When you’re living in a foreign country, there are bound to be times when you have no idea what’s going on.

Like, for example, this Saturday when I walked out of my aparment and stumbled into this:

(That’s my friend Michelle’s voice you hear talking about booking a hostel in Vienna.)

I am living with a host family in an apartment in the 11eme arrondisement (sort of like the Parisian version of a zip code). Our building is right down the street from le Place de la Bastille, the former location of the famous fortress/prison that was stormed by the disgruntled poor of Paris in July 1789 to kick off la Révolution.

These days, le Place de la Bastille is a traffic circle recognizable by the tower you see in the video. That is to say, there is usually a lot of traffic there of the vehicular sort, which was why I was so surprised to see the streets crowded with thousands of punky teenagers bobbing their heads along to the techno music blaring from all directions.

We found out eventually that in the process of trying to get last minute tickets to the New York City ballet that night at the Opéra Bastille we had wondered into the TECHNOPARADE, which Wikipedia demurely defines as “a parade of vehicles equipped with strong loudspeakers and amplifiers, along the streets of a municipality, which are closed down for this purpose.” I think a proper definition would have to mention something about the broken glass, extreme hairstyles, and general chaos that seem to come along with the Technoparade.

It was not the first time I have assumed the role of the confused American. I spent a solid half hour yesterday in a paperie studying vertically-lined French notebook paper. I spent my first week in the city pushing the button to cross the street and wondering why a recorded voice would yell the street names at me before I realized that the button was for blind people.

I’m pretty confident that there is more confusion to come.