May 2007

Laundry day sucks no matter which city you live in. Today was my laundry day! Once moving into my tiny room, about a month ago, I was told (and I quote) that I “live in the wrong arrondissement for laundromats” which makes laundry day that much more of a mission. Little one doing her laundry is a massive process that starts with the need to build up the energy, once I feel that i have enough energy, I strip the bed and throw the sheets in my big, black (unfortunately not magical) bag. Today I notice that the bottom is the bed is falling off but I have chosen to ignore it until a human visits again to sort it out. I then collect all my dirty laundry _ and I must that by the time I feel the need to actually do laundry there is a lot of it. I put it all in the big, black bag. I sit and breathe, again gathering the energy to start the trek. I then pack another bag, this one filled with french homework, postcards (hence you always getting post 5 days after my laundry day) and my trashy novel. I then close my door and lock it, pick up the big black bag (now wishing it was magical) and make my way down the 6 flights of stairs, across the courtyard and around the block… NO the laundromat is not there. I then get onto the metro, go 2 stops and change metros (who has to change lines in order to do laundry!?) and go another 2 stops. I then reach the fanciest part of town and walk through this area dragging the big, black bag (which was bought on some dodgy street in Jozi) while the other people who wonder these streets are dressed in head-to-toe designer labels and have people to drag their Louis Vuittons for them! I walk 2 blocks and reach the laundry.

At this point (to give Paris and the laundry trip some credit) I must mention that the setting of the laundromat is as french as one could get. It over looks a quaint square which today happens to have a fresh produce market going on in it. There are gorgeous cafes and the laundromat has old fashion magazines for one to read.

The first time I did laundry here I collected my coins for about a week before, but I have since learnt there is a “change giving” machine. I throw my load in and get out one of my many choices of activities. Every now and then someone runs in from the market with a bunch of raw veggies in one hand and gets change from the machine, today someone ran in with a piece of raw salmon in one hand a 20euro note in the other!

I feel like I am a regular n the laundromat now, I have worked out how everything works and today felt so proud of myself when someone struggled to ask me in french if i could speak English and explain to them what to do. I think the pride came from two tings: firstly, that they thought that I was french and secondly that I knew how to use the machines and this middle aged couple didn’t. I also got some (sick) satisfaction of hearing them struggle with the french and then answering in perfect English, although at the same time I wanted to say “take me with you to your English speaking land or at least out for an English speaking meal” but I restrained myself and once helped them went back to my activity of the moment.

After laundry I rewarded myself with a “tarte de pomme” from my favourite cafe which happens to be right there. I am not sure that successful laundry deserves a reward but at least its a good excuse.


Today I achieved new levels of making this city my home. I made an appointment (in French) and went for, what I thought was, an ordinary bikini wax. I arrived on time, I have found here, like their trains, their appointments or reservations are on time to the second so being late for an appointment like this, where my bikini area was at stake, would obviously not be a good idea. I thought I had better tread lightly (and on time) around the French lady with hot wax and in fact ran down Rue des Archieves to reach the salon on time. As I ran through the little wooden doors I noticed four policemen outside, their purpose? I had no idea. I walked in and in my “clearly learning French/ not actually from Paris” french I explained I had a reservation, the little french, perfectly manicured lady nodded and in broken English asked if I was English, I replied South African, she nodded (again) and led me upstairs. Looking at her I suddenly wished I had painted my nails or at least walked in slightly more stylishly and not huffing and puffing!

I must now point out that this experience of mine was a very risky thing, not just going up the stairs but first, trying out a new beauty salon and second having a bikini wax by someone who does not speak your language…at all! Does “petit” mean “petit” on or “petit” off and does “grande” mean “grande” left or not. I reasoned with myself and came to the conclusion that there was only one way to find out!

The little french, perfectly manicured lady then said something and I had no idea what she meant, she then left the room! “What do I do?” I thought remembering the policemen outside and decided the the best thing to do would be to wait for her to return instead of whipping off my pants and being arrested for what I wouldn’t even understand. She returned and said the same thing, this time making body movements (strange body movements have become a life saving communication device in this city of style) of taking off her pants. I cautiously removed mine. She pointed to the bed, I tip toed towards it and jumped up. Compared to the other women, Parisian women, I am sure that my African ass was more than the bed, or the little french, perfectly manicured lady expected but never the less.

I sat there and then I saw it… the hot, bubbling wax. Who waxes with actual boiling wax? Luckily my massive eyes seem to be a universal signal of worry and she asked in a completely calm manner, “tres chaud?” I quickly replied, “Oui”. She left the room. I briefly thought of the police, who from the window, I could see still outside. She came back in (thank heavens), with no police but rather a new pot of unbubbling wax. I must admit the sight of the wax seemed to relax me, I think it must have been the colour. It was the most gorgeous pink I had ever seen and not just in bikini wax terms but in a very pretty baby pink, on your cupcakes kind of colour and even though my cupcake was the only place it was going, it was very pretty. I think the relief also came from the fact that the texture looked vaguely like the type we have back at home, so at least I was certain that the broken french a nd strange body movements had gotten successfully through to the little, french, perfectly manicured lady that a bikini wax was indeed, what I wanted.

Next thing I knew she started to lather on the wax and rip viciously. She chatted away in french and whenever I got the chance I added, “ca va”… but she did more…and more and I said, “fini” she said, “ca va?” I said, “oui” (please heavens) and she said, “ca va” so I replied, “ca va” and we carried on like this while we both stared at my bikini line…

She then walked behind me, put the bed flat down, held my leg up and before I could say “non” or “fini” or any other word to possibly make her stop, she was applying cupcake coloured wax in places that I didn’t even know existed and put me in positions that i didn’t even know were possible.I have not only learnt to “gym” my verbs in France but had a complete education regarding the kinetics of the female body. She then asked me if I was learning french, I replied “oui” so she pointed at my “cupcake” and gave me the french word. I smiled and she smiled.

I left the salon relieved that I was still existing (even though parts of me felt as if they were missing), that the police were still standing there and that now I know, without exception, that the French do not accept anything from different countries, even if they use the word Brazilian they mean something completely different!

The place is called “Jean-Claude Biguine” which is a chain of beauty and hair salons all over the city.¬†Two particular locations are:

72 Rue du Bac (phone: 0142225751)
29 Rue des Francs Bourgeois (phone: 0142724233)