Sitting in the airport lounge contemplating the adventure ahead, you can never really predict how things will come out. Like Forest Gump says, you don’t really know what you’re going to get. It’s appropriate that the end of the Jewish calendar coincides with our arrival in France. The end of another chapter and start on the next. I had a plan. But like they say, make one and god laughs.
Goals for the year seemed simple. To learn the language and correct my papers and be a success in a new life abroad. Did I achieve this? Partially. But in hind sight, I suppose a great deal of the results in subject to interpretation.
Papers. Last year, I was not on the Livret de Famille, and now I am. This is a big step, and helps much, but it is not the only thing needed and is a gateway drug to the next goal. There is still great debate over the Visa status. Some say that with a Carte de Sejourn, a Visa is not needed. I like to believe them since It seems I cannot update or change my Visa without leaving France.
The Carte de sojourn was a huge victory as well. But this leads to the Title de Sejourn and the root of all my problems. I’m still listed as a visitor and not a spouse. That small issue prevents me from working. The last prefecture rendezvous was accompanied by Claude who explained the mistakes of the past and the type of document we would be applying for changed along with required documents leaving us unprepared and sent away.
The next appointment will be in November. France is an old country and their perfection of bureaucracy is hundreds of years more advanced than the United States. I am pretty sure the issue with papers will never be resolved and I am trying to allow myself to let go of previous images of success and be in the moment. These defeats make me feel “half empty,” when I have always been a “half full” girl.
Language. I see now that my expectations were unrealistic. I had these high hopes, emersion and school would make me fluent in 6 months. Such a silly though in hind sight. I did manage to argue with the man about my Photo Id on my phone being just as good as a hard copy. It didn’t work, but he argued back, like I understood. I suppose that is progress. I have stopped wanting to push small innocent children in front of the metro for speaking better than me. Staying out of prison or being deported is probably something to celebrate as well.
I am assured by my language exchange partners that I’m doing well for my first year and that another 6 months will make all the difference. Just like the conversation regarding my papers. I’ll just have to trust it will be fine. Compared to my much younger friends, I am speaking a bit worse but with more confidence. I like to think it is because it is easier to learn when your young. I also try not to blame all the Grateful Dead concerts where I killed countless brain cells during college.
I still force myself into uncomfortable situations to strengthen my skill set but I admit to a completely irrational fear of phone calls. Speaking in person is less intimidating therefore I will go to a job fair next week and see who will take a chance on me. Thankfully I was successful in the Hermès Bag scam, and will be able to do that one more time before I search out a Louis Vuitton auction website.
I’ve been called a few times to work for an Irish bar. A dream come true, but they don’t seem to be the place for me. He calls me the day he wants me and by the time I call back, I’m informed another took the shift. My calls are not returned so I don’t think this is the type of management that would be good to work with. I am looking for although pouring beer someplace I can speak easily is a huge temptation and I will continue to pursue in hopes we can someday make it work. I’ll let him or the folks at the job fair figure out of my papers work for work.
Travel. In reflection, one goal we had was to travel more. We went to: Mount St. Michelle, Orleanes, Versailles, Coulommiers, Champagne, Brussels, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Marmande, Comillas and Dijon. Sure, some of this is like going to San Diego form Los Angeles, but when its new to you, and you don’t have a car. It’s amazing.
In reality, I spent most of my time getting to now Paris. Claude says I know it better than his family. I used to laugh it off and say he was being nice. The other day I learned that he is right. I am trying to arrange meeting with a new conversation Exchange partner and he is an artist. He asked if we should go to a museum and walk and talk. I of course being a complete museum junkie agreed. It was not until that time that I realized just how many muse I have visited.
My free first Sunday of the month museums list is almost complete, but I have found a few other smaller places that need conquering. Ive been to Louvre Museum, Musée d’Orsay , Petit Palais, Museum of Fine Arts of the City of Paris, Grand Palais, House of Victor Hugo, Fragonard perfume museum, Shoah Memorial, National Museum of Modern Art – Center Pompidou, Museum of Arts and Crafts, Eugène Delacroix National Museum, Eugène Delacroix National Museum, Gustave Moreau National Museum, National Picasso Museum, National City of the History of Immigration, Museum of the Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac, National Museum of Asian Art Guimet, Rodin Museum, National Museum of the Orangery, Decorative Arts, Museum of Natural History, Museum of Cluny, Great Evolution Gallery, Jacquemart-André Museum.
I’m sure there are a couple exhibitions I missed in the list, and this is not counting the monuments. Feel free to ask me about any, I have tips for each and definite preferences. The original goal was to draw. I was going to bring my notebook to each, but I found it took away from me seeing the works, and I started to take more photos and really work on composition and creation in a different way.
ART. Because my desire to make art was not happening with the paint and canvas that sit in the corner of the Livingroom, I worked on writing. A few short stories and primarily the Blog. I have 30 entries and each is a small painting or me. In numerology, 30 is unlimited creative expression. I still feel the need to do something more tangible than the computer and electronic arts, maybe that goal will be rolled over to the new year although I feel that my expressions have been successful thus far.
My biggest lesson in the first year abroad is to let go. I have far from mastered this. It is a work in progress. When I discuss my issues with people here, they think I am crazy. It will happen you haven’t been here long. I guess a year is not long to the French. They also are outraged at the “run around” I get and assure me that everyone hates the government and lack of assistance.
I realize that the slower pace of this huge city is to be embraced. That things will happen as they are supposed to and to enjoy the ride. As the cold weather returns, I know where to go rather that forcing myself to enjoy a sandwich on a park bench where even the rats will not join me. I know now that there are amazing libraries and places to be quiet and marvel.
I can stand and have a coffee for half the price than if I lounge in a chair on the sidewalk. I can read the publicity in the metro stations and learn about upcoming events. I still show up at lunch time and must wait for offices to reopen, but I know what stores will be open on Sundays and I know what outdoor markets to visit on different days of the week.
I stop to ask the old women if she needs help with her bag, and I lifted a runner that fell in my first race in over 3 years. I wanted to be a part of life here, and although my papers say I’m a visitor. I am contributing and finding my way.
I’m asked often, how do I like France, do I miss home. It is the hardest question to answer. I’m in love with Paris. I don’t want to leave and I struggle to be a productive member despite being disappointed too often. My friends and family…Yes, I miss them and if they were here, there would be nothing left for me there. But they are the anchor that keeps my ship in the port.
I took a lover, so very French of me. My lovers name is Paris. I visit him as often as I can and although he toys with my heart and can be hot and cold. He rewards me for the love I give back. He makes me blush when the wind from the metro blows my skirt up and he makes me laugh when I see signs of his strange sense of humor. Paris is the best lover a girl could have. So much to offer, romantic and still mysterious. Our first year together ends as a new one begins and I wonder what we will share in our journey together.