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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

we're all insecure, i'm just the first to admit it

I will probably never be good enough for myself.

I will always be five pounds too heavy, five IQ points too low, and five times vainer than I should be.

But the second we are born we our weighed, determined a pretty or ugly baby, and judged by the volume of our screams. People's interpretations of us already begin to swim back and forth, roles created and projections made.

We are introduced to a world of tough love, rough sex, and people with very strong ideas of what's right and what's wrong.

When we are honest we are sometimes told that we're too emotional, over reacting, insecure or in deep need of therapy. It holds us back from saying what our hearts our screaming, silences words that would turn our weakness into solid strength.

While we sit together politely and whisper societal norms, and whatever seems apropriate, we could be creating an honesty revolution. If only it wasn't so hard, and so easy to let our thoughts darken our insides before giving them air.

Every time I admit my insecurities I am freer to live without them. They are out in the open air, mingling with everyone elses, and I can inhibit my own body more freely.

To say that somebody has no problems is to say that they have never spent a waking day on this earth. We all have our own monsters, some bigger, some in other people, other events, or deep within ourselves. Sometimes you have to look closely at somebody in a sober morning light, or talk to them drunkenly at midnight to see this.

It is important to remind people that we love them, what they do to us and mean to us. To tell them they inspire us if they do. To say "My god, you are beautiful," when the thought is dancing in our minds. To voice jealousy as the respect it in fact is, and compliment people when the words are humming inside of us.

On this note, a strange woman is living with me. The other night my mother climbed off the train looking beautiful, effortlessly fashionable in a long flowing linen jacket. She has joined me in this village and brought light to my life. I wake up feeling new meaning in the day. I grab her and don't want to let go. She inspires me, and feeds me unconditional love on a daily basis. She is wise, poetic, and playful. I can barely express how grateful I am to bounce my thoughts of something other than these crumbling walls.

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Sunday, May 29, 2005

letting my hair down

I cut my own hair. I snipped away split ends, the expression on my face not far from a Heroine addict’s, until my hair felt smooth and unspoiled.

It looks choppy, but I can run my hands through it again. I let it dry naturally, and was overjoyed by the kinks that formed all around. The last time I did this was last summer, and after a year of blow- drying my hair, I find it strangely beautiful. Why try and look like a rose when I prefer wildflowers?

I was still half asleep during my snipping session, and will probably slap myself later, but for now I'm enjoyig feeling "au natual". I got to bed late last night, after my usual evening get together with a friend here. He calls to me from the streets, a big smile on his lips, long dreadlocks falling down his back. He comes running up the stairs, gives me a kiss on each cheek, and I feel elated to have a visitor. I mix vodka and orange juice, or sometimes big mugs of tea and hot chocolate, and we move to the music as we talk about whatever comes to mind.

I stumble over French words, and occasionally lug out a large red dictionary to search for the word I yearn for. I can’t stand not expressing myself properly. I am so far from poetic when I speak that I imagine Wordsworth spinning in his grave, or Edith Piaf singing out a high pitched “Mon dieu!” But rather than get upset, I take deep puffs from rolled cigarettes, laced with Moroccan hash, and laugh about nothing in particular. He eventually takes off, knowing he has to work in the morning, and I dawdle about until I’m tired.

I still get stressed out, feel I should make more money when my cleaning jobs are few and far in between, but a lot of me is easing up.

I remember the first summer I came back here, when I finally let my long blonde hair fall on my shoulders. I had been going through a very self-conscious period, and felt I could only look well put together if my hair was pulled back in a tight ponytail. Then I came to the South of France, starting wearing light linen shirts, and letting my hair fall on my shoulders. For the first time I was comfortable in myself, and tempting boys like the Venus I had always yearned to be.

Yesterday I found myself deep in a pit of my own misery. I could barely move my body. I dragged myself out a walk, and started to turn around to return home at least five times. But I knew that I had to feel that I had accomplished something in the day, or there was no way I would sleep at night. So I kept walking. And when the hills seemed too far to walk down, I ran down them at high speed, invincible, unstoppable, pounding the pavement with all my dark thoughts. I forced myself to stare at the different shades of green that surrounded me. Stopped by a field of Jersey cows, who all stopped what they were doing to look at me, and followed me with their eyes until I was out of sight.

Back at home I did some writing. I’ve written a Blues song, which still needs a lot of work, but I belt it out in a husky Blues voice nothing like my own. I probably sound like hell, but I feel like a fucking superstar.

I should also be careful, because sound travels through these streets like the wind. When I first came I was unable to sing out loud because I knew there was no way someone or everyone wouldn’t hear me. But now my neighbors have the pleasure of hearing me scream full force at all hours of the day. Bless their souls. I’m expecting complaints slipped politely under my door anytime now.

In the evening Susan stopped by while I was munching away at a bean salad I'd made. Susan is an older woman, and for as long as I've known her has had long beautiful white hair. I call her an older woman, because that is what facts and figures make of her, but she is a vision of youth. She screams vitality, eats with a vengeance while mainting a lean figure, and tells me about her five hour walks in the wilderness. Her German characteristics give her face an exotic sort of beauty, and she is always beautiful in large old sweaters, linen shirts or cotton tank tank tops. She smells like the spices in her kitchen, and we both get overexcited when talking about food.

"I'm going to make a cake when David returns for his birthday! A chocolate and nut cake," she tells me.
"I have to have some."
"It's flourless, and very rich."
"I need a piece."
"I think it is...makes you very fat!" she says, opening her arms up.
"The more the better," I smile. And we agree to have a feast soon.

When I was younger I would chase after her on nature hikes, and am reminded that I used to chant "Oh Susan, you are so clever!" She knows just about every wild flower than exists.

I spent one of the best years of my childhood here, and every time I run down a road in a sloppy jog, it all comes back to me. Sometimes it feels like the years in between are a blur, a mess of trying to figure out who I am, and that I’ve come right back to being the little girl that came here a lifetime ago. Once again my hair is baby blonde, and it trails down my back recklessly. My feet are always dirty from the road and I wear out sandals with the same fury I used to. I've regained my passion for colourful flowers and anything pink and feminine. But most importantly, I feel free in my body again.

Maybe part of growing up is realizing that in some ways you don’t have to.

It feels good to be back. And for old times sake, I'm letting my hair down.

flower market
(Yesterday's flower market in the village.)

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Friday, May 27, 2005

country roads, take me home

After finishing my dinner and savoring four squares of deep dark chocolate, I took a short walk down one of the old roads that lead out of the village.

The sun was a perfect circle, and looked like a giant illuminated nectarine. Or maybe James’ giant peach. It smothered the fields in its light like marmalade, lighting up old wood and barbwire fences, and revealing Jersey cows chewing grass in the distance.

Under this light I feel like I’m walking through a cook book called Cooking in Provence, and feel as if I should be wearing a white linen dress and carrying a baguette.

But of course I’m wearing all black, and the only part of me that says South of France is my body’s olive oil skin tone.

As a tractor made tracks through fields in the distance I wondered what it’d be like to grow up on a farm. To wake up before sunlight and feed the animals, or milk the cows. To pluck a chicken for the evening meal. To know that most of what you eat is off your own land. To drink wine from your very own vineyard, getting drunk off your own hard work. I romanticize the idea, and dream up a simple life while neglecting the hard labor involved. I just think it would be a very rewarding lifestyle. A lifestyle so far from everything I know.

Out of my trance, I came to a small grass hill I’d run up a few days before. It was completely made over, the long blades of grass replaced with short stubs and tractor marks. The dewy smell of rain was replaced with a dry summer heat, and the bright purple flowers that flickered in the evening light were gone. Last time I had felt like Alice in Wonderland, drugs and all, as the light brought the plants alive. This time I felt sober and serene, and before I had time to think about it my body broke into a short run, as if to remind me that I was living in it.

I finished my walk by climbing up the small mound that leads to the statue of the virgin, La Vierge, to watch the sun set. An old man stood staring out at the sky. He glanced at me, and then fiddled with his sweatshirt and looked away until I came near, when we both exchanged a “Bon soir,” which is mandatory here if you want to come across as polite. He had gentle eyes, and there was the short bonding moment in knowing we had both climbed the hill for the same reason: to admire the sunset, admire the scenery, and stare off wistfully into the distance. I went to the edge of the hill and watched as the giant peach slowly disappeared into the hills. The old man glanced at me as I stretched my arms and legs, then turned around to head home.

The air is warm and pleasant tonight. The wind messes up my hair playfully and makes me feel like an old-fashioned poster girl, hair blowing in the wind, a cheeky smile across my lips while I bat my eyelids and shrug my shoulders at no one in particular.

On nights like this darker thoughts set with the sun. Tourists voices ring out from the cobble stone streets as the sky turns a light shade of violet, drunk after their meals at the local restaurants, and I am happy to do nothing other than just be.

blown over

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Thursday, May 26, 2005

hey pretty girl, give us a smile

After days of basking in my own happiness and singing hymns on solitude, a dark cloud formed over my head.

I didn't want to get out of bed. My body felt heavy, my stomach bloated, my mind crowded with dark thoughts taking form. "Spoiled brat," said a voice in my head. "You're in the South of France, the air is warm, why are you so damn down?"

Normally I let depression pour over me in waves, I let it in, knowing that its force is unstoppable. But I didn't spend a year at university not to think things through.

So I thought back to my psychology course in critical thinking. I've got to asess the situation. There is something that has changed, some factor that has put me in this rotten mood. I thought back to philosophy, and transformed into a female Socrates, asking "Why? Why? Why?"

What was it that had changed and brought on this transformation?

In asessing my diet, I realized I'd been neglecting two very important things. For one I was eating barely any meat, as a semi-vegeterian "flexitarian", and for another I'd been drinking half as much water as usual.

I was mostly dehydrated, which had left me weak and sluggish. There was also a large amount of water weight sitting on my belly, which made me think I'd managed to pack on a good five pounds since I'd arrived. "Jesus," I thought, "I really need to cut down on that baguette." I even tried to do a leek soup cleansing I'd read about. It's supposed to last for two days, but after one meal of leek soup, I knew I'd rather die than not eat a real meal. I kept thinking about how the word die is in diet. So I had a big hearty dinner and giant mug of hot chocolate.

I never knew my physical state affected my emotional state so much, but after feeding my body all the love, nutrition and water it demanded, I'm a new woman.

I've been listening very closely to my body lately, and realize it's very important that I drink a lot of water, eat what I crave, stretch and sweat at least once a day. These are rules to live by.

It also helped to write it out. This came to me when I was querying my mood:

You’ve left me alone again.
You come to me in waves;
Shock my system,
Make love to me all night,
And leave before morning.
I wake up cold and miserable;
Fall back asleep,
Reluctant to ever leave my bed.
I stare at myself in the bathroom mirror;
Tell myself to exercise, to eat less,
But find I’m far too tired.
So I lay around,
And let the day inch by,
Searching for anything
To fill the void,
My body as good as dead.

As soon as I let myself love you,
Start to eat what I please,
Sleep when I like,
And feed myself pleasure,
You walk out on me.
It’s as if you’re saying:
“You’ve had enough.”
And my inner demons
Sing to me in rhymes.
I feel spoiled,
My body rotten,
And I hang my head in shame.
My waking life loses meaning,
Inspiration lost
In the evening sky;
The sun setting,
And forgetting to rise.

As soon as I think
I’ve lost everything,
You show up at my door.
A careless smile,
On your beautiful face,
Charming me to the core.
To my chagrin
I let you in;
Slide into you,
And stick to your skin
Like maple syrup.
I’m hypnotized by you,
Afraid to leave your trance,
I sacrifice my soul to you,
Lay my body in your hands.
Looking at you I know:
I don’t ever want to settle
For anything less.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

postcards from france

Solitude washes over me like the summer sun.

I'm picking up books for the first time in ages, scribbling madly in my journal, sewing by hand, making elaborate meals and bringing colour to an old sketchbook. It's through these things, working with my hands, that I release tension and remember who I am.

The house scared me at first. The silence felt so much louder than the sirens in the city. I would wake up, and think "Why bother?" before crawling back into bed.

And then I went for a walk. I feel as if a theatrical curtain has been pulled back and revealed nature to me. I stop and inspect flowers, then suddenly break into a run just to feel the road under my feet. Every time I take an unkown path I'm pleasantly surprised. I pay attention to the small things: the way the air changes wether you're walking on grass or pavement, the way the landscape changes at different hours of the day. I sat and watched the sunset last night, knees pulled up to my chest, my mouth open in amazement. When I turned around to walk home I was faced with the most beautiful moon I'd ever seen. "Oh my god," escaped my Canadian lips. It was the biggest, most plump, golden moon I have ever seen.

I sit in silence for long periods at a time and think. Of course there are times I think too hard, hateful words or criticism dancing through my head like demons. But I face these demons by looking into them, finding out why they bother me, and becoming stronger in myself. I'm so tired of apologizing for breathing. Tired of waiting for someone who doesn't show up. Tired of listening to people who only push me deeper into the ground. I'm trying to teach myself to stand up and speak up.

I wrote in a letter to a friend that I was always running. Running from something, unable to determine what. It is just now that I realize that that's not it all. I'm running, and have got to keep running, but I'm not running away from anything. I am running towards something, a dream of independence, and living a life I want to be in.

Today I'm feeling very weak and tired, but was delivered my mother's old labtop, from the heavens which we have named FedEx. God bless the post.

Although I have gladly been cleansed of modern technology, this is a powerful tool. The world is suddenly at my fingertips, and the writing flows smoother than Absolute Vodka when a keyboard is involved.

Miles away, in this miniscule village, I'm connected.

finally in paris
some parisian prostitute
red smoke left from three jets, lining the sky with colours of the french flag
a real life postcard, before my eyes
a change in scenery
from my window
the virgin, who overlooks the countryside, perched on a hill
my writing space

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Thursday, May 19, 2005

the simple life

I have gone from one extreme to another.

By plane and train, I have gone from the big cities of Toronto and Paris to a small town in the South of France.

After a year of running on overdrive, I feel as if I've finally found my brakes.

I am alone, in a four floored, ancient, 800 year old house. It's just me and the big brown beams that pass over my head, the stone walls, the creaking staircases and the memories of my past summers here. Even the cobble stoned streets are silent, the swarms of summer visitors still yet to come. As I wait for a computer, my only source of modern technology is the little ghetto blaster I play my CDs in.

When I first arrived I didn't know what to do with myself. I fell alseep to music playing outloud so I wouldn't have to face the silence. I paced the house nervously, hovering around the heater while the rain beat down outside. At times I thought I might go mad. One night my foot slipped on the steep wooden staircase, and I went tumbling down a flight of stairs until my elbows smashed against the wood floor. I sat in a prayer like position, sobbing into the silence for what seemed like hours. The pain much deeper than the bruises I was left with. I cried because there was no one to hear my fall. Because there was no one there to care if I broke a bone or not. Deep sobs escaped my body until I was left empty. I felt that there was no warmth in my world, that there was nowhere I could go and not feel helplessly alone. As if I had wanted independance so badly that I had pushed everything and everyone away from myself.

But what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger. I woke up the next day up weak and puffy eyed, and pushed my body into the shower while the rain beat down outside. I forced myself to see the postive side of the situation, and realize the cleansing I was going through.

Soon, bitter loneliness turned into sweet solitude.

Every day my walks grow longer, and nature embraces me. I breathe in country air, and lift my arms in amazement every time the sun hits my face. The rolling hills are slowly taking on a sweet summer sunshine, and I awe at their golden hue.

Everywhere is green, the air laced with the perfume of sweet flowers, honey suckles and freshly mown grass.

The villagers smile more at me everyday, and old friendships take off where we left them.

I have salvaged the two best comforters to the bedroom upstairs, and sleep late into the afternoon, sleeping more than I have in years. The bags under my eyes grow more faint, and my skin takes on a healthier hue as the days go by.

Today I had planned on going into the city, but decided it would be a shame to go just as I have discovered tranquility and nature.

I also managed to secure for myself a job cleaning out cabins, once a week for two months down at a camp site. It is only a few euros, but all other jobs have been taken by locals, and both restaurants are already over staffed.

I am taking in every moment at a time. I will be working through next summer before I go back to school, and feel the need to savour these months.

I have so much more to say, so many thoughts running through my head, so many small accounts to make, but I will spare you. There will be more to come.

The night air is warm tonight, and I feel I must bask in it.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2005

off to the sleepy south

I'm off for a six hour train ride to our silent village in the south of France. I won't have access to the internet for a couple of weeks, so it may be a while until I can post. Be patient, and stories of wine filled nights will soon follow.

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Monday, May 09, 2005

a delicious year ahead?

My fear of ancient French elevators had me walking the seven flights of stairs to their apartment.

In front of their door I paused. I caught my breath. I prepared myself to meet my French family for the year to come, the kids I will be caring for, day after day, for 12 months of my young life.

The madame opened the door and welcomed me casually; monsieur stood in the kitchen smiling. They were both incredibly French, slim and well dressed, and much more attractive than the photographs revealed them to be.

She was dressed very casually in jeans, a long flowing tank, and a short stylish jacket. She was barefoot, in red painted toes, and wore no make-up. Still, she was quite stunning, and looked incredibly well put together all the same.

Monsieur wore jeans and a colourful dress top, and although he looked unapproachable and average looking in print, he had a gentle, well structured face, with piercing aqua blue eyes.

Their apartment is beautiful. Very simple, but extremely modern and chic. The stainless steal kitchen leads into a naturally lit living room with a view of the Seine. The living room is set up with white leather furniture to match the white walls. It connects to the dining area, where a small table sits surrounded by white and clear plastic chairs. Even their dining wear was impressive, with beautiful floral detail. One wall containing stereo equipment and a media centre was covered with a heavy beige curtain.

When they called out to the children they came out in leaps and bounds. A very thin and fair skinned boy and girl, dressed in pyjamas, each gave me a kiss on the cheek. They seemed completely unitmidated by me, and showed me their beautiful rooms with great joy. In the little girls room they both jumped up and down on the bed without rest. The small boy yelled "I'm a fireman!" and slid his way around the bed pole, his pyjama pants falling down. After the girl showed me her art book, and listened carefully as I read each painting aloud, I was called out for champagne.

The children were sent to bed, and as they left without hesitation, we began dinner. Eating with us was also the current au pair, a 23-year-old Tchèque girl, who kept mostly to herself.

Dinner consisted of the standard awkward silences, but these were mostly filled quickly with conversation. We spoke about everything from their ski holidays to journalism, from Parisian style to the fact that each croissant has around 500 calories. Pardonez moi? "But I love them!" I cried. There is no way I'm living in Paris and not eating croissants, I may as well not go shopping either.

The three courses went smoothly, champagne dancing on my tongue. Neither of them cook, but they bought lovely salads, a rich quiche, and an assortment of tarts and heavenly chocolate cake for dessert.

The couple seemed very young. Madame was slightly harder to speak to, a real business woman, but I can only see myself liking her more and more as I get to know her. Monsieur was very easy to talk to, very easy going and understanding.

When I left to see my apartment, where the Tchèque au pair is currently staying, and then to the metro, Madame handed each of us a bag from the Parisian department store Samaritiane. "Un petit cadeau." Oh my god, I thought, she works for Samaritaine. I tried not to look overly impressed, or to fall grovelling at her feet.

The Tchèque tells me that Madame often gives small gifts from work, and that her generosity is impressive. I can see this immediately. In the apartment she shows me a candle she was given, some designer perfume, and gasp, a small Dior make-up case. You have really got to love a job with perks.

The apartment is miniscule, with the worlds smallest kitchen, shower attached, and a minier than mini mini fridge. There is a small pull out bed, an armoir against the wall, and a little TV and stereo. You have to go out into the open air to get to the toilet, which is across the staircase, but everything else I need is in my room.

When the girl's cell phone rang it was monsieur. They thought it was too late for me to take the metro home, and wanted to drive me. I met monsieur at the bottom of the stairs, and he said we could either take the motorbike- which was much faster -or the car. Without hesitation I chose the motorbike. I only clinched when he said that I wasn't to bend with the bike when going around turns, but to hold my body straight up. Oh no, I thought, I'm going to tip us.

But It was sensational. Sitting on the back of the bike, helmet pressed into my head and wind blowing hard at my face. I felt like a true femme Parisienne, that I always see gracefully riding the back of motorbikes. Car rides with someone you barely know are often extremely awkward and very quiet. But this was different, with the hum of the motor in my ears, he occasionally yelled out the sites we passed.

It was the best way to see Paris at night. We went pass the Eiffel tower, lit up beside the seine, past the Opera and the night time cafés.

As I got off at the hotel, I joked about the mad state of my hair, showed my gratitude and exchanged goodbyes.

A life of fiction has become reality, and any fear I had has been replaced with anticipation.

It won't always be easy, but it will be delicous. A year of croissants, baguettes, two lively children and small designer gifts. I'm thinking a French boyfriend with a motorbike might be in order as well.

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Sunday, May 08, 2005

dress me in leather, and sell me to the italians

It was early when I set out yesterday, full of croissant and a baguette smothered in butter and honey.

I jumped on the metro, eager to be one of the first at the flea market. I was returning to the market I'd been the day before, after realizing I wouldn't find shoes at their prices anywhere else.

Within minutes a dark haired French man was pulling a pair of leather boots onto my feet. When I told him I would think about it, he grabbed my arm. We bargained with each other. Once again, I said I'd think about it. He grabbed my arm again, said he really needed to make this sale, and lowered the price even more. When I had him down from 75€ to 50€ I knew I had better take them. And I really didn't want him to physically rip my arm off. I'm not good with blood. So after five minutes at the market, I left with a pair of genuine leather black boots, a steal for 50€, and jumped back on the metro.

When I set off for Notre Dame, I had another experience with leather.

A sharp rental car pulled over at my side, and a well dressed Italian in a suit and designer sunglasses called out to me. From the map in his hand I assumed he wanted directions.

He told me that I was beautiful, and that he had an offer to make me. Oh god, I thought, I'm a French prostitute. On the map he showed me an exhibition place of some sort that he had just been for a fashion affair. He had four styles of leather jackets, each worth thousands, which he shozed me pictures of in his portfolio. He said that because I was beautiful he wanted me to have all four.

"Look, I have nothing to give you," and I meant nothing.
"All I want is a kiss," he said, and then pointed a large black plastic bag in the back, "Do you wish to see the models?"
"I don't kiss strangers," I replied.
"It's just a kiss, these jackets are worth thousands. Look, I'm harmless," he said as he pulled off his sunglasses to reveal gentle eyes.
"A kiss means something to me. That's not my style."

I wished him a good day and walked on. I have no idea what his true intentions were, or how far he was stretching the truth, but I felt as my naievity was being tested. How low will Gill go for sweet Italian leather?

Notre Dame was stunning, the epitome of Gothic architecture. I was struck by the jamb statues, the figures that surround the doors, reminding me of my studies in art history.

After suffocating on tourists, I decided to go outside of my guide book. I wandered aimlessly, and came across a parade of uniformed men on horses, the first 40 of them playing instruments. I kept walking, and eventually came across a market. People pushed and shoved, while the market men yelled out loud, stacks of produce, giant blocks of cheese, and rows of baguettes filling the scene.

I bought fruit from a man who called me the judge, "le juge", by the way I inspected each apple and pear. He went off on the nutritional values of fruit, and said "Aurevoire princesse" as I left smiling.

I kept walking, past a group of winos, each with a bottle quickly running low, even though it was two in the afternoon.

For dinner I found myself in a restaurant with red lighting. The owner of the restaurant spoke as if he'd started work with a few glasses of wine, his eyes coated and words slightly slurred. He asked where my boyfriend was, and made faces at me everytime he passed my table.

For dessert I saw a film on the Champs Elysées. It was impressive, charming actors, real emotion, and believable scenarios. The jokes and dialogue were fiercely clever, and I beamed to find how well I understood them. Throughout the movie I studied the French culture, the way the families interacted, and the secret to being a French woman.

This morning began with an almond croissant. Not warm, but just the right flakiness, the icing sugar melting on my tongue.

It's a big day, my last full day, and tonight I meet my famille Francaise.

La vie est belle.

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Saturday, May 07, 2005

table for one

It's always the same response.

"Pour un?" "Oui, pour un." A stunned expression usually turning into a charming smile on the French waiter's face.

Even if I speak to them in my most capable French, once they detect and accent and register my blonde hair, they are determined to speak to me in English. And so goes the confusing conversations where I'm spoke to in English and respond in French.

Most waiters are extremely charming, and make cozy small talk between orders.

As I ate my lunch at the flea market yesterday, I listened to a French girl speaking English to her American friend. They exchanged ideas on the different cultures, and the different ways of eating. The French always use their knife for instance, it's rude to have a hand in your lap, and push their fork in a different manner.

I dug into my salad nicoise, which I was pleased to find had rice laced through it in place of potatoes. I slowly ate, drank a light sparkly water, and finished with un café. The café is served in a cup that looks as if it was stolen from a child's tea set, and I can't help but laugh as I tilt the minature handle towards my mouth.

I wandered through the flea market for hours, it was the largest in Paris. Discount versions of the latest trends, carvings from Africa, tourist knicknacks, and soccer shoes took over most stalls. I was yelled after by market venders, "Blonde, come look!"

One man asked:"Vous parlez Francais?" "Oui" I yelled back without turning to see him. "But you are so blonde!" I heard him scream as I continued walking.

There are moments of loneliness being here on my own. Times when I would love to be able to laugh over my wine with a friend. When an attractive French man yells out to me, there are times I'd like to turn around and make something of it. But I smile and keep walking, because for now I've got to play it safe, and feel a small pang in my stomach as I walk away.

After the flea market I wandered through Les Halles to see some of the hip shopping scene. The streets were filled with swarms of people, a never ending mass of heads. I over hear British, American, and the occasional French accent. I walked until my feet could take me no further, not willing to pay another 4€ for a simple soft drink at a café.

At dinner my sleeplessness from the night before overcame me, as well as a wish to say "Table for two," to the beautiful waitresses in short black skirts and matching blazers. I sat by the window and observed, mostly looking at what people were wearing and taking notes on French style. I play spot the tourist, which is an easy game most of the time. The style of the tourist looks more effortful, and they often lack the svelte body and easy stride of the French.

This morning started off with a "Boom!" As the man at the reception told me. A car had flipped in an accident outside the hotel, and paramedics and police men filled the street. When I asked for the computer's password the woman yelled at me like a child, told me I was two minutes early before the internet is available. I smiled back, told her not to worry, and sat comfortably at a sofa nearby. There are many moments like this, where I'm spoken to like a foreigner who wouldn't understand. If I pause to think on a question, phrases are repeated slowly, with English words thrown in, as if I'm struggling to understand. I don't suffer from the same humiliation I once felt when I was younger and more insecure. I find it's much easier to smile and clarify yourself.

It is another early morning in Paris. I've got a few hot dates set up with my "Table for one," self, and a day to discover.

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a love grows fonder

Paris is a feast for the senses.

After breakfast yesterday-and after my post breakfast nap-I took off into the direction a certain discount district. I felt the need to escape the swarms of tourists and taste some of the real Parisian lifestyle. What I got instead of swarms of tourists, was swarms of Parisians, pushing through each other in order to save a few euros on dish soap, shoes, and underwear. I could have fought for some dirt cheap shirts, but my shopping tolerance just isn't what it used to be, and I took off in the other direction.

Lunch was at a small, rustic, country style cafe. I had a fresh mozarella salad smothered in rich extra virgin olive oil, which soaked up generously into my French bread. Next to me sat a mother in red four inch stilettos, pin striped trousers and a beautiful trench coat. God, French woman know how to dress. Her small boy sat charmingly across from her, and told his mother how stylish her trench was as they shared salads and pieces of cake.

After lunch I dissapeared into the underground cavern of transportation: le metro. Even the scungy metro systems are laced with beautiful patisseries, and reek of warm flakey crust.

I emerged from the metro to sunlight in my eyes, the shimmering river Seine, and a glimps of the Eiffel Tower through the tree tops. It is always a jump to the system to see such a famous landmark in real life.

Instead of waiting in line for hours to make my way up, I stared at it in admiration, smoking a French cigarillo, and took in its grandness and size. Once I was satisfied with the engravement in my mind, I set off along the Seine in search of Champs Elysées, singing the tune in my head: "Je me balladais, sur l'avenue, la coeur ouvert a l'inconnu, quand j'ai eu envie a dire bounjour, a n'importe qui..."

Crossing a footbridge, wind in my hair, soft sunlight in my eyes, it was hard to grasp how happy I felt. I man passing looked at me, lifted his arms in the air and yelled: "C'est incroyable, non?" I smiled in agreement.

I ate dinner in a smoky bar on the Champs Elysées, and watched people from my small window on the second floor. I drank house wine, ate bar nuts, and smoked cigarillos profusely for an hour beofre my order was even taken. I didn't mind, everything already felt so rich. When my hearty salad arrived, I devoured it happily and paid the bill.

Since the moment I got on the plane I have had a great appetite. I ate all the leftovers from the meal of the man beside me, as well as polishing off my own meal. Since I've been here, every meal has been savoured and fully eaten, even though I've never left the table too full.

I feel as if I've regained my appetite for life.

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Thursday, May 05, 2005

le petit déjeuner

I had my heart set on an almond croissant, but I was out too early for Le Brioche Dorée, with it's tempting pastries set out in the window in buttery yellow lighting. I'll have to wait until tomorrow morning, when I will be the first at the door, ready to get my croissant right from the oven.

I ended up at a classic Parisian bar, watching as men stopped in for a cigarette and a café to start their day. Red lighting and red wicker chairs matched the red velvet curtains that made their way across the back wall.

I ordered Le Petit Déjeuner Complet. The waiter, in his tuxedo vest and tie, lay a beautiful plate of delicacies infront of me. I had tea, orange juice, cereal and four mini croissants.

I am constantly impressed with the French and their concept of eating. With a taste of everything, and never lowering taste to lower calories, there is always a sense of satisfaction. I always leave my table happy, even after a cheap bar meal. The memory lingers of several courses, or several tastes, the richness leaving a warm sense of pleasure.

I become excited every time I remember I'm going to be living here for a year. That at some point, people won't be able to tell that I'm not French before I open my mouth. And possibly, not know I'm not French once I do.

I can't help but feel guilty in the opportunites I'm given; I know too many people that deserve to walk the streets of Paris more than I do.

But these feelings of regret will get me nowhere. All I can do is be greatful, and savour every moment of happiness, so that I'm able to go back to them when these moments run short.

I can't physically fly anyone to Paris, but I'll do what I can with words.

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paris, i'll sleep with you any night

Even after two hours of sleep, when I stepped into the city centre of Paris I felt more alive than I have in a long time.

The night before I left I cried bricks, choked on my breath, and struggled to understand what I was feeling. It wasn't until I was seated on the plane that my breathing grew steady again. Any fear I had was replaced with excitement and absolute happiness.

I feel as if some of the people here are hired actors, trying to fit the Parisian stereotype. Men wear fitted, stylish clothing fearlessly. Some carry baguettes, some wear pants tigher than mine, and I saw one toting an Yves Saint Laurent laundry bag with superiority, his nose high up in the air.

Even in my sleeplessness, wandering aimlessly in my sweatshirt and my dirty hair scrunched into a messy bun, I feel beautiful in this city.

Everywhere you look is sensuality: the city is dominated by food, fashion and sex. Everything I love is no longer taboo or sinly.

I stopped in at a hip cafe for lunch. I was served an artistic salad, filled with balls of boccocini cheese, melon, olives, tomatoes and cucumber. On the side was a freshly baked roll, quenching my appetite for real French bread. As if it needed to suit my tastes even more, a stack of free women's fashion magazines lay suggestively by my my table.

After lunch I wandered through my favourite department store, Galleries Lafayette, and let my jaw hang as I admired clothes in my sleepless state.

I finally gave into sleep and rested for a couple of hours before setting off again. I wandered until my feet ached, tried out the Paris metro system, and took myself out for dinner.

For dinner I feasted on a giant salad nicoise-the ultimate tuna salad-with bread and "un pichet" of their cheapest white wine.

The waiter was a young charmer, and broke a wine glass almost everytime he went near me. He flattered me throughout my meal, told me I had beautiful eyes, and showed great dissapointment when I asked for the check. By the end of my small jug of wine, I was on my way to a state of flirtatious drunkeness, and accepted his compliments greatfully.

The city has flaws like any other, but when one is in love flaws are rarely noticeable.

Is it love? Possibly. For now lets call it amour.

I apologize for spelling mistakes, I'm drunk, in love, and struggling with a French keyboard.

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Monday, May 02, 2005

drama queen

Yes, I am dramatic.

But it's important that I listen to my gut.

My gut told me that I made a mistake in getting a new suitcase. When I struggled to carry it down my aunt's staircase I became uneasy. I envisioned myself trying to get down the stairs to the metro in Paris, tumbling down half way and crying all over my freshly baked croissant. Okay, okay, I know I'm dramatic. But It was getting under my skin. This big, clunky, heavy, and yet oh so beautiful suitcase, was under my skin. The itch was unpleasant.

So I went to my cousin, who gave me an old lightweight rolling duffle bag. I decorated it, and now I'm travelling with Venus. And feeling much better about my travels.

travel with venus

My gut wouldn't let me even write my pitch without informing my future family. Many would view this as a bad move, but my dramatic, sensitive, gut, would not let me be. Sure, I may not even get a column. But thinking with that kind of determination won't get me anywhere. I like to think that I already have it.

This morning I got an email back from Madame of the family, who said that of course, this is fine, all I have to do is change their names. She made a joke that she was not yet Anna Wintour, a reference to The Devil Wears Prada, and unlike her she has blonde hair. I can't help but feel warmly to this woman already.

Is it dramatic to listen to my gut? Well with mine, possibly. But it's nothing compared to the inner drama I would have to deal with if I didn't.

I'll take a bow to that.

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Sunday, May 01, 2005

young girl, don't cry

I like to forget my age.

I like to travel on my own, to make strong statements, and lie about how old I am before I saunter up to the bar for another shot of vodka.

I like to think I've grown beyond tears and feeling needy. Beyond craving comfort. Beyond calling my family just to hear a familiar voice.

I'm not.

I need to know I'm loved.

I still get teary eyed when I feel someone doesn't like me. When I realize I'm not as smart as I think I am.

I am writing a 'pitch', an attempt to get a column on my life as an aupair for a Toronto newspaper.

But there's a lump in my stomach.

My reporting teacher tells me to write bitchy, to spill any juice I can on the mother, and I feel the lump get heavier.

I feel as if I'm already invading the privacy of the family I'll be working for. They have been so kind already; I want to have a healthy relationship with them. I want to connect with the mother, who could be a valuable connection in my future. She is in charge of the communications department of a large Parisian department store.

So in my last email to Madame, I mentioned the column to her. I told her that I will be writing generally about my experiences, no names mentioned, but that I would like to know if this bothers her.

My brother says I'm being dramatic. The lump grows. Should I have avoided saying anything?

I'm told an old friend is unhappy with me. We had plans for Paris last year, when I took off for Ryerson instead, and now I'm taking off on my own.

I can't help but need my independance. The lump grows.

I feel like a little girl. Teary eyed. Frustrated with not knowing all the answers.

The tears don't flow, but I feel the lump grow.