I am back in Paris. Weird!!
I also am not sure what I am going to do with this blog this time around. When I came to Paris to study abroad in college, I was very invested in living my life as though it were a research project. I wanted to document and reflect upon all my experiences like an anthropologist. I don’t feel like that anymore. So, I am not entirely sure how I am going to use this blog yet. I think that once I begin teaching it may be a good place to record my experiences regarding that.
For now, though, here a miscellaneous post about how things are going so far. I arrived in Paris 11 days ago. I got really lucky on the housing front. I was staying at an airbnb right next to the high school I am assigned to, in the 11ème, and my airbnb host happened to remember hearing from the building’s concierge that there was a couple in the building who wanted to rent their studio. So I nabbed it! It’s quite nice. A lot bigger than my old place in the 12th, for only 50 euro more per month.
My favorite thing might be the fireplace, even if I can’t actually use it.
Also, my first weekend here was the Journées de Patrimoine in Paris, which are two days in France where lots of public establishments, like museums and national monuments, are open for free. It’s actually a terrible time to go to any of the really famous stuff, like the Louvre, because naturally half the universe shows up and you’ll have to stand in line for 12 hours. (And yet some people do!) I think it’s a good excuse to visit more off-the-beaten track sites, things you wouldn’t otherwise go to, and may not want to spring for entry fee on normally, but are still worth seeing for free.
The pyschiatric and neurologic hospital
On Saturday, I visited the lovely Centre hospitalier Sainte-Anne in the 14th, which has existed in its current location since 1863, as a center for neurological and pyschiatric research and care. The grounds themselves are quite pretty, with a lot of garden space and old-timey arcades. I accidentally ended up going on a tour of their MRI facility. I was at the entrance, where a booth was set up to welcome visitors and provide them with information about the special events that were happening for the Journées de Patrimoine. One of the greeters told me there were 2 places left for the [rapid blurred French] and was I interested in attending? And, being me, even though I hadn’t caught what it actually was, I was like “sure!” Then he looked at his watch, thought for a second and said, are you afraid of riding motorscooters? and I said no, and he was like, ok great! It’s on the other side of the facility and we only have two minutes to get there, so hop on!
So I got a stranger’s scooter and scooted across the hospital grounds, and then followed him through a bunch of hallways, and into an MRI lab, where a cheery young French doctor was enthusiastically demonstrating how the equipment worked. It was really cute, actually. Also, I never really thought about it before, but I had NO idea how MRIs work, and so it was really interesting to find out.
The hospital also has a tiny little museum you can visit, on the 2nd floor (that is, 1ère étage). I think on normal days, you have to ask be let in, but it was wide open for the Journées de Patrimoine. It’s only 2 or 3 rooms, but it’s pretty funky! The displays consist mostly of old hospital equipment and correspondances between old dead neurologists. I particularly liked the section on old fashioned neurological tests, which were these complex apparatuses that I guess were meant to test motor skills:
There was also this very creepy display of watercolors painted by a patient in the pyschiatric ward in 1949:
As well as a page of his writing, which I attempt to translate below:
“No. 9 Saint Jean of the God Sportex, 15 Joiecoeur 1949 [did he invent his own month system?]. For piracy. Doctor Bernard.
The novena of the cycle of genre is finished. Return to the 1st of the final judgement of the world. Next: No. 2. The rosevine year sings (??) and No. 6, and this also, No. 4, Concert digestif, No. 8 Atomic snackbite. This here represents a real circular track. However, I must warn you that I will not work for you any longer, given that you have not spoken out for the putrefaction which you have told me to accept, so easily. This last engraving is therefore for your breakfast cereal. Because there is nothing to be done with you. I will come (with?) my next conceptions in or order to have tobacco bread and cheese. With these delicacies do not thing that I will get better, because a satisfied heard grows [something]. I will patiently away your verdict concerning my insanity, all while continuing to educate myself. In my heart I amstill a big child but I assure you I am I feel ready to be a man. what is pleasant to me is that I do nothing by exhaust you with my needs as regular as clockwork. Load of (juice? gravy?). I still count the hours, even in short circuits and breakdowns. The [somethings] are sweet. I beg you to excuse my candour, but really, the habit of undoing my belt during meals so that my pants fall when I forget to resinch it at the end….”
Weird, yeah? Those watercolors are pretty brutal and make me wonder what the conditions of the ward were like back in those days.
Oh, also, if anyone can identify for me what this thingyhooey is meant to do, I’d greatly appreciate it!
If you want to experience some excellent Napoleonic architecture in a perhaps slightly-less visited setting (in contrast with, say Napoleon’s appartments in the Louvre), the French Senate building, located at the Jardins de Luxembourg in the 6th, is worth a visit! I went really early before it opened, which ended up being worth it, because the line grew quite long behind me by the time we were let in. To be honest I don’t actually know much about how the French government works, but its Senate sure is nice to look at.
It also has a gorgeous library. Two, actually.
After I left the senate, I spent some time walking around the Luxembourg gardens, and then finally ended up at the Institut de France, which ALSO has a beautiful library, the Bibliothèque Mazarin. And this one is public, so you can go anytime and work there, though I have no idea how crowded it usually is.
Ok, this blog post is rapidly devolving into nothing but a series of eye-ball selfies. I better check out now. Be back with more later, kids!