paris

Part III: Silence

Porte de Montreuil, or, Montreuil rather, is known for hosting a flea market every weekend.
It’s not your hipster flea market where you find antiques and little gems. It’s more like a place where you go get fleas. The stalls are all crammed up against each other in a sort of organized chaos, tattered clothes and shoes lay in piles for people to scavenge through, men catcall and sell “Marlboros pas cher”…
Anyway, weekends are never relaxing in my neighborhood. There are always big crowds coming to and from the market, the metro is packed with people carrying boxes or large bags. Even indoors, you can clearly hear the rhythmic sound of the hooves from the horses of mounted police patrolling the streets, or the children during their soccer matches across the building in the sports complex.

The morning of Saturday, November 14th, I opened my eyes to utter silence.

When I say that it was time to begin to grieve, I do not mean it in a dramatic way. It’s an essential part of the process. The deafening silence outside my window reminded us of what had happened just a few hours before, the sun shone for a little while, as if mocking us; the soccer field was empty, there was no market, no sound of hooves, no people.

What happened? How could they do this? How are people so twisted, so perverse, so evil, so sordid, so demented? Could this have been prevented? Is it the government trying to start something? Is this part of some crazy conspiracy to sell arms? Why would they target their own citizens? When is it going to happen again? How are we preparing for the next attack? Did they get those guys?

Should we go out and show our defiance? Should I stay home just in case? I’m sure people are out! We debated the question time and time, but hesitation kept us indoors. A report of an “explosion” (which later turned out to be just firecrackers) in a town next to ours made it clear it was the right decision.

At some point, though, we were going to have to go outside. But how to gather the courage?

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On Ordering Pizza

A few centuries ago, when I began this blog, I touched up on a subject that intrigued many people: the pitfalls one must navigate when attempting to order pizza and, even worse, having that pizza be delivered to your doorstep.
I think it’s time to share that story, which has now many other sequels, all more hilarious (see: pull-your-hair-out frustrating) than the other.

Let’s go back to the Fall of 2012. Young, fresh, bright-eyed Beatriz had people over her 15m2 château (let’s call it Château Lopez, for old times’ sake). It was a lazy, rainy weekend afternoon when hunger stroke past lunch time.
“Man, you know what I haven’t had since we left the States?”, someone said. “Pizza!”
There was a murmur of agreement and mouths began to salivate thinking about that delicious smell of warm pizza wafting from that cardboard box. A vessel of joy in times of academic uncertainty.
“Let me go online and order it!”, I said, unaware of the horrors that would befall me.
There *was* an online system. But my street did not qualify for the area Pizza Hut…nor for the Domino’s Pizza. No Papa John’s on this side of the Pond. Weird, right? Let’s remember Château Lopez was in the thick of Rue de Rennes, a huge thoroughfare, very popular for its shops.

But we were not to be discouraged- oh no! We were young and wild and free and we were finna get that pizza.
I looked for the number, and to my horror, there was only some hotline that cost 10 cents per minute. But we’re all American passport holders, and we liberated this country once, so what were 10 cents to this beacon of freedom?
After ten minutes of being on hold, I decided the beacon of hope was to be shut off.
We found more numbers (at this point, we might as well have gone downtown and gotten pizza, but, freedom).
“No, we do not deliver to your street”, call after call.
What?
Defeated, we gave up. Pizza was not to be had.

No, no. Drivers No Work Tonight. 
Fast forward to 2014. Pizza craving struck again. I decided Pre-Historic pizza ordering services had to have changed. I tempted fate and tried ordering some pizza on the internet.
(If anyone cares to know, I preferred the online method because that way, I don’t have to deal with the straight up shitty customer service everywhere, plus I don’t know the word for “thick crust”).
Anyway, so I was about done- I had selected my order, and all I had to do now was give my address. Of course, it wasn’t just as as simple as that: I had to fill in the number, and then select my street from a pull-down menu.
My street was not on the list.
Puzzled, I looked for the neighborhood pizzeria numbers (shitty customer service it is!) and had the S.O. call, since he’s French and knows how to say “thick crust”.
Called the first one- nope. Two kilometers was too far for their driver. Called the second one: Nope. They had received so many orders that day that they decided their drivers were tired, even though closing time was 2 hours away. Called the third one: our street did not show up in their system and did not know how to get there. Eventually, after some cajoling, we had pizza!
Now all we had to explain was how to get to the apartment. That means we have to give the access code to the building, explain which door to take, what floor to go, and which door to knock on. A good minute or two are spent at this.
About an hour later, however, I should not have been so stunned that we received a phone call: “Yeah, hi, this is the delivery guy. What’s your access code and how do I get to the apartment?”.

No, You Shut Up!
If there is something I don’t do, it’s learning lessons. It’s like that cycle where you have to go through the same experience over and over again until you learn and you achieve enlightenment and spontaneously combust.
But I’d much prefer to watch the delivery dude combust.
Here’s what happened: In a moment of weakness, we decided pizza was what we wanted for dinner. We decided to call the people who so kindly sent someone to the Elephant Graveyard where we seem to live and placed our order: 2 pizzas and a bottle of Coke.
Again, address, code, door, blah, blah, blah…
One hour later: “Hello, hi, this is the delivery guy. Where is….?”
“We gave the information to the place”
“Well, they don’t communicate that to us”.
Ah.
Eventually, a lanky youth was standing in our doorstep, with…one pizza. No Coke.
Mon gars…

After explaining to him that we had ordered two, the kid sprung down the stairs screaming “IT’LL ONLY BE A MINUTE!” *THUD THUD THUD THUD*
Again, S.O. knows more than to order “thick crust” and so he called the pizzeria (*cough*dominosonavron*cough*) to inform them about the mishap. The man on the other end couldn’t care less and said “ok yeah”. Then he asked to please let their people know that, no matter how enthusiastic they are about pizza deliveries (ok, those might by my words), they should not scream in residential buildings at 11pm.
Little did we know this comment would lead to chaos just a few seconds later when the delivery boy knocked on our door.
A funny chain of events all began at around the same moment. Delivery Boy arrives, S.O. thanks him and advices him to “try to be a little bit more silent next time- the neighbors will get angry at us”, Delivery Boy’s phone goes off, echoing like hell, he picks it up and does that thing where people scream on the phone. After hanging up, he was ready for murder: “You don’t know what talking loud is- I can speak real loud!”. He was, of course, not whispering at this point.
Delivery Boy gets uppity, on my doorstep, and I’m real glad tipping is not a thing in this country.
You try enjoying pizza after that.

Two weeks later S.O. received a text message: “Following the incident on x day, enjoy a 50% discount on your next offer”.
The offer was, of course, nearly expired by the time we received it.

Useful French expressions Ep. 1 “La gueule”

Girl you look good on that #shamelessselfie of yours, but why you look so busted up in them tagged pictures?
That, my friends, is the spirit of today’s useful expression, or, “La gueule” (/ɡœl/).

La gueule is everything having to do with, well, your face: from a funny expression deliberately made for the camera, to the inevitable BRF (Bitch Resting Face) on your commute to work on el expressway.

But where does the term stem from?
Well, the “gueule” is simply the french word for snout.

gueule

El hocico, la trompa, (or la cara de burro amarra’o, if you will).

So, when do we use it?
There are infinite ways in which one can use la gueule, as it is a very handy word for nearly all situations. Just to get your feet wet, here are three everyday scenarios where you can begin to fit this magical word into your vocabulary:

Your co-worker gave you shade during this morning’s meeting?
No, they made you la gueule.
(That’s right, it’s something that is made, not given!)

“OMG, look at my gueule! Delete that picture!”

“Shut your mouth!” in French? Easy:
TA GUEULE!”
(Notice the slight shift from la to ta. Observe this at all times, as it is important!).

So now you are ready to go into the world, having acquired another useful morceau for your limitless vocabulary!

Can you think of any other scenarios where we might use gueule?

Bachelorette Parties, Baby Showers, and Fruit Salads

No, no! This little one is not getting married anytime soon- though suitors do abound, if I may be so bold. It’s just that I realized I never spoke (wrote?) about something that struck me as particularly interesting about French culture.

I am under the strong impression- due to personal experience, narratives, and my countless nights out on South Beach- that here in the United States a bachelorette party is all about getting trashy, getting that awkward lap dance, and adorning one’s body with phallic paraphenalia (or… it just so happens that’s all I have seen). I mean, it even feels like a Bachelorette Party is just an excuse to “cheat one last time”.

In France the “enterrement de jeune fille”, which if we want to transliterate means “the burial of the young girl”, is slightly different. From what I got to see, the bride-to-be is dressed in the most ridiculous of tenures (not that sporting a penis necklace around your neck is not ridiculous enough). I’m talking “Tacky Day” on drugs—spandex, brightly-colored afro wig, etc.
She is paraded around the city and given a series of dares. Sometimes they even blindfold the girl and take her to an undisclosed location, kind of like that last episode of SVU….except, of course, this is fun.

Anyway, I think I have pretty much failed at not being biased on which one I find less degrading.

 

Then there’s this cultural thing that made me cock my head to the side and scowl:
Baby showers.
Now, it is no secret I don’t particularly care for children. I am very selective of the children I like- either the kid is genuinely witty (yes, WITTY), his or her parents are people I like, or the kid has to be related to me. Other than that, my dormant maternal instinct will remain as such, and I will be the awkward person not cooing and saying how cute the baby is.

Sorry not sorry.

Anyway, now that that’s out of the way, on to the story!

One day I was invited to a baby shower in Paris. It was, as a matter of fact, for a very well-loved couple from our exchange group. It was all kept hush-hush, as it was a surprise. In the email exchanges, I volunteered to make a fruit salad, because I’m boss at making fruit salad!
So I went to the market and selected the most delicious-looking fruit. I was going to show how much I liked these two people through fruit. Mmhmm.

As life would have it, the night before the baby shower, I went out and I, uh, got classy trashy.
I stumbled back into my apartment and plopped on my bed, boots and all, when I remembered: the fruit salad!
I got up slowly, because that’s what you do when you’ve had one too many, and made my way to the kitchen. I wielded my ceramic chef knife around and cut up the fruit. Oh yeah…they were going to love my fruit salad. Mm mm! Fruit!

Anyway, the baby shower was a success. We made merry and showered the mom-to-be with presents for Incoming Baby. It was the closest thing to a family Sunday afternoon that I had had in a few months, so I felt pretty happy to partake in an activity I would most likely avoid like the plague back home.

A few days later, while exchanging drinking stories, I decided to tell the story of my drunken fruit cubing skills with my sweet blade.
“What was it for, anyway?” asked my French friend.
I was stumped. How do you say baby shower in French!? Bébé douche?
“Um…in English is called a ‘Baby Shower’”, I replied.
She stared at me. Her French eyes filling with French judgement.
To make the story short: why on God’s great Earth would we celebrate and gift a baby that is not born yet? What if the baby dies before it is born? (this was an actual question). We were decidedly the craziest and most obtuse society for partaking insuch activities.
An uncomfortable silence ensued, my friend looked down and laughed at herself.

I sat in silence, feeling sillier than a jeune fille.

The Cat at Chez Bebert

Or Le chat chez Chez Bebert

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A stray animal at a restaurant in the US is…let me backtrack.
You never see a stray animal in the US.
Keeping a pet inside a restaurant? Nope. I mean, unless you want your permits and stuff revoked- then it’s cool (why did you open a restaurant in the first place?).
Abroad, though, things are a little…different.

You can, um, “be one with nature” during a culinary experience.
I once ate a grec outside of Notre Dame, sitting on the floor, as rats skittered by in the moonlight.
Rats.
As big as my thigh.
I think it was the fact I had never really seen one in person before that prevented me from going through any shock.
One…two…ooh, there’s a big one!
As long as these things would not come near my food, it was cool.

These are little daily treats of Parisian life. It’s a city- you deal with all sorts of things! This is not clean, Winnie-the-Pooh-land gated communities. There is grit in the streets and there are germs in your hands, so don’t rub your eyes.

Furthermore, some respectable dining establishments are not free from animals. Oh, no.
There was a restaurant down the street from my Château that had some bomb-ass couscous, and payday had just rolled around. My friends and I decided it was the perfect time to go get some delicious grub.

We settled in, placed our order, and a few minutes later, out came our heaping plates of couscous, steamed vegetables, and meats. Mouths watering, we dug in like those two kids in Jurassic Park (Except more savagely, of course. We were starving grad students. Those two were just bitches hiding from some whatever dinosaur. We were against T-hesisaurus Rex. Pshh.)

Littlebitch

Anyway, in the middle of the smorgasbord, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. This was significant, since I was really into that lamb.
Something was staring at me, intently. I peeled my eyes off my plate and onto the edge of the seat- a cat.
I took another bite.
WAIT! What the effffff? A cat!?
I looked at it again. It did that licking thing cats do, and it sunk in that this creature was going to quite possibly pounce and take away all my delicious couscous, and vegetables, and lamb!
Nooo!
I pointed it out to my friends. There were two types of reaction: amusement, and utter disgust.

Had I not previously seen stray cats inside a supermarket as a child growing up in Venezuela, this would have probably made me panic. But it was cool- as long as this little feline did not play games with my food.

Scoffing and gagging (or was he just gagging?), one of my friends had to stop eating. Why the hell was there a cat in this restaurant?

I flagged down the waiter.

“Sir, there is a cat”, I said.

“Yes. Yes, there is”, he replied. AND HE PET THE CAT.

It sunk in: as all things cats…THIS CAT OWNED THE RESTAURANT.

I sat there, confused but beginning to get one of those really good chuckles.

At this point my gagging friend was in sheer agony, clenching his fists at the ceiling and imploring “Where am I? What am I?”

Next to me, my other friend was starting to get friendly with the cat. I warmed up to the idea, until it jumped up on our table and panic set in. I don’t know how it happened, or who did it, but less than a fraction of a second later, that cat was on my lap, purring (I guess it’s a cat thing) and I just sat there, like a fool with a fork.

Our waiter came around again, on his way to another table. He cooed at the cat while my friens and I smiled like (american) lunatics.

This cat was here to show is he was boss. He had an agenda.
He burrowed and stretched and tossed and did cat things until my friend and I made a place for him, between us. And then he napped.
He disn’t say bye, though.
Catshole.

And this is my Paris cat story.
I lost the pictures and I hate myself a little bit for it right now. But I do hope you enjoyed it.
I’m going to go pet my dog now.

Cool story, bra!

“Il faut que tu ailles chez Darjeelin!”
You must go to Darjeelin, recommended my friend Soria. She, like me, is very well-endowed on the chest section.
And so when my financial aid kicked in and I had a small fortune, I made my way to this Darjeelin store to see what was up.

At first, I was a little hesitant. It’s just an underwear store- I had no qualms walking into Victoria’s Secret back home, so why am I just standing outside, looking like a fool?
I take a step inside the store.
Bonjour madame, bienvenue!
Hi.
Comment puis-je vous aider?
Oh, I’m here for a bra.
Vous cherchez quelque chose en particulier?
No. I’m just going to browse.
I picked up the first bra. Looked at the tag. 90B. What the fuck is a 90?

Ouate de phoque?

After much second-guessing, and looking like a fool, I approached the girl. Madame, I shily said, si je suis une 36 aux États Unis, quelle est ma taille en France?
She dropped everything, made a delighted noise and launched onto the explanation of size conversions. I’m a 95. Ok, good! First step done!
She then proceeded to whisk me around the store, showing me all sorts of models and designs, and teaching me new vocabulary: bretelle (strap), bonnet (cup), armature (under-wire), rembourré (padded), dentelle (lace)… Yay! Suddenly things were not as scary- I was ready to don my first sexy French lingerie  piece!
She shoved me inside a fitting room with the usual “if you need anything, do not hesitate to ask me”.
All right, I will!
Strip!
After a few minutes, there I was- my inner Victoria’s Secret Angel oozing out of my pores. Or was it Darjeelin angel now? Damn, I was looking FINE in those French bras. Mm mmm!

This is me, duh

I heard the sing-song of the sales associate girl.
“Are you all right, miss? Would you like me to come in so we can see it together?”
Dafuck? She wants to get inside with me? Suddenly, the velour courtains of the fitting room began to shift- she was going in.
Terror gripped me. You want to see me in my bra!? WHERE AM I?
“I’m OK!”, I replied, trying as best I could to mask the sheer horror in my voice. When I said I would let you know if I needed help, I meant peeking my head out from the inside and asking for a different size! Not for you to come and look at me! What are you doing? Trying to sell me something that fits right!? Victoria would never do this!

After a few more bras, it seemed I surpassed the time limit without an associate inside the fitting room.
Despite my pleas to not come in and my insistance at the fact that I did not need her help, Sales Girl was inside the boudoir-style room with me.
There was nowhere to run, and if I had anything to cover myself with, I could not do it- she was pulling and tugging at my undergarment. My girls jiggled, my heart raced- I am hispanic! You can see me in a bathing suit, but never in my underwar! That’s just indecent!
After an eternity (or, like, 10 seconds), Sales Girl stood back, cocked her head to the side smiling and said “So, do we take it?”
It was as awkward as anything- We stood there, face to face. The measuring tape hanging from her neck, mocking me.
“Yes”, I said, “I’ll take them all”

True rendition of what happened outside

What did Beatriz learn from this experience? After much soul-searching and questioning, I realized that our bodies are not taboo! They’re just…well…a body! It’s our property and we have objectified it so much that we have made it taboo.
If you go to other stores, they have something called la cabine collective, or the “collective fitting room”. If you ever don’t feel like standing in line to try something on, just go in. There will be others trying on clothes as well…so what? They have bodies, too!

So did I go back to Darjeelin? Yes! Did I let Sales Girl come in?

Guess

Pee-pee in Paris

Did I ever write about bathrooms? I’m trying to remember, and I don’t think I ever did. Bathrooms are a super important part of culture shock. Oh, yes. From latrines to shared toilets, to “water closets” and “chiottes”, going pee-pee in Paris is an experience in and of itself!
(Super proud of that intro, by the way. I should sell time-shares on the teevee!)

So, you go to the bathroom and you have your sink, your shower/tub, and your toilet. And a little bathroom mat because, hey! What’s a bathroom without a little mat?

Anyway! American bathrooms are incredibly convenient. It’s a one-stop destination you (mostly) walk out of feeling great.
In France, however, bathrooms are another thing. If you ever have the good fortune of having to pee in Paris, get ready! There are many options.

First, there are self-cleaning toilets in the street. Yep. They look like pods that spring up from the concrete along the sidewalks. You pay a small fee and you have 20 minutes to take care of business. Easy-peacy. I saw similar public toilets in Brussels, but that’s another story onto its own….preferably a drinking story.

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WILDCARD

And then, there are those shared bathrooms. I saw more dick in Paris in a year than I care to admit. I mean, you just end up greeting them as you walk into the little toilet room designated for females (yes, room. No stalls! It’s a pretty big deal for a girl!). The first time I went into a shared bathroom in Paris was in 2009, while I was spending a week there with my cousin. I walked into the bathroom and saw men. MEN! Inside the bathroom! A shy bladder all my life, I bolted back to my table. I decided then that would be the day I would prefer my bladder burst rather than share a bathroom with men. Fast forward three years and I found myself making small talk with others, walking past the urinals like it was no big deal and laughing at my visitors who found the idea totally scandalous.

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Call Robespierre for a good time.

Then, there’s the time you’re told you’re a princess because you have a toilet (and shower and sink, but mostly toilet) inside your appartment. See, Paris is home to many, many old buildings. These buildings predate the concept of what we know as bathroom or restroom, so you will sometimes encounter appartments with a shared toilet in the hallway (uh-huh!). Or, if you’re lucky, it’s a state-of-the-art, hole in the ground. Shared by the tenants of maybe 5 or 6 appartments.

By the way, do you know how hard it is to pop a squat and aim when you’ve been drinking?

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It’s agonizing.
Also, don’t look down.

Also, older appartments have all sorts of odd distributions like, say, a little lone toilet room. You’re going to have to wash your hands in another room. The concept of peeing before or after a shower is a complicated one to navigate here (which, is sometimes not so bad because have you ever had to sit down on the toilet after taking a shower? Yeah- horrible feeling.)

But my most terrifying bathroom experience took place about a week ago, while back in Paris. I was meeting my boyfriend’s family for the first time. We were about to have dinner at his grandmother’s appartment and I was politely guided to the bathroom, after inquiring where I might find it (I mean, can you imagine any other reason why?). After fumbling with the latch, I managed to close the door. I turned around and found myself in a very large room- a huge room by French standards, actually- and studied it. There was a large tub to my left, a long countertop with a sink at the end. There were little cute knick-knacks everywhere. I took a step towards the sink, surely the toilet had to be to the right, behind the closeted wall. Nope. No toilet.
Where the fuck am I?
I turned around, heart racing. I was still in the awkward post-rencontre stage of the meeting, trying not to make an ass out of myself. Those fucking cute knick-knacks seemed to suddenly mock me. To top it all off, I’m one of those super paranoid people who know time is running once you enter a bathroom. I could not take too long- lest they think I’m doing whatever. Like being utterly lost.
After a few eternal seconds, I lost my shit (haha pun) and was about to walk out, defeated but determined to put on my best after-pee face. As I reached back the door and its annoying little lock, something caught my eye to the left.
Inside the closet on the left, something beamed like a beacon of hope.
The toilet.
I opened the hinged door, à la Christina Ricci on Casper, and searched for the light switch. On came the light and I stepped up inside the little closet. Relief flooded through my body until I remembered, I have a shy bladder.

Don’t panic. FOCUS ON THE PINK TOILET PAPER.

At any rate, have you guys ever heard of bidets?

Paris, Round 2

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It’s funny how at some point I really dislked- nay, detested– Paris. Those of you who have been reading this humble little blog since the beginning are super familiar with that fact. Those of you who talk to me on a daily basis know that I have a love-hate relationship with the place- “I love it but…”, “The metro is awesome, except…”. It seems I am never satisfied.

(Ok, I’m never satisfied)

Coming back after an eight-month stay in the States, in which I have established myself as a professor (a position that I had actually projected to be attained in 10 years, and not ten weeks after graduation), Paris proves to be the same mind-fuck it was back during my grad days. I love it- oh, I love its streets, I love to walk, I love to take the metro! And also, there are those omnipresent pitfalls to Parisian life: the rudeness, the cold, the sticker shock. But really what is incredibly special about this time around is all the positivity I was exposed to:
I got to see my “Parisian” friends again (and by Parisian I mean Colombian, Chilean, English, American, Puerto Rican, etc) – the people that, without knowing, saved my life when I was was going through the roughest little patch. They were there, arms wide open, smiling the same smiles that warmed up my days and kept me trudging along. I also got to see my Middlebury friends- the people who made the summers at ClubMidd bearable and who now shine in Parisian academia. Most importantly, I stayed with the greatest host anyone could ever ask for- a man whose heart is so big it might as well need its own métro wagon. A man who took my hand and showed me how love heals all and endures all.

I laughed at the irony of it all when I looked out the window and saw the Eiffel Tower and the Montparnasse Tower standing next to each other. How many times did I look out my window and looked at them, day and night, and wondered if things would ever be ok. Now, I got see them from a distance, in another state of mind- fully aware of the changes I underwent right under them.  

I realized then it was a way to show me that those days are long gone. I may move on, without fear or hesitations.

Paris, this time around, was the Paris I lived before losing my innocence (not going for the dramatic here!). I smiled easily; I ate everything in sight. EVERYTHING.

I walked around my old neighborhood (I may have teared up), stood outside my old building (I may have kissed the door), visited my old Zara (yes, that is crucial information!), ate the panini in Cluny (made with love by Zoyla), ate the Grec in front of Saint-Severin (the one where the guy looks like Anthony Bourdain), went inside my favorite church (Saint-Germain-des-Pres), and bought so much Speculoos I may have to make a special declaration at US Customs.

But above all, I was loved. I was so warmly welcomed that I now realize my time in Paris was not in vain. Though I did not have time to say hello to my thesis director, Madame Auzanneau, I heard she speaks of me in her lectures, and how my efforts that went into writing my thesis is the growth process educators like to see. Even if only a comment in passing, this means the impression stayed. Though I did not have a stellar thesis (passed with the lowest passing grade, a B-), I feel I am not supposed to be ashamed about it. It was my baby that I somehow managed to nurture in a time of extreme anguish. Little by little the pieces have come together again.

In April I find out if I landed a job back in France. I feel this time around I am fully prepared.  

In the meantime, Paris has inspired me enough to revive this little blog with a few entries in the coming days. So yay, Paree! 
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Next move

I’m from nowhere. You can’t ask me to lower an anchor and have me grow roots in a single place. It’s just impossible.

Though I’ve not experienced much, I have had a taste, a delicious morcel, of what hopping from place to place feels like. As disconcerting as it is- as confusing as it leaves you feeling, panting and bewildered in a corner, the thrill is sweet.

Although this year was excruciatingly painful, and little reminders still come crawling from the shadows now and then, I am ready to do it all over again.
You can’t ask me to stay put. You can’t ask me to go get a nice job, melt into the crowd and one day say how I wish I had done something differently. I don’t feel like I was made to stay in one place, to just go along with the flow of things. No. I was made to be awed. I was made to learn. I was made to relish in little everyday miracles. I was not made to ignore the beauty that life has to offer. Nothing for me is trivial. I choose to live my life like there’s magic in every nook and cranny because otherwise, what fun is it?

Mind you, getting an email from BNP Paribas telling me my Parisian account has been overdrafted is not anything magical, but hey! Technology and the fact that I was able to live in France is a little exciting, no?

Today I find myself facing uncertainty.

Last time I found myself here, I remember being very afraid. It was in early 2012- I had recently been unceremoniously fired from a part-time job as a receptionist I held since 2009, without notice and without explanation. A simple “Hi, don’t come back Monday” (to the day I still wonder what it was that I did that was unforgivable). I also found myself in the confusion that is puppy love. Oh, if I would have known what was coming up later that year! At any rate, to make the story short (not my forte, ever), last time I found myself facing nothing but confusion, I ended up being whisked away by the adventure that was Middlebury- the “monastic” life in Vermont and then the chaos that was Paris.

I am to return to Miami tomorrow. The idyllic days of the student life are over. 
People are excited. Oh, yes. I went around for a year from place to place “representing”- carrying with me the name of Miami. I went around carrying my “Miami attitude”; telling stories to anyone who would listen (and even those who would not) about my magical home. But who would have thought that in a few short months, my attitude would change. I seldom use “Miami” now. The “305” sign has been thrown up in pictures less and less. I’m no longer “Miss three-oh-five”, as I used to proudly be nicknamed by friends. Going back to South Florida indefinitely (for now), feels a little wrong. 

I was very close to moving to Puerto Rico. I was being offered what was a great position as a Spanish/French teacher at a private school. The cycle of interviews went great. The offer was made and, as luck would have it, the pay, though competitive for the island, was terrible for a recent graduate facing relocation. Crest-fallen, I had to decline the offer. Though it sounds like a huge contradiction to the whole tone of the post, the responsibilities that would be thrust upon me were far too great for the amount of monetary remuneration. It was a choice made with logic at its apex. The story can be tedious, so I will spare the details for now. After an attempt at negotiation and sugar-coating of conditions from the school, I declined them a second time. Puerto Rico would have been an escape. But only cowards escape. 

So now, I have no job, no prospect of a job, and a thirst to part once more. 

I am currently in Montréal (a last respit before drawing up a plan of action), holding a graduate degree in one hand and the traditional walking cane given to graduates in the other hand. But if it’s analyzed closely, my hands are full. My hands hold my orb and scepter. As regent of my life, I choose what to do now. As protector, I dictate what will be best for me.  I have found patience and serenity in the past and, furthermore, I know I am better prepared, better armed, to face the unknown and throw myself into it. The more I think about it, the more comfortable I grow in the idea that I am fully free to do as I wish right now. All it needs is a little push. And this push will most likely come from life back in Miramar. 

Adventure, for me, is not defined as skydiving out of a plane, nor surfing waves. Nope. That may be part of an adventure. For me the meaning of the word is to simply throw myself, with open arms, to the uncertainty of the future.

I may just never be able to go on a Nepalese excursion, or bathe in the beaches of Bali (damn, that was some nice alliteration!), but I give myself willingly to the future and the fights I will have to put up to not become complacent.

A Farewell to Paris

(Let’s get uncomfortably personal!)

When I started this blog, I was merely following the suggestion of a very dear family friend who saw in me what I could not see (and still fail to see sometimes).

I, in the middle of a severe bout of depression, was desperate for a means to let out what I had bottled up inside my mind, inside my heart.

I hated Paris. I hated it so much. I hated its gray skies, its horrible, cold weather, its grumpy people…but most of all, I hated the isolation and the loneliness I lived in.

I know I have talked about the subject before, and it probably annoys the hell out of readers, but let me go into a little bit more detail, so you can understand what transpired:

It was first a little bit of seasonal depression. The lack of sunlight began to affect me here and there. Then, in the middle of this period of time, I had a falling out with someone I cared (and still care for) deeply. It was a fast descent into what has been probably the hardest time of my life. I found myself alone, half a world away from any source of support, and broken-hearted. There was a moment where everything settled and things seemed to finally be going well again, but once more, I tripped over the same stone and fell hard. Two people can care for each other all they want, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will end up happily together.

I became a carcass of what I used to be. I no longer smiled, I started skipping class, I failed courses. I did not eat nor get out of bed. My thesis remained unwritten for the good part of 6 months. I lost sense of what I came here for. I was ready to abandon ship and go home.

But I couldn’t do that.

I decided to take matters into my own hands, and with the help of a friend, I found a psychologist.

The healing process began and I have to say that actually working through these issues was more difficult than the situation itself. There was a lot of guilt, a lot of resentment, anger, regret, self-doubt, and sadness. I felt stupid to be going to a shrink because of a silly broken heart, but as it turns out, these sessions where I would be torn down were what helped me get my head once more above water. I learned it’s fine- nay, necessary- to ask for help. It’s not that you can’t help yourself, it’s that you’re ready to pull yourself by the bootstraps and carry on.

Slowly but surely, I came back to being me. A renewed me. A me that loves life so much more, for I realized what a beautiful gift it really is. I learned that I was the one who gave myself my own worth, I learned that even though I am a small person, I muster the strength of a giant.

I look back at this dark time, with this new perspective and I realized how necessary this whole ordeal was. How I could not change a single thing about it.

Today, I am where I want to be: I am sad to leave Paris.

But it has to finish. The ending page of this chapter is upon me, and I must turn it and continue writing my story.

As disappointed as I am to be leaving, I find comfort in knowing that I dictate my own life.

In Paris, I was torn to shreds, and I was able to rebuild myself. This has given me a new outlook: I can do whatever I want.

Last week, I defended my thesis, and passed. The sole act of finishing the document was a victory itself. To pass the test of fire (that was the defense) was proof that an effort does pay off and that I am a fighter and I can conquer even my greatest demons.

Furthermore, I realize now that I was never as alone as I thought I was. Despite the big distance, I had a huge support system that constantly made me feel like they were near me. Over the time I have been here, I have also forged the most beautiful friendships with the most caring and welcoming people. Their kindness and love will never be forgotten. I lock the memories in my heart, to always remind me that there is goodness everywhere and that I, too, must be as good to others as this group of individuals has been to me.

As for that gentleman I mentioned earlier, all I have is gratitude towards him: In giving me the darkest time of my life, in inducing in me the most pure and thorough of sadness and fear… he gave me light. He gave me the most beautiful thing you can give anyone: a stronger, more compassionate self.

Though it is highly unlikely these lines will ever encounter him (which is what emboldens me to make the statement about to come), it has to be said, at least once: I love you. And I wish it could be something I could tell you, face to face. Why? I know you don’t understand yet, but I love you for the beauty and joy you brought to my days with your sole presence, with your conversations, with the knowledge that we had each other and (at least on my end) we were thus invincible. I love you because I saw how big your heart is. I love you because I fully admire your determination, your courage, your ability to reason.

Now we go our separate ways, and that’s all right because that’s how things were supposed to play out. There is no point in going against anything. I embrace it, and seeing that you have not cast me aside (for whatever reason), despite all of our misunderstandings and heated arguments, has taught me compassion and forgiveness. I love you, and I will love you, because of all the wonderful memories I hold of us together along the years. My sole desire is that you, too, will smile when you think of me and that next time our paths cross, we are just two happy people.

And so, in six short days I bid farewell to this magical city- the place where in a single year I learned what should be learned in ten lifetimes. I go back home a different person, excited to begin life. I wish I could carry in my skin the grittiness of your streets, the sensation of freedom I encountered once I realized that everything was going to be OK. But I can’t. And that’s all right- I’ve learned to be patient.

 

Thank you, Paris.