Passage de la folie

May 24, 2011

un passage
(noun, masculine):
a passage or alleyway;
a visit or stay;
a stop en route to somewhere/the act of “passing through”
(i.e. “Était-ce après le passage du facteur?” = “Was it after the postman had come/been?”);
“on the way” (to somewhere)
(i.e. “Je peux te prendre au passage = “I can pick you up on the way.”)

une/la folie (noun, feminine) – madness ; an act of folly ; a passion (i.e. “avoir la folie des antiquités” = “to be crazy about antiques”); an extravagance

C’est de la folie !This is madness!; That’s crazy!; In more slang terms: That’s crazy talk! This is insane!

C’est de la folie ?Is this madness?/Is this crazy?

un arrondissement Paris is divided into 20 numbered districts, known as arrondissements

une chambre de bonne – literally, a “maid’s room”; many old residential buildings in Paris have what used to be servants’ quarters that have now been converted into low-cost one-room rental units (often for students)

la gym suédoise – “The Swedish Gym”


“What is life but a series of inspired follies?”
– George Bernard Shaw

A couple of weeks ago, while meandering through the 11th arrondissement with my friend Khaled, I turned a corner and came across this sign.  It made me smile instantly, not only because it was clever joke on the part of the graffiti artist, but also because it made an apropos title for the past year.

C’est de la folie?” (“Am I crazy? Is this madness?”) I wondered last year, as I contemplated quitting my job, giving up my comfortable life and moving to a foreign-speaking country across the Atlantic Ocean.

“C’est de la folie,” my mother (effectively) fretted, as she watched me put my plans in motion, sighing and wondering what half-baked adventure her impetuous daughter was embarking on this time.

“C’est de la folie!” I shouted delightedly while out with some friends one night my first month in Paris, after we stumbled completely by chance into a massive, sweltering hot night club teeming with gyrating bodies all moving in joyous unison to the infectious DJd rhythm of 80s and 90s pop cult classics (both French and English).

Indeed, this whole past year could easily be considered my own personal passage de la folie.  My year of folly.  Gosh, it’s been grand!

Photo Courtesy José Lodewick

Truth be told, it hasn’t always been easy.  There have been lots of ups and downs, euphoric highs and plummeting lows.  I love life in this city, but even now, on days when I’m struggling, I still find myself wondering if moving here was de la folie.  Some would say it definitely was.  Others tell me they’re jealous and that they think it was an incredibly gutsy thing to do.  The jury’s still out, I guess. What I do know is that when I look back on everything I’ve lived, learned and discovered in the last 12 months, I wouldn’t give up a single second of it.  Not one.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted, so to get you up to speed, here’s a quick summary of what’s happened over the last six months, in no particular order:

  • I moved from my little chambre de bonne by the Champs-Elysées to a much bigger apartment with French roommates in the 13th arrondissement
  • I hosted an unexpectedly mammoth Canadian Thanksgiving dinner for my French friends and fellow expats
  • My mom came to visit and I introduced her to macarons and Angelina’s famous chocolat chaud à l’ancienne (“African Hot Chocolate”)
  • There were some strikes
  • My part-time contract with the Canadian Embassy in Paris turned into a full-time job and I worked in the department of Affaire publiques et communication (“Communication and Public Affairs”) until the end of March
  • My friend Aiko and her sister made me my very first traditional French Christmas dinner
  • My exuberant co-worker Catherine and I treated ourselves to a fancy lunch out at famous patisserie, Ladurée
  • There were more strikes
  • I visited Chantilly (just north of Paris); Toulouse (southwest France); Mont Saint-Michel (Britanny/Normandy, depending on who you ask); Bayeux (Normandy); London, England; and Dubrovnik, Croatia
  • I tried my hand at la gym suédoise
  • Leader of the IMF and prospective French presidential candidate Dominique Strauss-Kahn was arrested in New York on allegations of sexual assault

That about covers it, I think.

Of course, six months of new experiences are hard to sum up in a series of bullet points, but don’t worry, I also took copious notes and tons of pictures, and am planning on gradually rolling out more detailed stories from the past year, interspersed with newer posts about current experiences, as they happen.

I hope you’ll stay tuned!

p.s.  On a (mostly) unrelated note, here’s a fun little video from French pop artist Camélia Jordana.  Warning: The song is pretty catchy, so you may have it running through your head for the rest of the day.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: