Sunday, September 15, 2013

Year 5


I haven't had the time to properly keep up this blog, sorry guys. As I mentioned before, I had an internship from January-July that I had to complete for my Master's program. It was for an online game company. I translated games and games news, updated language files, did some online marketing and other random things. But more than that was just keeping up the English versions of the games (forums, e-mail support, etc.). It was interesting, but it was essentially slave labor because I was paid around 300€ a month to do a job that should have been paid 1500€. Generally, when you're an intern, you're supposed to have a mentor that you're helping. For me, I was my own mentor. I was doing the entire job alone, with little training. We were all interns there, so I don't know how it was legit, but there's always a way around rules I suppose. Once I got the hang of it, I did the job pretty well, I think—or at least as evidenced by the fact that two months later, my old boss still hasn't found a suitable replacement. My boss was oh-so-French and very passive aggressive. A delight to work with some days. Still, I finished it, learned a lot, and met some other cool interns. Walking out of there for the last time—pure bliss.

This spring was super busy and honestly one of the most stressful stretch of times I've endured in a while. I was working about 60 hours a week between the internship and my side job, and then added on that the time to get to and from. My internship was annoyed that I left early to go to work, and my relations with my boss at my job were at an all-time low. I only had one day off a week from both of them. I originally was taking two German classes, but I dropped them about two months in because I was going insane with no free time. Free time to do things like get my hair cut, or buy some groceries, crazy stuff. The only good thing was for once since living here I actually had a decent income, and not much time to spend it!

And to top it all off, I decided to get fit and started going to the gym religiously, which is probably the only thing that kept me sane. Strength training and running intervals is where it's at, folks. I've never felt better about myself and my arms are looking pretty buff. Plus, clothes shopping in France is a bit easier! I hit my 6-month "fit-iversary" next week. Even though it was stressful, I'm glad I did it when I had little free time because now I have no excuse in the future. It's just become part of my life.

So, after the internship, I went on holiday to the South with two friends. Saw an amazing concert, laid out on some great beaches. Got my tan on and enjoyed life. I went to the UK a few weeks ago and visited a friend in Edinburgh, Scotland, and then went on my own to Liverpool for two days. Edinburgh was nice but really cold and dreary. Beautiful views from the giant hill in the middle of the city, called Arthur's Seat. Liverpool was really cute and I was impressed with how much they had fixed it up. It was a cultural city or something in 2008. I loved the architecture and I could listen to Scouse accents all day long! I felt like Liverpool is a city I could live in, which I rarely feel for other cities. So now I'm back in Paris, and the weather has changed pretty quickly. Feels like fall already and I'm all for it. I think I work better in the fall because there's not the sunny skies and events going on outside to distract you. Time to get down to business.

beautiful view of edinburgh
The school year starts here in a few weeks. An eternal student (4 LYF), I'm extending my Master's program one more year to do another internship and give me more time to my thesis. It doesn't really bother me because I was going to do a final year Bachelor's program anyway to keep the student visa, and this way, it's much less intense as I've already completed all the coursework. The only thing that is pushed back is me applying for French nationality, but getting all the documents in place for that will likely take this school year, anyway. (And all the translations and apostilles will require me saving up..)

September is always a very rushed and stressful month. My visa is thankfully up in November this year, so that's one less thing to worry about, but I still have lots of other things keeping me busy. I have to submit an outline for my thesis, see if I can take some language classes as an auditor, get an internship. And then there's my lease that renews at the end of the month, my housing insurance runs up, and I've got some hefty dentist bills to pay. (I recently had my first root canal, that was fun! Crown to follow in a few weeks.)

Still working at the little restaurant that I've been at for (gasp) almost three years. The thing is, I have an indefinite contract, which are kind of hard to get, and they give me the hours I want. I was very serious about quitting earlier this year, but now I realize that I'd have to have a really good job to replace it because I often don't come in until 8pm, and I don't know where else I'd find that. And it's so easy, and I'm lazy to find another one. Still, one good thing about my internship was that it was a French environment, so I do miss that. Number one goal this fall is to get another internship. 

Liverpool docks by night
So, that's about where I am right now. I don't know when I'll update again. Not just because I'm always short on time, but also because I feel like the blog was originally intended to be a glimpse into my year as a teaching assistant. However, I stayed, and stayed, and stayed again. Paris feels like home to me now. I keep extending my student visa because a) I promise, I really do want a Master's degree and b) I'm not ready to leave. This is now my fifth year in a row here and I'm still not sick of it. Blog updates now would likely be things like "this is my Wednesday schedule: go to gym, go grocery shopping, take a shower, eat lunch, watch a TV show on the internet, get ready, go to work." Life is just as monotonous here as anywhere; I just prefer the Paris monotony over other cities'.

I'm trying not to go overboard on my schedule this fall. I have a lot more free time to do things like take Portuguese! And Dutch! And German! But I always overextend myself and feel guilty later when I admit it was too much to handle. What I really want to do is read again. I never have time for that. Brush up on some James Joyce and actually open the issues of The Economist that I pay for!

Here's a flickr set of my summer holidays. Enjoy!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Travels and pictures and snow, oh my!

I'm baaaaaaack! 
After multiple requests from my giant fan base to update my blog, I have no choice but to grant their wish. Seven months and some later, and I'm still here. I look back on entries when I first arrived in 2009, and I do miss the time I had to explore and write and travel. Gone are the days of having loads of spare time! Down to business, semi-adulthood, etc.

So! What am I doing!
Still studying. Forever, apparently. I'm in the last year of my Master's. Last summer kicked my ass. Writing a thesis is basically no fun and takes up all the good activities like drinking wine and sleeping. I *literally* (I'm using this in the correct sense I think) didn't do anything but work and write for the better part of a week. Which is horrible because I should have been doing it all year. Or at least all second semester. But really...ain't nobody got time for that. (relevant)

And thus went the most boring and longest week of my life. Only to get a "yeah sooooo that was ok but if you could do it again that'd be great thanks" response from my profs. (Everyone got that response, as we are all at about the same level of mediocrity--always comforting in grad school.) And so round two ensued in September, and they somehow accepted that questionable piece of thesis I passed off as Master's-level in French. Self-deprication is my own little specialty, but in all was not a 62-page paper that I'm enormously proud of. into second year, wooo! I got a 13 overall, out of 20, which for a non-French student isn't that bad. No one gets 20/20, ever, and 10/20 is passing. Good students get 16s, and maybe the exceptional 17; it all depends on the teacher. These are all made up numbers to me anyway since my brain still does not really react to the French grading system!

This school year has been a lot more laid back. We didn't have as many classes first semester, but I took a few extras, including Portuguese and German. This semester is entirely devoted to an internship (550 hours, or about 4 months full time) that we'll have to write a paper about in addition to the 120-page (ish) thesis. I'm really trying to get my German level up so that I can translate from it, so I'm still taking two German classes this semester, once a week. It's hard to push myself to go to my uni in the suburbs since my one day off is the day I have class..but I know that if I were left on my own to learn German, I'd never do it. I had to sadly drop Portuguese this semester for sanity reasons, but I was really looking forward to continuing it. Maybe another time--preferably before China and Brazil take over the world (I'm convinced).

Internship, check. Working as a translator/marketing assistant at an online games company. Not really my cup of tea because I'd rather be doing more straight translation, but I'm happy to have a internship and the techy stuff that I'm forced to learn will look good on my CV. The bigger issue I have with the internship is that it's nearly full-time. Seeing as I still work on the side around 25 hours a week, I am not joking when I say I have no free time to myself. I'll only complain about it in this little paragraph because I know I live in Paris, have a (very poorly paid) internship, am getting a Master's for next to nothing..but *whine whine whine* I miss sleeping, watching trashy tv shows online, going out for drinks, staying up late, etc. Guess this is real life now, huh? I can deal with the 60+ hour work weeks and classes, but I am sincerely worried about where I'm going to find time to write this f-ing thesis. Le sigh. It'll work itself out, methinks. Worse comes to worst, I'll defend the thesis in September. It's just much more tidy if I do it in early summer, and I also get docked two points if I do it later.

America, fuck yeah! I should mention that I went home in January for the first time in 2.5 years. It was weird. Felt the same, yet different. New buildings, others torn down, redecorating of places for no apparent reason. Wal-Mart changed around and I couldn't find anything. Lots of driving, but I enjoyed it. Although I like not having to keep up a car and constantly worrying about crazy people killing me, I must admit that there's something very calming about just chilling out to music and driving long distances.

Casey's built a new gas station by my house, which is pretty exciting when you've been away from fountain drinks, doughnuts, and pizza by the slice for this long. I probably drank at least 45 litres of Diet Mountain Dew. I only let myself indulge in a double-chocolate doughnut once, and it was everything I had hoped and more. Sadness kicked in after one bite because I knew it'd be over soon. Oh Casey' stole my heart at age 12 when my paper route gave me $60 of store vouchers as a welcoming gift..

While I was home, I felt like I was living in a parallel universe. I got back to Paris and it felt like it had all been a dream. Visiting everyone was really great, but since I had so many places to go and people to see, every visit was short and sweet. I also spent an embarrassing amount of time shopping. But it needed to be done; I desperately needed more clothes and shoes. And cold medicine and ibuprofen and makeup. And an iPod and some other stuff ok FINE maybe I went a little overboard. It's America, land of consumers! Anyway, I hope not to go another 2.5 years without seeing anyone again. Too long. And my shoes will surely not last quite that long!

Without further ado, some photos of the last few months to titillate and amuse you!

Trip home
Down in Missour-ah:
Mom, Grandma, Aunt Bonnie
Adorable cousin Genevieve and her trainers/family supporters

In my old university town:
Lunch at the restaurant I worked at for 3 years..not my idea!
Baby Harper! So cute.
Amanda stealing Harper
Obligatory cheap ass drinks with Amy

Meanwhile, up in freezing Iowa:
Scrabble with sister, cousin, uncle, parents
Home cooked dinner
Hi uncles!
Right before I leave, a giant snowstorm decides to show up. Oh, Iowa.
Sisterly love
Wearing half my wardrobe at the airport
Me and Pops
The last photo on my phone as I boarded the plane back to Paris. :)

Champs-Elysées at Christmastime
Hanging out with friends a few days before Xmas (Chris was hurt, spinach was what was available)
An inflatable pig because..why not

Christmas Day! 
Will and I wearing our crowns (British Christmas day tradition, along with corny jokes, trifle, whiskey, board games, naps..they aren't that different from us)
Will cutting said trifle. It, it was really delicious, Will, really.
Duncan pouring the most important part of the meal
Smitten mittens
Christmas isn't complete without Easy Jet stocking caps and pub quiz questions 

Weekend trip to Lyon with Brittany:
DSC_1283 - Version 2

Other tidbits:
The xx = amazing live
as are The Black Keys
and The Maccabees
and The Lumineers!
And finally, I got a loft bed to give me a wee bit more space (that I've already found a way to fill up, naturally.)


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Hey there, friends. Haven't died quite yet. Usual excuse of being busy/tired/lazy/forgetful. Just finished up a very demanding semester two weeks ago and have been enjoying the relative calmness that follows final projects, exams, and my year-end 60-page paper.
Calmness after the storm

So, what have I been up to? Well, there was a two-week break not long after my last post. Spent that working a bit on my mémoire, having a visit from Brittany, hanging out with friends, enjoying the decent weather (I think). To be honest, the last few months have melted together to form a general uni-computer-library-wine-sleep continuum, but I do remember April and May being particularly fun. My birthday was in there—you know, the one where I didn't age yet celebrated on three separate occasions, the elections (Go Hollande!!), some good dinners with friends, a Ben Howard concert, pub quizzes, weekly coffee dates, exams, some sleep, wine and chats on the canal, work, shopping, and many moments that have sadly blurred together. People leaving, people coming, and me staying cooped up in my apartment when not out doing aforementioned activities.

Nearly the entire month of June was spent in my apartment or one of two libraries. To finish this mother of a paper. My paper wasn't even that good, but damn if it wasn't the hardest thing I've had to do, oh, ever. I don't think I'm particularly cut out for academia. I mean, I do like learning. Reading, expanding my knowledge, enlightenment—all that jazz, sure. But when it comes to applying it and demonstrating that I've learned something by writing a paper..very much not my forte. There was one weekend not so long ago that I stayed up for three days in a row, more or less. I got two or three hours of sleep each night, and had to work 8 hour shifts the following days. It was really not fun or glamorous, it just sucked. Because I couldn't put off writing it any longer. I actually had to finish it. I finally turned in my beautifully plastic-bound paper two weeks ago. It wasn't a particularly proud piece of work, but I was glad to have something to turn in. I'm in a professional Master's program. So instead of writing a 100-page research paper, I have to do a translation of around 20 pages and then another 20-25 pages of commentary (in French), and then a bunch of bibliography annexes and a few translated pages of the website I chose. It's a doable project, but I spent far too long on my translation and not enough time on the commentary. Plus, I didn't have my French checked over to make sure it was 100% correct. My French is pretty good, but I will never have the fluidity of a native French-speaker. They are just so..flowery. So eloquent without trying. I get there—part way— but my native straight-to-the-point English sometimes gets in the way.

So anyway to finish up, I basically went into the jury hoping they'd let me improve it for the second jury session in September. I was happy to take their criticisms and suggestions, but I wanted more time. And since I wasn't that stressed about it, it really wasn't that bad. I got what I wanted—well, my whole program of five did—a later date in early September. They said my translation was pretty solid, and congratulated me on that, but said I should re-do parts of my commentary and add in some more translation theory. I walked away happy to have a few months to do what I know could be a better job. Because more than anything, I want to have a paper I'm proud of. Employers aren't afraid to ask to see something like this, and considering that I somehow half-assed my way through about 80% of my college classes, turning in papers that were acceptable but not great, I'd like to prove to my procrastinator self that I can do this. And also, my staying in France next year depends on me being in the second year of this program (which is not automatic), which depends on me getting a certain grade on this paper. So. There we are. I'm on break, kind of.

It's Monday and I have decided that my self-imposed vacation from schoolwork is over. I really must begin reading new material and re-doing my paper. I needed some time away from what I had before, anyway. Translation is tricky—you can always come back to it and find something you want to change. But it's good to sometimes take a little time away from it to get a better perspective. I went to the library today and copied some stuff to read. I also need to get stuff together before August begins because all the Parisians flee the city—including the librarians that man the libraries. I know it's holiday season but I do have trouble seeing the fairness of leaving us poor summer dissertation/mémoire/thesis writers with no place to study or look stuff up. Ruuude.

Some pictures, did you say? Oh, I've got plenty of those. So many you might not even want to scroll through all of them. But in case you do...

Paris Marathon in April
Pizza Hut. I indulge only when Americans like Brittany visit so we can share the judgement. 
Back when the weather was nice...
Mémoire writing à la française
Birthday tarte
Birthday dinner
Sacré Coeur, hipster style
High school friend Katie comes to visit!
English friends Will & Duncan at pub watching England vs. Italy in Euro Cup (I was actually into the cup this year but stopped caring after the Dutch and English were eliminated)
Chipotle comes to Paris: defining moment in my life
Ben Howard. Really excellent guitar player.
These pictures are three hours apart. Welcome to a lovely summer in Paris.

So, there's more here if you're interested. I'm lazy and I'm sure you're bored. But I've been keeping busy, don't worry. Oh, final sad note: I will not be making an appearance home this summer. Suuuuuuuuper bummed out, really, really. But I can't afford it and it's doubly sad this year as my Grandma Vida is turning 100 (Mom's side) and there's a family reunion (Dad's side). Of course the chances of both these events happening again anytime soon are obsolete. My apologies for being so poor, everyone. I will instead be off to America's older bully but oh-so-charming cousin, England, for a few days to soak up some Anglophone culture. And I might pop in and see if I can steal Michael Phelps from the Olympics, or at least just touch his abs.