Chez Soi

Adventures of a Year Abroad

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The thing I always missed about the united states were my friends. Well last weekend, my mom got me a playdate. And now I am definitely more comfortable with france. So I think I know how to live here now. :D. And thanks to mom for arranging the playdate.


15 years and Far Apart

Curt is in the US for a work trip, and I wonder if it’ll feel weird to go there and then return here as “home”.

Before he left, he and the kiddo got me a present to celebrate our 15-years of being together. Curt remembers the first time we kissed, and all that stuff. I’m always surprised, yet delighted that he remembers. As of this month, The West Wing is 15 years old, too. So, he gave me the entire collection in one big set.

Maison Blanche

Voila!  It’s called La Maison Blanche here, a direct translation (the house white).  And because we got a little tired of watching films in French, this is a nice reprieve of something old, familiar, even comforting.

Here’s a present for you:  a definitive ranking of the characters. If you haven’t seen CJ do the Jackal, I highly recommend it.

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The First Day of School

The highlight of the first day of school was that Kiddo missed lunch.

We had paid for the “canteen” and expected he would find something there he would like. We packed some peanuts in his backpack for that “just in case he’s picky about the food that day” which is rare but .. we just didn’t know if they’d serve foie gras or something. And thank goodness we did. Cause, apparently, the kids are called into the canteen by certain classes. And in French. Which is all lovely if you understand the language well and perhaps how this thing works. But kiddo has never attended French school and is still learning. He was promised a “buddy” on his first day which so far hasn’t materialized. Not a great start.


We can only hope Day 2 goes better than Day 1.


2 Months In

If I knew then what I know now, maybe the last few months would have been easier…here’s the note I would have written.

Dear Paris Newbie Self:

You are about to go and move countries to have an adventure. And, by definition, adventures have highs and lows, twists and turns. So, you sometimes (mosttimes?) don’t know how it’s going to turn out. That is both good and bad. But you wanted an adventure. Remember that in the times ahead.

New cities (even ones as notable as Paris) are both wonderful and perplexing at the same time. You will go to the movies and that theater will be closed because of some unknown reason. You will go to an open market and it will turn out that summer construction is in full force for a metro line and the market you were hoping to enjoy is now gone for the summer. The city you have moved to goes into massive construction mode in August as they expect all citizens / residents to be gone. No one will tell you that. There will only be the noise to keep you company. Remember that being a new resident is different than being a tourist in any city.

You won’t believe it, but you will spend most of first few months here just trying to figure out basics like where to find nails to hang a picture, or batteries since they aren’t at the local grocer. You’ll be amazed at how hard it is to get dry cleaning done, how to get places efficiently, how to get groceries home with out a car, etc. You wonder why it feels like you are slogging through molasses with little to show for it. Let me tell you why. When you are here for vacation none of this matters. And when you are home, you know everything already. It never occurs to you how much ambient information you have in your native place to do the simple things. Until you don’t have it. Suddenly simple things aren’t simple. And all your mental and emotional energy is tapped by doing something as simple getting something mailed. What was once a 10-minute chore in your native land will exhaust you for the whole day. And you wonder why. But this is just an overhead tax for setting up a residence in a new spot. Add the new language is surely a part of this. But the totality of exhaustion is because all your brain power is being used up to do things you once could do with your eyes closed and brain synapses otherwise unused.

And the money worries that keep you up at night are a red herring. Yes, it’s true that things cost a lot in Paris. In Europe in general, about twice as much as US prices. Even basic underwear. And, socks. And… well, everything. Accept it. Just accept it. Stop looking at the prices on Amazon US and then Amazon France. It will only upset you. You are lucky enough to have enough money even as you dip into savings. It’s only a moment in your life. Remember the reason you wanted a year abroad to be with your family and to experience the broader world to become more global. Well, the extravagant prices is just a piece of that “broader world”.

And you must decide your attitude for this. On September 1 (what is called rentrėe) the whole city is shining and cleaning and (mostly) open for business. Shops that were barricaded during July and August will suddenly pop to life and you will think they are new, but really they are renewed. The fact that you don’t know anything makes you feel stupid, but really you ought to view it as a big game. Act like Gomer Pyle would have acted on the Andy Griffith show. Be surprised. Be astonished. Say to yourself, Golly Gee. Try to find some joy in it.

Along this way, you will think you’ll have lost your mind for wanting to go on this adventure. You will be tired of finding everything exhausting. You will be sickly tired of fighting with your family because all of you are collectively exhausted.

But please, don’t blame each other, blame the situation. And, remember this is NORMAL. (Things will inevitably settle down.) You came to this because you wanted to learn together, to be together, and to be closer. You are asking a lot of yourselves to learn a new language and keep both careers going WHILE doing this other thing. So keep the main thing that drove you here in mind. And that main thing is Love. Keep your love central. Keep your heart open. Forgive each other for the stress behaviors that keep showing up. Love is what got you to make this big leap, and it is love that will help you through it.

And all this will seem funny one day. I promise. Or I hope, anyways.


Your paris rentrée self

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French Schooling.

              We couldn’t get any of my school books until Friday, which was orientation. We asked the principal in the morning and he told us to come back after orientation and pick them up. After orientation, we went to the schools supply shop and we got in line. It was about half an hour before anyone told us that the line was closed, and to come back at 1:30. So we returned later and got in line. Me and my mom waited no less then an hour until we got to the front of the line. And then the principal showed up and started talking to us. While that was happening,  another family came by and took our place. Once they were out of the way, we asked for the supplies we needed for 6éme. She said that they only had one fourth of the supplies needed for our class, and told us that we were going to have to pick the rest up later. We thought that was fine, until we counted how many bags she was using. Three. And they were quite full. I mean, This is just the books.


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Mastering Language…

Matthew, who is originally from Manchester, England, is what some call language chameleon: Germans think he’s German, Spaniards think he’s Spanish, Brazilians think he’s Portuguese (he proudly speaks the good-old European variety). By his own account, Matthew has mastered a staggering number of languages by utilizing abilities that we all possess: persistence, enthusiasm and open-mindedness.

I can attest that we’re all learning best when it’s (a) fun enough to keep our enthusiasm up, and (b) when we keep at it, and (c) when we just pause the self-judgment button to be open enough to learn.

It’s a real gift to be learning. Haaaard. But a real gift.

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Happy Half Hour

If I had stopped to take picture of our happy hour drinks, there would be an image with this post. But, instead Curt and I were too busy enjoying our (incredibly quiet, almost romantic) moment together that we just .. ya know, drank our drinks and chatted without capturing the moment in digital form.

The thing is we’ve been with kiddo nearly non-stop all summer. Today, he got his first private lessons in French by two different and wonderful folks, and we used the time to (start-to) catch up with things we adults need to do. In addition to our individual work and email (not so exciting but very necessary), we managed to do some errands. Curt went with me since his french is better and we got to a pharmacy to get some resupplies, the post office to mail off some post cards we got in Sancerre, fix my bank card which finally let me has cash by myselft, and so on. Amazing how exciting getting caught up can be. But really it was the final moment of stopping by a little local bar and taking 30 minutes to talk together that made today Ah-MAY-ZING.

It was happy half-hour. But a much needed half-hour of happy.