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 🙂

My Year in Numbers

Number of days spent in France: 366

Vaux sur Seine’s population vs San Diego’s: 4,000 vs 1,223,400

Miles between Southern California and Paris: 5,600

Number of countries visited: 7

Size of my very own place in Paris: 15 square meters

Visits to the Prefecture: 10+

Average number of roses given to me in a night out: 2

Number of trains I have been stuck on a runaway train and had to jump off: 1

Number of months the French pension strike occurred: 2

Number of years ago France had such a cold winter and as much snow as 2010: 25

Amount of Euros I was paid  per week as an au pair: 90

Cost (in euros) of a (cheap) pint of beer in Paris: 5

Number of trips up 6 flights of stairs to move: 8+

Number of baguettes eaten on average per week: 2

Average number of liters a French person drinks of wine a year: 57

Average number of people who read ride the Paris every day: 4.5 million

Average number of minutes daily spent on the metro for my work commute: 50

Average rainfall in inches in Paris vs. San Diego: 24 vs. 12

Average number of times I still talk to my mom A DAY: 2 🙂

Number of marriage proposals I have received this year: 5+

Number of times a night random French guys will tell you “you are ze most beauuteeefulll gurl in ze world”: 15+

Number of scarves I own: 15

Average number of times I had to clean up caca a week as an au pair: 5

Average number of people who visit Paris a year, in millions: 30

Times I have gone home since living here: 1

3 things I don’t know how I lived without: unpasteurized cheese, lebanese food, boulangeries

3 things I could definitely live without: France closing down on Sundays, French administration, lack of sunshine in the winter

 

Number of times I have regretted my decision to move abroad: 0

My Year in Review

Its official. One year ago today I was landing in Paris and running into the arms of the girl who helped me get here. I had no idea what was ahead of me and I definitely had no idea what … Continue reading

Silly Sorrows

“The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing, and becomes nothing. He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he simply cannot learn and feel and change and grow and love and live.” ~Leo F. Buscaglia

 

Life in France is strange. But I havent completely decided if that is France’s fault or the whole living on my own as an adult part.

Lately a lot has been going on and there doesn’t seem to be a break really. Dont get me wrong… work is incredible and so is my petite Parisien flat but damn, when it rains it pours.

Anyone who knows me knows that I talk to my mama a lot…. A LOT. She is always trying to lure me home and failing but when it comes down to it, she really wont let me give up. Today was one of those days where there is too much going on in your life for your brain to process it all. And there she was pushing me to look on the bright side of things. Honestly–my personal cheerleader. My mom has this ability to bring me back down to reality. The thing about me is I am pretty laid back and low-key until things get out of control and then its like all hell breaks loose… for about 2 hours until I calm down and see the crazy person I am being. 🙂 But today my mom helped me realize all i have accomplished being here and that everyday I feel like this is another day that I am learning and growing.

I have always had an easy life. To be blatantly honest. Yes, things have gone wrong and I have dealt with major things. However, I have always managed to get basically everything I want. Not easily, but still. I have always had an incredible network of people around me. My family was never far away. But now I am in a crazy new place and i have to get used to things being different.

When I have a bad day, I can’t drive 50 minutes to have my mom cook me dinner. Or when I am broke I can’t have my dad come down to go grocery shopping and put gas in my car. I don’t live in a sorority house with 34 of my close friends and room with my best friend. I don’t have a social calendar anymore. I don’t have a boyfriend to escape to when I can’t party anymore or the girls are driving me mad. I don’t live in a country where they speak the same language as me and where nothing is convenient.

The thing is though…. that strangely that is all ok. Sometimes it bogs me down and I can’t see past what I don’t have. But then (after those 2 hours of craziness) i realize what I do have.

I have more than I ever have before. I have more courage and patience. More knowledge of other cultures and ways of doing things. More independence. More responsibility. More flexibility. More freedom. More experience. More choices.

It is completely my life now. 100 percent. And I couldn’t be more proud. I am so fortunate for everything that I have. With everything going on I have realized what is important and what isn’t. I realize how lucky I am and how important it is to never take a day for granted.

You are alive and breathing. Make the most of it.

May. The month of visitors.

A lot has changed recently. And it is all going fast. Mostly good changes and other inevitable changes.

This month I moved into my new place.  I seriously can’t believe that I have been here a month already but in a way it seems so mine that I feel like I have been here longer. I really love where I live and the fact I live alone. However, I only have had this alone-ness during the week because I have had a visitor every single weekend in May. It’s so awesome to get to host people. Some of my best friends came and it is always nice to have a familiar face from home. My friend Karina, who is currently living in Berlin, came and it was really nice to not only catch up but also be able to have someone relate to you. People back home and people where you live never will understand what it is like to be an expat. And although Karina lives in a completely different country, our experiences have been very similar.

More recently my friend Christy came and it was really cool to see someone just starting their year abroad. I remember exactly what it felt like. And had no clue what was before me.

I can honestly say this was the greatest, but hardest year of my life. I had no idea what I was getting into. And although sometimes I didn’t/don’t think I am going to make it… it has been more worth it than anything I have ever done. I never would change any of it. But I really have learned a lot about things and especially myself. I have made a lot of mistakes (and had a lot of successes) and grown up. Things are falling in line and the things that aren’t I am starting to realize that it is ok. Everything is the way it is supposed to be. It is hard being the control freak I am to not have everything in line though. It is like when one area of my life flourishes… the other goes to shit. I hate that. I want everything to be ok. I don’t like things not working out the way I want them to. But I have had my fair share this year and you know what, it all works out. the thing is I just need to do a bit better at preparing. I screw myself because I don’t waste my time with things that don’t matter to me. And as soon as they do I put my whole heart into it. Usually it works out (and scores me a job in Paris) and sometimes it doesn’t. When it doesn’t is when it kills me. I know everything is going to be ok but it makes me tired. Makes me wonder why I gave all the energy. But then the “everything happens for a reason” part of me kicks up and I get back on track with something new… vicious cycle ha!

When I started this post I didn’t know it would lead this way. And now I am exhausted. Hopefully this post makes a bit of sense and I am not just rambling in my over-tired state of delirium. Maybe I will write again about my actual visitors hahaha. Or maybe the adventures will remain a secret 🙂

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.

And so it begins….

I did it. I am here. I can’t believe it. My own studio in the center of Paris. I honestly thought I would never see the day. A year ago, when I decided to move to France, this is what I had envisioned. Yeah I knew it wasn’t going to be this magnificent life in the city because I (semi) knew what I was getting into, but this is what I wanted. And now I have made it. I have made my dreams happen.

On my last working night in Vaux, S didn’t even eat dinner with me. Hurtful but expected. Shocking how you can disregard the last 10 months of your life and someone who not only shared living space with you but I also basically raised your kids. I didn’t let it ruin the night however; I grabbed the kids and put Mama Mia on my TV in the room. They sat on my bed playing with their toys and helping me belt out “Dancing Queen.” They were my 10 months and I love them so much. Yes, there were times I wanted to kill them but I truly am going to miss them. Today was the first day I didn’t have to think about going to home to get my little monkey or worry about cleaning up all the morning dishes that weren’t mine. I woke up to the sound of a fountain, busy people rushing to work, and the view of Sacre Coeur from my window. A little different.

The move went quite well. I have so.much.stuff. I have no idea how I accumulated so much stuff in the last (almost) year. I moved to France with two giant suitcases. I moved to Paris with car load. Luckily, my friend Pierre was nice enough to offer his car and help. He showed up in a petite French car of course and all of us were terrified my stuff wasn’t going to fit… and there was no way I wanted to head back to Vaux again. Somehow, with Pierre’s sweet packing skills, we filled his car to the brim. Everything fit… well besides Aggie and a suitcase. She was kind enough to take the train with the last suitcase and meet us in the city. Pierre and I ventured into the city with my feet in my pocket and bags on my lap. I have to point out, to make this even more interesting, that Pierre doesn’t speak really any English and my French is still very limited. Hour car ride into Paris and somehow we managed to talk about our families, work, our future plans… its incredible what you can do with a little amount of language in common and some effort.

Once we got into the city, Pierre managed to park right in front of place (although it’s for pedestrians only—c’est la France, right?). Now, to explain the situation a bit better… I live off a square and my front door is through a café. My front door leads to a foyer where there is another door that leads to a massive amount of stairs I have to climb to get to my place. Because Pierre could not keep his car in the convenient spot for long, Aggie and I decided the best solution was to cram all my things into the foyer. Picture two girls pulling thousands of bags out of a Frenchman’s illegally parked car, walking through people casually enjoying their lunch, and stuffing it all into a little foyer. Quite humorous.

After we managed the pack the foyer to its capacity, we started the long journey up the stairs a few bags at a time. Aggie and I switched off between guarding my stuff and making the trek. Later on, some of my other close friends came and helped me tackle unpacking. It was such an amazing night. Wine, good friends, and organizing all my stuff… what more could you ask for?

After celebrating into the wee hours, I cant explain how great it was to be able to walk just a couple of minutes and be home.

It is still unreal. I live in Paris.

Closing a Chapter

I came to France with the idea I would be here just one year. I wanted to learn a new language, experience a different culture, and most importantly grow. I have to say, that on my last day of au pairing, I can look back and say I have done pretty well. The past 10 months have been filled with up and downs. Most of the time I was sitting here wondering why I am so lucky, but there were also days I wondered why I ever chose to do this. Although my French is still completely rubbish, I really feel like I have gotten the most from this experience so far.

I never thought that today would be like this. I thought I would be filled with sadness to leave a family I cared so deeply about. Sad to say though, although I will miss the kids dearly, today is nothing what I imagined. With the feeling that I can’t go fast enough from the parents, it really makes me upset about all the time and effort spent. I understand that they are mad I am leaving but I do wish this could have ended on a better note.

On the other side, I cannot believe I am moving tomorrow into the center of Paris into my very own place. I havent even wrapped my head around it yet I don’t think. I have never lived alone, let alone in PARIS. Ahhhh. I can’t wait. I am really looking forward to the next chapter in my life. I have faith that everything will work out. And hey, if it doesn’t it was an experience, right?