Thursday, December 17, 2009

First Snow & Notre-Dame de Guadalupe :D (another long one)

I brought Wisconsin snow with me!
It's the first snow in Paris today!! However, since I have come down with a cold, I am not going to class today and I will not be able to capture Eiffel, the Champs-Elysee, or other sights in the snow. Tear tear. I will get them later, I promise. In the mean time, enjoy the pictures from my house! Also below, that would be Jean-Pierre, who loves to hang out with me now... I guess he knows that I'm leaving and that's why he's happy.
So today, I'm staying indoors and watching a couple movies (Mon Oncle by Jacques Tati and Cléo de 5 à 7 by Agnes Varda) for film class and getting a start on my extensive reading list for this winter break (Belle du Seigneur by Albert Cohen and Désert by J.M.G. Le Clézio) both which are in french! Also, my host family and I are decorating the Christmas tree today! It's called a "sapin" in french. I probably should be going over some notes, but most likely I will probably get a start on my Italian phrasebook/pictionnary. But here's a picture of the tree inside the Galeries Lafayette. Pretty in Pink.
Notre-Dame de Guadalupe
Alright, for those of you who are Catholic and know about Our Lady of Guadalupe (in spanish: La Virgen de Guadalupe) you know that she appeared to Juan Diego on Dec 12th 1531 almost 480 years ago, as the story goes. Our Lady of Guadalupe is an icon of Virgin Mary in the Hispanic community, mostly Mexican because she appread in the city of Tepeyac near Mexico City today. So every year on Dec 12th, there is a special mass in commemoration to her. Considering I am living in a city with a church dedicated to Mary aka. The Notre-Dame (Our Lady in French) I figured that there would be a mass for Our Lady of Guadalupe. AND YES THERE WAS!! Not only was there a mass, but there was also a Mariachi Band that provided the music DURING the mass! I can't explain how excited I was. So last saturday at noon, I witnessed the most beautiful mass dedicated to the Virgen de Guadalupe in my life.
Outside the Notre Dame. Followed by the small chapel inside dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe.
I felt like I was home. I felt like I really really belonged there. The mexican music, mexican food, mexican people, even the priest was mexican. The mass was in spanish and french, the two languages that my heart beats to. (alright I know that last part was a little cheesy, but its true).
I had an epiphany during the mass. I realized that I had been depressed for the last couple of weeks because I missed my family and friends. I realized that this was not an easy transition. I had been naive to think that everything would have been easy, and I feel that it was the perfect timing for me to "wake-up" and see things for what they are. 2010 is arriving and nothing is better than starting new and making the best of it for the new year. To top it off, I was interviewed by one of Televisa's reporters so hey if you're in Mexico and you saw me.. let me know!! Her question was " Are you Mexican? How do you feel to be here in Paris celebrating la Virgen de Guadalupe at this historical church? " wowowowooww.

Paris Winter Wonderland
Above: Place de La Concorde (where Louis XIV and Marie-Antoinette got their heads chopped off marking the beginning of the French Republique).
Above: The Champs-Elysee. You can kind of see the Arc de Triomphe at the end there.
Everyone is in the Christmas spirit. Below is the building in detail.
Above is the Champs-Elysee which has all the Christmas Creshes. Nativity little stores, its hard to explain so I hope you know what they are. Anyway, I have seen them in every city that I have visited. Paris has quite a few streets that have these. Barcelona did too. People, this is where your presents are coming from. haha.

My own little chic apartment in Paris
I got the keys to my new apartment last night and I think it's really gonna help me 100%. In my studies, in my faith, and in the search for what I want to do with my life. Incredible right? I move in January 5th, just after I return from Italy. I'm sad to leave my host family because they were great especially because they've helped me a lot in finding the strenght when discovering a new culture and way of life. I definitely know it was worth it, but I know I need this new apartment to finish what I am meant to learn.

The Louvre (finally)
Last week, I made my way to the Louvre for the first time with my friend Eric. Alright I know, I have been here for more than 2 months and I hadn't gone yet. Well, I finally did. THE LOUVRE IS HUGE! It was the first sunday of the month so it was free, but that also meant a 2hour line. It was alright though, I only felt the presence of all the people when we were taking a look at the Jaconde (Mona Lisa). I then returned later than week on friday after 6pm when its free for those 25 and under. It was a part of the Louvre Nocturne, which is basically a group of students that present paintings or other artifacts. It was really nice to learn about the museum that way. Yet another reason why I love Paris, being under 25 has sooo soo many benefits.
Wait, what is everyone trying to take a picture of? Oh yeah... only the most visited painting in the world right....? The Mona Lisa! ahaha.Oh by the way, some of the museums and the suburban trains have been on strike for quite a while. What does this mean? That means it takes 2 hours for me to get to class everyday and 2 hours to return. Also it means that Eric couldn't see the Musee D'Orsay when he was here last weekend. That is France for you. Proof below.
Cooking Class
My friend Meg Mahon, who I met this summer at Midd @ Mills invited me to a cooking class last week. The instructor is so nice and the class was in her apartment which had a panoramic view of Paris. It is my dream to have an apartment like hers. Also, I think I'm her favorite student because I payed a lot of attention and I resemble one of her cousins. (haha) On the menu: Courgettes Croquants, Marget de Canard Grilles, Salade de Mache aux coquilles St. Jacques, un Tarte Tatin, et des champignons farci. If you want, you can translate the menu yourself, because it won't do it justice if I do it. I'm taking three more classes, so I will keep you updated on what we make.
Doesn't that last picture (the Marget de Canard Grilles) look so delicious!? Well it was, I can tell you that.

I'm wishing everyone a Merry Christmas! I think I will be able to update while I am in Italy, but if now. Happy New Year 2010 as well!!

With hugs,
Mayra <3

Ps. Here is a clip after the Our Lady of Guadalupe Mass when we made the circle to the Chapel and sang songs for her. Incredible!!
video

Monday, December 7, 2009

starting with London & Oxford ending with Barcelona (warning: its a long update..)

Eurostar to London
The weekend of Nov 20-23rd I took my first EuroTrip to London. I took the Eurostar, the train that goes straight to London across the Chunnel!! It was approx 2h30min. Rountrip price was only 60 euros! Of course, I had the earliest trains at 6am both ways, but either way it was worth it! So I'm of to an english speaking country..... woooo!
London and Barbican Jill.
Jill met me at St. Pancras and I was directly on my way to my first London sight the minute I got off the train: Platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross! It took us a while to find it since the train station is under construction (for the Olympics 2012 & stuff) but when we found it, I was bit dissapointed. Don't worry I still love you Harry!! Jill and I then saw New Moon (it was my second time watching it since it came out two days earlier in France) and since our day had started so early we had so much time on our hands. We then met up Kristin and they both took me on a "Historic London" tour. Including Buckingham Palace (pictured above), St. James Park, Picadilly Circus, Oxford Circus (the shopping equivalent of Champs-Elysee?), The London Eye, Big Ben & Parliament, the Tube experience, fish n chips, and so much more.
During the grand tour of London, I realized that I knew almost nothing about this city, not even what the big tourist sights were or anything. I'm happy that I was able to have two great great city guides with me. However, I feel like my visit of London wasn't that long (so I have promised my friend Silvia that I will return- and spend all the pounds that I have left over-- like a bag full!).
Oxford and Eric
After spending all of Friday in London, Jill-Kristin-and I were all off to Oxford (about 1.5 hours from London) to visit my friend Mr. Eric Rucker studying at Oxford this fall. Yes, like Oxford as in the oldest university in the English speaking world (according to wiki). We visited the Museum of the History of Science & the Oxford University Museum of Natural History & of course Christ Church! For those of you Harry Potter lovers, the Christ Church dining hall, is indeed the Great Hall in HP. Wowzaa! The museums had Darwin expositions because it was the anniversary of his findings/research so that was interesting. I sometimes forget about what I learned in high school. Wow, I did learn something! In the end, I have to say that Oxford was a bit toooo tiny for me, but I loved the history that is attached to that town. The entire weekend I was unable to speak english correctly, or any language as a matter of fact.
One week back in Paris, and its Thanksgiving!
So the Thanksgiving spirit was completely absent in Paris. Except for my fellow american friends that are also living here.. no one wished me a Happy Thanksgiving. I think ONE person from back home sent me a message (my brother- who is probs the last person I would expect it from). Anyway, I was invited by my friend Margaret Schultz from Hamilton College to their program's Thanksgiving dinner. It marked my 4th official Thanksgiving dinner. Yes because my first was with Alicia Zhang who delivered her own cooked meal to my house junior year of high school- second, when I decided to do it myself at home, but with boxed stuffing and mash- and third, last year with my ex Michael and his family (which is more accurately the first). Voila. It was amazing, and I loved being with all the students like me, studying in Paris from the States. Margaret has invited me to Brooklyn for Thanksgiving, and I am so not going to forget, so that's what I'm doing next year!!
Barcelona and the Mediterranean
While my fellow Americans were getting their sleep in preparation for Black Friday, I was on my way to Barcelona. I had been waiting all week for this trip, because of course I was very excited to finally speak Spanish freely and incorrectly (my Spanish has gotten rusty with the whole Americanisation and Frenchisation thing over the years). Anyway, I have completely fallen in love with the city. The first day, Margaret & I took the cable car ride across one of the ports, and it was incredible, it reminded me so much of Mexico (there is a cable car in Zacatecas, MX that rides across the city- one of the longest in the world). Saturday was above all my favorite day, we did so much (thanks to Mandy and her lovely planning).
Everything Gaudi
If you don't know about Salvador Dali, alright that's fine. If you don't know who Antionio Gaudi is, then you are not a fully cultured person (face it). Gaudi is the emblem of Barcelona where also the language is not Spanish, but Catalan. And don't you dare say Castellano. We visited the major works of Gaudi: La Pedrera (house-now apartments designed by him), La Sagrada Familia (catholic church), and Park Guell (awesome park with houses designed by him again). Simply incredible. La Sagrada Familia-pictured above- is probably my favorite of all, only because its been in construction for about 120 years and still has about 50 more to go. I promise myself I will be there on its inaguration day! We also ventured into La Boqueria, the huge market off Las Ramblas (party streeet). The girls and I bought grapes, champagne, cheese, bread, plastic knives (very important) and had a party. Lovely! I can't wait to do that again once it gets nicer in Paris.
Jaime!
Barcelona would not have been Barcelona without my friend Jaime Viteri. Ohhhhh how much I have missed him! Although we haven't hung out at Marquette a lot a lot a lot, I feel like we're tight and I could go to him for anything. Jaimeeee you're the best!! He invited my friends and I to a party (which actually overlooked the market we had been to earlier) and I felt like I was able to be a real college student there. (okay I am not talking about the drinking part) I mean, the part where you meet people from all over the place and they have really really cool aspirations and you just want to tell them how cool they are. Yup that's what it was like. Not to mention the group of francophones that were there who spoke spanish/french/english probably the first time I have ever encountered anyone with those abilitiessss. Sigh**** haha!

Well overall, I loved Barcelona (I am now a Barca fan!) and I will go back to London in Jan/Feb. My two eurotrips were a successss and I'm happy to tell you that I'm going to Italy for Christmas/Winter Break/New Years to visit my friends Maria & Luca! ahhhH! Wowwowowowowowowoww! Sorry for the long update, but atleast it had pics... right?

with hugs,
<3 Mayra.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

first exams, first presentation, and first weekender trip! (preview)


Last week, I got to see my freshman year roommate Jill Hackmaster and some of her London buds, and this weekend its my turn, I'm on my way to visit her. Not only will I be visiting London, but I will also be visiting my good&close high school friend Eric Rucker in Oxford. So pretty much a very very exciting weekend awaits me. (the 6am train not so much)

Updates to come:
1) I had my first test in Literarure. We didn't have class this week so I still don't know how well I did, but I think its in the higher teens. France grades out of 20. Pretty much french teachers dont give out perfect grades... so I'm aiming for a 17 or 16.

2) I gave my first presentation in History class. It was over the consequences of WWI. I think it went extremely well, considering I had some help from my host parents (who have had their share of post WWI article-writing).

3) My first weekender trip to London & Oxford.

I promise I will have a detailed post as soon as I come back from London&Oxford!

With hugs, <3 Mayra.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Hello November!

Well, starting the post with a beautiful picture of La Seine is always an attention getter so now that you're tuned in... here is what I've been up to these past two weeks. (by the way you can click on the pictures and it will take to you a full scale size of the pic)

1) I was on vacation for one week and Julie, a dear friend from high school visited me. My usual list of things visited.

2) Georges Centre Pompidou
It houses all kinds of Modern Art. Some Picasso come Braque. The building itself is a piece of Modern Art because of its exoskeletal structure. Julie and I pretty much saw the entire place and after 4hrs we had enough.... Art fatique maybe?

3) La Defence
Voila the business district of Paris. Its a bit on the other side of town.. but worth the bus/metro ride. Julie and I didn't do much there, just visited La Grande Arch not pictured above (which is the twin of the Arch de Triomphe, a Modern Version) google it! 20 year anniversary of its unveiling.
4) Musée Quai Branly
This museum is dedicated to the art of Africa, The Americas, Asia, and Australia. We were there to see the Teotihuacan exhibit, which was a city next to today known Mexico City. Of couse I dragged Julie to see it, hellow if you didn't know already I AM MEXICAN. I think Julie enjoyed it... right?? Most of the artifacts have not been shown in Mexico or any part of Europe. Call that exclusive! At the museum there is also another exposition on Iranian Photography.. which I will probably return to see in the future.
5) Le Marais/ L'As du Falafel
So after being soo sooo hungry, Julie and I headed to the oldest part of Paris (aka Le Marais) which a part of it now is the Jewish Quarter. So why not get some falafel while we're there? If you ever make it to Paris please stop by and buy it! The restaurant is called L'As du Falafel and its only 5euros.
6) Laduree
You can call it a bakery, but I prefer to call it the house of Macarons.
They're yummy and as you can see them in the window, very very popular in Paris. Fun fact: macarons originally weren't two of them with the cream filling inside, but rather only one. It was Monsieur Laduree that invented this well known macaron!! I have not only decided to go there everyweek, but I've also bought a bag to go grocery shoppin in.

7) Cemetary Pere La Chaise
The most visited cemetary in the world is in Paris! Great right? Well since the French don't really celebrate Halloween, Julie and I celebrated by visiting some of France's most visited tombs. In the cemetary are Abelard & Heloise (their story resembles Romeo & Juliette), Moliere, La Fontaine, Jim Morrison!, Edith Piaf, Yves Montard, Oscar Wilde, and so on. It was a peaceful visit and its only the 3rd cemetary I've ever been to. I'm glad we went.

Voila! It has been a week full of museums, a lot of walking, macarons, crepes, cafe's, and picture taking, but classes have begun again so I'm back to work!!

As for classes, I had my first exam this past thursday! YES believe it or not, it was in 16th century french literature. Monday I have my second exam for history and also a presentation on the consequences of the First World War. Fun stuff! I believe I've finally started to really become a part of french culture. Not only am I watching french classic films, but I'm reading Hiroshima Mon Amour by Marguerite Duras and going to see L'Avare at the Comedie Francais in the near future (one of the pieces by Moliere). Oh it feels so good to be doing all of these things!! I love it! Learning about this country that has such a rich history is so refreshing and I will not get enough of it! As for other news.. I still have not heard back from Sciences-Po (the university I have applied to for next semester) but I have officially accepted on my apartment in the 14eme Arrondisement!

Well have a good weekend and Happy Birthday Mom & Luca!

with hugs,
Mayra.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

I'm Mexican-American-Parisian?

PA181049
Originally uploaded by deezyallaround

Being abroad makes me think more about where I come from, than where I am. Well atleast for now...

Mexico 2010!
200 years of being proudly mexican.
Everyone get ready!! The mexicans are going to celebrate their bicentennial!
And just to think that the USA is only 33 years older.. wowza!!

You never realize how much you know, until you tell someone. I've been sharing my Mexican culture with my host family. The more I tell them about it, the more I realize... wow I know a lot. And to think that I used to have identity crises.

Events of the Week(s)
1) Went shopping at Galeries LaFayette
Well it was a fun experience. I went with my friend Amandine who is a 3rd year student at the Sorbonne and who wishes to study in the states at some point. Marshall Fields can be thrown out the window! Not to mention the beauuuutiful buildings its in.
2) Watched L'etoile du Nord, Casque d'Or, and Madame de...
Like I mentioned earlier, for film class we watch a movie each week. My professor is amazingly good at the "wow, i never in my brightest dreams would have thought of that" thing. Everytime we talk about the films and their meaning, I'm baffled by the wonder and talent that is put into all of them. And to think that when we watch movies we have no idea of it.
3) Found an apartment in the 14eme arrondisment!

I'm subletting for a 23yr old graduate student at Sciences-Po who is going to be doing an internship in Rome. She's so cool! Did I mention that I'm so thankful for all of these random people I am meeting?
4) Was lost for 45 min by the Hotel de Ville looking for my connect group
I think it was partly because it was night time and I was tired. But by the way... Hotel de Ville is an astonishing building and at night the lighting hits it just at the right places.
5) Host dad brought me a necklace from Uganda.
Yeah he was in Uganda writing a report in unison with UNESCO on the children soldiers. He got to meet someone important that manages the Invisible Children Org.. I'm not sure, but I'm going to watch the movie tomorrow!
6) Finally received my money from the US and my carte bleu!
So in France credit cards don't swipe. Instead you get this "carte-bleu" which has a chip in it and all you do is "plug" it into machines. How come we dont have that in the USA? Well the french ask themselves the same thing about our cards.. believe me!


6) Went to the local Joinville le Pont "Sidewalk Sale" and bought an old Chocolatier Ad.
On my way to Mass at 11h15 (ahem ahem I still go to Mass) I ran across the annual Sidewalk Sale, basically a Garage Sale on the sidewalk (duh). It was great to see all the locals, but I couldnt really buy anything because a) i don't need a toaster b) i dont have any kids c) and i'm saving up my money for the "Soldes" in January. aka. Sales in January. They are very important because its the only time when stores have sales, because its too complicated to have sales at other times of the year (too many papers to file). Basically Paris has the January sales and the July sales. I'm starting to plan.. RIGHT NOW! Sorry everyone but your Christmas presents will be late.

So far that is all I've got for you, but be aware that JULIE BATES is visiting me this week! For those of you who don't know Julie, I've known her since 4th grade. She is currently studying in Salzburg, Austria and is studying Art History & German??? Correct me if I am wrong please. I'm on fall break this week so we will be exploring the city.

with hugs, Mayra

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

i don't want a label...

I've had something on my mind for a while. Let me begin....
As I had mentioned before, I have joined the Hillsong Paris community. For those of you who don't know about Hillsong, it is a Pentecostal Church based in Australia. It has now spread to cities like Paris, London, Berlin, CapeTown, and Stockholm. I first found out about Hillsong from my good friend Eric in high school. This summer, it just so happened that I met Meg (bilingual assistant @ Middlebury), who is now living in Paris and invited me to the Hillsong Paris happenings. Now let me backtrack....

According to wiki:
Pentecostalism is a renewal movement within Christianity that places special emphasis on a direct personal experience of God through the baptism in the Holy Spirit[1] which is evidenced by speaking in tongues. The term Pentecostal is derived from Pentecost, a Greek term describing the Jewish Feast of Weeks. For Christians, this event commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the followers of Jesus Christ, as described in the Book of Acts, Chapter 2,[2] and Pentecostals tend to see their movement as reflecting the same kind of spiritual power, worship styles and teachings that were found in the early church.

Now, I grew up Catholic and I still am Catholic. However, I am attracted to Hillsong because of their charismatic services and their love for God as well. That means that's alright...right? I still believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. Catholic meaning universal. There is no reason for me to feel in between two walls!! I just feel like when people ask me my religious affiliation... they stereotype too much. Basically, if you ask me what my religious affiliation is I will answer with this: I love God, I praise Mary, the Saints, I pray the rosary and I have a relationship with God----> you can classify me the way you want.

Phew! I really wanted to get that off my chest.

Things I have accomplisted this week:
1) Watched La belle et la bete (1945) for film class. I highly recommend it!!
2) Took a Danse Africaine class. I will be signing up for a 6 month class! Yay for working out!
3) Attended my first Hillsong service on Sunday.
4) Met the Connect Group at the Bois de Boulogne (during daytime).
5) Saw Up! in french.
6) Missed Paris Fashion Week 2009 happenings. (haha, next year though!)

I have already scoped out some great expositions that will be happening in Oct/Nov so I will let you know all about them.

But in the meanwhile, I am taking it slow, now doing many tourist-y things if you couldn't tell!! But no worries, I will make you all Paris experts by the time this year is done!

With hugs,
Mayra.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

the first two weeks in Paris

Bonjour tout le monde!

I have arrived in Paris safely! It is exactly two weeks that I have been here, however it still hasn't sunk in that I am actually here. I'm so grateful to finally have completed this dream that I've had for many years now. I can't wait to see what God has in store for me! (ps. don't worry I do miss everyone back in the states)

Voila, pictures of my house. I am living with a host family in Joinville-le-Pont which is a suburb "banlieu" of Paris. Two journalists (one retired) who own about a million books and who will teach me so many things I wouldn't learn anywhere else. Marie-Christine (mother) Phillippe (father) Axel (22-son) Constance (23-daughter) Jean-Pierre (the cat). Both the son and daughter don't live at home, but have their own apartments in the city. I am about 35 min away from Paris by train. (from top: Front of the house, view looking out from my room, the view before intering my room, my desk, and my pull out bed)

The first two nights were overwhelming. A combination of the jetlag, no euros, and no straightener made it stressful. Alright I'm kidding about the straightener, but you all know that I can't live without my Chi.
Anyway, the differences in the cuisine were the first to hit me, literally. I feel like I'm eating at a restaurant every night. The meals are so exquisitely presented and they're so good! My fav so far: muscles w/ white rice on the side.

I'm gradually getting used to drinking red whine with every meal, but I know I have some time!

To the reason why I'm here: School
I'm studying at the Institut Catholique de Paris aka. la Catho. Classes started on Sept 28th. I have a class each day from 2pm-5pm. They're 3 hrs long! With the exception of my History of Cinema: La Nouvelle Vague which is 4 hrs long! I will survive. Taking the train everyday isn't a hassle, at least I get to read. However, coming back SUCKS since its the time everyone goes home. Whatevers. Classes (all in french) include: History of France 19th century, History of Cinema: Nouvelle Vague, Phonetics, Argumentation, and Philosophy.

I have turned in my application for Sciences-Po second semester. We will see what happens. (Ahhh!)

Things I have done in the two weeks:
1) Opened my bank account with the french bank Societe General.
2) Visited the Saint Chapell
5) Became a part of Hillsong Paris w/ a Connect Group!
6) Went shopping all around Paris- bought a Longchamp bag
7) Started Reading 1 out of 6 books I have on my list to read
8) Partied with my host-siblings next to the Notre-Dame

Last night was my host-mother's get together completed with Champagne a la Peche, Red Wine in a box, White wine in a box, and various other fruit juices. Towards the end of the night I "plunged" into a conversation and tried out my French speaking skills.
I was trying to say that before arriving in France, I had heard that the French are private people and its often hard to make friends. However the translation from Eng-Fren didn't go so well, so now I have a group of people that are under the impression that I believe the French are deprived of something.... fml.
Here are some pictures from the epic night.



The "Pain Surprise" which was a bread with tiny sandwiches inside. Then the Champagne that was being prepared. The host siblings. Then the donut looking pastry is actually Paris-Brest delicious- we have left overs so there goes my diet. And lastly me trying to teach Axel how to swing dance. I'm not the best person for that.

I've got homework so I should get going, but I promise that I will write at least once a week. I hope its not tooo boring. This is just my intro post, so I do think my post's will get more interesting and not just retelling what I've done, so please come back and read!!

Picture of Paris are coming soon!

I love this city.

with hugs, Mayra.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

First Snow & Notre-Dame de Guadalupe :D (another long one)

I brought Wisconsin snow with me!
It's the first snow in Paris today!! However, since I have come down with a cold, I am not going to class today and I will not be able to capture Eiffel, the Champs-Elysee, or other sights in the snow. Tear tear. I will get them later, I promise. In the mean time, enjoy the pictures from my house! Also below, that would be Jean-Pierre, who loves to hang out with me now... I guess he knows that I'm leaving and that's why he's happy.
So today, I'm staying indoors and watching a couple movies (Mon Oncle by Jacques Tati and Cléo de 5 à 7 by Agnes Varda) for film class and getting a start on my extensive reading list for this winter break (Belle du Seigneur by Albert Cohen and Désert by J.M.G. Le Clézio) both which are in french! Also, my host family and I are decorating the Christmas tree today! It's called a "sapin" in french. I probably should be going over some notes, but most likely I will probably get a start on my Italian phrasebook/pictionnary. But here's a picture of the tree inside the Galeries Lafayette. Pretty in Pink.
Notre-Dame de Guadalupe
Alright, for those of you who are Catholic and know about Our Lady of Guadalupe (in spanish: La Virgen de Guadalupe) you know that she appeared to Juan Diego on Dec 12th 1531 almost 480 years ago, as the story goes. Our Lady of Guadalupe is an icon of Virgin Mary in the Hispanic community, mostly Mexican because she appread in the city of Tepeyac near Mexico City today. So every year on Dec 12th, there is a special mass in commemoration to her. Considering I am living in a city with a church dedicated to Mary aka. The Notre-Dame (Our Lady in French) I figured that there would be a mass for Our Lady of Guadalupe. AND YES THERE WAS!! Not only was there a mass, but there was also a Mariachi Band that provided the music DURING the mass! I can't explain how excited I was. So last saturday at noon, I witnessed the most beautiful mass dedicated to the Virgen de Guadalupe in my life.
Outside the Notre Dame. Followed by the small chapel inside dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe.
I felt like I was home. I felt like I really really belonged there. The mexican music, mexican food, mexican people, even the priest was mexican. The mass was in spanish and french, the two languages that my heart beats to. (alright I know that last part was a little cheesy, but its true).
I had an epiphany during the mass. I realized that I had been depressed for the last couple of weeks because I missed my family and friends. I realized that this was not an easy transition. I had been naive to think that everything would have been easy, and I feel that it was the perfect timing for me to "wake-up" and see things for what they are. 2010 is arriving and nothing is better than starting new and making the best of it for the new year. To top it off, I was interviewed by one of Televisa's reporters so hey if you're in Mexico and you saw me.. let me know!! Her question was " Are you Mexican? How do you feel to be here in Paris celebrating la Virgen de Guadalupe at this historical church? " wowowowooww.

Paris Winter Wonderland
Above: Place de La Concorde (where Louis XIV and Marie-Antoinette got their heads chopped off marking the beginning of the French Republique).
Above: The Champs-Elysee. You can kind of see the Arc de Triomphe at the end there.
Everyone is in the Christmas spirit. Below is the building in detail.
Above is the Champs-Elysee which has all the Christmas Creshes. Nativity little stores, its hard to explain so I hope you know what they are. Anyway, I have seen them in every city that I have visited. Paris has quite a few streets that have these. Barcelona did too. People, this is where your presents are coming from. haha.

My own little chic apartment in Paris
I got the keys to my new apartment last night and I think it's really gonna help me 100%. In my studies, in my faith, and in the search for what I want to do with my life. Incredible right? I move in January 5th, just after I return from Italy. I'm sad to leave my host family because they were great especially because they've helped me a lot in finding the strenght when discovering a new culture and way of life. I definitely know it was worth it, but I know I need this new apartment to finish what I am meant to learn.

The Louvre (finally)
Last week, I made my way to the Louvre for the first time with my friend Eric. Alright I know, I have been here for more than 2 months and I hadn't gone yet. Well, I finally did. THE LOUVRE IS HUGE! It was the first sunday of the month so it was free, but that also meant a 2hour line. It was alright though, I only felt the presence of all the people when we were taking a look at the Jaconde (Mona Lisa). I then returned later than week on friday after 6pm when its free for those 25 and under. It was a part of the Louvre Nocturne, which is basically a group of students that present paintings or other artifacts. It was really nice to learn about the museum that way. Yet another reason why I love Paris, being under 25 has sooo soo many benefits.
Wait, what is everyone trying to take a picture of? Oh yeah... only the most visited painting in the world right....? The Mona Lisa! ahaha.Oh by the way, some of the museums and the suburban trains have been on strike for quite a while. What does this mean? That means it takes 2 hours for me to get to class everyday and 2 hours to return. Also it means that Eric couldn't see the Musee D'Orsay when he was here last weekend. That is France for you. Proof below.
Cooking Class
My friend Meg Mahon, who I met this summer at Midd @ Mills invited me to a cooking class last week. The instructor is so nice and the class was in her apartment which had a panoramic view of Paris. It is my dream to have an apartment like hers. Also, I think I'm her favorite student because I payed a lot of attention and I resemble one of her cousins. (haha) On the menu: Courgettes Croquants, Marget de Canard Grilles, Salade de Mache aux coquilles St. Jacques, un Tarte Tatin, et des champignons farci. If you want, you can translate the menu yourself, because it won't do it justice if I do it. I'm taking three more classes, so I will keep you updated on what we make.
Doesn't that last picture (the Marget de Canard Grilles) look so delicious!? Well it was, I can tell you that.

I'm wishing everyone a Merry Christmas! I think I will be able to update while I am in Italy, but if now. Happy New Year 2010 as well!!

With hugs,
Mayra <3

Ps. Here is a clip after the Our Lady of Guadalupe Mass when we made the circle to the Chapel and sang songs for her. Incredible!!
video

Monday, December 7, 2009

starting with London & Oxford ending with Barcelona (warning: its a long update..)

Eurostar to London
The weekend of Nov 20-23rd I took my first EuroTrip to London. I took the Eurostar, the train that goes straight to London across the Chunnel!! It was approx 2h30min. Rountrip price was only 60 euros! Of course, I had the earliest trains at 6am both ways, but either way it was worth it! So I'm of to an english speaking country..... woooo!
London and Barbican Jill.
Jill met me at St. Pancras and I was directly on my way to my first London sight the minute I got off the train: Platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross! It took us a while to find it since the train station is under construction (for the Olympics 2012 & stuff) but when we found it, I was bit dissapointed. Don't worry I still love you Harry!! Jill and I then saw New Moon (it was my second time watching it since it came out two days earlier in France) and since our day had started so early we had so much time on our hands. We then met up Kristin and they both took me on a "Historic London" tour. Including Buckingham Palace (pictured above), St. James Park, Picadilly Circus, Oxford Circus (the shopping equivalent of Champs-Elysee?), The London Eye, Big Ben & Parliament, the Tube experience, fish n chips, and so much more.
During the grand tour of London, I realized that I knew almost nothing about this city, not even what the big tourist sights were or anything. I'm happy that I was able to have two great great city guides with me. However, I feel like my visit of London wasn't that long (so I have promised my friend Silvia that I will return- and spend all the pounds that I have left over-- like a bag full!).
Oxford and Eric
After spending all of Friday in London, Jill-Kristin-and I were all off to Oxford (about 1.5 hours from London) to visit my friend Mr. Eric Rucker studying at Oxford this fall. Yes, like Oxford as in the oldest university in the English speaking world (according to wiki). We visited the Museum of the History of Science & the Oxford University Museum of Natural History & of course Christ Church! For those of you Harry Potter lovers, the Christ Church dining hall, is indeed the Great Hall in HP. Wowzaa! The museums had Darwin expositions because it was the anniversary of his findings/research so that was interesting. I sometimes forget about what I learned in high school. Wow, I did learn something! In the end, I have to say that Oxford was a bit toooo tiny for me, but I loved the history that is attached to that town. The entire weekend I was unable to speak english correctly, or any language as a matter of fact.
One week back in Paris, and its Thanksgiving!
So the Thanksgiving spirit was completely absent in Paris. Except for my fellow american friends that are also living here.. no one wished me a Happy Thanksgiving. I think ONE person from back home sent me a message (my brother- who is probs the last person I would expect it from). Anyway, I was invited by my friend Margaret Schultz from Hamilton College to their program's Thanksgiving dinner. It marked my 4th official Thanksgiving dinner. Yes because my first was with Alicia Zhang who delivered her own cooked meal to my house junior year of high school- second, when I decided to do it myself at home, but with boxed stuffing and mash- and third, last year with my ex Michael and his family (which is more accurately the first). Voila. It was amazing, and I loved being with all the students like me, studying in Paris from the States. Margaret has invited me to Brooklyn for Thanksgiving, and I am so not going to forget, so that's what I'm doing next year!!
Barcelona and the Mediterranean
While my fellow Americans were getting their sleep in preparation for Black Friday, I was on my way to Barcelona. I had been waiting all week for this trip, because of course I was very excited to finally speak Spanish freely and incorrectly (my Spanish has gotten rusty with the whole Americanisation and Frenchisation thing over the years). Anyway, I have completely fallen in love with the city. The first day, Margaret & I took the cable car ride across one of the ports, and it was incredible, it reminded me so much of Mexico (there is a cable car in Zacatecas, MX that rides across the city- one of the longest in the world). Saturday was above all my favorite day, we did so much (thanks to Mandy and her lovely planning).
Everything Gaudi
If you don't know about Salvador Dali, alright that's fine. If you don't know who Antionio Gaudi is, then you are not a fully cultured person (face it). Gaudi is the emblem of Barcelona where also the language is not Spanish, but Catalan. And don't you dare say Castellano. We visited the major works of Gaudi: La Pedrera (house-now apartments designed by him), La Sagrada Familia (catholic church), and Park Guell (awesome park with houses designed by him again). Simply incredible. La Sagrada Familia-pictured above- is probably my favorite of all, only because its been in construction for about 120 years and still has about 50 more to go. I promise myself I will be there on its inaguration day! We also ventured into La Boqueria, the huge market off Las Ramblas (party streeet). The girls and I bought grapes, champagne, cheese, bread, plastic knives (very important) and had a party. Lovely! I can't wait to do that again once it gets nicer in Paris.
Jaime!
Barcelona would not have been Barcelona without my friend Jaime Viteri. Ohhhhh how much I have missed him! Although we haven't hung out at Marquette a lot a lot a lot, I feel like we're tight and I could go to him for anything. Jaimeeee you're the best!! He invited my friends and I to a party (which actually overlooked the market we had been to earlier) and I felt like I was able to be a real college student there. (okay I am not talking about the drinking part) I mean, the part where you meet people from all over the place and they have really really cool aspirations and you just want to tell them how cool they are. Yup that's what it was like. Not to mention the group of francophones that were there who spoke spanish/french/english probably the first time I have ever encountered anyone with those abilitiessss. Sigh**** haha!

Well overall, I loved Barcelona (I am now a Barca fan!) and I will go back to London in Jan/Feb. My two eurotrips were a successss and I'm happy to tell you that I'm going to Italy for Christmas/Winter Break/New Years to visit my friends Maria & Luca! ahhhH! Wowwowowowowowowoww! Sorry for the long update, but atleast it had pics... right?

with hugs,
<3 Mayra.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

first exams, first presentation, and first weekender trip! (preview)


Last week, I got to see my freshman year roommate Jill Hackmaster and some of her London buds, and this weekend its my turn, I'm on my way to visit her. Not only will I be visiting London, but I will also be visiting my good&close high school friend Eric Rucker in Oxford. So pretty much a very very exciting weekend awaits me. (the 6am train not so much)

Updates to come:
1) I had my first test in Literarure. We didn't have class this week so I still don't know how well I did, but I think its in the higher teens. France grades out of 20. Pretty much french teachers dont give out perfect grades... so I'm aiming for a 17 or 16.

2) I gave my first presentation in History class. It was over the consequences of WWI. I think it went extremely well, considering I had some help from my host parents (who have had their share of post WWI article-writing).

3) My first weekender trip to London & Oxford.

I promise I will have a detailed post as soon as I come back from London&Oxford!

With hugs, <3 Mayra.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Hello November!

Well, starting the post with a beautiful picture of La Seine is always an attention getter so now that you're tuned in... here is what I've been up to these past two weeks. (by the way you can click on the pictures and it will take to you a full scale size of the pic)

1) I was on vacation for one week and Julie, a dear friend from high school visited me. My usual list of things visited.

2) Georges Centre Pompidou
It houses all kinds of Modern Art. Some Picasso come Braque. The building itself is a piece of Modern Art because of its exoskeletal structure. Julie and I pretty much saw the entire place and after 4hrs we had enough.... Art fatique maybe?

3) La Defence
Voila the business district of Paris. Its a bit on the other side of town.. but worth the bus/metro ride. Julie and I didn't do much there, just visited La Grande Arch not pictured above (which is the twin of the Arch de Triomphe, a Modern Version) google it! 20 year anniversary of its unveiling.
4) Musée Quai Branly
This museum is dedicated to the art of Africa, The Americas, Asia, and Australia. We were there to see the Teotihuacan exhibit, which was a city next to today known Mexico City. Of couse I dragged Julie to see it, hellow if you didn't know already I AM MEXICAN. I think Julie enjoyed it... right?? Most of the artifacts have not been shown in Mexico or any part of Europe. Call that exclusive! At the museum there is also another exposition on Iranian Photography.. which I will probably return to see in the future.
5) Le Marais/ L'As du Falafel
So after being soo sooo hungry, Julie and I headed to the oldest part of Paris (aka Le Marais) which a part of it now is the Jewish Quarter. So why not get some falafel while we're there? If you ever make it to Paris please stop by and buy it! The restaurant is called L'As du Falafel and its only 5euros.
6) Laduree
You can call it a bakery, but I prefer to call it the house of Macarons.
They're yummy and as you can see them in the window, very very popular in Paris. Fun fact: macarons originally weren't two of them with the cream filling inside, but rather only one. It was Monsieur Laduree that invented this well known macaron!! I have not only decided to go there everyweek, but I've also bought a bag to go grocery shoppin in.

7) Cemetary Pere La Chaise
The most visited cemetary in the world is in Paris! Great right? Well since the French don't really celebrate Halloween, Julie and I celebrated by visiting some of France's most visited tombs. In the cemetary are Abelard & Heloise (their story resembles Romeo & Juliette), Moliere, La Fontaine, Jim Morrison!, Edith Piaf, Yves Montard, Oscar Wilde, and so on. It was a peaceful visit and its only the 3rd cemetary I've ever been to. I'm glad we went.

Voila! It has been a week full of museums, a lot of walking, macarons, crepes, cafe's, and picture taking, but classes have begun again so I'm back to work!!

As for classes, I had my first exam this past thursday! YES believe it or not, it was in 16th century french literature. Monday I have my second exam for history and also a presentation on the consequences of the First World War. Fun stuff! I believe I've finally started to really become a part of french culture. Not only am I watching french classic films, but I'm reading Hiroshima Mon Amour by Marguerite Duras and going to see L'Avare at the Comedie Francais in the near future (one of the pieces by Moliere). Oh it feels so good to be doing all of these things!! I love it! Learning about this country that has such a rich history is so refreshing and I will not get enough of it! As for other news.. I still have not heard back from Sciences-Po (the university I have applied to for next semester) but I have officially accepted on my apartment in the 14eme Arrondisement!

Well have a good weekend and Happy Birthday Mom & Luca!

with hugs,
Mayra.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

I'm Mexican-American-Parisian?

PA181049
Originally uploaded by deezyallaround

Being abroad makes me think more about where I come from, than where I am. Well atleast for now...

Mexico 2010!
200 years of being proudly mexican.
Everyone get ready!! The mexicans are going to celebrate their bicentennial!
And just to think that the USA is only 33 years older.. wowza!!

You never realize how much you know, until you tell someone. I've been sharing my Mexican culture with my host family. The more I tell them about it, the more I realize... wow I know a lot. And to think that I used to have identity crises.

Events of the Week(s)
1) Went shopping at Galeries LaFayette
Well it was a fun experience. I went with my friend Amandine who is a 3rd year student at the Sorbonne and who wishes to study in the states at some point. Marshall Fields can be thrown out the window! Not to mention the beauuuutiful buildings its in.
2) Watched L'etoile du Nord, Casque d'Or, and Madame de...
Like I mentioned earlier, for film class we watch a movie each week. My professor is amazingly good at the "wow, i never in my brightest dreams would have thought of that" thing. Everytime we talk about the films and their meaning, I'm baffled by the wonder and talent that is put into all of them. And to think that when we watch movies we have no idea of it.
3) Found an apartment in the 14eme arrondisment!

I'm subletting for a 23yr old graduate student at Sciences-Po who is going to be doing an internship in Rome. She's so cool! Did I mention that I'm so thankful for all of these random people I am meeting?
4) Was lost for 45 min by the Hotel de Ville looking for my connect group
I think it was partly because it was night time and I was tired. But by the way... Hotel de Ville is an astonishing building and at night the lighting hits it just at the right places.
5) Host dad brought me a necklace from Uganda.
Yeah he was in Uganda writing a report in unison with UNESCO on the children soldiers. He got to meet someone important that manages the Invisible Children Org.. I'm not sure, but I'm going to watch the movie tomorrow!
6) Finally received my money from the US and my carte bleu!
So in France credit cards don't swipe. Instead you get this "carte-bleu" which has a chip in it and all you do is "plug" it into machines. How come we dont have that in the USA? Well the french ask themselves the same thing about our cards.. believe me!


6) Went to the local Joinville le Pont "Sidewalk Sale" and bought an old Chocolatier Ad.
On my way to Mass at 11h15 (ahem ahem I still go to Mass) I ran across the annual Sidewalk Sale, basically a Garage Sale on the sidewalk (duh). It was great to see all the locals, but I couldnt really buy anything because a) i don't need a toaster b) i dont have any kids c) and i'm saving up my money for the "Soldes" in January. aka. Sales in January. They are very important because its the only time when stores have sales, because its too complicated to have sales at other times of the year (too many papers to file). Basically Paris has the January sales and the July sales. I'm starting to plan.. RIGHT NOW! Sorry everyone but your Christmas presents will be late.

So far that is all I've got for you, but be aware that JULIE BATES is visiting me this week! For those of you who don't know Julie, I've known her since 4th grade. She is currently studying in Salzburg, Austria and is studying Art History & German??? Correct me if I am wrong please. I'm on fall break this week so we will be exploring the city.

with hugs, Mayra

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

i don't want a label...

I've had something on my mind for a while. Let me begin....
As I had mentioned before, I have joined the Hillsong Paris community. For those of you who don't know about Hillsong, it is a Pentecostal Church based in Australia. It has now spread to cities like Paris, London, Berlin, CapeTown, and Stockholm. I first found out about Hillsong from my good friend Eric in high school. This summer, it just so happened that I met Meg (bilingual assistant @ Middlebury), who is now living in Paris and invited me to the Hillsong Paris happenings. Now let me backtrack....

According to wiki:
Pentecostalism is a renewal movement within Christianity that places special emphasis on a direct personal experience of God through the baptism in the Holy Spirit[1] which is evidenced by speaking in tongues. The term Pentecostal is derived from Pentecost, a Greek term describing the Jewish Feast of Weeks. For Christians, this event commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the followers of Jesus Christ, as described in the Book of Acts, Chapter 2,[2] and Pentecostals tend to see their movement as reflecting the same kind of spiritual power, worship styles and teachings that were found in the early church.

Now, I grew up Catholic and I still am Catholic. However, I am attracted to Hillsong because of their charismatic services and their love for God as well. That means that's alright...right? I still believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. Catholic meaning universal. There is no reason for me to feel in between two walls!! I just feel like when people ask me my religious affiliation... they stereotype too much. Basically, if you ask me what my religious affiliation is I will answer with this: I love God, I praise Mary, the Saints, I pray the rosary and I have a relationship with God----> you can classify me the way you want.

Phew! I really wanted to get that off my chest.

Things I have accomplisted this week:
1) Watched La belle et la bete (1945) for film class. I highly recommend it!!
2) Took a Danse Africaine class. I will be signing up for a 6 month class! Yay for working out!
3) Attended my first Hillsong service on Sunday.
4) Met the Connect Group at the Bois de Boulogne (during daytime).
5) Saw Up! in french.
6) Missed Paris Fashion Week 2009 happenings. (haha, next year though!)

I have already scoped out some great expositions that will be happening in Oct/Nov so I will let you know all about them.

But in the meanwhile, I am taking it slow, now doing many tourist-y things if you couldn't tell!! But no worries, I will make you all Paris experts by the time this year is done!

With hugs,
Mayra.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

the first two weeks in Paris

Bonjour tout le monde!

I have arrived in Paris safely! It is exactly two weeks that I have been here, however it still hasn't sunk in that I am actually here. I'm so grateful to finally have completed this dream that I've had for many years now. I can't wait to see what God has in store for me! (ps. don't worry I do miss everyone back in the states)

Voila, pictures of my house. I am living with a host family in Joinville-le-Pont which is a suburb "banlieu" of Paris. Two journalists (one retired) who own about a million books and who will teach me so many things I wouldn't learn anywhere else. Marie-Christine (mother) Phillippe (father) Axel (22-son) Constance (23-daughter) Jean-Pierre (the cat). Both the son and daughter don't live at home, but have their own apartments in the city. I am about 35 min away from Paris by train. (from top: Front of the house, view looking out from my room, the view before intering my room, my desk, and my pull out bed)

The first two nights were overwhelming. A combination of the jetlag, no euros, and no straightener made it stressful. Alright I'm kidding about the straightener, but you all know that I can't live without my Chi.
Anyway, the differences in the cuisine were the first to hit me, literally. I feel like I'm eating at a restaurant every night. The meals are so exquisitely presented and they're so good! My fav so far: muscles w/ white rice on the side.

I'm gradually getting used to drinking red whine with every meal, but I know I have some time!

To the reason why I'm here: School
I'm studying at the Institut Catholique de Paris aka. la Catho. Classes started on Sept 28th. I have a class each day from 2pm-5pm. They're 3 hrs long! With the exception of my History of Cinema: La Nouvelle Vague which is 4 hrs long! I will survive. Taking the train everyday isn't a hassle, at least I get to read. However, coming back SUCKS since its the time everyone goes home. Whatevers. Classes (all in french) include: History of France 19th century, History of Cinema: Nouvelle Vague, Phonetics, Argumentation, and Philosophy.

I have turned in my application for Sciences-Po second semester. We will see what happens. (Ahhh!)

Things I have done in the two weeks:
1) Opened my bank account with the french bank Societe General.
2) Visited the Saint Chapell
5) Became a part of Hillsong Paris w/ a Connect Group!
6) Went shopping all around Paris- bought a Longchamp bag
7) Started Reading 1 out of 6 books I have on my list to read
8) Partied with my host-siblings next to the Notre-Dame

Last night was my host-mother's get together completed with Champagne a la Peche, Red Wine in a box, White wine in a box, and various other fruit juices. Towards the end of the night I "plunged" into a conversation and tried out my French speaking skills.
I was trying to say that before arriving in France, I had heard that the French are private people and its often hard to make friends. However the translation from Eng-Fren didn't go so well, so now I have a group of people that are under the impression that I believe the French are deprived of something.... fml.
Here are some pictures from the epic night.



The "Pain Surprise" which was a bread with tiny sandwiches inside. Then the Champagne that was being prepared. The host siblings. Then the donut looking pastry is actually Paris-Brest delicious- we have left overs so there goes my diet. And lastly me trying to teach Axel how to swing dance. I'm not the best person for that.

I've got homework so I should get going, but I promise that I will write at least once a week. I hope its not tooo boring. This is just my intro post, so I do think my post's will get more interesting and not just retelling what I've done, so please come back and read!!

Picture of Paris are coming soon!

I love this city.

with hugs, Mayra.