Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Paris: Week 1

Well, it officially has been 10 days since I arrived in pay-reeee. So I wanted to give a brief recap of my 1st week of adventures so that you all know I'm still alive!!  I meant to write this down as they happened, but being preoccupied + still being jet lagged = not happening!

Monday was my first day of au pairing, which means I pick up Little G from school around 4:30 pm and watching him while he plays in the park for about an hour.  I take him home by metro help him do his homework and then chill out until dinner time.  Thats the usual routine everyday expect Wednesday.

(Here's Little G, sitting in a tree.)

I have made it point to have dinner with the family every night, since it's the one time of day I feel I am bombarded with a large concentration of French at real time!  I do envy my host family's traditional dinner time.  With the fast-paced nature of our modern world, people don't really have the time anymore to sit around the dinner table.  In the US during dinner time, family members are spread through out all the corners of the house.  Sitting around a table, is now an "old-fashioned" concept no longer compatible with the current age.  It's really refreshing to be around a family that has made the decision that no matter what, dinner time must be respected.  My host mom cooks dinner, dad cuts the meats and serves everyone and the children help set the table and clean up after.  No matter how deep the children are into their computers or iPhones, when my host mom says "À table" everyone heads to the table.  I don't know how easily I can force the habit onto my siblings, but I have made a conscious decisions to instill that value into my future children.

Speaking of dinner time, or rather food...wow! what can I say, the food in Paris is absolutely DELICIOUS!!! Because I haven't started teaching and my salary right now is very limited, I try to eat out maybe every 3 days.  So far I have been to a couple of French restaurants around the 9e arrondissement, and I have been enjoying every moment.  For the most part, I try to prepare small meals at home and of course have dinner with the family in order to save money.  I love going grocery shopping so being in Paris and buying groceries has been delightful!  What I like most is the mix between small, independently owned shops and super markets or supermarchés as they are called here.  It seems that Paris has struck an incredible balance of giving people the options of something freshly hand made or mass produced.  I'm going to try to go grocery shopping at least once a week, while I am here so that I can discover new tastes and figure out what works best with my tastes buds!

 (Here's a pic of my very 1st grocery shopping trip, it's not much but it was great!)

One really cool thing I did the first week I was here (as if the Tour Eiffel wasn't enough) was to get in touch with other young international au pairs working in Paris, like yours truly.  I was invited to meet some of the au pair girls by a friend do the TAPIF program with me.  We met at metro St. Michel then bought some wine and drank it along the River Seine.  It was such an awesome night!  Any remaining anxieties and fears I had melted away just from being around an awesome group of girls who were dealing with the same struggles I was dealing with in Paris.  Now I know I was recommended not to hang around to many English speakers so that I don't get stuck speaking it to much, but I figure that having someone there who speaks the same language as you is a great gate-way to met the Frenchies (there's more behind this phrase which will be explained very soon!)  Plus the French are always intrigued by English speakers and I have my host family to practice with, so I don't worry to much.  I got to hang out with some of the girls again later and I actually see most of them a lot because they take their kids to the same park as Little G.

During the day, if I don't sleep in too late, I like to walk around Paris and just explore.  The great thing about this experience is that everything is so new and exciting for me that I probably won't be bored for a very long time!  I went back to the Tour Eiffel and St. Michel during the day time to take in what the quartier has to offer when the sun is out.  I love all of the street art and artists that fill the city, it is truly inspiring.

...stay tuned, more adventures to come!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Day 1

It is 2:45 in the morning here in Paris,  and as I write this post in my super lovely and super chic Parisian apartment, my 1st day here will come to a close.

I still can't believe it, I'm here...I'm in Paris!!!  I think the mixture of excitement and pure exhaustion is not really allowing me to understand the gravity of everything.  All in all getting here was smooth and I could not have asked for a better flight.  I was in traffic for almost 2 hours to get to Dulles airport and I was worried I would be running late. But as God would have it, I got there, checked my bags (sidenote: the really nice lady working allowed me to go over the limit without any extra fees) and went through security without any hiccups.  I flew with Iceland Air because it was the cheapest flight I could get, however the downside is that they don't serve food, you have to buy it, and it ain't cheap!

I arrived in Paris around 1:30pm and after I collected my bags to go out the exit, my host family was there waiting for me.  I got to meet Little G in the flesh.  He was very shy, which is normal when a tall-big-curly-haired-black-girl you've never met before, is suddenly your new caretaker.  We drove to the apartment and during the drive I got to see bits of St. Denis aka "Africa Central" since a crap ton of Africans live there.  My host family treated me to a nice lunch at an Italian restaurant, then helped me unpack and showed me around the neighborhood.  My exhaustion clouded my better judgement, so I didn't bring a camera with me but not to worry, many more pics of mon quartier are to come!

First Impression of Paris:
1.) Driving is NUTS here!  Traffic is so bad (especially around St. Denis) and people drive so close to each other that I can reach my hand out and slap the driver next to me!

2.) Don't believe all the hype, not every French woman is skinny.  I have mostly seen a variety of shapes around the "normal" frame.  Obviously France does not have a huge morbid obesity problem, but not every woman is stick thin.

3.) When the sun goes down, I will assume any random trail of "liquid" is piss.  There are random spots that smell like piss..et je DETESTE ça!

4.) Constantly hearing French will be a skill I will have to get used to.  Today I felt like I could only understand maybe 1 or 2 words during a conversation.  I will try to enroll in some cheap French classes.

5.) I love all of the open air markets that are available.  Everything looks super fresh!

6.) Elevators...what are those?

I ended my first day with a midnight visit to the Eiffel Tower, which gave me the opportunity to ride the metro fr the 1st time .  My friend went with me to the tower but I took the train back by myself.  When I first saw it, I started to cry, it is so beautiful and is a structure that epitomizes Paris, it is truly a dream come true to be able to see it.  And the light show? FANTASTIC!!  Here are some pics form tonight:

Monday, September 5, 2011

T-minus cinq....

Well, the week has finally arrived!  I have exactly 5 days left until I leave for Paris.  I have been running around nearly breaking my skull trying to buy last minute assorted items like clothing, medications and other nick-knacks, that I haven't really been giving the actually journey much thought.

Packing is probably one of the biggest annoyances I have ever dealt with.  I really don't want to over-pack because the fees associated with packing over the weight limit is no joke and NOT cheap!  But I'm conflicted because I am a US size 12/14 and with all that I've heard about French women being extremely skinny, I am concerned that I won't find clothes to fit my curvy frame so I want to bring enough that fit me and look très chic.  And then there's the issue of shoes.....ohhh shoes, I love all of my shoes and I wish I could take them all with me, but sadly I can not.  Other teaching assistants have advised me to only take 3 pairs of shoes......yeahhhhh not sure that is feasible for a shoe fiend like me!

(Discalimer: these adorable suitcases are not mine ;-)

As with any major life change/ transition, I have been experiencing a lot of "pre-departure anxiety".  This anxiety has made me very nervous about my journey, but I supposed these are all normal feelings.  Recently I have been waking up in the middle of the night contemplating what awaits for me in Paris.  I'm really excited about seeing Le Tour Eiffel  and all of the museums but, and yes there's a but,  I am not looking forward to being reminded that I've only taken a year and a half of French, when people try to converse with me and I look utterly baffled and confused.  Back in January, I wrote about how badly I needed to practice my French, but nearly 8 months later, I have yet to crack open my French book.  I failed so badly at keeping this promise to myself it's comical.  But it's not completely my fault, I had to work full time and went to school part-time so I was way to preoccupied to practice.  I'm hoping to take a refresher course at L'Alliance Francaise, and like everyone says hopefully the French that I've learned and forgotten will "all come back to me".

But nervousiness, fear and anxiety aside, in just 5 days I'll be here......
...how wonderful is that!