Saturday, October 5, 2013

Muddled Ex-PAT-Ations

As a self-proclaimed soul-rambler, it is my inherent duty to ramble things that are difficult as well as sublime... And thus declared, I must say that this was my hardest week in France so far. Moving to a new city or country is a daunting task for anyone. Add to that the fact that none of my family, very few friends, and my native tongue are not present and it becomes increasingly more difficult. I have recently discovered that it might be even more difficult when it's the second time around. I came to Paris two years ago attempting a similar adventure, but being vaguely aware that due to visas and money, I probably wouldn't be there as long as I wanted. I was accompanied on the flight over by a best friend, she left the same day my classes began, and the following weekend my cousin visited. I experienced pockets of loneliness or cluelessness, but they were few and far between. I started to feel bits of what it would be like wandering Paris with little money and no structured schedule during my second month, but I had a boyfriend, friends, and knew I would be leaving soon. 

Imagine, if you will, going back to college 10 years later. I think we've all had those moments of wishing we could go back to the good old days and frolic in the nostalgic bliss of our memories. But people change, time passes on, and nothing could be as it was, most particularly because of what we've learned since then. Coming to Paris a second time has been a truly strange experience, because it's like stepping into those memories without any of the support you built at the time. I remember Paris as it was, but I do not know Paris as it is now. Not for one second have I regretted my decision, but building a new life is, for me, inexcusably difficult. When you want something so badly, it is hard to admit that amidst all of its beauty and magic, there are moments of sadness or loneliness or difficulty or longing. Old friends have left, the ones who remain have their own established lives, and sometimes the one you deeply love is not the one you are supposed to be with... Not now anyway... But love is abundant. So you trust that there is more to share and you open your eyes to what is new...

The other fascinating variable, of course, is that I may be one of the most emotional people on the planet. My siblings endure a similar ailment to a lesser or greater degree in different ways, but I somehow managed to be smacked with the emo-stick pretty damn hard. I wear my emotions on my sleeve and frankly, if I don't, I run the risk of Chernobyl-esque levels of meltdown. All you men out there who think women are inherently insane? No. It's most likely because you have suffocated our emotions and we consequently explode. That being said, one of my best friends in the world once told me that my emotions tend to be so powerful that they permeate all those around me... Superpower or tragic flaw? Probably a little bit of both...

And of course, one of the things that happens to ex-pats when they feel a little lost is that they find other ex-pats to commiserate with. I am not opposed to this by any stretch, but I also came here to experience new culture and language, so it's not my favorite path. This week, however, I made two stops in the American realm. I find this particularly ironic because I was so infuriated at the U.S. government shutdown that I wasn't too keen on hanging out with fellow Americans. But I am also on the hunt for English students, so I was told that both the American Church and the American Library might be good places to advertise. 

I chose to go to the American Library on Wednesday evening because there was a reading by an American author from his new book entitled "Paris Deadline". I was not familiar with the book or the author, but the blurb mentioned historical fiction and a mechanical duck, so I figured nothing bad could come of it. I'm pretty sure I managed to get tipsy off a half a glass of wine, and then found myself possibly the youngest person in the audience by about 20 years. The best part, of course, were the not at all whispered non-sequiturs spouted by some of the older members of the group, as if this was a conversation not a lecture. Oh Americans, we really can't ever shut up ; )

On a more religious note, I originally went to the American Cathedral where I was told I could post an ad, but the first time I attempted this, there seemed to be a choir practice or something, and I was admittedly intimidated by the overly religious feel wafting through the doorway as I entered. I left its vicinity post-haste and decided that perhaps I am too liberal and non-religious to capitalize off of Christianity. However, determined to find students and conquer my fears, I returned two days later, only to be told by an extremely friendly Frenchman, that I was most likely looking for the American CHURCH, not the Cathedral, and he gave me directions to walk there since it was not at all far. When I arrived at the American Church, I knew instantly that this was a more appropriate venue. However, I was greeted in the office by an extraordinarily ill-tempered American woman and my brain instantly thought, ok religion and American combined clearly have no place in my new French world. We did reach an amicable conclusion in the end and I left on much happier tones, but despite all awkward ex-pat acclimating, I felt quite clear that this is where I am supposed to be for now.


  1. So sorry to hear that you had a rough week. Huge hugs from home!

  2. Thank, Malina! All on the road to greatness : )