I have been in Paris for going on three weeks now, and it is amazing how quickly one falls easily into routine. Perhaps this is because I have traveled so much this year, and so establishing a lifestyle for a short period of time has become second nature, but I really didn’t expect it this time. I assumed that everything would be transient until we had our apartment, and then everything would become concrete. While this is still true to a certain extent – I have yet to join a gym or yoga studio because I intended to find one near where we were living, which we don’t know yet – I have also somehow managed to develop a little life for myself here. Maybe if I didn’t know the city so well, I would have to spend more time adjusting and exploring before I could settle, but, since I know Paris better than many Parisians, I’ve basically dropped back in and picked up almost as if I’d never left.
(Lest you think I’m being cocky, I don’t exaggerate when I say that I know Paris better than many Parisians. The fact is, as every foreigner/expat I meet notes, that Parisians know two places in Paris: their home quartier and where they work, if the two are different. I cannot tell you the number of times I have told a Parisian that I am going/just was somewhere only to have them respond, “Where’s that? I’ve never heard of it.” Paris is not that big a city, either. It’s definitely smaller than London, New York, Los Angeles, and, I would venture to say, even San Francisco.)
My new life here consists of several things, some of which were mentioned in my last post. As for the other ones, my personal favorite is my Spanish-English Conversation Exchanges.
In case you don’t know, I’m trying to learn Spanish. This is absurd coming from a California girl, I recognize this; why did I move to Paris – away from the state where Spanish is probably more commonly spoken than English – to learn Spanish? All I can say is that I am crazy. AND that I want to learn Castilian Spanish, which I currently have a much harder time understanding than American Spanish, but, that’s the point, right? I just don’t get why they can’t pronounce things phonetically, but whatever. Silly Spanish.
Anyway, in my quest to learn Spanish, I quickly discovered that Spanish language classes are absurdly overpriced, so instead of paying money, I did some research, found a reputable website aimed at connecting people for language exchanges, and have now started meeting several times a week with three different Spanish girls to do language exchanges. Armed with my base knowledge and understanding of Spanish – coming, obviously, from being a native Californian, as well as some tutoring lessons from this fall – and my fluency in French (which is only sort of different), as well as my general passion for learning languages, I have dived in head first. After being thoroughly embarrassed at my limited knowledge, I am, after only a week, slowly starting to put things together. My teachers are incredibly patient and helpful, not to mention super fun. Maria and I have already planned to bake cookies before Christmas, go shopping for language books, and have a jazz club night, not to mention that she is trying to help me get a job! Laura is from near where James and Kara spent last year, and so says if we ever go back there and want to go to Léon, we can totally stay with her mom (who speaks no English, so it will be good practice for me). I’m having an absolute blast, making new friends in the process, and developing a nice little structure to my life.
I haven’t just made friends through Spanish, though. One of the advantages of traveling – particularly alone – for an extended period of time is that you become much less hesitant about contacting people to hang out. And you realize very quickly that most people feel the same, they’re just more embarrassed about trying to make new friends. As a result, I have (I hope!) befriended a fellow Californian (though she’s also actually French, unlike me), who, in turn, is now introducing me to her international group of friends. Many of them have been in the same place that Alfie and I are right now with jobs and apartments, so they were super helpful and encouraging. I am so excited for when we have our own place so that I can finally invite all these people who have been so wonderful and welcoming over to cook for them and thank them properly. Yes, Mediterranean/Indian/international culture of food equaling love has totally rubbed off on me.
I am also sure that I will rue saying this, but the job and apartment hunt has even become a routine. I spend so much time calling people and sending emails and wading through craigslist postings that when I no longer have to, I will find myself with too much free time.
Life chez Celine and Freddie has truly become a little home, if I dare say so. We all have our routines, we cook for each other, we watch movies and bad TV together (I’ve gotten them all into Glee!), Alfie makes us all tea… it’s quite a little family set up we’ve got here.
Alas, no good – or bad – thing can last, and, come this weekend, we’re going to have to move house for a few days, as Celine has some friends from London coming. I am contemplating going to visit my friend Susannah in Arles (where she is teaching English), and then James is coming to visit! Poor Alfie has to work, so he can’t come on holiday with me, but, on the flip side, he is making money and I am not. As for what will happen next week… who knows. I’m getting back to taking things as they come and not letting them get to me too much, but I suppose that’s just today. Who knows about tomorrow.