sentiment d’appartenance

Sense of Belonging — Today I truly felt this!!

I went to my favorite crêperie today for lunch.  My first night with my host family, my host sister took me here to get a dessert crêpe because she said it was the best and the cheapest crêperie on rue Mouffetard.  Ever since, it’s been practically the only one I go to!! They have a super great “lunch deal” (i put it in quotes because it actually lasts until 8pm so I have it for dinner sometimes too :P ) for 5 euro 50 you get a savory crêpe, a sweet crêpe, and a drink (including alcoholic drinks).  I probably go to this crêperie 4-5 times a month and I’ve brought along my family two times and my friends numerous times…so they’ve started to recognize me.  Today I went to this crêperie for lunch with some friends and the man recognized me and he apologized that there weren’t any seats so he gave us some drinks for free while we waited for a place to sit.  He served us our food and made little jokes with us the whole time.  At the end of the meal, he offered us each a free glass of cider too!  For me, the little ways he reached out to us really touched me… that in my short three months here in Paris someone has recognized me and wanted to make a connection.

To anyone visiting Paris…I highly suggest you check out Rue Mouffetard! It’s full of adorable little shops (and reasonably priced too) as well as great food!!! If you want to check out this crêperie I’ve linked a review with the title/address!

My second experience today which gave me a sense of belonging was my dance social.  There was a Christmas Party at my dance studio this evening.  The studio was all decorated in Christmas decorations with little munchies and they had a quick lesson and then played music all night long so we could practice everything we’ve learned in the classes.

The class they taught was “country” dancing… The first part was a version of the electric slide and then the second part was one of those circle dances where you do shuffles and heel-toe taps and then switch partners…. At one point one of my friends turned to me (knowing i’m from America) and asked if this is what we do in America… I chuckled and said that no one really does this type of dancing in America…

When the social time came around I started to get nervous like that awkward girl at a junior high dance…. would anyone ask ME to dance??  After all I’m that awkward American who butchers their language and laughs at weird times….. Nonetheless I was dancing all night… Somehow after only two months taking classes 1 time a week with these people, they felt I was part of their circle of dancing friends and I was socializing and being asked to dance all night long!! I had a blast and I truly felt like I belonged !! This especially made me happy because I am by far the youngest one at my studio.  There are some post-docs and PhD students in my class but the rest are all older and/or retired… and tonight was a mixture of all levels of dancing so there was a large elderly crowd.

I also would like to add a little note that I was surprised how terribly some of these leaders improvised…. This studio in particular is one that teaches choreography… and not so much social dancing… so when a social event comes the leaders are stuck doing choreography or basics… there isn’t anything in between for many of them.  There was one time I was dancing jive and all is well the choreography is just basics, american spins, stop and goes and then he throws me out and starts a synchronized kick routine. I stare dumb-founded at him wondering how he expected me to know what kicks/flicks to do there in what order, etc.

I’m sad to be leaving Paris… it’s already December which is my last month!!! Simultaneously I’m incredibly grateful that I was able to find a sense of belonging in Paris outside of my american friends here, my classmates, and my host family… a sense of belonging that is all my own!!

La Valse Viennoise

So Monday  my dance lesson was in Viennese Waltz!! It is rare to have an entire class dedicated to this dance as it is often the forgotten dance.  After all there aren’t many steps and the technique is rather repetitive… nonetheless I’ve had very few Viennese Waltz lessons in my life so I was super excited.  As a side note, this is a dance that spins around repetitively and there is a huge endurance factor since you’re holding the same position for a long period of time.

Here’s a video of me dancing Viennese Waltz at a competition in April!! Kudos if you can find me in the video…. super kudos if you spot all 5 Cornell couples :)

I took lots of notes of everything I could remember on my métro ride home from my lesson this week:

Drills

  • We did a drill of moving our knees forward (therefore bending them, but not sitting down)
  • Then we would move our knees in forward circles
  • Then with feet shoulder-width apart we would do what looked like diagonal golf swings, but we’d work on moving knees/transferring weight to the forward diagonals.
  • Always keep hips under you (forward)
  • We did a different drill where you stook straight in front of your partner in a hug position (hands on shoulder blades) and had to dance…. it’s super important here to keep the right side (ladies)  up… when you’re not in frame it’s super easy to drop

Turn to the Right

  • the first step is the driving step
  • step forward and harness the energy for a turning movement instead of a rising movement
  • foot placement of right foot is directly forward, but it then turns with turning momentum of second step
  • left side forward
  • the standing leg as Tal Livshitz calls it… here they call it le pied appui  (pushing foot) which is the idea of rolling through the standing leg and really pushing off the ball of that foot
  • Full half turn for the first part and second part of turn… no cheating!!

Turn to the Left

  • you start turning on the first step, so the first step with left foot can be turned already
  • no rise
  • don’t roll ankle on the cross step; when you do the movement stop and look at your foot… i was shocked to see I was rolling my ankles instead of keeping weight on the ball of my foot
  • don’t drop left side in the cross!! In fact the prof said to think of stretching left side on the cross because everyone always unconsciously drops it.
  • For the uncross step (2) make it small because the guy has to travel around you; conversely for the step (5) where you’re going around the guy, take a bigger step
  • On the uncross step (2) don’t put the heel down, then for the closing (3) you use the adductors to pull the legs together /finish turn and put the feet down together
  • Always keep right side forward… I try to physically push the man’s hand back with my right arm… which is super difficult and so it keeps that side in front to make sure I get full rotations.
  • Full half turn for the first part and second part of turn… no cheating!!

Fleckerl

  • The men get a heel lead on the very first step, after that no more!
  • realistically… putting heels down probably won’t happen with time constraints
  • ladies have the first step practically in place, and then behind (2) and then cross in front twice… in crossing in front you only move one foot as to maintain an axis of rotation
  • We didn’t finish the technique of this move because it’s a rather difficult move to simply get the steps down and it was many people’s first time doing it… This move is super difficult to do when the man doesn’t have a frame and stands super far away… :(

Vidéos de Prague

I forgot to include these in my previous blog post!

Here’s a video of the Astronomical Clock at one o’clock:

Here’s a video of some of the street artists in Prague:

And now I’d like to talk about the video I didn’t take (but everyone else chose to). There was a man in a popular square dressed up as an American Indian (Native American) and painted his face red and was “dancing” around and mocking the Native American “primitive” culture.  I found this offensive.  The European view of American Indians is upsetting.  I highly doubt you would see a person dressed up as a different ethnicity and dancing around and being mocked. Also at Halloween stores (which are rare but existent in Paris), you can dress up as a “Native American” but they don’t have costumes for any other ethnicity… We actually had a guest speaker today in my Cinéma course who was talking about the representation of America in Europe and he spoke about George Catlin.  He was a promoter of Native American culture and strongly against westward expansion into Native American lands.  He painted hundreds of paintings of Native Americans and their culture.  He painted a few notable shocking portraits of Native Americans in famous luxurious locations in Paris to create controversy.

 

Prague-Second Half

On Sunday we went for a stroll and eventually ended up at the Communist Museum.  I really enjoyed this experience.  After taking multiple 20th century history classes, I really enjoyed this refresher.  Also, the information was from the Czech perspective … which as you can imagine is very different from the American perspective  They even had a small exhibit on North Korea.  I know practically nothing about the conditions of North Korea so I was super grateful to learn.

We continued strolling and stumbled upon a lovely Christmas Market!  I had a great time shopping, and it had a lovely Christmas Tree too!  I also tried some local ice cream.  It was actually pretty had to find an ice cream place, they aren’t as popular here.  I really enjoyed strolling around the town.  Our apartment was super centrally located so we just walked everywhere!

We heard great reviews about the Jewish cemetery in Prague so we decided we’d try to go visit it.  We found the exit from the cemetery and decided we’d walk around the block and try to find the entrance.  After walking almost an entire circle we see where we think we can go in.  We look on the fence and see a sign that indicates a visit is free.  So we walk inside, through a door, and then a woman is yelling at us in Czech.  The only word I know in Czech is “duquaye” which means thank you… so I had no idea what was wrong.  What we gleaned was that it was not in fact free and that we were supposed to have tickets to enter the Jewish museum which was attached to the cemetery.  What was “free” was to enter a Jewish place of worship which wasn’t where we were barging in.  Unfortunately by this time it was too late to buy tickets so we didn’t get to go inside.

We went to a traditional Czech restaurant for dinner.  This restaurant had great reviews online so we thought we’d check it out.  The restaurant had all kinds of artifacts hanging such as old sundials and “machines” that made elixirs and magic potions… they gave us a history pamphlet to read about all all the artifacts while we waited for our food…. the pamphlet was pretty funny.

I tasted some of the local beer.  I’m not a fan of beer but since I was in a beer-making capital of the world I had to try it.  I found the girliest beer on the list and tasted a Radler Orange beer.  It had an orange flavor and spice to it so it wasn’t super beer-like and I actually enjoyed it.  This restaurant was one of the few traditional Czech restaurants that had vegetarian options.  I had a dish with “Old Prague noodles” which looked like fettucini but I think they were made with potatoes.  They were served with fresh vegetables and a blue cheese sauce.  It was very heavy food and I couldn’t finish it.

Throughout the weekend we tasted as many types of chocolate bars as possible.  We went to a convenient store and tasted all the exotic flavors:  Chocolate and lime, chocolate and cherry cream, chocolate and eldenberry, pringle-shaped chocolate with mint flakes, pringle-shaped chocolate with caramel flakes, “happy cow” marbled white and dark chocolate, and more!!!

We left Monday afternoon.  We spent the morning packing up and then we went back to the Christmas market to spend what Czech money we had left.  I ended up getting two lovely scarves made with cashmere and silk for (the equivalent of) only 7.5 euros each!!

 

Cultural and Structural differences between Paris and Prague:

  • Streets all super tiny with cobblestones and very few cars
  • you can smoke in restaurants
  • fewer people smoke
  • escalators are super super steep
  • service only included sometimes
  • super walkable, whereas in Paris riding the métro is pretty necessary
  • fewer homeless on the streets
  • instead of verbally begging, they sit on the floor in a praying position with their head down and an upturned hat for money
  • eating food on the streets is more accepted
  • more christmas decorations!
  • bells bells bells… always ringing

Prague: Old Town Square and Castle

So on Friday evening we arrived in Prague!!!  We first went and explored all around the Old Town Square! It’s simply beautiful!  Then we went to an Irish bar and finally had Bailey’s Coffee!!  We’ve been wanting to try it and it’s so expensive in Paris.  The exchange rate is pretty nice here… it’s about 25 Czech to 1 euro or 20 Czech to 1 dollar.  My first impression was : oh my gosh, this looks like DisneyLand.  The architecture is simply stunning.

We went to check into our apartment.  We are renting an apartment for the three nights.  They actually gave us the wrong apartment so they gave us a night for free!  So with this discount we ended up only spending 35 euros each to pay for it (only 11.6 euros a night per person!!!).  It has a full kitchen so we went to a grocery store and got goodies to snack on and food to make for breakfasts!

We met with our other friend staying with us and we went to dinner.  We went to a really nice Italian place and shared pizza.  There was live music playing that was fantastic!  While this restaurant was super nice for Prague, it’s price was about the equivalent of a relatively cheap restaurant in Paris.

We slept super well and made a breakfast feast!  This morning we took a walk through Old Town Square to Charles’ Bridge and up to Prague castle.  This bridge goes over the river that runs through prague.  It has beautiful statues on both sides along the way, and some street music and some little venders.  I tried some of their famous mulled wine because it was a little chilly this morning. It smells just like hot apple cider, but it is hot spiced wine instead of apple juice.  The Prague castle was interesting.  It wasn’t as phenomenal as the Castle’s in the Loire, but nonetheless it was a nice cultural experience.  The castle was actually pretty small and we could only see small parts of it, but the castle area had multiple other things to see in the location so we had a great time ( and everyone speaks English ).  The cathedral was very similar to what I’ve seen in France, but the Basilica was quite different, and much smaller and with beautiful wrap-around staircases.  Unfortunately I couldn’t take photos in the castle nor the basilica. Then we went to the Golden Lane: a gorgeous row of painted shops and recreations.

Next we tried at Trollo, which is the Czech interpretation of a churro! It’s dough rolled onto a cylinder and rolled into cinnamon and sugar and walnuts.  Then it goes into a heater and afterwards it gets more cinnamon and sugar and walnuts. Therefore it was hard and sugary on the outside and soft and doughy inside.  We had a beautiful view of all of Prague from the castle!

Next we ent to a toy museum.  It is the second largest toy museum of its type in the world!!!  The biggest is in Malaysia, I had to look that one up.  The bottom floor was full of all types of toys, and it had a Christmas theme.  There was the history and the story of the Christmas Tree throughout the rooms that I found super fascinating!  The top floor was all barbies…. all types of barbies… Starwars barbies, pregnant barbies, High School Musical barbies, Christmas barbies… etc.

We also visited the Church of Our Lady in front of Týn.  Again photos weren’t allowed.. but this church was very different…. Instead of stain glass windows, it had gold leaf EVERYWHERE.

Also, marionettes are all over the place!!  I took some photos of funny looking once! Check out all my photos from my first day in Prague!!