Wednesday, December 12, 2012

No Eye Contact and Don't Smile!

Things to know about riding the train...

This goes for the metro as well...

   I can look back now at this moment and laugh because getting around Paris is actually rather easy once you know the do's and don'ts.  I will share some tips that Thomas and his friends shared with me. 


    1.  Don't stand near the edge of the platform. (near the tracks)

Yes, an obvious but very important first rule!  Apparently when the trains get busy, or people are messing around,  people can actually be pushed on the tracks!! This is true, my friend Florian said it's happened to him twice!!  As I said very important! 

     2.   Don't touch anything! (If possible without falling into the person next to you)

The trains must get cleaned at some point (I'd hope) but chances are they weren't wiped down before you got on.  All kinds of people use the trains as transportation in Paris, even ones that are begging for money (when's the last time you think they had a shower?).  This rule goes for even when you're walking around the train stations, railings, doors, don't touch it. 

       3.  Always carry hand sanitizer. 

In conjunction with the last rule, if in case you do touch something you're gonna want this as there are not many public restrooms to wash your hands.  We once saw a man pick his teeth the entire train ride to Paris, and wiped it in his hair.  Then he proceed to slide his hand all the way down railing on his way off. (True story)  So always keep a hand sanitizer on you, at all times.  
      4.  Don't drink to many liquids before riding.

I learned this one the hard way.  I typically would drink a cup of coffee or two, before starting my day but now I know better than to do so before taking the train.  They do have restrooms in some carts (but that brings me to my next rule)

     5.  Don't use the restroom on the trains.

Beyond unsanitary, and I have been told people do drugs in them along with other illegal activity.   I don't care how bad I had to go to the bathroom on the train, I have still not let it come to that.  I would rather go in an ally, heck everyone else does that around here!

     6.   Do not lose your train ticket or get it confused with your other ones.

People in Paris are not patient, and that includes the hard workers of SNCF(basically like those cops that write meter tickets except checking for valid train tickets).  Not exactly the best job in the world so I can understand their lack of sensitivity.  But when they come around to check tickets, you make sure you have it ready and available because they don't like to wait. 

     7.  Always keep any bags in front of you at all times!

You may or may not have heard about the pick-pocketing in Paris but the stories are true.  It's not always your stereo typical thief either.  They don't all wear ski masks or bandannas to make it so obvious (too many movies).  Not just men but also the women and children have been known to steal.  I will state, most are not necessarily french but from surrounding countries who come to France illegally.  But even a back pack, KEEP IT IN FRONT!  

     8.  Be sure to have a fully charge iPod before riding.

This may be more of a personal preference but I have found my iPod to be useful in more than one way.  (Please note my iPod is a less expensive shuffle: you don't want to pull out your iPhone or iPod touch in front of just anyone, easy target) Daily, traveling from home to my destination, I would get asked for money on avg. 4-5 times.  In the beginning I was more on the generous side, but if you do the math you will see that could get expensive, so I learned.  When I would spot them coming I would just look out the window or in the opposite direction, and if they tried to talk to me I "couldn't" hear them, without being blatantly rude.  Thank you iPod!  It also helps to drown out the sound from the sometime squealing train tracks that sounds worse than a thousand nails on a chalk board.  Although I will add, sometimes people have some real talent, so you have to know when to take the headphones out too! 

     9.  Always arrive early in case unscheduled changes or cancellations.

Relying on the train as your only source of transportation is convenient in many ways but it has its downfalls.  Yes, you save gas money, no traffic, and no searching for parking.  On the other hand it can be cancelled without any warning, so if you have meeting, or class you can not be late for you may want to take my advice and arrive early.  With this in mind, I arrive to everything about 30 minutes early usually left having to kill the time, but on occasion I have been so thankful for the extra 30 minutes.  

    10.  No eye contact and don't smile! 

 Last but not least, no eye contact and no smiling!  I actually had to practice my train face in the mirror a few times before using it.  You see you don't want to smile and look like an easy target, but you also don't want to look angry, which also might make someone want to mess with you.  This is also where the no eye contact comes in to play, if you don't look anyone in the eye, it's as if you are invisble.  Straight face, No smile, Don't Forget it!!  

Paris Metro and Train(RER) Map

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Starting the year 2012

       In less than one month my passport had arrived in the mail.  I opened it and saw a full page of my passport filled up with my visa.  It was granting me a one year stay in France from January 20, 2012- January 20, 2013!  For a solid year I will be with my love without having to do the long distance thing we have been doing on and off since we got together.  This was a great feeling, and the timing couldn't have been better!  I'll arrive just before my 24th birthday and also just in time to join him and 6 of his friends on a ski trip to Thomas's family's home in the Alps!  As a matter of fact, I arrived the same week that we departed for our ski vacation, just leaving me time to do some shopping for some ski wear and get rested for a whole week of skiing!  I haven't skied in years, and only on mountains in North-eastern Pennsylvania!  Granted I have been skiing since I was 3 years old, but I'm not sure if I could hang with these guys who grew up skiing the Alps!  Only one way to find out!  After a 6 hour car ride, with stops, we made it!  This area was so different from the other places I have traveled to so far in France.  First off the mountains were HUGE and there was lots of snow, even the style homes were different.  When we walked into the house you notice everything is made of wood rather than stone here, different than Paris, and very welcoming and cozy.  We arrived at night so we got to sleep, with hopes to wake up early and hit the slopes.  
      The house was only a 10 minute walk to the rental shop and there you could catch the lift up the mountain (how convenient)!  So before leaving the house you prepare.  Thermals under pants, under snow pants, layers and layers from head to toe.  After those of us who needed to rent skis had done so, it was all up hill from here!  I have never seen anything like this before, at the top of one ski lift was another ski lift, and another ski lift. They just kept going higher and higher up.  At each lift connecting dozens of slopes.  I made a request that we start small to see if I could keep up, and I see if I still remembered how to ski.  Turns out......I STILLLLLL GOT IT!  Keeping right up with everyone else, I felt as if I was skiing better than I have ever skied in my whole life (and at age 6 I was convinced I wanted to be a pro skier)!  The mountain was never-ending, and the snow was perfect!  We just skied for hours and hours with only a few stops mid-mountain to have a drink or eat a snack that we had we packed.  Now normally when I would go skiing (in PA) I would do a couple runs then go into the lodge to get warmed up and have some hot cocoa, then go back out.  Not here though, we went from morning til dusk!  I was content with that though, on this mountain who would be anything less!  After skiing all day we would come back and prepare a feast.  Each night was something different and big enough to feed 8!  We even had a Birthday cake for my birthday which made the trip even more special!  
      There was a few moments during this trip where I had to pinch myself to be sure I wasn't dreaming.  Here I am back in France, with the love of my life, skiing the Alps (is this real life?).  How did I get so blessed?  While I was out there on the slopes I would think back of my father (the one who taught me how to ski) and I knew he was up there smiling down on me.  After 7 days of straight skiing the fun was over, but by that point I wasn't sure if my body could handle another full day of skiing!  We headed back to Paris, and it was time for me to start my classes!
Ohh and time for me to learn how to ride the train and metros in Paris........ALONE! Eeeekkkk!!
  "I feel so alive, for the very first time, and I think I can fly!" The song that kept playing in my head as I skied down the Alps!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Living abroad long-term.....and Legal

Living in a foreign country is not all fun and games. You can't just buy plane ticket, and stay for as long as you want, as I am sure you know.  There are options and all kinds of rules that you must follow in order to do so.  

  • Option 1: Marriage-  Yes marriage is always the number one option that comes to mind.  After a few documents get signed, Voila, instant dual citizenship, (sounds easy enough).   

     I don't know about you, but I wasn't looking to get married so soon.  I mean we haven't even known each other for a year ( at this  present day), I couldn't think about just running off and getting married!  My family hasn't even met this man (in person), and their opinions mean a lot when it comes to the person I would be sharing my life with!  Although it's not as if we never spoke of getting married, I mean I wouldn't just drop my life and move to France for a guy who I just thought was handsome.  I can find plenty of handsome men in America, if that was the case.   I saw marriage "potential" in him and saw something different in him that I never found in anyone else I have dated, and I have done my fair share of dating.  So yes, getting married was a choice but something neither of us were ready to do!  

  • Option 2: Working Visa- A working Visa can allow you to live in France for a year or sometimes longer depending on exactly what kind of work you will be doing in France.  To be eligible for this you must find a job prior to arriving and have them sponsor you.    
      Once you have that you're good to stay in France and live happily ever after.......NOT!  To bad it's nearly impossible to find a company to sponsor you for a full-time working Visa.  If you think there are no jobs in USA, France has an 11% unemployment rate!  That being said, it's not easy to find a company to sponsor you unless you have a skill or talent they need, and are willing to make an investment on you.  Hmmmm special talent or skill.......negative.

  • Option 3: Long-term Student Visa- A student visa allows you to study, and work part-time in France.  First thing you must do is register and obtain an "attestation" from Campus France, once completed make an appointment with your nearest French Embassy.
          Alright now this I can do!  So with Thomas's help we sought out a language school in Paris called Campus Langue.  Once that was done I completed the rest of the requirements and made the appointment.  The soonest appointment available was a month away and unfortunately my nearest French Embassy was in Washington D.C. (about 5 hours from my town in PA).  At least that month gave me time to prepare all of the documents I needed, and there were A LOT!  They had warnings all over the website about not missing any form for your appointment or they will send you home with no visa, and left having to make another appointment!  So I went through my checklist and made sure I had everything, in order, ready to go.  When my appointment came I went down the night before with a friend to stay, and be sure I wouldn't hit traffic.  When I walked in and sat down to wait for my number to be called I felt nervous.  I checked everything a dozen times though and it was all there!  They called my number and I took my folder over to the next man.  He started to go through the checklist.
  1. Passport and copy -"There you go sir"
  2. Campus France attestation  - I handed him my form from Campus Langue, the language school I applied for and second thing on my checklist!
"No, Miss Drake this is not the Campus France form."  I felt the blood rush to my face and I remember thinking "Shit, shit, SSHHHIIITTT!"  What I had thought meant a form from a campus IN France was in fact a form through the Embassy called CAMPUS FRANCE! (Can I blame it on the blonde hair?)  So I am sure he must have saw the panic in my face when I thought he was going to send me on my way, having to make yet another appointment (in another month or two)!   Lucky for me the man must have been having a good day and let me register for the form in next room (I hear they never do that).  Registering for that alone wasn't cheap, but once I completed and paid,  I returned.  He went through the entire checklist and all was smooth from that point on.  He told me they would further view my application, and send me my passport in the mail.  If I was approved for the student Visa I would see the sticker in my passport, and I should expect it in one to three months.

Friday, December 7, 2012

C'est la vie!

     In my first two and a half months in France we did a lot!  Not so much of the normal stuff a tourist would do if they were visiting Paris, such as going inside the museums and monuments, I still had time for that.  More like dancing the streets of Paris for the annual Techno parade,  attending his cousins wedding, going to Parc Asterix (amusement park), and driving up to Deauville to spend the day at the beach.  
     The Techno parade comes to Paris every September, there are famous DJ's from around the world that set up on top of a Mac truck with huge speakers so when your close enough it drowns out the different kind of music from the next truck.  You follow which ever DJ you prefer and dance, or you're free to skip around.  People were hanging out of their windows, from stop lights, even from statues (I don't even know how they got up there)!  After an entire day of dancing and walking, by the end you are exhausted and most likely had a weeks worth of workouts. Techno Parade 2011
     Attending my first wedding in France was awesome because I got to see first hand how some of their traditions differ from ours (although every wedding is different).  First thing about a wedding in France is they are long, and when I say long I mean all day, all night, and then even the following day it finishes with a brunch with everyone invited.  So my first new thing I had to do was pack some pajamas but also 2 dresses, one for the ceremony, then one to change into for the dancing in dinner.  The wedding started at the city house (court house) where everyone goes to  watch them sign the legal documents.  After that was done you then go to the church to watch the ceremony, here I was wondering to myself  "Where are the bridesmaids/groomsmen?" but apparently that is just one of our American traditions that not everyone around the world partakes in (interesting).  Once the ceremony was over, time for photos!  Can't forget about the pictures no matter what country you're in!  The reception was next, but it was about a 2 hour drive from where the rest of the activities took place.  Once we arrived to the bed and breakfast style hotel we put our stuff in our very own room and changed into evening wear.  The reception was set up beautifully, with a four course meal to start, and ending the night with dancing and games (don't bother chiming your fork and glass together to make the Bride and Groom kiss, it won't work here).  But its not over yet, the next morning you have a huge brunch buffet awaiting, with more socializing. 
     An amusement park in France is fun, but just about as fun as your regular amusement park in USA (not much of a difference).  Except, living so close to not only one, but two amusement parks!   Parc Asterics and Disneyland Paris, each about an hour drive from us!!  
     Deauville was about a 2 hour drive North of us and once we had a beautiful day we decided to go to the beach!  This place was so much different than the other parts of France I have seen so far.  The houses and buildings all had a unique style to them.  After a day of laying at the beach, we decided to take the scenic route home along the coast.  In the North they still have battle fields from the second World War, its so interesting to see and put a real life mental image together with those old history lessons.  
      In that two months, we decided what I was going to do so that I could return to France!  I went back to America just in time for vacation and to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with my family and friends.  I even got to spend New years with my "College family" for one of my best friends birthday!  With the holidays being an easy distraction I still hated not having my love with me for them!  I had to stay focused on what my next plan of action was......Get a French Student Visa!!  And in the mean time go back to work at the Café in my small hometown.  

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

First taste of France

There it was, the Eiffel Tower and also one of the world's most visited places.  After seeing it in person I can understand why such a beautiful place has just about as many tourist, on the daily, as it does population of the city.  The buildings are all the same level, and everything is symmetrical, from their monuments down to the trees in the gardens.  The avenues were much bigger in Paris than in town we live in, just 20 minutes south, in the suburbs.  Just the history alone in this place could keep you busy for hours!  As we drove down the Champ-Elysee it reminded me of 5th avenue in NYC, with all of the top designers on one street!  At the end of the street was the Arc de Triomphe, as well as one of the biggest round-abouts I have ever seen!  Connecting 12 streets in one circle, and there are no stop lights.  The trick here is to just GO, or you will be stuck driving in circles for hours on end.  Good thing I was with an experienced Parisian driver!  Myself trying to drive here would end up with someone injured (most likely one of those scooters would get taken out).  After my first brief tour through Paris, we headed back to the house.  After an hour and a half of traffic we were back (and I thought San Diego had bad traffic)!  This evening I was going to meet (most) of Thomas's closest friends, as well as partake in a French barbecue.  Lucky enough his friends didn't live to far away from his Grandparents, actually not even a 5 minute walk to his best friend Ben's.  In France when they have a BBQ its not hotdogs, hamburgers, and ribs.  Here you have different kinds of sausages called Merguez, and after they grill it, they put it on fresh baguette and it is delicious!  Meeting Thomas's friends for the first time was not as easy as I had imagined, I wanted to ask them all these questions about themselves and  France, and also have them get to know me a little better as well.  But with a language barrier that made it a little more challenging to do.  He did have a few friends who spoke some English which made it possible for communication.  I can honestly say that may have been one of the quietest I have ever been.  Any one who knows me, knows I am not the shy or quiet type but here I had no choice but to sit back and try to follow a conversation.  At this point, that was nearly impossible to do, but Thomas and his friends would occasionally fill me in on what the conversation was about and by that point they had moved on.  I remember sitting there thinking, "I am doing Rosetta Stones everyday until I'm fluent, I'll even sleep with my dictionary under my pillow!"  At the end of the night we said our goodbyes and I "kiss kiss" all 12 people goodbye!  Getting used to all the kissing so it was comfortable and habitual took some time.  Naturally I would go in for a hug, and remember after about the kiss kiss part.  So then by that point I was way to close for comfort then attempting to still kiss them on each cheek (if you can get a mental image, not graceful whatsoever). My first few days in France I was able to have Thomas be my translator with his friends or family but once the work week began I was on my own.  Just me, Mami, and Papi (his grandparents).  In France its not normal to just walk around in your sweatpants all day, even if you don't have plans of leaving the house, you just don't do it.  So when Thomas would leave for work I would be sure to set my alarm for 9:00 so I was able to have time for a shower and be ready for lunch by noon.  I would then head to the kitchen with my pocket dictionary and little notebook with some french phrases inside.  The table would always be set at this time with the appetizers and wine ready to be served.  His Grandfather would pour me a glass of wine while we attempted to have a conversation.  This consisted of a lot of hand motions and references to the dictionary.  I will never forget the day his Grandfather tried to ask me if I have ever tried rabbit.  You really have to imagine his eighty-something year old grandfather asking me this question in French and me continuously not understanding until his grandfather put his hand on top of his head like a rabbit, once he did that I knew the question he was asking (he should have just done that in the first place)!  As entertaining as it might have been to be a fly on the wall during these afternoon conversations, it really helped me learn the language or at least the basics.  Everyday I tried to learn a few new words that I could bring to the table.  For some reason his Grandmother was the easiest for me to talk to, I am not sure if she spoke slower for me to be able to understand or if she used easier words but she made it very easy to converse with her.  When I planned to move to France, it was more action, than researching what I was going to do once I was here.  I practiced my French daily but that got boring day after day.  I couldn't complain about being bored though because I always had the option to take the train to Paris and explore on my own.  But I watched way to many movies to have the courage to go out and do that on my own.  Hello people, ever heard of the movie TAKEN!? So I was content doing what I was doing and waiting for weekends or when Thomas had a day off to do my exploring.  I didn't want to take any chances (not at this point).  I did want to find away to make some Euros while I was out here so I turned to my old friend "Craigslist" to search.  Most jobs required legal European working papers to even consider employment, and I didn't exactly fit in that category.  Instead I asked for help from his family and friends for any ideas.  His sister Jessica, who I also knew from when we all met in San Diego, and she became a good friend, was a lot of help.  She had a friend who was looking for a babysitter for her three girls (ages 2, 5, 7) and Jessica told her I was interested.  We planned a night of pizza for us to all hang out and meet one another.  Before my first day I made sure to learn the basics (so i thought) when it came to baby-sitting.  Tu soif (you thirsty?), tu faim (you hungry?), tu fatiguee (you tired?) once I had that down I was ready.  My first experience baby-sitting in a foreign country was certainly an interesting one.  I would say it was successful with just a few mix-ups throughout the night that I can still, to this day, laugh about.  To start, when the middle one asked for a drink and walked me over to the fridge I saw (what looked like) a miniature milk made just for kids, so she took a few gulps of it and we put it back in the fridge.  Later that night she was thirsty again and this time I thought I would pour it in a sippy cup so she could carry it around with her. Doing so I noticed that it was in fact NOT a miniature milk, but coffee creamer instead.  That explains the face she made when I first offered it to her but she seemed to enjoy it.  After I poured her some actual milk and had the little ones asleep, I relaxed and watched some TV with the eldest while we waited for their parents to return.  As we sat there watching TV, I tried to ask her what the name of her cat was.  As the cat sat on my lap, I pointed to myself and said "Je suis alex(I am Alex)" "tu es Leah (You are Leah)" and then I would point to the cat say "who is this?"  She gave me a funny face and put her hands in the air like she didn't know.  I thought to myself, either my french is really bad or she didn't know the name of her own cat.  I gave up trying to figure out what the cats name was, but just continued to pet it up until they walked in the front door.  Once they walked in I looked at her and said "your cat is very friendly, what is it's name?" She looked at me, then grabbed the cat and threw it outside, and then informed me that was not their cat but a stray cat that must have snuck in the door or window.  That explained a lot though, no wonder she didn't know the name.  After we laughed about that, I also told her about my confusion with the milk and creamer.  Surprisingly she called me to baby-sit again and I really got the hang of it and enjoyed it.   Things were feeling just about as normal as possible (without speaking french) when we had a sudden change of plans.  I knew when I arrived in France I would be leaving mid-November to go on vacation with my family, that was planned for 2 years.  But what I didn't know was that after the vacation I would not be able to return to France before spending 3 months in the States.   So knowing that once again our time together would be ending momentarily we made the best of the time we had left and developed another plan.
Just know your not alone, cause I'm gonna make this place your home.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Bonjour France

Figuring out my way around the airport in Paris turned out to be much easier than I thought, and if you yourself are traveling abroad and curious if the signs will also be translated in English......Have no fear because they are!  Making my way through customs one last time before seeing my love I wondered if things would be just as they were in California when we were together. It's crazy to think we have been together for 5 months, more than half of it was through the internet, and now we are moving in together.  I have never moved this fast in my life!  It gave me an unsettling feeling to think about but as soon as I saw him once I walked through the gate, I knew I made the right decision.  Being able to hug and kiss him after such a long time apart made it well worth the wait, and the rash life change.  As I looked around on the drive, I noticed just about everything was different, except, they do drive on the same side of the street as we do, that was one thing I wondered.  This was a whole new world, the cars (much smaller, motorcycles and scooters everywhere), the signs (in kilometers), even the streets were different.  I saw the speed limit was 110 and immediately I was already asking Thomas 100 questions about his country and converting the metric system so I could understand it.  American please!?  After an already culture shocking drive to the house we arrived to his Grandparents house ( my new place to call home).  We parked the car and walked up stairs from the garage to the first floor.  This house was beautiful and nothing like I expected. It smelled of delicious food and everything was made of stone.  His Grandparents greeted us at the top of the stairs with a kiss kiss on each cheek, and I practiced my little french that I could remember.   "Bonjour, Je m'appelle Alex." then I wanted to tell them "thank you so much for opening your home to me", but clearly that's a little beyond my level with the language thus far.  So instead I said " merci beacoup" and asked Thomas to translate the rest.  They had lunch prepared so we directly went to the kitchen to eat.  In my house lunch was either a "fend for yourself" type of thing, or something light like hot-dogs and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.  Now, I'm not going to lie and tell you I remember exactly what we ate that first day, especially with the number of amazing meals his grandmother has prepared since, but I can tell you what our typical lunches were on the daily.  Lunch was always between the hour of 12:00 pm-1:00 pm (or in France 12:00-13:00) and there is ALWAYS fresh baguette and a bottle of wine.  They usually started with a few appetizers such as cherry tomatoes, mixed nuts, fois gras, paté, and/or olives.  Just to give you a few examples.  Then its time for the main course, very few times does she cook the same thing twice unless its requested, but no matter what it was I insisted keeping an open mind and to try everything!  After the main course, it was then time for the salad.  Yes, in France the salad comes after the meal and there is not the option to smother it in Ranch dressing, because it does not exist here.  Balsamic Vinaigrette it is!!  At this point it gets difficult to continue eating (especially if your new here, like myself) but we weren't finished yet.  After the salad it's time for the cheese, but not the kinds of cheese I recognized.  Where was the cream cheese, or American cheese at?  As I said before I really tried to keep an open mind when it came to trying new things, so even though I wasn't a huge fan of cheese in USA, I decided to try a little bit of each kind.  Turns out I am NOT a fan of cheese in France as well, but at least I can say I tried.  After everyone had their fix of cheese, his grandmother put a huge basket of fresh fruit on the table.  We had apples, oranges, bananas, kiwis, and a variety of different grapes.  Just when you think it's done there is one final thing that is customary in France, and that's to end with a very tiny, yet strong, cup of coffee.  After all was said and done, the jet lag was really starting to kick in.  It was easy to fall asleep after all of that traveling and consuming what felt like a Thanksgiving feast.  Getting my sleeping schedule normal with the rest of the country didn't take me longer than a day, and once I had my first full day in France I knew exactly what I wanted to see first.  The Eiffel Tower!  

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Au revoir America

But not so fast, there was still one last stop before I venture off to France.  I wanted to spend some time in my home town, good ol' Tunkhannock, PA.  And what better time of year to be in that small town than carnival week!?  Now if you're from Tunkhannock you know exactly what I mean, if you're not let me explain a little bit about this yearly event. Carnival week comes around every summer in the first week in August, its the time of year where most who live out of state come back to town for a visit, and it's a reunion every year.  It's the only place you can get delicious fried food, cheap beer, and a live band every night of the week.  This was exactly what I needed before leaving the country, having (almost) all of my hometown friends to once again celebrate my homecoming but also my going away.  Coming and going often makes for lots of excuses to celebrate, and celebrate we did!  As of this point I had my plane ticket purchased and scheduled departure for August 29, 2011, all that was left was to enjoy my month long visit with my family and friends.  Well there was a few other things I had to do while being home like ask  my former, present; and possibly in the future, boss if she had some shifts I could work to make some money before I leave. As always she was happy to put me on the schedule and back to work like things never changed.  Working, visiting as many people as possible, and also my new at home studies of French using the Rosetta Stones kept me pretty busy which made that month go by pretty fast.  Before I knew it, I was once again packing up my life. Except this time it wasn't packing anything that I could fit in my car, more like anything I could fit in TWO suitcases!  Talk about not a lot of room when you consider everything I was leaving behind.  Not only did I have leave half of my wardrobe but also my car and my phone.   But I reminded myself that those are all just possessions and can be replaced, I wasn't going to let that stress me out or bring me down.  After one last gathering of my family, and friends the next day was time to go!  Off to Newark, NJ we go.  It was a struggle first off to decide who was going to ride with us to the airport (thinking who would really want to drive 2.5 hours, drop me off, then turn around and drive back) but to my surprise more people than there was space in the car were available, and actually wanting to see me off.  Well of course my Mom had to go, and the one person who knows how to handle my mother best when she gets all emotional is my god mother AKA Aunt Kimmy, my cousin and basically my sister Missy came along, and also my one of my best friends that I can always count on, Noelle.   Unfortunately everyone else could not fit but the fact they even wanted to go filled my heart and again made me so thankful to have such wonderful people in my life.  On the drive to the airport I thought about what it was going to be like in France.  "Was it true the French didn't like Americans?" "Is the driving going to be on the opposite side of the street?"  "HOW WAS I GOING TO FIND THOMAS AT THE AIRPORT WITH NO PHONE!?"  Yes, the anxiety was starting to kick in at this point.  Here I am saying goodbye to my loved ones, I can see their tears and I feel as if I want to cry but my anxiety and excitement wouldn't let me.   I gave them big hugs and told them not to worry about me.  After I crossed the security and found my gate I had sometime to relax and practice my french using my pocket dictionary and some notes I wrote down from Rosetta Stones.  I must say they are very helpful yet it wasn't teaching me the stuff I needed to know like in the next 9 hours!!  Like what am I going to say when I get there!?  Should I say "Bonjour, le chat est noir? ( Hello,the cat is black)"  How is that going to help me but for some reason out of all those lessons that was all I could remember!  So as I sat there and waited, there was a girl next to me who I noticed earlier in line.  I nonchalantly introduced myself and broke the ice.  Her name was Sophie and she was a French girl who came to America to be an au pair but was going back because she also missed her love in France.  As we sat there she taught me a lot of useful phrases to use and translated what I felt may be helpful once I arrived.  As I practiced to say them aloud, I also took some notes such as:       

  • Bonjour/Au revoir- Hello/ Goodbye (well that one is an obvious but just in case you are as much of a beginner as I was I will translate) 
  • Merci- Thank you 
  • Sil tu plait/ Sil vous plait - Please (same word but used in two totally different situations- but that's a whole other lesson on its own!) 
  • Où sont les toilettes- Where is the bathroom? (very useful) 
Now that I thought I had the basics down it was time to kick back and enjoy this flight (which included two meals and a surplus of new release films, it was pleasant travels from this point) 
Au Revior America<3