Find me a job. Or EU nationality.

For all of you who know me well, you know that I change my mind weekly, if not daily, about staying or leaving Europe. Well, I had basically decided this was my final year and that I would make the journey back to the states this winter. However, I have switched again. But now I have the same problem you will find in my post earlier this year. Continue reading

Summertime

Every year I anxiously anticipated summer. Freedom. Sunshine. Fun.

This year? Summer just brings good-byes, no time off and loads of good-byes. Not the childhood memory I was so fond of.

It’s the end of June and we have yet to see summer weather. July marks the end of several people’s time here in Paris. And don’t even get me started on how insane work is. It is times like this that I wonder why I took lazy, sunny San Diego days for granted. Honestly, I just want to plop my butt in the sand and soak in summer. Yet for some reason this summer I am exceptionally stressed out and frustrated.

I don’t know what I want. I love Paris. But I also hate it. Truth be told. I talked about my serious relationship with this city awhile back but now it has turned slightly abusive and I can’t break away. Work is honestly eating my soul and I keep having to prepare myself for goodbyes. No consistency, no control. I am spontaneous and go with the flow but I am not going to lie… I am a bit of a control freak like the rest of my family and lately I feel like I have no control.

Thinking about moving back stateside gives me serious anxiety. This has been my life for 2 years. And I see what happens to some of the expats that return–they just want to figure a way to come back. I know I could come back if I wanted to but moving back seems like an even bigger decision than the one I took to move to France. I don’t know why.

Maybe it’s because I know I have changed or the people I knew so well changed, or both. Or maybe it’s because I have I don’t think I will really fit back stateside. Or maybe it’s just my weird obsession with Paris.

I know going back to California would not be the end of the world. In fact, I am sure it would be good. There are days I can’t think of anything else besides moving home but then it seems like something in this city all draws me back in. I am so proud of my experience here. It was honestly the best decision I made. It seems weird to end it all. But I know one day I probably will. As much as I love it here, I am not convinced this is the city for the rest of my life. I’m a mover… I think I will experience several cities before finding my home.

Until then, I would really like if Paris could get its butt in gear and give me some summer!!!

Can I Go Back?

This morning a few colleagues and I were talking in the kitchen about the wonderful weather June has brought us. It has honestly been winter since November with maybe 2 weeks of sun total. The only thing that got us through those tough months was the hope that summer would bring warmth and sunshine

Well. It’s June. No sun. No warmth. Just rain, rain, rain.

The last few days haven’t been too cold which causes another issue of humidity. Metro rides are not very pleasant in the first place but when it is hot and moist, it is a recipe for disaster.

Complaining was not the purpose of this post…

One of my colleagues compared the constant rain and humidity to the feeling we were in Bangkok. And I was struck with a flood of memories. I slowly looked up from my cup of tea and exclaimed, “yes, but Bangkok has sun and the people smile there.”

I miss Thailand. I miss it so much it hurts. I can’t help but let my mind wander to the days I spent there. I was ridiculously happy. Thailand is honestly my favorite place in the world. I just want to go back to my little hut in Pai and escape the world for a bit.

As much as I love Paris, I can’t live in a place without sunshine. It needs to step it up in the weather department or my future plans are truly going to start to sway to living somewhere else…

Rain, Rain, Go Away

I do not love Paris in the springtime right now. Cold, rainy, gray. I am curious when spring will actually start to show. It is quite tough to enjoy the ‘beauty’ of Paris in the spring when you don’t want to go outside due to crappy weather. Here’s to hoping April showers bring May flowers…

I have started to adopt the French way of thinking about weather so I don’t slip into a depression. “Oh it’s ok. A bad spring means a great summer.” I think this is the one area of their lives they are optimistic and I think that is partially due to the fact they don’t want to admit the weather here completely sucks. I feel bad London gets the bad rep. Paris is the same way.

23 years and I have always had sun on my birthday. Paris is really making me think that birthday number 24 won’t be so lucky. But of course, I just love Paris for always keeping me on my toes.

Speaking of birthdays, it is weird having my second one here. That means all of 23 was spent living in France. It is weird how plans can change so quickly. I was only supposed to be here a year and now I am pushing two. I think I will leave the end of this year but now I don’t know. It honestly changes daily. It is difficult because I am so happy here and I feel like I fit, but there are so many things I miss about being in the states… mostly, my family. If I could just ship them out here to live I think I would stay forever.  I am in this whole not thinking about it stage though. December is still 8 months away. I have time.

It is also strange to have my birthday here because I used to have large birthday dinners and huge nights of going out to celebrate. Just as last year, I work. And most my friends are on holiday. I am sure I will spend the night having a few drinks with Frenchies and I am perfectly ok with that. I am really liking the Frenchies lately. I think I even have to retract my previous statement that Coco and Frenchies don’t mix—I am currently being proved otherwise. To be honest though, my real gift is my mom coming. I haven’t seen her since Christmas and I can’t be more excited.

So maybe Paris is trying to drown my good mood in the rain but I am tenaciously fighting back. Life is good… despite the horrible weather.

On the Roller coaster of Normalcy

When you move abroad, everything changes. It’s inevitable. The longer you stay the longer the weird foreign things start to become your normal. Sadly, there are things that in the bottom of my soul I think are normal that my American friends have to remind me that they aren’t.

I guess I should first clarify normal. I refer to normal as something that you are used to. For instance, I am American. I lived 22 years in the United States. Therefore, my habits and things I deem “normal” should correlate with my American upbringing. Yet somehow, living in France for a year and half actually brainwashes some of those very simple things out of my mind.

That is not entirely the point of this post. The point is that I think I began to forget things in order to make my life normal here. It was like a survival mechanism in my brain. However I have found, just lately, another part of my brain is fighting back. There are things I am beginning to notice again that had been pushed into the dark corners of my mind.

I miss living in a country where lines for newly released movies have barriers to control the lines rather than leaving it a cluster f**k. I miss that fact that even though the lady at the DMV may be a horrible, angry bitch that she will give you the same answer and procedure as the other angry bitch behind her– the answer and procedure does not, in fact, change dependent her mood. I miss grocery shopping on Sundays or holidays. I miss having sunshine for entire weeks, months even, not a few hours. I miss being able to speak English in public and not getting looked at as an ignorant tourist. I miss guys in basketball shorts and not pointy shoes. I miss crappy American TV and lounging on the couch with my best friends. I miss having a couch or an apartment big enough for one. I miss having a toilet that flushes correctly. I miss having friends that I knew would be in the same city as me longer than a year. I miss working with people who have a concept of how business works and the importance of business relationships. I miss having a meal without someone (guy or girl!) pointing out how fattening something someone in the room is eating.

I don’t know why this is happening now but I remember why I love home. Not that I ever forgot but little things are fluttering back into my memories. But I also remember why I love it here. I can’t just walk out of the metro into an adorable street market with the smell of rotisserie chicken in the air while I am in San Diego. This is the problem. There is so much I love about both my homes. I don’t know what is “normal” anymore. It is this strange mix of things now. It is ok. But I do find that there will always be something missing no matter where I am because I do hold two places so dearly in my heart.

Paris leaves a mark. So much that I don’t know if I will be ready to leave it. It seems so far off when my contract ends but it seems crazy close too. I know I can probably renew it and start the whole visa thing again but I am not sure I have it in me.

I miss these things but I can make a list just as long that I will miss about Paris. I know eventually I will have to just accept it and keep it as a good memory. Until then, I am going to enjoy every last ounce of Paris… and of course the French in me, will complain about it too 🙂

Rêves, Soirées, and My Week

This week was tough. For one, I was suffering from a case of what I refer to as PTD (post-travel depression) brought on by my return from Copenhagen. Although PTD happens quite often in my life, I have yet to figure out how to rid myself of the blues that set in after a great trip. And of course, PTD is hits especially hard on the Mondays I return to work. Clearly a very scientific term I have coined 😉

Work has been tough in itself lately. I really love my job and I realize how lucky (or how persistent I am) that I found a job in my field and in France. The problem is that I went from being insanely busy in college, juggling a lot of different activities, and living in a sorority house of 35 women to having a 9 to 5 job and living alone. I am not complaining and absolutely love the freedom and independence I have. It is just weird to get used to. I do best when I am up to my eyeballs in things to do—not so much when things have come to a lull. Right now at work, we refer to this time as ‘low season’ which basically means we take the time preparing for the ‘high season’ and doing other various tasks. Again, not something I have a problem with but I miss the stress and high energy of high season. The second problem is all my fault. My French. I understand I have only been seriously learning French for about 6 months but it still frustrates me that I am not fluent. I also understand this is an unreasonable wish. But I love to talk and make connections with people and I feel my lack of confidence in French is limited those made connections. The thing that is the most frustrating is I know it. It is not like I don’t know French. I do. I understand. I can read and write. I even know how to say what I want to say typically but when the opportunity presents itself… I freeze. It doesn’t help that when I speak I dive right into a sea of “ahhhh c’est trés mignon!!” Sorry but I don’t want to sound cute, I want to sound French. Very different things.

However, my company had a soirée last night filled with all of our employees and suppliers. It was a great time and I was quite pleased with my able to not get overwhelmed in an entire room of French speakers. I took the leap of faith that my French skills could keep me afloat and I was right. I was quite proud. But this wasn’t the thing I was most excited about. Over a conversation about the processed food intake and obesity of Americans with a new contact, I received the best possible comment from a French woman. She looked at me and said, “if you hadn’t told me you were American, I would have assumed you were French. You look like a French girl.” Now all of you probably have no idea why I got so unbelievably excited about this but it is a big deal. To me at least.

The other toughness of the week was another thing completely brought on by myself. Note to self: do not text when sleeping. Yep, that’s right. I don’t join the group of the drunk texters, but rather I like to text amidst my sleep. Don’t ask how because that is a question I am still trying to sort out. Now, I don’t want to go into detail about this but I think my brain is trying to sort out a lot of things this week. Which brings me to my next subject: dreams.

Dreaming isn’t my thing. Rarely do I ever wake up and remember anything I dreamt about the night before. I am talking around 5 dreams… a year. However, this week I have already met my quota for the year. I have had multiple dreams every night. They are all similar, too. Every night I have dreams about my family or people from my past. In most of the dreams, everything is normal and pleasant but ultimately something bad happens. At first, it started off about something happening to me, but slowly it turned into things happening to my family. I hate this feeling. I hate waking up worried and knowing that they are thousands of miles away. But that in itself is why I believe I am having those dreams. My brain is doing its best to sort out what I want.

Lately, I have tried to think more long-term than the usual ‘what’s my next trip.’ There are only a few things I know for sure while all this rest is just floating around in my head. One thing I know is that Paris isn’t forever. I love it now and I am not sure how long ‘now’ will last but I know it is not where I want to settle down. But this leads me to the question, well where is it I want to live? Answer: I have no effing clue. If only there was like a halfway house for people who lived abroad but also like America. I need the best of both. Mostly what is driving me most right now is being close to my family. My sister and I haven’t lived in the same city since I started high school. Because she is my best friend, this is a bit difficult for me. Of course, we still talk daily but I want to be able to have the relationship where we can grab drinks together, or cook dinner, or go shopping. Which is all way I think I will make the move to San Francisco next. Plus, I think the city might be the halfway house I am looking for. We will see.

I also don’t really know what I want to do. I love events and now I look the travel and leisure side of the industry. Problem is, ultimately I would love to be a travel writer/photographer (or host a show on the travel channel!) The writing field isn’t the easy place to break into. Excuses, I know. I can make it happen. I just wish I could have more time to focus on it…

My gosh what a ramble. Wow. Well for all of you that are still awake after this post, high-five. I am stopping now for your sanity.

Bonne weekend à tous!!

Speaking French, Saying Goodbye, and My Future

Life has been crazy busy lately. And I love it. I have always been someone who thrives off of being busy. It is incredible the limited amount of time you have when you work 40 hours a week. I alluded to it in a past post but I honestly do not have time to do laundry/clean my flat/go grocery shopping… you know the basic necessities of life. And now that I am friends with au pairs again it seems I have fallen into the routine of being responsible during the week and acting like a 20-something during the weekend. Two lives are quite tough to fit into one week. On top of this, I am now going to French class 3 times a week. Although my schedule is tiring, I am excited to get back into class.  My French skills are splotchy… I thought I wrote better than I spoke but my enrolment test told me otherwise. Probably because my specialty is business emails. I just need to have confidence in my speaking. It will come. But class will also help with the rules I don’t get when speaking at work or with my French friends so I am looking forward to it. I do have to say I am quite impressed how far I have come. From knowing nothing to being able to understand and hold a conversation without taking very many classes is pretty good I think. I do wish that my last year was more like the how it is now because then I would be much more progressed. I would say 90 percent of my French ability has been achieved in the last 6 months. So it is a bit of a shame that the other year I was here lacked in very much progress.

It is really weird to think about life any other way now. I think that is why I have so much anxiety about going home. I really, truly love it here. It just feels right. And I love all the people I meet and all the things I am learning.

The more I hang out with and interact with the French, the more I like them. The American culture and the French culture are so very different—which at first can be quite difficult to get over or understand. Even people that come here for a short time get their opinions based on the limited interactions and make their generalizations (which in French people’s defense, it is unfair to base all your opinions on Parisiens—they are not the vrai français. I have to say it did take a long time. I have always loved France but the differences in culture made warming up to the French a difficult task.

A few of my friends are leaving this week. Goodbyes are something you have to accept as an expat. And as much as I wish they got easier, they don’t. Because I am one of the rare few that has decided to stay longer than a year, I have had to go through various waves of goodbyes. Each one just as difficult. Two of my friends that are leaving was not by choice but rather by the iron fist that France has around issuing visas right now. Although I have been through a rocky road and worked my ass off to get where I am now, I still feel lucky that it managed to work out. It is awful to get something you want to get taken from you with no control over it. I guess this is the reality of trying to live in another country. It still is really sad how incredibly difficult it is to move here or find a job.

My good friend was asking me what I think I will do after this. I have a work visa for a year and I have the option of extending it. But, as sad as it is, I am not sure I have the energy to go through another visa process here in France. I think the last time just about destroyed me. I am not sure. I have no idea where I will be in a year. As of now, I love my life here. I am enjoying it so much and I would never change it. But, I know this isn’t a forever thing. I think next year I want to move somewhere else. I haven’t fully decided what continent I want that somewhere else to be but I think I will be ready to move on. Not because I don’t like France, but because this experience was so rewarding and I want another opportunity to do it again.

I have been looking in to a bunch of things—nothing too serious yet. Masters programs, immersion programs, jobs, etc. I actually even looked into jobs in the states. If I move back, I want to do something that involves travel. I was researching international event planning and it seems I need to know Spanish for the most part. Now, I do know a bit—as in I can get by or tell my friend Christy that the Spanish bartender is actually hitting on her and not just being friendly—but clearly not enough to land me a job. So, I think that’s my next endeavour… anyone in for a Spanish immersion program?? But really… how cool would it be to put French AND Spanish on my CV… German next…

The point is. I am not done experiencing things before settling down. And I don’t just mean the whole husband, house, kids sh**. I mean I am not ready to go back to what I know. I want to be challenged more, learn more, grow more.

So where am I going to be next year? No clue. But I am sure it will be awesome 🙂

Riding VIP in the RER

I really think everyone should experience riding the RER A or line 1 during the morning rush. It is impressive to see a human sardine tin stuffed full of people in suits. Now with winter just around the corner, I find it much more amusing now that the sardines are wrapped from head to toe in scarves, jackets, mittens, and hats. Seems a bit like torture, right?

I do believe that over time, as awful as this situation may sound and actually is, it becomes more entertaining and quite humorous. There is no point to get frustrated every time the metro decides to come to a halt because the matter-of-fact is it is going to happen regardless. Clearly being stuffed being a over-perfumed woman just short enough to where her hair is up your nose and a large, heavy breathing business man simultaneously checking his BlackBerry and wiping the sweat off his forehead is not appealing in any circumstance let alone the one where you are stopped in the middle of your route on an over packed train car. However, the story that I am about to share makes these situations doable. Because even though this is rare occasion, you have to laugh at the efficiency of RATP.

It was a normal day. I was rushing to work, as usual, because no matter how much I try to prepare I still manage to find various things to pull me away from getting ready in the morning. I scurried to the RER and found the usually mass of people. Like cows being herded to their unfortunate demise, me and the other disgruntled suit filed into the RER. This was one of those times you get on and think it is so crowded that the RATP employee in the neon vest is going to rip you off the train moments before the doors shut. But no, quite the opposite happens today. Someone manages to lunge into the group and squeeze their body between mine and the doors. Pleasant. The next stop goes routinely until the doors attempt to close 3 times with no success. After much patience (3 minutes can feel like hours when in the sultry atmosphere of the RER), the conductor announces something along the lines of, “Les portes ne seront pas fermées. Il ya un problème. Tout le monde doit de sortir du RER. ” (The doors will not close. There is a problem. Everyone needs to exit the RER) 

I had to collect my thoughts over the loud roar of dissatisfaction through moans and grunts. Because I pressed against the opposite door of the one that we were supposed to exit out of, I was going to be one of the last to be able to get off. To me, this would work in my favour because then I would be at the front of the line for people waiting to get on. However, when the last few people were about to exit (myself included), the buzz rang out indicating the doors were going to close. I didn’t think they were actually going to close but when they did, I thought this was just another malfunction and that they would re-open so I didn’t worry much. But they never re-opened. The small group of people left standing in the RER and I all looked at each other with confused faces as the train began to move. The angry herd outside the train laughed and waved thinking we were heading to who-knows-where. Although part of me was scared this was going to be another Indiana Jones episode, I found relief I wasn’t in it alone this time. I sat down happy that this was one of the first times I was able to grab a seat on my morning commute. For about 5 minutes none of us knew where we were going but were more than content to have left the chaos. Soon we arrived at the next stop and to my surprise, the journey continues like normal. The whole doors not shutting thing may have just been a way for the conductor to clear out his over crowded train. Who knows? There is rarely ever a time a decision made in France makes sense to me.

All I know is—I got a VIP ride to work. And that makes me smile.