The past couple weeks have been quite drizzly, blustery, and chilly. I find that time seems to be passing more quickly and naturally now – I’ve stopped counting the passing weekends, and stopped feeling panicky about the unknown future. The residence card should be in the works as we speak, and I’ve got a babysitting job lined up for the fall. I’ve even managed to pick up a little side job for a couple months, which will fund both my student loan payments due in June, as well as my summertime-BFF-Spain trip planned for August. I am far from having everything figured out, but who ever really does?
The other day, I revisited my old neighbourhood. Just walking down that familiar street brought memories that had entirely faded from my brain, rushing back with clarity. I remembered small, impossible details like what my friend ordered that time we ate at the café downstairs, the happy conversation I had with the nearby florist, discussing the contents of paté with my Mother when she visited, shopping for a tiny christmas tree with my best friend, the nearby church I had visited when I was at my lowest… I could go on for days.
But instead of making me happy, these memories just made me sad. I spent the rest of the day mulling over why sadness was my first reaction, and I still haven’t quite figured it out.
Yesterday, the Paris area saw some of the worst air pollution… ever. At least that’s what the news articles keep saying, and judging by the visible haze suspended in the sky, obscuring trees and buildings, I gotta believe them. It didn’t stop me from having a lovely little walk through a village outside of Paris, however. Villennes-Sur-Seine, complete with weeping willows over a river, adorable stone houses, and a charming garden on the side of a hill. The atmosphere felt pleasantly warm, thick, and cozy, probably enhanced by the dense smog in the air.
I wouldn’t have made the trek out there if it weren’t for some official business to take care of – I was picking up some official translations of documents needed to apply for a residence card. I’m glad I did go, because it made me realize that there’s more to see here than Paris… small villages and towns with medieval churches, ivy-covered walls, small, quiet streets, quaint cafes, and stone fountains. This short afternoon trek has inspired me to branch outward, see what lies outside of the Paris grandeur.
Here are just a few things I noticed while waiting for the next train back home:
Moving to France to eat croissants and macarons all day might sound “easy” or “spontaneous,” but it actually takes a lot of planning and, how do I put it? …logistical manoeuvres. There are a few ways to get here: as a student, as a student/au pair, as a worker, or as the family member of a European person. The option that made the most sense for Erik and I was to become family members, i.e.: get married.
Up until last week, we had been planning on marrying in Sweden, Erik being a Swede and all. We had the tickets bought, we had plans for me to finally meet his family, and we were about to leave in less than a week. However, when we found out that some documents we sent hadn’t been deemed “official” enough, we had to make a sudden change of plans. It’s not like we have all the time in the world, either – there’s a definite timeline to apply for residency, which is constantly hanging over my head.
Our solution? New York City.
I started my Monday off right with a trip into Paris. Being low on money, I needed an activity that required little to no spending, and the free Brassai photography exhibition, Pour L’Amour de Paris, was what I decided on. I was under the impression that I was being clever by coming on a Monday, that perhaps the line would be shorter, but I was sorely mistaken. I waited in the cold wind for about an hour and a half. -___- If I had a snack, more comfortable shoes, warmer clothes, and a friend to keep me company, it wouldn’t have been half bad, but by the time 45 minutes had passed, I was pretty irritable.
It’s been nearly a month since I’ve arrived in France, and one question has been rolling around in my mind constantly – am I a tourist, or do I live here? I think the answer to that question is a definitive, neither.
Paris doesn’t have the same angelic glow it has when first laying eyes upon it, the boulangeries and rows of pretty buildings now feel normal. I still find it charming and beautiful, but the sense of adventure and discovery and exhilaration one feels when traveling to new places is definitely lacking.
I’ve been splitting my time between touristy outings, household tasks, and establishing new routines; Finding a favorite bakery, becoming familiar with the layout of the nearest Monoprix (A french supermarket), and learning to do laundry without a dryer. I also play a lot of video games and watch a great deal of TV. I take sporadic trips into Paris when I’m feeling energetic, but the bulk of my time has been spent doing “homey” things.