5 Ways Paris Changed How I American

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It’s not grammatically correct – I know. Get over it.

Visiting any place will change the way you interact with the world, but living in a place changes you right down to the core. There are so many little differences I’ve noticed since I’ve been back from France – it’s crazy to think that it has already been more than four months since I’ve been back! What a crazy thought.

But, France is still with me in so many ways. No, I don’t have French speakers surrounding me, anymore, but I do have a lot of things that I’ve changed in my own day to day life, that weren’t even noticeable while I was living in France. Today I realized just how much my American has become French. It’s okay, though. I think these changes (for the most part) are making me a healthier happier person!
Here are a few examples:

  1. I eat dinner for lunch: If there’s one thing that the French are known for, it would be their food. Beyond this, I would say they’re known for their love of food. It’s not uncommon for Parisian businesses to be closed down for multiple hours, as workers wine and dine their lunch breaks away. As a young professional navigating the professional (very American) world, I wouldn’t say I’m quite to this point, but I definitely do pack lunches differently. When I was in France it was the first time that I had ever eaten anything more substantial than a sandwich for lunch. But lunch in France? It was a huge, gourmet (and quickly became favorite) meal of mine. And I’ve noticed the remnants of this practice in my day to day life even now. I pack meals, not yogurt and burritos, for lunch – and I’m starting to realize how much more satisfying my day is after having a substantial meal to look forward to, and to enjoy the energy from.
  2. I cross the street whenever I damn well please: Okay so this one I actually have to rework in my head every day, because I now live in a city where the police DO care if you jaywalk. In Paris I got so used to just walking across the street whenever I felt like it (as long as there wasn’t oncoming traffic, duh.) that I’m still trying to retrain myself to stick to the crosswalks and wait for lights to change. It isn’t easy.
  3. I CANNOT enjoy regular bread: It’s actually really sad to me that I can no longer enjoy non artisan bread. But I just can’t. Unfortunately, the U.S. doesn’t exactly accommodate my French taste buds with the penny prices that you can get bread for in France. Here in the U.S. they’re more than happy to charge you your first born child in order for you to enjoy the light fluffy goodness that bread should be. And now I’m sad to say (sorry to my budget), I don’t have any intention of ever going back.
  4. I can’t enjoy sweets/soda: WHY IS EVERYTHING SO SWEET IN THIS COUNTRY!? My salt levels were pretty off when I first got back, as well – but I definitely got over that one. Mmmmm salt. Sugar – not so much, I can barely sip off of a soda, it’s so high in sugar. Everything, in fact, seems to be dumped with piles and mounds of sugar and sweeteners. It’s a little more than I can take – but this is a pretty easy something to fix since I love fruit and vegetables more now, anyway.
  5. Old isn’t old, anymore: Last weekend I was driving past a field when I saw an old barn. It brought up a really interesting conversation/thought process when I called it ‘old’, though, because I realized that it was probably built within the last hundred years. In comparison to the thousand (and older!) year old structures I was used to seeing in Europe, it’s interesting how my thought process has changed as far as measuring the age of things around me. The U.S. is such a baby nation!What about you all!? Have you ever lived/travelled somewhere that changed your perspective on how you live your own day to day life? Comment below!Blog Signature

Café Review: Coutume

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I went to this café called Coutume last week and I really loved the experience! I thought I would let people (especially English speakers) know about it, because there have been a lot of less than desirable experiences with Paris establishments, so this one really stood out! First off – the details:

When: February 13th, 2015 – We went early in the morning, around 10:30am.

Who: With two other friends (One American, One English)

So, we walked into this cafe not knowing what to expect, and the thing that I noticed right away was that people were speaking English! In fact, ALL the baristas were speaking English! If you’ve been to Paris before, you’ll understand what a phenomena this is.

We were immediately greeted, seated and chose our drinks. I later got breakfast too – I will say, per usual “pancakes” aren’t really pancakes, more compact and dense, but still good. The overall atmosphere reminded me a lot of Seattle in that it was edgy, relaxed, artistic, earthy and everything a café should be (in my opinion, of course).

Our baristas were cheeky, hilarious and so nice! They gave us such a fun experience and helped us find things on the menu etc. Overall, such a great experience!

Oh, and they have WIFI (again, if you’ve been to Paris – not the same as in the U.S.)!! 5star1

 

 

The Breakup

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This week marks 5 months of me living in France, and I can hardly believe that it has gone by so quickly! I know that’s probably somewhat of a standard thing to say, but I really just cannot believe how much has happened in such a short amount of time. It simultaneously feels like 5 weeks and 5 years.

As a marker stone for this anniversary of my life in France, I thought I would think back to what I missed from life before living here. The answer: Everything. So then I thought it would be BETTER to think about the things that I didn’t really miss. That worked a lot better.

The biggest thing I don’t miss is my Netflix account. I know, shun me. But it’s the truth! I thought I would die without it, but honestly, I was using it most of the time to watch things I didn’t actually want to watch and to fill in the void of exhaustion that I would have after work. There wasn’t much “fruit” growing out of this part of my life. Oh, and Hulu got the boot too. The reason was mainly financial that I cut the cord on my Netflix relationship. It really wasn’t them, it was me. As an au pair I make next to nothing, after student loans etc., so I decided to cut all unnecessary costs. It was a really hard decision, to be honest, but in the end I knew it was worth it. You don’t really think about Nextflix/Hulu as costing money, but after a year it’s almost $250 I was spending. Crazy.

Obviously I realize this breakup isn’t for everyone. But I’ve noticed myself being so much more intellectual in the spare time that I now have. If I’m bored, and want to watch something, I go on PBS (free) and stream a documentary or Downton Abbey, or something that I actually want to watch (unlike Bronies). It turns out I don’t need 500 movie options to choose from every night, and the act of actually picking a movie is so much more enjoyable because I CHOOSE the movie. It’s not the suggestion of a suggestion of a suggestion of an algorithm of a choice I made three years ago. Not to say there aren’t good things to watch on Netflix, just that I don’t need access to all of them to stay happy.

My second breakup was with my smartphone. Although I do still use it for keeping in touch with awesome people from home (when I have wifi) I bought a little prepaid phone and (GUESS WHAT!?) it works just fine for making phone calls/texts. While I do like the idea of having information constantly graspable, I’ve realized that it’s kind of cool not to always be checking notifications, but instead be checking what my kids were doing at the park.

Instead of bringing my iPhone, I bring my sketchbook, or my knitting, or a book to read when I go out. I read on the metro, or just sit there silently (or as silently as one possibly can sit on the Paris Metro). It’s amazing how undervalued silence is. My brain goes absolutely wild. I come up with some of my best ideas while catching the mostly empty metro to church on Sunday mornings. I find myself sketching randomness when I’m waiting for my kids to finish piano lessons or PE and then realize: Wait. I DREW that! I finish books I’ve wanted to read for forever and I come up with designs and ideas on how to fix problems. If I have my iPhone out at all it’s because I’m using notepad to write down all of the ideas that are pouring out of my mind.

Next on the kick list, and this one kind of breaks my heart, is fashion. I’ve bought only basics and accessories, like scarves, since I’ve lived here (I think I might have bought a pair of shoes and a coat at some point) and that’s pretty much it. It was really hard at first, because I LOVE fashion and I love being able to keep up with trends, but something I’ve learned (which is oh so French) is that minimalism is okay. I have one pair of American made, sturdy leather boots and they work great for every day basically. Amazingly, I don’t need 25 sweaters and 200 pairs of shoes. Instead I mix up accessories and play with different makeup choices. It’s actually a lot more fun, and still keeps me on my toes in the fashion arena.

And lastly I’ve broken up with waste food. I would call it junk food, but I honestly feel like “waste” is a better word because of how much of a waste it is to my potential. A few months ago I joined this healthy eating/living group and it has been so great. We’re able to keep each other accountable and really push ourselves to work out, or to eat healthy meals. When I first arrived in this house there was so much junk food it was incredible, but after living here for only a few months I see a difference in the way me and my kids eat. Even the parents are climbing onboard!

The result of getting rid of these (and more) unnecessary things has allowed for a kind of renaissance in my creative life. AKA: my mind feels like it’s going to explode all the time. I have too many ideas, not enough time. I have so many projects I want to start, so many things I want to make and create. It’s like the past few years my mind has been storing ideas and suddenly the dam has been breached.

It’s both glorious and mildly terrifying, mainly because I don’t really sleep anymore. But at the same time, it’s incredibly liberating. And I can’t help but wonder: How much more would have been stuck in my mind had I not decided to take a step back from some unhealthily dependent relationships?

January Goals: Paris And Beyond

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January is almost finished, so naturally it’s the perfect time to write up my goals for the month. I honestly don’t even know how it happened that it is already late January! Tomorrow is my five month anniversary! It honestly feels like someone hit the fast forward button on my time in France; I wake up on Monday and by the time I step out of bed it’s Friday all the sudden… or, at least, that’s how it feels. But I really like the idea of having goals each month, because it gives me something to look back on and something to hold myself accountable to!

First off let’s look over December’s goals!

Blog more: Well, I did blog more(ish) but I still want to keep this one in place, because it’s absolutely ungodly the amount of half written posts I have on my computer. The main issue is that I’m so tired when I write them that I don’t have the energy to edit them also. So my new goal is to write posts on the weekends, so I have them ready to go before my hectic week begins!

Etsy Shop Listings: Yes! Yes! YES! I’m so excited that this goal was actually accomplished. I know you guys haven’t seen anything, YET. But that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been an incredible amount of work going on behind the scenes. We’ve been working so hard to get everything pulled together and our goal date for “premiering” is going to be in early February. Stay tuned! Awesome things are happening!

Have an amazing time in Amsterdam: I went to Amsterdam later than I had expected, so not in December, but it was still a good time. Not as fun as I expected, because my friend who was supposed to travel with me wasn’t able to come, but it was still nice to get out of Paris for a bit and have a change of scenery. AND I found one of my all time favorite café’s. 

Vlog more: Poor little Vlog. No such luck for me upping my Vog output. But I’m still optimistic. And I actually did make a post for December! It just didn’t get put out, which is kind of the trend of me posting in general, I’m noticing. Ha.

Stick with the program: Nope. I don’t think I moved all of December. Ok, I did – but I didn’t do anything regularly. Mainly because it was FREEZING outside, and I was sewing for weeks inside…but I’m going to be getting back into the swing of things once I defrost. Paris is a kind of bitter cold that I’m just not used to. In Seattle we have a moist (yeah, I just made you read that word) winter, so even when it’s cold there’s still moisture in the air. Here that’s not the same. This cold cuts into your clothing, even though the forecast might not say it’s very “cold.”

Get real serious ‘bout French: Well yes and no. I’ve officially become the only person in my French class, since everyone else has dropped out/transferred. I was tempted to drop as well since there hasn’t been much “learning” happening with lessons only once a week – but I didn’t. And I’m glad, because as little as it is, it’s still more than sitting at home and learning/practicing nothing at all.

Finish classes on KhanAcademy: Yesss. I did finish a couple classes and I’ve started more. I think I might just go through the entirety of the history program that Khan Academy has because I love the classes so much. I love being able to learn in an online class setting without the pressure of going to a class, and I get to learn/explore whenever I want to. I’ll definitely continue using this website – I love it!

Finish The Hobbit, See The Hobbit: I definitely did. It felt kind of weird to actually finish a book, but good at the same time. I think having the goal written down really helped. The movie was great because we only paid 5 euro to see it – and it was in English!! The movie was about as good as I thought it would be, so not incredible, but at this point in my life going to any movie in English is fun.

Storyline a story: I did storyline and write up the premise of the story, but I’m still not as far as I wish I was. I really want to focus on getting an actual script pounded out, now.

Get involved somehow in a French event and meet more French people: I didn’t do this, yet. But I took the pre-steps to start! I found some spoken word/poety/writer events in France, but most aren’t starting up until right now because they were on break for the holidays. But I have a friend who’s going to go with me once we find one, and I talked to my au pair mom about having maybe one night a week off to be able to go to more French speaking events in Paris!

January goals

 

1. Vlog or die: Ok, maybe that’s extreme. But this really is going to be an ongoing thing that I want to get into the habit of doing. So here we go again. One video a week is my goal for the rest of my time in France. I also want to be writing on here more!

2. Exploress awesome: If you don’t know already, I’m the content editor for a website called The Exploress and I LOVE it! I love being able to recruit women who are passionate about traveling and who love seeing the world as a global community! My goal for January was to start a Facebook community for the women who contribute regularly to this site (which I did) and I’ve loved being able to “meet” all of our awesome writers/photographers. My extending goal, off of this one, is that I would be able to extend our online community even more so we’re able to reach out to even more women globally through our other social media outlets: Twitter and Instagram!

3. Finish storyboarding a story: One of my friends and I are writing children’s books one month at a time. For December we wrote the stories. And now, for January, we’re storyboarding! It’s a lot harder than it sounds, but I’m really thankful for resources like Skillshare which allow me to learn from the best on how to do things like storyboard. Here’s to trying new and foreign things!

4. Open Shop On Etsy!: One of my friends and I have been working hard over the past few months to pull together a little Etsy shop and HOPEFULLY (pray for us) we’ll be pulling everything together by the beginning of February. It has been so much work to plan, make, photograph and now starting to edit! But I love the learning process and I’m excited to have everything done in January so we can show you all in February what we’ve been working on!!

5. Script Story: Yes, I’m also writing a comic book with another friend! Notice a lot of projects? Well that’s because I’m insane. But I like to be busy, and it’s so important to me to keep connected with the people back home who are important to me, so I’m really excited for everything that’s going on. I really want to start actually writing pages for the scripting process of this story, since I have most of an outline done.

6. IRELAND: I’m going to Ireland in 1 week and I’m so excited! Ireland has been like a fairy tale land since I was a kid (since my family is Scottish, Irish and English that whole little section of the world has always been) and I’m so happy I get to go back! I did go to Ireland and N. Ireland back in 2013 for my backpacking trip, but I’m really excited to be going back since I definitely DID NOT spend enough time there. Right now the coin is in the air for whether I’ll be going to Galway, Ireland or staying in Dublin, but we shall see. Either way I think it will be great!

7. Finish reading my book: Yep. I’m writing it down, again, since something magical happened last time I did. Right now I’m reading “Journey To The Center Of The Earth” since I got four books for Christmas (Sense and Sensibility, Wuthering Heights, and The Hounds of Baskerville included) and I really want to actually read through them all (even though I’ve already read Sense and Sensibility before – duh. Jane Austen).

8. Step up my art game: I haven’t really been drawing or painting very much lately because I’ve been busy with other things, but that’s not good. Whenever I don’t create, I’m 100% more stressed out, so I really want to take more intentional time to be making things.

9. Apply or find out things about DELF: There’s a French proficiency test called the DELF and when you attend school in France a lot of classes have you take it. My classes (since they aren’t through a school) don’t, but I’m still thinking about taking it independently so I have it on my resume as actual language proficiency, not just “I lived in Paris and I ate really good bread for a year.”

10. Get involved somehow in a French event and meet more French people: Stealing this one from last month, but I really need to get more involved with the artistic community in Paris because I know it’s important to be in community when you’re an artist. ESPECIALLY when you’re an introvert, because let’s be real, I could live entirely in my room, coming out only for food, and be perfectly happy.

And that’s the list for the month! Good grief. So busy. Goals are hard! But I know they’ll be worth it in the end, because it’s so important for me to keep moving forward intentionally while I’m living in Paris (as opposed to just floating along for a year).

Finding Home

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I can’t draw. Yes the artsy girl said it; because that’s the way I’ve felt for pretty much my entire life. If you grew up in my family you’d understand why. My brother is an amazing artist, and also five years older than me, so his artistic endeavors were always ridiculously out of my league. So, growing up, I never really tried to draw. I figured: there’s no way I can compete, so why even try?

You see, I’m the type of person who likes to be good at things. And if there isn’t a reasonable chance of me being really good at something, I generally don’t do it. I’m not saying this is the best approach to life, but it is just the way I’m wired.

I do like to try new things (and by that, I mean I like to try the same things with maybe one aspect that’s different), but the truth is that new things are really hard for me. I don’t like change and I don’t like feeling out of control when it comes to what’s going on in my life. All this being said: I decided to move to France.

Naturally.

It doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense to me right now, why I made the decision to move. While cultural experience and learning about other people is extremely important to me, I could have done both while staying in the US, or by taking a shorter trip to a different country. But I felt strongly and inarguably that God was calling me to dive in headfirst. Which is fun, until you realize that involves you being under water.

Homesickness is a real beast that you have to fight daily when you’re living on the other side of the world from your friends and family. But I don’t think it’s the biggest threat to ruining your experiences.

The real problem is self-doubt.

And I’m pretty sure that’s true whether you’re living in Paris, Seattle or anywhere else in the world. Life is always full of whisperings that fill your mind. Those little voices which tell you that you can’t do something, or once you are doing it, you won’t succeed or that it won’t be meaningful if you do.

The past couple of weeks I’ve felt really challenged to face my own self-doubt head on. A couple things have contributed to this. When I was traveling to Berlin I had a lot of time to think because, for the first time in months, I didn’t have children running around screaming every day. I took a lot of intentional time to think about what I wanted and what I valued. The people and aspects of my life that I wanted to make sure were part of it long term.

Moving to a new place allows for a sort of self-reinvention – no one knows who you are, so you can be anyone. The thing is, this can be both freeing and completely terrifying. Because it also means reliving the first time you present yourself, again and again, to an entirely new world. What do you tell them? What do you omit? It’s funny how easily we revert to our middle school selves when our rug of securities is pulled out from underneath our feet.

But I feel like it’s important to get these things out there so here goes. My insecurities are:

    1. I moved to the wrong country.
    2. I’m too geeky and shouldn’t probably talk about it.
    3. God time isn’t something I’ll ever be good at.
    4. I’m mediocre at a lot of things, but not useful.

Somehow, when you’re far away from your comfort zone and your support system it’s really easy to have all of these things slam you at once. But here’s the thing. None of these are true, and I’ll tell you why: Because I was made with purpose and passions that matter. And so were you.

So I’m just going to publically address these doubts, since I’ve been lucky enough to be part of a community that taught me to ‘laugh’ at the lies that surround me in times of discouragement.

First off, it wasn’t an accident that I landed in France. From the time I was a kid all the way through college I continued to take French lessons and there’s a reason for that. I wasn’t prepping for moving to France, in fact I doubted that I would ever even visit the country, but I really enjoyed speaking French. At the time it was a nonsensical passion of mine, but it turns out it’s one that is serving me well. Sometimes, with the craziness of living in a new country it’s intimidating to even attempt to speak/learn/enjoy/know French. But I have to keep reminding myself that this is a learning process and something that should be fun.

Geek I am. And proud of it. I’m a fangirl who literally makes a partial living from geeking out over BBC TV shows, podcasts, movies and fantasy books. And THAT’S OK. This week I’ve had a couple of moments where really geeky things have come up and I’ve been super reluctant to share my opinion/love of them because I didn’t know how people would perceive me. Hearing my au pair brother (oldest – 21) blasting the Game of Thrones soundtrack for three hours straight definitely helped. I also mentioned some events and exhibits that I “might, maybe, if you think they’re not dumb” want to go to (aka I WANTED TO GO TO SO BAD) and some of my friends were totally onboard. I will now be Cosplaying and attending a Manga/Sci Fi convention and visiting a Miyazaki and Takahata exhibit next week and I’m SO EXCITED.

My faith is extremely important to me. It’s something that influences the way I see the world and the way I interact with those around me every day. But it hasn’t ever been easy to be a typical “Christian.” I remember praying when I was younger that God would make me “sweet” and not so strong willed…because that’s what good Christian girls were, right? But I’m learning that God doesn’t design women on a scale of sugar and spice. He designs us according to his purposes. And sometimes that means feisty, passionate, strong willed women come out of the mold. What are important aren’t the personality characteristics – it’s the condition of our hearts.

And last but not least my favorite: I can’t draw. I can’t do anything well enough to be worth doing it. Has anyone else heard this doubt before? A lot of the time this one seems to climb onto blank pages when we’re trying to write, or when we have a really great idea but no immediate way to accomplish it. One of my favorite quotes is “Comparison is the thief of joy.” If we live our lives in constant comparison the only place we’ll end up is in a puddle of our own tears. There are always going to be people who are ‘better’ at things than us. And there will always be people who are ‘better’ than them. Trying to hold yourself to another person’s standards will never allow you to accomplish what you’re called to.

Instead, why not start to build a legacy one day at a time; piece by piece. I’ve really been challenging myself to draw or go out of my comfort zone artistically every(ish)day because I know that when I do, and when I clear my mind of the self discouragement, beautiful things can happen.

Step one is acknowledging my own imperfections and insecurities and that mine seem so much more exposed while I’m living so far away from home. But maybe that’s not a bad thing. Maybe it’s teaching me that there’s beauty in vulnerability. It’s uncomfortable and awkward, but it forges the parts of me, which will become fundamental in creating a person that much more certain of who they are. And I’m ok with that.

Favorite Pictures From Berlin

The last couple of days in Berlin were such a whirlwind that I didn’t have time to write, but basically just know that I had an amazing time getting to see the city, go to museums, eating bratwursts and generally falling in love with Germany. I was so happy to be in such an amazing artistic city and I honestly would have no problem moving to Berlin. But one adventure at a time, right?! Here are some of my favorite pictures from the trip. Note to self: Bring the long lens next time. Enjoy!DSC_0267 DSC_0294 DSC_0314 DSC_0225 DSC_0200 DSC_0189 DSC_0186 DSC_0184 DSC_0151 DSC_0117 DSC_0110 DSC_0102

I Don’t Care: I LOUVRE It!

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Wow! It has been a WH-ILE! Sorry for the silence on the blog front, but I’ve been trying to settle into the Paris life, and it’s taken me the past few weeks to even feel remotely partially through the process. Moving across the world is hard. Moving a second time, to live with a different family is (even though it seems like it should be easier) harder.

But I’ve finally started to feel like I’m ready to step off the wagon and start exploring my new home. And after unpacking, and getting into the rhythm of things, the dust is finally starting to settle.

So, here are the updates of my life!

  1. Let’s talk spiders. No matter where you go in France there are Lord Of The Rings sized spiders crawling up the walls. That might be a slight exaggeration, but they are HUGE. I can’t even tell you how many of them I’ve killed, but I know that when I go back to the US I will most definitely be the braver for it.
  1. I got promoted! I’m super excited about the ability to work with the website I’ve been a contributing writer with for the past year, except now I’m a *drumroll EDITOR! I’m so excited to start new projects and really be able to pour myself into writing, photographing, editing and traveling. There are some super cool projects coming up, so stay tuuuuuuuuned @TheExploress!
  1. Church: The last couple of weeks I have loved being able to attend Hillsong Paris, which is absolutely amazing. I didn’t realize how much I missed being able to go to church, but it has been such an awesome way to meet other people who are living in Paris and from all parts of the world. My favorite thing, though, is that the sermons are in English AND French simultaneously. It really is just the most beautiful thing.10678667_819611111422254_5419823618893278652_n 1797967_10152746031020505_2671417041007696703_n10704138_702182236530113_4894031641390018656_n
  1. I’ve been illustrating! I’ve never really considered myself someone who likes to draw, in fact I used to tell people I hated drawing. There are a few reasons for this, including feeling like I’ve always lived with someone who was better at it than me, but now that my next closest artistic rivals are 5 and 8 I started following a path I’ve wanted to for a bit, with a combination of paint and pencil, which I’ve absolutely loved.Hobbit Illustration
  1. I’m going to Berlin next week and I couldn’t be more excited! I’ve wanted to visit Germany for so long and I can’t wait to visit such a beautiful city while on holiday. I’m lucky because for most of the holidays that the kids will have off from school, I will also have off to travel, so I plan on taking several more trips throughout the next year, trying to see as much of Europe as I can while I’m living here! If you have any suggestions for Berlin sightseeing, shoot them my way!
  1. Every week I’ve decided to visit a museum, tourist spot or historically significant place. I have a lot more “every week” goals I’m going to be implementing now that I actually live in a place where I’m able to create an active schedule (aka a city that actually has a population under the age of 60) but I’m going to be adding them little by little. This week me and two of my friends decided to follow in Beyonce’s footsteps and visited the Louvre, which was amazing. Our adventure included singing (“Prince of Egpyt” in the Egyptian part, trying to sing “Hercules” in the Grecian part and “Les Miserables” in some French parts), getting temporarily lost in the museum and having in depth conversations about the inaccurate proportions of male figures both in painting and sculpture representations. All in all, I couldn’t have asked for a better time, or for better friends to adventure out with.

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When Being An Au Pair Goes South

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In life there are heroes and villains. Personally, I’m the type of person who likes to believe most people are the former. But, sometimes, you end up tricked into a situation where the ‘heroes’ turn out to be anything but.

Note: Before reading this (mom!) note that I am fine, I am safe and I am completely happy, now. 

When I arrived in France I could tell from the start that something wasn’t quite right with the family. It wasn’t immediately apparent, but after seeing the way the parents interacted with the kids, I knew something was off. As the weeks went on the yelling escalated and eventually the physical aspects of abuse started to show themselves.

Part of me knew that I wouldn’t be able to work in a family where there was physical and verbal abuse prevalent, but another half of me almost didn’t want to believe that it was happening. There was a lot of tension in the house, and the littlest things would set the parents off on tyrannical rampages.

When I finally decided enough was enough, I sent my letter of resignation to the father. His email responses were aggressive and ended with the words I had come to dread after weeks of “talks” : We’ll talk about this tonight. That night I was yelled at for close to three hours, and while the mom tried to defend me she was violently told to shut up as the father roared for me to get out of his house (it was 11:30pm) and to give him my keys. It was the night of September 19th – my birthday.

Crying and shaking, I went downstairs to pack my bags. The mom followed when I was about halfway done to tell me he “hadn’t meant it” and that “I had to understand” what had started his behavior. She convinced me to stay one more night, since I had planned on leaving for a weekend in Paris the next morning, anyway. I’ve never been so scared in my life, and I knew as soon as I came back I would leave immediately.

When I told the family I had found a replacement family the following Tuesday the dad “informed me” that if I left the house before HE TOLD ME I could, he would call the next au pair family I wanted to move to and would tell them I had abused their children (which is, of course, not even remotely true) so I wouldn’t get hired. I was so scared I would have panic attacks throughout each day, but I knew I had to leave.

So, I waited until the kids were safely at school on Thursday and both of the parents were at work, and then I packed my bags and called a taxi. I sent another emailed letter of resignation, as well as leaving a written one (and the keys), to the family. This is the abridged version of the story, of course, but I’m trying to keep it brief while not omitting any details.

The reason I’m writing this is because I want any other au pairs or nannies who find themselves in this situation to know that it is not ok for a host family to ever yell at you, demean you or threaten you. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done to have the courage to pack my bags and leave. I was so incredibly scared for my safety, but that fact alone was an indicator that it was necessary.
My mind told me it was my fault for getting myself in the situation, and the parents told me I had “a responsibility to the children” to stay. But those are both classic indicators of abuse (whether verbal, emotional, physical etc.), and if you find yourself thinking either of these things while you’re employed with a family there is one option – leave.

If you’re reading this and you don’t know how to leave, or you don’t feel like there’s anywhere else to go, start telling people outside of the family about your situation (message me, even!). Pull your resources. I didn’t think my French was good enough to call a taxi, so I went to the visitors center in my town to have them call and schedule the taxi for me. I didn’t have a ride to my next host house, so I used a carshare website (blablacar.fr) to ask for a ride. I had friends through Couchsurfing that offered me a couch in their houses, and places to keep my luggage if I needed to travel light.

I AM SO THANKFUL FOR YOU ALL. You know who you are if you’ve been supporting and encouraging me throughout the past weeks. You are invaluable and it is because of you that I’m now in a safe place.

Oh, and there is a happy ending to this story!!
I am now living with an awesome family in Paris and I already feel like part of the family. The mom is a professional artist (painter!), and we’ve already been able to visit her gallery, in downtown Paris, and talk about art and the life of an artist. There are four boys and they are all awesome (ages…get ready for it… 21, 18, 8 and 5). It’s kind of fun being the only girl in the house (other than the mom) although there are, of course, some things that remind me of the fact (toilet seat: put it down).

My room is lovely, there are three beautiful cats (2 gingers!) and there is always jazz music playing 24/7 in the house (which is also beautiful and covered in the mom’s giant graffiti style art).
Oh, AND I’M LIVING IN PARIS. As in, I can see the Eiffel Tower from my street and I’ve learned that I absolutely love living in the city. It really is where I get my strength and inspiration from, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Monday I start French lessons (finally!), which the other family had also refused to let me attend, and I’ll be starting painting lessons (IN PARIS – Eeeeek!) soon also. This weekend I’m also going to try and visit Hillsong Paris – I seriously CANNOT wait!

Life is so much better, fuller and more alive than it has been for the month I was in France, and I’ve only been here a couple of days. I’m just so in love with Paris, excited to be working with an awesome family and I CANNOT wait to spend my year here.

Welcome to Orleans, France

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Last weekend me and another fantastically awesome au pair, who lives in a town near me, went to explore the closest “big” city – Orleans, France! I’m not going to lie, it stole my heart. The city is stunning, and has a historical background to match up to it’s amount of awesome. Known for a famous battle, won by my childhood hero Joan of Arc, I loved being able to walk the streets and just simply marinate in the culture and beauty. DSC_1045     DSC_1036 DSC_1037 DSC_1038
DSC_1042 DSC_1043 DSC_1044 DSC_1045 DSC_1046 DSC_1049 DSC_1050 DSC_1051 DSC_1053 DSC_1057 DSC_1062 DSC_1063 DSC_1064 DSC_1067 DSC_1068 DSC_1074 DSC_1075 DSC_1076 DSC_1077 DSC_1078 DSC_1079 Continue reading “Welcome to Orleans, France”

Let’s Play A Game Called:

Whats in my kitchen

French food is great, but there have been a few times when I’ve seen things pop up and I wondered what the hell they were. This is the first installment of (probably) many questionable items. Ready, set – here we go. 

1. Warm milk: I don’t really understand this, as an American. I don’t think I’ve ever seen milk kept warm, sealed and packaged like this before. Of course, I’ve seen it done with Rice and Soy milk, and the such, but never cow milk…this really surprised me – but who am I to judge? 

2. Mayo in a toothpaste tube: Can’t get much better than that, huh? It’s a little bit odd to see this in the fridge, or even being used at the dinner table, but I guess we do have squeezable mayo in the US…it’s just not normally in a tube like this where you literally use it exactly like toothpaste (rolling the end and all). 

3. I’m not really sure what’s in the top of this bad boy (maybe honey??) but the bottom is vinegar. There are several bottles like this one in the kitchen, and although you can’t see it – they come apart when you use them individually, and then fit perfectly back together to create (what looks like) a solid bottle. 

4. I was a bit concerned with this one when I first saw it squirted into a cup. I’m still not sure what it is entirely, but it’s an add water kind of solution that you then drink. The kids love it! 

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Somehow I don’t think this would fly in the US…

5. Every morning the kids eat bread, cereal, warm milk and this. Basically it’s like Nestle chocolate milk, but what was the most shocking (obviously I’ve seen chocolate milk powder, before) was the artwork on it…Behold: ———->

6. Little crackers from heaven: Ok, so these little biscuits are the best thing to ever happen on earth. The first time I tried one I almost grabbed the whole package and ate the entire thing. In fact, when I FINALLY go grocery shopping on Saturday I’m going to be grabbing a couple of packets, for sure. Basically they’re like graham crackers/a square of animal cracker like taste with chocolate in between. Because let’s be real – if there’s one thing the French love, it’s their chocolate.