Saturday, June 23, 2012

Mita vs. the Parisian kitchen

Tout a Paris est miniscule. If my French is somewhat correct, the sentiment I'm trying to get across is that everything in Paris is tiny. The apartment in Paris is tiny, the shower is such that I have to you have to literally turn and slide to get in, and the kitchen makes the galley kitchens I was complaining about in Boston apartments looks huge.

A tasty meal of lentils and pasta with radishes,olives, and mushrooms
It's time to face the facts: I have been spoiled by a large kitchen in Texas, with a gas stove, a huge oven, and tons of prep space. Not that I would trade that for living in Boston next to my family, but still, my opinion of "normal" has shifted after two years of being spoiled.

This kitchen is about big enough to fit one person...or more like 3/4 a person. You stand in one place and just turn in order to reach EVERYTHING. To be completely honest, when I first saw it I started laughing and nearly had a cooking was I supposed to cook in a kitchen that small?

Teeny tiny kitchen
For three weeks?! But a cook is a cook...and you cook with what you got! So I pulled it together...and tried it out.

Our tasty meal of cheese, herbed cooked potatoes, radishes sautéed in thyme butter, blue cheese, Comte, olives, toasted baguette, and some rose wine.
After a few spills, a few bumps on my head from hitting it on the same damn cabinet over and over (literally, there is a bump), and one instance of veggies going flying when I tried to be supremely awesome and flip my food during a sauté situation, I'm happy to report that it's not that bad. Except for lacking an oven, it's pretty cool. I have all my spices, my tools, etc. It also has a pretty sweet washing machine in it! Okay, so maybe it's not ideal, but I can make some pretty darn good meals in that kitchen. Don't underestimate what you can make with a pan, some olive oil, veggies, and some spices.

Basically, my point is--don't judge a book, or a kitchen, by it's cover. You can make the most of anything..and make it pretty darn tasty.


Paris and the Internet, Travel Tip 3

Have I mentioned that I'm a fan of airbnb? We found the apartment we are currently staying in with ease online, booked it, locate it, access it, and live in it without a hassle. It is exactly what we expected, with no extra hoops to jump through, no giant rats running around, etc. I've loved coming home to our huge windows, a kitchen we can cook in, and the sounds of the 10th arrondissment bustling outside.

A view of the Market on Rue Mouffetard

We have only had one problem: the internet. For some reason our internet was not working when we first arrived. Now of course, me being slightly more tightly wound than Tyler, I immediately began to freak out...running around like a chicken with my head cut off. It was as though the world was ending--no interwebs?!? What will we do? How will we eat?! HOW WILL WE SHOWER?!

Cafe p'tit Louise on rue saint martin

Tyler kindly reminded me that eating, showering, and other day-to-day activities did not actually require the internet, at which point I was mildly placated. After a pastry rational, albeit sleepy, mind had returned to me as Tyler explained to me that travel did in fact occur prior to the advent of the interwebs. Ahh my lovely husband.

Je bois un double cafe por la rue saint Martin

So we set off to solve this problem by first and foremost contacting the individual through whom we rented the apartment. Simple enough...except we had no phone or internet. Where to turn?! Ahhh...good old McDonalds. You see my friends, despite its many, many, many flaws, Mickey D's has something awesome to offer everyone--free wifi.

Tyler's new jacket!

In the land of pay-for-everything-including-a-tiny-plastic-shopping-bag Paris, free wifi is a silly notion. Until you see those golden arches. We turned to McDonalds and even Starbucks (though McDonalds is more affordable with more reliable internet), to contact the owner, check our e-mail, move money around, etc. We finally have internet in our apartment, but this experience has definitely provided me with an important travelers tip that I would love to share with you...

Maddie C'est ici dans notre apartment!

Paris Travel Tip #3: Find all your nearby McDonalds and Starbucks.

You can be certain these American institutions will retain some vestige of their native country in terms of free wifi. Though you may not suffer our woeful wifi issues, you may well need navigation help during your time in the city. If you have an iPhone or any other smart phone, internet is key--you can save pictures of maps to your phone or even pull up and save directions. One of the most helpful things we have done is save the location of every McDonalds downtown, so that we know where we can get some free wifi if we need it.



Thursday, June 21, 2012

Parisian thoughts

Bon jour tout le monde! Nous sommes a Paris, dans in apartemont petit e mignon! I think I spelled that all correctly...thankfully I can speak more French Than I can write. Either way, I am writing to you from PARIS!
Pictures from the phtomaton in the metro!

The first few days have been a whirlwind of discovery--the bakeries with fresh bread every day, the cafes that serve wine for ridiculously cheap, the cheese...oh the cheese. I cannot even begin to describe what my first taste of chevre in France was like. A totally new experience--I have never had something so rich in flavor, creamy, and fantastically textured before. Needless to say we have beaucoup du'fromage in our fridge right now.
Notre dejuner cafe avec quatre fromage, noix, e un petit salade

So I have a few things that I've noticed about Paris and Parisians aside from the cafes, etc.

1. They're not as rude as people say they are. I had this expectations of Parisians walking around with, well...for lack of a better way to put it, sticks up their ass (pardon my French). But their not. For the most part people have been quite nice to us. You'll have your random rude person or shopkeeper, but nothing like people make it out to be. I will say however, it is much appreciated when you try to speak a bit of French to them.
Je manges à l'extérieur d'une boulongarie

2. Paris: the land of green eyes. I've always wondered where all the green eyes in the world I know: Paris. In the States, I almost never see clearly green eyes, but it's common place here! I find myself constantly staring at someone's eyes, shocked by how green they really are.
Mon beau mari

3. They dress exceptionally well. Initially, I simply thought that all Parisians were just...gorgeous. However upon closer inspection, I've come to realize that it's not the facial structure or anything that separates them, it's the mode of dress. The day-to-day is simply a bit fancier. It is rarer to see jeans and a t-shirt, but instead a cute pair of colored slacks, a nice shirt or blouse, and a scarf fashionably hung around a woman's neck. For men, nice jeans, a casual button up, and a casual blazer. The casual blazer is BIG here for both men and women. Anyways, this leads directly to my next Paris Travel Tip...
Nous sommes a la fete de la musique, 21de juin

Paris Travel Tip #2 Pack few clothes, but nice ones.

Why? Because the easiest way to be spotted as a "tourist" and taken advantage of--either ripped off of worse, robbed--is to look like one. This is especially helpful, I think, if you, like me, do not speak the language fluently.

Anyone that has been inside my closet would most certainly not call me a fashionista by any measure. But when we were packing for Paris, I made a promise that I would pack no more than one bag for 3 weeks, and it would contain travel-able but chic clothes. So I packed 1 fancy dress, 1 simple day dress. 1 linen skirt, 1 pair of blue slacks, 2 T-shirts, 2 tank tops (one formal, one informal), 1 button down shirt, and 2 scarves. These, along with 3 pairs of shoes, provide me with a solid rotation of outfits and allow me to blend in with the crowd.

Additionally--bringing a large purse with a zipper has been super helpful in allowing me to minimize the number of random bags we have to carry!












Monday, June 18, 2012

International Travel: Paris Edition

Since we drove into Boston, things have been pretty crazy. We had to unpack our overloaded VW, sell said VW, find an apartment, acquire said apartment, and put the finishing touches on time in Paris. 

We finally had a few moments to breathe, and I thought it might be nice to document our little excursion. While we were packing up, I had the opportunity to look at some of our old pictures, and memories...and it really made me realize how important taking pictures are. Or at least documenting memories in some way. Pictures can transport us from time and place to another, reminding us of happy, sad, and in between times. 

This picture, we took in 2010, the day Tyler left to go to his first JAMP program in Dallas. He was driving across the country, leaving Boston for two years, to join me in San Antonio, TX. He drove in the same white VW Rabbit we drove back to Boston in, and it was just as overloaded then as it was this time around. 
Revere Beach, 2010
So when we came back this time around, I thought it fitting that we go back and take a similar picture. A bit grainier, not at sunrise, and a completely different sentiment. It wasn't a bittersweet "see you later" to Boston, but instead an ecstatic "HALLELUJAH! We're BACK!" sentiment. Two years later, married, older, wiser, more in love, and pre-grad students. Some things change, some things don't. 

Revere Beach, 2012
The long and short of it is: I'll be taking a ton of pictures when we go to Paris. I want to experience it, and then be able to look back, holding a picture (or let's be realistic here, looking at a picture online), and be transported back to that time and place. 

Also! Travel Tips! So I usually do recipes, and although we will have a kitchen in Paris, I may be too excited by the fact that I'm eating in Paris to actually take pictures of it, so I'm going to be putting down Travel Tips! First one is's actually how found our apartment! The next time I will probably be from Paris!

Travel Tip #1: Explore airbnb

Where to stay is always a question when you are travelling, especially internationally. It can get really expensive, and if you're staying for a long period of time, do you really want to stay in a hostel the whole time? This website is a short term or long term apartment rental website. Basically any where you want to travel, you can find different places to stay, all in different price ranges.  We found our apartment in central Paris for 3 weeks at a reasonable price (something a teacher and a student) could afford. We'll have the one bedroom to ourselves, with a laundry unit, fridge, great view, and stove/oven.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Two Years

These are some of my thoughts that I've collected for the past few days, just what came out of my head:

School ended for me on June 6th. It is now June 15th. We spent the past 9 days packing up our house in San Antonio, moving across the country, finding an apartment in Boston, losing an apartment in Boston, finding another and signing it, reconnecting with my brother and sister-in-law, and seeing a few well-missed friends. It's been a whirl-wind experience, and I look forward to experience the rest of this summer with so many firsts.

But almost a week and a half has passed since school has ended and I have definitely had time to ruminate on the past two years. There's not much to say that has not been said already. I never saw myself in the classroom, but these past two years have given me experiences, perspectives, and thoughts that I never would have had if I had simply passed straight into medical school.
My class key 
My classroom

It is absurd to think that I will not being seeing most of my 280 students again. I won't stand in my classroom again and see them walk by as sophomores, while I usher in my next group crazy freshman.  I hope in some way I have impacted their lives, and helped them to see that they can reach for a world outside of their 20 mile radius.
My lovely 1st period class
I am truly thankful to Teach for America for allowing me to see and live the other side of the desk as a teacher. I would have never seen or understood the behind the scenes work, be it administrative or just planning, that teachers do every day.  In order to truly achieve a transformational change in education and education policy, we need education advocates from all walks of life to better understand the slowly festering crisis. To that end, TFA has achieved it's goal with me: I will forever be an education advocate.

I'm looking forward to the future, with some excitement, some fear, and a lot of butterflies. Medical school will be tough...but it definitely won't be the same type of tough as 30 expectant pairs of eyes staring at me, Miss Shah, and expecting me to fill their brains with knowledge.