Friday, August 8, 2014

Undeterred by any "Dérangement Collectif" - we press on

Let the Paris-schooling begin!
The internet will be out until August 14 (!!!) due to a collective derangement on the line. It's August, most Parisians are gone, and so a ton of infrastructure works gets done, renovations are begun, and other massive overhauls are undertaken. We are going to persevere by repairing to cafés (one must carry on, you know) and I will write briefer things. The past few days are recapped below - because no, I don't want to forget a single day of any of this. Yesterday (for I am writing in the morning at our local café) was our first day of Paris-schooling in the streets. We've been reading the terrific book Charlotte in Paris by Joan MacPhail Knight, given to us by our dear friend Julia. All the kids read the same section, but each one has a different essay to write in response to the section, and then different assignment connected to it. So, for example yesterday, Charlotte goes to Gare Saint-Lazare, because monsieur Monet painted it (and her father is friends with him) and so Oliver's assignment was to determine the Metro route for how to get there (his essay asked him to consider the intersection of urbanism and Impressionism). He did a great job leading the way from our house to the train station, and then Mac took over with a commentary about the station, its importance in the 19th century, and why Monet (and so many other Parisians) would be so fascinated by it. The shot here is of Mac showing the kids Monet's painting of the train station (either the painting at the Art Institute in Chicago or the one right here at Musée d'Orsay - Monet of course painted several) at the spot whence he painted it. We then went to the Jardin Luxembourg (Oliver figured out we could get there without any changes on the Metro - always a bonus) and romped about. A swing by the English-speaking bookshop restored us in books (this is going to be a problem, keeping the children in books - I need to figure out if I can download books on a nook or Kindle from here - otherwise, we'll just keep buying books!) (which is ok, too) and then we headed home to goat cheese and pancetta pizza. Oui, la vie est belle. I'm going to go home now (avec croissants) and Mac will supervise the kids' home schooling while I go work on things medieval upstairs. His library (German art history library in Paris) doesn't even open until September, and the BN has limited services (not that limited, but enough that I can justify not throwing myself into it right away) in August. So we'll probably work at home for now. Libraries later.

Ok - if you want to know about the past few days, here they are. They're mostly a record for me, in the name of not forgetting.

And so, little recuperations from the past days when the neighborhood underwent a “collective derangement” (“dérangement collectif”) in its internet service. I’ve always loved those old journals (or the annals of old!) when it’s just one line that says it all: “rain” or “the Huns.”

August 3
It’s still grand being around the Eiffel Tower, trying to decipher the name of the all the engineering greats Eiffel had displayed for all eternity/to see on the lower support ring of the Tower. The girls went up with our dear friends, and the rest of us waited below in what became a little circle of people waiting for loved ones. A bus ride to Notre-Dame was like one back through time and I must say that the medieval line moved faster than the modern one. Less at stake perhaps. But Notre-Dame looks so clean now, resplendent in its 19th-century self. Viollet-le-Duc would be happy. It meant a lot to take our friends there. Parting was sweet sorrow too soon, but as I watch it pour rain now, I feel that Paris smiled on us big time.

August 4
This was our first day to explore Courbevoie: we’d been walking the immediate neighborhood, but in this city of 80,000 (!!!) attached directly to Paris, there was more to explore. So, buses of course. And soon, a park still housing both the Swedish&Norwegian as well as the Indian palaces from the 1867 World’s Fair. The Swedish & Norwegian palace is now a terrific (free!) little museum and we chatted with the lonely art historian at the front desk. The Indian palace is available by appointment only, but oh yes we will. On our way home, we discovered a Breton crêperie, so all is well. Also, we discovered the term “dérangement collectif,” which, with each passing day without internet, is becoming more metaphysical.

August 5
When the Orange internet provider customer service line gets jammed with calls in France you get a message that says “Because so many of you are calling, the wait would be too long. Good-bye.” And then the line hangs up on you. Brilliant! No endless musak, just circling helplessness. So off we went to open a bank account. On the way, we stopped at the SNCF Boutique (yes, it’s called that) and made nice with the wonderful man there who got us a cool reduction card we don’t understand, but which (through Iris - !) gets us 25-50% off of all of our travels. We booked tickets for Brittany (bliss) and Chartres (Assumption Day) and merrily went on our way. The sordid tale of the bank is too stupid to tell. Changes in American banking laws require that we now provide not just our usual passports and proof of living here to open a bank account, but also a W-9 and a utility bill from our home in the U.S. notarized by the American Embassy here in Paris. This last part just cannot be right, but I assure you it is. We will return to visit the imminently capable and stunningly beautiful woman who helped us and see what happens. On verra. Hovered over the first load of laundry today – success.

August 6
The kids insisted on starting school alongside their friends in Indiana today. This was the first time for any of us and we were all pretty excited. So it breaks down like this: an hour of math, an hour of English, a half an hour of social studies/history, and a half an hour of science (the latter two heavily supplemented by the afternoon’s activities, as is whatever literature we’re reading for English) – all of this in rotation. The kids fell into the rotation idea really well, and we had the timing pretty much right so that they had little breaks. While the kids work, we’re there for consult and so we’re using the time to read articles (i.e. not write – that time we’ll be forging out for each other as things settle in). Then lunch at home, then the city! Save that it was pouring rain, so we opted for a movie instead – our beloved Petit Nicolas in Les Vacances de Petit Nicolas. Seeing a movie at La Défense is truly its own blog post. So suffice it to say that the kids laughed, we did, too, and that coming home was lovely.


  1. So glad to 'hear' (see?) your voice. I knew you would not be deterred by a little collective derangement. Though, I bet it's a different (better?) life without the internets - at least for a while. I am truly thrilled that the little book I got is getting the kids started in their conquest of Paris. (When I was in Rome on a WT trip with Hilary we had a tour guide who insisted that we 'conquer' the city. Ever since then that expression has stayed with me.) I am appalled by your experience in the bank. Might there be a way to exist without a bank account? The indignities associated with opening one may just be too much. Even though I have an account in Germany (left over from my teenage years - for which I pay fees every quarter….) I basically never used it. I just got cash out of an ATM and even when I did use it, I had to get cash out first, deposit it etc. It's truly a circle of hell. As for the croissants, the Breton crepes etc. I envy you. Sending you love and adventure until you can re-emerge on the web.

  2. How I am loving your posts, Anne! Just as I loved Julia's last year. I live vicariously through DePauw friends on their sabbaticals.

  3. Stay tuned for the continuing bank saga - from what I can gather thus far, they're going to worry less about people keeping less than $50,000 in the account. But there are changes afoot all over (the Swiss did it 4 years ago when the law was passed; bless the French for waiting until now until the law goes into effect). I'm gearing up for a right rant about it all. :-) Dear Claudia - as your posts keep me thinking about creative worlds to keep open and opening up! :-)