Wednesday, March 3, 2010

March 3, 2010

The Apartment

The Parisians are certainly used to living in much smaller spaces. That is one of the first things that hit me here. There is only the space that is necessary, in most cases anyway. For example, the bathroom is two separate rooms, one for the toilet with a small sink, and the other is the shower and a sink, and about enough standing room for one person, no more. When I first arrived here the apartment seemed pretty small, but I am getting used to it. Not only did it seem small but also, well...disheveled. but in living here a week I have begun to understand it a little more. Living with a single mom and her three kids, I realize it can't be easy to keep everything in it's place, or to even necessarily have a place for everything. The living room seemed extremely over-crowded with things, little "trucs" all over the place: two couches, two chairs, a bureau, two desks, a television, two computers (one shared by the kids and the other my host mom's), a fireplace stacked-full of old newspapers that are topped by a very large, old pumpkin. She says she is planning to cook the pumpkin when she gets a chance... :) There are small things from the kids filling the room, little toys here and there, across the floor, under the couch, stickers randomly on things, etc. I believe that my "room" was actually a kind of parlor or office and that some of the things now in the living room were once in there. My room is definitely not mean to be a bedroom, it had bookshelves all along the one wall, a t.v., a piano, a large, round marble table with four chairs, and my bed. The room is attached to the living room by small double french doors that have wooden blinds on them, so I wonder if before my arrival the two rooms may have been connected, and one of the couches, and the chairs or perhaps a desk were in here. Since I arrived though we have rearranged the living room from how it was when I first got here. It is much more spacious now and my host-mom did a lot of cleaning in the room. The newspapers and the pumpkin remain in the fireplace though. The kitchen seems to have been in the midst of a remodel, of which the floor and the cupboards were completed but not the appliances. there remains in the small entry-way to the apartment a partly-packaged stainless steal range-top oven and a sink. I wondered for a while if it would ever be explained why that was there, and my host mom finally offered the information the other day that someone is coming soon to fix a leak in the kitchen ceiling which is coming from the fifth floor (I live on the first (European first-floor, so the 2nd floor). So once the leak is fixed then the appliances can be installed I guess. The kitchen is positively packed with things too--there is not much space in it at all, and yet that is where we eat, at the tiniest little table, on little stools. On the table there is a pink Hello-Kitty cereal dispenser (a birthday gift to the little girl from her brother) that they really use! It's quite cute. I don't know how anything is found in the rest of the kitchen, it all seems to be a sort of "organized chaos" to my host-mom: there are random jars and small cups full of batteries, all kinds of vitamins and supplements (the oldest son, 12 is allergic to gluten and the other, 10, won't eat meat). The little counter space that there is has been occupied by a microwave, a bowl of very old fruit (which I am learning they keep here for much longer than at home), a food processor, toaster, water boiler, coffee pot, and various little bowls and baskets that seem to find themselves in stacks randomly around the place. There is a small window in the kitchen that looks out to the courtyard, and the windows in my room and the living room look out over the street. I like being able to see the street, but it is rather unfortunate to be so close at 5:30 a.m. when the garbage trucks come. Also, when I look out the window, since the street is narrow and the apartment is low on the building, I cannot see any sky at all, which is slightly disheartening, especially when the sun is actually out.
In spite of all the differences that this place most certainly has from home, I am surprising myself in saying that I actually already feel kind of at home here. My host-mom is extremely nice, and during dinner and other times we have good conversations, all in French. She does speak English, but not wonderfully. It is funny actually, I ask her all kinds of questions about the French word for something, or if I don't know a word she explains it in French and she will ask me questions about English words, and I will explain an English word to her in French. For example, the other day she was reading a book and another work by the author (who is American but whose book had been translated) had the word "Bliss" in it. She didn't know what it meant so I had to explain it to her in French. I am actually glad that she doesn't speak to me in English. We have had a few small mis-communications, but nothing tragic as of yet :) As far as the kids go, I am not sure how it will be "living" with them yet, since they left for vacation to their grandparents the morning after I arrived, and then came back for one night last weekend and left Sunday to go to their Dad's place. They have been there since! So I have spent little time with them, but they are very sweet from what I know so far!

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