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.