Her Ladyship

Notes from the gutter.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Ah, Par-ee

I was blasting through a DVD of Season 6 of Sex and the City last night. The disc I was watching had the final episodes where Carrie and the Russian head off to Paris for their relationship to rather spectacularly self-destruct. It reminded me that I haven't been to Paris (outside of the horrid Charles de Gaulle airport) in nearly eight years.

I lived there the summer of 97 as an intern in the ambassador's office. Ostensibly, that was the most prestigious internship they offered, but my god, the boredom. The other interns got to go to meetings and write up cables and hell, even slave away in the visa department. Not us losers in the ambassador's office though. My fellow sufferer (Envirogrrl - hey, we bonded over it) and I got to be unpaid secretaries and do any unsavory task that no one else would touch. I think the nadir of my existence was when they were re-painting the ambassador's office. They had locals doing it who didn't have clearances, so us interns had to alternate sitting in there and I guess ensuring that no bugs were planted. What that meant was spending a week breathing in paint fumes as the French version of the Three Stooges fell off ladders and spattered paint all over everything.

Pamela Harriman had died the previous February and they hadn't gotten around to installing Felix Rohatin yet, so we were ambassador-less. Which isn't that glamorous. Instead, we had a career Foreign Service officer serve as the head of the embassy (Charge d'Affaires), and he really wasn't glamorous. The one thing I had been pretty excited prior to my internship about was attending embassy parties. I shouldn't have given it a second thought. I understand Harriman would augment the embassy budget with her own money, but the career FSO clearly wasn't in a position to do the same, so the parties were fairly unimpressive. That is, when we were allowed to attend. Very often, we were stuck in coatcheck or, even worse, sitting in a little cubby with the Charge's cell phone on the off-chance that it rang.

Another one of the duties we tried our best to duck out of was escorting people through the Commissary. Harriman would do anything for her rich friends and they got used to being able to call up the embassy and demand favors. So we often found ourselves in the embassy store, trying to find something that would kill time while some multimillionaire searched for the best price on an Hermes duty-free tie. I actually didn't mind so much because I'd been living abroad prior to coming to Paris and I missed American consumer products. I would go back to the section that had Taco Bell nacho kits and ooh and ahh until I could go.

Paris wasn't all bad, I must say. We got to live for free in embassy buildings right off the Champs Elysee. A friend from undergrad had been doing an internship right before I got there and gave me a heads-up on which room to claim. So I ended up having a postcard view of the Paris skyline and the Eiffel Tower. There were about 25 interns, so there was a good mix of people to hang out with (and that one guy everyone picks on. You know the type. Hey, he deserved it). We were always off exploring the city on the weekends and doing everything that was cheap and/or free. Plus I got to practice my French, which got to be fairly passable (not so much the case these days).

Verdict? Paris was a fun place to do an internship, even a mindnumbingly dull one. I need to get back there, tout suite.

3 Comments:

  • At 2:23 PM, Blogger Mirella said…

    I've never been to Paris. Or the rest of France. Even though I took five years of French in school and could practually draw a street map of Paris by the time I graduated.

    For a while I didn't want to go because it seemed kind of cliche -- everyone goes to Paris, everyone sees the same touristy stuff, etc. But I've come back around. I want to go badly. But I'd need a refresher course in French. I can barely remember how to conjugate verbs!

     
  • At 4:05 PM, Blogger Scully said…

    I heart Paris. I went for the first time last May.

    Did you meet Ms. Harriman? Wow, that woman had quite the life.

    I still think your job sounded very very interesting.

    I'm going to Paris in August/September this year.

    I really love it there.

    Thanks for sharing your story. Very interesting and entertaining.

    Scully
    blackleyj@yahoo.com

     
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