I went to Paris in August, 2008. Because it was August, the locals fled the city just in time for tourists to cram the city with enthusiasm for picture-taking, pointing at the Louvre, and reading Paris maps with confused looks. It was the first time I was taking an international flight alone to a country where I didn’t speak the language very well, but I managed to tell the cab driver where to go and even exchanged some kind of a joke with him that made him smile.
I stayed in a tiny apartment in the 9th arrondissement, owned by an older couple named Ghilaine and Simon. Simon spoke English with a rigid British accent because that’s where he learned English, and made very strong coffee with a Krups every morning around 8am. Ghislaine made excellent meals, held my hand a lot and told me encouragingly that my French was improving a lot (which was very generous of her, but not very true).
Every morning, Ghislaine and Simon would watch the Olympics and tell me how the Korean teams were doing.
There was another student in the apartment named Francesca, who came from Milan. She also spoke English with a British accent because she had gone to a language school in London. She told me once that Americans and Canadians chewed on their words when we spoke English, which she found puzzling.
One night during a dessert cheese plate, Ghislaine told me in all sincerity that she believed Sarkozy would do good things for France because he knew what being French meant.
I walked through the Jardin de Luxembourg every day to get to my French classes – just long enough that I almost forgot how beautiful the surroundings were.
One of the corner stores near Ghislaine and Simon’s apartment had a banana-flavoured soda. It looked exactly like urine in a bottle, and drinking it reminded me of sitting in my dentist’s chair with fluoride solutions.
Because I was curious, I paid almost 20 euros to go to an upscale all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet in Paris. It was one of the more memorable meals I had in that city. The lady in front of me had a mountain of shrimp tales and watermelon ends. I also went to a diner called “Breakfast in America,” where they charged way too much for a mug of coffee like it was some Starbucks drink.