Friday, October 7, 2011

Le Premier Jour

First of all, since I'm writing this, I am totally safe and alive in Paris. Not only did I travel, solo, to a country whose official language is not English, I navigated it in record time. Landed a half hour early, literally got through the passport line in less than five minutes, and even with waiting a half hour for the correct Car de Air France, I made it from tarmac to Arc de Triomphe in just over 2 hours. Impressive, n'est-ce pas?

But let's back up. Let's go to Thursday, the day I left America. Here's a fun story...

Thursday morning I'm getting ready to leave. There's a multitude of last-minute packing to do, including a lot of important stuff like nail care products and fitting shoes. Also, I left organizing my paperwork to Thursday morning. So I'm going through stuff, and I'm good to go, except the stamped copy of my OFII paperwork (aka the piece of paper that validates my visa and lets me stay in France for more than three months). Searching commences--piles on the dining room table, my dresser, by the computer. I come up empty. Though I seem to recall replacing it into the cardboard envelope it came in, Mom has since recycled said envelope, claiming emptiness.

To save you a lot of suspense, and also a lot of Natalie Hysterics, we found the paper. To be really, really specific about WHERE we recovered it, we found the paper inside the recycled envelope at the bottom of the metal bin on the recycling truck on its way out of the neighborhood right before all cardboard recyclables were crushed. Mike and Scott of Athens County Recycling are AMAZING, and don't worry, I called the plant and babbled nonsense at the lady who picked up to thank them. I mean, they were in the pile of cardboard, sifting with their hands, while my mom shouted about and dogs wrapped themselves around a tree in excitement.

So we headed to the airport with all paperwork accounted for. Pittsburgh airport was one crowded son-of-a-gun, so I enjoyed my last American beer (Sam Adams Octoberfest) and listened to childbirth stories while we waited for the lines to die down. Also we made a list of everything I forgot (6 items, if you're wondering--international driver's license, lint roller (seriously there is dog hair on everything in Paris now because I forgot this item), my Toms, my bedtime lipbalm, something else, and to call my bank and them not to freak out about charges in France).

The flight itself was unremarkable. I held back goodbye tears and got $20 out of my parents to buy a magazine that I still haven't read. I had a window seat, and the middle seat in my row was empty. The food was bad, but I got free wine and watched Bridesmaids, Midnight in Paris, and part of Something Borrowed. I didn't sleep at all.

And then we landed in Paris.

(FYI this Delta flight I was on did have one amazing thing--the in flight movies didn't cut out when you were landing! Nothing like a bad rom-com to distract me from descending towards the earth at 200 mph.)

It's been a long day to say the least. Although my biological clock says it's only 3-something in the afternoon, that's me being awake for around 36 hours, and the last time I slept (Wednesday night), I only got 6, at best.

My host mom, picked me up at la Place de l'Etoile. We headed to their (actually) small apartment by the Eiffel Tower, and I made a lot of funny faces at 3-month-old Lise. We had blessed coffee and talked a lot, then headed out to walk around the 'hood. Highlights:

1. We talked to a guy about a bank account. It seems easy. Gonna check two more banks before we commit. Hoping HBSC has a good student account for me.
1a. Pulled the bank door instead of pushing for like....a minute. Awkward.
2. Gorgeous architecture all around. Also birch trees line the streets. Not the prettiest leaves, but them leaves be biiiiiiig.
3. There's a Starbucks and a McDonald's very close for when I get homesick for overcaloried drinks and snacks.
4. We bought salmon, potatoes, and a goat cheese at Monoprix (Monop, if you're savvy) (Monoprix is like Target, plus prepared foods). However, Monoprix did not have plastic stroller covers. C'mon!
5. Lots of metro lines super close. Also the bus to my French classes stops across the street from my apartment.

6. I'm right by the Suiss Village, which is a plaza of 150 antique stores. (MOM)

After a rousing walk, we enjoyed our salmon/potato lunch. Unfortunately we forgot bread! So I ran out, solo, to the boulangerie, and purchased a baguette for 1.10€. And then we had bread and cheese for dessert. (RIGHT? Stop being perfect for me, Paris.)

Around 3pm I started nodding off on the sofa. Like, jerking my head forward. So terrible. We had espresso, and then walked to meet my main charge at his school. To get there, we walk here:


Anyway, it starts raining, which is fun and special. Host mom's husband meets us at the school and he and I go in to pick up main man A (Lise can't be exposed to those crazy germs yet). A begins our relationship by refusing to look me in the eye. Luckily, after approximately 5 seconds, we are best friends and he shows me his fantastic blue 'brella that is an elephant, complete with ears. On the way back to the apartment, he doesn't stop talking, except for when I'm talking, and it's a fantastic jumble of French, English, and the way preschoolers talk. And we decided that L'Ecole Militaire was going to be his castle, and La Tour Eiffel was going to be my castle, and the park in between would be our lawns and we would meet in the middle to play. Also, he is pretty good at jumping over puddles.

In all seriousness, the family seems like a great fit. The parents know what they want/need, and the kids are well-rounded and not wild. The mom speaks to the kids in English, and the dad speaks in French. The parents speak French to each other. I speak English to the kids, and French to the parents, but my daily instructions will be written in English.

I had one moment of "Why am I doing this, I'm exhausted and just want to be in my own bed with my dog and not sitting here in France where it can take months to do silly, simple things like register for daycare, a bank account, or fill out healthcare paperwork." Those moments are to be expected, especially now when everything is new, and I feel like an idiot for not being able to respond to the lady who dropped her baguette and exclaimed, "Ah! Il tombe!" Ugh. I only say a few things right now (yes, no, okay, all right, thank you).

But then guess what we had for dessert tonight? Bread and cheese. So, trade off.

Photos from Paris, so far:

 ^visa photo...looking hot

^sunrise over Charles de Gaulle

 ^wait, is this Paris or Disney World?

 ^roundabouts don't have lane

^not a job I want

^what I saw while typing this from my desk in Paris


  1. So you are living on your own or are you living with the host family? What instruction are you going to be doing with the kids?

  2. OOH I miss you already! I am so happy that you are blogging about your adventures - seriously! =)