The Last Hot Dog

The last hot dog_2

Today was my first day of la classe. Having been to Alliance Française for my placement test and registration last week, I’d already done a run-through and figured out where my classroom was located, purchased the book, and double checked my tote for a notebook and pens. Going back to school on Labor Day felt a bit un-American, but such is the life here in Paris.

Aujourd’hui in class, we learned how to express basic emotions as we all exposed ourselves in that vulnerable way that is to learn a new language – feelings of frustration, impatience, anxiété, enthousiasme, et empathie. Par example, when asked by the French professor at my registration last week if I would like to take the morning (le matin) or afternoon sessions, I replied, “Je veux le mouton!” And because I said I wanted “the sheep” instead of the morning, I am now taking A2 grammar with an A1 oral session add-on. But after today’s class, I can get emotionally surface-level about my shame in mistakes like this – “Désolée, je suis timide!” “Je me sens mal à l’aise quand je fais des erreurs!” It’s a wonderful new world to follow-up “I want the sheep!” with “I feel uncomfortable when I make errors!”

My class itself is essentially a miniature United Nations. Surprisingly, I am the only américaine. For the ladies, we have a Korean, Serbian, Brazilian, Turkish, Russian, Norwegian, Tibetan, and Chinese. There is one brave man amongst us, and he is Indian. Fabienne is the professor, and she confessed that she feels uncomfortable when she speaks English. Nearly everyone in the room nodded in support and murmured, “Oui…” Connecting on the same level as people with vulnerabilities who have the same goal, to improve our French skills, makes me feel quite comfortable and confident that this session will be a successful one. More on this development to come…

Après my first class, I began my lengthy walk home. The walk began with a stroll through the Jardin du Luxembourg, where I paused for some Vitamin D and homework with this spectacular view.

The last hot dog_1

As I could only get so far sans a good dictionary or Google Translate, I continued my walk through the Latin Quarter with a purpose in mind – devouring the most delicious and flaky chocolate croissant from a popular market that I’d passed several days in a row. Always bustling with locals looking to buy their daily baguette, fruit, meats, and other assortments, I’d already come to regard this little piece of Paris as my local shops.

As I rounded the corner near the shops, I noticed a lack of people unlike any other day thus far. Still laser-focused on my pain au chocolate, I headed straight for my boulangerie when I realized in mock terror, everything was CLOSED. Noon on a Monday and everything was CLOSED. No pain au chocolate to celebrate the first day of school. And dinner – I’d planned to buy some kebobs marinated in lemon and thyme to eat with my pasta tonight – closed. My grapefruit/banana man – closed. And then I slightly panicked because that pain au chocolate was meant to tide me over so that I could cross the Île de la Cité past the Cathédrale Notre Dame and all of the highly inflated food prices supported by tourists like me, until I reached the St. Paul area near my apartment. At this point, I’ll admit that I usually feel like I’m running dangerously low on E in Paris, but it’s usually due to my desire to eat everything that isn’t nailed to the tables as opposed to say, skipping a meal. However, this time I was truly running on a yogurt and two cafés au lait (note: set alarm 10 minutes earlier to prepare proper breakfast) at 1:30pm and my first reasonably priced option was a hot dog stand 10 minutes away.

Ahh…the glorious Parisian hot dog. It consists of a foot long hot dog doused in sweet, faux Ketchup sauce nestled in a semi-truck sized bed of French baguette bread, smothered in cheese, and toasted until crispy. Because calories don’t count until your muffin top arrives, I had a hot dog on my second day. I can’t recall the last time I ate a hot dog stateside, maybe at a baseball game? Regardless, I inhaled that hot dog on my walk down Rue de Rivoli and had already started making plans to incorporate it into my weekly rotation – the French have their baguette sandwiches and I have my French hot dog, cést super! As I licked my fingers clean of the final morsels of hot dog goodness, I heard a loud tinkling noise five feet ahead. Looking (regretfully) in that direct, what do I see but a sans domicile man swaying as he publicly takes a leak in the middle of the street. My stomach churned with the undigested hot dog at this real and disgusting site. And just like that, I realized sometimes the biggest blessings come in the smallest packages – and so I said a silent prayer of thanks to be cured of my love for Parisian hot dogs, which was bound to be an unhealthy, one-way relationship straight to the gym at home in order to squeeze into my bridesmaid dress come December.

In case you’re wondering, je préfère baguette sandwiches for lunch now.


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