If you’ve talked to me lately I’ve probably told you about my latest obsession, the STARZ TV series, and best selling book, “Outlander”. Set in the Scottish highlands, it would have probably been my favorite by default, since Scotland (and Ireland) are my favorite places on earth (excluding Seattle, of course). But there was something more than kilt wearing men, to die for accents and highland music that reached out to me when I was watching, and later reading, this story. I think, in a way, I identify with feisty, hot headed and strong willed main character, Claire.
In case you haven’t heard yet: Outlander is the tale of an English woman (Claire) who is thrown back in time, from her own slightly post WWII era, and finds herself in 18th century Scotland. Complete with a handsome (GINGER) stranger, political unrest and a stubborn independent female lead, my attention was grabbed the instant I turned this show on. Have I ever mentioned how there’s a shameful lack of redheads in France?
Anyway, back to Claire: Here she is, a strong minded “in control” woman, and suddenly she’s thrown out of her comfort zone, out of her “normal” and into a setting that is extremely uncomfortable (although I don’t feel TOO bad for her having to look at Sam Heughan in every scene). Her surroundings are different, the culture is different and even the language is different (the Scots speak Gaelic about half of the time – Claire doesn’t).
In a lot of ways, this is one of the best ways I have to describe my life right now. If you want to know what it feels like, watch the show (you won’t regret it). But all in all it’s pretty difficult to describe life, because life is presently pretty difficult.
Being thrown into a family that’s not your own is awkward, but it’s not the hardest part of being an au pair in a different country. There are language barriers, there are cultural barriers, there are driving barriers (learning to drive stick shift – pray for me.) and there’s a kind of surreal isolation that is constantly threatening to pull you under, if you let it.
Much like being a nanny, taking care of a family with children means that you primarily spend time with those children. In my case, with kids who don’t speak any English, it’s more difficult to make connections, and since the parents only speak broken English I can go days without having an English conversation. It’s kind of cool, but it’s also kind of sad.
Who would have thought the thing I’d miss the most would be my native tongue?
The good news is, I’m starting to make a couple of friends, and as time goes by I’ll make more, I’m sure. I’m starting to take French lessons with some other au pairs in the next couple of weeks, and I’m excited to be able to hang out with more people my age. It’s also nice to be able to speak English with them without multiple charade-esc interpretations.
I’m also finding ways to be creative about my new foreign surroundings. Like cooking and exploring the different French food markets. I’ve also learned that Ebay and Etsy are my best friends, since there are no stores to shop at in this town that sell a lot of things that I thought to be “standard” before moving here.
There are just a lot of things that I took for granted and assumed would be in France that just are not. Or are here, but are in a completely different contexts or priced for the rich and famous. I tried to buy some basic white thread for my sewing machine, yesterday. 7 euro. AKA $9 for a spool of thread. Insanity. It’s actually cheaper for me to order my supplies from the UK and have them mailed here!
But, that’s part of the exchange, and I do absolutely love seeing all of the old architecture and historical places. Something I love about living in Europe is that every building, every street and every place has a story. Not that places in the US don’t, but here there are great battles and tales of kings and queens that are connected with places I get to walk. It’s kind of surreal.
Tomorrow I’m going to spend the weekend in Orleans, which is a larger city near me. I went there last weekend and it was such a beautiful city that I decided I HAD to go back! I ‘m going to be Couchsurfing, and I could not be more excited for my first Couchsurfing adventure in France.
I think it will be good for me to have some time to be alone with my art supplies, also. The worst problem about being an artist is that, in order to create, you have to isolate yourself (mentally or physically) from your surrounding environment. But that’s how beautiful things are made, so often and I’m excited to be able to free my creativity this weekend.