Monday, June 4, 2012

Meet and Greet at NEH Seminar

Monday, June 5, 2012
Paris, France


Get this! I awoke at 11 am--that is to say, for the first time in a week, I had 7 hours of unbroken sleep. Good job I had decided to take it really easy and give my feet a break (pun unintended--bien sur!) I breakfasted (or maybe brunched?) today on the remaining hunk of baguette with my lovely cheeses and coffee and then sat down to catch up with email. Before I knew it, I was sleepy again. My poor body is so out of whack, it is having a hard time knowing exactly which part of the world it is meant to function in.

I fell asleep again but awoke at 2. 30 pm, to go to the Administration office here at Cite-Universitaire to procure a letter of residence from Thomas who provided it instantly. Armed with the letter, I went to the metro station, took instructions from a very sweet assistant on where to go and what to do to get a monthly pass. When I had last bought such a pass (25 years ago), it was called un carte mensuelle (the weekly equivalent used to be called un carte orange or a carte hebdomadaire). Well, all that has changed. The monthly passes are called Navigos and they are derived by proving residence in Paris--hence, the letter from Thomas. I took the metro to Denfert-Rochereau to the Agence Le Club where a very sweet man went through the paces with me (checked my passport for identification, took my picture and handed me the card). I had to go to yet another counter to pay 62. 50 euros--such a bargain for the sort of travel I intend to accomplish with it!

Back home, I felt sleepy yet again! But I had loads of personal grooming to do before leaving for dinner later in the evening. Face mask, tick. Shampoo, tick. Shower, tick. Nails, tick. Paris makes me want to keep my last toe nail impeccable! Finally, after doing all of this and calling my Dad in Bombay and sending out a few emails, I was ready to leave. I dressed, took the tram (believing that I was only to travel 3 stops) and reached the Center de Sejours Internationale only to discover that I was at the wrong campus--I was meant to be at the one at Bois de Vincennes--a good metro ride away. What a good thing I had started out early!

Well, off I sped with an address and directions and by the skin of my teeth, I made it on time at 6. 45 pm. I spent the next two and a half hours with my new colleagues who will be attending the seminar organized by the National Endowment for the Humanities. They seem a nice lot--for some reason, the majority seem to be associated with--of all places--Iowa! There is one Brit (from just outside of London) and one young woman who is originally from Tel Aviv, Israel. We seem to be the three transplants into America selected to participate in the program. Oh, and there are two French  professors who emigrated to the US--so I guess we are a pretty global lot. Most are historians, some are litterateurs, one is an art historian, one teaches Journalism and Media Studies and I am the South Asianist Post-Colonialist!

Meet and Greet occurred around glasses of kir when we met the Director of our Program, Richard (Joe) Golsan for the first time as well as the French professors and administrators associated with it. Dinner was eaten in a cafeteria but it was delicious after the rather slapdash meals I have been eating: a salad bar that included a Remoulad (made with celeriac, a rather unfamiliar veggie in America), roast pork with a mustard sauce, a side of roasted vegetables, chocolate eclair for dessert.

By the time we were ready to leave, it was still bright daylight and the sun was still shining--at 9. 20 pm! I had the company of a professor from Rutgers named Susan as I walked the 12 minutes to the nearest Metro. And by 10.00 pm, I was home, getting my sac ready for my first seminar session tomorrow.

A Demain!

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