j'ai le cafard

it's one of those days...

gray sky, soft music playing on Pandora, kitty sleeping by the window, blog-surfing....and looking back at old photos of my time spent in Paris.

once in this mood, it's hard to pull myself out. i tend to view this period of my life as a strange limbo-land where i can view the world from my safe perch. looking at what everyone else is up to can sometimes be daunting and it's hard to keep my long-term goal in mind when the every day seems to be the same.

don't mind me...i'm just having one of those days.



Sitting here,
seat worn from
day after day of
sitting here.

coffee as my morning brew
wakes me from my dreamless slumbers,
forces me to greet the daylight
once more.

let Inspiration flow
from these dry hands
on this blackened keyboard
through cyber space
and into someone's heart...

i pray
let the day of change
come sooner
than later.



Visions of a future not so far....cobble stone streets and a cozy studio I can call my own. I want so much to be THAT woman:
you know, the type that walks with confidence, that exudes happiness with life....
THAT woman you envy when you see in passing:
Independent, balanced, mindful....

What is the difference between long-term goals and daydreaming?

I see my vision of the future and it doesn't seem too far away....but how do I get there, how do I take that leap? I dream of living in Europe. It's almost like if I get there, everything else will fall into place for me. Everyone needs a dream. I cry for those that gave theirs up thinking it was useless. We only have one life to live and we write our own history.

It's not so far off, I tell myself. But when?



Environment, environment, environment!

Not the "green movement"... I'm talking about apartments that just make your heart skip a beat. That's what happened to me this morning when I stumbled on two Manhattan apartments with the coolest design.

In short, they inspired me. Click to read the articles below and more importantly look at the slideshow of more photos (...I can't find out how to be able to save those photos and paste them here...)

I've moved around every year or so for the past 6 years, giving me permanent "dorm room syndrome," a rather common affliction in which one does not find the need to invest in a quality lifestyle because of the knowledge that packing up and moving is right around the corner (and we ALL know that less 'stuff' fits better in garbage bags...)

I dream, however, of a personal sanctuary--a light, bright, open space full of my own art, things that inspire me and a style of relaxed chic. I do think it's a reachable dream, but I just don't know when I'll be in the position to stay in a city for long enough!

Which brings me to another dream of mine and something else I indulged in today.............(don't laugh, although I know you will!)


Some women just fall apart with motherly desire when they see babies.....I've never had that (yet) but I believe I have the same intense feelings when I see baby animals. These little guys just stole my heart, and before I knew the extent of my emotions, I was YouTube-ing other videos of puppies playing and wishing so much I had my own dog to cuddle with on this cold, rainy day.

Everyone loves puppies (how could you NOT?!) but I've wanted a dog since I was a little girl....I subscribed to the American Kennel Association's publications when I was 12 in order to be informed and I went as far as to memorize all of the dog breeds/personalities. After all of the genuine effort and desire on my part, my parents STILL refused....
"Too much work," they replied definitively.

SO, a dog and a beautifully-furnished/inspiring permanent residence.... This is what inspired me today and this is what I am setting as long-term goals for myself.

Until then, Ramen Noodles for dinner, anyone?? (joking, of course...)


New look, same Notes on a Napkin...

(by: Anne Morrow Lindbergh)

This is a road
     One walks alone,
Narrow the track
     And overgrown.

Dark is the way
     And hard to find,
When the last village
     Drops behind.

Never a footfall
     Light to show
Fellow Traveler--
     Yet I know

Someone before
     Has trudged his load
In the same footsteps--
     This is a road.


Dear Readers,

I decided to begin the first post of my "new and improved" blog with this poem because it resonates with me during this period of my life. Reading it for the first time a few weeks ago, I  immediately thought of my own introspective 'pilgrimage' this year. Everyone has a personal journey that one must 'walk alone' and although it may seem lonely at times, I am comforted to know that it has been taken before.

The reincarnation of my blog is the result of a lot of personal decisions, one of which is to more actively incorporate my creative energy into my everyday routine. More recently, I have felt an intense desire to share things that inspire me with others: photos, thoughts, poems, conversations with strangers, etc. I will share something that inspires me every day with the goal of keeping myself busy, documenting inspiring things for my own art, and in the hopes that like-minded individuals will see or read something to get the creative juices flowing.  :)

I would love to have feedback so do not hesitate to leave a comment!

Thank you, and enjoy...



In transit once more...Istanbul airport

(flying to Istanbul, Turkey from Tajikistan...)

I find myself back in Istanbul's Ataturk airport, sitting in the exact spot in the same cafe that I did before I flew to Tajikistan. I know I know, it's incredibly cliche to do these sort of "post-experience reflections" but I'm not even trying to avoid that, so here it goes. I am kind of in personal amazement at what I have gone through these past two months. I don't physically feel different (well...I lost some weight...) but with any experience comes growth and I'm sure that I have done a little bit of that.

(Cafe in Istanbul...loved it!)

I realized that I never posted while I was 8 days in Istanbul. Let me just quickly comment (I have to catch my 12 hour flight home!) that it is an AMAZING city--cosmopolitan, dynamic, diverse, exciting. Turkish is an incredibly difficult language to pick up but I managed to learn a few key words from my handy phrase-book and recently I have been able to fool everyone! Just after saying "mehraba" (hello) to the waiter in the airport and "bir espresso lotfen" (one espresso please) he thought I was Turkish! Now, I'm sure that being tan-skinned helps me because I'm sure I have an accent.

(Unbelievable beauty!)

(The call to prayer resonated throughout the city 5 times a day...)

(Spice Market!)

Turkey is a fascinating country...it is literally the bridge between east and west--Istanbul is surrounding a body of water called the Bosphorus and on one side is the continent of Europe and on the other is the continent of Asia! While walking down Istanbul streets, you will see a group of girls in tank tops, shorts, and high heels and they will be walking next to a group of girls wearing the headscarf and Islamic attire. On first glance, I was amazed that there was such cohabitation without violence/conflict. On talking with Turkish friends, however, I realized that the country is going through a period of change. Basically, Turkey is the only Muslim country that is secular, but there has been an increase in popularity with the Islamic political party and more and more women are seen wearing the headscarf than before. I'm not sure what will happen, but some people think that Turkey could become like Iran.....that's an extreme though, I think.

Anyways, enough about politics. I have to go catch this plane...but first, I'm off to the CD shop to buy some Turkish pop music!



Here's to hoping we cross paths again, Dushanbe

Well, it's 1:20am...my last official day in Dushanbe has passed. Our ride to the airport picks us up promptly at 2:30am due to Turkish Airline's regular flights at the ungodly hour of 4am.

I had an amazing day. It started with one of my Tajik dresses finally being completed and I proudly wore it to our closing ceremony. I shocked myself at how well I passed as a regular Tajik girl (pictures to come of course). I not only wore the traditional "Kortah" but also learned how to tie the headscarves that everyone wears and bought the simple sandals that seems to be Tajikistan's equivalent of Reef flip flops.

After the ceremony, I ventured out into the city for my long-awaited self experiment. I wanted to see if there was any difference of treatment when I walked around. I'm not sure that my experiment was that accurate because I already have Tajik-like features so even though I normally wear western clothes people did not bother me. While wearing the Kortah however, I noticed that nobody gave me that innocent but obvious "foreigner-alert" glance. What was even more interesting was that I was acknowledged by people differently....

As I walked up to the bus stop to catch the bus that runs every 3 minutes up and down Rudaki, the main road in the city, an older matronly woman sitting with her son looked at me. I wasn't sure at first how to react--do I greet or do I look the other way? What does everyone else do? I decided to greet her with the "asalaam" and sure enough she smiled and greeted me back, satisfied. When I got on the bus, a young man promptly stood up and gave me his seat with a "mahramat" (please, or be my guest). The woman next to me was holding her son that was crying. She kept fanning his shirt and I could tell that he was very hot (today was 110 degrees Fahrenheit...) so I offered my fan to her. She thanked me and replied in Tajik that he wants everything that he sees....like she said, two minutes later the little boy was begging to have the fan. She gave it back to me. At that moment, I glanced at the floor and almost jumped--there was a live chicken sitting in a plastic bag by her feet!

After a long stroll up the beautiful tree-lined Rudaki, I was feeling the effects of the sun....I repeat, it was 110 degrees today. I decided to take the bus back to Chaikhaneh Rahat which is a Tajik teahouse. I had lunch there and wrote in my journal as the sun began to set. I sat there for a good hour in the heat (the place has no walls, it's open-air) without a soundtrack playing in the background, just listening to the traffic on Rudaki.

Tea house:

Open air tea house:

At 8pm, I went to the Irish Pub for the last time. I had invited all of my expat friends in order to say a final goodbye. I hate finality. People filtered in and out and we ended up staying there until midnight. The original plans were to go afterwards to Port Said, the Russian-cheesy and slightly shady nightclub (the non-stop strobe lights and euro techno are just too much fun!) but I ended up calling it a night.

I am feeling emotional at leaving this place and the amazing people that I have met and spent time with. As with any trip abroad, I have grown, learned a lot about myself and the way the world works, and have come at least one step closer to figuring out what exactly I want to accomplish and where I want to live in my lifetime.

Dushanbe airport, 5am

I look forward to what the future brings.



4 days remaining....

I can't believe that it has been over a month that I have been here in Dushanbe. It's around this time that I am fully adjusted to the culture, time zone, food, geography of the city etc......and I leave in four days....
(exploring at Fort Hissar)

On Friday night, I went to a dinner party with some French military officers that are based here (there are about 200 French soldiers here in Dushanbe because the French are involved in NATO's operation in Afghanistan). It was at the home of these two guys who work at the US embassy and do Army coordination. The dinner was to thank the French for helping the US military out with loading/unloading planes that arrive at the airport etc. I was invited because they knew I speak French :-) It was a really nice dinner. I sat in between the Deputy Commander and Commander (ie big boss) of the entire French mission here in Tajikistan. Of course, I didn't realize that until after the dinner when they invited me and the two guys to the French base for lunch on Tuesday. The highlights of the dinner was definitely the French cheese that they brought with them and get regularly on the base....

After the dinner, we all went to the Irish Pub, which is the expat hangout here. I walked in and sure enough the place was packed. It is an interesting tradition here for all of the expats to catch up at "the Irish" on Friday nights about their week. I realized this time that I either recognized or knew personally almost everyone that was there, and it was a great feeling. I have had such a great time getting to know these people, why they are here, what work their organizations do, and hearing about their amazing stories about other places in the world they have lived. Most of them are veteran NGO or international organization workers who jump from developing country to developing country for work. They are masters at adaptation, and yet at the same time at transplantation...meaning, they thrive on the balance between maintaining their identity and possessions wherever they move to in the world while simultaneously evolving and learning to live in their new environment.
(Expats at The Irish Pub)

(some new friends...)

I feel strange about leaving this place because I'm not sure when I'll ever make it back here and see these people again. The finality of it all is really hard to deal with. At the same time, however, I am ready to come home, take a nice long hot shower, burn all of the clothes that I packed (I've been re-wearing the same outfits six or so outfits for a month and a half!) and eat a Chipotle burrito :-) Oh and of COURSE, see my family and friends....



Some things never change with location

Today while brushing my teeth, I heard children having an intense soccer ("football") game outside of my bathroom window. Suddenly, I had a major flashback to listening to the children playing soccer outside of my window of my Parisian apartment. I used to look forward to returning home every night and preparing dinner to the echoing sounds of the children playing in the courtyard. Something about hearing those sounds every night for six month stayed with me and nearly halfway across the globe in a tiny Central Asian country, little boys are playing soccer in the same way.

I often find that simple images, smells, and/or sounds can produce such a profound impact on me. I am often left with emotions that I can never adequately describe to anyone else because it is so personal. The sound of the children is so relaxing, familiar, universal. Other situations that strike me while traveling are moments when humor is translated universally--that brief moment when a tangible connection is made with another person over something that warrants uncontrollable, and often loud, laughter. All this with the language barrier and often simple hand gestures and facial movements. Another is witnessing the simple and profound transfer of a smile from one person to another. The circumstance of which a smile is given to another person differs, but the emotion behind it never does. On the more materialistic side, I smile to myself when I see women here (old or young, traditional or modern) all talking on cell phones while walking down the street.
view from La Grande Dame cafe...doing Farsi homework and drinking an espresso:
view from inside an internet cafe:

"The world is but one country, and mankind its citizens." -Baha'i Writings



Good Days, Bad Days

Life in general is made up of good days and the inevitable bad days.

(Keeping watermelons cold in the stream...)

When you're in your 'comfort zone' however (which is different for every individual), the bad days are usually brushed aside. I have found that my bad or "off" days while traveling often stem from an unexplainable feeling that has most of the time been gestating inside of me and finally decided to sprout leaves. The result is that I often have an out-of-body experience where I am fully conscious of my feelings and yet I have no idea where they stem from (ha, stem...pun not intended). These occasional bad days cause me personally to disengage from my surroundings. During these spells, I find myself walking down the street, staring straight ahead and thinking that if anybody tries to mess with me, I will just lose it. It's as if a barrier comes up and I momentarily give up empathy, curiosity and patience with cultural clashes/differences.

(a Tajik woman teaching me how to tie my headscarf)

On the other extreme, however, the good days are really wonderful. There are days (and I would say that they definitely out-number the bad) when I step outside of my apartment door and take in all of the sights and smells of the city. I put on another "lens" and see things that differ as curious, beautiful, and exciting. I engage with all of the people that I come across and feel as if I am truly living here. It is on those days that I count my little successes and store them for later. Little successes such as the stern cashier at the grocery store warming up to me after many shopping trips, or the little girl who was walking beside me and asked where I was from in Tajik. When I replied in Tajik that I am Iranian-American and studying in Dushanbe, her face lit up ("Ahm-reekah!") Even the simplest things like taking the public transportation here alone (and without giving away that you're a foreigner) makes me feel accomplished.

("Plav" the national dish, common in Central Asia....savory rice and carrots with pieces of lamb and homemade yogurt on the side)

I have learned to be aware of my state of mind while abroad and to give myself what I need, whether it be a little bit of alone time or a phone call to a loved one to keep me focused and maintain perspective.

On another note, I cannot believe that I only have 10 more days left in this country....I feel as though I am just now socially and culturally adjusted!



Independence Day Reflections and Outings

Yesterday (Saturday), our group went on an outing to a vacation/rest spot that is only a half an hour outside of the city. It was a little water park/picnic site situated at the foot of the wonderful Tajik mountains that normally you cannot see when you are in the middle of the city.

Highlight of getting there: the multiple bribes we had to pay the police at checkpoints just because we were foreigners in a van which caught their attention:

We were assigned to a large wooden table/bed (I forgot what they are called) where we set out all of the things that we had brought......yogurt, fresh Tajik bread, fruit, nuts, and vegetables and the restaurant on the campground brought us delicious "shesh-leek," or beef kabobs. We feasted all together and then afterwards all parted to go hiking, swimming, play pool (with a Russian pool table which is very different than an American table), ping-pong (I got beaten so badly by Aziz our Tajik friend), reading, and napping on the bed/table...all with the mountains as a backdrop and the sound of the river behind us.

When we got back after spending a good 6 hours in the intense heat (even though we were in the shade!) we all were a bit dehydrated and had headaches. But my night was not over! A few of us went directly to the US embassy for the 4th of July party (which incidentally was on July 5th...) It was a good time spent with compatriots. We ate hamburgers, hot dogs, and real salad--for the first time in two weeks! They imported drinks from the US and the water and ice were safe to drink....ah, the luxuries we take for granted :-)

There was also activities for the children (having to do with red, white, and blue in some shape or form), sports, and other fun "American" BBQ favorites. I must say that one of the highlights for me was having a tour of the Marines' "barracks." For those of you who don't know, at every embassy abroad, there are Marines who are assigned to protect the embassy in shifts. They fare pretty well....the ones here have a chauffeur (who drives a black Suburban....), a cook, imported goods from the US, a big screen TV with video games like Guitar Hero, and, to my shock and insane pleasure, every single movie you could hope for! They explained to me that every month they get a package of goods and movies/TV shows that have not even come out on DVD yet in the US. Not too bad. After standing there with my mouth open for an entire minute, I invited myself over sometime to watch movies and they said "of course!" (oh, and they have a popcorn machine....bliss)

You know, it's strange that I'm only here for 6 weeks and I miss things that I wouldn't think I would miss. The other day, I had a random craving for a Subway sandwich! This sort of "culture withdrawal" did not happen to me while I was living in France.....for whatever the reason, I find myself drawn to the comforts of the US embassy compound, in all of its over-the-top imported gloriousness :-)

All in all, it was a great but exhausting weekend. Right now, I am at La Grande Dame profiting greatly from wireless internet and a good espresso.

Next on the agenda is homework--oh yeah, I'm here for FARSI CLASS....I have to keep reminding myself :-)
My Tajik Homework...learning to write in cursive Cyrillic!



Tajikistan is Gangsta

(My friend Nathan gave me the idea for the title....sorry a little inside joke humor).

Basically, I am learning more and more about the corruption that is rampant in this country both institutionally and under the table. Almost every other car here is a Lexus SUV, Hummer, Mercedes, BMW imported from Dubai...and it is pretty much understood (by expats at least) that they are bought with drug money. Also, the police don't stop those cars for bribes (which is usual here) because they know that those people have connections. The Afghan/Tajik border is virtually unregulated and cartons of narcotics are regularly trafficked. Apparently, it has even crushed the Burmese heroin market.
The Hummer parked outside my apartment...

The Tajik government is....transparently corrupt. The President's family owns virtually all of the profitable Tajik businesses and keeps the wealth. The daughter of the President has in the past tried to buy and/or forcefully take expat businesses and when she doesn't get her way, they destroy or imprison the owners. For example, the Turkish owner of Orima, the chain grocery store, is in prison for not agreeing to sell the business.

Enough on this for now. Big Brother is watching........



Subtitles, si'il vous plait...tashakor!

I just got back from a nice evening spent with three new "friends." Two French guys who work at the embassy here and one French woman who works for NATO in Brussels. We had coffee at the French restaurant, La Grande Dame, and then drove to the top of a hill that overlooks the city for a nice dinner. We had shish kababs and fresh Tajik bread and had stimulating conversation to the lovely musical medley of Russian ballads, heavy euro techno, and the usual American dance club classics (I wonder if Brittney Spears ever thinks about how her music is listened to in Dushanbe, Tajikistan??)

After having intensive Farsi classes for a week (only a week!), I have noticed that words will just pop into my head while i'm brushing my teeth or out in the city and I will have to write them down because they are words that I have heard before in sentences, either picked up in class or heard all my life at home but never bothered to really look them up and use them in sentences. I also catch myself spelling out English words that are spoken in Farsi script in my head. These are all promising signs because when I was in France, I would do the same thing unconsciously. Sometimes I would wake up and words that I had picked up the day before from people would be floating in my head. I also have started instantly translating my thoughts from English to Farsi even if I don't have to. So tonight while I was out with my new French friends, I found myself having some issues switching my head from Farsi to French. Then the most bizarre thing happened: while trying to describe something in French, I would switch to Farsi words or input them into responses without even realizing that I was switching languages and then when I realized, I would say out loud "I'm sorry, I'm speaking Farsi" BUT that exact thought was voiced IN FARSI, NOT ENGLISH OR FRENCH....so basically my thoughts were in English and I wanted to say them in French but FARSI was what was exiting my mouth. This happened a few times.

Is it possible to think simultaneously in three languages? I know that I have all three in my head but why am I sometimes linguistically tongue-tied? It's delightfully bizarre....

Well, now it's 1am and I still have to do my homework for tomorrow....

Shab bekher!
Bonne nuit!
Good night!



Reunited with our suitcases and consequently, western materialism!

Two days ago our suitcases came! *hallelujah choir singing*

We spent a week and a half in Tajikistan without all of the "stuff" that we had carefully bought and packed back in the States. In a way, even though it was troubling (we thought that they were lost completely or stolen), it was a good exercise in detachment. After we unpacked our things and discovered the things that we bought what feels like ages ago, I felt almost too extravagant. Having lived in the city for a week without all of the "survival goods" that I thought I needed, it seemed like a mockery of my foreigner ignorance. It is know confirmed for me that virtually any large city you go to in the world, there is a grocery store that sells western toiletries--have no fear! It wasn't just me though...the entire group filled their suitcases with two deodorant sticks, huge bottles of shampoo and product to last six weeks, multiple soap and other hygiene products etc. We soon found out though that the Turkish-owned grocery store chain near our apartment, Orima, is stocked with shelves and shelves of Nivea, Dove, Colgate...you name it.

So now I'm sitting in La Grande Dame, the French expat restaurant near our apartment with 5 other people from our program. It also has free wireless internet :-) I am very impressed with the people in this program. Everyone is doing either their masters or PhD's having to do something with Iranian or Middle Eastern studies. Believe it or not, I am the only native Iranian participant. Two other students are half Persian but did not learn it as children. I am the go-to girl for colloquial Farsi but everyone else is so good at grammar, complicated vocabulary and elevated Farsi. I can already see my speaking and reading improving, although my reading skills need serious tutoring.

La Grande Dame (outside and inside):

I'll leave you with a quote of the day:
me: "I will have the mushroom and spinach quiche please."
waiter: "I'm sorry, no quiche, we have a serious mushroom problem."

"ta bahzdeed!" (until we see each other again in Tajik)


Explained Hiatus

Well, now I am ready to write...and I will tell you why......

I have now spent a week (7 days) in Tajikistan. It has been quite an adjustment and I was preoccupied by getting settled in my apartment (which I share with two other girls from my program), running errands, and starting classes.

[ BACKGROUND INFO: Due to the complete change of travel plans (I'll explain later...), our bags were not on the plane that we arrived on. "It's alright," we thought... "they should be on the next flight here in 3 days," we were told. We went to the airport on the designated day, after a few days of in the same pair of clothes we all traveled in to find that only three of the 20 some bags had arrived. *sigh* Long story short, they are supposed to be arriving on the flight into Dushanbe tonight. My bags, instead of me, got to spend a nice week lounging in Istanbul. We'll see though, I'm trying to prepare myself for disappointment followed by a long-overdue Tajik shopping trip. Unfortunately, besides the beautiful traditional Tajik "mou-mou" like dresses, the clothes are all tight, synthetic, and shiny/sequined/revealing. If I have to buy clothes, I will opt for making some clothes from the beautiful patterned cloth they sell here. ]

I wanted to address something in particular in this post which, as I was going through my "obligatory first week adjustment period," dawned on me as important to convey in travel writing: dealing with disappointment, culture shock, feelings of inadequacy. I will be candid and reveal that this past week has not been very smooth. I found myself unusually irritable, cautious, almost paranoid about the tap water (which, granted, is to be completely avoided), and emotional. Many things could be attributed to these feelings, but what I find interesting now, with a bit of distance, is that it was as if I was not myself but I was fully aware of my transformation. Most importantly, I began to become frustrated with myself and my own capabilities. My inner dialogue kept saying "why can't you just calm down and adjust??" I consider myself open-minded, adventurous (to a certain degree of course), social, well-traveled. Why then was I reacting to this new place in this way?

I realize now that this initial rough patch in travel is very often overlooked by travelers, who prefer to wait until the "honeymoon stage" of their journey and analyze all the wonderful things about their new environment. It is easy to look back at the good times for forget the equally important times that tested you and made you stronger. There is also an element of shame (at least for me) at the idea that I am struggling with travel, the very thing that I love so much in my heart.

I wish to therefore acknowledge that I had a rough time adjusting and that this period ultimately ended with me breaking down in tears (sobbing) over the phone to my parents late one night. The next day, it was as if a cloud had been lifted (sorry for the cliche) and I was seeing my situation with new eyes. For the first time in four days, I took an actual shower with the tap water (as opposed to bucket showers with bottled water which leaves you feeling as gross as you felt when you went in). It ended my resistance to "what is" and began my openness to "what can be."

Now I more or less know my way around the city, feel comfortable going out alone to run errands etc., recognize and even greet some people in my neighborhood, and appreciate the slower pace of life here. I just needed time and a good cry.



In Transit....

Life was in transition, now i'm in transit.

So much has happened these past two days while traveling, and I am not distanced enough from the situation to post about it quite yet but I thought I would inform you all that after much hassle and stress, I am in the Istanbul airport awaiting my flight to Dushanbe, Tajikistan. I am jetlagged and tired of lay-overs. So far, I have spent 12 hours total in the DC, NYC, Milan (Italy), and Istanbul airports waiting around for flights.

More to come of course. Wish me luck on the 6 hour flight that remains.....



Blog in transition, like my life.

I am drawing a line here...
and starting my blog again. It has been almost exactly a YEAR since I returned home from Paris and so much has happened. To be brief, I went through 3 months of grieving ("why am I back in the States when I want to be in France??") followed by 8 months of school. This past month, I graduated and am questioning what I want to do with my life, or at least with the next two years until it's time to go back to grad school.

I leave for Tajikistan in a week. I have little idea of what to expect that it is making the packing/preparation more mentally grueling. I hear it will be extremely hot--over 100 degrees farenheit daily--but dry heat, which is manageable. It is also a country that is traditionally Muslim so no prancing around in tank tops and shorts. I'm thinking linen/cotton pants and lots of boring round-neck t-shirts. To all my fellow fashionista wannabes out there, you understand how painful this will be for me, even if only for a month and a half :-) Expect many photos of me looking like I just stepped out of The Gap circa ten years ago (but I promise, no fanny packs or Teva sandals!!!!)

So this is my pre-departure post to look back on and laugh at. I am anxious to get there, put down my stuff and see what my living arrangements will be. Please let there be a nice, clean shower...this is all that I ask! Oh and bug-free . I have zero tolerance for bugs....I am such a priss.

Ok I will stop here and wish myself a bon voyage.

And to my dear readers (i.e. family members, close friends, and random internet browsers who somehow stumbled on my blog), PLEASE COMMENT on my posts so I know that somebody out there besides me is reading these posts. :-)



April in Paris

(my view every morning on the bus...)

So, it was almost a month ago when I last updated....at one point, this blog was DAILY!

Over the last month, I started and stopped my updates, I think mostly because I just didn't know what to talk about or I thought whatever I wrote sounded dumb. That's my problem, I have what I think are interesting thoughts/ideas but as soon as I write them down on paper (or in this case, online), they seem cliche and childish. We are our worst critics, after all.

I cannot hold out any longer, however. So here you go...a summary of my month:

- I celebrated the Iranian and Baha'i new year at the Baha'i Center in Paris
- My best friend, Dana, came to visit!
- I survived two oral presentations that I had to give for two of my classes....
- My good friend Tiffany who was also studying abroad in Paris left....and I felt strange lonliness
- My mom came to visit for a week!
- My aunt, uncle, and cousins came to visit on their way home from The Gambia, West Africa!
- I met a distant cousin who lives in Paris and whom I had never met before...her name is Nahal also! And now I have a family contact here
- I had an in-class midterm essay for my political philosophy class which...was interesting...they are SO specific about the format of their essays that I choked and just wrote an American version of an essay with as many facts that I could remember and spit out
- Spring Break! (April 7-22)
- Visited friends in Brussels, Belgium---> only a 3 hour bus-ride from paris!
- Visited Toulouse (south west of France) with some friends
- Visited Montpellier (south of France) and stayed with a french friend there (we swam in the mediterranean ocean!)

(view from my apartment....amazing)

Now I have one more week of spring break but I have a TON of work to do for my classes....so I find myself in the library all of this week working....

This Sunday (the 22nd) is the PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS! It is their "first round" which narrows down the candidates from, gosh, I don't even know exactly how many....maybe around 15(?) to two people. The final vote will occur in May and will choose the President.

(I'll spare you all the translation of this.... hehe)

The weather AND the politics here are heating up.....more on that later!



Café Culture

"...in Paris, life's a café."
("Paris, Paris: Journey Into the City of Light" by David Downie)

In the two and a half months that I have been here, I have come to discover that all of Paris is set up as one big stage, where all the inhabitants (and tourists) are both the actors and the audience. Bars, restaurants, and cafes are all set up with chairs facing the large windows leading onto the street. When you walk down the street, you can feel the stares--people looking at your outfit, what you're doing, how you're doing it, etc.

Oftentimes, people silently stare and will not bother you or even show the least bit of personal recognition; however, in regards to certain things, people have absolutely no boundaries when it comes to giving advice/sharing their opinion with you. This creates an interesting cultural misunderstanding between Americans and the French because of a completely different idea of what is considered public and private life. Whereas sharing one's name with a stranger is considered private life to a Frenchman, having someone share their strong opinion about what you are doing and how you are doing it is completely normal and not seen as interfering.

In Paris, there is a "cafe culture." You enter, say bonjour (a necessary action never to be skipped), and seat yourself....preferably right in front of the large windows with a perfect view of the street traffic. Once you order a drink, you are free to sit there for as long as you desire...all day if you like! There's something about sitting and people-watching that gets ideas flowing. For this reason, I always keep a small notebook and pen in my purse to jot down random thoughts. It's no wonder why so many great thinkers/philosophers/writers came to Paris to write.

That's why lately I have been so bad at writing regularly on this blog....I'm never at home in front of my computer!



"Lost Without Translation"

That was the title of a really interesting commentary piece that I read in last Wednesday's International Herald Tribune. Here are the main points:

"Judging by bestseller lists, Americans like to read mysteries, books recommended by Oprah Winfrey and books about success and weight loss. Unfortunately, this leaves out a whole world of books: those published in other languages in other countries....Another challenge is getting foreign books noticed in a world of IM-ing, Web-surfing, television-watching Americans....All the world is a book group--or it could be if more Americans knew what people across the oceans are reading."

This really struck a cord with me because, lately, I have been spending an incredibly amount of my precious euros on exactly that: BOOKS! Bookstores, called "Libraries" here (don't be fooled by the name.....an actual library is called a "Biblioteque"), are one of my favorite places to kill time. I love perusing the titles, as each one is designed to jump out at you with their worldly, philosophical titles.

Whereas books in the U.S. are slowly being replaced with TV, television, and magazines, small "mom and pop" bookstores here are thriving! Each one has its own personality and sometimes, they specialize in a certain genre of books....some bookstores are only literature books, or only philosophy books, or only comic books!

So, before I know it, my hands are filled with books about immigration in France, the latest comic novel, and a history book (on France in the early 20th century...for my history class) and I am forced to make serious decisions. Books here are EXPENSIVE. They range usually from 10-20 euros (roughly 12-25 dollars!) And I'm a student....I'm on a budget.....

I go to the cash register and buy my history book (it's for class, afterall!) and slowly make my way out....glancing at every book before I leave. I wish I had the time to read them all! And I wish that more of these books made it to the U.S. for there certainly is an abundance of American books translated into English....