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Posts tagged ‘Paris’

I’m back…je rentre

Salut!

Nearly 6 months gone, but I have made my way back to Paris and decided that it is high time for me to start blogging again. I have missed my cyber friends and the challenge of writing (almost) daily. And I have missed my France.

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Repatriation is never easy, and mine has been no exception. Truth be told, this is my second trip back to Paris since we moved back “home”. The first time I didn’t feel settled enough in either of my two worlds to share my observations and thoughts, and I felt I might be too critical of my new, but old, life in the U.S. of A.

These days, I am feeling like I am in a good place, although I am still struggling to figure out how to find my balance with one foot in Colorado and the other foot in France. I am grateful for Superman’s continued patience with me, as it just might take a man (and woman) of steel to sort out this new chapter of our lives together.

I have found a good handful or two of things I love about Colorado: easy and genuine smiles, lovely neighbors, siblings who only seem to be getting nicer the older we get, sensible shoes, colorful clothing, turbocharged clothes dryers, effortless banking transactions, clean and free public toilets, cheerful customer service, simple access to health and fitness facilities, the great outdoors, and 300-days-of-sunshine a year. In fact, there are some days I even find it easy to agree that everything is “AWESOME!”…as we Americans like to say.

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But as I step back into the City of Light, I am crushed with reminders of the many things I love (and miss) about France, and filled with gratitude for my circle of Paris girlfriends who nurture me, inspire me and make me laugh out loud.

So, I’ve decided to restart the blog and add a minor change to the title. The next weeks will focus mostly on Paris with a sprinkling of antidotes and happenings from my small-town western life. Maybe the very act of writing will help me figure out how to mesh my two worlds together. I am excited to be back in the blogosphere and very much look forward to writing, photographing and posting.

Back to blogging

Thank you to all of you who have sent me personal notes over the last few months and encouraged me to keep writing, and also to those of you in Cyberland who have continued to visit and comment on my blog and kept my stats growing.

Alors, on y va, here we go again…

Vocabulaire

on y va: let’s go

Epilogue: 14 days gone…and it is Groundhog Day again

Golden_Colorado_Howdy.jppI have been staring at my computer all afternoon knowing that I have to write, but not knowing what to say. We have now been back in Colorado for 14 days. It could be 14 years. It is amazing how quickly one can fall back into old habits and routines and how easily a former life seems to slip away. Some days I feel like my life in France never was.

Coming back to Colorado has been like being Bill Murray’s weatherman in the great existential film Groundhog Day. While I have changed immensely, I have been dropped into a life that hasn’t changed at all and I feel like I am living in a sort of Nietzschesque state of eternal recurrence. It is as if I am residing in an alternate universe on a parallel train track never scheduled to intersect the French life I left behind. What bothers me the most is that while I can intellectualize my former life in France, I am having a really hard time feeling what that life felt like, and I am slightly terrified that I will lose that happy girl who lived in that stunning city and felt like she could do anything.

Don’t get me wrong; being back in America is easy on so many levels. I am having a ball chatting up everyone on every subject. It is great to be back in a friendly land where the customer is always right, service is given with a smile and wink and everything is AWESOME. People are so nice here, and you can quickly become BFFs with your waitress over a 90-minute meal, or be ready to exchange Christmas cards with your Verizon/iPhone sales rep after a couple of days battling the “home office” and their quirky rules.

I no longer have to look up vocabulary and practice phrases before I go to the doctor or vet or hardware store. If the shopkeepers dare to give me lip, or sneer or roll their eyes (not likely) when I order or have a question, I can easily give it right back to them using adult words, not toddleresque French or tears. If I order a vegetarian meal, no one looks at me like I am an alien with two heads. Everyone here knows what quinoa and chia seeds are and how to pronounce them correctly, and I have found mean-lean-green juice on offer on more than one menu.

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The postwoman is super pleasant and super efficient. There are even these nutty grocery workers called baggers, who are actually trained to carefully bag your precious food items instead of throwing them down the conveyor belt as if they were bowling for bucks. Xcel, the Colorado version of EDF, will cheerfully let you and your family light up and heat your house after a simple 2-minute phone call without even considering asking you for proof that you have a bank account or a signed lease. The water meter man is free to stop by whenever he likes and doesn’t need you to stay by the door all morning long, meter reading in hand.

Yep. Life is easy peasy, nice and breezy in the U.S. of A.

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So why do I miss France so much?

Would it be masochistic to say I miss the challenge? That I miss not knowing what to expect? That I miss being kept on my toes and discovering new people, places and things every day? There is something to be said for being the odd-(wo)man-out, and for the strong friendships forged as you struggle together against the tide.

I do miss the myriad of cultural offerings, the artisanal bakeries, the Seine, my vélib and feet as my sole source of transportation and our cozy apartment life where it was harder to hide behind closed doors. I miss the architecture and human-made splendor, the tiny cars, my Pilates studio and the French dedication to esthetics, beauty and perfection. I miss fantastic window displays and spending the afternoons licking them. I miss being around people from all over the globe with different ideas and realities. I do NOT miss being from the “greatest country in the world”.

I do miss making mistakes and being forced to learn new things and being forced to live. I miss the tiny triumphs of simply making it through the day or even just making it through an hour. Am I crazy to miss the bustling city vibe of that big, but small foreign town that I called home for three years? Maybe I am crazy, but still, I miss the smells, the sounds, the days, the nights, the tastes and textures, the language, the laughs, and those yummy French leeks. Of course I miss my sparkling tower. Mostly I miss my friends.

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I have gone from a humming city of 2.34 million, to a teeny town of 19,186 folks, living their straightforward lives and cowboy dreams.

I suspect that this transition will continue to be tough, but it is a First World problem, and I am determined to spin it in a positive direction. We all have our Punxsutawney Phils and never-ending Groundhog Days, and I have promised myself to try to see my old life with fresh eyes and not fall into a rut or take the easy path.
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Please check in as I figure out small town life and empty nesting, try to come to grips with American values and politics and hopefully find a little bit of la belle France in Colorado.

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No. 365: France, je t’aime–au revoir et merci

France_je_t'aime.jpgAs I sit here waiting to board the plane, butterflies in my tummy and anxious doggie on my lap, it is time to say au revoir to France and this blog. It seems like just yesterday when I sat down to figure out how this whole blogging thing worked, and now it is 365 days later, and I am writing my final post. It has been a great ride and one I feel very privileged to have taken.

My heart is full of gratitude for every minute of our life in France, the good, the bad, the ugly and the great. One of the greats has been discovering this creative community of fellow bloggers and readers, and feeling a connection to you. Those moments of feeling, “Hey! I get that,” or “Wow, I feel your pain, joy, embarrassment or excitement,” or, “Yowzah! That’s super cool.”

The best part of being part of this cyber community has been learning something totally new or feeling something I never felt before, and secretly wishing I could be there with you. There are so many imaginative and kind voices in the blogosphere. Thanks for sharing your stories, photographs, art, brilliant words, and generous comments.

Donc, au revoir for now. Don’t count me out. Check this space in the near future as I am sure I have a story or two in me about the next stage of our adventure: empty nesting, maddening Americans, reverse culture shock, small town ramblings, large portions and deep-fried food, and of course, return trips to la belle France.

Who knows, maybe I can even come up with 36.5-things-I-love-about-Colorado?

See you on the flip side. Au revoir et merci bien.

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No. 364: Family and Friends

It is our last night in Paris.

It has been a day of lasts. Last croissant, last picnic at the Champ de Mars, last walk along the Seine, last steak and frites, last sparkling tower and last goodbyes. I didn’t think I would be so completely gutted turning the light off for the last time in our apartment, but I was. Locking the door behind us really seemed like the end of an era.

But a great era it was.

Our last five years have been remarkable and memorable both in France and in the U.S. From our first topsy-turvy move to la belle France in 2009 to moving back to Colorado to be with my mom in the last 2 years of her life, to watching Kitcat learn to re-walk and then dance again after her tumor was removed, to our second move to France in 2012, and two more years of highs and lows in the City of Light.

In these last years, Button changed schools four times in five years; Kitcat changed universities twice. Both girls learned to speak a second language fluently, expanded their worldview and truly become transnational citizens. Somehow they have managed to maintain their sense of American optimism, childlike hearts and love of the arts, despite the oppressive French school system. You two widgets inspire me and make our family better.

As for Superman, he did the impossible. He worked his derrière off to bring us to France not once, but twice. Although Paris was never a natural fit for him, he did his best to stay sane in a stressful job in a stressful city with some difficult global characters, all in a foreign language. Wow. That man loves me, this I know.

And me? Well I tried to hold the family together in two alien countries (reverse culture shock, it ain’t easy…), raise good kids, restart my professional life, learn a language and reinvent myself in this complicated and crazy country.

And in the end, France is where I found myself again after so many years of floundering. France is where I relearned to take risks and be more happy with who I am. France is where I finally found my footing and learned not just to stroll, but to stride.

It is possible that this personal transformation could have occurred in a different place at a different time, but I do think it has a lot to do with geography (the heart of Europe), beauty, and the sense of adventure this insular culture inspires, as well as the kind of people that those three things attract. I was very lucky to find myself as a parent at a bilingual school filled with amazing and dynamic women with huge hearts ready for any sort of madcap idea or caper. To all of you who welcomed me with open arms and nurtured and celebrated with me, who were eager to explore this amazing city and country together, who laughed so easily and were so generous with their time and wisdom, and who inspired me with their smarts, hard work, bravery and own reinventions, thank you for being part of my journey and for letting me ride along on yours.

You know who you are et je vous embrasse.

Missing you already, but knowing I will see you again soon, un grand merci to you all…thanks for helping me find my feet in France.

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No. 363: Goodnight Tower

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No. 362: Taz in France

No matter what country I was living in, I would love my little dog Taz. He’s my dog and he is always glad to see me. It is virtually impossible to be unhappy when he is around. He makes my days better and I would be crazy for him no matter where we were.

But what I love about having Taz in France is that he has a little bit more street cred than he has in the USA. He has rights.

Dogs in France, especially little dogs, are welcomed to participate in the public life of their “people”. Taz is welcomed in cafés and boutiques, hardware stores, wine bars, and some boulangeries. Although my neighborhood marché has a picture of a black dog with an “X” through it on the automatic glass doors, the cashiers still let me bring him in and tie him by their tills where they smile and fawn over him. While I shop, he happily sits and waits and watches Paris go by.

They say that every dog has his day. Well Taz has had quite a number of groovy days among the French. You might even say he’s become one cool cat.

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No. 361: Roo de Loo

 

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Rue de l’Université has been my home for two years now, and I am going to miss it something fierce.

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I will miss the tropical jungle, trendy café and the canned bird sounds that make up the gardens of the Musée Branly across the street. I’ll miss the twinkling reflection of the Eiffel Tower in the museum windows late at night. I will miss the cozy salon de thé down the way, the short cut to the Seine, and the easy access to les berges. I will miss my Vélib stands and le marché d’à côté with their friendly vendeurs who now smile and wave. I’ll miss the gay gardien a few doors down who looks like Mr. Clean and still eyes Taz suspiciously. And I will miss the lost tourists who shyly ask if I know if they are headed in the right direction, realize they are, and then light up with delight when they see the tip of the tower.

I feel like I know every single cobble stone on the final stretch of this street. All the flowers, doors, balconies and pee stained buildings are familiar and comfortable and feel like home.

It didn’t hit me until just a few moments ago that I am really leaving this place that I love so much. My kitchen table with my sparkling view, my winding staircase, and creaky front door, I will miss them all.

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Sigh. I am sad. So I am going to sit with that sadness for a while and find a silver lining in the morning.