Officially noted: Everything is better when you have friends.
As thrilling and fresh as living in a new city on a new continent; going to a new school; speaking a new language can be, and as bored as I think I would have been this year in Seattle, it’s rough to start over with nothing.
I cleared all the projected hurdles during the first few weeks I was in Paris – getting lost, shopping at grocery stores filled with unfamiliar food items, getting used to speaking French every day, searching for an apartment, jet-lag, life. Throughout the hard times, R and I just kept reminding ourselves that it would get better, we’d get used to the city, find a place to live, adjust to being Ameri-transplant-Parisiennes.
What I should have considered (but truthfully didn’t give much thought to) was that getting used to living in a new city, in a new country, on a new continent, in a new time zone, is not a one-time event. It’s an ongoing process that will probably never be completely tied up.
Now that I have the metro figured out, I only need my street map a third of the time, I know my way around the supermarchés and I have a place to call home, there’s a whole new set of adjustments to be taken into consideration. For the most part, there isn’t much that really jars me. In fact, most of the little differences tickle me rather than befuddle me, and I soak them up.
For example, it’s impossible to buy lined notebook paper – that’s okay, I’m starting to appreciate writing in graph. During the first minute of any class (at Sciences Po, au collège or école maternelle, according to Zoë and Ella), students pull out their notebooks and loose-leaf paper for note-taking and set their pencil pouches (!!) at the front of their desks. Yes, the pencil pouch – not that bizarre in itself, but the weird thing is that no student would be caught in class without one. Stored in the pouches are pencils, pens and miniature rulers (!! again) for underlining important points with the utmost of tidyness. After a week of merely being entertained at the pouches, I went out and bought one – why not? They’re useful, and when in France, right?
Maybe it’s more that I’ve become accustomed to the fact that there are differences (hundreds of miniscule oddities every day) than that I’ve become really used to living in France. Either way, the fact is that for the most part, I’m used to life here.
Last night though, I had one of those moments that really jarred me – and for the first time was really achingly lonely for Tacoma-Seattle and everyone I know there.
Since arriving in Paris, I’ve never had a shortage of people to hang out with. I know a few people from Seattle (R, Amelia, Sarah, etc.), and I’ve met my share of Sciences Po people and other Parisians. Making friends (or not being able to) has never been something that’s concerned me, in Tacoma or in Paris. I tend to find that if you don’t worry about it, there will always be people around to hang out with – which is true. What I never remember to think about is that it takes time to turn friends into really good ones.
Last night there was another Sciences Po party, this time within walking distance of my apartment. R and I were supposed to go together, but she’s sick (yet again) and had to bail. I ended up getting stuck with her ticket, and spent most of the day trying to find someone else to go with me. I must have called about 8 people, and not a single one could go. I realize it was a Wednesday night, and their reasons made complete sense – they were too tired to go out, or they had classes on Thursday. I understand. I know it wasn’t me, and it’s not that I don’t have any friends – but it was kind of a shock to be sitting alone in my apartment realizing that I didn’t have a single person to go out with. So different from the UW network.
In Seattle, I probably would have gone out anyway, and assumed that I’d find someone I kind of knew to hang out with. In Paris, everyone I know is still on the level of those “kind-of-know-them” acquaintences at UW. If none of my Paris “friends” could go out, the implication is that I would not know (or even recognize) a soul at this Sciences Po party. I ended up not going and feeling kind of lame and bitter all night.
It’s a harsh change, to go from having 7 or 8 people you are really really close to and spend tons of time with, and plenty of people you know well enough to hang out with if you need to, to having no really close friends. My network has been drained to 7 or 8 acquaintences and not much else. People I’ll hang out with once in a while, but don’t feel that comfortable calling too often. It was a pretty lonely realization.
Actually, it was a pretty lonely night.
But today, as always, was a new day. There are only a few girls in my hip-hop class, so we’ve bonded more than is probably normal for two dance classes. One of them, Sonia, was really excited to meet an American to practice her English with, so we decided during class on Tuesday to meet every Thursday mid-morning at Sciences Po to get a café and croissant and practice our language skills. Today was our first day, and we spent half an hour talking about everything in French, then switched to English for half an hour. It was so unbelievably nice to have a girlfriend just to sit and talk to for an hour, rather than someone to chat with during class or an outing.
I was already in a much better mood as I went to leave Sciences Po and as I was passing through the penîche I ran into Ana, another girl from my hip-hop class. We took the metro to class together on Tuesday, and she’s one of the first people I’ve really clicked with as more than a possible acquaintence. We stopped in the middle of the foyer and talked about random anything for probably 40 minutes without realizing it, and decided to hang out this weekend and celebrate nothing in particular – life, I guess.
This was another one of those jarring moments – the counterpart of Wednesday night’s. I don’t think I completely understood why I felt so lonely on Wednesday until I realized that I had a new friend today. I never realized what I was missing until I had it again.
When you have friends, it’s hard to completely get why they mean so much to you. When you’re lacking in girls (or guys), life is rough. All the little things just feel tougher without a good buffer. So phew. Thanks to Ana and Sonia, I feel like things are looking up again, when I didn’t even know they’d been looking down.
•• It should be stated that I’m not sad and I’m not lonely in Paris – I just had a lonely moment realizing that I missed my girls in Seattle. I’m pretty good at compartmentalizing my emotions – all I generally feel here is pretty darn pleased with my situation.
••• The rumors about French boys being quite romantically forward are proving to be pretty accurate. Even two-year old Georges has already tried to remove my pants. I was getting him ready for a bath yesterday and he apparently thought it would be really fun if I got in with him. I didn’t quite realize what was happening until I looked down and he was very frustratedly working on the top button of my jeans. Once he’d realized he had my attention, he grabbed my leg and began pulling me toward the tub, shouting “Ollie, là! Ollie, là!” (Needless to say, I did not bathe with him).