Living and learning about life, environmentalism, technology, travel, food & the arts… during the climate crisis. Believer in an ecological renaissance. Articles pre-december 2019 before my ecological awakening. To be updated.
I have been testing a new way of introducing myself, especially when at professional conferences and meetups. Though, I feel strongly you can use this throughout your life.
How many times have you talked for a long a while with a new person only to at the end realize there is a connection or opportunity to learn or collaborate? You then scramble to exchange emails and hope to connect and talk more later. You spent most of the conversation dancing around subjects or worse talking about the weather, when what most people want and need is connection and true exchange.
Let’s be frank, there is too often than not a lot of blah blah Rainy Outside blah that no one enjoys.
So I propose:
Instead of introducing ourselves by just our expertise, we should say what we are currently learning.
It is a bit of a way to create a skills matrix adhoc. It also engenders the mindset that we all (Yes, even consultants!) have something to learn.
Example (and a currently true one):
Hello, my name is Sheila. I am a business coach specializing in lean, agile and product vision. Currently I am delving into Lean Startup, working on my writing and practicing my Spanish. How about you?
Better yet ask them, “What are you passionate about?”
And perhaps, the person will respond, “Actually I am fluent in Spanish! Want to meet up practice? I could pick your brain on agile. I am passionate about…” Or, “I am also learning about Lean Startup! What books are you reading? I found this great one…”
Thoughts? Please, let me know your feedback if you try it.
Introducing my newly branded (rough-draft) and moved expat blog (albeit in potentially perpetual beta mode). Really only the logo design is done. ;p
First you must know that the Learning Machine, still exists but will be solely be professional or nontravel/expat ramblings. While this new little niche shall be my hide out for all the things I find fit to share in my growth as an American abroad in Paris.
While I have not been writing here for months now… I have been digesting and figuring out life in Paris. It has been a labor of love which I am becoming ready to share. So we will see how these little writings will make their debut to the world and how often. But we might as well get started.
Now where were we?Season 3, looking back at the archive. I have now been amid what I would consider Season 4 for quite a while.
Austin is in a new job. We have moved at least two times since last time I wrote, now living in upper 11th of Paris or lower Belleville neighborhood. We were able to take our first real vacations in years, traveling to the Mediterranean and Sweden.
I took a professional pause to work on my French and some personal projects (including a non-profit dance exchange in Paris which welcomed over 200 dancers from around the world). And now I am back on the “find a job I can be passionate about (preferably in French)” train. Going well despite I decided to board this train in the summer time a.k.a. unemployed deadman’s land.
Still I am optimistic and have been talking with a couple exciting companies that hopefully I will get to announce in the coming months once the living return to Paris.
Overall life as an expat (especially in the last month) has semi-smoothed out, especially due to my gained proficiency in French, seeking stability and simplifying my commitments.
And of course we love Paris more than ever.
Though we have not had electricity for the past week and a half… but that is a post for another time.
After School Special
What have I learned so far this Season? Let’s make this semi-educational.
EXPAT LIFE LESSON #121:Hey man, you are already an expat… do not take on the rest of the world as well.
Simplify, delve into your new life and concentrate on some (read: not all) positive and productive activities!
Because this is not your past life, you have a new obligatory hobby: Figuring out a new culture, language and way of life.
So come Christmas I started a poem and today I dragged it back out and finished it.
I started it in one of my many moments of being struck by the beauty but the struggle (emotionally, financially, etc) within Paris that people experience as the make their place here.
Paris is that city/that relationship that you hate to part with. With all its beauty and grandeur, there is raw grittiness to it that can be harsh. As like any big city you want to make it in, I suppose, just with thousands of years of love, life and art behind it.
Austin and I are epic-ly lucky and not on the streets. But there are many here that live on the beautiful streets of the most romantic city in the world.
Honestly this is just a poem about love and life. And what we put up with to be where we need to be.
Paris, Mon Amour
Paris, Mon Amour
My mistress and my wife
My dirty little secret
I cannot afford, so keep me
You’re deep among my pockets
You’re streaked upon their face
They’re weary and uncertain
Except where they want to be
They come to you in droves
Then sleep beneath your clouds
Bundling the cold in
Thick life coats your street
You snarl but entrance
You love us all the same
We want only to sit and watch
As the rushing tides retreat
The tear stained entries welcome
And in century old puddles we reflect
I reach out to clean your cheek
Smearing mascara upon your face
I love your curves and hollows
I twist come every turn
With a swift drop I soar
Then down into a dive I race
If I wanted to leave your arms
I could not find the door
For with the long walk out
We are always turned within
But I am okay with wandering
As long days turn to longer nights
In shadows I still find shapes
The light persistently dim
I hunger for you but when I tire
I need not sleep but wake
Regard the sky completely
And breathe in all the more
You’re sexy but lethal
We want to swallow you whole
You build us, break us, feed us
We are for you…
Some might say that moving aboard can be the worse thing you can do for your relationship. Or really any major move or life change is tough in a four-legged race… let’s be fair.
For me it has been the best thing I could have done. As I now appreciate my husband more than I could ever express in a silly little blog rambling. I am learning to trust in him, see him for the man he is and not take him for granted, not even for one second.
I am so ever grateful that I made this move with Austin. He is my constant (Lost style ;p). Life abroad is not all travel, cheese and ease. I have my down moments of self doubt where I cannot tell the paperwork from the oak trees. But he always seems to find me no matter how low I get.
We had worked together before but moving to a 27 square meter apartment, working at the same long hour jobs (two now), teaching dance together (in french) and relearning to how to live (french style) definitely has been a challenge.
I have now reached the point where I see my fellow expats leave, those that came around the time we came (my “expat class” as I call it). It is sad though we all have our reasons. Some came planning only to stay a couple months. Some have found better opportunities. Some just do not like it. And Paris is definitely not a city to stick with if it is not the right fit. I am not too sure I would still be here if I did not have Austin. (And a few dozen friendly french strangers and friends a like).
We definitely have progressed greatly since our arrival in Paris, in our temporary 17 square meter apartment or when the machine ate my credit card on the first day. We have progressed enough so that I can fondly look back at some of our earlier now-funny struggles. I will not say we have stability now but we are gaining comfortability… and we have come a long way.
And I am glad this has been a partner marathon.
Austin and I moved to France 6 months into our marriage and 5.5 years into our relationship. For those who know our wedding date (the binary for 42), you know we love Douglas Adams and our wedding abounded in references to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Today I stumbled upon a reading that I had to share and my relation to it. It is a mix between how I felt: the first time we kissed, at our wedding and during our first year in Paris (in the apartment where you could barely swing a cat).
Enjoy and Thanks Austin.
From Douglas Adams’ “So Long and Thanks for All the Fish”
There was a sort of gallery structure in the roof space which held a bed and also a bathroom which, Fenchurch explained, you could actually swing a cat in, “But,” she added, “only if it was a reasonably patient cat and didn’t mind a few nasty cracks about the head. So. Here you are.”
They looked at each other for a moment.
The moment became a longer moment, and suddenly it was a very long moment, so long one could hardly tell where all the time was coming from.
For Arthur, who could usually contrive to feel self-conscious if left alone long enough with a Swiss cheese plant, the moment was one of sustained revelation. He felt on the sudden like a cramped and zoo-born animal who wakes one morning to find the door of his cage hanging quietly open and the savanna stretching gray and pink to the distant rising sun, while all around new sounds are waking.
He wondered what the new sounds were as he gazed at her openly wondering face and her eyes that smiled with a shared surprise.
He hadn’t realized that life speaks with a voice to you, a voice that brings you answers to the questions you continually ask of it, had never consciously detected it or recognized its tones until it now said something it had never said to him before, which was,
The last four months have been hectic stressful to put it mildly. I must say the 2nd year is proving to be harder than the first, luckily I feel we are emerging from the worse of it. Or as Austin and I joke… “Presque y la ‘. Almost there… (That is the joke. Also that is improper French…)
Now as the smoke clears so does my vision and I realize I am stronger and more resistant than ever (like a flu strain ;p). The first year it was a funny dream not a reality. Second year you realize the work you really have to establish yourself. And you get to it! Though sometimes round about…
We are more in love with this city than ever and determined to make it work. Our french has drastically improved. And so has life. 🙂
The importance of just sitting
So part of what I have learned in my time in Europe…
Learning to just sit… and relax… quality time. Sure during the day all is crazy and chaos. But especially at night I have spent more hours than ever in my life around a table… drinking, laughing, talking, eating and eating some more. No TV, no computer, just each other.
Especially in Paris, the café culture of sitting on a terrasse (café patio) and philosophizing with an apèro (pre drink) is amazing, though not always great on the wallet. ;p Luckily “happy-hour” borrowing from the english term is also popular.
Or in the case of summer time: “pique-nique” and laughter on a bridge, along the seine, in the park.
This is where relationships are formed, movements made (impressionism for example) and smoking habits are procured! Plus, odds are it’s a bit too tiny in your apartment for guests… In a way this is the Parisian form of the American sitting on your porch with a beer, chewing the fat and watching the grass grow (if we had a porch or grass).
The Average French Diner
I have gotten used to scheduling at least an hour and a half for dinner, but have surpassed this up to three plus drinks. This is something that I got so used to that upon returning to the US, I was stressing over having a 1 hour dinner with friends before an event as I thought it just wouldn’t be long enough.
Apèros – a Kir (sweet wine), a martini rouge, a small beer or perhaps a Ricard (licorice old man drink). Sometimes drinks come with some olives or peanuts so you don’t pass out.
Ordering – Order all in one go (barring digestif and dessert). Most places offer a formule or formula where you get a better price on the culinary gauntlet you are about to run. At this point you order a carafe or bottle of wine.
Entrées – A small dish such as a hard boiled egg and mayo, some paté with bread or escargots
Plats – Main dish usually soaked in butter plus some raw protein
Cheese platter? – It could happen. Cheese is for afterwards to nibble on. Just be sure to cut the cheese correctly and respect the rind to cheese ratio!
Digestif – a shot of liquor or coffee.. or both
Dessert – Usually combined with the last step
Follow up drinks are possible… See a pattern here?
Dinners in Italy can be even longer…
I am not the best but getting better
I can’t say that I am the best at relaxing… A constant planner with wheels always turning am I!
But with the help of long dinners and new found friends I am learning to sit back and laugh at the day.
And this is the essence of Expat-hood.
No one country or person has it all figured out. But often it takes a move and a new perspective to really learn more about yourself, where you come from and where you are setting out next to explore (because seriously who actually knows where they are going?)
Needless to say I like writing and I like sharing and I learn stuff all the time. Here I HOPE to make an effort to chronicle the next few turbulent years that shall encompass: planning a wedding and subsequently getting married, making a quilt, surely painting more murals, traveling to Europe, traveling to Asia, traveling some more, picking up new skills, applying to gradschools and other icky/fun adult stuff. Because I love to write! Heck, I have a tattoo dedicated to it. I’m sick of squirreling it away via twitter.
For now this blog will be pretty simple until I get my act together and host it on my website.
Now that is over! Next entry shall be more informative.