It’s officially become fall here. I started to pick up the clues when the weather took a sudden change for the colder and my daily Seine runs began to lead me through crunchy piles of red-gold leaves. Boots, scarves and trenches have become the daily uniform, and the men who sell trashcan-roasted corn on street corners have traded their cobs for chestnuts. Yes, it’s fall in Paris.
It’s also October 24th – a Tuesday and the two-month anniversary of my Parisian invasion. I guess it’s time for a check-up. A month ago R and I were still living near Gare de l’Est in the September apartment. We were in the middle of the stage d’integration at Sciences Po and while I had at least secured my nanny job, neither of us had any clue what our years would bring.
Now we’ve made it almost to November and we both have places to call home, French bank accounts (complete with bank cards that read Mlle before our names), cell phone plans and (almost) our cartes de séjour (they’re being processed). We have classes and homework (!) and R finally bought her bike. We’re settled – or at least further along in the settling process, and Paris and I are pretty much in love.*
Two months feels both long and short – I feel like I’ve lived here forever, but when I look at the calendar I feel a little uneasy. I’m still waiting for the “out of my element” part to happen. Where’s the culture shock? Why haven’t I been lost and confused and homesick and depressed? Of course I’ve had bad days here – getting mildly accosted on the Champs Elysées wasn’t exactly a highlight of my year. Neither was losing the first apartment Rachael and I wanted, or having nobody to hang out with last Wednesday.
Bad days are nothing though – there are plenty of bad days in Seattle. What I’m waiting for is that wild fear – that “what am I doing here,” and “how am I going to survive for an entire year?” Maybe that fear will never find me – or maybe it will. Maybe two months isn’t long enough to estimate anything – maybe I’m still on my honeymoon with Paris. According the study abroad orientation held at UW last spring, the four-month mark is where it’ll get a little rocky.
Holidays and anniversaries can be rough for newlyweds – and I’m about to hit two pretty significant ones. My three-month mark happens to fall directly on Thanksgiving and four months will be Christmas Eve. Thanksgiving is going to be particularly rough – it’s been my favorite holiday for years and I can’t imagine it without Camp Indianola. All of my parents’ friends singing and dancing and cooking in the kitchen, the stormy beach, the circle of guitar-playing dads plus the musically-inclined of the younger generations. The knitting high school girls, the Kapla blocks, ‘Nola Ball, the pies and salads and bread and mashed potatoes, staying up late playing nertz and pick, the Johnny Appleseed song and how incredibly, disturbingly dirty the floor of the main lodge will be by the end of every evening. Thinking about missing it makes my heart hurt a little.
Every relationship has its ups and downs though – and every bad bit is obliviated by all of the very very good bits. Being able to jet off to Munich or Barcelona for a long weekend. Living three blocks from Coco Chanel’s apartment and seeing l’Opéra from my window. Directing lost American tourists (and some lost French ones too!), having to explain to everyone I meet that no, I don’t live near the White House. Buying my bread at boulangeries and running through the Jardin des Tuileries. Owning a Louvre membership. Owning an electric fan called “The AIr Force.” Nutella.
Having a healthy relationship means being willing to compromise – hey, I miss good spicy Mexican food – but today I was the first customer for lunch at L’as du Falafel (I was there at 11:45 between classes, and nobody eats before 13h here). This meant that my falafel was made fresh while I waited – I actually watched them ball up the dough (? Paste?) and fry it before filling my pita. It was the best falafel of my life.
And yeah, maybe I miss my dance girls in Tacoma – but I love love love my French hip-hop class. We had some more people join last week, so I’m no longer the only one who’s ever danced before. Today though, we learned a new piece to Nelly Furtado’s “Promiscuous Girl” (ha!) and midway through dancing it out, Flo stopped the music and had me come to the front to perform it (solo!) for everybody else. I probably should have been embarrassed (a normal person would have been), but I’m really just a big fat show-off so I felt special instead. (Yeah, I would probably have thrown stuff at me.)
What, I don’t have as many friends here yet as I do in Seattle? No matter, I’ve got a Georges who loves me (he can now recognize my footsteps and starts yelling for “Ollie!” as soon as I come over in the afternoons), and I’ve got Paris. Maybe we’re still honeymooning, but two months is a pretty solid foundation. There was no champagne for our anniversary (it’s a school night!), but we did celebrate with a crêpe nutella-banane (from who else but my favorite racist crêpe man). It was delicious.
* I’m pretty sure that Paris is a girl – a dark-haired one, very skinny and very chic.** It took me a while to decide on the gender of the city, but I think I’m definitely right – and I’m definitely harboring a pretty massive girl-crush. I think Seattle, on the other hand, is an outdoorsy guy – definitely wearing khaki shorts and hiking boots. I haven’t quite gauged what Tacoma is yet though.
** Yes we actually do refer to things as “chic” here. Like instead of “Oh, you look cute today!” it’s, “Oh you look so chic in that outfit!”
*** We found all these weird hooded (for cleaning? repair?) statues at Versailles. We didn’t realize the pictures were so reminiscent of Abu Ghraib until after we’d taken them. This one is actually kind of scary.