Saturday, December 29, 2012

Meet Danielle

She is officially going to kill me for posting this as her introduction picture.  I am sorry, I just adore this picture.  Yes, it is totally dorky.  Yes, it is an unflattering angle.  And, yes, everyone should know that this girl is drop-dead gorgeous and could woop anybodies butt most any day of the week.  So, don't be hating on this picture.

Okay, okay, introduction time.  Danielle and I met...well....actually, Danielle met my dear friends the Richardson's (whom you will meet soon) on a train where she gave them her phone number.  This transaction occurred before I met the Richardson's, but upon meeting them, Andrea (Mom Richardson) gave me Danielle's number for a potential au pair friend. 

Boy, what a lifesaver.  Danielle and I played phone texting for a while, not meeting up for a month or so.  Finally, we got together in La Defense, and, as she describes it, there were fireworks.  Immediate connection.  No awkward what-shall-we-talk-about, can-I-leave-yet, this-is-exhausting moments, just pure awesomeness.  And this is how I would generally describe Danielle: just pure awesomeness.  She is courageous, strong, blunt, bold and full of so much self-respect.  I would be quite lost and lonely without her here in Paris.  Without her just a few stops away.  Without her being my au pair cousin (our host-moms are sisters).  She has listened and scolded and consoled and advised and laughed with me.  For that I am extremely thankful.  Just wanted to introduce you to this rockstar that I call my friend.

Boat Ride on the Seine

I decided to do some catching up on some special events that happened during my first couple of months in France.  Hence the previous winter wonderland post.  Arriving in France, I got the rather special treat of meeting, working, and living with Magi.  A Russian beauty, born and raised in Germany, she worked as an au pair for the Russ family before me.  We got to work together for about a month and a half before she packed up her bags and moved back to Germany.  (Important side note: this girl and her family are incredible.  They let me stay with them for a week and fed me while I took an intensive German language course.  They spoke to me in Russian accented German and shared their home with me.  I could never be thankful enough.)

Before Magi left, Demet and Roland bought all of us tickets for a lunch/boat ride on the River Seine.  Absolutely amazing!  It was a clear and windy day, cold, but who cares if you are sitting inside, eating and listening to live singing and accordion accompaniment?  That's right, no one.  We ate reasonably tasty food and watched the beauty of Paris pass peacefully by.

And then there was that music.  Music that was just to movement inducing.  Wiggling in your seat and watching lustfully as a beautiful couple waltzed and glided down the aisle between sitting customers is just too much.  I threw caution to the wind and got those girls up and dancing.  We all held hands, and spun, and spun, and spun a bit too much, but it was thrilling and exciting to stand in the middle of everyone and be serenaded by Mister Accordion Man.  So we kept spinning, even though we had no other steps and no other moves but the ones that just came from holding each others' hands and letting the music move us. 

 Thanks for the memory, it's a favorite.

Reminiscing About Snow

It was early on a Saturday morning when I woke up and saw that the world was covered in white.  Admittedly, the white was not very thick and I knew it was going to last maybe a day, but my heart leapt into my throat and I ran down the stairs.  My stay with the Russ's had perhaps reached its one month mark and when I saw my two little girls, Aylin and Melis downstairs, the excitement could not be contained.  "Schnee!!  Snow!!  Schnee!!  It snowed!!!" ensued by lots of jumping and waving of hands and squealing.

That afternoon we all took a walk together down to the forest that is situated right next to the Saint Francis Domain where I used to live with the Russ's.  We reached the pond at the bottom of the hill, in the middle of the forest, and discovered a frozen skating rink, slightly iced with snow.  Roland and I made a skating "line" where we could take running head starts to then hit cleared runways where we would slide until the end.  We made snow angels, drew hearts and wrote our names in the snow with our feet.  It's one of my favorite memories with the Russ family and looking back nearly a year since then, I am grateful for such a wonderful, white, and Christmasy memory.   

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Giving Thanks

It's Thanksgiving.  Actually, my Thanksgiving day is almost over.  Perhaps it just started for you?  Probably.  I have to admit, though, I am thankful.  I am thankful for the community automatically created from being an American, living in France.  I am thankful for my family who has not forgotten me, even though I live thousands of miles away.  I am thankful for friends who spend time with me on Skype.  I am thankful for the post office.  I am thankful for the beauty of fall. 

You know what else?  I'm thankful for being lonely.  No, seriously.  Loneliness sucks, and wow, how it shows me things that I would never have seen if I was not lonely.  I'm also thankful for not knowing what I am doing with my life.  I mean, I pray, every day, for God to show me what the plan is, where my life is heading, what-in-the-heck my purpose here on earth is, but what an awesome opportunity.  An awesome opportunity to explore myself, to explore the world, to explore what there is out there in the wide unknown. 

A friend told me recently that I am a free spirit.  I am thankful for that spirit, that God-given freedom to know that I can go and be anything that I want.  One of my current favorite quotes, by George Bernard Shaw, says, "This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one, the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy."

As you look at everything you are thankful for today, don't forget to send up a little thanks to the Big Lady Upstairs for the freedom to choose, the freedom to live as you decide, and the freedom to be a force of nature in your own life, instead of complaining and sniveling about the (lie) that you have no control over your own life.  Happy Thanksgiving, ya'll!   

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Culture Shock

Yep, it sucks.  I know it sucks because this is my third time around the block of culture shock.  So, my last post was about missing home, and then I didn't write again for nearly a month.  Or was it a month?  I'm not exactly sure anymore.  My days seem to whirl by and at the same time continue to increase the amount of time that has passed since I've been home.  The feeling is unsettling.  What is also unsettling is that the "honey moon" feelings of the first two to three months that you are in a new culture and language are beginning to make their exit.  Or they have already left the building.  Dangit.  I was living off of their don't-worry-this-is-exciting fumes to numb out the I-haven't-been-home-in-nearly-a-year blues.  

Then there is English.  You know, my native tongue.  But even as I attempt to speak it the few times that I can during the day, I recognize that I speak a very weird kind of English.  My writing skills are not much better.  The poor two older kids of my family have me helping them with their English.  Perhaps I am the one who needs a tutor now?  I don't know, but I do know that at times it can be extremely frustrating. 

Culture shock sucks because it's when you realize that you are a child.  A two year old, in a sense.  But, you are actually an adult, so everyone treats you like one in your new culture.  Which, can be extremely nice, and also make you feel like a complete idiot when you are, actually, incapable of acting like an adult in that culture/language.  And you really can't communicate beyond the day to day grind.  Which is all fine and dandy when you haven't been living in the country for 11 months, are single, and spend most of your days just wishing you had more than one true friend to hang out with.  My life is pathetic.  But I live in Paris!  >.<

Okay, thank you for reading my complaining rant about culture shock and feeling lonely and misunderstood.  I know, I know, things will get better, but at the moment, I just feel like time continues to increase and make me miss my family more and yet time should be increasing and making me feel more secure here in France/French.  *sigh*  Oh the complexities of life.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


I love being abroad.  Eight days from now I will hit my ten month anniversary of being out of the United States of America.  And I miss home.  The longest I have ever stayed away from my family is nine months, and maybe it was actually only eight.  Perhaps as we got older we start to realize the importance of our family, the fact that, in the end, they're most likely the ones who will still be around after everyone else has moved away and moved on.

I miss English.  Although I get enraptured in listening to French and German, I also cannot wait to step onto the street and only hear my mother-tongue.  For a while now, I have thought that I would like to travel and live abroad for years at a time.  But as fall is starting to make its way in, and the days get shorter, and the time longer since seeing the people who matter most to me, I think that, in the end, I'd rather be where my heart is.  And currently, my heart is a good 5,000 miles from where I am actually living.

My heart is sitting in the car with my mom as she drives to work, passing Baldy Mountain and the rows of fall-shaded trees that line the roads and hills in Idaho.  It's sitting on the floor in my brother's house in Eagle, playing cards with my three nieces and hanging out with my sister-in-law.  It's walking out back, past my grandma's house, onto the ditch road that lines one side of our 100-acre ranch with my dad and his dog, Abby.  It's playing garbage man with my nephew and talking about life with my brother and his wife.

Experiences are wonderful things, and I have had so very very many of them here in France.  I love my job, I am comfortable, well taken care of, and happy.  I also seem to recognize more and more, every day, that experiences are only as good as the people you are sharing them with.  In the end, I would rather have even just a few ordinary, run of the mill, experiences with the people who mean the most to me, than hundreds of thousands of extraordinary experiences without them.  Sending all my love to my family and friends back home, I miss you and love you lots.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Loud (and Proud to Learn Something New)

We are loud.  I mean, as Americans, we are just loud.  Whether we are in a public or private place, you can pick out an American by sheer volume.  It’s not something I have been very proud of as I have traveled abroad.  It is something that I have tried to suppress and have laughed at those “dumb tourists” who are more yelling than talking while they walk down the street. 

A wise woman once said to me, “You can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl.”  Being loud is something I guess hasn’t left my still very American blood.  Hence, my first cultural blunder:

Five days ago I moved into my new house and job.  I have been settling in quickly and really love the family.  Because we are both trying to figure out this whole living together thing, there are a few kinks that still need to be worked out.  I have sketchy internet access in my room, for example.  Thus, after planning a skype date with a friend, I found myself sitting downstairs, in the kitchen rather than my room, skyping with said friend.  Skyping loudly and blissfully unaware.  For an hour and a half. 

Now, this new house is gorgeous, huge, and everything echoes.  The ceilings are the kind that if there were 1 ½ of you, you could maybe touch them.  And of course, being a European home, there is no carpet, adding to the general reverberation of sound waves throughout the first floor.  Ah, the blessings of being a very, very loud American. 

My poor host mom had her sister over and they were talking in the living room.  Yup, you got it, my Americaness was reverberating all the way to the living room, interrupting what polite conversation they might have been having.  Needless to say, my host mom came in after I was done and let me know that, in France, it is considered bad manners to have a private conversation in a public manner.  She said that it was probably a culture thing, and I would have to say, she is probably right.  It did not even cross my mind that I was having a loud, obnoxious, and intruding conversation in the midst of her home.

What also is interesting to me is that, the night where I stayed at Danielle’s house and had supper with Vanessa and Philip (mentioned in a previous post), I skyped in the house with my nieces.  Afterwards, Philip mentioned that they heard me loudly talking with my family.  Their guest gave me a disapproving look that I didn’t know quite how to interpret at the time.  Now, it all seems to fall into place that I was being rude in that instance as well, interrupting their conversation and get together by having my own personal conversation in a public setting (at a rather loud decibel). 

Ah, how fascinating and humbling to be reminded that, as much as I like to think that I am culturally sensitive and aware, there are still things that I do not know nor completely understand.  It is also nice to be reminded that my homeland is still a part of me, even, or especially, the loud and obnoxious parts.  Also reminds me that there are always new things to learn, new things to explore, new people to learn how to connect with, and that, although uncomfortable, messing up is a lot of times the best way to learn.  Here’s to blunders, to saying and doing the wrong thing, and to not being perfect, especially because nobody is. 

Happy messing up and learning in the process!       

Friday, August 24, 2012

This Girl Went to Disneyland!

That's right.  I live in Paris and I went to Disneyland.  Feel the envy!  Seriously, though, this was one of the coolest days ever.  A wonderful American family, who use to be my next door neighbors, who I also have dog-sat and child-sat for on many occasions, invited me to join them on their last day to Disneyland before their year passes expired.  And they offered to pay for my ticket (!). 

So, I got to go to the land of my childhood, full of way too many places to spend copious amounts of money on things that would be so epically cool to own, wonderful people dressed as Jasmine and Aladdin, Maleficent, Mickey Mouse, Tinker Bell, Beauty and the Beast, even Ratatouille, and some amazingly cool rides to boot!  The best part consisted of the fact that I got to go there with a family.  A family with two kids, 6 and 9 years old, who were bursting to take me on all of their favorite rides.  Epicness.

I got to ride Space Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, Tower of Terror, RC, Slinky, Magic Carpet, and Phantom Manor.  I got to share it with some of the coolest people I know in Paris.  I got to share it with kids who loved it just as much as I did (and weren't afraid to show it, made it less embarrassing for me).  At the end of the day we ate together at the Rainforest Cafe and then watched the firework and light show by Sleeping Beauty's castle.  It was magical.  Thanks Randy, Andrea, Cole, and Addy for taking me on my first Disneyland trip!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Sunday night I had supper with an older couple and their friend.  It was certainly not planned, and I would say I gave them quiet a scare when I initially walked through the gate of my friend Danielle's host family's house.  Her name is Vanessa, her husband's Phil, and he came out while still putting his clothes on after a shower.

"Who are you?  Do you know that you are on private property?"

My mind went completely blank.  As would yours if you were expecting to come to an empty house to stay for one night between house swappings while you traipse homelessly around during the summer months before moving into your official job.

"I'm Danielle's friend.  I know Vanessa [owner of the house and different than aforementioned Vanessa] and Xavier.  I'm going to be working for Severine and Roland.  Look I have keys!"

I quickly yanked out my big, Victorian-style keys for Danielle's house and the gate key.  The mood immediately changed once they discovered I knew the family.  And then they invited me to have supper.  With them.  At first I said no, and then I said yes, and then I remembered that they are French so they were going to be eating around 8 p.m.  When I had a date to skype with a friend.  I apologetically told Vanessa I was not going to be able to eat with them.  Naturally, they started eating early, and invited me to join while I wasn't skyping just yet.

It was refreshing.  Listening to their beautiful accents.  Being told intermittently what they were talking about.  Mundane things really, but in French, everything sounds spectacular.  I felt surprisingly filled.  Earlier that day I had woken to an empty feeling in my stomach.  The kind I get when I feel alone, disconnected.  And here I was, hardly understanding a word, eating with people I had known for no more than two hours, feeling connected and not alone.

Vanessa and I had a chance to talk one on one while her husband gave their friend a tour of the house.  She told me of how recently her husband had helped some Australian tourists in Paris and hit it off so well with them he invited them out for coffee.  They all got along so well they spent a few days together, Vanessa taking them to some of the sights in Paris, sharing her city and her culture.

"They were such wonderful people.  We connected so well.  And there are people like that.  People who, no matter their age, or their culture, or their background, we connect with them.  It's a beautiful thing, really, awakens us, reminds us of who we are.  What makes us human."

I agree with her, no matter how alone I am currently, jumping from one house to the next, sitting in parks reading without anyone with me, there are always going to be those people who I was made to connect with.  I don't want to miss them.  I don't ever want to be so enraptured by my inability for fluency in the language between us that I miss the incredible human ability to connect far beyond words.  Sometimes, or maybe even all the time, connection and communication are done better with the heart rather than with the mouth.

Here's to the human connections I make every day, the ones on the metro with the little Japanese boy, the ones with the girl who graciously understood my pointings at the market, the ones with the couple who invited me to eat supper with them even though they didn't know me.  Here's to connecting and communicating, even in the seemingly small ways.        

Monday, August 13, 2012

All Grown-up...or something like that

Four days ago marked my eighth month of living in France.  That is almost as long as my stay in Albania.  The only difference is when I hit the eighth month mark in Albania, I was leaving in a month.  I'm not even half way through with my stay here in France.  I feel myself nesting.  You know, looking at buying a pet, searching for art supplies to last me for a while, deciding which gym I want to join for the school year. 

I originally started this post to tell you about how many men have hit on me and given me their email addresses or phone numbers during my eight months here.  Then I was going to tell you about how many people have stopped me in Paris to ask me for help, or directions, or something else which was, naturally, all in French and I had to reply with a polite, "Désolé, parlez-vous anglais?"  

What seems to be coming out instead is the fact that it's sinking in.  That permanency feeling.  I'm not trying to say that I am beginning to have thoughts or inklings that I will be here for the rest of my life.  No, it's just more a recognition that this isn't just a one year fling.  Or even a nine month fling.  This is a good, long, 18 month commitment.  And it's so adult.

I pay my own bills.  I sign up for my own French courses.  I make a commitment and sign a contract and I keep it.  There are no ifs, buts, pretty pleases, or complaining whys.  I take care of children and thus can no longer act like a child (unless we are playing, then the adult persona must be thrown to the wind!).  I graduated from college.  I no longer live at home.  My worldly belongings are either here with me in France or stored away in Washington.  After I'm done in France I can go anywhere and do anything.  I have complete and total control and responsibility over my own life.  And it's wonderful.  Exciting.  Intimidating.  Full-throttle learning and growing and stepping forward and embracing the truth that growing up is one of the coolest things I've ever done in my life.  

Maybe it's a little bit more than hitting my eighth month mark here in France.  Maybe it's a little bit more that I hit my eighth month mark of living on my own, living my life without anyone's expectations except for my own.  Living like a grown-up.


Friday, August 10, 2012

It's Time

I have been avoiding putting this up on the internet, but I figure that it is time to let everyone know that I am changing families.  Several factors played into my decision to quit at my first job, the biggest one being that I really, really want to learn French.  Unfortunately, I am not as motivated and self-starting as I would like to be and have found it near to impossible to study French while I am speaking German at home. 

My last day with my lovely German/Turkish family ended on the 16th of July.  Their hospitality and kindness to me has been greatly appreciated and I cannot thank them enough for letting me into their home and kids' lives.

I start working for a new French family the first part of September and am living just a 10-minute drive from my previous job.  I have also signed up for French courses and will be starting those September 17th!  God is super amazing, I have been able to find work for the past month and a half before I start with my other job and money has not been a problem.  People have been kind and generous and I feel really blessed.  I am continually blown away how God blesses even when I don't ask.   

So, this means I have a new address, a new schedule, and a new culture and language to work in to!  I am very excited.  The plan is to stay here in France until the first part of July, as long as they extend my visa!  Otherwise, ya'll will be seeing me in January 2013.  Pray that my visa is extended. lol.  If you have any questions feel free to message me.  Thanks for all of your support!

The Night Bus: Noctilien 12

Yup, I took my first trip on the night bus of Paris.  I knew that eventually I would miss my metro ride, I just wasn't expecting it to happen because I had been chilling watching a TV show at a friend's house.  I figured it would occur because I broke my ankle running with heels through the maze of the Parisian underground known as the Metro.  Alas, it was far less dramatic, I even had my running shoes on. 

The metro closes at 2 a.m.  On the weekends.  Well, this night was a weekday, and I had forgotten that.  Thankfully, my hostess, Olivia, hadn't and we diligently went online to see when the last train was leaving from the metro stop closest to her.  All was well.  Until I got to the intermediate stop on my journey where I needed to switch lines.  I got off the train and started running to get to the other platform.  I passed fellow latees running in the opposite direction.  And then I watched my train pull out of the station as I ran down the steps to catch it. 


Crap.  Zeros on both times basically indicate you are screwed.  And then they switched to XX's.  Not better.  I texted Olivia to let her know and she texted back with the info that I could take the night bus.  Oh boy.  The bus that the drunks take.  The bus that everyone has a story from.  The bus that would be fun to take if I wasn't all alone, dressed in a REI hiking shirt and flare jeans, and wearing the I AM AN AMERICAN tennis shoes.  My outfit could not have screamed more that I was not Parisian.  It's like wearing a sign that says, "Please, bother me because I can't speak your language."

Well, I made it to the bus stop, made it on to the bus, and even made it all the way to the last stop on the line, without any problems.  No creepers, no awkward moments, no puking on the seat next to me.  Nothing, until I got off the bus and realized I had no idea where I was.

It's 2:15 a.m. and I am walking towards what looks like an industrialized part of the outskirts of Paris.  There's a man stumbling across the road obviously drunk.  My heart is attempting to increase beats-per-minute while my mind is attempting to keep everybody calm.  Thank the Lord for maps.  And for Muslim women who are also somehow walking in the same direction as me.

You heard me correctly.  There were three other people who got off the bus with me, two drunk boys who needed to take the Noctilien 12 back in the other direction because they got on the wrong way, and an older, Muslim women. 

"Pardon moi, Boulogne-Billancourt?"  I pointed to try and indicate my question. 

"Oui, Boulogne, là, et Saint Cloud est là."  She pointed towards where Boulogne is and pointed out Saint Cloud in the other direction.

I was on the right street, walking in the right direction, and by some divine power we were both walking to the same place.  We didn't speak another word to each other, but we also kept our paces relatively similar, walking silently together.  My heart slowed, the knot in my stomach began to loosen, and I marveled at the blessing of a stranger on a road that could have felt and been far more dangerous alone.  

Ten or more blocks passed and I started to recognize the scenery.  And then I was on the street where I had parked my car.

"Merci et bonne nuit," I said to my silent companion.

"Au revoir."

The night bus should have been where I got my story, but the story definitely came after walking off the bus.  I'm just thankful I made it home safely and that God sent both of us someone to walk with through the quiet and potentially intimidating streets of Paris.  As much fun as it was to ride the night bus and putting myself into a potentially dangerous situation, next time, I'm leaving earlier than necessary to catch the train.  Sorry, night bus, I just don't think you're my cup of tea.  Unless I have a nice Muslim lady to walk with me (other alternatives include friends, family, boyfriend that doesn't currently exist, coworkers, etc.).  

"Bye bye!"

Riding the metro is one of my favorite things to do in Paris.  I know, out of all the things to do in Paris, I find riding the metro one of the most entertaining?  It's all the people.  You just can't find a better spot to people watch.  Or a better spot to experience people.  

When I ride the metro, I usually do one of four things: people watch, listen to music, read, or sleep.  Earlier this week I was reading while waiting for my stop.  A young, Asian mother got on the train with her little son and sat down next to me.  I was reading from my Kindle/people watching when her son suddenly took notice of the electronic in my hands.  I tapped the screen to turn the page and ever-so-slightly tilted the screen towards him so he could see it change.  His interest was immediately peeked.  He leaned closer to me and asked,


Granted, I have absolutely no idea what he said, but I love that communication is so much more than words.  

"This is a book.  Umm, libre?  Livre?"

He looked slightly confused at my answer.  His mom attempted clarification,
"Anglais, she speaks English."

That didn't seem to faze his fascination nor cause him any kind of fear.

I tapped my Kindle and moved it closer to him so he could tap the screen, too.  He lit up like a light bulb.  Oh, the small things in life!  He tapped and tapped until the train came to the next stop.  They both got up and his mom said, "Bye bye," and her son echoed her polite, English gesture, "Bye bye!"  I couldn't help but echo it as well, "Bye bye!" 

After they got off the train, and mom was deciding which direction to walk, he turned around and waved happily at me, exclaiming once more as the doors started to close, "Bye bye!"  A connection, an experience, and all we could understand from the other was, "Bye bye."  Language is amazing, and experiencing people, being open to experiencing them, surpasses the ability to speak their language.  Understanding is more than just knowing what the words mean.  Never stop asking questions, never stop being curious, never stop randomly interacting with people on the metro.  I guarantee you'll reap more moments that make you smile than moments that make you frown.       

Monday, June 25, 2012

My Free Concert on the Windowsill

Saturday night I experienced the coolest thing and definitely was wishing that I had you here with me to enjoy it. I was watching something on YouTube with my headphones in when I realized there was something really loud happening outside my window. It's 11 o'clock at night and I am hearing some major noisage in our quiet little domain. My bedroom is pretty cool because it has an awesome windowsill which I have discovered is perfect for sitting on and enjoying the night air once in a while. So, I opened my window, crawled out on to the sill and was welcomed by an 
incredible orchestra and firework display playing in the distance. I have no idea where this was actually happening or how on earth the music was being projected to where I felt like I was actually at whatever party or fest that was going on but it did. And I got to enjoy it all from my peaceful perch in our little park domain. Looking up at the stars, taking a deep breath in of the cool summer night air, I couldn't help but be completely stoked and, joy-filled, that I live in France. I can only think that in France, more accurately, Paris, they would be able to blast music loud enough for three small towns to all hear along with equally as loud fireworks at 11 pm at night. Puts the biggest smile on my face. Wish you all could have been here.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


I miss home.  But perhaps if I was home, I would miss Paris.  No, I think what I actually miss is my Union home.  I remember exactly where I was and I how sad I felt when I left Lincoln for the last time.  My mom, her husband John, and I were all driving back from visiting my brother after graduation.  Their little hybrid was packed to the brim and we were making the long journey across the US back to Idaho.  We were on the freeway.  I saw the capitol building, the outskirts of town, and Lincoln's almost-too-flat-to-be-real landscape.  And now, almost exactly a year later, that moment comes back to mind.  Because I miss that place.  I put down roots in Lincoln.  I made family there.  I went from frighteningly religious to anti-god to I-think-maybe-my-beliefs-and-values-coincide-with-God-after-all at Union.  I found my best friend at Union.  I was happy at Union.

Don't get me wrong.  I'm happy to be living in Paris.  I'm happy that I get to work with two amazing little girls and their parents.  I'm happy I have the privilege and opportunity to learn both German and French.  And yet, at the end of the day, my heart is missing something.  The thing that I see most glaringly right now, though, is that if I was at home in Idaho, or here in Paris, I believe my heart would still be missing something.  We as human beings desperately need connection.  Even Jesus had his group of twelve disciples to fill his need for human connection.  I've done a lot of things alone in my life.  And the most depressed I've been in my life was when I was the most disconnected from close friends and family.  There is something to be said about being with close friends, with people who understand you and you them, and being with people you trust.  I think it helps bring me back to center.  Back to contentedness.  Back to peace. 

Keep me in your prayers as I try to create and be open to meaningful connections with people here in Paris, no matter how short the exchange. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

A Day in the Life Take 2: Afternoons with Jaz

Melis starts first grade this upcoming September.  She is super excited.  It is adorable and nostalgia inducing.  I remember the excitement of going to school: buying new notebooks; picking out the best, most colorful, Liza Frank folders; and the smell of freshly sharpened pencils and rubber erasers.  But for now she goes everyday to Kindergarten.  So I pick her up first before we go together to pick up Aylin from school.  I try to get to the Kindergarten at least 15 minutes before 1:30 p.m. because they usually open the door a little before 1:30.  And there are always a bunch of parents waiting outside the gate beforehand which can be fun and intimidating all at the same time.  It's nice though to say hi to people, exchange small talk in German, and try to figure out who's French and who's German.

I wait for Melis' teachers to see me and to send her on out.  There are these horrible steep stairs that the kids have to walk down and it always worries me, these adorable little 3-5 year olds clomping down the stairs with their top-heavy balance, coats in arms, backpacks over shoulders, and pictures in hands clutched.  I envision just one missed step, a tumble, and then I usually just focus on making sure that I'm close enough to snag Melis up if she does miss a step.  I squat down and give her a hug, try and plop a kiss on her forehead, and ask her how Kindergarten was.  She usually just says good and then more spills out along the way to pick Aylin up.

Once we get to the school there is always the search to find where Aylin is.  There are always so many kids running around in the large front terrace area.  Melis and I, holding hands, weave our way through the maze of children and try to find the Aylin in amongst them.  Having found Aylin, my arms are usually subsequently filled up with coats, jackets, and maybe a sport bag, and we meander our way back to the car.  The girls have a favorite kid's CD that is loads of fun that I try to remember to bring with me in the car for the ride home.  I keep forgetting currently, though.  

There is always lots of hunger on Wednesdays.  I make lunch on Wednesdays.  When we get back home there is usually a grand pile created in the middle of the entry way, a quick taking off of the shoes, and then a Jaz attempting to get two plates with food as fast as possible all ready for two very hungry girls.  And then the food is scarfed.   

Wednesdays I find to be quiet fun.  Mainly because the girls have piano lessons starting at 2:30 until 3:30 with Chantal.  She is French and speaks the most wonderfully horrible English.  Now, understand me, I do not hold this against her by any means.  I mean, my French is purely greeting oriented and exists no further beyond that, so I truly appreciate what she knows because it means we can at least communicate with more than hand gestures.  What's really great is that she will use English words sometimes with the girls, like somehow they will be more effective than her French, which may be true and may not be.  I think the girls probably understand more French than they do English, but I'm not positive.  Either way I find it hilarious because I usually will then say what she said in English in German. 

After piano, and after Chantal has asked for Bisous (kisses) from two reluctant and I'll-only-offer-you-one-cheek-to-kiss girls, we have the whole afternoon to play!  If it's nice outside the girls will inevitably want to play Football (and, no, not American Football, come on, you really think I'd play American Football?).  And they always whoop my butt.  We usually play me against the two of them and I always end up in the beginning giving them a few free goals, ya know, because it's not cool to be too hard on kids in a game.  But then what happens is after a couple of freebies they start actually whooping my butt and the score's somewhere around 8 to 0 and I'm thinking to myself, man, I gotta stop being easy on these guys!

If it's not nice outside, we draw, or play card games, or make something.  The girls have the coolest things downstairs, in our basement, to make stuff with.  We have mosaics, beads, felt, finger paint, and all these other cool kits to get creative with.  What is great is that Melis will usually choose to make something with our empty plastic water bottles or with paper, scissors, and tape.  She is the queen of making the most random, wonderfully taped-up things, ranging from paper gloves and glasses to paper beds and fairies.  Aylin is my other little artist.  I love the things she comes up with to paint and draw, fantastical things with their own child/Aylin flare.

After playing, I try to get the girls to take a shower before supper happens.  Of course, as any parent knows, getting kids to take a shower when they could be playing instead is a bit hard.  Sometimes it is as easy as getting a cat out of water and other times it takes a bit of persuading.  Or maybe we'll just play outside longer because, heck, it's just too nice to go inside yet.  Once Demet and Roland get home we all have supper together.  You know, I was thinking the other night at the dinner table how awesome it is that they share breakfasts and dinners together, without a television, sitting down, sharing real conversations and laughter.  It's pretty awesome, really.

When my tummy is all filled up, I help clean up and then head upstairs.  To try and write a blog.  Just for you.  That's right, feel special.  You should. :)


Sunday, May 6, 2012

Weirdest Thing I've Ever Eaten

I ate fried squid last night.  Unwittingly, I ordered a calamara taco from the most delicious Spanish food place in Paris, thinking that I would be getting shrimp, or something.  You know, the problem is that I just assumed calamara was a French word and that it wouldn't be little, fried squid creatures mixed all up together with a little bit of lettuce and guacamole staring back up at me on my plate.  I was with a bunch of other au pair girls and felt my ego shrinking from the idea of letting these 10 strangers know my ignorance concerning what calamara is and thus pushed a few tentacles back onto the tortilla and took my first bite.  My stomach turned.  The taste reminded me of when I used to eat the dried flakes we'd give my cousin's fish.  I felt a tentacle, twisty-turny and far to noticeably squidy.  And then I just started scarfing it and intensely attempting to listen and interact with the conversations around me.  I ate that whole taco, 15 little squid creatures and all.  And I will never do it again.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Fear: the monster living in my tummy

Sometimes I'm afraid to walk through the door.  Afraid to make a mistake.  Afraid to not wake up on time, even though it's the weekend and I'm not working.  Sometimes I'm afraid to leave the table to go upstairs and have me time, because it might be impolite.  Sometimes I'm afraid to go to the bathroom at midnight because it might be too loud and wake up one of the girls.  Sometimes I hurry to leave the house just so I'm gone when they get back. 

I'm tip-toeing, and I hate it.  The crazy thing is I go through phases of tip-toeing.  Some days I don't do it at all, I am confident and unashamed of my needs and boundaries.  But other days, like today, the fear starts to crowd in, making me feel suffocated, un-at-ease, angry.  Angry because I don't want to live like this every day for the next 16 months.  Angry because I believe that this can work, and yet at the same time wonder if there is an easier way to do this. 

But I am the one who chooses what to do with my life.  I just started reading a book about boundaries.  In it the author states that boundaries enable us to have better relationships, relationships that don't leave us resenting others because we have learned to stand up for our needs and our beliefs and our person hood.  Learning to have boundaries for myself, standing up for myself and my needs, is relieving.  Even just writing this here, telling myself that I must take care of myself to have healthy relationships with my family here, is relieving.  They are good people, and I need to remember that good people will respect my boundaries and understand my needs when I stand up for them.  Nobody is a mind-reader, although I am sure we have all wished someone or another could read what we were thinking, so standing up for my needs is not wrong, it's actually quiet necessary for all parties.

Thanks, God, for situations which help us to grow.  Even if it's hard.     

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Shopping in Paris and My Meeting with a Hedgehog

*WARNING: I talk about buying lingerie, nothing scandalous, but if that makes you feel uncomfortable, skip down to paragraph three.*  

Today was a free day.  No work.  No deadlines.  No plans.  Except for the fact that I wanted to go lingerie shopping, for kicks and giggles.  Did you know that the bra was actually invented by Hermione Cadolle back in 1889, right here in Paris, where I live?  Yup.  True story.  It gets even better, though.  The store she opened to sell her lovely underthings is still open and run by her daughter down the expensive Rue Cambon.  I went there today with Danielle, a lovely au pair living just two train stops down from me.  We gazed through the window, commenting on the beautiful bras in the display, and wishing we had the courage to go in to see what else was there.  Unfortunately, neither of us had the guts.  I've decided that I will take my mother there when she comes to visit.  We will get all dressed up, perhaps even make an appointment, and go to where the beginning of boob containment began.  It should be quiet fun.

Although I didn't buy any of Madam Cadolle's underthings, Danielle and I did happen upon a most wonderful lingerie shop in the HUMONGOUS mall of La Defense.  They had the most outrageous bras and underwear I have ever seen.  Victoria Secret has nothing, and I do mean nothing, on the regular lingerie stores of Paris.  And the prices where lovely as well, a definite plus on a student/au pair budget.  I've never matched my underthings before, mainly because I've never thought of this as important, but today I own my first two pairs of matching bra and underwear.  I think the French are getting to me, as they consider what you wear underneath your clothes as almost as important as what you wear over your underclothes. 

Danielle and I, after walking through the insanely expensive Le Bon Marche where one could have a budget of 2,000 euros and still only leave with four items, separated ways as she does a cross-fit training group by Gare d'Austerlitz.  I made my way towards Musee d'Orsay and then on to the Louvre where I was stopped by a gentleman who required assistance.  Ever since arriving here in France I have been asked, including this last time, at least eight times by French people for help.  I have learned now to patiently wait until they are done and then ask, "Parlez vous anglais?"  Sometimes I can help, sometimes I cannot.  But I swear, I must have a sign on my back or forehead that is just inviting people to ask me for assistance.  In French.  I will get back to the gentleman in a later post as I have some things to write about the men of France.

After walking what felt like 10 miles I finally reached Quatre Malais, a cute little area that I believe is mainly known for its huge population of Jewish people.  All I know is that I saw a ton of those awesome little Jewish caps and big black beards.  The reason I wanted to go there today is because there is an adorable little shop called "Lollipops" that I have been meaning to revisit for a particular pair of shoes.  My hopes were that they would be on sale.  Unfortunately, the store is closed due to construction/maintenance on the building in which it is located.  Quatre Malais is a fairly old and cultural area and thus the maintenance. 

Meandering back to the Saint-Paul Metro station I stopped and bought a snack.  The sun was beginning to make its way to the horizon and the April clouds were making a temporary sunset retreat, lighting up the sky with full spring colors.  I made my way back to La Celle Saint Cloud and hurriedly walked through the forest to our domain.  It was still light out but the sun had already set, which made me slightly nervous being by myself walking the small path through our park like domain.  And then I saw a round, dark, large spot off to the side of the path, something that looked quiet like an animal.  I slowed down and allowed my eyes some time to adjust, and there before my eyes was a sweet, very still, hedgehog.  Oh, my goodness, could my night have gotten any better?  The moon, a crescent in the light blue sky, hung above me with the north star shining bright beside it.  The air around me was fresh from the downpour from earlier in the day, and the blossoms on the trees where letting off that sweet scent of spring.  And I was crouched down but less than a foot away from a prickly little friend who's steady and unfrightened breathing I could see.  Today was a good day, Madam Cadolle and all.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Flower Snow

After I attended the all-in-English Unitarian Universalist Church today, I took the Metro to where I thought I would easily find a Blues Benefit Concert venue called Le Mood's.  I had the address and you can always look on the "Map of the Area" boards as you leave the metro station to figure out where the streets are and in which way you should be heading.  I found my street easily enough and began to walk, and walk, and walk.  Until there was no more Rue du Montilier to follow.  So, I walked back up the street, as I have done many times before over the last three months, to see if I could find this seemingly phantom venue.

What I found instead was a beautiful little park, in amongst affordable housing (aka tall, large, white apartment buildings), with several large trees which were in full, pink, bloom.  Today the wind was blowing incredibly hard for Paris and the pink blossoms consequently had been blown from the trees and covered the entire area underneath the trees, on the sidewalk, on the playground, and all around the benches in the park.  It was so thick in fact that it looked like soft, pink snow was covering the ground.  To top it off, there was a lovely older man sitting on one of the benches, playing his guitar, simply for the enjoyment of it.  I sat for a while there as I pondered my next move.  Then, as I walked back to the Metro, a couple walking behind me called out, "Pardon, Madmoiselle", and then a string of French, and me awkwardly bowing slightly and admitting my inability to speak French.  The woman immediately said in a clearly Australian accent, "It's alright, dear, I speak English. We're looking for a place called Le Moods, do you know where it is?"  Hallelujah!  Someone who could speak French and English and who was looking for the same place as me, what luck. 

We ended up finding the place down a little passageway with a cobblestone road and beautiful hanging purple flowers on each side.  There I met a lovely gal who is visiting Paris for five weeks and got to listen to some fantastic blues music.  It's been a good Sunday.  I hope it has been for you too. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Trashcan Walk of Shame

A couple of weeks ago I forgot to bring our recycling trashcan back in from the side walk.  It sat out there for three days.  On the third day I finally remembered that it needed to come back to the house.  Aylin, Melis, and I all ran outside together, down our long skinny drive, and to the spot where all the recycling trashcans sit on Wednesday waiting for pick up.  Alas, our trashcan was gone.  I had literally just seen it when we got back from school! 

This morning I took the long walk to the Chateau where we had discovered all the neglected trashcans go.  You know that sound trashcans make when you pull them along, their plastic wheels rolling across the pavement, making that very particular "trashcan" noise?  Well, I got to hear that and make that sound so disturbingly all the way across our neighborhood at 9:30 a.m. this morning.  I felt the shame.  Especially because the way our little domain is set-up is so you have this cute little path running straight down the middle with houses on either side.  I literally felt like I was walking down the hallway of some men's dormitory after spending the night on a careless fling.  Except I was with our recycling trashcan.

Today is Aylin's 9th birthday.  Which is super exciting and was such a joy to celebrate this morning with candles, presents, and humming along to a German and Turkish version of Happy Birthday.  Happy Birthday, Aylin!  You are a joy to be around and play with everyday.  I look forward to being able to get to know you better as we both get older and my German gets better.  Thank you for all your monkey hugs, where your arms and legs wrap around me and I feel like the most loved tree in the Amazon.  Thank you for your patience with me and your constant willingness to help me with my German everyday.  You are a gift!  Happy Birthday mein klein Affe.  

Monday, April 9, 2012

I have an idea

I have an idea and perhaps it is a bad one.  Alas, though, I read today a beautiful little blog in which the woman only wrote a couple of paragraphs for each post.  Short, sweet, and to the point.  I liked them so much I read about 7 or 8 of them.  And then I thought to myself, "I need to do this.  How much easier than writing one massively huge blog every couple of weeks (or months, ahem)!"  So, my idea is this, I am going to attempt to write little blog posts every couple of days.  Golly that sounds intimidating.  But I also believe that I need some way to remember all the incredible things that I am experiencing every day.  Especially because I think I am already forgetting them by the next day (what does that say about what I'll remember in 10 years?). 

Family vacations are wonderful.  This Easter Weekend I went with my host family to a little town called Dinan and from there visited Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey, Saint Malo, and Dinard.  Perhaps the last two places were actually different, but, they were all beautiful little sea side towns with picturesque cobblestone roads, and unpredictable weather.  I loved sinking my toes into the sand yesterday, playing tag with the tide, searching for shells with Aylin, and jumping up and down on the wet sand with Melis because bubbles would come up from the sand where you had stomped, causing giggles and, "Look, Jaz!", to be screeched.  I loved that on Saturday we went to this amazingly filled with all sorts of interesting history Abbey and got to walk the halls were hundreds of years ago Monks and Nuns walked and prayed.  I loved that it was semi-gloomy all weekend and that somehow that made it feel even more legit to be eating in a restaurant that occupied a house that was probably built back in the 1600's.  I loved spending Easter Sunday morning hurriedly hiding eggs for Aylin and Melis in my hotel room and then getting to look for all their Easter goodies in both my room and Demet and Roland's room.  I loved seeing their faces light up and the genuine excitement that came from them when they found the eggs and candy.

I love that I got to be a part of all of it.  I love that I get to be a part of all of it.  The wholesome, genuine, happiness of the whole weekend, of this whole family.  My heart is full.  I am content.   

Monday, March 12, 2012

A Day in the Life

Beep beep.  Beep beep.  Click.  I roll over in my bed, alarm in one hand, the other warm by my side beneath the blankets.  It's 6:00 a.m.  My feet curl up towards my body, snuggling deeper into the comfyness of my bed.  I can hear the morning birds singing sweetly outside and the light pollution of Paris peaks gently around my window curtain.  Time to get up. 

After quickly choosing an outfit, taking a shower, and doing the basics for getting ready, I head quietly downstairs to begin making the girls' school snacks and breakfast.  The process is simple.  The girls eat healthy.  Fruits and vegetables fill their plates and little lunch boxes.  The healthy hippie inside of my smiles.  I turn the lights on in the dinning room, empty the dishwasher, and open the shutters on all the windows on the main floor.  As I have mentioned before, this is my favorite part of the morning.  Spring is rushing towards us and the sun has already begun to rise earlier.  Dawn is breaking as I open the windows and fresh air brushes my face along with more birdsong.

It's 7:05 a.m.  Aylin, the eldest, comes down the stairs, sleep still in her eyes.  She tells me she is cold so I wrap a blanket around her and rub her arms to get some heat going.  Another favorite part of my morning, loving on the girls before they head out to school and kindergarten.  Melis comes down next, or sometimes she comes down first, singing while she clomps down the stairs.  Sometimes she wants a different backpack to go to school.  Yesterday it was an adorable little sheep backpack, with head and feet and soft wool.  Tomorrow it is a denim hippopotamus backpack, eyes and nostrils the same size.  Mama and Papa come next, dressed to professionally impress.  Both of them hold an air of confidence that befits two managers in fairly well-known international companies (I may be bragging about my host parents a bit.  Just saying, they are pretty legit.).  I like the picture of us all, early in the morning, sitting at the breakfast table, eating toast and cereal, before rushing off in our separate directions, talking and laughing and yawning.  I contentedly sigh.

Then we're off.  It's 7:40 a.m. and it is time to go.  The temperature is cold outside, that nippy spring cold that happens in the morning time before it warms up to a balmy 50 in the afternoon.  Fog hangs lightly around the cars, houses, and trees.  France in the morning somehow always makes me feel like I am living in a fairy tale.  The perfectly set greenery everywhere, the quaint houses, the small driveway to our street's houses and the even smaller foot path to our house.  You have to credit the French for their appreciation for aesthetic beauty in all things, in all seasons. 

I wave goodbye to the girls, Demet, and Roland.  "Viel Spass!  Tchuss!"  The door closes and I lock it.  Perhaps it's Wednesday and I will go to the open market just down the road from us to buy salmon, fruits, and veggies.  I can walk there, on the small path that weaves through our Chateau's domain, that everyone comments on because it is too small for two people to walk abreast.  I will walk past budding trees, creme colored houses with terraces and outdoor wooden furniture waiting to be used in warmer days.  Small flowers bloom throughout the green grass on either side of the path. 

In stark contrast to the green outside, the inside of the market is grey with bright florescent lights flooding the area.  It's cold.  The shopkeepers have jackets and gloves on, their breath visible in the morning air.  I walk past piles of fresh fish on ice, skinned rabbits, a fake, but adorable looking, wild hog on the edge of a butcher's stand, and beautiful, unfortunately expensive, tulips in packages.  I head for the Bio stand where all the fruits and vegetables are organic and mostly from France.  Who would've guessed that I would get to live with a family that prefers to eat organic fruits and veggies from the market?  I mean, I could have gotten stuck with a family who only ate fast food and iceberg lettuce.  Ah, how the spirit moves. 

In the market, French drifts around me, going over my head, in one ear and out the next.  That's okay.  I'm getting to learning French, German is highly more fascinating and useful now.  But the shopkeepers in the market are kind, understanding with my fumbling words and horrible pronunciations.  We all have fingers for pointing as well.  Arms for gesturing.  And written numbers need no translation here.

After buying food for the next couple of days from the market, I head home.  It's nearly 1:00 p.m. so I pack up my purse and lace up my 10 euro, plaid kicks that I bought during the January to February massive "last season" sale here in Paris.  My little, dark-blue hatchback sits parked snugly between our neighbor's even smaller lime-sherbet colored car and our American neighbor's too large-for-France vehicle.  I squeeze in, throwing my purse onto the passenger's seat which currently holds an extra booster seat.  Pulling out of the parking place, my vision takes in the two booster seats in the back, crumbs strewn in between them, the reminder that I need to vacuum out the car and wash it prancing through my head again.  I whiz backwards through the narrow driveway to then turn around at the end of the drive and make my way out of our domain.

The roads are small here in France.  At times I am worried I will hit the sidewalk or perhaps the car that is coming towards me because I'm not so used to such small roads.  The stoplights are great though.  They do not hang over the street like the ones in America, but rather stand to the right of the road with a set of larger lights at the top and then a smaller set of lights a little higher than eye level when sitting in a car.  These allow one to be sitting right next to the stoplight and you can still see when the light turns green.  Pretty cool, actually.  Oh, and all is in kilometers.  Of course, so is my car's speedometer.  But my mind is still translating to itself how fast something is.  From the feel of it, as I have not looked this up, is that 35 km is about 20 miles.  That's a pretty common speed for me, being that along the roads I travel there are large, and I do mean large, speed bumps every so often down the road. 

BREAK:  Sorry, I want to finish this description proper, and it's 10:42 p.m. now, and I need to go to bed.  Thus, ya'll are just gonna have to wait to hear about the rest of a typical day for me!  Thanks for reading so far, though!


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Urlaub, My Fascination with Languages, and Feeling like a Foreigner

My host family left yesterday for Germany.  I will be following the same path this coming Friday.  It is Urlaub!  Meaning the two week Holiday for everyone officially starts on Monday and we all get some time off.  This week Magi and I are staying here at the house in Paris to do some cleaning and hanging out.  Her mother comes to hang out with us on Wednesday and then we will drive to Germany on Friday.  It is really quiet fun to be in this big house with just me and Magi.  Of course, this is Magi's last week in Paris and then she is back in Deutschland and I will be riding back with the family to Paris, all by myself.  Am I scared?  Anxious?  Okay, maybe a little bit.  I also know that I have the ability, the brain power, and the resources to take care of this family.  Yeah, so my German isn't perfect.  Sometimes I have no idea what the girls are saying to me and we have to look things up in my dictionary.  I don't always remember every single detail for taking care of four people, but I am getting there.  Plus, I am going to be taking an intensive, one-week German course while I am in Dusseldorf.  The online test to determine what class you should be in placed me in the B1 section, which I am fairly proud of for only studying German for a month.

Speaking of languages, there are some things that I would like to share with you that absolutely fascinate me about the medium with which we use to communicate.  Fascinating aspect one:  animal sounds and other non-word noises are not the same across the language spectrum.  If you are hurt, you may exclaim, "Ow!" or "Owie!!"  In German, you would exclaim, "Au Aua!"  And I've heard this difference while being with the kids.  "Owie" is not even in their 'sound' vocabulary when something painful happens.  Also, pigs don't "oink," they "krrkrrkrrk."  Sheep do not "baaa,"  they "maaa," which may be more accurate than English. 

Fascinating aspect two: every language has phrases or words that you cannot truly translate into all other languages.  "You are so legit."  I used this phrase yesterday when Magi, Johannah, and I were waiting to go into a modern art gallery.  Johannah had just placed her thick, black-rimmed glasses on and I made this statement.  Both girls looked at me with puzzlement written across their faces.  I tried to explain to the best of my ability, going back to the root word and the root definition of legitimate.  There is no equivalent in German, at least that we could figure out.  Magi was telling me a story in which a friend of hers had said something she did was a "picture for the gods."  I am pretty sure we don't have a similar phrase in English and I am still not exactly sure what this phrase actually implies in German. 

Fascinating aspect three: languages have unique rhythms, cadences, and pitches in which they operate.  There are of course those languages which are classified as tonal languages in which a word may be exactly the same except for how it is "sung."  But I am talking about the actual flow of a language.  I noticed in Italy and also here in France, that romantic languages are spoken at a higher key, or pitch, than English and German, for instance.  Thus, men speaking in Italian always sound higher.  When I was learning Italian, I noticed that I spoke higher when speaking Italian than when I was speaking English.  That same difference has not shown itself during this last month of learning German.  German has a very familiar feel to it, the cadence is similar, as well as the pitch.  This makes sense because both German and English are a part of the Germanic family of languages.  The proverbial existence of a musical score for each language is absolutely amazing.  

And then there is the isolating factor of knowing only one language fluently.  My dream is to master German, then French, then Italian or Albanian, and probably just keep going on from there.  The process, though, can feel so foreign that I feel like I am dying of thirst in an ocean of fresh water.  There is communication happening all around me and I do not understand all of it.  When I am at the bakery, for instance, I have no idea what the woman who I just bought two baguettes from asked, or maybe stated, when I shook my head "no" and mumbled "non" and handed her 10 euros.  And people will smile politely, or bow their heads in slight embarrassment, at the realization that I cannot speak French.

In German it's slightly different because I do understand quiet a bit, and yet nothing at all.  If something is said to me in German in which there is more than 50% of the sentence which I don't understand, or maybe even just the last word, I won't understand it at all.  Do you then just jump in and say, "Ich habe nicht verstanden", or do you just nod your head and hope that it was just a statement rather than something you had to contribute to.  Then I realize how I feel when I am interacting with someone who doesn't speak English very well, or hardly at all.  How I feel when I am speaking with a foreigner.  It's awkward.  Sometimes I just don't want to say anything because I don't want them to not understand me.  Here I am, though, wanting badly for people to speak to me in German, slowly and clearly, so I can learn more.  I do not care if I cannot understand everything they say, and yet I do, all at the same time, I want to learn and the only way to do that is to keep hearing/using the language.  Language learning takes a lot of humility, the ability to be able to laugh at oneself, and the completely necessary immovable belief in your own smartness even though you cannot communicate worth a pile of dog poop.  Challenging for a girl who has a track record of being a fair communicator and intellectual word-nerd.      

Already one month has passed since I arrived here in France.  I have grown, shifted, picked through a lot of personal shit I hadn't quiet yet realized was chilling there, and have continually discovered and reveled in how beautiful life is.  Every time I think about where I am and what I am doing and how I am truly following my dreams, be them crazy or not, I have to smile.  My heart fills up with joy-infused blood and I can feel it radiate throughout my body with each beat.  Although there are lots of things that seem impossible to us, dreams worth having are worth working for, working hard for, too.  So, although I sometimes am frustrated and lonely and unsure of my own abilities, I remember that anything worth having is worth the greater price.