Finger Crossed

I couldn’t believe it when I heard. Let me illustrate the scene.

A French person. August. 18h45. Works in administration. Calls my boss. Gives her an email of the person working on my file.

For those of you who have never dealt with French admin or visa issues, you have no idea who incredible this is. First of all, no one in France works in August–let alone pass 17h. And someone in French admin!!! And the fact she gave us a contact for my file!! Things are looking up. There maybe some light at the end of the tunnel!!

Apparently this dude that is working on my file comes back from his holiday on August 16 which means I have a month and a half to figure out this visa shit until well, I am full-blown illegal and forced to return to the US.

My first choice is obviously stay here. I love Paris and I still am not done with my experience here. However, I have also finally come to the acceptance that if I do have to go back, it wont be the end of the world. I am letting fate take the reins. I really do believe everything happens for a reason so I am excited to see what’s next.

That being said… cross your fingers for my visa 🙂

 

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Well Hello Again World!!!!

Where have I been? Honestly. I do not know why I have not been writing. I think it is a combo between the fact I have been incredibly busy and that I no longer can use an American keyboard very … Continue reading

If there is a will, there is a way

It has been several months since I started down the path of trying to defeat the evil French administration. Although I would say I havent made great strides, every step (no matter how small), is getting my closer to staying here. It is such a frustrating system to be honest. I know I have gone on and on about it but it truly is just mad. However, that being said, it is now like a game I have to win. If the French administration can play hard ball, so can I. They are just trying to scare me away and tell me I am not good enough to be in their sacred country. Well, the thing is, I love this place just as much as them and they aren’t going to stop me from making my dream happen.

I have come so far and I have no intention on stopping anytime soon. I love my life here. I love opening my window or walking downstairs and realizing I really do live in Paris. Since I have moved, and I am no longer under the chains of being an au pair, I have really started to make this life mine. I am so happy. I don’t want anything to change that.

I came here on an au pair visa which I guess technically is a student visa. Well, on student visas you are allowed to work part-time so if the French administration is so adamant on the fact I have a student visa, I am going to work. I am excited but also had in my mind a month-long vacation. I can’t believe I am already going to be back to the grind so soon. But this is what I want so I am looking forward to it actually working out… one day.

In the Labyrinth of French Administration

6 places. Yep. Count ’em. I have been 6 places. And 3 trips into Paris, (which I have to add is quite the journey from little ol’ Vaux).

I need to change the status of my visa. Seems simple enough? I knew it would be difficult and a long process but I had no idea that I would have been working at it for about a month and still have no idea where to start. I am starting to think this is like some kind of sick, life-size French board game. Got job- move ahead 5 spaces. Secured a studio in my budget- move ahead 3 spaces. Go to the prefecture- move back 2 spaces. Go to another prefecture- go back 2 spaces. Go to Le Centre de Miollis Demenage- go back 3 spaces. Go to the MOE (which was closed)- start over.

Some how this weird and twisted game has not got me down. So many people are asking why I am doing this. Well, to tell you the truth… I am stubborn. My mind is made up and I am going to make this happen. Is it because in the end I want to give the finger to France and say “haha??” Possibly.

I am starting to believe I may be the only American in the history of the world that wants to change my status. I am not someone who works for an American company that has a location in France. I am not someone who miraculously found a job for a French company while in the US and need to apply for a visa. I am a current resident of France. I am an American. I want to stay. I have found a job. I have all my paperwork. I have a place of residence. JE VEUX CHANGER MON STATUT DE VISA!!!!!

Oh la la la. C’est la France. 🙂

Making the unreal real

There are so many times that the au pairs talk about how we aren’t living a real life. I mean, if you think about it, it is quite silly. 20-something girl living in a stranger’s house in a foreign country spending up to 60 hours a week sometimes with kids and then trying to live a normal life on the weekend. Dont get me wrong– I would never change making the decision to this for the world. Although its weird, it truly is the most incredible experience I have ever had. I honestly believe everyone should take a chance like this. I have met amazing people I wouldn’t have otherwise. I mean my best friend is from Austria… how would that have happened?? I have also gotten the chance to travel, which also would otherwise be too expensive and impossible. Not to mention, I have grown a substantial amount due to sticking myself in a crazy situation– moving to a foreign country where I didn’t know the language and living with people I didn’t know.

So that being said… I am seriously considering making my life real here. The last month or so I have been invested in making this a possibility to stay here. And for those who know me, if I want something, I get it. I am quite a persistent person!

However, I kept getting discouraged due to the issues in being American and obtaining a work visa. But I am not going to let that stop me. I talk to everyone I know about wanting to stay here. C’mon… my whole college career was based on networking… it’s ingrained in my brain! Anyways, eventually it worked out. I managed to score an interview for an event management/travel company. I couldn’t believe I was going to an interview in Paris!!!! If nothing else, it has given me hope that this is possible.

The interview went well but of course just like the obstacle of being American, language is a huge issue. My French is coming a long but I am nowhere near where I should be to be completely comfortable getting a job in a French company. The thing is, I can work on it. I can make it happen. Learning French has been one of the hardest things while I have been here. But if perfecting it means getting a job then I am going to make it happen. So we shall see. Hopefully in the next few weeks I will know better what is going on after this part of my life.

I just can’t believe where I am at. I am currently planning to get my first real out of college job in Europe. I would have never guessed… ever. It is an incredible feeling though. I dont really know what I am doing or where I will be in a few months but I know its going to be right. And that’s all the comfort I need.

Let’s go world. What next are you going to throw at me??? I am ready.

Grève: One of the most important French words

“Its not France if someone isn’t striking.”

Just another morning conversation with Sian. Both Sian and I attempt to hear the French news every morning but constantly have to battle the sounds of Edgar crying and Victor jumping about or asking for chocolat chaude. Today is now the sixth day of national protest. The French government is attempting to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62 and the full state pension age from 65 to 67. Although the public highly disapproves and the strikes are starting to create major problems, (such as cutting approximately 50 percent of the flights coming in and out of Paris Orly Airport), the government really does not have much room to budge. The strike, or grève, is affecting travel, transportation, schools, oil refineries, petrol stations, you name it. It is weird to be here when something so major is going on. I am in a foreign country while something extremely important is happening.

This year is extremely political for France. Not just the grève, but there are many other things going on as well. For example, the high alert for terrorist attacks, the controversial new law prohibiting Muslim women to wear burkas, (which by the way, France has the largest Muslim population in Europe), and expelling illegal Gypsy immigrants and dismantling their camps. Sarkozy is doing some major things here and pissing off a lot of people.

I never was really into reading the news in the US. I know, its bad, but honestly never had an interest. Now that I am here in France and see how important it is to be aware, I am constantly checking the news. I cannot believe I was so ignorant and didn’t see the importance on being connected to what is going on in the world. I love America, but going abroad makes me realize how “in our own world” we are. There really is no emphasis put on learning foreign languages and I never really was encouraged to consistently check out current happenings in the world around me. I guess this is part of the whole growing up experience I wanted. I just feel like I never was really inconvenienced in the US. These strikes are affecting everyone’s’ lives. Not only are the people who rely on public transportation unable to easily go places, but now also the people with their own means of transportation are being denied of gas. Flights are completely screwed up and I can’t even imagine what the airports must be like today. It is just incredible to me what is happening. I realize I am probably naïve and inexperienced but this is amazing to see first hand. Not good amazing. But interesting.

So day 6. Lets see how much longer the French government will put up with the public’s battle.

Arriving in Vaux-sur-Seine

I realize this blog is titled “A Year in Paris,” but I need to clarify something. I lied. I am not spending a year in Paris. I am spending a year in the French countryside and approximately 40 weekends in Paris. Always being honest when writing my blog, I knew I could not continue this lie anymore. In my defense, the blog was titled before I knew what I got myself into.

So now that the tittle issue is all cleared up, let me try and explain my last few months… I have continued to write. Many of the entries are things I wrote at the time–just as if I had kept my blog. Some things that were written days, weeks, or months apart might be combined because they are on the same subject. Here you go….

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Before Sian and Nic moved to London, they had bought this house in Vaux and lived in it when Victor was a baby. I could not wait to see it. I did love Chambourcy but it never felt like mine. I was always anticipating the next move. Vaux-sur-Seine.

Vaux is the gorgeous little village right on the Seine River. I have never lived in a place so green and beautiful. I feel as if I was plopped into some fairy tale taking place in the French countryside. Brick houses with magnificent gardens line the streets, each beautiful in their own way. The village centre is much like any typical Parisian suburb: boulangerie, poste, hairdresser, pharmacy, florist, two schools, a library, a church, a chateau, and a recreation center—you know, the usual.

The first day we arrived in Vaux, it was just Sian, the kids, and I. My room was empty except the pile of things I had managed to bring over the day before. There is some sort of excitement in moving. I love the smell of new houses and the simplicity of the empty rooms. Eventually, Nic brought over my mattress so I had somewhere to sleep. That night, I pushed into the corner and thought about what was to come. I was finally in Vaux, finally in my room.

The next day was busy. The boys started school and the movers and the furniture were due to arrive. It was strange to think of not being with Edgar and Victor for the whole day but I was anxious to get settled in my new room. I had spent about entertaining the boys for 13 hours a day. From this point on, I would only have them a few hours a day.

Sian had picked out a matching chest of drawers for me and was going to give me their old desk. I was going to have proper furniture! I sat there watching the movers slowly piece together my room: first the bed frame, then my new dresser, then a bubble-wrapped TV, and eventually my desk. I couldn’t wait to make the room mine and unpack my stuff.

During the chaos of the move, we had been invited over for lunch by the exceptionally friendly neighbors, Danielle and Jean-Claude. It was such a beautiful day. One of those days that you just think to yourself how lucky you are. The sun shining and everything in Vaux looked magnificent. Danielle and Jean-Claude are probably the cutest older French couple I have ever seen. Jean-Claude is so animated and funny that not knowing French doesn’t really matter when you are with him. They both know a bit of English, but for the most part, when we are with them everyone speaks French. For lunch, they prepared a typical French feast with all the courses. One thing you must know… is the French love their meals. It is a time to get together and not only enjoy the food, but also each other’s company. We started off with bread and homemade pâté. Then moved on to tomatoes and olives in a vinagrette. For the main course, we had ossobucco. It was incredible. Before now, I had not tried veal. I always had a morality issue with it. But I made the mistake of trying it without knowing what it was. The taste is phenomenal.  After the incredible first experience with veal, I moved on to dessert. We had ice cream with these pears that had been soaked in wine. So delish. Somewhere between the veal and my second glass of wine I realized what was happening—I was in France, in the French countryside, eating a meal with wonderful French people. I was here. I made it. I have to say that this was one of my happiest moments. I was officially in love with Danielle, Jean-Claude, and Vaux.

The next few days in Vaux are a blur. I spent time between watching the kids, helping out Sian, and organizing my room. By now, Sian and I have become good friends. I really enjoy her company. For some reason, although this is my job, I feel like this is my extended family. I love my boys more than anything and Nic and Sian have become dear friends of mine. Having these days with Sian having time off meant a lot to me. I really got to know her. We went shopping for things for the new house and helped each other with the kids. I still count my blessings on how fortunate I was to find such an incredible family.

 

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I have been in Vaux for almost 3 weeks now. Still no Internet or cable. No Internet. I had no idea how much I rely on the Internet. I seriously feel lost. For about the past week at least, I have been contemplating going to the library, but hesitant due to the ongoing language barrier.  Today, I got the courage to go. Somewhat successful. Of course, the woman who worked there needed to tell me all these things in French and I have to reply in the most ignorant way possible “je parlez par Francais.” I cannot wait to learn French. I am beginning to understand more and more but I hate not being able to communicate. Anyways, I was able to use the computer. However, they had four with one in use. Of course, the French way of making things difficult, I was only able to use the one in use. So I meandered around the French books and waited. Finally I got to use it and did little in accomplishing all I wanted to before the closed.

 

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Tomorrow marks the day of my 3-month anniversary of being in France. I cannot believe that it has been that long. I have survived. And have no intention on leaving.  It is incredible how much your life can change in such a short period of time. My world has been picked up and turned upside down and for some reason that’s normal to me now. 75 percent of my week is dedicated to thinking about the wellness of other people’s lives. Everything I do is around these two little people that consume my week. The other 25 percent involves the greatest times of my life. I live for the weekends. Life in Vaux has been really tough for me. I have always been very social. I went from living in my sorority house with 35 women to living in the French countryside completely isolated. With no car, limited public transportation, and no internet, I am basically on my own. My closest friend here, Robin, is only about 15-20 minutes away from me and it is more impossible to go see her than to have the option of getting into Paris. It blows my mind. If I had the option to see her during the week, I think my whole attitude would change. Fortunately, we both have unlimited text so we get to rant and rave about screaming ninos constantly, which definitely helps.

Overall, I am completely satisfied with my decision. No, Vaux was not the idea I had for myself for this year. Although it has been tough, I have learned. That is why I came here–to grow, to experience. I am doing incredible things and meeting incredible people. I have the opportunity to travel. Whenever I begin to complain about my life in the sticks, I remember why I am here and what I can do. I am taking it day by day. Even the bad times can’t change how happy I am to be France and how proud of myself I am for doing this.

 

My First Solo Adventure in the City of Lights

For those of you who knew me, you know that I do little to nothing by myself. I love people and I love to be around them 24/7. I mean, come on, living in a sorority house of 30 girls was my dream. Part of the reason I came to France was to become more self-reliant. I use this term instead of independent because I believe I have always been an independent person–I have always done what I wanted to do, had my own thoughts, and made things I believe in happen. However, I do feed off the love of the others around me. I have always lived closed to my parents. My sister has always been there for me. For the past 10 years of my life, I have been in a relationship for 8 of them. I joined a sorority and constantly had a sister around. And for my best friend, well she knows how much I need her. Of course none of this is a bad thing and I wouldn’t change any of it. But I do want to be ok just being me. When people would tell me that they went to the movies alone or out to eat I thought they were weirdos. Part of me was envious though. I never thought I could do that. So me, being all that I am, moved to a foreign country. Go big or go home, right?

Callie is gone for a week in Sweden so it was my first weekend alone. Although I was exhausted, I didn’t want to waste a Saturday. Before I had left for France, I had bought Frommer’s 24 Great Walks in Paris because I knew I was going to want to some guided exploring when I first got here. There is several good things about this book–it gives you a starting and ending metro stations; it gives clear directions; and it gives a history and facts about the things you are walking by. I knew that I wanted to stop by my favorite museum, Musee d’Orsay so I tried to find a route that included that. Here is my route below:

My Walking Route (to see larger, right click on the image and open in a new window)

Pont Alexandre III

Although I had seen the Pont Alexandre III with Annie, this is where my route started and it is so magnificent I had no problem exploring it a bit more. This bridge is named after Alexander III because he had laid the first stone for it as a symbol of the alliance between France and Russian during the Franco Prussian wars. The neat thing about this bridge is that it is one of the first prefabricated structures in the world and only took 200 days to assemble. That is truly incredible when you see this bridge. The views from it are just breathtaking. It is probably one of my favorite views of the Eiffel Tower. There is something about the Seine that I think is just marvelous. As it runs throughout the city and even beyond Paris’s boundaries, I always find such beauty in it. The bridges are such an important part of the history of the city and the river is such an important part of the culture. Parisians can always be seen holding hands walking along the bridges or picnicing with friends along the river banks.

Pont de la Concorde and Assemblee Nationale

Once I crossed the bridge, I made my way over to the Pont de la Concorde- a bridge that leads to the Assemeblee Nationale. The Pont de la Concorde, though not as ornate as the Pont Alexandre III is still beautiful and important in its own way. It was made out of blocks saved from the demolition of the Bastille. Once over the bridge, I took a look at the Assemblee Nationale which is the seat of the lower house of the French Parliament. It was really neat to see where laws are voted on. The building was guarded and looked like a forbidden place. I was so curious to see what was inside those doors…

Little place du Palais Bourbon

As I continued to make my way to Musee d’Orsay, I headed around the Assemblee Nationale and stopped at this little square filled with mansions from Louis XVI’s era. They were elegant and beautiful. I felt like I had stumbled upon a hidden gem because there really was no people around. There was one café with a few workers preparing for the day, but other than the noise of their work, the square was silent and peaceful. I couldn’t help but wonder how many memories had been made in those mansions over the centuries and what this square used to look like on an afternoon like this. After leaving the square, I walked through this small street filled with tourist shops and little cafes. I stopped to look for a bit because it had started raining and that was a perfect excuse to dry off. It is funny to me how there can be so many tourist shops in one area that all carry the same thing. I was thrilled however, to find one place selling postcards for an actual reasonable price.

Musee d'Orsay

As I made my way down the little street, I came upon the Musee de la Legion d’Honneur and the Musee d’Orsay. There are so many reason I love the Musee d’Orsay. For one, the building has a remarkable history and is incredibly gorgeous. Originally, the space was built for the 1900 World Trade Fair, however the project was given up and plans for a train station took its place. The station was built for steam engines and when electric trains had replaced them, the platforms were not long enough. The Orsay station then remained abandoned until 1977 when the idea to create a museum arose. The museum would be dedicated to the 19th century. When I walk into the museum, I just stand there in awe. The ceilings are beautifully decorated and there is a large clock above the door. You walk into a wonderful foyer filled with impeccable sculptures and doors that led into themed rooms of art. I could spend days in this museum–even just sitting in the main foyer examining all the sculptures and people watching. The great thing is because I am now a European resident, I get in free! Which means I will spend countless lazy afternoons there…

Stairs leading to the Jardin de Tuileries

Jardin de Tuileries

I headed to the Jardin des Tuileries after spending a few hours at the museum. To get there I crossed the foot bridge, Pont de Solferino. I walked down to the river level and walked up some stairs into a beautiful garden. By now, it had started raining but the gardens were still incredible the second I got up the stairs. Unfortunately, I did not get to explore very much because it started to down pour! I made my way to the metro and headed home.

I would have to say… my first solo adventure was a true success!!!

#26: Completed 1 of 5 in going somewhere by myself!!!

Check out my pictures from the trip!