The Coffee Club is considered an American Café is at a 10-minute walk from school. Amber, Jessica and Pierre, her French husband met me after school for drinks on Friday. I was relieved to go somewhere where I could speak English. The waitress obviously didn’t get the memo regarding it being an American Café, because she didn’t speak English. I was forced to use my evolving French to let her know more people were coming and I would need the larger table. Although she didn’t speak English, she was very patient with me and sat down while I stumbled over my tongue serving me encouraging nods and smiles.
Amber is the wife of Claude’s coworker Adrien. She is form South Dakota but met her French husband, Adrein when they were both working in Napa. She has been here for a year and a half and started working after about 9 months but still has difficulty talking and isn’t a fan of Parisian life.
Jessica is a Graphic Designer from San Francisco married to a Pierre, a Pastry Chef and has been here 3 years. I held back the desire to cry in the first few minutes with them and found myself laughing louder than I should and wishing the night didn’t end so quickly.
They confirmed that my experiences were normal, that the concept of “Living the Dream,” is only appreciated by America friends overseas, and that I would adjust. Eventually. It was good to hear them tell me their experiences and confirm that the weird things I was experiencing were normal and that we all have something in our homes that is inadequately small and completely un-American.
I asked them about their language skills and they admitted that they still are not as good as they would like to be, and that it would take a year for me to adjust. This was the moment my heart stopped and took a big gulp of wine to get it pumping again. They did reveal that they both went thru horrible depression that kept them in home for their first month here. I figure since I have braved the city daily, perhaps it will go faster for me.
Of course this is a total fantasy currently as I received my test scored which were obviously not ideal. Olivier, my teacher, confirmed that the first two sections where the hardest and that the score should not be taken seriously. They were comprehension exercises that he admitted were too fast and had difficult for a new comer to follow.
The next two sections were writing exercises that were equally bad with no excuses. The saving grace was that the 5th score which was my personal oral ability and I squeaked out a 3. Meaning that I am working at slightly higher of a level in class. This score is left to Olivier’s discretion. I scored well because I’m willing to speak in class, although it is badly done.
When asked if the scores meant we would move forward to A2, he said that the scored don’t count, it is at his discretion. On my way back to class from break, I walked thru a conversation he was having with a fellow student he was encouraging to retake the section we were completing. Relieved not to be the one he was speaking too, I went to buy my book for A2 that I will start on Monday with Sarah, who I cannot shake.
The score upset me more than it should. I was asked to bring the score of my classmate Azer, to her on Monday and she did significantly better in all areas. I couldn’t help but compare myself and feel like a failure. Amber actually said the hardest thing for her, was the pressure she put herself under. That she like me, was constantly judging herself and her abilities and that the pressure was more than she could deal with.
With everyone telling me to relax and let it come, I decided to try and do something fun today. First I needed to pick up a package. Another thing that is so totally confusing about here. We get emails or phone calls from shop owners that have our online orders. I’m not sure why, but the ladies confirmed this is an odd practice used throughout the city.
We did walk about 20 minutes to one location to pick up a package one day and that was inconvenient but much easier than today’s trip that was 45 minutes each way to get my hairspray. I know what your thinking, why did I order hairspray? Well, I wanted thermal protection for the flat iron and that is a term that doesn’t translate onto French hairspray bottles at affordable place.
I guess local shop owners agree to be UPS centers and I even signed a hand scanner for one package like she was an agent at the door. Mostly they put things at the door for us since we never take down a sign that tells drivers that it is safe to leave our purchases.
I have seen a promising store advertised in the Metro that was not far from the cemetery I mentioned in a previous blog. I decided to hit up both locations since they are not conveniently located to my regular metro line number 8. I took a photo of the map at the entrance because it’s very complicated and has several very famous people that I wanted to visit.
I found my way to Chopin’s grave and when I tried to take a photo, I realized that my phone was gone. It hadn’t been 15 minutes since I used it and I traced my steps back to the front where I asked the staff where the tours are given if the phone had been turned in. No luck. I retraced my steps again and decided that it was gone.
I had a choice, go home and be upset and check find my phone and get myself worked up, or keep pushing thru the day. I decided to see Jim Morrison’s disappointing grave and headed toward the store before going home. Although I missed seeing Oscar Wilde and Edith Piaf, I want to come back since the statues and tombs are worth of a sketch book for sure and it’s the first time I started to feel inspired to get into my art.
Daily I hear recorded messages on the Metro to beware of pickpockets. This is said in several languages and I always dismiss it, but when I got home and find my phone showed the phone had been turned off, I knew that it was in the hands of a pro and not an excited kid or honest traveler. How could I have not been targeted? I was alone in a popular tourist location. Again a lesson in humility and I didn’t have to go to school for it.
I have now added buy a new cell phone to the list on the living room table. It is number 36 on the growing list of things I’m incapable of doing on my own needing Claude’s help for various reasons. I called Claude form the laptop when I came home and he reminded me that a cell phone, a driver’s license, a credit card and twenty bucks is not as bad as them breaking into the house, me having cancer or us losing a loved one and I made meatballs.
Cooking helps me to relax and as requested by the lovely Judy I will switch the Debby Downer tone of the blog to the arena of food. This is a subject I haven’t discussed much. I think I mentioned the school cafeteria and the mystery meat being a challenge I didn’t often take on.
I generally only eat out for lunch. I’m not out at night much, and I try to watch money as we are not even close to making what we did in America. I window shop a lot and I have seen some of the most beautiful terrine’s ever. I think my iron levels are in excellent condition. Near school there is my favorite Chinese place that actually also sells sushi at ridiculously low prices. It’s funny because a few feet down there is another place very similar but it is bigger, more modern and closer tom the metro and charges higher prices.
Interestingly enough I have seen a number of bagel places, but I’m still on a baguette kick. The boulangeries are amazing, I try one new delight a week. Yelp is smaller but still functioning in Paris, I book mark the places I read about or hear of so that if I’m in that area I can go there. I have a lack of imagination regarding ordering. I still pretty much stick to escargot and onion soup, searching for the best. I have been invited to a Yelp event for the opening of a Tiki Bar and missing my So Cal friends as I do, I promise to go and share the true Aloha they will sadly be missing.
Amber and Jessica said that I should go to McDonalds and Burger King. As much as I protested they persisted in explaining that I would eventually miss American food and that the quality at the fast food places here was superior to the states as they need to follow a whole slew of other qualifications to be allowed to sell the food. Amber said she waiting 30 minutes at a 5 Guys that opened on Champs Elysees proclaiming it as the best burger she ever had and Jessica who is 9 weeks pregnant is on a Chipotle kick.
I’m just starting to understand the label’s and it seems that Bio is the new Organic. Despite the label, I do find that the meat tastes different and not the way I want it too. Claude is on a Merguez kick, but I am not a fan. The wine and cheese are abundant and cheap and we often make charcuterie boards for one of the two nights we have together. The other night is date night and we try cafes, although I do hope to make it his restaurant at some point.
I haven’t decided what to do with the day tomorrow but I have nothing to lose, with my phone already have been stollen. Instead of hiding her in the apartment, I’ll try to venture out on another adventure. Maybe I’ll stick a bit closer to my areas of expertise like the 8 line where there is less announcement’s for pick pockets and takes me safely home each day. Or maybe I’ll just go to the scary flea market where they sell the stolen iPhone’s and kick their butts.