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

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Parisian Problems

My number one reason why Paris sucks:

It's 12:30am, I just started my period, and I'm out of tampons. Oh, and there is NO WHERE I CAN GO BUY THEM UNTIL 8AM.

Yeah, I'm putting this on the internet.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Best of Times

It was a less-than-perfect weekend. Nothing inherently terrible. It started with reminders of home. I received a package on Friday evening filled with summery clothes, necessities, and Easter treats from my mother. Then, I decided to stay up very late to watch the Ohio/UNC. Ohio, as you know, lost, and I ended up hanging out at my favorite bar, pretty much alone, until the metro re-opened Saturday morning at 5:30. That part wasn't so bad, but this resulted in severe sleep-deprivation and a fairly bad hangover, despite a ham & cheese toastie around 4am and less than 1 drink per hour. Saturday was spent in bed, shutters drawn, ignoring the sunshine outside. Around 7pm, I gathered my wits, threw on sundress, and headed out to find wonton soup (the only thing to appease my stomach) and friends. After burning my tongue on hot broth and sucking down a liter of orange juice, I felt almost normal, but headed to bed at 10pm. This morning I woke up early, though the time change made it pretty normal (9:30). I headed out to meet friends for a bike ride shortly after lunch, and conquered Parisian traffic on my bike with a broken seat. We indulged in falafel, ice cream, and a lot of sunshine. While out and about I learned that the poor kid I care for hit his head yesterday hard enough to be taken to the hospital, and so I'll be working all day tomorrow and Tuesday. I walked all the way home from Hotel de Ville, after nearly being deafened by thousands (seriously) of motorcycles revving and beeping past the government building to raise awareness of road safety. After some disappointing spaghetti at home, I'm watching the end of season 4 of Mad Men.

So.

Nothing too crazy. Nothing too terrible.

But as I sit here, Sunday night, relaxed and maybe a little bit tan, I feel as though I have had a pretty stellar weekend. I lived. I tried some new stuff. I was enough of an adult to watch a sports game all alone in a bar and not die. I rode a bike in crazy traffic, and none of us got hit by a bus! (Just close calls.) I took care of myself when I felt bad. Not a big deal.

Today, when I left to go biking, I walked through the Champ du Mars. They have turned the fountains on again, and there was this hound who was leaping through the spray. He would dive into the fountain after a ball, splash around, and then climb out and race away. Eventually he'd trot back to his lady, and she'd toss the ball back in. He was absolutely the happiest dog possible at that moment. And I got weirdly choked up with something like gratitude, or peace, or jealousy, or something. And I just thought to myself, "I am overwhelming lucky." Or the equivalent to that.

Anyway. Nothing was special about this weekend. Or really, everything was.

 falafel from L'As du Fallafel (obvs the best one in the Marais)


 right on, graffiti, right on


 spring-a-ding-ding


 band and dancers on the quay


crazy motorcycles


 planning to spend next weekend here, on the tip of Île de la Cité


what's up, baby

Thursday, March 15, 2012

March 15

I've started about 4 new posts this week, but I can't seem to finish them. And I can't figure out why. Am I bored talking about myself? (Not likely.) Am I too busy? (Not too busy to read blogs all evening.) Am I out? (Yeah, because the 2 euros I have can buy me...oh wait, nothing.)

That sounds kind of bitter. Hmmm.

My only real hypothesis is that my life here has become fairly mundane and when I think of something I'm actually interested to write about, I realize, oh hang on, that has literally nothing to do with my life in Paris. What I'm saying is, in my head, this is just a BLOG and not a blog about my life here in Paris anymore. I have blogging ADD, or whatever.

Also, I talk to so many people about what I'm doing online, or facebook, or through Skype, etc., that it gets uninteresting to type things up again, you know? If you want to know about my Rome trip, you should look at the 300+ photos I posted on facebook. Or ask me! I can't be bothered typing up a blow-by-blow, because, honestly, I'm not that interesting in recapping what happened. Rome was a gorgeous, dreamy 48 hours of history and culture, and I loved every second. The photos I took tell the story for me.

But I can't NOT post, because I am inherently a people-pleaser. That's why I take care of children; that's why I am never the person who insists of going here or doing that; I'm a middle child and I want people to like me. And enough people have told me they read this, or they think it's funny, or whatever, that I can't stop! I'M DOING THIS FOR YOU!! You like me, you really, really like me!

Or, maybe I'm delusional.

Anyway, so I guess I will attempt to tell you what's up now. Hope it's not boring.

1. Something I've learned from living alone is that I am not an inherently clean person. No one ever admits that--you're either a self-proclaimed neat freak, or you just don't talk about it. Well, screw it: I'M MESSY. I don't like cleaning, I don't like dishes, I don't hang up my clothes at night. My floor is dirty (dirt, actually, from my running shoes), I wash dishes only to use them again straight away. I'm really good at cleaning up in 10 minutes when someone is coming over. SUCK IT.
2. I've decided I'm not taking French lessons in the spring trimester. I can't afford it, because my credit card bill is high enough. And also, I'd rather have my days free to do Paris stuff in the warm weather. I have to go to all the museums I can before I turn 26 and have to start paying the full fee, so that's my reasoning. Not sure how to tell my host family, because I'm pretty sure it's illegal for me to not take classes....however, basically every other person I know who is an au pair is also not taking classes, and hasn't since Christmas.
3. Oh, also, I finally got brave and looked at my bank account. Here, my account is a credit/debit, and I'm currently in the red zone. Not good. Goal is to be back in the positive by April. Paris is freaking expennnnnsive, and yes, I think it is pricier than New York, in terms of living costs.
4. I've been spending my evenings reading blogs instead of spending my evening spending money...and let me tell you, I have read some shocking things lately. I try to keep politics on here to a minimum, but I'm just going to take a minute to say WHAT THE WHAT is going on in the USA? So much legislation that seems so unnecessary! Can I just say that once in for all, you can believe whatever you want, but you are not allowed to tell other people what they must believe. And basically, what that means, is the rules need to accommodate ALL beliefs.
5. Also, I read a comment that blew my mind yesterday. Some guy said something, in the same sentence, about how our government is attacking the Catholic Church and that isn't right, so we should get "that Muslim" out of the presidency. My goodness, the irony is just...wow. I laughed, and then I cried.
6. AWAY FROM POLITICS NATALIE. Hmm...well we rented The Little Mermaid from the library yesterday, and he was totally freaked out by the shark, but then when Ariel spies Eric for the first time, as she's sitting on the side of his boat and the sailors are partying, you know there's that close up? And he goes, "ooh, she likes him!" Kill me from cuteness.
7. Kid was refusing to eat yesterday too, so I broke out the old iPod and started playing Disney songs. His favorite? "I'll Make a Man out of You" from Mulan. Classic!
8. My host mom freaked out yesterday when I told her I let the kid run around without a jacket. For the record, it was 64 degrees yesterday. He was wearing an undershirt, turtleneck, and cotton/cashmere sweater. I made him remove his down jacket because his face was bright red and his hands were sweating. She said she would prefer next time if I brought him home, changed his clothes, and then took him back out with the coat. Are you kidding me??

Enough.

Going to Reims, in Champagne, this weekend. I'll toast to you all.

P.S. FINE Rome details.
a. I ate gelato three times.
b. I kept thinking the Italian flag was the Irish flag, esp when it was faded.
c. All photos of the Colosseum look the same.
d. Italian men are no more forward than other men, in my opinion, although I hear it gets worse in the summer heat.
e. Rome has perfected the mid-price meal. In Paris, you spend 5 euros or 25 euros. In Rome you can spend 14-16 for a good meal.
f. Rome has two kinds of streets: main roads and narrow cobbled alleys.
g. I loved it!

 Michelangelo was inspired by these arches when building St. Peter's.

 I love coffee.

Saw George Clooney in Piazza Navano.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Sweeping the Clouds Away

It's sunny here in Paris.
It is 56 degrees.
There is a trumpeter hanging out on my street right now.
I've spotted at least 5 flowering trees this week.
My shining moment of 70 degrees in Rome has made me even more excited for spring.
I've got cornichons and spreadable cheese in my fridge for the weekend.
My spellcheck wants me to change cornichons to unicorns.
I get to wear my Anthro flowered dress today and be seasonally appropriate, even if I still have to wear tights.
I'm so excited to pick up the kid from school that I am going to leave early!

Oh SPRING, how I have missed you!!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Before

I feel as though I should write a post before I jet off to Italy tomorrow, because otherwise I will have little to no chance of explaining what has been happening slash what I have been thinking NOW.

Which, let's face it, isn't much.

First of all, are you aware that it is 58 degrees here in the Paris at this moment? And for some miracle, I am not working at 5pm! How is that happening!?!?! Instead I am sitting here with windows wide open hoping that some of my hand-washed undies will dry before I go on vacation. Because I'm wearing the last pair and THEY are only dry because I didn't let them soak and turned on the heat last night. Yes, folks, it's time to do laundry. But there is no time to do it before I leave, so some part of tonight will be spent assessing the least dirty of my socks. ALTHOUGH it is supposed to be 68 in Rome on Friday, so maybe I just wear sandals? Too soon?

Right, so I'm going to Rome tomorrow. My friend and I will have two full days there (Fri and Sat) and then we depart Sunday morning. I'm SO FREAKING EXCITED, and it just hit with full impact that I will be seeing Rome! I'm such an anticipatory person (is that a word?), so this is unlike me. But who cares, Italy will be my reality tomorrow! I would say give me suggestions but I really am not paying attention.

So also, this return to spring is reminding me why I have continued to make baby-sitting a part of my career for this long--afternoons at the park. What other job--besides camp counselor--can you hang out and play games outside all day? It's the best, especially after such a dreary winter.

An exchange today....
Kid: Natalieeee....
Me: Yo.
Kid: You can't say yo. Only pirates.

Okay.

Today at the playground I had to break up a lot of canoodling pigeons. I understand about springtime and babies and all that jazz, but do it somewhere else. I'm not trying to see that.

Saturday marks the halfway point of being here in France, assuming I leave on July 31st, which will be pretty close to accurate. Weird to think that. I feel like I'm much closer to the ending than the beginning. I suppose that is because all the hard stuff is clumped together at the front part of the stay--jetlag, making new friends, speaking French in public, homesickness, big holidays. And now it's nothing but smooth sailing and weekends away. I don't know how many more abroad trips my credit card can handle before I come home, but I want to get to Spain at least. Maybe Switzerland. Greece, if I can swing it (but no idea how). But also, trips in France--Toulon, Champagne, Bordeaux, Mont-St-Michel, Montpellier. I need a sponsor, or a sugar daddy, or.....something not creepy.

Well, I really should pack since tonight is karaoke night at my favorite bar and I work in the morning. Don't worry, I'm practicing. And get ready for around 500 photos of Rome.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Roma

So my friend and I booked travel to Rome for the first weekend in March! Neither of us have ever been to Italy before, and Italy is one of those places I have always wanted to see. But first I need to learn some Italian. Honestly, people all over Europe speak multiple languages, and English tends to be one of them. (One of these days you are going to get a post about how Americans need to start taking other languages seriously...literally it's so sad that almost everyone I meet in Paris can converse in English and I can name on two hand people I know who speak French.)

But in the mean time, here are the words I already know in Italian! That should help, right? Lay out what I know and fill in the holes...

Buongiorno - Good day
Buonasera - Good evening
Buonanotte - Good night
Ciao - Hi/Bye
Arrivederci - Good-bye
Presto - Soon
Prego - You're welcome
Grazie - Thank you
Si - Yes
No - No
Dove - Where
Piazza - Plaza
Spaghetti...
Linguini...
Fettucini...
Penne...
Tagliateli...
Tortellini...
Ravioli...
Farfalle...
Pizza...
Gelato...

I think I might be able to get by on that, but I should at least learn how to say, "Do you speak English?" Or at least some vocab that isn't half food....

Parli inglese? There it is!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Sans-Valentin!

^That's the funny little sounds-alike they do here in France, if you are without a Valentine. Actually I do have a Valentine. A couple--myself, my city, and champagne. Not the worst V-Day I have ever had, to be fair!

I've post about 50 times on this blog, and I do believe the narrative has fallen apart somewhat. It is a lot easier to blog about your life when you aren't really out there living it. Thus, the conundrum. I want to be a really great blogger--giving you detailed posts, full of photos and anecdotes. But then I also want to make last-minute plans, and I forget my camera, and sometimes I just want to watch reruns while I eat too much cheese. Not exactly note-worthy, but still a big part of my life here in France.

So I'm just not going to apologize. And I'm not going to try to hard. Either you will like this completely unembellished version of my life here in Paris, or you will not like it, because I'm not telling you enough, or I sound pretentious, or it's just not very interesting (maybe all!??). And because I'm celebrating my love with my new boyfriend Fake Champagne (the real stuff is still expensive here), I'm just going to write you a little listy. Hey, I think in lists.

Recent Thoughts on La Vie Parisienne
1. Just realized my window was open. I have really crappy windows, and sometimes the pressure in my room gets weird and opening the door opens the window a bit. Luckily, it's no longer below freezing all the live long day. (Also, I have intense metal shutters to keep out the bad guys.)
2. One of my least favorite things about my living arrangement is that everyone around me likes to cook. And either I go out of my room at 11pm to pee and get super hungry from a buttery-garlic smell....or I'm hungover and it smells like gross fish. There's no in between.
3. Twice in my life I have come home to find firefighters doing stuff in my apartment building. Once was last year, because snow had blocked part of the exhaust and so they had to go in all the apartments to check for gas leaks. And the other was last night, where they were chipping ice from the exterior of the building to alleviate a very similar situation. Makes the heart race either way.
4. It's really obnoxious when your bank is further away than your grocery store and you don't have any cash but you need food, and most food places won't take cards for less than 10 euros, so you go to the supermarket, but then you have to also spend 10 euros, so you do, but then you forget eggs. A very specific situation, I realize.
5. This kid is picking up on my speech patterns. It's weird. Also, today he told me my last name...which I'm pretty sure I have never a reason to tell him. Bizarre. Kids these days. Also, babies and explosive diapers....what is my life.
6. I don't have a headboard in my shoebox. My little twin bed is against one side wall and I have a table at the head of it, but there's nothing to lean against. It doesn't make sense to put it in a corner, since the window overhangs the wall a bit, and the only other corners are by the door. Basically, if I am on my computer in bed, I'm lying on my left side, and my right side is feeling the neglect.
7. Buying mascara in Paris means spending more than 10% of my paycheck. That's ridiculous. Never thought I'd miss NYC prices.
8. At my local grocery store, 6 eggs will cost you 1.75 euros. In my grocery store in Brooklyn, 6 organic eggs (albeit medium-sized ones) cost me 1.75 dollars. Just saying.
9. I'm currently debating the merits of solo travel to Italy...uh anyone free the first weekend of March? Looking to book....now.

Alright, I'm done typing. Here are some photos of recent snowfall. I was in the country for one night at a friend's house, and it snowed something like 4 inches! Pretty.







Thursday, February 9, 2012

My Date with OFII

Today, ladies and gentleman, I finally took the first step towards getting my social security. Yes, I have been here for more than four months, and yes, I'm done in less than six. But probably during that time I will be hit by a bicycle or get drunk and fall down. So, it's a good idea to get this healthcare (which was one of the things that made this whole au pair sitch so dang appealing).

Well, I sent in my paper on November 7th, the required paper that I almost lost in a giant heap of recycling on Dalton hill before I left. Ironically enough, that paper got lost again once it got to France! Yes, my OFII legalese disappeared into the French postal system, and no one assigned me an appointment to get my carte de long séjour. This paperwork is rather vital, because it says that once I've been here a certain amount of months, if I leave without this carte in my passport, I cannot reenter the country legally until my visa runs out in September '12.

So anyway, two weeks ago I went in to the OFII office to kick some general ass, and instead, I walked out 20 minutes later practically giddy with the efficiency, and clutching my attestation to get that carte on February 9th, aka TODAY!

Now, obviously today wasn't going to go as smoothly as that day, because I had obviously used up all my karma. And it didn't start well either--I was 7 minutes late, and though no one said anything, you were taken in the order you arrived.

So I'm there. And I wait for about 45 minutes, just watching people. And then I realize I'm missing paperwork--you have to bring a justification de domicile, which in my case is a letter from my host parents saying I live with them. I had that. But I didn't have a copy of my host dad's ID, to prove he exists. Merde! And of course, he was in a meeting, so he couldn't be reached to fax it over quickly. When they called my name, I was totally scared, no lies. We all know the French stereotype of rudeness, and, although I debunked that rumor in my last post, we also know that government employees tend to be overworked, and this lady was definitely one of those.

I used the tactic, I know best--apologize profusely, ask what I can do, offer some alternatives, smile sadly, maybe call yourself stupid or something. I had brought along a letter from my bank that was addressed to me c/o my host family. And I offered to get the fax, somehow. And what did she say??...

"C'est pas grave."

!!!!

Which means, no big deal, loosely.

WOOHOO.

So then I go into another room and wait, and they call my name, and it's do you wear contacts, are you preggers, height, weight, eyesight. And back out in the waiting room for a bit. And they call my name again for the 2nd (of 3) parts of the exam.

And this is where it gets a little interesting. I'd been warned about this part beforehand. Basically, they do a chest x-ray to make sure you aren't hiding and crazy maladies from the French government in order to exploit their healthcare system. So you go into a tiny room, and take off everything from the waist up, and you have to tie back your hair. And then the other door opens and a woman pushes your chest up against a giant machine to take the x-ray. By pushes, I mean, literally pushes and holds you there.

So that was fun. And then I got dressed and waited some more, and then I got to answer questions about myself in French--are you really sick? how about your vaccination history? how long have you been here? smoker? etc. Good thing it wasn't my first week, because she spoke quickly and didn't look in my eyes.

But finally--finished! Oh wait, just kidding, take your x-ray (that I got to keep, it's so weird and cool) and go back out to the first room. And wait some more.

Finally, around noon, after three hours, they pasted a sticker in my passport (I now have zero fully empty pages) and I can legally leave and re-enter the country again! Although, I went to Belgium and no one even checked my passport, so it's probably not as dire as I would like to believe.

Anyway, satisfying day of OFII stuff. So glad that's finished. And now I get to start the fight to get my social security. My host mom said it took the last au pair four visits to the agency, and finally the host dad had to go too, and she got her card 3 days before she left. Worth it.

Monday, February 6, 2012

French Stereotypes

I'm going to take a moment here to attempt to mythbust some stereotypes about the French people. For the record, my lovely, non-judgmental friends, this list has been compiled to represent the most common stereotypes that Americans associate with the French. And my decision to award something a big old T or F (that's true or false), is based solely on my personal experiences. Got it? This ain't science, and it's not a sociological study. I know this because that was my major and I have never used my major for anything. Including this. So. Enjoy!

Major French Stereotypes, Say Americans
1. "Ooh la la!"
This is way true. French people say this all the time. It can be "ooh" or "oh" or "ah," and the "la"-count may go up or down depending on who is speaking and how emphatic they are trying to be. But seriously, I hear this all the time, from everyone. And it's more glorious every time.

2. They smell/don't bathe/armpit hair, etc.
I give this myth a big fat FALSE. While it is winter, and maybe people get a little smellier in the warmer months (who doesn't?), I have not run into an epidemic of un-showered people. In fact, one of my favorite things about France is the two-kiss greeting, because it gives you an opportunity to get really close to men you are just meeting. And so you get to smell them, and they often smell great...so you hope you have the opportunity to get close to them again...win-win!

3. Smoking
Now, I am not going to say that EVERY PERSON IN FRANCE smokes. That's really obviously not true. My host parents don't smoke, for example. But, literally (and I mean that LITERALLY, not the fake-version of the word literally), actually, every young French person I know smokes. A lot. All the time. You can't do it in bars, but I've been to a few house parties where I am the only person--literally--who is not smoking. So...mostly true!

4. Womanizers
This one is more of a wash. I can't decide. Because some men I have met here in France are totally normal, or boring. But then I have met a few doozies that have been so incredibly forward in their intentions that I cannot deny this stereotype. Probably the most forward men I have ever met (including New York construction workers) have all been in France.

5. Clothes (stripes, berets, moustaches, fancy all the time, super stylish)
Most of the stereotypes I have found relating to fashion have been very true. The French love stripes, the vast majority of people (including college students) don't go out in sweats, almost everyone dresses very classically. No, people don't wear berets, and facial hair is pretty much the same as it is in the States. But yeah, you should try to look good if you come to France. Not trendy, but classic and put-together. Oh, and most French women (meaning, people a little older than me and up) don't wear tons of makeup. That's true too. But they look amazing anyway. Sigh.

6. Surrender
I have no experience with this one, as I am not currently in a war with anyone in France, but I will say that French people enjoy talking about American politics, and they are not afraid to argue. So I would say, false!

7. Eat really "badly" (cheese, butter, wine, chocolate, etc) and "weirdly" (frogs, snails, etc)
The food stereotypes are all true. You can't get substitutions on menus, everyone eats their cheese and the fatty part of the meat, drinks wine like it's water, etc. Escargot is everywhere, along with steak tartare, frogs' legs, tongue, liver, etc. But it's just not....weird here. And the portions are much more in tune with what a person should be eating. You're never going to get a giant portion of fatty foie gras--but you will get enough, and it will be heavenly.

8. Rude
French people are not rude. (Also, New Yorkers are not rude.) In my experience, if you are nice first, if you try to do the right thing--come prepared, attempt French, smile, use the "vous" (polite version of "you")--people will be people. But if you assume everyone will speak English to you because you're American, or if you don't do your research before you go somewhere, or if you're a bitch...well, I don't blame them! False, my friends.

9. Effeminate men
Overall, I don't think men in French are more effeminate than anyone else. They tend to be skinnier than men in American (not hard). They dress better, which is fun for subway watching. Some carry bags, which is just practical. But they are just different, culturally. And trust me, there are some hotttttt French men.

10. Racist
Honestly, I have no context for this one. I am pretty white, despite my attempts at rapping, and so I don't have any experience in the kind of racism that is said to permeate France. I have heard of certain areas outside of Paris where I could go to see racism, but that's not very high on my list of things to do. So I can't really say.

Finally, I would also like to say that the French like to replace some words with sounds. This is something I do occasionally. Sometimes words don't cut it, you know? But they do it all the time, especially blowing air out of their mouths quickly. I will demonstrate it for you sometime, and upload a video. But it's late here.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Killing Time

I'm sitting here at music school, and I'm tired. I received a text this morning as my alarm went off at 8am, moving up my starting time to 8:30 (from 9:15). Good thing I was planning on waking up then.

With a lack of other distractions lately, and the fact that it has finally started to act like winter, I've been hanging out chez moi a lot. I read the 2nd and 3rd Hunger Games books in 24 hours. Yesterday I finally swept the floor. Tomorrow I'm doing laundry (I went the entire month of January without doing any laundry except a small batch of hand washing). Life in Paris in the dead of winter is just not so exciting.

There has been a lot of unrest in the au pair community of late. The weather, the sick kids, the painful reality that we are glorified baby-sitters--these things are all taking their toll. I, for one, miss the autonomy of my previous lives. I am somewhat sick of responding to everyone's whims except my own. I want to be making the decisions, I want a real salary to spend how I see fit instead of watching it dwindle because I had to buy contact solution this week. Any purchase in Paris is a big purchase because it is such a giant percentage of what I make!

And what's more, I miss home. I love Paris, I really do. But I miss my mom and dad, I miss my dogs. I miss knowing where everything is in my grocery store, and I miss cheap group dinners. The unrest I feel is slippery and changing all the time. Some days I feel I could be happy with a permanently international life, but other days I cannot fathom always spending an arm and a leg just to go visit the people I love.

Dunno. Maybe it's just winter. But yesterday was the mark of 6 months left as an au pair. And while I'm not exactly counting down the days (seriously, I do love this city), I will say with certainty that I will not be staying as an au pair past my contract date, and I will not be sad when I'm finished. I'll always love the kids, as I have always loved the kids that came before, but I think this experience is better suited for shorter amounts of time.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Flying Out the Door

This is a post written as I am flying out the door for class. I hit my snooze two-too-many times after taking the kid to school this morning. Luckily I'm freshly showered from last night and full from two eggs and crackers (and some Dairy Milk) for breakfast.

Sorry I been neglecting you all. Life has just been rather busy and also fun. I'm not 100% down with the whole au pair scene at the moment as well, and the last thing you want to read on here is a ton of complaints from the girl living in Paris. Amirite? But my REAL LIFE part is pretty freaking sweet. Feeling good.

I broke my caffeine addiction, inadvertantly! Not sure if I was confusing caffeine withdrawals and hangovers at some point this winter? Anyway, coffee now gives me a buzz! And I am buzzing this morning. I'm feeling especially sparkly and peppy, so watch out Parisian. Maybe it's because I bought turquoise skinny jeans yesterday. Maybe it's because I exercised like a freak yesterday (6 miles of walking, 2.5 of running). Whatever it is, my endorphins are flowing like a river, and I'm bopping along to music. How did I forget the joy of the morning dance party? Who am I??

It definitely helps that it's felt like spring here. 40s and 50s all the time, most days. There are buds on the trees, guys. This must be unseasonable but I am loooving it. It's like I'm back in Atlanta but much much cooler. Also, I've sort of stopped brushing my hair. And I definitely am in need of a haircut, because it's been since May. May!!

Work has been driving me crazy, and I promise I will go into more detail at a later date. Breaking the streak of not-posting RIGHT NOW!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Photos

Got the blogger app on my old iPhone, which means with my newfound wifi, I can post photos SUPER easily. Enjoy!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Mornings

Today I had one of those morning where, no matter what was happening, I did NOT want to be cold. NO WAY. So I slipped out of bed, and started piling on layers. Leggings, my only pair of sweatpants here (which are lululemon and, therefore, allowed), tank top, sweater. Then I got out my best winter investment ever, my sleeping bag coat. I put on a wool scarf, furry headband, and my mittens. Bring it on, winter.

I was not one smidgen cold walking mon enfant to school this morning. But then I got to thinking, man is my job inconvenient in winter. Because I have to be at my family's apartment at 7:55am, and then I just put on his coat and walk my kid to school. It takes about 15 minutes to walk there, and it's dark right now. And, as a person who hates both cold and also wearing coats, I just am not very motivated to drag myself out of bed for ONE STINKING HALF HOUR so I can walk a child across a park. It makes me whiny, and I've stopped caring about looking even halfway decent. (Hopefully I'll start caring more as the sun starts rising earlier.)

Let's see...today I learned how to say "You're kidding!" (Tu plaisantes!) Also found out they don't make my birth control in France (overshare?). I made top hats and cornflake cakes for the birthday party tomorrow. (Top hats are a marshmallow topped with chocolate and a smartie (which is like an M&M), and cornflake cakes are cornflakes and chocolate...c'est tout!)

Something smells funky in here. I wore my 9 euro shoes today and they are freaking comfortable. I think I may have just made an amazing purchase. Also, the serious tread means I'm breaking these puppies out if we ever have snow (which we won't; still hasn't even frosted here!).

Took this the other day, it was on facebook, but I like it a lot:

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Quick Update

I just tried to write a post and it was awful. So I guess 2012 has taken all my blog-writing skills away from me. Or maybe it's because I've written only 3 times in the month. What's that phrase? Use it or lose it? Oops.

So let's see. I just got back from Montparnasse because I had to go to Fnac and buy my new French books. I also got a new notebook (why are all French notebooks made with graph paper? what's up with that?), some tape, and a pair of trendy wedges. Guys, I'm super pumped about the wedges, because they have treads on the bottom, and so they are obviously the perfect winter going-out shoe. Also, they were 9 euros!

It was incredibly windy out there. I hear we're gusting to about 50 mph, and I believe it. I had to help an old woman across the street because she couldn't hack it in the wind. Also saw a TON of metal signs blowing around, and a toilet on the street...not sure about that one. However, it's also sunny and mid-50s, which is making me dream of bare legs and daffodils, instead of facing the reality that it's the beginning of January, and it's likely to be freezing again sometime before March. Tricky, this weather. +1 for going out in a jacket that's not down or wool, -1 for disillusioning me. Wash.

I could tell you all about my trip to England/Scotland. I could tell you about the horrendous bus rides and that I've done the ferry and the Eurotunnel now. I could tell you how little I saw in London, how gorgeous Surrey is, how many camp people I saw, etc. But I'm late to pick up my charge, who turned 4 on Monday. And tomorrow I'm baking cakes with his mother in preparation for a knight-themed shindig on Saturday. Plus I have two friends celebrating birthdays this weekend. I guess 2012 is going to be...busy? I can handle that.

No pictures, because I really am late. I promise to post again in less than 2 weeks. Maybe with stories, or something.