Tuesday started out as a pretty basic day. Contemporary France was pretty typical. We finished watching a movie about the youth in the banlieues (urban areas outside of the center of Paris, not good neighborhoods) and discussed it for the rest of class. It was interesting but very difficult to follow because there were no subtitles and everyone spoke very fast. Not only did the conversations happen incredibly fast, they really used the slang and vernacular of the banlieues, which includes a lot of words taken from the Arab, African and other foreign languages of the people of the banlieues.

Between classes I walked down the street to a children’s store and finished my shopping for the nieces and nephew. I found some adorable books in French, including Kallie’s favorite so I’m really excited about that! I spoil them way too much but I guess that’s what being an aunt is all about.

Impressionism was pretty good too. It was actually our last in-class class because we have museum visits the rest of the week and that’s it. We went over the final and talked about our last artist and that was that. The professor let us go a little early because it was so hot and sticky in the room we were all dying. It’s been getting pretty warm here lately, in the upper 80s by the afternoons for sure. I realize this is much cooler than it is for all of you back in Missouri, but keep in mind, in France they don’t have air conditioning. At night we’ve stopped even pulling back the blankets and we just sleep on top of them.

After Impressionism, our Contemporary France class met up because the professor was taking us on a tour of the banlieues. We all got on the Metro and rode it to the end, quite a long ride on a hot, sticky day. When we got off at St. Denis, the first place we went was the Cathedrale of St.Denis. It was actually pretty cool, especially because it is the first gothic cathedrale. Ever. All the others were modeled after it.

The tour of the neighborhood was more just walking around and observing the different people and the different culture. It was incredibly interesting to see the huge difference between this poorer area of Paris and my very chic, ritzy neighborhood. Prices of fruit and vegetables were about a quarter of what they are at the marketplace outside my window and all the clothing shops were ridiculously cheap. This enticed some of the not-so-enthusiastic students away from the learning experience and onto more trivial matters. I swear half the people in this program are dumber than a box of rocks and make me ashamed to be an American student in Paris.

We also looked a lot at the architecture of the grands ensembles, the big apartment buildings built in the 70s to house all the extra people in the banlieues after the housing crisis. These buildings are poorly constructed and were made fast and cheap. The interesting thing though is that all of them were a little unique. Our professor said the architects did that on purpose to make the people living there feel better about being in a place with so many others. This is the total opposite of an American suburb, all the houses are the exact same layout with the same color pallette with the same yard with the same toys. It kind of freaks me out sometimes.

One neighborhood we walked through, near the university, was very much influenced by the Communist movement in France. The professor said the entire area is still Communist and will probably stay that way for quite some time. We saw streets named after Lenin, Stalingrade and Che Guevera. It was good for a giggle for sure.

When the trip was over, Katie and I met up with Harrison, Jaclyn, Andres and our friend Ann for dinner. We ended up taking forever to eat so it was pretty late already when we got home and Jaclyn, Katie and I still had to book some things for our extra travels after the IES program is over. That was expensive and painful but I’m sure Prague, Dublin and Galway will be worth it. Finally we went to bed, although we didn’t sleep very well because of the heat. Hopefully the wind will start blowing or something because we’re all about to melt.

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