Friday, July 11: “So actually you are not French?”

Stayed up late to have time to talk to my beloved Daniel on Skype so I did not get an early start today at all! My first step was to scout my field trip for Tuesday. We are going to the Musée du Quai Branly, an easy RER journey (actually 2 RERs) that will put us right next to the Eiffel Tower. I am excited to see this museum and I think it will be a nice change for the students, who have probably seen many paintings and sculptures by DWEMs (Dead White European Males) by now.

From the Quai Branly I made my way to the Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves St. Laurent to see its “Femmes Berbères du Maroc” exhibition. After seeing the documentary L’Amour Fou a while back I’ve been a little fascinated by Bergé & YSL’s relationship and I wanted to see their museum. My only regret is that I did not book a guided visit and thus did not get to see YSL’s private studio and some other behind-the-scenes stuff at the Fondation. But the exhibition was fascinating–textiles, jewelry, and some household goods like baskets and cosmetic pots made by or belonging to Berber women, mostly from the first half of the 20th century when Morocco was a French protectorate. There were also large video screens showing high-resolution images of complete traditional outfits from the different tribes. To be honest I’m glad I did not have to try to wear an elaborate headdress and heavy jewelry while, e.g., milking a goat. But it suggests a certain kind of strength that these women must have had. The variety of styles was also a good reminder that the different tribes were distinct cultures and not to be “Orientalized” with a broad brush.

Leaving the Fondation I noticed a cameraman and reporter on the street corner obviously doing the “interview random passers-by” trick. I passed close to them never expecting to be acknowledged (in my mind I have a giant flashing “I’m American; ignore me” sign over my head), but sure enough the reporter said “Excuse me, Madame, would you like to answer a question for Télé Monde?” Dear Readers, I must admit that I’ve been on TV a couple of brief times and actually liked it, so I answered “I can’t possibly say no!” while praying she wouldn’t ask me something obscure about French politics. The question was both obscure and political, but not in the ways I expected. “Have you noticed that François Hollande has new glasses?” she asked. I was reeling a bit at this unanticipated topic and fumbled through answering that I had not seen him, not even on television. “Ah,” the reporter said, comprehension dawning, “So actually you are not French?” While I was disappointed not to get to appear on TV, I was gratified to be meeting my goal of passing as French until I open my mouth. (Must be the new pants.)

After the exhibit and my brief encounter with the French media I went in search of lunch (is it possible that culture makes me hungry?) and had another quiche-drink-pastry formule, this time at Pomme de Pain. Maybe I should think twice about having dessert with lunch but who can pass up viennoiserie and patisserie when they are offered? Hopefully I walked it off–I did walk a lot today because I had one destination at St. Placide and one at St. Sulpice and got them mixed up. So I got off the metro at St. Sulpice and got to walk a few blocks to where I meant to be, at H&M across from St. Placide. (Or it may have been the other way around. *cough*) I know at least one reader of this blog who is cringing right now at my affinity for cheap clothes, but I love H&M. It never does me wrong and I always find good things there. Today I got 2 t-shirts, a sleeveless top, a genuinely really nice skirt, and a package of socks (my socks have been an unexpected casualty–one lost, one got a hole and we’re barely 2 weeks in) for just under 30€. Yes, it may all fall to pieces in 6 months but right now I am just not bothered.

With the shopping done I had to put on my Assistant Director hat and go back to work. In the process, I had a cultural experience that I’m grateful for, and we got some good material for our next program meeting.

In the middle of writing this entry I stopped to talk to Daniel on Skype; now I’ve finished it and it is definitely bedtime. Stay tuned!

2 thoughts on “Friday, July 11: “So actually you are not French?”

  1. Yes, we do have H&M in the US now. The closest one to me is in Atlanta, about an hour (by car) from home. But I rarely go up to ATL just to go shopping–usually we have a dance lesson and by the time that's over I'm too tired and sweaty to shop!

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