Thursday, December 13, 2007

It Warms My Heart

I don't write much about teaching in the Paris suburbs often on my blog even though that's the primary reason why I'm in France in the first place. I guess most of the time there isn't really much to blog about in terms of teaching despite the fact that both of my schools are considered ZEP (zones d'éducation prioritaires) schools which means that the schools are essentially in poorer neighborhoods, the students come from immigrant backgrounds and they have low academic achievements. Teaching hasn't been a walk in the park for me but overall it has been a pleasurable experience for me and I think about my students even when I'm not in classroom with them and I get sad when I realize that I won't be able to see a specific class for one reason or another.

Today in one of my classes we did a worksheet to determine who has been naughty and who has been nice since it's the holiday season. After answering a series of questions we computed the values for each student and I picked the two students that ranked highest on the kind-o-meter to give them a prize. I almost had a riot situation on my hands when the other students realized that only two of them would be getting treats but a crisis was adverted. From the bag of treats both students picked a pack of Orbit gum (I figured since I will be heading back home soon I could spare a pack or two that was included in my care package that almost never came). I insisted that the kids not open the gum while they were in school as I did not want them to get in trouble for chewing gum while in class but Alexandre refused to listen to me (or maybe he just didn't hear me or understand my English). Before I could reprimand him I noticed that he was actually sharing his pack of gum with his classmates. So instead of reprimanding him I acknowledged his generosity in front of the entire class.

And while they may not speak perfect English and while they may be labeled "difficult kids" I walked out of my classroom today smiling brightly on the inside and out.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Hot Off the Presses

Big Mama aka the Maternal Unit(henceforth referred to as MU) is coming to Paris and she's staying for three full weeks!! Just to clarify that the MU is neither big nor do I call her mama but that's besides the point. She's coming at the end of April during my spring vacation and will stay for three weeks. Did I mention that she will be in Paris for three weeks?

Count 'em with me ya'll:
One (Un)
Two (Deux)
Three (Trois)

Anyway, we should have a good time but I'm afraid that I'll run out of things to do with her after a couple of days. Oh, and did I mention that her trip coincides with my spring vacation so I won't be working either!

Let's do the math:

MU+ 3 weeks+ No Work = ???


*Disclaimer: MU reads my blog and we both discussed the length of her visit and I'm ok with it really I am. I swear!

Are You Alvaro?

Let me start off by saying that I tweaked my blog layout the other day and I'm pretty sure that I hate it and it makes me want to puke. That being said I'm feeling a little too lazy to revert it back to it's old format and am hoping that the new layout will miraculously grow on me.

Moving right along, I went to Madrid this past weekend and the cold rainy weather from Paris followed us to Madrid which didn't help the little cold I caught sometime last week. On Friday morning we attempted to go to the Prado however we were confronted with a line that was at least a mile long if not two. I knew the Prado was a popular museum but I had never seen so many people lined up to enter a museum before. Turns out that last Thursday was Constitution Day and Saturday was the Feast of the Immaculate Conception which means that Spaniards turned out in droves celebrate. First at the Prado on Friday morning and then at Plaza Mayor on Saturday morning, afternoon and evening. Then everyone in Madrid decided to hit up the El Rastro market on Sunday morning. If you don't believe me check out the pics below:

Performer Entertaining People In Line at the Prado

Crowd at Plaza Mayor

Crowd at El Rastro

I Didn't Know That Chestnuts Grew on Trees (Maybe I should rename my blog "The Dumb Citygirl" that's catchy)

All in all, I had a great time in Madrid and I took plenty of pictures however, while there I longed to be back in Paris. I missed all of the cafes and boulangeries that Paris has to offer.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Chou-ette

While walking through the Marais several weeks ago I came across this cool window display:



No my friends, you're not looking at the latest designs in footwear, you're looking at chocolate shoes. The boot pictured above will set you back approximately 270 euros about the same price as a pair made from actual leather.

You've Been in Paris too Long When...

You get utterly excited when you find out that the Paris metro will be open for one additional hour on Friday nights. Meaning that the last metro will be at 2:15AM instead of 1:15AM.

Oh did I mention that I'm a New Yorker that is used to a 24 hour public transportation system?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Citygirl Goes to the Marche

Apparently to get the freshest fruits and vegetables at the best price is to go shopping at the open air marchés. There are two marchés near my apartment which means that I can get fresh produce up to 4 times a week. Sounds good, non?

Well not quite. Take a look at this head of lettuce that I purchased from the marché:

Click to enlarge image

Even though I'm a city girl I know that lettuce comes from the ground but I've never seen lettuce freshly picked from the ground. Now as if the dirt wasn't bad enough as I was cleaning my lettuce I found numerous insects buried in the leaves. Needless to say I never did get around to eating that salad.

From now on I think that I will stick to buying safe things such as apples, grapes, nuts and flowers from my local marché.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

They Just Don't Pay Me Enough...

... to commute 2.5 hours home from work due to the transit strike
... to ride the crowded metro and witness fights due to the transit strike
... to spend Thanksgiving teaching students that just witnessed their classmate on the roof attempting suicide

Yes folks you read that correctly. This morning was definitely very interesting. Rest assured the student is safe and was rescued by the pompiers.

Now I can't help but ask myself the following questions:

1. How the heck does a student that should be in class end up unaccounted for and on the roof?
2. Why are students able to access the roof of the school building?
3. How is it that the teachers and administration don't have enough control over and allow them to go into the hall to witness such a tragedy?


Happy Thanksgiving to my friends and family back home in the good old US of A.

Monday, November 19, 2007

La Poste Ate My Care Package

My dear (read crazy) mother sent me a care package from New York on November 3rd. According to usps.com said package arrived in France on November 7th and has yet to make its way to my doorstep.

The contents of said package include:

1 cozy Black Dog sweatshirt from Martha's Vineyard
3 packs of Orbit gum
3 sticks of Dove Invisible Solid deodorant
2 black belts
2 toe separators
Toothpaste
Chapstick
1 copy of Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik
1 copy of Better Reading French : A Reader and Guide to Improving Your Understanding of Written French by Annie Hemingway

Now I have no idea why the French government would be holding my package hostage or why they think it contains contraband. Maybe there is an obscure law about importing deodorant or wearing deodorant on the Paris metro for that matter (as an aside le trafic des trains reste perturbé for yet another day).

When I went to the post office to try to track my package the woman helping me told me that it wasn't yet in the system and had not arrived yet. I tried to convince her that it did in fact arrive in France weeks ago but she wasn't having any of it. When I asked if it was possible for me to call customs to try locate the package her response to me was "there's nothing I can do, you'll just have to wait."

And so I'm waiting. In the meantime I'll just freeze in my apartment because I cannot control the heat and I have no warm clothes. I'll also continue to use the nasty licorice toothpaste that I purchased at my local super marché.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Happy to Be Earning Euros

It really says something about the state of the US economy when rap stars start flashing stacks of euros in their music videos.



Let's just say that I'm happy to be living in France right now earning some euros myself.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Sarkozy to Stranded Commuters 'Let Them Ride Velibs'

Today was the second strike by the transportation union in Paris in two months. Being the dedicated teacher that I am I decided to go to work despite any potential difficulties. Surprisingly, my commute to work was a piece of cake relatively speaking and it was as if there was no strike at all. I did however manage to get to work 20 minutes late because I took my sweet time leaving this morning. I'm glad I did because my first class ended up being canceled because the teacher was a no show. At 10:05 I taught my only class of the day and was finished by 11:15.

I walked to the bus stop and to my surprise there was nary a bus in sight and decided to continue walking to the metro since it's not a far walk at all. When I arrived at the metro station I was greeted with an incomprehensible announcement on the intercom and the following information displayed on the monitors:

I take the line 7 and then connect to the number 2. For those of you that cannot speak French the above photo basically meant that I was SOL this afternoon because there were no trains running on the number 7 line. Momentary panic set in and I sent a few frantic text messages to my sister and some friends.

I did the best Parisian shrug that I could muster and decided to the nearest metro line. The nearest metro was about 3 miles and it took me close to 2.5 hours in total to get home. I did made a number of stops along the way so it wasn't as bad as it seems.

Would I like to do it again? Oh hell no, I'm not that dedicated. I'm going out tonight to taste the Beaujolais Nouveau and I'll be sleeping in tomorrow if the strike is still on.

Now let's put it into perspective:
Time to get to work: 1 hour
Time spent actually teaching: 45 minutes
Time to get home from work: 2.5 hours
Being able to say I survived the transit strike of November 2007: Priceless!!

I'm convinced this whole striking business is all a conspiracy to get more and more people to rent the ever popular Vélib’s.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Poverty Agrees with Me

Apparently, poverty agrees with me. I say this because recently I sent a batch of pictures to my family and friends and the overwhelming response was that I look happy, healthy and like I am having the time of my life. And the truth be told, I am having the time of my life. I can't really explain why but for the first time ever I'm truly content and at peace with myself. For the first time my happiness is not coming from some external source such as an arbitrary measure of success, the amount of money I make or the purchase of a big, fancy, and expensive item or whether or not someone deems me worthy to be in a relationship with. Had I known in my 20s what I know I would have done this trans-Atlantic move eons ago as I would have saved myself from a lot of angst, frustration and overall discontent.

So without further ado I present you with my 5 steps to finding happiness (no guarantee this list will work for everyone but it's worth a try):

1. Quit your unsatisfying job
2. Take a 75% pay cut
3. Move away from your family and friends to a country where you barely speak the language.
4. Continually test the boundaries of your comfort zone
5. Live in the here and now and follow the mantra "no opportunity wasted"

Don't get me wrong folks, it hasn't been all roses and daffodils as evidenced here, here, here and here but the good is definitely outweighing the bad.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Priceless

Current credit card debt: $x,000
Airfare to New York: $630
Being home for the holidays: Priceless

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Things I Have Done In Paris...

...that I would never ever do in New York (mom you probably don't want to read this):

1. Jump the turnstyle at the metro station without paying (we've already discussed this one it's really no biggie since everyone in Paris does it)
2. Accept a ride home after a night of partying from complete stranger
3. Flirt with cute boys using my eyes
4. Invite a complete stranger to a party
5. Stop beside the car of random driver after being called over and have a discussion with him and his friends (just call me a chickenhead)

...and that's just a partial list of how I have been spending my days and nights in the city of Paris.

Self Censorship

I've reached a point in my blogging where people actually read my blog which is a good thing I guess. Initially,th when I first started I had to beg a select group of friends to click on the link and browse my postings but that has since gradually changed. Now I have some friends and family members that check in on me regularly. Then there is a group of other readers out there that fit into neither category that have stumbled upon my blog at one point or another, which brings me to the topic of self censorship. How much of my experiences do I want to put out there to be read by friends, family, strangers and potential suitors? How much does what I write about or not write about have the ability to influence or alter future events? Butterfly effect anyone?

I can't answer those questions now because I enjoyed too many cocktails this evening. What I can say is that I went out this evening with Amy and some new friends and I had an absolute blast.

Friday, November 9, 2007

I Have Internet Access Chez Moi...

...kind of.

I haven't recieved my modem yet and my ADSL line is still in progress but I am now able to connect to the internet via a Neuf hotspot from my apartment. This makes me incredibly happy. I would be over the moon happy but I this connection has its limitations as I am unable to connect to my instant messenger program with it.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Random Photos

Random Man Singing Opera

Random Foliage

I could eat this entire macaroon tower in one sitting

Random Mask

Random Awning

Statue at Bastille

Randomness at Bastille Metro

Yummy brunch buffet restaurant (and I usually hate buffets)

Interior of Le Reservoir

Random Store Front

Pere Lachaise Metro Station

Yummy Cappuccino

Random Street

Random Blue Door

Olives at the Marché

Fresh Veggies at the Marché

Je Me Suis Installe

I moved into my apartment and I'm completely thrilled I just need a few items to pimp out the place completely (mom if you're reading this feel free to send a blank check my way so I can hit up the local IKEA). Now I can start blogging about more important things such as partying and perhaps teaching.

A technician from France Telecom stopped by today to update my phone line for the low low price of 54 euros. I'm not exactly sure what he did but I was told that it was a requirement to have my internet set up. So, tomorrow I have to go to the Phone House to set up my phone, internet and cable with Neuf for the low low price of 55 euros. To top things off it should only take about 3 weeks to get set up. Yes folks 3 whole weeks!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Une Baguette

I bring you my second post of the day because I am the victim of bad timing and am currently locked out of Lillian's apartment. Being the explorer/adventurer that I am I managed to find the MacDo in her hood and I am sitting here mooching off of their wifi. I'm trying to be as inconspicuous as possible as I'm too cheap to order anything off of their menu but that didn't stop me from taking the following picture using the builtin web cam and the Photo Booth software on my MacBook.

Une Baguette

Vagabond No More

After six weeks of living like a vagabond, moving from place to place and crashing on the couches of friends, I have finally found a place to call home. I found the place a couple of weeks ago but things weren't finalized until yesterday. I saw the place several weeks ago when I was at my lowest point and because of my excitement about the place the girl subletting it selected me above all of the other hopeful renters. Or maybe she just felt bad for me because I sounded so pathetic when I met her.

The apartment is a furnished studio and it is approximately 30 square meters (322 square feet) which is HUGE by Paris standards (I've seen many during my search). It's located in the 11th arrondissement in the quartier de la Roquette. Republic and Oberkampf are to the north, Place de la Bastille is to the West and to the east is Pere Lachaise.

I don't move in until the 31st of October or the 1st of November so I will be couch surfing for a few more days but there is an end in sight.

If it wasn't for Opal, Amy, Lillian and Chi-Young letting me crash at their places I probably would have flown back home by now. There are so many more people that were very supportive and helped me in a number of different ways such as all the strangers that helped me carry my 120lbs worth of luggage up and down many flights stairs.

Edit: I forgot to add Veronica to the list. If it weren't for Veronica I probably still wouldn't have a bank account let alone a récipissé for my CDS.

Monday, October 22, 2007

A Shoutout

As I sit in MacDo using their free wifi I'd like to give a quick shoutout to all family members that figured out how to read my blog. I heard it through the grapevine that a certain aunt of mine checks in on me daily. I must say that I underestimated your web 2.0 savy and I am truly sorry for that. Now show me what you're really made of and start leaving me some comments.

Friday, October 19, 2007

An Act of Solidarity

Yesterday was like a snow day because I didn't have to go to school due to the manifestations. Since I have been staying with Amy for the past week we decided to set out and explore her neighborhood by foot. With her trusty map in hand, Amy and I decided to take Boulevard Voltaire and head north towards Republic just to check out the sites. Boy were we in for a surprise. As we approached Oberkampf we heard and saw some demonstrators and then I realized that the manifestations will be taking place at Republic. Not one to miss a good rally we proceeded on our merry way taking pictures and videos along the way.

So what I've learned from my experience yesterday is that even though the strike was primarily for the transit workers so many other groups were out protesting with them in an act of solidarity it was more a party atmosphere than anything else.

So without further ado I present you with some photos from the day.

Look ma Paris is on fire

This guy was kind enough to give me his poster but I won't post any pictures of me posing with it for fear of being deported

I don't think Sarkozy was much liked by the people protesting

A closer look

Party ova here the bar is on the back of the truck

The bank was also closed so much for checking the status of my wire transfer


Vive le hip hop

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Paris Je T'aime

After one month in Paris, this is how I sound when I speak French


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Medical Visit

I had my medical visit today and aside from feeling like an actor in one of those 1950's proganda films it was a relatively painless experience. I had an 8:30AM appointment and arrived 15 minutes early along with 20 or so others and I actually ran into an assistant that I met at orientation the first week of October. When they finally opened the doors to let us in I showed the woman at the front desk my appointment slip and my passport. I then proceeded into a room labeled "Medical". I waited about 5 minutes before my name was called by some official looking technician person. He asked me a whole bunch of questions such as "do you wear glasses", "do you wear any medical devices" and "are you pregnant". Mind you he could have asked me if I was from mars because all of the questions were in French and my French hasn't improved much in the month that I have been here.

After answering the initial set of questions correctly I was told to wait again in a different section of the medical room. I was then escorted to a different room where I was given an eye exam, weighed and had my height measured. The eye exam was a little difficult because the woman administering the exam had managed to fully cover the letters with her fingers thus preventing me from reading them. After all of that it was time for some x-ray fun. I was escorted to a private room where I was instructed to read the instructions posted on the door. So I had to remove all clothes from the waist up and all jewelry and wait for the xray technician to come get me. Within a minute it was my turn to have my xray taken. I've heard horror stories about how they don't provide a gown and how's your completely naked when you take your xray but it really wasn't that bad at all. I was exposed for all of 15 seconds if that.

After that I waited a bit longer and I was seen by another official looking technician/doctor type guy. He asked me a bunch of questions, took my blood pressure which is perfect by the way, and then listened to my lungs. And within an hour I was sent on my merry way with my Autorisation Provisoire de Travail and my Certificat de Controle Medical. Which basically means that I passed with flying colors and I can stay and work in France.

All in all the paperwork and administrative process has been pretty easy and straightforward for me and I'm about 80% finished. I hope I didn't just jinx myself.

An Update I Guess

So as of right now it looks like I won't be a homeless vagabond in Paris for the duration of my contract. Good things are on the horizon and I just keep my fingers crossed that everything works out.

I've been a bad blogger as of late but if you've had to move 120lbs of luggage around Paris 5 times in the past 4 weeks blogging would probably be the last thing on your mind as well.

Before I say goodbye I want to send a huge shoutout to Islandgirl4ever2 who invited me to join and her fellow expats friends at lunch last Friday. She embodies the word sweetheart.

More to come soon dear readers and perhaps, maybe, possibly I will post a picture or two for you all.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

The Light

I really feel like I shouldn't be doing things like posting on my blog when I have more dire issues at hand such as finding (make that settling on) a place to live. But alas, I'll write a brief post.

As of this morning I have my finalized teaching schedule and it looks like from now until at least February I will have a 4 day weekend each and every week. That means I will only be teaching for 3 days a week. Do you know what that means? That's means it's party time! So if anyone wants to take a long weekend to travel and see different places, I'm your girl. If anyone wants to invite me to their country home, I'm also your girl. If anyone wants to do anything that involves fun, fun and more fun I'm also your girl.

As for now, this girl must find (settle on) an apartment.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Are You Black?

That's the question that was posed this morning when I call a woman who is offering free housing in exchange for babysitting her brats children. I'm getting desperate here and the idea of not having to pay rent is very alluring.

I guess she thought that since I was born in the Bronx that I must be a hardcore, gangsta rap loving, gun toting black person. Since I was a little taken aback and caught off guard I just answered the question truthfully. And her response was "Oh that's great my children really haven't been exposed to that many different types of people especially black ones." And so in an effort to save the world from their fear of black people I have decided to meet with her at 3PM today.

Oh the French gotta love them.

Monday, October 1, 2007

I'm French-ish

Today I jumped the turn style at the metro station because my Navigo was a no go. I think it registered with the first turn style but I didn't notice and then tried it again at a different one and I got some message that basically said "LA, you're SOL". Since I was on my way to the assistants orientation and didn't have time to stand on the line to figure out what was going on I just squeezed through the cracks.

On the way back "home" from the stage I my Navigo pass failed me again because it wasn't valid. Orientation was in zone 4 and my pass is only valid for zones 1-2. Since I attended the orientation with Amy, and she had a valid zone 4 pass I just walked through with her ticket.

I feel like such a rebel but when I think about it it's my way of saying "screw you" to the French administrative hassles that I've had to endure the past two weeks.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Sunday Pulse Check #7

Days in Paris: 12

This should really be pulse check #9 or so because I skipped a couple of weeks but please forgive me.

It seems like this past Friday was a big day for me. I managed to get my récépissé and open a bank account on the same day before noon. Had I known how easy it was going to be to get my récépissé in Paris I would have gone to the prefecture the day that I arrived. I should point out that this is not necessarily the case for all regions as I have a friend that ended up waiting in line for 3 hours only to be told to come back the following week. I was under the impression that I would need my medical visit and some other forms before I could start my dossier for the CDS. I guess you live and you learn. Oh and shoutouts to Virgine at Credit Lyonnais in St-Germain-des-Prés.

So that was the good news. Unfortunately, the bad news is that I'm going to be homeless in a day. I thought that two weeks would be plenty of time for me to get settled and to find housing before starting work but I was terribly wrong. I need to come up with a plan B before I end up spending a couple of days sleeping in one of the metro stations.

So far I'm really loving Paris and I've already met some great people. Veronica has been very helpful and an absolute godsend and I owe her big time.

BTW: Does anyone know the cheapest way to transfer money from my US bank account to my French bank account? When I find housing I'll need to pay at least 1 month security deposit and 1 month rent up front. With the crappy exchange rate paying I don't want to end up paying a buttload of additional fees.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

How to Lose 10lbs in Two Weeks

1. Move to Paris on limited budget with low income
2. Walk all over the city in search of affordable housing
3. Forget to eat during the day
4. Get home late realizing that you have forgotten to eat all day
5. Pass out due to exhaustion
6. Repeat

The above steps can be summarized by the following:
Become a English Teaching Assistant in France placed in the Paris-Versailles-Creteil academie.

Because of my sheer desperation I'm considering calling this guy.

I owe you, my dear readers a detailed post about what I have been up to for the past 10 days or so but I just haven't gotten around to it. I also have some pictures that I would like to share but my sheer exhaustion and focus on finding housing prevents me from doing so at this time. Stay tuned.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Le Nouveau Locataire

Today I saw the Parisian apartment of my dreams. It was big, it was bright, there was balcony, there was an elevator and it was in a clean safe area. Oh and the guy that is renting it out was very nice and friendly and included in the rent is a cleaning man that comes three times a week (an upgrade from my bi-monthly cleaning woman in New York) and is a much needed necessity when living with three men.

The only downside is that I would be paying my entire salary in rent and I would be eligible for CAF assistance because the landlord refuses to add anyone else to the lease. While I am somewhat willing to pay that much for an apartment here in Paris I was banking on the idea of being able to get some money back from CAF assistance. If that's not possible I will have to bust my butt finding side jobs such as tutoring or babysitting some little brats (this is meant entirely as a joke and purely for entertainment purposes only to any future/current employers reading this post). So for the time being I will continue my search but will consider the apartment that I saw this morning.

*Anyone that has taken the beginner course in French at the Alliance Francaise will understand the post title.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Le Pity Party

I sat alone in a cafe today having a little pity party where I was the guest of honor. I'm down on myself because I haven't accomplish nearly as much as I would have liked to accomplish by now and I don't like the fact that I have accomplish everything on my own. In the past I've valued my independence and have worn it like a badge of honor but being here all alone makes me long for a little more dependence and someone to depend upon. What makes matters worse is that I can't easily reach out to my support system of family and friends back home like I used to.

During my pity party this grown man in a suit, riding a rented bike, caught my eye as he consulted a map of Paris.



And like that my pity party ended because scenes like the above are part of the reason why I'm here in France and are something that I'd rarely see if ever in NYC. I also realize that once I accomplish all of the things on my to do list (getting an apartment, opening a bank account, applying for my CDS, etc) I'll feel that much more happy that I was able to accomplish it all mostly on my own. Once that occurs I'll be happy to wear my independence badge once again.

The Art of Lying

I was strolling the lovely streets of Paris today with Opal in the hopes of accomplishing some key tasks such as purchasing a sim card for my cellphone, checking out the apartment listings at the American Church and figuring out the logistics of opening a bank account and I managed to accomplish two of those items. Kudos to me. However, the third item proved to be a little more problematic. You see, the woman behind the counter at the bank asked me the relatively harmless question "how long I planned to stay in Paris" and without a second thought I told her that I would be in Paris for 8 months. To my surprise she told me that it was impossible for me to open an account at that bank because they don't open accounts for such a short period of time.

From my experience with the bank I've learned that if I'm going to survive in France I'm going to have to become a conniving deceitful liar unfortunately. So tomorrow I will try again and when asked how long I plan to be in Paris I will say "well I have a year long work contract that is renewable each year so for the time being I plan to be here indefinitely." Let's see how that works.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Paris or Bust

I made it, I'm here in Paris and dear Google Blogger just because I'm connected to the internet in France that doesn't mean that I want to change my language preference on my page to French because I don't speak that language.

It kind of feels uneventful to finally be here in Paris and I'm really not sure what to do with myself. Over the next few weeks I have to make a bunch of decisions and I'm really not sure where to begin and I'm not confident enough to know that I'll make the right ones such as which bank to open and account with, should I get a prepaid sim card for my cellphone and most importantly where should I live. I know that everything will fall into place eventually but I just don't do well when I'm feeling unsettled and living out of 3 suitcases doesn't really help.

Veronica, a former assistant who I'm living with temporarily is really nice and helpful and it's comforting to know that she has done the assistantship in the past and to be able to pick her brain about things.

It's not cool that I would like to try to practice my French but my mouth just cannot seem to form the words. Sentences and phrases that I've said time and time again during my lessons with Marie and Claude I just cannot myself to say them for fear of sounding like an idiot. This is not some dress rehearsal but it's the real deal and I need a virtual kick in the butt or this experience isn't going to be anything like the one that I had envisioned in my mind.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

I LOVE New York!!!!!!!!

Today I received an email from an English teacher from one of my schools. Maybe it was just my interpretation or maybe it really was her writing style but she seemed really excited to be writing to me and to have me as an assistant. She asked to know a little bit more about me so in my response I told her that I was a 30 something American from New York. The first sentence of her response was "I LOVE New York !!!!!!!!" There were literally 8 exclamation points. How cool is that? So much for the misconception that the French hate Americans. She mentioned that she was an assistant in Scotland 4 years ago so she knows what it's like. She also hinted at the fact that I may have Wednesdays off at one her particular school and she's work on a 3-4 day schedule for me...chouette!

Lastly, she told me that they have a place for me to stay temporarily for 250 euros/month. Why or why couldn't she have informed me this earlier? Albeit, he's a "a 25-26 year old crazy about football so you'll have to put up with that but it's SO french ;))." Had I stuck to my original plan of just arriving in Paris with no designated place to stay I would have save a couple of hundred euro. But no, I had to listen to the maternal unit and several friends that insisted that I find a place immediately so that I wasn't left homeless on the streets of Paris. Que sera sera right? It's only money. The good news is that I'll have an affordable place to stay should I not find permanent housing by October 1st.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Second Thoughts?

As I am entrenched in packing up my apartment and packing my clothes and belongings into two suitcases that weigh 50lbs of less each, I really beginning to have second thoughts about this move.

I'm not sure how I'm going to get all of this done by Friday. With a miracle perhaps.

Visa Visa

So I got my visa today despite the mini hurdles that I had to overcome.

Shall we start with the guy below? Doesn't he look completely intimidating and disgruntled all at the same time? If you really hate your job all that much why not go out and find a new one? That's what I did.


For the purposes of this post I'll refer to the man pictured above as "Disgruntled Security Guard" or "DSG" for short. Being the punctual person that I am I arrived to my appointment slightly early, ok make that a full 45 minutes early. Now, after reading all of Stephen Clarke's books one thing I learned about the French is that they don't queue or stand in line. So I walked up to DSG and showed him a printout confirming my appointment and his response was "it's not 12:30", oh ok then I'll just stand here and wait until it's my designated time. Then around noon some guy drives up in a Mercedes and asks what time the consulate closes and I told him sometime around 12:30 and 1:30PM but because I was not 100% sure I checked with my bud DSG. DSG's initial response to my question was a roll of his eyes and when I repeated my question he snapped back with 12:30. Ok ok I get it DSG you don't like questions. So I continue to stand outside as it starts to drizzle and wait patiently for my appointment. 12:30PM rolls around and I walk over to the locked door of the consulate and I do the international sign language for "wtf DSG it's time to open the door and let me in" but of course he was non-responsive as he was most likely playing video games as he sat in front his computer. As 12:35PM rolls around DSG comes to the door (that's when I snapped the above photo) and he asks me "do you have an appointment" and I responded "well yes, you yelled at me less than 30 minutes ago for being too early for my appointment I'm not standing out here in the drizzling rain just for the hell of it". So he finally lets me into the building has me go through the metal detector two times and scans the inside of my purse. DSG approves my entry into the building and instructs me to proceed upstairs. I thought to myself "self, that was rough the next step should be a piece of cake" or not.

I get upstairs and I sat in the waiting area for several minutes waiting for my number to be called. After several minutes my number came up and I walked briskly and confidently to window number 4 knowing that this would be easy breezy as I had all the documents that I needed and the requisite number of photo copies. Mr. Civil Servant behind the window looks at my visa application and notices that I'm applying for a Teaching Assistant visa and then proceeds to say "parlez vous francais" and I quickly scan my brain to translate the question that he just asked me and I think to myself "girl, you're in big trouble now". He asks me several other questions in French which I can comprehend but I'm unable to respond to because I was paralyzed by fear. Then he sees the faxed copied of my arrêté and quickly switches over to English. He says to me "I cannot accept this, I need the original version. Where is the original version? Why don't you have the original version?" Mr. Civil Servant posed some very relevant questions several of which I asked myself in the recent past. Again, taking my cue from Stephen Clarke's A Year in the Merde and In the Merde for Love I did the best French shoulder shrug that I could muster. Then I proceeded to tell him that my contact in Creteil faxed the consulate a copy of my arrete because when it came to signing mine and mailing it to me they just couldn't make it happen. Mr. Civil Servant retrieves said fax peruses its contents and then says to me "well I really need the original copy, it's not my fault if you get in trouble for this." Uhm ok thanks again for doing your job. He gave me a slip of paper and told me to return between 3PM and 3:30PM to pick up my passport.

3PM rolls around and I return to the consulate. I wait in line for a few moments and am greeted again by DSG (saying that I was greeted is being overly generous). I pick up my passport and voilà I got my visa. I also met two assistants one placed in Rouen and another placed in Brittany both of which have housing provided by their schools so which means that I hate them by default...just kidding.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Sunday Pulse Check #6

Days til Paris: 7

Wow we're into the single digits it almost seems surreal. Now that the suspenseful episode of "Will She Or Won't She Get Her Arrêté on Time" has passed I finally get to go to the French Consulate in New York City to get my visa tomorrow. Because I didn't know when, if ever, I would receive my arrêté I scheduled three different appointments with the consulate which is a big no no. I probably shouldn't even be writing about this for fear that they will read this post and cancel tomorrow's appointment.

I've been getting pretty emotional about my move recently. When I told my doormen that I will be leaving the building I got all choked up. The weird thing about it is that I have been telling people for the past five months that I am moving to France and I was totally fine with it. I can't even bear to think about how emotional I'm going to be next Saturday when I hang out with most of my family for the last time. I just realized that this past weekend was my last official weekend in Manhattan for 8 months or so since I'll be heading up to my mom's place on Thursday or Friday to spend the rest of my days in New York with her.

On Friday night I went out with my friend Robin to this fashion related party at D'Or in midtown. I was up early Saturday morning to get my highlights redone. I actually had my colorist tone down my highlights a bit because they were getting a bit too light for my liking. Because they have been toned down, hopefully they will be noticeable as they grow out (I have no intentions of getting my hair colored while in France). I did a bunch of errands on Saturday afternoon and then headed to Greenwich, CT to eat at my all time favorite Asian fusion restaurant Penang Grill. Words cannot describe how good their food is and my writing about it cannot do it justice so I'll just leave it at that.

Today was essentially ex-boyfriend day. First, I met up with the existentialist whom I dated 4 years ago and still remain friends. Over lunch he told me made several interesting comments; that I had major cajones for pulling off this move, that he'd be willing to help out if I get into any financial difficulties (bankrolling a holiday over Toussaint was ruled out), that I should procreate (not with him of course) and he asked if he could come visit me in Paris (of course, duh). Then I met up with the French saxophonist. He had a gig playing a brunch in Brooklyn and I stopped by to hear him play for a bit. After the gig I went to the closing reception of Alexis Peskine's exhibit The French Evolution: Race, Politics and the 2005 Riots. I then made one last stop to meet up with my friend for a cocktail before heading back to my apartment.

Friday, September 7, 2007

The Almost Scam

A couple of weeks ago during my frantic search to find housing in Paris I replied to an innocent enough looking post on www.franglo.com (actual post has been removed because I flagged it). There wasn't much detail in the post and there were no pictures included but I thought "what the hey, there's no harm in responding". A few weeks later I get the following message in my inbox:

Hello [L'etrangere Americane],

Thanks for the great response. I do appreciate your interest. The place it is still available and it is available for long time rent. All utilities are inlcuded and pets are allowed. I would have loved to meet you and visit the flat but I am presently not in Paris. It is available now and you can start as soon as possible. Also, you can rent as long as you can as I do not intend to live in the flat again. It is 670 euros monthly with an extra fee of 80 euros for the utilities which comes to a total of 750 euros. I used to reside in the house with my family before we had packed due to my transfer from my working place to the U.K and presently my house is still available for rent including all the utilities. Moreso Now, I also travel here and there on business. Pls i want you to note that, i am a kind and honest man and also i spent a lot on my property that i want to give you for rent, so i want to be sure if you will be able to take care of the flat as I do not any damages in the flat. I have given the price for the flat as I believe this way, I am helping someone in need for shelter and also the person will be able to take care of the flat and make it clean always I will like to know if you can give me an assurance that you will take good care of the house for me. Also, I will like you to fill the below form.

RENT APPLICATION FORM
1)Your Full Name
2)Your Full Address & Phone Number
3)How old are you?
4)Are you married?
5)How many people will be living in the house?
6)Do you have a pet?
7)Do you have a car?
8)Occupation?
9)What is your religion?
10) Do you smoke?
11) How many months do you want to rent the house for?

[Insert long highly detailed description of the apartment, decor, amenities, and neighborhood in perfect English here]

Will wait for your response.

Thanks,
[Scam Artist]

My initial reaction was that I had just hit pay dirt and that I was going to be living it up "MTV Cribs" style in Paris. Then little mini red flags started to go off in my mind such as "why is such an amazing apartment being rented for so little" and "why does he need to know my religion to rent me an apartment", "why is the first section of the email fraught with grammatical mistakes but there is nary an error in the second half"?.

Because I couldn't get those red flags out of my mind I decided to do a little super sleuthing courtesy of Google (love Google). Low and behold I found this little gem. Turns that Scam Artist copied the entire description and pictures from this apartment posting and tried to pass it off as his own little did he know who he was dealing with.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Finalement

This morning at 4:44AM EDT I was awoken by the beeping and buzzing of my fax machine. After I wiped the sleep from my eyes I sat up in my bed, did the double fist pump motion and thought gleefully to myself "mon arrêté, mon arrêté" (this thought actually occurred in English but is typed in French solely for effect). Now and only now does it feel as though I will be moving to France is little over 1 week. Now and only now has some of the stress lifted off of my shoulders to make way for feelings of excitement. And yes my arrêté has confirmed my placement in Pantin and Aubervilliers which are still less than 5 miles (4.5 km) from the center of Paris.

In other news I should be wrapping up things with my lease reassignment this week which means even one less thing to stress about. Lastly, I have begun the tedious task of pack the clothes and accessories that I plan to bring with me to Paris. The good news is that I have donated plenty of items that I no longer wear nor have use for. I've had items that have gone untouched for years hanging in my closet and sitting in my dresser just taking up space. While the purging process itself is quite liberating, psychologically I'm finding it hard to adjust to having less tangible things. I'm sure things will be OK when I go on my first shopping spree in Paris. This girl needs a new pair of walking shoes.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The One About Hair

Two years ago this past September I met Logan for the first time and he was like a godsend. Logan was able to take my kinky curly natural African American hair and turn it into a work of art (not an easy task I tell you). I wish I would have found him sooner but I'm grateful to have him in my life now, who needs a boyfriend when a girl has a fabulous hairstylist? I love Logan's work so much I convinced the maternal unit and the sister to give him a try and now they are complete converts. My sister and I like him so much that we want to adopt him into our family.

This past Saturday I went to see Logan one last time to get a cut that will knock all the boys in Paris off of their feet and I'm pretty sure he succeeded. Normally, I let him cut and style my hair however he wants since he's the expert but this time I had my own vision in mind and it included bangs. Three days after the cut I'm still getting used to the new style and I'm beginning to realize how high maintenance bangs can be but overall the cut is great. I'm not sure how I will maintain my hair while I'm in France for 8 months forget coming home for Thanksgiving or Christmas, I may have to schedule a trip back to New York just to see Logan.

If you're in New York and you're looking to unleash your inner diva go see Logan. Don't walk run!

Serenity Salon
458 West Broadway
New York, NY
212-598-1182

Monday, September 3, 2007

Le Rendezvous Chez Marie

On Friday evening I went to my old French tutor's apartment for an apéro. I was warned beforehand that for the duration of the evening only French would be spoken. Given this tidbit of information I almost declined the invitation but I knew that it would be good practice for my time spent in Paris. As promised only French was spoken as soon as I entered the apartment and the bad news is that I only understood about 40% of the conversation and even that may be quite generous. Even worse I was only about to express about 20% of what I wanted to say in French. I did learn the following phrase to prevent illness when drinking wine by the gallon in France:

"Blanc sur rouge rien ne bouge, rouge sur blanc tout fout le camps"*

Overall though the evening was enjoyable and entertaining. I always enjoy hanging out with an international crowd because the vibe is usually so laid back and welcoming. I don't know what it is but I usually feel more comfortable in my skin when I hang out with such a crowd. Hopefully I'll have the same type of positive experiences once I get to France.

*Translation: White before red nothing moves, red before white everything goes to hell.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Sunday Pulse Check #5

Days til Paris: 14


How I went from elated to deflated in 30 seconds flat in 8 steps:

  1. Check mailbox after spending a day in Long Island with my family on my cousin's boat
  2. Discover brown envelop from the Academie de Créteil inside
  3. Open envelop
  4. Experience elation
  5. Flip through documents in envelop
  6. Search packet for arrêté
  7. Notice arrêté is missing
  8. Experience deflation
I'm beginning to think that someone is playing a cruel joke at my expense. Needless to say I'm still waiting and I'll be following up with the peeps in Créteil on Monday. Hopefully it was a harmless mix up and someone forgot to insert the document into my package.

This past week I ended up shelling out a buttload of money for a rolling duffel bag (which I like but is a little heavier than I had anticipated), a new Canon Powershot SD850 IS digital point & shoot camera (watch out now) and to secure housing for when I arrive. Makes me glad that I didn't quit my job last week when frustration levels were at an all time high.

While I'm happy to have secured some temporary housing the story as will be told to my future children is as follows:

Your mother arrived in Paris with 2 large suitcases and no place to stay for the night. She had $25 dollars in her pocket and when converted equalled approximately only 5 euros due to the poor exchange rate at the time.

Got it? Bon! I'm glad we're all on the same page.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Dear Mom, Blame Sassy


When I was a teenager I remember reading an article in Sassy magazine (yes I'm dating myself) about American expatriates and from what I can recall about the article the expatriates weren't living in the most glamorous of countries. However, Sassy magazine had this uncanny ability to pique my interest in a variety of topics on a monthly basis and even though I had no idea what the word meant at the time I was instantly intrigued by the concept of expatriating.

I couldn't tell you why the article resonated with me the way it but I guess it spoke to something deep seated in my subconsciousness or perhaps spoke to my search for belonging as weird as that may sound. Maybe it was fate that I read that article or maybe it was sheer coincidence but what I do know is that I'm absolutely thrilled that 17 years later (wow) I'm going to have the opportunity to fulfill my dream of expatriating.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Sunday Pulse Check #4

Days til Paris: 21

Wow only 21 days until Paris and I'm not sure how I'm feeling about my move. Yes I'm still very excited about moving and my excitement levels will continue to grow over the next 21 days. However, for the most part I just feel like there is a lot to get done which I guess is to be expected. I'm confident that it will all get done but I kind of wish I could hire someone to do it all for me.

I did purchase a rolling duffel bag by Timberland today and if I am to believe what I've read about this bag it is one of the lightest rolling drop bottom duffel bags around. That means I can pack even more shoes and handbags than I had originally anticipated. I also managed to save about $100 because I found it on sale. Cha-ching!!

Lastly, thanks to a some information provided to me by Opal I've decided that I am going to purchase an annual travel insurance policy which will provide medical coverage and trip cancellation/interruption coverage should anything unforeseen happen to me when traveling outside of France and it's not going to cost me an arm and a leg either. Yippie!!

Friday, August 24, 2007

One of Those Days

My official last day of work is September 14th but after a recent turn of events and nasty-gram emails that I received from a colleague I'm seriously considering throwing in the towel today. I was literallythisclose to resigning today. What's 3 extra weeks pay really in the grand scheme of things when my sanity and emotional health are at stake? Part of my decision to move to France is so I can remove myself from the rat race and the politicking and all the other nasty things that take place in most corporate environments.

The irony of it all is that I supposedly work for a company that does things better than everyone else and we instruct others on how to get their "hows" right and yet our "hows" are completely wrong. Each day I have to remind myself that I have x-1 days left to make the 8 hours bearable and while it's a small comfort but I won't be completely happy until that number is equal to zero.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

In the Merde for Love

In the Merde for Love

I just finished reading In The Merde for Love by Stephen Clarke (thanks DT) which is sold by the title Merde Actually in the UK. It was a mildly amusing read but by the middle of the book I had lost interest in what was going to happen next. I finished the book because it wouldn't be fair to base an opinion on only reading a small excerpt and I'm glad that I did because now I can say without a shadow of doubt that the book would have been 95%* better if they removed 62%* of what was printed in the middle.

I'm currently reading Talk to the Snail: Ten Commandments for Understanding the French (I'm sensing a theme here) and I'm not sure what to read next to help prepare myself Parisian living. I welcome any and all suggestions.


*By no means were these statistics fabricated by the author of this post. These statistics and have a +/- 3% margin of error.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Still No Arrêté

I woke up this morning almost certain that I would receive my arrêté (official French work contract) in the mail so at 2PM on the dot I went downstairs to check my mail. But alas, I have not been blessed by the arrêté gods so the waiting continues (I'm getting used to it by now and it's good practice for when I get to France). If I don't get my arrêté by Thursday I get to harass my contact in DC and possibly she can light a fire under some cul français to get things moving along.

The main reason I'm so anxious to receive this piece of paper is because I need confirmation of my actual post. According to this post and this one I will be teaching right outside le peripherique of Paris but I need to see it in writing on official looking letterhead with an official looking stamp. That way I can reassure the maternal unit, family and friends that I will not be teaching in any of the areas hardest hit by the riots in 2005. But if by some chance there was an error in the email that I received in July and I am by some chance placed in any of those "red zones" that will just be our little secret dear internet friends.

For now, I'm going to go practice the dance that I will perform once I do receive my arrêté.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Sunday Pulse Check #3

Days til Paris: 28

I'm moving to France for a job opportunity but that idea hasn't quite synthesized in my mind just yet. In my mind I'm moving to France for an 8 month paid vacation. I have a feeling that this is not the right attitude.

In other news, I'm all caught up on my medical and dental checkups. Good news is I'm in perfect health
(I still have one outstanding appointment this Monday) and I have no cavities. Even better news is that I'll be covered under France's socialized healthcare system as soon as I start working. Bad news is I'll be among the uninsured when I return home to the US.

Score: France 1 US 0

Thursday, August 16, 2007

My Spirit is Bruised But Not Shattered

I've been diligently scouring the internet to find a Parisian apartment of my very own or to share with 1-2 lovely other roommates. Unfortunately, I've come up empty so far. People have warned me that it is notoriously hard to find an apartment in Paris during September and I chose to not believe them.

At first I was naively optimistic thinking that a large apartment with a great view and patio would fall into my hands and would cost virtually pennies (in dollars). Then I turned cautiously optimistic when I realized that maybe such an apartment will fall into my hands but it will require some hard work, determination and the prospect of paying a pretty penny for it. However, I will still be able to afford other basic necessities such as food and entertainment (I'm pretty sure entertainment is not included in Maslow's hierarchy of needs but whatever). Fast forward to today and I'm feeling completely pessimistic and that my only option for shelter in Paris is to live in a closet with no windows in some shady part of town and to top it off I will be required to pay a caution which will be 6 times my monthly salary as an assistant.

In case you don't believe I've brought along a few illustrations to share.

Exhibit A - "Showering in My Kitchen with Plants;
Who Needs a Shower Curtain When Sticky Butterflies are Strategically Positioned to Cover My Lady Bits"

Exhibit B - Is This Not the Scariest Comforter That You Have Seen This Millennium?

After the past couple of days searching my spirit may be slightly wounded and bruised but it is by no means shattered. I still have time to find that perfect Parisian apartment that I envision in my dreams.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Sunday Pulse Check #2

Days til Paris: 34

I can't believe that I'm moving to Paris in a little more than a month and the whole process started over 9 months ago.

Let's see, what haven't I accomplished this week?

For starters with I did not buy any luggage but I did look at a few pieces that caught my eye. I also haven't figured out where I'm going to live once I get to Paris. The maternal unit did not approve of my answer when she posed that question to me during a phone conversation today. I actually think it may be stressing her out more than me. Oh and lastly, still no arrete.

So now you're probably asking yourself "LA what exactly did you accomplish this past week?"

Well let me tell you, I found some potential parties to reassign my current lease. Management at my building wasn't interested in letting my roommate and I out of our lease 2 months early without forfeiting our security deposit unless we were able to find someone to take over our lease. So I did just that however I say "potential parties" as they have to go through the ol' rigamarole which involves credit checks and application approval. Here's the catch, the whole process takes about 4 weeks. Now if my calculations are correct, I may be on a plane to Paris before the whole thing is finalized. I hung out once again with my newfound fellow assistant friends, shout out to the newest member of the group Lillian.

Despite not purchasing any luggage I did manage to make a few key purchases on Saturday. I purchased this perfume to make all the French boys swoon when they catch a whiff of me as I'm going to need all the help I can get. I purchase this international converter and these noise cancelling headphones for my plane ride.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Luggage Woes

The decision to move to France was a no brainer for me.

The decision of which luggage to purchase is proving to be a very difficult task for me. I just know that as soon as I purchase my luggage I'll find some that I like even more than the ones I purchased.

Decisions, decisions.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

My Big Sis*

Moving to Paris has always been a dream of mine and not one that I readily shared with those around me. It's always been something that has been completely mine in my dreams and fantasies until recently. Now that the wheels are in motion and I'll have the opportunity to live on French soil do I feel comfortable enough to share that dream with others. And while I'm completely ecstatic regarding my temporary move to France there's another side of the story that I'm in sort of denial about.

My sister went away to college in upstate NY when I was 15 years old and looking back it didn't seem like that big of a deal at the time I was more looking forward to not having to share a room with her any longer. Time has changed that and our relationship has grown and blossomed in ways I never thought possible, I am no longer the bratty kid sister and she is no longer the overbearing older sister (occasionally we do regress back to these archetypes).

When I told my sister that I would be moving to France for seven months she was happy and excited for me but there was a shakiness to her voice that spoke volumes about how she really felt about my leaving. During a recent phone conversation she asked me if I will be returning home for Christmas and my response was "I'm not sure yet and I don't know if I will be able to afford it." And her immediate response was "Well I'll just buy your ticket." I have depended on my sister tremendously in the past and at times have used her as a crutch which may have thwarted development in some areas of my life. And while I appreciate her offer to buy me a plane ticket, an offer that I may more than likely take her up, I'm not sure that if it will be the right thing for me to do in terms of my experience living abroad. Who knows, maybe when the time comes that's the exact thing I need in terms of fulfilling me.

Will I miss my parents, family and friends while I'm in France? Of course but I don't think that will really hit me until after I've been living there for a while and I realize that I'm not there on vacation. However, the person I will miss the most is my big sister and not having her within a three hour drive scares the beejeezus out of me.

*This post is dedicated to Rho my one and only big sister.

Monday, August 6, 2007

France Things I Love #2


Not only does Petit Bateau make the most adorable children's clothing they also make some pretty awesome items for adults as well. A perpetual wardrobe staple of mine, especially in the spring and fall are their Scallop Trim Short Sleeve Tees. These tees are 100% cotton but you would guess it because of their ability to maintain their shape and form wash after wash.

Now, these tees are relatively inexpensive here in the states going for $25 for a set of two. However, in France they are half that price!! Now that's affordability even on an assistant's salary. I definitely plan to stock one these tees and some other Petit Bateau basics whileup while I'm there.

Sunday Pulse Check

Days til Paris: 41

I feel like the stress that I was feeling last weekend regarding my big move has eased slightly. I was able to enjoy a cappuccino while reading the Sunday Times at my local Starbucks whereas last weekend I just stared at the stack of papers in front of me feeling completely overwhelmed.

I'm feeling less stressed because I was able to accomplish the following this week:

  1. I received my passport...Yippie
  2. I had my birth certificate translated into French and notarized (just in case)
  3. I sold some furniture
  4. I packed some boxes of books and cds that need to be put into "storage" aka mom's house

I still haven't received my arrêté, however I did receive an email apologizing for the delay and letting me know that I should receive it by mid-August at the latest. I guess I can stop checking my mailbox every day like a lunatic or maybe I should pick up the frantic frequency at which I check it (don't even get me started on the new mail person that delivers my mail almost an hour later than the regular guy). The only drawback is that I may have to reschedule my visa appointment if I don't receive my arrêté by August 20th.

Hopefully, the upcoming week will be as productive as the last. Who knows, maybe someday soon I'll write a jubilant post about how I secured affordable housing in Paris.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Apple Store = Chaos

Yesterday I went to the Apple Store on 5th Avenue to purchase the World Travel Adapter Kit for Sophia, my MacBook Pro because I didn't want anything bad to happen to her while she kept me company on my sojourn in Paris.



However, moments after stepping inside of the store I had a moment where I said to myself, "self, you should have known better". I've been to this particular Apple Store in the past and the one in SoHo and it's just sheer and utter chaos. I should have known that venturing into the store after the release of the iPhone was going to be a nightmare.

There were people all over the place, music blaring and really no one there to help me out. I can appreciate Apple's concept in wanting shoppers to experience their products with all senses but enough is enough. I prefer a much more serene shopping experience. It's as if the shopping experience at an Apple Store is the complete antithesis of purchasing an Apple product. The only saving grace from the whole experience was not having to stand in the long line at the register. I was able to purchase my adapter by an associate on the floor that had a mini computer and was able to complete my purchase.

I hereby make a mental note to myself, "self, never again, never again, that's why the internet and e-commerce were created."

Thursday, August 2, 2007

An Open Letter to the Middle Aged Man

Dear Mr. Middle Aged Man Sitting at the Bar,

You seem like a nice enough gentleman you really do but unfortunately I am not in the market for a sugar daddy at this time. I understand that my move to Paris will be financially challenging but I'm fully equipped to handle that challenge on my own. Oh and while I'm at it I probably won't be emailing you any time soon requesting that you come visit me in Paris even though you offered to come visit and you mentioned that you like to travel.

Yours truly,
LA

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Yeah Baby She's Got It

I got my passport today, minutes ago to be exact and if you could see me now I'm actually doing a happy dance. Maybe I should turn on the webcam and record a YouTube moment for you all...yeah on second thought I don't think so.

Just when I was about to give up on the US government they managed to surprise me. I called the National Passport Information Center and informed them that they had been holding my passport hostage for almost 3 months and that I had an appointment to get my visa on August 20th. The kind woman on the other end of the line checked the status of my passport and told me that the paperwork had been processed but that it still needed to be printed. She told me that she would put a note on my application to have it printed and shipped to me by the end of the week. I was skeptical during the whole conversation because I kept hearing horror stories about people missing weddings, funerals and vacations because they didn't receive their passports in time, but I thanked her and then hung up the phone.

Last night I received an email from the agency saying that my passport had finished processing and that since I had paid for overnight delivery I would have it on or around 8/1. I checked the mail today and voila I now have my passport in hand and the photo isn't even that bad.

I guess I can now close the book on my morning ritual of checking the status of my passport at the US Department of State website. I'm sure I'll think up a new ritual to perform in its place.

Monday, July 30, 2007

France: Things I Love #1

I thought this post would be appropriate following my previous one because it will put things into perspective and give me something to look forward to while I prepare for my move. I'm going to keep a running list of things I love about France and things I look forward to experiencing once I get to Paris. The posts won't appear in any particular order as items will be posted as they pop into my consciousness.

Alas, I present you with La Duree Macaroons:


Words cannot explain the deliciousness that are La Duree macaroons and they can only really be appreciated when experienced firsthand. These sweet little numbers come in a variety of flavors that will satisfy almost all palettes.

I hereby pledge to myself to purchase a macaroon or ten upon landing in Paris and to indulge in such treats whenever I'm faced with challenges while living in France.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

She's Coming Undone

As the clock clicks closer and closer to September 17th I find myself getting more and more stressed out about my move to France. Perhaps these feelings are only natural but at times I feel nearly incapacitated by the number of things that I need to accomplish in such a short time frame (49 days to be exact). I know I'm not the first person to be in my situation and I know there are countless others that have done it before me but at this moment I feel like I'm not going to be able to get it all done. When I think about it my life here in New York City it really isn't all that bad. I have a decent job, a great group of friends, a semi-active social life and I'm fluent in the language. Why put myself through such undue stress?

What makes matters even worse is that there are some things that I simply can't do yet such as get my visa because I have yet to receive my passport or my arrêté de nomination. And let's not even discuss housing.

So instead of feeling excited by this wonderful opportunity that I have before me I'm feeling daunted and overwhelmed. I do see the light at the end of the tunnel that unfortunately it is not shining as brightly as it once has.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Shameless Plug

This morning I had my teeth whitened by Dr. Ryan Sellinger, DMD at Go Smile Aesthetics here in New York City.

If you're interested in a relatively painless tooth whitening procedure that takes less than an hour check him out (ladies, he's a looker).

Details:
Ryan Sellinger, DMD
Go Smile Aesthetics
923 Fifth Ave
New York, NY 10021
212-734-6111

Le Rendez-Vous

I always get nervous meeting people for the first time because I have a tendency to be fairly shy and downright antisocial in most social situations. However, there was nothing awkward about meeting Opal and Chi-Young two New Yorkers who will also be assistants in France this fall. Both of these ladies were very personable and friendly and it was as if we were old friends. We enjoyed some drinks, a lovely dinner and even some dessert at the restaurant.

Opal and I seemed to have a lot in common. We are both a bit older than your average assistants who are only 2-3 years out of college or less. This was comforting because I felt like I was going to be the only assistant in my age bracket in all of France. We also both declared that we will not be traveling around Europe carrying anything that resembles this little number:



It's not to say that there is anything wrong with people that carry backpacks but it's just not our style and not our taste.

We're going to try to meet once a week while still we're still in New York and once we get to France since we'll all be living relatively close to one another. It's a nice feeling knowing that I'm not in this alone and that there will be some familiar faces in and around Paris once I get there.

As a side note the eye candy that usually works the bar at Resto Leon was mysteriously absent last night. What must a girl do to get a little eye candy in this city of mine? It's not that his replacement wasn't attractive he just didn't do it for me as he was neither French nor from the Créteil. Peut-être le prochaine fois.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Assistants in New York

This evening I'm going to meet up with two soon to be English Language Assistants in France. We're meeting up because it will be fun to commiserate about the program, finding an apartment in a foreign country and all sorts of other things. It actually turns out that one of the ladies that I'm meeting was placed in Versailles which is not too far from Paris. So it will be nice to know at least one other person in my vicinity before moving out of the country.

We're heading to a little French Bistro in the East Village. While I've eaten at said bistro and the food is pretty good I must admit that I do not go there for the food. I go to flirt with the eye candy behind the bar. The cool thing about the eye candy is that his is French and is actually from the Paris suburb of Créteil. It should be an interesting evening.

Mon Meilleur Ami

I've been slacking slightly in my post frequency and I apologize for that. It seems as though my current job wants to get the most out of me before I depart. They thought it was a good idea to assign me some new projects and overload me with things to do. But more on that in a subsequent post.

Last night I went to go see Mon Meilleur Ami with a friend and I really enjoyed it. The film was light, fun and even poignant at times. Check out the preview for yourself but be warned you may feel compelled to go out and see the movie after viewing the trailer.



I must say that prior to watching Mon Meilleur Ami I was pretty disappointed with many of the French films that I have seen recently. For a majority of the French films that I've seen recently it's as if I started out watching one movie and about 75 minutes into the film there was a drastic plot twist. It's as if I got up to go to the restroom and mistakenly returned the the wrong theater. Has anyone seen this hot mess or this one? 'Nuff said.

I still want to see Paris Je T'aime but I think I missed the boat on that one as it's not playing at any theaters near me.

Friday, July 20, 2007

A Stone's Throw

For those of you that prefer visuals I present to you Google maps.




The above illustration shows the center of Paris (blue dot labeled Paris Center, duh) and two other blue dots represent the collèges where I'll be teaching.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

We Have Contact

"I don't know" has become a very popular response of mine lately. I'm pretty sure my friends and family started to doubt my actually moving to France because I was unable to answer so many of their questions. Sometimes even when I knew the answer to a question I would respond with "I don't know" because I had gotten so accustomed to it.

Well today my friends, I finally have some answers and I can break the "I don't know" cycle.

I will be teaching 11 to 15 year olds at two collèges in the Paris suburbs. Collège Diderot in Aubervilliers and Collège Joliot in Pantin. Aubervilliers is 4.5 miles from the center of Paris and Pantin is even closer.

This also means that I can start researching places to live and maybe if I'm lucky I can even secure a place to live before leaving American soil (a girl can dream).

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Thing About Moms

Back in May when I first told my mom that I would be moving to France her initial reaction was "I hope you don't think I'm going to come visit you while your there." She couldn't understand why anyone would want to visit France let alone live there for 7 months. And as such she didn't speak to me for a couple of days. After the initial shock set in she called me back and apologized for her initial reaction but she still insisted that there would be no visits from the maternal unit.

Ignoring her decree I composed an email to her, several other family members and friends outlining my vacation schedule for the school year as well as the steps and extended processing times for obtaining a US passport. To which my mother replied:

"...just in case you're interested I'm going to get my passport. Maybe I'll take a trip to somewhere. Not sure where yet but by the time I make up my mind as where to go I will at least have it. Not that I'm coming to France or anything but you never know..."

I thought to myself "wow she's actually lightening up on the idea, she'll get her passport in no time."

Fast forward to today, my mom applied for he passport using the expedited service which means she will probably receive her passport before I even receive my renewal. Recent conversations with the maternal unit went something like this:

Maternal Unit: So I'm thinking of coming to Paris either in February or April. How long are your breaks exactly, I don't want to fly to Europe for only 5 days. I"m thinking of staying for 2 weeks or so.
L'Étrangère Americaine: *dead air*
L'Étrangère Americaine: errr, uhmmm, oh two weeks huh? Are you sure you want to stay that long? Do you think you want to visit some other countries while you're here?
Maternal Unit: Yeah, I wanna visit Germany, Italy, Spain, England, Greece and Australia.
L'Étrangère Americaine: AUSTRALIA? AUSTRALIA? Mom, the flight to Australia is 24 hours.
Maternal Unit: Oh, maybe not Australia.
L'Étrangère Americaine: Ok so I guess we'll be going on a European World Tour 2008.

So mom has been converted, who am I kidding, she knew along that she would be visiting me in France even without my prompting. Now, to get the ball rolling for my sister. Does anyone have any suggestions as how to overcome a fear of flying? She refuses to take pharmaceuticals to aid in calming her nerves.

In the Merde

Last week I returned from my summer vacation in Martha's Vineyard. In preparation for the almost 4 hour drive, 45 minute ferry ride and the endless hours relaxing on the beach I purchased Stephan Clarke's "A Year in the Merde". I intended to purchase this book when it was first published back in 2005 but I never actually got around to it.

Turns out that this book was so unbelievable funny, witty and insightful into the differences between American and French cultures I found it hard to put it down. I even caught myself laughing out loud during certain parts. Three days into my trip I had finished my book and was left with nothing to read during my lazy beach days.

A friend bought me the sequel "In the Merde for Love" and it too is riddled with laughs and insights similar to the first. I just hope that by reading Stephan Clarke's novel I'm able to avoid some of the blunders that Paul Wess faces during his first year in the merde.

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