Allez les Lions! (Also, Vamos, vamos Argentina!)

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Less than a year and a half ago, I boarded a plane in Dakar bound for New York. As I stepped off the collapsible staircase and through the door of the plane, I realized that I had effectively left Senegalese soil and I had to hold back tears. A few drops squeezed out despite my best efforts and as they slowly rolled down my cheeks, I imagined that I must look like a spoof of a French new wave film.

Before I realized that the cabin crew was 100% American, I apologetically explained to the flight attendant whose eye I had accidentally caught, “Je pars…,” and then I trailed off sheepishly. She smiled at me with the truly soft and sympathetic look of someone who has borne witness to this scene a million times, and she said simply, “I know.” I am not sure she did actually know what I had said, but she knew what my tears meant. I am leaving. I don’t know when I’ll be back. And it feels like I’m leaving a bit of my heart behind.

I thought of that moment on Tuesday evening as I crossed over the East River from Manhattan into Brooklyn. The sun was setting, and New York was at its most beautiful. Earlier that morning I had been briefly and emotionally reunited with the country I hadn’t been ready to leave, and it was wonderful.

That’s all a very melodramatic way to say that I watched the Senegal v. Poland game from a Senegalese cafe in Crown Heights, and I ate Senegalese food for the first time since being in-country, and I heard Wolof and West African-accented French all around me, and when Senegal won I may as well have been in Dakar for all the joy in me and surrounding me.

I am so thankful that New York is a city where you can experience a little bit of the magic of every other country on earth. And it is especially magical at World Cup time.

I’m going back to the cafe on Sunday for the Senegal v. Japan game and what I hope is a repeat of the euphoria of victory. (I won’t even get into the sadness of the Argentina v. Croatia game. I’m hoping for a miraculous turnaround that allows Argentina to advance and Messi to stop looking so forlorn.)

As we go into the weekend, I leave you with a few moments of Team Senegal adorableness.

This is why I ride with Senegal, indeed.

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Have a relaxing weekend

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It’s been a while since I’ve checked in here. Every Friday, I mean to post a bunch of ever more belated links to tidbits of interest, but every Friday something gets in the way. This week, I break the cycle! Below, a slew of links that I’ve been stockpiling to share with you. Some of them may be rather old, but they are still quite interesting.

Have a lovely weekend and enjoy the World Cup, if you’re watching! Tomorrow at 9am I start my vigil in front of the TV with the Argentina-Iceland game, and before Tuesday at 11am I have to figure out where to view the Senegal games alongside Senegalese people (even though I watched no more than ten minutes of their soccer team while actually living there). Four years ago I was obsessed with Argentina; this year I’m rooting for Senegal first, Argentina second, and I couldn’t care less who comes in third. It’s silly, but it feels good.

Anyway, here are those links…

We have one man to blame for that annoying English grammar rule that prohibits ending sentences with prepositions.

Sample some entries in “The Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue,” a collection of 18th century working-class London slang.

The Romans would have called me a barbarian.

The obituary for a very unlikely sumo wrestling commentator.

Tales of another sufferfester (here’s the first one I posted about), this time an ocean kayaker. Fascinating to ponder why they do it, and what part of that impulse I have in me, albeit in relatively tiny amounts.

Towns to add to your France bucket list.

And Macron wants baguettes added to another kind of list. 

Terms of endearment from around the world. Some more adorable than others.

There is no cut-off age for learning a foreign language. Just do it.

“I’m not rude; I’m just French.” Hahahahahaha. Not the Onion.

The unspeakable linguistics of camp. 

A cheese-themed theme park. Be still my heart.

Speaking of cheese. “Camembert without Raw Milk? It’s Treason, Connoisseurs Cry.” I love how protective the French are of their gastronomy.

Finally, pix of beautiful Cuban cinemas. And here’s one of my favorites that wasn’t included in the article:

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belated links of interest

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I meant to post these links on Friday and never got around to it…

20 forgotten English words that would be useful today. 

A world map with countries’ names in their official languages.

New State Department travel advisories make it easier to see how they rate a country’s safety. (Note: I would take them with a grain of salt; their travel advice tends to be about as risk-averse as your average Jewish mother’s.)

The New York Times’ first “52 Places” traveler answers questions. She sounds great, and I love her answer to, “What is your greatest hope for the trip?”

Want to learn French animal sounds? Here you go.

And, an older article I don’t think I ever shared here: a heart-wrenching story of theimpending extinction of an Amazonian language and the pain felt by its last speaker.

Also late, Le Parisien’s words of the year word cloud, in the photos above and below. I found it an interesting window onto French culture. french word cloud

And really, really late (18 years to be exact), an old This American Life program I recently revisited, about Americans in Paris, featuring a hilarious-as-usual David Sedaris. I have a new appreciation for this episode since being an American in Paris myself.

Happy Monday… I will try to post an actual piece of writing this week…

back in New York Village

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Two weekends ago when I came into the city for a 24-hour visit, I went out to lunch on the Upper West Side. Within a minute of my first gulp of NYC air, I crossed paths with someone I knew. While stepping into the restaurant, a man I had had a nice conversation with nearly ten years ago walked out. He had been the executive director of a non-profit I greatly admire, and I still remember his face.

Then, last Thursday afternoon, I made my move back to the city. The following morning, I was watching the NY1 morning show and a story came on about the rapid development of Long Island City, a neighborhood in Queens. I did a double take at one of the people who was interviewed for the “man on the street” soundbites. It was Charlie, a window washer in the skyscraper where I worked for five years until 2015. He is the friendliest guy and I used to love asking him questions about his craft, which consists of dangling out of windows forty stories high to clean the glass. Funnily enough, I also spotted him one summer many years ago, on Orchard Beach in the Bronx (far, far away from both Long Island City and midtown Manhattan where our building was). He was walking around with a boombox, shirtless and glistening in the sun, and I pretended not to see him because I didn’t want to snap him out of his leisure element.

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Then, the very next day, I went to the women’s march with my high school friends. The streets were packed with people – the New York Times estimated that 200,000 people were there. My friends and I wedged ourselves into the sea of marchers and started inching our way along. After about a block, I looked directly to my right and noticed that I had been walking alongside a freelance filmmaker with whom I have worked on several video projects (for the same organization that was housed in the building where Charlie worked). We jumped in recognition and shock – what were the chances?

And what were the chances that I’d run into (slash spot on TV) three people I know over the course of my first four days in one of the world’s biggest cities? It heartened me, maybe even more than the joyous, raucous march (during which we happened to get into formation behind the Rude Mechanicals marching band, who provided an amazing soundtrack for our six miles of dance-walking). womens march 3

Perhaps I have (much) more to look forward to in New York than I give it credit for. womens march nyc 2

Have a fun weekend.

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I have just over two weeks left in Paris. On New Year’s Eve, I’m heading back to New York, because apparently I like symbolic departure dates. (Nearly two years ago, I flew to Dakar on Valentine’s Day.)

I haven’t found a way to make living in France sustainable, and the past eight months have been some of the toughest of my life, for multiple reasons. I need a break, and while NYC is also a struggle for me, it’s my best option right now.

That’s why after months of getting to know Paris at my leisure, I’ve suddenly gone deep into tourist mode and am trying to cross off as many things as I can from my long list of places to see and things to do. Today was fairly epic. Continue reading

Have a carefree weekend

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About a year ago I saw a video from the 1979 World Disco Finals in my Facebook feed. During a period in which I was feeling increasingly disappointed in the human race, it cheered (and entertained) me immeasurably. So much so that I shared it on this blog

The 1980 follow up was just brought to my attention, and it has likewise instilled in me fresh hope in the midst of deep worry and despair. Watch it, forget your cares, and fall back in love with living, guaranteed:

They may not attain the same heights of grandeur as the World Disco Finals, but here are some nevertheless interesting links to go into your weekend with:

Here are some U.S. museums that offer magical-sounding sleepovers.

Cambridge Dictionary made its choice for 2017 word of the year, and it depresses me.

22 over-the-top dramatic dining experiences around the world.

Cheesemaking heroes.

The New York Times rounded up the best recently released travel books.

A map that shows how long it takes an English speaker to learn the most popular languages in Europe.

A compendium of cool travel tattoos.

The 10 best American national parks to visit this winter.

A cartoon that I can relate to, and a pick-me-up for language learners.

Scientists are developing technology for languages about which linguists know nothing.

Through crowdsourcing, this website maps every record shop in the world.

Can you guess the world’s most Instagrammed places?

This “apology generator” skewers the language of statements by celebrity sexual predators (the site calls them pervs; i call them criminals).

A linguistic mystery solved, i.e. why French and Americans count building levels differently.

Have a good one!

le week-end is back

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And I’m moderately excited about it. But right now I’m pretty tired after an eventful week so I’m going to set down my links of interest and then get into bed:

Ta-Nehisi Coates brilliantly explains why white people shouldn’t use the n word. (Watch the video.)

Just this week I mentioned on this blog that I’d like to explore highlife music in greater depth, and today Teju Cole posted a Spotify playlist featuring just that (among other things). I’m listening right now and it’s great.

How filler words like um, uh, and huh serve a useful purpose. 

French teachers have taken a stand against patriarchal language, and I think it’s awesome.

A German class united in its hatred of their classmate Richard Spencer.

“Paris is a good place to remind yourself that everything ends.”

Meet the people who listen to podcasts at super-fast speeds. 

Gaudí’s first completed house in Barcelona is now open to the public. (Alina + Simona: Go!)

Have a good weekend!

[PS The photo above is from a film shoot at my corner cafe this week.]

 

last-minute links

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I had a bunch of links I wanted to post here yesterday but I never got around to it because I went to a very fun fashion show (pictured above) instead. 🙂

I need to get into bed to wake up super early for my train to Luxembourg tomorrow, so without further ado here are the links:

A really cute / crazy international love story.

Butter shortages are hitting France, a country that eats three times as much as the United States (and where the butter is three times as delicious.)

Paris is installing free sparkling water fountains around the city. 

Learning French with flashy, sassy Christine. 

Can you guess which is the world’s most powerful passport?

12 English-language insults we should bring back. 

I can’t vouch for the etymological accuracy of this map, but it’s fascinating.

This “most frequently used words” visualization speaks volumes. 

Have a good weekend!

Have a good weekend!

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It is an especially happy Friday for me because my friend of almost 25 years is coming to visit on Sunday, AND she is bringing my winter coat from New York, AND we’re going to visit Sancerre together.

I also bought a ticket tonight for a day trip to Luxembourg in mid-November. At some point over the past year I realized that I was 37 years old and had been to 38 U.S. states and 37 countries, if you count Puerto Rico, England, Northern Ireland, and Scotland individually. I decided that I’d attempt to keep my country and state counts up to or ahead of my age for as long as possible. I turned 38 this week, and I haven’t been to a new country since I left Senegal in March… so no time like the present. I have heard there are lovely fall colors in Luxembourg and I’m hoping the leaves stay on the trees long enough for me to appreciate them.

In the meantime, I’m continuing to love Paris in the fall, and I’m filled with even more joy knowing that in two short days I’ll have a puffer coat to hide out in as soon as the temperature drops.

I leave you for the weekend with some interesting things I read this week:

Proof of what I have long known to be true about speaking foreign languages while tipsy.

Some useful French idioms. Avoir le cafard (to have the cockroach, i.e. to be sad) is my favorite, obviously.

Want to travel around the world for a full year, writing for the New York Times? So does like half the planet.

The official guardians of the French language have a problem with gender inclusive writing, not surprisingly (since they are textbook fuddy duddies).

Even on our own, we’re always in translation. (A beautiful letter of recommendation.)

An ‘accidental dictionary’ explores how errors created the English language.

Have a lovely weekend!

il fait quand même beau

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I turn 38 in a little more than an hour, and I’m resenting France for getting me there six hours sooner than New York would have. Not looking forward to my new age, though 37 has not been a walk in the park either. The world went ass-backwards mere weeks after my birthday last year, and it has remained fairly challenging, let’s say, since then – both globally and personally.

But as I was sitting here staring sourly at my computer screen, wanting to write something nice about the weekend but not feeling a bit of real positivity, I decided to put Spotify on. I guess based on my prior activity, the app suggested I listen to a playlist called “New Music Friday France” and out of curiosity, I hit play. The first song was French rap, which 99% of the time I find super awkward. But then I listened to the words and, since I’m always looking for and finding meaning in the flimsiest of “signs,” I became convinced that this song – La Pluie by Orelsan – was sending a direct message to me:

Toujours autant de pluie chez moi
Mais il fait quand même beau, il fait beau.

(Translation: “Always so much rain where I’m from, but it’s nice out anyway, it’s nice out.”)

The thing is, the song really is speaking to me, in ways I don’t feel like going into here. Suffice it to say, there’s been a bunch of both literal and figurative rain in my life lately, but for the past month or two, it feels nice anyway.

The song continues (this is a word-for-word translation because I can’t be trusted to do a more interpretive one): 

“Where I’m from, there’s sun 40 days a year

You could spend most of the year waiting for it.

I used to look out the window, closed up in my room,

I used to pray for the end of the downpour and to go skate the ramp.

I knew the sound of the rain, the smell of wet concrete.

If I left, it was because I was afraid of rusting.

Soaked, I would have never thought,

That in the end I’d miss the bad weather.”

(The last line could also be interpreted as, “That in the end I’d miss the bad times,” since temps can mean weather or time. I’d guess it was an intentional play on words here.)

What started out as a slightly annoying song really grew on me, and now I think it’s incredible and I’ve listened to it like six times in a row. Here it is, if you’d like to give it a go yourself. 

And now I feel buoyed enough to face the cruel march of time. 

Have a good weekend! I hope that whether warm and sunny or rainy and cold chez vous, quand même il fait beau, so to speak.