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.

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