Thursday, September 24, 2009

Living Conditions...

I have been here almost three months now and whilst my French has certainly improved, it hasn’t improved as much as I would have liked, and, moreover, I seem to have hit a wall in terms of my language development. I was in the laundrette last week when an old, dishevelled Frenchman with a big, questionable, yellow stain on his jeans came in and started chatting to me. He had grey hair, rheumy eyes and stank of alcohol but, nevertheless, seemed friendly enough and chattered away at me for a good half an hour. I understood very little but thanks to my ability to laugh at the right places in any language I don’t think he noticed. I’m not sure whether it was a result of his mumbling or my insufficient vocabulary, but it did make me realise that I need to re-launch my attack on actually learning French, that is, after all, the reason I’m here. I’m loathed to take anymore lessons because they’re usually boring and terribly expensive so I am considering looking for a house share with French people meaning I will be more immersed in the language and have more opportunity to practise. All my friends are either American or English so I rarely get the opportunity to actually speak much French, aside from taking orders for burgers and milkshakes of course.

Moving in with a French person could also, potentially, improve the quality of my living arrangements which, recently, have taken a bit of a nose dive. I came home from a shift at Breakfast in America last Saturday to find the whole staircase lit up and thronged with people. The resident of one of the apartments on the second floor was having a birthday party and I could hear the bass from the music as I approached the building. As I entered, two guys who were hanging out by the post boxes had the nerve to ask me who'd invited me! I explained that I lived here and they sheepishly went back to their drug deal or whatever they were doing that required such secrecy that they had to leave the party and converse in hushed tones in the entrance hall.

On top of this, the school just outside my building has become a hotspot for hip hop wannabes who come out at about midnight with their tinny phone speakers and play the worst kind of hip hop music whilst attempting to imitate the artists as well as holding loud, but poorly articulated conversations, interspersed with ‘cool’ hip hop lingo. This continues far into the night but usually I am forced to shut my windows to block out the noise so I don’t know when, exactly, they disperse. They clearly don’t have jobs but really ought to consider finding something because they’ll be waiting a long time if they’re holding out for a recording contract.

Finally, the loo is becoming more and more filthy as everyone who uses it is disgusting, except for me. It is so bad that I wouldn’t even let a guest of mine in there, I’d be too ashamed. There are also two guys who live on the floor above me and come home regularly at around 1:30am. They clomp up the stairs, talking at the top of their voices and seem to have no respect for anyone who might be sleeping. In fact, I am usually still awake at that time, just, but it’s not the point. Once they have passed my door they will continue up to their apartment where I will hear the slam of their door before peace is restored once more. Well, except for the hip hop blasting up from the street of course.

Yesterday was Eid in Paris and, in classic timing, Soraya knocked on my door just as I’d got in the shower. I thought I’d ignore it at first but she kept on knocking so in the end I got out, threw a towel round myself, flung on a t-shirt and opened the door. I was glad I did because she presented me with a huge plate of cous cous, lamb, vegetables and chick peas. I thanked her profusely, wished her ‘Eid Mubarack’ and withdrew to my bed where I devoured the tasty, tender lamb and slightly sweet, buttery cous cous. I have booked my Eurostar tickets home for Christmas well in advance and am now, more than ever, looking forward to some home-cooking.

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