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in⋅vo⋅ca⋅tion: (n) the magic formula used to conjure up a spirit; incantation.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I think I had...


Yeah, I was sick for about a week with the most terrible flu I've ever had, ever. Fever, chills, coughing, runny nose, etc, etc.

IN OTHER NEWS, I went to Amsterdam, as I said, and it was great. I also went to London this last weekend, also great.

To be honest, I wish I lived in London. Paris isn't as cool. There, I said it.

le Parti socialiste: from l'Internationale to Mitterrand

A couple of weeks ago, at around 7 pm in the afternoon (or should I say, 19H a la francaise?) I was walking out of a class with my french friend, Laura. We walked down the stairs and into the main Sciences Po hall. There is a large, wooden bench in the middle of the hall - much like those benches you see in churches, pretty rustic (I only recently find out that is called a "peniche". This really explained why so many Sciences Po things are called Peniche, I think there's like a newspaper by the same name but anyway). As we reached the large hall, I saw a mass of students, congregated around the massive bench. There were many Sciences Po guards, confused students, and others flashing their Sciences Po IDs and I realized it was probably a protest.

During orientation, our french teachers explained to us that the best way to guarantee access to university facilities during demonstrations was with a Sciences Po ID.

I stood in front of the mass of students and my friend, Laura, found a way through the crowd and got us out of there. The students who were protesting were singing and my friend Laura looked at me and said "They're singing the International!".

The International is one of the best-known revolutionary hymns of the world. Although Belgian by origin, it was the national anthem of the USSR until 1944 and it has always been associated with workers, anarchists, marxists, and socialists. My political science teacher has told us that the Socialist party usually sings it after every meeting or at least, they used to.

The students that were assembled in the main hall belonged to Sciences Po's Socialist party, a collegiate branch of France's Socialist party. It's exciting to know that at a school where the elites play, the Socialist party also has its say.

The raison d'etre of their peaceful protest was the Minister of Immigration's new crusade: national identity.

After a couple of disastrous weeks for Sarkozy's political party, the government has decided to draw everyone's attention to a bigger problem: the french republican identity.

Regional elections are less than five months away and Sarkozy's party, the UMP, has been losing conservative votes due to political scandals (from sex tourism to nepotism), what better way to bring back the right-wing electorate than with a well-orchestrated (and possibly, racist) appeal to french identity and values?

The Socialist party has rightly denounced the government's new "debate" as a political maneuver to bring back its extreme-right electorate which has been defecting to the Front National, France's extreme-right party led by Jean Marie Le Pen. The debate on national identity is not sincere, in their opinion, and it is politically-motivated to mobilize their electorate.

All french politics aside, what really impressed me of the whole affair was seeing the presence of a leftist political party amongst the elite. In Nicaragua, the elite is usually right-wing. At my school, being leftist wasn't something popular or something you could share openly. Of course, there's no way I could draw an effective example between Nicaragua, a country that experienced a "marxist-leninist" revolution in 1979 and suffered the consequences of it all through the 1980's (and still today), and France, a developed country with a completely different political tradition. However, I do think the difference between the two is interesting. Here, at one of the best schools in the country, socialists proudly chant the International at their protests. For a long time, I felt being leftist, among my milieu at least, was taboo.

I've also been doing quite a bit of research on the presidents of the Fifth Republic (basically, France after the Constitution of 1958, which is their most recent constitution) and I've gained a lot of respect for the Socialist party and for Francois Mitterrand. I recently read his biography and I, kid you not, cried at the end of it. There's something very compelling about someone who runs for President and loses 5 times, and finally wins at some point. I think this is the case with my country's president, Ortega, and with Brazil's president, too. It was the case with Mitterrand as well.

I think I'm going to work on another presentation on socialists in France now. For some reason, I am always interested in socialists. I remember when I took AP Euro and my favorite part of the whole class was the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution (remember the NEP?). Oh, socialism...

on remembering that I actually have a blog...

Not having internet gets to you, mostly when you want to BLOG AWAY in the quiet and lonely 6th floor of my building.

Impressions of the last couple of weeks to come.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

focus, focus really part 2

I have to make a COVENANT with my brain. If my frontal lobe stops this madness, and gets on with the role of controlling attention, behavior, abstract thinking, problem solving, creative thought, emotion, intellect, etc, etc, then maybe I'll get shit done and guess what, frontal lobe? Give me attention today and I'll give you intellectual stimulation and creative thought this weekend...


focus, focus really


I have a fiche de synthese on Huntington's Clash of Civilizations tomorrow and then I have a commentary due friday and a fiche de lecture due on friday as well.

I've been at the library for 3 hours and I've managed to write, (write, I really mean RE-WORD) four sentences. I read three pages and spent the rest of the time doing who knows what.

I need to focus!

I sometimes regret choosing a study abroad location where I actually am being forced to work hard. GOD, WHY MUST I CHOOSE CHALLENGES AND THEN HATE THEM WHILE I ATTEMPT TO OVERCOME THEM?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

SciPo library part 2

So, I had a pretty hard time trying to find a computer for my first formal expose of the year. I already had 2 exposes (in french class and in geopolitique du golfe persique) which means I only have 2 other exposes (or oral presentations) to prepare for! I still have many little assignments to complete, but I'm feeling better. My teacher thought the presentation I had yesterday went well, so now I just have to make sure I get work done today and tomorrow and part of thursday (my birthday). I have to write a commentary on the president of the fifth french republic (UGH) and a summary about a document i'm supposed to read but haven't read (story of my life, obvs).

I feel like there's a lot of work, but I'm getting shit done somehow.


I just checked out two books. IT WAS SO EASY! I just looked them up online (I kept complaining earlier because I couldn't find anything, I wasn't spelling it the right way...I was writing down 5th instead of fifth) I checked them out and now I have them for a week.

Surprisingly simple.

You do have (some) resources, scipo.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


So, sometimes I forget that I actually have a blog and don't write on it for a month. In my defense, I have to say that not having internet at home does make blogging quite difficult. Yes, I have a blackberry, but honestly, can you really blog on that? Nopes. I really felt like blogging while at the library on multiple occasions but I never did because I felt self-conscious.

To those unaware, the Sciences Po library is many things. It's really warm, really warm, like uncomfortable warmth. It's crowded, all the time. It's cramped. You can barely find a seat there. Don't even think you'll be able to get work done if you don't have your computer with you because finding a computer there is pretty impossible. It's hard to check out a book because 1) you need to do it in advance because some books are not in Paris and 2) the library had a FLOOD and lots of books got wet and now are undergoing intense physical therapy, or something of the like. OH AND THE WI-FI there, if there are too many students at the library, it doesn't work properly, so you need to get an ethernet cable. WTF.

Besides being really impractical and small, it's intensetown. I once picked up my phone, that was on silent, near the staircase (nowhere near where students were at) and a woman came to yell at me. I never even talked on the phone, I held it near my face, and I got yelled at. People look at you if you are drinking or eating something there. People will do anything for seats, like anything. They always wait behind you as you are leaving so they can have your seat. So, I feel horribly self-conscious if I'm wasting precious time/internet by writing on my blog or going on facebook. I try to find other ways to procrastinate like wikipedia or cnn. Those two are much more well-received than facebook or blogger.

Writing about that really made me feel how much I miss UPenn. Yes, Penn is great. Europe is great, Paris is awesome, but the amount of resources my school has make Sciences Po seem really useless. Our libraries are enormous, full of books that are actually there, and there are so many study areas. What matters is that you get your stuff done, so you can plug in wherever you want, and work away. In Sciences Po, other things come first.

I really miss Van Pelt library. Those glorious Sunday afternoons, spent writing, facebooking, reading, messing around, eating, and enjoying the 4th floor stacks after brunch at Commons. It was such a good time. Van Pelt was always there, welcoming me, letting me use all of its space, it was never crowded (except around finals), with all those rooms to reserve on the 3rd and 4th floors.

I really miss that. It was so conducive to studying and getting work done.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sunday, September 27, 2009

I think I'm starting to like you, Paris

For the first time in a couple of weeks, I feel like I'm starting to "get it". A couple of weeks ago, I was having issues finding housing, getting a wire transfer, setting up my bank account, getting classes figured out, etc, etc, but for the first time in a while, I'm starting to feel like the time you devote to getting settled in and getting things to work is almost over.

This last week, I signed the contract for my new apartment in Paris. It was so exciting to sign a lease for the first time in my life. My landlord and I met at a cafe (I can't do accents on this laptop so whatevs), we went over the document, and signed it. I'm getting my keys on Tuesday night and I move out of la cite, (GOODBYE, MAISON DES PROVINCES DE FRANCE!) and I move into my new apartment on the 3rd arrondissement. I'm really looking forward to moving in (not looking forward to carrying 2 overweight bags up 6 stories, NO ELEVATOR) but to furnishing the place and buying homey things.

This last week, I also got my money wired to me. It felt really good to not have to worry about cash. This is one thing that really annoys me about France. Credit cards are not widely accepted and not only that, but they barely take American Express. This is a problem because this is what I use most of the time, and sometimes, they won't even take my Visa. I'm not sure why, but they always ask for the chip...I thought mine had a chip, but I guess all this time, what seemed like a chip, really wasn't? In any case, they barely ever take American Express anywhere except for most supermarkets (except for Lidl). I've started to slowly get used to that and to carrying enough cash with me.

I had my first full week of classes this last week. I seriously felt like I understood basically everything in most of my classes. I only had one class that freaked me out, a class on the financial crisis. I've never taken economics in college, and I know a bit about finance in general, at least the minimum amount the Economist can teach you. For the first hour of the class, I was excited, I felt like "YES! I know about Madoff!!" but the second hour of the class, I doodled in my notebook, completely confused, unable to understand this man's french. I'm not feeling 100% confident yet in my ability to understand french, but I feel like it's not as hard as I thought it would be, and that's comforting.

Jenna, my friend from Penn, is coming on Thursday night, so I'm pretty excited about that too. I feel like I'll have my apartment semi-figured out by then and I'll be able to show her around with some knowledge of the city...I can't wait.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Oh, god.
It was six years and nine months ago that I said goodbye to meat.
I didn't eat seafood until 2 years later.
It has been so long since I remember what meat tastes like. I smell it and that brings back the flavor, but I don't really remember it very well.
ANYWAY, STORY IS in Paris, I'm being tempted by none other than STEAK FRITES.

I've been to brazilian rodizios, I've been to steakhouses in Argentina, I toured southeast Asia, I've seen tasty meat everywhere and never did I feel like I should just a have a little piece of steak or chicken until PARIS.

I don't know if it has to do with my French 1 textbooks from 7th grade (Au bistro...oui, monsieur, je voudrais une orangina et un steak-frites, s'il vous plait!) that made steak-frites the dish to have in France or if the lack of protein in my poor man's diet of tabouleh and cheese with a little salad here and there is making me crave the mother of all proteins: COW.

Part of me feels kind of excited (what will it feel like when I have meat for the first time after almost seven years? will I still like it? will I enjoy it?) but also sad because it's a part of who I've been for so long (can I really eat a piece of a cow? can I really do that, just because it looks good? won't I puke afterward?).

We'll see who wins.
Me or the steak-frites.

Friday, September 18, 2009


A couple of things,

1. I have an apartment. 3eme, omgah.
2. I have money in the bank. (shawty, what you think 'bout that?)

(that is supposed to be an artsy rendition of my hatred towards BNP)


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Paris is like this

Paris is like a slice of plain cheesecake with whipped cream and almond shavings on top.

(For you to understand this analogy, you must know that I hate all kinds of nuts: peanuts, walnuts, almonds, pecans, etc, etc, salted pistachios are the only exception, and I really love plain cheesecake)

In simpler terms, there's a lot of good stuff sprinkled with bad stuff.

So far, I've had an amazing time with all the people that I've met. From drinking wine at Pont des Arts at 3 am and being accosted by crazies to our Euro Disney day trip and our boat concert adventure, it has been great. There is so much to do in Paris, and a Monday can truly feel like a Friday. I love how easy it is to get around and I love how (most) people dress here and I love the comfort of my nice, little room at the Cité Universitaire.

However, I still haven't found somewhere to live, I still haven't gotten my bank account to work because it "hasn't been verified", I haven't paid for my logement because of my stupid bank account, and I have zero cash with me, again because of BNP Paribas. I still haven't gotten my student card and I haven't sorted out my Carte de Sejour. Basicallly, all the administrative stuff is lagging.

But, today, I've been feeling like there is a ray of hope to my administrative problems.

I went to see an apartment at the 3eme and it looks pretty great.

PROS: good area, down the block from Andy Wahloo, big apartment for a (very) good price, separation between the living room and the bedroom
CONS: 6th floor (without an elevator), I need a bank's caution (!), and the building will undergo renovation at some point in December (so, potential noise, etc, etc)

(I actually just called the owner to get all over this apartment)

As I walked away from the apartment, I had the feeling that I had finally found something I had liked and somewhere I could see myself in.

I walked into the metro at Etienne Marcel to come back to la Cite and I tried to get something to drink because I'm hungover thirsty (I wanted a 2.00 euro bottle of Nestea, but because I'm po', I settled for a 1.70 euro bottle of Evian). I put one euro and seventy cents in the vending machine and it returned my seventy cents. I didn't know why it was doing that and I just kept putting the money back in. After putting the money in for the third time, and just when I was ready to give up, I looked at the little screen and it said "2.00".

Someone had already put a euro in the machine! Or the vending machine got confused and thought I had put in two euros instead of one.

Anyway, I got my peach Nestea for half price.

A ray of light on a gray day.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009



I'm Maria and I totes steal things from Dave to be obnox

highlights include, leopard candies, giving the keyboard dude a leopard candy, sand on my wine, reverse vaginas (YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE).

they were pretty great.

(Oh lolz, is that you, Ratatat?)

Monday, September 14, 2009



honestly, what if I really don't understand anything?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

streets of Paris


epic fail last night.

went to "Showcase" (a club, UNDER A BRIDGE) for a massive electronic show; line was long, waited for two hours in the cold to get in and RIEN (de rien).

thanks for nothing, kevin.

Friday, September 11, 2009


1. Pont des Arts
2. Society (fail)
3. La Cantoche
4. Society (success)

(courtesy of our social chair, Martin)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

my brother's memoirs

(Hotel de Ville, Paris, August 2009)
(Berlin, August 2009)

when in France...

do as the french professors do.

Both my methodology and french class had a dinner today to celebrate the end of the "welcome programme". A nice concept, the French have, except for the fact that I was left to the less animate corner of the table (the bane of rectangular tables, after all), sitting in between our two french professors, the conservative girl, and the girl who lusts after one of our professors. What do you do when you're sitting in the boring corner? Well, of course, you have more wine.

And that I did.

After a number of glasses of sangria, white wine, and red wine, our methodology professor decided it would be pertinent to have some beer. While some were wise enough to go home, some of us were foolish (read: drunk) enough to go along. Conversations of football, opera, and classical music ensued.

When in France, do as your french (and way more bohemian) professors do.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

do not want.
(As the glam rock band Poison so eloquently immortalized in their 1988 ballad, every rose has its thorn. Internet access in France comes at a price: the dreaded fr)


Determination, in France, is everything.

This applies to both opening bank accounts and wine bottles without corkscrews.

(Pictured below, courtesy of my blackberry, the very essence of determination: corks shoved into wine bottles to guarantee immediate access to the drink in the absence of a corkscrew. Implications? Bits of cork all over your {messy} room and cork all over your {cheap} wine)

a brief history of (my) time (in Paris)

August 28th: arrival by high-speed train from Germany and sibling reunion
August 29th: the sights, sounds, and smells of touristy Paris (Eiffel Tower, Tuileries, etc, etc)
August 30th: moving into la cité universitaire (it resembles an american college campus with dorms and college houses)
August 31st: last day with my sister, and first day of Sciences Po orientation

What I have learned about France and Sciences Po, thus far:
-Bureaucracy is an important part of how things are done.
-Efficiency; however, isn't as important.
-How you say it is more important than what you say (contrary to what the american system may have taught me).
-Don't correct professors.
-Le Figaro, a renowned french newspaper, is right-wing.
-Le Monde = New York Times.
-The first world can sometimes feel like the third world (we're not so different, after all).
-Cafes in St-Germain-des-Pres are overpriced, esp. if people seem to be there to be seen rather than to eat well.
-I want to live in Le Marais.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

but first,

aside from being an incantation to appeal to higher deities for assistance in this endeavor, I hope this can also serve as a way to document a year en France: impressions, pictures (albeit low-quality ones, SLR, plz?), little pieces of gastronomy (more than baguettes, j'espere), fashion (vintage, s'il vous plait), and all other things I see fitting (objets d'art, trinkets, and anything else are fair game).
is everybody in?

the ceremony's about to begin