San Fran Bound

san-franc

I’m going to San Francisco!

This week I found out that the only way to get a French Visa is to apply in person in San Francisco, so I’m going to be taking an impromptu trip this July to get all of my Visa stuff cleared. As random as this trip is, and as much as financially it’s really not helping my whole “budget” plan, I’m actually looking forward to the vacation. I’ve been so incredibly stressed  during this whole process, and having four days to explore a beautiful city I love will be a perfect respite before go-time in August. July 7th is the magic day for applying for my visa! Wish me luck! I honestly will weep if it doesn’t go through, at this point.

This whole week has been a bit mad, honestly. I’ve jumped through so many hoops to make this happen, and now a new hidden hoop! Hurray. I’m not saying the French government doesn’t want people to move there, but I’m not exactly feeling like they do.

That being said, there are some pretty awesome things that have happened this week, too! First off, I got my official hard copy of my acceptance letter to the University of Orleans, yesterday! It was so cool to get something in my mailbox from where I’m moving! The packet included my letter, and then some other info, such as a campus maps and some info about the city. I CANNOT wait.

Today I FINALLY got ahold of a copy of French Vogue! I’ve been trying to get it from the newspaper stand near my house, but they’re always sold out! Sixth time’s a charm, I guess. This morning I sat, facing Puget Sound, eating my favorite Pike Place bakery treats, and reading vogue in the sunshine – it was magical (and so needed!).

Postcards!
Postcards!

Also, Postcrossing is blowing my mind. If you haven’t signed up, and have an interest in sending/receiving postcards from around the world, sign up! I’ve already had postcards from Prague, Poland, South Africa, Germany, China and five other places I don’t even remember. It’s so much fun to open my mailbox and find a postcard from someone thousands of miles away!

And that’s all for now. Life is crazy right now, but I’m doing my best to soak up every minute, because I know it’s only for a little while before I won’t be able to. France 2014, or bust! (preferably not busting, though)

P.s. Next time you meet someone who’s successfully moved to France – give them a high five.

I got my acceptance letter last night!
I got my acceptance letter last night!

France Checklist

My mother and me exploring the Washington beaches, once upon a time ago.
My mother and me exploring the Washington beaches, once upon a time ago.

I can’t believe it’s been a week since I’ve posted on here! Life has been crazy hectic, per usual. But I think the real culprit is me having my head up in the clouds too much. So, since my mind has decided to ground itself for this slice of the evening, I’ve decided to catch you all up on what’s happened this week.

Medical Certificate

This week I went and had my “I’m not dying or trying to carry the plague to your country” checkup, which is required before you can apply for your French Visa. I’m happy to say the diagnosis was that I’m normal – physically, anyway.

Awaiting DIRECCTE Approval:

All of my paperwork is officially in! Now, all I have is to do is wait for the DIRECCTE (the local government in the French city I’ll be living in) to approve it and I’ll be ready to apply for my Visa. I’m so excited, and I can’t believe how much work it’s been to get to this point. Here’s to working your butt off just to be able to APPLY to live in France.

SIFF: French movies

Chinese puzzle

The Seattle International Film Festival is happening right now – my favorite time of the year! I saw this film last weekend with two of my friends and we absolutely loved it! It was witty, well written and the actors were phenomenal. There was one part of the movie when everyone in the theater was laughing so hard you couldn’t even hear anything on the screen. Definitely one of the best movies I’ve seen this year – a must see.

Mood Indigo

This film I’m going to go see next week and I can’t wait. Not only are Audrey Tautou and Romain Duris some of my favorites, I love the overall whimsy of this storytelling style. I can’t wait!

Official Acceptance Letter

Last week I got accepted into The University of Orleans and this week I got my official acceptance letter, which was so exciting! I can’t believe I’m going back to college. I know it’s going to be a challenge but (if I’m totally honest) I’m so excited to be a student, again!

Anthony Bourdoin: Parts Unknown

BourdainCNN

This series has been my absolute favorite this past week. It’s produced by CNN and is as much a series about culture and global perspective as it is about food. I’ve loved watching it and getting whisked away to different parts of the globe. My favorite episode is about Quebec, mainly because that’s where my French obsession began when I was there for my 9th birthday. Two seasons are on Netflix now, so if you have access I would highly recommend watching a couple of episodes. My only warning is: Have a healthy snack nearby, because you’re going to want to eat your entire kitchen after each episode.

Belle et Le Bete

I CANNOT WAIT TO SEE THIS MOVIE. And, weirdly enough, it has nothing really to do with the movie itself. I’m just so excited to see the cinematography, costumes and sets that I’m about ready to cry. Ok, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. But I AM really excited.

Tangible Dreams

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My feet and Rattlesnake Ridge, WA

There’s something beautiful about tangibility.

Call me a romantic, but I love the feeling of feeling.

I love getting ink on my fingers while I’m thumbing through the NY Times. I love pounding down the keys of a vintage typewriter. I love running my fingers over the hand tooled leather of my favorite bag, or turning the pages of a vintage book.

There’s just something about being able to touch and feel, that makes things more real.

Yesterday, I got an acceptance letter to the University of Orleans, in France. I was excited beyond words to get the email, but I couldn’t help slightly mourning that I wouldn’t be able to rip into the letter when it arrived in the mail. That being said, I’m so extremely excited, I think I can overlook missing the experience.

And anyway, next week I’ll have a scan of the original acceptance letter, and I fully intend on running through the streets waving it like a child high on 4th of July parade candy. It shall be glorious.

Getting into the university I wanted comes with a lot of emotions – something my Norwegian roots are not used to and, frankly, have no idea how to process.

Mainly, because this is the first time I’ve really wanted to get into a university. Most of my life my parents have decided which school I would go to, and I’ve never questioned their decision-making. Even the college I went to for my BA was the same one my brother and mom graduated from.

Applying to the Université D’Orleans was the first independent choice in my education, and it feels wonderful. Think kid riding their bike without training wheels for the first time: completely thrilling, mildly terrifying and ridiculously liberating.

I’ve wanted to study abroad since I can remember. But when I was in college, it was ridiculous to even think about. Since I was on an accelerated track for graduating, there was the issue of time (I was only at the university for two years, instead of four), and there was also the huge issue of financial accessibility.

My school promised to match the tuition being spent at their campus, but since that would still have been about $40,000 (without scholarships) and with an added cost of living expenses in Europe, it was just not plausible.

So I tucked that dream away. And, honestly, I forgot about it. I forgot how much I wanted to study abroad when I was in college. How weird is that? A teenager who wants to go to school as much as possible. But every time one of my friends would announce that they were going off to whatever country they were planning on studying in, I remember being slightly ridiculously jealous.

Now, in the true nature of my life, I’m finding a roundabout way of accomplishing a dream that has unexpectedly resurfaced out of nowhere. Normality doesn’t run in my timeline.

God looks at my plans and says, “Haha. Yeah – how about this, instead?”

And the thing is, it’s always so much better than what my plans were, or could have ever been. Here I am getting ready to study at a university for an entire year, instead of only a semester. Rather than amassing more debt than I can ever pay off, I’m getting paid while I’m studying. AND I get to live with an amazing French family the whole time. Call it cliché (French word – woot!), but I feel so blessed right now.

Even though this whole process has been/is going to be filled with ups and downs, stress and hard work, laughing and crying, it’s one of those mountains that’s worth climbing in order to reach the amazing view.

Although it might not be the way I had it planned (there’ve been a few more rocks and potholes on this trail than I had anticipated), I’m learning that, sometimes, it’s the unconventional paths that reward us with the greatest experiences.

Intangible and seemingly impossible dreams can (and do) become tangible realities. Sometimes, you just have to find a different way of climbing.

‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’
declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.’ 

Isaiah 55:8-9

Boldly Going Where No Man Has Gone Before

The window view from where I stayed in London.
The window view from where I stayed in London.

Have you ever done one of those trust fall exercises, where someone stands behind you and you roll back on your heels, hoping they’ll catch you before you meet the floor? Me neither. Because I think they’re mildly pointless and dangerous.

But, I think they happen to be the best illustration for how I feel this week. Yesterday was an extremely exciting day because I sent in my application for a French university. Hopefully, I would be attending the school starting this fall and throughout the time I’m living in France (fingers crossed!).

Initially, when I got my au pair position, I hadn’t thought about going to a university. It wasn’t in my budget, and I thought I’d probably just look for a short and sweet 10 weeklong program instead. Taking some kind of French language/culture courses, as an au pair, are required by law – but they don’t have to be at a university.

When the family I’ll be living with suggested the University of Orleans, I started to question my strategic “easy button” on educating myself while I was there.

There are two options at the Universitaire D’Orleans. You can either attend for one semester and stop, or you can attend for two and then graduate with a French certificate stating you are qualified for whatever a French language certificate qualifies you for.

At first I thought, “Cheaper option – duh.” And started filling out my application for one semester. But then, as the deadline got closer, I started to feel uneasy. It didn’t feel right taking the “easy way” out and not completing the program. And that little inner voice wouldn’t give me peace about it AT ALL.

So, instead, I changed my application over to the one-year program. Instantly I felt better. Having made the insane decision, I started looking at the numbers, because that’s what I always do. They don’t add up. Like I said before, attending college wasn’t in my plan when I decided to move to France.

But, then again, moving to France wasn’t in my plan when I decided to move to France, either.

While I was visiting my grandparents this Easter my grandma stopped me on the stairs, as I was leaving, and asked me, “Have you prayed about this [moving to France]? Do you have peace about it?”

Like most of my family members, she’s worried. I will be the first girl in my family to live abroad, and one of the first to have been to Europe. It’s foreign territory, and scary to think about, when I ask my family for their blessing.

But, when my grandma asked me that question, I was able to stand there, smiling slightly, and answer with confidence, “Yes.” I have total peace. Total confidence in where I’m going and what I’m doing. Does that mean I’m not terrified? No.

But, amidst the chaotic feelings to dig a hole and hide, I have a “peace that surpasses understanding”(Phil 4:7) aka peace that makes absolutely no logical sense.

I have no idea how I’m going to afford living in France for a year. How I’m going to pay student loans, and other expenses, when my living stipend is less than a quarter of what I make right now. I don’t know how I’m going to afford going to college for a year, when it would be smarter to go for a semester and call it good.

All I know is that I’m called to risk greatly. To step out into unknown territory. To boldly go where no man has gone before – kidding (Trekkie nerd alert).

Right now, I’m stepping out into something that could turn out to be crazy. I am risking greatly, following an inner guide who has never failed me before.

It doesn’t make sense. Maybe nothing worth succeeding at ever does. But right now I just have to fall, trusting that, seconds before I hit the floor, I’ll be reminded that someone had my back the entire time.

London, England
London, England

The Adventures That Never Happened

Writing in London, England
Scribbling in London, England

Traveling doesn’t always “just happen.” Sometimes, life gets in the way. Plans change; the ‘rug’ gets pulled out from under your feet. And while posting solely about positive experiences is fun, and makes my life look beautifully airbrushed, it’s not realistic.

The facts are: sometimes I feel like God’s directions for my life are like a GPS that drives you into a lake, instead of to your destination. There are times when I’ve wanted so badly to go somewhere that I sat on my bed crying. Times I’ve been tugged in one direction, and then detoured a different way – my soul feeling whip-lashed.

But when this happens, I challenge myself to change my perspective. Yes, maybe the road turned out to be a roundabout, and that’s really frustrating when I thought I was going somewhere new.

But, sometimes, God uses déjà-vu situations to remind us of his promises before he takes us to bigger and better things.

Like, when I was picking a university to transfer to. I thought of applying to so many schools in so many amazing places (London, Norway, Tennessee) that when I got into my first pick I was elated. But, as quickly as they had been made, plans changed just weeks before school started, and I ended up at a university in my hometown of Seattle, instead. I was so upset that I didn’t get to go somewhere new or exotic. But, looking back now, I realize that I was placed exactly where I needed to be, to grow into the person I am now.

An ongoing lesson I’m learning is that there aren’t really “wrong” paths. When you come to a crossroads, sometimes you just have to trust that you’re following the GPS, and take a chance. Life is filled with different decisions, learning experiences, mistakes and successes – and, sometimes, making the decision to take a step forward is the hardest part. Especially if the answer to where to go next isn’t even on your radar.

For instance, when I was trying to decided where to move after living in California, I didn’t sleep for weeks. I had no idea what direction to head in. But, as the deadline neared, Georgia kept popping in my mind. Finally, I decided to visit my family there (people I barely knew), and the minute I bought the plane ticket, I had complete peace from all the anxiety I had been experiencing.

The whole time I had been freaking out about whether to move back to Seattle or stay in California, the answer was actually to do neither. Visiting my family, at that time, was exactly where I needed to be. Eventually I did come back to Seattle, but it was important for me to pick up a few life tools on the way. Learning to value family (no matter how estranged) and the beauty of my heritage, was a lesson I needed to realize before I could move forward in my life here.

Sometimes, the longest detours are the most direct routes to the future successes we have awaiting us on the horizon. 

I’ve known my entire life that I wanted to go to the UK/Ireland (when I was 10 I BEGGED my mom to take me to Riverdance to feed my addiction – which she did), but it took me FOUR TRIES to actually get there. Not because I wasn’t putting forth effort, believe me I was, but because life consistently just didn’t allow me to go.

On my way back from India, I thought about running away the entire time I was stuck in the Heathrow airport (layover). My 18 year old self felt so drawn to the UK, and it broke my heart when I boarded the US bound plane, after being so close.

The next year, after I graduated, I immediately started thinking about how I could get to the UK/Ireland. Every year, for three years I had people say they would go with me, only to pull out last minute. It was the most frustrating experience to repeatedly have to shelve my plans to travel. But, ultimately, I valued my trip so much more when I actually got the chance to go. And, in addition, I was empowered by striking out on my own to get there.

Sometime it takes a while to get where we want to go. And sometimes we never get there at all.

When I was in high school there was a church trip to Uruguay that I wanted to go on more than anything. I worked my butt off to raise the funds, and even started learning Spanish (which I hated). Everything in my mind said to go. But, when it came down to it, my family decided I couldn’t. I was devastated. But, you know what? From that experience, I learned how to work toward something that I passionately cared about. I learned to apply myself, and that work ethic has carried over as I continue to dream of traveling.

Sometimes, life is unexpected.

When I look back and see all the things I’ve been able to do, the memories are so much sweeter because of the failures I’ve had in contrast. It’s a lesson that’s unpopular to learn, but failure is not inherently bad. It means that you aspired to something greater than what you had. You dared to dream bigger than yourself, and think outside the box. And, from where I’m standing, that is nothing to be ashamed of but, rather, commended.

So, risk big! Dare to dream and don’t be discouraged if you fall flat on your face. No one is born inherently successful, it takes time, energy and commitment to what you love.

To borrow some favorite lyrics from a hometown boy:

The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint, the greats were great because they paint a lot. -Macklemore

Atlanta, Georgia trip
Atlanta, Georgia trip