Days 7, 8, & 9: There Are No Words

It isn’t often that I am left genuinely speechless, and yet here I am stunned silent with regard to what I have experienced over the course of the past three days. Nevertheless, I shall persist and do my best to elaborate on the events that have transpired. I understand that the wait for this blog post may have been rather frustrating for those following my and my peers’ posts, and I certainly hope that the anticipation is worth the product.

Day 7: A Museum All Its Own

It’s not every day that you hear about a sex museum. Or, perhaps it may be for you, but in my case, I’d never heard of anything quite like it. Going to New York’s Museum of Sex (or, MoSEX, as it’s commonly referred to) was a decision that was made after we discovered that going to the newly reopened Whitney Museum was not possible, and I didn’t exactly know what to expect. I hadn’t done any research on the museum beforehand, and so it wasn’t until we arrived that I began to understand just what I was in for.

We soon received our tickets to enter the exhibits that lay beyond, and I followed the other students down a corridor that led away from a small café and library and up to where the museum really began. The very first thing that I saw was an Anti Onanism Device created by the Ferier Brothers in Paris, circa 1890s. How amazing is that?! Who else today can say that they’ve seen one of these pieces still preserved that isn’t in a photograph?  I was awe-struck, and it took a while for us to convince ourselves to walk away from studying it to further explore the exhibits.

Ferier Brother's Anti Onanism Device. Paris, c.1890s.
Ferier Brother’s Anti Onanism Device. Paris, c.1890s.

There were so many fantastic displays in this museum, from silicone dolls to erotic lithographs and everything in between. I remember actually being disturbed on some level at a display consisting of robots constructed to depict a sort of porn-viewing theater, complete with a video of the robots’ lascivious activities. There may be many messages to take away from that particular piece, but it simply wasn’t my taste.

Continuing upstairs, there was a room that we came to whose walls were covered with information regarding the sexuality of animals, from their genital construction to sexual habits. It was surprisingly informative, and I even found myself thoroughly reading some of the displays, including the “gender swapping” of male seahorses.

It was the final room, however, that I found myself and others having the most fun. Funland was what the carnival-styled room was called. [FUNLAND: Pleasures & Perils of the Erotic Fairground, is an art installation by renowned London-based conceptual artist duo Bompas & Parr, features a selection of “carnival attractions” for audiences to enjoy and experience while they contemplate the sexual subtext of carnivals.] It consisted of an incredibly disorienting hall of mirrors that we navigated through before opening up to two attractions. The first was a stand where four visitors could compete by rolling two golf balls into a small opening (much like a miniature version of the classic Skee-Ball) to try and get their corresponding erection statue to reach the end of the race quickest (I happened to have won three out of three times I played, a crowning achievement I’m proud to admit).

The second attraction was what captivated the entire group’s focus, though. It was called the Jump for Joy, which was- literally- a bouncy castle of breasts. I was one of the first three people to enter, and I thoroughly enjoyed running around and bouncing on every airy mound.

As for myself, I and a few others decided that what we wanted to do for our afternoon would be to get tattoos as a sort of souvenir for our travels. While initially there were four of us who were getting tattoos, two in our group were unable to do so due to time constraints. Nevertheless, I and another were able to have ours done and the other two declared that they would be perusing Parisian artists as to have an idea of where to go overseas for their tattoos. Surprisingly enough, my tattoo didn’t hurt at all, and I was fortunate enough to have the financial assistance by my friend to make this happen.

My compass tattoo, signifying the journeys I take in life.
My compass tattoo, signifying the journeys I take in life.

It was nearly ten o’clock by the time I arrived back at my dorm room, and after settling in, I was thoroughly prepared to get a good night’s rest in for the long day of traveling in store for me that I knew was to come.

Or, at least I tried to rest… sort of.

Day 8: Trains, Planes, and Automobiles

Alright, so we didn’t actually take a train, but it certainly felt as though I was jumping from one mode of transportation right onto another and then another, as the group’s entire Saturday consisted of transiting from Founder’s Hall, to JFK, and finally to Paris, France. It says in our trip’s itinerary that it is recommended that we go to bed EARLY (indeed, in capital letters as to accentuate our instructors’ point), but the anticipation was just too great. I mean, how could anyone sleep knowing that the very next day they would be on their way to one of the most beautiful and cultured cities in the world? Despite having more time to sleep the night before than any other night that we’ve had thus far, I was far too restless to get much of any shut-eye, and initially it came around to bite me in the butt.

The morning started out well; I woke up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed from the few hours of sleep I was able to get and was ready to take on the day. The group and I met around 11:45 am and were surprised to discover that our shuttles to the airport were on their way over thirty minutes ahead of schedule.

As quickly as we could, we divided ourselves into two groups, the first to hurry to the first shuttle with Dr. Pitts and the second to go with Lowell.  We were fortunate enough (after having to go through tagging all of our checked luggage, which took more time than it needed to, in my opinion) to be guided to the pre-checked lanes as so we did not have to wait in such horrendously long lines and dig through all of our things to pull laptops out of bags and remove shoes and such.

Checking our bags in. (Credit: Lowell Kane photography)
Checking our bags in. (Credit: Lowell Kane photography)

Eventually, we located Gate 45 and set up camp, dropping our things off before dispersing to retrieve food and relax for about two hours or so. I was thrilled (though not too surprised) that this plane was much more accommodating than the plane we’d taken to New York from Indiana. There were three aisles, enough leg room to be comfortable, and the seats leaned back (believe me, when you’ve been walking as much as we have and haven’t gotten much sleep in-between, this matters). The in-flight entertainment was… Well, almost nonexistent. Three movies played (the only one of which I cared for was the relatively new adaptation of Alice in Wonderland); however three-quarters of the plane, including our section, did not have power in our remotes and thus could not listen to the televisions. The chicken that I had for dinner was not too bad, albeit a tad strange tasting as far as the sauce went, and for breakfast we were served yogurt with pomegranate bits, granola, and muffin tops, which was immensely satisfying. By then I and most of the group were pretty crabby from not having slept, but after I had finished my meal I seemed to finally realize that I had just flown into France, and the lack of sleep from the past two evenings suddenly didn’t seem to faze me.

Day 9: The Moment I’ve Been Waiting For…

At about six o’clock on the morning of Sunday, June 7, we had landed in Paris. It was exhilarating, knowing that I was in another country, particularly France. Since I was young, I’ve always been fascinated and enthralled by French culture, and being able to literally step into that world seemed so surreal.

Overall, the entire process of traveling through JFK and into the Charles de Gaulle airport was incredibly smooth. Passing through security was a breeze, baggage claim was quick, and the Metro is (in my honest opinion) much easier to figure out than the subway system in New York. Immediately, I recognized that there was much less commotion when moving through the station. Not only that, but the cloth-covered seats were much more comfortable than the plastic counterparts of the New York subway. And, have I mentioned the incredible lessening of noise pollution? I cannot thoroughly express how relieved I was that my ears weren’t assaulted by the cacophonous shrieking of brakes and the yammering of those also waiting on the platform and in the cars.

The ride to Paris wasn’t long, and it only took one transfer before we eventually emerged from the station and were able to walk on the street. I wish I could convey onto you, the reader, the sense of serenity that I felt from that moment and throughout the rest of the day. I didn’t for one moment feel threatened or out of my element, despite how anxiety-prone I am and that I was in a foreign country an ocean away from my home in America.

The trek to the Citadines was short, and because our rooms were not ready, we dropped our bags off into a secure room and headed out to pass the time before we could check in. The marketplace was where we decided to explore first, which was located just down the road from our hotel. It was so grand, spanning several blocks and stocked by vendors selling all sorts of goodies, from food to apparel and accessories. I was surprised at just how marvelous everything was, all handmade or grown. The scents of fresh seafood and fruits were everywhere, and sure enough I became too hungry to resist the appeal of a crepe station, where I had the most delicious crepe filled with savory poulet, fromage, et des tomates (that’s chicken, cheese, and tomatoes for those who don’t understand French).

After that, groups of students split up to do various things. I and two others decided to stop in at a café and do something that I’ve always wanted to do: people watch in Paris. Perhaps it is the most tourist-y thing to do when you visit, but it really is worth it. We put our money together, enjoyed a bit of pizza and a croissant, and sat at our outside table for several minutes to enjoy watching the city wake up, more and more people emerging from their residences to hit the streets.

People watching. (Credit: Alex Nickolas photography)
People watching. (Credit: Alex Nickolas photography)

The group met up after we eventually reconvened in the hotel and checked into our rooms. I personally enjoyed the couple hours of napping that I was able to get before I was rudely roused by my alarm, indicating that it was time to head back down to the lobby to take to the streets once more.

There’s nothing quite like walking in Paris. It’s a stroll, a leisurely pace that everyone keeps up, and it’s something that I hope doesn’t let up as we enter the work week tomorrow. We had the privilege of touring the city, admiring the ornate architecture of buildings, the history written in stone by mortar and bullet holes from battles that seem worlds away. I feel I could never be able to rightfully describe Paris’ splendor and do it any justice. Everything about it is spectacular, even the people whom I have been able to hold small conversations with.

We ended our group tour at City Hall, where we were treated to the sight of the Notre Dame and other historic landmarks as well as La Seine. The group again parted ways, and I headed back to the hotel to share my experiences through this blog.

In front of City Hall. (Credit: Lowell Kane photography)
In front of City Hall. (Credit: Lowell Kane photography)

As of this moment, I’m treating myself to free and delicious espresso, hungry for further adventures.