Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Leaving Paris

I've accepted a position at Camp Lenox for the summer. It's very last minute, and not at all what I had planned for the rest of my time here in Paris. I'm cutting my European life short by 5 weeks, and leaving in a big rush. My host family is less than thrilled with this news, and I will certainly miss the kids, my friends here, and this wonderful city.

However, this is the best decision for me, and I'm being a little selfish and going for it full-force. I will always remember my time living in Paris, and will be so sad to leave. But I'm excited to return to good old America, to get my life going on the path it's meant to take.

I would also like to share my to-do list I made at the end of November, of things I needed/wanted to do in Paris before I left. It was 16 items long, and I hit 11 of them, which I think is pretty fair, considering I'm leaving 5 weeks early!! Here they are:

1. see live music in Paris
2. ride a motorcycle
3. use Vélib (public biking system in Paris)
4. stay up until the metro opens
5. Musée Rodin
6. walk across all the bridges on the Seine
7. Sacré Coeur
8. play pétanque with the old men in the park
9. take a boat ride
10. picnic along the Seine
11. Musée d'Orsay
12. Louvre
13. Parc des Buttes-Chaumont
14. Promenade Plantée
15. go up the Eiffel Tower
16. kiss someone while the Eiffel Tower sparkles (must be in view of tower for it to count!)

The ones I missed were numbers 2, 6, 8, 14, and 16. Although I still have a few more days...

Thanks to all of you loyal readers of my blog, and here are a few photos from my birthday this past weekend to finish up on a high note.

See you soon!

my personal birthday sign at my favorite bar!

sassy on the Champs Elysées

my crew

obligatory tourist photos

the lovely ile de la cité

Thursday, June 7, 2012

My Mornings; or, Why I'm Excited for School to be Over

7:00am - alarm, stumble out of bed, search around for some suitable clothes to wear in a public hallway, find shoes
7:05am - bathroom business, check weather, find clothes suitable for 25 minutes outside, get distracted by facebook, because everything happens in non-European timezones
7:10am - leave for work, don't forget phone
7:15am - arrive at family's door to find everyone else is just waking up, feel very annoyed that you are waking up before everyone else
7:16am - head upstairs to wake up the snoring 4-year-old
7:21am - he finally wakes up after several false starts and resistance to feet tickling, also he immediately starts talking about some nonsense
7:25am - get the kid downstairs, where his breakfast of something smeared with Nutella is set out, next to yogurt and milk
7:26am - kid asks for tv to be turned on, remind him that if he cannot watch AND eat then tv goes off, kid agrees, takes first bite of breakfast (usually 1 piece of toast or brioche)
7:30am - kid swallows first bite, has stopped responding to his name because of animated show about knights (current obsession)
7:31am - resort to repeating the following phrases constantly:

"Chew like a big boy/the Hungry Caterpiller!"
"Do I need to turn the tv off?"
"No food in the cheeks!"
"Chew...chew...CHEW."
"Did you swallow? Then why aren't you chewing?"
"Alright, next bite...next bite....HEY...look at me....NEXT BITE."
"Look at me. Look at me. Look at me. KEEP EATING."
"Finish the milk. Not a sip. Finish the milk. Finish. I can tell you're not drinking. Finish."

7:45am - cover kid's eyes to make sure he isn't sleeping with them open
7:46am - try not to get absorbed in French Dora (and her terrible accent when she speaks English) and/or fall asleep
7:54am - as soon as kid finishes the last bite (a half an hour after starting eating!) grab him and start undressing him while he stares unblinkingly at the tv, attempt to not get Nutella on his cashmere-blend sweater, wonder how kid moves in so many layers
7:56am - tell kid to put on his slippers so you can take him upstairs to brush teeth
7:58am - kid still hasn't put his slippers on
8:00am - brush kid's teeth, even though he can actually do it himself, because lately he's taken to running toothbrush perpendicular to front teeth, spraying your face with spit/toothpaste combo
8:02am - run a wet washcloth over the face, until kid protests
8:04am - finally get back downstairs after kid somehow loses a slipper while brushing
8:05am - kid decides he needs to comb his hair, attempts to do so while still watching tv (it's Babar now)
8:07am - wrangle kid to couch, put his velcro shoes on for him because you are late and his mother makes him wash his hands if he touches the bottom of the shoes
8:09am - someone realizes no one has put a water bottle into kid's backpack, the world comes crashing down
8:10am - kisses to everyone not walking him to school, kid corrects you when you call his cap a hat, allow parents to chat with child for several minutes NOW instead of allllll morning when you were taking care of their child, want to kill self
8:13am - walk out the door
8:14am - kid asks what the "Bob the Builders" are doing, they are fixing the road and have been for the past 3 weeks, repeat this to the child more than once because he asks more than once
8:17am - ask if it's a red man or a green man at intersection, kid answers wrong, wonder how that's possible, does he think it's funny?
8:20am - say hi to the Eiffel Tower, if it's foggy brace self for the inevitable "oh it's hiding" comment
8:24am - get to school, if kid is wearing scarf then brace self for comment about how scarves aren't allowed in the school courtyard, pretend you don't speak French
8:26am - yell at kid 3 times as he is walking to his classroom to watch where he is going, kid narrowly misses door jamb
8:27am - walk home as fast as possible, pretend you don't look like a hot mess as normal people are heading to work in nice outfits
8:33am - get home and wonder what the heck you were thinking when you thought being an au pair would be superfun

This is literally (actually literally, I mean this happened this morning) my morning 4 days a week. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Updates

I'm really only posting so I don't go the whole month of May without a blog. Just wanted to clear that up in advance.

I'm currently lying on my bed, where I've been nearly all day, except for my 4-ish hours of work. You see, my dear old mom and dad left Paris this morning and I'm utterly exhausted. I don't know if I was pushing them or they were pushing me or what. But I've been waking up at 6am to be ready to go after I drop the kid off at school in the mornings. I've been walking all day long. ALL DAY. And I've been staying up and active until midnight-ish. So. Today I did my work, watched some tv, passed out about 11am and woke up when my alarm went off at 3:10pm to get ready for work. I'm not ashamed.

It's been a busy month, and I think the rest of my time here in Paris will be like that as well. I have a flight booked for July 31, exactly 2 months from now. I still haven't been to the Louvre. Or the Pompidou. I have a lot to do before I turn 26 and lose my ability to hit the museums for free. I've had so many lovely visitors this month, and see some cool things. It was amazing introducing my parents to this city I love. My mom cried when she saw the Eiffel Tower; I did too, when I first came here in '09.

I'm starting to get nostalgic for my last 9 weeks here. I've been really lucky. Paris will always be mine, just a little bit, regardless of what happens in the future. And while I'm not ecstatic to be moving home (simply because it makes me feel less independent and a bit of a failure), I am excited to see how my experiences abroad translate into my "real life" at home. Even though I will be terribly sad to leave this city, it's been a dream.

For the record, I'll be at Camp Lenox for the month of August, helping out with the last few weeks of camp (Color Warrrrr) and staying for post-camp to earn the monies. After that, I'm taking a tiny break up in Maine with the original Baby-Sitters' Club, and heading back to Athens on/around September 9th.

Not sure how many more updates I'll be doing. Watch my facebook for photos. Bisous!



Saturday, April 14, 2012

For Keeps

As I was saying to myself earlier, I've recently marked 6 months in France. I'm beginning to make plans for the next leap of faith in my life, which (obviously) I will detail for all y'all in painstaking and painful detail. Not yet though. Right now, I want to talk about something else.

French culture.

So, I think a lot of people get put off by France in general because they come here, and assume that because it's mostly white, because it's Western Europe, and because it's a progressive, large country that's been around for a while, that it won't be anything too surprising. It's not like you're going to Bangladesh or Russia or Namibia. France is easy to find on a map; everyone here has an iPhone; they don't even have a Royal Family or anything! We know what to expect!

Well, here's the thing: despite all these cultural similarities...it's not exactly what you expect. The traditions are different. The food is different. People have different priorities, different schedules, different values. It's not America, and it's not like any other European country (note: they are all, in fact, different!). And yeah, not everyone is going to be able to speak English to you!

After hanging out and pretending to be French for 6 months now, I am still no expert in how things are done. But there are certain bits of France that I am already planning to take with me forever. Things that we don't necessarily do at home, or that we don't emphasize, and make them mine. I'm a cultural thief. (I steal ideas...name that coach.)

The number one thing I am taking with me back to the US of A (and I'm not entirely sure how I'm going to pull this off) is the notion of fresh bread every day. Actually, I don't do that here, because I have little to no self control when I'm alone in a room with a hot baguette. The hope is that someday I will be able to handle having good bread on hand withOUT eating it in one fell swoop, and when I can do this, oh, it's on. My French family is all over the baguette scene. I think it's awesome that when the dad gets home, he knows that there is a hunk of bread waiting for him to take the edge off a hard day. This will certainly prove more difficult in the States, I'm sure, because of our lack of quality bakeries on every street....so maybe I'll have to learn how to make a baguette traditionelle. Gonna need a steam oven....
 this photo from '09 shows how happy baguettes make me

Another thing (that has to do with food) that I will be doing forever now, is making my own salad dressing. I'm one of those people who gets B-O-R-E-D before she finishes the bottle of dressing she just bought. Well, here in France they just combine all the random condiments in their fridge to make a super-easy (and super-tasty), customizable dressing! I do this in my shoebox too, mostly because I have all the things I need to make a dressing (oil, acid, sweetness, flavors) and I can't justify purchasing a big bottle when I don't really eat salads all the time. I've made dressings using olive oil, mayo, creme fraiche, spicy french mustard, ketchup, HP, sugar, red wine vinegar, balsamic (dark and white!), honey, onion, garlic...the list continues. Not all together of course! But I just throw all my stuff in an old pickle jar, shake it up, and then I have a container to store the leftovers. I'm a genius, I know.

 all that is in my fridge on any given day

Moving away from the food for a bit, I've also changed up the way I dress a bit. I have always subscribed to the "I'd rather be overdressed than underdressed" theory, so I will claim that, mostly, my fashion "don'ts" have been under control. Here in France, though, I think they take it up another notch. Not only do people actually put on clothes (gasp!) to run to the grocery store or whatever, they will dress themselves to stay in! Dress up to walk the dog! And runners? They aren't schlumping around the Champ du Mars in holey sweats. They are wearing gear. While I am sure part of that has to do with the Paris I live in (the 7th, merci!), I will wager to say that it's a big part of the culture here. I read somewhere that the people of Paris want to look good all the time because they think someone who isn't put-together will detract from the beauty of the city itself. I really do try not to hate on the crocs I do see from time to time (and I try to think "tourist, tourist"), but when I get back to America, I definitely plan on keeping the Parisian style going.

 this picture would be ruined if I were wearing sweatpants

My style has evolved further than just when I wear certain things. In general, one of the features I am most proud of is my hair. I have goooood hair, y'all, and I'm not afraid to own it! It dries straight, it has natural highlights, it's lovely and long. Plus, it's one of my "things" that hasn't changed a lot over the years. While my skin and weight and grooming has shifted all along the spectrum of terrible and gorgeous, my hair has been stable. And I used to always have it CLEAN. Wash it ERRYDAY. SHINY. Shampoo-girl hair. Well, in France, the aesthetic is a bit different: have gorgeous hair, but have it be realistic. Messy, textured. Unkempt, as some may say. So what has happened to me is that I've devolved into my summer schedule (shower every other day) and I've also stopped brushing it. I comb it after the shower, and then I let it dry (or dry it, if it's windy and crap), and then I leave it alone! Day two routine involves some dry shampoo and finger combing, but that's about it. Oh my GOD is it simple. I've somehow become even MORE low-maintenance with my stick-straight hair!

going out with unshowered hair...how-to

Anyway...that's what I'm going to do when I come back across the pond. It's going to be magnificent. But please, tell me if my hair starts being less tousled and more bird's nest.

Next up...things the French do that I will absolutely NEVER DO AGAIN once I leave this continent.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Daily Crazy

1. It costs $82 to add pages to your US Passport. I have room for 7 more stamps. Guess I'm not going to be doing too much traveling before April 2015.
2. Today I started looking up flights to get home from France at the end of July.
3. One of my best friends is leaving France on Thursday. Don't know when I'll see her again.
4. I ran 6.5k today. (That's 4 miles.)

Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter in Paris

For Easter I was in Paris. My host family invited me over for Easter lunch and a chasse aux oeufs, an egg hunt, on Sunday. I thought about declining, because sometimes I just like to do nothing at all, but then I realized that was lame. I should see how they do Easter in France, DUH!

Well, traditionally in France you eat lamb for Easter. We didn't, however, because my host mother and her family are Croatian. In her family, it is tradition to do something more Eastern European. Our Easter lunch consisted of ham (cured, smoked, and eaten cold and juicy), a braided brioche-type bread (no braid, no good!), raw spring onions, and horseradish. We diluted the horsey with a bit of creme fraiche, to lighten it up a bit. As you consume your lunch, you're supposed to get all the goodies into each bite. It delicious, and kind of a perfect springy lunch! I loved the combination of the sweet bread with salty meat, with the bite of the condiments. Yum!

We also had hardboiled eggs that they had colored on Saturday. With these eggs, you don't just crack 'em and eat 'em. Oh no. We had egg battles. You choose your egg, and then you choose someone to battle at the table. Hold your egg, pointy top part out, and crack it against the other person. The person whose egg cracks is the LOSER. The winner gets to take the loser's cracked egg, and eats it. They save their winning egg to fight again. Basically, you've gotta win an egg to eat an egg. My egg was killing, but then I gave it to the kid because, well....that's my job.

We didn't end up going to the egg hunt because the kid spiked a fever (like turned purple and started shivering) during lunch, so we did a little baby egg hunt in the living room. For the record, 4-year-olds are bad at finding things.

After all the Easter excitement, I went over to my favorite pub and had chocolates with my friends. Then we had some drinks and danced a lot. All in all, a solid European Easter.

I hope the Easter bunny brought you something good. He doesn't really come to Paris.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Things I Miss About America RIGHT NOW

1. take away coffee
2. Panera
3. my dogs
4. having an iPhone
5. fountain sodas
6. Easter candy
7. extra sharp cheddar
8. cheap nail polish
9. drugstores
10. drop off laundry service
11. bacon
12. driving aimlessly
13. being able to call someone just for a chat while wandering around
14. yards
15. storage space