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!!!

Week #6: Indie Travel Mainfesto

Week 6 prompt : This week for the Indie Travel Challenge 2012, we want to know what you think about the Indie Travel Manifesto.  Does it resonate with you? Do you think, based on the tenets of the Manifesto, that you are an indie traveler? Create your own manifesto for the way you travel, and share it with the community!

One of the reasons I wanted to take part in the Indie Travel Challenge is because I can associate myself with the ideals and values the website showcases. The articles tend to focus on things I can relate to and have interest in. They recently put out a manifesto that can be read here .

Although I travel a lot, I do not often analyze why I love it so much or how it has helped me grow. It was refreshing to read the manifesto and examine what I take away from my travel experiences. Traveling has opened my eyes to new cultures, languages, and ways of life. I have been able to see and do things I thought I would only be able to read about on the web. Each experience leaves me with something I can take away. Whether it is learning how to say hello and how are you in Russian or a new perspective on an old topic. Travel has made me more aware of the world around me. It has given a hunger for more. For every city I cross off my list, I think I add about 3 more! It is incredible to me to find that although some places seem worlds apart of where I grew up and what I know, I can find similarities and connect with the people there. I have found that similarities connect people but the differences are beautiful as well.

There is probably nothing more different from the French mentality and the American mentality. My French friends say the same thing. They have no idea why Americans are so happy, confident, and emotional; while we Americans are still scratching our heads over the horrible service, apathy, and complex nature of the French. However, it is my time in France that has taught my patience and acceptance of things beyond my control. I have learned to slow down and enjoy the smaller things in life. And I like to think that my constant smiles and humor has brought a bit of light into my office. I no longer romanticize my life in Paris, I understand it. Paris will always hold a special place in my heart but I am happy to see it for what it is and truly love it, not just the idea of it.

My goals as well as the things I find important in my life have been altered. I guess falling under the category of the manifesto: Defining your values, exploring your beliefs, and crafting your own meaning for life. This also leads into dynamic possibilities because now all I see is a world of opportunity rather than the box I thought I had to fit into in California.

This is what travel is about for me. Taking something and leaving something behind. Dispelling the stereotypes or perceived opinions and searching for the truth. I search for the experience, not something to cross of my to-do list. I want to share drinks with the locals and learn about their life… make a meaningful connection. I want to see the city for what it really is and not what the guide-book tells me.

This is just my beliefs. I am not cutting down different ways of travelling and I too pick up the occasional guide-book. The point is, travel is about experience and about personal growth. I constantly forget the names of cathedrals I have been or paintings I have seen, but I almost always can tell you about the conversations I had with the people I met or the exact taste of the food I tried. When talking about my trip to Belgium, I might not mention the Church of the Sacred Heart but I will tell you that my best friend and I got lost and spent over an hour taking pictures of the street art in a little neighborhood. When highlighting my trip to Austria, I probably won’t tell you much about what I saw in Vienna but can go on for hours about the typical Austrian lunch I shared with Aggie’s family. To me, these are the moments I value. I love seeing the wonderful tourist attraction the cities provide but I also love to feel the city and find out what makes it tick.

I am not sure how well I hit the prompt on the head and I think it might be another case of serious rambling. But thank you BootNAll, you inspired me.

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 🙂

Independent or Selfish?

I have recently realized that moving alone to a foreign country has realigned my priorities and interests. I mean, I believe I have always been somewhat independent but lately I have noticed how much this whole independence thing has been kicked up a few notches. I have only had to look out for myself for a while now. I don’t have a boyfriend. I don’t have family here. I don’t have room mates. So really there are two things I care about: my friends (that I usually only get to see on weekends and occasional meal dates) and myself. I didn’t quite realize how much I have enjoyed this lack of responsibility for others until recently. I have developed a routine. I enjoy my freedom and get stuff done during the week. I do my laundry, buy groceries, clean my flat, take French lessons, work a bunch, go shopping, and make plans with friends when they are free. On the weekend, I literally spend 2 ½ days straight with my best friends here. They mostly live in the suburbs or with their au pair families so my flat turns into their weekend home—and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love having my weekend room mates and hate the empty feeling the little 15 m² flat I call my own gets on Sunday nights. My friends are my family here and I have been lucky enough to be blessed with an incredible family  We all live for the weekends and cannot wait until the week finally reaches Friday so we can have another few days of adventures. Now I believe I have arrived upon this realization of complete happiness of my independence because I am finding it hard to balance when another thing is thrown into the mix. I haven’t really dated out here too much—partly due to my extreme want to do this by myself and partly because I have yet to find someone worth hanging out with for more than a few hours. Not to come off as a bitch but guys are not so much a priority. I think after I reached the year mark, I was more open to the idea but still really hesitant. Why complicate my pretty awesome life? I mean it’s not like I don’t enjoy getting driven to work on the back of a Frenchman’s motorbike but the whole thinking of someone else and finding time to squeeze in time for yet another part of my life is creating a challenge for me. A challenge I am somewhat resisting. I realize this sounds selfish and probably stupid but whatever. I’ll take it. I know I am being selfish but I have done this whole thing for me and it scares me to let someone else in and change what I have created. I just don’t think I am ready or willing to change, but if that can be accepted then I guess I am ok with it. I have no idea why someone would decide to sign on to someone who refuses to give up even a fraction of the weekend to anyone besides her friends but hey, if that works for them, then I am willing to give it a shot.

La Rentrée

Life has seriously been in fast forward lately. When the hell did it get to be September? The good thing is although life is flying by quickly, it’s also flying by amazingly.

Paris has gone through la rentrée and everyone, for the most part, has returned from holiday. This is awesome and horrible at the same time. Lets get the bad news out-of-the-way first. Now if all of my readers lived in Paris, I could explain the problem in 2 words: RER A. However, for clarification purposes I guess I will delve into this a bit more. Basically all the suits that work in La Defense take the RER. Now this experience was really not bad in August when the suits had taken there ninos and left the city. But now they have returned. And although there is an RER about every 2 minutes, it still does not seem to be enough. There are actually human beings employed to push people on to the RER and attempt to close the doors. So there I am, among all the sleepy-eyed yet rushed business people with BlackBerry (or iPhone) in hand praying that I will manage to squeeze myself on to the next RER. Although completely used to this fact, it will never be enjoyable.

Now, for the good stuff. As I said, life has been seriously great lately. With la rentrée, comes the return of my friends who actually got a proper holiday during the proper holiday time, unlike me. It also brings in the new swarm of au pairs. So to say the least my social calendar has made a sudden leap from low-key alone time to too busy to do my laundry/grocery shop. I am loving it though. I have to say it is quite strange to be a “veteran” compared to all the newbies rolling into town. It seems like last week I was in their shoes but when I look back I realize how much I have grown. It is incredible. Although I really loved the experience, I am so happy where I am now. I love that I can look back and finally laugh on the series of unfortunate events that occurred or reminisce about the fun times I had with my fellow au pairs. I love that now I am not afraid to break out of my little au pair bubble and that I actually have French friends and go on dates where the language spoken isn’t always my own.

I am happy that I am spiralling toward a new chapter in my life. Everything seems to be working out lately (shocking I know!!) and I hope this continues. It has taken so much to get to this point of being content. A lot of people will comment on how lucky I am with my current situation, and while yes I did have my fair share of luck, I always worked my ass off. There has been many days of tears; stress, and uncertainty, to get me to this place. I have loved the journey and cant wait to see what is ahead.

On a side note, I am finally taking a holiday. Place of choice: CALIFORNIA. I haven’t been home in 10 months. Almost a year. I can’t believe it and I am so ecstatic to be back… but also terrified. It freaks me out I don’t know what to expect when I am returning to a place that is my home. In the whole scheme of thing I know that 10 months isn’t all that long but it is long enough to forget what used to be normal and mix it up with what is normal now. I am only saying this because there are seriously moments in my life that people back home question why I do something or say something and I have to think why. I know I have changed but I feel like some program has been rewired or something. I can’t find the words to explain. Instead, Ill let you know how it goes.

I’m going going back back to Cali Cali 🙂

Road Tripping le Bretagne: Pictures

So I am being kind of lazy but I promise a post (and more pics) will come soon about my incredible weekend trip through le Bretagne/Normandie. For now… I have decided to give your eyes a little treat 🙂