Chez Soi

Adventures of a Year Abroad

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On a Constant Adventure, Together

Ever since we met, Curt and I have been having an adventure.

So this NPR interview with the artists of Johnnyswim caught my ear.

Sudano and Ramirez spend a lot of time on the road, in the studio and at home, but they say it never becomes too much. For them, it’s “all one kind of stream of life.”

“I think it’s almost the opposite of maybe what people expect to think,” Sudano says. “Instead of the longer you’re out on the road it gets more claustrophobic, the longer you’re out on the road it gets nicer to have [Ramirez] there, because he’s the closest thing to home I have. Home is where he is. The farther away I get from being at home, the more I cling to being near him, because he gives me that sense of, ‘OK, everything’s all right,’ and he brings me back to home.”

“The greatest asset in our marriage,” Ramirez adds, “is that we’re on a constant adventure together.”

I hope we feel the same as we live in Paris.

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JKEROEHFWEHRemember how I told you that there were certain somethings and someones i will miss during our trip? Well the toddler in the background is my one year and around seven month old nephew, who is also one of the someones. See what I mean? He is way to cute to leave behind. Anyways, I am actually starting to have this whole moving idea settle into my brain. France is gonna be my hometown, so I better speak in it. “Pourquoi ai-je fait ce une idée pour le blog la plupart des gens ne peuvent pas comprendre tout ça!”. Nevermind, that will make pretty much everyone confused throughout the completeness of chez-soi’s history and future. Well, peace to all and have a good day. That was weird. Bye.

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Herminia’s Welcome

A week before we were to go to Paris to sort out the school and apartment situation, we got a note from a friend. All she asked was “when? and … can we plan a little gathering for you and the family.” We were touched by her generosity of spirit. Herminia Ibarra and I met at the Thinkers 50 where she was recognized as the *most* influential thinker in the leadership category. Turns out we share an amazing literary agent, Carol Franco.

As you can see in this little video, her home and friends were lovely. Her family is from Miami, so her son spoke fluent English, Spanish, and French. Her kitchen sign of to-dos — one of the first things we noticed… had things like citron (lemons) and Philadelphia. Which just made us smile.

If I ever make you some salad with pomegranate seeds and spinach, know I got the recipe from Herminia… and it will always remind us of this warm spring evening and the loving welcome.

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Departure Date Set

This is getting real, people.

Yesterday, Curt and I mapped out a rough plan of what we need to do by when. Each area of the house gets a weekend of focus. Then the date to do a neighborhood farewell, thus emptying the liquor cabinet. Then, the plans for a big moving sale. Of course, the date to put things into storage. Backed into by knowing our management agency needs five days to spiffy up the house before our tenants move in.

But the thing that made it really seem *real*?

Making the airline plans. One-way.


Paris through London, because it was 3x the price if we went direct. We’ll stay in a hotel for a night, and then meet the agent the next day to get the keys to our new place.

New Digs


New Digs

Living in Paris is a dream come true in so many ways.  When it came to looking at apartments, we were drawn to this, or even this. But alas, our dream doesn’t come with a limitless budget. (drat!)

We used a site called “book-a-flat” recommended by friend Katie Stanton. It offers furnished apartments in Paris, which is important because “unfurnished” literally means a pipe coming out of a wall as the kitchen. I couldn’t imagine needed to build a kitchen while we were learning the language. So book-a-flat it was. Plus, they speak fluent English. We spent hours surfing the site to see what resonated. Some apartments had tons of tilted angles which seemed charming at first, but I was fairly sure it would be less charming if one of us got a concussion from running into a (weird) wall. At one point, we fell in love with a mirage. It was an apartment where the Eiffel Tower was framed perfectly in the master bedroom window. Imagine waking up to that view?! Every day!! And it had a terrace where we could invite over friends for wine. I imagined acting totally nonchalant about it — like, ‘oh, yes, that view, no big deal.’ but inside I’d be doing the cha-cha. But, it was well 2,000 euros (or, 2800 bucks) more than our already-raised budget. Gah.

When Neri was visiting us recently in California, she got us to think more practically (how many minutes to school, you need more doors if you will work in same space, where are heck the closets?) which helped us narrow the field to 3 choices.

Curt had the smart idea to walk the neighborhoods on the 2nd day we were there. Two of the 3 apartments we had picked were in the 8th (closer to the schools) and one in the 7th. But when we saw the 8th neighborhoods in person, we realized that the local grocer, and restaurants would be on the Champs Elysees, aka tourist central. This was not what any of us imagined as “home”. But it took us a few minutes to say anything. Finally, we all raised a collective ‘blech’ to that idea.

We ended up with the place in the 7th arrondissement, a quiet neighborhood, and minutes from things we love. We had originally hoped for 3 bedrooms so we could afford guests, but we couldn’t swing it even after raising our budget by 1,000 bucks. Our new plan is to find a reasonably priced hotel somewhere nearby to direct our friends. And, of course had hoped for some view, but that was also outside the budget. We ended up optimizing for every day life. It is five minutes to the d’orsay museum, and seven to the Rodin. And 38 minutes to walk to school, 17 via the metro. The new place is about 1,100 square feet, which is quite small when compared to our home in Los Gatos (nearly 2400 square feet with a yard, and a 2-car garage), but it’s plenty.

This, by the way, is kiddo’s bathroom. Oooh, la, la.

Apartment bathroom


I Am Thinking….

There are many things going around my head at the moment. One side of my head is talking to the other.

This is the dialogue.

“What’s up?”

“Nothing much.”

“What do you think about the move?”

“I hate it! Don’t you!”

“No, I’m happy about it.”

“Are you serious? This sucks!”

“Well, we will learn two languages.”

“Who cares? I don’t!”

“Oh yeah?”




And stuff like that. Yep, I’m stressed.


The path to school

As of Thursday, we’ve chosen a school that “gets” kiddo and we all like.

The path to this was long in coming. We had asked many friends of friends that had been to Paris for extended stays what school they chose, and why. The EABJM Jeannine Manuel kept showing up. We learned it was an elite private school, known for it’s academically strong bilingual program. Back in June, 2013, we had done a 2nd school tour (where we ran into a lovely friend, Katie Stanton, and her family — a delightful surprise for everyone!), and kiddo really liked it as compared to the small friendly school we compared it to in the 9th (the WI program) The science program was rich, with independent lab areas, and the art program made me want to register. It was clear it would be demanding, but seemed worth it.

We applied.

Aaaaaaand got rejected. Hence, this Post over on FB on a Friday afternoon…

A great friend, Susan McPherson, reached out after seeing the ambiguous news, and asked if she (or her partner Fabien) could help. Nothing like having friends from across the country help you get back up off the ground.

This gave us an idea to get an appt with EABJM; one part was to plead our case, the second was to learn why. Only after that appt with the director of admissions, Madame Bosc, did we share the (bad) news with kiddo. EABJM expects kids — even boys at kiddo’s age — to be “self-managing” and thought he had a “bad attitude”. Hubster and both I felt our chin tremble a little. His 5th grade teacher, however, said to shake it off, saying that kiddo has yet to develop the study habits he needs and is still learning.  She felt very strongly that kiddo LOVES school and loves to learn, but he gets bored easily by the public school curriculum (and hasn’t yet figured out how to manage that boredom, and direct it in positive ways).

In the end, getting rejected turns out to be a near-miss that helped us find the better path for us.

Madame Bosc directed us to another school that would “get” him better, Hattemer. And other friends and extended network who live or have lived in Paris all helped identify other schools. Gotta love the network. And the help. Although many people pointed us to Marymount and the ISP, those were programs that would keep him in an American-bubble. If we wanted that, we should probably stay home. Which would be both cheaper and easier. Eurocole was identified as a great French program with a strong bilingual program, along with Victor Hugo.

We scheduled the three visits. By the time we got to Hattemer, we knew we had found a winner.

Kiddo chose Hattemer even though it meant a tougher academic program and a haaaaaaaard path ahead — it requires learning French intensely this summer so he can have a running chance at the program. So, so proud of him and his courage.

Probably the tipping point for us parents was learning Hattemer’s philosophy at the school is to address the kids in the formal and more respectful vous vs the more informal (and slightly condescending) tu. It is a small sign of a big choice — they want to regard the kids for who they are, and what each distinctly has to bring. That’s quite (!) a novel approach for French schools.


We still have some paperwork to do, but we’re settled. Phew. Our new path to school is in the picture — crossing the Soferino footbridge, as we head towards the Tuileries, with the Louvre in the background.


We Chose a School! Yay Yay Yay!

We recently have chosen my school in Paris. The schools that we visited were:

Hattemer, (pronounced “at-mare”)


And Eurecole:


Which are both good. We noticed at first that Eurecole was small but made up for it in nice and language. We took a test, which was extraordinarily easy, and left. Thinking Eurecole was the best school we could find, we went to Hattemer with partially closed minds. However, Hattemer was able to pry them open and shows how good the school really was. They toured us throughout the measurably bigger building and let us meet some of the nice kids from school. This school was more academic, and Eurecole was three quarters of the day language. This school was friendly, when Eurecole was as shy as much as me (not a good sign). In the end, we (Obviously because of my opinionated writing) chose Eurecole. Just kidding! Hattemer is our new main school. Thanks for reading- kiddo