Think of it as the French version of UMW forums, only these get results.
If I’ve learned anything from my observations, the French don’t just wait around to get what they want—so I won’t either.
Tomorrow afternoon, hop on a plane to Paris and meet me in my apartment to start making some picket signs.
I didn’t want to write that final paper, anyway.