I have now been in Paris for 1 week. It feels like a lot longer! I still see it for the beautiful city it is, but a little of the magic has started to wear off, so I have noticed some of the less glamorous aspects. Like, not every person you see is super fashionable (although I still think most people are better looking than Americans!), there are places that are sketchy at night, you get whiffs of piss in a lot of places, cigarette smoke everywhere. But, I still turn corners and come upon beautiful fountains and gardens!
Jardin des Tuileries
The weather has been very hot. I suffered wearing jeans for the first few days, but lately I have been wearing the one pair of shorts I brought. People give me funny looks, but I feel more comfortable so I don’t care! If you are wearing jean shorts here, you must wear tights under them, but to me that defeats the purpose.
Not everyone can instantly tell I am American – I get asked for directions frequently by French people and foreigners alike. It’s always a mood boost when someone approaches me and talks in French. Of course, as soon as I open my mouth, the jig is up! I always start every conversation in French, and about half the time people continue with me in French (!) and half the time they go to English. Many of the French people I speak with are very nice, and gently correct the errors I make when I speak. My favorite instance of this was when I was ordering a demi-baguette yesterday, and I said “Je voudrais un baguette traditionelle” and the woman at the counter said very sternly, “Tu voudrais une, mademoiselle.” (For you non-French speakers, every noun is masculine or feminine, and you must match all of the pronouns and articles accordingly. So, apparently baguette is feminine!) And I repeated it after her, and she and I had a laugh together. She wasn’t condescending, but very firm – like, if you are here, you must describe the bread correctly! The French people I’ve met so far seem to have this attitude: we can tell instantly that you are not French, but you are cute so we will help you attempt to blend in.
I have found a place to live! I will be an au pair for a family with one boy and one girl. They have a separate apartment for me a few blocks away from their house. They live in Boulogne, which is right outside of Paris on the southwest corner. My apartment is free in exchange for babysitting! It is on the 7th floor, no elevator! I have a bathroom, shower, and kitchenette (alas, no oven, but I will survive!) and a view of the top of the Eiffel Tower! I will post pictures when I move in, one month from now. I am moving into a room in their house in the meantime, while they renovate the apartment and buy furniture. Fine with me!
The kids are adorable and well-behaved, as far as I can tell. They are 10 and 7. All I have to do is pick them up from school 4 days per week, and hang out with them until dinnertime. She wants me to speak only English to them. I will start the dinner and eat with the family, (which is nice because I won’t be able to cook super complex things with only a hotplate! ) then I am done around 7:30 each night. Wednesdays are no school days for primaire (elementary school) kids here, so I watch them 9-11am on Wednesdays as well. I will also babysit two nights per week, but not on the weekend! The total is 15 hrs per week, so nothing too strenuous. I am very excited to move out of my hostel and into a real house!
I begin teaching tomorrow. I have met with one of the teachers I will work with, and the others have emailed me. Tomorrow I have 3 classes, 1 hr each. I am nervous, but the first day will hopefully be easy because we can do introductions, name games, and the like. I teach on Tuesdays every other week, so I won’t have those classes this week. I will have classes on Wednesdays, but this Wed is our first training day (yes, they planned it nicely so I am trained after I start!) so I am missing those.
There is a cafeteria in my school that I can pay to eat lunch in. They charge on a sliding scale based on your pay, so it will probably only cost around 2 or 3 euros. It’s not the best food, but better than American cafeteria food for sure! You choose one fruit, one entree, and one dessert, plus bread. Dessert can be fruit, cheese, or cake. I love that cheese is considered dessert! So fancy/French! So, with lunch and dinner taken care of on the weekdays, I only have to worry about breakfast and weekend meals. This will be nice for my budget! More money to pay off my loans, travel, or shop!!
I have gotten a little lonely without all my lovely friends and family from home around me. I think it will be better once I have a phone here, because I have met people but it’s hard to meet up. The internet is also very patchy (I even went to Starbucks today to get reliable internet, and it stopped working grrr) so I haven’t been able to properly Skype with friends and family back home.
When I get sad and start missing home, I just remember that I am fulfilling my culinary dreams already! My hostel has free breakfast of croissants, bread, and Cocoa Pebbles every morning. I’m sure the croissants at the bakeries will be better, but these are pretty good!! I also bought some butter and have been eating it with bread for a snack or with dinner and it is SO GOOD. I like bread, but I don’t just eat it randomly at home the way I do here. It’s hard to explain why it’s better; it just has so much flavor, and when the bread is fresh it is so chewy and not dry at all. MMM. I’ve also eaten many crepes from the touristy “Bip Burger” down the street. My favorite is with cheese, but I also tried a lemon-sugar one (citron-sucre) which was good. The other day, I ventured out to La Grande Epicurie, and it was amazing! It’s a large, fancy grocery store, but they have everything. Similar to Whole Foods, but French. I will take pictures next time I go because it’s a beautiful sight; they have several spots for cheese, a bakery, wine shop, meat, produce, chocolate etc etc with tons of samples. Everything you would ever want! Some things are expensive and some are affordable.
The first Sunday of every month is a free admission day at the Louvre, so I went today. I stood in line for an hour and a half, but it was worth it! I looked at French paintings and ancient Greek sculptures. I am pretty certain that my parents and Mike will want to go check it out so I left the other exhibits for the next time. I also went to a much smaller museum the other day that was recommended by my hostel roommate. It’s called Musee Bourdelle, who was a sculpteur. They have preserved his apartment, workshop, and outdoor gardens. You can sit outside and view some of his works in nature. Seeing art in the context of nature makes it completely different and more appealing to me. I love this museum and plan to return many times. It’s free if there is no side exhibit, and if there is it’s only 7 euros.
The internet is being very finicky, so I can’t add any more pictures. Will do next time!