Being Prepared to be Unprepared and Joyeux Anniversaire à Nous en France

Look! I remember how to log into this blog! Which really calls more into question my password changing practices and not so much my memory…

So here I am a couple days after our anniversary of arriving in Paris… which let’s have a quick update and reflection:

Paris Season… 5ish…

So since last post:

  • Bought an apartment
That a big key!
That a big key!

I know other things have happened but seriously dudes that made my… year… decade… life.  Super happy in our own chez-nous in Paris. I keep thinking we will regret it when our loan payments come out each month but then. I just. don’t. Because it is friggin’ awesome.

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Anyway this takes a lot of effort and much of our life has been a bit saturated with home-needs. We started looking last February, our offer was accepted last April, everything was official in September and we have been living here since October.  Since then lots of home projects which eventually I may share with you kind internet blog black-hole.

Other newssss:

  • Still at the same job! I speaka the French every day! And I am now moving into a new position. 😀 In the last year the product I work on has launched in France, Spain, Switzerland, Germany and Austria! In addition, we have released a major project which was a collaboration with the Irish team. And soon we launch in the UK and Ireland. Boy this past year at work has been… eventful and unbelievable! Lots of stress and responsibility but very rewarding and I have gotten to travel a bit with the job and work with other nationalities which is my favorite part.
  • All our siblings are married off! Which meant 3 trips to the US in the last year.
  • Still teaching dance on the side but not dancing as much as we would like
  • Returning back to Yoga thanks to the awesome Affordable Yoga Fitness.
  • Still loving France
  • Learned how to roll sushi.
  • Family came to visit and we have spent quite a bit of time in Loire lately.  And look forward to more family and Loire in the future! Life is good.
  • Plotting my next adventures thinking to take some time in Spain as I take back up Spanish (because I am loca) and Asia (I know big… but I am open)

Moral of the Story: Being an Expat = Prepare to Not be Prepared (AKA Adultness)

I will not bore you more with my Sheila News of the Year but leave you with a tidbit of reflection (still a high chance of boredom could arise).

Easy for you to say… you are a lion

Being an expat/transplant/immigrant (because let’s get real ‘expat’ is just a white privilege fancy word for immigrant) has ‘gotten easier’ as in I am now used to not being used to things.

Moving to a new country, is relearning everything (when perhaps you had not already figured everything else out in your old country) instead now you must do it again in 1 or 2 years rather than 18.

Imagine:

  • Registering/applying so you may be allowed to live there and work (a bit of the expat birth)
  • learning to speak (in the case of moving to a country with a new language)
  • learning about doctors, police, laws, social rules, where to buy random things that before never were a question like… the metal thing you put in your drain to catch stuff or Birthday cards
  • obtaining your driver’s license
  • Social Security subscription
  • Translation of all documents: marriage and birth certificates to prove you exist
  • Asking yourself questions you never thought you would have to like: ‘Will I be socially shunned if I slice the cheese in this fashion?’
    • The answer is Yes.

Now add a layer of figuring out HOW and WHERE to do the above with the vocabulary of a 2 year old.

This face a lot. Photo by Marilyn Suarez of ME!
This face a lot. Photo by Marilyn Suarez of ME!

I have not learned just how to ‘to be French’ but I have learned HOW to learn.

So I advise you several things:

  • Get used to it… the sooner you accept things will be hard and learn adapting/problem solving skills the better.
  • I know you love your expat friends and they are a great comfort and resource as they know and have done what you have done, but also meet locals! Really just meet as many people as possible. They add to your experience and comfort the blow.

Now on year 4 starting… things feel easier but then BAM! New life experience demands awkwardness/growth (now things that I have never done even back in the US that are just adult responsibility evolutions).  Like filing taxes as a home owner!

Expat Pokemon Evolve! photo thanks to http://blip.tv/gameexchange/the-pokemon-x-and-y-french-connection-game-exchange-6700852
Expat Pokemon Evolve!
photo thanks to http://blip.tv/gameexchange/the-pokemon-x-and-y-french-connection-game-exchange-6700852

And then suddenly Expatness feels a little less a state only for us sorry/masochist types that have immigrated more like just like…

Adult Life

– S

 

 

Now where were we? – Paris Life – Season 4?

[Insert another Blog start opening blurb]

Introducing my newly branded (rough-draft) and moved expat blog (albeit in potentially perpetual beta mode). Really only the logo design is done. ;p

oooo look at that logo
Translation: American Flowers in Paris

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.

Carpé journée.

Life Update

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.

Stockholm was pretty - August 2013
Stockholm was pretty – August 2013

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.

Napoleon graffiti agrees (spotted in Paris)
Napoleon graffiti agrees (spotted in Paris)

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.

Not a fancy picture but a genuine one. Taken when we decided one night to take a break, picnic on the Seine overlooking the Eiffel Tower, and take a moment to appreciate what we have and why we work so hard to keep it.
Not a fancy picture but a genuine one. Taken when we decided one night to take a break, picnic on the Seine overlooking the Eiffel Tower, and take a moment to appreciate what we have and why we work so hard to keep it.

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.

Until the next post – S

 

 

Ode to My Husband – Love Nest Abroad and Some Fish

Love Expats Style

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.

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Harry and Sally Meets Good Wine

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.

294734_10100565175605402_6778280_n
Our first real apartment in Paris.

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).

Had to keep your head low in our little studio.
Had to keep your head low in our little studio.

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.

Thanks

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.

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Shot near Notre Dame from our honeymoon visit to Paris. Where we continued to fall in love with each other and this city.

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.”

“Yes.”

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,

“yes.”

– S

The relaxation amongst the nonrelaxation and a typical French dinner

A quick update

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…)

 

Almost there… this time.

 

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.

Tartiflette… this be mountain food

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.

Picnic on the Seine
Paris Shoreside à la Seine with a good friend and one legged man

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

Is long.

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Entrées – A small dish such as a hard boiled egg and mayo, some paté with bread or escargots
  4. Plats – Main dish usually soaked in butter plus some raw protein
    Austin ready to eat a whole lot of cheese… This is Raclette a main dish from the mountainous regions. Yes, that is a big melting slab of cheese.

    Yes… he and our friend whimped out at the end. But still… he ate his head’s weight’s worth.
  5. 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!
  6. Digestif – a shot of liquor or coffee.. or both

    Digestif after math
    Digestif aftermath
  7. Dessert – Usually combined with the last step
Follow up drinks are possible… See a pattern here?
Aftermath from one of my favorite French family dinners I had.

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?)

To the moon next! Or Mars… In Vars Summer 2012

Strong Better Slower Frencher – S

“Paris, Mon Amour” – A Poem about the Paris Love Affair

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

J'adore Paris

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…

Paris, Mon Amour

Sunset from Belleville

Or in other sung words:

– S

Life in Paris Season 3 – Living the American Dream in Paris

 

On the Seine - Picture by My Wonderful Mother
Us - Season 3

So here we are!

Parisian life Part/Year Deux.. but we in the Suarez-Flores household call it Season 3, as far as Parisian life changes go.  We have been back around a month now, after our trip to the US, but with the flourish of guests… our work schedule… and settling back in, I have barely had a moment to breath let a lone write.

Season 1 was our first job. Season 2 was the move to unemployment and then quickly luckily into new employment.  Season 3… is what I shall call… actually settling into Parisian life.

But first some reflection and advice… Primarily: Learn the language.

So what is life like?

  • We work a lot.
  • We eat a lot.
  • We walk everywhere.
  • We teach dance weekly.
  • We travel when we can.
  • We fumble around with French.

Really not much different from Season 2… but it feels different.

The Difference

Well, the big difference is where my head is at. I am fed up.

Before, with so much uncertainty, it was okay to be confused at all times… It was okay to frown but accept weird charges on my phone bill.  It was okay, to be at odds at all times. It was okay, to accidentally order three soups instead of two. Why? Because we were new here and this is what we took as the cost of being an expat in a country where the language was not our native one.

My mother and I sont les ignorants.
"Les ignorants voyagent à Paris!" - My Mother and I posing for our favorite inside joke.

In fact, being back in the US for those 3 weeks it felt WEIRD to finally not be uncomfortable at all times  (which is a post for another time).  Not a complaint… but it made me laugh how used I had gotten to being uncomfortable.

And now I am back.. and I no longer want to be uncomfortable… I am sick of being apologetic and akward. I want a “normal” Parisian life (which will always include apology and formality I realize, as is their way).  I want my old confidence back in my surroundings… I want..

I want the American Dream!

The American Dream in Paris is to blend in.  To order wine with ease.  To meld with your sometimes bewildering French colleagues (because trust me… working in a different country is well, different). To be able to complain about the weather with your fellow boulangerie patrons. Perhaps, it is not the dream for some of the famed ugly american tourists, but it truly is for us Expats that have fallen in love, figured out how to move here and now call this mystical/sometimes mythical place home.

We want to be French.

Karma.. Karma... Chinese Lion
Me, as the social chameleon.

Or at least succeed at becoming French for our time here.

And right now, despite the support of my French and international friends I have yet to achieve that comfortability.

And its my fault.

Í have yet to achieve it because I do not know the language fluently.

There are jaded and not so jaded expatriates that will tell you otherwise about achieving this dream of fitting in… They will tell you that Paris is for the French.  That you will never fit in. I have heard this on several occasions.

Well, first of all I do not want to fit in with those types of exclusive Parisians, which I know those exist.  I just want to be able to live my life normally and interact with them if need to but otherwise interact with the awesome accepting/welcoming/funny French/Parisians that I have met.

But I will never feel at ease here until I learn the language…

Until I see a charge on my phone bill and then can call up and speak in French and explain and get although probably begrudging… but at least palpable… assistance to fix it. Or at least understand what they say when they hang up on me.

My cable has been on and off broken now for a year… And I live in fear of speaking to a human to fix it.

This is not I!

So I must learn French… I want to… I always have… but with not working in French, I have not made the effort enough outside of work to become fluent.  I am fine… I can mumble out some food words… or talk to a foreign french speaker.

But that is not enough.  As I live in fear of probably 95% of potential interactions I may have with the populace on a given day.  I need to get this down to at least a solid 25%.  Because it is isolating and damned uncomfortable.

SO THAT IS MY VOW.

So young... so strong...
Us on our Honeymoon 1.5 years ago at Place Saint-Michel - Ready to conquer... So young.

I will conquer you Paris… and your beautiful mystifying and sometimes odd sounding but beautiful language.  I will gnaw on the metaphorical skull that is your language.

And how! No really… how?

I have some tools I want to share in detail later but basically:

  1. Devouring all culture possible in French only.  Bought us an unlimited movie pass for two people for 35EUR a month!
  2. Only French spoken now at home (no joke).
  3. Flashcards… lots of digital flashcards.
  4. Reading fun stuff in French on my kindle, thanks to the help of a french dictionary I installed on it. Should probably switch to a French to French dictionary…
  5. Actually talking to people in French. Like a real person!
  6. Listening to podcasts as much as humanely possible, all in french.
  7. Hope to start journaling in French soon.
  8. Finishing my grammar lessons at home… (also a pending todo)
Really just making myself do it.. And already only a week into it.  There is a difference.
Any way here I go…

Allons !- S

A New Beginning, A New Poem, & Home

Where is my mind?

So I have been absent from the blogosphere but this is all due in fact to diving into another product management position at another startup: TravelAvenue (new site coming… very very soon).  Starting first as a consultant, I was offered a permanent position which I gladly took!

So life?  Well, life is hectic.  But recently on a train to Lyon, I gave my self a moment to reflect and I wrote… a poem.

I am a Poet

For those who know the Sheila of… maybe 6 or 7 or 8 years ago. Even further… I used to write.  A lot.  And some of them?  Not so darn bad, I do think.

In fact, my tattoo on my foot is dedicated to my passion for writing.  I really. really. enjoy it.  And I once took solace in the fact that no matter what life path I took, deep down they would all be ok, because I knew who I was.  A poet.  Melodramatic, huh?  I even have a t-shirt commemorating the epiphany! I may have been a strange teen.

But I have not truly written consistently in at least 5 years… Why?

Trouble was I was often fueled by turmoil, usually romantic.  As any 17 year old is. And well, 6 years ago I met Austin.  I wrote a couple of my best poems after meeting him, sometimes because they were not so raw but matured, and perhaps not even about emotion. But honestly, I just never was truly motivated, to get it all out unless I had a crisis that forced me to NEED to get it out.

I just did not make time, sadly.

That Brings Me to Today – At Home?

Things are good just sometimes overwhelming, as to be expected with any Expat.  And this will be the first Christmas I miss spending with my family.  So in a moment of quiet reflection, I produced a poem.

Introducing my first poem in at least three years:

Home

IMG_8276

While sitting at home
I wonder
Where is home?
I ponder

Is home with my family?
With unconditional smiles
Drawing me back
No matter the miles

Is home with my love?
An embrace that enfolds me
Closer than my skin
Attached and cannot flee

What of friends?
Expectations none
Strangers now familiar
Fashioned by camaraderie and fun

Of substance or immaterial?
This place called home
We buy, we rent, we build
Fashioned of our own bones

And when work is fun?
And colleagues your mates?
Long hours immersed together
Longer than at your estate.

And of common man?
Of doors held open
To experiences, to compassion
Without trying to condemn

A country? A city?
A province? A state?
Branded upon your soul
Where you were born by fate

Delve deeper
If home is where the heart is
Is it in my chest?
Surely not among that bloody mess.

Home cannot just be a collection of arteries
Or only of another’s love
Nor constructed purely out of time
But home is all of the above

Home is now
It is me
It is you
It is where you feel truly and completely…


Free

Author’s Note:

A little cheesy, but satisfying and true.  I know both Austin and I truly relate to it.  So this is of course dedicated to our entire family: friends, coworkers, & kind strangers included.  But especially our family, in this holiday season. ;p

Now I am free to, go to bed – S

Life in Paris the 2nd Season

So with the start of Fall comes changes for Austin and me.   We have had a wonderful albeit sometimes difficult first 5 months in Paris.  And now the next adventure… we quit our jobs!

Not going to go into why or details or such.  Smartdate was an AWESOME experience, in which we treasure our time there.  And I hope with our new found time I can blog about what I learned/did there.  In fact, I hope to write a whole bunch more about my time in Paris!  I really will miss all our wonderful internationally eclectic coworkers.  But it was time to move on and we now will just have to see them after work hours!

Move on to what?

 

Not sure… It could even take us away from Paris.  We are considering many options though we dearly hope to stay in Paris.  It can be a frustrating and expensive city but one of such beauty and quiet excitement.  Just exhilarating!  Also, with how much we have invested in learning the culture and language… we just aren’t ready to leave yet.  And without counting our eggs its looking hopeful.

Since our last day at Smartdate now over a week ago, Austin and I have kept very busy indeed.  I have secured a freelance job with some others in the works.  Otherwise we both are just honing our skills (french, code & otherwise), getting active again and just enjoying some balance!

To help organize our time we created these lists to live by…  Which if you know me… you know I love lists!

Daily Todo:

  • Be Active (at least take a walk)
  • French Practice
  • Relax ;p
  • At least four hours working on projects/learning
  • Read some professional articles
  • Read the news 
  • Floss

Weekly Todo:

  • Blog one article
  • Dance
  • Explore Paris
  • Practice our Music Instruments

A little something on tough decisions…

 

I think more than ever Austin and I are okay with really just taking a chance!  We thought we were before when we quit our jobs in Florida. But in the end still took a comfortable position (albeit in France).  But to then quit our jobs in Paris in search of the next step, was even harder.  Scarier. But exciting!

As humans we never know if the decisions we are making are the right ones.  We can only just make them and not look back.

I sometimes watch for “signs”.  As to if what I about to do is correct.  Not necessarily superstitious but in an empirical data kind of way.

Still this in itself scary.  What if I interpret the signs or evidence wrong?  Perhaps the bad luck means I should stay rather than leave (For example the week that we quit our jobs we also locked ourselves out of our apartment, my computer died and I got sick…)! What if it is all a red herring?

What if… what if…

Anyway… I am sure I’ll have more to post on this in the future.  Right now we are happy and moving forward!

Our little foray into unemployment could last a week.  Or it could last a year!  Luckily due to the internet we’ll keep busy.

Thank god for the internet! – S

Laissez votre message après le BIP!

So I have found in the last few weeks, more and more, that we may have not in fact moved to France.. but instead to a madcap sitcom in which all of life… is well… sublime.

From zany coworkers to helpful/knock-on-the-door neighbors to parties to, really, the absurdity of discovering life in a new culture.. Life has been… interesting.

And I say that in a “Interesting!” and not… a “trying to be nice”… “Interesting…” kind of way.

Really I can not incapsulate it all in a blog post. It’s best described with a cinquante of beer at the local pub. Something to be experienced.

But let me give you a slice…

Set up your voicemail and receive life affirmation!

So for the last four days… I have had a message on my phone. God knows who would be calling me as I have pretty much a pulse set on my all-of-two friends in Paris that might be contacting me (mostly because we work 10 hours a day together), but that darned alert keeps on popping up in my top bar.

Every time I’m tempted to hit the voicemail button (which is often). I am met with a flurry of french. The kind that you think you grasp, but melts away once it touches the ground. That you strain to glimpse a number or word in that is familiar to take shelter under.

So I decide to just NEVER use my voicemail… but this resolve also often melts away.  That damned icon in the top bar!  It’s a user interface feature I just can’t ignore!

It’s pretty castrating to not be able to get to the people that are trying to contact you.  Due to just some words coming out of a plastic box, with no innate intelligence… yet.

So finally, I find an opportunity to inconvenience my neighbor by asking him to listen to my voicemail and help me parse at least how I access my messages and most likely delete the ones that I receive.

So we begin.  As my neighbor put it… “She (the voicemail computer) is… how do you say it?  Herranging you? To set up your voicemail.”

Now insert a three minute pause where my neighbor listens to what he terms as “her” telling me the benefits of such a courageous move which are abundant (not to mention I’d finally make it to my messages).

Long story, shorter:  Now continues five minutes of my neighbor listening and then handing me the phone so I may set my code, voicemail message, etc.  This is of course followed with a long applauding by the voicemail mistress telling me how proud she is of me to have stirred up the grit and initiative that it takes to set up my voicemail.

So finally… I am at my messages.  And the only message?

It’s my phone company.

In the same voice as the voicemail helper, it announces (quite lengthily) that the company has been deemed the most “cool” company in France.  Partly due to users like me!

And the chuckles continue – S

Normalcy in the City

Just a quick update for concerned family or curious friends or both.

We are awesome! Days are long.  But it seems no matter how long they are I still am excited to be where I am.  Austin and I continually find ourselves saying, “Wow!  We live here?  I love our apartment/job/new city!”

Mostly days are long due to it being summer (sun sets at 10pm!) but I find the ability to quickly travel around the city and see many new things makes me FEEL like I’m doing more.  Even the walk home is productive and fun.   Reminds me of living in Boston.  Right now, living in a city is perfect for us.

But yet, Austin and I are excited for the moment where things feel more “normal”.  Today we finally got Austin’s debit card in the mail (though mine is still in transit).  Which means we can sign up for internet and a phone!  Small, but when gone, things just don’t feel as comfortable.  Though I’m sure even that we’d get used to.

You don’t really notice the niceness of being able to assume and rely on factors until you live abroad.  When you need assistance from the coworkers just to cook your microwave dinner (close call on that one… Almost started a small fire.)  But yet at the same time, it gives you an appreciation and a perspective.

On Saturday we actually decided to stay in and watch Dexter, due to feeling a little under the weather.  And it was kind of nice just to be “normal”.

It is weird because on one hand we don’t EVER want the newness to wear off.  Much like a relationship!  But at the same point if every time your new lover spoke to you it was in gibberish… after a while you would hope for the day you understood them.  Even if it meant things were more mundane (maybe they were talking about bills all along… or what kind of laundry detergent they bought that day).

And things are more comfortable as time progresses.  It helps that we work in English 10 hours a day (though that hasn’t helped our French tongue).  It helps we have cool coworkers who “speak geek”.  It helps that we have each other.  We feel less on edge now.  And though we love all the new foods we are trying, there are moments where we just want something “safe”.  And some new french foods are starting to feel “safe.”

I suppose what we want is companionship from Paris with a dash of romance.  Perhaps Paris can surprise us with a fun treat once an a while but if we need to know how to unlock our phone… well, it would be nice to become second nature.

Which we finally figured out how to unlock our phone…

I suppose its strange since we have only been here a little over three weeks to want to HURRY up on the normal.  We just know we are setting up our life here.  And we’d like to start to feel like that. 🙂  Finding a cellphone while on vacation is a noneworry. A “Oh well!  I can do without for a week!”.  But not having it when you know you need to call landlords… a different issue.

So life progresses!  And we continue to feel lucky.  We’re gonna make it after all! (Think of Mary Tyle Moore but two people… and without a TV show)

Throws Hat in the Air – S