She is not Boyfriends

Posted on Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Christmas season has arrived once again here in Paris and has brought with it chillier temperatures, Christmas trees on every corner, bizarre window displays, and a notably long absence from yours truly.  The past few weeks have been busier than ever, between working full time and traveling on weekends, but here I am on a sunny Sunday morning happy to be updating once more.

Lights going up in Montmartre 
Sunset from the office
Two close friends and I traveled to Brussels a few weeks ago.  The trip cost a whopping 12 EUR round-trip, thanks to Megabus Europe, and was a fantastic if exhausting couple of days.  Brussels is a beautiful city, and though we'd done little preparation before leaving in terms of what to see and where to go, we had a really great weekend - due in large part to picking the right hostel, whose bar turned out to be a great place to meet other travelers and friends for the weekend.  We saw the requisite little boy peeing statue (underwhelming), ate waffles covered in thick chocolate (overwhelming), and didn't sleep as much as we should have (whelming?).  I really enjoyed being in a new place that I hadn't seen before, and though I left feeling more perplexed than ever by the Flemish language, it really was nice to get out of Paris for a few days and be a tourist for once.

Banana milk chocolate waffle miam miam

Manneken Pis
Thanksgiving in Paris was wonderful.  Though I felt quite homesick and might even have shed a tear or two in skyping with my entire family (and our cats), we had a nice Thanksgiving meal here with a good mix of internationals - some Frenchies, Brits, and Canadians.  It's heartwarming to know that thogh I've only been here a few months, there are already people here that I'm happy to celebrate important days with, and I really did feel so thankful to share the traditional Thanksgiving meal with friends new and old.  I've got a new appreciation for my mother's cooking skills, though, since it really is just so difficult to coordinate a meal of that size so that every part is ready at once...
Last weekend, too, I was lucky enough to travel a bit.  My dad suggested that we meet up in London to attend a rugby match together, and though I'm not as much a fan of the sport as he is the match was exciting and it was great to see him.  My parents were lucky enough to attend the rugby world cup in New Zealand, and so my dad came prepared with lots of South African apparel for me to borrow.  Though it was cold and rainy, the day was a good one and finished with a curry together with my aunt and cousin.  The day after, when my dad left, I wandered around some of the shops in downtown London under the Christmas lights.  If the shops were a bit stressful, the glittery decorations all around the street helped to put back a Christmassy spirit!  It was lovely to see my dad (it didn't hurt that he brough me leftovers from my family's thanksgiving meal!) and to see my aunt and uncle with whom we stayed.  The Eurostar is easy as pie and it's nice to know that I can be in London within a few hours should I ever need some family time.

At the match
A superfan
London Christmas
Other than these few weekend trips, my weeks here have been chocabloc busy.  Between working at the law firm and the schools, I'm working full time and often long past 5pm.  I'm glad to have the jobs, of course, but it's tough when I feel like I'm constantly on the go with little time to myself - another reason why my updates haven't been too frequent.  Balancing the two jobs with a social life and the ongoing hunt for new friends, not to mention trying to sleep enough that I don't look like a zombie, is tough and something that I'm not sure I've perfected yet.  Turns out "real life" takes more energy than I thought...
Beautiful sunny day
Christmas tree for the apartment upstairs!
I'd forgotten how beautiful Paris is around Christmastime.  There are lights everywhere - even on my own street!  No matter how tiring the days and weeks might seem, it's hard not to feel lighthearted at all the good cheer around.  The Christmas market on the Champs-Elysées is in full swing, and the shop windows everywhere are resplendent with Christmas spirit.  The next few weeks should be busy, but at the end of them I've got Christmas in Dublin to look forward to, and shortly after the arrival of my sister and her boyfriend.  Life continues to be good to me on this side of the world - if a little bit chilly.
I'll leave you with this cute write-up I found that one of my students had done about me... It'll give you a good idea of my everyday experience in the English classroom.. Hope it makes you chuckle, too. xo



Posted on Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Sunset from my office.
 I'm not quite ready to chalk it up exclusively to my Irish blood, but I've felt extremely lucky lately.  Most immediately, waking up this morning to headlines of a Democratic victory was such a pleasure.  Being so far away, it was sometimes tough to stay totally connected to the campaign trail and to really get a sense for the general impression of voters, for the way the daily-changing tides were affecting voter mentality.  I'm pleased with the outcome, and I really do hope that these next four years continue to break new ground for the United States.  Though I'm far away, I'm proud to come from a country that has now twice elected a man like Barack Obama.  I'll be raising a glass of cheap bubbly in celebration tonight, as a toast to the Americans that saw fit to elect him and to the man himself for all he's been dealt.
I waltzed into the office of my former internship supervisor about two weeks ago, expecting to have a friendly catching up session and to share our news - when I walked out about an hour later, I'd been offered a part-time job.  My prolonged blog absence is partly due to the fact that I'm now working full time with teaching and in the law firm, and so I'm still transitioning to a new hectic schedule.  I'm so grateful for the opportunity to return to work at the law firm.  My boss is incredibly intelligent, well-respected, and.. busy.  The work is interesting and a nice change of pace from the teaching assistantship I've grown accustomed to.  Though, the stark difference between the suburb where I teach and the swanky 16th arondissement where I work certainly gives pause for thought.

Passing the Louvre on a sunny bike ride.
I feel lucky, too, to have missed Hurricane Sandy.  Though my family and friends are all safe and in their homes in one piece, my parents did lose power for a full week.  Perhaps exciting for the first hours or maybe even days, I'm not sure that I would've necessarily fared well with the lack of electricty, connectivity, or heat.  The Parisian winter continues to descend upon us, and brings with it a whole load of darkness and intermittent rain.  Dark when I wake up, dark when I get home from work... Thank God Paris is as beautiful by night as by day.
It's been two months now since I've been here, two wonderful and exciting months.  It feels like so long ago that I was snuggling my fat cat Lily, or drinking cheap beers in the sunlight with friends, or driving around Yardley in my ever-faulty Saab... Sometimes it all feels like a lifetime ago.  I'm so grateful, though, that time is so generous to me.  If I were studying abroad, my time would already be halfway through and I know I wouldn't be ready, still, to go home.  I'm not sure how long I'll be staying, but I do know I'm not nearly halfway finished.  It's a funny feeling, really, not knowing the next time I'll be back on American soil.  I had my first bout of homesickness recently, and though it was short-lived it was intense and reminded me, again, how lucky I am to live in a world where instant communication is so simple, no matter the distance.

My classroom.
I celebrated Halloween a bit with my students, in large part thanks to my mother's generosity and the United States Postal Service.  They don't have a very clear image of what Halloween's about, since once child described in detail "Jack O-Lantern," a skeleton man with a bloody pumpkin head that he holds in his hands as he goes about scaring children.. (??) but they were thrilled by the TRICK OR TREAT banner I brought in, courtesy of Target and Deirdre Cloughley.  Interestingly, they all hated candy corn, deeming it far too sweet and overall rather tasteless.  The kids are on a two week holiday at the moment and I do miss them.  I'm looking forward to starting school again on Monday to hear all about their holidays and to really begin real lessons with them.  I too celebrated Halloween, with some American friends one night and some French the next.  The contrast between the two parties was amusing - mixed drinks and rap music at one, wine and cigarettes at the next... If I had to pick my favorite, I couldn't.  Mostly, I just enjoyed the chance to wave a cigarette holder in people's faces.  La classe!

For your spooky viewing pleasure.  I try not to look deranged, usually, but...
I also spend a lot of time feeling lucky to have Picard in my life.  For the uninitiated, Picard is a supermarket here in France comprised of only frozen food.  Far from a paltry smattering of French fries and chicken nuggets, Picard offers delicacies such as garlicky escargot, oozing molten chocolate cakes, even oven-ready baguettes... all for an affordable price.  It's become my best friend recently, as it's inexpensive, largely healthful, and extremely convenient.  Jackie and I have had two very succesful meals thanks to Picard in the past week, moules frites one night with chocolate cake for dessert and a full steak meal the next, with crème brûlée following.  I am not, evidently, vegetarian anymore.  After three years, including the "occasional" cheesesteak mistake during college, I've decided to throw in the towel and embrace all that France has to offer me.  Just as well, as during a recent trip to the doctor I was told "You MUST eat meat every day.  It is just essential.  Every day."  Most decidedly advice from a French doctor.

Not sure how appetizing this looks to you, readers,
but it makes my stomach grumble at the memory...
Walking to the bus stop home from work.
I hope you'll forgive the overly cheery tone of this post.  I just feel extremely fortunate at the moment to be where I am and to be in such a wonderful situation.  I really do miss home, and my family and friends there - things are especially difficult sometimes, like the recent Homecoming weekend at my alma mater - but I feel content and that I'm in the right place.  I've met some wonderful people here and I've got great friends that are also US transplants.  And, with plans to see my Dad and Aunt later this month and more family in Ireland over Christmas, and my big sister and her boyfriend in December... It's hard to feel too lonely.  I'm looking forward to jetsetting to Brussels tomorrow.  And by "jetsetting," I mean "sitting on a Megabus."  I feel like I spent about half my life on a Megabus during senior year of college, and I'm curious to see how the European branch compares.  I'm really eager to explore Brussels, though, as it's somewhere I've never been.  The fact that they're famous for beer, french fries, chocolate, waffles .... these things are also attractive.  It's been a while since I've been in a completely new place, and my wanderlust-driven-heart is eager to experience the unknown.  I do hope my luck doesn't run out before I catch that bus tomorrow. xo


Highs and Lows

Posted on Tuesday, October 23, 2012

On Sunday, the sun appeared again and the weather was warm and perfect.  I could hardly believe it when I looked out my window in the morning, and determined to make the most of the nice weather, I set out from my apartment on foot and headed North.  Crossing the Seine and making my way across Île de la Cité, I stumbled upon the Bird and Flower market; it was full of life and chirping and colorful little birds and beautiful flowers.  It was such an awesome sight - here in Paris, you're lucky to encounter any bird that's not a giant arrogant pigeon trying to steal your baguette - and I was charmed by the market's pretty layout and exotic contents.

Moving on from the market, I continued to walk North through the city centre.  I wasn't headed anywhere in particular, but stopped on park benches and at a café and soaked in the beautiful weather and the simple joys of life in Paris.  I found a beautiful bookshop on two levels, where I was thrilled to spy my old friend W.B. Yeats sitting on a dusty shelf.  Though I was tempted to buy the collection of his work in French, out of curiosity and nerdy interest, the book was too big so I had to leave it behind.  It's always nice to see familiar faces, though. Meeting up with Jackie near the Georges Pompidou Center, we rented bikes and headed further north, deciding to end our bike ride at the Buttes Chaumont park, which has one of the best views of Paris as it's elevated and quite far north.  The bike ride was beautiful, though we made the mistake of trying to ride through the pedestrian-heavy Marais,  and we saw several things that made us laugh out loud (A man dressed in giraffe print doing a one-man-band thing à la Mary Poppins....).  I don't think I'll ever forget the sight of a shirtless man in-line skate-dancing at an intersection - he wore baggy khakis that had been slit up to his thights to allow for ease of movement when he kicked his leg up to his ear... No description will really ever be accurate enough, but rest assured it was equal parts hilarious, impressive, and frightening.

We passed through the Canal St Martin, where much of the film Amélie was filmed, and where I lived when I was a student.  The area is so vibrant and full of people, particularly on a Sunday afternoon, with families and groups of friends picnicking and eating lazy lunches in roadside bistrots.  Though the sun began to disappear a bit, Jackie and I finally made it up to the Buttes Chaumont (after an obligatory bakery break for chouquettes).  The park was full of people, too, and we climbed all the way to the top of the biggest hill to see the view.  At first, we were unimpressed, and didn't understand why so many people are so enamored of the view.  Finally, we turned around with the intent of leaving only to realize that we had a perfect view of the Eiffel Tower from where we stood, and with the sun beginning to set just behind it, it really was breathtaking.  Lots of people don't like the Eiffel Tower, or become jaded after seeing it every day, but I continue to be seduced by its delicate architecture and quiet elegance.
Back on our bikes, Jackie and I bought a rôtisserie chicken for dinner and feasted in her little studio in the 10th.  Newly carnivorous and still unsure how to prepare/cut/serve meat, I let Jackie do most (all) of the carving, but the chicken was so very tasty and with a glass of wine and some potatoes was the perfect ending to the most delicious lazy Sunday of my life.

Awesome view of the Eif.
Though Sunday was picturesque and perfect, living in Paris is no fairytale.  I've been struck lately by the number of homeless people I've noticed, in particular along the Boulevard St Germain, near my apartment.  It's impossible not to be affected by it; on one side you pass five benches occupied by homeless people in a row, while on the other tourists feast on 5 course lunches at the Armani Café or shop at Sonia Rykiel.  My heart gets so heavy sometimes, walking home, because there's so little I can do.  Offering some spare change or a bit of food might alleviate the weight sometimes, but ultimately being faced with this destitution is a reality of living in a city like Paris, where the richest of the rich step on the poorest of the poor without looking down.  I don't want to make this blog post too serious or to make you, readers, walk away feeling depressed or heavy-hearted, but I've been so struck by the problem in the past week that I felt I needed to record it somewhere, to remind myself that la vie en rose isn't always so rosy.  Here I am, living my dream in Paris, while on the next street corner there's a mother with her infant asking for pocket change.  It's something I try to stay conscious of, and staying grounded has never been more important for me than here in Paris.
All that being said, I continue to feel grateful for everything I've got here.  Sure, the WiFi signal might be spotty at best, and the customer service can be frustrating, and the contact lens solution expensive, but ultimately almost everything I've ever wanted for myself is here, now.  I've started riding my bike home from work sometimes.  It's quite far, since my school is outside Paris in the North, but it's a beautiful ride and goes through at least ten different neighborhoods.  They're never signposted, but the shift from the ethnic colorful neighborhoods in the north to the to the up-and-coming and gentrified 10th is striking every time.   The city is so accessible, and so very alive, that an hourlong bike ride feels like a few minutes as I'm so fascinated by everything I see.  Anyone who knows my sense of direction might be alarmed that I'm let loose in Paris, but fortunately Paris is one of the few places where I can generally keep my bearings and end up in the right place.  There's no confidence  booster like bike riding from Porte de Clignancourt to Sèvres-Babylone without consulting my map once!
My language skills have reached a bit of a lull which is severely frustrating.  I can understand everything, but some days I'm so tired or frustrated that I feel like I can't even communicate.  I never had a lull like this when I was abroad and it's driving me nuts - the words are in my mind but I'm having trouble speaking with confidence like I'm used to.  I'm hoping this phase will pass, but for now it makes for amusing stories (Such as asking "Do you have coffee which is cold??" at a café...).

Package from home featuring Halloween goodies for my students - and cold meds for me!
After this week, the kids have a full two-week vacation from school.  Luckily for me, my contract here includes six weeks of paid vacation time, the two weeks next week included.  I look forward to after these holidays are over, though, to really knuckle down with my students and start to make some progress.  There's only so much Hangman a class can take, I think, and so I'm beginning to invent some lesson plan ideas in my mind to help them as much as I can.   Teaching continues to be rewarding.  Even if waking up when it's pitch black (PITCH. BLACK.) at 7 in the morning can be a drag, I always leave my schools in the afternoon feeling happy.  I might walk into the courtyard feeling grumpy and unmotivated, but hearing "'ALLO MADAME!", "'HALLO MISS NIAMH!", "'ALLO MISS 'OW ARE YOU?" always lifts my spirits and makes me ready to start teaching.  From this moment in the morning with my students, to the moment I'm in the home stretch of my bike ride home, where the air is thick with the scent of Nutella crêpes and four cheese paninis, every day here makes my smile to myself.  How did I get so lucky?  


October Eleventh

Posted on Thursday, October 11, 2012

There's something about Paris in the rain.  Though it's been raining so frequently lately that I'm surprised I can't pinpoint that "something" more precisely...

Full moon at Notre Dame
Still impressive, even on the gloomiest of days.

The weather's getting colder and more miserable; the infamous Parisian winter grayness is setting in and I'm not too pleased.  When I left for work this morning at 7:45, the street was still half-dark and sleepy (but not as sleepy as I was).  Things continue to go well, despite the dampening weather and the whisper of winter misery in the air.  Though it's been harder and harder to wake up in the morning, with the pitch black that greets me at my alarm's insistence, my days at the schools promise to be rewarding and worthwhile.  The children are cute, and to see the earnest enthusiasm with which some of them make efforts in English is motivation enough to get out of bed and start my days.
The questions I've been asked, too, confirm that I'll enjoy my time as assistant.  I've encountered everything from the disconcertingly vague "What do you not like?" to the completely random "Have you met the Queen of England?".  Each time, I'm struck by how little these kids in the North of Paris have really learned about the Anglophone world - the idea that they genuinely believe that I, a 22 year-old American girl, might've really and truly met Kim Kardashian in the street is evidence that their notions of everyday American life are jumbled to say the least.  But it's these little things that make me smile, and remind me that I'm here both as a language resource AND a cultural resource.  I hope that by the time I'm finished with them at the end of April, they'll understand that you don't meet celebrities at every street corner of New York, and that no, most people have not shaken President Obama's hand.

This photo is poor quality because I zoomed in.  But, still.
With the weather being as awful as it has been, it's been a bit more challenging to make the most of my Vélib bike pass.  There's nothing less pleasant than getting stuck in a Parisian misty rainstorm on a clunky bike, while trying not to get killed by a bus or scooter or an especially stout pedestrian.  The other night, on my way to a friend's apartment, I first failed to find an available bike, and then got caught out in the rain on my way.  I was in the middle of uttering a long stream of French and English curse words under my breath when I rounded a corner and beheld the Eiffel Tower, sparkling as it does on every hour.  It was a well-timed reminder that most of my complaints these days are trivial, and when I frame them more appropriately in the grand scheme of my life they fall away, completely insignificant.
I continue to be appalled at the price of Paris.  Sure, baguettes and wine are cheap, but there's only so many pounds a person can gain in Paris before one must realize this is not a vacation and is, in fact, real life.  (If anyone's got a good lentil recipe, please do let me know.  Lentils are so cheap, I plan to subsist mainly on them for the foreseeable future.)  I'm hoping to find some other work somehow to support myself, as my salary just about covers my rent with very little left over at the end of the month.

Almond croissant on a sunny day at the Tuileries.
This weekend a few friends and I are heading to the Stade de France to see a rugby match.   With my father's encouragement, we'll be seeing Munster vs. Racing Métro 92... and yes, that is the true-life name of a French team.  I couldn't even make that up if I tried.  It'll take me a few more viewings of "RUGBY 101" on YouTube before I feel properly ready, but even if most of the action is lost on my non-sporty mind, I can still appreciate an event with lots of shouting and camaraderie.  I'm really looking forward to it, as I've never been to the Stade de France.  It should be memorable.

Wide open spaces in the Loire Valley.
The sun's just come out now, so I'll leave this post a bit shorter than originally planned in favor of moving and getting outside.  Look forward to my reactions on my second ever rugby game... If I make it out alive - rugby fans are notoriously spirited!  Here's to hoping I'll be back soon.


Blue Skies

Posted on Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Look, I exist! Promise.
I'm still here, very much alive and well!  The truth is, when I sit down to update my blog it's generally sunny and bright outside, and I think "Well I should get outside while it's nice..." and then I'm off!  With my newly-minted year long Vélib pass, I've been roaming all around Paris on bike (while trying to avoid cobblestones at all costs) which is one of the best ways to see the city for sure.

Catching sundown over Notre Dame from my bike.
Last week, my parents were generous enough to invite my friend Jackie and me down to their house in the Loire Valley for a few days.  After a whirlwind first few weeks in Paris, it was nice to breathe some country air and catch up on sleep - not to mention being wined and dined extensively!  With our poor girls' budgets, we've been mostly subsisting on powdered soup from the super market and baguette, so it was with wide eyes and grumbling stomachs that we greeted the bounty of fruits and veggies my mother had in store for us.  Perhaps the most notable part of our trip was a short visit to the Chateau de Beaulieu in Saumur.  My parents' friends operate the chateau as an intimate little B&B on the banks of the Loire (See their website here!).  We were invited to dinner and Jackie and I couldn't believe our luck! While just days before we'd been chowing down on baguette on the windy steps of Sacré Coeur, here we were enjoying a three course meal in a 17th century chateau thanks to the incredible generosity of Conor and Mary, the chateau owners.  (If anyone's looking for a fantastic B&B in French wine country, I can't recommend this place highly enough!)

Home sweet country home.
Check out the site here if you're interested!
A day spent at the Chateau de Brissac
Our days in the Loire were so relaxing, and I think we might've seen more cows than people!  Roadside wine tastings, cheese after every meal, and so many hours of sleep... It really was nice to recharge even though it had only been a few weeks of madness here in Paris.  I'm more city girl than country girl, though, and so it was nice to pull back into the Gare Montparnasse last Thursday evening and see the Eiffel Tower twinkling in the distance, welcoming us home.  I'm really starting to feel at home in my little shoebox room apartment.  It's just so small, but so perfect too in its own way.  Now that I've got a table and a little chair, I can sit by my window and use my computer or eat my dinner while looking out over the rooftops of the 7th arrondissement   Not bad, my friends, not bad at all.  My neighborhood is wonderful and well-situated, and I continue to be grateful for the friends I've met thus far (and those with whom I've reunited!) that make me feel so at home here.  I can't believe that this week marks the one-month mark of my stay!  On one hand, I can't believe it's only been a month - I feel like I've stuck back into my Parisian routine so quickly that it's like I never left. On the other, though, with a seven-month work contract beginning this week it's frightening to think how quickly one month has gone by already.

Room with a view.
I begin working at school on Friday.  I'll be teaching at two schools located just north of Paris, in the infamous Seine St-Denis area.  It's a far cry from the 7th arondissement where I live (on my block alone there's a Céline, Yves Saint-Laurent, Christian Louboutin...) and has, in the past, been the center of riots and violent protests, but I visited my schools yesterday and felt completely safe and ready to start work.  I'll be doing 6 hours in each school per week, helping the English teachers with kids aged 11-14, and after meeting a few of the classes yesterday I'm really looking forward to getting to know the students and helping them progress with English as much as I can.  I report back on Friday morning to present myself to my classes and to get to know them.  Some friends who've already met more students have been met with such entertaining questions as "Do you do brunch?" and "Have you heard of Jay-Z?" so I'm really excited to see what kinds of things I'm asked by my students.  I think the experience will be fulfilling if challenging, and I'm curious to see if it encourages me to persue teaching as an actual career.

Aside from all that, Paris is still as beautiful as ever.  The food (Oh là là... The food.), the people, Sometimes I still need to pinch myself to see if it's all real - the most mundane activities make me feel so unreasonably happy that I'm not sure I can take all the good things that are coming my way.  I successfully opened my bank account and got my debit card, so I'm well on my way to feeling "real" in this new life.  I also received my absentee ballot in the mail the other day, and in a fairly rare moment of patriotism I cast my vote and sent it back to Bucks county.  I'm proud that the US makes it fairly easy for its ex-patriates to continue to be involved in the policital process, and I look forward to watching the political process unfold from way over here.  Here's to hoping my Parisian vote helps a favorable outcome in November!  

Beautiful autumn morning at Invalides.
I'd rather have this than money.  Is that wrong?
If it is, I don't want to be right.
Watching my money disappear so rapidly is tough, but I'm hoping to find a side job shortly that will afford me a bit more flexibility in spending - though my dwindling bank account doesn't seem to stop me from buying a falafel every week in the Marais, or splurging on a stinkier cheese... Oh well, being broke is half the fun of it (right??).  Even if, after a soirée at my neighbors' apartment, I come home reeking of cigarette smoke and full to the brim with quiche and cheese, it's these minor discomforts that remind me how lucky I am to actually be here.  The weather is turning colder in Paris, but rather than the usual gloomy gray of Parisian fall, it's been bright and sunny and clear.  The city comes alive in this sunlight, more than in the hazy heat of the summer, and there's no greater joy than walking across a bridge that's older than the United States and finding myself in a new or unexplored neighborhood.  While I'll be busier once work starts in full, I'll try my hardest to never forget that these little pleasures are what makes life here worthwhile. I'll leave you now with a French rap song written about the area in which I'll be teaching - it might give you an idea of the kind of scene I'll be a part of...  xo



Posted on Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Oh dear, suddenly it's been two weeks since my initial blog post. I guess I'll chalk it up to enjoying myself here too much, but in truth it's also linked to some problems with my Blogger account, which have been annoying and tough to resolve. In any case - here I am, friends! Alive and well and ridiculously happy.

My apartment here in Paris is the smallest little thing, but it's perfect. It's on a quiet street in the 7th arondissement (a word whose spelling I STILL can't ever remember); it has blue walls and red tiles and an enormous and beautiful window, including a view over some prime Parisian rooftops. It's only 9m², and is probably about twice the size of my closet at home... but truth be told, there's no better feeling than having a place to call my own here in my favorite city. These past two weeks have been a fantastic and exhausting re-introduction to Paris. It feels comfortable and perfect, and not at all like two years have passed. Red wine on the banks of the Seine beneath Notre Dame's beautiful facade, too-strong cocktails at my favorite bar, perfectly crunchy-yet-soft baguettes, melty stinky cheese... I could write on and on. I can't believe I ever had doubts about coming, really. As soon as I entered the city limits by bus after landing at Charles de Gaulle two weeks ago, my heart felt like it was trying desperately to escape from my chest with excitement and happiness. I saw the impressive Haussmannian architecture, the boulangeries on every corner, the rail-thin French girls with cigarettes in hand, and I knew I was home.

I don't start work until the 3rd of October, which means I still have two weeks of vacation time before beginning anything too serious. While I haven't been doing anything particularly awe-inspiring, the fact that I can leave my apartment and walk in any direction for hours without boredom is a fact whose greatness I don't underestimate. I'm seduced again and again by everything Paris has to offer – and look forward, too, to finding new and exciting things to draw me in farther. A friend that I studied abroad with is also here and doing the same program, and sometimes as we visit all our old stomping grounds it feels bittersweet to have moved on from that oh so wonderful period. But at the same time, upon meeting two American study abroad students a few days ago, it felt so satisfying to say “We live here.” Perhaps that vague condescension is an indication of some French culture already rubbing off on me? I'll have to keep that one in check...

Luckily, I have some incredibly great and friendly neighbors which means that I'm once again speaking enough French to make bizarre English sentences; little irregularities every now and then – such as the recent impulse to add “frankly!” to the end of each sentence, or exclaiming “It's super cool!!!” I'm glad for the immersion and to make progress with my French, but on the other hand it's alarming how quickly I've confused some sentence construction. If not my French, my Franglais will certainly be flawless when I return to the US.

My parents were here over the weekend, which was wonderful and, naturally, filled with delicious food. It was lovely to have them here, and to reassure them that I'm installed well and happy. I hope they left on Monday feeling as confident as I am that this is the right place for me. While I miss my sisters and my friends to no end, I'm grateful for all the technology that allows me to stay in touch so well. Aside from a pesky time difference, there's no shortage of ways to be instantly connected to the people I love so much back home.

In short, (bref!) all goes well here. I'm not sure I can add photos to this post at the moment, because of my Google account problems, but you'll see on the right of my blog page a link to my Instagram account. Anyone hungry for photos of Paris (cliché or otherwise) can click through there and see what I've been up to. Tonight I think my friend and I are headed to find a free meal at a dingy café in the 10th that serves free moules frites on Wednesdays. I'm hoping to get my account problems sorted in the next week or so, and I promise to be better about updating – for all my millions of readers!

À bientôt xo



Posted on Wednesday, September 5, 2012

When I left Paris almost two years ago, as a college junior, I knew I'd be back.

The last time I saw the Eiffel Tower, in December of 2010
It wasn't necessarily a firm plan - I never really actively sketched out the logistics of my return, or had a solid idea of what I'd do - but I knew, in the cheesiest and most predictable corners of my heart, that I wasn't finished with Paris.  Or, maybe, that Paris wasn't finished with me.

Two years and two college degrees later, my bags are packed and at the front door of my suburban Philadelphia home.  My trusty book of Parisian maps is tucked away in my purple backpack between collections of WB Yeats' poetry and Gertrude Stein's work, my Euros have replaced the (pathetically few) dollars in my wallet, and my métro card has moved back into its familiar zippered pocket.  Tonight, I'll leave my home again, but in a markedly different way.  While preparing to study abroad held much of the excitement and anxiety that these past few weeks have contained, there's some distinct yet unnamable difference here.  Certainly, some of the contrasts are easy to identify, but I'm not sure any one of them singly makes the distinction in full.  Living alone in a shoebox-sized apartment rather than with a roommate and family in a comfy and spacious homestay comes to mind as I warily eye my large and heavy case, but I don't think that's it.  Perhaps it's a newly found sense of maturity and sense of self?  Not yet, I don't think.

Whatever the difference, this trip feels somehow more uncertain than it did last time.  The decision to go was made quickly - I'd applied last winter to be an English language assistant in France, more or less on a whim, and was surprised to find in the spring that I'd been placed in a school just outside Paris.  Even after being accepted, I still didn't think I was going.  But as a few doors closed on me in the United States, I realized that there was a window still open - a window with an Eiffel Tower view, no less.  I decided to go, to accept the position, and so here I am.  I'll arrive back in Paris tomorrow morning, and I'm not sure how I'll feel upon touchdown.  Excited, for sure, and definitely nervous - but there's no way for me to know whether or not a dramatic move of this kind will pay off, will lead to something worthwhile.  With friends from coast to coast in the US working in very real jobs and studying to obtain very real degrees, it's difficult sometimes not to feel like I'm evading reality a bit by making this leap.  But then I look back at the final entry my last blog from my time studying abroad (click here to read), and I'm certain this is the right thing to do.  Paris does something to me, makes me feel free and alive in ways that nowhere else really does, and I realize just how fortunate I am to be returning.

My time here over the summer has been wonderful - from the debaucherous week after graduation spent in Outer Banks with an incredible group of college friends to quiet Sunday mornings at home with my family - I can't underestimate the amount of love and gratitude I have for family and friends.  I'm leaving behind so many people that I care about so much, but they know (I hope!) I'll never seem too far away.  This opportunity is a fantastic one, and I'll be fully ready to seize it come tomorrow morning.  At least, after my first croissant. Stay tuned, my friends.